Later On

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

Archive for December 2015


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For New Year’s we’re having a rack of pork roast, and that will mean a lot of leftovers. Years ago M.F.K. Fisher had in the New Yorker the recipe for Harvey-Scarvey, which is excellent with cold pork (which she admitted was not generally a thing, though if cold roast beef is okay, why not?).


1 cup minced apple
1 cup minced sweet onion
1 cup minced celery
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (use a good one)
2 Tbsp cider or malt vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix well, chill, serve with cold roast pork. Probably would also be good with a cold bird.

For the roast, I put in my little Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper the following:

12 or so large garlic cloves, peeled
about 3″ ginger root sliced thinly
1.5-2 Tbsp crushed dried rosemark (or 2-3 Tbsp fresh)
1-2 tsp coarse salt
multiple grindings black pepper
2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (this wasn’t in mine: didn’t think of it in time)

Blend the bejesus out of it—you’re aiming for a paste. After I made it, I realized I should have used my 3.5 cup Kitchenaid food processor. It would have done a much better job.

Remove rack of pork from wrapping, dry it well, and rub the paste over the fat side, ends, and cut back side. I then wrapped it in foil and put it in the fridge to sit until tomorrow afternoon. (We’re having our New Year’s dinner on New Year’s day—OMG, I forgot to get fresh black-eyed peas!)

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

In defense of the slant

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Some have gone to fairly extreme lengths (including ignoring actual reports from slant users) to deny that the slant of the blade reduces cutting resistance because of the shearing action. The argument, so far as I can tell, is “It doesn’t make sense to me that such a slight slant would have a noticeable effect.” (Cf. Aristotle’s position that “It doesn’t make sense to me that a heavy body and a lighter body would fall at the same rate. It’s obvious that the heavier will fall faster, because it’s heavier.“)

But Leibniz noted, “Nature works by degrees,” i.e., without discontinuities in the derivative (no jumps—he didn’t know about catastrophe theory).

In my own experience there is a highly noticeable difference in cutting resistance between cutting a carrot with pure compressive force (pushing knife straight down through the carrot) and cutting a carrot with even the slightest horizontal motion (to provide a shearing action) while pushing down. Just a tiny horizontal motion makes an easily noticed improvement in cutting ease. So it seems reasonable to me that just a small slant of the blade makes a noticeable difference for those whose stubble offers much cutting resistance at all. The notion that shearing action will kick in only once you reach a certain angle makes no sense to me, given the argument preceding. Moreover, as I note, the only reason that a slight slant would not make a difference is because they don’t see how it could. That is not sufficiently convincing to me that I will ignore my own direct experience. (I’m not saying slants work for everyone, of course, and indeed if the objectors could detect the improvement, they would not object. But slants do work for many.)

UPDATE: I now see this in a new light. See this thread, and particularly this comment and my response to it.

In meme terms, the bar guard is just a meme-mutation of the comb guard, so they are different alleles, as indeed are other ways of typing razors: adjustables vs. not, three-piece vs. not, slant vs. not, comfortable vs. not, and efficient vs. not. It’s only the last two—more specifically, razors that are both comfortable and efficient—that are of any real interest. The current slants fall in that group for me, but so does the Baby Smooth, the Wolfman, the Above the Tie R1, the iKon Shavecraft #101, and others. Some are comb guard, some are bar guard. Some are slants, some are not. With the exception of the Merkur 37C, they’re all three-piece, but that’s the logical mode for a start-up to use.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Shaving

Politwoops Is Back. Is Twitter Finally Listening to Users?

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Fascinating report by Kaleigh Rogers at Motherboard. And I’ve certainly become a follower, now that I know about it.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 1:09 pm

Prior to San Bernardino Attack, Many Were Trained to Spot Terrorists; None Did

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Jana Winter reports in The Intercept:

In mid-November, just weeks before the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, the Joint Regional Intelligence Center and the sheriffs’ departments of San Bernardino and Riverside counties held the First Annual Inland Terrorism Liaison Officer Conference in Fontana, California. The two-day event — for law enforcement, public officials, and select members of the private sector — included sessions like “Policing Violent Extremism” and “Preventing Lone Wolf Attacks.”

In fact, this part of California’s Inland Empire has become home to a cottage industry of counterterrorism training in recent years aimed at teaching people how to spot would-be terrorists before they attack. By all accounts, those trainings failed to help anyone spot Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the married couple who shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others at a meeting of San Bernardino County Health Department employees on December 2.

Many of the trainings, which focus on helping attendees identify “behavioral indicators” of potential terrorists, were held at the Ben Clark Training Center in Riverside, California, less than 25 miles from where the attacks took place.

These behavioral indicators have become central to the U.S. counterterrorism prevention strategy, yet critics say they don’t work. “Quite simply, they rely on generalized correlations found in selectively chosen terrorists without using control groups to see how often the correlated behaviors identified occur in the non-terrorist population,” Michael German, a former FBI agent who is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, told The Intercept.

