From the Kitchen – off to warmer climes in my mind, tom kha gai

tomkhagaiWhee, it’s snowing again here in PA. :P I wanted to try to make a soup, so I got out my copy of Wright’s The Best Soups in the World, and tried to find something I had most of the ingredients for.   As luck would have it, I had most of the ingredients for tom kha gai, Thai coconut chicken curry soup. You can guess how odd my pantry is in that I had everything except lemongrass.

My recipe is a riff on the one I found in the cook book. To us, it tastes very much like what we get at our local Thai restaurants.

¾ pound of chicken thigh meat, all fat, skin and bone removed, sliced thin

5 cups of coconut milk (I made mine from Chao Thai coconut cream powder, made up as 3 tbsp to one cup of warm water. BTW, I get my Thai ingredients from importfoods.com)

8 thin slices of ginger (I had no galangal and it’s hard to get around here. I keep my ginger root in the freezer and slice or grate when needed.)

6 tbsp of fish sauce. (This stuff is salty. What I made today had 10 tbsp and it was right on the edge of being too salty even for me, the salt monster. Ten may be perfect for a very hot and very humid climate.)

4 tbsp palm sugar (this has a different taste than regular cane sugar, and I recommend getting it)

4 stalks of lemongrass (I used Gourmet Garden’s squirt tube of lemongrass paste, 4 tbsp of it. I love these little tubes. They last a very long time.)

1 tbsp grated lime zest (the recipe calls for kaffir lime leaves but again, they are hard to get here.)

2 tsp. fresh lime juice

1 tbsp red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy brand.)

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves.

Mix coconut milk, ginger, lemongrass and lime zest. Bring to boil. This stuff will boil over quickly, so keep an eye on it. Reduce to medium, and add chicken, fish sauce and sugar.   Cook until chicken cooked through.

Add lime juice, and curry paste and stir to combine. Serve. If you like cilantro, I find it a very nice addition. The recipe in the book had adding crushed fresh thai or Serrano chilies. For me, the red curry paste is hot enough to make my nose run plenty. Of course, any of these ingredients can be varied in amount to suit your tastes. I think it would be good with shrimp, firm tofu, pork, etc.

We also made a classic roast beef dinner. Lots of leftovers for the week!

Eat well!

What the Boss Likes – Spock, Star Trek and how I got to be me

no idea who did this nice poster.  The cat isn't exactly a cat (episode - Assignment: Earth)

no idea who did this nice poster. The cat isn’t exactly a cat (episode – Assignment: Earth)

With the death of Leonard Nimoy this week, I got to thinking just how much Star Trek and Mr. Spock influenced me and still do.  I got to see Mr. Nimoy speak and he seemed as kind and dignified as his most famous characterization.

Spock was my first crush. I also wanted to *be* him so it was a complicated relationship  :)  I started my fascination with “tall dark and handsome” right here. As did thousands of other women and girls.   The idea of “he may not love anyone else but he’ll love *me*” is a strong thing in at least a certain subset of female humans.

This character taught me that “alien” didn’t automatically mean “scary”. Aliens, aka *they*, could be just as good or better than *us*. They could be loyal, smart, moral, humorous, and loving.  As Kirk said in ST: Wrath of Khan, “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…. human.” the best of what it means to be human.

From both Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew through the words of Gene Roddenberry, I learned it was okay to be smart, which helped a girl who wasn’t much good at anything else. I learned to stand up for what I believed in, and learned that I had no desire to be a pacifist. Vulcans were generally pacifists, but Spock fought when he had to, to defend others. He also incapacitated quite a few with the Vulcan nerve pinch.   I also learned that might does not equal right, no matter if the claim comes from an aggressive species or from a god and that no one should put up with that nonsense.

I learned to interact with other people, something that I had some trouble with when I was young, finding restraint and thoughtfulness a way to deal with situations I was uncomfortable with.   I learned to question authority and tradition and value evidence and analysis.  Just because something was always done, that’s no reason to keep doing it. Just because someone claims to have the “truth”, there is no reason to believe them without evidence. I certainly learned not to blindly obey.

