Later On

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

Archive for November 2006

Beef shank and oxtails are on

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To cook overnight at 200 degrees, using this recipe. I must say that the grassfed beef I got from NFR Natural Beef is superb: meaty, very little fat. Great stuff. (And their current special offer looks quite good.)

This dish will be perfect for the chilly weather we’ve been having.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 8:43 pm

Amazon shopping tricks

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Via Lifehacker, these tips on how to find Amazon discounts and deals. I know the Lady of the Lake will in particular find these useful.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 4:26 pm

Slideshow of favorite cookie recipes

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Via Megnut, this slideshow of great cookies. Includes recipes (click on cookie name).

Of course, I’ve already blogged the best holiday cookie. But these others look pretty good.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Where it all began

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The first human ritual.

UPDATE: Scientific American has more:

The discovery of carvings on a snake-shaped rock along with 70,000-year-old spearheads nearby has dramatically pushed back the earliest evidence for ritual behavior, or what could be called religion. The finding, which researchers have yet to formally publish, comes from a cave hidden in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana, a mecca of sorts for the local people, who call it the Mountain of the Gods.

“It’s very big news,” says Sheila Coulson, an archaeologist at the University of Oslo in Norway and leader of the study. Prior to the discovery, researchers had identified signs of ritual practice going back at most 40,000 years from sites in Europe.

Researchers believe that anatomically modern humans emerged from East Africa perhaps 120,000 years ago. “The difficulty was always this incredible time lag between that occurrence and any more complex aspect of the culture other than just basic survival,” Coulson says. Although some carved ornaments and wall markings from another African site are as old as the new find, they seem to have had no obvious ritual significance.

A chief of the local San people invited Coulson and her colleagues to study the cave in Tsodilo Hills. They were unprepared for what they found when they entered: a six-meter-long rock that bore a striking resemblance to a snake, including a mouthlike gash at the end. “My first words I remember saying are, ‘My god what is that?'” Coulson says. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

Hundreds of small notches, widely spaced in some places and closer together in others, covered the rock. Entrants to the cave apparently made these markings to enhance the snake illusion by creating the impression of scales and movement [see picture below]. “When flickering light hits it, it very much looks like the snake is flexing,” Coulson says. Snakes feature prominently in the traditions and the mythology of the San, sometimes called the Bushmen.

Although many of the carvings looked old, more reliable markers of the site’s longevity lay buried in rock half a meter beneath the soft cave floor. In a one-meter-wide, two-meter-deep excavation right next to the snake, the researchers uncovered more than 100 multicolored spear points from a total of 13,000 man-made artifacts.

The tips closely resemble those found elsewhere in Africa that researchers have dated at up to 77,000 years old, Coulson says. Judging from the rare colors of the stone points and the pattern of fragments, people from far and wide likely brought them to the cave partially made and finished working them there, she explains.

Some of the stone tips seem to have been burned or smashed in what may have been a type of sacrifice. Of 22 tips made from red stone, all of them show cracks and faults consistent with exposure to high heat, Coulson says, and some were burned white. Other spearheads exhibit chips and marks that suggest someone had struck the finished tips dead-on, something that researchers have observed at sites in Siberia, she notes.

“You put it all together and clearly something very extraordinary is happening,” says archaeologist and prehistoric religion specialist Neil Price, also at the University of Oslo, who was not part of the dig. “You have things occurring over a long period of time that do not have a functional explanation. There must be a whole complex of thinking behind these actions, and that in itself is exciting.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Religion, Science

50 guesses on breakthroughs in the next 50 years

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Interesting speculations: fifty leading scientists guess what the big breakthroughs of the next 50 years will be.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Science

Google Checkout

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This write-up characterizes Google Checkout as “like PayPal, without the evil.” (After his marijuana bust Robert Mitchum was asked what jail was like, and famously responded, “Like Palm Springs without the riff-raff.”)

Read at the link, watch the video, and decide…

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Doing your best

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Doing my best—my very best—was once a total mystery to me. I had no idea of how to do it, and really wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t doing it. I coasted through school because coasting (for me, at least) was sufficient. When I did study, it was sporadic rather than sustained.

I did learn how to write a paper, along the way, because a tutor demanded it:

In my sophomore year at St. John’s College (Annapolis MD), I had a tutor, Ford K. Brown, who asked for a 4-sentence outline of my proposed sophomore essay:

1. The first sentence is what the essays says—not what it’s “about,” but what it says.

2. The next three sentences support and lead to the first sentence—that is, the first sentence logically follows from the next three sentences.

I was not even to start writing the paper until he had approved the four sentences. He had me go away, review my notes, and return a day or two later with 4 sentences. I did, and he read them, handed the slip of paper back to me, and reiterated 1 and 2 above, slowly, carefully, and emphatically.

