Later On

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

Archive for July 23rd, 2010

Extra-virgin olive oil: I’m buying Californian

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Pat Bailey writes at The University of California food blog:

Buyer beware, is the message of a new study from the UC Davis Olive Center, which found that many of the imported olive oils sold in California retail stores are not “extra virgin” oil as their labels claim they are.

Extra virgin olive oil is the top grade and priciest of olive oils.  To meet international standards, extra virgin must be removed from the olive without using heat or solvents.  It also has to meet specific criteria for chemical makeup, flavor and aroma.

However in the new study, researchers at UC Davis and in Australia discovered that 69 percent of the imported oils sampled, compared to just 10 percent of the California-produced oils sampled, failed to meet internationally accepted standards for extra virgin olive oil.

The imported oils tested were purchased from supermarkets and “big box” stores in three California regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County. The California brands, however, were found only in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area.

Defects in those oils that failed to pass muster included oxidation from excessive temperature, light or aging and addition of cheaper refined olive oils.  Other flaws may have been linked to improper processing or storage and use of damaged or overripe olives.

The complete report from the study, which is the first of its kind from an American college or university, is available online from the UC Davis Olive Center at:

The study was funded by Corto Olive, California Olive Ranch and the California Olive Oil Council.

Anecdotal reports of low-quality olive oils lurking behind extra-virgin labels have been floating about for some time but this is the first “empirical proof” to support those suspicions, according to Dan Flynn, executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center..

“The intent of the study was to provide consumers and retailers with an accurate picture of the quality of olive oils now being marketed through grocery stores and other retail outlets in California,” said Flynn, noting that the United States is the third-largest consumer of olive oil in the world.

“Our hope is that these findings will lead to improved methods for evaluating extra virgin olive oil, and increased consumer confidence that “extra virgin” on the label means extra virgin in the bottle,” he said.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Interesting way to get VOIP

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Use your existing phones and your existing phone number, but stop paying the phone bill. Check out the Ooma idea. I’m going for it (the Hub, not the Telo).

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

VA eases rules for medical marijuana

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The benefits of medical marijuana, particularly for cancer patients as well as several other serious diseases such as MS, is now evident enough that the VA is taking action. Dan Frosch reports in the NY Times:

The Department of Veterans Affairs will formally allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans have sought for several years.

A department directive, expected to take effect next week, resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the 14 states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states.

The policy will not permit department doctors to prescribe marijuana. But it will address the concern of many patients who use it that they could lose access to their prescription pain medication if caught.

Such fear has led many patients to distrust their doctors, veterans say. With doctors and patients pressing the veterans department for formal guidance, agency officials began drafting a policy last fall.

“When states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law,” said Dr. Robert Jesse, the principal deputy under secretary for health in the Veterans Department.

At the same time, Dr. Jesse said, “We didn’t want patients who were legally using marijuana to be administratively denied access to pain management programs.”

The new policy applies only to veterans using medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Doctors may still modify a veteran’s treatment plan if the veteran is using marijuana, or decide not to prescribe pain medicine altogether if there is a risk of a drug interaction. But that decision will be made on a case-by-case basis, not as blanket policy, Dr. Jesse said.

Though veterans of the Vietnam War were the first group to use marijuana widely for medical purposes, the population of veterans using it now spans generations, said Michael Krawitz, executive director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, which worked with the Veterans Department on formulating a policy.

Veterans, some of whom have been at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement, praised the new policy. They say cannabis helps sooth physical and psychological pain and can alleviate the side effects of some treatments.

“By creating a directive on medical marijuana, the V.A. ensures that throughout its vast hospital network, it will be well understood that legal medical marijuana use will not be the basis for the denial of services,” Mr. Krawitz said.

Many clinicians already prescribe pain medication to veterans who use medical marijuana for pain management, as there was no rule explicitly prohibiting them from doing so, despite the federal marijuana laws.

Advocates of medical marijuana use say that in the past, the patchwork of veterans hospitals and clinics around the country were sometimes unclear how to deal with veterans who needed pain medications and were legally using medical marijuana. The department’s emphasis on keeping patients off illegal drugs and from abusing their medication “gave many practitioners the feeling that they are supposed to police marijuana out of the system,” Mr. Krawitz said.

