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

Archive for December 10th, 2012

Plan for tomorrow’s pork GOPM

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Tune in late tomorrow to find out what actually happened. UPDATE: Recipe now updated to actual.

2.25-qt Staub round cocotte, sprayed with olive oil, then wiped out with paper towel. Add the following in layers, listed from bottom to top.

1/2 cup rice pearled barley (just thought it would go better)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
chopped onion or shallots or sliced leek
4 cloves garlic, minced (added)
boneless pork chop cut into chunks
freshly ground pepper
dried cranberries
sliced spicy linguiça (and sliced chorizo: had some left)
1/2 head green cabbage, finely chopped
1 Pink Lady apple, diced (including core and seeds)


1.5 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp gochujang sauce
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp Amontillado sherry

I used a tiny whisk to break up the gochujang sauce so it would mix in better.

Cover, put in 450ºF oven for 45 minutes, remove, and let sit 10 minutes, then serve.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Food, GOPM, Recipes

Interesting: Wallet contents migrating to smartphone

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Nick Bilton in the NY Times:

Growing up, I noticed that something happened to my father as he aged: his wallet expanded with each passing year.

There were new credit cards, membership cards, coffee cards, business cards, pictures of his family, stamps and other plastic and paper things, added almost weekly. Eventually, his wallet grew so largethat he would pull it out of his back pocket when he sat down, dropping it on the table like a brick.

As I’ve grown older, something entirely different has happened to my wallet: each year, it has become slimmer. Things that once belonged there have gradually been siphoned out by my smartphone. Last week, I realized I didn’t need to carry a wallet anymore. My smartphone had replaced almost everything in it.

So, it’s gone. Add that to the pile of things — my address books, Filofax, portable music player, point-and-shoot camera, printouts of maps — that have melded into the smartphone.

So where did the things that used to live in my wallet go? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Another government failure: NYC Public Housing Authority

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So much for Mayor Bloomberg’s vaunted ability to get NYC agencies to work (if the out-of-control NYPD were not enough). Erice Lipton and Michael Moss report in the NY Times:

Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, fresh teams of federal disaster recovery workers rushed to Coney Island to solve a troubling mystery: few people were signing up for federal financial aid. The workers trooped into the city’s public housing towers, climbing up darkened stairwells, shouting “FEMA,” knocking on doors.

What they found surprised even these veteran crews.

Dozens of frail, elderly residents and others with special needs were still stranded in their high-rise apartments — even though life in much of New York City had returned to near normal. In apartment 8F of one tower, Daniel O’Neill, a 75-year-old retired teacher who uses a wheelchair and who still lacked reliable electricity, cut in half the dosage of his $132-a-month medicine, which he needed to stabilize his swollen limbs.

“That leg looks like it could turn into gangrene,” said Eric Phillipson, a United States Army Ranger turned planner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, promising to alert the Red Cross as he handed Mr. O’Neill a FEMA aid flier and hurried to the next apartment.

Hurricane Sandy put few agencies in the region to a more daunting test than it did the New York City Housing Authority — the nation’s biggest public landlord — as 402 of its buildings housing 77,000 residents lost electricity and elevators, with most of them also losing heat and hot water. These lifelines were cut in some of the city’s most isolated spots, like Coney Island, Red Hook and the Rockaways.

An examination by The New York Times has found that while the agency moved aggressively before the storm to encourage residents to leave, particularly those who were disabled and the needy, both it and the city government at large were woefully unprepared to help its residents deal with Hurricane Sandy’s lingering aftermath.

The city, which did not enforce its mandatory evacuation order, could not assess the medical needs of residents stuck atop darkened, freezing towers until nearly two weeks after the storm. It relied on ragtag bands of volunteers who quickly found themselves overwhelmed by the task of reaching, comforting and caring for trapped residents. And the seemingly simplest things, like towing portable lighting towers into the Red Hook public housing complex, took 11 days, all because the housing authority had not properly prepared for a major disaster.

