Later On

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

Archive for November 29th, 2007

Great little dinner

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I made this dish, with a few changes.

After cooking the garlic and anchovies in the olive oil, I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of chile-garlic paste. I cooked that until everything seemed okay, and then put in a can of diced tomatoes (with garlic and olive oil), about 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1/2 cup of radiatore, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. I covered the pan, simmered all that for 9 minutes, removed the cover and raised the heat to boil it for a couple of minutes (to evaporate water and thicken the sauce).

Extremely yummy.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 8:38 pm

Medical insurance crisis = scam

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Interesting:

When NY’s Superintendent of Insurance announced a 14 percent across-the-board rate hike for medical liability insurance on July 1, 2007, doctors raised a hue and cry that the increase threatened a crisis in access to care because doctors could no longer afford to practice in New York and would be leaving the state or otherwise restricting their medical practices.  As in the past, doctors again blamed the premium increases on skyrocketing claims and lottery awards and demanded tort reforms that would cripple meritorious malpractice claims by the victims of medical negligence.

Today Public Citizen released a report that exposes these claims of the doctors as full blown, deliberate and obvious exaggeration: A Self-Inflicted “Crisis:” New York’s Medical Malpractice Troubles Caused by Flawed State Rate Setting and Raid on Rainy Day Fund. These same claims have been made by doctors during each of the three cycles of rising premiums that have occurred over the past thirty-plus years. Our report shows that rising malpractice premiums are not the result of any escalation in the frequency or severity in malpractice payments. The increase has nothing to do with patients, lawyers, judges, or our courts. It reflects an insurance problem.

Public Citizen’s analysis of the best available New York data demonstrates that the number of malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in 2006 was at its lowest point since 1991. The total amount of malpractice payments for doctors, adjusted for inflation, was near or below fifteen year average in three of the past five years.

The amount of malpractice litigation in New York has not changed appreciably over the past eleven years. Thus, it is clear that the 14 percent increase in premiums did not reflect a sudden or dramatic change in either malpractice payments or litigation behavior.

In fact, the records of the Superintendent of Insurance show that the recent rate hikes come after a period of abnormally low rate increases. During the eight year period from July 1, 1995 through June 30, 2003, medical malpractice premiums actually declined by an average of 1.4 percent per year. The average rate hike since 1991 has been only 3 percent, less than half the rate of medical services inflation.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 7:00 pm

Laugh so you don’t cry

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The GOP faces up to global warming—not:

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (Kentucky), November 15, 2007

“You can only hear that the sky is falling so many times,” said Kentucky Representative Jim Gooch, explaining why he only invited global warming skeptics with no scientific background to address state legislators on climate issues. Gooch, the Kentucky Democrats’ chief environmental strategist, is “a longtime ally of the coal industry.” His invitees were James Taylor, a fellow with the Heartland Institute, a think tank partially funded by ExxonMobil; and Lord Christopher Monckton, an adviser to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who once suggested that HIV / AIDS patients “be locked up for life.” During the Kentucky hearing, “Monckton quoted the Bible and quickly recited math formulas as he accused [Nobel laureates Al] Gore and IPCC scientists of lying to make warming seem worse than it is.” Taylor claimed that “most scientists don’t believe in global warming,” and that hotter weather would allow “our children” to “enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life.” After protests by legislators, Gooch allowed “two environmentalists in the audience talk about global warming … for about five minutes each.”

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29 November 2007 at 6:26 pm

More on the new Honda hydrogen-fueled vehicle

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Honda FCX Clarity

So: they’re using natural gas as the hydrogen source:

Business Week provides some new – and exciting – information about Home Energy Station that Honda is going to market alongside its new 2008 Honda FCX Clarity, a market-ready car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. BW reports the that Home Energy Station, designed to be installed outside the Clarity owner’s home and which reforms natural gas to produce hydrogen will actually produce enough hydrogen “to power both the car and the home’s energy needs at around 50% of the normal cost and with a 30% emissions reduction.”

As we wrote about recently, Honda’s Clarity is not some exotic-looking techmobile, but rather a stylish sedan that just happens to not run on a single drip of fossil fuel. I believe the Honda FCX Clarity may be a game-changer in the automotive industry.

