Later On

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

Archive for March 5th, 2007

Ousted Federal prosecutors receive threats and intimidation

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The Bush Administration is full of cowardly bully boys, perhaps emulating their leader:

A high-ranking Justice Department official told one of the U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration that if any of them continued to criticize the administration for their ousters, previously undisclosed details about the reasons they were fired might be released, two of the ousted prosecutors told McClatchy Newspapers.

While the U.S. attorney who got the call regarded the tone of the conversation as congenial, not intimidating, the prosecutor nonetheless passed the message on to five other fired U.S. attorneys. One of them interpreted the reported comments by Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, as a threat.

Justice Department officials denied that the conversation with the U.S. attorney ever took place, and Elston said he called several of the fired U.S. attorneys but never made any such comments.

“I had no conversation in which I discussed with any U.S. attorney what they should or should not say to the media regarding their removal,” Elston said.

The two prosecutors who described the call demanded anonymity because, they said, they didn’t want to antagonize the Justice Department further.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 8:07 pm

Maureen Dowd spelled out clearly

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Bob Somersby in The Daily Howler has provided an excellent analysis of Maureen Dowd:

WHEN YOU READ DOWD, YOU’RE RIDING WITH COULTER: The nation’s big papers and pundits have been exceptionally dainty about Ann Coulter’s latest. On Friday, at a major conservative political gathering in DC, she called John Edwards a “f*ggot.” This has produced little reporting or commentary in the mainstream press. For example, Coulter’s comment has not been mentioned in any of the Washington Post’s news reporting. (It was mentioned, very briefly, in passing, in Dana Milbank’s Saturday “sketch.”) If Nexis is to be believed, it hasn’t been mentioned in the Boston Globe or the Chicago Tribune at all. This morning, USA Today skips it.

But then, there’s little new about Coulter’s conduct—or about the press corps’ silence. In July 2006, for example, Coulter called Al Gore a “total fag” on Hardball. Chris Matthews—an endless Gore-trasher himself—didn’t utter a peep of protest. No, Matthews doesn’t approve of Coulter. But he was too weak—too afraid—to speak up.

Nor did the “press corps” offer a peep of complaint about Coulter’s ludicrous best-seller, Slander. When it appeared in 2002, the book simply brimmed with factual “errors”—literally, from its first page to its last. But the New York Times knew the easy way out! Its “reviewer,” Janet Maslin, took a talking-point straight from Coulter. In her “review,” Maslin cited the number of foot-notes in Slander, and used the footnotes as a marker of the vast research its author had so clearly conducted. As we noted, if you simply checked out some of those footnotes, you would have quickly seen that Coulter’s book was a fraud (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02). But praising Coulter for her research makes life much simpler for Manhattan’s swells. It exempts them from all those hateful e-mails. As such, it gets them to the Hamptons a bit earlier on Fridays. Or possibly, on Thursday nights.

Yep! Our news orgs have long enabled Coulter. If your nation goes up in the smoke in the process, these loathsome Antoinettes just don’t care.

But then, why should pundits criticize Coulter when she describes Dem males as big “f*ggots?” It’s very similar to the gender-based “analysis” their dauphine, the Comptesse Maureen Dowd, has long offered. In Dowd’s work, John Edwards is routinely “the Breck Girl”(five times so far—and counting), and Gore is “so feminized that he’s practically lactating.” Indeed, two days before we voted in November 2000, Dowd devoted her entire column, for the sixth time, to an imaginary conversation between Gore and his bald spot. “I feel pretty,” her headline said (pretending to quote Gore’s inner thoughts).That was the image this idiot wanted you carrying off to the voting booth with you! Such is the state of Maureen Dowd’s broken soul. And such is the state of her cohort.

And now, in the spirit of fair play and brotherhood, she is extending this type of “analysis” to Barack Obama. In the past few weeks, she has described Obama as “legally blonde” (in her headline); as “Scarlett O’Hara” (in her next column); as a “Dreamboy,” as “Obambi,” and now, in her latest absurd piece, as a “schoolboy” (text below). Do you get the feeling that Dowd may have a few race-and-gender issues floating around in her inane, tortured mind? But this sort of thing is nothing new for the comptesse. Indeed, such imagery almost defines the work of this loathsome, inane Antoinette.

