Later On

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

Archive for December 6th, 2006

Megs had a treat for dinner

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Her new wet food arrived, and she seems to like it a lot. She got only a small amount—move into it gradually, is my motto. But she cleaned it up nicely, and tomorrow she’ll get more. The kibble will continue, of course. The wet food is just a treat/supplement.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Cats, Food, Megs

Roasting your own coffee

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I’ve occasionally thought about buying green coffee beans and roasting my own coffee. And I’ll probably continue to think about it. But if you’re inclined to move from thinking to doing, here are a couple of sites that may be of interest.

The first takes an absolutely minimal approach in terms of equipment and sounds like more trouble than I would want.

The second is the on-line vendor Sweet Maria’s, which sells coffee roasters, green coffee beans, and coffeemakers, along with various accessories. The coffee roasters offered here make it seem more doable.

For example, this roaster seems like a nice approach (scroll down for review—and for the price).

I’ll keep thinking.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Top 25 Web 2.0 sites for money, investment, finance

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Here they are.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 3:06 pm

Free movie rentals from Blockbuster

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But just for a while, and only with Netflix tear-offs, and only if you have a Blockbuster account. Details here.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Stupid delay caused by stupidity and ego

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From TalkingPointsMemo:

Remember how the whole premise of Bush administration North Korea policy was that we shouldn’t be offering ‘pay-offs’ to the North Koreans in exchange for them giving up their nuclear program?

From today’s Times

The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday.

So after six long years of incompetence, arrogance, dithering and disaster, in which the president allowed the NKs to waltz into the nuclear club unimpeded, they’re now back to the same policy they insisted on ditching in the first place. Only now with a hand infinitely weaker than it was in 2000 since back then the NKs didn’t have the bomb.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 2:37 pm

Kevin Drum hits nail on head

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The GOP is a deeply and profoundly irresponsible political party. Read the details in Kevin’s post. His comments concern this story:

Like a retreating army, Republicans are tearing up railroad track and planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern when they take power in Congress next month.

Already, the Republican leadership has moved to saddle the new Democratic majority with responsibility for resolving $463 billion in spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. And the departing chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas (R., Calif.), has been demanding that the Democrat-crafted 2008 budget absorb most of the $13 billion in costs incurred from a decision now to protect physician reimbursements under Medicare, the federal health-care program for the elderly and disabled.

The unstated goal is to disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute “pay-as-you-go” budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing.

“I think we’re trying to get an accommodation,” said Speaker Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) last evening. “You’re digging a hole now and filling up with money from ’08,” he said of Mr. Thomas’s demands. “He says he’s trying to move away from that.”

But with Mr. Hastert dismantling his office, House Republicans appear to be operating in a post-election leadership vacuum. The White House is watching with alarm, as are many Senate Republicans, who have a greater stake than the House in maintaining relations with Democrats.

“There are individuals who want to blow up the tracks, and there are more of those individuals in the House,” said one Senate leadership aide.

The collapse of the appropriations process will be felt soon in the Justice and Commerce departments, food-safety agencies and veterans’ health care. “It’s not just a mess. It’s a mountainous mess,” complained Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the next House Appropriations Committee chairman.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Kitty-tongue story

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The Wife points out that Megs’s little tongue is protruding slightly in this photo posted this morning. Since Megs is asleep, it’s unclear why her tongue is hanging out, but certainly Stella, an earlier and much-loved kitty who lived with The Wife, would occasionally put her tongue out and then seemingly forget it was out and sit there, looking around (and silly). It’s much like when kitties raise a leg to wash it, and then get distracted and look intently at something with the leg still hanging in the air, forgotten.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

Another Office 2007 file converter

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This one, via Lifehacker, is a Web-based converter specifically for .docx files. Useful, say, if you have a Mac and someone sends you an Office 2007 document file (.docx).

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Software

For obsessives: project-manage your holiday dinner

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It does make sense, though, if you’re cooking a multi-course dinner for a holiday crowd. Here’s a post at Instructables to give you some ideas along with a spreadsheet. As the first commenter notes, it would be even easier with, say, Microsoft Project (or one of the freeware alternatives like these or these. These are, of course, useful in many daily-life planning functions: large parties, weddings, vacations and other big trips, and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

More on the serial murders in the drug war

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Serial murders supported by the US government. I’ve blogged about this as has Glenn Greenwald. Today he has another excellent long post about this terrible case that the mainstream media are totally ignoring. I highly recommend that you read it. You certainly won’t hear anything about it from the press or TV.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 12:03 pm

Why Ann Althouse is not worth reading

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From Glenn Greenwald today:

Ann Althouse yesterday: “calling your opponent stupid is incredibly lame… an admission that you have no substance.”

