Later On

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

Archive for December 23rd, 2008

Bacon bourbon brownies

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Oh, my. From Slashfood (photos at the link):

Legal Vice Brownies

1/2 lb bacon
8 oz butter
10 oz baking chocolate*
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs
Freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Bourbon**

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Cook the bacon until it is very crisp, drain off the grease and set aside. Pat the bacon dry with paper towels, crumble into tiny pieces, chopping in food processor if possible. Set aside.

Place the pecans in a bowl and just cover with bourbon. When roughly half of the bourbon has been absorbed, scoop out the pecans with a slotted spoon, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until nearly toasted. Reserve one teaspoon of the bourbon, pour the remainder over the pecans, and let them finish toasting. Remove them from the oven and set aside.

In a double boiler, over simmering water, combine the butter and chocolate. When the mixture is nearly melted, remove it from the heat and stir together until blended. Pour the mixture into a medium-sized bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

Once the chocolate mixture is cool, add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, several grinds of black pepper, smoked salt, eggs and reserved bourbon and whisk well to combine.

Add the cocoa powder and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Then stir in the flour 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next portion. Stir in the bacon and pecans.

Use the reserved bacon grease to lightly coat an 8×8 baking pan, and pour in the batter. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the edge comes out dry, but inserted near the center, comes out lightly coated in batter. Let the brownies cool, and cut into squares to serve.

*I used a haphazard mix of 2 oz of a Dagobah organic unsweetened 100% cacao baking chocolate, 6 oz of Dagobah organic semisweetened 59% cacao baking chocolate, and 2 oz of Callebaut dark baking chocolate.

**Jim Beam in this case, but it’s not set in stone.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 2:05 pm

Dick Cheney and his tactics

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Dahlia Lithwick has a good analysis in Slate. It begins:

In an ever-escalating game of chicken between the executive branch and the rest of the world, Vice President Dick Cheney wants you to understand that he has done nothing wrong over the past eight years. In fact, to hear him tell it to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday yesterday, we are all safer for his infallibility in the face of our own complacency. His liberal critics, for their part, answer Cheney’s moral certainty by continuing to vigorously debate all the reasons to let him off the hook. What other possible response can there be to all that bristling manliness? History will remember Dick Cheney as the man who managed to make President George W. Bush look like a wimp.

One hesitates to waste too much time deconstructing Cheney’s last-minute debater’s tricks. The threats and insults stopped being impressive a long time ago. But the vice president’s greatest rhetorical sleight of hand may be that he has completely inverted settled and open legal questions. As he snarks his way through his final exit interviews, he takes the position that the thorniest legal questions are the easy ones and the settled ones are still open.

First there’s Cheney on the efficacy of torture. In his ABC interview last week he swaggered, “I think, for example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the No. 3 man in al-Qaida, the man who planned the attacks of 9/11, provided us with a wealth of information. There was a period of time there, three or four years ago, when about half of everything we knew about al-Qaida came from that one source.”

Could this be a close call? In fact, the debate ended years ago, almost as soon as it began. You may remember back in 2002, some of us were actually engaged in discussing this issue. Alan Dershowitz at Harvard was poking at the possibility of judge-sanctioned torture warrants. Those charged with setting interrogation policy at Guantanamo were seeking inspiration from Jack Bauer. And boneheads like me were positing fascinating hypotheticals about the possible efficacy of abusing our prisoners.

Well, guess what? The efficacy of torture is not a close question anywhere outside of Fox television anymore. Darius Rejali has definitively studied the question and showed that torture does not elicit truthful confessions. In his book How To Break a Terrorist, former interrogator Matthew Alexander agrees that abusive interrogation techniques don’t work and endanger Americans. FBI Director Robert Mueller recently told Vanity Fair‘s David Rose that he doesn’t “believe it to be the case” that enhanced interrogation stopped any attacks on America. And the stunning bipartisan report issued earlier this month by the Senate armed services committee confirms that lawyers in every branch of the military consistently warned top Bush officials that torture wasn’t effective. The handful of people—including Dick Cheney—who are still blathering about how well torture works do so in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

What about the legality of torture? That’s an easy one, says Cheney, …

Continue reading.  It’s worth it.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 1:57 pm

Homeland Security and privacy

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Very interesting post:

From today’s guest blogger, our colleague Greg Gordon, McClatchy Washington bureau investigative reporter:

To carry out a recommendation from the Sept. 11 Commission aimed at preventing terrorists from ever again capitalizing on the lack of U.S. intelligence sharing, the Department of Homeland Security has since 2004 quietly facilitated the creation of 58 to 60 “fusion centers’’ that blend local, regional, state and federal agents.

