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Archive for June 30th, 2021

Ong choy for dinner

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Ong choy, aka water spinach
Ong choy stems

We went to the Chinese-influenced supermarket yesterday, and they had many bunches of ong choy on offer, so naturally I got one. I had no idea what it is, but it clearly falls into the category of greens, and I eat greens.

The stems, shown at right, are interesting: hollow — and when I ate a bit of one raw, pretty tasty. On looking it up, I found that it’s also called “water spinach,” and that it should be cooked right away. That’s works for me.

I didn’t look up a recipe, just followed my intuition:

• Extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 large red onion, chopped
• pinch of salt

I cooked until onion softened then added:

• cloves from one head of garlic, chopped small and allowed to rest
• about 1″ ginger root, minced

I added that to the pan, cooked it for a couple of minutes, then added:

• 1 bunch ong choy, chopped
• 1 lemon, ends discarded then cut into slabs and diced
• several dashes fish sauce
• several grindings black pepper

I covered it and cooked it for 15 minutes over low heat (225ºF). It looks good.

And it tastes good, so good in fact that I had two servings:

Serving 1: ong choy, 1/4 cup black rice, 2 tablespoons pepitas, dash of hot sauce
Serving 2: the same except 1/4 cup kamut instead of black rice.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 5:20 pm

Soybean-and-kodo-millet tempeh

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Time Zero: The starting point

This batch had cooled to  a temperature of around 82ºF when I put it into the incubator (at 88ºF) at 11:30am. The incubator will soon bring it up to 88ºF for the initial stage. This is quite a large batch, and I used just one packet of tempeh starter, an amount intended for 2 cups of dried beans, according to the instructions. Since I started with 2 cups of dried beans and 1 cup of kodo millet (both expand substantially as they cook), I expect it may take 24 hours before the fungus takes hold. Kodo is a particularly healthy millet, though barnyard millet bests it in a couple of categories. I used unpolished millets (thus the grains look brown rather than white), which has two benefits: it’s more nutritious (the bran of any grain has good nutritional value), and the grains don’t stick together in clumps when cooked. And, of course, following a whole-food plant-based diet means, among other things, eating intact whole grain.

20 hours from start

It looked ready, so I removed it from the incubator at 7:30am on July 1 and put it on a raised rack on the table. Room temperature right now is 74ºF, but it will probably warm up during the day. Here’s a photo:

After 20 hours

After this batch had been out for 4 hours, I got a little concerned because the temperature in the apartment is now 73ºF. I wasn’t terribly concerned, because even if the fungus stalled, I could return it to the incubator to rev it up again, but still I wondered how it was faring. I just used my Thermapen digital thermometer to check the batches internal temperature: 93ºF. It has definitely achieved liftoff.  

25 hours from start

It’s clear that my concern was bootless. Here’s the tempeh at 12:30pm on July 1, five hours after the photo above.

48 hours from start

It looks pretty good. I might cut it up, put it into storage containers, and refrigerate tonight, though depending on how it looks and feels, I might wait until tomorrow morning (72 hours after start).

72 hours and it’s done

This post shows the final result after 3 days of fermentation. Below is one photo from that post: a few pieces in a storage container with one cross-section showin the structure: soybeans, millet, and mycelium of the Rhizopus fungus.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 11:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Non-animal diet

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It’s Some of America’s Richest Farmland. But What Is It Without Water?

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A farm in San Joaquin County, California.Credit…Mike Kai Chen for The New York Times

Years ago I blogged about the likelihood of famine and food wars as climate change decimated our food supply. It seemed obviously to me that widespread crop failures were likely. It’s now becoming more evident. Somini Sengupta reports in the NY Times:

In America’s fruit and nut basket, water is now the most precious crop of all.

It explains why, amid a historic drought parching much of the American West, a grower of premium sushi rice has concluded that it makes better business sense to sell the water he would have used to grow rice than to actually grow rice. Or why a melon farmer has left a third of his fields fallow. Or why a large landholder farther south is thinking of planting a solar array on his fields rather than the thirsty almonds that delivered steady profit for years.

“You want to sit there and say, ‘We want to monetize the water?’ No, we don’t,” said Seth Fiack, a rice grower here in Ordbend, on the banks of the Sacramento River, who this year sowed virtually no rice and instead sold his unused water for desperate farmers farther south. “It’s not what we prefer to do, but it’s what we kind of need to, have to.”

