Multiculturalism in America

3 Sep

Here’s a thought I’m just going to throw out for your consideration, leaving its development incomplete.  My hypothesis is that everyone belongs to at least two cultures.  I’ll call these two cultures the “ethnic or family” culture and the “juris-economic or public” culture.  The former is based on factors associated with DNA, the latter on the synthetic structures of the legal and financial system.

This may be less apparent in some nations than others.  My working explanation for that is that as cultures age, the public culture absorbs the ethnic culture.  That’s probably not correct, but as far as it goes I think it offers a starting point.  By this theory, the older the nation the less divergence there should be between the ethnic and juris-economic cultures.  Adding fresh confusion to this would be recently created nations that straddle ancient boundaries (eg; Iraq).

In the United States, the contrast could hardly be more stark.  This is a root cause of many of our disagreements and much of our rancor.  Here’s a simple little example.

Some ethnic cultures hold public spaces in common.  Other ethnic cultures hold private property paramount.  Of course there is room for private property in the former, and public spaces in the latter, but let’s see what happens when these clash.

The common spaces culture may anticipate and expect citizens to fully utilize public spaces, and hold little private property; no more than is required for one’s individual and family welfare.  The private property culture might expect citizens to tread lightly on common spaces to insure no individual intrudes on others’ use of the common spaces; reverting to private property when significant personal use of spaces is desired.

So, we have a supermarket parking lot.  Drivers in the parking lot are a mix of common spaces culture and private property culture.  A driver enters the parking lot with a window rattling stereo pumping out the tunes.  How do the various drivers react?  We can’t know for sure, and there are a multitude of variations, but two reactions that I’ve witnessed are that some drivers will pick up the beat and enjoy the tunes, while other drivers will either studiously ignore the racket, or quietly seeth at what amount to the confiscation of common spaces by an individual or small group.

This scenario plays out all the time, in scores of different ways.  I find this a very fascinating subject because it is so visual, so tactile, yet so fundamental, and leads to exquisitely abstract examples.  Does that guy down the street have the right to roar through the neighborhood on his Harley-Davidson, with deafening exhaust pipes blaring?  If I’m sitting in my front yard, or even my back yard, whether he realizes it or not, is invading my privacy.  But if private property should be minimal, then my recourse should be to go inside my apartment or house and close the windows.

This isn’t just about noise or ruckus on public streets and parking lots.  It utterly permeates our political, legal, financial and economic, and civil society.  Ultimately, it is about comprehending the difference between ethnic and public culture, and reconciling the two.  In a profoundly multicultural liberal Western democracy (of which the United States is the only example), this is a Really Big Challenge.

This hypothesis deserves much better, more thorough treatment than this blog post provides, but I don’t have the time or energy right this moment.

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong

1 Sep

My wife Cathie just came in from the front yard and mentioned the moon was full.  This, being August 31st, meant that we have a Blue Moon tonight.  They happened pretty regularly, but not all that commonly.  Let’s see, 28 day lunar cycle, 30-31 day calendar months, we ought to get a Blue Moon about every ten months or so.

But this isn’t any ordinary month.   On July 21st, 1969, meeting the challenge laid down by President Kennedy nearly a decade earlier, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.  He was the first human to leave planet Earth for another celestial body.  By all accounts, he was a humble person, the epitome of the greatest accomplishments of America and Americans.  Neil Armstrong left Earth for the final time last week.

And the full Moon came back, for a second time this month, to say goodbye.

Anyone who thinks “these things just happen” has a dead spot where a human soul ought to be.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.  You were the best of us.  You carry our hopes and dreams with you, and we have have no doubt that you will deliver them safely.

G’night all, and may God continue to bless America.

I guess I’m going back to school

24 Aug

So now I’m going back to school.  We’re starting a minor remodel on our house, with a bigger remodel to follow.  Dealing with contractors on developing a plan, and getting permits, has been the hardest part.  I’m sorry, I got that wrong.  Paying for all this is the hardest part.  The plan and permits are the second hardest part.  Anyway, I figure that if I study architecture for at least a couple years, I’ll be a lot better equipped to deal with both the contractors and the building department.

So I took my assessment (last college class was 42 years ago) last week, and began my classes this week.  I was fortunate to get into English 150 and Math 103 a few days into the term.  Now all I have to do is pass the classes!

This is very different from my previous college experience.  At Kings Point in 1968, you didn’t “sign up for classe”, or “get a parking permit”, or “buy textbooks”.  You showed up, they shaved your head, they issued you a sea bag full of uniforms and a huge stack of books, assigned you a room (and a room mate), and the next morning you “mustered” in Barney Square to march to class.  Man!  Those were the days!

Now I have to get started on my homework, so I’m signing off.  Wish me luck?

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!

8/22/2012 update

22 Aug

Disclaimer:  This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used in making any investment decisions.  The author has no qualifications, experience, or certifications pertaining to investments.  You are reading this for your own entertainment only!

