Later On

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

Archive for December 4th, 2007

If you want incompetence, you have to reward it

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And the Bush Administration does:

Spencer Ackerman reports that the State Department has quietly given bonuses for “outstanding performance” to two officials who had “direct oversight” over Blackwater:

On November 20, an internal cable, listed as State 158575, went out to State employees announcing the recipients of bonuses ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 for “outstanding performance.” Among them: Kevin Barry and Justine Sincavage. You can read the cable here. Barry’s name is listed on page 2, and Sincavage’s is on page 5. Both Barry and Sincavage already earn approximately $150,000 annually. Their bonuses are scheduled to take effect on December 20, in time for the holidays.

In October, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also promoted Barry and Sincavage.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 3:09 pm

Wonderful coyote

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This is a terrific story. Wait until the blog loads, then press Ctrl-End to go to the bottom and work your way up. You’ll enjoy it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

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God, you gotta love him!

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UPDATE: 20 percent of Americans are unable to afford health care, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

The media have a long way to go

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It’s good that some of the media are starting to wake up, but they have a long, long way to go. Examples:

1. Glenn Greenwald on the way TIME blocks information about Joe Klein’s dishonest column.

2. Glenn Greenwald on the new NIE report on Iran and the reactions to it

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Media

Blogs are having an impact

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This is good news:

Okay, it needs to be said that there’s been a positive media development: The in-house media critics at the major papers are finally beginning to ratchet up the pressure on their own papers’ editors and reporters to start getting much more aggressive in scrutinizing the claims of candidates. There really seems to be a bit of a drumbeat building on this right now.

Here, for instance, is New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt, devoting his whole column this week to this quaint notion:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Media

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If security is important on your computer,

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Read Bruce Schneier’s thorough review of steps you should take.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:56 pm

Journalists in Iraq

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After four years of war in Iraq, the journalists reporting from that country give their coverage a mixed but generally positive assessment, but they believe they have done a better job of covering the American military and the insurgency than they have the lives of ordinary Iraqis. And they do not believe the coverage of Iraq over time has been too negative. If anything, many believe the situation over the course of the war has been worse than the American public has perceived, according to a new survey of journalists covering the war from Iraq.

Above all, the journalists — most of them veteran war correspondents — describe conditions in Iraq as the most perilous they have ever encountered, and this above everything else is influencing the reporting. A majority of journalists surveyed (57%) report that at least one of their Iraqi staff had been killed or kidnapped in the last year alone—and many more are continually threatened. “Seven staffers killed since 2003, including three last July,” one bureau chief wrote with chilling brevity. “At least three have been kidnapped. All were freed.”

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Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Iraq War, Media

Intelligent Design plunges on…

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In Texas, perhaps naturally:

After the landmark case in Dover, Pennsylvania, finding that Intelligent Design was religion, not science, and then the Kansas school board election repudiating the IDiots, I thought perhaps we had turned the corner. But perhaps not.

Evolution and Texas – New York Times

Is Texas about to become the next state to undermine the teaching of evolution? That is the scary implication of the abrupt ousting of Christine Comer, the state’s top expert on science education. Her transgression: forwarding an e-mail message about a talk by a distinguished professor who debunks “intelligent design” and creationism as legitimate alternatives to evolution in the science curriculum.

From other coverage, it’s important to note that Texas’ high school science standards are up for review in 2008, and it looks like another fight.

As for the possibility of an admitted Creationist Moron, Huckabee, becoming president … words fail me.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:47 pm

Philosophy on TV—not in the US

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Interesting post from My Mind on Books:

In France they watch philosophers talk on TV – as discussed in a recent book called Turning On the Mind: French Philosophers on Television by Tamara Chaplin (found through this blog post, see also publishers’ website)

By the end of the twentieth century, more than 3,500 programs dealing with philosophy and its practitioners—including Bachelard, Badiou, Foucault, Lyotard, and Lévy—had aired on French television. According to Tamara Chaplin, this enduring commitment to bringing the most abstract and least visual of disciplines to the French public challenges our very assumptions about the incompatibility of elite culture and mass media. Indeed, it belies the conviction that television is inevitably anti-intellectual and the quintessential archenemy of the book.

