Later On

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

Archive for July 4th, 2009

More on Orion cooker

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Just split a rack of baby back ribs with The Wife, with 5 left over. Completely done, tender, and juicy in 1 hr 7 min. Must be very careful taking them off the rack when done—don’t try to take rack out, or it will tip and they will slide into the drip pan. Instead, remove ribs from rack.

I used Penzey’s Bicentennial Rub, a favorite, but I don’t think it works well with the smoker: the flavor of the rub obscures the flavor of the smoke. The next time I do ribs, I’ll just use salt and pepper and some cayenne.

Still delighted with the cooker.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Are we losing our ability to think critically?

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Interesting article by Samuel Greengard in the Communications of the ACM:

Society has long cherished the ability to think beyond the ordinary. In a world where knowledge is revered and innovation equals progress, those able to bring forth greater insight and understanding are destined to make their mark and blaze a trail to greater enlightenment.

"Critical thinking as an attitude is embedded in Western culture. There is a belief that argument is the way to finding truth," observes Adrian West, research director at the Edward de Bono Foundation U.K., and a former computer science lecturer at the University of Manchester. "Developing our abilities to think more clearly, richly, fully—individually and collectively—is absolutely crucial [to solving world problems]."

To be sure, history is filled with tales of remarkable thinkers who have defined and redefined our world views: Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity; Voltaire altering perceptions about society and religious dogma; and Albert Einstein redefining the view of the universe. But in an age of computers, video games, and the Internet, there’s a growing question about how technology is changing critical thinking and whether society benefits from it.

Although there’s little debate that computer technology complements—and often enhances—the human mind in the quest to store information and process an ever-growing tangle of bits and bytes, there’s increasing concern that the same technology is changing the way we approach complex problems and conundrums, and making it more difficult to really think.

"We’re exposed to [greater amounts of] poor yet charismatic thinking, the fads of intellectual fashion, opinion, and mere assertion," says West. "The wealth of communications and information can easily overwhelm our reasoning abilities." What’s more, it’s ironic that ever-growing piles of data and information do not equate to greater knowledge and better decision-making. What’s remarkable, West says, is just "how little this has affected the quality of our thinking."

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading declined 10 percentage points from 1982 to 2002 and the rate of decline is accelerating. Many, including Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, believe that a greater focus on visual media exacts a toll. "A drop-off in reading has possibly contributed to a decline in critical thinking," she says. "There is a greater emphasis on real-time media and multitasking rather than focusing on a single thing." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 2:07 pm

Global warming –> Shrinking island sheep

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The mysterious shrinking sheep of St Kilda sounds like a job for super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

The case involves a rare herd of wild sheep on the remote Scottish island – known in Scottish Gaelic as Hirta – that are refusing to bow to conventional evolutionary pressure, which says big is best. Instead, they have steadily decreased in size since the 1980s.

Scientists have now stepped in to solve the conundrum, and fingered the culprit as the new Moriarty of mankind: global warming.

The experts say shorter and milder winters mean that lambs do not need to put as much weight on during their first few months of life. Smaller animals that would have perished in harsh winters a few decades ago can now survive to their first birthday. As a result, the average weight of the sheep has dropped by 81g each year.

The difference is …

Continue reading. I assume that those who don’t believe in evolution will dismiss this—generally they don’t believe in global warming either.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 2:04 pm

Ugliness in Iran

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Good article in the Christian Science Monitor, from which this quotation:

The hard-liners in Tehran appear to be consciously pursuing increased isolation for themselves and their country to create an impression that dangerous outside forces – and not legitimate domestic grievances – were behind the outpouring of national anger at the election result. They appear to believe such a course will make it easier to silence their opponents.

"This is their way of saying we have a focal point of attack – keep sending out the message that this is all a foreign plot. I don’t have any faith that the government really believes this, but I don’t foresee them giving up this card very easily," says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington. "In fact these demonstrations … are disorganized, spontaneous. They’re out there because of their rage and frustration at seeing their election stolen."

Mr. Parsi and other analysts say now the government’s biggest hurdle is credibility with its own citizens.

"If you proceed the way [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have proceeded, then gradual change through the ballot box cannot occur," says Parsi. "If they don’t have that minimum level of credibility, the social contract has collapsed, leaving ruling by force their only option."

Much more at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 1:56 pm

Essential free downloads

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Lifehacker has the lists:

Best free Windows downloads

Best free Mac downloads

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Hidden airline fees charted out

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Check this post for a useful chart of the various extra fees airlines are now charging. Southwest Airlines is still the hero.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 11:14 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Strange effort to reduce transparency on NYSE

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This is odd. Matt Taibbi writes:

In a move set to infuriate and send many Zero Hedge readers over the top, the NYSE has taken action to make sure that nobody will henceforth be able to keep track of the complete dominance that Goldman Sachs exerts over the New York Stock Exchange. This basically ends our weekly Program Trading updates disclosed every Thursday indicating that Goldman has singlehandedly captured all of NYSE’s program trading.

via Zero Hedge: NYSE Halts Transparency, Feels Goldman Program Trading Disclosure Is Unnecessary.

I’m sorry I didn’t post this earlier, but I urge readers to go over to Zero Hedge and check out this post about the NYSE’s recent decision to change its procedures… to protect Goldman Sachs from bloggers like Zero Hedge!

