Later On

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

Archive for July 18th, 2007

Some nice-looking summer recipes

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Via The Eldest:

“Garden Goulash”
Cook a chopped tomato, chopped leek, and 3 cloves chopped garlic in 1/2 stick of butter [or the equivalent amount of olive oil – LG]. When tender, add 1 cup kernels cut off 2 ears of corn, 1 cup shelled garden peas, 1 sliced yellow squash, 1/4 lb sliced okra, and 1/4 lb green beans cut in half. Cook until tender. Veggies can vary based on availability.

Tomato “Bread Pudding”

Cut 1/2 a baguette into 3/4″ cubes. Toss with 1/2 stick butter, melted.
Pulse 5 ripe garden tomatoes in the food processor with 1/2 tsp. each salt and sugar, plus pepper to taste. Toss with bread and bake in a buttered casserole dish at 400 for 30 minutes. Top with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan and cook 10 more minutes, then let stand 5 minutes before eating. [I’m thinking that maybe instead of the butter, use an equivalent amount of olive oil in which you have sautéed a few cloves of crushed garlic. Then put the 1/2 tsp of salt on the cubes and toast them in a hot oven until the edges are browned. Mix with the tomatoes and 2 Tbsp capers, the rest as written. – LG]

Tea and Sesame Chicken Salad
Brew strong tea (Lapsang Souchong?), then poach boneless chicken breasts [or chicken thighs – LG] in the tea with grated ginger, soy sauce, garlic, star anise, cloves, black peppercorns. Shred warm cooked chicken then return to poaching liquid. Allow chicken to cool in poaching liquid, then drain and mix the shredded chicken with mayo, toasted sesame oil, chopped scallions.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Medical marijuana ID cards in California

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From an email from the Marijuana Policy Project:

More than a year of grassroots organizing by MPP grant recipient Aaron Smith and others has paid off! Yesterday, the all-Republican Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to give Orange County patients the protection they deserve. Considering fierce opposition from law enforcement and initial reluctance from most of the county supervisors, this victory would not have been possible without the efforts of a full-time, grant-funded lobbyist making contact with the county’s policy makers.

This makes Orange County the 35th of California’s 58 counties to vote to implement medical marijuana ID cards. You can click here to learn whether your county has implemented ID cards and to see how patients and caregivers can obtain them. If your county hasn’t implemented the ID cards, the chart provides you with contact information for either your county department of health or your county board of supervisors, so that you can urge them to give patients the protection they are legally entitled to. For talking points to use with your county health departments and supervisors, please click here. To get more involved, you can contact Aaron Smith at safeaccessnow@gmail.com or (707) 575-9870.

Although patients are not required to obtain ID cards, many choose to do so because ID cards reduce the chances of wrongful arrest, prosecution, or seizure of medical marijuana. Counties are required to implement ID cards, but they can only do so after their boards of supervisors vote in favor of implementation. Unfortunately, some counties have been dragging their feet, and two counties — San Diego and San Bernardino — outrageously filed suit to try to overturn the ID card program and almost all of the other provisions of California’s medical marijuana law. (The lawsuit lost at the trial court level, and the counties have appealed.)

In late 2005, MPP saw that only 12 counties had implemented ID cards even though the state law that provided for them had passed two years earlier. So, MPP began funding Aaron Smith of Safe Access Now, who has done a terrific job educating county boards of supervisors and heath departments about implementing ID cards. Since then, the number of counties that have approved plans to begin issuing ID cards has grown to 35. MPP has also generated constituent phone calls in 14 counties where the ID card vote looked uncertain. In Orange County alone, MPP generated over 400 constituent calls at a cost of thousands of dollars.

If you are financially able, please make a donation to support our work to protect seriously ill patients. When this campaign began, only four million Californians lived in counties that had voted to implement ID cards. Now, more than 25 million do. In addition to the immediate protection the ID cards provide, the implementation process shows how isolated and out-of-touch San Diego and San Bernardino are in challenging California’s medical marijuana laws.

Thank you for your support! A special thanks to everyone who made the Orange County win happen, including Aaron Smith, MPP’s donors, and the dozens of seriously ill patients who attended two separate votes on this issue.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Medical

2 Gig and maxed out

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I now have 2 GB of RAM installed and working—that that’s it. No more room. Too bad: 4 GB would probably be even better, but so it goes.

