Later On

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

Archive for March 26th, 2014

The secret of shallots and of Austen

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Shallots first. I’m making this recipe and realize once more the benefits of reading the recipe before shopping, which I didn’t: I was expecting to chop the shallots, so I got the largest possible to minimize the peeling. But I do have enough of reasonable size to make the dish. The secret: separate peeling and chopping: peel all you’ll need, and if it’s going well, peel more than that and put the extras in a bag in the refrigerator. After all the peeling, chop what you need, bag the rest unchopped. It turns out that working with shallots is indeed enjoyable if you follow a three-step process.

Step 1: cut off the root and top of all the shallots you’ll be dealing with.
Step 2: peel all the shallots you’ve trimmed.
Step 3: chop those you need, store the rest in the fridge.

Focusing on a single activity for each step greatly increases efficiency and enjoyment.

The Austen secret, which probably is no secret, but it just struck me. I’m reading Persuasion and I just realized that Austen is meticulous and plentiful with details—dress, manner, tone, words, actions, and so on—but quite sparse with judgments. She provides a vivid and detailed picture and leaves it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. That is an open-architecture sort of writing that allows for variant readings of the same work, thus opening the floor to an interpretation not at all what the author intended but fully consistent with the content of the work and indeed illuminating aspects of the work that had been puzzling, and so on.

At any rate, it’s noticeable in Persuasion because some characters and some actions do seem to call for judgments, but the author leaves that to us.

No particular connection to the shallot thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food

Badminton as it should be played

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A good volley:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Games, Video

The George W. Bush Administration: Worse than we feared

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In the NY Review of Books Mark Danner reviews a quartet of books about the GW Bush Administration, include a book by Bush and a book by Cheney. A look back (and into).

“Why didn’t I know about this?” — George W. Bush

Almost exactly a decade ago, Vice President Dick Cheney greeted President George W. Bush one morning in the Oval Office with the news that his administration was about to implode. Or not quite: Cheney let the president know that something was deeply wrong, though it would take Bush two more days of increasingly surprising revelations, and the near mass resignation of his senior Justice Department and law enforcement officials, to figure out exactly what it was. “On the morning of March 10, 2004,” as the former president recounts the story in his memoirs,

Dick Cheney and Andy Card greeted me with a startling announcement: The Terrorist Surveillance Program would expire at the end of the day.

“How can it possibly end?” I asked. “It’s vital to protecting the country.”

The Terrorist Surveillance Program, then known to the handful who were aware of it only as “the Program” or by its code name, “Stellar Wind,” was a highly secret National Security Agency effort—eventually revealed by The New York Times in December 2005 and then in much greater detail by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last June. Among other things, Stellar Wind empowered the agency to assemble a vast collection of “metadata,” including on the telephone calls and e-mails of millions of Americans, that its analysts could search and “mine” for information.

Though the program would appear on its face to violate the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, President Bush had approved it three weeks after the September 11 attacks, securing the signature of Attorney General John Ashcroft after the fact. To remain in force the program had to be recertified by the president and the attorney general every forty-five days.

And now, two and a half years later, Cheney and White House chief of staff Andrew Card told Bush, Justice Department lawyers “had raised a legal objection to one component of the program.” Unless that “component”—apparently, the sweeping up of Internet metadata—was eliminated or modified, they told the president, the lawyers would refuse to certify that the program was legal.

“Why didn’t I know about this?” I asked. Andy shared my disbelief. He told me he had just learned about the objection the previous night.

What did the third member of the triumvirate, Vice President Cheney—who had known about the conflict for weeks—say at this moment? Did he profess to share the disbelief of the president and his chief of staff? Or did he, as so often, say nothing at all? President Bush does not say but as we read his account—a remarkable two-and-a-half-page aria on what the president knew, what he didn’t, and, even as the crisis that threatened his administration was breaking all around him, what he still doesn’t—the president’s painfully protracted series of discoveries makes sense only if we assume Dick Cheney’s persistent and stubborn silence.

