Later On

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

Archive for December 15th, 2007

Reality bites

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Looks as though you can deny reality only so long before people catch on that you’re just making stuff up:

The number of states refusing federal money for “abstinence-only” sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.

At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.

Two other states — Ohio and Washington — have applied but stipulated they would use the money for comprehensive sex education, effectively making themselves ineligible, federal officials said. While Maryland and the District are planning to continue applying for the money, other states are considering withdrawing as well.

Until this year, only four states had passed up the funding.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 1:06 pm

Racing to LED lighting

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Good news:

LEDs

This Christmas, Royal Philips Electronics is vividly displaying its dominance in the lighting market. It supplied the 50 giant illuminated snowflakes that festoon the front of the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York. The flakes are aglow with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs–semiconductor devices that produce bright beams of light using a fraction as much electricity as incandescent bulbs. The 40,000-plus LEDs in the display sip about the same amount of power as three toaster ovens.

Philips also will provide the lights for the New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball in New York. Instead of 600 incandescent and halogen bulbs, the ball will be fitted with more than 9,500 LEDs, which burn twice as brightly and can create a palette of 16 million colors. Depending on their hue, they’ll be up to 98% more energy-efficient than the bulbs they replace.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 12:46 pm

Oil wealth powers going green

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This is quite far-sighted: using the wealth of an oil nation to move ahead on carbon-neutral technologies by building a totally green city of 100,000. The article begins:

There’s a former nursery across from the royal family’s private terminal at the Abu Dhabi airport. It doesn’t look like much now—1,600 acres of sand dotted with small, forlorn trees. But one fenced-in spot on the property hints of a plan so ambitious that it stands out even in a land of seemingly limitless wealth. There, atop concrete slabs, engineers are preparing to test solar collectors. Those collectors are scheduled to power a futuristic 100,000-resident city that will rise from this sandy wasteland by the Persian Gulf. The goal: to create the world’s first metropolis that emits not a single extra molecule of carbon dioxide, the cause of global warming.

It’s a delicious irony that the Middle East, awash in oil and dollars—Abu Dhabi alone has nearly 100 billion barrels in reserves—may be the one region on earth most capable of building the first city for a post-oil world. Yet the project, planned by London architects Foster & Partners, is just one part of a startlingly contrarian gambit by Abu Dhabi. The emirate is pouring billions into renewable- and sustainable-energy technologies, stimulating precisely those industries that ultimately could challenge oil’s dominance.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 12:41 pm

Google and the Wisdom of Clouds

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Very interesting article about where computing is going—led by Google. It begins:

One simple question. That’s all it took for Christophe Bisciglia to bewilder confident job applicants at Google. Bisciglia, an angular 27-year-old senior software engineer with long wavy hair, wanted to see if these undergrads were ready to think like Googlers. “Tell me,” he’d say, “what would you do if you had 1,000 times more data?”

What a strange idea. If they returned to their school projects and were foolish enough to cram formulas with a thousand times more details about shopping or maps or—heaven forbid—with video files, they’d slow their college servers to a crawl.

At that point in the interview, Bisciglia would explain his question. To thrive at Google, he told them, they would have to learn to work—and to dream—on a vastly larger scale. He described Google’s globe-spanning network of computers. Yes, they answered search queries instantly. But together they also blitzed through mountains of data, looking for answers or intelligence faster than any machine on earth. Most of this hardware wasn’t on the Google campus. It was just out there, somewhere on earth, whirring away in big refrigerated data centers. Folks at Google called it “the cloud.” And one challenge of programming at Google was to leverage that cloud—to push it to do things that would overwhelm lesser machines. New hires at Google, Bisciglia says, usually take a few months to get used to this scale. “Then one day, you see someone suggest a wild job that needs a few thousand machines, and you say: Hey, he gets it.'”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 12:36 pm

Another money-tracking Web app

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I haven’t used Wesabe yet, but certainly Lifehacker is enthusiastic about it. Might be worth a try.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Nice way to find good Amazon discounts

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Via Lifehacker, a Web site with which you can search out those Amazon.com bargains: DealLocker Secret Amazon Discount Finder. It also can find Amazon coupon codes and discount gift certificates. Especially nice: you can restrict the search so that it shows only Amazon Prime items—these are sold by Amazon, so you don’t get the discount erased by a high shipping charge.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 11:14 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Phrase Express: new version

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I love Phrase Express (Windows only), and now there’s a new version that can automatically import all those Autotext corrections you entered in MS Word so they will work in any program—no more having to go to Word and type “jalapeño” to get the eñe, or to type $e to get the Euro sign: I can do it now in WordPress (or any other program) as well.

