Later On

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

Archive for October 2010

Weight-loss projection

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I started this regimen on 6/7/2010, 20.86 weeks ago, and I’ve lost to date 32 lbs. That comes out to just over 1.5 lbs/week. Assuming that the best predictor of future behavior is past performance, I would guess that the 4 months (17.14 weeks) to come I’ll lose 26 lbs, more or less. That would be 192 lbs, 17 lbs short of goal. That won’t be too bad, and of course I might lose more than 1.5 lbs in some weeks.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Fighting drug legalization with bullshit

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Mark Kleiman:

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have produced a document called “Speak Out Against Drug Legalization.” It demonstrates that the drug warriors, like the Bourbons at their Restoration, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. A couple of quotes will illustrate.

In opposition to the idea that legalization would help stop the carnage in Mexico, the document says:

    • Criminals won’t stop being criminals if we make drugs legal. Individuals who have chosen to pursue a life of crime and violence aren’t likely to change course, get legitimate jobs, and become honest, tax-paying citizens just because we legalize drugs. The individuals and organizations that smuggle drugs don’t do so because they enjoy the challenge of “making a sale.” They sell drugs because that’s what makes them the most money.
    • The violence in Mexico is a reflection of a larger battle as to whether Mexico will be governed under the rule of law, or the rule of the gun. We should take steps to reduce the killings by the drug cartels in Mexico and along our Southwest border, but suggesting that legalizing dope is going to make a difference in this effort makes no sense. The fight in Mexico is over money, and not just money generated by drugs, but for any illegal activity where profits can be made.
    • Drug-related violence in Mexico is not a fight over market access or distribution chains in the United States, but the result of major Mexican drug trafficking organizations vying for control of both the drug smuggling routes leading into and out of Mexico, and transportation corridors along the border.

That is, handing criminals a multi-billion-dollar market doesn’t do anything to increase their criminal activity. R-i-i-i-i-i-ight. And of course some people are born “criminals,” and the structure of economic opportunity has nothing to do with their choices. Again, r-i-i-i-i-i-ight.

On the medical uses of cannabis, the report says:

    • Scientific studies have never established that marijuana can be used safely and effectively for the treatment of any disease or condition.

Of course it’s true that no one has yet submitted to the FDA two well-controlled clinical trials showing that a specific cannabis product grown and blended under Good Manufacturing Practice is safe and effective; otherwise that particular product would be a Schedule II prescription drug. But since the DEA has forbidden anyone interested in carrying on such studies from producing the product that then might be tested, and since the one facility allowed to produce cannabis for research has no interest in developing medical products, it’s not really surprising that those studies haven’t been done. But equally of course there are good studies showing safety and efficacy for, among others, the spasm that accompanies MS, neuropathic pain, and appetite loss.

The report notes that the chief active agent in cannabis, Δ9-THC, is an approved medicine, orally administered, under the trade name Marinol. If Marinol is effective, then high-THC cannabis must be effective. The report doesn’t note that oral administration is a lousy way to take this particular drug, since absorption through the gut is slow and unpredictable as to timing and amount, while absorption through the lung is quick and reliable, allowing not only speedy relief but also patient titration. Nor does it mention the fact – otherwise beloved of the drug warriors – that a product high in THC and low in (or in this case, entirely lacking) cannabidiol is puts the user at increased risk of dysphoria and panic attacks. The report doesn’t even mention Sativex, the extract of whole cannabis now approved as medicine (in oral-spray form) in Canada and the UK, or the prospect that vaporization can deliver all of the active agents in natural cannabis to the lung without adding the mixture of hot gasses, particulates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that comes from smoking.

One slightly encouraging feature of the document is the full-throated attack on the currently licit drugs alcohol and nicotine. The report doesn’t quite go so far as proposing to do anything about the problem – for example, by drastically increasing alcohol taxation or banning alcohol sales to people convicted of alcohol-related crimes – perhaps because that might suggest that complete prohibition is not the only approach to controlling drug abuse. But at least it represents progress compared to the old drug-warrior position that legal drugs aren’t really, y’know, drugs.

