Later On

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

Archive for December 29th, 2008

Progress note

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The completed turkey-neck soup is now on to cook—just finished adding the veg and let me say again how very much I like my Borner V-Slicer Plus (now that I’m using it with the cutting glove). I chopped up the veg in no time. They were:

3 carrots
1/2 bunch celery (chopping the whole bunch at once, like in the demo video at the link above)
1 leek (a good one, with lots of white)
2 bunches scallions
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 small wedge of purple cabbage (mainly for the color)
3/4 c pearled barley (that perhaps should have been 1/2 c)
salt, pepper, dried rosemary, dried tarragon
splash of soy sauce
— last minute addition: 1 small bag of frozen peas.

And, of course, the meat I picked off the neck bones. It made about 6 quarts in all. Soup looks absolutely great—colorful and thick. It will age overnight in the fridge, and we’ll have first serving tomorrow.

On my way back from the PO, where I shipped a post-Xmas gift, I stopped at the supermarket and got a couple of cucumbers because I suddenly wanted a cucumber and onion salad. Peeled the cucumber and used the V-Slicer to make thin uniform slices of the cucumber and a red onion  about as fast as I’m writing this. Then some salt, pepper, and seasoned rice vinegar and into the fridge. After it sits a few hours, I may drain off the vinegar and stir in some sour cream.

And the pork shoulder roast, rubbed with Smoked Hot Pork Rub early this morning, is now in the oven, roasting away. — Later on: I just had dinner on the roast—the rub is fantastic. Just great. And with definite heat, though far from painful.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Daily life

Sen. Jim Webb to tackle prison reform

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This is encouraging. The article begins:

Somewhere along the meandering career path that led James Webb to the U.S. Senate, he found himself in the frigid interior of a Japanese prison.

A journalist at the time, he was working on an article about Ed Arnett, an American who had spent two years in Fuchu Prison for possession of marijuana. In a January 1984 Parade magazine piece, Webb described the harsh conditions imposed on Arnett, who had frostbite and sometimes labored in solitary confinement making paper bags.

“But, surprisingly, Arnett, home in Omaha, Neb., says he prefers Japan’s legal system to ours,” Webb wrote. “Why? ‘Because it’s fair,’ he said.”

This spring, Webb (D-Va.) plans to introduce legislation on a long-standing passion of his: reforming the U.S. prison system. Jails teem with young black men who later struggle to rejoin society, he says. Drug addicts and the mentally ill take up cells that would be better used for violent criminals. And politicians have failed to address this costly problem for fear of being labeled “soft on crime.”

It is a gamble for Webb, a fiery and cerebral Democrat from a staunchly law-and-order state. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, and it trails only Texas in the number of people it has executed. Moreover, as the country struggles with two wars overseas and an ailing economy, overflowing prisons are the last thing on many lawmakers’ minds.

But Webb has never been one to rely on polls or political indicators to guide his way. He seems instead to charge ahead on projects that he has decided are worthy of his time, regardless of how they play — or even whether they represent the priorities of the state he represents…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life

What it takes to overcome racial stereotyping

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Apparently not much: a 15-minute exercise will help a lot. Read the details here, from which this extract:

…Black students who completed the 15-minute affirmation exercise got better grades than students who did not (control). Interestingly, there was no similar effect for white students, suggesting that the effect of the exercise may have been to remove the handicapping of those students due to racial stereotyping. Even this short intervention asking students to reflect on their personal values appears to cause a significant effect. How significant? 70 percent of African American students benefited from the intervention. The chances of this effect occurring due solely to chance are less than 1 in 5,000. But why would the effect of such a short exercise be so dramatic?…

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 11:14 am

Manna from Hell: when bread goes bad

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Fascinating article on tracking down the cause of an endemic renal disease in the Balkans. The article begins:

Reining in his shaggy horse, Pavo Lukšić halts his cart in front of an abandoned farmhouse in the northeast Croatian village of Kaniža. “That house belonged to my uncle,” the 79-year-old farmer says through a translator. Lukšić pauses, and then discharges a fusillade of words: “This is a sad story. My uncle died. His wife died. Four of their children died. One daughter lived. She left the house. Then she got sick too and died. Also I lost all my friends.” Asked how many friends, he squints. “Seven.”

The empty farmhouses are called “Crne Kuće” in Croatian: black houses. They were once inhabited by farmers who raised their own pigs, harvested their own wheat, and died of a mysterious kidney disease known for decades as Balkan endemic nephropathy. Now the houses are in varying stages of decrepitude, darkening more each year as mold creeps upward from the spongy riverbanks. They are called black houses not so much for their wretched condition; they are painful reminders of a disease that has plagued farming families across the northern Balkan Peninsula for a hundred years.

