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Archive for November 18th, 2020

Whole-food but not completely plant-based: What I’m going to make tomorrow — update: Plan vs. Actual

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The Wife and I went to Farm & Field Butchers today, me to buy Okazu Spicy Chili Miso with sesame oil (sunflower oil, too, which I despise (very bad omega-6:omega-3 ratio), but I figure just once in a while is okay). I’ll use it to sauté tofu cubes or slabs. It’s wonderful stuff.

They did have some very good looking thick cross-sections of beef shank, so I yielded to temptation and got one. Here’s my plan:

I’ll use my yellow 24cm Staub round cocotte (3.8L — see above) rather than the red 20cm (2.2L) one. I bought these just as they were being introduced, apparently: I remember that the red one cost me $65, and I see the price today is $300. (I also got most of my All-Clad at introductory prices.) I’m going to use the 3.8L one so I can spread out the food more to braise in the liquid.

After I posted how I planned to make it, this morning I actually made it, and the difference is enough that I describing the two (planned and actual) separately, with the planned method first.

Plan

• 1 head red Russian garlic, cloves peeled, sliced thinly, and set aside to rest
• 1 beef shank cross-section, allowed to rest at room temperature for an hour

Thoroughly dry the beef. Heat the pot, add a little olive oil, and brown shank well on both sides, then remove it and set it aside.

Add to the pot:

• 1 large leek and 3 leek tops I’ve saved, all sliced thinly
• a little more oil if needed

Cook the leeks 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add:

• the garlic, which has been resting and preparing itself for this moment
• 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
• dried sage leaves
• dried thyme
• ground coriander
• ground black pepper
• 6 or so whole allspice, ground
• 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (from the refrigerated section)

Put the shank to the pot and nestled it among the veggies so that it rests on the bottom of the pot. Add:

• many small domestic white mushrooms, whole (I got these today)
• some red wine — not a lot: maybe 1/2 cup
• juice of a lemon
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or maybe tamari: umami is what we want)
• maybe a tablespoon of the Spicy Chili Miso.

If I had any cognac, I’d add a little of that, perhaps toward the end.

I’ll cover the pot, put it into a 200ºF oven and leave it for 8 hours or so.

Actual

I decided to skip browning the meat. The idea of browning meat is get flavor from the Maillard reaction and (especially with steaks) to have a flavoral crust.  But I will get plenty of flavor from the other ingredients, including lots of umami (mushrooms and Worcestershire or tamari), not browning the meat means greater tenderness for meats that are stewed or braised. For example, I stopped browning the little pieces of beef when I made chili. (I much prefer beef to pork for chili: much more tender, especially a chuck roast that you cut into small pieces and cook long and slow.) The Younger Daughter taught me about not browning meat for stews and braising, and Quebec Steve reminded me this time. So no browning.

Moreover, I decided that I would not sauté the vegetables for much the same reason: not needed for flavor, and also obviates the need for added oil (the extra-virgin olive oil).

So here’s what I actually did — and note that in some cases I revised the amounts:

Put beef shank into pot.

In a large bowl, mix:

• 1 large leek and 3 leek tops I’ve saved, all sliced thinly
• 1 head red Russian garlic, cloves peeled, sliced thinly (no need to let it rest)
• 1/4 head red cabbage, shredded (1/2 head would have been too much)
• dried sage leaves
• dried thyme
• ground coriander [discovered I was out; I’ll get more and would have used it]
• ground black pepper (about 2 tablespoons
• about 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/4 cup prepared horseradish (from the refrigerated section)
• 1/2 cup red wine
• juice of a lemon
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons Spicy Chili Miso.

Pour the mixed vegetables, herbs, spices, and flavorings over the beef shank. This filled the pot (since I did not sauté the vegetables, they were still voluminous, though they will cook down). Put the pot in a 225ºF oven for 1 1/2 hours to allow vegetables to cook down to reduce the volume. This did work, which left room for the next step.

Remove pot from oven and add:

• small (about the diameter of a quarter — 30¢ at the most) white domestic mushrooms

I added all that I had purchased, which covered the top of the vegetables 1 (small) mushroom deep. I then used a spatula to mix the mushrooms in with the vegetables, leaving the beef on bottom.

