Later On

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

Archive for December 5th, 2006

Good action movie: District B13

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I like a good action movie, and this one has some excellent sequences. And I like Luc Besson, who co-wrote the script. District B13—check it out. One recommendation: the default setting is dubbed, and that works out really bad: extremely strange and stilted dialogue to get the mouth movements to synch with the sound. So before watching, go into Set-Up and select French dialogue with English subtitles. Otherwise, it’s not nearly so enjoyable. Believe me: I watched the beginning thinking at first that the dubbed version in English was my only choice—and it’s bad.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

More Mencken goodness

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First printed in the Smart Set, October, 1918. This is the opening salvo of the book A Mencken Chrestomathy, which Mencken himself selected.

The Life of Man

The anthropomorphic notion that the life of the whole universe centers in the life of man—that human existence is the supreme expression of the cosmic process—this notion seems to be happily on its way toward the Sheol of exploded delusions. The fact is that the life of man, as it is more and more studied in the light of general biology, appears to be more and more empty of significance. Once apparently the chief concern and masterpiece of the gods, the human race now begins to bear the aspect of an accidental by-product of their vast, inscrutable and probably nonsensical operations. A blacksmith making a horse-shoe produces something almost as brilliant and mysterious—the shower of sparks. But his eye and thought, as we know, are not on the sparks, but on the horse-shoe. The sparks, indeed, constitute a sort of disease of the horse-shoe; their existence depends upon a wasting of its tissue. In the same way, perhaps, man is a local disease of the cosmos—a kind of pestiferous eczema or urethritis. There are, of course, different grades of eczema, and so are there different grades of men. No doubt a cosmos afflicted with nothing worse than an infection of Beethovens would not think it worth while to send for the doctor. But a cosmos infested by Socialists, Scotsmen and stockbrokers must suffer damnably. No wonder the sun is so hot and the moon is so diabetically green.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

The FBI: Fustian Blustering Incompetents

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Bassem Youssef is the FBI’s highest-ranking Arab-American agent. He’s fluent in Arabic, ran the FBI’s offices in Saudi Arabia and is a terrorism expert. In fact, Youssef’s undercover work helping to infiltrate the terror organization of the so-called “blind sheik,” Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, earned him the intelligence community’s most-prestigious award, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.

But now, for the first time, Youssef is speaking out against the agency he loves.

“I don’t believe that the FBI’s doing everything it can to combat terrorism,” the 18-year FBI veteran tells NBC News.

Though he’s one of only six FBI agents with advanced Arabic skills, Youssef believes that, since 9/11, the FBI has blocked him from playing a significant role in the war on terror. He claims discrimination, and sued the FBI in 2003.

“To be totally set aside, blackballed since 9/11, makes absolutely no sense,” he says.

Beyond Youssef’s own employment claims, depositions of nearly a dozen top FBI officials in his case have exposed what critics say are serious shortcomings in the FBI’s approach to counterterrorism. The taped depositions, which have never been aired before, seem to reveal a stunning lack of knowledge about some terrorism basics.

Dale Watson, now retired, was the FBI’s top counterterrorism official before and after 9/11.

In a deposition taken on Dec. 8, 2004, Youssef’s lawyer Stephen Kohn asked Watson: “Do you know who Osama bin Laden’s spiritual leader was?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 5:27 pm

The US ZIP Scribble map

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Connect the ZIP codes of the US in ascending order, and what do you get? Bippity Boppity Boo? No. You get this.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Daily life

Behold the trap-jaw ant

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Man, it can really move. The videos are astounding.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Starkly beautiful mathematical models

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The first photo made me think of a wonderfully abstract chess set. Take a look at these gorgeous models. Post has links to others.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Science

Freeware for Mac OS X: Journler

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Looks pretty nice: Journler 2.0.2:

Elegant, beautiful, powerful. Journler is a place for your thoughts and everything they touch.

Featuring iLife integration, audio and video entries, extensive document importing and instantaneous searching and filtering, not to mention Mail, iWeb and Address Book integration, a dash of blogging and AppleScript and Spotlight support.

