Later On

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

Archive for February 13th, 2008

Great science-fiction novel

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I’m about two-thirds through Alastair Reynolds’s great SF novel Revelation Space, which is the first of a few novels set in the same universe. Gripping, original, large canvas, good characters…. what more could one want?

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Truth? or hyping Fear?

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Rolling Stone has an excellent article well worth clicking to. It begins:

 “Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. There were times when some people in the administration were really aggressive about raising the threat level, and we said, ‘For that?!'” — Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, May 2005

The Bush administration has never shied from playing the fear card to distract the American public from scandal or goad them into supporting a deeply flawed foreign policy. Here a history of the administration’s most-dubious terror alerts — including three consecutive Memorial Day scare-a-thons — all of which proved far less terrifying than the screamer headlines they inspired.

February 12, 2002

The Threat: Yemenite terrorist set to attack U.S. — today! “I want, to encourage… all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert,” warns Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The Reality: The threat hadn’t been corroborated by U.S. intelligence agencies — and the evidence actually pointed to an attack not in the U.S., but in Yemen.

The Real News: Announced the same day that Enron CEO Ken Lay appeared before Congress, and a week after the White House was instructed not to destroy its Enron-related documents.

Click here to read “The Fear Factory”: The FBI now has more than 100 task forces devoted exclusively to fighting terrorism. But is the government manufacturing ghosts?

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 2:39 pm

Tea filters

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For those who make their tea in the cup, these cup-size filters look like just the ticket—and they are endorsed by The Wife.

Enjoy loose tea anywhere with these tea accessories… convenient and easy-to-use disposable empty tea bags. An elongated back makes filling-up easy, and requires no filter holder, making the tea ball obsolete. Simply fold over the edge of your cup or teapot. Made in Germany of taste-neutral wood and hemp fibers. Each box contains 100 filters [and costs $3: 3¢ a filter, not bad].

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 10:49 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

US continues to harbor and protect notorious terrorist

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And an evil guy, no doubt:

On the streets of Miami, Luis Posada Carriles might look like just one of the dozens of nice, elderly Cuban gentlemen who gather outside the Versailles Restaurant for a strong cup of java. But there is nothing nice or gentle about Posada Carriles. For starters, he is responsible for the 1976 downing of a Cuban passenger plane with 73 people on board-the first act of aviation terrorism in the Western hemisphere. In 1997 he orchestrated the bombing of hotels in Havana that resulted in the death of Italian businessman Fabio Di Celmo. In 2000 he was arrested, and later convicted, in Panama for plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro by blowing up an auditorium full of students.

On a recent trip to Venezuela, I learned of his sordid history of torturing and assassinating suspected leftists when he worked for the Venezuelan secret police. Jesus Marrero, a student leader in 1973, painfully recounted how Posada Carriles supervised his torture, including electrodes to his penis. Brenda Esquivel, captured when she was 8-months pregnant, says Posada ordered his men to “destroy the seed before it was born”–kicking her so brutally that the baby died in her womb. Her sister Marlene, who was imprisoned with her 20-day-old baby, was forced to watch as Posada’s agents burned her baby with cigarettes.

The U.S. Justice Department has called Posada “an unrepentant criminal and admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks. ” When he was being held in a U.S. immigration detention center in 2005 for having sneaked into the country with a false passport, the Department of Homeland Security said that due to his long history of criminal activity and violence, his release from detention would “pose a danger to both the community and the national security of the United States.”

So why, then, does Luis Posada Carriles live freely in Miami, eating lechón asado at the Versailles Restaurant, socializing at the Big Five Club, exhibiting his paintings at the Miami Art Museum? Why isn’t he behind bars?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 10:39 am

Another Minimalist recipe: a dessert soup

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Sounds great:

Winter Squash in Coconut Milk
Yield 4 servings
Time 30 minutes, plus cooling

I prefer butternut squash here, though any squash with dense flesh — dark orange, and not mushy like a Halloween pumpkin — will work equally well. But I usually choose butternut because it’s the easiest squash to peel and is reliably sweet and rich. Firm, rich sweet potatoes are another good option.

  • 1 1/2 pounds dense-fleshed winter squash, like butternut, peeled, seeded and cut into big chunks
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  • 3 cups (2 cans) coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, or to taste
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine squash, butter, coconut milk, sugar and salt and bring to a slow boil. Cook, stirring, until squash is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature or refrigerate.

Just before serving, stir in vanilla. Puree mixture in a blender or leave it chunky; serve cold or at room temperature.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 10:35 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Great-looking shortribs

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I love a shortrib, don’t you? I even blogged my own approach. But what Mark Bittman has today in the NY Times is well worth a look—particularly the video. The recipe is below, but read the whole article—and watch that video. 🙂

Short Ribs With Coffee and Chilies
Time: At least 3 hours

1 tablespoon oil
4 large or 8 small short ribs
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dried pasilla chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 dried chipotle chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup strong coffee.

1. In a heavy pot that can later be covered, drizzle oil. Over medium heat, brown ribs well, adjusting heat as necessary to get a dark crust. Take your time, and season with salt and pepper as they cook. Remove them to a plate and turn heat to low.

