Later On

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

Archive for August 9th, 2010

Travel-brush series

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(click to enlarge)

Above are three travel brushes: l to r, Pils, Mühle prototype, and Mühle. The knots in each case are stored in the hollow handle. With the Pils, the bottom is unscrewed, as a cap, and the brush, unscrewed from the top, drops in. Unfortunately, this means the possibly damp brush faces the small opening in the base cap rather than the large opening at the top.

The two Mühles both work alike: The top cap unscrews from the handle, the knot unscrews from that and is dropped into the handle, with the top cap screwed back to keep the knot from falling out. In this design, the knot faces the large opening.

The Mühle threads seem much more precisely machined than on the Pils, and Mühle steals a march by using aluminum for the travel brush: one does want to minimize weight.

I got my Mühle from The Superior Shave—the aluminum one comes in three colors: black, blue, or aluminum. There’s also a slightly heftier version in nickel-plated silver, like the prototype above.

I did at one time have a Simpson Major travel brush, but that brush is too bulky and heavy to be practical as a travel brush, though at one time the turnback design was cool.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Shaving

Progress notes

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I see the doctor this afternoon about my knee. I’m asking for a cortisone shot, and also advice about knee wraps and the like. I’m also going to get my bicycle back from The Wife and try cycling once my knee is a little better—thanks for the suggestion, Steve.

I did get a two-day “plateau buster” meal plan from my nutrition counselor. I’ll start that tomorrow. 🙂

UPDATE: I decided that my knee doesn’t hurt enough to get the cortisone—I’ll just continue ice packs and ibuprofen and not putting too much weight on it. The doctor encouraged me to do low/no-impact exercises like elliptical trainer, bicycle exerciser (less strain on knee than actual bicycling), the cross-country ski machine. And then, as I get better, working up to the walk gradually.

He also wants to keep an eye on the underlying joint, just to be sure that there’s no problem there. And he’s doing some blood work to check on indicators of inflammation.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Don’t buy farmed salmon

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Check out this post (and the link in it). Yuck!

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 12:00 pm

Jane Hamsher: Sign petition to legalize marijuana

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Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Find the latest marijuana policy news on the JustSayNow page. You can also follow JustSayNow on Twitter and  Facebook.

Last week, Mexico’s President Calderon called on President Obama to join the debate on legalizing marijuana. The US drug policy has lined the pockets of the drug cartels with billions of dollars, and they are threatening to destabilize not only Mexico but countries across Latin America.

In many regions, the drug gangs are seeking to replace the government, imposing their own taxes in towns they dominate.

Three former Latin American presidents — Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil — wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, urging the legalization of marijuana as a way to undermine a major source of income for cartels.

Recently, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned that the Mexican government could experience “a rapid and sudden collapse” due to drug cartel violence.  And the outgoing head of the CIA, Gen. Michael Hayden, warned that drug cartels “threaten … the well-being of the Mexican people and the Mexican state.”

The problem is so bad that following President Calderon’s statement, two Mexican cardinals have endorsed his call to open a debate on the merits of  legalization.

There have been 28,000 people killed since 2006 in the war with the drug cartels,  including 1200 in July –  the deadliest month yet.  The recent shooting in Arizona that triggered the debate between right and left over immigration was the result of marijuana smuggling, not people trying to get over the border to find jobs.  It’s insane that the conversation instantly devolved into a right-left battle over immigration.  The Arizona law does nothing to address the underlying problem.

Yesterday the Guardian had a piece on the push to end prohibition, including the Just Say Now campaign we launched last week.  Further,  the Guardian editorial board called on David Cameron and Nick Clegg to “launch a national debate on whether we should try legalisation,” and to “tear up the current policy. It has failed.”  “That debate must be opened in Britain and the recent change of government provides a rare opportunity,” they say.

But as Peter Guither notes, although there is strong interest in the issue among both progressive and conservative voters, leadership on both sides of the aisle have been unwilling to address it.  Most are terrified of walking into a meat grinder of social taboos left over from the culture wars, and they won’t brave it until the public demands it.

That’s why we launched the Just Say Now campaign.  Over 30,000 people have already signed the petition to President Obama, saying it’s time to end the war on marijuana.  America’s prison population has quadrupled since 1984 when Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs began, and the private prison system exploded.

