Later On

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

Archive for December 19th, 2006

More on vitamin D

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If you do a search in the blog for “Vitamin D”, you’ll find several posts on the importance of taking a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the late fall, winter, and early spring. Now, from an article in the NY Times:

Finally, we need to worry about our bones. At least 1.5 million “fragility fractures” occur annually in the United States. These are breaks that result when someone falls from a standing height or less, trips over the cat or lifts something heavy, and they affect men as well as women, Dr. Laura Tosi, an orthopedic surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said at the New York event.

“A history of a fragility fracture is far more predictive of future fractures than a bone density test,” Dr. Tosi said, adding that a major cause is a shortage of vitamin D, which lets calcium into bones.

The current standard for vitamin D is not adequate,” she said, and predicted it would soon be raised to perhaps 1,000 International Units a day. Vitamin supplements are crucial, because adequate amounts of vitamin D cannot be absorbed through diet and sunshine alone.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 7:13 pm

Posted in Health

Whither free will?

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Will we still believe in it a hundred years from now?

In the late 1990s a previously blameless American began collecting child pornography and propositioning children. On the day before he was due to be sentenced to prison for his crimes, he had his brain scanned. He had a tumour. When it had been removed, his paedophilic tendencies went away. When it started growing back, they returned. When the regrowth was removed, they vanished again. Who then was the child abuser?

His case dramatically illustrates the challenge that modern neuroscience is beginning to pose to the idea of free will. The instinct of the reasonable observer is that organic changes of this sort somehow absolve the sufferer of the responsibility that would accrue to a child abuser whose paedophilia was congenital. But why? The chances are that the latter tendency is just as traceable to brain mechanics as the former; it is merely that no one has yet looked. Scientists have looked at anger and violence, though, and discovered genetic variations, expressed as concentrations of a particular messenger molecule in the brain, that are both congenital and predisposing to a violent temper. Where is free will in this case? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Amazing what you can do with a fork

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Art

Firefox update available

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In Firefox, go to Help, Check for Updates, and you’ll probably find an update is available. Install…

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Firefox, Software

Nifty idea if you have a microwave

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Make your own microwave popcorn. It’s easy, but do read the comments at the link for more information and ideas. Step-by-step photos at the link.

You will need the following ingredients:

1/4 cup of popping corn (generally $0.99 for a pound bag. This is enough to make at least 50 bags of microwave corn)
2 Teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
To taste – popcorn salt (it has finer granules than table salt with the same taste)

And the following tools:

A stapler
A teaspoon
A measuring cup
A brown paper bag
and
A microwave

Next

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Recipes & Cooking

The White House Press Corps at work

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The White House Press Corps generally are terrible reporters, it seems. Today, for example:

The White House press corps asked more questions about Laura Bush’s skin condition than they did about any other issue:

22: Number of questions on Laura Bush’s skin cancer.
18: Number of questions on Iraq.
3: Number of questions on Iran.
1: Number of questions on North Korea.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Media

Free on-line Web conferencing

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This is pretty cool, via Download Squad: Yugma provides free on-line Web conferencing. It can be from one person to many, as doing a presentation: the attendees see your monitor screen (e.g., doing a PowerPoint presentation). For audio, you can use Skype, for example, which has free conferencing phone calls (among Skype users) or Gizmo Project (likewise).

The use that intrigues me, though, is the many-to-many conference, as for a work group or team meeting: the current speaker’s screen is shown, and all conference members see it. They current speaker can be any of the conference presenters.

The software runs on Mac or Windows, and it includes mark-up tools. Take a look. There’s at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Skype, Software

US advances the art of torture

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Always new things to be discovered. Somehow I’m not proud. Here:

After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being.

In early December, defense lawyers acting for Jose Padilla, a US citizen detained as an “enemy combatant,” released a video showing a mission fraught with deadly risk — taking him to the prison dentist. A group of masked guards in riot gear shackled his legs and hands, blindfolded him with black-out goggles and shut off his hearing with headphones, then marched him down the prison corridor.

Is Padilla really that dangerous? Far from it: his warders describe him as so docile and inactive that he could be mistaken for “a piece of furniture.” The purpose of these measures appeared to be to sustain the regime under which he had lived for over three years: total sensory deprivation. He had been kept in a blacked-out cell, unable to see or hear anything beyond it. Most importantly, he had no human contact, except for being bounced off the walls from time to time by his interrogators. As a result, he appears to have lost his mind. I don’t mean this metaphorically. I mean that his mind is no longer there.

The forensic psychiatrist who examined him says that he “does not appreciate the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, is unable to render assistance to counsel, and has impairments in reasoning as the result of a mental illness, i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder, complicated by the neuropsychiatric effects of prolonged isolation.” Jose Padilla appears to have been lobotomised: not medically, but socially.

If this was an attempt to extract information, it was ineffective: the authorities held him without charge for three and half years. Then, threatened by a Supreme Court ruling, they suddenly dropped their claims that he was trying to detonate a dirty bomb. They have now charged him with some vague and lesser offences to do with support for terrorism.

