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Posole variations

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Last spring I was diagnosed (via blood test) as allergic to:
wheat and its relatives
milk (cow, goat, sheep)
eggs (chicken and duck)
yeast (baker's and brewer's)
vanilla (natural, not imitation)

This eliminates most of the foods I have eaten for most of my life, and most of the foods likely to be available at any social gathering or restaurant.
Cooking used to be one of my hobbies, and I baked my own bread for years.

I had previously (via prick test) tested allergic to:
cow's milk
green beans (but not dried beans
which were not picked up by the blood test.

So I was already dealing with some dietary limitations. (Read labels of baked goods watching for malt... it's everywhere!)

And I avoid peanuts and peanut products because I occasionally have allergic reactions (From the pattern, I suspect I am allergic to something like stale and processed peanuts but not fresh... sort of the opposite of the beans allergy).

Buckwheat tests marginal, but I had a really bad reaction one day -- maybe there was something else I was also reacting to.

Tried some stevia in some herbal tea and nearly died -- not sure if that was the stevia or the other herbs or a combination, but stevia is related to ragweed, and I get hayfever.

Not going to risk either buckwheat or stevia again.

Shopping is interesting these days (and not in the good sense). I read the labels and eliminate the packages with ingredients I know are problematic and there isn't much left in the store.

Comfort foods and holiday traditions are gone from my life. So are problems breathing and swallowing, mostly, buts it is still depressing. I have largely stopped traveling or socializing.

I found a recipe for a Mexican/Native American stew that I can eat:
Posole. It's mostly pork, corn and chile peppers and some flavorings, but the classic flavorings don't have a lot of depth.

I leave out the cilantro (don't have the gene that makes it taste good), and in the latest batch I used a small can of Chiplotles in Adobo Sauce intead of the jalapenos, to add some complexity. And I use boxed chicken stock as some of the liquid.

The result is spicy-hot but not richly flavored, though the smokiness of the chiplotles helps some. Still seems flat. Ish. One batch of posole fills my five quart crock pot, so I'm going to be eating this for a while.

I added some bitter (vanilla-free) chocolate with a dash of cinnamon to one of the freezer containers of the leftovers. I put some garam masala in one of the other freezer containers. And ras al hanouf in another one. (That still left several meals' woth of plain posole.) The flavors will blend more slowly while things are frozen, but it still should be better than adding the spices right before re-heating.

Mithradates and Debt

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I just finished reading The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor. A few months ago I read Debt: the First 5000 Years.

The life of Mithradates is very intereting from the perspective of Debt.

During Mithradates long lifetime there were about three cycles where the Romans invaded areas east of the Adriatic, directly enslaved a big chunk of the population, destroyed the renewables, carried off the valuables, and imposed burdensome taxes and horrible interest rates that wrecked what was left of the economy. Then Mithradates threw out the Romans, freed the slaves, and nullified the debts. (And then it happened again. And again.) And the Romans wondered why the local populations were very very loyal to Mithradates...

The really interesting thing is that Mayor repeatedly says that modern historians don't understand how the economics of Mithradates' kingdom worked: he never seemed to lack cash to pay HUGE armies and never collected general taxes until near the end when things were going really sour (and even then the tax rates were ridiculously low by Roman standards).

Some of his advantages may be due to more or less literally not killing the goose that laid the golden eggs, and partly to ruling what Mayor describes as an area previously ruled by Kings named Croesus and Midas. But there was clearly something about the way things worked that was different organizationally, too.

It seems like Mithradates was on the other side of the cultural Debt boundary.

Politically, Mithradates called himself Shah of Shahs for much of his life, when the Black Sea was Mithradates' lake. But he worked with alliances and coalitions not conquests (including with the Greek democracies -- the general defending Athens at its fall was employed by Mithradates).

"He died old"

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I know two snippets of the poetry of A. E. Housman off the top of my head:

And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.


I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

It turns out they are both from the same poem, "Terence, this is stupid stuff" published in A Shropshire Lad in 1896.

Housman died in 1936, and was born in 1859, so it can be said that he also "died old". And I'm pretty sure that I have read some of his other poetry, it is just these bits that are attached to his name in my memory. I'm not certain that I ever read the entire "Terence..." poem before this week. But I knew those lines, 118 years after they were written.

Not immortality on the scale of Homer or Shakespeare (or even Tennyson or Yeats if you go by the number of lines I know were theirs that I can pull out of my memory) but respectable none the less. Yeats and Tennyson get used in titles of things a lot, so there are a lot of snippets of their work floating around. I'm not sure I know any lines by the actual poet Terence.

Mithridates really did die old, too -- he lived from 134 to 63 BC and gave the Roman generals fits (they called him the secnd Hannibal). And he did not die a natural death of old age. Mithridates committed suicide at the age of 71 rather than be captured alive after a defeat in battle. Actually, he asked one of his soldiers to kill him with a sword because poison did not work against him.

Mithridates is famous for pioneering the "take small amounts of poison so you build up an immunity to it" technique. So he resonates through popular culture (including The Princess Bride) even if provincial modern Americans know nothing of his political and military achievements.

I've just started reading a book about Mithridates: The Poison King by Adrienne Mayor

I should probably look up some other poetry by Housman and see what else of his I am actually familiar with, without knowing that it is his.

For that matter, I should probably look up Terence, too -- there are probably quotes that I know are "from the Latin" that are actually his.

Retro Tech Rhythms

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The complete boxed set of Columbo showed up at Costco, including both series: 1968-1978 and 1989-2003. I watched some of the early episodes last weekend.