UPDATE: Hey, my computer is fast once again. It had gotten slower and slower—I guess memory was thrashing out to the hard drive a lot. Now things are snappy once more. Good news.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Technology

Why people want regulations

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The following is from the New Yorker, but I’ve read similar comments before—e.g., food producers asking the Bush Administration for regulations regarding inspections, but being unable to get them, only “voluntary guidelines.” The reason is much the same: if the inspections are required, there will be a level playing field since all producers must have them. If it’s voluntary, those who inspect will be undercut in price by those who do not.

In the auto industry, there’s one thing you can always count on: if a new environmental or safety rule is proposed, executives will prophesy disaster. In the nineteen-twenties, Alfred Sloan, the president of General Motors, insisted that the company could not make windshields with safety glass because doing so would harm the bottom line. In the fifties, auto executives told Congress that making seat belts compulsory would slash industry profits. When air bags came along, Lee Iacocca told Richard Nixon that “safety has really killed all our business.” A few years later, when Congress was thinking about requiring fuel-economy standards, auto executives warned that instituting such standards would create “massive financial and unemployment problems.” And now, with Congress debating a bill to raise fuel-economy standards, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Chicken Littles are squawking again, forecasting doom for Detroit and asserting that making higher-mileage vehicles is technologically unfeasible and economically suicidal.

Of course, much of this is simply stonewalling by executives determined to keep meddlesome politicians out of their business. But sometimes the industry’s fears have been founded on real market research. In the case of safety glass, G.M. believed that consumers weren’t prepared to pay more for cars with safety glass, so Sloan worried that it would be hard to recoup the cost of installing it. Similarly, when, in the mid-nineteen-seventies, G.M. offered front-seat air bags as an option on Cadillacs, Buicks, and Oldsmobiles, they didn’t sell. Fuel-economy standards present the same difficulty: although there are plenty of affordable models that get good gas mileage, over the past two decades some of the most powerful and least fuel-efficient vehicles on the market—S.U.V.s and pickup trucks—have also been among the best-selling. Thirty years ago, so-called “light trucks” accounted for about a fifth of all auto sales. Today, even with a recent slowdown, they account for more than half.

Americans may want to buy the biggest and most environmentally damaging vehicles available, but polls show that, given an option, some three-quarters of them vote for dramatic increases in fuel-economy standards—increases that may well force automakers to sell fewer (or at least smaller) S.U.V.s. We buy gas guzzlers but vote for gas sipping. This isn’t because people are ignorant about how higher fuel-economy standards would affect them personally; polls that explicitly lay out the potential trade-offs involved still find support for tougher standards. And it isn’t as if voters and car buyers belong to two different groups; one recent survey of pickup owners found that seventy per cent strongly favored tougher requirements. The curious fact is that many people buying three-ton Suburbans for that arduous two-mile trip to the supermarket also want Congress to pass laws making it harder to buy Suburbans at all.

What’s happening here?

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 2:39 pm

TAL on healthcare

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The Anonymous Liberal has a very  good post on healthcare today, and the role of the free market in that sector:

In his latest column, John Stossel mocks Michael Moore and explains why our health care system would be so much better if we just allowed the free market to work its magic. He writes:

America’s medical system has problems, but profit is the least of it. Government mandates, overregulation and a tax code that pushes employer-paid health insurance prevent the free market from performing its efficient miracles. Six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties. That kills the market. Patients rarely shop around, and doctors rarely compete on price or service.

It’s always the knee-jerk free market worshipers like Stossel who are the most clueless about how markets actually work. Stossel thinks that the problem with our system is that third parties (i.e. insurers) pay for most services. The implication is that if people paid out-of-pocket for medical costs, they would be more cost-conscious and would shop around for better deals, thereby forcing providers to compete and lower prices. This makes sense until you actually switch on your brain for more than three seconds, at which point you realize that it’s total nonsense.

First, and most obviously, health care services are not like TVs and stereos. While some services are elective (and these are already paid for out-of-pocket), the vast majority of medical services are not. If you have a heart attack, you are whisked away to the nearest hospital and operated on. There is no time or opportunity to shop and compare rates. Even for non-emergency care, you usually don’t know what you need until you’ve seen a doctor. And at that point, it’s not very realistic to expect people to get second and third opinions and compare prices (“please don’t treat me, doc, I’m just browsing”). Going to the doctor is a major inconvenience, usually requiring time off work. People don’t like doing it. They just want to be treated and leave. And many don’t even have the option of shopping around. If you don’t live in or near a big city, your options are generally limited. Many people only have one hospital in their area.

