Later On

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

Archive for April 30th, 2008

Voter suppression in North Carolina?

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Mark Kleiman has this post:

Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes is a 501 c(3) nonprofit devoted to registering unmarried women to vote. It has lots of connections to the Clinton campaign; as of a year ago, the “leadership team” included Maggie Williams, her business partner Pat Griffin, and Hal Malchow, now the direct-mail honcho of the Clinton campaign.

WVWV paid for a bunch of robo-calls to black voters in North Carolina — men as well as women — in which someone identified only as “Lamont Williams” said that a voter registration packet was on its way to them and that they should sign it and mail it back to be registered to vote. The calls went out after the mail-in registration deadline, but before the deadline for one-stop registration and early voting; any voter who relied on the information in the call would wind up being disenfranchised for the upcoming primary. In addition, many of the recipients were already registered, and the calls were well-designed to cause them to doubt whether they could vote before receiving the promised package in the mail.

The calls came from an “ID blocked” number and included no reference to WVWV, which makes them illegal in North Carolina. WVWV has been caught doing similar things in black neighborhoods just before other primaries this year, including in Virginia.

So: Was this an amazing set of good-faith mistakes, or was it a series of attempts by people friendly to the Clinton campaign to suppress the black vote in order to benefit HRC against Obama?

Considering the illegal anonymity (“Lamont Williams” does not exist), the targeting of black neighborhoods rather than women (and the use of a streotypically “black” name for the caller), the unlikelihood that a well-funded, highly professional voter-registration group would not know about the registration deadlines and be unable to restrict its mailings to people not yet registered, the national pattern, and the amazingly lame response by WVWC after they were caught, what do you think?

UPDATE: Looks as though the Clinton-conspiracy idea is wrong. See this post.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Interesting article on Obama-Wright

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Good analysis of the conflict by David Dante Troutt:

Sen. Barack Obama’s emphatic denunciation of his former pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., for a series of comments the reverend made during a sort of media tour last week involves far more than politics. Wright had reveled in a bewildering litany of racial differences and repeated his most charged political beliefs. He had characterized this tempest in the racial trope as an attack on black faith and all black churches before Obama finally cut him loose. But this spectacle is more personal than political, more universal than racial.

The nation watched this play out, riveted by the lasting mythology about human bonds — the age-old struggle between fathers and sons. The Obama-Wright breach is intriguing for its psychological familiarity — every son and every father deals with this on some level. It is as compelling as a car crash. If cultures and religions invent eternal myths as narrations of life, where does this story fit and what could it mean for Obama?

The obvious analogy is an inversion of the Oedipal struggle, where the enraged father seeks the death of his son, but accomplishes only their mutual destruction.

Try Roman mythology. Look at Wright as Saturn, the ruler of the universe, whose children were prophesied to depose him. As each child is born, he devours it. Yet, the myth goes, one gets away, Jupiter. And, as predicted, he ultimately defeats his father. This myth even reaches into astrology, where Saturn is associated with old age, melancholy and the domineering father. Jupiter — the son — represents goodness.

Then there is the Old Testament tale of Saul and David. The Lord tears the kingdom of Israel from a disobedient Saul and gives it to one better than he, David, the son of a servant. David remains loyal to Saul, fighting his battles, and becomes his son-in-law. Yet Saul’s jealousy leads him to pursue David and, in plots motivated by evil spirits, tries several times to kill him. Fleeing for his safety, David twice spares Saul’s life. Defeated in battle, Saul falls on his own sword and dies.

Finally, in Ralph Ellison’s novel “Invisible Man”— which Wright quotes regularly —there is a metaphor of crabs in a barrel pulling each other down from the sides. This famously describes the fratricidal jealousy of some blacks for the ascension of others.

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 4:12 pm

The anti-Hallmark

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Cool e-cards. Take a look.

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30 April 2008 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Daily life

Wright’s talks arranged by Clinton supporter

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This is quite interesting. Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times reports:

Well, here’s a most interesting connection we just came across.

Everybody is talking today about how much the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s latest unrepentant militant remarks hurt his most prominent parishoner, Sen. Barack Obama, and his chances to win the Democratic presidential nomination and the general election. So much so that the Obama camp realized the latent danger overnight and the candidate was forced to speak out publicly a second time today, as The Ticket noted here earlier today.

