Later On

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

Archive for February 21st, 2019

A first-rate Manhattan with Goodridge & Williams Western Grains Canadian Whisky

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The whisky is quite nice:

Goodridge & Williams, also known as G&W, is a distillery out of Delta BC best known for the Tempo Renovo Gin, Sid’s Vodka and Nutrl Vodka and coolers. Entering the Whisky game, their first release is called the Western Grains. Made from Western Canadian grains and aged in ex-Jack Daniels Bourbon barrels the label depicts notes of new wood, stone fruit, toffee and honey.

The colour is an amber colour with a caramel hue, darker than you would expect for a whisky of this age. On the nose there is an aroma of oak, vanilla, bourbon spice, cornbread and dried fruit. A heat comes through on the nose contrasted with the bourbon and vanilla character. The flavour is less intense than the nose. Here a newish oak flavour comes with honey, stone fruit, subtle vanilla and that same bourbon-esque cornbread flavour. The oak character is reminiscent of wood chips with a distinct woodiness that overshines any ex-bourbon character.

This whisky has some young heat to it but shows the signs of a quality whisky early on. The base spirit has a mellowness and residual sweetness that helps bring out the barrel character. While some purists may not be willing to accept this into the ranks of its Scottish Elders, there will surely be great things to come from Goodridge & Williams in the years to come

That whisky, with some Martini & Rossi red vermouth and a splash of Angostura, resulted in one of the smoothest and tastiest Manhattans I’ve had in a while. Too bad I’m out of lemons; a twist would have been perfection.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Drinks

Umami Chicken Soup

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This is an illustration of how I derive enjoyment from meal preparation.

I went to a new supermarket this morning, just to explore, and they had (to my surprise) chicken backs and also turkey necks (the long neck, not the short section: 3 to a package). So naturally I bought them at once. To me, chicken backs imply soup, as do turkey necks—The Wife still comments on a superb turkey-neck soup I made years ago—so I looked for soup vegetables.

Their leeks had excellent length of white but were skinny, so I got three. I picked up 3 carrots, too—not large, but on the large side of medium. As I write this, I realize I should have bought 3 turnips as well. But I did get a large zucchini. I’ve been liking zucchini lately.

Also a bunch of celery (obvious, and we’re out), and I decided on green curly kale, though I considered red chard. But we just had red chard.

I have to say, I enjoy shopping when I discover something unexpected that triggers a recipe idea and then looking for things that fit.

Once home, I was just setting things out and figuring out steps and sequence, when there was a knock on the door: Canada Post delivering a 4-year-old, cask-aged soy sauce. That obviously will be used, and to highlight it, no competition (no herbs, no tomatoes (too much flavor)). I really hesitated on beans—neutral taste and good fiber—but The Wife suggested I skip the beans. Just as well: the soup was fine without.

Here’s what I did, written as a recipe:

3 long turkey necks (or 5-6 half-necks)
2 star anise
good pinch of salt
about 2 qt water— enough to cover the necks comfortably.
juice of 3 lemons

4-6 chicken backs
3 small leeks, cut into chunks
3 medium or large carrots, cut into chunks
1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then across into chunks
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
big pinch Maldon salt

1 bunch curly-leaf kale, stems minced, leaves chopped small
1/2 bunch of celery, chopped small
1-2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

3-4 chicken breast halves, cut into strips and then across, into small pieces
2 tablespoons 4-year-old cask-aged soy sauce
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or sherry—I would use amontillado, or perhaps cream sherry)

I used 6-qt wide-diameter stockpot to have room for the necks. It didn’t come close to being full, but it let the long necks stretch out.

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.

Cover the necks with water. Add the lemon juice and star anise, bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and simmer 1 hour, adding water if needed.

As soon as you cover the pot—that is, as soon as the necks begin to cook—take a baking sheet lined with nonstick foil (or parchment paper). Toss the cut-up vegetables in olive oil with Maldon salt. Put the veg on the baking sheet along with the chicken backs and put that into the oven. Roast one hour.

Take the roasted chicken backs and drop them in the water with the necks. Simmer for one hour more. (Two hours simmering in all.)

Use a slotted spoon to remove necks and backs and spread out on a platter to cool. Remove the star anise from the stock and discard.

After 20-30 minutes, when the chicken and turkey meat has cooled, get out two bowls and take each piece from the platter and separate meat (into one bowl) from bone (into the other). This turns out to be very enjoyable if you pay attention. Your hands somehow know what to do without your telling them.

