Mike Cornelison

Letters from the Lunar Outpost

Author: mhc (page 2 of 2)

The 8-Carb Burger

Here is my delicious, super keto-friendly recipe that I call my “8-Carb Burger”. The name says it all, there are only eight net carbs in the entire sandwich. By comparison, a Big Mac has 42 net grams of carbohydrates, a Whopper has a whopping 47 grams and my favorite, the Farmer Boys’ Farmer Burger, has 55!

It all starts with a couple Pyrex dishes. I got a nice deal on a set of three for only $15 at Amazon.

Over 100 years since it was invented in 1915, there’s still nothing that compares to Pyrex – it works equally well both in both microwaves and conventional ovens, the fact that it’s see-through allows you to view layered ingredients at a side angle, it’s easy to see just how clean your dish really is and everything comes clean with a little steel wool without any worries of scratching it.

(Can you tell I love my Pyrex?)

I start with the small 5.5″ x 7.5″ dish to make the buns.

  • 28g almond flour
  • 42g egg whites (or one medium-sized egg)
  • 14g melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • salt to taste

Mix it well and microwave it for 90 seconds. Note how the baking powder made the bread rise. Split that dish full of bread into two to make for a top and bottom bun and toast.

With the slightly larger 6.5″ x 8.5″ dish, I add a half-pound of ground beef, season it and then smooth it out to a flat, even layer. Split that layer of meat to make two quarter-pound patties – you can use one patty for now and one for later or use the two patties to make it a double. By using the slightly larger dish to mold the patties in the same shape as the buns, your patties should cook down to fit your buns perfectly.

(Being a bit OCD, I love it when my patties and my buns match perfectly!)

There you have it, The 8-Carb Burger, suitable for the strictest of low-carb diets.

A couple notes on carbs:

Tomatoes have 1 gram net carb for every 37 grams, otherwise, I would normally have more tomato on my burger. As it is, the tomatoes are the only ingredient adding to the egg white almond bread in this burger’s total of 8.7 net carbs. (Those 23 grams of tomato equal 0.6 net grams of carbs.)

Be careful with the mayonnaise you choose. Miracle Whip and other mayo substitutes proudly advertise that they’re lower in fat and lower in calories, but the trade off is that when they remove the fat, they dump in a bunch of
high-fructose corn syrup or cheap, refined sugar as a replacement. If you’re serious about a low-carb diet, avoid those low-fat and fat-free products and go with that delicious, zero carb, fat-laden mayonnaise!

Sometimes Words Speak Louder than Actions

We’re having some friends over for dinner tonight and I figure my contribution is already set in getting the charcoal lit a half-hour before the burgers go on the grill. (Propane and gas grills are like sacrilege to me but that’s for another post.)

In my mind, that’s my job, making sure the charcoal’s white and giving an even heat when I’m ready to sizzle that meat.

Meanwhile, hours in advance, my lovely wife is scrubbing counter tops, windexing mirrors and glass table tops, and she asks me, can you please steam clean the tile floors?

I think to myself, “Grrrr . . . I’m busy and I’ve got work to do. I’ve got two hours before I even need to start up the charcoal!” There’s also a bachelor part of me that says, if your shoes aren’t sticking to the floors, then the floors aren’t dirty.

Here I was knee-deep in my work at the computer and feeling floor cleaning went beyond my duties, but I realized I can either gripe about it before finally giving in, or I can just stiffle myself and do it.

Perhaps I’m a slow learner, but after thirteen years of marriage, I’m still working on figuring it out – when it comes to the honey-do’s, you have to just give in and go with it.

Even after I put in the work to make those floors spic and span, I still had this urge to get a final comment in, “Yeah, as if they’re going to notice how much cleaner the floors were from last month when they came over,” but that would have been taking one step forward and two steps back.

I did the chore, I didn’t gripe and we were both happier because of it. After all, “A happy wife makes a happy life.”

Mere Christianity

When Christians seek to share the message of Christ, most of their appeals are made by attempting to speak to people’s hearts. From my experience however, most non-believers take great pride in thinking of themselves as guided by reason. A more effective way of reaching these people then, would be to make the case for Christianity not from an emotional standpoint, but from a logical standpoint.

That’s where you enter the realm of Christian apologetics. To our modern sense of the language, the word “apologetics” lends itself to being interpreted as saying you’re sorry for being a Christian. In this case however, the word “apologetics” is derived directly from the Greek, “apologia”, meaning a rebuttal or verbal defense.

In having just finished C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, I want to tell you that it lays out the strongest, most rational case for Christianity I’ve ever encountered.

Again, we have a title subject to misinterpretation. Lewis doesn’t speak of “mere Christianity” the way a “mere child” refers to someone who is “no better then” or “no more then” a child. Instead, Lewis borrows the phrase from the 17th century writer Richard Baxter, who wrote of “mere Christianity” as being the essentials of Christianity, the core beliefs shared by Catholics and Protestants alike. Lewis goes on to define it as “an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere’ Christianity, which omits the disputed points.” Doesn’t it make sense to start the non-believer from the point where all the denominations agree, instead of getting lost in the details of dispute?