Coulter has been visibly disturbed ever since hitting cable in the mid-90s. But Dowd is a borderline nutcase too—a slightly cleaned up version of Coulter. (Ah, we Irish! Yes, each had an Irish Catholic dad.) Coulter comes right out and calls Dem men “f*ggots”—but Maureen Dowd has always come close. Just as Chris Matthews is a slightly cleaned-up William Donohue, Dowd is a more presentable Coulter. For mainstream voters, Maureen is easier to take. For that reason, she has done us more harm.

Coulter teaches contempt for gays, and tries to extend that contempt to Dem pols. But that’s what Dowd has done all these years! And we liberals and Dems have been too weak to understand and address the problem.

We scream about Coulter—and give Dowd a pass. But when you read Dowd, you’re riding with Coulter! When will we get our heads out of our keisters and take ourselves where the harm is the greatest? It makes us feel good to savage vile Coulter. But what about simpering Dowd?

HER LATEST INANITY: Has there ever been a more tortured soul than that of the hapless, inane Dowd? Dowd is the badly-maimed semi-survivor of our mid-century Irish-Catholic cultural wars. In her most recent column, on Saturday past, she pretty much begged us to see this.

The destructive themes of Dowd’s broken soul were on display in her first seven paragraphs.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 8:01 pm

Posted in GOP, Media, NY Times

:sigh: Lies, lies, lies… What liars these Republicans be

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Here’s the latest. One does get tired of it, but I suppose that’s what the GOP is counting on: if they fling enough dishonest mud fast enough, maybe—just maybe—the wall will hold. But what actually seems to be happening, thanks to an alert and active blogosphere, is that the true story comes out quickly enough that the wall slips back into mud and people become more and more aware that the GOP is the party of lies.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Riveting movie: Infamous

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What a perfect movie—fantastic cast, great acting, wonderful story, built up like In Cold Blood itself from using fictional techniques on actual events. Sandra Bullock drops her trademark cuteness to play Nelle Harper Lee absolutely straight, Juliet Stevenson is wonderful (and I have loved her since Truly Madly Deeply—and she did a wonderful turn in Bend It Like Beckham) playing Diana Vreeland, Daniel Craig is overpowering as Perry Smith, and Toby Jones is simply uncanny as Truman Capote—and one can understand why he was loved. This is really a movie not to be missed. Stunning, absorbing, riveting—call it what you will, just see it.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Churchland article now on-line

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A month ago, I posted about Paul and Pat Churchland, from a profile that appeared in the New Yorker. I promised then to update the post when the article went on-line, which it now has. Here’s the updated post.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Science

Pete Domenici lies—he’s a Republican

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Why do Republicans consistently and constantly lie? I imagine that it has something to do with the truth hurting their case. TPMmuckraker catches Domenici in a flagrant lie:

Yesterday, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) announced, by way of explanation, that he’d become frustrated with New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias’ “inability” to “move more quickly on cases.” That frustration, he explained in a statement, had led him to call Justice Department officials and seek a replacement.

But the statistics kept by the Federal Judiciary don’t reflect an inability for Iglesias’ office to move more quickly on cases — in fact, quite the opposite. In 2001, when Iglesias took over, the data (pdf) show a median of 4.6 months for a criminal case in the New Mexico office to move from filing to disposition (dismissal, guilty plea, or trial). In 2005, that time had dwindled to 3.7 months.

And that’s a time when Iglesias’ office was increasingly snowed under by more cases. His office opened 1,548 criminal cases in 2001; in 2005, the office opened 2,915.

So Iglesias’ office was opening more cases and handling them faster than his predecessor. Maybe that’s why he received a positive performance evaluation?

But that still wasn’t good enough for Domenici, apparently.

Actually, I imagine, Domenici had no idea of Iglesias’ performance. Domenici’s just making things up, trying to find an excuse, any excuse, for pressuring Iglesias. And Josh Marshall notes the problem with finding excuses, particularly if you find too many and they’re contradictory:

And the folks at DOJ seem to have come up with another reason for Iglesias’s ouster. From the Times: “Justice officials have said that F.B.I. officials complained that Mr. Iglesias was not bringing corruption cases fast enough, but have not mentioned Mr. Domenici’s efforts to remove him.”

So now it seems that tardiness on bringing corruption indictments was one of the reasons Iglesias was axed. Only Domenici never mentioned it, just the FBI.

Now, before I go, indulge me a moment of deja vu.

