Later On

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

Archive for October 25th, 2007

Sauerkraut with bacon and apples

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Just made this recipe again. It’s really tasty. I used a whole pound of thick-sliced bacon since it’s the main dish.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

DST: not so easy to adjust to it

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When people living in many parts of the world move their clocks forward one hour in the spring in observance of daylight saving time (DST), their bodies’ internal, daily rhythms don’t adjust with them, reports a new study appearing online on October 25th in Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. The finding suggests that this regular time change—practiced by a quarter of the human population—represents a significant seasonal disruption, raising the possibility that DST may have unintended effects on other aspects of human physiology, according to the researchers.

“When we implement small changes into a biological system which by themselves seem trivial, their effects, when viewed in a broader context, may have a much larger impact than we had thought,” said Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, Germany. “It is much too early to say whether DST has a serious long-term impact on health, but our results indicate that we should consider this seriously and do a lot more research on the phenomenon.”

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Managed care vs. HMOs

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A clarifying post:

“[Shannon Brownlee] thinks that managed care has the potential to be more efficient than our current fragmented system. Fine. But as an economist, I am inclined to ask why the market has not evolved toward managed care.” –Arnold Kling, TCS Daily

Words matter in health care politics, and the confusion around the terms “managed care” and “HMOs” (health maintenance organizations) perfectly illustrates why. I don’t think managed care has a prayer of being more efficient than our current fragmented system. I do think HMOs are superior, and any serious student of American health care policy, and Arnold Kling is clearly one of them, needs to know the difference.

There are only a few real HMOs in the U.S., the best known being Kaiser Permanente, which is based in northern California, and Group Health of Puget Sound, in Seattle. A cousin of the HMO, the salaried group practice, is only a bit more common, with notable examples being the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. These two types of organizations share several key qualities. First, their physicians are salaried, though they differ in how they get paid. HMOs are “prepaid” — they are provider and payer rolled into one. Group practices bill insurers as if they were fee-for-service providers, but they divvy the receipts among their salaried physicians, thus insulating physicians to some degree from the financial incentive to overtreat patients.

Aside from their different methods of receiving payment, HMOs and group practices have several key characteristics — characteristics that insurers failed to emulate when they created managed care, and that make HMOs and group practices distinct in both motivation and health quality from their managed care successors. First, HMOs and group practices are multi-specialty groups — there are different kinds of doctors practicing within one organization. Second, the physicians who join these practices do so knowing they will be expected to cooperate with one another when it comes to caring for an individual patient. Third, they willingly submit to “utilization reviews,” which monitor their individual practices and encourage the use of the best medical evidence. As a result, group practices and HMOs tend to do a better job of delivering needed care and avoiding care that won’t help the patient — which is a pretty good definition of quality.

Managed care, on the other hand, was simply a payment system created by the health insurance industry — a system doctors and patients alike came to hate, often for good reason. Way back in the 1970s, the insurance industry realized that group practices and HMOs were more efficient that indemnity insurance. In other words, the HMO-group practice model produced higher quality care for lower cost. So the industry figured it could save money too, simply by giving doctors in private practice incentives to act a little bit more like they were members of group practices.

It didn’t quite work out that way. The insurance industry treated the organizational structure of the group practices and HMOs a little like a Chinese take-out menu, taking a little from column A, and a little bit from column B, rather than truly reverse engineering how the different aspects of a successful salaried, group practice work together. Then they imposed the resulting, somewhat inchoate, mess on doctors, the majority of whom were in solo practices or very small groups of fewer than three physicians. For instance, managed care told primary care physicians it wanted them to be the “quarterbacks” of patient care, the gate-keepers who were supposed to managed complex cases in order to cut down on unnecessary referrals to high-priced specialists. Then it cut reimbursements to primary care doctors, thus driving them to increase the number of patients they saw per hour and making it difficult to spend the time necessary to manage those difficult cases.

The result was angry doctors and angry patients.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 2:31 pm

Nice ad

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And I like this one, too:

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Business

That Condi!

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Apparently she approves of the way that the State Department has “managed” the mercenaries:

As she accepted the resignation of State’s security chief Tuesday in light of the Blackwater scandal, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “quietly promoted two senior staffers” with oversight over Blackwater — Justine Sincavage, who oversees “all State Department security contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan” and her predecessor, Kevin Barry.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 12:35 pm

The White House hates science

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From Dan Froomkin today:

Juliet Eilperin writes in The Washington Post: “Bush administration officials acknowledged yesterday that they heavily edited testimony on global warming, delivered to Congress on Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the president’s top science adviser and other officials questioned its scientific basis.

