Later On

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

Archive for March 11th, 2008

Good to know: cheap HDMI cables are fine

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CNET strongly recommends cheap HDMI cables widely available from online retailers instead of the expensive counterparts sold in your local electronics store.

Here’s why:

Expensive cables aren’t worth it
If you walk into your typical electronics store to buy an HDMI cable, you’re likely to see prices upward of $50 with promises of better performance and faster speeds. Do you really need to spend that much money on a single HDMI cable?

Absolutely not–those cables are a rip-off. You should never pay more than $10 for a standard six-foot HDMI cable. And despite what salesmen and manufacturers might tell you, there’s no meaningful difference between the $10 cable and the $50 cable. Unless you see something obvious, such as dropouts or a flashing screen, the digital information transmitted by both cables is exactly the same–no cable can make the picture any better or any worse. We’ve used cables from many different companies in the past–such as Belkin, Accell, Monoprice, Monster, and SimplayHD–and have not run into any consistent issues with any brand of cable. With working cables and solid connections, we’ve seen no dropouts and “sparklies”–just consistent, dependable, high-quality audio and video. It’s that simple.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Making money from tragedy

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This sucks:

As more major U.S. cities are endorsing an effort to reduce use of bottled drinking water because of energy consumption and pollution concerns, PepsiCo announced it is teaming up with Starbucks and harnessing the movie star power of Matt Damon to help distribute a brand of “charitable” bottled water called Ethos. The marketing campaign for Ethos calls attention to the plight of impoverished Africans who lack access to safe, clean drinking water. For every bottle of Ethos water purchased, five cents goes to programs that provide African children with clean water. Ethos sells for $1.80 a bottle. Critics of Ethos water say it is a profit-making enterprise disguised as humanitarian relief, that Ethos is exploiting the plight of Africans to sell more bottled water in the United States, and donating directly to a reputable charity dedicated to water projects in Africa is a better way to address the issue.
Source: Advertising Age, March 10, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Useful for Web developers

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Take a look at “20 sites that made me a better Web developer.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 2:26 pm

Cute test of awareness

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Big Business and their tricks

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Some look askance at me when I say I don’t trust the free market. Businesses, if given free rein, can be extremely harmful. Oversight and regulation and auditing and laws are required to keep them minimally ethical, and even all that doesn’t always work. I realize that my Libertarian readers will disagree, but consider this case, via Kevin Drum (and keep in mind what Big Business is doing with respect to the effort to combat global warming):

According to the Weinberg Group’s website, one of their specialties is defending corporate clients with, um, PR problems:

The Weinberg Group knows how critical it is to protect products, markets and revenue streams and to minimize the damage done to corporate image, business and brands. We’ve developed a highly-effective, integrated approach to preparing and defending against attacks on products and processes, averting crises, and diminishing the effects of civil and criminal litigation.

Indeed. Justin Rood reports today that congressional Democrats have some questions about this:

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee say they have obtained deleted pages from the Weinberg Group’s Web site where the firm took credit for delaying the cancellation of a harmful drug for nearly a decade at the request of two pharmaceutical clients, and other industry victories.

The firm’s efforts “led to an extensive process” and eventually “10 additional years of sales prior to the ultimate cancellation of the drug,” according to a printout of the page provided to ABC News by the committee.

In a March 6 letter, the committee asked Weinberg to turn over documents naming that drug, its manufacturers and the experts it involved in allegedly keeping the drug on sale.

Hey, if they were willing to brag about it on their website, I’m sure they’ll be happy to brag about it under oath in front of a congressional subcommittee. Let’s name some names.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 2:00 pm

Another styptic roll-on

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Those who read this blog know that I really like My Nik Is Sealed, a styptic liquid in a little roll-on applicator. Works extremely well on nicks and leaves no white powder residue the way styptic pencils (solids) often do. Now Pacific Shaving Company has a similar product called Nick Stick. I know you can buy their All Natural Shaving Oil (which I occasionally use for the Oil Pass) at Whole Foods, so probably the Nick Stick will appear there, too.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 11:32 am

Posted in Shaving

The jury system

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A wild idea, but it works. A comment from Nov 4, 2002, by John Bloom:

In America we like our juries dumb and predictable. God forbid they should know anything about the case they’re judging, much less the law they’re judging it by. We need to protect them from all sorts of things that could infect their brains with information.

If we didn’t do that, it would be like trusting 12 guys off the street to dispense justice. What a quaint idea. And, obviously, a dangerous one.

