Iris the Considerate! Iris the Merciful! Still, no.

My friend (and Palace blogger) Don Ardell forwards me FFRF’s Freethought of the Day e-newsletter every day. Although I am a longtime member of FFRF, for some reason I stopped receiving these daily emails a while ago. So it is always nice to see an email from Don in my inbox every morning, particularly since he often appends a witty and insightful comment, and sometimes additional content for our infotainment. (Don gets up VERY early. It is hardly unusual for him to have run, swum and biked a goddamn mini-triathlon, communicated with multiple correspondents, and produced an entire newsletter before the Palace coffee is even brewing.)

And so it came to pass that Richard Dawkins—unrepentant breaker of Your Humble Monarch™’s heart and involuntary organ donor presently confined to the Palace Abattoir—was featured in the Freethought of the Day missive of March 26, along with several other notables who share the same birthday. On this day, Don’s message to me included a Dawkins pull-quote from the newsletter—and a petition pleading for clemency on behalf of the heartbreaker-donor.

__________

From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Iris my dear:

Would your grace show some mercy and consider a pardon for Mr. Dawkins from the abattoir. Only the Christian god sends people to a place of torment forever and ever – you don’t want to be like Him, do you?

Consider these words – surely he who would produce such mighty words as follows, such freethinking genius, deserves your loving kind mercy:

“My respect for the Abrahamic religions went up in the smoke and choking dust of September 11th. The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion. It is time for people of intellect, as opposed to people of faith, to stand up and say ‘Enough!’ Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.”
—-“Time to Stand Up,” written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Sept. 2001. See Dawkins’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award

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From: Iris Vander Pluym
To: Donald Ardell

“Would your grace show some mercy and consider a pardon for Mr. Dawkins from the abattoir.”

Of course! I am nothing if not considerate and merciful! Simply point me to where the good Dr. Dawkins has walked back his egregious affronts to my human rights. Or am I still, in his esteemed view, a fine candidate to be enslaved to a fetus for nine months? Because if so, what you are asking me for is like begging a Jew to pardon Hitler, because hey, he loved animals and by all accounts was exceedingly lovely to his pet dogs. ? Women are dying, right this very moment, because of views like his. IOW, to the Abattoir with him.

“Only the Christian god sends people to a place of torment forever and ever – you don’t want to be like Him, do you?”

No! Don’t be silly! The Dawk will be used for lifesaving organ harvesting purposes only for nine months duration. Unlike the Christian god, we are not monsters here! We aspire only to fairness and justice—which, I’m sure you will agree, are concepts with which the Abrahamic god appears entirely unfamiliar. Unfortunately, Richard Dawkins appears in need of instruction about them as well.

Tell you what: seeing as he’s a friend of yours, I’ll let you sneak him in a coat hanger. Perhaps he can find a way to escape his sentence with the aid of that?

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From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Iris, md

Well, when you put it that way, I can see that maybe he is yet unworthy of a pardon.

Perhaps he will reform his ways.

Human frailties being what they are, I have maintained a resistance to any awareness of these qualities of the Great Man. I suppose that reminds some of the happy go lucky neighbors of the camps in Poland, totally unaware, they claimed, of what was going on down the block at the youth camp jamborees, or whatever those places were. “Hey, we were not invited and told to stay back, so we put it all out of mind. And besides, what were we to do, storm the fences, demanding to know all?”

I think about that coat hangar.

Thanks – great response.

Don

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From: Iris Vander Pluym
To: Donald Ardell

You’re a good man, Don, to acknowledge a blind spot. We all have them. Unfortunately Dawkins seems utterly incapable of doing this.

Do you mind if I post our correspondence, either anonymously or not?

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From: Donald Ardell
To: Iris Vander Pluym

Hello Iris:

Thanks for the nice note. Don’t mind at all. Prefer taking responsibility for my blind spot, as I stand, even now, with Dawkins for the good he’s done and does. So, expose me.

I do it myself, all the time. So, why shouldn’t others. :)

Don

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palaceheart

Skepticism and Doubt: Two REAL Wellness Skills to Practice and Promote

Introduction

Polling suggests that nearly half the U.S. population and nearly all Republicans do not believe in evolution or climate change by human agency, both of which are considered settled science. Scientists and most educated secular Americans are concerned that a majority of our elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate are science – deniers.

How did things come to this? What leads so many in a technologically advanced nation to resist scientific evidence in favor of other forms of knowing or believing? What is the basis of resistance to evidence – based ways of seeing the world?

Perhaps it’s the nature of religions.

Some knowledgeable authorities see little or no disconnect between science and religion, and maintain that the two do not necessarily conflict. Perhaps you have heard the phrase nonoverlapping magisteria, a construct introduced by the late Stephen Jay Gould, a self-described Jewish agnostic who was a scientist of the first rank.

In an effort to calm the waters between two contrasting forms of knowing, Gould wrote:

These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry. (Consider, for starters, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty). To cite the arch cliches, we (scientists) get (to explain) the age of rocks, and religion retains the (right to declaim about the) rock of ages; we study how the heavens go, and they determine how to go to heaven.

(Source: Nonoverlapping Magisteria, The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archives.)

Few scientists at the time (1999) or now agree with Gould’s diplomacy of interpreting nice at the cost of denying factual reality. Among the earliest critics of nonoverlapping magisterial was Richard Dawkins, who wrote:

Religion transcends morals and values. Religion posits a universe with a supernatural presence in which divine interventions via prayers and miracles represent material claims. Any religion without a controlling deity would be far different from Christianity and the other Abrahamic religions.

Doubt and Skepticism

Doubt and skepticism naturally lead to a recognition that science and religion dramatically contradict each other. Some may want to pretend the reality is otherwise, but it’s not.

