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Archive for February 8th, 2010

Roast chicken with a lemon inside

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I’m making this recipe, an old standby at this point:

Roast Chicken with Lemons
Serves 4

3- to 4-pound chicken
salt [I highly recommend kosher salt for this recipe - LG]
freshly ground black pepper
2 small lemons {I use one, though it’s largish. Be sure to get organic lemons. – LG]

1. Preheat oven to 350º F.

2. Wash the chicken in cold water, inside and out. Remove any fat hanging loose. Let the water drain out and pat the bird dry with a towel.

3. Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper on the chicken, inside and out.

4. Wash and dry the lemon(s). Soften each by rolling back and forth on a counter while pressing on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture each lemon in at least 20 places, using a round toothpick, a trussing needle, or a fork. [I used a fork. - LG]

5. Place lemon(s) in the chicken’s cavity. Close the opening with toothpicks or a trussing needle and string. Don’t make it absolutely air-tight—the bird may burst. Tie the legs in the natural position with string. [I made it as tight as possible and it still didn't burst. - LG]

6. Put the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side down. Place it in the upper third of the oven. After 40-45 minutes, turn the breast side up. [I’ve adjusted the time. – LG] Try not to puncture the skin, but don’t worry if you do. The chicken will be just as good.

7. Cook for another 30-35 minutes, the increase the heat to 400º F, cook for 20 minutes more. Plan on 20 to 25 minutes of total cooking time per pound. There is no need to turn the chicken again. When you believe the chicken is done, use a meat thermometer to see if your belief is correct.

8. Bring the bird to the table whole. Leave the lemons in it until the chicken is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. [I let the chicken sit out of the oven on the carving plate for 15 minutes before I started carving. That probably contributed to the juiciness of the meat. - LG]

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

How Google was hacked

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A forensic report has been completed. Kim Zetter at Wired:

It’s been three weeks since Google announced that a sophisticated and coordinated hack attack dubbed Operation Aurora recently targeted it and numerous other U.S. companies.

Until now we’ve only known that the attackers got in through a vulnerability in Internet Explorer and that they obtained intellectual property and access to the Gmail accounts of two human rights activists whose work revolves around China. We also know a few details about how the hackers siphoned the stolen data, which went to IP addresses in Taiwan. About 34 mostly undisclosed companies were breached.

Now a leading computer forensic firm is providing the closest look so far at the nature of the attacks, and attackers, that struck Google and others. The report never mentions Google by name, or any other companies, but focuses on information gathered from hundreds of forensic investigations the firm has conducted that are identical to what we know about the Google hack.

What the information indicates is that the attack that hit Google is identical to publicly undisclosed attacks that have quietly plagued thousands of other U.S. companies and government agencies since 2002 and are rapidly growing. They represent a sea change from the kinds of attacks that have commonly hit networks and made headlines.

“The scope of this is much larger than anybody has every conveyed,” says Kevin Mandia, CEO and president of Virginia-based computer security and forensic firm Mandiant. “There [are] not 50 companies compromised. There are thousands of companies compromised. Actively, right now.”

Mandiant released the report last week at a closed-door cybercrime conference, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department, in an effort to make companies aware of the threat.

The firm has been investigating the Google breach and many of the most high-profile breaches of the last few years, such as those that occurred at credit and debit card processors Heartland Payment Systems and RBS Worldpay. Unlike those latter attacks, however, the breed of attacks that struck Google and others is markedly different.

Called Advanced Persistent Threats (APT), the attacks are distinctive in the kinds of data the attackers target, and they are rarely detected by antivirus and intrusion programs. What’s more, the intrusions grab a foothold into a company’s network, sometimes for years, even after a company has discovered them and taken corrective measures.

“APT is a very unique threat out of the Asia Pacific that . . . looks different and is much more widespread than the criminal compromises,” Mandia says in a recent phone interview.

The Heartland and RBS attackers, and other criminal hackers of their ilk, tend to use SQL injections attacks to breach front-end servers. The APT attackers, however, employ undetectable zero-day exploits and social engineering techniques against company employees to breach networks.

The non-APT hackers target only financial data or sensitive customer data for identity theft, while the APT attackers never target such data. Instead, their focus is espionage. They attempt to take every Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF document from every machine they compromise, as well as all e-mail, says Mandia.

The non-APT hackers also employ …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

More proof of global warming

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From Climate Progress:

Another massive mid-Atlantic precipitation event, another piece of nonsense from the anti-science crowd.   Kevin Mooney of the American Spectator actually wrote an article titled, “Snowmageddon” Versus “Overwhelming Scientific Evidence,” which asserts:

This is the first time since record keeping started that two storms of such magnitude have hit the region during one winter. Already some localities are reporting the largest snowfall ever recorded.

To be sure, these events do not prove or disprove human caused global warming. But the momentum is now very much on the side of skeptical scientists who question these theories and President Obama should at least pull back from his awkward juxtapositions.

Yes, for the anti-science crowd, the kind of extreme precipitation event the mid-Atlantic states just experienced somehow weighs against the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change — even though it is entirely consistent with the predictions of climate science (see Was the “Blizzard of 2009″ a “global warming type” of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)? and analysis by uber-meteorologist, Dr. Jeff Masters below).

Memo to anti-science crowd:  Precipitation isn’t temperature!

What’s particularly laughable about Mooney’s article is that according to the UAH satellite data so beloved of the anti-science crowd, the storm occurred on the warmest February 6 — and indeed, during the warmest winter — in the temperature record (data here — the orange line ending in the white box in the figure above tracks temperatures in 2010).

