Later On

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

Archive for December 3rd, 2006

Monday with the Sticky again

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I mentioned that I shaved with the Wilkinson Sticky on Saturday. It was so good I’m having at it again tomorrow—and note this very nice photographic study of the Sticky, both British and American styles.

QED Frankincense & Myrrh shaving stick, with some brush I’ll choose at the last minute as whim directs.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Juxtaposed quotations

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First, Nicholas Kristof today in the NY Times:

Now that the Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars, let’s hope that the Atheist Left doesn’t revive them. We’ve suffered enough from religious intolerance that the last thing the world needs is irreligious intolerance.

Nicholas seems to live in a vacuum:

Famed paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey is giving no quarter to powerful evangelical church leaders who are pressing Kenya’s national museum to relegate to a back room its world-famous collection of hominid fossils showing the evolution of humans’ early ancestors.

Leakey called the churches’ plans “the most outrageous comments I have ever heard.”

He told The Daily Telegraph (London): “The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind. The collection it holds is one of Kenya’s very few global claims to fame and it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science.” Leakey was for years director of the museum and of Kenya’s entire museum system.

The museum’s collections include the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus, the 1.7-million-year-old Turkana Boy unearthed by Leakey’s team in 1984 near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya.

The museum also holds bones from several specimens of Australopithecus anamensis, believed to be the first hominid to walk upright, four million years ago. Together the artifacts amount to the clearest record yet discovered of the origins of Homo sapiens.

Leaders of Kenya’s Pentecostal congregation, with six million adherents, want the human fossils de-emphasized.

“The Christian community here is very uncomfortable that Leakey and his group want their theories presented as fact,” said Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, head of the largest Pentecostal church in Kenya, the Christ is the Answer Ministries.

“Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory,” the bishop said.

Bishop Adoyo said all the country’s churches would unite to force the museum to change its focus when it reopens after eighteen months of renovations in June 2007. “We will write to them, we will call them, we will make sure our people know about this, and we will see what we can do to make our voice known,” he said.

It was these comments Leakey termed outrageous. Calling members of the Pentecostal church fundamentalists, Leakey added: “Their theories are far, far from the mainstream on this. They cannot be allowed to meddle with what is the world’s leading collection of these types of fossils.”

For its part, the museum sounded like it was trying to walk a tightrope. It said it was in a “tricky situation” in trying to redesign its exhibition space for all kinds of visitors.

“We have a responsibility to present all our artifacts in the best way that we can so that everyone who sees them can gain a full understanding of their significance,” said Ali Chege, public relations manager for the National Museums of Kenya. “But things can get tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists, or researchers on the other, saying the opposite.”

In fact, it’s really not all that tricky. I doubt the Bishop has studied the paleoanthropology all that much. I would definitely listen to the Bishop about the Bible, and to Leakey about paleoanthropology. Pretty simple, really.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Religion, Science

Useful service offering

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This site offers hand delivery of post-Rapture letters—those who vanish in the Rapture may want to send a message to those Left Behind. This service will make sure those messages are delivered. (E.g., “take care of Fluffy and Big Dog”.)

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Religion

What does Karl Rove say?

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This could be the end of New Orleans. And Karl Rove, whom Bush put in charge of the reconstruction effort, should be asked about his plans. What is he doing about rebuilding the levees?

St. Paul Travelers Cos. Inc., Louisiana’s largest commercial insurance provider, plans to cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year, sparking fears that other insurers will follow and slow the region’s economic recovery.

While the St. Paul, Minn., company refused to say how many commercial policies will be affected or specify where the cuts will be in South Louisiana, two insurance brokers who were briefed by the company this week say Travelers will not renew any property insurance for businesses in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and eastern St. Tammany parishes. Cuts will also affect individual businesses in other parts of South Louisiana, including St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes.

“I said, ‘May I tell anybody who asks that Travelers is withdrawing from the commercial property insurance market in southeast Louisiana?’ ” said Anderson Baker, president of the New Orleans agency Gillis, Ellis & Baker, who met with the company Wednesday. “The answer was, ‘Yes.’ “

Travelers spokeswoman Jennifer Wislocki said the company has “a high concentration of commercial policies in the hurricane-prone areas of Louisiana” and will not renew many commercial policies when they expire.

“To keep future losses to a more acceptable level for continued financial stability, we are reducing our exposure in some of these areas by non-renewing a number of small to mid-sized commercial properties,” Wislocki said.

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, who was tipped off about Travelers’ plans Wednesday night by the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, said he was stunned by the news. When he met with Travelers on Thursday, he was equally stunned by the stated reason for the company’s retrenchment.

“They cited the state of the rebuilding of our levee system as the primary reason for their decision,” Donelon said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 2:30 pm

Kraft “guacamole”: 2% avocado

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A Californian woman is taking on the giant food companies that, she says, are pushing “fake guacamole” to a public increasingly hooked on Mexico’s avocado-based staple.