If someone tells you one reason they’re doing something, you may believe me. If someone tells you twenty reasons they’re doing something, and some of the reasons contradict each other, it’s very hard not to get suspicious. That was the story of the lead up to the Iraq War — it was about al Qaeda, or WMD, or democratizing the Middle East or stabilizing the Middle East, or about human rights or defending Israel or maybe Saudi Arabia. There were so many good reasons to invade Iraq that only a fool could pass on the opportunity. But for those watching closely the very multiplicity of rationales suggested we were being scammed and weren’t hearing the real story.

Here too, perhaps these folks were fired for incompetence, or maybe over policy disagreements, or maybe because the FBI didn’t think they were moving quickly enough on corruption cases, or maybe they were being shoved out to open up slots for deserving GOP lawyers. Any of these explanations might be true. But when we hear them all, in succession, in little more than a week, you begin to suspect that none of them are true. And that it’s all so much flimflam trying to obscure the real explanation.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 3:14 pm

VA Hospitals vs. Walter Reed Army Medical Center

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Kevin Drum offers an answer to a query he sent Phil Longman:

Still the Best Care Anywhere
By Phillip Longman

It’s great to see the Post doing investigative reporting that actually changes the national conversation and improves people’s lives. But its series on the squalid conditions facing some veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center also has the potential to do harm unless the context of the story gets more play.

For example. True or false. Walter Reed is a VA hospital. The answer is false. The VA has nothing to do with Walter Reed, which is an Army hospital. That’s why the Secretary of the Army took the fall.

Yet as the author of a Washington Monthly cover story on the VA entitled “Best Care Anywhere” (and as the author of a forthcoming book by the same title) I know all too well that many people don’t get the distinction. My email box is overflowing with people wondering what I think of the VA now that it has been enveloped in scandal.

From this I conclude many Americans are taking the wrong lesson from the series. If you are left with the impression that Walter Reed is a VA hospital, then it’s just a short leap to concluding that the problems exposed there are indicative of the veterans health care system as a whole. And from that point, conservatives conclude that the whole story just goes to show what happens when the government gets into the health care business, while liberals use the same VA “scandal” to bash Bush.

Look, the VA has its problems. Because the White House and Congress won’t give it the funding to honor past promises to veterans, it now has to limit new enrollments to vets who have service-related illness or who can meet a strict means test. It’s also having trouble ramping up to meet the needs of the unexpectedly large number of young vets diagnosed with mental illness. But despite these challenges, the fact remains that the VA enjoys the highest rate of consumer satisfaction of any American health care system, public or private.

And outside experts agree that the VA deserves this high rating from its patients. A RAND Corporation study published in the The Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that the VA outperforms all other sectors of American health care in 294 measures of quality. In awarding the VA a top prize in 2006 for innovation in government, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government gushed that “While the costs of healthcare continue to soar for most Americans, the VA is reducing costs, reducing errors, and becoming the model for what modern health care management and delivery should look like.”

Let’s hope the press doesn’t miss that “story behind the story.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 2:50 pm

My, God! It never ends

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Just now from the NY Times:

Nine members of a family were killed in an American airstrike in central Afghanistan, including five women and three children during a battle with militants, Afghan officials said today.

The United States military acknowledged it had dropped two 2,000 pound bombs on a compound Sunday night but said it could not confirm the casualties.

The incident came just 12 hours after American forces in eastern Afghanistan opened fire on civilians when a suicide car bomb exploded next to their convoy Sunday morning, leaving at least 10 people dead and 25 wounded, according to Afghan officials. The shooting sparked angry demonstrations that blocked the main highway Sunday.

United States forces at a small base at Tape Ahmed Beg, in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, called in the airstrike after coming under rocket fire around 9 p.m. local time on Sunday, the American military said in a statement. When two men with Kalashnikov rifles were spotted entering a compound, they called an airstrike on the compound, which ended the engagement, it said. [So: one 2000-lb bomb per enemy fighter—in a civilian compound. – LG]

“Coalition forces observed two men with AK-47s leaving the scene of the rocket attack and entering the compound,” said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a military spokesman, said in a statement. “These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces,” he said.

“We did this in self-defense,” said Gen. Muhammad Eiwaz Masloom, police chief of Kapisa Province, whose police work alongside United States forces at the base. “The enemy of Afghanistan is trying to use different tactics to destroy the peace and stability in our area, especially in the districts of Tagab and Nejarab, and they have repeatedly attacked our bases,” he said. He said members of Hesb-e-Islami, a party led by a renegade mujahedeen commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Taliban supporters were active in the area.

