Later On

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

Archive for October 12th, 2007

Yet more on the Blackwater shootings

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From the NY Times:

Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.

The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.

The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.

Their statements, made in interviews with The New York Times, appeared to challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away. Since those initial accounts, Blackwater and the State Department have consistently refused to comment on the substance of the case.

The Kurdish witnesses said that they saw no one firing at the guards at any time during the event, an observation corroborated by the forensic evidence of the shell casings. Two of the witnesses also said all the Blackwater vehicles involved in the shooting drove away under their own power.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 8:06 pm

Is traditional shaving growing?

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A new shaver asked in the ShaveMyFace.com forum whether traditional shaving—brush, shaving soap or cream, safety razor, and double-edged blade—was growing. I think that it is based on three observations:

  1. Prices of vintage safety razors on eBay have been steadily increasing
  2. The number of on-line vendors that specialize in traditional shaving is increasing
  3. The variety of traditional shaving supplies in each category (brushes, shaving soaps and creams, razors, and blades) is increasing.

All that strongly suggests that more men are getting involved in the activity.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Shaving

Art show opens in NYC

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The Son writes:

I’m one-half of a two-person show (along with Aaron Kreiswirth) at PS122 Gallery in the East Village, NYC.  The opening party is tomorrow (5-7 pm) and the show will run through November 4th. Directions, gallery hours, etc. can be found at http://www.ps122gallery.org

The centerpiece of my part of the show is “Anthroptic,” a project I did in collaboration with author Benjamin Rosenbaum (and with the help of some very fine voice actors). Anthroptic is a series of eight photos in which a computer detected a face where none exists. Each photo has a corresponding short story (which can be heard by dialing 212-330-8284). A web-version of the project can be seen at http://www.anthroptic.org

Aaron Kreiswirth (the other half of the two-person show) is showing some very striking photos. You can see his work at  http://www.aaronkreiswirth.com

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Art

Blackwater, revisited

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From the Washington Post today:

Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.

“It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting,” said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.

His soldiers’ report — based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police — concluded that there was “no enemy activity involved” and described the shootings as a “criminal event.” Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.

The soldiers’ accounts contradict Blackwater’s assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.

Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. “I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon,” said Tarsa, 42, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.

In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Sept. 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a “massacre” and “senseless slaughter” that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.

More at the link—and then this, from Newsweek:

The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 6:08 pm

Memos to protect torturers

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Excellent FindLaw article on the purpose of the “torture memos”:

Last week, the New York Times published a front-page article describing two legal memoranda issued secretly by the Bush Administration in 2005 that purported to provide guidance regarding the legality of CIA interrogation methods. What the memos said, specifically, was that certain CIA practices did not violate the law.

I emphasize the “purported” purpose of the memos because I think their true purpose was quite different. Rather than giving objective guidance that would assist CIA officials in conforming their conduct to legal standards, the memos were actually meant to provide legal cover for conduct that violated fundamental legal norms.

The real purpose of the memos was, in short, to immunize US officials from prosecution for abusive conduct. They were meant to facilitate abuses, not to prevent them.

These two memos are part of a larger picture that includes earlier legal memos, a classified presidential directive, and last year’s Military Commissions Act. Taken together, they’re a paper trail for torture.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 6:00 pm

Telecoms deciding what you’re allowed to say

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What would you think if your phone company canceled your service because they didn’t like what you were saying? It seems to be possible already: AT&T and Verizon already reserve that right in their Terms of Service Agreement for their Internet connections, and Verizon has also blocked NARAL from sending text messages to people who had signed up to receive such messages. Verizon unilaterally decided that if they (Verizon) deemed the message “controversial,” it could not be sent. They backed down after their action caused an outcry, but they still maintain their right to block communications in the future if they don’t like the message.

This is very, very bad. There’s an interesting FindLaw article on it, from which this comes:

Of course, since the First Amendment restricts government actions, not that of private companies, Verizon currently is free to take the position it is taking. However, I believe it is high time for federal lawmakers to reexamine and update relevant laws and regulations. Common carriers, by law, must make their services available to all people and organizations – irrespective of the content of their messages. Why not cellphone companies, too?