The trainings are based on flawed theories that just don’t stand up to empirical scrutiny, according to German. “The FBI, [National Counter-Terrorism Center], and [Department of Homeland Security] promote these theories despite the fact they have been refuted in numerous academic studies over the past 20 years,” he said.

Yet the behavior indicator training business appears to be booming in California, where the training sessions are sponsored by an alphabet soup of counterterrorism organizations that have sprung up in recent years, including the Joint Regional Intelligence Center; the Los Angeles chapter of InfraGard, a partnership between the FBI and private sector; and the state fusion center.

The Joint Regional Intelligence Center, in turn, has produced dozens of Official Use Only intelligence bulletins focusing on behavior indicators. One intelligence bulletin, from March 2015, identified potential indicators of radicalization including “history of mental instability/illness”; “employment/financial problems”; and “marital/family problems.”

Southern California’s enthusiasm for terrorist spotting dates back to 2002, when it was home to the first Terrorism Liaison Officer program, the controversial initiative that enlists and credentials community members and private sector industry representatives to report any potentially suspicious behavior. The program was first launched out of the Los Angeles chapter of InfraGard — which covers seven nearby counties including Riverside and San Bernardino where the attacks occurred and the perpetrators lived; the program has since been rolled out nationwide.

The Los Angeles chapter of InfraGard has also been a major beneficiary of federally funded grant money for counterterrorism training. In 2013 the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors doubled the funding of its multimillion-dollar sole source contract with InfraGard to $2,530,000 and extended it through 2018.

One of the companies hired by InfraGard to conduct counterterrorism training is CT Watch, headed by Roque “Rocky” Wicker, who also holds an executive leadership position with the Los Angeles InfraGard chapter. Employees of CT Watch have taught seminars, such as “Threat of ISIS and radicalization in the homeland.”

“The indicators work,” Wicker told The Intercept in an interview. “Behavior indicators work. You just need to train the right people.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 1:05 pm

The two-minute hate on Rahm

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Is the sudden surge of articles taking Rahm Emanuel to task just a product of the outrage industry? or was there actual malfeasance that justifies taking a hard look? You decide.

Could be both, I suppose.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 11:18 am

Three shaving-related announcements of importance only to blog readers

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First, to those who bought one of the surprise/mystery boxes of shaving soaps: I am happy to answer any questions about the soaps, if I can. I will say now that the Geo. F. Trumper soaps are all pre-reformulation—not to put too fine a point on it, these are the good soaps before the outsourcing sent soap quality south. (I do have one box left.)

Second, I am happy to be able to initiate the new year with a new (stainless, black) razor: Blackland has delivered the Blackbird. Featured tomorrow, along with the shaving soap they included.

Third, I know some (many?) read only posts in the “shaving” category, and thus have missed my enthusiastic recommendation (and discussion) of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,  You can use “Look Inside” at the link to read the opening to see whether it’s for you. Note the 5-star rating with a respectable number of raters. I find the book enthralling. It’s a cross-cultural (and thus culture-neutral) look at the flow of human existence, and offers a very interesting perspective.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 11:05 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

Rubio Outraged by Spying on Israel’s Government, OK with Mass Surveillance of Americans

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It’s strange how little some politicians—mostly Republicans but some Democrats as well—care about the privacy and legal rights of Americans while guarding zealously the privacy of Israeli politicians, Israel being a country with a long history of spying on the US and indeed with instances of unprovoked firing on American ships with the intention of sinking the ship (the USS Liberty).

Of course, while these politicians find it perfectly acceptable for the NSA to spy on Americans, they are profoundly disturbed and visibly outraged when they themselves are spied upon (cf. Pete Hoekstra, Jane Harman, Dianne Feinstein, et al.).

Zaid Jelani reports in The Intercept:

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama administration had spied on the Israeli government and, in the process, roped in communications the Netanyahu administration had with members of the U.S. Congress.

This news sparked a denunciation by Florida Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio. “Obviously people read this report, they have a right to be concerned this morning about it,” said Rubio on Fox News Wednesday morning. “They have a right to be concerned about the fact that while some leaders around the world are no longer being targeted, one of our strongest allies in the Middle East – Israel – is. I actually think it might be worse than what some people might think, but this is an issue that we’ll keep a close eye on, and the role that I have in the intelligence committee.”

Rubio’s newfound objection to surveillance appears to be limited to spying on the Israeli government. The senator has been a long-time defender of the NSA’s mass surveillance. “There is no evidence that these programs have been systematically abused,” he said in 2014, decrying what he described as “paranoia” around surveillance programs.

The previous year, he defended spying on foreign government officials, saying that “everybody spies on everybody, it’s just a fact.” In the most recent presidential debate, he accused rivals, like Ted Cruz, of endangering U.S. security by supporting modest reforms to the surveillance regime.

