Diary, Food, Ideas

Classic French-Style Potato Salad

Potato salad doesn’t ALWAYS have to be mayonnaise heavy. Personally, I’m far more partial to those varieties without it. There are a lot of recipes for German style, with it’s bacon and sweet-sour tang. But once in a while I love me some French, with the bite of vinaigrette and stone ground mustard


INGREDIENTS

1.5lbs (680g) small potatoes (gold, red-skinned or a mix)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp (30ml) Extra Virgin Oil Oil
1 tbsp (15ml) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tbsp Grainy Mustard
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 shallot, peeled and diced
5-6 cornichons (or dill pickles), diced
1 tbsp (15ml) cornichon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1 – Slice the small potatoes in half, or in quarters if larger. Place them in a large pot and cover by 1 inch with water. Add 1 tbsp of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes until you can easily poke a knife into the potatoes. Drain immediately into a colander/strainer and rinse under cold water. The potatoes should have cooled slightly, but still be warm to the touch.

Step 2 – In a large bowl, combine the EVOO, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously with a fork to blend and emulsify. Add Dijon mustard, grainy mustard, 3 tablespoons of the freshly chopped dill, the diced shallots, diced cornichons and cornichon juice. Toss to combine.

Step 3 – Add the potatoes to the bowl of vinaigrette. Toss gently to coat the potatoes evenly. If needed, season more to taste.

Serve warm or chilled, For serving, sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped dill.

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Diary, Ideas, Images, Inspiration
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I’ve been asked, recently, about how we move forward from some of the societal problems we struggle with. Well, I think the answer is both simple and impossible.

Diary, Ideas, Inspiration, Politics

Parenting Issues

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Ideas, Inspiration

Never Apologize for What You Feel

How much briefer the conversations in life would be if people stopped apologizing for how they feel!  The thing is, there is absolutely zero reason for anyone to ever apologize for their feelings because feelings aren’t the result of rational thought: the just are.Never apologize for what you feel

Ok… so I know that there are  people who are insecure and who think that no one in the world is less than them, so they have to apologize for everything.  And while I would like to scream until they stopped doing that I know my temper tantrums aren’t going to fix what has become a way of thinking.

Still, there are others out there who apologize to:

  • take up time while they are thinking of something meaningful to say.
  • as a way of ingratiating themselves to others
  • because they confuse feeling with action.
  • and probably a thousand other reasons.

The thing is, things don’t apologize for being what they are.  And that’s the key here. Feelings are part of who you are.  As a guy who has been known to cry in public I had to get used to the idea that crying has nothing to do with being macho, or masculine, or right or wrong, or anything in particular.  The embarrassment about crying, or the need to apologize for something, anything, else arose from within me.  No one ever told me to apologize for feelings. I can’t even say my parents ‘modeled’ it to me; though to be honest that was long enough ago that it’s getting harder to remember just what things they might have modeled for me and which ones they instructed me about.  (Getting older sucks 🤨)  My point simply being that we all put unnecessary burdens on ourselves that no one else expects us to carry — but we do it anyway.

Learning to stop apologizing for being who we are is like learning a new habit.  They say it takes 21 days to learn a new habit.  Whether it takes 21 days, or 18 days, or 45 days, the key point is that our brains don’t commit to habits easily;  it takes some repetition, it takes some forcing our body to repeat the same action over and over again.  The first few times your brain tells you to apologize you have to consciously stop what you’re doing and say to yourself, “NO.”  Give yourself a reason (like “I don’t have to apologize for being who I am.”) or just take yourself by the proverbial hand and cross the line between apology and owning who you are and be done with it.  The second or third times may be easier — or they may not — I bet a part of how easily we form habits has to do with a.) how stubborn we are or b.) how much we really want to change.  But, if we persist we can change our behavior; first by force of will, and finally by accepting that this is who we are and the act of apologizing is unnecessary.

Just because I’m a contrary sort of guy, or an independent cuss doesn’t mean I haven’t had the urge to apologize for things that don’t need apologizing for.  It might mean that I’m a little more cantankerous about doing it.  I’m not always sure my apologies have sounded like what they were supposed to be, but that’s just me.  In any event I hope you have good fortune changing at least one of your habits. 🙂

 

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Ideas

Rubber Ducking

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Ideas

The problem of changing social values

Does the value of an artist’s work change with the values of society?  By that I mean, is a piece of brilliant writing/composing become less brilliant if the artist is obnoxious, or lawless, or perhaps a pedophile?
revisionism

What about we change the nature of the human — instead of asking about artists, what about politicians, or doctors, or garbage collectors?  How far do we go in re-evaluating a person’s role in society based upon values that are popular today but were not  popular 5, 10, 20, 50 years previously?

