Later On

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

Archive for February 16th, 2011

Enjoyable movie with weird premise

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I’m watching Red, with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Earnest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, and others. Very enjoyable, but it hinges on a strange premise. It’s a spoiler, so if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t click the link to read the rest of this post.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 9:12 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Fascinating: Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution

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Very interesting report in the NY Times by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

Halfway around the world from Tahrir Square in Cairo, an aging American intellectual shuffles about his cluttered brick row house in a working-class neighborhood here. His name is Gene Sharp. Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, he grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man.But for the world’s despots, his ideas can be fatal.

Few Americans have heard of Mr. Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.

When Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around “crazy ideas” about bringing down the government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced.

When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing” to “disclosing identities of secret agents.”

Dalia Ziada, an Egyptian blogger and activist who attended the workshop and later organized similar sessions on her own, said trainees were active in both the Tunisia and Egypt revolts. She said that some activists translated excerpts of Mr. Sharp’s work into Arabic, and that his message of “attacking weaknesses of dictators” stuck with them.

Peter Ackerman, a onetime student of Mr. Sharp who founded the nonviolence center and ran the Cairo workshop, cites his former mentor as proof that “ideas have power.”

Mr. Sharp, hard-nosed yet exceedingly shy, is careful not to take credit. He is more thinker than revolutionary, though as a young man he participated in lunch-counter sit-ins and spent nine months in a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., as a conscientious objector during the Korean War. He has had no contact with the Egyptian protesters, he said, although he recently learned that the Muslim Brotherhood had “From Dictatorship to Democracy” posted on its Web site.

While seeing the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak as a sign of “encouragement,” Mr. Sharp said, “The people of Egypt did that — not me.”

He has been watching . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 7:18 pm

No surprise: Strange and heavy precipitation due at least in part to global warming

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Unfortunately, it’s now evident that about half the citizenry lack the knowledge and background to understand this news story by Justin Gillis in the NY Times. They base their scientific judgments on what someone said on talk radio. So I expect we shall continue down the same path until we fall off the cliff. The story begins:

An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.

In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.

As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day increased by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.

The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.

The paper covers climate trends from 1951 to 1999 and therefore does not include any analysis of last year’s extreme precipitation, including catastrophic floods in Pakistan, China and Australia as well as several parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas and California. However, the paper is likely to bolster a growing sense among climate scientists that events like the 2010 floods will become more common in a warming world.

Indeed, an increase of weather extremes has been a fundamental prediction of climate science for decades. Basic physics suggests that as the earth warms, precipitation extremes will become more intense, winter and summer, for the simple reason that warmer air can carry more water vapor. Weather statistics confirm that this has begun to happen.

Scientists have long been reluctant to attribute any specific weather event to global warming, but a handful of papers that do so are beginning to appear in the scientific literature. One such installment is being published on Thursday in Nature as a companion piece to the broader paper. It finds that severe rains that flooded England and Wales in the autumn of 2000, the wettest autumn since record-keeping began there in 1766, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 5:19 pm

Not all political news is bad: This one is quite hopeful

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And the GOP contributed to the success of an important step to start realigning our country’s priorities. Report in the NY Times by Christopher Drew:

In a sign that some freshman Republicans were willing to cut military spending, the House voted 233-198 on Wednesday to cancel an alternate fighter jet engine that the Bush and Obama administrations had tried to kill for the last five years.

The vote marked another instance in which some of the new legislators, including members of the Tea Party, broke ranks with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, where the engine provided more than 1,000 jobs.

Many of the 87 freshman Republicans in the House had initially been hesitant to trim military spending as part of their drive to reduce the budget deficit.

But after forcing Mr. Boehner and other Republican leaders to propose greater cuts in domestic programs, the freshman agreed last week to include $16 billion in military cuts in this year’s spending bill.

Wednesday’s vote to cancel the alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would cut an additional $450 million and save up to $3 billion over the next several years.

The vote was a victory for President Obama and the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who had called the engine wasteful at a time when the Pentagon budget was flattening out. Yet it also could signal trouble for Mr. Gates, who has complained that the Pentagon could face a short-term crisis if the Republicans go ahead with the $16 billion in additional military cuts this year.

