Later On

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

Archive for August 10th, 2006

We’re number 33! We’re number 33!

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Via Kevin Drum and Pacific Views, you can read the background for the chart above. (Weird that Canada’s not on the list.)

A comparison of peoples’ views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

Among the factors contributing to America’s low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.

“American Protestantism is more fundamentalist than anybody except perhaps the Islamic fundamentalist, which is why Turkey and we are so close,” said study co-author Jon Miller of Michigan State University. … Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Comedy, Daily life, Science

Close-up of sharpest manmade thing

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Tungsten point

Click on the thumbnail to get a better view. Here’s what you’re seeing:

A field ion microscope (FIM) image of a very sharp tungsten needle. The small round features are individual atoms. The lighter colored elongated features are traces captured as atoms moved during the imaging process (approximately 1 second).

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Science

The GOP hates democracy

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I finally tumbled to this. The GOP has historically tried to suppress voting—the NY Times has an editorial on that today:

Missouri is the latest front in the Republican Party’s campaign to use photo ID requirements to suppress voting. The Republican legislators who pushed through Missouri’s ID law earlier this year said they wanted to deter fraud, but that claim falls apart on close inspection. Missouri’s new ID rules — and similar ones adopted last year in Indiana and Georgia — are intended to deter voting by blacks, poor people and other groups that are less likely to have driver’s licenses. Georgia’s law has been blocked by the courts, and the others should be too. …

Not coincidentally, groups that are more likely to vote against the Republicans who passed the ID law will be most disadvantaged. Advocates for blacks, the elderly and the disabled say that those groups are less likely than the average Missourian to have driver’s licenses, and most likely to lose their right to vote. In close elections, like the bitterly contested U.S. Senate race now under way in the state, this disenfranchisement could easily make the difference in who wins. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 2:58 pm

Packing shaving kit

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Simpson Major

Now the packing moves to the shaving kit. The brush decision is easy: the Simpson Major from Em’s Place, designed as a travel brush. And, of course, the Vision and a fresh pack of Feather blades. (I check my suitcase, of course.) Thayers Witch Hazel Aftershave, conveniently in a smaller (plastic) bottle than their regular Witch Hazel, and also some Bay Rum Aftershave Balm from Saint Charles Soap. A tube of Proraso shaving cream (green tube) and a container of QED’s Tangerine and Spearmint shaving soap. The alum bar will go in after I use it tomorrow morning—luckily, it has its own plastic case.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Shaving

Uh-oh: another step toward a totalitarian government

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Governments love to keep secrets. Even those that are the most often don’t want any dirty linen to appear in public, much less be washed there. One way to keep things secret, of coures, is to classify everything and jail those who reveal the secrets. The tradition is long and dishonorable and, until now the US has avoided that. No more:

In a momentous expansion of the government’s authority to regulate public disclosure of national security information, a federal court ruled that even private citizens who do not hold security clearances can be prosecuted for unauthorized receipt and disclosure of classified information.

The ruling (pdf) by Judge T.S. Ellis, III, denied a motion to dismiss the case of two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who were charged under the Espionage Act with illegally receiving and transmitting classified information.

The decision is a major interpretation of the Espionage Act with implications that extend far beyond this particular case. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 12:59 pm

Final packing decisions—and re-decisions

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Pelikan M800
Getting ready for an early departure tomorrow, and thinking about what to take. I decided against the Pelikan M800, pictured above, and went with my Omas Arco Celluloid, pictured below. Both have an italic point from John Mottishaw, and both are wonderful, but my mood tilted toward the Omas. I have the books ready. No bottled water this trip, it looks like. I’ve bought from Whole Foods the sandwiches I’ll take. So much to do…

Omas Arco

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life

Deck chairs, the Titanic, and me

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It’s a risky business to claim to be the first, especially when talking about pop culture. I just read a blog in which the writer said that a friend coined the term “ensemble movie” in 2002. Fascinating, since my first experience with the term was probably in a contemporary reference to John Sayles’s Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980) (redone as The Big Chill (1983)).

A parenthetical comment: the differences between the two movies make for an interesting double feature. In Secaucus, the people in the group of friends all have regular jobs. There is a new person in the group, and people take him aside and tell him the backstory on various people so he can understand and fit in better—they bring him into the group. In The Big Chill, all the people in the group are famous and/or wealthy, and they pointedly exclude the new person. Quite a different movie in some ways.

