Archive for month: March, 2012

Too Many Beer Reviews on This Blog

31 Mar
March 31, 2012

If you’ve been following this blog lately, you’ve seen a steady stream of beer reviews. I know that some people like them, and I certainly like reviewing beers, but I’m faced with a problem… I like to drink beer. I like to drink beer quite often (yes yes, responsibly, rarely very much at any one occasion). I like to drink different kinds of beer, the more variety, the better. Finally, I’m a completist in that I’d like to sample all the different kinds of beers — especially from breweries I like — and I’d like to review and catalogue them all. I’ve been sampling beers for a long time, but only recently started these reviews (and hence the cataloguing).

So, what’s the problem, exactly? Well, my dear readers, I don’t want to clog your blog feed with beer reviews, as I know that many of you probably aren’t so interested in that aspect of the blog. What to do? Well, I could just do fewer reviews, perhaps only review the really special, rarer beers that I try. That is in fact what I plan to do, BUT: I have also discovered a way to satisfy my completist urges and desire to catalogue, so I’ve registered to BeerAdvocate. It’s one of the two big names in beer reviews out there, the other being RateBeer. I tried the latter first, since they have more beers listed in their database, and more reviews as well, but I discovered that the styling of the site is rather rudimentary, and most of the reviews are less involved as well. Incidentally, neither of the sites offers an RSS feed to your own beer reviews, which is a peculiar flaw. I went through the trouble of creating one anyway with the help of Feed43 and Google’s FeedBurner.

But alas, BeerAdvocate has been going through some changes and after having some periods of complete downtime they’ve now managed to completely disable outside access to users’ beer reviews. If you’re a member of the site, you can find all my reviews here, but unfortunately there is no easy way to make them accessible to the general public at this time. The best way to follow my beer reviews at the moment is my Twitter account, as whenever I review a beer on BeerAdvocate, I can post a link to it on Twitter. But I do hope that they manage to fix the site eventually, and I’ll create an RSS feed as soon as that happens. I can hardly believe that at this day and age they haven’t got an RSS feed to begin with, or Facebook and other social media integration gong on (except for a very simple Twitter button).

So, the upshot is that I’m planning to reduce the number of dedicated beer reviews on this blog, and to focus on beers that I consider to be a little bit special — limited editions, seasonals, rarities, or just beers that I’m particularly impressed by or curious about. I’ll direct my desire to catalogue things to BeerAdvocate, but eventually I hope to have an RSS feed of the reviews as well. I do have some forthcoming reviews on a couple of special brews coming up on the blog though, so there’s no need to despair if you enjoy reading them!

UNC-Chapel Hill Diaries #7

29 Mar
March 29, 2012

Previous entires: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6.

In Durham, they sell metaphysics by the pound. (Ninth Street)

In Durham, they sell metaphysics by the pound. (Ninth Street)

Firstly, I’ve got another batch of talks coming up. First of them is tomorrow, Friday March 30 at Duke University (3:30pm, West Duke 202) in the colloquium series. I’ll be talking about ‘Quantification and Ontological Realism’. The talk will be followed by a reception, so stick around if you’re attending. I’m looking forward to this one, as I think I’ve got a nice paper. It’s mainly a critique of Ted Sider’s recent defence of fundamental, perfectly joint-carving quantification in his Writing the Book of the World (OUP, 2011). It’s nice to go to Durham too, since they have a “Metaphysical Shop” and all (see the photo)… Ninth Street, which is relatively close to the campus, has a very nice selection of shops and cafes.

Already on the following Wednesday, April 4, I’ll be talking at Boulder, Colorado (3:30pm, HLMS 141) with the title ‘(Neo-)Aristotelian Essentialism’. I’ll be in Boulder April 3-5.

Other than that, I haven’t got much in terms of news. I pretty much missed the whole of last week being ill with a flu. Fortunately it only hit me after the party that I organized with Elizabeth at our place. The party went well, although the turnout could’ve been better — we’re a little bit out of the way and not that many people know me yet. It was fun anyway, with a good mix of Chapel Hill faculty and graduate students. We also had someone from another college in North Carolina, whom I knew from a conference. Oh, and Peter van Inwagen showed up too, which was nice! Unfortunately I don’t have any photographic evidence of the gathering, as I was too busy entertaining guests. I particularly regret not snapping a photo of the all-vegan buffet feast that we prepared with Elizabeth. A list will have to suffice: vegan sushi, seitan-tomato-onion skewers in jerk marinade, seitan-pineapple skewers in lime marinade with lime and cilantro dip, olive-walnut rolls, green salad with vinaigrette, hummus tray with veggies, olives, gingerbread cookies, and a chocolate-cherry cake. We made everything from scratch (except the hummus), so it was a fair bit of work! But very enjoyable, and people seemed to like the food too.

