Later On

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

Archive for March 24th, 2012

6-Pepper Grub

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Like all the grub cuisine, this dish just happened, but I did like the result.

I had decided that black rice would be the starch, so I simmered 1/2 cup (2 servings) in 1 cup water for 30 minutes and set that aside

I used the 4-qt sauté pan again:

1 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp hot pepper sesame oil

Heat that over medium heat, and add:

4-6 large shallots, sliced thinly
freshly ground black pepper (Pepper 1)

Sweat the shallots until they’re limp, then add:

1 jalapeño, finely chopped (Pepper 2)
10 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz (2 servings) roasted teriyaki tofu, cubed
2 handfuls chopped celery
Sprinkling of crushed red pepper (Pepper 3)
2 tsp Aleppo pepper (Pepper 4)

Sauté until garlic is fragrant, then add:

1/4 beef stock (still using it up)
2 Tbsp Amontillado
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped small (Pepper 5)
the cooked black rice
2 tsp smoked paprika (Pepper 6)

Cover and simmer 20 minutes.

I was going to top this with yogurt (semi-drained), but now I’ve had a couple of bowls and it’s fine the way it is. The black rice and green cabbage are great: you can tempt the appetite of boys of a certain age by pointing out how it looks like ants cooked with cabbage. (So you might want to use white rice, in case maggots would be a more appealing image.)

Anyway: very nice stuff. And, of course, hits the template bang-on for two meals.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 4:45 pm

The massacre in Afghanistan

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The Afghans claim it was a group operation, not a lone killer. But would the military lie about its actions and attempt to cover up what actually happened? The U.S. military? Oh, right.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 3:40 pm

They knew, and they allowed it anyway…

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This is so like the Catholic church hierarchy’s covering up for (and helping) their own pedophiles: the culture of allowing anything if it can be kept secret. Mark Viera reports in the NY Times:

More than a decade before the former Penn State football assistant Jerry Sandusky was charged with child sexual abuse, a psychologist warned the university police in an investigation into a suspected assault of an 11-year-old boy that Sandusky’s actions in that case fit a “likely pedophile’s pattern.” But the university seemed to do nothing about Sandusky in the wake of that report in 1998.

What is unknown is whether senior officials at Penn State were unaware of the investigation, or whether they knew of it but chose to do nothing.

The details of the investigation were made public Saturday in an NBC News broadcast. NBC News, which obtained the police report and the assessments of two psychologists who had interviewed the 11-year-old boy, did not release the documents with the article it published online.

The investigation uncovered a clear warning about Sandusky, then the defensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions. Sandusky was charged late last year with more than 50 counts of child sexual abuse. He is accused of sexually abusing 10 boys from 1994 to 2009.

“I was horrified to know that there were so many other innocent boys who had their hearts and minds confused, their bodies violated,” Alycia A. Chambers, a therapist for the boy identified as Victim 6 in the report by the grand jury that indicted Sandusky, told NBC News. “It’s unspeakable.”

Sandusky, 68, has maintained his innocence. Last week, his lawyer, Joseph Amendola, asked a judge to dismiss the sexual abuse charges against Sandusky. On Saturday, Amendola issued a statement saying the NBC report had raised new questions “which will be formulated into additional discovery requests we will submit to the attorney general in the near future, hopefully, for disposition at the April 5 hearing on Jerry’s motions.”

Penn State did not immediately respond to the NBC report.

The campus police’s 1998 report totaled almost 100 pages, but the district attorney at the time decided against taking the case to trial. People with knowledge of the active Sandusky case told The New York Times in November that the district attorney’s decision in 1998 was seen as a close call, even with the evidence that the Penn State police had. . .

Continue reading for details: quite clearly a decision to cover up and protect the institution regardless of the danger to children.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

What happens when Federal regulators pervert the mission

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The mission of Federal regulators is quite clearly to protect the public and workers (the latter, for example, by OSHA inspections). But all too often the mission becomes perverted, and the regulators start trying to protect the businesses and industries being regulated rather than their customers and workers.

Here’s a good example, reported in the Washington Post by Steven Mufson:

A scathing report by an independent panel has blamed federal regulators for failing to take steps that might have prevented the disaster that killed 29 workers at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine two years ago.

The 26-page report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says that the Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to heed warning signs or implement the agency’s own regulations, leaving in place conditions that led to the explosion and fire that swept through the mine on April 5, 2010.

“If MSHA had engaged in timely enforcement of the Mine Act and applicable standards and regulations, it would have lessened the chances of — and possibly could have prevented — the UBB explosion,” says the report, which was first posted online by Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward. The Labor Department released the report Friday evening.

The report — which was requested by Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis — puts the focus on MSHA’s leadership, which only recently issued its own internal review blaming Massey Energy and mistakes by low-level inspectors. But MSHA did not place responsibility on senior officials in the agency, which is led by a former mine workers’ union leader, Assistant Secretary of Labor Joe Main.

