Later On

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

Archive for January 13th, 2010

Really great science-fiction in the traditional sense

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Fantasy has made in-roads into science-fiction, though they always shared a fan base. Still, it’s great to read what used to be hard-core science-fiction: take where we are today, in terms of technology and social trends (including business and government), and extrapolate those into the near- and mid-term future. And that is exactly what Daniel Suarez has done with Daemon and its sequel Freedom(TM).

If you like science-fiction at all, or

if you follow technology at all, or

if you follow politics and/or business at all,

then you owe it to yourself to read these books. Soon, before the events actually start happening.

UPDATE: Freedom(TM) is the conclusion: it’s a two-part novel with Daemon the first part, Freedom(TM) the second. Don’t miss it.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 9:00 pm

First strike in all-out cyberwar?

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Read this post.

What do you think?

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Studying Spanish

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I’m plugging away at my Spanish learning, and I’ve found a couple of books to be useful—and both are written by polyglots.

The first is Language is Music: Over 70 Fun and Easy Tips to Learn Foreign Languages. I got this as an eBook, and the tips are indeed useful. The emphasis is on listening to the language you’re learning as music: learn the tonal patterns, the rhythm, the flow of the language. The author, Susanna Zaraysky, uses the example of native speakers of Vietnamese, a language in which each syllable is spoken as a word. When a native Vietnamese speaker learns English without learning the "English melody"—the rhythm and tones of English—the staccato delivery makes his speech difficult for a native English speaker to understand. Thus Zaraysky strongly recommends listening to the language from the very beginning: songs, movies, audiobooks, native speakers, radio or TV programs: whatever is handy. Listen to the language at length, until you absorb its tonality, rhythm, and sound.

Zaraysky studied ten languages (English, Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Hebrew, Arabic, and Hungarian) and still speaks seven of them.

On the whole, I have found her book (with 70 tips in all) to be helpful in moving my learning along.

Another polyglot, Kató Lomb, started learning other languages as an adult. A translator and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world, Lomb worked in 16 languages for state and business concerns in her native Hungary. Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, first published in 1970, is a collection of anecdotes and reflections on language learning. Because Dr. Lomb learned her languages as an adult, after getting a PhD in chemistry, the methods she used will be of particular interest to adult learners who want to master a foreign language.

Both books are quite valuable for adult language learners.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 3:21 pm

More on BPA’s effects on us: Heart disease

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As if erectile dysfunction wasn’t bad enough, now BPA is implicated in heart disease. Rachel Ehrenberg in Science News:

A previously reported link between exposure to the plastics chemical bisphenol A and heart disease stands, reports a new study published online January 12 in PLoS ONE.

Added to previous work, the finding provides a third prong of evidence implicating the chemical in cardiovascular and metabolic problems, notes Richard Stahlhut of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester in New York. “It’s becoming a coherent picture that really does fit together,” says Stahlhut, who was not involved in the research. “If these all connect, we really do have a problem.”

Researchers analyzed data from the 2005–2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NHANES uses physical examinations, clinical and lab tests, and personal interviews to get a snapshot of the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population. The new analysis of 2005–2006 data reveals an association between concentrations of bisphenol A in urine and risk of cardiovascular disease, a link also detected in the 2003–2004 NHANES data.

“We now have two completely separate samples with completely different people,” says study coauthor David Melzer, an epidemiologist at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, England. The new work shows that the previous finding of a link “wasn’t a blip,” Melzer says. “It does need to be investigated.”

Human exposure to bisphenol A is widespread. The chemical is a building block of polycarbonate plastics and is common in the epoxy linings of canned food. It also mimics estrogen. Numerous studies have found that BPA interferes with development and function in a range of tissues.

The NHANES link to cardiovascular disease is a third line of evidence implicating the chemical in …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:29 am

Top 10 sites that feature Top 10 lists

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I like the recursion. Take a look if you like that sort of thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life

Crayon Physics Deluxe: pay what you want (through Friday)

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Crayon Physics itself was quite good, and Crayon Physics Deluxe is even better. Read about it here, including screenshots.

And while you’re at it, here’s a review of a different physics game.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:17 am

"Teach the controversy" – Not

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Via Open Culture:

Philosopher A.C. Grayling explains why "Teaching the Controversy" isn’t a good approach to science education, whether it’s regarding Evolution, Astronomy or Medicine.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:12 am

Free iPhone-App Development Course

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Wishing for an iPhone App that you cannot find? Why not develop it yourself? From Dan Colman at Open Culture:

Last year, Stanford University gave iPhone owners around the world a boost when it released a free iPhone App Development course (find it on iTunes). Millions have since downloaded the lectures, and many new iPhone apps have been created as a result. (Partly thanks to this course, we developed our own Free iPhone App that gives you mobile access to our educational media collections — free audio books, free university courses, free language lessons, etc. Get our app here.)

