Later On

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Archive for July 21st, 2007

Meat’s high environmental cost

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It’s worse than you think:

A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

This is among the conclusions of a study by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, Japan, and colleagues, which has assessed the effects of beef production on global warming, water acidification and eutrophication, and energy consumption. The team looked at calf production, focusing on animal management and the effects of producing and transporting feed. By combining this information with data from their earlier studies on the impact of beef fattening systems, the researchers were able to calculate the total environmental load of a portion of beef.

Their analysis showed that producing a kilogram of beef leads to the emission of greenhouse gases with a warming potential equivalent to 36.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide. It also releases fertilising compounds equivalent to 340 grams of sulphur dioxide and 59 grams of phosphate, and consumes 169 megajoules of energy (Animal Science Journal, DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-0929.2007.00457.x). In other words, a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

The calculations, which are based on standard industrial methods of meat production in Japan, did not include the impact of managing farm infrastructure and transporting the meat, so the total environmental load is higher than the study suggests.

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions are in the form of methane released from the animals’ digestive systems, while the acid and fertilising substances come primarily from their waste. Over two-thirds of the energy goes towards producing and transporting the animals’ feed.

Possible interventions, the authors suggest, include better waste management and shortening the interval between calving by one month. This latter measure could reduce the total environmental load by nearly 6 per cent. A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef, raised on grass rather than concentrated feed, emits 40 per cent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 per cent less energy.

“Methane emissions from beef cattle are declining, thanks to innovations in feeding practices,” says Karen Batra of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Centennial, Colorado. “Everybody is trying to come up with different ways to reduce carbon footprints,” says Su Taylor of the Vegetarian Society in the UK: “But one of the easiest things you can do is to stop eating meat.”

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 2:54 pm

Success in getting kids to eat fruits & vegetables

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From New Scientist:

Let’s face it, fruit and vegetables have never been an easy sell to children. A host of phrases echo down the generations as frustrated parents encourage their children to eat up because it will “make them big and strong” or “make their hair curl”.

Today the goal is the same, even if we understand the health benefits better. Low intake of fruit and vegetables is estimated to cause about 19 per cent of gastrointestinal cancers worldwide, about 31 per cent of coronary heart disease and 11 per cent of strokes. Eating more fruit and vegetables also helps to displace junk foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar or salt.

Yet if fruit and vegetables are so vital, why are we so bad at convincing children to eat them? And we are bad, as recent reports from the US and UK reveal (see “Superheroes fight childhood obesity”). So it is encouraging to see that one scheme is apparently bucking the trend. A programme called Food Dudes draws deeply on psychological research and exploits three very human foibles. The first and most interesting is that repeatedly exposing somebody to small tastes of a food increases their fondness for it.

This is such a well-known effect it seems surprising that nobody has tried it out on a large scale before. It is powerful too. As one researcher put it: “On day one, no child in the class will admit to liking red pepper, but after two weeks their little hands are reaching for it.”

Two more-familiar human characteristics also come into play – the habit youngsters have of copying older children, and the desire for reward. Schoolchildren receive small rewards, such as stickers, every time they taste a fruit or vegetable. They also watch a series of short videos about four young superheroes – the eponymous Food Dudes, whose powers come from eating fruit and vegetables.

The food industry and particularly junk-food companies are all too adept at employing these last two traits. They have created a culture in which children worry about having the “right” food in their lunch boxes. Results so far suggest that the Food Dudes have broken that spell by enabling children to make long-lasting changes to their eating habits.

The Irish government is implementing the programme nationwide. In the UK, pilot trials that are about to start should be helped by the recent ban on junk-food advertising around TV programmes aimed at 4 to 9-year-olds. Food companies may rail against such restrictions but they have to accept that their aggressive marketing has helped to fuel unhealthy eating, and driven the costs of treating diet-related diseases sky-high. Without change, that burden can only grow.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

GOP: Party of obstructionism

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The GOP didn’t pass legislation when they had control of Congress, and now they’re stopping the passage of legislation now that they don’t:


The story:

This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that’s rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.