One reason Rubio may be carving out a special objection to spying on the Israeli government is that he is competing in the so-called “Adelson primary” — a contest for the financial backing of the pro-Israel casino magnate who spent $150 million during the 2012 election. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a video at the link, but it’s not working for me.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 10:40 am

Fine shave with Dr. Selby’s 3x Concentrated Shaving Cream and the Feather AS-D1

with 11 comments

SOTD 31 Dec 2015

I pulled a switcheroo with the razor. I took the photo with an Edwin Jagger head on a UFO handle, but once I got in the bathroom and lathered up, I had an irresistible impulse to use my Feather AS-D1. It’s one of the good AS-D1s: extremely mild on the face while being extremely aggressive on the stubble, and it produced a totally comfortable BBS result.

First, of course, I applied lather. The “synthetic badger” brush shown was one of the first really good synthetic brushes. Mühle seemed to push synthetic R&D early, and their brushes have been among the best of the synthetics. This one performs well and feels good, and it immediately got a wonderful lather from Dr. Selby’s 3x concentrated shaving cream. The bowl’s pedestal in the photo is its lid, and this is one of my favorites.

A good splash of Chiseled Face Easy Street finished the shave—and the year—on a very good note.

Best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2015 at 10:32 am

Posted in Shaving

Indicting cops is not the best course to reform

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Radley Balko has a column that concludes;

. . . There are a couple of points to make here. First, when cops commit crimes, they need to be punished. When they aren’t, it isn’t just that justice was denied to the victims of those crimes; it also suggests a system in which the very people we entrust to enforce the law aren’t bound by it. But the second point is also important: We shouldn’t rely on indictments to fix the problem of unnecessary police shootings. And to some degree, indicting cops in these situations can be counterproductive. It can give the impression that this was a rogue cop who acted out, and who is now being held accountable. Hence, the system is working just fine.

The high-profile indictment of South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert, which I’ve written about here at The Watch, makes for a good comparison with the Rice case. Groubert is the cop who opened fire on unarmed black motorist Levar Jones after pulling him over for not wearing a seatbelt. When the man reached into his truck to get his ID, as Groubert asked him to do, Groubert opened fire. Groubert was immediately fired and later indicted in the shooting. Both were necessary. But in the video, the dominant emotion you get from Groubert’s body language isn’t rage or anger. It’s fear. That suggests something much worse than a rogue cop. It suggests a fundamental problem with the way South Carolina trains its state troopers. Perhaps they’re getting bombarded with overstated warnings about ambushes during traffic stops. Perhaps they aren’t getting training in overcoming biases about black criminality. Perhaps they aren’t getting the necessary counseling after traumatic events. (Groubert had been involved in a prior shooting.) Or perhaps Groubert should never have been a cop in the first place, which suggests problems in recruitment and screening. The point here is that while indicting Groubert was the right thing to do, and undoubtedly brought some justice to his victim, it seems unlikely that it’ll do much to prevent future incidents.

Even if we could achieve predictable and certain accountability for bad cops (and we’re nowhere near that now), that might help to prevent corruption or to cut down on the use of force to bully or intimidate. But fear doesn’t rationalize. A cop who shoots a man reaching for his ID, who shoots too quickly at a kid holding a toy gun, who has been conditioned to see threats behind every corner, isn’t going to be dissuaded by the possibility of an indictment. His actions aren’t open to persuasion. He’s acting on instinct. You fix that through training — training in deescalation, training in recognizing and overcoming biases. Or you fix it with better hiring, better screening and better monitoring of the mental health of your officers, and by taking the guns from the cops who aren’t up to par.

I think Timothy Loehmann should have been indicted. But if he had, it wouldn’t change the fact that he never should have been in possession of a gun and a badge in the first place. Nor would it change the fact that if he was hired, there are probably a lot more Timothy Loehmanns on the force in Cleveland … and not just in Cleveland.

It isn’t difficult to understand why we tend to equate justice with indictment after a particularly heartbreaking case like Tamir Rice. By the time the young boy is dead, the system has already failed. It’s too late to talk about training, recruitment, screening, deescalation and so on. There’s only one remaining way to seek justice, and that’s to hold the individual officer accountable. It’s also true that these cases are helpful in illustrating just how difficult it can be to hold an officer accountable, even in clearly preventable deaths. As well as any other, Rice’s death and the lack of accountability for it shows how our legal and political systems have failed to produce laws and policies that reflect how we want police officers to deploy the use of force — how what’s legal and what we find acceptable have become two distinct concepts. 

