Later On

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

Archive for March 9th, 2018

Perfect dinner

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I’ve been closely observing points today, so I could easily afford a Friday-Night Rob Roy:

Fill one of my birthday Waterford Diamond Lismore crystal double old-fashioned glasses with ice cubes. A glug of Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, 4 glugs Grant’s blended scotch (who remembers “As long as you’re up, could you get me a Grant’s?” — triangular bottle), a good dash of Angostura bitters, stir well, then float just a little Grand Marnier on top.

Pretty good, if I say it myself.

Then dinner. I got a good cut of fillet of steelhead trout (toward the head, not the tail) and so did my fish-on-greens favorite. Tonight:

1.t Tbsp EVOO in large sauté pan.

When hot, add:

2 bunches large scallions, sliced including green part
3 Fresno peppers, cored and chopped
8-10 (or 12) cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
12 asparagus spears, tough part discarded, cut in 1″ sections
1 Tbsp salt
1.5 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp chimayo chile powder

Sauté until onions soften and become translucent, stirring often. When it seems ready, add:

2 Meyer lemons, ends removed, diced
1 cup sliced yellow cherry tomatoes (“Zuma” up here)

Stir and sauté until the lemons and onions have produced some juice. Add:

1/4 cup dry vermouth
handfuls of Costco Super Greens, a mix of baby kale, baby spinach, etc.

Add a handful, stir, cover, add another handful. Do that 3 or 4 times.

Let simmer 20 minutes. Add:

1 fillet of steelhead trout, skin side down, on top of greens

Cover simmer 10 minutes and test. in this case, the thicker part of the fillet was not done in 10 minutes, so I added another 5 minutes.

Then it was perfect.

I have seldom had so fine a meal. And there are leftovers (though, to be honest, not of the fish).

And for pudding: wild blueberries, tastefully thawed. Zero points.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 6:09 pm

Trained by our tools

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It is, from one viewpoint, sort of demeaning that we are trained by our own creations, as though subservient to them. But consider: the more you drove your car, the better your driving became. So a training effect is clearly seen. Now it’s for certain that you’re not training the car. Only one of the pair {driver, car} is susceptible of being trained. So the trainer is….  the car. And some are more trainable than others. Race car drivers have been highly trained by the cars they drive, and thus they know how to get the most out of that particular car.

Memes control us. (Cars, like all human-made products, are clearly memes and a rich source of memes (designating, e.g., status).)

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Lonely and unhappy people elected Donald Trump: That could be a sign of hope

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Chauncey DeVega has an interesting column in Salon:

The 2016 American presidential election is a political corpse. We continue to pick it apart in an effort understand how a manifestly incompetent, proudly ignorant, racist and sexist demagogue like Donald Trump could have possibly defeated Hillary Clinton, and what this portends for the country.

More than 15 months after the ignominious day when Trump won the White House, what have we learned?

We know that racism, nativism and white victimology were crucial motivations for Trump’s voters. We know that white identity politics disguised as anger about the economy, globalization and “elites” also propelled Trump’s victory.

We know there is a crisis in faith among the American people regarding our democratic institutions; a majority of the American people do not consider civic literacy a virtue.

For several decades authoritarianism has been increasing among Americans, and this is especially true for Republicans and right-leaning independents. These voters were drawn to Donald Trump because they share his authoritarian values.

We know that Russian efforts to undermine American democracy by manipulating low-information voters  — especially Republicans and others immersed in the right-wing echo chamber — were remarkably effective.

We know that Trump and the Republican Party used voter suppression and other techniques to prevent nonwhites, especially African-Americans and Latinos, from voting. This did great harm to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a huge margin. However, her campaign did not expend sufficient and necessary resources in several key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. This resulted in a “black swan” effect where Trump snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

There is another variable, little discussed, that also helps to explain Trump’s rise to power and the fanatical support he enjoys from Republican and other right-leaning voters.

In the United States collective well-being and happiness have been decreasing for at least a decade. This is correlated with an increase in loneliness and feelings of social isolation and alienation.

A new report from Gallup highlights this problem. It explains that nearly half of  U.S. states “saw their well-being scores decline by a statistically significant margin in 2017,” while none of the 50 states “saw statistically significant improvement from the year before. … The large number of states with declines in well-being in 2017 is particularly notable given that Americans’ confidence in the economy and perceptions of the job market are substantially better in 2017 than they were in 2009.”