But a local representative of the provincial council, Suraya Bahadur, who comes from Nejarab district where the bombing occurred, condemned it. “I condemned both the suicide attacks and the rocket attacks by the enemy of Afghanistan, and also I condemn these type of mistakes,” by American and NATO forces, she said. “We never want our civilian people to be killed.”

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Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 1:09 pm

Cooking of the Middle Ages

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As you reach middle age, perhaps you will become interested in the foods of the Middle Ages. This site has recipes and other goodies for you. Sample recipe:

Beef y-Stywyd

This is a very simple recipe for stewed beef. The resulting soup would be excellent served with a vegetable tart and fresh baked bread.

  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. mace
  • 1/4 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1/4 tsp. cubebs
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. sage
  • water
  • 3 slices bread
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • pinch saffron
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cut beef into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a large pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes and strain, reserving liquid – I suspect this step is to help remove any scum that forms on the surface during boiling. Put beef and broth back into pot, and add onions and spices. Return to a boil and cook until meat is tender. Meanwhile, tear up bread slices and place in a bowl with the vinegar and enough broth to completely moisten it. When the beef is cooked, strain the bread mixture through a fine strainer into the pot, discarding the bread solids. Add saffron and salt and simmer until the soup thickens slightly. Serve hot.

The bread in this recipe is used as a thickener. If thicker broth is desired then use more bread, and if thinner then add water.

Source [Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, T. Austin (ed.)]: vj – Beef y-Stywyd. Take fayre beef of the rybbys of the fore quarterys, an smyte in fayre pecys, an wasche the beef in-to a fayre potte; than take the water that the beef was sothin yn, an strayne it thorw a straynowr, an sethe the same water and beef in a potte, an let hem boyle to-gederys; than take canel, clowes, maces, graynys of parise, quibibes, and oynons y-mynced, perceli, an sawge, an caste ther-to, an let hem boyle to-gederys; an than take a lof of brede, an stepe it with brothe an venegre, an than draw it thorw a straynoure, and let it be stylle; an whan it is nere y-now, caste the lycour ther-to, but nowt to moche, an than let boyle onys, an cast safroun ther-to a quantyte; than take salt an venegre, and cast ther-to, an loke that it be poynaunt y-now, and serue forth.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:50 am

Posted in Beef, Recipes & Cooking

“Lost Tomb of Jesus” gets a bad review

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Apparently it was really pretty awful:

Last week, I promised I’d watch this documentary about the “lost tomb of Jesus” because it was being advertised here on Pharyngula. Promise fulfilled, but the ghastly program was two hours long—two hours of nothing but fluff. I’ve put a bit of a summary of the whole show below the fold, but I’m afraid there’s nothing very persuasive about any of it, and it was stretched out to a hopelessly tedious length.

8:00-8:30 We learn that there were some ossuaries pulled out of a tomb in 1980. The names scrawled on them: Jesus bar Joseph, Jose, Mary, Matthew. They really didn’t have to drag that out for a half hour.
8:30-8:45 They poke around the site of the tomb, which is under an apartment complex in Jerusalem. I do learn that rabbis there insist on pipes being poked down to tombs so the spirits can get out, which is kind of freaky, but convenient if you’ve got a camera and some fiber optics. We also see some handwaving statistics, given the frequency of various names, and an estimate that it’s very unlikely that this can be anything other than Jesus’ family. I don’t buy it.
8:45-9:00 Another ossuary has the name “Miriamne Mara”. They speculate that this might be Mary Magdalene’s, despite it not saying “Magdalene”, because MM might have been a master (“Mara”) and preacher. Extensive confabulations follow.
9:00-9:05 You know that tomb they were poking around in earlier? They finally get a camera in. Wrong tomb.
9:05-9:15 Hey, Simon bar Jonah’s ossuary was found somewhere near here—maybe this was an area where lots of early Christians were buried! So they show some more piles of ossuaries nearby. It seems to me, though, that if they’ve got an association with a specific community of early Christians, that the statistical analysis which assumes a random distribution of names has just gone kablooiee.
9:15-9:25 Finally, the much ballyhooed DNA evidence. They extracted mitochondrial DNA from bone fragments in the ossuaries. The mito DNA from the Jesus ossuary and the Miriamne Mara ossuary don’t match—which is what you’d expect if it were Jesus and Mary Magdalene (they are not maternally related!) It’s also what you’d expect if it were a family tomb, and they were husband and wife. Therefore, they speculate for a while that Mary Magdalene and Jesus must have actually been married to one another! It’s an awful lot to spin from a lack of a DNA match.
9:25-9:30 The guys at the apartment complex find a cement cover 20 meters away, and open it up. It’s the right tomb! I don’t quite understand why they’re rummaging about in the old tomb—the ossuaries had been removed 20 years before, and stored in a warehouse.
9:30-9:45 They count the ossuaries in the warehouse, and the tally in the archaeological records. They don’t match—one is missing. So they dredge up Oded Golan and the “James son of Joseph brother of Jesus” ossuary, which is known to have had a forged inscription. They speculate that even if the “brother of Jesus” part was forged, if it came from the same tomb, it would still indicate a familial tie.
9:45-9:50 Patina analysis shows that the James ossuary probably came from the same tomb as the Jesus/Mary/Miramne/Matthew/Jose group. Uh, they don’t seem to care that they’ve just linked their inscribed ossuaries to a known forged ossuary inscription.
9:50-10:00 Bombshell! Now, at the end of the program, they mention another ossuary that was inscribed “Judah son of Jesus”. Let’s speculate that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child together so that this all makes sense. Unfortunately, their earlier arguments relied on the compatibility of the names with scriptural evidence; now when they’ve got a name that contradicts the scriptures, they just pull an unsupported story out of their asses to make it fit. If they found “Kilroy” scrawled on one of the ossuaries, I suspect they’d make up something about a distant cousin mentioned in an apocryphal scrap of parchment somewhere.