The trend has been evolving for 30 years. The reasons behind it are too complex to pin on one party. But it has been especially pronounced since the Democrats’ razor-thin win in last year’s election, giving them effectively a 51-49 Senate majority, and the Republicans’ exile to the minority.

Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 “cloture” votes aimed at shutting off extended debate — filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one — and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority’s right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they’ve fallen short 22 times so far this year. That’s largely why they haven’t been able to deliver on their campaign promises.

By sinking a cloture vote this week, Republicans successfully blocked a Democratic bid to withdraw combat troops from Iraq by April, even though a 52-49 Senate majority voted to end debate.

This year Republicans also have blocked votes on immigration legislation, a no-confidence resolution for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and major legislation dealing with energy, labor rights and prescription drugs.

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 11:15 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

Cool lamp: Herman Miller Leaf

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Has very good specs:

LED Technology
Chips, not bulbs. Leaf uses 20 light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for illumination; 10 chips are blue-white (cool) and 10 are yellow-white (warm).

Personal control. Touch to turn on/off; slide a finger along a groove in the base to adjust intensity and achieve the desired blend of warm and cool light.

Good memory. When turned on, the light retains the previous color and intensity settings.

Energy efficient. Uses 8-9 watts of power, or 40 percent less than a compact fluorescent bulb.

Long life. Allows up to 100,000 hours of use, eight times longer than conventional light sources.

Spirited Design
Elegant profile. Blades are thin and sculptural, giving the light an organic form.

Cool and quiet. Innovative heat-dissipating design keeps the light cool to the touch without a fan.

Finish choices. Five colors to coordinate with a variety of settings; black, white, red, nickel, polished.

Very Adjustable
Lower blade. Rotates 180 degrees and pivots 27.5 degrees forward and 23 degrees backward.

Upper blade. Pivots 210 degrees to extend for direct lighting or to fold for subtle, ambient lighting.

$500, though.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

16 quick healthy meals

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Zen Habits looked through the list of 101 quick summer meals by Mark Bittman and identified the 16 most healthful:

  1. Gazpacho: Combine one pound tomatoes cut into chunks, a cucumber peeled and cut into chunks, two or three slices stale bread torn into pieces, a quarter-cup olive oil, two tablespoons sherry vinegar and a clove of garlic in a blender with one cup water and a couple of ice cubes. Process until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, then serve or refrigerate, and a little more olive oil.
  2. Herb pasta: Toss a cup of chopped mixed herbs with a few tablespoons of olive oil in a hot pan. Serve over angel-hair pasta, diluting the sauce if necessary with pasta cooking water.
  3. Eggplant & feta: Cut eggplant into half-inch slices. Broil with lots of olive oil, turning once, until tender and browned. Top with crumbled goat or feta cheese and broil another 20 seconds.
  4. Rustic tomato pasta: While pasta cooks, combine a couple cups chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon or more minced garlic, olive oil and 20 to 30 basil leaves. Toss with pasta, salt, pepper and Parmesan.
  5. Quesadilla: Use a combination of cheeses, like Fontina mixed with grated pecorino. Put on half of a large flour tortilla with pickled jalapenos, chopped onion, shallot or scallion, chopped tomatoes and grated radish. Fold tortilla over and brown on both sides in butter or oil, until cheese is melted.
  6. Spicy garlic pasta: Sauté 10 whole peeled garlic cloves in olive oil. Meanwhile, grate Pecorino, grind lots of black pepper, chop parsley and cook pasta. Toss all together, along with crushed dried chili flakes and salt.
  7. Taco salad: Toss together greens, chopped tomato, chopped red onion, sliced avocado, a small can of black beans and kernels from a couple of ears of corn. Toss with crumbled tortilla chips and grated cheese. Dress with olive oil, lime and chopped cilantro leaves.
  8. Zucchini pasta: Sauté shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta.
  9. Not takeout: Stir-fry onions with cut-up broccoli. Add cubed tofu, chicken or shrimp, or sliced beef or pork, along with a tablespoon each minced garlic and ginger. When almost done, add half cup of water, two tablespoons soy sauce and plenty of black pepper. Heat through and serve over fresh Chinese noodles.
  10. Pine nuts pasta: Put a stick of butter and a handful of pine nuts in a skillet. Cook over medium heat until both are brown. Toss with cooked pasta, grated Parmesan and black pepper.
  11. Pasta with fresh tomatoes: Cook chopped fresh tomatoes in butter or oil with garlic until tender, while pasta cooks. Combine and serve with grated Parmesan.
  12. Rich vegetable soup: Cook asparagus tips and peeled stalks or most any other green vegetable in vegetable stock with a little tarragon until tender; reserve a few tips and purée the rest with a little butter (cream or yogurt, too, if you like) adding enough stock to thin the purée. Garnish with the reserved tips. Serve hot or cold.
  13. Near instant mezze: Combine hummus on a plate with yogurt laced with chopped cucumbers and a bit of garlic, plus tomato, feta, white beans with olive oil and pita bread.
  14. Olive pasta: Pit and chop a cup or more of mixed olives. Combine with olive oil, a little minced garlic, red pepper flakes and chopped basil or parsley. Serve over pasta.
  15. Stuffed tomatoes: Cut the top off four big tomatoes; scoop out the interiors and mix them with toasted stale baguette or pita, olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs (basil, tarragon, and/or parsley). Stuff into tomatoes and serve with salad.
  16. Ketchup-braised tofu: Dredge large tofu cubes in flour. Brown in oil; remove from skillet and wipe skillet clean. Add a little more oil, then a tablespoon minced garlic; 30 seconds later, add one and a half cups ketchup and the tofu. Cook until sauce bubbles and tofu is hot.

