Later On

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

Archive for January 13th, 2009

Afternoon report

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Just back from a scattered set of errands: donating books and VHS cassettes to PG Library (and picking up some movies, including 3 Gilbert & Sullivan operettas); exchanging a can of kitty food—wrong flavor; leaving boning knife at supermarket for free sharpening; returning book to County Library; picking up some groceries (olive oil, feta, clementines, strawberries, etc.); picking up boning knife, newly sharpened, and a great fresh bunch of beets. I’ll grate the beets, sauté the beet greens, and make a little salad of it. (The feta’s for that, along with some scallions, pine nuts, etc.)

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Daily life

More on FDA failure under Bush Administration

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From the NY Times:

An official at the Food and Drug Administration overruled front-line agency scientists and approved the sale of an imaging device for breast cancer after receiving a phone call from a Connecticut congressman, according to internal agency documents.

The legislator’s call and its effect on what is supposed to be a science-based approval process is only one of many of accusations in a trove of documents regarding disputes within the agency’s office of device evaluation.

Nine agency scientists complained in May to Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the F.D.A. commissioner, and the agency began an internal review. Dissatisfied with the pace and results of that review, the scientists wrote a letter to Congress in October pleading for an investigation, and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced in November that it would begin one. Last week, the scientists wrote a similar letter to President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team.

Agency documents that are part of the internal investigation, including e-mail messages, were provided to The New York Times. Details of the investigations have not previously been made public.

The documents show that front-line agency scientists, like many outside critics of the agency, believe that F.D.A. managers have become too lenient with the industry. In medical reviews and e-mail messages, the scientists criticize the process by which many medical devices gain approval without extensive testing. And in e-mail correspondence, they contend that an agency supervisor improperly forced them to alter reviews of the breast imaging device and others.

William McConagha, the agency’s assistant commissioner for integrity and accountability, said he was continuing to investigate the scientists’ claims. Mr. McConagha said that Dr. von Eschenbach had offered to meet with the nine scientists before Friday, his last day in office.

“We in the Office of Commissioner are extremely concerned about allegations like this,” Mr. McConagha said.

In the documents, Representative Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican who lost re-election in November, is described as having called an agency supervisor a year ago to express concern about the fate of a computer device that is supposed to help radiologists detect breast tumors. …

Continue reading. It gets much worse.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 10:38 am

Israel faces calls for Gaza war crimes investigation

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Demands are growing for a war-crimes investigation into the way Israel is conducting the war. Full story here.

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13 January 2009 at 10:28 am

David Allen on productivity, software, and making it work

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An exclusive interview with

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13 January 2009 at 10:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Air bear

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Inflatable sculpture from Joshua Allen Harris, via DesignVerb.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

50 most loathsome people in America, 2008

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You won’t agree with them all, but some are right on target. Read the list here, and thanks to Liz for the pointer.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life

Israel public backs invasion of and war on Gaza

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From the NY Times:

To Israel’s critics abroad, the picture could not be clearer: Israel’s war in Gaza is a wildly disproportionate response to the rockets of Hamas, causing untold human suffering and bombing an already isolated and impoverished population into the Stone Age, and it must be stopped.

Yet here in Israel very few, at least among the Jewish population, see it that way.

Since Israeli warplanes opened the assault on Gaza 17 days ago, about 900 Palestinians have been reported killed, many of them civilians. Red Cross workers were denied access to scores of dead and wounded Gazans, and a civilian crowd near a United Nations school was hit, with at least 40 people killed.

But voices of dissent in this country have been rare. And while tens of thousands have poured into the streets of world capitals demonstrating against the Israeli military operation, antiwar rallies here have struggled to draw 1,000 participants. The Peace Now organization has received many messages from supporters telling it to stay out of the streets on this one.

As the editorial page of The Jerusalem Post put it on Monday, the world must be wondering, do Israelis really believe that everybody is wrong and they alone are right?

The answer is yes.

“It is very frustrating for us not to be understood,” remarked Yoel Esteron, editor of a daily business newspaper called Calcalist. “Almost 100 percent of Israelis feel that the world is hypocritical. Where was the world when our cities were rocketed for eight years and our soldier was kidnapped? Why should we care about the world’s view now?”

