Later On

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

Archive for March 8th, 2008

Tort-lawyer procedural

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If you read mysteries, you soon become familiar with the police procedural: the mystery is written as an ensemble piece, with the technical details of the various police specialties front and center rather than the deductive intuition of a maiden aunt or scholarly eccentric. These are appealing because in fact most murders are solved by the police rather than by amateur and because the practical, factual details of police work are as fascinating as any craft.

I just finished John Grisham’s The Appeal, and it, too, is a procedural, but following tort law procedures and embellishments. Grishman writes a tight and persuasive novel, and the technical detail is gripping even if at times a bit didactic. Still, he carries it off, and it’s definitely a novel worth reading.

I got it from the library. The wait list was long, but moved rapidly. It’s a quick read, and one doesn’t want to put it down. Recommended.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Books

Pie-crust ice cream

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Of a sort:

Ritz Cracker Ice Cream

480g half and half
105g sugar
180g crumbled Ritz crackers
200g sour cream

Combine the sugar and the half and half and bring to a boil. Pour over the crumbled Ritz crackers and then stir in the sour cream. Puree in a blender and strain. Freeze in a Pacojet canister or chill and then process in an ice cream maker.

Eating this is like eating pie-crust ice cream. It captures all of the best qualities of the Ritz crackers and loses that slightly oily flavor that they sometimes have. I can imagine eating this with a fresh fruit compote as a kind of inverted pie a la mode. Even without gilding the lily, it’s simply delicious.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

TYD’s new favorite sandwich

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The Younger Daughter writes with this tempting creation:

Take 4 low-fat organic chicken nuggets and bake according to instructions.

Take 1/2 a whole wheat pita and smear 1 Tbsp blue cheese dressing inside.

Add 1/2-3/4 cup undressed coleslaw (shredded cabbage and a little carrot)

Sprinkle slaw with Frank’s Buffalo Wing Hot Sauce. [My local supermarket carries this, so check around. – LG]

Add cooked nuggets and sprinkle again with more hot sauce.

The combination of cool slaw and hot nuggets, the sweetness of the cabbage, tartness and creaminess of dressing with hotness of hot sauce = very nice.

ca. 320 cal.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 7:03 pm

Keep the consumers in the dark

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The Bush Administration, the GOP in general, and Big Business agree on one thing: keep consumers as uninformed as possible. For example, Martha Rosenberg notes in Common Dreams today:

At least 10,000 food distributors sold recalled meat from the shuttered Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino, CA including ConAgra, General Foods, Nestle and H.J. Heinz and it could still be on store shelves.

But Richard Raymond, USDA undersecretary for food safety, told an incredulous House Appropriation’s agriculture panel this week the information is “proprietary” and would not be released.

Naming names could drive customers away and just “confuse” people say trade groups like the American Meat Institute, Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The Bush Administration also opposes publicizing retailers’ names in meat recalls.

But an appeal to protectionism was not what the panel wanted to hear.

“This is a very, very critically important issue,” said Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-New York) demanding a list of implicated distributors by next week. “If we have stores that are selling bad products, we should know about it.”

This is not the first time shield laws have protected industry profits at the price of public health during mad cow scares.

Shield laws protected the identities of Texas and Alabama ranches that produced mad cows in 2004 and 2006 and the identities of 11 restaurants in nine California counties that served meat from a confirmed mad cow in late 2003.

That’s why former state Sen. Jackie Speier backed a California law in 2006 which compelled distributors of recalled food products to disclose where those products went.

This week a 120 page list of over 400 restaurants and food services that bought Hallmark/Westland meat including Costco, Jack in the Box and Taco Bell appears on the California Department of Public Health web site. Officials say the list is growing.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 5:00 pm

Where does the money go?

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You know the feeling: you went to the ATM, made a few stops, get home, and check your wallet/purse: $3.00 left, along with some change. Where did the money go? Well, William Hartung tries to figure out where the money went for the Iraq War. (Excerpt from article in the 8 Mar 2008 Asia Times.)

… How about breaking those soaring trillions [$5 trillion estimated as total amount that will be spent on the Iraq war, budgetary, economic and societal – LG] down into smaller pieces, into mere millions and billions? How much, for instance, does one week of Bush’s wars cost?

