Archive for December, 2005

so, I made some yummy soup today. I love soup in the winter! I also love to experiment in the kitchen, and disasters are getting much less frequent. This recipe worked really well, so I wrote it down and thought I’d share. I know, two recipes in a week… but hey, at least I’m willing to share them! one of my friends’ mother-in-law won’t share her chocolate chip cookie recipe – but she’ll make you batter. Ridiculous, I say!Here you go – it’s so easy and fast. Even my kitty liked it!

Curried Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

This soup has it all – lots of beta-carotene, a little sweetness, and a bit of spice!


  • 4-5 sweet potatoes
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 garlic buds
  • 1 TBSP ginger root
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 2 TSP generic curry powder
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)


  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and boil until soft.
  2. Cut the squash in half, and boil in a separate pot until flesh is soft. (This step can be done in the microwave: in a microwave-safe bowl, place about 1 cup of water and the squash. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for approximately 5 minutes.)
  3. Chop onion into tiny bits. With about ½ TBSP of cooking oil, sauté on medium-low heat until soft and transparent – do not brown. Stir in pressed garlic when onions are halfway finished.
  4. When squash is finished cooking, scrape the flesh from the peel, and place one can of coconut milk, half the applesauce and the flesh into a blender. Puree until smooth. Place in a large saucepan.
  5. When sweet potatoes are finished cooking, place them in a bowl and mash slightly. Transfer to the blender with the other can of coconut milk and the rest of the applesauce. Puree until smooth. Place in the saucepan with the squash mixture.
  6. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, adding honey, salt, pepper and curry powder. Using garlic press, squeeze the juice of the ginger into the mixture. Place the rest of the ginger in the mixture for extra flavour.
  7. Cook until mixture is smooth and well-blended.
  8. ENJOY!

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happy holidays or merry christmas?the debate goes on, louder and stronger than ever. this year, in my town, christians had their panties in a twist because the tree we send to Boston every year for their commons (this is a tradition started several years ago to thank Bostonians for the help they provided during the Halifax Explosion of December 1917) was going to be called a "holiday tree" rather than a "christmas tree" to be inclusive of Boston's multicultural communities. People had enough humbuggery in their veins to say we should stop sending our trees if they aren't going to call them christmas trees! the guy who donated the tree even said he would rather they feed the tree to a wood chipper than have it called a "holiday tree"!

christians are all pissed off that all the "immigrants" to north america want to change "our" holiday season to include "their" weird traditions. the jews have their hannukah, the muslims have their ramadan, the black folks have kwanzaa – whatever the heck that is…. soon we'll be celebrating rastafarian holidays and native holidays, they say. oh, wait a second… natives? weren't they here BEFORE "us"? doesn't that make us "immigrants" too? well, that's beside the point. this is a christian country, and it's christmas, for christ sake – let us call it christmas!

so, problems with this argument from the whining christians?

well, holiday is non-specific, non-denominational, and all-inclusive for those who do celebrate religious traditions at this time of year. who the hell does it hurt to say "happy holidays", to be inclusive of everyone? also, saying "happy holidays" doesn't mean you suddenly aren't celebrating christmas and you are celebrating hannukah or participating in ramadan in some sneaky way without even knowing it. saying "happy holidays" doesn't make you less christian, or detract from the "sacredness" of your traditions! what the hell are you so threatened and insecure about?

christians dominate north american culture, this is true. however, this has gone on long enough! Two of our national holidays in Canada are christian – good Friday and christmas – and none reflect the religions of any other group. in Canada, we embrace cultural diversity in ways our US neighbours do not – cultural mosaic rather than melting pot, right? so why should it be so hard for us to say "happy holidays"!

a couple of years ago, I was making out holiday cards for my favourite clients. I was careful to choose ones that did not denote any particular religion, but featured wintery scenes and a message like "celebrate the joys of the holiday season". but, when I filled one of them out, I automatically wrote "Merry Christmas!" and I realized it when I was handing it to the client it was intended for – a Jewish lady! I said to her, "I hope you're not offended, but I think I wrote Merry Christmas in your card," to which she replied, "oh that's alright, Happy Hannukah to you! and Merry Christmas too!" Another of my clients wished me both a Merry Christmas and a Happy Ramadan that year. Neither were offended that I celebrate christmas (loosely, meaning I exchange gifts with my friends and family, not meaning I celebrate the birth of christ the saviour – I am an atheist after all), and both expressed to me the sentiments of their own celebrations. It was nice – I felt like they were extending some of the benevolence of their special traditions to me. I felt included, in a small way.

