Later On

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

Archive for March 2nd, 2019

You know how you can dislike a knife for a while and as you use it more you like it a lot?

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Yaxell Fusion (1)

I bought the Yaxell Fusion shown above, and I just didn’t cotton to it. Very wide blade—sharp as hell, for sure. A curve that is unusual for a chef’s knife, to say the least. Handle was certainly comfortable. But I just wasn’t accustomed to it. But I kept using it from time to time.

And just now I was cooking up a mess of Tong Ho greens, which I get at the local supermarket, and using the Fusion, when it all came together for me. Terrific knife!

Here’s what I did:

Tong ho

• 1 leek (the one I bought was thick but not much white), halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly
• 2 medium carrots, chopped

The Fusion sliced through the leek like slicing through soft butter (leeks are pretty fibrous, especially as you near the green), which I think is due to its sharpness and also its heft. As the review points out, the distal taper on this guy is 0º, both sides. It’s a slab. And in cutting the leek I suddenly noticed that.

[Update: BTW, I now slice up the entire leek, including the leaves. (I do cut off and discard the root.) It turns out that the leaves are perfectly edible, though you do have to rinse them well since dirt often collects where they join the white part. But sliced thinly and cooked, they quite tasty and nutritious and bring more beneficial phytochemicals than does the white part.]

I chop the carrots at an angle and turn the carrot some after each cut, so the pieces are little polyhedral oddities. They cook nicely that way, and it is also more interesting to cut the carrots this way than in dumb old slices—and, as another benefit, this way takes longer, which prolongs the pleasurable activity.

• 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (Partanna)

I put leek, carrots, and oil in my 4-qt All-Clad CopperCore sauté pan, turned the heat to medium, and stirred. I added:

• generous pinch of salt [update: I no longer use salt in cooking or at the table; I don’t miss it. After about a week of food tasting flat, your taste adjusts and all is well again.]
• about 2 tsp dried marjoram (cracked leaves, not ground to powder)

I continued to sauté, stirring occasionally, as I washed and rinsed:

• 1 large bunch Tung Ho

It was a pretty large bunch, bigger by far than the bunch in the photo. My bunch was about 4 times that bunch.

I kept the bunch together by a firm grasp around the stems as I rinsed and dried, the I spread it across the prep board, stems at my right. I used the Fusion to slice my way up, and again I was impressed with the ease of cutting and with how the slightly longer blade and the curve were helpful, as was the heft of the blade, all the way to the end.

I added the chopped Tong Ho to the pan (with the stems chopped somewhat small) and stirred for about a minute. The I added:

• Juice of 1 lemon—it was large, I would guess 1/4 cup at least
• 1.5 Tbsp this soy sauce
• 1.5 Tbsp this mirin

I covered the pan and let it cook for 20 minutes on Medium. Then I added

• 1.5 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or use Cream or Amontillado sherry)

Cover and cook 5 minutes more.

We have some leftover pork roast to go with it (and Harvy Scarvy is terrific with cold roast pork).

So now I love my Yaxell Fusion.

Update: I just came across this unboxing video, and I have both the second knife (the Yaxell Dragon 8″ Chef’s knife) and the Fusion. And that 8″ chef’s knife was the same thing. I didn’t like it at all at first (the pronounced belly just seemed wrong), but as I used I found I used it more and more and now I use it almost every day.

Update some more: I remember now more about that Yaxell Dragon 8″ Chef’s Knife with the pronounced belly. I was trying to get used to it, but just found it odd. TYD was visiting and I had a pair of trekking poles to give her. She’s an avid hiker and could really use trekking poles, which I had mistakenly purchased before I learned that what I wanted was Nordic walking poles.

But the poles wouldn’t fit in her suitcase even when collapsed (they were three-section poles), and we discovered that just before she left. I really wanted her to have something she could use that I gave her on this trip, and I thought of the Yaxell Dragon 8″ Chef’s Knife: something very nice, that she could use and probably wouldn’t buy for herself. So I showed it to her, she liked it, and packed it. (She was checking the suitcase, so knife not a problem.)

I thought that went well—I didn’t like the knife all that much, and she did—but then the oddest thing: I started to miss the knife. I would be wanting to do some prep for a meal, and I’d think that that knife would be best. And after a certain point, I just bought another copy, and now I use it a lot, though I do like variety in my knives (as in my razors).