Thank you, Gene Roddenberry and the crew of the Enterprise and the wonderful actors who played them, and the authors of the episodes (except maybe for some of the third season ones),  for helping to make me into someone I’m proud of.

Live long and prosper. Peace and long life.

From the Kitchen and the Bar – beer, cake, bourbon and rye

blue cakeThis week we tried a few new beers, a shockingly blue cake and my husband got me a bottle of rye.

The beers were from Shock Top, a craft type company owned by the giant Anheuser Busch. They were in a sampler pack of various flavored takes on their unfiltered wheat ale.

Twisted Pretzel – Weirdly enough, this beer does taste like a pretzel.   There is a very distinct toasted grain taste/smell plus a bit of salinity to bring it to fruition.

Shockolate Wheat – again based on the wheat beer, this is a nicely chocolate and vanilla beer.

Honey Bourbon Wheat – this one I wasn’t too keen on. I can taste more wood than bourbon. It does have a hefty vanilla hit.

Belgian White – This is a pretty standard Belgian wheat, with lots of coriander and orange peel.

The cake was a result of my husband going to get groceries and deciding he needed a cake. This Duncan Hines cake is the blue of a swimming pool. It’s very good, moist with lots of vanilla. It’s basically the same idea as a red velvet cake, which is built on a mild chocolate batter rather than vanilla, and a whole lot of food coloring.  It also has the same… ah…. interesting gastrointestinal effects as anything with lots of food coloring will have. :)   We iced it with cream cheese frosting. I’m tempted to try to make some crazy looking tie-dyed cake for this summer, using this blue, the red velvet and the classic white. My luck, I’ll probably end up with a purple cake, which would actually be pretty cool.

ryeThe rye my husband got me is J.P. Wiser’s Rye (all the liquor websites have age gates). It’s a blended Canadian rye whiskey. We do tend to like Canadian blends, like Crown Royal (though my husband loves the little bags it comes in too).   We like blends (including wines) because the product comes out as intended not so much dependent on the vagaries of nature. I also like classic American bourbons, like Wild Turkey (relatively expensive) and Old Crow, cheap but good and which is what I see a classic film noir private eye drinking (and supposedly Hunter S. Thompson liked it too).   Since we happen to have both on hand, I compared them.   The rye is light, floral with a hint of spice, and fairly dry.   I didn’t get the dried fruit that the website says one can detect in the tasting, though I could see maybe some dried figs.  It is has a nice smoothness without forgetting you are drinking a spirit. The bourbon, Wild Turkey 101, unsurprisingly, is sweeter with more vanilla/oak. It is quite strong in proof but oh it is dangerously smooth.  These were drunk neat, with a chilled piece of soapstone in the glass (it is a dodecahedron, aka a twenty-sided die sans numbers, because we are gamers. It came from thinkgeek.com. Wish they would have had the numbers carved on them…)

Eat and drink well!

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – addressing “An Open Letter to An Atheist”

from atheistmemebase.com

from atheistmemebase.com

This post is an answer to a post I found while rummaging through WordPress’s accumulator for posts on “atheism”.  It made some of the classic bad classic false claims that many Christians make so I thought it would be a good example on how to respond to such things.  Again, plenty of these point have been made in my other posts, so read if you want, you may not find that much new.  I also decided to post it here because it’s fairly common to have a theist not release a critical post from moderation.

It’s long.  Go fig :)  I’ll have a post about drinks and food tomorrow.

Dear Christian,

I’m an atheist.  I’ve been one for decades now, since I lost my faith in Christianity  I saw your “open letter to an atheist” and thought I’d respond.  I don’t know if you’ll allow it through comments or not.  I’m going to post this reply on my blog with a link to your post.  I do hope  you will allow it to be posted as a comment but will not be surprise if you do not.  This is a long comment, but I wished to address your claims and use examples.

