Later On

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

Archive for January 22nd, 2008

Exercise lowers mortality rates

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One of those things I know but find hard to do:

Increased exercise capacity reduces the risk of death in African-American and Caucasian men, researchers reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The government-supported Veterans Affairs study included 15,660 participants and is the largest known to assess the link between fitness and mortality.

“It is important to emphasize that it takes relatively moderate levels of physical activity — like brisk walking — to attain the associated health benefits. Certainly, one does not need to be a marathon runner. This is the message that we need to convey to the public,” said Peter Kokkinos, Ph.D., lead author of the study and director of the Exercise Testing and Research Lab in the cardiology department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

The Fascist direction of the American government

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I believe that it’s gotten beyond just the GOP.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 2:40 pm

Democrats: will they cave yet again?

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The Democrats have created a trap for themselves. As Greenwald points out, they will give up immediately so they won’t appear weak.

Time‘s Massimo Calabresi predicts the likely outcome of the imminent FISA and telecom immunity fight, to begin this week or next:

Congress will soon take up the far more contentious question of domestic eavesdropping. Last summer, it passed the Protect America Act (PAA), which was designed to modernize the 1978 law controlling electronic surveillance of Americans. After initially trying to block the bill, which expanded the government’s ability to track suspect individuals, Democrats caved. But in a last-ditch effort to placate civil libertarians, the Democrats attached a six-month sunset on the old law. That six-month extension ends Feb. 1 and the pressure is on for a permanent fix for the 1978 law. Democrats find themselves in the same corner they were in last summer: on the one hand their base demands they block expanded domestic spying powers for the Bush Administration; on the other, they can’t risk looking soft on terrorism, especially nine months before national elections. Senate majority leader Harry Reid is angling for another month’s extension of the PAA, but that would only give the Republicans a third bite at the apple in late February.

The bitterest point of contention for Democrats will be the same question that divided them last summer: immunity for telecom companies that complied with Bush Administration requests for access to American phone and e-mail traffic without warrants after 9/11. After news of the Bush program broke, civil liberties groups brought cases against the companies, and since then the telecoms have in some cases refused to help the U.S. intelligence community further. Bush has said he will veto any bill that doesn’t grant the telecoms immunity. The Democrats are split on the issue. Smart money bets the Democrats will cave again — the only question is how much they fight before doing so.

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 2:36 pm

This is cool

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But I like the Aptera better:

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 12:32 pm

Do you feel safer now?

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Harassing citizens is supposed to make us feel safer? Read this.

Our republic is in a sad state.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 12:27 pm

Back from endocrinologist

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And not terribly good news. All readings are good except that my HbA1c went from 5.7% to 6.5% (over a period of 6 months). That’s okay, but I really like to keep it under 6.0%. So (a) I’m back on glipizide, and (b) I must start walking and reducing calories. The lessons we already know are sometimes the hardest to apply.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Aptera again

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I was thinking about the Aptera and how it was classified as a motorcycle—and then I recalled that motorcycles with a single driver can use the carpool lane. Brilliant! California stopped issuing the stickers that allowed high-mileage cars (e.g., the Prius) to use the carpool lane with only the driver aboard, but the Aptera wouldn’t require a sticker!

Then I saw that they already knew that.

I want one.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 10:47 am

Brown-tape art

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Extremely cool.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in Art

Free language instruction on the Web

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I thought it would be useful to collect in a single post the various sites that offer free language instruction. UPDATE: See also this post on learning a language. And see this post for the 400-odd words must useful on a daily basis.

The Foreign Service Institute language courses — developed with taxpayer money and in the public domain.

Mango language courses

Babbel language courses

LiveMocha language courses — This one seems quite good.

Forvo — Pronunciation of foreign words for a wide variety of languages.

EduFire (Not yet active, but you can sign up to be notified. In the meantime, EduFire offers blogs and podcasts to help in learning a variety of languages—links found here.)

Rosetta Stone — not normally free, but your library may offer free access through their on-line catalog. Check it out. At my library, a title search (on the on-line catalog) on “Rosetta Stone” had as one hit the language courses, and clicking that took me here. To register, I just enter my library card number.

Master list of free on-line courses — these include free language courses (including iTunes courses)

LearnItLists — Learn a language a few words per day.

A ranking of free foreign language courses on the Web — Useful information.

8 Free Online Resources for Learning a New Language — More free courses.

Valodas — Another free language-learning site.

