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Umbrian Chicken Alla Cacciatora

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I just made this recipe from the NY Times: Umbrian Chicken Alla Cacciatora. It was extremely tasty and quite easy. I will note that 5 good-size chicken breasts weight right about 2.5 lbs, but you could easily make six, given a large enough skillet. (I made 5, and 6 would have been crowded.)

The recipe at the link seems to have one step—returning the chicken to the skillet—totally out of place. Since I use Paprika Recipe Manager, I can easily download and edit the recipe, and here is my edited version. (PRM exports files in HTML.)

Umbrian-Style Chicken Alla Cacciatora

Source: Cooking.nytimes.com

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces, or use bone-in, skin-on thighs and drumsticks: 5 good-sized thighs
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup good-quality brine-cured olives, black or green, withOUT pits
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 handful sage leaves
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Add at end:

  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add chicken pieces and sear over medium heat until golden on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer chicken thighs to a bowl or plate.

Turn heat to low and add onions and stir frequently until the onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add minced garlic, capers, olives, rosemary sprig, and sage leaves. Season with just a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

After a couple of minutes, when everything smells fragrant, add wine. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and simmer very slowly until the chicken is tender and cooked through (165 degrees). Start checking the temperature of the chicken after 15 minutes to avoid overcooking. Add some water if the sauce gets too dry while simmering.

When ready to serve, reheat if necessary, then add lemon juice and zest and balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more lemon if desired. Remove the rosemary sprig and serve.

The intro to the recipe notes:

Chicken alla cacciatora, or hunter’s style, is found all over Italy — but for a long time, tomatoes were not. Most American know the southern Italian version, with tomatoes, but this one is from Umbria, in the country’s center, and it’s made savory with lemon, vinegar, olives and rosemary instead of tomatoes. . .

Featured in: Umbria, Italy’s Best Kept Culinary Secret, Is Budding.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2016 at 7:33 pm

Powerful Coalition is Building Pressure on Feds to Think Again on Kratom Ban

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I think the DEA is suffering from severe anxiety because of the changing attitudes toward the War on Drugs, which has turned out to be enormously expensive, extremely destructive of civil and human rights (not to mention the governments of Mexico, Colombia, and other countries), totally ineffective, and seems to do much more harm than would be done if drugs were legalized and addiction treated medically instead of criminally. (BTW, a very interesting drug-war movie showing some outcomes of the War on Drugs is available now on Amazon Prime: Sicario, with Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin: very well done.) The DEA’s anxiety is played out in its absolute refusal to face facts (e.g., saying that marijuana has no medical use, when in fact it does and has helped in pain management and PTSD without the drawbacks of severe opioid addiction that results from opioid painkillers).

Philip Smith reports in the Drug War Chronicles:

In a last ditch bid to stop the DEA from criminalizing an herb widely hailed for its ability to treat pain, depression, and anxiety, and help people wean themselves from more dangerous opioid pain relievers, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the agency Monday asking it to reconsider its decision to place kratom on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

Kratom is a southeast Asian herb made from the leaves of Mitragyna speciose, a tree related to the coffee plant. In small doses, it has a mild stimulant effect, but in larger doses, it acts like a mild opioid. To be precise, the DEA has moved to criminalize not the herb itself, but two alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxmitragynine, which activate opioid receptors in the brain.

Last month, the DEA exercised its emergency scheduling powersin announcing that it was moving kratom to Schedule I, effective at the end of this week. The drug agency said kratom poses “an imminent hazard to public safety,” citing only press reports of some 15 deaths linked to kratom use. But in at least 14 of those cases, the victims were also using other drugs or had pre-existing life-threatening conditions. (Meanwhile, some 25,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses last year.)

Kratom users, who could number in the millions, immediately raised the alarm, organizing campaigns to undo the decision and lobbying Congress for help. That’s what sparked Monday’s letter from 51 lawmakers, including 22 Republicans.

“This significant regulatory action was done without any opportunity for public comment from researchers, consumers, and other stakeholders,” reads the letter, drafted by Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ). “This hasty decision could have serious effects on consumer access and choice of an internationally recognized herbal supplement.”

Given the ongoing high level of heroin and prescription opioid use and the associated overdose deaths, he DEA was hypocritical in mounting a campaign against kratom, the lawmakers said.

“The DEA’s decision to place kratom as a Schedule I substance will put a halt on federally funded research and innovation surrounding the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid and other addictions — a significant public health threat,” they wrote.

The lawmakers called on DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg to delay the emergency scheduling and instead “engage consumers, researchers, and other stakeholders, in keeping with well-established protocol for such matters.”