Cover pot, return to oven, reduce heat to 200ºF, and cook for another 6 1/2 hours.

Once I’ve eaten a serving for dinner, I’ll update with my verdict.

Verdict

At the right is a photo of the stew (as it is turning out to be) when I checked it after 5 hours. I think 3 hours more will be plenty. Although the pot is sitting on my induction burner, it is merely resting there for the photo; it’s being cooked, covered, in the oven.

It turned out that 6 1/2 hours was plenty: meat very tender, flavors melded (but probably better tomorrow). I’m having a bowl of it now, and it is well suited for winter dinner. One bowl stew alone (topped with the single bit of marrow), one bowl over kamut and lentils — good both ways.

I think next time I’ll try it on a mirepoix (not much — just a cup) with more of those little mushrooms. And I might throw in some marrow bones to get more marrow. But I won’t be having it for a while — still mostly plant-based.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 6:40 pm

Mushrooms in time-lapse

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Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

New nuclear fusion reactor design may be a breakthrough

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Stephen Johnson writes at Big Think:

The promise of nuclear fusion is tantalizing: By utilizing the same atomic process that powers our sun, we may someday be able to generate virtually unlimited amounts of clean energy.

But while fusion reactors have been around since the 1950s, scientists haven’t been able to create designs that can produce energy in a sustainable manner. Standing in the way of nuclear fusion are politics, lack of funding, concerns about the power source, and potentially insurmountable technological problems, to name a few roadblocks. Today, the nuclear fusion reactors we have are stuck at the prototype stage.

However, researcher Michael Zarnstorff in New Jersey may have recently made a significant breakthrough while helping his son with a science project. In a new paper, Zarnstorff, a chief scientist at the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics in New Jersey, and his colleagues describe a simpler design for a stellarator, one of the most promising types of nuclear fusion reactors.

Fusion reactors generate power by smashing together, or fusing, two atomic nuclei to produce one or more heavier nuclei. This process can unleash vast amounts of energy. But achieving fusion is difficult. It requires heating hydrogen plasma to over 100,000,000°C, until the hydrogen nuclei fuse and generate energy. Unsurprisingly, this super-hot plasma is hard to work with, and it can damage and corrode the expensive hardware of the reactor.

Stellarators are devices that use external magnets to control and evenly distribute the hot plasma by “twisting” its flow in specific ways. To do this, stellarators are outfitted with a complex series of electromagnetic coils that create an optimal magnetic field within the device.

“The twisted coils are the most expensive and complicated part of the stellarator and have to be manufactured to very great precision in a very complicated form,” physicist Per Helander, head of the Stellarator Theory Division at Max Planck and lead author of the new paper, told Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory News.

The new design offers a simpler approach by instead using permanent magnets, whose magnetic field is generated by the internal structure of the material itself. As described in an article published by Nature, Zarnstorff realized that neodymium–boron permanent magnets—which behave like refrigerator magnets, only stronger—had become powerful enough to potentially help control the plasma in stellarators.

“His team’s conceptual design combines simpler, ring-shaped superconducting coils with pancake-shaped magnets attached outside the plasma’s vacuum vessel,” reads an article published in Nature. “Like refrigerator magnets—which stick on only one side—these would produce their magnetic field mainly inside the vessel.”

In theory, using permanent magnets on stellarators would be simpler and more affordable, and it would free up valuable space on the devices. But the researchers did note a few drawbacks, such as “limitations in field strength, nontunability, and the possibility of demagnetization.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 12:58 pm

Two great-sounding cranberry-sauce recipes from Susan Stamberg

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Via this NPR article:

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar sold in the refrigerated section

Grind the raw berries and onion together. (“I use an old-fashioned meat grinder,” says Stamberg. “I’m sure there’s a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.”)

Add everything else and mix.

Put in a plastic container and freeze.

Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. (“It should still have some little icy slivers left.”)

The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. (“OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. Its also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.”)

Makes 1 1/2 pints.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney

Susan Stamberg calls this recipe “my truly favorite cranberry side dish.” It’s from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook East/West Menus for Family and Friends (Harper & Row, 1987).

1-inch piece fresh ginger
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1-pound can cranberry sauce with berries
1/2 teaspoon salt (or less)
ground black pepper

Cut ginger into paperthin slices, stack them together and cut into really thin slivers.

