Archive for February 29th, 2012
I suggest that you simply watch it—the brief summary was totally beside the point and misleading. Ignore. Best just watch. Modern day, Chinese, good. Triple Tap.
If the “no reading” rule is serious, that means no blogging for a fortnight. So don’t expect much until the ides of March.
UPDATE: Hey, wait a minute. They’re not operating on my right eye, just my left. I should (I think—but I’ll ask) be able to resume my normal viewing activities (e.g., reading) immediately with the right eye. Maybe I’ll look for an eye patch.
I do have questions for the doctor tomorrow.
The Wife has said she will update with report.
James Fallows has a good post on Google’s privacy rules as well as some simple steps to take. He also describes how to check how much info Google already has on you.
This time, though, I’m getting a general anesthetic: that local stuff isn’t enough for me.
Problem is retinal detachment at edge of left eye, which accounts for a shadow at the edge of my field of vision. Solution is a procedure (or two) to reattach. Pack is quick: want to get it fixed before the detachment moves into center of field of vision.
So: tomorrow The Wife will drive me up to San Jose. Meet doctor at 10:30, surgery at 1:30, nothing by mouth after midnight.
Success rate is around 85% (not very high, IMO), but the fallback is a second operation which generally works. The disclosure form does include a long list of what can go wrong, which was unpleasant reading and doesn’t alter the fact that I have to go up there tomorrow and hope for the best.
We’ll see. As it were.
UPDATE: I just read the “do’s and don’ts following surgery” thing. Bad news. No reading for a couple of weeks. Movies okay. If air bubble is used, doctor will prescribe sleeping position, which will be some form of sleeping on my back for a while. No Pilates for at least a month. No new glasses for like 6 months. The total list is somewhat lengthy. But time will pass.
Intriguing article in the Washington Post by Brian Vastag:
When the crew of the Virginia scallop trawler Cinmar hauled a mastodon tusk onto the deck in 1970, another oddity dropped out of the net: A dark, tapered stone blade, nearly eight inches long and still sharp.
Forty years later, this rediscovered prehistoric slasher has reopened debate on a radical theory about who the first Americans were and when they got here.
Archaeologists have long held that North America remained unpopulated until about 15,000 years ago, when Siberian people walked or boated into Alaska and down the West Coast.
But the mastodon relic turned out to be 22,000 years old, suggesting the blade was just as ancient.
Whoever fashioned that blade was not supposed to be here.
Its makers likely paddled from Europe and arrived in America thousands of years ahead of the western migration, argues Smithsonian Institution anthropologist Dennis Stanford, making them the first Americans.
“I think it’s feasible,” said Tom Dillehay, a prominent archaeologist at Vanderbilt University. “The evidence is building up and it certainly warrants discussion.”
At the height of the last Ice Age, Stanford says, mysterious stone-age European people known as the Solutreans paddled along an ice cap jutting into the North Atlantic. They lived like Inuits, harvesting seals and seabirds.
The Solutreans eventually spread across North America, Stanford argues, hauling their distinctive blades with them.
When Stanford proposed this “Solutrean hypothesis” in 1999, colleagues roundly rejected it. One prominent archaeologist suggested Stanford was throwing his career away.
But now, 13 years later, Stanford and Exeter University archaeologist Bruce Bradley lay out a detailed case – bolstered by the curious blade and other stone tools recently found in the mid-Atlantic – in a new book, Across Atlantic Ice .
“I drank the Solutrean Kool-aid,” said Steve Black, an archaeologist at Texas State University in San Marcos. “I had been very dubious. It’s something a lot of [archaeologists] have dismissed out of hand. But I came away from the book feeling like it’s an extremely credible idea that needs to be taken seriously.”
Other experts remain unconvinced. “Anyone advancing a radically different hypothesis must be willing to take his licks from skeptics,” said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada-Reno.
Stone tools recovered from five mid-Atlantic sites are at the core of Stanford’s case. Two of the sites lie on Chesapeake Bay islands, suggesting the Solutreans settled Delmarva early on. Blades, anvils and other tools found by Smithsonian research associate Darrin Lowery were stuck in soil at least 20,000 years old.