At any rate: the elements of pop culture are so diffused through the culture that you generally have no idea whether you’re hearing something that’s new or that’s just new to you. Even more rash is to claim to have invented a little piece of pop culture, a claim I am now about to make.

When I worked at ACT (The American College Testing Program), I vividly remember a large meeting at which I coined a phrase. This meeting was in the “new building,” and it was in the conference room in the pod that was used by the marketing department. I don’t recall everyone present, but David Crockett, who was in marketing, was there. We were talking about taking some steps regarding a situation, and I said, “I think that’s just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” I was surprised at how much those in the meeting laughed: they really enjoyed the image. Shortly thereafter, that particular phrase began to emerge in higher education–and I believe that Crockett was the vector: he traveled extensively, putting on workshops and presentations for groups in higher education, and I’m certain he must have made good use of the phrase that he had enjoyed. The phrase migrated through the world of higher ed and then began to appear elsewhere.

I feel morally confident that the phrase is my one big contribution to popular culture.

UPDATE: Good story about Crockett. He was making a trip to Kentucky—Lexington, as I recall—and had a reservation at the Daniel Boone Hotel. When he showed up, they had no reservation. They had apparently decided that David Crockett staying at the Daniel Boone Hotel was a joke and canceled the reservation.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 10:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies

A Life of One’s Own and Joanna Field

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Joanna Field is the pseudonym of a British psychotherapist, and A Life of One’s Own is her fascinating account of her psychological self-explorations. It began with a diary that she started at age 20. Her idea was that, if she recorded what happened in a day and how happy she felt, she would learn what things made her happy and would do more of those.

Life is not so simple, of course, but she continued with the diary, and this book consists of bits from that diary along with her commentary on them from a later and more knowledgeable perspective.

What makes the book particularly valuable are the techniques she discovers. For example, we’ve probably all had the feeling of being somehow removed from what should be an enjoyable experience: a walk in beautiful surroundings, a concert of beautiful music, and the like. We are not engaged, but rather observers, behind a glass wall, as it were. Field discusses this sensation and provides several simple tactics that she discovered will remove that wall for her and allow her to be fully engaged—emotionally, intellectually—and responsive to her surroundings.

To me, this sounds very much as though she found a way to promote a feeling of flow, by breaking down some internal inhibition that was blocking it.

She discusses also how to catch those fleeting thoughts that run quickly along the baseboard at the back of the mind, trying to stay out of sight. For example, she was attempting to sew something, and not having any luck at all. Abruptly, she threw a little hissy fit. She was alone at home, and the hissy startled her in its vehemence, but she caught that little elusive thought that was trying to hide, and….

Read the book. It’s both valuable and interesting, and it contains much more than I have indicated here.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 9:53 am

Joe Lieberman: how observant is he?

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Thanks to a reader, I found this article (if you’re not a Salon member, you have to sit through an ad—but it’s worth it) on how Joe Lieberman has failed to observe some basic tenets of Judaism:

On the Jewish calendar, the 24 hours from sundown Tuesday to sundown Wednesday constituted the 15th day in the month of Av, a little-known holiday called Tu B’Av. Coming a week after Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning on which observant Jews neither eat nor drink, Tu B’Av is a minor but joyous celebration of love. People buy each other flowers on Tu B’Av. However, for the observant Jew who just lost the U.S. Senate primary in Connecticut, it’s hard to see how it will ever be a joyous day again.

Like many of you, I first noticed Sen. Joseph Lieberman after that pompous, silly rebuke of President Clinton’s behavior from the floor of the Senate in 1998. My thoughts at the time were twofold. As a Democrat, I resented Lieberman giving any cover to what looked and felt like an attempted coup. I also wondered what the heck a U.S. senator was doing trying to give anyone lessons in morality. Politics is not a profession that makes it easy for a person to stay on a straight moral path. The fact that I heard nothing from Lieberman when Newt Gingrich’s personal life made news only confirmed my initial impression.

While my politics haven’t changed much since 1998, my lifestyle sure has. Like the good senator, I too am now an observant Jew. Like Reb Yosef, I too put on tallit (the fringed prayer shawl) and tefillin (leather boxes worn on the arm and head) each morning and pray. Like Reb Yosef, I too try my best to live by Halakha, the more than 600 rules that make up the body of Jewish religious law. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

10 August 2006 at 9:06 am

Posted in Election, Government


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