25 February 2017
24 February 2017
21 February 2017
In these very trying times, it's natural to focus on short term crises, and dismiss as "necessarily deferred" as presently impracticable the longer term, more optimistic-outlook societal projects. But I think we should resist that tendency. The present era should be treated as an aberration, which we will emerge from, and, with effort, relatively soon.
To that end, there's a short piece in Scientific American about the advocacy by Obama's former science adviser James Holdren of not only continued by increased funding for fusion energy research.
There's a rather tired joke, about but not really shared by, advanced nuclear engineering professionals: "Practical fusion energy is thirty years (or ten, or twenty) away. And always will be." It's true that practical sustained fusion in both major branches of this research; laser ignition of small pelletized fuel or tokamak style magnetic ring vessels, has proved elusive. And the eventual solution may be something else entirely. But I would like to suggest that given at least the three important considerations noted below, this is not a reason to abandon or scale back research.
1. Fusion energy is truly inevitable. It is what powers stars. It is THE fundamental method of deriving energy from matter; all other methods are lesser, stopgap technologies. I believe this is all but irrefutable.
2. Our civilization has NOT made this an all out effort, and the progress that has been made is actually quite tangible, if not as miraculously successful as one might hope.
3. While the basic research and development is very difficult, and very expensive, the promised payoff is enormous. Fusion energy promises to be nearly limitless, and will have applications where solar and wind energy (which should also be developed on an accelerated, crash program basis) will not be practical, including space propulsion, eventually.
In the 1880s the main technological challenges were how to make a practical transformer so that AC could be used to distribute electric power cheaply and practically, and how to build practical submarines (among other things; powered flight being an area of more long term technology research). In our time, fusion power is the great "heavy industrial" long term challenge, with greatly improved batteries and hydrogen production and utilization technologies on the list as well (I consider solar power to be mostly a solved issue; the challenge is to work out the practicalities and invest in the infrastructure to make it a reality). I believe we should be looking for every reasonable opportunity to scale back wasteful military spending and should make major, Apollo Program, or even WWII production level investments in rolling out renewable energy using available technology while expending major resources on the long term challenge of fusion energy and manufactured hydrogen fuel (for aircraft and other large vehicles where grid-based or onboard solar electric power isn't practical, such as ships) to usher in our post fossil fuel energy economy.
I don't anticipate nuclear fusion powered tankers, but if fusion energy, combined with widespread low cost solar electric generation, become a reality, hydrogen can be manufactured from water. The storage issues are not really all that intractable; we used liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel in the 1960s. Aircraft can be built with hydrogen powered turbojet engines, and the whole structure, despite the necessity of keeping the hydrogen under pressure and cold, would weigh less, using advanced origami-fold superstructure, than current aircraft. Such aircraft would inject only water into the stratosphere, and although water vapor is a greenhouse gas to an extent, it is not a long term problem, and a reasonable level of air travel should prove completely sustainable without fossil fuels. Same with surface shipping. Very large ships might even use electric propulsion, with onboard small scale fusion reactors to produce the power. Or hydrogen turbine generators, which may prove more practical. (Hydrogen isn't a primary fuel; it's an energy transformation medium).
But my main point here is that WE NEED TO LOOK AHEAD, and invest, and invest HEAVILY, in our future. Not focus on nonsense like Donald Trump. He is a passing anomaly.
18 February 2017
In my formative years, while most of my contemporaries and friends cut their teeth, well, ears, rather, on Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, I was parsing the niceties of each and every one of Mozart's piano concertos, as music, not to play. (I wasn't that good at the piano; still not, really). Later I looked further back, to Bach, to the great Heinrich Schütz (still hardly a household name), to Josquin, Ockeghem, Dufay.
So that accounts for the following obscure judgments, one actually rather commonplace among classical music aficionados, the second slightly less so perhaps, and the third rarely mentioned.
1. Had Mozart not had kidney disease and died at barely 36, (and instead lived to a nice, ripe old age) he would have eclipsed Beethoven and be thought of today as the greatest composer ever, with the sole possible exception of Bach. (There are some who think so anyway).
2. Had Schubert not had syphilis and died at barely 31, (ditto) he would have eclipsed Beethoven and be thought of today as the greatest composer of the 19th century.
3. Had Orlando Gibbons not suffered an aneurysm (or something like it) at about the same age that Mozart lived to, in 1625, (ditto) he would have eclipsed John Dowland and be generally thought of as the greatest English composer ever, and the equal of the other titans of the 17th century, Monteverdi and Schütz.
I realize these kinds of contrafactuals are pretty meaningless, and they seem to annoy some rather persnickety folks, but I find them irresistible now and then.
11 February 2017
*NOT low fat or low calorie
Serves 4. Cut in half approximately to make for 2
8 boneless chicken thighs, cut up into bite size pieces.
