Later On

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

Archive for August 17th, 2007

Military blogs NOT a big risk

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Contradicting previous claims by the military that soldier’s personal blogs (milbogs) “needlessly place lives at risk,” a series of audits by the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell between January 2006 and January 2007 “suggests that official Defense Department websites post material far more potentially harmful than anything found on a individual’s blog.” The audits found “found at least 1,813 violations of operational security policy on 878 official military websites” compared to “28 breaches, at most, on 594 individual blogs during the same period.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 4:10 pm

Miss Megs at the vet

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First vet visit in a long time. One thing was she occasionally walks oddly, throwing one leg out a bit. Joint problem? (Probably not—she doesn’t show any evidence of pain, and the veg felt her back leg and hip joints throughly and she didn’t complain.) Fleas? Yep, though very light infestation. Still…  Advantage every four weeks.

Megs made no sound on the drive to the vet or on the drive home, no sound in the vet office. She really wanted to get down, but was surprisingly cooperative. Very quiet kitty. Still 9 lbs, which has been her weight for three years or so.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

CCTV surveillance and crime rates

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How I hate reporting in which the obvious question is ignored! Case in point: in the current issue of The Week, Susan Caskie comments:

But the paranoid among us can take solace in the fact that the U.S. is not the most spied-upon country in the democratic world. That would be Britain. The United Kingdom started installing hundreds of thousands of video surveillance cames in the 1990s, aup the program as a crime-fighting measure, and it ramped up the program immediately after 9/11. The country is now studded with some 4.2 million cameras—more than the rest of Europe put together—to watch a population of 60 million. [Hello, George Orwell. – LG] On average, each British subject is caught on film 300 times a day, in all sorts of activities, from trying on clothes to vomiting outside the pub.

The obvious question, unasked and unanswered by Caskie, is: Does it work? Has the crime rate declined with all this surveillance? Why the question did not occur to her, I have no idea, but I did a little googling and found this report (PDF file), which includes this passage:

Surveillance and the crime rate

Read the whole report for more.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 2:09 pm

Playing Christmas carols the hard way

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Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Music, Video

Astra Superior Platinum update

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I received the Astra Superior blades from Barber Depot, and they seem to be identical to the ones from Razor and Brush. I have not shaved with them as yet, though.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Shaving

Become vegetarian the easy way

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Very interesting post on how to make the transition from omnivore to herbivore.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 12:12 pm

Knife sharpening

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Good video on sharpening a knife, via Slashdot. Unfortunately the guy is a language vandal: casual, pointless use of obscenity, thus draining the words of their life and power. Still, good instructions.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: See this comprehensive post on knife sharpening systems.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 12:08 pm

Food notes

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Last night I cooked some turkey necks. I used to get these for 50¢ a pound, but someone must have let the cat out of the bag, and the latest ones were $1.30/lb. Very tasty, lots of meat. I simmer them for three hours in water to which I’ve added the juice of 2-3 lemons (acid to help break down cartilage), star anise (The Wife likes), and whole cloves and whole allspice (The Eldest suggests using whenever possible or you’ll go to your grave with full jars of them).

Then I let them cool, and this morning picked all the meat off the bones. I usually make turkey-neck soup. As you’ve gathered, my approach to recipes is casual and improvisational, which is fine except when you get the perfect soup—which, according to The Wife—I did one time with the turkey-neck soup. Of course, I have never been able to duplicate it. So it goes.

This time, though, I’m going to use the meat in stir-fries of sorts, so I used the stock to cook some beans. You don’t need to soak beans before cooking—just cook them longer. According to Cook’s Illustrated, the beans have more flavor if you don’t soak them, and I think that’s particularly true if you’re cooking them in a stock. I used some cranberry beans I had on hand.

And another note: the chia seed is fine—not really much taste, for all its nutritional excellence. I decided I’d just add 2 Tbs (1/2 a serving) to the morning cereal. So the cereal now consists of 1/3 cup oat groats and 1 Tbs flaxseed, simmered for 45 minutes in 1 cup of water over low heat, uncovered. I then add 2 Tbs chia seed, 1 Tbs blackstrap molasses, 1/2 oz. walnut pieces, and a good slug of pepper sauce. Stir it all up, and you have quite a healthful breakfast.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 11:56 am

Please test before release, part 2

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Now Skype has done it. I downloaded and installed the latest release of Skype, which has many nice new features, and found it couldn’t connect. Moreover, I couldn’t even submit a trouble report—the box where you describe the problem (required) is blocked so that you can’t make an entry. Looking at their forum, I discovered why:

Hello everyone,

Apologies for the delay, but we can now update you on the Skype sign-on issue. As we continue to work hard at resolving the problem, we wanted to dispel some of the concerns that you may have. The Skype system has not crashed or been victim of a cyber attack. We love our customers too much to let that happen. This problem occurred because of a deficiency in an algorithm within Skype networking software. This controls the interaction between the user’s own Skype client and the rest of the Skype network.

