Later On

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

Archive for November 16th, 2008

Chore report

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Today was a day for chores, some regular weekly chores (count out the week’s pills, bring up the recycling to the kerb), some chores due to slacking off (the incredible kitchen mess, books scattered over living room floor). I’ve finished the kitchen mess, thanks to my MP3 player and two excellent NPR Jazz Profiles: Sidney Bechet and Johnny Hartman.

These two links will download the program for your own listening pleasure:

Sidney Bechet (MP3 file)

Johnny Hartman (MP3 file)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Jazz

The cat came back

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A heartwarming story, which begins:

De cat came back—thought she were a goner,
But de cat came back for it wouldn’t stay away.

—Lyrics from “The Cat Came Back,” a song written by Harry S. Miller in 1893.

It’s a story that tugs at the heartstrings of all pet devotees: A cat given up for lost in 1995 has come home. As first reported by The Press Democrat, a gray and brown-tinged kitty with round, golden eyes named George was reunited with his Santa Rosa, Calif., owners last week after animal control officers tracked them down by scanning a microchip with identifying info implanted under the animal’s skin. (See slideshow of George.)

Frank Walburg says his boy, George, now nearly 17, was but a shadow of his former self when found—weighing a paltry 6.3 pounds (2.9 kilograms), less than half the nearly 14 pounds (6.4 kilograms) he weighed the day he vanished over 13 years ago. He was also sick, suffering from a respiratory infection as well as toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease characterized by lethargy and weight loss, which can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

“He used to be like a heater on wheels,” Walburg chuckles about his beloved feline friend, “like a lion in both appearance and walk,” his wife, Melinda Merman, wrote on her Web site. Still, Walburg told the San Francisco Chronicle “there was no ambiguity that he was the same dude, no doubt about it.”

George disappeared on June 23, 1995, back when Bill Clinton was president and Whitewater was in the headlines. Walburg says that he and Merman spent weeks scouring the neighborhood for him. They visited Sonoma County’s five animal shelters every other day for six months, posted missing cat signs, sent flyers to and called every veterinary clinic in the area and offered a hefty $500 reward for his return. Alas, as days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into years, Walburg says their hopes of finding George faded, “but we never stopped thinking about him.”

“It was hard not knowing what might have happened to him,” Walburg told, pausing to control his emotions. “We would imagine that he was just around the corner or trapped somewhere—and we would go and check.”

And so one can only imagine how he and Merman felt last week when …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 10:18 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Technology

Unhappy people watch TV, happy people read/socialize

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And it may be a cause/effect relationship. Here’s the report:

A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as very happy spend more time reading and socializing. The study appears in the December issue of the journal Social Indicators Research. Analyzing 30-years worth of national data from time-use studies and a continuing series of social attitude surveys, the Maryland researchers report that spending time watching television may contribute to viewers’ happiness in the moment, with less positive effects in the long run.

“TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does,” says University of Maryland sociologist John P. Robinson, the study co-author and a pioneer in time-use studies. “It’s more passive and may provide escape – especially when the news is as depressing as the economy itself. The data suggest to us that the TV habit may offer short-run pleasure at the expense of long-term malaise.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 10:15 am

Posted in Daily life

Continuing entertainment from The Seven Aphorisms

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Dahlia Lithwick has an enjoyable column on a case currently before the Supreme Court. Her column begins:

Let’s stipulate: Summum is weird. With its pyramids, mummification, nectars and hairless blue aliens, this religious organization (founded in 1975) offers an existential stew of transcendental Gnosticism and particle physics: Isaac Luria meets “Star Trek Voyager.” But, as my husband would be quick to point out, yours truly has been known to fly into a panic when a meat fork touches her milk sink, shrieking and driving the offending utensil deep into the dirt of the kitchen avocado plant and then waiting the ritual interval until its kosherness is mystically restored. All of which merely illuminates the First Aphorism of Religion Cases: Only the religious convictions of other people are weird. Yours are perfectly rational. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 9:47 am

How to fight a cold

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Some swear by hot and sour soup, but this post has what I would say would be a fully satisfactory cold fighter: “Hotcha! Spicy Thai Noodle Soup”. Note this, from the list of ingredients:

