Later On

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

Archive for April 4th, 2008

Duck Breast & Asparagus

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When you buy frozen duck breasts at Whole Foods, you get two in a package. So tonight I sautéed the other one—cast-iron skillet again, nice heat, poke holes in the skin with a sharp knife and let the skin side cook until nicely browned, then the other side cook until done. A fair amount of fat is rendered out, and after removing the cooked duck breast, I put into the hot skillet one bunch of tender asparagus, cut into 1″ sections, and 4 scallions, cut into 1/2″ sections (white and green part both). Those I sautéed until done. A sprinkling of salt and pepper on duck and veggies, and a meal fit for a king.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 8:33 pm

Poor Bear Sterns. Poor, poor Bear Sterns.

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We must give them a lot of money. And, as Dana Milbank points out in his biting article, the Senate Banking Committee was ready to lend a sympathetic ear—and $30 billion—due, no doubt, to the generosity Bear Stearns had shown the Committee members:

The Banking Committee’s members have received more than $20 million in campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

  • Chairman Chris Dodd (D-$5,796,000)
  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-$1,582,000)
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-$6,162,000).
  • Sen. Jim Bunning (R-$452,000)

Senator Bunning was not nearly so sympathetic as the first three members of the Committee—apparently to really get a Senator on your side, it costs more than half a million. But a million or more seems to put a Senator in your pocket.

Read Milbank’s article—and remember that the Senate seems little inclined to help homeowners. The article begins:

Meet Alan Schwartz, welfare recipient.

As the chief executive of Bear Stearns, he’s getting rather more public assistance than your typical welfare mom — specifically, $30 billion in federal loan guarantees to help J.P. Morgan Chase take over his firm. But then, Schwartz has had rather more than his share of suffering of late.

As his firm collapsed, he was forced to forgo his entire 2007 bonus, leaving his compensation for the past five years at a paltry $141 million, according to Business Week. Things have become so bad that, the Wall Street Journal discovered, Schwartz has had to rent out his 7,850-square-foot home on the ninth green of a suburban New York golf course — leaving the poor fellow with only his 17-room, seven-acre home in Greenwich, his condo in Colorado and the athletic center he built for Duke University.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 8:24 pm

Posted in Business, Congress

What happens when you don’t walk

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Thanks to Bob Slaughter for pointing out an article [which is no longer online, but see this article – LG] from About.com.

What happens if you have been logging 6,000 to 10,000 steps per day on your pedometer and you suddenly cut your steps per day to less than 2,000? A Danish researcher says your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and premature death zooms up — and it only takes two weeks of reduced activity to produce the bad effects. The results the study by Dr. Rikke Krogh-Madsen, from the Centre of Inflammation and Metabolism in Copenhagen were published as a letter in the March 19, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study used healthy young men in their mid-20s who were not overweight, were non-smokers, and who had no family history of diabetes, medication use or other physical abnormalities. One group normally walked 6,000 steps per day, and a second group normally walked 10,000 steps per day.

All were asked to reduce their walking by simple methods such as taking a car for short trips instead of walking or biking, and taking elevators instead of stairs.After cutting their steps to under 2,000 steps per day, in both groups the amount of insulin circulating in their blood climbed 60% The researchers say this is a sign that the body is no longer efficiently processing energy from food and is increasing insulin to try to process the food energy. This effect was seen with only two weeks of reduced activity.

In the group that normally walked 10,000 steps per day, cutting their steps to under 2,000 produced additional increases in heart disease risk factors. Trigylceride and C-peptide levels increased and they had a 7% gain in abdominal fat without overall weight gain. The researchers were amazed that these healthy young men had impaired metabolisms in only two weeks, without the usual warning sign of weight gain.

This research is further evidence that the body needs regular physical activity, even if it is only logging “lifestyle steps,” in order to keep the metabolism in good working order. Wearing a pedometer is a good way to remind yourself to add more steps to your day by the simple means the researchers eliminated. Take the stairs. Park further from the door or walk to a further bus stop. Take a walking break at work. Check your pedometer steps often throughout the day to see if you need to add more steps.

A good starter goal is to log 2,000 more steps per day than you already normally achieve. That is the equivalent of an extra mile per day, or walking steadily for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on your walking speed).This research study showed that the men walking 6,000 steps per day had ill effects when decreasing to below 2,000 steps per day. If you aren’t at the 6,000 steps per day level, make that your goal as your daily minimum requirement.