The Honda Home Energy Station uses solar-powered though, presumably, you also connect it to the grid for cloudy days.

Initially only a limited number of these groundbreaking vehicles will be leased to Southern Californians starting during the summer of 2008, but Business Week says Honda is clearly aiming to take the Clarity to other markets too.

The Home Energy Station is part of that effort. With it, Honda is hoping to “break the catch-22 dilemma stopping motor companies from producing cars because there’s no hydrogen distribution, and stopping fuel companies from distributing hydrogen because there’s no cars that use it. To nurse consumers through the infancy of the hydrogen economy, Honda’s also attempting to decentralize the production of hydrogen.”

This is a brilliant move on Honda’s part. And it’s got a payoff beyond making it possible to operate a hydrogen fuel cell-powered Clarity. The Home Energy Station “has evolved into an energy-saving power station for the whole home,” says Business Week.

Running on a home’s existing natural gas supply, the Home Energy Station IV produces and stores hydrogen, while providing heat, hot water and electricity to an average-size home.

The Home Energy Station IV can reduce both cost and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for the consumer. Compared to the average U.S. consumer’s home with grid-supplied electricity and a gasoline-powered car, a home using Home Energy Station IV to help produce heat and electricity and also to refuel an FCX Clarity can reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 30 percent and energy costs by an estimated 50 percent.

“Honda is striving to address the need for a refueling infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles,” said Ben Knight, vice president of Honda R&D Americas. “The Home Energy Station represents one promising solution to this issue, while offering the added benefit of heating and powering the home more efficiently.”

The natural gas is reformed to produce hydrogen, which is then run directly through to a fuel cell stack to generate electricity for the home and enough heat to run the hot water supply. When immediate consumption is not needed, the hydrogen is refined, compressed and stored in a large tank for later use, or to fill a hydrogen car like the FCX Clarity.

BW also reveals some Clarity performance specs:

  • Fuel economy that is to the approximate equivalent of 68 mpg, about 2-3 times the fuel economy of a gasoline-powered car, and about 1.5 times that of a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle of comparable size and performance.
  • Vehicle range of 270 miles.
  • Powertrain nearly equivalent, in terms of volume, to a modern gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 6:21 pm

Dahon folding bike

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Folding bike

I have a Brompton folding bike, but those are considerably more expensive this this little bike:

Check out the Curve D3, a great new folding bike from Dahon. Designed for urban commuters, the Curve D3 folds into a tiny package you can carry onto a crowded train or bus. It’s $399 – a great price for transportation that’s eco-friendly and good for your health too. It’s pricer cousin, the Curve SL, also folds up small enough to store under your desk at work, but also has useful city-bike conveniences like wheel guards and a rack. Both vehicles use the ultimate “alternative energy” – human muscles powered by whatever you ate for breakfast.

Either might make a good Christmas gift for the eco-concerned youthful urban commuter on your list.

Dahon, based in LA, says it was founded “with the singular purpose of convincing more people to use environmentally-sustainable forms of transport.” The company creates innovative, reasonably-priced folding bicycles – its first bike, back in 1982, started the folding-bikes industry, which has sold more than 2 million bikes worldwide.

Dahon bikes are assembled in factories in Taiwan, Macau, the Czech Republic and China and sold in more than 30 countries. Dahon says the majority of the company’s more than 700 worldwide employees travel to work by bicycle, public transport, or a combination of both. “Dahon is committed to creating green mobility solutions for people who live active, environmentally friendly lifestyles.”

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29 November 2007 at 6:19 pm

Hycrete

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I’m not sure I totally get this, but apparently Hycrete is a recyclable waterproof concrete—pretty nifty, given that the enormous amount of concrete we use now is not recyclable at all. Here was where I started:

Concrete is the most used substance on the planet. We talk about plastic bottles and disposable packaging. That crap PALES in comparison to the amount of concrete we use in the world. Eight percent of human produced carbon dioxide is a direct result of the mining, processing and transport of concrete!

And, in the end, it’s strong…but it could be stronger. And when it reaches the end of it’s useful life, there’s nothing to do with it but throw it away.