Israel, which is sometimes a fractured, bickering society, has turned in the past couple of weeks into a paradigm of unity and mutual support. Flags are flying high. Celebrities are visiting schoolchildren in at-risk areas, soldiers are praising the equipment and camaraderie of their army units, and neighbors are worried about families whose fathers are on reserve duty. Ask people anywhere how they feel about the army’s barring journalists from entering Gaza and the response is: let the army do its job.

Israelis deeply believe, rightly or wrongly, that their military works harder than most to spare civilians, holding their fire in many more cases than using it.

Because Hamas booby-traps schools, apartment buildings and the zoo, and its fighters hide among civilians, it is Hamas that is viewed here as responsible for the civilian toll. Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and gets help and inspiration from Iran, so that what looks to the world like a disproportionate war of choice is seen by many here as an obligatory war for existence.

“This is a just war and we don’t feel guilty when civilians we don’t intend to hurt get hurt, because we feel Hamas uses these civilians as human shields,” said Elliot Jager, editorial page editor of The Jerusalem Post, who happened to answer his phone for an interview while in Ashkelon, an Israeli city about 10 miles from Gaza, standing in front of a house that had been hit two hours earlier by a Hamas rocket. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 9:55 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

US policy dictated by Olmert?

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Very interesting post by Juan Cole. From the post:

It is therefore reasonable to think that Olmert did talk to Bush last Thursday, and that he did have Rice over-ruled. One can only imagine that he had tried hard to dissuade Rice from participating in the drafting process at all, and had tried to have her veto the resolution, in accordance with standard US procedure of shielding Israel from the UNSC. She must have blown him off or been evasive, alarming him that there would be a UN ceasefire resolution before which Israel might have to bow. My own guess is that Olmert had Bush tell her to veto it altogether, but you have to wonder whether she and Khalilzad engaged in their own little final rebellion and so just voted “present,” which allowed the resolution to pass. (Olmert has ignored it.)

Olmert reports that Bush had no idea what the substance of the resolution was, and this anecdote is consistent with what we know about how this White House has functioned. Bush admitted to Bob Woodward that an important decision on sending some troops to Iraq had been made by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and that Bush had not sat in on the relevant meetings. So Rice was at the UN on her own, thinking she was a plenipotentiary of Bush, and Olmert was annoyed at this attitude and decided to put her in her place.

Read the entire post.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 9:51 am

Marijuana Policy Project

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The MPP is a worthy organization for a rational drug policy regarding cannabis, and I just got this email:

Exciting news: The Marijuana Policy Project’s most generous donor has agreed to renew his matching grant challenge for 2009 — this time, committing to match the first $2.35 million we can raise from the rest of the planet this year.  In other words, for every dollar you give, he will give a dollar to match it, up to a total of $2.35 million for the year.

All of our projects for 2009 will depend on meeting this matching challenge. We’ve got to raise the full $2.35 million on our end to ensure the success of our medical marijuana bills in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York; our medical marijuana ballot initiative in Arizona; and much more.

We fell somewhat short last year, raising $2,496,067 of the $3,000,000 we had hoped to raise. This means we were $503,933 short, which means we had to start this year with virtually no money in the bank.

Would you please help us achieve everything we’ve planned for this year by making your own contribution today?

If each of the 100,000 subscribers on this e-mail list were to donate just $23 each, we would immediately jump over the $2.35 million hurdle. But not everyone on this e-mail list will donate $5 — or even read this e-mail message — so please consider donating $50, $250 (you’ll receive a DVD of MPP’s TV debates and other highlights), or $1,000 (you’ll become a Lifetime Member of MPP).

If you’re able to help us reach the $2.35 million milestone, we’ll be able to fully fund the following:

  • Passing medical marijuana bills in Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York;
  • Expanding Rhode Island’s medical marijuana law by allowing for dispensaries;
  • Building support for medical marijuana legislation in Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, and Massachusetts;
  • Collecting signatures for a statewide medical marijuana ballot initiative in Arizona;
  • Building support for medical marijuana in the medical community (MPP has organized more than 8,000 physicians to help persuade more medical organizations to join the dozens that already support medical access to marijuana);
  • Passing marijuana decriminalization legislation in Vermont; and
  • Influencing the Obama administration to roll back the federal war on medical marijuana.

