Archive for June 2012
Dana Perino, press secretary for George W. Bush, said that climate change would bring many benefits and should not be condemned. Some of the drawbacks are becoming apparent, though: excruciatingly high summer temperatures combined with drought, producing ravaging forest fires (assisted by mismanagement of forests to avoid any smaller fires so that when fire does come, it comes like Shiva), and now successive derechos from Chicago through Maryland. Here’s a report from Baltimore, and I understand a lot of West Virginia is a disaster area. More derechos on the way.
I’m sure some will say that global warming has nothing to do with the record high temperatures (breaking records every year) and incredibly violent storms not seen before. Those are mostly denialists, who don’t believe that global warming is happening despite obvious evidence. Sen. James Inhofe, for example: a perfect example of a modern Don Quixote, clinging to his beliefs regardless of reality.
UPDATE: In looking over newspaper reports, I see that they so far are extremely careful not to mention “global warming” or “climate change”, presumably on the theory that if we ignore it, it will go away. I do not believe that will work, but I do detect a reluctance to face what’s happening and the clear trend of extreme weather, as predicted a generation ago.
I got an email from an on-line friend asking whether it was harder to lose weight the second time around. He has been involved in studying weight-loss and obesity issues professionally for quite a while, and he notes:
Every successful weight loss effort sets in motion myriad physiological and psychological mechanisms to regain the lost weight and prevent its subsequent loss. Of course, there has been speculation about this for 30 years, but now it seems the mechanisms are becoming clearer.
It appears that even one weight loss episode sets these mechanisms in motion, regardless of age.
So I had a big weight loss (80 lbs) and then I regained 20 lbs, which I’m now
rapidly losing. (“Rapidly” does not apply to realistic and sensible weight loss: figure 1 lb/week, on average, and indeed the 80 lb loss took about 80 weeks: right at 18 months. I lost some data at my max because I made some router changes that threw my Withings wi-fi scale off-line, but on 18 June 2010 I was at 246.3; I hit 170.1 on 14 November 2011. Looking back, there was an awful lot of up and down, plus hovering between 180-185 for weeks and weeks, and then dashes down to 172, then back up, and so on. But just taking those endpoints, we’re looking at 17 months. Once I hit 170, I drifted between 170 and 180 for quite a while: not very good control. Then on 19 April 2012 I hit 192.6, and dropped to 186.4, but then back up to 192.9 on 10 May 2012. I paid attention, and generally speaking the weight started dropping.
Today is 30 June, 7.3 weeks later, and I’m at 180.4 this morning (weights are in pounds, not kg). 12.5 lbs in 7.3 weeks, or 1.7 lbs a week: quite a good rate, and included are some mild “blow-out” meals. I use that term for meals I now consider excessive, which is a far, far cry from my old blow-out meals, which now strike me as gargantuan. I have become so accustomed to the meal template, that even a blow-out meal must have a good balance of protein, starch, leafy vegetables, and moderate amounts of oil—and no refined starches or sugars. So the blow-out meals are not really all that bad. The worst part is normally I have a small amount (a half-bottle, generally) of wine, when generally I avoid alcohol altogether: pure calories.
Indeed, I broke the rule of no refined sugar or starch in the lead-up to 192.9 lbs, enjoying ice cream rather too frequently, but lesson learned: those foods are not for me. Theoretically, I could enjoy them in moderation, but moderation is much more difficult than abstinence—plus, I find, moderation is much more difficult for the unconscious mind to grasp: if I know I’m abstaining from ice cream, I can look at it with detachment, though I sensibly avoid looking as much as possible: I don’t even go down the ice-cream aisle in the supermarket. (Why strain my relationship with my unconscious?—particularly when he seems able to accept that we don’t eat that anymore.) But if I’m trying moderation, then any glimpse of ice cream means that I must (at the urging of the unconscious, no doubt) consider whether this is an occasion when I can partake—moderately, of course. But once begun, it’s hard to draw the line that defines where “moderately” ends and excess begins. Is eating just a spoonful a moderate amount? Surely. So perhaps a spoonful every couple of hours, or every 30 minutes, or every 5 minutes, or just sit down with the pint… You see how it becomes hard to draw a definite line on “moderately” but quite easy to know where the line is with “abstain.”
I should note that your adaptive unconscious is your strongest ally or your worst enemy, depending on how you approach him/her. (I find it helpful to consider the adaptive unconscious as a person in his/her own right.) Again I recommend Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. (By the way, if any of my readers actually read a book I recommend, I’d love to hear that. )
So: no, I don’t find it difficult to lose weight I’ve regained, because now I have learned the practical skills of weight loss and I know what to do. I have now also grasped that a 5-lb gain (quite easy to do) means a month (roughly) of work to lose it. When I looked at losing 20 lbs, I estimated I would be working at it for five months, though it looks now as if it will be more like three months.
