Later On

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

Archive for February 14th, 2019

The Gravity Blanket: worth its weight or a tired fad?

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Find out here.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

For winter-evening movie watching: Brown-Butter Maple Popcorn With Pecans Recipe

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The Salted Egg Is Asia’s Answer to Parmesan

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This is somewhat esoteric, but the writing is so damn good! Yi Jun Loh writes in Taste:

Imagine a flaky croissant, with its buttery laminations of pâte feuilletée and those layers shattering as you bite into it. Then out bursts oozy yellow custard, thick as baked Camembert, and just as rich. No, richer. A hearty saltiness washes over your tongue, immediately followed by a lingering subtle, sweet creaminess. This isn’t your regular Parisian patisserie-born croissant stuffed with almond paste—this is in my homeland of Malaysia, where we’re crazy about salted egg and add it to just about everything. Even croissants.

Cooking blogs paint it as a nifty, chef-y trick to try at home, and they’re not wrong—burying egg yolks in a tray of salt for a week and coming back to find little golden hockey pucks you can then shave onto pasta and risotto does make you feel like a poor man’s Ferran Adrià. But to use salted eggs as a mere garnish is like watching The Expendables for the character development—you’re missing the point.

The traditional method for making ham dan (Cantonese for salted eggs) dates back to the 6th century, and the process has remained largely unchanged. Whole eggs (usually duck eggs because of their fattier flavor), raw with the shell still intact, are left to soak in a 15 to 20 percent concentrated salt brine for several weeks. In places like the Philippines and Malaysia, you’ll find these eggs wrapped in a salted paste of clay or ash. Both methods operate under the same principle: With time, the salt penetrates through the porous shell, dissolving the strands of protein called albumin in the whites and solidifying the yolk, drawing out the Parmesan-like umami within.

In Chinese cuisine, salted egg is as common as garlic in stir-fries and red dates in soup. It gets smushed up and haphazardly mixed into plain congee, with its speckles of yolk providing little bursts of rich salinity. It also gets cooked into sam wong dan—a steamed egg custard made with chicken egg, salted egg, and century egg (a Chinese delicacy of alkaline-preserved eggs). But perhaps most iconically, these yolks of sunshine are found in mooncakes eaten during Mid-Autumn Festival. The luminous orange yolk not only acts as a foil to the saccharine lotus paste filling; it also serves as a reflection of the full moon that shines bright in the night sky during the festival.

Here in Malaysia, we mash the salted yolks to cook them down with sugar, curry leaves, and bird’s eye chiles on the stove, resulting in an aromatic, pasty sauce. And it’s this sauce that we’ve slathered onto every dish conceivable; its punchy, sweet-smelling savoriness gives dishes an umami quality reminiscent of cheddar-dusted pretzels or Five Guys’ cajun fries.

This golden custard has flowed like lava in Kuala Lumpur. It’s filled into baos, tossed into pasta and ramen like an Asian spin-off of carbonara, and coated on deep-fried scampis and squids. This sauce really takes no hostages, as it’s even poured onto burger patties, where the thick sauce clings to the meat like gloopy American cheese; served as a dip for crudités and fries, and folded into croissants and cakes, where the flavor of salted egg brings about a sweet-salty balance not unlike sea-salt-spiked chocolate.

Even in convenience-store snacks, salted egg gets treated like sour cream and onion powder. Walking through any supermarket aisle and you’ll find find shimmering illustrations of salted egg yolks emblazoned on packets of potato and cassava chips, boxes of pineapple tarts oozing with its custard filling, and salted-egg fish skins bearing mock warnings like “Dangerously Addictive” and “Sedap Giler,” a Malay slang phrase for “crazy good.” Most famously, the fish skins at Singapore’s Irvin’s—a snack company that solely manufactures salted-egg products—are known to sell out within two hours of opening, with tourists from China and Thailand flocking to their stands by the busload. . .

Continue reading.

Recipe at the link. Duck eggs because the yolks are enormous, I imagine. And we can get duck eggs at Pepper’s.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 6:03 pm

Jonathan Chait has an interesting thought: Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion. Is It to Protect Donald Trump?