There was little doubt left in today’s remarks by Obama, who recently said he could no more disown Wright than he could the black community. He pretty much disowned Wright today. Obama described himself as “outraged” and “saddened” by “the spectacle of what we saw yesterday.”

But now, it turns out, we should have been paying a little less attention to Wright’s speech and the histrionics of his ensuing news conference and taken a peek at….  who was sitting next to him at the head table for the National Press Club event.

It was the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a former editorial board member of USA Today who teaches at the Howard University School of Divinity. An ordained minister, as New York Daily News writer Errol Louis points out in today’s column, she was introduced at the press club event as the person “who organized” it.

But guess what? She’s also an ardent longtime booster of Obama’s sole remaining competitor for the Democratic nomination, none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. It won’t take very much at all for Obama supporters to see in Wright’s carefully arranged Washington event that was so damaging to Obama the strategic, nefarious manipulation of the Clintons.

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

More than 16,000 downloads of WYM

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The Excel workbook Within Your Means (free) has now had 16,126 downloads. I wonder whether the downloads will accelerate as the economy sours. I certainly hope that it’s helping a substantial fraction of the 16,000 who have tried it.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Daily life

Soy-poached roast chicken

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Doesn’t this Mark Bittman recipe sound good?

Soy-Poached Roast Chicken
Yield 4 servings Time 40 minutes

You can serve the chicken straight out of the stockpot with the liquid as a sauce, but I like to finish it in a hot oven, where it develops a crisp, dark brown crust that takes roast chicken to another level.

  • 3 cups mushroom-flavored soy sauce, or any dark soy sauce
  • 3 cups mei kuei lu chiew or any floral off-dry white wine, like gewurztraminer or muscat
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 14-ounce box yellow rock sugar, crushed, or 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 ounces ginger (about a 5-inch knob), cut into slices and bruised with side of knife
  • 10 scallions
  • 1 chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds

In stockpot or narrow 6-quart pot, combine soy sauce, rice wine, 2 cups water, star anise, sugar and ginger. Bring to rolling boil. Add 6 scallions. Lower chicken gently and slowly into liquid, breast side down.

Bring back to boil, and cook steadily for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and turn chicken over. Let sit in hot liquid 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim and mince remaining scallions and preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Carefully remove chicken from liquid, and put in skillet or roasting pan. Roast 5 minutes, or until nicely browned; keep an eye on it — it can burn easily. Meanwhile, reheat liquid. When chicken is ready, carve and serve with a few spoonfuls of sauce over it. Put minced scallions into a cup of sauce; pass at table to go over white rice.

Note: You can reuse the liquid — it improves with each use — although I would strain it and replace the ginger, scallions and star anise each time, adding extra liquid. I also recommend freezing it between uses, or refrigerating it and bringing it to a rolling boil every few days.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 12:29 pm

Best films to see Paris

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Susan Spano in the LA Times lists the best films to see Paris. I ask The Wife: what films that should be in the list were omitted?

If springtime in Paris isn’t going to work for you this year, rent a movie and pretend — until you can book a flight and go. Here are my Top 10 picks for films that best show off the French capital.

For scenes from these memorable films, go to

1. “Ratatouille“: Last year’s animated hit about a rat named Remy who has a talent for cooking; directed by Brad Bird of “The Incredibles.” The Paris backdrop is almost as good as the real thing, all air brushed and rose colored.

2. “An American in Paris”: The 1951 classic starring Gene Kelly as a struggling American artist and Leslie Caron as a pretty young parisienne; their “American in Paris Ballet,” set to the music of George Gershwin, makes you want to go to Paris and fall in love, even if the scenery is right off the back lot.

3. “Love in the Afternoon”: Director Billy Wilder’s 1957 bittersweet romantic comedy about an American playboy (Gary Cooper) and the mischievous Paris gamin (Audrey Hepburn) who attempts to entrap him; lots of the action takes place at the Ritz, with views of the Place Vendôme out the window.

4. “Le Divorce”: A 2003 movie based on a sly comedy of manners, by novelist Diane Johnson, about the fundamental incompatibility of a French family and an American family; scenes of contemporary Paris, plus French actor Thierry Lhermitte as sexy Uncle Edgar.