To pick a nit: Zen Habits doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “healthy” and “healthful.”

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 10:17 am

This is a movie to see

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Via James Fallows, who comments, “Gives a taste of the film’s energy and overwhelming accumulation of fact. Also, many people will be tempted, as I was, to pause the trailer 16 seconds in, to stare in shock at how George W. Bush looked before this war began. That clip, from his 2003 State of the Union address on the eve of war, shows a man who could be the carefree young nephew of our current haggard president.”

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 9:46 am

Insane drug laws challenged by GOP

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Even Republicans (at least those in North Dakota) recognize that the US drug laws are insane—specifically, the laws that prohibit the growing of industrial hemp in the US, though its use here is perfectly legal. Insane. Here’s the story:

 David C. Monson seems an improbable soul to find at the leading edge of a national movement to legalize growing hemp, a plant that shares a species name, a genus type and, in many circles, a reputation, with marijuana.

As Mr. Monson rolls past his wheat, barley and shimmering yellow fields of canola, he listens to Rush Limbaugh in his tractor. When he is not farming, he is the high school principal in nearby Edinburg, population 252. When he is not teaching, he is a Republican representative in Bismarck, the state capital, where his party dominates both houses of the legislature and the governor is a Republican.

“Look at me — do I look shady?” Mr. Monson, 56, asked, as he stood in work boots and a ball cap in the rocky, black dirt that spans mile after mile of North Dakota’s nearly empty northern edge. “This is not any subversive thing like trying to legalize marijuana or whatever. This is just practical agriculture. We’re desperate for something that can make us some money.”

The rocks, the dirt, the cool, wet climate and a devastating crop fungus known as scab are part of what has landed North Dakota, of all states, at the forefront of a political battle more likely to have emerged somewhere “a little more rebellious,” as one farmer here put it, like California or Massachusetts.

Though federal authorities ban the growing of hemp, saying it contains tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance better known as THC in marijuana, six states this year considered legislation to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, and Representative Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, introduced a bill in Washington that would let states allow such crops. In state legislatures, the advocates of hemp note that it contains mere traces of THC, and that hemp (grown in other countries) is already found here in clothes, lotions, snack bars, car door panels, insulation and more.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 8:54 am

But some hopes are dashed: Bush: torture still okay

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So the Bush Administration continues to fight for indefinite imprisonment without charges being brought, and now has given the green light to the CIA to resume torture in the secret prisons. This is the same president who vigorously criticized Russia for such practices. (See this Greenwald column.) Here’s how it works:

The White House said Friday that it had given the Central Intelligence Agency approval to resume its use of some severe interrogation methods for questioning terrorism suspects in secret prisons overseas.