Should your goal be 10,000 steps per day? While that number was originally given as a goal unsupported by research, the evidence is building that 10,000 steps per day is a good goal. Most people who don’t have active jobs need to add in a 30- to 60-minute walk or run to achieve that goal. By making 10,000 steps per day your goal, you will likely get the level of exercise recommended by the CDC and American Heart Association.

Step Counters Pedometer Walking Program: Our free 28-day program guides you through getting an accurate pedometer and using it to motivate yourself to increase daily activity.

My own preferred step counters are these accelerometers—the one I have is the NL-2000 (without on-line membership: the blog is motivation enough).

UPDATE: My iPhone app Pedometer++ now serves as my pedometer, and I now do Nordic walking, with a goal of 8000 steps/day (and one day off a week). Good to be reminded of the risks of a sudden cessation of exercise.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

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The Mukasey mystery deepens

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No, not the mystery of why on earth Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer voted to confirm him—that is not so much a mystery: bad Democrats. The mystery of what in the world Mukasey’s been talking about when he says FISA didn’t give the authority to do a pre-9/11 intercept. Read Glenn Greenwald for the details and watch how the DOJ squirms and twists to try to make sense of Mukasey’s comment.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 4:33 pm

A big company is a big evil

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Or so it seems. (The phrase is adapted from our first-year Greek textbook: mega biblion, mega kakon (a big book is a big evil). Take Monsanto, for instance:

Gary Rinehart clearly remembers the summer day in 2002 when the stranger walked in and issued his threat. Rinehart was behind the counter of the Square Deal, his “old-time country store,” as he calls it, on the fading town square of Eagleville, Missouri, a tiny farm community 100 miles north of Kansas City.

The Square Deal is a fixture in Eagleville, a place where farmers and townspeople can go for lightbulbs, greeting cards, hunting gear, ice cream, aspirin, and dozens of other small items without having to drive to a big-box store in Bethany, the county seat, 15 miles down Interstate 35.

Everyone knows Rinehart, who was born and raised in the area and runs one of Eagleville’s few surviving businesses. The stranger came up to the counter and asked for him by name.

“Well, that’s me,” said Rinehart.

As Rinehart would recall, the man began verbally attacking him, saying he had proof that Rinehart had planted Monsanto’s genetically modified (G.M.) soybeans in violation of the company’s patent. Better come clean and settle with Monsanto, Rinehart says the man told him—or face the consequences.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Business, Food

Fewer posts today

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Today was a vacation day for The Wife, so we had lunch in Carmel at Tutto Mondo Trattoria, then drove down to Big Sur, snapping photos along the way for her friend in Ireland. Very pleasant. Normal blogging will soon resume. Right now, I have to enter a bunch of phone numbers into my new mobile phone—I switched to Credo (aka Working Assets) and in the process got a new phone (but, of course, kept my old phone number).

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

For the true politics geek

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Via Kevin Drum’s post, this article on party rules, which this year are of central importance. From the article:

… Here, to whet the reader’s appetite, is the little known rule change that set the stage for the McCain nomination: at its 2000 Convention in Philadelphia the GOP reversed the “order of precedence” in Rule 15 between state party rules and state law. Previously, state law had been the standard for seating a delegation at a GOP convention. State law, in other words, had legal “precedence” over state party rules. But as part of a larger package of rules proposals the GOP reversed this. As a result, beginning in 2004, state Republican parties could set their own delegate selection procedures without getting the state legislature to enact them.

This meant that in strategizing for 2008, Republican parties could choose a winner-take-all system, even in states where the legislatures had enacted the Democratic Party requirement for proportional representation. Most GOP parties went along with the system used by the Democrats. But a few parties in traditionally under-represented East Coast states seized this opportunity to increase their influence. Florida scheduled a winner-take all primary along with a turnout-building real-estate tax referendum in late January. The Middle Atlantic GOP organizations in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware went winner-take-all on Super Tuesday. McCain’s Arizona (but not Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts) rounded out the state-wide winner-take-all list. The California and Georgia GOPs chose a Super Tuesday winner-take-all system of pledged delegates on the Congressional district level. Thus, there was a large bloc of delegates—about 50 percent of those needed for nomination—to be decided on a winner-take-all basis on or before February 5.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 8:55 am

Posted in Election

The inner judge and censor

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Occasionally you may detect the inner voice of your normally hidden judge/censor: the internal put-downs that undermine your confidence. I recall when I was making a 45-minute commute on a lightly-trafficked road in the morning, I could detect internal negative comments. I used to shout (alone in the car), “Shut up!” to that little voice—and to my surprise, it tended to work. Lately, I’ve not had the problem—it may have been a symptom or cause of depression, from which I no longer suffer (so far as I can tell).