5. “Funny Face”: Released the same year as “Love in the Afternoon,” with Hepburn again, this time opposite Fred Astaire, dancing their way through 1950s Paris from beatnik cafes in Montmartre to the couture ateliers on the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré.

6. “Gigi“: From a 1944 novel by Colette and 1951 musical comedy, this 1958 Leslie Caron vehicle won nine Oscars, with songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe; set in a glorious Belle Époque Paris, with costumes right out of Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

7. “Breathless”: The landmark 1960 French New Wave film with a too-cool-to-be-real Jean-Paul Belmondo and heartbreakingly young Jean Seberg running from the cops on the mean streets of Paris.

8. “The Day of the Jackal”: 1973 thriller based on a Frederick Forsyth novel about a hired assassin gunning for French President Charles de Gaulle.

9. “Is Paris Burning?”: A 1966 psuedo-documentary-style re-creation of the liberation of Paris during World War II with a platoon of stars, including Belmondo, Kirk Douglas, Orson Welles and Simone Signoret.

10. “Amélie”: From 2001, an eccentric romantic comedy about a shy young waitress looking for love, chiefly in Montmartre; a popular debut for Audrey Tautou, who went on to star with Tom Hanks and Paris in 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Is another Army cover-up in progress?

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Ann Wright writes about a potential cover-up of rape and murder:

The Department of Defense statistics are alarming — one in three women who join the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begins — before they are even recruited.

But, now, even more alarming, are deaths of women soldiers in Iraq, and in the United States, following rape. The military has characterized each of the deaths of women who were first sexually assaulted as deaths from “non-combat related injuries,” and then added “suicide.” Yet, the families of the women whom the military has declared to have committed suicide, strongly dispute the findings and are calling for further investigations into the deaths of their daughters. Specific US Army units and certain US military bases in Iraq have an inordinate number of women soldiers who have died of “non-combat related injuries,” with several identified as “suicides.”

94 US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in OIF. 13 US military women have been killed in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). 12 US Civilian women have been killed in Afghanistan.

Of the 94 US military women who died in Iraq or in OIF, the military says 36 died from non-combat related injuries, which included vehicle accidents, illness, death by “natural causes,” and self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or suicide. The military has declared the deaths of the Navy women in Bahrain that were killed by a third sailor, as homicides. 5 deaths have been labeled as suicides, but 15 more deaths occurred under extremely suspicious circumstances.

8 women soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas (six from the Fourth Infantry Division and two from the 1st Armored Cavalry Division) have died of “non-combat related injuries” on the same base, Camp Taji, and three were raped before their deaths. Two were raped immediately before their deaths and another raped prior to arriving in Iraq. Two military women have died of suspicious “non-combat related injuries” on Balad base, and one was raped before she died. Four deaths have been classified as “suicides.”

19-year-old US Army Private Lavena Johnson, was found dead on the military base in Balad, Iraq in July, 2005 and her death characterized by the US Army to be suicide as a self-inflicted M-16 shot. On April 9, 2008, Dr. John Johnson and his wife Linda, parents of Private Johnson, flew from their home in St. Louis for meetings with US Congress members and their staffs. They were in Washington to ask that Congressional hearings be conducted on the Army’s investigation into the death of their daughter, an investigation that classified her death as a suicide despite extensive evidence suggesting she was murdered.

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Military

More fallout from global warming

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And it’s ugly:

Over 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle, in the polar dark of a December morning, University of Manitoba Ph.D. student Jesse Carrie is out on the frozen Beaufort Sea, collecting ice samples to measure for mercury and pesticides. Lowered by crane from the deck of the icebreaking research vessel the CCGS Amundsen, and accompanied by a rifle bearer who keeps watch for polar bears, Carrie extracts ice cores and vials of frigid water. Carrie is part of a $40 million International Polar Year scientific expedition, the first ever to spend the winter moving through sea ice north of the Arctic Circle. The expedition’s labor-intensive work is essential to understanding the impacts of global warming.