I’m sick of this market.  The whole thing is responding to government interventions … gaming the monetary and fiscal policies of both governments and central banks.  I feel as though we’re headed for a correction, taunting the Fed, taunting Congress to do something (throw Wall Street a bone).  So I’m going fully defensive:

L Income:  100%

I’m not going to jump completely out of all equities and bonds, the L Income fund leaves about a quarter of my portfolio exposed to the total F/C/S/I spectrum of equities and bonds.  I don’t think this is the end of the world, just another nasty little ‘correction’.  So I’m gonna’ see if I can get on the right side of things, this time.  Ha!Ha!Ha!

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!

Entrée Sautéed Farro

20 Aug

Since having the side dish version of sauteed farro at PastaPomodoro, I’ve become a huge fan of this type of dish.  It’s similar in concept to Asian fried rice … simple, easy.  With few ingredients, it makes a wonderful side.  The other night, I decided to make it as an entrée.

Oh, wait!  What’s farro?  Apparently, it’s an ancient form of wheat.  Pearled farro cooks in about 15 minutes and yields a tender but substantial grain with a delightful nutty flavor.  It also has good nutrition, but check the gluten content if you’re sensitive.  Basic cooking: 1 cup of farro in 2.5 cups water or broth, simmer for 16 minutes, test (should be al dente).  Drain and rinse.

So for this sautéed farro entre, we start with these ingredients:

Ingredients

Here we have, clockwise from top: black pepper, garlic salt (I know, I know, but it’s easy), EVOO, a great big handful of arugula, about 10 shrimp (16-20’s), browned bacon, shrimp shells, a couple eggs, some sliced green onion, vegetables (corn, purple onion, red bell pepper), and finally in the plastic bag, a cup of dry farro, cooked and chilled.

Before we start cooking the farro, let’s put a 3qt bowl in the oven at 150-160 to hold the finished farro sautee, and a green salad to serve on the side.

Sautee the shrimp shells to flavor the bacon drippings:

SauteeShells

When fragrant and the shells are all pink, remove and discard.  Then add the vegetables:

SauteeVegs

I let the vegs go to fragant, softening, and the corn gets a bit of color.  You’ll know, it’s not rocket science.  Then add the farro:

CombineFarro

I want medium high at this point, we want to get the whole shebang pretty darned hot and toasty.  At this point, I season with garlic salt and ground black pepper.  Now, add the shrimp and bacon:

AddShrimpBacon

Sautee like crazy, until the shrimp are nearly cooked, then fold in the arugula:

FoldInArugula

When the arugula is wilted, add the green onions and sautee to combine and warm , then transfer to the warm bowl to hold while you fry a couple eggs:

AndGreenOnions

I didn’t get any pics of frying the eggs, which is OK because I just fried two of the worst eggs I’ve ever friend.  In this spot, imagine a picture of frying an egg.

To plate, a big mound of the farro, topped with a fried egg, and a green salad on the side:

ServeSaladFriedEgg 

This was one of the truly great “comfort food” dinners I’ve ever made.  When we were finished, we just sort of sat there and smiled.  Well, a better looking fried egg would have been nice, but wouldn’t have tasted any better =8-/

If you shop for ingredients, this can be a very economical dinner, too.  It’s red bell pepper season, so I got 3/$0.99.  The pearled farro is a bit price, around $4/lb at Whole Foods.  I included shrimp in this dish because Safeway had 16-20 shrimp on sale for $6.99/lb.  On another day, it might have been scallops, or something else.

Like fried rice, this dish is almost infinitely adaptable.  I suppose that with a few of the basics, you could use it to clean out the old fridge’ when too many bits and pieces stack up.  And I enjoy the sauté experience, cook for a minute, flip, cook for another minute, shake.

Oh, you can add toasted nuts, too!  YumYum!  Enjoy.

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America.

Why we should want an amoral (but just) government.

5 Aug

Morality is powerful stuff.

I’ve read claims that government is a source of morality, an enforcer of morality, an arbiter of morality, or somehow has something else to do with morality.  It’s not so.  Government is amoral, it needs to stay that way, and here’s why.

Morality is about free choice.  If there is no option, there is no morality.  Without options there is instinct, or obedience, or impulse, or whatever.  Morality must be founded on the option, the choice, to select one path over another.  Note: interestingly, a wolf can’t be moral or immoral, it can only be a wolf.  Only humans can be moral or immoral, because only humans have free will.  Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Government truly does derive it’s just authority from the consent of the governed.  Once established, government becomes a monopoly regarding coercive force.  There’s nothing optional about government.  Government is the arbiter of justice, and justice is based on laws, police, prosecutors, courts, jail and other penalties.

Justice might possibly claim to be ‘informed’ by morality, but for the reasons already stated, justice is not morality.

Only institutions composed of one or more people who’ve made the free will decisions to associate can arbitrate morality.

In the past, we had government involved in morality through a legal association and bond with the Church.  That worked badly and led to much suffering.  So when the Founders established the United States, they made sure to erect a wall of separation between Church and State.  They established a system of government that would restrict itself to justice, and leave morality to the individual.

