When reading the Daodejing it is easy to walk away thinking that human relationships, which are essential to the Confucian, aren’t really all that important to Laozi. I don’t think this is really true. Although there are some obvious differences between Confucius and Laozi, I think there are also some points of agreement. Given all the typical contrast that is usually drawn between them, it can be interesting to try to unearth some similarities. In this direction, poem 61 stuck out at me as laying the ground for a substantial point of agreement. On the surface, it’s about states and “international relations” but I think the subject can be more generally applied to relationships, as I’ll suggest below.
Archive for April, 2011
I made these today in the middle of doing some prep work for school, barely even paying attention or putting much effort along the way. Seriously – this is one easy challenge. Quite possibly the easiest one yet in the book.
It’s not just easy, though. Lavash Crackers are also very delicious. I was skeptical about how they would turn out, but my skepticism was misplaced. The specific combination of spices used on these “crackers” (more like breadsticks) is really, really addictive. Once you eat one of these things, you just keep eating. And eating. And eating. Luckily this is not a high-calorie challenge!
I don’t tend to be much of a sandwich guy, and when I do have a sandwich, it’s not typically on a Kaiser roll. So I saw this challenge as one of those “well sure, I’ll give it a shot” occasions. I was more curious to see how close to the form of a Kaiser roll I could get it into than anything else.
I think I got it! I was expecting a bland taste, but I was wrong – they tasted good. Moreover, they didn’t just come out looking like Kaiser rolls – they also had the exact right texture, crumb, and crust. If you’re into sandwiches on rolls, this is a good recipe to make, and not terribly difficult to do, if you’re not a beginner or baking newbie.
I had some leftover ricotta and strawberries from the Strawberry Ricotta Cake a few days ago, so I figured I’d use them up trying this recipe out. I’ve been wanting to make ricotta pancakes for a while, but never quite got around to it until today. I suppose this is partly because I’m not a “breakfast guy” so the early morning to be is really a time to just pound coffees, one after the other. I tend to not want to blow calories too early in the day.
I’m glad I got over it and decided to make these — they are truly wonderful. High restaurant quality, I’d say. They are incredibly airy and light, and the ricotta (as is typical using this as an ingredient) is just barely noticeable, if at all. This is not to say that they don’t add a lot to the meal – they do. It’s just that ricotta is an excellent ingredient in that it “does the job” it is meant to do, both in terms of flavoring and adding texture, without overpowering everything else. In fact, these were so tasty that I think the strawberry topping is simply unnecessary. A little powdered sugar and a small amount of butter, and you’ll be one happy camper. Recipe below.
One of the many interesting subjects that comes up in the Daodejing – though surprisingly not as often as one would suppose — is death. While death comes up implicitly in a number of poems, namely in the context of giving advice about not doing this or that, as this or that may shorten life, there are not many explicit discussions of the subject itself. Poem 55 is an exception. Though it also gives some of that same kind of advice, it also explicitly mentions death itself. The more I read poem 50, the more I am inclined to read it through an existential lens . Whether it’s the right way to read 55 I am not certain (I’m not saying Laozi is an existentialist – just that the poem lends itself to an existential reading), but I know that when I do read it that way, a lot of other concepts in this rich and sophisticated book start to come together (for me) in a coherent way.
My wife asked me to bake something for the birthday of a mutual friend of ours. At first I was going to make a cheesecake, but then I decided to go with a ricotta square dessert. I’ve made this with blueberries and with cherries, and this time I wanted to try fresh strawberries.
My wife asked if this would work as a cake as opposed to the typical way, which requires baking it in a pan and then cutting it up into squares. I wasn’t sure, but I figured what the hell – if it doesn’t work, we’ll know soon enough. To the right is the picture of how it came out, using a springform instead of a baking pan. It actually looks pretty good! I won’t be at the party, so I’ve asked my wife to get a picture of one of the slices for me so I can see the inside. Wouldn’t mind a piece, either.
