Quince Paste Recipe

May 26, 2020

Quince paste

Ingredients

1 kg fresh quinces

500 g sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon (60 ml or a little more)

Blanched almonds (Optional)

Water

Also

A saucepan or pot large enough to hold the cut up quinces easily

A wooden spoon for stirring and scraping  – a flat ended spoon is good.

A fine sieve

A cooktop

A wide, shallow tray  (One with a dimpled base is OK.)

Procedure

Wash the quinces and quarter them.  (Yes, no messing with seeds etc.)

Boil or microwave them with a very little water, or steam them, until they are very soft (probably 20- 30 minutes, depending on the quinces’ size.)

Rub the quinces through a fine sieve, which will leave you with the pips and any flower remnants to discard.

In a pot well large enough to hold the quince puree, heat the sugar and lemon juice with about 100 ml of water, stirring steadily until the sugar dissolves completely.

Bring the solution to a boil and simmer to thicken but not caramelise the syrup.  This does not take long; you can skip this bit if you like but the next bit takes longer if you do.

Add the quince puree and cook it over a very low heat (be careful as it thickens, you may need a spacer if your stovetop’s lowest burner heat is too high) and stir it constantly, being sure to scrape it from the bottom of the pan, until the paste thickens and lifts from the bottom of the pan when you drag the spoon through – thicker than ratatouille.  It should cool to a firm jelly.

Turn the paste into a wide, shallow tray and spread it evenly, about a centimetre to a half-inch thick.  If you like you can make a thin layer, spread a layer of ground, slivered, or halved blanched almonds on it, and cover this with another thin layer of paste.  Dry it – using a cooling oven, an airing cupboard, setting it in front of a fan heater you are using anyway, or using a food dehydrator will speed this; it can take several days in a sunny place.  It should end up like a jelly snake in strength.

It can be stored rolled in grease-proof paper or foil

It is traditionally served cut in small geometric shapes, often with a blanched almond on each one if not almond filled.

Papua endures, and will be free

May 12, 2020
I was young when Indonesia chose a thousand people of Irian Jaya, had them vote in a “free vote” to accept Indonesian ownership of their half-island, and then declared it was unanimously accepted.
 
Not even a teenager, I could still see it was wrong. I thought it right that they wanted to challenge the Indonesian takeover, and wrong that the UN rubberstamped the straight line drawn between Irian Jaya, now renamed West Papua and Papua, and the other half of the island, Papua New Guinea.
 
375px-locationwestpapua.svg_

The Papuans are still seeking independence.  I am ashamed that our government has not given them vigorous diplomatic support, has not frequently asked the UN to oversee a fair referendum excluding recent Indonesian immigrants.
 
The Indonesians claim the Papuans are treated as equals, but harrass them, refer to them as “monkeys” and despise their culture, and respond to demonstrations with violence, and to violence with wider violence.  Forced acculturation and racism and neglect are leading to tribal extinctions.  Some children who have seen their parents tortured and killed by Indonesians rely on charity to stay alive until they are strong enough to join the resistance,  leading to militant groups aged from 12 to mid-20s.  Some families flee to become refugees.
 
Indonesia encourages their dominant people to move to Papua and set up businesses, and the Papuans see their opportunities diminished and their common land reduced. Very reminiscent of Ireland under English occupation, which lasted from the 12th century to 1937 – and is not yet really completely ended, though A. Boris Johnson is encouraging Northern Ireland to abandon the UK.
 
It is only 50 years of occupation, 90 years if you include the start of the Dutch really asserting their “ownership” – why should we expect the Papuans to be less persistent than the Irish?  I won’t  be surprised if the Papuans eventually win their independence,  join with Papua New Guinea and welcome the refugee Papuans home from there.  Then I expect long arguments will start over West Papua and its Indonesian dominance.
 

 

Hospitals in time of COVID-19. Flatten the curve, folks.