I think that's the point. By saying "merry christmas", we are not necessarily offending people – although in some cases we are. more importantly, we are excluding them, and not acknowledging their own beautiful and special traditions. we are making them invisible. that's not exactly a nice feeling. and that is why I wish people "happy holidays".

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ok, that title might possibly have been in poor taste. I'm referring of course to the recent Face Transplant that took place in Lyon. I had a lecture about this type of medical intervention earlier this year in one of my bioethics classes, by one of the profs in the department here at Dal who was doing quite a bit of research into the possible ramifications of such a surgery, mostly surrounding personal identity. It was a very interesting lecture, and since the first transplant has now taken place, there is much discussion about it all. the article linked above provided a decent analysis of the issues.One of the key issues that has been raised is the psychological state of the recipient, who had the surgery because she was disfigured after a dog mauling incident. She admitted in a press conference to having attempted suicide before she was able to receive the surgery. The question is, whether she should have been considered a good candidate in light of her mental health status, and that perhaps the surgical team was less than ethical in choosing their candidate in order to win the race to be the first to perform such a medical intervention. My initial thought is that it is understandable that this woman had psychological trouble after the lower part of her face was torn off by a manic dog, and it is possible that without the surgery, she would not be able to make a pscyhological recovery.

Another key issue has to do with personal identity, and how a patient might understand him/herself after such a surgery – especially a full-face transplantation (the one done in Lyon was a partial-face transplant). What would it be like to wake up in the mirror and have a new face – not jsut a new one, but one that recently belonged to someone else? Of course, candidates for this surgery may have already gone through a drastic revision in personal identity, as the patient in Lyon had, from a disfiguring accident. But what if you had lived all your life with one type of face – an unusual face, perhaps due to a congential defect? What would it be like to have an unusual face, and then suddenly have one that is entirely different? Would a donor, who agrees to donate their tissue, really agree to donating their face – which is so tied to their personal identity? I am an organ donor, but I would have to give great thought to whether I would want to donate my FACE.

This type of case is most similar to hand transplantation – also first done in France, if memory serves me. There have been reports of patients rejecting their new hand because it didn't feel right, or look right, to them after all – and undergoing amputation to have the new hand removed. What if this happened with a face transplant, where identity is so closely knit together with facial appearance? It's not like they could walk around without a face – they would need another transplant in this case. Do we keep trying until they get one they are happy with?

so, what do you guys think?

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I'm slowly finishing up my courses for the term. Two are totally completed – just waiting on marks at this point. I have written all the exams that are required of me, so now I just have three papers due for next Monday – one for Rationalists, one for Philosophy of Language, and one for Philosophy of Mind. I haven't really started any of them. But that's ok, because I can do it! (many thanks to Angel for the pep talks! you're the best!) If they turn out ok, I'll excerpt some of them in a series of posts.In other news, I have most of my classes all worked out for next term! I'm not sure if I announced it properly here, but I've switched to a Combined Honours Degree in Philosophy and Gender and Women's Studies. I'm getting excited about some of them. So far, I'm taking Philosophy of Religion, Topics in Feminist Philosophy, Feminist Perspectives in Anthropology and Sociology, and Freedom, Action and Responsibility (kind of hard to explain… but it fit my timetable). I'm wait listed for two Political Science classes – Politics of Health Care, and Philosophical Issues of Human Rights. I'm toying with the idea of doing a six-course load next term. We'll see – I do have some catching up to do if I'm going to graduate in 2007. Degree planning is kind of fun in a way, but also a pain in the ass – who knows what might come up to prevent me from taking the courses I want to take/need to take?