As the Amundsen cuts through ice across the top of the globe, Carrie and his fellow researchers are uncovering evidence of a disturbing fallout of climate change. They are finding toxic contaminants, some at remarkably high levels, accumulating in this remote and visually pristine environment. Although there are no industrial sources in the Arctic, residents of the Far North have some of the world’s highest levels of mercury exposure, some well above what the World Health Organization considers safe. High levels of mercury — a powerful neurotoxin — are being found in Arctic marine wildlife, including ringed seals and beluga whales, both staples of the traditional Northern diet. Levels in Arctic beluga have increased markedly in recent years.

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30 April 2008 at 10:47 am

Clueless Wolfowitz

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How did Paul Wolfowitz ever manage to get a paying job? The guy’s hopeless. Phil Carter has a great takedown of Woflowitz in this column, which includes this snippet:

… Oh, Wolfie. Seriously. Can we talk?

When you say the American government was “pretty much clueless on counterinsurgency,” you really mean that you were pretty much clueless, right? Because within an hour’s drive of your office, you would have found thousands of people with actual experience in post-conflict stability operations and counterinsurgency. That group includes (but is not limited to):

– Gen. Eric Shinseki, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee it would take “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” to secure post-war Iraq.

– The team lead by RAND’s James Dobbins, who put together estimates of what it would take to secure Iraq based on historical analysis. Using troops-to-population ratios from previous occupations, RAND projected that it would require anywhere from 258,000 troops (the Bosnia model), to 321,000 (post-World War II Germany), to 526,000 (Kosovo) to secure the peace.

– The entire Army and Marine Corps peacekeeping and small wars community, which developed tremendous institutional knowledge about these issues in such places as Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Latin America.

– The State Department’s Future of Iraq project — for although they were not planners writing an operational plan per se, they understood something about the resources required to provide stability in post-war Iraq.

– National security experts at the Army War College, who, prior to the invasion, provided insights into the challenges of post-war security, stability and reconstruction in Iraq.

So Wolfie, it’s simply not true that the American government was “clueless” about counterinsurgency. Not true at all. Rather, officials like you chose to keep yourselves in the dark by refusing counsel from those who knew something about counterinsurgency. And you actively stifled dissenting views by criticizing officers like Shinseki as “wildly off the mark.” Clueless is not the word I would use to describe your mistakes.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 10:43 am

TED talk by Craig Venter: 4th generation fuels

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Thanks to Bob for the pointer to this interesting talk.

“Can we create new life out of our digital universe?” asks Craig Venter. And his answer is, yes, and pretty soon. He walks the TED2008 audience through his latest research into “fourth-generation fuels” — biologically created fuels with CO2 as their feedstock. His talk covers the details of creating brand-new chromosomes using digital technology, the reasons why we would want to do this, and the bioethics of synthetic life. A fascinating Q&A with TED’s Chris Anderson follows (two words: suicide genes).

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 10:37 am

Liberal arts and humanties OpenCourseWare

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Another ranking, but with a peculiarly broad interpretation of “liberal arts and humanities.” For example, these courses in public health are included. By my lights, those courses, though worthwhile, are not liberal arts or humanities. Still, here’s the list:

#1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT offers hundreds of free liberal arts and humanities courses through their OpenCourseWare program. It is almost impossible to not find what you are looking for on this site. In addition to courses, you’ll also find stand alone lectures and other education materials.

#2 University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame offers a diverse collection of free liberal arts and humanities courses that can’t be found anywhere else on the web. Course topics include language and literature, sociology, theology, philosophy, African studies, Islamic studies, Asian studies and Latino studies.

#3 Utah State University

Utah State University has a great selection of free humanities and liberal arts courses prepared by a diverse group of departments. Course materials include readings, lectures, assignments and other educational resources. Some of the topics that are covered in the free courses include writing, literature, languages and theatre arts.

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 10:23 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Pentagon pundit scandal

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 10:16 am

Pentagon pundits program broke the law

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The program was not just unethical, it was blatantly illegal, as Sheldon Rampton explains:

The Pentagon military analyst program unveiled in last week’s exposé by David Barstow in the New York Times was not just unethical but illegal. It violates, for starters, specific restrictions that Congress has been placing in its annual appropriation bills every year since 1951. According to those restrictions, “No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.”

As explained in a March 21, 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service, “publicity or propaganda” is defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to mean either (1) self-aggrandizement by public officials, (2) purely partisan activity, or (3) “covert propaganda.” By covert propaganda, GAO means information which originates from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it came from a third party.