Displaying some of the tools in his office at the National Museum of Natural History, Stanford handles a milky chert blade and says, “This stuff is beginning to give us a real nice picture of occupation of the Eastern Shore around 20,000 years ago.”
Further, the Eastern Shore blades strongly resemble those found at dozens of stone-age Solutrean sites in Spain and France, Stanford says. “We can match each one of 18 styles up to the sites in Europe.” . . .
Corporations seem free to do as they want, with no accountability beyond paying a fine (accompanied by a statement that the company does not admit doing anything illegal or wrong). I believe that the immunity that companies now enjoy from punishment is part of the corporate takeover of our country, and the continued weakening of regulation and monitoring is something they’ve been working toward for quite a while.
Now it seems they’re just about ready to move to overt control, with the USDA eager to do Monsanto’s bidding. Anthony Gucciardi writes in Nation of Change:
If you thought Monsanto’s lack of testing on their current GMO crops was bad before, prepare to now be blown away by the latest statement by the USDA. Despite links to organ damage and mutated insects, the USDA says that it is changing the rules so that genetically modified seed companies like Monsanto will get ‘speedier regulatory reviews’. With the faster reviews, there will be even less time spent on evaluating the potential dangers. Why? Because Monsanto is losing sales with longer approval terms.
The changes are expected to take full effect in March when they’re published in the Federal Register. The USDA’s goal is to cut the approval time for GMO crops in half in order to speedily implement them into the global food supply. The current USDA process takes longer than they would like due to ‘public interest, legal challenges, and the challenges associated with the advent of national organic food standards‘ says USDA deputy administrator Michael Gregoire.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, problems like public interest (activist groups attempting to bring the dangers of GMO crops to light), legal challenges (farmers suing Monsanto over genetic contamination), and national food standards are all getting in the way of their prime goal — to help Monsanto unleash their latest untested GMO creation. In fact, the concern is that Monsanto may be losing cash flow as nations like Brazil speed genetically modified seeds through laughable approval processes.
Steve Censky, chief executive officer of the American Soybean Association, states it quite plainly. This is a move to help Monsanto and other biotechnology giants squash competition and make profits. After all, who cares about public health?
“It is a concern from a competition standpoint,” Censky said in a telephone interview.
The same statements are re-iterated by analyst Jeff Windau in an interview with Bloomberg:
“If you can reduce the approval time, you get sales that much faster,” said Windau
If you can reduce the approval time, as in the time it takes to determine if these food products are safe, then you can get sales much faster. Is the USDA working for the United States consumer, or is it working for Monsanto?
Years ago there was a little device that was a pedometer that fitted into a cradle connected to the computer and uploaded statistics to a site where you could see them, including graphically, and share them.
They were $99 and the Web service was free. I was very enthusiastic, and they worked like a charm. Unfortunately, the business model was bad and they went belly up. So it goes.
But the same idea is back, and better than ever. Now the device is called the Fitbit and was selected as a Cool Tool (which is where I learned of it). This has many improvements over the earlier device: smaller, lighter, communicates wirelessly (through the base station, which has to be plugged into a USB port for the wireless part to work—you can also simply put the Fitbit on the base station and collect the data that way.
UPDATE: Some of the graphical displays on-line, etc., are restricted to the Premium subscribers (about $1/week, so not bad in terms of (say) coffee expenses). They are very nice displays, and the wireless reading of the pedometer works like a charm: the base station is plugged into a USB port, and when I’m near, all my stats are updated.
Those who need data to conquer a sleep problem will be interested in the sleep-monitor functions.
The Web site has lots of goodies, including track steps, diet, exercise, glucose, etc., and quite a few reports as well—but the business model has been changed: quite a few of the features require $50/year subscription. (That was what did in the earlier device: their only revenue stream was from sales of the device.)
As with the earlier device, there’s a social aspect. You can create a group (a family group, for example) and see the group’s activity.
Take a look at their Web site. They do a good job of explaining it.
