Later On

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

Archive for October 24th, 2007

Get used to natural catastrophes

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From Science Daily:

The catastrophic fires that are sweeping Southern California are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years, experts say, and they may be just a prelude to many more such events in the future — as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged drought periods.

“This is exactly what we’ve been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change,” said Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service.

“You can’t look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate,” said Neilson, who was also a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a co-recipient earlier this month of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

“But things just like this are consistent with what the latest modeling shows,” Neilson said, “and may be another piece of evidence that climate change is a reality, one with serious effects.”

The latest models, Neilson said, suggest that parts of the United States may be experiencing longer-term precipitation patterns — less year-to-year variability, but rather several wet years in a row followed by several that are drier than normal.

“As the planet warms, more water is getting evaporated from the oceans and all that water has to come down somewhere as precipitation,” said Neilson. “That can lead, at times, to heavier vegetation loads popping up and creation of a tremendous fuel load. But the warmth and other climatic forces are also going to create periodic droughts. If you get an ignition source during these periods, the fires can just become explosive.”

The problems can be compounded, Neilson said, by El Niño or La Nina events. A La Niña episode that’s currently under way is probably amplifying the Southern California drought, he said. But when rains return for a period of years, the burned vegetation may inevitably re-grow to very dense levels.

“In the future, catastrophic fires such as those going on now in California may simply be a normal part of the landscape,” said Neilson.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 4:39 pm

Calorie-restricted diets

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They seem to work, but they would be very difficult, I think.

Severely restricting calories leads to a longer life, scientists say they have proved.

New research now has shown for the first time that such a diet also can maintain physical fitness into advanced age, slowing the seemingly inevitable progression to physical disability and loss of independence.

The study, using a rat model of life-time caloric restriction, showed that the diet reduces the amount of visceral fat, which expresses inflammatory factors that in humans cause chronic disease and a decline in physical performance and vitality across the lifespan.

The study appears in the October issue of Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences.

Have we finally discovered the Fountain of Youth? No. But we may be getting a little closer.

“This is the first study to report that caloric restriction reduced production in visceral fat of the inflammatory cytokine IL-6 and enhanced performance on overall physical function assessments,” said Tongjian You, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences in the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions and principal investigator.

“In addition, rats that ate a normal diet lost a significant amount of lean muscle mass and acquired more fat, while calorie-restricted rats maintained lean muscle mass as they aged.”

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Free rice: play a game and feed the hungry

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From Treehugger:

FreeRice is a computer game that tests your vocabulary and for every word that you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated through the United Nations to end world hunger.

Curious? It’s simple: a word pops up with multiple choice answers. If you click the right one then a harder word comes up and the level of difficulty keeps increasing. For every click 10 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme. Since October 7, 2007 when it began, 164,650,960 grains of rice have been donated.

The site is funded by the advertisers: Macy’s, Fujitsu, Timelife, Apple, Office Depot, Reader’s Digest and many more whose names pop up as you play the game. The World Food Programme is the world’s largest food aid agency, working with over 1,000 other organizations in over 75 countries. Sounds good, so if you are bored, start playing and help the hungry while you’re at it.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Games

Depleted uranium munitions and the downside

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Depleted uranium has long been a favorite of the military: the density of the DU (70% denser than lead) makes it desirable as armor and, more commonly, as armor-piercing ammunition. From Wikipedia:

Most military use of depleted uranium has been as 30 mm and smaller ordnance…

Another use of depleted uranium is in kinetic energy penetrators anti-armor role. Kinetic energy penetrator rounds consist of a long, relatively thin penetrator surrounded by discarding sabot. Two materials lend themselves to penetrator construction: tungsten and depleted uranium…

Note also that according to recent research,[10] at least some of the most promising tungsten alloys which have been considered as replacement for depleted uranium in penetrator ammunitions, such as tungsten-cobalt or tungsten-nickel-cobalt alloys, possess extreme carcinogenic properties, which by far exceed those (confirmed or suspected) of depleted uranium itself: 100% of rats implanted with a pellet of such alloys developed lethal rhabdomyosarcoma within a few weeks.

On more properly military grounds, depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is self-sharpening and pyrophoric. On impact with a hard target, such as an armoured vehicle, the nose of the rod fractures in such a way that it remains sharp. The impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to disintegrate to dust and burn when it reaches air because of its pyrophoric properties (compare to ferrocerium). When a DU penetrator reaches the interior of an armored vehicle, it catches fire, often igniting ammunition and fuel, killing the crew, and possibly causing the vehicle to explode...

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 2:25 pm

Jay Rockefeller: sells his vote cheap

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I blogged yesterday about how Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) took $40,000 from two telecoms, and subsequently had his committee include in the FISA bill wholesale immunity for telecoms for their lawbreaking, whatever it might have been. (It’s still not known exactly what they did, but that’s okay with Jay: he got his $40,000.)

Now his spokesperson of course denied the quid pro quo:

“Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. “He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee’s careful review of the situation and our national security interests.”

