Believe In Your Religion? Your Candidate? Convince Us.

Two years ago, I was at a local university to hear a speech by New York Times editor and writer Tom Zeller Jr. While taking questions from the audience, he was asked about how the media is doing when it comes to helping the people understand complex issues.

His answer jolted me.

Media has changed, he said -- and so have we, the consumers of media.

"It is easier than ever now for individuals seeking information to find only information that affirms their preconceived notions of an idea," Zeller said. "It is very difficult to be exposed to information that challenges your point of view."


Had I been creating an echo chamber around myself -- hearing only people who agree with me?

My wife challenges me, questions me, and expects me to defend my decisions, opinions, and actions. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She doesn’t believe in crap, lies, or hurting people. She doesn’t believe in arguing for entertainment. She expects wisdom and intelligence in the people around her. There is no echo. It is rarefied space -- sometimes a tough space, but always a place for personal growth.

Creating that kind of space elsewhere is, as Zeller pointed out, hard.

Exposing myself to information that challenges my point of view has become part of my goal. I have surrounded myself by friends who do this. My religious beliefs are challenged, my politics, my self-belief, my opinions. I value people who act their beliefs -- the people who campaign for their candidate, who demonstrate their faith without words, who ask questions in public, who stand up to be counted. I don’t have to agree with them -- I don’t want an echo chamber. I want to be available to be taught -- and to teach, if I can be useful.

What I’ve learned in the past two years is this: Looking for information that agrees with what I already think is NOT thought. It is entertainment. A bobble-headed life.

I can do better.

There is value in speaking publicly for what I think I know. And value in listening to what you think you know.

If I’m quiet, am I useful? If you're quiet, are you useful?

We get what we allow. If it isn’t right, but we don’t fight it, we get to keep it. Pornography, pollution, government, obesity, lasciviousness, deception -- all “ours” by choice.

The hard part about liberty and equality is that most of us want to be dictators -- we want to tell people, not be told. If I believe something is true, can I teach it, instead of shout it? Believe your religion is true? Teach it. Believe your candidate is best? Convince us.

When measured by what we are willing to work for, what we are willing to sacrifice, most of us don’t believe in much at all. We’re not lining up for the hard work of convincing anyone. It’s easier to “yell” what we believe (think Facebook) and retreat back to our echo chamber. But have we been influential, or just produced sound and fury?

Vegetables Julienne!

The other day, someone on Facebook posted about how frustrated they were with their new peeler. It was just shredding everything, and this person was not happy about it.

I admit I laughed just a bit because this person clearly had a julienne peeler, which is not a peeler at all, actually. It is a tool used to make fancy and uniform vegetable shreds of the kind you find in upscale restaurants. These are great for soup, great for snacks, great for casseroles. Above is a photo of some carrots in various colors -- white, yellow, orange -- from my garden, which I julienned the other day for a soup. Having julienned carrots in a soup of diced vegetables is just a fun way to add another texture to your food. 

This julienne peeler cost me about $20 bucks. It is a heavy-duty, solid stainless steel version. I spent a lot of time looking around for the best one I could find because I use a lot of vegetables and there are a lot of cheap versions that won’t hold up to prolonged use. If you haven’t julienned before, add some fun to your dinner! Here is the Kuhn Rikon heavy duty stainless steel julienne peeler I chose, and love:

Go Guzzle Your Obesity, er, Soda

A couple days ago I took to Facebook with a post about a controversy where I live -- a few students at BYU, a Mormon-owned university, “demanding” the right to drink caffeinated soda. Only rarely on Facebook do I use the rhetorical tool of sarcasm, but this moment was appropriate. I wrote:

“BYU students demand diabetes. Give us addiction! Give us obesity! Give us diabetes! We demand the right to surrender our personal health to this company's billion dollar advertising campaign!!”

A couple of people posted replies that concerned me. I want to address them.

First, I was accused of logical fallacy -- caffeine does not cause diabetes. Wrong. Caffeine is perhaps more causal to the soda-diabetes link than sugar because caffeine is the addictive agent.

Now that I’ve used the words “causal” and “fallacy”, I’m sure my dumb readers have dropped off. So, let us who are still here begin our real conversation. The second comment that caused me pause was by a dear friend, Jenifer Lee. She addressed me personally, which I expect and appreciate from my friends. She wrote:

“Caleb, you sure do worry about other people's bad habits a lot!”

The implied message is that I should turn my attention to myself, that I should not cast stones because my house is glass. Unarguable. Most people would bow and accept this condemnation. Not me. Because Jenifer got it wrong this time. There is a difference between judgement -- which is not helpful -- and discernment, which is desperately needed.

Judgement is taking action to condemn another person without moral authority, usually for selfish reasons -- classic Faulknerian sound and fury, or personal or public entertainment (arguing outside of your sphere of influence, natch/RIP Stephen Covey).

Using discernment, in the public post-it-on-Facebook sense of the word, means to bring attention to a malignant, often shrouded, root motive. Here we have a group of students arguing for their drug dealer. They lack discernment. They appear to believe they are arguing for personal freedom. But they have not yet understood the difference between freedom and liberty. Because of their error, they are in fact arguing for their own personal suffering. And mine.

Which brings me to four reasons why my opinion matters.

1. MY CASH. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there is an alarming spike in children developing type-2 diabetes, which historically has appeared in adults over 40, not children. The reason we have this sudden crop of diseased kids? Obesity. Economists warn this trend has ALREADY spiked all our health care costs. It is no secret that the eating habits of children -- including soda addiction -- are most influenced by parents. When you are guzzling soda, you and your children’s ill health is costing me cash.