Journler is a daily notebook and entry based information manager. Scholars, teachers, students, professors, scientists, thinkers, the business minded and writers of every persuasion use it on a daily basis to connect the written word with the media most important to them.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Software

Linux equivalents of Windows software

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The title says it all—well, not quite: the table helps.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Software

No protection for your vote

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This is unbelievable—well, no, it is unfortunately believable:

A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines that produced results that could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Ronald Rivest, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member, closely mirrored a report released last week warning that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.

Some panel members who voted against the proposal said they support paper records but don’t think the risk of widespread voting machine meltdowns is great enough to rush the requirement into place and overwhelm state election boards. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Election, Government

Easy, free file conversions

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Change formats from .PDF to MS Word, from .jpg to .gif, from this to that. Use Zamzar.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Software

The Military doesn’t like soldiers

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Or so it seems. The military lies about how soldiers were killed. And now this NPR report. The basic story here, much more at the link:

Army studies show that at least 20 percent to 25 percent of the soldiers who have served in Iraq display symptoms of serious mental-health problems, including depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Administration officials say there are extensive programs to heal soldiers both at home and in Iraq.

But an NPR investigation at Colorado’s Ft. Carson has found that even those who feel desperate can have trouble getting the help they need. In fact, evidence suggests that officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army.

Soldier Tyler Jennings says that when he came home from Iraq last year, he felt so depressed and desperate that he decided to kill himself. Late one night in the middle of May, his wife was out of town, and he felt more scared than he’d felt in gunfights in Iraq. Jennings says he opened the window, tied a noose around his neck and started drinking vodka, “trying to get drunk enough to either slip or just make that decision.”

Five months before, Jennings had gone to the medical center at Ft. Carson, where a staff member typed up his symptoms: “Crying spells… hopelessness… helplessness… worthlessness.” Jennings says that when the sergeants who ran his platoon found out he was having a breakdown and taking drugs, they started to haze him. He decided to attempt suicide when they said that they would eject him from the Army.

“You know, there were many times I’ve told my wife — in just a state of panic, and just being so upset — that I really wished I just died over there [in Iraq],” he said. “Cause if you just die over there, everyone writes you off as a hero.”

Jennings isn’t alone. Other soldiers who’ve returned to Ft. Carson from Iraq say they feel betrayed by the way officials have treated them. Army files show that these were soldiers in good standing before they went to Iraq, and that they started spinning out of control upon their return.

Since the war in Vietnam, military leaders have said that soldiers who are wounded emotionally need help, just like soldiers missing limbs.

“The goal, first and foremost, is to identify who’s having a problem,” says William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “Secondly, it’s to provide immediate support. And finally, our goal is to restore good mental health.”

The Army boasts of having great programs to care for soldiers. The Pentagon has sent therapists to Iraq to work with soldiers in the field. And at Army bases in the United States, mental-health units offer individual and group therapy, and counseling for substance abuse. But soldiers say that in practice, the mental-health programs at Ft. Carson don’t work the way they should.

For instance,

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 12:23 pm

Amateur Gourmet makes pot-au-feu

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In photo-comic-strip format. Wonderful. I’m getting hungry.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 12:12 pm

Homemade cream of mushroom soup

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Do not dilute! oh, wait—that’s the other kind. Megnut kindly shares Deborah Madison’s recipe for a wonderful sounding cream of mushroom soup, which you can be sure I’ll be trying soon.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

NASA announces Moon Base

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This enterprise strikes me as pointless and frivolous and very expensive. It will deliver nothing. Kevin Drum agrees.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 12:05 pm

Cool visual illusions

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With animation. What could be more fun?

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

100,000 Contractors in Iraq

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I’m surprised that there are so many. We have only 140,000 troops there. This total is of all contractors, not just the mercenaries.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 10:48 am

Posted in Iraq War

Those Republicans!

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Check out this list at TPMmuckraker:

A number of readers have sent in tips to help the folks at Powerline, who recently admitted to having trouble remembering administration officials (beyond Scooter Libby) who had been accused of corruption or resigned in the face of scandal.

How could you forsake us! cry our old pals Claude Allen, David Safavian, Brian Doyle. Who could forget former FDA commissioner, Lester Crawford? Here’s our partial (but fast-growing) list. If we’re missing a name, please send it along!

