Later On

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Archive for November 28th, 2012

Why US sovereignty is important and worth defending

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The WTO seems to not take into account values that are important in the US. Rob Hotakainen reports for McClatchy:

If you look closely at the can of tuna in your cupboard, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a small label that says “dolphin safe.”

In 1990, in a big win for environmentalists, Congress passed a law that created the labels, hoping to assure consumers that their tuna had been caught without using fishing methods that hurt dolphins. Now those labels might be disappearing, thanks to a ruling by the World Trade Organization, which said they harmed Mexico by restricting global trade. After losing the case on appeal, the United States must respond by July 13.

“Consumers in the U.S. have been clear: They want dolphin-safe tuna, and if we’re not able to label tuna in the way we want to label it, I think U.S. consumers are going to be pretty angry,” said Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington state, who likened the situation to having replacement referees decide the outcome of games in the National Football League.

In the most recent development, Larsen and 21 other members of Congress sent a letter last month to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, complaining that the WTO is threatening to turn back the clock to the days when tens of thousands of dolphins were killed each year “in a tuna fishing free-for-all.”

Critics say the WTO is running roughshod over U.S. laws that govern everything from the environment to food safety and public health.

In 2008, for example, Congress approved the Country of Origin Labeling Act. It requires grocers to tell consumers where their meat, fish, chicken and produce came from. But the WTO said the labels unfairly hurt imports from Canada and Mexico.

In 2009, Congress banned flavored cigarettes with its Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. The WTO ruled against the United States again after Indonesia complained that the law discriminated against its cigarettes.

Both those cases are ongoing.

“Right now, the United States has become a punching bag for smaller nations. . . . They’re using the WTO for all kinds of things for what it was not intended to do,” said Joel Joseph, the general counsel of the Los Angeles-based Made in the USA Foundation, a group that promotes products manufactured in the U.S. and that advocates for labeling laws. In September, the group joined with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, which represents 5,400 ranchers and cattlemen in 45 states, and the Boulder, Colo., food distributor Mile High Organics to file a lawsuit in federal court in Colorado to defend the country-of-origin labeling law.

Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, a consumer advocacy organization, predicted that the tuna case will go a long way in helping the public understand the expansive reach of the WTO. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 5:09 pm

Edge‘s Annual Question for 2012: What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?

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192 responses so far.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Science

Can worms alleviate autism?

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Fascinating article in The Scientist by Sabrina Richards:

Trichuris suis, parasitic helminth of pigs.Wikipedia, Universidad de Córdoba.A growing body of evidence suggests that in some patients, increased inflammation contributes to autistic behaviors. Now, a Phase I clinical trial is under way to measure the effects of infecting autistic patients with a non-pathogenic parasitic worm. Scientists at Montefiore Medical Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and biotech company Coronado Biosciences will test the hypothesis that treating these patients with Trichuris suis, a non-pathogenic parasitic pig whipworm, will dampen their immune responses and ameliorate repetitive and irritable behaviors.

“The trial is a novel approach [to autism treatment] with a naturally occurring drug delivery system”—a parasitic worm, said Eric Hollander, a Montefiore psychiatrist and head scientist on the trial.

Autoimmune and allergic diseases are more prevalent in more developed countries where citizens are accustomed to better water quality and less contact with farm animals. Some researchers chalk this phenomenon up to the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which posits that the microbes and parasites that humans co-evolved with act to help keep our immune responses in check. The theory was spurred initially by observations in humans—that after anti-parasitic therapy, people scored higher on allergy skin prick tests, or that autoimmunity and allergies were more prevalent in more-developed West Germany than East Germany—and supported by laboratory studies on mouse models of such diseases, said Marie-Helen Jouvin, a pathologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University, who is not involved in the clinical trial. Parasites, such as the whipworm used in the autism trial, are thought to both dampen inflammation and stimulate immune regulatory pathways in their hosts.