In voting to cancel the engine, some of the Republican freshman formed an unusual alliance with liberal Democrats, who have opposed many of the Republican proposals for cuts in domestic programs.

The Joint Strike Fighter is the military’s most . . .

Continue reading. It does show that the most serious problems in Washington are not so much in the Executive Branch as in the Legislative. I suppose I had given up all hope of Congress doing its job, voting for the public weal rather than for private profit.

UPDATE: Emphasis added to story to help in comprehension.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 12:23 pm

Cat burglar caught in the act

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Pretty clever: motion-triggered video, possibly using infrared light. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life

Responses to the book from The Simple Dollar

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The Simple Dollar is generally a useful blog on saving money while living well (in terms of your values, dreams, and direction). Here, for example, is an excellent post that explains how what young adults face today is enormously different from what they faced 40 years ago. It begins:

Over the past weekend, I had a long conversation with a man in our community who was nearing retirement age. He felt comfortable about his own coming retirement, but he seemed very pessimistic that his children would ever be ready to retire. “They just don’t know how to save money,” he told me.

I told him that, although I agreed with him that young people should save more, there is also a strong case that it is much more difficult today for a young person to establish themselves financially as he did when he was a young adult.

He looked at me strangely. “What do you mean?” he asked.

So, I laid it out for him, piece by piece. Afterward, it occurred to me that the entire discussion might make for a good post here, particularly with some specific research to back it up.

Real wages Let’s start with income. In 1970, the average wage earner took home $312 per week (in 1982 dollars). In 2004, the average wage earner brought home $277 per week (in 1982 dollars) – and it’s still falling. That means that, once you factor out inflation, the average wage earner in 1970 brought home about 18% more than the average wage earner today.

Home prices . . .

Continue reading. It’s worth the click.

He has published a book summarizing what he learned when he changed his lifestyle to become more in tune with his values and dreams, which included being more frugal: The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams. It sounds excellent. If you scroll down in this post, you get some reader responses to the book.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 11:09 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Justice Department claims FBI can get your phone records without court approval

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People have asked me to more or less go easy on Obama because he has in fact done some very good things. But I continue to be taken aback by his streak of authoritarianism when it is revealed, as it has been in a number of cases. What is the proper response when one sees that? Simple acceptance? “That’s okay because he did this other stuff that’s good”? He gets to kill Americans with no due process or court review because he delivered healthcare? That sort of trade-off seems false to me: I am glad to have healthcare, but I still don’t want Obama and future presidents to have the authority to order the deaths of Americans with no judicial oversight and no due process. Those who lack the ability to see where this leads must not know much history.

One sees quite a few instances of Obama’s attitude toward civil rights, enough to become sensitized (and alarmed) when they recur. One hates to be a party pooper and spoil the fun, but this story (for example) raises my hackles—just as it would emanating from a Republican president. Marisa Taylor writes in the Sacramento Bee:

The Obama administration’s Justice Department has asserted that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international calls made from the United States without any formal legal process or court oversight, according to a document obtained by McClatchy.That assertion was revealed by the department – perhaps inadvertently – in its response to a McClatchy request for a copy of a secret Justice Department memo.

Critics say the legal position is flawed and creates a potential loophole that could lead to a repeat of FBI abuses that were supposed to have been stopped in 2006.

The controversy is a legacy of the Bush administration’s war on terror. Critics say the Obama administration appears to be continuing many of the most controversial tactics of that strategy, including the assertion of sweeping executive powers.

For years after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI sought and obtained thousands of telephone records for international calls in an attempt to thwart potential terrorists. The bureau devised an informal system of requesting the records from three telecommunications firms to create what one agent called a “phone database on steroids” that included names, addresses, length of service and billing information.

A federal watchdog later said a “casual” environment developed in which FBI agents and employees of the telecom companies treated Americans’ telephone records so cavalierly that one senior FBI counterterrorism official said getting access to them was as easy as “having an ATM in your living room.”

