Later On

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

Archive for October 13th, 2021

Chili extremely tasty

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I made the chili blogged earlier today, and I updated the earlier post with the outcome (which is excellent).

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 7:16 pm

The Abortion Backup Plan Many Do Not Know

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Olga Khazan points out in an article in the Atlantic that abortions are readily available through on-line access to medical abortifacients. She writes:

So many states have restricted access to abortion so severely that people in large swaths of the country feel they have no options if they want to terminate a pregnancy. But technically, those who want an abortion still have options. It’s just that few have heard of them.

Pregnant people in Texas, or in any other U.S. state, can visit an array of websites that will mail them two pills—mifepristone and misoprostol—that will induce a miscarriage when used in the first trimester of pregnancy and possibly even later. The so-called self-managed abortion is therefore an option at least six weeks further into a pregnancy than the controversial new Texas law’s six-week “heartbeat” cutoff for an abortion at a clinic. Though people in other states have several websites to choose from, Texans can visit Aid Access, a website that provides the pills for $105 or less based on income.

Only 5 percent of Americans have heard of Aid Access, though, and only 13 percent have heard of Plan C, a website that provides information on different mail-order-abortion services by state, according to a new Atlantic/Leger poll. Some people may vaguely know that medication abortions exist, but don’t know the names of the organizations that mail them. However, most poll respondents said that they weren’t aware of any backup options for abortion if a clinic is not accessible. The poll surveyed a representative sample of 1,001 adults across the country from September 24 to September 26, and its results mirror my experiences interviewing two dozen random young Texans recently: None had heard of Aid Access, and the few who had heard of Plan C were confusing it with Plan B, the morning-after pill. [Click chart to enlarge it. – LG]

The results also jibe with the experiences of Plan C’s founders. Though they’ve seen a large increase in web traffic, particularly from Texas, since Texas’s abortion restrictions went into effect, “we know that the biggest challenge is to try to get this word out,” says Francine Coeytaux, one of the site’s co-founders. The doctor behind Aid Access, Rebecca Gomperts, told me that according to her own research, 60 percent of her clients did not know about abortion pills before they found her service.

Nationwide, opponents of abortion rights appear to be winning. Though a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the new Texas “heartbeat” law, Texas appealed, and the law remains in effect—at least for now. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed another bill that narrows the window for medication abortions from 10 weeks to seven weeks and bans the mailing of abortion-inducing medications. The Supreme Court is composed predominantly of abortion-rights opponents, and states have enacted 106 different restrictions on abortion this year, the most in one year since 1973, according to the pro-abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute.

Many people in these states, upon getting pregnant, will simply track down a mail-order-abortion service through the internet. But the picture is more worrisome for those who lack internet access or proficiency. “Being in that state of desperation and feeling like you have no options” exacts a mental toll, says Abigail Aiken, a University of Texas professor who has researched self-managed abortion. Some number of those people might harm themselves in a misguided attempt to end the pregnancy. “It would be remiss of us to underestimate the lengths people will go to sometimes when they can’t access the care they really need,” Aiken says.

Abortion pills work best in the first trimester of pregnancy, but it takes time to find the service and order the pills, and for them to arrive and make their way through customs. This is one reason Aid Access is now allowing people who aren’t pregnant to order the pills to have on hand and use later if they experience an unwanted pregnancy. The pills don’t expire for about two years.

Aiken wants Texas schools to start teaching about abortion as part of health class. However, this is unlikely to happen in a state that still does not mandate any kind of sex education.

Coeytaux, from Plan C, suggests that something darker is at work: that abortion clinics and funds are not sufficiently promoting self-managed abortion, either out of a lack of trust or because they fear it will quell the sense of emergency over the war on reproductive rights. Indeed, when I visited the website of one Texas abortion fund recently, it said, “We do not provide advice on self managed abortion care.” (The fund did not respond to a request for comment.) Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion clinic with sites in Texas, does have a page on self-managed abortion, but in an email, its CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller, said that because Texas does not allow the dispensing of abortion pills by mail, medical professionals “cannot advise Texans how to obtain self-managed abortion medications in Texas.”

The struggle for abortion rights has been  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Medical

Good list of influential science-fiction books

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Take a look. I downloaded a dozen or so samples. (I have a Kindle, and one way to remember a book I might be interested in buying is to download the sample. It’s more effective than putting the book on a list, and surprisingly often just having the sample stifles the impulse to buy.)