Enter HYCRETE! Hycrete is not only more durable than concrete (because water cannot penetrate it) it’s also extremely easy to recycle. Just grind it up and, voila, it is the same stuff it was before it was cast. Hycrete is cradle to cradle certified as well as LEED certified.

The World Economic Forum just named the company that produces Hycrete one of the few 2008 “Technology Pioneers.” And we just wanted to say, congratulations, you rock…thanks for saving the world in a seriously powerful (albeit unglamorous) way.

I naturally wanted to know more. But: no links in that post, notice? I did find this post, which provides more information and more links, but no explanation of the recyclability. Hycrete’s own site provided some more information, including (if you click around) how it helps the rebar maintain integrity through the waterproofing trick.

Here’s more info on the MDBC Cradle-to-Cradle certification, and here are the first six products to be certified. Finally, here’s the certification notice of Hycrete on the MDBC site. But nowhere could I find more information on how you can reuse concrete that has the Hycrete additive in it.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Environment, Technology

John Scalzi on the Creation Museum

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Wonderful post. Read the whole thing. I’ll get you started:

Here’s how to understand the Creation Museum:

Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horsehit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.

And you look at it and you say, “Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

But then there’s this guy. And this guy loves this load of horseshit. Why? Well, really, who knows? What possesses someone to love a load of horseshit? It’s beyond your understanding and possibly you don’t actually want to know, even if you could know; maybe it’s one of those “on that path lies madness” things. But love it he does, and he’s not the only one; the admiration for this particular load of horseshit exists, unaccountably, far and wide. There are advocates for this load of horseshit.

And so this guy who loves this load of horseshit decides that he’s going to do something; he’s going to give it a home. And not just any home, because as this is no ordinary load of horseshit, so must its home be no ordinary repository for horseshit. And so the fellow builds a temple for his load of horseshit. The finest architects scope this temple’s dimensions; the most excellent builders hoist columns around the load of horseshit and cap them with a cunning and elegant dome; and every surface of the temple is clad in fine-grained Italian marble by the most competent masons in a three-state radius. The load of horseshit is surrounded by comfortable seats, the better for people to gaze upon it; docents are hired to expertly describe its history and features; multimedia events are designed to explain its superior nature, relative not only to other loads of horseshit which may compete in loadosity or horseshittery, but to other, completely unrelated things which may or may not be loads of anything, much less loads of horseshit.

The guy who built the temple, satisfied that it truly represents his beloved load of horseshit in the best possible light, then opens the temple to the public, to attract not only the already-established horseshit enthusiasts, but possibly to entice new people to come and gaze on the horseshit, and to, well, who knows, admire its moundyness, or the way it piles just so, to nod in appreciation of the rationalizations for its excellence or to clap in delight and take pictures when an escaping swell of methane causes the load of horseshit to sigh a moist and pungent sigh.

When all of this is done, the fellow turns to you and asks you what you think of it all now, now that this gorgeous edifice has been raised in glory and the masses cluster in celebration.

And you say, “Well, that’s all very nice. But it’s still just an enormous load of horseshit.”

And this is, in sum, the Creation Museum. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Federal Government in Business’s pocket

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Things get bad for the people when the government abandons its role as a counter-balance to Business. In this case, though, the state governments are still being responsible:

Twelve states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, sued the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday for weakening regulations that for two decades have required businesses and industries to report the toxic chemicals they use, store and release.

The suit, filed in the Federal District Court in Manhattan, asks the court to reverse the agency’s move and so restore all the chemical reporting requirements that were previously part of its Toxics Release Inventory program, or T.R.I.

Community groups across the country have used the program to track the amounts of hazardous chemicals in local neighborhoods. Under the program, companies must provide information about the types of toxic chemicals stored at plants and factories in each state, as well as the quantities discharged from each plant.

Besides the states of the New York tristate area, the plaintiffs are Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Their suit takes aim at a change, adopted by the environmental agency last December, that streamlined the T.R.I. process by reducing the amount of information that companies are required to report. The new rules allow them to file shorter, less detailed forms if they store or release less than 5,000 pounds of toxic chemicals. The old rules required a longer, more comprehensive form whenever a company stored or discharged as little as 500 pounds.

