Later On

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

Archive for December 13th, 2006

Plenty of electricity for autos

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From the Scientific American:

Rumors of the electric car’s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated, with so-called plug-in hybrids making the rounds from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., along with the sporty, new all-electric Tesla Roadster on offer. Now a new analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) offers more good news: existing electric power plants could fuel 84 percent of “light duty” vehicles if all 220 million cars and trucks converted to electric power overnight. “We’re delighted to see solid third-party confirmation of what the people who know best—the utilities—have been saying for sometime,” says Felix Kramer, plug-in hybrid owner/evangelist and founder of Calcars.org.

The analysis noted that the capacity of the U.S. power infrastructure is underutilized. Every evening—and during days of low demand—there is a large amount of spare capacity that could easily be tapped. By charging cars and trucks with electricity at night, American drivers could reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil while potentially cutting power prices as well. “Since gasoline consumption accounts for 73 percent of imported oil, it is intriguing to think of the trade and national security benefits if our vehicles switched from oil to electrons,” notes PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt. “Plus, since the utilities would be selling more electricity without having to build more plants or power lines, electricity prices could go down for everyone.”

The researchers specifically excluded power resources such as nuclear, hydroelectric, wind and solar as each of these already produce electricity at maximum capacity. Yet, plugging in our cars could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 18 percent. “Coal plants and gas plants are the marginal units that we considered for charging the plug-in hybrid batteries,” says PNNL staff scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer, lead author of the forthcoming report. “Wherever you have a high dominance of natural gas, that is where you improve on the total greenhouse gas emissions.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 4:18 pm

And they call it a “Do-Nothing” Congress!

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They were very busy doing things. From The Carpetbagger:

And in a very pleasant surprise, we’ve finally found something that the 109th Congress was good at: naming post offices. CNN reported this morning, “Of the 383 pieces of legislation that were signed into law during the two-year 109th Congress, more than one-quarter dealt with naming or renaming federal buildings and structures — primarily post offices — after various Americans.”

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

Gizmo instead of Skype?

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With Skype now charging $15/year for unlimited Skypeout calls (i.e., to landline and mobile (non-Skype) phones) to US and Canada and 2.1¢/minute for overseas Skypeout calls—and 2.1¢/minute for Skypeout calls to US and Canada if you don’t take the annual plan—one starts to look around.

Gizmo, for example, seems to charge 1¢/minute for its “Skypeout” calls—and promises better sound than Skype (and, according to one guy, delivers on the promise—YMMV). Maybe we should give Gizmo a go.

UPDATE: Based on first test call, Gizmo does indeed have better sound quality than Skype—just one call, though. It looks as though no video calls, though.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 3:31 pm

Bad interviewer

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George Stephanopoulos is a good interviewer, not like this guy.

UPDATE: The Wife says that this doesn’t work with RealPlayer—Windows Media Player works fine.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Media

Dick Cheney: “That’s Funny”

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13 December 2006 at 1:54 pm

Double-down in Iraq? No: Double or nothing

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A commenter to TalkingPointsMemo makes an excellent point:

Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today’s LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a “double down” strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let’s call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler’s ruin: winding up completely broke.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 12:58 pm

Glenn Greenwald is amazing

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Why doesn’t the NY Times snap up this guy? Today’s column, contrasting the Washington Post then and now, shows why the WaPo has made no moves to hire him: he’s onto them.

Read the column. Just a taste:

Those who have political power are naturally seduced by the temptations of tyranny. That’s why our entire system of government is structured so as to provide as many mechanisms as possible to check and limit that temptation, with newspapers being one of the most critical opposing forces. Politicians will naturally err on the side of exceeding the proper limits of their power, and balance is achieved when adversarial branches — led by newspapers — err on the side of opposing audacious and novel exercises of government power.

That is why it is so jarring and amazing to read the Editorial Page of the Washington Post — in the form of Fred Hiatt — defend and laud one of the most vicious and reprehensible tyrants of the last 30 years.

What kind of media do we have where one of the most prominent editorial voices views the slaughter of political opponents, pervasive torture, death squads, state-sponsored terrorism, military coups, and merciless, bloody tyranny as nothing more than some necessary, perhaps unfortunate measures, benevolently invoked to preserve order and mitigated — even justified — by the pursuit of free market economics? That is just perverse for anyone to argue, but particularly perverse for a newspaper editorial page.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 12:36 pm

Dondurma: Turkish ice cream

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I’ve always wanted to eat Turkish ice cream—well, ever since I saw a photo in Smithsonian magazine of a child jumping rope with a strand of it. It’s usually eaten with knife and fork and achieves its tenacity from the flour of a wild-orchid root. If you’ve ever had it, I’d love your impressions.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Food

Surprises everywhere: more from Fitday

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I lead quite an exciting life, as you’ve no doubt observed. Perhaps I’m extremely sensitivity to adrenaline, but I find no need for white-water rafting or rock-climbing new routes to make me feel extremely happy and excited.