The idea of revisionist history has come up before but in the past few weeks I’ve seen the idea of revisionist judgment applied to Michael Jackson and Joseph Biden — among others — and I wonder where we think we can go with the idea of judging folks’ actions in the past by the standards that have become popular in contemporary society.

Frankly, I doubt that the world will suddenly stop playing all Michael Jackson music because stories about his proclivities are freely floating around the cosmos.  I suspect that generations to come will continue to “oohhh” and “aaahhhh” over the myriad tunes that teens have loved for 20 or more years.  But I also suspect that Joe Biden will find a much more difficult time dealing with the question of whether or not he treated Anita Hill fairly during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

We are schizophrenic in our application of moral judgment in this society.  It’s funny that we do so, because in many ways as a society we have abandoned values and judgment.  Instead of agreeing that there are standards or values that we all should apply, situation ethics has become the standard.  No longer is any lifestyle right or wrong — not heterosexuality, nor homosexuality, or even pansexuality.  But, if a rich, old, white guy offended someone 20 years ago by being just like everyone else was 20 years ago it’s ok to cite that as a disqualification for political office.  It’s kind of mind boggling to think of the applications that such behavioral standards could have in the future.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making excuses for Michael Jackson, nor for Joe Biden, nor for any of the other artists, scientist, explorers, and saints of the past who — revisionist historians have, or are about to, criticize for their life choices.  Personally, I happen to think it takes a bit of genius to create.  And if that genius comes at the cost of otherwise normal behavior, well I suspect that may be the price the world pays for genius. Someone who is abnormal in their ability to create may just be abnormal in other aspects of their life.

Whether “abnormal” is something to be judged is the question.  It seems to me that “normalcy” is, for each of us, the sort of things we grew up with — what was around us all the time, what was accepted and not sanctioned, that was what we understood as the way to “be.”  If our parents argued, we think that’s normal.  If our siblings bullied us, we think that is normal. If we had a difficult time coming to terms with our sexuality then it’s not surprising if we project that difficulty onto others as well.  Normal is a very slippery thing.

And “right” and “wrong” are equally squishy and difficult to nail down.  I grew up in a time when women didn’t belong in certain business positions; that wasn’t “right” and not only was that the way everyone behaved, those who challenged that behavior were punished in a variety of ways.  Coercion isn’t a good way to effect standards in a society but it’s been the de facto way for millennia. Coercion results in vast swings — rather like hemlines in fashion.  I don’t think that the use of coercion it’s going to change however.   In fact, judging people for their historic actions has been a pretty successful way of effecting radical social change.  And so we have gone from one extreme to another.  And will continue to do so.

The real reason for this post is that disqualifying people for their past actions is the very reason we have a Trump in the White House.  If you keep your history hidden there isn’t much to judge.  But if you are out there in the public eye working for change it’s easy to find things to criticize. The Dark Horse has an advantage over the Public Servant.  The unknown has an advantage over the known.  Change has an advantage over Skill/Experience/Character.

I don’t know where we are going in this country.  The fact is there is no “plan”, there is no direction.  We are a fractured society that for 30 year at least has been vacillating between opposing ideals and we can’t unite for long enough to pick a national course and stay on it.  Our elected rulers have kicked the can of government down the road to the next generation and in that action they have compounded the problems we faced in the same way that unpaid interest deepens our national burden — and our unpaid debt is both real and figurative.  We not only owe other nations, we also suffer from broken health care, a broken environment, broken infrastructure, and broken government.

Humans talk a lot about god/s but the fact of history is that human prefer taking control of their lives over letting some diety have a go at it.  In our arrogance we swing from one form of government to another, we swing from one cultural or ethical extreme to another,  we wage war against those who disagree with us, and we annihilate those weaker than ourselves.  We are the most violent species on the planet and all other species ought to be afraid of us because we alone have the power to screw up the eco-system of this blue ball as does no other species. Earth From Space

I don’t know where we think we can go with revisionism, but the reality is that no one is making that choice — we are all making it, by our daily actions and our daily obsessions — there is no one in charge, and sometimes it scares the bejeezus out of me.

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Ideas

Things Change

The feature image is from a 1932 DeMille movie called The Sign of the Cross.  For those of you familiar with Hollywood history that was in the days called “Pre-Code” Hollywood — before public censors began restricting cinema content.  I chose it because it’s a reminder to me of a gradual march away from some things and towards others.