The idea to tackle autism symptoms with parasitic worms came from . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Mental Health, Science

Keeping your eye on the ball works

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So why don’t people keep their eye on the ball in sports? Because, it turns out, they don’t know how. Gretchen Reynolds reports in the NY Times:

Recently, researchers in England set out to determine whether weekend golfers could improve their game through one of two approaches. Some were coached on individual swing technique, while others were instructed to gaze fixedly at the ball before putting. The researchers hoped to learn not only whether looking at the ball affects performance, but also whether where we look changes how we think and feel while in action.
Gretchen Reynolds on the science of fitness.
Back in elementary school gym class, virtually all of us were taught to keep our eyes on the ball during sports. But a growing body of research suggests that, as adults, most of us have forgotten how to do this. When scientists in recent years have attached sophisticated, miniature gaze-tracking devices to the heads of golfers, soccer players, basketball free throw shooters, tennis players and even competitive sharpshooters, they have found that a majority are not actually looking where they believe they are looking or for as long as they think.

It has been less clear, though, whether a slightly wandering gaze really matters that much to those of us who are decidedly recreational athletes.

Which is in part why the British researchers had half of their group of 40 duffers practice putting technique, while the other half received instruction in a gaze-focusing technique known as “Quiet Eye” training.

Quiet Eye training, as the name suggests, is . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The Pentagon must be reined in

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This story, about the Pentagon’s deliberate decision to destroy a neighborhood, needs more exposure. William Boardman reports for Alternet:

Faced with the community-damaging possibility of the U.S. Air Force basing its soon-to-be-tested F-35 [3] nuclear capable fighter bomber at the Burlington Airport in their city, South Burlington’s City Councilors have once again expressed carefully and coherently argued opposition to the plan that the Air Force’s own study found would render more than a thousand nearby homes “incompatible with residential use.”

The impact of an F-35 base would, by the Air Force’s own calculation, destroy houses and displace people on a scale akin to a military campaign. Of all its proposed basing options, the Air Force acknowledges that by far the most damaging civilian impact would be felt by South Burlington and Winooski.

With that level of destruction in mind, together with the reality that it would fall, like class warfare, on the less well off, the city council has stated its determination to defend [4] its community and its residents “against industrial, military, and political interests,” against what some have called vulture capitalism. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 12:54 pm

Immortality, thy name is… jellyfish?

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Very interesting article by Nathaniel Rich in the NY Times:

After more than 4,000 years — almost since the dawn of recorded time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor — man finally discovered eternal life in 1988. He found it, in fact, on the ocean floor. The discovery was made unwittingly by Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student in his early 20s. He was spending the summer in Rapallo, a small city on the Italian Riviera, where exactly one century earlier Friedrich Nietzsche conceived “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .”

Sommer was conducting research on hydrozoans, small invertebrates that, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral. Every morning, Sommer went snorkeling in the turquoise water off the cliffs of Portofino. He scanned the ocean floor for hydrozoans, gathering them with plankton nets. Among the hundreds of organisms he collected was a tiny, relatively obscure species known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. Today it is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.

Sommer kept his hydrozoans in petri dishes and observed their reproduction habits. After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.

Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species — at any stage of its development — could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die.

One of the paper’s authors, Ferdinando Boero, likened the Turritopsis to a butterfly that, instead of dying, turns back into a caterpillar. Another metaphor is a chicken that transforms into an egg, which gives birth to another chicken. The anthropomorphic analogy is that of an old man who grows younger and younger until he is again a fetus. For this reason Turritopsis dohrnii is often referred to as the Benjamin Button jellyfish.

Yet the publication of “Reversing the Life Cycle” barely registered outside the academic world. You might expect that, having learned of the existence of immortal life, man would dedicate colossal resources to learning how the immortal jellyfish performs its trick. You might expect that biotech multinationals would vie to copyright its genome; that a vast coalition of research scientists would seek to determine the mechanisms by which its cells aged in reverse; that pharmaceutical firms would try to appropriate its lessons for the purposes of human medicine; that governments would broker international accords to govern the future use of rejuvenating technology. But none of this happened.