Again and again, city officials publicly predicted that the crisis in public housing was on the verge of being resolved, contributing to a perception at City Hall that there was no need to mobilize an extensive effort to provide medical care.

“By tonight or tomorrow, every one of their buildings will have electricity and by early next week they will all have heat,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on Nov. 9 — a promise that was off by more than a week. “So that’s a group that we did have to worry about but now do not have to worry about.”

For many, the situation was becoming increasingly dire as residents fell ill from carbon-monoxide-spewing stoves, waited for a knock on the door from a volunteer bearing rations of food and water, or groped down darkened stairs.

“We only had one flashlight,” said Rachel Gonzalez, 57, who fell while going down the pitch-black stairs of her Coney Island building with her husband a week after the storm on a fruitless expedition to Pathmark: it had run out of bottled water and batteries. It was only after volunteers raised alarms that the city began a military-scale response to address the increasingly apparent needs, and while just one death was reported in those buildings in the weeks after the storm — a man who fell down a wet stairwell — city officials said they expected the health effects from the prolonged recovery to linger for several months.

The Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, echoing comments by many other officials, said that city workers, emergency personnel and contractors deserved praise for their tireless efforts to help those in need. But it is also clear to him that the housing authority could have, and should have, done better.

“Nycha was underprepared,” Mr. Markowitz said. “Senior citizens and the disabled were especially impacted by the lack of essential services available in Sandy’s aftermath, as they were effectively held hostage on the upper floors of their apartment buildings.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

The war on drugs is a war on human nature

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Very interesting post by Lewis Lapham at

It started out as a metaphor: “the war on drugs.” But it became ever more dismayingly real as time passed, initially as a fierce assault on young black men who ended up in jail in outrageous numbers.  More recently, it’s coming to seem ever more like a grim description of onrushing reality, an actual war, which shouldn’t surprise anyone living in a country that now has the habit of militarizing just about everything from hurricane relief to foreign aid.

These days, south of the border, U.S. drones are flying intelligence missions; the CIA is getting shot at by the Mexican police; Pentagon civilian employees and private contractors have settled into a Mexican military base; the U.S. ambassador to that country arrived directly from his previous assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan; and rumors about the possibility of sending in U.S. special operations forces to take out Mexican drug kingpins (à la Osama bin Laden) are now circulating.  And don’t forget the way the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives armed Mexican drug gangs thanks to “Operation Fast and Furious,” its movie-title-inspired disaster of a “gunwalking” set of sting operations.

Meanwhile, in Central America, there’s been a flurry of war-on-drugs military construction work from the Pentagon. In addition, a Drug Enforcement Agency team, “originally created to disrupt the poppy trade in Afghanistan,” has been at work in Honduras, guns drawn, killing locals (including pregnant women). The Pentagon has also been ramping up its anti-drug operations in Honduras, and Green Berets have been assisting their Honduran counterparts in the field.  In fact, the Pentagon has been building new bases there specifically “patterned on the forward bases in Iraq and Afghanistan that gave troops a small, secure home on insurgent turf” to fight a drug war based, reports the New York Times, on the “lessons of Iraq.”

Of course, my limited understanding of the “lessons” of Iraq and Afghanistan is: don’t do it!  But what do I know when so many knowledgeable military-minded types are already promoting a war in the neighborhood?  And what could the famed former editor of Harper’s Magazine Lewis Lapham know when he points out that our drug “wars” are dulling our good sense, while encouraging our country to become ever more security mad and locked down?  All he does, after all, is edit Lapham’s Quarterly, which, four times a year, brilliantly unites some of the most provocative and original voices in history around a single topic. (You can subscribe to it by clicking here.) TomDispatch thanks the editors of that journal for allowing us to offer an exclusive look at his take on our endlessly failed drug wars in a slightly adapted version of the introduction to that magazine’s winter issue, “Intoxication.” Tom

Raiding Consciousness 
Why the War on Drugs Is a War on Human Nature 
By Lewis Lapham

[This essay will appear in “Intoxication,” the Winter 2012 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. This slightly adapted version is posted at with the kind permission of that magazine.]

