Later On

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

Archive for September 27th, 2011

Transporting money

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I’ve been watching a lot of movies, off and on—just watched Divorce, Italian Style for the first time (that I can recall) in 50 years. It held up quite well, I thought, and I loved Marcello Mastroianni’s hyper-louche baron, his wonderfully repellant wife, and (of course) the Italian ingenue certified as “undefiled.”

Some scenes were indelibly engraved in my memory, and it was nice to see them again: the pasta-chomping barrister with his amazing hair, for example.

But to the point: quite often, it seems, a lot of money needs to be moved from one place to another—an attaché case full, for example, though nowadays it seems to run more to duffle bags. And, I would think, it must come up in real life as well.

So how’s it done? I would think travel by air is out—“Can you please open your briefcase?” doesn’t work out well, and you scarcely want to check it—unless, I guess, you charter (does TSA check luggage on charters? if not, isn’t that a big hole?) or you have your own airplane (a distinct possibility if you’re lugging around suitcases crammed with money). Otherwise, the only choice (I guess) is to drive.

As you can see, I have little experience in these matters. If anyone wishes to provide me with a suitcase crammed with cash so I can learn, that would be great.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Homemade Worcestershire

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I just bottled the latest batch of homemade Worcestershire sauce, aged more than 3 weeks, and man! it’s tasty. I was about to say how much better it is than store-bought when it occurred to me that I haven’t done an actual taste-off. I’ll have to borrow The Wife’s Worcestershire sauce and compare mano-a-mano.

But what I made was very good, and I like to adjust the recipe: use malt vinegar, more anchovies, longer cinnamon stick, mix of Barbados and blackstrap molasses (reluctant to use straight blackstrap right off the bat—and a wise decision, I think, on tasting this).

I’ll add a little to the current batch of grub to kick off day two.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

The new normal

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It’s been 10 years since 9/11/2001, and those who were 8 years old then are now adults—and have grown up in post-9/11 America. Their view of the country must be very different from mine: new norms are quickly established for a new generation, and humans seem almost infinitely flexible in the kinds of cultures they create.

Kevin Drum reflects on the new norm in a short column worth reading.

In the meantime, all US citizens live under suspicion by the government. Big Brother is definitely watching us now, as James Bamford explains in an article in Politico—and given that Big Brother can lock you up forever without ever having to give a reason or prove you guilty of anything, that’s worrisome. Bamford’s article begins:

Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide.

Within weeks of the attacks, the giant ears of the National Security Agency, always pointed outward toward potential enemies, turned inward on the American public itself. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, established 23 years before to ensure that only suspected foreign agents and terrorists were targeted by the NSA, would be bypassed. Telecom companies, required by law to keep the computerized phone records of their customers confidential unless presented with a warrant, would secretly turn them over in bulk to the NSA without ever asking for a warrant.

Around the country, in tall, windowless telecom company buildings known as switches, NSA technicians quietly began installing beam-splitters to redirect duplicate copies of all phone calls and email messages to secret rooms behind electronic cipher locks.

There, NSA software and hardware designed for “deep packet inspection” filtered through the billions of email messages looking for key names, words, phrases and addresses. The equipment also monitored phone conversations and even what pages people view on the Web — the porn sites they visit, the books they buy on Amazon, the social networks they interact with and the text messages they send and receive.

Because the information is collected in real time, attempting to delete history caches from a computer is useless.

At the NSA, thousands of analysts who once eavesdropped on troop movements of enemy soldiers in distant countries were now listening in on the bedroom conversations of innocent Americans in nearby states.

“We were told that we were to listen to all conversations that were intercepted, to include those of Americans,” Adrienne Kinne, a former NSA “voice interceptor,” told me. She was recalled to active duty after Sept. 11.

“Some of those conversations are personal,” she said. “Some even intimate. … I had a real problem with the fact that people were listening to it and that I was listening to it. … When I was on active duty in ’94 to ’98, we would never collect on an American.”

Despite his hollow campaign protests, President Barack Obama has greatly expanded what President George W. Bush began. And through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress largely ratified the secret Bush program.

So much intercepted information is now being collected from “enemies” at home and abroad that, in order to store it all, the agency last year began constructing the ultimate monument to eavesdropping. Rising in a remote corner of Utah, the agency’s gargantuan data storage center will be 1 million square feet, cost nearly $2 billion and likely be capable of eventually holding more than a yottabyte of data — equal to about a septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 2:07 pm

Bike riding, the unconscious, and Epicurus

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I figure that if I go riding on my bike every day for a week, that will break the ice and enough of my bike skills and balance will return so that going out on the bike seems more natural. I find it easier if I have a task, so yesterday’s was to make a package, today’s to find the time to bike to Pilates so I know when to leave the apartment, tomorrow will be to bike to Pilates, etc. Little by little.

