Saturday, October 31, 2015

Salsa Verde (Green Tomato Salsa) - and one small (big?) lesson learned

With the Cold weather coming, I cleared the Tomato patch out of the garden, and ended up with a fair quantity of green tomatoes. I've never used green tomatoes before. I was going to try fired green tomatoes, a couple years ago, but procrastinated until the tomatoes rotted. So this year, I had a friend who made salsa verde, using green tomatoes instead of tomatillos (I've never made salsa verde of any kind, but his was tasty, so I thought I'd give it a go. As I often do, I looked around at a few recipes, then kind of did my own thing. It is pretty darn delicious!

I don't know, maybe this is just me, but I find the "waste" bowl to be rather beautiful...

That will go to the copost pile to become part of next years vegetables! But I had to take a pic, because it is.... a natural work of art?

The jalapenoes came from the freezer, from last years garden, the habaneros were pretty tiny - one was ripe, one was half-ripe and the last one was just barely starting to ripen (It's what I had on the plant. Have to start that one earlier next year).

Salsa Verde

36 cups cored, rough-chopped green tomatoes
10 large jalapeno peppers
3 small habaneros
8 cups chopped red onion
1 head garlic
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups lime juice (fresh squeezed plus the pulp)
3 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper

Run the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic through a food processor and add to a large pot.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. I got size quarts out of this.

Of course then I went to look up processing info, and found that Salsa shouldn't be processed in quart jars, which is what I had available, and therefore filled and loaded in the canner before I went looking for processing times. Additionally, they are rather iffy on making up your own recipes and canning (at least water bath) as salsa is a mix of acid and non-acid ingredients, thus may not be safe for water bath canning. I've got 6 quarts of questionably processed salsa verde now. Ooops. I guess I could get some ph test strips and get at least a rough guess on approximate safety.

Guess I will be eating lots of green salsa this week. Salsa anyone?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Experience With Religious Persecution

"Kill those Jehovas! Kill those Jehovas!"

That was my first real experience with religious persecution. I was in second grade, and that day is forever burned into my brain. I was in the classroom, with one of my best friends (don't even remember his name now, he move later that year). A girl I knew (and liked) was talking to another girl abut religion. The other Girl was Jehovas Witness. "What's that?!" I asked, trying to look and sound cool, and not-ignorant.

My friend then told me he had heard all about them from his Mom. "They were a cult!...  had their own 'bible' called the "Green Dragon"...  worship the Devil!... Brainwash people!...".

I have always have a bit of a hero fixation - always like heroes - always wanted to be one. I grew up watching Battlestar Galactica (the original TV series, not the lame reboot), Buck rogers, Jason of Star Command, Justice League, Knight Rider, A-Team, The Equalizer (At one point, that was my career plan - Join the military, train as special forces, and become the equalizer...). I used to play knights, rescue heroes, space explorers...

Still like heroes - real heroes.

Always wanted to be a hero. And fight evil.

So... I spent recess marching around the playground like an idiot, with my friend, shouting "Kill those Jehovas! Kill those Jehovas!..."

After recess our teacher gave us a stern talking to for our inappropriate behavior. More importantly, she planted a seed of doubt as to the veracity of my friends claims.

That troubled me. Why would he lie? I asked my mother (a voracious consumer of books and their contents) about the Jehovah Witness. She provided a reasonably thorough education (for one who is not a Jehovas Witness) regarding their beliefs, noting the similarities and differences to the Latter Day Saint faith.

I felt... Humiliated, Embarrassed, Crushed, Betrayed. That day was the end of my friendship with that kid. Though in retrospect it wasn't my stupid friends fault. And it probably wasn't his stupid Mom's fault. Perhaps not even their stupid preachers fault. Who know where the ignorance sprang from, a misunderstanding during a heated religious conversation with some preacher, an angry half-truth from a disaffected member of the faith. An early historical event taken out of context...

I don't remember if I ever apologized to the girl. But that day is a permanent scar in my memory.

My next taste of religious persecution came in high-school - some christian group sent their kids to a bible school, and they came back armed with anti-mormon propaganda, some of which was slipped into my locker. That was the same year somebody drove past me as I was walking home from school and yelled "Mormon A-hole!". Also the same year I received a letter full of anti-mormon "questions" from a friend. My encyclopedia Mom was again the source I turned to. She put the various statements into context, separated the truths, half-truths and lies into neat little piles. She produced plenty of source material to read (our house had more books than wall space).

Somewhere right around that time (the summer after, I think) I participated in 'friendly ribbing' of a kid who had suddenly decided to join some new age, vegetarian group. It sounded so weird. I quit within a few seconds, and followed him outside after the meeting to apologize. He made a few cracks about Mormons, and we parted friends.

