Later On

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

Archive for June 13th, 2011

Mastering soup: Broccoli division

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I noticed that I am happy to eat large when out in a restaurant, and I think it’s because a) I eat light the day before (if it’s a planned outing) and for a day or two after (in any case), and b) I rarely go to a restaurant. I don’t think my little dodge would work so well if I dined out even once a week.

At any rate, broccoli soup is for me a satisfying meal, and I made a truly great one tonight:

3 large heads very fresh organic broccoli (my CSA)
1/2 large Vidalia onion
1 large red spring onion, bulb only (my CSA)
6 short, stubby, very fresh organic carrots (my CSA) 
10 large cloves garlic, peeled

Put all that in a 4-qt pot (and you’ll have to pack it in and perhaps cook it down), and add water to just below the brim—just enough room so that it will not easily boil over. Add:

1-2 Tbsp Penzeys Chicken Soup Base
1 tsp salt
many grindings black pepper
a small shaking of crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (homemade if possible)

Bring to boil, cover, and simmer 30-40 minutes—until everything is tender. Blend with immersion blender, simmer 5 minutes more.

I spooned a big lump of drained yogurt into the bowl, filled it with soup, and enjoy.

Tomorrow morning I’ll add some fresh dill from the CSA, simmer a while and blend. That will be a new wrinkle.

Then tomorrow afternoon I’m going to Whole Foods to get one bunch of organic spinach. That I’ll wash, drain, add, simmer, and blend: the mid-life spinach kicker.

I could get some shaved parmesan to add, but I think I’ll stick with nonfat yogurt for this go-around.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Fitness, Food, Recipes

The Backfire Effect

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When correcting someone’s error makes them cling to it more closely (and the article at that link has excellent details). Interesting phenomenon, but highly visible these days.

Part of the problem is that many discussions do not follow a thread of argument, with the two parties working together to make sure each step is sound. Instead, most discussions I see—particularly on-line—work as though each participant has a deck of cards, each containing a fact or opinion or quotation. Participants take turns putting those cards on the table, but seldom do they try to work out connections or sequence. Indeed, sometimes it seems as if a player is looking only at his own cards, picking those he will lay down in his next turn, and not even looking at those placed by his discussion partner.

Part of that is the difficulty of carrying on a discussion through an exchange of written messages, of course, but mostly it seems to be that many people simply do not understand how to follow a reasoned argument, much less how to participate in one. And since that is a skill, it cannot be acquired by reading a book about it: one has to actually participate in reasoned arguments, over and over, with a coach looking on and offering help and correction until you gradually learn the skill. And with the skill being that of reasoned argument, you also need lots of fodder on which to exercise your developing skill: books and ideas that are sufficiently difficult to require close examination and argument, sufficiently rich to support multiple interpretations, and sufficiently significant so that you don’t feel your wasting your time in studying the works closely as background for (and checking of) your reasoned argument—the St. John’s Program, more or less.

The skills acquired include the ability to grasp when your position becomes untenable and unreasonable: to recognize when your argument is not working and doesn’t really make sense. And along with the skill of evaluating your own arguments is the equally important skill of evaluating your partner’s argument—to know when it makes sense and when it doesn’t—and how to work together to advance the understanding of both yourself and your partner.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Oh, great: FBI encouraged to break more laws

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The FBI is close to a rogue agency, routinely breaking laws in its eagerness to obtain convictions. What with all their cooperation with pathetic, would-be terrorists—the FBI plant suggesting plans, pushing the group to act, helping them get bomb-making materials, and then acting as a witness against them, all to avoid being charged with his own crimes and/or for the money—and routinely abuse of national-security letters, doing illegal searches and surveillance, and the like. And of course the FBI labs are notoriously incompetent, though full of pride. Remember the lawyer in Seattle that the FBI “proved” was in Madrid for the bombing there, based on his fingerprints? He had never left the country.

The FBI culture seems so toxic that I occasionally wish the agency would be disbanded and replaced with a new investigative arm.

And now the FBI is encouraging its agents to “push the envelope”, to skirt the law when possible (and when they believe they will not be caught).

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 8:14 am

Posted in Government, Law

Should You Charge Your Phone Every Day or Just When It’s Empty?

