Later On

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

Archive for January 19th, 2009

What Obama should read

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Very interesting article in the Washington Monthly. It begins:

Barack Obama, it is safe to say, likes books more than his predecessor did. We know that much because he has written a couple of good ones—most notably, the well-received memoir Dreams From My Father, which launched him into the public sphere as a writer before his political career began—and because it is not a news event when he reads one, as it was when George W. Bush announced that he intended to thumb through Camus’s The Stranger on his summer vacation two years ago.

A president who is a serious reader is of course likely to be shaped by what he reads, and we know a bit about what has been on Obama’s list so far. From interviews, we know that Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls made an impression on him as a young man. His campaign reading list—or at least the books he chose to be seen with on the trail—included Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment, Larry Bartels’s Unequal Democracy, Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars, Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World, and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. And we know that, at least in the case of the latter book, Obama’s choice of reading has already had some impact on his governing choices (or at least on how pundits frame them on the Sunday-morning talk shows).

So in the hope that he’s willing to take a few more reading assignments, we asked a few of our favorite writers and thinkers to offer their suggestions on what the new president should have by his bedside. —Eds.

Continue reading. The reading suggestions come from Reza Aslan, Andrew Bacevich, Jacques Barzun, Alan Brinkley, Steve Coll, Debra Dickerson, James Fallows, Joel Garreau, Nathan Glazer, Jeff Greenfield, David Ignatius, John Judis, Rachel Maddow, Joe Nocera, George Pelecanos, Jim Pinkerton, Walter Shapiro, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Ron Suskind, among others.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 2:21 pm

Top 10 online tools to connect with the Obama Administration

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Take a look. Should prove useful.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 2:17 pm

Obama articles available online for free

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Zinnio makes the offer:

In honor of the upcoming inauguration we pulled all of the stories about Barack Obama together for you. Click here or go to- to get FREE access to any article or advertisement about, or mentioning Barack Obama.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 12:47 pm

Robots at War

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Via Matthew Yglesias, a very interesting article in the new issue of Wilson Quarterly. It’s by P.W. Singer, and it begins:

It sounds like science fic­tion, but it is fact: On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghan­istan, robots are killing America’s ene­mies and sav­ing Ameri­can lives. But today’s Pack­Bots, Preda­tors, and Ravens are rela­tively prim­itive machines. The coming generation of “war-bots” will be im­mensely more sophisti­cated, and their devel­op­ment raises troubling new questions about how and when we wage ­war.

There was little to warn of the danger ahead. The Iraqi insurgent had laid his ambush with great cunning. Hidden along the side of the road, the bomb looked like any other piece of trash. American soldiers call these ­jury-­rigged bombs IEDs, official shorthand for improvised explosive devices.

The unit hunting for the bomb was an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team, the sharp end of the spear in the effort to suppress roadside bombings. By 2006, about 2,500 of these attacks were occurring a month, and they were the leading cause of casualties among U.S. troops as well as Iraqi civilians. In a typical tour in Iraq, each EOD team would go on more than 600 calls, defusing or safely exploding about two devices a day. Perhaps the most telling sign of how critical the teams’ work was to the American war effort is that insurgents began offering a rumored $50,000 bounty for killing an EOD ­soldier.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Military, Technology


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Bishop Robinson’s invocation yesterday.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 11:56 am

Homemade hot pepper sauce

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I just completed a batch of homemade pepper sauce (see posts at Mark Bittman’s blog and at the Kitchn [sic]). I bottled 3 pints in pint jars. Ingredients:

4 small fresh habaneros, stem removed
6-8 dried chipotles, stem cut out
4 large dried anchos, stem cut out
1 large dried New Mexico hot pepper, stem cut out
juice of 2 large limes
2 large cloves garlic
splash of liquid smoke
splash of Worcestershire sauce
white vinegar
handful of salt

I blended the above, poured into a pot, brought to a boil, and simmered it for 10 minutes. I poured it back into the blender and blended once more (the dried chiles now being soft), then added a large shot of good bourbon.

I funneled the final version into three 8-oz bottles. I just tasted it: hot (though not painful) and delicious. Two bottles to in-laws, one bottle for me.

I would have used more fresh chiles, but only green chilies were available—no red ones.

