Later On

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

Archive for October 26th, 2006

For this Administration, everything is political

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The Bush Administration has been criticized—by one of its members—as having no policies, with every decision being political. Now this:

The commissioner of internal revenue has ordered his agency to delay collecting back taxes from Hurricane Katrina victims until after the Nov. 7 elections and the holiday season, saying he did so in part to avoid negative publicity.

The commissioner, Mark W. Everson, who has close ties to the White House, said in an interview that postponing collections until after the midterm elections, along with postponing notices to people who failed to file tax returns, was a routine effort to avoid casting the Internal Revenue Service in a bad light.

“We are very sensitive to political perceptions,” Mr. Everson said Wednesday, adding that he regularly discussed with his senior staff members when to take actions and make announcements in light of whether they would annoy a powerful member of Congress or get lost in the flow of news.

The tax agency has broad discretion to change filing deadlines in the case of disasters and has traditionally eased off tax collections before the December holidays.

But four former I.R.S. commissioners, who served under presidents of both parties, said that doing so because of an election was improper and indefensible. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 8:51 pm

Not “cut and run”: redeploy to save Afghanistan

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Krugman once again hits the nail on the head:

Iraq is a lost cause. It’s just a matter of arithmetic: given the violence of the environment, with ethnic groups and rival militias at each other’s throats, American forces there are large enough to suffer terrible losses, but far too small to stabilize the country.

We’re so undermanned that we’re even losing our ability to influence events: earlier this week, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki brusquely rejected American efforts to set a timetable for reining in the militias.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a war we haven’t yet lost, and it’s just possible that a new commitment of forces there might turn things around.

The moral is clear — we need to get out of Iraq, not because we want to cut and run, but because our continuing presence is doing nothing but wasting American lives. And if we do free up our forces (and those of our British allies), we might still be able to save Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 8:08 pm

Megs atop the storage unit

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Megs up high

Megs does like high places. The storage unit—a leap to her ledge, then to the dictionary stand, and then, from atop the dictionary, to the top of the storage unit—is ideal: she can look down on me and see over my shoulder what I’m doing at the computer.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

Cool painter

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I had not heard of Brice Marden before, but I really like his paintings. (This is his slide show, and there’s a link to that in the main article.)

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Art

Another Amazon Prime search engine

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And I think this one is better. Take a look. Thanks to Jacob Vogelstein for the tip.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Extremely cool boat for San Francisco

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A hybrid, solar/wind powered ferry. Amazing—and quite beautiful.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Environment, Science

Habanero oil

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Habañeros 2

Take a look at this great idea for making habanero oil. Sounds yummy, especially with the orange (see the comments there). And our local Whole Foods has some wonderful looking habaneros.

I googled around some, checking out other habanero oil recipes. This one looks pretty easy, though I imagine your coffee will be spicy for a while. (It later occurred to me that he’s talking about one of those whirling-blade coffee grinders. I use a burr grinder.)

Habanero Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil
Dried habaneros

I make the oil using extra-virgin olive oil because of the mild taste and health benefits. The habanero is dust I have made from drying habaneros in a dehydrater and processing in a coffee grinder. I DO NOT remove seeds and placenta, only stems. I use about 1 teaspoon of habanero dust per 4 ounces of oil (adjust to taste). Place a little oil in a serving bottle, add the habanero dust and fill with the rest of the oil. I have experimented with adding various herbs to this mixture (mint, basil, thyme, anise). To my surprise, the best and my favorite is the anise: 4-8 seeds (ground) to taste for above amount. Shake the bottle twice a day for about two weeks, then enjoy. No need to separate, as the dust settles to the bottom. Don’t use the thyme/habanero oil on broccoli: there seems to be a nasty reaction which is not the nicest thing you ever tasted. – Doug Morlock & Daria Schetzina

This sauce recipe is perhaps a little fussy for me:

Habanero Pepper Sauce

12 habanero peppers, stems removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice

Sauté the onion and garlic in oil until soft; add the carrots with a small amount of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft. Place the mixture and raw habaneros into a blender and purée until smooth. Don’t cook the peppers, since cooking reduces flavor of the habaneros. Combine the purée with vinegar and lime juice, then simmer for 5 minutes and seal in sterilized bottles. Heat index: 9 on a scale of 1-10. Yields 2 cups — B. Emert