I think many people have unrealistic internally-felt time tables, and sort of assume that they can blast away a 5-lb gain in a week, so why not put on another 5? That’s amazingly easy to do, especially if you have not actually changed your internal feeling of what a meal is. Thus the importance of the grub template (updated just this morning): once the template is internalized, it makes choosing foods (at a cafeteria, for example) much easier: small portion of protein, skip the bread and ice cream (totally refined foods), thus skipping butterfat as well. Avoid the cheese—a lump of fat disguised as food. Load up on leafy greens and vegetables cooked without fat. Look for some sort of starch that’s not potatoes (too much like refined food). Obviously no french fries, a deadly trio of a simple starch, a lot of fat, and a lot of salt. I sometimes accept cooked dried beans as a starch, though they are also a good fiber and partial protein. In fact, I’m going to start adding cooked pulse to my grub more often: I can lighten up somewhat on the other protein. (Tofu and tempeh are, of course, bean products and also complete proteins, and I use those a lot.)
People with a bad time-sense of weight loss will go a few weeks, see that little is happening, and decide, “To hell with it,” and have a big meal—and if they have not internalized the new way of eating, it will be a big meal of the very sort that created the problem in the first place. Their weight will increase, and they’ll think, “See? It just doesn’t work for me. I must have some special problem that medical science doesn’t yet understand.”
But in fact, I’m losing weight as rapidly as I ever did—indeed, more rapidly, because at this point I have a much better understanding of what I must do (in practical rather than theoretical terms) and I have had much more practice in doing it. Moreover, my gain gain to 192.9 lbs was pretty clearly from making bad choices based on the thought: “My weight is now so low, I can afford to eat some things as I once did.” That turns out to be a false dream. Instead, I should be thinking things like, “My weight is so low, I think I’ll enjoy an alternative meal, like clams and mussels with a small amount of cooked pasta and an enormous salad with 2 tsp of olive oil in the dressing and one glass of white wine.”
My goal now, once I reach 170 again, is to keep my weight between 170 and 173, which means sensible eating every day, rather than foolish eating once a week or so. The foolish eating can rapidly wipe out all that you’ve achieved and also serves to communicate to the unconscious, “Don’t give up hope! We can still eat the old way occasionally: prompt me when you see something tasty,” which means fighting (unconscious) impulses constantly. If you adopt the abstinence mindset, you won’t have the impulses—at least that seems true for me.
The above is a post-shave photo. All four of the photos pre-shave were out of focus—so much for autofocus. So the brushes are still damp, but at least the sizes are obvious. I did have a Stubby 2, but it felt too large to me, so the remaining Stubby is a 1. The other brush is the Duke 3 Best. The two brushes perform equally well, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between them on the face. The Duke is a tiny bit larger, but a Stubby 2 may equal or exceed the Duke 3 in size.
I noticed that in using my usual lathering method—wet brush the fully (so squeezing or shaking), hold tub on its side over the sink, and brush briskly, firmly, and at length—I really didn’t lose any water into the sink. It’s different with the fluffier, longer-lofted brushes: they hold more water, so some spills out. They also hold more lather and feel softer, but these held plenty of lather, and the slightly firmer feel is nice as well.
I’m still experimenting with the Parker head. This one held a Swedish Gillette blade, and the shave was perfectly fine: it even felt good. So the 92R works and the 99R doesn’t? Same head, doesn’t make sense. OTOH, the 99R I used had an Astra Superior Platinum blade, and the same blade can perform differently in different razors: one guy commented that the Astra in his Wilkinson Sword Classic razor tore up his face, but was as smooth as silk in an Edwin Jagger razor. So I swapped blades between the two razors and will try the 99R on Monday. (No shave on Sunday. Never on Sunday.)
I did use the Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap, and I have to say that mpperry was exactly right when he strongly recommended the soap on Wicked_Age. It is amazing. It took me a long while to get around to trying it, but it was always in the back of my mind. It is well worth trying for you pre-shave beard wash at the sink—and it’s just $1.99/bar. Amazing stuff.
And now that they’re running the country, more or less, thanks to the Citizens United decision, we may see more of this—especially with regulatory agencies deprived of funding so that they cannot function effectively. Steven Greenhouse reports in the NY Times:
Wal-Mart Stores has suspended one of its seafood suppliers in the South as an advocacy group for foreign workers pressed the retailer to improve working conditions there and at a dozen other suppliers cited for hundreds of federal labor violations.
The advocacy group, the National Guestworker Alliance, said on Friday that it had found terrible conditions at C. J.’s Seafood, a crawfish company in Breaux Bridge, La. Several immigrant workers said they had been forced to work 16 to 24 hours consecutively and had even been locked into the plant. Guest workers said they sometimes labored more than 80 hours a week, had been threatened with beatings to press them to work faster and had been warned that their families in Mexico would be hurt if they complained to government agencies.
