Later On

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

Archive for November 12th, 2008

James Fallows recommends a book

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At its site here, the Center for Defense Information announces the imminent release of its new book “America’s Defense Meltdown.” Really this is a guide on how to think about, pay for, reconfigure, equip, deploy, withdraw, modernize, simplify, support, strengthen, lead, motivate, inspire, and in all other ways improve America’s military establishment.

I hardly need to mention why such a book is useful, at a time when the United States and its new Administration must figure out how to manage whatever comes next in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ongoing challenge of possible terrorism, America’s new financial realities, and on down a very long list.

What is most remarkable about the book is the array of authors who have joined to produce this anthologized volume. If I started listing a few, I would have to name them all (PDF of full list here.) They include the closest colleagues and collaborators of the late Air Force colonel John Boyd plus leading defense analysts and practitioners of the next generation. They have amply earned the right to be listened to. What I said in a blurb on the book’s jacket* is, if anything, not enthusiastic enough:

The talent, judgment, and insight collected in this book are phenomenal. Over the last generation, the authors have been more right, more often, about more issues of crucial importance to American security than any other group I can think of. It is a tremendous benefit to have their views collected in one place and concentrated on the next big choices facing a new Administration.  This really is a book that every serious-minded citizen should read.

For more about the book, from one of its organizers, Chet Richards, see this. Check it out.
* On blurbs: I have a bias in favor of giving blurbs for books, because in my experience most books deserve a better chance and a broader audience than they’re likely to receive. Obviously there are exceptions. But I try to be very precise about the aspects of a book I compliment and the kinds of readers I recommend it to. Thus this comment really does reflect my respect for the authors and their collective contribution.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 1:55 pm

Mushroom-Barley Soup

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This recipe sounds good:

Mushroom-Barley Soup
Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes

The soup becomes a light meal with bread or, even better, croutons — just brown slices of good bread on both sides in as much olive oil as you need. You can also make this soup into a stew by adding small chunks of any ingredient you like, including meat, while the soup is simmering. It will be done at about the same time as the barley.

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Soak porcini in 3 cups very hot water. Put olive oil in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. Add shiitakes and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add barley, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown; sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, and reserve liquid. Sort through porcini and discard any hard bits.

2. Add porcini to pot and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add bay leaf, mushroom soaking water and 3 cups additional water (or stock, if you prefer). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer; cook until barley is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add soy sauce, and taste. Add salt if necessary and plenty of pepper. Serve hot.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

A new-job orientation

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That, alas, rings quite true.

Go here and help unions happen.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

The fight to replace Dingell with Waxman

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As you know, Waxman is trying to unseat Dingell from the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce committee. Matt Stoller has a good summary of the issues:

The fight over the Energy and Commerce chairmanship is really the fight over the next Congress, and all their forces are gathered to protect John Dingell’s slow-walk stance on global warming.  The lobbying of the newly elected members if furious, on both sides.  Now, you’re going to hear a lot of polite talk about how Dingell has a respectable plan on climate change that is less aggressive than the progressive alternative on climate change, but that’s DC nonsense borne of a fear of the vindictive Dingell.  Dingell’s plan doesn’t even start capping carbon emissions until 2030.  It’s a non-starter.  It’s designed by the coal and auto industry, and its authors even want to preempt existing California mandates on carbon emissions.

But Dingell is good on health care.  Well, by good, I mean he has pushed ‘single-payer’ for literally decades, while preventing action on drug prices and appointing most of the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee that killed Clinton’s health care plan, because they were reliable pro-auto industry votes on other issues Dingell prioritized (there aren’t a lot of single payer pro-polluting members out there).  But health care is all Dingell has, so he’s emphasizing his willingness to work on health care with Obama in return for keeping his chairmanship of the enormously powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.  Obama has appointed Waxman’s former Chief of Staff Phil Schiliro as his Congressional liaison, and his EPA transition chief, Robert Sussman, is on record rejecting Dingell’s bill out of hand, even as a starting point.  Unlike the Lieberman fight, where Obama is putting his thumb on the scale for Lieberman, it’s not clear if Obama will meddle in the House, even though Waxman’s take on most E&C issues – including net neutrality and broadband – are far more in sync with the incoming administration than Dingell’s.