We have a Republican Party and a large segment of the population clinging to ignorance and magical thinking in good part because religion gets a pass – our customs and traditions largely exempt religion from doubt and skepticism. Religions always discourage their flocks of human sheep from applying doubt and skepticism to their dogmas and rituals.

I well remember twelve years of parochial school classes. One lesson I recall was that it was not a compliment to be called a doubting Thomas. This likely dates to the 5th century. A doubting Thomas was a skeptic, a doubter who hesitates or demurs to believe without credible evidence. The slur, which is actually a compliment from a rational perspective, has its roots in the legend of the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to ten other apostles, at least until such time that he could see and touch the wounds suffered by Jesus on the cross.

From a secular perspective, Thomas was a man well endowed with common sense. Who would believe such a preposterous claim today? Certainly nobody not institutionalized or dependent upon powerful meds.

The natural inclination of children is to ask questions, unless their curiosities are discouraged. A personal example from a fourth grade religion class illustrates the problem. I asked Sister Lucy how Noah and a few helpers gathered all those animals, and how they got them all on one boat and what kept them from eating each other and how did the crew deal with all that poop and … Sister cut me off at that point and repeated the doubting Thomas admonition, which served as a Catholic school version of what would later become the Miranda warning. She also said if I kept talking like that I’m probably be turned into salt and wouldn’t that be a lesson now?

Opposition to free inquiry was and continues to be the reality for children and adults under the spell of religions, everywhere. As a commentator at Addicting Info put it recently:

Fundamentalism works best when no one questions the authority and authenticity of scripture. ‘You will obey MY interpretation of God’s word or else!’

Science, by its very nature, questions and is, therefore, the enemy.

Conflicts Over Magisteria

Science and religion have conflicting perspectives on endless issues. A few examples:

  • Science holds that the age of the universe is 13.82 billion years dating from the start as a Big Bang; many Christians favor a somewhat younger time frame (6,000 years) initiated by a god’s six-day work week.
  • Science favors testing of truth claims; religions demand belief of revealed truths.
    Science teaches doubt and skepticism; religion condemns both.
  • Religion renders group identity more consequential than facts; direct correlations have been found between religious conviction and an unwillingness to accept results of empirical scientific investigation. This renders religious faith an obstacle to understanding the world.
  • If religions were personal and private and did not animate adherents to afflict public policies to conform with religious dogma, there would be no worries. We could enjoy a secular society, wherein church and state truly were separate. This is far from the case in America. Three recent egregious examples of this conflict of magisteria can be offered:
  • Judge Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He first gained notoriety for placing a Ten Commandments monument on public property – and ignoring a court order to remove it. His latest assault on separation of church/state tradition and law was to declare, as Chief Justice, that the First Amendment only applies to Christians.
  • Jody Hice, a Republican member of the new freshman class in the House of Representatives. Representative Hice stated on the House floor that blood moons are fulfilling Biblical prophecies.
  • Pope Francis. The Pope just recognized the International Association of Exorcists, declaring the body under Catholic canon law a form of charity.

The older generations, in which I am irretrievably stuck, will be gone soon enough. Perhaps our successors, freer from the stifling customs and traditions that affixed religious nonsense into the DNA and discouraged science, will find skepticism and doubt more appealing. As Lawrence Krauss hinted, it is naïve to imagine that we can overcome centuries of religious intransigence in a single generation through education. He also added this:

One thing is certain: If our educational system does not honestly and explicitly promote the central tenet of science – that nothing is sacred, then we encourage myth and prejudice to endure. We need to equip our children with tools to avoid the mistakes of the past while constructing a better, and more sustainable, world for themselves and future generations. We won’t do that by dodging inevitable and important questions about facts and faith. Instead of punting on those questions, we owe it to the next generation to plant the seeds of doubt.

(Lawrence Krauss, Teaching Doubt, The New Yorker, March 23, 2015.)

Doubt and skepticism are foundations of science; faith that informs public policy in democracies is a barrier to freedom and REAL wellness. Consider Ingersoll’s words near the end of his epic speech The Gods:

We are not endeavoring to chain the future, but to free the present. We are not forging fetters for our children, but we are breaking those our fathers made for us. We are the advocates of inquiry, of investigation and thought. This of itself, is an admission that we are not perfectly satisfied with all our conclusions. Philosophy has not the egotism of faith… We know that doing away with gods and supernatural persons and powers is not an end. It it a means to an end: the real end being the happiness of man.

Be well, be free and look on the bright side.

WTF is going on in Yemen? Inquiring minds want to know.

Today I awoke to a “news” alert from The Washington Post informing me that the “U.S. will provide logistical and intelligence support to Saudi operation in Yemen.” I clicked on the link, in the hopes of perhaps finding out what the fuck is going on in Yemen.

What the fuck was I thinking.

Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes early Thursday in neighboring Yemen, heading a coalition of Arab nations in an effort to dislodge Houthi rebels sweeping through that country.

The strikes were a startling turn of events that came as the Houthis, in control of Yemen’s capital for months, barreled south toward the coastal city of Aden, seizing an air base along the way that was evacuated by U.S. Special Operations forces­ last week.

Yes, truly a startling turn of events. When U.S. Special Operations forces evacuate a military airbase in your Middle Eastern country, it’s a bewildering mystery what will happen next.

The military operation was announced Wednesday evening in Washington by Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, who said it would last until Yemen’s “legitimate government” was restored.

Just FYI:

After 33 years of rule by [US-friendly dictator] Saleh, a popular uprising in 2011 led to an internationally backed deal and an election, in which there was only one candidate: Hadi, Saleh’s long-serving deputy.

Wow, that government sounds totally legitimate! What more could the Yemeni people possibly ask for? Anyway, back to WaPo:

The United States was not involved in the operation, [al-Jubeir] said. But the White House announced late Wednesday that President Obama had authorized U.S. forces­ to provide logistical and intelligence support to the operation. American forces were establishing a “Joint Planning Cell” with Saudi Arabia to coordinate military and intelligence assistance, the statement said

So what targets are the Saudis bombing?

