Later On

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

Archive for January 21st, 2008

Businesses want to shape regulations

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While it’s a good idea to consult businesses while drafting laws and regulations to reduce greenhouse gases, I don’t think—based on their track record—that they should have much say in the final decisions. But in our current government, which is government for the money, of the money, and by the money, businesses will probably have the major say.  Here’s the story so far:

greenhouse gases

U.S. businesses are betting that the federal government soon will put mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and they’re making sure they have a say in shaping a vast new regulatory system.

Some of the country’s biggest businesses support a cap and trade system, the approach that Congress is considering. Under cap and trade, the government gives or sells companies allowances to emit certain amounts of greenhouse gases, and companies may sell unused allowances to other companies.

While it may sound simple, the details would be complex and the plan would affect the entire economy and require monitoring for decades.

The U.S. Climate Action Partnership — which includes U.S. automakers, other big manufacturers such as Alcoa and Caterpillar Inc. and energy companies such as FPL Group, Duke Energy and PG&E Corp. — supports a cap and trade system, but its members have questions about key elements, such as how emissions could be offset and how much they’d have to pay for the allowances.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 6:57 pm

The media are mindless

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Jay Rosen has an excellent column at Salon, well worth reading in its entirety. His conclusion:

Let’s see if we can bring these strands together. I’ve been picking at the weaknesses of horse-race coverage, but to really understand it we need to appreciate its practical strengths.

Who’s-gonna-win is portable, reusable from cycle to cycle, and easily learned by newcomers to the press pack. Journalists believe it brings readers to the page and eyeballs to the screen. It “works” regardless of who the candidates are, or where the nation is in historical time. No expertise is actually needed to operate it. In that sense, it is economical. (And when everyone gets the winner wrong the “surprise” becomes a good story for a few days.) Who’s going to win — and what’s their strategy — plays well on television, because it generates an endless series of puzzles toward which journalists can gesture as they display their savviness, which is the unofficial religion of the mainstream press.

But the biggest advantage of horse-race journalism is that it permits reporters and pundits to “play up their detachment.” Focusing on the race advertises the political innocence of the press because “who’s gonna win?” is not an ideological question. By asking it you reaffirm that yours is not an ideological profession. This is experienced as pleasure by a lot of mainstream journalists. Ever noticed how spirits lift when the pundit roundtable turns from the Middle East or the looming recession to the horse race, and there’s an opportunity for sizing up the candidates? To be manifestly agenda-less is journalistic bliss. Of course, since trying to get ahead of the voters can affect how voters view the candidates, the innocence, too, is an illusion. But a potent one.

Imagine if we had them all — the whole Gang of 500 — in a room and we asked them (off the record): How many of you feel roughly qualified to be Secretary of State? Ted Koppel having retired, no hands would go up. Secretary of the Treasury? No hands. White House Chief of Staff? Maybe one or two would raise a hand. Qualified to be President? No one would dare say that. Strategist for a presidential campaign? I’d say at least 200 hands would shoot up. Reporters identify with those guys — the behind-the-scenes message senders — and they cultivate the same knowledge.

What a waste! Journalists ought to be bringing new knowledge into the system, as Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe did in December. They gave the presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire on the limits of executive branch power and nine candidates responded. This is a major issue that any candidate for president should have to address, given the massive build-up of presidential power engineered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We desperately need to know what the contenders for the presidency intend to do — continue the build-up or roll it back? — but we won’t know unless the issue is injected into the campaign.

Now, that’s both a political and a journalistic act. And where does the authority for doing such things come from? There is actually no good answer to that within the press system as it stands, and so the beast would never go there.

The Globe’s questionnaire grew out of Savage’s earlier reporting on the “unitary executive” and the drive to create an “unfettered presidency.” (See this PBS interview with Savage; also, contrast the Globe’s treatment with more of a throwaway effort from the New York Times.) Here, the job of the campaign press is not to preempt the voters’ decision by asking endlessly, and predicting constantly, who’s going to win. The job is to make certain that what needs to be discussed will be discussed in time to make a difference — and then report on that.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Election, Media

Back from physical therapist

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No homework this time. He asked questions, moved both shoulders around, and said he could tell that the right shoulder was not moving freely: muscles tight, doing compensation for when it hurt.

So I lay supine with my spine balanced on a thick plastic cylinder for five minutes, then flat for a few minutes, then did a hand-bicycle machine: 5 minutes in one direction, followed by five minutes in the other.

Then the therapist would exert pressure in one way or another on my shoulder, and after a few breaths, call for me to relax totally. My shoulder does feel a bit freer.