Meanwhile in the US we take the opposite approach, issuing a spate of pop-culture-related “…and philosophy” books (such as The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’oh! of Homer), as recently discussed in Philosophy Now.

Yeah? But how many reality shows does French TV have, huh? Tell me that.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

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Finding borderline nuclei

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The strong nuclear force—the strongest in nature, which holds together the protons (and neutrons) of the atomic nucleus despite the protons repelling each other because they have the same electrical charge—falls off rapidly with distance. As Bill Bryson explains in A Short History of Nearly Everything:

The grip of the strong force reaches out to only about 1/100,000th of the diameter of an atom. That’s why the nuclei of atoms are so compacted and dense and why elements with big, crowded nuclei tend to be so unstable: the strong force just can’t hold on to all the protons.

An interesting article explaining how scientists are exploring the limits of nucleus size has a link to a fuller explanation, which includes this video.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Science

Best holiday cookie ever

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By far my fave. From Women’s Day Encyclopedia of Cooking:


Put 3 cups seedless raisins in bowl with 1/2 cup bourbon. Mix well. Let stand for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift together into bowl:

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (not baking powder)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (not Spice Islands; best is Penzey’s China Caissa Cinnamon; see
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Put 1/4 cup soft (not runny or whipped) butter in large bowl of electric mixer.


1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs

Beat with mixer or wooden spoon until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in flour mixture with mixer or spoon, blending until smooth.

Stir in:

raisins (and bourbon)
1 pound (4 cups) pecan halves
1/2 pound citron, diced (1 1/4 cups)
1 pound whole candied cherries

Drop from teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets and bake in preheated slow (325 degree) oven for about 15 minutes or until firm.

Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes 7 to 8 dozen. They taste only so-so fresh from the oven—store them at least overnight for best results.

To store: store cookies in airtight containers. Can be frozen. Good keepers and shippers.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Mica as the nest for the formation of life

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Very intriguing:

The new hypothesis describes how flaky layers of the mineral “mica” could have created the perfect conditions to jump-start the formation of molecules necessary for life.

Helen Hansma, a biochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented her idea for the first time today at the American Society for Cell Biology’s 47th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“Mica is like a massive sandwich with millions of layers of mineral sheets, which would be the bread,” Hansma said. “The nooks and crannies between the bread may have jump-started the formation of life’s chemicals and protected them. It’s like a giant potluck of chemistry.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Science

The greenest car I ever saw

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Take a look at it. The guy who designed it (deservedly) got the Young Designer of the Year award.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Business, Global warming, Technology

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Excellent: making chicken salad from…

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This is extremely cool:

Pollution-based fuel cell

A technology that can take pollution from coal and metal mines and use it to generate electricity sounds like a fanciful dream, but it’s a reality, at least in a university lab in Pennsylvania, where researchers report that they have developed a a fuel cell that uses pollution from coal and metal mines to generate electricity. If it can go from the lab to commercial scale, it’s a real eco-tech twofer, helping to solve a serious environmental problem of mining while also providing a new source of energy.

Penn State University scientists describe successful tests of a laboratory-scale version of the device in a new study featured in the December issue of the American Chemical Society’s Environmental Science & Technology journal. Look for the article “Electricity Generation from Synthetic Acid-Mine Drainage (AMD) Water using Fuel Cell Technologies.”

Science Daily briefly summarizes the study.

In the new study, Bruce E. Logan and colleagues point out that so-called acid-mine drainage (AMD) is a serious environmental problem that threatens the health of plants and animals as well as the safety of drinking-water supplies, due mainly to the high acidity of contaminated waters and its high content of metals, particularly iron. AMD poses difficult and costly environmental clean-up problems.

They describe development of a new type of fuel cell that is based on microbial fuel cells, which are capable of generating electricity from wastewater. Using a solution similar to AMD, they showed that the device efficiently removed dissolved iron from the solution while also generating electricity at power levels similar to conventional microbial fuel cells. Improvements in the fuel cell will lead to more efficient power generation in the future, the researchers say. The iron recovered by the device can be used as a pigment for paints or other products, they note.

