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Answer for question 4534.

Do you believe in the supernatural? Have you ever encountered something you couldn't readily explain? What was the nature of the experience and when did it happen? If you don't believe in such things, why not?
Yes, I believe in the supernatural. No, I've never had a supernatural experience beyond emotions that felt beyond me, and that's very subjective.

That said, I believe for a reason, just a reason that doesn't make much sense outside my own head. Doubting the existence of at least one Creator God and doubting the default-immortality of the soul are unnatural for me. I can *do* it, if I work at it, but it's an artificial hypothetical exercise, like doubting the existence of gravity while standing on one leg.
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General life update

Still married, still at the same job.

Robert is in kindergarden. He is having a sufficiently unhappy time in kindergarden that he'll be switching schools next year; if he doesn't win any charter lotteries, he'll just be in the local public school, where he should have at least one friend from day care. (Robert is a stubborn and very active kid who already knows 90+% of what he's being taught, so his teacher has problems with him. She's burned out pretty badly, so isn't coping very well. This combines to make Robert the class problem, and even if he isn't with another teacher, the other students have learned to think of him that way, and he's learned that school is a bad place.) We may try to put him in the local Catholic school again (it's reputed to be pretty good in general, and he really liked preschool there), but only after a hiatus elsewhere. Or we may do online schooling at some point. Or we may win a charter lottery. We'll see -- one year at a time.

I have a second son, Thomas, who was born 11/9/2013. He's toddling like a champ, has 7 teeth (including one molar with this gap between the molar and the rest of his teeth), and is expressive but mostly non-verbal. He clearly understands words just fine; he just only uses a few.
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Recipe - sweet potato curry (vegan)

This is based almost entirely on http://www.oneingredientchef.com/sweet-potato-stew/

1 large sweet potato
1 medium onion
1 red chili pepper (I substituted a jalapeno)
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried spices, each cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ground cloves

1 pan is sufficient if it is a large, deep skillet.

Chop the onion and saute in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Seed and chop the pepper. Add pepper, ginger, garlic, and spices. Stir well and continue cooking the onion for several minutes. Peel the sweet potato and chop into 1/2 inch chunks (recipe calls for 1 inch, I prefer smaller.)

Add everything above to the pan. Continue cooking for 30+ minutes; taste occasionally and add spices to taste. (Recipe says 30+ minutes with 50 being ideal and that especially cinnamon, tumeric, and salt can be added at this stage, plus cayenne pepper if you want added spice. I would recommend salting at the table instead of in preparation.)

Serve over rice, salt to taste.

If you're not doing vegan, cheese makes a good addition.

This was pretty successful, but Kaz and I both thought it would be better with meat.
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Recipe - butternut squash (vegan)

This is based almost entirely on this http://www.eatliverun.com/crock-pot-chickpea-butternut-squash-and-red-lentil-stew/

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash (about 3 lbs–average sized), peeled and chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup red lentils
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in tomato juice
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tsp garam masala

Directions:

Start with the butternut squash. (You may want gloves for this part -- my hands reacted to the squash, and while that's not universal it appears to not be uncommon.) Microwave for 5 minutes, let cool slightly, cut in half lengthwise, remove seeds and guts. Make the peel and guts into vegetable broth (you'll want it later; yes, the peel is edible); the seeds can be roasted or added to the broth. Cut the squash into chunks.

While the broth is cooking, chop the onion, carrot, and jalapeno (use gloves or MUCH care with the jalapeno.) Saute for 6 minutes, add garlic, wait 30 seconds, add garam marsala, stir very thoroughly.

When the broth is ready, strain the lentils, then put everything in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8+ hours. Salt to taste; cilantro is recommended for serving, but I didn't have it available when I prepared this.

You may want to soften the lentils first (because canned tomatoes can harden them); if so, put them on in water at the very beginning, then strain and add them. Then again, it may work fine without, especially if you're doing well over 8 hours.

When I made this, I substituted black lentils for red lentils. A mistake -- the red lentils were a thickener, and much smaller. I had to take it out of the slow cooker and boil it down, and there was more lentil presence than intended. I like lentils, so I still liked it.

