Later On

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

Archive for January 28th, 2012

Chicken-Noodle Soup, my way

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I’m feeling a little queasy from an unwise lunch choice (fried calamari steak sandwich, french fries), and there’s nothing in the house—have to do shopping since none done since prior to surgery.

But in talking to The Wife, I got onto the idea of a soup, using what I have. The ultimate outcome:

3 qt saucepan, holding about 1/2 cup leftover black rice

Add:

what’s left of butter, about 2 pats (I’ll add some EVOO at end, when I use the immersion blender)
2 large peeled shallots (that I bought to have on hand)
10 peeled garlic cloves (ditto)
small piece leftover onion, chopped
chopped leftover cruditès (carrot & celery only, jicama gone, just as well)
handful chopped celery from stash

Sauté that for a while, discover a regular plastic vegetable bag of braising greens, which will beef up the soup a lot. Now I’m really looking forward to it. I plan to beat in a couple of eggs for protein. (Three eggs left, so one for breakfast: clearing out fridge perfectly.)

I add about 5 cups water, then a rounded Tbsp of Penzeys Chicken Soup Base. When the water’s hot, I add the braising greens, pushing them into the liquid until they wilt. There’s a great variety, and the leaf shapes are amazingly intricate: extremely fractal and quite different from each other. I suddenly realized that people who subsist on frozen and otherwise prepared foods never see stuff like this.

Back to food. With all the greens in, along with a couple of leaves of red chard I had, I should get in more starch. I picked pasta. I’m going to blend, so shape isn’t an issue. I got Barilla Plus for the omega-3, and all I had in that was spaghetti. I took out 2 oz. and broke it into small sections into the simmering soup.

At this point, two things occur to me: Maybe blending isn’t needed: just dip it up after stirring in eggs. And it needs umami. I got down one of my reserve jars of anchovies and dug out enough to add umami without adding any anchovy or fish taste.

Given the state of my tummy, I’m not going with any pepper sauce or flakes, but now I will add some olive oil.

UPDATE: At end, also added last of edamame dip, into which I’d stirred some guacamole too spicy for The Wife, so the soup did end up with a definite spicy kick—that was some spicy guacamole. I also realized for the mid-life kicker I can add some sliced almonds to the soup, no need to blend in. And I have some cilantro I could chop and scatter on top.

Soup tastes quite good. And for me it has triple appeal: the aforementioned good taste, the efficient using-up of leftovers, and hitting all the targets of my meal template quite handily. Good meal—or probably three meals.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2012 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

Drive-by Scanning: Officials Expand Use and Dose of Radiation for Security Screening

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This story by Michael Grabell in ProPublica is sort of scary:

U.S. law enforcement agencies are exposing people to radiation in more settings and in increasing doses to screen for explosives, weapons and drugs. In addition to the controversial airport body scanners, which are now deployed for routine screening, various X-ray devices have proliferated at the border, in prisons and on the streets of New York.

Not only have the machines become more widespread, but some of them expose people to higher doses of radiation. And agencies have pushed the boundaries of acceptable use by X-raying people covertly, according to government documents and interviews.

While airport scanners can show objects on the surface of the body, prisons have begun to use X-rays that can see through the body to detect contraband hidden in cavities. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is in the process of deploying dozens of drive-through X-ray portals to scan cars and buses at the border with their passengers still inside.

X-ray scanners have been tested at ferry crossings, for visitor entries at the Pentagon and for long-range detection of suicide bombers at special events. And drawing the ire of privacy groups, Customs and the New York Police Department have deployed unmarked X-ray vans that can drive to a location and look inside vehicles for drugs and explosives.

Most federal health regulations for medical X-rays do not apply to security equipment, leaving the decision of when and how to use the scanners almost entirely in the hands of security officials.

Although the 9/11 attacks provided the impetus and prompted the spending to develop such equipment, most of the machines have been deployed only in the last few years. New attacks and ever-tighter security measures have made law enforcement officials more willing to expose the public to X-ray devices that were once taboo.

When the body scanners were introduced in prisons in the late 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration convened an advisory panel. Several of the outside scientists warned that once the longstanding practice of X-raying humans only for health reasons was ended, it was just a matter of time before the machines would become acceptable in airports, courthouses and schools.

“This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen back when we had the FDA meetings,” said Kathleen Kaufman, who as director of Los Angeles County’s radiation management program served on the advisory panel.

The FDA has little authority to regulate the use of electronic products emitting radiation. Because security scanners are not classified as medical devices, the agency doesn’t approve them for safety before sale. And it can go after only the manufacturers for excessive radiation — not the users of the machines for deploying them too frequently or in other questionable ways.

