Later On

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

Archive for February 20th, 2007

Kvetching about life’s little problems

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So I have a fax machine now. I thought I’d hook it up to the phone jack behind the computer desk (which, luckily, is on rollers). I roll out the computer desk, plug in a splitter so the phone cable from the computer’s internal modem can share the jack with the fax machine.

No dial tone on fax machine. A certain amount of trying other splitters, pulling out and pushing in cables, etc. No dial tone. Decide to send fax from computer. It thinks the phone line is connected as well.

Call the independent (third-party) telephone repair guy I’ve used before. He arrives in about ten minutes. The jack is dead. He asks where those cables terminate. I take him down to the junction box and, yep, one of the wires is broken. He fixes the connection, everything’s live again. I write him $55 ($2 for fixing wire, $53 for knowing which wire to fix).

He leaves. I get a call, and the fax machine rings. It’s working!

Start to type an email. Keyboard dead. Wireless keyboard. Restart computer. Still dead. Push buttons to reconnect (one button on little receiver, one button on keyboard). Still dead. Take out batteries from keyboard (new), put them back in. Push buttons. Restart computer. Finally unplug little receiver (USB port) and plug it into another port. Push button: its lights start flickering as it searches for keyboard. Push button on keyboard. It works again.

This stuff goes on forever… but for now, it’s working and that’s good enough.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

77 ways to learn faster

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As we learn more about how to learn, tactics and devices multiply. Here’s an excellent collection for the learning-inclined.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

World’s hottest chili pepper

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Hottest Chilli

That, dear reader, is a chilli that you don’t want to pop whole into your mouth: 1,001,304 Scoville heat units. Read more here.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Why nuclear power might be important to Iran

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Maybe we’re starting to see Peak Oil occur. Alert Reader passes along this story:

A report in today’s Wall Street Journal paints a picture of an Iran in the early stages of an energy crisis. Although long considered an energy giant, the Persian Gulf country is facing the prospect of an oil output crash within a decade, and it may start rationing gasoline next month.

Bill Spindle writes in the Journal this morning that Iran’s oil production is stagnating. Demand in the country is high because the government makes the price of gasoline very cheap. At the same time, “a combination of Western sanctions and Iranian policies has discouraged foreign investment in oil fields,” resulting in a lull in production growth. The problem is so severe that Iran’s government “shelled out at least $7 billion on gasoline imports alone so far this fiscal year.”

In response, Iran is hoping to expand its production abilities. But the US government and others see political implications from the current state of affairs in the Iranian energy sector.

“Iran’s energy woes could make it more vulnerable to international economic sanctions,” Spindle writes. “Even many Iranian officials concede that the longstanding ban the U.S. has placed on American oil companies working in Iran has hampered the country’s ability to develop its oil fields adequately.”

The full article can be accessed by Wall Street Journal subscribers at this link. An excerpt is provided below.

At the same time, a combination of Western sanctions and Iranian policies has discouraged foreign investment in oil fields, causing production to stagnate. The result: Iran’s oil exports could dry up in as little as a decade, according to some who have studied the situation.

That’s a looming disaster for Iran, which derives about 85% of its export income from the sale of oil. “The industry is in a crisis,” says Mehdi Varzi, a former Iranian diplomat and national oil company official who heads a London-based consulting company, Varzi Energy.

The impact would be felt far beyond Iran. The country produced 3.8 million barrels of oil a day in 2006, almost 5% of the world’s total supply, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It exported an average of about 2.5 million barrels of that each day. Should those sales decline, Iran’s largest customers, Japan and China, would scramble for other supplies, pushing up prices for everyone.

Avoiding an export squeeze is one reason Iran argues it needs to consider nuclear energy. But that ambition has contributed to a diplomatic impasse with the West. Bush administration officials describe Iran’s nuclear program as little more than a ruse to conceal what they say is a hidden effort to build nuclear weapons. Iranian officials deny that, arguing that nuclear plants could handle some of the soaring domestic energy demand, leaving more oil and gas to export and avoiding difficult domestic choices.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 12:44 pm

Progress on hip

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Mainly for family & medical groupies: I go in this Friday to CHOMP (Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula) for the bone scan. They give me the stuff (orally, I presume, though I guess an injection is possible) and then I come back 3 hours later for the scan itself.

I got the report on the X-ray. The elbow was all normal, so far as they could see. The hip joint was another story: “A sclerotic lesion with a lucent central focus is present in the intertrochanteric region.” From that, they had some boilerplate about all the possible things it might signify, but the bottom line was a whole body bone scan, with spot views of the right hip. Which is what I’m doing for the next step. The lesion, FWIW, is approximately 2.7 x 1.5 cm.


Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Evidence-based medicine

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The evidence-based medicine movement has been going on for quite a while. Unfortunately, progress will be slow because doctors as a group are quite conservative and stick with what they already know and have tried. Someone commented once that getting doctors to wash their hands before surgery required waiting for an entire generation of surgeons to die off before the practice became common.

TIME magazine has an article on evidence-based medicine and what it can (and cannot) deliver:

Nobody pretends medicine is easy, but if there’s one thing we ought to be able to rely on, it’s that the doctors looking out for us are doing more than playing hunches. We take certain medicines because they work, right? We go into the operating room for certain procedures because they’ll make us well, don’t we?

Well, maybe. More and more, however, doctors are making the unnerving case that no matter how reliable a drug or other treatment appears to be, too often there’s simply little hard evidence that it would make a long-term difference in a person’s quality of life or prolonged survival. Obviously, drugs are tested rigorously to show that they are safe and effective before they are approved by the U.S. and other developed countries. But a clinical study is not the real world, and just because a drug leads to a statistically significant improvement in, say, cholesterol levels doesn’t guarantee that the desired effect—a healthier heart and a longer life—will follow. Often your doctor is left to make prescription decisions based at least in part on faith, bias or even an educated guess. That ought to be enough to spook even the least jumpy patient, but the fact is, recognizing just what a roll of the dice medicine can be may be a good thing.

Increasingly, doctors seeking to provide their patients with the best possible care are exploring what is known as evidence-based medicine—a hard, cold, empirical look at what works, what doesn’t and how to distinguish between the two. It’s not enough to prove that a particular blood test or CT scan really spots cancer, for example. You also need to know whether early detection of that cancer would make a difference in your ability to respond to treatment or it merely means that you would die at the same point but learn about your illness earlier than you would have without the test.

Evidence-based medicine, which uses volumes of studies and show-me skepticism to answer such questions, is now being taught—with varying degrees of success—at every medical school in North America. It has been extraordinarily successful in shooting down some of the most cherished beliefs in health care, like the idea that long-term hormone-replacement therapy would help prevent heart disease in women. And it has clearly saved lives. Many doctors used to give anti-arrhythmia drugs to everyone who experienced irregular heartbeats after a heart attack because severely irregular beats could rapidly prove fatal. But then came the results of a randomized trial showing that patients with only mildly irregular heartbeats were more likely to die if given the anti-arrhythmia medication than their untreated counterparts were. Doctors now prescribe more judiciously, though treatment still saves lives in the case of severe arrhythmias.

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Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Australia takes the lead

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Very good idea—and an approach that the free market just can’t do: it requires governmental action.

Australia will be the world’s first country to ban incandescent lightbulbs in a bid to curb greenhouse gas emissions, with the government saying on Tuesday they would be phased out within three years and replaced by compact fluorescent lighting.

By 2009, Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull told local radio, “you simply won’t be able to buy incandescent lightbulbs, because they won’t meet the energy standard.”

Legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 percent, said Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Australia produced almost 565 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2004, official figures show.

Prime Minister John Howard said the plan would help all Australians play a part in cutting harmful gas emissions: “Here’s something practical that everybody will participate in.”

In incandescent light bulbs, perfected for mass use by Thomas Edison in the late 19th century, electricity flows through a filament to create light. Much of the energy, however, is wasted in the form of heat.

Australia is not the only place looking to replace them with fluorescent lighting, which is more efficient and longer lasting.

Last month, a California assemblyman announced he would propose a bill to ban the use of incandescent bulbs in his state. And a New Jersey lawmaker has called for the state to switch to fluorescent lighting in government buildings within three years.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago, sending youth brigades into homes and switching out regular bulbs for energy-saving ones to help battle electrical blackouts around the island.

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Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 9:27 am

Day 2 of soap experiment

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Today I used the second soap:  HS 2 GIT

  1. Effect on skin (dryness, etc.): no problem there
  2. Quantity of lather (how easily it lathers up): produced more lather than HS 1, but then I might have worked the brush more on the soap after yesterday
  3. Quality of lather (slickness): slickness was fine
  4. How well lather lasts: lather lasted better, but see 2 above

Good shave, perhaps a shade better than yesterday. Finished with alum bar and Pinaud’s Lilac Vegetal.

Written by Leisureguy

20 February 2007 at 8:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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