Later On

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

Archive for November 2006

More on Home-Swap vacations

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Reader Lois offers this in the comments:

Many home exchangers do like to swap pet care with other pet owners and it’s usually quite easy to match up with someone who you can see will give lots of affection and care to your own cat. If you or your readers are interested in finding out more about home swap vacations, I hope you will visit my blog, Travel the Home Exchange Way.

Because home-exchange is both thrifty and interesting, I do encourage you to check it out. And it doesn’t have to be a home-exchange abroad—a home exchange within the US offers no second-language challenges and there’s still lots of diversity left in the country, despite the best efforts of Starbucks and McDonald’s.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2006 at 7:50 am

Posted in Daily life

Yet another satisfying shave

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QED Bay Rum shaving soap, my Plisson brush (it’s from Paris, France), the Merkur Progress in gold, the alum bar following the cold-water rinse, and Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum aftershave. Quick and, in its way, glorious.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2006 at 7:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Sleeping Megs, a series

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Megs 1 Megs 2 Megs 4

Megs can be a restless sleeper. These are from the same nap. I can’t figure out the pleasure of turning one’s head so that one is sleeping on top of it. In this position, Megs tends to snore—gentle, lady-like, kitty snores, of course.

I have many opportunities to snap photos of Megs asleep…

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2006 at 7:40 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Did I mention that the GOP hates the poor?

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Well, they do, and they demonstrate it repeatedly. Here’s an example:

The Bush administration unconstitutionally denied aid to tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and must resume payments immediately, a federal judge ordered yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon said the Federal Emergency Management Agency created a “Kafkaesque” process that began cutting off rental aid in February to victims of the 2005 storms, did not provide clear reasons for the denials, and hindered applicants’ due-process rights to fix errors or appeal government mistakes.

“It is unfortunate, if not incredible, that FEMA and its counsel could not devise a sufficient notice system to spare these beleaguered evacuees the added burden of federal litigation to vindicate their constitutional rights,” Leon, a D.C. federal judge, wrote in a 19-page opinion.

“Free these evacuees from the ‘Kafkaesque’ application process they have had to endure,” he wrote.

The decision again casts a spotlight on the fate of the poorest members of the diaspora created by the 2005 disasters in New Orleans and along the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts. The hurricanes forced a search for housing that was one of their least visible but most far-reaching consequences.

According to FEMA, of the 720,590 households that have received rental assistance, only 33,889 families remained eligible for aid as of Oct. 19. Another 108,088 families, mostly homeowners, are still in FEMA-provided trailers and mobile homes. As a rule of thumb, analysts estimate each household includes nearly three people.

FEMA expects fewer than 4,700 of 2.6 million applicant families to exceed a $26,200 cap on all forms of post-disaster aid by March, when an 18-month statutory cutoff takes effect.

Advocates for storm victims say FEMA has resisted providing details about its programs to them or to applicants and has whittled down rolls by imposing obstacles to obtaining aid that is mandated under federal disaster laws. Administration defenders say that FEMA adopted tougher rules to combat fraud, and that plummeting rolls are a sign that victims have recovered and are moving on.

Yesterday, FEMA spokesman Aaron T. Walker would not say how many people are affected by Leon’s decision, how much has been paid to them or how much is owed. He cited “ongoing litigation” and a possible appeal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 7:48 pm

The White House is still full of ignorant incompetents

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Someone is hiring really bad (ignorant, incompetent, out-of-touch, clueless, etc.) people. Why? Check out this story. It reminds one of the inanities of Adelman, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Rumsfeld, et al. at their worst:

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to implement most of the key ideas for quelling the Iraqi civil war that are outlined in a classified Nov. 8 memo to President Bush from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, experts said Wednesday.

Trying to push anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr out of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, as the memo suggests, would be throwing gasoline on a fire, they said.

Sadr’s party is the largest in parliament, with 32 seats, and Maliki became prime minister only with his support. Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia controls large parts of Baghdad and southern Iraq, and many Iraqi Shiites hail him as their only protection from attacks by rival Sunni Muslims, which American and Iraqi forces have failed to stop.

