Arctic vortex

An “arctic vortex” has hit the Boston area. It’s windy and cold. I was talking to someone much younger, who found out I just moved to Massachusetts from California. They said, “It got down to 11 degrees last night. Must be a big change for you, huh?”

This isn’t cold,” I said. “I grew up in Massachusetts. Back in 1980, my first full-time job was working in a lumberyard. On Christmas Day, it didn’t get above zero. Now that’s cold.”

“Wow,” said the young person out loud. Inside, they were probably thinking: Old people and their stories, always got make it worse back then than it is now.

“Yeah,” I said, grinning. “Now that I’m an old guy, I get to say things like, ‘You young whippersnappers don’t know how good you got it.'” Inside, I was thinking: Summers are now much much hotter than they ever used to be, you young people have got it worse than we did. But I didn’t say it out loud.

The younger person just laughed at what I said. We parted on good terms.

How to make congee in a rice cooker

Congee (rice porridge) is my go-to food when I’m ill. But because I’m feeling ill, I didn’t want to make congee the traditional way, cooking it on the stove and stirring it by hand for hours. I wanted to make congee in a rice cooker.

All the recipes I found online used the wrong proportion of rice to water. Typically, congee is made with 1 part rice to ten parts water. But the rice-cooker congee recipes I saw gave proportions more like 1 to 4 or 1 to 5. That doesn’t really make congee, it just makes sloppy rice.

So here’s what I did:

For a one-quart rice cooker, start with half a cup of rice.

Wash the rice to remove as much rice starch as possible. Pour some water in, and use your fingers to massage the rice until the water turns cloudy. Dump out the cloudy water. Repeat until the water runs clear, about 6-9 changes of water. (If you don’t wash the rice, you’ll wind up with a glutinous mass, which is not congee.)

After the rice is washed, add a cup and a half of water. (I know this is only a 1 to 3 proportion, but wait!) Turn the rice cooker on.

When the rice cooker shuts off, leave it on the “warming” setting. Boil a cup and a half of water, and add it to the rice cooker. Stir well. You’re now at a 1 to 6 proportion.

After an hour on the “warming” setting, the rice should absorb a lot more water, and the mix will now be fairly stiff. Boil another cup of water, and add it to the rice cooker. Stir well. That’s a 1 to 8 ratio, which seems to be about right for my rice cooker. Yours may vary, and you can add a little more water if you prefer a thinner consistency. Be careful, though. When I make congee in a rice cooker, it seems to require less water.

A rice cooker with congee in it.
Here’s my rice cooker, showing the consistency of my congee.

Radio silence

Aside from the weekly videos, I haven’t had much time for blogging recently. Looks like we’ll be starting a few in-person classes again in our congregation. Making that happen safely is a time-consuming process. Which means not much time for anything else.

Dealing with the pandemic is a time-consuming process….

Notable year-end quote

“Black critics have pointed out some evangelicals use abortion as a way to recuse themselves from the movement for Black lives and the injustices that disproportionately harm Black people. The claim of banning abortion often masks a commitment to white power. I’m wondering how that’s going to work in the future.”

— Andre Henry, program manager, Racial Justice Institute at Christians for Social Action; from Religion News Service, “What to expect on the religious scene in 2021: Experts cast their sights on the year ahead.”

Please note that Henry does not say that banning abortion always masks a commitment to white power. Nevertheless, this is still a very useful insight.


A significant part of our congregation’s outreach to kids during the pandemic has been to send monthly packets, via U.S. mail, with word search puzzles, other puzzles, coloring pages, and mazes. Sometimes there’s a little learning in these packets, but mostly they’re a form of support and ministry to parents and kids: kids get mail addressed to them, which they love; kids get an activity that doesn’t require more screen time; and parents get a few extra minutes of free time while the kids are working on the puzzles and mazes. And it shows that our congregation remembers the kids, and cares about them, even though we can’t see them.

It’s also fun for me, since I love making puzzles. Problem is, when I get into puzzle-making mode, sometimes I make puzzles that aren’t suitable for kids. Like the one below, which is derived from the old Boggle game — and rather than waste this puzzle, I’m inflicting it on you by posting it on this blog:

Find six words that begin with the letter “c” and end with “ate.” To make words, you can join letters going up, down, sideways, or diagonally; but each letter in the puzzle grid can only be used once in a given word.

Update: Carol posted this to Facebook, and both Clarissa and Deb found another word. So now you have to find eight….


We Californians always worry about The Big One, the next big earthquake.

Apparently what we should really worry about is ARkstorms. These storms come along every couple of centuries. During the last ARkstorm, in the winter of 1861-1862, it rained for 43 days straight, and the subsequent flooding turned California’s Central Valley into an inland sea 300 miles long. If such a storm happened today, some scientists estimate that it would cause three times the amount of death and destruction of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

Just wanted to give you something else to worry about….

Bertrand Russell on humanism

“I should not have any inclination to call myself a humanist, as I think, on the whole, that the non-human part of the cosmos is much more interesting and satisfactory than the human part.”

As quote in Phillip Hewett, Unitarians in Canada, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Canadian Unitarian Council, 1995), p. 234.

One organism of the non-human cosmos: lichen, probably Xanthoparmelia spp.


“There is a fine old story,” writes Carl Jung, “about a student who came to a rabbi and said, ‘In the olden days there were those who saw the face of God. Why don’t they any more?’ The rabbi replied, ‘Because nowadays no one can stoop so low.’…” [Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “Retrospect”]

I suspect most Unitarian Universalists today would not even be able to stoop so low as to ask the question….

The problem with free will

“Free will exists to an extent for the individual, but disappears in the group.” — Spider Robinson, Off the Wall at Callahan’s (Tor Books, 1994), courtesy of.

Given that Unitarian Universalists tend to be obsessed with free will: assuming this statement is true, it would explain a lot about the dissatisfaction many Unitarian Universalists have with Unitarian Universalism.

(For the record, my sense is that free will is a cultural artifact of Western Christianity, not a valid way of thinking about how human beings interact with the world.)