Later On

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

Archive for October 13th, 2007

“The Good American”

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Frank Rich has an exceptionally good column:

“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago. As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques have a grotesque provenance: “Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the ‘third degree.’ It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.”

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled “politics.” We turn the page.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 8:18 pm

300 mpg

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Aptera

Extremely cool:

The current prototype gets to 60 mph in about 11 seconds and has a top speed of 95 mph.

The company says that the $500 reservation fee is absolutely refundable at any time, and simply buys you a spot on the list. You can then have input into what the vehicle will be eventually called, its graphics, and accessory options. Then the $500 will be credited toward the cost of the vehicle upon purchase.

The Aptera is fuel-efficient because it is extremely light, and it keeps itself so light in a few ways. First, the engine is tiny, one cylinder, but that’s OK, because it’s only ever used to charge the batteries. It also stays light by doing away with one of the wheels. This also helps because then, according to American safety regulations, it is technically a motorcycle, and so doesn’t have to jump through any of the normal safety hoops. This keeps weight (and costs) way down, but it also makes it pretty fantastically unsafe (but, of course, no less safe than a motorcycle.)

But it certainly is more comfortable than a motorcycle. The extreme aerodynamics keep things efficient but also spacious. Two bucket seats, a wraparound cockpit which gives excellent wraparound visuals.

The lack of side-view mirrors is compensated by rear cameras that display on the central video monitor. Oh…and speaking of awesomness, it has solar panels on the roof that power an air conditioner that keep the car cool on any sunny day….even when you’re not in it!

More at the links.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment, Technology

Tagged with

Make sure you’ve read these

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From Life Optimizer, a short shelf of books that you should have read at least once. I think I would have gone with Great Expectations rather than Oliver Twist, and The Brothers Karamazov rather than Crime and Punishment, and War and Peace rather than Anna Karenina, and Man and Superman instead of Saint Joan, but no matter.

UPDATE: Avoid at all costs the book The Well-Educated Mind. It is filled with one-page synopses that generally miss the point but do include all possible spoilers. A terrible book! Reading it would ruin the joy and experience of reading these books for the first time.

As noted at the link:

The recommendations are found in the books How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, and The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, both of which I believe are high-quality books. You can read the books for complete information about their recommendations (with suggestions on how to read them), but here I will directly give you the titles of the books which are recommended by both of them.

While I believe a book which is recommended by any of them is good, I think it’s safe to say that a book which is recommended by both of them is great.

So without further ado, here are the recommended classic books along with the Amazon [and also check Abebooks.com for inexpensive secondhand copies – LG] and free download links (if any):

Novel

  1. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes) – Download
  2. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift) – Download
  3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – Download
  4. Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) – Download
  5. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) – Download
  6. Moby-Dick (Herman Melville) – Download
  7. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert) – Download
  8. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky) – Download
  9. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) – Download
  10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) – Download
  11. The Trial (Franz Kafka) – Download

Autobiography and Memoir

  1. The Confessions (Augustine) – Download
  2. The Complete Essays (Michel de Montaigne) – Download
  3. Meditations on First Philosophy (Rene Descartes)
  4. Walden (Henry David Thoreau) – Download

History

  1. The Histories (Herodotus) – Download vol 1vol 2
  2. The Peloponnesian War (Thucydides) – Download
  3. The Republic (Plato) – Download
  4. Lives (Plutarch) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3
  5. City of God (Augustine)
  6. The Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli) – Download
  7. Utopia (Sir Thomas More) – Download
  8. The Social Contract (Jean Jaques Rousseau)
  9. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3vol 4vol 5vol 6
  10. Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville) – Download vol 1vol 2
  11. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx) – Download

Drama

  1. Agamemnon (Aeschylus) – Download
  2. Oedipus the King (Sophocles) – Download
  3. Medea (Euripides)
  4. The Birds (Aristophanes) – Download
  5. Poetics (Aristotle) – Download
  6. Richard III (William Shakespeare) – Download
  7. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare) – Download
  8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare) – Download
  9. Tartuffe (Moliere) – Download
  10. The Way of the World (William Congreve) – Download
  11. A Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen) – Download
  12. Saint Joan (George Bernard Shaw)
  13. No Exit (Jean Paul Sartre)

Poet

  1. The Iliad (Homer) – Download
  2. The Odyssey (Homer) – Download
  3. Odes (Horace) – Download
  4. Inferno (Dante Alighieri) – Download
  5. The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer) – Download
  6. Sonnets (William Shakespeare) – Download
  7. Paradise Lost (John Milton) – Download
  8. Selected Poetry (William Wordsworth) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3
  9. The Complete Poems (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) – Download

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Design for the real world

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I love design that is targeted at the majority of the world: the people living in the Third World with very little money and very little technology. If you have IE Tab for Firefox (or if you’re using IE), click here to see a great example: the Windbelt, by Shawn Frayne. (In Firefox, this will open a new tab; then click the IE Tab button to make it an IE tab, and you can see the video (with sound).)