UPDATE: It occurred to me last night that a tablespoon of brown sugar would be an interesting addition.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 11:53 am

Belkin buys 5-star Amazon reviews

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This is a very bad thing. Guess I won’t be buying Belkin again.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 11:21 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Is Israel taking the wrong approach?

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One U of Texas professor says, “Yes.” Article begins:

When Columbia University Press scheduled University of Texas associate professor Ami Pedahzur’s latest book for publication on Tuesday, it couldn’t have known that recent events in the Middle East would make “The Israeli Secret Services & the Struggle Against Terrorism” seem eerily timely. Then again, perhaps Columbia simply realized that there are few times when books about the Arab-Israeli conflict aren’t timely.

Pedahzur, 39, came to UT’s government department from the University of Haifa in 2004. His previous book, 2005’s “Suicide Terrorism,” examined the root causes and motivations of the “human bombs” that have wreaked destruction throughout the Middle East and, most famously, in America on Sept. 11, 2001. His new book assesses Israel’s response to terrorism in all its forms.

Pedahzur divides the possible responses into four categories: the war model, which relies on military force to fight terrorism; the criminal justice model, which looks to the police to deal with the issue; the reconciliatory model, which asks politicians and diplomats to address the root causes of terrorism; and the defensive model, which seeks to protect the targets of terrorism.

Israel, like almost every country that deals with terrorism, uses all four models to a certain extent. But according to Pedahzur’s research, his native country has relied too heavily on the war model, with problematic results. In particular, Pedahzur spells out, in great detail, how Israel’s penchant for assassinating high-ranking terrorist leaders is largely ineffectual and may distract leaders from more pressing security concerns.

Pedahzur claims that there are two main reasons Israel is wedded to the military paradigm. First, Israeli policy makers must answer to the Israeli public, which demands quick, decisive responses to terrorist attacks. Second, the military, which is very powerful in Israel, can maintain its stature by putting itself forward as the main solution to terrorism — not a hard sell in a nation where military conscription is nearly universal. (Pedahzur served in the Medical Corps and was a student and lecturer at Israel’s National Defense College.)

We spoke on Monday with Pedahzur about what light his book casts on the current struggle in the Gaza Strip. Among other things, he noted one cruel historical irony that has gone largely unreported in recent Gaza coverage: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:48 am

Posted in Books, Mideast Conflict

Alternative search engines to find what Google can’t

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Useful list to bookmark. Includes search engines that specialize in MP3s, in recipes, in movies, etc.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Pasta with chanterelles and fresh ricotta

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This sounds absolutely divine—and check out the photos at the link (along with some interesting background info). From Sassy Radish:

Pasta with Chanterelles and Fresh Ricotta

1 lb pasta, preferably angel hair (but I was out and had to use the thicker kind)
1/3 lb fresh chanterelles
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 shallots thinly sliced
3 tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, boil water and cook pasta, and in the mean time cook the mushroom combination. Time it so that the pasta is ready when the mushrooms are.

In a large skillet, over medium heat sauté the onion and shallots until they begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the chanterelles and cook them until the reduce in size, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in sour cream and take off the heat. Serve over pasta with a dollop of fresh ricotta.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:42 am

What type of chart is best for your data

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Of course, it’s not the data that determines the chart type—it’s what you are trying to communicate. Take a look at this useful Lifehacker post, with links to chart-selection tools.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Find freeware versions of commercial programs

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A development strategy that seems fairly common these days is to launch a new app as freeware to build a audience, gather user feedback and suggestions, and debug with a large test base. Once the software is sufficiently robust and has a fan base, a commercial version is released with more features, better support, and fewer bugs. But for many, the freeware version is just fine. Or you might want to get a flavor of the app before you fork over money for it. So how do you find the freeware predecessor of a commercial program? Click this link.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Excellent sex comedy: Seeing Other People

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Last night I saw Seeing Other People, a wonderful sex comedy written and directed by a guy who also wrote for The Simpsons. It’s the best sex comedy I’ve seen since The Sex Monster. Both are well worth watching for adults who are familiar with sex.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Medical checklists revisited

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About a year ago, I noted an article on the importance of checklists: a simple device that obviates a host of problems. Ezra Klein has a post now on the importance of medical checklists, including an example of such a list. Check it out. It begins:

Here’s the operative sentence: “a year after surgical teams at eight hospitals adopted a 19-item checklist, the average patient death rate fell more than 40 percent and the rate of complications fell by about a third, the researchers reported.”