“Sadr is aware of the considerable extent to which his forces … constitute a significant part of the power in the streets, and there is no reason why he would simply want to surrender that leverage,” said Paul Pillar, the former top U.S. intelligence analyst on the Middle East.

In what appeared to be a warning from Sadr to Maliki, Sadr followers suspended their participation in the government and parliament to protest Maliki’s plan to meet Bush on Wednesday in Jordan. Within an hour of the statement, Jordanian officials announced that the meeting had been postponed.

Hadley’s memo was leaked to The New York Times on the eve of the Bush-Maliki talks. He wrote the five-page classified document after meeting with Maliki on Oct. 30 in Baghdad.

Since then, the violence in Iraq has surged to its worst level since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. It’s been especially fierce in the capital since bombings last Thursday killed more than 200 people in Sadr City, a Shiite slum in Baghdad that the Mahdi Army controls.

In the memo, Hadley expressed doubts about Maliki’s ability or willingness to go beyond the Shiite sectarian agenda and forge a unity government.

Hadley recommended steps that Maliki could take to curb the violence and measures that the United States could implement to strengthen him, including sending more forces into Baghdad.

Hadley’s central suggestion was to bring Maliki’s political reliance on Sadr “to closure” and pursue Mahdi Army members who “do not eschew violence.”

Trying to force Sadr out of the government – in which his followers control some of the key ministries – and crack down on his militia almost certainly would lead to the government’s collapse.

It also would ignite a wave of violence by his militia and supporters in Baghdad and the Shiite-dominated south, much of it probably aimed at the U.S.-led multinational force.

“Sadr is not going to rein in the Mahdi Army,” said Vali Nasr of the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, Calif., and the author of a new book on modern political Shiism.

Hadley suggested that Maliki overhaul his Cabinet by replacing key members of Shiite and Sunni religious parties with “nonsectarian, capable technocrats.”

But the Iraqi Constitution requires that new ministers be approved by two-thirds of parliament, a vote that Sadr could block. A Cabinet shakeup also would unravel the power-sharing deal on controlling the ministries that took the religious parties months to negotiate.

“The ministries are run like fiefdoms,” Nasr said. “Most ministers don’t even come to Cabinet meetings.”

Experts also were skeptical of a Hadley proposal that the United States provide “monetary support” for forming a new coalition of moderate Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish parliamentarians to keep Maliki in power if he’s unable to cut loose from Sadr.

Several experts wondered what moderates Hadley was referring to.

Moreover, such an alliance would require Maliki to forge stronger bonds with Sadr’s chief rival, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim. He’s the head of another Shiite party that belongs to the ruling coalition and whose militia maintains even closer ties to the Islamic regime of neighboring Iran than the Mahdi Army does.

Finding Sunnis to join such a grouping would be impossible, because Hakim has been a leading proponent of purging members of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from the bureaucracy and the military, Nasr said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 7:39 pm

Good movie: Kinky Boots

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Quite a nice little movie with a great soundtrack: Kinky Boots. Probably won’t be a hit in the Midwest, but really rather charming.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Movies, Music

David Ignatius of the Washington Post is often wrong

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David Ignatius is often wrong, but never (so far as I can recall) acknowledges. And he is relentless in his opposition to Democrats. Right now he is touting Chuck Hagel, who voted in favor of going to war in Iraq, as one of the early opponents of that war, and totally ignoring the Democrats who opposed the war and voted against it and stated their reasons. For example:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “In addition to the cost in human lives, the cost to our economy and the cost to the war on terrorism, an attack on Iraq has a cost to our budget. This cost can be unlimited. There is no political solution on the ground in Iraq. Let us not be fooled by that. So when we go in the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited — $100-$200 billion, we can only guess. … These costs to the war on terrorism, the lost [sic] of life, the cost to our economy, the cost in dollars to our budget, these costs must be answered for. If we go in, we can certainly show our power to Saddam Hussein. If we resolve this issue diplomatically, we can show our strength as a great country. Let us show our greatness. Vote no on this resolution.” [10/10/02]

Read the whole sorry story here. David Ignatius is just another one of the Beltway idiot pundits who blathers on in his special helium way, totally out of touch with everything but the sound of his own words.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 7:23 pm

Flicker Time

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Via Lifehacker, this very cute clock made of photos from Flickr.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Daily life

Paramilitary Police Raids in the US

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They’re ugly, and they’re more common than you would think—and they often go horribly awry.

