Later On

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

Archive for December 28th, 2006

Lots more hits to shaving posts

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I wonder whether a lot of guys got safety razors, badger brushes, etc., for Christmas. I’m getting a lot more hits to the shaving posts. That’s good, of course.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Shaving

False prophets

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Glenn Greenwald details the source and cost of some false prophecy.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 3:29 pm

Escalation from desperation

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Matt Yglesias makes a good point:

I don’t know when Scott Stanzel started working as a White House spokesman, but his rejoinder to Joe Biden’s anti-escalation views doesn’t make much sense: “I would hope that Senator Biden would wait to hear what the president has to say before announcing what he’s opposed to.” So while the Decider dithers none of us are allowed to offer our opinions about what he should do? I suppose it would be convenient for the White House message team if things worked that way. I think Gary Schmitt from PNAC is insightful on the psychodynamics here:

“No president wants to be remembered as the guy who lost a war,” he said. “Who knows whether this is a day late and a dollar short, but it is a striking example of presidential will trying to bend the system to what he wants.”

Roughly speaking, the fixed point of the president’s thinking is an unwillingness to admit that the venture has failed. For a long time the best way to do that was to simply deny that there was a problem. Political strategy for the midterms, however, dictated that the president had to acknowledge the public’s concerns about the war and concede that things weren’t going well. At that point, simply staying the course doesn’t work anymore. But de-escalating would be an admission of failure, so the only option is to choose escalation. Thus, the idea of an escalation starts getting pushed and we start reading things in the paper like “Top military officials have said that they are open to sending more U.S. troops to Iraq if there is a specific strategic mission for them.” Consider the process here. It’s not that the president has some policy initiative in mind whose operational requirements dictate a surge in force levels. Rather, locked in the prison of his own denial he came to the conclusion that he should back an escalation, prompting the current search for a mission.

More here, including this excellent point:

With President Bush leaning toward sending more soldiers to pacify Iraq, his defense secretary is privately opposing the buildup.

According to two administration officials who asked not to be named, Robert Gates expressed his skepticism about a troop surge in Iraq on his first day on the job, December 18, at a Pentagon meeting with civilians who oversee the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines.

The view of the new defense secretary appears to be at odds with the leanings of Mr. Bush, who is expected to announce a new troop surge when he unveils his new war strategy next month.

I hate to sound picky, but isn’t this the kind of story that the media should pick up on? A highly controversial policy move in the midst of a highly controversial war has divided the president and his Pentagon chief. Shouldn’t this, you know, spark a few questions?

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 3:25 pm

Killing the FDA, little by little

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Dianne Feinstein put in an earmark for the Western Center for Food Safety and Defense at UC-Davis, which would have been the first FDA-affiliated such center on the West Coast. The earmark was killed by Rep. John Doolittle, R-CA—who’s rather fond of earmarks on the whole. Read the story.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 3:12 pm

And now the Alexander Hamilton savings plan

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I blogged earlier about three of The Simple Dollar’s savings plans. Now here’s a fourth.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Daily life

What happens when you quit smoking

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From Dumb Little Man; he has even more.

20 Minutes After Quitting
* Your heart rate drops.

12 hours After Quitting
* Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

2 Weeks to 3 Months After Quitting
* Your heart attack risk begins to drop.
* Your lung function begins to improve.

1 to 9 Months After Quitting
* Your Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

1 Year After Quitting
* Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.

5 Years After Quitting
* Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker’s 5-15 years after quitting.

10 Years After Quitting
* Your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker’s.
* Your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.

15 Years After Quitting
* Your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a nonsmoker’s.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

The Moleskine plus Getting Things Done

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What a combo. If you’re a GTD fan and/or a Moleskine fan, take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Daily life

Wash your hands

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This, for example. And also this story:

A study by Johns Hopkins researchers offers strong evidence that careful adherence to a few simple and cheap procedures – as basic as hand-washing – can drastically reduce the spread of infection in hospitals.

The Hopkins researchers tracked infection rates in Michigan hospitals that had agreed to institute strict safety practices for catheters, which are small tubes inserted into patients’ veins. Used to administer medication and nutrients to some patients, the tubes can also be the source of life-threatening infections.

A year and a half after the changes were made, the rates of catheter-related bloodstream infections dropped by 66 percent, according to the study, published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The results are pretty breathtaking,” said Dr. Peter Pronovost, the lead author and a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine. “The numbers of infections went down quickly and they stayed down.”

He said the catheter protocols studied in Michigan hold broader lessons for curbing the spread of germs in hospitals nationwide.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 90,000 Americans die every year from infections they contract while hospitalized.

Public outcry in Maryland and elsewhere led the General Assembly to pass a law last spring requiring certain health care facilities to track and report hospital-acquired infections.

Because many such infections are thought to result from antibiotic-resistant organisms, hospitals have been searching for ways to prevent the spread of the germs without relying on drugs.

Last summer, Franklin Square Hospital and Johns Hopkins began a two-year pilot project to test methods that include stricter hygiene protocols.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 11:07 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Megs trying to take a nap (for God’s sake)

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I think Megs is cute, so I get trigger-happy with the camera from time to time. She was napping, and I started snapping. As you can see, by the third photo she was waking up, somewhat cranky, I think.

