Later On

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

Archive for September 25th, 2007

It gets uglier and uglier

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The Sunnis, in case you’ve not been following the twists and turns of US “policy” and “strategy”, is the group that the US has been arming in recent months. And now they’re using those arms.

Sunni Arab extremists have begun a systematic campaign to assassinate police chiefs, police officers, other Interior Ministry officials and tribal leaders throughout Iraq, staging at least 10 attacks in the last 48 hours.

Eight policemen have been killed, among them the police chief of Baquba, the largest city in Diyala Province. Two other police chiefs survived attacks, although one was left in critical condition, and about 30 police officers were injured, according to reports from local security officers.

“We warned the government just a few days ago that there is a new plan by terrorist groups to target senior governmental officials, and particularly Interior Ministry officials,” said Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, the deputy interior minister for information and national investigations. The Interior Ministry is dominated by Shiites, as are the security forces, which are widely distrusted by Sunni Arabs.

The Islamic State of Iraq took responsibility on Tuesday for the attack in Diyala, which killed at least 18 people on Monday. The group has ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group whose leadership has foreign ties, according to American intelligence officials.

The latest outbreak of violence follows closely on the concerted efforts of President Bush and Gen. David H. Petraeus to portray the American troop “surge” as having succeeded in bringing more stability to Iraq. Iraqi officials said Tuesday that the attacks might well have been intended to blunt that message.

“The main reason behind all these attacks are the signs of improvement of the security situation mentioned in the Crocker-Petraeus report,” said Tahseen al-Sheikhly, the Iraqi spokesman for the security plan, in a reference to the recent Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and the ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker. “The terrorist groups are just trying to say to the world that the report did not reflect the reality of the security situation in Iraq.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 6:15 pm

Netflix is now truly Netflix

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You can watch movies downloaded from the Internet—all part of your current plan. You can watch a movie not from your DVD queue even if the queue is full (as mine is). If you use Firefox, you do have to use IE Tab to install the software and watch the movie, but that’s not problem. I can’t find how to switch on subtitles yet, so still need to do some experimenting.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Software, Technology

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Beware: OpenOffice bug on Windows, Mac, Linux

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Sounds like it will affect only the careless:

ZDNet UK is reporting that a just-discovered bug in OpenOffice can victimize versions of the software running on Mac and Linux in addition to Windows. The bug allows an attacker to use malformed TIFF images to run malicious code on the user’s computer, ostensibly for the purpose of spreading the malicious code like a trojan. The official explanation of a heap overflow exploit can be found here. (Sounds likes when there’s too much garbage in our can.)

OpenOffice’s developers have not yet released a fix for the bug, but the firm that discovered it is advising OpenOffice users to “be careful” with attachments received from unknown sources. Good advice—whether you run OpenOffice, Microsoft Office, or Wordstar.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Software

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Interesting discussion re: MoveOn.org ad

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Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 1:31 pm

Posted in GOP, Iraq War, Military

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The US today: surveillance of citizens

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It’s not just your phone:

Jennifer Flynn is not a rabble-rouser. She’s not an aspiring suicide bomber. She doesn’t advocate the overthrow of the government. Instead, she pushes for funding and better treatment for people with HIV and AIDS.

Better keep an eye on her.  Wait! Somebody already did.

On the day before a rally by the New York City AIDS Housing Network at the 2004 Republican National Convention – a rally by an organization Flynn co-founded, and a rally that the NYPD had approved – she experienced something straight out of a spy novel.

While visiting her family in Hillside, N.J., Flynn spotted a car with a New York license plate parked outside the house. When she left to head back to her Brooklyn home that evening, the car followed hers. Shortly after leaving Hillside, two more vehicles, also with New York plates, seemed to be tailing her, too.

Trying to assure herself she wasn’t nuts, Flynn tested her hunch – changing lanes, making turns, pulling over and parking. The drivers in those three vehicles mimicked her actions.

At one point, she recalled, she slowed down and one of the other vehicles ended up alongside her car. She looked over to see several men in the vehicle. She gestured toward them. The men “threw up their arms as if to say, ‘We’re only doing what we’re told,'” she remembers.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

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Good book-tools

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Good things to have. I have Book Burro already, and now I’m installing the Library Looup thing.

Book Burro – a Firefox extension that will show prices at the major online bookstores as well as some library availability (through WorldCat). When I’m browsing at Amazon, for example, I can click on the Book Burro panel to see if there’s a lower price elsewhere.

The LibraryLookup bookmarklet sits up on my bookmark toolbar. I can click it anytime I’m at a book page on Amazon to see whether my local library has it (since that library doesn’t show up on WorldCat).