March 16, 2020

I read “The U.S. has about 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people (South Korea and Japan, two countries that have seemingly thwarted the exponential case growth trajectory, have more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people; even China has 4.3 per 1,000). With a population of 330 million, this is about 1 million hospital beds. At any given time, about 68% of them are occupied. That leaves about 300,000 beds available nationwide.”

Current need for hospital stay with COVID-19 runs about 15% and doubling of cases is expected to be 6 days with moderate control of spread. (Italy to May 14 had a doubling period of 4 days.) (https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus)

Generously (given report from incoming air passenger) assuming 6 days, that gives the USA about 4 million cases by May 13. Being generous again, allowing 10% need hospital, that leaves USA with 400,000 COVID-19 sufferers needing hospital by May 14, and over 1.2 million by May 26.  For 1 million beds.

My sympathy to all the nice people in the USA.

Sympathy, because Australia had  3.9 hospital beds per 1000 people in 2018.  Including psychiatric beds.  Sympathy, because our testing is poor, due to a shortage of materials.  Sympathy, because  the published case figures are put out without the caveat that they only test those who

  • both (a) have symptoms AND b) have been overseas in the past fortnight or in contact with a confirmed case,
  •  those who have severe community-acquired pneumania
  • Or are health care workers hospitalised with moderate to severe community-acquired pneumonia.

As  people can shed the virus while appeaing healthy, even having a heavier viral load than people with symptoms, and as some people can take over 3 weeks to show symptoms, we will have cases missed by the testing protocols.

I hope my compatriots do take all the recommended precautions, and encourage the government and businesses to take the measures taken by Singapore and Hong Kong, including temperature scans on entry to all places where people gather.

Flatten the curve, folks!

flattening-the-curve

Why I watch “Mad As Hell”

February 17, 2020

“Mad As Hell” is often seen as pure political satire, but it has a  lot of social commentary and occasionally puts our lives in a wider context.

This is an example of the type of work which keeps me watching.

Contemptible or despicable?

January 11, 2020

Have been thinking about the difference between contemptible and despicable, starting with holding a person in contempt cf despising them.

Contempt and despite are interesting in their different intensity. Deep in their etymologies, both hold scorn – but the root despicio comes from looking down on a thing, and the early meaning of an act of despite was an act meant to humiliate, to lower the despised in the eyes of the world. It is not by chance despite gave us  “spite.” The root contemptus is from temnere, to scorn, with the intensifier com assimmilated to the t.  So despite holds a sense of seeing someone as inferior, and having an urge to see them aware of it and lowered in the world’s eyes, where contempt is more judging and turning away from,  seeing the action or person as not worthy of one’s time.

Oddly, we seldom talk of showing despite, but do talk of showing contempt. However, we more often say we despise some act or person, or say they are despicable, rather than say we hold them in contempt or say they are contemptible.  This may be from cartoon use, as I can hear Daffy Duck saying it, but it may be that saying that we despise it is, itself, acting to lower it in the eyes of others.  In contrast, showing contempt is revealing an internal state rather than acting to make others share it (well, at least we can claim it is…)

Westpac and the “no-return” costs of compliance with regulations.

November 26, 2019

The problems resulting from the profit motive clashing with popular demand for governments to catch those doing wrong, and human behaviour stirring the pot: all the way to public accusations of failing to report child pornography transactions.

Westpac’s current troubles go back to the 1990s, when they had outsourced their payment infotech to IBM. In the early 2000s they were starting to move it back, and fighting public perception that CBA was ahead in the data handling game.

2006, the banks were warned of new rules on tracking transactions coming into effect in 2010. The cost of this tracking falls on the banks, with no perceived return, so when implementation costs were estimated as small the execs didn’t question good news when setting budgets. Management hates “no-return” expenditure.

The project ran into problems and coincided with cost (staff) cuts, which saw experienced IT staff move out after hastily training their replacements. Things like moving from bank staff filling out paper forms shifting to staff filling out online forms (guess who had to design them) didn’t help. Management didn’t know enough to require and fund development of automated tracking of as much of the data as possible. Humans.