This week, Stanford has started rolling out a new App Development course (get it in video on iTunes), one adapted to the new iPhone operating system that Apple released last summer. Two lectures have been released so far. More will get rolled out on a weekly basis. Please note, these courses also appear in our collection of Computer Science Courses, a subset of our larger collection of Free Courses from leading universities.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:11 am

Google Wave FAQ

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:07 am

The responsibility of governing a major nation

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When governing a nation the size and importance of the United States, you would expect legislators to be serious, thoughtful, and focused on the heavy responsibilities of ensuring the public good and our nation’s strength—and you would be wrong. Take a look at this, received from the Center for American Progress via email:

"Republicans are stepping up their effort to block Erroll Southers from becoming head of the Transportation Security Administration," Politico reported yesterday. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has been blocking the confirmation of Southers — a counterterrorism expert and assistant chief for homeland security at Los Angeles World Airports’ police department — in a political effort "to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) said Southers is "more than qualified" to lead TSA, but conservatives are intent on playing politics with his nomination. Conservative blog Hot Air has called "ludicrous" Southers’ comment that terrorism "deserves to perhaps have some parity with global warming" in security considerations. But the Pentagon, the National Intelligence Council, and the CIA have all recognized the national security threat posed by climate change.

LifeNews has attacked Southers for saying homegrown terrorist groups — particularly white supremacist groups — are "anti-government, in most cases anti-abortion." But Southers was right, a Homeland Security report published last August warned that right-wing extremists, "specifically the white supremacist and militia movements," may "include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion." Incidents like the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller confirmed the report’s prediction.

Meanwhile, The Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso took issue with Southers’ observation that the U.S. alliance with "countries that are seen by groups, by al Qaeda, as infidels" such as Israel may subject us to greater risk of attack. Of course U.S. support for Israel has been a chief grievance of al-Qaeda and its ideological allies. In 1996, Osama bin Laden called for raising "the banner of Jihad against the American-Zionist alliance occupying the sanctities of Islam." In 2008, he reiterated his hateful screed: "We shall continue the fight, Allah willing, against the Israelis and their allies."

Note that the issue is not whether Southers is qualified. The issue is whether the Obama Administration will carry out the GOP party’s platform and whether candidates can be allowed to make true statements that conflict with the GOP worldview.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 11:05 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

PowerPoint searches

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Slideshare.net is a site where people can post slide shows, and this morning I found this one: a 2-slide review of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving.

I hadn’t realized that so many slide shows were available on the Web. This post at MakeUseOf.com lists and reviews 5 search engines that are specifically designed to seek out PowerPoint presentations. Even if you don’t use one of the presentations, reviewing relevant presentations will probably give you good ideas for the presentation you’re working on.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:59 am

Google and China

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James Fallows has a very interesting take on the Google/China kerfuffle:

I have not yet been able to reach my friends in China to discuss this story, and for now I am judging the Google response strictly by what the company has posted on its "Official Blog," here, and my observations from dealing with Google-China officials while overseas. Therefore this will epitomize the Web-age reaction to a breaking news story, in that it will be a first imperfect assessment, subject to revision as new facts come in. With that caveat, here is what I think as I hear this news:

- It is a significant development. Significant for Google; and while only marginally significant for developments inside China potentially very significant for China’s relations with the rest of the world.

- The significance for Google is of the "last straw" variety. For years, the company has struggled to maintain …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:46 am

The US government and its persistent discrimination against gays

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David Boaz has an interesting article at Cato at Liberty. From that article:

…  A happy ending all around. As long as you’re heterosexual. Because, of course, if you’re gay, the U.S. government will tell you that your life partner from Brazil may be allowed to visit the United States, but he won’t be allowed to stay. And guess what? He could stay if you were married, but you can’t get married. Catch-22. And even though you could now marry in some foreign countries and some American states and the District of Columbia, the Defense of Marriage Act still prevents the federal government — including its immigration enforcers — from recognizing valid marriages between same-sex partners.

