Later On

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

Archive for March 2015

Actions speak louder than words: Monsanto lobbyist edition

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When the words go one direction and the actions go another, which do you believe? (Cf. Obama’s words and actions re: transparency, or protecting whistleblowers.) Note that the guy explicitly says that one would have to “stupid” or “an idiot” to believe the stuff was harmless. (This quite clearly reveals his opinion of the public, to whom the words are addressed and intended to convince.) Thanks to The Son for pointing this out.

The note at the link:

SM Gibson
March 26, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) French television station Canal+ recently sat down with Dr. Patrick Moore for an upcoming documentary. Dr Moore, who claims to be an ecological expert and is currently the frontman for Ecosense Environmental, stated to the interviewer that Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup was not responsible for skyrocketing cancer rates in Argentina.

This is where the interview took a turn for the surreal.

Dr. Moore insisted that Roundup is safe to drink, at which point the interviewer did the only logical thing one could do in that situation. He offered the doctor a glass of the weed killer to allow him an opportunity to back up his statement. The following is the text from that exchange.

Dr. Patrick Moore: “You can drink a whole quart of (Roundup) and it won’t hurt you.”
Canal+: “You want to drink some? We have some here.”
Moore: “I’d be happy to, actually…. Uhh…Not.. Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”
Canal+: “If you say so, I have some glyphosate, have some.”
Moore: “No. I’m not stupid.”
Canal+: “So, it’s dangerous, right?
Moore: “No, People try to commit suicide with it and fail; fail regularly.”
Canal+: “Tell the truth, it’s dangerous.”
Moore: “It’s not dangerous to humans.”
Canal+: “So, are you ready to drink one glass?”
Moore: “No, I’m not an idiot. Interview me about golden rice, that’s what I’m talking about.”
Canal+: “We did.”

Moore then abruptly ends the interview by calling the host a “complete jerk” and storms off.
Greenpeace, an organization to which the doctor turned lobbyist belonged in the 1970’s, issued this statement in part in 2008 regarding Dr. Patrick Moore.

Patrick Moore often misrepresents himself in the media as an environmental “expert” or even an “environmentalist,” while offering anti-environmental opinions on a wide range of issues and taking a distinctly anti-environmental stance. He also exploits long-gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.

While it is true that Patrick Moore was a member of Greenpeace in the 1970s, in 1986 he abruptly turned his back on the very issues he once passionately defended. He claims he “saw the light” but what Moore really saw was an opportunity for financial gain. Since then he has gone from defender of the planet to a paid representative of corporate polluters.

Patrick Moore promotes such anti-environmental positions as clearcut logging, nuclear power, farmed salmon, PVC (vinyl) production, genetically engineered crops, and mining. Clients for his consulting services are a veritable Who’s Who of companies that Greenpeace has exposed for environmental misdeeds, including Monsanto, Weyerhaeuser, and BHP Minerals.

Watch the video from Canal+: Original Video:  http://theantimedia.org/lobbyist-clai…

This article (Lobbyist Claims Monsanto’s Roundup Is Safe To Drink, Freaks Out When Offered A Glass) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Tune in to the Anti-Media radio show Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.

I’ve pointed out previously that corporations will do anything to increase profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2015 at 10:22 am

Posted in Business

The last of the Nancy Boy shaving cream

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SOTD 27 Mar 2015

A superb shave today, and somewhat of a test shave: testing whether very old Nancy Boy shaving cream works well. My finding: It works great. When I say “very old,” here’s my SOTD from 2 Feb 2011 using the same tub, which is now close to depleted (see below).

I easily loaded the dampish brush, and applied the lather, enjoying its fragrance again—it really is wonderful stuff. Three passes with the Above the Tie S1 slant on their Kronos handle, and a BBS result with no nicks or burn.

A few sprays of l’Occitane Cade to the palm of my hand, rub hands together, rub the face, and feel great.

Here’s view inside the tub. It’s difficult to see—white cream in white tub—but the bottom of the tub is showing clearly. (One guy on Wicked Edge commented that he was too insecure to start each day using a product named “Nancy Boy,” which suggests a good marketing idea: do a parallel line of the same products under the brand “Macho Badass.” Marketing can solve many problems—but not all. See next post.)

End of the Nancy Boy

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2015 at 10:16 am

Posted in Shaving

Trying to tell history convincingly in re: Causes and effects

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One of my favorite books of history, which I’ll again recommend, is The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society Since A.D. 1000, by William H. McNeill (who also wrote the equally fascinating Plagues and Peoples, written before sub-titles made it big. (At each link you will find inexpensive secondhand copies of the book. My advice: Buy and read.)

Louis Menand has some interesting thoughts in a book review in the New Yorker:

History is the prediction of the present. Historians explain why things turned out the way they did. Since we already know the outcome, this might seem a simple matter of looking back and connecting the dots. But there is a problem: too many dots. Even the dots have dots. Predicting the present is nearly as hard as predicting the future.

Once, history was a game played with giant billiard balls: wars, revolutions, scientific inventions, the major awards shows. You knocked a combination of these together and you got our world. Then people realized that wars, revolutions, the Grammys, etc., are not explanations at all. They are themselves things that need to be explained. Something made them possible, too. Was it money? Ideas? Genes? Germs? Great men? Deepwater ports?

Histories are categorized according to what the historian has chosen as the basic unit of explanation. There are top-down histories, bottom-up histories, and sideways histories, histories in which causes have an oblique relation to effects. (Rome fell because the wine jars were made of lead—a fun explanation, though somehow unsatisfying.) There is history of the longue durée, which doesn’t help us understand why 2015 is different from 2000 (or, for that matter, from 1900 or 1800). There is species history, which explains even less. Humans invented agriculture: bad news, end of story. And there is “history of the present,” which tries to see today the way historians a hundred years from now will see it—as one more slice of time during which people had no idea how completely wrong they were about everything.

No historian lines up all the dots. Every work of history is a ridiculously selective selection from the universe of possible dots. What the historian is claiming is that these are the particular dots that lead us from there to here, or from time step 1 to time step 1.1. Lots of other stuff happened, the historian will agree. But, if these things hadn’t happened, then life as we know it wouldn’t be, well, as we know it.

This can be an existentially entertaining thought—that, but for some fluky past event, experience would be entirely, or at least interestingly, different. We tend to imagine our own lives that way, a story of lucky breaks, bullets dodged, roads diverged on a snowy evening, and the like. Speculating about sparks that failed to ignite versus sparks that did and contingencies that failed to materialize versus contingencies that did is one of the reasons people like to write history and like to read it. There is even, to appeal to this taste, the subgenre of counterfactual history, in which Napoleon conquers Russia, or the Beatles give “The Ed Sullivan Show” a pass.