Ann Althouse last week: “Glenn Greenwald is such an idiot. Am I supposed to respond to this foolishness? Glenn, you moron . . . , you disreputable slimeball? (And your writing is putrid.)”

Obviously, the interesting point here is not Ann Althouse. By itself, her observation yesterday that the treatment of Jose Padilla may have been justified by a fear that he would use his eyes to blink “coded messages” to The Terrorists says all that needs to be said about her, ever.

But a more general point here is worth making. It would just seem natural — almost instinctual — that before a person stands up publicly and says: “It is outrageous/disgusting/wrong/pathetic to engage in Behavior X,” they would ask themselves: “Do I engage in Behavior X?” One would think they would do so because — if for no other reason — they would want to prevent others from so easily documenting their complete lack of integrity and credibility.

Yet it is truly amazing how many people do what Althouse did here — namely, stridently condemn the exact behavior in which they routinely engage (one of the most common examples, of course, is the Bush follower who writes every day about how liberals are unpatriotic, traitorous, American-hating, subversive Friends of the Terrorists and then decries the lack of civility in political discourse or rails against the “Angry Left”).

More baffling still, so often the hypocrisy is demonstrated not by some obscure, isolated behavior the person engaged in many years ago, such that they might reasonably have forgotten that they did it. Instead, the behavior which they flamboyantly condemn is very often behavior in which they very recently engaged and/or in which they repeatedly — even routinely — engage. As a result, just the most minimal amount of self-awareness ought to prevent them from so blatantly doing this — or at least should cause them to define the behavior they are condemning in such a way so as to create a plausible argument that they don’t do it.

Yet one can literally find examples this blatant every day, where someone spews the most self-righteous, vicious condemnations towards other people for doing exactly what the sermonizer routinely does. And it is genuinely difficult to understand how, in those cases, the sermonizer avoids the realization of what they’re doing.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 11:53 am

Posted in GOP

“Screw the workers”: that’s the GOP marching song

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But props to Rep Hostettler (R-Ind.) for pushing the investigation. From USA Today:

The Bush administration repeatedly sought ways to limit payouts to nuclear weapons workers sickened by radiation and toxic material, according to a memo written by congressional investigators and obtained by USA TODAY.

The investigation focuses on a federal program created in 2000 to compensate people with cancers and other illnesses tied to their work at government and contractor-owned facilities involved in Cold War nuclear weapons production. About 98,000 cases have been filed under the program, and the Labor Department has approved compensation in about 24,000 of those cases. However, program records show that not all of those approved claims have been paid.

Since 2002, “there is a continuous stream of (administration) communications … strategizing on minimizing payouts,” according to the Nov. 30 memo by staff for the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims. The memo, prepared for the panel’s chairman, Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., summarizes and quotes from thousands of pages of records reviewed by the subcommittee in its probe.

The subcommittee holds a hearing Tuesday on the investigation. Hostettler is pressing ahead despite losing re-election last month, vowing to release key documents and urging Democrats to continue the probe when they take over in 2007.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 11:43 am

At last: NIH taking conflict of interest seriously

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This is of great interest and long overdue:

Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health with conflict of interest for taking $285,000 in fees from a drug company that was involved with his government research.

Dr. P. Trey Sunderland III is the first official in 14 years to be prosecuted for conflict of interest at the NIH, an agency rocked in recent years by revelations of widespread financial ties to the drug industry. Sunderland accepted the fees from 1998 to 2003 from Pfizer Inc.

Sunderland, who has headed the NIH’s geriatric psychiatry branch, is scheduled to appear Friday in a federal courtroom in Baltimore, according to the office of U.S. Atty. Rod J. Rosenstein.

Sunderland is expected to plead guilty to the single charge, said lawyers familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of confidentiality concerns. The scientist, 55, could get up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Sunderland’s lawyer, Robert F. Muse, declined to comment Monday.

In an eight-page filing, prosecutors said Sunderland took money from Pfizer without getting the required advance permission from the NIH.

The services he performed for the company — including providing hundreds of spinal-tap samples prized for potential genetic clues that might help develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease — were intertwined with his government duties.

And Sunderland failed to note his company fees and additional expense reimbursements on annual NIH financial reports.

Federal law prohibits officials from accepting outside compensation for their government duties.

In Sunderland’s case, he spearheaded a “material transfer agreement” on behalf of the NIH, whereby his staff would collect and then pass the spinal-tap samples to Pfizer.

About the same time, in early 1998, “Sunderland initiated negotiations with Pfizer to be paid as a consultant for his work on the same project,” according to the criminal filing.

As a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps — the uniformed service led by the U.S. surgeon general — Sunderland has been shielded from termination or other disciplinary measures by the NIH.

