I'm currently sitting in the Salt Lake City airport, temporarily suspended between Portland and Kansas City, and it just struck me how weird airports are. It will also strike me, in a minute, that I need to buy a new battery for my laptop because this one apparently now only lasts about 40 minutes.

Here are a few things I appreciate about airports:

-No doors on the bathrooms
-Bathrooms have automatic flushers/faucets
-Terminal waiting area seat-backs, while uncomfortable, are at least high enough to reach my upper back
-Announcements warning against accepting "foreign objects" from strangers (suggesting that the SLC airport personnel is either very patriotic or they assume some sort of radical personal-political sovereignty)
-Use of the term "infant in arms" to signify an adult flying with a ticketless infant (or an infant with a gun, as the case may be)
-Talking with random strangers who also enjoy talking to random strangers (i.e., me)

Here are a few things i DO NOT appreciate about airports:

-Middle-aged creepy people staring at me
-Awkwardly sitting one or two seats away from someone and being unsure about how far your personal belongings should protrude from your personal space.
-A general lack of power outlets (15% battery...)
-The weird very short carpet with weird abstract-designs (except at PDX)

Well, comp's about to shut itself down so I'm going to try to check my email one more time before it decides it needs a nap.

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What is "race" and Why it is Important to You

[Total Read Time= 5 minutes]

Talk of race in the US and elsewhere is a politically and socially loaded issue that never fails to ignite the fiery passions of those who disagree about it, and in many circumstances, those who agree about it as well. But this sort of discussion is not one I'm interested in having right now as I have no intention of igniting anyone's fiery passions.

Instead, I'm going to talk about the fundamentals of what race is and how we should approach it. If this sounds like it isn't relevant to you, stay with me--I promise you that it is.

What's the Point?

I want to do this because I happen to be one of the relatively rare students of philosophy who is, first and foremost, concerned with how to use philosophy to help us in real world, every day circumstances. I'm not at all interested in it as an elitist intellectual exercise. But that's a whole different issue.

Current "Race-thinking" in a Nutshell

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Finally...Lentil Soup for People who Hate Lentils (Recipe)

Fact: Lentils are one of the most nutritionally perfect foods on earth. Very low fat, nearly perfect carbs to protein ratio, and tons of fiber. Problem: I hate lentils.

Naturally, as the good little problem solver that I am, I wanted to find a way to eat lentils and actually enjoy it. My general philosophy of problem solving goes something like, "If I can't do/learn/etc something, it's just because I haven't figured out how yet. So...figure it out."

So here's my lentil soup recipe--it's a result of a few different recipes I found and a lot of tinkering and experimentation. This has been my staple food since October 2009. Add hours to your week by cooking for 40 minutes on Sunday and eat it for the whole week.

It's super cheap (about $10) and will probably feed you for a solid week.

Questions? Twitter: @NPSchmitt Email: Nathan [at] brainchocolateblog [dot] com


One bag of green lentils, picked over and rinsed 1 medium-large onion, diced 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes 10 oz frozen spinach, kale, or collard greens (20 oz fresh) 16 oz ham or your favorite pre-cooked meat

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Fiji: Natural Artesian Water: A Distasteful Epic

For your entertainment and my nostalgia, the following is a little piece I spontaneously wrote one spring evening in 2007 as a means of stalling before bed.




Here I sit, three minutes ago, in a recliner with my laptop powered down in my hands, ready to go to bed. I look blankly around me maybe for a distraction, maybe just to look. My two eyes fall upon a bottle of water to my right that says to them, in their language of course, "From the Island of Fiji: Natural Artesian Water."

I understand the concept of an "artesian well" well enough but my mind can't help but think "artisan" water as I almost silently chuckle at the thought of there actually being a natural artisan in my bottle. It's now a question of whether or not anyone could find an artisan, let alone a natural one, small enough to fit into such a bottle. The bottle is cubical in shape which, for some reason or another, suggests that an artisan could, in fact, fit in such a bottle. This seems reasonable not because artisans are shaped like boxes, though they would certainly deserve my pity if this were the case, but because in my mind artisans are capable of making such a box regardless of their actual trade. Somehow this suggests to me that because they put so much of their self into the making of it, they would be able to fit into it. It seems to be a reverse metaphor of sorts. I would like to think, however, that if there were an artisan in my bottle of water, I would recognize it as easily as i might recognize a knife in a glass, and promptly set it aside. I digress. It's partially fictitious; I can do that.

"Untouched by man. Until you drink it" says the bottle. I would hope so. What business has a man's hands with my water? There's not much one can do with it with one's hands. Does this imply that the men (do no women work at bottling factories?) of other bottling companies touch their water with their hands before bottling it? Again, what business do their hands have in my water? If they did have business there I would be perfectly fine with it because after all, they have business there.