Update ides of March 2019. Repeated the recipe, but went with 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and 2 Tbsp mirin (same brands as in the original. It does make a difference.) I also added about 2 tsp toasted sesame oil with the soy sauce and mirin. The lemon was large, and I also had a lemon half lying about, so this time I used juice of 1.5 lemons. And I bought a raw boneless skinless turkey breast that was in thin slices for stir-fry, so I included that to bump the protein. Update 1 Nov 2019: I now would use the lemon by cutting off and discarding the ends and then do one of these:

• Dice the lemon including peel, and add that to the greens; or
• Cut the lemon into slabs, blend, and add that; or
• Halve the lemon at the equator, put flat side down, trim off peel, and blend the lemon (without the peel) and add that.

I had to complete each slice of the breast—their slice doesn’t go quite all the way through so the breast retains its shape and easily packaged as a unit. So I had to cut the rest of the way through. But since I had a sharp knife, it was just a matter of the left hand learning how to leaf through the breast, clearly exposing the next cut. It became easy and fast very quickly. That really was the adaptive unconscious at work. All I did (conscious me) was to pay attention to what I was doing. The learning and improvement did not involve conscious thought, though I consciously observed the learning curve in action, a rapid progression from total novice to 1-dan.

This is a good point at which to recommend Timothy Wilson’s fascinating book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 1:07 pm

The Price of Being a Trump Loyalist

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This is a struggle among memes, not hosts. The hosts are just along for the ride. Nancy Tourneau writes in the Washington Monthly:

One of the things Michael Cohen made clear during his testimony on Wednesday was his description of what it meant to work for Donald Trump. First and foremost, everyone in Trump’s employ is expected to protect and defend him at all costs—including lying on his behalf, threatening people who could damage him, or keeping quiet about his abuses (i.e., NDA’s his employees are required to sign). As has become clear during his presidency, Donald Trump demands complete loyalty.

What we are witnessing right now is that congressional Republicans are giving the president exactly what he has always demanded from his employees. Now matter how much Trump is exposed as a liar, racist, and cheat, the vast majority of them are remaining loyal to him.

It’s not as if they don’t know who Trump is or what he’s done. While many of the president’s supporters live inside the bubble created by right-wing news, congressional Republicans have to do things like sit through the kind of testimony Michael Cohen provided on Wednesday. As an example of what they know, here is a quote Rachael Bade got from one of them after that hearing.

“Truthfully, it is tough to ignore some of the gross immoral behavior by the president,” said one senior House Republican who requested anonymity to speak frankly. “The reason there was no defense is because there is no defense.”

That is why, even amidst all of the legal issues raised by Cohen, this might be the most poignant moment of the day.

Cohen was trying to warn congressional Republicans of the price one pays for being a Trump loyalist. As he says, he should know. For ten years Cohen protected the president at all costs. Now, in addition to having his crimes exposed, he is going to jail for three years.

But Cohen isn’t the only one going to prison. So are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 12:00 pm

Everywhere you look, you see memes locked in struggle: How the Federal Government Rigs the Game Against Small Businesses

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Memetic evolution in process.

Stacy Mitchell writes in the Washington Monthly:

Afew weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission gave Staples the green light to buy one of the two wholesalers that sell to independent office supply dealers. The decision, passed by a party-line 3-2 vote, hardly made a blip in the news cycle. But it sheds enormous insight into the origins of the big-get-bigger U.S. economy.

Small and independent businesses have been disappearing in this country for long enough that their decline has come to seem inevitable. And indeed, it often is treated that way in media stories and policy debates. Many economists assure us that small businesses are simply not as efficient as big ones, and point to their demise as evidence that this collective belief is correct. But like so many of the stories we’re told about the economy, this one doesn’t hold up under exposure to reality. There’s something else driving the eradication of independent businesses: The government is systematically structuring markets so that that even the most competitive ones face almost impossibly long odds.

The office supply industry is a perfect case study. Despite the pervasiveness of Staples and Amazon, independent dealers account for about 20 to 25 percent of the market, according to the National Office Products Alliance. There are hundreds scattered across the country. There’s probably one in your area, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it, because these dealers generally do not have storefronts. Most office supplies are purchased not by individuals, but by companies, government agencies, school districts, and the like. To serve these customers, independent dealers rely on sales representatives, warehouses, and delivery trucks.

These businesses are significant to local economies. Many employ a few dozen or a few hundred people. “I have drivers who’ve worked for me for 30-plus years,” said Kim Leazer, who owns Forms & Supply, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

They’re also highly competitive. Most have offered next-day delivery for 30 years or more, and many have had e-commerce since before Amazon existed. They routinely win contracts from school districts and mid-sized companies, evidence of their ability to beat larger rivals on price. According to one study, had a California school district purchased supplies from Amazon Business—Amazon’s business- and government-facing platform—rather than its local independent office dealer, the district would have paid about 10 percent more. And the independents offer a high level of service and customization. “My driver will put the paper by the copy machine even if it’s on the third-floor,” Leazer added.

