Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 14th, 2012

Chipotle ribs

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I’m sort of hankering for these:

Chipotle Ribs

Total time: 3 to 4 hours, plus overnight marination
Servings: 6 to 8

2 racks (5 to 6 pounds total) baby back or spare ribs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Juice of 2 large limes
4 to 6 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 cup peanut oil

1. Wash and pat the ribs dry. Remove the silver skin (the membrane on the underside of the ribs): Nudge a blunt knife or the back end of a spoon between the ribs and membrane. When enough membrane is loosened to get a good finger hold, simply pull the membrane off the rack — it should come off fairly easily.

2. Lay the ribs in a glass or ceramic dish. Combine the salt, sugar, oregano and cumin and mix well, then sprinkle evenly over both sides of the ribs. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator, uncover them and let them come to room temperature over 2 hours.

3. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, chipotles and oil. Wipe or rinse the ribs to remove the excess salt and sugar, and dry the meat well. Lay them on a baking sheet and spoon the mixture evenly over the ribs.

4. Bake the ribs until they are tender (a knife inserted between the ribs will slide in with no resistance), 3 to 4 1/2 hours. Slice the ribs to separate them and serve.

Each of 8 servings: 667 calories; 35 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 56 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 168 mg. cholesterol; 368 mg. sodium.

My version: I put the chipotles and lime juice and oil (and I use olive oil, not peanut oil) into the food processor and process them until they’re smooth. I sometimes add Penzey’s Bicentennial Dry Rub to the salt-sugar-oregano-cumin mix.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The Forgotten Kindle

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I had a minor insight. The whole story: I had misplaced my Kindle, the small WiFi one, and it was wearing its new dark burgundy outfit = hard for me to see (minor colorblindness and dark reds go to black fast). So I thought I’d read more of Extra Virginity, but where did I put it?

I looked in the usual places, then the usual places again. I took a deep breath, stopped, and reflected. I knew that it was not lost. I had brought it in from the car (I was sure) and, now that I thought about it, I had actually just seen it within the day, and had the familiar albeit ominous thought, “That’s an odd place for that. So I’ll automatically remember it’s there, it’s so unusual.” That’s all my memory retains when this occurs, as it does from time to time (always has—if it’s Alzheimer’s, it started when I was in high school). But the takehome from that is that the Kindle is perfectly safe, it will turn up in the normal course of my activities, and I can simply let it go. I’m watching a movie anyway, so no real need to read this minute…

And the next thing I’m putting on my house shoes and taking the flashlight to search through the car, just in case… Then, back in the house, going with the flashlight systematically through each room, through the stacks (yes, plural: sorry) of books, magazines, and stationery by my chair, through the dining room, and kitchen. Fruitless.

I thought it over: I had already decided before the last search, what’s the point? And then I had researched anyway, to great hustle and bother, though I actually knew (a) the Kindle was in a secure location and (b) it will inevitably turn up in the course of my daily activities. I knew that, but still I was driving myself crazy with the need to search.

Then I realized: it was not “I” who was driving myself crazy. My conscious self, the entity I call “I”, already had decided not to worry about the Kindle because it will turn up. No, that current of worry, frenzy, and energy was not coming from my conscious. It was some other entity—some little unconscious subroutine or engine that churns out energy when loss is detected, probably a construction of primordial needs for security onto which personal experience has grafted some new parts and cultural associations have added their twist, so that “losing” something I really like in this way kicked it into action. It isn’t hard for me to understand the circuitry, as it were, but it’s also not hard to see that this entity—the subroutine or engine, call it what you will—and at this point in my ruminations I suddenly realized that this is what Psychosynthesis terms “subpersonalities”—so far as I can tell just thinking about it, the match is exact, one-to-one. Indeed, it’s homomorphism in that operations among the entities, however named, have the “right” results. This is important to me because I’ve long thought that Psychosynthesis was quite interesting and onto something. Running into an actual example in daily life was sort of surprising, but maybe not:

a. If I had internalized the structure Psychosynthesis describes, I would fairly naturally describe my experience in those terms—much as the interpretation of a spontaneous temporal lobe seizure might be “understood” in very different terms by a religious farmer, say, and a neurosurgeon. So detecting these little independent unconscious entities/functions might just be looking at the world through Psychosynthetic eyes.

