Later On

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

Archive for September 18th, 2007

Two units of blood

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Just back from giving two units of blood via the Alyx machine. So easy, so quick, and so highly valued by the recipient, whoever it may be. Give it a go.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Better Moleskine?

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The Kompagnon Notebook was made when Moleskine was no longer manufactured. Moleskine manufacturing has resumed, but the Kompagnon is still here, and some like it better.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Notebooks

More on arming Iraq’s civil war

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And probably many of those fighting the US. The story:

The grand debate about Gen. David Petraeus’ Capitol Hill testimony last week on U.S. strategy in Iraq focused primarily on troop levels, withdrawal dates and whether Bush’s so-called troop surge was succeeding. But widely overlooked was Petraeus’ sales pitch to lawmakers for one initiative he said will help save the war-torn country: massive arms sales from the U.S. government to Iraq.

“Iraq is becoming one of the United States’ larger foreign military sales customers,” Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 11, noting that Iraq has inked deals to buy $1.6 billion in arms from the U.S., with the “possibility of up to $1.8 billion more.” Data obtained by Salon shows the arms sales could rise far higher than even the amount the general suggested last week.

Petraeus said that the arms sales are an important part of the initiative to keep the Iraqis “rapidly expanding their security forces.” But Petraeus himself presided over an arms debacle in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 in which nearly 200,000 weapons went missing. And while U.S. arms might help the Iraqi security forces “stand up” in the short term, experts warn that the U.S. military could easily lose control over what may follow. Some fear a war zone flooded with weapons that could be turned on U.S. soldiers, or supply huge firepower for a full-blown civil war.

The Pentagon confirmed that this fiscal year, the United States has finalized $1.6 billion in arms sales to Iraq, placing the country in an elite club of weapons buyers. For example, in recent one-year periods Saudi Arabia bought $800 million and Egypt bought $1 billion in arms from the U.S., while Pakistan spent $3.5 billion, including the purchase of jet fighters. “This would put [Iraq] right up there with the top handful of arms buyers,” said William Hartung, a weapons proliferation expert at the New America Foundation.

In fact, the numbers Petraeus presented on Iraq were the tip of the iceberg. According to data obtained by Salon from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency at the Pentagon, which manages the arms sales, the military has alerted Congress to up to $4.3 billion in arms sales that have been under discussion since at least 2006 between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

The arms deals come as the U.S. has shifted strategy to enlist Sunnis in western Iraq — some of them former insurgents — into all-Sunni units of the Iraqi security forces. The fear is that these newly trained and armed units will ultimately turn against the Shiite-dominated central government or against U.S. forces again. “I think this is kind of crazy,” Hartung said about the arms sales. “Now we are making deals with some of these Sunni groups. Well, what if they turn around and go back to being insurgents after we have built them up? I think the danger of these arms being misused, even in the short term, is fairly high.”

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Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 3:08 pm

The US today: Kafkaesque

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And not in the good sense. From the NY Times:

Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.

Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders like Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College at Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where Ms. Ghuman was to have participated last month in the Bard Music Festival, showcasing Elgar’s music.

But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.

The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.

After a year of letters and inquiries, Ms. Ghuman and her Mills College lawyer have been unable to find out why her residency visa was suddenly revoked, or whether she was on some security watch list. Nor does she know whether her application for a new visa, pending since last October, is being stymied by the shadow of the same unspecified problem or mistake.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 3:04 pm

The most corrupt members of Congress

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Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Congress

US arming the civil war in Iraq

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Specifically, we seem to be arming one side of it: the Sunni side (the Baathists were Sunni, Saddam Hussein was Sunni, Al Qaeda is Sunni, Wahhabism is Sunni—and the majority of Iraq is Shi’a). Kevin Drum:

Via Tapped, Noah Shachtman, who’s currently reporting from Iraq, worries about blowback:

Sunni political and tribal leaders are increasingly throwing in their lot with U.S. forces here against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent types. But, to get them to come over to our side, the American military has fed them a steady diet of anti-Shi’ite propaganda.

