Thursday, March 26, 2015

Eat less, share more; or New doesn't always mean better.

The Washington Post reports the following:

When shared on social media, this photo was accompanied by
the tag, "You've been making rice the wrong way."

Hmm. I think it would seem intuitively obvious that reducing the food value of "the lifeblood of so many nation's cuisine" is an idea whose time should have come and gone without much fanfare.

I know that news has become a business, and it's all about the eyeballs and the clicks. Nevertheless, I find the tag, "You've been making rice the wrong way" to be incredibly condescending, from people who have no discernible  right to a claim of superiority. There's an entire world of possibilities to consider when thinking "outside the box". Their "solution" solves a problem for one person, and inefficiently at that. The same problem can be solved in a way that benefits many people having more than one problem among them.

To deliberately make food less nutritious is, IMHO, silly.

Instead, eat less rice. Feed the hungry with that which you did not consume, and prepare it in such a way that they get the maximum benefit from it. For the record, "eat less rice" = "more rice to go around". You don't get fat and others don't go hungry.

I take strong exception to the statement, "You've been making rice the wrong way". I respond to the authors with this counterproposal: "You haven't been thinking the right way, about people other than yourselves. Get on the ball. There's a whole planet full of people who aren't YOU. Stop eating like a glutton and share."

I should note that this isn't limited to the rice. The article decries the fact that potatoes have the "right kind" of starch (i.e. indigestible) until they're cooked. Then, horror upon horror, they become digestible. I think these people have a very poor comprehension of what constitutes the "right kind" of starch. When it comes to diluting the food or feeding the world, I'm in favor of the world.


A friend of mine notes that he wonders whether trying to be "sneaky" in reducing the calorie value of what you ingest actually works, or whether it will just make you look for those missing calories elsewhere. It's a fair question, in more ways than one. Not only might you look for those calories from unhealthy sources, but you're also training your body to accept a certain quantity of food as "enough". That might be true when you're cooking the rice, but only then.


Yesterday was my weirding anniversary. I have been marred for twenty years. Actually, more than that, as this is the third time I've been marred. I keep coming back for more. That's what makes it weird, I suppose. A friend wanted to know how my worf and I have stayed together so long. Since I've done this three times, I've got a pretty good idea what works and what doesn't. Basically, to make a partnership last, it helps if you're both too broke and lazy to file for da force, which is a legal judgement forcing one of you back onto the street.

I've never filed for da force, as I believe that when one is marred it should be for life. However, I've also never been forced onto the street. Both of my previous worfs were made to leave, even though they were the ones who filed. I guess this means they weren't very good at filing, which is surprising, since they were both secretaries of sorts.

In a few days it will be my twins' worthday. That's the day, once a year, when you assess a person's worth. Then you pay tribute to that person based on how much you value them. This tribute often takes the form of gifts and celebration. As this will be the nineteenth such occasion for my twins, we're reaching a cusp. For many people, at this stage, it means negative returns. In other words, you start having to pay in, in the form of rent, instead of getting free room and board. This is particularly true of people who aren't going to college, since we all know they're not worth as much. We charge them for living. Of course, even when they pay in, they commonly get a little something back on their worthday... think of it like a tax refund.

Often this tipping point of paying vs. getting comes shortly after one's degradation day, which is when you stop going to school. Your most important degradation day comes at the end of high school. This is a matter of proud achievement: people often send invitations to friends and family members and expectantly ask, "Are you coming to my degradation?" After your degradation, if you don't go to college, you're sold into slavery and must work for your keep. My twins' high school degradation was last year, but they put off their judgement by attending university.

You can put it off your degradation even longer than that by pursuing a higher degree, if you can stand the heat. I have a nephew who is a Ph.D, which means "doctor of pH" (he's a chemist). To do this he had to defend his feces, which is something produced by all doctoral candidates. Apparently, doctors don't like it when anybody tries to take their shit. This again is surprising, as they don't seem to mind spreading it around.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

They Have An Actual Name

OK, so I saw this today on Facebook.

Seen on Facebook. Reproduced under Title 17 Fair Use for
political editorial comment.

First Impressions

They're called "orchards".

They're all over the place in Florida, as I found out in the mid-nineties when I went to live there. Fortunately I went house-hunting down there at the right time of year... October. The grapefruit and orange trees in the back yard of one of the houses I looked at were well past their harvest date. The ground was littered with rotten and rotting fruit. It was slimy. It stank. It attracted flies and worms. Of course the real estate agent smiled and extolled the benefit of free fruit. I talked to the neighbors, and of course, they confirmed that the year was typically a whole lot of "ain't no fruit" followed by sudden frenzied "WTF am I going to do with all these *&$#&$& oranges?!?!" followed by garbage collection.

