Later On

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

Archive for September 12th, 2007

Beyond Wikipedia

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A useful post containing 20 reference sites beyond Wikipedia:

Bartleby – This site has far more than quotes, you can find full texts here as well – poetry in particular.

Citizendium – This is supposed to be the more “professional” Wikipedia. So far it’s not really taken off, but the information here is often a bit more “elite” but usually not as detailed.

Answers.com – Answers.com is a sort of “commercial” Wikipedia. It makes use of the info on Wikipedia, combined with many other reference sties, to become a one stop shop. It also has a mobile site that I tend to use a great deal.

ePodunk – If you’re looking for information regarding a city or place, it doesn’t get much better than ePodunk.

Encylopedia Britannica – I know it seems awfully “old school” but this site is an excellent source of information and much more authoritative than Wikipedia.

Scholarpedia – A step up from both Wikipedia and Citizendium in terms of scholarly respectability, it doesn’t have nearly as much information, but the articles have all been written by experts with peer review. An academic paradise!

Okay, two sources that your college probably gives you access to. If you aren’t a student, sorry… but these are too good to ignore. You’ll need to see your local school librarian to see how to access these (or you may have a library website you can access it through.)

JSTOR – You know all those stuffy journals around your professors office? And those articles in your course packets? This is pretty much that. For research it enormously useful.

Oxford English Dictionary – The definitive resource when it comes to the English language. Not just for English majors, the OED (as it’s known) is useful for almost anyone in the social sciences.

Wikiseek – When you absolutely, positively, must have the real thing – WikiSeek is Wikipedia with a better search engine. I would also suggest WikiMindMap for when you’re trying to get a better holistic grasp of a subject.

References for Specific Disciplines

Online Education Database – This is a strange site, and I’m not quite sure what to make of it – but this link lists over 100 specific search and research tools, often relevant to specific subjects.

MathWorld – if you have the great misfortune of having to take math, then this site can be of great help. Everything mathematics from Geometry to Calculus is covered by this site in great detail.

GeoHive and Fedstats – These are both statistics sites, so if you need to know how many people. Fedstats allows public access to public agency statistics. Geohive is a bit cooler, primarily providing global statistics (gender populations, coal reserves, etc). I know, it’s so exciting I can’t stand it.

Theoi and Encyclopedia of Mythology – Both excellent resources on the subject of mythology and ancient religions. This is useful information all across the humanities.

Glossary of Poetic Forms – This will help you get through that English Literature class. You too can know the difference between a Canto and a Cento.

Now, if you’re in my fields – these next three are excellent resources.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and Foldop – Both of these are excellent sources on just about anything philosophy related. I use the Stanford site all the time.

Religion Online – If you are a scholar of religion this is an excellent, excellent resource filled with many primary texts.

So there we have it. Twenty excellent reference sites that aren’t Wikipedia. And guess what? This is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find excellent resource sites for almost any field or subject imaginable.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Seeing vs. observing

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Remember this passage from A Scandal in Bohemia?

“It is simplicity itself,” said [Holmes]; “my eyes tell me that on the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it, the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously they have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of the London slavey. As to your practice, if a gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an active member of the medical profession.”

I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained his process of deduction. “When I hear you give your reasons,” I remarked, “the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours.”

“Quite so,” he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

“Frequently.”

“How often?”

“Well, some hundreds of times.”

“Then how many are there?”

“How many? I don’t know.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 11:38 am

Posted in Video

That study on conservatives & liberals

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I linked earlier to a recent story about a study on conservatives and liberals. Here’s a useful post to restore perspective:

 It’s often said that politicians need their head examined, but contrary to recent reports, you’re likely to find out more about whether they wear a hair piece than whether their brains ‘dictate’ their politics.

The fact that there is a brain difference between people with left-wing and right-wing views is hardly news. Because every view we have is supported by the brain, by definition they’ll be a difference somewhere – just as there’s a brain difference between people who prefer London to Paris, strawberry to vanilla, or Britney to Christina.