But we should resist reducing our concept of justice to the presence or absence of an indictment. Real justice would not just hold Loehmann accountable; it would also address the policies, procedures and practices that allowed Tamir Rice to die. Real justice means changing those policies so that his death would have been prevented.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2015 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated

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Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up eavesdropping on “the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups” about how to sabotage the Iran Deal. All sorts of people who spent many years cheering for and defending the NSA and its programs of mass surveillance are suddenly indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them and their American and Israeli friends rather than just ordinary people.

The long-time GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and unyielding NSA defender Pete Hoekstra last night was truly indignant to learn of this surveillance:

In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. AsTechDirt noted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”

But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of spying on him and his friends.

This pattern — whereby political officials who are vehement supporters of the Surveillance State transform overnight into crusading privacy advocates once they learn that they themselves have been spied on — is one that has repeated itself over and over. It has been seen many times as part of the Snowden revelations, but also well before that.

In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration ordered the NSA to spy on the telephone calls of Americans without the warrants required by law, and the paper ultimately won the Pulitzer Prize for doing so. The politician who did more than anyone to suffocate that scandal and ensure there were no consequences was then-Congresswoman Jane Harman, the ranking Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee.

In the wake of that NSA scandal, Harman went on every TV show she could find and categorically defended Bush’s warrantless NSA program as “both legal and necessary,” as well as “essential to U.S. national security.” Worse, she railed against the “despicable” whistleblower (Thomas Tamm) who disclosed this crime and even suggested that the newspaper that reported it should have been criminally investigated (but not, of course, the lawbreaking government officials who ordered the spying). Because she was the leading House Democrat on the issue of the NSA, her steadfast support for the Bush/Cheney secret warrantless surveillance program and the NSA generally created the impression that support for this program was bipartisan.

But in 2009 — a mere four years later — Jane Harman did a 180-degree reversal. That’s because it was revealed that her own private conversations had been eavesdropped on by the NSA. Specifically, CQ’s Jeff Stein reported that an NSA wiretap caught Harman “telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage charges against two officials of American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in exchange for the agent’s agreement to lobby Nancy Pelosi to name Harman chair of the House Intelligence Committee.” Harman vehemently denied that she sought this quid pro quo, but she was so furious that she herself had been eavesdropped on by the NSA (rather than just ordinary citizens) that — just like Pete Hoekstra did yesterday — she transformed overnight into an aggressive and eloquent defender of privacy rights, and demanded investigations of the spying agency that for so long she had defended:

 I call it an abuse of power in the letter I wrote [Attorney General Eric Holder] this morning. … I’m just very disappointed that my country — I’m an American citizen just like you are — could have permitted what I think is a gross abuse of power in recent years. I’m one member of Congress who may be caught up in it, and I have a bully pulpit and I can fight back. I’m thinking about others who have no bully pulpit, who may not be aware, as I was not, that someone is listening in on their conversations, and they’re innocent Americans.

The stalwart defender of NSA spying learned that her own conversations had been monitored and she instantly began sounding like an ACLU lawyer, or Edward Snowden. Isn’t that amazing?

The same thing happened when Dianne Feinstein — one of the few members of Congress who could compete with Hoekstra and Harman for the title of Most Subservient Defender of the Intelligence Community (“I can honestly say I don’t know a bigger booster of the CIA than Senator Feinstein,” said her colleague Sen. Martin Heinrich) — learned in 2014 that she and her torture-investigating Senate Committee had been spied on by the CIA. Feinstein — who, until then, had never met an NSA mass surveillance program she didn’t adore — was utterly filled with rage over this discovery, arguing that “the CIA’s search of the staff’s computers might well have violated … the Fourth Amendment.” The Fourth Amendment! She further pronounced that she had “grave concerns” that the CIA snooping may also have “violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution.”

During the Snowden reporting, it was common to see foreign governments react with indifference — until they learned that they themselves, rather than just their unnotable subjects, were subject to spying. The first reports we did . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2015 at 3:00 pm

More on Sapiens

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I am still reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which continues to be fascinating. I looked through some Amazon reviews, and one comment  struck me. He (Steven Mason) writes “Using this twisted logic, a modern doctor today is less knowledgeable and capable, and has a smaller, less capable brain, than a paleolithic witchdoctor who happens to know how to hunt for food, start a fire, make clothes and weapons, navigate by the stars, etc. This is complete and utter nonsense and reveals an appallingly narrow and simplistic definition of intelligence and capabilities.”

It seems obvious to me that a less intelligent person can have more “knowledge” (in the sense of what Richard Dawkins defined (in chapter 11 of “The Selfish Gene”) as memes: units of cultural knowledge). With a greater number of memes, or more evolved memes, the less intelligent person can use those memes (that knowledge) to outperform a more intelligent person who lacks those memes.

Consider: A grade-school student can easily do long division, a task that taxed the abilities of even educated citizens of Classical Rome, not because students today are so much more intelligent than people in Classical Rome, but because students today have better memes in that application area.