I went away, read the play again (I was writing an essay on Othello), thought about it, made more notes, reviewed all my notes, and wrote 4 more sentences. This took about a week.

I took the 4 sentences to him, he read them, then he once again handed me back the slip of paper, once more repeating 1 and 2 slowly, carefully, emphatically.

I think this happened once more, and then he said, “I think we’re running out of time. Go ahead and write the paper, but…” and he repeated 1 and 2 once more.

I wrote the paper, and I was astounded. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and where I was going. At one point, I got off track and realized it (never before possible when I was writing—improvising—a paper), excised the digression, and continued. Each of the three sentences became a section of the paper, and the paper really did say what I wanted it to say. It was an eye-opening exercise.

With that exception, I still had no knowledge of doing my best. But in graduate school (at the University of Iowa), I found myself with a new daughter and no job and no money. Desperate, I searched for work, found a job as an apprentice programmer, and started work.

Once again I was coasting—all I knew—and then the Big Boss called in me and two other new programmers and chewed us out. Did he chew our ass out? No, he chewed all around until it fell out. He told us specifically that if we wanted a “9-to-5 dick-around job” to leave now.

Man, I was scared. Just got the job, still with daughter and wife to support, and I was about to lose it. Right then was when I learned how to make a maximum effort—which turned out to require only one thing: to ask myself “Is there anything else I could do or should do?” and if the answer was “Yes,” then to do that thing.

By doing—literally—everything I could think of, I was at least comfortable that, if it didn’t work out, it would not find me saying to myself, “I knew I should have done X.” If I could possibly think of X, I did X. Nothing—nothing—was left undone.

The result was that I did more than I ever thought I could, and better.

So that was how I learned to work—to put forth maximum effort. Some years later, a colleague told me a story about a guy he knew who was working for Henry Kissinger. The guy had to write a report, which he turned in to Kissinger. The next day, Kissinger asked the guy, “Is that the best you can do?”

The guy gulped, asked if he could have the report back, and spent another week on it. He handed it in again, Kissinger kept it overnight, and the next day again asked, “Is that the best you can do?”

The guy took the report back again, spent a solid week on it—researching, rewriting, editing, revising more, condensing, polishing, rereading, and so on—and handed it in one more time.

Kissinger the next day asked the question the guy was dreading: “Is that the best you can do?” The guy swallowed, prepared himself internally for being fired on the spot, looked Kissinger in the eye, and said, “Yes, sir, that is the best I can do.” Whereupon Kissinger put the report under his arm and said, “Good. Now I’ll read it.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

The true meaning of Christmas, by Linus Van Pelt

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A slightly altered ending to Charlie Brown Christmas.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Humor

Microsoft bashers: here’s some ammunition

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A list of Microsoft “innovations”, actually developed elsewhere. Some I knew, some I didn’t.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:55 am

Posted in Software

More cool sorting examples

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I linked to this before, but now you can select from more algorithms. Choose algorithm and click image to see the sort in action.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:50 am

Posted in Software

Upsets in physics

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This article suggests some coming upsets in physics—if the experiments work out, of course: invisibility, anti-gravity, and perpetual motion. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:45 am

Posted in Science

If you’re bored: 50 useless facts

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Conversation stoppers, every one.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:32 am

Posted in Daily life

Some secret Win XP goodies

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You can find even more through the links. The only one that I will probably use:

Start > Turn Off Computer… > press Shift key to change the “Stand By” button to “Hibernate”

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:30 am

Posted in Software

If programming languages were women…

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What if programming languages were women? A male programmer might describe them in this way:

There are so many programming languages available that it can be very difficult to get to know them all well enough to pick the right one for you. On the other hand most men know what kind of woman appeals to them. So here is a handy guide for many of the popular programming languages that describes what kind of women they would be if programming languages were women.

Assembler – A female track star who holds all the world speed records. She is hard and bumpy, and so is not that pleasant to embrace. She can cook up any meal, but needs a complete and detailed recipe. She is not beautiful or educated, and speaks in monosyllables like “MOV, JUMP, INC”. She has a fierce and violent temper that make her the choice of last resort.

FORTRAN – Your grey-haired grandmother. People make fun of her just because she is old, but if you take the time to listen, you can learn from her experiences and her mistakes. During her lifetime she has acquired many useful skills in sewing and cooking (subroutine libraries) that no younger women can match, so be thankful she is still around. She has a notoriously bad temper and when angered will start yelling and throwing dishes. It was mostly her bad temper that made grand dad search for another wife.

COBOL – A plump secretary. She talks far too much, and most of what she says can be ignored. She works hard and long hours, but can’t handle really complicated jobs. She has a short and unpredictable temper, so no one really likes working with her. She can cook meals for a huge family, but only knows bland recipes.