Moreover, not being doctors themselves, most people lack the knowledge necessary to meaningfully compare services. Sure, they might be able to determine who’s cheaper, but that doesn’t really help. If anything, I’d be tempted to go with the most expensive provider, on the assumption that what costs more is better quality. I may be willing to buy the bargain brand toilet paper, but when it comes to my life, I’m not fooling around.

Perhaps most devastating to this argument, though, is the reality that when people are forced to pay out-of-pocket for medical expenses, they generally stop going in for routine preventative care and monitoring. This results in worse health outcomes (and unnecessary deaths), and has the perverse effect of raising health care costs. Preventative care has repeatedly been shown to reduce overall costs by heading off (i.e. preventing) the occurrence of conditions that are much more expensive to treat.

Finally, there’s a reason why we rely on insurance to pay health care costs. It’s the same reason we have car insurance and home owner’s insurance: without pooling risk, the costs would be unmanageable. Most people don’t have the financial resources to pay out-of-pocket to settle a lawsuit with another motorist or rebuild their home after a fire or pay for a heart transplant. The only way such things would ever be affordable to an average person is through participation in a large risk pool (i.e. buying an insurance policy).

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 12:20 pm

Iraq, the boondoggle

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From the Booman Tribune:

I’ve finally found the one true reason we are still in Iraq. We aren’t there for the weapons of mass destruction, because there aren’t any. We aren’t there to bring democracy to the Middle East because we haven’t done a thing to accomplish that (in fact we may have set it back a 1000 years). We aren’t there for the oil (at least not yet) because the Iraqis won’t pass an oil law turning over most of their profits to our “friends” at Big Oil. We aren’t there to rid Iraq of Saddam, because, well, he’s dead. And we aren’t there to stymie Iran, because by all accounts Iranian influence has increased since we invaded Iraq.

So why are we still there accomplishing nothing other than death (thousands of Iraqis, Americans and assorted others each month) and destruction (in the billions of dollar), and the wargasm said death and destruction engenders in right wing bloggers (priceless)? So “free marketeers” can continue to make easy money from their Big Government contracts, that’s why, even when (or should I say especially when) they don’t provide what those contracts require of them:

The [USA Today] found that, through October, more than two-thirds of contracts flagged by auditors as “inflated, erroneous or otherwise improper” eventually found their way to approval, representing over $1 billion.

Of course, that only represents the “wasteful” contracts the auditors catch. Considering that its highly likely the number of auditors on the job in Iraq are woefully insufficient to monitor all of the contracts that the Bush administration has seen fit to so “liberally” dispense to our needy contractors and defense companies in America, I doubt we catch even a fraction of the fraud and waste that goes on there. Which means that the true number of wasteful, fraudulent or purely bogus contracts is probably much higher. Yet, even when caught stealing from the till, as it were, these contractors know they stand a 66% chance they’ll still get to keep the government’s money along with the chance to steal even more. What a country! In short, Iraq is the world’s greatest boondoggle. A gold rush of a boondoggle, in fact. Money is tossed around (literally) like lettuce at a produce market, and if a few billion goes missing here or there, so what? It’s not like the ideologues in charge of dispensing this largesse care, so long as its going to a good cause (i.e., a past and/or current contributor to the GOP). It’s not their money their handing out to their pals, after all. It’s yours and mine. And if you’ve ever had the good fortune to go to a casino with someone else’s money in your pocket, well, I think you can get a handle on the psychology involved here. No wonder Bush liked the “surge” strategy so much. More troops cost more money. And where does that money go? That last question is rhetorical, folks. Supply your own answer.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 10:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

More politics in the DoJ

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From the AP:

Forty-four former state attorneys general have asked Congress to investigate whether politics at the Justice Department influenced the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges.

Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted last year of bribery and other charges. He began serving a seven-year prison sentence last month.

Democrats have long maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated, and recent allegations that White House officials were steering decisions at the Justice Department have added weight to the claims.