A college student today can solve problems, using his collection of calculus memes, that would have been extremely difficult if not impossible for Newton—not because the student is so much more intelligent than Newton, but because the student has more evolved memes in the problem area. It seems at least possible that intelligence can decline even as memes thrive and evolve.

And just as genes are “selfish” in that they inevitably evolve in directions that help the genes and not necessarily the animal, so too memes will evolve in directions that help the meme’s survival even if there is a substantial cost to the meme’s human hosts (cf. the Agricultural Revolution: great for the meme, not such an unalloyed good for the human hosts).

Indeed, I would say that human consciousness is the result of an accumulation of memes, and it arose not from the breakdown of a bicameral mind (pace Julian Jaynes), but in the creation of a bicameral mind, with the part of the mind that deals with memes split off from the unconscious to become the conscious self, which seems to be constructed from memes. Note, for example, how one’s sense of identity, of who one is, is generally given in terms of memes.


Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2015 at 10:14 am

Posted in Books, Memes

Maggard open-comb razor and Manna di Silicia shaving soap

with 3 comments

SOTD 30 Dec 2015

A very nice shave. The Plisson European Grey badger brush has a wonderful, smooth, grainy feel on the face, quite distinct from the feel of a silvertip, and it does a terrific lathering job, today with the Manna di Silicia soap shown, which produces a fine lather with a pleasant, light fragrance. The container is odd, however.

The razor is the Maggard open-comb head on one of the Maggard stainless steel handles, this one inspired, I would guess, by the Feather AS-D1/2 handle. The razor is very comfortable and also very efficient, and I routinely recommend it now as a novice’s first razor.

A good splash of The Holy Black’s Gunpowder Spice aftershave, and I’m good to go.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2015 at 9:46 am

Posted in Shaving

African Chicken Peanut Stew

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Just made this recipe from tonight. Really excellent. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and 3 lbs of them, so plenty of meat in the stew. Use a 6-qt pot or larger. Ingredients:

2-3 pounds chicken legs, thighs and/or wings
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
A 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
6-8 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
2-3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup roasted peanuts
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Salt and black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro

Extremely tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2015 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Sapiens: Interesting survey of how memes emerged and now run the show

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a very interesting book indeed, and although his insights seem to me to require the mental model and organizing principle “memes,” an emergent phenomenon, just as life is an emergent phenomenon from atoms but is not defined in terms of atoms. Humans can copy words and behavior (“memes”) and these copies are  subject to the same Darwinian principles that govern lifeforms and lead to evolution: they replicate with some slight variation, and those variations that provide a survival advantage are favored. So with lifeforms you get the inhabitants of the biosphere, and with memes you get the inhabitants of the meme-sphere. This is all explained in Chapter 11 of The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins.

But what’s interesting about this book is that, up to now (page 127), despite all his meme-based insights and memo-focused way of looking at history (including its definition), he never mentions memes per se. He does mention culture and myths and the like. But he doesn’t point out how we can view them as having the common nature of being memes, that evolve from their own sort of natural selection.

It reminds me of how Newton initially used the calculus he invented: he worked out certain results, then translated the findings back into geometrical language for the Principia, as though that was how he worked it out. Or how, back when Bayesian statistics was still struggling for recognition, some Classical statisticians would secretly use Bayesian statistics to discover results (because Baysiean statistics worked curiously well), then write the finding up justified by Classical statistics, as though that were how it was found.

I think this book is the translation from the meme version, but quite a direct translation, so you can easily see at the memes and their evolution.

One particularly graphic chapter describes how the agricultural revolution was the success of a meme that made miserable the lives of almost all its hosts. His descriptions are vivid: the meme evolves in directions that, while being best for the meme, are grossly sub-optimal for the host.

One section of particular contemporary interest describes what happens when the commonly accepted myths (memes), those that hold a society together, lose their grip:. Very interesting chapter in the political/economic context of today.


Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2015 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Books, Memes

Chicken-stock vandalism: Something to watch out for

with 2 comments

The 1-qt boxes of chicken broth and stock, beef broth, and vegetable broth and stock have two types of caps, both with foil seals under the caps. One type is a flip-up cap, and the foil has a tab so you can pull it away. The other type is a screw top, and the foil seal within is made to be punctured with your finger or a spoon handle or the like.

Recently, at two different stores, I found that the foil caps beneath the screw caps had all been broken open. The flip-cap foils were intact, presumably because any damage to the seal would be obvious. The damage to (and destruction of) the foil seals in the screw-top caps is not so obvious: you have to unscrew the cap and then look down the opening to see if the foil is intact. I didn’t find any with the foil unbroken.

So check the seal on any stock you buy. Even if nothing harmful was introduced, I would think that the stock will go off fairy quickly once the seal is broken.

I’ve notified both companies (Whole Foods and Nob Hill), FWIW.

Check the seal before you buy.