Intriguing book review by Fred Pearce in New Scientist:
In Waking the Giant: How a changing climate triggers earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes, geologist Bill McGuire warns we may be waking primordial monsters
IN 2006, London geologist Bill McGuire argued in New Scientist that global warming would trigger epidemics of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Now he’s written the book. The story is even scarier writ large.
The world as McGuire sees it in Waking the Giant sometimes seems more ancient myth than modern science. It is one where subterranean events are intimately linked to those above ground, and we are awakening primordial monsters.
There is now abundant evidence that catastrophic outbursts of geological activity accompanied past periods of rapid climate change, for instance, when we shifted in and out of ice ages. The stresses and strains of rising and falling sea levels and the creation and loss of ice sheets triggered these outbursts. Climate change, he says, may already be shaking up the Earth anew.
During the last ice age, the weight of ice suppressed volcanic eruptions. When the ice melted the land surface lifted, sometimes by hundreds of metres, reducing pressure below and turning solid rock to liquid magma. The pent-up rage of the Earth was released. As the ice age faded, the number of volcanic eruptions grew 50-fold. Global warming threatens a reprise.
McGuire explains that volcanoes “are primed systems constantly teetering on the edge of stability and highly sensitive to minuscule changes to their external environment”. He is not just talking about geological timescales. The Earth changes shape with the seasons as water shifts hemispheres, squashing or releasing the land beneath. It squeezes magma like toothpaste in a tube. In the northern hemisphere, November to April is volcano season.
As shifting ice and water destabilise hidden faults in the Earth’s crust, earthquakes join this dance of giants. In recent decades, we have seen an “unprecedented cluster of massive earthquakes”, McGuire notes. Since 1900, seven have exceeded magnitude 8.8. Three “megaquakes” off Sumatra, Chile and Japan ripped the Earth apart in the past seven years alone.
It could be that something is afoot. Six years ago, McGuire suggested shrinking glaciers in New Zealand’s Southern Alps might trigger an earthquake. Cue Christchurch last year.
The climate, we know, has been unusually stable in the past 10,000 years. That meant the world was more geologically stable as well. Now, as we face future climate chaos, we may also face geological mayhem.
State legislators in New Hampshire, who are on the verge of writing government-sanctioned discrimination back into state law, might want to take a look at a powerful ruling on marriage equalityby the federal appeals court in San Francisco.
A three-judge panel on the court ruled 2 to 1 that the California ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional because it singled out a minority group and took away a right — the right to marry — that had been granted to them by the State Legislature “without a legitimate reason for doing so.”
The judges said the United States Constitution “simply does not allow for” laws that are intended only to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”
This is just what the New Hampshire Legislature seems poised to do. The state extended the right to marry to all its citizens in 2009, but right-wingers vowed to overturn the law and now stand a good chance of doing so.
Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has said he would veto such a bill, but the Republicans in both houses of the Legislature have veto-proof majorities. Partisan lines on this issue are a bit fuzzy, so it’s still not clear whether enough Republicans would balk at so blatantly setting back the cause of equal rights.
It is especially distressing to see this slide in New Hampshire when other states are moving forward. Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland is on the verge of signing a marriage-equality bill.
New Hampshire’s bill would not affect the 1,900 same-sex couples who have married since 2009, but it would replace marriage with the separate-and-unequal system of “civil unions.” There is no “legitimate reason” for this. The argument that same-sex marriages somehow harm marriages between men and women does not hold water. The marriage rate in New Hampshire has not suffered at all since 2009. If anything, it’s gone up a tick because of new families formed by same-sex couples.
That leaves intolerance, fear and an attempt to impose religious beliefs through the law as motivations, and they have been evident in abundance. Representative David Bates, the Republican who filed the repeal bill, argues that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, and he even included a sentence that says: “Children can only be conceived naturally through copulation by heterosexual couples.” This is breathtakingly dangerous foolishness.
A recent poll by the University of New Hampshire showed that 59 percent of the state’s residents oppose repeal of marriage equality. If Republican lawmakers don’t want to pay attention to the federal court, they should pay attention to their own constituents. The ninth state to ratify the Constitution in 1788 should not be demonstrating such contempt for the nation’s founding principles.