I was so distressed by that bad loaf of Italian Bread I made the other day that I had to make another one today — this time from my older Carol Field recipe. Although I almost always make rustic Italian breads as boules, this time I went for a longer shaped loaf (for practice), and I hit it up with some egg-wash and poppy seeds. Came out great. Like the frosting on the cake, we ate the loaf in my favorite way (growing up) — with some fresh mozzerella, white wine Italian sausage (though I’d usually get a stick of pepperoni), and some very, very sharp provolone (all in picture to the side, click on it to blow it up and closely examine the goodness). Ah…now that did the trick (and got the bad taste of that last loaf out of my mouth!).
With the discussion in the post below on Daoism and the notion of “being natural” still fresh in my head, this post from Christie Wilcox in Scientific American caught my eye, where she argues that things in their “natural” states (read: without human interference) are no better off than things not in those states. Clearly, she’s no Daoist. Passed along without comment (from me), she notes:
When we picture the wild world, we see lush forests full of brightly-colored, singing birds, with monkeys swinging from branch to branch. We imagine vast prairies with herds of antelope and zebra grazing peacefully while a pack of lions naps lazily in the shade. Even when we do imagine the more gruesome aspects of the wild, we see them as OK or better than what we do because it’s “natural.” This bias for what is “natural” is pervasive, affecting our judgement on everything from sexual orientation and medical care to farming practices and clothing fibers. But there is nothing inherently better about something being natural, and the idea that something that occurs in nature without us is somehow better than something we have altered or taken part in is a dangerous fallacy.
(h/t: Andrew Sullivan)
My wife, who always tastes my food first before I do, said that if this bread had been on this season of American Idol the judges would have loved it. “I could just hear Steven Tyler now,” she said, then launching into her Tyler imitation, “This bread is amazing…flavorful…truly amazing. Can’t be beat!”. (Anyone who has watched Idol this season knows that the show has been widely panned for having new judges who seem incapable or unwilling to say anything bad about anyone.) Immediately following that comment, she said, “By far the worst bread you’ve made ever.”
Personally, it reminded me of the Chinese bread and baked desserts I ate while living in Beijing – both of which always looked good, but had absolutely zero taste. Utterly and completely flavorless. That’s exactly what happened here. Enjoy the pictures below the fold – the bread looks good, but it tastes like Wonder Bread. Bleech.
We’re dead smack in the middle of Daodejing in my Asian Ethics course, and as is typical right around this time, students seem to be half intrigued and half utterly baffled by the text. Which is as I suppose it should be. However, each time I teach the time, I find myself in the same spot. Which I suppose again is as it should be? Obviously my confusions are not the same as theirs, but I certainly find myself more perpexed by this text than I am by the Dhammapada or the Analects, the other two texts in this course. Today, however, a student asked a question that I myself have asked about the text, one which I simply have no good answer for.
Just got them in the mail today (click pic for close up). The wife and I are pretty excited to go and hear him talk, as are the other people we got tickets for – including my mom, who will be visiting at the time, so I got her a ticket. All in all, though, I must admit that the thought of going to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Arkansas just sounds funny to me for some reason.
Why Buddhism? Why not? I also wouldn’t mind to go hear a Taoist sage give a talk too, but I doubt they come out of the woods for long enough at any one time. Moreover, even if they did hang around for a while, they probably wouldn’t say much.
Anyone who has been to France and didn’t come away completely nuts for French Bread is likely insane, and should be checked into one of those all white rubber rooms. French Bread — in all of its various forms — is simply amazing. I know I’ve spent more than one occasion walking around Paris with one of those 3 foot bagettes in my hand, chomping away as I walked (no doubt simultaneously outing myself as an American).
Since French bread really is so good, I had low expectations on this week’s challenge. In addition. I’ve been terribly rushed all week and this weekend, so I know I had little time to really patiently walk through the process. So I figured if it came out decent, I’d be happy, given the fact that I’d have to rush it. I don’t think I knocked this one out of the park, but it came out well (my wife and I have I’ve already had numerous pieces!).
I’ve been pretty overwhelmed this week with teaching duties (grading, prepping), so that explains the slow posting this week. While I’m busy trying to get out from underneath the pile of work, here’s an interesting blog post arguing against the attempt on the part of a particular university to wipe out its philosophy department as a result of budget cuts (there’s also an interesting tit-for-tat in the comments section on whether minds supervene on the physical!).