Breakfast at Aspen

July 2, 2015 • 10:30 am

The atmosphere around Aspen, besides being intellectual, is also green: they provide free bikes for people to ride (not really needed on the grounds, which are compact); those who can’t walk are ferried around in electric golf carts; all the material for meals is recyclable, and there are recycling stations; and the food is healthy but delicious. That’s fine with me: I have to make up for that chili cheeseburger I ate two days ago (see tomorrow’s post). Here’s breakfast, provided free for all attendees, at today’s festival. Notice the healthy aspect:

The breakfast buffet. The covered dish holds “Egg white frittatas with roasted Provencal vegetables” (oy; I’ve never before eaten an egg without the yolk!). There are healthy Siggi’s yogurts (“More protein than sugar,” it says on the label), fresh fruit, bagels, hard-boiled eggs, cranberry and orange juice, and good coffee.


And of course what would a left-wing intellectual festival be without a smoothie bar? There were three types; I had raspberry:


My healthy breakfast: the egg frittata (tried out of pure curiosity; it was ok), a smoothie, cranberry juice, two hard-boiled eggs (to get my yolk quota), a yogurt, a bagel, watermelon and raspberries, and a banana. Note: any reader who criticizes me for having two eggs with yolks will be banned!


There were also fancy-schmancy granola bars; I took one for later:


Black-billed magpies (Pica hudsonia) hopped around the tent, hoping for crumbs. I confess that I sneaked a few to this bird. Magpies are gorgeous, and unappreciated in the western US because they’re so common.


“Yoga stations” are scattered around the grounds should you be seized with the sudden urge to do the double-headed lion, or whatever the hell those poses are called:


Most of the talks I want to see are tomorrow, but I plan to go to Richard Dawkins’s and Jane Shaw’s joint talk today, as well as Paul Bloom’s and Richard Davidson’s joint talk later (the schedule is here).

12:00 pm1:00 pm MDT on Thursday, July 2, 2015
Listen in, as two former Oxford colleagues, one from science and one from religion, talk about what leads to a meaningful life — wonder, ethics, empathy and much more. Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life and professor of Religious Studies at Stanford and Richard Dawkins, fellow emeritus of New College Oxford, preview the not-yet-published second volume of Dawkins’ memoir, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, which is a candid look at the events and ideas that encouraged Dawkins to shift his attention to the intersection of culture, religion, and the natural world.
I met Paul at the speaker’s soirée last night, and he told me he’d be talking about empathy, and would make the point that the classic conception of empathy—to put oneself in another’s shoes as a way of trying to help them—is totally misguided. The summary (it’s a joint talk with Richard Davidson):
5:30 pm6:30 pm MDT on Thursday, July 2, 2015
Empathy is typically seen as wonderful, central to cooperation, caring, and morality. We want to have empathic parents, children, spouses and friends; we want to train those in the helping professions to expand their empathy, and we certainly want to elect empathic politicians and policy makers. But empathy has certain troubling features, and questions have begun to arise about just how useful empathy really is and how it might be different from related capacities such as compassion.
Paul Bloom, Richard J. Davidson
I may also go to these two:
3:00 pm4:00 pm MDT on Thursday, July 2, 2015
In the United States, 25 percent of young adults under age 30 do not claim affiliation with any particular religion. That’s twice as unaffiliated as their parents were at their age. What does this new reality mean for communities of faith, and culture at large, as a generation of Americans increasingly turns away from such identity-forming institutions? And outside of those traditional religious institutions, what rituals, gatherings, and ways of thinking are defining the millennial search for meaning?
Mark Oppenheimer, Naomi Schaefer Riley, Jordan Alam, Casper ter Kuile, Jane Shaw
and this one (I quote Rosen in my talks on free will):
4:10 pm5:00 pm MDT on Thursday, July 2, 2015
Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, leads an interactive discussion about the myriad issues, history, and opinions.

87 thoughts on “Breakfast at Aspen

  1. Note: any reader who criticizes me for having two eggs with yolks will be banned!

    The yolk would be on them, then.

  2. Sounds great!! Love breakfast and Richard Dawkins!! I’d be more worried about the damn smoothies than the egg yolks!! Ah… yokeless frittata does not exist!! What, no waffles? That’s a party foul!!

  3. Glad I get to be there vicariously.

    And eggs with yolks are much healthier than eggs without — and you’d be hard-pressed to come up with an example of a food that’s healthier than eggs. No clue where this notion that the yolks are unhealthy came from. When was the last time you even heard of any other vertebrate that ate eggs that eschewed the yolk? If anything, it’d be the other way ’round. Separating them can make good culinary sense…such as whipping the whites into meringue and making a custard with the yolks. But you’ve got to be nuts to just toss the one or the other.


