Later On

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

Archive for March 9th, 2010

Movie notes

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Last night I watched Making Mr. Right, with John Malkovich. It’s Pygmalion, genders reversed, set in a science-fiction context. Different issues arise when it’s the man who’s the naïf. I don’t think it’s highly rated, but it seemed quite enjoyable to me, with a certain amount of laugh out loud.

I defy anyone watching Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide to give a coherent plot summary after only one viewing. Totally wild, and I love it. I’ve watched it several times and am watching it again.

Both are available as Watch Instantly.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Moqueca – Brazilian Fish Stew

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brazilian-moqueca

I’m definitely making this recipe. Here are the ingredients:

Soup

  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fillets of firm white fish such as halibut, swordfish, or cod, rinsed in cold water, pin bones removed, cut into large portions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped spring onion, or 1 medium yellow onion, chopped or sliced
  • 1/4 cup green onion greens, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, chopped (or sliced)
  • 2 cups chopped (or sliced) tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp paprika (Hungarian sweet)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped with some set aside for garnish
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk

Rice

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water (check your rice package for the appropriate ratio of liquid to rice for the type of rice you are using)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 5:19 pm

GOP: "You can get a job if you want"

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Paul Krugman:

Well, it seems that Republicans are going all in on the idea that a big reason we have high unemployment is that unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work. Aside from the sheer cruelty, it’s really bad economics, but whatever.

And I found myself remembering a passage near the beginning of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

Anyone who is willing to work and is serious about it will certainly find a job. Only you must not go to the man who tells you this, for he has no job to offer and doesn’t know anyone who knows of a vacancy. This is exactly the reason why he gives you such generous advice, out of brotherly love, and to demonstrate how little he knows the world.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Heavy irony: Iran seems more inclined to follow rule of law than US

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Greenwald:

I’ll just go ahead and pass this on without (much) comment, because the point is self-evident:

Iran Torture Trials Begin

TEHRAN, Iran — The trial in Iran opened Tuesday for 12 suspects accused of torturing to death three anti-government protesters tortured in prison during the turmoil following the June elections, the official news agency reported.

Iran’s judiciary last year charged 12 officials at Kahrizak prison for involvement in the death of three protesters detained there in July. . . .

In January, a parliamentary probe found a former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, responsible for the torture death of the three in Kahrizak detention center in the capital. . . . .

Anger over the abuse emerged in August, after influential conservative figures in the clerical hierarchy condemned the mistreatment of detainees. The outrage forced Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to order the immediate closure of [] Kahrizak.

At least 100 detainees died in U.S. custody in connection with interrogation practices.  Gen. Barry McCaffrey put it this way:  "We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A."  Other than a handful of very low-level scapegoats, none has been punished, or even investigated, but rather immunized in multiple ways, both formal and informal.  Army Gen. Antonio Taguba concluded that the abuse was the direct result of the orders of top-level Bush officials and said:  "there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."  Most of the people subject to our lawless "war on Terror" detention system were completely innocent.

Iran is a horribly oppressive regime and many of these judicial processes may (or may not) be sham trials.  But they have a citizenry which effectively demanded accountability for torture, a government which relented to citizen demands, and a judiciary which compelled at least some judicial scrutiny and adjudication for these crimes.  One can only imagine what it must be like to be a citizen of a country that feels obligated to at least maintain the pretense of that the rule of law applies to all (even if for no other reason than to placate its enraged populace).

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 5:11 pm

Belt-driven bicycles

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A belt instead of a chain:

It’s lighter; doesn’t use grease; requires no maintenance; won’t break, stretch, rust or fall off; and, best of all, it offers a pronounced improvement in "engagement" — the millisecond it takes for the bike to react to your pedaling forces.

The article discusses 4 specific bikes, which sound quite cool but too expensive for me.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

How Bill Gates wants to change education

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It’s come to this: a college drop-out thinks he can change education. His goals:

Bill and Melinda Gates put a hefty portion of their billions into philanthropic efforts involving development, healthcare, and – of course – education. The foundation that bears their name sponsors a number of amazing opportunities for impoverished or otherwise marginalized individuals to thrive academically and vocationally, whether they be accessible inside the walls of a classroom or a library. Here are at least 10 of their current projects and strategies that they have in place to ensure that more students across the world obtain the education they need in order to thrive and help build and reinforce their communities.

