Later On

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

Archive for April 17th, 2007

Cute optical illusion.

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It tricked me.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Daily life

Rent hand-cut jigsaw puzzles

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From Cool Tools:

Lease complex, premium puzzles
ELMS Hand Cut Puzzle Rental Club

Dedicated jigsaw puzzlers know nothing matches the quality (or challenge) of a hand-cut wooden puzzle. But at about $2.00 or so per piece they are outrageously expensive (a 20″ x 24″ 1000-piece puzzle can cost $3,000). ELMS Puzzles solves the dilemma by offering a rental program that lets you keep a puzzle for three months, by which time you should either be done or realize you’ve met your match.

The wooden pieces (unlike cardboard) are very exact in their fitting so you have to be very certain about having the right piece. Also, many are cut with straight lines inside the puzzle — i.e. a piece in the middle won’t have interlocking pieces. Those who do puzzles by putting together the border and working their way in will really be challenged; and many of the pieces are cut in shapes appropriate for the puzzle. For example, a Christmas puzzle will have a piece the shape of a Christmas tree, the shape of a sleigh, the shape of an angel, etc. Oh, and no picture comes with the puzzle for those who “cheat” by looking at the top of the box.

While still not cheap, at $40 – $225 depending on the number of pieces, renting these puzzles becomes affordable for special occasions like family vacations with other puzzle fanatics. There are other companies that sell puzzles (Stave comes to mind from having seen their advertisements in The New Yorker), but ELMS are the only people I know who rent. I like the idea of renting 15 – 20 puzzles for the price of buying one.

I recognize this is not something everyone thinks is sane. Our family members are divided on it, some love them, others think it’s the biggest waste of time known to man. You either like jigsaw puzzles or are bored silly by them, but if you’re a fan you should enjoy the pleasure of a quality hand cut puzzle at least once.

— Julee Bode

ELMS Hand Cut Puzzle Rental Club
$75 (lifetime membership + first 200-piece puzzle)
ELMS Puzzles, Inc.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

Wolfowitz: expertise in corruption

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No wonder Wolfie was so conscious of corruption. Reuters:

The U.S. Defense Department ordered a contractor to hire a World Bank employee and girlfriend of then-Pentagon No. 2 Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 for work related to Iraq, the contractor said on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, said the Defense Department’s policy office directed the company to enter a subcontract with Shaha Riza, under which she spent a month studying ways to form a government in Iraq.

Wolfowitz, a key Iraq war architect who left the Pentagon in 2005 to become president of the World Bank, is already under fire for overseeing a high-paying promotion for Riza after he took the helm of the poverty-fighting global lender.

Senior Democratic congressmen and other critics have pressed demands for his resignation, saying his actions have undermined the campaign against corruption in the developing world that has been a hallmark of his World Bank tenure.

SAIC said Riza’s subcontract lasted from April 25 to May 31, 2003. She was paid expenses but no salary during her trip to Iraq, at her request, according to the contractor.

Melissa Koskovich, a spokeswoman for SAIC, said the contractor “had no role in the selection of the personnel who comprised the Iraq Governance Group under this contract.”

Defense sources said the Pentagon was reviewing the matter.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 3:10 pm

Wow! Very good news on earmarks

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If the GOP really pushed the Democrats into doing this, then good for the GOP (not a phrase I often find myself using). From Associated Press:

Under pressure from GOP conservatives, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee announced new rules Tuesday to overhaul the way lawmakers send taxpayer dollars to their districts and states.

The move by Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., came as conservatives including Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., increased the pressure to change the much-criticized, often secretive way in which “earmarks” are inserted into appropriations legislation.

The rules would require all earmarks — the footnotes in bills that lawmakers use to deliver federal bacon to their states — be clearly identified in documents accompanying appropriations bills. The requesting senator, the recipient of the earmark and its purpose would have to be made public and posted on the Internet.

Senators would also be required to certify that neither they nor their spouses would benefit financially from any earmark.

The idea is that greater openness and public scrutiny of earmarks — which critics often called “pork barrel” spending — would mean some of the more wasteful projects would get killed before being added to legislation.

“The changes that we are making in the appropriations process will help to restore confidence in the Congress,” said Byrd. “We will increase accountability and openness, while we also will work to substantially reduce the number of earmarks in legislation.”

The new rules resemble those passed by the Senate in January as part of an ethics reform bill that has yet to pass the House. But the annual appropriations process gets started next month and Senate Democrats had given no sign they would require changes to the earmarking process absent action on the ethics bill.

Coburn and DeMint had protested that Democrats had signaled they would ignore the rules, and they came to the floor Tuesday to press for broader and stronger earmark reforms, having won a unanimous 98-0 vote in January.

They lost a procedural bid to change Senate rules — a more difficult hurdle than simply altering Appropriations Committee policies — but Byrd’s announcement seemed linked to the conservative duo’s stepped-up efforts.

The Senate earmark reforms have stalled in the House, which has separately imposed new earmark rules on its members.

Coburn noted that the Appropriations Committee had not implemented the reforms when instructing senators on how to officially ask for earmarks. Byrd spokesman Tom Gavin said new instructions would be issued later Tuesday.

Earmarks blossomed under GOP control of Congress, much to the dismay of conservative stalwarts.

The public has been angered by scandals such as the bribery conviction of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., who obtained more than $2.4 million in bribes after using his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to obtain earmarks for defense contractors.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats, GOP

Useful knowledge

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Daily life

Josh and Jonathan on healthcare crisis

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 12:31 pm

Potent reminder re: Virginia Tech Shootings

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In Iraq, shootings like this are a daily occurrence. This does not make the Virginia Tech shooting less monstrous and horrible, but it does help one understand what life in Iraq is like these days. More here.

The profoundly tragic events at Virginia Tech yesterday have produced sorrow and grief across the country. While this massacre deserves the nation’s attention, it is also worth noting that such grief rips apart Iraqi lives nearly every day in the same manner.

University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole pointed out last night on PBS’s Newshour:

Remember that we’re all concerned, as we should be, about these events at Virginia Tech today. In Iraq this is a daily event. Imagine how horrible it would be if this kind of massacre were occurring every single day. And the people of Iraq feel that either the Americans are not stopping it or they’re actually causing it.

Watch it.

Echoing Cole, Iraq Slogger published a post today recounting the brutal scenes of violence that Iraq’s universities have witnessed in recent months:

On Monday, the same day as the Virginia Tech mass shooting, two separate shooting incidents struck Mosul University, one killing Dr. Talal Younis al-Jelili, the dean of the college of Political Science as he walked through the university gate, and another killing Dr. Jaafar Hassan Sadeq, a professor from the Faculty of Arts at the school, who was targeted in front of his home in the al-Kifaat area, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

In January, Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University sufferred a double suicide bombing in January that killed at least 70 people, including students, faculty, and staff. A month later, another suicide bomber struck at Mustansiriya, killing 40.

Kidnappings of students and faculty are another all-too-common occurrence on Iraq’s campuses. Members of the univerisity community have been abducted and murdered for sectarian reasons, or simply held for ransom. […]

In January, students reported that violent events had threatened students that attendance rates at Baghdad University had dropped to six percent.

Earlier this month, the Dr. Qais Jawad al-Azzawi, head of the Geneva-based Committee International Committee of Solidarity with Iraqi Professors said that 232 university professors were killed and 56 were reported missing in Iraq, while more than 3,000 others had left the country after the 2003 invasion.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2007 at 12:24 pm

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