So it’s a caucus fight.  And in that sense, Waxman, like Pelosi, is simply more progressive on the merits of industrial policy, and that’s a very powerful incentive for what is an increasing progressive caucus.  Over 150 Democrats supported Waxman’s ‘principles’ for climate change by signing this letter which commits to four elements: reduce emissions to avoid dangerous global warming, build a clean energy economy, mitigate economic impacts of global warming legislation, and mitigate impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems.  This includes Dingell supporters like the immensely awful New Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews, so these aren’t all Waxman votes.  But it’s a good floor to work from.

So far, Dingell has K Street behind him with a letter from chief of staff Michael Robbins to lobbyists:  …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 12:12 pm

Living with a wolf

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Thanks to Liz for the link to this article, which begins:

Brenin never lay down in the back of the Jeep. He always liked to see what was coming. Once, many years ago, we had driven from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, all the way to Miami – around 800 miles – and back again. And he stood every inch of the way: his hulking presence blocking out much of the sun and all of the rear traffic. But this time, on this short drive into Béziers, near the village where we were living in the Languedoc, he wouldn’t stand; couldn’t stand. It was then I knew he was gone. I was taking him to the place where he would die. I had told myself that if he stood up, even for part of the journey, I would give it another day; another 24 hours for a miracle to occur. But now I knew it was over. My friend of the past 11 years would be gone. And I didn’t know what sort of person he was going to leave behind.

The dark French midwinter could not have contrasted more starkly with that bright Alabama evening, in early May, when I first brought six-week-old Brenin into my house and into my world. Within two minutes of his arrival – and I am by no means exaggerating – he had pulled the curtains in the living-room (both sets) off their rails and on to the ground. Next, while I was trying to rehang the curtains, he found his way out into the garden and under the house. At the rear, the house was raised off the ground and you could access the area underneath by way of a door built into the brick wall – a door that I had obviously left ajar.

He made his way under the house and then proceeded – methodically, meticulously, but above all quickly – to rip down every single one of the soft, lagged pipes that directed the cold air from the air-conditioning unit up through various vents in the floor. That was Brenin’s trademark attitude to the new and unfamiliar. He liked to see what was coming. He would explore it; embrace it. Then he would trash it.

I was a couple of years into my first job – assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

Food movies: Waitress

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I enjoyed Waitress for various reasons, including the pies. My favorite:

I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie

1 pie crust
4 Tbs. butter
3 slices ham
8 green onions
1 C. brie cheese
1 C. parmesan cheese, grated
4 eggs
2 C. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover pie crust with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 minutes more. Remove crust and reduce heat to 325 degrees.
2. Julienne ham. Chop green onions.
3. In skillet, saute ham until brown. Remove and set aside.
4. Saute onion until tender. Remove with slotted spoon and combine with ham.
5. Spread on bottom of pie crust. Spread brie over ham mixture and sprinkle with parmesan. Combine eggs, cream and nutmeg; pour over cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until set. Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 8.

Other recipes from the movie here.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 11:58 am

Flu shot and pneumonia shot

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I just got them.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 11:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Good sites for kids

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Parents, please note:

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, has added Web sites this fall to Great Web Sites for Kids (, its online resource containing hundreds of links to commendable Web sites for children.

Great Web Sites for Kids (GWS) features links to valuable Web sites of interest to children, organized by subject headings such as animals; literature and languages; mathematics and computers; the arts; and history and biography. There is also a special section with sites of interest to parents, caregivers and teachers, plus an area devoted to sites in Spanish. The ALSC Great Web Sites for Kids Committee maintains and updates the site.

“Not all Web sites for kids are created equal,” said Karen Lemmons, co-chair of the committee and a library media specialist at Howe Elementary School in Detroit. “To make the cut and appear on the Great Web sites for Kids, a site must demonstrate commendable qualityand reflect and encourage young people’s interests in exemplary ways. Sites must stand up to an evaluation and voting process by the committee before being deemed ‘great’ and added to the GWS page.”

… The complete listing of great sites with annotations and selection criteria can be found at

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 10:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

For the NaNoWriMo crew

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From Dustin Wax:

There comes a time in nearly every big writing project when you just can’t seem to move forward. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner and aren’t sure how to get out of it, maybe the end just seems too far away to be reachable, or maybe you burned through your initial enthusiasm and it just isn’t fun any more.

