Later On

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

Pro Home Cooks on Rice Bowls — and how to make them better

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Michael G. has a good video (below) on rice bowls, including good tips for the novice cook. However, I strongly recommend using brown rice, not white — that is, use intact whole-grain race. Removing a grain’s bran (to produce white rice or pearled barley or the like) also removes a substantial amount of the nutritional value. Refined or highly processed foods lack the nutrition of whole foods. Whole grains include the bran. See what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say about whole grains.

He says he uses white rice because brown rice takes a long time to cook.  ???  Why not cook the (brown) rice ahead of time — like the day before? Cook a large batch, put it in a storage container, refrigerate it, and then take servings from the container as you need them

This has two benefits:

  1. Refrigerating the cooked intact whole grain will make the starch resistant and not so quickly digested, with the result that you don’t get hungry so quickly and it also nourishes your gut microbiome.
  2. When you go to make the dish, the rice is already cooked — it takes no cooking time at all (not even so much as cooking white rice) because you already cooked it. Just take the amount you need and put it in with the foods you’re cooking, or sauté it with a little oil (and perhaps onion or garlic or shallots) to heat it up, or just eat it cold.

And in fact, why use rice at all? Try cooking hulled barley (that’s intact whole-grain barley, with the bran still in place), or whole rye, or Kamut®, or spelt, or intact whole-grain rye — those also take a long time to cook, so cook a batch the day before. These grains are much more nutritious than rice — even brown rice. (White rice is not worth discussing.) Just use these cooked grains as you would use rice.

That said, the video does have some good tips. But he’s wrong in his approach to rice.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 2:56 pm

Dinner thoughts with Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage

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Dinner — after I cook it and serve it with hulled barley and lentils

The Eldest told me that Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage is quite tasty. I’ve been wanting to vary my greens (thus yesterday’s combo of tung ho, bitter melon, fresh bamboo shoot, red onion, jalapeño, and Japanese condiments (shoyu sauce, mirin, and brown-rice vinegar). That turned out very tasty, but I thought a spicy sausage would spruce up greens a lot.

I want the taste and the mouthfeel, but not the other things that go with regular sausage: salt, saturated fat, IGF-1, risk of E. coli contamination (do a search on “sausage recalls” or “ground meat recalls”), preservatives, and outright animal cruelty. So getting the taste and mouthfeel from healthful ingredients? Sounds to me like a big win. And the ingredients of Beyond Sausage look pretty good:

Water, pea protein*, refined coconut oil, sunflower oil, natural flavor, contains 2% or less of: rice protein, faba bean protein, potato starch, salt, vegetable juice (for color), apple fiber, methylcellulose, citrus extract (to protect quality), calcium alginate casing.

*Peas are legumes. People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy. Contains no peanuts or tree nuts.

Too bad about the nuts, but I can stir in some walnuts if I want. The only odd ingredient is methylcellulose. It helps with mouthfeel and is not digested — and very little of that is used: it’s way down on the list of the items that together constitute 2% “or less” of the product. 

A couple of the sausage links, cut into sections and sautéed with the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger before I add the chopped collards and a little Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar (and perhaps a dash of Red Boat fish sauce), will make this a tasty winter version of Greens. I’ll have it with the hulled barley that I have on hand and the rest of the lentils. (I got some dried soybeans to cook; I might make tempeh with those, or just have them as cooked beans.)

The price I paid is (in US$) $2.15 per sausage. For an occasional treat, that seems fine.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 1:49 pm

Keto v. whole-food plant-based for loss of body fat — and an onion note

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Onion note first: the antioxidant content of onions varies by layer. The outermost layer, just under the papery skin, has the highest concentration of antioxidants, and the antioxidant drops, layer by layer, and you move to the center, with the innermost layers have basically no antioxidant content. And onions follow the general rule for vegetables: the darker the vegetable, the higher the antioxidant content, so red onions are better than yellow, and yellow onions are better than white. (That’s the takeaway from this video.)

The following video compares the effect on the loss of body fat (not just loss of weight, which can be merely water loss) of a keto (low-carb high-fat) diet vs. what he calls a “vegan” diet but from the context seems to be rather a whole-food plant based diet. (The vegan diet is not limited to whole foods but can include refined foods and highly processed foods.)

