Later On

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

Archive for January 9th, 2007

A surprise for Sophie

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Sophie has been quite excited recently because, as The Wife gets ready for bed a little mirror on her bedside table will reflect light from the beside lamp and make little flickering lights on the ceiling. Sophie thinks this is just terrific—it’s like seeing the best fireworks display in the world, so far as she’s concerned. And so every night she rushes in to get a good seat and settles herself and waits for the light show. A simple girl, but charming.

So when I heard this, I immediately went Googling, and today this arrived:

Sophie surprise

The mirrored ball rotates, the little multi-colored LED lights shine up on it (or down: you can hang the thing from the ceiling, of course) and the lights are reflected all over the room. The Wife will present it to Sophie tonight. I wanted to send along an ABBA CD, too, but I don’t have anything like that. I think Sophie will be very pleased. I told The Wife it was okay to let Sophie think it came from her.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Cats, Sophie, Techie toys

Don’t put milk in your tea—cream, either

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The Younger Daughter points out this info from the BBC. The Wife will be disappointed: she always drinks tea with milk. The info:

Adding milk to a cup of tea can destroy its ability to protect against heart disease, according to research.

A small German study found drinking black tea significantly improved the ability of arteries to relax and expand to keep blood pressure healthy. But the European Heart Journal paper also found proteins in milk, called caseins, blocked this effect. It is estimated as many as 98% of UK tea-drinkers prefer milk in their favourite cuppa.

The researchers tested the effects of tea in 16 humans and on rat tissue. They showed molecules in the tea called catechins helped dilate the blood vessels by producing a chemical called nitric oxide. The caseins in milk prevented this effect by reducing the concentration of catechins in the tea.

Senior researcher Dr Verena Stangl, professor of cardiology at the Charite Hospital, in Berlin, said: “Our results thus provide a possible explanation for the lack of beneficial effects of tea on the risk of heart disease in the UK, a country where milk is usually added.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Health

Kentucky windage in calorie counting

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The doctor recommended 1500 calories a day, and that’s what I plan for when working out on Fitday the food for the day. But then when I actually make the food, I cut off a slightly larger piece of turkey, the onion is bigger, the zucchini weighs more, etc. The result is that the daily average for the past 14 days is 1627; for the past 7, 1632.

So now I’ve decided that I plan for/aim at 1400 calories a day. That should result in getting 1500 calories actually, once I cook the meals.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Does your kitty have a birthday coming up?

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Birch lotus cat tree Suburb

Megs does. Maybe this Lotus cat tower would be just the ticket for her. Available in a lot of finishes.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Cats

Good questions from Dan Froomkin

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From Froomkin’s column today:

It is clear by now that President Bush has no interest in heeding all the calls to reverse course in Iraq and that in tomorrow night’s speech he will call for an escalation, not an exit.

But how will he convince American voters — and the Democratic Congress — to give him another shot? The public is so unhappy with the situation in Iraq and so deeply mistrustful of Bush’s leadership there that yet another razzle-dazzle PR blitz with the same stale talking points just isn’t likely to do the trick.

The big question, therefore, is how Bush will deliver his message tomorrow, and whether he’ll respond to all the skepticism out there by being more candid and forthcoming.

Will the president continue with his divisive, dismissive and deceptive rhetoric — or will he level with the American people, engage his critics and forthrightly explore the risks and rewards of his plan? Because if he does the latter, he just might restore some of his credibility on this important issue and win back some public support.

Here are some of the things to keep an eye out for tomorrow night:

* Will he acknowledge the real, specific concerns that many Americans have with this particular war and the way it’s been waged? Or will he once again belittle the public angst by ascribing it to too much carnage on TV and a general aversion to warfare?

* Will he engage and address the actual arguments voiced by critics? Or will he simply fight straw men of his own creation?

* Specifically, will he acknowledge the argument that the presence of American troops makes things worse in Iraq, rather than better?

* Will he acknowledge the message American voters sent about Iraq in November, and explain why he doesn’t feel obliged to heed the public will? Will he explain why he and the public seem to have reached such different conclusions?

* Will he agree to engage in dialogue — not just consultation — with those who disagree with him, and possibly even in public?

* Will he be up front about the possible consequences of a failed escalation — specifically, the cost in human lives? Will he acknowledge the human suffering?

* Will he be honest about the difference between tactics, strategy and goals, and will he explain why he seems willing to consider only a change in tactics?

* Will he be forthright about how we got here? Will he acknowledge any mistakes, beyond tactical errors that were not his fault personally? What lessons will he say he has learned? Will he take any blame for anything?

* Will he explain where the additional troops will come from? Will he call for volunteers? Will he call for anyone else to sacrifice?