He is unlikely to be the only person subjected to this regime. Another “enemy combatant,” Ali al-Marri, claims to have been subject to the same total isolation and sensory deprivation, in the same naval prison in South Carolina. God knows what is being done to people who have disappeared into the CIA’s foreign oubliettes.

That the US tortures, routinely and systematically, while prosecuting its “war on terror” can no longer be seriously disputed. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), a coalition of academics and human rights groups, has documented the abuse or killing of 460 inmates of US military prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay. This, it says, is necessarily a conservative figure: many cases will remain unrecorded. The prisoners were beaten, raped, forced to abuse themselves, forced to maintain “stress positions,” and subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation and mock executions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 1:21 pm

We’re insolvent—you, me, the whole country

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Yes, the US is insolvent, thanks to the don’t-tax-but-spend-big GOP. Read the whole story at the link: a discussing of a US Treasury report issued late last Friday afternoon, below the media radar (which functions only intermittently anyway).

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 1:16 pm

Drawing the Human Figure from Your Mind

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Interesting blog: it contains 172 lessons on drawing the human figure, with links to YouTube videos. Scroll (or jump) to the bottom of the page for the first lesson.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Art

The media don’t like to mess up their narratives,

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so sometimes they just ignore facts that get in the way. Read this one.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Election, Media

Why happy people are more creative than the non-happy

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Because the happy can’t focus:

Despite those who romanticize depression as the wellspring of artistic genius, studies find that people are most creative when they are in a good mood, and now researchers may have explained why: For better or worse, happy people have a harder time focusing.

University of Toronto psychologists induced a happy, sad or neutral state in each of 24 participants by playing them specially chosen musical selections. To instill happiness, for example, they played a jazzy version of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. After each musical interlude, the researchers gave subjects two tests to assess their creativity and concentration.

In one test, participants in a happy mood were better able to come up with a word that unified three other seemingly disparate words, such as “mower,” “atomic” and “foreign.” Solving the puzzle required participants to think creatively, moving beyond the normal word associations–“lawn,” “bomb” and “currency”–to come up with the more remote answer: “power.”

Interestingly, induced happiness made the subjects worse at the second task, which required them to ignore distractions and focus on a single piece of information. Participants had to identify a letter flashed on a computer screen flanked by either the same letter, as in the string “N N N N N,” or a different letter, as in “H H N H H.” When the surrounding letters didn’t match, the happy participants were slower to recognize the target letter in the middle, indicating that the ringers distracted them.

The results suggest that an upbeat mood makes people more receptive to information of all kinds, says psychologist Adam Anderson, co-author of the study published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. “With positive mood, you actually get more access to things you would normally ignore,” he says. “Instead of looking through a porthole, you have a landscape or panoramic view of the world.”

Researchers have long proposed that negative emotions give people a kind of tunnel vision or filter on their attention, Anderson says. Positive moods break down that filter, which enhances creativity but prevents laserlike focus, such as that needed to recognize target letters in the second task, he says.

As for the myth of the depressed but brilliant artist, Anderson speculates that creativity may be a form of self-medication, giving a gloomy artist the chance to adopt a cheerful disposition.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Testosterone, hot sauce, and guns

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Put ’em together and what have you got? A study. In fact, an interesting study.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

To use Fitday—indeed, to cook—have these on hand

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Using Fitday more or less requires that you keep on your kitchen counter:

  • A high-quality kitchen scale that will measure up to 5 lb (minimum — 11 lb better) in 0.1-oz increments. (Watch out for those that only measure to 1/8-oz increments.)
  • A set of measuring cups, both for dry measure (the set at the link has measures for 1/8, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, and 1 cup—I suggest also getting 1 1/2 cup and 2 cup measures of the same design) and for liquid measure (the set includes 1-cup, 2-cup, and 4-cup (1-qt) measures—these cups have an easy-read graduation that you can read from the top)
  • A set of measuring spoons with a narrow bowl to fit into spice jars, and including 1/2 Tbsp (i.e., 1 1/2 tsp) measure, which turns out to be quite handy. (In fact, I have also measuring spoons for 2 tsp, 1 1/2 Tbsp, and 2 Tbsp.)

With these all at hand, it’s very easy to measure the foods that you’re eating and enter the amounts into Fitday. Those linked to are the ones that I recommend, FWIW.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 12:14 pm

Why the GOP is contemptible

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It’s due primarily to the actions of Republicans in Congress. For example:

I’ve been following Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kan.) obstructionist tactics of a Bush judicial nominee with great interest, in large part because it’s such a breathtaking example of Republican lunacy. I’m pleased to report that Brownback has finally dropped his objections, but not before one last ridiculous move.

First, a little background. The president nominated Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Janet T. Neff to be a US District judge. Brownback — who, up until quite recently, insisted that every judicial nominee, without exception, deserves an up-or-down vote — learned that Neff was on hand for a public ceremony in which two lesbians pledged their commitment to one another in Massachusetts. (One of the women was the daughter of a family who had lived next door to Neff for 26 years.) It was not a marriage ceremony and, despite some rumors to the contrary, Judge Neff did not officiate.

