The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Friday, January 27, 2017
Psychology ... Spirituality ... Zen ...

Being an old guy with old-fashioned habits going well back into the previous century, I still like to have paper reading material at my dinner table, so as to peruse while I eat (or after I eat; more and more I like to linger at the dinner table for a while after I’ve finished my food and drink). I’ve been a subscriber to The Atlantic for over 25 years, and I still try to get thru the issues each month. The January/February issue had quite a few interesting article topics, including octopus consciousness, oil fracking, Glenn Beck, the health dangers of sugar, sleep difficulties (something I experience all too often these days), and not surprisingly, another screed against white America by Ta Nehisi Coates, renewing his call for reparations because of the sin of replacing Barack Obama with Donald Trump.

(Sorry, Mr. Coates — despite all of the historical injustices inflicted upon African-Americans by whites which you accurately cite, African Americans must share some of the blame for Trump, given that too many qualified African American voters who helped Obama in 2008 and 2012 stayed home this past November 9; despite the racism and sexism that motivated some white voters, had blacks they turned out, Trump might not have carried Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Also, note that Mr. Coates mostly ignores the issue of voter misogyny against Clinton — which cuts across color lines).

All of that was quite good and interesting. But the article that I have given the most thought to lately is a short piece entitled “Awesomeness Is Everything“. Awesomeness? Does that have to do with “awe”? I never thought much about awe. I can’t say that I’ve experienced it very often in my life, or if I did, I didn’t immediately recognize myself being “awe struck”. To me, awe is more of an advertising term — this new IPhone is awesome! It has also had its political uses, e.g. the supposed “shock and awe”  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:38 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, January 16, 2017
Photo ...

I haven’t gotten out to the woodlands for a hike in many months (old age is catching up with me). But today dawned sunny with temps bound for the upper 30s and maybe even low 40s, so I decided to finally give it a shot. I decided not to be too ambitious, given that it is wintertime and I’m not young anymore. So I picked the highland park closest to my home, which is Ramapo Mountain Park, just off I-287. Ramapo is not exactly deep in the woodlands, and by afternoon is generally loaded with people walking their dogs (versus serious hikers). But it’s still nice, and I managed to stay on my feet for two hours before getting back to the car for lunch and the drive homeward.

Here are four shots from my little “return to the woodlands” trip today. Despite the lack of color and activity, there’s something charming about the woods in winter (at least on a milder day like today).

 »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:09 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Personal Reflections ... Spirituality ...

If you really, really, really want to believe in God, I think that the best way is to make sure that you are part of a church and a religious tradition that strongly affirms the existence of God. It’s not so much that the church and the religion say that God is real. It’s more the fact that you will be surrounding yourself with a group of people who all say that God is real. When you are surrounded by a bunch of people who all strongly assert a particular proposition, it’s much easier to believe in that proposition, even when there is evidence that would otherwise cause you to question that proposition (or lack of evidence to support it). Religion is thus something of an “echo chamber“.

When you are involved in a church, it’s easy to feel good about believing in God, even if you are familiar with the long list of rational doubts expressed by atheists and agnostics. The logic goes some thing like this — I am person A and I feel OK about believing, because person B seems to believe. But if you ask Person B why she or he believes, they will tell you that it’s because person C seems to believe. Then go as Person C — and guess what he or she will say? Yes, it’s because person D believes. Sooner or later you come full circle. Someone points back to person A, and the chain goes round again. In reality, it’s probably a matter of 2-way networking between everyone from person A to person ZZZ. In other words, person A feels good about God because persons B thru ZZZ are God-fearing; person B feels good because of person A plus persons C thru ZZZ; etc. But it’s ultimately the same dynamic — ultimately it’s all a loop, like the proverbial snake that continually eats its tail.

Personally, I still want to believe in God. But I don’t want to base my faith on the comforts of a internal loop / “echo chamber” like this. So I’m not part of a regular church; I am active instead in a Zen community, where at least half of the members have declared themselves to be atheists. Maintaining one’s faith in God is certainly more of a challenge in this context. However, all of the time that we spend in quiet meditation gives me lots of time to search for “the small voice within”. I don’t often “hear” that voice, but  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:53 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Food / Drink ...

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a NY Times article about how to cook pasta like risotto rice. Instead of drowning the pasta in a quart of boiling water, the idea is to let the pasta continually simmer with just a small amount of water at the bottom of the pot, while frequently adding new liquid to replace what the pasta absorbs and what steams away.

This is also known as the absorption method of cooking pasta. The advantage of “absorption” is you can add and cook other stuff along with the pasta, such that when you’re done after 15 minutes or so, the whole thing reduces to a sauce (at least if you do it right). In other words, you don’t simply have plain cooked pasta, you have pasta and sauce right there in the pot, ready for the plate! The added stuff can include meat or broth, but being a veg-head, I add veggies and spices and a touch of olive oil.

So here is what it looks like in my kitchen. I’m cooking fusili with some fresh chopped tomato, onion, garlic, green pepper, shaved carrot, and a bit of basil, oregano and olive oil. The veggies boil down and mix with the starch from the pasta, making a rich sauce that nicely coats the pasta.

On my plate, then, is the coated fusilli with a dollop of veggie-marinara sauce at the center, along with some sauteed zucchini and mushrooms (top left) and kale, red cabbage, garlic and cranberry beans (bottom left). This all went down very nicely with a glass of red zinfandel. I’m looking forward to some interesting one-pot sauce experiments in the future, such as butternut squash (or even pie pumpkin) with pasta. Bon appetite!

PS, this way of preparing pasta works best with “chunky” pastas like penne, rigatoni, fusilli, shells, bow ties, etc. Long thin pasta like fettuccine and linguini (and good old spaghetti) tend to bind together into hard, thick strands when cooked this way.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:06 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
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