Later On

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

Archive for October 26th, 2007

Bad decisions come home to roost

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Excellent point. And why not stringent building codes regarding making houses fireproof as well as earthquake proof when fire is such a danger?

Check out the page one photo on the Thursday, Oct. 25 front page of the New York Times. It shows two rows of completely destroyed homes in San Diego, and two virtually untouched homes right in the midst of them.

The caption makes no mention of it, and indeed in news story after news story, reporters talk about the seemingly whimsical way the fire destroys some houses while bypassing others, but what the two homes in that photo that are seemingly unscathed have in common is red tile roofs.

This is not fickle fate at work; it is common sense.

When I worked as a reporter in Los Angeles back in the 1970s, it was common knowledge–and was verified every time there was a wildfire–that if your house had a tile roof, and stucco walls, it pretty much was immune to fires.

Yet developers and home buyers, to keep their costs down, continue to put shake (wood) or asphalt shingles on houses in places like Southern California, where grass and forest fires are predictable annual events.

It’s the western equivalent of homeowners and developers in the eastern US who persist in building homes on flood plains or along the coast at sea level.

You have to feel sorry for a family that loses their home, but really, how stupid can people be?

How stupid can insurance companies be, when it comes to that?

I’m reading that there are complaints about lack of adequate fire-fighting equipment and personnel in San Diego, where there is no county fire department, but I have yet to see one article looking at how many of those houses that were lost had flammable roof materials.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Daily life

Alberto in a heap of trouble now?

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Looks like Alberto may be facing some serious charges:

 As our collective interest has shifted from the incompetence of the former attorney general to the independence of the next one, it’s easy to forget that Alberto Gonzales may be in heaps of legal trouble. Virtually every public explanation of his surprising and abrupt resignation this summer was a benign one. Everyone (including we at Slate) was focused on the political justifications for Gonzales’ resignation, rather than the legal ones. We speculated that Josh Bolten forced Gonzales out, that he finally wearied of being the nation’s scratching post, that he had to leave when Karl Rove did. None of those explanations really made sufficient sense—especially for a man who had just vowed to stay on to the end, and recently finalized his fall schedule. There was no reason for Gonzales to leave when he did—he’d likely gotten away with turning the whole Justice Department into the president’s personal playground, then covering it all up with half-truths. But maybe he didn’t get away with it after all, and that’s the real explanation for his departure.

John McKay, one of the U.S. attorneys allegedly fired for improper political reasons, suggested just this in a speech last week before the Federal Bar Association. McKay claimed that Gonzales may be facing criminal prosecution, and soon. Describing an eight-hour meeting he had last June with investigators from the DoJ’s Office of the Inspector General, which may file its report to Congress before Thanksgiving, McKay predicted that the investigators will recommend criminal prosecution of Gonzales for lying under oath.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 1:52 pm

Torture complaint lodged against Rumsfeld

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And it must now be investigated:

Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld got an unpleasant surprise during his visit to France today when human rights groups filed a complaint with the Paris Prosecutor before the “Court of First Instance” (Tribunal de Grande Instance) charging the chief architect of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” with ordering and authorizing torture.

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) along with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and the French League for Human Rights (LDH) filed the complaint while Rumsfeld was in Paris for a talk sponsored by Foreign Policy magazine, and under French law, an investigation must be opened if an alleged torturer is inside France.

“France is under the obligation to investigate and prosecute Rumsfeld’s accountability for crimes of torture in Guantanamo and Iraq,” said FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen. “France has no choice but to open an investigation if an alleged torturer is on its territory. I hope that the fight against impunity will not be sacrificed in the name of politics. We call on France to refuse to be a safe haven for criminals.”

“The filing of this French case against Rumsfeld demonstrates that we will not rest until those U.S. officials involved in the torture program are brought to justice,” said CCR President Michael Ratner. “Rumsfeld must understand that he has no place to hide. A torturer is an enemy of all humankind.”

The criminal complaint states that because of the failure of authorities in the United States and Iraq to launch any independent investigation into the responsibility of Rumsfeld and other high-level U.S. officials for torture despite a documented paper trail and government memos implicating them in direct as well as command responsibility for torture – and because the U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court – it is the legal obligation of states such as France to take up the case.

Rumsfeld’s presence on French territory gives French courts jurisdiction to prosecute him for having ordered and authorized torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 1:49 pm

Cool transformer furniture for small apartments

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Lots of cool stuff here. For example:

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Hubbert’s Peak was last year?

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Ken Deffeyes suggested that Hubbert’s Peak was on us, and a couple of years ago picked Thanksgiving Day, 2005, as an appropriate date to mark the peak. Apparently he was off by a few months:

It is downhill all the way for oil, according to a study by the Energy Watch Group (EWG) in Berlin, Germany. It reported this week that world oil production peaked in 2006 – far earlier than expected.

EWG analysed oil production figures and predicted it would fall by 7 per cent a year, dropping to half of current levels by 2030. The announcement comes as oil prices reached record highs last week, at more than $90 a barrel, and contradicts optimistic projections by the International Energy Agency in Paris, France.