UPDATE: Perhaps not: checking the seal is like testing one of the old-style (single-use) flashbulbs: the test destroys the item. I got this reply:

Thank you for the email. Imagine and other producers of milk, soups and stock have changed their screw top lids to actually perforate the foil top when the lid is twisted opened. If you look inside the lid, there are three little plastic edges that cut the foil seal. The only way to check to see if the seal has been broken is to look at the cap itself from the outside and see if it has a broken seal. The new packaging actually has a yellow band across the top that tells you that twisting it will break the seal. It just has not rolled out to all products.

If you are not comfortable with the twist tops, I would recommend changing over to a product with the flip top. With this style, the consumer still pulls off the foil seal.

Thank you for your email. Please let me know if I can be of any other assistance.

I think this self-breaking seal is a bad approach, but so it goes. To me, it’s akin to requesting confirmation and then (as a help to the user and to save a step) automatically providing the confirmation. The entire idea of a seal is to verify that the contents are sealed until you knowingly break the seal. Automatically breaking it before you can check it seems extremely odd.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2015 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Health

LASSC BBS-1 and Otoko Organics

with 9 comments

SOTD 29 Dec 2015

I promised that I would watch carefully how I made the lather, so here it is: First, I washed my beard with MR GLO and rinsed partially, leaving beard wet and a little soapy. I wet the Omega S-Brush well and shook it out, leaving the brush merely damp—that is, I shook it well and several times.

I started brushing to soap, which I had not wet, with the damp brush, briskly and firmly. Initially there was little reaction, but fairly quickly bubbles appeared and then the brush seemed well loaded with soap. The whole process took about 10 seconds.

I moved brush to beard and began brushing all over my wet beard and the lather developed. I did add a little water—ran the brush quickly through the steam of water flowing from the tap—and worked that in, which increased the lather.

I had plenty of lather for all three passes, and the lather showed no inclination to fade or die. That’s been my typical experience with this soap. And I do like the light, clean fragrance it has, along with the lather it makes.

The Los Angeles Shaving Soap Company’s BBS-1 razor is made for them by Wolfman, and it provides an excellent shave. As I continue to cut down on the collection, I’m thinking this one might go on the auction block. I wouldn’t consider it except that I have another Wolfman Razor, the WR1-SB, so I still would have access to Wolfman excellence.

And speaking of cutting back, I have three boxes, each containing 10 excellent artisanal soaps that I’ve tried. I’m selling them for $25/box, plus $10 shipping. I have no list of the soaps, so it’s a surprise box, but I can assure you that the 10 soaps are excellent. One box’s collection includes, for example, Martin de Candre fougère, though I don’t know which box. And there are some pre-reformulation Geo. F. Trumper soaps, which are excellent.

You can email me at leisureguy dot wordpress at gmail dot com if you’re interested.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2015 at 9:22 am

Posted in Shaving

Amazing how overt corruption can become: A look at Wisconsin

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Username puddytat blogs at Daily Kos:

As bad as it is to make the GQ List of The Worst People of 2015 with a listing of #13 (i.e. considered worse than Roger Goodell of the NFL, The Confederate Flag, Roger Ailes, Rahm Emanuel, 2 celebrity wife beaters, and pharmaceutical price gouger Martin Shkreli), more bad news is creeping towards Scott Walker.

Despite massive spending by dark money groups, multiple lawsuits at every level in the land (even suing the individual prosecutors and the Government Accountability Board), a corrupt State Supreme Court decision by Justices who were elected to their seats by the same dark money groups being investigated, and media poodles pounding out Walker propaganda, John Doe just won’t die from the plethora of fatal wounds heaped upon it. They keep killing it in every way possible, but it’s still slightly alive.

This summer, the Wisconsin Supreme Court took up the question of whether to stop the investigation into alleged coordination between Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and conservative outside groups that receive unlimited donations from undisclosed donors. The problem was that the election campaigns of two justices on the state’s top court had benefited significantly from spending by those same groups accused of illegal coordination with Walker. The special prosecutor overseeing the investigation, along with legal ethicists, asked the two justices with conflicts of interest to recuse themselves. But no justices stepped aside.

The court shut down the investigation by ruling that the type of coordination at issue was actually legal—that campaigns and outside dark-money groups can coordinate as long as they don’t produce ads that explicitly say “vote for” or “vote against” a candidate. And that was supposed to be the end of the story.

As soon as it became evident that Republican John Doe Chief Prosecutor Francis Schmitz was looking towards appealing the State Supreme Court decision to end the John Doe Probe to the US Supreme Court, the RW majority on the State Supreme Court took swift action; they removed him as Chief Prosecutor. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. It means that any appeal he might mount would be on his own dime which makes even filing a US Supreme Court (with its $25,000 filing fee) financially impossible for the average working stiff.

