Wednesday, August 31, 2005


what europeans do with fresh vegetables


It has come to my attention that there are still people out there who don't know what to do with eggplant -- a.k.a. melanzana, aubergine, even called berenjena in Spain (or so I'm told).
By the way, "aubergine" is a common color name in fashion and textiles. If you didn't know it was French for eggplant, what color did you think it was describing?

Here's my version of Caponata, a relish served on crusty bread. The original is from a magazine, but I've made changes...

5 Tb olive oil
1 large red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
9-12 fresh tomatoes, coursely chopped
4 stalks celery, minced (optional)
salt to taste
2 medium eggplants, cubed
20-25 small green olives, halved
2 Tb tiny capers, drained
1 Tb-1/3 cup raspberry vinegar

Heat 2 T of the oil over low heat. Add onions, stirring occasionally until softened (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic in the last few minutes.
While these are cooking, chop the tomatoes and mince the celery very fine.
Add the tomatoes and celery, bring to boil, then simmer for at least 1/2 hour. Salt liberally while it is cooking. You may need to leave it cooking longer to thicken.
While it is cooking, cube the eggplant.
Heat the remaining 3 T oil in a separate pan and brown the eggplant in batches, adding to tomato mix as you go along.
Add olives, capers and vinegar and warm together for a while so flavors can mix.
Serve room temperature or slightly warm on crackers, toast or crusty bread.

Check back soon for a quick and easy cucumber recipe my daughter learned in Poland.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


nurturing professors

Once again, there is data available that shows that it is indeed harmful to have different expectations of individuals based on grouping. A recent study looked at stress among highly educated professionals. Here's an excerpt:

" show women [on college faculties] having greater stress than men on a range of work related issues:

Percentage Reporting Some or Extensive Stress Related to Certain Job Duties

Duty/Issue Creating Stress:
Teaching load: Men 47.5 Women 57.9
Students: Men 49.7 Women 65.8
Research and publishing: Men 67.1 Women 85.7
Review and promotion: Men 44.8 Women 65.3
Committee work: Men 61.6 Women 74.7

Such data could, of course, be read as a comment on how women experience stress, not whether they are justified in feeling more of it. But the authors of the study then went to examine university records on teaching loads, and they found that women there, on average, are doing more teaching than are men....

....Summing up the problems female faculty members face with students, the authors wrote that "women felt students expected them to balance authority and nurturance in the classroom in ways that their male colleagues were not. Having to consider this balance while trying to deliver a course that is meaningful certainly contributes to stress related to teaching and students."...."

— Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, "Stress and the Female Faculty Member"

This particular bad news isn't exactly surprising or unexpected. But it once again shows the harm that the so-called "difference feminists" can do in their earnest efforts to prove that women are better than men.
The jury's still out on whether women as a group are inherently more nurturing than men. But it is pretty clear from anecdotes as well as this and other studies that the expectation puts an unfair burden on individual women.
I once knew a Chicana writer who taught a couple of classes in the "women's studies" department of the local university. She frequently had to deal with complaints from students that she was insufficiently sympathetic to the "struggles faced by women of color." Needless to say, the complaints invariably came after some student received a lower grade than expected on an assignment or for the course. This woman eventually gave up teaching altogether.

If women are truly more nurturing, does this mean the academy should allow them more time in their schedules to agonize over the personal problems of their students?
Just asking....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


idiots and intelligent design

Earlier today, I happened to leave the radio on while I was washing some dishes. The host was nattering on about "intelligent design" and how she just couldn't imagine a world this complex evolving randomly. She then went on to question why the "theory" was not taught in science classes alongside evolution.

This is my problem with those who want schools to teach intelligent design in biology classes: They are morons.

It has been several centuries since science, religion and philosophy ceased to be one discipline. In the meantime, each of these areas has developed and expanded upon its own methods of inquiry. Science depends upon experimentation and repeatable physical demonstration. Philosophy uses argument from facts already accepted. Religion deals in certainty and articles of faith. Science is never certain of anything, because it allows for the possible discovery of new evidence in the future. In science, even the law of gravity is a theory. Philosophy hates to become certain of anything because it is most interested in arguments rather than conclusions.

As a Catholic Christian, I firmly believe that the evolutionary process was guided by the hand of God -- not just a theoretical "intelligence," but the actual God of the old and new testaments, the father portion of the triune "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." My theology may be weak here; maybe the designer is actually the holy spirit. In any case, the idea that the power behind our creation is somewhere in the trinity is an established belief for me and not a theory.

I also believe that God used the process of evolution to effect that creation. I honestly can't remember whether or not I studied evolution in high school biology (science wasn't my most attentive subject) but since whenever it was that I encountered the theory, it has made sense to me. Similarly, I don't remember when anyone sat down with me and told me about God. As far as I can recall, he's just always been there, maybe as a function of a species-specific memory that I was born with, or maybe my parents just modeled their faith exceptionally well.

By the way, there is no way that the god I grew up with would have left evidence for evolution all over the world and then demanded we ignore his evidence. He gave us higher intelligence so we could use it to glorify him, not so we could concentrate on being ignorant. As a parent, it is important to me that my kids make maximum use of their talents and intellectual abilities. That is at least as important as having them obey me. The dog obeys me (most of the time) but that doesn't make him a more effective human being than -- well, a human being.

These are things I believe, by which I mean that I am sure they are true. I don't need proof. When people get up in front of me and claim any of this is not true, I either ignore them, or maybe pray silently for their enlightenment. If I think others are being swayed by a speaker's wrong views I might get up and argue, but in general I think God is strong enough to handle that sort of thing himself. He has access to their hearts, while at best I've only got their ears.

Religion is all about conclusions. In religion we tend to argue backwards from what we know to be true as a result of our faith. True faith is not shaken by a lack of evidence. Science and philosophy, on the other hand, cannot exist without evidence. Unlike pure creationism, then, intelligent design functions more like a philosophy than a religious position. In and of itself, it is a compelling philosophical argument, but it is not science. Science deals with "how" questions and leaves the "why" to religion and philosophy.

Intelligent design is the answer -- I believe the correct answer -- to the question of why the world is the way it is. Evolution is the answer to how God did it. The "how" belongs in science classes. The "why" does not. There is no evidence to disprove the belief that volcanoes are caused by the moods of the Hawaiian goddess Pele, but we don't expect teachers to give that explanation equal time in geology class. Pele's moods are a "why" answer, and so is intelligent design.

As bad as my memory is, I am certain that my high school science teacher had nothing to do with my own belief in God. That wasn't his job. In the town where I grew up, in 1974, no one I knew thought it was the job of a science teacher to strengthen his students' faith in God. I'm all for giving students more training in philosophy, logic, and techniques of argumentation -- what used to be called rhetoric. If nothing else, this debate about evolution and intelligent design shows that Americans are widely deficient in those areas.

Just don't try to teach it instead of science.

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