Plus it’s still free for personal use. Take a look at the manual. And if you’re gutsy, you can download the beta of Version 5.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 11:05 am

Posted in Software

Shut down Windows computers quickly

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From Lifehacker:

Whenever I tried to shutdown my work laptop it would take almost five minutes. Five minutes! Since I work in a completely locked-down environment I couldn’t look to any third party applications for help. Entering the following shutdown command in the run dialog speeds up my shutdown time dramatically.
shutdown -f -t 0

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 10:40 am

Posted in Software

George R. R. Martin interview

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I’m positive that my readers include some serious fans of George R. R. Martin‘s work—in fact, I know one personally. So you who like him will find this interview of interest. His major work is this series:

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 10:32 am

Posted in Books

Lee Wiley, 1908-1975

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Lee Wiley was the great Manhattan jazz singer of the 30s and 40s. She was born in Oklahoma, part Cherokee, and went to New York at 17. She was married for a time to Jess Stacey, who played that marvelous piano solo in “Sing Sing Sing” at Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert—a story in itself, that we’ll get to later.

Lee Wiley created the “songbook” idea that has been taken up by many other singers, among them Susannah McCorkle, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Short, and (most notably) Ella Fitzgerald. In 1939 Lee Wiley devoted an entire album to the music of one composer, George Gershwin. That was so successful that she followed it with albums of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Rodgers & Hart.

One review noted:

Sensual and dignified, sophisticated and warm, Lee Wiley has inspired outbursts of sheer poetry from many a captivated listener. Her sound induces a “marvelous,” “ticklish” sensation, akin to “running your hand over a piece of fine Harris tweed,” marveled producer Dave Garroway. She “blows smoke rings, each note a puff that melts into wisps of vibrato,” conceptualized author Will Friedwald. Her voice and style “have long since made me extremely eager to go to bed with her,” disclosed critic James Frazier. Not content with this daring confession, he also bluntly labeled her “one bitch of a singer.”

Protested singer and Wiley scholar Barbara Lea: “She had more fire, more rhythm, more roughness, more silkiness, more deep personal warmth, than the job description of Pop Singer called for.” Asked writer Richard Hadlock, in an open letter to Wiley, “Lee, have you ever wondered why so many… from road-tough musicians to jaded pub-crawlers, act like kids on Christmas when they hear you sing?” (Wiley did wonder.) The eulogies could go on for pages, but the point is clear enough: Lee Wiley is a singer with a certain mystique.

Much of her recorded work is still available. Here are a couple of songs to give you an idea:

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz, Music

The US adoption of Soviet practices

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Imprisonment and torture of innocent people, with no explanation and no recourse. Someone suspected them, so they were transported to the secret prisons and tortured—this guy was eventually released (again: no explanation), but some die in the process. Don’t you hope that no one ever suspects you? Here’s one guy’s story:

The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as “black sites.” But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on — there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.

The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation — one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.

It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words “I am innocent” in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.

So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:55 am

Peanut allergies

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Science News:

Peanuts are a protein-rich snack food packing plenty of vitamins and trace nutrients. However, these legumes can elicit potentially life-threatening immune reactions within the one in 100 American adults who are allergic to them. Rates of peanut allergy are even higher among children. And the really disturbing news: A new study finds that the age at which this common food allergy first shows up is falling.

Today, peanut allergy typically emerges in early toddlerhood, a team of Duke University researchers reports in the December Pediatrics. “That’s almost a year earlier than what we knew, scientifically, a decade ago, “explains A. Wesley Burks, a pediatric allergist who coauthored the new study.

Although children outgrow many allergies, peanut allergy is not typically one of them. Among people who develop immune reactions to this food, 80 percent retain their allergy for life.

The new study began, Burks says, after Duke immunologists noticed that they were encountering younger patients with peanut allergy. To investigate, the researchers pulled entry records and medical charts for all 140 young patients who had come in with the allergy since 1988. Poring over the records confirmed a fall in age at first diagnosis throughout this period—one that proved more dramatic than expected, Burks told Science News Online.

Nationally, the rate of food allergy appears to be increasing, according to a 2006 report of a National Institutes of Health expert panel. The most striking increase, it noted, has been for peanut allergy, which is also the most common food sensitivity. Because some allergies can be avoided by delaying a child’s initial introduction to certain foods, in 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that parents “consider” keeping peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish out of the diet of kids under age 3.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Medical

Your personal library

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A very nice post at My Mind on Books:

The “Library Problem” sounds like some kind of logic puzzle, but it’s actually the title of a wonderfully detailed post from Hackito Ergo Sum about organizing a home library, with lots of comments. This post was yesterday’s “Library Link of the Day” (12/12/07).

For the record I’ve used both LibraryThing and ReaderWare and can recommend both – ReaderWare is fine if you want a self-contained database on your computer; I’ve mentioned LibraryThing many times here – it’s a great web-based cataloging solution with lots of extra features, plus a good source of book information even if you don’t want to catalog your books there.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:36 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

For Windows: malicious software removal

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This might be of interest to Windows user: a malicious software removal tool. (I ran it and found that it detected no malicious software on my computer.)

