Later On

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

Archive for October 17th, 2016

Start out with half a house and build out as needed

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half-a-house

Jason Kotte blogs:

An architecture firm called Elemental recently completed a disaster relief project in a city in Chile which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. Rather than build typical public housing (high-rise apartments), the firm built out neighborhoods with the necessary infrastructure and populated them with half-finished houses.

The houses are simple, two-story homes, each with wall that runs down the middle, splitting the house in two. One side of the house is ready to be moved into. The other side is just a frame around empty space, waiting to be built out by the occupant.

That’s from a recent episode of 99% Invisible that covered the trend toward incremental buildings. . . .

Continue reading. And there’s a podcast at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Venida Browder, RIP

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Jennifer Gonnerman writes in the New Yorker:

Venida Browder died on Friday, at age sixty-three, after suffering a heart attack at her home, in the Bronx. She had seven children; her youngest, Kalief, was known as Peanut. After he was charged with a robbery at age sixteen, in the spring of 2010, Venida spent the next three years trying to get him out of jail. Every time he was brought to Bronx State Supreme Court to appear before a judge, Venida was there. He had thirty-one court dates before a judge released him and dismissed the charges against him. “You don’t see a mother showing up that many times,” Kalief’s defense attorney told me. He recalled that she always had the same question for him: “She just wanted to know when he could come home.”

Every week, Venida made the trip to Rikers Island to see Kalief. She would bring him books, magazines, and a stack of fresh clothes, and take home his laundry to wash. “There was a lot of hate and animosity I got from other inmates: ‘Oh, your mom always comes to see you,’ ” Kalief told me, when I interviewed him in 2014. “A lot of guys would call me ‘mama’s boy.’ They tried to tease me, make fun of me.” But Kalief knew the other teen-age boys in his jail were jealous. Most had to hand-wash their clothes in a bucket. Some of their mothers wouldn’t pick up the phone when they called home.
“If not for my mom, I don’t think I would’ve made it,” Kalief told me. For most of his time on Rikers, he was held in solitary confinement. “Imagine being in solitary for all that time with no books, no magazines,” he said. “Or walking around with the same clothes on every day, the same T-shirt, same underwear. I’ve seen people like that. They stink.” When Kalief was finally released from Rikers, he moved back into the two-story brick house where he had grown up. Venida could tell that he had changed—he paced around his bedroom, and talked to himself—and she tried to help him the best she could. But his mental-health problems were too severe. On June 6, 2015, he hanged himself at home from a second-floor window.
In the following months, Venida, who was fairly shy, became much more outspoken. Although she had serious health problems, she travelled to Washington, D.C., in July of 2015 to attend a press conference for “Kalief’s Law,” a bill intended to improve the treatment of young people in prison. . .

Continue reading.

It’s worth noting that Kalief Browder was never convicted and never went to trial. The government just locked him up for three years, mostly in solitary confinement.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 5:05 pm

Men at Forty (a poem by Donald Justice)

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Donald Justice wrote an interesting essay, “Double Solitude,” in a recent New Yorker, probably more interesting to me because when I was living in Cleveland and applied to the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa (then called State University of Iowa, constantly confused with Iowa State University, thus the name change), it was Donald Justice who interviewed me and approved my application.

I’ve always like this poem he wrote, originally published in 1967:

Men at Forty
Donald Justice (b. 1925)

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Writing

The grim details of ISIS’s rule come to light

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James Verini wries in the National Geographic:

The Kurdish soldiers stood on a berm, next to a gunner’s dugout, in a corner of their position. It was one of several forward positions on a front line that ran along the crest of a mountainside and faced west onto the Tigris River Valley. The sun had set on a late summer day—the driest season in Iraq, when land and sky seem to merge. Still, through the thickening dark the soldiers could make out, on the river’s near bank, the lights of the city of Mosul. Though this was a vista they could have described in their sleep—for months these soldiers, who were with thepeshmerga, the army of Iraqi Kurdistan, had surveilled and mapped and discussed every inch—its fascination and menace never dimmed. Everything they looked at belonged to the Islamic State.

The battle for Mosul, long rumored, was finally at hand. An international invasion force had assembled. The Iraqi military had beaten ISIS out of Fallujah and was now fighting its way north toward Mosul. The peshmerga was pushing in from this mountain. U.S. troops were massing, as were Iraqi militias and foreign fighters from Turkey, Iran, and elsewhere.

Inside Mosul there was panic. The United Nations was expecting a humanitarian crisis. More than a million people would be displaced by the battle, it estimated. Civilian casualties would be grievous: ISIS was busy mining streets and booby-trapping buildings. Residents were fleeing the city by any means they could, and this Kurdish position was the terminus of a popular route of escape. Almost every night people scrambled up the mountainside and arrived here with only the clothing on their backs.

Tonight the soldiers were expecting a family of seven. The father, a nurse, had phoned a cousin who lived near the mountain. The cousin had notified the commander. Now cousin and commander stood on the berm together.