With the new authority, administration officials said the C.I.A. could proceed with an interrogation program that had been in limbo since the Supreme Court ruled last year that all prisoners in American captivity be treated in accordance with Geneva Convention prohibitions against humiliating and degrading treatment.

A new executive order signed by President Bush does not authorize the full set of harsh interrogation methods used by the C.I.A. since the program began in 2002. But government officials said the rules would still allow some techniques more severe than those used in interrogations by military personnel in places like the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 8:38 am

Wireless power transmission

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Very science-fictiony, only not fiction.

Marin Soljacic was understandably nervous. The young physicist was about to give his first public presentation of an idea that sounded almost too good to be true. There was no telling how his audience, at a Berkeley, Calif., symposium, would receive his daring proposal. Design two antennas to be as inefficient as possible at transmitting radio waves, Soljacic began.


UNPLUGGED. Alternating current fed into a wire loop (blue) generates a field that induces currents in the coil (red, at left), creating a magnetic field that reaches a second coil (red) several meters away (at right), creating a local field that induces a current in the second loop (blue), lighting a bulb.

Separate the antennas by a few meters and, with some fine-tuning, you can safely and efficiently transfer electricity from one to the other—without wires. Put this system inside your home, and you would have a wireless network for electrical power. You could recharge your laptop or turn on a light without plugging anything in.

The crucial bit would be the fine-tuning: The two antennas would have to be tweaked so that one would create a pulsating magnetic field with a specific frequency and geometry, which the other would then transform into an electric current.

When Soljacic first presented the principle, it was unproved. All he could show were his calculations. “I expected that some people would think I was a crackpot,” says Soljacic, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “This was pretty far out.”

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 8:07 am

Posted in Science, Technology

There’s hope: courts standing up to Bush

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This is very good news:

A federal appeals court ordered the government yesterday to turn over virtually all its information on Guantánamo detainees who are challenging their detention, rejecting an effort by the Justice Department to limit disclosures and setting the stage for new legal battles over the government’s reasons for holding the men indefinitely.

The ruling, which came in one of the main court cases dealing with the fate of the detainees, effectively set the ground rules for scores of cases by detainees challenging the actions of Pentagon tribunals that decide whether terror suspects should be held as enemy combatants.

It was the latest of a series of stinging legal challenges to the administration’s detention policies that have amplified pressure on the Bush administration to find some alternative to Guantánamo, where about 360 men are now being held.

A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington unanimously rejected a government effort to limit the information it must turn over to the court and lawyers for the detainees.

The court said meaningful review of the military tribunals would not be possible “without seeing all the evidence, any more than one can tell whether a fraction is more or less than half by looking only at the numerator and not the denominator.”

Advocates for detainees have criticized the tribunals since they were instituted in 2004 because the terror suspects held at Guantánamo have not been permitted lawyers during the proceedings and have not been allowed to see much of the evidence against them.

P. Sabin Willett, a Boston lawyer who argued the case for detainees, called the ruling “a resounding rejection of the government’s effort to hide the truth.”

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Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 8:03 am

Black Beauty, day three

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Still a great shave!

Details: Pre-shave wash with MRGLO soap, of course. I always use Mr. Glo. Then a good lather from Floris London JF soap via the Plissons HMW 12 horn-handled brush. Lots of brushing the lather to make the prep complete.

The Gillette NEW, still holding the Treet carbon-steel blade. When I picked it up (I had left the razor resting on its side, supported by one end of the shaving head), I noted a little rust deposit. (UPDATE: It occurs to me that I could blast the razor with a hair dryer after use to prevent rush.) But the razor edges looked fine, so: three passes—down, across, up, more or less.

Lovely shave. Totally smooth. No nicks or cuts or burn. Applied a good splash of Floris London JF Aftershave. I’m still feeling my face. This blade is a wonder.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2007 at 7:59 am

Posted in Shaving

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