There are many ways of agglomerating past events, parcelling up old clicks of the clock and endowing them with collective meaning. There is the concept of the historical period: the Age of Reason, the long eighteenth century (which seems like cheating; if you call something a century, you should stick to a hundred years), the Victorian era, the Cold War, the all-purpose and infinitely capacious “modernity.”

There is the concept of the generation, an empirically specious category (as though the human race reproduced itself just once every twenty-five years) that nevertheless captures an element in everyone’s sense of identity. And, of course, there is the decade. For some obviously bogus reason, presumably because we have ten fingers, we find it natural to imagine that life assumes a completely new character every ten years.

Centuries, generations, and decades are terms of convenience. They attach handles to the past, they give titles to books, and, most important, they put a spin on a chunk of time and differentiate it from all the rest. They give history some coherence. But the most enjoyable histories to read (and, probably, to write) are “the x that changed the world” books. These are essentially one-dot explanations. They try to make the course of human events turn on a single phenomenon or a single year. Recent works in the single-phenomenon category include books on bananas, fracking, cod (that’s correct, the fish), the Treaty of Versailles, pepper, the color mauve, and (hmm) the color indigo. (All right, who’s the baddest color?) In the single-year category, we have books on 33, 1492 (huh?), 1816 (long story involving a volcano), 1944, 1945, 1959 (even though, without going to Wikipedia, you probably can’t come up with two important things that happened in 1959), 1968, 1969, and 1989.

Now there is W. Joseph Campbell’s 1995: The Year the Future Began (California), a worthy, informative, and sporting attempt to convince us that the world we live in was crucially shaped by things that happened in 1995. (Campbell insists that there is a distinction between “the x that changed the world” books and his own “the year the future began” book, although it’s hard to grasp.)

The book is not completely persuasive, but that’s not important. None of the “x that changed the world” books are completely persuasive, for the reason that all dots have dots of their own. Unless you count God, there is no uncaused cause. Even the butterfly that started the hurricane flapped its wings for a reason. Whatever happened in 33 or 1959 or 1995 never would have happened unless certain things had happened in 32, 1958, and 1994. And so on, back into the protozoic slime. All points are turning points.

All points might not be tipping points. But that’s not what these books are arguing. They are seeking to confer before-and-after explanatory power on a single thing, or on what happened on a single date on the calendar. We can doubt the premise. But what the melodramatic titles are really and usefully doing is drawing our attention to something—pepper or 1959—that we might otherwise have ignored. Do melodramatic titles also sell books? So what if they do? We’re in favor of selling books.

Campbell’s book draws our attention to the nineteen-nineties. And he’s right when he points out that the decade is pretty much ignored. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Books

Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison

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Mark Binelli reports in the NY Times Magazine:

In prison, Rodney Jones told me, everyone had a nickname. Jones’s was Saint E’s, short for St. Elizabeths, the federal psychiatric hospital in Washington, best known for housing John Hinckley Jr. after he shot Ronald Reagan. Jones spent time there as well, having shown signs of mental illness from an early age; he first attempted suicide at 12, when he drank an entire bottle of Clorox. Later, he became addicted to PCP and crack and turned to robbery to support his habit.

I met Jones a few blocks from his childhood home in LeDroit Park, a D.C. neighborhood not far from Howard University. It was a warm October afternoon, but Jones, 46, was wearing a puffy black vest. The keys to his grandmother’s house, where he currently lives, hung from a lanyard around his neck. His face was thin, a tightly cropped beard undergirding prominent cheekbones, and he had a lookout’s gaze, drifting more than darting but always alert.

Jones had been out of prison for three years, a record for him, at least as an adult, but he still sounded a bit like Rip Van Winkle as he marveled at how gentrified his old neighborhood had become. We sat on a cafe’s sun-dappled terrace, surrounded by creative-class types. A chef wandered outside to pluck some fresh rosemary from a planter. Jones was the only black patron at the cafe and probably the only person who remembered when it used to be a liquor store. “You wouldn’t be sitting here,” Jones said. He nodded at some toddlers playing across the street. “That park right there, that wasn’t a park. That was just an open field where everybody gambled. At any given time, you would hear shots ring out.”

From the age of 15, Jones found himself in and out of juvenile detention, St. Elizabeths or prison — never free for much longer than a month or so. The outside world came to feel terrifying; once, he wanted to get back inside so badly, he bought a bag of crack and called the cops on himself. “That was the world that I knew,” he said.

It hadn’t been easy for Jones to transition back to a life of freedom. He managed to stick it out, he said, because he was determined not to return to the place where he spent the final eight years of his last sentence: the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colo., known more colloquially as the ADX. The ADX is the highest-security prison in the country. It was designed to be escape-proof, the Alcatraz of the Rockies, a place to incarcerate the worst, most unredeemable class of criminal — “a very small subset of the inmate population who show,” in the words of Norman Carlson, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, “absolutely no concern for human life.” Ted Kaczynski and the Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph call the ADX home. The 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is held there, too, along with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef; the Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols; the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab; and the former Bonanno crime-family boss Vincent Basciano. Michael Swango, a serial-killing doctor who may have poisoned 60 of his patients, is serving three consecutive life sentences; Larry Hoover, the Gangster Disciples kingpin made famous by rappers like Rick Ross, is serving six; the traitorous F.B.I. agent Robert Hanssen, a Soviet spy, 15.

Along with such notorious inmates, prisoners deemed serious behavioral or flight risks can also end up at the ADX — men like Jones, who in 2003, after racking up three assault charges in less than a year (all fights with other inmates) at a medium-security facility in Louisiana, found himself transferred to the same ADX cellblock as Kaczynski.

Inmates at the ADX spend approximately 23 hours of each day in solitary confinement. Jones had never been so isolated before. Other prisoners on his cellblock screamed and banged on their doors for hours. Jones said the staff psychiatrist stopped his prescription for Seroquel, a drug taken for bipolar disorder, telling him, “We don’t give out feel-good drugs here.” Jones experienced severe mood swings. To cope, he would work out in his cell until he was too tired to move. Sometimes he cut himself. In response, guards fastened his arms and legs to his bed with a medieval quartet of restraints, a process known as four-pointing.

One day in 2009, Jones was in the rec yard and spotted Michael Bacote, a friend from back home. The familiar face was welcome but also troubling. Bacote was illiterate, with an I.Q. of only 61, and suffered from acute paranoia. He had been sent to the ADX for his role as a lookout in a murder at a Texas prison, and he was not coping well. His multiple requests for transfers or psychological treatment had been denied. He was convinced that the Bureau of Prisons was trying to poison him, so he was refusing meals and medication. “You would have to be blind and crazy yourself not to see that this guy had issues,” Jones said, shaking his head. “He can barely function in a normal setting. His comprehension level was pretty much at zero.”

