Later On

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Archive for February 5th, 2007

Luca Turin vindicated!

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From ScienceDaily, evidence that Luca Turin (profiled in Chandler Burr’s highly enjoyable book The Emperor of Scent) was right:

A controversial theory that explains the molecular mechanism which gives our sense of smell razor-sharp precision has been given a boost thanks to a study by a team of UCL researchers at the London Centre for Nanotechnology (LCN).

Reporting in an upcoming edition of the journal Physical Review Letters, they demonstrate that vibration theory, the process by which the body distinguishes one odour molecule from another by the way it vibrates, is viable.

Like many other biological processes, it was previously thought that on a molecular level our sense of smell was governed by shape recognition: the way a particular molecule binds to a complementary receptor – acting in a mechanism similar to a lock and key.

But this theory struggles to explain why very different shaped molecules can smell similar [irrelevant – LG] or why some molecules of essentially the same shape but made of heavier versions of the atoms have a very different smell [the critical case, which by itself disproves the shape theory of smell – LG].

Dr Andrew Horsfield, of the London Centre for Nanotechnology, the UCL Department of Physics & Astronomy and one of the senior authors of the study, says: “Vibration theory has been around for a while but has lacked the answer to a crucial question: how could a biological system make the kind of measurements of vibrations which normally require a piece of lab kit like a spectroscope. This mechanism is more like swipe-card identification than a key fitting a lock.

“Back in 1996, a UCL researcher, Dr Luca Turin – now employed by the odorant design company, Flexitral – revived the theory by suggesting that smell receptors acted like switches tuned to different frequencies across the vibration spectrum. When an odorant molecule with the correct vibration binds to the receptor it closes the switch and allows the electrons to flow. This signal is amplified and sent to the brain. Each molecule has a distinctive vibration pattern and therefore a unique smell. However, Turin’s proposal lacked mathematical rigour and the physical mechanism to back it up.”

In the latest UCL paper, the researchers propose a viable physical mechanism that fits with both the laws of physics and observed features of smell.

Professor Marshall Stoneham, of the London Centre for Nanotechnology, the UCL Department of Physics & Astronomy and one of the senior authors of the study, added: “The key to determining whether the vibration model works lies in the rate that electrons move around either in the presence or absence of an odour. Our calculations show that electron flow increases significantly in the presence of an odour, suggesting there’s mileage in vibration theory.

“Furthermore, this type of receptor activation, which essentially relies on ‘biological electronics’, was previously unknown and could explain how other systems in the body operate.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

A Republican view of the Iraq War

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Via The Liberal Avenger, this op-ed from the Orange County Sentinel, written by Denny Freidenrich. Orange County is a bastion of conservatism, so this carries more weight than it would in a more liberal paper:

I don’t often quote Washington Post columnists, unless one of them is really right. In this case, Harold Meyerson is just that when he writes, “The Republicans have but two ways out of Iraq. They can either go out like Eisenhower or like Nixon.”

If they are like Ike, Meyerson reasons, they will recognize that the war is lost, and that public support for it isn’t likely to rebound. The Nixonian perspective, Meyerson professes, also acknowledges that the war cannot be won but believes that blame for the defeat should be placed on the Democrats.

“If only the Democrats can be held responsible for defunding the troops, if only the U.S. presence in Iraq can be prolonged until it falls to the next administration (which may be Democratic), if only enough Republicans on the Hill can be dissuaded from voting with the Democrats’ attempts to rein in the war, if only the surge engenders some wild and crazy anti-war demonstrations, then maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to keep the war going without destroying the GOP,” Meyerson sardonically reports.

Talk about wishful thinking. Where is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich when the Republicans need him?

By the time President Bush began publicly attacking the Democrats two weeks ago, some U.S. troops already had been redeployed into Baghdad.

“To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible,” Mr. Bush said in one of his recent radio addresses to the nation. It’s a theme the self-proclaimed “decider” repeated several times leading up to his State of the Union speech.

Whether you agree or disagree with the president’s decision to send 21,500 more soldiers to Iraq, this much is known: First, Republicans cooked the data about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; second, Republicans were in the majority when Congress voted to invade Iraq; and third, Republicans in Congress sponsored the massive increases in military spending for the war.

All this being true, why then are Republicans saying it is up to the Democrats to show the White House and the nation the way out of Iraq? Talk about political spinmeisters working overtime! If the stakes weren’t so high, this would be laughable; unfortunately, there really is nothing funny about what the Republicans have done in Iraq.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 3:14 pm

31 Cancer-prevention tips

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From the Reader’s Digest. These probably fall into the category of “It can’t hurt” at worst. At best, they could prevent a cancer.