The Gallup report continues:

Many of the states showing declines in their well-being scores worsened on the same set of well-being metrics. These include:

  • An increase in experiencing significant worry on any given day
  • A sharp uptick in reporting “little interest or pleasure in doing things”
  • An increase in clinical diagnoses of depression
  • Elevated reports of daily physical pain
  • A decline in reports of receiving “positive energy” from friends and family members
  • A decline in having “someone who encourages you to be healthy”
  • A drop in reports of liking “what you do each day”
  • A decrease in those who have a leader in their life who makes them “enthusiastic about the future”
  • A decline in the percentage who report that they are reaching their goals
  • A reduction in satisfaction with standard of living (compared to peers)

This mix of alienation, loneliness, despair and angst provided the perfect breeding ground for the authoritarian populism that Trump rode to victory. Social pathology does not encourage healthy democratic politics: Trumpism is the proof, as is the rise of right-wing authoritarianism across Europe and around the world.

In her classic work “Origins of Totalitarianism,” philosopher Hannah Arendt explained the perils of loneliness in politics this way:

Just as terror, even in its pre-total, merely tyrannical form ruins all relationships between men, so the self-compulsion of ideological thinking ruins all relationships with reality. The preparation has succeeded when people have lost contact with their fellow men as well as the reality around them; for together with these contacts, men lose the capacity of both experience and thought. The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.

In another passage, Arendt wrote that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s worth reading.

Shortly later in the article:

What can be done? The commons must be protected and nurtured. . .

Added thought: In looking at the findings of the Gallup poll quoted above, I think it is obvious that the Federal (Constitutional) government is failing in on of its mission goals:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Federal government, rather than promoting the general Welfare is actively and deliberating promoting the Welfare of the extremely wealthy, and the welfare of their money-generating businesses. The general Welfare is sacrificed so the greedy can get more.

The fault is primarily Congress. The GOP Congress, both House and Senate, has failed in a basic Constitutional responsibility.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 2:49 pm

White House Tells Idaho to Sabotage Obamacare More Subtly

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Eric Levitz writes in New York magazine:

In January, Republicans in Idaho decided that if Congress wasn’t going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they would just have to repeal it themselves. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed an executive order that nullified a whole host of ACA regulations: Insurers in the Gem State would now be able to sell health-care plans that didn’t cover maternity care, mental illness, or other “essential health benefits“; to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions, and deny them coverage outright if they had failed to maintain “continuous coverage”; and set a dollar limit on the amount of benefits that consumers could draw on (which is to say, sneak in a provision that renders the insurance plan useless if an enrollee happens to develop an exorbitantly expensive medical condition).

The one catch was that insurers who sold such skimpy plans would be required to also sell at least one Obamacare-compliant option over the exchanges. This arrangement would allow (temporarily) healthy people to get (junky) insurance at a very cheap price — while rendering the risk pool for Obamacare-compliant plans exceptionally sickly, thereby causing premiums to skyrocket for people who required comprehensive coverage.

This all constituted a flagrant violation of federal law. But responsibility for enforcing said law lay with Trump’s Health and Human Services Department, which has been flagrantly violating the spirit of Obamacare for more than a year now. For weeks, the White House refused to say whether Idaho would be allowed to pick and choose which federal laws it wished to follow. In the interim, Blue Cross of Idaho announced that it would gladly sell terrible insurance plans to the good people of the Gem State — and other conservative states began seeing the virtues of simply pretending that Obamacare no longer existed.

But on Thursday night, Trump’s Health Department (somewhat apologetically) announced that it would not allow Idaho to comport itself as a sovereign nation. In a letter to Governor Otter, Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), wrote, “CMS is committed to working with states to give them as much flexibility as permissible under the law to provide their citizens the best possible access to healthcare. However, the Affordable Care Act remains the law[.]”

Verma encouraged Idaho to try a subtler approach to nullifying Obamacare, noting that its proposal could have passed legal muster “with certain modifications.”

And it’s true that the Trump administration has already provided conservative states with a blueprint for ending Obamacare in practice, if not law. Specifically, the White House has alerted red states to a loophole in the ACA: The law does not impose essential health benefit requirements on short-term insurance plans.

The reasoning behind this exemption was fairly simple:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 1:48 pm

5G wireless pits cities against telecoms and their friends in the FCC

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Allan Holmes reports from the Center for Public Integrity:

In his previous 27 years as a resident of Germantown, Maryland, a leafy suburb of Washington, Vietnam veteran Marc King had never attended a local government meeting.

But for the past year, the retired lieutenant colonel has been to four community meetings held by Montgomery County, just north of the nation’s capital.  And he may not be done yet. King is concerned, even agitated. And he’s far from alone.

