Later On

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

Archive for September 22nd, 2007

Swordfish soup for dinner

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Here it is. I made it up. Put in a pot:

About 2 Tbs olive oil
2 chopped medium onions
2 chopped large green chilis (mild)
1 chopped zucchini
Small handful of raw pumpkin seed (about 3 Tbsp)
Ground pepper
Crushed red pepper

Sauté until onion softens. Add:

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 qt of chicken stock
2-3 oz pasta, whatever shape you want (I wanted broken up thin spaghetti, but didn’t have any, so used wagon wheels)

Simmer for 20 minutes. Add:

Juice of two lemons
2 nice pieces swordfish, cut into chunks. I leave the skin on.
More chicken stock if needed.

Simmer for 8 minutes. Add:

1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
3/4 c. (more or less) frozen corn kernels

Simmer for 5 minutes.

If you have it, you can include a chopped red bell pepper in with the onions, etc. And you can use salt if you want. Enough for a few meals for 1.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tagged with ,

Still a consensus on global warming

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From Wired:

1000 years

A paper claiming to show that the scientific consensus on climate change is not in fact a consensus has been rejected by the journal Energy & Environment, reports blogger Richard Littlemore.

This clearly isn’t a case of believers circling the publication wagons against anyone who dares contradict them: the journal’s editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, is a climate change skeptic, and the journal is known for publishing work that denies a link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. (For a scathing indictment of Energy & Environment, see what the American Chemical Society had to say about them.)

So if Energy and Environment wouldn’t take it, the paper, authored by endocrinologist Klaus-Martin Schulte, really is hot air. One would expect that, having hyped the paper prior to its non-publication, the bloggers over at James Inhofe’s blog will be equally vocal about its rejection. We shall see.

This is the paper that a commenter to earlier posts relied on to say that there is not a scientific consensus on global warming. That the paper had been submitted was touted as evidence of its reliability.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Global warming

“This is my remote.”

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“Go get your own,” says Molly.

Molly with her remote

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Blackwater looking worse

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ThinkProgress:

Federal investigations are now investigating whether Blackwater USA employees smuggled weapons into Iraq. The employees allegedly “sent over unlicensed weapons and equipment, that could have been used by a group labelled as terrorist by the US.” Iraqi officials are also probing “allegations about the security firm’s involvement in six other violent episodes this year that left at least 10 Iraqis dead.”

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 12:00 pm

The hidden cost of gambling

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The following is from 21209.org. It occurs to me that a Libertarian might say that the government making casino gambling and slot machines is an instance of the “nanny state,” but I think the citizens who support keeping those activities are making rational choices: they look at the outcomes, and decide that they do not want those outcomes, and so disallow the causes.

It’s been a few years since I led the charge to inform Mt. Washington residents about the downside of a casino, racino, slots barn, or whatever you care to call it at Pimlico. Recently, a few people have asked me to explain the basics of the argument against gambling. It’s free money, after all. Well, maybe not.

Tom Larkin, a psychologist at a SMART Recovery, makes some astute points and touches on many of the major arguments in his recent piece in today’s Boston Herald, and I urge you to read the whole piece, but here is an excerpt that should get you thinking about the stakes involved as we go through another slots-related political drama.

“About 65 percent of gambling dollars come from about 10 percent of the public. A study by the National Institute on Mental Health concluded that 60 percent of addicted gamblers had a yearly income of under $25,000. Gambling victimizes the poor and emotionally needy.

In Atlantic City, except for an increase in pawn shops, the number of small businesses decreased after casinos opened. There were 311 taverns and restaurants before casinos opened and only 66 remained open 16 years later. Over time, there was no change in per capita income as increases in some industries were offset by reductions in others. A 1994 congressional hearing estimated the taxpayer cost of each pathological gambler to be from $10,000 to $52,000 a year. Iowa found that with each new casino, problem gamblers increased 200 percent within 50 miles.

Bankruptcy rates also increased. Similar increases were noted in Louisiana and Maryland. The American Insurance Institute estimates that 40 percent of white collar crime has its roots in gambling and accounts for about $1.3 billion in insurance fraud.

Gambling problems cause a direct increase in divorce, embezzlement, bankruptcy and child neglect and abuse. South Dakota saw an increase from 300 to 500 in reports of children in need of protective services and case filings of abuse and neglect rose by 15 percent the year after opening casinos.”

