Later On

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

Archive for January 14th, 2008

Opt out of catalogs, pre-screened credit card offers, etc.

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Go here. It’s free, but they do ask a credit card number for ID.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Escalating ice loss in Antarctic

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Wonder whether the GOP is still denying global warming? I’m sure James Inhofe is.

 Climatic changes appear to be destabilizing vast ice sheets of western Antarctica that had previously seemed relatively protected from global warming, researchers reported yesterday, raising the prospect of faster sea-level rise than current estimates.

While the overall loss is a tiny fraction of the miles-deep ice that covers much of Antarctica, scientists said the new finding is important because the continent holds about 90 percent of Earth’s ice, and until now, large-scale ice loss there had been limited to the peninsula that juts out toward the tip of South America. In addition, researchers found that the rate of ice loss in the affected areas has accelerated over the past 10 years — as it has on most glaciers and ice sheets around the world.

“Without doubt, Antarctica as a whole is now losing ice yearly, and each year it’s losing more,” said Eric Rignot, lead author of a paper published online in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The Antarctic ice sheet is shrinking despite land temperatures for the continent remaining essentially unchanged, except for the fast-warming peninsula.

The cause, Rignot said, may be changes in the flow of the warmer water of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that circles much of the continent. Because of changed wind patterns and less-well-understood dynamics of the submerged current, its water is coming closer to land in some sectors and melting the edges of glaciers deep underwater.

“Something must be changing the ocean to trigger such changes,” said Rignot, a senior scientist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We believe it is related to global climate forcing.”

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 1:51 pm

More on the US support of torture

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Dan Froomkin:

What to make of National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell? A 15,000-word story in this week’s New Yorker, based on a series of interviews with the normally reticent spy, is full of shocking revelations, but few conclusions.

The Lawrence Wright article is not on the New Yorker Web site yet, but is available here [PDF file – LG], from the Wall Street Journal Web site.

In it, McConnell describes his goal of an incredibly intrusive surveillance state — “giving government the authority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer, or Web search,” Wright writes.

“The plan will propose restrictions that are certain to be unpopular. In order for cyberspace to be policed, Internet activity will have to be closely monitored. . . . With the cyber-security initiative, McConnell is asking the country to confront a dilemma: Americans will have to trust the government not to abuse the authority it must have in order to protect our networks, and yet, historically, the government has not proved worthy of that trust. ‘FISA reform will be a walk in the park compared to this,’ McConnell said. ‘This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”

But, at the same time, Wright subtly demonstrates how McConnell himself isn’t to be trusted. His lead anecdote, for instance — about McConnell using the story of three missing soldiers in Iraq as a case study for the need to revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — eventually emerges as an indictment of McConnell’s deceit or incompetence.

What’s consistently lacking in McConnell’s narratives is evidence to support his positions. And nowhere does he get squirrellier than while talking about torture.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

Tagged with

US Government: “We heart our terrorists.”

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Terrorism is welcome and terrorists are protected so long as they go the direction the government wants:

… Plans to attack Cuba are constantly being hatched in South Florida. Over the years militant exiles have been linked to everything from downing airliners to hit-and-run commando raids on the Cuban coast to hotel bombings in Havana. They’ve killed Cuban diplomats and made numerous attempts on Castro’s life.

But, other than an occasional federal gun charge, nothing much seems to happen to most of these would-be revolutionaries. They are allowed to train nearly unimpeded despite making explicit plans to violate the 70-year-old U.S. Neutrality Act and overthrow a sovereign country’s government. Though separate anti-terror laws passed in 1994 and 1996 would seem to apply directly to their activities, no one has ever been charged for anti-Cuban terrorism under those laws. And 9/11 seems to have changed nothing. In the past few years in South Florida, a newly created local terrorism task force has investigated Jose Padilla and the hapless Seas of David cult, and juries have delivered mixed reviews, but no terrorism charges have been brought against anti-Castro militants. The federal government has even failed to extradite to other countries militants who are credibly accused of acts of murder. Among the most notorious is Luis Posada Carriles, wanted for bombing a Cuban jet in 1976 and Havana hotels in 1997. It is, perhaps, a testament to the power of South Florida’s crucial Cuban-American voting bloc — and the political allegiances of the current president.