Bacote had paperwork from previous psychiatric examinations, so Jones went to the prison’s law library (a room with a computer) and looked up the address of a pro bono legal-aid group he had heard about, the D.C. Prisoners’ Project. Because Bacote couldn’t write, Jones ghosted a query. “I suppose to have a hearing before coming to the ADX,” Jones, as Bacote, wrote. “They never gave me a hearing.” He continued, “I need some help cause I have facts! Please help me.”

The story of the largest lawsuit ever filed against the United States Bureau of Prisons begins, improbably enough, with this letter. Deborah Golden, the director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Project, fields approximately 2,000 requests each year, but Bacote’s, which she received in October 2009, caught her eye. “I thought I might be missing something, because it was inconceivable to me that the Bureau of Prisons could be operating in such a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional manner,” she said. Golden was referring to B.O.P. regulations that forbid the placement of inmates who “show evidence of significant mental disorder” in prisons like the ADX.

Groups like Golden’s D.C. Prisoners’ Project tend to focus their reform efforts on state-run prisons — in part because the Prison Litigation Reform Act, passed by Congress in 1996, made it more difficult for prisoners to file federal lawsuits, and in part because the federal government possesses, as Golden put it, “an inexhaustible supply of resources.” A droll 42-year-old attorney who once considered rabbinical school, Golden has spent her entire career practicing human rights law. As she investigated Bacote’s claims, she came to realize there were dozens of inmates at the ADX with comparable stories, or worse: cases of self-mutilation, obvious psychosis, suicide. Her organization had never considered filing such an enormous suit. Because it is so difficult to win cases against the federal government, challenging the B.O.P. “just didn’t fit into anyone’s strategic goals,” Golden explained. The last major B.O.P. lawsuit to result in a settlement was in the mid-’90s (Lucas v. White, brought by a group of female inmates who had been sexually assaulted). But the clarity of Bacote’s claims gave her pause. “A lot of cases we see involve matters of interpretation: Who knew what and when,” she said. “This didn’t seem to involve that kind of uncertainty. I wasn’t sure if we had a chance. But it seemed like a court had to see it.”

Since opening in 1994, the ADX has remained not just the only federal supermax but also the apogee of a particular strain of the American penal system, wherein abstract dreams of rehabilitation have been entirely superseded by the architecture of control. Throughout our country’s history, there have been different ideas about what to do with the “worst of the worst” of our criminal offenders, ranging from the 19th-century chain gangs, who toiled in enforced silence, to the physical isolation of Alcatraz Island. The use of solitary confinement in the United States emerged as a substitute to corporal punishments popular at the end of the 18th century. The practice was first promoted in 1787, by a group of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 4:15 pm

Teaching evolution at closed minds

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Fascinating article by James Krupa in Orion magazine:

i’m often asked what I do for a living. My answer, that I am a professor at the University of Kentucky, inevitably prompts a second question: “What do you teach?” Responding to such a question should be easy and invite polite conversation, but I usually brace for a negative reaction. At least half the time the person flinches with disapproval when I answer “evolution,” and often the conversation simply terminates once the “e-word” has been spoken. Occasionally, someone will retort: “But there is no evidence for evolution.” Or insist: “It’s just a theory, so why teach it?”

At this point I should walk away, but the educator in me can’t. I generally take the bait, explaining that evolution is an established fact and the foundation of all biology. If in a feisty mood, I’ll leave them with this caution: the fewer who understand evolution, the more who will die. Sometimes, when a person is still keen to prove me wrong, I’m more than happy to share with him an avalanche of evidence demonstrating I’m not.

Some colleagues ask why I bother, as if I’m the one who’s the provocateur. I remind them that evolution is the foundation of our science, and we simply can’t shy away from explaining it. We don’t avoid using the “g-word” when talking about gravitational theory, nor do we avoid the “c-word” when talking about cell theory. So why avoid talking about evolution, let alone defending it? After all, as a biologist, the mission of advancing evolution education is the most important aspect of my job.

TO TEACH EVOLUTION at the University of Kentucky is to teach at an institution steeped in the history of defending evolution education. The first effort to pass an anti-evolution law (led by William Jennings Bryan) happened in Kentucky in 1921. It proposed making the teaching of evolution illegal. The university’s president at that time, Frank McVey, saw this bill as a threat to academic freedom. Three faculty members—William Funkhouser, a zoologist; Arthur Miller, a geologist who taught evolution; and Glanville Terrell, a philosopher—joined McVey in the battle to prevent the bill from becoming law. They put their jobs on the line. Through their efforts, the anti-evolution bill was defeated by a forty-two to forty-one vote in the state legislature. Consequently, the movement turned its attention toward Tennessee.

John Thomas Scopes was a student at the University of Kentucky then and watched the efforts of his three favorite teachers and President McVey. The reason the “Scopes Monkey Trial” occurred several years later in Dayton, Tennessee—where Scopes was a substitute teacher and volunteered to be prosecuted—was in good part due to the influence of his mentors, particularly Funkhouser. As Scopes writes in his memoir, Center of the Storm: “Teachers rather than subject matter rekindled my interest in science. Dr. Funkhouser . . . was a man without airs [who] taught zoology so flawlessly that there was no need to cram for the final examination; at the end of the term there was a thorough, fundamental grasp of the subject in bold relief in the student’s mind, where Funkhouser had left it.”

I was originally reluctant to take my job at the university when offered it twenty years ago. It required teaching three sections of non-majors biology classes, with three hundred students per section, and as many as eighteen hundred students each year. I wasn’t particularly keen on lecturing to an auditorium of students whose interest in biology was questionable given that the class was a freshman requirement.

Then I heard an interview with the renowned evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson in which he addressed why, as a senior professor—and one of the most famous biologists in the world—he continued to teach non-majors biology at Harvard. Wilson explained that non-majors biology is the most important science class that one could teach. He felt many of the future leaders of this nation would take the class, and that this was the last chance to convey to them an appreciation for biology and science. Moved by Wilson’s words, and with the knowledge that William Funkhouser once held the job I was now contemplating, I accepted the position. The need to do well was unnerving, however, considering that if I failed as a teacher, a future Scopes might leave my class uninspired.

I realized early on that many instructors teach introductory biology classes incorrectly. Too often evolution is the last section to be taught, an autonomous unit at the end of the semester. I quickly came to the conclusion that, since evolution is the foundation upon which all biology rests, it should be taught at the beginning of a course, and as a recurring theme throughout the semester. As the renowned geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky said: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” In other words, how else can we explain why the DNA of chimps and humans is nearly 99 percent identical, and that the blood and muscle proteins of chimps and humans are nearly identical as well? Why are these same proteins slightly less similar to gorillas and orangu­tans, while much less similar to goldfish? Only evolution can shed light on these questions: we humans are great apes; we and the other great apes (gibbons, chimps, gorillas, bonobos, and orangutans) all evolved from a common ancestor.

