Later On

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

Archive for November 11th, 2007

Wal-Mart sells out of its Linux computer

with 3 comments

Wal-Mart has offered a Linux computer for $199—everything you need except the  monitor. And it immediately sold out of their warehouse, though it’s probably still in some stores. Take a look at the customer reviews.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Business, Environment, Software, Technology

Tagged with

Dennis Kucinich

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Good post with good points:

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is once again running for president. But you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media, which have been spending all their time focusing on Clinton, Obama, and sometimes Edwards.

It seems like the only time we hear about Dennis Kucinich is when the talking heads make fun of him. They ridicule Kucinich’s short physical stature and his elfin appearance, and they make creepy comments about Kucinich’s gorgeous young wife.

First of all, this is supposed to be an election, not a beauty contest. Kucinich may not have Obama’s height or Edwards’ good looks. But what he does have are ideas that are often much more in line with what the American people really want. But, for some reason, we can’t get past the jokes and get down to the issues.

Unfortunately, the ridicule took on a new dimension when Kucinich admitted, during a recent debate, that he had seen a UFO — an unidentified flying object. From the reactions I’ve seen, you’d think he had admitted to seeing little green men inside that UFO.

Yes, that’s a little weird, but did that question even really belong in the debate?

Is it any weirder than the fact that former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had also seen UFOs?

Is it any weirder than the fact that Ronald and Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer before making major decisions?

Is it any weirder than the fact that George W. Bush believes that God speaks through him?

No, what’s weird is that the issues are being ignored in favor of schoolyard-style ridicule. If the pundits and the Congress could get past the nonsense and focus on the issues, Dennis Kucinich might have a chance to bring about some of the change that the American people have been more and more impatiently waiting for.

Like bringing our troops home from Iraq.

Like holding the Vice President accountable for his manipulation of the intelligence process to deceive Americans in the run-up to the war in Iraq, and for threatening aggression against Iran absent any threat to the U.S.

Like keeping jobs here in the U.S.

Like protecting consumers.

Like promoting the development of clean, safe, renewable energy sources.

Like taking care of our sick.

And like enforcing our country’s ideal that all persons are created equal.

But those things are hard work. It’s much easier to just sit back, collect money from the special interests, and ridicule Dennis Kucinich.

Because he’s short.

Because he’s not so telegenic.

Because he’s married to a beautiful redhead.

And because he speaks for those of us who have a heart.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Election, Media

Tagged with

For coffee fans

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Someone on the ShaveMyFace forum just pointed out CoffeeGeek.com. Very good site to know.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Food

Tagged with

Empirical criticism

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Interesting idea. I recall that I’ve probably blogged this before:

Jonathan Gotschall, who teaches English literature at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, proposed marrying literary studies with a scientific style of inquiry.

Gottschall has already made waves among his colleagues by conducting an experiment on how people respond to literature. From interviews with readers about their responses to books, he has shown that in general people have similar reactions to a given text. This runs counter to the conventional idea that the meaning readers take from literature is dependent more on their cultural background than what the author intended. It also appears not to make sense, as literature is grounded in subjective rather than objective experience.

Gotschall, however, argues that the same can be said for literary criticism: the field is awash with irrational thought, he says, largely because most literature scholars believe that the humanities and science are distinct. As a result, literary theorists rely on opinion and conjecture, rather than trying to find solid, empirical evidence for their claims, he says. By adding an element of scientific thought to literary criticism, Gottschall says, we could unearth hidden truths about human nature and behaviour.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Books, Science

Tagged with

Is this insanity?

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Hillside homes in southern California:

Much of the new development in Los Angeles and Orange counties is occurring on land the state says is at high risk for wildfires, according to records and interviews.

With little raw land available in flat areas, builders are planning huge tracts of homes on or just below the rough hillsides that fringe the region’s metropolitan areas.

Hillside living is popular with home buyers because of the sweeping views, country feel and proximity to nature. But with their tall brush and trees, and steep terrain that can act as a wind tunnel to speed along a blaze, these are the very areas likely to burn.

A symbol of how the suburban building boom has stretched to meet the fire danger can be found off Plum Canyon Road near Canyon Country, where last month’s fires blackened land being graded for new homes. The fire left the distorted remains of water sprinklers coated with ash and dirt.