Using the internationally agreed SWIFT costs a little per transfer, and using outside systems allowed a shuffle which tracked most of the legally required data at a lower cost … profit motive. The IT area didn’t focus on the need for info for Government demands, and was inevitably tightly scheduled on higher-ups required tasks, so didn’t go into the mare’s nest of the data handling (imagine IBM’s 1990 batch-based code adapted by departed staff, being worked on by next gen programmers working in on-demand data-use environment) to make sure it could be hauled out. Humans.

2011 and 2012, data required to be held for 7 years was purged, involving over 1.5 million transactions. Because of “poor oversight of data retention systems. ” Humans.

2013, Austrac warned some executive level type at Westpac that there were problems, particularly with small transactions to geographic areas of risk. As with the Challenger disaster, it seems this warning did not go up the line to those who could order action, or was seen as low priority by them, or given a tiny budget. Humans again.

2016, Austrack briefed senior execs, and specifically mentioned the Litepay system was at risk.

2017 Many legacy systems and products had simply been shut during the past years, possibly unable to be made compliant.  More work may be needed to investigate whether relevant data is there.

2018, Westpac got monotoring as required on Litepay, but overall systems still not up to scratch

Now consider: is the money spent on compliance no-return? Boards should consider the benefit of avoiding the future cost to reputation, legal cost, Government regulator penalties, IT overtime, and executive weeks spent in disaster control rather than improving a healthy organization.

References: https://www.itnews.com.au/news/westpac-busted-23m-times-over-epic-money-tracking-system-failure-534273
https://www.itnews.com.au/news/westpacs-hopeless-monitoring-software-festered-for-a-decade-534293

Oz Liberal party hate others double-dipping, but help upper crust triple-dip

July 1, 2019

Under $255 p.a.  for those below the top of the bottom bracket, $11640 for those on over $200,000 p.a. in the Oz “benefit the workers” tax cuts. Would you believe the Australian Government’s ruling coalition want to spend $102.5 billion for changes benefiting taxpayers including the top 5%, then $41.7 billion for the top 5% alone?

The Liberal/National coalition want to give these tax cuts in 3 lots, shifting tax brackets upwards and removing the top bracket.

Media reports on the three part tax legislation suggest that only the third  part benefits those on $180,000 dollars per year. This is untrue. The 1st part reduces the tax for all taxpayers, the second for middle income and above, and the third benefits only the top 5% of taxpayers.

For the lowest taxable income range,  the low and middle income tax offset is part of the tax system. From 2018-19 it will provide a tax reduction of up to $255 for people with taxable incomes of $37,000 or less.  For taxable incomes of between $37,000 and $48,000, the value of the LMITO increases at a rate of 7.5 cents per dollar to the maximum offset of $1080. Once somebody earns $90,000, the offset phases out at a rate of three cents in the dollar to $126,000.

For the From July 1, 2018, the Government  is increasing the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000, meaning a tax cut of up to $135 per year for those on that range – and giving a tax cut of the full $135 to those above that range. But they also get the tax offfset – reducing by income as they move up the bracket.  The middle of the range get little effective increase.

From July 1, 2022  those on  $90,000 to $120,000 will shift from the 32.5 to the 30% bracket, a tax cut of  $1,350 per year for taxpayers above this level.

By July 1, 2024, people on incomes of $200,000, where the top tax rate of 45 per cent kicks in, will receive $11,640 in annual tax savings – with extra income taxed at 45% if their income is higher.

Meanwhile, the MAXIMUM benefit to the lowest tax bracket, including the tax offset,  is $255 .

There is no increase in the current system for those on below-taxable income such as those on intermittent contracts, who end up on incomes barely above the age pension, or those on benefits.