Esperanto — Turns out to be highly effective as a first foreign language—makes subsequent languages easier to learn and to use: An experiment in Finland showed that students who took a year of Esperanto followed by two years of German learned more German and used it more fluently than students who took three years of German. More Esperanto courses here.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 10:01 am

Medical marijuana update

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I got a call last night from Marijuana Policy Project and learned a couple of things:

  1. The physician is totally protected. The one at risk is the dispensary and the patient.
  2. There’s an excellent Web site giving more guidance, including state-specific guidance.

Physician totally protected:

Oregon doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to their patients without fear of punishment from the federal government, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The high court on Tuesday declined the Bush administration’s request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending marijuana to sick patients.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had ruled that such action by the government violated the right of physicians to speak candidly to patients without fear of government sanctions.

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, who is responsible for upholding Oregon laws, sees the U.S. Supreme Court decision as a clear-cut victory for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, spokesman Kevin Neely said.

“Under this decision, physicians in Oregon are free to speak with their patients about the use of medicinal marijuana,” he said. “There is no doubt.”

Todd Dalotto, president and co-founder of Compassion Center, a Eugene medical marijuana clinic, said the court’s decision to let stand the appeals court ruling was “one of the best things that’s happened to Oregon’s medical marijuana patients” since voters created the medical marijuana program by approving a 1998 ballot initiative.

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 9:24 am

Fashion notes: Balenciaga

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I’m not really fashion-conscious, but I thought this review was quite interesting:

On an icy mid-morning in February 1947, after seven seedy years of privation and shame, Paris and its most important industry came exuberantly back to life. In what remains the most famous fashion show in history, the new House of Dior presented its inaugural collection in its Louis XVI salon. In steady tempo, model after model swirled in dresses and suits in neutrals and luscious colors with tight bodices and wasp waists, their long, profligately full, elaborately pleated skirts scattering the audience’s cigarette ashes as they flared open. Adopting the silhouette and requiring the intricate dressmaking art — and layers of underpinnings — of the Belle Epoch, the “New Look,” as Carmel Snow, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar, dubbed it on the spot, was in fact a defiant anachronism. But fashion instantly and effortlessly changed direction: the New York buyers who’d left for home before Dior’s launch had to turn around and sail back to France to put in their orders (“It took one swish of the hips and America was won,” the writer Colette said). More important, as several new books elliptically show, the New Look ushered in haute couture’s waning but most glorious era, even as Dior’s triumph — winsome and lovely in itself — helped take fashion and femininity down what has proved to be a pernicious path toward the frivolous and jejune.

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 9:00 am

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life

Hiding the dirty work

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Center for American Progress:

With less than a year remaining in President Bush’s term, the public is finally beginning to crack open the administration’s secrets. Last month, a federal judge ruled that a list of presidential visitors kept secret by the White House is actually a public record. On New Year’s Eve, Bush “bowed to lawmakers in his own party and signed a bill speeding the release of millions of government documents requested by Americans under the Freedom of Information Act.” More recently, a federal court order forced the White House to reveal its extensive destruction of presidential records. Officials acknowledged recycling backup computer tapes of e-mail before Oct. 2003, raising the possibility that these messages “are gone forever.” Perhaps not coincidentally, many of these days with missing e-mails correspond to important dates in the Valerie Plame CIA leak scandal and decisions on the Iraq war.

‘WE SCREWED UP’: The Presidential Records Act requires that the president “take all such steps as may be necessary to assure” that the activities of the White House “are adequately documented.” Under the Clinton administration, the White House adopted a custom archiving system known as the Automated Records Management System (ARMS). But shortly after taking office, the Bush administration scrapped ARMS, claiming the system was “flawed.” Despite proposing two other records-management systems in 2003 and 2004, neither was ever adopted. The White House “would not comment on why ARMS was eliminated.” Not only was the White House recording over “computer backup tapes that provided a last line of defense for preserving e-mails” between 2001 and 2003, but Press Secretary Dana Perino has admitted that between 2003 and 2005, five million e-mails were potentially lost. “We screwed up, and we’re trying to fix it,” Perino told reporters in April.