Will you please help achieve what you believe in by voting with your dollars today? MPP is doing everything it can to end the government’s war on marijuana users, but we need the financial means to achieve the goal.

I want to thank you in advance for any help you can provide. Financial support from supporters like you is literally the only thing that makes our work possible.

If you agree with their goals, by all means contribute. They have proved to be an effective advocate.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

How Fiction Works

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When I was young, I read E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel as a guide to fiction. Nowadays, James Wood’s How Fiction Works seems to be the successor, and probably better in many ways. Here’s a review:

An iron law of American life decrees that the provinces of thought be limited in the collective consciousness to a single representative. Like a poor man’s Noah, we take one of each. One physicist: Stephen Hawking. One literary theorist: Harold Bloom. One radical social critic: Noam Chomsky. Before her death, we had one intellectual, Susan Sontag, and one only. (Now we’ve dispensed with the category altogether.) We are great anointers in this country, a habit that obviates the need for scrutiny. We don’t want to have to go into the ins and outs of a thing — weigh merits, examine histories, enter debates. We just want to put a face on it — the logic of celebrity culture — and move on.

It has been decided of late that the face of literary criticism shall belong to James Wood. A writer first at the Guardian (from 1992 to 1996), then at The New Republic and now, since last year, at The New Yorker, Wood has long been considered, in a formulation that soon assumed a ritual cast, “the best critic of his generation.” Coming from elders like Sontag, Bloom and Saul Bellow, and nearly always incorporating that meaningless word “generation,” these consecrations have bespoken a kind of Oedipal conflict, betraying the double urge first to possess one’s offspring by defining them, then to destroy them altogether. For Wood has come to be seen as something more than the best of his generation: not just the best, full stop, regardless of generation, but the one, the only, even the last. Beside him, none; after him, none other. The line ends here.

Contributing to this mythology is a belief in cultural decline, as constitutive a feature of modern consciousness as its reciprocal faith, a belief in material progress. Cynthia Ozick recently called for a “thicket of Woods,” a battalion of critics raised in Wood’s image, to renovate not only literary criticism but literature itself. Wood is the “template,” Ozick announced, from which a new cultural “infrastructure” must be built — or rebuilt. For Ozick, Wood recalls the glory days of American criticism during the middle of the last century, the age of Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, Alfred Kazin and Irving Howe. Indeed, he may surpass these forebears. “We have not heard a critical mind like this at work,” Ozick declared, “since Trilling’s The Liberal Imagination.” The Liberal Imagination was published in 1950. Everything since includes some of Wilson, most of Trilling himself and nearly all of Kazin and Howe. Perhaps Ozick was only indulging in a bit of polemical hyperbole, but the comparison she urges convinces me that there may be something to the idea of cultural decline after all. Wood may be the best we have, but to set him next to Wilson, Trilling, Kazin and Howe is to see exactly how far we have fallen.

But before we measure that distance, let us first give Wood his due. It is large. A critic’s first necessity is learning, and Wood’s learning is immense. He has not only read all the novels; he has read all the lives, all the letters and all the manifestoes, and he quotes them, with an exquisite ear for accent and echo, as if he’d read them all yesterday. He has read criticism, theory, aesthetics and, a special interest of his, theology. The apostate son of an evangelical childhood, he writes about literature as if our souls depended on it, which, for any serious reader, they do. For Wood, literature is truth, or as close as we’re going to get to it in a world without God. In this postmodernist age, when Wood’s New Yorker colleague Louis Menand can note, with a sense of amused relief, that the language of entertainment has displaced the language of moral seriousness in popular literary discourse; when Caleb Crain can declare, in the hipster literary journal n+1, that “literature is only an art,” no more worthy of university instruction than wine tasting; when those same universities can turn literature over to ideologues who fear and despise it; Wood’s unapologetic commitment to literature’s transcendent value and criticism’s high calling is his most important virtue…

Continue reading. Also consider this review on by a reader:

