Later On

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

Archive for November 25th, 2007

Want to see some great films? Free?

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Here are 20 short films that are the finalists in the YouTube Project Direct contest. Some are simply excellent. Watch, and vote.

Three specific elements are required:

1. A character facing a situation above his or her maturity level.

2. The line of dialogue, “I demand an explanation for these shenanigans! What do you have to say?”

3. The passing of a photograph.

To see the films, click the tab “Vote” at the link. One of the directors is the guy who made this film:

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 7:36 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

The book is coming along

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I’ve gone through it, and tomorrow I’ll go through The Wife’s notes on it. We’ve done a trial run at the Adobe distillation, which is working well and preservers the hyperlinks between the table of contents entries and the corresponding sections in the text.

I use a quotation from A.J. Liebling that I thought you might enjoy. It’s taken from Just Enough Liebling, which I got from the library:

The Proust madeleine phenomenon is now as firmly established in folklore as Newton’s apple or Watt’s steam kettle. The man ate a tea biscuit, the taste evoked memories, he wrote a book. This is capable of expression by the formula TMB, for Taste > Memory > Book. Some time ago, when I began to read a book called The Food of France, by Waverley Root, I had an inverse experience: BMT, for Book > Memory > Taste. Happily, the tastes that The Food of France re-created for me—small birds, stewed rabbit, stuffed tripe, Côte Rôtie, and Tavel—were more robust than that of the madeleine, which Larousse defines as “a light cake made with sugar, flour, lemon juice, brandy, and eggs.” (The quantity of brandy in a madeleine would not furnish a gnat with an alcohol rub.) In the light of what Proust wrote with so mild a stimulus, it is the world’s loss that he did not have a heartier appetite. On a dozen Gardiners Island oysters, a bowl of clam chowder, a peck of steamers, some bay scallops, three sautéed soft-shelled crabs, a few ears of fresh-picked corn, a thin swordfish steak of generous area, a pair of lobsters, and a Long Island duck, he might have written a masterpiece.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Books, Food, Writing

Letter to the NY Times Public Editor

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The NY Times has an ombudsman, and Clark Hoyt, the current occupant of that office ,seems to be doing a good job. I just sent him this email:

Stories in the NY Times generally include written credits: for the journalist(s) who wrote the story and the researcher(s) who assisted. But one vitally important contributor is never named: the editor, who signs off on the story and accepts it as worthy of print. 

I very much would like to see the editor’s name included in the credits. Then, at last, we would know whom to credit for thoughtful stories that explain political positions clearly, and whom to blame for the numerous stories that lack any useful content—the “he said/she said” stories that provide dueling press releases with no indication of what the facts might be, the campaign “horse-race” stories that tell us which candidate seems to be most pleasing without any statement or investigation or explanation of the candidate positions.

I imagine that, quite soon, we’d know by looking at the editor’s name which stories to skip and which to read. And perhaps the paper could regain a sense of responsibility and mission.  

Just a thought.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Media

The Archbishop of Canterbury: harsh words for US

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Strong condemnation:

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the United States wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

Rowan Williams claimed that America’s attempt to intervene overseas by “clearing the decks” with a “quick burst of violent action” had led to “the worst of all worlds”.

In a wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim magazine, the Anglican leader linked criticism of the United States to one of his most pessimistic declarations about the state of western civilisation.

He said the crisis was caused not just by America’s actions but also by its misguided sense of its own mission. He poured scorn on the “chosen nation myth of America, meaning that what happens in America is very much at the heart of God’s purpose for humanity”.

Williams went beyond his previous critique of the conduct of the war on terror, saying the United States had lost the moral high ground since September 11. He urged it to launch a “generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence”.

He went on to suggest that the West was fundamentally adrift: “Our modern western definition of humanity is clearly not working very well. There is something about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul.”

Williams suggested American leadership had broken down: “We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.”

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 3:16 pm

Back from an outing

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A quick run with The Wife. Got 100% cranberry juice at Whole Foods (cheaper than at TJ’s, plus the Whole Foods comes in a plastic bottle: lighter and unbreakable). For the first time I saw Vitamin D sold in 2,000 IU capsules. I got a couple of jars and plan to take one of those each evening along with a 1,000 IU vitamin D capsule.

Also I got a “new to me” food, always a nice thing: the fish ono, which I’ll have tomorrow.

And three books were ready for me on the “hold” shelf, including a new biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Before we left I held little Molly while The Wife trimmed her toenails—even those on the back feet, which have been leaving scratches and Molly leaps about.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

When underreporting is lying

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Via Kevin Drum, who notes, “Hey, the Pentagon has underreported brain trauma injuries among returning vets by about 500%. What a surprise, eh?” (I continue to marvel at how totally and quickly West Point graduates seem to slough off “Duty, Honor, Country” and the rule “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal or tolerate those who do.” They apparently discard all that upon graduation.)

From USA Today:

At least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan have been found with signs of brain injuries, according to military and veterans records compiled by USA TODAY.

The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon’s official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.

