Later On

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

Archive for November 12th, 2007

Worth watching

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Via Glenn Greenwald:

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Election

Shirking responsibility

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This is an outrage:

The two signature injuries of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An estimated 26,000 U.S. veterans from these wars have had their brains traumatized from nearby explosions. Another 45,000 have initiated post traumatic stress disorder claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

These claims concern real disabilities that are medically hard to prove. In each VA case, it is up to the military and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to decide if and how much any given soldier’s mental faculties have been impaired. These are also precisely the kinds of claims that the U.S. government has actively thwarted in the past — and recent news and health articles suggest that a repeat performance is underway. The Defense Department is being accused of under-funding studies of traumatic brain injuries. The VA and Defense Departments are refusing to make their brain injury data public. Current PTSD claimants are finding their medical and service records missing, lost, or subject to challenge. A class action lawsuit was recently initiated on behalf of PTSD claimants.

My recent investigation on the VA claims of a Navy waste disposal ship, the USS Calhoun County, provides a cautionary tale about what might be happening and why.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 3:30 pm

Zero-power monitor

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When you’re not using it, that is: no power used in stand-by mode.

Standby power is the bane of all electricity consumption. Essentially if there is a light coming out of a device, it is consuming power. It is such an important problem that the British Government is considering banning standby power altogether. As part of their green initiatives, Fujitsu Siemens has come up with a new type of monitor that uses zero standby power. Is this the solution?

The technology, which can be applied to any type of monitor, whether it is a television, or a computer screen, works by storing electricity into additional capacitors within the device. When the device is turned off, the capacitors maintain a charge of power that will allow the monitor to be brought back to life immediately, as long as it happens within five days. This technology is expected to go into production into new monitors next spring.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 2:35 pm

Better compact fluorescent bulb

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Less mercury, longer life, not affected by on/off cycles. And they last as long as LEDs but are cheaper. Read more, including about the ones currently available.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 2:25 pm

Learning Linux

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Wal-Mart sold out of its $199 Linux home computers, and now they’re trying to push a $289 Windows Vista computer (problem: it comes with the Vista OS). But now that they’ve broken the ice, I expect we’ll see more inexpensive Linux machines coming along. It’s likely that they will be aimed at novice users and not really require much (if any) knowledge of Linux. But still…  why not learn a little Linux?

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Software, Technology

Tagged with

Vinegar: a cool tool

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I’ve been drinking 2 Tbs of vinegar before bed each night (and Bragg’s is the best), and now I see all these other uses:

I recently became a vinegar convert after acquiring this book whose intriguing subtitle says it all: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of. What’s behind the cover fulfilled its title’s promise: I am now using vinegar in several of the ways it suggests, primarily (so far) as a spray-bottle cleanser and flavoring agent/foodstuff. While I can’t say for sure that all 400 uses will work as promised, I’ve had success with a number of them. Next up, I plan to leave a gallon of it overnight, with a gallon or two of water, in the bottom of my bathtub the next time it needs a major touch-up. Some other uses: deodorizer (e.g., of pet stains); recipe-helper (in a wide variety of roles); laundry-cleaning-helper; home remedy (e.g., against bug-bites and burns); pet cleaner/medicine; beauty/grooming aid. Compared to its alternatives, vinegar is inexpensive, easy on the environment, and versatile, which cuts down on my household “inventory.” The author also wrote a book called Baking Soda, which I’m just about to plunge into.

Here are a few vinegar recommendations I’ve already used:

– Clean the microwave by boiling a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar until it steams up. Wipe clean.

– Add vinegar to a hand-pump compressed-air sprayer to kill weeds and grass growing in crevices in a patio and walkways.

– Make any dried bean dish less gassy or stinky by adding 1/4 cup vinegar to the soaking water.

– Make catsup and other condiments last longer when the bottle is almost empty by adding a little vinegar and shaking.

– Spread a cloth soaked in vinegar over a price tag you want to remove and leave overnight.

– Get rid of fruit flies by setting out a small dish of vinegar—it will attract and drown them.   – Roger Knights

Vinegar: Over 400 Various, Versatile, and Very Good Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of
Vicki Lansky, 20 pages, 2003

More recommendations:

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 11:13 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Amazon.com sick — not

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This is the second day I haven’t been able to do successful searches and hyperlinks on Amazon. Is everyone having this problem?

UPDATE: It was me. I deleted the Amazon cookie(s) and cleared the cache, and now things are working well. What a dope I am.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 11:04 am

Posted in Business, Software

Congress, :sigh:

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Congress doesn’t get it.

They’re at it again. The folks in Congress are doing the opposite of what good common sense would dictate on energy issues. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and his House counterpart Nancy Pelosi (D-California) have dropped important mandates and incentives for renewables from 2008 energy policy. According to renewableenergyaccess.com, this major concession to friends of the old energy establishment is part of the horsetrading necessary to deliver a bill to voters before the Thanksgiving recess.

What’s getting the ax?

