Archive for January, 2013

Last week when I went to the Cirque du Soleil for the first time, I expected to be entertained. But I also expected the entertainment would come with reservations. The show would be too full of Las Vegas glitter for my taste, and any success would be despite a residual corniness that I would have to condescend to ignore.

Or so I half-expected. In practice, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

There are always experiences that are flawed yet defy criticism: King Lear, a soapstone sculpture I own, done in the Haida style, Alec Guinness’ performance in Smiley’s People, Dylan Thomas reading his poems, and Loreena McKennitt singing among them.

To these, I have to add Cirque du Soleil, whose organization and headlong pace overwhelmed me so completely that for two and a half hours, criticism was not only impossible, but irrelevant. For that time, I was a child, caught up in a sense of wonder that I never wanted to end.

The bare facts are that the show was Amaluna, a story loosely-based on The Tempest, , but with a female twist. At the time, I was vaguely aware that the story was about a young princess’ coming of age, as she moved from childish things and found a lover, but the story was the least of what held my attention – frankly, the story was as thin as filo pastry, and about as reliable for connecting the scenes together. Things happened so fast and so continuously in the show that each scene was self-contained, and the unfolding story only one more minor detail.

From the moment I passed into the general tent, I was aware of just how much a smooth-running machine Cirque du Soleil actually is. Everything from the placement of the concession stands and the souvenir shops to their selection of merchandise – popcorn to Toblerone and wine, T-shirts to Carnival masks – was designed to play on the sense of a circus, but, in keeping with the price of the tickets, a circus that was both expensive and in good taste.

The layout also boasted an unpressured efficiency, with entrances all around the perimeter of the theater, complete with ramps for wheelchairs and scooters. Inside, the theater was well-insulated against the January cold, and full of every theatrical device imaginable, including towers for acrobats, and a revolving stage with trap doors at its edges. Fifty feet up, almost hidden in darkness, was a catwalk that performers could descend from or ascend to. An oversized fish bowl dominated the stage, and ramps ran from each side that always seemed full of dancers or musicians.

The show began slowly, with performers wandering through the aisles. A lizard man, the princess’ childhood companion, appeared on stage and jumped into the crowd, stealing popcorn and showering the crowd with kernels, then leaping up to a platform to deluge them with a smirk on his face before running off into the crowd with the princess (no doubt on another adventure) A female clown waddled out and gave the obligatory warnings against smoking and taking pictures.

Then, suddenly, the show was under way, and so much was happening on stage that it was next to impossible to catch all the details in a single number, let alone in the whole show. All I can really say is that, if you can imagine a theatrical device that doesn’t involve animals, it was probably in the show. There were dancers, musicians, gymnasts, acrobats, unicyclists, clowns, and jugglers. Props included magnified glass, teeter-totters, trapezes, high-wires, flaming torches and water, all used at such a neck-breaking pace that it was hard to remember them all.

An intermission came and went, at the start of the second act, things grew quiet for a while, with a balancing act accompanied by only the barest hint of music. But the pace soon intensified, rising to a climax that – impossibly – was even wilder and more high-energy than the opening act, and at the end of it, those of us in the audience were slumped back in our seats, overwhelmed and breathless.

But only for a moment. The performers took their bows, which was a performance in itself, and everybody was clapping. Some time later, the audience staggered out into the sub-zero night, and somewhere halfway to their cars or the Skytrain station, realized that it was over, and they were as exhausted as though they had been part of the cast instead of the audience.

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“And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,
With smiling bastards lying to you, everywhere you go,
Turn to, and put forth all your strength of hand and heart and brain,
And like the Mary Ellen Carter rise again.”

– Stan Rogers, “The Mary Ellen Carter”

Ever since Aaron Swartz killed himself last week, people in computing seem unable to talk about anything else. Some talk about Swartz’s life or how he was harassed by the American legal system. Even more talk about when they felt suicidal, or give advice about how to deal with the possibly suicidal – all of which leaves me feeling rather left out, having long abandoned my own flirtations with suicide.

My deficiency is not due to any lack of existential angst. I mean, I repeatedly read the collected works of Byron, Keats, and Shelley in my teen years, so I know all about the romance of dying young. And it’s not that I’m a stranger to depression, or never known weeks when ending it all seemed the smartest career move. In fact, at the risk of sounding egocentric, I’ve probably known these things better than most people, and with better reason, although you’ll have to excuse me if I leave the details private.