But no sooner had the flames died than construction workers were back out, cleaning the site in unincorporated Santa Clarita and preparing to build 600 homes.

The project, called Monte Verde, is in what L.A. County planners and fire officials call a “very high fire hazard severity zone,” the riskiest designation.

In the wake of the October blazes that burned more than 2,000 homes, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked a state wildfire task force to consider whether construction should be limited in the riskiest zones, joining a growing chorus of safety advocates and environmentalists who have also proposed tougher hillside building rules.

Despite such concerns, however, a tide of new development in high-risk zones is well underway.

About 60,000 new homes are proposed for the hills, canyons and scrubby flats of northern Los Angeles County over the next few years.

More at the link

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 1:51 pm

Watch out for flicker illness

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From New Scientist:

Do you love watching sunlight dancing on water or flickering through church railings? Well, you’d better be careful, because there’s a dark side to light.

Those dancing images can trigger flicker illness, a term coined by researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York to describe extremely unpleasant symptoms ranging from the dizziness, vertigo and nausea associated with motion sickness, to the seizures of photosensitive epilepsy.

So what exactly is going on in the brain, and how many people are affected? No one knows, but there are some clues to answer the latter. In 1953, a study exposed people with no history of epilepsy to flickering light. About 28 per cent of them experienced nausea, headaches or vertigo, while 5 per cent had a seizure. Photosensitive epilepsy is thought to affect 1 in 4000 people, but the true incidence may be much higher because many people do not know they have it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Fasting a day a month

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Interesting finding:

About three-quarters of the people of Utah are Mormons, and many of them fast for a day every month. Benjamin Horne from the Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, asked 515 elderly people undergoing X-ray examinations for suspected heart disease about their lifestyle. Those who fasted were 39 per cent more likely than non-fasters to have a healthy heart. The results were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday.

Horne thinks that fasting might slow the development of diabetes, which narrows the blood vessels and increases the risk of heart disease. Periodic withdrawal of food might resensitise the insulin-producing beta cells, a theory that is backed by animal studies.

Okay, I’m in. I’ll fast the 15th of every month.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Health, Science

Good use of genetic modification

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I don’t dislike genetic engineering so much as do some, and this application looks pretty good to me. I read one blog post in which the writer said that GM crops are likely to be subject to much more pesticide than conventional crops (no link to provide substantiation), which makes me again think that one should be able to determine whether GM produce was raised organically (without pesticides) or conventionally (with pesticides). The current rating system leaves the consumer without information in a critical area.

Genetically modified plants that can kill just about any insect pest without harming beneficial insects or the environment may soon pop up in farmers’ fields.

The plants exploit a mechanism called RNA interference (RNAi), which organisms naturally use to switch genes off. To to this, the organism produces a double-stranded piece of RNA (dsRNA) whose sequence matches part of the gene to be silenced. Adding just a few of these to a cell shuts down the target gene.

The dsRNA produced by these modified plants targets genes specific to certain insect pests. When the pest feeds on the plant, the dsRNA it ingests shuts down some of its genes, killing it.

This week, two teams announced that they have independently created crops that act in this way. One team in China primed plants to make dsRNA that kills the larvae of the cotton bollworm moth, which cause $1 billion of damage to cotton crops each year in China alone.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Environment, Food, Science

Portrait of a Representative

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From ThinkProgress:

During Rep. Don Young’s (R-AK) six years chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the number of earmarks to the annual highway spending bills have more than tripled. A look at how Young has profited in return:

 — Of the $6.5 million in contributions that Young collected — $5.5 million for his campaign and $1 million for his leadership political action committee (PAC) — about 85 percent came from people who didn’t live in Alaska and couldn’t vote for him.

– How many donors got earmarks is hard to determine. But an analysis of Young’s campaign finance reports show that beneficiaries of just seven earmarks carrying a total price of $259 million — none for a project in Alaska — gave the veteran congressman at least $575,000.

– As hundreds of lobbyists sought to influence the massive highway-spending bill from 2003 to 2005, Young accepted at least 20 trips aboard private aircraft provided by corporations currying favor with the powerful congressman. He also stayed at such luxury hotels and resorts.

