Later On

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

Archive for June 4th, 2008

Eggplant salad

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Today I made this recipe from Mark Bittman. It’s very tasty and easy.

Yield: 4 servings Time 20 to 40 minutes

The eggplant should be salted if it is not firm (small ones are almost always better than the common globular variety); it’s then cooked swiftly, with a quick immersion in boiling water. Once the eggplant is tender, it is chilled, then tossed with a soy sesame dressing.

  • 4 to 6 small to medium eggplants, or 1 large one, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Trim eggplant, and cut into cubes of 1/2 to 1 inch. If using large eggplant, sprinkle with salt, put in a colander, and let sit at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour. Rinse.

2. Boil large pot of water. Blanch eggplant in boiling water 2 minutes, no more. It will become just tender. Drain in colander as you would pasta. [You have to push it down as it boils: the eggplant wants to float. – LG]

3. Toast sesame seeds in small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently until they color slightly. Dry eggplant with paper towels. Combine remaining ingredients, and toss with eggplant and sesame seeds in bowl. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Covered well, the salad will remain flavorful for a day.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 9:24 pm

Cross-cultural miscommunications

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For example:

What you think you are saying:

“Darling, this week has been the most wonderful of my life. Since I first felt the sweet joy of your caress, I have truly come to know what it is to love and to be loved. Please accept these half-dozen roses as a symbol of my eternal tender devotion.” (Lean forward for kiss.)

What you are actually saying:


Read them all and find out why…

(Lean forward for kiss.)

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Daily life

Sell your surplus books on-line

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This looks like a useful site to know: I’ll certainly give it a go. Easy-peasy, it looks like:

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Almost pulling ahead

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A little outing. One good stop: Nob Hill grocery, where they had a fresh shipment of smelt.

The other was the library. I felt pretty good going up to the checkout desk: I had returned 4 books—well, 3 books and a movie—and was checking out only 3: one book less in the stack at home. But as she scanned my card, she told me that I had two books on hold that are ready to be picked up. So it goes.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Daily life

Clinton as viewed from abroad

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Michael Tomasky has an interesting take on the culmination of the Democratic presidential primary. From The Guardian:

The lead story tonight – my “lede,” as we spell it here – should have been about the remarkable fact that a black man has been nominated by a major party to lead a developed Western nation for the first time in the history of the world. A man – in whose lifetime people with his shade of skin were denied the right to vote and to use public accommodations – who is now on the cusp of the presidency. It says something good about America, and I would like to have been able to dwell on it.

But no. Once again, it’s all about Hillary Clinton, who delivered the most abrasive, self-absorbed, selfish, delusional, emasculating and extortionate political speech I’ve heard in a long time. And I’ve left out some adjectives, just to be polite.

Here’s an interesting point for you. Barack Obama’s speech, which featured a long and gracious nod to Clinton toward the beginning, was posted on various websites as early as 8:10pm East coast time. That means that Clinton – who didn’t start speaking until 9:31pm, noticeably missing her introductory cue – and her staff had more than an hour to read Obama’s speech and see that he was going to be more than kind to her.

But Clinton, who did not post her speech in advance, gave Obama a much briefer and more perfunctory nod. She congratulated him on his well-run campaign, but not on his victory, which is historic and assured. She told her crowd that, though she is now defeated, she “will be making no decisions tonight.” She urged her voters – naturally nudged up to 18 million, which exaggerates the matter by about a half a million votes – to visit her website and send her messages, a piece of demagoguery that merely ensures that a week hence, if she wants to, she’ll be able to say, “more than 10 million of my supporters have written to encourage me to go on to Denver”. And speaking of the convention city, when her audience began chanting its name, she did not of course try to stop them and say that a convention fight was not in the interest of party unity.

What’s her game?

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Greg Mitchell discusses the media’s failure on Iraq

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Excellent column from Editor & Publisher by Greg Mitchell:

n the wake of the revelations (or assertions, if you will) in Scott McClellan’s new book, “What Happened,” leading TV pundits and reporters have taken to the airways to admit that there was some truth in his charge that they were “complicit enablers” in the march to war in Iraq. Many others have denied all that. (Print reporters have been largely silent so far.) We’ve already posted at least half a dozen articles about this at E&P Online.

