Archive for December 2008
Got a call from the blood center, which had an urgent need for O Negative blood, which I happen to have. So a quart’s worth of red blood cells (i.e., red blood cells equal in number to those in a quart of blood: 2 units) were removed, and all the needlework was totally painless—thanks, Melissa! In fact, I didn’t even feel the lidocaine needle, and then of course the other needle was no problem.
Then to the store to buy black-eyed peas, andouille sausage, and a smoked pork hock. The Eldest wrote to suggest that I make Hoppin’ John:
You could use your home-made hot sauce (the DIY kind)!
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 large smoked ham hock, scrubbed
- 1 c. onion, chopped
- 1/2 c. celery, chopped
- 1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
- 2 TBSP chopped garlic
- 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed, or fresh black-eyed peas
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 c. scallions, finely chopped
- cooked rice
- Tabasco sauce
- cooked greens (collard, kale, or mustard), seasoned with vinegar
Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Add salt and pepper, then stir in the scallions. Serve over rice with Tabasco sauce to adjust seasoning, with cooked greens on the side.
Interesting post at Slashfood on mise en place. As I recall, this technique was introduced by Escoffier in a commercial kitchen that had to prepare quickly dishes from an extensive menu: no time to prepare ingredients once the dish was ordered—it had to be cooked quickly and back out to the customer.
Or, as Mark Bittman writes, “Welsh rarebit,” which I think is missing the joke. (See comments for more on the “rarebit” error, including H.W. Fowler’s succinct dictum.) At any rate, a wonderful late breakfast for New Year’s Day, although I like the tradition out here of chasing the hangover blues with spicy menudo (recipe at the link), for which supermarkets out here stock tripe at this time of year. Still haven’t found a good source of cow’s foot, though.
Welsh Rarebit [sic]
Yield 4 or more servings
Time About 20 minutes, plus cooling
Though the idea of eating savory food after a full meal makes sense only when evening stretches into night and, usually, when overindulgence in alcohol has taken place, rarebit is also good in the afternoon, and can be made in advance save for the final toasting. To get that just right, toast the bread on a baking sheet until each piece is evenly browned on top. Then turn the pieces over and toast them about half as much on the second side before adding the cheese.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
- 3/4 cup strong dark beer, like Guinness
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
- 1 pound Cheddar, Double Gloucester or other English cheese (or other good semi-hard cheese, like Comté or Gruyère, or a mixture), grated
- 4 to 8 pieces lightly toasted bread
1. Put butter in a saucepan over medium heat and, as it melts, stir in flour. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and very fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in mustard and cayenne, then whisk in beer and Worcestershire sauce.
2. When mixture is uniform, turn heat to low and stir in cheese, again stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a broad container to set (you can refrigerate for up to a day at this point).
3. Spread mixture thickly on toast and put under broiler until bubbly and edges of toast are crisp. Serve immediately.
New Year’s Day would not be complete without black-eyed peas. Our supermarkets here stock fresh black-eyed peas at this time of year, which cook much more quickly than the dried. Both are great.
I think the idea is that they bring luck, and indeed I ate them last New Year’s Day and the year for me has been pretty lucky, with a few exceptions. (Thumb now almost healed.) But I like them for the memories they bring—of the old days, of my grandmother, of my mother’s family, and so on.
Start eating black-eyed peas for New Year’s now so that in decades to come the taste will revive old memories. Think what Proust could have done with a good pot of black-eyed peas with a smoked ham hock instead of that little madeleine.
This crockpot recipe for a black-eyed pea soup sounds extremely good.
Glenn Greenwald has the story, which begins:
While fiercely loyal establishment spokespeople such as The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus continue to insist that prosecutions are only appropriate for common criminals (“someone breaking into your house”) but not our glorious political leaders when they break the law (by, say, systematically torturing people), the Bush administration has righteously decided that torture is such a grotesque and intolerable crime that political leaders who order it simply must be punished in American courts to the fullest extent of the law . . . . if they’re from Liberia:
MIAMI (AP) — U.S. prosecutors want a Miami judge to sentence the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 147 years in prison for torturing people when he was chief of a brutal paramilitary unit during his father’s reign.
Charles McArthur Emmanuel, also known as Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 9 by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga. His conviction was the first use of a 1994 law allowing prosecution in the U.S. for acts of torture committed overseas.
