November 19, 2017

The case for a “social” statute of limitations

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle recounts a few incidents and wonders if it’s rational or fair to apply today’s social rules to interactions that happened years or decades ago:

These events, after all, took place at least two decades ago. In some cases, cultural norms really have changed. I’d be shocked now to hear a really dirty joke told at work, but in my early twenties, I don’t recall even being mildly nonplussed. I’m not saying that the norms of those workplaces were right, but I am saying that the men who told them did not have mens rea: the knowledge that they were doing something wrong. And in general, it’s a bad idea to punish people for trespassing against rules they didn’t know. Or rules that didn’t exist.

But even if they had known, I still wouldn’t be eager to out and punish them now. I did a lot of things decades ago that I regret, and I would hate to be held accountable for them now as if they’d happened last week. And since I hope to grow and change a bit in the coming decades, I’d also hate to be punished in some far tomorrow for the norms — or even the folly — of today.

So it seems worth asking whether we need some sort of statute of limitations on these kinds of offenses in our culture, not just in our laws. It would not be a blanket pardon for anyone who manages to go unreported through the five- or 10-year mark. It would be a mitigating factor in deciding how to respond in the present to actions from another time: autre temps, autre moeurs.

The question when confronted with reports of decades-old misdeeds is not “Would this guy be a creep if he did this today?” Better to ask: “Was he better or worse than his environment?” And also: “Is there reason to believe he might have changed since then?”

Some cads and criminals would fail all these tests. And if the offense was last year, or if the accused attempts to intimidate the victim or explain away the transgression, then the answer to those questions is probably “No.” But if a man shamefacedly confesses that he made a mistake decades ago, through bad understanding or bad judgment, just how far are we willing to go in shunning him? To the same extreme we would for a recent, remorseless, serial offender?

If so, how many of us are willing to live under that standard — in which the sins of our distant past are ripe for litigation at any moment? In which the court of public opinion issues the same summary judgment immediately after every accusation? In which every defendant’s reputation and contributions are discarded into the same garbage heap, no matter what the age or nature of the offense?

November 12, 2017

The great “bitter versus sweet” war

Filed under: Health, Randomness, Science, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle is trapped behind enemy lines in the latest outbreak of the great taste war:

At this point I should put my cards on the table: Geographically and demographically, I belong in bitter country. But I am an exile-in-residence, because bitter foods make me wince.

I mean that literally. Really bitter things — a Negroni, say — produce in me a physical aversion that is close to pain. Black coffee I find merely extraordinarily unpleasant, and hoppy beer is just barely endurable. If I really had to endure it. Say, if consuming a bottle of IPA were the only way to save a busload of orphans who had been kidnapped by a beer snob.

Given where I live here in Washington, DC, and my known interest in food, the presumption of the bitter evangelists is that I must simply need re-education. I have been subjected to many hours of lectures on how I just need to clear my palate from all the sweet garbage I’m used to, so that I can appreciate the subtle joys of bitterness. I have refrained from suggesting that they hold still while I teach them to enjoy the subtle joys of being repeatedly kicked in the shins.

For over years of learning about food — and living with a bitter-loving craft cocktail enthusiast — I’ve come to realize that my aversion to bitter foods is almost certainly genetic. The Romans who coined the adage “de gustibus non est disputandum” were righter than they knew; science now tells us that there is indeed no sense arguing over taste, because you’re not going to change someone’s genome. Many seemingly mystifying divides over foods like cilantro come from the fact that some people have taste receptors that others don’t. If you have no receptors for the “soapy” compound in cilantro, this herb adds a marvelously tangy note to a dish. If you have those receptors, anything cooked with it tastes like Irish Spring en cocotte.

In my case, I probably have more bitter receptors than most people, so that a drink my husband finds intriguingly astringent would hit me like a punch to the tongue. I can no more get over my instinct to spit out bitter foods than he could get over his instinct to take his hand off a hot stove.

November 5, 2017

Binging with Babish: Turkish Delight from Chronicles of Narnia

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Binging with Babish
Published on 24 Oct 2017

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of books known for their talking fauna, religious overtones, and sickly sweets offered up by the White Witch, Jadis. Turkish Delight may be a delight for some accustomed palates, but can be fancifully altered with a number of different flavor concentrates. Whip up a batch to coerce and manipulate the black sheep of your choosing today.