Yet the fact remains that I never attempted suicide. Even at my lowest point, I never worked past a bleak and overwhelming despair to considering ways and means – even though I’ve been in situations where many others did kill themselves. Partly, I was lucky, but, looking back, I suspect that my habits and mental attitudes played the largest roles in keeping me going.

To start with, after the inevitable experimentation, I was never been a heavy drinker. Missing half the next day to feeling attenuated and cramped all over lost its appeal to me before I hit twenty. I enjoy a few drinks when I’m out, but months have sometimes gone by without me having any alcohol. With these habits, I was never likely to drink myself to a point of rashness where suicide seemed sensible or I took careless chances because of my depression.

Even more importantly, I’ve always been a regular and heavy exerciser. With daily doses of adrenalin and endorphins rushing through my veins, even the most intense depression ultimately didn’t have a chance – especially since one of my reactions to depression has always been to take long walks. In my worst state, those long walks were not enough to leave me with a jaunty walk and a smile, but they did dilute the depression to some degree. Moreover, if I walked long enough, I would collapse into long, dreamless sleeps, which are probably one of the best states I can hope for when depressed.

However, an even more important reason that I survived serious depression is my personal mythology. That mythology, born of the lessons that Robert the Bruce supposedly learned from a spider and hours of training to improve my running was that I was a person who endured and kept on.

Moreover, I had read large chunks of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. I knew all about the stages of the hero’s journey, including the descent into the underworld. Consequently, as bad as things have been on occasion, a part of me was always utterly convinced that eventually change would come if I waited.

Meanwhile, I told myself, I would endure. I might sing “The Mary Ellen Carter” over and over to myself, sometimes until I was too distracted to do anything else, but I would endure. I was, as I kept telling myself, simply that kind of person. After a few hundred thousand repetitions of such statements, I started to believe them with some small corner of mind, even while the rest was being overwhelmed.

But the strongest reason I survived was even simpler: sheer curiosity. Like any intellectual, a part of is always standing a step or two back, watching what I am doing and saying. This part of me is as addicted to the show around me as couch potatoes are to their favorite TV series – I don’t want to miss an episode.

While the main part of me has been busy shoring up my life and despairing at ever managing to do so, this watching part was noting how depression and helplessness felt, how my time sense and eating habits changed, and a thousand other things I had never before had the opportunity to experience first hand.

Had I ever attempted suicide, this watching part would have been furious. Committing suicide would have forced it to miss too many episodes. So, I didn’t, and kept struggling on because that was what my image of myself forced me to do, and I was convinced that – unlikely as it might seem at the time – my current state was only one episode and others were coming along. This reaction never leaves me, and when I actually get around to dying, I suspect that my final words will be some variation of, “Not yet!”

Perhaps I am a biological optimist, and I survived for no better reason than an accident of chemistry. However, that’s not what it felt like at the time. Rather, I think that, partly by accident and partly by choice, I evolved a useful set of coping mechanisms against the effects of depression. Those coping mechanisms didn’t always operate smoothly – in fact, they often felt like they were dragging me naked across a field of snakes and broken bottles – but they turned out to be stronger than any inclination to depression or suicide.

Almost certainly, they wouldn’t function for everybody. All of them were the result of a lifetime of habit before they were needed, and probably they couldn’t simply be assumed at will. The most that I can say is that they worked in my case, and are enough for me, at least, to be going on with.

“I am not looking for loose diamonds,
Nor pretty girls with crosses around their necks,
I don’t want for roses or water,
I’m not looking for God — and I just want to see what’s next.”

-Ray Wylie Hubbard, “The Messenger”

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I love argillite. Of all the media used by the First Nations artists of the Pacific Northwest, argillite has by far the most mystique and romance, as well as the greatest visual appeal.

Argillite is a black slate found only on Slatechuck Mountain on Haida Gwaii. Similar slates have been in a few other places around the world, but have slightly different chemical compositions that make them less suitable for carving (or so I’ve been told). Only members of the Haida nation are supposed to be allowed on the mountain, and families have unofficial quarries whose exact locations they try to keep secret.