Footnote If the Tea Partiers and their tame politicians were genuinely against nanny-state big government and for states’ rights, wouldn’t they favor repeal of the Controlled Substances Act? Under the theories they espouse, wouldn’t hey regard it as unconstitutional? Just askin’.

Opposition to drug legalization relies heavily on ignorance and stupidity.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Government

Everything you need to write successfully, according to Stephen King

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Stephen King reveals the secrets:

I. The First Introduction

THAT’S RIGHT. I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

II. The Story, or, How Stephen King Learned to Write

When I was a sophomore in high school, I did a sophomoric thing which got me in a pot of fairly hot water, as sophomoric didoes often do. I wrote and published a small satiric newspaper called The Village Vomit. In this little paper I lampooned a number of teachers at Lisbon (Maine) High School, where I was under instruction. These were not very gentle lampoons; they ranged from the scatological to the downright cruel.

Eventually, a copy of this little newspaper found its way into the hands of a faculty member, and since I had been unwise enough to put my name on it (a fault, some critics argue, of which I have still not been entirely cured), I was brought into the office. The sophisticated satirist had by that time reverted to what he really was: a fourteen-year-old kid who was shaking in his boots and wondering if he was going to get a suspension … what we called “a three-day vacation” in those dim days of 1964.

I wasn’t suspended. I was forced to make a number of apologies – they were warranted, but they still tasted like dog-dirt in my mouth – and spent a week in detention hall. And the guidance counselor arranged what he no doubt thought of as a more constructive channel for my talents. This was a job – contingent upon the editor’s approval – writing sports for the Lisbon Enterprise, a twelve-page weekly of the sort with which any small-town resident will be familiar. This editor was the man who taught me everything I know about writing in ten minutes. His name was John Gould – not the famed New England humorist or the novelist who wrote The Greenleaf Fires, but a relative of both, I believe.

He told me he needed a sports writer and we could “try each other out” if I wanted.

I told him I knew more about advanced algebra than I did sports.

Gould nodded and said, “You’ll learn.”

I said I would at least try to learn. Gould gave me a huge roll of yellow paper and promised me a wage of 1/2¢ per word. The first two pieces I wrote had to do with a high school basketball game in which a member of my school team broke the Lisbon High scoring record. One of these pieces was straight reportage. The second was a feature article.

I brought them to Gould the day after the game, so he’d have them for the paper, which came out Fridays. He read the straight piece, made two minor corrections, and spiked it. Then he started in on the feature piece with a large black pen and taught me all I ever needed to know about my craft. I wish I still had the piece – it deserves to be framed, editorial corrections and all – but I can remember pretty well how it looked when he had finished with it. Here’s an example:

(note: this is before the edit marks indicated on King’s original copy)

Last night, in the well-loved gymnasium of Lisbon High School, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom, known as “Bullet” Bob for both his size and accuracy, scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his knight-like quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon thinclads since 1953….

(after edit marks)

Last night, in the Lisbon High School gymnasium, partisans and Jay Hills fans alike were stunned by an athletic performance unequaled in school history: Bob Ransom scored thirty-seven points. He did it with grace and speed … and he did it with an odd courtesy as well, committing only two personal fouls in his quest for a record which has eluded Lisbon’s basketball team since 1953…. 

When Gould finished marking up my copy in the manner I have indicated above, he looked up and must have seen something on my face. I think he must have thought it was horror, but it was not: it was revelation.

“I only took out the bad parts, you know,” he said. “Most of it’s pretty good.”

“I know,” I said, meaning both things: yes, most of it was good, and yes, he had only taken out the bad parts. “I won’t do it again.”

“If that’s true,” he said, “you’ll never have to work again. You can do this for a living.” Then he threw back his head and laughed.

And he was right; I am doing this for a living, and as long as I can keep on, I don’t expect ever to have to work again.

III. The Second Introduction

All of what follows has been said before. If you are interested enough in writing to be a purchaser of this magazine, you will have either heard or read all (or almost all) of it before. Thousands of writing courses are taught across the United States each year; seminars are convened; guest lecturers talk, then answer questions, then drink as many gin and tonics as their expense-fees will allow, and it all boils down to what follows.