Some scholars have argued that a law ensuring neutrality is unnecessary. Rather, they argue that market competition alone is sufficient to ensure robust political debate: Some cellphone companies could win subscribers by marketing themselves as pro-free speech. Unfortunately, however, since there are only a handful of major cell phone providers, market competition may not be as efficient or effective as scholars hope.

Over time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has embraced an increasingly-free market approach. Common-carrier neutrality laws – originally passed in part to counter political censorship by historical carriers such as Western Union — now exclude Internet traffic, cellphone, text messaging, and any service offered over DSL and cable. Now, companies claim they will wisely use their discretion, but discretion is a vague term and it is hard to know what will be considered offensive. Moreover, instances like Verizon’s show the free-market approach is not working. What is needed is to amend the common-carrier law to sweep in the industries that are now excluded, ensuring that our modes of communication remain free of content- and viewpoint-discrimination.

Finally, while the cellphone text-messaging dispute is important, even more important is the dispute over “net neutrality” — that is, over whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be able to censor or limit the content they convey. That battle is very much still raging.

More at the link, and worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Technology

Tagged with

New foods, squash division

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Ambercup Delicata

One the left is the Ambercup squash:

Has a dry, sweet meat, and bright orange color. Flavourful hybrid orange Kabocha-type. Can be baked, mashed, or steamed.

On the right, the Delicata squash:

Also called sweet potato squash, the delicata squash has a pale yellow skin with medium green striations. Inside, the succulent yellow flesh tastes like a cross between sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The oblong delicata can range from 5 to 9 inches in length and 1 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. It’s in season from late summer through late fall. Choose squash that are heavy for their size; avoid those with soft spots. Delicata squash can be stored up to 3 weeks at an average room temperature. As with other winter squash, the delicata is best baked or steamed. It’s a good source of potassium, iron and vitamins A and C.

The Ambercup will be made into a soup like this, more or less. The Delicata I will roast and eat plain.

And while I was there, I picked up a bunch of Roma tomatoes for another batch of slow-roasted tomatoes.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Lee’s Razors

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LeesRazors.com is a long-time shaving vendor who sells the complete set-up: brushes, soaps, creams, razors, blades, and aftershaves. His Web site was recently redesigned and has a good appearance, though the implementation makes it impossible to link to a given product—you can link to the page on which products of that type are listed, but that’s it.

He offers Vulfix and some Simpson brushes, along with beginner brushes of lesser grade (and lower cost). Shaving soaps include Mitchell’s Wool Fat along the Geo. F. Trumper line, along with Col. Conk soaps. Shaving creams: Geo. F. Trumper, Musgo Real (and he also sells the Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap, used for a pre-shave washing of the beard), Proraso, and Vulfix. He has a good selection of pre-shave preparations and aftershave lotions and splashes.

He carries Dovo straight razors and a good selection of double-edged blades: Merkur, Derby Extra, and Feather Hi-Platinum.

Lee is happy to work with customers and provide advice and suggestions. He’s easy to deal with and ships promptly. His on-line store is a regular stop for many.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Shaving

Tagged with ,

Cats as extraterrestials

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Some evidence: where in the wild on Earth could they find prey that matches some of the things that stimulate immediate hunting/attacking mode, such as string? Or buttons? Or bring tiny dots of red light?

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Cats, Food

Eat healthfully & organically on $7/day?

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Interesting article, via Lifehack.org. A 7-day example, from the article:

Day 1:
Breakfast: Tofu (47 cents), veggies ($1), brown rice (20 cents)
Lunch: Eggs (39 cents) and potatoes (30 cents)
Snack: Two dates (60 cents), 12 almonds (22 cents)
Dinner: Fryer chicken ($1), veggies ($1), brown rice (20 cents)

Day 2:
Breakfast: Oatmeal (20 cents), 12 nuts (22 cents), raisins (22 cents), milk (50 cents), protein powder (20 cents)
Lunch: eggs (39 cents) and veggies ($1)
Snack: One organic apple (25 cents), dollop of organic peanut butter (14 cents)
Dinner: Turkey chili ($1), lentils (22 cents), veggies ($1), stock from fryer chicken (50 cents), whole wheat berries (5 cents)

