Later On

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

Archive for July 6th, 2015

And, speaking of sherry, take a look

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Read this post. I am moved to write it after attempting to buy sherry at Rite-Aid. They don’t carry it, and the guy working in the wine/spirits department asked, “Sherry? I haven’t heard of that. Is it red? or white?”

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Drinks

Good thoughts for soon-to-be-mothers and for Mother’s Day.

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Good thoughts.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Daily life

Mushroom soup

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I made this one tonight. Comparing and contrasting my version with the recipe:

I did use the Parmesan rinds and also the soy sauce (the last of a very good soy sauce I got some time back). No bouquet garni, but added 1 tsp dried thyme. I used Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry instead of a dry sherry—more robust in flavor. I used 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream, not 1/2 c. milk. (What on earth were they thinking?) Two pounds of domestic white mushrooms, not 1.5 lbs. I slice them with an egg slicer. And 1 oz. dried procini, not 1/2 oz. And I used an immersion blender (of course) rather than trying to pour boiling hot liquid into a regular blender in batches. (What on earth were they thinking?) The model I use is no more, and they seem now to be called “hand blenders.”

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

The GOP’s sleazy, cowardly, sneaky plot foiled—but no one did it!

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post at Mother Jones:

Last week Wisconsin Republicans tried to sneak language into a budget bill that would have gutted the state’s open records law. Sadly for them, they got caught and had to withdraw the proposal—which, Gov. Scott Walker hastily assured us, “was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way.” Uh huh.

This kind of sleazy behavior is hardly uncommon, but there’s one bit of it that’sequally common and even sleazier:

State Republicans have refused to disclose who inserted the language into the budget legislation, which was approved late Thursday evening. Before dropping the provisions entirely, the governor’s office said Friday it was considering changes to the proposals concerning public records law, but would not comment as to whether Walker was involved in the proposals in the first place.

Here’s my proposal for transparency in legislating: every change in every law has to be attributed to someone. There’s no virgin birth here. Someone wrote this language. Someone asked that it be inserted. Someone agreed to insert it. You have to be pretty contemptuous of your constituents to clam up and pretend that no one knows where it came from. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 5:04 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

The challenge of the nanoverse

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A very interesting review by Tim Flannery in the NY Review of Books:

Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable
by Paul G. Falkowski
Princeton University Press, 205 pp., $24.95

A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries About the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth
by Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink
Bloomsbury, 391 pp., $30.00

In 1609 Galileo Galilei turned his gaze, magnified twentyfold by lenses of Dutch design, toward the heavens, touching off a revolution in human thought. A decade later those same lenses delivered the possibility of a second revolution, when Galileo discovered that by inverting their order he could magnify the very small. For the first time in human history, it lay in our power to see the building blocks of bodies, the causes of diseases, and the mechanism of reproduction. Yet according to Paul Falkowski’s Life’s Engines:

Galileo did not seem to have much interest in what he saw with his inverted telescope. He appears to have made little attempt to understand, let alone interpret, the smallest objects he could observe.

Bewitched by the moons of Saturn and their challenge to the heliocentric model of the universe, Galileo ignored the possibility that the magnified fleas he drew might have anything to do with the plague then ravaging Italy. And so for three centuries more, one of the cruellest of human afflictions would rage on, misunderstood and thus unpreventable, taking the lives of countless millions.

Perhaps it’s fundamentally human both to be awed by the things we look up to and to pass over those we look down on. If so, it’s a tendency that has repeatedly frustrated human progress. Half a century after Galileo looked into his “inverted telescope,” the pioneers of microscopy Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke revealed that a Lilliputian universe existed all around and even inside us. But neither of them had students, and their researches ended in another false dawn for microscopy. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century, when German manufacturers began producing superior instruments, that the discovery of the very small began to alter science in fundamental ways.

