Later On

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

Archive for August 23rd, 2008

Interesting challenge: teaching evolution to fundamentalists

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Or, perhaps, to the children of fundamentalists. It’s starting to happen:

ORANGE PARK, Fla. — David Campbell switched on the overhead projector and wrote “Evolution” in the rectangle of light on the screen.

He scanned the faces of the sophomores in his Biology I class. Many of them, he knew from years of teaching high school in this Jacksonville suburb, had been raised to take the biblical creation story as fact. His gaze rested for a moment on Bryce Haas, a football player who attended the 6 a.m. prayer meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the school gymnasium.

“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.”

In February, the Florida Department of Education modified its standards to explicitly require, for the first time, the state’s public schools to teach evolution, calling it “the organizing principle of life science.” Spurred in part by legal rulings against school districts seeking to favor religious versions of natural history, over a dozen other states have also given more emphasis in recent years to what has long been the scientific consensus: that all of the diverse life forms on Earth descended from a common ancestor, through a process of mutation and natural selection, over billions of years.

But in a nation where evangelical Protestantism and other religious traditions stress a literal reading of the biblical description of God’s individually creating each species, students often arrive at school fearing that evolution, and perhaps science itself, is hostile to their faith.

Some come armed with “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution,” a document circulated on the Internet that highlights supposed weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Others scrawl their opposition on homework assignments. Many just tune out.

With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving their own ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.

“If you see something you don’t understand, you have to ask ‘why?’ or ‘how?’ ” Mr. Campbell often admonished his students at Ridgeview High School.

Yet their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world — and their ability to make sense of it themselves.

Passionate on the subject, Mr. Campbell had helped to devise the state’s new evolution standards, which will be phased in starting this fall. A former Navy flight instructor not used to pulling his punches, he fought hard for their passage. But with his students this spring, he found himself treading carefully, as he tried to bridge an ideological divide that stretches well beyond his classroom.

He started with Mickey Mouse. …

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 6:28 pm

Falernum

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Interesting recipe at Slashfood, along with excellent background information. Recipe below, but read the post.

I use Paul Clarke’s outstanding recipe from his site The Cocktail Chronicles as a launching point, of which I will quote verbatim:

  • 6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
  • zest of 9 medium limes, removed with a microplane grater or sharp vegetable peeler, with no traces of white pith
  • 40 whole cloves (buy fresh ones – not the cloves that have been in your spice rack since last Christmas)
  • 1 1/2 ounce, by weight, peeled, julienned fresh ginger

Combine these ingredients in a jar and seal, letting the mixture soak for 24 hours. Then, strain through moistened cheesecloth, squeezing the solids to extract the last, flavorful bits of liquid.

Add:

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract*
  • 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup (two parts sugar to one part water, shaken in a jar or bottle WITHOUT HEAT until all the sugar is dissolved)
  • 4 1/2 ounces fresh, strained lime juice

Shake it all together and serve.

My variation adds 20 allspice berries to the soak (which I increase to about 3-4 days) and also add a couple drops of vanilla extract for good measure. For another variation, Craig Hermann (who also snapped the above picture) over at Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments publishes his experiments in four parts.

And, to use it:

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Cocktail, an early tiki drink by Trader Vic.

2 ounces of dark or gold rum
3/4 ounces of fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/4 ounce of your freshly made falernum

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime zest.

Here are five more recipes you can use with your new falernum:
The White Lion
Port Antonio Cocktail
Test Pilot
Clermont Smash
Chartreuse Swizzle

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Recipes

Book about an interesting moviemaker

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Read the whole thing. It begins:

Alex Cox’s legacy rests largely on a movie that he made a quarter century ago. Repo Man, quite possibly the only film to combine L.A. punk swagger with Robert Aldrich’s classic nuclear noir Kiss Me Deadly, skewered everything from American consumerism to UFO cultists to Scientologists and successfully captured the zeitgeist of Ronald Reagan’s America. The spirit of the times may have been on display in the film, but a half-hearted attempt at distribution by its studio kept it from most moviegoers’ radar. However, while Repo Man may have been hard to find in cinemas, it quickly found an audience, becoming one of the first cult films produced not by the midnight-movie circuit, but rather the emerging technology of video cassette recorders and the growing number of cable television subscribers.

From there, he progressed to the punk bio-pic Sid and Nancy, his spaghetti western homage Straight to Hell, and the film maudit Walker. Unfortunately, none of these, nor any of his subsequent films, have played to packed houses. Ever the iconoclast, Cox has declined to direct studio fare such as Three Amigos and Robocop, choosing to pursue instead projects that interested him without betraying his principles. While this approach has resulted in a rather limited output, it has undoubtedly created a uniquely diverse and uncompromised body of work.

