Friday, February 25, 2011

Chocolate Review: Dagoba's 68% Lemon Ginger

Oddly enough, my chocolate tasting has been one to introduce me to things that I've never tried before. Why not begin a trial of it embedded in chocolate? That's how I learned I like coffee, and it was also my first serious exposure to ginger as a spice, which I've now come to appreciate for its slightly tangy heat. Dagoba's 68% cacao lemon ginger was an obvious temptation then. Lemon has quite an intensity that can make the tongue tingle from the burn of its sourness, so it seems to be a perfect pairing for the heat of ginger.

To my disappointment, however, it did not work out that way. The profile is predominantly milky with a plain sweetened chocolate attribute to it (the sugar note isn't separate), and the ginger is almost entirely unnoticeable except for the grainy crispiness it adds to the texture. The lemon may or may not be there -- my tongue felt like it wanted to experience the tang of the fruit, but the anticipation just never turned into the actual sensation. What a letdown. I suspect it's because the ginger is crystallized and the lemon flavoring isn't that of a lemon oil, the latter of which I really hoped for for the sake of potency.

The mouthfeel is rather average too, with soft bites and a decent melt. The ginger pieces add a new dimension, but nothing interesting considering how fine they are. The only realm of this bar that has complexity and richness is the aroma: dried spices, flowers, heat, a faint lemon peel, and smoke. 

I was really hoping for a lot of punch from this, but only got a hum-drum experience. Ginger is quite good, particularly from the chocolate that gave me my first serious impression (which I'll review later), but my tastings up to this date seem to indicate that ginger may be just as taken for granted as vanilla is.They both have great potential, which is unfortunately neglected at large. I don't recommend this variety.

Weekly Summary: Here's the Thing

Due to recent happenings my life has been off from its regular habits, and to tell you the truth I still don't feel like I'm back in my regular mindset of studying and writing. For the next few days and part of next week my writing will continue to be disrupted, though for immensely good reasons. You'll be let know of those reasons ASAP, so don't worry about being left in the dark for too long.

Also, I think I'm going to skip next week's chocolate tasting. Due to these recent happenings I've been trying to dispose of some sugary goods, like the ice cream in my freezer, and my body would certainly benefit from a strict rest. In its place I think I'll substitute an ice cream review since, well, that's what I'm eating.

I do hope you're being patience with my continued absence. It is my intention to resume regularity as soon as possible, but much much much more important things are going on right now, okay? For now I'm going to have to forgo speaking of my explicit weekly goals since they need to be kept private for the moment. It's all for the greatest.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Happenings have been happening, and I've only gotten free from my external obligations today on Monday, so I don't have any plans for blogging this week except for a weekly summary and chocolate review. Good things are going on nonetheless, but it's unfortunate that I'll only be able to tell you about the end product; I can't talk about it step-by-step as the events occur. It seems that my life may get a little busier in the coming weeks, which may call for a full out suspension of my writing for an extended period. We'll play it by ear, but in the end it's immensely worthwhile for my life. All I can hope is that you don't forget about me in my absence if it is indeed called for. Life is a priority.

I'll just have to roll with things as they come along. Normalcy will return in a short while, but for the meanwhile irregular and uncommon demands necessitate my attention, especially writing for other, more private audiences.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chocolate Review and Weekly Summary Cancelled

Unlike I originally thought, I do not have time to do quality writing, so instead of just slapping up any old thing I'm going to cancel this week's chocolate review and weekly summary. This week's chocolate tasting will be posted next week, and I'll start afresh with the weekly summary.

Again, sorry about the inconvenience. I'll be back -- soon!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writing Interruption

Due to some external obligations my writing schedule will be off this week. There will be no regular post today, no post tomorrow, and perhaps a shorter weekly summary. My weekly chocolate review, however, I'll try to construct as usual and publish without any situational alterations.

Sorry about the inconvenience.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stress and Self-esteem

One thing I've really become fond of in my writing lately is that by continuing to introspect on articles after I publish them I tend to come up with further integrations that can lead to sort of "sequel" posts. It's really been helping me in my thinking, which is the primary aim in my writing a blog to begin with. This time I made an integration from my post on repression, and I've learned that periods of strong negative emotions can actually be a manifestation of low self-esteem. Just like how panicking over the small things in life may reveal some deeper, very important repressions of more significant issues, how one responds to stress can reveal how one estimates one's worth.

I was thinking about this during the Valentine's dinner rush at my restaurant on Saturday, when I had to take on washing dishes, stocking dishes, replenishing cooler supplies, and watching cooking items all at the same time. It was demanding, but exciting and invigorating, the stuff I live for in restaurant work. What struck me as interesting to think about during all this is to how my stress was non-existent despite the long and constant demand that I pay the utmost attention to everything. I started thinking about what it indicates of a person who would panic during such a situation. I remembered that it could reveal a fundamental stress, which the situation would add to and cause his tolerance to collapse, but I also noticed that it could reveal that a person may emotionally experience an estimate of himself.

Judging yourself has a different emotional impact than that of judging others. If you judge someone else as evil, then logically you'll experience contempt, loathing, anger, and more, and perhaps a motivation to prevent this person from spreading his evil to others (whether ideologically or physically), but if you pass that same estimate on yourself it has a different effect. Sure, one could experience the same emotions, including an addition of depression, but it causes different psychological effects and invokes motivations for different types of actions. It could easily eliminate one's motivation to foster friendships, pursue ambitious goals, take the best care of oneself, and so on. If you judge yourself as evil, then logically you'll feel as if you're not worthy of achieving these values, and in that emotional state you wouldn't be able to value the consequences of those pursuits even if you did obtain them. Judging others to be evil can motivate oneself to disassociate from them, speak out against them, and so on, but to do the same to yourself can easily ruin one's emotional health and sap all energy for value-oriented action.

In self-esteem a similar situation exists. Self-esteem is generally your estimate of yourself, and to have self-esteem means to estimate yourself as competent (in whatever context), a good person, and worthy of and able to obtain values. To not have it means to estimate yourself as incompetent, a bad (or at least "not-good") person, and unworthy of and unable to obtain values. Not having self-esteem is not as bad as judging oneself as evil, but it can really have a strong impact on one's actions and ability to cope with stress.

In my own thinking during that Valentine's rush, I noticed that being provoked to stress during rush periods may indicate that the person has low self-esteem, most probably due to irrational ideas about ability. If the person were to hold the premise, say, that ability is innate and cannot be practiced or cultivated, then an inability to perform his responsibilities properly or competently might cause him to establish a lower estimate of himself since he'll necessarily believe that self-worth is innate too. A stressful situation, therefore, would manifest to a person his "innate incompetence" and cause him to feel stressed or distressed at witnessing what he believes to be proof that he simply can't better himself to become more skilled as time passes; he believes he's stuck in that state.

