Some thoughts on "belief".

I’ve found, for myself, that holding a few carefully selected “beliefs” results in better empirical outcomes in my life.

To be clear, by “beliefs” I mean memes that are:
1) Non-axiomatic.
2) Subject to periodic (fairly frequent initially, and more sporadic as they prove themselves empirically) review.
3) Acknowledged to be non-evidentiary or counter-evidentiary.
4) Chosen for their empirically determined utility, and not for their “truth”.

I have explained this to my beloved wife using the analogy of a wiki (a web page, like wikipedia, which provides controls on the page to modify the page). A wiki has a "reading mode" and an "edit mode". The edit mode is harder to read, messy, unformatted, and very powerful, while the "reading mode" is useful as a web page, but much less powerful.

Anyway. My brain has two modes: an edit mode, and an active (like "reading") mode. In edit mode, I am aware of which of my memes are axioms, which are evidentiary conclusions, and which are non-evidentiary “beliefs”. In active mode, I deliberately obscure my awareness of those distinctions, since part of what makes “beliefs” empirically effective is acting as if they are true.

Note that some memes fall into the uncomfortable category of “self-fulfilling prophecies”: that is, they are non-evidentiary until held, and then evidentiary. The classic example of this is the meme “I am lucky.”

Statistics does not play favorites. No particular person is “favored by fortune” or “lucky”. Yet, any person who holds the belief “I am lucky” is actually, measurably, statistically luckier than a person who doesn’t hold that belief (it has to do with perception of fortuitous coincidence, but it’s a measurable, and large, effect).

So. I have chosen to hold the non-evidentiary belief “I am lucky”. But, having chosen to hold it, it is now an evidentiary belief! Bizarre!

I don’t lose any sleep over it. I have the axiom, “Science works” (more formally, “The scientific method is the most effective strategy for determining empirical, objective, repeatable facts about reality”, and I have the evidence, “A series of well-supported studies has shown that people who hold the belief ‘I am lucky’ have far more fortunate things happen to them and are happier”, and I have the (evidentiary) conclusion “Holding the belief ‘I am lucky’ will make me happier and make more fortunate things happen to me”. And, for the time being, I have the “belief” (non-evidentiary, non-axiomatic meme that I “believe” in ‘active mode’) that “I am lucky.”

Should I find, someday, that holding the belief “I am lucky” has caused me to drive recklessly, reject medical care because “Surely it’s not anything serious”, take financial risks that hurt my family, etc., I may stop holding that belief. For now, it’s serving me well.

Anyway, I have the following “beliefs” (and, yes, I keep track of them very carefully—these suckers are dangerous!):

1) The universe loves me and wants me to be happy. (“pronoia”)
2) I am lucky.

I’d adopt a belief in some sort of genial-spirit-of-love “God” and some sort of spiritual-communion-of-all-sentience “Heaven” if I could, but empirically I observe that holding those beliefs is destructive to my health and happiness. It provides comfort, but at the cost of guilt, shame, and direct damage to rationality. Hence, atheism.

Accommodations in Portland this Thursday night?

I'll be passing through Portland this Thursday night with my girlfriend Jade and my daughter Deirdre. We'll have our own air mattresses and sleeping bags, but we're kind of short on floor, walls, and roof. If any of my Dear Readers live in Portland, have some spare floor space, and would enjoy playing host to us this Thursday night, please let me know.


Apparently, this is now a cooking blog. /wry

Nomsy Food You Can Make At Home While Sick And Barely Able To Stand Up

Slow-Carb Apple Pie Filling, Mark 1

1) Ask your beautiful wife[*] to wash you four delicious, organic Fuji apples (thanks, Costco!) and bring them to you.

2) Cut them into quarters, core them, and slice them into thin, trapezoidal cross-sections while feeding half of an apple to your adorable daughter[#].

3) Mix up just a bit (a teaspoon, perhaps--I used too much, and it came out floury) of whole wheat flour (or a lower-carb thickener like arrowroot powder or xanthan gum, if you happen to have those), about two teaspoons of cinnamon, a couple of shakes of powdered cloves, and about 2 teaspoons of xylitol in a bowl.

4) Pour the dry ingredients over the apple slices and mix thoroughly.

5) Dot the top with butter or some suitable butteresque substance.

6) Microwave for 12 minutes.

7) Let stand for as long as you can, well, stand. I give you 30 seconds.