Design for the Real World is the title of a book by Victor Papanek. It’s fascinating to read and describes hundreds of ingenious projects that provide a better way of life in the Third World: practical, inexpensive, and with a huge payoff in daily life. Here’s a review; here’s another.

So far as the invention in the video: a philanthropist should fund factories in third-world countries to help people there build these.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 5:27 pm

Telecom immunity: why it’s a bad idea

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 3:03 pm

Extremely good post on the Graeme Frost affair

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Via Paul Krugman, this post by digby. One conservative of my acquaintance dislikes the John Dean book Conservatives Without Conscience because it talks so much about Authoritarianism. This, despite the fact that the modern GOP has become increasingly authoritarian, as evidenced by their desire to control the behavior of others in all sorts of ways. digby:

Today, Amy Ridenour of Townhall is touting the idea that Michele Malkin has the right to dig into every private detail of your life if you take any money from the government. Watch out social security recipients. Watch out veterans. She’s going to be putting all your personal information on the internet if you open your mouth in a way she doesn’t approve. You give up your right to privacy — even from shrieking harpy bloggers — if you receive any money from the taxpayers. In fact, Amy Ridenour and Michele Malkin personally own you.

(In their typical creepy fashion, Townhall have put the name and picture of a kid wearing stickers saying that he’s a “health care voter” up next to the article. It makes it more convenient for the freaks to hunt him down, I suppose.)

Ridenour’s post (among others) reminds me of a well-off acquaintance of mine who agreed to give an aging relative a hundred dollars a month. He made sure that everyone knew how generous he was and then he would regale us all with stories about how he would go over to the old fellow’s house once a month and inspect it to make sure he wasn’t doing anything “bad” with the money. After all, he gave him a hundred bucks a month. He forced the old guy to stop buying cheap beer and made him quit smoking a pipe and pored over his bills to make sure he wasn’t overusing the utilities. He had a right, you see. The man was taking his money.

The question to me when he would tell me this stuff was why this very well-off man (a Republican, by the way) took such pride at controlling the behavior of one sad old man through a meager offering of a hundred dollars a month. I could only conclude that it was because his sadistic joy at making someone else miserable was coupled with his inflated belief in his own goodness and pride in his superiority. He was allowed to deny this man his freedom in the name of helping him. The authoritarian’s path to heaven.

And this impulse (which is not confined to the right although they’re the ones who seem to make a fetish of it — at least since the temperance movement ran out of gas) is why government programs were developed in enlightened, modern Western societies in the first place. Charity robs the recipient of the dignity and personal liberty to which all people have a claim, rich, poor or in the middle. Using government to act as the safety net instead of the good will (or good mood) of those of means allows that. Citizen pays in, and someday, god forbid, if he needs some help, he won’t have to kiss the ass of some rich busybody or self-righteous hypocrite who thinks he or she has a right to dictate his behavior on the basis of a couple of bucks. (And considering the moral example set by both the private and public scolds these days, that concept is even more distasteful than it used to be.)

The old guy finally told his nephew to bugger off, by the way. Nobody needs a hundred bucks that much. But what if he had?

Update: Tom Tomorrow says it so much better.

And, perhaps relevant, this model of government help for those who need it:

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Saturday morning game time

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Via The Wife, Boomshine. Hint: click the little speaker at the bottom right of the title screen to shut off the terrible New-Age dithering music so you get just the chimes of annihilation.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Games

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Best method for the slow-roasted tomatoes

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Okay, I’ve made these several times now. Best toppings, besides the olive oil and salt (and use black-olive salt if you have it): ground black pepper, ground coriander, and cayenne. I usually now use ground black pepper and ground coriander.

And the best way to cook: put them in a 200-degree oven around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. and let them roast overnight. Take them out the next morning. They’re still juicy, not leathery, but they are done to perfection.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 11:30 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tagged with

Hipster PDA, Index cards, and more

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The Hipster PDA is a stack of index cards, either bound with a clip or in a holder. (I have a very nice little leather case from Andrew Thompson Co. of Chattanooga. It’s $20 now, but $7.50 when I first got it. I like it better than the Levenger equivalents because it’s much less bulky while still providing storage for extra cards. Good gifts, BTW.)