“Senate Democrats say they want to investigate the circumstances involved in the editing of CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding’s written testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on ‘climate change and public health.’ Gerberding testimony shrank from 12 pages to six after it was reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. . . .

“White House officials eliminated several successive pages of Gerberding’s testimony, beginning with a section in which she planned to say that many organizations are working to address climate change but that, ‘despite this extensive activity, the public health effects of climate change remain largely unaddressed,’ and that the ‘CDC considers climate change a serious public concern.'”

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino defended the cuts, citing a report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “As I understand it, in the draft there was broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC,” she told reporters.

But, writes Eilperin: “‘That’s nonsense,’ said University of Wisconsin at Madison public health professor Jonathan Patz, who served as an IPCC lead author for its 2007, 2001 and 1995 reports. ‘Dr. Gerberding’s testimony was scientifically accurate and absolutely in line with the findings of the IPCC.'”

And Jay Bookman writes in his Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion column: “On every point, Gerberding’s testimony jibes with the IPCC report. It was censored not because it contradicted accepted science, but because it reflected that science. It’s a heckuva way to run a country. . . .

“[A]ltering Gerberding’s testimony does not alter the reality she was trying to describe. If global warming poses health risks to the American people, as she believes, those risks will continue even if expert warnings are muted or even silenced. You can’t change reality by refusing to acknowledge it. We’ve tried that; it doesn’t work.”

Ken Herman blogs for Cox News Service that Perino “wants everyone to know about the upside of global warming. There are, she said today, health benefits.

“‘Look, this is an issue where I’m sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter,’ she said. ‘And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals.'”

Dana Perino is, unfortunately, an idiot. For example, what about heat-stress related deaths when the climate grows hotter? What about the greater range of tropical diseases? What about…  Oh, never mind. Dana Perino simply never knows what she’s talking about.

BTW, the White House initially lied about their editing of the report. From ThinkProgress:

After yesterday denying that it “watered down” congressional testimony by the head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Bush administration officials are now acknowledging that “they heavily edited [her] testimony on global warming.” Officials, for example, took out the line: “CDC considers climate change a serious public concern.”

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 12:33 pm

Bad problem, simple solution

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Sometimes difficult problems have simple solutions. For example, two persons fighting over the fair division of a cake. The solution, known to every schoolchild, is that one person divides the cake, and the other gets first choice. Another problem with a simple solution:

Last week, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said the housing meltdown hasn’t hit bottom, and he sharply criticized credit-rating agencies for failing to recognize the risks in hundreds of billions worth of mortgage-backed securities whose values continue to plummet as home-loan defaults grow.

The SEC, Treasury, and several congressional committees are now investigating why credit-rating agencies such as Standard & Poors, Moody’s, and Fitch gave thumbs up for so long to securities backed by sub-prime mortgages — downgrading them only in July, after almost everyone on the planet knew they were junk. I mean, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that mortgage lenders had been pushing low-interest mortgages on people who wouldn’t be able to repay them once interest rates rose.

The answer is simple: Credit-rating agencies are paid by the same institutions that package and sell the securities the agencies are rating. If an investment bank doesn’t like the rating, it doesn’t have to pay for it. And even if it likes the rating, it pays only after the security is sold. Get it? It’s as if movie studios hired film critics to review their movies, and paid them only if the reviews were positive enough to get lots of people to see a movie.

Until the recent collapse, the result was great for credit-rating agencies. Profits at Moody’s more than doubled between 2002 and 2006. And it was a great ride for the issuers of mortgage-backed securities. Demand soared because the high ratings expanded the market. Traders that bought, rebundled, and then sold them didn’t examine anything except the ratings. It was actually a market in credit ratings — a multi-billion dollar game of musical chairs. Then the music stopped.

So what exactly are the SEC and Treasury and Congress investigating? It’s obviously a giant conflict of interest — exactly like the stock analysts who, before the dot-com bubble burst, advised clients to buy stocks their own investment banks were issuing. The remedy for that was to split the two functions — analysis from investment banking.

The remedy here is to do much the same: Bar issuers from paying credit-rating agencies. If investors want to examine an issuer’s credit ratings, they or the pension or mutual funds they invest through can subscribe for the service — just as movie-goers subscribe to publications where reviews appear. Stop all the investigations and issue this rule.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 11:57 am

The wrong answer

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This article in the NY Times describes one approach to the drudgery of shaving:

Most men consider shaving a chore worthy of Sisyphus, who was damned to push a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down. No matter whether your five o’clock shadow shows by lunchtime or you need a razor only once every 48 hours, shaving can be hell.

