The Philosophy of Pasta Sauce

Pasta Sauce

A philosophically inclined friend of mine recently posited a tongue in cheek question about her batch of pasta sauce and her family’s disinterest in eating said treat. Is it delicious if no one eats it? While frivolous and fun, it is also an interesting question from a philosophical standpoint and, because I am unable or unwilling to resist the temptation to dive into such a feast, I shall attempt to examine it.

It is obviously a twist on the old if a tree falls in the forest question but there is an important difference. When a tree falls in the forest there is a sound save and this is a measurable phenomenon. Even if no one is there to hear the noise, it exists on a physical realm. Now, certainly pasta sauce exists in a physical way and taste buds in our mouths react to those flavors. But the idea of delicious is a construct, it does not exist physically but metaphysically.

Deliciousness itself is a subjective idea, its nature as a construct defines it as such. I find certain whiskeys quite delicious while others describe the taste of the same beverage in less favorable terms. If no one eats the pasta sauce then it cannot be delicious nor can it be vile. Yet, the pasta sauce is clearly made up of physical things that have flavors. If we compare those flavors with others that people have described as delicious, then it is certainly fair to suggest that Ellen’s pasta sauce most certainly is delicious despite it not having been tasted by her ungrateful family.

Much like Schrodinger’s cat, the pasta sauce appears to be in a state of quantum superposition. I know this will appeal to my friend whose dissertation is entitled, Mental Disorder in a Biomedical Age: Problems with Symptoms, Perils of Reduction. Yes, I know I’m a cyberstalker. Before she married herself off to a great fellow, before she gave birth to a pair of lovely children, and before she prepared her batch of pasta sauce, I was crushing on her at the gym. That is neither here nor there and we must return to the topic at hand.

Is the pasta sauce delicious? I think I’ve shown, with some logical consistency, that it is not delicious at all and it is quite delicious at the same time. I suspect you will find this conclusion as unsatisfying as a bowl of pasta, dripping with delightful sauce, of which you are not allowed to partake. Philosophy can be that way.

Take care and attempt to eat the pasta we call life with as much gusto as you can manage.

Tom Liberman

Planetary Economics 102 with Professor Blortstein

Planetary Economics

“Welcome to Planetary Economics 102,” said the squat figure sitting in a comfortable chair and wearing starched blue shirt that matched his azure gills nicely. “I’m professor Blortstein.” He stared at a halo of images that floated around him and waved a long appendage which caused one of them to glow a bright green.

“Yuvurl,” he said with a glance at the image which had a long and flexible neck topped by a large head and bulbous eyes. “Last semester we discussed planetary economics leading to the demise of a commodity-based currency. Please give us a recap.”

“Improved medical technology increases live birth rates and extends life in general. This obviously results in a large increase in total population. This growth cannot be matched by new discoveries of the commodity to which the currency is tied.”

“Which results in …,” said Blortstein with another wave of his appendage causing a second image, this of a young woman with bright purple skin, a narrow head, two green eyes, and an unusually large number of metallic pieces attached to her face. “Miss Mie?”

“The total economic outlay the world requires is limited by the supply of the commodity and thus growth is restricted and becomes increasingly so as populations increase. One nation, generally the most populous, begins to distribute loans not backed by the commodity.”

“Very good,” said Blortstein. “Now, what happens next?”

Mie continued with a flick of her long hair, “The nations that original enforced the commodity-based economy, generally those that emerged victorious in some particular virulent and global conflict, are pressured into withdrawing the system.”

“What causes this pressure?” said Blortstein with a wave which caused yet another image to glow green.

That student, a golden creature with a long and narrow neck and a mouth capped by a narrow and sharp beak continued, “The pressure comes in several fashions. In one case the leaders of the country who are trying to enforce the commodity-based currency realize they are falling behind because they cannot proceed with enterprise projects. Another factor is many of the large business entities within that country see the enormous profits to be had and begin investing large sums in the aforementioned country.”

“Excellent,” said Blortstein with a nod of his head. “So, now we get to the subject of this semester’s class of Planetary Economics. What happens next?” Another wave of his hand and yet another student chosen to speak.

A round-faced fellow with many freckles on his pale skin took up the conversation, “The leaders of the various countries show sensible restraint and refuse to excessively commit the nation’s treasury to a fiat currency system and growth continues but at a sustainable pace.”

The class erupted in laughter.

“Very good, Mr. Lebushi. Very good. Now, Miss Mei, do you have an alternate conjecture?