Today, for example, I decided that I should enter into Fitday the vitamin supplements that I take, since when I look at their RDA/AI Graphs I always think, “That one’s low, but since I take a supplement it’s really okay—the graph doesn’t show the supplement.” I don’t really like the Kentucky windage way of figuring—I’d rather know.

I also, with true obsessive zeal, note that some of the supplements contain fat—wild-salmon oil, for example, and the lecithin capsules—and thus calories.

So today I brought the supplements to the computer and entered them as “custom foods”, typing the values into the little form Fitday provides. Then I created a custom food “Daily vitamins” whose ingredients were all the supplements I had entered. I then went back and dragged “Daily vitamins” into the breakfast line for each day I’ve been doing this.

Imagine my surprise on looking at the Overview to find that calcium was still low—as I scanned through the days, I saw it was fairly often below the recommended daily allowance. I know that the supplement I take calls for 3 tablets a day and I take but 2, because I figured that, with my very healthy diet and all, I was probably getting enough calcium (not to mention the calcium in my multi-vitamin/mineral tablet, Theragran-M Advanced).

But on looking at the Theragran, it has only 40 mg of calcium—3% of the daily requirement. And taking all 3 tablets of the calcium supplement amounts just to 100% of the daily requirement—i.e., no overage.

So now my daily log is a little more accurate, and I’ve upped my daily allotment of the calcium tablets to 3 instead of 2. Fitday is great.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 11:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Grow your own bonsai (potato)

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This looks like a fine project for The Grandsons. In fact, I might check again whether I have a green thumb…

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 11:08 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Science

Skypeout charges begin again 1/1/07

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Skypeout refers to calling a regular phone (landline or mobile) using Skype. In the US, these calls have been free for a while—a special offer that started mid-year and was scheduled to end 12/31/06.

Starting on New Year’s Day there will be a charge, though not much:

Unlimited Calling gives you a full year of unlimited calls to anyone, on any phone, within the US and Canada for just $14.95. ($29.95 after January 31st 2007)

With the unlimited you get:

  • 12 months of unlimited calls to any phone in the US and Canada – right from your computer.
  • More than an hour of international calls*.
  • Over $50 in coupons to get a Motorola headset, Netgear WiFi phone, and a Polycom speakerphone.

Skypeout calls outside the US and Canada—as well as calls to the US and Canada if you don’t buy the plan—will run around 2.1¢ a minute.

Of course, Skype-to-Skype calls will continue to be free of charge.

I really like Skype—the video functionality is very nice indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 10:36 am

Posted in Skype, Software

Today’s Toggle adventure

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I have a second Gillette Toggle. This one was purchased directly from a member of the ShaveMyFace.com forum, not from eBay, and I used it today after yesterday’s little problem.

Great shave. Same blade, BTW: transferred it from the defective Toggle. Used Em’s Lathering Shaving Cream (scroll down a bit at the link), Bay Rum fragrance. I put just a dab on the brush and lathered on my face. The brush was only moderately wet, so I dipped it a couple of times in hot water until I had the lather I wanted: thick, ample, and luxurious.

Very nice shave—all that one could want. No nicks. Finished with alum bar and Taylor of Old Bond Street bay rum.

The bad Toggle is going to a new home: a guy who believes that he can fix it. He gets it just for postage and packing. It was otherwise destined for the trash.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 10:16 am

Posted in Technology

Tsunami on the sun

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If you look at this page using IE (or IE Tab in Firefox), you can see the tsunami in action. If you click the photo, you’ll also see it. Impressive.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 9:33 am

Posted in Science, Video

Little by little

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I did manage to do 9 minutes on the Nordic Track with no stop. After a brief pause, I finished up the 12 minutes. Tomorrow I won’t be doing it—have to get ready for the arrival of the cleaning ladies—but on Friday will go for 10 minutes with no stop.

I really like the Fitday program, downloadable from Fitday.com. It lets you tailor it to yourself, and the foods database included is excellent. Lots of reports. Great buy.

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Megs at work in her cube

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At work in the cube Looking up Enough

A little series: at work in her cubicle, looking up at the clock, “It’s quitting time!” Hope your work week is going well…

Written by Leisureguy

13 December 2006 at 8:35 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

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