Rumors persist of a logging road that makes access to the quarries easier, but, generally, artists either have to carry out the argillite they quarry on their backs down a narrow trail, or else buy what others chose to sell – usually at about five dollars a pound on Haida Gwaii, and as much as twenty dollars a pound in Vancouver. The tradition has been to keep argillite out of the hands of non-Haida, although a black market makes small amounts generally available to other artists, who generally turn it into pendants.

The history of argillite carving is equally romantic in its obscurity. The standard account is that argillite carving did not begin until 1820, and that the pipes that were among the first carvings known were never actually used. However, while European tools and interest in curios made the 19th century a Golden Age of argillite carving, it seems unlikely that such a sophisticated art form could emerge suddenly without at least a few centuries of tradition. Studies of early pipes show a residue that prove that some early pipes were definitely used, but, since heat can crack argillite, most likely it was a medium reserved for shamans and other ceremonial use before the nineteenth century.

But whatever the truth of the matter, argillite carvings became a major trade good in the 1800s. Unlike other traditional art, these carvings consisted of far more than family crests and the stories that families and title holders held the right to tell. Instead, the carvers of the time also depicted the animals, peoples, and plants of everyday life. Sometimes, they imitated the patterns of the china plates carried by American traders. Other times, they made miniatures of houses and canoes. At times, they depicted the Haida viewpoint of the European traders and immigrants, offering some of the few contemporary depictions of colonization from the perspective of the colonized.

Nineteenth century argillite was not completely naturalistic. For instance, a head is generally one-third the length of the body. However, much of it is painstakingly detailed, with muscles on arms and legs or the individual strands of a rope all clearly delineated in a way that the more traditional wood carving almost never is. During its development, argillite carving also developed its own stock poses, such as a shaman holding a rattle in his upraised right hand and a knife in his left.

Like other art forms, argillite carving suffered because of epidemics and Christianization. However, because it was a trade good, argillite carving never declined quite as much as more traditional forms. Probably, it helped, too, that Charles Edenshaw, one of the first great Haida carvers whose name and career we know, was a skilled argillite carver – although this aspect of his art was omitted altogether from the recent exhibit of the works of Charles and Isobel Edenshaw at the Museum of Anthropology.

Today, argillite is a niche market. Bill Reid was influenced by argillite design, but only experimented with the actual medium. Similarly, while Robert Davidson as a teenager sold model totem poles in argillite for the tourist trade, it has never been his favorite medium. The same is true of artists such as Jay Simeon, Ernest Swanson, Gwaai Edenshaw or Marcel Russ, although all of these artists can produce outstanding argillite pieces when they take the time.

The trouble seems to be that argillite is more temperamental than wood, silver, or gold. It is dirty to work with, resistant to tools, and prone to flaws that can destroy hours of work with one misplaced stroke. Because of its water content, it can shatter in the cold. Artists like Christian White or Gary Minaker Russ who have done most of their work in argillite are essentially specialists, appealing to a relatively small and expensive market. Excluding pendants and miniatures, galleries rarely have more than two or three pieces of argillite at any one time, and prices usually begin at about $8000.

Nor has the reputation of argillite been helped by the growing practice in the last decade of inlaying pieces with gold, silver, and semi-precious stones. Often, such inlays are added before carving begins, seriously interfering with the artist’s ability to add detail, and, almost always, they are added in lieu of detailed carving. Moreover, because such inlays are expensive, they add substantially to prices, which means that buyers are being asked to pay more for inferior work that increases very little in value.

Quality argillite pieces are still being carved, but to find them buyers either have to visit Haida Gwaii or at least deal with artists directly. However, the effort to find quality can be well worth the effort.

Even when left with its natural finish, argillite has a reflective finish that makes a carving rich in shadows and highlights. These shadows and highlights change with the available light, but always adds a unique impression of depth and motion. They make argillite a medium that demands to be touched, and its carving traced over and over with the fingers – in fact, many believe that frequent handling prolongs the life of a carving, because the oils from human hands replenish the moisture that was originally in the slate.

Elegant and mysterious, quality argillite carvings are an under-appreciated glory of Northwest Coast art that never fail to capture and intrigue the eye.

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Parliamentary democracy is far from a perfect system of government. Its party system and first past the post elections are both serious flaws that seem increasingly unsuited to the modern world. However, it does include one concept that I find invaluable: that of the loyal opposition.

