Later On

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

Archive for October 4th, 2007

The US Army’s attitude toward soldiers

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ThinkProgress:

Approximately 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently returned home after serving multiple tours of duty in Iraq. They served 22 months — “longer than any other ground combat unit” — received nine fatalities, and were awarded dozens of Purple Hearts.

But the Army wrote the orders for 1,162 of these soldiers for 729 days, making them ineligible for full educational benefits under the GI Bill, which requires written orders saying they were deployed for 730 days or more. These soldiers were shorted more than $200 per month for college.

First Lt. Jon Anderson believes that the military deliberately cut short their orders to avoid paying the soldiers’ education benefits:

It’s pretty much a slap in the face. I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership…once again failing the soldiers.

Watch CNN’s report on the issue.

Six members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Norm Coleman (R), have asked Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to investigate the matter. Coleman said that it’s “simply irresponsible to deny education benefits to those soldiers who just completed the longest tour of duty of any unit in Iraq.”

Geren has reportedly assured the lawmakers that the cases “will be reviewed on an expedited basis, so that those who qualify can attend school next semester.”

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Army, Education, Military

Still walking

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Today was just past  28 minutes. It really does look as though by the end of next week I’ll be at the 45 minute goal.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Tagged with , ,

The military today

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This is an ominous story:

The Quincy [Massachusetts] soldier mysteriously slain by a bullet to the head on a secure Afghanistan airbase feared something might happen to her after discovering “something she didn’t like,” her devastated family revealed.

Massachusetts National Guard Spc. Ciara Durkin, 30, was found with a single gunshot wound to her head behind a building at Bagram Airbase on Sept. 27.

“The last time she was home she said she had seen things that she didn’t like and she had raised concerns that had annoyed some people,” said Durkin’s sister Fiona Canavan, 44, of Quincy.

“She said, and I thought she was joking, that if anything happened to her we had to investigate.”

Canavan said she did not know what her baby sister had seen or whom she had told, and she rejected the notion that Durkin committed suicide. The military has not answered the family’s questions about her death, she added.

Publicly, the military will only say her death is under investigation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Military

Diebold machines force rerun of election

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From the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This is certainly a bipartisan issue:

Good news from California’s Alameda County — a judge has voided election results after the county botched its response to a contested race conducted on Diebold electronic voting machines. The judge ordered that the disputed Measure R — an initiative addressing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries — go back on next year’s ballot.

Measure R lost by fewer than 200 votes in the 2004 election, and Americans for Safe Access and voters in the city of Berkeley brought a legal challenge seeking a recount. But while the lawsuit was ongoing, election officials returned the voting machines to supplier Diebold Election Systems, and 96% of the detailed audit information from the election was destroyed. EFF helped analyze the remaining data, but as the judge recognized, it was impossible to tell if the tallies reported on election night were correct.

This decision was expected, but it’s heartening that Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith saw the ramifications of the county’s behavior and ordered the appropriate remedy. If there is no way to examine data, audit logs, and chain-of-custody records, there is no way to do an accurate recount. This is only the second time in Californian history that a court has ordered than an election be rerun. The message is clear: using electronic voting machines and keeping sloppy records is not an acceptable way to run an election.

The news is good in California, but serious reforms are needed nationwide, including a voter-verified paper trail and mandatory random audits. Contact your representative today and voice your support for H.R. 811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 1:14 pm

Megs, settling down for a nap

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Megs nap

“Megs, settling down for a nap” — is that redundant? Here she is on the back of the love seat.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 10:43 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Uncluttering

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From CNN:

You know those closets and drawers and cupboards that are so full, they won’t quite close? It turns out they could be bad for your health. We asked top organizing experts to help us get a grip.

Get the urge to purge

Every time you look around and feel anxious that the mess is getting out of hand, your body releases cortisol, one of the classic stress hormones, says Steven Maier, PhD, a neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Arianne Cohen, the author of “Help, It’s Broken! A Fix-It Bible for the Repair-Impaired,” asked top organizing experts to help us get a grip.

Kitchen — Clear off some counter space

Purging: Even Emeril doesn’t need six spatulas and four whisks; two of each will do, so start by tossing extras. While you’re at it, check expiration dates on foodstuffs and pitch anything that’s past its prime.

Next, tackle seldom-used appliances like cappuccino and bread makers. “Those things don’t need to live in the kitchen,” says Ellen Kosloff, senior professional organizer at TaskMasters New York. “Put up a rack in the garage, or store them on a hallway closet shelf.”