Arrests and killings of Shi’ite militants are announced from loudspeaker blasts; President Bush’s bellicose rhetoric towards Shi’a Iran is reported on friendly radio programs. But the majority of this country is Shi’ite. Are we setting ourselves up as the enemies of the majority here? Are we priming the pump for an all-in sectarian battle royale? It seems like a possibility.

It’s not clear whether Noah is talking about American actions in Anbar province, in Baghdad, or just in general. But either way, this is the danger of being in the middle of the civil war: it’s pretty much impossible to curry favor with one side for very long without losing the favor of the other side. At the moment, we probably don’t have any choice but to continue our alliance of convenience with the Sunni tribes, but as a long-term strategy it sure doesn’t look like much of a winner.

For more about this from a very senior source, take another look at this post from a couple of weeks ago. Arming the Sunni tribes against the Shiite central government isn’t just an accident, it’s a deliberate part of our strategy. This is not likely to end happily.

And were not the majority of attacks on US forces coming from Sunnis?

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 12:23 pm

Invasion from outer space?

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Maybe the aliens turn out to be viruses:

Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities said Monday.

Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.

Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a “strange odor,” local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.

Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized, Lopez said.

Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) and 20-foot-deep (six-meter-deep) crater, said local official Marco Limache.

“Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned,” he said.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 11:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Wow! Could this be true?

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The Inspectors General, like the Attorney General, are intended to be bastions of integrity, and the persons appointed to such positions are normally carefully selected for their independence and their relevant knowledge and experience as well as their unimpeachable integrity. If such positions collapse, the country is truly in a mess. From the NY Times:

 A top House Democrat has issued an unusually strongly worded letter alleging that the State Department inspector general has interfered repeatedly with investigations into fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he had done so “to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.”

The letter, from Representative Henry Waxman of California, described allegations against the inspector general, Howard Krongard, that Mr. Waxman said covered all major divisions of the inspector general’s office investigations, audits and inspections. It said the assertions came from several current and former employees of that office, who buttressed their charges with e-mail messages.

The letter said that the staff complaints followed Mr. Krongard’s testimony on July 26 to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which Mr. Waxman heads. Some of the complainants had sought “whistleblower” status, which protects government employees who report malfeasance from being punished for doing so. Other allegations came from two former senior officials, the committee said.

The assertions were serious and far-reaching, and included assertions that Mr. Krongard had effectively become a political defender of the administration rather than, as his job is meant to be, a studiedly neutral overseer of its spending and practices.

“One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of U.S. taxpayers,” Mr. Waxman wrote in the letter. Citing information form officials on Mr. Krongard’s staff, he wrote, “Your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.”

Attempts to reach Mr. Krongard for comment were not immediately successful.

The assertions in Mr. Waxman’s letter included these:

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Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 11:18 am

New pencil sharpener

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KUM two-step

That didn’t take long. Pictured is my new KUM pencil sharpener. The transparent lid lifts up to empty shavings. It’s a two-cylinder sharpener: one on the left and one on the right. The left one sharpens the wood and leaves the lead alone—the pencil stops and sharpening ends when the wood is sharp. The right one sharpens the lead—again, the pencil stops and sharpening ends when the lead is sharp. No oversharpening.

It results in a needle point, very nice indeed. A nice pause for one to collect one’s thoughts before resuming…

You can readily buy replacement blades when the original blades become dull.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Notebooks

If your intentions are good, everything’s okay

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That is, if you view your intentions as good, you are allowed to do anything at all. Here’s an example.

The problem with the ends justifying the means is, of course, that most view their own goals and intentions as good and desirable. Thus, for example, torture in the name of democracy.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 10:38 am

Posted in Daily life

For The Wife

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Bacon Chocolate

She’ll like it:

Applewood smoked bacon + Alder smoked salt + deep milk chocolate

Deep milk chocolate coats your mouth and leads to the crunch of smoked bacon pieces. Surprise your mouth with the smoked salt and sweet milk chocolate combination.