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 11:47 am

Entertaining reunion and family dynamic

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Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 11:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Where we stand with Covid Omicron

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The Eldest works at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, so she has access to good up-to-date information. She writes:

Where we are now with Omicron: 

  • No deaths linked to Omicron have yet been reported.
  • Scientists don’t yet know if Omicron causes more severe disease. Understanding that will take several more weeks.
  • The level of protection against Omicron afforded by vaccination and previous infection are not yet understood.
  • Travel bans:
    • Japan and Israel have banned entry to all foreigners, while Morocco banned all incoming flights starting today, AP reports.
    • The moves follow the US and other countries’ decisions last week to halt flights from southern Africa.
Reality check: There are huge disparities in how much sequencing countries are doing: 1) the country that 1st reports may not be origin; 2) penalizing countries that report variants may have a chilling effect on surveillance for variants.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 9:15 am

The terrific Monday-morning shave — and a few things I noticed

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I really look forward to Monday mornings because the two-day stubble is a bit irksome and the shave is always a pleasure — today a particular pleasure because I particularly like Van Yulay’s Achilles. The lather is excellent and the ingredients are intriguing, and the fragrance (always a YMMV aspect) is one that I like a lot. The soap ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Coconut Fatty Acid, Palm Stearic, Castor, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Tobacco Tea, Aloe Vera, Coconut-Emu-Tallow-Meadow Foam-Borage-Argan Oils, Kentucky Bourbon, Sodium Lactate, Herbal Ground Tea, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Allantoin, Silica, Bentonite Clay, Glycerin Soap, Tobacco Absolute, Mica, and Fragrance.

BTW, the Van Yulay site is currently closed due to a move. It shall return.

The first thing I noticed this morning is that the Omega Pro 48 really is noticeably better than the Omega 20102 I used today. I used to recommend the 20102, but this morning it was evident that the Pro 48’s knot has better flex (due to slightly longer loft) and better coverage — the 20102 knot seems to be hollow, compared to the Pro 48’s.

Still, the 20102 is perfectly serviceable (though if I get another new brush at some point, I know which brush will depart the rack to make room), and the lather it made was first rate.

The second thing I noticed was how much I now like my iKon stainless slant (here with a DLC coating, though now sold with a B1 coating — more durable). I went through a period where the razor seemed to nick in every shave, and I finally realized that this razor simply requires a very light pressure and the correct blade angle — the latter most readily found by keeping the razor’s cap in contact with the skin.

Once you use light pressure and the right blade angle, this razor is a delight — highly efficient and totally comfortable. But it is not, I would say, a razor for a novice. Get accustomed to light pressure (just barely enough to keep the razor’s cap touching your face) and the best blade angle (the angle at which, if you moved the handle any farther from your face, the razor would stop cutting and just glide along on the cap), and then get one of these. They’re marvellous. 

After three easy passes, my face was truly BBS, and a good splash of Achilles aftershave finished the job. Now the day already seems very good indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 9:05 am

Posted in Shaving

Odd: Drastic drop in cost of funerals

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The chart is from a post in which Kevin Drum presents three other charts (including one that indicates the statistics on Covid-19 deaths are pretty accurate). 

One of looking at the drop in cost is puzzling: when demand increases, normally prices also increase. But that doesn’t seem to be what actually happened, so that’s not the right way to look at it.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Giant bamboo shoot is misleading — only the core is eaten

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The photo shows some of the things I’ll cook together. I think also I’ll add a jalapeño and a bunch of tung ho. Although the bamboo shoot seems enormous — well, it is enormous — only the very core is eaten. So you cut off and discard the tip part, and then cut away the outer layer of leaves. After removing the leaves and dicing the core, I got 3 cups of bamboo shoot. I simmered it 20 minutes, drained the water and simmered 10 minutes more, then drained the shoots and set them aside.

I diced the bitter melons (the 2 warty-cucumber-looking things) by quartering each lengthwise and then cutting across. I sautéd the bitter melon with chopped red onion and celery and one jalapeño until it seemed to cook down some — about 10 minutes.