b. OTOH, if Psychosynthesis reallly were onto something, as I had thought, then it is describing actual “natural” phenomena—that is, it’s describing our common experience as we commonly experience it. In that case, the things that it describes (though not their particular Psychosynthetic names) would be things that everyone encounters, whether they’ve heard of Psychosynthesis or not. And that does seem to be the case: Psychosynthesis seems to directly describe and help people who came to it with existing dysfunctions. That is, they already had problems and “knew” (in a sense) what they were, but Psychosynthesis provides them a way of naming, organizing, and managing the “problems” and in fact drawing strength from them—sometimes quite literally, as when a problem that only became worse as you fought it directly, weakened, withered, and died when you withdrew your energy and attention, and as the problem grew weaker, you became stronger, in effect drawing energy from it instead of contributing energy to it. Understanding the problem—seeing it from the Psychosynthetic vantage—thus offers not only nomenclature assistance but suggests modes of interaction with these entities that ultimately enable the conscious self to bring them to heel, within reason (a very important place to be, IMO).

Once I gave up and decided to watch a movie, I went over to select a DVID from the stack in front of the monitor, and there was the Kindle, stacked right in with the DVDs, looking very DVDish itself in its anonymous dark plain cover. I had looked right over it: I saw shapes and my internal recognition routine goes, “Monitor, boxes, DVDs, keep going.” But when I looked at them consciously, not with some recognition routine set on repeat, I saw it instantly, and the earlier memory, “What an odd place, I’ll be sure to remember it there” completed itself: “right in with the DVDs, and if I don’t remember where it is, at least it’s safe and I’ll eventually find it. So no worries.” The last sentence not thought loudly enough, apparently.

UPDATE: I continued musing on the little engines/subroutines/subpersonalities—call them what you will, those sort of self-sustaining vortices of emotional energy that coalesce around or connect to various events or sensations associated with events, etc. It’s like becoming aware of any sort of natural phenomenon, and in fact Euell Gibbons describes it well at the beginning of Stalking the Wild Asparagus, in his recounting of the eponymous incident: in his childhood it was necessary to forage for food as part of the family diet, and Gibbons happened upon some wild asparagus, a great find. He noticed that the new shoots were growing up through the tangle of last year’s dead, stalky growth. He realized that, if he could immediately recognize that growth…

So he sat and for ten minutes or so really looked at the stalks, observed them from different angles, burned their shapes into his pattern bank—or, as I might say in the current context, he created a subpersonality whose function was to recognize dead stalks of last year’s wild asparagus.

In any event, following the exercise, he looked up and immediately saw another stand of the stalks, and another, and another…

So also with recognizing this “subpersonality” mechanism: it came about because, after spending some time looking closing at one subpersonality—the one whose worried frenzy insisted on my continual searching—I suddenly started seeing subpersonalities everywhere I looked. I followed these steps:

I recognize an instance of a subpersonality in me (the worry machine) and easily break it down—i.e., understand the mechanism and its likely development and source of power (which to some extent defuses it). And then immediately after that, as I’m watching a movie with the subpersonality discovery still on my mind, I see in the movie various adolescents acting—as adolescents are wont to do—against their own self-interest and indeed against their desires. It’s as if they are trying on multiple selves, seeing how various personalities work and how they fit and feel, and some of those require certain things (being “tough” in a situation, for example, when the person himself or herself actually doesn’t want to act that way). In other words, I could view what I saw as (in effect) subpersonalities emerging and working out their own balance points within the person to develop a more or less “stable” personality.

So it’s as if we have a natural facility to create subpersonalities. It may be a side-effect (or even the mechanism) of being a memetic being: the subpersonalities are, in effect, internal memes that our minds naturally spin off, easily and more or less constantly—just as readily as we make associations, another thing our minds effortlessly do (so that, for example, a certain perfume or strain of music—or, indeed, a madeleine—can trigger a whole sequence of memories through associations established by the natural action of our minds).

Subpersonalities (and perhaps memories as well: memories could easily be consider a specialized species of subpersonality), being so readily created, and so interactive, will (I would think) inevitably compete for existence within the person/personality/mind: in other words, once again we have a situation of replicators (for the subpersonalities seem “sticky”, easily forming associations), limited resources (mindshare), and thus a process of selection favoring those that persist most—which, alas, are quite evidently not always the most productive or favorable for the person.

I was thinking along these lines when it occurred to me that these little vortices within our minds might be the units of memes (all this is very fuzzy: just spitballin’ here). After all, memes—the basic units of culture—exist qua memes only if they actively inhabit a mind. And obviously in the fiercely Darwinian world of meme survival, memes that are most compatible with others are most likely to thrive, whereas the incompatible ones must struggle (actually, that sounds sort of familiar). And (as Robert Axelrod demonstrates in The Evolution of Cooperation) cooperative entities will, on the whole, dominate over time over purely competitive ones. So, whatever: the memes that survive and prosper are, one would think, those that best network with others—derive reinforcement from them and contribute reinforcement to them. I suppose that’s what “cultures” in the common meaning tend to persist over time: each provides a meme environment that favors the propagation of memes that fit the cultural framework—and conversely, resist foreign/alien/changed memes to the degree that those do not “fit” into the existing memetic environment.