Today, driven by ongoing technological innovations, the exploration of the “nanoverse,” as the realm of the minuscule is often termed, continues to gather pace. One of the field’s greatest pioneers is Paul Falkowski, a biological oceanographer who has spent much of his scientific career working at the intersection of physics, chemistry, and biology. His book Life’s Engines: How Microbes Made Earth Habitable focuses on one of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century—that our cells are comprised of a series of highly sophisticated “little engines” or nanomachines that carry out life’s vital functions. It is a work full of surprises, arguing for example that all of life’s most important innovations were in existence by around 3.5 billion years ago—less than a billion years after Earth formed, and a period at which our planet was largely hostile to living things. How such mind-bending complexity could have evolved at such an early stage, and in such a hostile environment, has forced a fundamental reconsideration of the origins of life itself.

At a personal level, Falkowski’s work is also challenging. We are used to thinking of ourselves as composed of billions of cells, but Falkowski points out that we also consist of trillions of electrochemical machines that somehow coordinate their intricate activities in ways that allow our bodies and minds to function with the required reliability and precision. As we contemplate the evolution and maintenance of this complexity, wonder grows to near incredulity.

One of the most ancient of Falkowski’s biological machines is the ribosome, a combination of proteins and nucleic acids that causes protein synthesis. It is an entity so tiny that even with an electron microscope, it is hard to see it. As many as 400 million ribosomes could fit in a single period at the end of a sentence printed in The New York Review. Only with the advent of synchrotrons—machines that accelerate the movements of particles, and can be used to create very powerful X-rays—have its workings been revealed. Ribosomes use the instructions embedded in our genetic code to make complex proteins such as those found in our muscles and other organs. The manufacture of these proteins is not a straightforward process. The ribosomes have no direct contact with our DNA, so must act by reading messenger RNA, molecules that convey genetic information from the DNA. Ribosomes consist of two major complexes that work like a pair of gears: they move over the RNA, and attach amino acids to the emerging protein.

All ribosomes—whether in the most humble bacteria or in human bodies—operate at the same rate, adding just ten to twenty amino acids per second to the growing protein string. And so are our bodies built up by tiny mechanistic operations, one protein at a time, until that stupendous entity we call a human being is complete. All living things possess ribosomes, so these complex micromachines must have existed in the common ancestor of all life. Perhaps their development marks the spark of life itself. But just when they first evolved, and how they came into being, remain two of the great mysteries of science.

All machines require a source of energy to operate, and the energy to run not only ribosomes but all cellular functions comes from the same source—a universal “energy currency” molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In animals and plantsATP is manufactured in special cellular structures known as mitochondria. The nanomachines that operate within the mitochondria are minute biological electrical motors that, in a striking parallel with their mechanical counterparts, possess rotors, stators, and rotating catalytic heads.

The ATP nanomachine is the means by which life uses electrical gradients, or the difference in ion concentration and electrical potential from one point to another, to create energy. The nanomachine is located in a membrane that separates a region of the cell with a high density of protons (hydrogen ions) from an area with a lower density. Just as in a battery, the protons pass from the area of high density into the area of lower density. But in order to do so in the cell, they must pass through the ATP nanomachine, and their flow through the minute electric motor turns its rotor counterclockwise. For every 360-degree turn the rotor makes, three molecules of ATP are created.

Living things use a great many primary energy sources to create ATP. The most primitive living entities are known as archaea. Though bacteria-like, they are a distinct group whose various members seem to have exploited almost every energy source available on the early Earth. Some, known as methanogens, cause carbon dioxide to react with hydrogen to create the electrochemical gradient required to make ATP, producing methane as a by-product. Others use ammonia, metal ions, or hydrogen gas to create the electrochemical gradient. Bacteria also use a variety of energy sources, but at some point a group of bacteria started to use sunlight to power photosynthesis. This process yielded vastly more energy than other sources, giving its possessors a huge evolutionary advantage. Falkowski has spent most of his career unraveling the deep mystery of photosynthesis and how it changed the world. . .

Continue reading.

And somehow the illusion that we have free will comes out of all those tiny machines…

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Science

Transparency Program Obscures Pharma Payments to Nurses, Physician Assistants

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Businesses cannot be trusted, it repeatedly turns out. Charles Ornstein reports in ProPublica:

A nurse practitioner in Connecticut pleaded guilty in June to taking $83,000 in kickbacks from a drug company in exchange for prescribing its high-priced drug to treat cancer pain. In some cases, she delivered promotional talks attended only by herself and a company sales representative.

