Later On

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

Archive for April 18th, 2009

Sunbird learns to hover for sweet reward

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Give the sunbird a few hundred thousand years—maybe a million—and some subset of them will evolve to a new species analogous to the hummingbird. Or so I would bet. The process is already begun, I would think: sunbirds that are smaller and can hover longer will get more food and have more babies. Etc. See the video and a brief article here in New Scientist.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 7:05 pm

Fee Brothers Bitters

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I think it was Bob Slaughter who first let me know about Fee Brothers Bitters. I ordered a set of six, and now I see that DougJ has discovered them. Click through and read his post.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Productive outing

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I got my clothes for The Son’s wedding, plus was able to find black mustard seed and fresh dill for this salad:

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad with Mustard Seeds
serves 4-6

1 seedless English cucumber, washed and unpeeled
3 smooth ordinary slicing cucumbers, washed and peeled
Fine table salt
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
2/3 cup sour cream
1 small handful fresh dill, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper

Chop the cucumbers in half longwise, then into thin half-moons. Layer in a medium-sized bowl, sprinkling each layer lightly with salt. Put two small plates on top then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

Put the cucumbers into a large colander and drain any excess water. Pat lightly with a kitchen towel to remove as much moisture as you can.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, shaking the pan, until the mustard seeds pop just a bit. This should take no more than a minute or two. Take the skillet off the heat and pour the seeds into a plate to cool.

Toss the cucumber slices with the shallots, sour cream, and chopped dill. Mix in the cooled mustard seeds. Taste and season with black pepper. You can serve this immediately, or refrigerate it for up to a day before serving.

Also picked up a couple of nice little Xmas presents, though for whom I’ve not decided. And returned books to libraries. Good, constructive day, for all that it started late.

UPDATE: Regarding the recipe: skip the shallots and use one small sweet onion.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Daily life

Fascinating speech to Log Cabin Republicans

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Steve Schmidt yesterday spoke to the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay Republicans, and his speech pointed out the problems in the GOP opposition to gay marriage. From his speech (full transcript at the link):

… As a percentage of the total vote, younger voters didn’t really increase in the last election.  But the Democrats’ margin with those voters certainly did.  In short, we were crushed by the Obama campaign with voters under 30.  President Obama was a uniquely attractive candidate to younger voters, in matters of style as much as substance.  And maybe as those voters grow older and acquire greater responsibilities they will develop a better appreciation for Republican values of limited government, fiscal discipline, low taxes and a strong defense.  That has happened in the past. 

But even if they do, I doubt they will abandon social attributes that distinguish them from older voters; among them, a greater acceptance of people who find happiness in relationships with members of the same sex.  And I believe Republicans should re-examine the extent to which we are being defined by positions on issues that I don’t believe are among our core values, and that put us at odds with what I expect will become over time, if not a consensus view, then the view of a substantial majority of voters.

Of course, a party cannot grow if it subtracts while it tries to add.  Social conservatives remain an indispensable part of the Republican coalition.  I don’t subscribe to the notion that social conservatives are a monolithic bloc of close-minded people who would tread on the rights of Americans who disagree with them. Nor do I think conservatism will or should abandon its reluctance to change or abandon social conventions that are important to the strength and stability of our society. 

… The institution of marriage is the foundation of society and alterations to its definitions shouldn’t be lightly undertaken.  It has always been defined as the legal union of a man and a woman, and it’s understandable that many Americans are apprehensive about making a definitional change to so profoundly an important institution.  But it is a tradition, not a creed, or, at least, not a national creed.  It is not how we define ourselves as Americans.  And while we shouldn’t carelessly dismiss the importance of enduring traditions, we should understand that traditions do change over time in every society.  And as long as those changes do not conflict with the tenets of our national creed then they can, and inevitably will, be modified by a society that has come to view them as inequitable. 

It can be argued, although I disagree, that marriage should remain the legal union of a man and a woman because changing it to admit same sex unions would undermine the most basic institution of a well ordered society.  It can be argued according to the creeds and convictions of religious belief, which I respect.  But it cannot be argued that marriage between people of the same sex is un-American or threatens the rights of others.  On the contrary, it seems to me that denying two consenting adults of the same sex the right to form a lawful union that is protected and respected by the state denies them two of the most basic natural rights affirmed in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence – liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That, I believe, gives the argument of same sex marriage proponents its moral force.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Italic handwriting update

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Portland State University Press is now gone, but you can still get the italic instructional series that they published. This information is thanks to Kate Gladstone of Handwriting Repair. She also notes:

You may or may not know that, since Obama came into office, the Department of Education has quietly re-opened the question of whether the United States should establish a national curriculum with standards for *all* subject areas ("all" would seem likely to include handwriting). In fact, the newest TIME Magazine (April 27, 2009) has an article urging a national curriculum (p. 32, by one Walter Isaacson who apparently has some influence in such matters).

If this should happen, I would far rather see the national standards mandate (or at least encourage or explicitly permit) the teaching of Italic handwriting than to risk seeing the issue of handwriting ignored (or, worse, to see a national standard which mandated a conventional print-then-cursive program with all its accident-prone tendencies, including but not limited to its habit of falling apart at any speed above a snail’s crawl).

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Bretz’s flood

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Interesting book review:

Bretz’s Flood: The Remarkable Story of a Rebel Geologist and the World’s Greatest Flood
by John Soennichsen

A review by Doug Brown

Beginning with the earliest surveys in the 1800s, geologists noticed there was something odd about eastern Washington. The term "scablands" was used to describe the landscape, which appeared to be covered with gaping wounds that went down to the bedrock. The prevailing assumption was that either the Columbia River had sculpted the landscape by shifting its course over the millennia, or that glacier ice had carved it.

Then in the 1920s, a headstrong geologist from the University of Chicago took a couple of trips to survey the scablands. J Harlen Bretz (no period on the J — his first name was actually Harley but he liked the sound of J Harlen) measured vast coulees and canyons, saw evidence of ancient waterfalls that dwarfed Niagara, and reached a radical conclusion. Soennichsen’s accessible book begins with an imagining of Bretz sitting on a bluff in the scablands, loading his pipe and double-checking his calculations as his graduate students toss rocks off the bluff into the water below. The inescapable conclusion was that water, not ice, had carved out the scablands, now dubbed by Bretz the "channeled scablands." And not water from some measly little river like the Columbia — there was evidence of flood bars over 600 feet high. An almost inconceivable amount of water had torn through eastern Washington, stripping the land down to the basaltic bedrock and then scouring into the basalt itself. Bretz found evidence of the flood all the way down the channel of the Columbia, particularly in the Gorge. The Willamette Valley still contains large boulders rafted here on ice from the Canadian Rockies.

Bretz knew this flew in the face of dogma, and not just regarding the origin of the scablands. In geology, the concept of uniformitarianism held sway at the time. This idea had arisen in the 1800s as a response to "catastrophism," which at the time meant trying to explain most geological features as having been caused by Noah’s flood. Uniformitarianism held that geologic processes today were the same as those from the past. It was a way to break from the religious dogma of a young Earth and begin seeing what John McPhee later poetically called "deep time." Given enough time, a river really can carve a grand canyon just by flowing the way it is today, as the Colorado did. Yet here was Bretz invoking passé catastrophism, even though he backed it up with an impressive amount of field observation and calculation.

He published a couple of papers that met with less response than he had hoped for. Then he received an invitation to present his work at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. For a scientist, this was the equivalent of a musician being invited to play in Carnegie Hall. Bretz didn’t realize until too late it was an ambush…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Books, Science

Kitty vs. Potato

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2009 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Cats

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