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

Last night, a federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to federal prosecutors about the Russia investigation. Some of Manafort’s lies go “very much to the heart of what the special counsel’s office is investigating,” a prosecutor told the court. In particular, Manafort deceived prosecutors about a meeting he had with his former partner and active Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik. At this meeting, the two discussed a peace plan to resolve Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top Russian foreign policy priority. Manafort passed on polling data to Kilimnik, data that was “very detailed” and “very focused,” not just some topline numbers. And according to prosecutors, Manafort did all this in hopes of getting a pardon from President Trump.

Here we have, in this case alone, every single element one would need to establish collusion. There was a meeting between Trump’s campaign manager and a Russian operative; the discussion of something Russia would gain from a Trump victory (a favorable Ukraine settlement); the exchange of information that would assist Russian campaign intervention (polling data that would allow Russia to target its social-media attacks). Also, they left the meeting place via separate entrances. This isn’t merely suspicious. It’s a scene from The Americans.

And perhaps most curious of all, you have the interest of the president. If Manafort was just running a side hustle behind Trump’s back, Trump would have little reason to care about him getting caught. Prosecutors have already charged that Manafort maintained secret contacts with the White House as recently as 2018. Howard Fineman reported last year that, according to “friends and aides” of the president, Trump believes Manafort “isn’t going to ‘flip’ and sell him out.”

The revelations about Manafort have dribbled out slowly enough that it’s easy to lose track of how far along they have come. The prosecution of Manafort began by nabbing him for the most easily detected crimes. This is exactly what you’d expect in the prosecution of a massive conspiracy: The prosecution works its way from the bottom up and the outside in, finding crimes by key figures to force them to testify against higher-ups. Instead, conservatives have treated every step in the prosecution as evidence that Manafort did nothing wrong with Russia.

When the first Manafort indictment came down in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reassured its readers that Trump was guilty of nothing more than “poor judgement” in hiring a “notorious Beltway operator,” as it called the man who had been directing Russian overseas political operations in Ukraine. “One popular theory is that Mr. Mueller is throwing the book at Mr. Manafort so he will cop a plea and tell what he knows about Russian-Trump campaign chicanery,” reasoned an editorial. “But that assumes he knows something that to date no Congressional investigation has found.”

The next year, a gimmick filing by Manafort’s attorneys seized on the fact that prosecutors had not charged him with colluding with Russia yet to present him as innocent. Mollie Hemingway breathlessly wrote it up in the Federalist. Manafort’s “legal team also reveals the government has provided no evidence of any contact between Manafort and Russian officials,” she declared. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, impressed by this “evidence,” declared, “If Manafort did not illegally collide [sic] with Russia, it’s hard to imagine anyone who did.”

Last summer, Byron York was still proclaiming, “There’s no collusion in the case against Manafort.”

This defense has been smashed to pieces. There’s a ton of collusion in the case against Manafort. Of course we haven’t even seen the full extent of the charges, much of which is still hidden in the procession of indictments beneath tantalizing black lines. What we already know is  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 5:14 pm

Beanless coffee

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From a newsletter from Institute From The Future:

Call it Impossible Coffee. Seattle’s Atomo has developed coffee that uses “upcycled plant-based materials” instead of coffee beans by combining about 40 of the compounds that give coffee its distinctive taste, smell, and mouthfeel. Why would anyone want “molecular” coffee over the real thing? Because coffee is often produced by slave labor and is a cause of deforestation, says Atomo.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 5:08 pm

Teens who use cannabis at a higher risk of developing depression, suicidal behaviour: study

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I would back a law that restricts cannabis sales to persons who are 21 or older. Wency Leung reports in the Globe & Mail:

Teens who use cannabis are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicidal behaviour in young adulthood, compared with those who do not use the drug, according to a new study led by researchers in Montreal.

The findings, published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, suggest a greater need for education about the mental-health risks associated with cannabis, says lead author Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

“A lot of young students and parents are not informed about the risks … of cannabis. They think it’s a light herb because it’s natural,” she says.

While previous research has linked cannabis to psychosis and schizophrenia, this new meta-analysis investigates the impact of the drug on young people’s risk of mood disorders and suicide. The findings provide further evidence to suggest cannabis may be particularly harmful to developing teenage brains.

The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies, involving a total of 23,317 participants. While they discovered the risk for anxiety was not statistically significant, they found daily-to-weekly cannabis use was related to a high risk for suicidal attempts, and a low to medium risk for developing depression.