In Greater Miami, home to the majority of the nation’s 1.5 million Cuban-Americans, the presence of what could credibly be described as a terrorist training camp has become an accepted norm during the half-century of the anti-Castro Cuban diaspora. Alpha 66 and numerous other paramilitary groups — Comandos F4, Brigade 2506, Accion Cubana — are so common they’ve taken on the benign patina of Rotary Clubs with weapons.…

Read the complete article at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 12:12 pm

Using molten salt to store solar energy

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Interesting:

Unlike other solar power plants, SolarReserve’s will be able to produce electricity at night or in inclement weather. You can see the commercial potential here if you note that just one megawatt is enough power roughly 1,000 U.S. households. The company hopes to build 10 plants over the next 10 to 15 years.

The concept behind new concentrated solar power plant is very similar to Seville’s solar power tower where hundreds of solar panels reflect the sun’s light to heat the water inside the tower, which later evaporates into steam that passes through series of turbines to generate electricity. However, instead of tower that holds water, SolarReserve’s holding tank will have molten salt. Huge array of mirrors will reflect light onto the tank; heated 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit liquid is then pumped into a steam generator that will turn a turbine to make electricity.

“Due to the unique ability of the product to store the energy it captures, this system will function like a conventional hydroelectric power plant, but with several advantages,” says Lee Bailey, managing director of US Renewables Group, SolarReserve parent company. “This product is more predictable than water reserves, the supply is free and inexhaustible, and the environmental impact is essentially zero.”

SolarReserve says that their use of molten salt, a mixture of sodium and potassium nitrate, instead of water or oil, allows the heat to be stored for use when sun is not present. The National Solar Thermal Test Facility conducted several studies and concluded that molten salt is the most efficient fluid when it comes to transporting sun’s heat. The study states, “molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it is liquid at atmosphere pressure, it provides an efficient, low-cost medium in which to store thermal energy, its operating temperatures are compatible with today’s high-pressure and high-temperature steam turbines, and it is non-flammable and nontoxic.”

Illustrations at the link above.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 11:15 am

On-line Identity Score

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Mine was 9 out of 10. (10 out of 10 using “Leisuregy”.)

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Now that’s a serve!

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 10:43 am

Posted in Games

Very cool: get your free tea timer

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We all know that various types of tea require different brewing temperatures and times, and now Adagio has a little tea-brewing timer that provides the info you need.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in Caffeine, Software

Running out of helium

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And it’s hard to make: you can fuse hydrogen atoms (the fusion reaction that powers the sun). Maybe we should discontinue its use in party balloons.

In America, helium is running out of gas.

The element that lifts things like balloons, spirits and voice ranges is being depleted so rapidly in the world’s largest reserve, outside of Amarillo, Texas, that supplies are expected to be depleted there within the next eight years.

This deflates more than the Goodyear blimp and party favors. Its larger impact is on science and technology, according to Lee Sobotka, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and physics in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Helium’s use in science is extremely broad, but its most important use is as a coolant,” said Sobotka, a specialist in nuclear chemistry and physics who collaborates with researchers at several national laboratories.

Generally the larger users of helium (He), such as the national laboratories, have the infrastructure to efficiently use and recycle helium, Sobotka said. The same cannot be said of many smaller scale users.

Helium plays a role in nuclear magnetic resonance, mass spectroscopy, welding, fiber optics and computer microchip production, among other technological applications. NASA uses large amounts annually to pressurize space shuttle fuel tanks.

“Helium is non-renewable and irreplaceable. Its properties are unique and unlike hydrocarbon fuels (natural gas or oil), there are no biosynthetic ways to make an alternative to helium. All should make better efforts to recycle it.”

