Later On

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

Archive for May 27th, 2013

Unexpected side-benefit of the clean-kitchen routine

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I blogged earlier about my kitchen game of exercising constant surveillance of any sign of dirt or disorder and fixing it immediately. It turns out its fun because you start to rarely find a problem and, when you do, fixing it is trivial (by which I mean ca. 15 seconds).

But tonight I realized another benefit: When I get an idea of something to cook (red beans and rice in a jumbalaya direction, based on this recipe but with added shrimp and Andouille sausage and doubling the green pepper), I can simply cook it: the kitchen is ready—all pots and pans clean, utensils clean and ready, and so on.

It strikes me that this is another instance of “If you want a horse to jump a fence, make the fence as low as possible.” That is, if you some course to be taken, some action performed, make it as easy as possible. By removing the “clean up the kitchen first” barrier, I am doing more cooking because it’s easier.

Hmm. I need to look at other things I need to do and see whether I can do a similar barrier-lowering exercise. Part of being your own Tom Sawyer: step 1, I suppose, with step 2 finding a way to make it so enjoyable you seek the opportunity.

Here’s some I made recently that I like—made-up recipe, so adjust as you want:

Pour some extra-virgin olive oil in the large (4-qt) sauté pan. Chop one enormous yellow onion and sauté it over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to caramelize.

Add 10-12 cloves minced garlic, sauté a moment, then add:

1 small-medium Italian eggplant, diced
2-4 medium zucchini, diced
3-5 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup pitted ripe olives (Saracena or Kalamata—the latter I halve)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 preserved Meyer lemon, diced (they sell these at Whole Foods here with the bulk olives: whole preserved lemons—I presume that they’re Meyer lemons)
2 Tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
good pinch of salt
several grindings black pepper

Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes. Very tasty over rice.

UPDATE: I just realized I was moving ratatouille in the direction of caponata.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 6:41 pm

Arrested Development vis-à-vis Housing crisis

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Dylan Matthews finds some interesting cross-references and comment in this essay (WITH SPOILERS) in the Washington Post:

As surely as Guns N’ Roses’s “Chinese Democracy” is in the iTunes store and Duke Nukem Forever is on Steam, the fourth season of “Arrested Development” is, after seven years of hints and speculation, finally on Netflix.

The show’s always had a political bent and the latest iteration is no exception. But while the first three seasons deal with the Iraq War, what with George Sr. making “lightly treasonous” deals with Saddam Hussein and Lucille forcing Buster into the Army because of taunts from a Michael Moore-like documentary maker, the fourth focuses on what the housing crash did to this family of real estate developers.

Here are a few of the more blatant political notes – and the real-life events that inspired them. Spoilers abound, so proceed with caution.

Tobias and Lindsay’s NINJA loan

In the third episode, “Indian Takers,” Lindsay and Tobias Funkë decide to make a new start (or, to use the spelling from Tobias’ license plate, “ANUSTART”) by buying a home together. They inform their realtor James Carr (Ed Helms) that they have no income coming in, no assets, no credit, no jobs, and no work ethic. No matter — Carr offers them a “NINJA” loan, available to borrowers in exactly that position (“No Income No Job and no Assets”). They end up with guest gatehouses and a mansion that looks like this: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Business, Movies & TV

US vs. other rich nations re: Vacation benefits

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Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 1:42 pm

Apparently the IRS was doing its job, which is what the GOP hates

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Interesting story about the “scandal” the GOP is trying to create. Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo report in the NY Times:

When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.

The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.

And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.

Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.

But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.

“Money is not the only thing that matters,” said Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division who is a law professor at Ohio State University. “While some of the I.R.S. questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.” . . .

Continue reading.