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 11:53 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

Fascinating: spam-blocking technology & HIV

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Another good article from Business Week:

Cut-rate painkillers! Unclaimed riches in Nigeria!! Most of us quickly identify such e-mail messages as spam. But how would you teach that skill to a machine? David Heckerman needed to know. Early this decade, Heckerman was leading a spam-blocking team at Microsoft Research. To build their tool, team members meticulously mapped out thousands of signals that a message might be junk. An e-mail featuring “Viagra,” for example, was a good bet to be spam–but things got complicated in a hurry.

If spammers saw that “Viagra” messages were getting zapped, they switched to V1agra, or Vi agra. It was almost as if spam, like a living thing, were mutating.

This parallel between spam and biology resonated for Heckerman, a physician as well as a PhD in computer science. It didn’t take him long to realize that his spam-blocking tool could extend far beyond junk e-mail, into the realm of life science. In 2003, he surprised colleagues in Redmond, Wash., by refocusing the spam-blocking technology on one of the world’s deadliest, fastest- mutating conundrums: HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

Heckerman was plunging into medicine–and carrying Microsoft (MSFT ) with him. When he brought his plan to Bill Gates, the company chairman “got really excited,” Heckerman says. Well versed on HIV from his philanthropy work, Gates lined up Heckerman with AIDS researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Washington, and elsewhere.

Since then, the 50-year-old Heckerman and two colleagues have created their own biology niche at Microsoft, where they build HIV-detecting software. These are research tools to spot infected cells and correlate the viral mutations with the individual’s genetic profile. Heckerman’s team runs mountains of data through enormous clusters of 320 computers, operating in parallel. Thanks to smarter algorithms and more powerful machines, they’re sifting through the data 480 times faster than a year ago. In June, the team released its first batch of tools for free on the Internet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 11:35 am

Posted in Business, Health, Medical, Science, Software, Technology

Tagged with , ,

Can it be? Businesses robbing their employees?

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Can it really be that businesses deliberately fail to pay overtime to employees, in violation of the law? Apparently so. Very interesting article in Business Week on the practice—and how it leads to serious problems for the companies who broke the law. From the article:

No one tracks precise figures, but lawyers on both sides estimate that over the last few years companies have collectively paid out more than $1 billion annually to resolve these claims, which are usually brought on behalf of large groups of employees. What’s more, companies can get hit again and again with suits on behalf of different groups of workers or for alleged violations of different provisions of a complex tapestry of laws. Framed on the wall of Thierman’s office, for example, is a copy of a check from a case he settled for $18 million in 2003 on behalf of Starbucks (SBUX ) store managers in California. But the coffee chain is currently defending overtime lawsuits, filed by other attorneys, in Florida and Texas. Wal-Mart Stores (WMT )is swamped with about 80 wage and hour suits, and in the past two years has seen juries award $172 million to workers in California and $78.5 million in Pennsylvania.

“This is the biggest problem for companies out there in the employment area by far,” says J. Nelson Thomas, a Rochester (N.Y.) attorney, who, like Thierman, switched from defense to plaintiffs’ work. “I can hit a company with a hundred sexual harassment lawsuits, and it will not inflict anywhere near the damage that [a wage and hour suit] will.” Steven B. Hantler, an assistant general counsel at Chrysler, says plaintiffs’ lawyers are “trying to make all employees subject to overtime. It’s subverting the free enterprise system.”

In overtime cases, Depression-era laws aimed at factories and textile mills are being applied in a 21st century economy, raising fundamental questions about the rules of the modern workplace. As the country has shifted from manufacturing to services, for example, which employees deserve the protections these laws offer? Generally, workers with jobs that require independent judgment have not been entitled to overtime pay. But with businesses embracing efficiency and quality-control initiatives, more and more tasks, even in offices, are becoming standardized, tightly choreographed routines. That’s just one of several factors blurring the traditional blue-collar/white-collar divide. Then there’s technology: In an always-on, telecommuting world, when does the workday begin and end? The ambiguity now surrounding these questions is tripping up companies and enriching lawyers like Thierman.

About 115 million employees—86% of the workforce—are covered by federal overtime rules, according to the U.S. Labor Dept. The rules apply to salaried and hourly workers alike. Plenty of wage and hour lawsuits are filed on behalf of the traditional working class, be they truckers, construction laborers, poultry processors, or restaurant workers. But no one has been more successful than Thierman in collecting overtime for employees who are far from the factory floor or fast-food kitchen. His biggest settlements over the last two years have been on behalf of stockbrokers, many of whom earn well into the six figures. Thierman has teamed up with other lawyers to extract settlements totaling about a half-billion dollars from brokerage firms, including $98 million from Citigroup’s (C ) Smith Barney and $87 million from UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS ) (As is typical in settlements, the companies do not admit liability.) With those cases drawing to a close, he and other attorneys already are pursuing new claims on behalf of computer workers, pharmaceutical sales reps, and accounting firm staff.