Last fall, Eric Holder issued a directive that the DEA should respect state medical marijuana laws.  But as  Jacob Sullum notes, that directive had a lot of wiggle room and as a result the DEA’s raids on medical marijuana suppliers continue.

Please show your support and sign the petition asking President Obama to end the war on marijuana.


Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 11:44 am

Interesting look at the Harmans and the Intel industry

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Marcy Wheeler:

You all know I’m a big fan of the work Tim Shorrock has done to track the dangers of the privatization of the intelligence industrial complex. Today, he kicks off an ongoing relationship with the Daily Beast–so now we can read at the Daily Beast what the WaPo will cover in two years in warmed-over form. Today’s article traces the role that Jane Harman’s husband and the guy who just bought Newsweek for $1, Sidney, has in an intelligence advisory group called “Business Executives for National Security.”

But few in Washington are aware that the real intelligence insider of the Harman family may be Sidney himself, through his connections to an obscure but highly influential organization known as Business Executives for National Security.


Founded by [Stanley] Weiss, a mining and chemical executive who for years served as a director of Harman’s audio-equipment company, BENS today represents about 350 of the country’s largest manufacturing, transportation, information technology, communications, and national-security firms.Harman himself chaired the organization’s executive committee from 1982 to 2009 and “contributed over $1 million over the years” to the organization, Weiss told The Daily Beast in an email from Indonesia. Although its CEO, retired Army General Montgomery C. Meigs, manages the organization, its corporate members, led by Harman, have set the pace. “Dr. Harman played an important role [in BENS] for a quarter century,” Weiss told me. “He was deeply involved in all aspects of BENS’ work.” Harman could not be reached for comment.

Shorrock goes on to describe how BENS has been pushing privatization since the Clinton Administration, and just last month recommended further opportunities for profiteering to the Obama Administration.

Just last month it was asked by Obama’s Defense Department to review its recommendations for reducing the cost of military business operations. It came up with a dense, three-page list of suggested changes, among them: outsourcing more “non-core functions” and a recommendation that the Pentagon eliminate “the practice of treating ‘excessive profits’ as improper.”

And yeah, Shorrock points out that her husband’s role in outsourcing intelligence was a conflict of interest when Jane Harman chaired the House Intelligence Committee (and she still chairs the Intelligence Subcommittee at the Committee on Homeland Security). But seeing as how we’ve got DiFi, another spouse of a big MIC contractor, currently running the Senate Intelligence Committee, I guess we should just write that off as par for the course, huh?

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 10:02 am

GOP like a 5-year-old, claims Republican Senator

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Steve Benen:

Before lawmakers broke for their August recess, a couple of key pieces of legislation were defeated because of Republican procedural concerns. A bill to offer more health care resources for 9/11 rescue workers was defeated in the House, for example, because Republicans said they wanted to offer poison-pill amendments and Democrats wouldn’t let them. Likewise, a bill to offer tax breaks to small businesses was defeated by Senate Republicans for the same reason.

What’s with this GOP preoccupation with procedure? Why should important legislation die over amendments that won’t pass anyway? Before senators headed home last week, Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) tried to explain his party’s thinking.

"Saying to a senator, ‘You can’t bring up your amendment,’ is like saying to your 5-year-old son, ‘OK, Johnny, whatever you do, don’t touch the stove.’ Johnny’s going to spend the whole week trying to figure out a way to touch the stove."

Hmm. If I didn’t know better, I might think Lamar Alexander believes Republican lawmakers act like 5 year olds.

A few months ago, the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein noted that GOP leaders "are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious."

Apparently, Ornstein isn’t the only one who’s noticed.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Mississippi’s Corrections Reform

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Interesting article by John Buntin at Governing:

In January 2002, Margaret Winter, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) National Prison Project, received a letter from Willie Russell, an inmate on Mississippi’s death row.

"I am on a hunger strike to the death," the letter began. In highly idiosyncratic language, the letter then described conditions at the facility where death row was housed, Unit 32.