I used to hold onto this premise as a small child, and it really affected my willingness to learn things. If I couldn't grasp something instantly, then I would quickly give up on it, believing it to be forever out of my grasp. As such, I quickly passed from phase to phase of trying out things that interested me, but near-instantly giving up on them when I tried them and discovered I didn't have an "innate" talent for them. Like most children, I wanted to grow up and make video games, but I never seriously pursued the course since the programming books I rented from the library were way above my head.

But this premise can easily be changed out. There's little substance to the notion that skills are innate, and while people may show an innate ability at learning and becoming competent in one area faster than others (e.g. playing the piano), in the end it's always the case that you need to exert effort to learn and develop your skills constantly. To make an emotional change in this regard, one really only needs to make explicit the premise that's irrational, refute it consciously, explicitly adapt the better alternative, and cite the new premise in mind whenever the old premise might be experienced emotionally. I believe that successful emotional change is 99% making the correct identification, which there is minor demand for altered actions afterwards.

If a person were to experience stress in the form I described above on a busy night for a restaurant, then the stress could easily be allayed by repeating over and over in one's head that one is merely inexperienced and that continued practice and exertion will lead to better skills and ability in the future. Such mantras may not help the person boost his competence right then and there, but it should do well to ease his stress, clear his head, and allow him to concentrate more intensely on the matters at hand rather than his self-doubts. Over time the new premise, that talent is not innate and can be developed, could even assist him in his endeavors by granting him the motivation to continue with his pursuits and practices no matter what his mistakes. He will then be able to earn his talent without psychological resistance.

The reason why I say that identification is the primary in changing one's emotions is because I've noticed that in my own subconscious I've been able to make drastic emotional changes just by shining a light on my premises, before I even have the chance to alter my actions accordingly. For example, I was able to cure my anxiety towards roller coasters instantly just by identifying what exactly made me so thrilled to ride them. After examining my experiences, I noticed that I was afraid that it was likely I could get injured while riding them: a beam that looked low looked like it would behead me, loops made me think we might fly off the track, and the harness felt like it could accidentally come unlocked and let me fall. I realized that while all of this can and has happened, it's incredibly unlikely that it will happen, and that accidents that do occur remain to be a rarity. Thereafter -- even before I tested myself on a ride -- I no longer experienced any intense emotion towards a ride. In fact, I've virtually lost my capacity to experience any sort of thrill on a roller coaster, and when I do ride them I concentrate more on the passing scenery, the discomfort of the shifting forces, and whether or not the ride was almost over. Even a ride that gave me an entirely new experience left me virtually unaffected, instead provoking me to contemplate what kind of knowledge and intelligence was involved in constructing the machine. Having identified what at root made me experience adrenaline, I made it so I no longer experienced intense emotions during a ride.

Just merely engaging in introspection can lead to rapid emotional changes, even before you have the chance to do anything about it. Not only can an inability to deal with stress reveal some deep repressions within a person, but it can also reveal that they have low self-esteem by fact of having adopted the premise that they can't deal with the situation a per their nature. By shining and keeping a light on this premise, the stress can easily be abated, eased, and cured. You just need to remain introspective on your premises and emotional nature.

As to myself, my best way of keeping myself concentrated on my exertion rather than the busy-ness of a restaurant as such is to treat every situation as a fun challenge to improve myself, and that as I get better I can only push myself to perform better beyond that. Besides, whatever mistakes I do make isn't going to make the costumers rebel and call for my execution, right?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ice Cream Review: Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip

Okay, so I officially don't like chocolate ice cream, which I know may sound odd coming from a dark chocolate connoisseur. I mistakenly picked up Haagen Dazs chocolate chocolate chip ice cream thinking it had a vanilla base, but I guess my mind didn't process the repetition of "chocolate" and so I didn't notice it. It surprised me to discover that the base was chocolate, but chocolate lover that I am I decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately, it seems as if though my high-up palate (up to 100% cacao) has rendered me desensitized to lighter varieties below 70-60%, and this is probably way below that. It tasted mildly of bland cocoa with no other complexities to consider, and the chips seem to contribute nothing other than matter-like plain texture attributes.The mouthfeel is just barely acceptable with an okay melt, but it doesn't really get to that coat-your-mouth point. The chips add no crunch, but rather a medium sort of resistance to chewing. (Yes, I oddly prefer to chew my ice cream.) If you like the dark stuff as much as I do, then this will be a disappointment.

I think from now on it might be best if I resign myself to ice creams where chocolate is merely a minor player rather than the major star. By training my palate to be so responsive to heavy cocoa/cacao percentages, I tend to experience the light varieties as actually being less chocolately. Those who have no dark palate, of course, may experience those varieties with great intensity since that's what they're adjusted to. For me, I much prefer strawberry and good vanilla ice cream, chocolate on the side.

Though I think I might give the vanilla chocolate chip a try if I should come across it, as the Five vanilla bean (not reviewed yet) was astounding, the best vanilla ice cream I've ever had. However, I might open myself up to some chocolate varieties if I ever find Green & Black's varieties. I read on a dated article that they're available in the U.S., but the products are only listed on the foreign pages. I'll keep my eyes open regardless.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate Review: Endangered Species 70% Orange

It's getting to be where I'm starting to enjoy consistent trends in my chocolate rather than searching solely for unique combinations. Chocolate with mint. Chocolate with coffee. Chocolate with berries. And now, thanks to a friend, I have become interested in chocolate with orange. Some things are just made to be paired with the dark stuff. My first taste was of Theo's, and now we have Endangered Species' 70% orange.

This is a part of ES' organic line, which uses organic ingredients in contrast to their larger range, and is mostly limited to only 1.4 ounce portions except for the 70% smooth variety, which is also available in the normal 3 ounce portion. While it may be disappointing to some to have so little chocolate in a wrapper, I like the idea. For someone like me, it really helps with sugar moderation. You can eat the entirety of the bar in one sitting and not feel guilty about it, unlike normal sized bars where it may require discipline to wrap the remaining half for later. Plus, the portion makes for a more than a good enough excuse not to share.

The orange is quite strong, so strong that it can be smelled through the wrapper. In fact, out of all the chocolates in my chocolate box, this is the only bar that has this aromatic power. The dimensions of the orange are citrusy and tangy, like the scent of juice. In the flavor profile the citrus dominates, though there are some bitter attributes contributed from the peel of the orange rather than the cocoa. Orange is the constant primary in the experience from start to finish, with some mild sugar notes from the chocolate itself, and the aftertaste brings forth the bitterness of the peel again.

