Later On

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

Archive for November 26th, 2007

Commenter to Joe Klein: “Grow up. Get a clue. Get a grip. Get some help.”

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Wow. Poor old Joe Klein is in total meltdown because he’s too stubborn/stupid to admit that he winged it on his column, was misled by the GOP, and now sees that what he wrote was totally incorrect. So he just continues slogging his way through the swamp of denial, trying to avoid taking responsibility or being accountable, and clearly demonstrating what an incompetent hack he is.

Read this latest post by Greenwald:

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Media

Why art?

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The answer, it turns out, is much more constructive than “Why not?”:

If you have ever been to a Jewish wedding, you know that sooner or later the ominous notes of “Hava Nagila” will sound, and you will be expected to dance the hora. And if you don’t really know how to dance the hora, you will nevertheless be compelled to join hands with others, stumble around in a circle, give little kicks and pretend to enjoy yourself, all the while wondering if there’s a word in Yiddish that means “she who stares pathetically at the feet of others because she is still trying to figure out how to dance the hora.”

I am pleased and relieved to report that my flailing days are through. This month, in a freewheeling symposium at the University of Michigan on the evolutionary value of art and why we humans spend so much time at it, a number of the presenters supplemented their standard PowerPoint presentations with hands-on activities. Some members of the audience might have liked folding the origami boxes or scrawling messages on the floor, but for me the high point came when a neurobiologist taught us how to dance the hora. As we stepped together in klezmeric, well-schooled synchrony, I felt free and exhilarated. I felt competent and loved. I felt like calling my mother. I felt, it seems, just as a dancing body should.

In the main presentation at the conference, Ellen Dissanayake, an independent scholar affiliated with the University of Washington, Seattle, offered her sweeping thesis of the evolution of art, nimbly blending familiar themes with the radically new. By her reckoning, the artistic impulse is a human birthright, a trait so ancient, universal and persistent that it is almost surely innate. But while some researchers have suggested that our artiness arose accidentally, as a byproduct of large brains that evolved to solve problems and were easily bored, Ms. Dissanayake argues that the creative drive has all the earmarks of being an adaptation on its own. The making of art consumes enormous amounts of time and resources, she observed, an extravagance you wouldn’t expect of an evolutionary afterthought. Art also gives us pleasure, she said, and activities that feel good tend to be those that evolution deems too important to leave to chance.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Science

More coffee!

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From a commenter, a pointer to Buywell.org, another source of good coffees. A good site, with much to explore.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Caffeine

New artist link

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The blogroll now has a link to Terry Braunstein’s blog. It was she and her husband that we went up to San Francisco to see. I really like her artwork, some of which is public art. Great stuff. Take a look.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Sorry.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Art

Ono is tasty

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Just had one of the two pieces of Ono that I bought. It turns out to be a tasty, firm-fleshed fish, with highly edible skin. I poached it, and made separately a sauce of butter, minced Roma tomato, minced sweet onion, and juice of a Meyer lemon, cooked until it thickened somewhat. Extremely good.

I’ll poach the other piece as well, and make a fish salad from that tomorrow.

And, on the topic of cooking, the book is now 101 pages and 41,218 words, each carefully selected. I still plan to release it by Friday. I’ll probably post in the blog when I do.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 7:19 pm

CatGenie

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Does anyone have experience with one of these?

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Cats, Technology

25 best responses if caught sleeping at your desk

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And they’re from Stanford University, so you know they’re good:

25. “Oh, Man! Come in at 6 in the morning and look what happens!”

24. “This is one of the seven habits of highly effective people!”

23. “This is in exchange for the six hours last night when I dreamed about work!”

22. “You don’t discriminate against those with Latient Atrophy Zymosis Yeast syndrome, DO YOU?!?”

21. “Gee, I thought you (the boss) were gone for the day.”

20. “They told me at the blood bank this might happen.”

19. “Oh, Hi, I was trying to pick up my contact lens without my hands.”

18. “This is just a 15 minute power-nap like they raved about in the last time management course you sent me to.”

17. “Whew! Guess I left the top off the liquid paper”

16. “I was just meditating on the mission statement and envisioning a new paradigm!”

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 3:15 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Good news on hydrogen production

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One problem with hydrogen is that it generally is a way to transport energy rather than a source of energy. Because the H2O bond is strong, freeing hydrogen typically costs energy, making the net gain less (or even negative). (Ethanol from corn has the same problem: it takes more energy to produce than you get from the ethanol.) But good news:

Process
Hydrogen as an everyday, environmentally friendly fuel source may be closer than we think, according to Penn State researchers.

“The energy focus is currently on ethanol as a fuel, but economical ethanol from cellulose is 10 years down the road,” says Bruce E. Logan, the Kappe professor of environmental engineering. “First you need to break cellulose down to sugars and then bacteria can convert them to ethanol.”