Consider the cost of this triple-dipping:

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) figures obtained by the Greens, the long-term cost to the federal budget of tax cuts would be as follows:

  • Increase the upper threshold for the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate from $87,000 to $90,000 from 1 July 2018: $6.5 billion.
  • Low and middle income tax offset of up to $530 for individuals with taxable income up to $125,333 for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years: $15.9 billion.
  • Increase the upper threshold for the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate from $90,000 to $120,000 from 1 July 2022: $36.5 billion.
  • Increase the upper threshold for the 19 per cent marginal tax rate from $37,000 to $41,000 from 1 July 2022: $40.8 billion.
  • Increase the low income tax offset to up to $645 for taxable incomes up to $66,667 from 1 July 2022: $2.8 billion.
  • Increase the lower threshold for the 45 per cent marginal tax rate from $180,001 to $200,001 from 1 July 2024: $9.1 billion.
  • Remove the 37 per cent marginal tax rate, so that all income from $41,001 to $200,000 is taxed at a marginal rate of 32.5 per cent from July 1, 2024: $32.6 billion.

Yes,  $102.5 billion for tax cuts for taxpayers including the top 5%, then $41.7 billion for the top 5% alone.  Under $255 for those below the top of the bottom bracket, $1,1640  for those on the top bracket.

Rather than having the third part of the tax changes, the Government should increase basic benefits such as the aged pension and Newstart to cover the actual cost of living in poverty, and change the basis of future increases from the full CPI (which has been kept flat by decreases in costs for items which the poorest cannot afford) to the CPI for those on benefits – which is already monitored by the Bureau of Statistics. This would make a greater boost to local business than an increased refund for those who can afford overseas holidays.

We did object to being classed with murderers. But she said we didn’t. On silencing the voice of “the other.”

June 24, 2019

On 19/05/2017, in the Western Australian Sunday Times, Miranda Devine claimed that “Liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters (aka Catholics) didn’t take umbrage at being told to repent to avoid hell.”  This was part of her claim that a sports star was unfairly targeted by pro-gay-rights activists, and wrongly sacked from a major sports team for breach of contract, by making an offensive post.

The post was by Israel Folau, as shown:

The post which started the brouhaha.

Like the supporters of homosexuals’ rights, many of those interested in free exercise of religious and non-religious beliefs did object to Israel Folau’s post. I suspect that the media simply ignored their complaints.  My letter to the Sunday Times was ignored.

I objected to his post publicly and in writing because I know children have been bullied by others raised in this belief, a bullying pattern which is a sign of the deeper problem: his post silences the voices of the non-fundamentalist-of-this-sect and of homosexuals, by classing them with murderers and thieves. Their opinions are then discounted or ignored because of this – to the point where, in the USA, it is impossible for an atheist to be considered for President.  It is significant that Hindus, Roman Catholics and others are included in” “idolaters” in the Pentecostal approach – so much so that fundamentalist schools have refused to employ Catholic staff, saying “You’re not Christian.”

We live in a society where it is assumed that a person who commits serious crimes is more likely to be an atheist than religious (despite the statistics showing otherwise – perhaps because it takes moral courage to be publicly atheist, while many churchgoers are hiding unbelief) and where majority cultural groups assume minorities are likely to be criminal. In such a society it is vital that role models do not silence the voices of those who do not follow their religion – that they accept that others have the right to their beliefs, that no religion can be absolutely certain it has all the Truth, and that “My father’s house has many mansions.”

I note that he did not post an opinion supporting death for those who all who curse their parents, the stoning of female adulterers, or animal sacrifice in church. If he will not support these fundamental biblical injunctions, he should restrict his posts to mentions of the Good Samaritan : a member of a despised religious group, yet used as the model for neighbourly behaviour. Israel should be more neighbourly.