The family’s journey would be treacherous. If they were caught by ISIS trying to escape Mosul, they might be jailed, beaten, beheaded, or all three. If they got out of the city, that was only the beginning: Next they would have to get to Fazilia, the village the position overlooked, at the foot of the mountain. ISIS controlled Fazilia and sent up the slope homemade artillery—including, lately, crude chemical missiles—snipers, and suicide bombers. (Recently a pair had gotten to within 50 feet of where the soldiers now stood before blowing themselves up.) If the nurse’s family made it out of Fazilia, they would have to negotiate the mountainside’s boulders without aid of trail or light. With so much dust in the sky, not even the moon would help. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 4:43 pm

You have to read Henry Green

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This has convinced me.

And besides that, Leo Robson has a review in the New Yorker:

One night in the spring of 1955, the actress Elaine Dundy was leaving a party in New York when a sharp-nosed, floppy-haired young man came toward her and, without context or introduction, asked, “Do you know Henry Green?” Dundy replied that she did. The young man told her his name—she instantly forgot it. Dundy told him to contact her, but he didn’t call. Instead, he started appearing in the lobby of the Buckingham Hotel, in the West Fifties, where Dundy was staying. On one occasion, he had been waiting around so long that, by the time Dundy showed up, the tulips he was holding had gone droopy. Dundy apologized: could they speak another time? The young man returned the next day, and so did the tulips. But Dundy was running late. When, finally, he caught her at a good time, she invited him up to her room, and he helped her prepare for the arrival of guests while explaining that his name was Terry Southern, that he was a writer from Alvarado, Texas, and that he had waited a very long time to find someone who, on being presented with the question he had posed at their first meeting, was able to answer yes.

At the time, Green was in his late forties and the author of nine novels, including “Living,” “Party Going,” and “Loving,” and a memoir, “Pack My Bag.” His stock was high among fellow-writers. In a 1952 Life profile, W. H. Auden was quoted calling him “the best English novelist alive.” The following year, T. S. Eliot, talking to the Times, cited Green’s novels as proof that the “creative advance in our age is in prose fiction.” But Green had never been a popular success. In 1930, Evelyn Waugh had reviewed “Living,” Green’s novel about Birmingham factory life, under the headline “A Neglected Masterpiece.” It was the first of several dozen articles that bemoaned Green’s lack of acceptance and helped bind his name as closely to the epithet “neglected” as Pallas Athena is to “bright-eyed.”
Waugh blamed philistine book reviewers, but he knew that Green’s image hadn’t helped. “From motives inscrutable to his friends, the author of Living chooses to publish his work under a pseudonym of peculiar drabness,” he wrote. Green was born Henry Vincent Yorke, to a prominent Gloucestershire family, and he worked as the managing director of H Pontifex & Sons Ltd., a manufacturing company purchased by his grandfather; he presented himself as a Sunday writer. (Where other novelists might serve as secretary of pen, Green did a stint as chairman of the British Chemical Plant Manufacturers’ Association.) He claimed that he wrote under an assumed name in order to hide his writing from colleagues and associates. The Life profile, “The Double Life of Henry Green,” had the subtitle “The ‘secret’ vice of a top British industrialist is writing some of Britain’s best novels.” But Green’s first book, “Blindness,” was published in 1926, while he was at Oxford, and a desire for privacy characterized much of his behavior. After a certain point, he refused to have his portrait taken. Dundy had first recognized him from a Cecil Beaton photograph that showed only the back of his head.
The literary scholar Nick Shepley, in “Henry Green: Class, Style, and the Everyday” (Oxford), writes that “the search for an identifiable or classifiable Henry Green retreats into the shadowy distance as the layers accumulate.” But, as Shepley notes, and as NYRB Classics’ new reissues of Green’s novels illustrate, his fiction was autobiographical—at times consciously parasitic. He claimed that he disliked Oxford because “literature is not a subject to write essays about.” In reality, he had discovered that Oxford was not a subject to write novels about—at least, not his time there, which was mostly spent watching movies, playing billiards, poring over Proust with his Eton classmate Anthony Powell, and ignoring his tutor, C. S. Lewis. In a letter to his father, Green explained his decision to abandon his degree in favor of a stint working on the floor at the Pontifex iron foundry: “Of course I have another book in my mind’s eye. . . . I want badly to write a novel about working men.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Books

The Universe has 10 times more galaxies than we thought

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hubble-ultra-deep-field

Jason Kottke has an interesting post on his blog. From the post:

. . . So how many stars are there in the Universe? The Milky Way contains about 400 billion stars. Some massive elliptical galaxies house more than 100 trillion stars. Estimates of the total number are rough, but it’s probably around 10^24 stars…that’s a septillion stars, a trillion trillion. It’s absurd that we’d be the only planet in the Universe with life on it.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Science

Barrett Brown reports from prison

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Barrett Brown writes in The Intercept:

I never really got a chance to play any pen-and-paper role-playing games growing up, so being thrown into a prison system in which such things as Dungeons and Dragons are relatively common constituted one of the silver linings of my 2012 arrest, along with not having to deal with an infestation of those little German roaches that had colonized my kitchen or having to see “World War Z.”