The Library Lookup bookmarklet works great. It opens the catalog in a different window, though, so at first I didn’t realize it was working. Very nice tool.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Books, Firefox, Software

The costs of over-reaction to terrorism

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Via Schneier on Security, this post:

So cholera has now reached Baghdad. That’s not much of a surprise given the utter breakdown of infrastructure. But there’s a reason the cholera is picking up speed now. From the NYT:

“We are suffering from a shortage of chlorine, which is sometimes zero,” Dr. Ameer said in an interview on Al Hurra, an American-financed television network in the Middle East. “Chlorine is essential to disinfect the water.”

So why is there is a shortage? Because insurgents have laced a few bombs with chlorine and the U.S. and Iraq have responded by making it  darn hard to import the stuff. From the AP:

[A World Health Organization representative in Iraq] also said some 100,000 tons of chlorine were being held up at Iraq’s border with Jordan, apparently because of fears the chemical could be used in explosives. She urged authorities to release it for use in decontaminating water supplies.

I understand why Iraq would put restrictions on  dangerous chemicals. And I’m sure nobody intended for the restrictions to be so burdensome that they’d effectively cut off Iraq’s clean water supply. But that’s what looks to have happened. What makes it all the more tragic is that chlorine–for all the hype and worry–is actually a very ineffective booster  for bombsOf the roughly dozen  chlorine-laced bombings in Iraq, it appears  the chlorine has killed exactly nobody.

In other words, the biggest damage from chlorine bombs–as with so many terrorist attacks–has come from overreaction to it. Fear operates as a “force multipier” for terrorists and in this case has helped them cut off Iraq’s clean water. Pretty impressive feat for some  bombs that turned out to be close to duds.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Iraq War

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How to stop a headache before it starts

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From MSNBC. Sounds as though it’s worth a try.

7 a.m.: Abide the alarm
Snoozing in for more than an hour can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle, and anything that tinkers with your body’s natural rhythms may prime you for pain, says Lisa Mannix, M.D., a spokeswoman for the National Headache Foundation in Chicago. Commit to waking up (and going to bed) at the same time every day — yes, that includes weekends, too.

7:45 a.m.: Get caffeinated
If you often have a pick-me-up drink (coffee, tea or soda), by all means keep enjoying it, says Richard Lipton, M.D., professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. Caffeine activates receptors in your brain; skip your fix and your head might surely revolt.

10:45 a.m.: Do a posture check
Are you sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back? If not, readjust. The main sensory nerve in your forehead is rooted in the base of your neck — which is why experiencing muscle tension there or in your shoulders can lead to head pain.

11:30 a.m.: Break for H2O
Doctors know dehydration is a common trigger of headaches. But ask them to explain why, and they have no clear answer. Maybe it hurts their head to think about it too much. Either way, fill up on fluids frequently. Keep a water bottle at your desk, and refill it several times throughout the day.

12:30 p.m.: Skip the sandwich
Certain substances such as nitrates (in lunch meats), tyramine (in soft cheeses) and MSG (in some Chinese dishes) can alter neurotransmitters and spark a migraine in susceptible people. (Download a headache log at Self.com to identify your food triggers.) Have a protein and healthy fat to avoid the sugar crash that a meal of only simple carbs can induce.

3 p.m.: Take a time-out
When you’re overly anxious, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline surge, which prompts your body to pump out sugar. The rapid change in glucose can set you up for pain. But giving yourself a few minutes to decompress can keep stress from getting to you.

6 p.m.:  Slip into your sneakers
Exercise increases circulation, relieves physical and mental tension and improves sleep, all of which help fight off aches. Need to inject excitement into your routine (or start one to begin with)?  Check out the Reach Your Goal plan at Self.com.

8:30 p.m.: Wind down slowly
When you instantly crash on the couch, your brain chemicals continue to rev. That imbalance may contribute to what is called a let-down headache. Because it’s smart to give your body and mind some transition time do a calming activity — try a few stretches, curl up with a book, whatever you like. Come time for bed, you’ll be relaxed, happy and ready for a new day.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

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Bridge memories at IBM

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I was graduated from college in June 1961 and worked that summer at the IBM General Product Development Laboratory in Endicott NY. I was working on the IBM 1410, the newest model of the 1400 line of computers, succeeded by the 360 line with a totally different architecture. (In fact, the president of IBM had to go personally to the 1400 development group and assign its members to various different projects and locales because they wouldn’t stop working on it after the 36o was announced: they were determined that the 1400 would live.)

I recall intensive bridge games among the programmers. This was, in general, before computer science degrees, and the programmers had degrees in a variety of subjects: biology, music, philosophy, English, and the like. But they were all inclined to enjoy puzzles and algorithms, and bridge was a natural.

