Later On

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

Archive for July 2006

Intriguing idea: classify drugs by their harm potential

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Drugs graph

BBC News reports on a new classification scheme for drugs, basing the classification on how harmful the drugs are. The graph above shows both the relative harmfulness of the drugs (height of bar) and the current classification. As you can see, the classification does not follow the harmfulness of the drugs.

To classify drugs based on how harmful they are seems quite sensible, but of course such things arouse various kinds of outrage, in which people seem totally uninterested in looking at evidence, data, facts, and that sort of thing. UPDATE: In fact, it looks as though the expert advice is now (May 2008) going to be ignored. Read here.

The designation of drugs in classes A, B and C should be replaced with one more closely reflecting the harm they cause, a committee of MPs has said.

The Science Select Committee said the present system was based on historical assumptions, not scientific assessment.

BBC News has seen details of a system devised by government advisers which was considered by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke but is now on hold.

It rates some illegal drugs as less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.

The new system was based on the first scientific assessment of 20 legal and illegal stimulants used in contemporary Britain. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2006 at 6:27 pm

The “Smart Key” is not all that foolproof

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How the “smart key” (which uses RFID), like other anti-theft measures before it, has been figured out by car thieves:

Two years ago, my white 2003 Honda Civic – which my wife and I had affectionately named Honky – disappeared from the street in front of our San Francisco home. It has a transponder, and all three of our keys were accounted for (including the spare valet key). Police were polite but not much help; they speculated that thieves had towed the car away or hoisted it onto a flatbed truck and broken it down for parts.

But Honky materialized two weeks later on a side street near the ocean. It was out of gas and littered with cigarette butts and pirated Pantera CDs, but otherwise undamaged. The ignition cylinder was intact, and our keys still worked. The car was a living, gas-sipping rebuke of modern antitheft technology.

Mystified, I wrote up my experience for Newsweek’s Web site in early 2004. I figured that would be the end of the story, but I got hundreds of emails from people with similar tales. I’m still getting them – type “stolen car” into Google and my article is in the top 20. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2006 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Technology

Megs, still in cubbyhole

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Megs still in cubby

This is Megs still in her cubbyhole, as from a couple of days ago. Notice that she’s starting to get sleepy—not a terribly great surprise. It’s her thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2006 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

Unsought tooth knowledge

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Dental implants

I blogged earlier about my sore tooth. (Correction: tooth 29, not 20.) Went to the dentist this morning, got new (digital) X-rays, and the dentist said the tooth was going to have to go. They called the oral surgeon, who (alas) is not so up-to-date as to be able to receive the digital X-ray file by email and look at the original—but that was not a problem, in fact.

After a relatively short wait, he brought me in, gave a local anesthetic (by needle—and thank heavens for anesthetics), and when I was suitably numb, pulled out the tooth: quickly, easily (on my part, though I could tell the tooth didn’t want to go), and painlessly (so far). It was actually less uncomfortable than a filling—so go ahead and chew that ice and crack those nuts. You’ll set up a tooth fracture, but the tooth can then be pulled.

Best part of it: no surprise fire during surgery.

Next steps: See the oral surgeon on Friday, just so he can check. Then wait four months and have the dental implant installed (see photo above) by the oral surgeon, wait four more months and return to dentist to get a crown installed on the implant. Whee.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2006 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Health, Medical

Man! My tooth hurts

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Not much blogging this weekend because I sit around whimpering. I’m knocking down 4 Advil capsules at a time (800 mg), max of 4 doses per 24 hours (3200 mg), timing them so I get a dose at bedtime. My right jaw is awesomely swollen: looks as though the dentist accidentally left a wad of cotton in there. I see the dentist tomorrow, and I’m going to tell her that I spent the weekend shopping and answering perfect strangers who came up to me to ask, “Who’s your dentist?” That’ll shake her. (She’s a very good dentist, really, and I have a great hygenist, in case they’re reading this. Please don’t hurt me.)

Anyway, I’m glad that the wait is over, and I’m right now augmenting the Advil with a proper Martini (whence the factorial jokes).

Hoping that you are not suffering bloody great awful pain,
I remain,
Yr obedient servant,
LG

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2006 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Idle marketing thought

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Selling things in 10s or 100s sort of makes sense, especially if you’re competing on price and your price is good: the potential customer can immediately compute the price per unit. But perhaps you want to raise the price…. (Not that anyone ever would, of course.)

I’d think about packaging in 11s or dozens: harder to do the mental arithmetic. The ad copy could even proclaim “NOW 11! (or 12!) instead of 10.” And you could go to a higher per-unit price, secure in the knowledge that most potential customers can’t mentally divide by 11 or 12. (13 is a bad idea: unlucky.)

Of course, then you’ll have to deal with customers who complained that there were not in fact 11 factorial items in the package. (11! = 11 factorial = 11 x 10 x 9 x … x 3 x 2 x 1 — math joke. Heh heh. Get it?)