What is most appalling, however, is that it took McClellan’s book to produce a debate about this tremendously vital subject at all.

More than two months ago, I wrote here and elsewhere (and stated on the “NewsHour” on PBS) that I found it appalling that in the orgy of coverage of the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war back in March, the media reviewed every aspect of the war and pointed fingers everywhere, except at the media. There was almost no self-assessment, after five years of war.

I observed then that this revealed a disturbing, and continuing, mode of denial or defensiveness—or else a shocking failure to realize what the war has wrought as the greatest blunder and catastrophe in our recent history. I made this same point in The New York Times yesterday. And, naturally, before that, in my new book, So Wrong for So Long.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Books, Iraq War, Media

Interesting finding on caffeine

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It’s not that caffeine improves your alertness, focus, and cognition. Instead the caffeine simply brings you back to normal from caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Mind Hacks explains:

New York Magazine has a wonderful article on the culture, controversies and pharmacology of caffeine – the world’s most popular psychoactive drug.

Ranging from the recent upturn in coffee’s popularity and its inevitable effect on our caffeine consumption to the science of its neurological effects, the article manages to capture some of the key debates about the tremor inducing buzz substance.

One particularly interesting part touches on research that suggests that, like the effect of nicotine, the lift for regular users may be nothing more than withdrawal symptoms being soothed to bring us back to baseline.

That all said, what if the uptick in energy, alertness, and smarts we feel after drinking a cup of coffee isn’t a real uptick at all? What if it’s an illusion? A group of cutting-edge caffeine researchers believes that might be the case…

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

What went wrong in Clinton’s campaign? A view from the UK

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Rupert Cornwell in The Independent:

Why are we asking the question?

It seems an eternity ago, but as recently as October, the Democratic nomination for 2008 seemed to be Hillary Clinton’s for the asking. Now, whatever the result of last night’s final primaries in Montana and South Dakota, she seems certain to be defeated. Indeed, by the time you read this, her rival, Barack Obama, may well have secured the absolute mathematical majority of 2,118 delegates needed to nominate at the party’s Denver convention in August.

So what was her biggest campaign blunder?

Her campaign team, much of it battlehardened in Bill Clinton’s two successful White House runs, made many surprising errors. The biggest strategic mistake however, may have been to assume that everything would be wrapped up quickly. In the past that had indeed been the case – in 2004, John Kerry had basically won after his victories in the first two contests while even in 1992 her husband had effectively locked up the nomination after winning Illinois, just a month into the primary season. This time however, a third-place finish in Iowa on 3 January, behind not only Obama but also John Edwards, destroyed any aura of invincibility.

But for an upset comeback victory five days later in New Hampshire, Clinton might have been forced out relatively early. As it was, “Super Tuesday”, on 5 February, which her advisers once assumed would be a coronation, finished in a draw with Obama.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Allergic: eat active yogurt

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This is of interest because some are allergic to cats, a sad thing. But this might help, as reported by Kelli Miller Stacy in WebMD:

If springtime’s splendor leaves you sniffling, “good” bacteria may one day provide relief. New research suggests probiotics can alter the body’s immune response to grass pollen — a common cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

The landmark study published in Clinical and Experimental Allergy suggests that in the future, “good” bacteria, or probiotics, may potentially offer a treatment option to the estimated 35.9 million people in the U.S. who have seasonal hay fever.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria similar to those that naturally occur in the human gut and help promote a healthy digestive system. Changes in the delicate balance of intestinal bacteria have been linked to certain allergic disorders, leading scientists to theorize that probiotics may affect the body’s immune system.

