Later On

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

Archive for August 21st, 2022

Another nameless dish that I liked a lot

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The “nameless dish” refers to the idea discussed in an earlier post. This one I ate before I could take a photo.  Very tasty. I Evo-sprayed the MSMK 12″ skillet with olive oil, about six sprays ( = 1.5 teaspoons oil), and then I put into the skillet the following (showing the Daily Dozen categories, which is how I now think of (and put together) my meals):

Aromatics
• 2″ fresh ginger root, minced (Herbs & Spices)
• 3″ fresh turmeric root, minced (Herbs & Spices)
• 5 cloves garlic, chopped small (Other Vegetables)
• 1 medium yellow onion (still no red onion in the store), chopped (Other Vegetables)
• 2 teaspoons chipotle-garlic paste (Other Vegetables)

Greens (and Cruciferous Vegetable)
• 4 large Brussels sprouts, halved vertically, then sliced thinly

Other Vegetables
• 1/2 large yellow zucchini, quartered vertically, then cut into largish pieces
• 1 medium yellow pattypan squash, diced
• 3 large crimini mushrooms, halved, then thickly sliced (a fungus, not a vegetable)
• 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, chopped

Beans and Grain
• 6-8 oz chana dal and Kamut tempeh, diced smallish

Herbs & Spices
• about 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (for the turmeric)
• about 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
• about 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Other
• 2 pinches MSG
• 1 large lemon with thin skin, diced (counts as Fruit, I would say)
• dash of tamari
• splash of Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar

I covered the skillet — it comes with a good lid — and cooked it on my induction burner at “3” for 8 minutes, then stirred it well and cooked for 8 minutes more. To serve, I put into a bowl:

Nuts & Seeds
• 2 tablespoons walnuts
• 1 tablespoon flaxseed, ground

And I topped that with the cooked dish, and then added:

• about 1.5 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seed (also counts as Nuts & Seeds)
• good dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce

The Louisiana Hot Sauce link is just so you can see the bottle. I buy that same bottle in my supermarket for CA$4.29.

I had another bowl of it for a second meal. For that, I omitted walnuts and flaxseed but did include pumpkin seed and Louisiana Hot Sauce.

I really like the texture and taste of zucchini if it is cut into fairly large pieces.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 5:47 pm

Soybean and Kamut® tempeh after 2 days

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This batch is looking quite good, if I do say so myself. Not a trace of sporing, and the mycelium has propagated well and thickly. Some might stop it here — the slab is well filled out and has good rigidity — but I like to let it ferment for a full three days at least, so I’ll wait until tomorrow afternoon to cut it up and store it in the fridge. 

This is the batch started in this post, which has the details. I followed my usual method in making it.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 12:06 pm

The Netherlands makes aging and long-term care a priority. In the US, it’s a different story.

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The headline, taken directly from a Boston Globe report by Robert Weisman, is tactful about the US approach. (If the paywall is a problem, read the report here.)

THE HAGUE — A demographic tidal wave looms. By 2040, one in four Dutch residents will be over 65. The same “silver tsunami” is building in much of the developed world, including the United States. And it will strain the budgets and test the ingenuity of nations.

Here in the Netherlands, a social welfare state roughly twice the size of Massachusetts, leaders have been planning for this graying of society for a half century. Drawing on public funds, a sense of shared responsibility, and compulsory insurance premiums paid throughout their working lives, those born in the post-World War II baby boom take for granted that they’ll have the home and nursing care they need as they age.

“It’s pretty much undebated,” said Bram Wouterse, assistant professor in health economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. “People know that when you get old, the government will provide good care.”

In the United States, it’s a far different story. The question of who will take care of older Americans, and who will foot the bill, keep many awake at night. A scathing report in April from the National Academies of Sciences described the US long-term care system as “ineffective, inefficient, [and] fragmented.” The wealthiest can afford quality care; those with less money must navigate a Byzantine system that forces them to spend down their savings to get a nursing home bed.