Rest assured that everyone at Skype is working around the clock — from Tallinn to Luxembourg to San Jose — to resume normal service as quickly as possible.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 10:59 am

Posted in Skype, Software

Bizarre: pastors co-opted for government takeover

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This is just plain weird—has the Federal government gone totally insane? Take a look:

A shocking KSLA news report has confirmed the story we first broke last year, that Clergy Response Teams are being trained by the federal government to “quell dissent” and pacify citizens to obey the government in the event of a declaration of martial law.

In May 2006, we exposed the existence of a nationwide FEMA program which is training Pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to “obey the government” in preparation for the implementation of martial law, property and firearm seizures, mass vaccination programs and forced relocation.

A whistleblower who was secretly enrolled into the program told us that the feds were clandestinely recruiting religious leaders to help implement Homeland Security directives in anticipation of a potential bio-terrorist attack, any natural disaster or a nationally declared emergency.

The first directive was for Pastors to preach to their congregations Romans 13, the often taken out of context bible passage that was used by Hitler to hoodwink Christians into supporting him, in order to teach them to “obey the government” when martial law is declared.

It was related to the Pastors that quarantines, martial law and forced relocation were a problem for state authorities when enforcing federal mandates due to the “cowboy mentality” of citizens standing up for their property and second amendment rights as well as farmers defending their crops and livestock from seizure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 10:27 am

Cool motorcycle

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Go take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 10:21 am

Posted in Techie toys, Technology

A little jazz break with Dinah Washington

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From the movie Jazz on a Summer’s Day:

And a younger Dinah:

And her signature tune:

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 10:14 am

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Italic handwriting

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A recipient of an inscribed copy of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving commented that his wife admired my handwriting, so I thought I should post something about it. I’ll include links to instructional books (generally to inexpensive secondhand copies) and to stores that sell good pens.

I will distinguish italic handwriting (aka chancery cursive) from italic calligraphy. In calligraphy, as I use the term, letters are more drawn than written, and every stroke is pulled—no pushing. In handwriting, you’re simply doing the usual handwriting thing, though (for italic) with a specific pen point, letter shape, and angle. Technically, “calligraphy” means “beautiful writing,” so would apply to handwriting as well as to formal calligraphy, and others don’t necessarily make the distinction that I do.

I became interested in italic handwriting from an article in the New Yorker “Talk of the Town” section around 1962 or early 1963. The article was about Paul Standard, an American calligrapher, who waxed enthusiastic about the virtues of italic handwriting: legible and attractive handwriting that doesn’t break down and become illegible with speed. So I immediately bought a book (John Le F. Dumpleton’s Teach Yourself Handwriting) and an Osmiroid pen with italic nibs and taught myself.

It turns out to be easy, though some people seem to be queasy about changing their handwriting, fearing (of all things) that it will change their character or personality or some such. Weird.

Making the change is simply a matter of practice. In the fall of 1963, I was in graduate school, and I decided to take all my course notes in italic—lots of practice, willy nilly. I would focus on a single letter, and whenever I wrote that letter I would take pains to get it right. Gradually, letter by letter, my handwriting improved and established itself as a habit. In addition to the class notes, I also did some structured practice, using a trace-and-copy workbook by Fred Eager.

Italic handwriting has three components:

  1. the pen point, which is square-cut;
  2. the angle at which you hold the point (45º, so that a written “+” has the upright and crossbar the same width); and
  3. the shapes of the letters, so that the shading, which results from the point held at the correct angle, looks good.

Obviously, you also need paper that takes ink well and a good ink that will feed well.

Left-handers use the same point as right-handers, except left-handers hold the paper horizontally and write vertically down the page. This results in the proper angle for the point and the proper shading of the letters. Again, it’s simply a matter of practice. I introduced italic handwriting at a day school in Annapolis (grades K-8 at the time), and all the children learned it, including the left-handers, who were rather delighted by their classmates’ amazement at their skill at writing vertically. With the vertical orientation, left-handers enjoy the same comfortable position of the hand as right-handers, and their hand similarly rests on the unwritten portion of the sheet, rather than (in the usual cramped left-handed writing position) being dragged across the wet ink.