It probably could be analyzed economically, with gains and losses in meme transactions/relations, but that is like analyzing an ecosystem in that way: that is, equally possible, but with the same sorts of limitations and restrictions, because the full range of interactions must be rich and subtle, with resultants worked out over time and through everything interacting with everything, just as physical evolution does.

It feels right somehow that this whole edifice of culture and all could be an outgrowth of the mind’s tendency to encapsulate associational groups of emotions and sensations and memories in this way, and to do it more or less constantly, while providing an environment for them interact among themselves and (through the person) with the outside world of reality, moving things, talking to people, and so on. In this environment, meanwhile, new ones are constantly being spun off and struggling for continued existence.

I read a lot of science fiction growing up, and I especially like A.E. van Vogt, can you tell?

UPDATE 2: I don’t much like the term “subpersonality”—that may apply to a fairly distinct entity of this sort—a vortex of emotional energy and associations with the ability when active to contribute to our internal balance and external behavior: for example the little “worry/search” thing that got kicked into action when I couldn’t find the Kindle: that guy is familiar from previous instances of my not being able to find something: I recognize the emotional signature and behavioral effects of this particular vortex.

But that’s an example of a fairly complex one, though not so complex as, say, the “writing state of mind”, a persona that I inhabit while writing—more diffuse, but still a recognizable internal state of mind.

What struck me this morning that this internal mechanism—the one that creates dynamic bundles of emotions, meaning, associations, and behaviors—seems to be in evidence in lots of situations, to the degree that I’m beginning to think that this is how the mind works. Take, for example, something as simple as the meaning of a word: “to reconnoiter,” to pick a random example. We know what it means, but our immediate “knowledge” (in our active minds) is not a dictionary-like definition—that is, a string of words that define “to reconnoiter”, though we can produce that with a little effort and thought if needed—but we work that out as needed, and we don’t carry it around. What we carry around seems to me right now to be a small vortex (and I use the word because it denotes a stable but dynamic structure that can be considered separately from its material components—and vortices are vortices whether they are made of wind, water, or (in this case) currents and changes in the brain, resulting in coherent vortices (dynamic structures) within the mind (conscious and not). When we retrieve the word “to reconnoiter,” we retrieve a vortex of associations and ur-emotions: the concept “to reconnoiter” is active and malleable, so that we can apply it to schoolboys searching for a way to view the girls’ locker room or a group of tired soldiers creeping along a Vietnamese rice paddy in the dark or climbing a Korean hill for a better view. When the word is invoked, it comes with a nimbus of associations and emotions and images and contexts, but still ready to be fitted into a role in the growing collection of other vortices in the creation of a paragraph or thought: it’s as though you can link these vortices in your mind to build bigger structures, and the structures made of these conjoined vortices have their own vortex-like character of dynami stability and tendency both to persist and to change—to move about a bit. It’s all dynamic: stability—the kind of stability one achieves with, say, a brick wall, is alien to this environment.

Note too that these little vortices are as varied as the individuals in which they occur—your “reconnoiter” does not perfectly match my “reconnoiter” in terms of the internal connotations and nuance and background experience we each associate with the word, nor is the word stable in either of us: as we use it in different contexts and learn and experience more things, the vortex picks up additional twists, directions, colors, and connotations. For example, following this discussion the word will, for a while, bring your thoughts to some degree back to this speculation, thus changing slightly for you, for a while.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Daily life

Magical possessions

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Quite a story. By Daniel J. Wakin in the NY Times Sunday Magazine:

On a cold day last winter, an ailing Bernard Greenhouse, wearing an elegant bathrobe and attached to oxygen, was wheeled into the living room of his Cape Cod home, which was festooned with paper cutouts of musical notes. Relatives and students, locals and caregivers had gathered to celebrate the 95th birthday of one of classical music’s most respected cellists, a founding member of the famed Beaux Arts Trio and a beloved teacher. Young cellists performed for him, and then Greenhouse indulged in a martini and a plate of oysters. Thus fortified, he decided he wanted to play for the company. He picked up his cello and, though a bit wobbly, soulfully rendered “Song of the Birds,” a Catalan folk melody transcribed by Pablo Casals, with whom he studied many years ago.

