Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 12th, 2013

Very nice chicken-rice soup today

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I wanted to make turkey-neck soup, but you can never find turkey necks when you want them. And there were no chicken backs, either, which make good stock. So I bought a package of 4 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in, and made this soup in a 4-qt pot:

Fill pot about 2/3 full of water, put in:

4 chicken thighs, skin on (the fat adds to the flavor)
5 star anise
1 Tbsp Penzeys chicken soup base
juice of 2 largish lemons
several grindings black pepper

Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then remove and discard the star anise, and take out the thighs to cool. Add to the stock:

1 large sweet onion, chopped (Spanish onion might be even better, but sweet is what I had)
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 medium carrots chopped — actually 2 medium, 3 smallish
about the same amount of celery, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch dandelion greens, chopped
2 tsp thyme
1 Tbsp marjoram
1 c brown jasmine rice from Thailand (rinsed well)

I brought it to a boil, covered it, and simmered it 25 minutes. Then I took the now-cooled thighs and picked all the meat and skin off the bones, which I discarded, and chopped the meat and skin and stirred that into the soup.

Not bad. I think it was the dandelion greens (regular, not red) that gave it a very fresh taste. Fresh tomatoes would be possible, and then perhaps some dried basil. Even as it was I perhaps could have added 2 tsp dried rosemary. And if it had been for me instead of The Wife, I definitely would have added some gochujang sauce or some crushed chipotle pepper. Leeks would have been good, but none at the store.

Still, simple and easy and tasty, and with protein, greens, starch, and veggies. Made a nice thick soup.

The pot was pretty full when I finished, but now with a few bowls eaten, it’s quite a comfortable fit.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Good points on the debt ceiling

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James Fallows makes two points that pretty much everyone should know, but are apparently completely unknown to pundits (and Mitch McConnell) and most of the GOP:

1) Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize one single penny in additional public spending.

2) For Congress to “decide whether” to raise the debt ceiling, for programs and tax rates it has already voted into law, makes exactly as much sense as it would for a family to “decide whether” to pay a credit-card bill for goods it has already bought.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Congress, Media

Businesses really like to use slaves when possible

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Note these two recent Southern Law Poverty Center cases:

SPLC wins record $11.8 million judgment for guestworkers in suit against forestry company

Firm must pay $4.5 million to exploited teachers in precedent-setting SPLC case

In both cases, the businesses were using the foreign guestworker program in an effort to cheat their employees. (This is why businesses hate unions: with unions, it’s harder to cheat and mistreat employees.) Both companies are in the South, much of which still longs for the days of slavery: all that Confederate nostalgia.

In 2007 the SPLC published a report, Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United StatesIt’s well worth a look. From the report:

Bound to a single employer and without access to legal resources, guestworkers are:

• routinely cheated out of wages;

• forced to mortgage their futures to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs;

• held virtually captive by employers or labor brokers who seize their documents;

• forced to live in squalid conditions; and,

• denied medical benefits for on-the-job injuries.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel recently put it this way: “This guestworker program’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to slavery.”

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 11:36 am

Anti-gay activist convicted of child pornography (her own daughter)

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Evelyn Schlatter posts at the Southern Poverty Law Center:

A New Hampshire lawyer who works with a virulently anti-gay Christian right organization has been found guilty of child pornography charges after videotaping a 14-year-old girl having sex with two men on multiple occasions.

Lisa Biron, 43, of Manchester faces a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison after a jury convicted her yesterday after deliberating for less than an hour.

Biron, arrested by the FBI last November, was accused of eight felony counts involving the videotaping of men having sex with the girl. She also allegedly made a cellphone video of herself having sex with the girl.

Biron, who claimed on her Facebook page (which was taken down, according to the Concord Monitor) that the Bible was her favorite book, had worked with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), formerly the Alliance Defense Fund, in defending a Pentecostal church in Concord in a tax fight against the city.