I didn't rent the house.

My first thought here was that I didn't really want to throw a damper on the ardor for this arbor, but a modicum of realism is called for if it's not to be shouted down as a gift from Satan shortly after it's planted. As a matter of necessity, to successfully feed anyone it would need to be a farm, no matter how they dress it up.

My parents owned a isn't "Free".

Again, that's not to say, "don't do it"... rather, it's to point out that the organizers seem to be asking the City to go to a lot expense for something that will bear fruit and/or nuts and feed people for a few weeks out of the year. IF their goal is actually to feed people and not simply stroke their emotions, they will do very well to investigate whether a "food forest" is the best and most efficient way to do that year-round.

So I decided to look into it some more.

The Beacon Food Forest Project 

A bit of web searching found the project. Go to the website and explore a bit, because it's an interesting thing they're doing here. 

Here's the actual site plan for the Beacon Food Forest project in Seattle.
From Reproduced under Title 17 Fair Use for political commentary. I'd have linked you straight to their graphic if it weren't so insanely huge. It takes ages to load and might cause a memory overflow.
My first impressions were based on the misleading infographic and what I already knew of forest gardening, which is a low-maintenance method of landscaping with a "natural" rather than "tended" appearance.  This project has little to do with forest gardening. As you can see, it's not particularly dense as forests go, it's not really an example of forest gardening. It's basically a city park with fruit trees and a reserved section for garden plots. It looks to be expensive in that way that only someone on the West coast could claim it's not. That expense is hidden behind donations (a-ok!) and government grants (not ok). To me, it resembles an art project as much as a serious attempt to feed anybody. To some extent it's the vegetable equivalent of a petting zoo. That in itself isn't a problem either, but it does show that their logic is buried under mounds of emotional manipulation that should never be necessary.

As far as I can tell, the term "food forest" is very fashionable right now because it's really marketable among seven-year-old kids. And let's face it, most of the website's materials are about emotional marketing. And as it is in part an educational endeavor, a lot of it is targeted at about a seven-year-old emotional level. But I'm an adult. I like to teach children new things, such as "the proper name for a 'food forest' is 'orchard'," so my grandchildren don't descend into the world of Idiocracy. I like things to make more than emotional sense.

Fortunately this does, though I have to supply my own arguments to some extent. It's not going to feed people year round, but you don't right now... improvement is better than no improvement, and half a loaf is better than none. It will be labor-intensive, but the splitting up into multiple plots spreads it around, and enough people of Seattle seem willing to do it... for now. I know from experience that farming is difficult, but as people drop out others should replace them.

If they're willing to work at those plots and give the food away then more power to them. This must be done altruistically or not at all if the "free food for anyone and everyone" communistic goal is to be achieved. In other words, you can't complain that 'vultures' descended on your crop and carried away the literal fruits of your labor. Under a 2010 ordinance Seattle residents can already farm on their own property if they would rather raise the food for personal use or sell it (see below), so the only thing that bothers me is the funding model.

To me, public support means I either worked at it with my hands or I donated towards it directly. PBS gets public support from viewers like me. To community organizers, though, public support is code that simply means, "don't complain when we ask for government funding", and that's exactly what it looks like here, to large extent.

The fact of the project doesn't bother me, I'd support such a thing in a heartbeat. If the goal were primarily feeding people I'd find it far more efficient to support professional local farmers who do that well, 24/7, and deserve to get paid for it. But as noted this has educational benefits as well as access to arable land for apartment dwellers and others who would like to garden but haven't the space.

The fact of the government funding bothers me immensely, and not least of all because it undermines the entire premise. "Free to anyone and everyone"?  Wrong. Paid for by everyone at gunpoint.

Like I said, I'd donate in a heartbeat, willingly. But I hate being robbed and then being told that the things purchased with my money are "free". That's a bad way to build trust. The most likely response is, "If you're robbing me already, why should I donate anything else?"


This 2010 story is far more exciting to me, and I'm using this story as an example because it's also in Seattle. I wouldn't want you to think I have it in for them...
SEATTLE – As part of the 2010 Year of Urban Agriculture, the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 116907 that supports the rapidly growing local food movement. The ordinance updates the City’s Land Use code governing urban agriculture uses, including allowing "urban farms" and "community gardens" in all zones, with some limitations in industrial zones. Also, residents will now be able to sell food grown on their property.
Idiocy commonly abounds when it comes to government and homeowner association restrictions on urban gardening, and the many government impediments to selling or distributing the results.

Kudos to Seattle for lowering some of those barriers. I only wish they weren't doing it wrong. This being the purported "home of the free", we shouldn't pass laws to permit people to grow food... we should instead eliminate the absolute insanity represented by laws and regulations that prohibit it! No one at any level of government should have that authority. 