Is this just a theoretical complaint? As a matter of fact, not at all. At least two well-known writers have recently faced exactly the same situation Gilbert did: a Brazilian life partner who couldn’t live in the United States. Glenn Greenwald, a blogger, author of bestselling books, and author of a Cato Institute study on drug reform in Portugal, has written about his own situation and that of others. Like Greenwald, Chris Crain, former editor of the Washington Blade, has also moved to Brazil to be with his partner.

Carolyn See, reviewing Gilbert’s book in the Washington Post, wrote, “The U.S. government, like a stern father, proposed a shotgun marriage of sorts: If you want to be with him in this country, this Brazilian we don’t know all that much about, you’ll have to marry him.” A shotgun marriage, sort of. But at least the government gave Gilbert a choice. It just told Greenwald and Crain no.

This unfairness could be solved, of course, if the government would have the good sense to listen to Cato chairman Bob Levy, who wrote last week in the New York Daily News on “the moral and constitutional case for gay marriage.” And it may be solved by the lawsuit seeking to overturn California’s Proposition 8 that is being spearheaded by liberal lawyer David Boies and conservative lawyer Ted Olson, writes Newsweek’s cover story this week, “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.” Until then: eat, pray, love, marry — as long as you’re heterosexual.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:43 am

The absolute total f*****g stupidity of politicians

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This makes my brain hurt:

I received a letter from Downing Street this week, in response to my meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to call for an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act. In July of last year I met with the PM to ask the Government to compare and contrast the impacts of the current prohibitionist legislation with alternatives, including legal regulation and control. Here is the briefing that I gave him.
His response is in full below. It includes the following:

"We do not intend to undertake an impact assessment comparing the costs and benefits of different legislative options for domestic drug policy. We see no merit in embarking upon such an undertaking in view of our longstanding position that we do not accept that legalisation and regulation are now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence of drugs."

So let me get this straight, the Government will not review the evidence of efficacy of the current policy or compare it with alternatives because it is committed to the current regime and, without exploring the outcomes of the Misuse of Drugs Act or prohibition, has decided that alternatives are "not acceptable". So far, so bad. Let’s not let evidence get in the way of an effective drug policy (witness the sacking of David Nutt). Meanwhile our tax pounds will be spent on prohibition, without checking whether the policy is of any use, or heaven forfend, totally counterproductive…

I am also not overly reassured by:

"We are working to ensure that UN drugs activity is based on evidence and effectiveness…"

Do not forget that the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has identified the Drug Control System as the cause of much of the ‘drug problem’.
But there’s more – the absolutist position – that regulation will not be acceptable now "…or in the future…" Yes folks, that means for ever!
…and is a statement that is completely undermined by the fact that legal regulation is the Government’s chosen option for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine etc etc
It also suggests:

"The methodological challenges involved in attempting to calculate the scale of the drugs market (supply and demand) and the costs of its harms are very significant."

Oh, so it’s too hard is it? I can think of many experts from all round the world who would be delighted to assist in this task. At any rate, this "challenge" is created by gifting the market to unregulated dealers in the first place…

Continue reading the post at Transform.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:39 am

How to help the people of Haiti

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The Eldest emails to tell me that she texted "yele” to 501501 to donate $5 to Yéle Haiti charity via your cell phone bill. She also pointed out this CNN page, which offers a large variety of ways to help. Among them:

How you can help:
International Medical Corps
Direct Relief International
World Vision
International Relief Teams
Yéle Haiti
American Red Cross
Operation USA
CARE
Catholic Relief Services
World Food Programme
World Concern
Save the Children
UNICEF USA
Mercy Corps
Operation Blessing International
Shelterbox
Americares
Operation USA
Doctors Without Borders
Medical Teams International
The International Committee of the Red Cross
The Salvation Army
More ways to help victims of NATURAL DISASTERS

There’s more at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:33 am

Best description of my knee problem

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I just happened across this yesterday. I wish I had found it when I first had the pain. Pes anserine bursitis risk factors, symptoms, and treatment laid out quite clearly.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 10:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Lather experiment

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In looking at the suribachi, I had the idea of using it with the Tabula Rasa shaving cream and a boar brush. So I took a small amount of the cream, rubbed it into the base of the bowl, and worked up a lather with the Omega 48 boar brush. Not a bad first pass, but then the lather was totally gone. Possibly I didn’t use enough of the Tabula Rasa.

I opened the Woods of Windsor shaving soap, worked up a lather with that—a perfect lather, may I say—and did pass 2 and 3 that way. With the soap, the boar brush was perfect.

My Gillette NEW with a much used Swedish Gillette blade still delivered a smooth and easy shave, and Lustray Spice is a very nice aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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