Friday, January 20, 2017

The World has Changed Today – Donald Trump and Mike Pence

Trump Pence Amaryllis

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.    Donald J. Trump
When news came that Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been inaugurated as the new President and Vice President of the United States of America, I immediately tweeted that the world has just changed, there is a new POTUS in the White House. To that tweet I attached a photo of a deep red Amaryllis that grows in my garden naming it the Mike-Pence Amaryllis. The naming had been done a couple of days ago when CNN had tweeted that a new insect had been named on Donald Trump. I tweeted back with this nomenclature and picture here as a counter.

The Victorians have associated Amaryllis flower with strength and determination because of its height and sturdiness and it seemed an appropriate choice among flowers for the eminent personalities. Amaryllis flowers in similar red colors are not new but to my knowledge this one has not been named after any eminent personality before. Naming roses after famous persons is more common. Besides, the precise shading that any flower develops depends on the environment in which the flower has grown for several years as this one has in my home. If the White House chose to grow this type of Amaryllis in rows in front of the White House, the red color would look rather nice in spring and summer against the majestic white backdrop. Visitors would then exclaim,
“Look, how lovely, It is Trump - Pence”
I was delighted when Trump won the election and was confident he would after Bernie Sanders dropped out from the race. There are tweets and blog posts about this from me from months ago. When CNN had published polls that Hillary would win with a huge probability, I had tweeted back that they will look very stupid when the election results come. This tweet is still in my twitter feed. I had also tweeted much earlier that Trump would win Michigan too and that too should be in my twitter feeds. Such prdictions arise not from scinetific polls of the kind media depends on but on what is mentioned in the very last brief lines of this note.

I could never bring myself around to supporting Hillary even though I consider her lovely as a person because the Clintons have enriched themselves much in the years of their stated public service. Although not against businessmen and others enriching themselves much, provided they do it ethically, I have never been in favor of those who do so while in public service. True, that many politicians in democracies around the world are doing similarly but none of them are my heroes leaving only a few like Jose Mujica of Uruguay and Narendra Modi of India for example who have not done so and that I can admire freely among politicians.

Therefore I had supported Donald Trump on twitter right up to his inauguration, to the extent that a few possible Hillary supporters had tweeted back asking if I was a Russian Asset. Just to clarify, to my knowledge, I have not communicated with any person from Russia or their middle men, over the last several decades. Further, for the last seven years or so, ever since retirement from professional service, I have not taken even a penny from any organization or individual depending entirely on my own resources and the Lord even as the hermits in the wilderness do. Moreover I also do not associate myself with any group or association even though many have invited, so that I may express any of my thoughts entirely independently in a way that might make even a humble contribution to improving the world we all share.

One is saddened by the sense of loss of those who had supported Hillary Passionately, many of them lovely persons,  but as in football matches so in democratic elections, the fact that one or other side would lose is inevitable and one has to move forward in life accepting that fact. At the end of the match it is best to hug each other in bonhomie until the next one. 

My tweet about Donald Trump yesterday did not mention if the change that has taken place would be beneficial for the world or not. One can only hope and pray that it would be. To my mind three of the most serious problems facing the world are rising inequalities that is driving some even in the richest countries of the world to homeless streets, violence and wars in Central America, Middle East and Africa, causing people, even children to flee from their homes terrified as refugees leaving all behind and in some cases of children even their most treasured possession in the universe - their parents. The third problem is those connected to environment, of rising pollution of our air, water and deforestation of the planet leading to huge climate instabilities.  

My hope is that the new team in the White House would help solve or substantially reduce some of the problems just mentioned. Donald Trump has the enthusiasm for change while Mike Pence has the necessary political experience to help steer this new car that Trump has jumped into, for in order to reach a new destination in a new car, one must also be adept at driving it.

May the sun warm the hearts and souls of all into love and compassion
As a person with spiritual interests, I do read signs and omens. Today morning in a dream just before waking up I saw clearly a picture of the Sun shining in the sky and took this as a sign that,
All shall be well

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Joy of Stir Fried Vegetables – Recipes and Spices

While just plain steamed vegetables are nice in a traditional western dinner of roast, sausages or grill, these must remain side dishes on the dinner plate. However, increasingly based on new health studies or for spiritual reasons many are shunning or reducing meat in their diets. In this latter case it is possible to make a main dish out of vegetables provided one uses the right recipes for stir fried vegetables; these can make a delicious and wholesome main dish on a dinner plate. In this latter case just one or two hard boiled eggs, a salad and buttered bread on the side makes a complete and nourishing dinner that delights mind, body and soul. The following tips and spices will be helpful for any interested reader

The Simple Stir fry

Stir fried vegetables are prepared by heating a little butter, clarified butter or cooking oil in a pan or pot and then adding chosen seasoning and vegetables to it, followed by a little stirring and cooking with a cover in the pan on low or medium heat.

