Later On

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

Archive for November 2012

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

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. . .

Continue reading.

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 . . .

Continue reading.

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.
PHYS ED
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 . . .

Continue reading.

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. . .

Continue reading.

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 . . .

Continue reading.

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. ItalianBarber.com 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

Braised turkey thigh

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For some reason, cooking a turkey thigh very slowly until it falls off the bone has been on my mind, and this is a good week to buy a turkey thigh. I did, and I’m going to try this recipe by Mark Bitmann.

UPDATE: After making this recipe several times, I have gradually adapted it to this version.

UPDATE to earlier recipe: The turkey thigh was delicious. We each put half a thigh (plenty) on spelt with the veg, linguiça, and juice. Also had the red dandelion greens: steamed, then sautéed in olive oil with a chopped cippolini onion and garlic, with lemon juice on top once it finished; and green beans, steamed 12 minutes and buttered with salt. Altogether a satisfactory dinner, and I’ll make the turkey thighs again sometime. After the browning, I added the veg and sweet vermouth and put, covered, in 200ºF oven for 7 hours. Very tender.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2012 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tonight’s GOPM

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Here is the first cut of what I’m thinking. Since in the making things can change, you might want to look again later: I’ll update if changes occur. Now UPDATED.

In 2.25-qt Staub round cocotte, sprayed with olive oil and then wiped with dry paper towel to remove excess, put in layers, from bottom:

1/2 c converted rice
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
4 chopped cippolini onions
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c chopped celery
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
thin slices linguiça sausage
1 yellow crookneck squash, diced
1/2 Japanese eggplant, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives, halved – forgot
chopped red dandelion greens (about 1/4 bunch)
very thin slices organic lemon (No room for green beans)

Pour-over:

2 Tbsp Penzeys Country French Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp Ponzu sauce
1 Tbsp Gochujang sauce
2 Tbsp Amontillado sherry

Shake well. Then shake even better: the Gochujang doesn’t want to mix. Go at it.

The squash, eggplant, tomato layers is thinking of ratatouille. The chopped Kalamata olives would have been good….

Something I didn’t know: Cippolinis are small bittersweet bulbs that come from the grape hyacinth that look and taste like small, white onions.

UPDATE 2: I’ve had some: the very thinly slice organic lemons worked very well indeed. Dandelion greens were good. As The Wife says, dicing the tomatoes worked much better than just slicing them. (Dicing them was her idea, and a good one: they release their juice more readily.) The slice eggplant was very tasty. Linguiça was a good idea. (I just happened to see it in the store.) Given the tomatoes, could have gone with just 1 Tbsp of sherry, but the end result was fine. Want to try it now with pearled barley.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2012 at 3:09 pm

RazoRock Classic razor

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The RazoRock Classic is a TTO razor, with the entire handle turned instead of a knob at the bottom. Today I was much more careful about blade angle—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I used the Wet Shaving Product’s 3-band Prince shaving brush with Mystic Waters Sensitive Skin soap. The lather did not hold up well, possibly because it was the first use of the brush. I’ve certainly had no problems with lather sustainability with this soap when using other brushes. It may be that the knot has some treatment in manufacturing that requires a few uses to remove. It’s a fine-feeling brush, any event.

I loaded the RazoRock Classic with a Swedish Gillette blade and shaved, paying (as I said) very close attention to keeping the angle shallow, suspecting that the razor harshness I commented on before was because I was using too steep an angle. And indeed this shave went much better. Perhaps the “natural” angle I’ve developed in using the Edwin Jagger, Weber, and others is simply not right for this razor.

At any rate, a good shave without the previously noted harshness, and a good splash of Savory Rose finished the shave in fine style.

Off for some grocery shopping and other errands.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2012 at 9:49 am

Posted in Shaving

Using a bean pot in a bean-hole

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Using Gochujang

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I’ve become quite fond of Gochujang, the Korean hot sauce. This page discusses it briefly and then there’s this terrific-sounding recipe on the following page.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Cute maze

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Techie toys

Bicyclists and others: Superior (chain) lubricant

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

5 burning questions about legalizing marijuana

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From a PBS program, this transcript via Alternet:

PBS recently ran a Need to Know [5] segment on marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. The episode featured interviews with three prominent marijuana policy reform activists: Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML; Major Stanford “Neill” Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department and the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP [6]); and Mason Tvert, co-founder of SAFER [7] in 2005 and the SAFER Voter Education Fund [8] in 2006. See transcript below:

How does legalization in the U.S. or parts of the U.S. affect our security and law enforcement relationship with Mexico, a country with a history of opposition to such legislation?

