Later On

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

Archive for September 19th, 2007

Globalization: some things to think about

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Via Constant Reader:

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 7:41 pm

Warm olives, by Alice Waters

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From the NY Times today, a very interesting article about Alice Waters’s current mission and her forthcoming book, The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes From a Delicious Revolution:

The book is more to Ms. Waters than an instructional guide. It is her attempt, through recipes, to save the American food supply. She wrote it because she still believes a plate of delicious food can change everything.

“We’re trying to educate young people and show them how to use that lens of ingredients as a way to change their lives,” she said. “Otherwise, it would be just another cookbook.”

The book is Ms. Waters’s ninth since she started Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., 36 years ago. Unlike the others, the new book does not use the name of the restaurant. It reads more like an organic “Joy of Cooking,” designed to instruct novices on how to make a perfect vinaigrette but also intended to be as essential to experienced cooks as the final Harry Potter installment was to 12-year-olds.

“Food can be very transformational and it can be more than just about a dish,” she said. “That’s what happened to me when I first went to France. I fell in love. And if you fall in love, well, then everything is easy.”

Sample recipe:

Warm Olives
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters

Time: 15 minutes

1 cup olives with pits (assorted varieties and colors)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and quartered
1 chili, fresh or dried
3 thyme or savory sprigs, or other herbs
2 strips of orange or lemon zest.

Rinse olives in strainer under running water. Set aside to drain. Put small heavy pan over medium heat for a minute, then add olives and remaining ingredients.

Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until olives are warm all the way through. Turn off heat and leave in pan for a few minutes. Serve warm or reheated.

Yield: 1 cup.

Note: Instead of herbs you can use whole fennel, cumin, caraway or black mustard seeds, or add a few pinches of cayenne or paprika.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Airline torture

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In the NY Times, there’s a story about how an airline passenger became an advocate for passenger rights—including a video of a flight from hell, something becoming much too common. The story:

Like thousands of American Airlines passengers last Dec. 29, Kate Hanni and her family were stuck aboard a jet for hours, out on the runway. They were hungry, bored, mad and, in the case of Flight 1348, sick of the smell wafting through the cabin from the lavatories.

When the ordeal finally ended, some passengers from the 67 separate American flights — which each spent at least three hours stranded — e-mailed or called in their complaints to the airline. Some vented on blogs. Most grumbled and went about their business.

And the airline industry thought it would, too.

Ms. Hanni (pronounced HAN-eye), who said she had never even written a letter of complaint in her life, decided she would get a law passed making lengthy confinement on an airplane illegal.

“I was fuming,” she said. “It was imprisonment.”

She thus became an unlikely and, thus far, powerful adversary to an industry accustomed to riding out its major service lapses with only the lightest of government scrutiny.

A successful real estate agent, occasional rock ’n’ roll singer and mother of two, Ms. Hanni, 47, essentially put her life on hold to take on the airlines, leaning on her husband to earn more and spend more time looking after their children so she could battle the lobbying might of the airlines.

With the help of Internet chat boards, videos shot by stranded passengers and posted on YouTube and a growing network of volunteers, she has gathered 18,000 signatures on an online petition supporting what she calls a passengers’ bill of rights.

Her congressman, Mike Thompson, a California Democrat, quickly introduced legislation at her behest to force airlines to let passengers off stranded planes after three hours, with two 30-minute extensions at the pilot’s discretion. That is at least four hours less than the Hanni family spent on the runway in Austin, Tex.

Yesterday, Ms. Hanni staged what she called a “strand-in” near the Capitol in Washington, in a bid to keep up momentum for the get-off-the-plane legislation she wants enacted, over objections from the airline industry. A long tent was outfitted to resemble the interior of an airline, and wings were drawn on its exterior in duct tape. She offered long-shot invitations to members of Congress to experience confinement, replete with smelly portable toilets Ms. Hanni and fellow volunteers had rounded up. For the record, American said Flight 1348’s toilets never overflowed.

Ms. Hanni’s lobbying effort even has a soundtrack, of sorts. Her rock group, the Toasted Heads, rewrote lyrics to the 1965 Animals’ hit, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” to make it an anthem for stranded passengers. After American’s problems, JetBlue Airways had its own meltdown in February, with at least nine flights stuck on runways for six hours or more.

Moreover, June was the worst month this decade for taxi-out times — the time between leaving the gate and actually taking off — with 462 flights stuck on the ground for more than three hours, the Transportation Department reported. July was not as bad, with 276 flights stuck for more than three hours, though it was still one of the worst months since 2000. (August data is not yet available.)

Ms. Hanni’s group has pointed out that the taxi-out statistics capture only a minority of stranded flights. Diverted planes like Flight 1348 and flights that taxi out and sit for hours and then return to the terminal only to be canceled are not included.