A newly released White House study from 2005 reveals that “no e-mail was archived on 473 days for various units of the Executive Office of the President” (EOP). Ann Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Wasington, has also learned that on average, the e-mail volume for the EOP is 60,000 to 100,000 per day. Yet under the Bush administration, “there are days for which the total volume was ‘as low as five daily e-mails.'” More significantly, these missing e-mails have important information about both the CIA leak scandal and the Iraq war. For example, in presidential offices, “not a single e-mail was archived on Dec. 17, 20, or 21 in 2003 — the week after the capture of Saddam Hussein.” Additionally, e-mails “were not archived for Vice President Cheney’s office on four days in early October 2003, coinciding with the start of a Justice Department probe into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.” Also missing are e-mails from Cheney’s office on Sept. 20, 2003, the day on which then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the President and Vice President’s staff to “preserve all materials that might be relevant” to a Justice Department probe on the Plame leak.

WHITE HOUSE DISSEMBLING: Last week, White House spokesman Tony Fratto inexplicably tried to claim that the White House has “absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing.” In response, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has scheduled a Feb. 15 hearing on these missing e-mails. In a letter requesting the testimony of White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Waxman wrote that Fratto’s comments “added to the considerable confusion that exists regarding the status of White House efforts to preserve e-mails.” The White House has also disavowed the 2005 study showing the missing e-mails, claiming that it “came from outside the White House.” The report, however, was produced by Alan R. Swendiman, the politically appointed director of the Office of Administration.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 8:55 am

Big Brains

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My Mind on Books spots an interesting book:

Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence by Gary Lynch and Richard Granger (Palgrave-MacMillan)

Our big brains, our language ability, and our intelligence make us uniquely human. But barely 10,000 years ago (a mere blip in evolutionary time) human-like creatures called “Boskops” flourished in South Africa. They possessed extraordinary features: forebrains roughly 50% larger than ours, and estimated IQs to match–far surpassing our own. Many of these huge fossil skulls have been discovered over the last century, but most of us have never heard of this scientific marvel.

Prominent neuroscientists Gary Lynch and Richard Granger compare the contents of the Boskop brain and our own brains today, and arrive at startling conclusions about our intelligence and creativity. Connecting cutting-edge theories of genetics, evolution, language, memory, learning, and intelligence, Lynch and Granger show the implications of large brains for a broad array of fields, from the current state of the art in Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders, to new advances in brain-based robots that see and converse with us, and the means by which neural prosthetics– replacement parts for the brain–are being designed and tested. The authors demystify the complexities of our brains in this fascinating and accessible book, and give us tantalizing insights into our humanity–its past, and its future.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 8:46 am

Posted in Books, Science

Economics of daily life

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Life often seems to defy logic. When a prostitute agrees to unprotected sex, or a teenage criminal embarks on a burglary, or a smoker lights another cigarette, we seem to be a million miles from what we would call rational behaviour. None of this makes sense – or does it? Tim Harford thinks it does. And by weaving stories from locations as diverse as a Las Vegas casino and a Soho speed-date together with insights from an ingenious new breed of economist, he aims to persuade you that we are all, in fact, surprisingly logical. Reading this book, you’ll discover that the unlikeliest of people – racists, drug addicts, revolutionaries and rats – comply with economic logic, always taking account of future costs and benefits, even if they don’t quite realise it. It even explains why your boss is overpaid…

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Shaved by a Tiger

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A Tiger razor blade, that is. Some shavers, I’ve discovered, really want to get to one brand of blades that they can use, and they stick with that brand, never venturing forth again. Others—and I am one—like to continue to try new blades, from curiosity and the possibility of finding a blade even better than the current best.

A stranger group are those who believe that they know all that is good: if someone tells them of a poet or a composer or even a blade that they have not heard of, they believe that the poet, composer, or blade cannot possibly be any good—or they would know about it. I’ve met several of this persuasion.

At any rate, I had never heard of the Tiger brand of blades—and when I did hear about it, I assumed it must be an Asian brand, possibly Southeast Asia. In fact, it’s a Czech blade. We’re told that first impressions are important, and the first shave with the Tiger blade was extremely good: smooth, easy, leaving a polished visage. This is a blade worth trying, IMHO. Scroll down here to learn more.

The razor was the 1940’s Gillette Aristocrat (a TTO design), the soap was Mama Bear’s Tuscan Memories because it’s dark, dreary, and raining, and I needed a lift, and the brush was the G.B. Kent BK4, a wonderful brush.

The lather was fine and fragrant, the shave went smoothly with no nicks or irritation, and I finished with Dominica Bay Rum. A good start.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2008 at 8:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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