When that’s done, discard the bones, add meat to broth along with the kale, celery, and freshly ground black pepper. Wash both bowls.

Simmer that for 10-15 minutes, then add the chicken breast, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine (or sherry). Stir to mix and leave heat on simmer. After 12 minutes it will be ready—chicken breast cut into small pieces cooks quickly.

Turn off heat, but you can leave the pot on the burner to stay warm.

I would say 1 cup is two WW Freestyle points at most. 4 points from 1 tablespoon olive oil (for the entire pot) and say another 4 for the bit of chicken skin on the backs. That’s 8 points for what looks like 3 quarts (12 cups) soup, so 2/3 point per cup. If you 2 tablespoons olive oil, the point total is 12 points for 12 cups = 1 point/cup.

In the post “My current diet advice,” scroll down to the heading “Prepare your meals from scratch—it quickly becomes enjoyable” and start reading. The first thing I explain is, given that one must prepare meals, how to make meal preparation something from which you derive enjoyment.

I described above the enjoyment of supermarket food discoveries and making up a menu/recipe on the fly to exploit them. Then I look for enjoyment in the preparation of ingredients.

The turkey necks I just put on to simmer, but chopping the vegetables meant I could bring out my acacia end-grain prep station, which I like a lot, and I used this Yaxell Dragon 8″ chef’s knife. This knife has quite a pronounced belly, and at first I didn’t like it, but now I like it a lot. Like many things, you have to accept it for what it is and learn to work with it, and then you discover its (many) virtues.

I sliced up the leeks, and enjoyed the feel of the knife and the ease of cutting. Same with the carrots, which I halved first. Then the zucchini, which gave only the faintest resistance to the knife’s edge.

When I chopped the kale, I squeezed the bunch in my left hand and first cut the stems into small pieces. I was really focused on that, so when the knife advanced to the leaves themselves, they struck me as resembling trees of a thick forest, viewed from well above. This view made the knife look, in scale, gigantic. It was the same illusion if you’re looking closely at a model train running on a layout and it passes a pair of pliers left beside the track: for an instant the pliers look enormous because you adjusted your view to the scale of the model train. It’s an interesting illusion, and since I look for enjoyment in the process, I’ll take it where I find it.

Chopping celery—really, slicing celery—is always pleasant if you have a really sharp knife, and I sliced quite a heap. Then I chopped the heap this way and that to make the celery pieces small—not minced, but shopped small.

When I cut up the chicken breasts, I decided to use small pieces, so the strips were narrow, and those I cut across to produce small pieces.

The soy sauce is quite remarkable. When tasting the finished soup, you don’t taste the soy sauce as such, but for chicken soup, this has remarkable umami. Of course, roasting the chicken backs and vegetables contributes to that.

In the old days I would have had noodles with this soup.


Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 6:58 pm

This is a serious sign: U.S. archivists release Watergate report that could be possible ‘road map’ for Mueller

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Definitely end-game, and clearly now very serious indeed. Read the piece by Spenser S. Hsu in the Washington Post:

U.S. archivists on Wednesday revealed one of the last great secrets of the Watergate investigation — the backbone of a long-sealed report used by special prosecutor Leon Jaworski to send Congress evidence in the legal case against President Richard M. Nixon.
The release of the referral — delivered in 1974 as impeachment proceedings were being weighed — came after a former member of Nixon’s defense team and three prominent legal analysts filed separate lawsuits seeking its unsealing after more than four decades under grand jury secrecy rules. The legal analysts argued the report could offer a precedent and guide for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as his office addresses its present-day challenge on whether, and if so, how to make public findings from its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including any that directly involve President Trump.
The legal specialists said they and Watergate veterans sought to have the Jaworski report made public because of the historical parallels they see to the current probe and the report’s potential to serve as a counterexample to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s report before President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

The 453-page Starr report, written in 1998, deepened partisan divisions when its graphic detail and legal conclusions about Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky were immediately made public by House Republicans, who suffered an electoral backlash.
By contrast, the reputation of Jaworski’s report has fared far better, even as its bare-bones form remained a mystery. The Jaworski report is known colloquially known as the “Sirica road map,” for then-Chief Judge John J. Sirica, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who approved its creation and transmission to lawmakers.
“There were no comments, no interpretations and not a word or phrase of accusatory nature. The ‘Road Map’ was simply that — a series of guideposts if the House Judiciary Committee wished to follow them,” Jaworski wrote in his 1976 memoir, “The Right and the Power: The Prosecution of Watergate.”
The House Judiciary Committee recommended that Nixon be impeached in July 1974. He resigned before that recommendation moved ahead.

