Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mid Fall

It's a contemplative time of year - the shortening days, the beauty of plants even as they fade into senescence, the intensity of the fall colors in the fading light of the early sunset. Trees and other perennials aren't dying. They are sucking their life force, in the form of sugars, into their roots to wait for spring. Annuals are setting seed that will also lie dormant and wait for the earth to spin past the spring equinox.

We are not perennials; we don't come back from dormancy. We are more like annuals; we leave seed that recreates our lives - not our individual lives but copies of our lives, with variation and sometimes error. Evolution is amazing. Genetics is amazing. Life and the universe are far more complex than any religion so far invented has imagined.

So drink or smoke a toast to the world as it says good-bye to another season of growth and enters another season of rest. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again. (Starhawk)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Soup Blogging

Some of the ingredients

Ready for the pot

Beautiful and delicious
What better than soup on a chilly, wet October day? This is a delicious amalgam of New England and Asian ingredients. (It was supposed to be fish soup, but turned out to be tofu soup since the fish had turned.) One thing I would do differently would be to add the tofu earlier, to give it a chance to soak up more flavor.

The corn, tomato, and bok choy came from the farmers market. The tomato was 'Sunburst,' a variety I hadn't tried before. It turned out to be very meaty, with a very good flavor even though this was an end-of-season fruit. It also wasn't just large, it was honking huge; even after trimming out some bad spots, it yielded almost two cups. I used half of it for the soup, and saved half for another recipe. I also saved some seeds; I'll try it in the garden next year.

End of Summer Fish Tofu Soup

1 pint chicken stock, homemade
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
3 or 4 thin slices ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and pounded
1 large tomato, chopped, skinned and deseeded if you prefer.
2 cups tender greens, sliced: use spinach, bok choy, chard, tender inner leaves of mustard or turnip
3 or 4 scallions, chopped in .5” pieces
kernals from 1 ear of corn
1 small hot chili, deseeded, cut into fine strips
.5 lb catfish nuggets
.25 .75 lb pound pressed tofu, in pieces about .25" x .25" x .75"
cilantro - generous handful, chopped
soy and/or fish sauce to taste

Bring chicken stock and 1 quart water to a low boil in a large soup pot. Add garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, season lightly with soy or fish sauce, and simmer just a few minutes. Add tomato, greens, scallions, corn, and chili, bring back to a low boil and simmer until veggies are just done. Add fish and tofu; simmer just until fish is done. Taste for seasoning and stir in cilantro.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Edward Kennedy

I watched the Kennedy funeral on the Boston Globe's website today, and thought back to the other Kennedy funerals I watched on black-and-white TV. Where would we be as a country if Jack and Bobby had lived?

The Kennedy brothers were complex people, that is to say, no different from anyone else, with faults and virtues. What strikes my jaded, cynical heart is that they saw government as an instrument to improve people's lives. That practical idealism has almost disappeared from our politics; it remains to be seen if the Obama administration can revive it.

I lived on Mission Hill for many years, and I remember walking up the hill in all weathers, seeing the weather formations coming in, and how the clouds would let loose as they rose in altitude. The steady rain in Boston today seems somehow fitting for Edward Kennedy's funeral - the sky and the earth solemn and contemplative.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What's in Bloom

A Japanese plant that was introduced to the American nursery trade a few(?) years ago, whose name I can't quite remember. I think I remember Kiringoshima, but none of the catalogs I looked at list anything under that. There is Kirengoshoma, but the plants are very different. This plant puts out one or two leaves, a few interesting but not very showy flowers, then goes dormant from mid-summer until next spring. I'm hoping it will spread a bit, as a clump would be a nice feature, bridging flowering between spring and later summer/early fall.

UPDATE 7/10/09: After searching around on Google, I am pretty sure this is Kirengeshoma koreana. As the specific name implies, it is from Korea. Pictures show some variability in the leaves, from a deeply incised maple shape to the rounder form of my plant's leaves. K. koreana is also described as having less pendulous flowers than the Japanese species, K. palmata. I haven't found an exact match for the ragged-edge flowers on my plant, but the general characteristics seem to match. All the descriptions say this plant achieves a tall (anywhere from 3-7 feet!) shrub-like form, which my struggling little plant has never done. I think a dose of fish emulsion is called for.

Critter Blogging - Fort Magg

Maggie took over the Zappo's shoe carton; it's become her second-place favorite place to hang out, after the donut bed on the chair next to the computer desk.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Props to Bill S

This is the funniest thing I've read in ages - comment by Bill S at World o' Crap

Oh yeah-Eve chopped down the apple tree and said the snake did it.

But God said, “Oh, c’mon! He’s got no hands! How would he hold up a hatchet? Oh my Me, you’re stupid!”

At which point the snake interjected, “Well so much for it being the Tree of Knowledge! I hope you still have the receipt for the darned thing.”

To which God replied, “Aaah, shaddup.”

And that is why, to this day, snakes don’t talk.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remarks on the Tiller Murder

It can't be said often enough - anyone who thinks abortion is morally wrong doesn't have to have an abortion. Ever, under any circumstances. You can give birth to a doomed baby, you can risk your own life if you have medical complications, you can have as many children as you want.

It's only the irresponsible and selfish who want the right to abortion, isn't it? Women want abortions for "convenience," so they can fit into a prom dress. Why bother with condoms and pills when you can just have a surgical procedure once or twice a year? Pregnant women routinely wait until the third trimester to decide if they really want a kid, then waltz off to abort as casually as they would go to have their teeth cleaned.

The responsible and unselfish, on the other hand, think it's moral for a 13-year-old incest victim to give birth. It's moral to give birth to a child who will likely die shortly afterward; likewise if the child is merely severely handicapped and will spend its life in an institution. It's unselfish to have a child you can't care for, even if you have other children whose care will also suffer. They told me in catholic school that there is a special place in heaven for women who die in childbirth, so aborting for medical reasons is just pure selfishness. Do you think you have a right to life?

The moral and unselfish think abortion is wrong because god said "Thou shalt not kill." In a little-known footnote, god added "Unless you disagree with them on the abortion issue."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Catholics in the News

I admit to an addiction - no matter how often I swear off reading anything about the catholic church, I fall off the wagon when I see an article like this one in Slate about the late John Neuhaus. Granted, "catholic intellectual" is a contradiction in terms, but whenever I feel low on adrenaline, the church can be counted on to give me a boost.

Neuhaus's views, as summarized by Winters, are so intellectually flawed I hardly know where to begin. Pro-choice advocates are not in favor of eugenics; tarring us with Sanger's views from nearly a hundred years ago is intellectually dishonest. If blacks are disproportionately opposed to legalized abortion, why do black women have a disproportionate share of abortions performed? I have heard the accusation that they are pressured into it repeatedly since the 1970s, but have never read a statistic or even heard an anecdote about how this is happening. Sorry, a vague accusation that society is responsible is not proof. There is a disparity between "blacks" being largely opposed to abortion, and "black women" choosing abortions. Is the opposition to abortion inflated by the opinions of men, while the decision to actually abort is made by women? Society should address poverty, but until that glorious day comes, women are faced with decisions about their very particular lives. Should individual women be forced to take on a burden that society shows little inclination to help them bear?

The Catholic Church's dogma about human dignity is a canard. The true social policy of the Church is a hierarchical one - rules are made from the top, by wealthy men who claim particular insights into the mind of God. Woman have no dignity in this view - they are simply to obey, and to let their bodies be subject to the whims of nature in a way that no man facing illness or hardship is expected to.