To anyone used to another system of government, the words “loyal opposition” may seem like an oxymoron. If someone was loyal, how could they oppose the government? If someone opposed the government, in what sense could they be loyal? Americans, with their system of confrontational politics, have a particularly hard time with the concept.

As a concept, the loyal opposition is reminiscent of the devil’s advocate. The assumption behind both is that questioning decisions and suggesting ways of modifying them makes for better decisions. It is also assumed that, in raising questions and making suggestions, the opposition is ultimately committed to making the government’s decisions better, and has a genuine allegiance to the country.

To someone trying to comprehend the idea, the loyal opposition sounds absurd at first. Since the opposition wants to form the government someday, surely its main motivation must be to discredit the government at every opportunity, rather than helping it to pass better laws or to take more useful actions. And today, to a large extent, people who think this way would be right.

All the same, the concept of the loyal opposition continues to exist. Especially in times of crisis, it allows a government and its opposition to act together. Yet, even in untroubled moments, it is not unusual to learn that the same people who exchange carefully restrained abuse in the House of Commons are in the habit of having a drink together in the evening.

I mention the concept because the loyal opposition is often the position I find myself in as a writer about free and open source software (FOSS). Despite the speed at which FOSS is growing, those involved in the community tend to be a small group. They know each other and, although feuds exist, they often support each other uncritically. They exchange praise easily, and rarely criticize each other – a situation that doesn’t always make for the best possible decisions.

Sometimes, users can correct this tendency by protesting clearly and repeatedly. However, users are not easily stirred up, and too much happens that would be better for a review.

That’s where people like me come in. I am all in favor of FOSS (if I wasn’t, I would be off doing something more lucrative), but there are frequently times when more feedback is useful, when a suggestion of alternatives is needed, or someone simply to say in public what everyone is saying in private emails and tweets. Nobody else is doing these things, so people like me write commentaries that do.

My criticism is rarely as harsh as it could be. In fact, you could probably get an accurate sense of my opinions by how diplomatically I phrase them. But, like the loyal opposition, I believe – perhaps arrogantly – that the community makes better decisions because someone says them at all.

Contrary to the knee-jerk cynicism of the Internet, it’s not because I am a paid troll, or set out to increase page hits by deliberately creating controversy. It’s because, like the loyal opposition, I am convinced that, frequently, voicing dissent is a greater sign of loyalty than unquestioning support.

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Yesterday evening, as I stood shivering at the corner of Robson and Burrard in Vancouver in the middle of a flash mob, the insight struck me: The people who refer to the Idle No More events as protests have the wrong idea. The events are not just protests – they’re at least as much celebrations.

Not that politics don’t enter into what the Canadian First Nations are doing. Most of the people at last night’s event could cite at least Bills C-45 and C-27 among the half dozen bills that the movement is protesting. A political pamphlet, obviously hastily made, was being handed out, and the organizers speaking to the media could talk knowledgeably about the issues.

However, politics were no more than half the story. Political signs were scattered throughout the crowd (My favorite: “We want to speak to the Crown, not the court jester,” a reference to requests for the Governor General to intervene, and a dismissal of Prime Minister Stephen Harper), but there were also Canadian and British Columbian flags, as well as variations on the flag that the Iroquois Warrior Society flew during the Oka Crisis. One man carried a flag with a Northwest Coast copper in the center. Others had tied flags around their shoulders that proclaimed, “Idle No More” in large letters.

Even the organizers didn’t spend much time on the issues. Two or three made some obviously unprepared remarks for the cameras before moving on to the drumming and dancing as soon as possible. In fact, of the entire ninety minutes of protest, no more than fifteen were concerned with talking politics.

That’s not surprising. The flash mob was the third Idle No More event that day, and many in the crowd had gone to all three events. They must have had every opportunity they could wish to hear about the politics, and almost everyone in the crowd must have made up their minds long ago.

Anyway, you could tell it wasn’t a political crowd by its composition. A crowd bent on political action is usually young, and predominantly male. It doesn’t consist of grannies and elders on scooters, or mothers carrying toddlers and families with strollers.

Unless I am very much mistaken, the people I saw had come to celebrate being First Nations, to feel good about being survivors and the descendants of survivors of disease, neglect, and abuse. Some were wearing traditional button blankets. Others were wearing T-shirts that talked about Haida Gwaii, or simply declared an cultural identity like Haisla.