I do not only claim that your god doesn’t exist, I have plenty of evidence that indicates this e.g. there is no evidence for the essential events of the Judeo-Christian bible.  You make a false claim that I, as an atheist, blindly accept the explanations offered by the sciences about how everything started and how everything works.   I do not blindly accept anything, even from the sciences.  I have reason to trust the sciences because the scientific method works and I regularly benefit from its accurate descriptions of reality.  You benefit from this too, but you try to decry science when it shows that the claims of your religion are not true.

129-When-The-Right-Side-Of-This-Chart-Fills-Up-lemme-know-650x458Scientists ask a question or make an observation, construct a hypothesis and then test the hypothesis.  If the hypothesis fails, then it is wrong and does not reflect reality, and it’s back to the drawing board.  You make a claim that science hasn’t “correctly interpreted” all of the evidence.   It certainly seems to have so far because science always goes back and checks.  Scientists love to show each other wrong, as can be shown by pointing out that all hoaxes about science like the Piltdown man were discovered by scientists, not theologians.  As it stands, magic has never been shown to be the answer for any question about how the universe works.  You also make a claim that science has somehow excluded evidence that would support a theist’s claim that their god has done something.  Could you provide this evidence that you accuse science of excluding?   I have no reason to doubt scientists because they present evidence that can be analyzed and repeated.  I have no reason to believe you until you do provide evidence of your claims.

You attempt to claim that scientists lie.  They can and do.  However, the vast majority does not, and those that lie are invariably caught by other scientists, not by theists.   You resort to ad hominem attacks like “Perhaps their parents did not express love to them, and they now have a chip on their shoulders, and now they want to show that their opinions matter.”   An ad hominem fallacy is when you try to claim that an unrelated aspect of a person is reason to doubt their statements.   As I have said, scientific claims are not taken as dogma but are constantly challenged and tested.   If someone makes a claim and there is reason to doubt it, then it will be challenged, and not because of an assumption that someone may have had a bad experience with religion or their parents.

Your post isn’t a meaningless train of thought.  It is a repetition of old and baseless claims made often by Christians who would wish to attack the sciences when they show that the claims of religions are false.   Continue reading

From the Kitchen and From the Bar – experimenting with roots, a pie and a bottle of mead

boniatoThe local large grocery store has a small section of unusual fruits and vegetables, at least unusual to me, she who grew up in very white, very Protestant rural Pennsylvania and who hadn’t a chance to talk to someone who had skin any darker than her pale pink until she went to college. I decided to start an adventure where I try out the starchy tubers and roots that the rest of the world eats.

The first up is what the store called a “batata” (it seems boniato is a more common term), a purple skinned white fleshed type of sweet potato. It’s the first on the list here. We first found out that you don’t leave them in the usual plastic produce bag for any longer than it takes to get them home. They do sweat and I suspect will rot very quickly.

We baked our singular batata at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and 15 minutes. The skin became stiff but you could flex it to tell when the flesh had become soft. The flesh is about as white as a classic white potato and was about the same texture, much less wet than a standard orange/yellow sweet potato that one sees in the US for the winter holidays. It was still very sweet, and my husband compared it to the sweetness of beets or sweet corn. He had butter and salt on his; I found a recipe for putting butter, a squirt of lime juice, ground cumin and salt on the batata and did so. I found that very good, the lime giving a bit of brightness to cut the starchy sweetness.

blueberryMy husband also asked me to make a blueberry pie this weekend. I made the usual pie crust I use, and poured in a can of blueberry pie filling. I also added about a cup and a half of frozen wild blueberries from Maine mixed with a tablespoon of Instant Clear Jel from King Arthur Flour Company (leftover from my venture into gluten-free baking). It made the filling just perfect, with just a small amount of flow out of the crust. The blueberries were great, and the rest will find their way into buckwheat blueberry pancakes later this week. The pie was baked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. I did try to make a lattice pie and it’s pretty much that, though I needed to pay a bit more attention  :)

Finally, I decided to get something new at the wine and liquor store. I found a bubbly mead made from macadamia nut tree honey and had to get it since we make our own mead and I like bubblies. The meadery is Heidrun Meadery in California.

