Later On

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

Archive for June 5th, 2009

Mundanities

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I just bought (on the recommendation of Steve of Kafeneio) a pair of Mephisto Sano walking shoes. (The link is to a flash site; sorry.) Extremely comfortable. Tomorrow they go on a walk.

When I returned home, I discovered that the kitchen sink was slow to drain, so I used an idea I got from The Sister: put a gallon or two of very hot water in the sink, add a cup or two of ammonia cleanser, mix, and then let it drain. Seemed to work well.

Also, Bar Keepers Friend seems to be the best of the various special stainless-steel cleansers (which we use for our All-Clad Stainless: non-abrasive and really cleans well, including discoloration from overheating).

My ISP’s DSL was sick all day. I found the magic formula: "I want a pro-rated refund applied to my next bill." Support seemed to have a regular form for that.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

Doing stuff for free

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Very interesting post by Kevin Drum, from which this:

…  Ten years ago, I remember ruminating over the open source movement and wondering what its limits were.  What kind of stuff would people do for free, and what kind of stuff wouldn’t they?  Since open source software is mostly produced by obsessive nerds, the obvious answer is that they’ll work for free on the kind of things that obsessive nerds themselves like to use: operating systems, editors, compilers, etc.  Then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have, say, the firmware for controlling GM’s assembly line robots.  Nobody in their right mind would do that for free.

But where’s the line?  The interesting answer is: if it’s the kind of thing that one person (or a small set of people) can do, then it’s wherever one competent person draws it.  I’d guess that very few people feel that classified advertising (!) is so important to a vibrant society that they want to dedicate their lives to making it available for free, but it turned out that it didn’t take very many people.  Just one guy named Craig…

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

How big a problem is late-term abortion?

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This chart from a good post by Kevin Drum:

Blog_Late_Term_Abortions

He notes:

Dana McCourt provides this handy chart showing just what the stakes are in the fight over late-term abortions.  If, like me, you think that viability outside the uterus is the best rough measure of whether a fetus is a human being that deserves legal protection, this chart is telling: the absolute lower limit for viability is around 22 weeks, and only about 1% of all abortions are performed that late.  Past 24 weeks, according to a footnote later in the post, only about 100 abortions are performed per year.  Post-viability abortions are very, very rare, and performed almost exclusively for serious medical reasons…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

15-minute tasks

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The set-a-timer-and-do-it-for-15-minutes approach to completing huge tasks has a certain appeal. So I’m trying it for the following:

  1. Weeding the book collection
  2. Clearing off the dining table
  3. Clearing off the couch

That’s 45 minutes a day. But some of those are bigger in prospect than in actuality—who knows, in 15 minutes I might even clear the dining table. (Note: “clearing” doesn’t mean using a swipe of my arm to put everything on the floor—it means finding a home for everything on the dining table, and those things are there because they don’t have a home or their home is already full.)

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

Industry defends federal loophole for drilling

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Very good article in ProPublica by Abraham Lustgarten:

In a packed and sometimes contentious hearing [1] on Capitol Hill Thursday, representatives of the oil and gas industry and their state regulators vigorously defended the practice of injecting toxic fluids underground without federal regulatory oversight [2].

The House Energy and Minerals subcommittee called the hearing to explore the economic and environmental risks associated with the practice, called hydraulic fracturing [3], after a string of reports of water contamination related to drilling across the country were reported by ProPublica [2]. Hydraulic fracturing is currently exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act, but both the House and Senate are drawing up legislation that would close the Bush-era loophole and reinstate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over the fracturing process.

The House version of the bill [4], which would also require drilling companies to disclose the names and amounts of the chemicals they inject underground, is expected to be introduced Tuesday.

In the hearing, industry-affiliated groups and an executive of Chesapeake Energy told the committee [5] (PDF) that state regulations of hydraulic fracturing are sufficient and effective and insisted that the fracturing process and the chemicals it uses are safe. They said regulating the process under the Safe Drinking Water Act would add a needless layer of regulation that would cost billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

But a close reading of the law shows that the Safe Drinking Water Act already defers regulatory authority over oil and gas drilling to the states and that reversing the exemption in question would mainly provide a baseline for best practices and give the federal government authority to investigate contamination cases or disastrous accidents…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:50 am

Soy-glazed flank steak

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This, from the Bitten Word, seems like a good recipe to try:

Soy-Glazed Flank Steak

Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Ingredients

Serves 4

    * 1/4 cup soy sauce
    * 2 tablespoons mirin
    * 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
    * 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
    * 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    * 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
    * 1 tablespoon safflower oil
    * 1 flank steak (11/4 pounds)
    * 2 teaspoons coarse salt
    * 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

   1. Bring soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and red-pepper flakes to a boil in a saucepan on high heat. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

   2. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat; add oil. Season steak all over with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to medium, and brush top of steak with some glaze; flip, and cook for 1 minute. Brush with remaining glaze, flip, and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer steak to a cutting board; let rest for 5 minutes. Slice steak against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick strips, and serve on top of or alongside spring green salad.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:46 am

Posted in Beef, Daily life, Food, Recipes

The torturous torture debate

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I’m growing tired of the Right’s insistence that torture is not torture. Barry Eisler has an excellent post on that debate, and from the most recent this little video:

I highly recommend that you read his post, especially if you somehow still believe things like "waterboarding can’t be torture since we do it to our own troops"—and his response to that particular point is:

4. Here’s one you hear a lot. "How can it be torture when we do it to our own people in military training?"

I don’t know. How can it be rape when married couples do the same thing all the time at home? How can it be slavery when people do the same thing for wages?