Just had a flashback: remember the electric guitar in Spinal Tap whose volume knob went to 11 instead of 10? One louder, as the guitarist explained.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2006 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Daily life

Special on Feather blades

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Feather blades have so far given me the best shave. In the usual 10-pack they run about 60 cents a blade (plus shipping). But here’s a deal (see update): 100 Feather blades for $24.00: 24 cents a blade (plus shipping), for a blade that lasts 4-7 shaves, depending on how well you prep your beard, how tough your beard is, how good your technique, local restrictions may apply, etc. For me, in Monterey CA, they ran 32 cents a blade including shipping. Still a bargain.

That sure beats the price of a multi-blade cartridge all hollow.

UPDATE: Feather blades are no longer available at the link. In the meantime, I believe that Pauldog of ShaveMyFace.com still offers Feather blades for bulk purchase. You can send him a private message on the forum to inquire. You can also see whether you can get a bulk purchase deal from RazorandBrush.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2006 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Shaving

Situation in Lebanon grim

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Rice’s ploy has been to stall calling for a cease-fire to allow Israel more time for its attacks on Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the meantime, while claiming to want a cease-fire (under conditions that make it impossible), the US is rushing additional shipments of bombs and missiles to Israel. War & Piece sums up the news reports nicely:

Qana. AP: “Israeli missiles hit several buildings in a southern Lebanon village as people slept Sunday, killing at least 56, most of them children, in the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. … The missiles destroyed several homes in the village of Qana as people were sleeping. Rescue officials said at least 50 people were killed, and the bodies of 27 children were found in the rubble. [UPDATE: latest AP figure is 34 children] … Jordan’s King Abdullah II condemned ‘the ugly crime perpetrated by Israeli forces in Qana,” calling it ‘a blatant violation of the law and all international conventions.”’ British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket, responding to …[the strike that killed 37 children] said Sunday that the attack was “absolutely dreadful” and “quite appalling.” AP: “[Israeli prime minister Ehud] Olmert expressed ‘great sorrow’ for the airstrikes but blamed Hezbollah guerrillas for using the area to launch rockets at Israel.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2006 at 8:46 am

World happiness: rankings by country (US #23)

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Via MetaFilter, this ranking of countries by happiness, “based on an analysis of the results from over 100 studies. It uses data published by by UNESCO, the CIA, the New Economics Foundation, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR.” HealthDay reports:

Piecing together information from more than 100 studies in the growing field of happiness research, a British psychologist has produced what he says is the first world map of happiness.

It ranks 178 countries, with Denmark at the top and the African nation of Burundi at the bottom. The United States comes in 23rd.

“While happiness is intangible, the scales used in these studies are very accurate,” said Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist who is working toward a doctorate at the University of Leicester. “Happiness research is far from an exact science, but it is the best way we have of looking at it.”

White analyzed the data in relation to a nation’s health, wealth and access to education. The United States came in relatively low — beneath Bhutan, Brunei and Canada, among other countries — in large part because of health factors. “You don’t have the highest life expectancy,” he noted. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2006 at 1:08 am

Extra-sticky duct tape

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From Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools email:

Gorilla Tape — Sticks to a brick

Gorilla Tape is duct tape raised to a higher power. It is both stronger and stickier; you can use it on rough surfaces where duct tape won’t stick. I have used a variety of similar tapes, from the Army’s green 200 mph tape to the fabled Electric Boat tape that Submariners are familiar with. Gorilla Tape sticks better and holds longer than the best quality duct tape in everything I have used it for. It is also waterproof (once applied) and because of the thicker adhesive, less prone to peeling.

Buy it here.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 8:45 pm

Yet another worry: surgical fires

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Via MetaFilter:

According to the non-profit health agency, ECRI, “Virtually all operating room fires ignite on or in the patient. These fires typically result in little damage to equipment, cause considerable injury to patients, and are a complete surprise to the staff.” [The patient, too, I bet. - LG]

Read here. Also, questions to ask, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 8:39 pm

Posted in Health, Medical

NY Times endorses Ned Lamont

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The NY Times has endorsed Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman. I think that’s a good call, for all the reasons explained in the editorial endorsement. Joe Lieberman deserves defeat, and if the polls are correct, he will get it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 6:40 pm

Vegan diet good for diabetics

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A vegan diet seems to be of considerable help to diabetics:

People who ate a low-fat vegan diet, cutting out all meat and dairy, lowered their blood sugar more and lost more weight than people on a standard American Diabetes Association diet, researchers said on Thursday.

They lowered their cholesterol more and ended up with better kidney function, according to the report published in Diabetes Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association.

Participants said the vegan diet was easier to follow than most because they did not measure portions or count calories. Three of the vegan dieters dropped out of the study, compared to eight on the standard diet. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 11:35 am

War crimes charges possible

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Dan Froomkin, in his column yesterday, pointed to this story, which has some important points (emphasis added, along with a few comments – LG):

An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment. [As they have. - LG] Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 11:29 am

Useful site for movie fans

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Everyone knows IMDb at this point, right? But I just learned of the extremely useful site Filmcritic.com from Boing Boing, through a link to a post “The Top 50 Movie Endings of All Time,” a post that consists exclusively of spoilers. You have to kind of read it between your fingers so that you don’t read the endings of the movies you haven’t seen.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 10:56 am

Posted in Movies

The 101st Fighting Keyboarders

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During the Iraq War, we’ve been treated to the strange sight of many, many Republican young men and women who strongly support the war in Iraq, but who never seem to enlist. When asked about this, they explain that the “war of ideas” is equally important, and that’s where they’re fighting.