The games were played at lunchtime, and programmers were on the clock, so the dummy shuffled and dealt for the dealer: as soon as one hand ended, we could pick up the next hand’s cards and immediately start bidding. Occasionally, if the struggle was close, one would volunteer to take everyone’s time cards and clock them in while we finished the rubber. (I believe the statute of limitations has expired on this misdemeanor.)

Those were good games. And I continued to play the following year in graduate school in math, until I discovered Go.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Bridge, Games

How Beltway pundits lie: like a rug

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Glenn Greenwald:

As I’ve noted many times before, virtually every column David Brooks writes is grounded in one of two highly misleading tactics and, on special occasions, like today, are grounded in both. That’s all there is to him. He just re-cycles these same two themes over and over in different forms.

The first tactic is merely the most commonplace conceit of the standard Beltway pundit: Brooks takes whatever opinions he happens to hold on a topic, and then — without citing a single piece of evidence — repeatedly asserts that “most Americans” hold this view, and then bases his entire “argument” on this premise. Thus, the only way for Democrats to have any hope of winning elections is to repudiate their radical, rabid Leftist base and instead follow Brooks’ beliefs, because that is “centrism.” This is actually a defining belief of the Beltway pundit, and it is as intellectually corrupt as an argument gets.

There is now this new invention called “polling data” which reveal what “most Americans” actually think about virtually any topic. Yet when Beltway pundits claim that “most Americans” think X (and, invariably, X = “the opinion of the Beltway pundit” which = “conventional Beltway wisdom”), they rarely cite polls because those polls virtually always contradict what they are claiming about what “most Americans” think.

Instead, Beltway pundits believe that they are representative of, anointed spokespeople for, the Average Real American, and thus, whatever the pundit’s belief is about an issue is — in their insular, self-loving minds — a far more reliable indicator of what “Americans believe” than something as tawdry as polling data. Nobody uses this manipulative tactic more than David Brooks.

The other Brooks tactic is also a defining feature among pundits and a central prong in the Washington Establishment’s orthodoxies.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Media

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Why it’s hard to unionize

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The NRLB is a toothless dog, these days, being fed on scraps from the table of Big Business. Kevin Drum notes the effects:

Art Levine dons a false moustache and crashes the gates at a seminar designed to teach managers how to keep unions at bay. Sample advice:

What if we simply wanted to fire union organizers? That was possible to do, said Stief, as long as you were careful to do so for other reasons. “Union sympathizers aren’t entitled to any more protection than other workers,” he explained. But the firing could not be linked to their union activity.

What if we felt like saying a lot of anti-union stuff to our workers? Lotito introduced a segment called “You Can Say It.” Could we tell our workers, for instance, that a union had held strike at a nearby facility only to find that all the strikers had been replaced — and that the same could happen to the employees here? Sure, said Lotito. “It’s lawful.” He added, “What happens if this statement is a lie? They didn’t have another strike, there were no replacements? It’s still lawful: The labor board doesn’t really care if people are lying.”

The rest of the story is here.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 11:28 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP, Government

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Big Brother, getting bigger

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Kevin Drum:

In the Bill Sammon piece I linked to earlier, he notes that George Bush is busily “institutionalizing controversial anti-terror programs so they can be used by the next president.” Guantanamo was the example Sammon used to illustrate this point, but a friend emailed last night to raise my consciousness about another example: Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 12. A blogger whose wife is a grad student doing climate modeling for NASA explains:

This Presidential Directive is all about choice….My wife’s choice is she can either sign over to the Federal Government the right to investigate every aspect of her life (including fingerprinting, credit check, medical records, character references, etc.) or she can “voluntarily” choose to not be allowed entry into the building wherein she works. The choice is hers.

….NASA, of course, has many top secret projects, projects which require high security. No one questions the need for high security and detailed background checks for specific, highly sensitive projects. This is perfectly reasonable.

But the Federal Government under Bush is now insisting that ALL employees, contractors, students, etc. associated with NASA agree to allow an investigation into their lives should the Federal Government deem it necessary for any reason.

Basically, if you want to work for NASA in any capacity, you’re now required to sign away your privacy rights in advance. Ditto for just about any other government agency that decides to implement this directive. It’s just another lovely little policy being “institutionalized” for George Bush’s successor.

You’d think the GOP would oppose this sort of thing. Think again.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 11:26 am

The business of government

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The business of government transcends politics. We want a government that we can rely on, regardless of elections, political parties (and disputes), and the like. We want a government that will competently carry out the missions it is given through legislation. Do we have that? From Froomkin again today:

One reader forwarded this fascinating story by Shane Harris in National Journal a few months ago: “On November 2, 2004, top officials from the Homeland Security Department held a small Election Night party at a Washington restaurant to watch the presidential election returns come in on television. Nearly every leader there owed his job to the man then fighting for his own job — George W. Bush.