Megs nap 1 Megs nap 2 Megs nap 3

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 10:55 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

What is a conservative—part the first

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I suppose I’ll have to parcel this essay out little by little, since otherwise I’ll never get it done. It is based on my own thinking and experience, not research, so evaluate it carefully—as, indeed, you do with everything you read, right?

My initial effort was to start with what a principled conservative and principled liberal would agree on:

Occasionally I let fly at the current GOP, but I don’t dismiss true conservatism (as opposed to the dishonesty, corruption, and naked pursuit of power we’ve seen from the GOP in recent years). I thought it might be appropriate to talk about what (in my view) a true conservative represents. Since I’m trying to describe a position I don’t altogether hold, I will inevitably miss some things, so please feel free to comment to better shape this image.

First, of course, the true conservative and the true liberal share certain values. Honesty, for one, and a respect for the individual citizen. A willingness to argue honestly and openly in support of his or her positions, and to listen and consider the arguments from those who disagree, and to seek principled compromises that will accommodate, to the extent possible, the interests (though not necessarily the positions) of all parties. An avid interest in facts and accurate and measured outcomes of programs, to learn what works and what does not.

Both conservatives and liberals have profound respect for the principles set forth in the historic documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, the critical decisions of the Supreme Court. Both conservatives and liberals adhere to the rule of law, though of course both are involved in creating and changing laws. As part of their respect, both work to learn more about the country’s history and actions, and to insure that its citizens are similarly informed.

Both, I think, believe that it is illegal, immoral, and injurious to the Republic to discriminate for or against people because of their religion, their racial or ethnic identity, their sex, their age (save for the discriminations involved in protecting minors), their affectional preferences.

Both believe strongly in rights of privacy—the conservative because of holding strong views that government powers must be limited for the good of the Republic, and the liberal because of having great concern for individual welfare.

Both recognize the fact and presence of prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance in the US, and both work to fight those forces wherever possible.

At that point I got stuck. I realized that in fact principled conservatives had strongly opposed parts of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and had fought strongly against civil rights of various sorts, including Voting Rights Act of 1965. Indeed, principled conservatives have long demonized the American Civil Liberties Union, which goes to court frequently on cases involving the Bill of Rights.

Then The Wife pointed out that conservatives really do have a different worldview, which reminded me of this post on the psychology of conservatism.

In restarting my analysis, I came up with this: conservatives believe deeply in a hierarchical structure, which brings clarity and order to things that might otherwise be disorderly and even chaotic. Orderliness is, indeed, a major virtue. I still recall the shock I got years ago in Iowa. I had been to several Democratic party caucuses, but, seduced by the GOP’s John Anderson, I attended a Republican caucus. I was stunned at how orderly and organized it was: Robert’s Rules, no interruptions, decorum so thick you could cut it with a knife. Very, very different.

A hierarchical structure can exist only if those lower in the hierarchy heed—and trust—those above them. Thus conservatives trust and respect the leaders to a much greater degree than, I think, do liberals, who tend to speak their minds and hold strongly to the sanctity of the individual.

This conservative distaste for disorderliness leads to a distaste for freedom of speech if that speech seems “out of line”—that is, counter to the consensus. The same for freedom of religion: it’s okay (for a conservative) if your religion is similar to his, but if your religion is very different, thus counter to the consensus, it’s a threat to order. Thus the conservatives are beside themselves at businesses that say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”—they are recognizing minority religions, which should be crushed instead (in the eyes of conservatives).

Dissent, which by definition is speech and action against the consensus, thus strikes conservatives as something that should be punished, not protected. Thus the conservative has a continuing difficulty with the Bill of Rights (and the ACLU). See, as an excellent example, Glenn Greenwald’s post today.

This respect for and trust of hierarchy explains, I think, many otherwise incomprehensible attitudes of conservatives. For example, conservatives are always eager to trust businesses to do what is right, to embrace voluntary guidelines, in spite of the experience of decades that businesses cannot be trusted, but must be regulated with laws and watched closely.

More anon.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 10:30 am

Posted in GOP

Losers of 2006

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Steve Gilliard posts his list of the biggest losers of 2006, along with his reasons for his choices. Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life

The media, so often misled

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And so often misleading. Read today’s The Daily Howler. In fact, that’s a blog worth daily reading, if you want to get a true taste of the media’s problems. Today’s column is particularly good on the Whitewater hoax, the pseudo-scandal that consumed millions of taxpayer dollars and delivered nothing—well, a sexual presidential peccadillo and an impeachment farce. The GOP is, of course, strongly opposed (now) to any talk of impeachment, any investigation of a president, yada yada yada.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 9:44 am

Posted in GOP, Media

Moon over Andromeda

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Take a look at this photo of the moon over Andromeda—click it a couple of times to see the full expansive size.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 9:38 am