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:35 am

Posted in Software

The investigations into the torture tapes

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John Dean reflects:

By my count, there appear to be no less than ten preliminary investigations underway, following the revelation that the CIA destroyed at least two sets of videotapes (containing hundreds of hours of footage) of “advanced interrogation” techniques being employed in terrorism investigations. In fact, every branch of government is now involved.

Within the Executive Branch, according to news reports, the CIA’s General Counsel and Inspector General are investigating. The Department of Justice is investigating. On Capitol Hill, both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are investigating. In addition, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is inquiring as to whether the Federal Records Act has been violated. And Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, has made preliminary inquiries as well.

The Bush Administration has shown that it is not very good at investigating itself, so no one should hold their breath for the outcome of either the CIA or Justice Department investigation. And Attorney General Mukasey has dismissed an independent special counsel inquiry as very premature. The Democratic-controlled Congress could get to the bottom of all this, but one should bear in mind that our elected representatives have yet to get to the bottom of the political firing of U.S. Attorneys (although, to be fair, they did get former Attorney General Gonzales to resign). Today, Congress suffers from a degenerative spinal malady, and while they can bark, they appear unable to bite.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:33 am

Run your car on trash

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I must admit that this article seems too good to be true. Still, it’s possible I guess, though it does have the flavor of the pill that converts water to gasoline. Take a look:

I’m not sure if I’m watching a magic trick, or an invention that will make the cigar-chomping 64-year-old next to me the richest man on the planet. Everything that goes into Frank Pringle’s recycling machine—a piece of tire, a rock, a plastic cup—turns to oil and natural gas seconds later. “I’ve been told the oil companies might try to assassinate me,” Pringle says without sarcasm.

The machine is a microwave emitter that extracts the petroleum and gas hidden inside everyday objects—or at least anything made with hydrocarbons, which, it turns out, is most of what’s around you. Every hour, the first commercial version will turn 10 tons of auto waste—tires, plastic, vinyl—into enough natural gas to produce 17 million BTUs of energy (it will use 956,000 of those BTUs to keep itself running).

Pringle created the machine about 10 years ago after he drove by a massive tire fire and thought about the energy being released. He went home and threw bits of a tire in a microwave emitter he’d been working with for another project. It turned to what looked like ash, but a few hours later, he returned and found a black puddle on the floor of the unheated workshop. Somehow, he’d struck oil.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:18 am

Free web-based word processors

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Good review of web-based word processors with discussion, comparisons, and screenshots. Well worth a bookmark.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Why nice guys don’t attract women

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Of course, saying that one doesn’t attract women because he’s too nice is suspicious in itself: like saying one has trouble holding a job because he does such excellent work. Hmm. Wonder if that’s the whole story.

Still, this little essay is worth pondering. My own reflection, looking back at those high school years, was that women were attracted to the bad boys, the rule-breakers, because the women were interested in breaking a few rules themselves, and these guys seemed to offer the best chance.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:13 am

Posted in Daily life

Parkinson’s disease progress

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You should be interested in this, because if you don’t have Parkinson’s disease, you’ll eventually get it if you live long enough. There are only a limited number of cells that manufacture the dopamine that you need, and as they die, they’re not replaced. When they’re gone: hello, Parkinson’s disease. But a cure is in sight:

A successful treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that affects 1 percent of the world’s population and (an estimated 500,000 people in the U.S.) aged 60 years and over, may be “in our sights now,” says Ronald McKay, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

McKay’s optimism stems from new research that shows that a gene, known as forkhead box A2 (FOXA2), is responsible for the differentiation and spontaneous destruction of neurons that secrete the neurotransmitter dopamine, a cell population that is progressively lost in Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by tremors, loss of muscle control and speech difficulties.

“We have the cells; we know what controls their birth and death—we’re on our way,” says McKay, a senior molecular biology investigator. “It looks like we’ve got this disease in our sights now. We will understand Parkinson’s disease relatively soon.”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:09 am

Posted in Health, Science

Lavender for recovery

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Taylor of Old Bond Street Lavender soap, with the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super brush—and indeed, I like it as much as the Emperor 3. The lined Chatsworth razor holding a new copy of the blade that brought us the shaving cartridge: the Wilkinson Sword razor blade, which ate Gillette’s lunch and forced Gillette into a new direction.

And, as you would expect, a wonderful shave, ending with Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera Toner (toner = alcohol-free).

The recovery is because yesterday I was sick—aching muscles, 100.7 F temperature, tired, unable to keep food down very well. Mostly I slept in my chair with Megs in my lap. Last night the fever broke, though, and today I feel much better if a little shaky.

Written by Leisureguy

15 December 2007 at 9:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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