These are among the signs of a huge transformation up and down California’s Central Valley, the country’s most lucrative agricultural belt, as it confronts both an exceptional drought and the consequences of years of pumping far too much water out of its aquifers. Across the state, reservoir levels are dropping and electric grids are at risk if hydroelectric dams don’t get enough water to produce power.

Climate change is supercharging the scarcity. Rising temperatures dry out the soil, which in turn can worsen heat waves. This week, temperatures in parts of California and the Pacific Northwest have been shattering records.

By 2040, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to lose at least 535,000 acres of agricultural production. That’s more than a tenth of the area farmed.

And if the drought perseveres and no new water can be found, nearly double that amount of land is projected to go idle, with potentially dire consequences for the nation’s food supply. California’s $50 billion agricultural sector supplies two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts and more than a third of America’s vegetables — the tomatoes, pistachios, grapes and strawberries that line grocery store shelves from coast to coast.

Glimpses of that future are evident now. Vast stretches of land are fallow because there’s no water. New calculations are being made about what crops to grow, how much, where. Millions of dollars are being spent on replenishing the aquifer that has been depleted for so long.

“Each time we have a drought you’re seeing a little glimpse into what will happen more frequently in our climate future,” said Morgan Levy, a professor specializing in water science and policy at the University of California, San Diego.

California’s fertile Central Valley begins in the north, where the water begins. In normal times, winter rain and spring snowmelt swell the Sacramento River, nourishing one of the country’s most important rice belts. On an average year, growers around the Sacramento River produce 500,000 acres of sticky, medium-grain rice vital to sushi. Some 40 percent is exported to Asia.

But these are not normal times. There’s less snowpack, and, this year, much less water in the reservoirs and rivers that ultimately irrigate fields, provide spawning places for fish and supply drinking water for 39 million Californians.

That crisis presents rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley, which forms the northern part of the Central Valley, with a tricky choice: Should they plant rice with what water they have, or save themselves the toil and stress and sell their water instead?

Mr. Fiack, a second-generation rice farmer, chose to sell almost all of it.

His one 30-acre field of rice glistens green in the June sunshine, guzzling water that pours out of a wide-mouthed spigot. His remaining 500 acres are bare and brown. What water he would have used to grow rice he has signed away for sale to growers of thirsty crops hundreds of miles south, where water is even more scarce.

At $575 per acre-foot (a volume of water one acre in size, one foot deep) the revenue compares favorably to what he would have made growing rice — without the headaches. It makes “economic sense,” Mr. Fiack said flatly.

Rice is far less lucrative than, say, almonds and walnuts, which is why Mr. Fiack’s fields are surrounded by nut trees and even he is dabbling in walnuts. But rice farmers are uniquely advantaged. Because their lands have been in production for so long, they tend to have first dibs on water that comes out of the Sacramento River, before it is channeled through canals and tunnels down south.

Also, unlike the owners of fruit and nut trees, whose investments would wither in a few weeks without water, rice farmers can leave a field fallow for a year, even two. In the era of climate change, when water can be unreliable, that flexibility is an asset. Rice water transfers have been an important part of California’s drought coping strategy.

This year, rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley will produce around 20 percent less rice. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s grim.

And just a reminder: when supply drops and demand remains, prices move up — sometimes sharply. The grocery bill will be growing.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 10:21 am

This Company Got a $10 Million PPP Loan, Then Closed Its Plant and Moved Manufacturing Jobs to Mexico

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Somehow, the sort of action this corporation took is socially acceptable now.  Lydia DePillis reports in ProPublica:

Late last summer, after churning along through the pandemic with only a two-week pause, managers at FreightCar America called hundreds of workers into the break area at the company’s factory near Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to tell them that the plant was closing for good.

For some employees, the news wasn’t a shock: They’d been hearing rumors that management would move the work elsewhere for years. The timing, however, seemed odd. Only a few months earlier, the publicly traded company had received a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program Loan — the maximum amount available under a pandemic relief program designed to keep workers employed. Some had believed the funds would keep the doors open for a little while longer.

Nevertheless, the plant’s managers announced that all production would move to FreightCar’s new facility in Mexico, which meant most of the assembled workers would lose their jobs.

Jim Meyer, FreightCar America’s CEO, told ProPublica in an email that he had not intended to shutter the plant when he received the PPP money, and that it had allowed the company to keep workers on the job through most of 2020 despite a sharp dropoff in new orders.

Robert Bulman, however, thinks the $10 million just helped FreightCar’s Shoals plant keep producing while company officials got ready to shut it down.

“When the Mexican plant opened, we were told at the beginning they would just be helping Shoals and making parts for the trains,” said Bulman, who worked at the Alabama plant for seven years before getting laid off last year. “But the whole time, it was a setup, we were gone.”