“Many medical marijuana using veterans have just abandoned the V.A. hospital system completely for this reason,” he said, “and others that stay in the system feel that they are not able to trust that their doctor will be working in their best interests.”

In rare cases, veterans have been told that they need to stop using marijuana, even if it is legal, or risk losing their prescription medicine…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 4:36 pm

Do you love food?

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Read this article and your mouth will water. It begins:

Like most brides, I was nervous on my wedding day. I was worried about food. Specifically that marriage was going to condemn me to years in a culinary wasteland.

Let me explain: The gastronomic offerings in my husband’s hometown of New Delhi had been sorely disappointing. Going out involved eating heavy, unimaginative curries — the kind of generic "Indian" food that’s served at restaurants called Bombay Palace and Taj Mahal the world over. Staying in and eating at his parents’ home seemed to mean simple, almost ascetic meals of roti and subzi (bread and vegetables).

During my initial pre-engagement trips there, I didn’t complain. I figured we’d be visiting Delhi only occasionally once we got married. But then it turned out that Sid had plans for us to live there for at least a year and perhaps even longer.

I panicked. I live to eat. Moving to Delhi was going to be a slow, flavorless death.

After marriage, my new-bride status dictated that I eat with my husband’s family every night. I’d go to bed mildly hungry and distinctly homesick, missing the eclectic foods I’d eaten in my cosmopolitan hometown of Bombay. My family had a tight dinner schedule that traveled several time zones: tacos on Tuesdays, falafels on Fridays, Thai on Thursdays, etc. — and I desperately missed all the culinary continent-hopping we did from our kitchen.

Yet, after a few weeks, I found myself looking forward to those meals with Sid’s family. It wasn’t the food but the conversation and the company that I’d begun to enjoy. Amma, Sid’s heavy-set, 87-year-old grandmother, was in charge of dinner. Isolated by her bad knees to a room on the top floor of the house, dinner was when Amma’s brood gathered around her, talking, laughing, eating her food. And Amma, who is as talkative as she is temperamental, loved the opportunity for an audience.

Soon I was regularly sitting with Amma for a half hour before dinner. She loved that like her, I was vegetarian. She’d often want to know what my favorite vegetables were. (Okra, if you’re interested. Yes, I actually love the slime. [I prefer fried okra: no slime. – LG]). And I’d find them on the dinner table the next day. She’d share with me stories from her childhood in a village in North India, tales of waiting feverishly for the first flush of the tiny saffron-hued pairee mango, for the joy of sucking it bone dry and fighting over its pit; of sitting crossed-legged on the kitchen floor, in anticipation of the next hot, butter-filled roti that would be dropped into her plate…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 4:16 pm

Kevin Drum wants help in understanding the Right

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I think he’s whistling in the wind: the Right is not internally consistent, so it cannot be understood. It is the political expression of the Id, so far as I can tell. But here’s Kevin:

The fantastic outpouring of conservative resentment following the Shirley Sherrod case (miscellaneous example, one of many, here) is remarkable. In one sense, it’s nothing new. We all know that conservatives have felt for a long time that an omnipresent liberal media is stacked against them; that race hustlers have made an industry out of accusing them of bigotry; that coastal elites sneer at them; that Hollywood forces its liberal social agenda on them; that their kids are indoctrinated every day with liberal shibboleths by politically correct schoolteachers and university professors; that global warming is a hoax designed to give liberal technocrats control over the economy; that multicultural cabals hate heartland Christians; and that, just in general, liberals operate in a relentlessly bullying, thuggish manner and conservatives just sit there and take it.

On an intellectual level, I can sort of get this. If I were a conservative Christian I’d be unhappy with the increasing secularization of society and the 60s-era Supreme Court decisions that largely removed religion from the public square. If I were a white guy stuck in a sucky job and heard stories of blacks being given preference in promotions and school placements, I’d be pissed. If I were socially traditional and my school district insisted on a curriculum that endorsed tolerance of gay lifestyles, I’d be horrified. If I only heard the Fox News version of Climategate, it would seem like truly terrifying proof of a massive global conspiracy and fraud.

But on an emotional level, it just seems nuts. So I wish that I could figure out a way to feel it. To understand it. I wish I could somehow do the “Black Like Me” thing. (Explanation here if you’re too young to remember this.) But how? What would it take to somehow enter this world and actually try to feel what so many conservatives apparently feel? Since I almost totally lack empathy I probably couldn’t do it in any case, but could anyone? What would it take to truly understand what’s going on here? Because, if anything, it seems to be getting even more virulent and I find myself increasingly unable to understand it.