Glad you asked. If we consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan together – -which we might as well do, since we and our children and grandchildren will be paying for them together into the distant future — a conservative single-week estimate comes to $3.5 billion. Remember, that’s per week!

By contrast, the whole international community spends less than $400 million per year on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the primary institution for monitoring and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; that’s less than one day’s worth of war costs. The US government spends just $1 billion per year securing and destroying loose nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials, or less than two days’ worth of war costs; and Washington spends a total of just $7 billion per year on combating global warming, or a whopping two weeks’ worth of war costs.

So, perhaps you’re wondering, what does that $3.5 billion per week actually pay for? And how would we even know? The Bush administration submits a supplemental request — over and above the more than $500 billion per year the Pentagon is now receiving in its official budget — to pay for the purported costs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and for the global “war on terror”. If you can stay awake long enough to read the whole 159-page document for 2008, it has some fascinating revelations.

For example, …

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Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 4:50 pm

Recession prediction from August 2006

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Pretty clear:

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 12:13 pm

For you map-lovers

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Very cool:

“NOT FOR NAVIGATIONAL USE” the site says in very large red letters. Also in red: “Facsimile prints and reprints of these historical maps and charts are NOT available.” Um, okay. If you can get past that, you can search a database of over 21,000 digitized maps and charts from 1747 to 2001. It’s available here.

You can search by keyword, by state or region (these maps are international), type (from aeronautical chart to topographic index), year, or chart number. I did a search for maps in Maryland and got 813 results. Results come in a table and I can’t tell how they’re sorted. It does appear that all the results show on a single page, which is handy when you’re trying to find the oldest map, but it does mean you might have to wait a few minutes for it to load.

I finally settled on a State of Maryland nautical chart from 1840. The search results show the region that the map covers (in this case, MD-VA-DC-DE) and offer a preview link for the map. Click that and you’ll get a Flash-based Zoomify map that lets you zoom in and out, drag it around, etc. If you want to download the map you can get a SID version or a JPG. The downloads were free and didn’t require any registration.

If you’d like to explore these maps but can’t think of any queries, I suggest browsing the map types. There are 29 Civil War maps (including several troop movement maps), one “sketch” map, a couple of pocket maps, etc. Alas, there are not yet any City Plans marked as such in the database, and a couple of the other map types are empty too.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Tagged with

Chico Hamilton

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Chico Hamilton was born in 1921 and has an impressive reputation as a jazz drummer. Wikipedia notes his innovations:

Chico’s impact upon jazz includes the introduction of two unique and distinct sounds: first in 1955 with his Original Quintet which combined the sounds of his drums, the bass of Carson Smith, the guitar of Jim Hall, the cello of Fred Katz, and the flute of Buddy Collette; and the second in 1962 with his own drums, the bass of Albert Stinson, the guitar of Gabor Szabo, the tenor sax of Charles Lloyd, and the trombone of George Bohanon.

Here is the first quintet performing at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958:

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Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 10:08 am

Posted in Jazz, Music

The geometry of music

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Music and geometry have been closely associated since the time of Classical Greece—and we’re still learning:

The connection between mathematics and music is often touted in awed, mysterious tones, but it is grounded in hard-headed science. For example, mathematical principles underlie the organization of Western music into 12-note scales. And even a beginning piano student encounters geometry in the “circle of fifths” when learning the fundamentals of music theory.

But according to Dmitri Tymoczko, a composer and music theorist at Princeton University, these well-known connections reveal only a few threads of the hefty rope that binds music and math. To grasp the true structure of music, he says, we need to understand the geometry of hyperdimensional objects. Doing so has given him new ways of understanding pieces of music that have long baffled theorists and even led him to new insights into the history of music.

Tymoczko compares the structure of music to the shape of a rock face that a rock-climber is scrambling up. “If you know the conditions of the rock face, you can predict the motions of the climber,” he says. “The structure of the space makes certain choices overwhelmingly natural or convenient. There’s something similar that goes on with music. When you think about things abstractly, you can come to understand that the directions that music went aren’t completely arbitrary. Composers are exploring the possibilities that musical space presents them with.”