The Arizona-based ADF calls itself a “servant ministry” that seeks to transform the legal system and advocate “for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” The group issues dire warnings about “the homosexual agenda” and offers a book (available for a donation of $35) by its president, Alan Sears, and senior director Craig Osten, with that title. In the book, the authors claim that “the homosexual agenda” will destroy religious liberty and free speech. In one chapter, they claim that homosexuality on college campuses leads to pedophilia, and that homosexuality and pedophilia “are intrinsically linked,” a falsehood long perpetuated by the anti-gay right to demonize LGBT people.

In the wake of Biron’s arrest, the ADF . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 11:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Law

RIP, Aaron Schwartz

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Cory Doctorow has an appreciation of Aaron Schwartz, who committed suicide yesterday at age 26. Schwartz seems to have been a remarkable person indeed, and I encourage you to read the entire column.

Let me quote two small parts of the column, which I found particularly interesting. First:

At one point, [Schwartz] singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he’d be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant.

And then this:

I wrote to Aaron for help with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother to get his ideas on a next-generation electioneering tool that could be used by committed, passionate candidates who didn’t want to end up beholden to monied interests and power-brokers. Here’s what he wrote back:

First he decides to take over the whole California Senate, so he can do things at scale. He finds a friend in each Senate district to run and plugs them into a web app he’s made for managing their campaigns. It has a database of all the local reporters, so there’s lots of local coverage for each of their campaign announcements.

Then it’s just a vote-finding machine. First it goes through your contacts list (via Facebook, twitter, IM, email, etc.) and lets you go down the list and try to recruit everyone to be a supporter. Every supporter is then asked to do the same thing with their contacts list. Once it’s done people you know, it has you go after local activists who are likely to be supportive. Once all those people are recruited, it does donors (grabbing the local campaign donor records). And then it moves on to voters and people you could register to vote. All the while, it’s doing massive A/B testing to optimize talking points for all these things. So as more calls are made and more supporters are recruited, it just keeps getting better and better at figuring out what will persuade people to volunteer. Plus the whole thing is built into a larger game/karma/points thing that makes it utterly addictive, with you always trying to stay one step ahead of your friends.

Meanwhile GIS software that knows where every voter is is calculating the optimal places to hold events around the district. The press database is blasting them out — and the press is coming, because they’re actually fun. Instead of sober speeches about random words, they’re much more like standup or the Daily Show — full of great, witty soundbites that work perfectly in an evening newscast or a newspaper story. And because they’re so entertaining and always a little different, they bring quite a following; they become events. And a big part of all of them getting the people there to pull out their smartphones and actually do some recruiting in the app, getting more people hooked on the game.

He doesn’t talk like a politician — he knows you’re sick of politicians spouting lies and politicians complaining about politicians spouting lies and the whole damn thing. He admits up front you don’t trust a word he says — and you shouldn’t! But here’s the difference: he’s not in the pocket of the big corporations. And you know how you can tell? Because each week he brings out a new whistleblower to tell a story about how a big corporation has mistreated its workers or the environment or its customers — just the kind of thing the current corruption in Sacramento is trying to cover up and that only he is going to fix.

(Obviously shades of Sinclair here…)

also you have to read

For his TV ads, his volunteer base all take a stab at making an ad for him and the program automatically A/B tests them by asking people in the district to review a new TV show. The ads are then inserted into the commercial breaks and at the end of the show, when you ask the user how they liked it, you also sneak in some political questions. Web ads are tested by getting people to click on ads for a free personality test and then giving them a personality test with your political ad along the side and asking them some political questions. (Ever see ads for a free personality test? That’s what they really are. Everybody turns out to have the personality of a sparkle fish, which is nice and pleasant except when it meets someone it doesn’t like, …) Since it’s random, whichever group scores closest to you on the political questions must be most affected by the ad. Then they’re bought at what research shows to be the optimal time before the election, with careful selection of television show to maximize the appropriate voter demographics based on Nielsen data.

anyway, i could go on, but i should actually take a break and do some of this… hope you’re well