I then added the bamboo shoots and chopped tung ho and cooked that for 30 minutes or so covered — with shoyu sauce (2 Tbsp), mirin (4 Tbsp), and brown rice vinegar (4 Tbsp) (all three from Eden Foods). I stirred it occasionally to see how it was getting along.

It’s quite tasty. The tung ho comes through, and the bamboo shoots are sort of crunchy. Not hot at all (I had only 1 jalapeño). The bitter melon seems subdued — that is, not very bitter. The most noticeable tastes are tung ho and the crunch of water chestnut, though there is some bitterness in the aftertaste (which I like).

Update:  Nutritional value of bamboo shoots — not bad at all. /update

I’m having a bowl with some hulled barley and green lentils mixed in: grain, beans, greens, and other vegetables all together. 

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 3:36 pm

The Deadly Myth That Human Error Causes Most Car Crashes

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Like most cities, Victoria has its share of dangerous intersections — that is, intersections at which the number of traffic accidents is abnormally high. When something is posted in the local Facebook group about yet another accident, I usually post something about bad design and another guy always comments “Bad drivers.”

I point out that the intersection in question gets the same mix of drivers as other intersections nearby, but this intersection has significantly more accidents. Something is different about this intersection (the greater number of accidents), and it’s not the drivers (same mix of drivers as other intersections). So it seems obvious to me that the problem is not “bad drivers,” but something in the design fo the intersection.

He won’t have it. For him, it has to be bad drivers. I don’t understand why. If drivers can be bad, then so can those who design intersections, but truly there is no convincing him. When I suggest that the design could be improved, he grows irate at the idea of “coddling” bad drivers, and says that if intersections and highways are designed to avoid accidents, drivers will become much worse. (I think he has some sort of Darwinian misconception in mind.)

At any rate, I thought of him immediately upon reading an Atlantic article by David Zipper, a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. The article begins:

More than 20,000 people died on American roadways from January to June, the highest total for the first half of any year since 2006. U.S. road fatalities have risen by more than 10 percent over the past decade, even as they have fallen across most of the developed world. In the European Union, whose population is one-third larger than America’s, traffic deaths dropped by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020, to 18,800. That downward trend is no accident: European regulators have pushed carmakers to build vehicles that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and governments regularly adjust road designs after a crash to reduce the likelihood of recurrence.

But in the United States, the responsibility for road safety largely falls on the individual sitting behind the wheel, or riding a bike, or crossing the street. American transportation departments, law-enforcement agencies, and news outlets frequently maintain that most crashes—indeed, 94 percent of them, according to the most widely circulated statistic—are solely due to human error. Blaming the bad decisions of road users implies that nobody else could have prevented them. That enables car companies to deflect attention from their decisions to add heft and height to the SUVs and trucks that make up an ever-larger portion of vehicle sales, and it allows traffic engineers to escape scrutiny for dangerous street designs.

The recently passed infrastructure bill will encourage some safety improvements, including technology to prevent drunk people from operating a car and better crash tests to address risk to people outside a vehicle. Yet even as the federal government prepares to shovel out hundreds of billions of dollars for roadwork, Americans’ fundamental misconception of traffic deaths as merely a profusion of individual mistakes will go largely uncorrected.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, published a two-page memo declaring that “the critical reason, which is the last event in the crash causal chain, was assigned to the driver in 94% of the crashes.” The memo, which was based on the NHTSA’s own analysis of crashes, then offered a key caveat: “Although the critical reason is an important part of the description of events leading up to the crash, it is not intended to be interpreted as the cause of the crash.”

To understand what the NHTSA was trying to say, imagine the following scenario: It’s a foggy day, and the driver of an SUV is traveling along a road at the posted speed limit of 40 miles per hour. The limit then drops to 25 as the road approaches a town—but the road’s lanes do not narrow (which would naturally compel a driver to apply the brakes), and the lone sign announcing the lower speed limit is partially obstructed. Oblivious to the change, the driver keeps traveling at 40. As he enters the town, a pedestrian crosses the road at an intersection without a stoplight. The driver strikes the pedestrian.