Soon, every topic and lecture in my class was built on an evolutionary foundation and explained from an evolutionary perspective. My basic biology for non-majors became evolution for non-majors. It didn’t take long before I started to hear from a vocal minority of students who strongly objected: “I am very offended by your lectures on evolution! Those who believe in creation are not ignorant of science! You had no right to try and force evolution on us. Your job was to teach it as a theory and not as a fact that all smart people believe in!!” And: “Evolution is not a proven fact. It should not be taught as if it is. It cannot be observed in any quantitative form and, therefore, isn’t really science.”

We live in a nation where public acceptance of evolution is the second lowest of thirty-four developed countries, just ahead of Turkey. Roughly half of Americans reject some aspect of evolution, believe the earth is less than ten thousand years old, and that humans coexisted with dinosaurs. Where I live, many believe evolution to be synonymous with atheism, and there are those who strongly feel I am teaching heresy to thousands of students. A local pastor, whom I’ve never met, wrote an article in The University Christian complaining that, not only was I teaching evolution and ignoring creationism, I was teaching it as a non-Christian, alternative religion.

There are students who enroll in my courses and already accept evolution. Although not yet particularly knowledgeable on the subject, they are eager to learn more. Then there are the students whose minds are already sealed shut to the possibility that evolution exists, but need to take my class to fulfill a college requirement. And then there are the students who have no opinion one way or the other but are open-minded. These are the students I most hope to reach by presenting them with convincing and overwhelming evidence without offending or alienating them.

Some students take offense very easily. . .

Continue reading.

And Phil Plait in Slate offers some answers to questions asked by creationists:

After writing yesterday about the now-famous/infamous debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, I don’t want to make this blog all creationism all the time, but indulge me this one more time, if you will. On BuzzFeed, there is a clever listicle that is a collection of 22 photos showing creationists holding up questions they have for people who “believe” in evolution.

These questions are fairly typically asked when evolution is questioned by creationists. Some are philosophical, and fun to think about, while others show a profound misunderstanding of how science works, and specifically what evolution is. I have found that most creationists who attack evolution have been taught about it by other creationists, so they really don’t understand what it is or how it works, instead they have a straw-man idea of it.

Because of this, it’s worth exploring and answering the questions presented. Some could be simply answered yes or no, but I’m all about going a bit deeper. With 22 questions I won’t go too deep, but if you have these questions yourself, or have been asked them, I hope this helps.

I’ll repeat the question below, and give my answers.

1) “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”

I’m not Bill, but I’d say yes, he is. More than just giving them facts to memorize, he is showing them how science works. Not only that, his clear love and enthusiasm for science is infectious, and that to me is his greatest gift.

2) “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”

No. In fact, if there is a Judeo-Christian god, that would have fascinating implications for much of what we scientists study, and would be a rich vein to mine. Perhaps a more pertinent question is, “Are you scared there might not be a Divine Creator?” There is more room for a god in science than there is for no god in religious faith.

3) “Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings … Adam created as an adult ….”

It might be internally consistent, even logical, but a bit of a stretch. After all, we can posit that God created the Universe last Thursday, looking exactly as it is, with all evidence pointing to it being old and your memories implanted such that you think you’re older than a mere few days. Consistent, sure, but plausible? Not really.

4) “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 3:26 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan, King of Snooker

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In my small southern-Oklahoma town—really, more a village if we used that term—the local pool hall was really a snooker hall. In front were four (or six) square tables for playing dominoes, then crossways down the length of the hall six snooker tables, and way in the back two pocket-billiards (pool) tables for those who lacked the competence for snooker. No billiards table, I regret to say. Snooker was the real game. Pool was child’s play. In snooker the pockets have rounded corners so that a ball even slightly off-course is likely to bounce out, away from the pocket, rather into the pocket, as it would in pool. (Billiards gets around that by having no pockets at all.)

Sam Knight has an interesting profile in the New Yorker:

rly on a Tuesday morning last fall, Ronnie O’Sullivan was running through the woods near his home, in Chigwell, Essex, northeast of London. It was damp and muddy, England in November. O’Sullivan, who is thirty-nine, loves the anonymity of running. About ten years ago, he discovered that it was one thing that truly takes him out of himself—more than the drink and the drugs and the antidepressants—and suspends the otherwise unavoidable fact that he is the most talented snooker player of all time. At the age of eleven, O’Sullivan was making good money in the sport, and in the past three decades he has won five World Championships and set a number of records while enduring a bewildering odyssey of breakdowns, addictions, and redemptions, largely precipitated by the imprisonment of his father, whom he loves, for murder. O’Sullivan is frequently described as a genius. But he does not see how this can be so. Most days, he feels like a fraud. His game comes only in fits and starts. He wins because the others lose. He has wondered for a long time whether he would be happier doing something else. He has moved nine times in the past ten years. “I’m fucking, you know, searching,” he told me recently. “I kind of know who I am but I don’t like who I am, do you know what I mean? I wish I was a bit more fucking stable.”

O’Sullivan tries to run six or seven miles a day. That morning, he was with his best friend from school, George Palacaros. (O’Sullivan grew up a short distance from Chigwell, in the town of Ilford.) It was a final run before the U.K. Championship, snooker’s second-biggest tournament, in York, two hundred miles to the north. O’Sullivan’s first-round match, against an amateur named Daniel Wells, was two days away. About five miles into the run, Palacaros called out to O’Sullivan to check the heart-rate monitor that he wears on his wrist. As O’Sullivan turned to reply, he slipped and fell, breaking his left ankle.

He tried to carry on. “I thought, I ain’t going to waddle back,” he said. He jogged another mile, but whenever he looked down he saw his ankle swelling up. By the time O’Sullivan reached the changing room at his running club, he couldn’t put any weight on his leg.

At the hospital, O’Sullivan was told that he had a simple fracture. His ankle wouldn’t need surgery, but it would take twelve weeks to heal and he would have to wear a protective brace. He called his psychiatrist. In the afternoon, O’Sullivan posted a picture of his ankle, bulging alarmingly, on Twitter, with the message “Might be one legged Snooker at the #UKChampionship on Thursday.” He found a pair of soft blue boots in his closet that fit over the brace. The next day, a friend drove him to York so that he could keep his foot elevated on the way.