No matter. Brownback blocked her nomination from receiving an up-or-down vote, effectively arguing that being friends with a gay neighbor for more than two decades necessarily disqualifies a person for the federal bench, even if you’re nominated by the Bush White House.

Brownback now believes that he’ll probably vote against the Neff nomination, but he has finally agreed to allow a vote on her nomination. But it’s worth noting that before Brownback graciously allowed the process to move forward, he proposed what he said was a compromise: he’d allow a floor vote on her nomination if Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions. Brownback was blazing a new trail — no senator in American history had ever suggested that a nominee agree in advance to remove herself from deciding a whole category of cases.

Charles Fried, a Harvard Law School professor and leading conservative scholar, said Mr. Brownback’s actions were improper. “First of all, people go to parties for all sorts of reasons,” Professor Fried said, and how one would rule on a case should not be inferred from that private activity.

Further, he said, “It would be inappropriate for the judge to recuse herself from any such case because it is a judge’s duty to sit on cases” unless there is a clear conflict of interest…. “For her to agree to any such restriction in this case would be wrong,” said Professor Fried, who has been both a judge and the solicitor general of the United States.

Keep in mind, Brownback’s obstructionism wasn’t limited to just Neff.

The NYT reported that Neff’s nomination was “included in a package of more than a dozen nominees whose confirmation had been agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Brownback’s objections held up the whole roster of nominees.”

With this in mind, I’d like to remind my friends on the right about what baseless “obstructionism” is all about. Remember, no domestic issue has riled Republicans in the Senate more than judicial nominees. The fact that Senate Democrats would dare to do exactly what they did when Clinton was president, and block some of the president’s more controversial would-be judges, was, as far as the Senate GOP was concerned, a genuine threat to democracy.

Every nominee, Republicans said, deserve an up-or-down vote. No exceptions could be tolerated without tearing at the fabric of our system of government. Senate Republicans felt so strongly about this that they were prepared to cheat and re-write the chamber’s rules in order to prohibit judicial nominees from ever being blocked again.

And yet, here’s Brownback, blocking more than a dozen of the president’s judicial nominees — all of whom enjoy bi-partisan support — because one of them was friends with a gay neighbor.

This breathtakingly stupid incident is worth remembering the next time Republican start whining about “obstructionism.”

The GOP is contemptible because of the actions of GOP politicians do and say.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 11:21 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Why it’s hard to respect political pundits

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They seem to have no brains, no courage, no memory. Read this for a splendid analysis of a column in today’s Washington Post.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 11:07 am

Posted in Media, Washington Post

When you present a deadline,

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make sure you specify what happens if the deadline is not met. Atrios asks a very pertinent question:

Three months ago today, ISG commissioner Lee Hamilton:

The next three months are critical. Before the end of this year, this government needs to show progress in securing Baghdad, pursuing national reconciliation and delivering basic services.

But, unsurprisingly, those things haven’t happened. So now what?

We are treated to an endless series of “the next six months are critical” and “within six months, we must stabilize the situation” and the like, and the six months come and go and the situation is worse, but no one ever seems to stand up and shout, “ENOUGH!” It is not working, everyone knows it’s not working, there’s no reason to believe that the course of the next six months will be any different than the last six months—i.e., things will just get worse, and the press absolutely REFUSES to pin these people down and say (e.g., to Lee Hamilton): “Okay, the three months are up. What happens now?”

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 11:04 am

Spicy roasted chicken

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Any recipe that begins with the word “spicy” gets my attention, and this one sounds great. In fact, the entire post is fun and worth reading. But here’s the bottom line:

Spicy Roast Chicken
Serves 4

24 ounces whole cherry tomatoes (about 4 cups), stemmed
1/4 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, pressed
1 1/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram, divided (or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, and none for garnish)
4 bone-in chicken breasts (10 to 12 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon marjoram in a large bowl to combine.

2. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on the sheet around the chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, about 35 minutes.

3. Transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the tomatoes and juices over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon marjoram and serve.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 10:47 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Latest Skype add-in

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The Skype add-on for Firefox is just great: whenever a phone number shows up on screen, it’s now decorated with a little logo and becomes a clickable button. I just called Whole Foods to check on dried egg whites—when I looked up the store, I could then just click the phone number to call them. Cool. Suddenly buying the $15 unlimited calls for an year thing makes a lot more sense.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 10:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Skype

Why I natter on about shaving

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This Aussie says it well:

I just realised that I am shaving every day for the last four months without having any rash or irritation. And to tell you the truth, I am looking forward to it every morning.

Just to explain myself – All my 30 odd years of shaving before those 4 last months even a thought of getting a wet shave sent shivers down my spine. Not any more!

A big Thank you to all of you who helped me to convert from being a miserable shaver, using electric (Braun and, worse, Phillips), Gillette G2, Sensor, Sensor Excel, Mach3 (oh, horror!) to the happy wet shaver I am now. All it took was to find this site, read as much as I could, ask questions and acquire a newbie shave kit (Omega pure badger, some Derbys, creams and soaps and a good, not-so-old Gillette TTO Adjustable Black Handle).

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2006 at 10:12 am

Posted in Shaving

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