For individuals, this risk of depression may be small, Dr. Gobbi says. But given the prevalence of cannabis use among young Canadians (33 per cent of cannabis users are in the 15 to 24 age group, according to National Cannabis Survey data), this risk becomes “very important” at a population level, she says. It means earlier cannabis use may be linked to an estimated 7 per cent of young adults with depression, she says.

The study found only an association, and not a causal relationship, between cannabis use and later depression and suicidal behaviour. But Dr. Gobbi notes that only studies in which young participants were healthy prior to using cannabis were included in the analysis. So in these studies, participants did not start using cannabis because they were depressed, she explains. Rather, they developed depression after they started using the drug.

Among the limitations of the meta-analysis, the researchers noted not all of the studies they analyzed accounted for other drugs or psychosocial factors that may be linked to depression and early cannabis consumption, and they used different methods for detecting major depressive disorder. The researchers were also unable to evaluate the quantity or potency of cannabis that participants consumed.

Catherine Orr of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, who was not involved in the study, says there is a lot of research that suggests adolescents are more vulnerable to the potential brain effects of cannabis than adults.

“We cannot say for certain why this is, but a likely explanation is that adolescence is a period of rapid brain development in which grey matter volume is pruned,” says Dr. Orr, who recently published a different study showing structural brain changes in teens who had used cannabis. This “pruning” refers to the natural elimination of unnecessary brain connections. Dr. Orr explains it is possible that cannabis consumption may disrupt this process. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 2:16 pm

Every Day Is a New Low in Trump’s White House

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Andrew McCabe, former acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, writes in the Atlantic:

Editor’s Note: Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, was named acting director of the bureau after President Donald Trump fired his boss, Director James Comey, on May 9, 2017. McCabe would himself be fired less than a year later. In an exclusive adaptation from his book, The Threat, to be published next week by St. Martin’s Press, McCabe describes his encounters with President Trump and the steps taken to protect the FBI’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 elections—and into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russian actors.

On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, my first full day on the job as acting director of the FBI, I sat down with senior staff involved in the Russia case—the investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As the meeting began, my secretary relayed a message that the White House was calling. The president himself was on the line. I had spoken with him the night before, in the Oval Office, when he told me he had fired James Comey.

A call like this was highly unusual. Presidents do not, typically, call FBI directors. There should be no direct contact between the president and the director, except for national-security purposes. The reason is simple. Investigations and prosecutions need to be pursued without a hint of suspicion that someone who wields power has put a thumb on the scale.

The Russia team was in my office. I took the call on an unclassified line. That was another strange thing—the president was calling on a phone that was not secure. The voice on the other end said, It’s Don Trump calling. I said, Hello, Mr. President, how are you? Apart from my surprise that he was calling at all, I was surprised that he referred to himself as “Don.”

The president said, I’m good. You know—boy, it’s incredible, it’s such a great thing, people are really happy about the fact that the director’s gone, and it’s just remarkable what people are saying. Have you seen that? Are you seeing that, too?

He went on: I received hundreds of messages from FBI people—how happy they are that I fired him. There are people saying things on the media, have you seen that? What’s it like there in the building?

This is what it was like: You could go to any floor and you would see small groups gathering in hallways, some people even crying. The overwhelming majority liked and admired Director Comey—his personal style, the integrity of his conduct. Now we were laboring under the same dank, gray shadow that had been creeping over Washington during the few months Donald Trump had been in office.

I didn’t feel like I could say any of that to the president on the phone. I’m not sure I would have wanted to say it to him in person, either—or that he would have cared. I told him that people here were very surprised, but that we were trying to get back to work.

The president said he thought most people in the FBI voted for him—he thought 80 percent. He asked me again, as he had in his office, if I knew that Comey had told him three times that he was not under investigation. Then he got to the reason for his call. He said, I really want to come over there. I want to come to the FBI. I want to show all my FBI people how much I love them, so I think maybe it would be good for me to come over and speak to everybody, like tomorrow or the next day.

That sounded to me like one of the worst possible things that could happen. He was the boss, and had every right to come, but I hoped the idea would dissipate on its own. He said, Why don’t you come down here and talk to me about that later?

After we agreed on a time to meet, the president began to talk about how upset he was that Comey had flown home on his government plane from Los Angeles—Comey had been giving a speech there when he learned he was fired. The president wanted to know how that had happened.