Anyway, I'm almost done this term, and I couldn't be more excited. Now, if only I could stop procrastinating on those papers I don't want to write… 🙂

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So, some of you might have noticed a recent discussion in the comments on my last post. I visit another site from time to time to try and get inspired about philosophy of language (which I admit is much more stimulating there than in my actual class… sad but true). The site is: The Language Guy, and the author is a specialist in the subject. One recent discussion there involved the sexist use of language. It drew a lot of comments, including a couple from me, and admittedly contentious stance on oppression was challenged. I outlined my view briefly for a blogger who stopped over to ask me directly about it, but I thought it would be best to post an excerpt of a recent paper I wrote on the subject. The paper was a reaction to a specific article I had to read for the course, but it is fairly well-outlined in the paper. Here it is:


This paper is a critical analysis of the concept of racism described by Kwame Anthony Appiah in his work “Racisms”, using the framework of oppression as described by Marilyn Frye in her piece “Oppression”. I will first describe the positions of both authors, then move into a critique of one of Appiah’s claims that I find particularly contentious: the claim that racial solidarity is a form of racism.

In his work entitled “Racisms”, Kwame Anthony Appiah[1] claims that what lies at the heart of racism is a doctrine he calls racialism, and that racialism false, thereby making all forms of racism morally erroneous. Appiah describes racialism as the belief that “there are heritable characteristics, possessed by members of our species, that allow us to divide them into a small set of races, in such a way that all the members of these races share certain traits and tendencies with each other that they do not share with members of any other race” (pg 199). These traits constitute a racial essence (pg 199) that is seen by racists as the basis for making moral judgements regarding members of racial categories.

Appiah goes on to describe two forms of racism based on the doctrine of racialism. Extrinsic racism is the belief that racial essence entails certain morally relevant characteristics, and that these characteristics warrant differential treatment of members of racial groups. Opposing evidence in the form of positive moral characteristics belonging to members of racial groups could change the minds of extrinsic racists, but a continuation of extrinsic racism points to a “cognitive incapacity” (pg 200). Intrinsic racism is the belief that each race has a different moral status, regardless of positive moral characteristics exhibited by members of “inferior” racial groups. For an intrinsic racist, “the bare fact of being of the same race is reason for preferring one person to another” (pg 200). Intrinsic racists maintain their views in spite of evidence to the contrary, no matter how extensive. Appiah claims that racialism is itself false, and therefore anything built on its foundation is also false.

My conception of racism is informed by the work of Marilyn Frye in her piece entitled “Oppression”[2]. Frye describes oppression as a systematic social structure the purpose of which is the subjugation of various groups of people in relation to a dominant group. She says: “The experience of oppressed people is that the living of one’s life is confined and shaped by forces and barriers which are not accidental or occasional and hence avoidable, but are systematically related to each other in such a way as to catch one between and among them and restrict or penalize motion in any direction” (pg 4).

Frye uses the very instructive analogy of a birdcage to describe oppression. An examination of a birdcage one wire at a time might not show how that one wire is restrictive or harmful; it seems as though it would be easy for the bird to fly around that one barrier to freedom. However, when you step back and view the whole cage, “it is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon” (pg 5). On this view, oppression is not one specific barrier, but a series of interlocking barriers that restrict the movement of members of oppressed groups so they are constantly being trapped by “double-binds”, where options are limited and oppressed people are subject to penalties no matter which way they move.

In his article, Appiah claims that racial solidarity is a form of intrinsic racism based on racialism, and is therefore morally wrong. I find this claim to be contentious. Firstly, the examples Appiah uses to support this claim are Pan-Africanism and Zionism. Both of these examples are socio-political movements that are responses to a history of persecution and racism experienced by these specific groups (people of African descent in the case of Pan-Africanism, and Jewish people in the case of Zionism). Neither of these movements is necessarily based on the belief that the group in question is morally superior to any other group, as would be the case in intrinsic racism; these movements are based on specific contexts of struggle against systematic oppression.

Appiah’s definition of racism is very different from Frye’s. For Appiah, racism simply is prejudice on the basis of racial difference. For Frye, racism is a form of oppression, which is a systematic social structure of interlocking barriers that serve to restrict the social movement of groups. Looking at the broad claim Appiah is making – namely, that marginalized groups articulate racism through expressions of solidarity – through the lens of Frye’s account of oppression, Appiah’s view is flawed. Frye’s oppression does not allow room for those who are marginalized to oppress their oppressors. For Frye, those who are bound by oppression simply do not have the power to inflict oppression on those who are oppressing them. The barriers that hold oppressed people in place are the same barriers that systematically support the oppressors.