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I’m just feeling increasingly estranged from the political world these days, as if it’s some kind of nightmare that’s taken over our national psyche and refuses to let go — and I’m forced to participate and can’t wake up no matter how hard I try.

I dunno. I’m burbling. Just getting something off my chest that I can’t really explain. Sorry. Maybe I just need a vacation. Anyone know of any nice spots?

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Bad choices by Barack Obama

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Obama has a tendency to make spectacularly bad decisions from time to time. For example, either the decision to promise to vote against telecom immunity or the decision to vote in favor telecom immunity was a terrible decision, and I don’t have to pick which one it was. (I think it was the latter, but everyone must agree that one of the decisions was bad—very bad.)

And, of course, there was his decision that no one who committed crimes in the past—crimes that the US government is legally required to investigate—would be bothered so long as the crimes were torture and homicide. But if you were dumb enough to reveal US government waste or wrong-doing, you’re in a heap of trouble. Those who commit those crimes will feel the full force of the law and go to jail for a long time.

And there was his decision, when making a whole bunch of recess appointments, not to appoint Dawn Johnsen. But I believe that this was deliberate: Obama does not want to obey the law if it’s inconvenient for him personally—and she would have objected to his decision that he can order the assassination of American citizens with no due process whatsoever. (I’m still astonished by the calm way the American people have accepted this—perhaps Obama should have one person in each state assassinated to see whether the public is still on board.)

There is his upcoming decision (mark my words) that Elizabeth Warren will not head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she created.

And here’s another:

A coalition of five drug reform organizations called Wednesday for the Obama administration to withdraw the nomination of Michele Leonhart to be DEA administrator. The career DEA veteran is currently the agency’s acting administrator. The groups are the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML and its California affiliate, California NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Michele Leonhart with Eric Holder The call comes in the wake of recent DEA raids against medical marijuana providers in California, Colorado, and Michigan, including one two weeks ago in Mendocino County, California, aimed at the first person to register with the county sheriff under a new cultivation ordinance. Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo instructing the Justice Department, of which the DEA is a part, to not persecute medical marijuana patients and providers who are in compliance with state laws.
In the Mendocino case, in which the DEA raided a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff, a DEA agent reportedly responded to being informed that the sheriff okayed the group by saying, "I don’t care what the sheriff says."

The reformers also attacked Leonhart for her January 2009 refusal to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts to grow marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative judge’s determination that such a license would be "in the public interest." With that action, Leonhart blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in the US.

"With Leonhart’s nomination pending, one would expect her to be more — not less — respectful of the Department of Justice and the rights of individuals in medical marijuana states," said Steve Fox, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project. "Such behavior is an ominous sign for the future of the DEA under her leadership. Moreover, she has continually demonstrated her desire to block privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The Obama administration has reversed many Bush administration policies over the past 18 months. It is time to transform the culture at the DEA by either withdrawing Leonhart’s nomination or directing her to change her attitude toward medical marijuana."

"Michele Leonhart continues to wage war on sick people and their caregivers, undermining the Obama Administration’s otherwise compassionate medical marijuana policy," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Obama needs to withdraw her nomination and nominate someone who will follow the stated policies of his administration."

It’s not just Leonhart’s recent actions that are raising the alarm among reformers. As we reported when she was nominated, Leonhart had a close and friendly relationship with a serial perjuring DEA informant, "super snitch" Andrew Chambers, who was paid $2.2 million by the agency for his work between 1984 and 2000 despite repeated findings by federal courts that he was not believable. Leonhart defended Chambers and his credibility despite all the evidence to the contrary.

As Special Agent in Charge in Los Angeles during the height of the Clinton and Bush administration’s persecution of medical marijuana users and providers, Leonhart was an enthusiastic participant and ranking DEA member involved. In January 1998, she stood proudly with then US Attorney Michael Yamaguchi as he announced at a press conference that the government would take action against medical marijuana clubs.