Even in the U.S., it’s hard to believe that federal prosecutors who work for the Bush DOJ were able to convey the following words with a straight face:
Good update at Open Mind. It begins:
2008 will be over at midnight, and it’s bound to end up as one of the ten hottest years on record. In fact it’s a rather stark sign of global warming that every year this century is on the top-10 hottest list. But the global average temperature for 2008 will not be as warm as it was for 2007. This is only natural, because global temperature shows both a man-made warming trend and natural fluctuations — noise — inherent in the climate system. While the temperature trend climbs inexorably higher and higher, each year’s average jitters up and down.
Despite random fluctuations telling us nothing about underlying trends, denialists have already started heralding this year’s fluctuation as some sort of death-knell for global warming. As wrong as they are, it’s sure to be persuasive for those who don’t know about the presence of noise in physical systems or the proper application of statistical analysis. Duping people — taking advantage of their statistical naivete — is a regular tactic of those who deny the reality of global warming. I already posted about one of the ways they “spin” the temperature record…
Continue reading, and do click through because of the excellent and illuminating graphs.
This recipe was the only one of the LA Times 15 best of 2008 that appealed to me:
Chipotle-orange pulled pork on brioche rolls
Total time: 5 hours (includes 4 1/2 hours braising time)
Servings: Makes 24 sandwiches
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles in adobo)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cloves garlic
4 chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded
1 large red onion, roughly chopped (2 cups)
4 dried or fresh bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 dozen small brioche rolls, split and toasted
2 cups grated pepper jack cheese, optional
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Season the pork with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper, place it in the skillet and sear, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown all over, about 15 minutes total.
2. Meanwhile, put the broth, juice, vinegar, zest, adobo sauce, cumin, garlic, chiles, onions, one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper into a blender; purée until smooth.
3. Transfer the pork to a large, deep casserole dish and set aside. Pour the excess fat out of the skillet. Carefully pour about 1 cup of the chipotle-orange purée into the skillet and cook briefly, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the contents of the skillet over the pork along with remaining chipotle-orange purée. Scatter the bay leaves and thyme in the casserole; cover tightly with foil. Top with a tight- fitting lid; bake for 2 1/2 hours.
4. Carefully uncover the pork and flip over the roast. Baste it with the juices, then re-cover with the foil and lid and return to the oven. Continue cooking until very tender, about 2 hours more. Set aside, covered, for about 30 minutes, then uncover and pour the contents of the casserole into a colander set over a large bowl; discard bay leaves and thyme.
5. When cool enough to handle, tear the pork into shreds, discarding any fat, and transfer to a large bowl. Skim off and discard fat from the juices, then add the juices to the shredded meat and toss well. Pile the pork onto brioche rolls and top with grated cheese, if desired.
Each serving: 358 calories; 21 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 22 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 131 mg. cholesterol; 437 mg. sodium.
Another mocha morning, this time using Mama Bear’s Turkish Mocha. So far as I can tell, the fragrance for this soap is the same as Honeybee Spa Coffee Mocha, and it’s a fragrance I like. The Rooney Style 1 Size 1 Super made a fine lather from it, and the Gillette Aristocrat with a Polsilver blade did a good job on the stubble. Floris London JF was a good choice of aftershave, and now I’m off to the kitchen to make a pot of mocha java.
Even an emerging crisis in the Middle East, one he pledged to resolve just 13 months ago, has not drawn President George W. Bush from his final vacation before leaving office. Despite his personal pledge at Annapolis last year to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians before 2009, this weekend Bush sent his spokesmen to comment in his stead.
The spokesman’s statement, while blaming Hamas for the outbreak of violence, did not signal that the United States is prepared to step in to resolve the conflict, suggesting that this president is content to leave the matter for his successor.
Since departing Washington for Crawford on Friday, President Bush has made no attempt to be seen in public. In fact, he has yet to leave his ranch.
His spokesmen said that the president has stayed in the loop, receiving his usual briefings and consulting with his top advisors. He had at least one talk with a foreign leader, a conversation with Saudi King Abdullah, yesterday.
Not atypically, we have yet to learn anything more about what is keeping the commander in chief busy, though one can assume there is brush to be cleared, trails to be biked, and perhaps even fish to be caught.
The Western White House expects to begin briefing reporters starting tomorrow, which will hopefully shed some light on the U.S. response to the Israel-Gaza situation… and on the president’s schedule.