A single vegetable or a mix of vegetables can be used in a stir fried dishes. When preparing a mix, it is best to add vegetables in the order in which they cook. Potatoes require the most time. They are therefore added first if part of the mix. Vegetables like peas and cauliflower require lesser time and can be added a bit later while some like cabbage and button mushrooms (fungi) needs very little cooking time and should be added last for best results.

To soften hard vegetables like potatoes, a little water can be sprinkled on them and cooked covered for a few minutes on low heat to ensure the water does not dry out and the vegetable gets much too brown or burnt. A little experience in the kitchen would make any person a perfect judge of the best timings and heat required for different vegetables.

Adding Spices

While some vegetables like button mushrooms (called a vegetable here for convenience) are delicious if stir fried in butter with just a bit of salt and black pepper others require more additions if they are to be a main dish for a lunch or dinner.

One of the best spices to add to stir fried vegetables aside from black pepper is cumin. The seeds can be used whole or ground in a blender for the dish. The flavor of cumin seeds develop when they are roasted or fried a bit otherwise they have a bitter flavor that is not very nice. The seeds can be pre-roasted in an oven or hot plate and then ground and stored in a glass jar for use later. Otherwise, after heating cooking oil in the pan, add the ground cumin powder first and let it fry for a minute before adding vegetables. Just half a tea spoon is sufficient for a couple of cups of diced vegetables. Salt to taste and some black pepper may be added while the cooking proceeds.

Curried Stir Fry Vegetables

In South Asia curried stir fried vegetables is a common daily preparation. However, do note that curried vegetables or any other dish is never prepared with curry powder. That is a western innovation never used in South Asia. Not only does it not taste nice it also smells bad at least to this author. The way vegetable preparations are curried in much of South Asia is by adding ground cumin powder or whole cumin seeds, coriander seed powder, turmeric and chili powder according to taste. If you wish to make a curried stir fried vegetable dish use these spices in about the same quantity as the cumin. While the cumin must be added to very hot oil before the vegetables, the other spices are mixed in later after the vegetables are added to the pot and stirred in.

Garam Masala

In prosperous South Asian homes, another spice mix called Garam Masala is a must add to stir fried and other meat or vegetable preparations. It is primarily a mix of spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and black pepper. There is a full blog post on how to make your own Garam Masala in this blog. In my kitchen we ran out of our Garam Masala today and I have left a new batch of spices to sun before grinding them in a blender in the evening as shown in the photo. Once ground it shall be enough for a couple of months of cooking. We vary the mix a bit every time the spice mix is prepared depending on the spices that are available at hand but the interested reader can begin with a standard mix at first and then try variations as they become more comfortable with it. Two cups of diced vegetables require about a level tea spoon for a dish and it has to be pre-fried just like was indicated for cumin in the previous paragraph. Use the search tool in the left bar to reach a blog post on Garam Masala and more spices.

Adding Herbal Flavors

Garlic, Ginger, tomatoes, Green Chilies and Green Coriander Leaves (Cilantro) are great additions to a stir fried vegetable preparation. Peal and chop a few cloves of garlic and let them brown in the cooking oil before adding vegetables. Ginger cut in strings can be added at any stage while green chilies and chopped tomatoes come out best if added when the dish is nearly ready. Cilantro leaves may be added as a garnish after the heat has been turned off.

Exotic Stir Fries

Adding nuts like almonds, cashew nuts and paneer pieces adds an exotic touch to a stir fried dish and makes it fit for a King’s table. To use cashew nuts or almonds soak them in water for a few hours. Peel off the skins of almonds and then add to the stir fried vegetable dish along with the chopped vegetables. Paneer is an unprocessed non-melting cheese. Information about it can be found in this blog or on google. It may be procured from a store or made at home by coagulating fresh milk with a bit of vinegar. Because paneer does not melt, it can be added to stir fries to make them more delicious and full of rich proteins. Nuts serve the same purpose.  If you have edible flowers growing in your garden, the flower petals can be used to garnish and decorate the dish on special occasions. Use the search tool in side bar to reach a list of edible flowers in this blog.

In a Pie or Samosa

Stir fried vegetables prepared as just described make an excellent pie filling. My favorite is a stir fry of peas and button mushrooms for a pie. This pie, because it is stir fried with herbs and spices does not need gravy as many meat pies do.