In talking about resistance to gay marriage, the only answers I get are careful not to focus on law, rights, church-state separation, and any legal or rational argument. Bottom line, those opposed have (so far as I can tell) just one line of argument: they don’t like the idea. In fact, it’s identical to the pattern of opposition we once had to interracial marriages in this country. Or to the idea that women could vote.
I must make this. Ingredients:
- 3 pounds pig trotters, split lengthwise or cut crosswise into 1-inch disks (ask your butcher to do this for you)
- 2 pounds chicken backs and carcasses, skin and excess fat removed
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, skin on, roughly chopped
- 12 garlic cloves
- One 3-inch knob ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 whole leeks, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 dozen scallions, white parts only (reserve greens and light green parts for garnishing finished soup)
- 6 ounces whole mushrooms or mushroom scraps
- 1 pound slab pork fat back
The GOP really does seem to include a high proportion of shameless hypocrites, and certainly Charlie White is a good example. Brad Friedman reports in Salon:
It’s OK if you’re a Republican. Even if you commit voter fraud. Even if you are found guilty of three felony counts of voter fraud by a jury of your peers. Even if you are found guilty of six felony counts overall. Even if you are the secretary of state – the chief election official – of the first state in the union to institute polling place photo ID restrictions which Republicans claim are meant to prevent voter fraud but actually succeed only in keeping longtime voters (like 80- and 90-year-old nuns) from being able to cast their previously legal votes.
So long as you’re a Republican, you won’t spend any time in jail for voter fraud. And, if you’re Charlie White, Indiana’s lucky, now-former Republican secretary of state who received just one year of home detention for all of those crimes, you’ll likely be “elated,” just as White was after his sentencing hearing last week.
Less happy are those legal voters who have been kept from voting at all under the laws that White supported — and then violated — during his run to become secretary of state in 2010.
White received one year of home detention — one year for each of his six convictions, to be served concurrently — plus a $1,000 fine and some community service. He was found guilty of, among other things, having lied about his home address, registering to vote from that address, receiving a salary from an elected position as a town council member from that address, and then having voted from it while winning the position of secretary of state. While White, as per Indiana law, is unable to serve in office as a convicted felon, over all he got off easy.
White’s conviction and permissive sentencing illuminate the charade of “voter fraud” as hyped by the Republican Party and Fox News. Compare White’s actions to Kimberly Prude ofWisconsin or Usman Ali of Florida who each committed far less egregious violations of voting laws, yet received far harsher punishment.
Prude and Ali fell victim to the George W. Bush U.S. Dept. of Justice, which was funneling unprecedented resources into ferreting out alleged cases of “voter fraud” – or anything that even looked like it — in order to lay the groundwork for polling place photo ID restriction laws around the country. Their prosecution for crimes that looked like “voter fraud” helped create a record that could be used to justify restrictive identification requirements on voters at the polling place, very much like the one first passed in White’s Indiana in 2008.
What White did was intentional, as two different judges have now found. For Prude and Ali, whose actions accidentally violated the law, enforcement was extraordinarily harsh and backed by the full force of the federal government.
Prude, a 43-year-old African-American woman from Milwaukee, . . .
Continue reading. Keep this example in mind as you see Republicans shedding crocodile tears and wringing their hands over “voter fraud.”
Take a look. The ingredients:
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup rye flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
Butter, for greasing and serving
This is one component of a New England baked-bean dinner.
They call it a “supper”, but it sure looks like a main meal to me. As I understand it, “dinner” is used for the main meal. If the other non-breakfast meal is mid-day, it’s called “luncheon” (or, nowadays, “lunch”) and if it’s in the evening, it’s called “supper”. One can have all of those of course: breakfast, a light lunch, a hearty dinner, the theater, and after that, a supper (a cold bird and a bottle, perhaps). Where I grew up (southern Oklahoma), these distinctions were unknown: The midday meal was called “dinner” and the evening meal was called “supper” and I grew thinking that the words indicated time of day rather than size of meal.