If Barack Obama wants to see his popularity hit 110% his first week in office, I’d suggest one simple step: publish an Executive Order establishing a Terrorist Watch List Review Board and a process by which any citizen or permanent resident who has been stopped at the border but then cleared for entry to the country can file a demand (by email) that his case be reviewed. Whoever put his name on the list would have 15 days to provide a written justification for doing so, which the Review Board would review in secret, after which it could order the removal of that person’s name from the list.
Here’s a first-hand account of the nightmare of being stuck on the list.
h/t Kevin Drum
Bad news about a big, powerful, wealthy corporation:
‘Twas the night before Christmas when Wal-Mart told the world it decided to settle 63 lawsuits to the tune of as much as $640 million; most of those lawsuits alleged that Wal-Mart “underpaid its employees.”
So what prompted the usually greedy Grinch to give more than half a billion dollars to its employees? It must’ve been a passing wind of Christmas Cheer, right? No.
The Wall Street Journal says one reason Wal-Mart paid out $640 million is because the world’s largest retailer wants to improve its image ahead of its fight against the Employee Free Choice Act. Wal-Mart appears to be afraid of that legislation because it would give employees the free choice to join unions and negotiate for better wages, benefits, and retirement security – something Wal-Mart employees certainly don’t have now.
Here’s what the Wall Street Journal said about the settlements:
But there may be something else going on. Remember the Employee Free Choice Act? [...]
Paul M. Secunda, an associate professor at Marquette University Law School, suggested Wal-Mart wanted to settle the lawsuits not just to avoid potentially more costly defeats in the courtroom, but to resolve issues that might be used to argue for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation, expected to be considered by Congress next year, is fiercely opposed by Wal-Mart because the company worries it will make it easier for workers to unionize.
Wal-Mart is familiar with fighting the Employee Free Choice Act. FEC complaints were filed against the company in August alleging that Wal-Mart told its employees to vote against Democrats such as now President-elect Barack Obama because of their support of the Employee Free Choice Act. And current Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told reporters this fall why he’s against the Employee Free Choice Act. From the WSJ: …
The complete list is here, and the overall best:
Number 1: The hands-down winner for best Health Search Engine of 2008 is Mednar.
A product of the firm Deep Web Technologies (which helped design another winner of this list, WorldWideScience.org), Mednar promises to become a standard tool of power searchers in the health sciences (e.g., medical librarians, physicians, health care researchers) and for savvy consumer searchers who want sleek supplements to such standard tools as MedlinePlus and PubMed. Mednar offers access to an array of databases that are simply not mined by other health search engines and features a dependable email alert service that enables users to keep up on the latest publications on the medical topics of their choice. Mednar is the Secretariat and gold medal winner of medical search at this point.
Paul Krugman devotes a column to the localized levels of the economic meltdown:
But even as Washington tries to rescue the economy, the nation will be reeling from the actions of 50 Herbert Hoovers — state governors who are slashing spending in a time of recession, often at the expense both of their most vulnerable constituents and of the nation’s economic future.
These state-level cutbacks range from small acts of cruelty to giant acts of panic — from cuts in South Carolina’s juvenile justice program, which will force young offenders out of group homes and into prison, to the decision by a committee that manages California state spending to halt all construction outlays for six months.
Now, state governors aren’t stupid (not all of them, anyway). They’re cutting back because they have to — because they’re caught in a fiscal trap. But let’s step back for a moment and contemplate just how crazy it is, from a national point of view, to be cutting public services and public investment right now.
Krugman is right, but there is a dimension of this that goes unmentioned: Many of these states and their governors are in fact constrained by right-wing ideology and its effects as well.
All across America, anti-tax ideologues have, over the past generation or so, managed to pass — often through state-level initiatives — laws that not only require states to meet balanced budgets, but hamstrung their ability to gather revenues.
Here in Washington state, we’ve been plagued by the efforts of a character named Tim Eyman, who successfully championed measures that capped property taxes and motor-vehicle licensing fees, and unsuccessfully attempted a number of other measures. In Oregon, it’s a similar character named Bill Sizemore. Indeed, ever since the days of California’s Howard Jarvis, there have been anti-tax initiatives similarly hamstringing state governance all across the country.