Sirica’s modern-day successor, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, on Oct. 11 ordered the disclosure of Jaworski’s report by the National Archives and Records Administration — with limited redactions — in response to petitions by California author and former Nixon deputy Watergate defense counsel Geoffrey Shepard and by Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes; Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard University law professor who led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under President George W. Bush; and Stephen Bates, a professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, who co-wrote the Starr report with Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh years before his rise to the Supreme Court, as well as other members of Starr’s team.

In a statement, Deana Kim El-Mallawany, counsel for Protect Democracy, which represented the Wittes group, said: “The Road Map is a critical historical precedent for ensuring that the facts uncovered in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation become public and serve as the basis for whatever accountability is necessary. Our democracy depends on it.”
The road map consists of a two-page summary, followed by 53 numbered statements, supported by 97 documents including interviews and tapes, according to information that the National Archives turned over to Howell.
While much of the report’s substance — including evidence of the Nixon campaign’s funding of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters and the president’s role in the subsequent coverup — has long been public, its structure and potential to serve as a template for others remained under seal.
Bates said that as a Starr prosecutor in 1997 he learned that despite the potential for the “road map” to present a legal model for future investigations, such as Mueller’s, it was not publicly available when he asked the National Archives for a copy to study.
“It is one of the only precedents of a report that has had to go through that kind of process [under grand jury secrecy rules] to get to the House for consideration as grounds for impeachment,” Bates said in an interview. “If Mueller could say, ‘We have structured this report the way Leon Jaworski did in 1974, and Judge Sirica approved it,’ that might be persuasive in this case.”
Jaworski faced a problem similar to one that may confront Mueller: He had relevant evidence but not, Jaworski concluded, the constitutional authority to indict a sitting president. Congress had the authority to impeach Nixon, but not the evidence. In the end, the House committee sought access to evidence gathered by prosecutors, the grand jury adopted the road map, and Sirica and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia authorized its transmittal under seal.
Howell, the judge who ordered the road map’s release, is also overseeing the Mueller grand jury, and as chief judge would decide any similar release request made for that grand jury material.
In her order, she directed archivists to disclose 81 of 97 supporting documents that have been made public elsewhere, and to review the rest for release.
In a post on their national security blog, Lawfare, Goldsmith and Wittes said it was striking that the road map harnessed “the moral and legal power of the grand jury,” observing that it was “crafted not as a prosecutor’s report on his findings, but as an action by the same citizens who handed up an indictment against the Watergate conspirators.”
 They concluded, “It is powerful partly because it is so by-the-book. Kind of like Bob Mueller.”
Other veterans of past White House investigations differed on the road map’s lessons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 4:31 pm

Molly at rest on my pyjamas

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? Scientists Camouflaged Horses to Find Out

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From JoAnna Klein report in the NY Times:

. . . At least since the days when Charles Darwin and Alfred RusselWallace were theorizing about evolution, scientists have debated the function of this sassy animal print. It’s been called camouflage to confuse big predators, an identity signal to other zebras and a kind of wearable air conditioner. Now most scientists agree that the function of a zebra’s stripes is to ward off biting flies that can carry deadly diseases.

But what exactly is it about a zebra’s wardrobe that flies don’t like?

The answer to that question has been hard to find. Zebras in the wild are not easy to get close to. So Dr. Caro and a colleague, Martin How, went to Hill Livery, a horse farm moonlighting as an orphanage and a conservation hub for captive zebras near the University of Bristol in Britain. With their students, they observed and filmed horse flies trying to bite zebras. They also dressed some horses in zebra print to see if it helped them avoid fly bites.

The flies pestered all of the horses and the zebras in the paddocks equally. But once they got close, the zebra stripes seemed to dazzle the flies so much that they couldn’t manage a controlled landing. Flies zoomed in too fast and either veered off just in time — or simply bumped into the zebra and bounced off. The flies didn’t seem to like the zebra coats on horses, either, but their bare heads were fair game.

“Something is stopping the fly from realizing that it’s close to making a landing,” Dr. Caro said. “We don’t know what that is, but stripes are exerting an effect to the very last second.”

The only thing they can say for certain is that the high contrast between black and white most likely tricks the fly’s low-resolution vision, which relies on sensing movement.

“It’s probably just blowing the fly’s vision away,” Dr. How said.

