Later On

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

Archive for November 10th, 2012

Very interesting comparison of poll performance

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One can see why the Gallup Poll organization got a bit snarky about Nate Silver: Gallup did a terrible job, and Silver spotted it. Look at the tables in this article.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Business, Science

Good grocery finds

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The Wife and did some grocery exploration: A trip to the Asian Market in Marina, which has an excellent selection. I got some instant dashi for my miso soups, also some miso and some gochujang (red chili paste), plus some frozen pickled saba (mackerel), a small can of smoked saba, 3 fresh Japanese eggplant, the excellent seaweed salad that my favorite sushi place also serves, and a bottle of the nigori sake I like.

Then to a produce market, which had fuyu persimmons at $0.89/lb (vs. $4.99/lb at Whole Foods), bitter melon (which Whole Foods no longer seems to carry), and all sorts of other good produce at quite modest prices. I loaded up with all I could carry, including about a 3-lb bag of persimmons, a bunch of collards, zucchini, 6 large Roma tomatoes, the bitter melon, a red pepper, … That’s all I can recall. Total: $7.25. A bargain. I know where I’ll be buying my produce now.

Very satisfying. I’ll be returning to both stores often.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Food

Repurposing library card-catalog cabinets

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Cute idea.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Life and deaths in China

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China has had a very grim recent history, as Ian Johnson points out in reviewing 5 recent books in the New York Review of Books:

Last summer I took a trip to Xinyang, a rural area of wheat fields and tea plantations in central China’s Henan province. I met a pastor, a former political prisoner, and together we made a day trip to Rooster Mountain, a onetime summer retreat for Western missionaries and later for Communist officials. From its peak we looked down on China’s Central Plains, which stretch six hundred miles up toward Beijing.

Over the past few decades, the region below us had become one of the centers of Christianity in China, and I asked him why. He said it was a reaction to the lawlessness and rootlessness in local society. “Henan is chaotic,” he said, “and we offer something moral amid so much immorality.”

I thought of the many scandals that have hit Henan province in recent years—the “AIDS villages” populated by locals who sold their blood to companies that reused infected needles, or the charismatic millennial movements that had sprung up. Crime is high and local officials notoriously brutal, running their districts like fiefdoms. But didn’t many other parts of China have such troubles?

“It’s different here,” he said slowly, looking at me carefully, trying to explain something very complex and painful that he wasn’t sure would be comprehensible. “Traditional life was wiped out around the time I was born, fifty years ago. Since then it has been a difficult area, with no foundation to society. Most people in China haven’t heard of this but here in Xinyang, people all know.

“It was called the Xinyang Incident. It destroyed this area like the wrath of God on Judgment Day.”

The Xinyang Incident is the subject of the first chapter of Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958–1962, the Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng’s epic account of the worst famine in history. Yang conservatively estimates that 36 million people died of unnatural causes, mostly due to starvation but also government-instigated torture and murder of those who opposed the Communist Party’s maniacal economic plans that caused the catastrophe. Its epicenter was Xinyang County, where one in eight people died from the famine. The sixty pages Yang spends on Xinyang are a tour de force, a brutal vignette of people dying at the sides of roads, family members eating one another to survive, police blocking refugees from leaving villages, and desperate pleas ignored by Mao Zedong and his spineless courtiers. It is a chapter that describes a society laid so low that the famine’s effects are still felt half a century later.

Originally published in 2008, the Chinese version of Tombstone is a legendary book in China.1 It is hard to find an intellectual in Beijing who has not read it, even though it remains banned and was only published in Hong Kong. Yang’s great success is using the Communist Party’s own records to document, as he puts it, “a tragedy unprecedented in world history for tens of millions of people to starve to death and to resort to cannibalism during a period of normal climate patterns with no wars or epidemics.”

Tombstone is a landmark in the Chinese people’s own efforts to confront their history, despite the fact that the party responsible for the Great Famine is still in power. This fact is often lost on outsiders who wonder why the Chinese haven’t delved into their history as deeply as the Germans or Russians or Cambodians. In this sense, Yang is like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: someone inside the system trying to uncover its darkest secrets. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Republicans: Rational vs. Other

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Rational, reasonable Republicans are a pleasure: though I might disagree with various aspects of their political stance, having a challenge of my own ideas helps me examine the ideas and how I derived them and exposes weaknesses and contradictions in my thinking. This sort of political dialectic leads to stronger solutions and betters us all.

That sort of Republican was once more common, and they still survive—see this excellent account of the College Republicans at Fordham University and the way their invitation of Ann Coulter as a speaker worked out.

