Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Thought of the Day, November 16, 2016: Erica Jong on Cynicism

"Many people today believe that cynicism requires courage. Actually, cynicism is the height of cowardice. It is innocence and open-heartedness that requires the true courage, however often we are hurt as a result of it."
—Erica Jong

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Books Read, October 2016

I read two novels by Lauren Beukes in October. Both were brilliant.

Broken Monsters is multiple point-of-view book about bizarre murders in Detroit that in some ways echoes elements of season one of True Detective, though Broken Monsters was written first. 

The Shining Girls is both a chilling supernatural serial killer story and a very effective time-travel tale.

Both are highly recommended to fans of well-written weird fiction.

FICTION 
  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove and Other Stories by Karen Russell
  • Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes


NONFICTION
  • Aikido Exercises for Teaching and Training by C.M. Shifflett
  • Martial Musings: A Portrayal of Martial Arts in the 20th Century by Robert W, Smith
  • Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies  by Hadley Freeman

Witnessing Domestic Abuse in Everyday Life

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In his proclamation President Barack Obama said it was a time to “shine a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse.”

It is important to “shed a light “ on domestic abuse because it is a complicated issue made even more complicated by myths and misconceptions.

For example, some people think that domestic abuse is mostly something that happens in private, or that it always involves physical violence. On the contrary, domestic abuse can and does occur in public and often doesn’t involve violence.

I know this first-hand. For several years in the '90s I worked in retail at a local shopping mall. While there, I saw a surprising number of acts of domestic abuse. Two examples particularly stuck with me.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Books Read, September 2016


There was something of a creepy fiction theme last month.

FICTION
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  • The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
  • Low Red Moon by Caitlin R. Kiernan


NONFICTION
  • The Magic of Conflict by Thomas Crum
  • Becoming Kuan Yin: The Evolution of Compassion by Stephen Levine
  • The Other Nietzsche by Joan Stambaugh

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Recipe Wednesday: Bitter Melon Miso Stir-Fry

Some people shy away from bitter flavors. Others embrace them.

If you are in the latter category, this recipe is probably right up your alley. The principal ingredient is bitter melon, which, as the name suggests, is rather bitter.

Bitter melon is popular throughout Asia. It appears to have originated in the Indian subcontinent, where it is known as karela. From there, it made its way to China, the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere.

This recipe is Okinawan in origin. In Okinawa, bitter melon is know as goya, and this dish is called goya no miso chanpuru, which translates more or less to “bitter melon miso stir-fry.” The recipe is a simplified variation of one from Elizabeth Andoh, an American chef who has lived in Japan since 1967.


Bitter Melon Miso Stir-Fry
 (Serves 3-4)
About 1-pound bitter melon, diced (see below)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
10-12 chunks frozen kabocha
12-oz extra firm tofu, cubed
Splash of cooking sake or mirin
3 tablespoons yellow miso
1-tablespoon sugar
¾ to 1 cup of water

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok on medium heat.

Split the bitter melon down the middle, Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and inner white pith (a grapefruit spoon works especially well for this). Cut the bitter melon into half-moons, about half an inch thick.

Toss the diced bitter melon and onion in the skillet and cook until they both start to soften, about 10 minutes. Stir regularly.

Add the tofu and the kabocha along with a splash of cooking sake or mirin to help prevent sticking. Continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

A quick word on the kabocha: I use frozen kabocha for the simple reason fresh kabocha can be something of a hassle to work with. If you choose to go with fresh, I commend you. Just be sure to adjust the cooking times to make sure the kabocha cooks through.

Meanwhile, mix the miso, sugar and water in a small bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat at 30 seconds intervals until the mixture can be easily whisked together into a consistent, slightly creamy sauce.

Pour the mixture into the skillet with the rest of the ingredients and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, still stirring regularly.

Remove the skillet from heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve the bitter melon miso stir-fry over rice, ideally with some green tea or, if you are concerned about caffeine, a nice cup of mugicha (barley tea). And then there's beer. There is just something magical about the combination of bitter melon and beer.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Books Read, August 2016

Ninjas, Riddle-Masters, and Sherlock Holmes were among my literary companions this month.

FICTION
  • Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
NONFICTION
  • Budo Secrets: Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters by John Stevens
  • Ninja: 1,000 Years of the Shadow Warrior by John Man
  • Pretentiousness : Why It Matters by Dan Fox
  • The Secret Teachers of the Western World by Gary Lachman.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Books Read, July 2016

Not much of a theme in July, except for a double-dose of paranoia in my choice of non-fiction reading.

FICTION
  • Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier
  • Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly
  • The Riddle-Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip


NONFICTION
  • No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson
  • Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps' Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life by Jason Riley and Patrick Van Horne