I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen – really listen – to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he’s talking about. This is sad but true. And I told you the story above not to make myself sound like a character out of a Horatio Alger novel but to make a point: I saw, I listened, and I learned. Until that day in John Gould’s little office, I had been writing first drafts of stories which might run 2,500 words. The second drafts were apt to run 3,300 words. Following that day, my 2,500-word first drafts became 2,200-word second drafts. And two years after that, I sold the first one.

So here it is, with all the bark stripped off. It’ll take ten minutes to read, and you can apply it right away … if you listen.

IV. Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

10 biggest money savers from The Simple Dollar

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Interesting list by Trent Hamm. The first 5 in the list (which he says is in no particular order):

PaperBackSwap
I have, quite literally, received hundreds of nearly free books in the mail thanks to this service. Considering that I’m an avid book reader, devouring three books a week when I’m really rolling, that’s a tremendous savings compared to my earlier habit of buying piles of books at Borders and from Amazon.

PaperBackSwap is really simple. You sign up, list ten books you own that you don’t want, and pledge to send them out to any member that requests them. This earns you two “credits” on the site. For a credit, you can request that any book on the site be sent to you (and there are millions of them). You can earn more credits by fulfilling the requests of others who ask you to mail them a book that you’ve listed – it costs about $2 to send one via Media Mail. That’s it – you’re basically getting access to an enormous used book library for $2.

The library
I love my local library. It’s that simple.

Most people see the word “library” and think “books.” Books merely scratch the surface of the free stuff available there: magazines, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, children’s programs, adult discussion groups, community messageboards, meeting rooms … the list goes on and on. All of this stuff is just sitting there waiting for you to use it.

Learning to cook well at home
Once upon a time, my wife and I ate out several times a week. Why? In our minds, it gave us an opportunity to talk while someone was making a meal for us.

After my financial meltdown, we started making more and more food at home. At first, it was a money saving tactic, but at some point, we realized that we were making some really good meals at home. Plus, we weren’t really missing out on the conversation, since we were often making the meals together and talking while we were doing it.

Keeping a pocket notebook
How can this be a big money saver? Easy. I use it to jot down prices on items for comparison shopping. I use it to note sales. I use it to note gift ideas that people mention. I use it for shopping lists.

I also use such a notebook to earn more money, too. I use it to record ideas. I use it to make very rough outlines of posts. I use it to make note of important things I need to get done in my own life.

I use it for so many things that have a positive effect on my finances (and my broader life) that I could scarcely live without it.

Netflix
On Tuesday, we’re losing our cable box. The biggest reason, honestly, is Netflix.

Why? For $9 a month (way cheaper than our cable bill), we get a giant mountain of commercial-free entertainment that we can watch on our television. We choose what we want, wait three seconds, and it’s showing. Plus, we get new movie releases in the mail.

It’s drastically cheaper than the $60 a month or so that our cable bill is and we don’t feel like we’re missing out on much, especially in conjunction with over-the-air signals…

Read ‘em all.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life

Superfood list

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Superfood lists are always fun, especially since they inevitably include some foods that are the very worst thing ever in the view of some foodies. (Canola oil, anyone?) Here’s a list by Karen Ansel that appeared in Woman’s Day. From the full list of 52 (I assume that the initial idea was a deck of superfood playing cards), the top 25:

1. Eggs Each egg has 6 grams of protein but just 72 calories. No wonder researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that eating eggs for breakfast (as part of a low-cal diet) helps you slim down.

2. Tomato sauce It’s loaded with lycopene, which makes your skin look younger and keeps your heart healthy. In fact, a Harvard study found that women with the most lycopene in their blood reduced their risk of a heart attack by 34%. [Watermelon has much more available lycopene. – LG]

3. Dried plums (prunes) They’re packed with polyphenols, plant chemicals that have been shown to boost bone density by stimulating your bone-building cells.

4. Walnuts Just 14 walnut halves provide more than twice your daily dose of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat that’s been shown to improve memory and coordination.