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A perennial question deftly answered and with good news about the future.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 8:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Finding the center and working from there

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I’m still working on my weight-loss (5 lbs to go) and on my weight-loss book. One point I emphasize is the degree to which our behavior is derived from our perceptions, so that if you want to change your behavior, the most efficient and effective way is to change your perceptions, and I write about ways to do that.

Trent Hamm has an interesting post on one way to approach establishing perceptions that will drive constructive behavior: by a focus on what you view as the center of your life and making sure that is secure and is getting your attention. Worth the click.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 8:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Connecticut decriminalizes marijuana possession

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Via Ed Brayton, more good news in ending the costly, destructive, counter-productive, and irrational War on Drugs. From the link:

6/7/2011 – Today the Connecticut House of Representatives passed SB 1014, a bill to make possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana a non-criminal violation for adults.  There was heavy debate about the concept, but the measure prevailed in a 90-57 vote. The legislation was passed by the Senate over the weekend.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy sponsored the bill and is now expected to sign it into law.

Speaking about the bill on the floor today Republican Rep. Brenda Kupchick seemed torn: “Someone wrote to me today that if I didn’t support this bill that I would be an active proponent to government intervention into the private lives of citizens and interfering with individual liberties. That actually bothered me.”

Rep. Gerald Fox, a proponent of the legislation and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, answered dozens of questions from his peers. Opponents seemed to be most concerned with lightening the criminal treatment for those ages 18-21. But Fox assured them that young adults would face the same penalties for marijuana as they do for underage drinking.

Rep. Fox also pointed out that by treating possession of small amounts as a non-criminal offense it would not hurt the future employment or military eligibility of young people.

“The penalty is different, but going to court remains the same,” said Fox.

Under the new bill adults in possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana would be punished with a $150 fine on the first occasion and $200-$500 for additional offenses. Those between the ages of 18-21 will need to appear in court and will also have their drivers’ license suspended for 60 days.

[UPDATE 5:05PM] Governor Malloy issued this statement today:

“Final approval of this legislation accepts the reality that the current law does more harm than good – both in the impact it has on people’s lives and the burden it places on police, prosecutors and probation officers of the criminal justice system. Let me make it clear – we are not legalizing the use of marijuana. In modifying this law, we are recognizing that the punishment should fit the crime, and acknowledging the effects of its application. There is no question that the state’s criminal justice resources could be more effectively utilized for convicting, incarcerating and supervising violent and more serious offenders.

“Modification of this law will now put Connecticut in line with the laws of two of our neighboring states, New York and Massachusetts, and a total of thirteen states across the country with similar statutes. I applaud the General Assembly in their passage of this legislation and will sign it into law. I would also like to specifically thank State Senator Martin Looney, who first introduced this legislation in 2009, for his support and advocacy of this issue.”

When the bill is signed into law Connecticut will be the 14th US State to make adult cannabis possession a non-criminal offense.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 7:54 am

The St. John’s Program and its impact

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As we near our 50th reunion, there’s a certain amount of retrospection about our college years and their impact. The Son points to a short note in the current issue of the New Yorker from a St. John’s alumnus, who writes of his own discovery of the program and how it affected him.

His focus is on his reading, and perhaps—broadly defined—that is the focus of the program. But I see it somewhat differently. We were asked to write a brief note about our own encounter with the program, and shortly before I read the piece in the New Yorker, I had written the following:

When I was a student at St. John’s, the program changed me in ways that I began to understand better when I became, for a time, director of admissions and had to explain the program—its goals, means, and methods—to prospective students. (I learned from that, and now I regularly try to explain the things I am working to understand: as we learned at St. John’s, good questions lead to greater understanding, and interactive explanation is a rich source of good questions.)

We gain skills through their exercise. In the St. John’s program we exercised the skills of reading, study, questioning, listening, speaking, teaching (demonstrating math theorems, for example), translating, writing, and performing experiments. Through active exercise we acquired, practiced, and improved our skills in the liberal arts.

The works we studied required those skills—indeed, they required more skill than we had, but that was what drove the learning: our skills improved the harder they were worked, and those books demand much from us, then and now. And it is that demand that makes them so enormously rewarding.

Those demands would have been overwhelming without the guidance we got from our tutors and the help of our fellow students. Sometimes someone would help us by explaining something to us, sometimes the help would be in listening to (and questioning) our own explanations.

We were immersed in a sea of learning and change, and in that time we formed a foundation for our later life and learning.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2011 at 7:47 am

Posted in Education

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