The question that tempts mankind to the use of substances controlled and uncontrolled is next of kin to Hamlet’s: to be, or not to be, someone or somewhere else. Escape from a grievous circumstance or the shambles of an unwanted self, the hope of finding at a higher altitude a new beginning or a better deal. Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars; give me leave to drown my sorrow in a quart of gin; wine, dear boy, and truth.

That the consummations of the wish to shuffle off the mortal coil are as old as the world itself was the message brought by Abraham Lincoln to an Illinois temperance society in 1842. “I have not inquired at what period of time the use of intoxicating liquors commenced,” he said, “nor is it important to know.” It is sufficient to know that on first opening our eyes “upon the stage of existence,” we found “intoxicating liquor recognized by everybody, used by everybody, repudiated by nobody.”

The state of intoxication is a house with many mansions. Fourteen centuries before the birth of Christ, the Rigveda finds Hindu priests chanting hymns to a “drop of soma,” the wise and wisdom-loving plant from which was drawn juices distilled in sheep’s wool that “make us see far; make us richer, better.” Philosophers in ancient Greece rejoiced in the literal meaning of the word symposium, a “drinking together.” The Roman Stoic Seneca recommends the judicious embrace of Bacchus as a liberation of the mind “from its slavery to cares, emancipates it, invigorates it, and emboldens it for all its undertakings.”

Omar Khayyam, twelfth-century Persian mathematician and astronomer, drinks wine “because it is my solace,” allowing him to “divorce absolutely reason and religion.” Martin Luther, early father of the Protestant Reformation, in 1530 exhorts the faithful to “drink, and right freely,” because it is the devil who tells them not to. “One must always do what Satan forbids. What other cause do you think that I have for drinking so much strong drink, talking so freely, and making merry so often, except that I wish to mock and harass the devil who is wont to mock and harass me.”

Dr. Samuel Johnson, child of the Enlightenment, requires wine only when alone, “to get rid of myself — to send myself away.” The French poet Charles Baudelaire, prodigal son of the Industrial Revolution, is less careful with his time. “One should always be drunk. That’s the great thing, the only question. Drunk with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you please.”

My grandfather, Roger Lapham (1883–1966), was similarly disposed, his house in San Francisco the stage of existence upon which, at the age of seven in 1942, I first opened my eyes to the practice as old as the world itself. At the Christmas family gathering that year, Grandfather deemed any and all children present who were old enough to walk instead of toddle therefore old enough to sing a carol, recite a poem, and drink a cup of kindness made with brandy, cinnamon, and apples. To raise the spirit, welcome the arrival of our newborn Lord and Savior. Joy to the world, peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

“If You Meet, You Drink…”

Thus introduced to intoxicating liquors under auspices both secular and sacred, the offering of alms for oblivion I took to be the custom of the country in which I had been born. In the 1940s as it was in the 1840s, as it had been ever since the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth laden with emboldening casks of wine and beer. The spirit of liberty is never far from the hope of metamorphosis or transformation, and the Americans from the beginning were drawn to the possibilities in the having of one more for the road. They formed their character in the settling of a fearful wilderness, and the history of the country could be written as a prolonged mocking and harassing of the devil by the drinking, “and right freely,” from whatever wise and wisdom-loving grain or grape came conveniently to hand. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 1:09 pm

There’s a new Public Editor in town!

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For the first time, the NY Times has a Public Editor (aka ombudsman) who actually is addressing critical issues. Consider today’s column, for example: Margaret Sullivan in the NY Times:

In one of the most fascinating media-related pieces I’ve read in a while, Dan Froomkin interviews Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, two longtime Washington observers who wrote a book together and soon after, they say, found themselves near pariahs in a city that didn’t want to hear what they had to say.

