Later On

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

Archive for September 29th, 2007

Blackwater an international terrorist organization?

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They certainly seem to fit the description.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Iraq War

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Billions of dollars missing in Iraq

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I don’t think this was a good use of taxpayer money. From Vanity Fair:

Billions over Baghdad

Between April 2003 and June 2004, $12 billion in U.S. currency—much of it belonging to the Iraqi people—was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad, where it was dispensed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Some of the cash went to pay for projects and keep ministries afloat, but, incredibly, at least $9 billion has gone missing, unaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed. Following a trail that leads from a safe in one of Saddam’s palaces to a house near San Diego, to a P.O. box in the Bahamas, the authors discover just how little anyone cared about how the money was handled.   —  by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele October 2007

Hidden in plain sight, 10 miles west of Manhattan, amid a suburban community of middle-class homes and small businesses, stands a fortress-like building shielded by big trees and lush plantings behind an iron fence. The steel-gray structure, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is all but invisible to the thousands of commuters who whiz by every day on Route 17. Even if they noticed it, they would scarcely guess that it is the largest repository of American currency in the world.

Officially, 100 Orchard Street is referred to by the acronym eroc, for the East Rutherford Operations Center of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The brains of the New York Fed may lie in Manhattan, but xeroc is the beating heart of its operations—a secretive, heavily guarded compound where the bank processes checks, makes wire transfers, and receives and ships out its most precious commodity: new and used paper money.

On Tuesday, June 22, 2004, a tractor-trailer truck turned off Route 17 onto Orchard Street, stopped at a guard station for clearance, and then entered the eroc compound. What happened next would have been the stuff of routine—procedures followed countless times. Inside an immense three-story cavern known as the currency vault, the truck’s next cargo was made ready for shipment. With storage space to rival a Wal-Mart’s, the currency vault can reportedly hold upwards of $60 billion in cash. Human beings don’t perform many functions inside the vault, and few are allowed in; a robotic system, immune to human temptation, handles everything. On that Tuesday in June the machines were especially busy. Though accustomed to receiving and shipping large quantities of cash, the vault had never before processed a single order of this magnitude: $2.4 billion in $100 bills.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 1:13 pm

Watch out for Binding Mandatory Arbitration

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It’s a trap. Watchdog Blog describes it:

Earlier this summer, we sounded the alarm about binding mandatory arbitration (BMA) clauses in the fine print of cable bills sent out by Comcast.  Comcast was not the first company to pull this trick on consumers and, sadly, we’ve learned it is far from the last.

Today, Public Citizen releases a ground-breaking report, The Arbitration Trap: How Credit Card Companies Ensnare Consumers [pdf]. It shows how credit card companies rig their contracts with consumers, using binding mandatory arbitration to evade accountability, strip consumers of their rights and enforce their will. In fact, arbitrators rule for business between 94 and 97 percent of the time.

In a nutshell, BMA is private, corporate-dominated secret “court” that overwhelming rules against consumers. In this world, merely by signing your name on the dotted line, you have forfeited your right to a trial by jury. If someone steals your identity and runs out to buy a $4,000 plasma TV – and the credit card company wants YOU to pay for it – the dispute will automatically bypass the public civil justice system. Instead, it goes straight to an arbitrator who may have heard thousands of cases for that same credit card company.

Arbitrators make all their dough from repeat business, so it’s no surprise that they usually rule in favor of business. Consumers are left with no way out because the decisions they make are final and there is little room for appeal.

Here is what you can do to stand up to this corporate bullying from credit card and other companies:

  • Pressure Congress: Write your representatives in Congress and ask them to support the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 introduced by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
  • Protect Yourself: Read our report [pdf] and learn all of the ways you can protect yourself from getting trapped in arbitration.
  • Tell Others: E-mail this post to friends and family.

Have you suffered from binding mandatory arbitration?  Share your story in the comments.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 1:02 pm

Mixing alkalai metals with water

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Plain old water.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Science

Passive noise-reduction headphones: $20 DIY

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Cool idea: watch the video.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Music, Technology

Tagged with ,

FutureMe.org

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I just received an email from FutureMe.org that I wrote to me a year ago. I emailed my interests. Shaving was a big interest back then. 🙂

I also noted I was playing less Go and made a resolution to get back to KGS regularly. Haven’t done that, but probably should schedule it for a regular time each day if I’m serious. But I hear the siren call of Bridge.