Please use the format “Very few X are Y” rather than “Not all X are Y”

May 31, 2019
Once again someone in the media uses “Not all X are Y… ” construction.
I would like to see it called out, and have those calling it out formally ask that people who use the structure rephrase it as – for examples – “Very few men commit murders, but most murders of women are by men;” “Very few men are rapists, but most rapists are men;” “Very few (insert religion here) are terrorists, and most religions have spawned a few terrorists;” and “Very few people drive while drunk.”
– because humans tend to do what they think the majority of their group do, so it is wise to emphasise that wrongdoers are a minority in a group:  that way the likelihood of modeling bad behaviour for that group’s members reduces.
If you don’t believe me, check the research on “nudging.”

Come to the party? I want to start the Best Evidence Party.

May 8, 2019

After spending 3 hours researching the parties vying for positions in the Oz elections, I find we need another party.  I want to start it.

Why?

Because in the Senate vote, a valid vote must nominate at least 6 parties (above the line vote) or 12 individuals.  There is a huge list of parties, but in my State there are only 5 parties for which I could consider voting – and that is only because I include the far left to balance out the media support for the far right, and also include special interest parties with limited ranges of policies.

Few parties base any of their policies on best advice from the majority of acknowledged international experts – and that’s not a uniquely Australian problem:  I remember hearing of a senior USA economist being happy because he got their government to shift from something like the 17th worst option to the 14th.  Most of those that claim they have based policies on evidence rely on cherry-picked, biased reviews of serious research, seriously flawed research, accumulated anecdotes, their memories of what they learned in high school, or their imaginations. This annoys me.

The vast majority of minor parties show policies which are swayed more by the mass media than by serious study of the complexity of global environmental, trade, economic, and legal systems.  Their policies are usually based more on the religion and customs of their upbringing rather than on serious study of the wide range of predictable cultural and interpersonal differences which make up the range of our citizens’ needs.  This annoys me.

It is time for a party where the overarching policy is “to weigh all proposed legislation in the balance of the best available evidence.”

I feel that a small range of formal policies is better: explaining the approach is better than arguing details of cases, when every scientist knows that we must shift our understanding when further evidence conflicts with what we thought was the case.

I would suggest that its policies would include things like

  • Have the National Broadcaster allocate time to disagreeing speakers, documentaries, etc, on topics where expert evidence is available in proportion to the depth of evidence on their side.  If only one in a hundred internationally accredited experts agree with a view, it should get a hundredth of the time, not equal time.
  • Our Members of Parliament will not promise to reflect the opinions of the electorate.  They will promise to do their best to weigh the evidence, including details not generally known in the electorate, and to consider advice from the wisest advisors available.  This will be the basis of their voting in Parliament.
  • Where research is cited concerning a view we are asked to support, our party will consider advice from experts including experts in the mathematics of statistical analysis:  in a “scientific” culture where a peer-reviewed publication includes a claim that we should see a correlation of 0.1 as “significant”, peer-reviewed publication does not equal depth of evidence.
  • Where reliable evidence is not available, our party would give weight to ideas of responsibilities which have been seen in the best societies and many religions.  Ideas such as: the responsibility of the government to take action to ensure reasonable quality of life for the citizens (Not necessarily paid employment: should the education system be for “a job” or “to learn what you need to be able to learn what you need to have a good life”?); the responsibility of the  top 20% to support the disadvantaged; the responsibility of each to contribute to the well-being of all others in the population; and our responsibility to limit our consumption as required to ensure the chance for following generations to have a reasonable quality of life (We might agree that non-renewable resources should be recycled as far as possible, for example, and argue that one-off or mining profits must not be spent on recurrent expenditure or tax cuts.)

Its focus would not be science, but its approach would often be scientific.  Its considerations would include the long-term consequences of actions, thinking in terms of hundreds of years.  It would attract people who might also consider the Pirate Party or the Science Party, but want a different (or smaller) range of policies.

In Australia, an official “Party” needs 500 voters who are not members of another political party, and a written Constitution.

Would you like to join this party?  Would you like to help draft its constitution?

https://www.aec.gov.au/Parties_and_Representatives/party_registration/overview.htm