Tymoczko built on familiar geometrical analogs for music. For example, musical pitch is often imagined as lying on a line with low notes to the left and high notes to the right. Furthermore, as pitches go higher and higher, the notes repeat in different octaves, such that a low C, a middle C, and a high C all sound very similar. Often, the exact octave of a particular note doesn’t matter very much in music. Instead, musicians commonly visualize a “pitch class circle,” which comes from the original line by gluing together each point of the line that represents the same note in different octaves. So low C, middle C, and high C, for example, would all be glued together.

Applying the same kind of reasoning to complete pieces of music, Tymoczko created a geometric space in which he could analyze a piece of music with two notes being played simultaneously. He started with a piece of paper and made the horizontal direction represent the pitch of one note and the vertical direction represent the pitch of the other. A piece of music with two voices would correspond to dots moving around in this space.

Then he modified the space to embed musical structure within it. First, Tymoczko used the same method musicians used to create the pitch circle. He glued the left edge of the page to the right edge, turning the horizontal lines into circles and creating a cylinder from the whole page. Then he glued the bottom end of the cylinder to the top, turning the vertical lines into circles as well and creating a donut shape from the entire page.

Next, he noted that the order of the notes in a chord doesn’t much matter. That means that the point on his page that has C in the horizontal direction and E in the vertical direction is really the same as the point that has E in the horizontal direction and C in the vertical direction. So he took his space and glued all those points together. It takes a bit of effort to visualize it, but for two simultaneous notes, this turns the donut shape into a Möbius strip.

Read the rest of the article and see many interesting diagrams here.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 10:01 am

Posted in Music, Science

For your next colonoscopy

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The joys of aging…  At any rate, you might ask about the following when you next have a colonoscopy:

The fight against colorectal cancer, by most accounts, is going well. With colonoscopy, doctors can prevent most of these malignancies by detecting and removing polyps, growths along the colon that can be precancerous. But some people who have had polyps removed or who have gotten a clean checkup still get diagnosed as having colorectal cancer a few years later.

A new study suggests that these out-of-the-blue cancers may arise from nonpolyp growths. Such tissues are less conspicuous than polyps, but the new data suggest that they occur with some regularity and might be more dangerous than polyps.

Researchers in Japan first noticed nonpolyp growths in colonoscopies during the 1980s and 1990s. The growths were typically flat patches of colon or rectal lining that were reddish and slightly deformed, showing patterns of disrupted blood vessels. As with polyps, some of these tissues showed abnormal growth, and Japanese doctors have since devised an easy technique for removing them during a colonoscopy.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Moses high on Mt. Sinai?

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Interesting speculation:

A speculative hypothesis is presented according to which the ancient Israelite religion was associated with the use of entheogens (mind-altering plants used in sacramental contexts). The hypothesis is based on a new look at texts of the Old Testament pertaining to the life of Moses. The ideas entertained here were primarily based on the fact that in the arid areas of the Sinai peninsula and Southern Israel there grow two plants containing the same psychoactive molecules found in the plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew Ayahuasca is prepared. The two plants are species of Acacia tree and the bush Peganum harmala. The hypothesis is corroborated by comparative experiential-phenomenological observations, linguistic considerations, exegesis of old Jewish texts and other ancient Mideastern traditions, anthropological lore, and ethnobotanical data.

Full article (PDF file).

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:45 am

Posted in Religion, Science

The subservient US press

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At least in the US, journalists know their place, which is never to question those in power, but to do all they can to avoid displeasing them. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column on this topic today:

The most interesting part of the controversy over Obama advisor Samantha Power’s referring to Hillary Clinton as a “monster” — one might say the only interesting part — is that immediately after Power said it, she tried to proclaim that it was “off the record.” Here was Power’s exact quote:

She is a monster, too –- that is off the record –- she is stooping to anything.

But the reporter who was interviewing her, Britain’s Gerri Peev of The Scotsman, printed the comment anyway — as she should have, because Peev had never agreed that any parts of the interview would be “off the record,” and nobody has the right to demand unilaterally, and after the fact, that journalists keep their embarrassing remarks a secret.It’s extremely likely, though, that had Power been speaking to a typical reporter from the American establishment media, her request to keep her comments a secret would have been honored. In one of the ultimate paradoxes, for American journalists — whose role in theory is to expose the secrets of the powerful — secrecy is actually their central religious tenet, especially when it comes to dealing with the most powerful. Protecting, rather than exposing, the secrets of the powerful is the fuel of American journalism. That’s how they maintain their access to and good relations with those in power.