Posted in Science

Cloned animals in the food supply

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I have to admit that I haven’t had much negative reaction to date in reading that the FDA will allow clones of animals to be sold as food. Identical twins are clones, for example, and if one is suitable for food, so is the other. But Asymptotia points out some things I hadn’t considered. Read it over. It reflects one thing long observed: businesses do not want consumers to have information about what they’re buying. Businesses say, “Trust us. You know if we don’t do a good job for you, the market will [eventually, maybe] punish us.” But, like most consumers, I’d rather have written specifications, regulations, and laws to keep businesses in line—and I want information.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 9:32 am

Search site for kids

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Just in time for The Elder Grandson, who is going on-line soon: this search site designed for kids.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 9:13 am

Posted in Software

The Dept of Homeland Security is a bad joke

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About time for Michael Chertoff to get a Medal of Freedom:

The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that it is investigating how four handguns recently went missing from its headquarters in Northwest Washington.

Jarrod Agen, a department spokesman, said the guns belonged to Paragon Systems of Chantilly, which provides security for the department’s facility on Nebraska Avenue NW.

“DHS is investigating the report,” Agen said. “Paragon guns do not belong to DHS nor are they under the control of DHS.”

A person familiar with the investigation and who requested anonymity while the probe is underway said four .40-caliber handguns vanished about two weeks ago from a vault where Paragon security officers store their weapons.

Attempts to reach Paragon officials for comment yesterday afternoon and evening were unsuccessful.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 9:11 am

Nice portal/homepage for you

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Netvibes offers an interesting and comprehensive homepage/portal you can customize to your taste. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 8:49 am

Posted in Software

Extremely cool greasemonkey script for del.icio.us

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As you have undoubtedly noticed, most Web sites now sport a little icon at the left of the address bar. Firefox brings these into the bookmarks, and they’re quite useful for quickly spotting a site—indeed, the icon by itself can often serve as the site identifier in the bookmarks toolbar, with no text at all.

Now someone’s written a greasemonkey script that shows the icons when you look at a del.icio.us page. You will previously have to have installed the greasemonkey add-on for Firefox, but you probably have that done already to make your use of Google Reader more efficient, using the greasemonkey script for that.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 8:42 am

Posted in Firefox, Software

Interesting food question: what to have on hand?

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Over at AskMeFi, someone asked:

What are ten (give or take a few) ingredients that are handy to always have on hand to cook a good meal?

I love to cook, but I just don’t have the time to sit down every week to plan meals in advance. I try to make a big grocery shopping trip every couple of weeks or so. What are some ingredients (both perishable and non-perishable) that tend to show up in a lot of recipes or can be adapted to make simple meals?

Some more information: I eat meat, but don’t require it in every meal. I love all different types of foods, and suggestions specific to certain types of cooking would be appreciated.

Good question. My answer might be: dried beans (of various sorts, including lentils), pasta (whole wheat and/or Barilla Plus), olive oil, good spice drawer (turmeric, cayenne, crushed red pepper, thyme, marjoram, chili powder, curry powders, basil, tarragon, Chinese 5-spice, etc.), salt, pepper, canned diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, chicken breast, turkey breast slices, pork (e.g., boneless loin chops), greens (kale, collards, etc.), cabbage and/or broccoli, lemons, balsamic vinegar. That would make quite a few meals.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 7:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

The Bush Administration vs. oversight

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I’m still working on my profile of a principled conservative, but it’s slow going. I’m beginning to realize that comparing liberals and conservatives is like comparing (to coin a figure) apples and oranges. As The Wife pointed out, conservatives approach things with a completely different worldview, one in which actions strange from the liberal viewpoint make sense.

But the gang of thugs that parade under the banner of the GOP are not conservatives, as is revealed by their fiscal policies (spend, spend, spend—and cut taxes the wealthy would pay) and their corrupt affiliation with big business via K Street and directly. They are thugs—a corrupt dishonest bunch whose only goal is to seize more and more power.

For example:

The inspectors general entrusted to unearth waste, fraud and abuse in federal agencies are increasingly under attack, as top government officials they scrutinize try to erode the watchdogs’ independence and authority.

During 2006, several inspectors general felt the wrath of government bosses or their supporters in Congress after investigations cited agencies for poor performance, excessive spending or wasted money.

For instance:

* The top official of the government’s property and supply agency compared its inspector general to a terrorist, hoping to chill audits of General Services Administration regional offices and private businesses.

* Directors of the government’s legal aid program discussed firing their inspector general, who investigated how top officials lavishly spent tax dollars for limousine services, ritzy hotels and $14 “Death by Chocolate” desserts.

* Administration-friendly Republicans in Congress tried to do away with the special inspector general for Iraq, who repeatedly exposed examples of administration waste that cost billions of dollars. Among the contractors criticized was Halliburton Corp., once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

* The Pentagon has been making its inspector general use lawyers picked by the defense secretary instead of independently hired attorneys.

“It’s hard to believe that the government is serious about policing itself when it’s whacking the people who are actually minding the store,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that tracks government waste and fraud. “These people are our security officers who help guard tens of billions of dollars. It’s ridiculous to prevent them from doing their jobs.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2006 at 7:32 am

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