Thursday, March 12, 2015

She's a Witch!

In an earlier post I quoted someone who used the phrase "bronze age foolishness" with regard to Christian morality. Most Christians are gentiles, held to two over-arching commandments, to love God and to love their neighbor. Most Christians are not Jews; and the strictures of laws upon them are not those of the Old Testament.

Having pointed this obvious thing out, I managed to "offend" someone who chooses not to listen fairly. Or more accurately, they have chosen to be offended after expending quite a bit of effort to mentally substitute their own reasoning for my statements. Apparently, the source of this offense is that I have failed to mention that I secretly want to persecute them.

I think it only fair that they be offended for the right reasons, and I herewith set out to cause such offense right now. And lest you be kept in suspense, I'll tell you in advance that the person is a witch.

First Things First

First of all, let me re-iterate that it is not an insignificant point that the Torah (the Law of the "old testament") is for Jews. Pious Jews are not one bit concerned with what other nations do any more than the normal concern that any thinking, feeling person has for another. The Torah was given by God to the Jews who are bound by the Covenant. Everybody else... well, less is expected of them. And to be perfectly honest, that includes Christians. This was an important point of the discussions between Paul and James in the New Testament. Jews do not proselytize. They have been surrounded for all of their history by neighbors who do things that warrant death if done by a Jew; yet there have been no Jewish Crusades. Since the original conquest of Canaan, Jews do not gird themselves with armor and visit death upon their neighbors for their iniquities. And even that is historically debatable; a popular theory is that most of the people who became the Jews were originally Canaanites, such that the "conquest" was figurative. Since that time Jews have have mostly girded themselves with armor to defend their lives and land.

So the obvious and easy way to avoid the obligations and proscriptions of Old Testament law is to simply not be Jewish.

This applies even to the Sabbath, and it's not just Christians who interpret it this way. Naturally, you're still subject to the civil and criminal laws of wherever it is you live. Since a good deal of these are universal among human societies, there is quite a bit of overlap. So if you're not actually living in Israel, stop fretting over the Torah.

It's not mere interpretation. Jews have had thousands of years to think it out. Though a Jew can't work on the Sabbath, they can hire goyim who may do work for them (within strict limits). Jews can't even own chometz (leavened foods) on Passover, but they can be "sold" to gentiles and bought back later. In short, I'm not making this up... that's the way it actually works.


Secondly... and this whole section is an aside... it's worth looking to see whether this "bronze age foolishness" is actually foolish. So let's pretend for a moment that we're all party to the Covenant.

We'll begin by looking at the "lex talionis" (the principle of "an eye for an eye"), which is often held up as some draconian barbaric practice.  In fact, it's exactly the opposite. Look at the alternative; the oft-praised Code of Hammurabi. In this code, punishments were not proportional to the crime. For instance, false accusation was punishable by death, with your assets forfeited to the accused and not your heirs (law #2). However, according to the Torah, the punishment must be appropriate to the crime... and no more.  An eye for an eye; not your head for my eye.

The Torah applies to pauper and king alike (Num 15:16). Contrast this with the code of Hammurabi, which prescribes unequal sentencing based on social class.

Furthermore, in the Torah, punishment is met upon the perpetrator. In Hammurabi's code, if you are a builder whose sub-standard construction kills the owner's son, then your own child is put to death. (law 230); whereas the Torah states that if a man's ox kills someone it is the ox that dies... unless the owner had previously been warned it was a danger, in which case it is he that is at fault. (Ex 21:28-29)

In the Torah, punishments are obviously figurative, intended to illustrate the principle of equal justice, and Exodus makes this clear. In every case where Exodus says that a case will be "brought before God", this means before a judge (judging is part of a priest's job description). The judge may choose to offer to impose a fine, even in the stead of the death penalty (Ex 21:30), and this was commonly done.

Slavery was a fact of life in the Middle East: but in Exodus 21 there are laws to limit the term of slavery to seven years; and to punish owners and to free slaves in the event of grievous mistreatment. The fact that there was slavery at the time might bother you less when you realize that there is no imprisonment as a punishment in the Torah. In practice, a poor man might sell himself as a slave to provide restitution or avoid death (Ex. 22:2-3); or it might be a sentence imposed by the court. But it was, as mentioned, limited in scope, the purpose of which is to provide restitution. I would readily submit that Jewish slavery was a much better alternative than the system of glutted prisons and recidivism that our modern "progressive" system has produced... which really isn't that progressive. It hasn't been missed by some people that prison is in fact institutionalized, government-sanctioned slavery.