October 29, 2017

The Poutine crisis – “Toronto is living a cheese curd lie”

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Toronto loves to adopt anything trendy and try to claim it as its own. Poutine, an imported delicacy from Quebec, early on was lovingly described as “the culinary equivalent of having unprotected sex with a stripper in the parking lot of a truck stop in eastern Quebec”, yet has been culturally appropriated as part of Toronto’s myriad of “local” dishes. Yet, according to this explosive investigatory report by Jake Edmiston, the so-called poutine that Toronto loves is … falsely labelled, inadequate, lacking a key component:

Some time ago, I realized that in Toronto, the cheese curds do not squeak. And cheese curds that do not squeak are a dangerous thing. They can trick you into thinking that cheese curds are just chopped-up cheese. The whole idea, to those unlucky enough to have never had a good one, must seem absurd: Eating cheese by itself, piece by piece in the same compulsive way that someone eats more chips than they need.

Think of the nightmare lived by a man scouring a city for chips that crunch but finding each bag stale. I am him.

As food-obsessed as it is, Toronto is living a cheese curd lie. It’s not always a popular assessment, though. One local cheesemonger took it rather badly.

“Who said that?” Afrim Pristine, the maître fromager at Cheese Boutique, demanded over the phone earlier this month.

“I say that,” I replied.

“You say that?” he said, confused. “Have you been to the Cheese Boutique?”

“I haven’t had your cheese curds yet.”

“So why would you say that?”

“I haven’t said it in print yet. I’m just saying that.”

“Okay. Um, I think you’re very, very wrong,” he said. “I think you’re incredibly wrong. To say that you can’t find good cheese curds in Toronto, I think, is crazy, actually.”


Curds are the butterflies of the cheese world — beautiful, transcendent, but only for an instant. They offer the rare example of cheese reaching its full expression as a snack unto itself, so airy and texturally complex that it is liberated from the usual dependence on crackers or bread or wine. Curds have been spared all the pressing and squeezing that occurs in the late stages of the cheddar-making process. They’re pulled right from the vat before any of that happens, still full of air and whey. That’s what makes them so much different than the cubes of mild cheddar beside the slices of salami on your cheese tray. Not for long. As that moisture seeps out over time, they inch closer to their cubed cousins, closer to ordinary. The squeak is, really, the only thing separating the two.

H/T to James Bow for the link.

September 21, 2017

QotD: Teaching

Filed under: Education, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

At every level, our society has been idiotized, in fulfilment of the democratic ideal. As I am reminded by each and every remark, from all candidates in televised political debates, we are now living in Flatworld.

God created, and continues to create, men and women of extraordinary diversity, in natural interests, native motor abilities, and the potential for what the Greeks called “genius.” That is to say, not simply brains, but what can be done with the brain you were provided.

I have noticed from my own teaching experience that, the smaller the class, the harder on a teacher. This is because the needs of individuals can better be discerned. The hardest teaching is under the old, indeed mediaeval, tutoring system: the one-to-one that used to be standard in places like Oxford and Cambridge, which continued to distinguish them from the drive-in, red-brick, fake universities. For at that “tutorial” level, student and teacher are both fully exposed, each to the strengths and limitations of another, non-abstract, human mind. It becomes impossible to “go through the motions.”

And it is like this, ultimately, in the tutoring of Christ Our Saviour. Every one of His students is a difficult case; the smart ones usually the most difficult. And so, likewise, with parent and child; with master and apprentice. It is so, by analogy, wherever men try to teach one another. The sermons and parables, the public lectures, are only the beginning of it. Then comes a process of discovery: “Which part of this do you not understand?”

Compare: the ideal of the “lowest common denominator,” appropriate perhaps for the management of pigs and cattle, on a large industrial farm. But evil when applied to human beings.

David Warren, “Democracy versus God”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-11-10.

September 19, 2017

QotD: A Nice Cup of Tea

Filed under: Britain, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea. Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad. Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water. Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners. Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly. Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference. Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle. Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold — before one has well started on it. Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste. Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk WITHOUT SUGAR. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

George Orwell, “A Nice Cup of Tea”, 1946.