“The operations are limited to defending the government and preventing its collapse,” [al-Jubeir] said.

Oh, I guess that sounds fine. Were there civilian casualties?

*crickets*

For that information, you’d have to go elsewhere:

The Saudi airstrikes targeted the presidential palace and the police and special forces headquarters in the capital, Sanaa where  loud, house-shaking explosions resonated in the night.

Strikes were also reported on targets in the Malaheez and Hafr Sufyan regions of Saada, a main Houthi stronghold on border with Saudi Arabia, AFP reported.

A witness told Reuters that four or five houses near the Sanaa airport had been damaged. Rescue workers put the death toll from the air strikes at 13, including a doctor who had been pulled from the rubble of a damaged clinic.

Civil defense sources told AFP news agency that at least 17 civilians were killed in Sanaa during the overnight offensive.

Houthi-run al-Masirah television reported that the Saudi-led air strikes had hit a residential neighbourhood north of Sanaa and caused dozens of casualties. It also urged medical personnel to report to hospitals in Sanaa immediately.

All righty, then.

That the Saudis are acting at the behest of the US is not even debatable: the Obama administration itself cemented a $60 billion deal to provide the Saudis with F-15s and train their air force pilots—in Idaho.

According to the ever-informative Washington Post, “Yemen represents a potential proxy battlefield for Shiite power Iran and the Sunni Gulf Arab states allied with Washington.” OMG IRAN!!!

That’s news to Toby Jones, professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University:

[He] said possible Saudi intervention would mark a steep escalation of a conflict that has teetered on the verge of civil war for some time. But noted that Riyadh’s sectarian framing of Yemen as a proxy war may be a simplification. For one, there is no convincing evidence Iran is even behind the Houthis, he noted.

For their part, “Houthi leaders have said their advance is a revolution against Hadi and his corrupt government.” Read: another puppet government beholden to the US.

And what did the US ever do to the Yemeni people? It’s not like our government drone bombs their kids or anything. Or backed the 32-year reign of Yemen’s brutal dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. Or brokered deals with the d00d on behalf of US weapons manufacturers so he could slaughter his own people.

Nope, nothing like that. Obviously these silly Yemenis only hate us for our Freedom™.

So if by chance you want to know what the fuck is actually going in Yemen, you could start by recognizing that the US has heavily armed repressive and autocratic regimes in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere in the region), and with a straight face claims it is for “stability operations.” You could read this excellent (and prescient) analysis from last September. Then see this piece that at least includes actual reporting, not just stenographers dutifully writing down for us what our government officials say with nary a hint of skepticism. Hey, it’s not like they have ever lied to us before! Then take a look at this map:

yemenoil&gasmap2012Yemen Oil & Gas “Concessions”
(click to view larger image)

Consider who benefits—and who does not. But whatever you do, for fuck’s sake don’t look to The Washington Post.

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The ‘defense’ budget is three quarters of a trillion dollars. Profits went up last year well over 25%. I guarantee you: when war becomes that profitable, we’re going to see more of it.
-Chalmers Johnson

Free Market™ Fail. Again.

A dated article I just came across today really pisses me off, so my Many Tens of Loyal Readers™ will get a nice little rant this morning.

Workers at biggest fast food companies need billions in public assistance

Walmart isn’t the only corporate giant relying on government assistance to make up for the low, low wages it pays its workers. According to a new report from the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center, 52 percent of front-line fast food workers are on some form of public assistance, at a cost of nearly $7 billion a year. And the 10 largest fast food companies account for $3.8 billion of that, the National Employment Law Project estimates.

The UC-Berkeley study only looks at participation in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; if it included all government programs, such as child-care subsidies and reduced price school lunches, the total would be higher.

Accompanying the article are two charts that are quite revealing:

public_assistance_10_largest_fast_food_companies public_assistance_share_of_workers_by_industryIt is just so…interesting how the Free Market™ works best without any of that pesky government “interference.” Interesting, too, that of all the industries listed, public administration (i.e. government employment) has the lowest participation in public programs. I mean golly, why should ridiculously profitable corporations pay workers a living wage when they can soak their own taxpaying customers to pick up the tab? So their employees don’t, you know, starve or die of preventable diseases. Frankly, this should piss everyone off, liberal or conservative.

But remember, too, that the beneficiaries of this system are the exact same people lavishly funding right-wing politicians who are hell-bent on slashing, privatizing and ultimately destroying the already inadequate social safety net, in all its forms. (Among many other despicable aims.) I don’t know how they can sleep at night. But they do—and probably much better than you or I do. Operating in a Social Darwinist economic system will tend to foster a lack of conscience, especially among the fittest.

Here’s a thought: if it is just not profitable for McDonald’s to pay its workers a living wage, then it should go out of business. Perhaps all that capital can instead be put to use for businesses involving less factory farming, less trucking, less unhealthy food and less labor exploitation. Why not profit from sustainable industries that help instead of harm the very communities where they operate?

Any politician that does not support a living wage and a robust safety net including single payer healthcare—and I’m talking with actions, not just words—will never, ever get my vote. And they shouldn’t get yours, either.

medicare4all

 

Oh yeah, and one more thing:

nonprofitdefense

Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen: classic coconut custard pie.

ccpie5…with fresh whipped cream and toasted coconut.

For Ultimate Pi Day (March 14, 2015) I set my sights on making a coconut custard pie—My Amazing Lover™’s favorite. TRUE FACT: I had never made a pie before. But the lover has. He is apparently able to whip up an apple pie on a whim without too much trouble, so I figured the whole pie thing can’t be terribly complicated, right?