I'm tempted to say that the balance is off in this bar, far too favoring the orange, but in the name of justice I'm starting to doubt my conclusion. I have an extremely dark palate -- I can eat upwards to 100% cacao -- so I'm wondering if my intense palate is making me less responsive to lighter chocolates, such as this which is in the 70% range. My taste memory of Theo is that its balance was perfect: Chocolate to the front, orange playing backup; just want I want in orange chocolate. My interpretation of this, however, is that the orange is forcing itself on stage and shoving off the cocoa in the process, leaving but a sugar note as leftover trace. It is in my best judgment to say the balance is off, but I'd like to make explicit the nature of my palate to at least make sure that these chocolates are judged fairly. Whatever the case, I do find that the ES version does satisfy an orange craving.

This bar is also different in form from ES usual products. Instead of a multitude of convex squares with an impression of the ES fruit tree symbol, these small bars come divided into three very big square sections with horizontal stripes, which I don't like all that much since I prefer companies that "sign" their chocolates. It has a rather dull shine, a click-like snap, an inwardly smooth gradient, and is a normal chocolate-brown tone with a spot or two of bright mahogany. There's a loud click to every bite, and in the mouth it's hard at first, but soon soft and yielding. Not much in the way of a good melt.

All in all I'm satisfied, but I'm uncomfortable with my interpretation of the balance, so I think I might purchase another bar to rethink my views, perhaps post another article if I do find I'm mistaken. In comparison to Theo, ES' version offers a much more potent and citrusy orange, so much so as to bring the bitterness of the peel too, but it seems to be at the expense of the chocolate. Theo may be weaker, but the chocolate is out in front at least, and the bars are cheaper too. On one hand, ES is more attractive, donates part of the proceeds to charity, and is stronger, and on the other Theo is more balanced and free of soy. Your choice.

For me, I'm pleased and will do another tasting of it. I recommend it.

Weekly Summary 2/4/11 - 2/10/11

Some significant slips this weeks, and I ended up not getting a hefty portions of my goals done. I felt utterly unenthusiastic overall. Essentially, in terms of goals, all I got done was ordering some library books and requesting others, watching two Alfred Hitchcock episodes, and finishing Becoming a Chef. I stayed involved in my music goal of listening for fifteen minutes a day and writing down multiple times the pieces and artists I liked, but I didn't do it one day, so technically that's an uncompleted goal. Also, I did construct a piece on solving my problem of rationally picking out books to formally study, but for some reason my thoughts came out garbled, so I didn't publish the post. Finally, I had no motivation to pick up The Professional Chef since I think it touches too lightly on too many subjects, so I just returned it to the library.  

Writing ate up most of my time this week, though I know it sure didn't show here. It was published elsewhere, and in all I spent about 10-12 hours writing, almost 10 in a single day. Lots of things have been eating at me for months, so I finally decided to just take the time to put them to text. It's one of those cases in which you'll come to your writing space thinking you'll only need an hour or two to say what it is you want to say, and a lot more than that comes out! I couldn't complete the rest of my daily goals that particular day since the length of that one writing session absolutely surprised me. But I guess it's all for good health, no? Other than that, I've just felt mostly unmotivated to take to my intellectual studies, rather desiring to think about my job and how I can best improve my habits there. Not having a formal study subject in my life really makes things weird, and I don't think I'll be able to pick one out in the near future due to a happening in my Project.

Regarding my Project, I think it might be best if I stop mentioning it here. It's just a lot of negativity and self-obsession, and you must be thoroughly annoyed with all my indirect speak, right? Well, I'll let you know someday, but for now I think it would be best if I fell silent on these matters so that I can fill my writing with other thoughts. . . other, better thoughts. From now on, since I'm not going to talk about the Project or Circumstance until they're through, you'll just have to keep in mind that I'm still engaged in my Project and that it may, unexpectedly on your side, interfere with my blogging here. I may have a take a week off or so to adjust myself, though I'll do my best to buffer some posts in the meanwhile.

As to my music goal, I think it's done very well to help me gain much more awareness of music. Previously I used to forget either the piece or artist name associated with music I liked, which indicates an indifferent attitude towards the medium. I am capable of valuing music very strongly given how intensely I have enjoyed some pieces, and I'd like to cultivate that value by altering my attitude. The writing repetitions have made me much more aware of the artists and pieces I like, and I think it's actually improving my memory in that regard. I may have lapsed on doing it one night, but regardless I am still seeing improvement. It's a worthy practice. I don't think I'll be continuing it, but I will take it upon myself to pay more attention to the titles associated with a piece as I do my listening, rather than simply setting the radio on to play while I engage myself in other activities. I prefer to isolate my music to be an activity all on its own, rather than be a part of something else, such as writing.

There's not much to write about since while my week was satisfying mentally, it's devoid of substance in regards to the quantity of things I have done. So, what shall I engage myself in this week? Due to oncoming pressing external obligations, I'll have to be flexible and keep things malleable.

For one, I'd like to rewrite that essay on my study conundrums so it isn't so garbled and publish it. The reason why I lapsed in my blogging this Thursday is because I wouldn't allow that piece to be published given its poor nature. Secondly, I'd like to continue working on developing my musical tastes and listen to at least twenty minutes of it a day, though I'll forgo the writing practice. Thirdly, to keep developing my tastes in the aesthetic realm, I'd like to aspire to watch at least three Alfred Hitchcock productions; I rented a whole set from my library, and they're letting me keep it a super long time. Finally, I'd like to read 100 pages of my new library book Objectively Speaking.

Other than this, I'd like to get back on track with my blogging and prepare myself for other matters. A slow period in my life, like an off-season for a restaurant, but good things may be beyond the horizon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Good Thing That Happened

I won a chocolate contest. New Tree was holding a Valentine's Day contest in which you had to describe what your mood would be like on that day using New Tree flavor line titles (Eternity, Sexy, etc.), and I won! Unless I'm mistaken, I won a 27 piece gift pack.

I'm particularly happy because I consider New Tree's chocolates rather hard to get a hold of, so to have so many come to me was quite a nice surprise to find when I logged into my Facebook account. Being a chocolate connoisseur I will, of course, certainly be reviewing many of them, but some of them won't be dark chocolate, so I'll do those on days other than a Friday, that being the day I like to officially reserve for dark chocolate.

Just wanted to let you know of a value I obtained. :-)

(Sorry for the short post. Some other writing has been eating up my time.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Potato Chip Fried Chicken

Potato Chip Fried Chicken

Prep + cook: 35-40 minutes
Servings: 2-3
- 1 whole chicken (I love dissecting them myself)
- Paprika
- Garlic
- 1 large bag of potato chips, though not bulk size. I used Kettle's, which is pretty good.
- 2 beaten eggs
- Oil for cooking, enough to make a half or quarter inch deep pool in a cast iron pan
-Pinches of salt

1.) Pull out your cast iron pan and melt the grease on medium heat (mine is index five) while you prep the chicken.