One interesting point: the maker of the list (or at least the writer of headline) believes that no science-fiction book more influential than those in the list will ever be written. That’s quite a claim, and I wonder how they know.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

An interesting interview with Dwayne Johnson

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Dwayne Johnson on screen is appealing, and apparently he’s the same in real life. Chris Heath has a lengthy interview/profile in Vanity Fair. It begins:

During one of our last conversations, Dwayne Johnson’s five-year-old daughter, Jasmine, comes into his office to ask, a little impatiently, when he will be available to eat some lemon cake with her. She has walked into the middle of a discussion about whether her father truly has presidential ambitions. Earlier this year, after a poll suggested that 46 percent of Americans have some enthusiasm for this recurrently floated idea, Johnson responded on Instagram (where he currently has 270 million followers, the second most of anyone on the planet): “I don’t think our Founding Fathers EVER envisioned a six-four, bald, tattooed, half-Black, half-Samoan, tequila drinking, pick up truck driving, fanny pack wearing guy joining their club—but if it ever happens it’d be my honor to serve you, the people.”

Johnson and I go back and forth on this strange subject for some time as he tries to honestly describe where he stands. He explains that he finds the idea humbling, concedes that he has talked to people in politics and done “a small amount of research and analysis to see where this comes from and to see what it could look like in the future,” and adds suggestively that “indicators are all very positive—in, for example, 2024, and in, for example, 2028.” He is not, he confirms, ruling the possibility out. But then he loops back to this: “You know, at the end of the day, I don’t know the first thing about politics. I don’t know the first thing about policy. I care deeply about our country. I care about every fucking American who bleeds red, and that’s all of them. And—there’s no delusion here—I may have some decent leadership qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a great presidential candidate. That’s where I am today.”

This is when Jasmine appears to declare her more-lemon-cake-related agenda.

“As soon as I’m done, I’m going to come out and see you, okay?” her father tells her, gently. Then he asks her a question: “Do you know what the president of the United States is?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 3:05 pm

A Man With a Badge Nearly Killed Her. So She Got Her Own Badge.

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And no, she didn’t nearly kill him back. Instead she had a highly successful career in the NYPD and founded a program that sounds extremely good. Here’s the report, and it’s a gift link, so no paywall. The report is by Michael Wilson in the NY Times, and it begins:

When her boyfriend punched her in the face, she called the police. When he hit her in the head with a chair, she called again. Officers would arrive, and despite her obvious injuries — a cut lip, a swollen eye — they would turn and leave when her boyfriend, who was a prison guard at Rikers Island, would flash his own badge.

He hit her more, until Katrina Cooke Brownlee, 22 and pregnant, finally moved out of their home in Medford on Long Island with her two young children, hiding out in a hotel nearby. It was January 1993. Several days passed before she realized she needed more clothes for her daughters, and she returned to the house. Her boyfriend, Alex Irvin, was waiting — with a gun.

“This is the day you die, bitch,” he said, and he fired — straight at her belly. He fired again, and again, and again and again. He emptied the revolver’s five-round cylinder, then reloaded and emptied it again. . .

Continue reading. No paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 1:54 pm

Renewable energy costs now in the range of fossil fuel costs.

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Both charts here are from EV’s Charts of the Week. And though renewables (Photo-Voltaic (PV), Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Offshore- and Onshore-Wind) are within fossil-fuel cost range, that’s not likely to stay that way, since fossil-fuel costs are rising. Hydroelectric power is also renewable, and the drought in the Western US has affected that, especially in California.

Soon renewables will be below fossil fuel’s cost range. For example:

However, the US in particular must upgrade its electric grid to carry this power — and the US does not like to invest in social goods such as infrastructure, education, public health, and so on. Will Englund has an excellent report on this in the Washington Post. (Link is a gift link: no paywall.) His report begins:

On a good day, a fair wind blows off Lake Ontario, the long-distance transmission lines of New York state are not clogged up and yet another heat wave hasn’t pushed the urban utilities to their limits. On such a day, power from the two big wind turbines in Vaughn Moser’s hayfield in this little village join the great flow of electricity from upstate as it courses through the bottleneck west of Albany and then heads south, where some portion of it feeds what is currently the country’s largest electric vehicle charging station, on the edge of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

There, at an installation opened earlier this year by a car-sharing company called Revel, on the site of the old Pfizer pharmaceutical headquarters, this carbon-free power can help juice up a whole fleet of sleek vehicles that aim to leave the internal combustion engine behind.

But that’s on a good day. Even now — before this state and the country’s grand ambitions for an electric future are fully in motion — there are too many bad ones.

Seventy-four times last year, the wind across Upstate New York dropped so low that for stretches of eight hours or more barely any electricity was produced. Nearly half the year, the main transmission line feeding the metropolitan area was at full capacity, so that no more power could be fed into it. Congestion struck other, smaller lines, too, and when that happened some of the wind turbine blades upstate fell still.