More at the link. And the video:

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 7:28 pm

Annotated list of books on the brain

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Good list:

The following descriptions focus on widely praised books about the brain, both scientific and literary. The selections are excerpted from articles in Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science.

Cerebrum is now a free Web publication, with monthly articles, regular book features, letters to the editor, and a complete searchable archive of all 27 print issues from 1998–2005. To read the complete articles excerpted below, please visit Cerebrum online at www.dana.org. Authors of books who are members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives are indicated in boldface type.

The book descriptions found in this section are organized in the following categories:

  1. The Great Brain Books, Voted by Scientists of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
  2. “Ourselves To Know,” Books from Scientists of the Dana Alliance
  3. Great Literary Portrayals of Brain Disorders
  4. The Inner Lives of Disordered Brains
  5. Four Fictional Odysseys Through Life With a Disordered Brain
  6. Brain Books for Budding Scientists—and All Children

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Books, Science

Something to think about if you keep a journal

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From Psyblog:

Our wellbeing isn’t just affected by what we think about, but also how we think. In particular, the way in which we process past life events has an important impact on our life satisfaction and physical health. A series of experiments conducted by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky and colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, shows how we should analyse the negative, but just experience the positive (Lyubomirsky, Sousa & Dickerhoof, 2006).

Study 1
This was designed to find out which method of processing negative events is most beneficial: writing, talking aloud or privately thinking about them. The study found those who thought privately about negative events saw reductions in the life satisfaction and no changes in other measures. On the other hand, participants who talked or wrote about a negative event showed improved mental health, life satisfaction and social functioning.

Study 2
Here participants turned their attention to positive events in their lives – and were asked to write, talk or privately think about them. Here it was privately thinking about positive life events that was associated with increased life satisfaction, rather than talking or writing about them.

Study 3
The third study looked more closely at exactly how people thought about positive events. It compared merely replaying a positive event in the mind, with breaking it down and attempting to analyse it. This found that, as expected, thinking about a really happy moment increased health and physical functioning. On the other hand, analysing a positive event tended to reduce well-being and health.

The message of this research is that systematic analysis of negative events improves well-being and health. Positive events, on the other hand, should just be re-experienced, not analysed.

» Read more on positive psychology.

Reference: Lyubomirsky, S., Sousa, L., & Dickerhoof, R. (2006). The costs and benefits of writing, talking, and thinking about life’s triumphs and defeats. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 692-708.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Yahoo Mail innovates, Gmail stagnates

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Interesting post at Lifehacker.com on how Yahoo has continued to develop its mail program, while Google seems content to ignore it. The post includes screenshots and good discussion.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:53 am

Posted in Software, Technology

Chicken braised with olives & Barley Risotto

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From the Washington Post today:

Chicken Braised With Olives and Dates

Chef Alison Swope calls for a whole chicken to be cut into pieces for this recipe; she reserves the chicken’s wingtips and backbone to enrich store-bought chicken broth for her Barley Risotto (see below). At Bread for the City, she also used some of the leftover braised chicken to make soup for another meal.

To cut down on the fat, the chicken skin may be removed before braising.

4 servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 -pound fryer chicken, cut into pieces (wingtips and backbone reserved for stock)
  • Salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning the chicken
  • 4 slices uncooked turkey bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 2-inch strips of orange peel (cut with a vegetable peeler)
  • 2 2-inch strips of lemon peel (cut with a vegetable peeler)
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (11 to 14 dates)
  • 1/2 cup pitted, brined olives, such as a mixture of kalamata, Provencal or other good-quality olives, cut in half lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a large ovenproof casserole dish or a Dutch oven.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat until it is almost smoking. Lightly season the chicken pieces with salt, if desired, and pepper to taste. Carefully add the chicken to the pan, skin side down. Cook for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned on one side, then turn the pieces and cook for about 8 minutes, until they have browned on the second side. Remove the pan from the heat; transfer the chicken to the casserole dish and set aside.

Return the saute pan to medium heat and add the turkey bacon pieces and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the onion begins to caramelize. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chicken broth, garlic, citrus peels, thyme, oregano, dates, olives and a teaspoon of black pepper, creating a braising liquid. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by about one-third. Remove from the heat and pour the braising liquid over the chicken pieces; cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil and with a lid, if available. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone.

Transfer the chicken to a platter or divide among individual plates; discard the citrus peels and herb sprigs and skim off any fat that has risen to the top of the braising liquid, then spoon the defatted liquid over the chicken. Serve warm

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:50 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

Life lessons from Dumb Little Man

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Some interesting and useful life lessons included in this list.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Staying flu-free

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Lifehack.org has some good suggestions:

There’s no sure-fire way to make sure you don’t catch cold or flu, but there are a few things you can do to increase your odds. And if you do get sick, there are also a couple things you ought to keep in mind to avoid spreading your illness to your friends, co-workers, and loved ones.