Handicapping its power even more, the FDA ultimately went against the advisory panel’s recommendation to adopt a federal safety standard for the new security devices. Instead, it followed congressional direction to use industry standards wherever possible and let the scanners fall under voluntary guidelines set by a nonprofit group made up largely of manufacturers and agencies that wanted to use the X-ray machines.

It is difficult to estimate the long-term health risks of low levels of radiation. At higher levels, ionizing radiation — the energy used in the scanners — has been shown to damage DNA and mutate genes, potentially leading to cancer. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2012 at 10:13 am

Right-wing political parties in Israel reach out to control political discourse in the US

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Glenn Greenwald points to a troubling trend. You’ll note that he provides both links and quotations, something that his attackers fail to do (because the cannot, but clearly they are hoping that the energy of the invective will distract their readers from the emptiness of their accusations). This sort of poison is a sign of sick and vindictive mind and augers ill for the future of this group—and for those forced to interact with it. Greenwald:

I’ve written several times about the coordinated smear campaign to brand writers at the Center for American Progress as “anti-Semites” in order to punish them for defying mandated orthodoxies on Israel and to deter others from doing so. While that smear campaign, having done its job, is now winding down, the predictable effects of it are only beginning: CAP is now censoring those targeted writers, and those who defended them are now being similarly smeared.

First, the self-censorship at CAP: both The Weekly Standard‘s Daniel Halper and Philip Weiss document how a post written by two of the targeted CAP writers, Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, was censored in important, substantive ways. That post concerned a rabidly anti-Islam film, “The Third Jihad,” that was continuously shown to NYPD officials. Gharib and Clifton sought to investigate the donors behind the film, and wrote the following (emphasis added):

The film, the Third Jihad, was created by the shadowy Clarion Fund, which did not return the Times’ requests for comment. Clarion was started by Israeli-Canadian Raphael Shore, who, along with other early Clarion employees, is tied to the Israeli orthodox evangelist organization Aish Hatorah, which works within Israel’s right-wing and settler movements. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has referred to Aish Hatorah as “Jewish extremists.”

But at some point after that was posted (Halper says it “seems to have been a few hours”), all of the bolded words were deleted, with no explanation that it had been edited, let alone any explanation as to why. Moreover, Gharib and Clifton noted that a prior film produced by Clarion focused on Iran and was directed by Alex Traiman, whom they identified as “an Israeli-American resident of an ideological settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” That bolded phrase was also deleted without explanation. Weiss summarized the censorship edits this way:

The piece originally contained four explicit references to Israel. Now it contains only one, at the end, an aside about Gingrich.  This is ashocking effort to remove any description of the Israel lobby from a major ideological and political undertaking. Anyone who has had anything to do with Aish knows that it is a rightwing pro-Israel group. Imagine, that the Center for American Progress cannot say so!!

In other words, the smear campaign — to intimidate CAP out of allowing their writers to express prohibited thoughts about Israel — worked perfectly. And The Weekly Standard‘s Halper understandably gloats: “So the good news is that there seems to be at least one grown up at the Center for American Progress. Whoever he is, he can control what the bloggers are saying that might be interpreted as being borderline anti-Semitic. He can clean things up for outsiders—and make it look a little more mainstream than perhaps the institution really is.” But he also warns: “The bad news is that the grown-up is not always in the room (even if he corrects things when he returns!) and that the stable of bloggers over there have some biases that must be cleaned up by some unknown shady figure.” He adds: “it is clear the problem still remains: A think tank that is allied with the Democratic party and the president of the United States . . . is pushing troubling rhetoric.” By bowing to the discourse bullies, CAP only validates their accusations and makes them hungrier for scalps.

Meanwhile, those who have defended CAP writers from this smear campaign, including me, are now themselves being smeared — needless to say — as Israel-haters and even anti-Semites. So trite and automatic are these attacks that one almost yawns while reading them. Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg, who plants himself in the middle of every one of these orgies of anti-Semitism accusations, trotted out every trite accusatory line from the tired neocon playbook to attack me explicitly as an Israel-hater and, he strongly implied, as an anti-Semite (none of these accusations are accompanied by a single word I’ve said or even a link to anything I’ve written).

Goldberg begins by quoting anonymous emailers accusing me of being “part of a small coterie of Jewish anti-Semites who never miss an opportunity, as the saying goes, to blast Israel or Jews for supporting Israel” and complaining about his “endorsing the right of Glenn Greenwald to hate Israel.” Goldberg, in his own voice, then accuses me of being among “those Jews who consciously set themselves apart from the Jewish majority in thedisgust they display for Israel“; that I’m one of those dreaded “Jews whodefine themselves in opposition to Judaism, Marxists mainly“; that I “evince[] toward Israel a disdain that is quite breathtaking“; and that I “hold[] Israel to a standard [I don’t] hold any other country, except the U.S.” I also stand accused of this crime: “I’ve never seen him write with any sort of affection about Israel, Zionism, Judaism, the Jewish people, and so on.” Goldberg says that this is all likely due to the fact that “some really bad shit happened to [me] in Hebrew school. (I mean, worse than the usual soul-sucking anomie).”