Bush knows he has a crisis on his hands—confronting him with a “decision point,” as the title of his memoirs has it. By his account, before flying off to deliver a speech in Cleveland, the president orders Card and his White House counsel Alberto Gonzales “to work with” the attorney general “to solve the problem.” On his return, however, he finds that “little progress had been made.”. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 3:08 pm

Identifying the fallen: Follow up

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Earlier this month I blogged about the Pentagon’s indifferent, irresponsible attitude toward identifying the remains of American military personnel. Megan McCloskey looks into reasons in her Pacific Standard article. Well worth the click.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Military

‘We Have Criminalized Mental Illness In This Country’

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Sy Mukherjee writes at ThinkProgress:

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart isn’t mincing words when it comes to his frustrations with Chicago’s — and America’s — broken and underfunded mental health care system.

“Every single day, I am faced with the mental health crisis in this county,” said Dart during testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on Wednesday. “The unfortunate and undeniable conclusion is that because of dramatic and sustained cuts in mental health funding, we have criminalized mental illness in this country, and county jails and state prison facilities are where the majority of mental health care and treatment is administered.”

Illinois made the fourth-largest cuts to mental health services of any state in the country between 2009 and 2012, including the shuttering of two state-run psychiatric facilities. Combined with a lack of affordable housing units, those cuts have propagated a system wherein Americans with mental illnesses wind up in jails rather than clinics.

Dart said that the Cook County Jail houses approximately about 3,500 inmates with serious mental illnesses on any given day (about a third of its total inmate population), making it the largest de facto mental health provider in the nation.

To be clear, these inmates shouldn’t be in a jail setting. The most common illnesses that Dart encounters are mood and psychotic disorders, including severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. And many wind up in jail because they’re simply trying to grapple with a mental health safety net riddled with holes. “While some mentally ill individuals are charged with violent offenses, the majority are charged with crimes seemingly committed to survive, including retail theft, trespassing, prostitution and drug possession,” said Dart.

Keeping the inmates in jail is a pricey endeavor, as caring for a prisoner with mental illness is “easily” two or three times as expensive as the $143 per day that it costs to keep an average person in jail, according to Dart. The care isn’t particularly effective, either. Dart told ThinkProgress that the doctors who treat inmates with mental illnesses are more focused on simple triage rather than holistic care. “Their mission is to get [the inmates] stabilized, make sure they’re on their meds, and when they’re on their way out, [the doctors] give them a plastic baggie with two weeks’ worth of meds,” he said.

Dart also recounted several tragic stories about sick prisoners who were released into a society where they had little recourse for medical care or even simple housing during Wednesday’s hearing. “We’ve had inmates get released and try to break back into the jail so they can keep getting treatment,” he told the House committee. He then urged the committee to consider legislation that would make it easier to keep track of severely mentally ill patients’ cases.

One bill that might go a long way toward achieving that goal has actually . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 2:27 pm

iKon Slant: I cracked the code

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SOTD 26 Mar 2014

Totally wonderful shave today, and thanks to Phil Wilson. He mentioned in a comment that he had found the Personna Med Prep blade to work quite well in the slant. I don’t have those, but I do have a box of Personna Lab Blue blades, so I put a new one in the razor.

First, of course, I did a good job of prep: washing beard at sink (after my shower) with the jlocke98 formula, using Dr. Bronner’s Rose Pure Castile liquid soap and emu oil. Then I rubbed my Honeybee Soaps Fresh Lemon shave stick against the grain all over my partially rinsed beard. I wet my Simpson Persian Jar, shook it a few times, then started working up the lather. I added water once (a driblet of hot water to the center of the brush) and worked that in to get a perfect lather.

With the Personna Lab Blue, the iKon Slant was back to its initial feel: smooth shaving, totally comfortable, and no nicks—to the degree that I had the feeling that I couldn’t nick myself even if I tried (although, to be honest, I did not put that feeling to the test). BBS in three passes of full enjoyment.

Since the iKon Slant had felt this good initially—thus my first very positive reviews—I was curious whether just changing the blade had made the (marked) difference in the comfort of the shave. So I looked back at my post of my first iKon Slant shave, and I discovered that the blade I had used was a Personna Lab Blue. I have been wandering in the wilderness of other brands, seeking my way home, and thanks to Phil I found it.

So if you’re having problems with a razor, do not neglect blade exploration. Personna Lab Blues may not work for you, but they certainly work well for me.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2014 at 10:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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