There are a lot of restrictions and laws in the Torah; but typically, those who most heavily criticise them for "bronze age foolishness" haven't actually read them and placed them in context.

And then there's this:

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Ex. 22:18 KJV

Well, that's not exactly what it says. Just as "thou shalt not kill" actually reads "thou shalt not murder" in Hebrew, this one reads,

"Thou shalt not permit a sorceress to live." (Ex. 22:18 RSV)

This is Lucrezia Borgia.
Guess what she wasn't?
(via Wikipedia)
At least one witch believes both of these to be mistranslated, pointing out that the word in the Septuagint is pharmakos, which they take to mean "poisoner". And they take exception to the "to live" portion, preferring to translate the whole verse as "You shall not sustain (do business with) a poisoner."

As translations-of-translations go, this sucketh the large egg[1]. It ignores that pharmakos is homonym which also carries a meaning close to Hebrew. And not only does the original Hebrew use a word meaning "to live", but it also describes the person to be left in not-living-condition as kashaph (transliterations vary) which describes "one who whispers magic" in the sense of actually practicing magic... a sorceress. This is consistent with related languages, and also with other Hebrew words using the same roots. So the protestations of modern-day revisionists who claim it says other than what it says should be discarded. But what it doesn't say is "witch". There wasn't really a word for that. It's certainly intended to mean someone who practices sorcery. So it's exactly what it looks like... an admonition to kill sorcerers.

This is a mutant, not a witch.
(via Flickr)
Does that describe my friend the witch?

No, not really. Most modern "witches" are more properly "Wiccans", and while this is certainly a religion, there's no Biblical proscription against other religions. You can worship as you like so long as you're not Jewish. The Bible's level of tolerance for that is well-established and legendary. Even though Christians are called upon to proselytize, they're forewarned that not everybody is going to listen (Matt 13). Christians are also called upon to love even their enemies (Matt 5:43-48) and there's no qualifier that says, "if they belong to your church".  So whether read by Jew or Christian, the verse certainly doesn't call people out just because they call themselves witches or because they practice some other religion.  The real question is, "Do you practice magic?" (And not sleight of hand, either)

This is a witch.
(Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
I don't really care about your belief. You can believe yourself to be a witch all day long. You have all the freedom in the world to follow whatever points of theology you can, with whoever among your craft you can find to agree with you. Or by yourself. Actually, nobody cares, for the same reason as above. The question is still, "Do you practice magic?"

Likewise, nobody cares about your delusions, misapprehensions, aborted attempts, selective memory, and ontological biases. For the last time, "Do you practice magic?"

Obviously, taking somebody's life is a pretty Big Deal. Surely, if someone were to accuse you, I'd want to see some real proof before I go off sentencing you to oblivion. If anyone of any or no religion were to make the claim that you were a kashaph, I'd want them to produce that evidence.

Now, if you were to persist in insisting that you're exactly what the Bible is talking about when uses the word translated in the KJV as "witch" or "sorcerer", then show me some objectively verifiable demonstration of the awesome witchly powers which you would necessarily claim to have. Quite frankly, I have yet to see anything of the sort, despite the fact that it would be an astonishing and wondrous demonstration that I would be most eager to witness. So give me the same evidence that I would demand of any person who accused you. Just step right on up and toss a few enchantments at the camera for us. Demonstrate not mere ritual, but the effects of said ritual. Prove that you're an actual card-carrying, spell-wielding, effective practitioner of actual honest-to-Murgatroyd MAGIC. Then -- and only then -- let's talk about whether you should be suffered to live.

Otherwise, I have no interest in imposing the death penalty on some harmless nut who's at best delusional and at worst a mere petty fraud. Nor am I obligated to meet your expectations and persecute you simply because you chose a religion for which you seem to feel as though you deserve some measure of persecution. I'm perfectly content to let you fantasize in peace. At the same time, I feel no need to mollycoddle you simply because you have the right to believe whatever you like. Your right to believe does not obligate me to treat the subject as though I believe. Nor am I obligated to curb my writing or my speech to avoid bruising the feelings of someone who goes to great effort to be as offended as possible no matter the provocation... particularly not when I'm writing with no thought of you whatsoever. You'll just have to just have to enchant yourself a thicker skin.

via the Open Library
[1] For those who are still thinking that "pharmakos = poisoner" is a reasonable conclusion based on what you know of modern English and what you think you know about the ancient Greeks despite the revelation that's it's a poor translation of the Hebrew word, I refer you to Jane Ellison Harrison's Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion for further information. Despite the name, it's a fairly comprehensive look at the religious practices of the Greeks... not only the Olympian worship that you know about, but the Cthonic practices that you probably don't.