As I said, these attacks are as boring and clichéd as they are predictable: every person who deviates from orthodoxy on Israel and opposes these neocon smear campaigns is automatically subjected to them. Israel-hater. Anti-Semite. Self-hating Jew. Etc. etc. I’m boring myself even summarizing it.

There are several obvious points to make about Goldberg’s attack. Note the standard tactic of conflating “the Israeli government” with “Israel” and even “Jews”, so that if you oppose the former, then you are automatically an enemy of the latter: exactly the way that those who opposed Bush policies were “anti-American.” Additionally, just as his fellow neocon, Jamie Kirchick, recently did, Goldberg — with no recognition of the irony — prefaced his reflexive little smears by last week depicting himself as being the victim of McCarthyism. The neocons who have made a career of publicly smearing people as anti-Semites and Israelhaters — often destroying their reputations and ending their careers — now try to self-identify as the Real Victims of unfair witch hunts. Moreover, it is absolutely true that, as an American citizen, I am most concerned with the actions of my own government and those which it lavishes with massive aid (such as Israel); that’s because the first responsibility of all citizens is to oppose the bad acts undertaken by their own government (either directly or through the actions it enables), not engage in the cheap, self-indulgent, pointless act of sitting in judgment of other nations over which one has no control or influence.

But the most substantive point to all of this is the attempt to conflate all of the prohibited ideas about Israel expressed by the targeted CAP writers with the use of the term “Israel-Firster,” and thus to suggest that all criticisms of the Israeli Government and their American enablers are all of one piece with a term first coined by actual anti-Semites. Goldberg’s attack on me yesterday, for instance, was entitled: “More on Glenn Greenwald, ‘Israel-Firsters,’ and Idiot Editors (Updated).” From the start, neocons like Goldberg have attempted to tie the targeted CAP writers to that term and thus to link their targeted writings with some sort of neo-Nazi provenance. But as Robert Wright pointed out weeks ago:

Don’t be misled by the attention being given to the term “Israel-firster” into thinking that it’s the real issue here. That term was used by a single, very junior CAP staffer on his personal twitter account, and he apologized weeks ago. So if people ostensibly complaining about the ‘Israel-firster’ thing are still after CAP scalps, we know that the issue must go deeper.

Here is the real issue: Some people at CAP who haven’t used the term Israel-firster have committed a different sin–criticizing, sometimes harshly, the policies of Israel. And some defenders of those policies find it easier to stigmatize critics than to answer them.

That’s precisely the point. In general, I try to avoid terminology that isgratuitously inflammatory — meaning, language that is unnecessary to make a point and that is more likely to distract from the point with side controversies than focus attention on the point itself (by contrast, I don’t try to avoid language that is necessarily inflammatory: meaning language that is necessary to make a point even if it offends). That’s why I generally avoid using the term “fascist” to describe contemporary politics, or avoid comparisons with Nazis, or avoid using the term “Israel-Firster” (in contrast to Time’s Joe Klein, who uses it frequently, I believe in all the years I’ve been writing about Israel and American neocons, I’ve used that term once, at least that I recall: to describe Democratic members of Congress who never criticize President Obama except when it comes to the demand that he be more loyal to the Israeli government).

But though the term may be inflammatory and of malignant origins, the concept it signifies is both wholly legitimate and quite important: namely, that there are some American political and media figures (both Jewish and evangelical Christians) for whom Israel is the primary, driving political issue, outweighing all others in importance. And it is that primary concern for Israel that shapes their political advocacy. As The Nation‘s Eric Altermanwrote yesterday, his avoidance of that specific term “does not mean that a great many people—including many right-wing Jews and some conservative Christians—will never prioritize what they believe to be Israel’s interests above all else.”

It is this plainly true idea, above all else, that this smear campaign and its aftermath is attempting to render off-limits (Spencer Ackerman, who sat silently by while his former CAP colleagues were being smeared, has not onlydefended Goldberg but has also anointed himself the discourse policeman and issued rules barring this issue from being discussed, in a Tablet article today that uses a cartoon to depict those who raise this issue or even approve of its being raised as channeling Adolf Hitler). The aim here — as Ackerman explicitly acknowledges — is to render it not only illegitimate, but even evil, to suggest that “some conservative American Jewish reporters, pundits, and policymakers are more concerned with the interests of the Jewish state than those of the United States.” But Alterman yesterday pointed out exactly why that needs to be discussed: “It hardly strains credulity to imagine that folks with the views described above would welcome an attack on Iran’s nuclear program to protect Israel, regardless of its implications for the United States and the world.”