Since first emerging in the US a few years ago, kratom has been unregulated at the federal level, although the Food & Drug Administration began seizing shipments of it in 2014. At the state level, a half dozen states have entertained moves to ban it, but such efforts failed in all except Alabama. In other states, kratom advocates have managed to turn bans into regulation, with age restrictions and similar limits.

A ban on kratom would be disastrous, said Susan Ash, founder of the American Kratom Association. Ash said she had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2006 and ended up essentially disabled under the weight of 13 different prescriptions, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamines (to counter the opioids and the benzos). She became addicted to the opioids and finally tried kratom as a last resort.

“I didn’t really want to have anything to do with a plant, but I decided to try it, and it worked day and night,” she said Tuesday. “Within two weeks, I went from home bound to starting this organization.”

With the kratom ban looming, her members are facing “our darkest hour,” Ash said. “Our average member is a middle-aged woman, about 40% of whom have experienced addition, and tens of thousands of them are using it as an alternative to pharmaceutical medications because they believe it is safer and more natural. Now, people are saying they are going to lose their quality of life, that they will be re-disabled. People are terrified. What we need is regulation, not prohibition.”

“Despite the moral, political, and scientific consensus that drug use and addiction are best treated as public health issues, the DEA wants to subject people with kratom to prison sentences,” said Jag Davies, director of communications strategy for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which is also fighting the ban. “The DEA’s move would also effectively halt promising scientific investigations into the plant’s uses and medicinal benefits, including helping many people struggling with opioid addiction.”

The scientific studies are promising indeed. Researchers at Columbia University just published a study on kratom alkaloids and found that they activate opioid receptors in a way that doesn’t trigger respiratory depression, the lethal side effect of most opioids. Such research could lead to the “holy grail” of narcotic analgesics, a painkiller that doesn’t kill users and doesn’t get them addicted. . .

Continue reading.

The DEA has never shown the slightest interest in scientific findings. They operate purely from a power-based outlook: if they have the power to do something, they feel that justifies doing it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2016 at 10:49 am

“Where did the money go?” Part 7: The Half-Billion-Dollar Glitch

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David Dayen continues his interesting series of reports on a stock scam perpetrated by large corporations using penny stocks. The blurb for part 7:

Knight Capital made headlines around the world when one of its computers went on a shopping spree that ended up costing the company $440 million. So surely its secrets would come out now.

This is the final part for the time being. The SEC seems to be shirking its responsibilities, but the SEC has proved to be an ineffective regulator

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 12:23 pm

Phoenix Artisan misunderstanding

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As recently as today, a couple of comments on Wicked_Edge went into a familiar rant: that the proprietor of Phoenix Artisan posed as a veteran and thus we must downvote any favorable mention of his company or products: the Internet lends itself to that sort of cybermob, and of course anonymity is a factor as well.

As you know, rumors are so common on the Internet that there are several sites like Factcheck.com and Snopes.com that exist solely to rebut the various false rumors. But it is inevitable that this will happen. The nature of memes is that there is some variation as the meme (and its variants and their variants, etc.) are copied/repeated. Darwinian law applies in the meme struggle for survival, and the meme that reproduces most dominates. In the Darwinian/survival sense, that version is a “better” meme—that is, more likely to be repeated. However, as you can see (scroll down), does not mean that the highly successful meme-variant actually corresponds to the truth. Its success is derived from its fecundity of reproducing (being repeated), not from its truth (which, from a meme point of view, is irrelevant—the meme is fighting to survive, and only the most repeatable variants will succeed. The “better”  meme is just a meme that propagates well—and in this case, that is not the meme of what actually happened (as you see—scroll down). One of the two memes just does better in the memeverse.

UPDATE: Other examples of memes that are highly successful at propagating despite being false: childhood vaccines cause autism and global warming is a hoax.

UPDATE 2: Someone on Wicked_Edge got the impression that this stuff about memes is something I created. Regular readers know that memes have been of interest to me for a while, and memetics is in fact a subject of study, not something I made up. I do find that it provides a look at how human culture evolves that seems valid to me, but I make no claim for originality or authority in discussing memes. For those interested, here is a brief reading list:

Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene, chapter 11 is where “meme” was first defined and introduced.
Susan Blackmore: The Meme Machine
Rober Aunger (editor): Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science
Richard Brodie: Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
Tim Tyler: Memetics: Memes and the Science of Cultural Evolution

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 6:22 pm

Texas’ Strategy to Slash Much-Needed Special Education Services

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Texas seems burdened by a terrible state government. Charles Ornstein in ProPublica takes a look at how Texas is moving against another group of citizens now that their efforts to shut down medical services for women’s health have suffered a setback. He writes:

Federal law mandates that school districts provide special education services to students with disabilities–physical, emotional or developmental. But outside the public’s view, the state of Texas has decided that fewer students should get those services. It pressured school districts to meet an artificial benchmark of 8.5 percent, a rate far below that of any state, according to aHouston Chronicle investigation.

