Later On

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

Archive for January 24th, 2007

Ohio is a special state

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For example:

Two election workers were convicted Wednesday of rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election to avoid a more thorough review in Ohio’s most populous county.

Jacqueline Maiden, elections coordinator of the Cuyahoga County Elections Board, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. They also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty.

Prosecutors accused Maiden and Dreamer of secretly reviewing preselected ballots before a public recount on Dec. 16, 2004. They worked behind closed doors for three days to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand, prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Roger Synenberg has said the workers were following procedures as they understood them.

Ohio gave President Bush the electoral votes he needed to defeat Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the close election and hold on to the White House in 2004.

Special prosecutor Kevin Baxter did not claim the workers’ actions affected the outcome of the election — Kerry gained 17 votes and Bush lost six in the county’s recount.

Maiden and Dreamer, who still work for the elections board, face a possible sentence of six to 18 months for the felony conviction. Sentencing is on Feb. 26.

A message left for Elections Board Director Michael Vu was not immediately returned Wednesday. The board released a statement that said its goal is to restore confidence in the county’s election progress and pursue reforms in addition to those made since 2004.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Election

High-fiber fake fat

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I’ve got to try it. Here:

Have you heard of Z Trim? It’s a fat substitute made from plants (also known as “agricultural by-products”) that not only has no fat, but has zero calories. It is marketed as an all-natural weight loss product, but since it can be used in everything from baked goods to soups and dressings, it sounds as though it could just as easily fit into the general health food category.

It was developed a few years ago by the USDA and is primarily composed of the hulls from oats, soybeans, peas and rice, as well as bran from corn and/or wheat, all of which are “processed into microscopic fragments, purified, and dried and milled to an easy-flowing powder,” which can then be reconstituted with water to create a very smooth paste that gives a mouthfeel similar to – you guessed it – fat. It has a lot of natural dietary fiber, so it also helps provide a feeling of fullness.

So what does it taste like? Apparently, it’s pretty much like other fats and most people can’t taste or feel the difference in what they’re eating. In fact, a school district in Pittsburgh switched to using it several months ago, but just recently revealed that fact to students, who never noticed the difference and approved of all the food with and without Z Trim.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 1:51 pm

A bit thick about security

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I once took an IBM course on data security, and the instructor told the story of one company that didn’t quite understand the idea. They changed passwords every 30 days (good) but used the same password for everyone in the company (less good).

And now it turns out that Diebold uses a single key pattern for ALL its machines—and the key is the same typical key found in lockable filing cabinets, hotel minibars, and the like. Moreover, Diebold published a photo of the key on their Web site.

Diebold is stupid. Here’s the full story.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 12:36 pm

Dietary fiber cuts risk for breast cancer

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It was quite disappointing when it turned out that high-fiber diets didn’t offer any preventive help for colon cancer. But now it looks as though they can help young women avoid breast cancer: A new study gives a good reason for young women to switch to whole grain bread and to generally increase the amount of whole grains in their diets. Conducted at the University of Leeds, the study showed that women who ate at least 30 grams of fiber each day cut their breast cancer risk by half.

The average fiber intake in the UK is 12 grams per day for adults and 15 g per day in the US. Since the results of the study suggest that benefits will not occur when women eat less than 20g per day, it is worth noting that there are a couple of easy ways to eat more fiber. A medium apple, for example, has 4g of fiber. An artichoke, cooked, has 4.5 grams. Beans vary in their fiber content, but tend to have around 16g per cup. 1/2 cup of corn has 5g. There are many other vegetables and fruits that provide low calorie ways to add fiber to the diet, as well.

The benefits of eating more fiber could be overridden by other factors, including weight, but a generally healthy lifestyle that includes the recommended amount of fiber should decrease the risk enough to make dietary changes worth the effort for young women.

My own fiber intake averages 43g per day.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Counter-attack on the nicotine increase

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Tobacco companies will probably just increase the nicotine even more once they read this:

A recently licensed nicotine receptor stimulant trebles the odds of stopping smoking.

The new anti-smoking drug varenicline was first licensed for use in the UK on 5th December 2006. An early Cochrane Review of its effectiveness shows that it can give a three-fold increase in the odds of a person quitting smoking. Varenicline is the first new anti-smoking drug in the last ten years, and only the third, after NRT and bupropion, to be licensed in the USA for smoking cessation.

People become addicted to smoking tobacco partly because nicotine in the smoke stimulates receptors in the nervous system that cause a release of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Varenicline partially stimulates these nicotine receptors and enables a low-level release of dopamine, which reduces withdrawal symptoms. It also partially blocks nicotine from being absorbed by the receptors, making continued smoking less satisfying. This reduces a person’s need to smoke, and may help them to quit completely.

This conclusion was drawn by a group of Cochrane researchers after they studied data from six trials that compared the effects of giving people either varenicline or a placebo. Together the trials involved 2451 people on varenicline and 2473 people on placebos.