It wasn’t very impressive. They really milked a paucity of hard data for an over-long ‘documentary’ that was mostly handwaving. The DNA data was pretty much non-existent—one pair of bone fragments were compared and found not to match. Most of the story was an assurance that the conjunction of names found in the tomb couldn’t merely coincidentally match the names found in the gospels…but they really had to reach to make excuses to turn “Miriamne Mara” into “Mary Magdalene”, and they had one name, this “Judah” kid, that didn’t match the biblical collection at all, so they just flat-out invented an unsupported tale of Jesus having a son. Flogging a link between some ossuaries stored in a warehouse (which did not look at all secure) for twenty years and a known forgery also simply obliterates any credibility the whole shebang might have.

Don’t waste your time with it. It’s nonsense. I was rather enchanted with the idea that some apartments in Israel have ‘spirit pipes’ that lead down to 2000 year old tombs, though, and that if you pry up the right slab in your garden you might find a ladder down to an ancient tomb. Otherwise, it was pretty much a bust.

One good thing: the commercials for an 11-part documentary titled “planet earth” to be shown later this month looked very, very good. I may have to catch that one.

The comments to the post were equally unimpressed by the documentary. Example: “Most painful 2 hours EVER! The “journalist” was such a sleazeball, which became even more apparent during the 1 hour criticism session after the documentary. It was good to see Ted Koppell and the two archaeologists tear him a new one, although I have to say I don’t know why the Discovery Channel didn’t make the guy change his film before showing it. The fact that they would actually air such a piece of crap is definitely a black mark on their record, although I’ll be tuning in to Planet Earth later this month nonetheless.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:44 am

Cool: cheap and carbon-neutral insulation

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This is heartening:

More and more home owners are insulating the walls and ceilings of their houses to save on heating costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, their commitment to environmental friendliness usually stops short at the choice of insulating materials.

Fiberglass and rock wool along with plastic foams made from polystyrene or polyurethane are still the first choice for many. Only around 5 percent of insulating materials are produced from renewable raw materials such as reed, flax, hemp, straw or wool. However, insulating blankets made from natural materials have definite advantages: their production requires relatively little energy, they are not harmful to health and, when they are no longer needed, they can be disposed of by composting or carbon-neutral incineration.

Together with four partners, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal has developed new bio-based materials, including one based on hemp – a plant native to Germany. Conventional insulating materials made from hemp contain polyester supporting fibers to hold the plant fibers together. Now, however, a biopolymer extracted from corn fulfills this function. The new insulating material is thus made entirely of natural products and is completely biodegradable – and, most importantly, it works, as tests have shown.

“Its insulating characteristics come very close to those of conventional products,” explains ICT project coordinator Darius Primus. It is light, has low heat conductivity and, thanks to a soda bath, fulfills fire safety regulations. On top of that, it easily absorbs and releases moisture, helping to prevent damage to the building. The only disadvantage is that the supporting biopolymer, which amounts to about 10 percent of the insulating material, currently still costs twice as much as polyester.