(I use the frozen ones from Trader Joe's most of the time, although fresh is better. If using frozen, thaw them most of the way and drain them with a strainer to get the water out of them, pat them dry. I cut them when they're still a little bit frozen; it makes them easier to cut)
1 entire head of garlic, peeled and minced (Use a garlic press)
(I don't recommend jarred minced garlic, but the frozen kind from Trader Joe's is acceptable).
1 heaping tsp. ground cumin
1 heaping tsp. garam masala
1 heaping TBS mild curry powder… (don't stint; you can use a little more, but don't go overboard)
(I use Sharwood's mild curry powder from World Maket, but any mild curry powder will work)
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. cloves
½ tsp. cardamom (may omit)
1 tsp. ginger, ground
sambal oelek (Indonesian pepper sauce), harissa, or red pepper flakes, to taste, as little as none as much as you care for
1½ tsp. sea salt or other salt
1 bell pepper, cut up into smallish pieces
1 regular size can diced tomatoes, partly drained, but retain some of the juicy water
1 small stalk of celery, cut into small pieces (optional)
coconut or avocado oil
1/3 stick of butter, or ghee (I just use butter)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
In a large anodized aluminum pan or other suitable large flat pan with tight fitting lid, put a tbs or so of oil in the pan and heat to nearly smoking point.
Add in the cumin first, then the garlic. (Cumin must be cooked in fat to yield its unique flavor). Turn the heat down and cook this mixture in the oil, stirring all the while, until the garlic just starts to change color. Add the other dry spices except red pepper, and mix into a sort of paste. Add a little more oil if necessary so it doesn't stick to the pan. Once heated through plus a minute or so more, scrape with silicone spatula into a small bowl.
Add another tbs or so of oil to the pan and cook the chicken until just turning beige (from pink), turning to cook all sides. Add salt and whatever red pepper you are using. Add back in the spicy garlic paste. Stir in the bell pepper and celery and cook for a bit. Add the butter, and incorporate. Add the tomatoes.
Cover and simmer for at least an hour, preferably an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Add liquid if necessary, but it shouldn't be. I sometimes even boil off excess liquid before adding cream.
Incorporate cream, heat through, and serve.
Serve with rice. I use a brown rice/quinoa/oat groats mixture. (see separate instruct. if you want to use that).
Complexer Carb Rice substitute
Mix in equal or not so equal parts (to taste) to make a quart or so:
Large red quinoa
Black or brown whole grain rice
To make this "rice," it's necessary to thoroughly rinse in a fine strainer, then soak for a minimum of one hour before cooking.
I just soak in the same water it will cook in, in the same cooker or pan.
Then cook just like rice, except the water:grain ratio needs to be about 2½:1 rather than 2:1. Add about a tsp. of oil and a tsp. of salt for each cup of grain. 1½ cups of grain is enough for 3-4 people.
Cook 1 full hour in a rice cooker
or pan with tight lid; bring just to boil then simmer on very low heat, so it doesn't boil
06 February 2017
03 February 2017
I'm a retiree, and of course (unsurprisingly) as such I have some issues with the way my former corporate employer (Chubb Limited) deals with its retired employees. This is America, after all, which has its downsides as well as its great good fortunes. But what I want to point out is the following global letter to employees and former employees from the company's CEO, Evan Greenberg. (The company, as a result of a merger, is now based in Zurich, after having been headquartered in New Jersey for decades and New York for even longer before that). All I can say is "KUDOS!"
Message from the CEO:
U.S. Travel/Immigration Restrictions
We have heard from many colleagues worldwide who have expressed concern about the U.S. Executive Order restricting travel from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. As a truly global company, we are proud of our diversity at Chubb and proud of the diversity of our many business relationships. We have long valued our colleagues and clients in Muslim nations, and we have worked hard to build an inclusive culture that welcomes and values the contributions of people from all parts of the world.
Chubb will continue to embrace our values and culture, notwithstanding the challenges created by this order. If anything, we believe it is more important than ever that we promote our values, including our commitment to inclusion. We all want security for our citizens and to combat terrorism, but we believe it needs to be done with respect for due process, individual rights and the principle of inclusion. Speaking as an American, and as I noted on today's earnings call, the U.S. is a country of immigrants - my country's openness to immigration is fundamental to its identity and history as a nation and vital to its future prosperity. Shutting our doors to immigrations is a mistake.
In addition to the broader implications of this order, we have been working to assess the impact it may have on travel for Chubb employees globally. At this time, we believe there are relatively few individuals whose travel will be directly impacted, but of course the full implications are still being assessed. We also are closely monitoring the repercussions for our U.S. citizens traveling abroad. If you have any questions or concerns about how this order might impact you, please contact your local human resources manager, who can arrange for you to speak with an immigration attorney at an outside law firm with whom we have contracted.
Chubb has and always will engage with and welcome people in all parts of the world. That is at the core of who we are and always will be.