Later On

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

Archive for August 28th, 2018

The way to have pork belly

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I stopped by Farm & Field Butchers (Blanshard between Broughton and Fort), and they had nicely wrapped and ready-to-go Braised Pork Belly Spicy Bugogi.

Did I buy any? Like a shot. They come shrink-wrapped with four little (precooked) rectangles, about 4″ long, 1″ tall, 1″ wide. All you have to do is heat them to serving temperature.

I used a sauté pan with a lid, using medium-low heat. I checked it and when all sides had sputtered and browned, I ate it.

Wow! Not only outstandingly tasty with a terrific mouthfeel, also small enough that you maintain the illusion of control (unless, of course, you heat and eat a second).

Low-carb, though.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 4:13 pm

The old ways are best: Ice-crusher division

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I think everyone is familiar with the-old-ways-are-best shaving division. But it’s true for ice crushers as well. I’ve had the Tap-Icer, I’ve had the little ice crusher with a handle (and a lid that generally pinched you at least once), turn the handle one way for “fine,” the other way for “coarse.”

None of them hold a candle to what we did when I was very young. We had a canvas bag, and Mother would fill it with ice, and then I would take it out to the sidewalk and hammer the bag to crush the ice.

Hammer a little, coarse; hammer a lot, fine; hammer for mint juleps, snow.

The nice thing is that the result is somewhat variegated in size (unless you did “snow”). I find that pleasant and also indicative of ice that has been crushed and not ground up in a machine. The irregularities in size are testimony to crushing.

And we didn’t have a cool mallet with a large face surface. I used a regular carpenter’s hammer, but to get the broad impact I used the side of the hammer head.

This is better. Better than what I had (the mallet v. the hammer). And does a better job. And if the ice is cold, it stays cold. Crushing machines get the ice to melting. Not this.

True crushed ice is essential in any number of cocktails. The Old Fashioned, of course, and also the Scotch Mist.

And you can’t make a mint julep without ice smashed to snow. It must melt quickly and thoroughly when you stir the drink so that frost will form on the outside of the (silver) cup.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Trump’s Student Debt Policies Are Mind-bogglingly Corrupt

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Eric Levitz writes in New York:

The Republican Party’s economic policies have grown so corrupt and regressive as to be literally unbelievable. In focus groups, Democratic operatives have found that swing voters will often dismiss simple descriptions of the GOP’s self-avowed fiscal priorities as partisan attacks — after all, how could any major political party actually favor slashing Medicare benefits to lower taxes on the one percent?

Alas, a plain recitation of the Trump administration’s agenda on student debt is sure to strike many Americans as even more implausible.

But before we examine the president’s (absurdly corrupt) “college affordability” policies, let’s take a quick tour of the crisis that he inherited.

In the United States today, 44 million people carry $1.4 trillion in student debt. That giant pile of financial obligations isn’t just a burden on individual borrowers, but on the nation’s entire economy. The concomitant rise in the cost of college tuition — and stagnation of entry-level wages for college graduates — has depressed the purchasing power of a broad, and growing, part of the labor force. Many of these workers are struggling to keep their heads above water; recent research suggests that 11 percent of aggregate student-loan debt is more than 90 days past due or delinquent. Other borrowers are unable to invest in a home, vehicle, or start a family (and engage in all the myriad acts of consumption that go with that).

The full scale of this disaster is still coming into view. Just this week, the Center for American Progress (CAP) revealed that official government statistics have been hiding the depths of our student-debt problem. Federal law requires colleges that participate in student-loan programs to keep their borrowers’ default rates under 30 percent for three years after they begin repayment. But once those three years are up, federal tracking ends. Using a Freedom of Information Act request, CAP’s Ben Miller secured never-before-released data on what happens to default rates after Uncle Sam stops watching.

He found that many colleges (especially for-profit ones) have been artificially depressing their default rates during the three-year window by showering their borrowers in deferments — essentially, special allowances that empower debtors to temporarily stop making debt payments without going into delinquency. After the three years are up, the deferments disappear — and the default rates skyrocket. . .

Continue reading. And look at the charts in the article. And the corruption is jaw-dropping—as is the damage done to the future of the US.

Later:

Just about all of America’s institutions of higher learning are complicit in this sorry state of affairs. But for-profit colleges have been far and away the most malevolent actors. The entrepreneurs behind such schools looked at the masses of Americans struggling to claw their way up the socioeconomic ladder — and then at the giant stack of federal student loans available to such strivers — and hatched a plan for “disrupting” the higher-education market: Whereas many traditional universities had inefficiently concentrated their capital on research centers, student services, and faculty, for-profit colleges recognized that an ounce of marketing was worth a pound of quality instruction.