I told him that bureau lawyers had assured me there was no legal issue with Comey coming home on the plane. I decided that he should do so. The existing threat assessment indicated he was still at risk, so he needed a protection detail. Since the members of the protection detail would all be coming home, it made sense to bring everybody back on the same plane they had used to fly out there. It was coming back anyway. The president flew off the handle: That’s not right! I don’t approve of that! That’s wrong! He reiterated his point five or seven times.

I said, I’m sorry that you disagree, sir. But it was my decision, and that’s how I decided. The president said, I want you to look into that! I thought to myself: What am I going to look into? I just told you I made that decision.

The ranting against Comey spiraled. I waited until he had talked himself out.

Toward the end of the conversation, the president brought up the subject of my wife. Jill had run unsuccessfully for the Virginia state Senate back in 2015, and the president had said false and malicious things about her during his campaign in order to tarnish the FBI. He said, How is your wife? I said, She’s fine. He said, When she lost her election, that must have been very tough to lose. How did she handle losing? Is it tough to lose?

I replied, I guess it’s tough to lose anything. But she’s rededicated herself to her career and her job and taking care of kids in the emergency room. That’s what she does.

He replied in a tone that sounded like a sneer. He said, “Yeah, that must’ve been really tough. To lose. To be a loser.”

I wrote a memo about this conversation that very day. I wrote memos about my interactions with President Trump for the same reason that Comey did: to have a contemporaneous record of conversations with a person who cannot be trusted.

People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them. Every day brings a new low, with the president exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants. If he were “on the box” at Quantico, he would break the machine.

After Comey’s firing, the core of my concern had to do with what might happen to the Russia case if I were to be removed. I convened a series of meetings about that investigation—including the one interrupted by the call from the president—in which I directed an overall review of every aspect. Was the work on solid ground? Were there individuals on whom we should consider opening new cases? I wanted to protect the Russia investigation in such a way that whoever came after me could not just make it go away.

As requested, I went back to the White House that afternoon. The scene was almost identical to the one I had walked into the previous night. . .

Continue reading.

But see also Eric Levitz’s column in New York, The FBI’s Aborted Plan to Remove Trump From Office Was Delusional“:

Less than four months after becoming president, Donald Trump fired the director of the FBI for handling an investigation into his associates in a manner he did not like. By that point, the commander-in-chief had already attempted to get the head of federal law enforcement to pledge personal fealty to himdisparaged the CIA’s assessment that Russian intelligence had intervened in the 2016 election, and declared the federal judiciary to be a national security threat.

All of which left the FBI feeling a little freaked out. In an (as yet unaired) interview with Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes, the bureau’s former deputy director Andrew McCabe reveals that top Justice Department officials seriously considered trying to remove Trump from office. Specifically, McCabe says that they discussed lobbying members of the Trump administration to invoke the 25th Amendment, a constitutional provision that allows cabinet officials to initiate a procedure for removing presidents for office on grounds of incapacity (as opposed to the “high crimes and misdemeanors” standard officially required for impeachment).

“There were meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment,” Pelley said on CBS This Morning Thursday, summarizing what McCabe had told him. “These were the eight days from Comey’s firing to the point that Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel. And the highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what do with the president.”

In the course of said meetings, McCabe claims that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein earnestly floated the idea of wearing a wire during conversations with Trump, so as to buttress the case for the president’s unfitness for office. This is consistent with a New York Times report from September of last year, but contradicts Rosenstein’s claim that he was joking when he offered to secretly record his conversations with the president.
McCabe’s story is buttressed by his own official memos from May 2017. As the Times reports:

According to one of those memos written by Mr. McCabe, an excerpt from which was provided to The New York Times, the former F.B.I. agent wrote that “we discussed the president’s capacity and the possibility he could be removed from office under the 25th Amendment” and the deputy attorney general indicated he looked into the issue and determined he would need a “majority or 8 of the 15 cabinet officials.” Mr. McCabe added that Mr. Rosenstein suggested that he might have supporters in the attorney general and secretary of Homeland Security.

Some political observers — on both the left and right — have found McCabe’s disclosure alarming. In their view, federal law enforcement attempting to oust a (sort of) democratically elected head of state sounds uncomfortably like a coup d’état.

But such fears are unfounded. McCabe’s aborted plot to oust Trump from office was always too delusional to be a threat to democracy.

The fundamental flaw in McCabe’s plan — and the reason why the 25th Amendment is not actually the “break in case of coup” loophole in our Constitution that some fear it to be — is simple: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2019 at 2:06 pm

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