The article, by Brian M. Rosenthal, documents how “unelected state officials have quietly devised a system that has kept thousands of disabled kids” out of special education.

“We were basically told in a staff meeting that we needed to lower the number of kids in special ed at all costs,” one former teacher told Rosenthal. “It was all a numbers game.”

In a related piece, Rosenthal deconstructs the various excuses provided to justify the reduction in students receiving special education services. There’s no evidence, for instance, that fewer Texas babies are being born with disabilities; in fact, statistics suggest the reverse is true. He also debunks efforts to credit innovative new teaching techniques for the reduction.

In response to the Chronicle’s reporting, the U.S. Department of Education said it is looking into the matter, and the Texas Education Agency also has promised a detailed review.

We talked to Rosenthal about the genesis of the story and what he found. Some highlights, edited for length and clarity:

One thing I think our listeners will be interested in is how you found out about this story.

Actually, it was from an advocate. This particular advocate actually was confused about the fact that Texas had the lowest percentage of students receiving special ed services by far of any state in the country. This advocate didn’t actually even know about the 8.5 percent, he just thought that we should be looking into this mystery of why Texas serves so few children with disabilities. We started looking into it and in talking with other advocates and people working in schools, we found out about this unannounced 8.5 percent target.

Where did these students go? So if they existed before, and one would presume they exist now, where are they getting educated?

Most of them, it appears, are in schools in general education classrooms and simply not receiving these services that they are entitled to. We’ve heard from some parents that a lot of these children, from some parents and advocates, that a lot of these children have actually been pulled out of public schools when parents were unable to obtain services they decided to homeschool their child or pay to put them in private school. So there were certainly cases like that but it appears as if most of these children are just in regular schools and just not receiving the services that they could be.

How did nobody know about this?

[Many school officials] said that they were told by the TEA, the Texas Education Agency, that this was a policy that was mandated by the federal government or at the very least, backed by research. Turns out neither of those things are true. I think school officials kind of accepted it as reality. They didn’t realize that it was arbitrary and originated from the TEA itself.

After your story ran, it seems that you received quite a bit of feedback from parents who had children with special needs and who had tried to get services. What did they tell you? . . .

Continue reading.

There’s also a podcast at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2016 at 1:44 pm

One way to talk with Trump supporters

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Erica Edelson writes in Salon:

The only way to talk someone out of voting for Trump is to stop trying to talk them out of voting for Trump. To all my fellow progressives who’ve been busily browbeating supporters of this dangerous demagogue, you’re invited to become an early adopter of a far more rewarding, non-adversarial approach called “powerful non-defensive communication.”

According to most commentators, the prototypical Trump supporter is an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot with legitimate grievances against the faltering economy which Trump has skillfully alchemized into violent rage toward non-whites, Muslims and successful women. The Trump voter is a patriarchal authoritarian primed since early childhood to fearfully submit to a bullying father who always knows best. In the circular logic of the authoritarian mindset, might makes right — and so Trump, as the strongman, is necessarily the winner in a competition against losers.

While there is some truth to this profile, it doesn’t capture the nuances of experience, emotion and belief that are about to lead tens of millions of voters to pull the lever for Trump, including, as of July, 11 percent of Muslims, 13 percent of Latinos, 34 percent of women and significant numbers of professionals. Progressives tend to react to such information with groaning disbelief, at which point we either give up or rededicate ourselves to enlightening the ignorant dupes with scads of facts that contradict the false narrative spun by Trump.

As anyone who’s ever tried to reason someone out of their core beliefs knows, the mind filters out contradictory information, particularly the mind of an authoritarian whose panic button is stuck in the On position. Debating them and trying to convince them to dump Trump will make them dig in deeper — that’s what people do when they feel threatened. Also, as Newt Gingrich makes woefully clear in a John Oliver clip, everyone’s got their own set of “facts” these days, so flinging more facts back and forth is futile.