Hahaha. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, there are only 2.5 rules in the Palace Kitchen: DELICIOUS, and SIMPLE.*
* Or, to whatever extent not simple, worth the extra trouble.

Very important stuff you should know before you decide to make this pie:

Delicious: YES.

Simple: All the nope. All of it.

Worth it: An entirely subjective call. While I am not 100% sure about the pie, I am 100% sure the lover is definitely worth it. YMMV.

Timesuck: EPIC. My best time from start to pie-is-cooling-on-a-rack is 5 hours—and at that point of course it’s still too hot to eat and hasn’t been garnished yet. The good news is that the pie is actually better after it sets for a day or two in the refrigerator.

Mess: Category 5. As in hurricane.

ccpiemoneezExpense: $$$. As with everything else, better quality ingredients cost more, and if I’m going to spend a day making a pie I will buy the best I can find. But really it’s all the tools and other stuff you need that can rack up the price, depending on what you already have on hand. For example, I had a standing mixer, but I had to go buy a “food processor.” ME! A food processor! Between that and everything else (don’t forget the rolling pin! and the pie plate!) this pie has already cost me like a thousand dollars.

Mortal danger: RED ALERT. Between the sharp blades, burn risks and the coconut shell shards you will be stepping on, this pie is a fucking menace. I really cannot stress this enough: do not forget for one second that this pie is constantly trying to kill you.

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If you’re still in, there’s just one more thing. This was quite an adventure, so I fully intend to blather on and on (and on) in this post documenting and musing and complaining about all of it. As a courtesy to my beloved Loyal Readers™ who just want to make the fucking pie, I will leave the essential recipe bits in black font, and color the font of my tl;dr rantings. In teal, dear.

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ccpie1Yum. Also: yikes.

THE CRUST

I know this d00d, a regular at one of my neighborhood watering holes, who is a food stylist (yes that’s a thing). Went to culinary school, supervised teams at Martha Stewart’s kitchen, blah blah blah—in other words his skill level is the complete opposite of mine. I mentioned my coconut custard aspirations, and told him I didn’t even know where to begin. “With a great crust,” he said without the slightest hesitation. “Use lard.” WHAT.

At first I could not even find lard in the West Village, and ended up ordering it online from Amazon. (I eventually found it here.) But I did find a pie crust recipe with lard in it at epicurious called Best-Ever Pie Crust. The rave reviews sold me: “PERFECTION!” “OUTSTANDING!” “AMAZING!” “NO FAIL!” “EXCELLENT!” “easy to work with, sublimely simple to roll out, and the most user-friendly crust I have ever made.”

Okay! Glad I got that sorted!

It turns out that these people are all lying shitweasels. It took me six attempts to finally get some semblance of a fucking pie crust, and it sure as hell wasn’t pretty. (I also tried this one: easy! flaky! lying liars gonna lie.) Crust number 8 turned out pretty good though, so that’s the recipe you’ll find here. Later, I would come to find out that even expert bakers use Pillsbury ® Refrigerated Pie Crust all the time. (FWIW, it has lard in it.) Regardless of what you decide to do about a crust, the thing to keep in mind is that coconut custard has a much more delicate flavor than most other pie fillings, so you really don’t want a distinctly flavorful crust (e.g. graham cracker). Shoot for buttery, melt-in-your-mouth flaky, and not too sweet.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and re-chilled
  • 1/4 cup chilled lard (or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening) cut into1/2-inch cubes…blobs? and re-chilled
  • 3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

YIELD: 1 pie crust. (Double this recipe for double crust pies—i.e. pies covered on top with crust—or for lattice-topped pies.)

Other stuff:

  • food processor with the chopping/mixing/dough blade
  • 1/4-cup measuring cup
  • cutting board
  • 1-tablespoon measuring spoon for adding ice water
  • flat-ish standard tablespoon
  • glass for ice water
  • sharp knife
  • containers to store butter cubes and lard blobs while re-chilling (I used ceramic coffee cups)
  • plastic wrap
  • 3 sheets of wax paper
  • rolling pin (chilled)

Highly recommended:

-approximately one million paper towels
-safety goggles
-well-stocked first aid kit
-tourniquet
-cell phone programmed to call 9-1-1 with one touch or voice command
-large tattoo of your blood type on your forearm

Preparation:

Start by chilling the flour and a rolling pin in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Cutting cold butter into cubes is easy. First cut the stick in half—you can even do it with the wrapper on it.

butter1Then make these cuts:

butter2Then make these:

butter3Or vice versa. Whatever. Just so you end up with half a stick of butter cut into cubes chilling in your refrigerator.

To get lard blobs, I removed the entire chunk of lard from its container with a flat-ish tablespoon, and plunked it on a cutting board. Then I pressed a metal 1/4 cup measuring cup down into it with the palm of my hand until it hit the cutting board, and pulled it out. With the flat-ish tablespoon I removed the 1/4 cup of lard from the measuring cup and “sliced” it—sort of—into 1/2-inch-ish blobs. The I put them back in the refrigerator to chill until just before use.

Yes, it is likely there is a much better way to obtain lard blobs—maybe even cubes!—but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what that is.

Combining:

Set up the food processor with the chopping/mixing/dough blade, preferably without drawing blood.

ccpiechopbladeGuess what? ^This blade is really fucking sharp!

Cold temperature is critical. Once you begin to combine your ingredients you will need to work quickly. Have your flour, butter cubes and lard blobs well chilled and your ice water ready in the glass with the measuring tablespoon in it.

Put on your safety goggles, and brace yourself. 

Put the cold flour, sugar and salt into the processor and blend it with one quick pulse.

Do you now have a face full of flour because you forgot to put the plunger in the tube to close off the processor BEFORE you pressed the pulse button? See? Safety goggles.

