Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Monday, July 27, 2015

Domiaiti Cheese

This is Domiati Cheese:

This is probably a cheese you have never heard of (prior to making it, neither had I).  It is a cheese of North African descent.  It is an unusual cheese in that it incorporates salt at the very beginning of the process and is stored in its own way (see below for more).

Simplified preparation process:  4 quarts (1 gallon) of milk, to which is add 2/3 cup Kosher Salt.  Bring to 100 F.  Add 1/4 TSP Thremophilic culture, wait 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 TSP Rennet.  Hold for 2 hours at 100 F.  Check for a clean break (indicating the curd has set), then cut into smaller sections.  Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then stir for 15 minutes.  Allow to settle.  Pour through cheese cloth and a colander and allow to drain, reserving the whey.  Placed the drain curd into a mold (I use a small Tomme mold) and turn several times for 12 hours.  Add another 1/3 cup Kosher salt to the whey and store at room temperature.

Why is this cheese interesting, both in general and in an emergency? Because it is designed to be stored at room temperature (which, apparently, is how it is done in North Africa).  The heavily salted (very heavily salted) whey preserves the cheese against mold and bacteria.  (Note that I have not yet tried this theory, but will have to put it to the test with a small test sample of a cheese.  No sense in wasting good cheese  unless I have to).  In the refrigerator as I store it, it will last a long time indeed (not, in point of fact, that it ever does).

Cheese - or any preservation of any food, really - is a Godsend.  It is a way to take a raw material and add value to the process and preserve it for the future.  Hopefully we will never reach the stage where things will become somewhat rationed (but, as we have seen with the avian flu, it can happen).  To be able to take something and turn it into a food for longer storage is a good thing.  To change that food into something that can quite possibly go without refrigeration for periods of time, even better.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Psalm 37

Sometimes I get depressed about the state of the world.  Things seem to simply be careening off course with little chance of righting themselves before true disaster.  It saddens me that in so many ways, wrong seems to be advancing and right seems to either be retreating or simply collapsing.

And then, for my reading through the Bible in a year, today's reading was Psalm 37.

To paraphrase Gandalf in The Fellowship of the Ring, "There is only one God, and he does not share power."

Read and be comforted.

(Hat tip:  kingjamesonline.org

Friday, July 24, 2015


Today we are going to review (in what is turning out to be a working idea for another book) the last concept in this idea in taking charge or changing or something (not really sure what the ultimate point is) that is sort of my ongoing epiphany for the week.  As you may recall, so far I have discussed Ownership (and the taking of it), Leveling Up, and Being The Authentic You.  Today we discuss the last point, context.

Context is meant to express the concept of where we do these first three things.  It is the situation that we find ourselves in - or more hopefully, the one that we place ourselves in.  It is the place that, in the best of worlds, allows us to be in a mental place where we can take ownership, level up, and truly be who we are.

I have placed context at the end of this chain because the first three things are more fundamental.  Without the first three things, context has less perceived value - I can be in a place where I have not taken ownership, leveled up, or am the authentic me, but the context of the situation makes these seem irrelevant to me - such as being in a job that is ultimately leading nowhere but I enjoy the people and situation so much that I do not look to the future, knowing that all jobs end.  What I am actually trying to achieve is instead a conscious choice of situations, brought together by where I am and where I am headed.

And Context can help in our daily lives.  The worst day can be made better when surrounded in a Context that includes friends and laughter.  The culture of achievement can be accelerated by a Context where everyone is working to do their best and move forward, where needs are understood and voices respected.

How do you find the correct Context?  Of all of the issues this is the one I have the least idea of how to accomplish, perhaps because I have been so poor at it in my own life.  I have made choices of where to be for all of the wrong reasons; on the flip side, I have occasionally found the best of contexts within situations that I did not expect would yield them.  It is a continuum, I think, one that we hopefully get better at as we become more experienced - as we Own our lives, as we are making conscious decisions and progress in Leveling Up, and as we are becoming more and more our Authentic Selves, the correct Contexts will (I believe) become more clear to us.

Without a good Context, our efforts will too often be in vain and our lives be frustrated; with the correct Context, our achievements will be accelerated and our pursuit of our goals and indeed our very usefulness to those around us will be enhanced.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Being The Authentic You

My reflection into Ownership and Leveling up seems to have turned itself into a proto-epiphany.  While I am a great fan of epiphanies, they seldom seem to come directly out of mid-air but work their way through a longer thought process.  We seem to be well into that process.

As I was going through my work today, I realized (halfway into the afternoon or so) that I was having what was, for me, a pretty good day:  I was in a good mood, I was making up song lyrics, I was cracking really bad puns, I was being able to give useful advice.  On the whole, this is not every workday I have.  And it got me thinking - thinking about how I act at work.

My behavior at work, oddly enough, is largely controlled by an incident that happened 15 years ago when a manager whom I respected a great deal told me, after he had noticed me jumping up and down and waving trying to get someone's attention inside a manufacturing facility, that although how one acted should not affect how one is perceived and thus promoted, the simple fact was that it did.  And so began a long period of acting at work the way I thought people in my profession should act, which would generally be "professionally" and (frankly)  boring.