In addition to making compliance less burdensome for businesses, the agency says the new regulations provide an incentive for them to eliminate the release of the most dangerous chemicals, including those known as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic pollutants, like lead and mercury. Last December’s change allows companies that handle those chemicals to use the shorter reporting form, but only if they can certify that they are not releasing them into the environment.

Molly A. O’Neill, assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Environmental Information, defended the new rules in a statement yesterday, saying they were “making a good program better.”

But Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, who is leading the plaintiffs, said, “The E.P.A.’s new regulations rob New Yorkers — and people across the country — of their right to know about toxic dangers in their own backyards.”

Mr. Cuomo said the lawsuit sought to restore a public right to information about chemical hazards, “despite the Bush administration’s best attempts to hide it.”

The Toxics Release Inventory program was enacted in 1986, two years after a deadly cloud of chemical gas was accidentally released from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killing thousands. The law quickly became a kind of “community right to know” rule.

Information on the location of dangerous chemicals is posted on the environmental agency’s Web site. Environmental organizations, community groups and labor unions across the country have used the inventory to prevent exposures to toxic chemicals in neighborhoods and at workplaces.

The first reporting deadline under the new rules was July 1. But officials say it is not yet clear whether individual companies have substantially reduced the amount of information they provide, or voluntarily decided to comply with the old rules.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 2:23 pm

Weirdness at the FCC

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David Pogue reports (via email):

Over a decade ago, I remember seeing a “Saturday Night Live” skit that still stays with me. It was a talk show where all of the guests had one thing in common: they were all jerks or psychopaths whose one-time actions had created lifelong inconvenience for the rest of society. There was that guy who put poison into a bottle of Tylenol, initiating the era of the childproof (and adult-proof) package. There was the hijacker, whose actions led to the nationwide construction of airport X-ray machines. And so on.

I thought of that this week when I learned what happened to one of my favorite Web sites: PopularityDialer.com.

It’s an absolutely delicious concept. You plug in your cellphone number. At a date and time you specify, your phone rings. That’s it. No charge.

It’s a perfect way to give yourself an out when you plan to be on a date, in a meeting or anywhere else where you might need an excuse to get away—or to demonstrate your own popularity.

Better yet: You know how sometimes the person next to you can faintly overhear the person you’re talking to? For that reason, when you set up a time and date for your call, you can also specify what you want to hear on the other end. You have a choice of five prerecorded “caller on the other end” one-way conversations, so that you can have a plausible chat. There’s the boss (“This is Mr. Johnson calling from the office. Did you complete that thing, about a month ago? That photocopier training?”), the girlfriend call (“Hey, you, what’s going on? I’m going out later. You should come!”), and so on.

In one of my talks, I explore the way the Internet and the phone have been merging in fascinating ways. And I always demo Popularity Dialer, setting it up to “interrupt” me during the talk itself. It’s hilarious.

Until a few weeks ago. I pulled up the site for the demo—and found a note that it was down for “maintenance.”

When the site didn’t come back for several weeks, I e-mailed the creators, Jenny Chowdhury and Cory Forsyth, who built PopularityDialer as college students. Jenny wrote to explain the sad news: Some idiot had set up an unwanted PopularityDialer call to an F.C.C. lawyer. Next thing Jenny new, her site was served with a ludicrous citation:

“This is an official CITATION, issued pursuant to section 503(b)(5) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act), 47 U.S.C. § (503)(b)(5), for violations of the Act and Federal Communications Commission’s rules that govern telephone solicitations and unsolicited advertisements.”

Ms. Chowdhury and Mr. Forsyth had to take PopularityDialer offline.

The whole thing is absurd on so many levels.

  • PopularityDialer doesn’t advertise or solicit anything.
  • PopularityDialer has always offered a place to list your number if you don’t want to receive its calls.
  • Plenty of other Web sites offer services that call you at a specified time. Most of them are wake-up services, like iPing.com, TelePixie.com, Wakeupland.com, Snoozester.com, and so on. All of them offer exactly the same risk of abuse as PopularityDialer. You could use any of them to set up a wake-up call to an F.C.C. lawyer, too. PopularityDialer just happened to be the unlucky victim of an anonymous jerk.