    1. I think the only aspect of the yolk that could be considered unhealthy is very high cholesterol. Since everyone nowadays is freaked out about cholesterol, eggs got some backlash. Eggs without yolks = blech. I’ve also tried an egg-white frittata…once was enough.

      1. No time for research at the moment, but I’m pretty sure the current thinking is that dietary cholesterol doesn’t have much impact on your HDL or LDL levels. It’s, perhaps unfortunately, more up to genetics.

        The yolks are calorically dense, so you may want to avoid consuming too many for that reason.

        If I’m mistaken about the cholesterol thing I’m happy to be corrected.

          1. In med school, the scientist who discovered biotin, to solve the deficiency illness of a child, found it in egg yolk. I googled and found a few other sources, including gut bacteria, but I would guess yolks are still the best. At the same time, there’s a molecule in egg whites (avitin, IIRC) that binds biotin, making it unavailable, so separately served custards and meringues seem perfect (and perfectly delicious).

        1. I am pretty sure you are right.
          Opinions were formed on the basis that dietry intake would lead to increased serum levels but that was not the case. I don’t know of speicific research but that has been my understanding for up to ten years now.

    2. Couldn’t agree more on eggs. The whites are excellent protein, but the yolks are excellent nutrition too. Fat is good for you, and necessary. And the yolk is the only part of the egg with any flavor.

      I sometimes use egg whites from a carton for making protein shakes instead of using only a grain protein powder. But even there, I’d rather just crack a couple of whole eggs into the blender. The yolk adds flavor and richness to the shake.

      Peanut butter is a good add too for additional protein, taste & texture.

    3. I think the fear of yolks started with the cholesterol panic many years ago. I think the advice was, only one per day. I read more recently that eggs are now considered not a significant contributor to your body’s stored cholesterol.

    4. Eggs are amazing. After several vegan years, I went back to eggs and I never felt better… Until I started eating fish and everything else. A proper human diet should be a life long experiment of what makes you feel and work best.

    5. I’m with you on eggs. Even the Cardiac Rehab people no longer ban whole eggs! So I don’t get the prevailing paranoia about egg yolks.

      Just don’t pig out too much on nuthin’!

  4. Enjoy yourself PCC…sounds like some great talks from some great speakers.

    How was the granola bar? That looked very appetizing.

  5. So did the Prof. try to do any yoga? Some downward-facing drosophila or artificially-selected pigeon pose?

    1. I want to see the Walnut-thieving Squirrel Warrior pose.

      Or perhaps the Nightjar pose, which makes one invisible, so the photo would just have a lot of background vegetation.

  6. Sounds like interesting talks.
    Right now I am struggling to see much difference between ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’ in terms of how you would then act toward another person. It seems to me that one would respond to another very much the same way.

            1. To be fair, a lot of soccer fans would jeer and throw things, and probably indulge in a riot or two along the way, then spend the rest of their lives getting drunk and reminiscing about the time so-and-so ruined it for England.

              Perhaps the sympathy for the women is simply a sign that soccer fans are evolving? 🙂

              1. Well, yes, I could never argue that football isn’t rife with hooligans, to the point of almost not being worth watching. But to make the suggestion that people were being sympathetic simply because Bassett is a woman? I even sorta, almost, maybe just a little bit, feel sorry for Rooney, the butt of many a jokes involving knuckle-dragging, illiteracy, gerontophilia, hair transplants…

              1. I’m really started to get confused. I can’t tell anymore if I am being sexist, committing micro-aggressions, or just being a general asshole. Previously, I had been under the impression that sympathy/empathy was a sign of being human. Now I know, according to the Telegraph, that actually, when I felt horrified by the Charleston church shootings, I was actually being a racist. When I cringed at the way Jenner was being treated by many, I was actually being trans-phobic, and when I moved a turtle from the road so it didn’t get run over, I was really committing animal abuse.

              2. Depends who you’re emphasizing with I guess: the turtle or the guy who wants to squish him.

              3. Sounds like we need to find Orwell’s real coffin and put a stake through his heart.

          1. Empathy sucks. You feel whatever everyone else feels so if you’re stuck with a sour puss you are angry all the time and you also want to get into fights when everyone else is angry.

            It’s fun when everyone is happy though but how often does that happen?

            1. You’re right, it does have sucky characteristics. Empathy is useful for understanding, but not much else. You require other skills like analytical ability, which require being able to step back, if you’re actually going to fix the problem.