One pregnant question has been how closely these agencies have been observing state and federal privacy laws as information, sucked up from eavesdropping, informants, surveillance and government records, flows among the feds, state and local agencies down to cops on the beat.

In a Privacy Impact Assessment released today, Homeland Security officials ticked off no fewer than seven ways in which each center, with its own organizational structure, poses risks to Americans’ privacy. Among them:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 1:52 pm

The power of Facebook

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The Internet really is having an effect on closed societies. This story, for example:

Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life … Sign up, it’s free and anyone can join,” reads the homepage of the popular social networking website. Little did its founder Mark Zuckerberg know about the momentum his website would gain in Egypt.

What started out as a forum for people to catch up with old friends, upload and share photos, exchange messages and videos and kill many hours of boredom, whether at home or in the workplace, took a new turn in 2008, particularly on Sunday April 6.

Like any Facebook user, Esraa Abdel Fattah decided to create a group for a cause she believed in, supporting the Ghazl El-Mahalla workers striking on April 6.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 1:47 pm

Reflections on a day without a computer

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And it was a day was spent in a setting (at home) in which I normally had access to the computer.

Because I normally could go to the computer at any time—to look something up, to check on email, to blog, or just because I’m bored—the lack of a computer was quite noticeable.

On reflecting on the nature of my inward lack, I realized that I lacked “company”—not “company” in the sense of other people present, but rather like the “company” sought by someone who always has the TV on, even if they’re not watching: it’s a sense of connectedness to other people: that there’s a world of people outside, and the TV show and/or Web access somehow makes us feel connected in a way to them.

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Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Computer work

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So I installed ESET NOD32 Antivirus. I don’t much like the installation: I had to delete my old antivirus program—no problem, I turned off my modem and deleted it (so no virus protection), and then went to install NOD32. Oops! I have to have my browser open to get the username and password from their site after I enter the Serial Number. Serial number included a capital letter O, or a zero, I wasn’t sure. I thought they said that the zero had a slash, so I entered the letter (multiple times). It didn’t work, so on a hunch I tried zero instead. It worked. (Why on earth don’t they generate numbers that omit the ambiguous characters?)

So I installed it. It immediately found a virus—I’m convinced one that hit me when I was on-line without protection. And then it said it found an infection in a commercial program, for which I paid money. Hmm. Real? I don’t know.

It’s a pain, dicking around with the computer and software. And it takes up lots of time.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 12:48 pm

New hard drive

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PC People ran their lengthy tests of the hardware and told me that it wasn’t a memory issue, but the hard drive was starting to fail. It’s a 1/2 terabyte drive, and the replacement cost just $100—how times change. But they also did quite a bit of other stuff:

  • Duped hard drive
  • Cleaned temp files
  • Updated Webroot
  • Ran Windows updates
  • Ran scandisk and defrag
  • Updated drivers
  • Cleaned registry
  • Tested on the Internet
  • Blew out all the dust

Total, including a new anti-virus package that they recommended (ESET NOD32 Antivirus—$50), was $348. Happy holidays.

OTOH, the pause thing has totally stopped, thereby saving my sanity, and it’s good to catch the drive before it makes a horrible noise and stops altogether, emitting a whisp of smoke. (I do back up “My Documents” folder religiously, but it would still be a great flaming pain to restore all the programs and the data.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Vintage Blades soap again

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I have to say that I quite like the Vintage Blades shaving soap. It gave another great lather, using the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super, and the English open-comb Aristocrat did a fine job. The finish with Sandalwood was fitting for a winter day.

Written by Leisureguy

23 December 2008 at 9:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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