So Wendy says that the fact that Jay got $40,000 and then went along with what the donors wanted is just a coincidence. Really, the two are not connected.

But that’s stupid, right? It’s quite obvious that the telecoms don’t hand out $40K for nothing. They wanted something for that money, and Jay delivered. The connection is patently obvious. And the telecoms got a terrific bargain: $40K is a less than a drop in the bucket for those businesses. Of course, it was quite a nice windfall for Jay. And he did show his appreciation in the way he worked for them.

This just totally stinks. How can his office deny the connection? It’s as obvious as shit on a plate.

UPDATE: BTW, isn’t it obvious that any legislator (or judge, in those states where judges run for election) would be stark mad to accept large donations from parties who will be affected by decisions currently being considered by the legislator (or judge)? Taking any such donation is simply seeking trouble—or, more to the point, seeking cash in exchange for votes/decisions.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:48 am

Posted in Business, Congress, Democrats

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And the results of Bush’s economic policies?

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Take a look:

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo Rato, warned Monday of a potential “abrupt fall” in the US dollar that could roil the global economy.

“There are risks that an abrupt fall in the dollar could either be triggered by, or itself trigger, a loss of confidence in dollar assets,” Rato said at the close of annual meetings here of the IMF and the World Bank.

The outgoing IMF managing director spoke here as the European single currency hit a new high of 1.4347 dollars and global equity markets plunged amid renewed fears a US credit crunch could pitch the world’s biggest economy into recession.

“The uncertainty … comes from downside risks that are much higher than they were six months ago. The turbulence in the credit markets is a warning that we cannot take the benign (global) economic environment of recent years for granted,” Rato said on the final day of the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank.

“We still do not know the full effects of the decline in the housing market and the subprime problems of the US economy. Further disruption in financial markets and further falls in housing prices could lead to a global economic downturn,” he said.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:38 am

Bush, the big spender (unless it might help poor people)

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Bush is willing to spend any amount, just so long as the money doesn’t go to help the poor or the ill (vetoes of stem-cell research, S-CHIP expansion). Take a look:

Bush spends

George W. Bush, despite all his recent bravado about being an apostle of small government and budget-slashing, is the biggest spending president since Lyndon B. Johnson. In fact, he’s arguably an even bigger spender than LBJ.

“He’s a big government guy,” said Stephen Slivinski, the director of budget studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian research group.

The numbers are clear, credible and conclusive, added David Keating, the executive director of the Club for Growth, a budget-watchdog group.

“He’s a big spender,” Keating said. “No question about it.”

Take almost any yardstick and Bush generally exceeds the spending of his predecessors.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:36 am

Unicycle: half the wheels, twice the fun

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:27 am

The TED talks

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I’ve mentioned the TED talks from time to time, usually with links to a specific talk. Now you can see a list of all the talks so far:

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 11:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Video

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Rico Clusters

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Sounds like a kind of candy bar, doesn’t it? It’s not: it’s a tool akin to mind-mapping, but not the same. Looks interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 10:37 am

Posted in Daily life

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Sony’s latest iteration of the Book Reader

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The Sony PRS-505/LC book reader, which will start shipping 10/25/2007, looks good, but at $500 still too pricey for me. But the technology is improving.

The Reader Digital Book holds about 160 eBooks or hundreds more with optional removable memory cards. Its portable size makes it the perfect travel companion, allowing you to read a variety of books whenever and wherever you want. With thousands of eBook titles available from the CONNECT™ eBooks Store, you can choose to download new releases, classics and popular book titles as well as view other document formats such as Adobe® PDF10, RTF, TXT, BBeB® and Microsoft® Word. Its long battery life lasts up to 7,500 continuous page turns, and the amazing paper-like screen technology is easy on the eyes. Also available in silver.

The Reader Digital Book offers a unique, on-the-go reading experience and is the perfect travel companion. With a compact and lightweight design, you can take it almost anywhere and read your books whenever and wherever you want. More compact than many paperbacks, it weighs about 9 ounces (without cover), is 1/3” thin8, and holds up to 160 eBooks. You can easily hold it in one hand, and with its rechargeable battery, you can turn up to 7,500 continuous pages on a single charge.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 10:23 am

Mindless comfort

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Daily life

The real Rudy Giuliani

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Kevin Drum points to an article that describes him, based on his record:

 What would Rudy Giuliani be like as president? In our November issue, Rachel Morris looks for the answer by digging around in the nooks and crannies of his two terms as mayor of New York City. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1996, Doug Criscitello, a former federal budget analyst, started work as the first director of the Independent Budget Office. Criscitello expected to put his auditors to work immediately, but then he received a surprising communication from the mayor’s office. It was a memorandum informing him that all the IBO’s requests for data had to be referred to City Hall — despite plain language in the city charter stating that the IBO could get information directly from municipal agencies.  Puzzled, Criscitello contacted Giuliani’s lawyers, who reaffirmed the message. “They weren’t nasty about it. They were very matter-of-fact,” said Criscitello. ” ‘Here’s how we’ve decided to interpret the charter, and if you disagree there’s a legal process you can go through and we can get a judge to rule on this.'” Eventually, the IBO sued the mayor’s office for the data, and in 1998 a state judge ruled that City Hall had violated the city charter and ordered it to start cooperating. Meanwhile, Giuliani had bought two years of time.

