Later On

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

Archive for March 2008

The Telegraph: 101 most useful Web sites

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Take a look at their list. No. 1 is Google.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Technology

Very cool house

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Take a look at the full site (more photos, plans, etc.).

Front

Our family home in Wales. It was built by myself and my father in law with help from passers by and visiting friends. 4 months after starting we were moved in and cosy. I estimate 1000-1500 man hours and £3000 put in to this point. Not really so much in house buying terms (roughly £60/sq m excluding labour).

The house was built with maximum regard for the environment and by reciprocation gives us a unique opportunity to live close to nature. Being your own (have a go) architect is a lot of fun and allows you to create and enjoy something which is part of yourself and the land rather than, at worst, a mass produced box designed for maximum profit and convenience of the construction industry. Building from natural materials does away with producers profits and the cocktail of carcinogenic poisons that fill most modern buildings.

Some key points of the design and construction:

  • Dug into hillside for low visual impact and shelter
  • Stone and mud from diggings used for retaining walls, foundations etc.
  • Frame of oak thinnings (spare wood) from surrounding woodland
  • Reciprocal roof rafters are structurally and aesthaetically fantastic and very easy to do
  • Straw bales in floor, walls and roof for super-insulation and easy building
  • Plastic sheet and mud/turf roof for low impact and ease
  • Lime plaster on walls is breathable and low energy to manufacture (compared to cement)
  • Reclaimed (scrap) wood for floors and fittings
  • Anything you could possibly want is in a rubbish pile somewhere (windows, burner, plumbing, wiring…)
  • Woodburner for heating – renewable and locally plentiful
  • Flue goes through big stone/plaster lump to retain and slowly release heat
  • Fridge is cooled by air coming underground through foundations
  • Skylight in roof lets in natural feeling light
  • Solar panels for lighting, music and computing
  • Water by gravity from nearby spring
  • Compost toilet
  • Roof water collects in pond for garden etc.

Main tools used: chainsaw, hammer and 1 inch chisel, little else really. Oh and by the way I am not a builder or carpenter, my experience is only having a go at one similar house 2yrs before and a bit of mucking around inbetween. This kind of building is accessible to anyone. My main relevant skills were being able bodied, having self belief and perseverence and a mate or two to give a lift now and again.

Would you like to learn more about this sort of building and gain practical experience? Why not join us on another exciting building project. There will be opportunities for everyone of all abilities and areas of interest.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Daily life

Back from walk

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Decided to do an errand, so walked to the Pacific Grove Library to return a book. Total time walking: exactly one hour. Not only was library closed (César Chávez Day), but they had also locked the drop-in box. So I carried the book back home. Not a bad walk, though: sunny, slightly cool, light breeze. I listened to Hank Jones.

Here he plays “Willow Weep for Me,” Carnegie Hall, 6 April 1994:

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Jazz, Music, Video

Females in the military and sexual assault.

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It could be titled “Crime and No Punishment“:

In today’s LA Times, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) sheds light on the staggering number of sexual assaults within the military, stating, “Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq,” and calls on Congress and the military to do more to protect servicewomen:

At the heart of this crisis is an apparent inability or unwillingness to prosecute rapists in the ranks. According to DOD statistics, only 181 out of 2,212 subjects investigated for sexual assault in 2007, including 1,259 reports of rape, were referred to courts-martial, the equivalent of a criminal prosecution in the military. Another 218 were handled via nonpunitive administrative action or discharge, and 201 subjects were disciplined through “nonjudicial punishment,” which means they may have been confined to quarters, assigned extra duty or received a similar slap on the wrist. In nearly half of the cases investigated, the chain of command took no action; more than a third of the time, that was because of “insufficient evidence.” […]

The absence of rigorous prosecution perpetuates a culture tolerant of sexual assault — an attitude that says “boys will be boys.

A Department of Defense report released this month found 2,688 reports of sexual assault in the military in FY2007. According to Harman, the number of reported military rapes jumped 73 percent from 2004 to 2006.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 1:43 pm

Tilted playing field: financial games

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By James Surowiecki in the New Yorker:

In recent months, a lot of people have been handed financial get-out-of-jail-free cards. C.E.O.s who presided over billions in losses have walked away with tens of millions in compensation. The Federal Reserve has showered cheap money on banks and brokerages. Even Bear Stearns caught a break when, last week, J. P. Morgan agreed to quintuple the price it will pay to take over the firm. But there’s one group for whom forgiveness has not been forthcoming: ordinary consumers struggling with piles of credit-card debt. For them, escaping the burden of their bad decisions and their bad luck has become much harder.

That’s because of a law that Congress passed in 2005 which has made it more difficult for people to write off their debts. Filing for bankruptcy has become much more expensive. More important, while lower-income people can still declare Chapter 7, which takes away your assets but then discharges your debts, most middle- and higher-income people now have to declare Chapter 13. That means they have to pay their creditors monthly for five years before they’re free.

Historically, the U.S. has treated debtors leniently. But the credit-card industry, which was the driving force behind the new law, insisted that tolerance had caused a bankruptcy “crisis”: the number of bankruptcies in the U.S. quintupled between 1980 and 2003. Irresponsible debtors, the argument went, were buying plasma TVs and fancy vacations and then declaring bankruptcy to escape their debts. And they were being supported by the rest of us, who had to pay higher interest rates and fees on our credit cards to cover credit-card companies’ billions in annual write-offs. Cracking down on those who “abused the bankruptcy laws,” President Bush said, would therefore “make credit more affordable.” And we’d all be better off.

So are we?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 1:17 pm

Actual Microsoft interview questions

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Be prepared.

Riddles

  • Why is a manhole cover round?
  • How many cars are there in the USA? (A popular variant is “How many gas stations are there in the USA?”)
  • How many manhole covers are there in the USA?
  • You’ve got someone working for you for seven days and a gold bar to pay them. The gold bar is segmented into seven connected pieces. You must give them a piece of gold at the end of every day. If you are only allowed to make two breaks in the gold bar, how do you pay your worker?
  • One train leaves Los Angeles at 15mph heading for New York. Another train leaves from New York at 20mph heading for Los Angeles on the same track. If a bird, flying at 25mph, leaves from Los Angeles at the same time as the train and flies back and forth between the two trains until they collide, how far will the bird have traveled?
  • Imagine a disk spinning like a record player turn table. Half of the disk is black and the other is white. Assume you have an unlimited number of color sensors. How many sensors would you have to place around the disk to determine the direction the disk is spinning? Where would they be placed?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Three-hour mini-series: The Elegant Universe

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You can watch chapter by chapter.

To view any part of this three-hour miniseries, choose an episode from one of the three columns below and select either QuickTime (full-screen option available) or RealVideo to begin. If you experience difficulty viewing, it may be due to high demand. We regret this, and suggest you try back at another time. Note that NOVA programs are not available for downloading due to rights restrictions.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2008 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Science, Video

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