              When stuff goes wrong we need people to be understanding, but the ones that bring a hot meal when you can’t cook, and help with all the practical stuff that still needs to get done are at least as, if not more, important.

              1. But what motivates the person that brings you a hot meal when you can’t cook? Empathy!

            2. Hmm, that doesn’t exactly describe what I think of as empathy…tho it certainly describes something that mirrors something else!

              When I live with a sourpuss I might be sour as well–but that doesn’t mean I’m empathizing with him. If anything, I’m empathizing with me!

              1. I always feel whatever the other person feels. I remember being at a gas station when two guys started yelling at each other and I started feeling angry too. I had a friend for years who was very negative and it made me really negative all the time also.

                Poisonous work environments stress me out to the point of physical illness.

              2. I always thought of empathy as the ability to, if not fully understand, at least mentally model to a first-order approximation what someone else is experiencing. You can put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I’d say it’s pretty much a necessary ability for being a good citizen.

                I’m not sure being influenced by others’ moods is technically empathy?

              3. Good definition, and I agree about mood effects. Understanding why someone’s in a given mood would usually qualify, though.

              4. That is one type of empathy – a cognitive empathy. The kind of empathy I’m talking about isn’t thought through – you simply feel what the other person is feeling. Here is a description that explains further:

                Psychologist Mark Davis has suggested that there are 3 important types of empathy. The first is a purely “cognitive” form of empathy that he terms “Perspective-Taking.” This is being able to see things from another’s point of view. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is important to better understand where someone is coming from, but it’s not what we typically think of as empathy.

                A second type of empathy, and one that is represented (literally) by Clinton’s comment, Davis terms “Personal Distress.” Personal distress is literally feeling another’s emotions. When you are watching a scary movie, and you start to empathize with the hero and feel afraid, that is personal distress in action. You are actually feeling the other’s emotion through a process called “emotional contagion.” The actor, or another person, is actually “infecting” you with their emotion. We all experience personal distress, but too much of it may not be a good thing. Some people are so prone to feeling other’s emotional states that they are battered about by the feelings and emotions of others (thus the label of “distress”).

                This is why I often say that just because I have strong empathy, doesn’t mean I’m nice. I simply feel the same things others feel and I’m willing to suspend those feelings to kick your ass if you’re pissing me off. The difference is I will suffer for it more than normal people would.

              5. Yeah and there was a third kind that I super suck at. It was the kind of empathy where you express yourself and do a “there there”. Basically I’m ok at the first one, dysfunctional at the second and horrible at the last.

              6. That 3rd definition just seems like the first one, acted upon.

                Well, perhaps you’re lucky to suck at the last one–less female baggage…

              7. I thought empathy was feeling what they are feeling. That is what I experience. If they are angry, I feel their anger. If they are happy, I feel their happiness.

          1. Guess I must have either missed that or skimmed right over it. (Please don’t tell me I was one of the hollerers!)

  7. Jsne Shaw is something of a local celebrity and an old friendly sparring partner with Dawkins.

    Originally from England, she was both the first woman and the first openly gay person to be Dean of San Francisco’s (Episcopal) Grace Cathedral.

    Previously at Oxford. The New York Times reports that “she regularly debates Richard Dawkins, an anti-religion author, and yet, “We get along really well.””

    Dawkins tweet says she is going to interview him.

    1. What are the chances we’ll hear anything we haven’t heard before?

      Dawkins’s next memoir sounds intriguing, though!

      1. I heard the story about Queen Elizabeth dissing Richard’s tie when he dined with her; it was painted with warthogs and she said they were ugly animals. He had a great comeback to the Queen, but since you’ve heard that before, I won’t recount it. 🙂

        1. Awwww! Tell us! Tell us! I like seeing Queenie get told! It’s why I so admired Pierre Trudeau because he used to do pirouettes behind her.

          1. Okay, here’s what Richard said. Jane Shaw said, remarking on Richard’s hand-painted tie (his wife Lalla paints most of his ties, almost all with animals), “Richard, tell us about your tie and lunch with the Queen.” Richard said, “Well, I was having lunch with the Queen, as one does. . .” (that was hilarious), and then said it was a “motley crew” at the lunch,including himself, a famous ballerina, and the captain of Australia’s rugby team. Dawkins was wearing a tie that Lalla had painted with warthogs after she and Richard had recently visited Africa. At one point in the lunch, the Queen (who sounds to me like an arrogant jerk) said, “Mr. Dawkins, why do you wear a tie with such ugly animals on it?”

            Richard replied with something like, “Well doesn’t it truly show the skill of the artist, that one can make such an ugly animal look so beautiful?” Score one for Dawkins.