2. SOCRATIC CONVERSATION. Perhaps Jenifer’s words were meant to shut me down, which is a large part of why I’m not shutting up. Open discussion about critical public issues is the only known cure for stupidity. Facebook is the only free Socratic forum I am aware of. So I use it.
3. I’M AN ALUMNUS. Enough said.

4. MORAL AUTHORITY. In philosophy, this concept describes why most people never challenge the people around them to do better. It is the concept that Jenifer was mistakenly attempting to use against me. But I wasn’t judging. I was promoting discernment. And I can, because I am one of the few people left in the U.S. who simply don’t drink soda because it is bad for you. Because I practice what I preach, I have moral authority on this issue. Most of us (me most of all) have little moral authority. (Which is why more men don’t speak out against porn, but that is a subject for another day.) Our general lack of moral authority as a nation is exactly the reason that, when we do have it, we should use it -- publicly -- to promote discernment.

So here I go again. There is a multi-billion dollar industry at work to influence people -- especially young people -- to drink soda. These people do not have your health in mind. They want money. They don’t care about your diabetes. Soda triggers obesity. Practice discernment. -Caleb

Scientists Grow Flowers from 30,000-year-old Seed.

Discovery Magazine has reported that scientists have grown the flowers above from 30,000-year old fruit seeds found in the burrow of a squirrel buried in Russian ice. The flowers have produced a second generation of viable seed. I hope that the university involved will at some point provide a few seeds to a company to grow the plants and sell the plants and seeds -- I'd love to have a plant or some seed. Meanwhile, it's just fun to see the pictures and think about the plant, 30,000 years ago, that produced the frozen seed!

Here is the original article.

"Plant Onions for Overwintering Now"

[above: a multiplier onion in my garden]

Below is a link to an interesting article from the Washington Post that caught my eye. I was surprised that the author didn't mention shallots, also called multiplier or potato onions. They do great overwinter, and should be planted now. Normal onions, like the kind you buy in the grocery store, are called globe onions. Globe onions are planted from seed very early in spring. (To get them to grow best, you need to pay attention to day count, which I won't discuss in this post).

Multiplier onions, also called potato onions, are different because they are not planted from seeds, they are planted from bulbs. And one bulb turns into many onions, just like one little piece of seed potato turns into a whole bunch of potatoes. In the photo above, the clump of onions that you see all grew from a single bulb.

Anyway, the article in the Washington Post is interesting, and I'm all in favor of any national garden writer that encourages the use of cold frames. (I taught a cold frame-building class in my backyard last weekend -- we built 30 cold frames!)

Here's a bit from the article:

"Planted too early, (fall-planted globe onions) make too much growth and go to seed in the spring rather than forming nice big bulbs. So a September planting is just right.
"Some varieties are better for overwintering than others. Walla Walla Sweet, available from High MowingTerritorial Seed and other companies, has worked very well for us. Another good one is Candy, a day-neutral variety. The cold-hardiest is the aptly named Bridger fromJohnny’s Selected Seeds. Because onion growth is aboveground and is not as winter-hardy as buried garlic’s, it’s wise to give onions some protection in Zone 6 and above by growing them in a cold frame or under quick hoops (low-growing tunnels).
Direct-sowing — without thinning — is the best method..." 
Read the whole thing here:

2012 Forgotten Skills classes

2012 FORGOTTEN SKILLS CLASSES -- seating is very limited. Register today to reserve your spot.
9 a.m. to 2 p.m Saturday, Sept. 8 2012

Caleb Warnock's house, Alpine Utah

Early-Bird Pricing: Individual classes are $20* OR $89 for the entire day. (Couples add $10.) To register, email Payment by check or paypal by Friday, Sept. 7 2012. A free "Forgotten Skills" book and winter garden seed to anyone who registers for the entire day!
"At the Door" Pricing: $30 each or $150 for the day. NOTE: "At the door" participants are not likely to get to take home a cold frame; advance notice is necessary to get the materials.

9 a.m. Best Vegetables for Utah
No one spends as much time and money running garden variety trials as Caleb! Come and find out which vegetable varieties work best, how to grow them, and which varieties should be avoided! We will be tasting fresh vegetables from Caleb's garden!

9:30 a.m. Forgotten Recipes: Low Sugar Jams, Jellies, Juices 
The best jams, jellies and juices you will EVER taste, with practically no sugar! These are Caleb's most in-demand recipes! Come and taste them for yourself and take these recipes home for your family!

10 a.m. Natural Yeast
"The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast" book is finally here! Come and find out in person how to get started with your yeast. Get "started" on the health of your family today! Step-by-step instructions on the basics of using natural yeast.

11 p.m. No-Nonsense Organic Gardening
Does your garden pay you, or do you pay a fortune for your garden? Come and find out how Caleb's garden rivals any garden in the state for produce, while being 100 percent totally, completely organic and heirloom. You'll learn how to make your own super-easy organic fertilizers, no-work compost, weed control, pest control, and how and why to garden without tilling ever again!

12 p.m. Winter Gardening 101
Now is the time to plant your winter garden! The lastest results from Caleb's variety tests, and live demonstrations on using cold frames and building a hot bed! All the information that you need to get started on fresh winter gardeing this year with no artificial heat or electricity!

1 p.m. Cold Frame Construction (*Individual price for this class is $40)
This popular class is only offered once a year! We will build cold frames from every participant to take home -- there is no other class like it in the West!