Snooker, like its poor relation pool, is a cue sport. Unlike pool, snooker has twenty-two balls: fifteen red, six of other colors, and one white. (Pool and its variants involve sixteen balls or fewer.) Players take turns attempting to clear the table and earn as many points as possible, using the white cue ball to “pot” a red, then a colored ball (which is returned to the table), then a red, and so on. When all the reds are gone, the players dispatch the colors in order of their value, from the yellow, which is worth two points, up to the black, which is worth seven. If a player fails to pot a ball at any point, he must yield the table to his opponent. Matches are divided into frames, each won by whichever player scores the most points. In the professional game, frames tend to unfold with vivid, unsettling ease—the balls slide into the pockets as if there were nowhere else for them to go—or with staggering, metaphysical difficulty, as the players foil one another by arranging the balls in illogical patterns, a type of play known as “safety,” and everyone’s nerves go to hell.

Snooker’s civilized appearance belies its vicious and enervating nature. A snooker table is three times larger than a pool table and its pockets are an inch smaller. Even the most basic shot is a concatenation of foresight, friction, and various Newtonian laws. Players seek to control where at least two balls are going: the red or colored “object” ball, preferably toward a pocket; and the white ball, its rate of braking and spin carefully calibrated, either to stop near another object ball, so the process can begin again, or to continue toward some hostile district of the table, from where the opponent will be unlikely to score. The best players string together thirty shots in a row, in a hushed environment of thick carpet and dinner suits. (Snooker’s dress code recalls, more or less, that of a nineteen-thirties music hall.) Players compete to pot the same balls, so every shot has a psychological echo: What is good for me is bad for you. The longer I am at the table, the longer you must watch and fret. Players avoid eye contact. No one speaks.

At the U.K. Championship, all matches except the final were . . .

Continue reading. A sample of O’Sullivan’s play (and there are more on YouTube):

UPDATE:

Amazing tactical battle:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Games

The Air Marshall service seems rotten with corruption

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Andrew Becker reports at Reveal News:

Faced with a Department of Justice investigation into the men and women charged with protecting U.S. commercial flights from terrorism, former and current air marshals are coming forward to describe a “wheels-up, rings-off” culture rife with adultery, prostitution and other misconduct.

The tone, they say, was set at the top. Former air marshals who worked in the service’s Orlando, Florida, field office say managers directed subordinates to modify assignments for the bosses’ benefit. That included supervisors jumping on flights or bumping air marshals off missions so they could play golf in Scotland, travel to exotic locations or meet a lover.

Around the country, others tell similar stories. They say managers flew around the globe at little personal expense and even padded their paychecks, under the guise of so-called check rides to monitor air marshals’ job performance.

Reveal disclosed late last month that an investigation into misconduct may involve dozens of employees of the Federal Air Marshal Service and manipulation of marshals’ flight schedules for personal gain. The reportsparked a House oversight committee investigation. The Senate homeland security committee has begun a preliminary inquiry as well, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said in a written statement.

In a Senate commerce subcommittee hearing last week . . .

Continue reading.

Nine-minute audio at the link. Later in the article:

Insiders say a permissive culture that also punishes and intimidates whistleblowers has enabled such misbehavior for years. They say it leaves the service vulnerable to security risks, including situations that could unveil air marshals’ identities and put them in harm’s way.

The No. 1 person responsible for punishing and intimidating whistleblowers? Barack Obama and his Department of Vindictive Persecution of Whistleblowers.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 2:04 pm

Why we must end the War on Drugs: DEA agents had ‘sex parties’ with prostitutes

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John Bresnahan and Lauren French report in Politico:

Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly had “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by drug cartels in Colombia, according to a new inspector general report released by the Justice Department on Thursday.

In addition, Colombian police officers allegedly provided “protection for the DEA agents’ weapons and property during the parties,” the report states. Ten DEA agents later admitted attending the parties, and some of the agents received suspensions of two to 10 days.

Story Continued Below

The stunning allegations are part of an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into claims of sexual harassment and misconduct within DEA; FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service. The IG’s office found that DEA did not fully cooperate with its probe.

The congressional committee charged with federal oversight is already promising hearings and an investigation into the allegations.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told POLITICO on Thursday he wanted the agencies involved to swiftly fire those involved and that his panel would immediately start digging into the allegations.

“You can’t ignore this. This is terribly embarrassing and fundamentally not right,” the Utah Republican said. “We need to understand what’s happening with the culture … anytime you bring a foreign national into your room, you’re asking for trouble.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 2:00 pm

Willie Nelson prepares to launch his own line of cannabis and accessories

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James Joiner reports in the Daily Beast:

Willie Nelson takes a hit of the cigarette-sized vaporizer in his gnarled hand, exhaling a small cloud, before placing it on the foldout table in front of us. We’re seated in the cool enclave of his tour bus, at the entrance to his sprawling property just outside Austin, Texas, which he has dubbed the town of Luck. Up a hill and around a corner, people are rocking out at Willie’s own Heartbreaker Banquet, an annual fundraiser/music festival held concurrently with SXSW.

Now 81, Willie is biding his time before joining the festivities, and we’re talking about why he puts on the event every year. In the process, he lets slip that he has something else in the works: a new brand of weed, called, naturally, Willie’s Reserve.

Pressed on this, he’s either dismissive or coy, though he does indicate that the smoking implement he has again picked up is a part of the line. The PR person promises to connect me with Michael Bowman, a veteran hemp and pot lobbyist who serves as the fledgling brand’s spokesperson. Two days later, much colder, much more sober, and back in my native New England, Bowman and I connect by phone.

The discussion is below, but the rub is that the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines.

So what exactly is Willie’s Reserve?

Well, you know, Willie has spent a lifetime in support of cannabis, both the industrial hemp side and the marijuana side. He wants it to be something that’s reflective of his passion. Ultimately, it’s his. But it was developed by his family, and their focus on environmental and social issues, and in particular this crazy war on drugs, and trying to be a bright light amongst this trail as we’re trying to extract ourselves from the goo of prohibition.

Really he wants it, at the end of the day, to envelop what his personal morals and convictions are. So from the store itself to how they’ll work with suppliers and how things are operated, it’s going to be very reflective of Willie’s life.

Wait, so there’s going to be stores?

Well, yeah, they’re in the making. I think it’s safe to say that there will be stores that roll out in the states where marijuana has become legal.

