Later On

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

Archive for December 2007

The Discovery

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I’m adopted

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Cats

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2008

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Thank you for reading the blog, for commenting, and for thinking about the issues we face. I hope that we all have reason to celebrate in the coming year. Take care, breathe deeply, and enjoy your life.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Daily life

RIAA has changed its tune

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I blogged the story about RIAA prosecuting a guy for copying his CDs to his computer (no sharing, just for his personal use). It turns out that this is something new:

On Dave Farber’s IP mailing list, Dan Gillmor points out that the recording industry used to have a different opinion on personal use. It removed the following statement from its website (but you can still read it on archive.org):

“If you choose to take your own CDs and make copies for yourself on your computer or portable music player, that’s great. It’s your music and we want you to enjoy it at home, at work, in the car and on the jogging trail.”

Gillmor adds: “Also, from the Supreme Court oral arguments in the Grokster case, Donald Virrelli, on behalf of the entertainment companies:”

The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their Website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod. There is a very, very significant lawful commercial use for that device, going forward.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Business, Music

Good sign: dropping stale and inaccurate rhetoric

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Nice:

A bit of hopeful news to end the year, courtesy of the UK government. According to an article last week in the Daily Mail newspaper, the British government will stop using the term War on Terror

The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless “death cult.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.”

London is not a battlefield, he said.

“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”

His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the “war on terror” language has officially been ditched.

I see this as a very hopeful sign… a tiny turn away from the Orwellian double-speak in the UK and US that did nothing to make anyone safer, but did engender a sense of fear and dread that was exploited for political gain.

Here’s a link to one of the many places that reprinted the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life

African-Americans need more vitamin D

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From Science News:

The sunshine vitamin offers a broad range of benefits—from boosting bone and muscle strength to offering protection against cancer and diabetes. Unfortunately, the diet is a poor source of vitamin D, and dark skin filters out much of the sun’s vitamin-producing ultraviolet light. To achieve healthy concentrations of vitamin D, therefore, many African-American women may need hefty daily supplements, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y., recruited 208 postmenopausal black women for a 3-year trial during which half received large daily doses of vitamin D.

Increasingly, nutrition scientists advocate at least 75 nanomoles of vitamin D per liter of blood as a minimum target value for health, notes John F. Aloia, an endocrinologist and coauthor of the study.

Even after 2 years of supplementation with 800 international units of vitamin D daily—twice the recommended daily intake—treated women attained only 88 percent of the target value for this vitamin in their blood, Aloia’s group reports in the December American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The supplemented women reached the target value only after their intake was bumped up to 2,000 IU per day in the third year of the trial.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Top 10 popular Green Designs

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Take a look at the lovely list. Man, I want an Aptera—what a cool vehicle!

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 10:25 am

For your New Year’s planning and resolution

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Download and complete the (free) Excel workbook to see what your budget should include.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life

Famous map of Napoleon’s Russian campaign

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Military

An Administration shot through with corruption

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The following is just a partial list, via TPMmuckaker. (UPDATE: And more here.)

A quick note on methodology. Since a complete catalog of administration officials who’ve been accused of some form of corruption or abuse of power would be endless, we tried to maintain a high standard for inclusion. Most of those below were the subjects of criminal probes, but we also included officials who were credibly accused of acts that, if not criminal, were a corruption of office (like the U.S. attorney scandal). And even then, such officials were only included if their accusers had them dead to rights (which is why Karl Rove didn’t make the cut). We also limited ourselves to officials who were either political appointees or whose actions were so political that they were effectively political appointees (like John Tanner).

Enjoy:

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 10:15 am

Killer apps for your Mac

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From ZenHabits:

1. Quicksilver- The right arm of all that is productive on the mac. You’ll soon learn to have everything center around this awesome program launcher extraordinaire. You can literally do just about anything you can think of with this program. Send emails, browse your iTunes library, capture todo items, launch websites… all with a few keystrokes.

2. Firefox- Safari is a great web browser. Fast, sleek, sexy… but it doesn’t allow you to really customize your browsing experience. Firefox is a swiss-army’d version of Safari on steroids. We’re talking baseball in the late nineties steroids. Firefox allows you to add any array of extensions to add to the experience. Need a bit torrent client? Done. Don’t want to see ads? Done. Want to wrap your web-browsing in a winter wonderland? Done. Firefox can do virtually anything when it comes to surfing the web.

3. Adium- Now, iChat is no slouch of an instant messaging client. But Adium allows you to login and use multiple IM clients simultaneously. You can save chat transcripts, and do many of the other things that you can do with iChat.