BASIC – The horny divorcee that lives next door. Her specialty is seducing young boys and it seems she is always readily available for them. She teaches them many amazing things, or at least they seem amazing because it is their first experience. She is not that young herself, but because she was their first lover the boys always remember her fondly. Her cooking and sewing skills are mediocre, but largely irrelevant, it’s the frolicking that the boys like. The opinion that adults have of Mrs. BASIC is varied. Shockingly, some fathers actually introduce their own sons to this immoral woman! But generally the more righteous adults try to correct the badly influenced young men by introducing them to well behaved women like Miss Pascal.

PL/I – A bordello madam. She wears silk dresses, diamonds, furs and red high heels. At one time she seemed very attractive, but now she just seems overweight and tacky. Tastes change.

C – A lady executive. An avid jogger, very healthy, and not too talkative. Is an good cook if you like spicy food. Unless you double check everything you say (through LINT) you can unleash her fierce temper. Her daughter C++ is still quite young and prone to tantrums, but it seems that she will grow up into a fine young woman of milder temper and more sophisticated character.

ALGOL 60 – Your father’s wartime sweetheart, petite, well proportioned, and sweet tempered. She disappeared mysteriously during the war, but your dad still talks about her shapely form and their steamy romance. He never actually tasted much of her cooking.

Pascal – A grammar school teacher, and Algol 60’s younger sister. Like her sister she is petite and attractive, but very bossy. She is a good cook but only if the recipe requires no more than one pot (module).

Modula II – A high-school teacher and Pascal’s daughter. Very much like her mother, but she has learned to cook with more than one pot.

ALGOL 68 – Algol 60’s niece. A high-society woman, well educated and terse. Few men can fully understand her when she talks, and her former lovers still discuss her mysterious personality. She is very choosy about her romances and won’t take just any man as her lover. She hasn’t been seen lately, and rumor has it that she died in a fall from an ivory tower.

LISP – She is an aging beatnik, who lives in a rural commune with her hippie cousins SMALLTALK and FORTH. Many men (mostly college students) who have visited the farmhouse — enthusiastically praise the natural food, and perpetual love-ins that take place there. Others criticize the long cooking times, and the abnormal sexual postures (prefix and postfix). Although these women seldom have full-time jobs, when they do work, their employers praise them for their imagination, but usually not for their efficiency.

APL – A fancy caterer specializing in Greek food. She can cook delicious meals for rows and rows of tables with dozens of people at each table. She doesn’t talk much, as that would just slow her work down. Few people can understand her recipes, since they are in a foreign language, and are all recorded in mirror writing.

LOGO – A grade-school art teacher. She is just the kind of teacher that you wish you had when you were young. She is shapely and patient, but not an interesting conversationalist. She can cook up delicious kiddie snacks, but not full-course meals.

LUCID & PROLOG – These clever teenagers show a new kind of cooking skill. They can cook-up fine meals without the use of recipes, working solely from a description of the desired meal (declarative cooking). Many men are fascinated by this and have already proposed marriage. Others complain that the girls work very slowly, and that often the description of the meal must be just as long as a recipe would be. It is hard to predict what these girls will be like when they are fully mature.

Ada – A WAC colonel built like an amazon. She is always setting strict rules, but if you follow them, she keeps her temper. She is quite talkative, always spouting army regulations, and using obscure military talk. You gotta love her though, because the army says so.

Java – Bulky with big boobs. Does everything you want but slowly. Hardly complains about how you want it in bed. The kind of woman who is not sexy, but gives you amazing satisfaction. You have tried several women, but this one doesn’t get off your mind so you always go back to her.

PHP – Slick and slim lady. Very portable. Does nice and amazing things with her small body. Very good in aerobics. Not very sexy but intact. She is the kind of women that most men are happy to wed, though she will need a house maid because she is unable to carry heavy workload.

Ruby on Rails – The new girl in town. Everybody is talking about her. Very beautiful and sexy. Only daring men, because she is till new, have the guts to ask her out. She is modern and sophisticated. Already a lot of myth is surrounding her with regards to her ability. She is not talkative but looks rather very intelligent.

C# – The pimp from next door! She likes copying everything, from recipes to makeup to fashion. She is never original and likes to still other women’s ideas, then go about shouting that the ideas are hers. Those who are not aware of her source of ideas think she is very intelligent. She is very talkative and showy. Sometimes she is very good at perfecting what she has copied.

Python – The all complete lady who is the envy of the town. She came up with a slick new way of dressing that made her a hit. Those who initially scoffed at her new dressing later fell head over heals for it. She is not talkative, but when she does a job, she does it very well.