By the federal government’s definition, the “critical reason” for this hypothetical crash—the last event in the causal chain—is the error made by the driver who was speeding at the time of the collision. Almost certainly, the police will hold him responsible. But that overlooks many other factors: The foggy weather obscured the driver’s vision; flawed traffic engineering failed to compel him to slow down as he approached the intersection; the SUV’s weight made the force of the impact much greater than a sedan’s would have been.

The authors of the 2015 NHTSA report were aware of such contributing factors. But their disclaimer that the “critical reason” for a crash is not the same as the “cause” has been largely ignored. Even a page on the agency’s own website whittles the message down to “94% of serious crashes are due to human error.”

Seeking to find a single cause for a crash is a fundamentally flawed approach to road safety, but it underpins much of American traffic enforcement and crash prevention. After a collision, police file a report, noting who violated traffic laws and generally ignoring factors like road and vehicle design. Insurance companies, too, are structured to hold someone accountable. Drivers aren’t the only ones who face such judgments. Following a crash, a pedestrian might be blamed for crossing a street where there is no crosswalk (even if the nearest one is a quarter mile away), and a cyclist might be cited for not wearing a helmet (although a protected bike lane would have prevented the crash entirely). News stories reinforce these narratives, with stories limited to the driver who was speeding or the pedestrian who crossed against the light.

Indeed, journalists have disseminated the misleading 94 percent line on influential platforms including The Wall Street JournalABC News, and The Washington Post. Research institutions such as the University of Michigan and the University of Idaho have done it too. Even former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has helped sow confusion, as have transportation departments in states such as IllinoisUtah, and Texas.

“The 94 percent line is a repeated reference at almost every state [department of transportation] conference I’ve ever attended,” Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, told me. When the Michigan DOT spokesman Jeff Cranson speculated in a 2019 podcast that human error is actually responsible for more than 95 percent of crashes, the Michigan State University engineering professor Timothy Gates responded, “Yeah, I would agree with that, there’s very few crashes caused by a vehicle defect or road defect, a lot of it really is human error.” That’s a convenient perspective for engineers designing vehicles and roads.

And if the buck stops with the driver, automakers feel less pressure to make lifesaving safety features standard across their models—which many of them do not. Last year, Consumer Reports found that the average vehicle buyer would have to pay $2,500 for a blind-spot-detection system. Pedestrian-detection technology was standard on 13 of the 15 most popular vehicle models—but unavailable on one and part of a $16,000 optional package on another.

With responsibility falling on those directly involved in a crash, it’s unsurprising that so many highway-safety efforts revolve around education campaigns, assuming that if people were just more careful, we’d all be okay. Officials at the NHTSA and state DOTs pour millions of dollars into these programs, but their benefits seem modest at best. Officials “see their role as trying to cajole people on the roads to make smarter decisions,” Seth LaJeunesse, a senior research associate at the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center, told me. “Wear a seat belt, don’t be drunk when driving, and signal appropriately. I think it’s misguided. After all, who’s going to address structural problems, if it’s just people being stupid out there on the road?” . . ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 3:12 pm

Leek Kraut with Tarragon

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Leek kraut underway

At right is new fermentation batch:

• 2 large, long leeks, sliced thinly, green tops reserved for other use
• 1/2 large red onion, sliced and then cut into short sections
• 1 jalapeño, chopped (including core and seeds)

That made a quart. I put it in a large bowl, added

• 2 tablespoons Celtic coarse grey sea salt (1.1 oz)

Using a spatula, I stirred and tossed it all to mix well, then used my hand to squeeze and mash the mixture to bruise it and have it release some juices.

I took a 1-liter jar, put one-third of the leek mixture into the jar, added one spring of tarragon, added another third of the leek mixture and the another spring of tarragon. I pressed the mixture down and added the last third, pressing it into place.

I covered the veggies using the liquid from the jar of Cabbage & Red ferment, whose contents I had eaten, put a fermentation weight on top of the veggies, and then screwed on the fermentation airlock lid. I labeled it with today’s date. I’ll let it ferment until December 11. That’s two weeks, which is probably long enough.