And despite that increasingly glaring gap, there is little chance this picture will change any time soon. The cost would be vast. Older Americans are projected to account for more than 20 percent of the US population within two decades, but addressing their needs in a sweeping fashion would require a political will that is not yet visible.

Still, the example set by the Netherlands is intriguing — and chastening.

A visit to this nation of 17 million, jutting into the North Sea, offers a look at a society grappling seriously with the struggles and costs of aging. Like their American counterparts, the Dutch face not only a rapidly growing older population but also a worsening shortage of elder care workers. Those trends are fueling anxieties on both sides of the Atlantic. But in the Netherlands, there’s an age-friendly game plan, bolstered by a broad consensus that older people deserve to get the care they need, and that they shouldn’t feel isolated or warehoused.

The Dutch use the word solidariteit, or solidarity, to describe their commitment to older residents. The Netherlands was the first country in Europe to introduce a mandatory long-term care system in 1968. It has updated and refined its plan several times since, holding to its vision of universal care even as it relies more on managed competition between nonprofit providers and insurers to control costs. The most recent overhaul, in 2015, aims to help residents age in place.

People want to stay at home, said Theo van Uum, director of long-term care at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport in The Hague. That new emphasis also anticipates and seeks to ease the growing weight of nursing home care on the national coffers.

A tour of senior sites in the Netherlands, from diverse cities dating back to the 12th century to rural hamlets surrounded by tulip fields, reveals some surprises. The Dutch approach looks nothing like a rigid nationalized system; it’s varied, experimental, and humane.

Its much-imitated De Hogeweyk in Weesp, a town on the outskirts of Amsterdam, seeks to “de-medicalize” dementia care in a miniature Dutch village, complete with grocery store, tavern, and barbershop, where residents roam with minimal supervision. Nursing homes have been reimagined in the last decade; instead of hospital-style facilities, many now look more like . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 10:58 am

The chemical imbalance theory of depression is dead, but that doesn’t mean antidepressants don’t work

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About a month ago I pointed out an article about how the chemical imbalance theory of depression is no longer accepted. Christopher Davey points out in PsyPost that this does not mean that antidepressants don’t work. He writes:

The chemical imbalance theory of depression is well and truly dead. A paper by Joanna Moncrieff and colleagues, long-time critics of the effectiveness of antidepressants, has caused a splash. The paper provides a summary of other summaries that confirm there is no evidence to support the idea that depression is caused by disturbance of the brain’s serotonin system.

They have done us a favour by corralling the evidence that says as much, even if we already knew this to be the case.

But the death of the chemical imbalance theory has no bearing on whether antidepressants that affect the serotonin system are effective. These medications weren’t developed on this premise. In fact quite the opposite is true – the chemical imbalance theory was based on an emerging understanding of how antidepressants were shown to work.

How did the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory start?

The first two antidepressant medications, both discovered in the 1950s, were observed to have positive effects on mood as side effects of their hoped-for functions. Iproniazid was developed as a treatment for tuberculosis, and imipramine as an antihistamine.

We know now that ipronizaid is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor – it stops the enzyme that breaks down serotonin and similar brain chemicals. But we didn’t know this when its antidepressant effects were first observed in 1952.

Imipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant and, among other effects, it blocks the reuptake of serotonin after it has been secreted, also allowing more to stay in the brain.

A simple hypothesis then presented itself: if both classes of antidepressants were shown to increase brain levels of serotonin, then depression must be caused by low levels of serotonin.

Researchers set out to demonstrate this in patients with depression, showing that serotonin and its metabolites and precursors were lower in the blood, in the cerebrospinal fluid, and so on.

But these studies suffered from what we now know plagued many studies of their era, leading to the so-called “replication crisis”. Studies used small sample sizes, selectively reported their results, and if they failed to demonstrate the hypothesis, were often not reported at all. In short, the findings were unreliable, and since then larger studies and meta-analyses (which summarised the many smaller studies), made it clear the hypothesis wasn’t supported.

What’s the link between the theory and antidepressants?