The administration has announced no timeline on moving her nomination forward.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 4:04 pm

Fox’s "scare white folks" campaign

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It’s going well. Watch this report.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Media

GOP makes plans

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I wouldn’t be surprised by the GOP making a run at impeaching Obama if the GOP gets a majority in the House. They also have much other mischief planned. Steve Benen:

Congressional Republicans still like to talk up the idea of "repealing" the Affordable Care Act, but no one takes this especially seriously. Even if the GOP claimed a House majority next year, Republicans could huff and puff, but they could blow the law down. They’d need 60 votes in the Senate and a Republican president. At least in 2011, they’ll have neither.

But notice that GOP rhetoric of late has emphasized a related-but-separate point. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week continued to blather on about "repeal and replace," but he also told attendees to a town-hall meeting that he has a back-up plan. If repeal fails, Boehner said, "They’re not going to get one dime from us to hire these new federal employees to run this."

This might sound like hollow bravado, but it’s important. I alluded to this last weekend, and today Brian Beutler fills in the gaps with an important report.

"The most serious, yet realistic, possibility is precisely the one that you’re suggesting: what the Republicans can do through appropriations bills," says Paul van de Water, a health care expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In short, implementing the health care law costs money. "Some money was provided in the health reform bill itself, but not by any means all the administrative funding that will be needed," van de Water said. "If HHS and Treasury don’t get appropriations they need to run the law well, that could be a real problem. It’s not sexy but it’s serious."

Norm Ornstein told Brian, "In theory [they] could cut the funding 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent. The problem is, you could do a lot of damage in a lot of different places." That could include Republicans deciding to "refuse to fund the entire Labor-HHS appropriations bill, or .. .pass an appropriation for Labor-HHS that does not include any funds for implementation of the health care plan."

Why haven’t we heard about this before? In part because it has no modern precedent. After passage of milestone legislation like Social Security and Medicare, Republicans probably would have loved to try to defund the programs, but a) there were still GOP moderates at the time; and b) voters didn’t reward Republicans by giving them control after these bedrock programs became law.

We’ll see how all of this shakes out — there’s still a chance Republicans won’t get a majority in either chamber — but I wouldn’t be too surprised if this pushed a Democratic White House and a GOP House to an impasse that could, as we talked about on Sunday, produce a government shutdown, a la 1995.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 3:53 pm

Wearing the hijab (or not)

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Interesting post. I’m quite comfortable encountering people, but I don’t much care to encounter people who conceal their faces (with a ski mask, niqab, or anything else).

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Terrific takedown of Bill O’Reilly by Rachel Maddow

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Poor Bill—he simply doesn’t understand that she’s smarter and better at her job than he is. Don’t miss this clip.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

James Inhofe: Still seeing the globe cooling

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Of course, Inhofe is paid handsomely by the oil and gas industry to be their man in the Senate, as Smoky Joe Barton (the guy who apologized on behalf of the US government to BP) is their man in the House. Steve Benen:

It happens every year. Winter comes, snow falls, and right-wing nuts start insisting that cold weather necessarily disproves global warming.

And perhaps no nut is as aggressive in his denialism than Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who continues to believe winters constitute evidence against climate change. But if the confused conservative senator considers January reason enough to reject the science behind global warming, what does he think of late July? ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked him.

…Washington is sweating under record heat. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that, globally, 2010 is the hottest year on record since record-keeping began in 1880.

Inhofe was still not deterred when ABC’s Jon Karl invited the Oklahoma Republican to talk about the issue outside the Capitol building, in 95-degree, humid July heat.

"I say the same thing we said back in January and February when we had the coldest winter in a long time," said Inhofe, from a shady spot in front of the Capitol Building. … "We’re in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period," he said.

And Inhofe would be entirely right, if by "all the scientists," he meant "all the lobbyists representing the oil and coal industries."

Karl talked to the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center, who was unequivocal. "What I don’t understand is when you see evidence, that looks at all those indicators in one place, on one figure, decrease in glaciers, I don’t see how any reasonable person can look at that and not agree that the globe is warming," Thomas Peterson said. "The indicators are irrefutable."

As for Inhofe’s bizarre belief in global cooling, take a moment to consider this David Leonhardt piece from the other day.

All the while, the risks and costs of climate change grow. Sea levels are rising faster than scientists predicted just a few years ago. Himalayan glaciers are melting. In the American West, pine beetles (which struggle to survive the cold) are multiplying and killing trees.

According to NASA, 2010 is on course to be the planet’s hottest year since records started in 1880. The current top 10, in descending order, are: 2005, 2007, 2009, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001 and 2008.