Cardinals are quite common here

Cardinals are quite common here

I ended up missing talks by Ned Markosian and Jonathan Schaffer at Duke last week because of the illness. Fortunately I managed to catch Schaffer at Chapel Hill. He gave a talk on ‘Structural Equation Models of Metaphysical Structure’ — not a very informative title. Effectively he revised his story about grounding a bit and suggested that it’s best understood as analogous to causation, or as “metaphysical causation”. I wasn’t convinced, but I won’t go into the details as I wasn’t able to follow the talk that well in my tired post-flu state. I might get my hands on a draft of this paper though (for the metaphysics reading group), in which case I’ll perhaps report in more detail.

Unsurprisingly, my running has suffered a big blow in March: I’ve missed two full weeks of training, with a half decent week in between. I’m back at it now, but still not up to full health. I’m running the Tar Heel 10-miler on April 21, so I’ve got another three weeks or so to get back into racing shape. Did I mention that I’m gaining weight from all the tasty craft beer and cooking and Elizabeth’s baking and… Well, maybe some of it is muscle from the gym work, who knows.

Deer, from our kitchen window

Deer, from our kitchen window

It’s effectively summer here now. Spring came and went with the cherry blossoms, and we even had a sweltering day of +31 Celsius not long ago. It’s nice and green everywhere. I hope to do a photography walk soon to capture some of that green stuff. The nights are warm enough to sit outside gazing the stars. Wildlife is still active too. There was some kind of an eagle on our backyard last week; I tried to photograph it but couldn’t get close enough to get a nice focus. Instead I managed to capture the Cardinal that you can see above, although it’s not the best shot — I’d really need a decent zoom lens for these birds. We also have woodpeckers visiting frequently, but they’re rather shy birds. I still haven’t gotten a better shot of the deer either, so I’m attaching one of my older shots of a couple that were hanging out around our house.

"Caribe", at Sage Café

"Caribe", at Sage Café

We haven’t been out in Chapel Hill or around much recently, but we did make another trip to Sage Café — a nice vegetarian restaurant quite close to our place. You can get almost everything vegan as well. This time I remembered to bring my camera and snapped a photo of my dish, Caribe — Caribbean style black beans topped with a slice of avocado, served with rice, grilled spicy tofu & plaintains. It’s not the cheapest place, but the food is quite tasty.

I’ll report back after Boulder, I think. A friend of mine from Finland is coming to visit right after though, and we’re planning to do a week’s road trip, so I’ll be away for a bit.

Kit Fine Interviewed

27 Mar
March 27, 2012

Kit Fine has been interviewed, again! I don’t think I’ve linked to the previous interviews either though, so I might as well give you both of the recent ones:

Philosophy Bites: Kit Fine on What Is Metaphysics

3:AM Magazine: Metaphysical Kit

The 3:AM interview also has a hotlink (without my permission) to the video I shot of Kit last year at the INPC conference on Aristotelian Themes in Contemporary Metaphysics. I’ve been meaning to make a smaller version of that 1.6GB video, but it hasn’t happened yet…

Anyway, here’s a nice section from that interview, which pretty much sums up Kit’s 2009 paper ‘The Question of Ontology’, in the Metametaphysics anthology:

Even ‘ordinary folk’ may wonder whether there really are numbers or chairs or atoms or the like. Perhaps the world is entirely concrete or consists entirely of microscopic particles or is merely a construction of our minds. But what are we asking when we ask such questions? For surely we can all agree that there is an even prime (viz., 2) and an odd prime (say, 3) and so there are numbers. Or we can all agree that we are sitting on some chairs and so there are chairs. Or we can all agree that there are water molecules, each of which is made up of two hydrogen atoms, and so there are atoms. The answer to all of these questions appears to be obviously ‘yes’ and so do we even bother to ask them?

Quine thought that in asking such questions we were indeed asking ‘quantificational’ questions. For the case of each kind of object in question, we were asking whether there was an object of this kind. However, he thought that the answer to this question was not as obvious as one might have thought and that subtle philosophical considerations might be involved in attempting to answer it. In the case of chairs, for example, we might establish that there were no chairs by showing that every statement apparently about chairs could be paraphrased into one that was about particles.

I think that this is a mistake. In asking these ontological questions, we are not asking about what there is but about what is real. Are numbers real? Or chairs? Or atoms? The quantificational questions are relatively straightforward – they are to be answered by common sense or by science. Philosophy does not come into it. But the questions about reality are deeply philosophical and it is only through having a conception of reality, a philosophical Weltanschauung, that they can be answered.

Peppered Seitan Steaks & Mashed Potatoes

22 Mar
March 22, 2012

For this recipe I used only my second ever batch of homemade seitan. It turned out pretty good, tastier than the first one. I still think it requires some further marination or frying with spices, but it is perfectly good straight out of the broth.

