Archive for September 3rd, 2007
The earlier versions of the Guide to Gourmet Shaving included quotations from B&B and ShaveMyFace (with links to original posts). The idea was to give the reader a sense of the posts in the forums to encourage him to join and participate. I of course secured permissions from all the authors of the posts before including them.
Joel, however, informed me that B&B owns the copyright for all content created by the members (as it turns out, that’s part of the agreement when one joins the forum—I hadn’t realized that) and definitely will not permit those quotations to be used. So I’ve removed all the B&B quotations—there were, it turns out, just a handful. ShaveMyFace, has a different policy: copyright remains with the original authors, so there was no problem in using those quotations, and they remain.
So this new edition (1.94 – Sept 2007) differs very little from the previous edition: just fewer forum quotations.
I mentioned in an exchange of comments that scientists have figured out how to trigger an out-of-body experience at will. I thought that might be worth a post.
You no longer have to dice with death to have an out-of-body experience. Anyone can now have the eerie sensation of leaving their body, thanks to an experimental procedure developed by researchers at University College London. It provides the best proof yet that people who claim to have left their bodies during surgery, say, are imagining the experience.
The key to creating an artificial out-of-body experience is to scramble a person’s visual and touch sensations, tricking their brain into perceiving that they are somewhere else. To do this, Henrik Ehrsson filmed seated volunteers from behind and fed the footage live into headsets so they were viewing themselves, but from an unfamiliar angle. Next, Ehrsson prodded the volunteers in the chest with a plastic rod while simultaneously prodding a second rod at the camera. For the volunteers, the combined effect of appearing to watch “another” person being prodded, while they themselves felt the prod, gave them the spooky sensation they were watching their own bodies from a distance (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1142175).
Even though they knew it was them, it made them feel totally disembodied. “It gives you a very strong sensation you’re sitting somewhere else,” says Ehrsson.
Also, see this story in the NY Times.
I washed the brush that didn’t do so well today (following the method in Em’s first video here), and I’ll use it tomorrow to see whether that corrects the problem. Giovanni identified the problem, which stemmed from my misguided use of silicone grease in making the shave sticks: silicone grease gums up the brush and kills the lather.
Tomorrow I’ll use the brush with a regular soap, and the following day (if all goes well) with a shave stick—undoubtedly the QED Mocha-Java.
The anticipatory excitement builds…
One area of disagreement between conservatives and liberals is the proper role of the government in protecting the public. On the one hand, the extreme free-market side would say the government has no role: the market will punish those who harm the public, so no government action is necessary or desired. On the other hand, most of the public seems to like some protection, especially given the disparity in strength and power between a business or industry (many businesses working together) and members of the public.
So, having a democratic government where the public has a strong voice, the government does in fact provide a lot of protections, but under Bush many of those legally mandated protections have eroded. See, for example, this story:
In March 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission called together the nation’s top safety experts to confront an alarming statistic: 44,000 children riding all terrain vehicles were injured the previous year, nearly 150 of them fatally.
National associations of pediatricians, consumer advocates and emergency room doctors were urging the commission to ban sales of adult-size A.T.V.’s for use by children under 16 because the machines were too big and fast for young drivers to control. But when it came time to consider such a step, a staff member whose name did not appear on the meeting agenda unexpectedly weighed in.
“My own view is the situation is not necessarily deteriorating,” said John Gibson Mullan, the agency’s director of compliance and a former lawyer for the A.T.V. industry, according to a recording. The current system of warning labels and other voluntary safety standards was working, he said. “We would need to be very careful about making any changes.”
Robin L. Ingle, then the agency’s hazard statistician and A.T.V. injury expert, was dumbfounded. Her months of research did not support Mr. Mullan’s analysis. Yet she would not get to offer a rebuttal.
“He had hijacked the presentation,” Ms. Ingle said in an interview. “He was distorting the numbers in order to benefit industry and defeat the petition. It was almost like he still worked for them, not us.”