In short, there’s nothing inherent in their size that keeps these independent businesses from competing against the giants on quality and cost. Which brings us back to the Staples merger.

There are only two office-supply wholesalers in the U.S.: Essendant and S.P. Richards. For independent office supply dealers, those two firms are their only tethers to the supply chain. Now the FTC has let Staples (and its parent company, the private equity firm Sycamore Partners) buy Essendant, taking control of one of those lifelines.

“They have given our biggest competitor ownership of our biggest supplier,” said David Guernsey, who started Guernsey, Inc., a Virginia-based office supply company, more than 45 years ago. “We have never been exposed to anything like this before.”

One big risk for independent dealers is . . .

Continue reading.

And, as a reminder from a few posts back, this is the actual system that we have now. This is our current system working. Although a handful of people are doing extremely well, the mass of people are not. This is not sustainable except through drastic measures. And one wonders: Is that why Donald Trump is so buddy-buddy wiht Putin, with Kim Jong-Un, with dictators and authoritarians left and right—well, mostly right.

But could old Donald be doing some research, getting ideas and commitments, and learning from those who were able to protect the well-to-do when hoi polloi became restless.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 11:54 am

Totally amazing story: How a black man ‘outsmarted’ a neo-Nazi group — and became their new leader

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And this report recounts one event in the on-going struggle among memes: Katie Mettler in the Washington Post:

Without notifying his followers or even his inner circle, the longtime president of a legacy neo-Nazi group signed over its control to a black civil rights activist from California. Now, James Hart Stern, a 54-year-old with a history of infiltrating white supremacist groups, is the new leader of the National Socialist Movement.

Stern’s first move as president was to address a pending lawsuit against the group by asking a Virginia judge to find it guilty of conspiring to commit violence at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. Next, he plans to transform the hate group’s website into a space for Holocaust history lessons.

“I did the hard and dangerous part,” Stern told The Washington Post in his first interview since taking over the National Socialist Movement. “As a black man, I took over a neo-Nazi group and outsmarted them.”

For weeks, the sudden change in power had confounded those who study hate groups and perplexed those within the organization, who had heard nothing from the man who led the Detroit-based hate group for 24 years, former NSM president Jeff Schoep.

Before Friday, neither man had publicly addressed the organizational changes.

First, Stern came forward to share the full story of his unconventional rise to power — an “epic” tale, he said, that includes infiltration, persuasion and a hint of manipulation. There’s a reason, he said, that some call him the “race whisperer.”

The Washington Post published his version of events Friday evening. Just after midnight, Schoep finally spoke, too.

In a lengthy statement to his followers, which he shared with The Post, Schoep wrote that he had been “deceived” by Stern who “convinced me that in order to protect our membership from the ongoing lawsuit, I should sign over NSM’s presidency to him.”

Schoep said it was time for “fresh blood” in NSM leadership and announced he had formally stepped down as “commander” of the organization. Burt Colucci, chief of staff of the National Socialist Movement, will be taking over as commander, according to the statement.

“I want to thank everyone who has stood by us during this difficult time. You are giants among lesser men and your loyalty will be remembered,” Schoep wrote in the statement. “As for all of the vultures, snakes, and international banking and media interests who have attempted to damage NSM and me personally, you have shown your true colors.”

It remains unclear how NSM will be able to maintain its organizational infrastructure with Stern legally at the helm of the corporation. In his statement, Schoep said he intends to challenge Stern’s ownership.

“This paper appointment will not stop us,” Schoep said. “Mr. Stern’s bad faith actions may leave me no choice but to protect my rights in a court of law, as I believe he fraudulently manipulated me for the purposes of gaining control of, and dissolving NSM.”

To understand how Stern came to overtake Schoep’s organization, you first must understand how the Michigan neo-Nazi came to find the California activist.

Stern says that while serving prison time in Mississippi for mail fraud, he formed a relationship with his cellmate and onetime Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Edgar Ray Killen. The KKK leader had been convicted in the “Mississippi Burning” killings of three civil rights workers. Though Killen regularly called Stern a racial slur, he nevertheless granted his cellmate power of attorney over his life story and estate.

Stern was paroled from prison in 2011, and in 2016 he used his legal discretion to dissolve the Klan organization Killen once led. That was his first successful infiltration — and the lore of Stern’s relationship with the KKK leader is what Stern says first drew Schoep in.

In 2014, Schoep called Stern without notice to inquire about his relationship with Killen, the activist said. Schoep asked to see the man’s prison ID card and said Stern was the first black man his organization had reached out to since Malcolm X. Stern said he searched Schoep’s name, discovered he was a white supremacist, then arranged for the two to meet in California for a small race-relations summit.