Criscitello had run into what was becoming a signature feature of Giuliani’s governing style. Chafing against the limits of his authority, Giuliani was taking an increasingly instrumentalist view of the law: it was only as good as how well it was enforced, and should be overstepped when doing so served his ends. His administration tussled in court not only with the IBO but also with numerous interest groups, the state comptroller, the public advocate, and the city council. “All of those were effectively cases that said, he’s gone beyond the restraints on executive power,” said Eric Lane, director of the 1989 charter commission and a law professor at Hofstra University. By 1999, the city council was forced to allocate money specifically for the purpose of suing City Hall, which had 685 lawyers on its payroll and had increased its legal budget by 41 percent since Giuliani took office.

….New York State’s comptroller, H. Carl McCall, had a similar experience to Criscitello’s when he tried to undertake routine audits of how well the city had provided services in areas ranging from restaurant inspections to policing. First, City Hall refused to provide the information. Then, in 1997, Giuliani booted McCall’s auditors out of city agencies. McCall issued seventeen subpoenas in one month alone, all of which the mayor’s office ignored. After two years, the state’s highest court ordered his administration to turn over the information. By that time, however, Giuliani had already succeeded in the effort that mattered most to him: significantly delaying the comptroller’s efforts. Not until 2000, for instance, would McCall be able to produce an audit of crime statistics, and when it finally appeared, the auditors noted that they were still unsure whether they had received all of the relevant material. As a “matter of policy,” they wrote, City Hall had decided not to provide the customary document confirming that the data was accurate and complete.

Choosing the best presidential candidate among the 2008 contenders is a tough job. Picking the worst is easy. Rudy Giuliani is the guy you’d get if you put George Bush and Dick Cheney into a wine press and squeezed out their pure combined essence: unbounded arrogance and self-righteousness, a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood, a studied contempt for anybody’s opinion but his own, a vindictive streak a mile wide, and a devotion to secrecy and executive power unmatched in presidential history. He is a disaster waiting to happen.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 10:17 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Tagged with

Looks like a movie to see

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Finishing the Game is a mockumentary on the search for a new Bruce Lee to complete the last movie that Lee started: Game of Death, of which 12 minutes had been shot. Based on the trailer at the link, I’ll see it.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Movies & TV


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Speaking of memory, the National Geographic has a great feature on memory, which includes an interactive 3-D map of the brain that you can rotate and interact with. And memory at one time played a central role in daily life. From the main article:

… It’s hard for us to imagine what it must have been like to live in a culture before the advent of printed books or before you could carry around a ballpoint pen and paper to jot notes. “In a world of few books, and those mostly in communal libraries, one’s education had to be remembered, for one could never depend on having continuing access to specific material,” writes Mary Carruthers, author of The Book of Memory, a study of the role of memory techniques in medieval culture. “Ancient and medieval people reserved their awe for memory. Their greatest geniuses they describe as people of superior memories.” Thirteenth-century theologian Thomas Aquinas, for example, was celebrated for composing his Summa Theologica entirely in his head and dictating it from memory with no more than a few notes. The Roman philosopher Seneca the Elder could repeat 2,000 names in the order they’d been given to him. A Roman named Simplicius could recite Virgil by heart—backward. A strong memory was seen as the greatest of virtues since it represented the internalization of a universe of external knowledge. Indeed, a common theme in the lives of the saints was that they had extraordinary memories. …

The main article begins:

There is a 41-year-old woman, an administrative assistant from California known in the medical literature only as “AJ,” who remembers almost every day of her life since age 11. There is an 85-year-old man, a retired lab technician called “EP,” who remembers only his most recent thought. She might have the best memory in the world. He could very well have the worst.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 9:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tagged with ,

Monsavon, monsieur

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This morning was Monsavon shaving soap, which comes in a thin plastic bowl with lid. I used the Plisson HMW 12, and the lather was fine, but nothing to write home about. I thought it not quite so good as the Pré de Provence, Provence Santé, and Durance L’òme and definitely below Institute Karité.

The razor was a Gillette red-tipped Super Speed. The Super Speed line in general is milder than I like, but the red-tipped one works quite well for me. There was a Wilkinson blade in it, and I used that but discarded the blade after the shave because I had to do more touch-up than usual.

The aftershave was Stetson Sierra, and the coffee’s at hand. Smooth face, nice day, and lovely weather up here: sunny on the Bay and the sliding glass door onto the balcony is open.

Written by Leisureguy

24 October 2007 at 9:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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