So what should we do instead? To answer this question, I contacted communication guru Sharon Ellison, creator of powerful non-defensive communication and author of “Taking the War Out of Our Words.” Ellison has trained thousands of educators, government officials and corporate and non-profit leaders, including me, in a novel, straightforward style of communication that avoids the pitfalls of the conventional adversarial approach. She was credited with turning around a trailing gubernatorial campaign by training the candidate in powerful non-defensive communication, and her website teems with testimonials from trainees who’ve achieved communication and relationship breakthroughs they’d never imagined.

I asked Ellison for tips on engaging Trump supporters in ways that encourage them to drop their mental defenses and rethink their position. The starting place, she says, is curiosity.

Instead of blasting Trump or insulting the morality or intelligence of his supporters, first, just get curious. You don’t have to agree; you’re simply gathering information and trying to understand where they’re coming from, even if you believe they’re deeply misguided.

Make it a dialogue, not a debate or an inquisition. No matter how true and rational your analysis is, force-feeding it will not go down well. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 September 2016 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Election, GOP

The Rawhide Artist: Hackamores and more

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A fascinating article by Andy Rieber in Craftsmanship.

“A small quiet drinking town with a cattle problem.”

So says the sign over the Hart Mountain Store, in Plush, Oregon, which serves as the grocery, gas station, restaurant, and tavern in this remote town of 107 people near the state’s southern border. On this particular fall afternoon local cowboys—or “buckaroos” as they are often called in this high desert corner of the American West—are gathered around a circular table inside waiting on their hamburgers as they thaw out from a morning rounding up cattle among the greasewood, rabbit brush, and sage.

The word “buckaroo”—an anglicization of vaquero, Spanish for “cowboy”—refers to the style of cowboying that, over two centuries, trickled north into eastern Oregon, northern Nevada, and southern Idaho from the old Spanish land grantranchos of California. The vaquero tradition’s Spanish aesthetic can still be found in this region: flat-brimmed, Amish-looking hats; silver bits with swirling, hand engraved flowers and scroll work; and painstakingly braided horse gear fashioned from what the Spanish called cuero crudo, or rawhide.

Two analog gas pumps hum quietly outside the steel-roofed store, which is draped in sagging year-round Christmas lights. Just next door, on the street’s corner, sits a faded mint green and pink house—its quirky, 1950s color scheme has seen better days—with a low-slung cinderblock shop facing it in the side yard. There’s no sign or storefront, but if you’re searching for superlative specimens of traditional cowboy rawhiding, you are likely to find your way here. It’s the shop of Bill Black, widely understood by buckaroos, horse trainers, and collectors of western folk art to be one of the great rawhiders of his time.

Over the years, Black has received orders from across the United States and Canada, and he has sent his work as far afield as Switzerland, Germany, and Australia. In 2000, he was named the Academy of Western Artists Hitcher and Braider of the Year, and examples of his rawhiding, and the equipment that accompanies it, have been displayed in the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon.

The word “rawhide” suggests a rough-hewn, unfinished product, and in one sense, it is. Unlike leather, which is tanned with some form of chemicals (even with natural tanning processes) to be soft and pliable, rawhide is just what it sounds like: dried, untreated animal skin. Used since prehistoric times, the material is an extremely durable alternative to leather, plant fibers, or woven hair for binding and lashing; it’s also proved useful for making shields and drum heads, containers, shoe soles, and any other item requiring components that are easily cut and shaped when wet but hard as horn when dry. Rawhide has one other distinctive feature: it contracts significantly as it dries. For this reason, rawhide became the original shrink-wrap—to this day a rawhide covering is still considered the best protection for the wooden tree of a traditional western saddle.

While Black’s work involves a primitive material, his creations assume patterns of extraordinary geometrical complexity. The multicolored weaves that he incorporates into traditional horse gear are suggestive of Hopi Indian baskets or the warp and weft of African textiles. Much like each of these folk crafts, rawhide horse gear has a vital use, embodying what Black likes to call “workable art.”

That art is at its most refined in a deceptively simple piece of horse gear called a hackamore, which is essentially a braided, loop-shaped noseband. When combined with a small headstall and a special set of reins, a hackamore functions much like a bridle without a bit—guiding a horse by applying pressure to the areas around its nose and jaw, rather than relying on a piece of steel in its mouth. For the original vaqueros, the hackamore was an indispensable tool for training their horses. And while it’s been largely forgotten today, its modern adherents argue that in the hands of a master rider, the hackamore can train horses to a level of performance that remains unequaled. A hackamore should also be a beautiful object. But the secret to one that really works, like resonance in the wood of a Stradivarius violin, lies beneath the surface, right at its core. . . .

Read the whole thing. And there are photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 September 2016 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life

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