Logan and Shaoan Cheng, research associate, suggest a method based on microbial fuel cells to convert cellulose and other biodegradable organic materials directly into hydrogen in today’s (Nov. 12) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.

The researchers used naturally occurring bacteria in a microbial electrolysis cell with acetic acid – the acid found in vinegar. Acetic acid is also the predominant acid produced by fermentation of glucose or cellulose. The anode was granulated graphite, the cathode was carbon with a platinum catalyst, and they used an off-the-shelf anion exchange membrane. The bacteria consume the acetic acid and release electrons and protons creating up to 0.3 volts. When more than 0.2 volts are added from an outside source, hydrogen gas bubbles up from the liquid.

This process produces 288 percent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added to the process,” says Logan.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 12:38 pm

Dang!

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Bad post-Thanksgiving news:

Officials from a major food exporter in China apologized to American consumers today for shipping over 70 million poisonous turkeys to the U.S. early last week, but indicated that it was “too late” for a recall of their toxic food product.

A spokesman for the Wuhan Food Exportation Company said that while the company “deeply regretted” the shipment, the error was not discovered until Friday morning, making a recall of the birds “virtually impossible.”

“It would be problematic to recall such a massive shipment,” the spokesman said. “Those turkeys were sent to virtually every store in the U.S.”

At a press conference on Saturday to discuss what went wrong with the shipment of turkeys, Wuhan officials revealed that the birds had been fed an experimental combination of birdseed, lead pellets, and date-rape drugs.

“Going forward, we’re going to skip the lead pellets,” said Qiu Liangyong, the company’s public relations director.

In an attempt to regain the confidence of the American consumer, Qiu said that in the future all turkeys shipped to the U.S. would include a warning label, but under tough questioning from reporters he conceded that the label would be printed in Chinese.

At the conclusion of the press conference, Qiu indicated that he was “confident” that the company could regain U.S. consumers’ trust in time for the Christmas season: “We have 80 million delicious Christmas hams just waiting to be shipped.”

Elsewhere, President Bush praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for announcing that he would quit the army, adding, “When I quit the National Guard I didn’t even give them notice.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Food

Tagged with

More stupid remarks about Social Security

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Kevin Drum sees Andrew Sullivan making a fool of himself:

Andrew Sullivan is worried that Social Security is just too damn generous:

Amity Shlaes does us all a favor by reminding us of the actual purpose of social security: in FDR’s words, to provide “some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family.” That’s it. Not total security. Not a total guarantee that the gold-plated benefits of the late-century will keep growing and growing. And not a peg to wages rather than prices, linking retirees to current wage-earners rather than actual needs.

Gold plated? The average Social Security benefit last year was $12,024. Medicare premiums of $1,454 are automatically deducted, leaving a net benefit of $10,570.

That’s $881 per month. There are lots of things you can call that, but “gold plated” isn’t one of them.

Oh, and one other thing. The average benefit in 1960 was $981. If benefits had increased since then only at the rate of price inflation, today’s benefit would be $6,680. Subtract the Medicare premium and divide by 12 and the monthly benefit works out to $435. I think I’ll stick with the current formula.

Maybe Andrew Sullivan, in looking at his own income, thinks that $10,570 per year is actually pretty plush. Maybe from his point of view, $881 per month income is indeed “gold-plated.” Or maybe he’s just talking out his ass.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 12:21 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Tagged with

Follow-up on TIME’s Joel Klein

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It’s not just Joel Klein, it’s the whole damn magazine. Read the details. Disgusting.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 12:16 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

Natural disasters have increased

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And a big increase: from 120/year in the early 1980s to the current figure of 500/year (an increase of 417%—by me, that’s big). This makes one wonder about the thinking of, say, the guy who commented on this post. Here’s the story on the increase in natural disasters:

More than four times the number of natural disasters are occurring now than did two decades ago, British charity Oxfam said in a study Sunday that largely blamed global warming.  “Oxfam… says that rising green house gas emissions are the major cause of weather-related disasters and must be tackled,” the organisation said, adding that the world’s poorest people were being hit the hardest.

The world suffered about 120 natural disasters per year in the early 1980s, which compared with the current figure of about 500 per year, according to the report.

“This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people,” noted Oxfam director Barbara Stocking. “This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people.”

She added: “Action is needed now to prepare for more disasters otherwise humanitarian assistance will be overwhelmed and recent advances in human development will go into reverse.”

The number of people affected by extreme natural disasters, meanwhile, has surged by almost 70 percent, from 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994, to 254 million people a year between 1995 to 2004, Oxfam said.

