Later On

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

Archive for October 21st, 2010

Beware the dangers of PLAGIARISM!

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Thanks to TYD for this:

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education, Video

The Closing of the Marijuana Frontier

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Very interesting article by John Gravois in the Washington Monthly:

When my wife and I bought a house last year in the little town of Ukiah, California, the first person to offer us advice about growing marijuana was our realtor. The house was a stolid 1909 prairie box that had been partitioned into four units, with a front porch, dark green trim, and a couple of fruit trees in the yard. It was charming, but we probably would have settled for a yurt. What mattered most to us was having a foothold in Mendocino County, a place we had long ago decided was the most beautiful in America.

Our realtor, however, drew our attention to the house’s electrical meters. There were four in total, one for each unit. If we ever wanted to grow a few indoor pot gardens, he said, we had an ideal setup. I laughed and thanked him for the tip.

Then the advice kept coming. A neighbor offered to help me get started with a few plants whenever I was ready. The owner of a local hydroponics supply store shook my hand and encouraged me to stop by his warehouse. “We’ll set you up,” he said. Ukiah, I realized, was weirder than I thought.

I’d always known that pot was a huge part of the county’s livelihood, accounting for two-thirds of the local economy, by some estimates. But in eight years of visiting the place with my wife—including one gloriously unsuccessful four-month experiment in backcountry living—I’d never so much as set eyes on a seven-fingered leaf. Then, last year, I began exploring the region’s cannabis economy in earnest, setting out for dirt roads in the hills and basements in Ukiah, occasionally wearing a blindfold.

Gradually a new picture of Mendocino County began to emerge. Neighborhoods in town were dotted with light-flooded outbuildings packed with plants, quietly paying the mortgages of those who tended them. And the county’s amber and green hills were full of homesteaders who for decades had been leading the kind of existence we’d once failed at—men and women who’d come for the land but managed to stay because of marijuana. Many had built their own off-grid homes and outfitted them with elaborate solar arrays, potbellied stoves, and well-tended gardens. In an age of homemade baby food, fire-escape agriculture, and home-brew chic, they’d achieved an almost mythical ideal: economic independence derived from a small piece of earth.

The rub, of course, was that these paragons of yeoman virtue were often antisocial, paranoid wrecks. Marijuana’s high price under prohibition made it possible to earn a decent living from a small patch, but someone was always losing a crop, fleeing into the woods, or going to jail. “It’s like the sharks come in and just eat a few people,” one grower told me. Mendocino County, in short, is as tortured by prohibition as it is dependent on it. But what agonizes the county even more these days is the thought that it could all be coming to an end.

On November 2, Californians go to the polls to vote on whether to start treating cannabis as just another adult recreational drug. The Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010—also known as Proposition 19—would legalize the possession and cultivation of pot in small amounts for adults, while handing the authority to regulate commercial marijuana production and distribution down to counties and cities. Polls as of this writing show that the measure might well pass. If it does, the Rand Corporation predicts that the price of marijuana will fall by as much as 80 percent. But even if the referendum doesn’t pass, a new initiative will almost certainly reach the ballot in 2012, and growers, dispensary owners, and pro-pot local governments will continue to test the boundaries of the state’s fourteen-year-old medical marijuana law. Whatever happens on November 2, the edifice of prohibition is crumbling in California, and one of the largest informal economies in America is inexorably emerging into the mainstream.

In the process, a great scramble has commenced…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 4:07 pm

I wonder: Could it be that the GOP is racist?

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Alex Pareene writes in Salon:

Florida Republican state legislator William Snyder has proposed a great new immigration law for his state, modeled on that one in Arizona. But this one — which GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott supports, of course — has a special twist: White people are exempt!

The more articulate/acceptable-to-the-mainstream supporters of the Arizona law usually point out that the law forbids police from racial profiling. The proposed Florida bill doesn’t really bother pretending.

What few observers seem to have noticed, though, is a bizarre clause Snyder included on page 3. Even if an officer has "reasonable suspicions" over a person’s immigration status, the bill says, a person will be "presumed to be legally in the United States" if he or she provides "a Canadian passport" or a passport from any "visa waiver country."

What are the visa waiver countries? Other than four Asian nations, all 32 other countries are in Western Europe, from France to Germany to Luxembourg.

Others detained by the police would need to carry papers proving that they’re in the U.S. legally. Because, I guess, Canadians and Europeans are never in the U.S., on expired or no visas, working jobs illegally. It’s just the Mexicans.

(One more thing that will be tough for Florida’s law enforcement: Cubans that make it to the U.S. — including those who enter from Mexico — are allowed to be here. Just no Mexicans!)

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Make your own mustard at home in your spare time

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Sounds easy and intriguing, and I point out to TYD the ancient Roman recipe. Hank Shaw writes at the Atlantic website:

"What do you mean you can make mustard at home?"

