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Archive for November 29th, 2012

GOPM, planned and actual

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I just finished a GOPM. The plan:

1/2 c pearled barley
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
chopped shallots
minced garlic
boneless skinless chicken thighs
linguiça slices
Kalamata olives
Brussels spourts
thin slices Meyer lemon

I generally make a list of layers to guide my shopping. But when I got to market, I found that they had no boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), not even for ready money, but they did have turkey breast slices. I got two of those: 0.45 lb, or 7.2 oz—close enough, since I was going to use linguiça slices as well. (That had proved to be quite a hit.) But then I found that I had 3 domestic white mushrooms left over from something, so I chopped those for the aromatic layer and skipped (okay, forgot) the carrot. And when I came to it, there was simply no room for Brussels sprouts. So the actual recipe:

1/2 c pearled barley
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
4 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 domestic mushrooms, chopped
7 oz turkey breast slices, cut into chunks
dried thyme sprinkled over turkey
layer of linguiça slices
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 small bunch parsley, chopped fine
the other half of the Japanese eggplant, sliced
good grinding of black pepper
3 large Roma tomatoes, diced (probably could have gone with 2)
1/2 c Kalamata olives, maybe more, halved
1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced


2 Tbsp Penzeys French Vinaigrette
2 tsp (approx) Ponzu sauce
2 tsp (approx) Gochujang sauce
1 Tbsp (approx) Amontillado sherry
1 Tbsp (approx) horseradish
1 Tbsp (approx) Worcestershire sauce

I shook that furiously, then poured it over. The only thing I measured was the vinaigrette. Horseradish is a good ingredient: it often contributes an interesting but elusive flavor—the kind of thing that makes people say, “What is that?”

I tried for a small volume of pour-over because I thought the tomatoes would contribute a lot of liquid, as well as liquid from the lemon.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 5:21 pm

Sometimes the American public and its elected representatives seem breathtakingly stupid

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It’s almost as if elementary arithmetic were far, far beyond their ability to comprehend, and logical thought an impossibility. James Surowiecki writes in the New Yorker:

On February 1, 1953, a fierce, sustained storm created a huge surge in the North Sea off the coast of Holland. Floodwaters overtopped the dikes, swallowing half a million acres of land and killing nearly two thousand people. Within weeks of the storm, a government commission issued what came to be known as the Delta Plan, a set of recommendations for flood-control measures. Over the next four decades, the Dutch invested billions of guilders in a vast set of dams and barriers, culminating in the construction of the Maeslant Barrier, an enormous movable seawall to protect the port of Rotterdam. Since the Delta Plan went into effect, the Netherlands has not been flooded by the sea again.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which brought havoc to the Northeast and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in damage, it’s overwhelmingly clear that parts of the U.S. need a Delta Plan of their own. Sandy was not an isolated incident: only last year, Hurricane Irene caused nearly sixteen billion dollars in damage, and there is a growing consensus that extreme weather events are becoming more common and more damaging. The annual cost of natural disasters in the U.S. has doubled over the past two decades. Instead of just cleaning up after disasters hit, we would be wise to follow the Dutch, and take steps to make them less destructive in the first place.

There is no dearth of promising ideas out there, such as building a seawall beyond the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis has proposed a movable barrier, like the Rotterdam one), burying power lines in vulnerable areas, and elevating buildings and subway entrances. The question is whether we can find the political will to invest in such ideas. Although New York politicians like the City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have called for major new investment in disaster prevention, reports from Washington suggest that Congress will be more willing to spend money on relief than on preparedness. That’s what history would lead you to expect: for the most part, the U.S. has shown a marked bias toward relieving victims of disaster, while underinvesting in prevention. A study by the economist Andrew Healy and the political scientist Neil Malhotra showed that, between 1985 and 2004, the government spent annually, on average, fifteen times as much on disaster relief as on preparedness.

Politically speaking, it’s always easier to shell out money for a disaster that has already happened, with clearly identifiable victims, than to invest money in protecting against something that may or may not happen in the future. Healy and Malhotra found that voters reward politicians for spending money on post-disaster cleanup, but not for investing in disaster prevention, and it’s only natural that politicians respond to this incentive. The federal system complicates matters, too: local governments want decision-making authority, but major disaster-prevention projects are bound to require federal money. And much crucial infrastructure in the U.S. is owned by the private sector, not the government, which makes it harder to do something like bury power lines.

Continue reading to feel even deeper despair: for example, he points out that working on our infrastructure would be extremely beneficial to the economy.

But we won’t do it, will we? Just as we will not take steps to fight global warming.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 3:19 pm

Our dysfunctional justice system: 80 years in prison for obeying the law

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This story by Phillip Smith in Drug War Chronicle is truly an outrage:

Chris Williams is sitting in a private federal prison on the Montana prairie these days awaiting sentencing. If the federal government has its way, he won’t be a free man again for three-quarters of a century, an effective life sentence for a middle-aged man like Williams.