So will there be signature strains that you grow under Willie’s oversight? Or will you sell other people’s strains? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 1:56 pm

Australian comic Jim Jeffries has some good words for gun control

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Via this post on Daily Kos, take a look at the Netflix streaming concert video Jim Jeffries: Bare. The Daily Kos post quotes from the video:

Jeffries was once the victim of a home invasion in which he was tied up and beaten with his girlfriend, who was also threatened with rape. You’d think he’d have some cause for carrying a gun, no? Wrong! He brilliantly nails why Americans need to make a case for more gun control:

I’m going to say some things that are just facts. In Australia, we had guns. Right up until 1996. In 1996, Australia had the biggest massacre on earth. Still hasn’t been beaten. Now, after that they banned guns. In the 10 years before Port Arthur, there was 10 massacres. Since the gun ban in 1996, there hasn’t been a single massacre since. I don’t know how or why this happened….maybe it was a coincidence, right?Now, please understand, I understand that America and Australia are two vastly different cultures with different people, right? I get it. In Australia we had the biggest massacre on earth and the Australian government went–that’s it! No more guns! And we all went–yeah, right then, that seems fair enough.

Now, in America you have the Sandy Hook massacre, which little, tiny children died and your government went….maybe we’ll get rid of the big guns? And 50% of you went – FUCK YOU, DON’T TAKE MY GUNS!

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Humor, Video

Methods That Police Use on the Mentally Ill Are Madness

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Interesting article (with videos) in the Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf:

When This American Life dedicated two episodes to law enforcement in the United States, they titled them, “Cops See It Differently.” Citing examples like the NYPD killing of Eric Garner, which gave rise to the “I can’t breath” protests, the show illustrated how police and non-uniformed citizens assessing the same incidents would draw wildly different conclusions even after watching video footage. Last year, I observed the same phenomenon when St. Louis, Missouri, police officers shot and killed Kajieme Powell in another videotaped encounter. Many cops saw a guy with a knife who didn’t drop it and a justified use of lethal force. Critics pointed out that there was never an attempt to deescalate the situation. A similar disconnect followed the Cleveland police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

And this week, newly released video footage is giving Americans yet another glimpse at how police are trained, their mindset, and how the results can be lethal. The killing happened last year in Dallas, Texas. The mother of Jason Harrison, a black man with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, called police to say that he was off his meds. She wanted help getting him to the hospital—something she’d received before without incident—and requested cops trained to handle the mentally ill.

What happened next is graphic and upsetting to watch.

Within seconds of the door being opened, the two police officers saw that Harrison was fumbling with a screwdriver. They began shouting at him to drop it and quickly shot him five times. The moment just prior to the shooting is captured incompletely in the body cam footage. In conflicting reports each officer said that Harrison lunged at the other, according to CNN. An attorney hired to represent Harrison’s family says Jason posed no threat and argues that had he really lunged, his body would’ve filled the lens of the officer’s body cam before he was shot.

As this story makes the rounds at various news outlets the comments sections have functioned like a microcosm of the police/policed disconnect. Take the discussion at Fusion. Various commenters argued that the police officers overreacted, wondered why they didn’t use a taser or pepper spray instead of bullets, and otherwise questioned their judgment. “Why can a cop never back up and talk someone down?” Christopher Street asked. “Is it a concern that this will be perceived as a weakness? That’s actually a question, not a criticism. Why is force always the first instinct? Didn’t this escalate way too quickly? All it took was 20 seconds from the door opening. And then the lack of urgency after the shots, yelling at a dying/dead man to drop a screw driver he obviously wasn’t going to use.”

In a series of rebuttals, a police officer from another state, Jake Rouse, articulated some common law-enforcement perspectives. Here are several of his arguments:

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 1:43 pm

The College You Go To May Not Matter As Much As You Think

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Very interesting article excerpted from Frank Bruni’s new book—Bruni is a columnist for the NY Times, one of the columnists whom I regularly read (as opposed to, say, Tom Friedman and David Brooks, whom I view as windbags and never read). This excerpt is from the Here and Now column of the NPR station WBUR, and there’s also a downloadable 10-minute audio file at the link.

Peter Hart didn’t try for Harvard, Princeton or any of the Ivies. That wasn’t the kind of student he’d been at New Trier High School, which serves several affluent suburbs north of Chicago. Nearly all of its roughly one thousand graduating seniors each year go on to higher education, and nearly all of them know, from where they stand among their peers and from the forecasts of guidance counselors, what sort of college they can hope to attend. A friend of Peter’s was ranked in the top five of their class; she set her sights on Yale—and ended up there. Peter was ranked somewhere around 300: not great but wholly respectable considering the caliber of students at New Trier. He aimed for the University of Michigan or maybe the special undergraduate business school at the University of Illinois.

Both rejected him.

He went to Indiana University instead, and arrived there feeling neither defeated nor exhilarated. He was simply deter- mined to make the most of the place and to begin plotting a career and planning an adult life.

Right away he noticed a difference. At New Trier, a public school posh enough to pass for private, he’d always had a sense of himself as someone somewhat ordinary, at least in terms of his studies. He lacked his peers’ swagger and ready- made eloquence. He wasn’t especially quick to raise his hand, to offer an opinion, to seize a position of leadership. At Indiana, though, the students in his freshman dorm and in his freshman classes weren’t as uniformly poised and showily gifted as the New Trier kids had been, and his self-image went through a transformation.

“I really felt like I was a competent person,” he told me when I interviewed him in June 2014, shortly after he’d turned twenty-eight. “It was confidence-building.” He thrived during that first year, getting a 3.95 grade point average, which earned him admission into an honors program for under- graduate business majors. And he thrived during the rest of his time at Indiana, drawing the attention of professors, be- coming vice president of a business fraternity on campus, cobbling together the capital to start his own tiny real estate enterprise—he bought, fixed up and rented small houses to fellow students—and finagling a way, off-campus, to get interviews with several of the top-drawer consulting firms that trawled for recruits at the Ivies but often bypassed schools like Indiana. Upon graduation, he took a plum job in the Chicago office of the Boston Consulting Group, where he recognized one of the other new hires: the friend from New Trier who’d gone to Yale. Traveling a more gilded path, she’d arrived at the very same destination.

Peter worked for three years with the Boston Consulting Group and another two with a private equity firm in Manhattan. When I talked with him, he was between his first and second year at Harvard’s graduate business school. Yes, he said, many of his Harvard classmates had undergraduate degrees fancier than his; no, he said, he didn’t feel that his Indiana education put him at any disadvantage. Besides which, he and most of the others in the Harvard MBA program had been out of college for as long as they’d been in it. What they’d learned in the workplace since graduation had more bearing on their assurance and performance at Harvard than did anything picked up in any class, let alone the name of their alma mater.

The main, lasting relevance of Indiana, he told me, was the way it had turned him into a bolder, surer person, allowing him to discover and nurture a mettle that hadn’t been teased out before. “I got to be the big fish in a small pond,” he said. Now, if he wanted to, he could swim with the sharks.

