Later On

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

Archive for May 2012


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Well, the progression of walk times over the past three days—36 minutes, 34 minutes, and 32 minutes—sort of came to a stop. Today: 31 min 45 seconds. Still, a good walk. And Don Quixote has finished the first sally and is going to set out soon with Sancho Panza.

Morning blood glucose 107: not bad, coming down.

Weight 183.6 lbs (21.4% body fat, BMI 24.9: within normal range—but I’ve still got 15 or so pounds to go. Still, making progress down from recent high of 192: got careless.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Our next war

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Our economy—or at least substantial portions of it, like the lobbying industry—has been deformed by the military-industrial-Congressional complex, just as Eisenhower warned in his farewell address to the nation. Every since Vietnam, it seems as though the US is always fighting a war: got to use up that materiel so that more can be bought.

With Iraq pretty much over—wonder how long it will take that country to recover?—and Afghanistan winding down rapidly, I’m sure the urgent need was felt to get into another war to keep that war industry running profitably. It seems now we are waging war on drug smugglers. Damien Cave, Charlie Savage, and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times:

After several villagers were killed on a Honduran river this month during a raid on drug smugglers by Honduran and American agents, a local backlash raised concerns that the United States’ expanding counternarcotics efforts in Central America might be going too far. But United States officials in charge of that policy see it differently.

Throughout 2011, counternarcotics officials watched their radar screens almost helplessly as more than 100 small planes flew from South America to isolated landing strips in Honduras. But this month — after establishing a new strategy emphasizing more cooperation across various United States departments and agencies — two smugglers’ flights were intercepted within a single week, a development that explains why American officials say they are determined to press forward with the approach.

“In the first four months of this year, I’d say we actually have gotten it together across the military, law enforcement and developmental communities,” said William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. “My guess is narcotics traffickers are hitting the pause button. For the first time in a decade, air shipments are being intercepted immediately upon landing.”

With Washington’s attention swinging from Iraq and Afghanistan — and with budget dollars similarly flowing in new directions — the United States is expanding and unifying its antidrug efforts in Central America, where violence has skyrocketed as enforcement efforts in the Caribbean, Colombia and Mexico have pushed cocaine traffic to smaller countries with weaker security forces.

As part of those efforts, the United States is pressing governments across Central America to work together against their shared threat — sharing intelligence and even allowing security forces from one nation to operate on the sovereign soil of another — an approach that was on display in the disputed raid. But reviews from Central America include uncertainty and skepticism.

Government leaders in Honduras — who came to power in a controversial election a few months after a 2009 coup — have strongly supported assistance from the United States, but skeptics contend that enthusiasm is in part because the partnership bolsters their fragile hold on power.

More broadly, there is discontent in Latin America with United States efforts that some leaders and independent experts see as  too focused on dramatic seizures of shipments bound for North America rather than local drug-related murders, corruption and chaos.

“Violence has grown a lot; crimes connected to trafficking keep increasing — that’s Central America’s big complaint,” President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala said in an interview. He added that the drug cartels are better organized than they were 20 years ago and that “if there are no innovations, if we don’t see something truly different than what we have been doing, then this war is on the road to defeat.”

Mr. Pérez Molina, a former general, has been criticized by American officials for proposing a form of drug legalization, but he argues that his goal is to create discussion of new ideas — like compensating Central American countries for the drugs they confiscate, or creating a regional court for organized crime.

In the area of Honduras called the Mosquito Coast, where the two recent operations occurred, residents have simpler demands. “If you’re going to come to the Mosquito Coast, come to invest,” said Terry Martinez, the director of development programs for the Gracias a Dios area. “Help us get our legitimate goods to market. That will help secure the area.”

American officials say they know that interdiction alone is not enough. The number of United States officials assigned to programs that are designed to strengthen Central America’s weak criminal justice systems has quadrupled, to about 80 over the past five years. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that US wars since Vietnam have by no means been continuous. Frequent, yes, but with intervals.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 3:31 pm

Ratatouille-ish Grub

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I had bought a couple of Italian eggplants for the swordfish grub, but they were on the bottom shelf so I overlooked them. So they will be in the next batch of grub that I’m making this evening.

