Later On

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

Archive for February 18th, 2008

Molly Ivins said in 2006 she would not support HRC

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And she said it strongly:

I will not support Hillary Clinton for president
January 20, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas — I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It’s about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.

If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, “Look, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” Bobby Kennedy — rough, tough Bobby Kennedy — didn’t do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Fighting common sense, tooth and nail

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The one weapon that the GOP loves to use is fear: make people afraid, and people stop thinking. Here the GOP goes to work on drug laws:

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert warned that shorter crack-cocaine sentences will cause a “loss of the public’s trust and confidence in our criminal justice system”—a possibility that is only slightly less troubling than Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s claim that reduced sentences will mean that “1,600 convicted crack dealers, many of them violent gang members, will be eligible for immediate release into communities nationwide.”

These statements are scare tactics aimed at reversing a decision by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency responsible for setting sentencing rules in the federal courts, which has pegged March 3 as the first day federal prisoners doing time for crack offenses are eligible to petition for reduced sentences. This countdown comes just after the Commission’s introduction of less-harsh crack-sentencing standards in November, and the December announcement that this reduction will be applicable to inmates currently incarcerated as well as future offenders. The Justice Department, citing “public safety risks,” is trying to overturn the rule. But giving inmates the chance to obtain shorter sentences won’t spur a mass prison exodus: Judges will still decide which inmates deserve a reduction and which don’t. No one is guaranteed an early release.

As such, there’s little practical reason to be alarmed by the Commission’s decision. But what may be alarming—at least to the Bush administration—is that other crack-sentencing reforms are also possible. Senator Joe Biden (D-Del.) currently has a bill before Congress called the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act, which would eliminate the longstanding disparity in crack-cocaine and cocaine powder sentences, increase funding for drug treatment, and get rid of the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for crack-cocaine possession. It would also increase the amount of crack needed to trigger other mandatory minimums.

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 7:45 pm

PR for tobacco

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Ugly:

When the dangers of smoking first became widely known, cigarette companies secretly hired biomedical scientists to create confusion. A new study co-authored by TobaccoWiki editor Anne Landman shows that cigarette makers also used sociology to try to shift public opinion. The Social Costs/Social Values Project of the late 1970s and early 1980s paid respected philosophers, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists to develop pro-smoking arguments that avoided any mention of health or medicine. The resulting arguments included that smoking has positive social benefits, that cigarette taxes are regressive, that anti-tobacco advocates act out of self-interest, and that applying a cost-benefit analysis to smoking is inappropriate. Another project, the Associates for Research into the Science of Enjoyment or ARISE, recruited academics in the 1990s to counteract the information that cigarettes were addictive. ARISE “experts” were paid to attend conferences, write books and give interviews in which they said that smoking, drinking tea, shopping and eating chocolate all promoted good health by relieving stress.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 7:42 pm

Universities and tobacco

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Ugly:

A February 9 Los Angeles Times article about University of California, Los Angeles professor Edythe London taking a $6 million grant from Philip Morris to study the brains of child smokers and monkeys addicted to nicotine once again raises questions about the appropriateness of university researchers accepting tobacco industry funding. Philip Morris denied that they have a stake in this particular project, but the denial had little credibility since the company no doubt will benefit from understanding more about youth smoking and nicotine addiction. After all, the future of their business depends on these two topics. Still, we wonder why any person curious enough to be engaged in scientific research isn’t also curious enough to find out what’s in it for Philip Morris before they accept the funds? These days, the answer is as close as your computer.

Edythe London and UCLA may not have wanted to know (and after all, $6 million in grant money could stop a lot of people from wanting to know a lot of things), but I wanted to find out what worries Philip Morris so much that they pour such sums of money and tremendous effort into building relationships with prominent academics and universities, so I searched the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library using terms like “academic freedom,” “ethics in research,” and “data integrity,” all terms found in tobacco industry documents that discuss the importance of academic funding.

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 7:41 pm

Guanciale: meh? or not?

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I’ve now had Guanciale in various ways: small pieces sautéed in a green salad, in spaghetti carbonara, and today in pasta all’amatriciana. Taste is sort of heavy, and the fat is scary. On the whole, I prefer certain types of thick-cut bacon. Worth the experiment, not worth getting again—at least not for me.

UPDATE: Wait, maybe it’s okay. Here’s the idea: don’t think of it as bacon, and slice it thick. It’s too fat and the taste is too strong. Think of it as prosciutto and slice it very thinly. Then sauté those slivers, pour off the excess fat, and use in the dish. That seems to work.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Major advance in CO2 capture

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Important:

UCLA chemists report a major advance in reducing heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science.