Unfortunately, they have been displaced from power in their party by another sort of Republican. A story in Salon quotes Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party in Texas, who was picked by  State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy to screen the state’s public-school textbooks. Morrison posted on his Facebook page his post-election thoughts:

We must contest every single inch of ground and delay the baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists at every opportunity. But in due time, the maggots will have eaten every morsel of flesh off of the rotting corpse of the Republic, and therein lies our opportunity.

Texas was once its own country, and many Texans already think in nationalist terms about their state. We need to do everything possible to encourage a long-term shift in thinking on this issue. Why should Vermont and Texas live under the same government? Let each go her own way in peace, sign a free trade agreement among the states and we can avoid this gut-wrenching spectacle every four years.

This is a very different sort of Republican: belligerent and ignorant, a bad combination. His obvious ignorance of American history is remarkable for someone tapped to review textbooks. To some degree, he’s a victim of the current Rightwing propaganda machine, on which Robert Parry has a very good article at

As Campaign 2012 ends, it is clear that perhaps the most profound transformation of American politics in recent decades has been the Right’s successful demonization of the federal government and its role in national life. Tens of millions of voters, especially white men, buy into Ronald Reagan’s dictum that “government is the problem.”

This animosity toward the federal government explains not only the Tea Party’s victories in 2010 but the buoyancy of Mitt Romney’s candidacy in 2012 despite his stunningly dishonest campaign and his off-putting political persona.

The hard truth for liberals and progressives is that the Right’s imposing propaganda machinery can make pretty much make anything into anything, whatever serves the Right’s ideological and political needs, while the Left has nothing to compare to this right-wing capability.

For instance, the Right’s propaganda has convinced many Americans of a bogus historical narrative which has the Framers enacting the Constitution as a states’-rights document designed to have a weak central government – when the reality was nearly the opposite.

The key Framers, James Madison and George Washington, organized the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to rid the young country of a governing document, the Articles of Confederation, that declared the states “sovereign” and “independent” and gave the federal government very limited powers. The Constitution stripped out the language about state sovereignty and made federal law supreme.

As Washington had noted earlier in supporting one of Madison’s ideas – to give the federal government authority over interstate commerce – “the proposition in my opinion is so self evident that I confess I am at a loss to discover wherein lies the weight of the objection to the measure.

“We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of a general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending it to be.”

Washington had personally witnessed the dysfunction of the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War when the “sovereign” states balked at sending promised supplies and money to his Continental Army.

The Commerce Clause

After the war, Washington recognized the need to build a national infrastructure of canals and roads to enable the sprawling young nation to grow and to succeed. That practical interest became a key factor for Madison as he devised the new Constitution with an explicit clause giving the federal government power over national commerce, the so-called Commerce Clause.

In Federalist Paper No. 14, Madison described major construction projects made possible by the powers in the Commerce Clause. “[T]he union will be daily facilitated by new improvements,” Madison wrote. “Roads will everywhere be shortened, and kept in better order; accommodations for travelers will be multiplied and meliorated; an interior navigation on our eastern side will be opened throughout, or nearly throughout the whole extent of the Thirteen States.

“The communication between the western and Atlantic districts, and between different parts of each, will be rendered more and more easy by those numerous canals with which the beneficence of nature has intersected our country, and which art finds it so little difficult to connect and complete.”

The Framers expressed through the Constitution what might be called a Founding Pragmatism. The Articles of Confederation weren’t working because the central government was too weak so the likes of Washington and Madison scrapped the Articles and created a strong central government under the Constitution. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 9:42 am

Sea Salt Shaving Soap

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This photo is an after-the-shave photo. Thus the brush is still damp.

A post in Wicked_Edge reminded me of the soap, which I apparently tried on 8 April, based on my previous use of the tag “Sea Salt Soap” in my photos. Despite the photo, I didn’t blog the shave (on a Sunday), so I guess I was just experimenting and found the soap not to my taste. But when I was mentioned again, I decided to try it again.

I was careful to load the Rooney Finest at length, and indeed I got plenty of lather for the entire three passes, with more left over. The lather, however, is not of the thick, unctuous variety, but a thinner sort of lather. It covers well, though, and a shave is certainly possible. The fragrance is light and clean, and I got a smooth shave. Still, this would not be my first choice of shaving soap, though good for a change of pace. I do recommend loading the brush at length.

The razor is the opposite of yesterday’s Frankenrazor: the bakelite slant handle with the ARC Weber head, again holding an Astra Superior Platinum blade. Very different shaving action, but a fine shave with no nicks, and I do like that Bulgarian Rose aftersahve from Saint Charles Shave.

Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2012 at 9:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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