1. Sponsoring Thrive by Five : Along with many other private and public institutions alike, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Microsoft Corporation work in tandem with Washington State’s Thrive by Five program. Bill Gates even once served as the chair of the board of directors. This nonprofit strives to provide the best possible early learning opportunities for children before entering into kindergarten. Among their myriad projects intended to stimulate small children and grant them with a head start in their education are numerous statewide initiatives that promote and encourage learning at home and libraries as well as in recommended institutions, the building of standardized, efficient models for schools to follow, and nurture partnerships with sponsors and other schools that maximize everyone’s educational potential. Their website outlines 3 extremely specific and altruistic goals that all of their projects follow – “Help create the environment to support early learning and positive child development,” “Make effective early learning programs more available,” and “Be a voice for and assist in building early learning systems.” No matter what service the citizenry takes advantage of, they are met with ideals painstakingly constructed to offer Washington’s youth a fantastic beginning to the schooling that will last them a lifetime.

2. Calling for Financial Aid Reform : Almost anyone who has ever had to deal with the Financial Aid system will freely discuss the various migraines associated with applying, receiving, and paying off their loans. Much of the research they site paints a grim portrait of postsecondary education in America, with at least 7 major points of financial concern for low-income students. Because of these factors, those from a lower socioeconomic bracket drop out of higher education at a much higher rate than their comparatively more fiscally stable contemporaries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation refers to the current Financial Aid situation as “antiquated and needlessly complex,” and because of this they are utilizing their considerable resources to find a way to streamline the system so that it runs smoothly and allows more lower income students to graduate from college. One such measure the Foundation is currently undertaking involves providing grants to help defray some of the cost of an education. They are also researching the effectiveness of incentives and other means of encouraging financially-strapped students to stay in school instead of dropping out due to monetary concerns. Such reforms are targeted specifically to those struggling in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington, but will hopefully grow to encompass all Americans in due time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

BIG advance in wheelchair design

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James Smith in the Boston Globe has a fascinating story (with an informative brief video) on this new wheelchair:

Some students go to MIT to plumb the mysteries of the atom, or of outer space, or to press the limits of computer science.

Amos Winter went another way: He’s trying to revolutionize the wheelchair. Specifically, he wants to make that most familiar aid to the disabled work in the Third World, where roads are bad, money tight, and the need immense.

A doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, Winter calls his invention the Leveraged Freedom Chair – leveraged because it is powered by hand levers.

Abdullah Munish has another name for it. “I call it my little angel machine,’’ he said.

For years after he survived a car crash but lost the use of his legs, Munish struggled to move his wheelchair along the rutted, hilly roads of his hometown in Tanzania. Frustrated, he often just stayed indoors, and lost touch with friends and relatives.

Now, with the help of Winter’s invention, he has reclaimed his freedom and sense of connection. He can push himself up the hill to a neighborhood playing field where he can once again toss a ball around with friends. He can scoot along the gravel paths of Moshi to visit people again.

“We believers, we know that anything that changes your life in terms of mobility, that is something that comes from heaven,’’ said Munish. A 31-year-old wheelchair technician, he is one of six wheelchair users in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda who have been testing the prototype since August.

The genius of Winter’s wheelchair lies in the design of the long ratchet-like levers that power it. Hold them low, near the axle, and it goes fast. Hold them higher up, and it generates a lot of torque, making it possible to climb slowly but surely over rocks and up hills. In effect, you change gears by changing your body geometry.

That helps keep the wheelchair simple and inexpensive, and may make it affordable to some of the 20 million people who need wheelchairs in the developing world.

Winter said he hopes to get his lever-powered wheelchair patented and produced in substantial numbers – priced at about $200 each – within two years. He plans to test 30 more in Guatemala this summer, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Inter-American Development Bank, and then conduct wider tests in India…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

The military lies to us again

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The military has a very serious problem with telling the truth. Here’s the latest:

Source: Interpress News Service, March 8, 2010

The U.S. media told the public for weeks that a big, offensive battle was taking place in Marja, in Afghanistan, a "city of 80,000 people" in Helmand province which was also the logistical hub of the Taliban. The description gave the impression that the U.S. presence in Marja was a major strategic objective, and that the city was more important than other district centers in the province. But the picture the military painted of Marja and duly reported by a biddable news media was one of the most dramatic pieces of misinformation so far in the entire war, aimed at hyping the offensive as a big turning point in the conflict.

In truth, Marjah is not a city or even a town, but either a few groups of farmers’ homes or a large farming area encompassing much of the southern Helmand River Valley. The sparsely populated area is completely rural, with no incorporated city or town.

The fiction that Marjah was a city of 80,000 got started at a briefing given by officials on February 2 at the U.S. Marine base called Camp Leatherneck. Officials referred to Marjah as a populous city. The Associated Press put out an article that same day saying they expected up to 1,000 insurgents were "holed up" in the "southern Afghan town of 80,000 people," a statement that evoked a picture of house-to-house, urban street fighting.

ABC News perpetuated the myth the next day, in a story that referred to the "city of Marja" and claiming that the city and its surrounding area were "more heavily populated, urban and dense than other places the Marines so far have been able to clear and hold."