In the meantime, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 10:39 am

When Every Ketchup But One Went Extinct

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A recipe for Tomato Catsup in the 1817 British cookbook titled Apicius redivivus; or The cook’s oracle, by William Kitchiner. WELLCOME COLLECTION / PUBLIC DOMAIN

First, I will note that making your own ketchup is easy and the result — at least when I make it — is much, much better than Heinz or Dole or other commercial ketchup. The final entry my post on making your own mayo was about making your own ketchup, and you can find the recipe in this blog post from five years ago. That recipe makes a ketchup that tastes much better than store-bought, plus you can tinker with it (e.g., add 1 tsp liquid smoke; or add 1 tsp crushed red pepper; or try adding some ground cumin).

(An aside: Workflowy is a great little outliner, and it’s free.)

Second, this article from Atlas Obscura, by Sam Lin-Sommer provides an interesting account of the evolution of ketchup:

AROUND 1900, G.F. Mason, manager of the H.J. Heinz Company’s research laboratory, conducted a series of experiments on ketchup. He tinkered with sugar, vinegar, and spices in search of his equivalent of the four-minute mile: a shelf-stable, chemical preservative-free ketchup. Each of his carefully bottled, preservative-free samples kept for about 60 hours until, one by one, the corks popped out and the contents spoiled. Still, Mason was on the verge of a breakthrough: a ketchup that—after achieving victory in an all-out catsup war—would come to dominate America’s taste buds, leaving a wasteland of forgotten ketchup flavors in its wake.

“There were tremendously different ways of producing ketchup historically,” says Andrew Smith, a leading historian of American ketchup and author of Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment. “So I suspect that the flavors were widely different from sour to sweet, and [thick to] relatively soft.”

In the early- to mid-1800s, Americans fermented tomato ketchup from a variety of home recipes. The first recorded recipe for a home-fermented tomato catsup was published in 1810, a descendant of British imitations of Asian “cat-sup,” or fermented fish sauce, that the British encountered on colonial voyages. Tomato catsup, which cooks made with ingredients such as apples and anchovies in addition to tomatoes, caught on quickly due to its bright flavor, which livened up an otherwise monotonous American diet. And because it was fermented, it boasted a shelf life of one to seven years.

After the Civil War, companies mass produced, bottled, and sold ketchup to a new class of urban consumers. This ketchup was generally thinner, less sweet, less vinegary, and more tomato-y than present-day ketchup. But while fermentation was a boon for home cooks, it was a liability for manufacturers. Fermentation made ketchup tart, an increasingly unpopular characteristic as Americans gravitated towards sugar towards the end of the century. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 10:30 am

The US was not designed to be democratic

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Louis Menand has a very interesting article in the New Yorker. (The New Yorker has a strong paywall and does not allow gift links, but Archive Today does allow sharing. The link is to the article on Archive Today.)

To look on the bright side for a moment, one effect of the Republican assault on elections—which takes the form, naturally, of the very thing Republicans accuse Democrats of doing: rigging the system—might be to open our eyes to how undemocratic our democracy is. Strictly speaking, American government has never been a government “by the people.”

This is so despite the fact that more Americans are voting than ever before. In 2020, sixty-seven per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot for President. That was the highest turnout since 1900, a year when few, if any, women, people under twenty-one, Asian immigrants (who could not become citizens), Native Americans (who were treated as foreigners), or Black Americans living in the South (who were openly disenfranchised) could vote. Eighteen per cent of the total population voted in that election. In 2020, forty-eight per cent voted.

Some members of the loser’s party have concluded that a sixty-seven-per-cent turnout was too high. They apparently calculate that, if fewer people had voted, Donald Trump might have carried their states. Last year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislatures in nineteen states passed thirty-four laws imposing voting restrictions. (Trump and his allies had filed more than sixty lawsuits challenging the election results and lost all but one of them.)

In Florida, it is now illegal to offer water to someone standing in line to vote. Georgia is allowing counties to eliminate voting on Sundays. In 2020, Texas limited the number of ballot-drop-off locations to one per county, insuring that Loving County, the home of fifty-seven people, has the same number of drop-off locations as Harris County, which includes Houston and has 4.7 million people.