1. The RPS, or Renewable Portfolio Standard, would have set a goal of acquiring 20-25% of the nation’s electctricity from renewable sources by 2025. This is a very modest target to begin with. The European Union, for example, is on track to meet a 21% target by 2010. While 29 individual states in the U.S. have instituted their own RPS targets, we need an aggressive national policy to stimulate U.S. innovation and investment in alternative energy. We ought to be pursuing a global leadership position in renewables. As things stand, we aren’t even doing a very good job at following.

2. Tax incentives such as the PTC (Production Tax Credit) and ITC (Investment Tax Credit). The solar space doesn’t exactly seem to lack for investment these days, so the ITC may indeed be an unnecessary boondoggle. But the PTC, currently set to expire in December, 2008, is critical for bringing consumer costs for solar in line with other energy sources in the near-term and attracting producers and jobs to the U.S. market. America, when it comes to our ability to compete in a new, sustainable economy, we may get caught with our pants down.

Pelosi and Reid may be gambling that a stronger energy bill will pass in the wake of the Presidential election. Meanwhile, the current bill seems to throw a bone to all the old dogs – oil, coal, natural gas, while appeasing heartland legislators through biofuel subsidies to farmers in Midwestern states. Those of us who care about climate change and a green energy future will want to get on the horn to our senators and representatives!

We’ve recently written about explosive growth in the solar energy space. Encouraged by government subsidies, companies like China’s SunTech Power and Arizona’s First Solar have have been bullish regarding growth prospects in the U.S. solar market. Let’s hope that tax incentive programs on the state level will be sufficient to drive this growth, and that this latest foolishness from Washington will only present a bump in the road, rather than a long-term setback for U.S. solar producers.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 11:00 am

Proud of California on this

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Reuters:

California sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, demanding a quick federal decision that would allow the nation’s most populous state to limit greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

“California is ready to implement the nation’s cleanest standards for vehicle emissions, but we cannot do that until the federal government grants a waiver allowing us to enforce those standards,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.

The long-threatened legal action follows a 2005 California law requiring new vehicles to meet tighter standards for emissions, starting with 2009 models introduced next year.

California needs a waiver from the federal government because it is seeking to impose stricter standards than those imposed under federal law. The legal filing asks the court to force a EPA decision on the matter.

If the EPA denies the waiver, “we sue again, and sue again, and sue again until we get it,” Schwarzenegger told reporters.

The federal agency “has unreasonably delayed action on the requested waiver,” according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Automotive emissions of greenhouse gases are increasing more rapidly than any other source,” the lawsuit said. “The longer the delay in reducing these emissions, the more costly and harmful will be the impact on California.”

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 10:54 am

Jonah Goldberg: pro-war and pro-torture

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Glenn Greenwald has a particularly powerful column today. One great benefit of the Web is that it’s a wonderful memory machine, so that you can readily retrieve the words written a while back—much to the dismay of those who like to present their positions deceitfully.

I really think that those, like Jonah Goldberg, who do not believe that waterboarding is torture, would be much more credible if they would first undergo an 8-hour session of it.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 10:40 am

Posted in GOP

Tagged with , , ,

Medical innovations—via the government

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Paul Krugman:

This piece about medical innovation is one of the nest things I’ve ever read on the subject. Bottom line: the US does lead the world in medical innovation, but the high prices we pay for insurance, drugs, etc. have little to do with it. Instead, it’s about the National Institutes of Health — it’s the government, not the private sector.

Go to that link and read. The article weaves a very interesting—and non-obvious—story.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 10:22 am

A new shaving brush for vegans

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Omega has produced a brush that uses synthetic fibers instead badger or boar bristles. Synthetic brushes (usually nylon) have been around a while, but these are advertised as a significant advance over the Omega Syntex brushes.

You can see the new brushes at Em’s Place and at Razor and Brush (scroll down).

I actually haven’t used these new brushes. I did try an Omega Syntex (the pure white nylon) and it did a very nice job, in fact. The drawback of that brush was not the bristles but the size and weight of the handle: it felt as though I were holding a button. But these new ones look quite nice.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 9:14 am

Posted in Shaving

Tagged with , ,

Corruption in Alaska

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Man, it’s bad up there. When people betray the public trust, penalties should be doubled, in my opinion, with no possibility of parole.

ANCHORAGE — When the FBI came looking for corruption in Alaska politics, it found an excellent perch in Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, the state capital. There, a profane septuagenarian named Bill Allen did business throughout a 2006 special session called to set taxes on the oil industry. With hundred-dollar bills in his front pocket for ease of access when lawmakers turned up with their hands out, the oil-services company executive turned in a bravura performance before the pinhole camera that federal agents installed opposite his favorite chair.

“Let me count first here,” Allen said, shushing a former statehouse speaker as he counted out a bribe in video footage entered as evidence in the lawmaker’s September trial, one of several crowding the docket of the federal court here.

On another tape, Pete Kott, the former Republican speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, crowed as he described beating back a tax bill opposed by oil companies. “I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie,” Kott said. “Exxon’s happy. BP’s happy. I’ll sell my soul to the devil.”

“Well, that will stay in this room,” one lobbyist said as a midnight session wound down.