“It’s a wonderful irony,” said Eric Malka, a founder of the Art of Shaving, a national chain of barbershops. “Young people can’t wait to do adult things, and see shaving as a rite of passage into manhood. Then we spend the rest of our lives trying to avoid it.”

At 29, Anthony Pilowa is already fed up. “It’s a repetitive, daily frustration,” said Mr. Pilowa, a manager of clinical trials at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. “I really look forward to the weekends when I can have a couple of days without the shaving.”

The article proceeds to describe nostrums that claim to retard whisker growth so that a shaver can tackle the painful and despised task less frequently—though the task remains and it remains disliked. It’s just not quite so frequent (and thus probably disliked even more).

Certainly that’s one approach, but it seems to me that the answer I found is much more satisfying: convert the task into something that’s enjoyable and eagerly anticipated—and provides a satisfying and pain-free shave, to boot. Such a simple answer, but it doesn’t sell new products—and there’s not a lot of money to be made from traditional shaving soap and double-edged razor blades.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 11:41 am

Posted in Business, Shaving

Cutting clutter

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Via from, these methods:

Forcing Decisions: The Four-Box Method

Clutter is evidence of many things: poor habits, lack of organization, sentimental attachment, too much stuff. But, at bottom, each item of clutter is a decision delayed. The mail arrives, replete with circulars and junk mail and catalogs. “Oh, I’ll go through that later!” whispers the clutter monster, deferring the simple decision to cull and toss the unwanted paper.

The Four-Box method forces a decision, item by item. To apply it, gather three boxes and a large trash can. Label the boxes, “Put Away”, “Give Away/Sell” and “Storage.” Items to be thrown away belong in the trash can.

Take the four boxes to the declutter area. One at a time, pick up each piece of clutter. Ask yourself, “Do I want to put this away in another place, donate it (or sell it at a yard sale), store it, or throw it away?” You may not release your grip on the item until you have made a decision.

At the end of the decluttering session, reserve 10 to 15 minutes to empty the boxes. Put Away items are put in more appropriate places. Give Away/Sell items should be stored outside the house, in a garage, or in the trunk of the car for drop-off at a charity donation center. As each Storage box fills, make a brief inventory of the contents and put the box into the storage area. Finally, empty the trash can quickly to prevent second thoughts!

The Four Box method will work for anyone, in any declutter mode. Use it to clear a shelf or drawer each day, or apply it as part of a whole-house weekend assault on clutter. By forcing a decision, it will serve you well as you cull clutter from the home.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Good report on Peak Oil

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Peak Oil refers to Hubbert’s Peak: the point at which oil production reaches its maximum and then begins an inexorable decline as oil reserves become diminished and oil more difficult to extract. Hubbert predicted in 1956 that US oil production would reach its peak in 1965-70. He was right, as it turned out (the actual peak was in 1970), though heartily mocked at the time.

Hubbert’s Peak generalizes to any non-renewable resource—e.g., mined metals. If the resource is not renewable, it is finite and unless the reserves are very large in comparison to demand, production will gradually peak and then decline as the resource becomes more difficult to find and to extract.

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas—USA has issued its most recent report. From the report:

In its narrow sense, the phrase “peak oil” refers to the zenith of global oil production, but the term now often refers to more general resource constraints on “business as usual” going forward. There are issues about coal, natural gas and other commodities. The connection between anthropogenic climate change and future resource availability is now being explored in greater depth as new data-driven analysis comes to light.

Pessimism was in the air concerning future oil production. Writing for Platts, John Kingston was accurate in his conclusion that “all in all, [it was] a terrific conference. But don’t attend unless you’ve taken your Prozac.” Most speakers, including industry veterans like Henry Groppe, believe that the peak is upon us now, or at best only a few years away. Richard Nehring, an “optimist” who participated in the conference’s peak oil dialogue panel, told Steve Andrews that “I have a hard time seeing us get to 90 million barrels a day by 2020” (ASPO-USA interview, October 8th). With the world in a plateau of about 85 million barrels per day in 2007, it’s not much of a stretch to say the world’s in trouble. Downcast views are not unexpected at a peak oil conference, but are now strengthened because uncertainties that existed only a few years ago are more and more being resolved in favor of detrimental outcomes. Mexico is a good case in point.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 11:18 am

Cannabis as analgesic

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Opponents of medical marijuana point to how few studies have been done, overlooking (or ignoring) the fact that the DEA is loathe to approve studies, which might result in findings that they won’t like. But some studies do get done. Here’s one:

Smoked cannabis eased pain induced in healthy volunteers, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR.) However, the researchers found that less may be more.