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

New gift to US from global warming: Dengue fever

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Global warming continues to bring change:

Dengue fever

U.S. health officials are warning that a sometimes-deadly tropical disease that’s spread by mosquitoes is re-emerging worldwide and could gain a foothold in the U.S. one day.

Dengue, a flu-like illness that infects 50 million to 100 million people a year, has been growing more prevalent and severe as it moves from tropical regions into more temperate areas such as Puerto Rico, where it’s now endemic, and along the U.S. border with Mexico.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 9:38 am

Top science stories of 2007

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 9:27 am

Posted in Science

Best healthcare system in the world

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Andrew Rice is running for Senator in Oklahoma, my natal state. His recent email contained this story:

My wife Apple and I were recently reminded why so many Americans are frustrated and anxious about healthcare.

Our 11-month old son Parker was hospitalized here in Oklahoma City for three days last November with pneumonia. He received excellent care and, like most youngsters his age, he has rebounded very quickly from what was a scary time for all of us. But, that is only half the story.

One month later we learned that our health insurance company was refusing to pay the $10,000 hospital bill because they said our baby Parker had a “pre-existing condition.” I’m not kidding. When we argued that baseless reason away, they changed their excuse to “improper notification” by the treating physician, and said it was not a big deal because the hospital would just “write it off.” They don’t think it is a “big deal” to avoid providing the coverage we pay them for every month, and instead have the Oklahoma taxpayer foot the bill. That tells you something about how they see the world.

Not until they learned that Apple is a physician did the insurance company bureaucrats finally admit they had made a mistake and agreed to pay the legitimate claim.

Sad but, I believe, typical: the rule for insurance companies: big claim, don’t pay. Rice goes on to make another sad but true point:

The career politicians in Washington do not have the courage and integrity to reform this system, while 47 million Americans go uninsured and those of us who are insured must fight a system that is structured to deny claims first and ask questions later!

If you want to become involved in his campaign, or to contribute, here’s his site.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 9:18 am

Roundup of Homeland Security problems

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And there are many.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 9:10 am

Thinking with the body

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Take that, Descartes!

The brain is often envisioned as something like a computer, and the body as its all-purpose tool. But a growing body of new research suggests that something more collaborative is going on – that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies. A series of studies, the latest published in November, has shown that children can solve math problems better if they are told to use their hands while thinking. Another recent study suggested that stage actors remember their lines better when they are moving. And in one study published last year, subjects asked to move their eyes in a specific pattern while puzzling through a brainteaser were twice as likely to solve it.

The term most often used to describe this new model of mind is “embodied cognition,” and its champions believe it will open up entire new avenues for understanding – and enhancing – the abilities of the human mind. Some educators see in it a new paradigm for teaching children, one that privileges movement and simulation over reading, writing, and reciting. Specialists in rehabilitative medicine could potentially use the emerging findings to help patients recover lost skills after a stroke or other brain injury. The greatest impact, however, has been in the field of neuroscience itself, where embodied cognition threatens age-old distinctions – not only between brain and body, but between perceiving and thinking, thinking and acting, even between reason and instinct – on which the traditional idea of the mind has been built.

“It’s a revolutionary idea,” says Shaun Gallagher, the director of the cognitive science program at the University of Central Florida. “In the embodied view, if you’re going to explain cognition it’s not enough just to look inside the brain. In any particular instance, what’s going on inside the brain in large part may depend on what’s going on in the body as a whole, and how that body is situated in its environment.”

Or, as the motto of the University of Wisconsin’s Laboratory of Embodied Cognition puts it, “Ago ergo cogito”: “I act, therefore I think.”

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Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 9:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Menthol morning

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A shave-stick morning, and D.R. Harris is so nice—so I went with the Almond shave stick. The Simpsons Chubby 2 Best worked up an excellent lather, and the Edwin Jagger Georgian with the Zorrik blade made short work of the stubble.

And to the wonderfully smooth shaved face, I applied Floïd Mentolado Suave, from Spain—specifically, Barcelona. Very refreshing, and now for some coffee.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2008 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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