But you’re not allowed to talk about these dual loyalties even though everyone knows it’s true. As Adam Serwer wrote two years ago, it’s always been true that in the United States, a nation of immigrants, various factions have allegiances to other nations besides the U.S.; Serwer himself wrote: “I’ll cop to caring about Israel more because I’m Jewish.” And as Alterman said previously about the attempt to render this discussion off-limits and equate it with anti-Semitism: “I find this very confusing because I was raised dually loyal my whole life.” This is perfectly benign and true of a large number of groups in American political life (indeed, American law allows dual citizenship: the pure expression of dual loyalty), but in the eyes of people like Goldberg and Ackerman, recognition of this fact is only off-limits when it comes to American Jews (I grew up in South Florida, where the importance of a hard-line U.S. policy toward Cuba — in light of the large Cuban-American exile community in Miami — was constantly discussed without anyone demanding that it be ignored, let alone anyone being accused of racism for discussing it).

To determine whether the idea Ackerman wants to ban is true — namely, that some key political figures (both Jewish and evangelical Christians) “are more concerned with the interests of the Jewish state than those of the United States” — just judge for yourself their own comments on this question: . . .

Continue reading. Note also these updates:

UPDATE [Sat.]: Corey Robin shows how easy it is to play this accusatory game by ironically condemning Jeffrey Goldberg for trafficking in classic anti-Semitic tropes. Meanwhile, in Haaretz, the Israel-American Mairav Zonszein weighs in on this matter with an excellent Op-Ed.

UPDATE II [Sat.]: The Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf has a short but superb post on this debate as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2012 at 9:07 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Soaking badger/horsehair brushes while you shower

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Johnzsmith on Wicked_Edge soaks his badger brushes in hot water while he showers, just as one would soak a boar brush. When I inquired, he told me he had tried both ways, and the soaked brushes were warmed and held more water. At first I was skeptical, but as I mulled it over, I could see reasons why: if my beard hair can absorb water and soften, it stands to reason so could the hair of boar and horse, and a soaked brush would “hold more water” in the sense that an unsoaked brush would lose some water to the hair in the brush absorbing it. Moreover, it’s always good to test one’s beliefs (mine about the brushes) to see whether they stand up to experiment.

My own belief was based on earlier experiments of my own, of course, but as one learns something new, early experiments sometimes have different outcomes than later experiments done after more skill is gained—souffles, for example, offer a prime example. In shaving, blades are like that: blades that didn’t seem good at first, on being retried after some months or years turn out to be perfectly fine. So I figured it was time to kick around my assumption to keep it from becoming encrusted and stale.

The two Rooneys shown are coevals, and of the same quality of badger (as shown: “Super Silvertip”). One I soaked while showering, the other sat, as usual, on the bathroom counter awaiting the shave.

A wash of my beard with MR GLO, then I spread a little Coate’s Original Almond on my cheek and chin, and used the soaked brush. Oh my! This really was different. Softer, warmer, and wetter. Altogether a very pleasant lathering experience—and that Coate’s is some good stuff. Too bad it’s gone, killed off by a Gresham’s law of shaving prep: canned mix killing good product.

The razor is from Frank Shaving, and I bought it simply to try: like their brushes, it’s priced at the lower end of the range. I will not call it “harsh”, but it’s certainly not kind. I won’t use it again, but I got a good shave without a cut or nick. Not a comfortable experience, however. Not recommended. Probably better than a Parker, though. I used a new Astra Superior Platinum blade.

Second pass I used the other Rooney brush, first wetting it thoroughly under the hot water tap, as is my wont, and working up the lather with another dab o’ Coate’s. Another fine lather, and the brush feels quite nice: warm and comfortable—just slightly less in those departments than the soaked brush.

I finished the shave with another pass, returning to the brush that had been soaked, then used the alum block to check the damage from the Frank razor, and applied a hearty splash of Paul Sebastian aftershave.

I’m eager now to try soaking a horsehair brush. In the meantime, I encourage you to run your own experiment: try soaking you badger or horsehair brush while you shower for a week’s worth of shaves, not soaking for a week’s worth of shaves, and soaking once more for another week. From that, you can decide your own preference. And the next edition will include that exact advice.

Thanks to Johnzsmith for encouraging me to look again at my standard practice. I’m not sure I’ll always soak the brush, but I certain will at times. And the shave turned out quite well. But no more Frank razor for me.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2012 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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