Combine ginger, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to a simmer, simmer on medium flame about 15 minutes or until there are about four tablespoons of liquid left.

Add can of cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to a simmer. Lumps are ok. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.

Cool, store and refrigerate. (“It will keep for several days, if you don’t finish it all after first taste!”)

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 11:19 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

David Troy on Trump’s current coup effort

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A Facebook post by David Troy:

The coup against the intelligence community and military is advancing as anticipated. Last night, Chris Krebs of the DHS Cyberintelligence Security Agency, the group that protected the election and which has verified its integrity, angering Trump, was finally actually fired.

Acting Secretary of Defense Miller has now ordered troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Korea and Germany. However you may feel about American military presence in those places, under no circumstances is it appropriate to rush those actions in the context of a transition, leaving a mess for the next administration, abandoning allies in the process.

We continue to see a clear intention to fire Haspel, Wray, and Barr, all of whom are blocking the release of sensitive intel that the administration (and Russia) wish to release as a political weapon, and to try to erase evidence of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Nakasone may also be a target but he has not yet been as consistently named; Flynn stooge Michael Ellis is general counsel at NSA however and that may be sufficient to effect compromise there; we don’t know.

It appears that Roger Stone and Jason Sullivan have been collaborating with Ezra Cohen Watnick since at least January to leak secret information out through social media channels and through the QAnon psyop. On Sunday, national security attorney Mark Zaid (Cohen-Watnick’s attorney) denied to us that Ezra was running this operation himself, and Zaid claims not to know who Jason Sullivan is. We have information that suggests Zaid may be being misled by his client. Sullivan is business partners with former NSA technical director Bill Binney, a major promoter of QAnon content. Sullivan is Stone’s social media guru.

The electoral games being played by the Trump team are desperate and likely to fail. We see little evidence of the social or political capital required to betray the will of the voters. We assess this to be a proforma exercise being done by Trump so he can say he did it.

The threat to the intelligence community, American security, and sources and methods is extremely credible. Newspapers are struggling to cover this because it is hairy and hard to understand; we are briefing multiple outlets and they are doing their best. Sharing our assessment here so as to at least get the word out somewhere.

At root, this moment is payback for the perceived gloating by the west in 1991 after the fall of the USSR. To the extent the KGB, then FSB and GRU, sought revenge against US intel agencies, the Trump presidency was that revenge, and as it draws to a close, this is the culmination. We are getting our intel capacity owned by Russian intel. Paybacks are hell.

Militarily, we are seeing the imposition of a “Eurasianist” worldview envisioned by Russian strategist Aleksandr Dugin, vastly reining in American power overseas; diminishing NATO; crushing the EU; eliminating American presence in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. This is what they aim to do at least; it remains to be seen if military leaders themselves will go along and how quickly.

Trump is on the way out, but the country Biden inherits may be significantly compromised, and it’s not clear we can do much more than watch as that happens.

This Twitter thread is important:

And read “The Unlikely Origins of Russia’s Manifest Destiny” in Foreign Policy. See also

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 10:23 am

In the Mercenaries’ Own Words: Documents Detail Tigerswan Infiltration of Standing Rock

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Although this occurred in the US, it is strongly reminiscent of tactics we see used in totalitarian countries. I wonder why that is. Alleen Brown reports in the Intercept:

THE WEEKEND BEFORE Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, a secret private security initiative called “Operation Baratheon” was scheduled to begin. A PowerPoint presentation laid out the plan for Joel McCollough, a burly ex-Marine bearing a resemblance to “Game of Thrones” character King Robert Baratheon. He had been posing as an opponent of the Dakota Access pipeline at protests in Iowa but was now assigned to travel to North Dakota to collect intelligence on the growing anti-pipeline movement.

There, near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, thousands were camped out as part of the Indigenous-led resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. Energy Transfer, the venture’s parent company, had plans to run the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri River. Calling themselves water protectors, the people in camp objected to the threat the pipeline would present to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s primary drinking water source.

The effort to stop the pipeline had quickly become one of the most important Indigenous uprisings of the past century in the U.S. And McCollough, working for the mercenary security firm TigerSwan, was a key player in Energy Transfer’s multistate effort to defeat the resistance, newly released documents reveal. TigerSwan took a militaristic approach: To McCollough and his colleagues, the anti-pipeline movement was akin to the insurgencies the veterans had confronted in Afghanistan and Iraq. In line with that view, they deployed the same kinds of subversive tactics used in theaters of war.