In January 2010, McClatchy asked for a copy of the Office of Legal Counsel memo under open-records laws after a reference to it appeared in a heavily excised section of a report on how the FBI abused its powers when seeking telephone records.

In the report, the Justice Department’s inspector general said “the OLC agreed with the FBI that under certain circumstances (word or words redacted) allows the FBI to ask for and obtain these records on a voluntary basis from the providers, without legal process or a qualifying emergency.”

In its cover letter to McClatchy, the OLC disclosed more detail about its legal position, specifying a section of a 1978 federal wiretapping law that the Justice Department believes gives the FBI the authority. That section of the law appears to be what was redacted from the inspector general’s report and reveals the type of records the FBI would be seeking, experts said.

“This is the answer to a mystery that has puzzled us for more than a year now,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney and expert on electronic surveillance and national security laws for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“Now, 30 years later, the FBI has looked at this provision again and decided that it is an enormous loophole that allows them to ask for, and the phone companies to hand over, records related to international or foreign communications,” he said.

That interpretation could be stretched to apply to e-mails, as well, he said.

However, Bankston said, even if the law allows the FBI to ask for the records – an assertion he disagrees with – it would prohibit the telecommunication companies from handing them over.

I’m curious to know the appropriate response. Is it “Oh, I’m sure they know what they’re doing and will sort it out privately.”? or “I bet they have special reasons that they don’t want to tell us that completely justifies what they are doing. After all, in this sort of democracy the government should hide things from citizens.”?

I don’t get it. I think this is awful, I see it happening, and the guy I voted for is doing it. I think a little protest is quite in order.

And, BTW, the FBI’s bona fides are often in question. Read this excellent summary of what is coming out about their “case” against Bruce Ivins in the Anthrax poisonings.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 10:48 am

Great shave from the Red Ring Eclipse

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Extremely nice shave, and writing the name of the razor in the order shown (instead of Eclipse Red Ring) made me think that the name refers to a partial eclipse: the red ring of the sun showing around the moon.

Wonderful lather again from D.R. Harris, this time thanks to the Simpson Emperor 2 Super. I used the shave stick as a shave stick, as I always do—I really don’t understand why some buy shave sticks and then try to avoid using them as shave sticks.

Three smooth passes with the much-used Swedish Gillette blade, then a splash of Penhaligon Blenheim Bouquet.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 10:34 am

Posted in Shaving

Salmon GOPM

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Last night I was desperately trying to stay awake until a reasonable hour—I tend to awaken way too early on class days, probably from a combination of anxiety and excitement—so I decided to put together the one-pot meal for today’s lunch and dinner. I put it in the fridge when it was finished, and will cook it at noon. The layers:

1/2 onion, chopped
1 c teeny little whole potatoes of all colors: purple, brown, tan, etc., each about the size of a marble
2 Tbs chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
9-oz fillet of King salmon
juice of 1/2 lime
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
4 sliced mushrooms
4 red Fresno peppers, chopped (not hot)
1 small Italian eggplant (banana-shaped), sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil, brushed onto the eggplant
6-8 Kalamata pitted olives, coarsely chopped
several teaspoons of white miso, placed here and there
thick part of fresh fennel fronds, chopped
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, quarter and cored, sliced
1 large heritage tomato, sliced

Mix together and pour over:

2 Tbsp Amontillado sherry
1 Tbsp homemade Worcestershire sauce

That’s what I can recall: all of my GOPMs are quite ad hoc: I look around to see what might be good and continue to add until I run out of room—in this case before I could add some spinach or red chard. I do generally start with a basic idea or theme: this time it was to use potatoes and salmon.

Because potatoes won’t absorb excess liquid the way rice and pasta do, I think this may be a little liquidy in the bottom, but I didn’t want to run the risk of having it go dry in a 450º F/232º C oven.

UPDATE: There was extra liquid in the bottom of the pot, but not a lot (1/4 – 1/2 c) and it was an extremely tasty liquid. In fact, this was a raving success. I wish I had had some parsley: in this method of cooking, a little parsley adds a very nice flavor. But no complaints at all, and now I have a terrific dinner already made.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2011 at 7:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM, Recipes

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