Later:

As DeVos works to funnel more taxpayer money to low-performing, for-profit colleges, she’s cracking down on federal-student-loan forgiveness.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 2:03 pm

A major US city will start drinking its own sewage. Others need to follow.

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I would say “Others will follow.” The supply of fresh water is going to drop precipitously in some regions. Zoë Schlanger reports in Quartz:

It’s possible, a few decades from now, humans living in water-scarce places will find it ridiculous that we spent centuries just flushing away our watery sewage. Didn’t we know we could have been drinking it?

The idea of a closed-loop water system, in which we drink, expel, treat, and then drink again, is not new. The technology already exists to treat human wastewater to drinking water standards; water engineers call it by the polite (if euphemistic) name of “direct potable reuse.” But few city water utilities have been daring enough to try it on their customers, given its poor public image.

On the other hand, El Paso, Texas, a land of scarce rainfall—it’s drier than Windhoek, Namibia, the capital of the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa—is charging into potable reuse with near-religious zeal. The border city (population 700,000), which shares a river and groundwater with its sister city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, has been building up to this moment for decades.

El Paso recently proved to state officials it could do it, running a pilot (pdf) of the purification process for most of a year, finishing up in 2016. Now the city is seeking grant funding to shepherd a potable-reuse plant through the remainder of a design process; water-utility officials think they can break ground on the plant “in the next few years,” according to Joshua Moniz, a public affairs coordinator for the El Paso water utility. Within a decade, El Paso hopes its residents will be drinking reclaimed sewage water. In short, El Paso, situated in the middle of the punishingly dry Chihuahuan desert is on the cutting edge of water technology. It really has no choice.

El Paso today is unrecognizable from the city in the 1980s. In 1985, each El Pasoan was using on average 205 gallons of water every day, far above the US average of 112 gallons—a national peak that has been declining ever since. Water was cheap. Lush lawns were all the rage. Half of the city’s water was being used outdoors, feeding St. Augustine grass in a desert. But water levels in the Hueco Bolson, the aquifer that quenched booming El Paso and Juarez, were dropping by 1.5 ft per year. A later report would reveal (paywall) that the water in the Bolson dropped a full 147 ft (45 meters) between 1940 and 1999. At that rate, the aquifer would effectively be pumped dry by 2025 (pdf). The stakes were very clear: If the aquifer went, so would the city.

Ed Archuleta came to El Paso to take a director job at the water utility in 1989. He grew up in northeastern New Mexico, in a small town called Clayton, an arid place where annual rains were only a few inches more than in El Paso. He earned his degree in engineering from New Mexico State University and knew right away he wanted to work in water. By age 47, he was the deputy director of the water utility in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a large, very dry city grappling with chronic scarcity as it rapidly depleted its aquifers.

By the time he arrived in El Paso, Archuleta was used to the hard reality of trying to squeeze water from the desert. But El Paso was a special case. At the time, it was the fifth-fastest growing large city in the country, and it was getting desperate. “We were projected to run out of water,” Archuleta recounts today. The Texas city, which sits at the border with New Mexico, is home to a small slice of a large aquifer called the Mesilla Bolson. A far greater share of the Mesilla sits beneath New Mexico, just across the state line. When Archuleta took the job in 1989, El Paso was still in the midst of a legal dispute with New Mexico, after suing the state over the claim that the city had the right to drill hundreds of wells into the Mesilla from the other side of the state line and pipe the water back to El Paso—a scheme that ultimately failed (pdf).

Fast forward 24 years, to 2013, when Archuleta finally retired: He’d become well-known in the world of water planning for recently pulling the city through the worst single-year drought in Texas (pdf) history—with water to spare. In 2011, the city went 119 days without rain. But while other Texas cities languished, and began imposing emergency water-rationing measures, El Paso was sitting relatively pretty. They did make some temporary water cutbacks, but they were minor. They’d already done the hard work. “We’re basically drought-proof,” Archuleta told the Guardian at the time.

What happened between 1989 and 2013 in El Paso makes for a master class in how to effectively reckon with the reality that when water doesn’t abide by borders, those on both sides must learn to talk to each other. If another city inextricably bound to an international (and/or interstate) water resource hopes to make it through the coming era of freshwater scarcity, they would do well to read the story of El Paso.