Consider this number: 10 million. That’s how many cases of cancer are diagnosed worldwide each year. Now consider this number: 15 million. That’s how many cases of cancer the World Health Organization estimates will be diagnosed in the year 2020 — a 50 percent increase — if we don’t get our act together.

Most cancers don’t develop overnight or out of nowhere. Cancer is largely predictable, the end result of a decades-long process, but just a few simple changes in your daily life can significantly reduce your risk. Here are 31 great tips.

1. Serve sauerkraut at your next picnic. A Finnish study found that the fermentation process involved in making sauerkraut produces several other cancer-fighting compounds, including ITCs, indoles, and sulforaphane. To reduce the sodium content, rinse canned or jarred sauerkraut before eating.

2. Eat your fill of broccoli, but steam it rather than microwaving it. Broccoli is a cancer-preventing superfood, one you should eat frequently. But take note: A Spanish study found that microwaving broccoli destroys 97 percent of the vegetable’s cancer-protective flavonoids. So steam it, eat it raw as a snack, or add it to soups and salads.

3. Toast some Brazil nuts and sprinkle over your salad. They’re a rich form of selenium, a trace mineral that convinces cancer cells to commit suicide and helps cells repair their DNA. A Harvard study of more than 1,000 men with prostate cancer found those with the highest blood levels of selenium were 48 percent less likely to develop advanced disease over 13 years than men with the lowest levels. And a dramatic five-year study conducted at Cornell University and the University of Arizona showed that 200 micrograms of selenium daily — the amount in two unshelled Brazil nuts — resulted in 63 percent fewer prostate tumors, 58 percent fewer colorectal cancers, 46 percent fewer lung malignancies, and a 39 percent overall decrease in cancer deaths.

4. Pop a calcium supplement with vitamin D. A study out of Dartmouth Medical School suggests that the supplements reduce colon polyps (a risk factor for colon cancer) in people susceptible to the growths.

5. Add garlic to everything you eat. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that may stimulate the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer, and may have the potential to reduce tumor growth. Studies suggest that garlic can reduce the incidence of stomach cancer by as much as a factor of 12!

6. Sauté two cloves of crushed garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then mix in a can of low-sodium, diced tomatoes. Stir gently until heated and serve over whole wheat pasta. We already mentioned the benefits of garlic. The lycopene in the tomatoes protects against colon, prostate, and bladder cancers; the olive oil helps your body absorb the lycopene; and the fiber-filled pasta reduces your risk of colon cancer. As for the benefits of all of these ingredients together: They taste great!

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Medical

Cheney and the 4th branch of government

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Dick Cheney has created a fourth branch of the US government: in addition to the Executive, the Legislative (Congress), and the Judicial (the Supreme Court and Federal court system), there is now the Vice-Presidential:

The WaPo’s R. Jeffrey Smith and Carol Leonnig, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, and the Post’s Dan Froomkin have all published compelling pieces over the last couple of days highlighting the way in which Scooter Libby’s trial is “boring in on” Dick Cheney’s role in the Plame scandal. Testimony from last week reinforced long-held suspicions that the Vice President was more actively involved with the pushback against Joseph Wilson than the White House had previously acknowledged.

And while this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, TPM’s David Kurtz helped the bigger picture yesterday in a terrific post.

Kurtz notes that he was “extremely skeptical” of the idea that Cheney was secretly running the executive branch, right up until the 9/11 Commission noted that the VP “had issued shootdown orders outside of the chain of command and then conspired with the President to conceal this fact from the Commission.” Since then, Kurtz explained, “I’ve gone from being open to the idea of an Imperial Vice Presidency to being convinced that historians will debate whether something approaching a Cheney-led coup d’etat has occurred.”

Last week, in trying to break the lock on who actually works in the OVP — which the Vice President refuses to reveal — the guys at Muckraker stumbled across this entry from a government directory known as the “Plum Book”:

The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code).

It appears that Cheney’s office submitted this entry in lieu of a list of its employees, as federal agencies must do. It sounds like something Cheney’s current chief of staff, David Addington, might have written. Cheney and Addington have been the among the most powerful proponents of the theory of a “unitary executive,” but there are indications that they have also advanced, though less publicly, a theory of a constitutionally distinct and independent vice presidency.

Meet Dick Cheney — the independent, fourth-branch superpower of the United States government.