FreightCar America isn’t the only large company to have taken out a multimillion-dollar Paycheck Protection Program loan and then laid off a substantial chunk of its workforce. An analysis of applications for trade adjustment assistance, which the federal government provides to workers whose jobs have disappeared due to imports, shows that at least half a dozen companies that applied for more than a million dollars apiece in PPP loans terminated more than 50 workers in 2020 after their aid was approved.

To be clear, the companies may have complied with program rules, which put a premium on getting money out fast. The regulations changed frequently in the months after the Congress established the PPP as part of the CARES Act in March 2020, and the law was later amended to allow more of the money to be used for non-payroll expenses. The law also contained many exemptions that stretched the definition of what qualifies as a small business.

A paper mill in northeast Washington state called Ponderay Newsprint, for example, went bankrupt and laid off 150 workers, two months after being approved for a $3.46 million loan. Its bankruptcy trustee John Munding said the money was used to pay workers and the government forgave the loan, while the company’s assets were acquired by a private equity firm.

A Nebraska aircraft parts manufacturer called Royal Engineered Composites was approved for $2.74 million in April 2020 in order to support 250 jobs, but laid off 99 workers by mid-May. The company declined to comment.

Canadian-owned Supreme Steel took $1.69 million in May 2020 for its plant in Portland, Oregon, which it closed five months later, terminating 112 employees. Spokesperson Rhandi Berndt said that “the closure was the result of market forces” and declined to answer further questions.

In order for PPP loans to be forgiven, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 10:09 am

The Scientific Consensus on a Healthy Diet

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The information on what to eat as a healthy diet is well-known, but people (in general) ignore it. No surprise, really: the effect of fossil fuel use on climate change is well-known, but people (in general) ignore that as well. I don’t understand why that is, but I imagine social pressure has a lot to do with it (along with ignorance, magical thinking, and despair). And, of course, corporations are entities drive by a focus on profit, not public health, and so we see many giant companies spending millions in marketing to induce people to eat unhealthy foods — and with great success (for the business, not for the consumer whose health decays).

Here are the sad facts:

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 9:35 am

Something Old, Something New: J.M. Fraser Shaving Cream and Goodfellas’ smile Legione Slant

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J.M. Fraser is a wonderful shaving cream whose low cost was strangely at odds with its high performance. I found it very effective, and the fragrance — a kind of lemon vanilla — reminded me of the luscious tapioca pudding a neighbor used to make when I was a child.

As you can see, the ingredient are not unusual, but something in the combination makes the shaving cream work extremely well. Martin de Candre also has a simple list of ingredients, but whereas MdC (which makes an excellent lather) is drying to my skin, JMF is not — my skin feels wonderful right now (though in fairness I did use Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave — I’ll have to try MdC with the pre-shave to see whether that will combat the drying effect).

I heard from a reader who wanted to buy a tub of JMF but could not find it in stock. I did some searching and found that Luxo Labs seems to be out of business — when I called their phone number (found through a Google search), I got a automated response that the number I called is not assigned.

I sent him that information, including a screen-grab of the Google search results, and he noticed on the map that the address was the same as that of Toronto Barber and Beauty Supply. (He lives in Toronto and knew of the company.)

… so I called and the very friendly and helpful lady told me it was the same owner for both businesses and he has discontinued making his shaving cream because, under the pandemic, he had a hard time getting the supplies he needed .

i asked her whether it was a temporary or permanent; she said she didn’t know but took my name and number and said she was going to ask the owner and would get back to me.

I very much hope JMF returns to the market. The combination of low cost and high performance should appeal to many, plus the 450ml/1-lb tub lasts a long time. I cracked open this tub on 3 August 2006, and it’s still about over 3/4 full. Of course, I use it only from time to time, but I think that even if you use it daily the 1-lb tub would last well over a year. If you also would like a tub of this wonderful stuff, you might call to see whether it will be available. Their phone number is 416-787-1211.

My WSP Prince made the usual great lather, and again I recalled the neightbor’s home where I ate that tapioca — Ila was her name, a name not so common now.

Stubble well prepped, I picked up my new Goodfellas’ smile Legione Slant and set to work. The slant’s appearance reminded me strongly of the Parker Semi-Slant, but when I compared them side by side I saw obvious differences — in the cap design, for example: the Parker has a sort of flat platform at top, and the Legione has a simple curved top.