A bit more on calculating the salt amount can be found in the “Leek Kraut with Tarragon” section of my main fermentation post.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 1:22 pm

What A Key Grip Does On Set

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This is a useful little video. The clips with Steve Buscemi (as director) and Dermot Mulroney (as cinematographer) are from the excellent comedy Living in Oblivion, which also stars Catherine Keener and Peter Dinklage. Worth seeing. (It streams on the Criterion Channel.) The clip from Boogie Nights reminded me that Ricky Jay was in that movie, which I had totally forgotten.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 10:47 am

The Glass Builder: The story of Annieglass

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When I lived in Santa Cruz, Annieglass had a studio that sold seconds. I discovered it because it was in a somewhat isolated cluster of buildings that included a little movie theater I liked. After I moved to Monterey, The Wife-to-Be and I would go to Santa Cruz on outings, and one time (this is about 30 years ago) I took her to the studio, where she bought some Roman Antique bowls. The Wife loves Annieglass, and so I was excited to see Peggy Townsend’s article in Craftsmanship about Annieglass and Annie herself. The article begins:

1. Rebel With a Cause
2. The Patent
3. The Hunt For Buyers
4. The Fake White House Invitation
5. Failure 101
6. Innovate Or Die
7. Customer Service On Steroids
8. The Marriage of Art and Technology
9. Glassware That Can Fight Off a Hurricane
10. Resources

One afternoon in 1981, when Ann Morhauser was just 24 years old, she watched a 4,500-pound carton of glass sheets dangle from a crane outside her tiny Santa Cruz studio. “Holy shit, what have I done?” she thought as the queen-bed-sized package, more than twice as heavy as she’d expected, descended from the sky. The carton cracked through the wooden deck in front of her shop, sending her landlord running across the parking lot, his arms flapping as if his anger might launch him, birdlike, into the air.

When Morhauser and her neighbors managed to move the glass into her studio, the carton broke through the sheetrock wall. As Morhauser pondered the accumulating disasters, she realized that another might be coming her way: the $1,500 check she’d written for the glass delivery was probably going to bounce.

Instead of panicking, Morhauser apologized to her landlord, and covered the check by borrowing cash from her soon-to-be husband, who could not afford the bill either. To those who know her, these were classic Morhauser moves: unafraid, adaptable, daring—even to the point of disaster, which Morhauser somehow turns into victory. “Certainly, persistence and flexibility are a requirement of this business,” says Morhauser, with her trademark smile: half serious, half impish. “It especially helps when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing.”

Today, Morhauser has achieved a level of success that most artisans only dream about. She turns out 50,000 to 70,000 handmade items a year, has 26 employees, 25 independent sales representatives, and owns a 16,000-square-foot studio and retail shop. Plates and platters from Annieglass, as her company is called, have graced tables from the White House to the homes of Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Anniston. A few are even on permanent display at the Smithsonian’s American Museum of Art in Washington DC.

Any trajectory like that begs two questions: How did she pull it off? And are there any models or lessons in her journey that could help other artisans make a living in today’s highly industrialized, global marketplace?


From all indications, Morhauser’s formula revolves around passion—and the impulse to take chances, which it seems she learned at a very early age. Morhauser grew up in southern New Jersey (Patti Smith territory is how she describes it), with three rough-and-tumble older brothers who gave her regular lessons in never crying uncle. She attended  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 8:56 am

The mainstream media are failing us

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Heather Cox Richardson points out how the US is being undermined by click-oriented (instead of thoughtful) journalism. She writes:

Today, Nate Cohn noted in the New York Times that the policies President Joe Biden and the Democrats are putting in place are hugely popular, and yet Biden’s own popularity numbers have dropped into the low 40s. It’s a weird disconnect that Cohn explains by suggesting that, above all, voters want “normalcy.”

Heaven knows that Biden, who took office in the midst of a pandemic that had crashed the economy and has had to deal with an unprecedented insurgency led by his predecessor, has not been able to provide normalcy.

In her own piece, journalist Magdi Semrau suggests that the media bears at least some of the responsibility for this disconnect, since it has given people a sense of the cost of Biden’s signature measures without specifying what’s in them, focused on negative information (negotiations are portrayed as “disarray,” for example), and ignored that Republicans have refused to participate in any lawmaking, choosing instead simply to be obstructionist. As Semrau puts it: “Democrats want to fix bridges, provide childcare and lower drug costs. Republicans don’t. These are political facts and voters should be aware of them.”