Floods and wind-storms have increased from 60 events in 1980 to 240 last year, with flooding itself up six-fold.

But the number of geothermal events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has barely changed.

Oxfam urged Western governments to push hard for a deal on climate change at a key international meeting that runs December 3-14 on the Indonesian island of Bali.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 12:11 pm

Copywrong

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Bruce Schneier makes a good point:

Excellent article by John Tehranian: “Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap“:

By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer — a veritable grand larcenist — or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.

The point of the article is how, simply by acting normally, all of us are technically lawbreakers many times over every day. When laws are this far outside the social norms, it’s time to change them.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 11:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

Void in the universe—and its implications

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There’s a gigantic void in the universe:

Astronomers have found an enormous hole in the Universe, nearly a billion light-years across, empty of both normal matter such as stars, galaxies, and gas, and the mysterious, unseen “dark matter.” While earlier studies have shown holes, or voids, in the large-scale structure of the Universe, this new discovery dwarfs them all.

“Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size,” said Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota. Rudnick, along with Shea Brown and Liliya R. Williams, also of the University of Minnesota, reported their findings in a paper accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Astronomers have known for years that, on large scales, the Universe has voids largely empty of matter. However, most of these voids are much smaller than the one found by Rudnick and his colleagues. In addition, the number of discovered voids decreases as the size increases.

“What we’ve found is not normal, based on either observational studies or on computer simulations of the large-scale evolution of the Universe,” Williams said.

The astronomers drew their conclusion by studying data from the NRAO VLA Sky Survey (NVSS), a project that imaged the entire sky visible to the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope, part of the National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). Their careful study of the NVSS data showed a remarkable drop in the number of galaxies in a region of sky in the constellation Eridanus.

“We already knew there was something different about this spot in the sky,” Rudnick said. The region had been dubbed the “WMAP Cold Spot,” because it stood out in a map of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation made by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotopy Probe (WMAP) satellite, launched by NASA in 2001. The CMB, faint radio waves that are the remnant radiation from the Big Bang, is the earliest “baby picture” available of the Universe. Irregularities in the CMB show structures that existed only a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang.

The WMAP satellite measured temperature differences in the CMB that are only millionths of a degree. The cold region in Eridanus was discovered in 2004.

Astronomers wondered if the cold spot was intrinsic to the CMB, and thus indicated some structure in the very early Universe, or whether it could be caused by something more nearby through which the CMB had to pass on its way to Earth. Finding the dearth of galaxies in that region by studying NVSS data resolved that question.

“Although our surprising results need independent confirmation, the slightly colder temperature of the CMB in this region appears to be caused by a huge hole devoid of nearly all matter roughly 6-10 billion light-years from Earth,” Rudnick said. … [more at the link – LG]

And the implications:

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in Science

Labor movement and communication

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In thinking about Strike!, it occurs to me that the labor movement is probably better equipped than ever before to grow in numbers and power because of the Internet: better communications through email and Web sites and blogs, education on the history of the labor movement via Web sites and pod casts, and overall consciousness raising.

For example, here’s a group that builds free Web sites for unions. And another Web services company for unions. Also, just a sampling of education resources:

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 10:34 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Strike!, by Jeremy Brecher

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UPDATE: I updated the link that provides the source of the book—all the used copies were scooped up immediately, but the paperback (and clothbound) edition is still available new, from the publisher (at the link). Also, read the beginning of the Prologue.

Strike!: Revised and Updated Edition is a book well worth reading—important and relevant today more than ever before. And today Labor has new tools at its command. Let me just show you the Introduction—it’s a relatively long but (in my opinion) fascinating story:

This book is the story of repeated, massive, and sometimes violent revolts by ordinary working people in America. The story includes virtually nationwide general strikes, the seizure of vast industrial establishments, non-violent direct action on a massive scale, and armed battles with artillery and tanks. It encompasses the repeated repression of workers’ rebellions by company-sponsored violence, local police, state militias, and the U.S. Army and National Guard. It reveals a dimension of American history rarely found in the usual high school or college history course, let alone in the way that history is presented in the media.

The United States is often presumed to be a land of individual freedom. That view often leads people to try to meet their needs by individual effort. But from time to time people come up against another reality. Most of our society’s resources have long been controlled by a few. The rest have no way to make a living but to sell their ability to work. Most Americans are—by no choice of their own—workers. The basic experience of being a worker—of not having sufficient economic resources to live except by going to work for someone else—shapes most people’s daily lives, as well as the life of our society.

As workers, people experience a denial of freedom that is very different from the touted liberty of American life. “Opportunity” is reduced to the opportunity to sell your time and creative capacities to one employer or another—or to fall into poverty if you don’t. The “freedom to choose” is replaced by the freedom to do what you are told.