As Digby put it:

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 2:43 pm

Quite a dinner party

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Take a look at this pictorial post: the 24 hours before a dinner party. And what a dinner party!

Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

GOP: the party of corruption

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From the Sacramento Bee:

Rep. John Doolittle’s campaign committee reported Thursday that it owed the Roseville Republican’s wife nearly $137,000 in fundraising commissions lingering from the 2006 elections, and that its year-end debts exceeded cash reserves by $166,000.

The consequence is that Doolittle now is soliciting contributions and planning fundraisers for his 2008 campaign that, in the early going at least, will be raising money largely to pay off his wife’s company, which is operated out of the couple’s suburban Virginia home.

“Instead of recommitting himself to his constituents as he promised, this means he will be recommitting himself to improving his own financial interests,” said Naomi Seligman Steiner, spokeswoman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning advocacy group that has been a fierce critic of Doolittle’s arrangement with his wife’s company.

During the 2005-06 election cycle, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions racked up almost $224,000 in commissions from the Doolittle campaign. The standard congressional salary last year was $162,500.

Doolittle ran into fierce criticism during his 2006 election over the commissions he had paid his wife.

Critics charged that the practice, considered unethical by some professional fundraisers, had the effect of pumping money from contributors directly into his family checkbook.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Oofta! Why 54,000,000 Americans are Creationists

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Religion, Science, Video

Escalation plan violates military doctrine

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From TPMmuckraker:

While the Senate roils over the Levin-Warner kinda-sorta-anti-surge resolution today, one of the most important elements of the White House’s Iraq plan remains unclear: the dual chain of command in place for U.S. and Iraqi soldiers.

President Bush announced on January 10 that the Iraqis would appoint an overall Baghdad commander and two subordinate commanders for Iraqi units across the nine Baghdad districts. Those commanders would be responsible for the expected 18 Army and Police brigades to be deployed throughout the capital — who would work alongside the surged U.S. forces under the command of General David Petraeus.

Not many observers understood how this would actually work, but practically all worried about violating unity of command — a military necessity for any successful operation. The Army’s Operations Field Manual, 100-5, states clearly:

At all levels of war, employment of military forces in a manner that masses combat power toward a common objective requires unity of command and unity of effort. Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. It requires a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces in pursuit of a unified purpose.

As it stands now, however, the surge possesses no such harmony. Even one of its intellectual architects, retired Army General Jack Keane, testified on January 25 that “it makes no sense to you, it makes no sense to me, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do, and that’ll be a problem for Petraeus and his commanders to sort out.”

And for his part, during his January 23 confirmation hearing, Petraeus promised to work with his subordinate commander, Lt. General Ray Odierno, to figure out how to harmonize the command structure. Sen. John Warner (R-VA), bluntly told the incoming Central Command chief, Admiral William Fallon, that unity of command “has to be clarified.”

In a Salon piece last week, Mark Benjamin laid out the stakes for what to expect in Baghdad if the lack of clarity persists:

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 11:59 am

Congress should prepare itself for Iran

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Kevin Drum this morning:

Leonard Weiss and Larry Diamond are members in good standing of the mainstream liberal foreign policy community. They’re about the farthest thing imaginable from a pair of left-wing loonies, but here’s what they have to say today about Iran and the Bush administration:

When Bush signed the Iraq war resolution, he issued a statement challenging the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, indicating that he could take the nation to war without obeying its restrictions. Unfortunately, even if the president were to agree to the act’s restrictions, he could still attack Iran and have up to 90 days before being required to get congressional authorization for the attack.

What to do? Congress should not wait. It should hold hearings on Iran before the president orders a bombing attack on its nuclear facilities, or orders or supports a provocative act by the U.S. or an ally designed to get Iran to retaliate, and thus further raise war fever.

….The law should be attached to an appropriations bill, making it difficult for the president to veto. If he simply claims that he is not bound by the restriction even if he signs it into law, and then orders an attack on Iran without congressional authorization for it, Congress should file a lawsuit and begin impeachment proceedings.

Italics mine. Diamond, obviously, has more than the usual insight into how the Bush administration thinks and acts, since Condi Rice chose him to advise the CPA on Iraqi development in early 2004. His conclusion: the administration plans to bomb Iran and plans to do it whether Congress likes it or not. Listen up, Democrats.

Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 11:37 am

Troops in Iraq have no delusions about the escalation

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They think it’s a lost cause, but Bush will listen only to those who agree with him.