Balkan endemic nephropathy was first identified in the 1950s, when papers from across the region began describing a geographically constant and pathologically unique disease of mysterious origin. It has since been tracked across a 500-kilometer stretch of river basin where the Danube meets its tributaries, the Sava and the Morava. From Croatia, the endemic region leans southeast into Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Epidemiologists discovered decades ago that counting those black houses is a useful tool for tracking the illness from family to family, village to village, riverbank to riverbank, country to country…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 11:10 am

Shrimp with Beans and Rosemary

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This is from The Wife’s sister-in-law, and I’m going to make it this week:

Shrimp with Beans and Rosemary

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 minced clove garlic
3 Tbsp chopped parsley (divided into 2 Tbsp and 1 Tbsp)
2 tsp chopped fresh sage or rosemary (I used rosemary)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
salt and pepper
1/2 cup fish stock, chicken stock, or clam broth/juice
1/2 Tbsp olive oil

Sauté garlic, 2 tbsp. parsley, and rosemary in olive oil for 1 minute, just until golden.  Stir in shrimp, beans, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.  Add stock and simmer until shrimp are pink and cooked, 2 or 3 minutes.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with remaining parsley.  Serve at once.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 10:28 am

Why do we deliberately choose the bad?

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Specifically, why do people choose to do things that they know is bad for them? Good question, and an article in Science addresses it:

Many of society’s most vexing problems – the rise of antibiotic resistance, the current epidemic of obesity, armed conflicts that leave both sides worse off – have their roots in the suboptimal and often puzzling actions of individuals. At times conflicting self-interests power such behavior; the best solutions from a collective perspective fail due to the nature of individual payoffs.1 In other situations, however, people simply fail to do what is best even for themselves, in the face of good, freely available information. Despite stern warnings and mountains of strong evidence, some people continue to take up smoking. They overeat, overindulge in alcohol, and refuse to wear seatbelts or bicycle helmets. Informed by their doctors that antibiotics will do nothing for a viral infection, people demand them anyway, and knowing the larger dangers involved, physicians still prescribe them. Why do human beings often behave in such counterproductive and potentially self-destructive ways? What factors determine how information spreads and whether or not it will guide behavior?

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Latest Israeli attack on Gaza: who started it?

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Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Rumsfeld, Ashcroft may face legal problems

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Very interesting story in Newsweek. It begins:

The United States, like many countries, has a bad habit of committing wartime excesses and an even worse record of accounting for them afterward. But a remarkable string of recent events suggests that may finally be changing—and that top Bush administration officials could soon face legal jeopardy for prisoner abuse committed under their watch in the war on terror.

In early December, in a highly unusual move, a federal court in New York agreed to rehear a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft brought by a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar. (Arar was a victim of the administration’s extraordinary rendition program: he was seized by U.S. officials in 2002 while in transit through Kennedy Airport and deported to Syria, where he was tortured.) Then, on Dec. 15, the Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against Donald Rumsfeld by four Guantánamo detainees alleging abuse there—a reminder that the court, unlike the White House, will extend Constitutional protections to foreigners at Gitmo. Finally, in the same week the Senate Armed Service Committee, led by Carl Levin and John McCain, released a blistering report specifically blaming key administration figures for prisoner mistreatment and interrogation techniques that broke the law. The bipartisan report reads like a brief for the prosecution—calling, for example, Rumsfeld’s behavior a “direct cause” of abuse. Analysts say it gives a green light to prosecutors, and supplies them with political cover and factual ammunition. Administration officials, with a few exceptions, deny wrongdoing. Vice President Dick Cheney says there was nothing improper with U.S. interrogation techniques—”we don’t do torture,” he repeated in an ABC interview on Dec. 15. The government blamed the worst abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, on a few bad apples.

High-level charges, if they come, would be a first in U.S. history. “Traditionally we’ve caught some poor bastard down low and not gone up the chain,” says Burt Neuborne, a constitutional expert and Supreme Court lawyer at NYU…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 9:22 am

The Corporation

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Thanks to Steve of Kafeneio, I got from the library the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, by Joel Bakan. (Inexpensive secondhand copies here—or get it from your library.) The book is fascinating and shows that we are at a time when corporations—the larger multinationals—have more power than governments and indeed can structure governments of many countries to their liking. And we have little or no control over them, especially as the US has abdicated some of its internal decisions to external agencies such as the WTO—nowadays, the WTO decides and the US must get permission from it to take internal steps for the good of our country.