Unit 32 was one of seven prisons located on Mississippi’s fabled penal institution, Parchman Farm. As described by Russell, it was also a lot like hell. Inmates were locked in permanent solitary confinement. In the summer, the cells were ovens, with no fans or air circulation. Russell’s was even worse: He was in a special "punishment" cell with a solid, unvented Plexiglas door. The cells were also sewers, thanks to a design flaw in cellblock toilets that often flushed excrement from one cell into the next. Prisoners were allowed outside — to pace or sit alone in metal cages — just two or three times a week. Inside was a perpetual dusk: One always-on light fixture provided inadequate light for reading but enough light to make it hard to sleep.

Then there were the bugs. The only way to avoid being eaten alive, Russell wrote, was to wrap himself in clothes like a mummy, which made the brutal Delta heat even more unbearable. Worst of all, though, was the noise. Psychotic inmates screamed through the night. Conditions were so bad, Russell continued, that some dozen-odd other inmates — about one-quarter of Mississippi’s death row population — had also joined the hunger strike.

"I had heard this sort of thing before," Winter says, "but I was gripped by the power of this letter. It was like something out of the Book of Genesis. It had a biblical grandeur to it. And I believed it." Winter hurriedly arranged a trip to Parchman Farm, where she met her correspondent for the first time. He was a giant of a man — 6 feet 8 inches tall, 250 pounds. Though he was handcuffed, shackled, belly-chained and dressed in the distinctive, solid red jump suits worn by death row inmates, he clearly was a proud man, "fantastically imposing." But he already was visibly wasted by the hunger strike. His skin was ashen, his eyes bluish and dry.

"He didn’t want false hope," she recalls. "He said he would stop if I would give him a solemn assurance that we could make changes — significant changes. He didn’t want to be strung along." He’d rather die now instead.

Winter told him that if she could corroborate what he was saying, she felt certain they could change conditions such that he would want to continue living and fighting his death sentence. Russell accepted the offer and agreed to end the hunger strike. Seven months later, in July 2002, the ACLU filed suit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) on behalf of Russell, five other inmates and those similarly situated. The ACLU alleged that "defendants knowingly subject the death row prisoners to barbaric and inhumane conditions, which wantonly inflict unnecessary pain and constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and 14th amendments to the Constitution of the United States."

But where Winter saw a noble giant, Parchman Farm staff saw the 41-year-old Russell as something else — a murderer with a history of violent crime…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 9:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Plan on 10,000 hours of practice

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Very interesting post at The Simple Dollar:

About a year and a half ago, I reviewed Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book Outliers. In that review, I talked about one of Gladwell’s key points in the book, that a great deal of practice will make a person good at anything:

The more important (and interesting) part of the chapter, though, discusses the huge role that nearly-obsessive practice plays in making people great. Gladwell uses The Beatles and Bill Gates as examples here, showing how they both were able to take advantage of stupendous amounts of practice time to become very, very good at what they did. In each case, Gladwell estimated that it took 10,000 hours of practice for those individuals to hone their natural raw talents and become world class – roughly ten years of multiple hours of practice (3 or so on average) every single day. Gladwell offers many other examples of how this practice pays off, but that magic number of 10,000 hours pops up again and again.

10,000 hours of practice? That seems like an incredible amount of time invested in something. I tried to think of the people in my life who have ever put 10,000 hours of practice into anything in their life.

I have probably spent 10,000 hours writing over the past twenty years – and currently I’m making a living as a writer. The skill I’ve cultivated isn’t that of writing some sort of great work of fiction or nonfiction, but the ability to express ideas and produce a lot of solid writing very quickly. I can usually sit down with an idea and crank out something workable almost as fast as I can type – in fact, the vast majority of my work is coming up with ideas and filtering the ideas I do come up with.

I know two musicians who have likely invested 10,000 hours in practicing their instrument over their lifetime. One of them earns a solid side income from her piano playing – the other one makes a full living from offering lessons.

My father has spent 10,000 hours (at least) fishing in his life. He is just unbelievably capable of catching fish and has forgotten more solid techniques and tips than I’ll ever remember. He’s similarly spent that kind of time in his garden and manages to make (literally) acres of bountiful vegetable gardens look practically effortless.

What’s the point of all of this?

The point is that …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 9:34 am

Posted in Daily life

"Best healthcare in the world"

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I wonder. Take a look:

Over at the Phoenix New Times, they have the harrowing story of a young man who endured multiple surgeries and treatments for a rare type of brain tumor — and who was told by his health plan that they could no longer cover him because he and his wife had earned $4.25 too much to qualify for aid.