ICT researcher Dr. Axel Kauffmann has taken a different approach. In a project supported by the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg (a foundation for the funding of projects of benefit to the public), he investigated the suitability of a variety of biopolymers for insulating panels, in order to find environmentally friendly alternatives to polystyrene. His work has shown that this approach is viable. The new bio-based material has similar characteristics to polystyrene and can therefore be used as an insulator. However, it is also two or three times as expensive at present. Nevertheless, Dr. Kauffmann hopes that the price of biopolymers will fall as production levels rise.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:34 am

Capsaicin fights fat

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I knew there was a reason I put two habaneros in my salmon-and-vegetable meal yesterday. 🙂 Maybe capsaicin does work.

One thing I’ve noted, though. When people read results of scientific studies like this, they immediately suppose the researchers weren’t smart enough to control for (painfully obvious) variables. In the earlier post on how people who fish were found to be healthier, a commenter suggested that the researchers hadn’t though to control on economic level, and that people who ate more fish generally had more money (fish being expensive) and thus that would probably account for their greater health: better medical care, etc.

First, the experiment was run in the UK, which of course has a rational health system with national health insurance. Second, controlling on income level is undoubtedly the first thing that occurred to researchers.

So in looking at this study, please do not think, “Aha! If the food is very spicy hot, people are apt to eat less, and the researchers probably didn’t think to control on that.” Please.

Here’s the story:

Food scientists in Taiwan are reporting new evidence from laboratory experiments that capsaicin — the natural compound that gives red pepper that spicy hot kick — can reduce the growth of fat cells. The study is scheduled for the March 21 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the report, Gow-Chin Yen and Chin-Lin Hsu cite previous research suggesting that obesity can be reduced by preventing immature fat cells (adipocytes) from developing into mature cells.

Past research also linked capsaicin to a decrease in the amount of fat tissue and decreased blood-fat levels. With that knowledge, the researchers tested capsaicin’s effects on pre-adipocytes and adipocytes growing in laboratory cultures.

They found that capsaicin prevented pre-adipocytes from filling with fat and becoming full-fledged fat cells. The effects occurred at levels just slightly greater than those found in the stomach fluid of an individual eating a typical Indian or Thai diet, the researchers noted. Capsaicin worked by providing a biochemical signal that made fat cells undergo apoptosis, a mechanism in which cells self-destruct.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

How to plan a homework schedule

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Again via Lifehacker, a WikiHow entry on how to plan a homework schedule:

  1. Get a pen and paper. Write down your schedule for after school. For example, you can write down the following: spend 30 minutes on break, then study for 1 hour, then do homework, etc.
  2. Add in limitations. Avoid distracting activities, and only call on other people for help when necessary.
  3. Write in a couple of break times. This will help to stop you complaining about how long your work feels, or have you feeling that it is impossible to do and making you feel shut in.
  4. Set an early bedtime. Never stay up after 10 PM unless you have an incredible amount of homework. Even then, this should be a rare event.
  5. Take 5 minute breaks every 30 minutes; stretch, get something to drink, etc.
  6. Leave your study far from an hour before a big test; you don’t want to have a mental block.
  7. Ask everyone in your house to avoid watching TV while you do your homework. Or to at least turn down the noise.


  • Think of homework times. For example, if you get to do this, you’ll still be able to do that.
  • Do the homework that requires little critical thinking (like math or science) first, then progress to the assignments with massive amounts of thinking (like english) with the moderates in between. Think of the first group as homework that has a very definite estimated time of completion, while the last group can vary in length greatly.


  • You must fully devote your schedule to doing this, that means turning off every electronic device except your phone, lamp, clock, and room light (and if needed, the computer). Otherwise, you will have a high risk of failing.
  • Do not extend the time you take to refuel (such as getting your juice) or start with things that relate to goofing off. You must fully devote yourself to this.