2.) Take the potato chips and process the entire bag in a food processor, or else mash them manually into crumbs. Only allow yourself to eat one or two, as you'll pretty much need the entire bag for a whole chicken. Even a handful less leaves you with too little. Store crumbs in a large bowl.

3.) In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs.

4.) Take your disassembled chicken and season it liberally with the paprika and garlic to taste, but be conservative with the salt. I omitted added any more salt since the chips are already salted, but I think the grease will wash a lot away.

5.) Dip all the pieces in the beaten egg and then evenly coat with the crumbs. Do not allow for time to sit.

6.) Immediately transfer pieces to skillet and cook with the skin side down first for 10-12 minutes, but check often. Arrange pieces so that thickest ones are either in the deepest parts of the pan (if your stove is unlevel) or closest to the heat source. Flip and then let it cook for 4-5 minutes more or until meat thermometer indicates desired temperature.

7.) If you run out of room in the pan and have to do batches, then do further pieces the same way, only cook them five minutes on each side. The grease having been used once and made impure will make the cooking go a lot faster. Unlike other cooks, I cook the entire chicken, so I usually reserve the back for this. Don't waste!

8.) Let rest for a couple minutes or serve immediately.

* * * * *

To tell you the truth I'm not too fond of this recipe, but I'm not sure whether or not it's due to the recipe in itself or because I'm currently suffering from magnesium irritation, which may be making my taste buds unresponsive to things such as the minerals in sea salt. In my own trial it just tasted too potato-ie without the salt (which may have washed off, being bad since I didn't add any of my own), and I didn't season it enough. It tasted pretty bland, though was nice enough with the saltshaker at hand.

Aesthetically, on the other hand, it really works. The crust turns a beautiful gold and looks crunchy while in actuality being soft. A slightly messy eat, however, as pieces go everywhere at each bite. To give my best evaluation I'll have to try this recipe sometime again with the added salt and when I get over my magnesium irritation. -- And I'll only have to eat one or two chips, as I took too many out this time.

Strangely enough, I didn't come to love fried chicken until I went paleo. I was never too fond of the white flour alternatives; things such as coconut and almond flour, I believe, make it much better. Alton Brown's recipe is awesome and induced in me one of my peak food experiences. To make it moo-paleo accessible is easy: Just swop out the low-fat buttermilk with full-fat and the white flour with coconut flour, almond flour, crushed pork rinds, crushed potato chips, or whatever else you think of; sky's the limit. No changes in procedure are necessary, though I do recommend soaking the chicken in the buttermilk stored in a large, durable zip-top bag rather than a solid container alone for more even coverage.

This is one of my favorite basic recipes of all, so I'd like to continue tinkering with it in the future, trying things such as macadamia flour, cashew flour, Brazil nut flour, and so on. So many variations! But as of now, I don't know what to think of this particular one.

Whatever the case, at least I got to practice my knife skills in cutting up a chicken carcass. I'm getting better and faster at it, though only having a large chef knife leaves me at a loss for how to effectively remove the wish bone. Oh well, that's what further practice is for.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Say What You Mean!

One of my pet peeves is when someone constantly uses a concept that means something different than what they actually mean, resulting in them not saying at all what it is they meant to say. In an informal environment with like individuals it may lead to no obstacles, but for someone such as I, who is trying to be precise in the meaning of his vocabulary, it leads to confusion, barriers in communication, and irritation. It's fine by me if a person is innocently mistaken, but when they know they're imprecisely using a concept and refuse to correct themselves otherwise, it leads to continued problems. I'm not going to adjust my conceptual mindset to theirs, so I'm perpetually confused by their statements.

Take the two concepts "margarine" and "butter." Obviously, these two substances are not the same thing: You cannot validly call a stick of butter margarine or a tub of margarine butter. Among their differences are chemical makeup, nutrition, biochemical effects on the body, smell, taste, texture, and so on. They're both unique. In a household or restaurant that carries both products, it's especially useful to distinguish them (as opposed to a house that only utilizes one all the time).  Treating them as equivalent can not only be annoying, but severely damaging.

In the realm of annoyance, I dislike it when people call margarine "butter" because I do distinguish the products: If you ask me for butter, I'm going to give you butter. Whenever someone refuses to make the distinguishment I always get confused because the dairy product always pops into my mind first, but then I quickly have the realization that this person typically means something else and have to ask them to clear up my confusion. Since I work to be so precise in my meaning, it takes a long time for me to habituate that a person means margarine when they say "butter" if they refuse to correct their mistake. Because we're two individuals who manage the meaning of our concepts differently, there's barriers to communication which leads to misunderstandings and inefficiency.

In the realm of actual harm, such simple imprecision can lead to long-term consequences. From a paleo perspective, if such a person were to develop heart disease from the constant use of margarine, then he's going to misinform his doctor about his diet when he tells him about all the "butter" he eats, influencing a possible misdiagnosis and treatment. Imagine, margarine incurs the disease, and then the doctor prescribes more of it!

But the difficulty doesn't only burden the person who's trying to interpret an imprecise person's approximate speech, but also the concept misuser himself. These are mentalities who don't merely treat one or two concepts in an approximate manner, but their entire vocabulary. Such an extensive refusal to precisely define distinguishing features consistently leads to mixing together things that shouldn't be mixed, saying things you don't actually mean, and being unaffected intellectually and emotionally by those who do use their terms very precisely. When dealing with such people, I've witnessed them pick up the wrong items from the grocery store consistently, constantly forget the substance of my statements, be unaffected by strong qualitative or moral evaluations, and so on. Using a game analogy, it's like these people are throwing darts at a target and the darts are absurdly landing behind them. They can hardly communicate intelligibly, and the world is ultimately unintelligible to them in return.

Really, all I desire of people is to at least be as precise as they can. They don't have to be as rigorous as I. Essentially, what I desire is to see people recognize mistakes, correct them, and quickly move on. When a person refuses and allows himself to stay stuck in approximate thinking, barriers in communication always exist in our relationship since I won't lower myself to that level, so it'll always be the case that he'll say one thing and mean something else, and my mind will interpret his statement on the basis of what exact concepts he used. I could easily develop a sense of disgust towards such a person, as I might express a strong negative moral evaluation of someone and experience an intense emotion accordingly, and the concept misuser, with his approximate thinking, may judge me to only be "bugged" by that particular individual, am being emotional and anti-intellectual, and am having a childish fit. If I judge something to be that evil, then I cannot take easy someone who takes me lightly in that regard. Such leads to a further gap between us as individuals, not only in how we utilize concepts, but how we act according to our worldviews. The person who takes knowledge seriously will act on his views intentionally, and the person who doesn't will be prone to lip-service and hypocrisy.