I note the expiration note at the base of the cube. By this time, the time elapsed since first looking upon the bottle is arbitrary. Enough content has been imaginatively added to this experience that the value of time, what little value, if any, existed, is now completely nil. "Best before 08 January 09." This is rather curious to me. This water, that itself has lasted presumably quite a while, will shortly be expiring, or if not expiring, perhaps just diminishing in quality.  How lucky am I to be presented with the opportunity of experiencing the expiration of this particular water. If I am to assume this water has never been molecularly deconstructed, which I will admit is rather far-fetched, I am quite the lucky fellow to have it in my possession not two years ante-expiration after it has been around for billions.

Though perhaps it's arbitrary. Arbitrary like the time since I began this speech of self entertainment. Not the water, that certainly seems to have enough meaning if am I to assume, which I do, that meaning is created by the subject, by he or she who participates in this world, by he or she who must participate by creating action, by he or she who therefore MUST create. Rather, I am refering to the time. The time, of course, that it takes for water to expire. Rather fanciful, if I do say so myself; the expiration of water.

This is a rather daunting piece to try to close, so I'll simply leave in peace.


I should, and will, add the following. I felt that this was difficult to end because I know no more about ending a creative peace than starting or perpetuating one. I've recently, and by recently I mean for the past five years, been a strictly academic writer and therefore feel like a Seattlite in the Bahamas when dealing with such an endeavor.

Once again,

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Old Questions, Old Wine, and Creativity

"The life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. It is this power, not as something positive, which closes its eyes to the negative, as when we say of something that it is nothing or is false, and then, having done with it, turn away and pass on to something else; on the contrary, Spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it."

-G.W.F. Hegel in Phenomenology of Spirit

I've done a few things tonight: I ate a burrito and chips, discussed common frustrations, purposely didn't read for a class I needed to read for, and now I'm drinking once-good wine, now--three weeks later--about half vinegar.  Probably should have eaten something else, arguably shouldn't be frustrated with the issue at hand, definitely should have read for class, but I'm not sure about the wine.

Aesthetic Analysis

Sight: Seems fine. No mold. No particles. Great color. Cool bottle.
Touch: Feels like wine. My right index fingertip is now tinted red.
Hearing: Turning off music... Sounds like the ocean.
Smell: Smells like chocolate.
Taste: Hold on...  Yup, still kinda tastes like vinegar.

Conclusion: My vinegary wine is pleasing to 4 out of 5 senses. That's 80%. That's a B. According to my department's grading rubric, my wine is "Good. No significant mistakes, well-written, but not distinctive in any way."

This is where I'm kind of conflicted. On the one hand, "good" is good, and it's certainly good enough for me to be enjoying this glass of vinegary wine. On the other hand, "not distinctive in any way" is not good. I'm not OK with anything of mine being "not distinctive in any way." And this is especially true of the things I create myself. If what you create has no mark to distinguish it as a product of its creator (you), then you haven't really created anything have you?

Sure, you've made something, but manufacturing a product, an idea, a piece of writing, that doesn't bare your mark is just an exercise in replication. I distinctly remember, when I was six, riding home in the car after daycare one day, quite upset that someone had accused me of copying another kid on the playground.

I thought, "Why is this kid being mean to me? Everyone just takes pieces of other people's personalities and adds them to the box with all the pieces they've already collected." This was the first time, that I can remember at least, that I realized that there's no such thing as "originality," but there is creativity, and creativity is what we should value.

"[Life] wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself."

Even if your creative efforts crash, burn, and explode, at least your efforts are not "not distinctive in any way." I define creativity as (roughly), "the process of mixing the pieces in your metaphorical box together in such a way that what you create reflects a distinctive image of yourself back to you." Of course, we often (usually) don't like this image. Anyone who attempts anything meaningful with their life knows that we fail far more than we succeed. If this is the case, and we refuse to see ourselves in our failures, we might as well not look in the mirror at all, we might as well not be creative, we might as well not drink that wine that only pleases 4 out of the 5 senses.

Just like everyone else, the vast majority of my creative pursuits are miserable failures (if I thought otherwise, I'd just be delusional) but I make them public anyway. Hiding your creative failures from others is disingenuous but hiding them from yourself is harmful.


"[Life] wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself."

Honor those from whom you take the different pieces of yourself by showing the world how you put them all together; no one can rightly ridicule you for eating s*** on a creative project, but I'll sure as hell call you out if don't embrace your entire creativity--the successes and the failures--and I expect the same in return. For serious.

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