Prevention: The number one rule: Keep the counters clear.

“Counter space is only for items you use daily,” says Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. “Everything else can be stored in a cabinet or pantry.”

Household desk — put your desk on a zone diet

Purging: Begin by throwing away the no-brainers, including junk mail, expired coupons, brochures, and catalogs.

Next, create desk zones. “Have a bill-paying zone, a stationery zone, a mail zone, and a reading zone,” says Kosloff. “Keep everything you need for each activity in neat containers.”

Prevention: Tackle your zones weekly, particularly bills and mail. For incoming papers such as children’s art or tax information, keep one folder or container for each category, and at the end of the year (or month, if things really pile up fast), choose the keepers and purge the rest.

Bookcase –liberate your library

Purging: Some people would consider it a sacrilege to ever get rid of a book, but if you’ve decided it’s time to winnow, donate all books that don’t meet any of these three criteria: books you love, books you read regularly, books whose content can’t be found on the Internet.

Prevention: Librarian’s rules: No stacking or double shelving allowed. “Group your books into categories like fiction, nonfiction, and travel, so you can see what you have,” says Chris McKenry of Get It Together LA. And good news: “Regifting is perfectly acceptable with books.”

Tchotchkes — they call them dust catchers for a reason

Purging: “You should own nothing that is not useful, beautiful, or loved,” says Izsak. If a tchotchke can’t pass this test, out it goes.

Prevention: When a new tchotchke comes in, Kosloff suggests immediately rejecting it if you already own something similar. Keep only the little objects you’ll use (a vase, a pretty bowl) or that are uniquely meaningful (a handmade gift or travel memento).

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Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 10:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Mental Health

Tagged with ,

Just got hits with two book tools

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This morning both book tools delivered. First, I was reading a review of a new biography of Charles Schulz (creator of Peanuts). I clicked the link to buy simply to get to Amazon, and then clicked my library bookmarklet: yep, Monterey Public Library has it, and I placed a hold.

Second, I was reading an interesting review of a book on the role of narrative in memory. Again, clicked the link to get to Amazon, checked Book Burro, and saw I could buy a copy for $1.00 at Abebooks.com.

It certainly seems to be true, by the way, that people remember stories—that narrative accounts are very basic to our understanding of people and events. There’s a reason that the first explanations of the world and how it came to be were narratives. Those fit best with how we think. That’s probably why we tend to view and portray our own experience as narratives, come to think of it. We say/think, “The car refused to start” and perhaps we even get angry at it. The actors in a narrative are, of course, making decisions and what they do (and don’t do) stems from those decisions. So the car—a totally inanimate machine that simply functions (or not) from electrical/mechanical interactions—becomes an actor capable of “refusing” to do some things. That’s probably also why some people give names to their cars, which are actors in the daily narrative of their lives.

A friend once told me that the image people in my company had of me was based on stories about me, and that I should take care to ensure that the stories that could be told were favorable. People are always telling each other stories about their co-workers, and by your actions you are creating the narrative of your legend.

I also recall when I was listening to books on tape on my commutes between Santa Cruz and Monterey. The non-fiction books were almost impossible to follow, but a novel—a narrative account—was easy to follow and remember.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 10:00 am

Art, science, and technology

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Artists, I believe, have always closely followed technology: after all, artists make things, and new processes and materials offer new possibilities. The Son’s own art increasingly relies on technology as a component. I thought of this in reading Gibson’s Spook Country and the virtual sculptures he portrays, placed by GPS coordinates. And then there’s this, about Picasso:

As the 20th century dawned, Paris was seething with new ideas. They were batted about in cafés, discussed in newspapers and analysed in literary magazines. As in the rest of Europe the city’s culture was dominated by the avant-garde: an intellectual movement that questioned all forms of knowledge, in particular classical intuitive notions of space and time. At the same time, Pablo Picasso began work on a painting that would change art forever.

It is well known that Les Demoiselles d’Avignon marked the birth of cubism exactly one century ago, but it is less known that much of Picasso’s inspiration came from science, technology and mathematics.

Picasso took a keen interest in photography, which he saw as a technology that allowed one to play with space. He was well aware of the work of such cinematography pioneers as Étienne-Jules Marey – who developed a technique for making multiple exposures on a single photographic frame – and Eadweard Muybridge, who explored motion through a series of frames.