Capital Climate has an excellent analysis on Super Storm 2010, which finds: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 1:15 pm

Steve Benen comments on some GOP insanity

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Benen:

John Brennan, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser, offered a rather forceful response to Republican criticism of the Abdulmutallab case, and GOP demands that the attempted terrorist be treated as an enemy combatant.

Brennan said that on Christmas night he had briefed four senior House and Senate Republicans about Abdulmutallab, who was "in FBI custody" and at that point "talking" and "cooperating." He said that at no point did any of the four — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Republican minority leader; Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), ranking GOP member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader; and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — raise concerns about Abdulmutallab being placed in military custody or being Mirandized.

Brennan said "quite a bit of an outcry after the fact" led him to be "concerned on behalf of the counterterrorism professionals" that politicians are using the issue for partisan purposes, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.

Republicans conceded that the administration alerted GOP officials to developments just hours after the incident, but they raised a new complaint — just because they knew Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody didn’t mean they knew that Abdulmutallab would be treated the way the FBI has already dealt with attempted terrorists.

In other words, Republican leaders are outraged because they weren’t entirely sure what happens after someone gets arrested, and assumed without reason that the FBI would handle the Abdulmutallab case differently than every related and similar case in recent memory.

It’s an extremely odd argument. Republicans are angry because they’re ignorant? In reference to GOP leaders Boehner, McConnell, and others, Spencer Ackerman added, "Apparently these men, who claim leadership on national security, know less about FBI procedure than the average moviegoer. Obviously the FBI Mirandizes suspects in their custody."

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 12:05 pm

The medical malpractice myth

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Another good article by Ezra Klein, this one from 2006 in Slate. A couple of paragraphs from the article:

… The best attempt to synthesize the academic literature on medical malpractice is Tom Baker’s The Medical Malpractice Myth, published last November. Baker, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who studies insurance, argues that the hype about medical malpractice suits is "urban legend mixed with the occasional true story, supported by selective references to academic studies." After all, including legal fees, insurance costs, and payouts, the cost of the suits comes to less than one-half of 1 percent of health-care spending. If anything, there are fewer lawsuits than would be expected, and far more injuries than we usually imagine…

and:

… Anesthesiologists used to get hit with the most malpractice lawsuits and some of the highest insurance premiums. Then in the late 1980s, the American Society of Anesthesiologists launched a project to analyze every claim ever brought against its members and develop new ways to reduce medical error. By 2002, the specialty had one of the highest safety ratings in the profession, and its average insurance premium plummeted to its 1985 level, bucking nationwide trends. Similarly, feeling embattled by a high rate of malpractice claims, the University of Michigan Medical System in 2002 analyzed all adverse claims and used the data to restructure procedures to guard against error. Since instituting the program, the number of suits has dropped by half, and the university’s annual spending on malpractice litigation is down two-thirds. And at the Lexington, Ky., Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a program of early disclosure and settlement of malpractice claims lowered average settlement costs to $15,000, compared with $83,000 for other VA hospitals…

Read the whole thing. It’s clear that medical malpractice is a problem, but not with the courts and torts—it’s a problem for the medical profession, which on the whole refuses to address the problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Medical

GOP healthcare ideas already in the legislation

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Interesting that the GOP is going to the healthcare summit to trot out their ideas—when, as Ezra Klein points out, their ideas are already in the legislation:

At this point, I don’t think it’s well understood how many of the GOP’s central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP’s "Solutions for America" homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them — yes, you read that right — are in the Senate health-care bill.

(1) "Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines." This is a long-running debate between liberals and conservatives. Currently, states regulate insurers. Liberals feel that’s too weak and allows for too much variation, and they want federal regulation of insurers. Conservatives feel that states over-regulate insurers, and they want insurers to be able to cluster in the state with the least regulation and offer policies nationwide, much as credit card companies do today.

To the surprise and dismay of many liberals, the Senate health-care bill included a compromise with the conservative vision for insurance regulation. The relevant policy is in Section 1333, which allows the formation of interstate compacts. Under this provision, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (for instance) could agree to allow insurers based in any of those states to sell plans in all of them. This prevents a race to the bottom, as Idaho has to be comfortable with Arizona’s regulations, and the policies have to have a minimum level of benefits (something that even Rep. Paul Ryan believes), but it’s a lot closer to the conservative ideal.

(2) "Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do." This is the very purpose of the exchanges, as defined in Section 1312. Insurers are required to pool the risk of all the small businesses and individuals in the new markets rather than treating them as small, single units. That gives the newly pooled consumers bargaining power akin to that of a massive corporation or labor union, just as conservatives want. It also gives insurers reason to compete aggressively for their business, which is key to the conservative vision. Finally, empowering the exchanges to use prudential purchasing maximizes the power and leverage that consumers will now enjoy.

(3) …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:51 am

Lion’s share of the US Federal budget: The military

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I just had an informative comment posted by Neville, but then he claimed that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security account for 54% of the Federal budget. That is untrue. Take a look at this chart:

Military

As explained at the link, the 2009 Fiscal Year saw Total Outlays (Federal Funds) of $2.65 trillion, of which:

MILITARY: 54% and $1.449 trillion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1.21 trillion

We could pay for an awful lot of civic improvements, education, healthcare, and so on if we would just cut the military budget, but of course politicians are notorious cowards about things like that.

Does anyone believe that we really need to spend around 1.5 trillion dollars every year to have a good military? Let me provide some context (from the same link):

USvsWorld

As pointed out at the link:

The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the U.S.’s share of the world’s GDP is about 21 percent. Also note that of the top 15 countries shown, at least 12 are considered allies of the U.S. The U.S. outspends Iran and North Korea by a ratio of 72 to one.

Another budget graph is in the NY Times today, showing the current budget. Click the “hide mandatory spending” button and see what funds are actually available to reallocate.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:29 am

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