Later On

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

Archive for October 11th, 2006

US still in denial about Iraq

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Via Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher:

NBC correspondent Jane Arraf posted the following last night at the network’s Blogging Baghdad site (at msnbc.com):

“Some readers and viewers think we journalists are exaggerating about the situation in Iraq. I can almost understand that because who would want to believe that things are this bad? Particularly when so many people here started out with such good intentions.

“I’m more puzzled by comments that the violence isn’t any worse than any American city. Really? In which American city do 60 bullet-riddled bodies turn up on a given day? In which city do the headless bodies of ordinary citizens turn up every single day? In which city would it not be news if neighborhood school children were blown up? In which neighborhood would you look the other way if gunmen came into restaurants and shot dead the customers?

“Day-to-day life here for Iraqis is so far removed from the comfortable existence we live in the United States that it is almost literally unimaginable.

“It’s almost impossible to describe what it feels like being stalled in traffic, your heart pounding, wondering if the vehicle in front of you is one of the three or four car bombs that will go off that day. Or seeing your husband show up at the door covered in blood after he was kidnapped and beaten.

“I don’t know a single family here that hasn’t had a relative, neighbor or friend die violently. In places where there’s been all-out fighting going on, I’ve interviewed parents who buried their dead child in the yard because it was too dangerous to go to the morgue.

“Imagine the worst day you’ve ever had in your life, add a regular dose of terror and you’ll begin to get an idea of what it’s like every day for a lot of people here.”

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 5:57 pm

Weird lifeforms: triggerplants (of Australia)

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Check out the triggerplants. They lie in wait, then spring at the first opportunity.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Building? Build an Earthship

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And I quote:

Earthships have evolved over the last thirty years from the pioneering work of Michael Reynolds and the residents of the 3 Earthship communities in Taos, New Mexico.

Earthships are autonomous buildings designed to reduce our impact on the planet and increase our connection to it by:

• Using the suns energy and the thermal mass of their walls for heating    and cooling
• Generating their own electricity from the sun
• Harvesting their own water from rain
• Dealing directly with their own waste
• Using discarded tyres and other wastes for wall construction
• Using materials with low embodied carbon
• Being buildable by most people at relatively low cost

Interested? Here’s more information.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 3:57 pm

Read a book through email messages

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This is pretty cool: you subscribe to get email messages that allow to read an entire book, piece by piece and message by message. Learn more here.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 3:53 pm

Five excellent mind habits

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Via StumbleUpon, this page with five useful habits to develop.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Corruption takes on bi-partisan tone — guess not (see update)

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Looks like the Dems also have their corrupt legislators, enriching themselves at the public trough through shady land deals—though I must say that Reid’s primary problem is that he failed to notify the appropriate offices. It’s not like the GOP scandals of securing earmarks for vast sums of Federal money specifically for the purpose of increasing the value of their land holdings (e.g., Denny Hastert pushing through legislation to run a Federal highway next to the parcels of land he had bought).

UPDATE: Guess it’s much ado about very little if not nothing. This comment from Glenn Reynolds (conservative blogger) via TalkLeft:

UPDATE: Reader Anthony Calabrese thinks there’s probably less here than the AP story suggests:

I am a long time reader — also a tax lawyer. While my practice does not involve real estate investments, I think it may be much ado about nothing. Generally, if you transfer property to a company in return for an interest in the company, there is no federal income tax on the transfer. If the company was an LLC (as stated in the media reports), the company was probably a partnership for tax purposes. There would be no LLC level tax as profits and losses would pass through to the partners.

So I can see no real tax issue. The only issue is that Reid might have been hiding his ownership of the property, but holding investment property in an LLC is fairly common in order to protect the owners from torts or bankruptcy. I think this is simply an issue of someone forgetting to file a form.

UPDATE 2: And another debunking of the story, this time from Kos:

The AP’s John Solomon, the go-to guy at the Associated Press for any anti-Democratic efforts, and this piece is absolute crap. The crux of the claim:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn’t personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.

Actually, he did own that land. It just so happened that three years ago, he transfered the property from his own personal name to that of an LLC.

It’d be kind of like me selling Daily Kos, and someone claiming I reaped a windfall from it because I “sold it three years ago”. I didn’t. Daily Kos became an LLC. As did Reid’s piece of land.

And btw, this was all disclosed to the ethics committee. The place were things got sloppy is that Reid continued to disclose ownership of the land as a personal asset rather than ownership in the LLC which owned the land. But that’s it. Fact is, the LLC had no other assets other than this piece of land, and Reid disclosed ownership of the piece of land.

Solomon is either being dishonest or an idiot. But watch the wingers and GOP try to gain traction off this story to divert from their coddling of a sexual predator.

But here’s the AP story, for what it’s worth: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Election, Government

Google moves Writely in with spreadsheet

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I blogged earlier about Writely, an on-line word-processor from Google. They’ve now moved it together with their on-line spreadsheet into Google Docs & Spreadsheet. Take a look—might be useful, though WriteBoard is still interesting as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 12:03 pm

Packing tips for women

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The Wife will soon be leaving for ten days in Paris (France). She’s a dedicated reader of this blog, so I thought I would bring this article to her attention:

If you’re not going to wear it more than three times, don’t pack it! Every piece of clothing you bring should complement every other item or have at least two uses (e.g., sandals double as slippers, a scarf as a shoulder wrap).

Shop selectively: It’s worth splurging a little to get just the right clothes for your trip. For durable, lightweight travel clothes, consider Ex Officio (tel. 800-644-7303), TravelSmith (tel. 800-950-1600), Tilley’s (tel. 800-363-8737), and REI. In general, the color black dresses up easily and can be extremely versatile.