Illustrating that point as vividly as anything I can recall, MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson had Peev on his show last night and angrily criticized her publication of Power’s remarks. Carlson upbraided Peev for her lack of deference to someone as important as Power, and Peev retorted by pointing out exactly what that attitude reflects about Carlson and the American press generally (via LEXIS; h/t Mike Stark):

CARLSON: What — she wanted it off the record. Typically, the arrangement is if someone you’re interviewing wants a quote off the record, you give it to them off the record. Why didn’t you do that?PEEV: Are you really that acquiescent in the United States? In the United Kingdom, journalists believe that on or off the record is a principle that’s decided ahead of the interview. If a figure in public life.

CARLSON: Right.

PEEV: Someone who’s ostensibly going to be an advisor to the man who could be the most powerful politician in the world, if she makes a comment and decides it’s a bit too controversial and wants to withdraw it immediately after, unfortunately if the interview is on the record, it has to go ahead.

CARLSON: Right. Well, it’s a little.

PEEV: I didn’t set out in any way, shape.

CARLSON: Right. But I mean, since journalistic standards in Great Britain are so much dramatically lower than they are here, it’s a little much being lectured on journalistic ethics by a reporter from the “Scotsman,” but I wonder if you could just explain what you think the effect is on the relationship between the press and the powerful. People don’t talk to you when you go out of your way to hurt them as you did in this piece.

Don’t you think that hurts the rest of us in our effort to get to the truth from the principals in these campaigns?

PEEV: If this is the first time that candid remarks have been published about what one campaign team thinks of the other candidate, then I would argue that your journalists aren’t doing a very good job of getting to the truth. Now I did not go out of my way in any way, shape or form to hurt Miss Power. I believe she’s an intelligent and perfectly affable woman. In fact, she’s — she is incredibly intelligent so she — who knows she may have known what she was doing.

She regretted it. She probably acted with integrity. It’s not for me to decide one way or the other whether she did the right thing. But I did not go out and try to end her career.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:23 am

Posted in Media

Bush uses to veto to continue torture

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Torture is very important to President Bush, and he is vetoing a bill that would restrict the CIA to interrogation techniques that the Military finds completely adequate. The problem, from Bush’s view, is that those techniques fail to include torture. The story:

President Bush said today he vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation methods such as waterboarding to break suspected terrorists because it would end practices that have prevented attacks.”The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror,” Bush said in his weekly radio address taped for broadcast today. “So today I vetoed it,” Bush said. The bill provides guidelines for intelligence activities for the year and includes the interrogation requirement. It passed the House in December and the Senate last month.

“This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe,” the president said.

Supporters of the legislation say it would preserve the United States’ ability to collect critical intelligence and raise country’s moral standing abroad.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would work to override Bush’s veto next week. “In the final analysis, our ability to lead the world will depend not only on our military might, but on our moral authority,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.

But based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it would be difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back the veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the House vote was 222-199 and the Senate’s was 51-45.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush often warns against ignoring the advice of U.S. commanders on the ground in Iraq. Yet the president has rejected the Army Field Manual, which recognizes that harsh interrogation tactics elicit unreliable information, said Reid, D-Nev.

“Democrats will continue working to reverse the damage President Bush has caused to our standing in the world,” Reid said.

Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said Bush “will go down in history as the torture president” for defying Congress and allowing the CIA to use interrogation techniques “that any reasonable observer would call torture.”

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Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:19 am

More Rituals

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My previous shave was with the Rituals Skincare products, and I promised a second go-around to see whether I could improve the lather from their coconut oil shaving “cream”—it’s really more a soap than a cream, it seems to me, somewhat the consistency of Virgilio Valobra soft-soap shaving cream.

This time I used the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super and made sure that the brush was fully charged with the soap. I got a good lather that did last through 3 passes, though the character of the lather is not quite the same as that of a regular soap or shaving cream. Still, it was fully functional.

The razor was again the Edwin Jagger ivory-handled Chatsworth, still with the Polsilver blade. Three passes, then the Rituals Skincare shave oil, and a finish with the Organic Milk and Honey Lotion—a real winner, that one.

Very nice shave, and my skin feels good.

Written by Leisureguy

8 March 2008 at 9:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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