Things You’ll Need

  • Clock for timer
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Lamp
  • Cellphone

Related wikiHows

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

101 to organize your life

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Via Lifehacker, this list of 101 ways to use project management techniques to organize your life.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 11:13 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Good point on Iglesias and what the GOP will do

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Again from Josh Marshall:

On the matter of Mr. Iglesias’s testimony on Tuesday, let’s remember a few things. Sen. Domenici (R-NM) and the political appointees at the Justice Department have strong motivations for supporting each others claims about management shortcomings during Mr. Iglesias’s tenure — despite the fact that there appears to be little if any evidence for this prior to Iglesias’s ouster. Domenici has already if not lied then intentionally misled the public about his contacts with Iglesias. Remember, when first asked about Iglesias’s claims about calls to his office from members of the New Mexico delegation, Domenici said “I have no idea what he’s talking about.” It’s only by the most generous and clement interpretation that that statement doesn’t peg Domenici as a liar. So he’s already misled the public and taken an action which even by the most innocent reading appears to violate congressional ethics rules. He doesn’t have much credibility. The folks at Main Justice don’t have much either when you consider that they’ve run through several different explanations at this point for why Iglesias was fired.

So let’s see what Iglesias says. He’s levelled extremely serious charges. So he deserves scrutiny too. But let’s not miss that we’re about to witness that most familiar of Bush era storylines, the whistleblower heading into the buzzsaw, with the full panoply of DOJ, Republican senators, National Review yakkers and RNC smearlords ready to crank up the noise machine to make sure Iglesias is too bashed and bruised by the end of the week to make his charges amount to anything.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 10:26 am

What the Purge looks like from the inside

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Josh Marshall gets an interesting email:

A view from an anonymous TPM Reader in the trenches …

I’m an Assistant United States Attorney in [*******], and am, of course, outraged by the U.S. Attorney purge, as most AUSAs are. I appreciate all the work you’ve been doing on this story.My own sense is that this purge has to be viewed as part a much larger story on the devastating impact of this administration’s policies on the institution of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

From a fiscal perspective, the administration has essentially abandoned the U.S. Attorney’s Offices. That has led to a precipitous drop in the numbers of federal prosecutions, particularly in larger districts like Los Angeles. The effects of the budget crisis at U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the nation are well documented [pdf of letter to Alberto Gonzales – LG]

True to form, Alberto Gonzales has virtually ignored these problems, despite congressional inquiries.

Likewise, from a policy perspective, the administration’s War on Terror (TM) policies and practices have undermined the sacred foundations of the work we do as federal prosecutors. I strive every day to make sure that the Fourth Amendment rights of evn the worst criminals are scrupulously observed, only to learn that the folks I work for view those rights as disposable, inconvenient anachronisms. I operate in a criminal justice system properly designed to maximize due process for even the worst criminals, only to watch the administration kick and scream when forced to provide even the most basic due process rights to suspected terrorists.

And now the purges. So they’ve slashed U.S. Attorney’s budgets, trashed rights we have sworn to uphold, and now, tried to toady-up the ranks of our leadership by firing some of our best and brightest, apparently to make room for wingnut-anointed political hacks. Folks who do stuff like this deserve
to get caught.

One final note: U.S. Attorneys are referred to as the top law enforcement officers in their districts — even the FBI answers to the U.S. Attorney because the FBI can’t bring cases without the U.S. Attorney. Can you imagine if the administration had treated the FBI the way they’ve treated the U.S. Attorney’s Offices? Of course not — they wouldn’t dare. Because the public understands all too well what happens when the FBI’s integrity is undermined or its leadership politicized (see J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure).

The very same dangers lurk here. Thanks for helping to bring them to light.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 10:21 am

Bush supports the troops? Not really

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It’s not just Walter Reed Army Medical Center:

Ray Oliva went into the spare bedroom in his home in Kelseyville, Calif., to wrestle with his feelings. He didn’t know a single soldier at Walter Reed, but he felt he knew them all. He worried about the wounded who were entering the world of military health care, which he knew all too well. His own VA hospital in Livermore was a mess. The gown he wore was torn. The wheelchairs were old and broken.

“It is just not Walter Reed,” Oliva slowly tapped out on his keyboard at 4:23 in the afternoon on Friday. “The VA hospitals are not good either except for the staff who work so hard. It brings tears to my eyes when I see my brothers and sisters having to deal with these conditions. I am 70 years old, some say older than dirt but when I am with my brothers and sisters we become one and are made whole again.”

Oliva is but one quaking voice in a vast outpouring of accounts filled with emotion and anger about the mistreatment of wounded outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Stories of neglect and substandard care have flooded in from soldiers, their family members, veterans, doctors and nurses working inside the system. They describe depressing living conditions for outpatients at other military bases around the country, from Fort Lewis in Washington state to Fort Dix in New Jersey. They tell stories — their own versions, not verified — of callous responses to combat stress and a system ill equipped to handle another generation of psychologically scarred vets.