Virtually all of these “reforms” will likely make it harder for some people to vote, and thus will depress turnout—which is the not so subtle intention. This is a problem, but it is not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is that, as the law stands, even when the system is working the way it’s designed to work and everyone who is eligible to vote does vote, the government we get does not reflect the popular will. Michael Kinsley’s law of scandal applies. The scandal isn’t what’s illegal. The scandal is what’s legal.

It was not unreasonable for the Framers to be wary of direct democracy. You can’t govern a nation by plebiscite, and true representative democracy, in which everyone who might be affected by government policy has an equal say in choosing the people who make that policy, had never been tried. So they wrote a rule book, the Constitution, that places limits on what the government can do, regardless of what the majority wants. (They also countenanced slavery and the disenfranchisement of women, excluding from the electorate groups whose life chances certainly might be affected by government policy.) And they made it extremely difficult to tinker with those rules. In two hundred and thirty-three years, they have been changed by amendment only nine times. The last time was fifty-one years ago.

You might think that the further we get from 1789 the easier it would be to adjust the constitutional rule book, but the opposite appears to be true. We live in a country undergoing a severe case of ancestor worship (a symptom of insecurity and fear of the future), which is exacerbated by an absurdly unworkable and manipulable doctrine called originalism. Something that Alexander Hamilton wrote in a newspaper column—the Federalist Papers are basically a collection of op-eds—is treated like a passage in the Talmud. If we could unpack it correctly, it would show us the way.

The Bill of Rights, without which the Constitution would probably not have been ratified, is essentially a deck of counter-majoritarian trump cards, a list, directed at the federal government, of thou-shalt-nots. Americans argue about how far those commandments reach. Is nude dancing covered under the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of expression? (It is.) Does the Second Amendment prohibit a ban on assault weapons? (Right now, it’s anyone’s guess.) But no one proposes doing away with the first ten amendments. They underwrite a deeply rooted feature of American life, the “I have a right” syndrome. They may also make many policies that a majority of Americans say they favor, such as a ban on assault weapons, virtually impossible to enact because of an ambiguous sentence written in an era in which pretty much the only assault weapon widely available was a musket.

Some checks on direct democracy in the United States are structural. They are built into the system of government the Framers devised. One, obviously, is the Electoral College, which in two of the past six elections has chosen a President who did not win the popular vote. Even in 2020, when Joe Biden got seven million more votes than his opponent, he carried three states that he needed in order to win the Electoral College—Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania—by a total of about a hundred thousand votes. Flip those states and we would have elected a man who lost the popular vote by 6.9 million. Is that what James Madison had in mind?

Another check on democracy is the Senate, an almost comically malapportioned body that gives Wyoming’s five hundred and eighty thousand residents the same voting power as California’s thirty-nine million. The District of Columbia, which has ninety thousand more residents than Wyoming and twenty-five thousand more than Vermont, has no senators. Until the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, in 1913, senators were mostly not popularly elected. They were appointed by state legislatures. Republicans won a majority of votes statewide in Illinois in the 1858 midterms, but Abraham Lincoln did not become senator, because the state legislature was controlled by Democrats, and they reappointed Stephen A. Douglas.

Even though the Senate is split fifty-fifty, Democratic senators represent forty-two million more people than Republican senators do. As Eric Holder, the former Attorney General, points out in his book on the state of voting rights, “Our Unfinished March” (One World), the Senate is lopsided. Half the population today is represented by eighteen senators, the other half by eighty-two. The Senate also packs a parliamentary death ray, the filibuster, which would allow forty-one senators representing ten per cent of the public to block legislation supported by senators representing the other ninety per cent.

Many recent voting regulations, such as voter-I.D. laws, may require people to pay to obtain a credential needed to vote, like a driver’s license, and so Holder considers them a kind of poll tax—which is outlawed by the Twenty-fourth Amendment. (Lower courts so far have been hesitant to accept this argument.)

But the House of Representatives—that’s the people’s house, right? Not necessarily. In the 2012 Presidential election

Continue reading. (free link to article text)

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2022 at 7:32 am

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