Some progress has been made, however, in . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Science

Movies that change people’s lives: Chasing Ice

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From a report by Tara Lohan:

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Global warming, Video

GOPM: Explanation and template

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This post offers a description and template for “Glorious One-Pot Meals.” Elizabeth Yarnell originated the cooking technique in her book of the same name: Cooking 2-4 meals at once (2 meals for very active adults, 4 meals for sedentary adults) in a 2-qt cast-iron Dutch oven (enameled or not), the food layered in the pot, which then is covered and put into a 450ºF oven for 45 minutes. The food is thus cooked mainly by the steam within the pot, which means that the meat is not browned (though it is tender) and fatty meats don’t work so well as leaner cuts.

Generally, you can assemble the pot of food in about the time it takes the oven to get to 450ºF. Variations are easy and almost always successful. I have used the technique often — see these posts for ideas.

Very important: This is not a “slow-cooker” method. Some see “one-pot” and stop thinking: even though they read the description, “one-pot” overrides everything and they think these are slow-cooker recipes. They are not: they are “fast-cooker”: 450ºF for just 45 minutes. Some foods that work well in slow cookers—shanks, oxtails, short-ribs—would not work at all in GOPM meals because those foods require long cooking at low heat, and this method is the opposite: short cooking at high heat.

Layering and a warning

The layering is one reason it works, and the layers make it easy to assemble the meal in your mind (the first creation, as Stephen Covey calls it) before assembling it in the pot (the second creation): that is, the technique makes it easy to improvise with some assurance that you know what you’re doing. (The layering technique is what Yarnell patented.) While I’ve had a failure—at most, two—the meals virtually always turn out to be tasty, nourishing, and balanced.

Two caveats about the recipes in her book: 1) they tend toward blandness (a little sprinkling of crushed red pepper helps), and 2) for some reason she cooks 4 servings (not 2) of rice. A serving of rice, measured before cooking, is 1/4 c, so two servings is 1/2 c. I generally use 1/3 c for two servings because I limit my intake of starch, but Yarnell’s recipes call for 1 cup (4 servings).  After I switched to a low-carb diet, I used 1/4 c—just enough to absorb extra liquid—and began using barley (pearled or pot barley or hulled) rather than rice, since barley has a lower glycemic index than rice. I also get four meals from one pot rather than two.

When I think of a recipe, I first consider what I’ll use for the three main parts: the starch, the protein, and the vegetables. Then I may think about the pour-over: the 1/4-1/3 c of liquid poured over the assembled vegetables just before covering the pot.

Pot options

The pot itself can be any cast-iron dutch oven that holds about two quarts. These tend to come in two versions: tall and narrow, or short and squat. Both work. Here are some possibilities:

AIDEA 2-qt dutch oven with skillet lid (enameled)
Tramontina enameled 2.5-qt sauce pot
Enameled cast-iron 2-qt sauce pot
Martha Stewart 2-qt dutch oven (enameled)
Bayou Classic 2.5 qt bean pot
Amazon Basics 2-qt dutch oven (pre-seasoned)
Cajun Cookware 2-qt sauce pot (pre-seasoned)
Bayou Classic 2-qt dutch oven (handle can be removed)
Lodge 2-qt dutch oven (pre-seasoned)
Le Creuset 2-qt dutch oven (enameled — and very expensive)

Staub for a time made a 2.25-qt (2-L) round cocotte with enameled exterior, some type of tough non-stick interior that I like a lot. The Staub comes with a metal knob to begin with—and a knob with a long shank, easy to grip while wearing oven mitts. Staub now seems to have 2.75 qt as the smallest size, and that’s rather large. The Staub 2.25-qt pot is is what I use.

Contents and assembly

I first spray the interior of pot and lid with olive oil, and then use a dry paper towel to wipe off excess oil, leaving only a thin film of oil. Then I layer the food. Below, and when I write recipes, I list the layers in the order in which they go into the pot—i.e., bottom layer first, and ending with the top layer.