And in New York City this summer, the utility Con Edison appealed to customers to cut back on their electricity usage during the strain of five separate heat waves, while Tropical Storms Elsa, Henri and Ida cut power to thousands.

Converting the nation’s fleet of automobiles and trucks to electric power is a critical piece of the battle against climate change. The Biden administration wants to see them account for half of all sales by 2030, and New York state has enacted a ban on the sale of internal combustion cars and trucks starting in 2035.

But making America’s cars go electric is no longer primarily a story about building the cars. Against this ambitious backdrop, America’s electric grid will be sorely challenged by the need to deliver clean power to those cars. Today, though, it barely functions in times of ordinary stress, and fails altogether too often for comfort, as widespread blackouts in California, Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere have shown.

“We got to talk about the grid,” said Gil Quiniones, head of a state agency called the New York Power Authority. “Otherwise we’ll be caught flat-footed.”

The grid’s big looming problem: Getting power to where it’s needed

By 2030, according to one study, the nation will need to invest as much as $125 billion in the grid to allow it to handle electric vehicles. The current infrastructure bill before Congress puts about $5 billion toward transmission line construction and upgrades.

Even in this progressive, wealthy state, where policymakers are spending billions on climate change initiatives and the governor has announced plans for two big new transmission lines feeding the New York metropolitan area, the challenge is enormous. By 2050, the state projects, electric cars, trucks and buses will use 14 percent of New York’s total output. That’s equivalent to half of all the electricity used in New York City in 2019 — so it’s like powering a new city of four million people. Overall demand could grow by as much as 50 percent. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and no paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 12:46 pm

The tomato/potato divide in Europe

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My guess is that the divide is partly cultural, but also partly driven by climate. I almost titled this post “You say to-may-to, I say po-tay-to.” 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Lessons Learned from Two Gun-Violence Epidemics

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Daniel Webster writes at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health:

came to Johns Hopkins in 1987 to get my doctorate and focus on public policies that enhance public health and safety. Initially, I focused on reducing motor vehicle deaths, but gun violence was engulfing U.S. cities in the late 1980s, including Baltimore. In neighborhoods near our campus, young lives were being lost to gunfire. The sharp upward trajectory looked like that of an uncontrolled infectious disease. Encouraged by my adviser, Stephen Teret, I decided to focus my career on preventing gun violence.

The current surge in homicides reminds me of when I entered the field. Just as in the 1986–1994 epidemic of gun violence, Black Americans living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty and disinvestment have been the hardest hit. Social factors, including structural racism, contributed to both epidemics, but so have the proliferation of firearms, weaknesses in gun laws, and problems enforcing gun laws.

There are some positive differences in our response to the current epidemic of gun violence compared to the prior one. Previously, the response was dominated by more arrests, more incarceration, and increased investment in law enforcement. This time, policymakers are funding public health approaches. Community violence prevention programs have become integral to local strategies. Reducing violence and abuses by police and policies to promote racial equity have become high priorities.

But as new solutions have emerged, so have new challenges. Firearms constructed with kits purchased online and DIY videos are a new pipeline for firearms. Social media amplifies conflicts that are often settled with gunfire. Egregious acts of police violence have curtailed effective partnerships between law enforcement and community groups.

I’ve studied community violence interruption programs in Baltimore since 2007 and have had the privilege of being friends with some of the programs’ brave workers like Dante Barksdale. He was an effective violence interrupter for Safe Streets Baltimore in the McElderry Park neighborhood and later worked for Baltimore City recruiting and mentoring violence interrupters.

Dante was murdered earlier this year. Like many others in Baltimore, I was devastated by his loss. I learned much from Dante and others in Safe Streets. They taught me about the deep deprivation and trauma that is common among those involved in gun violence. They also acknowledged that their ability to prevent shootings depends somewhat on law enforcement being a credible deterrent to gun violence. Sadly, that’s been lacking in Baltimore and many other cities.

While some in public health have called for abolition or dramatic defunding of police, I think public health professionals should partner with police to develop new models for community safety that minimize harms from the criminal justice system. Our goal should be to push law enforcement to focus more on eliminating racial disparities, reducing serious violence, and being accountable to community members. Our police should be trauma-informed and able to engage collaboratively with multiple sectors.