And by the way, it’s *not* just what we did to our own people. Dozens of prisoners were tortured to death (that is, murdered). As far as I know, the military doesn’t torture soldiers to death as part of their training. Nor, for that matter, does it chain them to the ceiling for a week etc. before waterboarding them 183 times.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:42 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Torture

Good analysis of a Krauthammer column

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I have less and less patience with the grotesque posturing of the Right or of the Left (an example of the latter: Clinton’s remarkable talk about China’s faults in not laying bare its dark deeds, blogged below). Joe Klein describes an example from the reliably extreme Charles Krauthammer, a columnist for the Washington Post:

Charles Krauthammer has a misleading and evasive column about the Israeli settlements issue. He does not deal with the legality of these towns–he can’t, of course, because they are illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention, which provides rules for occupying powers. He does not deal with the illegality, and inhumanity, of building roads for the exclusive use of settlers, roads which simply take Palestinian property, separating Palestinian farmers from their fields in some cases. He does not deal with the most basic question–the not-so-subtle effort by the settler movement and its far-right sponsors to create a Palestinian swiss cheese, rather than a governable state, on the West Bank, by riddling the area with Jewish settlements. He does not deal, although it is implicit in his xenophobic argument and in the rantings of the extremists over at the Commentary blog, with the reality that this Israeli behavior is anachronistic, a vestige of the post-1967 dream of a Greater Israel. He does not deal with the fact that the last two Likud/Kadima Prime Ministers, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, came to the realization that demographic reality requires a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza.

He rants, instead, about …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:30 am

Another Guantánamo suicide

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Apparently, those imprisoned at Guantánamo don’t think it’s so great. Glenn Greenwald:

Some of the most cartoonish pseudo-tough-guy, play-acting-warrior-low-lifes of the Right — Rush Limbaugh, The Weekly Standard, National Review‘s Andy McCarthy — have long referred to Guantanamo as "Club Gitmo."  Many leading national Republican politicians have (as usual) followed suit.  Recently, some key Democrats have begun actively impeding plans to close it.

Today, Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih — a 31-year old Yemeni who has been in a Gitmo cage since February, 2002 (more than seven years) without charges — became the latest Club Gitmo guest to successfully kill himself:

U.S. military officials say a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has died of an "apparent suicide."

The Joint Task Force that runs the U.S. prison in Cuba says guards found 31-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night.

At the moment, the U.S. military is calling it an "apparent suicide" pending an autopsy.   Though Salih is either the 4th or 5th Gitmo prisoner to kill himself, numerous others have continuously tried, including this year, using every means from hunger strikes to hanging.  In 2006, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris infamously claimed that detainee suicides were "an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."  Although the Obama DOD earlier this year self-servingly announced that Guantanamo is in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions, there is ample evidence that suggests otherwise.

Putting people in cages for life with no charges — thousands of miles from their homes — is inherently torturous.  While Salih acknowledged fighting for the Taliban against the Northern Alliance, there is no evidence that he ever engaged in or planned to engage in terrorist acts or acts of violence of any kind against the U.S.  Apparently, though, he’s one of the Worst of the Worst we keep hearing about — Too Dangerous To Release even if we can’t charge him with any crime.

Along those lines, Sen. Russ Feingold will hold a hearing a week from today, at 10:00 a.m., on Obama’s proposal for indefinite "preventive detention," entitled "The Legal, Moral, and National Security Consequences of ‘Prolonged Detention’" (Feingold’s letter excoriating Obama’s proposal is here).  Other Democrats, such as Rep. Jerry Nadler, have already announced they will oppose Obama’s detention policy.  Closing Guantanamo obviously does …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:20 am

Don’t politicians listen to themselves?

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Hillary Clinton, I’m talking to you. Glenn Greenwald:

On behalf of the Obama administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement this week regarding the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, and demanded that China do the following (h/t sysprog):

A China that has made enormous progress economically, and that is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership, should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal.

Compare that moving defense of transparency to what the Obama administration — as I wrote about earlier today — is currently doing in Congress in trying to round up enough Democratic votes to vest the Pentagon with a new secrecy power, whereby it can unilaterally suppress all photographic evidence relating to our own abuse of detainees.  Or compare it to our current President’s repeated insistence that we Look to the Future, Not the Past and his fervent opposition even to a Truth Commission.

