Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eat your weeds!

Every spring, as I clear out my vegetable patch in preparation for the new crop of weeds, I inevitably find large quantities of a strange little plant. If Jade Plant grew in a vine, this is what it would look like. It grows close to the ground, with long fat reddish runners and little clumps of fat shiny leaves. And it seems to grow almost overnight. No sooner do I clear out an area than after the next rain, there is a spider network of this weed over the entire clearing.

A couple of weeks ago, in researching another weed, I found out that this is Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea).

It is apparently edible, and in fact, not merely edible, but highly nutritious, loaded with uncommon quantities of Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Omega 3 fatty acids, along with various other desirable micronutrients. It is eaten in Europe, Asia, Latin America. Leave it to us to ignore it!

Several days ago, I made the experiment. Luckily, this baby seems to be an all season kind of plant, so I went into my prodigious weed crop and dug around among the tomatoes. Sure enough...there was plenty of this purslane stuff. I pulled up a bunch of clumps, washed them well, and started right in.

Raw, the stems are slightly tangy. Some of the leaves are, too, but many are just kind of spinachy flavored. The stems have a somewhat slimy quality, sort of like cooked okra, but not quite as much.

Most of the harvest got cooked in a spicy sour soup (tamarind, mustard seed, sesame base) usually reserved for spinach or another leaf vegetable whose English name I don't know. It was quite good! The slimy quality of the stems is somewhat accentuated in soup form, which for me is a good thing.

I declare this experiment a success!

Who knew?

Friday, July 20, 2007

College Admissions and Discrimination

This is a very interesting and entertaining article on the history of the college admissions process, forwarded to me by a high school classmate. (

It discusses how non-objective criteria have been used historically for discriminatory purposes. It starts with a discussion of how Harvard initially relied rather heavily on the College Boards, but backed away when it found it was inadvertently admitting too many Jews. In place of the "objective" test-based criteria, it instituted letters of reference, admissions interviews and complex application processes, weighting highly the features of "desirable" candidates.

The article seems to be arguing for a return to straight rankings for college admissions. I'm not sure I'd totally agree with this approach. It seems to me that the right goal is Diversity in college admissions. Which is not well served by lots of testing. The "Desirable" students that an elitist school wants to screen for often come from families who can afford plenty of test prep.

Last chance at Harry Potter predictions

Ok...I admit it...I'm a Harry Potter fan.

Not in the insane, I'm-staying-up-until-midnight-to-get-my-copy-of-The-Deadly-Hallows sense, but I do enjoy the series.

I read a quote from JK Rowling today that really touched me. Several days ago, for reasons I don't remember, Sidharta was asking me about whether he would die or I would die, or ... He got a little agitated, but I tried to explain it to him as well as I could. Rowling exactly captures my philosopy:

"I think children are very scared of this stuff even if they haven't experienced it, and I think the way to meet that is head-on," she says. "I absolutely believe, as a writer and as a parent, that the solution is not to pretend things don't happen but to examine them in a loving, safe way." (

And in fact, I think perhaps this captures what is best in the series: her willingness to intensely illustrate what is dark or unjust in human behavior, and show children that like Harry and his friends, they have a choice to stand up against it. Call me a hopeless optimist, but I'm hoping that the Harry Potter generation will be a little less likely than their parents to ascribe negative characteristics to people from communities other than their own.

Since this is my last chance to make predictions, before the release, I guess I'll jump in. This won't make sense to those of you who haven't read the series, but...

  1. Though Rowling has come out pretty strongly on the Harry-Ginny romance, it just doesn't make sense to me. I found it very unconvincing. I will go out on a limb and guess that Harry will end up somehow with Hermione.
  2. Snape will turn out to be on the side of "good".
    a) His murder of Dumbledore will have been either pre-arranged with Dumbledore in the case of extremity or else he will have done it to prevent Draco Malfoy from doing it (per Voldemort's orders -- I believe it was significant that the other death eaters wouldn't step in to finish the job for Malfoy.)
    b) Snape is motivated by some sort of love for Lily.
  3. Major figures to die (Rowling has said there will be 2, and I assume this doesn't include the loser of the Harry/Voldemort battle)
    a) Definitely, one of them will be in the set {Ron, Ginny, Hermione}
    b) Ron and Ginny could both be killed, freeing up Harry and Hermione for each other.
    c) Most likely to die: Ron. Members of Harry's safety net have been systematically killed off, and at this point, we're pretty much down to McGonagall, Ron and Hermione as the most directly instrumental to his survival. And remember, in the tri-Wizard...who was it that would be most missed?
    d) Snape's a pretty good misunderstood martyr candidate
    e) Luna's a reasonable misunderstood martyr candidate, but not important enough, I think, to make much of an impact, so I'd have to put this low on the probabilty list. Neville for a similar reason.
  4. I sure hope that Grawp and Firenze play some sort of role in the resolution of the story because they will otherwise have been an extraordinarily long waste of time. (Can you tell I'm a little less than impressed by some of the plot-lines?)
  5. And the ultimate victor of the battle of good over evil? Good will prevail. But it will be a hollow victory, because someone Harry really, really cares about will be gone.
And no...I haven't peeked at any of the online photographed copies of the leaked book. Or purchased an early-shipped copy. Or seen any other form of Book 7. :-) Of course...if you haven't read this post before the book comes out, you may never know whether I edited this post after the fact to agree with the actual outcome. Lucky thing I'm an honest person...most of the time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Welcome to "It Dawned On Me"

I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while now. I think it's a nice way to tell people about some of the things you're thinking about, without forcing them to listen to you blather on about them on the telephone or jamming their email.

I've been held back so far because of three things:

  1. Time (I have none)
  2. Topic (I'm not sure what to pick that won't make me look ridiculous)
  3. Timidity (see item 2)
However, I have high hopes that maintaining a blog will force me to find time to put my thoughts in order (insofar as I will have to commit them to actual sentences). I rely on you, my friends and family, to keep me straight (in a gentle way).

In lieu of an actual blog topic, in future, look for posts on book/movie reviews, pointers to articles around the net that I find interesting, bizarre factoids, and other tidbits that I hope will liven your day.

Feel free to add comments, and please benefit from others' comments.

My second post

This is what it looks like to have another post.

My very first test blog post

Hello, friends and family!

This is to test the capabilities of this blogging website.
This is what bold looks like!
This is what italic looks like!

Here is what centered text looks like!
This is what a common garden butterfly and echinacaea flower look like!
Here's another font!
Here's a numbered list:
  1. Item 1
  2. Item 2
  3. Item c
Here's a bulleted list:
  • Bullet
  • Test
Changing Text color!
Adding a link to Wikipedia (in English).