Later On

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

Archive for January 24th, 2012

Decline of America: Infrastructure division

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And of course America can’t work on its infrastructure because it costs money, and we must NEVER raise taxes on the wealthy to what they were under, say, Ronald Reagan. And we don’t want the government to spend any money anyway. So let the country gradually slide downhill—and do you notice it seems to be accelerating?

Note this James Fallows post:

Often I forget to mention items appearing on Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot site, probably because I’ve assumed that people interested in airlines, airplanes, airports, and aviation security will already have seen them.

Here’s an exception I want to highlight (and thanks to reader SG). That is because it clarifies something that is well known to people who have spent time outside America but that often goes unnoticed or undiscussed inside our country. I’ll let Smith lay it out:

With scattered exceptions, U.S. airports don’t have a whole lot going for them. Putting aside aesthetics, cleanliness and a lack of public transport options, another thing that doesn’t help, and which you don’t hear about much, is that American airports simply do not recognize the “in transit” concept. All  passengers arriving from overseas, even if they’re merely transiting to a third country, are forced to clear customs and immigration, recheck their luggage, pass through TSA screening, etc. It’s an enormous hassle that you don’t find in most places overseas. Compare it to Singapore, Dubai, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and so on, where transit passengers walk from one gate to the next with a minimum of fuss. [JF note: The exception in my experience is Frankfurt, where connections are often a hassle.]

Here’s how this hurts us: Flying from Australia to Europe, for instance, a traveler has the option of flying westbound, via Asia (namely Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong) or the Middle East (Dubai, Qatar), or eastbound via the U.S. West Coast (Los Angeles or San Francisco).Even though the distance and flying times are about the same, almost everybody will opt for the westbound option. [ie, avoiding America.] The airports are spotless and packed with amenities, while the connection is painless and efficient.

Change planes at LAX or SFO, on the other hand, and you’d have to stand in at least three different lines, be photographed and fingerprinted, collect and recheck your bags, endure the TSA rigmarole, and so on, just to change planes. Few passengers will choose this option, and I suspect it costs our airlines many millions annually in lost revenue. Indeed, this is part of what has made carriers like Emirates, Singapore Airlines and others so successful.

This might seem a small thing — hey, so what if these foreign jet-setters endure some hassle? — but I think it is emblematic of some cumulatively larger issues. Americans are habituated to griping about our airports and airlines, but I sense that people haven’t internalized how comparatively backward and unpleasant this part of our “modern” infrastructure has become. Along with our freeways, bridges, subways, buses, and other transport-related aspects of our built environment. To put it another way: we love to bitch about American “decline” but are usually thinking in metaphorical terms, or about whatever political trend we deplore. The truth is, when you go to other countries you see that many of them seem more modern and efficient than America does. In a very tangible sense America looks old and “declined.”

I think there is a similar failure of imagination about how . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 5:54 pm

Automotive innovation

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Via a post at Wicked_Edge:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Technology, Video

Marine who order killing of civilians will serve NO time

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Interesting email I just received from the LA Times:

Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich will serve no time for his guilty plea in the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in 2005, a military judge said Tuesday.

UPDATE: And here’s the full story today. At this point, I can’t figure out what an American would have to do to be accused of a war crime. Everything goes, so far as I can tell.

From the LA Times story yesterday:

Among the dead in Haditha were seven children, including a toddler, three women and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair. Some of the victims, a prosecutor said, were essentially executed, their wounds caused by gunshots so close that they left powder burns on the bodies.

One Marine, who was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony, told of how he had urinated on a dead civilian’s head.

The case and its aftermath have also impeded U.S. efforts in the Middle East.

I would imagine it has. People over there probably don’t view the US in a good light, but in a very negative way. We did, of course, invade Iraq without any real provocation—the reasons given were lies and were known at the time to be lies, and the NY Times was cheering the war on—indeed, threatening to fire reporters who filed stories questioning the run-up to the war and the (faked) evidence to support our war of aggression—and it was a war of aggression. And then US troops murder civilians with no punishment at all—and of course the Blackwell massacre of civilians. The US has become an ugly aggressor abroad. And those who commit the atrocities get off scot-free. As do our torturers and murderers.

We’ve seen nations act this way before. In the past, we fought them.