The two have fostered a strange kind of relationship ever since, the civil rights activist said.

Schoep and Stern remained firmly entrenched in their own political camps, he said, fundamentally opposed to what the other represents. But they also engaged in regular debate: about the Holocaust, the ugliness of the Nazi swastika, the fallibility of Schoep’s white-nationalist ideals and, most critically, the fate of his hate group.

The goal, Stern claims, was always to try to change Schoep’s mind.

“From day one, I always told him: ‘I don’t agree with you; I don’t like you,’ ” Stern said. “I talked to him because I wanted to hope to change him.”

Change Schoep’s beliefs, Stern did not.

But according to Stern’s version of recent events, he was able to accomplish the next best thing.

In early 2019, Stern said Schoep came to him for legal advice on the lawsuit, which was filed in 2017 by a Charlottesville counterprotester against NSM and other white-nationalist groups who attended the Unite the Right rally.

Schoep seemed “rattled,” Stern said, and began talking about making a change. “I was hoping he was talking about his ideology,” Stern said.

Instead, Stern said the white nationalist leader called NSM an “albatross hanging around his neck” and said he was looking for ways to get out. He still held the same beliefs, Stern said, but he was ready to cut ties with NSM and start a new organization because he felt underappreciated by his followers and left out of the mainstream white-nationalist movement that had swept the country in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

Schoep was concerned about the repercussions of the Charlottesville lawsuit and the legal bills he . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 11:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law, Memes

We’re waking up to the actualities of the system we support and (supposedly) control: Labor Secretary Faces Heat Over Plea Deal for Financier Accused of Serial Sex Abuse

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Glenn Thrush (yep) reports in the NY Times:

Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta is facing rising pressure — and a possible summons to testify before Congress — over the lenient plea bargain that he helped negotiate as Miami’s top federal prosecutor with a wealthy acquaintance of President Trump’s accused of trafficking children for sex.

Members of Florida’s House delegation have been in talks with the chairmen of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees about calling Mr. Acosta to publicly answer questions about a 2006 plea agreement with the investor and Trump acquaintance Jeffrey E. Epstein, who was accused of sex offenses involving girls as young as 14. He pleaded guilty to more minor prostitution charges.

House leaders are likely to approve some kind of a hearing, although it is unclear when, according to three lawmakers involved in the discussions. Some of the young women said to have been exploited by Mr. Epstein have also expressed through their attorneys a willingness to publicly testify about the deal.

The appearance would be either at a committee hearing or in front of the House women’s caucus, they said.

“The Trump administration needs to get him the heck out of there — this is the person we have enforcing the country’s child labor laws,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, one of 19 House Democrats who have called on Mr. Acosta to resign over what they called a “despicable” deal.

“We have many, many layers of questions that need to be answered, and I have been pressing for a public hearing,” she said.

Representative Lois Frankel, who also signed the letter, said, “I think this is a very blatant example of the sort of the big flaws in the justice system that very often favor the very wealthy over the rights of the very vulnerable.” . . .

Continue reading.

That’s part of the system we actually have. That is how it works. It’s like the system that allows police officers (mostly white, so far as I can tell) shoot, with apparent immunity—de facto immunity—black, hispanic, Muslim, other. That is in fact the system that we have. UPDATE: A headline just now in the LA Times: “Sacramento police officers who shot Stephon Clark will not face criminal charges.” (The young man was in his grandmother’s backyard and was unarmed. He did, however, have a cellphone, which led to his death. /update

We have a system problem. Some basic memes must change—will change, given the rapidity of meme evolution. The problem is that when memes battle it out, it’s the hosts that bear the costs—consider the US Civil War and how the struggle between two memeplexes left hundreds of thousands of hosts dead: the hosts are being selected, not according to the usual evolutionary pressures (fitness to survive in the natural world) but also according to the memes they host: pick the wrong memes, and you may not have so many descendants as those who pick more successful memes (cf. Jeff Bezos, et al.).

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 11:24 am

Floris No. 89 and the Feather AS-D1

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A belated start to blogging, but shaved early and enjoyed it. That’s the RazoRock 400 brush, which I like and which comes in various colors (and is inexpensive to boot). It loaded very nicely from my vintage Floris No. 89 shaving soap.

Mine was one of the good Feather AS-D1s and delivered a knock-out shave: no blade feel whatsoever, and my face BBS smooth—smooth in all directions. I’m fond of this razor, and I be you can guess why.

A splash of the matching aftershave, and the day productively begins.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2019 at 11:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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