But, more than to support any cause, they had come to show their pride in being aboriginals in a modern world, and most of them couldn’t get enough of the idea that their identity was something to proud of. For some, especially the senior citizens in the crowd, that might have been a new idea they were still exploring.

But you could tell what they were there for: the drumming and the dancing. They couldn’t get enough of either. At first lone singers with drums played at scattered points through the crowd, the drumbeats echoing stirringly among the tall buildings above them. Then many of the drummers formed up in two facing lines, each line trying to outdo each other in volume and enthusiasm until it seemed only a matter of time until a few drums were broken from the pounding they were taking. Around me, people swayed and shuffled to the music, clapping hands and whooping as each song finished.

Later, as the crowd moved to block the intersection, many didn’t walk so much as dance. As the drumming and singing continued, several chains of circle dancers formed, continuing for at least twenty minutes.

I remember sitting on a fire hydrant through part of the intersection blockade, watching the police diverting traffic to make sure they were continuing friendly, and my eyes kept continually drifting back to the dancing. It seemed a little tentative, as though some of the people couldn’t quite believe what they were doing, but they were enjoying it anyway.

I remembered the early twentieth century anarchist Emma Goldman saying that if there was no dancing at the revolution she wouldn’t be attending, and found myself thinking that, with that attitude, she would have loved what I was seeing.

Even when the crowd moved back on to the sidewalk and started breaking up into twos and threes and drifting away, there were some who couldn’t stop dancing. I had seen one teenage girl with “Idle No More” painted on her face who was already dancing half an hour before the start of the event; I saw her at the end, and she was still dancing, seemingly tireless.

Then the last echo of the last drum beat faded. The dancers continued for a few seconds before stopping to clap and cheer, and the noise of the traffic suddenly seemed unusually loud.

To all appearances, nothing happened or didn’t happen because the intersection of Robson and Burrard was blocked early in a winter evening. But it would be a mistake to imagine that the event served no purpose. The event ended with the participants feeling good about themselves and their cultures – and I suspect that it would be an even greater mistake to dismiss that result as having no consequences.

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Whenever someone claims they can tell if a piece of writing was written by a man or a woman, I have to suppress a knowing smile. They have only a fifty percent chance of being right, and a near certainty of embarrassing themselves with rationalizations if they are wrong. Writing, apparently, is a skill that has very little to do with gender.

I first became aware of this basic fact through the reactions to James Tiptree, Jr. As a young teen, I remember critics praising Tiptree for a supposedly masculine prose style. When rumors emerged that Tiptree might be a woman, many explained at great length why that could not possibly be so. Then it was revealed that Tiptree was actually a woman named Alice Sheldon – and in a perfect demonstration of double-think, many of the same critics began explaining how they knew that all along, and pointing out aspects of her prose as evidence for what was suddenly an obvious fact.

Something of the reversal happened a few years later with F. M. Busby, a writer of intelligent space opera. Because Rissa Kerguelen, one of Busby’s greatest successes, featured a female protagonist, dozens of people assumed that Busby was a woman. A man, they argued, couldn’t possibly write such a sympathetic female character. But Busby was a man – although one fond of saying that “An intelligent man who isn’t a feminist isn’t.” The reasons that he went by his initials were that he disliked his given names of Francis Marion, and that his publisher considered his nickname “Buz” too informal for a book cover.

Having these two counter-examples, I have always been skeptical about efforts to identify gender through writing samples. Like too much alleged social science, such efforts always assume that certain subject matter and stylistic choices are somehow innately masculine or feminine (gay, lesbian, transgendered, or queer are always left out). A male writer, for instance, might be supposed to use “I” and to write short, unqualified statements. By contrast, a woman might be said to be more tentative in offering an opinion, and write about emotions or domestic subjects. Needless to say, such divisions say more about the devisers of such studies than any actual differences.

In fact, I’ve always found such studies rather dismissive of writer’s abilities. Most writers I know would have no trouble imitating the so-called masculine or feminine prose styles of such studies. Once they knew the required mannerisms, all that would be needed is a few hundred words of practice.

Moreover, whenever I have tried any online versions of such studies, the results have been random. For example, this morning I ran samples of my writing through Gender Genie, an online adaptation of one such study. My journalistic articles registered consistently as male, and my personal blog entries as female. My fiction registered as both male or female, although neither very strongly. Similarly, two women writers of my acquaintance registered as male, and a male friend as female. I would have tried more samples, but at this point, it was obvious that the results had such a large margin of error as to be unreliable in any given case.