It gets weirder. When Ms. Chowdhury and Mr. Forsyth contacted the F.C.C. to get an explanation for the citation, the F.C.C. minion who responded was equally baffled. “I don’t see how a Web site falls within the jurisdiction of the F.C.C. or how it would cause T.C.P.A. violations,” went the reply. “We would not give any advice on how to legally continue the operation of your business. That would have to come from your own attorney.”

So let me get this straight: The same F.C.C. that sent the citation has no idea why it sent the citation?

Ms. Chowdhury and Mr. Forsyth have appealed the citation. Let’s hope that sanity prevails, and that one of the Internet’s cleverest and wittiest gems is brought back to life—soon.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:48 pm

Another take on Lott’s resignation

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Here’s the lobbying take:

New lobbying regulation laws that go into effect in 2008 could produce a rush of end of year resignations by Republicans dreading working in a congress with an ever greater Democratic Majority.

Lott, Senator from Mississippi and number two senator, will resign before the end of the year, sources report.

NBC news reports,

NBC News has learned that Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the minority whip is in the midst of informing close allies that he plans to resign his senate seat before the end of the year. It’s possible a formal announcement of his plans could take place as early as today.

Lott is the sixth senate Republican to announce his resignation this year. He has not yet given a reason, not even the standard GOP “desire to spend more time with family” explanation most commonly used by Bush appointees and Republican members of congress.

NBC speculates that Lott is resigning early to avoid restriction on lobbying by retiring legislators– restrictions that go into effect starting next year that requires retiring senators to wait two years before becoming a highly paid lobbyist.

I’m guessing that’s why Denny Hastert has also resigned before the end of the year. So, we have two legislators, resigning from their terms a year early, so they can jump right in to the really big bucks as lobbyists.Politico reports,

Lott’s departure opens up a position within Republican leadership, and there could be a fight to replace him. Lamar Alexander, who ran for the position last year, would be a natural candidate, but there are plenty of GOP up-and-comers who could compete for the slot, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who are part of the current leadership team and could be looking for a promotion to the no. 2 spot in the hierarchy.

His term expires in 2012; and a resignation would prompt a special election to fill the remainder of his term.

In 2006, he was reelected with 64 percent of the vote. This will be a tough one for Democrats to pick up.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will name a successor to serve through the general election of 2008. Among the likely candidates to fill out Lott’s term are Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) and former Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore (D). Another possible GOP contender for the seat would be Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Barbour will have to name a successor within 10 days of Lott’s official resignation.

When my former congressman, Jim Greenwood, retired, in 2004, he took a job as a lobbyist, paying over $800,000 a year. That laid the groundwork for Patrick Murphy to take a seat that would have been unassailable had Greenwood held on to it.

Now, Sen. Trent Lott has resigned, joining Denny Hastert in avoiding tougher 2008 lobbying Rules. My guess is that at least a few more high powered Republicans, not looking forward to an even weaker Republican minority in the house and senate come 2009, will be joining the rats who have already jumped ship. That will make it MUCH, MUCH easier for Democrats to capture seats that were held by incumbents.

The GOP is very short on money, and so they are recruiting wealthy candidates who can carry their own weight and pay their own way. The problem is, that kind of candidate does not usually win. Making a lot of money does not include the same skill set as campaigning and persuading voters to elect you.

The questions are, how many and which other Republican congressional leaders will decide it is time to jump ship early, so they can hitch a ride on the lobbyist gravy train a year earlier. Once 2008 rolls around, new laws will require legislators to wait two years, instead of the current one year before starting as a lobbyist. That could cost some of these Republican legislators a cool million or more dollars for that first year’s work. And, as the new 2009 congress launches, with diminishing Republican influence, could even cost the Republicans job opportunities altogether. That said, there may be some Democratic resignations too. After all, the Democrats will probably have more say in funding.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Wonder what else will be coming out…

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There’s been much speculation about Trent Lott’s abrupt decision to leave the Senate just a year after winning re-election for another 6-year term. One thought is that he wants to get out before some laws that restrict lobbying activity by former Senators goes into effect. Others thing that perhaps we’ll see a surprise scandal or two. Here’s one, though Lott is (not yet) named as being involved:

Prominent Mississippi trial attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the brother-in-law of outgoing GOP Sen. Trent Lott, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that he and four other men tried to bribe a Mississippi state court judge.