You may have heard of the case in Atlanta last week of a woman in her 80′s shot by police. They were raiding her house on a no-knock drug warrant, she apparently didn’t realize it was the cops and shot at them with a handgun, they shot back and killed her.

Straightforward, of course. Right. Are these cases ever straightforward? Where would we be if we didn’t hear claims that the police lied in getting the warrant and tried to get their informant to lie after the raid:

But in an interview broadcast Monday by the local Fox affiliate, the informant, whose identity was concealed, said he had never been to the house in question and had not bought drugs there. Ms. Johnston’s family has said that she lived alone.

“They were going to pay me just to cover it up,” he said in the interview, arranged after he placed a call to one of the station’s reporters on Thursday. “They called me immediately after the shooting to ask me, I mean to tell me, ‘This is what you need to do.’ ” He added that the officers told him explicitly that he was needed to protect their story.

More at the links. Do you want to live in a police state? No? Too bad, because that’s the way we’re going.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Daily life

And, speaking of food,

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check out what families in different parts of the world eat in one week.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

‘Tis the season for chicken soup

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If you have a cold coming on, few things are as comforting as chicken soup. Here’s how I make a quick batch:

2 qts chicken stock
1-2 large onions
1 bunch celery or 1 celery heart
4-8 carrots, depending on size
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 rotisserie chicken from supermarket

Pour chicken stock in large pot. Add chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped carrots, chopped parsley.

With your (clean) hands, take the chicken apart and pull the (cooked) meat off the bones, pull the meat apart, and add that. You can reserve one or both breast halves to make chicken salad or the like, if you want.

Pepper, of course, and also some crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne or hot sauce. Dash of Worcestershire. I like a little dried savory.

Options: 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice. Kernels cut from two ears of fresh corn—or equivalent amount of frozen corn kernels. I had a Meyer lemon, so I cut that up in small pieces and added those, skin and all. Otherwise, use the juice from 1-3 lemons. A knob of fresh ginger the size of your thumb, minced. Pasta stars (if you have them) or alphabet pasta. Or you can break up some linguini to make little noodle pieces, or use orzo.

Let simmer. Eat. Fast and easy

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Recipes

Global warming already causing extinctions

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Not that ExxonMobil gives a damn, but already species are being wiped out by global warming:

No matter where they look, scientists are finding that global warming is already killing species—and at a much faster rate than had originally been predicted.

“What surprises me most is that it has happened so soon,” said biologist Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas, Austin, lead author of a new study of global warming’s effects.

Parmesan and most other scientists hadn’t expected to see species extinctions from global warming until 2020.

But populations of frogs, butterflies, ocean corals, and polar birds have already gone extinct because of climate change, Parmesan said.

Scientists were right about which species would suffer first—plants and animals that live only in narrow temperature ranges and those living in cold climates such as Earth’s Poles or mountaintops.

“The species dependent on sea ice—polar bear, ring seal, emperor penguin, Adélie penguin—and the cloud forest frogs are showing massive extinctions,” Parmesan said.

Her review compiles 866 scientific studies on the effects of climate change on terrestrial, marine, and freshwater species. The study appears in the December issue of the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics.

Bill Fraser is a wildlife ecologist with the Polar Oceans Research Group in Sheridan, Montana.

“There is no longer a question of whether one species or ecosystem is experiencing climate change. [Parmesan's] paper makes it evident that it is almost global,” he said.

“The scale now is so vast that you cannot continue to ignore climate change,” added Fraser, who began studying penguins in the Antarctic more than 30 years ago. “It is going to have some severe consequences.”

More at the link. Thank you, Senator Inhofe.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 3:22 pm

The GOP and the Hoover Institution: a fountain of lies

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It suddenly occurred to me why some people like the GOP: they like lies, and the GOP is a never-flagging source of lies. They lie constantly. Here’s the latest: a lie that Nancy Pelosi is anti-union in practice.

Watch the video. The guy from the Hoover Institution has no shame at all—none whatsoever. What scum.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats, GOP

Casinos: they take your money

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I’ve never been inclined to gamble. When I’ve been to Las Vegas I look around in amazement at the splendor of the casinos, struck by the thought that they were built with just a small fraction of the money that people lose there. But some people do enjoy their time (and money) spent in casinos, and feel that they got their money’s worth in entertainment. Still, the casino’s entertainment comes at a high price.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Disappointing but not unexpected

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Big Business always—always—believes that it should be allowed to do whatever it wants to do, and that lawsuits against it should be disallowed. Big Business believes that consumers and the government should just trust them. So now they’re moving to lift regulations and restrictions:

Business interests, seizing on concerns that a law passed in the wake of the Enron scandal has overreached, are advancing a broad agenda to limit government oversight of private industry, including making it tougher for investors to sue companies and auditors for fraud.

A group that has drawn support from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. plans to issue a report tomorrow that argues that the United States may be losing its preeminent position in global capital markets to foreign stock exchanges because of costly regulations and nettlesome private lawsuits.

Interest groups are trying to build political support to review long-standing rules that govern companies, as well as parts of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law, which imposed stringent responsibilities on accountants, boards of directors and corporate executives. Some key members of Congress have recently expressed concern that U.S. companies may be over-regulated.

For example, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) to commission a study by McKinsey & Co. on whether U.S. stock exchanges are losing listings to more lightly regulated overseas markets. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who is set to head the Banking Committee, has expressed skepticism that the Sarbanes-Oxley law has led businesses to flee overseas but has signaled a willingness to hold hearings next year on how the legislation is working.

The business groups are initially focused on getting rules changed at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the independent federal agency that oversees U.S. capital markets and companies. The growing bipartisan concern about over-regulation will help set the tone for deliberations at the agency, which is led by Christopher Cox, a Republican and former congressman from California.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 1:37 pm

Getting ready for the cleaning ladies

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I never understood why people cleaned up before the house cleaner(s) arrived, but I do now. I’m going to wash all the dishes this afternoon, for example, and put away all the books around the chair.

Washing the dishes so that they don’t have to spend time doing that, which I can readily do myself—plus I know where the things go when put away. And putting away the books because I put the books with spine outwards, and they favor spine inwards.

And I told The Wife that I’m going to hide quite a few things—like my 52 oz Bubba Keg insulated mug that went missing for a while until I finally discovered it. I told her that I can hide the things and know where I hid them, so I can get them out after the cleaners leave.

She pointed out that “hiding things and knowing where you hid them” is what most people call “putting things away.” She has a point.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Daily life

What happens when a Muslim is elected to Congress?

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The Right Wing goes even crazier than it usually is. From the Carpetbagger:

Far too many conservatives have made it abundantly clear that they’re unhappy about a Muslim getting elected to Congress. Right-wing activists opposed Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s (D-Minn.) campaign while he was running, and after having won, most of these same activists are openly questioning whether his faith makes him unfit for office.

These concerns reached new heights (or, I should say, depths) yesterday, when right-wing talk-show host Dennis Prager penned a column on Ellison’s outrageous request to take the oath of office on the Koran, an act Prager insists “undermines American civilization.”

Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.

Devotees of multiculturalism and political correctness who do not see how damaging to the fabric of American civilization it is to allow Ellison to choose his own book need only imagine a racist elected to Congress. Would they allow him to choose Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” the Nazis’ bible, for his oath? And if not, why not? On what grounds will those defending Ellison’s right to choose his favorite book deny that same right to a racist who is elected to public office?

Of course, Ellison’s defenders argue that Ellison is merely being honest; since he believes in the Koran and not in the Bible, he should be allowed, even encouraged, to put his hand on the book he believes in. But for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament, and the many secular elected officials have not believed in the Old Testament either…. [W]hy are we allowing Keith Ellison to do what no other member of Congress has ever done — choose his own most revered book for his oath?

Prager went on to conclude that if Ellison is sworn in on the Koran, it will “embolden Islamic extremists and make new ones.”

I’m inclined to believe such stupidity is better off ignored, but because so many on the right embraced Prager’s harangue as a great work of political analysis, let’s take a moment to review why this is spectacularly dumb.

I’ll skip the more scurrilous slander (comparing holy texts to “Mein Kampf” and the “emboldening Islam extremists” line for example) and stick to the more glaring factual errors.

First, the notion that “America is interested in only one book, the Bible,” is not only wrong, it’s illegal, per Article VI of the Constitution.

Second, Prager argues that “America…decides on what book its public servants take their oath.” Wrong again. Public officials, from the president on down, have always picked their own books for oaths of office. Some have chosen the Christian Bible, others haven’t. There is no official national book for oaths. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 1:21 pm

The Five Fatal Mistakes of George W. Bush

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The Carpetbagger quotes a Time article that sets out Bush’s Five Fatal Mistakes:

Time magazine’s Scott MacLeod, reporting from the Middle East, recently spoke to a veteran Western diplomat who couldn’t muster any optimism about the future of the region. “The region is in as serious a mess as I have ever seen it,” he said. “There is an unprecedented number of interconnected conflicts and threats.”

It led MacLeod to compile a list of the president’s “five fatal mistakes” that contributed to the crisis in the Middle East. It’s a pretty solid list.

1. Bush ignored the Palestinians: “When Bush became president, he ended crucial American mediation, repudiated Arafat and backed Sharon, who proceeded to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. With the conflict becoming bloodier than ever, Arafat died, and Hamas, the fundamentalist party that adamantly refuses to even recognize Israel, much less negotiate with it, ousted the late Palestinian leader’s party from power.”

2. Bush invaded Iraq: “After 9/11, Bush became convinced that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons and represented a mortal threat to the West. He also came to believe that ousting Saddam would turn Iraq into a democracy that would become the model for the rest of the Arab world. Saddam turned out not to have nuclear weapons, and Iraq turned out to be more prone to civil war than democracy. It runs the risk of becoming a failed state from which terrorists run global operations, and/or breaking into ethnic mini-states that inspire secessionist trouble throughout the region.”

3. Bush misjudged Iran: “Just after Bush became president, Iranians reelected moderate President Mohammed Khatami, who had reached out to the U.S. and called for a “dialogue of civilizations.” Bush not only refused to extend the olive branch cautiously offered by the Clinton Administration, he declared Iran part of an ‘axis of evil.’ Khatami left office under fire for the failure of his conciliatory approach, to be replaced by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who proceeded to promote Iran’s nuclear ambitions and call for Israel to be wiped off the map.”

4. Bush hurt Israel: “If protecting Israel had been a key goal of the Administration’s policies, it is hard to see how they have helped make the Jewish State better off today.”

5. Bush alienated Muslims: “The Bush Administration’s involvement in or perceived support of military campaigns against Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese heightened Muslim anger at the U.S. and undermined the political position of moderate, pro-American Arabs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 11:21 am

The Neuroscience of Religion

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Scientists became interested some time back in the neurology of mental states, including the neurology of meditation and the link. Research has continued in that area, and this article summarizes some recent efforts. Notice that research in the area is belief-free, in that it offers no evidence for or against the religious content—i.e., it doesn’t rock anyone’s boat, it just provides more information.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 11:12 am

How to improve Skype quality

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We all use Skype, right? Here’s a video on how to improve Skype quality. Check it out.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2006 at 10:57 am

Posted in Skype, Software

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