The scientists have demonstrated that they can successfully isolate and capture carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, rising sea levels and the increased acidity of oceans. Their findings could lead to power plants efficiently capturing carbon dioxide without using toxic materials.

“The technical challenge of selectively removing carbon dioxide has been overcome,” said Omar M. Yaghi, UCLA’s Christopher S. Foote Professor of Chemistry and co-author of the Science paper. “Now we have structures that can be tailored precisely to capture carbon dioxide and store it like a reservoir, as we have demonstrated. No carbon dioxide escapes. Nothing escapes — unless you want it to do so. We believe this to be a turning point in capturing carbon dioxide before it reaches the atmosphere.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 11:24 am

The road not taken… what was it, again?

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Interesting:

Researchers have identified a key reason why people make mistakes when they try to predict what they will like. When predicting how much we will enjoy a future experience, people tend to compare it to its alternatives—that is, to the experiences they had before, might have later, or could have been having now. But when people actually have the experience, they tend not to think about these alternatives and their experience is relatively unaffected by them.

In new research funded by the National Science Foundation and presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, shares the findings in a presentation titled, “Why People Misimagine the Future: The Problem of Attentional Collapse.” The research was done with Carey Morewedge of Carnegie Mellon University, Karim Kassam of Harvard, Kristian Myrseth of the University of Chicago, and Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia.

“Our predicted enjoyment is strongly influenced by the mental comparisons we make,” Gilbert says. “We expect a family reunion to be dull if we compare it with a trip to Bermuda, and delightful if we compare it with working an extra shift. But these comparisons end up having relatively little influence on our actual experience of the family reunion because the acts of greeting relatives and grilling hamburgers demand our attention, leaving us little time to think about all the other things we might have done instead.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Privacy laws, state by state

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Important:

More than five years after California’s seminal data breach disclosure law, SB 1386, was enacted, not all states have followed suit. Eleven states still have not passed laws mandating that companies notify consumers when that company has lost the consumer’s personal data. One state, Oklahoma, does have a breach notification law, but it only applies to state entities that have lost data.

That leaves 38 states that have enacted some sort of breach disclosure law. This map will help you sort them out. Click on any state to see highlights from that state’s law. (The gray states do not yet have disclosure laws). For more explanation, see the text below the map.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

The British Museum extends its charm

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They’ve brought more of the collection on-line:

The British Museum has relaunched its website and made a large part of its collection available to view online.

Around 275,000 of the museum’s more than seven million treasures spanning two million years of history have already been uploaded to the new site, and the remaining items will follow over the coming months.

Matthew Cock, head of new media at the British Museum, told vnunet.com that the website was originally built in the mid-1990s and had evolved in a rather piecemeal fashion.

The museum decided to rebuild the site from the ground up to offer visitors a more complete experience of the world famous institution.

The initial batch consists of a large number of prints, drawings and other flat items, as well as information from the curatorial database used by the museum.

Additional images of 3D objects will be uploaded over the course of the next two years.

“The website is not merely a source of information about the museum, but a real insight into the collection and a natural extension of our core purpose,” said Mary Pitt, project manager of the internet services department at the British Museum.

The online shop has also been more tightly integrated into the site, and now offers ticketing and membership sales alongside a range of items for sale.

Vialtus Solutions, previously Pipex Business, helped the British Museum to bring the project to fruition.

The site runs on a six-server hosting platform, including two data servers, two web servers, one search engine server and one Internet Security and Acceleration server.

The new site also includes an educational section for kids, with online tours and explanations and an ‘ask the experts’ feature which enables kids to write in with questions.

The reference in the title is to Ira Gershwin‘s lyrics to “A Foggy Day (in London Town)”:

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Jazz

Sonic blaster: a less-than-lethal weapon

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Interesting:

  Last week, I was sitting in a hotel bar in Jerusalem when a fellow passenger on my tour told me there was a guy with us selling a supposedly less-lethal weapon.

“It works with sound frequencies,” he said.  “It’ll make you a sick.”

A puke ray? An honest-to-God puke ray? Right here in Jerusalem?

Well, more like a sonic blaster. Dr. Maurice Goldman, a retired dentist, is the U.S. managing director for Inferno, a line of products that markets itself as a “sound barrier.” The primary effect of the device, which sounds like a loud siren, is to force people to leave the protected area, he says. However, if the intruder doesn’t leave immediately, Inferno’s effects include “vertigo, nausea, and pain in the chest.”