At the age of 30 as a non-believer attending Oxford, Lewis says he finally gave in and admitted that “God was God”, describing himself as “perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” It is from that perspective as a former non-believer that Lewis uses great talents as a writer to document his own evolution from the non-believer to the true believer. In doing so, he makes a compelling case for Christianity.

At 229 pages, Mere Christianity has more thought-provoking passages per page than just about anything I’ve ever read. Allow me to share just seven samples in hopes it may inspire you to pickup a copy of the book yourself:

On being an atheist:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.

On the devil:

Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, ‘Do you really mean, at this time of day, to re-introduce our old friend the devil – hoofs and horns and all?’ Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is ‘Yes, I do.’ I do not claim to know anything about his personal appearance. If anybody really wants to know him better I would say to that person, “Don’t worry. If you really want to, you will. Whether you’ll like it when you do is another question.”

On free will:

When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of the cleverer and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be both better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worst – of all.

On the oft-repeated “respect” the non-believer gives in saying Jesus was a great teacher:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

On why we need Jesus to properly repent of our sins:

Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

. . .

You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

On propriety, or decency:

The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally ‘modest,’ proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare’s time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned. When people break the rule of propriety current in their own time and place, if they do so in order to excite lust in themselves or others, then they are offending against chastity. But if they break it through ignorance or carelessness they are guilty only of bad manners. When, as often happens, they break it defiantly in order to shock or embarrass others, they are not necessarily being unchaste, but they are being uncharitable: for it is uncharitable to take pleasure in making other people uncomfortable.

On morality:

There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was ‘the sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it’. And I am afraid that is the sort of idea that the word Morality raises in a good many people’s minds: something that interferes, something that stops you having a good time. In reality, moral rules are directions for running the human machine. Every moral rule is there to prevent a breakdown, or a strain, or a friction, in the running of that machine. That is why these rules at first seem to be constantly interfering with our natural inclinations. When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, ‘No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.

. . .

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’ I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

I’ve headed in the one direction and I’ve headed in the other. More often, I need ask myself in which direction I’m heading today.

We’re just scratching the surface here, but imagine an entire book of kernels of wisdom like the seven shared here, and for every kernel, even more to ponder as he expands on every thought.

Mere Christianity is full of inspiration and full of ammunition for discussing God with the atheist who prides themselves in logical thinking.

Mere Christianity at amazon.com

Strange Wanderers

He awoke from a dreamless sleep, but instead of moving, instead of stretching and yawning, there was only the light sensation of floating.

As he floated higher, slowly higher, he saw himself below, still sleeping without a sound. This was one hell of a dream, he thought, but in that very same moment, a calm, lucid sense of reality spread through his being and he knew that somehow, he was indeed floating above his body, watching himself sleep breathlessly below.

He thought of the latest contortion he’d managed to twist his life into, but where there had been months mixed with desire and aching, days on end with his stomach in knots, his heart soaring and then sinking, now all of this was replaced with a strange sense of detached perspective over his reflections. Memories flowed through of the woman who had made a pass at his wife, the wife who had sweetly rebuffed this woman’s repeated attempts to kiss her mouth, the way the woman had then resorted to begging to watch while he and his wife had sex.

He thought of her burning intensity as she sat and watched him abide in her request and how that was the moment he began to swoon so deliriously for her.

A mild sense of amusement rippled through as he thought of how things had got only got more complicated from there. The weekend had continued with him and the woman, two fellow alcoholics and partners in crime, boozing it up while his Muslim wife remained sober as always. What a bizarre trio they made, a random collection of strange wanderers, the result of a life lived chasing chaos and spurning structure.

For years, his wife and he had invoked the story of Abraham and his barren wife Sarah and reflected on how both the Bible and the Quran had seemingly given license for a man in such circumstances to plant his seed in a woman other than his wife. He thought of how beautiful, strong and selfless his wife had been to give him the okay to take his new found friend into the bedroom that very next night.

He thought of how he knew even as they headed for the bedroom, it would only be a matter of time until his wife began having second thoughts. It had turned out to be only a matter of three hours to be exact.

In the days that followed, he began thinking of this Heaven-sent Hagar most hours of the day. He had been under no illusions and was well aware that this woman’s desire for his wife had been far stronger than her’s for him and her acquiescence to his lust hadn’t served to change that.

The more she seemed distant and unreachable, the more his heart yearned to draw her closer. He knew in a situation like this, the only way you had a chance to turn things around was to try to put things on an equal level by wearing a mask of ambivalence to equal her own, but where once he had been quite adept at playing that game, now he was controlled by the gnawing pit of desire that seemed to grow by the day, sometimes with every hour.