Elsevier, a publisher of scientific and technical journals, attempted a heavy-handed grab of taxpayer dollars by attempting to prevent open publication of taxpayer-funded research so that Elsevier could make money from publishing research results. As the NY Times story notes,
Last week 34 mathematicians issued a statement denouncing “a system in which commercial publishers make profits based on the free labor of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions’ libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.”
In the face of the boycott, Elsevier backed off its support of the Research Works Act, but is still working to prevent open access to taxpayer-funded research. More info here.
Of course, companies routinely rip off the public in any way that they can. Selling for profit things taken from the public is one way; another is to have the pubic (the government) pay all the costs of cleaning up their pollution: saves the companies big bucks.
Now we see another rip-off in progress: intelligence information from the Bin Laden raid passed to a private company to sell for profit. David Corn reports in Mother Jones:
On May 1, 2011, not only did US special forces kill Osama bin Laden, they collected a treasure trove of intelligence from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan—material that would be of tremendous value to analysts, both in and out of government. Less than two weeks later, Fred Burton, the vice president for intelligence of Stratfor, a private US intelligence firm, was telling colleagues within the secretive company that he could get his hands on the Abbottabad booty. If so, that would be quite a coup for Stratfor, which peddles expensive intelligence reports on economic, security, and geopolitical matters to private clients, such as major corporations, around the world.“I can get access to the materials seized from the OBL safe house,” writes Stratfor’s vice president for intelligence.
This week, WikiLeaks published 214 internal Stratfor emails that it was provided by Anonymous, the online activist collective that hacked into Stratfor’s servers and swiped 5 million emails. In one of those messages, sent by Burton to a “Secure List” of Stratfor colleagues on May 12, 2011, he noted,
I can get access to the materials seized from the OBL safe house.
What are the top (not 45) questions we want addressed.
Within minutes, Sean Noonan, a tactical analyst at Stratfor, wrote back:
1 specific operational plans
2 communications with franchise groups (like AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula])
3. connections to anyone associated with the Pakistani state.
This sort of information—what Al Qaeda was planning and with whom it was working—could certainly be sold to Stratfor’s clients for a good price. And this email raises a question: Has Stratfor, which maintains various contracts with the Defense Department and other federal agencies, penetrated the US intelligence establishment for its own benefit? (“Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them,” Stratfor said in a statement on Monday; the company did not respond to a message fromMother Jones.)
The next day, Burton wrote back to Noonan:
More on # 3 –
Several /in ISI and Pak Mil, less than 12.
Burton seemed to be suggesting that the intelligence obtained at the compound indicated that less than a dozen officials working with Pakistani intelligence and military were somehow connected to bin Laden. He didn’t cite any specific materials or documents.
Noonan was excited. He emailed back: “awesome. Please see what you can find out about what kind of department they are in, or area they cover.” Another Stratfor employee, Kamran Bokhari, replied to Burton’s note: “No surprises here. We will never find out their departments but their ranks would be very telling.”
In response, Burton gave the impression that he might indeed be able to learn more of what was in the cache of OBL intelligence. He emailed, “I may be able to get that, let me ask.” And hours later he sent this email.
Same response as before:
Mid to senior level ISI and Pak Mil with one retired Pak Mil General that had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house.
Names unk [unknown] to me and not provided.
Specific ranks unk to me and not provided.
But, I get a very clear sense we (US intel) know names and ranks. I also do not know if we have passed this info to the GOP. [Government of Pakistan]
If I was in command, I would not pass the info to the GOP, because we can’t trust them. I would piece meal the names off and bury in a list of other non-related names for internal ISI traces in a non-alerting fashion, to see what the Pakis tell us.
I may also trade one or two names for the captured tail rudder.
Burton seemed to have informal—or unofficial access—to this information. (He didn’t describe it in these emails.) And the final line about trading a captured tail rudder—from the helicopter disabled (and then blown up) at the compound?—for the identities of Pakistani military or intelligence officials connected to bin Laden is, to say the least, intriguing.
