Later On

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

Archive for June 16th, 2007

Our country and what it does

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Story from the Times Online:

Ahmed Errachidi had never heard the story of Robert the Bruce and the indefatigable spider until this week.

But in the cell blocks of Guantanamo Bay, Inmate 590 learnt the same lesson as the Scottish King, in the same hard way.

Just as the Bruce took heart from the spider, the most inspiring moment in Mr Errachidi’s five-and-a-half years of internment came as he watched a solitary ant’s struggle for life.

The insect was trapped inside the fortified glass dome housing the security camera that watched Mr Errachidi’s every move in his isolation cell. It was trying to climb out, but kept slipping backwards again and again.

The tiny creature’s survival became, at that moment, the most important thing in the world. Mr Errachidi decided to intervene, taking a square of toilet paper, separating it into single ply and rolling it between his palms to form a thin thread.

He slipped the lifeline through a slim gap between the ceiling and the glass and hoped that the ant would find it.

To his delight, it did – climbing on to the paper and walking along it as Mr Errachidi pulled the paper out of the dome. In a matter of moments he had the ant in the palm of his hand and laid it down in a corner where other ants were feeding on the crumbs that he had left them from his meal. “I was so pleased, so excited,” Mr Errachidi said as he described the rescue operation to The Times in his first interview since he was freed from Guantanamo.

“When you’re alone for so long, when it’s only you, you do a lot of thinking. You see things that before you never paid attention to. I learnt a lot from the ants. They were another form of life and reminded me that there was hope. I used to get so angry with the guards when they killed the ants.”

In similar vein, a pebble that fell from the sole of a guard’s boot assumed huge significance when he was in the punishment block.

Apart from himself, the stone was the only nonmetal object in the cell.

It is just six weeks since Mr Errachidi, 41, a chef who worked in London hotels, restaurants and gastro-pubs for 16 years, was released from the camp, where he was interned without charge or trial, at the United States naval base in Cuba.

He was freed after the sole allegation against him – that he had been a senior figure at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in July 2001 – fell apart. The claim came from an unidentified source and was proved false by lawyers from the London-based charity Reprieve.

According to payslips, witness statements and bank records, Mr Errachidi was a long way from Afghanistan during July 2001 – working in the kitchens of the Westbury Hotel, Mayfair. The US military eventually declared Mr Errachidi “approved to leave Guantanamo” – as close as it comes to proclaiming him innocent.

Even though the evidence that could have freed him years ago lay in Britain, and that British officials were aware of its existence, Whitehall had rejected appeals to help him.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 6:23 pm

Amazing film. Watch it.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 2:57 pm

Debunking third-world myths

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Extremely interesting talk, pointed out by a guy in the shaving forum. Alert Reader will be pleased to see that it’s a TED talk.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Some of the mainstream media are good

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Courageous, in fact. Read this:

Miller’s article in the Summer 2006 Issue of Nieman Reports, entitled “A Local Newspaper Endures a Stormy Backlash,” tells an amazing story of how his paper exposed Boy Scout pedophiles and those who failed to kick them out of the scouting program,” and how “three of our community’s big forces…the community’s majority religion, the richest guys in town, and the conservative machine that controls Idaho,” tried to punish the paper for doing so. Why? Because Miller and his team chose “to tell the story of powerless people who’d been hurt by powerful people who counted on the public never learning what they’d done.”

Here’s what happened: after receiving a tip that a pedophile caught at a local scout camp in 1997 had not two victims (as the paper reported at the time) but actually dozens, Post Register reporters went to the courthouse to look for a civil suit filed by victims, only to be told that there was no such case. They later learned that the national Boy Scouts of America and its local Council had hired two of Idaho’s best-connected law firms to seal the files –thus covering up the entire affair.

Or so they thought… But the Post Register went to court and “dragged the case file into the light of day.” What reporters found astonished them; scout leaders had been warned about the pedophile years earlier, but hired him (again!) anyway. Lawyers for the Boy Scouts knew about more victims, but never told those boys’ parents. Top local and national leaders of the Mormon Church, which sponsors almost all area scout troops, had also been warned.

The Post Register ran a six-day series about the affair. The first story featured a 14-year-old camper – “the son of a Mormon seminary teacher and a cinch to become an Eagle Scout” — who forced adult leaders to call the police about the pedophile.