“As a crisis arises …,” she started.

“A real crisis?” asked Blortstein.

The girl smiled and shook her head with a clink-clank of her adornments. “I suppose it might be a real crisis but more like a perceived crisis or even a manufactured crisis designed to enrich the friends and backers of the leaders of the country. In any case, the nature of the crisis little matters, what is important is that the nations of the world start an inevitable splurge of spending.”

Blortstein nodded his head and smiled, “This spending quickly outpaces the economic wealth of first one nation then the next and eventually the entire system of planetary economics. The new system relies on loaned money; that is to say, money promised to be repaid but not actually in existence. Enterprise projects proceed apace, loans to the general population for shelter, mobility, and other basic needs continue as well. Debt piles up in a manner that cannot possibly be repaid.”

There was silence in the class for a moment as they waited for the professor to proceed.

“Now,” continued Blortstein. “We come to the subject of this semester’s class. What happens next? Some worlds are able navigate this treacherous period and emerge with an economy based on abundance and join the galactic community. Others are not as fortunate.”

Tom Liberman

Anand and Kramnik or Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Anand and Kramnik

In the chess world, which I enjoy although about which I’m aware my loyal fans are somewhat less enthusiastic, there is an interesting dichotomy in the behavior of two former world champions, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. Anand is still playing top level chess while Kramnik decided to give up competitive chess. Whose decision is right and whose is wrong?

It is certain one must be a good decision while the other is bad because they are in opposition to each other. Is it proper to continue to play chess competitively when you were once world champion but have little or no chance of once against ascending those dizzying heights? Kramnik is five years younger than Anand but decided he’d had enough, while Anand is still playing and doing extremely well at top-level events.

Surely, we must decide one of the two is correct while the other made a terrible mistake. That is our job, after all. It is all but impossible that both adults are capable of making the best decision about their own life and that I shouldn’t be telling them how to go about living.

It’s impossible that Anand enjoys playing chess and feels he is a role-model for the many young Indian players who are making their presence known with some great chess. Therefore, the best decision for him was to keep playing the game he loves. No, I must inform him that his once greatness is gone and now, he must retire to save his dignity.

It is likewise quite clear that Kramnik, younger than Anand, still has some great chess in him. That just because he doesn’t enjoy playing as much and wants to pursue other avenues in his life is no reason to quit so young. I am just the person to tell him how to go about leading his life.

It’s impossible for mentally capable adults to make better decisions about their life than I can make for them. Frankly, I think the governments of India and Russia should interject themselves into this matter and pass a law forcing Anand to quit and Kramnik to return to the game. Or, wait, forcing them both to quit, or no, forcing them both to keep playing. Or something. We need government oversight; we need other people telling us how to lead our lives. Yes! I’m outraged at one of them, I’m not sure which, but there is wrongness here and it must be addressed! Who better to do it than me? Than the government?

Tom Liberman

An Ode to Shower Eight

Shower EightFarewell, Shower Eight. I will miss you. For the last year and half, since my retirement, I’ve been going to the gym in the morning. This means I shower at the gym after my workout six days a week. There are about a dozen showers available but only one stole my heart: Shower Eight. Sadly, my gym is moving to a new location starting Monday and today was my last shower at the current site.

Shower Eight has many excellent qualities and I will miss it. The water pressure is just right. The temperature is steady. The handle is firm and does not slip. The drain works perfectly and water doesn’t pool at my feet, an issue because I shave in the shower and tend to be in there for a while.

Oh, Shower Eight, I will miss you. Nothing makes me appreciate the glories of Shower Eight more than those few times one of my fellow Wellbridgedonians is using the shower and I am forced to use another. Shower Four with its skin peeling water pressure I do not like you. Shower Six with temperature that goes from freezing cold, to scalding hot, to a pleasant in between without notice and with unfortunate frequency, you do not capture my affection. Shower Twelve has many fine qualities. Good temperature, nice pressure, but your handle is loose and, in my luxuriating, I can sometimes bump into it, thus spinning it forty-five degrees to a temperature that is unsafe for human bathing.

It is you, Shower Eight, that I will miss the most. You cannot return my affection, not having a brain and all. It won’t miss me. It doesn’t smile with joy in the morning when I approach in the same way I do when I see it is empty and ready to plunge me into watery delight.