Young is a a self-proclaimed “little oinker” and aspires to be the “chief porker.” The FBI is currently conducting a criminal investigation into Young’s political favors.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Tagged with ,

Self-taught listeners

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I’ve posted a few times on how self-taught practitioners of any skill tend to fall into common errors that reduce their effectiveness. A good coach or trainer can identify these common problems and thus significantly increase the person’s effectiveness at that skill.

Some of these self-taught skills are critical, even though there’s little formal training in our schools. The skill of decision-making, for example, or of thinking. The skill of listening—we are taught to read, to write, and to speak in school, but very little is taught on how to listen effectively. At one time Xerox published a little course in listening, and though the course was short, it was quite helpful. This post also offers some good guidance:

Learning to listen — I mean really listen — is the single-most important thing you can do to improve communication in your life. It’s unreal how many varied aspects of our lives are directly and indirectly controlled by our ability (or, most often, inability) to listen.

Our romantic relationships run into communication problems everyday. Friendships can get too one-sided and devolve into arguments about taking too much. Even consumerism is dependent upon listening — advertising and referrals help us determine what to buy and where to buy it.

What’s that you say? You’re a great listener? I hate to break it to you, but that’s what we all think. And, as is often the case, we’re all wrong. There’s a big difference between the “passive” listening we offer to others and the “active” listening we hypocritically expect from others. Active listening involves dedicating yourself to improving your listening skills. It involves making a point of being extra vigilant about your reactions, and extra aware of your tendencies.

Hearing is easy. All that takes is a set of ears. We’ve all got them, for the most part (sorry in advance to my sans-eared readers). Listening requires yours ears and your brain. Unfortunately, that doesn’t come naturally to many people.

Ask a crisis hotline volunteer what it’s like to listen. Better yet, become a volunteer yourself. These people get practice in the art of listening every day, and we’d all do well to follow their lead.

So, it stands to reason that if each of us works to become a better listener, everyone will benefit. It’s a sad fact that most people in this world like talking more than listening. I’m the same way. It’s hard not to be; nature and nurture work together to ensure that. But even if we’re hardwired to be self-interested and ego-sensitive individuals, there’s no reason we can’t learn to listen better.

Just like with anything else, becoming a better listener happens one step at a time:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Tagged with

Dell Support Center

with 44 comments

I’m trying to finish the cooking book today, so I’ve not been posting. But when the little Dell reminder popped up to nag me about installing the (free) Dell Support Center software—a one-stop support information/request program—I did it. It’s really very slick: installs easily, and will search the computer for the information (service tag number, for example) that Dell needs should you require support. Very nice to have all the support stuff centralized. You can read more about it here, by clicking on “NEW Dell Support Center” at the left.

Obviously, this will be of interest only to Dell owners. But any good idea in the Support area is going to be quickly adopted widely, so some variation will probably be developed for other computers. (I know: Apple’s probably had this for ages. 🙂 )

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 11:06 am

Method 4

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I have to admit that the lather today was a bit thin. I think perhaps the Rooney Size 1 is just not large enough. I noticed that I got my best shave using the Merkur Classic head, so I loaded the Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth with a new Treet Blue Special and got a fine shave, despite the lather.

I notice that this pack of Blue Specials is missing the little dot of glue that attaches the inner flap of the outer wrapper to a flap of the inner wrapper, which attachment makes it possible to peel the blade with a single, satisfying motion, unwrapping both wrappers as you pull the outer wrapper off around the blade. I can well imagine a glue machine going empty and that not being noticed until a metric ton of blades are wrapped and ready for shipment. Still, I very much miss that dot of glue.

For a change of pace, I used Geo. F. Trumper Coral Skin Food as the aftershave, and it’s most satisfying. Overall, I rate the shave as a 9.2, mainly because of the lather problem. I was going to go back to the regular products starting tomorrow, for a comparison, but I think I’ll do another Method-like shave using the Shavemaster brush.

In the meantime, I have ordered a Marseilles cube out of curiosity, just to see how it compares to the Method cube. It, too, is an olive oil soap.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2007 at 7:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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