At the cinema, Picasso and his circle of friends – most of them not artists but literati who kept him well informed of the latest scientific advances – witnessed special effects conjured up by Georges Méliès, who was famous for taking bodies apart and reassembling them in bizarre ways.

X-rays, discovered in 1895, bolstered Picasso’s belief that what you see is not always what you get. He arrived at the same conclusion after seeing the work of primitive Iberian sculptors, who represented not what they saw but what they knew.

In composing Les Demoiselles, Picasso employed these revelations. Its images resemble nothing we see in the world, but are assembled from body parts seen from different perspectives or as a result of multiple actions caught on a single frame.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 9:49 am

Posted in Art, Science, Technology

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For the Baltimore readers

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This sounds like a good place to be:

There’s a new restaurant in Baltimore, Fogo de Chão, which is essentially Man Heaven. It is an all-you-can-eat Brazilian Gaucho BBQ place. They literally start you off with a gigantic salad bar, followed by your choice of TWELVE different cuts of meat; and as much as you want. However, more on that in a moment.

Of course, I had to check out the salad bar to see if this “meatcentric” place would be veggie friendly enough for Mandie. They don’t have any seafood on the menu, however there is plenty on the salad bar. It’s more like a salad barge! The firs thing to notice about the “salad” bar is that there was a great deal more to offer than just leafy greens. There must have been eight different cheese, smoked salmon, some pasta salad-type-things, oyster mushrooms marinated in oil, the freshest mozzarella I’ve ever had, and much more. I honestly made it about 1/3 of the way around before I had to force myself to go back to the table. I didn’t want to fill up on salad before the real deal began.

When it comes to the main attraction,…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Tagged with , ,

Don’t rely on cinnamon to treat diabetes

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Just got an email, which links to a post showing that cinnamon may help (some studies) or it may have no effect (other studies). So don’t make it a main component of your diabetic treatment plan. OTOH, no evidence that it’s actually harmful, so use it if you like. I sprinkle a good amount on my hot cereal. Here’s the study:

Though some studies have hinted that cinnamon may aid blood sugar control, it’s too soon to recommend the spice for people with diabetes, according to researchers.

Their study of 43 adults with type 2 diabetes found that cinnamon supplements did nothing to change blood sugar, insulin or cholesterol levels over three months.

The findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care, stand in contrast to some past studies that have suggested cinnamon may help with diabetes control. In one study of people with type 2 diabetes, for example, researchers found that those who added some cinnamon to their daily diets had a dip in their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Medical

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More free courses on-line

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Yesterday I blogged about the free courses available on-line from UC Berkeley. Today, via Dumb Little Man, I found this handy complete list of the courses from UC Berkeley and, even more useful, a long list of free courses at the right in the blogroll. Good link to mark.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 9:06 am

Presidential calculator

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Choose your stance (pro, con, unsure) on the issues, indicate importance (high, medium, low) and click to calculate your optimal presidential candidate and—perhaps more important—the other top contenders.

For me, the top was Dennis Kucinich (86.21% match), but since he has very little chance of securing the nomination, I was intrigued to see the runners up:

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (D) – 79.31%
Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (D) – 79.31%
Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) – 79.31%

Good little quiz. My actual choice (before taking the quiz, and after): John Edwards.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 8:52 am

Posted in Election

Tagged with

Cold weather and sauerkraut

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The Eldest commented almost a year ago:

I noted the wild boar with sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a traditional Thanksgiving side-dish in Baltimore. Maybe you should give it a go for your Thanksgiving as well, since The Wife seems to express a mild preference against Brussels Sprouts? For example:

Sauerkraut

6 slices of smoked bacon, cut into 1/4″ wide strips
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1 2-lb. jar of German-style sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
2 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 c. beef, pork, or chicken stock
2 TBSP gin
1 TBSP caraway seeds
4 juniper berries, crushed (optional)

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place bacon, onion, and carrot in heavy large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté until onion is tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from sauerkraut. Add sauerkraut to Dutch oven. Add wine, stock, gin, caraway seeds, and juniper berries. Bring to simmer. Cover tightly, place in oven and bake 1 hour. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring frequently.)

Serves 4.

I made that, and it was excellent. And today Simply Recipes has a good recipe for Sauerkraut with Bacon and Apples from the Niman Ranch Cookbook. The recipe has one odd note in the list of ingredients: ” 2 pounds of refrigerated (in a jar, not can), prepared sauerkraut, drained (about 1 24-ounce jar, drained)”. 24 ounces is, of course, half a pound short of 2 lbs (= 32 ounces). So the recipe is short by 25% of the amount of sauerkraut called for. Maybe she’ll post a correction.