It was all I could do to say, "Well no shit, Sherlock! How did you think it was made? By mustard elves under a tree?" Thankfully, I am the age I am; a decade ago I might have let that one slip. But I did not. Instead, I said, "Why yes, and it is really, really easy to make."

I had this conversation with another blogger at the annual BlogHer Food conference in San Francisco last week. I will refrain from identifying the person, because s/he probably would not want to be outed as someone ignorant of the mysteries of mustard-making.

But I gotta tell ya folks, it ain’t mysterious. If you have mustard seed and water, you can make mustard. It’s that easy. And pretty much every nation in the Northern Hemisphere has done so over the years; mustard is a cool-weather crop, to the North what chiles are to the Equator.

Mustard is a condiment of a thousand faces. Some are smooth, others almost entirely made from barely cracked seeds. Vinegar is common, but wine, beer, grape must, and even fruit juices are sometimes used to moisten the seeds. Sweetness is usually achieved by adding honey; an American "honey mustard" can be a one-to-one ratio of mustard to honey. A Bavarian sweet mustard, however, uses only sugar and water—no acid, no honey. Italians put fruit preserves in their mustard, a practice I wholeheartedly endorse.

Mustard is one of Europe’s few native spices, although mustard also has been used in Chinese cooking for around 2,500 years as well.

Ancient Rome was quite the hotbed of mustard-making, and it is Rome that gives us our name for mustard: It is a contraction of mustum ardens, or "hot must," since the Romans often added crushed mustard seeds to unfermented crushed grapes. I’ve recreated a different Roman recipe for mustard that uses almonds, pine nuts, mustard seed, and red wine vinegar. The ferocious bite of this mustard—it should be made with black mustard seeds, the hottest variety—is mellowed by the richness of the nuts. It’s a great accompaniment to roasted meats.

The basic idea behind making mustard is this: Grind seeds and add cool liquid. At its most basic, this is all mustard is. Both Chinese and English mustard (think Colman’s) are nothing more than water and mustard powder. But there are some things you need to know to make great mustard.

First, you need cold liquid. What gives mustard its bite is a chemical inside the seeds reacting with cool or cold liquid. You also need to break the seeds to get at the fiery chemical—it’s like cutting an onion. Heat damages this reaction, however, so to make a hot mustard use cold water, and warm water for a more mellow mustard. Mustard sauces lose punch when long-cooked, and should always have a little extra fresh mustard tossed in at the end of cooking.

This reaction is volatile, too. Left alone, your mustard will lose its bite in a few days, or in some cases even hours. But adding an acid, most often vinegar, stops and sets the reaction in place—this is precisely what happens with horseradish as well. Adding salt not only improves the flavor, but also helps preserve the mustard, too.

Once made, mustard is nearly invulnerable to deterioration. Mustard is one of the more powerful anti-microbial plants we know of, and, considering it is mixed with vinegar and salt, it becomes a heady mix no wee beastie can survive in. It is said that mustard will never go bad, although it can dry out.

You have three choices when it comes to which variety of mustard seed you use: white, brown, or black. White mustard undergoes a different, milder reaction than do brown or black mustards, which are far zingier. American yellow mustard is made with white mustard seed and turmeric, brown mustards are in most of your better mustards, and black mustard is used in hot mustards or in Indian cuisine.

Incidentally, the wild mustard all over California is black mustard. You can thank Father Junipero Serra for that one: He used mustard, which grows like a weed, to mark his travels in Alta California 250 years ago.

The famous Grey Poupon mustard—Dijon has been a center of mustard-making for nearly a millennium now—is traditionally made with stone-ground brown mustard and verjus, the tart juice of unripe grapes. I prefer this style of mustard, and most of my homemade mustards are grainy like Dijon. I grind my seeds with a spice grinder, but you could get all old-school and use a mortar and pestle.

The best mustards, in my opinion, combine . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:49 pm

Libraries will survive

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Thanks to TYD for this.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Video

More on revenge/vengeance

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I was watching a history of kung-fu films, and its thesis was that kung-fu films are at their heart dramas of vengeance, dramas that follow a standard pattern:

  1. Protagonist is wronged, usually terribly (family killed, for instance)
  2. Protagonist vows revenge and goes into training
  3. A long sequence of training under the tutelage of a master or masters
  4. Protagonist wreaks vengeance

This credibly describes martial arts movies from Karate Kid through Chuck Norris films to the Hong Kong films.

I commented on the revenge them in an earlier post. Now I see that the theme is indeed universal—at least so far as contemplating revenge. Now Marilyn Elias has more in the LA Times:

"Sweet is revenge," Lord Byron wrote in Don Juan — and how could it be otherwise?

Who wouldn’t enjoy getting even with a sadistic boss, a two-faced friend who slept with your spouse or that teacher who had it in for your child for no good reason?

Most of us have revenge fantasies, human behavior researchers say, and nearly everyone believes that punishing someone who did him wrong would feel tremendously satisfying. But new studies suggest the reality of revenge is far different. Acting on vengeful thoughts often isn’t nearly as gratifying as expected and — surprisingly — can even make people feel worse.