And apparently, my personal observations were correct. Recently, fantasy writer Teresa Frohock invited readers of her blog to identify the gender of the writers of ten different writing samples. Of 1,045 guesses, only 535 were correct – a number slightly above random chance, but well within statistical variation. As Frohock noted, despite all the elaborate rationalizations and the stereotyped ideas that men were more likely to write epic stories and women emotional-driven ones, people were unable to tell men from women based on how and what they wrote.

In other words, exactly what my experience would predict.  Excuse me while I cackle, “Told you so!”

But this subject goes far beyond a mildly diverting observation. The obvious conclusion is that, if writing samples don’t reveal who is male or female, then why are most people so quick to assume that supposed differences in male and female brains are significant? If the products of those brains are indistinguishable from one another, then the brain differences can’t matter much, either. As often happens when gender is discussed, too many people tell themselves comforting stories, then look for reason to believe the stories instead of examining the evidence.

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I was raised in a very English family – a fact that means parts of my education in cooking was backwards. Contrary to the stereotypes, traditional English cooking does have high points, including cheeses, desserts, and Yorkshire pudding, but those points do not include vegetables. For the most part, vegetables are an after-thought, cheap items designed to make the expensive meat go further. Growing up with this attitude, I have had to learn about cooking vegetables piecemeal and on my own.

As times changed and I left home, I did learn a few things. I learned that salads can consist of more than lettuce, and need not contain it all. I learned that vegetables in general taste better if you don’t boil them until the color is drained from them, and that boiling corn on the cob in particular is an Abomination. I learned that casseroles and stir fry were often more interesting possibilities.

Yet throughout this re-education, until a few months ago, boiling remained the default option for vegetables, unless I was following a specific recipe. Oh, I’d add spices and sauces, but that didn’t change the fact that when I was rushed or tired, I’d leave little of the original taste of whatever vegetables were unfortunate to fall beneath my paring knife.

This default was particularly unfortunate for rice, condemning me either to a soggy mound on my plate or else a burned pot unless I watched and stirred it nervously and turned off the heat at exactly the correct second.

A few months ago, desperation drove me to pour rice into a strainer balanced over a pot of water and covered with a pot. The cooking was so even and the taste so much greater than when I boiled the rice that I tried the same method with various vegetables. I was equally pleased with the results.

I had heard distantly of steam cooking, but vaguely assumed it involved expensive appliances and was impractical for anyone cooking for one. However, an Internet search soon showed that steam cookers were available for well under a hundred dollars. In fact, many models were fifty dollars or less. When no one took up my pointed suggestions for a present, I returned home on Christmas Day and promptly ordered the model of my choice.

Yesterday, it arrived, and I broke off writing long enough to unpack it and check that it worked. As a sometime student of usability, I was intrigued by its egg-shaped base and its tiered shelves, each with a perforated lid complete with indentations for holding eggs and a rice tray. Like a growing number of kitchen appliances these days, the cooker was a thing of elegance, form and function matching perfectly. The only design flaw is that the reservoir for adding water is too small, which prolongs what should be a straightforward task.

Naturally, I had to try my new toy as soon as possible. For dinner that night, I began with a wad of chicken breast. I half-expected that steaming would leave the meat pink, but instead it browned lightly and evenly in twenty minutes, shredding easily in my fingers.

Another twenty minutes did for the vegetables and arborio rice needed for risotto. Mixed with the shredded chicken and covered with tomato sauce and a few spoonfuls of pesto sauce, the result was the most delicious risotto I had managed in seven years of preparing the dish, full of flavor and textures that boiling would have done its best to remove.

Had I cooked both meat and rice together using two shelves, I could have assembled a complete meal in twenty minutes, all without turning on the oven or any burners. Just as importantly, washing the pieces was no more than a matter of running a soapy dish towel over all the surfaces.

That was enough for me. I still have plenty of experiments to try, including cooking fish and adding spices to the water. I can see, too, that coordinating the various parts of dinner and positioning them on the shelves will take some practices. But so far as I’m concerned, steaming is now my preferred cooking method for most vegetables. I’ve entered the Age of Steam, and there’s no going back.

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