The difference between a writer and a dabbler is what you do at that point. A lot of folks will give up –– pack up their manuscript and put it away, telling themselves they’ll pick it up again when their inspiration returns. Unfortunately, it rarely does. The real writers are the ones who push through these hard moments, doing whatever they have to do to overcome or bypass the thorny problems that keep them from reaching the end of their manuscript.

There are many strategies a writer can use to get up and over the hump. Try some of these ideas to help you deal with your own writing challenges and get your project done. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

Reading books too late

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This earlier post got a comment on how we often read books too early in our life, thus missing most of the meaning. (I’m thinking, for example, about a 9th grade class reading Macbeth—sure, they will get something from it, but they’ll miss a lot—for example, from not having the adult experience of ambition, either in yourself or seeing it operate in colleagues.)

But there are also books you can read too late. I think around 15 is the age to read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. At that age, it’s exciting and fits in with the adolescent need for independence. Once you’re an adult, however, you see the all-too-obvious contradictions and gaps in the structure and the way certain arguments are not made.

A less pernicious book that also can be read too late is, I think, You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe. I read it at 18 and wish I had read it at 16 for some of the same reasons: it fits well adolescent agnst and loneliness.

Not to mention Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins (Flossie and Freddie, and Nan and Bert), the Hardy boys, and so on: read early or not at all.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Great movies

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This is in the special sense of “great,” as in the comment on leaving the theater, “Man, that was great!” The movie in question is one of the Zatoichi series: the 9th in the series, Adventures of Zatoichi. It’s quite representative of Zatoichi and is a fun watch. I got it for The Older Grandson (it has some Go in it), but he didn’t like it (subtitle problem, I think). So I kept it. It would be great to have the entire collection of movies and the later TV show, but—oddly—a boxed collection of all the movies (or the TV shows) is not available, so you have to rent them one at a time from Netflix or buy them one at a time. Great stuff.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Joyful music and heart health

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After reading the report below, I started up Songbird and am now listening to 1.FM – Otto’s Baroque Musick on the Shoutcast page.

Listening to your favorite music may be good for your cardiovascular system. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have shown for the first time that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function. Music, selected by study participants because it made them feel good and brought them a sense of joy, caused tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate (or expand) in order to increase blood flow. This healthy response matches what the same researchers found in a 2005 study of laughter. On the other hand, when study volunteers listened to music they perceived as stressful, their blood vessels narrowed, producing a potentially unhealthy response that reduces blood flow.

The results of the study, conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center, will be presented at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association, on November 11, 2008, in New Orleans.

“We had previously demonstrated that positive emotions, such as laughter, were good for vascular health. So, a logical question was whether other emotions, such as those evoked by music, have a similar effect,” says principal investigator Michael Miller, M.D., director of preventive cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We knew that individual people would react differently to different types of music, so in this study, we enabled participants to select music based upon their likes and dislikes.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 8:40 am

Posted in Health, Music, Science

OMG: read this recipe for roasted broccoli

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And, of course, the recipe originates with the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. This version is wonderfully illustrated, and I have broccoli, a roasting pan, an oven—you see where I’m going with this?

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 8:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

What a good news program looks like

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Issues, not trivia; facts, not partisan blowhards.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 8:15 am

Fascinating possibility

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From Wired, via Firedoglake, this article, which begins:

When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on January 20, Americans won’t just get a new president; they might finally learn the full extent of George W. Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretapping.

Since The New York Times first revealed in 2005 that the NSA was eavesdropping on citizens’ overseas phone calls and e-mail, few additional details about the massive “Terrorist Surveillance Program” have emerged. That’s because the Bush administration has stonewalled, misled and denied documents to Congress, and subpoenaed the phone records of the investigative reporters.

Now privacy advocates are hopeful that President Obama will be more forthcoming with information. But for the quickest and most honest account of Bush’s illegal policies, they say don’t look to the incoming president. Watch instead for the hidden army of would-be whistle-blowers who’ve been waiting for Inauguration Day to open the spigot on the truth.

“I’d bet there are a lot of career employees in the intelligence agencies who’ll be glad to see Obama take the oath so they can finally speak out against all this illegal spying and get back to their real mission,” says Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington D.C. legislative director.

New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh already has a slew of sources waiting to spill the Bush administration’s darkest secrets, he said in an interview last month. “You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on January 20. [They say,] ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.'”