Timed to coincide with the release of his latest film, Searchers 2.0, …

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Daily life

Giving traumatized kids incorrect treatment

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This is bad:

There’s good news and, not surprisingly, bad news for children and teenagers grappling with the psychological aftermath of trauma. On the up side, research shows that certain interventions ease post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related problems in young people. On the down side, most mental-health practitioners use trauma treatments for kids and teens that lack scientific support.

These conclusions come from an extensive research review conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, an independent group of 12 investigators partly funded by the federal government. Its findings appear in the September American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

To make matters worse, pediatricians and school officials rarely screen children for past exposure to traumatic events and resulting psychological symptoms, the task force notes. Efforts are underway to develop web-based guides for parents and teachers to identify and help kids experiencing trauma-related problems.

Although the review focuses on Western countries, research has also just started to explore the use of trained non-professionals to treat traumatized children in developing nations, where mental health workers are scarce.

Kids with trauma-related psychological problems tend to do poorly in school if they remain untreated or are inadequately treated, remarks psychologist and social worker Marleen Wong of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

An estimated one in eight children have experienced physical or sexual abuse, neglect, bullying and other types of maltreatment. More than one in three have witnessed violence or experienced it indirectly, such losing a parent to murder but not witnessing the crime. Children experiencing such traumas can develop PTSD or other mental disorders.

“In mental health as in education, trauma leaves children behind,” Wong says. Minority children’s regular exposure to violence in poor communities contributes to the academic achievement gap between black and white students, in her view.

Evidence indicates that individual and group cognitive-behavioral therapy reduces symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and related behavior problems in traumatized children and adolescents, the task force reports. Cognitive-behavioral techniques include discussing or writing about traumatic experiences, learning relaxation techniques and replacing paralyzing fears with more realistic assessments. Weekly sessions can extend over one to three months.

The review finds insufficient evidence to recommend any of five other treatment approaches — play therapy, art therapy, drug therapy, psychodynamic therapy or psychological debriefing. …

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Mental Health, Science

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Bug Appétit

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I would love to go to this restaurant, though I think The Wife would wait outside.

This summer, the Audubon Nature Institute is opening another museum in New Orleans. Its restaurant will offer everything from soup and main courses to desserts. But the foods will contain ingredients U.S. diners would usually complain about finding on their plates: bugs.

We’re talking about grasshoppers, the worm-like larvae of wax moths, ants — even the occasional dragonfly.

Although unusual as food items, bugs do make sense here because this is the Insectarium (in sek TAIR’ ee um). As its unusual name implies, the entire museum will be devoted to the world’s six-legged species.

Want chocolate chip cookies? They’ll come topped with toasted crickets. And yes, they’re the same kind that chirp in yards and parks all summer long. Make no mistake, these bugs are not just there for looks. You’re supposed to eat them, explains Audubon chef Zack Lemann. The crickets, for instance, “taste kind of nutty,” he notes.

The restaurant will be named Bug Appétit. It’s a play on the French phrase — Bon Appétit (BOHN’ ap pay TEET’) — which means “enjoy your meal.”

Lemann and his Audubon team realize that “eewww” or “gross” may be the first reactions many people will have at seeing bugs in food. But the Audubon center hopes its visitors will leave the restaurant with a better understanding that much of the rest of the world is not turned off by bugs. Indeed, bugs are eaten by choice. What’s more, many insects are actually quite nutritious.

In America and Europe, most people accept crustaceans such as crab, lobster, and shrimp as food items. In fact, diners often view these foods as special, tending to pay far more for them than for chicken, pork and most beef, or serving them on special occasions. Yet crustaceans are “the ocean equivalent of insects,” says David Gracer.

In fact, crustaceans belong to the same part of the animal family tree as insects do.

When people argue that eating grasshoppers or beetle larvae is yucky, Gracer points out that lobsters tend to “eat trash and dead things.” And Insects? Most of them dine at nature’s salad bars. Knowing that, he asks, “Which would you rather eat?” …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Are you like others?

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Interesting article, which begins:

We constantly get the message that everybody is different, and that we’re all unique. Yet almost all of us are guilty of attributing thoughts and feelings to others based solely on how we’d react ourselves in their particular situation. This fallacy–as unrecognized as it is prevalent–apparently derives from the common assumption that our individual biology and biography are somehow universal.

Unconsciously, we seem to infer that despite all our differences we still represent, or exemplify, all of humanity; and that we can appreciate another’s actions simply by reflecting on our own. Our basic priorities, standards, motives, and biases must, we assume, be the same as others. Minimizing, or ignoring, the enormous number of variables that can influence a person’s behavior, we entertain the belief that we can adequately understand such behavior simply by likening it to our own. Or–to put it somewhat differently–we project our personal reality onto others as though, finally, everyone can be understood in terms of their essential similarity to us.