I’ve got a huge batch of seitan ingredients now — I ordered four 22oz packs of Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten and two 22oz packs of their Garbanzo Bean Flour. These were just $35 altogether with postage included and they will make a MASSIVE amount of seitan. I’m estimating eight or so batches, each of which will make maybe five or six meals for two people. That’s pretty cheap! The seitan you can buy from stores is generally flavourless, has inferior consistency, and costs about $5 for a pack which makes maybe two meals, so there’s no contest here. Plus you get to experiment with the spicing of course.

Peppered Seitan Steaks & Mashed Potatoes

Peppered Seitan Steaks & Mashed Potatoes

I used the same proportions of wheat gluten and gram flour (i.e. chickpea/garbanzo bean flour) as I did before, namely 2:1, and roughly the same amount of liquids. The spicing was slightly different, although I did use chipotle again. The chipotle was supplemented with some applewood smoked salt and some of the liquid was replaced with a mixture of tamari, mirin, and miso. The broth was quite similar to the one I used before. Another obvious deviation from my previous batch was that I also formed some steaks from the seitan mass (before boiling it). Anyway, since I’ve already posted a seitan recipe, I’m just going to assume that you’re using ready-made seitan for the purposes of this one.

4 Seitan Steaks (previously prepared)
3-4 Potatoes (large)
Cauliflower (half)
Black Pepper from Grinder
Curry Powder
Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
Soy/Oat/Almond Milk
Ground Nutmeg

Peppered Seitan Steaks

Peppered Seitan Steaks

Serves two. The amount of Earth Balance and soy milk needed depends on how much potato mass you end up with and what kind of consistency you’re looking for. It might be in the range of a tablespoon of margarine and a cup of soy milk. The side of curried cauliflower is of course entirely optional, we just happened to have some handy. Broccoli would go quite nicely as well. You could also prepare some sort of a brown sauce or gravy for these, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I would’ve decorated the mashed potatoes with some fresh coriander or other fresh herbs, but we didn’t have any in the house when cooking this, so this is what you get.

Time required: ~50min
-Peel and dice the potatoes (fairly small), boil until soft.
-Mash the diced potatoes when soft, adding margarine and soy milk in small quantities until desired consistency is reached.
-Heat some oil in a pan, fry the seitan steaks on both sides, about 5-8min each side or until nicely browned.
-Add black pepper from grinder to taste to both sides of the seitan steaks towards the end.
-Chop the cauliflower into chunks.
-On a separate pan or on the side of the previous pan, heat some oil and fry the cauliflower chunks in curry powder until nice and brown.

Another hearty meal! Long ago as a kid, when I was a meat eater, I liked peppered steaks — not so much because of meat, but because of the pepper! The peppered seitan steaks take care of that childhood memory, except that they’re tastier and certainly healthier. The consistency turned out very nice and chewy, but not gummy. I used quite a lot of pepper for these, so I couldn’t quite tell how the seitan was until I tried some of it from the same batch without the pepper; I guess that this would be a good dish even if your seitan turns out to be a bit flavourless. I made some extra steaks as well, some of which were eaten as burgers on homemade molasses-oatmeal-carrot rolls with mustard.

Conference: Nominalism: A Reassessment, Geneva

21 Mar
March 21, 2012

Make a note of this major conference coming up in Geneva next September. There have been some complaints about the lack of women in the list of invited speakers, but there are certainly some excellent philosophers on that list, including Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra, Fraser MacBride, Philip Goff, and a colleague of mine from Finland (although from a different department), Markku Keinänen.


eidos, the Center in Metaphysics of the University of Geneva, and CUSO (Conférence Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale) are pleased to announce the conference “Nominalism: A Reassessment”. The conference will focus on nominalism about properties rather than nominalism about numbers, propositions or abstract objects in general.

Dates: September 17-19, 2012

Venue: University of Geneva, Switzerland

Nominalism about properties is a traditional view according to which all existing entities are particulars. Specifically, nominalism rejects universals or properties in general. The conference aims to address issues in the history of nominalism, the problems and objections faced by different versions of nominalism, whether historical or contemporary, the relations between different varieties of nominalism, and any other philosophical issues about nominalism.


Paolo Crivelli (University of Geneva)

Richard Glauser (University of Neuchâtel)

Philip Goff (University of Liverpool)

Markku Keinänen (University of Turku)

Fraser MacBride (University of Cambridge)

John Marenbon (University of Cambridge)

Joseph Melia (Oxford University)

Claude Panaccio (UQAM)

Alexander Paseau (Oxford University)

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (Oxford University)

For further information, please contact or visit the website at eidos.

Organising Committee

Ghislain Guigon (University of Geneva)

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra (Oxford University)

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