So far, virtually everything we know about the NSA’s warrantless surveillance has come from whistle-blowers. Telecom executives told USA Today that they had turned over billions of phone records to the government. Former AT&T employee Mark Klein provided wiring diagrams detailing an internet-spying room in a San Francisco switching facility. And one Justice Department attorney had his house raided and his children’s computers seized as part of the FBI’s probe into who leaked the warrantless spying to The New York Times. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even suggested the reporters could be prosecuted under antiquated treason statutes.

If new whistle-blowers do emerge, Fredrickson hopes the additional information will spur Congress to form a new Church Committee — the 1970s bipartisan committee that investigated and condemned the government’s secret spying on peace activists, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other political figures.

But even if the anticipated flood of leaks doesn’t materialize, advocates hope that Obama and the Democratic Congress will get around to airing out the White House closet anyway. “Obama has pledged a lot more openness,” says Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was the first to file a federal lawsuit over the illegal eavesdropping.

One encouraging sign for civil liberties groups is that John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, is a key figure in Obama’s transition team, which will staff and set priorities for the new administration. The center was a tough and influential critic of the Bush administration’s warrantless spying.

Among the unanswered questions: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 8:12 am

Greek chicken pasta salad

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This recipe, from the Kitchn [sic], sounds great. There’s a photo at the link:

Greek Chicken Pasta Salad with Olives and Feta
serves six

For the chicken:
2 medium skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh oregano (see this post on converting to dried oregano)
2 small (or one large) cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

For the vinaigrette:
juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For the pasta:
1 pound rotini or other pasta
12 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, halved or quartered into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups pitted olives (kalamata or any mediterranean mix)
8 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh oregano
handful of chopped, fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pat dry the chicken breasts and lay them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Mix the remaining ingredients together to form a paste, and rub it over both chicken breasts, making sure to get some of the mixture underneath the skin and in any folds of the meat. Sprinkle with extra salt and pepper.

Roast chicken for about 25 minutes, until cooked through (the skin does not need to brown). Remove and allow to cool slightly, then peel back the skin, remove the meat, and shred it into bite-sized chunks. Try to scrape as much of the seasonings as possible off of the skin and bones, so you can add it to the pasta along with the chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, make the vinaigrette. Mix the lemon juice with the salt and pepper, then slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water. While it’s cooking, combine the artichoke hearts, olives, and shredded chicken (plus any juices and spices on the cutting board) in a large bowl. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the bowl. Pour over the vinaigrette, then add the cubes of feta cheese. Mix everything together, then sprinkle in the extra oregano and parsley, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 7:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

War criminal dies after successful Army coverup

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The military will hide any evil, no matter how bad. That’s their concept of “honor.” From this account, I quote:

… Doyle was a team leader on the Army’s famous Tiger Force in 1967 when some members began executing women and children in a bloody rampage that lasted seven months.

A wiry staff sergeant with the ace of spades tattooed to his trigger finger, Doyle bragged that he shot so many civilians that he lost count.

”We killed anything that moved,” he told reporters from The Toledo Blade for a series that won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. “My only regret is that I didn’t kill more.”

Though Army investigators recommended that he and 17 others be charged with war crimes, including murder and assault, no action was taken.

The case — the longest war-crimes investigation of the Vietnam conflict — was quietly closed by the Pentagon in 1975, and remained concealed for 28 years until the newspaper obtained the secret files.

”There was no political will [to prosecute],” said Gustav Apsey, the Army’s lead investigator. “They didn’t want this getting out.” …

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 7:36 am

Posted in Army, Daily life, Military

The electoral map for various subgroups

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 7:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

View from my balcony this morning

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I went out on the balcony in my pyjamas to snap the photo, and Miss Megs took the opportunity to walk about the balcony and give it a good sniff. Her first time on the balcony in years. (Once when she was much younger she was sitting in the window, giving a neighbor cat on the balcony what for through the screen, when Megs pushed too hard and, with the screen, fell out onto the balcony. I found her some time later, huddled under a chair and seeming rather frightened. She was glad to get back inside.)

Click photo and then click again for full size.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 7:30 am

Posted in Daily life

Lilac morning

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Honeybee Spa Lilac and the Sabini ebony-handled brush produced an extremely good and fragrant lather. The English Gillette red-tipped Super Speed with a Swedish Gillette blade smoothed away the stubble efficiently, and Booster Lilac was the obvious and ideal aftershave today.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 November 2008 at 7:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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