No doubt there are many affinities among us that more or less dictate how–in most instances, at least–we’ll respond. For example, almost all of us can be expected to experience gratification or pleasure when we’re complimented–and, on the contrary, to feel disappointed, angry or hurt when we’re criticized. But even here we need to consider that many people who have poor self-esteem experience embarrassment, awkwardness, or even freshly awakened shame, when they receive acknowledgment or recognition. For deep down they regard themselves as not good enough; or even as frauds–not deserving any praise whatsoever. Additionally–as regards reacting to criticism–people who are unusually confident or self-accepting are able to handle negative evaluation with far less distress than most of us. Capable of self-validating, and experiencing themselves as fundamentally competent even when they’ve made a mistake, their “feathers” simply don’t get ruffled as a result of unfavorable judgment.

Generally speaking, it’s much more difficult to characterize faithfully someone else’s thoughts and emotions than most of us might suppose. As a species, …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

Twenty days of ice cream

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I would go for this: a different ice cream every day, but stop well short of a month so I didn’t seem piggish. And what wonderful ice creams!

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Biden’s impressive

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Via James Fallows:

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 2:36 pm

McCain, genius of the flip-flop

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At least so far as keeping the press from talking about all his flip-flops. Just a few, from a ThinkProgress post (and more info at the link):

As Steve Benen has documented, McCain has flip-flopped at least 74 times over the years.

While some of his shifts may be an attempt to “grow” and “refine” his positions, many of his flip-flops were calculated moves to “placate the GOP right” in the course of his run for president:

TAXES: In 2001 and 2003, McCain opposed the Bush tax cuts, saying that they would “mostly benefit the wealthy.” But in 2006 he voted to extend them and now he wants to double them.

IMMIGRATION: In 2006, McCain sponsored immigration reform legislation with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), but in a January 2008 debate, he said that he “would not” vote for his own legislation.

ROE V. WADE: In 1999, McCain told reporters that he “would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade.” In 2006, McCain expressed his unequivocal support for overturning the decision.

OFFSHORE DRILLING: In 1999, when he first ran for president, McCain supported the moratorium on offshore drilling. In June 2008, however, he called for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling. [Of course, to change his position cost the oil industry plenty in contributions… – LG]

RADICAL RIGHT: In 2000, McCain declared Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell “agents of intolerance,” but in 2006 McCain said he no longer considers Falwell an “agent of intolerance.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

For those who liked the tomato jam

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Jeff, I’m blogging at you. Try tomato preserves (described here), either as regular tomato preserves or as tomato preserves ice cream.

1948: Tomato Preserves
This recipe was created by Ruth P. Casa-Emellos, the director of the New York Times test kitchen.

This is best made with at least 3 pounds of tomatoes. Using level pounds makes the math easier. Buy the smallest plum tomatoes you can find, so you can leave them whole.

Small plum tomatoes
For each pound of cored and peeled tomatoes:
3/4 pound sugar
3 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 quarter-inch slice peeled ginger
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds discarded.

1. Select slightly underripe tomatoes, preferably the small, pear-shaped ones. Core the tomatoes, then skin them by cutting a shallow X in their rounded end and dipping them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Peel. If the tomatoes are large, slice them in half across the middle and remove their seeds. Weigh the tomatoes, then measure the sugar and spices.

2. Layer the tomatoes and sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan (enameled cast iron works best). Cover and let stand overnight — no need to refrigerate.

3. The next day, tie the spices in cheesecloth. Add the spice bag to the tomatoes along with the sliced lemon. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have become slightly translucent and the syrup is thick and begins to gel. Don’t boil the syrup, or the tomatoes will fall apart. If the tomatoes finish first, remove them from the pan and reduce the syrup over medium-high heat. Remove the spice bag. Meanwhile, sterilize enough jars to accommodate the amount of preserves.

4. Fill the jars three-quarters full with tomatoes and lemons (or save the lemons to eat separately), and cover the tomatoes with syrup. Seal, using your preferred canning method: paraffin or processing.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Small nice kitty tree

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Little Lotus Cat Tree

Little Lotus Cat Tree

This is a smaller version (4′ instead of 6′ tall) of the cat tree that Molly enjoys. It really is very nice indeed, and looks better than the usual assemblage. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

The book-cover shave

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I shaved this morning using the items on the book’s cover—to the extent possible. The brush, for example, this morning was the G.B. Kent BK4, no the BK8 pictured. The BK8 was sold as I settled on the BK4. But the shaving cream was, like that on the cover, Castle Forbes Lavender, and I used the same Gillette Aristocrat, though with a Treet Classic blade instead of a Feather—I’ve moved beyond the Feather. And the aftershave was Castle Forbes Lavender Balm. All very pleasant and a fine shave. I overslept, as you note: up early, read a bit, and back to bed. So now The Wife and I are off to the Breakfast Club.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2008 at 11:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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