4. iGTD- What mac isn’t complete with a kickin’ GTD system? iGTD is a great out-of-the-box organization capture tool that doesn’t require all the incessant fiddling that most GTD software requires. Just add some contexts (and projects if you’d like), and go.

Another cool thing about iGTD is that it integrates with Quicksilver. You can be in the middle of a task and suddenly remember you need to email Roy about carpooling tomorrow. Invoke Quicksilver, type your task, and go right back to what you were working on. It’s insanely useful and allows you to capture everything. (You can read more about iGTD + Quicksilver here and here)

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 9:46 am

U of Oregon stands up to RIAA

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Heartening:

The record industry got a surprise when it subpoenaed the University of Oregon in September, asking it to identify 17 students who had made available songs from Journey, the Cars, Dire Straits, Sting and Madonna on a file-sharing network.

The surprise was not that 20-year-olds listen to Sting. It was that the university fought back.

Represented by the state’s attorney general, Hardy Myers, the university filed a blistering motion to quash the subpoena, accusing the industry of misleading the judge, violating student privacy laws and engaging in questionable investigative practices. Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the industry had seen “a lot of crazy stuff” filed in response to its lawsuits and subpoenas. “But coming from the office of an attorney general of a state?” Mr. Sherman asked, incredulous. “We found it really surprising and disappointing.”

No one should shed tears for people who steal music and have to face the consequences. But it is nonetheless heartening to see a university decline to become the industry’s police officer and instead to defend the privacy of its students.

The recording industry may not be selling as much music these days, but it has built a pretty impressive and innovative litigation subsidiary.

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 9:39 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Screwing over our veterans

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Veterans

Here’s the story, with comments at the link:

Chris Dana came home from the war in Iraq in 2005 and slipped into a mental abyss so quietly that neither his family nor the Montana Army National Guard noticed.

He returned to his former life: a job at a Target store, nights in a trailer across the road from his father’s house.

When he started to isolate himself, missing family events and football games, his father urged him to get counseling. When the National Guard called his father to say that he’d missed weekend duty, Gary Dana pushed his son to get in touch with his unit.

“I can’t go back. I can’t do it,” Chris Dana responded.

Things went downhill from there. He blew though all his money, and last March 4, he shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. He was 23 years old.

As Gary Dana was collecting his dead son’s belongings, he found a letter indicating that the National Guard was discharging his son under what are known as other-than-honorable conditions. The move was due to his skipping drills, which his family said was brought on by the mental strain of his service in Iraq.

The letter was in the trash, near a Wal-Mart receipt for .22-caliber rifle shells.

All across America, veterans such as Chris Dana are slipping through the cracks, left to languish by their military units and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The VA’s ability to provide adequate care for veterans with mental ailments has come under increasing scrutiny, and the agency says it’s scrambling to boost its resources to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder, prevent suicides and help veterans cope. It’s added more mental health counselors and started more suicide-prevention programs.

But the experience in Montana, which by some measures does more than any other state to support America’s wars, shows how far the military and the VA have to go.

“The federal government does a remarkable job of converting a citizen to a warrior,” said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. “I think they have an equal responsibility converting a warrior back to a citizen.”

“I can’t imagine that it’s only Montana that’s experiencing this,” Schweitzer added. “Our men and women are part of this country, and we have common experiences. It’s not as though the water we drink and the air we breathe in Montana make our experience completely different than everywhere else.”

McClatchy analyzed a host of VA databases and records, and found that mental health treatment across the country remains wildly uneven. While mentally ill veterans in some parts of the country are well tended, those in other places — especially Montana — are falling by the wayside.

The data and records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, included all 3 million VA disability claims in the nation and 77 million medical appointments in the agency’s health system in fiscal 2006.

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 9:02 am

Which costs more: global disasters or the War on Drugs?

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You know in your heart the answer. I think it’s time that cannabis be relegalized.

What costs more: Global Natural Disasters or America’s War on Drugs?

Well…go on… take a guess.

You know the answer but it seems so absurd. It’s hard to say it.

That’s because it is a study in absurdity.

The world community spent $30 billion for global disasters in 2007.

While losses soared in 2007, the figure was far short of the $99 billion Munich Re recorded in 2005 – when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans.The world’s second-largest reinsurer put total economic losses this year – which includes losses not covered by insurance – from natural disasters at $75 billion – a 50 percent increase from last year’s $50 billion, but far below the 2005 figure of $220 billion. …

The company said that, in all, 950 natural disasters were recorded this year – up from 850 last year, and the highest figure since the company started keeping systematic records in 1974.

That $30 billion represents what was actually covered and paid for. It appears there was another $45 billion in assessed damage that wasn’t paid for.

That article cites global warming as a very real factor in all this and indicates this will all only get worse.