2 inch knob of ginger, smashed
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 green onions, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed

Emphasis added. If you’re suffering from a cold, I think smashing some of the ingredients would be quite satisfying. The recipe sounds wonderful, in any event.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 7:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Michael Scherer on the silent change to section 382

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Michael Scherer blogs at TIME’s Swampland:

In just a couple months, I must have read well more than 100 newspaper articles on the financial collapse and the federal response to it. But none is more remarkable than Amit Paley’s story in last Monday’s Washington Post. (Apologies for posting late; I just got around to reading it.) The story concerns an obscure change in the U.S. Tax Code that was forced through by the U.S. Treasury Department without any public review or Congressional involvement, a change that will grant an estimated $25 billion in tax savings to Wells Fargo and deprive the federal government of somewhere between $105 and $140 billion in revenue. Warning flags are everywhere: The change was announced with no fanfare within 24 hours after the House voted down the first bailout bill.  Treasury acted without clear legal authority. And finally, the change has long been a pet cause of conservative economists. “I’ve been in tax law for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says one lawyer quoted in the article.

I don’t have the expertise to judge the merits of the change. Maybe this was needed lest the economy fall further into an abyss. Maybe the Wells Fargo-Wachovia merger would have never happened without the change, costing taxpayers far more. Maybe there is a rationale for all other banks from here to eternity (even after the crisis ends) to enjoy this tax break. But as Paley makes clear, no one in the Treasury has yet to make this case in public. (There was an off-the-record call with dumbfounded Congressional staff.) This is a grave concern. Our system only works when major decisions are being made in sunlight, with significant debate, and that has not happened. Paley quotes a tax attorney, who notes an ominous parallel.

“It’s just like after September 11. Back then no one wanted to be seen as not patriotic, and now no one wants to be seen as not doing all they can to save the financial system,” said Lee A. Sheppard, a tax attorney who is a contributing editor at the trade publication Tax Analysts. “We’re left now with congressional Democrats that have spines like overcooked spaghetti. So who is going to stop the Treasury secretary from doing whatever he wants?”

On Friday, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowan who has established himself as one of the great legislative investigators of waste and corruption in our nation’s history, called for an investigation of the change. (New York Democrat Charles Schumer is also concerned.) Grassley writes that he is particularly worried about possible conflicts of interest at the Treasury Department. “Treasury didn’t involve Congress, so there were no checks and balances to vet the policy. The relationships of the players involved might give the appearance of conflicts of interest. I’m asking the inspector general to look at Treasury’s move after the fact and make sure the agency was fair, unbiased and above board in its actions,” he said in a press release. From his letter to the inspector general:

The facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the Notice, particularly as it relates to Wells Fargo’s purchase of Wachovia Corporation, raise concerns about the independence of the decision makers.  Since the Notice and the FDIC’s intervention are part of the federal government’s larger efforts to stabilize the economy, I ask that your office conduct this investigation since you have broader jurisdiction over Treasury than the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  As part of your investigation, please obtain and review all documents and communication related to the issuance of Notice 2008-83, including all records of communication between Treasury officials, individuals at Wells Fargo, and/or Wachovia Corporation or their representatives.

Sounds to me like a good first step.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 7:47 am

IEA expects 6º C warming

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Depressing post at Firedoglake. Well worth reading, though. It includes:

… Bad news? You could say that. Here’s how Mark Lynas put it:

+2.4°: Coral reefs almost extinct

In North America, a new dust-bowl brings deserts to life in the high plains states, centred on Nebraska, but also wipes out agriculture and

cattle ranching as sand dunes appear across five US states, from Texas in the south to Montana in the north.