On top of that, Republicans in Wisconsin just abolished (bill signed by Scott Walker last week) the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (which was a party to the John Doe Probe) and will replace it with a partisan board of political hacks appointees. So there, another knife in the back to John Doe. Late last year, they also gutted the John Doe Probe laws exempting all but felonious criminal activity from secret investigation (and all John Doe Probes of elected officials, as well). Poison in the John Doe Wine cup, too. There, it’s dead, right?

But …. zombie John Doe just rose from the grave again when 3 county prosecutors signaled that they want the case to be heard by the US Supremes.

… the state justices gave the district attorneys until Friday to seek to intervene in the litigation, which gives them a chance to step in for Schmitz and ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state rulings.

Friday’s motion to intervene comes only a day after the state’s elections and ethics agency reached a settlement without financial penalties or admission of wrongdoing with the Wisconsin Club for Growth and one of its directors, Eric O’Keefe, who were among the targets of the John Doe probe.

Considering the nature of the US Supreme Court rulings which have led to the wild west, anything goes nature of current campaign finance operations, the DAs will need to be careful in how they proceed. Their best option is likely to go after the Justices who refused to recuse themselves from a case involving the same groups that spent vast sums getting them elected to the State Supreme Court.

There are two potential issues that the district attorneys could appeal to the Supreme Court: a challenge on the merits of the state court’s campaign finance ruling, and an ethical challenge to the failure of the justices to recuse themselves. It’s the second question that experts believe makes for the stronger case.

“I would not want to bring any campaign finance case to this Supreme Court,” says Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine School of Law, nodding to the conservative bent of the court on this issue. But the recusal question, he says, “has a decent chance.” And that’s where court watchers believe the case will indeed focus.

Nothing has been filed yet, but the motion to intervene by those 3 County District Attorneys indicates that they want to take this matter to a higher court. Even if they limit the appeal to the recusals, the smell of corruption will be stifling and the reasons for the original John Doe will once again come to light.

Perhaps it’s karma at its best when we remember how fast and furiously they worked to kill the John Doe in order for Scott Walker to announce his Presidential ambitions and run without a corruption scandal nipping at his heels. And some of that haste, particularly the lack of recusals from State Supreme Court Justices that benefitted from the huge spending of the same groups under investigation, is rising up to bite them in the ass.

Just as they thought the John Doe was dead and buried …..

Stay tuned.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2015 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government, Law

Yet Another American Military Mission Is Failing

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Our military is not learning from experience—nor is Congress. Kevin Drum posts:

I suppose you have to read the whole thing to get the true flavor of the situation,but here’s the latest from Afghanistan:

In September, the Taliban briefly seized Kunduz, the first city to fall since the demise of its regime, prompting the U.S. military to dispatch SpecialOperations troops and stage airstrikes to help the Afghan security forces retake control.

Now, the insurgents are on the doorsteps of several provincial capitals, applying more pressure on urban areas than in any year of the conflict. The clashes in Helmand have reflected the Taliban strategy that led to the takeover of Kunduz — seizing surrounding districts before moving in on the provincial capital. Already, the Taliban are in the enclave of Ba­baji, within the borders of Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah.

….Afghans, including senior military officials, no longer even pretend that they can fight the Taliban effectively on their own. “When the foreigners were here, we had plenty of facilities and equipment,” said 1st Lt. Naseer Ahmad Sahel, 30, a civil-order police company commander who was wounded last month in a firefight in Marja. “There were 100 cameras overlooking Marja alone.”

Faqir, the commander of the 215th Corps, said, “We don’t have the air support that we should have.”

There isn’t a single country from Libya to Afghanistan where American military intervention has succeeded, nor a single country where American military training has been anything but a disaster. We can’t do counterinsurgency on our own, and the troops we’ve tried to train are too divided in their loyalties to be effective.

But we’re supposed to believe that if only we’d picked a side in the Syrian civil war two years ago, that would have made all the difference? Or that if only we’d kept a few thousand more troops in Iraq for a few more years, ISIS never would have become a threat? Spare me. How many times does Lucy have to pull away the football before Charlie Brown finally figures out what’s going on?

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2015 at 11:40 am

Posted in Military

Ben Carson is actually fairly pathetic

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Kevin Drum has a short post quoting Ben Carson, who seems exceptionally weak and insecure, possessing zero self-awareness.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2015 at 11:38 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Shopping at a gardening center is probable cause for a SWAT raid on your home

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Something is very seriously wrong, not only with law enforcement agencies and police departments, but also with the judiciary, which seem increasingly less judicious (e.g., judges who order people arrested for handing out leaflets on jury nullification, an arrest in violation of free-speech rights). In the Washington Post Radley Balko reports a recent incident:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of  “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

The investigation leading to the raid began at least seven months earlier, when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper had been positioned in the store parking lot to collect the license plate numbers of customers, compile them into a spreadsheet, then send the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation. Yes,merely shopping at a gardening store could make you the target of a criminaldrug investigation.