The tumor and subsequent surgeries had made it impossible for the man to work and his wife’s part-time job was not sufficient to pay for health insurance. So when he first entered the emergency room in October, both he and his wife were enrolled in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) which paid for the sky-high hospital bills.

However, in January they received a notice from AHCCS that they had been dropped from the program because they had earned a combined total of $612.25 the previous month; the threshold for AHCCS coverage is $608/month.

That meant that the couple would now be on the hook for the husband’s $8,227/month bill — just for his medication.

Not shockingly, when they took up arms against AHCCS, they found themselves bound up in all manner of red tape and ineptitude: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 9:24 am

The Paul Ryan fight continues

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Andrew Sullivan:

The congressman defends himself from Krugman. Krugman hits back:

Notice that Ryan does not address the issue of the zero nominal growth assumption, and how that assumption – not entitlement reforms – is the key to his alleged spending cuts by 2020.

I also see that Ryan is perpetuating the runaround on revenue estimates. If you read either this article or his original response to the Tax Policy Center, you could easily get the impression that nobody would do a revenue estimate, that CBO said it was JCT’s job, and JCT balked. Even Nate Silver has fallen for this.

He also side kicks Ezra for backing Ryan’s role in the debate. Megan steps in:

[I]t is not correct to accuse Ryan of deliberate dishonesty; he asked the CBO to score it, and they turned him down.  Nor is it correct to imply that this is somehow out of the ordinary.  If you supported the health care plan, you supported the exact same process that Ryan is now proposing to use to tweak his proposal.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:50 am

Ted Olson tries to explain the rule law to Chris Matthews

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It’s hopeless, as you’ll see. Ted Olson was one of the two attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the California gay-marriage case, which he won.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:41 am

Gay marriage

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Greenwald takes down Douthat. From Greenwald’s column:

… [Douthat’s] argument is radically wrong, and its two principal errors nicely highlight why the case against marriage equality is so misguided.

First, the mere fact that the State does not use the mandates of law to enforce Principle X does not preclude Principle X from being advocated or even prevailing.  Conversely, the fact that the State recognizes the right of an individual to choose to engage in Act Y does not mean Act Y will be accepted as equal.  There are all sorts of things secular law permits which society nonetheless condemns.  Engaging in racist speech is a fundamental right but widely scorned.  The State is constitutionally required to maintain full neutrality with regard to the relative merits of the various religious sects (and with regard to the question of religion v. non-religion), but certain religions are nonetheless widely respected while others — along with atheism — are stigmatized and marginalized.  Numerous behaviors which secular law permits — excessive drinking, adultery, cigarette smoking, inter-faith and inter-racial marriages, homosexual sex — are viewed negatively by large portions of the population.

The State’s official neutrality on the question of marriage does not even theoretically restrict Douthat’s freedom — or that of his ideological and religious comrades — to convince others of the superiority of heterosexual monogamy.  They’re every bit as free today as they were last week to herald all the "unique fruit" which such relationships can alone generate, in order to persuade others to follow that course.  They just can’t have the State take their side by officially embracing that view or using the force of law to compel it.

But if the arguments for the objective superiority of heterosexual monogamy are as apparent and compelling as Douthat seems to think, they ought not need the secular thumb pressing on the scale in favor of their view.  Individuals on their own will come to see the rightness of Douthat’s views on such matters — or will be persuaded by the religious institutions and societal mores which teach the same thing — and, attracted by its "distinctive and remarkable" virtues, will opt for a life of heterosexual monogamy.  Why does Douthat need the State — secular law — to help him in this cause?

Second, …

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Genetically Modified Crop on the Loose and Evolving in U.S. Midwest

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Just like genetically modified farmed salmon escape into the wild (with devastating effects on wild salmon stocks). David Biello writes in Scientific American:

Outside a grocery store in Langdon, N.D., two ecologists spotted a yellow canola plant growing on the margins of a parking lot this summer. They plucked it, ground it up and, using a chemical stick similar to those in home pregnancy kits, identified proteins that were made by artificially introduced genes. The plant was GM—genetically modified.