Mr. Froomkin’s piece from The Huffington Post is titled “How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign.”

And that bungled story, he says, is that Republicans lied their way through the campaign with impunity. As Mr. Froomkin writes, the pair’s major splash took place last spring, when The Washington Post published their essay “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem,” adapted from their book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.”

The two commentators, in this new piece, have harsh words for almost everybody, though they do give some credit to the New York Times Washington reporter Jackie Calmes, and a few others. Mr. Ornstein is also very tough on newspaper ombudsmen — and his points are duly noted here.

I find Mr. Ornstein and Mr. Mann’s observations smart, provocative and on target in many, though not all, places.

I disagree, for example, that the move toward fact-checking has made the press’s performance worse. On that subject, I agree with The Times’s political editor, Richard Stevenson, who told me last September in a columnI wrote on this subject that he saw the move toward “truth-squading” as “one of the most positive trends in journalism that I can remember.” But to take it one step further, I believe that fact-checking should be more integrated into every story and not treated as a separate entity off to the side.

And I think the two commentators fail to see the progress that The Times and other newspapers are making – away from false equivalence and toward stating established truths and challenging falsehoods whenever possible.

That progress, granted, isn’t happening fast enough or – more important — sweepingly enough. And their point of view ought to provoke some journalistic soul-searching.

I’ll be interested in Times readers’ reactions. Based on voluminous reader reaction whenever I’ve written about fact-checking and false balance, there seems to be almost nothing that they care about more.

Read the articles at the links. Fascinating. And long-overdue and most welcome.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 12:17 pm

Posted in GOP, Media, NY Times

West Point, religious discrimination, and state-sponsored religion

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Very interesting interview by Valerie Tarico:

Blake Page, a 24-year-old cadet in his 4th year at West Point, created a storm on November 19 when he announced he was leaving in protest over religious discrimination and church state boundary violations. In his letter of resignation he stated, “I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same.” In an op ed [3] published at the Huffington Post on Monday, Page minced no words: “Countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution . . . through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation [4].”

Page is a Humanist and president of West Point’s Secular Student Alliance [5]. He served as an enlisted soldier in Korea for two years before his commanding officer recommended him for West Point. His story shines a spotlight into a military culture that, despite repeated exposes and lawsuits, continues to suffer from the Evangelical zeal that ran amok under devout officers like General David Petraeus [6] and fundamentalist chaplains [7] likeGordon Klingenschmitt [8] (who attempted exorcism on a lesbian service member who requested his help after being raped).

Tell us the story.  How did you end up being the guy at the center of the storm?

Page: You know, when I was an enlisted soldier I didn’t really think much about this stuff. It was there from the beginning, but I just went along with it. In basic training I said I wasn’t going to church but I found out quickly that if you didn’t you were severely punished: You scrubbed floors for four hours or went on rock flipping detail so the rocks could get an even tan or you mowed the dirt…basically whatever they could find to keep you busy. At the time I was young and I just thought that was the way it is. So, I just went to a different church each week. I remember feeling a bit disrespectful because I was going into these organizations knowing I didn’t believe what they did. It felt intrusive.

Later on there were a handful of mandatory prayers, but it wasn’t a big deal. The only real frustration was dealing with the officers on a personal basis. One time during my tour in Korea, I had a problem with my family and had to fly home. When I notified my chain of command, they said I had to talk to chaplain. I thought it was maybe just a formality, but it went right away to you need to believe in God, you need to pray with me, God will guide you through hard times. There was no chaplain for non-theists, and with many chaplains, their personal mission was to encourage you to be religious. That personal mission often overcame the professional mission.

You say there were no Humanist chaplains?