The idea of a jury is at least 3,000 years old — the Greeks thought 12 was the perfect number of panelists — but our version of it is much younger. We’re coming up on the 800th anniversary of the year when King John was told, essentially, stop forcing your laws down our throats or we’re going to burn down your castle.

Voila! The modern jury system was born. The king could decree all the laws he wanted to decree, but from then on it would be 12 guys from the neighborhood who decided whether they would actually be used against anybody.

King John didn’t go quietly, of course — he hated the Magna Carta and tried to throw jurors in prison when they failed to convict — so it shouldn’t be that surprising that eight centuries later our own black-robed jurists continue to fear juries and try to manipulate and rein them in whenever possible. They would be much more comfortable with juries in the French, Russian or Islamic sense — panels of professional judges — but unfortunately they’ve got this pesky “peers” concept to deal with.

The main way they neutralize the enemy is to make sure the jury is stupid. The dumbing-down process has taken effect gradually over the past hundred years, mostly by making certain the jurors don’t know how much authority they have, by keeping jurors off the panel who might tend to vote their conscience instead of the law of the land, and by just simply withholding information.

For example, in criminal trials, it’s now routine to withhold from the jury any information about mandatory sentencing. While deliberating a man’s fate, you’re not allowed to know whether “guilty” is more likely to result in five years of prison or 50 — because if you knew just how hard the hammer was about to fall, you might decide it’s not fair and vote for acquittal.

News alert: it’s the jury’s job to decide what’s fair and what’s not fair. It’s not the judge’s, and, contrary to popular wisdom, it’s not the legislature’s. The legislature is the modern stand-in for King John, and it has no more authority over the jury than he did.

Unfortunately, we’ve reached a stage in our history when the people are forced to take back the rights granted by those ancient kings, notably in the form of Amendment A in South Dakota. The so-called “jury nullification” proposal in that state would require judges to tell juries that they’re allowed to interpret the law — not just the facts — so that they can follow their own consciences if they disagree with some concoction of the legislature that shouldn’t be applied to the living, breathing human being set before them.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

If celebs moved to Oklahoma

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I’m from Oklahoma, and I approve this message.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Awkward timing for Doug Feith

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His book comes out just as the Pentagon releases its definitive report that there were no ties whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. Center for American Progress notes:

In a new memoir the Washington Post calls “a massive score-settling work,” former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith defends himself from charges that his Pentagon office politicized pre-war Iraq intelligence. Feith blames former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, the CIA, U.S. Army General Tommy Franks, former Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer, and almost everyone else but himself and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for mishandling the run-up to the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation. The Post obtained a 900-page manuscript of Feith’s book, entitled, War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, Feith headed up the Office of Special Plans (OSP), which was created “to find evidence…that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States.” Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked under Feith in the OSP, characterized the program’s purpose as “developing propaganda and pushing…an agenda on Iraq.” Kwiatkowski also said that OSP had “developed pretty sophisticated propaganda lines which were fed throughout government, to the Congress, and even internally to the Pentagon” to make the case that Saddam was an imminent threat.

POLITICIZING INTELLIGENCE: In February 2007, the Pentagon’s Inspector General concluded that the OSP under Feith had “developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship…that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers” and that Feith’s intelligence briefings to the President presented “conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.” Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stated that the report was “a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities in the DoD policy office” that demonstrated “that intelligence relating to the Iraq/al-Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration’s decision to invade Iraq.” When asked about the activities of the Office of Special Plans, CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden stated before Congress in May 2006 that he was “not comfortable” with Feith’s approach to intelligence analysis. “I wasn’t aware of a lot of the activity going on, you know, when it was contemporaneous with running up to the war,” Hayden said. “No, sir, I wasn’t comfortable.” The Senate Intelligence Committee will also soon release a new report criticizing Bush administration officials “for making assertions that failed to reflect disagreements or uncertainties in the underlying intelligence on Iraq.” Many of these statements were made based upon analyses produced by Feith’s office at the Pentagon, which posited a working relationship between Saddam and al Qaeda and claimed that Saddam was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 11:03 am

More on registry issues (Windows only)

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I posted yesterday about Registry Booster 2, and I’ve now had some experience with it. I discovered, as I started doing some general cleanup, that uninstalling any program seems to introduce registry errors. (Thanks, Microsoft.) So I have run it periodically. It’s pretty quick, and the “defragment registry” option in the program also seems to help. Glad I have it.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 10:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Upgrade your image

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Mama Bear pointed out this good tip:

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Watch classic TV programs for free

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Good service if you like TV. They also have some movies.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 9:53 am

Pentagon finds no Al Qaida in Iraq before the war

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An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida terrorist network.