As it happens, I’d actually learned about the prevalence of tabletop games among inmates a few months before my own incarceration, in the days after the FBI first raided both my apartment and my mother’s home in March 2012 and seized laptops and papers without yet making an arrest. As they themselves noted in the search warrant, which the late Michael Hastings published at BuzzFeed, the focus of the investigation was my collaborative journalism outfit Project PM as well as echelon2.org, the online repository where we posted our ongoing findings on the still-mysterious “intelligence contracting” sector (which has since been moved here). The warrant listed HBGary Federal and Endgame Systems — two firms on which we’d focused particular attention — as topics for the FBI’s search. This was revealing. A year prior, a raid by Anonymous on the servers of HBGary had revealed, among other things, the firm’s leading role in a conspiracy by a consortium calling itself Team Themis to conduct an array of covert operations against WikiLeaks and even journalists like Glenn Greenwald, prompting a congressional inquiry that would ultimately be squashed by a Republican committee chairman.

It’s often been reported, incorrectly, that I was the one to reveal the Themis conspiracy, different aspects of which were in fact discovered more or less simultaneously by several parties shortly after HBGary’s emails were made public. My own initial role, which began when I was informed of the hack as it was being conducted, was merely to explain developments to the press. But as it became clear that the media was losing interest despite clear evidence there was much more to the story, I began working with a rotating team of volunteer researchers to determine further details of Themis and related programs by searching through the remaining 70,000 emails that the hackers had seized and following up on the various mysterious references found therein. Although we made a number of significant discoveries and managed to shed light on other matters, the press didn’t generally realize the significance of these things until later.

On the other hand, I did get to indirectly gum up the works at Endgame Systems, which, though one of the four firms involved in Themis’s proposed operations against journalists and activists, managed to avoid being mentioned in most of the press coverage that followed the original exposure of the plot. You see, Endgame’s execs had insisted in one particular email thread that its name never appear in any Themis operational materials, explaining that the nature of the firm’s central activities was such that any public scrutiny would lead to disaster, and that this was a particular concern of their partners. Other emails ended up working against it, though, as I was able to pique the interest of Bloomberg Businessweek by forwarding this hilariously sinister “NO ONE MUST EVER KNOW” exchange to a contact I had there. A few months later, the magazine ran a long feature on Endgame revealing its ability to seize control of computers across the world and that it was offering this service to unknown customers outside of the U.S. government. This in turn prompted sufficient discomfort that the firm had to stop doing this, or at least claim to have stopped. Perhaps that’s why Endgame Systems was listed on my search warrant — and never mentioned again in a single other filing by the government in my case.

But the chief enemy I’d made was apparently the Department of Justice — because when Team Themis was exposed, the emails revealed that the whole indefensible conspiracy had been set in motion by the DOJ itself, which had made the necessary introductions when Bank of America came to the agency looking for advice on how to go after WikiLeaks. There were no known consequences for anyone at the DOJ; a congressman’s calls for an official inquiry were shot down by Lamar Smith, the relevant committee chair, who proclaimed that the DOJ itself should handle any investigation. Whether the DOJ took Smith’s advice and investigated itself for secretly arranging a corporate black ops partnership is unknown. Rather, it was my head that was to roll, in retaliation for my efforts to keep the story alive in articles I continued to write for The Guardian as well as for my occasional successes in causing difficulties to Themis participants like Endgame and the intelligence contracting industry as a whole, which regularly hires ex-government officials at high salaries and thus has a working relationship with most federal agencies. And so when the FBI came for my laptops and left that search warrant listing the entirely legal journalism entity I’d been using to lead an investigation into the state-affiliated firms that the warrant also listed, I knew from the brazenness of this move that I’d eventually be arrested and charged. I didn’t know for what, exactly, but that was OK — the DOJ didn’t know yet either. Eventually they resorted to indicting me on charges related to another firm, Stratfor, that wasn’t even listed on my search warrant, which were so flimsy that they eventually had to be dropped in favor of a vague “accessory after the fact” count.

Anywho, after that first FBI raid I started reading those little guides on life in prison that one finds online and noticed several references to role-playing games. When I got to the jail unit at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Worth shortly after my arrest, then, I immediately started agitating in favor of a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons or whatever was available, to begin ASAP, with the wooden table in the little corner library to be requisitioned for our use. A huge black guy awaiting trial on complicated fraud charges happened to have the basic mechanics memorized; I drafted him to be the dungeon master. Soon enough I’d also managed to recruit a white meth dealer who was familiar enough with the game to help the rest of us create our characters, a large and bovine Hispanic gangland enforcer who wanted to try the game and was at any rate influential enough to help us secure control over the table, and a fey Southern white guy for atmosphere.

With unlimited paper and pencils provided by the federal government, we had everything we needed except for a set of variously sided dice. It turned out that this was generally handled by making a spinner out of cardboard, a paperclip, and the empty internal plastic tube from an ink pen. This latter item is impaled loosely on the paperclip, itself positioned in the center of the cardboard, on which has been drawn a diminishing series of concentric circles divided into 20, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 equal segments, respectively. As we attended to this chore at the wooden table, an inmate sitting nearby realized what we were making and proceeded to tell us about a cell mate he’d had during a previous bid who’d used something similar. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 October 2016 at 3:45 pm

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