A disappointment. Based on a few print reviews I was expecting something really terrific, and there are four or five nicely turned passages here. But Mr. Wood has a terribly narrow sense of what makes fiction worthwhile, and seems to have no feeling at all for the pleasures of plot or the music of contemporary language. For him it all comes down to the gentlemanly delectation of “fine moments” in novels. One could forgive him this fussiness if it were done exceptionally well, but in fact this book is a kind of inflated pamphlet, with huge margins and large print, which simply strings together some ideas about narration and character. It is a real step down from a delightful book I first read at college in the 1960s and have returned to several times since: Percy Lubbock’s The Craft of Fiction, which I’m happy to see is still in print. It is really scandalous that Mr. Wood didn’t see fit to mention this forebear from which he borrows so much.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 8:45 am

Posted in Books

More on the Gaza situation

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Palestinian death toll now at 900 and rising.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 8:31 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Mmm-mmm, good: roast raccoon

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I’ve never had raccoon, but no reason it should not be tasty. Certainly squirrel is one of the best meats I’ve had. Urban harvesters and scavengers, take note:

He rolls into the parking lot of Leon’s Thriftway in an old, maroon Impala with a trunk full of frozen meat. Raccoon — the other dark meat.

In five minutes, Montrose, Mo., trapper Larry Brownsberger is sold out in the lot at 39th Street and Kensington Avenue. Word has gotten around about how clean his frozen raccoon carcasses are. How nicely they’re tucked up in their brown butcher paper. How they almost look like a trussed turkey … or something.

His loyal customers beam as they leave, thinking about the meal they’ll soon be eating.

That is, as soon as the meat is thawed. Then brined. Soaked overnight. Parboiled for two hours. Slow-roasted or smoked or barbecued to perfection.

Raccoon, which made the first edition of The Joy of Cooking in 1931, is labor-intensive but well worth the time, aficionados say.

“Good things come to those who wait,” says A. Reed, 86, who has been eating raccoon since she was a girl.

“This right here,” she says, holding up a couple of brown packages tied with burlap string, “this is a great value. And really good eatin’. Best-kept secret around.”

Raccoons go for $3 to $7 — each, not per pound — and will feed about five adults. Four, if they’re really hungry.

Those who dine on raccoon meat sound the same refrain: It’s good eatin’.

Continue reading to find out why fully skinned and dressed raccoon still has one paw left alone.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 8:26 am

A modest proposal on how to handle the torture problem

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Mark Kleiman has an absolutely spot-on post that provides a solution to the tricky question of how to handle the war crimes committed by the last administration. Read it, by all means.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 8:18 am

A “Dream Day” shave

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This is the “Dream Day” set-up as envisaged by Mr. Golenor’s 7th period study hall at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. Two exceptions: MR GLO is not shown, though of course used as always; and I don’t have Mama Bear’s Dragon’s Blood in a shave stick. I should have photographed the soap, BTW: it’s an intense, deep carmine, and the fragrance is warm and almost spicy. The lather was excellent. I believe that Mama Bear has changed the formulation somewhat since I bought this soap, making the Dragon’s Blood less intense because some shavers found it too much for their skin. It works for me, though.

In this photo you can perhaps see how the Treet Black Beauty unwraps: it’s a double-wrapped blade, but as you pull off the first flap and start unwrapping, you discover that the second flap of the outer wrap is attached to a flap of the inner wrap by a dot of glue, so you just keep unwrapping around the blade: both wrappers come off in one motion.

The Black Beauty blade, as always, was great for me, but as you know blades are perceived differently by different shavers, and for some this blade is, alas, no good at all.

I’m now going to make my morning quart of coffee:  Peet’s Mocha Java today. But first let me draw the study hall’s attention to this post, the link to which can also be found on the “Useful Knowledge” page (link at the right). Writing well is an essential skill and requires sufficient daily practice that the habits of writing (and editing) can be developed. At the link, you’ll find a good way to learn how to revise well: a book readily available as a secondhand edition, and a downloadable PDF of exercises.

Now for coffee. But first let me give a shoutout to the class and say, “Roll, Red, Roll!”

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2009 at 8:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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