The new report says that while it agreed Massey had caused the explosion, the MSHA review’s “characterization of the facts underlying this conclusion understates the role that MSHA’s enforcement could have had in preventing the explosion.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 11:34 am

Creating incentives for bad behavior

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As a joke, we used to consider the idea of paying a QA inspector on the basis of number of items that passed inspection and speculate on how rapidly quality would fall.

That’s more or less what the New Orleans Saints and New Mexico police are doing:

New Orleans Saints

New Mexico police (I’m indebted to The Sister for this second link—and it’s unbelievable)

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 11:30 am

Posted in Daily life

Promising book: The March of Folly

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Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly was mentioned recently with respect to Israel’s seeming interest in starting a war in the Mideast. James Fallows mentioned it, so I picked it up at the library and started it this morning. This fairly leapt from the page (page 5, in fact):

Misgovernment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs, and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity. This book is concerned with the last in a specific manifestation; that is, the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the constituency or state involved. Self-interest is whatever conduces to the welfare or advantage of the body being governed; folly is a policy that in these terms is counter-productive.

To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. This is important, because all policy is determined by the mores of its age. “Nothing is more unfair,” as an English historian has well said, “than to judge men of the past by the ideas of the present. Whatever may be said of morality, political wisdom is certainly ambulatory.” To avoid judging by present-day values, we must take the opinion of the time and investigate only those episodes whose injury to self-interest was recognized by contemporaries.

Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. To remove the problem from personality, a third criterion must be the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime. Misgovernment by a single sovereign or tyrant is too frequent and too individual to be worth a generalized inquiry. Collective government or a succession of rulers in the same office, as in the case of the Renaissance popes, raises a more significant problem. (The Trojan Horse, to be examined shortly, is an exception to the time requirement, and Rehoboam to the group requirement, but each is such a classic example and occurs so early in the known history of government as to illustrate how deeply the phenomenon of folly is ingrained.)

At that point I stopped reading to contemplate the modern-day GOP, which is pursuing its own line of follies: taking aggressive action against Latino and Hispanic voters (a rapidly growing population), taking aggressive action against women (more than half the existing population), working to increase tax breaks for the very wealthy (they have a lot of money, but there aren’t many of them) while killing off programs that offer aid and support to everyone else, who represent almost the entire country, and so on.

I think this is going to be a very interesting book.

UPDATE: Cold, overcast day. Grilled some Halloumi cheese (it browns, doesn’t melt) and squeezed a lemon over it: yummy in person and great for this sort of day. And the book just gets better. Page 7:

Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts. It is epitomized in a historian’s statement about Philip II of Spain, the surpassing wooden-head of all sovereigns: “No experience of the failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential excellence.”

Or: ideology making one blind to facts. Examples about. The first to leap to my mind was Angela Merkel and her austerity program that is destroying the EU economy, despite the effective course being plain.

Well, no need to go abroad, eh?

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 11:02 am

Posted in Books, Government

Playing in the dirt

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Dirt was a prime play material when I was young: nice soft dirt let one build roads, dams, etc., for the toy trucks and blocks that served as trucks. I recall becoming indignant when my mother told me (when I was round 3 or 4) that I was muddy. “That’s not mud,” I said. “That’s dirt.” Big difference in my mind: hard to build things with mud, but dirt was good for construction of the sort I did.

At any rate, Megan Scudellari has an interesting report in The Scientist under the title, “Let them eat dirt”:

Maybe it’s okay to let your toddler lick the swing set and kiss the dog. A new mouse study suggests early exposure to microbes is essential for normal immune development, supporting the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” which states that lack of such exposure leads to an increased risk of autoimmune diseases. Specifically, the study found that early-life microbe exposure decreases the number of inflammatory immune cells in the lungs and colon, lowering susceptibility to asthma and inflammatory bowel diseases later in life.

The finding, published today (March 21) in Science, may help explain why there has been a rise in autoimmune diseases in sterile, antibiotic-saturated developed countries.

“There have been many clues that environmental factors, particularly microbiota, play a role in disease risk, but there’s very little information about when it’s critical for that exposure to take place,” saidJonathan Braun, chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the research. “This is one of the most compelling observations to pin down that time frame.”

The mammalian immune system is dramatically influenced and shaped by exposure to microbes throughout life. Epidemiological evidence suggests that early-life exposure to bacteria may be key in preventing two immune diseases: asthma and ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

To explore that link, Dennis Kasper, Richard Blumberg, and colleagues at Harvard Medical School examined susceptibility to both diseases in germ free mice and normal lab mice. “We were surprised to learn that germ free mice were extremely susceptible to both diseases,” said Kasper, “but normal, colonized mice were pretty resistant to both.” In an attempt to reverse the phenotype, the researchers colonized germ-free adults with microbes, but nothing changed: the mice remained susceptible to both diseases. Then the team colonized germ-free pregnant females just before giving birth, and found that their pups were protected against the diseases. The results suggest that it may be critical for mammals to be exposed to the right microbes quite early in life, said Kasper.