What’s there even to say about this?  I didn’t think it was possible to top — for pure irony and hypocrisy — the Bush State Department’s 2006 condemnation of Russia for engaging in illegal warrantless eavesdropping on its own citizens and failing to impose accountability on those who did that.  But Clinton’s righteous injunction to China about the need for "examining openly the darker events of [China]’s past" — "both to learn and to heal" — comes very close.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 11:17 am

Charmoula, a versatile sauce

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Just came across this recipe, which sounds delightful. At the link you can find some suggested uses, and here’s how to make:

Charmoula Sauce

Yield 4 servings
Time 10 minutes

  • 3 garlic cloves, skins on
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, mostly leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, mostly leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

1. Char the cloves on an open flame. Clean off the blackened skin, mash, and finely chop.

2. Use a mini-grinder and puree the garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with sea salt, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Stir well, taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed. Refrigerate in a sealed container. Serve at room temperature.

Variations

–Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped preserved lemon.

–Add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric.

–Use dried parsley instead of fresh.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 10:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The government wiretapping cases

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Emptywheel has an excellent roundup of the various cases and their status:

I know we joke (and usually mock) the notion that Obama is playing 11 dimensional chess with all the active court cases of late. But I believe Vaughn Walker, the judge overseeing all the warrantless wiretapping cases, really is playing chess. All of the relevant cases have been consolidated under him (though there are two related cases, which I’ll get to), and in the process, he has gotten pretty damn fed up with the government’s attempt to game the system, and partly as a result (and mostly because it is right in terms of law), he appears to be consciously working through all the suits together with an eye toward some kind of justice in the case.

In this post, I’m going to lay out the many factors at play here–the four cases (broadly defined) before Walker, two other related cases, and the IG report. In two follow-up posts, I’ll explain where I think this will go from here. 

Al-Haramain:  The Islamic charity once had a wiretap log showing allegedly illegal wiretaps from 2004, yet the government has promised to appeal any order that it make that–or other materials–available to litigate the suit. In response, Judge Walker has directed plaintiffs to submit a motion for summary judgment, with a hearing scheduled September 1; the parties are working on a briefing schedule now.

Retroactive Immunity Challenge: …

Continue reading to see the status of the Retroactive Immunity Challenge as well as:

  • Jewell
  • State Cases
  • Jeppesen 
  • Pete Seda Criminal Case
  • The IG Report

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 8:32 am

The government healthcare option

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Paul Krugman has an excellent column on the importance of the government option in any national healthcare program. From that column:

…  Consider the seemingly trivial matter of making it easier for doctors to deal with multiple insurance companies.

Back in 1993, the political strategist (and former Times columnist) William Kristol, in a now-famous memo, urged Republican members of Congress to oppose any significant health care reform. But even he acknowledged that some things needed fixing, calling for, among other things, “a simplified, uniform insurance form.”

Fast forward to the present. A few days ago, major players in the health industry laid out what they intend to do to slow the growth in health care costs. Topping the list of AHIP’s proposals was “administrative simplification.” Providers, the lobby conceded, face “administrative challenges” because of the fact that each insurer has its own distinct telephone numbers, fax numbers, codes, claim forms and administrative procedures. “Standardizing administrative transactions,” AHIP asserted, “will be a watershed event.”

Think about it. The insurance industry’s idea of a cutting-edge, cost-saving reform is to do what William Kristol — William Kristol! — thought it should have done 15 years ago.

How could the industry spend 15 years failing to make even the most obvious reforms? The answer is simple: Americans seeking health coverage had nowhere else to go. And the purpose of the public option is to make sure that the industry doesn’t waste another 15 years — by giving Americans an alternative if private insurers fall down on the job…

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 8:22 am

Vintage Blades soap + Bolzano blade

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IMG_0990

The Plisson HMW 12 worked up a great lather from Vintage Blades’s own shaving soap, and the Futur with a previously used Bolzano blade deliver an exceptionally smooth shave. I’ve found with the Futur that if I focus on the head instead of the guard—making sure the head and blade edge are both in contact with my face—I get the best shave from it.

I’ve exchanged a couple of emails with a new traditional shaver, who commented that this method “makes shaving more than a chore.” I think he’s exactly right: if you can shave without thinking, without being fully awake, without even paying attention, it becomes a chore: nothing to engage the mind. But if you make it something more—a task that requires observant application of a skill you are gradually mastering—then the mind is engaged and the activity becomes absorbing and enjoyable. And, in addition, you do get the benefit of the greater range of sensual pleasures that traditional shaving offers: the feel of the brush working up and then wielding warm and fragrant lather; the sound of the blade cutting the stubble; the feel and form of the razor itself, a well-made non-disposable mechanism—all of that, together with your engaged and observant mind provide a pleasure that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow.” I highly recommend his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, especially to those interested in happiness.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 June 2009 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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