Army 1st Lt. Antonio Hardy took a slow look around the east Baghdad neighborhood that he and his men were patrolling. He grimaced at the sound of gunshots in the distance. A machine gunner on top of a Humvee scanned the rooftops for snipers. Some of Hardy’s men wondered aloud if they’d get hit by a roadside bomb on the way back to their base.

“To be honest, it’s going to be like this for a long time to come, no matter what we do,” said Hardy, 25, of Atlanta. “I think some people in America don’t want to know about all this violence, about all the killings. The people back home are shielded from it; they get it sugar-coated.”

While senior military officials and the Bush administration say the president’s decision to send more American troops to pacify Baghdad will succeed, many of the soldiers who’re already there say it’s a lost cause.

“What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there’s somebody new waiting to kill us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. “Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we’re not going to change that overnight.”

“Once more raids start happening, they’ll (insurgents) melt away,” said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. “And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they’ll come back.”

Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half the city’s 8 million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may momentarily suppress it, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 11:32 am


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Day-Tipper offers daily tips—quite a few at their site, and a few that they email to you if you sign up for the (free) service. And the tips aren’t bad. Today’s:

Use postcards as a daily travel diary

On your trip buy a postcard each day (or buy them all at once if you are vacationing in the same location for the entire trip). Write one postcard for each day of the trip and include the highlights. When you get home, punch holes in the postcards and link them together with a metal ring from the office supply store. You now have a small diary of your trip.

Five things to do daily for enhanced wellness

Here are five things to do that will enhance your overall wellness: 1) Drink more water. 2) Stretch for 20 minutes when you awake. 3) Meditate (or nap) for 30 minutes. 4) Listen to music. 5) Stop watching the news.

Use timer to schedule dedicated time for each class

Staying focused is one of the hardest aspects of studying. One of the best ways I have found is to make a list of the subjects you want to study, and list a time for each one (e.g., 30 minutes). Use a kitchen timer to keep track and study each subject for the time you listed. Don’t jump around and make sure you take a 10 to 15 min break after each session. Studying in small dedicated blocks helps keep you focused and on track.

Relationships & Love
Unselfishness leads to lasting love

I have learned that the best way to attain lasting love is to be completely unselfish. Always think about your partner and always make your partner feel valued and cherished. Start the day thinking and doing something for your partner. That shows your partner how important he/she is.

Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life

Krugman on the corruption of the country

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Paul Krugman has a very good column on how the Bush Administration built its Iraq effort on corruption, and how they’re bringing home the technique.

One of the best of the many recent books about the Iraq debacle is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” The book tells a tale of hopes squandered in the name of politicization and privatization: key jobs in Baghdad’s Green Zone were assigned on the basis of loyalty rather than know-how, while key functions were outsourced to private contractors.

Two recent reports in The New York Times serve as a reminder that the Bush administration has brought the same corruption of governance to the home front. Call it the Green-Zoning of America.

In the first article, The Times reported that a new executive order requires that each agency contain a “regulatory policy office run by a political appointee,” a change that “strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts.” Yesterday, The Times turned to the rapid growth of federal contracting, fed “by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does.”

These are two different pieces of the same story: under the guise of promoting a conservative agenda, the Bush administration has created a supersized version of the 19th-century spoils system.

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 February 2007 at 9:37 am

A week of shaving creams

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I’ve been using shaving soap exclusively for a while, and I decided that I really need to start using shaving cream. So this week (six shaves) I’ll be using Geo. F. Trumper shaving creams:

    1. Almond
    2. Coconut Oil
    3. GFT
    4. Rose
    5. Sandalwood
    6. Violet

      FWIW, that’s my complete Geo. F. Trumper collection. Sequence will be more or less random: Coconut Oil this morning because I happened to take off the lid and the fragrance wafted me away.

      I used the Slant Bar with a new Swedish Gillette blade. It wasn’t quite as sharp as the Feather, but I got as smooth a shave as I’ve ever had, and with neither nick nor cut. When I ran the alum bar over my wet face at the end of the shave, I felt only its coolness.

      I whipped up a great lather with the Rooney Style 2 Finest, and the Coconut Oil shaving cream did indeed make a fine lather. The first pass of lathering on my face with a shaving cream puts a thin layer of pure shaving cream over my entire beard. Then I rewet the brush in hot water and gradually build a lather from that.

      My face already felt smooth after the second pass (across the grain), so the against-the-grain pass was more or less polishing.

      If you’re just starting to shave with a safety razor, let me point you to this list of sources of common problems newbies experience.

      Written by Leisureguy

      5 February 2007 at 9:34 am

      Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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