The released emails do not indicate whether Burton truly possessed significant access to the bin Laden material—and what he had to do to obtain such access. But as a former deputy chief of the State Department’s counterterrorism division, he could be expected to have contacts within the US intelligence community that could feed him information of this sort.
Burton, who has not responded to an email query, might not be the best spy. In a 2008 “Internal Use Only” email to Stratfor colleagues, sent out after the presidential election, he claimed to have sources with information on Democratic “Dirty Tricks,” noting, . . .
UPDATE: Another report on the Stratfor story, this one from McClatchy.
A friend (John Sarkissian, for those who knew him) and tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis referred to himself, a college teacher, as an “ignorance fighter.” The job is unending because ignorance is the default state: we are come into the world with perfect ignorance and our lives are mostly spent in efforts to destroy that perfection, rendering it more and more imperfect (though we can never completely eradicate even our own ignorance).
The fight for political equality and human rights also is neverending—and to a large extent lies within ignorance-fighting territory since many of the barriers to equality and rights come from people operating in simple ignorance: people who know nothing of science, much less the science of human sexuality, of medicine, and so on. Puffed with the confidence that ignorance bestows, they stomp about the country stirring up trouble and passing bad laws.
Some recent articles:
Emily Rapp: Rick Santorum, meet my son.
Harold Pollack: Do Liberals disdain the disabled?
For those joining us late: my weight got up to 250 lbs, and I got type 2 diabetes. I finally woke up to the fact that I was committing slow suicide and took action. I lost 80 lbs and I’m now trying to find the balance point: right now I have no problems losing weight—losing weight, it turns out, is a practical skill that can be learned, much like playing basketball. As with basketball, some are naturals and some have to study and practice a lot, but the steps and process are quite clear.
My initial goal was to weigh 185 lbs, which I did for quite a few years, always feeling overweight (and, in fact, very close to overweight). So once I learned how to do this thing, I decided to dial it back to 175 lbs, my college weight. No problem, so I took it down to 170 lbs, with the idea that I would maintain my weight in the range 170-175, and if I went over 175, I would shift into loss mode. If I ever reached 180, that would be the panic point. Last Saturday I was dismayed to see my weight at 183.6. (The day before it had been 180.6, the day before that 180.3, so this was definitely a jump.)
I went into lockdown, and my weight started falling right away, and this morning it’s 181.4 and will continue to fall so long as I stick with eating right—and that is now easy to do: I re-institute “no bites” rule (no food save at meals and at two snacks, each being a piece of fruit) and follow the meal template carefully, making sure to augment the proportion of vegetables and greens while keeping protein moderate and starch low.
The puzzle I’ve not yet solved is how to maintain (say) 172.5 lbs day in and day out for weeks at a time. I’ve been running my weight up to 180 (or slightly above), then bringing it back down to 170, then up again. I need to figure out the maintenance diet better.
OTOH, I don’t feel that I’m in any danger at all of losing it—letting my BMI go above 25. I think I know what I’m doing now, but I do need to figure out a maintenance template, as it were.
I do love Nancy Boy products: very high quality. This morning I used Nancy Boy Pre-shave Oil, which comprises:
Castor oil, olive oil, meadowfoam oil, sweet almond oil, essential oils, borage oil, kukui nut oil, carrot oil, Vitamin E
I washed my beard with the Veleiro pre-shave soap, rinsed, then rubbed a few drops of the NB oil into my beard, working it in well. Then I applied Nancy Boy Signature Shaving Cream as intended: i.e., using my fingers rather than a brush. It takes only a very small amount of cream, and applying by hand was interesting: I could rub the cream into my beard. It’s very slick stuff, but rinses off easily under the hot-water tap. (I used my dominant hand to apply.)
Three passes with the iKon S3S with a Swedish Gillette blade, reapplying by hand a thin layer of NB shaving cream prior to each pass.
A couple of squirts of the Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte moisturizing lotion as the aftershave, and I’m sitting pretty. This was an extremely good shave. If you have Nancy Boy shaving cream, try applying a small amount by hand rather than using the brush. If you don’t have Nancy Boy shaving cream, you should give it a try sometime. I’m intrigued by the new Blossomwood variant.