The unit is made in Sweden, but Dr. Goldman has already sold a couple units to U.S. Special Operations Command, and he’s hoping soon to close a contract with the U.S. State Department, which would use the device in embassies. He also offered to let me try it out.

My old rule was: never volunteer to to be a test subject for a less-lethal weapon (or a lethal one for that matter). Life is short enough as it is, and my hearing and vision are important to me. But since breaking that rule over the summer with the “pain ray,” the Pentagon’s Active Denial System, I thought, well, why not?

Two days later, we sat in a hotel office, with Dr. Goldman (pictured above), holding the device. The version of Inferno he was demonstrating looked a bit like a long, slim speaker. You can’t take a pair of nail scissors on a plane these days, but Dr. Goldman has traveled around the world with Inferno and has had few, if any problems, boarding aircraft.

First, I dispatched Nathan, my husband, out of the room, using the logic that if it really did make us sick, one of us should be spared. Then I realized I needed pictures, so I called him back in, and without warning, Goldman turned the Inferno on.…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 11:01 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Prince Rupert’s drops

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When I was in high school or junior high, I read about Prince Rupert’s drops, but never saw one—good thing, too, or I would have immediately flicked the tail and been in bad trouble:

Prince Rupert’s Drops … are a glass curiosity created by dripping hot molten glass into cold water. The glass cools into a tadpole-shaped droplet with a long, thin, tail. The water rapidly cools the molten glass on the outside of the drop, while the inner portion of the drop remains significantly hotter. When the glass on the inside eventually cools, it contracts inside the already-solid outer part. This contraction sets up very large compressive stresses on the surface, while the interior of the glass is placed under tension. It can be said to be a kind of tempered glass.

The very high stress within the drop gives rise to unusual qualities, such as the ability to withstand a blow from a hammer on the bulbous end without breaking, while the drops will disintegrate explosively if the tail end is even slightly damaged. When this happens, the large amount of potential energy stored in the drop’s crystalline structure is released, causing fractures to propagate through the material at very high speed.

Recently an examination of the shattering of Prince Rupert’s Drops by the use of extremely high speed video (or so called “stop motion” techniques) done by Dr. Srinivasan Chandrasekar at Purdue University has revealed that the “crack front” which is initiated at the tail end, propagates in a disintegrating drop within the tensile zone towards the drop’s head at a very high velocity (~1450-1900 m/s, or up to ~4,200 miles per hour).

Due to glass’s inherent transparency, the internal stress within these objects can be demonstrated by viewing them through polarizing filters.

The drops were supposedly discovered around the 1640s by Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619–1682), grandson of James I and the nephew of Charles I of England. Legend has it that the king would often use the drops as a practical joke in his court. He would give a drop to a courtier and then break the tail, causing a small explosion in the hand of the then surprised person.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 10:56 am

Posted in Science

Yet more degradation of the environment

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The space junkyard (click thumbnail):

Space debris

Full story here.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 10:40 am

Posted in Environment, Science

The damage done by poverty

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Paul Krugman:

“Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain.” That was the opening of an article in Saturday’s Financial Times, summarizing research presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As the article explained, neuroscientists have found that “many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development.” The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child’s life.

So now we have another, even more compelling reason to be ashamed about America’s record of failing to fight poverty.

L. B. J. declared his “War on Poverty” 44 years ago. Contrary to cynical legend, there actually was a large reduction in poverty over the next few years, especially among children, who saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.

But progress stalled thereafter: American politics shifted to the right, attention shifted from the suffering of the poor to the alleged abuses of welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and the fight against poverty was largely abandoned.

In 2006, 17.4 percent of children in America lived below the poverty line, substantially more than in 1969. And even this measure probably understates the true depth of many children’s misery.

Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child’s brain.

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 9:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

A Special day (2/18)

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Normally on Mondays I use a shave stick, but this morning I was impelled to use QED’s wonderful Special 218. It’s a great shaving soap in any event, with a wonderful fragrance.

The English Rocket with the redoubtable 7 O’Clock in place was once more the tool. This time I was extremely careful of blade angle and skin tautness, and got a very smooth nick-free shave.

The Oil Pass utilized All Natural Shaving Oil, by Pacific Shaving Company. That particular shaving oil seems to have an emulsifier, and it blends right in with the water while still providing a slick and protective coating for the final touch-up. After the rinse and towel-dry, there is practically no oil feeling at all. But, oddly, I’ve now become to enjoy the oil feeling, so I actually preferred the others at this point. Once again, whatever menthol ANSO contains remained in the background and was no bother.

The aftershave was Alt Innsbruck, very nice.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 February 2008 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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