Later On

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

Archive for July 4th, 2014

The Maturin/Aubrey friendship

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I think that part of the appeal of the Patrick O’Brian novels is Maturin’s feeling of friendship toward Jack Aubrey: Maturin clearly finds Aubrey a totally open book with novelty—those aspects of Aubrey that Maturin doesn’t share but admires: leadership, for example. Thus Maturin totally understands Aubrey, and admires him for what he is. And Aubrey’s friendship for Maturin? That seems deeper.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Books

Wish I’d read this years ago

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I always feel like I’m very much behind. From the Wikipedia article on Susanne K. Langer:

Langer’s philosophy explored the human mind’s continuous process of meaning-making through the power of “seeing” one thing in terms of another. Langer’s first major work, Philosophy in a New Key put forth an idea that has become commonplace today: that there is a basic and pervasive human need to symbolize, to invent meanings, and to invest meanings in one’s world.[2] Beginning with a critique of positivism, the work is a study of human thought progressing from semantic theory through philosophy of music sketching a theory for all the arts. For Langer, the human mind “is constantly carrying on a process of symbolic transformation of the experiential data that come to it,” causing it to be “a veritable fountain of more or less spontaneous ideas”.[1]

And this fountain of ideas must then reproduce and survive in the jungle of memes. But such rapid (re)production explains the rapid evolution.

The ultimate evolution of memes, AI (if achieved) would naturally be directed toward self-improvement: thus the Singularity from positive feedback to the nth.

I came to the passage through seeking what relationship, if any, there is between Ellen J. Langer and Susanne K. Langer. Langer had two sons: is Ellen J. her granddaughter? Hard to find out with casual searches.

I’m reading The Power of Mindful Learning, by Ellen J., and that took to her book Mindfulness, and then the name association kicked in.

All good books.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Books

Two complicated-plot movies from Korea

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Both are good, both are intricate: Commitment and Iris.

Occasional violence.

Another in the same general ballpark: The Berlin File. Also, see New World.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Whose Security?: How Washington Protects Itself and the Corporate Sector

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Noam Chomsky writes at

The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs. In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons. First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact. Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it. Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices. The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse. It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine. One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989? Answer: everything continued much as before.

The U.S. immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in U.S.-dominated domains — but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat.

Instead, a series of fraudulent pretexts for the invasion were concocted that collapse instantly on examination. The media chimed in enthusiastically, lauding the magnificent achievement of defeating Panama, unconcerned that the pretexts were ludicrous, that the act itself was a radical violation of international law, and that it was bitterly condemned elsewhere, most harshly in Latin America. Also ignored was the U.S. veto of a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning crimes by U.S. troops during the invasion, with Britain alone abstaining.

All routine. And all forgotten (which is also routine).

From El Salvador to the Russian Border

The administration of George H.W. Bush issued a new national security policy and defense budget in reaction to the collapse of the global enemy. It was pretty much the same as before, although with new pretexts. It was, it turned out, necessary to maintain a military establishment almost as great as the rest of the world combined and far more advanced in technological sophistication — but not for defense against the now-nonexistent Soviet Union. Rather, the excuse now was the growing “technological sophistication” of Third World powers. Disciplined intellectuals understood that it would have been improper to collapse in ridicule, so they maintained a proper silence.

The U.S., the new programs insisted, must maintain its “defense industrial base.” The phrase is a euphemism, referring to high-tech industry generally, which relies heavily on extensive state intervention for research and development, often under Pentagon cover, in what economists continue to call the U.S. “free-market economy.”

One of the most interesting provisions of the new plans had to do with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 11:46 am

The continuing downfall of the United States

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Paul Krugman points out that the GOP in Congress doesn’t even want to repair our nation’s highways. His concluding paragraph:

What’s useful about the looming highway crisis is that it illustrates just how self-destructive that political choice has become. It’s one thing to block green investment, or high-speed rail, or even school construction. I’m for such things, but many on the right aren’t. But everyone from progressive think tanks to the United States Chamber of Commerce thinks we need good roads. Yet the combination of anti-tax ideology and deficit hysteria (itself mostly whipped up in an attempt to bully President Obama into spending cuts) means that we’re letting our highways, and our future, erode away.


Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

A meditation on the national anthem

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An excellent piece by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker. Full disclosure: Francis Scott Key is a fellow alumnus of the college we attended. (We were in different classes.)

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life

Adopt a Bean and Cook With It

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Martha Rose Schulman has an excellent column in the NY Times. I would suggest adopting at least these two from Rancho GordoAyocote Negro beans and Royal Corona beans. At the first link she discusses the project, and then after her introduction, lists several recipes:

Two-Bean and Tuna Salad: This is the most amazing version of tuna and bean salad I’ve ever tasted, thanks to Good Mother Stallard beans.

Big Bowl With Spicy Brown Bean, Squash and Corn Succotash: This version of succotash is lima-bean-free, with a kick that is a lively contrast to the sweet corn.

Tostadas With Smashed Black Beans or Vaqueros, Salsa Fresca and Avocado: Refried heirloom vaquero beans add a special touch to these tostadas, but black beans work, too.

Arugula and Corn Salad With Roasted Red Peppers and White Bean: Canned beans can also be used in this composed salad with a base of sweet corn and pungent arugula.

Orecchiette With Fresh and Dried Beans and Tomatoes: Once the beans are done, this pasta dish takes only 15 minutes.


Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 10:06 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

What Would It Cost for You to Sign Away Legal Liability for Future Health Problems to a Fracking Company?

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Think carefully before you answer, because you will live with the consequences. Naveena Sadasivam reports for ProPublica:

For the last eight years, Pennsylvania has been riding the natural gas boom, with companies drilling and fracking thousands of wells across the state. And in a little corner of Washington County, some 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh, EQT Corporation has been busy – drilling close to a dozen new wells on one site.

It didn’t take long for the residents of Finleyville who lived near the fracking operations to complain – about the noise and air quality, and what they regarded as threats to their health and quality of life. Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes.

But then, in what experts say was a rare tactic, the company got more aggressive: it offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.

The agreement also defined the company’s operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.

“The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list,” said Doug Clark, a gas lease attorney in Pennsylvania who mainly represents landowners. “You’re releasing for everything including activity that hasn’t even occurred yet. It’s crazy.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 9:44 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Independence Day shave

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SOTD 4 July 2014

I do get a much better lather from Barrister & Mann soaps with damp-brush palm-lathering than with wet-brush face-lathering. (In the wet-brush method, most of the water spills into the sink as the brush is loaded.) The lather today was extremely good, and the Standard razor did a fine job. A guy on Wicked_Edge asked whether the Standard would be a good first razor for a newbie, and I think it would be excellent. The only reason it’s not recommended more often is the price: most newbies want a very inexpensive razor for their first razor, since they don’t know whether they will like traditional shaving.

A good splash of Honeysuckle aftershave from The Shave Den Store, and the holiday begins!

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2014 at 9:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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