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Friday, June 24, 2016

The Home Ec Road to Craft Recovery

Lots and lots of what I have been about these past nine months is about having cancer.  It has occupied a good deal of my physical energy and a surprising amount of my psychic energy as well.
But for once I would like to point out that while I have required above average amounts of medical assistance these past months, that I have just now really started to make progress on my creative recovery, and the local shop, Home Ec, has been a key ingredient in that success.
I just love this shop.  It has all the wonderful touches that I would never be able to swing in a home craft room even if I were to have one.  It has lots of wonderful handmade things that are tastefully arranged and impeccably put together.  The teachers that I have had (one for a napkin making class and another for an oilcloth tote bag making workshop) teach with a perfect blend of instruction and hand holding mixed with let yourself go and pick up the pieces later.  I had been stuck in not getting much done to what is true now, having completed projects and looking forward to what I might do next.  Please check them out if you need an injection of creativity into your craft life.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Burnt (2015)

Bradley Cooper does a remarkably good job of capturing the personality and pathology of an elite chef.  Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who crashed and burned on drugs, alcohol, self agrandizing and debt.  Prior to all that he was a 2 Michelin star chef in a Paris restaurant with many talented people who all currently hate him.  After his ignomious departure he does a period of self-imposed penance in New Orleans, shucking literally a million oysters.  Seriously, he keeps count on a daily basis, and at his millionth oyster he takes off his apron, leaves the restaurant and goes to London, where he somewhat obnoxiously foists himself on an old friend and supporter who agrees to let him cook there.  The thing that is at once painful to watch and strikes me as accurate is just how self absorbed he is.  When things go wrong he literally throws things and trashed food.  His verbal abuse of his staff is shocking.  And either Bradley Cooper is truly a through and through asshole or a great actor because these scenes are cringe worthy they seem so real.  The ending is a bit tied up in a bow but I did enjoy the movie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Theatetus by Plato (369 BCE)

Socrates believes that knowledge is innate in man, but that man does not always allow knowledge to rule him.  Emotions play a role and they can at times overwhelm knowledge.  Socrates asserts that man knows the right thing to do, but does not always choose to act that way.  Socrates warns the reader that what is good and virtuous is complicated.  He rejects the notion that a certain amount of bad behavior can be outweighed by good behavior.  The virtuous behavior does not negate the bad behavior.
    Socrates states that all desire is for pleasure and nothing else.  Man seeks happiness, even though what brings him happiness is not always good.  This premise is necessary because without it there is not an explanation for why man does things that are not virtuous.   The desire to do something outweighs the negative impact the behavior will have on your relationship with your parents, which is a virtuous relationship.
Socrates premise that mans desire for a course of action is in direct proportion to the amount of pleasure he will receive.  This explains why man would seek pleasure in the short run, because it is an intense and overwhelming emotion that can interfere with man’s pursuit of what is virtuous, even of he has the knowledge of it.  For example, man has the knowledge that marital fidelity is virtuous and will bring both he and his spouse happiness.  Occasionally man is tempted to have sex with someone who is not his spouse.  He is driven by the desire for immediate pleasure, and may not consider the consequences for his long-term happiness in the pursuit of his immediate desire.  If he chooses to have an extramarital affair, the pain that he endures later outweighs the pleasure he enjoys in the moment.
Socrates argues that when man demonstrates a weakness of will, what is really happening is that he has not correctly assessed the damage that his pursuit of pleasure will have or that he has incorrectly assessed the amount of pain that he will endure based on his action.  Socrates believes that if man was able to accurately measure pleasure and pain, and the consequences of them he would always act in a knowledgeable way.  When man makes the wrong assessment, he errs.  This can appear to be a weakness of will, but it is actually a failure of knowledge.  I agree with Socrates in principle.  For example, a robber chooses to hold up a liquor store to steal money for his own pleasure.  He is aware of the fact that what he is doing is illegal and that he could go to jail if he is caught.  Often the thief makes an inaccurate assessment of his risk of being caught.  He is conscious of the bad possibilities that he faces with his action, but he makes the mistake of believing that he will not be caught.  His emotions overrule his knowledge, and lead to his weakness of will.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rhubarb Syrup

This is a flavored simple syrup, and many cocktails that call for simple syrup could have this substituted.  I posted several cocktails that use it, and I have to say it is quite a delicious addition to the cocktail cupboard.  Some recipes add lemon juice, but that can always be added later, so this one is just straight ahead simple syrup.  You can save the leftover rhubarb as a spread on bread.