I will have to say that I was disappointed in this mead. It tasted like a demi-sec champagne, and it is made with the same method as champagne. There was honey in the nose, but the taste was champagne, which isn’t a bad thing but not what was expected. As usual, we prefer our own still, sweet mead.

In finding this meadery, I found out something that I didn’t known about Norse mythology. Somehow I managed to miss that all of the mead for Valhalla was from the teats of a magical goat named Heidrun. Always cool stuff to still learn.  :)

Eat and drink well!

(for any new readers, if you wish to avoid posts on religion, politics, and most things controversial, don’t read those posts under the category “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation”.)

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – a list of questions

My current guest Christian, logicinlife,  has asked the following questions in the comments here. If you are long time reader, the answers will be no surprise to you. Many of the questions are loaded questions or have some a priori assumption associated with them. You are invited, atheists, agnostics and theists, to answer the questions yourselves, or at least the non loaded non assumptive versions of these questions. It can be an interesting tour through your own mind.  These are very typical questions from a certain type of Christian, who assumes he knows the answers and has never thought about how they might be answered by a real live person.

I do expect LIL to answer these questions himself since he has deigned to return.

1. What causes the origin of life? 

Do you mean abiogenesis or the theory of evolution? What caused abiogenesis? We don’t know yet. “Yet” is the operative word. No one but some theists throw their hands up in the air and say “Goddidit” and stop looking.

The evidence as we currently have it indicates that the laws of physics causes abiogenesis. No god, yours or any other, needed.

2. If there is no God, why do you invest so much time in talking about Him?

Because the belief in god cause harm. Christians invest so much time talking about other gods and how they are not true. Why do you invest so much time talking about them?

3. Where does morality come from? (Do not define evil that is not the question.)

Humans.   Here’s a question for you, why do Christians disagree on what their god finds moral and not moral? How can we tell which of you have the right version?

4. Explain your Christianity to me, if you can.

I’m going to guess you mean define Christianity.  Explaining it is an entirely different question. :)  It is the belief in Jesus Christ as a divine being that holds the only way out of being tortured for eternity. One must accept this being as “savior”. How one does this depends on the sects of Christianity. These sects also disagree on whether there is free will to accept this character, if grace alone can get you saved, if works will get you saved, etc. These sects often claim that other sects are wrong at best and satanic at worst.

5.How old were you when you became a Christian?

When I knew what was actually going on and knowing what was meant? Around 8 years old. I was a Presbyterian. I had no reason to doubt the religion my family believed in because I trusted them.

6. How old were you when you became an atheist?

It was a gradual process, over at least a decade. I identified myself as an atheist, one who has come to the conclusion that there is no god or gods, in my 30s.

7. How can you trust that YOUR interpretation of scripture is correct whilst you have claimed to study it only by yourself?

I did not say that I studied it only by myself. I read the bible by myself. I went to quite a lot of Sunday School, for children and adults and went to a lot of church. I have read lots of apologetics. Where in the bible does it say that one has to study with others to understand this god and how does that work with free will or the lack thereof? How can we know that your interpretation is the only correct one as you have claimed?

8. Why do you have a complex regarding free will?

Nice attempt to use a poisoning the well fallacy and the classic loaded question (aka Have you stopped beating your wife yet, LIL? ). A “complex” eh? Since I have never had a “complex” about free will, your question is meaningless.

9.Why do you feel the need to generalize Christians into negative categories? Were you merely not supported in your walk?

