The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee

By

The “pseudo-theology” of ISIS

Dabiq is a town of roughly 3,300 people located in what is present-day northern Syria, six miles south of the Turkish border, but it holds disproportionate significance to a large subset of the world's population.  Quoting from Wikipedia:

In Islamic eschatology as found in the Hadith, the area of Dabiq is mentioned as a place of some of the events of the Muslim Malahim (which would equate to the Christian apocalypse, or Armageddon)."  ISIS uses "Dabiq" as the title of its propaganda magazine for this reason.

Today (July 27, 2015), the U.S. government announced that it will be working with the Turkish government to try to "clear" roughly 1,500 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) of Syria of ISIS militants to create an "ISIS-free zone", which would presumably then be occupied by some armed force or forces other than ISIS.  (Surely not coincidentally, this would also break the contiguity of proto-Kurdistan, which would be a happy event for the present Turkish government.)

On today's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, Dr. Maddow made a puzzling comment.  She noted that this 1,500 square miles includes "Dabiq, the geographic heart of what ISIS claims as its radical, pseudo-theological, end-of-the-world reason-for-being."

First off, this sentence is hopelessly broken.  ISIS is not claiming a "pseudo-theological" raison d'être.  It is claiming a theological one.  I've been trying to figure out what that qualification "pseudo-" is supposed to convey.  I've only come up with three possibilities:

  1. That Maddow is trying to say that theological claims are simply a smokescreen for the real goals of ISIS
  2. That Maddow is opining that any religious beliefs held by ISIS are not systematic or scholarly enough to be considered "theology"
  3. That it's a dog-whistle that says "Wink wink, you and I both know that ISIS' beliefs are not the real word of god, and definitely most Muslims know they're not."

As much as I respect Rachel Maddow, I'm inclined to think it is number three, which is disturbing for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that it plays directly into ISIS' hands.

More than anything, though, I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a stranger one hot summer day in Hardwick, Vermont.  We started talking about religion, and the conversation turned to Wiccans.  She scoffed.

"Wicca is just a cult," she said.  "None of them has ever held a piece of rowan wood and felt its real magic."

Can you make sense of it?

By

Customizing Lograge: Removing and adding fields

Lograge is a great Ruby gem for flattening your log files.  But as the author himself notes, "Lograge is opinionated, very opinionated."  Perhaps your opinions differ.  Mine did.

For instance, I don't need to log the controller, action, and format of requests.  I can infer those from the request path.  What I do care about is the time of the request, the User-Agent of the browser, and whether the request is by a search engine or not.

The following code mutes logging of controller, action, and format, and adds a timestamp, the User-Agent, and an attempt to identify search engines (via the Browser gem).  You end up with log file lines that look like this:

method=GET path=/ status=200 duration=200.29 view=53.22 db=40.01 time=2015-07-26 18:25:48 +0200 search_engine=false user_agent=Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:39.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/39.0

method=GET path=/commander/mayael-the-anima status=200 duration=533.39 view=112.51 db=166.25 time=2015-07-26 18:27:40 +0200 search_engine=true user_agent=Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

Use the code as-is, or as a jumping-off point for expressing your own opinions in your logs.

By

Creating and labeling snuff tobacco tins

If you take nasal snuff tobacco, you might be as frustrated as I was with the variety of packaging used for it.  Toque tins are thin and dent easily.  Wilsons of Sharrow tins are overfilled and have an odd aroma to the metal.  Abraxas snuff is packed in glass or plastic and is hard to carry.  Many Indian snuffs, such as Dholakia and 41 Photo, come in deep cylinders that are hard to pinch from.  Wouldn't it be great if they were standardized into sturdy, convenient, odorless, attractive, spill-proof containers that fit nicely in your pocket?

Well, why not fill and label your own snuff tobacco tins?

snuff-tin-labels-full

View full-size image | View label PDF file

This post will walk you through obtaining the best empty tins for snuff and labeling them yourself.

You will need:

  1. Access to a desktop or laptop computer
  2. MagnaKoys® Silver Metal Tins with Top Lid Continuous Thread Cap, 2 oz. size from Amazon.  As of this writing, for Amazon Prime members, it is cheapest to buy them 10 at a time.
  3. Avery Easy Peel Permanent Print-To-The-Edge Round Labels, 2-Inch, Glossy White (22807) from Amazon, if you intend to print the labels yourself

Steps:

  1. Visit Avery Design & Print Online, type 22807 where it says "Enter your product number here", and hit "GO"
  2. Select "Blank & Text Only" from the left sidebar
  3. Double-click on the one result
  4. Click "Open" on the edit bar
  5. Answer "No" to "Would you like to save your design?"
  6. Select "Load Project"
  7. Save the labels file to your hard drive and upload it
  8. Select "Edit One", not "Edit All", from the right navigator panel

    snuff-tins-avery-edit-one

  9. For each image, select the label that you want to edit from the right navigator panel.
  10. Click on the background and choose "Replace Image".  Upload your desired image, cropped to a square.  Tip: You can easily crop images to square with Pixlr Express.

    snuff-tins-avery-images

  11. Double-click on the text and type the name of the snuff.  You can change the text color.

    snuff-tins-avery-text

  12. When they are all to your liking, choose "Save" from the edit bar and save the project to "MyAvery Online Account" or "My Computer" (or both)
  13. Click the green "Preview & Print" button
  14. If you are printing your own labels, choose "Print it Yourself", or if you want Avery to print and ship your labels to you, click "Let Us Print for You" and follow the directions
  15. Apply the labels to the top of your snuff tins and fill them carefully with a spoon

Voila!  You now have beautiful, sturdy, matching tins for your favorite snuff!