Paul Armentano: U.S. drug policy drives international drug policy and not vice-versa. In fact, Mexican lawmakers are ready to pursue alternative approaches to drug prohibition. Former Mexican President Vincente Fox has publicly called the global drug war an ‘absolute failure’ and has called for replacing criminal prohibition with regulatory alternatives — both in Mexico and in the United States. In 2009, Mexico’s Congress approved legislation decriminalizing the possession of personal use of illicit substances, including cannabis. Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, has said that legalizing the marijuana trade is a legitimate option for both the Mexican and U.S. governments. President Felipe Calderon has publically called for ‘market alternatives’ to address the growing level drug prohibition-inspired violence in Mexico and along the U.S. southern border. Just this week, a Mexican lawmaker announced intentions to introduce legislation [9]to legalize the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Mexican officials understand that the U.S. demand for cannabis, combined with its illegality, is fueling violence and empowering criminal traffickers. Mexico today has a growing body count ( anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 dead citizens) to attest to this. Yet our own DEA administrator, Michelle Leonhart, has publicly described this bloodshed as “a signpost of success.” Hardly. It is a tragic yet predictable failure of U.S. drug policy. When the U.S. finally begins to address the failure of this policy and embrace alternatives, much of the world, particularly Mexico, will no doubt follow suit.

Neill Franklin: Bringing marijuana aboveground and out of the illegal market can only improve security in our communities both here in the U.S. and in Mexico. As long as marijuana is prohibited, 100% of its profits (and all the decisions about where, how and to whom it is sold) are controlled by gangs and drug cartels. It is clear that Mexican leaders have been waiting for the U.S. to move away from prohibition for some time now. More than 60,000 people have died there over the past six years because drugs are sold only in the illegal, unregulated market.

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon has talked about the need for “market alternatives” if a prohibition approach continues to be unsuccessful in reducing demand for drugs. Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan has said that those who are pushing for legalization “understand the dynamics of the drug trade.” Former President Vicente Fox has repeatedly said it is time for legalization, and incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto has said he’s open to considering legalization as a way forward. Now that two U.S. states have voted to legalize marijuana, expect to see more sitting officials talking about the need for policy change even more clearly and frequently. The U.S. can’t credibly bully other countries into maintaining a prohibitionist approach while states within its own borders are recognizing the senselessness of this approach and embracing legalization.

Mason Tvert: Marijuana prohibition in the U.S. is steering profits from marijuana sales toward cartels and gangs instead of legitimate, tax-paying businesses. In doing so, it is propping up these criminal enterprises and subsidizing their other illegal activities, including human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, and the sale of other drugs. Much of the violence escalating on the Mexican border revolves around the actions of Mexican drug cartels who fight over profits from marijuana sales. Whether they are large-scale drug cartels or small-town street gangs, the vast supply and demand surrounding marijuana will ensure they have a constant stream of profits to subsidize other illegal activities. Regulating marijuana like alcohol would eliminate this income source and, in turn, eliminate the violence and turf battles associated with the illegal marijuana market.

Millions of Americans use marijuana. They should be able to do so without being made criminals and without supporting violent criminals.

Why is legalization a more effective step in curbing drug related violence or dependence than simply decriminalizing? . . . 

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Drug laws

God’s imperfections

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The notion of a perfect God fails to make sense—indeed, that’s one of the points made in Charles Hartshorne’s wonderful book Omnipotence and Other Theological MistakesOmnipotence is a theological mistake because it’s a logical fallacy: like the set of all sets—sounds good, doesn’t—can’t—exist. Inexpensive copies at the link, and well worth reading. Hartshorne is a major figure in process theology, which so far as I can tell is the only theology that makes any sense at all—and the only one that connects with our experience. (I have some previous posts on process theology—see at right the “Useful Posts” link.)