To this I would add that Republican attacks on Democrats, which are simple and emotional, get far more traction and thus far more coverage in the mainstream press than the slow and successful navigation of our complicated world.

In illustration of the unequal weight between emotion and policymaking, Biden’s poll numbers took a major hit between mid-August and mid-September, dropping six points. That month saw the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was widely portrayed as a disaster at Biden’s hands that had badly hurt U.S. credibility. In fact, Biden inherited Trump’s deal with the Taliban under which the U.S. promised to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021, so long as the Taliban met several requirements, including that it stop killing U.S. soldiers.

When Biden took office, there were only 3500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a high of 100,000 during the Obama administration. Biden had made no secret of his dislike of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and, faced with the problem of whether to honor Trump’s agreement or send troops back into the country, committed to complete the withdrawal, although he pushed back the date to September.

What he did not know, in part because Trump’s drawdown had taken so many intelligence officers out of the country, was that as soon as Trump’s administration cut the deal with the Taliban, Afghan troops began to make their own agreements to lay down their arms. The Biden administration appears to have been surprised by the sudden collapse of the Afghan government on August 15. As the Taliban took the capital city of Kabul, Afghans terrified by the Taliban takeover rushed to the Kabul airport, where an attack killed 13 U.S. military personnel who were trying to manage the crowd.

Republicans reacted to the mid-August chaos by calling for Biden’s impeachment, and the press compared the moment to the 1975 fall of Saigon. That coverage overshadowed the extraordinary fact that the U.S. airlifted more than 124,000 people, including about 6000 U.S. citizens, out of Afghanistan in the six weeks before the U.S. officially left. This is the largest airlift in U.S. history—the U.S. evacuated about 7000 out of Saigon—and evacuations have continued since, largely on chartered flights.

By comparison, in October 2019 under Trump, the U.S. simply left Northern Syria without helping former allies; the senior American diplomat in Syria, William V. Roebuck, later said the U.S. had “stood by and watched” an “intention-laced effort at ethnic cleansing.” And yet, that lack of evacuation received almost no coverage.

Complicating matters further, rather than agreeing that the withdrawal was a foreign policy disaster, many experts say that it helped U.S. credibility rather than hurt it. According to Graham Allison, the former dean of Harvard Kennedy School, “The anomaly was that we were there, not that we left.”

And yet, in mid-September, while 66% of the people in the U.S. supported leaving Afghanistan, 48% thought Biden “seriously mishandled” the situation.

Aside from getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, is it true that Biden has not accomplished much?

Biden set out to prove that democracies could deliver for their people, and that the U.S. could, once again, lead the world. He promptly reentered the international agreements Trump had left, including the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, and renewed those Trump had weakened, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Biden set out to lead the world in coronavirus vaccinations, making the U.S. the world’s largest donor of vaccines globally, although U.S. vaccinations, which started out fast, slowed significantly after Republicans began to turn supporters against them.

Under Biden, the U.S. has recovered economically from the pandemic faster than other nations that did not invest as heavily in stimulus. In March 2021, the Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package to rebuild the economy, and it has worked spectacularly. Real gross domestic product growth this quarter is expected to be 5%, and the stock market has hit new highs, as did Black Friday sales yesterday. Two thirds of Americans are content with their household’s financial situation.

The pandemic tangled . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2021 at 3:26 am

Time flies while you’re fermenting vegetables.

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And that’ll keep you busy, as Bob & Ray used to say. 

Two weeks ago I started a three-liter batch of Cabbage & Red, and today I am shifting it from “fermenting” to “food,” though the Red has paled.

Compare the photo above to the original. The Wife tells me that the reason the red radishes are now white and the red onion has no color is that acid is inimical to red. However, the orange of the orange peel still is vivid, and the taste is good.

I’m not sold on Savoy cabbage for fermenting. I have a batch of red-cabbage kraut underway, and that red seems to be holding up. I think i the future, I’ll use green cabbage or red cabbage for this recipe.