So say what you mean!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chocolate Review: New Tree's 73% Mint

New Tree is a brand I've spoken about multiple times throughout my reviews, but have been abstaining from reviewing since it's pretty expensive. Well, I finally took to saving up my money and bought a mountain of them in bulk, saving me about $30 for 24 bars. Now I can finally review them! Naturally, my first choice is New Tree's 73% cocoa mint, which also has green tea extract in it for additional health benefits.

It did not quite live up to the memory I had of it, but it's still nice. It has a hot aroma of ginger spice and tea with milk, and flavor-wise it's dominated by peppermint with a bitter grassy undertone, probably the tea. The cocoa itself blends far too well into the experience, making itself almost invisible and therefore impossible to ascertain the nature of. Each bite brings a quiet snap and an uneven melt, crumbling at first to every chew and turning into a goo pretty slowly.

The bar is deep brown, almost to the point of being black, and offers a dull snap and shine, the latter attribute being so evenly reflective that the whole bar turns nearly entirely white at any light source. On the back I noticed a imperfection or two in the form of a hole being in the chocolate, as if it bubbled and popped, and the shine takes on an almost uniform grid pattern. The decorative design is among the best I've seen. On each square is not only the New Tree brand written in its signature font, but also a subtle imprint of the bellyside veins of a leaf. It's so slight that I'm impressed that such an imprint could be done so cleanly and precisely, and it makes the bar *very* attractive. New Tree definitely has one of the best looking bars out there.

The packaging is practical, but definitely needs some work. Each bar comes inside a cardboard casing that makes the bar much more sturdier and less prone to breaking when handling in the store, but the inner wrapper negates such insurance. Unlike other common practices, this wrapper is stronger and entirely sealed, much in difference to those other bars that use a thin foil that can easily be unfolded or partially ripped. The strength of the wrapper makes it virtually impossible to open the chocolate without breaking the bar, and I've yet to not break one. I think the smaller New Tree bars are wrapped differently, as I do not remember at all this being the case when I first tried it. To fully admire the aesthetics it's be nice if the bar opened up in one piece! I do at least like the bright white background of the cardboard, as it's very striking to the eyes; it certainly caught mine the first time I saw it on shelves.

The reason why I was attracted to this particular version is not only because I love mint, but also because they use peppermint, which is stronger than the plain mint extracts that are more common. I expected a much more intense experience, but I guess I mistakenly mixed up peppermint with peppermint oil, the latter of which may be stronger since it's a concentrated liquid essence. In my tasting I found that the intensity of the mint was no stronger than that of Endangered Species' own, and this came at the sacrifice of drowning out the chocolate. I want my mint to be as powerful as it can possibly be made, and this certainly falls short. Endangered Species not only delivers the mint, but also holds up the chocolate as well. Endangered Species is cheaper too.

This variety, at least, is enjoyable and worth recommending, but my search for more intense mint continues. I want that nose chilling, brain icing sensation to overwhelm me.

Weekly Summary 1/27/11 - 2/3/11

I completed all but one goal this week. My accomplishments are that I finally managed to finish Good Calories, Bad Calories, finished my current issue of The Objective Standard, read up to chapter two in Food Styling for Photographers, read up to page 300 in Becoming a Chef, read up to page 50 in The Professional Chef; spoke Everything I know (and wrote the blog post I promised for it) for my final assignment for GCBC and an ice cream tasting, and set time limits for both the former's writing assignment and conceptual exercises; I did my taxes, practiced tying my shoes faster (especially of use for my apron at work), utilized the categories studying/thinking in my perfection checklist to track my mental exertion, and bought groceries with a particular concern in practicing my cutting. The only thing I didn't get accomplished is documenting a book on professional photography, as I found Food Styling is inadequate for my concerns. Overall, this week wasn't rough enough.

Honestly, I have to say it's been a rather disappointing week. I feel burnt in a way, because with my Project in place and the Circumstance still continuing to agitate me it's amounting to a lot of monotonous action that really isn't amounting to anything concretely, like running a car with its wheels suspended off the ground. It's been several weeks I've managed to sustain my productive focus, but I have to admit I'm tired of it. It could be my lack of action on the Project speaking, however, as it could simply be the case that the loose ends are again affecting me and encouraging me to action, taking a bite out of my impetus. Ugh, to sit still for so long! But I must be patient, for there could be a good development on the way, for which I must be patient for about a week or two to ascertain the nature of.

Being snowed in was probably the worst thing that happened. Due to my saving up for the Project I only engage in two deep values, grocery shopping and working out, twice a month to help curve vehicle costs, and I look forward to it every time that part of the month comes. On Wednesday the snow was so heavy that it was impossible to get out of the driveway, thereby keeping me in the house all day. I did not take it well; in fact, I shivered with anger that my day's plans were ruined. I knew they were only going to be delayed until Thursday, and I did resume my plans as usual then, but to have my desires frustrated then was nearly intolerable. It ruined my day. Man, and I used to like snow.

The only remedy to this ailment I can think of is to get back on my Project as soon as possible. Without it I feel like I'm trapped in some kind of cage where, no matter what values I obtain, there will always be some monstrous anti-value present to overrule it all, oozing all over my happiness. The way I'm feeling right now seems to be consistent with my fluctuating emotions, where I can operate fine in disregard of the Circumstance for a short while before there's a collapse that eats at me. In this case, I spent several weeks chugging away at my goals, and now have gotten myself into a "What's the use?" funk. The Circumstance cannot be ignored, and I shouldn't try to.

But as I said, action on my Project is a little slow right now. There's a discussion going on, but it's moving slowly, so I have to sit patiently until the dialogue continues again. I just have to keep that in mind: I am justifiably waiting in expectation of something. . . Be patient. . . Be patient.

Anyhow, let's get back on track, for I do have a thing or two to discuss before concocting my new goals.

As promised, I cite my thoughts with the Everything I Know technique now that I've practiced it. My verdict is that this method shows very, very, very great promise. It wasn't hard at all to do at the end of my last GCBC studying assignment; in fact, I had more to write than my ten minute time limit asked of me, so it was too short. As predicted I only wrote in disconnected streams of facts, but they came out a lot more coherent than I thought they would, and I liked how they seemed to keep the material fresh. However, I detested using this technique during my tasting. I don't like talking in that at all! I'm so focused on the food that I'd rather keep my mouth filled with the chocolate or ice cream rather than with words, and saving all my speaking for the end is rather fruitless since I'm only verbally stating that which I have already written down. The writing is perfectly sufficient for my thinking in this realm, so I will continue using the technique with my formal study subjects but not with my tasting. My tastings must be silent!