Hospitals are dangerous. Surgery is dangerous. Modern medicine saves many more people than it kills, but it kills many more people than you’d think. The Institute of Medicine estimates that 100,000 Americans die every year from medical errors. That’s 35 9/11s every year. There’s much talk over the flood of medical malpractice lawsuits but rather less about the flood of medical malpractice. But it is a crisis, and unlike the legal proceedings, thousands die from it.

It’s also needless. The results of the checklist (pictured above — click for full-size) are encouraging, but also startling. 19 questions — questions as simple as whether the patient’s identity confirmed been confirmed and his surgery site marked — dropped the death rate by 40 percent and the complication rate by a third. That means not only that more people lived, but there was less need for follow-up care, for rehabilitation, for corrective surgeries. It’s possible that some of that improvement came because the surgery teams knew they were being studied but that simply underscores the point: More attentiveness means fewer deaths…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 9:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Collateral damage in the war on drugs

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Very interesting post by Radley Balko. I show the beginning, but note these other posts on the same general topic:

This is one of three pieces Culture11 is publishing on the War on Drugs. See David Freddoso’s piece arguing against legalization here, and Anita Bartholomew on the prohibitive cost of prohibition here. And see David and Radley debate their respective pieces here.

Bartholomew’s piece, War on Drugs: The Price Tag, is extremely good. Well worth reading.

Balko’s piece begins:

At around 6pm on January 27 of last year, 80-year-old Isaac Singletary spotted a couple of drug dealers attempting to do business on his front lawn. It wasn’t the first time. Singletary, described by relatives as territorial and a bit crotchety, did what he’d done in the past. He grabbed his gun, and walked out on to his lawn to scare them off. Problem is, this time the men weren’t drug dealers. They were undercover Jacksonville, Florida police posing as drug dealers. They had come on to Singletary’s property to bait possible drug offenders. When he brandished his gun, the police shot Singletary four times, once in the back. He died a short time later. A subsequent investigation by Florida’s attorney general cleared the officers who shot Singletary of any wrongdoing.

Singletary wasn’t a drug dealer. Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford described him as “an honest citizen trying to do good.” Florida Governor Charlie Crist visited Jacksonville a few days later. When asked by a reporter about Singletary’s death, Crist euphemistically called it one of the “challenges in fighting crime.”

Singletary is far from the first innocent person to die for the war on drugs, and he’s nowhere near the last. But let’s call Singletary’s death what it is: collateral damage. Like the collateral damage of military wars overseas—innocents inadvertently killed by bombs, bullets, and missiles aimed at legitimate targets—Singletary’s a victim only because he happened to live in close proximity to the government’s intended target, in this case, drug offenders. And like the civilian casualties of military wars, Singletary’s death won’t do a thing to cause the people who run this war to rethink their priorities. Because for them, the ultimate goal is more important than the innocent lives they may take along the way. As Governor Crist said, Singletary’s death is really little more than a “challenge” on the journey to a drug-free Florida.

But whatever you may think of the legitimacy of some of America’s military wars, past or present, they’re waged under at least the pretense that they’re necessary to defeat a foreign aggressor that poses a real threat to U.S. security. The drug war’s aim is to stop people from getting high.

When Richard Nixon first uttered the phrase “war on drugs” in 1971, he chose his words carefully…

Continue reading. It’s a very strong piece and deserves saving.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 8:33 am

Thinking of you in the northern states

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I used to live in Iowa City, and I vividly recall what the weather was like—despite the January thaw, the winter days were often a challenge. So I send out to you this link: 3 Cheap and Easy Formulas for Homemade Windshield De-Icer.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 8:12 am

Posted in Daily life

Himalaya again

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I have to say that I like that Himalaya shaving soap (from Used it again like a shave stick, and the Plisson HMW 12 created a very good lather. The Hoffritz Slant Bar with a Gillette Swedish Platinum blad did a fine a job, and the finish with the 4711 aftershave was a pleasure.

One thing I noted again: after the first pass, you can always feel stubble. I believe that this is why novices sometimes use too much pressure: feeling the stubble after the first pass, they think, “Uh-oh. Leaving stubble. Press harder.” Not so: the single-blade shave is a process of progressive stubble reduction. Three passes works well for me, and I always feel stubble after the first pass and even some after the second. But by the third pass, the visage is smooth.

Written by Leisureguy

19 January 2009 at 8:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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