The Pentagon-sponsored study, scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam’s regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime.

The new study of the Iraqi regime’s archives found no documents indicating a “direct operational link” between Hussein’s Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion, according to a U.S. official familiar with the report.

He and others spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because the study isn’t due to be shared with Congress and released before Wednesday.

President Bush and his aides used Saddam’s alleged relationship with al Qaida, along with Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, as arguments for invading Iraq after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claimed in September 2002 that the United States had “bulletproof” evidence of cooperation between the radical Islamist terror group and Saddam’s secular dictatorship.

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell cited multiple linkages between Saddam and al Qaida in a watershed February 2003 speech to the United Nations Security Council to build international support for the invasion. Almost every one of the examples Powell cited turned out to be based on bogus or misinterpreted intelligence.

As recently as last July, Bush tried to tie al Qaida to the ongoing violence in Iraq. “The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims,” he said.

The new study, entitled “Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents”, was essentially completed last year and has been undergoing what one U.S. intelligence official described as a “painful” declassification review.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 9:40 am

The provenance of the milk you buy?

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You won’t know it, if Monsanto has its way:

A new “grassroots” farmers group with close ties to Monsanto has been formed to push for bans on labels that promote milk from cows untreated with artificial bovine growth hormone (RGBH). Monsanto makes RGBH, or Posilac, which is injected into cows to make them produce more milk. The front group American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT), which receives funding from Monsanto, was organized by Osborne & Barr, an agri-marketing firm started by two former Monsanto employees in 1988. The founding client of Osborne & Barr was Monsanto. Consultant Monty G. Miller of Estes Park, Colorado, also helped organize AFACT, which was formally launched in California in February 2008. The only contact information AFACT lists on its website is a fax number listed as belonging to “Outer Office.” Outer Office provides secretarial and operational support (such as scheduling, newsletters and message-taking) to small consulting businesses. A call to Outer Office seeking the address and telephone contact information for AFACT was not returned.  Source: New York Times, March 9, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 9:29 am

Big Business and the Military

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The GOP loves to give cost-plus no-bid contracts to its supporters, all part of shoveling taxpayer money from the Treasury to large corporations. Watch this one.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 9:04 am

Alastair Reynolds update

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I’m still plugging through—and enjoying—Alastair Reynolds‘s imaginative space operas. The volumes I’ve read so far are all in the Revelation Space series:

I’m half through Absolution Gap and will be moving on to The Prefect as soon possible. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Food note

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To nosh on in the evening, I’ve been making a bean dip from time to time, using the small bowl of my KitchenAid food processor. Basic ingredients are beans, garlic, salt, oil, nuts or seeds, lemon juice…  well, whatever catches my eye. Last night’s was particularly good:

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp almond butter (from Trader Joe’s)
2 cloves garlic
1 section of shallot, chopped
zest of a lemon
juice of half a lemon
several dashes Maggi
a few grindings of Aji Limon (hot pepper from Rim of Fire)

If I’d had some pitted black olives (Saracena or Kalamata), I would have added some of those.

Pulse, then blend until smooth. Eat with crackers.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Very Violet

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This morning I did a test shave: to compare the lathers of the Violet shaving creams that I have. I got them all out and put them in a row and couldn’t help but notice that the row was short: two shaving creams (Geo. F. Trumper and Tryphon). I searched and did find another Violet: Mama Bear’s Victorian Violet shaving soap. That was it.

So I first compared the fragrances, though that wasn’t really the point of the exercise. Trumper’s was strongest and it had an edge of the same characteristic that I don’t like in most Lavender shaving creams: the acrid sharp tinge. But it was much fainter in the Violet, though still noticeable. The Tryphon fragrance was much lighter and sweeter—it lacked the sharp accent in the Trumper’s. Victorian Violet was stronger than Tryphon, and a very nice scent indeed.

Because the Trumper’s cream has lots of dye—it’s an intense violet—I didn’t want to use any of the silvertip brushes for fear of staining. So I picked the Simpsons Commodore X3 Best.

Each pass I used a different product: Pass 1, Trumper’s; Pass 2, Tryphon; Pass 3, Mama Bear. All produced fine lathers quickly and easily. A tie.

The razor was the Apollo Mikron with a new blade (I forget which brand), and it, too, did a fine job. The Oil Pass was done with All Natural Shaving Oil, and the aftershave was Booster’s June Clover, a favorite. Great morning, great shave.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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