Later On

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

Archive for April 19th, 2007

Stunning first novel: cop/mystery tour de force

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And written by a cop, as well: L.A. Rex, by Will Beall. I got my copy from the library’s “new fiction” shelf. Absolutely gripping.

Later: Well, he did go over the top in various places, probably a first-novel problem. Too many totally unrealistic episodes and devices later in the book. But if he can tone that down and keep it realistic, he will write some great cop novels.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Books

Tomorrow’s Friday. Tomorrow night’s Friday night.

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It’s a good time for the White House to dump bad news (from its point of view)—like, for instance, Alberto Gonzales resigning. I wonder whether that will happen.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 5:06 pm

Useful info: how to give an academic talk

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List of good ideas.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Education

Bush is pleased with Gonzales’s performance

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But no one else is. Look at this video. Coburn is a right-wing Republican from Oklahoma, and he flat-out calls for Gonzales to resign:

But Bush thought Gonzales did a very good job in the hearing. Wow.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 2:27 pm

Mouth-watering

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WARNING: Do NOT click link if you are hungry—or, if you do, have a handkerchief ready to mop up the drool. Link.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Food

Book sculptures

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These are pretty cool.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Art

Cousins—so now you know

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Probably should print this out and laminate it and carry it with you, because you’re going to forget. From Wikipedia:

Cousin Tree

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Daily life

Quantum mechanics

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I just read this article on quantum mechanics, and it occurred to me that, if you look at the smallest parts of reality, the quanta, then you simply have no way at all of knowing what is happening at larger scales. Regardless of the fineness of the detail of your knowledge—and the article shows that this cannot be very fine—knowing all the quanta (insofar as they can be known) tells you zip about things at, say, the human scale of reality. So which scale is the “real”? The components? The things they make (particles and atoms)? Molecules? Us?

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Where taxes go

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Click to enlarge, click-and-drag to move. Here it is.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Government

The Kaye Effect (not Danny Kaye, I think)

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Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 11:55 am

Posted in Science

Illegitimate control of the State

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One mark of tyranny and totalitarianism is that control of the State is seized and then maintained by illegitimate means, outside or against the law. We see it happening here:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush’s popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

Facing nationwide voter registration drives by Democratic-leaning groups, the administration alleged widespread election fraud and endorsed proposals for tougher state and federal voter identification laws. Presidential political adviser Karl Rove alluded to the strategy in April 2006 when he railed about voter fraud in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association.

Questions about the administration’s campaign against alleged voter fraud have helped fuel the political tempest over the firings last year of eight U.S. attorneys, several of whom were ousted in part because they failed to bring voter fraud cases important to Republican politicians. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could shed more light on the reasons for those firings when he appears Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Civil rights advocates charge that the administration’s policies were intended to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of poor and minority voters who tend to support Democrats, and by filing state and federal lawsuits, civil rights groups have won court rulings blocking some of its actions.

Justice Department spokesperson Cynthia Magnuson called any allegation that the department has rolled back minority voting rights “fundamentally flawed.”

She said the department has “a completely robust record when it comes to enforcing federal voting rights laws,” citing its support last year for reauthorization of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the filing of at least 20 suits to ensure that language services are available to non-English speaking voters.

The administration, however, has repeatedly invoked allegations of widespread voter fraud to justify tougher voter ID measures and other steps to restrict access to the ballot, even though research suggests that voter fraud is rare.

Since President Bush’s first attorney general, John Ashcroft, a former Republican senator from Missouri, launched a “Ballot Access and Voter Integrity Initiative” in 2001, Justice Department political appointees have exhorted U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, and the department’s Civil Rights Division has sought to roll back policies to protect minority voting rights.

On virtually every significant decision affecting election balloting since 2001, the division’s Voting Rights Section has come down on the side of Republicans, notably in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Washington and other states where recent elections have been decided by narrow margins.

Joseph Rich, who left his job as chief of the section in 2005, said these events formed an unmistakable pattern.

Read it all.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 11:25 am

GOP, party of lies: yet more examples

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From ThinkProgress:

The Associated Press has a major story out confirming that President Bush has been hyping a false Iraq spending deadline.

For weeks, the Bush administration has been trying to force Congress to abandon its support for an Iraq withdrawal timeline by claiming that a “clean” Iraq spending bill must be signed by mid-April or U.S. troops will suffer. In one speech, President Bush warned Congress that “the clock is ticking for our troops in the field“:

BUSH: Congress continues to pursue these [withdrawal] bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops.

Days later, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report showing that the Army actually has enough money in its existing budget to operate through June. But Bush and his Iraq allies wouldn’t accept it. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Fox on 4/1/07:

FOX: So, Senator McConnell, is this talk about an April deadline for getting the funding bill to the president, is that something of a scare tactic?

MCCONNELL: Well, the problem is CRS is wrong.

But now, the AP reports, the CRS numbers have been confirmed by the Pentagon:

The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June, despite warnings from the White House that troops are being harmed by Congress’ failure to quickly deliver more funds.

The Army is taking a series of “prudent measures” aimed at making sure delays in the bill financing the war do not harm troop readiness, according to instructions sent to Army commanders and budget officials April 14.

President Bush can’t even fear-monger right these days.

Two well-known liars in action: GW Bush and Mitch McConnell.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 11:16 am

10 strategies to improve memory

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The Wife will especially like these. From the Harvard Medical School Newsletter:

Normal age-related changes in the brain can slow some cognitive processes, making it a bit harder to learn new things quickly or to ward off distractions. The good news is that, thanks to decades of research, most of us can sharpen our minds with proven, do-it-yourself strategies. Here are some ways to boost your ability to remember as you age.