My thought with eggplant tends toward ratatouille, so that brings in zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil. But no starch, no protein, no greens, so we quickly go beyond ratatouille. The grub will go something like this:

6-qt large-diameter pot.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 red spring onions, bulb and leaves, chopped
salt, pepper
12 garlic cloves, more or less, minced
12 Thai peppers (have no idea for right number to use: can always add more)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped celery
2 organic zucchini, diced
1 organic yellow crookneck squash, diced
2 large carrots, diced (color and I need the orange: I also bought some mangoes for my fruit)
kernels cut from 1 ear of fresh yellow corn (color, mainly, but also starch to augment the pasta—I use the Kuhn-Rikon corn stripper which works well once you get the hang of it)
2 Italian eggplant, diced
10 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (the protein)
1 wad dried tomatoes from the little PG produce stand

The above is sautéed in stages, then I’ll add:

28-oz can Muir Glen crushed organic tomatoes (I was going to buy fresh organic Romas, but Whole Foods was charging $4 apiece: forget it.)
1 largish bunch red dandelion greens (one bunch of greens)
1 large bunch Italian parsley (a second bunch of greens)
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
5 anchovies, minced
2 rounded Tbsp capers, with juice
1 diced organic lemon, with peel

If a little more liquid is needed, I’ll add some red wine.

I’ll let that cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook the greens, then add:

4 oz Fregola Sarda pasta (2 servings starch, but this will make 4-6 meals, so that’s fine—the corn is also a starch)

Cook for 20 minutes more.

This is true grub. I’ll probably add black olives later. I have some freshly grated Parmesan and some freshly grated Romano, so I’m going to be doing some comparisons.

UPDATE: Extremely tasty grub. The pasta was a good choice, the lemon was a good idea, and altogether it worked out great. Plus I have enough for 6 meals easy: made a big batch. It’s not especially hot, so I’m adding more Thai chili peppers and upping the count in the recipe. Extremely tasty with the Parmesan. I added the 7 more Thai chilis before the second serving and still not very hot: some afterglow, but nothing searing.

UPDATE 2: Here’s the grub in the larval stage:

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

Brief history of the remote, and the guy who invented it

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William Grimes reports in the NY Times:

IT started out in the 1950s as an effort-saving gadget, like the electric can opener or electronic car keys. It evolved into a necessity, a cultural magic wand that has transformed the relationship of viewers to their televisions, and the style and content of the programs on view.

Today, American television viewers click away at some 335 million TV remotes — nearly three per household. No longer a curiosity, the remote is as much a part of the American home as the personal computer or the cellphone.

The novelist Saul Bellow denounced it as a malign invention whose invitation to jump from channel to channel, scrambling stories, “makes mental mincemeat of us.” Ellen Goodman called it “the most reactionary implement currently used to undermine equality in modern marriage” in a 1992 column for The Boston Globe, noting its resemblance to a royal scepter and the tendency of men to dictate its use.

“It really changed, in a fundamental way, our interaction with technology and with each other,” said Edward Tenner, a historian of technology and culture and the author of “Our Own Devices.” “Think of the clickers that allow us to communicate with all sorts of electronic devices. The TV remote was the origin of that idea.”

No one foresaw the transformative power of the device when Zenith unveiled the first cordless remote, the Flash-Matic, in 1955. Created by Eugene J. Polley, who died May 20 at 96, it looked like a small ray gun. By directing a beam of light at four photo cells, one at each corner of the screen, the viewer could change channels up or down, and increase or decrease the volume.

The company’s advertisements proclaimed the Flash-Matic “a marvel of the electronic age that gives you remote control without wires, cables or cords.” Unlike the Lazy Bones, Zenith’s first remote, introduced in 1950, it did not have a wire connecting it to the television.

But it did have other drawbacks. The photocells could be activated randomly by bright sunlight during the day, and by the lights of passing cars at night. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Excellent step: Banning large sizes of junk/snack foods

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It was Pepsi that first discovered the Law of Snack Foods. They ran an experiment in which consumers could have as much free Pepsi as they wanted. What they discovered was that the consumer would consume as much as they took home, regardless of the amount.

Thus Pepsi wanted to make it easy to take home more of their products: thus the 2-liter soda pop bottles, the enormous bags of potato chips, the case and half-case packages of canned soda: get it into the house, and they’ll consume.

Looks like New York is going to cut back on that. Michael Grynbaum reports in the NY Times:

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.

“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.

“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”

A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, an arm of the soda industry’s national trade group, criticized the city’s proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the city’s health department, saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause. . .

Continue reading. It’s probably redundant to point it out, by the Beverage Association here has a rather obvious conflict of interest.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 11:02 am

Defense of Marriage Act crumbling

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Thank God. The Associated Press reporting in the NY Times:

A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a groundbreaking ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.

The court didn’t rule on the law’s more politically combustible provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it’s legal. It also wasn’t asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The law was passed at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.

The court, the first federal appeals panel to deem the benefits section of the law unconstitutional, agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 10:55 am

When Field & Stream reviewed Lady Chatterley’s Lover

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A classic.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 May 2012 at 10:50 am

Posted in Books

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