I bought a dozen habaneros today at Whole Foods (see photo — don’t they look lovely?) and cleaned up the kitchen in preparation for the grand experiment. No wussy microwave for me…

I took the stems off the dozen habaneros, chopped them coarsely, and put them in a pan with enough extra-virgin olive oil to barely cover. I put a lid on the pan and turned on the burner and heated the oil to 200º F. The habaneros just started cooking at that temperature. I took the pan off the heat and allowed it to sit until cool, then I tasted the oil to see how it is. On this I occasion, I decided to go for a second heat. I did wear gloves, but otherwise no extraordinary precautions except being careful and washing things promptly in hot water with detergent.

The oil seemed reasonably hot and tasty after the first heat—not so hot as I expected, though. After the batch had cooled, I squashed the now-soft habaneros with a potato masher; I left them in the oil (refrigerated) overnight, then did the second heat the next day—not so hot as the first heat. I brought the oil to 157º and let it cool.

After the oil cooled from the second heat, I tasted and went for a third heat: brought the oil to 200º, let it cool overnight, then strained and bottled it. The taste is just as Teresa Nielsen Hayden describes: “[Oil] simultaneously picks up the hot pepper flavor and buffers it—sort of smoothes it out and spreads it around. The result is still hot, but the burn has a nice long slow buildup and fade, without that raw feral bite that makes you want to scrub your tongue.” Moreover, the peak heat is much less than experienced from the pepper directly.

After straining the oil, I kept the squashed habaneros in a little Rubbermaid container and used them in cooking for the next several days.

UPDATE: I later simplified the making of the oil. See this post.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Recipes

Free daily yoga

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Via iTunes: Yoga Today.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 11:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Save a tiny bit of time for an outrageous price

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Convenience can be costly—and not all that damn convenient, in terms of how much time you save:

The American people are being sold an illusion and the name of this illusion is “convenience.”

Today, in the produce section of my local supermarket, I saw something that dropped my jaw nearly to the floor, individually shrink-wrapped potatoes and individually shrink-wrapped onions. Price? The cost was 99 cents per potato and $1.99 per onion!

When the shock passed, I checked the price of bagged potatoes and onions, then did some calculating. The result? These shrink-wrapped versions cost 70 cents to $1 more each than ordinary potatoes and onions. Why would anyone pay that much extra?

I asked the cashier. The packaged potatoes, it seems, were “prewashed.” The cashier was enthusiastic about this. “Lots of people buy these. It saves them time. And,” she continued happily, “the onions are prepeeled. Isn’t that convenient?”

It took all my self-control to keep from shrieking “Are you nuts?!” Instead, I went home, pulled a large potato out of the ten pound bag I keep in a cupboard (potatoes keep a long, long time in a cool, dark, dry place), and scrubbed it with my hands, using my thumbnail to scrape away eyes and dark spots. It took me 30 seconds. I grabbed an onion and a knife, chopped off the top, and peeled the onion. Another 30 seconds.

In both cases, I’m paying 70 cents to $1 to save myself 30 seconds. Put another way, I’m buying time at the cost of $84 to $120 an hour! How did I figure this out? I took 60 minutes, divided it by the amount of time the “convenience” item would save me (in this case, 30 seconds), and multiplied that by the extra money it costs. (60 divided by .5 or half a minute is 120, times 70 cents is $84. Times $1 is $120.) You can use the same formula to check the real cost of any time you save using any “convenience” product.

A friend of mine, for example, bought pre-marinated, individually vacuum-packed chicken breasts for $1.67 per four-ounce portion. It never occurred to her this is $6.68 a pound! Boneless chicken breasts were selling for $3.29 a pound. If it takes 5-cents worth of seasoning and one minute to season a pound’s worth (do it in the morning and leave it in the fridge to marinate), you pay $3.34 per minute for this “convenience” or $200 per hour! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 11:21 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Trade paperbacks

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PaperBackSwap.com lets you trade your old paperbacks for titles you’ve not yet read. I would be more interested, but all my paperbacks are going to the library since the print has somehow become too small. Still, for you with younger eyes, this looks like a good deal, especially with the price of a mass-market paperback getting uncomfortably near $10.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 11:06 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Your Republican Congress at work

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Fueled and funded by piles of corporate cash, given to ensure even greater profits. Read here.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 11:03 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Moral standing of US is going fast

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Look at this story. What do you think of your blue-eyed boy now, Founding Fathers?