UPDATE: Aha. It’s the stupid system of measurement that the US uses. The jar is measured in fluid ounces, not avoirdupois ounces. So the 24 fluid ounces, drained, produces about 32 avoirdupois ounces of cabbage. Thank heavens we don’t have to deal with that confusing metric system, eh?

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tagged with ,

Spook Country

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I just finished William Gibson’s new novel Spook Country, a novel set in the present, but with the same interweaving worlds (rock, technology, Santero, covert operations, and the like) that one saw in Pattern Recognition
, but more firmly based in the possible. It was a fun read, but somehow didn’t totally gel for me.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 8:16 am

Posted in Books, Science fiction

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McCain on medical marijuana

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An email from the Marijuana Policy Project:

Last week, at a campaign event in New Hampshire, when medical marijuana patient Linda Macia asked U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) whether he would end the federal government’s arrests of patients and providers in the 12 medical marijuana states if he were to be elected president, he said the following:

“Well, first of all, you’ll have to show me a case where people are going in and arresting people who are dead and dying . . . I haven’t heard of such a case, nor has anyone I know of heard of such a case, so it must be a very well-kept secret.”

You can read some news coverage of the encounter here.

Sen. McCain’s condescending and uninformed comments are just the latest in his clash with MPP’s forces in New Hampshire, Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, which is a nine-month campaign to pressure the presidential candidates to take strong, public, positive positions on medical marijuana in advance of the New Hampshire primary — the first in the nation — expected to be no later than January 8, 2008.

Would you please consider funding our pressure tactics in New Hampshire?

In April, Sen. McCain pledged “to let states decide” whether to allow medical marijuana, only to flip-flop in August, claiming that “there’s other ways of relieving pain and applying medical help” than marijuana. A few days later, he brusquely dismissed a follow-up question from MPP, saying, “I don’t think everyone came here today to hear about marijuana.”

As a result, we have awarded Sen. McCain an “F” in our new report card on the presidential candidates for his ignorance and heartlessness regarding the federal government’s war on the sick and dying.

Overall, however, our New Hampshire campaign has seen much success: To date, 10 of the 17 Democratic and Republican candidates have already pledged to end the federal government’s arrests of medical marijuana patients if elected president — including all eight Democratic candidates. Please visit our campaign Web site for the complete voting guide.

The work we’re doing in New Hampshire comes at a critical juncture, as federal intrusion into medical marijuana states is on the rise. This summer, armed DEA agents raided patients and dispensaries in Los Angeles County and San Mateo, California, and in Portland, Oregon. And another raid occurred in Sacramento last week.

Most appallingly, in late August a drug task force staffed by the DEA and local law enforcement officials raided the home of a paraplegic medical marijuana patient in Malaga, New Mexico — the most recent state to legalize medical marijuana.

And in July and September, the DEA also began threatening landlords in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara who lease space to medical marijuana dispensaries — activity that’s legal under California state law — with federal prison time and property forfeiture, a move condemned in a Los Angeles Times editorial as “a deplorable new bullying tactic.”

Lobbying for change in our national priorities must be done, and MPP is doing it in New Hampshire, on Capitol Hill, and in targeted congressional districts nationwide. And our New Hampshire campaign is unique: We’re the only drug policy reform organization that’s systematically influencing the presidential candidates to take positive positions on medical marijuana.

Please consider making a donation in support of our campaign today. With your help, in January 2009 we’ll inaugurate a new president who is committed to ending the arrests of medical marijuana patients and providers.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 7:44 am

Posted in Drug laws, Election

Tagged with ,

Non-shave report

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Skipping a day of shaving so frequently is not fun, let me tell you. Tomorrow I’ll replicate the prep from Monday’s bad shave and, if it seems to be working same—tugging and pulling rather than cutting—I’ll stop short and re-do the prep properly.

I think I overlooked that the Simpsons Major, being a small brush, doesn’t hold much water, especially after a little shake, and thus the lather was way too dry to soak the stubble. So re-doing the prep will mainly be to add more water to the brush and spend more time brushing my beard. I doubt that the soap (TOBS St. Andrews shave stick) was at fault: I have gotten fine shaves from that in the past.

And I would have used my new Jade East aftershave this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

4 October 2007 at 7:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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