Open the processor and add in all of the butter cubes and lard blobs and close it back up; with a few short pulses, minimally process the mixture only until the butter is broken up into pea-sized bits and the texture resembles a coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons of ice water one tablespoon at a time via the food processor tube, with a quick pulse of the mixture as you add each one. Check the consistency by gently pinching the mixture between your fingers to see if it clumps; add more water if necessary, checking the consistency again after each additional tablespoon (or teaspoon). DO NOT OVERPROCESS IT. Even though it looks kind of crumbly and doesn’t seem entirely well-mixed, as long as it clumps together when you gently pinch it you’re good to go. If you overwork it, it will not only be more difficult to roll out properly, it will have a hard texture after baking.

ccpiecrustdiskExtract the dough mixture from the processor WITHOUT slicing your fingers on the cutting blades, and gather it all together on a sheet of plastic wrap. Lightly form it into a disk and wrap it securely in the plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough disk for at least 1 hour before rolling it out.

The prepared dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and you can also freeze it.

Rolling out (after your custard is prepared).

NOTE: I did not try this woman’s very simple pie crust recipe, because Pi Day was fast approaching and oh yeah I was out of flour from all the previous pie crust experiments. But I did steal one trick from her that worked wonders: wax paper. You won’t need more flour to work the dough, and it’s less mess to clean up. She just might be a pie crust genius! 

If necessary let the dough soften slightly at room temperature before rolling it out, but in general you want to work with it chilled.

Place two sheets of wax paper, overlapping a bit, onto your rolling surface. Put the unwrapped disk of dough in the center of it, and cover the disk with another sheet of wax paper. With the chilled rolling pin, roll the dough out between the sheets of wax paper. Always work from the center outward, in every direction. You will know you have rolled it out far enough when you set your pie plate on top of it with the open side down, and see that it is surrounded by a good 2-inch border. The 2-inch border is important because after it’s in the pie pan, you should not stretch the dough further to reach places where it doesn’t quite make it over the rim of the pan: stretched dough will contract unevenly as it heats up. (What you can do if you come up short is cut a little dough off from places around the rim where there’s extra, and just press it right onto to the spots that are too short or too thin.)

ccpiecrustrolloutCarefully peel the dough from the wax paper (or the wax paper from the dough as the case may be), center it in your pie dish and gently press it into the shape of the dish. Don’t sweat it if it breaks into two (or three…) pieces as you peel it off. Just reassemble the pieces in the pie pan, and lightly press them together.

When you’ve got it more or less evenly distributed around the dish, roll the edges inward and fashion it into some kind of even-ish border. You can go around the edge pressing it between your fingers and thumb to make a wavy pattern. Or, you know, not.

ccpiecrustTa-da.

Carefully wash and dry all food processor parts and related accoutrement, because you will need all of it again to make the custard. DO NOT CUT YOURSELF HANDLING THOSE BLADES. But when you do, rinse the wound(s) under cold water, dry with clean paper towels, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage immediately. Use tourniquet to staunch serious bleeding if necessary, and dial 9-1-1 for the EMTs BEFORE you pass out. You don’t want to have come all this way just to ruin everything with blood splatter. If you have survived your injuries, drink the remaining ice water, plus extra water to make up for any significant blood loss. You are just getting started, and you need to stay hydrated for the long haul!

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THE CUSTARD

As critical as the crust is—and it is—there is also the minor matter of the actual coconut custard. It didn’t help that once I started researching recipes and reviews, I discovered that there appears to be very little agreement about what does or does not make for a winning coconut custard pie. Two eggs, five eggs. 350°F, 400°F. Some call for a package of pre-shredded sweetened coconut, some require plain flaked coconut, maybe a can of coconut milk, and/or condensed milk. Eventually I discovered a recipe that started with an actual coconut. “Oooh,” I gushed, “That sounds like the one for me!” Christ, what an idiot. Exactly like it says right up there at the top of this page. And I had to order coconuts from Amazon, too.

ccpiecoconutWhat a weird fucking thing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large, fresh coconut, about 1 1/2 poundsmadagascarvanilla
  • 2 cups whole milk (+ a splash more)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • Tiny pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Other stuff:

  • 9 inch Pyrex pie pan
  • food processor, with both the medium shredding disk and the chopping/mixing blade
  • standing mixer with whisk attachment
  • ice pick
  • mixing bowl
  • water glass
  • linen or cotton dinner napkin
  • rubber band
  • dish towel
  • thick Ziploc or plastic bag, gallon size or larger
  • vegetable peeler
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • strainer
  • 2-cup capacity measuring cup
  • standard measuring implements
  • containers for various coconut products
  • cooling rack
  • toothpick

Highly recommended:

-staff of cleaning personnel.
-corkscrew, wine glass and a nice bottle of red wine.
-manicure appointment for the following morning.

Prepare the coconut:

Set a rack at the middle level of the oven, and preheat to 350°F.

A coconut has three “eyes,” only one of which can be punctured fairly easily with an ice pick. You’ll have to try each one until you find it.

ccpieohaiPuncture the hole and drain the coconut milk out over a strainer into a bowl (about 2/3 cup yield).

ccpiestrain1There will still be flecks of shell and stuff in it, so make a contraption with a water glass, a linen napkin and a rubber band like this:

ccpiestrainer …and strain the liquid again by slowly pouring it through the fabric: ccpiestrainRemove the napkin and set it aside (you will need it again). Cover the glass of coconut milk and set aside.