That’s not too surprising, given that North Dakota grows tens of thousands of hectares of conventional and genetically modified canola—a weedy plant, known scientifically as Brassica napus var oleifera, bred by Canadians to yield vegetable oil from its thousands of tiny seeds. What was more surprising was that nearly everywhere the two ecologists and their colleagues stopped during a trip across the state, they found GM canola growing in the wild. "We found transgenic plants growing in the middle of nowhere, far from fields," says ecologist Cindy Sagers of the University of Arkansas (U.A.) in Fayetteville, who presented the findings August 6 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh. Most intriguingly, two of the 288 tested plants showed man-made genes for resistance to multiple pesticides—so-called "stacked traits," and a type of seed that biotechnology companies like Monsanto have long sought to develop and market. As it seems, Mother Nature beat biotech to it. "One of the ones with multiple traits was [in the middle of] nowhere, and believe me, there’s a lot of nowhere in North Dakota—nowhere near a canola field," she adds.

That likely means that transgenic canola plants are cross-pollinating in the wild—and swapping introduced genes. Although GM canola in the wild has been identified everywhere from Canada to Japan in previous research, this marks the first time such plants have been shown to be evolving in this way…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

Do we create the universe by looking at it?

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(The answer is obviously "No"—assuming that scientists are right that the universe was in full motion and working fully before humans evolved—but working out the experiment to prove it apparently requires some thought.) An article at Seed by Joshua Roebke:

To enter the somewhat formidable Neo-Renaissance building at Boltzmanngasse 3 in Vienna, you must pass through a small door sawed from the original cathedrallike entrance. When I first visited this past March, it was chilly and overcast in the late afternoon. Atop several tall stories of scaffolding there were two men who would hardly have been visible from the street were it not for their sunrise-orange jumpsuits. As I was about to pass through the nested entrance, I heard a sudden rush of wind and felt a mist of winter drizzle. I glanced up. The veiled workers were power-washing away the building’s façade, down to the century-old brick underneath.

In 1908 Karl Kupelwieser, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s uncle, donated the money to construct this building and turn Austria- Hungary into the principal destination for the study of radium. Above the doorway the edifice still bears the name of this founding purpose. But since 2005 this has been home of the Institut für Quantenoptik und Quanteninformation (IQOQI, pronounced “ee-ko-kee”), a center devoted to the foundations of quantum mechanics. The IQOQI, which includes a sister facility to the southwest in the valley town of Innsbruck, was initially realized in 2003 at the behest of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. However, the institute’s conception several years earlier was predominantly due to one man: Anton Zeilinger. This past January, Zeilinger became the first ever recipient of the Isaac Newton Medal for his pioneering contributions to physics as the head of one of the most successful quantum optics groups in the world. Over the past two decades, he and his colleagues have done as much as anyone else to test quantum mechanics. And since its inception more than 80 years ago, quantum mechanics has possibly weathered more scrutiny than any theory ever devised. Quantum mechanics appears correct, and now Zeilinger and his group have started experimenting with what the theory means.

Some physicists still find quantum mechanics unpalatable, if not unbelievable, because of what it implies about the world beyond our senses. The theory’s mathematics is simple enough to be taught to undergraduates, but the physical implications of that mathematics give rise to deep philosophical questions that remain unresolved. Quantum mechanics fundamentally concerns the way in which we observers connect to the universe we observe. The theory implies that when we measure particles and atoms, at least one of two long-held physical principles is untenable: Distant events do not affect one other, and properties we wish to observe exist before our measurements. One of these, locality or realism, must be fundamentally incorrect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Jam With Musicians All Over The World With Youphonics

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This looks quite cool if you play an instrument.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 8:00 am

Plato’s Secret: the podcast

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I blogged earlier about some secrets hidden in the Platonic dialogues. Now here’s a podcast of an interview with the guy who made the discovery.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 7:58 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Knee notes

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Not bad in the morning, gets worse as I walk on it. Will continue ice-packs and ibuprofen, but I’m also going to see my doctor for (a) a cortisone shot, and (b) advice on treatment and prevention—e.g., do those knee straps help?

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 7:56 am

Posted in Daily life

Vanilla Cream and a fine shave

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Honeybee Spa’s Vanilla Cream shave stick produced a very fine lather with the Rooney 3/1. The Slant, using an aging Swedish Gillette blade, produced a smooth shave with three passes and a little polishing. A splash of Acqua di Parma, and I’m good to go.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2010 at 7:39 am

Posted in Shaving

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