The rest of the news media fell in line, giving fake descriptions of a densely populated, urban Marja, often using the terms "city" and "town" interchangeably, without fact-checking the descriptions.

On February 22, the Washington Post reported that the decision to launch the big offensive against Marja was intended largely to impress U.S. public opinion with the military’s effectiveness in Afghanistan by showing that it could achieve a "large and loud victory." The false idea that Marja was a significantly large city center was an essential part of that message.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:35 am

iPhone app version 1.1 – now with search, image viewer and Twitter!

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Extremely cool. And free.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:32 am

Does Obama call the shots in his own administration?

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Despite repeated assurances that the DEA will no longer go after medical marijuana, the DEA continues to go after medical marijuana. I’m reminded of Truman’s prediction that Eisenhower, as a former general, would have trouble in the White House because he would expect that his orders would be followed. Apparently Obama and Holder’s orders are being ignored. Will they do anything about it? Unclear. The Associated Press:

Colorado lawmakers trying to regulate marijuana dispensaries are asking the U.S. attorney general to stop raids of medical marijuana operations.

The group e-mailed the request to Eric Holder on Monday, following up on a letter sent last week.

The lawmakers say the raids are discouraging dispensary operators and medical marijuana patients and growers from working with them on proposed regulations.

The letter was sent by Sens. Chris Romer and Nancy Spence and Reps. Tom Massey and Beth McCann.

A suburban Denver man has been charged with possession in federal court after agents raided his home and found 224 pot plants. Agents have also raided two laboratories that test medical marijuana after their owners applied for drug licenses.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:30 am

A cure for allergies from ancient China?

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Howie Kahn at Salon:

We were in Hawaii five years ago, eating at the kind of fish restaurant where, maybe, you’d want to wear a shirt with sleeves and shorts that didn’t double as a bathing suit. Once we were seated, our waiter got all poetic about the nut-crusted opa and Mom warned him that she had food allergies, just a few. From his back pocket, the server immediately withdrew a deck of pink cards that looked like a prescription pad, thumbed one off the top of the stack and placed it down on the table. Bookended by triple asterisks, it read "GUEST ALLERGY CARD," all bold, all caps; its instructions: "List All Problem Foods." The word "All" was double-underlined for emphasis because double-underlining, it seemed, was the top defense against anaphylactic shock.

It was a surprising intervention at the time, this card, but its presentation had a clear antecedent. Even five years ago, benchmark publications like the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Current Opinion in Immunology were releasing figures signaling an allergic surge. The number of people reporting peanut allergy had doubled. Food allergy on the whole was escalating. It now affects 6 percent of young children and 3-4 percent of adults in the United States. Emergency rooms are seeing an estimated 125,000 patients annually for food allergy, and 15,000 patients per year for food-induced anaphylaxis. Eager to self-diagnose as we are, between 20 and 30 percent of Americans now believe they have some kind of food allergy whether, in fact, they do.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:26 am

Great meatloaf

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This is one of those dangerous recipes: it’s very easy to keep nibbling way too long.

I made this Alton Brown meatloaf with the following changes:

I made half a recipe, using about 55% ground pork and 45% ground (grassfed) beef. I want to try again, using equal parts ground beef, pork, and turkey.

I didn’t have garlic croutons, so I just used panko. I just mixed the panko, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and chili powder in the bowl, using a whisk. I used a little more cayenne than specified to amp up the spiciness.

Since I didn’t have garlic croutons, I doubled the garlic, and I used the VeggiChop to process the onion, carrot, garlic, and bell pepper. The Veggichop is easier and faster to use and easier to clean (a quick rinse). The chopped onion, carrot, and bell pepper added some nice small-scale crunchiness to the meatloaf. Next time I’ll add 1/4 cup pignolas to the recipe (not chopped, just stirred in).

The glaze is great. I used maple syrup in place of honey, and gave it a good big dash of pepper sauce. Note that the glaze, applied 10 minutes after the meatloaf has started roasting, is a one-coat-covers kind of thing: you brush on the entire amount, and that’s it: no return trips to add more.

I didn’t bother with the loaf pan: I just made a loaf by hand, placing the meatloaf on a small broiler pan (so that  any fat could drain: practically none did, though).

I roasted it to 155ºF internal temperature, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then enjoyed it.

A really great recipe. I had been careful not to mash it—I did the mixing with a whisk and forks—and the texture was fine, the taste terrific.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:23 am

Very pleasant shave

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The Rooney Style 2 and a very good soap: Creed’s Green Irish Tweed. Result: a fine lather, and a smooth shave with the Apollo Mikron and its Swedish Gillette blade, still going strong. Three passes, a splash of Pitralon, and I’m done.

Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2010 at 10:21 am

Posted in Shaving

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