According to the 13-page indictment, Scruggs and three other attorneys — including Lott’s nephew Zach — attempted to bribe Mississippi Third Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey with at least $40,000 in cash.

Lackey was assigned to hear a lawsuit in which Scruggs’ firm was named as a defendant in a dispute involving $26.5 million in attorneys’ fees stemming from a court settlement with State Farm Insurance over Hurricane Katrina claims.

The indictment alleges that the bribe was intended to resolve the case in Scruggs’ and his firm’s favor. Also charged was Sidney A. Backstrom, an attorney at Scruggs’ firm; Timothy R. Balducci, a New Albany, Miss., lawyer; and former State Auditor Steven A. Patterson, an employee of Balducci’s law firm.

Neither Scruggs nor an attorney for the firm, Joey Langston, returned telephone messages seeking comment. Langston does not work at The Scruggs Law Firm.

Lott’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Lott is not named in the indictment, and has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:40 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Tagged with

Nice to have it confirmed

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I think that everyone already knows this, but of course many things that everyone knows turn out, on investigation, to be untrue. But not, apparently, this one:

A new study published in Personal Relationships examines the way in which perceptions of physical attractiveness are influenced by personality. The study finds that individuals – both men and women – who exhibit positive traits, such as honesty and helpfulness, are perceived as better looking. Those who exhibit negative traits, such as unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically attractive to observers.

Participants in the study viewed photographs of opposite-sex individuals and rated them for attractiveness before and after being provided with information on personality traits. After personality information was received, participants also rated the desirability of each individual as a friend and as a dating partner. Information on personality was found to significantly alter perceived desirability, showing that cognitive processes and expectations modify judgments of attractiveness.

“Perceiving a person as having a desirable personality makes the person more suitable in general as a close relationship partner of any kind,” says study author Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr. The findings show that a positive personality leads to greater desirability as a friend, which leads to greater desirability as a romantic partner and, ultimately, to being viewed as more physically attractive. The findings remained consistent regardless of how “attractive” the individual was initially perceived to be, or of the participants’ current relationship status or commitment level with a partner.

Previous studies examined physical appearance and personality mainly as independent sources in predicting attraction. By presenting this information in installments, the study simulates a more typical context in which seeing the person’s appearance precedes learning about their personality, and shows that perceptions of a person’s physical attractiveness may change over time due to their positive or negative traits.

“This research provides a more positive alternative by reminding people that personality goes a long way toward determining your attractiveness; it can even change people’s impressions of how good looking you are,” says Lewandowski.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Interesting Brussels sprouts finding

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I like Brussels sprouts a lot, but I’ve been missing something:

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. My own holiday meal was the subject of a simple food experiment. I made two versions of the same dish: brussels sprout gratin with chestnuts, bacon and Comte. (Yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds, even if you don’t like baby cabbages.) One version was made with fresh brussels sprouts. (Cost: $13.25) The other dish was made with frozen brussels sprouts. (Cost: $5.97) I naively assumed that the fresh version would be clearly superior.

I was wrong. While I slightly preferred the texture of the fresh sprouts – they were a bit less mushy – the frozen sprouts had a much better flavor. They tasted like the color green, at least if the color green could be swaddled in a sauce of bacon and aged cheese.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Food

YouTube: a way past the media barrier

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It’s interesting how frequent YouTube has been used as a mass communication channel to get news and other information past the barrier that the mainstream media has long maintained—in that the MSM decides what the public will or will not see, will or will not be informed about. We’ve seen in the analysis of TIME magazine’s many failures recently how little the MSM deserves to sit in judgment on information flow, and now we’re seeing people find a way past them.

For example:

In October a Kosovar teenager named Arigona Zogaj upended classic Austrian disdain for immigrants. It was a “fairy tale,” Gunther Mueller, a reporter for the Austrian weekly newsmagazine Profil told me in Vienna’s famous Café Prueckel last week, describing the country’s obsession with the girl who ran away from deportation authorities and appealed to the country via YouTube for help remaining in the only home she could actually remember.

