Thursday, May 14, 2009

Philosophical Meandering: a conversation remembered

In honor of the fact that Philosophical Meanderings placed second last behind Monthly Mixes in my constituency poll, here's a philosophical meandering for you.

A while back, I was talking to a lesbian friend of mine (actually, she is my favorite lesbian including celebrity lesbians if you care to know), and we had a conversation that went sort-of like this:

Her: I exclude you from this question I'm about to ask, Dave, no offense meant to you personally.

Me: Oh?

Her: So, as far as I know, every girl I know has physically been taken advantage of by men in some way. For example, I would have no concern at all for a girl that passed out drunk in the company of other women, but I would be gravely concerned for a girl who passed out drunk in the company of men. Can you tell me why I should have anything at all to do with men with this being the case?

Me: Well, even if what you say is true that doesn't mean every man is a potential assaulter, right?

Her: Are you trying to say that it is only the actions of a very few men that account for these sorts of things being played out on every single girl I know?

Me: Well, here's my counterexample. Every adult man here [gesturing around at the crowded venue we were in] probably has either been propositioned by a prostitute, or else has been to a strip club, or has in some other way been exposed to female lasciviousness, right?

Her: Yes, probably. Right.

Me: Would it therefore be acceptable for a man to assume that all women he meets are therefore prostitutes or strippers? Because a man who assumed that based on the fact that at least one woman had revealed herself to be in that category would be following the same logical path that you're following now. Granted his following that logical path leads him to the kind of abhorrent behavior you're describing, whereas your following your logical path leads to no such thing, but I don't like the fact that either of you is applying the specific case back onto the general.

Her: I hadn't thought of it that way before, but I am not entirely convinced.

So. I think about this conversation from time to time, and think about whether my example is sound, and whether it made sense to her or even whether attempting to dissuade her from her logic is even something I would want to do. I did feel like she was asking me to defend my gender, and I'm not sure I did what I was supposed to there. Anyway, I thought this might spur some thought or comments from you, even though studies show 75% of you are not particularly interested in philosophical meanderings.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Come here often?

Hi readers.

If you read here with any regularity, I'd like to hear from you in the comments. I'll make it multiple choice; feel free to add short answers or even 5 paragraph essays if you're feeling particularly ambitious.

Select up to three choices.

I want more
A) Mixes and music
B) Book and movie reviews
C) Talk about rpgs and other nerd-friendly subjects
D) Talk about what's going on personally with Dave & family
E) Philosophical meanderings
F) Religious meanderings
G) Diagrams and charts
H) Other (Specify)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Low-Hanging Media Fruit

Here are some things I finally read or watched this week, which have been on their respective queues for a long time:

1) The Magnificent Seven. Good - easy to see why it's a classic. Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen are especially magnificent - they just don't make 'em like that anymore.

2) Be Cool. Not Cool. That's all it deserves. Any more would further desecrate the original, which I still like.

3) Freakonomics. Liked it. It's a quick read and, even if it's not as enlightening as some would make it out to be, it did spur me to reconsider a few things and see certain trends in a new light, and that has value to me.

4) Curb Your Enthusiasm. Long-recommended by friends, the show is undeniably funny. Whether I can bear the awkwardness it invokes remains an open question.

A few related media thoughts:

5) Re-watching The Hobbit and Return of the King with the kiddos has us all (well, not M, but me and the kids) singing "The Greatest Adventure", "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way!", and "Frodo of the Nine Fingers" with great aplomb. I think I like The Hobbit better (probably b/c that was the one I watched a lot as a kid), but H seems to like RotK more, at least at the moment.

5a) The Last Unicorn is en route from Netflix - it will be interesting to see if H loves it or if it scares her too much.

6) We've been playing (a simplified, extremely brief) version of Gloom, a card game based on Edward Gorey's work where you try to make the members of a quirky family suffer horribly with cards like "Mocked by Midgets" or "Marooned on the Moors" and inflict happiness ("Slept without Sorrows") on opposing players' families, until everyone dies horrible deaths! The kids saw it on the shelf and begged to play it, and we always make clear that it's comedy, and THEY LOVE IT. They want to play it every night. I'd be lying if I denied it makes me proud. Tonight we read "The Doubtful Guest" as our bedtime story.

7) As a balance for all the bits of my childhood and sense of humor/humour that I'm inflicting on my children, it's only fair that we give the classics of their own generation a fair chance. Thus, M and I will probably be watching High School Musical this week to see if we think it's OK for Hilde to watch yet.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stuffed Manicotti and Marinara Sauce

Beef & Cheese Manicotti
adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

*warning: this takes a while. The good news is you can do it as a make-ahead recipe or make & freeze individual-sized portions for lunches or whatever.

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
6-8 oz chevre (goats cheese) - (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley
3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
olive oil
12-14 large pieces manicotti (one package)
2 cups homemade marinara sauce. (no exceptions!)
1 tablespoon butter

1) Make a double batch of the marinara sauce (see below), and save what you won't need in the freezer. This is best done at least a day ahead of time.

2) Put several quarts of water on to boil with a bit of salt. Dice your onion. Heat a 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat and add the onion and ground beef and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. While it cooks, get a big mixing bowl and add your minced/pressed garlic, half the mozarella, half the parmesan, all the goat's cheese if using, the parsley, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix it up. Turn your oven on to 350.

3) When the onion is translucent and all the beef is browned, remove the meat from heat and let cool a bit, then add to to the cheese mixture and mix well. When your water is boiling, add half the manicotti and cook for 6 minutes, no more, then fish them out with a slotted spoon and put them on a plate to cool a bit, then add the other half of the manicotti and reset your timer for 6 minutes.