It did not, of course. Since breaking into public view a year ago when federal agents raided lawmakers’ offices and homes — finding $32,200 neatly stacked in a closet of Kott’s condo — the federal probe has produced four indictments, three convictions, three guilty pleas and a rapt audience keen to see how high into Alaska’s political hierarchy the rot reaches.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Tagged with , ,

More on the fraying US welcome mat

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Here’s another take. One problem with giving authority to minor officials is that it’s difficult to screen and train them all, so you inevitably end up with some who were attracted to the job by the opportunity to be officious and exercise their power excessively. When you grow a department quickly (TSA, for example), you end up with more of these, and unless there’s a program specifically to weed out the minor tyrants, they proliferate. The unintended consequences can be bad:

Two years ago we asked Telegraph readers whether the tightened security at US airports had put them off travelling to the country. The answer then was an overwhelming yes.

Last week, in the wake of new figures showing that fewer Britons are visiting the US than in 2000, we asked the same question. Again, the vast majority of responses suggest that, despite the favourable exchange rate of more than two dollars to the pound and a recent US charm offensive, British travellers have not been persuaded to go back.

Here is a selection of what you said:

So tourism from the UK is down 20 per cent with the dollar at more than two to the pound. Wait until it is back to a more normal $1.60 to the pound and there will be empty aircraft crossing the Atlantic and somebody in the Clinton/Obama administration wondering how that happened.

I had many enjoyable holidays in the US between 1995 and 2004, but stopped visiting after the introduction of iris scanning and fingerprinting.

The US is the only country in the world where tourism is regarded as a criminal activity and all visitors are subjected to an arrest procedure on arrival. It’s easier to enter China. It seems that the Department of Homeland Security would much prefer all visitors to stay at home. I know when I am not welcome – my tourist money has gone elsewhere and will not be back.
Name supplied, by email

I shall never return to the US, where you can be intimidated, insulted and made to feel like a criminal by aggressive officials. For business and pleasure, I prefer to visit India and China – the people are so polite, the countries are amazing and the exchange rates make the dollar look very expensive.
John Sinclair, by email

I used to travel regularly to the US for pleasure: to visit friends, enjoy the museums, galleries and landscape etc. However, it would take more than De Niro videos and typical US hype to get me back there as a tourist. On the last two occasions I visited, I found the security and immigration measures intimidating and offensive, the attitude of the staff administering them arrogant, intolerant and downright rude. I am a white, male, middle-aged lawyer; what it must be like for non-white, non-professional visitors, I can only imagine.
Felipe Ondonez de Rivera, by email

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 8:49 am

Braised oxtails

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Last night at 6:00 I put the large sauté pan full of oxtails in a 200º oven, and this morning I took it out, with the kitchen and living room awash in delicious aromas. Off with the lid, and it looked wonderful. I used the little tongs to remove the bones, pushing the meat off them with the spatula if the meat didn’t simply fall off, as it mostly did.

Colder weather is perfect for oxtails. Since I was making these for me and The Wife, no hot pepper, and she requested no tomatoes. So here it was:

I took two small packages of oxtails, a total of 2 1/4 lbs., and put them in the large sauté pan to brown—no oil, just the oxtails.

As they browned, I chopped finely an onion, 4 stalks of celery, and 2 carrots: a mirepoix, though the usual ratio is 2:1:1, onions most. Mine was closer to 1:1:1. I also minced about six cloves of garlic. As I did this, I would turn the oxtails from time to time so that they would be browned on all sides.

Once they were brown, I poured in a cup of red wine and used the spatula to deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits. I put the minced vegetables in with the oxtails.

Earlier in the afternoon I had poured boiling water over some dried shiitakes. I took them mushrooms out, squeezing them to dry them a bit. I added some that water to the pan, about 3/4-1 cup. I cut the mushrooms into slices and added them as well.

I stirred it up a bit, and then added the juice of 4 lemons (the acid helps break down the cartilage and leach out a bit of calcium from the bones), about 1 1/2 Tbs of horseradish (that imparts a wonderful, elusive flavor), a good healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce—probably a tablespoon—salt, pepper, and dried thyme. A bit more stirring, on with the lid, and into the oven for 11 hours.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 8:06 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

Method-5, and end of the series for a while

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I went back to the Shavemaster brush today, and it did indeed do a better job—no thin lather today. OTOH, I also used a larger dab of the Shaving Paste, and that may have made the difference. Yesterday I used a dab the size of a pea, today one the size of a peanut, which I think improved the lather. So I need to take another run at the Rooney, upping the amount of Shaving Paste.

But variety calls me strongly at this point, and I want to wander a bit. I don’t think I’ll ever be solely a Method shaver, or any other sort of shaver: I like to explore alternatives. But I can assure you that the Method stuff I have now will remain in the rotation and repertoire, and I’ll probably add some of the other components in time.

Today’s shave was 9.6. I returned to the Edwin Jagger Georgian and Sputnik blade, since that had done well, and it did well again. Four passes: two down, one sideways, one against the grain. And once again I felt inclined to go with a balm rather than a splash. Today it was Castle Forbes Lavender balm. Very nice.

So tomorrow back to more traditional shaves, and the next Method go-around I’ll try the larger amount of Shaving Paste in the small Rooney.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2007 at 7:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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