2. In same pot, cook onions, garlic and chilies, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft, about 15 minutes. Add wine and coffee and reduce over high heat by about half. Return ribs to pot, cover, and cook over low heat (or in a 300-degree oven) for 2 to 3 hours. Cook until very tender — beyond when meat falls off the bone — turning every hour or so. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings.

UPDATE: Made the usual sort of changes: doubled the garlic, used half a large onion and about the same amount of chopped shallots. Also cut up 4 mushrooms (plain domestic) into largish chunks and am cooking those. Wine is a Zinfandel. I was going to add juice of 1/2 lemon but decided not to—thought I’d stick to the recipe. I’m using the oven method. Four little shortribs in the 2-qt All-Clad Stainless sauté pan: good fit.

UPDATE 2: Very tasty, though I have to say that my own recipe (link above) is better.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 10:00 am

Bye bye, sippy cups; hello, straws

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News for parents of toddlers:

Toddlers could develop lisps and other speech problems from use of sippy cups, says a speech pathologist.

Sippy cups — the often character-themed training cups that come with a snap-on lid and hard spout — and/or thumb sucking can cause difficulty with articulation and clarity of speech in some children, says Sandra Holtzman, MS, a speech pathologist and certified orofacial myologist in Coconut Creek, Fla.

“When a child sucks their thumb, it’s placed on the roof of their mouth, so the tongue is misplaced,” Holtzman tells WebMD. “They keep their lips apart, which encourages open-mouth breathing, and their teeth are pushed forward or outward.” When the tongue is misplaced, she says, a child also can’t properly suction saliva or swallow food or liquid.

“The most common issues are types of lisps,” she says, “but it can also cause imprecise articulation,” such as slurred or difficult-to-understand speech.

But parents can make simple changes that will prevent these speech issues, says Holtzman, who spoke at a conference on orofacial myology, a field of study that looks at how certain structural or functional factors in the mouth can cause speech and swallowing issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 9:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Secondhand smoke

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I’m engaged in an on-going discussion on another site about the proposed Wisconsin smoking ban, which strikes me (of course) as a good idea: it’s a public health issue and banning smoking from workplaces and public places (including casinos, restaurants, and bars) has worked well in other states. One suggestion was that, if tobacco was so evil and dangerous, why not ban it altogether.

I oppose outright prohibition because (a) it doesn’t work, and (b) it channels large amounts of money to the underworld and leads to the corruption of the justice system. (Cf. the attempts to prohibit alcohol and marijuana, for example.) And in any event, outright prohibition is a BIG step beyond simply banning smoking from workplaces and public areas.

Moreover, tobacco is not evil in itself, but smoking it is certainly dangerous. No question about that: as the Surgeon General reported in 2006, it causes coronary disease, lung cancer, and premature death.

The response was very much like deniers of global warming (to which he made specific reference): “The science is not settled, there are good arguments that it’s not so harmful,” etc. The guy responding has a tobacco shop, so perhaps he’s not totally impartial but I invite you to read the Surgeon General’s report or the executive summary (list of links  to press releases, the report, the summary, etc.) and see for yourself that this issue is settled: secondhand smoke is dangerous. It should not be allowed in public places or in the workplace.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 9:41 am

Morning tea

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This morning it’s English Breakfast tea in lieu of coffee—at least for now. I got a nice box of samples from Adagio, and now I’m going to work my way through them.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 9:32 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Grapefruit & Peppermint

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This morning I enjoyed an especially nice shave. First was the shaving soap: QED’s Grapefruit and Peppermint, a particularly wonderful and refreshing fragrance—and a very good soap, as well. And then the novelty of using a synthetic (i.e., vegan) brush: the Rituals Skincare brush, a gift in trade from another shaver—thanks, Kurt.

SAVE A BADGER! Did you know that badgers are killed specifically for their hair to make shaving brushes? This brush is animal friendly, and the synthetic antimicrobial bristle has negative ions to keep it free from bacteria, mold and mildew. The shaving brush is designed to exfoliate and raise the hair up off of the skin for a closer shave. Hand made in the USA and built to last. After use, rinse brush with warm water and air dry.

The brush is sturdily built with a nice heft and is quite good looking. It holds plenty of water, though the water seems to run more freely from the brush than from badger brushes. Still, once the excess water drained, it worked up a good lather—even a fine lather. The brush felt quite different, though. Perhaps because the bristles were absolutely uniform in resilience, and the brush was tightly packed, it felt much like lathering with a soft fine sponge filled with the lather.

I used the Edwin Jagger Georgian with a brand-new Treet Blue Special blade, and got a very comfortable and close shave. For the oil pass, I again used my own mix—I’m going to stick with it all this week so I have a solid basis for comparison when I start alternating it with the commercial oils. I now find that a single drop is plenty.

The oil pass actually had relatively little polishing to do: the good lather and the new TBS had already produced an excellent shave. But now I’m starting to like the way the oil leaves my skin feeling.

The aftershave was Taylor of Old Bond Street Shave Shop, a favorite.

Bottom line on the brush: interesting feel and a viable alternative for a serious vegan, but I think on the whole that the badger brushes are better.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2008 at 9:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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