The only thing more dangerous than Jim Inhofe’s allergy to reason is a Senate that mandates supermajorities to approve all public policy. If the chamber operated the way it was designed and intended to operate — the way every legislative body on the planet functions — it could approve legislation to deal with the climate crisis. Instead, with a Senate featuring 59 Democrats, Inhofe’s stupidity rules the day.

The consequences will be severe. History will not be kind.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 2:05 pm

Ben Nelson: Still a staunch member of the "Despicable Man" club

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Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

Earlier this week, the Senate finally voted 60-40 to extend unemployment insurance for the millions of Americans who are unable to find work due to the poor economy. One senator who voted against extending these benefits was Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who cited the deficit as his reason for opposing an extension. He gave the following statement to the press:

“I support extending unemployment benefits for Nebraskans and Americans who remain out of work. However, I opposed the Senate’s unemployment bill today because it should have, and it could have, been paid for.

I oppose another $33 billion in deficit spending and increasing the debt.The six-month extension of unemployment benefits is a priority that can and should be funded. Some of the $70 billion in offsets included in earlier proposals could have been used to offset the $33 billion in new spending in this bill.”

However, today Nelson came out for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. While the senator cites the cost of extending unemployment benefits for Americans who are down on their luck and unable to find work as a reason to oppose extending unemployment insurance, he is endorsing massively expanding the deficit by extending Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans. Extending unemployment benefits has a relatively tiny budgetary cost of $33 billion, but extending the Bush tax cuts for one year alone would add $115 billion to the federal budget deficit. Effectively, the senator is not standing up for fiscal discipline — he is standing up for the richest Americans over those who are the worst off.

UPDATE: Nelson also voted for Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) attempt to permanently repeal the estate tax.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 12:39 pm

Living up to social-democratic ideals

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Sounds like an interesting book:

Ill Fares the Land
by Tony Judt

A review by Benjamin Moser

"For thirty years students have been complaining to me that ‘it was easy for you’: your generation had ideals and ideas, you believed in something, you were able to change things," Tony Judt writes in the introduction to his new book, Ill Fares the Lands (The Penguin Press, $25.95). It is not, Judt argues, that young people are unaware of their world’s many terrifying problems. They are. It is that "our disability is discursive: we simply do not know how to talk about these things any more."

Thanks to leaders like Reagan and Thatcher, the usefulness of many public policies has been calculated in the narrowest financial terms (though, as Judt points out, the financial benefits of privatization are illusory), and respect for individual wealth and private enterprise (even when these are heavily subsidized by poorer members of society) elevated to a creepy, cultish worship. As in the recent health-care debate, any calculus of public usefulness is likely to find itself dismissed as "socialism."

After cataloguing this problem and its ramifications ("life expectancy in the US remains below Bosnia and just above Albania"), Judt offers his solution to the crisis of what he calls the past two "lost decades," in which "fantasies of prosperity and limitless personal advancement displaced all talk of political liberation, social justice or collective action": a revival of the ideals of social democracy that brought stability and prosperity to a devastated Europe and security to generations of Americans who benefited from such public programs as Social Security and Medicare.

Judt’s passionate appeal for a return to social-democratic ideals is all the more stirring because, as he has chronicled in The New York Review of Books, he suffers from an incurable disease that has left him paralyzed and forced to dictate this book, which will be among his last. Rather than yield to the kind of despair that would dispose him to see his own irreversible decline mirrored in the wider world, Judt shows uncommon courage by not giving up hope for his society, even as he has been forced to give up hope for himself.

Benjamin Moser is a contributing editor of Harper’s magazine and the author of Why This World.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 11:40 am

Ignoring expiration dates

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I believe that "sell by" or "best if used by" dates should be taken with a grain of salt, and I see that Nadia Arumugan agrees. In Slate:

There’s a filet mignon in my fridge that expired four days ago, but it seems OK to me. I take a hesitant whiff and detect no putrid odor of rotting flesh, no oozing, fetid cow juice—just the full-bodied aroma of well-aged meat. A feast for one; I retrieve my frying pan. This is not an isolated experiment or a sad symptom of my radical frugality. With a spirit of teenage rebellion, I disavow any regard for expiration dates.