Visual Basic (Popularly known as VB) – The little bitch from next door. Probably the most dumb girl in town. She never turns a man down and all the boys in the neighbourhood use her as a training ground as they learn the ropes to adulthood. She never practise safe sex and regularly infects the whole system with memory leaks. Popularly known as VB, she is so loose a lot of fathers have spanked their sons for dating her. However, it is amazing how popular she is. Most men curse themselves once they taste lips of mature and sweet women. A lot of men have struggled to maintain decent relationships with mature women after being spoiled by this little brat! She doesn’t have a clue how to cook a complete decent meal without throwing up into the pot!

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 10:27 am

Posted in Humor, Software


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Why are they betraying us?

It was a solemn pledge, repeated by Democratic leaders and candidates over and over: If elected to the majority in Congress, Democrats would implement all of the recommendations of the bipartisan commission that examined the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But with control of Congress now secured, Democratic leaders have decided for now against implementing the one measure that would affect them most directly: a wholesale reorganization of Congress to improve oversight and funding of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Instead, Democratic leaders may create a panel to look at the issue and produce recommendations, according to congressional aides and lawmakers.

Because plans for implementing the commission’s recommendations are still fluid, Democratic officials would not speak for the record. But aides on the House and Senate appropriations, armed services and intelligence committees confirmed this week that a reorganization of Congress would not be part of the package of homeland-security changes up for passage in the “first 100 hours” of the Democratic Congress.

“I don’t think that suggestion is going anywhere,” said Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee and a close ally of the incoming subcommittee chairman, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). “That is not going to be their party position.”

It may seem like a minor matter, but members of the commission say Congress’s failure to change itself is anything but inconsequential. In 2004, the commission urged Congress to grant the House and Senate intelligence committees the power not only to oversee the nation’s intelligence agencies but also to fund them and shape intelligence policy. The intelligence committees’ gains would come at the expense of the armed services committees and the appropriations panels’ defense subcommittees. Powerful lawmakers on those panels would have to give up prized legislative turf.

But the commission was unequivocal about the need.

“Of all our recommendations, strengthening congressional oversight may be among the most difficult and important,” the panel wrote. “So long as oversight is governed by current congressional rules and resolutions, we believe the American people will not get the security they want and need.”

Now Democrats are balking, just as Republicans did before them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 9:42 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Sometimes the Right-Wing can take your breath away

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Here’s an argument made by Right-Winger David Frum:

Imagine if the Republicans had retained their Congressional majority and the first thing they did was suggest big new subsidies for, say, the oil industry. Would there no public outrage?

But that’s exactly what the Democrats are now offering their staunch supporters in academia. The Democrats are proposing big new subsidies for college tuition: new loans, new grants, new tax deductions.

Of course the Republicans, while a majority in Congress, did pass many large new subsidies for the oil industry. But now the Democrats are going to help public universities and college students? That’s bad? What (if anything) is he thinking?

Read the whole thing at the link. I’m not making it up.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 9:30 am

Funniest economics music video ever!

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I agree that it’s probably not a well-populated category, but the music video linked to in this post is indeed hilarious, especially if you occasionally think about economics.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 9:11 am

George Will: YADR

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George Will, yet another dishonest Republican.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 9:04 am

Posted in GOP, Media

If you hate small text boxes

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Sometimes when you are filling in forms on a site (a task that normally is done for me by Roboform Pro, but occasionally I needs must do it), you find that, for example, the “email” text box is about ten characters wide. It scrolls, so you can still enter your full email address, but, really!

So now a guy (a man in blue) has developed a little app that will let you resize those text boxes. It’s javascript, and you simply right-click the link and save it as a bookmark in your bookmark toolbar. Then, when you need to enlarge a text box, click that bookmark and drag the box wider.


Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 8:40 am

Posted in Firefox, Software

At last, at long last: Preston Sturges classics on DVD

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I am a great admirer of Preston Sturges. Indeed, The Lady Eve, with Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, and William Demarest could make a claim on being my favorite movie. The Great McGinty is a wonderful look at local politics, Ohio style. The Palm Beach Story is simply wonderful.

So: for this Christmas, give yourself an excellent Preston Sturges collection. Seven movies at $6 apiece—very reasonable indeed.

A good line from The Lady Eve: Charles Coburn and Henry Fonda, sitting in a luxury liner’s bar, where Fonda has just told Coburn that he wants to marry Stanwyck, playing Coburn’s daughter. “My boy,” Coburn says, “this calls for a drink.” Then, to a passing waiter, “Waiter! Two drinks.” “Yessir,” says the waiter, hurrying off with the order.

Those with an interest in fashion should check out Barbara Stanwyck’s dresses, cut to solve her figure problem (extraordinarily long-waisted) and make her role as a gorgeous leading lady possible.

Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2006 at 8:20 am

Posted in Movies & TV

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