Now consider this: America spends $50 billion a year on its “war on drugs” alone, $500 billion since the 1970′s.

All for nothing.

Paul Armentano, of NORML, writes in Ending America’s Domestic Quagmire, that America spends $50 billion a year now on you-know-what.

America now spends nearly $50 billion dollars per year targeting, prosecuting, and incarcerating illicit-drug users. As a result, the population of illicit-drug offenders now behind bars is greater than the entire U.S. prison population in 1980. Since the mid 1990s, drug offenders have accounted for nearly 50 percent of the total federal prison population growth and some 40 percent of all state prison population growth. For marijuana alone, law enforcement currently spends between $ 7 billion and $ 10 billion dollars annually targeting users — primarily low-level offenders — and taxpayers spend more than $ 1 billion annually to incarcerate them.

And a recent journalistic tour de force in Rolling Stone magazine cites “After Thirty-Five Years and $500 Billion, Drugs Are as Cheap and Plentiful as Ever: An Anatomy of a Failure.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 9:01 am

Posted in Drug laws

More college courses for free on the Web

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This is great—the Web is living up to the promise made about television: that it would bring a new way of learning to people everywhere. TV fell afoul of the costs and limited channels (especially in the pre-cable days) and rigid time schedules. But the Web can read more people at lower cost and according to their own schedules.

This new opportunity strikes me especially, since when I was a kid I was hungry to learn, but lived in a tiny town in southern Oklahoma—a town that didn’t even have a library. I read everything I could lay my hands on, and if I had had home access to the kind of knowledge and teaching available on the Web today… oh, my.

Take a look:

Berkeley’s on YouTube. American University’s hoping to get on iTunes. George Mason professors have created an online research tool, a virtual filing cabinet for scholars. And with a few clicks on Yale’s Web site, anyone can watch one of the school’s most popular philosophy professors sitting cross-legged on his desk, talking about death.

Studying on YouTube won’t get you a college degree, but many universities are using technology to offer online classes and open up archives. Sure, some schools have been charging for distance-learning classes for a long time, but this is different: These classes are free. At a time when many top schools are expensive and difficult to get into, some say it’s a return to the broader mission of higher education: to offer knowledge to everyone.

And tens of millions are reaching for it.

For schools, the courses can bring benefits, luring applicants, spreading the university’s name, impressing donors, keeping alumni engaged. Virginia Tech, for example, offers some online classes free to its graduates.

As the technology evolves, the classes are becoming far more engaging to a broader public. (Think a class on “Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Solutions Using R and Bioconductor” sounds a little dry? Try reading the lecture notes, alone, on a computer screen.) With better, faster technology such as video, what once was bare-bones and hard-core — lecture notes aimed at grad students and colleagues — is now more ambitious and far more accessible.

With video, you can watch Shelly Kagan, the well-known Yale philosopher, asking students about existence and what makes someone’s life worthwhile.

“If death is the end, is death bad?”

The focus is sharp enough to see the sticks of chalk at the blackboard, the laces on his Converse All-Stars. You can watch his black eyebrows fly up and down as he makes points. You can see which books are on the syllabus and get the assignments online.

Just don’t ask him to grade the papers.

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 8:53 am

More on compact fluorescent lightbulbs

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Vegetarians must be conscious of micronutrients

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I talk a fair amount about micronutrients in the Cooking Compendium:

In a study involving 502 lactovegetarian adults (275 men, 227 women, average age: 30.6 years), the presence and severity of health complaints was found to be associated with low intakes of various micronutrients. Health complaints were assessed in subjects using a structured questionnaire for existing complaints and morbidity over the preceding month. Severity of symptoms was measured on a 4-point scale. Using cluster analysis, subjects were categorized as having “no complaints” (NC), “mild degree complaints” (MI), or “moderate degree complaints” (MD). Overall, mild complaints were found in 30.5% of subjects and moderate complaints were found in 24.7% of subjects. Intakes of various micronutrients – beta-carotene, riboflavin, iron, and zinc – were half the recommended dietary intakes. A decreasing trend in micronutrient intakes was observed from subjects with no complaints to those with moderate complaints. In men, lower intakes of iron, zinc, niacin, and thiamin were found among men with mild complaints, as compared to men with no complaints. Men with moderate complaints had significantly lower intakes of calcium, zinc, and riboflavin, as compared to men with no complaints. In women, such differences were not observed between the groups. Additional analyses found that plasma vitamin C and erythrocyte membrane zinc were negative associated with moderate degree complaints. These results suggest that among lactovegetarian men, inadequate intake of various micronutrients may increase the risk of having health complaints. Additional research is needed to assess the impact of micronutrient supplementation on general health complaints in such a population.