“The department was almost two years old and run almost entirely by political appointees. Twenty-three months earlier, they had been tapped to lash together 22 disparate, frequently dysfunctional agencies, some of whose failures to safeguard domestic security contributed to the 9/11 attacks.

“As the returns trickled in, there was an hour or so when it appeared that Bush’s Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, might overtake him in the electoral vote count. Rather suddenly, some partygoers recalled, it dawned on them that they might be out of a job.

“As they looked around the room, they realized they hadn’t fully considered who would replace them. Who, they wondered, would keep the department running while President-elect Kerry picked a new leadership team? What career officials, whose posts are designed to outlast any one administration, would step in to ensure that planes flew safely, that borders were patrolled, that the government could respond swiftly to a natural disaster? No one could say for sure, because DHS had no plan.”

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 11:22 am

Interesting point re: Ahmadinejad’s speech

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Again from Froomkin:

Jane Smiley blogs for Huffingtonpost.com: “Looking at the hysteria caused by the visit of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York and Columbia University, I would like to dare George Bush to reciprocate the visit. And I would like to dare the Iranians to let him. It doesn’t matter what Ahmadinejad actually says. What matters is that he is entering the territory of a president who has openly vowed to put him out of business, and has dared to speak, indeed, has dared to give what appears to be his honest opinions. And he has been confronted by protesters and by irate news commentators (such as Scott Pelley). Would Bush allow the same sorts of confrontations? I doubt it. He doesn’t even allow himself to confronted by Americans who disagree with him.”

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 11:19 am

Blocking California emissions standards

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Dan Froomkin today:

Zachary Coile writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: “President Bush’s transportation secretary, Mary Peters, with White House approval, personally directed a lobbying campaign to urge governors and two dozen House members to block California’s first-in-the-nation limits on greenhouse gases from cars and trucks, according to e-mails obtained by Congress.

“The e-mails show Peters worked closely with the top opponents in Congress of California’s emissions law and sought out governors from auto-producing states, who were seen as likely to oppose the state’s request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allow the new rules to go into effect.

“‘The administration is trying to stack the deck against California’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,’ House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, wrote Monday to the White House. ‘It suggests that political considerations – not the merits of the issue – will determine how EPA acts.’

“Waxman released the e-mails, which are available on the committee’s Web site, along with his letter to the White House. The documents show that the idea to launch the lobbying effort started with Peters.”

For the GOP, state’s rights end where business interests begin.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 11:15 am

Fifty years ago, in Little Rock, Arkansas

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Little Rock

Kevin Drum reminds us:

Bob Herbert looks at the recent antics of the Republican Party and decides it’s time for a history lesson:

The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans….This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks.

….In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Lovely man, Lee Atwater.

In related news, today is the 50th anniversary of school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, an event memorialized for all time in the photo on the right, taken by Arkansas Democrat photographer Will Counts. Vanity Fair has a terrific piece up on their website framed around that photograph and the two high school students it captured: Elizabeth Eckford, one of the original Little Rock Nine, and Hazel Bryan, the white student screaming at her in the background. It’s worth a read.

It is indeed worth a read. Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

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Molly finds a mouse!

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Molly digging Molly finds a mouse

Well, not a real mouse. A mousie, more properly. The Wife tossed the mousie under the covers and Molly quickly retrieved it. A hunter for sure.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:46 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

Happiness

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From David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens:

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:34 am

Be happier, with what you have

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Good post from Lifehack.org today:

“There are two ways to increase your wealth. Increase your means or decrease your wants. The best is to do both at the same time.”Benjamin Franklin

Misery shouldn’t be the price for ambition. Somewhere I believe many people got the idea that to want more, you have to be dissatisfied with what you have now. Believing this, your choice is either to dampen your passions or become miserable with what you have.

I think this is a false dichotomy. You can be satisfied and ambitious. And while many self-help books have covered the topic of ambition, fewer cover the idea of becoming immensely satisfied with what you’ve already got.

Beyond affirmations and beliefs, I think there are some practical tips to do this. Engineering your daily life can be a great way to maximize your current fulfillment. Best of all, it isn’t incredibly difficult to do. Here are some tips I’ve found useful in becoming happier with where I am:

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Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life

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Cute bowls

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Cute bowls

Double bowl: one compartment for nuts or olives, the other for shells or pits. Good idea.

Written by Leisureguy

25 September 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Daily life

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