In an optical illusion called the barber pole, diagonal stripes appear to move up or down, depending on which way the pole is rotating. Something similar could be happening as flies approach zebra stripes. From afar, the fly may interpret the object as gray, but as it moves closer, the zebra’s diagonal stripes may appear to be moving in false directions. As a result, a fly may think it’s headed toward open space instead of landing. Or perhaps the sudden appearance of stripes may overload the fly’s vision and startle it into a buzzing stupor.

The researchers are now conducting tests with coats of different patterns, contrasts and thickness, to see just what it is about the stripes that stops the flies. “By playing around with those variables, we’ll be able to get inside the head of the fly, or the eye of the fly, to work out what’s sort of confusing to it,” said Dr. Caro. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 10:42 am

Reaching the top of the ladder of success and discovering it’s leaning against the wrong wall

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The title phrase is attributed to various writers, but I first encountered it in Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. (I found the book quite useful, but suggest reading in conjunction with this outline (PDF) since Covey’s style is occasionally labored and opaque.) It certainly applies to this piece by Charles Duhigg in the NY Times:

MY FIRST, CHARMED week as a student at Harvard Business School, late in the summer of 2001, felt like a halcyon time for capitalism. AOL Time Warner, Yahoo and Napster were benevolently connecting the world. Enron and WorldCom were bringing innovation to hidebound industries. President George W. Bush — an H.B.S. graduate himself — had promised to deliver progress and prosperity with businesslike efficiency.

The next few years would prove how little we (and Washington and much of corporate America) really understood about the economy and the world. But at the time, for the 895 first-years preparing ourselves for business moguldom, what really excited us was our good luck. A Harvard M.B.A. seemed like a winning lottery ticket, a gilded highway to world-changing influence, fantastic wealth and — if those self-satisfied portraits that lined the hallways were any indication — a lifetime of deeply meaningful work.

So it came as a bit of a shock, when I attended my 15th reunion last summer, to learn how many of my former classmates weren’t overjoyed by their professional lives — in fact, they were miserable. I heard about one fellow alum who had run a large hedge fund until being sued by investors (who also happened to be the fund manager’s relatives). Another person had risen to a senior role inside one of the nation’s most prestigious companies before being savagely pushed out by corporate politics. Another had learned in the maternity ward that her firm was being stolen by a conniving partner.

Those were extreme examples, of course. Most of us were living relatively normal, basically content lives. But even among my more sanguine classmates, there was a lingering sense of professional disappointment. They talked about missed promotions, disaffected children and billable hours in divorce court. They complained about jobs that were unfulfilling, tedious or just plain bad. One classmate described having to invest $5 million a day — which didn’t sound terrible, until he explained that if he put only $4 million to work on Monday, he had to scramble to place $6 million on Tuesday, and his co-workers were constantly undermining one another in search of the next promotion. It was insanely stressful work, done among people he didn’t particularly like. He earned about $1.2 million a year and hated going to the office.

“I feel like I’m wasting my life,” he told me. “When I die, is anyone going to care that I earned an extra percentage point of return? My work feels totally meaningless.” He recognized the incredible privilege of his pay and status, but his anguish seemed genuine. “If you spend 12 hours a day doing work you hate, at some point it doesn’t matter what your paycheck says,” he told me. There’s no magic salary at which a bad job becomes good. He had received an offer at a start-up, and he would have loved to take it, but it paid half as much, and he felt locked into a lifestyle that made this pay cut impossible. “My wife laughed when I told her about it,” he said.

After our reunion, I wondered if my Harvard class — or even just my own friends there — were an anomaly. So I began looking for data about the nation’s professional psyche. What I found was that my classmates were hardly unique in their dissatisfaction; even in a boom economy, a surprising portion of Americans are professionally miserable right now. In the mid-1980s, roughly 61 percent of workers told pollsters they were satisfied with their jobs. Since then, that number has declined substantially, hovering around half; the low point was in 2010, when only 43 percent of workers were satisfied, according to data collected by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization. The rest said they were unhappy, or at best neutral, about how they spent the bulk of their days. Even among professionals given to lofty self-images, like those in medicine and law, other studies have noted a rise in discontent. Why? Based on my own conversations with classmates and the research I began reviewing, the answer comes down to oppressive hours, political infighting, increased competition sparked by globalization, an “always-on culture” bred by the internet — but also something that’s hard for these professionals to put their finger on, an underlying sense that their work isn’t worth the grueling effort they’re putting into it.