August 30, 2017

QotD: Democratic education

Filed under: Education, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… a passage transcribed from one of Étienne Gilson’s public lectures in the early 1950s, and let it be said that a man in the Deep South who signs himself N.W. Flitcraft, found it first. (He is here.) Gilson has been one of my own “heroes,” or guiding lights, these last few decades:

    “If our school system exists, not in view of a chosen minority, but in view of all, its average level should answer the average level of the population as a whole. Hence the unavoidable consequence that the best gifted among the pupils will be discriminated against. Nor should we imagine that creative minds will multiply in direct proportion to the growth of the school population. The reverse is much more likely to happen. In aristocratic societies, genius has often found access to higher culture, even under adverse circumstances; in democratic societies, it will have no higher culture to which to gain access. Since equality in ignorance is easier to achieve than equality in learning, each and every teacher will have to equalize his class at the bottom level rather than at the top one, and the whole school system will spontaneously obey the same law. It is anti-democratic to teach all children what only some of them are able to learn. Nay, it is anti-democratic to teach what all children can learn by means of methods which only a minority of pupils are able to follow. Since, as has been said, democracy stands for equality, democratic societies have a duty to teach only what is accessible to all and to see to it that it be made accessible to all. The overwhelming weight of their school population is therefore bound to lower the centre of gravity in their school systems. The first peril for democracies, therefore, is to consider it their duty, in order to educate all citizens, to teach each of them less and less and in a less and less intelligent way.”

Pause, gentle, then read that through again, until committed to memory. I cannot think of a better single-paragraph explanation of how John Dewey’s “democratic vistas” sent us all to hell. Verily, I wish I’d been armed with that when asked, some forty-six years ago, why I was leaving school with only a Grade X education (plus, to be fair to me, nearly one full term of Grade XI). It explains everything, in less than three hundred words.

David Warren, “Democracy versus God”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-11-10.

August 19, 2017

QotD: “I’m too old for this”

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

There is a lot that is annoying, and even terrible, about aging. The creakiness of the body; the drifting of the memory; the reprising of personal history ad nauseam, with only yourself to listen.

But there is also something profoundly liberating about aging: an attitude, one that comes hard won. Only when you hit 60 can you begin to say, with great aplomb: “I’m too old for this.”

This line is about to become my personal mantra. I have been rehearsing it vigorously, amazed at how amply I now shrug off annoyances that once would have knocked me off my perch.

A younger woman advised me that “old” may be the wrong word, that I should consider I’m too wise for this, or too smart. But old is the word I want. I’ve earned it.

Dominique Browning, “I’m Too Old for This”, New York Times, 2015-08-08.

August 10, 2017

QotD: The comfortable shoe revolution

Filed under: Business, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s, “shoes” still meant, basically, “hard leather oxfords”. Ugly stiff things with a high-maintenance finish that would scuff if you breathed on them. What I liked was sneakers. But in those bygone days you didn’t get to wear sneakers past a certain age, unless you were doing sneaker things like playing basketball. And I sucked at basketball.

I revolted against the tyranny of the oxford by wearing desert boots, which back then weren’t actually boots at all but a kind of high-top shoe with a suede finish and a grip sole. These were just barely acceptable in polite company; in fact, if you can believe this, I was teased about them at school. It was a more conformist time.

I still remember the first time I saw a shoe I actually liked and wanted to own, around 1982. It was called an Aspen, and it was built exactly like a running shoe but with a soft suede upper. Felt like sneakers on my feet, looked like a grownup shoe from any distance. And I still remember exactly how my Aspens — both of them — literally fell apart at the same moment as I was crossing Walnut Street in West Philly. These were not well-made shoes. I had to limp home.

But better days were coming. In the early 1990s athletic shoes underwent a kind of Cambrian explosion, proliferating into all kinds of odd styles. Reebok and Rockport and a few other makers finally figured out what I wanted — athletic-shoe fit and comfort with a sleek all-black look I could wear into a client’s office, and no polishing or shoe trees or any of that annoying overhead!

I look around me today and I see that athletic-shoe tech has taken over. The torture devices of my childhood are almost a memory. Thank you, oh inscrutable shoe gods. Thank you Rockport. It’s not a big thing like the Internet, but comfortable un-fussy shoes have made my life better.

Eric S. Raymond, “Eric writes about the shoes”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-09.