  • First of all, forget the anti-bacterial soap. Anti-bacterial soap offers no particular advantage over soap alone — it’s the washing that counts, regardless of the soap. Even if anti-bacterial additives worked, though, they still wouldn’t help much, since the main threat in flu season is viruses, not bacteria. Meanwhile, the introduction of anti-bacterial substances into our hand soap, laundry detergent, dish soap, hand lotions, toothbrushes, and just about everything else contributes to the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria — in the long run, posing a greater threat than the risk of normal household bacteria pose today. These products should only be used in clinical conditions — hospitals, doctor’s offices, labs — to minimize the rate of resistance development.
  • On the other hand, use hand sanitizer. The active ingredient in most hand sanitizers is alcohol, not specialized anti-bacterial agents. If you cannot wash your hands, and there is no visible dirt on your hands, hand sanitizer is a reasonable second line of defense. Use it before you eat or prepare food, of course (but only if you cannot wash), but also after using public transportation, visiting the bank teller window (or anywhere else where people put their hands a lot), using a shopping cart, or selecting meat at the supermarket.
  • Better yet, wash your hands. But do it right, instead of the way you wash your hands now. A good hand-washing is more effective than hand sanitizer, regardless of the kind of soap you use. The problem is, most people don’t wash long enough to get a good hand-washing. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to assure real cleanliness. How long is that? About as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” two times through (you don’t have to sing out loud if you don’t want to, though).
  • Avoid the buffet. Yes, buffets are amazing — bountiful cornucopias of delights. They are also among the least sanitary ways to serve food. Almost every customer before you has touched the tongs, spoon, or spatula the food is served with, introducing all manner of bacteria and viruses into the dish (I said “almost” every customer — the rest just stuck their hands right in). Food is rarely kept hot enough to kill any germs that get on or in it; generally, buffet food is kept at a temperature well within the comfort zone of food poisoning bacteria. Yum!
  • If you do get sick, stay home. A lot of people go into work sick, feeling that they have too much on their plates to miss a day. Those people are profoundly disturbed, and should see a therapist or life coach immediately. In any case, the reality is that more productivity is lost due to sick workers than to absent workers. You can do the math yourself: if you go into work and work at 50% effectiveness for five days, instead of staying home for two days and coming in fully recovered the third, you’ve lost half a day’s work (50% + 50% + 50% + 50% + 50% = 250% vs. 0% + 0% + 100% + 100% + 100% = 300%). On top of that, you risk infecting your co-workers, reducing their productivity as well, and costing your company a heck of a lot more than your two days off.
  • If you can’t avoid people, at least cough properly. Cough into your sleeves, not your hands. When you cough, cover your mouth with your elbow or shoulder, not your hands. I know, it seems gross, all those germs just lingering around in your sleeve, but better in your shirt (which you rarely touch anyone or anything with) than on your hands (which you touch everything with). Bacteria and viruses will quickly die in the fabric of your shirt or blouse, while the oils and warmth of your hands will keep them alive for hours. Bottom line: you won’t be spreading germs everywhere you go.
    Following the advice above will not completely eliminate the risk of illness, but it will certainly reduce your risks and, if you do get sick reduce the threat you pose to others. Certainly a healthy diet and lifestyle can help, as can a round of flu shots, but neither of those is very useful if you don’t minimize your exposure to the germs that cause illness. Unfortunately, the trend over the last few years has been to put our trust in virtually useless anti-bacterial soaps, leading us down the wrong path entirely. Good hand-washing habits, being careful about where you put your hands in the first place, and common courtesy are far more effective.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Minimalism: cut back to 100 possessions

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With some exceptions. Books don’t count, for example. (Whew!) Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:38 am

Posted in Daily life

Ten books that changed My Simple Dollar’s life

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Interesting post. Certainly I don’t agree with all the books, but I agree with several of them.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:36 am

Posted in Books

Does this sort of censorship work?

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With the Internet, I assume people in Israel can readily read news from other countries. Here’s the story:

Israel has enforced a news blackout on a recent air strike inside Syria. “The Israeli government has made no comment about the raid on what is believed to be a nuclear installation in Syria and Israeli newspapers have been forbidden to write anything on the subject.”

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

The EPA today

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From an email:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allowed an ExxonMobil employee “to peer review the science behind the agency’s proposal to deregulate incineration of some industrial by-products,” reports Integrity in Science, a project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The peer review was overseen by an EPA contractor, Syracuse Research Corporation (SRC). The ExxonMobil employee, Thomas Parkerton, told SRC that his “current employer (and the chemical industry in general) would benefit from” the proposed rule, yet he was allowed to review it, in an apparent breach of EPA guidelines. The rule would allow more than 107,000 tons of hazardous waste burned annually in specially-designed incinerators to instead be disposed of in industrial boilers or municipal incinerators. Consumer and environmental groups decried the “undue agency tolerance of conflicts of interest in its rulemaking process,” and urged the EPA to “re-review the science and, if necessary, rewrite the proposed rule.”