It’s good to have some sort of “theme” in the back of your mind: Greek, Mediterranean, German (e.g., egg noodles, pork, cabbage, apples, etc.), Caribbean, Oriental, whatever. A theme will suggest things to include that go well together.

a. Starch: This is usually the first layer, or you can put it atop the aromatics. Starches that work well: white rice (converted rice has a lower glycemic index and higher arsenic content than, say, Lundberg rice grown in California), pearled barley, pot barley, hulled barley, cut pasta, egg noodles, lentils, quinoa (rinse it well, otherwise bitter), diced yams or potatoes. I use 1/3-1/2 cup, or for noodles and pasta, 3-4 oz. Aim for 1.5-2 servings (even though now I get 4 meals from the pot, which makes  it more low carb). Yarnell in her book uses 1 cup of rice (four servings) and gets two (not four) meals from the 2-qt dish, but she and her husband are triathletes. For non-athletes, I suggest 1/2 cup rice and also making the completed dish 4 servings, not 2, so that each serving of the completed dish includes only 1/2 serving of rice.

b. 2 Tbsp vinegar of some kind—I often use sherry vinegar, but rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar are also options. Vinegar brightens the taste.

c. Aromatics – use some or all of the following, layer by layer
c1. Chopped allium (onion, shallots, leek, cippolinis, scallions, spring onions, whatever)
c2. Minced garlic (also an allium, but I always add some)
c3. Chopped celery (you can chop an entire bunch of celery, drying the stalks well before chopping, and it will keep in the fridge: the drying is important; if it’s wet, it rots)
c4. Diced carrot
c5. Diced green bell pepper
c6. Finely chopped mushrooms

d. Protein: 8 oz. cut into chunks for easy serving: boneless skinless chicken breast, thigh or leg; boneless skinless turkey; boneless pork chop; lamb; Dover sole (I just lay the fillets down without cutting into chunks) or salmon, cod, swordfish, halibut (any of which I do cut into chunks); tofu or tempeh (diced or cut into small slabs). It’s better to avoid very fatty things, like duck breast: the fat doesn’t cook off and will make a greasy meal. Still, I sometimes use linguiça or chorizo or lamb sausage, but generally a small amount (thin slices) as an accent with some other protein.

e. Seasonings: Crushed red pepper, thyme, Penzeys Mural of Flavor, Emeril’s Essence, whatever. Generally I cannot taste the seasoning, though I certainly can detect the presence of (say) crushed red pepper. You can also use condiments in this layer (or as another layer): chopped olives, capers, anchovies, sesame seeds, and so on: whatever might spark up the taste. Pickle slices? Why not? (I’ve not tried them, but now will.)

f. Veggies the rest of the way—choose what you like and give each vegetable its own layer. Frozen vegetables work fine without requiring thawing before putting in the pot. Again, to make serving easy, I chop or dice or slice the vegetables. Diced zucchini or summer squash or bitter melon; chopped or diced tomatoes; pitted olives, halved or chopped; eggplant, sliced (Japanese) or diced (Italian); chopped okra; sliced or diced mushrooms (if not used in the aromatics layer); chopped bell pepper of whatever color (ditto); corn kernels (fresh or frozen); dried cranberries; raisins or chopped prunes or dried currants; peanuts, walnuts, or pecans. As a top layer, green beans (fresh or frozen, cut into 1″ sections) or chopped greens (spinach or dandelion greens or cabbage or sliced Brussels sprouts) or chopped cauliflower. Experiment: look around the produce aisles and see what you like. Diced or thinly sliced whole organic lemons are good with fish or with greens. I’m eager to try halved kumquats.

Fill pot to the top. Greens will wilt as they cook, thus taking up less volume. The heavy lid of the Staub is an advantage.

The pour-over: Keep in mind the likely volume of liquid you’ll get from the vegetables and how much liquid the starch will absorb—yams and potatoes don’t absorb much, for example, while rice and noodles do; tomatoes, lemon, frozen vegetables may contribute a fair amount of liquid. Adjust the volume of the pour-over to complement the amount of liquid you expect. Experience will quickly teach you, and too much liquid is not really a problem since it tastes good.