“It’s one of the worst workplaces we ever encountered anywhere,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a university-sponsored monitoring group that was asked by the guest-worker advocates to investigate C. J.’s Seafood. “The extreme lengths of the shifts people were required to work, the employer’s brazenness in violating wage laws, the extent of the psychological abuse the workers faced and the threats of violence against their families — that combination made it one of the most egregious workplaces we’ve examined, whether here or overseas.”
Guest workers are temporary workers from abroad who typically receive special visas to do seasonal work.
On Friday, the National Guestworker Alliance released a list of 644 federal citations at 12 other Wal-Mart food suppliers that employ guest workers and used that list to assert that the retailer had fallen short on ensuring that its suppliers complied with its standards.
Lorenzo Lopez, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the retailer had begun its own investigation of C. J.’s, which supplied its Sam’s Club warehouse stores, and had uncovered violations of some of its supplier standards.
“We have suspended C. J.’s Seafood as a supplier, pending the outcome of the investigation,” Mr. Lopez said.
He said that the United States Labor Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were conducting their own investigations of the seafood processor.
C. J.’s did not respond to several phone messages left at its main office. . .
Continue reading. Of course they didn’t respond. The South has never really given up the idea of having slaves: it’s in their culture. Much the same thing has been found repeatedly in Florida among migrant workers there, some of whom work under conditions indistinguishable from slavery.
Very interesting story by Peter Maas of ProPublica:
Jonathan Mayer had a hunch.
A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.
This is precisely the type of privacy violation the Federal Trade Commission aims to protect consumers from, and Google, which claims the cookies were not planted in an unethical way, now reportedly faces a fine of more than $10 million. But the FTC didn’t discover the violation. Mayer is a 25-year-old student working on law and computer science degrees at Stanford University. He shoehorned his sleuthing between classes and homework, working from an office he shares in the Gates Computer Science Building with students from New Zealand and Hong Kong. He doesn’t get paid for his work and he doesn’t get much rest.
If it seems odd that a federal regulator was scooped by a sleep-deprived student, get used to it, because the federal government is often the last to know about digital invasions of your privacy. The largest privacy scandal of the past year, also involving Google, wasn’t discovered by federal regulators, either. A privacy official in Germany forced Google to hand over the hard drives of cars equipped with 360-degree digital cameras that were taking pictures for its Street View program. The Germans discovered that Google wasn’t just shooting photos: The cars downloaded a panoply of sensitive data, including emails and passwords, from open Wi-Fi networks. Google had secretly done the same in the United States, but the FTC, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees broadcast issues, had no idea until the Germans figured it out.
Nearly every day, and often several times a day, there is fresh news of privacy invasions as companies hone their ability to imperceptibly assemble a vast amount of data about anyone with a smartphone, laptop or credit card. Retailers, search engines, social media sites, news organizations — all want to know as much as they can about their visitors and users so that ads can be targeted as precisely as possible. But data mining, which has become central to the corporate bottom line, can be downright creepy, with companies knowing what you search for, what you buy, which websites you visit, how long you browse — and more. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Target realized a teenage customer was pregnant before her father knew; the firm identifies first-term pregnancies through, among other things, purchases of scent-free products. It’s akin to someone rifling through your wallet, closet or medicine cabinet, but in the digital sphere no one picks your pocket or breaks into your house. The tracking is done mostly without your knowledge and, in many cases, despite your attempts to stop it, as Mayer discovered.
The FTC is the lead agency in the government’s effort to ensure that companies do not cross the still-hazy border between acceptable and unacceptable data collection. But the agency’s ambitions are clipped by a lack of both funding and legal authority, reflecting a broader uncertainty about the role government should play in what is arguably America’s most promising new industry. Companies like Facebook and Google are global brands for which data mining is at the core of present and future profits. How far should they go? Current laws provide few limits, mainly banning data collection from children under 13 and prohibiting the sale of personal medical data. Beyond that, it’s a digital mosh pit, and it’s likely to remain that way because more regulation tends to be regarded by politicians in both parties as meaning fewer jobs. Students will probably continue to beat the FTC to the punch: The agency just has one privacy technologist working in its Division of Privacy and Identity Protection and one in the Division of Financial Practices. “I don’t think it’s controversial to note that they seem to be understaffed,” Mayer said in a phone interview between classes. “I think that’s pretty clear.”