Read the entire thing—it’s fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education, Government

Tagged with

Why pedophilia is hard to treat

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Perhaps because it’s a matter of the basic structure of the pedophile’s brain. If so, punishment’s not going to do the job—in fact, punishment would be barking up the wrong tree altogether—like punishing someone with Down’s syndrome expecting them to resume development as a result.

Pedophilia might be the result of faulty connections in the brain, according to new research released by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The study used MRIs and a sophisticated computer analysis technique to compare a group of pedophiles with a group of non-sexual criminals. The pedophiles had significantly less of a substance called “white matter” which is responsible for wiring the different parts of the brain together.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, challenges the commonly held belief that pedophilia is brought on by childhood trauma or abuse. This finding is the strongest evidence yet that pedophilia is instead the result of a problem in brain development.

Previous research from this team has strongly hinted that the key to understanding pedophilia might be in how the brain develops. Pedophiles have lower IQs, are three times more likely to be left-handed, and even tend to be physically shorter than non-pedophiles.

“There is nothing in this research that says pedophiles shouldn’t be held criminally responsible for their actions,” said Dr. James Cantor, CAMH Psychologist and lead scientist of the study, “Not being able to choose your sexual interests doesn’t mean you can’t choose what you do.”

This discovery suggests that much more research attention should be paid to how the brain governs sexual interests. Such information could potentially yield strategies for preventing the development of pedophilia.

A total of 127 men participated in the study; approximately equal numbers of pedophiles and non-sexual offenders.

The Kurt Freund Laboratory at CAMH was established in 1968 and remains one of the world’s foremost centres for the research and diagnosis of pedophilia and other sexual disorders.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 12:36 pm

Two-thirds of us on shaking financial ground

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Grim news:

Fewer than one in three middle-class families in America is financially secure, and the remaining majority are either borderline or at high risk of falling out of the middle class altogether, according to a new study published this week by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy (IASP) at Brandeis University.

By a Thread: The New Experience of America’s Middle Class is the first comprehensive report to measure economic stability across the American middle class. Based on national government data, By a Thread is the first in a series of reports and briefing papers that will utilize the new “Middle Class Security Index” developed by the non-partisan policy center Demos and IASP/Brandeis.

This Index measures the financial security of the middle class by rating household stability across five core economic factors: assets, educational achievement, housing costs, budget and healthcare. Based on how a family ranked in each of these factors, they were defined as financially “secure”, “borderline” or “at risk”.

“Much like a common cholesterol test that shows whether someone’s cardiovascular health is at risk, the Middle Class Security Index shows that financial health eludes the majority of the American middle class,” said Thomas M. Shapiro, Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis and one of the co-authors of the report. “ It also points to specific areas—like lack of assets—that inhibit financial security,”

The Middle Class Security Index shows worrying trends:

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Only 31 percent of families who would be considered middle-class by income are financially secure.

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One in four middle-class families match the profile for being at high risk of slipping out of the middle class altogether.

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More than half of middle-class families have no net financial assets whatsoever.

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Middle-class families have median debt of $3,500 and at least half of them have no assets.

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Only 13 percent of middle-class families are secure in their asset levels—meaning that they have enough to cover most of their living expenses for nine months should their regular income cease; 79 percent are “at risk” in this category, meaning they could not cover the majority of their expenses for even three months. Another 9 percent are “borderline.”

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Twenty-one percent of middle-class families have less than $100 per week ($5,000 per year) remaining after meeting essential living expenses. These families are living from paycheck to paycheck with very little margin of security

The participants of a press conference to launch the report commented on these findings:

“If we look back at the public investments of the mid-twentieth century—the GI Bill, federal home loan guarantees, better funding for public education and college—we see that they were geared at two key benchmarks on the way to the middle-class: assets and education,” said Henry Cisneros, Chairman of CityView and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “But the Middle Class Security Index provides a real measurement of where we are after years of seeing those investments whittled away. American families are at risk of falling out of the middle class and never getting back in, and many of those who were excluded from the initial public investment—Latinos and African Americans—are among those with the greatest vulnerability. It’s time for a new public investment to stabilize the household economy and build the future middle class.”