One of these tactics was the use of spies to infiltrate so-called insurgents. That was McCollough’s goal when, in November 2016, he drove to North Dakota with an unwitting pipeline opponent. A PowerPoint slide titled “Mission” described exactly what he would do once he arrived: “infiltrate one of the Standing Rock camps.” Another slide, titled “Situation,” listed his adversaries, under the heading of “Belligerents”: “Native American activists, anti-establishment radicals, independent press, protester intelligence cells, camp security.”

TigerSwan’s “False” Denial

The newly revealed documents obtained by The Intercept show how security operations like McCollough’s infiltration were carefully orchestrated and managed by TigerSwan — describing in the security firm’s own words activities that it has repeatedly denied ever took place.

The documents make clear just how far security companies hired by energy industry firms — in this case, TigerSwan and Energy Transfer — will go to protect their clients’ business interests against a growing climate movement, and how much the energy companies are willing to spend for these aggressive defenses: An invoice from December 2017 said TigerSwan had billed Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer, some $17 million up to that point.

For movements like the one at Standing Rock — Indigenous land and water defenders, fighting for territory central to their identity and health, and climate activists, staving off a potential future of chaos and suffering — their actions are a matter of survival. But the same can be said for the energy companies, evidenced by their willingness to deploy war-on-terror-style tactics.

Advocates for the activists, though, say the war-like tactics have created harmful conditions for those exercising their right to dissent. “This level of saturated, coordinated attack between private corporate interests, law enforcement, private security to shut down the climate justice movement particularly in the United States is extremely dangerous,” said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which is working with the Water Protector Legal Collective to represent water protectors in a class-action lawsuit against North Dakota law enforcement officials for using high-pressure water hoses and other aggressive tactics at Standing Rock. The suit notes TigerSwan’s close collaboration with the sheriffs’ officials.

The new documents, which are being reported here for the first time, were turned over as discovery material to the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board. The board filed an administrative complaint against TigerSwan and its former CEO, James Reese, a retired commander of the elite special operations military unit Delta Force, for operating without a license in the state — alleging violations carrying more than $2 million in fines. TigerSwan responded to the claim in court by saying the firm only provided consultation for the operations.

The security board made the new material public as exhibits attached to a legal filing alleging that TigerSwan’s denials were “willfully false and misleading” and that the documents proved it.

In his responses to the board’s allegations, Reese claimed . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 10:10 am

Sex, Lies, And Regret: Giancarlo Granda Reels From Eight Years With The Falwells

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Josh Kovinsky reports at TPM:

Giancarlo Granda first noticed that something was off about Becki Falwell while in bed with her.

It was around three or four in the morning, Granda recalls, when he woke up and noticed Becki staring at him without blinking.

It’s what he’d later come to call “the look” — something that, eight years later, still creeps him out.

But Granda is neither squeamish nor skittish. And nor was he, as a 21 year old, primed to let something a little odd like Becki’s “dark, black eyes” fixating on him in the night give him pause.

After all, he was waking up at Cheeca Lodge, an exclusive resort on the Florida Keys’s Islamorada, just weeks after having first met Becki poolside at Miami’s glitzy Fontainebleau hotel.

Becki and her husband Jerry Jr., who, Granda recalls, was sleeping on the couch that night, had invited Granda to the resort for a good time. Granda was only dimly aware of who he was with: education administrators at a Christian university.

But where others saw bible thumpers with an axe to grind against modernity, Granda says he saw a “hot cougar,” an outlet for his own business idea, and, eventually, a second family. Across days of in-person interviews outside Washington D.C., over weeks of phone calls, and through dozens of supporting documents, Granda provided TPM with the most detailed account yet of his entanglement with the Falwells, which would contribute to Jerry losing his position as president of Liberty University and leave Granda feeling besieged by embarrassing articles, wanting to change his name.

Born to a family of first generation Cuban and Mexican immigrants, Granda, with his chiseled jaw and rigorous workout schedule, projects masculinity. It wasn’t always that way. Late in high school, Granda went through a period in which his personal, athletic, and academic lives collapsed due to an obsession with gaming, leaving the school baseball team to spend all his time on first-person shooters like Halo and Call of Duty.