The conservative ideologues running these campaigns loved to appeal to people’s cheapness and the Reaganesque belief that government is the problem. And now, we’re seeing the results of that short-sighted worldview…
Reviews and links can be found at the post. Here’s the list:
- Everything: lightning-fast free desktop search for files and folders.
- Digsby: multi-protocol free desktop IM client, email notifier for regular and web mail, and social networking tracker.
- Returnil: a free virtualization software that provides an “undo” option for your system.
- Q-Dir: a multi-pane free file manager that offers a good range of functions and an excellent user experience.
- Launchy: free search-box based launcher for your apps and files.
- The KMPlayer: media and DVD player that is feature rich and will play anything you throw at it.
- Threatfire: free, effective antispyware that offers real-time protection and behavior based (heuristic) detection of malicious software.
- ArsClip: free, effective antispyware that offers real-time protection and behavior based (heuristic) detection of malicious software.
- Xobni: free Outlook extension that provides superfast searches in Outlook and threaded conversations.
- 3RVX: free hotkey and mouse enabled volume control with cool visual effects.
The only one of these that I have is ThreatFire, which works well.
Tim Lambert has a good post. It begins:
Jeremy Jacquot has written a three part debunking of the claims in Joane Nova’s “Skeptic’s Handbook”: Part 1: increasing CO2 won’t make much difference, Part 2: warming has stopped and ice cores show that CO2 increases do not cause warming, and Part 3: the hot spot is missing. If all this seems familiar, it’s because Nova’s handbook is just a rehash of David Evans’ wrong-headed column in the Australian. (Nova is Evan’s partner and shares the same beliefs about global warming.)
The constant repetition of such discredited arguments has James Hrynyshyn wondering if there is any point:
For the last four years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time trying to do my bit to undermine the pseudoskeptical claptrap that passes for criticism of the idea that humans are responsible for global warming. And I’m getting tired. It doesn’t seem to matter how many bloggers and journalists who understand the science of climate change point out the facts as climate science understands them, pernicious long-debunked ideas (it’s all the sun’s fault, the hockey stick is a fraud, water vapor is a forcing, etc.) refuse to die. Is there any point?
For example, over the holidays, Jeremy Jacquot at deSmogBlog felt compelled to write a few thousand words dismantling the nonsense issued by one of the more annoyingly popular pseudoskeptics, Joanne Nova. I applaud Jeremy’s patience, and I hope I can find the time and energy to continue doing the same in 2009, but I am beginning to wonder if perhaps all this banging of heads against walls is a waste of effort.
The comments section of this blog, among others, has been overrun by those with nothing intelligent to say, no studies to cite, no science to explore, just moronic epithets.
You’ll have to click through to find out if he thinks there is still a point to it.
Me, I am remain fascinated by the capacity of folks like Nova for self-delusion. You see, she read my post where I explained that the greenhouse signature is not the hot spot but is in fact tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling. What was her response? …
As always, Glenn Greenwald is worth reading. His current column begins:
A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 18 countries finds that in 14 of them people mostly say their government should not take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just three countries favor taking the Palestinian side (Egypt, Iran, and Turkey) and one is divided (India). No country favors taking Israel’s side, including the United States, where 71 percent favor taking neither side.
Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle rallied to Israel’s cause Monday as it pressed forward with large-scale air attacks against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip. . . .
“I strongly support Israel’s right to defend its citizens against rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, which have killed and injured Israeli citizens, and to restore security to its residents,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev. . . .
His view was echoed by leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“Israel has a right, indeed a duty, to defend itself in response to the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired from Gaza over the past week,” Howard L. Berman , D-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House committee, also expressed support for the Israeli offensive. . . .
The White House on Monday also took Israel’s side in the fighting, demanding that Hamas halt its rocket fire into Israel and agree to a last ceasefire.
There sure is a lot of agreeing going on — one might describe it as “absolute.” The degree of mandated orthodoxy on the Israel question among America’s political elites is so great that if one took the statements on Gaza from George Bush, Pelosi, Hoyer, Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, and randomly chosen Bill Kristol-acolytes and redacted their names, it would be impossible to know which statements came from whom. They’re all identical: what Israel does is absolutely right. The U.S. must fully and unconditionally support Israel. Israel does not merit an iota of criticism for what it is doing. It bears none of the blame for this conflict. No questioning even of the wisdom of its decisions — let alone the justifiability — is uttered. No deviation from that script takes place.