The fact is that expiration dates mean very little. Food starts to deteriorate from the moment it’s harvested, butchered, or processed, but the rate at which it spoils depends less on time than on the conditions under which it’s stored. Moisture and warmth are especially detrimental. A package of ground meat, say, will stay fresher longer if placed near the coldest part of a refrigerator (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), than next to the heat-emitting light bulb. Besides, as University of Minnesota food scientist Ted Labuza explained to me, expiration dates address quality—optimum freshness—rather than safety and are extremely conservative. To account for all manner of consumer, manufacturers imagine how the laziest people with the most undesirable kitchens might store and handle their food, then test their products based on these criteria.

With perishables like milk and meat, most responsible consumers (those who refrigerate their groceries as soon as they get home, for instance) have a three–to-seven-day grace period after the "Sell by" date has elapsed. As for pre-packaged greens, studies show that nutrient loss in vegetables is linked to a decline in appearance. When your broccoli florets yellow or your green beans shrivel, this signals a depletion of vitamins. But if they haven’t lost their looks, ignore the printed date. Pasta and rice will taste fine for a year. Unopened packs of cookies are edible for months before the fat oxidizes and they turn rancid. Pancake and cake mixes have at least six months. Canned items are potentially the safest foods around and will keep five years or more if stored in a cold pantry. Labuza recalls a seven-year-old can of chicken chunks he ate recently. "It tasted just like chicken," he said.

Not only are expiration dates misleading, but there’s no . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 11:33 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

The social aspect of human nature

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Our species is intensely social, and yet our US culture is curiously individualistic, worshipping at the shrine of the rugged individual—John Wayne or Randolph Scott or Joel McCrea or some other hero who stands alone and sets things right. The result, I think, is that we are bombarded with messages that we must achieve things on our own or "it doesn’t count." Yet when we look at the how things really work, we constantly see that the "lonely individual" who achieves great things is not only standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before, but she or he is also generally assisted by a team that includes various specialists. I’ve written previously about the way that even a modest family will find its efforts supported by teams—in addition to the family members, the family is likely to have also the assistance of doctors, a dentist and dental care team, teachers, coaches, accountants, lawyers, yard-helpers, house-cleaners, a banker, baby-sitters, and so on.

Rather than tackle the lonely task of building his house, a modern person will go far beyond the barn-raising assistance offered by rural neighbors to hire an architect (who is likely in turn to hire an engineering firm) and a general contractor and build his house in that manner, while still feeling strongly that he (or she) maintains control of the process.

Similarly, I believe, with fitness: one often will require specialized help in this arena (a doctor, trainer, diet counselor, and so on) without surrendering the locus of control: it remains the person’s decision to seek help, to strive in this direction, and to follow (or not) the advice of the professionals.

Steve raised the issue in this post, and you’ll find more discussion there.

All this is quite apart from the issue of social contagion, discuss in this article in the NY Times Magazine: the strong tendency for friends and acquaintances to exhibit the same behaviors (regarding things like smoking, obesity, alcohol use, loneliness, and the like). We are more influenced by our social circle than we realize, and my goal right now is to start a benign contagion of fitness (and proper shaving methods and so on): my own fitness efforts are likely to have more effect than I realize in influencing people who know me, just as I was influenced by them.

Since we are social creatures anyway, it makes sense to exploit this social nature in order to achieve our goals in a way consistent with our nature. As Aristotle observed, a man who lives alone and likes it is a beast or a god.

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Tres Claveles and Castle Forbes

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Tres Claveles is a new horsehair shaving brush from Spain. It did a really fine job with the Castle Forbes shaving cream, but then Castle Forbes shaving cream is just bursting with lather anyway. Since it did have a bit of a horsey fragrance, I tried it also with QED’s Patchouli/Tea Tree/Peppermint shaving soap, which I figured would quell any odor. It also did a very good job making lather with the soap.

But for the shaving I used the Castle Forbes and got a very fine three-pass shave from the premium Feather razor, which has somehow totally tamed the Feather blade.

Then some of the Castle Forbes Lavender shaving balm—and I find I’m growing fond of the balms.

A reader is encouraging me to try the new Schick “Hydro” line of products. Has anyone come across the ingredients list for their shaving gels? I’m sort of curious. (This reader recoiled at the signs of dye in the shaving cream I was using, so I’m assuming that the ingredients in the gel, which he uses, are totally benign.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 July 2010 at 9:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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