Place the drained coconut directly on the oven rack and bake it until it develops a crack, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If there is no crack after 18 minutes, take it out anyway.) Let it cool slightly. Wrap it in a dish towel, and put it in a gallon sized, freezer thickness Ziploc or other heavy plastic bag. Get a good grip on the towel and the bag at the top, and smash the fucker a few times, hard, against an unbreakable surface.

ccpieonoesccpiesmashccpiemess1You will be able to tell by feeling through the bag and towel when it’s broken into pieces. Remove the shell: it will come away pretty easily, but that ice pick or a knife might also come in handy. With a vegetable peeler, remove the brown, fibrous skin from the white coconut meat. Rinse the meat clean, and pat dry.

ccpiecoconutreadySet up the food processor with the medium shredding disk. Try not to shave off too much of your skin.

ccpieshreddiskProcess coconut through the shredding disk to obtain 1 cup coarsely shredded coconut for the filling, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish. (One packed tube yielded a little more than enough.) For the most consistent results, pack the tube with pieces of coconut that are all cut to roughly the same size.

ccpiecoarseWhen you’ve extracted 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of coarsely shredded coconut from the processor, set them aside in separate containers. Set the processor up with the chopping/mixing/dough blade, and process all of the remaining coconut until it is very fine.

ccpiefineIn a large saucepan over low heat, scald 2 cups of milk just until there are bubbles around the edges of the pan. Stir gently and frequently as it heats. Do not let it boil.

ccpiescaldI.e., Google “how to scald milk.” Click on some results. Find a good one (number 2 of 3). You’re welcome.

Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in all of the very finely processed coconut. Allow the mixture to cool completely, about 45 mins.

While it cools, you could start cleaning up the colossal mess of coconut shards all over your kitchen, and carefully wash, dry and put away all food processor parts and accoutrement. DO NOT CUT YOURSELF HANDLING THE BLADES. (Again.) When you do, try to remember the drill from the prior crust incident(s). Using your non-severed hand, open the bottle of red wine, pour yourself a stiff glass and take a couple big gulps. You have damn well earned it. Ahhh. Jeezus.

Once the milk mixture has cooled, pour it through a fine strainer into a bowl; press the coconut against the strainer mesh with a spoon (or your fist) to extract as much liquid from it as possible. Remember that linen napkin? Spread it out, and in 3 or 4 batches, place coconut from the strainer into the center of it, wrap it up and twist it closed, then squeeze it over the bowl to extract all remaining liquid. Throw the wrung-out coconut away: it will have very little flavor remaining.

ccpieextractionPour the coconut-flavored scalded milk into a 2-cup capacity measuring cup, and add a splash more milk if necessary to bring it to 2 cups. You can prepare this earlier in the day or the day before, and store it tightly covered in the refrigerator.

But for fuck’s sake! You’ve already come all this way and now you’re almost there! No point quitting now. Besides, your kitchen is a disaster zone: do you want to clean it all up now and then have to clean it again later? No! Pour yourself another glass of wine, and chug it down.

Now at this point, you astute pie-bakers will discern that your now have four separated coconut products (not counting the bark shards all over your kitchen floor—don’t worry, you’ll find them all later as you step on them).

  • ccpie4things2 cups of coconut-flavored scalded milk.
  • approx 2/3 cup of coconut milk you drained from the coconut approximately 127 hours ago.
  • 1 cup of coarse shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons coarse shredded coconut (for garnish).

And you will wonder how the fuck your life has brought you to this point.

Adjust your bandages and/or tourniquet if necessary, and refill your wine glass.

Preparing the custard:

Set up the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Pour into the mixer bowl the 2 cups of coconut-flavored scalded milk, and whisk together with the sugar, eggs, vanilla, nutmeg and the coconut milk you extracted what seems like days ago. Blend well. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the reserved 1 cup of coarsely grated coconut.

Set a rack in the middle level of the oven, and preheat to 375°F. Roll out the dough for the bottom crust, and arrange it in the pie pan as discussed above.

Pour the custard filling into the pie crust, and bake about 45-55 minutes: check that the pie is wobbly-textured (like Jello) when the pan is gently shaken, and when it is remove it from the oven. With a toothpick, poke several holes into the pie to help moisture evaporate more evenly as it cools. Cool the pie on a rack, about 3 hours. Refrigerate at least overnight; a day or two is optimal. (Garnish just before serving.)

ccpiecoolingWhipped cream & toasted coconut garnish:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of coarsely shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners powdered sugar

Other stuff:

  • standing mixer with the whisk attachment
  • small metal roasting pan
  • frosting bag with flower attachment (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour heavy cream into the standing mixer’s bowl and whisk in the confectioners powdered sugar. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks are forming.

Sprinkle the coarsely shredded coconut into a small metal roasting pan. Bake until golden brown, shaking and stirring the pan occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Check frequently and watch intensely toward the end as they burn easily.

Speaking of burning, try not to burn yourself when handling the pan.

You can prepare the toasted coconut in advance, and store covered at room temperature until ready to use.

ccpietoastedcoconutBefore…after.

Garnish the chilled pie. For taste test purposes on the first two pies I made, I spread the whipped cream in the middle and sprinkled the toasted coconut on it.

ccpie3It doesn’t look all that great as a pie, but the slices look good.

ccpie2For my third and final Pi Day pie, I piped the whipped cream through a frosting bag around the edge just inside the crust, then sprinkled the toasted coconut all over the pie.

palacepiday31415Palace Ultimate Pi Day Celebration
3.14.15
left: Coconut Custard from the Palace kitchen.
right: Salty Chocolate Chess from Petee’s Pie Company [h/t Mr. Born]

THE END.

__________

Here are links to some of the resources on which I based this recipe.

Caution: lying liars.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/best-ever-pie-crust-238816

http://www.laurainthekitchen.com/recipes/basic-pie-crust/

Perfect Pie Crust Recipe: Nana’s Secret Recipe and Tips! (youtube)

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/old-fashioned-coconut-custard-pie-recipe.html

http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2011/07/opening-a-coconut/

http://www.wikihow.com/Scald-Milk

Reading.

library4An Ex-Jewish Camel’s Sad Epiphany on Israeli Fanaticism. Centre, B., Atheist Camel (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

5 Near-Identical Jesus Myths That Predate Jesus. Richard, L., Liberal America (Mar. 2015). [h/t Ian]

Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum. Service, R.F., Science (Mar. 2015). [The headline overreaches, but the science is interesting. -Ed.]