 “Association of micronutrient status with subclinical health complaints in lactovegetarian adults,” Chiplonkar SA, Agte VV, et al, Scandinavian Journal of Food and Nutrition, 2007; 51(4): 159-166. (Address: Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, India). 

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 8:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

I resolve to eat more vegetables and fruit

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Because I have type 2 diabetes:

In a study involving patients with type 2 diabetes (who have been known to have increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation), fruit and vegetable intake was found to be inversely associated with oxidative stress, plasma carotenoids were found to be negatively associated with inflammation, and levels of plasma alpha- and beta- carotene were strongly and positively associated with fruit and vegetable intake. These results add to the numerous reasons why type 2 diabetics should be encouraged to increase their intake of vegetables and fruit. Furthermore, the results suggest that plasma levels of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene may be useful biomarkers for intake of fruit and vegetables.

“High intake of fruit and vegetables is related to low oxidative stress and inflammation in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes,” Asgard R, Rytter E, et al, Scandinavian Journal of Food and Nutrition, 2007; 51(4): 149-158. (Address: Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden).

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 8:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Medical

Traditional fragrances

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Went a traditional route this morning: a Mennen shave stick (from Australia) and the Wilkinson Sword blade in the Edwin Jagger lined Chatsworth. The Simpsons Keyhold 3 Best produced a fine lather, and the finish was Pinaud’s Clubman aftershave, a very traditional fragrance. Now I sit with one of my Christmas coffees: Breakfast Blend from the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2007 at 8:27 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Classical music

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Listen to it more:

Reports about the diminishing relevance of classical music to new generations of Americans addled by pop culture keep coming. Yet in my experience classical music seems in the midst of an unmistakable rebound. Most of the concerts and operas I attended this year drew large, eager and appreciative audiences.

Consider this: On Dec. 15 the Metropolitan Opera’s first high-definition broadcast of the season, a Saturday matinee of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” played on more than 600 movie screens around the world to 97,000 people, a new record for attendance in this bold Met venture. O.K., the total doesn’t match the millions who watch rock videos. For all her popularity, Anna Netrebko, who sang Juliette, is not Mariah Carey. But classical music always was and always will be of interest to relatively modest numbers of people.

In recent years a spate of articles and books have lamented classical music’s tenuous hold on the popular imagination and defended its richness, complexity and communicative power. I’m thinking especially of the book “Why Classical Music Still Matters” (University of California Press, 2007) by Lawrence Kramer, a professor of English and music at Fordham University.

Just this month classical music emerged as pivotal to international relations. With the blessing of the State Department, the New York Philharmonic announced that it would present a concert in North Korea during its Asian tour in February. Some consider this plan an outrage that will allow a totalitarian regime to use the Philharmonic musicians as puppets for propaganda. Others see it as at least a chance to pry open a door and share Western culture with a closed society, which is pretty much my view.

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2007 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Music

Forgive: it’s good for you

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We knew this, didn’t we? Why is it so difficult?

Close your eyes and think of someone who has hurt you. The offense may be profound or small but deeply painful, a single arrow to your heart or a thousand wounding slights. The perpetrator may be a stranger — the guy who caused your accident, the gang-banger who took your child. More likely, it will be someone close and trusted. The sister who killed herself. The parent who lashed out, the spouse mired in addiction, an unfaithful lover.

Maybe it’s the boss who’s a tyrant, the business partner who’s an idiot, the trickster who seduced you. It might even be yourself.

Let all the anger, hurt and resentment you feel for that wrongdoer bubble to the surface. Seethe, shout, savor it. Feel your heart pounding, your blood boiling, your stomach churning and your thoughts racing in dark directions.

OK, stop. Now, forgive your offender. Don’t just shed the bitterness and drop the recrimination, but empathize with his plight, wish him well and move on — whether he’s sorry or not.

University of Wisconsin psychologist Robert D. Enright, the guru of what many are calling a new science of forgiveness, calls this final step “making a gesture of goodness” to a wrongdoer. It’s the culmination of a process that, he insists, “you’ve got to be able to see through to the end.”

But why, exactly, would you do that? For the good of your soul? To hold the family or business together, to make the world a better place?

A growing corps of researchers thinks they have it. Forgiveness — a virtue embraced by almost every religious tradition as a balm for the soul — may be medicine for the body, they suggest. In less than a decade, those preaching and studying forgiveness have amassed an impressive slate of findings on its possible health benefits.

They have shown that “forgiveness interventions” — often just a couple of short sessions in which the wounded are guided toward positive feelings for an offender — can improve cardiovascular function, diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life among the very ill.

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 December 2007 at 2:57 pm

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