By

Posers and Republicans

nirvana-christianity-poser-republican-eclecticquill-mcgeekiest


This is a Nirvana T-shirt

If you:
Don't own any Nirvana albums
Hate women, gays, or minorities
Detest rock music
And call yourself a Nirvana fan anyway…

Then fuck you, poser

This is a Christian Cross

If you:
Deny rights to the vulnerable
Ignore the sick and needy
Despise immigrants
And call yourself a Christian anyway…

Then fuck you, Republican

By

Cangrejo (River Crab) Potato Chowder Recipe

finished-soup

Cangrejo — river crab — are a specialty of Guayaquil, Ecuador.  You buy them live, in bundles.  At the peak of season they are $1 USD apiece.

These are cangrejo

These are cangrejo

Cangrejo parties are a common feast, where the crab are cleaned, killed, and boiled with seasonings to be pounded apart at the table.

Cangrejo party!

Cangrejo party!

The prized portions of cangrejo are the guts, the claws, and the large legs.  There is meat inside the abdomens (the equivalent of "lump meat" in an ocean crab) and inside the spindly legs, but I don't consider them worth the effort to open and eat.  I just gather those bits (without the carapaces) and take them home for stock.

If you don't want the pictorial guide, feel free to skip ahead to the complete recipes.

To begin your stock, remove the feathery gills and the beaklike appendage from the abdomens and cut them down the center.  If they are very large, cut the halves in half again to expose more meat.

Crab abdomens

Crab abdomens

Add to a heavy pot with the spindly legs.

Crab abdomens and legs in the pot

Crab abdomens and legs in the pot

I like to rinse and drain the crab in the pot at this point, but I'm not sure if that's strictly necessary or even helpful.

Cover with 2 - 3 quarts of water — whatever it takes to just cover the pieces.  Bring to a rolling boil, skimming and discarding any foam that rises.  Reduce heat to a fast simmer.

Crab pieces coming to a boil

Crab pieces coming to a boil

Add your vegetables and seasonings (the full recipe is after this image gallery.)

Your veggies and seasonings

Your veggies and seasonings

Give everything a good stir and cook at a rapid simmer for an hour.

Simmering stock

Simmering stock

Taste the stock after the hour.  If it's weak, cook it longer (up to 20 minutes more).

Strain your stock, first through a fine colander, then through a fine-mesh sieve. 

There you go, your stock is done.  Now it's time to start your soup.

Clean and dry the pot and add 2 Tbsp of canola oil.  Heat over a medium-high flame, and add the diced onion and celery.  Cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.

Diced onions and celery in the pot

Diced onions and celery in the pot

Add the diced potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for another five minutes,

Potatoes added to the pot

Potatoes added to the pot

Add 8 cups of your fresh crab stock and the dried parsley and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook for ten minutes, until the potatoes start to get tender.

Soup before milk

Soup before milk

Whisk the flour into the milk and add to the pot, stirring as you pour.  Cook for another 5 minutes.

Soup after adding milk

Soup after adding milk

Turn off flame and transfer half of the soup to a blender.  To prevent splashing, don't fill your blender carafe more than 2/3 full.  Blend until smooth.

Half of the soup, blended

Half of the soup, blended

Add the blended soup back to the pot.  Turn on flame and warm the soup again.  Extinguish flame and stir in cream.  Add salt to taste.  To serve, ladle into soup bowls and top with grated Parmesan.

Cangrejo (River Crab) Potato Chowder

The soup served!

Here are the recipes.

Crab Stock

  • 2 lb cangrejo abdomens (halved) and spindly legs
  • 1 large white onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 stalks celery, leaves removed, chopped coarsely
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato guts (from the last time you made marinara sauce, perhaps)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 dried bay leaves, edges torn
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Remove the feathery gills and the beaklike appendage from the abdomens and cut them down the center.  If they are large, cut them in half again to expose more meat.

Cover with 2 - 3 quarts of water — whatever it takes to just cover the pieces.  Bring to a rolling boil, skimming foam as necessary.  Reduce heat to a rapid simmer.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour.  Taste after the hour, and cook for up to 20 minutes more if the stock is still weak.  Strain the stock, first through a fine colander, then through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.  Clean the pot for the chowder.

Cangrejo (River Crab) Potato Chowder

  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 - 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 medium, firm potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 8 cups of crab stock (recipe above)
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flower
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Add 2 Tbsp of canola oil to a heavy pot.  Heat over a medium-high flame, and add the diced onion and celery.  Cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the diced potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for another five minutes,

Add crab stock and the dried parsley and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook for ten minutes, until the potatoes start to get tender.

Whisk the flour into the milk and add to the pot, stirring as you pour.  Cook for another 5 minutes.

Turn off flame and transfer half of the soup to a blender.  To prevent splashing, don't fill your blender carafe more than 2/3 full.  Blend until smooth.

Add the blended soup back to the pot.  Turn on flame and warm the soup again.  Extinguish flame and stir in cream.  Add salt to taste.  To serve, ladle into soup bowls and top with grated Parmesan.

I owe a great deal of thanks for help and inspiration for this post to recipes at Epicurious and The Pioneer Woman.