Rising sea levels accelerate as the Greenland ice sheet tips into irreversible melt, submerging atoll nations and low-lying deltas. In Peru, disappearing Andean glaciers mean 10 million people face water shortages. Warming seas wipe out the Great Barrier Reef and make coral reefs virtually extinct throughout the tropics. Worldwide, a third of all species on the planet face extinction

+3.4°: Rainforest turns to desert

The Amazonian rainforest burns in a firestorm of catastrophic ferocity, covering South America with ash and smoke. Once the smoke clears, the interior of Brazil has become desert, and huge amounts of extra carbon have entered the atmosphere, further boosting global warming. The entire Arctic ice-cap disappears in the summer months, leaving the North Pole ice-free for the first time in 3 million years. Polar bears, walruses and ringed seals all go extinct. Water supplies run short in California as the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts away. Tens of millions are displaced as the Kalahari desert expands across southern Africa

+4.4°: Melting ice caps displace millions

Rapidly-rising temperatures in the Arctic put Siberian permafrost in the melt zone, releasing vast quantities of methane and CO2. Global temperatures keep on rising rapidly in consequence. Melting ice-caps and sea level rises displace more than 100 million people, particularly in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and Shanghai. Heatwaves and drought make much of the sub-tropics uninhabitable: large-scale migration even takes place within Europe, where deserts are growing in southern Spain, Italy and Greece. More than half of wild species are wiped out, in the worst mass extinction since the end of the dinosaurs. Agriculture collapses in Australia

+5.4°: Sea levels rise by five metres

The West Antarctic ice sheet breaks up, eventually adding another five metres to global sea levels. If these temperatures are sustained, the entire planet will become ice-free, and sea levels will be 70 metres higher than today. South Asian society collapses due to the disappearance of glaciers in the Himalayas, drying up the Indus river, while in east India and Bangladesh, monsoon floods threaten millions. Super-El Niños spark global weather chaos. Most of humanity begins to seek refuge away from higher temperatures closer to the poles. Tens of millions of refugees force their way into Scandanavia and the British Isles. World food supplies run out

+6.4°: Most of life is exterminated

Warming seas lead to the possible release of methane hydrates trapped in sub-oceanic sediments: methane fireballs tear across the sky, causing further warming. The oceans lose their oxygen and turn stagnant, releasing poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas and destroying the ozone layer. Deserts extend almost to the Arctic. “Hypercanes” (hurricanes of unimaginable ferocity) circumnavigate the globe, causing flash floods which strip the land of soil. Humanity reduced to a few survivors eking out a living in polar refuges. Most of life on Earth has been snuffed out, as temperatures rise higher than for hundreds of millions of years.

Mark Lynas

Bon appetit.

Still hungry?

Dinner mint a la Creosote


If there is one episode in the Earth’s history that we should try above all not to repeat, it is surely the catastrophe that befell the planet at the end of the Permian period, 251 million years ago. By the end of this calamity, up to 95% of species were extinct. The end-Permian wipeout is the nearest this planet has ever come to becoming just another lifeless rock drifting through space. The precise cause remains unclear, but what is undeniable is that the end-Permian mass extinction was associated with a super-greenhouse event. Oxygen isotopes in rocks dating from the time suggest that temperatures rose by six degrees…..

Sedimentary layers show that most of the world’s plant cover was removed in a catastrophic bout of soil erosion. Rocks also show a “fungal spike” as plants and animals rotted in situ. Still more corpses were washed into the oceans, helping to turn them stagnant and anoxic.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 7:38 am

Bill Ayers interview

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Bill Ayers, former Weatherman, was silent during the campaign, but now he’s giving his side of the story in a very interesting interview with Amy Goodman. Well worth reading—or listening to. Intro:

In the late stages of the presidential race, no other name was used more by the McCain-Palin campaign against Barack Obama than Bill Ayers. Ayers is a respected Chicago professor who was a member of the 1960s militant antiwar group the Weather Underground. In their first joint television interview, Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn discuss the McCain campaign attacks, President-elect Obama, the Weather Underground, the legacy of 1960s social justice movements, and more.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 7:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Rib report

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I’ve tweaked my baby back rib recipe a bit. Here’s the current version: Take a rack of baby back ribs, let them sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes, strip off the membrane on the back side (a paper towel will help you get a good grip), *, and then apply Penzey’s Bicentennial Rub and Penzey’s Ground Chipotle to both sides. Put in a roasting pan and then into a 300º oven for two hours. Extremely tasty. (You can also try the slow-cook approach: put ribs on a baking sheet into a 200º oven for four hours.)

* One thing I want to try next time: at this point apply fresh lime juice to both sides, than apply the rub and the ground chipotle.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2008 at 7:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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