Oh, I’m not saying things were perfect. There was that week it sprang a leak on the shower head and sprayed me down with icy water before it had a chance to warm up, but soon enough that was fixed. I admit there was a time or two when the drain wasn’t functioning with its usual alacrity but I blame some of my more ursine companions at the gym for this problem, I don’t blame you, Shower Eight. Once the handle was rather loose but that problem was also quickly resolved. I choose to forget that horrible day when the shampoo dispenser was broken and I was forced to wander, wet and bare, to another stall to scoop up a handful of the necessary substance.

Still, there are bumps in all relationships and Shower Eight had fewer than most. I forgive.

Oh, Shower Eight, I shall miss you. I have no illusions about the fate of my friend. The building is to be torn down, Shower Eight will not be moved in total to the new location. I will have to find a new friend, a new watery companion. I can only hope I find one as good as you.

Farewell, old friend, farewell.

Tom Liberman

Birthday Thoughts

birthdayThe big ball of rock and mud and has once again circled that giant ball of gas signifying the recurrence of my birthday.

I wish that somehow the 51st time around had given me great insight into the nature of the world but alas, I am still rather mystified by it all. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I have wonderful friends, a great family, a few female friends who make me happy, but I have no great insights into life.

I write my books which don’t sell. I drink gin, scotch, and bourbon with a variety of mixers. I do my job as competently as possible. I root for the Cardinals, Rams, Blues, and Tigers. I work out as diligently as I can. I eat good food. I smile.

This is my life.

Is there more? Certainly. Maybe I’ll figure it out in fifty-one more. Probably not.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

My Portfolio is a Democrat

Financial PortfolioI’m a Libertarian. I vote for all Independent candidates the only exception being elections in which there is a but a single person running. I think it’s vitally important for the future of our country that voters eschew the two-party system and cast their ballot for officials who are not beholden to parties but instead to philosophic ideas and to the realities of the world.

That being said I cannot help but watch as my portfolio once again rises and sends my net worth higher and higher. The last time this happened was when President Clinton was in office.

The reason I bring this up is because there is a fairly strong connection with business and Republicans. In the eyes of most voters Republicans are “business friendly” while Democrats are not. The reality is somewhere in between but my portfolio pays little attention to anything other than growth.

My portfolio doesn’t care about policies, it doesn’t care about regulations, it pays no heed to the D or R before a candidate’s name. It simply reports back in percent growth each year and it is madly in love with President Obama. It wants to kill former President Bush.

My brain wants to look at nuances and take into account the myriad of other factors that weigh in on economic growth. My portfolio cares not for such things. It says vote for Obama. Vote for Clinton (Bill).

While I was most certainly alive during the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan Presidencies my portfolio was largely yet to be born. It’s alive now and it won’t shut up. It tells me no more of the policies of President Bush and the Republican. It whispers to me in my sleep. It says it wants to grow and there is a part of me, the greedy money-grubbing part, that nods its head and tells the other parts to listen to the portfolio.

I find it interesting because this advice runs against the common dialog. I’m curious, my great gaggle of readers. When you go into your study and have a quiet talk with your portfolio, what does it say?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Boxers or Briefs – Abercrombie Dress Code

briefsThere’s a not so interesting story in the news today that brings up a much more interesting question about dress-codes.

Basically, a private pilot for the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch claims he was fired in an age-discrimination case. That’s the boring part, not that the pilot shouldn’t have his day in court. What’s interesting is the behavior and dress-code stipulated by Abercrombie CEO Michael Jeffries for flight attendants is 40-pages long and states what sort of underwear that male attendants could wear, boxer-briefs only.

It’s an interesting question for me because I have no problem with dress-codes or even behavior codes for employees. If you work for a company then they should be allowed to decide how you appear as a representative of that business. When I contracted at Anheuser-Busch they strongly recommended having a beer with your dinner when out with clients and that beer should be company product. At Hooters or Fridays or just about any service industry there are uniform requirements. Many places even require that tattoos be covered.

But, underwear? This is something that should never been seen by anyone at work. I think I’d be a little put off if my company told me what sort of underwear I could wear. I completely understand the argument that if I don’t want to wear that particular sort of underwear I shouldn’t take the job. But, what if they told me I had to wear contact lenses instead of glasses? Or I had to dye my hair blonde? Is there a limit to what an employer can demand as far as personal appearance? Particularly if said requirement is not visible?

It’s not even what’s at question in the lawsuit so I’m not sure there is a point to my thoughts today. I’m just sort of curious what people think.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Hammer of Fire
Upcoming Release: The Sword of Water