The IRS was targeting groups—those most likely to be breaking the law. Good target.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 12:00 pm

Archdiocese Pays for Health Plan That Covers Birth Control

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It looks as though the Catholic church simply doesn’t like Obama and are using the contraception provisions of Obamacare to attack him, when the Church has been paying for contraception for years. Sharon Otterman writes in the NY Times:

As the nation’s leading Roman Catholic bishop, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has been spearheading the fight against a provision of the new health care law that requires employers, including some that are religiously affiliated, to cover birth control in employee health plans.

But even as Cardinal Dolan insists that requiring some religiously affiliated employers to pay for contraception services would be an unprecedented, and intolerable, government intrusion on religious liberty, the archdiocese he heads has quietly been paying for such coverage, albeit reluctantly and indirectly, for thousands of its unionized employees for over a decade.

The Archdiocese of New York has previously acknowledged that some local Catholic institutions offer health insurance plans that include contraceptive drugs to comply with state law; now, it is also acknowledging that the archdiocese’s own money is used to pay for a union health plan that covers contraception and even abortion for workers at its affiliated nursing homes and clinics.

“We provide the services under protest,” said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

As president of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Dolan has consistently rejected similar arm’s-length compromises offered by the Obama administration, which has agreed to exempt many religious institutions from the provision, but not religiously affiliated employers like schools and hospitals that employ people of many faiths and do not exist primarily to inculcate religious values.

In February, the bishops opposed a proposal that would have allowed employees of those nonexempt religious institutions to receive contraceptive coverage through policies paid for directly by insurance companies. The New York Archdiocese is also suing the federal government to stop the mandate.

“There remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities,” Cardinal Dolan said at the time. . .

Continue reading. I truly detest how the Catholic church has always tried to force non-believers to follow the same church teachings that believers obey. It’s arrogant beyond belief. Especially since the Catholic church does not itself follow its teachings, unless the rape of children is considered good form. (I realize that the pedophiles were outliers—but those who protected and enabled the pedophiles were not: they were following Church beliefs and policies.)

The Catholic church is not an organization that should be involved in making decisions for others. Their track record is abysmal.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:57 am

Why Democrats Can’t be Trusted to Control Wall Street

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Interesting post by Robert Reich:

Who needs Republicans when Wall Street has the Democrats? With the help of congressional Democrats, the Street is rolling back financial reforms enacted after its near meltdown.

According to the New York Times, a bill that’s already moved through the House Financial Services Committee, allowing more of the very kind of derivatives trading (bets on bets) that got the Street into trouble, was drafted by Citigroup — whose recommended language was copied nearly word for word in 70 lines of the 85-line bill.

Where were House Democrats? Right behind it. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, a major recipient of the Street’s political largesse, co-sponsored it. Most of the Democrats on the Committee, also receiving generous donations from the big banks, voted for it. Rep. Jim Himes, another proponent of the bill and a former banker at Goldman Sachs, now leads the Democrat’s fund-raising effort in the House.

Bob Rubin – co-chair of Goldman before he joined the Clinton White House, and chair of Citigroup’s management committee after he left it – is still influential in the Party, and his protégés are all over the Obama administration. I like Bob personally but I battled his Street-centric views the whole time I served, and soon after I left the administration he persuaded Clinton to support a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

Jack Lew, Obama’s current Treasury Secretary, was . . .

Continue reading.

I think it’s quite obvious that Obama turned the Executive Branch over to financial industry to use as they will. And of course a comfortable majority of Congress is bought and paid for.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:43 am

Americans and Their Military, Drifting Apart

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I well remember that Democratic precinct caucus in Iowa City in which I argued strongly—perhaps even a little heatedly—against ending the draft. As I said, I want the military to have a large majority of would-be civilians—people who recently were civilians and will soon be civiians again—to keep the military aligned with the feeling of the country. George Starbuck happened to be there, and he agreed with me as well. We carried the day, and the draft did not end that year—but later it did.