“The Ascent of Man”

I suspect we’ve all seen these images of “The Ascent of Man”. Whether humankind is actually progressing in such an arc remains to be seen — now that we have the potential to extinct ourselves from the planet the degree to which we are “progressing” may be at dispute, but for the sake of discussion let’s look at man’s time on this planet as being something of a rising scale.

Our earliest ancestors (as a species, not as individuals) had little concept of social justice.  They were far more challenged by simply staying alive in a very inhospitable world.  Actually, it would appear that our earliest ancestors had very little concept of a LOT of things!

I have long reflected on the Old Testament name of God, and regardless of whether you’re a Christian believer or not I think there’s still something that bears considering.  The English translation for that name given to Moses is variously read as “I will be come what I will become.”  That seems a strange name for God but for those who see God as a continuing revelation the name is perfectly fitting:  whatever you need me to be, is what I will be to you.

Sign of the Cross - 1932 - Cecile B DeMille

SIGN OF THE CROSS, 1932 CECIL B. DE MILLE Credit: [PARAMOUNT / THE KOBAL COLLECTION ]

What does all this have to do with Pre-Code Hollywood or change?

The common theme, I suggest, is also the common theme in human history:  an arc of shared knowledge extending from mass ignorance to refined speech, advanced technology, and defined social interaction. We have gotten “smarter” as a species even though the average child can identify over 1000 corporate logos but probably can’t name 6 species of animals living in their area. Shared knowledge doesn’t always look like evidence of our advancement. 🙂

2017 has been a great year for discussions about ethics and lies and abuse of power;  publicly we have struggled with sexual harassment and the continuing sad story of whites fighting to repress blacks in various and sundry ways.  There are times when, perhaps, one wonders if we are making progress at all. After all, the young have their heads buried in smartphone screens, other nations are making a much better go of both democracy and freedom than we here in the U.S., and our own politicians are behaving as if they’ll never again have to stand in a free and fair election.

I guess I look at these things and I see a crossroad.  As a nation (forget for a moment all thoughts about us as a species) we have allowed the country to get to the point that it’s at right now.  We have done so by failing to take an interest in elections — our track record for turning out voters is terrible compared to other democratic countries.  We have also put $$$$ above most everything else in this country.  The idea that one person can amass wealth seems to have inspired a great many to amass more than they can ever use, and to hoard it — not putting it to work for the benefit of anyone but themselves.  We have a choice to wake up to the threats we face and act upon them, or to continue along our happy way and face whatever consequences may come.

The thing is, no one is going to come along and shout from the housetops “WAKE UP, HUMANS!” And at the same time many are worried about the direction of mankind just as many or more don’t really seem to care.  The multitudes who dont vote clearly don’t care about what’s happening.  They are too busy doing something else.  A few folk are talking about high ideals and principles, but the mass of humanity is more worried about who will win the Super Bowl, how much an athlete gets paid, and whether some celebrity is pregnant or dating.  Popular culture is all most people need, it seems.

If you go to the mall, you’ll see store after store telling you that you are in need of articles that aren’t going to help you live a better life at all.  The media will tell you all the horrible stories that get you to watch/listen, and when they have your attention they’ll bombard you with ideas that you aren’t pretty enough, or rich enough, or something-else-enough.  Popular culture makes consumers; the economic machine needs consumers to buy all those things that robotic manufacturing can produce to put more money in the bank account of a very few, while millions wander the streets in drug induced stupor.  It’s not a happy picture.  Not happy at all. the descent of man

The thing is, the only person who can change anything is you. If life isn’t fair, don’t complain about it; do something.  If you don’t have the life you want, do something — change it.  If you don’t have the tools, go out and get them; sacrifice and scrimp and concentrate until you’re equipped for the job, or the battle you see.  Some things no one else can do if you don’t.  Some battles will never be waged if you don’t sound the call to arms.

As a race we have increased our shared knowledge because we were challenged — hunger and death were powerful challenges in the past — today our challenges may be more along the lines of justice and equality, but they are challenges just the same.  It’s sad that the creative minds of today, when tasked with looking into the future, all seem to see some sort of post-apocalyptic world.  Gone it seems are the dreams of a desirable Utopia; they have been replaced by a negative, fatalistic, gloom.  We are worried about so many things that we seem incapable of acting in favor of anything.

I am not, by nature, a negative person.  But I’m also not blind.  I can, and do, act and speak about things that concern me.  But I also accept that any battle for fairness, for culture, for equity, for humanity is way bigger than me.  I can do my part, but others have a part to play too. Whether you are still in school, recently graduated, in the workforce, or retired, the world doesn’t need passive observers: do something.

 

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