I’m beginning to think the unconscious is rather prominent in our minds when you look for it and its effects. Think of how people don’t see the guy in the gorilla suit walking slowing through a basketball game: the unconscious is like the gorilla and our conscious selves just slide our gaze over it—as we do the gorilla. Another analogy: the Thai or Chinese puppet shows, in which the puppeteer is in full view, manipulating the puppets, though dressed inconspicuously. And, very quickly, you no longer see the puppeteer, your focus being totally on the puppets.

Our consciousness, it’s beginning to seem to me, is like that: very focused on its conscious thoughts and plans and ideas, and more or less ignoring the overt presence of the unconscious mind until that becomes intrusive. A couple of examples:

1. My decision to go out for a bike ride yesterday was something I had to force myself to do, as it were. Consciously, I wanted to take the ride: good for me, nice day, bike all fixed, etc. But there was a stubborn resistance to doing it, and that resistance sure wasn’t coming from my conscious self. It feels odd, both wanting to do something very much, yet a part of yourself really not wanting to do it and pulling against it. Often, I suspect, that is the unconscious, and we get the message. (As we often do: we meet someone, and somehow we instantly don’t trust him—though consciously we can think of nothing to justify the feeling: we were just introduced, said hello, and shook hands, but still we feel a strong sense of distrust. That feeling, clearly, is in effect a message from our unconscious: the unconscious processes that assist/direct our social interactions sized the guy up immediately and warned our conscious selves—not verbally, but with a feeling.

2. Along the same line as that feeling is when we gradually become aware of something—a pattern, perhaps a repeated small sound, perhaps a dawning awareness that horsehair shaving brushes seem to do a really good job of lathering. The instant that your conscious mind seizes the notion—the instant that this awareness breaks into your consciousness—you suddenly realize that this has been going on for a while, only you weren’t “paying attention”—the unconscious was doing all the work, figuring out the pattern. Then it tapped on the door until the conscious self opened, and thus realized, “Aha!”

So I’m sort of watching for interactions with my “adaptive unconscious”, as Timothy Wilson calls it. And, obviously, eager to enlist its help in pursuit of my conscious wishes.

One thing that is obvious: not only should tedious albeit necessary chores be made enjoyable simply so that we better enjoy our lives, but also so that the necessary chore draws us to it—so that we want to do it, instead of having to push ourselves to do it. This seems to me to involve providing the unconscious a benefit or payoff from the task, since the unconscious seems to be the source of resistance when we consciously decide to do something.

In the case of shaving, the benefit to the unconscious is, I think, the sense of flow that shaving, done well, induces: flow is satisfying to us, consciously and unconsciously. Indeed, in times of flow the conscious self is ramped way down and to a great extent we turn control over to the unconscious—as when playing tennis or fencing or rock-climbing or painting or the like: a certain level of consciousness, but mostly perception leads directly to action with the conscious self more or less looking on. And maybe that is why flow is so satisfying to the unconscious: it gets to take the reins for a while.

So for necessary chores the trick is to make them a source of flow. I’ve already mentioned Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s excellent book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (link is to inexpensive used copies). He wrote another that might be useful in this connection: Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life (again, link is to inexpenive used copies). It’s just the one life: fit in flow wherever you can.

An alternative, of course, is simply to wait and see whether flow occurs and whether necessary tasks become enjoyable of themselves. But it seems better to help the process along consciously.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Fitness

Australian shave vendor

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Eddie from Australia pointed out another shaving vendor there: Himage. They have a fairly good assortment of shaving stuff. If you live in Australia, check it out.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 9:38 am

Posted in Business, Shaving

Free contest with shaving prizes

with one comment, one of several shaving forums, is having a Hallowe’en contest, with shaving-related prizes (including a New Forest brush—same make as the brush I used this morning). Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 9:36 am

Posted in Shaving

Osma shaving soap with alum

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betelgeux (of reddit/wicked_edge) and I had a brief colloquy on using alum during the shave rather than strictly as a post-shave: I had heard that alum in the polishing pass will tighten the skin and erect the stubble for a closer shave. Alas, when tried in practice the alum (for me) make everything very grippy, and when I tried to apply a little lather for lubrication, the lather died at once.

Naturally enough, when I saw Osma shaving “with alum”, I was mightily intrigued. I tried it this morning, using my brand new New Forest shaving brush, shown (with label somehow hiding in back). Very nice little brush, and I got a reasonably good lather from the Osma: not exactly a thick, creamy lather, but quite serviceable. I couldn’t tell what any alum present was doing, though, except perhaps altering the lather somewhat.

The tin in which the soap arrives is quite thin, so I moved the soap to a mug. It will take a few shaves to determine its true performance, but right now I would classify it as not bad but also far from stunning. I was more impressed, for example, with the lather from the Lea shave stick, which immediately struck me as good. But perhaps in time the alum action in the Osma will become clear.

Three passes with the Apollo Mikron—and which blade it holds, I don’t recall, but it worked well. A good splash of Alt-Innsbruck and I’m ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2011 at 9:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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