Brenda Lifsey was outraged to read in the fine print that a guacamole dip contained so little real avocado that its green colouring had to be made up from blue and yellow food dyes. She is suing its makers, Kraft Foods, and her lawyer says other manufacturers could be next.

“I found there was almost no avocado in it,” she said. Most of the paste, she claimed, was made from hydrogenated soya bean, coconut oils, corn syrup, whey and food starch, with 2 per cent avocado.

The snack, which was first eaten by the Aztecs, has been soaring in popularity in the US, and there are growing calls for federal regulators to step in.

Good for her. I recall hearing from a friend who had moved to the Midwest: “You know you’re in trouble when you find the Velveeta on the gourmet shelf.”

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

The dark side of the war on drugs

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The mentality that “anything goes” seems to be spreading from the war on terror to the war on drugs. From the Telegraph:

The House of Death

When 12 bodies were found buried in the garden of a Mexican house, it seemed like a case of drug-linked killings. But the trail led to Washington and a cover-up that went right to the top. David Rose reports from El Paso

Sunday December 3, 2006; The Observer

Janet Padilla’s first inkling that something might be wrong came when she phoned her husband at lunchtime. His mobile phone was switched off. On 14 January, 2004, Luis had, as usual, left for work at 6am, and when he did not answer the first call Janet made, after taking the children to school, she assumed he was busy. Two weeks later she would learn the truth.

‘It was love at first sight for Luis and me, and that’s how it stayed, after two years dating at school and eight years of marriage,’ says Janet. ‘We always spoke a couple of times during the day and he always kept his phone on. So I called my dad, who owns the truckyard where he worked and he told me, “he hasn’t been here”. I called my in-laws and they hadn’t seen him either, and they were already worried because his car was outside their house with the windows open and the keys in the ignition. He would never normally leave it like that.’

Luis Padilla, 29, father of three, had been kidnapped, driven across the Mexican border from El Paso, Texas, to a house in Ciudad Juarez, the lawless city ruled by drug lords that lies across the Rio Grande. As his wife tried frantically to locate him, he was being stripped, tortured and buried in a mass grave in the garden – what the people of Juarez call a narco-fossa, a narco-smugglers’ tomb.

Just another casualty of Mexico’s drug wars? Perhaps. But Padilla had no connection with the drugs trade; he seems to have been the victim of a case of mistaken identity. Now, as a result of documents disclosed in three separate court cases, it is becoming clear that his murder, along with at least 11 further brutal killings, at the Juarez ‘House of Death’, is part of a gruesome scandal, a web of connivance and cover-up stretching from the wild Texas borderland to top Washington officials close to President Bush.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 12:39 pm

250 Free Office Templates and Documents

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Via Lifehacker, this collection of Office templates and documents. Surely you’ll find some that you can use.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 12:17 pm

Ending the War on Drugs

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Very good post:

Ending the War on Drugs
by ken grandlund

In 1933, the Congress of the United States passed the 21st Article to the U.S. Constitution, repealing the prohibition of alcohol. In doing so, they recognized that rather than reduce the use of alcohol, by making it an illegal substance they had only exacerbated its influence on society. Instead of making this country a safer place for the citizens, prohibition had created a whole new class of criminals, namely, ordinary citizens who wanted nothing more than a relaxing beverage at the end of a hard days work. In addition, by outlawing the manufacture and sale of alcohol, the U.S. government had helped usher in an era of black market hoodlums who sought only to line their pockets and elevate violence through territorial claims on the liquor market. Religious moralists who sought to control an individual’s right to consume a product that created an altered state of consciousness, something that they claimed went against the rule of God, preceded the passage of prohibition in 1919. As an after thought, they also claimed that the use of alcohol was the cause of crime, poor health, and wreaked havoc on the family structure. While the latter elements of their position had some merit, it was the religious element of prohibition that helped gain passage of the law. But in outlawing its use, the prohibitionists only succeeding in increasing public consumption, increasing crime, and increasing the governments restriction on individual freedoms.

Today we have the War on Drugs. Though not enacted through a constitutional amendment, our prohibition on the use of some drugs has had the exact same result as the prohibition on alcohol, only more so. According to the Federal Prison Bureau, nearly 60% of convicted inmates are serving sentences for non-violent drug offenses. According to the DEA, nearly 40 million Americans use some type of illegal drug each year. In 1995, the federal government spent over $13 billion just for enforcement of the nations drug laws. This figure does not include the costs of incarceration, treatment programs, or arrogant foreign policy. Nor does it take into account the number of families torn apart by the arrests of people whose only crime is ingesting something into their own bodies for their own sense of pleasure. Despite these draconian figures, drug use has remained fairly constant, with the only real negative effects being those caused by the laws themselves. Obviously, there is something seriously amiss in these policies.