1. Believe in yourself.
Myths about aging can contribute to a failing memory. Middle-aged and older learners do worse on memory tasks when exposed to negative stereotypes about aging and memory, and better if exposed to messages about memory preservation into old age.

2. Economize your brain use.
Take advantage of calendars and planners, maps, shopping lists, file folders, and address books to keep routine information accessible. Designate a place at home for your glasses, keys, and other items you use frequently.

3. Organize your thoughts.
New information that’s broken into smaller chunks, such as the hyphenated sections of a phone number or social security number, is easier to remember than a single long list, such as financial account numbers or the name of everyone in a classroom.

4. Use all your senses.
The more senses you use when you learn something, the more of your brain will be involved in retaining the memory. For example, odors are famous for conjuring memories from the distant past, especially those with strong emotional content, such as the scent of your grandmother’s freshly baked cookies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 10:49 am

Good clips from the Gonzales hearing

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TPMmuckraker is following the hearings and promptly posting clips of crucial exchanges. Best coverage I’ve seen. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 10:27 am

Voter fraud (e.g., Ann Coulter)

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A loyal reader points to Joe Conason’s article on the GOP’s obsession with “voter fraud” (voting for Democrats) and how one the actual examples of voter fraud is Ann Coulter.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 10:22 am

Family planning (i.e., contraception) is bad

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At least in the view of the Bushies. Look at this story (another jaw-dropping incident):

Under beleaguered President Paul D. Wolfowitz, the World Bank may be scaling back its long-standing support for family planning, which many countries consider essential to women’s health and the fight against AIDS.

In an internal e-mail, the bank’s team leader for Madagascar indicated that one of two managing directors appointed by Wolfowitz ordered the removal of all references to family planning from a document laying out strategy for the African nation. And a draft of the bank’s long-term health program strategy overseen by the same official makes almost no mention of family planning, suggesting a wider rollback may be underway.

The World Bank has traditionally championed birth control and other methods of family planning as a key strategy to improve women’s health and economic status.

The controversy has raised worries among some bank officials and health advocates that the Bush administration’s conservative stance on family planning issues may be seeping into the institution.

The managing director, Juan Jose Daboub, denied he was making substantial changes to the bank’s policy or that he demanded deletions to the Madagascar report. Daboub, a Roman Catholic with ties to a conservative Salvadoran political party, questioned staff outrage directed at him. [Turns out, if you read further, he is simply lying—a common practice among the Bushies. – LG]

“To me this sounds like a storm in a glass of water,” he said in a recent interview. “There is no reason understandable for this.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 9:17 am

Debt education

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In the off-topic discussion on debt in the shaving forum, the question was raised about how the problem should be addressed. My response:

Obviously, simply saying, “Don’t spend more than you earn” doesn’t cut it. If it did, the problem wouldn’t exist in the first place.

First, the decision should probably be made whether this is a problem that it is in society’s interest to address. For example, are we as a society better off if the great majority of citizens know how to handle money sensibly? I submit that we are: an enormous load of poverty-stricken families and bankruptcies and mortgage failures, etc., is not good for the society as a whole, while a prosperous citizenry is good.

Moreover, if people learn to handle money and live within their means, there is less need for welfare programs and government handouts.

Okay, so we as a society decide we want to tackle the problem. How to go about it?

There’s probably no silver bullet, and any proposed solution should be tested and evaluated for its success before pumping a lot of money into it. (Cf. the recent report that there is no difference in sexual behavior between those getting abstinence education and those not getting abstinence education: obviously it would have been good to test the idea before spending millions on it.)

Here are some things I would suggest might be tried and evaluated:

Beginning in the early grades and continuing through high school, critical thinking skills be taught. This will have benefits in general. Edward De Bono pioneered the teaching of thinking skills with CoRT, and outcome evaluations show that it’s effective: it’s a skill, so it can be taught, and those taught the various techniques and methods perform better than those who are self-taught. (Same thing happens with golf, swimming, Go, etc.)

The specific use of critical thinking to analyze advertising and other marketing efforts (including political campaigns) to influence one’s actions should help produce more wary consumers/voters.

Along with that, some simulations—computer games—would allow students (kids) to have an interactive environment where they can make financial decisions, enabling them to learn by experience through trying many variations and making many decisions—i.e., playing the game over and over, with the simulation throwing different scenarios: raises, relocations, lay-offs, family illness, etc. This should teach better money judgment. The use of simulations and computer gaming certainly has proved successful in, for example, teaching people how to play poker. Notice how many champion poker players have come from the world of on-line gaming?

I would bet that a variety of well-done interactive simulations, which allow kids to fail painlessly and learn from their experience, and which rewards prudent behavior with success, could make an enormous difference. It’s not just airplane pilots who can learn through simulations, after all.

These games, once created, will tend to evolve as more designers get their competitive juices flowing—especially if contracts are award to those games that prove (through actual outcome analysis) to change and improve financial behavior in the real world. 

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 8:47 am

Second go at Rose of Sharon Acres shaving soap

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This time I used my Finest brush, and I worked the soap for a good long while to get as much soap into the brush as possible. And the shave did indeed go better, but the lather still was thin and was vanishing as I shaved. Sort of the opposite of the thick, creamy lather one wants.

Still, the shave went well. The lather isn’t very protective during the shave, but my skin feels good. I think it will make a good shower soap.

Futur razor, 4711 aftershave. Nice smooth result.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 8:25 am

Posted in Shaving, Skype

Is naked okay? or not?

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From the always intriguing reader in the Netherlands, this article. As he points out, the comments are the best part.

Written by Leisureguy

19 April 2007 at 6:55 am

Posted in Daily life

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