Another loaded question, how nice. I have not generalized Christians into negative categories. I provide examples of what many Christians have done and the fact is that they much the same things so they can indeed be placed into categories by action.  I do not know what you mean when you say “were you merely not supported in your walk”. I will make an educated guess that you want to pretend that I wasn’t taught the “right” Christianity. Your questions certainly do make baseless assumptions to try to get the answers you want. That’s a shame.

10. Why do you emphasize your assumption that I am a OneTrueChristian, were you caught up in pride to learn that YOU were not that Christian?

I was a Christian, as much “OneTrueChristian” as you in that I thought my version was the right one. I had the same amount of evidence as you do: none. I now find it amusing to watch Christians insist that they are the only true Christians when they have no evidence for the claim. You have claimed I could not have been a Christian. You have made repeated claims that your version of Christianity is the only right one. I have not made an assumption, I have observed your claims.

11. You are aware that if you are lost, you can always come back?

If one believes your bible, that is not true (Romans 1:18-27; Matt 12: 22-32). If one believes in your nonsense about a lack of free will, it is not true. It appears you have again added to your own version of Christianity.

12. You are aware that you present the trademark characteristics of one whose heart has been hardened, right?

I am aware that you want to pretend that my heart has been “hardened”. You haven’t quite been able to decide whether it was by me or by your god. Tell us of these “trademark characteristics”. I’m guessing the major one is “Vel dares not to blindly believe that LIL is the OneTrueChristian”.

13. Why do you hyper-focus on Christianity?

I focus on Christianity because I am an American, and I speak/write English and I was a Christian. Many Christians are trying to force their various versions of their religions on me here in the US. If you would look at my blog, you would see that I also address other religions. Your willful ignorance does you no favors when you try to make false accusations.

14. Why do you use the tactic of insults to throw?

Please show me where I used insults. I would be happy to acknowledge them if I did indeed do this. Nice loaded questions, again, by the way.

15. Explain the evidence that disproves God.

There is no evidence for any of the essential stories/claims of the bible. There is evidence other things happened instead. The magic Noah flood is one such example. The nonsense about Adam and Eve, another. I have addressed the flood nonsense multiple times on my blog, since I am a geologist. You can see those posts here, here (and all of its parts), here.

16. Why do you conclude there is no evidence for God when logic, reasoning and circumstantial evidences all points to A God?

Logic, reasoning and circumstantial evidence to not point to your God. I did note that you tried to just say “a God”, to try to avoid the problems of the God you believe in and claim as the one true god and itself/son as the only savior. But you are not just arguing for some vague deity, you are arguing for the god of the bible, which is an entirely different thing. I am glad to note that you do seem to understand that the various logical arguments could support any god, not just yours. I have asked you for your circumstantial evidence. I am waiting for that. Reasoning and logical argument and plenty of real evidence support the conclusion that there is not a Christian god nor any other.

17. Who was harmed that caused you to be angry with God?

Another a priori assumption you must make in order to make yourself feel superior. Do you want to follow up with such similar false claims as: I am just rebellious, I don’t like the idea of following morals, etc?

As Doug said, I am not angry with a fictional character. I can be angry about the lies and harm that so many Christians have told and caused. I can be angry about such people trying to take away rights from others. Alas, for you, I have not been “harmed” by anything that would make me angry with the boogeyman. I’m guess you’ll reply with your usual nonsense about good and evil.

18. Why are you angry with a God who doesn’t exist?

See above.

19. Explain why the earth is fine-tuned for life.

One more a priori assumption that is not true. The earth is not “fined-tuned” for life. A more correct observation is that we are “fined tuned for it” and even that is wrong because most of the earth is deadly for us. This is one of those classic questions that demonstrate that many Christians don’t think very carefully about what they are saying.

20. Do you believe that truth is relative or absolute?

Truth is absolute. For example, it’s the truth that if you hold a bar of white-hot steel in your bare hand you will be very badly burned. Reality is quite an arbiter. Still no god needed.