It is also known that natural killer T (NKT) cells—immune cells that detect antigens and produce large amounts of inflammatory cytokines—play some role in both diseases. To see if these cells were involved in the susceptibility patterns, the researchers counted NKT cells in germ free and normal lab mice. Normal mice had very low numbers of NKT cells in their lungs and colon, while germ-free mice had high numbers. And once again, colonizing adult germ free mice with microbes changed nothing: the mice’s NKT cell counts remained high, and the mice were still susceptible to both diseases. But when the team used antibodies to block NKT cell activation in young germ-free mice, effectively preventing NKT cells from ever getting a foothold, the mice were protected against the two diseases, suggesting the high NKT counts were at the root of their high susceptibility.

The researchers also identified a protein made by epithelial cells called CXCL16, whose increased expression accompanied increased NKT cell numbers. The more CXCL16 that was present, the higher the levels of NKT cells. It’s possible that bacteria in early life block the production of NKT cells by blocking CXCL16, Kasper suggested, but for now that remains a hypothesis.

“They’ve identified two key players—the epithelium and the NKT cells—but it immediately opens the question of whether other cell types are also involved,” said Braun.

Though Kasper is cautious to make generalizations about how the finding applies to humans, it does fit the “hygiene hypothesis,” he said, which proposes that the increasing occurrence of asthma and other inflammatory diseases in the developed world may be due to a reduced exposure to microbes early in life. But most importantly, future studies of human microbiota and the immune system should zero in on early childhood, he emphasized. “It’s quite important to focus on this early period.”

T. Olszak et al., “Microbial exposure during early life has persistent effects on natural killer T cell function,” Sciencedoi:10.1126/science.1219328, 2012.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 9:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Snakes and primates

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Interesting article by Ruth Williams in The Scientist:

As 6-month-old baby Nini slept quietly in the same hut as her older sister and brother, she was unaware that she would become an only child that night. By the time her father, Teteng, entered the hut around sunset, one of the children was wrapped in the coils of a giant python and was being swallowed headfirst. Teteng slashed and killed the snake with his hunting bolo knife, but it was too late. Nini’s siblings were dead. Only baby Nini survived.

It is the stuff of nightmares and horror movies, but for the Agta tribal people on the Philippine island of Luzon, python attacks are harsh realities. Anthropologist Tom Headland of the Summer Institute of Linguistics International in Dallas, Texas, documented the story of Nini and other chilling snake tales while collecting ethnographic and census data on the Agta in the 1970s. But it wasn’t until snake expert Harry Greene of Cornell University got wind of Headland’s Agta snake stories that their full historical and evolutionary implications were realized.

Although constrictors are known to prey on a variety of primate species, whether or not such snakes would have posed a significant threat to early humans has been a hotly contested issue, says Rick Shine, a snake expert at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It is one of these classic examples of a topic that people are interested in, and they speculate about and have quite diverged opinions on, but nobody had the information,” Shine says.

Headland’s data revealed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

New printer

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Man, have things changed. I just installed my new HP Photosmart 7510 wireless printer/scanner/copier/fax. I took it out of the box last night, just to see what I had. I was highly annoyed to see yet again that the printer manufacturer failed to include a cable, which I have to buy separately. Only later in the day did I realize, duh: it’s wireless, stupid—no cables required.

Setup is pretty easy: remove all the packing tape, plug it in, turn it on, and follow on-screen instructions (which include little videos when you need help). Totally easy. The only problem I encountered was figuring out how to set it up for double-sided printing, and a Google search found that.

Much easier these days. And it’s a largish unit, though well designed with no floppy plastic extensions to break when a cat sits on them. And the paper feed and delivery are pretty well cat-proof. A widget shows me on my Apple dashboard the amount of ink in each cartridge.

One nice thing: separate cartridge per color, which means that you don’t have to replace the entire color cartridge just because the yellow dots finally exhausted the yellow even though you print almost exclusively in black.

Hmm: I suppose one could readily get privacy by removing the yellow cartridge and print (as usual) in black: no yellow dots because no yellow ink. Of course, it is seldom an issue: what I print mostly are letters and the like, and it’s perfectly obvious who printed them—I sign them. But in some countries, political action is punished by death, and in those cases removing the yellow cartridge is probably wise.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 9:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Yardley and a great shave

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Yardley is a vintage soap, no longer made. Tallow-based, lavender-scented, it’s a wonderful soap, and the Vie-Long chestnut horsehair brush worked up a superb lather immediately. The Weber DLC head with his Bulldog handle did a great job, using a previously used Wilkinson Sword blade. Three very nice passes, a splash of Saint Charles Shave New Spice, which we were just talking about on Wicked_Edge, and I’m ready for a fine Saturday.

Backdrop is John Fairbairn’s fine book of the match between Kaku Takagawa (Honinbo when I first started Go) and Go Seigen, a true Go genius.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2012 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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