Last month, a GOP lawyer who once worked on the campaign of Republican Gov. Bob Riley signed a sworn affidavit saying she overheard conversations among campaign officials in 2002 suggesting that the White House was involved in Siegelman’s prosecution. She has offered to testify to any investigative agency or in court.

“The only way to convince the public that the governor is not the victim of a politically motivated double-standard is for Congress to investigate all aspects of the case thoroughly,” the former attorneys general wrote to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees.

The group is made up mostly of Democrats but includes a handful of Republicans. It is led by Jeff Modisett, an Indiana Democrat; Bob Abrams, a New York Democrat; Bob Stefan, a Kansas Republican; and Grant Woods, an Arizona Republican.

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 10:37 am

GOP using Drug Control for politics

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From the Drug Policy Alliance via email:

For years President Bush has wasted taxpayer money on drug war programs that even his own analysts have concluded are ineffective. Now we know why.

A recent Congressional investigation found that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) used taxpayer money to boost support for Republican candidates in 2006. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters and his deputies traveled to almost 20 events with vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the months prior to the election. The taxpayer-financed trips were orchestrated by President Bush’s political advisors and often combined with the announcement of federal grants or actions that made the Republican candidates look good in their districts. Karl Rove commended ONDCP officials for “going above and beyond the call of duty” in making “surrogate appearances” in “the god awful places we sent them.” Those “god awful places” included cities like South Bend, Indiana, my hometown.

At the same time Walters was spending taxpayer money campaigning on behalf of vulnerable Republicans, President Bush was increasing funding for Walters’ favorite programs, the anti-marijuana ad campaign and the student drug testing program. This kind of I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you-scratch-mine arrangement is outrageous, even by Washington standards!

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 10:32 am

Mark Bittman helps with summer cooking

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I really like Mark Bittman’s cookbooks and cooking column (The Minimalist): he’s sensible about cooking and speaks my language. And here’s a great column in the NY Times today:

The pleasures of cooking are sometimes obscured by summer haze and heat, which can cause many of us to turn instead to bad restaurants and worse takeout. But the cook with a little bit of experience has a wealth of quick and easy alternatives at hand. The trouble is that when it’s too hot, even the most resourceful cook has a hard time remembering all the options. So here are 101 substantial main courses, all of which get you in and out of the kitchen in 10 minutes or less. (I’m not counting the time it takes to bring water to a boil, but you can stay out of the kitchen for that.) These suggestions are not formal recipes; rather, they provide a general outline. With a little imagination and some swift moves — and maybe a salad and a loaf of bread — you can turn any dish on this list into a meal that not only will be better than takeout, but won’t heat you out of the house.

To give you an idea, here are the first 10 in the list:

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Up late, finished book

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T. Jefferson Parker writes very good mysteries/suspense novels. Mostly they’re one-offs, but two (maybe three) deal with the same protagonist. I came across his latest, Fallen, in the library yesterday afternoon, and stayed up late to finish it—couldn’t stop reading. This one has a homicide detective who has synesthesia.

I had some correspondence with him some years back. This was before torture became an American practice—before 9/11, in fact—and it had hit me how frequently in the crime/thriller/suspense novels I was reading that the protagonist would immediately resort to torture to get information. I started writing to authors, suggesting that perhaps the protagonist should do a bit more legwork and thinking to figure out what was going on, rather than resort to torture.

I got some responses, and T. Jefferson Parker’s was one of the most thoughtful. He conceded the point (and FWIW there’s no torture in the current book) and we exchanged a few letters. Harlan Coben also wrote back, saying that none of his protagonists would resort to torture. I responded with the scene in which the protagonist broke a guy’s nose and then, to get information, twisted it until he screamed. Coben said that didn’t qualify as torture—which was exactly my fear: a coarsening of moral standards.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 9:36 am

Posted in Books

A Treet of a shave

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I tried a suggestion from one of the shavers on the forum: rather than rinsing off my beard after washing with the Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil pre-shave soap, just go ahead and lather. I used Wilkinson Shave Soap (in the blue bowl) and the G.B. Kent BK4 brush. Good lather and a good experiment, but I think I’ll partially rinse in the future just so I can better tell how the lather’s going on.

I used the Edwin Jagger Chatsworth Ivory Handle razor, and the Treet Platinum stainless blade, second go. Another flawless shave: smooth, easy, and nice.

Aftershave was Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather from Em’s Place. I feel ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2007 at 9:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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