Archuleta, now 76, speaks with the steadiness of a person who gets things done because they think it would be ridiculous not to. “How’d we do it? Like I said, we had a plan, and then we implemented the plan,” he said in a video interview in 2014.

That plan, he said, was a 50-year strategy—his mind was on the long game from the start of his tenure at the El Paso utility—and the short-term part of it looked like this: First,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 1:25 pm

The Arctic Explorer Who Pushed an All-Meat Diet

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Anne Ewbank writes at Atlas Obscura:

In 1928, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was already world-famous. A Canadian anthropologist and consummate showman, he promoted the idea of a “Friendly Arctic,” open to exploration and commercialization. Newspapers and magazines breathlessly covered his sometimes-deadly escapades in the Arctic, including his discoveries of some of the world’s last unknown landmasses, and, more controversially, a group of “blond” Inuinnait who he claimed partially descended from Norse settlers. But for a little while, another facet of Stefansson’s life drew media attention. While living in New York for a year, Stefansson ate nothing but meat.

Today, this would be known as a ketogenic, or a no-carb diet. It’s in vogue as a weight-loss tactic: The idea is that limiting carbohydrates, which are an easy source of energy, can make the body burn fat.

But Stefansson wasn’t trying to burn fat. Instead, he wanted to prove the viability of the Inuit’s meat-heavy diet. In the Arctic, people mainly ate fish and meat from seals, whale, caribou, and waterfowl, while brief summers offered limited vegetation, such as cloudberries and fireweed. Meals could be frozen fish, or elaborate treats such as the creamy fat-and-berry dish akutaqWestern doctors thought it was a terrible way to eat.

Even in the 1920s, a diet light on meat and heavy on vegetables was considered optimal. Vegetarians were more numerous than ever, and raw vegetables, particularly celery, took on a virtuous shine. This was the era of John Harvey Kellogg, famed for not only cereal, but his health resort in Battle Creek, where no meat was on the menu. (Stefansson was even a guest there, perhaps briefly swapping steak for snowflake toast.)

It’s now widely acknowledged that the Inuit subsistence diet is quite balanced. As biochemist and Arctic nutrition expert Harold Draper told Discover magazine, there are no essential foods, only essential nutrients. Vitamin A and D, so easily available from milk, vegetables, and sunlight, can also be obtained from oils within sea mammals (particularly livers) and fish. And fresh meats and fish, prepared raw, contain trace amounts of vitamin C, a fact that Stefansson was the first Westerner to realize. It only takes a little to prevent scurvy.

During Stefansson’s day, though, doctors, dietitians, and general opinion considered the meat-heavy diets of the Arctic peoples poor and improbable. Stefansson’s year of eating carnivorously was a high-profile attempt to prove them wrong.

Stefansson himself had only come around to the diet after an extended stay in the Mackenzie Delta of the western Arctic in 1906. When a ship carrying his supplies failed to materialize, he instead depended on the hospitality of a local family. At first, he roamed far and wide to build up an appetite for the plain roasted fish he received. “When I got home I would nibble at it and write in my diary what a terrible time I was having,” he wryly wrote later. But he gradually learned to enjoy the alternatively boiled, frozen, and fermented fish that he watched Inuvialuit women prepare.

It was during this first extended stay that he started to object to what he had been told about the Arctic diet, especially his peers’ horror over the “uncivilized” practice of eating fermented fish. “I tried the rotten fish one day, and if memory servers, liked it better than my first taste of Camembert,” he wrote. It wasn’t hard to notice that the diet had other benefits, too. “[I] did not get scurvy on the fish diet, nor learn that any of my fish-eating friends ever had it,” he wrote in Harper’s Monthly Magazine in 1935. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb, Science

Fine Classic, Martin de Candre, Maggard V3A, and New York aftershave

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The Fine Classic synthetic made a terrific lather from Martin de Candre shaving soap, and then the Maggard V3A (here on a UFO handle) provided its usual great shave. I’m going to add that to the list of recommended razors. The “A” is for “aggressive,” but that applies on to its efficiency. In feel, it is a very comfortable razor, though with some blade feel—but not uncomfortable or threatening. A splash of New York aftershave finished the job.

Yesterday I took a day off from the walk, but on Sunday the walk was 1:02:27; today, 1:02:06. So I’m still making progress. The walk is 3.6 miles, according to Plotaroute.com, and today I carefully carried my phone down so it would not record any steps (and thus also no distance) before setting out on the walk, and Pedometer++ also shows the distance as 3.6 miles. I think I may be able to get the time to under an hour. We’ll see if the new poles make a difference.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2018 at 8:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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