Jenna Leahy, twenty-six, went through the college admissions process two years after Peter did. She, too, was applying from a charmed school: in her case, Phillips Exeter Academy, which was less than a mile from her family’s New Hampshire home and which she attended as a day student. She wasn’t at the very top of her class but she had as many A’s as B’s. At Exeter, one of the most storied prep schools in America, that was nothing to sneeze at. She was also a captain of the cross- country team and active in so many campus organizations that when graduation day rolled around, she received one of the most coveted prizes, given to a student who’d brought special distinction to the academy.

Jenna had one conspicuous flaw: a score on the math portion of the SAT that was in the low 600s. Many selective colleges cared more than ever about making sure that each new freshman class had high SAT scores, because that was one of the criteria by which U.S. News & World Report ranked schools in its annual survey, the influence of which had risen exponentially since its dawn in the 1980s. In fact, the college on which Jenna set her sights, Claremont McKenna, cared so much that its dean of admissions would later be exposed for fabricating and inflating that statistic.

Jenna applied early to Claremont McKenna. And was turned down.

She was stunned. She couldn’t quite believe it. And partly because of that, she didn’t sink into a funk but moved quickly to tweak her dreams and widen her net, sending applications to Georgetown University, Emory University, the University of Virginia and Pomona College, which is one of Claremont McKenna’s sister schools. She threw in a few more, to have some insurance, though she was relatively certain that she wouldn’t need it.

In early spring the news came. Georgetown said no. Emory said no. No from Virginia. No from Pomona. She felt like some kind of magnet for rejection: Earlier that semester, her first serious boyfriend had broken up with her. He was a sophomore at Stanford, the sort of school she was now being told she simply wasn’t good enough for. What was she good enough for? What in the world was going on? Many of her Exeter classmates were bound for the Ivies and their ilk, and they didn’t seem to her any more capable than she. Was it be- cause they were legacy cases, from families with more money than hers?

All she knew was that they had made the cut and she hadn’t.

“I felt so worthless,” she told me. “It was a very, very de- pressing time.”

As she remembers it, she was left essentially with two options. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

More Welfare = More Entrepreneurs?

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Interesting article discussed by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Walter Frick writes in the Atlantic about recent research which suggests that a strong social safety net increases entrepreneurship. For example, one researcher found that expansion of the food stamp program led to a higher chance that eligible households would start new businesses:

Interestingly, most of these new entrepreneurs didn’t actually enroll in the food stamp program. It seems that expanding the availability of food stamps increased business formation by making it less risky for entrepreneurs to strike out on their own. Simply knowing that they could fall back on food stamps if their venture failed was enough to make them more likely to take risks.

The same is true of other programs. For example, the Children’s Health Insurance Program: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 1:10 pm

Excellent James Fallows column on the Germanwings crash

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James Fallows writes at his blog in the Atlantic:

As I write I am listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcementthat the Germanwings crash in France this week was apparently a deliberate act of suicide/murder. The ramifications:

1) Has anything like this ever happened before? Yes it has. Back in 1999, EgyptAir flight 990, shortly after taking off from Kennedy airport in New York en route to Cairo, disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod. In 2001, my friend and then-Atlantic-colleague William Langewiesche, who has spent all his life around aviation, wrote a celebrated story for our magazine about the evidence that the plane’s pilot had deliberately flown the aircraft into the sea. You can read “The Crash of EgyptAir 990” online here. It is probably the most useful work of journalism to consider today.

William Langewiesche’s piece contains this observation, which so far reflects to the great credit of French and German officials:

One of the world’s really important divides lies between nations that react well to accidents and nations that do not. This is as true for a confined and technical event like the crash of a single flight as it is for political or military disasters. The first requirement is a matter of national will, and never a sure thing: it is the intention to get the story right, wherever the blame may lie. The second requirement follows immediately upon the first, and is probably easier to achieve: it is the need for people in the aftermath to maintain even tempers and open minds.

2) Could this happen in just the same way on U.S. airlines? In exactly the same way, no. In a somewhat similar way, yes.

It wouldn’t happen in exactly the same way, with one member of the flight crew left alone in the cockpit, because on U.S. airlines . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

What Shakespeare knew about Robert Durst

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Very interesting New Yorker column by Adam Gopnik:

One of the strangest things to observe in recent weeks has been the hold on what used to be called the popular imagination of Robert Durst’s final monologue in Andrew Jarecki’s documentary series, “The Jinx.” As nearly everyone knows by now, Durst, while on a “hot mic” in a bathroom, either did or did not, exactly, confess to the three or so murders of which he has long been suspected (and has denied and, in one case, been acquitted of having committed). His words, two parts Shakespeare to one part Samuel Beckett, seem likely to be burned onto our period’s memory: “There it is. You’re caught. You’re right, of course. But you can’t imagine. Arrest him. I don’t know what’s in the house. Oh, I want this. What a disaster. He was right. I was wrong. And the burping. I’m having difficulty with the question. What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Durst’s overheard speech has inspired an entire vein of interpretation. Some are exculpatory, or try to be: perhaps he was imagining others saying these things about him, rather than saying them about himself. But, more often, his guilt has been assumed, and its mechanism explored.“In art, illumination comes in many guises: the soaring strings, the poetic monologue, the soul bared suddenly in a glance,” one interpreter wrote in the Los Angeles Times, adding that Durst “creates a deeply disturbing prose poem to the human drama, culminating in what sounds eerily like the call and response of good and evil.”

The risk in this kind of thing, of course, lies in aestheticizing what were, after all, sordid murders, of inexpressible pain to the victims’ families. (Rebecca Meadhas already argued that the spectacle, and its extraction, compromises both the viewers and the filmmakers.) But there is a difference between treating evildoing as entertainment and struggling to understand why some moments of reflection—if not confession—do indeed mesmerize us, even if as only the blackest kind of humor. For, by doing so, they presumably point to some truth that we would rather not face; in this case, the limitless human resource, even in extremis, for self-justification and the normalization of the abnormal. It is the banalities that Durst so casually throws into his confession—the burping alongside the bleeding, so to speak—that astonish us.

Many people have pointed out the eerie resemblance of Durst’s words to a Shakespearean soliloquy. Actually, only one kind of soliloquy—the villain’s kind—takes this form. Durst’s words are not at all Hamlet-like, as some have said. They recall, instead, the soliloquies of Iago, in “Othello,” and of Edmund, in “King Lear”—the moments when an evil man speaks out loud of his own capacity for evil, and then assures us that there’s nothing really shocking there. It’s just the burping.