By itself, the degree of full-fledged, absolute agreement — down to the syllable — among America’s political leaders is striking, even when one acknowledges the constant convergence between the leadership of both parties. But it becomes even more striking in light of the bizarre fact that the consensus view — that America must unquestioningly stand on Israel’s side and support it, not just in this conflict but in all of Israel’s various wars — is a view which 7 out of 10 Americans reject. Conversely, the view which 70% of Americans embrace — that the U.S. should be neutral and even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally — is one that no mainstream politician would dare express.
In a democracy, one could expect that politicians would be afraid to express a view that 70% of the citizens oppose. Yet here we have the exact opposite situation: no mainstream politician would dare express the view that 70% of Americans support; instead, the universal piety is the one that only a small minority accept. Isn’t that fairly compelling evidence of the complete disconnect between our political elites and the people they purportedly represent?
There is, of course, other evidence for that proposition: the fact that …
“In the usual process,” writes Greg Mitchell, “the U.S. government — and media here — are playing down questions about whether Israel overreacted in its massive air strikes on Gaza, while the foreign press, and even Haaretz in Israel, carries more balanced accounts. The early reports on Sunday already reveal the bombing of a TV station and mosque and preparations for an invasion.” Mitchell cites eyewitness accounts that describe morgues full of civilians, along with editorial stating that Israel’s bombing of Gaza “within the span of a few hours … sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years.”
Apparently only a few. James Williams has an interesting article in Science on the topic. It begins:
As a science educator, I train science graduates to become science teachers. Over the past two years I’ve surveyed their understanding of key terminology and my findings reveal a serious problem. Graduates, from a range of science disciplines and from a variety of universities in Britain and around the world, have a poor grasp of the meaning of simple terms and are unable to provide appropriate definitions of key scientific terminology. So how can these hopeful young trainees possibly teach science to children so that they become scientifically literate? How will school-kids learn to distinguish the questions and problems that science can answer from those that science cannot and, more importantly, the difference between science and pseudoscience?
Here are some of the data from the 74 graduates that I’ve surveyed to date:
• 76% equated a fact with ‘truth’ and ‘proven’
• 23% defined a theory as ‘unproven ideas’ with less than half (47%) recognizing a theory as a well evidenced exposition of a natural phenomenon
• 34% defined a law as a rule not to be broken, and forty-one percent defined it as an idea that science fully supports.
• Definitions of ‘hypothesis’ were the most consistent, with 61% recognizing the predictive, testable nature of hypotheses.
The results show a lack of understanding of what scientific theories and laws are. And the nature of a ‘fact’ in science was not commonly understood, with only 11% defining a fact as evidence or data. Here are just a few of their definitions of a scientific theory: “An idea based on a little evidence, not fact”; “an idea about something, not necessarily true”; “unproven ideas.”…
Monsanto executives will have much to answer for should they come before the throne of a just God. The latest is what milk laced with Monsanto products will do to you. Here’s an article that includes:
… In October, Demko, a former corporate banker, helped raise funds to bring together about three dozen dairy researchers, from nutritional epidemiologists to dairy scientists, at a McGill and Harvard-sponsored conference. It was the first time such a diverse group of milk researchers had been brought together under one roof. Practically everyone in the room could agree on several things. First, cow’s milk contains steroid hormones such as estradiol and testosterone, and peptide hormones such as IGF-1. Second, drinking milk has been shown to boost serum levels of certain hormones, particularly IGF-1, in humans. Third, high levels of certain hormones, particularly IGF-1, have been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers.
Some epidemiologists have connected those three dots and have suggested that cow’s milk increases the risk of cancer. For example, large epidemiologic studies have appeared in major journals, reporting that prostate cancer – particularly aggressive forms – seem to be associated with dairy intake, and perhaps more strongly with total calcium intake. Such intake may double or triple the risk of aggressive prostate cancers, which kill about 2-3% of men.
The three days of presentations led Harvard epidemiologist Walter Willett to conclude that current US dietary guidelines, updated in 2005, were too bullish on milk. “I think it’s not wise to recommend three [8-ounce] glasses per day for adults. Probably, a serving a day is OK; I don’t see much reason that would be harmful. I’m concerned about two glasses a day, and three has a strong potential for harm.”…
Read the whole thing. I use very little from the dairy shelves and almost never drink milk.
Interesting trip down memory lane with Vanity Fair as our guide. The article begins:
The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.