This is complicated stuff (for people with no financial background, like me, it’s nightmarish) and I have a longer thing about this coming out later. But the essence of this story is that Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge has, for months, been complaining that Goldman has been manipulating the NYSE, in particular manipulating program trading in somewhat the same way (although perhaps not to the same extent) that they manipulated the commodities markets. In order to make his case — and his theory has gained a lot of acceptance, to the point where Goldman had to respond to the allegations publicly — he has been analyzing data the NYSE releases on program trading every week.

So what happened this week? The NYSE announced that it will no longer be releasing its weekly program trading data. This is quite obviously a move designed to make it even more impossible to track what’s going on in the NYSE and shield, in particular, Goldman Sachs. Let’s hope there’s a public uproar about this; Zero Hedge posted contact info for NYSE officials, and has urged readers to petition the exchange to restore the old rules in the name of transparency.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 9:40 am

Posted in Business

Memories of surviving a two-mile fall

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Amazing story.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 9:37 am

Posted in Daily life

More on the Orion cooker

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Cleanup isn’t bad. The ashes are easily pushed around the bottom bin to the hole (normally covered with a slide), and a pan placed under the hole catches almost all of them, which I dumped into a paper bag. (This morning the ashes were totally cold and burned out.) The ashes from the top coal bucket can be dumped into the bag directly.

I washed off the racks and cleaned out the drip pan. They’re stainless steel (and quiet sturdy) and were easy to clean. The lower exterior and the interior of the cooker are now blackened with smoke, and I didn’t attempt to clean them off. The exterior of the top seems to stay pretty clean.

Today I’ll try back ribs, and on the advice of Conservative09 am using pecan chips for the smoke.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 9:36 am

Posted in Daily life

Comment on Palin’s resignation

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I’ve seen several comments on how her resignation (not to mention the speech that accompanied it) show clearly that she lacks good judgment and would have been a disaster in high office. But her lack of good judgment was already clear—I think the judgment that this event most calls into question is John McCain’s judgment. Clearly he is not good at picking people.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 9:00 am

Posted in GOP

Sen. Grassley, opposed to government healthcare option

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An option he fully enjoys: Faiz Shakir of ThinkProgress:

During a townhall in Waukon, IA Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was asked by a constituent of his: “Why is your insurance so much cheaper than my insurance and so better than my insurance?” When Grassley struggled to explain the details of his own health care plan, the elderly man followed up, “Okay, so how come I can’t have the same thing you have?” Grassley said, “You can. Just go work for the federal government.”

Watch it:

Grassley has been at the forefront of railing against Obama’s health care plan, declaring, “We need to make sure that there’s no public option.” As Igor Volsky notes, there is an irony in government workers like Grassley complaining about “government-sponsored health care.” If Grassley wants to stand on principle, he could abandon his government-sponsored insurance and try his luck in the individual health insurance market.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 8:46 am

Perhaps why Palin resigned

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Faiz Shakir in ThinkProgress:

Max Blumental reports on The Daily Beast that Sarah Palin may have quit her job today because she was trying to avert a major, yet-to-be-disclosed corruption scandal. The gist of the rumor is that an Alaska building company called Spenard Building Supplies (SBS) was awarded a contract by Palin to build a hockey arena in Wasilla, AK, and in return, SBS helped construct Palin’s home:

Many political observers in Alaska are fixated on rumors that federal investigators have been seizing paperwork from SBS in recent months, searching for evidence that Palin and her husband Todd steered lucrative contracts to the well-connected company in exchange for gifts like the construction of their home on pristine Lake Lucille in 2002. The home was built just two months before Palin began campaigning for governor, a job which would have provided her enhanced power to grant building contracts in the wide open state.

SBS has close ties to the Palins. The company has not only sponsored Todd Palin’s snowmobile team, according to the Village Voice’s Wayne Barrett, it hired Sarah Palin to do a statewide television commercial in 2004.

Though Todd Palin told Fox News he built his Lake Lucille home with the help of a few “buddies,” according to Barrett’s report, public records revealed that SBS supplied the materials for the house. While serving as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin blocked an initiative that would have required the public filing of building permits—thus momentarily preventing the revelation of such suspicious information.

Just months before Palin left city hall to campaign for governor, she awarded a contract to SBS to help build the $13 million Wasilla Sports Complex. The most expensive building project in Wasilla history, the complex cost the city an addition $1.3 million in legal fees and threw it into severe long-term debt. For SBS, however, the bloated and bungled project was a cash cow.

Alaska bloggers have reported in recent weeks that “a long simmering embezzelment/IRS scandal is still being looked at by the feds.” In her press conference today, Palin asked the public to “trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics as usual.” But she also bemoaned “political operatives” who have “descended on Alaska” to investigate “all sorts of frivolous ethics violations.” Palin said this “politics of personal destruction” was one of the key motivating factors behind her decision today.

Update: Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore writes, "For weeks the rumors of a criminal investigation against the governor have been brewing. They are rumors, but are swirling fresh again with Palin’s resignation. I’m holding my breath for the other ‘Naughty Monkey’ to drop."

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 8:41 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Independence Day shave

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This is the most patriotic shave I could muster. I’ve been using the small brushes, and the Key Hole 3 I used today felt too large—should have used the Key Hole 2. But I got a fine lather from the Tryphon Old American Barbershop shaving soap, and the Swedish Gillette blade in the Fat Boy is still surpassingly sharp after 4 or 5 previous shaves: a smooth and easy shave that left my face refreshed and perfectly smooth. The Old Spice aftershave was good—though not as good as the formula they used in 1956, if I’m any judge.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving


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