21. Why do you rely heavily on your emotions for interpretation?

I don’t, in the way you mean, that I only use emotion and I just want to make believe that your god doesn’t exist. I rely on context, anthropology, psychology, archaeology, linguistics, etc.  What do you use for your rather interesting interpretations?

22. Why do you defame my character out of your pain?

Please show where I have done this. I have said that you were likely a decent human. I am in no pain, though it seems to be what you hope. How Christian.

I do hope LIL will answer his own questions, again at least the non-leading, non-assumptive versions of them.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – a small interlude

Hello my subscribers.  I received a very long comment on someone else’s blog and wanted to take the time, and space, to respond to a Christian who is sure I am wrong and that they are the OneTrueChristian.  So, this is a rehash of much of the same.  This is just to give our OneTrueChristian some place to chat with me.  I’ll soon return to the regularly scheduled programing.

I certainly do say that there is little evidence that supports the common Christian claim that their god wants free will.  It’s true and I have supported my position.  I have no reason to believe in the baseless claims of Christians.  It does not surprise me at all that you cannot cite any evidence for your position.   Again, LIL, your bible does not say that it is my choice to not believe in this god, it says that it is this god’s choice that I cannot.    It seems that you are also a Christian who is uncomfortable with the idea of hell, with your nice sanitized version “separation from god”.  It is unsurprising that you create your religion to reflect you own hatreds and desires. You are most likely a decent person who doesn’t like the idea of hell, so have invented something else.

The fact that we are talking about the myth of Christianity is not evidence that your religion is true; that is quite the wishful thinking.  It seems that you also seem to think that only Christians are good, with your claims about human nature.  That’s rather amusing since one can just look around and see that your claim is utterly false.   Humans are decent and humane in spite of religion.   Happily, we can talk about religion in the US and on the internet and not be threatened by death from theists because the death grip of religion is receding in the world.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of theists who still want such harm to happen to people who do not believe in their particular imaginary friends.

I am sorry if a Christian needs to be told chapter *and* verse of their own supposed holy book.  I will be sure to mention both in the future.   Again, some Christians claim that their god is love, and the verses in 1 Corinthians defines love, a definition that your god fails.  If love is not jealous e.g. “does not envy”, then if this god is jealous, it is not love.    That is a very simple if-then construct, which someone who claims to use logic should be able to understand.   If human were created for the sole purpose of “unity” with this god, why did it go through the nonsense of the “fall”, and just take everyone that it made to love it to heaven and live happily ever after?  Again, we have no evidence at all that your god wants free will.   I am not a parent but I am a spouse.  I would indeed be jealous, but no one is calling me pure love as Christians claim about their god.  Christians always have a problem when they make the mistake to try to compare us puny humans with their supposedly omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent god.

You have asked me to show evidence that your god deceives. I have your bible, is that enough? I have read the bible as a Christian, as I was losing my faith and as an atheist. I did not depend on some pastor or priest to tell me what they wanted me to hear out of it, and thus know it far better than most Christians do. 2 Thessalonians 2:11, Ezekiel 14:9, 2 Chronicles 18: 18-22.   You ask me if I know God’s hidden agenda.   No, I do not. Many Christians love to claim that everything can be excused if they pretend that this god has some mysterious “plan”. You cannot show that your god exists, much less that it has a plan that excuse harm that happens to people. Indeed, if your god is omnipotent, it would not need to cause harm to people if it can do anything. If the typical Christian claim of heaven is true, then harmful acts are not needed at all for human existence. God is indeed easily angered. This god murders a man for touching his magic box. This god throws A&E out of Eden because of a single mistake that this god knew would happen because it made A&E that way. God murders men women and children for the actions of a man that it is mind controlling. God supposedly causes all mankind to speak different languages because it is afraid of them for building one tall building.   God vanishes for an unknown but long period of time, people forget about it and then it has a hissy fit and kills nearly everything on earth. God kills Anaias and Sapphira for not forking over enough money.   You claim that this god reaches out to humanity, and you cannot show any evidence it exists at all. Continue reading