Later On

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

Archive for September 3rd, 2011

Theory on popularity of social media

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The range and popularity of social media are staggering. It’s one thing to count how many blogs there are, but blogs are pretty much yesterday’s thing: now it’s twitter and texting and Facebook and community reviews and other user-generated content. Lots of people speaking out, certainly, and based on comment threads, quite a few taking it in.

The total volume and activity are staggering—and, of course, totally novel. We have never before had this kind of communications connection, which includes even things like on-site real-time video from cellphone cameras.

So what it looks like is a universal and almost desperate need to connect: to communicate, to be heard, to find others like yourself.

Certainly that cause is consistent with the effect described. But what could stimulate such a need?

Well, consider what you, presumably, already know: that the world’s climate is changing in a way that promises to be the greatest catastrophe the world has faced for a few thousand years—well, not even that long. Widespread famine through crop failure due to changing weather patterns, hitting at a time when oil is getting harder and harder to deliver as refined petroleum products, with all the carry-on impact of that. And, as if it already weren’t bad enough, most of the world’s population (I believe) is now urban: the old cultural knowledge of tools and procedures, practices and traditions that enabled living on the land are lost to most. Terrorism ain’t in it.

While people know that, they also know that they can’t really do anything about it except vote for politicians who promise to fix it and seem to mean it. After all, many have a job to do and others are struggling to find a way to live, people have bills to pay, many have kids on the way or already here, having to be picked up, educated, and so on: all the minutiae of daily life that do truly demand one’s immediate attention, effort, and planning.

Yet, at some level, the knowledge mentioned above is there, and some degree of worry and concern about it. It’s like watching in slow-motion the biggest tsunami of all time rising over the city of civilization, almost peaking to begin the crashing descent. It may take years to fall, but you can see what’s going to happen.

Well, it seems to me when virtually everyone has a worry of that sort, at whatever level of concern in each mind—whether right at the top, burning intensely into daily action, or down at the bottom with a vague thought that one should sign some sort of petition—regardless of the level, it’s the same knowledge and the same concern. I think commonality probably swamps level: added up, that much concern is going to become visible in some way. By affecting so many people simultaneously, and with the same issues, the concern pools the many drops into a mighty flood that must break out somehow.

I think the intense push to social media of all the sorts described above and others yet to come does indeed reflect a desperation to connect. I think people are scared and are trying to huddle down together. The social media is our mass attempt at a group hug of comfort and protection. It’s before the storm has begun, of course, but one that’s now on the visible horizon.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2011 at 1:52 pm

Kick back and enjoy the long weekend

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Unless my dictionary has misled me, in Spanish a long weekend es un puente. So have a good one.

I have broken free of the template meal. A 4.8 oz lamb chop (very thick) is roasting in the oven (broil fat-side-up for 5 minutes, then switch broiler off and oven on, close door, and roast at 300ºF for 30 minutes; let rest 10 minutes), a batch of black rice is already made, and the greens are cooking:

1 bunch scallions, chopped
8 large cloves garlic, minced and let sit 15 min
4 large domestic white mushrooms, cut in half, then sliced thick

Heated 1 Tbsp (living large) fiery chili olive oil in 3-qt saucepan, sautéed onions, then added garlic and mushrooms and sautéed those until the mushrooms released their juice. Then in went the dandelion greens, easily chopped since crosscuts are enough. The stalk part was cut finely.

Stirred that in, added a splash of dry Marsala to deglaze the pan (I cook with what I have on hand, you notice), then a glug of homemade pepper sauce (which includes vinegar and salt).

Brought heat low, covered, and it’s simmering toward tenderness.

I think I’ll open the half-bottle of Syrah…

UPDATE: Excellent meal, and I feel stuffed. And everything balanced just the way I like it, with the glass of wine a welcome extra and lots of rice and greens left over for tonight’s meal.

The greens were still cooking when I was ready to eat, but pretty much done, but a fair amount of liquid remained—water from having washed the greens, I expect. But instead of doing the 2-Tbsp-of-chia-seed trick, I decided this time that (a) concentrating the flavor would be good, and (b) more cooking would do the greens good and might help the onions and wouldn’t hurt the mushrooms. The garlic can fend for itself.

So I turned the temperature to high and cooked with the lid off, stirring occasionally with my wood spatula, until the greens  burned and stuck to the bottom of the pan were ready.

It was great. Bac’Uns would have been redundant.

A friend commented in an email that I seemed to find great happiness in the small things of life. He’s right. As you know, at some point this time right now will be the good old days, and I don’t want to look back and feel like I failed to enjoy them fully.

UPDATE2: I got red raspberries for snacks today. 🙂

UPDATE3: The dish evolves for dinner. I looked and I had a good amount of dandelion greens left, but not really a meal by a long shot, even with 3.5 oz extra-firm tofu and 1/3 cup cooked black rice added. I needed to bulk it up with veg.

1/2 large onion, chopped
2 tsp duck fat

Put those in the pot with the dandelion greens and turn up the heat. Once they begin to sauté, turn head down to sweat the onion.