In the placebo controlled study of 15 subjects, a low dose of cannabis showed no effect, a medium dose provided moderate pain relief, and a high dose increased the pain response. The results suggest a “therapeutic window” for cannabis analgesia, according to lead researcher Mark Wallace, M.D., professor of anesthesiology at UCSD School of Medicine and Program Director for the UCSD Center for Pain Medicine.

[This is interesting, because it strongly suggests that the best way to administer the drug is through inhalation—smoking or using a vaporizer—so that the amount administered can be easily titrated. Oral administration runs the risk of missing the therapeutic window altogether—either falling short or overshooting it. – LG]

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 11:05 am

Posted in Drug laws, Medical, Science

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Stopping fat before it’s stored

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This is an intriguing finding:

University of Cincinnati (UC) pathologists have identified a new molecular target that one day may help scientists develop drugs to reduce fat transport to adipocytes (fat cells) in the body and prevent obesity and related disorders, like diabetes.

Detailed in the Oct. 18 online edition and the November 2007 print issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the findings about a specific cell receptor, known as the adipocyte LDL receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1), provide important clues about the underlying biological mechanisms that control fat transport in the body.

Using genetically altered mice, David Hui, PhD, and his team demonstrated that “knocking out” the LRP1 in fat cells has a direct impact on how many lipids (fats and fat-like substances) are transferred and deposited to different tissues. Hui says the experimental mice gained less weight, stored less fat, tolerated glucose better and expended more energy (due to increased muscle activity) when compared with a control group.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 10:59 am

Posted in Health, Science

So it wasn’t the giant meteor

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This surprised me:

The greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history also may have been one of the slowest, according to a study that casts further doubt on the extinction-by-meteor theory.

Creeping environmental stress fueled by volcanic eruptions and global warming was the likely cause of the Great Dying 250 million years ago, said USC doctoral student Catherine Powers.

Writing in the November issue of the journal Geology, Powers and her adviser David Bottjer, professor of earth sciences at USC, describe a slow decline in the diversity of some common marine organisms.

The decline began millions of years before the disappearance of 90 percent of Earth’s species at the end of the Permian era, Powers shows in her study.

More damaging to the meteor theory, the study finds that organisms in the deep ocean started dying first, followed by those on ocean shelves and reefs, and finally those living near shore.

“Something has to be coming from the deep ocean,” Powers said. “Something has to be coming up the water column and killing these organisms.”

That something probably was…

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in Environment, Science

Tagged with

Limitations of fingerprint identification recognized

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An important decision in Baltimore:

A Baltimore County judge has ruled that fingerprint evidence, a mainstay of forensics for nearly a century, is not reliable enough to be used against a homicide defendant facing a possible death sentence – a finding that national experts described yesterday as unprecedented and potentially far-reaching.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Susan M. Souder’s order bars prosecutors from using at trial the partial fingerprints lifted from the Mercedes of a Security Square Mall merchant who was fatally shot last year during an attempted carjacking at the shopping center. Prosecutors say the fingerprints – as well as those found in a stolen Dodge Intrepid in which witnesses said the shooter fled the mall parking lot – link a 23-year-old Baltimore man to the killing.

In her ruling, Souder outlined the long history of fingerprinting as a crime-solving tool but says that such history “does not by itself support the decision to admit it.” In explaining her reasoning in a 32-page decision, the judge leaned heavily on the case of an Oregon lawyer mistakenly linked through fingerprint analysis to the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

With defendant Bryan Keith Rose scheduled to go to trial today in Towson, prosecutors and defense attorneys in the capital case declined to comment yesterday on the judge’s ruling.

But others who have researched the issue and litigated cases involving fingerprint evidence said the decision – if it stands up on appeal – could have implications that reach even beyond the use of fingerprint evidence in criminal courts.

“The repercussions are terrifically broad,” said David L. Faigman, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law and an editor of Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony.

“Fingerprints, before DNA, were always considered the gold standard of forensic science, and it’s turning out that there’s a lot more tin in that field than gold,” he said. “The public needs to understand that. This judge is declaring, not to mix my metaphors, that the emperor has no clothes.

“There is a lot of forensic science that is considered second to fingerprinting,” Faigman added, mentioning firearms and toolmark analysis, hair identification, bite pattern analysis and evidence used in arson investigations as examples. “If fingerprinting turns out to not be so good, people could start questioning that science as well.”