I also loved the one-minute time limit imposed for each concept in my conceptual exercises. While it may have made the exercise take longer than usual, it kept me more vigorously interested in fleshing out each concept best I can within the time frame. However, the time limit was only to help impose a bare minimum of time I should spend on each conceptual exercise, and yet when the alarm went off I felt urged to move onto the next, as if it were somehow a part of the rules. I see now using an alarm is a bad idea, so I'll probably switch to using my quiet stopwatch to prevent the distractions or any weird encouragements. Also, I think I'll boost the time limit up to two or three minutes, as one minute felt way too short, though did encourage me greatly to be efficient in my thinking. All in all, I think it's a great benefit to my conceptual exercises, one that could help me stick with my efforts much more thoroughly and flesh everything out. I feel all the more wiser and will continue this practice.

I'm disenchanted with the books Food Styling and The Professional Chef. I picked up Food Styling to see if it might help me in my photography pursuits, for I did resolve this year to start practicing food photography (remember? For my chocolate reviews and whatnot?), but it already presupposes that you have photography equipment and that you're open to using fake food to stand-in for real products. I only intend to photograph real food -- the stuff I make and review -- so this doesn't fit my purpose at all. Plus, I still need to know what it is I need to purchase before I start, so this book starts on much further than where I am. I'm not going to finish it. The Professional Chef, on the other hand, has been a boring skim so far. Right now it seems like a very practical reference guide, but in my current place I am not interested in the material being presented, such as the various types of cuisine. Right now, I think, I'm much more interested in the career aspects since that's what most relevant, which is probably why I find Becoming a Chef so interesting right now. I only have an interest in that which is either immediately accessible to my actions (such as cooking techniques), planning (such as saving up for an immersion circulator), or helps me know my current values better (such as the process of making chocolate). Anything beyond that is just idle talk that bores me. I think I'll take a different approach in reading them and simply skim through it, only looking for the things that interest me. I'm not sure whether or not I'd buy it just to have it as a reference. As such, some new books will be needed to replace them.

I'll forgive myself and defy my reading system, which I think is inherently flawed anyhow, and pick some books from the "forbidden" sections to add to my reading repertoire. I'll go for Objectively Speaking: Ayn Rand Interviewed, 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand, and Will Write for Food. I thought about going for the Selfish Path to Romance and The Body by Science Question and Answer Book as well, but it seems I might have to place a special request for that. Oh, and I'll get some Alfred Hitchcock movies too. I've got a craving.

Finishing GCBC leaves me both relieved and a little empty. On one hand, a months long study subject is finished, but on the other I think I might have really been working against my interests, thereby resulting in unnecessary struggle and stunted learning. I judged the book to be a valuable read the entire time I engaged in it, but regardless of that I still felt somewhat bored and had a hard time concentrating. It's questionable how much I might have even retained from this reading, which again brings to light just how much more seriously I need to take picking out my subjects. I can't just go to any old book that I want to learn something from and immediately hunker down and do an intensive study of it; they may be valuable, but some just aren't worth that methodology and may prevent me from engaging myself in more productive learning endeavors. My method of selection, and study system itself, still has flaws in this area which I really need to think out, which is why I'm not too keen on immediately replacing GCBC with another study subject. I don't have any thoughts to share right now, so to start with next week's goals I'll say that I'll write a post introspecting on all these matters.

Now then, how about next week's goals? I have to admit that without GCBC things seem too light. GCBC was by far the toughest and most time-consuming of all tasks, making everything seem light and quick in comparison. Without it everything seems -- light and quick. In addition, there's also that Project consideration where I may soon need to engage in some major action, so maybe I might get pulled away? Whatever the case, surely I'll find some productive use to put myself to if I undershoot and complete everything too easily.

For my study goals I'll aim to complete Becoming a Chef, read fifty pages of The Professional Chef, and order (and hopefully receive) the books mentioned above. Creatively, I'll write that introspective post about my studying conundrums and a Super Secret Thing (keep those words in mind. If you're lucky, you'll find out what they mean.) For my self-improvement, I'll try refining my tastes in art: I'll watch some Alfred Hitchcock movies and aim to listen to a 15 minutes of music every day, writing down over and over again the song titles and artists that I like to help me become more aware of them (this is related to my selective memory troubles). This may all seem too easy, but as always, I tend to add goals mid-week. I certainly deserve more time than the few minutes constructing this paragraph to think about my pursuits, don't I?

Things are still moving steady, but emotionally I need to get back on the saddle.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Unpack Your Troubles from Your Old Kit Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile

Long before I had identified my culinary interests, I once spent part of a summer doing extensive yard work for a man with the assistance of another. Among other incidents, the most memorable instance I recall spending with the person is witnessing him trying to tie up a bundle of twigs. He was having significant trouble in doing so, and his frustration mounted to the point that he started getting loudly vulgar, cursing and calling the bundle filthy names. He then told me that this was a characteristic phenomenon to him: Major bad things don't bother or impact him, but the little things, such as that bundle of twigs, is what sets him off.

I beg to differ. In fact, I would say it was precisely the big problems in his life that was causing his frustration with that bundle, regardless of whether or not those problems were present at the time.

The presence of the Circumstance in my life has made me learn a lot about my own psychology, particularly that of how I deal with stress. Its impact is systematic throughout my life, and it doesn't matter whether or not the Circumstance is immediately effecting me, for it is something that physically exists (as opposed to being in the mind). I've always been free of it at work, for instance, and yet it still affects me there. The primary reason I'm going about the Project is because the Circumstance is a nearly omnipresent piece of cognitive material in my mind, one I cannot relieve myself of except through the Project, and the reason I have difficulty not concentrating on it is, of course, because it involves a mass of loose ends that constitute unsolved problems piled on top of each other.

But the question, of course, is that if the Circumstance is something physical and does not physically impact me at work, then how can its influence still be present there other than through the loose ends?

In my own being, I've learned there's such a thing as a *capacity* for stress. Regardless of who you are, there's a certain quantity or quality of stress you can handle before you pop your cork. It varies from person to person and can easily be improved through self-improvement ventures, but either way the important point is that there's a finite limit to how much we can handle. Anything beyond what we can handle is what actively provokes our emotions into an upset.

The metaphor that comes back to me again and again is a glass. Our capacity for stress is like a glass, and the stress itself is the water. In a psychologically healthy or strong person the glass has a hole in it, or even has no bottom, which causes the stress to leak out or go straight through as it's poured in. That means the stress doesn't build up, leaving no opportunity for overflow. In concrete reality, this means that people who either have a limitless capacity for stress or else relieve it on a regular basis never reach the point that it seriously provokes their emotions, thus allowing for a better sense of life.