Tops: Bring two or three T-shirts (or buy overseas), one or two short-sleeved blouses, and one or two long-sleeved shirts. Long-sleeved shirts with sleeves that roll up can double as short-sleeved shirts. Look for a wrinkle-camouflaging pattern or blended fabrics that show a minimum of wrinkles. Cotton/poly T-shirt fabric (such as CoolMax) will often dry overnight. Silk also dries quickly and is lightweight. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 11:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Why don’t more people telecommute?

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John C. Dvorak raises several good points in this article. (Full disclosure: The Wife telecommutes.)

In the hectic San Francisco Bay Area, it’s impossible to drive on the major freeways, especially in the Silicon Valley corridors, between 8 and 11 a.m. and 2 and 7 p.m., because they are all clogged with commuters going to and from work. The Los Angeles basin has the same hours of congestion, with traffic moving even slower, if not outright stopped. This problem is creeping into most metropolitan areas; I have experienced these messes in Seattle, Portland, Oregon, Atlanta, and elsewhere. Though there may be no way to eliminate the problem, it can be reduced a lot by telecommuting, or what is now generally termed telework. But despite high-speed data communications and computers everywhere, society seems hell-bent on avoiding it.

One of the weird ironies of modern business practices is that the federal and local governments have passed laws requiring all agencies to incorporate telework into their operations. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management summarizes the thrust of the law: “Section 359 of Public Law 106-346 requires each Executive agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance.”

That comment was written in 2001, and since then the government has researched the results to an extreme. It has concluded that telecommuting increases productivity, in addition to providing numerous other benefits. “The Status of Telework in the Federal Government” can be seen here.

The important conclusion is this: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 11:37 am

Enjoyable movie: Love Actually

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Last night I watched (for the second time) Love Actually. Very enjoyable film on a ubiquitous and important part of our lives: love. And, indeed, love actually is all around, and this film presents many aspects of love for you to contemplate: the agony of unrequited love, the joy when love thought to be unrequited turns out to be requited, the crushing blow of love betrayed, the lightheaded rush from love awakening, the reach of love across language barriers, the intense and often unspoken love of old friends for each other, the love of parents and children, the delirious dreams of love, love that life breaks so that it doesn’t work out… One love that’s missing: the love we have for our pets (and our pets for us).

Quite a bit for a film that is also extremely funny. Well worth watching and pondering.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Not just the Party of Lies…

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It’s also the Party of Corruption™. The Wall Street Journal (yes: the Wall Street Journal) has a report on the corrupt GOP Congressman from North Carolina. From TPMmuckraker:

Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) has a remarkable talent for steering federal dollars to benefit properties that he owns, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning.

As you read about the millions that Taylor has earmarked for himself ($11.4 million to widen a highway that runs through a resort town where his development companies own thousands of acres, $3.8 million for a park that is “directly in front of the Blue Ridge Savings Bank, flagship of his financial empire”), recall Taylor’s dogged opposition to federal money going to a 9/11 memorial. As chairman of the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee, Taylor was for years the sole impediment to releasing the $10 million in federal funds needed to buy the land for a memorial in Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

Taylor’s opposition to the effort, the Washington Post explained at the time, “comes down to principle: The federal government is already the largest landowner in the country, and he believes that no additional tax dollars should go to more land buying for this or any other memorial.”

When challenged on his earmarks by the Journal, Taylor sounds a different principle:

“The same tax dollars would be spent,” [Taylor] said through a spokesman. “The decisions about where and how much would just be left to unelected bureaucrats.”

God forbid they’d spend the money on something meaningful to taxpayers, instead of beautifying the view out his bank’s front window.

So Taylor joins a growing list of GOP legislators using earmarks to enrich themselves through corrupt land deals: Denny Hastert, Jerry Lewis of San Diego, Ted Stevens,… It’s going to be a long list.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 10:06 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) lies—of course

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Via ThinkProgress, we read of yet another lie from the lips of the GOP: Rep. Steve King states “that living in Iraq is less dangerous than living in Washington DC. King claimed on the House floor, “my wife lives here with me, and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C. than an average civilian in Iraq.””

It’s another lie from the Party of Lies™. Check this chart:

Violent deaths

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 9:52 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Iraq War

For you professionals

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Got a very interesting tip in the email this morning from Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia Dean of Students & Poynter Visiting Professor. This will be of particular interest to those seeking employment (free-lancers as well as people simply looking for a new job) as well as those who have to make contacts as, say, a writer or journalist or director of development.

There’s something nice about making the right connections. Besides, I have come to look upon it as part of of my job.

linkedin

linkedin.com

I used to rely exlusively on e-mail to make these connections, but for more than a year now, I have been depending on a free social networking Web site called LinkedIn.com. Social networking sites, such as a MySpace, Friendster, etc., have a less-than-stellar reputation these days, so describing LinkedIn as “MySpace for professionals” does not make it sound appealing — but that description is appropriate. Social networking does have its uses and I think LinkedIn is the most useful of the lot when it comes to making professional connections.

You first create a free account, then fill out a profile of yourself and then explore the “find people” space to see which of your contacts is already in LinkedIn. Then you can ask them to connect with you. Once they do, they become your “first-degree” connections and their connections become part of your network, as “second-degree” connections.

The connections of those second-degree folks become your “third-degree connections.” All of this is done through the system. My math’s no good, but it adds up fast. As of this writing, I have 317 direct connections; 43,000 second-degree connections and 1.4 million-plus connections in my network. I can search my network and contact anyone on it, but the reason the system works is that I can only connect with my direct connections directly. Everyone else has to be connected through the folks I know. They hear only from people they already know directly. So it’s basically friends — or acquaintances — making the initial connection.

Here’s an example of how I use it. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

11 October 2006 at 8:23 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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