What is interesting about this new study, is that the researchers have found a difference in the ability to inhibit habitual responses in a ‘detect a letter’ task which was linked to brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex or ACC – a deep mid-line area in the frontal lobes.

Activity in this area correlates with ‘conflict monitoring’ – the ability to detect a conflict between completing mental demands.

It forms part of the brain’s cognitive control and self-regulation system and when it is triggered, the ACC calls in reinforcements to focus attention – in the form of the upper surface areas of the frontal lobes.

Some cases of people with damage to the ACC seem to have perfectly fine conflict monitoring, so it’s not certain that it’s a clear link, but the evidence increasingly points that way.

So the study found that conservatives showed less ACC activation and were more likely to respond when they weren’t supposed to – in other words, were more habitual in their responding.

Cue media pantwetting about brain types ‘dictating’ politics, conservatives being ‘rigid’ and liberals being more ‘flexible’.

Most of this is over-interpretation and, needless to say, the study only reports an association, so it’s just as likely that preferring conservative politics leads to more habitual responding.

Cognitive Daily have a great analysis of the study and I really recommend it if you want to avoid the hype and actually see what’s genuinely interesting about it.

It’s one of their wonderfully clear explanations and has a demo you can try yourself. Importantly, their pants stay dry throughout.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 11:14 am

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Science

First aid for psychosis

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A psychotic break, often experienced in early adulthood, is a frightening thing. It’s worse if the person is from a culture that doesn’t deal well with mental illness—for example, a culture that tries to deny and ignore it and has a lot of shame regarding metal illnesses.

If you encounter someone in the grip of a psychosis, the following suggestions could help. Note that the person could be a family member—no one wants such a thing to happen, but obviously those who have a psychotic break have families. Or it could be a co-worker, or fellow student. It’s not really predictable.

This post tells you to how to help someone who is experiencing psychosis, based on first aid guidelines that have just been published in the medical journal Schizophrenia Bulletin

Psychosis is a mental state where someone might experience hallucinations, unusual beliefs, paranoia, mixed emotions, muddled thoughts, hyper-awareness or show unusual or puzzling behaviour.

The guidelines have been drawn from an international committee of professionals, patients and carers. The detailed points are in table 1 of the paper which is available online as a pdf file.

If you want additional mental health first aid information, there’s more on a dedicated website.

And here are the suggestions:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 11:07 am

Global warming good for crops? Not so much.

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A commenter to this post remarked that with global warming, agricultural output would increase:

Or if global warming is real—anthropogenic or not—we’ll be sitting pretty in a world that is far better suited to feeding the projected 9 billion people in 2050 because, as past warming periods have demonstrated, greater warmth equals more food.

So he still doubts whether global warming is real or not. I don’t know what it takes…

Anyway, the bit about “greater warmth = more food.” No link provided, so I’ll provide one:

Climate change could have global security implications on a par with nuclear war unless urgent action is taken, a report said on Wednesday.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) security think-tank said global warming would hit crop yields and water availability everywhere, causing great human suffering and leading to regional strife.

While everyone had now started to recognize the threat posed by climate change, no one was taking effective leadership to tackle it and no one could tell precisely when and where it would hit hardest, it added.

“The most recent international moves towards combating global warming represent a recognition … that if the emission of greenhouse gases … is allowed to continue unchecked, the effects will be catastrophic — on the level of nuclear war,” the IISS report said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 10:51 am

“Security” lighting can increase crime

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A surprise:

A New Yorker article on light pollution has a paragraph on light and crime:

Much so-called security lighting is designed with little thought for how eyes — or criminals — operate. Marcus Felson, a professor at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University, has concluded that lighting is effective in preventing crime mainly if it enables people to notice criminal activity as it’s taking place, and if it doesn’t help criminals to see what they’re doing. Bright, unshielded floodlights — one of the most common types of outdoor security lighting in the country — often fail on both counts, as do all-night lights installed on isolated structures or on parts of buildings that can’t be observed by passersby (such as back doors). A burglar who is forced to use a flashlight, or whose movement triggers a security light controlled by an infrared motion sensor, is much more likely to be spotted than one whose presence is masked by the blinding glare of a poorly placed metal halide “wall pack.” In the early seventies, the public-school system in San Antonio, Texas, began leaving many of its school buildings, parking lots, and other property dark at night and found that the no-lights policy not only reduced energy costs but also dramatically cut vandalism.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 9:52 am

Posted in Daily life

Scam to get free food

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This is cute:

How to Get Free Food at a Fast-Food Drive-In
It’s easy. Find a fast-food restaurant with two drive-through windows: one where you order and pay, and the other where you receive your food. This won’t work at the more-common U.S. configuration: a microphone where you order, and a single window where you both pay and receive your food. The video demonstrates the attack at a McDonald’s in — I assume – France.

Wait until there is someone behind you and someone in front of you. Don’t order anything at the first window. Tell the clerk that you forgot your money and didn’t order anything. Then drive to the second window, and take the food that the person behind you ordered.

It’s a clever exploit. Basically, it’s a synchronization attack. By exploiting the limited information flow between the two windows, you can insert yourself into the pay-receive queue.

It’s relatively easy to fix. The restaurant could give the customer a numbered token upon ordering and paying, which he would redeem at the next window for his food. Or the second window could demand to see the receipt. Or the two windows could talk to each other more, maybe by putting information about the car and driver into the computer. But, of course, these security solutions reduce the system’s optimization.

So if not a lot of people do this, the vulnerability will remain open.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life

Direct-trade coffee: the best?

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The NY Times has an interesting article today on direct-trade coffee. From the article:

Mr. Sorenson and a few like-minded coffee hunters around the country will go almost anywhere, do almost anything and pay almost any price in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee. For people at Stumptown and friendly competitors like Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters and Tea Traders of Chicago and Counter Culture Coffee of Durham, N.C., long trips to remote farms for meetings without immediate payoffs are necessary steps in a much bigger goal: reinventing the coffee business.

“These people have an almost unbelievable ability to source exquisite, unique coffees,” Mark Prince, senior editor at the coffee appreciation Web site coffeegeek.com, wrote in an e-mail.

Connie Blumhardt, publisher of the coffee magazine Roast, concurs: “They are certainly the leaders right now. Some smaller roasters just worship them, like they’re these coffee megagods.”

“Direct trade” is the most popular name of the style of business practiced by these coffee companies, known as roasters. It means, most simply, that the roasters buy their beans directly from the farms and cooperatives that grow them, not from brokers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 9:23 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Braised beef tongue

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I haven’t had tongue in a while, a shame. Perhaps I’ll get one next week. When I was growing up, we had tongue frequently, always simmered with a veal heart. The simmering water had onions, celery, peppercorns, perhaps whole allspice or cloves. It’s so yummy hot (with mustard and perhaps horseradish), and even better cold, sliced for tongue sandwiches. It’s time for tongue!

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 9:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Geeks saving the world

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Another Clive Thompson post, this one from Wired:

Bill Gates is an improbable humanitarian. He built a reputation as a nightmare boss at Microsoft, a totalitarian who screeched at employees he thought were stupid. He bludgeoned competitors with his illegal monopoly. And he’s a nerd’s nerd — someone who seems perennially uncomfortable around people and only at ease dealing with the intricacies of software code.

And that is precisely why he’s now saving the world.

As you probably know, Gates is aggressively tackling third world diseases. He has targeted not only high-profile scourges like AIDS but also maladies like malaria, diarrhea, and parasitic infections. These latter illnesses are the really important ones to attack, because they kill millions a year and are entirely preventable. For decades, they flew under the radar of philanthropists in the West. So why did Gates become the first major humanitarian to take action?

The answer lies in the psychology of numeracy — how we understand numbers.