That’s the thing that distinguishes Shakespeare’s confessions from their more commonplace counterparts in conventional crime fiction and drama: while the television bad guy usually sweats as he confesses to the terrible thing, the keynote in Shakespeare’s villains’ self-directed speeches isn’t . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 11:06 am

You’d think there would be fewer terrorists after the War on Terror killing 1.3 million people

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But perhaps large-scale killing increases rather than diminishes terrorist activity? The more who are enraged, the more turn to terrorism? It’s hard to know, but think of the US reaction (in terms of anger and violence) after just 3,000 were killed on 9/11, and think what would have been like if 430 times as man—1,300,000—had been killed. Democracy Now! has a video program with transcript. Their blurb:

As the United States begins bombing the Iraqi city of Tikrit and again delays a withdrawal from Afghanistan, a new report has found that the Iraq War has killed about one million people. The Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and other groups examined the toll from the so-called war on terror in three countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The investigators found “the war has, directly or indirectly, killed around one million people in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. Not included in this figure are further war zones such as Yemen. The figure is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware. … And this is only a conservative estimate.” The true tally, they add, could be more than two million. We are joined by two guests who worked on the report: Hans von Sponeck, former U.N. assistant secretary-general and U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who in 2000 resigned his post in protest of the U.S.-led sanctions regime; and Dr. Robert Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

A headline in the NY Times this morning: 3 Shiite Militias Quit Iraqi Siege of ISIS Over U.S. Air Role

I think we in the US do not fully grasp the impact of our wars on the mood of the people in the country where we fight them and on their feelings toward the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 11:02 am

A lemon shave

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SOTD 26 Mar 2015

Perhaps influenced by the recipe I’m making today, I latched onto a lemon theme.

The brush is by Brent’s Brushes, and I like it a lot. It has a soft fluffy knot, and the handle is nice to hold. I easily worked up an excellent lather from Shaver Heaven Sweet Meyer Lemon shaving soap, then set to with the Above the Tie R1 on an Atlas handle. This time the 3″ length didn’t bother me so much, so perhaps I’m getting accustomed to it—or, in other words, learning how to use it effectively. A lot of shaving is learning how to get the best from the tools (the brush, soap, razor, and blade) that you have.

Three passes, the BBS finish that the R1 usually provides, and a splash of Thayers Lemon witch hazel with aloe vera. This one is an astringent, so 10% alcohol. (The toners are alcohol free.)

Good way to start the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2015 at 10:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Let’s talk about lemon-rosemary-garlic chicken thighs with shallots—should I add anchovies?

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Here’s the recipe, and following are the ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Zest of one lemon (1 to 2 teaspoons)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped [I used 4, of course – LG]
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • > LG addition: 4 anchovies! <
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Marinate thighs in that, then cook as follows (see recipe at link—and when you brown the chicken thighs, 4 minutes is plenty):

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 pieces)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 or more shallots, peeled, halved

Take a look at the recipe at the link, and see what you think. I’m making one recipe without the anchovies, then I’ll make a recipe with the anchovies, then another recipe without….  🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2015 at 8:33 pm

Life is getting extremely weird: Real Life Katamari Ball Tests the Limits of 3D Printing

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I think we have seriously underestimated how weird daily life is becoming—though “we” clearly does not include William Gibson. Check out this article in Motherboard by Emanuel Maiberg:

Katamari Damacy took the gaming world by storm in 2004 with a simple concept. You roll a ball into objects that stick to it and make the ball bigger, which then allows you to roll into and gather bigger objects, making the ball even bigger, and so on. You start by rolling up loose change on the floor and before you know you’re rolling into trucks and buildings. The challenge was to see how big of a Katamari ball you could make before the timer runs out.

Kata​mari Roll, a new project by Arian Croft, uses the same idea to hopefully test the limits of 3D printing.

Croft, who’s known for his 3D-printed board game Pock​et-Tactics, got the idea for the project when he spotted a 3D model of a Katam​ari Ball on Th​ingiverse, 3D printer manufacturer Makerbot’s repository of models that users can share and print. “I noticed that it both hadn’t been printed yet, and that, though left in a repository full of random objects, it had yet to be used to gather a mound of objects,” he said.

Like the game that inspired it, Katamari Roll has a simple concept. Take the Katamari Ball, add a random 3D model to it, print it out, and pass it along. With 12 iterations so far, it’s off to a good start.

“It took off on the first day, and the clump has gotten bigger and bigger since,” Croft said. “It’s slowed down a bit, though as I document and more people catch on, it’ll grow, until, I guess, it can’t be printed anymore?”

Croft said that there are definitely limitations to how big the ball can get—Makerbot’s . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2015 at 7:53 pm

Army Apologizes for Handling of Chemical Weapon Exposure Cases

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And yet no officer will suffer any sort of accountability, I am sure. C.J. Chivers reports in the NY Times:

The under secretary of the Army on Wednesday apologized for the military’s treatment of American service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards.

Under Secretary Brad R. Carson acknowledged that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions that had been scattered around Iraq, and vowed improvement. He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart medal for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent, and that he expected more medals would be issued to other veterans after further review.

To me the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” he said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”

Mr. Carson was appointed last fall by Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary, to lead a Pentagon working group to identify service members who had been exposed to chemical weapons and offer them medical screening and other support. The effort was in response to an investigation in The New York Times that revealed that the American military had secretly recovered thousands of old and often discarded chemical munitions in Iraq.

The report found that insurgents had used some of the weapons in roadside bombs, that most of the episodes had never been publicly acknowledged and that many troops who had been wounded by the blister or nerve agents had received substandard medical care and denied military awards.

Mr. Carson said the working group’s new instructions, which were distributed to the military services in recent days, would ensure that hundreds of veterans identified by the services, or who have called a hotline set up at Mr. Hagel’s order, would be screened and properly treated. The steps, Mr. Carson said, would also cover troops exposed to chlorine, which insurgents repeatedly used as a makeshift chemical weapon.

“My ambition, and what I am committed to, is to make sure that any person who was exposed to a weaponized chemical or a chemical weapon is addressed through this process,” he said. . . .

Continue reading.

Bottom line: The Army did everything in its power to cover up the problem and to let the victims simply suffer on their own, offering no help, but when the story began to get out, the Army (VERY belatedly) responded and said it would help. This is what the military means by “honor”: cover up problems and let the troops suffer, but if you’re about to get caught apologize. No one will be punished.

Related coverage, with links in the sidebar of the main article.

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons   OCT. 14, 2014

More Than 600 Reported Chemical Exposure in Iraq, Pentagon Acknowledges  NOV. 6, 2014

A Veteran’s Chemical Burns Expanded Military Doctors’ Knowledge, but His Care Faltered  DEC. 30, 2014

Thousands of Iraq Chemical Weapons Destroyed in Open Air, Watchdog Says   NOV. 22, 2014

Reporters’ Notebook: Examining a Rare Nerve-Agent Shell That Wounded American Troops in Iraq   DEC. 4, 2014

C.I.A. Is Said to Have Bought and Destroyed Iraqi Chemical Weapons FEB. 15, 2015

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2015 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Army, Medical, Military

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