I suppose I did not think about it for a long time until about two years ago, when I took a personality quiz by Sally Hogshead (www.howtofascinate.com) which related personality types to personal and personnel interactions. What did I get?

Bold.  Artistic.  Unorthodox.  This, supposedly, is my way of being.

And you know what?  It kind of is.  No, I do not actually have a rock band nor have I ever had one, but I am kind of this way.  My personality, especially for my industry, is unorthodox.  I am artistic - and, in my own way, bold.

And you know what?  I am happiest when I am that way.

Which brought me to the next level of this proto-epiphany:  Being The Authentic You.

I am happiest when I am authentic, when what I am and what I appear to be by my actions are as close as possible.  When I am being The Authentic Me, even a bad situation can be made better simply by the fact that I am living and acting as myself.  Likewise, a mediocre situation can be made much worse by having to act as other than I am.

As I pondered this thought, I came to realize that this is a key concept.  Being yourself authentically - making the inner you and outer you match as closely as possible - is one of the ways that things get done, because if we do not feel truly like ourselves we will never be totally invested in what we are doing.  Instead, we will be playing role of someone that other people want us to be, working to accomplish things not in the way we would do them but rather how others want them done.

The truly successful people I know - and money does not equal success in every circumstance, just as a reminder - are exactly this way.  They simply are themselves in the midst of the situations they find themselves in instead of conforming themselves to the situation.  And more often than not, it seems that they are able to bend the light around them such that they can be themselves without having to compromise while accomplishing all that they need to do.

Mark it:  Being The Authentic  You means the difference between success and failure in a great many situations.  The questions then are two:  Do you know the authentic you, and are you being that person?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Leveling Up

Last night in class we worked a shoden level paired waza (or kumitachi), Nanahon mei no kata.  This particular kata consists of both blade work and open hand.  For me, sword work is generally easier.  Open hand (literally the translation is kara te, from which we get the word karate) is somewhat conceptually more difficult for me as I have not really done a great deal of martial arts and thus I am essentially learning this all for the first time.

Tonight was a night of corrections for me, mostly around my form and even my basic movements.  I do not mind the correction as I desperately need it.  About halfway through night sensei clarified that his intent was not to pick on me; rather, it was to help me level up for eventual attendance to a training in Japan.

Leveling up.  Oddly enough it is a concept that anyone who has played role playing games or even electronic games understands:  get enough points or enough items of value and you "level up", generally gaining more powers and become more hardy.   But a concept that we in real life do not seem to consider is even possible.

Part of the problem, I suppose, is that leveling up in real life is not as clear cut as leveling up in a game.  In a game, there is a known threshold to hit:  10,000 points, 50,000, 100,000 points.  In real life such a hard threshold does not exist: we perhaps simply seem to arrive at some point with a greater ability to do what we need to do than what we had before.

Bur really, leveling up is as critical in real life as it is in any game.

Leveling up means that we are getting better.  We are gaining more knowledge or skill.  We are no longer a rank amateur with no idea of what to do; instead, we have some level of skill and knowledge that we can apply to do things better and faster.

We could help ourselves, I suppose, sort of like the belt system in martial arts.  Within interests or fields or organizations there is often a sense (or such a sense could be drawn up) about what a particular body of knowledge or area should know, like the old system of apprentices and journeymen. Knowing that body of knowledge and demonstrating knowledge or practice of it would be enough to move one to the next level.

It gives one a goal. It gives one abilities and knowledge.  But most of all it gives us the ability to note the forward progress in our lives instead of leaving us flail about, always feeling like we should be moving forward but never able to give voice or representation to it in a meaningful way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Ownership II

This thought of Ownership haunted my thoughts all day yesterday as I went through my daily work routine.  At each point, in each task, I asked myself "Do I own this?  Should I own this?"

The internal actions were interesting, to say the least.

On the one hand I had the experience of one of our many electronic systems which is not working all that well - and has not done so for almost 3 years.  The thought rolled through my mind "Do I own this?  Should I own this?"  The sudden sense of piling effort into something that simply seemed to be not repairable doomed any chance I would immediately pick up the torch.

On the other hand I sat through a training proposal on another system where my opinion for at least part of the process was solicited.  I looked at the proposals, thought about it for a minute, and then quietly deferred my decision.  I did not want ownership of this process or of the solutions, because looking at the options none of them seemed truly good.

Was there anything I really wanted to own today?  Honestly, I do not know that I could say that there was.  Possibly a training I did but that was about it.    The result?  I did not really feel like there was anything that was truly worth "owning" about what I do today, merely a set of tasks to be accomplished.

Ironically this proves the point of the aforementioned executive manager from yesterday, the one that started this whole thought process:  without ownership, effort becomes merely a task and true progress is not probably realized.  At the same time it proves the other side of the point: if the task is meaningless or imposed without purpose, ownership becomes either completely forced or not at all done for any reason than it has to be accomplished - perhaps done, but without passion or the zest that truly moves progress forward.

The solution?  Perhaps I am not closer to one than I was the day before - except that to realize that  ownership cannot be imposed by others and especially not when the thing to be owned is by default broken or pointless.  Ownership derives from within, based on both pride of work as well pride of purpose for the work.

The question is, where does this combination live?