At any rate, the real deal is to be able to print index cards to your exact needs. I was looking for an index card printer (they used to have them), but it turns out that my current printer can actually print them—and you can get nifty templates on the Web.

Via Lifehacker, here’s a list of 24 things you can do with index cards, and here you can find more about printing the cards. You might want to try these personal finance index card templates.

UPDATE: This little Wiki is the best thing I’ve found for the cards I want. You right-click the link (I suggest not starting with the empty template.) and use “Save as…” to save it into a (new, probably) folder in My documents. Then, in your browser, you open what you saved with File, Open, and select that file. You can then edit the pages—I changed @Waiting, for example, to @Reading and then listed books I have in mind to read (some of them, anyway). Then File, Page Layout lets you set the margins to 0.0, and File, Print, Properties lets you specify page size (and the HP has a 3×5 option), and finally File, Print, Page 1 of 1 will print the top card. (If you have two cards, try printing pages 1-2.)

It works.

UPDATE 2: Here are quite a few 3×5 PDF templates. You have to download each template you want separately, and a couple of them won’t download: the PDF file seems to be corrupted. Still, some good cards.

UPDATE 3: I couldn’t find exactly the ones I wanted, so I created my own. At the link, you’ll find printing instructions and where to download.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 10:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Tagged with ,

Julie London

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Julie London is one of my favorite singers. She sings in the jazz idiom, but more a quiet, small-group jazz. As she once commented about her voice, “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.” And it indeed does. Many of her albums are available on CD, and are great for late-night listening.

The video clip below is of her singing “Cry Me a River.” From the link above:

One of her most famous singles “Cry Me a River”, was actually written by her high school classmate Arthur Hamilton, and produced by her husband Troup. The song was part of her first album, JULIE IS HER NAME, and when deejays heard it begged Liberty to release it as a single. The song was quite successful when released in the fall of 1955 and Julie was on her way. The success of that record put Liberty Records on the map.

The clip is from the movie The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), when a depressed Tom Ewell puts on Julie London’s first album:

More, if you like that:

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Tagged with

Bad news on hospital bacteria

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A new scourge:

A common bacterium is becoming more virulent and drug resistant in hospitals. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) now ranks Acinetobacter baumannii on its list of “bad bugs” alongside two perennial chart toppers, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

The reported cases of nasty A. baumannii infections “may be just the tip of the iceberg,” says Robert Bonomo of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “I don’t think the statistics … do justice to the current problem. I hear people saying, ‘It’s all over my hospital.'”

Some strains of the bug resist nearly all antibacterial drugs, forcing physicians to rely on colistin, an antibiotic that fell out of favor in the 1970s after reports that it caused kidney damage. “We’re resurrecting colistin from antiquity,” says physician Michael Zapor of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But he adds that “it’s only a matter of time before we lose [it], too.”

At an IDSA meeting in San Diego last week, Zapor reported a spike in A. baumannii infections among soldiers at Walter Reed who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2002, the hospital saw only 10 such infections, but in 2004, 279 wounded soldiers contracted the bug. By 2006, with more-stringent infection-control procedures in place, the number of cases dropped to 177. Zapor says that the hospital spent more than $1 million on intravenous antibiotics in 2006, up from $400,000 in 2000.

Bonomo described the case of a soldier with a blast wound infected by a strain of A. baumannii that became “flesh eating.” More and more such strains are appearing, he says.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 8:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Qwest CEO: the surveillance started before 9/11

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Interesting: according to the former Qwest CEO, who refused to participate, the illegal domestic surveillance started up months before 9/11. Now why exactly should we give the telecoms immunity from any crimes they committed? Because they have lots of money? The Washington Post:

 A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.

Details about the alleged NSA program have been redacted from the documents, but Nacchio’s lawyer said last year that the NSA had approached the company about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans’ phone records.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 8:14 am

Taylor in the morning

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In the book I recommend Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado shaving cream to the newbie, and this morning I picked it up to renew my acquaintance, via a Simpsons Keyhole 2 shaving brush. It does indeed produce a thick and satisfying lather that does a good job of softening the stubble. I had to add water to the brush (lathering on my beard) three times before I felt the lather was right, but then it was right indeed.

I picked up my gold Progress—they don’t make ’em any more—and with whatever blade was in it I got a fine and smooth shave. Exceptional. And then, after the alum block, Mr. Taylor’s aftershave, a fragrance I quite like.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2007 at 8:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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