I once got a massage by a guy trained in a Japanese technique that focused mainly on the skeleton. I lay on the floor and he would lift one shoulder and hold it for a while, then a leg, and so on. I became very conscious of my skeleton, which was being tilted this way and that. When he was finished I felt totally relaxed. Interesting experience.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Daily life

Reusable bags

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I’ve blogged before about the pleasures of the reusable bag (instead of carrying home the paper or plastic one-time bag). I like the Whole Foods version, but Cool Tools today has a post bragging about the Acme Workhorse bag (also available as “buy 3, get 1 free“). Actually, has quite a few nice bags. Get some and use them.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 11:46 am

Rest of One Laptop Per Child interview

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The first part of the interview is here. Now the second part:

In spite of the initial nearly-universal acclaim of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, critics were quick to point out what they perceived as flaws in the organization the moment that the plan became a reality.

OLPC has seemed plagued by missteps and misfortune, including a lawsuit filed by the patent holders of a Nigerian keyboard, the exit of the company’s chief technology officer, the end of its successful Give One, Get One program, and of course, a very public falling out with its one-time backer, Intel.

In the first part of my interview with OLPC’s Chief Connectivity Officer, Michail Bletsas, we discussed the fate of the Give One, Get One program and how the organization has gauged its success thus far.

In this second and final part, we discuss Nigerian lawsuits, Intel’s shenanigans, and why OLPC never wanted to be in the laptop manufacturing business in the first place.

Brian Heater: You’ve developed a lot of technology that, for the time being, is unique to the XO laptop, and a group in Nigeria sued you for patent infringement over the notebook’s keyboard.

Michail Bletsas: Yeah, that’s completely frivolous. We use X Window on the laptop, and X Window has its own keyboard-mapping technology, which it’s had since the beginning. We have one of the two people who started the X Windows program working for us. What this lawsuit proclaims is that we actually bought a Nigerian keyboard, opened it, and reverse-engineered the keyboard controller firmware, to see how they would map the key presses to key events to fit them into Windows. We are not using Windows, so we don’t care what Windows does.

I understand what they are claiming, but there’s really no basis. We did buy a Nigeria keyboard, because we wanted to see the symbols–what a Nigerian keyboard looks like. We didn’t buy a specific keyboard, we bought the first keyboard that we found in front of us.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 11:35 am

Free ebook on The Philosophy of Social Cognition

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Via My Mind on Books, here’s a free ebook. (Just the first chapter available so far.)

I am currently teaching an undergrad Philosophy of Mind course at U of T. I called it “The Social Mind: Mentality and Sociality” (see this page). I present it a course on the “philosophy of social cognition”, i.e., the overlap between (naturalized) philosophy of mind and (naturalized) social philosophy. I will try to convert my notes in short texts that, together, will constitutes a free e-book called The Philosophy of Social Cognition: An Introduction to the Philosophical Approaches of Mentality and Sociality. The idea is to focus on philosophical questions that are relevant for contemporary research on social cognition. The chapters will be posted on this blog (follow the tag POSC) and on my website ( NOTE THAT THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS, not a final product.

Here is the first chapter: “The Other Minds” (PDF)

The author:

Benoit Hardy-Vallée: As a philosopher of science interested in cognitive science, economics and biology, my work addresses interdisciplinary, normative and descriptive issues related in many ways to rationality and decision-making. “Natural rationality”, the topic of this blog, is the study of decision-making mechanisms in humans and other animals. I discuss scientific and philosophical approaches to natural rationality.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Books, Education, Science

Freshly baked bread every night

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Via Scott Feldstein’s blog, this recipe for a bread recipe. (The video required IE Tab for me—the Firefox tab wouldn’t work.) The basics (though the video is quite helpful):

[The secret:] Premixed, prerisen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.

With that discovery, Hertzberg and Francois developed a method that makes any home into a mini artisan bake shop. You’ll mix up a four- or eight-pound batch of dough — it literally takes just five minutes — and, once it rises, you’ll refrigerate it for as long as a couple of weeks. Then, each night or as needed, you’ll pinch off a pound or so of dough, shape it quickly, let it rest while you do something else, and bake it. Toward the end of the storage period, the dough becomes more tangy, more sourdough-like, although it’s not a true sourdough.

Small households can bake little loaves, or even singleton buns.

“My mother, who lives alone, bakes a single roll every night to go with her dinner,” Francois said. Larger families can bake bigger loaves. But nobody needs to bake more bread than they’ll eat in a day or two. Because the next fresh bread is just minutes away.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 10:59 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Why I don’t trust Nostradamus, Revelations, etc.

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Prophecies that become clear after the prophesied event are simply too easy. For example:

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 10:50 am

Posted in Daily life

Interesting take on reading

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Make a plan, and here’s why:

  • Avoid boredom
    I don’t know about you, but reading the same topics again and again makes me bored. Even for topics I’m passionate about, I will be more refreshed if I also read other topics once in a while.
  • Arbitrage knowledge
    The art of arbitrage is important for living smart, and diversifying your reading allows you to do knowledge arbitrage. Knowledge arbitrage means taking ideas from one field to be applied to another field. If you read only one or two topics, it’s difficult to do that.
  • Cross-pollinate ideas
    Continuing the idea of arbitrage, not only can you borrow ideas from other fields, you can also combine ideas from different fields. Often it will give you “original” ideas since nobody has seen such combination before. Of course, you can only cross-pollinate idea if you have different kinds of idea to begin with, and that’s why you should diversify your reading.