These concerns about “covert propaganda” were also the basis for the GAO’s strong standard for determining when government-funded video news releases are illegal:

The failure of an agency to identify itself as the source of a prepackaged news story misleads the viewing public by encouraging the viewing audience to believe that the broadcasting news organization developed the information. The prepackaged news stories are purposefully designed to be indistinguishable from news segments broadcast to the public. When the television viewing public does not know that the stories they watched on television news programs about the government were in fact prepared by the government, the stories are, in this sense, no longer purely factual — the essential fact of attribution is missing.

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30 April 2008 at 10:15 am

The War on Greed

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Good video:

I was led to it by this excellent post by David Sirota:

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30 April 2008 at 10:05 am

Interesting developments in the Pentagon

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Phil Carter explains what to an outsider is hard to see:

A colleague forwarded this memo, from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, directing the promotion of the Army, Navy and Air Force’s top uniformed lawyers — giving them an additional star and promotion to lieutenant general or vice admiral, respectively. The order will take some time to process, as it must be vetted, packaged and formally submitted by the president for the advice and consent of the Senate. But this is now effectively a done deal as far as the Pentagon is concerned.

What’s interesting is that Congress mandated these promotions last year in the National Defense Authorization Act. But, as Scott Horton recounts, Pentagon counsel William “Jim” Haynes II delayed them, wanting to maintain the dominance of senior political-appointee lawyers over the services’ uniformed lawyers — exactly what Congress wanted to reverse. Haynes sought a Justice Department opinion on the matter and slow-rolled the promotions as long as he could. But he left the Pentagon a few months ago, with his own star in decline. It appears that Defense Secretary Gates ordered the promotions as a way to build bridges between senior political appointees and senior military officers, and a way to move past the Rumsfeld-Haynes legacy on detention and interrogation policy.

The comments at the link above are quite interesting and detailed in their analysis.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 9:59 am

Chevron: hoist by its own petard

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A recent Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that a landmark environmental liability case against Chevron was being judged by “Ecuador’s kangaroo courts.” Ecuador’s Ambassador to the U.S., Luis Gallegos, responded that Chevron had filed 10 affidavits before U.S. federal judges “praising the fairness of Ecuador’s court system,” in order to get the case out of U.S. courts. “Happily, its PR efforts have been frustrated by the fact that Ecuador no longer has ‘banana republic’ institutions that can be controlled through extrajudicial pressure,” he wrote. When the two Ecuadorians leading the legal case against Chevron were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, the company turned to crisis management adviser Sam Singer for advice. Chevron’s counter-attack included a San Francisco Chronicle opinion column. Chevron’s ham-handed PR inspired cartoonist Mark Fiore to satirize the company’s “Human Energy” campaign.

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30 April 2008 at 9:55 am

Baked chicken

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Yesterday I had a chicken to be cut, and I used the Classic Baked Chicken recipe from Simply Recipes. Very easy and very tasty. I didn’t bother with the gravy part.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 9:37 am

Baked beans

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I think I have a winner. Here’s the routine. It starts late afternoon, or after you get home from work.

Baked Beans

1 lb of Great Northern or Small White beans

Rinse beans, put them into a 3-qt pot, fill pot to about an inch from the top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, put on a lid, and let the beans simmer for 50 minutes. Check to see whether they are tender. Mine went for an hour and were fine, but I might have wanted to stop them 5 minutes earlier. At any rate, simmer until they’re just tender but not mushy. And, just to make it explicit: the beans are not soaked before cooking: the dried beans are rinsed and then put into the pot with water and cooked. Cook’s Illustrated found that skipping the soaking makes the beans tastier, though the cooking time is a little longer.

Use a strainer and pour of all the cooking water into a bowl. Put the beans back into the pot, along with 1 scant cup of the cooking water.

Add to the pot:

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Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 9:22 am

Tuesday steps: 9660

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A slightly larger total—I went to the supermarket. It was a great day, but the free download of Our Mutual Friends didn’t quite work: the second file was corrupted. Dang. And the ebook downloads from the library are crippled by DRM and won’t play in my MP3 player. Oh, well. I’ll rework the files on the player this morning and have fresh stuff for the next walk.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2008 at 9:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

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