            From all I hear of the Queen, she’s unlikeable. But what do you expect when your whole life people have kowtowed to you?

            1. I knew Lalla had been both an actress [she was Ophelia opposite Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet on BBC and a popular Doctor Who companion] and read most of Dawkin’s books on tape, but was not aware she was a painter.

              I like the story RD tells about her in “God Delusion”

            2. Stories rarely get that perfect: “…as one does…;” Dawkins, a ballerina, a rugby captain, & the queen… (Perhaps I meant, “stories rarely get that British.”) One wonders even more about the rest of the conversation.

              Thanks, Jerry! Great anecdote, nicely told.

              Is there a reader here who didn’t immediately come up with a snarkier reply to Her Royal Heinie?

            3. Richard is such a gentleman. I would asked what kind of person would make an unkind remark about a person’s clothing whilst dining. Then I’d probably get kicked out of the dinner. I can’t ever meet royalty because I refuse to curtsy and bow.

              1. You got to be all subservient to him too?

                I find it more annoying with the Queen because she is my head of state and on all my damn money.

              2. Yeah, I’ve never been able to figure out how you’re an independent country and yet still tied to HRH.

              3. I once heard an American comedian say that we got our independence by asking nicely which is pretty much it.

  8. Look forward to Dawkins next book, part two I believe. Would also like to see the Constitution discussion.

      1. Thanks for the tip…I haven’t tried that.

        I lived in Germany for a month when I was 16 and every morning I had toasted French bread with butter and Nutella. I can still taste it…damn that was good.

        1. When my friend went home to visit her family in Germany, they ate Nutella every day and all gained weight.

        2. I didn’t know anyone really put Nutella on bread! I thought it was supposed to be eaten from the jar with a teaspoon! 🙂

      2. It sounds delicious. Alas, I don’t allow myself to have Nutella or Nutella-like products in the house because I have a sweet tooth & I’d be 5000 pounds in no time & they’d have to cut me out of the house so I could go to work.

        I have a hard enough time limiting myself to 1 butter tart per week. I’ve already had 3 this week because it was a holiday yesterday & then I ate another today.

    1. The only thing I can say for that breakfast is, good thing it was free.

      Me, I’d be going out for carbs.

    2. I miss nutella, but refuse to buy it (and Justin’s) since they use palm oil, the scourge of SE Asian wildlife. however, there is a recipe, i found it in gif form on twitter, that shows you how to make your own chocolate hazelnut spread, which oddly, doesn’t require palm oil, so I may have to give it a try.

      as for the eggs, just add Sriracha.

      1. Justin’s says that all of their ingredients are “sustainably harvested and found as locally as possible.” But such statements often don’t mean a thing, or are even outright subterfuge.

        1. its like claiming that they didn’t personally shoot the elephant for the ivory carving. fact is, you don’t need palm oil for peanut products, like Justin’s. oddly enough, you can actually use peanut oil! crazy, I know! The girl scouts tried the same thing with their cookies, saying their oil was from certified palm oil plantations. sure. because we know the plantations in existence never break the law, never bride officials, never clear cut on National Park protected lands…and once again, there are other oils out there, even non-trans fat oils, that are sustainably grown and harvested without the need to slash and burn a tropical forest and make a few extra quid selling the baby orangutans orphaned in the process. In all fairness, I don’t think the companies themselves want to do bad things, but they are buying from people who don’t seem to mind doing it for them.

  9. We consume a lot of the Kind brand of “granola” bars in our household. They are expensive, but they are really good and you can recognize many of the ingredients just by looking at the bar!

    1. Another example where different English speaking countries call the same stuff different things. We call them muesli bars. We don’t use the word granola at all, although of course we recognize it because of TV.

    2. Most of the “granola” bars I’ve tasted are pretty much candy disguised as health food. I’m sure the first versions of this were genuine health foods, but once the major food corps buy them up they are quickly transformed. Same thing happened to Gatorade. Once a pretty unpalatable source of nutrients, it is now a form of soda pop.

  10. Please attend the talk on millennials losing their faith and tell us how they work this trick of becoming twice as unaffiliated as their parents. I feel like I am underachieving by merely being unaffiliated.

    Whoever wrote that blurb should become more affiliated – with grammar.

  11. Why do these events feel they’re being so green for serving everything on recyclable plastic? Try using china crockery and metal cutlery and washing it.

    1. I agree. China and metal are much nicer, and easier to use, and it’s not like they wear out.

  12. If those smoothies are just fresh fruit and maybe even a drop of honey and plain yogurt or water, I’d have to try all of them. That cup looks more-ish.

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