What then are we to make of Appiah’s claim? While his examples are unconvincing, we can imagine there exist groups of traditionally oppressed people who fit the description of intrinsic racists. Do we call this racism? I do not think we can call this racism, because it is not harmful to the traditional oppressor group as a group in the way racism is harmful to traditionally oppressed groups. It may be harmful to an individual member, or several members, of the oppressor group, but overall, there is no system of subjugation in place that would bring harm to all members of the oppressor group by the oppressed group. I would call this a case of racial prejudice, but not of racism. Perhaps some might say that I am splitting hairs, but I believe the distinction is an important one.

Other related questions are more complex in my view. What about situations in which the traditional oppressor group is the physical, numerical minority – could we then say that the majority, who is the traditionally oppressed group, can exhibit racist behaviour toward the traditional oppressor group? Also, is it possible for one oppressed group to oppress another, since all oppressed groups do not share the same restrictions and barriers?

To discover answers to questions such as these under Frye’s framework of oppression, Frye recommends looking “at the barrier or force and answer[ing] certain questions about it. Who constructs and maintains it? Whose interests are served by its existence? Is it part of a structure which tends to confine, reduce and immobilize some group? Is the individual a member of the confined group?” (pg 14) In the cases portrayed by the above questions, there are likely to be contextual issues at play that require examination; a simple answer is not appropriate considering historical factors such as colonialism, slavery, or the Holocaust.

In conclusion, I believe Appiah’s claim that racially oppressed groups commit intrinsic racism through expressions of solidarity to be false, because this claim fails to account for both contextual issues experienced by oppressed groups and the fact that oppression is a form of systematic social constructs that bind those oppressed by them and support those who are the oppressors. This cannot be the final word on questions of whether oppressed groups can ever become oppressors, however; context must always be considered, which is exactly why I disagree with Appiah on the subject of racial solidarity.


1. Appiah, Kwame Anthony (1990). “Racisms”, in C. Koggel (Ed.), Moral Issues in Global Perspective (pp. 199-208). Toronto: Broadview Press.

2. Frye, Marilyn (1983). “Oppression”. The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory (pp 1-16). Trumansburg: The Crossing Press, 1983.

* please note: this paper may not be used in any form without the express permission of the author *

Comments? let me know… sorry I couldn’t provide a link to Appiah’s article online, couldn’t find one. Frye’s article is linked above.

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baking break

well, this morning, I took a break from my schoolwork – which is coming along pretty well, I must say; I feel pretty well prepared for both exams tomorrow, although I will need to review tonight of course, and one of my four papers is completed, and today I'll be making good headway with another one, so things are shaping up. My break this morning consisted of a Sudoku puzzle, a crossword puzzle, some yoghurt, a cuddle with one of my kitties, and one of my most favourite activites – baking. This morning, I took a look around, and found some bananas that were brown enough that I won't eat them anymore – I like 'em pretty green to just eat, and nice ripened yellow for my breakfast smoothie, but these were even beyond that point. So, I decided to make a batch of Banana Bread. It's baking right now.I think this is my most favourite Banana Bread recipe, so I think I'll share it with you. It's a really nice, light bread, with still enough fat to make it yummy! I got this recipe from one of my former co-workers. She is a baker and cook extraordinaire!

So here you go, try it out – you won't be disappointed. By the way, whenever I bake I use organic flour and fat-free or low-fat ingredients, and often I'll use Splenda instead of sugar. Splenda can be substituted for sugar measure for measure in most recipes without affecting the consistancy or rising factor. Good luck, and enjoy!


This is a deliciously light and moist banana bread, perfect for any occasion!


  • ½ cup butter (my best friend tried this recipe and substituted Canola Oil here and said it worked out fine)
  • 1 cup sugar (try it with Splenda!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 or 3)
  • ½ cup sour cream (if you don't have sour cream on hand, plain yoghurt will do the trick)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts/pecans/chocolate chips/dried cranberries etc. (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, then vanilla extract.
  3. Add the dry ingredients; mix.
  4. Add the mashed bananas and sour cream. If using optional ingredients, add those now.
  5. Bake for 1 hour – check after 45 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the centre. If the top is browning too much and the middle is still raw, lay some tin foil overtop with a hole cut in the centre. This will allow the cake to continue baking without burning the top.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. ENJOY!

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