More than half a year later, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the Hartes as part of “Operation Constant Gardener,” basically a PR stunt in which the agency conducts multiple pot raids on April 20, or “4/20.” On several occasions, the Sheriff’s Department sent deputies out to sort through the family’s garbage. (The police don’t need a warrant to sift through your trash.) The deputies repeatedly found “saturated plant material” that they thought could possibly be marijuana. On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. It was on the basis of those tests and Harte’s patronage of a gardening store that the police obtained the warrant for the SWAT raid.

But, of course, they found nothing. Lab tests would later reveal that the “saturated plant material” was actually loose-leaf tea, which Addie Harte drinks on a regular basis. Why did the field tests come up positive for pot?  As I wrote back in February, it’s almost as if these tests come up positive whenever the police need them to. A partial list of substances that the tests have mistaken for illegal drugs would include sage, chocolate chip cookies, motor oil, spearmint, soap, tortilla dough, deodorant, billiard’s chalk, patchouli, flour, eucalyptus, breath mints, Jolly Ranchers and vitamins. Back in 2009, the Marijuana Policy Project demonstrated how easily the tests could be manipulated to generate positive results:

As a lab-coated and rubber glove wearing researcher from the South Carolina Center for Biotechnology dumped a sample of oregano into a field test kit, Mintwood Media’s Adam Eidinger produced a positive test result for cocaine with another kit simply by exposing it to the atmosphere. “This is just air,” Eidinger said, opening up a test and waving it as the reagent turned orange, indicating a positive result. (See the YouTube video here.)

The testing done at the press conference replicated that done earlier by the researchers, who found that a surprisingly large number of common substances generated false positive results for the presence of drugs. “While testing the specificity of the KN Reagent test kits with 42 non-marijuana substances, I observed that 70% of these tests rendered a false positive,” said Dr. Omar Bagasra, director of the Center for Biotechnology, who conducted the experiments.

That research came as part of new report, False Positives Equal False Justice, by forensics expert John Kelly in collaboration with former FBI chief scientist and narcotics officer Dr. Frederick Whitehurst. In the report, the pair uncovered “a drug testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police, prosecutors, and judges which abrogates every American’s constitutional rights,” as Kelly wrote in the executive summary.

“Law enforcement officials, forensic drug analysts, and prosecutors knowingly employ the flawed Duquenois-Levine and KN Reagent tests as well as mere conclusory police reports to wrongfully prosecute and convict millions of individuals for anti-marijuana law violations,” Kelly wrote.

This is the same brand of test kit used in the Harte case. Despite the fact that the sheriff’s department didn’t begin investigating the Hartes until at least seven months after their allegedly suspicious activity (again — shopping at a gardening store) first attracted the notice of police, the sheriff’s department couldn’t wait for the more accurate laboratory tests to confirm that the “saturated plant material” was marijuana before sending a SWAT team into the Harte home. Doing so would have jeopardized the news hook of tying the raids to 4/20. It took all of 10 days to complete those lab tests. The lab not only concluded that substance wasn’t pot, the analysts added, “It does not look anything like marijuana leaves or stems.”

At the conclusion of the raids, the Sheriff’s Department held a press conference to tout their success. News reports emphasized that the raids had turned up drug activity “in good neighborhoods” in places like Leawood (where the Hartes live), and at the homes of “average Johnson County families.”

Once they had been cleared of any wrongdoing, the Hartes wanted to know what happened. Why had they been raided? What possible probable cause could the police have had for sending a SWAT team into their home first thing in the morning? But even that information would prove difficult to obtain. Under Kansas law, the sheriff’s department wasn’t obligated to turn over any information related to the raid — not to the Hartes, not to the media, not to anyone. The couple eventually had to hire an attorney to get a judge to order the sheriff to release the information. They spent more than $25,000 in legal fees just to learn why the sheriff had sent a SWAT team into their home. Once they finally had that information, the Hartes filed a lawsuit.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed every one of the Hartes’s claims. Harte found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive field test and spotting a suspect at a gardening store was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. He found that the police had probable cause for the search, and that the way the search was conducted did not constitute excessive force. He found that the Hartes had not been defamed by the raid or by the publicity surrounding it. He also ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate, nor were they obligated to wait for the more accurate lab tests before conducting the SWAT raid. The only way they’d have a claim would be if they could show that the police lied about the results, deliberately manipulated the tests or showed a reckless disregard for the truth — and he ruled that the Hartes had failed to do so.

Keep in mind that this was a ruling for summary judgment. This was not a trial. To dismiss the suit at this stage, Lungstrum needed to view the facts in a light most favorable to the Hartes. And yet he still found that at no point did the police violate the family’s constitutional rights. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, and it’s important.


Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2015 at 11:27 am

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