So, what did he do that merits such a harsh sentence? Did he murder someone? Did he rape, pillage, and plunder? No. He grew medical marijuana. And, as is not uncommon in Montana, he had guns around as he did so. Standing on firm conviction, he steadfastly refused repeated plea bargain offers from federal prosecutors, which could have seen him serving “only” 10 years or so.

Williams is one of the more than two dozen Montana medical marijuana providers caught up in the federal dragnet after mass raids in March 2011 savaged the state’s medical marijuana community, including Montana Cannabis, one of the state’s largest providers, where he was a partner. A true believer in the cause, Williams is the only one of those indicted after the federal raids to not cop a plea, and he was convicted on eight federal marijuana and weapons charges in September after being blocked from mentioning the state’s medical marijuana laws during his trial. [Emphasis added. Whatever happened to “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing bu the truth”?- LG]

It is the gun charges that are adding decades to his sentences. As is the case in drug raids where police come up against armed homeowners, or as was the case of Salt Lake City rap record label owner and pot dealer Weldon Angelos ended up with a 55-year sentence because he sometimes packed a pistol, the Williams case is one where the rights granted under the 2nd Amendment clash with the imperatives of the drug war.

Williams was not convicted of using his firearms or even of brandishing them, but merely of having legal shotguns present at the medical marijuana grow, which was legal under Montana law. Still, that’s enough for the gun sentencing enhancements to kick in, and that’s enough to cause a rising clamor of support for Williams as he faces a January sentencing date.

“The sentence shocks the conscience,” said Chris Lindsey, a former business partner of Williams who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a federal marijuana conspiracy charge. “Look at (former Penn State assistant football coach) Jerry Sandusky. For 45 counts of child sexual abuse, he gets 30 years. Chris Williams is going to get three times that for being a medical marijuana provider. It doesn’t make any logical sense,” he told theMissoulian.

Williams supporters have created a Free Chris Williams Facebook page and are petitioning the White House through its We the People online petition program for a full pardon for him. The White House responds to petitions that achieve over 25,000 signatures; the Williams petition has managed to generate slightly more than 20,000 signatures in less than two weeks. Other petitions seeking clemency for Williams are at and

Williams and his supporters are not just relying on the kindness of the White House. He is appealing his criminal conviction to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and he is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that claims he and other medical marijuana providers were in compliance with Montana state law and the federal raid and subsequent prosecutions were an unconstitutional usurpation of state and local powers under the 10th Amendment. That amendment says powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution and not prohibited by the states are reserved to the states or the people.

But legal experts said his chances for victory in the civil lawsuit were small, and he would still be saddled with the federal criminal conviction.

“The war on drugs is too sacrosanct a sacred cow for the courts to weigh in favor,” said California marijuana attorney Robert Raich, who has argued and lost two marijuana cases at the Supreme Court. “I think we can make better progress by doing something other than filing lawsuits,” he said in an interview with the Helena Independent Record.

Still, Raich said he sympathized with Williams’ plight and added that the federal attack on Montana providers was among its harshest. . .

Continue reading.

A presidential pardon is in order here—“Scooter” Libby walked, and he actually broke laws—but Obama doesn’t tend to pardon prisoners: extremely low rate of pardons, perhaps reflecting his attitude toward human and civil rights.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 12:52 pm

Bad choice for the SEC

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Pam Martens hits the nail on the head:

It took the New York Times 12 years to admit it was dead wrong to run editorials urging the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the depression-era investor protection legislation that prevented Wall Street from collapsing the financial system for 75 years. (It took just 9 years from the date of repeal in 1999 for Wall Street to thoroughly corrupt the system, wreck the economy and collapse century old Wall Street firms.)

One would have expected the New York Times to have acquired a little humility from its prior ill-informed meddling with Wall Street regulation. Nothing doing. The Times, together with Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal have all magically decided to push Sallie Krawcheck out in front as the leading contender to become the permanent new Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, despite Krawcheck’s lack of a securities law degree (or any other kind of law degree), zero experience as a prosecutor, and the stench of Citigroup indelibly attached to her otherwise well-coiffed persona.

Yesterday, The Times ran a 990 word article on who it says are three leading contenders for the permanent chair of the SEC, now that Mary Schapiro has announced she will step down on December 14.  (SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter will serve as interim Chair until President Obama selects a permanent replacement.)  Out of the 990 word article, 33 words were devoted to two of the contenders: Robert Khuzami, the S.E.C.’s enforcement director, and Richard Ketchum, the head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  The Times devoted 11 paragraphs to Krawcheck.

Two days prior, on November 26, Bloomberg News ran the headline, “SEC Needs Krawcheck, Not a Caretaker.” The Wall Street Journal, ostensibly a competitor to Bloomberg News, liked the idea so much that they amplified the idea by repeating iton their own pages, linked to the Bloomberg story, and ran with the headline: “SEC Needs Someone Like Krawcheck.”

