Archive for November 2009
Scroll down to see them all. Thanks to The Wife for pointing it out.
2.61 miles, today 54 min 49 seconds: 2.9 mph. Not so good as last time, but it’s a gradual process. I’m not pushing myself for speed, just doing the walk with enjoyment.
Interesting post by Sami Grover at Treehugger:
As the wonderful BBC documentary A Farm for the Future has shown us all too clearly, modern agriculture is woefully dependent on fossil fuels, and oil in particular. And with International Energy Agency (IEA) whistleblowers suggesting peak oil may be nearer than we think, and even the IEA chief saying time is not on our side, we’d do well to start designing our way out of an oil-based food system. So what might that transition look like?
Many activists are putting time into community nut and fruit tree plantings as a source of food security. (The image above comes from an orchard planted in my town last week.) And those cutting back on meat consumption, and especially grain fed meats, are undoubtedly doing their part to move away from oil-intensive food.
But the chances are that farms will continue to supply the majority of our meals for some time to come. So how do we wean them off the oil that keeps them running? Minimizing tillage to sequester carbon and reduce the need for mechanized labor seems like as good a place as any to start. But George Monbiot has been looking into other ways that farmers can kick the oil habit, and it looks like it’s harder than you might think.
The US military could have captured or killed Osama bin Laden in 2001 if it had launched a concerted attack on his hideout in Afghanistan, according to a report prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The report, written by staff working for the Democratic majority on the committee, said the al Qaeda leader’s escape was a lost opportunity that altered the course of the war and paved the way for insurgencies in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
”Removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat,” the report said.
”But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed Mr bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide.”
US soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001 in pursuit of Mr bin Laden, believed to be hiding in the region with supporters after the Taliban government was removed from power.
US military leaders allowed Afghan militiamen to spearhead the assault and Mr bin Laden managed to escape.
The report said US commanders rejected requests for more troops to launch a rapid assault in the area, relying instead on air strikes and the Afghan militias to lead the attack and Pakistan’s Frontier Corps to seal off escape routes.
”The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines,” it said.
Very interesting post (with video clip) at Crooks & Liars. The post includes how Washington state officials are working hard to undermine laws passed in the state.
Here are a couple in action:
A quick fyi: On Monday morning (8:30 am California time), Stanford Continuing Studies opens up registration for its winter lineup of online writing courses. Offered in partnership with the Stanford Creative Writing Program (one of the most distinguished writing programs in the country), these online courses give beginning and advanced writers, no matter where they live, the chance to refine their craft with gifted writing instructors. As you will see, there are a couple of courses offered in conjunction with The New York Times. The idea here is that you’ll learn writing from a Stanford writing instructor and then get your work reviewed by a New York Times book critic/writer. Quite a perk. And the courses sell out quickly. For more information, click here, or separately check out the FAQ and the testimonials.
Caveat emptor: These classes are not free, and I helped set them up. So while I wholeheartedly believe in these courses, you can take my views with a grain of salt.
- Feature Writing with The New York Times
- Writing Fiction with The New York Times
- Getting Started in Creative Writing
- Short Story Writing
- Novel Writing: The Powerful Beginning
- Novel Writing II: Continuing Your Novel
- Creative Nonfiction: Telling the Truth and Where to Begin
- The Essential Art: Making Movies in Your Reader’s Mind
- Writing the Great Poem
- Magazine Writing
- Writing the Graphic Novel
- The Story of the Self: Writing Personal Essays and Memoir
- Creative Nonfiction III: Completing the Creative Nonfiction Book
Interesting post by David Dayen at Firedoglake:
Frustrated by the lack of action in Washington after a mandate for change in 2008, liberals and Democrats inside and outside of government have begun to question the Senate filibuster rule, which they attribute to the growing legislative paralysis.
The filibuster (the Dutch word for “pirate”), the process by which Senators can endlessly continue debate on any bill until being cut off by a cloture vote requiring a super-majority, has been part of the Senate rules since the establishment of the body. They used to be available to members of the House as well, until rule changes limited that ability. Senators have been threatening to end the filibuster rule since Henry Clay in 1841, and over time the rule has changed in scope. The cloture vote, allowing a super-majority to end debate, didn’t exist until 1917, and the votes needed to invoke cloture were lowered from 67 to 60 in 1975.