Page: There are no Humanist chaplains. The army officially refuses to recognize Humanist chaplains and refuses to allow us to put Humanist on our dog tags. I have atheist on my dog tags even though atheism doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s not a philosophy. Humanism means something: We should be good for the sake of being good; we should care about other human beings. That means something, but I’m not allowed to say that on my tags, and we don’t have chaplains out there representing our worldview. But, that said, when I was a soldier I was focusing on what I could accomplish as a soldier and those things were peripheral.

West Point was different for you?  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 12:03 pm

Beef that kills

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Needle-tenderized beef is dangerous, and you are not informed when you buy it. Mike McGraw reports for McClatchy:

Tenderizing meat

Margaret Lamkin doesn’t visit her grandchildren much anymore. She never flies. She avoids wearing dresses. And she worries about infections and odors.

Three years ago, at age 87, Lamkin was forced to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life after a virulent meat-borne pathogen destroyed her large colon and nearly killed her.

What made her so sick? A medium-rare steak she ate nine days earlier at an Applebee’s restaurant.

Lamkin, like most consumers today, didn’t know she had ordered a steak that had been run through a mechanical tenderizer. In a lawsuit, Lamkin said her steak came from National Steak Processors Inc., which claimed it got the contaminated meat from a U.S. plant run by Brazilian-based JBS – the biggest beef packer in the world.

“You trust people, trust that nothing is going to happen,” said Lamkin, who feels lucky to be alive at 90, “but they (beef companies) are mass-producing this and shoveling it into us.”

The Kansas City Star investigated what the industry calls “bladed” or “needled” beef, and found the process exposes Americans to a higher risk of E. coli poisoning than cuts of meat that have not been tenderized.

The process has been around for decades, but while exact figures are difficult to come by, USDA surveys show that more than 90 percent of beef producers are now using it.

Mechanically tenderized meat is increasingly found in grocery stores, and a vast amount is sold to family-style restaurants, hotels and group homes.

The American Meat Institute, an industry lobbying group, has defended the product as safe, but institute officials recently said they can’t comment further until they see the results of a pending risk assessment by the meat safety division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although blading and injecting marinades into meat add value for the beef industry, that also can drive pathogens – including the E. coli O157:H7 that destroyed Lamkin’s colon – deeper into the meat.

If it isn’t cooked sufficiently, people can get sick. Or die. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 11:19 am

The Monday shave: Always a special pleasure

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SOTD 10 Dec 2012

The two-day stubble makes for a terrific shave. First, it grates off an ample quantity of soap from the shave stick, which this morning is Mama Bear’s Hydrogen Fragrance, a very pleasant light fragrance. The Ecotools brush immediately created a fine lather and held plenty for all three passes. I continue to find this little guy an excellent shaving brush.

Then the unparalleled excellent of the bakelite slant comes into play: always BBS in three passes. More and more I realize what a totally outstanding razor this is. I had a lengthy discussion with another shaver that made me realize the excellent design choices the designers made: in selecting Bakelite, they picked an ideal material for the purpose: light, sturdy, stable over time, and inexpensive. The lightness of the razor, which adds greatly to performance (since it’s a slant—lightness is a drawback with a straight-bar), would be difficult to achieve with another material—aluminum might work, but aluminum has its own problems, including super-good heat transfer: heat the head under very hot water, put it on your face, and ouch! That doesn’t happen with bakelite. Moreover, aluminum threads tend to strip—the primary complaint with the aluminum-bodied Mühle travel brushes. (The nickel-plated brass Mühle travel brushes are much more sturdy—but also much more expensive: another benefit of Bakelite is that it’s inexpensive.)

Of course, none of the benefits of the material would matter if the performance were bad, but in fact this razor performs—shaves—better than any other razor I own or have tried. It’s a dream razor.

A good splash of Woods aftershave from Saint Charles Shave, which is definitely a favorite (YMMV), and I’m ready for the day.

NEWS: iKon will have a slant-bar razor in 2013.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2012 at 10:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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