This list is divided into 3 parts (give me props for not mentioning Gaul):

1. Indicted / Convicted/ Pled Guilty (currently 9 names)

2. Resigned Due to Investigation (currently 13 names)

3. Nomination Failed Due to Scandal (currently 3 names)

The third category does not include Harriet Meiers, in case you’re wondering.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 10:45 am

Gastrokid: for parents with picky eaters

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Gastrokid looks quite interesting. The only picky eater here is Megs, and she seems satisfied with her kibble. (I put a little shaved bonito on top when I refill the bowl—kitty bacon.) But if you have kids who are picky, you might find some good ideas at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 10:35 am

Bad news: The GOP Congress wants to poison people

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Not Americans, of course—brown-skinned people, so they think it’s okay. I’m disgusted that Joe Biden is part of this effort. He looks worse and worse as time goes on.

Look at this information:

Mycoherbicides have already been extensively studied over the last thirty years—and the results make it clear that they are not an option for controlling crops of coca or opium poppies. They attack indiscriminately, destroying fruit and vegetable crops, and sickening animals and humans as well. The toxins mycoherbicides produce contaminate soil for years, so that nothing can grow where they have been. Mycoherbicides are so destructive that governments have even stockpiled them as weapons!

Incredibly, the proposal now before Congress advocates using mycoherbicides in “field studies” in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan—something the world would certainly see as an act of biological warfare.

Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters spoke out against further mycoherbicide research last year, but this terrible proposal is now part of the ONDCP Reauthorization Act.

For more information on mycoherbicides, read the recent report commissioned by DPA, “Repeating Mistakes of the Past: Another Mycoherbicide Research Bill” (PDF).

Here’s the full text of the mycoherbicide provision in the ONDCP Reauthorization Act:

Sec. 1111 Requirement for Scientific Study of Mycoherbicide in Illicit Drug Crop Eradication

Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this act, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall submit to the Congress a report that includes a plan to conduct, on an expedited basis, a scientific study of the use of mycoherbicide as a means of illicit drug crop elimination by an appropriate Government scientific research entity, include a complete and thorough scientific peer review. The study shall include an evaluation of the likely human health and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides derived from fungus naturally existing in the soil.

The request from the Drug Policy Alliance:

Earlier this year we warned you about a bill in Congress that would revive controversial research on the use of toxic, mold-like fungi called mycoherbicides to kill illicit drug crops in other countries. This provision could unleash an environmental disaster of monumental proportions. But Congressman Mark Souder and Senators Hatch and Biden are rushing it to the House and Senate floors this week. Here are three things you can do:

1) Call your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. Representative today or tomorrow.

If you don’t know who they are, simply call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and give them your address. They’ll connect you directly with their offices. You can also look them up online at the Senate website and the House website.

When you get a staffer on the phone, politely say something like:

“My name is [your name] and I live in [your city]. I’m calling to urge [the Senator or Representative] to oppose the ONDCP Reauthorization bill if it comes to the floor this week, especially its mycoherbicide provision. Please let me know how [the Senator/Representative] votes.”

If they ask, the mycoherbicide section is Section 1111. The bill being brought to the floor is a combination of a House and Senate bill, so it doesn’t have a bill number yet. It will be brought to the Senate floor under a unanimous consent agreement and to the House floor under suspension of the rules–both of which limit debate.

2) Phone calls are the most effective way of stopping this bill. But if you don’t feel comfortable making calls or you don’t have the time, we urge you to fax or e-mail your elected officials instead. Contact your two Senators through the Senate website and your one Representative through the House website.

3) Please forward this alert to everyone you know. Unless thousands of Americans contact Congress, this bill could pass by the end of this week.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 10:29 am

The totally disgusting and corrupt effects of the drug war

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I blogged this previously, and now Glenn Greenwald offers a comment on it. It’s well worth reading. He concludes:

All the familiar elements are here. The Bush administration acts without legal or moral limits. When the conduct is uncovered, it is the whistleblower who is punished. Virtually no American media outlet is even slightly interested, and we have to rely upon an Internet newsletter and British newspaper to do the heavy investigative work.

And if any of this ever were actively discussed here — and, really, why would it be? — all of it will be justified by invoking scary bogeymen, in this case the dark Mexican drug lords instead of the dark Arab Terrorists. The one thing you can say about the Bush administration is that they act in accordance with a very consistent template.

Written by Leisureguy

5 December 2006 at 10:15 am

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