Of course, after that, I served a mission in Florida, where there were billboards advertising a hotline to call in order to save your Mormon friends from their satanic cult, where I had a number of Christians pray for my soul. Where the friends of one girl we gave a Book of  Mormon to took it form her and burned it. Where a teenage girl had a prayer group pray over her and push on her stomach until she threw up and convinced her that it was the devil coming out of her. Where I heard all about the "Joe Smith and his Mormon mafia, who kidnapped virgins and took them to the Salt Lake temple to force them to marry old men." and this was known to be true because some of the girls had jumped out of the tower and into the great Salt Lake, where they swam to safety and escaped (Look at a map of Salt Lake City. Note the location of the Temple and The great Salt Lake. Impressive feat, no?).

And now, with the internet allowing every idiot (including myself) a voice...

I have seen plenty of anti-mormon propaganda, I have also seen plenty of anti-islamic propaganda. Fortunately, on my mission, I met a devout muslim, who came from the Middle east to the U.S. to study medicine, and was at that time a successful Doctor. He gave me a Quran as a trade for the Book of Mormon we offered him. My brief experience with him serves as a counter-point to the claims I now hear. The copy of the Quran a source from which I could fact-check claims, and read quotes in context.

I am forever regretful, and forever grateful for my encounter with that girl in 2nd grade. I wish I could find her and apologize to her, but because of that experience I am slower to listen to propaganda, quicker to question the accusatory claims, and somewhat better at seeking common ground. (Though I still have an infuriating habit of challenging peoples' strong beliefs - the always/never/all/none kinds of beliefs, not because I agree or disagree with them, mostly out of curiosity, and to deepen the conversation, but inevitably I upset people and then I feel bad for weeks/months/years...).

I am also grateful for the example my mother set, of reading, studying, digging deeper - seeking context, motive, understanding.

I have concluded the most (if not all) persecution comes from ignorance. And from a lack of personal conversion.

I believe that in all religions (and many groups who think they aren't religions), there are those who are converted and those who are brainwashed. The converted recognize their group as one filled with both truth and flaws. They recognize that most if not all others are ultimately seeking, stumbling toward greater truth, and they are thus willing to share, co-exist seek, common ground...

The brainwashed are weakly connected to an ancillary idea, a person, a group... They have no foundation, no real confidence, so they cling desperately to it, and consider everything else - no matter how different or similar - a threat. They must therefore attack it, belittle it, destroy it, minimize it, subdue it, assimilate it. Only their way of thinking can be tolerated.

This ramble probably has a couple endings, and probably should have ended paragraphs ago. So to close? We are more alike than we are different. We can find a way to co-exist. We are better off for the diversity, we don't always have to agree - or even support each other - to co-exist. We can find a way to compromise. It is either that, or more blood.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Proving God: Math and Personal Science

I think I have exhausted my thoughts on this (at least for the near to immediate future). It has been an interesting process, Just one last post to close out the sequence of thoughts

Here is a list of the posts in order, in case you wanted to review:
1. Dis/Proving God: Math, Science and a Checkerboard.
2. Dis/Proving God: Anecdotes, Logic and Water.
3. Dis/Proving God: The Facts.
4. Dis/Proving God: Science and Faith.
5. Dis/Proving God: Patterns.

So the basic conclusion I draw from my thoughts is that it isn't practical or possible to prove or disprove through formal scientific process the existence of God, and that it is in fact harder to disprove than to prove the existence of God. There is nothing about science or scientific process or faith/religion or religious process that prohibits the two from coexisting. In fact the two can be very compatible.

I believe that, while dis/proving God on the public level is not feasible, it is entirely possible to apply scientific processes in one's own personal search to prove - and understand - God.

There is a cool word used in Mathematics which provides the starting point for this.


Yes, that is a valid word in mathematical proof, used in proof by exhaustion, proof by contradiction...

 It has been used in science before. Atomic theory began with a belief that atoms existed. Based on that assumption, mathematical models were created.Over time, as tools became more sophisticated, those models were refined.

You can apply the same process to religious discovery.

Assume God exists.

What does that mean? Who is God? What is God like? What is our relationship to God? Study what is known, search for the patterns, and develop your theories. Test them against what is known and what 'makes logical sense'. Hang on to what fits. Discard what doesn't.

Assume God exists. Either he loves us, or he doesn't.
If he doesn't, then he is irrelevant, is he not?
But, since you find repeated through nearly every religion and mythology, the idea of a 'savior' - of one sent by God to rescue mankind from everlasting doom, then it seems safe to assume that God does in fact love us.

Assume God exists, and he loves us. Then why do bad things happen? There are really only a few possible explanations that fit, when one considers the big picture.
1. This short earth life is so insignificant in the grand, infinite scheme of things, that all the horror that we are experiencing simply... doesn't matter.
2. This life, while perhaps insignificantly short to God, matters, but it is ours to experience. As such he is "un-involved". Not in the sense that he doesn't care, or doesn't listen to us or answer many prayers or grant many requests, but that he doesn't interfere.