Karl Eikenberry and David Kennedy describe the outcome that I had feared:

AFTER fighting two wars in nearly 12 years, the United States military is at a turning point. So are the American people. The armed forces must rethink their mission. Though the nation has entered an era of fiscal constraint, and though President Obama last week effectively declared an end to the “global war on terror” that began on Sept. 11, 2001, the military remains determined to increase the gap between its war-fighting capabilities and those of any potential enemies. But the greatest challenge to our military is not from a foreign enemy — it’s the widening gap between the American people and their armed forces.

Three developments in recent decades have widened this chasm. First and most basic was the decision in 1973, at the end of combat operations in Vietnam, to depart from the tradition of the citizen-soldier by ending conscription and establishing a large, professional, all-volunteer force to maintain the global commitments we have assumed since World War II. In 1776, Samuel Adams warned of the dangers inherent in such an arrangement: “A standing Army, however necessary it may be at some times, is always dangerous to the Liberties of the People. Soldiers are apt to consider themselves as a Body distinct from the rest of the Citizens.”

For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform.

In sharp contrast, so many officers have sons and daughters serving that they speak, with pride and anxiety, about war as a “family business.” Here are the makings of a self-perpetuating military caste, sharply segregated from the larger society and with its enlisted ranks disproportionately recruited from the disadvantaged. History suggests that such scenarios don’t end well. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:37 am

Is Silicon Valley only interested in the problems of twentysomethings?

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Ezra Klein has an interesting insight at Wonkblog in the Washington Post:

In his fascinating New Yorker piece on the political culture of Silicon Valley, George Packer relays an irksome conversation with Dave Morin, founder of Path, that underscores the yawning distance between the concerns of the tech elite and the concerns of pretty much everyone else on earth.

[Morin] described San Francisco as a place where people already live in the future. They can hang out with their friends even when they’re alone. They inhabit a “sharing economy”: they can book a weeklong stay in a cool apartment through Airbnb, which has disrupted the hotel industry, or hire a luxury car anywhere in the city through the mobile app Uber, which has disrupted the taxi industry. “SanFrancisco is a place where we can go downstairs and get in an Uber and go to dinner at a place that I got a restaurant reservation for halfway there,” Morin said. “And, if not, we could go to my place, and on the way there I could order takeout food from my favorite restaurants on Postmates, and a bike messenger will go and pick it up for me. We’ll watch it happen on the phone. These things are crazy ideas.”

It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up.

Airbnb and Uber certainly get a lot of press. But are they really representative of the problems Silicon Valley is most interested in solving? Or are they just companies that get an inordinate amount of press — in part because they’re solving the problems of journalists who live in cities and travel a lot, and those are the people who decide which companies get a lot of press?

In January, VentureBeat.com publishedits list of 2013′s “top 17 IPO candidates.” It’s as good a place as any to get a sense of where Silicon Valley thinks Silicon Valley is headed. The answer isn’t necessarily towards “saving the world.” But it’s not limos and lofts for twentysomethings, either. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:22 am

Molly practicing being a lap cat

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Molly on lap

Molly has never been a lap cat, but since her haircut she’s been experimenting with the idea. She doesn’t yet have the comfort that Meg shows with laps—Megs falls asleep quickly and remain enlapped for hours—but Molly is definitely making progress. Here she paractices with The Wife’s lap.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:19 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

The Slant route to BBS

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SOTD 27 May 2013

Totally wonderful shave once more. A great shave is pleasing no matter how many you’ve had previously—like sex in that regard, I suppose.

Ogallala shaving sticks produce a very good lather—slick and thick—and the Ecotools brush delivered as usual. I use the shave stick like a shave stick, rubbing it against the grain of my wet beard and then brushing to bring up the lather. It’s a process I enjoy and I’ve learned to take my time so that the lather can do its work.

Then three easy passes with a newish Trig blade in my vintage slant-bar—one I purchased from a WEdger (and many thanks once more). Smooth perfection, then enhanced with a splash of K.C. Atwood aftershave.

Wunderbar. And today I’m making red beans and rice; the two smoked ham shanks slow-cooked in the over last night.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2013 at 11:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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