Blogging was appealing to me, and on that day a year ago I got more than 1,000 hits for the first time ever. I thought that basing the blog on shaving but going for a variety in the posts made sense—and in any event, followed my natural inclination.

I was reading Trollope big time back then. I got stuck in The Eustace Diamonds on an interminable fox hunt. Maybe I’ll go for a different novel and resume, though now I’m reading Herodotus with considerable interest. I just ordered the David Grene translation yesterday through inter-library loan.

Now I’m going to write to me once more, and again list interests and resolutions. But this time I think I’ll make it longer and more chatty. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Tagged with

National Coffee Day!

with 2 comments

Via Slashfood, I learn that today is National Coffee Day! I think I’ll celebrate by having another cup of coffee (but not another piece of pie).

Check out CoffeeUniverse for lots of coffee info.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 10:29 am

Posted in Caffeine

Tagged with

More Brussels sprouts

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This recipe I’ll make today. Great photos with it on The Accidental Hedonist.

UPDATE: Extremely tasty. I did add crushed red pepper to the olive oil and garlic (and modified recipe accordingly)

1 pint Brussels sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, sliced
a few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
salt
pepper

Steam the Brussels sprouts for 5-10 minutes until soft and easily pierced.

Warm olive oil in pan and add garlic and crushed red pepper – allow the warm olive oil to draw fragrance and flavor from the garlic without cooking/burning the garlic. Increase the heat and add the tomatoes and onions to the oil. Let sauté/stew for 5-7 minutes over medium heat until tomatoes start breaking apart and looking more sauce-like. In the meantime, add the cilantro and sauté another minute. Finally add in the Brussels sprouts and cook for 5 more minutes over low heat, stirring periodically. Season with salt and pepper as you like and serve.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 10:27 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tagged with

How the US fails to address crime

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Things are improving, but still the US has a long way to go to show by actions that it’s really interested in reducing crime.

The LA Times recently ran an article that told how the police have finally begun to co-operate with ex-gang members to reduce retaliatory murders among gangs—and it’s working:

Los Angeles has seen a significant decline in homicides so far this year — including a 50% drop in killings in some South L.A. neighborhoods, such as Watts — as police embarked on a new strategy involving asking ex-gang members to help prevent violence.

And Bob Herbert notes other improvements in his column today—along with some indications that more improvement is needed:

• Since Sept. 11, 2001, when the nation’s attention understandably turned to the threat of terrorism, nearly 100,000 people — men, women and children — have been murdered in the U.S.

Each year hundreds of thousands of criminals, having served their terms, are released into communities with very few jobs and almost no support services for ex-offenders. These are people with advanced degrees in criminality. In just the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, approximately 600,000 offenders will have been released.

The F.B.I. reported this week that violent crime rose in the U.S. in 2006 for the second year in a row. The more thoughtful members of local law enforcement already knew that from their own careful studies.

On Wednesday, dozens of police chiefs from around the country met in Chicago to assess the crime trends that have developed since the beginning of this year.

They are trying to understand why there has been a surge in homicides in big cities in Florida, and in Baltimore, Washington, and Oakland, Calif., at the same time that there have been substantial decreases in places like Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Nashville.

In an echo of the now-famous Compstat system, their goal is to analyze national crime data with an eye toward developing preventive strategies and squelching emerging crime trends before they spin out of control. If Los Angeles is doing something that Baltimore could benefit from, that information should be shared.

This is not sexy stuff, and it doesn’t get a lot of public attention. But it saves lives.

The Chicago gathering was sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of top law enforcement officials from some of the largest departments and agencies in the country. The forum has been sounding the alarm for some time about the spike in violent crime, and correctly noted early on that the trend was not uniform.

“Some cities are showing dramatic increases and some are showing dramatic decreases,” said Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director. “We’re almost like epidemiologists. We’re trying to figure out why.”

Gangs and guns are huge problems. So are armed juveniles who have exhibited a startling willingness to kill over virtually any slight, or during street-corner holdups in which electronic devices like iPods and cellphones are prized items.