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 10:57 am

Update to US as totalitarian society

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Yesterday I blogged about the glider pilot who was put in jail for acting legally—indeed, there was serious discussion of shooting him down to kill him. I just updated the post with this:

UPDATE: I should point out that the aggressive (and to my mind, egregious) actions of DHS and the FBI are perfectly legal—indeed, they could have locked the pilot up indefinitely in a prison (a secret prison, if they chose) with no access to lawyers or due process. That’s allowable if they suspect him of terrorist inclinations, thanks to the PATRIOT Act, which the Senate recently continued with no discussion at all. In fact, it would be perfectly legal for Obama to have him killed on suspicion (a “signature strike”). Once dead, since he’s an adult male, the Obama administration would identify him as a militant: any adult male killed in a drone strike is ipso facto a militant—this is explicitly in accordance with the doctrine of the Obama Administration. When I say “perfectly legal”, I mean that Obama does it and it cannot be considered in court (just as the US kidnappings and torture of innocent people cannot be considered in court), because the Obama Administration uses the state-secrets loophole to keep these things out of court: no recourse for injured parties.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 9:56 am

Reality? or a simulation? How to decide?

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Interesting article by Tom Siegfried in Science News:

In olden days, before the Star Trek holodeck and movies like TRON and The Matrix, philosophers used to wonder whether life was but a dream. Nowadays they’re more concerned that reality could be just a computer simulation.

Sure, that’s not very likely. But you can’t rule out the possibility. Computers simulate all sorts of things, and some scientists have seriously suggested that nature’s supposedly rock-solid reality is really just some smart alien teenager’s science fair project.

Most people respond to that suggestion with a shrug. What does it matter? You have to row, row, row your boat anyway. As Gottfried Leibniz pointed out over three centuries ago, all that matters is that the world behaves real enough so that sound reasoning won’t deceive you. In other words, there’s no way to distinguish a real world from a simulation that convinces everybody they’re real.

Oh, that’s such limited thinking. If you contemplate how superior programmers would go about simulating a universe like the one humans inhabit, perhaps it wouldn’t be impossibly difficult to tell rock-hard reality from software simulation.

In fact, physicists are already simulating universes with their computers. It’s just that the simulated universes are pretty darn small, as Silas Beane and colleagues write in a recent paper online at Using the equations for quantum chromodynamics — the math governing the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together — physicists routinely simulate how subatomic particles called quarks interact in order to see how nuclear matter should behave.

Simulations are easier than solving the equations exactly — that would require infinite precision. Instead, a computer simulation performs calculations on a “lattice” — a set of points, all very close together, to approximate laws that actually operate at infinitesimally short distances. In these lattice simulations, points are fractions of femtometers apart (one femtometer being a quadrillionth of a meter, aka very tiny). The “universe” explored in such simulations is typically several femtometers across.

A universe so small is not likely to be of much interest to anybody who cares about anything bigger than a quark. But that size is limited merely by present-day computing power.

“It stands to reason,” write Beane and colleagues, “that future simulation efforts will continue to extend to ever-smaller pixelations and ever-larger volumes of space-time.”

Using assumptions about the growth of computing capability, the researchers forecast that a simulation the size of a human body might be within reach in 130 years or so. Since such a simulation would describe the activity of a body’s worth of atoms (it’s no big deal to add electrons to the math describing nuclei), human thought and behavior could appear. In a few more centuries, or millennia, computing power could simulate a universe of any size you want, as long as you aren’t constrained by shortsighted budget cutters.

“If there are sufficient high-performance computing resources available, then future scientists will likely make the effort to perform complete simulations of molecules, cells, humans and even beyond,” write Beane, of the Institute for Nuclear Theory in Seattle, and University of Washington collaborators Zohreh Davoudi and Martin Savage.

Still, you could be just a simulated automaton, but nobody would ever know. Except now, Beane and colleagues have gone a step further and figured out that such a simulation might very well leave signs that human scientists could detect, even if they are merely simulated scientists.

One promising possibility involves . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2013 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Science


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