On April 8, 1998, The Times urged the removal of the “unnecessary walls” imposed by the  Glass-Steagall Act:

“Congress dithers, so John Reed of Citicorp and Sanford Weill of Travelers Group grandly propose to modernize financial markets on their own. They have announced a $70 billion merger — the biggest in history — that would create the largest financial services company in the world, worth more than $140 billion… In one stroke, Mr. Reed and Mr. Weill will have temporarily demolished the increasingly unnecessary walls built during the Depression to separate commercial banks from investment banks and insurance companies.”

On July 27 of this year, The Times fessed up:

“Having seen the results of this sweeping deregulation, we now think we were wrong to have supported it.”

Now, just four months after its long overdue epiphany, The Times dares to hype for SEC chief a former executive from the behemoth Citigroup that did more than any other firm to wreck the structure of Wall Street, usher in the most corrupt financial era since the 20s, implode the housing market and the economy of the United States.  If there was any doubt as to the role of Citigroup in the collapse, the ultimate insider, Sheila Bair, who headed the FDIC, has solidified the facts in her recent book, Bull by the Horns. . .

Continue reading.

I don’t know which is worse: that Obama is enamored of Big Finance, or that he’s paying off campaign contributions with his appointments. In either case, this one is a Bad Idea.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 12:38 pm

An American Fukushima

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A sobering article by William Boardman in Alternet:

The likelihood was very low that an earthquake followed by a tsunami would destroy all four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, but in March 2011, that’s what happened, and the accident has yet to be contained [4].

Similarly, the likelihood may be low that an upstream dam will fail, unleashing a flood that will turn any of 34 vulnerable nuclear plants into an American Fukushima [5].  But knowing that unlikely events sometimes happen nevertheless, the nuclear industry continues to answer the question of how much safety is enough by seeking to suppress [6] or minimize what the public knows about the danger.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has known at least since 1996 that flooding danger from upstream dam failure was a more serious threat than the agency would publicly admit. The NRC failed from 1996 until 2011 to assess the threat even internally.  In July 2011, the NRC staff [7] completed a report finding [8] “that external flooding due to upstream dam failure poses a larger than expected risk to plants and public safety” [emphasis added] but the NRC did not make the 41-page report [7] public.

Instead, the agency made much of another report [9], issued July 12, 2011 – “Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century,” sub-titled “The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Accident.”  Hardly four months since the continuing accident began in Japan, the premature report had little to say about reactor flooding as a result of upstream dam failure, although an NRC news release [8] in March 2012 would try to suggest otherwise.

Censored Report May Be Crime by NRC 

That 2012 news release accompanied a highly redacted version of the July 2011 report that had recommended a more formal investigation of the unexpectedly higher risks of upstream dam failure to nuclear plants and the public.  In its release, the NRC said it had “started a formal evaluation of potential generic safety implications for dam failures upstream” including “the effects of upstream dam failure on independent spent fuel storage installations.”

Six months later, in September 2012, The NRC’s effort at bland public relations went controversial, when the report’s lead author made a criminal complaint to the NRC’s [10] Inspector General, alleging “Concealment of Significant Nuclear Safety Information by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”  In a letter [11] dated September 14 and made public the same day, Richard Perkins, an engineer in the NRC’s Division of Risk Analysis, wrote Inspector [12]General Hubert Bell, describing it as “a violation of law” that the Commission:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 10:43 am

Great book on negotiating

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The book is one I’ve long recommended (see the Leisureguy Recommends page), and now it’s a Cool Tool.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 10:32 am

The importance of the mustache is some cultures

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I am continually amazed at the intricacies of culture and how the memes evolve. The other night I happened to be watching a movie that included a formal traditional Thai wedding: the intricate skin decorations: an amazing display of culture-specific evolved memes, as unusual and notable as, say, the bird of paradise flower or the male peacock’s tail feathers. Culture develops in strange ways, but has such a grasp on its carriers (humans). Check on out this article on mustache transplants.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 9:55 am

Posted in Daily life

Pleasant BBS shave

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Today I got a BBS shave the way it usually seems to happen: as a happy by-product of simply enjoying the shave, rather than as a goal achieved.

The lather from Truefitt & Hill’s shaving soap was fragrant and rich and the Rooney Victorian created it easily.

I used my Edwin Jagger DE8x (never can remember the numbers) razor to compare it to yesterday’s RazoRock with a similar head. The blade is a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge, as was yesterday’s.

I found that with the EJ I did not have to pay conscious attention to angle, and simply shaving was enough: a comfortable shave with so sign of harshness or burn. Despite the similar appearance of the two heads, it seems to me that small differences in angle, gap, and presentation of the edge result in one razor’s being quite comfortable for me (the EJ) and the other a challenge. I’ve heard that some shavers find the same difference in the opposite direction, but my own experience favors the EJ as the more comfortable, better shaving razor.

A good splash of Lavanda, and I’m on to the day. A new GOPM tonight…

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2012 at 9:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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