Still, the delicious pleasure anticipated from taking revenge is such a powerful drive that it appears to be hard-wired in the brain.
University of Zurich scientists found that merely contemplating revenge stimulates a region of the brain called the dorsal striatum, which is known to become active in anticipation of a reward or pleasure, such as making money or eating good food.

In the study, 14 volunteers earned money if they cooperated with one another in games. A double-crosser pretended to cooperate but secretly took an unfair share of the cash. Victims could retaliate by imposing a fine on the betrayer, though they sometimes had to spend their own money to carry out the punishment.

All 14 volunteers chose to retaliate if they could do so at no charge, and 12 out of 14 did so even if it cost them additional money. When they decided to seek revenge, the dorsal striatum lighted up on a PET scan. Those whose brains were activated the most were willing to spend the most to punish the double-crosser, notes study co-author Ernst Fehr, whose research was published in Science in 2004.

It’s not surprising that our brains signal "pleasure" at the prospect of punishing someone who wronged us, says Michael McCullough, a University of Miami psychologist and author of Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct. Although it can be a misguided, costly craving in the modern world, evolutionary psychologists believe the thirst for revenge ensured our ancestors’ survival — retaliation was the only way for victims to deter aggressors from harming them or their tribes in the future.

"Revenge burrowed into the brain’s reward system — it hitched a ride on our neurons — because it really was effective at deterring future harm," says McCullough, who notes that revenge is ubiquitous throughout the animal kingdom.

Acts worthy of vengeance are seemingly everywhere — we need look no further than across the room to find targets.

Revenge fantasies are rampant at workplaces of every type, says Robert Bies, an organizational behavior expert at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who has studied revenge on the job for 16 years. In roughly 1,000 face-to-face interviews, Bies has heard all about "free riders" who skated by on the work of others, bosses who took credit for their subordinates’ ideas, sneaky co-workers who stole plum assignments, managers who promoted their pets over more qualified employees and more. Although the employees in his studies said they yearned to get even, about one-third of them did nothing, he says.

The two-thirds who did act typically chose indirect or passive-aggressive methods, such as bad-mouthing the offender or giving someone the silent treatment. The retaliation was usually minor compared with the (perceived) harm that provoked it.

"These are mosquito bites; they’re irritants," says Bies, who co-wrote the 2009 book "Getting Even: The Truth About Workplace Revenge — And How to Stop It." But often people say they feel better after making even token attempts to retaliate, he adds.

Bies has seen the same revenge behavior patterns at diverse job sites — churches, high-tech firms, universities, consumer product companies, government agencies. There are gender differences, though. Men retaliate slightly more than women. And though the majority of their acts still are indirect, men use more overt weapons than women, who tend to stick to gossip and covert sabotage.

In the personal arena, revenge research is sparse. For instance, nobody knows whether . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:34 pm

Does a higher minimum wage reduce jobs?

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There are at least two approaches to answering a question like that: One way is to base your answer on your current beliefs, knowledge, and “common sense.” The other is to actually investigate the question and look for evidence for and against. For those who favor the second approach:

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:12 pm

Not 100% today

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One med (the spray) I take only in the evening, another (the "6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Let it rip!" one) only in the evening, so at noon I had only the antibiotic, which of course has no visible effect. Still, a couple of aspirin and a nap helped a lot. But not much blogging today, I fear.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Sick call

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I’m still not 100% yet. I went to the doctor because of the plugged Eustachian tube—I wanted action before infection set it—and I got three meds: an antibiotic given the sinus situation, including the plugged Eustachian tube, a powerful nasal spray (once a day, two sprays in each nostril), and a mystery med that lasts six days: you take as many pills as will make the sum of the day and the number of pills equal to 7, a powerful magic number. That is: day 1, 6 pills; day 2, 5 pills; day 3, 4 pills; etc. The pills are MethylPREDNIsolone Tablets, 4 mg. So just 6 days for that one, and just 5 days for the antibiotic (once a day).

He suggested I try a magnesium supplement for the extra heart beats. Worth a try.

My morning aspirin has worn off, and I feel rather sore. Probably back to bed for me. Lunch was soup.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Fine lather, fine shave

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I used the Rooney 2 Finest on the same soap as yesterday and, as predicted, no problems at all: plenty of very nice lather. Above are two razors: the one in front is a Gillette Aristocrat from 1946-47: the center bar is still not notched. Behind it, the quite similar Diplomat or Ambassador (I can’t keep the names straight). The Aristocrat in front has just been replated in gold—gold was indeed the original plating (as for the razor in back), but it was worn and I thought sprucing it up would be nice. It looks now like a new razor. Click the photo to enlarge for closer inspection and comparison of the two finishes.

With a new Swedish Gillette blade, the Aristocrat provided a fine shave, and a splash TOBS aftershave readied me to go out.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2010 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Shaving

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