As Thierman sees it, these are the rank and file of a white-collar proletariat. “In the 1940s and 1950s,” he writes in an e-mail, “a large portion of American workers who were protected by overtime laws seem to have been forgotten as inflation drove up the absolute (not the relative) amount of compensation, and the bulk of workers began wearing sports coats and processing information instead of wearing coveralls and processing widgets.” In a subsequent interview he says: “I’m interested in the middle class—those are my folks.”

Read it all, along with the related items:

Graphic: No Industry Is Immune
Graphic: The Rules Reflect Old Assumptions…
Labor Law Time Warp

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 11:30 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with , , ,

More reusable bags

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I’m very happy with my 99¢ canvas bags from Whole Earth, but I came across these:

ReusableBags.com: a wide selection of reusable bags and bottles—many sizes, many materials. This should be your first stop. (The ultra-compact bags are quite nice.)

ChicoBag: This one, similar to the ultra-compact bags at ReusableBags.com, could work well for some since it tucks into a little pocket one can put into her handbag.

The Chico Bag reusable shopping bag is made from strong, durable nylon. It’s ultra-lightweight and tuck itself into a little bag making it perfect to fit into your purse, pocket or glove box. The Chico Bag fabric is soft, making holding the handles a little easier on the hands. They’re easy to pack, durable, and hold a lot. Machine washable. 1 year manufacturers warranty against defects in material and workmanship. Reduce your Footprint with Reusable Bags.

Did you know that using reusable shopping bags can save the average American 300 to 700 plastic shopping bags per year, which will save 3 to 7 gallons of crude oil? That’s per person for plastic bags alone! What a great, simple way to conserve our natural resources. Holds 20lbs; Measurements: Pouch 4″ x 2.5″ x 1″, Expanded bag 18″ x 13″.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 10:54 am

Dumpster-diving for dinner

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Maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch, after all.

For lunch in her modest apartment, Madeline Nelson tossed a salad made with shaved carrots and lettuce she dug out of a Whole Foods dumpster. She flavored the dressing with miso powder she found in a trash bag on a curb in Chinatown. She baked bread made with yeast plucked from the garbage of a Middle Eastern grocery store.

Nelson is a former corporate executive who can afford to dine at four-star restaurants. But she prefers turning garbage into gourmet meals without spending a cent.

On this afternoon, she thawed a slab of pate that she found three days before its expiration date in a dumpster outside a health food store. She made buttery chicken soup from another health food store’s hot buffet leftovers, which she salvaged before they were tossed into the garbage.

Nelson, 51, once earned a six-figure income as director of communications at Barnes and Noble. Tired of representing a multimillion dollar company, she quit in 2005 and became a “freegan” — the word combining “vegan” and “free” — a growing subculture of people who have reduced their spending habits and live off consumer waste. Though many of its pioneers are vegans, people who neither eat nor use any animal-based products, the concept has caught on with Nelson and other meat-eaters who do not want to depend on businesses that they believe waste resources, harm the environment or allow unfair labor practices.

“We’re doing something that is really socially unacceptable,” Nelson said. “Not everyone is going to do it, but we hope it leads people to push their own limits and quit spending.”

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Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 10:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Tagged with , ,

Now that’s a shave!

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From The Shave Den:

Come to the Philippines gentlemen. They have the real deal here. Here is my latest monthly routine at my local barbershop located in the mall:

  • Haircut
  • Straight shave (using my products that I bring in, hot towels)
  • Massage (one hour, arms, shoulders, neck, face, scalp, back, legs, all in the chair, fully reclined)
  • Mud pack on face

Total time in the chair, about 2 hours.
Cost: $7, plus a giant $2 tip.

I bring in my own products because they do not have products that we use, in the Philippines. So I brought in a sample size tub of Truefitt & Hill 1805, T&H Sandalwood and Art of Shaving Lavender, a cheapo brush, and a small decant of Nivea aftershave balm, that he keeps in his locked drawer for my routine visits. I am going to have to slip a puck of Mama Bear’s shaving soap in there.