Samosa is an Arab and South Asian variation of a pie. In this case the stir fried mix is wrapped in kneaded and rolled out flour and deep fried in a triangular sort of shape. It requires much practice to make at home and is therefore mostly purchased from a Samosa shop. It is delicious but not very healthy to have in a regular meal, only as an occasional snack

The Dinner

A western dinner that has a stir fried vegetable preparation as explained can be the main dish on a dinner plate. The side dishes can be couple of hard boiled eggs (just one if you already had one at breakfast), a small serving of salad and bread. The bread can be any western or Asian but all are wonderful hot and with some butter on it.

A few persons are allergic to gluten in wheat and they may then use steamed rice as replacement. Just add a little water to the stir fried dish when it is nearly done so that it develops a little gravy needed for steamed rice to soak up.

For special occasions one can make a five course dinner out of a main preparation of stir fried vegetables. Begin with a small appetizer, followed by soup, the dinner as described, a course of salad dressed in a mayonnaise, hung yoghurt or sour cream followed last by a desert and black tea especially on cold winter evenings.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Keeping a Daily Diary

Some days back there was a tweet from Sir Richard Branson suggesting that keeping notes is a must habit. That reminded me of another good habit that I have known for long but never taken up, keeping a daily diary. Therefore, a couple of days ago I procured a large size note book and have begun making entries every evening. Wonder how long, I can keep up the habit because it has not been a part of my good habits before. However, I have decided to keep the diary and even if I skip some days I will keep it up on the days I can. It would indeed be an excellent place to record ideas one may forget otherwise.

One very simple reason to keep a diary is that although I write a lot, it has been on a keyboard for several years and I was beginning to feel that my handwriting has begun to deteriorate. This would help revive it.

An earlier post had mentioned that it is good to talk about or review the day’s activities in the evening. If you do not have a sympathetic companion to talk this over with every evening then writing a diary serves a similar purpose. It helps to delete any memory that would be stored in the subconscious otherwise with an emotional attachment. That creates unnecessary baggage for the mind. In the normal course it is resolved through karma, meditation or dreams; dealing with it on a daily basis soon after events unfold helps to reduce this load.

If you decide to begin a daily diary too, choose any size notebook you fancy. Enter the date on top and underscore it with a wiggly line that comes out better when drawing with hand rather than a straight line. Enter the day’s events, thoughts or whatever under it. Before beginning the entry on another day, leave a little blank space in case you wish to enter something more as an after thought. However, never record anything that you consider very private and will embarrass you if read by someone else. A diary is often discovered by others inadvertently.

Friday, January 13, 2017

When the Lord Holds Your Hand

Those who reflect on flow of events through life would not have failed to notice that there are times when we set out to do something and we face hurdles and obstacles all the way through, while there are other times when everything goes smoothly. These last are the times when the universe cooperates and assists, when we make the right choices and there is confidence in our heart that all is well. These last are the times when the Lord is holding our hands and leading us to experience what is in keeping with our karma. It is our reward, opportunity, education and experience to push us along in our endless journey through the universe.

The times when we face obstacles and difficulties in whatever it is that we have set out to do may not be in accordance with our destiny and there is a chance that despite pain and effort we undertake the result will be less than satisfying. Wise persons must always stop to reflect if they should give up that undertaking or change plans in another direction. This does not mean that we should avoid struggles and intense effort in life, when required to do so, for much that is beautiful in life comes from intense effort. What needs to be done is to evaluate if along the way of such difficult tasks we have a feeling of satisfaction, that the effort, albeit hard, is joyous and that the undertaking does not involve compromising our ethical and good human values, for that would led to more bad karma for future.

Proceeding thus, life becomes a far more joyous journey then it is possible otherwise and leaves one smiling and singing through much of life rather than sobbing and sulking through it. It is also important to realize that both hardships and good times have limited life. They disappear when that karma is exhausted. Thus hardships shall pass and we need to be patient through them and use that as an opportunity to learn about life; to become wiser and more evolved. Even when faced with gravest of difficulties we need to remind ourselves that we shall not live forever and even this life shall pass soon.

The good times shall pass too. In this latter case wise souls enjoy that reward, thank the Lord for that good time while it is on and when it has ended they wait for more delightful adventures in their journey through life and beyond. Yet there are foolish childish souls that kick and scream as they are dragged away from their good experience when it has come to an end (that includes most of us : ); even worse they end up doing a lot of wrong things in order to preserve some or all of their advantages or protect from perceived loss. This last results in a huge amount of bad karma for their future. Many political leaders in Africa and some elsewhere are classic and most visible examples of this to the world at large when their elected terms of leadership has come to an end