What has King, 71, and many of his neighbors so worked up are so-called small cells, the next generation of wireless technology that telecommunications firms and cell-tower builders want to place on streetlights and utility poles throughout neighborhoods nationwide. The small cells come with a host of equipment, including antennas, power supplies, electric meters, switches, cabling and boxes often strapped to the sides of poles. Some may have refrigerator-sized containers on the ground. And they will be placed about every 500 or so feet along residential streets and throughout business districts.

Telecom companies say the cells will be both unobtrusive and safe, and insist the technology is needed to bring faster internet speeds required by a more connected world. But residents like King and some wireless experts say the cells could reduce property values, pose safety risks and forever sully the appearance of cities — if not properly regulated.

King is one of millions of Americans facing this dilemma — but most aren’t even aware of it yet. From Germantown to Lincoln, Nebraska, from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Seattle, small cells are poised to spring up like mushrooms, with estimates ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million more nationwide within seven years. Thousands are being erected right now.

Cities and counties like Montgomery figured they could put proposals for small cells through the usual zoning, permitting and citizen input processes that other cell towers and most brick-and-mortar proposals go through. But they may be mistaken, as King and his neighbors have discovered. Politically connected telecommunications giants like Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and tower-operator Crown Castle International Inc. say that sort of local regulation isn’t appropriate for these sleeker, smaller cells, and they want to cut local governments’ say in the process. They contend they have the law on their side, but perhaps more important, they’ve got powerful friends in state capitols — and in the corridors of power in Washington.

Friends like the Federal Communications Commission, which is considering rules that would drastically limit local governments’ regulations for the placement and appearance of the small cells, and how much they can charge for them. The commission took its first cut at that in November by unanimously passing new rules for replacing existing poles on historic preservation sites. The commission plans to vote this month on rolling back the environmental review process for 5G infrastructure. Some commissioners say that’s just the start. And more than a dozen states have passed laws backed by Big Telecom to limit local regulation of wireless facilities, with more states likely to act this year. Congress is considering doing the same.

President Donald Trump has joined the debate, signing an executive order in January that calls on federal agencies “to use all viable tools to accelerate” broadband deployment in rural areas on federal lands. “Those towers are going to go up, and you’re going to have great, great broadband,” Trump said.

If the fight over 5G poles and cells hasn’t hit your town yet, chances are it’s coming. But even grizzled veterans of real shooting wars like King recognize when he and his neighbors can’t, as he puts it, “generate enough combat power to overcome the enemy,” rendering them powerless against the big telecom firms. Simply stated, King believes he’s about to get rolled.

“It’s clear to me we will not get this stopped,” King said. “You’ve got to be living in La La Land if you think it will.”

President Trump’s hand-picked FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, believes scaling back local rules will bring faster internet speeds to rural areas, closing the so-called digital divide. He says reducing local regulations will save wireless carriers big money, cash they can spend on expanding the super-fast networks into underserved or unconnected areas.

But local officials and some wireless engineers aren’t buying the argument.

Municipal and county authorities insist they want the new technology and want to work with the wireless carriers — and they admit they aren’t without some blame for not having permitting processes ready for the new technology.  But they believe the changes the FCC is considering will remove legitimate local oversight governing what the small-cell facilities look like, while risking safety because poles may become overly burdened by equipment and be too close to roadways. Reducing permitting and rental fees for the companies to use public rights of way also would force cities and counties to subsidize a for-profit industry by giving away the use of valuable public land, cities and their lawyers argue. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 12:30 pm

Another French shave, plus Dorco 602

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The French part is everything but the razor: Plisson synthetic and Creed Green Irish Tweed. The lid is presented sideways because I didn’t notice—it’s difficult to read and I was still perhaps sleepy.

Creed shaving soaps are very expensive: $125, exactly twice the price they were when I bought my Green Irish Tweed some years ago. However, it is indeed an excellent shaving soap, so there’s some consolation in that: a rich, creamy, and fragrant lather. Green Irish Tweed is famously the fragrance Cary Grant preferred, and I, though no Cary Grant, like it a lot myself.

I wanted to again do a comparison of the Dorco PL602 with the RazoRock Baby Smooth, and they are indeed very close in feel and performance. Thus IMO the Dorco PL602 is the ideal razor for a man who just wants to try DE shaving to see what it’s all about.

Three passes and a splash of GIT EDT as an aftershave: great start to the day. (And a late start: after Molly got me up at 5:00am I went back to bed and slept very well. He she is on her cat-tree in the study, acting innocent.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2018 at 10:53 am

Posted in Cats, Molly, Shaving

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