The mining industry would seem to be a logical source of additional R&D and venture capital funding to hone the technology and commercialize it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:20 pm

Extremely cool: high-tech wheelchairs

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Wheelchairs have been getting a makeover for a while. Wheelchairs from a decade or two ago were terribly designed, but now things are changing. Take a look at these. One example:

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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Canadian Minister scared

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From Boing Boing:

Canadian Minister of Industry Jim Prentice refuses to be interviewed about the forthcoming Canadian DMCA that his Ministry will be bringing down. Last week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio show Search Engine solicited public suggestions for questions to put to the Minister about his copyright bill, but the show has been informed by the Minister’s office the he will not schedule an interview with the show to defend the proposal.

The Canadian DMCA follows the USA off the copyright cliff, instituting even more draconian provisions than were present in the USA’s 1998 law. Since then, the US has seen the bankrupting-by-lawsuit of technology companies, lawsuits against tens of thousands of fans, a general trammeling of fair use and consumer rights (pity the poor schmucks who bought Microsoft “PlaysForSure” devices!) and for all that, no reduction in Internet copying and not one penny put in a musician’s pocket.

I believe the Minister is running scared because he knows that the last two Ministers who tried to bring down a Canadian DMCA lost their jobs.

Industry Canada has notified Search Engine that despite the overwhelming amount of concern expressed on this site by the Canadian public (see below), Minister Jim Prentice will not come on to our program to answer the people’s questions before his new copyright bill is introduced. His office has told us to expect a statement explaining why, which we’ll post here once we get it.


Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 11:52 am

Comment on the GOP’s presidential slate

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From John Cole at Balloon Juice, a pointed question:

What does it say about your party when people are deemed unelectable because they oppose torture?

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 11:46 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Benefits of fluoridated water—for adults

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Fluoridated water works:

The benefits of fluoridation in preventing tooth decay have been known for over half a century and today approximately two-thirds of Americans have access to fluoridated public water.

Gerardo Maupomé, B.D.S., M.Sc., Ph.D., of the Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and colleagues report in a study published in the Fall issue of the Journal of Public Health Dentistry that older adults benefit even more significantly from fluoridation than children.

Dr. Maupomé and his colleagues investigated whether access to fluoridated community water reduced the amounts of dental fillings and associated costs needed by children, adults, and older adults. All three groups benefited, with older adults benefiting the most.

Participants in the study were all members of a dental health maintenance organization and so had access to dental care through dental insurance. “Our finding that fluoridated water lowered the number of dental fillings confirms studies on younger people but breaks new ground on older individuals. While those we studied had dental insurance, many older adults, who are often retired, don’t have dental insurance and so prevention of decay is very important. Community water fluoridation is a sound public health investment for people of all ages,” said Dr. Maupomé, who is also a Regenstrief Institute, Inc. affiliated scientist.

“Much of the focus of research on community water fluoridation has been on children. There has been significantly less research on adults and even less on older adults. Individuals are keeping their teeth through adulthood into their older years. We need to study dental health through all decades of life,” said Dr. Maupomé.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

How to get walking: computer phone calls

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Interesting indeed:

Computer-generated phone calls may be an effective, low-cost way to encourage sedentary adults to exercise, according to a recent study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Results of the yearlong study found that regular telephone calls delivered from either live health educators or by an automated computer system successfully prodded inactive adults into a regular 150-minute per week exercise program.

What most surprised researchers was that the computer calls were almost as effective as the calls by a real person.

“This is the first study to directly compare the efficacy of a physical activity program delivered by a computer versus humans and found them to work similarly well,” said lead author Abby King, PhD, professor of health research and policy and a senior investigator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. “Theoretically, it could be delivered to anybody around the country or around the world, and could save time and money.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Technology

Tagged with ,

More interesting maps

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This is buried at the end of the previous post, but the maps are so intriguing that I thought I would bring it into a post of its own: maps here.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2007 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life

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