Thus began a roller coaster of days, when she was drunk, she’d ask him to take her in the bathroom and fuck her, on the mornings when she was sober, she was ashamed of her behavior, wishing only to reunite with her estranged husband.

What a wicked web we’d woven, he thought.

He remembered how he had relished the sweet agony of yearning for a woman who felt that desire just as deeply as he did, only to be repulsed by her behavior when she sobered. He cursed himself for wanting the drunk version of her when he knew how the drink was slowly killing her.

He thought of how shallow a life he had lived, like a Roman who only wanted to drink himself from one orgy to the next, somehow born into the wrong time and place. Then the realization swept over him that even if he had managed to find himself toga-clad in that world of drunken debauchery, he still would have felt the void, the emptiness that could never be filled.

He thought of how meaningless it had all been, a life lived in a never ending pursuit of pleasure and he imagined how his life might have been had he applied himself completely to building a family or accomplishing great things. As if in reply, he thought of how transitory those other lives were too, how even a great family man was only a few generations from being forgotten or just a name on the family tree and how even those men who were titans of their times would inevitably be obscured with the passage of time, senators and governors whose lives had loomed so large, only remembered by a handful of students of history. He thought of how so many great heads of churches and businesses were doomed to become little more than a face in a succession of framed faces of bygone leaders on the wall.

He thought of how, should the human race still exist in two or three centuries, even someone as great as Abraham Lincoln would end up known to most students as nothing more than the answer to a test question on who freed the slaves in the former United States of America.

He thought again of the woman, the troubled mother of two in whom he saw so much of himself, the woman who, at least for the short time he’d known her, had chosen her wine over life itself. He wished he could watch over her and guide her away from that miserable life of isolation and self-imposed slavery.

It was then that his thoughts began to fade, the out-of-body experience began to slip quietly away from him and he realized that there would be no watching over anyone.

His last wisps of consciousness slowly expanded like a cloud of smoke into nothingness.

The Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the Madman??? You had me at hello. If ever a book grabbed me right from the title, this is it.

“The Professor and the Madman” centers on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, almost undoubtedly the greatest undertaking ever made in the English language. The scope of the project was staggering: over a span of 70 years, volunteers submitted an estimated 5 million quotations. From these submissions, the book used 1.8 million quotes from 4,500 literary works written by 2,700 authors. The finished version listed 252,200 entries and 414,800 word forms, weighing in at 15,490 pages.

The “Professor”, in this case, is Sir James Murray (pictured above). Murray presided over the greater portion of the 70 years of the OED’s formation. Spoiler alert, because here comes the bombshell in the story – after many years of correspondence and collaboration with Dr. William Chester Minor, the dictionary’s most prolific contributor, Murray finds out that Minor has submitted his thousands of quotations *from a cell in an insane asylum*.

A passage that really had resonance for me:

One in a hundred people today suffer from schizophrenia: Nearly all of them, if treated with compassion and good chemistry, can have some kind of dignified life, of a kind that was denied, for much of his time to Doctor Minor.

Except, of course, that Minor had his dictionary work. And there’s a cruel irony in this – that if he had been so treated, he might never have felt impelled to work on it as he did. By offering him mood-altering sedatives, as they would have done in Edwardian times, or treating him as today with such antipsychotic drugs as quetiapine or risperidone, many of his symptoms of madness might have gone away – but he might well have felt disinclined or unable to perform his work for Doctor Murray.

In a sense doing all those dictionary slips was his medication; in a way they became his therapy. The routine of his quiet and cellbound intellectual stimulus, month upon month, year upon year, appears to have provided him with at least a measure of release from his paranoia. His sad situation only worsened when that stimulus was gone: when the great book ceased to function as his lodestone, when the one fixed point on which his remarkable but tortured brain was able to concentrate became detached, so then he began to spiral downward, and his life began to ebb.

One must feel a strange gratitude, then, that his treatment was never good enough to divert him from his work. The agonies that he must have suffered in those terrible asylum nights have granted us all a benefit, for all time. He was mad, and for that, we have reason to be glad. A truly savage irony, on which it is discomfiting to dwell.

There were times in the book where I had to wonder if perhaps William Minor was faking it when he constantly complained to his caretakers that he was tormented by people who would come from under the floor and down from the ceiling to perform heinous molestations on him while he slept in his cell, but any wonder of whether this guy was faking it fell to the wayside when we learn he subjected himself to an autopeotomy. If you’re wondering what an autopeotomy is, the word was new to me as well. Turns out it means the dude cut off his own penis.

Thankfully, I’ve never been anywhere near that level of crazy but I can very much identify with the wonderful, meditative properties found in working obsessively and compulsively. When your entire consciousness is absorbed in the task at hand, the work becomes a medicine. It is at that point that all troubles of mind and spirit cease to exist.

Link: More from Simon Winchester on the entry of “autopeotomy” into the language and English officially hitting 1,000,000 words.

The Diatonic Modes

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