If God loves us this life must have meaning, must have a purpose. So option 1 really doesn't make sense.

Assume God exists, and he loves us, and this life is for us to experience.
Then clearly he has a plan for us,he wants us to learn, and grow, and become better. So we can safely assume that as we search for answers, as we seek to treat each other with love and kindness, we will find the answers we seek in time, with patience and persistence.

It simply... makes. sense.

Prepare to be wrong sometimes. At one time, scientific thought was that heat/cold was due to a tasteless, odorless colorless particle called the caloric.After decades, new evidence disproved this idea, and a new model was developed.

Remember of course that being wrong about one thing doesn't mean you have to discard everything. Science is an iterative process. We work our way toward the truth in tiny steps. The more we learn and discover the more our model may change, and the closer our assumption about reality- based on our observation of a relatively small piece of the puzzle - will come to matching things as they really are.

It is possible to perform scientific experiments on religious matters. A prophet named Alma gave excellent counsel on this topic.

Perform an experiment. Study the words of prophets, apply their instructions in your life, be patient, be persistent, be observant. What is the outcome for you personally? How does it change your life? For the better? Hold on to it. For the worse? Re-evaluate.

It is okay to not have a complete picture. It is okay to not have all the pieces fit.

And it is okay that each persons journey may be slightly different. They might use different names, different terms, rely on different explanations... That's okay. It doesn't mean they are right and you are wrong, Most likely it means they have some thing right, some things wrong, and you have some things right and some things wrong. Scientific progress requires discussion, cooperation, sharing, a willingness to learn.

Finding truth is a journey, not a destination. It is a process. One that will fill a life time. And more.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Proposing Some Gun Violence Solutions

Gun talk is everywhere again, and I am sitting here not sleeping because my mind is going crazy with thoughts, so I might as well get them down.

First, the assumptions - please let me know if you think I am off base:

The key factors driving gun violence are (in no particular order):
1. The comparative effectiveness of firearms - They are better at killing things.
2. The availability of firearms - The are cheap, easy to acquire, and readily available
3. Lack of education about, and respect for firearms - A key factor in accident shooting and gang incidents.
4. Mental health - Mental health care stinks
5. Desensitization coupled with classical and operant conditioning - Violent Movies, Shows, Games etc... (not saying they make everyone violent, only that they are significant contributors to the propensity toward violent acts. See the info at this link for more info.
6. Nihilism - Rejection of moral principles. I (unscientifically) claim it is on the rise, and clearly contributes to the problem.

Now the proposals:

1 and 2 are where most of the focus/debate is. I have seen no headway. I don't foresee that changing.

3. I propose we make basic firearms safety training a required part of middle-school curriculum. We teach kids proper care and handling of the kitchen cutlery, shouldn't we also teach them to never play with a gun, how to make certain a gun is unloaded? safely stored?

I further propose that we implement an "Advanced Firearms Safety license". This would be voluntary, and would be a reward based solution. By completing this , which would include background checks, advanced firearm safety training, training in proper defense and engagement tactics, etc... you would qualify for certain additional privileges, like concealed carry to many otherwise restricted locations, Airplane carry... Not sure what, the point is to make it rigorous and rewarding.

4. It is funny how readily we accept the fallibility of every organ in the body except the brain. Limbs, eyes, ears, heart, liver, kidneys etc... wear out, break and degenerate. We know this, we accept this. we are sympathetic to those who suffer from various conditions, and we have all kinds of tests to help detect them. Many insurance providers offer free coverage for an annual health check-up, they look in your ears, they listen to your heart, they draw blood, looking for indicators of a number of health problems, which when detected early can be prevented, treated, or managed.

Yet most people seem to still believe that the brain is somehow infallible (With the exception of a few various obvious birth defects, or strokes). How dumb is that?

I propose we offer a tax credit or other incentive for a free annual mental health checkup. Tests could include blood draws, brain activity scans, psychological questionnaires... At first, much of the information would have limited use, but after a few decades of collecting information from the entire population (or most of anyway), we would begin to establish useful correlations which would allow for appropriate preventative programs to be implemented. The sooner we start, the sooner we will get there.

5. I propose that a risk tax be placed on movies, shows, music, and games which contain excessive violence, or glorify/represent the misuse of firearms (improper stance, firing into crowds, unlimited ammo, mass shootings, "trick shooting" etc... Tax the shows, and the tax the actors/actresses. That may reduce the quantity of violent content to a more manageable level, and the taxes will help fund the previously proposed education and health check-ups.

I further propose (This one won't be popular) that parents can be fined if they allow their children to view or play content which is rated for mature viewers only. And they can be tried as accessory to murder if it shown shown their underage child perpetrator was allowed access to mature content.

6. I don't have a practical proposal here. The community at large has to make the choice to reverse this trend. To take responsibility and teach their children to "Love one another".

Okay, I think I'm done. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? I'm going back to bed.