Meanwhile we continue to imprison indefinitely suspects at Guantánamo, along with some we know are innocent of any wrongdoing, but keeping them imprisoned is fairly easy, so what the hell, eh?

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 3:34 pm

Things change

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Great line from the movie of the same name (worth seeing):

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Science and the obvious: Psychedelic mushrooms

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Many don’t see the point of scientists investigating what everyone already knows to be true, despite repeated instances of science discovering that what everyone knows to be true is in fact false. (As you might expect, those who reject science usually are the same as those who fail to learn from experience—if they learned by experience, they would look to experience for learning (i.e., science).) Latest discovery is that psychedelic mushrooms do not achieve their effects by spinning up brain activity, which everyone assumed was the case. It’s the opposite. Ruth Williams reports in The Scientist:

The geometric visuals and vivid imaginings experienced by those tripping on mushrooms are not, as scientists had suspected, the result of increased brain activity, according to a report out today (23 January) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Instead, under the influence of psilocybin—the psychedelic component of magic mushrooms—brain activity and connectivity decrease. The reduced connectivity might be what frees people’s minds from normal constraints, the researchers propose.

“It was often thought to be the case that these classic hallucinogens must increase brain function—you know, they expand awareness, expand consciousness—but in fact what we see is decreased activity,” said Roland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, who was not involved in the study.

“I have to say this was totally unexpected,” said David Nutt of Imperial College London, who led the study.  But, he added, “when you get exactly the opposite result to what you predict, you know it is right, because there is no bias.”

Although humans have used magic mushrooms for centuries if not millennia, very little is known about how they work. Soon after psychedelics gained widespread popularity in the 1950s and 60s, “the drugs were criminalized and the research into their beneficial uses was suppressed,” explained Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which partly funded the study.

Because of psilocybin’s illegality, organizing and performing the new study was a regulatory ordeal, said Nutt. “You have to go through lots of hoops and get special licenses. You’ve got to have special cupboards and fridges to hold it… it’s a real rigmarole.”

There was also the ethical concern that . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 11:25 am

The TSA and Rand Paul

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This report is fascinating, and note the comments Fallows posts as well. My hope, of course, is that TSA goons will start jerking (unrecognized) US Senators into a back room and slapping them around a little to straighten out their attitude. That could induce some quick reforms, depending on how strong the authoritarian wing of the Federal government has become. (At a certain point, the goons gain control.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 11:07 am

Shave report and morning situation

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No photo, of all things. I apparently am a bit distracted by upcoming (tomorrow) cataract surgery. :sigh: Oh, well.

Eddy of Australia send me a bit of Art of Shaving Sandalwood shaving cream, which I used this morning with the Rooney Emilion Victorian. An okay lather but, to be honest, disappointing. I am not impressed with AoS products, mainly due to their performance. (The price, though, is impressive, in a sense.) I do get much better lather from other shaving creams.

With the Eclipse Red Ring, three very smooth passes. A splash of Blue Floïd, and I’m ready to get ready. I did the two eye drops this morning, and my bathroom mirror again bears the little dry-erase matrix for marking the doses. Post surgery, three different eye drops daily, two of them thrice daily, one once: marking the doses is essential or I get totally confused because, with luck, there’s nothing to distinguish one dose from another. (Without luck, it’s easier: “I know I took the drops this morning because I accidentally knocked over the razor rack in the process…” sort of thing: uneventful in this arena is good but not memorable.)

My bro-in-law called and we talked about The Garner Files, which he’s also read. I had not realized what a violent person Garner was. Not particularly seeking fights, but perfectly willing to throw a punch and indeed the first punch. He also received some serious punches in return. I have lived my entire adult life without striking another adult. Somehow, I think that’s normal, but then I never played contact sports, so perhaps in different circles physical violence of one adult toward another is more common.

In Garner’s case it seems to stem in part from his temper, and that doubtless has its roots in the terrible physical abuse he suffered from his step-mother, who seems to have been crazy. (His brother was the victim of sexual abuse from her as well when he was still in grade school.) Early traumatic experiences of that sort definitely shape a personality, and on the whole, Garner seems to have done well with what life offered. Interesting book, particularly if you like movies. And, speaking of physical abuse, reading the book drained all desire to have been a movie action star. One detail: they all traded info on knee replacement surgery and the quality of various artificial knees. Go players don’t have those conversations, I find.

Not much blogging: surgery soon.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2012 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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