Some cities are suffering from a shortage of police officers (they’re expensive) and the withdrawal of federal support for anti-crime initiatives.

As crime increases, police officers become more engaged, which means they become more vulnerable. So far this year, 138 police officers have died in the line of duty, a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2006.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

US Senator Ted Stevens is persistent

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and corrupt, as well. Via ThinkProgress:

“Following on the heels of Senator Ted Stevens’ failed ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ project is an $84 million ferry to allow 40 people to save a 2-hour plus drive.” The USA Today writes that Stevens is pushing for a high-speed ferry that will connect Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, following “the same route as one of the two ‘bridges to nowhere.’”

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 9:53 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Tagged with

On-line therapy for depression

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Very interesting note in post on Mind Hacks:

One of the things I plug on the programme is an online cognitive behaviour therapy for depression website called MoodGYM.

It’s one of the great success stories of online therapy. It’s been extensively researched, found to be effective and is free and advert free. Highly recommended.

Link to All in the Mind with audio and transcript.

Full disclosure: I suffered from clinical depression, now totally in remission thanks to Effexor. But the first step is try therapy alone. It won’t work for everyone, but if it does, it will save money compared to medicine.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 9:49 am

Brain-eating amoeba in lakes

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Ugh:

PHOENIX – It sounds like science fiction but it’s true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.

Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it’s killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.

“This is definitely something we need to track,” said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better,” Beach said. “In future decades, as temperatures rise, we’d expect to see more cases.”

According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL’-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials noticed a spike with six cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona. The CDC knows of only several hundred cases worldwide since its discovery in Australia in the 1960s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 9:40 am

Processing my food

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I just got from the library a food-processor cookbook, and immediately found several recipes to try. The first will be Mushroom Caviar, for which I’m buying the ingredients today:

2 large yellow onions cut into chunks
1 Tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
6 oz Portabella mushroom slices cut into chunks
1 1/2 lbs small white mushrooms, wiped cleaned, stemmed, and quartered
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, diced

Pulse the first four above 10 to 12 times in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade, until finely chopped, scraping down the work bowl halfway through.

Heat the olive oil in a very large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until ripples appear on the skillet bottom.

Add the chopped onion mixture to the skillet and cook uncovered, stirring now and then, until the onions are very soft and tipped with brown—20 to 25 minutes.

Add the Portabella slices and white mushrooms to the processor (in two batches if necessary) and pulse 12 to 15 times until finely chopped, scraping the work bowl halfway through.

Add the mushrooms to the browned onions in the skillet, stir well, reduce heat to moderate, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the color and consistency of caviar, about an hour. You don’t have to stand and stir—a quick stir every 20 minutes is enough.

Mix the lemon juice into the mushroom caviar, remove from the heat, and cool 10 minutes. Scatter the bits of butter over the mush caviar and stir until incorporated.

Scoop the mushroom caviar into a 1-quart container, press plastic food wrap flat on top, snap on the lid, and store in the refrigerator. Serve within 4 days.

Mellow at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then serve as a cocktail spread.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 9:27 am

We (you) did it!!! Lulu sales rank = 993!

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I’m so pleased! Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving: Shaving Made Enjoyable is now ranked at 993 in Amazon.com Lulu.com sales! A satisfying milestone—and, I hope, a satisfying introduction to an enjoyable way of shaving for the readers, may you prosper.

Now I’ve got to practice saying casually, “Yas, it’s in the top 1,000 Lulu titles.”

You’ll understand my excitement when I tell you that at first it was not even among the top 5,000 titles. And now… my!

My hope now is that some of you new readers will post your thoughts on the book under the reader reviews at Lulu.com (or Amazon.com, for that matter).

My heartfelt thanks to you all.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 9:13 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

Spanish leather

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I used the Institut Karité 25% shea butter shaving soap again this morning—I do like it—and the Harvard 3 Best produced a fine lather. Then the English open-comb Aristocrat with yesterday’s blade. I still didn’t like the blade, so I discarded it and put in a new Treet Blue Special. That one seemed better, so off the beard went.

Aftershave was Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather. And it’s a sunny morning here on the Bay.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2007 at 8:49 am

Posted in Shaving

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