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!

iSteakhouse–Flatiron edition

31 Jul

For those who enjoy meat, a steakhouse dinner creates a feeling of contentment and well being of unique character … at a price!  It’s no trick to spend $100 per diner at a top flight steakhouse makes that such an occasional pleasure for most of us.  Fortunately, if you can cook, or even just follow directions, and if you’re willing to take risk an occasional, less-than-perfect outcome (as you’ll see later in this article), you can create a comparable experience at home.  You’ll have the satisfaction of having done it yourself, and of enjoying a meal that “money can’t buy”.  And as long as your dining companion(s?) are okay with it, you can wear your sweats and be comfortable as you savor the meal!

Now, one of the several challenges to serving a steakhouse dinner at home is that you won’t have a kitchen staff and you won’t have a wait staff.  Rather, you’ll be both.  So if you want to socialize with your dining companion(s?), there will be some staging involved.  Typically, a steakhouse dinner will begin with an appetizer, move on the steak/entrée, and conclude with a dessert.  In presenting this dinner, I’m leaving the appetizer and dessert to you, but recommend that you focus on courses that can be staged in the ‘fridge and simply served at the appropriate time.  For example, you could pre-stage a shrimp salad appetizer and cheesecake dessert in the ‘fridge … both covered in plastic wrap, please! … ready to appear at the appropriate moment.

This “Flatiron edition” steakhouse dinner will run less than $20 per diner, with wine.  Here’s the menu:

Appetizer of your choice

Flatiron steak with an onion, mushroom & pepper relish
Crispy Tater Pops
Field greens dressed with a Dijon caper vinaigrette

Dessert of your choice

Total prep time will be an hour and 15 minutes of so.  Only the last 30 minutes will be active cooking time.  Here are the ingredients (to serve two):

A Flatiron steak, just over a pound

FlatironMarinade

plus 2 Tsps Kosher salt and 2 Tbsp worcestershire

Two handfuls of greens

Greens

For the dressing, a Tsp of Dijon, a Tsp of capers (chopped), a Tbsp chopped parsley, big pinch ground black pepper and big pinch (or two) of sea salt.  2 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 3 Tbsp EVOO extra virgin olive oil.

Dressing

Some onions, mushrooms, and red bell peppers

OnionMushroomPepper

And some Tater Pops

TaterPops

(Bake them on a brown paper bag for extra good results.  That’s a nice serving for two, BTW)

And a nice wine!  There are so many really good California red blends now, it’s a Golden Age for table wines….

NiceWine

So we dissolve the Kosher salt in the Worcestershire, and put the steak on a plate, on the counter, to marinade for one hour before jumping on the grill.

SteakInMarinade

That steak is actually a good inch thick.  I flip and baste with marinade every 10 minutes or so.  I find that steaks cook better on the grill if it’s near room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450, and start your grill and get it as hot as you can, or 550-600.  If you’ve read these pages, you know that I swear by Grill Grates, and you’re about to see why.  Here’s where timing comes in.  If you’re going to serve an appetizer, and be the kitchen staff, and the wait staff, you’ll need a campaign plan.  The grill will need your attention, so you can join your guests at the appetizer either a) before grilling the steak, or b) the second the steak comes off the grill.  Option B is probably a better choice.  So here’s one possible timing sequence:

30 minutes before appetizers, add the onions, mushrooms, and peppers to a skillet on medium heat, with a turn of oil, salt and pepper, and some herbs as you desire.  Continue to shake/stir throughout.
25 minutes before appetizers, put the Taters in the oven.
10 minutes before appetizers, shake the Taters, pop the Flatiron onto the grill
(see note at the very bottom of this article)
- 7 minutes before appetizers, turn the Flatirons about 60 degrees
- 4 minutes before appetizers, flip the Flatiron:

SteakOnGrill

Give the steak a push test to verify doneness, then remove it to a warm plate to rest while you start your appetizer.  Turn off the oven and crack the door.  Give the onions. mushrooms, and peppers a final shake.

When your appetizer is finished, slice the steak (add any juices to the onion relish).  Whisk the vinaigrette and dress the greens.  Remove the Taters and plate your meal

Plated

Now, you can probably do a more artistic job of plating, the steak and relish probably should have gone in the middle.  I wasn’t completely happy with this steak.  It’s the first Flatiron I’ve gotten from Safeway that had major gristle running through the meat.  And the thick end came out a little rare, although the thin end was nicely medium-rare:

SteakCarved

 

Costs were: steak and marinade ingredients $9, wine $7, Taters $2, Greens $2, dressing ingredients $1, onion mushroom pepper relish ingredients $4, propane and hickory chips $1.  So $26 for the entrée and wine for two.  Add an appetizer and dessert and you can come in under $20 per diner for a three course steakhouse dinner with wine!

note at the very bottom of this article”:  If you serve the steak intact (not sliced), one side will be “up” and the other side will be on the plate.  In this case, it pays to pick with side you want to “present”.  As a general rule, cooking on my Weber with GrillGrates, I divide the cooking time into thirds.  The first third, presentation side down.  Then I give the steak a “twist” and another third of the cooking time.  Then I flip the steak over to cook the “plate” side for the final third of cooking time.

G’day all, and may God continue to bless America!

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