Nightmare in Sin City: How a Rumor Sent a Teen to Prison for Murder in Vegas. Smith, J., The Intercept (Mar. 2015).

27 Black Women Activists Everyone Should Know. Foster, K., For Harriet (Feb. 2014). [h/t Sally]

Humanism and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Kirabo, S., The Humanist (Mar. 2015).

Support for government help has fallen among those who rely on it most. Ehrenfreund, M., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [Deja vu. *yawn* -Ed.]

Teaching Doubt. Krauss, L.M., The New Yorker (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

Anti-Abortion Website Whines About Being Bombed… With Glitter. Merlan, A., Jezebel (Mar. 2015). [Hahaha. The fine folks at Glitter Bombs for Choice are clearly kindred spirits, although I prefer to mail coat hangers myself. -Ed.]

The Cops Don’t Care About Violent Online Threats. What Do We Do Now? Merlan, A., Jezebel (Jan. 2015).

Woman killed by flying plywood from NYC construction site. Rosario, F., et al, The New York Post (Mar. 2015). [The luxury condo construction at the site of my former neighborhood hospital now has a body count. (For background see here.) -Ed.]

Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s. (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! Arsenic poisoning. Which sounds almost as bad as the crap wine. -Ed.]

Intersex advocates correct and clarify Nightline news report. Murray, R., GLAAD (Mar. 2015). (with VIDEO)

How activists are responding to the NYPD’s attempts to thwart Black Lives Matter. Rugh, P., Waging Nonviolence (Feb. 2015).

How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall: America’s problem with criminalizing kids. Owens, J., Politico (Mar. 2015). [An excellent piece on the school-to-prison pipeline by the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office. -Ed.]

Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton’s On NAFTA. Johnson, D., Campaign for America’s Future (Feb. 2015). [Lying liars lie: film at 11. -Ed.]

__________

PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Boner flowers FTW.

naked-man-orchid-orchis-italica-1Alrighty then.

Orchis italica, commonly known as the naked man orchid or the Italian orchid, is a species of orchid native to the Mediterranean. They are widely popular for their petals looking like naked men. O. italica grows up to 50 centimetres (20 in) in height, with bright pink, densely clustered flowers.

20 inches?!!! Jeezus. Won’t someone think of the Mediterranean children?

orchis-italica2 orchis-italica3 orchis-italica4 orchis-italica5Hahaha. Awesome.

[h/t Kim]

Recent reading.

library4
It’s Time for Atheists to Stop Debating God’s Existence and Decide What to Do About It. Lee, A., AlterNet via The Guardian (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ] (“For too long, atheists have conducted abstract debates. It’s time to focus on the pursuit of justice.”) [IRIS Adam Lee, but this strikes me as hopelessly naive in in light of things like this. -Ed.]

10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi. Swanson, A., The Washington Post (Mar. 14). [h/t Mr. Born]

NYPD Edited Police Brutality Wikipedia Entries: IP addresses linked to the NYPD found to have altered Wikipedia pages about Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. Kreps, D., Rolling Stone (Mar. 2015).

The CIA and America’s Presidents: Some Rarely Discussed Truths Shaping Contemporary American Democracy. Chuckman, J., Counterpunch (Mar. 2015).

Consent: Not actually that complicated. Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess (Mar. 2015).

Project Vox. (“Project Vox seeks to recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy…From Lady Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway in England to Émilie Du Châtelet in France, many women played significant roles in the development of modern philosophy, but their contributions have often gone unnoticed.”)

related:

Finding Philosophy’s Female Voices. Ferreri, E., Duke Today (Mar. 2015).

Throw a Dinner Party with This Creepy Tableware and Watch Everyone Run Away. Zuras, M., Munchies at Vice (Mar. 2015). [WANT. -Ed.]

ronitbarangateacupI can haz dis teekup nao plz.

Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition, Australian report finds. Davey, M., The Guardian (Mar. 2015). [GTFO. -Ed.]

Anita Sarkeesian Describes the Fury She Cannot Express in Public. RH Reality Check via youtube (Mar. 2015). [VIDEO]

Best State for Business? Yes, California. Winkler, M.A., Bloomberg Business (Mar. 2015). [But high taxes! Evil regulations! BOOOOOTSTRAPPPPPS!!! -Ed.]

White Christian America in Decline: Why Young People Are Sick of Conservative Religion. Marcotte, A., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). (“White Christians are now a minority in 19 states.”) [Needz moar lionz? -Ed.]

Trans woman shows how ‘ridiculous’ bathroom bans are with urinal selfie campaign. Wee, D., Gay Star News (Mar. 2015). [I love everything about this woman’s campaign. Except, of course, the need for it in the first place. -Ed.]

related:

Trans selfies have caught bathroom bans and lawmakers with their pants down. Fae, J., Gay Star News (Mar. 2015).

Twitter Explodes With ‘Rap Albums That Caused Slavery’ After MSNBC Segment. Walsh, T., Talking Points Memo (Mar. 2015). (“Twitter blew up with the satirical hashtag #RapAlbumsThatCausedSlavery on Wednesday morning after a panel on MSNBC managed to blame rap music for a recent outburst of racism at the University of Oklahoma.”) [And I love everything about this too. Except the need for it in the first place. -Ed.]

Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race. Adler-Bell, S., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). [An excellent interview with anti-racist educator and author Robin DiAngelo, who wrote the brilliant and insightful 2011 journal article White Fragility we linked for you before. -Ed.]