His unusual status, and that of other similarly situated senior NIH researchers, has been criticized by members of Congress, who have questioned whether supervision is adequate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 11:38 am

Graph your hard drive

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Lifehacker has links to some excellent hard-disk content-analyzers. I just installed WinDirStat for Windows, and it’s quite nice. The link also provides analyzers for Mac and Linux.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 11:35 am

Posted in Software

Oh, rats! New standard file formats coming

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Microsoft Office 2007 is going to use all new file formats, apparently: based on XML. Here’s info on a compatibility pack. I hate when all the files go to new formats. But I suppose it’s inevitable: progress and all.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 10:53 am

Posted in Software

Firefox with 200 Add-ons installed

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Perhaps too much of a good thing? Here’s the story.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 10:45 am

Posted in Firefox

Swivel, the YouTube for data, is now open

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I blogged earlier about it, and now it’s open. Go check it out: Swivel.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 10:36 am

Posted in Software

Li’l Bush and his pals

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Reuters reports:

Comedy Central has ordered “Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States,” a cartoon satire that re-imagines President Bush and key executives in his administration as elementary school misfits.

The title character is surrounded by close pals like Lil’ Cheney, who grumbles unintelligibly, and Lil’ Condi, who pines for Lil’ Bush and does his homework for him.

“Bush” is not without its risqué moments. When Lil’ Bush’s school serves falafel instead of hot dogs for lunch in one episode, he and his pals torture the cafeteria employees with methods made famous during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Six episodes from writer-producer Donick Cary (“The Simpsons”) have been ordered to air on Comedy Central next year.

“Bush” got its start in September as six five-minute clips offered by Amp’d Mobile, a U.S.-based wireless service that packages video entertainment programming with cell phone service.

Here’s episode 1.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 10:01 am

Tough times on Capitol Hill

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Congress is moving to a—gasp!—five-day work week. Quiet a contrast to the two-day work week they enjoyed under the GOP.

The GOP is quick to react:

“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.”

Yes, the GOP believes that five-day work weeks are against family values. Yet I don’t recall much action on their part to change the regular work week for millions of American workers. I guess the GOP sees their families as being of no value. And how about the multi-year service troops are given in Iraq, fighting a bloody and hopeless war? Many marriages have been destroyed by the months-long absences, but the GOP did nothing. The GOP: party of uncaring scum.

Here’s the article:

Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.

The horror.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who will become House majority leader and is writing the schedule for the next Congress, said members should expect longer hours than the brief week they have grown accustomed to.

“I have bad news for you,” Hoyer told reporters. “Those trips you had planned in January, forget ’em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th.”

The reporters groaned. “I know, it’s awful, isn’t it?” Hoyer empathized.

For lawmakers, it is awful, compared with what they have come to expect. For much of this election year, the legislative week started late Tuesday and ended by Thursday afternoon — and that was during the relatively few weeks the House wasn’t in recess.

Next year, members of the House will be expected in the Capitol for votes each week by 6:30 p.m. Monday and will finish their business about 2 p.m. Friday, Hoyer said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 9:40 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats, GOP

That Invisible Hand can bitch-slap you silly

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A new book, Adam’s Fallacy: A guide to economic theology, explores the untested and counterfactual idea that was Adam Smith’s fallacy. From the NY Times review:

It is the idea that the economic sphere of life constitutes a separate realm “in which the pursuit of self-interest is guided by objective laws to a socially beneficent outcome,” Professor Foley wrote, a realm unlike all the rest of social life, “in which the pursuit of self-interest is morally problematic and has to be weighed against other ends.”

“This separation of an economic sphere,” he wrote, “with its presumed specific principles of organization, from the much messier, less determinate and morally more problematic issues of politics, social conflict and values, is the foundation of political economy and economics as an intellectual discipline.” …

He does not use the word “theology” with disdain, as many writers do when they want to disparage something as doctrinaire or irrational, although he has clearly chosen the word to provoke those who assume that economics is either strictly logical or empirical. On the other hand, he doesn’t use it to signal anything about God, either.

What he means, he wrote, is that “at its most abstract and interesting level, economics is a speculative philosophical discourse, not a deductive or inductive science.”

Historically, economics has not only shed light on how a capitalist market system works, it has also suggested what attitudes people should take about those workings and about the moral conflicts accompanying them.

“These are discussions, above all, of faith and belief, not of fact, and hence theological,” Professor Foley wrote.

“Economics functions in a theological role in our society,” he added in an interview in which he paraphrased Milton, “to justify the ways of the market to men.” Economists, moreover, are “becoming priestly figures, with arcane knowledge” and special powers, he said.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2006 at 9:09 am

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