I’ve been reading the fascinating work of Paul Slovic, a psychologist who runs the social-science think tank Decision Research. He studies a troubling paradox in human empathy: We’ll usually race to help a single stranger in dire straits, while ignoring huge numbers of people in precisely the same plight. We’ll donate thousands of dollars to bring a single African war orphan to the US for lifesaving surgery, but we don’t offer much money or political pressure to stop widespread genocides in Rwanda or Darfur.

You could argue that we’re simply callous, or hypocrites. But Slovic doesn’t think so. The problem isn’t a moral failing: It’s a cognitive one. We’re very good at processing the plight of tiny groups of people but horrible at conceptualizing the suffering of large ones.

In one recent experiment, Slovic presented subjects with a picture of “Rokia,” a starving child in Mali, and asked them how much they’d be willing to give to help feed her. Then he showed a different group photos of two Malinese children — “Rokia and Moussa.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 8:23 am

Cramming undermines memory

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Just as you probably suspected: cramming makes it harder to remember the content, long term. Clive Thompson explains:

What’s the best way to memorize material? If you want to remember it for a few days, the best way is “cramming” — studying the material over and over again in one long sustained session. But if you want to recall material for years to come, don’t cram — because according to a new experiment, cramming hurts your long-term memory.

Educators have long known that “overlearning” and “massing” — studying material repeated in long, late-night sessions — works pretty well in the short term. Students who cram historically do better on tests than those who don’t. But scientists didn’t know whether overlearning helped you remember things years down the line.

So recently, the psychologists Doug Rohrer and Harold Pahsler decided to figure it out. They took two groups of people and had one of them cram for a test, studying material 10 times in a row — while another group only studied the stuff only 5 times in a row.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 8:18 am

Megs, trying to sleep

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Megs, trying to sleep

Here’s Megs, parked on my shins, eyelids drooping as she slides into sleep. She normally is a lap cat, rather than a shin cat, but I had the reading pillow, so she settled for (and on) the shins. I removed the pillow to take the photo, and by now she’s too sleepy to resettle elsewhere.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 8:15 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Exercise: be specific

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I forgot to mention that in yesterday’s visit with the doctor, he said that he wanted me to walk for 45 minutes, 4 times a week. This, I noticed, had quite a different impact than his usual statements, along the lines of “I want you to start exercising,” or “I want you to get more exercise” or “You’re not exercising enough.”

45 minutes of walking, 4 days a week: put it that way, and I feel I don’t have much choice. It’s so specific.

The Younger Daughter suggested that he had been to a seminar or read an article or some such. 🙂

I’ll be walking this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 8:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Scrubby stubby study

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An occasional correspondent wrote to ask which among these brushes I prefer: Simpsons Simpsons Commodore X3, Simpsons Duke 3 Best, Simpsons Chubby 1 Best, and Rooney Style 1 Size 1 Super (shown below in order, left to right).

Brushes

I didn’t know. I said that I probably would like the Rooney, but I couldn’t draw on a direct experience memory of a comparison.

So, in keeping with the new fidelity (same razor and brand of blade every day for a while), I’m staying with these four brushes for a while, using them in rotation.

Just in looking at the photos, it’s clear that the Rooney is not quite in the same category: much more loft, for one thing. But it’s often thought of as a stubby brush, so I included it.

This morning I used the Chubby 1 with the Palmolive shaving cream in the red tube, from Italy. Extremely nice lather. The stubby Chubby is scrubby but soft, and it has lots of capacity. I could have easily done 6 passes, but 3 was ample for an extremely smooth shave.

The razor, I realize, is not like the President. Rather it’s an English version of the Executive, with its spiral-pattern handle. Unusual for an English Gillette TTO, the bottom of the base knob is open (as in the US Executive) rather than closed (as in, say, the English Aristocrat (spiral pattern handle in gold) and Rocket). So I’m actually using an English Executive with an open comb. And the Treet Black Beauty did a wonderful job, day 2.

UPDATE: Oops: Booster June Clover, a really great fragrance, as aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

12 September 2007 at 8:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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