Seriously, read this book. And remember how Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN, or as some now call him, R-Nissan) led a group of southern Senators, all of whom have foreign cars manufactured in their (non-union) states, voted against saving Detroit: they are serving the interests of the corporations rather than the interests of the US.

And it’s not just them. The bankruptcy laws were changed at the behest of credit card companies (and Chris Dodd, to his shame, supported them).

Read the book, and open your eyes.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 8:55 am

OSHA under Bush

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OSHA under Bush has suffered the same fate as other Federal agencies aimed at protecting consumers and workers: no protection for them, says the GOP. The ones needing the protection are corporations, the poor things.

I feel strongly about this because just two months before my 8th birthday my father was killed in a totally preventable oilfield accident. Had there been OSHA in 1948, he would probably have lived his life out.

Thank God we are going to have a Democratic Administration. Most Democrats (not Jay Rockefeller, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and their ilk) see their mission as protecting workers and consumers and the public, not large corporations.

Here’s the painful story:

In early 2001, an epidemiologist at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to publish a special bulletin warning dental technicians that they could be exposed to dangerous beryllium alloys while grinding fillings. Health studies showed that even a single day’s exposure at the agency’s permitted level could lead to incurable lung disease.

After the bulletin was drafted, political appointees at the agency gave a copy to a lobbying firm hired by the country’s principal beryllium manufacturer, according to internal OSHA documents. The epidemiologist, Peter Infante, incorporated what he considered reasonable changes requested by the company and won approval from key directorates, but he bristled when the private firm complained again.

“In my 24 years at the Agency, I have never experienced such indecision and delay,” Infante wrote in an e-mail to the agency’s director of standards in March 2002. Eventually, top OSHA officials decided, over what Infante described in an e-mail to his boss as opposition from “the entire OSHA staff working on beryllium issues,” to publish the bulletin with a footnote challenging a key recommendation the firm opposed.

Current and former career officials at OSHA say that such sagas were a recurrent feature during the Bush administration, as political appointees ordered the withdrawal of dozens of workplace health regulations, slow-rolled others, and altered the reach of its warnings and rules in response to industry pressure.

The result is a legacy of unregulation common to several health-protection agencies under Bush: From 2001 to the end of 2007, OSHA officials issued 86 percent fewer rules or regulations termed economically significant by the Office of Management and Budget than their counterparts did during a similar period in President Bill Clinton’s tenure, according to White House lists…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 8:43 am

Keep Kiva in your thoughts

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I have blogged previously about Kiva, which I think is simply great. (At that link, you’ll find a way to use Kiva in a class project.) And now Cool Tools has a good post on it. From that post (and you should read the whole thing):

The advantages of Kiva over the other worthy agencies are threefold. One, you can direct your loans to the kind of projects or livelihood you deem the most important or the most sympathetic. Maybe you are into food so you gravitate to funding small cafes or local fruit growers. Or maybe you think women’s sewing centers are a key. Secondly you have more direct contact with the borrowers. They have names, faces, stories. Not a few Kiva lenders have met up with folks they have lent to. Thirdly, while most microfiance agencies are thrifty, Kiva is particularly thin in administration thanks to the well-designed software platform that runs this service.

Go read, then go help.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 8:37 am

Morning progress note

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Seated now with a cup of coffee while my breakfast cereal cooks, I can report on the following initiatives now in effect:

The three turkey necks (one pound apiece) are now in a pot that also contains: water, 3 star anise, a few whole allspice, a few whole peppercorns, juice of a lemon and 3 limes, and a little salt. Once it gets to the boil, I will simmer them for 3 hours, then remove the necks from the stock so they can cool. Once cool, I’ll remove the meat from the bones and return it to the pot. The grain will be pearled barley. And, of course, there will be onions, celery, parsley, carrots, and a little garlic.

The pork shoulder roast has been rubbed with the Smoked Hot Pork Rub (which I received for Xmas) and will sit in a baggie for three hours before going into the oven.

The breakfast cereal (1/3 cup oat groats, 1 Tbsp flaxseed, and 1 cup of water) is on and will slowly come to a simmer.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 8:25 am

Posted in Daily life

Mocha-Java morning

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As I put my new QED Wild Orange shave stick away, I realized that it’s been too long since I used the Mocha Java shave stick—a favorite. So today it was Mocha Java with the Sabini brush, the trusty old Slant Bar, and Spanish Leather aftershave. An extremely fine shave today.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2008 at 7:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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