Day 3:
Breakfast: Cornmeal (14 cents), seeds ($1), nuts (22 cents), molasses (10 cents)
Lunch: Chili from last night
Snack: Veggies ($1), homemade hummus (90 cents)
Dinner: Salad (62 cents) with chicken from fryer ($1), veggies ($1), dressing from apple cider vinegar and olive oil ($1)

Day 4:
Breakfast: One egg (39 cents), whole grain toast (20 cents), piece of fruit (25 cents)
Lunch: Beans (30 cents), rice (20 cents), veggies ($1)
Snack: Carrots,($50) cheese piece (50 cents)
Dinner: Half can sardines (89 cents), pasta (49 cents), tomato sauce (16 cents)

Day 5:
Breakfast: Veggies (90 cents), brown rice (20 cents), sliced cashews (22 cents), sprinkle of cheese (50 cents)
Lunch: Hummus (90 cents), whole wheat bread (20 cents), lettuce leaf (30 cents)
Snack: Banana (50 cents) and peanut butter (14 cents)
Dinner: Whole wheat pasta (49 cents), veggies ($1), beans (30 cents), nuts (22 cents), brewer’s yeast (20 cents)

Day 6:
Breakfast: Brown rice (20 cents), red beans (30 cents), miso (15 cents), greens ($1)
Lunch: Lettuce and veggies ($1), second half of sardine can (89 cents)
Snack: Sliced pears and apples (50 cents), cheese (50 cents)
Dinner: Brown rice (20 cents), veggies ($1), tofu (47 cents), sesame seeds (50 cents)

Day 7:
Breakfast: Plain yogurt (60 cents), sliced apple (25 cents), coconut, sunflower seeds or ground flax seeds ($1)
Lunch: Kale ($1), chard, ($1) rice (20 cents), onions (5 cents)
Snack: Roasted yam (30 cents) with 12 cashews (22 cents)
Dinner: Soup from chicken stock ($1), lentils (22 cents) veggies ($1), grains (20 cents), one slice whole wheat bread (20 cents)

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Tagged with

Saint Charles Shave

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SaintCharlesShave.com (located in Saint Charles, MO) offers a line of handmade shaving soaps, shaving creams, aftershaves, and eau de toilettes. Sue also offers products for women, but the shaving line is my focus. She adds new products frequently—I see now that she has an avocado oil shea butter shaving soap that I haven’t yet tried. (I just ordered it—writing these reviews is risky.)

I like her Bay Rum With A Twist EDT and the Bay Rum shaving soap. The only shave stick she offers currently is said to be for women, but with mango oil and shea butter it surely seems worth a try to me. (Adds to basket.) She also has (under “Limited Products”) a shea butter and apricot oil shaving cream.

Sue works closely with the shaving community, and you often see her posting on ShaveMyFace.com. Very good products, well worth a try.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 10:09 am

25 kitchen toys you probably don’t have

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Via Slashfood, here’s a slide show of 25 high-tech kitchen toys that should be on anyone’s wishlist.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Techie toys, Technology

Tagged with

Lobster mac-n-cheese

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The recipe looks tasty, but even better are the reactions from the highly trained, very professional store personnel:

I drooled over a dish  that took a humble comfort food and paired it with lobster. So, my kids and I headed off to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for the dish.

The rugrats had fun poking at the lazy crustaceans in the tank, trying to guess which one the seafood monger would clumsily capture with his primitive wooden rake. A feisty three pounder was stuffed a plastic bag, weighed, priced and dropped in our cart. Off we went to pay, stopping briefly to pick up a hunk of nice cheese and a box of pasta.

Now, I have nothing against the teenage workforce manning the check-out line, but I feel very strongly that I simply must write these 3 letters.

Dear Ritalin:
When a customer gently places a bag of squirming lobster onto the conveyor belt, the appropriate response is not, “Oh shit, dude. You really gonna kill it and eat it?” Because a smart customer (for example, myself) will shoot right back with, “Why yes, pimple-ass, that is the plan. I might even torture it first with long, sharp objects before dunking it head-first in a vat of boiling hot water. Wanna watch?”

Dear Pep Squad Reject:

When that same bag is handed to you to place back into the cart, the itty-bitty buggy-boo with rubber bands on its claws really isn’t a ferocious, drooling elephant man who wants to tie you up and lick your toes. Please don’t scream. You’re scaring my kids. You’re even scaring the freakin’ lobster.