  • 5 ounces rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rhubarb is falling apart and the color has bled into the syrup, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and, using a fine-mesh strainer, strain and discard the rhubarb solids. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a resealable container and store in the refrigerator.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Creed (2015)

There was some disagreement in our household about this movie--I thought it was a fitting installment into the 'Rocky' oeuvre and my spouse was unimpressed.  For once (and while that might be an exaggeration, it isn't much of one), the critics are on my side.
This is a fitting end to the Rocky story (as played by Sylvester Stallone), and could be the beginning of the Adonis Creed story (ably portrayed by Michael Jordan).  For one thing, it mirrors the arc of the original 'Rocky'. There’s the confident boxer from humble origins, his mentor, and the woman who becomes his friend, then his significant other and then his rock of support. There is also the famous boxer who gives our hero the boxing match chance of a lifetime, while at the same time finding out that he is not quite done with boxing himself. Armed with these elements, “Creed” then tweaks them, playing on our expectations before occasionally surprising us. It may be easy to predict where the film takes us, but that doesn’t reduce the power and enormity of the emotional responses it gets from the audience. This is a crowd-pleaser that takes its time building its character-driven universe. There are as many quietly effective moments as there are stand-up-and-cheer moments, and they’re all handled with skill and dexterity on both sides of the camera.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Challenge of Fatherhood

Fatherhood is a complicated job, and one that has an ever changing job description as the offspring age. As a prime example example, here my spouse is pictured  obtaining enough of a highly valued beer, Alchemist's Heady Topper, to share with all of his children.  That is certainly not something he needed to think about when they were toddlers.  None of the challenges of parenting children into adulthood make fatherhood all that different from motherhood, I know, but somehow fathers seem to get less credit.  After all, once the child is born, parenting is a two person job, and over time, the nine months of incubation becomes a vanishingly small percentage of the overall effort.  So give the quality dads in your life a big round of applause.
My spouse has had quite a year this past year.  I was diagnosed with a cancer that was most certainly not good news.  So not only did he have to deal with his own personal feelings about that, he also had to deal with the children.  The problem is that when something frightening happens to a parent the kids tend to talk about it with the other parent.  Not surprisingly a number of very difficult conversations ensued, more than I am aware of, I am sure.  It is just a tremendously difficult task to prop up others when you yourself could do with a little propping up, and so this year in particular I am very thankful for who my children have as their father.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stir Fried Snap Peas

My summer has started off to be the summer of stir frying.  Last night my kitchen was uninhabitable because I made these peas, and I did not have the fan on until it was essentially too late.  The good news is that these are very good at room temperature.  They are also super simple and very tasty.

  • 2  tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1 1/2 pounds snow or sugar snap peas, washed and trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon  sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tempura sauce
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1. Place vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet or wok and turn heat to high. When it begins to smoke, toss in peas and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they are glossy, bright green and begin to show a few brown spots, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. When peas are almost done, stir in ginger and garlic, and cook another minute or so. Toss with sesame seeds if using them.Turn off heat and remove peas to a serving bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Time to Move Forward

My oncologist had what I like to think of as "the Talk" with me at my last appointment.  He acknowledged that while I had had surgery the week before and was getting chemotherapy, that is was time for me to end my stance as an ill person and move on with my life.  On the one hand, I really didn't see myself as having put my life on hold.  It was more like I was doing the best I could at the moment I was dealing with.  Sometimes I was just too debilitated to not be the sick person.  But overall I thought that I had been handling it more or less okay.
The good thing about someone saying something out loud to you is that it gives you a chance to take a second look at it, and in my case, be more deliberate about doing things right.  I now try to think "Am I moving on or am I stuck?" and while my usual answer is that at I am at least doing it the usual way, in some cases I have been spurred on to do something different.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What Would Edmund Burke Do?

I admit that I have a very shallow knowledge of world history and I have less than dabbled in political science.  Amidst my very short forays into thinking about why things happen the way they do, I came across Edmund Burke.  He is most frequently quoted as saying that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.  He is also the man who argued that while he supported the American Revolution, he thought the French Revolution was doomed to fail.  And he was right on both counts.  His letter on why revolutions fail is a quick read, but should have been used as a guide to our military actions in Iraq.  Now I understand the saying that those who do not study (and heed the lessons of) history are doomed to repeat it.

So, where do we stand post-Orlando?  We have a public health emergency related to gun deaths in our country.  If you own a gun you are 9 times more likely to kill yourself and 10 times more likely to die of a gunshot wound.  Guns are more dangerous to their owners and the families of their owners than to anyone else.  We have a Congress that is bought and paid for by the gun lobby.  We have assault rifles for sale legally.  It is overwhelming, the problem is so vast.
So, what to do?  I have been writing to my senator weekly about the lack of hearings for the Supreme Court nominee, so I can include this, but what would be most effective?  What is needed to move forward?  That is what I do not know.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Importance of Repast

My parents have been married for 59 years as of today.  They have recently (well, within the past year) moved to Iowa City and I have seen more of them in that time than I have in the past twenty years combined.  There are a lot of nice things about having them near by, but one of them is that my kids have the chance to spend a lot more time with them than they ever have.  We have meals together on a regular basis, and while I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of a weekly family dinner when I was young, it now seems quite nice to me.  Does that make me officially old?  I think so.  I have become my great-grandmother.  I really need to start foraging for food and canning again, but otherwise I am already walking in her metaphorical footdteps.
Family meals give us a chance to catch up on what has been going on and anytime you put 8-12 people around a table it feels festive.  The other opportunity it affords it to put a nice meal on the table at least once a week.  That could be a blessing or a curse, but it is a very welcoming crowd that allows for missteps in the kitchen, so the bar is not high to please people, and if something is a complete flop, we move on.  No harm, no foul.  My eldest son and his wife will soon be moving away, and I will definitely miss them, and their additions to the Sunday night menu.