Meanwhile, chop and add to the pot as done:

1 serrano pepper
1 red bell pepper
1/2 head escarole (the other half from the other day), chopped fairly small
another good dash pepper sauce
the jar of dry-farmed canned tomatoes from happy girl kitchen co.

The last went in with all the juice except one swig I took to make sure I wanted to add it. Absolute nectar. Added it.

It looked good. I had some zehrgut brand red pepper appetizer, so I stirred in what was left of that (about 1/3 jar). I added:

2 Tbsp pine nuts
about a dozen pitted Kalamata olives

I liked the shape it was taking, but it needed depth and I am out of Worcestershire sauce—good project for tomorrow—and didn’t want to use soy sauce. (We’re obviously talking umami, right?) But I always have at the ready a jar of anchovies, so half a dozen of those little guys, chopped and added, will beef it up a lot.

I could also add a diced zucchini. And may yet.

But there’s already enough for 3 meals. I’m letting it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

UPDATE4: The zucchini: Add it tomorrow, along with red kale and eggplant, for that day’s variant (and beef up protein by serving egg on top).

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2011 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

CIA’s close ties with Qaddafi

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The US seems to love brutal dictators and often plays the role of friend and supporter. Indeed, quite a few dictators have been able to remain in power due mainly to US support. US politicians then act surprised when the people oppressed by the dictator include the US in their hatred. Here’s a NY Times report by Rod Nordland on our support of and cooperation with Qaddafi:

Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2011 at 10:26 am

When the science-fair project pays off

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Interesting story in the Washington Post by Lena Sun:

Like many memorable science fair projects, it began with a startlingly simple idea: Find out what chemicals remain in dry-cleaned clothing.

But the problem facing 15-year-old Alexa Dantzler was that she didn’t have access to the proper equipment to pull off the experiment.

So, like many teenagers, the sophomore at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington County went online. She e-mailed three or four chemistry professors across the country asking for help. Only Paul Roepe, then-chairman of Georgetown University’s chemistry department, seemed intrigued. He took on the research “for fun,” he said.

But what started out as something to “sponsor the kid’s curiosity” prompted a chain reaction in the university lab: an e-mail exchange, an invitation to collaborate and, this week, a paper published online in a peer-reviewed environmental journal. The paper gives new details about the amount of a toxic chemical that lingers in wool, cotton and polyester clothing after it is dry-cleaned.“At the end of the day, nobody, I mean nobody, has previously done this simple thing — gone out there to several different dry cleaners and tested different types of cloth” to see how much of the chemical persists, said Roepe, who supervised the study.

Dantzler, with help from her mother, sewed squares of wool, cotton, polyester and silk into the lining of seven identical men’s jackets, then took them to be cleaned from one to six times at seven Northern Virginia dry cleaners. The cleaners, who were not identified, had no prior knowledge of the experiment.

She kept the patches in plastic bags in the freezer — to preserve the samples — and went to Georgetown once or twice a week to do the chemical analysis with two graduate students, Katy Sherlach and Alexander Gorka. The research team found that perchloroethylene, a dry cleaning solvent that has been linked to cancer and neurological damage, stayed in the fabrics and that levels increased with repeat cleanings, particularly in wool. The study was published online Tuesday in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Between 65 percent and 70 percent of the country’s estimated 25,000 dry cleaning facilities use the solvent, known as PCE or perc, industry representatives said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2011 at 8:37 am

Mountain Yew and Lord

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The Essence of Scotland Mountain Yew that I used today was a freebie, something unusual for me. The Gentleman’s Groom Roomsent me the tub above because of my enthusiasm for their Sweet Gale shaving soap, which has a fragrance very like a Rusty Nail, a drink I favored in my youth.

But the focus for now is the brush, and as a segue into next week’s badger festival, I end the horsehair-brush week with a badger-horse chimera: badger hair and horsehair combined. It’s very nice to use: the horsehair adds more backbone, but the brush is still quite flexible. GiftsAndCare.com actually has quite a selection of badger-horse chimeras.

And it does a terrific job. Who knows, this could be a new favorite. It feels quite good and works up a creamy lather in nothing flat. It built a fine (and fragrant) lather from the Mountain Yew. Extremely nice.

The Lord razor I just received yesterday. I thought I should try it because it’s the razor component of Bruce Everiss’s low-cost, high-luxury shave recommendation. I used a Zorrik blade, which I’ve not used for a while. As I recall, this is one of those brands where the second or third shave is better than the first (possibly through wearing off some coating from the cutting edge).

It’s a surprising good razor. The handle is light, possibly made of pot metal. The head is more carefully done and works well. I rather liked the lengthy handle, to my surprise: it seemed to provide excellent control.

Three passes, quite smooth, no problems—no nicks, weepers, or the like, just a fine shave. A pass of the alum bar, a final rinse, and a splash of Paul Sebastian, and I’m feeling pretty good.

Next week is badger week, and I have some surprises.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2011 at 8:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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