I decided on two weeks based on a remark by Michael G. of Pro Home Cooks, and it does seem fine. I will be draining the liquid to use in starting a batch of leek kraut tomorrow: sliced leek with a sprig of fresh tarragon.

The taste

It’s quite good. The jalapeño gives it warmth without pain (better than the Thai red chiles I used in Beets & Leeks, which were way too hot for me). Good textures, except the Savoy cabbage is tender where I wanted crunch. 

Definitely good to eat and confirms to me that fermenting vegetables is a good idea, especially now that I can use the liquid to start the next batch — and I think leek kraut will be interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2021 at 5:17 pm

Is society coming apart?

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Jill Lepore writes in the Guardian:

In March 2020, Boris Johnson, pale and exhausted, self-isolating in his flat on Downing Street, released a video of himself – that he had taken himself – reassuring Britons that they would get through the pandemic, together. “One thing I think the coronavirus crisis has already proved is that there really is such a thing as society,” the prime minister announced, confirming the existence of society while talking to his phone, alone in a room.

All this was very odd. Johnson seemed at once frantic and weak (not long afterwards, he was admitted to hospital and put in the intensive care unit). Had he, in his feverishness, undergone a political conversion? Because, by announcing the existence of society, Johnson appeared to renounce, publicly, something Margaret Thatcher had said in an interview in 1987, in remarks that are often taken as a definition of modern conservatism. “Too many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’” Thatcher said. “They are casting their problems on society, and who is society? There is no such thing!” She, however, had not contracted Covid-19.

Of course, there is such a thing as society. The question now is how the pandemic has changed it. Speculating about what might happen next requires first deciphering these statements, and where they came from. Johnson was refuting not only Thatcher, but also Ronald Reagan. Thatcher’s exclamation about the non-existence of society and the non-ability of government to solve anyone’s problems echoed a declaration made by Reagan in his 1981 inaugural address: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Thatcher and Reagan often conflated the two – to diminish both – but society and government mean different things. Society usually means the private ties of mutual obligation and fellowship that bind together people who have different backgrounds and unequal education, resources and wealth. Government is the public administration of the affairs of people constituted into a body politic as citizens and equals. Society invokes community, government polity.

According to the Reagan-Thatcher worldview, there is no such thing as society. There are only families, who look after one another, and individuals, who participate in markets. The idea that government is the solution to people’s problems rests on a mistaken belief in the existence of society. This mistaken belief leads to attempts to solve problems such as ill health with government programmes such as government-funded healthcare, as if these were problems of society, rather than problems of individuals. Government programmes like these will also interfere with the only place where real solutions are to be found, which is the free market.

Not many worldviews build worlds but, long before the pandemic, this one did. It not only contributed to the dismantling of social supports in the US and the UK, but also undergirds the architecture and ethos of the internet, which is ungoverned, deregulated, privatised and market-driven – a remote and barren wasteland where humans are reduced to “users”, individuals, alone, just so many backlit avatars of IRL bone-marrow selves.

Then came Covid. Remoteness replaced intimacy, masks hid faces, screens stood in for rooms. States enforced “social distancing”: stickers on sidewalks, chairs left empty. Much carried on as before, only more intensely. Corporations monetised “social networking”: predictive algorithms, “friends”, “followers”. The pandemic forced vast numbers of people not only to retreat from the actual world, but also to live their lives in the anti-government, antisocial world of the virtual, the ersatz, the flat, lonelylocked inside and burned out.

To be sure, campaigns to halt the spread of the virus have demonstrated, again and again, the strength of ties of mutual obligation, through sacrifices made for sick and vulnerable people and, not least, through the surging number of mutual aid groups, each another expression of love and nurture and care and fellow feeling, each another proof of the existence of society. All the same, angry unmasked Americans are punching flight attendants on planes and schoolteachers in classrooms, when asked to wear masks, and there is a general sense that social norms are under a wartime level of stress, absent a wartime solidarity. Picture the second world war, where, instead of queueing in the ration line, people are clobbering one another. Even among the peaceable, alongside grief, exhaustion and dread, loneliness and alienation remain as the lasting miseries of the pandemic. Whether the fateful social distance will ever close will depend on the ravages of the virus, on an aching longing for one another, and on something more, too: on political decisions about public goods.