The melting of Antarctica was already really bad. It just got worse. Mooney, C., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

These Badass Feminist Tattoos Are the Perfect Accessory for Smashing the Patriarchy. Bianco, M., Mic (Mar. 2015).

An 11-year-old reported being raped twice, wound up with a conviction. Walters, J., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [TRIGGER WARNING: One of the worst stories I have ever heard. And that is saying something, my friends. -Ed.]

Eight Pseudoscientific Climate Claims Debunked by Real Scientists. Holland, J., Moyers & Co. (May 2014).

The Throwback Sexism of Kleiner Perkins. Williams, J.C., Harvard Business Review (Mar. 2015). (“Pao v. Kleiner Perkins is not just about the kind of subtle stereotyping that’s common at many large tech companies. Much of what Pao describes is something quite different: an atmosphere straight from the blatant bias playbook.”)

25 Times Tumblr Told The Truth About Mental Health. Nigatu, H., BuzzFeed (Feb. 2015).

Drones and the rise of the high-tech assassins: How twenty-three innocent Afghani civilians were wiped out by self-deceiving drone operators seven and a half thousand miles away. Cockburn, A., Boing Boing (Mar. 2015). [h/t Julie] [Our tax dollars at work Keeping Us Safe™. -Ed.]

How White Separatists Disable Native American Facebook Accounts. Bogado, A., Colorlines (Mar. 2015).

33 Things That Secretly Want To Kill You. Pulptastic [h/t Julie] [Hahaha. Pareidolia FTW. -Ed.]

Why death rates among white women are soaring. Paquette, D., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! Prescription painkillers. -Ed.]

A Woman Is Writing Feminist Messages On Period Pads And Posting Them Around Her City: One message reads “Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods.” Warren, R., BuzzFeed (Mar. 2015). [Indeed. -Ed.]

Crisis Pregnancy Centers Lie: The Insidious Threat To Reproductive Freedom. NARAL Pro-Choice America (pdf) (“Anti-choice organizations claim more than 3,500 of these fake clinics are in operation across the country, far outnumbering the ever-dwindling number of abortion clinics.”)

__________

PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Who’s happy now?

As Loyal Readers™ well know, the Palace houses the world’s most renowned research program dedicated to the study of Conservative Personality Disorder. Something that has really puzzled us over the years is that research purporting to examine the relationship between political orientation and happiness has consistently revealed conservatives as being happier than liberals. This finding not only runs counter to a lifetime of personal experience that shows unequivocally that “happy conservative” is an oxymoron, it’s also counterintuitive on its face. I mean, do abortion clinic protestors strike you as happy? How about right-wing Christian clergy? Gun fetishists? Pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter? White supremacists? Birthers? War Hawks? I’m not just talking about raging spittle-flecked tirades, either. It is self evident to me that a truly happy person would have exactly zero interest in policing, bullying and dominating other people by any means available. And yet conservatives do all of this, and they do it in the service of getting other people to conform to their (fictional) orderly little black-&-white world—and judging and punishing them harshly when they don’t. Either way, it vindicates and validates their (also fictional) moral superiority. They are nothing if not narcissists: everything is about them, all the time, including a gay couple’s marriage five states away, and what goes into or comes out of my vagina. Have you ever met a happy narcissist? No, you most certainly have not.

But you know what? If the science says it’s so, I just have to chalk it up to another head scratcher and move on with finding the cure. (For conservatism—not for happiness. Obviously.)

Now comes an article by Rachel Feltman in The Washington Post:

O rly?

When asked if they’re happy, political conservatives are more likely to say yes than liberals. But a new study suggests that liberals might be the happier bunch — and conservatives might just want to look good.

Researchers believe that conservatives may have a reputation for being happy because it’s in their nature to talk themselves up.

You don’t say.

It turns out that all of the academic research on the so-called “happiness gap” was based entirely on self reports. Self reports! This is the sign of sheer incompetence: as any serious student of conservatism can tell you, conservatives are infamous for self-reporting lies. (See e.g. church attendance, or Bill O’Reilly’s entire career.) But this new research took a different approach:

Led by Sean Wojcik, a doctoral student in psychology and social behavior at the University of California at Irvine, the experiment analyzed photos and language analysis from the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of those identified as either liberal or conservative.

“Common sense would dictate that if you want to know how happy someone is, you can ask them,” said Peter Ditto, UCI professor of psychology & social behavior and co-author of the paper. “But what do you do if someone says they’re happy, but doesn’t act that way?”

My point exactly.

Indeed, Ditto and Wojcik found more genuine smiles (as measured by standard facial analysis) and more positive language in the Web trail of liberals, even though other members of that group self-reported as less happy in the very same study.

The reason, they say, is that political conservatives have a tendency to self-aggrandize. When they compared happiness self-reports with tests that measured a tendency to enhance one’s better qualities, they found that the happiness gap could be explained by a self-enhancement gap. In other words, liberals were being more honest about their personal pitfalls.

Huh. Well what do you know.

palacehappyface

Happy Ultimate Pi Day everyone!

piWe have written about Pi Day before, noting that we and our fellow geeks the world over looked forward with great anticipation to once-in-a-lifetime Ultimate Pi Day—March 14, 2015 at 9:26 AM (and 53 seconds)—because it was going to be so freaking awesome.

Well, it is now mere moments away. And yes, it is so freaking awesome.

I’ll be biting into a slice of homemade coconut custard pie at 9:26 AM (and 53 seconds) local time—and another slice at the same time PM.

coconutcustardsliceIs this the best holiday ever or what?

UPDATE:

palacepiday31415Palace Pi Day Celebration
3.14.15
left: Coconut Custard from the Palace kitchen.
right: Salty Chocolate Chess from Petee’s Pie Company.
[h/t Loyal Reader™ Mr. Born]