5. Brussels sprouts They have more glucosinolates (compounds that combat cancer and detoxify our bodies) than any other vegetable. For a side dish that will make you wonder why you’ve been avoiding them, slice each one into quarters, then sauté in olive oil with chopped sweet Vidalia onions.

6. Acai juice A glass or two of this anthocyanin-rich berry juice can dramatically boost the amount of antioxidants in your blood, say Texas A&M University researchers.

7. Apples They contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may reduce your risk of lung cancer.

8. Bok choy This calcium-rich veggie can protect your bones and may even ward off PMS symptoms.

9. Steel-cut oats Because they’re less processed than traditional oats, they’re digested more slowly—keeping you full all morning long. [And so it follows that oat groats---whole-grain oats, not cut or processed---would be even better. And they are. – LG]

10. Salmon You’ll get all the heart-smart omega-3s you need in a day from just 3 oz.

11. Avocados Their healthy fat keeps you satisfied and helps you absorb other nutrients. For a new u twist, brush a halved avocado (pit removed) with olive oil and grill 1 minute. Serve with red onion, sliced grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.

12. Spinach A half-cup provides more than five times your daily dose of vitamin K, which helps blood clot and builds strong bones.

13. Canned pumpkin It’s filled with natural cancer fighters alpha- and beta-carotene.

14. Cauliflower White foods can be good for you! This one is packed with cancer-fighting glucosinolates.

15. Scallops A 3-oz serving has 14 grams of protein but just 75 calories.

16. Collard greens They’re exploding with nutrients like vitamin A, zeaxanthin and lutein, which keep your eyes healthy.

17. Olives They deliver the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat you get in olive oil, but for just 7 calories per jumbo olive!

18. Brown rice It’s a top source of magnesium, a mineral your body uses for more than 300 chemical reactions (such as building bones and converting food to energy).

19. Oysters These keep your immune system strong. A 3-oz serving (about 6 oysters) dishes up a quarter of your daily iron, plus nearly twice the zinc and all the selenium you need in a day.

20. Edamame One cup has a whopping 22 grams of plant protein, as well as lots of fiber, folate and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.

21. Strawberries They’re loaded with ellagitannins, phytochemicals that may halt the growth of cervical and colon cancers.

22. Lentils A great source of meat-free protein, a half-cup of cooked lentils also gives you nearly half your daily folate, a B vitamin that protects a woman’s unborn baby from neural tube defects.

23. Bran flakes Their whole grains keep your heart in tip-top shape by reducing inflammation and melting away belly fat.

24. Kiwi Italian researchers found that it reduces asthma-related wheezing, thanks to its high vitamin C content (one kiwi has 110% of your daily requirement).

25. Black beans They’re loaded with protein, fiber, and flavonoids—antioxidants that help your arteries stay relaxed and pliable.

Read the entire list.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 11:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

What motivates us

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I’m reading with great interest and enjoyment Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I got interested in the book when I watched this brief video animation of a talk by Pink. Worth viewing, and the book is quite intriguing.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 10:42 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich?

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Check out these. For example:

The Sergeant Pepper

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in small pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold seltzer water (club soda)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices Wisconsin Pepper Jack cheese
  • 4 slices Wisconsin Cheddar cheese

Heat large sauté pan over high heat. Add butter and cauliflower; sauté on high until brown, stirring so cauliflower doesn’t burn. Season with salt and pepper; remove to plate lined with paper towels; drain.

For batter: Whisk together flours, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk in cold seltzer water until smooth. (Water MUST be cold for tempura-type batter.) Store batter in the refrigerator until ready to fry.

Heat 3-4 inches vegetable oil to 350ºF in fryer or deep pan. Dip onion slices into the batter to cover and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper-towel-lined plates and season with salt and pepper.

Heat grill over medium. Drizzle one side of each slice of bread with a 1/2 tablespoon olive oil; place 4 slices, oil-side down, on grill (or use Panini press). Top each slice with Pepper Jack, cauliflower, fried onions, and a slice of Cheddar, in that order. Place remaining 4 bread slices on top of sandwiches, oil-side up. Grill, turning once, until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted.

No. of Servings: 4

Written by LeisureGuy

31 October 2010 at 10:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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