But Granda found redemption from that period by working out and working hard as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau, which allowed him to study part-time for a bachelor’s degree at Florida International University. It also gave him the physique that, according to Granda, Becki Falwell snapped pictures of as he worked poolside in March 2012, before she invited Granda back to her hotel room, pouring him a glass of Jack Daniels as she asked if it was okay if her husband Jerry watched.

That brief triptych of his life, from baseball infielder, to gamer, to pool attendant, had given him a business idea: Big Brothers, Big Sisters, but for gamers. He shared his plan with the Falwells.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Granda recalls Jerry telling him over breakfast at Cheeca Lodge. The evangelical scion then suggested he “partner up with Liberty University.”

Granda was elated. He and the Falwells made plans for a trip to New York City later in April — one full month after their first meeting. Granda told his buddies at the Fontainebleau what was happening: he had befriended a wealthy, well-connected couple who were going to take him to New York and introduce him to deep-pocketed investors, giving his business idea — and separate real estate ambitions — legs.

Granda had told his sister about the relationship from the beginning, who remembers asking her brother, months into their relationship, if Jerry was “the pastor guy who is super conservative?”

“And he’s like, ‘No, it’s the son,’” she recalls.

It was Jerry, the tall, good ol’ boy son of the famous televangelist, who stoked Granda’s business ambitions while Becki, the dark-haired daughter of millionaire donors to Liberty, flirted with Granda and drew him away for private liaisons.

But as the chance encounter turned into a years-long relationship, Granda’s sense of good fortune wouldn’t last. Granda would come to see these early meetings not as encouragement, but as “grooming.” Publicity around their arrangement was not a useful link to someone well-connected, but “psychological torture.” Two jaded, middle-aged evangelicals taking advantage of someone decades younger, simply out of ennui.

“I’m standing up for my 20-year-old self,” Granda, now 29, reflects.

Carnival ménage à trois

The Falwells have a dramatically different narrative.

In a lawsuit filed against Liberty University in late October, Jerry alleged that Granda carried on a sporadic affair with Becki from 2012 to 2014 in which he was not involved. The couple befriended the 20 year old, the lawsuit says, because they were “impressed” by his “entrepreneurial attitude and ambition.” Later, the lawsuit claims, Granda sought to extort the Falwells.

The Falwells responded to initial inquiries from TPM, and appeared willing to discuss their relationship with Granda. But after Jerry filed his lawsuit against Liberty, the Falwells stopped replying to TPM’s requests for an on-the-record interview.

Granda shared records with TPM that he said back up his version of events. And other reporting suggests that Granda may not be alone in his account. Politico reported earlier this month that Becki told a neighbor about a separate liaison she had had with a Liberty student, saying that Jerry would only be angry about the encounter if he didn’t get to watch. In a statement to Politico, the Falwells called the story “completely false.”

But in 2012, Granda knew none of that. He was seduced by New York.

In Manhattan, the three stayed at the trendy Gansevoort Hotel, sharing drinks on the hotel’s rooftop by a year-round pool with a giant mosaic of Marilyn Monroe at the bottom.

The Falwells squired Granda around Manhattan, taking him to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 9:50 am

1st Prize Short Film Winner – “Three Seconds”

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Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 9:18 am

J.M. Fraser shaving cream, the Lupo, and Plisson’s European Grey brush

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I like J.M. Fraser shaving cream a lot — it is curiously effective and yet the price is a pittance, plus you get a generous 1-lb tub (for $19). The fragrance is a light and slightly sweet lemon scent, which reminds me strongly of the wonderful tapioca pudding a neighbor made when I was a boy. My Plisson European Grey badger brush easily loaded (the cream is now rather firm, since my tub has been around for some years) and the lather was very nice.

The Lupo is a highly efficient razor, and quite comfortable provided you ride the cap and not the guard. Three passes did the job, and then a good splash of Pinaud Coachman readied me for another rainy and overcast day: dark and cold outside, warm and pleasant inside. The Pinaud obviously is feeling debonair, wearing his cap askew.

Written by Leisureguy

18 November 2020 at 8:52 am

Posted in Shaving

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