 

HIDDEN WOUNDS: Marine didn’t recognize signs of brain injury

The number of brain-injury cases were tabulated from records kept by the VA and four military bases that house units that have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 12:53 pm

A Modern Psychopharmacologist

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Medical, Video

Making decisions by voting

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It can get complicated, and here’s a brief post that explains why. But it’s even worse than the authors suggest. Here’s why:

So many teams and so little room at the top. Which team becomes the national champion in U.S. college football rests on rankings, which reflect the opinions of poll participants (and, nowadays, also computer ratings).

This year, Ohio State plays for the national title in the championship bowl game. And its opponent will be Florida rather than Michigan because the “experts,” in their voting, judged that Florida would be the more worthy opponent.

This outcome hasn’t pleased everyone, and, as happens nearly every year, many have criticized the vagaries of the ranking system for allowing apparently flawed or unfair outcomes.

Similar problems in determining which team or player deserves a national or year-end championship or how they ought to be seeded for a tournament occur in other sports that also employ elaborate rating schemes to rank teams or players.

In a paper published in a recent issue of SIAM Review, Paul K. Newton and Kamran Aslam of the University of Southern California argue against the widespread belief that it is possible, with just the right tweaking, to come up with a ranking system that yields reasonable results and eliminates logical inconsistencies—and, hence, settles all arguments, leaving everyone satisfied.

“The philosophy behind these systems is that there should be a player or team that ‘deserves’ to be recognized as ‘the best,’ and if only the correct method were found, such a team could be unambiguously chosen,” Newton and Aslam write.

But it’s impossible to make such a guarantee.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life

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The problem with the media today

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It’s often said that the problem with the media consists of the large number of lazy, ignorant, and slightly stupid journalists who never bother to ascertain the facts and simply write “he said/she said” stories (or, all too frequently, give only one side of the story). Well, sure, that is a problem, but one must say that the responsibility for the mess lies more with the editors than the journalists: the editors assign the stories and accept for publication the dreck that’s handed to them. One big step forward would be for stories to include in the credits not only the journalist(s) who wrote the story and the researcher(s) who helped them, but the editor who bears responsibility for getting the story into print. Then we could better identify the problem children.
But I think the main problem is how few are willing to call them on it. Because so few stand up and point out the nakedness of journalism’s emperor, the bad practices continue. Sure, there are a few—a very few—who speak up: Keith Olbermann and Jack Cafferty lay into bad stories from time to time, though their focus is less on journalists (and editors) than on the politicians and politics that figure in the stories.

Glenn Greenwald does yeoman duty at this task, but somehow I don’t think any of the major networks is going to provide an hour-long weekly show to allow him a more visible platform for his critiques of how the media are failing us and failing the nation. Perhaps I should be happy that he has a regular column at Salon.com, but I really think that a Sunday morning show would be wonderful.

Take, for example, today’s column in which he dissects Joel Klein’s absolute irresponsible “reporting” as an example of the Beltway journalist:

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 10:14 am

Posted in Media

Close but no cigar

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People who perhaps should have won the Nobel prize, but didn’t:

Scientists and Intellectuals are supposed to be above petty politics and popularity contests, right? Nope. Here are a few bright bulbs that never got the fancy Nobel gold medallion (or the millions of Swedish krona that go with it). And you thought the Oscars were bad.

1. Joan Robinson, Economics

Great Britain’s Joan Robinson may be one of the most exciting figures in the history of “the Dismal Science.” An acolyte of the great John Maynard Keynes, her work covered a wide range of economic topics, from neoclassicism to Keynes’s general theory to Marxian theory. Not to mention, her notion of imperfect competition still shows up in every Econ 101 class. Add to that the fact that Robinson’s greatest work, The Accumulation of Capital, was published way back in 1956 but is still widely used as an economics textbook. So why no Nobel? Some say it’s because she’s a female, and no female has ever won the Nobel in Economics. Others say that Robinson’s work over her career was too eclectic, rather than hyperfocused like that of so many other laureates. Still others claim that she was undesirable as a laureate because of her vocal praise for the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a fairly anti-intellectual enterprise.

2. Dmitri Mendeleev, Chemistry

Why would this guy deserve a Nobel Prize for chemistry? After all, his only achievement was to devise the entire periodic table of elements, the miracle of organization and inference on which all of modern chemistry is based. Mendeleev’s table was so good, it even predicted the existence of elements that hadn’t yet been discovered. But here’s where politics rears its ugly head. In 1906, Mendeleev was selected by the prize committee to win the honor, but the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stepped in and overturned the decision. Why? The intervention was spearheaded by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, who had himself won the prize in 1903 for his theory of electrolytic dissociation. Mendeleev had been an outspoken critic of the theory, and Arrhenius seized the opportunity as the perfect chance to squeeze a few sour grapes.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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Nancy Boy is great stuff

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Nancy Boy products (“Tested on boyfriends, not animals”) all seem to be good, and certainly their shaving cream is a delight. I used it this morning, with the Edwin Jagger brush, and I must remember to use it more often. You who live in cold climes may well like their skin products in general. For example, try Nancy Boy Body Moisturizer (which, one shaver said, is heavier and cheaper than the face moisturizer and works quite well as a face moisturizer).

Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth with the Treet Black Beauty of several uses quickly and easily shaved the visage: double down, across, and up, and I felt a 9.8 shave for sure. I knew it was going there after the sideways pass, when I really felt no stubble.

Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather aftershave, and feeling good.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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