To stem the current surge in gun violence, we need smarter policies to reduce gun availability in risky contexts. The Center I lead has helped strengthen laws to keep firearms from individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders and advance the adoption by 17 states and the District of Columbia of extreme risk protection order laws. Our research provides evidence that strong background check requirements that include handgun purchaser licensing can reduce the diversion of guns for criminal use, firearm-related homicides and suicides, mass shootings, and law enforcement officers being shot. We know that states with these policies have rates of civilians being fatally shot by law enforcement that are about a quarter as high as those of states that lack them. Our national surveys show that three-quarters of Americans support these policies and a similar proportion of gun owners in states with purchaser licensing support the laws.

We also are rigorously studying laws governing . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Many civilian deaths by firearms could be prevented by sensible modifications to gun policies.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 12:19 pm

Buttercup squash

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Buttercup squash are not yet so common as other varieties, so I was pleased to pick up these fellows. They’ll each be roasted (along with their seeds) over the coming days.

This morning I am having the squash at the bottom. I cut it into bite-sized pieces and tossed those with olive oil, some kala namak salt, some Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and a good sprinkling of Cape Herb & Spice Chipolte Chilli seasoning. From their website:

Our spicy blend of wood-smoked chilli peppers, roasted garlic, cumin, and sugar is the ideal flavour companion for every kitchen cowboy. Delicious with beef, chicken, ribs or pork and brilliantly suited to Mexican dishes! Use as a spice, rub, marinade or table seasoning. 

I roasted the pieces of squash and also a little pile of the seeds at 400ºF for 25 minutes. Since I had a cast-iron skillet that needed a little more seasoning, that also went into the oven, upside down, the cooking surface freshly coated with a little Larbee. If I’m going to heat up the oven, I want to get as much done with that as I can.

It’s very tasty. The chipotle sprinkle was a good idea. I imagine I could have used ground chipotle powder just as well.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 10:18 am

Chili gathering

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I have some dark red kidney beans to cook, and to me that spells “chili.” So I gathered some things to use. I made a list off the top of my head. [Full disclosure: ingredient measures were done by eye, thus the “~”; counts, however, are accurate.]

Olive oil
1 large Red Onion (sort of hidden on the left, in front of liquid smoke)
2 Leeks
2 Jalapeño peppers
2 Poblano peppers
1 Anaheim pepper
1 Red bell pepper
Garlic (in front of canned tomatoes) – about 3/4 cup, chopped small
2 Turmeric roots (on top of Roma tomatoes)
~2-3 tablespoons Mexican oregano
~1-2 tablespoons Ancho chili powder
Smoked paprika – turns out I have none right now; would have used it
~3 tablespoons Ground cumin
8 mushrooms, halved, then sliced thick
3 Roma tomatoes (hidden behind mushrooms), chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Ro•Tel original
1 small can Chipotles in adobo
1 small can no-salt-added tomato paste, plus enough water to fill that empty can
1 1/2 cups cooked unpolished kodo millet* — this I did measure, though 2 cups would be okay
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
~2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
~1 tablespoon liquid smoke
~1 tablespoon Red Boat fish sauce
~2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
lots of ground black pepper (for the turmeric)

* I used cooked unpolished kodo millet because that is the grain I happened to have on hand. You could substitute any cooked intact whole grain — kamut, whole rye, hulled barley, oat groats, wheat berries, etc.

I gathered the ingredients for a “before” photo and discovered I have no smoked paprika. Tomato paste not in photo because I decided later to add it.

Turmeric root is not a standard chili ingredient, but I like to include turmeric when I can because it has so many nutritional benefits.

5:20pm – It’s cooking now, and below is a photo of the finished (rather large) batch. It is making about 5.5 quarts, I would say. I forgot a couple of ingredients in the list, but I’ve added them now. After this cools, I’ll refrigerate what’s left — I’m having a bowl, natch — and then freeze a good part of it, using Ziploc freezer bags — probably multiple bags, a couple of servings per bag. 

7:00pm – It’s extremely tasty. I had a bowl topped with 1 tsp Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast (for flavor and B12). Nice intense warmth but without fiery pain or any anguish — just right. Deep flavor.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 10:14 am

Tcheon Fung Sing, the fine Italian shaving soap

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Yesterday’s Zi’ Peppino left me wanting more of that green-tobacco goodness, so this morning I brought forth my tub of Tcheon Fung Sing Tabacco Verde and with the snakewood-handled badger brush I bought from Strop Shoppe long ago, easily produce an abundant lather. This is a gentle brush, so today’s shave was soothing.

Maggard Razors’ V3A head is quite comfortable and easily produced a BBS result in three passes, and a splash of Alt-Innsbruck — more green-tobacco fragrance, with a touch of menthol — augmented with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the shave.

It’s a sunny morning and looks to be a good day, and I’m now ready for it.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 9:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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