I should mention that having the children learn italic handwriting was a stroke of marketing genius. Their parents (who paid the bills) were tremendously impressed with their children’s handwriting and had visible evidence of the effectiveness and quality of the school’s instruction. 🙂

I later got another book—one I highly recommend—and it showed me some mistakes I had been making with certain letters—lowercase “p” in particular. The book is Italic Handwriting, by Tom Gourdie. In this book, as in Dumpleton’s, samples of italic handwriting by various people are included, so that you can see the variety (and copy letter shapes you like). Gourdie’s book includes a valuable section on common mistakes, and he also teaches a hand without the swash serifs that Dumpleton uses and that tend to present difficulties.

Peter Rudland’s From Scribble to Script is interesting. It’s aimed directly at helping adults reform their handwriting. And George L. Thomson’s Better Handwriting is a short Penguin book that has many excellent examples and also a valuable little template: trace it, cut it out and glue as indicated, and you have a model that shows the exact angle (angle to the paper and also the angle to the writing line) at which to hold the pen.

In Oregon there’s been an italic handwriting revival, using instructional materials and workbooks developed by Barbara Getty. You can order the books here. I have not used these, but trace-and-copy workbooks are quite useful.

The shape of the letters, together with the italic point, makes an attractive shading. Moreover, the italic point guides your hand and resists movements in the wrong direction, unlike a ballpoint or rollerball, which provides no guiding feedback—one direction’s as easy as another with those pens, so using them often leads to degraded penmanship.

Some pen manufacturers provide italic points, though you must specifically request them. Sometimes they are called “italic” points (“broad italic,” “medium italic,” and the like), and sometimes they are called “stub” points. Sheaffer, for example, uses the “stub” designation, and it’s quite a nice point. Parker uses “italic.” Pelikan doesn’t make a point that fits the bill, but John Mottishaw custom grinds pens to a square italic point. I have a number of Mottishaw points, and they’re excellent. I send him a Pelikan pen (the M800 is my favorite) with a Broad point, and the pen is returned with the broad modified to a square italic point. Take a look. Pelikan pens are particularly nice in that the nib units screw out, so you can have different nibs for the same pen. Mottishaw also sells pens with the points already customized: no waiting.

You might want to try grinding your own  point. Here’s how.

You can also find inexpensive (and thus not quite so good) italic pen sets and materials in any good art supply store and in stores that specialize in fountain pens. These sets are very good for the beginner since they typically include nibs of different widths. Sets made by Sheaffer, Parker, or Platignum are available. They are often called “calligraphy” sets, but with a fountain pen they are really designed for handwriting, rather than formal calligraphy (usually done with a dip pen).

There are a variety of good inks. I like Waterman Florida Blue, a washable ink with a very nice color. If you need permanence, the most permanent I have found is Doctor Black, made in China. It resists sunlight, water, and everything else — a good ink for a journal, for example.

A good pen store will let you try the pen, and will quite happily order the pen with the point you specify (e.g., a Sheaffer with a stub point). Here are some good dealers who sell over the Web, in their store, and by mail. The Fountain Pen Hospital catalog is especially useful, so you may want to request a copy:

UPDATE: Via Google, italic handwriting worksheets.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 10:06 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Writing

End of the Rose road

with 2 comments

I think I’ve used the last of my Rose shaving creams and soaps, so now this series ends. This morning it was Geo. F. Trumper Rose shaving cream, a highly pigmented cream so not to be used with a silvertip brush—it would become a rosetip brush. I used my dark brown Plisson from Paris, and got a wonderful lather—the lather’s perfectly white, of course, and quite rosy in fragrance.

I used a Gillette NEW with an Astra Keramik Platinum blade, and it was as smooth as one could desire. Maybe it’s that thing where the second shave is even better than the first? At any rate, extremely smooth and nice shave, followed by New York aftershave, a creation of Parfums de Nicolaï. Note the diaresis over the i, which means that the i is to be pronounced separately, rather than “ai” being a diphthong (Cf. Zoë, coöperate). And yet if the “i” is pronounced as one expects (like the “i” in “machine”), it amounts to the diphthong anyway. Very curious. Could it be the hand of a marketer at work?

I should specifically mention from time to time that I always now wash my beard at the sink with Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil pre-shave soap, and that practice has, for me, noticeably improved the quality of my shave. Wash, partially rinse with a splash of warm water, and lather.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2007 at 8:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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