This isn’t the usual sort of story about regulation watered down by intimate ties between government officials and the industry they oversee. Unlike the U.S. Minerals Management Service, where not long ago a number of officials were found to have shared drugs and had sex with representatives of the oil and gas industry, key FTC officials hired by the Obama administration are privacy hawks who worked previously for consumer-rights groups like Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Under Chairman Jon Leibowitz, a Democrat appointed to the FTC in 2004 and tapped as chairman by President Obama in 2009, the FTC has pushed boundaries; its first privacy technologist, hired shortly after Liebowitz became chairman, was a semifamous activist who made a name for himself by printing fake boarding passes to draw attention to airline security lapses (the FBI, which raided his house, was not pleased). The agency is working with the tech industry to create and voluntarily adopt a Do Not Track option, so that consumers can avoid some intrusive web tracking by advertising firms. And it issued a report this year that called for new legislation to define what data miners can and cannot do.
Yet the FTC is . . .
Continue reading. It’s a lengthy article well worth your time.
So long as companies can simply write checks in return for lawbreaking rather than having anyone serve prison time, they will continue to break the law, figuring the checks they write are just part of the cost of doing business. Moreover, the checks are always for insignificant amounts compared to company assets and income. It’s like a driver who knocks down a pedestrian and breaks his leg having to pay a $50 fine. Sure, it’s a fine, but it is really insignificant.
Interesting article by Kevin Sack and Reed Abelson in the NY Times. Apparently some governors are planning simply not to obey the law—so much for the party of law and order.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus from whether sweeping changes to the health insurance market should take place to a scramble to meet the law’s rapidly approaching deadlines.
A number of largely Republican-led states that gambled on delay now face the unsettling prospect that the federal government could take over their responsibilities, particularly in setting up the health insurance marketplaces known as exchanges, where people will be able to choose among policies for their coverage.
Under the law, which the court upheld in its entirety by a 5-to-4 vote, individuals must be able to buy insurance coverage through the new state exchanges by Jan. 1, 2014. But a more immediate deadline is less than six months away, on Jan. 1, 2013, when states must demonstrate to the Department of Health and Human Services that the exchanges will be operational the next year.
If they do not, the secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, “shall establish and operate” the exchanges for the states, according to the statute, a prospect that Republican governors like Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin would presumably find anathema.
Mr. Walker quickly raised the risk by announcing that, in spite of the ruling, he would continue to delay any imposition of the law while waiting to see whether Republicans took control of the White House or Congress in November. Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have vowed to repeal the entire law if they gain power.
“Wisconsin will not take any action to implement Obamacare,” Mr. Walker said in a statement. “I am hopeful that political changes in Washington, D.C., later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level.”
Mr. Perry issued a statement calling the court’s ruling “a stomach punch to the American economy.” While he did not say whether he would move ahead to put the law in place, he echoed Mr. Walker in using the ruling as a call to political arms. “Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us,” Mr. Perry said, “we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform.”
The court also left conservative states and those with financial troubles to decide whether to participate in a significant expansion of Medicaid eligibility scheduled for 2014. The majority ruled that it was permissible for the federal government to impose such an expansion on states, and to ask that they eventually pay a fractional share of the cost of covering low-income residents.
But it ruled that the federal government could not penalize states for noncompliance by withholding their existing federal Medicaid dollars, effectively eliminating Washington’s enforcement stick.
Ohio’s Republican governor, John R. Kasich, suggested
I cooked 1 cup of black rice in 2 cups water last night and then ate about 3/4 cup, plus another 1/2 cup in a sardine salad at lunch. So probably about 1 cup cooked black rice made it into the grub
In wide-diameter 6-qt pot:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
generous pinch of salt—probably about 1 tsp
Sweat the onion for 5 minutes or so over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown. Add:
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
Sauté that for about another 4-5 minutes, then add:
1/4 cup minced garlic
3 Serrano peppers, chopped small
3/4-1 cup chopped celery
1 good-sized zucchini, diced
4 domestic white mushrooms, sliced in half then sliced into thick chunks
Sauté for another 5-8 minutes, then add:
4 chopped fresh Roma tomatoes (I pulse in the food processor, leaving them chunky)
1 can black beans, drained rinsed
6 oz green beans, cut into 1″ sections
the cooked black rice—all that was left
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp Amontillado sherry
2 Tbsp Taste #5 umami paste
Cook for about 5 minutes more (I want everything hot), then add:
1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed well and chopped
8 oz kale salad (mostly kale, with some red cabbage and coarsely grated carrot)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Simmer covered for 20 minutes, then add:
8 oz Pacific swordfish steak, cut into chunks
8 oz sockeye salmon, cut into chunks
Simmer covered for 10 minutes, check liquid level. This was a little liquidy, so I added:
1/2 cup whole-wheat couscous
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
The couscous absorbs the liquid, the olives I just decided to include on a whim.
This made about 4 qts, I’d say, once everything cooked down. And, as usual, it is delicious.
Simmer 12 minutes more.