On the other hand, a person with irrational psychological habits or a bad situation (such as I with the Circumstance) can have a bottom to that glass, which causes poured stress to be retained. Left alone, the stress sits there, keeping perpetually filled part of that finite capacity. Add any more and the capacity gets more filled, getting closer to the point of maxing out or even overfilling. Consequently, that means that there's less tolerance to any additional stress that can be added in. If the glass ever does take to overflowing, then it is the material that has just been added in that leaks out. The water on top comes out; it doesn't rush up from the bottom. As such, I think when a particular person gets in an emotional upset over any insignificant stress added to him, such as an inability to tie a knot on a bundle of twigs, it's because his capacity was already partially or totally filled, and the stress freshly added in is what leaked out and got all the attention. The guy cursing over the bundle of twigs probably was upset over the significant problems in his life, for those problems were what was filling his glass.

I noticed in my own life that whenever I get upset over something I nearly lose awareness of the concrete thing that is upsetting me and concentrate on my fundamental problems, such as the Circumstance. If someone in my social life deeply offends me, for instance, then it is stressful visualizations of the Circumstance that occupy my mind: While the concrete incidents causing my stress to overflow may be of a different nature than the Circumstance, it is inevitably the Circumstance that I concentrate on since it's what sitting at the bottom of my glass. My capacity for stress is limited, most of it being filled by the Circumstance.

It doesn't have to be this way, however. That guy's, and mine, glass can be emptied or otherwise reduced. It just takes an understanding of what the problem or problems are filling up the glass, and then one only needs to apply the appropriate solution. For me, for instance, I need the Project to empty my own glass, and even my mere engagement in it before its final completion is sufficient to severely drain it to a point. When at work on my Project I am very much at peace with myself; when not, the stress levels slowly accumulate...

So the next time you think something of an insignificant nature is what's upsetting you, think again. It could be more likely that something bigger is bothering you, and the insignificant thing is only pushing you past your level of tolerance. Tackling that more significant base will make you an incredibly stronger person, perhaps make you invulnerable against stress. You just need to get rid of whatever's sitting at the bottom.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Blog? Consistent Scheduling?

Upon checking my blog views after the publication of a blog post that runs contrary to the content I usually publish, I have started contemplating whether it would be best to start an entirely separate blog for my food, culinary, and culinary-related self-improvement and thinking writing. Unintentionally, this blog has gone from being concentrated on my random thoughts to revolving around my self-improvement ventures and spiritual development. It is the aim of any sincere person to achieve his happiness, and my concept of happiness involves the fullest realization of my abilities and the achievement of my ideal self, which logically entails explicit and directed self-improvement. Given that this has become the theme of this blog, it is logically what my audience expects of me and frequents here for. So unsurprisingly, whenever I post anything contrary to my blog's usual fare those articles are the least viewed. Disappointing.

To further the damage, I think the unusual posts might also be harmful in the long run, for they give more and more the appearance that this blog is inconsistent and random, and therefore no consistent material can be expected of it, thus repelling any consistent audience. As you might predict, the unusual posts I refer to are my food and culinary related ones. Since I'm pursuing to become a chef, culinary values are becoming more and more central to my pursuits, thinking, and very life, and yet they still haven't found much of a place in my writing so as to fit in my blog. Due to my intellectual values and insatiable cravings for mental stimulation I much rather not give up this type of writing, especially considering culinary and food writing may or may not have an impact on my central goals, but at the same time I don't want to repel my various audiences by being inconsistent. That's harmful to both the reach of my writing and whatever monetary pursuits I have inherent in it.

It seems obvious, then, that I should probably establish a new blog with a new theme so as to be able to become more consistent. A separation of themes may, in fact, eliminate any awkwardness in my writing since mixing material so much on this present blog makes me get mixed up in my senses since I know a certain type of material is expected of me in one place, and yet in my writing I am trying to defy my senses. While it may be appropriate for me to write about any recent food ventures since it aligns with my values, I can't shake the feeling during the writing that what I'm doing is somehow inappropriate. It was for this reason that I separated Benpercent from Musing Aloud, as I wanted to start posting personal material and yet felt resistance to it every time since Benpercent was intellect and activism-oriented. Separating them was a great idea.

However, there could still be another solution: Assign certain blog posts to certain days. My chocolate reviews, for instance, are intentionally published mid-afternoon every Friday because it's the end of the work week and near the end of the day. (A good review might prompt you to pick up a few bars on the way home, huh?) While chocolate reviews may be only a once weekly thing, it feels entirely natural for me to do them since they're consistently a part of the schedule in that fashion. Maybe I could still publish my food related posts here, only I would need to be much more consistent on what type of writing I would publish on what days at what time. For instance, I could take to publishing ice cream reviews or sweeter dark chocolates (below 65% cocoa/cacao) on Thursdays, thoughts on my spiritual development on Wednesday, thoughts on my recent culinary ventures on Tuesdays, and so on. If I had an excess of writing on a particular theme, then I could just publish more than one post for the appropriate days.

But then again the Circumstance confounds things. There's a great deal I'd like to talk about, but must be kept private due to its connection, whether direct or not, to the Circumstance and Project set out to solve it. I'd probably be able to write a lot more than I already am, perhaps multiple posts on a day on a consistent basis, if only I were at liberty to freely talk about any subject I wanted without bringing more frustration from the Circumstance. Talking about my spiritual development on Wednesdays, for instance, could constantly run into some barriers since a lot of my spiritual issues are tied up in the Circumstance, so while I would like to share my developments and learning, I cannot be consistent in that realm. I might do fine in my writing for a few weeks, but then establish a web of integrations that could expose the Circumstance and therefore necessitate my silence. I cannot anticipate the nature of identifications yet to be made, so such a realization could easily come as a surprise and break my continuity.

Right now, I must admit, I am motivated to continue my current blogging practices and just rely on clear post labeling. Scheduling "themes of the day," as indicated above, could run into some problems, and creating a whole new blog is a harassment, one I'd like to delay until I hire someone to professionally construct a layout for me as part of my New Year's resolutions. In any case, more thinking needs to be done.

While I do maintain my practices here, it should be made clear that my culinary central purpose in life inevitably leads to me having an intense interest in food and desire to write about it, so it shouldn't come as any surprise whenever I post recipes or reviews. Self-improvement may be central to my life, but food is more so.

Some Foody Thoughts

Clam fritters are still giving me quite a bit of trouble. For my most recent trial I forgot to let them sit and dry out in the paper towel like I said, but I did find out that they can have quite a bit of moisture squeezed out of them while within the paper towel. I gave about four tight squeezes with four half-sheet paper towels in two intervals (two half-sheets for each interval), and then went about the recipe as usual. Surely this will take enough water away, right?