Now, having seen the benefits, there is a trait that will greatly help you build the habit of reading diversely, and that is curiosity.

If you are curious, you will find it interesting and challenging to pick various topics to read. Curiosity will make reading diversely effortless. On the other hand, lack of curiosity will make reading diversely burdensome.

To ensure the diversity of your reading, you should also develop a reading plan. While you can always alter the plan later to accommodate new interests and insights, at least it gives you a clear direction to begin.

Here are three steps to develop a reading plan:

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Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 10:12 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Funny, in a bitter sort of way

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Read Glenn Greenwald today. Today’s “journalists” are… words fail me.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 9:54 am

Posted in Media

Preparing for your layoff

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If you’ve not been laid off, just wait. It will probably happen sooner or later. I blogged earlier about how to prepare, and this morning I saw more advice—overlapping, but good to keep in mind:

  • Stay in the Game – First and foremost, never stop looking for new career opportunities – even if your current job feels comfortable and secure. You never know when your dream job might open up. Keep your résumé updated and make sure that the right recruiters have your phone number. You should always have a passive job search in progress. That way, you’ll always enjoy a steady stream of job leads and you’ll have a head start on landing your next position if you get laid off. This may sound like obvious advice, but few people truly take it seriously until it’s too late. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled into a false sense of security. When the layoff rumors start buzzing, goose your passive job search and get a little more active about exploring your options.
  • Demonstrate Your Value – To increase your odds of hanging onto your current position, do whatever you can to show your manager the value that you provide. This is no time to be modest. Make sure you document your contributions and ensure that your boss understands how much harder her job would be without you.
  • Don’t Take Any of It Personally – While it doesn’t hurt to demonstrate your value (see above), keep in mind that even the most valuable employees can be laid off. Layoff decisions are based on many factors. Sometimes, it’s about who was hired last. Sometimes, it’s about who makes the most money. Sometimes, there is no clear reason for who winds up on the chopping block. Don’t let rumors and speculation mess with your head. There’s only so much you can do to influence whether or not your name will show up on the layoff list. Don’t waste energy obsessing about what might happen. Channel your energy into figuring out your Plan B.
  • Build Your Emergency Fund – Cut back on discretionary purchases and put as much of your paycheck into your emergency savings fund as you can. Financial planners recommend that you should have enough in your emergency fund to cover your expenses for between three and six months. Hopefully, if you do get laid off, youll also have a severance package that will help you pay the bills. However, the more you can sock away, the more peace of mind you’ll have if the ax falls. [This free budget builder may help. – LG]

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Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 9:38 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Make your own bitters

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This looks cool. From the link:

DIY Citrus Bitters

1/2 cup raisins
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1″ piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole allspice
750 ml high-proof rum, whiskey or vodka (around 150 proof, if you can manage it)

1. Combine spices, citrus and liquor.
2. Cover, refrigerate and soak for 1-4 weeks.
3. Strain into a clean jar of your choice.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 9:29 am

Salad advice

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Useful advice on salad making.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 9:25 am

Weekly Bento planner

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Taking your own lunch to work in a Bento box is a winner in several categories:

  • You save money
  • You can pick the foods you like
  • You can eat more healthfully
  • You get the pleasure of a nicely packed lunch

My own inclination would be to buy 5 bento boxes, not all alike, and make 5 lunches on Sunday afternoon and stack them in the fridge. Obviously, you then have to choose things that do not have to be prepared at the last minute, but that’s pretty easy. Also, the Monday and Tuesday lunches can have the more perishable things.

At any rate, here’s a little PDF planner for your week of Bento box lunches.

Also, some ideas for your bento lunch.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Your own teleprompter

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If you’re making a YouTube video, trying to wing the dialogue is risky: too likely that you will end up stammering, having fallen off your train of thought. What you need is an on-screen teleprompter.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 8:55 am

Blue Monday

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The blue in this case is from the Wilkinson shave stick, which is blue. But the lather, brought forth by the Simpsons Commodore X3 best, was white, and the Edwin Jagger Chatsworth with an Astra Superior Platinum blade did a fine job of restoring the visage to pristine smoothness. I should have used Blue Floïd to continue the theme, but I picked up the regular Floïd instead: very nice finish.

Nowadays it’s hard for me to remember shaving as a chore. Every morning’s shave is a delight. Hope it’s the same for you.

Written by Leisureguy

21 January 2008 at 8:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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