He is top notch. The routine goes something like this:

I sit down, haircut starts. About 30 minutes later, he tips me back to full horizontal, adds a few extra pads for the neck, etc. Then we proceed to the shave. 2-3 hot towels and about 5 minutes later, he is applying the shave cream. He lets it sit in there on my face for a few minutes. I really feel the work of the cream in this way, tingling, moisturizing, whatever it does, it just feels good. Then the shave commences. He uses an injector type straight razor with a new blade, working in extremely close strokes, stretching my face around. Then he feels around, and lathers me up for the second pass, a touch up, only hitting the spots that were not glass smooth after the first pass. Then I get the hot towel again, followed by a facial scalp massage. Then he applies a mud pack. It looks like some kind of green clay type. Then the neck, shoulder, arms, hand, and leg massage. He uses his bare hands for half of it, then the electric hand barber type massager for the other half. After a good long time, he is done. Then the mud pack comes off. I am back in the sitting up position at this point, and he fixes my hair, applies the aftershave balm, and I get another few minutes of a shoulder and back massage, in a “percussive” kind of way. Once I walk out there, my cheeks start to hurt after a few minutes. But it’s not from an allergic reaction, it is from smiling too much.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 9:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Big Brother Is Watching YOU

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Especially if you travel. I have to say that the US is going through a very odd phase.

The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the records, which are analyzed by the department’s Automated Targeting System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from innocent people entering the country.

But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.

The Automated Targeting System has been used to screen passengers since the mid-1990s, but the collection of data for it has been greatly expanded and automated since 2002, according to former DHS officials.

Officials yesterday defended the retention of highly personal data on travelers not involved in or linked to any violations of the law. But civil liberties advocates have alleged that the type of information preserved by the department raises alarms about the government’s ability to intrude into the lives of ordinary people. The millions of travelers whose records are kept by the government are generally unaware of what their records say, and the government has not created an effective mechanism for reviewing the data and correcting any errors, activists said.

The activists alleged that the data collection effort, as carried out now, violates the Privacy Act, which bars the gathering of data related to Americans’ exercise of their First Amendment rights, such as their choice of reading material or persons with whom to associate. They also expressed concern that such personal data could one day be used to impede their right to travel.

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Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 9:12 am

New herb produces results

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From Science News:

Zakir Ramazanov first encountered Rhodiola rosea in 1979 as a Soviet soldier in Afghanistan. A comrade often received boxes full of the yellow-flowered mountain herb from his home in Siberia and would prepare and share a sweet-smelling tea from the root. Ramazanov found that the drink seemed to quicken his hiking and speed his recovery after a taxing mission.

a8855_1829.jpg

HILLSIDE HABITAT. Rhodiola rosea (yellow flowers at left) grows in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. The plant thrives in cold climates at high altitudes.
Brown

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Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 8:49 am

Contract Bridge

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I’m about half through The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats and finding it quite enjoyable. Bill Gates is avid bridge player and plays on-line fairly frequently (not at MSN games, but at one of the bridge servers where the play is better), as does Warren Buffett.

I found a list of bridge blogs, for those who are interested. The American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) has a site Bridge Is Cool to try to interest young people in learning bridge. ACBL’s main site is also of interest.

Great Bridge Links is a good and current compilation of links of all sorts—to software, clubs, tournaments, on-line play, and so on. Currently the best bridge-playing program is Jack ver. 4.0, written by a guy in the Netherlands. That’s a general purpose program, but there are also many specialized programs to work on a single aspect of the game, such as presenting exercises of one sort or another, or to assist you in documenting the conventions you use.

The site Bridge Doctor offers instruction, play and competition—it’s $7/month. Acol.info offers free lessons, using the Acol bidding system which apparently is the new popular set of conventions for bidding. (It’s name after the road on which it was developed.) Another site with free lessons for beginners is No Fear Bridge.

I’m going to the library today to pick up some bridge books, and I dug out Jack ver. 3.0 and ordered the upgrade to 4.0.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Bridge, Games, Software

Tagged with , , ,

Simple GTD

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In a comment on the post on the reminder tool, Joaquin comments:

I use http://www.simplegtd.com and I have set it as my “home page” so every time I log in, it comes up. It is almost too easy to get everything done.

Good thought. “GTD” = Getting Things Done, a reference to the book of the same title by David Allen.

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 8:24 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Software

Tagged with , ,

Day Six on the Black Beauty blade

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I’m astounded: today I had yet another effortless shave with a Treet Blue Special blade, and I’m left with a smooth face, no nicks, no burn, no cuts. How long can a carbon steel blade last?

To begin at the beginning: MR GLO to start with, then the Rooney Style 2 Finest and Tabac soap. Very nice lather, and I was so pleased to be using the Rooney again that I spent a fair amount of time just working the brush in the lather on my beard at every pass.

The English open-comb razor, now identified as an Aristocrat (again) and the stubborn little Black Beauty blade. Three smooth passes, the alum block, and Tabac aftershave.

I’ve put the blade aside to try it again on Monday…

Written by Leisureguy

22 September 2007 at 8:21 am

Posted in Shaving

Tagged with , , , ,

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