Meanwhile, the wealth created by the labor of the many is owned by a tiny minority, primarily in the form of giant corporations that dominate the national and now increasingly global economy. They control the labor of millions of people in the United States and worldwide. The wealth and power of corporations and those who own them is further parlayed into power over the media, the political process, the institutions that shape knowledge and opinion, and ultimately over the government. Workers are thereby rendered relatively powerless, as individuals, even in supposedly democratic societies.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 10:29 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with , ,

Feeling smug—sorry.

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It’s weird to start getting today email from various vendors saying “Shop early!” and “Don’t get caught in crowds!” and the like. These vendors seem not to understand that, by now, all holiday shopping has been completed. Weird, eh?  🙂

Okay, I’m sorry.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 9:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Old guys: lose fat, build muscle

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The message seems pretty clear:

In a prospective study involving 4,107 men (aged 60-79 years) with no diagnosis of heart failure, results indicate decreased muscle mass and increased central adiposity may be independently associated with increased all-cause mortality risk. During a mean follow-up of 6 years, 713 deaths were recorded. A significant inverse association was observed between muscle mass (indicated by midarm muscle circumference (MAMC)) and mortality risk. After adjusting for MAMC, obesity markers, high waist circumference (WC > 102 cm) and waist-to-hip ratio (highest quartile) were associated with increased mortality risk. Men with low WC (<= 102 cm) and above-median muscle mass showed the lowest risk of mortality. Additionally, men with WC > 102 cm and above-median muscle mass showed a 36% increased risk of mortality, and men with WC > 102 and low MAMC showed a 55% increased risk of mortality. Thus, results of this study suggest that increased central adiposity and decreased muscle mass may be associated with increased mortality.

“Decreased muscle mass and increased central adiposity are independently related to mortality in older men,” Wannamethee SG, Whincup PH, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2007; 86(5): 1339-1346. (Address: SG Wannamethee, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, United Kingdom. E-mail: goya@pcps.ucl.ac.uk ).

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 8:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Migraines in children

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Interesting finding, from an email:

In a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving 43 children (mean age: 12.3 years) with headache (migraines (n=22) or tension-type (n=21)), treatment with laser acupuncture, administered according to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), was found to significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. Patients received 4 laser acupuncture treatments over a 4-week period, or a placebo laser treatment at the same intervals. Treatments were individualized for the patients. Results found that at 4 months after randomization, significant reductions in headache frequency were found in the treatment group, with a mean decrease in the number of headaches per month of 6.4 days. In the placebo group, only a 1.0 day decrease in headaches per month was found. Severity of headache assessed via a Visual Analogue Scale and the monthly hours with headache decreased as well. The authors conclude that, “…Laser acupuncture can prov ide a significant benefit for children with headache with active laser acupuncture being clearly more effective than placebo laser treatment.”

“Laser acupuncture in children with headache: A double-blind, randomized, bicenter, placebo-controlled trial,” Gottshling S, Meyer S, et al, Pain, 2007 Nov 15; [Epub ahead of print]. (Address: University Children’s Hospital, Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, Saarland University, Kirrbergerstr., 66421 Homburg, Germany. E-mail: Sven Gottshling, kisgot@uniklinikum-saarland.de ).

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 8:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Stir-fry is okay

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But it looks as though you should use olive oil. (Sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn oils contain too much omega-6.) Too bad they didn’t test sesame oil, which I often use in stir-fry. From an email:

 In this study, researchers set out to investigate the effect of stir-fry cooking with various vegetable oils on the content of various health-promoting compounds found in broccoli. Prior to cooking, the content of the following compounds were measured in raw, freshly harvested broccoli florets: total intact glucosinolates, total phenolics, vitamin C, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, zinc, and copper. The broccoli florets were stir-fried in various edible vegetable oils: refined olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil. Results found that levels of vitamin C and phenolic compounds were more significantly affected than levels of minerals and glucosinolates. There was no significant difference in the total glucosinolate content between the uncooked broccoli and the broccoli stir-fried with extra virgin olive oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, or safflower oil. The vitamin C content found in the uncooked broccoli was mostly retained by the broccoli stir-fried with either extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil, while the vitamin C content was reduced in the broccoli stir-fried in the other oils.

“Effects of stir-fry cooking with different edible oils on the phytochemical composition of broccoli,” Moreno DA, Lopez-Berenguer C, Garcia-Viguera C, J Food Sci, 2007; 72(1): S064-8. (Address: Diego A. Moreno, C.E.B.A.S.-C.S.I.C., Food Science and Technology Dept., P.O. Box 164, 30100-Espinardo, Murcia, Spain. E-mail: dmoreno@cebas.csic.es ).

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2007 at 8:35 am

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