However, while the rules governing the filibuster have arguably loosened, the use of the filibuster has skyrocketed, turning the Senate into a body that needs 60 votes to move anything. This has especially become true since 2007, when the Democrats recaptured the majority. While news reports repeatedly warned Democrats while in the minority that they wouldn’t be able to hold filibusters for political reasons, since 2007 they have become commonplace, with no such media concern-trolling. In the 110th Congress, 70% of major bills were filibustered, as opposed to 8% in the 1960s. Political leaders just didn’t see the filibuster as an impediment a few decades ago.
One rule change, allowing for “dual tracking” of bills, which meant that a filibuster wouldn’t effectively end all pending legislation in the Senate, has really led to the normalizing of the 60-vote super-majority requirement, because it made the filibuster relatively pain-free. In addition, the ideological homogeneity, particularly of the Republican caucus, has made it easier for those members to want to hang together and wield the filibuster as a political tool to deny any changes to the status quo. This of course is easier for a conservative death cult of a party more interested in winning politically than governing.
As the obstructionism has worsened in the Senate – the four agonizing weeks it took for an unemployment insurance bill that eventually won 99-0 on the floor being an example – more and more observers are targeting the filibuster as the main impediment to change, and calling openly for its elimination. This includes CAP blogger Matthew Yglesias, who notes that the filibuster adds another layer of checks and balances onto an already checked and balanced process: …
I’ll make this tomorrow, I think:
The recipe is here. List of ingredients:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup oat bran
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
18 to 20 large cabbage leaves
1 cup tomato-vegetable juice blend
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
The recipe sounds pretty easy. When I make it, I shall of course add garlic and use minced onion in place of “onion powder.”
But he’s white, not Muslim, and a US citizen—like Timothy McVeigh, in fact. So there’s no interest in this sort of terrorist. Dave Neiwert reports at Crooks & Liars:
Gee, for some reason, this story hasn’t managed to make it out of the local news and into the national headlines:
CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio – Following a pipe bomb explosion Monday night, police and federal law enforcement officials are trying to figure why a Center Avenue man turned his apartment into a bomb factory.
Police said no charges have been filed against Mark Campano, 56. Police found 30 completed pipe bombs in his apartment along with components to make more, plus 17 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Campano is in an Akron hospital with injuries received when one of the bombs exploded.
As police and federal authorities puzzle over Campano’s past and what he planned to do with the bombs, a former neighbor said Campano often railed against the government…
I thought I’ve made enough changes to warrant a full recipe:
Mince 6-8 cloves of garlic and 1/2 an onion. Let that sit for about 15 minutes for the garlic to stabilize.
While those are resting:
Chop 1.5 lbs of domestic white mushrooms fairly finely.
Put a large sauté pan on medium/medium-high heat with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and maybe 1/2 Tbsp habanero oil.
Add garlic onions, mushrooms and:
good dash of shoyu sauce
freshly ground pepper
about 1 Tbsp dried oregano
Sauté, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms release their liquid. Continue stirring and sautéing until all liquid evaporates.
Dump the mushroom mixture in a bowl, and add:
2/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I use panko bread crumbs, but any will work)
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
[Next time: 2 Tbsp of a three-year miso]
Mix well, and then cover the bowl and let rest for 20 minutes for the bread crumbs to soak in the moisture. (You can put it the refrigerator overnight at this point.)
When you’re ready to cook: heat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium-high heat while you form patties. Make sure they are well-formed with thick edges. Brush the top with olive oil, then flip that side down on the non-stick cooking surface and brush the other side with olive oil as well.
Cook each side around 3 minutes (experience will help). Even though you’re using a non-stick pan, the burgers will still brown nicely because the cheese in the recipe will brown.
Makes 6-8 burgers, depending on size.
I love these.
It looks very much as if scientists have tracked down how life originated on earth: the locale (in general terms) and the mechanisms linked in a very plausible scenario. Our ultimate ancestor’s first evolutionary steps were bacteria and archaea, both single-celled organisms. From the New Scientist article by Nick Lane:
It looks as if DNA replication evolved independently in bacteria and archaea, according to Eugene Koonin at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland.
Beyond that, many biochemical pathways are catalysed by quite different enzymes. The most surprising and most significant of these is fermentation, the production of energy from food without oxygen. Fermentation is often assumed to be the primordial method of energy generation. Yet Martin has shown that the enzymes responsible are totally unrelated in archaea and bacteria. It looks as if fermentation evolved twice later on, rather than at the dawn of life.
Even more baffling, says Martin, neither the cell membranes nor the cell walls have any details in common. "At face value, the defining boundaries of cells evolved independently in bacteria and archaea," he says.
But if that’s the case, what sort of a cell was this common ancestor? A cell with no boundary? Impossible! Something unique? If you exclude the impossible, then whatever you are left with must be true.