But when the federal government released data Tuesday on payments by drug and device companies to doctors and teaching hospitals, the payments to nurse practitioner Heather Alfonso, 42, were nowhere to be found.

That’s because the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act doesn’t require companies to publicly report payments to nurse practitioners or physician assistants, even though they are allowed to write prescriptions in most states.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are playing an ever-larger role in the health care system. While registered and licensed practice nurses are not authorized to write prescriptions, those with additional training and advanced degrees often can.

A ProPublica analysis of prescribing patterns in Medicare’s prescription drug program, known as Part D, shows that these two groups of providers wrote about 10 percent of the nearly 1.4 billion prescriptions in the program in 2013. They wrote 15 percent of all prescriptions nationwide (not only Medicare) in the first five months of the year, according to IMS Health, a health information company.

For some drugs, including narcotic controlled substances, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are among the top prescribers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 12:30 pm

Another significant achievement of Obamacare, praised by Republicans: Community health clinics

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Again we see the paradox of GOP condemnation of Obamacare: they love what it does, but they hate the name. (And, of course, they have NEVER proposed any alternative: it’s not their way to develop solutions; their only interest is in destruction.)

Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

The conventional wisdom on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is that he’s a charming if impractical dreamer, a pie-in-the-sky socialist who’s good at inspiring young people and aging hippies, but hopeless at the knife fighting that real-life politics requires.

Despite the inherent limitations of a self-described democratic socialist who eschews the norms of Beltway fundraising, the Democratic presidential candidate from Vermont has won legislative victory after victory on an issue that has been dear to him since his days as Burlington’s mayor.

That issue is the simultaneously benign and revolutionary expansion of federally qualified community health clinics.

Over the years, Sanders has tucked away funding for health centers in appropriation bills signed by George W. Bush, into Barack Obama’s stimulus program, and through the earmarking process. But his biggest achievement came in 2010 through the Affordable Care Act. In a series of high-stakes legislative maneuvers, Sanders struck a deal to include $11 billion for health clinics in the law.

The result has made an indelible mark on American health care, extending the number of people served by clinics from 18 million before the ACA to an expected 28 million next year.

As one would expect, the program was largely met with plaudits from patients and public health experts, but it has also won praise from even the biggest Obamacare critics on Capitol Hill. In letters I obtained through multiple record requests, dozens of Republican lawmakers, including members of the House and Senate leadership, have privately praised the ACA clinic funding, calling health centers a vital provider in both rural and urban communities.

To Sanders, the clinics have served as an alternative to his preferred single-payer system. Community health centers accept anyone regardless of health, insurance status or ability to pay. They are founded and managed by a board composed of patients and local residents, so each center is customized to fit the needs of a community. No two health centers are alike.

In rural North Carolina, ACA-backed health centers now provide dental and nutrition services, while in San Francisco, the clinics provide translation services and outreach for immigrant families. In other areas, they provide mental health counseling, low-cost prescription drugs, and serve as the primary care doctors for entire counties. They have also served as a platform for innovation, introducing electronic medical record systems and paving the way with new methods for tracking those most susceptible for heart disease and diabetes.

Author John Dittmer, in The Good Doctors, traces the history of the modern health center to the civil rights activists who ventured into the South during the early 1960s. The activists were seen as outside agitators, and local doctors refused to treat them. As a solution, volunteer bands of physicians were organized by a group called the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Beyond treating the civil rights workers, the MCHR physicians were struck by the stark disparity in health services, encountering many African-Americans who had never seen a doctor before in their lives. The activist physicians returned to the South after the “Freedom Rides” to found a small clinic in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and by doing so, began a movement to launch health clinics across the country in underserved areas. Winning support from President Lyndon Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity, the clinics became part of Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

Over the years, health centers have gained support on a bipartisan basis. Health centers secured critical funding from the efforts of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and both George W. Bush and John McCain campaigned on pledges to expand them. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more to the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 July 2015 at 11:37 am

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