The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America’s key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and “avert pressure from EU” over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a “valuable partner in the fight against terrorism”.

The classified documents prepared for the German parliament last February make clear that Berlin did eventually get to see the detained suspect, who was arrested in Morocco in 2002 as an alleged organiser of the September 11 strikes.He was flown from Morocco to Syria on another rendition flight. Syria offered access to the prisoner on the condition that charges were dropped against Syrian intelligence agents in Germany accused of threatening Syrian dissidents. Germany dropped the charges, but denied any link.

After the CIA offered a deal to Germany, EU countries adopted an almost universal policy of downplaying criticism of human rights records in countries where terrorist suspects have been held. They have also sidestepped questions about secret CIA flights partly because of growing evidence of their complicity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 10:56 am

Tripped by a tiny technicality

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Mean Jean Schmidt, who attacked John Murtha from the House floor for being a “coward” who would cut and run, something a “Marine” would never do (only Murtha is a highly decorated Marine), is getting hit with an ad by her opponent that includes her famous words from the floor. Let Josh Marshall tell it (ad at the link):

I’ve always wondered whether Jean Schmidt (R-OH) might eventually be kicked out of the House just for being too stupid. Not likely given the general level of excellence in the body. But here’s another good Schmidt story along those lines.

Schmidt’s opponent Victoria Wulsin (D) just went on the air with an ad lambasting Schmidt’s notorious statement from the House floor where she called congressman and Marine corps veteran John Murtha a coward. Didn’t go over that well, if you remember. And after making up a few lies about it, Schmidt had to apologize.

Apparently the ad has the Schmidt camp worried. So they hit back hard by pointing out that the ad breaks House Rule V, which prohibits recordings of House proceedings from being used in political advertisements. “Her continued violation will land her in serious trouble with the House Ethics Committee,” barked Schmidt spokesman Matt Perin.

Only, as the Wulsin camp pointed out, House Rules don’t apply to people who aren’t members of the House.

Doh!

Back to the drawing board for Schmidt.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 9:47 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Humor

It’s working, folks. Keep calling.

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I mentioned the effort to get Democratic candidates who are sitting on a pile of campaign cash and have no opposition to contribute some of that cash to the DCCC and DSCC. It seems to be working:

Four members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, including Senator John F. Kerry, announced yesterday that they will give more of their campaign money to help Democratic national committees in an effort to win control of Congress.

The action follows criticism by party activists of Democrats who have hoarded campaign cash despite having safe seats, but the Massachusetts members insisted their gifts were unrelated to such pressure. Kerry, who ended the 2004 presidential campaign with about $16 million in the bank, came in for extra criticism.

Kerry and Senator Edward M. Kennedy both said they were giving $500,000 each to national Democratic committees, while Representative Edward Markey of Malden said he was giving $100,000 and Representative Michael Capuano of Somerville said he was giving $50,000.

But Representative Martin Meehan of Lowell, who has more cash on hand than any other member of the US House — $4.9 million — is abiding by his decision not to give any more cash directly from his campaign to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, according to spokesman Sandra Salstrom. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 9:09 am

Posted in Election, Government

The power of a stereotype

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And, unfortunately, it’s power over the victim of the stereotype—at least, for women and math:

Telling women they can’t do well in math may turn out be a self-fulfilling statement. In tests in Canada, women who were told that men and women do math equally well did much better than those who were told there is a genetic difference in math ability.

And women who heard there were differences caused by environment — such as math teachers giving more attention to boys — outperformed those who were simply reminded they were females.

The women who did better in the tests got nearly twice as many right answers as those in the other groups, explained Steven J. Heine, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Expectations, it turns out, really do make a difference.

”The findings suggest that people tend to accept genetic explanations as if they’re more powerful or irrevocable, which can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies,” said Heine. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 8:58 am

A rosy morning

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After
Made a superlather of QED’s Rose Geranium soap and Truefitt & Hill’s Rose shaving cream. Wonderful lather. Used the Progress. Fine razor. Finished off with Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel. Great witch hazel. A good start to the day, which will see phase 2 of apartment rehabilitation: living room and bedroom. The two cleaning women I found are just fantastic!

UPDATE: “After” photo of shave added per request in comments.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2006 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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