“The By a Thread report findings mirror a reality of today’s unstable economy: The nation’s mortgage lending crisis is threatening the fabric of the urban communities that we revitalized by providing economic opportunity for more than 30 years. The ramifications of foreclosures on property values, municipal costs, crime, and consumer credit extends beyond the middle class and the neighborhoods most widely impacted by irresponsible lending practices,” said Jean Pogge, Executive Vice President, Consumer and Community Banking for ShoreBank.

“Workers in America are suffering a now generation-long stagnation of wages and rising insecurity,” said Ron Blackwell, Chief Economist at AFL-CIO. “By a Thread provides a unique metric for the resulting stress on middle class living standards and outlines bold policies to create an economy that works for all.”

The Middle Class Security Index findings reported in By a Thread spotlight the strengths and vulnerabilities of the middle class by identifying barriers to financial security and offering solutions that would enable the broad majority of American families to enjoy a stable middle-class life. The report recommends a set of policies that will help open access to, and strengthen, America’s middle class. Legislative proposals cover a range of important issues affecting American households, including asset building and debt reduction, making higher education more accessible and affordable, and addressing the healthcare crisis.

“The Index is the launching point for a range of new work that will examine economic stability in America’s middle class,” said Jennifer Wheary, Senior Fellow at Demos and report co-author. “In the coming months we’ll be adding new reports that illuminate middle- class stability by age, race and income—several of the key demographic factors that will inform future public policy investments.”

The Middle Class Security Index will be updated biennially, with accompanying reports, as new national data become available.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

It takes time to get it right…

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So Edition 1.01 is up now, and the Preview shows the TOC, which gives a better insight into what the book’s about. Little by little. I console myself with the thought that Eleanor and Fred probably didn’t do this on the first try, either:

(Thanks, Mel)

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Books, Food, Jazz, Recipes & Cooking, Video

Tagged with

“Cooking Deconstructed”

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It occurs to me that Cooking Deconstructed might be a better title than Cooking Compendium, since in the book I tried to break apart and present separately the various tools and tasks in cooking. For example, the partial table of contents:

Under “Measuring”:
Estimating
Time
Temperature
Length
Weight
Volume

Then:
Cutting
Sharpening

Under “Applicances”:
Microwaving
Mixing
Processing
Blending
Slow cooking
Steaming
Boiling
Grinding
Making coffee

Then a section called “Containing”:
Prep
Cooking
Storing

Under “Handling”:
Stirring
Whisking
Lifting
Tying and trussing
Mashing
Pouring
Shaping
Squeezing
Crushing
Washing
Straining
Draining
Brining
Skimming
Tossing
Brushing
Cleaning

Then “Nutrition”
Calories
Macronutrients
Micronutrients
Superfoods

Then “Shopping”:
Fruits
Vegetables
Mushrooms
Dairy
Meat
Poultry
Fish
Spices & herbs
Spirits & fortified wines

Then “Cooking”:
Timing
Sautéing
Searing
Deglazing
Frying
Boiling
Simmering
Braising
Broiling
Grilling
Baking
Roasting
Stewing
Poaching
Chilling
Cooking without heating

And, finally “Reading”

Yeah, Cooking Deconstructed would be more descriptive.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 10:55 am

Fresh mint and orange

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That Cyril R. Salter shaving cream is some good stuff. I’m buying more as soon as I’m past the moratorium on buying. (The moratorium starts in early November and goes to my birthday in late January. It exists because all too often my kids would find a great gift for me, buy it, and then learned that I had just bought it myself. Now: no buying during the moratorium.)

This morning it was Cyril R. Salter Fresh Mint, a nice contrast for a cold day, though I do think of it as a summertime shaving cream. The Rooney Style 2 Finest made the usual superb lather, and I took the Edwin Jagger ivory-handled Chatsworth with its Astra Superior Platinum blade and produced a 9.7 shave.

Then to top it off, Royall Mandarin lotion as the aftershave. Very nice.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2007 at 9:15 am

Posted in Shaving

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