Then the backlash began. Mormon church members were among the first to complain, characterizing the paper’s coverage as an attack on their faith. “The drums banged, and we were flooded with calls and e-mails and letters to the editor from readers who told us that holding the Grand Teton Council accountable was Mormon-bashing,” Miller recounted.

The backlash came as well from advertisers, and the economic pressure built everyday the paper ran the series. “It’s one thing to lose an account when you’re an employee,” Miller wrote. “It’s quite another when you’re also a stockholder; 140 employees hold close to 49 percent of the company’s stock. For many families, this is their retirement.” Nevertheless, he recalled, “Most of what I heard inside our building were words of support.” Publisher Roger Plothow was also staunchly unapologetic throughout, “standing up with a stoic and clear-eyed defense… for the values of journalism.”

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Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Media

Very nice art exhibit

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Take a look (PDF) at the catalogue.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Art

Comment would be superfluous

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Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 9:40 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Judy Miller lives! Here we go again.

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Glenn Greenwald points out that the NY Times seems to have learned nothing from the Judy Miller/Iraq War debacle. They’re reprising the entire performance in the lead-up to the Iran war. Read it here. Are Bush and his cohorts stupid? or crazy? or both? And why can’t the NY Times learn from experience and start actually doing some skeptical journalism?

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 9:30 am

Truly heartwarming

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The telephone salesman opera singer video seemed to me somewhat staged. But this little documentary shows true heart. Thanks to Alert Reader for pointing it out.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 9:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

Some good ideas on eating

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Both some advice and some meal templates. Take a look.

So what would a simplified diet look like? It would have a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, whole grains. Here are some simple meals:

  • Breakfast: Whole-grain cereals (no processed or sugary cereals), fresh homemade bran muffins (use whole-grain flour), homemade granola, fresh fruits, whole-grain toast with almond butter, scrambled tofu (with onions and spices — yum).
  • Lunch: Sandwiches such as turkey or avocado with tomatoes and sprouts on whole wheat bread; pita filled with hummus and tomatoes and sprouts and lettuce; leftover soup or chili.
  • Dinner: Hearty soup (my recipe); homemade vegetarian chili (my recipe) — make a big pot of the easy-to-make chili or soup and it can last for days; hearty salad with nuts and spinach and avocados and lettuce and carrots and a light dressing; steamed veggies with seasoned brown rice (use sesame seeds and tamari and pepper); stir-fry tofu and veggies; veggie burgers with homemade baked fries (slice up potato, drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper); butternut squash with couscous and chutney.
  • Snacks: Fruits, cut-up veggies, nuts, blue corn chips with Newman’s salsa.
  • Treats: Every now and then you need to treat yourself. If you’ve been good, splurge on some crazy fattening dessert. Or treat yourself with little things like a little bit of dark chocolate or berries. Yum.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 8:30 am

Wronger than wrong

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“When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.” – Isaac Asimov

Good article on the degrees of wrongness. Worth reading. Plus it has some good lines.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 8:26 am

Posted in Science

The growing restriction of childhood wandering

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When I was little, I walked all over the town in which I was raised. That wasn’t too far, I suppose: 2400 people. But I could wander freely here and there, from one side of town to another. But that was then. Look at this map of how each generation’s childhood wandering becomes restricted:

Play graphic

The story:

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Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 8:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Great lather, no problems

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I used the G.B. Kent BK4, which has a strong reputation as an excellent brush for soap. It’s not especially stiff or dense, but it really coaxes an immediate and gratifying lather from soap. The soap was QED’s Fresh Limes, which has a wonderful fragrance of crushed fresh limes.

I did try an experiment: putting Proraso Pre- and Post-Shave Cream on my washed and rinsed beard before stepping into the shower. I left it on during the shower, didn’t dry that part of my face, and lathered directly over it. So far as I could tell, no effect on the quality of the shave (I used the HD with the Astra blade again, so I could compare directly). It does have a strongly cooling effect from the menthol and eucalyptus, and one might use it for that. But no help in the shaving department, so far as I could tell. YMMV.

It’s Day 3 of the Astra, and I think it will be a 4-day blade. Very smooth shave, withal. And the Dominica Bay Rum aftershave went well with the Fresh Limes.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2007 at 8:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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