I thought of that on reading this post in Lifehack.org. Probably “Oh, really?” is a better response to the voice (though “Shut up!” worked pretty well). They have a good list, which begins:

To bring choice, openness, and inquiry back into your reality try adding the challenge “oh really?” to these 29 worn out perspectives (or your own) and turn up the heat on those victim-making, life-killing, soul-sucking, war-making phrases that have been sapping your fulfillment.

1. I don’t have the time.
2. Everything on my to-do list is important and essential.
3. I can’t quit. If I do, everything will fall apart.
4. If I take time off, I’ll lose my game.
5. Nobody will hire me, I’m too old.
6. You’re supposed to get married and then have the baby.
7. Get your diploma, go to college, get a master’s, get married, get a career, have a family, grow old, die.
8. I need an MFA to get published.

(Click the link for the full post of undermining phrases.)

I will again mention the excellent book by Joanna Field, A Life of One’s Own, about her own development as a person and how she detected the internal voices, along with various techniques she used to stay open to daily experience. It’s such an excellent book—give it a go.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

McCain’s healthcare plan

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It’s nonsense, as Paul Krugman points out. From his column today:

… As Mrs. Edwards pointed out, the McCain health plan would do nothing to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those, like her and Mr. McCain, who have pre-existing medical conditions.

The McCain campaign’s response was condescending and dismissive — a statement that Mrs. Edwards doesn’t understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s approach, which would harness “the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans,” reducing costs so that even people with pre-existing conditions could afford care.

This is nonsense on multiple levels.

For one thing, even if you buy the premise that competition would reduce health care costs, the idea that it could cut costs enough to make insurance affordable for Americans with a history of cancer or other major diseases is sheer fantasy.

Beyond that, there’s no reason to believe in these alleged cost reductions. Insurance companies do try to hold down “medical losses” — the industry’s term for what happens when an insurer actually ends up having to honor its promises by paying a client’s medical bills. But they don’t do this by promoting cost-effective medical care.

Instead, they hold down costs by only covering healthy people, screening out those who need coverage the most — which was exactly the point Mrs. Edwards was making. They also deny as many claims as possible, forcing doctors and hospitals to spend large sums fighting to get paid.

And the international evidence on health care costs is overwhelming: the United States has the most privatized system, with the most market competition — and it also has by far the highest health care costs in the world.

Yet the McCain health plan — actually a set of bullet points on the campaign’s Web site — is entirely based on blind faith that competition among private insurers will solve all problems.

I’d like to single out one of these bullet points in particular — the first substantive proposal Mr. McCain offers (the preceding entries are nothing but feel-good boilerplate). …

Read the whole column. McCain is just Bush with a different face.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 7:52 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Medical

Thursday steps: 8910

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I did my usual walk with a slightly different route—to swing by the liquor store to check for the orange bitters (no have) and pick up a bottle of Jim Beam Black (no problem). It feels a little funny to be walking along the street carry what obviously is a liquor bottle in paper bag, but I expect that my headphones identified me as an erstwhile yuppie.

I think starting next week I’ll go for the 10,000/day minimum. Stay tuned. (Your watching me over my shoulder, as it were, certainly helps in the motivation department.)

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 7:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Rooney Style 2 Finest: still the champ

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There’s no doubt about it: the Rooney Style 2 Finest is still my fave: it produced more and better lather from the mango-oil shaving soap than the Alibaba large could manage. One possibility: the Alibaba is still quite new and may simply require more use to fully flower in its capabilities.

At any rate, I got a great shave—a great leisurely shave. The razor was the Gillette TV Superspeed and the blade was a twice-used Treet Black Beauty, still cutting strong. The Oil Pass used l’Occitane Cade shaving oil, and the aftershave was TOBS Bay Rum. Altogether a fine start to the day.

Written by Leisureguy

4 April 2008 at 7:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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