Crisp, buttery, compulsively irresistible bacon and milk chocolate combination has long been a favorite of mine. I started playing with this combination at the tender age of six while eating chocolate chip pancakes drenched in maple syrup. Beside my chocolate-laden cakes laid three strips of fried bacon, just barely touching a sweet pool of maple syrup. Just a bite of the bacon was too salty and yearned for the sweet kiss of chocolate syrup. In retrospect, perhaps this was a turning point, for on that plate something magical happened: the beginnings of a combination so ethereal and delicious that it would haunt my thoughts until I found the medium to express it–chocolate.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life, Food

Split-brain demonstration

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When the connection between the left and right hemispheres of the brain are severed (for example, to treat epilepsy, or through an accident), it becomes possible to analyze the functions in the two independent halves. This video demonstrates some of what happens:

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 10:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Starbucks replies

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I sent the content of this post to Starbucks, and I received this reply:

Thanks so much for contacting us.  In regards to your inquiry, the more recent serveware tumblers and cups will show both fl oz and mL.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 9:39 am

Prevent mad-cow disease: smoke pot

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Interesting finding, via The Accidental Hedonist:

 Scientists at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, have found that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, may prevent the development of prion diseases, the most well-known being “mad cow disease” or BSE (bovine spongiforme enzephalopathy).

It is believed that the BSE may be transmitted to humans, where it is known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The condition is often fatal and spreads easily.

“The latest study adds to the huge amount of scientific evidence supporting the medicinal use of cannabis,” said NORML spokesperson Chris Fowlie.

“Green MP Metiria Turei’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis should be supported by any MP with a clear head. Unfortunately most politicians act like mad cows whenever cannabis is mentioned.”

The infectious agent in prion diseases is believed to be a specific type of misfolded protein called prion. Misfolded prion proteins carry the disease between individuals and cause deterioration of the brain.

The French researchers, who noted that CBD may be a promising agent for the treatment of prion diseases, reported that the non-psychoactive cannabis constituent CBD inhibited the accumulation of prion proteins in both mouse and sheep prion-infected cells, whereas other cannabinoids were either weak or not effective.

Moreover, after infection with mouse scrapie, a prion disease, CBD limited accumulation of the prion protein in the brain and significantly increased the survival time of infected mice. CBD inhibited the nerve damaging effects of prions in a concentration-dependent manner.

Source: Dirikoc S, Priola SA, Marella M, Zsuerger N, Chabry J. Nonpsychoactive cannabidiol prevents prion accumulation and protects neurons against prion toxicity. J Neurosci 2007;27(36):9537-44.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 9:20 am

Is the war on moisture ending?

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Action of the European Parliament:

The House adopted a resolution with 464 votes in favour, 158 against and 70 abstentions on the restrictions imposed by the EU on liquids that passengers can take on board aeroplanes. MEPs call upon the Commission to review urgently and – if no further conclusive facts are brought forward – to repeal Regulation (EC) No 1546/2006 (introduction of liquids onto aircraft). The particular amendment on the possible repeal was adopted with 382 votes in favour, 298 against and 15 abstentions.

In the resolution, MEPs express their concern that the costs engendered by the regulation may not be proportionate to the added value achieved by additional security provisions.

The European Parliament supports all security measures against terrorist risks in aviation.  The need for high-quality security is unquestionable.  However, security measures need to be “realistically” designed to minimise the risk and may not be “disproportionate”.

With regard to the liquids regulation, MEPs argue that it causes increased costs to airports and operators as well as to passengers resulting from the confiscation of private property. MEPs also recognise the “substantial inconvenience and disruption” caused to passengers, especially transit passengers.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 9:03 am

Posted in Daily life

Tryphon Rosa Soap

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This morning it was Tryphon Rosa shaving soap, which produced a fine, dense lather via the Simpsons Commodore X3. Then the Gillette English open-comb Executive and a Treet Black Beauty (day 2 on the blade) made quick work of it. Exceptionally smooth shave—maybe sticking with the same razor and blade does work, though I admit it’s hard: all those other razors call to me.

Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner (no alcohol) carried through the rose theme. A very nice shave indeed today.

Written by Leisureguy

18 September 2007 at 8:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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