Well, yes, but the casualty rate in the war of ideas is very, very low. They all seem to have selected a role in the Iraq War that… well, that is not dangerous at all.

Now I don’t know whether the lack of danger in the role they chose, and the constant danger of fighting the war on the ground in Iraq, entered into their decision. And, so far as I know, they’ve not been asked. “Did you decide not to enlist because fighting in Iraq is dangerous?” “Did you choose to fight in the ‘war of ideas’ because it isn’t dangerous?”

I wish they would be asked, since they are so very vehement about other people going over there to fight. They certainly talk the talk, but they seem strangely fearful of walking the walk. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 9:07 am

Posted in GOP, Iraq War, Military

Another move toward totalitarianism

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The Bush Administration doesn’t give up. They have proposed a law that will allow them to throw any citizen in jail indefinitely, without any due process at all:

U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

A 32-page draft measure is intended to authorize the Pentagon’s tribunal system, established shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks to detain and prosecute detainees captured in the war on terror. The tribunal system was thrown out last month by the Supreme Court.

Administration officials, who declined to comment on the draft, said the proposal was still under discussion and no final decisions had been made.

Senior officials are expected to discuss a final proposal before the Senate Armed Services Committee next Wednesday.

According to the draft, the military would be allowed to detain all “enemy combatants” until hostilities cease. The bill defines enemy combatants as anyone “engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners who has committed an act that violates the law of war and this statute.”

Legal experts said Friday that such language is dangerously broad and could authorize the military to detain indefinitely U.S. citizens who had only tenuous ties to terror networks like al Qaeda. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 8:52 am

Megs in her cubbyhole today

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Megs in cubby 5

This is today’s Megs, in the same cubbyhole she liked as a kitten. She’s bigger, but she still fits. (Sophie has not had the same luck with her favored spot between printer and bookcase: she is way too big now, but continues to try to squeeze in, clearly remembering that this was a good, comfortable spot.)

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 8:34 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Best lathering bowl—the search

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Soapstone mortar and pestle

This is a complete revision, and tells the full story—thus far.
My first lathering bowl was a soup cup that I had used as a bowl for shaving soap. I took out the soap, and it seemed to work well—and it even had a handle. I later realized that it’s proportions and dimensions were just right for me: hemispherical in shape, about 5″ across and 3″ deep.

But, of course, one wants to find something better. And there was the lure of hot lather. I tried a soapstone mortar and pestle, without the pestle, pictured above. It was a good lathering bowl.

  • Heat capacity: thick (1/4″) stone walls absorb a lot of heat to keep the lather nicely warm.
  • Size: 5.75″” in diameter, 3″ high–interior 5″ by 2.75″ deep: not too big, not too small.
  • Shape: comfortable to hold, works well with brush.
  • Feel: the stone feels nice. They suggest curing it (coat with oil to sit overnight, then put into a cool oven and turn it on to 300 degrees for 30 minutes, then let it cool in the oven), but do NOT do that for a lathering bowl: the lathered soap will remove the oil from the interior—and until it’s removed, you don’t get good lather.

But… the search continued.
The heat retention idea, to keep the lather warm, is one approach. The Moss Scuttle uses hot water as an alternative (but has a working bowl that doesn’t meet the shape and size requirements). This Thai mortar, with its thick granite walls, looks good—the 8″ size seems to have the right bowl shape and size. (I suspect the bowl depth of the 7″ size is insufficient.) And look at the size of the thing! I started thinking that, if I left it in a 200 degree oven overnight, then brought it to the bathroom with oven mitts… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2006 at 8:21 am

Posted in Shaving

Here’s why we like Sophie

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One reason, at least: So Sophie’s lying on the bed, looking at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Suddenly, she jumps down, trots into the bathroom to retrieve her favorite toy (a looped cable-tie) and brings it to the mirror and tries to give it to the kitty in the mirror, pushing it against the glass.

Isn’t that sweet?

OTOH, when Louise still lived with Sophie, Louise had to obey The Rules, which included, for example, the rule that Louise was not allowed to sit on the sofa. Also, whenever Louise went into the bathroom to use the litter box, The Rules required Sophie to stand outside, hidden beside the door, and jump on Louise as she emerged. Louise got more and more nervous about going to the bathroom and, since Sophie would stay hidden, she never knew whether Sophie was there or not. Finally The Wife had to accompany Louise to the bathroom and wait while she did her business, and then accompany her back.

Before you weep for Louise, recall that when Louise lived with Stella, a lovely and matronly cat, Louise would sit on the cover of the litterbox and bat at Stella’s head while Stella tried to do her potty.

Kitties are complex creatures.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2006 at 11:51 am

Posted in Cats, Sophie

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