The report also predicts significant falls in gas, coal and uranium production. The group warns that supply shortages could cause “a meltdown in society”, leading to scenes of mass unrest, such as those that took place in Burma earlier this month when the government pushed up fuel prices.

Energy and Fuels – Learn more about the looming energy crisis in our comprehensive special report.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Apples

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When I make the sauerkraut, bacon, and apples dish, I grate the two Granny Smith apples using the Kitchenaid food processor with the 6mm grating disk: immediate grating. But I didn’t mention (because it seemed obvious to me) that I wash the apple, remove the stem, and grate the whole thing: skin, core, and all.

And when I eat an apple, I eat skin, core, and all—except the stem, of course. I learned to eat the core rather late: a friend was doing that, and I tried it (of course) and found that it was tasty—in fact, some apple seeds taste a lot like cinnamon. It also solves the problem of what do do with the core. But, mainly, it’s tasty, simple, and quick: things I like.

So if you make the sauerkraut dish, use the core. And if you’re eating an apple, eat the core. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 11:21 am

Posted in Food

Tagged with

Megs, sleep interrupted

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Megs drifting Megs awakened

Photo 1: Megs relaxed on my shins, drifting toward sleep

Photo 2: Megs thinking, “That damn camera again!”

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 10:52 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Malthus redux

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From the International Herald Tribune:

The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, the UN Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are “among the greatest challenges at the beginning of 21st century,” he said.

The program described its report, which is prepared by 388 experts and scientists, as the broadest and deepest of those that the UN issues on the environment and called it “the final wake-up call to the international community.”

Over the past two decades the world population has increased by almost 34 percent to 6.7 billion from 5 billion; similarly, the financial wealth of the planet has soared by about a third. But the land available to each person on earth had shrunk by 2005 to 2.02 hectares, or 5 acres, from 7.91 hectares in 1900 and was projected to drop to 1.63 hectares for each person by 2050, the report said.

The result of that population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger millions of humans, as well as plant and animal species, the report said.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 10:19 am

Extremely cool—or warm, as you want

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This is an extremely clever idea: windows that you can switch so that they reflect external heat (keeping the interior cool) or internal heat (keeping the interior warm).

The KSD window has three panes with high insulative value. The innovation is in that center pane. It has heat reflective capabilities, in one direction. Thus, in summer, flip the window with the green side facing out and there is minimal heat gain, reducing the cooling burden. In winter, flip it the other way, and it reduces heat loss (while allowing solar heat gain during the day), reducing the heating load. GENIUS!

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

State Dept cover-up

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This looks very bad indeed: the State Department as accessory to a crime. Exhibits at the link.

Even as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended her department’s oversight of private security contractors, new evidence surfaced Thursday that the U.S. sought to conceal details of Blackwater shootings of Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

In one instance, internal e-mails show that State Department officials tried to deflect a 2005 Los Angeles Times inquiry into an alleged killing of an Iraqi civilian by Blackwater guards.

“Give [the Los Angeles Times] what we can and then dump the rest on Blackwater,” one State Department official wrote to another in the e-mails, which were obtained by ABC News. “We can’t win this one.”

One department official taking part in a chain of e-mails noted that the “findings of the investigation are to remain off-limits to the reporter.” Another recommended that there be no mention of the existence of a criminal investigation since such a reference would “raise questions and issues.”

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 9:35 am

Subprime lessons

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The free market in action—Paul Krugman:

“Increased subprime lending has been associated with higher levels of delinquency, foreclosure and, in some cases, abusive lending practices.” So declared Edward M. Gramlich, a Federal Reserve official.

These days a lot of people are saying things like that about subprime loans — mortgages issued to buyers who don’t meet the normal financial criteria for a home loan. But here’s the thing: Mr. Gramlich said those words in May 2004.

And it wasn’t his first warning. In his last book, Mr. Gramlich, who recently died of cancer, revealed that he tried to get Alan Greenspan to increase oversight of subprime lending as early as 2000, but got nowhere.

So why was nothing done to avert the subprime fiasco?

Before I try to answer that question, there are a few things you should know.

First, the situation for both borrowers and investors looks increasingly dire.

A new report from Congress’s Joint Economic Committee predicts that there will be two million foreclosures on subprime mortgages by the end of next year. That’s two million American families facing the humiliation and financial pain of losing their homes.

At the same time, investors who bought assets backed by subprime loans are continuing to suffer severe losses. Everything suggests that there will be many more stories like that of Merrill Lynch, which has just announced an $8.4 billion write-down because of bad loans — $3 billion more than it had announced just a few weeks earlier.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 9:17 am

25 skills every man should know

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Popular Mechanics lists 25 skills that every man should know. How many have you mastered?

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Mystery theme

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You have to guess the theme of today’s shave, which started, as always, with MR GLO. Then the very pleasant Edwin Jagger Sandalwood shaving cream, which went on quite well with the Edwin Jagger Medium Silvertip shaving brush: great lather, great fragrance.

The Edwin Jagger lined Chatsworth, holding a Treet Black Beauty of a certain age, quickly and easily slid off the stubble, leaving a visage as smooth as a bathtub.  I finished with TOBS Sandalwood aftersahve.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2007 at 8:39 am

Posted in Shaving

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