This wave of dissatisfaction is especially perverse because corporations now have access to decades of scientific research about how to make jobs better. “We have so much evidence about what people need,” says Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (and a contributing opinion writer at The Times). Basic financial security, of course, is critical — as is a sense that your job won’t disappear unexpectedly. What’s interesting, however, is that once you can provide financially for yourself and your family, according to studies, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to worker satisfaction. Much more important are things like whether a job provides a sense of autonomy — the ability to control your time and the authority to act on your unique expertise. People want to work alongside others whom they respect (and, optimally, enjoy spending time with) and who seem to respect them in return.

And finally, workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. “You don’t have to be curing cancer,” says Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store. “You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

One of the more significant examples of how meaningfulness influences job satisfaction comes from a study published in 2001.Two researchers — Amy Wrzesniewski of Yale and Jane Dutton, now a distinguished emeritus professor at the University of Michigan — wanted to figure out why particular janitors at a large hospital were so much more enthusiastic than others. So they began conducting interviews and found that, by design and habit, some members of the janitorial staff saw their jobs not as just tidying up but as a form of healing. One woman, for instance, mopped rooms inside a brain-injury unit where many residents were comatose. The woman’s duties were basic: change bedpans, pick up trash. But she also sometimes took the initiative to swap around the pictures on the walls, because she believed a subtle stimulation change in the unconscious patients’ environment might speed their recovery. She talked to other convalescents about their lives. “I enjoy entertaining the patients,” she told the researchers. “That is not really part of my job description, but I like putting on a show for them.” She would dance around, tell jokes to families sitting vigil at bedsides, try to cheer up or distract everyone from the pain and uncertainty that otherwise surrounded them. In a 2003 study led by the researchers, another custodian described cleaning the same room two times in order to ease the mind of a stressed-out father.

To some, the moral might seem obvious: If you see your job as healing the sick, rather than just swabbing up messes, you’re likely to have a deeper sense of purpose whenever you grab the mop. But what’s remarkable is how few workplaces seem to have internalized this simple lesson. “There are so many jobs where people feel like what they do is relatively meaningless,” Wrzesniewski says. “Even for well-paid positions, or jobs where you assume workers feel a sense of meaning, people feel like what they’re doing doesn’t matter.” That’s certainly true for my miserable classmate earning $1.2 million a year. Even though, in theory, the investments he makes each day help fund pensions — and thus the lives of retirees — it’s pretty hard to see that altruism from his window office in a Manhattan skyscraper. “It’s just numbers on a screen to me,” he told me. “I’ve never met a retiree who enjoyed a vacation because of what I do. It’s so theoretical it hardly seems real.”

THERE IS A raging debate — on newspaper pages, inside Silicon Valley, among presidential hopefuls — as to what constitutes a “good job.” I’m an investigative business reporter, and so I have a strange perspective on this question. When I speak to employees at a company, it’s usually because something has gone wrong. My stock-in-trade are sources who feel their employers are acting unethically or ignoring sound advice. The workers who speak to me are willing to describe both the good and the bad in the places where they work, in the hope that we will all benefit from their insights.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that these workers usually don’t come across as unhappy. When they agree to talk to a journalist — to share confidential documents or help readers understand how things went awry — it’s not because they hate their employers or are overwhelmingly disgruntled. They often seem to love their jobs and admire the companies they work for. They admire them enough, in fact, to want to help them improve. They are engaged and content. They believe what they are doing matters — both in coming to work every day and in blowing the whistle on problems they see.

Do these people have “good jobs”? Are they luckier or less fortunate than my $1.2 million friend, who couldn’t care less about his firm? Are Google employees who work 60 hours a week but who can eat many of their meals (or freeze their eggs) on the company’s dime more satisfied than a start-up founder in Des Moines who cleans the office herself but sees her dream become reality? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 9:28 am

Planet Java Hive and Rockwell Model T: 4, 3, 2

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Another Phoenix Artisan CK-6 shaving soap, Planet Java Hive has a very nice fragrance: honey + coffee. It is pleasing, and I’m reminded of Mickey Lee Soapworks Bee Witched, only with coffee. And I do love the CK-6 lather, created this morning with my stalwart Rooney Finest.

Today the Model T was used at 4 for the first pass, 3 for second, and 2 for the final pass ATG. (I’m still trying the variations described in this Sharpologist article.) For me, this works better than the 3-4-5 sequence of yesterday’s shave. I have to admit, though, that I’m probably a “set-and-forget” guy. I do like the smooth adjustment of the Model T: it turns smoothly and firmly, with no play—like a finely fitted and precise machine.

A splash of Planet Java Hive aftershave, and the day is launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2019 at 7:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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