Good god, Columbo was young in 1968!

And it's interesting to see that even the first female murderers were tall. Not only was rumpled working-class Columbo dealing with the rich and powerful, his first several opponents all loomed over him physically. (I checked on google and Falk was 5' 6".)

But that's not what I came here to talk about.

The first series of Columbo started when I was in about 8th grade and ended after I finished my MLS, so it depicts a world I lived through in technological terms.

The rhythm of dialing a call on an actual dial phone. By the fourth episode or so, the rich people were starting to have push-button phones (even avocado, instead of black!) but regular phones all had dials...

What was really embarassing was that the third episode (directed by Steven Spielberg!) started with a long outdoor pan that eventually pulled into an office building, with no music or voices, just a really odd ongoing sound effect. And for the the longest time I could not decide what the sound was. At least I figured out what it was before the pan finished. It's amazing how wierd a serious manual typewriter used by a strong, fast typist sounds after all these years.

Even electric typewriters allowed a smoother rhythm and less choppy sound than the office manuals.

I wonder if Snow White went gray early

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It's a week after the election and I'm still getting calls from pollsters.

When they come to the questions about ethnicity i always say White, but they don't really have a category that's as white as I am. There isn't a checkbox for quasi-vampiric.

I'm not an albino in the strict sense. There is something else going on. Something stranger.

I've had my genome done and I've got slightly more Neanderthal genes than the average European. Mitochondrial DNA is one of the less common European variants.

And family rumors about Native Americans in the French Canadian lineages are probably true -- I've got a few identified genes that did not likely come from any European lineage. But most of the distribution maps for my genes are Celtic and circum-Mediterranean.

Some of the Celtic isn't particularly surprising -- the Acadians weren't Parisian French, they largely came from Brittany and Normandy. But that side of the family is not where I get my (lack of) coloring or the texture of my hair -- I take after my father and his mother, and she was born just outside Asti in Piemonte, northern Italy.

I have a little more pigment than had -- I got a little from my Mom's side.

I have very little pigment in my skin (though I'm not quite as fair-skinned as Dad and Nonna) and don't tan to any noticable degree (Burn like crazy and freckle, yes. Tan, no.)

My eyes are hazelish instead of blue and depend to some extent on what colors are around me and how far my pupils are dilated to determine how much green vs. brown is visible.

I am not and have never been blonde. My hair was very dark when I was a child and I started going gray in my early 20s. By the time I was 30 I had white streaks and a very expensive looking frosting effect that was unfortunately only temporary.

I wasn't surprised by the gray. The only picture I've ever seen of my crandmother with dark hair was taken at m father's christening, and I don't remember a time when my father was not going gray, though my earliest memories of him date to his late 20s.

Unlike a blond who spreads a little pigment out through a lifetime, we seem to use it up quickly.

I suspect this coloring variant is another Celtic pattern. My junior high English teacher was Miss O'Neill, and she was gorgeous, with the Snow White coloring: blue eyes, very fair skin, dark wavy hair. I wonder if Miss O'Neill went gray early.

I wonder if Snow White went gray early.


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I've got an alternate universe floating around in my head. The landscape is North American but I didn't want to do that thing where the native population is conveniently absent or completely Othered -- it's gotten to be a trope, and a fairly nasty one.

It is a world where the peri-Columbian plagues did not happen, and as it turns out, neither did the Quaternary extinctions.

I've been reading a lot of anthrology and archaeology and 'recent' paleontology. (I would love to find some artists' galleries who do mammoths and things, not just pterodactyls and dinosaurs and their contempararies.)

Fiber and strings are very important in the story. And music is entangled with music just as in the traditions of our world.

Stringed instruments are important in my personal iconography and I realized that, while there are historical stringed instruments from Iberia to the Bering Strait, I had never heard of any pre-Columbian stringed instruments on the Western hemisphere.

No cursed or enchanted harps or fiddles (or harpists of fiddlers). No Trickster gods doing peculiar things with strings and tortoise shells (I have never been sure how that worked....) No corpse instruments fashioned of bone and strung with hair or entrails.

According to Google the only evidence of a stringed instrument that was not imported was in a Mayan temple image, and when archaeologists recreated it, it made a sound like a Jaguar growling, not a musical tone.

The world is a post-contact environment, with Incomers along the coast that are resonances of my own French Canadian ancestors. They would have brought their fiddles with them, into an environment where the magic had resonated to percussions and occasional flutes. That feels important.


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Science Fiction author Jay Lake (who is terminally ill) has posted an commentary that has odd relevance

Earlier today I was trying to decide between two vacation trips for next year. The much more expensive one includes time in Iceland, a place I have always wanted to see.

It feels like the universe is trying to tell me something.

Old Blog and New

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The frozen archive of my old blog is at

I'm occasionally getting the urge to blog these days, and since I don't want to support a blosxom site again (my ISP got cranky and I have other things to do with my non-work programming time) and I am paying for this blog space anyway, I'll try using this for a while.

If it gets annoying, I'll try something else...

The blog title will be refreshed once I think of something better to name it: with the old blog (Teleidoscope) dead, the current title here (Teleidoscope mirror) loses relevance.

New Blog site

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Thanks to an upheaval at my ISP, my primary blog has moved to a cleaner address:

I hope to have the syndication to LiveJournal working again shortly.

Hello and link to my main blog

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My main blog is Teleidoscope, it has been linked to a LJ syndicated account, with the link on my Friends page. It can be reached directly at <a href=">Teleidoscope</a>. I am trying to get the feed set up, but I don't think it is working yet. So the link here is probably more usable.