Yoram Hazony has an interesting Op-Ed today in the NY Times on the subject:

Is God perfect? You often hear philosophers describe “theism” as the belief in a perfect being — a being whose attributes are said to include being all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent (among others). And today, something like this view is common among lay people as well.

There are two famous problems with this view of God. The first is that it appears to be impossible to make it coherent. For example, it seems unlikely that God can be both perfectly powerful and perfectly good if the world is filled (as it obviously is) with instances of terrible injustice. Similarly, it’s hard to see how God can wield his infinite power to instigate alteration and change in all things if he is flat-out immutable. And there are more such contradictions where these came from.

The second problem is that while this “theist” view of God is supposed to be a description of the God of the Bible, it’s hard to find any evidence that the prophets and scholars who wrote the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) thought of God in this way at all. The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on.

Philosophers have spent many centuries trying to get God’s supposed perfections to fit together in a coherent conception, and then trying to get that to fit with the Bible. By now it’s reasonably clear that this can’t be done. In fact, part of the reason God-bashers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so influential (apart from the fact they write so well) is their insistence that the doctrine of God’s perfections makes no sense, and that the idealized “being” it tells us about doesn’t resemble the biblical God at all.

So is that it, then? Have the atheists won? I don’t think so. But it does look like the time has come for some rethinking in the theist camp.

I’d start with this: Is it really necessary to say that God is a “perfect being,” or perfect at all, for that matter? As far as I can tell, the biblical authors avoid asserting any such thing. And with good reason. Normally, when we say that something is “perfect,” we mean it has attained the best possible balance among the principles involved in making it the kind of thing it is. For example, if we say that a bottle is perfect, we mean it can contain a significant quantity of liquid in its body; that its neck is long enough to be grasped comfortably and firmly; that the bore is wide enough to permit a rapid flow of liquid; and so on. Of course, you can always manufacture a bottle that will hold more liquid, but only by making the body too broad (so the bottle doesn’t handle well) or the neck too short (so it’s hard to hold). There’s an inevitable trade-off among the principles, and perfection lies in the balance among them. And this is so whether what’s being judged is a bottle or a horse, a wine or a gymnastics routine or natural human beauty.

What would we say if some philosopher told us that a perfect bottle would be one that can contain a perfectly great amount of liquid, while being perfectly easy to pour from at the same time? Or that a perfect horse would bear an infinitely heavy rider, while at the same time being able to run with perfectly great speed? I should think we’d say he’s made a fundamental mistake here: You can’t perfect something by maximizing all its constituent principles simultaneously. All this will get you is contradictions and absurdities. This is not less true of God than it is of anything else.

The attempt to think of God as a perfect being is misguided for another reason as well. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Religion

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When Right-wing blather killed millions

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The Great Famine in China (also, this post) was nothing compared to the Great Famine in Ireland, which killed over 30% of the population. Joan Walsh points out certain similar political positions at that time which still find voice today:

Taking a break from 24/7 politics after the election, I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

I don’t believe in appropriating epochal tragedies and singular cruelties for modern political use. Genocide, slavery, famine, the Holocaust; rape, incest, lynching – those terms mean something specific.  A recession, or even a depression, can’t be equated with famine, let alone genocide. Nor can rampant child poverty: we fend off starvation pretty successfully with food stamps, government help and charity today. We still have poverty programs, even though we slashed them in an anti-dependency backlash Trevelyan might have approved. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, acting at least partly on Ronald Reagan’s insight that “we fought a war on poverty, and poverty won,” eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children in 1996 and replaced it with a time-limited, work-incentive program that cut its rolls by 58 percent in the last 15 years. One in five children was poor in 1996; the exact same percent are poor today. (Among black children, the rate is almost 2 in 5.) Whether we’re fighting a war on poverty or a war on the poor, what we are doing isn’t working.

But instead of digging in to find solutions to growing poverty in the midst of plenty, and increased suffering even among people who aren’t technically poor, Republicans spent the last year recycling theories from the Irish famine era. They’re best expressed in . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 9:54 am

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