For the current study, researchers with the Institute of Food Researchers randomly assigned 10 volunteers to drink a daily glass of regular milk or milk containing the probiotic Lactobacillus casei Shirota. Lactobacillus casei has been widely studied for its health benefits. The volunteers drank the milk each day and were followed for five months.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Good to know: Mediterranean Diet prevents type 2 diabetes

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Not by itself, I imagine. You still have to keep your percentage of body fat within bounds (body fat acts as an endocrine gland) and exercise. (Here’s a PDF of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid from, a fascinating site that includes other traditional and healthful diets.) This is still good to know:

Eating a traditional Mediterranean diet may help prevent type 2 diabetes, a Spanish study shows.

The study included 13,380 Spanish university graduates (age range 20 to 90, average age 36) who were followed for about four years. They completed a dietary survey when the study started and follow-up questionnaires every two years after that. The dietary survey included questions about foods, cooking methods, and olive oil consumption.

Based on the survey, participants were scored on a scale from 0 to 9 to show how closely they followed a Mediterranean diet. High scores meant they consumed a Mediterranean diet, meaning they favored legumes, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, fish, and moderate drinking and downplayed meat and dairy products.

A total of 33 people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the follow-up period. Those who followed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes during the study. For every two-point increase in the Mediterranean diet score, the odds of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes dropped by 35%.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Beware: salmonella-tainted tomatoes in some states

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Not California, yet. But the precautions are worth observing. On the whole, though, I prefer prevention to warnings: every recall is after the fact. Better that the FDA and DoA do better inspections—and not just of food, but of the entire process of the production, packaging, and shipment of the food. I like safe food. From WebMD:

Tomatoes tainted with salmonella have sickened dozens of people in nine states, the CDC and FDA warn.

Roma and red round tomatoes appear to be the source of salmonella food poisonings that have sickened 21 people in Texas and 19 people in New Mexico. All of these people ate raw tomatoes.

At least 30 other people have come down with the same salmonella strain in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, and Utah. The CDC is investigating whether these cases, too, are linked to tomatoes.

So far, no deaths have been reported.

People began falling ill on April 23. The CDC says the outbreak is ongoing.

The CDC warns consumers in New Mexico and Texas to avoid Roma or red round tomatoes if they want to lower their risk of salmonella infection. In these states, elderly people, infants, and people with impaired immune systems should avoid these tomatoes until the outbreak is over.

The FDA says cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine attached, and homegrown tomatoes are not implicated in the outbreak.

The CDC also advises:

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Government

OMG: McCain making a speech

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I couldn’t watch his entire speech—too painful—but Josh Marshall makes it more tolerable (and more interesting) by cutting in comments from Fox News. Watch:

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Smoky green beans

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I keep coming back to this recipe, so I can can tell I want to make it. It’s from the invaluable SmarterFitter Blog:  Smoky Green Beans.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 1:03 pm

When will the Singularity arrive?

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Readers of Vernor Vinge’s science-fiction are well aware of the Singularity, which also is the basis for Charles Stross’s Accelerando. It’s the point in time at which AI programs achieve consciousness and are able to work systematically on their own improvement: a positive feedback loop of accelerating capability. The idea clearly owes something to seeing how hardware and software enabled us to design better hardware and software: routing programs for circuit design, genetic algorithms developed by the software itself, and so on.

Now, via this excellent post in Mind Hacks, here’s special report in IEEE Spectrum on the Singularity, well worth reading and watching. (Parts of it are video.) Mind Hacks also links to this article by John Tierney in the NY Times, which includes some nice links. From the article, speaking about Ray Kurzweil:

He makes his predictions using what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns, a concept he illustrated at the festival with a history of his own inventions for the blind. In 1976, when he pioneered a device that could scan books and read them aloud, it was the size of a washing machine.

Two decades ago he predicted that “early in the 21st century” blind people would be able to read anything anywhere using a handheld device. In 2002 he narrowed the arrival date to 2008. On Thursday night at the festival, he pulled out a new gadget the size of a cellphone, and when he pointed it at the brochure for the science festival, it had no trouble reading the text aloud.

This invention, Dr. Kurzweil said, was no harder to anticipate than some of the predictions he made in the late 1980s, like the explosive growth of the Internet in the 1990s and a computer chess champion by 1998. (He was off by a year — Deep Blue’s chess victory came in 1997.)