Nope. As usual, the clam fritters did not go down without a fight, spraying and shooting grease in whatever way they can. (Especially on me. I know they're doing it on purpose.) Luckily, my restaurant job desensitizes me to heat, and the grease sprayed is dispersed so finely that little, if any, pain is caused, so really the splattering is mainly an annoyance. It's still scary, however. My nervousness peaks whenever I have to flip a fritter on the farthest edge of the pan, exposing most of my arm. And yes, the fritters being sentient means that's exactly when they choose to spew. Exactly. Nonetheless, I do love this recipe, so the discomfort is endured.

On the other hand, I do seem to be getting much better in judging the doneness of meats. I've had a meat thermometer sitting around for a while now, but for the past few weeks I've taken to using it very consistently. It's not only helping me develop my judgment, but also develop a trained intuition, where I can "feel" that a certain state has been achieved in a meat. In the past I too often pulled meats while they were still raw since I wanted to enjoy it during it maximized juici- and tenderness, which was an ongoing problem since no thermometers meant a lot of guesswork for me. Now I feel a lot more comfortable since I can ascertain where exactly I am in the cooking.

On Sunday I did what I would consider a near-perfect roast of half a beef heart. (Near perfect since the seasoning was rather sub-par.) Steak may be nice at medium-rare, but I don't think that works particularly well for offal such as heart. The pinkness in that case is too dark and similar to that of purely raw meat. My goal was to reach a sort of medium. I threw the heart in a slow cooker and set it on high, and checked it after about an hour or so. Once it reached the 140-145 range I set the slow cooker onto its warm setting and let carryover heat do the rest of the work while I made caramelized cabbage and clam fritters. (An odd set of colors and appearances on a plate, but no lesser delicious.) By the time I cut into the heart it was perfectly at the boundary between medium-rare and medium, with a nice cascade into a lighter red in the middle without any raw appearance or abrupt fluctuations. Just dandy texture too. I forgot to mark the final temperature.

Every meal I cook is a chance to get better.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tell Myself Everything I Know

As noted in my most recent weekly summary, I plan on trying two new study techniques this week: Speaking and writing out "everything I know," and imposing time limits on certain learning activities. My purpose in doing so is to improve my comprehension, learning, understanding, and to prevent myself from taking shortcuts. I'm only doing a trial run this week, so we'll have to see how it works out.

I learned of the "Tell Me Everything You Know" technique from Lisa Vandamme's video blog. She was describing a new technique one of her teachers, I think, came up for getting students to summarize their learning. She noted that one of her teachers was surprised that some of his students could only cite the subjects they studied when asked what they learned in class, neglecting to mention what it is about the subject that they learned. This indicated a superficial understanding, or at least a relaxed effort in dealing with the new cognitive material. To try and remedy the problem, the question was rephrased so as to encourage the student to exhaustively detail everything about the subject they learned, and the teacher found it led to much more detailed answers. I think this may be a valuable technique to add to my own personal studies in combination with another to prevent shortcuts.

Part of my formal procedure in handling such books as Good Calories, Bad Calories is that at the end of my notes I mark a section to reflect on my thoughts during my reading, but I've been going about it terribly. I usually only write very brief paragraphs, sometimes even mere sentences, that only comment on the quality of the chapter and whether I thought it was "good" or "uninteresting," which is so shallow as to be useless to write. Furthermore, by not imposing any rules I was mentally cheating myself by allowing myself to write these piddly sentences in order to finish my studies and say I got it "done." It hasn't been benefiting me any, and overall I'm just cheating myself. The Reflection area is simply too open-ended to be of any use except to maybe document any questions I have for further thinking, which, too, are something I seldom write.

To fix my problem, I'd like to try out Ms. Vandamme's technique. I'll omit the Reflection area in my notes and instead start an entirely separate homework assignment in which I try to write out "everything I know," the things that I've gained from my prior reading. Furthermore, to make better use of my timing methodology I'll impose a time limit for how long I must keep myself engaged in that activity, so that I don't allow myself to cheat by writing a couple sentences and calling it "done." It doesn't matter how much or what I write; my goal is to keep myself writing for at least a certain amount of time in order to make full use of the technique. By doing this I'll be keeping consistent with my own views in which precisely defined expectations lead to precisely executed actions. A precise time limit will determine a precise amount of time spent writing. I can't rationalize my way out of the alarm I set.

Since this will be new to my studies, I'll probably be awful at it and write in disconnected streams, perhaps even going so far as to simply state isolated assertions and thoughts detached from each other, but that's of no matter. The goal is to improve how I learn and how I summon and organize that learning after the teaching material is absent. My thinking about a learning subject shouldn't cease just because the book has closed; there needs to be something to help sustain my mental efforts, and I think this questioning and timing technique is it. If successful, then with further practice I hope in the future this leads to drastic changes in my mental processes, allowing me much more competent use of my knowledge, especially in relaying it to others curious about my beliefs.

But I'm also going to take this a little further. Not only will I apply this as a homework assignment for after my formal study subject readings, but also to my conceptual exercises and food tasting. I'm not having any problems with my tasting right now -- I think this technique would just be an improvement -- but I sure am cheating myself on my conceptual exercises. While using an online dictionary has definitely been helping me do a greater amount of conceptual exercises in a lesser amount of time, I think I'm going through my conceptual exercises way too fast and am not working hard enough to thoroughly establish a connection to perceptual reality. Again, the problem is that I look up and read a concept's definition, "feel" I understand it, and call it good. Sometimes a single conceptual exercise might last under ten seconds. I'll impose a time limit for how long I must dedicate myself to each concept, during which I can say however much or whatever I want about a concept, only I must keep myself talking during the imposed time limit. As for my food tasting, I'll just be employing the "Everything I Know" (that's how I'll cite this technique short-hand from now on) method without time limits, since I can only say so much about a food item and I don't like talking during a good eating experience. My goal there is to train my ability to effectively speak out my estimate of an item in as deep of details I can muster. Such skills would come in handy if I should ever need to advertise something, like if I were to write out a menu.

As of right now it's confusing as to how long of a time limit would be appropriate, so for now I'll have to settle for trial and error. A long time limit would be appropriate for my formal studies, so I'll settle for ten minutes in that realm, but given the quantity of my conceptual exercises I need to keep it short so that I don't lose motivation to sustain the practice. For my conceptual exercises I'll settle for one minute each on each concept, which will at least prevent me from doing only ten seconds of thinking. My conceptual exercises are by far the still most flawed practice in my study endeavors, so much more work needs to be done on that to maximize its effectiveness and my motivation.

We'll see how it goes. You'll be updated on Friday.