I could write pages and pages regarding the historical and political machinations that have been employed to create the current state of drug laws in this country, but several good works have already documented these facts. (You can find some of this yourself at www.druglibrary.org or by reviewing The Emperor Wears No Clothes, by Jack Herrar, among others.) Instead, I will discuss how the current anti-drug regime contradicts the notions of common sense governing and inhibits personal responsibility and freedom. Suffice it to say that the War on Drugs has become a marriage between religious morality and big business and is more about maintaining money and power than about public safety. Drug laws are arbitrarily applied and lacking the scientific and practical evidence necessary to back up the claims used to maintain their illegality. In fact, the current regime of drug laws creates a self-perpetuating cycle by making criminals out of ordinary citizens for the purpose of rationalizing their very existence. And the economic windfalls realized by private incarceration, treatment programs, defense lawyers and testing centers exert pressure on the politicians to maintain the status quo.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 11:08 am

On-line organizer with email and cellphone alerts

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HipCal seems like a nice (free) service:

Online calendar and todo list
never forget where you need to be or what you have to do

Alerts
be reminded of important events via alerts sent directly to your cell phone or email

Group Calendars
join a group for your classes at school or create a group for a club, project team, or group of friends

Address Book
link up with friends and colleagues so you always have each other’s contact information

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Inside the B1 cockpit

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B1 bomber

The B1 bomber is in active service, and would be fun to fly, except for one thing: the cockpit [alas! cockpit photo has been removed; no more link – LG] is intimidating. I can’t imagine that people who can drive only automatic transmissions would ever make the grade as B1 pilots.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 9:37 am

Posted in Military

Little-known reason for Allied victory in WW II

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Winston Churchill pulls scissors

Enlarge

Winston Churchill pulls scissors

Hitler plays paper, ultimately forfeiting World War II

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Hitler plays paper, ultimately forfeiting World War II

As you can see, Churchill’s scissors beats Hitler’s paper. From the Wikipedia article.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life

Saudis and Iran prepare to battle for Iraq

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Via Alert Reader, this story from the Telegraph:

The gulf’s two military powers, Sunni-Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, are lining up behind their warring religious brethren in Iraq in a potentially explosive showdown, as expectations grow in both countries that America is preparing a pull-out of its troops.

The Saudis are understood to be considering providing Sunni military leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms, as Iran already does for Shia militia in Iraq.

The strategy — outlined in an article last week by Nawaf Obaid, a senior security adviser to the kingdom’s government — risks spiralling into a proxy war between Saudi and Iranian-backed factions in the next development in Iraq’s vicious sectarian conflict.

Saudi Arabia, America’s closest ally in the Arab world, is considering backing anti-US insurgents because it is so alarmed that Sunnis in Iraq will be left to their fate — military and political — at the hands of the Shia majority.

However, a Saudi government spokesman said yesterday that Mr Obaid’s view “does not reflect the kingdom’s policy, which uphold the security, unity and stability of Iraq with all its sects.”

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Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 9:16 am

Posted in Iraq War

Spresent: Web-based, Flash presentation package

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If you want to try something other than PowerPoint, take a look at Spresent: “Free Web-based presentations application based on Flash.
Create and edit high-quality Flash presentations online. You can send presentations via e-mail or publish on your web site or blog.”

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 9:04 am

Posted in Business, Software

The 40 best movie directors

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I love a list. The Guardian in 2001 (apparently: undated, but refers to “this year’s Spirited Away“) compiled a list of the 40 best directors, with links to interviews and the like. Here are the top 9 (sans links):

1. David Lynch
After all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era. Providing a portal into the collective subconscious, the daydream nation conjured up in tales such as Blue Velvet, Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive is by turns frightening, exasperating, revelatory and wild. Nobody makes films like David Lynch. He is our spooky tour guide through a world of dancing dwarves, femme fatales and little blue boxes that may (or may not) contain all the answers. We wouldn’t want to live in the places he takes us. Somehow, we suspect, we do.

Substance 17
Look 18
Craft 18
Originality 19
Intelligence 17
Total 89

2. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese’s influence is impossible to overstate. His red-blooded canon has spawned a generation of copycats while his muscular style has become a template. That said, opinion is divided over the man’s recent output. Some regard his monumental Gangs of New York as a classic to rank alongside Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Others worry that the heavyweight champion of American movies is no longer quite punching his weight.

Substance 17
Look 18
Craft 18
Originality 17
Intelligence 18
Total 88 Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 8:56 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Using Google effectively

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I have to admit that my own use of Google is unsophisticated in the extreme: type in a bunch of keywords and press Enter. But here are 10 tips for more effective searches: click the tip, then scroll down the page to read the details.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 8:44 am

Posted in Software

Cute stop-motion video

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Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 8:41 am

When kids get bored in kindergarten

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Carved crayons

they probably don’t do things like that. More at the sculptor’s site.

Written by Leisureguy

3 December 2006 at 8:31 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

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