4) In a 9 x 13 baking dish, drizzle 1-2 Tbs of olive oil. Add ~3/4 cup of the marinara sauce to the bottom and set aside. Fill the first manicotti with the meat & cheese mix. If you're very talented you might do this while keeping the manicotti intact; I find it's a lot easier to open up a seam, fill it up, and then close it again and set it in the baking dish seam-side down. When your timer beeps take the other manicotti out and set aside to cool. When they can be handled, fill them with the rest of your filling and add them to the dish.

5) Spoon the rest of the marinara sauce on top of the manicotti. Add the rest of the mozarella & parmesan cheese to the top and dot with bits of butter. If you're preparing this ahead of time, throw it in the fridge (for no more than a day).

6) Bake the manicotti uncovered for about 30-35 minutes or until all the cheese is melted and starting to brown you can't stand to wait any longer. Let cool just long enough so it doesn't burn your mouth, and devour.

Marinara Sauce
from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis

* I recommend doubling this, in which case you will need a largish stockpot to fit it all

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
2 32-oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent; about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and salt and pepper and saute until all vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monthly Mix: Just Don't

In which we brusquely offer you all sorts of advice on what not to do, and then finally remember to say "Please" in the last song.

This mix is divided into several Acts.

Act I: The Beautiful:
Don't Be So Cynical - I've only heard this song and one other, but I think The Arrogants will be getting some more attention from me.

Don't Be Afraid to Sing - I like Stars. You will too.

Don't Be Afraid of Your Anger - The excellent alt-country sound that I've always enjoyed from Clem Snide.

Don't Stop Believin' - Normally I don't go for acapella covers, but this one's an exception. Instead, think of it as a license to do what you would do with any version of this song: sing along with the guitar part.

Act II: The Synth and their Contemporaries
Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone) - and yet we did, Glass Tiger.

Don't Say Your Love is Killing Me - But it is! It is killing us, Erasure!

Don't Let Me Down Gently - Oh Wonder Stuff, we let you down rather hard I'm afraid.

Don't Go Back to Rockville - Seriously. Who would live in Rockville? (Rob, that's who. 'Nuff said)

Don't You (Forget About Me) - Sister song to the Glass Tiger one above. Same outcome.

Don't Go - You know I love Yaz. You know you do too.

Don't Change - But we did, INXS.

Don't Dream It's Over - But, I'm sorry to say this Crowded House, but it's pretty much over.

Don't Get Me Wrong - I was a teenager when I discovered I already knew most songs by The Pretenders just from hearing late 80s radio.

Don't Let's Start - Who could with a clear conscience omit TMBG?

Act III: The Rock Ballads
Don't Marry Her - This song is not OK for kiddos - omit it if you need to. I am a big The Beautiful South fan, which is why this is the only non-approved CD I bought and repeatedly listened to on my mission. (Well, that's not strictly true, I bought some Spanish rock too, but that was "language study")

Don't Let Me Get Me - I actually think this may be the only song by Pink that I like.

Don't Be Cruel - My Elvis-fan sister would be angry if this didn't make the list.

Don't Stop Me Now - You know you rock out to some Queen.

Don't Cry - I'm not a huge GNR fan, but I know some huge GNR fans and my friend Jeff married one of them, so this seemed appropriate.

Act IV: We Give Way to Anger (or at least Punk)
Don't Stop Living in the Red - I have a soft spot for Andrew W K.

Don't Drag Me Down - It's almost certainly the case that you don't have enough Social Distortion in your collection.

Don't Call Me White - NOFX's angry anti-rascism rant.

Please Don't Tease - See, I told you we'd remember our manners eventually.

Act V: A Bonus Track
Don't Touch Me - There was a time when friends and I would pull up at stoplights and blast this Brak classic just to watch the faces of the people around us. Try it sometime.

It's all here.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Goodreads: Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World

Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. Not for dumb kids. This is one of those books that exposed me to a flood of history, ideas, cultures, facts, and theories that I had never before managed to encounter. It filled in lots of gaps I knew I had along the way, like how New York changed hands from being Dutch to being English, or how Phoenician language became Punic and the language of the Carthiginians. It is a remarkable book in the same way that Guns, Germs and Steel or A Short History of Nearly Everything are remarkable - on nearly every page you will have learned something that will fascinate you.

If you're in the right mood, that is. This book took me nearly a year of stops and starts to get through. It can be, let's say, a little dry. But it's still the kind of book I want to make other people read just so I can have the pleasure of discussing it with them. But it is NOT an undertaking for the faint of heart or short of attention span. Anyone up to the challenge?

View all my reviews.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Goodreads: "The Polar Bear Book"

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites by Louis Rosenfeld

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
A well-balanced and well thought-through introduction to the field of information management. Parts of this book, like how to optimize within-site search engines, aren't important to me right now, but lots of the ideas surrounding information architecture are of extreme interest to me.

Since it is such a new field, a decent amount of the book is about things like how to self-train as an information architect or how to sell the value of investing in information architecture to your corporate masters. What is of more interest to me personally are things like how to do knowledge management across an enterprise to facilitate information sharing and collaborative thinking.

Since my perspective is that of a software developer, I wished there had been some more attention paid to algorithms, database structures, and relational computing. That is well outside the expertise of the authors however, and so instead I had to satisfy myself with the theories that might guide the design of such things. Still, it got me thinking and that is what I was hoping for.

View all my reviews.