Fascinating article. I’m delighted that a plausible scenario for the origins of life has been formulated.
I was greatly impressed by the chapter on Habit in William James’s Psychology: The Briefer Course, which discusses the formation, importance, and role of habits. A good habit is a thing to cherish, a bad habit is a burden to be dropped. If you can create a habit that benefits you, you’ve set up a kind of annuity that will keep on giving without your conscious effort—a good habit does the heavy lifting so motivation doesn’t have to.
Which brings us to Habitforge. Take a look at this review by Simon Slangen at MakeUseOf.com. I’m going to use it to try to create a “walking” habit.
The American ski industry is concentrated in the West, home of many right-wing climate change deniers in government. This is driving the ski industry crazy. The Associated Press in the NY Times:
Ski resorts across the country are using the Thanksgiving weekend to jump start their winter seasons, but with every passing year comes a frightening realization: If global temperatures continue to rise, fewer and fewer resorts will be able to open for the traditional beginning of ski season.
Warmer temperatures at night are making it more difficult to make snow and the snow that falls naturally is melting earlier in the spring.
In few places is this a bigger concern than the American West, where skiing is one of the most lucrative segments of the tourism industry and often the only reason many people visit cash-strapped states like Utah during winter.
But even as world leaders descend on Copenhagen next month to figure out a way to reduce carbon emissions blamed in global warming, the industry is still grappling with leaders in some of their own ski-crazy states who refuse to concede that humans have any impact on climate change.
Chief among them is Republican Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who says he will host what he calls the first ”legitimate debate” about man’s role in climate change in the spring.
While the world’s leading scientific organizations agree the debate was settled long ago, the former Realtor who took office when Jon Huntsman resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China maintains that it wasn’t.
”He’s said to me that the jury is out in his mind whether it’s man-caused and he thinks and believes that the public jury is still out,” said Herbert’s environmental adviser, Democrat Ted Wilson.
Herbert’s reluctance to acknowledge that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming quietly frustrates Utah ski resorts that depend on state marketing money, but it openly infuriates industry officials elsewhere who liken it to having a debate about whether the world is flat.
”That’s just kind of raging ignorance,” said Auden Schendler, executive director of sustainability for Aspen (Colo.) Skiing Co. ”We’re not environmentalists, we’re business people. We have studied the hell out of the climate science. To have a neighboring governor not believe it … It’s absurd.”
I’m making the mushroom burgers again, this time with 3 eggs rather than 2.
UPDATE: I also added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the recipe, along with a good dash of soy sauce. Extremely delicious.
Depressing story by Edmund Sanders in the LA Times:
Have the climate wars of Africa begun?
Tales of conflict emerging from this remote, arid region of Kenya have disturbing echoes of the lethal building blocks that turned Darfur into a killing ground in western Sudan.
Tribes that lived side by side for decades say they’ve been pushed to warfare by competition for disappearing water and pasture. The government is accused of exacerbating tensions by taking sides and arming combatants who once used spears and arrows.
The aim, all sides say, is no longer just to steal land or cattle, but to drive the enemy away forever.
It’s a combustible mix of forces that the United Nations estimates has resulted in at least 400 deaths in northern Kenya this year. Moreover, experts worry that it’s just the beginning of a new era of climate-driven conflict in Africa.
"There is a lesson in Darfur," said Richard Odingo, vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global scientific body that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. "Every dry area has the potential to be a flash point if we are not careful." …
Interesting article by Tamar Lewin in the NY Times:
At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter. But at Med Grow Cannabis College, marijuana is the curriculum: the history, the horticulture and the legal how-to’s of Michigan’s new medical marijuana program.
“This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars,” said Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old founder of the college, which is actually a burgeoning business (no baccalaureates here) operating from a few bare-bones rooms in a Detroit suburb.
The six-week, $485 primer on medical marijuana is a cross between an agricultural extension class covering the growing cycle, nutrients and light requirements (“It’s harvest time when half the trichomes have turned amber and half are white”) and a gathering of serious potheads, sharing stories of their best highs (“Smoke that and you are … medicated!”).
The only required reading: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible” by Jorge Cervantes.
Even though the business of growing medical marijuana is legal under Michigan’s new law, there is enough nervousness about the enterprise that most students at a recent class did not want their names or photographs used. An instructor also asked not to be identified.
“My wife works for the government,” one student said, “and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”
While California’s medical marijuana program, the country’s oldest, is now big business, with hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, the Michigan program, which started in April, is more representative of what is happening in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Under the Michigan law, …