Pooling the data showed that people taking varenicline increased their odds of quitting approximately three-fold for 12 months or longer compared with those on placebo drugs.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 12:19 pm

Man, this is GOOD chili powder

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I am just eating a bowl of chili made using Penzeys Hot Chili Powder. This is the one to get: sweat is running down my face, and my mouth is having a festival. Man, oh man. Good stuff.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Chuck Hagel lays it on the line

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This is what the GOP used to be like: Republicans who truly cared about the country.

Note when he says this stinging condemnation of President Bush:

I don’t think we’ve ever had a coherent strategy. In fact, I would even challenge the administration today to show us the plan that the president talked about the other night. There is no plan. I happen to know that Pentagon planners were on their way to Central Com over the weekend — they haven’t even Team B’ed this plan…. There is no strategy. This is a ping-pong game with American lives…. We’d better be damned sure what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more lives into that grinder…. and I want every one of you, every one of us, 100 senators to look in that camera, and you tell your people back home what you think. Don’t hide any more, none of us.”

And the early stuff about “no Senator wants defeat” is aimed directly at Lyin’ Joe Lieberman, who’s been making the rounds that any criticism of President Bush and his plan is tantamount to treason. Lieberman is despicable, and now I suspect he’s always been despicable, but we just didn’t know.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 11:51 am

Bush Administration = Big Oil

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Look at this sad story:

A federal jury in Denver agreed Tuesday with a former top auditor for the Interior Department that the Kerr-McGee Corporation had cheated the government out of millions of dollars in royalties on oil it produced in publicly owned coastal waters.

The decision, reached by the jury after deliberations of about four hours, is a vindication for the auditor, Bobby L. Maxwell. He became a whistle-blower and sued Kerr-McGee as a private citizen after top officials at the Interior Department ordered him to drop his audit findings.

It is also a potentially big embarrassment for the Interior Department, which dismissed Mr. Maxwell in a “reorganization” and which had insisted that his case against Kerr-McGee had no merit.

The Minerals Management Service, an Interior Department agency that collects more than $10 billion a year in royalties on oil and gas pumped on federal territory, is now the subject of numerous investigations by Congress, as well as its own inspector general, over its enforcement of royalty rules.

Interior Department officials did not return e-mail messages on Tuesday night requesting comment on the decision, the word of which arrived shortly before 7 p.m. in Washington.

In addition to Mr. Maxwell, three other auditors in the royalty program have filed their own lawsuits as whistle-blowers against more than a dozen other oil companies. Like Mr. Maxwell, those auditors have said the Interior Department blocked them from pursuing what they viewed as valid cases of underpayments.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 11:42 am

GOP “bipartisanship” — an oxymoron

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From McClatchy Washington Bureau:

George Bush tried to go home Tuesday night.

His goal was what he thought he left behind in Texas when he was a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature. But the mythical bipartisan place he tried to reach out to in his State of the Union address Tuesday was never like the one he romanticized in Texas. It’s not what he’s built in six years in Washington. And today it’s as elusive as Oz.

“We can work through our differences,” Bush said hopefully Tuesday.

He spoke the language of cooperation, singling out four big issues on which he and Democrats both want action: education, energy, health care and immigration.

But his proposals were mostly familiar, and on energy, notably small-bore. There’s little prospect that either he or the Democrats will shed their mistrust of each other, or that they’ll compromise enough to find genuine agreement, with the possible exception of overhauling the nation’s immigration policies.

“They’re difficult issues. They’re ones that have been attempted to solve in the past and have come up short,” White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Tuesday. “We go into this process with no illusions about the atmosphere in which we’re operating in.”

Bush wanted to convince Americans watching on television that he’s heard them and that he wants again to work with Democrats.

“Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on,” he said, “as long as we’re willing to cross that aisle when there’s work to be done.”

Yet the chasm between the parties is wide and deep, the politics between them are poisonous and Bush bears much of the blame.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 11:33 am

Good idea re: garbanzos

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From Slashfood:

Generally cream soups are thickened using potatoes and/or potato water, or a roux (mixture of flour and butter). However, if you are looking for a healthier alternative, try using chickpeas instead. The method is simple: make your broth, add canned chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) and blend together until smooth. You’ll probably find that you don’t need as much milk or cream, though it is a personal choice as to how much you want to add. Add your remaining ingredients and boil everything together.

The added benefit is, even though chickpeas contain carbs, they also add protein, fiber, and nutrients to your soup that you may not otherwise get. If you have kids, they will never know they are in there either so it is a sneaky way to get them to eat something a little different. As far as flavor, the beans add a slightly nutty taste, but don’t overwhelm your other ingredients.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 11:30 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

Comet over Capetown

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life

Simple and effective Google-search technique

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Scott Feldstein explains. It’s extremely easy to do—and even to remember.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 9:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Fight global warming: eat vegetarian

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President Herbert Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” With warnings about global warming reaching feverish levels, many are having second thoughts about all those cars. It seems they should instead be worrying about the chickens.

Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

That’s right, global warming. You’ve probably heard the story: emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others)–that’s more emissions than from all of the world’s transportation combined.

For a decade now, the image of Leonardo DiCaprio cruising in his hybrid Toyota Prius has defined the gold standard for environmentalism. These gas-sipping vehicles became a veritable symbol of the consumers’ power to strike a blow against global warming. Just think: a car that could cut your vehicle emissions in half – in a country responsible for 25% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Federal fuel economy standards languished in Congress, and average vehicle mileage dropped to its lowest level in decades, but the Prius showed people that another way is possible. Toyota could not import the cars fast enough to meet demand.

Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we’d need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods. On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels—and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide—than does a calorie of plant protein. The researchers found that, when it’s all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:56 am

People are indeed a little more alert

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Read this:

Mohammed Yusef Mullawala wanted a license to transport hazardous materials and to learn how to drive commercial tractor trailers. There was nothing unusual about that, until he told his teacher that he only wanted to learn how to drive forward, and he wanted to learn fast.

That was enough to raise a red flag with Darleen Crawford, president of the Nationwide Tractor Trailer Driving School in Smithfield, R.I., where Mullawala took driving classes.

Federal and state authorities are investigating why Mullawala was seeking a commercial trucking license after his behavior raised flags at the Rhode Island driving school. Crawford said he was also insistent on taking the test necessary to earn a license to transport hazardous materials.

Mullawala, a 28-year-old citizen of India who is of Pakistani descent, is now in federal custody in Massachusetts on immigration violation charges.

“We are still digging into his background, digging into where he lived in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey,” Major Steven O’Donnell with the Rhode Island State Police told on Wednesday. “A lot of still doesn’t make any sense, why he would be doing what he was doing.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Fools will always be with us

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Not George Bush, in this case.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Daily life

The Magic Eraser

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Secret revealed.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

US budget ups and downs…

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Click twice to see full size (and make it readable).

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:40 am

Posted in Government

Scary ancient breed of shark (video)

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They live at 600 meters, so this one soon died. But it is an amazing creature.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:36 am

Posted in Science

Good take on Bush’s SOTU

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Steve Clemmons (of the Washington Note) has this:

In his lackluster State of the Union address last night, President Bush defined America’s military actions in the Middle East as the “defining challenge of our time” and yet overall, Bush offered no credible plan that could lead to an improvement in America’s circumstances.

Yet again, Bush hyped the fear that Americans should feel from terrorists, who, he said, “want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty.” He stated that “this war is more than a clash of arms—it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance.”

Despite the admission by the president that America faces “devastating consequences” for failure—something he might have thought more seriously about before launching this war—he continues to pursue national security on the cheap.

He talked about increasing the size of the overall military and sending more troops to Iraq while also telling Americans that he can balance the budget and do so without raising taxes. The troop levels he called for alone will cost at minimum another $30 billion in near-term money and obligate Americans to even greater outlays in long-term benefits for those soldiers. Not only is the president trying to grow the military by putting the costs into a mortgage that future generations will pay, he is not addressing the fact that the “security deliverables” coming from America’s military portfolio, the most expensive military force in the world, are not sufficient to make Americans feel safe. Something is broken and throwing more dollars and soldiers at the problem will not fix it.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 8:02 am

More on the image from one photon

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I blogged this earlier, but here’s a better explanation:

How Can a Single Photon Produce a Whole Image?
Short Answer: It Can’t

Researchers announced last week that they had slowed down faint pulses of laser light and retrieved an image from that light after speeding it back up. In principle such “slow-light” technology might be used to build a kind of traffic stop for light signals, called an optical buffer, that would be cheaper, more powerful and faster than converting light beams into electrical signals. That is why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Department of Defense, asked a group at the University of Rochester to explore the technology, says group leader, quantum optics researcher John Howell.

So naturally Howell was bemused that some media outlets focused in on one aspect of the report: that an entire image was somehow produced from a single photon, the smallest unit of light. “A lot of people are getting excited about the single photon,” he says.

A statement from the University of Rochester said that Howell’s team made their image using a single pulse of light. To those familiar with the rudiments of quantum physics, the claim was, well, odd, to say the least. “The people that are more aware of this are wondering how we’re measuring an image from a photon—and we’re not,” Howell says. So what’s the story?

Consider the famous double-slit experiment, in which individual photons are beamed through a pair of adjacent gaps (slits) in a screen. As long as researchers do not try to determine which of the two slits each photon is passing through, light shined through the screen will create a so-called diffraction pattern of alternating bright and dark spots.

The double-slit experiment demonstrates that a photon can in some sense “feel” both slits, just like a wave passing through both at once. Like a wave, each individual photon propagates away from the screen spread out and carrying the whole diffraction pattern—but that does not mean each photon creates a weak image of the whole diffraction pattern when it hits the far wall. Instead, each photon lands in just one spot, and many photons together create the pattern.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2007 at 7:55 am

Posted in Science

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