I always use 2 Tbsp of vinaigrette and then add whatever strikes my fancy: soy sauce, mirin, ponzu sauce, sherry or red or white wine, Dijon mustard, gochujang sauce or other hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, whatever. You can also add seasonings here: ground black pepper, paprika, and the like, though they tend to remain on top, so it’s often better to put them atop the protein layer. I have a small bottle that once held some food; I use that to receive the pour-over mix, which I then shake vigorously before pouring over.

Experience will polish your routine

I recommend that you make a few GOPMs. Even a little experience provides knowleddge and confidence that makes the process enjoyable. I would say that by the time you’ve made three, you’ll get the idea and find it easy and interesting. Although it’s said to be two meals, many will get at least three from a pot, sometimes four.

If you have a family, you can simply use a larger pot. I have a 3-qt Staub round cocotte, and you can also get larger sizes: a 4-qt pot could doubtless serve 4 athletes easily, and probably 8 moderately active adults and children, or 2 teenagers. 🙂

For examples to stimulate your imagination, look through the GOPM posts in this blog, most containing recipes. Measurement of starch, vinegar, and protein is always exact—of course, if I buy (say) Dover fillets, I generally do not get 8.00 oz exactly, but I am going for 8 oz and I buy as close to that as reasonable. Same for chicken, pork, etc. For tofu, I will use a 10 oz cube and figure what the hell; tempeh conveniently comes in an 8 oz package. The vegetables I simply use enough to make a layer. The vinaigrette (containing the oil) I measure exactly: 2 Tbsp.

You can also look at Elizabeth Yarnell’s own website.

Leave some of your successful GOPMs in comments: just list the layers, starting with the bottom layer, ending with the top, and describe the pour-over.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 9:58 am

Better shave with RazoRock

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Last night I took a closer look a the RazoRock straight-bar three-piece head. It looks a lot like the Edwin Jagger head, which I like, but the blade angle/gap seems to be a tiny bit different: slightly straighter. I’m thinking that perhaps I was automatically using it as if it were an EJ head and that bad angle accounted for the harshness. A novice would not have the EJ pattern ingrained and probably would seek out the appropriate angle and grow used to it as the “natural” angle.

So today I decided to focus closely on keeping the angle shallow, shallower than I would with an EJ, and indeed the razor seemed not so harsh, though (for me) the head is not so comfortable, due, no doubt, to my own habits. Tomorrow I’ll use an EJ razor of similar weight and compare.

But first: Another totally wonderful lather from a soap with the Strop Shoppe original formula, worked up with my trusty Ecotools brush. I would love to have a really nice silvertip badger knot installed in this same handle: extremely comfortable handle. But the knot that’s in there now works a treat: very good lather and soft on the face. And I can switch to another brush if it’s resilience I want.

Once again I noticed the strong, non-slip quality of this razor’s handle. should consider also selling the handle separately. Some who have an EJ razor and like the head don’t like the handle because it’s smooth or because it’s short or both, and they could buy this handle to use with the EJ head for a good Frankenrazor. And again I note the very long threaded stud from the cap that secures the head quite well.

The razor held a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade, and the three passes went well. I do feel some aftereffects on the face—a trace of burn—but it’s better than the first shave.

Captain’s Choice Bay Rum for rainy day. A guy on Wicked Edge, who through the vagaries of YMMV, really hates the fragrance of bay rum and posted a question asking, more or less, “What do you guys who like bay rum like about it?” Well, obviously, the fragrance. I guess he just can’t believe that a fragrance that’s so off-putting to him could be the very thing that others find appealing. He did mention that he didn’t like cloves, so I suggested Captain’s Choice, which doesn’t use cloves.

Soon I’ll do the shopping for the braised turkey thighs.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 8:48 am

Posted in Shaving

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