Dear Parents:
I implore you to introduce the world of live seafood to your children at an early age. Teach them where our food comes from and how to properly handle and cook it. If you’re vegetarian, maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea for your kids to work at supermarkets where they might just come in contact with raw animal carcasses and squealing lobsters. Maybe a job at the mushroom petting zoo would be more appropriate.

Omnivorally yours,
Steamy Kitchen

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 9:42 am

Why we curse

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Interesting article by Stephen Pinker in the New Republic, beginning:

Fucking became the subject of congressional debate in 2003, after NBC broadcast the Golden Globe Awards. Bono, lead singer of the mega-band U2, was accepting a prize on behalf of the group and in his euphoria exclaimed, “This is really, really, fucking brilliant” on the air. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), charged with monitoring the nation’s airwaves for indecency, decided somewhat surprisingly not to sanction the network for failing to bleep out the word. Explaining its decision, the FCC noted that its guidelines define “indecency” as “material that describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities” and Bono had used fucking as “an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation.”

Cultural conservatives were outraged. California Representative Doug Ose tried to close the loophole in the FCC’s regulations with the filthiest piece of legislation ever considered by Congress. Had it passed, the Clean Airwaves Act would have forbade from broadcast

the words “shit”, “piss”, “fuck”, “cunt”, “asshole”, and the phrases “cock sucker”, “mother fucker”, and “ass hole”, compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms).

The episode highlights one of the many paradoxes that surround swearing. When it comes to political speech, we are living in a free-speech utopia. Late-night comedians can say rude things about their nation’s leaders that, in previous centuries, would have led to their tongues being cut out or worse. Yet, when it comes to certain words for copulation and excretion, we still allow the might of the government to bear down on what people can say in public. Swearing raises many other puzzles–linguistic, neurobiological, literary, political.

He goes on to discuss those puzzles.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 9:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Help upgrade US broadband

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An email received from Free Press:

What if I told you we could use empty TV channels to connect millions of Americans to the Internet?

New technology would do just that. But the powerful TV broadcast lobby is standing in the way with a multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign.
The Federal Communications Commission is about to make a critical choice: support a better Internet for everyone or side with the broadcasters and let the United State slide further behind the rest of the world in Web access.

Tell the FCC: Open the Internet for Everyone

This fight for universal Internet access is now being waged over “white spaces” — empty frequencies between television channels on the public airwaves. New devices can use these vacant airwaves to connect millions to the information superhighway, including many people still stuck on dial-up — or without any service at all.

Here’s the problem. The National Association of Broadcasters wants to horde these publicly owned white spaces. They have been blitzing Washington with television ads and lobbyists. They’re telling outright lies and spreading misinformation to prevent any new devices from being deployed.

Their scare tactics are aimed at convincing the FCC and Congress to stifle new technologies that can revolutionize our airwaves. Unless we act now, the FCC could side with the broadcasters and deny us one of our last opportunities to deliver a better Internet to more people.

Take Action: Open White Spaces for Everyone

It’s a familiar story. Big media companies will use any means to squash new ideas that threaten their control. For too long, our policymakers put the narrow interests of a few conglomerates before innovation, competition and the public good.

Last year we sent 1.5 million letters to Congress and halted the phone and cable industry efforts to kill Net Neutrality. This year, we’re fighting to make the Internet available and affordable to everyone. Opening up white spaces is key to creating the healthy competition, consumer choices and technological innovation we need to provide an open Internet to all.

We can win this fight. Take action to open white spaces today.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 9:22 am

Posted in Business, Government, Technology

Tagged with ,

Another shave soap from the Netherlands

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This one came in a tub: Kruidvat shaving soap “for normal skin.” It made a good lather with the Rooney Style 3 Size 1 Super, and I used my Edwin Jagger gold lined Chatsworth with a brand new Treet Blue Special blade: easy, smooth shaving. The aftershave was Paul Sebastian. Extremely nice: the lined Chatsworth has a good heft.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 9:18 am

Posted in Shaving

Friday cat-blogging: This is a Watchcat watching me

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Watchcat

Megs, being a Watchcat on top of the supplies cabinet in back of me.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 7:39 am

Posted in Cats, Megs, Uncategorized

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