8) Nomnomnomnomnom.

9) Realize that sitting up and slicing apples was a bad idea, and go back to bed[$].

[*] Don't have a beautiful wife? Get one here, or ask your helpful friends!

[#] Don't have an adorable daughter? Hrmmmm...well, first, get a beautiful wife[*]. She'll help you figure it out.

[$] This step is optional unless you are sick.

Anyway. Meer. I'll be better in a few days.[%]

[%] The apple pie filling, however, is just fine right now.

Barley, Amaranth, Mushroom, and Onion Porridge

This savory porridge is made entirely with whole, minimally processed grains. The amaranth gives it a thick consistency, while the barley adds a mild chewy texture. Mushrooms and onions round out the flavors of this vegan delight.

4 quarts water
2 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups hulled (not pearled) barley
4 cups whole amaranth
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 teaspoons sage
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon very hot red chili powder
1 Tablespoon

2 large or four small onions, diced
0.5 lb. - 1.5 lbs. mushrooms, sliced

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil.
Add salt and olive oil.
Add 4 cups hulled (not pearled) barley and 4 cups whole amaranth.
Add spices.
Return to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until barley is tender but still has a chewy texture.

While simmering:
Sautee onions in canola oil until translucent and slightly browned. Set aside.
Sautee mushrooms in canola oil until lightly browned (use a large pan so the mushrooms have room). Set aside.

Stir the onions and mushrooms into the barley/amaranth mixture.

Makes about six quarts of porridge.

Open invitation to my Birthday Housefilk

I'm throwing myself a housefilk birthday party on Saturday, May 15th at the Metaphorest, our house on Capitol Hill. My birthday is technically the 14th, but I figure you guys will be forgiving. :-)

We'll be filking from about 5:00 pm to whenever (where "whenever" is probably somewhere around 11:00 or midnight, realistically). We'll have some munchies available (including cake and ice cream, of course), but everyone's free to bring food as per usual potluck standards (bring things you'll eat, label w/ all ingredients for the sake of those with food allergies). Many of us here at the Metaphorest, including the birthday boy, are vegan, but we certainly don't require that our guests (or their dishes) be.

We're located at:

1724 17th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122

(that's 17th Ave, not 17th Ave S, not 17th Ave N, just 17th Ave. Google maps: http://tinyurl.com/23qgb3j )

If you have any trouble getting here, or any questions, you can call me at (206) 854-6210, or call the house at (206) 720-1724.

As always, your friends, SOs, partners, and children are welcome.

Hope to see you all there!



P.S. Since it's my birthday, I have a humble request for birthday presents (yes, presents) from all of you.


What I want most for my birthday is lyrics and chords for your favorite filk songs. I've been playing filk (and playing in filking circles) for decades now, and I still don't have a decent book of filk. Please help me fix this? Yay!

If you don't have any favorite filk songs, bring lyrics and chords to your favorite folk songs. Or classic rock songs. Or alternative songs. Basically, anything you'd like to hear me sing at some future filk sing, campfire, get-together, whatever. Bring multiple songs if you've got'em--I'll take (and learn) them all!

But, most of all, bring your instruments, your voices, your ears, and your wonderful selves!

Disgustingly Bread

Disgustingly Bread

(because it's disgustingly healthy and disgustingly good)

Attributes: vegan, whole-grain, high-protein, and "slow-carb".

Allergens: contains yeast, soy, wheat, gluten, honey, and flax seed.

Makes: four loaves.

recipeCollapse )

Nummy Vegan Pancakes

some whole wheat flour
some milled flax seed
2 eggs worth of egg replacer
some canola oil
some blue agave syrup (yummy and low glycemic index, too!)
a pinch of salt

Fry them up in some more canola oil, and you're done!

New recipe.

Slow-Carb Vegan Rice Pudding

1 cup cooked quinoa
1-2 tablespoons blue agave syrup
5.6 oz (2/3 cup) coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Stir up and eat.

If I were making it again, I'd probably put in more quinoa, as this is awfully darned rich. And, of course, the cooked version might involve some vegan gelatin-substitute, heating up the coconut milk and dissolving it, and putting it in the fridge for an hour or two--but this is honestly more rice-pudding-texturey.


Side note: memegarden likes to put cinnamon and/or cardamom into her rice pudding, and either might be tasty here.