“Certain aspects of technology follow amazingly predictable trajectories,” he said, and showed a graph of computing power starting with the first electromechanical machines more than a century ago. At first the machines’ power doubled every three years; then in midcentury the doubling came every two years (the rate that inspired Moore’s Law); now it takes only about a year.

Dr. Kurzweil has other graphs showing a century of exponential growth in the number of patents issued, the spread of telephones, the money spent on education. One graph of technological changes goes back millions of years, starting with stone tools and accelerating through the development of agriculture, writing, the Industrial Revolution and computers. (For details, see

Now, he sees biology, medicine, energy and other fields being revolutionized by information technology. His graphs already show the beginning of exponential progress in nanotechnology, in the ease of gene sequencing, in the resolution of brain scans. With these new tools, he says, by the 2020s we’ll be adding computers to our brains and building machines as smart as ourselves.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 11:46 am

Telecom immunity

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My email to Speaker Pelosi:

Please, you MUST stop the move to grant blanket immunity to the telecoms. I thought this issue was settled, and now Reyes is talking about accepting a GOP workaround to give the telecoms immunity—without even knowing what crimes were committed!! Have the people in Washington lost their minds? or their consciences? Are they deaf to the idea supported that the public, that malefactors must be brought to justice and given a fair trial in open court? Why the special treatment for those who give millions of dollars to Representatives?  oh…  I guess that’s it, eh? Can the House please publish a price list for votes so we can at least try to raise money to get the votes justice demands?

Michael Ham

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 11:28 am

Net Neutrality

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Already Time-Warner is putting a cap on your bandwidth, and you have to pay extra if you exceed the cap. Comcast, of course, just shuts you down if go over the limit—and they will not tell you what the limit is. Net neutrality is in danger. This video contains some good information.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 11:01 am

Rifts within Islam

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From the Center for American Progress via email:

Several recent articles in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Newsweek have explored the growing rifts within and between Muslim extremist factions over the use of violence against civilians in the waging of jihad. A major al Qaeda theorist and former comrade of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, has condemned al Qaeda’s terrorism as un-Islamic. In Newsweek, Christopher Dickey and Owen Matthews write that “important Muslim thinkers, including some on whom bin Laden depended for support, have rejected his vision.” This debate within the jihadist community was ongoing well before 9/11, but has become more pronounced as Arab publics have expressed revulsion at al Qaeda’s brutality against civilians in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere. While it is important not to overstate the ideological cleavage within al Qaeda (its Islamist critics do not question the justice of resistance in Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, or Afghanistan, only the tactics used), this is certainly a welcome phenomenon, which the United States should encourage as much as possible. These developments offer a rebuke to President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies, as they demonstrate that victory against al Qaeda’s ideology will not come from the barrel of an American gun but from the condemnation of fellow Muslims.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 10:30 am

Exciting one-minute ride

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in Music, Video

Blades that are better after 1-2 uses

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Some blades start a little tuggy and then, after a shave or two, become noticeably sharper. It’s not so much that your whiskers are hones, but the cutting edge of those blades seems to be covered with the coating used, and the first shave or two wears off the coating to expose the edge. Blades that seem to work like this are: Astra Keramik, Sputnik, Dorco 301, Tiger, and Crystal—and perhaps others. So if you try a new brand and it seems to tug a bit, stick with it for 3 or 4 shaves and see whether it doesn’t improve.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in Shaving

More good red-wine news

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Nicholas Wade writes in today’s NY Times:

Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan, researchers say in a new report that is likely to give impetus to the rapidly growing search for longevity drugs.

The study is based on dosing mice with resveratrol, an ingredient of some red wines. Some scientists are already taking resveratrol in capsule form, but others believe it is far too early to take the drug, especially using wine as its source, until there is better data on its safety and effectiveness.

The report is part of a new wave of interest in drugs that may enhance longevity. On Monday, Sirtris, a startup founded in 2004 to develop drugs with the same effects as resveratrol, completed its sale to GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

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