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 9:50 am

Writer’s rooms

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Via Notebookism, this story on Writer’s Rooms (with photos). (Also note the video on using Taiwanese math notebooks for storyboarding.)

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 9:48 am

Businesses fight breastfeeding

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The problem with breastfeeding, from the point of view of capitalism, is that businesses cannot make money on it, beyond an occasional sale of a breastfeeding brassiere or the like. Baby formula, in contrast, presents an opportunity for a revenue stream. So businesses, naturally enough in the system we have, fight against breastfeeding. From an email today:

The Formula for Deceiving Mothers Online
Source: Mothering Magazine, September/October 2007

Peggy O’Mara, the editor of Mothering Magazine, reports that “in addition to the inaccurate information on breastfeeding” by the media, the “marketing practices of the formula companies continue to undermine breastfeeding.” She notes the existence of several “stealth” websites “that appear to be grassroots advocacy sites, but are actually mouthpieces for the formula industry.” One of the websites, MomsFeedingFreedom.com, is campaigning against proposed restrictions on the free bags of infant formula being given to new parents by hospitals. The website, which was registered by the web-based marketing company ENilsson LLC, is funded by the International Formula Council and run by Kate Kahn. “A sister site, Babyfeedingchoice.org, is licensed to Kellen Communications, a public relations firm whose clients include the International Formula Council,” O’Mara writes. BantheBags, which supports a ban on free samples, argues that the “sites use classic formula company strategies, paying lip service to benefits of breastfeeding even as they promote formula.”

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 9:13 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

By your age….

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Here’s an intriguing site: enter your age, and you find accomplishments others did at that age. (Obviously, you can enter your previous ages, if you want to feel really bad.)

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life

Who knew? :)

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The smiley was invented 25 years ago by Scott E. Fahlman.

Twenty-five years ago, a clever university professor added a colon to a right parenthesis and thus changed the course of human events. Ok, maybe we’re overstating the social and cultural impact of the emoticon but, you’ll have to admit, love them or not, they’re everywhere.

Scott E. Fahlman dreamed up the sideways smiley in a discussion about how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly. The message posted on September 19th 1982 on a bulletin board system at 11:44am, Fahlman floated the idea to some compatriots. Responding with statements like “OMG” and “ROTFL!”, his online audience liked the idea, and the little sideways smiley that could spread quickly through an Internet the size of some current LANs. The smiley has seen many variations over the years, denoting a range of emotions from happy to sad, snarky to shaudenfrude.

To mark the smiley’s 25th birthday, Fahlman and friends have started an annual student contest promoting innovation in technology based person-to-person communication. The Smiley Award, as it’s appropriately called, is sponsored by Yahoo and carries a $500 cash prize.

The instigator of “LOL” was unavailable for comment.

My favorite: Ronald Reagan:  7:^)

Here’s a list of 100 emoticons for your perusal and memorization. Test tomorrow.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life

Scrabble on-line: play all night, every night

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One of my correspondents is very fond of the game Scrabble, and The Wife loves puzzles of that sort as well, so perhaps I’m doing them no favor pointing out this site: Scrabulous. (I’m pretty sure that’s not a legal word for the game.)

I’m not so good at word games, so (perhaps coincidentally) I don’t like them all that much.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 8:15 am

Posted in Games

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

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I’ve blogged before about the association of law enforcement officers who have come out against our current drug laws. They view drug prohibition as much a failure as alcohol prohibition was, and think that it’s past time for other approaches. They have a Web site—LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition—and a blog and a video (below). The first thing in the video stunned me: private prisons are hiring lobbyists to promote legislation of mandatory minimum sentences. Keeps the prisons full and expanding…

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 8:11 am

Posted in Drug laws

Maybe the tide is turning

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Perhaps 80 years of failure is starting to make people realize that we should explore some alternatives. In Baltimore, via 21209.org:

I am beginning to think that the War on Drugs is killing the city of Baltimore. Somebody needs to start asking these questions:

Informational Hearing – Is Legalization of Drugs the Answer for Baltimore City?

07-0327R

FOR the purpose of requesting representatives of the Baltimore City Health Department and the Baltimore City Police Department to brief the council about the effects of the War on Drugs and discuss alternatives to our current drug policies; to encourage an open dialogue on the effectiveness of the imprisoning non-violent drug offenders; and examining the potential for treatment centers where care is available on demand and where drugs can be provided legally by medical professionals

Sponsors: Bernard C. ‘Jack’ Young and Helen L. Holton
RESOLUTION JUDICIARY AND LEGISLATIVE INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2007 at 8:02 am

Posted in Drug laws

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