“And then he laid down the bow and praised the cello for its beauty,” Nicholas Delbanco, Greenhouse’s son-in-law, recounted. “He said it had been his lifelong companion and the darling of his heart.” Indeed, the instrument, known as the Countess of Stainlein, ex-Paganini of 1707 — perhaps the greatest surviving Stradivarius cello — had been with Greenhouse for 54 years. It was his voice on numerous recordings and a presence at up to 200 concerts a year. Toward the end of his life, Greenhouse asked his nurses to lay the instrument next to him in bed.

But in a twist of exquisite poignancy, Greenhouse was not actually playing his precious cello that day on Cape Cod. It was an exact replica that was made especially for him, a beautiful instrument but not the Strad. As they listened to him talk of his love for the cello, his daughter Elena Delbanco and her husband grieved that he could not tell he was playing the substitute. “We knew that this was the beginning of the end,” Nicholas Delbanco said. Five months later, Greenhouse died.

Despite saying that he wanted to sell his cello while he was still alive so that a worthy young musician might benefit from it, Greenhouse was unable to part with it. Now his family has entrusted the sale of the Countess of Stainlein to the Boston violin dealer Christopher Reuning, who this week will open sealed bids starting in the millions of dollars.

Much attention in the music world is given to the sale of Strads and other rare string instruments. The numbers are tallied up like baseball records: $15.9 million for the 1721 Lady Blunt Stradivarius violin this year; more than $10 million for the Kochanski Guarneri del Gesu in 2009. Reuning expects that the Greenhouse cello will match or exceed the previous record of $6 million for a cello. Behind the dollar figures, though, is a story of possession and loss, of performers giving up the instruments that have defined their artistic and emotional selves.

“It was the pride of his life,” Elena Delbanco, a lecturer at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, said of her father’s Strad. “It was his soul mate. Until the day he died he could not bear to part with it.

“I would like him, were he around, to think that we did the right thing and be happy where the cello went,” she continued. “I would like it to be loved as much by its next owner as it was by my father.”

The master makers of bowed instruments flourished in northern Italy from about 1550 to 1750, when supreme craftsmanship, superior woods and varnish, enduring models and a highly developed apprentice system centered on a few families. The best-known were . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 4:44 pm

Pork grub with dandelion greens and apples

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You know the drill by now:

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 jalapeño pepper (left over from something else, so toss it in)
3/4 large sweet onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 handfuls chopped celery, from stash in fridge
pinch of kosher salt

I started sautéing that in my 4-qt sauté pan, adding as it cooked:

8 oz boneless center loin pork chop, cut into chunks
2 medium zucchini, minced
8 Crimini mushrooms, cut into thick slices
2 Tbsp homemade Worcestershire sauce
2 Red Delicious apples, diced (core and all, but not the stem)
1 wad slivered dried tomatoes
several grindings black pepper

I add 1/4 cup water, covered, and let it cook down some, then added:

1 large bunch red dandelion greens, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1/2 cup black rice, which I then cooked, so probably 1 cup cooked: two servings
2 Meyer lemons, diced (peel and all, though I do remove and discard the ends)
1/4 head of Napa cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo (because the pan seems to have a fair amount of liquid, so I thought this might sop up some of it)

That’s simmering now. I’ll probably put 1/2 tsp true EVOO on each bowl as a topping.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

Kicking it up a notch: Henry “Red” Allen plays “Wild Man Blues”

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The note at YouTube provides personnel:

Accompanying him is his all star band: Coleman Hawkins on saxophone, Rex Stewart of cornet, Jo Jones on drums, Milt Hinton on bass, Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, Danny Barkerand on banjo, Vic Dickenson on trombone. This is taken from the Sound of Jazz, a CBS special which appeared in the 50s.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 8:28 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

La Toja comes to town

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A totally wonderful shave, from the beard wash with MR GLO to splashing on La Toja’s aftershave: very pleasant fragrance.

The La Toja shaving cream seems quite good. I did the usual—squeeze out a bit and smear it on chin and cheeks—then attacked it with the Vie-Long boar brush and got a wonderful lather. I was thinking somehow that the brush was horsehair—and the colors of the knot are better than the usual boar—so I didn’t soak it, but it did a fine job. It seemed to be already broken in, in terms of its lather capacity. And for the price ($15), it’s a bargain: a very good brush.

The iKon Bulldog Open Comb held a Swedish Gillette blade and provid its usual close, comfortable shave. This really is a fine razor.

A splash of the La Toja aftershave, and I felt great. And now, with my standard breakfast (as revised) inside me, I’m a happy guy.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 January 2012 at 8:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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