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 10:40 am

“The Lost Art of Journal Writing”

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Very nice article (PDF file) from this magazine. I’ve kept a journal from time to time, though of late the blog has taken over my writing, for the most part. You can keep a journal on your computer, though it’s then subject to hard-drive crashes, computer theft, and technological obsolescence. (“I just found your father’s journal, and here it is: ten 8.5″ hard-sectored NorthStar diskettes, but I don’t know what program created the files.”)

Do you keep a journal?

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

The Great Books

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The “great software list” is, appropriately, part of a site that lists The Great Books, some of which are downloadable for your Sony Book Reader.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 9:43 am

Posted in Books

Great Software List

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I just came across this interesting list of great software. The list is accompanied by this note:

In my experience, most software programs are missing two to three key features or options that would make them significantly better. This page is provided so that you don’t have to spend weeks finding the perfect program. The Great Software List stands in praise of small software, and why it has become important. Offer developers your honest, critical feedback. Support great Open Source and Freeware programs by donating to their developers. Perhaps one of the best software apps I’ve come across is the XYplorer File Manager by Donald Lessau, who combines the best of both worlds by offering a true Lifetime license to XYplorer, but providing a donation page for those of us who donate small amounts each month to independent developers.

Although there are often two or more apps within each broad category, each app is worthy and it’s better to let the user decide which may be best for them. All screenshots are captured using Screenshot Captor by All programs were tested on a 64-bit Intel Quad-core X6800 2.9GHz nForce 680i SLI machine with two 750G HDs and 4G RAM under either Ubuntu 7.x or Microsoft Windows Vista.

Check the list, and if you know of other great software, or if you want feedback on your own, let me know. I’m terribly derelict with email. Otherwise, developers please use the simple award PNG above for your website. The content of this site is constantly changing as apps come and go, even across versions, so come back at least once a month to see what’s new. Ratings are good for each year that your software is listed. If I’ve copied; that is, plagiarized your description, it was out of accuracy and clarity over my own poor descriptive writing and penchant for run-on sentences.

Here is a more expansive discussion of these points, along with what makes software great and why this site exists. And these time-tested tips cover suggestions for both users and developers. And finally, for an example of great genetic code writing, go here! I support their inspirational work to say the least.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 9:39 am

Posted in Software

Installed-Programs Printer

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Okay, that didn’t take long. The Installed-Programs Printer will print a list of the software that shows up in the “Add/Remove Programs” list. You can download the program from this page. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll give it a go today. His description:

Description: If you have ever needed to re-install your operating system for any reason and needed it re-installed with all the applications you previously had, you might find this program useful. This program will print off a list of your installed applications so you can keep a reference on paper ready to tick off when you re-install. The software is so easy to use it requires no instructions. Note: This software looks at the windows registry to reference installed programs, and therefore may miss software that does not install itself so it can been seen under “Add/Remove Programs”.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Evacuation readiness

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The thought of getting a call saying that you may have to leave your house, with the possibility that the house and contents will be destroyed, made me think about how to prepare when the call comes. This comment from a thread on the LA Times:

Collect your precious snapshots. Make a copy of everything on your computer. Bring extra checks. Refill your prescriptions and bring them. Make a copy of your address book on your computer. Get a cell phone if you don’t haveo one — this is MOST important. (I’m from New Orleans and evacuated for Katrina.)

Assuming that you would drive away in your car, what would you take and how would you prepare. Some items are easy: the kitties. The external hard drive on which my computer’s daily back-up resides. The medicines. The chest of fountain pens. The Wife will certainly take her handbags and laptop. All my shaving equipment, plopped into a box. Clothing. A couple of books to read.

Probably be good to get a list. And it occurs to me that I should look for a freeware program that will list all the programs installed on my computer.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 9:25 am

Posted in Daily life

Final French

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This morning I used Altesse shaving soap, a flat little biscuit of soap in a transparent plastic shell just large enough to hold it. You remove the top of the container, hold the bottom part with the soap in your hand, and load the brush with lather that way. The brush, the redoubtable Rooney Style 3 Size 1 Super, picked up plenty of soap and I got a good lather. This soap seemed better to me than the Monsavon.

I picked the Gillette Milord (gold version of the Super Speed) and put in a new Feather blade. Three easy passes and a perfectly smooth mug.

The aftershave? Royal Copenhagen. Very nice.

I’ve been thinking about the post-French shaves, and tomorrow will be a theme unto itself.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2007 at 8:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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