Later On

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

Archive for July 7th, 2007

Beautiful galaxy

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Click the image to get full screen, then click again for actual pixels. We are a tiny part of all that is.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in Science

The sadness of the passing of a friend

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Alert Reader, I just learned through a phone call from his daughter, has passed away. It was quite sudden—a heart attack while he was on vacation in Hawaii. I’ve known him for 23 years, and we were close.

It was said in ancient Greece to count no man happy until he has died. That is, whether his life as a whole was happy can only be determined once his life has been completed. I believe that Steven had a happy life. He had trials, but he always surmounted them. He paid attention to the people he loved, and he found projects and activities that were fulfilling and emotionally rewarding. He had a wonderful close relationship, and he was especially proud of his daughter and his granddaughter.

I’ll miss him. And I’m glad that his life was happy.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2007 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life

“Fast” broadband in US is slow

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Via Scott Feldstein, this story on how the Internet is slow in the US:

The USA trails other industrialized nations in high-speed Internet access and may never catch up unless quick action is taken by public-policymakers, a report commissioned by the Communications Workers of America warns.

The median U.S. download speed now is 1.97 megabits per second — a fraction of the 61 megabits per second enjoyed by consumers in Japan, says the report released Monday. Other speedy countries include South Korea (median 45 megabits), France (17 megabits) and Canada (7 megabits).

“We have pathetic speeds compared to the rest of the world,” CWA President Larry Cohen says. “People don’t pay attention to the fact that the country that started the commercial Internet is falling woefully behind.”

Speed matters on the Internet. A 10-megabyte file takes about 15 seconds to download with a 5-megabit connection — fast for the USA. Download time with a 545-kilobit connection, about the entry-level speed in many areas: almost 2½ minutes.

Broadband speed is a function of network capacity: The more capacity you have, the more speed you can deliver. Speed, in turn, allows more and better Internet applications, such as photo sharing and video streaming. Superfast speeds are imperative for critical applications such as telemedicine.

In recent years, communities also have found that good broadband is essential to draw businesses and jobs.

For all those reasons, Cohen says, it is important for policymakers to act now: “In order to maintain our place in today’s global economy — and to create the jobs we need — our government must act.”

The CWA report is based on input from 80,000 broadband users (less than 5% of respondents used dial-up). In addition to drawing comparisons with other countries, the report ranks U.S. states on median download speeds. (Upload speeds are also rated.)

The Federal Communications Commission, which has broad sway over the emerging broadband market, defines “high speed” as 200 kilobits per second. The benchmark was adopted more than a dozen years ago when still-slower dial-up was the rule. Cohen says 200 kilobits is not even recognized as broadband in most countries today. “There is nothing speedy about it.”

At the link, you can find how states rank. California is 36th (36th!!!) at 1.520 mbps. The top 5:

  1. Rhode Island (5.011 mbps)
  2. Kansas (4.167)
  3. New Jersey (3.680)
  4. New York (3.436)
  5. Massachusetts (3.004)

Worst: Alaska (0.545) and South Dakota (0.825). And, to repeat:

Japan (61 mbps)
South Korea (45)
France (17)
Canada (7)

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2007 at 9:17 am

Maybe Fred was lying…

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Very bizarre thing: Fred Thompson is claiming that he never did the lobbying for which he billed the client. Some pieces from a story in the LA Times:

Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.

His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.

The abortion “gag rule” was then a major political flashpoint. Lobbying against the rule would have placed Thompson at odds with the antiabortion movement that he is now trying to rally behind his expected declaration of a presidential bid.

Thompson spokesman Mark Corallo adamantly denied that Thompson worked for the family planning group. “Fred Thompson did not lobby for this group, period,” he said in an e-mail.

In a telephone interview, he added: “There’s no documents to prove it, there’s no billing records, and Thompson says he has no recollection of it, says it didn’t happen.” In a separate interview, John H. Sununu, the White House official whom the family planning group wanted to contact, said he had no memory of the lobbying and doubted it took place.

But Judith DeSarno, who was president of the family planning association in 1991, said Thompson lobbied for the group for several months.

Minutes from the board’s meeting of Sept. 14, 1991 — a copy of which DeSarno gave to The Times — say: “Judy [DeSarno] reported that the association had hired Fred Thompson Esq. as counsel to aid us in discussions with the administration” on the abortion counseling rule.

Former Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.), a colleague at the lobbying and law firm where Thompson worked, said that DeSarno had asked him to recommend someone for the lobbying work and that he had suggested Thompson. He said it was “absolutely bizarre” for Thompson to deny that he lobbied against the abortion counseling rule.

“I talked to him while he was doing it, and I talked to [DeSarno] about the fact that she was very pleased with the work that he was doing for her organization,” said Barnes. “I have strong, total recollection of that. This is not something I dreamed up or she dreamed up. This is fact.”

DeSarno said that Thompson, after being hired, reported to her that he had held multiple conversations about the abortion rule with Sununu, who was then the White House chief of staff and the president’s point man on the rule.

Thompson kept her updated on his progress in telephone conversations and over meals at Washington restaurants, including dinner at Galileo and lunch at the Monocle, she said. At one of the meals, she recalled, Thompson told her that Sununu had just given him tickets for a VIP tour of the White House for a Thompson son and his wife.

“It would be an odd thing for me to construct that thing out of whole cloth,” DeSarno said. “It happened, and I think it’s quite astonishing they’re denying it.”

Sununu said in a telephone interview: “I don’t recall him ever lobbying me on that at all. I don’t think that ever happened. In fact, I know that never happened.” He added that he had “absolutely no idea” whether Thompson had met with anybody else at the White House, but said it would have been a waste of time, given the president’s opposition to abortion rights.

In response to Sununu’s denial, DeSarno said Thompson “owes NFPRHA a bunch of money” if he never talked to Sununu as he said he had.

At the time, Thompson was a lobbyist and lawyer “of counsel” to the Washington firm of Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn.

DeSarno said the family planning association paid the firm for Thompson’s work. Marc L. Fleischaker, chairman of Arent Fox, declined to comment.

Occam’s razor suggests that this can best be explained through having just one liar in the mix: Fred C. Thompson. If he lied about contacting Sununu (which would explain Sununu’s saying that Thompson never approached him or talked to him about the matter), just to pocket the fees, that would mean all the others in the mix could be telling the truth: Thompson accepted the assignment, told them he was lobbying Sununu (even though he wasn’t), and took the money. And, of course, now caught, he lies again. Interesting. Think of it: a Republican who lies. Inconceivable.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2007 at 8:46 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Georgian morning

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This morning I shaved with my Georgian Edwin Jagger razor, and it was extremely nice: the large grip was comfortable, and the customized Merkur Classic head did a fine job—exceptional shave, in fact, perhaps in part due to the fine lather my Sabini ebony-handled brush worked up from Honeybee Sue’s Oceania shea-butter shaving soap. Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather aftershave and—what the hell—Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather cologne. In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say.

Edwin Jagger buys the Classic heads from Merkur, and has them do an extra polishing step. If the head is chrome, it is plated according to Edwin Jagger specifications to match the rest of the Edwin Jagger line. If it is gold plated, the head is shipped to Edwin Jagger, who has it gold plated to their specifications in Sheffield. The result is quite an elegant line of razors, with a variety of handles from which to choose. Those who prefer a larger handle should certainly check out these razors. I just updated the Guide (Edition 1.91) to include a small section on the Edwin Jagger razors.

Written by Leisureguy

7 July 2007 at 7:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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