The official reaction to the revelations at Walter Reed has been swift, and it has exposed the potential political costs of ignoring Oliva’s 24.3 million comrades — America’s veterans — many of whom are among the last standing supporters of the Iraq war. In just two weeks, the Army secretary has been fired, a two-star general relieved of command and two special commissions appointed; congressional subcommittees are lining up for hearings, the first today at Walter Reed; and the president, in his weekly radio address, redoubled promises to do right by the all-volunteer force, 1.5 million of whom have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But much deeper has been the reaction outside Washington, including from many of the 600,000 new veterans who left the service after Iraq and Afghanistan. Wrenching questions have dominated blogs, talk shows, editorial cartoons, VFW spaghetti suppers and the solitary late nights of soldiers and former soldiers who fire off e-mails to reporters, members of Congress and the White House — looking, finally, for attention and solutions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 10:07 am

Onion-Pancetta Soup

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Doesn’t that sound good just from the name? And it’s pretty easy to make.

There’s something about making a soup on a rainy and chilly Saturday afternoon. With the smell of the onions permeating the house, it seems to invite people to stay at home, and allows them to look forward to dinner. In my opinion, nothing says home like the aroma of cooked onions.

This is an Italian soup, from Umbria. For those of you following along with the cookbooks at home, the use of butter and olive oil would have been the clues that could pinpoint the region.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 9:48 am

Global warming analogy

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We’re having a very fine discussion of global warming over at By no means is there general agreement, except on the point that the debate must be conducted courteously. I offered an analogy that I like enough to spruce up a bit and share.

It was offered in response to this article, in which a semiconductor process engineer suggests that the models used in predicting global warming are quite complex and thus uncertain, and that the wisest course is probably not to rush headlong into action to combat the (possibly illusory) menace, but instead continue on as we are and see what actually develops. He concludes:

The practical experience of numerical modeling in allied fields such as semiconductor process modeling should cause us to question the claimed accuracy for Global Climate Models. The UN’s distortion of historical climate data should further undermine our faith in climate models because such models can only be “tested” against accurate historical data.

In my view, we should adopt the private sector’s practice of placing extremely limited reliance on numerical models for major investment decisions in the absence of confirming test data, that is, climate data which can be easily collected just by waiting.

My analogy:

It’s a little like a non-medical expert (say, a semiconductor process engineer) telling you, “You may or may not have a particular form of an aggressive cancer. The tests given show that you probably do, but some people dispute those tests. The medical profession as a whole are strongly urging that you immediately undertake treatment that would save you if you do have the cancer, but OTOH, you might not need the treatment. The treatment is pervasive—it requires you to change your lifestyle of over-consumption and get physically fit. So it’s not easy—though, of course, even if you don’t have the cancer, the treatment will undoubtedly make you more healthy. But my recommendation is that we just wait, making no serious changes, which will be much easier for you. After a while, we’ll know for sure whether you actually need the treatment. Of course, by then it will be too late, should you in fact have the cancer (as the tests indicate).”

I don’t know about you, but I’d look for a different expert—especially since the expert in this case is NOT a climate scientist but a semiconductor engineer. YMMV.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 9:27 am

Posted in Environment, Science

Monday shave report

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Well, some disturbing news for a change. I accidentally ordered a Rooney Style 3 Small Finest, loving the Rooney Style 2 Small Finest as I do, and when it arrived I noticed that the bristles were stiff and very densely packed. I’ve not had great luck with such brushes, but I thought I would give it a go and see if it worked anyway.

Oh, my. It delivered the problems I’ve had with such brushes in the past: inadequate capacity for lather, and the lather itself tending toward the thin. I will continue to work with it to see if my technique simply needs adjustment. But I’ll also try, for the sake of comparison, my Style 2 Finest and my Style 3 Small Super to see how they do with the same soap.

For all that, a great shave, as is typical of the first day after a non-shave day. I used Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap, which I’ll use for the next two days so I can do my comparison, and the Merkur HD (Hefty Classic) Open-Comb razor with a new Swedish Gillette blade. I’m finding more and more that I like the Swedish Gillette.

Totally smooth shave, no nicks or cuts, and finished with alum bar and Pashana aftershave. A good day in spite of the unwanted discovery.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2007 at 8:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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