This year, while the world begins to remake itself, and as each of us, like so many hermit crabs crawling along the blinding sand, try to get our bearings, it may be that  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2021 at 5:07 pm

Lester Young and Teddy Wilson Trio – “Our Love Is Here to Stay”

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Teddy Wilson is a lifetime favorite.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2021 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Roasted Royalty (pumpkin)

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Every knife I could find has been sharpened, and the knife sharpener stowed away again for a few months, plus dishes done, counters cleaned, and floor mopped. I decided as a reward to roast half the Royalty pumpkin — and its seeds, of course.

I still can find nothing on the internet about Royalty pumpkin, so note the label photo at the right. This is is indeed a Royalty pumpkin

The pumpkin halved reveals a paltry number of seeds: 28 (I counted). Still, 28’s a perfect number, so there’s that. With so few seeds I decided they could just take their chances with the pumpkin, so no pre-bake this time for the seeds by themselves before adding the squash.

It takes the oven a while to come to 400ºF because I usually have a cast-iron skillet upside down on the bottom shelf to get another coat of seasoning. (I use Larbee.) This time it was the Stargazer’s turn.

Here you see pumpkin (one half, cut into chunks) and the seeds (all 28), ready for the oven after being tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, fine grey sea salt, and ground chipotle.

Update: 30 minutes was perfect time. Pumpkin is tender and very mild flavored, seeds are extremely good: tasty and not in the least tough. I’m going to eat all 28.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2021 at 3:36 pm

Phoenix Artisan Cavendish and a comment on CK-6 lather

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In a comment on yesterday’s shave, Tony brought up the way that the lather from shaving soaps made with Phoenix Artisaan’s CK-6 formula has a different feel. I certainly noticed this as well on my first use of a CK-6 shaving soap — it’s a definite “We’re not in Kansas any more” sensation.

I’m pretty sure that the feeling is due in part to the extraordinary ingredients, and in fact I had much the same experience later, when I first used one of Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak shaving soaps and one of the Ariana & Evans shaving soaps. The ultra-premium soaps really do feel differently — and they also leave my skin feeling different, post-shave: softer, more nourished.

Otoko Organics is another soap that produces a lather with a different feel, not like the lather from regular shaving soaps nor that from ultra-premium shaving soaps. The lather from Otoko Organics seems stiffish, sort of like a drier lather, though it’s not dry — and it does a really excellent job. It’s another shaving soap that marches to its own drummer, and I like it a lot.

This morning, my CK-6 version of Cavendish delivered again the unusual — and unusually good — lather experience, and with the iKon Shaveraft Short Comb I got a very smooth result (and one minor nick — this razor is not quite so comfortable as some). My Nik Is Sealed did its job, and a good splash of Cavendish aftershave left me feeling (and smelling) good and ready for the rainy weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2021 at 10:41 am

Posted in Shaving

Lesson learned in knife sharpening

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I’ve been sharpening my kitchen knives, and I just learned something: I use 100 grit to set the bevel. You can use a black magic marker on the edge and see what angle removes it, so you stick with original bevel, but my eyes are not so good, and I find it easier just to set a new bevel. I use 15º for me (good cutting, delicate edge) and 19º for others (still good cutting, edge not so delicate). After the 100 grit, I’ve been going 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, and 1500. What I learned is to skip the last two. Stopping after 1000 leaves some toothiness to the edge so that it cuts a bit more aggressively.

After the knife’s been used a while, the edge will curl over from the pressure of cutting and will seem dull, but by using a smooth sharpening steel you can easily straighten the curl and thus “sharpen” the knife. Eventually, of course, the edge wears down and the knife truly is dull and the sharpening steel will not do the trick — you actually have to resharpen the knife. That goes quickly and easily if you’re not resetting the bevel.

The ridged sharpening steels are IMO not so good as the smooth ones, and the diamond and ceramic steels, which actually grind away some metal, are very bad since they can totally screw up the bevel. Here’s an example of the sort I like.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2021 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Autumn Leaves – Chet Baker & Paul Desmond Together

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2021 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

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