I used a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade, and the first thing I noticed was the absence of blade feel — the razor glided easily through the stubble, running comfortably over my face with no threat at all of a nick. Perhaps as a result, the razor is not quite so efficient as some other slants, but I easily got a perfectly smooth finish by paying closer attention to cleaning up a few rough spots.

I would say that this is an excellent slant, particularly for a first slant. You may well find this slant is more comfortable than the current conventional razor you use. You’ll also find that the (stainless-steel) handle is comfortable and well-designed.

Three passes later, with some closer attention to under the jawline and a couple of places on my neck, my face was perfectly smooth and undamaged, and a splash of Pinaud Lilac Vegetal finished the job nicely.

Today I start a soybean-and-kodo-millet tempeh. The kodo millet I’m using is whole-grain (i.e., unpolished), and I look forward to trying the tempeh. Kodo millet (unpolished) is a particularly healthful grain.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 8:58 am

Posted in Shaving

GOP: “Let’s hold off on addressing climate change until it is too late”

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Last week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis became the latest Republican governor to sign a bill making it harder for citizens to shift away from the fossil fuels that are changing the climate. The move came after Miami, which is in danger as sea levels rise, proposed cutting carbon emissions by banning natural gas infrastructure in new buildings. The bill was written by lawyers for utility companies, based on a pattern written by the American Gas Association. Lobbyists for the Florida Petroleum Association, the Florida Natural Gas Association and the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Home Builders Association, and the National Utility Contractors Association of Florida supported the bill.

Nine other Republican states have already passed similar legislation.

Republican-led states are defending the use of fossil fuels in other ways. News that President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, was urging major U.S. banks to invest responsibly with an eye to the climate crisis, led the state treasurers of West Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota to write to him expressing their “deep concern” that he, along with other members of the Biden administration, was pressuring banks “to refuse to lend to or invest in coal, oil, and natural gas companies, as a part of a misguided strategy to eliminate the fossil fuel industry in our country.” They accused the Biden administration of “picking economic winners and losers” according to “Biden’s own radical political preferences,” and thus depriving “the people” of agency.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are crucial to their states’ economies, they said, providing “jobs, health insurance, critical tax revenue, and quality of life.” They warned that they would withhold public funds from any banks that refused to lend to fossil fuel industries.

And yet, historically, the government has picked fossil fuels as a winner that outranks any other energy source. While Republicans tend to claim any spending for alternative energies is wasteful, a recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, a nonprofit think tank, says that U.S. subsidies to new oil and gas projects inflate their value by up to $20 billion per year. This would seem to fly in the face of Republican complaints about “socialism” in which the government picks winners and losers.

A recent Morning Consult poll shows that 50% of voters say climate change is a critical threat to America. Another 26% think it is important, but not critical. Among Democrats, 75% think climate change is crucial, while another 17% say it is important. Among Republicans, 21% say that climate change is crucial, while another 37% say it is important, but not crucial.

With this support for addressing climate change, why do Republicans appear to be dead set against dealing with it in a meaningful way and instead are propping up the fossil fuels that feed that change?

At the nomination hearing for now–Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who has promised to protect our lands, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Haaland that his state collects more than a billion dollars a year in royalties and taxes from the oil, gas, and coal produced on federal lands in the state, and warned that the Biden administration is “taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.”

Oil produces the most revenue for Texas, which earned $16.3 billion from oil in 2019, an amount that made up 7% of the state’s revenue. Oil revenues accounted for 70% of state revenues ($1.1 billion) in Alaska in 2019, 52% of state revenues ($2.2 billion) in Wyoming in 2017, and 45% of the revenues ($1.6 billion) in North Dakota in 2017.

But production declines in the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic have hurt these fossil fuel states. Wyoming expects to have 29% less money than it expected in 2021–2022. Alaska expects an estimated 18% budget deficit in fiscal 2021. Without money coming in from fossil fuels, people will have to make up the difference by paying taxes, an unpopular outcome, especially in Republican-dominated states, or by losing even more services.

Reducing dependence on fossil fuels will also cost current jobs, and one of the hallmarks of an economy developed around an extractive industry is that it tends to have little flexibility. The rural American West was developed around extractive economies, with a few wealthy men employing lots of workers, and its limited economy means that workers cannot transition easily into other fields.

Fossil fuel advocates also contribute mightily to Republican campaigns, adding financial interest to party members’ general dislike of regulation. In Florida, utility companies employ an average of one lobbyist for every two legislators. “It’s no secret we play an active role in public policy,” a spokesman for a Florida utility told Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson in 2016.

This week, in the Pacific Northwest, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2021 at 5:53 am

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