It's very sweet for a main course.
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Recipe - chicken parmesan adjusted for Kaz

Cut 3 chicken breasts in half the the longest way. Grill them all (or cook in some other fashion.) Put in the smallest baking pan that doesn't force overlap (or does so minimally.) Mix spaghetti sauce with thyme, oregano, and garlic; pour over breasts to roughly cover them. Add a mixture of shredded mozzarella, shredded chedder, and parmesan (about 2:2:1). Bake until cheese is bubbling.
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Recipe - lamb shanks sous vide

Everything I've done sous vide has been at least okay. This recipe comes out so well so easily that I've been making it about weekly.

Seal a shoulder lamb shank with a tablespoon of butter and a sprig of fresh thyme. (Or 1/2 sprig of fresh rosemary, or dried spices to taste.) Throwing in some additional spices is optional. You could cut off the visible fat, but I haven't done so.

Cook sous vide at 140F for 24-48 hours.

Take out. If you aren't ready to eat it immediately, chill in a bowl of ice water; it should freeze well, but that's a future experiment.

Just before serving, strip all the meat you can get off the bone and brown on the hottest flame you have handy. (Note: not cutting off the visible fat makes this smoky, be prepared.) This also heats it well from refrigerator-temperature.

Save the bone for beans or soup. The liquid in the sous vide package after removing the lamb itself is also good for beans, but you'll need to separate the fat at some point in the process.
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Recipes - Chicken marinade

I should probably use livejournal as something more than a recipe dump.

But since I haven't posted in literally years and I need a place to record some things I've cooked lately and might want to make again:

This is based heavily on http://www.theblackpeppercorn.com/2012/04/greek-marinade-for-grilled-chicken/ as I actually cooked it.

6 chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red cooking wine
1 lemon: juice and zest (organic lemon makes the zest easier)
6 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Cut the visible fat off the chicken. Marinade at least 8 hours; I did about 22 (in a ziplock baggie). Grill. Yum. (Or bake @400 for about 40 minutes, but I haven't tasted that yet, though I cooked it at the same time.)
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Just saying I'm a fan of the electoral college

Romney's ahead in the popular vote totals, and has been for a while. I don't know if the west coast is finished coming in yet, but I'm just while he is that I want the election decided on the basis of the electoral college, not the popular vote.

The electoral college avoids all sorts of mischief, and I'd like to make states more important, not less important, so I'm a fan of the electoral college -- though not a fan of actually having potentially faithless electors. If Romney wins the popular vote while he loses the electoral college, as Gore did in 2000, oh well. Romney, Obama, Gore, and Bush would all have run different campaigns if it were a pure popularity contest.

[Edit: looks like West Coast votes hadn't finished coming in when I posted this; I hit send and reloaded the count and nothing had changed -- and reloaded again and now Obama's in the lead. Well, difficulty with the total counts is some of the mischief I had in mind that the electoral college averts.]
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A tale of two cities ...

I'm reading the news of the damaged parts of NYC, and it really feels like a tale of two cities. My home is unaffected, my workplace is unaffected, my commute has been restored to normalcy -- and these scenes of devastation aren't from somewhere hundreds or thousands of miles away, they're from elsewhere in my city. It's surreal as well as terrible.

My husband's going to go in search of some aunts who are in a more damaged neighborhood and see if they want to stay at our place for a while. I'm glad; I want to help someone, but between work (working every day until elections and just thankful some of it will be from home) and our toddler, it doesn't seem like there's much I can do.

[Addendum: one aunt is okay, the other has been taken in by one of her sons. We may be taking in a relative-of-relative; the aunt in question is trying to reach her.]
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Can we go back to paper ballots?

There's concern that not all polling places will have power by election day.

The RNC has formally complained that they've received repeated reports of touchscreens registering votes for Romney as votes for Obama. (These in states where you click to confirm.)

I recall concern that Bush partisans would change voting machines totals in 2004.

It would avoid a lot of problems in 2016 if we went back to paper ballots. If we want them machine-readable, we're all trained in the use of bubbles and #2 pencils. Voting machines can be for the disabled and fill out the bubbles for you. Or if people insist, voting machines can be for everyone, as long as they fill out paper ballots which can be filled out manually if the voting machines are unusable. I'd prefer skipping the machines entirely except for people who need them to vote privately, but just having the ballots usable by humans in an emergency is a step forward. Redundancy is good.

(Yes, I remember butterfly ballots, too. That was a problem with specific ballot design, and a touchscreen interface could be just as bad, whereas I see several technical reasons why bubbles and a #2 pencil dark pen [ed: thanks, agrumer; of course a pen is better] are practically superior to voting machines.)