Under the Bush administration, which promised to ease what it viewed as costly rules that placed unnecessary burdens on businesses, industry-friendly officials have been installed at agencies that oversee the nation’s workplaces, food suppliers, environment and consumer goods.
Top officials at the Consumer Product Safety Commission say they have enhanced protections for the American public in recent years. But they have also blocked enforcement actions, weakened industry oversight rules and promoted voluntary compliance over safety mandates, according to interviews with current and former senior agency officials and consumer groups and a review of commission documents.
At a time when imports from China and other Asian countries surged, creating an ever greater oversight challenge, the Bush-appointed commissioners voiced few objections as the already tiny agency — now just 420 workers — was pared almost to the bone.
The troop deaths graphed in my earlier post were all troop deaths, including non-combat deaths (e.g., helicopter crashes). But if you look at just combat deaths, they are indeed declining (though Iraqi civilian deaths are increasing):
American combat deaths in Iraq have dropped by half in the three months since the buildup of 28,000 additional U.S. troops reached full strength, surprising analysts and dividing them as to why.
U.S. officials had predicted that the increase would lead to higher American casualties as the troops “took the fight to the enemy.” But that hasn’t happened, even though U.S. forces have launched major offensives involving thousands of troops north and south of Baghdad.
American combat casualties have dropped to their lowest levels this year, even as violence involving Iraqis remains high.
Military officials and observers are wondering whether the lower U.S. casualties are a sign of success or an indication that insurgents and militiamen simply chose a different battlefield when the Americans mounted their offensive in Iraq’s capital.
“Nobody here is doing cartwheels yet,” said one senior military official at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.
One British analyst, using the example of the British drawdown of forces in southern Iraq, suggested that the lower numbers may mean that American troops are irrelevant to the many conflicts racking Iraq: ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods in Baghdad, massive bombings of religious minorities by Sunni Muslim extremists in northern Iraq and Shiite-on-Shiite-Muslim violence in southern Iraq.
One of my readers, a conservative, commented that the political stuff included in the blog makes it hard to read. I’m sensitive to that, and I have count many conservatives among my friends. So I’ve tried to make the posts palatable across the political spectrum by trying to be fact-based (e.g., the graph comparing troop deaths in 2006 to those in 2007, which indicates that the Surge is not working in terms of lower losses among troops—and, as the LA Times reports, civilian deaths also have increased) or by explaining why I hold positions that I do for things that are more a matter of values—trying to find a common ground. For example, in mentioning the ACLU, I point out that most Americans, liberal and conservative, embrace the Bill of Rights, and the ACLU puts most of its efforts into defending the Bill of Rights. Thus (for me) support for the Bill of Rights includes support of organizations that defend the Bill of Rights, and the ACLU is high on that list.
Glenn Greenwald, who also tries hard to be rational and fact-based (in my opinion), has an interesting post today, examining some contradictory positions held by Thomas Sowell. In the course of the post, he talks about Authoritarians and references the (free) book, The Authoritarians (PDF file, and not large).
Authoritarianism, of course, occurs across the political spectrum, from left to right. It uses a more or less rigid hierarchy in which allegiance is given to the Leader and dissenting views are strictly punished. We’ve seen this in governments and in organizations of various stripes—and again, it has nothing to do with conservative vs. liberal.
I do believe, and I think many conservatives will agree, that the American Right today includes a strong component who embrace Authoritarianism (though not by name, of course). On the Left, the on Authoritarianism I can think of that’s active today is the “Politically Correct” police—not much of a political force but having many characteristics of Authoritarianism.
I wonder whether it might be that group, the Authoritarian Right, that dislikes cats. Dogs are a group animal, organizing themselves into packs. They recognize—indeed, crave—a hierarchy and are intensely loyal. These characteristics would appeal to Authoritarians (and to others as well, but we’re trying to figure out why cat-hatred is a characteristic of the Right), and thus perhaps it is that component of the Right that hates cats because cats are solitary individuals that don’t respect authority, don’t seem to have the sort of obvious loyalty that dogs exhibit, and ignore hierarchical structure.