July 6, 2017

QotD: Youth

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

You see, when one’s young one doesn’t feel part of it yet, the human condition; one does things because they are not “for good”; one thinks everything is a rehearsal. To be repeated ad lib, to be put right when the curtain goes up in earnest. One day you know that the curtain was up all the time. That was the performance.

Sybille Bedford, A Compass Error, 1968.

July 2, 2017

James May crossing his Meccano Bridge

Filed under: Britain, Randomness, Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Nov 2009

James May crossing his Meccano bridge in Liverpool across the Mersey (actually a canal). He’s nuts! lol…what a star! He then crosses his bridge, but cheats with a harness.

June 14, 2017

“How Do They Do It” – Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Filed under: Europe, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Nov 2014

It was a pleasure to host the crew of “How do they do it” at the Villa of our membership Davide!!
More info: http://www.balsamico.it

June 1, 2017

AK47 Vs. French Cars – James May’s Cars Of The People – BBC

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 24 Jul 2016

James May sets up a simulation of the terrible attacks that would of been inflicted upon some of these cars in war.

Taken from James May’s Cars of the People.

May 15, 2017

“The handgun industry uses the word ‘extreme’ like it’s on sale if bought by the dozen”

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 05:00

A post by Tamara Keel that may be of interest to my American friends, where getting legal permission to carry a handgun is still theoretically possible (unlike here in Soviet Canuckistan):

Extreme conditions! Extreme weather! The handgun industry uses the word “extreme” like it’s on sale if bought by the dozen. It gets used to tout the reliability of various handguns in advertising and in debates at gun store counters and internet forums: “The Blastomatic 2000 meets and exceeds MIL-STD-810G for blowing sand and dust…”

“We went down by the beaver pond and dunked my Sheepdog Sidearms Mk. III completely in the mud and it still fired a whole clip without jamming.”

“I read on a blog that the East Slobovian Army tested the Infidel Defense Crusader by freezing it in a block of ice and running it over with a tank!”

This is all well and good, but it has next to nothing to do with day-to-day concealed carry by the average American armed citizen. If someone were to come up with a relevant test to replicate the conditions faced by the typical concealed carry gun, it would probably involve gently bouncing the holstered gun up and down in a heated container full of pocket lint and dead skin cells for six months until all the lube evaporates or congeals — whichever comes first.

Neglect is probably the greatest enemy of the concealed self-defense handgun. In my experience, it’s a rare one that gets fired and lubricated very frequently. On one end of the spectrum are the people who might only own the one pistol and hardly ever get to the range with it, and on the other end are people who might have dedicated practice or training guns to spare their actual lifesaving tool the wear and tear.

May 6, 2017

QotD: Cooking for one

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

You thought about cooking. You had frozen fish filets in the freezer and a rather nice-looking head of broccoli sitting right there in the produce drawer. But then, somehow, it was 8:10, and it all seemed like too much trouble, so instead you grabbed a bowl of Tostitos, a jar of salsa, and three slices of pepper jack, and you ate it in front of “Chopped.”

Or at least, that’s the explanation that an NPD analyst gave Marketwatch for America’s snacking habits.

    “It’s hard to shop and cook for one.” That’s one reason why people are buying more snack foods, she says. “They are individually packaged and often have a very long shelf life. That, and an awful lot of people do not have cooking skills.”

Those whitefish filets were probably going to be overcooked anyway. Tostitos, on the other hand, are always done to a turn.

I have some sympathy. When the Official Blog Spouse travels, sometimes I make things he doesn’t like, such as tofu stir-fry. And sometimes, I surrender to the siren call of Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese Balls, which require no effort and are every bit as good to eat as they are bad for my waistline.

There are any number of articles and books that promise to tell you how to solve this problem. The best are merely adequate; the worst emit the quiet despair of an unmarked grave. I’ll concede that cooking for small numbers simply isn’t as much fun as cooking for a bigger group. Part of the joy of cooking is sharing the results. The labor-to-output ratio is lower for one or two, and you have to spend a lot of time fiddling with small amounts. Some things simply can’t be done efficiently for one or two people, which is why I save the rib roast for dinner parties. Other things shouldn’t be done for one or two people, which is why I am trying not to give in to the urge to make a layer cake this weekend.

Megan McArdle, “Friday Food Post: 10 Tips on Cooking for One”, Bloomberg View, 2015-08-21.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress