Archive for September 19th, 2010
Better Off Ted starts promisingly for those who have worked in modern corporations.
Not available on Watch Instantly, but pretty good: Macao, with a very young Robert Mitchum and Jane Russel, both of whom were strikingly beautiful at the time. This movie forced me into the manual for the DVD player: the picture was stretched across the wide screen of the TV, and I was certain I had set to stick with the format of the original. I waded through the menus and found the setting: choices of “Original” or “Fixed”. The print explained that “original” used the original format and “fixed” made sure everything filled the wide screen regardless of original format.
One choice was black letters on white background, the other white letters on a black background. You could toggle the choice by using the up or down arrow. The question was: Which one is chosen? No indication at all. So I just toggled it (the colors of each choice reversed), clicked “okay”, and tried again. The DVD restarted, but it was in the correct aspect ratio, and it was suddenly quite clear that Jane Russel was NOT dumpy at the time.
Interface designers: if you’re presenting only two choices, it must be obvious which choice is “chosen”.
UPDATE: Macao was definitely worth watching. Made in 1952, when Robert Mitchum was 35 and Jane Russell was 31—I think that they look so astonishingly young because we are now accustomed to seeing them when they were older. And Jane Russell did a fine job on “One For My Baby, One More For The Road.”
This recipe looks good (also easy), though I would normally make up 2 cups of beans rather than 1 (i.e., use an entire 1-lb package).
Click photo to enlarge. I liked the photo, and I found the post (at Homegrown Evolution) to be thought-provoking:
It’s difficult to capture the cuteness of this chicken behavior with a still camera—we really should try to make a video. Anyway, this is called “dusting” or “dust bathing.” The ladies have dug a hole in our yard and are gleefully rolling around in it, flicking loose dirt under their wings and driving it between their feathers. This is an innate behavior and an important part of chicken hygiene. Dusting suffocates skin parasites that prey on chickens, and it also seems to be pleasurable for the hens, judging by their blissful expressions.
After dusting they puff up and shake off, and settle in to do fine cleaning by preening. When they’re done, they’re all pretty and shiny.
It’s really important that chickens have constant access to dirt—loose, dry, sandy dirt—so they can dust at will. If for whatever reason your chickens don’t have this access, whether that’s because they’re being raised in a concrete floor, or are trapped inside because of bad weather, or your chicken run is swamped with mud, or whatever, it’s a smart thing to provide them with a shallow tray of dirt so they can bathe. Dusting is nature’s favored method of insect control.
Warning: Rant Ahead
We first got our own hens because we disagreed with the industrial style of raising chickens and farming eggs. But at the time that disagreement was purely theoretical—now it’s stronger than ever, because it’s based on practice. The more we know, and experience the fundamentals of chicken life, the more appalling the industrial practices become. One fundamental is that chickens are designed to live on dirt. They love to scratch, peck, dig and bathe in it. Take dirt away from them and you have to scramble to make up for that deficit in unnatural ways. Being unable to scratch, chickens get bored and peck at each other—so their beaks have to be cut off. Deprived of the ability to dust, they get mites and lice, and have to be treated with pesticides. It’s just sad.
Not only sad, but also immoral and unethical and (in the Judeo-Christian-Islam tradition) bad stewardship of God’s gift of Creation—not that such a thing matters to most practitioners of those religions.
Sickening. Craig Whitlock reports in the Washington Post:
The U.S. soldiers hatched a plan as simple as it was savage: to randomly target and kill an Afghan civilian, and to get away with it.
For weeks, according to Army charging documents, rogue members of a platoon from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, floated the idea. Then, one day last winter, a solitary Afghan man approached them in the village of La Mohammed Kalay. The "kill team" activated the plan.
One soldier created a ruse that they were under attack, tossing a fragmentary grenade on the ground. Then others opened fire.
According to charging documents, the unprovoked, fatal attack on Jan. 15 was the start of a months-long shooting spree against Afghan civilians that resulted in some of the grisliest allegations against American soldiers since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Members of the platoon have been charged with dismembering and photographing corpses, as well as hoarding a skull and other human bones.
The subsequent investigation has raised accusations about whether the military ignored warnings that the out-of-control soldiers were committing atrocities. The father of one soldier said he repeatedly tried to alert the Army after his son told him about the first killing, only to be rebuffed.
Two more slayings would follow. Military documents allege that five members of the unit staged a total of three murders in Kandahar province between January and May. Seven other soldiers have been charged with crimes related to the case, including hashish use, attempts to impede the investigation and a retaliatory gang assault on a private who blew the whistle.
Army officials have not disclosed a motive for the killings and macabre behavior. Nor have they explained how the attacks could have persisted without attracting scrutiny. They declined to comment on the case beyond the charges that have been filed, citing the ongoing investigation.
But a review of military court documents and interviews with people familiar with the investigation suggest the killings were committed essentially for sport by soldiers who had a fondness for hashish and alcohol.
The accused soldiers, through attorneys and family members, deny wrongdoing. But the case has already been marked by a cycle of accusations and counter-accusations among the defendants as they seek to pin the blame on each other, according to documents and interviews…
The Wife has finished her final proofreading of the 4th edition of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving, and I’ve uploaded the PDF file and submitted it for approval. Since the 4th edition will probably be available for purchase by Tuesday or Wednesday, I have made the current 3rd edition “unavailable.”
The 4th edition took longer than I thought. I was expecting early August as a pub date, but then I got involved in getting some of my razors revamped at Razor Emporium, and I wanted to include photos of the results. Revamping is a process that requires a fair amount of work and time, including shipping the razors to a replating service once they have been prepped. It can easily take a month before the razors return, as it did for mine.
And during that time, new shaving information and products came to market, so I was able to include those as well.
I’m quite proud of the 4th edition—it feels solid and complete. I added quite a few new product mentions (from new products or new-to-me products, like the horsehair shaving brushes) and refined some of my shaving advice based on forum feedback. For example, it turns out that the shave stick is not all that easy for everyone—some, even those who have good shaving experience, find them difficult. So I included a note that the shave stick is easy for most, but not all, shavers. Nothing is more frustrating to a beginner than having considerable difficulty with something an instructional book calls “easy”, so I am grateful to the forum commenters—as will be the newbies who read the book.
I’ll post on the blog when the book is available.
The entire column is worth a read. His conclusion:
Many Americans honestly believe that Muslims are prone to violence, but humans are too complicated and diverse to lump into groups that we form invidious conclusions about. We’ve mostly learned that about blacks, Jews and other groups that suffered historic discrimination, but it’s still O.K. to make sweeping statements about “Muslims” as an undifferentiated mass.
In my travels, I’ve seen some of the worst of Islam: theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God’s bidding.
But I’ve also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.
I’m sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.
Gardiner Harris reports in the NY Times:
After his mother died from eating contaminated peanut butter, Jeff Almer went to Washington to push for legislation that might save others from similar fates. And then he went again. And again. And again.
Nearly two years have passed since Shirley Almer’s death. In that time,food contamination involving chocolate chip cookie dough and eggs has sickened thousands more.
But the Senate has still not acted to fix many of the flaws in the nation’s food safety system — although a bill to do so has broad bipartisan support, is a priority for the Obama administration and has the backing of both industry and consumer groups. The House passed its version of the bill more than a year ago.
“It’s so frustrating,” said Mr. Almer, of Savage, Minn. “I don’t even know who to blame.”
The blame lies with a tight Senate calendar, a stubborn senator from Oklahoma and an unusual coalition of left- and right-wing advocates for small farmers who have mounted a surprisingly effective Internet campaign. Their messages have warned, among other untruths, that the bill would outlaw organic farming.
Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of food and drugs, said in an interview that she was still confident the legislation would pass, although she confessed to being bewildered by the lengthy battle to schedule a vote.
“This is a historic opportunity,” Dr. Hamburg said. “This legislation would provide F.D.A. with important resources and authorities that we really need to be able to do our important job.”
The latest hope for the bill’s advocates was that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, would schedule a vote on the bill this week. But the Senate calendar is full of measures that need to be passed before members leave in October to campaign, so Mr. Reid sought a routine agreement to limit debate on the measure.
Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, refused, saying that the powers granted to the F.D.A. in the bill would have financial costs, and that those costs needed to be offset by spending reductions.
Mr. Coburn also expressed doubts that expanding the authority of the F.D.A. would “result in improved food safety,” said John Hart, his spokesman.
Mr. Reid responded Thursday, saying, “In light of recent events like the egg recall in Iowa, it is unconscionable that Senator Coburn and his Republican colleagues are putting politics ahead of a common-sense, bipartisan bill to ensure that the food products our families consume every day are safe.”
So the legislation may have to wait until the Senate’s lame-duck session after November’s elections, when it still could die. Many of the gaps in the nation’s food protection system that the bill would close became apparent in the recent recall of 500 million eggs after more than 1,500 people became ill.
For instance, the F.D.A. never inspected the Iowa egg facilities at the center of the recalls. Even if it had, the agency would not have had the power to order that their eggs be recalled despite conditions it later found to be filthy. And until recently, producers were not required to ensure that their eggs were safe.
By requiring regular inspections of high-risk facilities, providing the F.D.A. with the power to order recalls and demanding food makers create plans for safe processing, the proposal would change many of the circumstances that led to the illnesses.
But in a little-known footnote to the egg recall, inspectors from the Agriculture Department regularly visited the Iowa egg facilities to grade the eggs and noted unsanitary conditions but never told the F.D.A. about them…
How about a map of the world, showing country territories sized by the number of people living on $x per day—with map changing as you watch it, starting with country sizes reflecting number of people living at $1/day, then $2/day, and so on, until the final map shows countries sized by people living on over $200/day? Sound interesting? Here it is.
Other animated maps:
Age of death (this map seems misleading: so far as I can tell, it shows total deaths in the category, rather than deaths per 100,000)
Here’s the home page.