* Will he say where the money will come from — for the escalation, for the reportedly billion-dollar jobs program, or for the entire war for that matter?

* Will he say anything about how long either the escalation, or the war, will last? If he establishes benchmarks, will they be accompanied by timelines and consequences? Will there be any accountability, for either the Iraqis or the Americans? At the end of the speech, will the American military commitment appear larger but still equally open-ended?

* Will he say not just that he still believes the war in Iraq is winnable, but why he believes that, and why he discounts the evidence to the contrary?

* Will he be up front about who we’re fighting and why? Will he acknowledge that the chief mission of existing and supplemental troops will be fighting well-armed rival Muslim factions?

* Will he acknowledge how the mission in Iraq has changed, from ostensibly being about weapons of mass destruction all the way to tamping down a civil war?

* Will he address the hideously botched execution of Saddam Hussein, which provided such a gripping view of the vicious sectarianism plaguing the country?

* Will he acknowledge that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly made promises and not delivered in the past, and explain why he trusts Maliki this time?

* Will he acknowledge that Iraqi forces have never taken their share of the responsibility in Iraq, and that training has thus far been problematic?

* If he says this is a turning point, will he explain why, in contrast to all the previous turning points, he believes this one is for real?

* Will he describe how his view of the situation in Iraq has changed over time, if at all? Will he address the concern that he has been in a state of denial?

Bush faces two not entirely overlapping problems tomorrow night: One is that most Americans don’t believe him any more; the other is that most Americans don’t support his plan. Only if he can make some headway on the first problem will he ever make any on the second.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 11:37 am

Aha! A rebuttal to Malcolm Gladwell’s Enron article

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I blogged about Gladwell’s Enron article, and today came across this strong rebuttal. Verrrry interesting. Read the rebuttal here. An excerpt:

But while Enron’s dwindling cash flow, poor return on capital and so on suggested internal problems, there are lots of poorly performing companies with similar problems. They are not necessarily out-and-out frauds, as Enron was. And that’s where Mr. Gladwell’s argument falls apart. His view is that more disclosure, which is what the Securities and Exchange Commission tends to strive for, would not have made any difference. But what Mr. Skilling (and others, including Enron’s founder, the late Kenneth L. Lay) were charged with was not hiding things in plain sight — but hiding things out of sight that would have exposed the fraud. That is, they lied to the investing public about the true condition of the company. And no matter how you slice it, that’s against the law.

The examples are myriad. Remember the Enron broadband business? The one that “generated” tens of millions in reported revenue even though it never generated much actual cash? Mr. Skilling was among the Enron executives who hid the true nature of the broadband business, in one notable instance by omitting remarks about its troubles that were included in a conference call script that had been prepared for him. There was simply no way for investors to know that the company was lying about that business, no matter how close they parsed the financials.

Or how about the way Enron hid hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from its Enron Energy Services business by burying the division inside its profitable trading division? It did so, according to prosecutors — and buttressed by much trial testimony — because admitting the losses publicly would have raised huge alarms on Wall Street and caused the stock to tank. One of the things Mr. Skilling was convicted of was participating in that particular aspect of the Enron fraud.

Mr. Gladwell makes much of Enron’s use of so-called special-purpose entities — those supposed “independent” partnerships that were run by the company’s chief financial officer, Andrew S. Fastow. Those entities, Mr. Gladwell argues, are incredibly complicated, and Enron’s were more complex than most. Mr. Gladwell calls them examples of Enron’s “recklessness and incompetence,” but not an example of inadequate disclosure. Even if Enron had publicly disclosed every page of every special-purpose entity, he says, it would have made no difference; they were just too convoluted.

This, however, is where he runs off the rails. Yes, the fact that the entities were run by “a senior Enron executive” is something that the company disclosed (usually in some buried footnote). And it should have raised a huge red flag. Shame on Wall Street for not picking up on it.

But Enron’s S.P.E.’s were not always used for some legitimate purpose. Mostly, they were used to hide poorly performing assets and to launder loans as income. Not all of them were structured illegally, but many of them were — a fact that Mr. Gladwell glosses over, and which Enron never disclosed publicly. Mr. Skilling, according to prosecutors, secretly guaranteed that Mr. Fastow’s partnerships would never lose money in Enron assets, violating the law. It is also a reason Mr. Skilling is in prison now.

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 11:09 am

Posted in Business, Media

New Year’s resolutions for your PC

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Lifehacker has a useful post of 7 steps you should take to protect your PC and hard drive in the new year. I already back up my hard drive daily (at 4:00 p.m. to an external hard drive), but I took Gina’s advice to heart and set up a little script to self-repair (and defragment) my hard drive.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2007 at 11:01 am

Posted in Software, Technology

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