Later On

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

Archive for March 15th, 2008

How to prepare Absinthe

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Just in case you need to know. (Love the accent.)

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Daily life

What sex is your brain?

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Take the test and see.

Some researchers say that men can have ‘women’s brains’ and that women can think more like men.

Find out more about ‘brain sex’ differences by taking the Sex ID test, a series of visual challenges and questions used by psychologists in the BBC One television series Secrets of the Sexes:

  • Get a brain sex profile and find out if you think like a man or a woman.
  • See if you can gaze into someone’s eyes and know what they’re thinking.
  • Find out why scientists are interested in the length of your fingers.
  • See how your results relate to theories about brain sex.

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 12:22 pm

A woman, from the inside out

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Art

Climate change and transportation

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Looking bad:

While every mode of transportation in the U.S. will be affected as the climate changes, potentially the greatest impact on transportation systems will be flooding of roads, railways, transit systems, and airport runways in coastal areas because of rising sea levels and surges brought on by more intense storms, says a new report from the National Research Council.  Though the impacts of climate change will vary by region, it is certain they will be widespread and costly in human and economic terms, and will require significant changes in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation systems.

The U.S. transportation system was designed and built for local weather and climate conditions, predicated on historical temperature and precipitation data.  The report finds that climate predictions used by transportation planners and engineers may no longer be reliable, however, in the face of new weather and climate extremes.  Infrastructure pushed beyond the range for which it was designed can become stressed and fail, as seen with loss of the U.S. 90 Bridge in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“The time has come for transportation professionals to acknowledge and confront the challenges posed by climate change, and to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge into the planning of transportation systems,” said Henry Schwartz Jr., past president and chairman of Sverdrup/Jacobs Civil Inc., and chair of the committee that wrote the report.  “It is now possible to project climate changes for large subcontinental regions, such as the Eastern United States, a scale better suited for considering regional and local transportation infrastructure.”

The committee identified five climate changes of particular importance to U.S. transportation; 1) increases in very hot days and heat waves; 2) increases in Arctic temperatures; 3) rising sea levels; 4) increases in intense precipitation events; and 5) increases in hurricane intensity.

In addition to climate changes, there are a number of contributing factors that will likely lead to vulnerabilities in coastal-area transportation systems.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 12:00 pm

Global warming watch

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Despite all the denial, states are starting to get it. Wonder whether Senator James Inhofe has stopped calling it all a hoax.

New Orleans utility Entergy has looked into the future, and the Katrina-scarred company is worried by what it sees. More devastating hurricanes like Katrina. Heat waves. Seas rising as much as six feet, flooding everything south of Interstate 10, now 50 miles inland. “The consensus is pretty much in. Climate change is happening and we must plan for that,” says Randy Helmick, Entergy’s vice-president for transmission.

Entergy is one of the leaders in a growing effort to plan for a world reshaped by climate change. The utility is proposing steps such as strengthening transmission poles and shoring up substations. Alaska, Florida, Maryland, and other states have initiatives to cope with rising sea levels. “With 1,350 miles of coastline, we have to be concerned about this issue,” says Florida Governor Charlie Crist. In the U.S. West, normally fractious agencies are banding together to protect water supplies threatened by droughts, smaller accumulations of snow, and altered rainfall patterns.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 11:28 am

Globalization and Boeing

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DoD set the selection criteria, and Boeing lost. So, naturally, Boeing is fighting on other grounds than the selection criteria. But…

When is globalization a dirty word? When a consortium led by Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence & Space (EADS), the parent company of Airbus, bests hometown hero Boeing in the competition for a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract for airborne refueling planes. Ever since the decision was announced on Feb. 29, Americans from Seattle to Capitol Hill have railed about lost jobs and the security risks in outsourcing production of military gear to foreign companies. Boeing filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office on Mar. 11—its first such filing in more than 30 years—citing “irregularities” in the bidding process.

Yet Boeing itself serves as a case study in how globalization can cut both ways. By its own admission, the $66 billion company could never stay competitive if it were not for the benefits of global alliances. Around 60% of the components of all Boeing commercial models are supplied by foreign contractors, and that rises to 70% on its new 787 Dreamliner. “It’s a little hard [for critics] to complain about foreign content on the future tanker when Boeing’s Dreamliner was designed for manufacture by a global supply chain,” observes defense analyst Loren B. Thompson of Lexington Institute, a public policy think tank.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 11:17 am

Posted in Business, Government

Outsourcing healthcare

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For years, Americans have been traveling abroad to save money on elective procedures or dental work. David Boucher, 49, doesn’t fit the usual profile for such medical tourists. An assistant vice-president of health-care services at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of South Carolina, he has ample health benefits. But Boucher recently chose to have a colonoscopy at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, mainly to make a point about the expanding options available to Blue Cross customers. And his company happily picked up the $640 tab—a bargain by U.S. standards.

Blue Cross and other insurers would like to see more policyholders traveling abroad for medical care. Since the start of the year, Boucher has signed alliances with seven overseas hospitals and hopes to add five more by yearend, including them all in coverage for his company’s 1.5 million members. As health-care costs continue to rise in the U.S., “medical travel is going to be part of the solution,” he says.

Yes, just like manufacturing facilities and call centers, health care is moving offshore. “All of the largest U.S. insurers are starting to educate themselves or are putting [offshore] programs in place,” says Jonathan Edelheit, president of the Medical Tourism Assn., an industry group formed just last year. Companies that self-insure are also bombarding Edelheit’s group with requests for information.

Getting covered employees to leave the U.S. won’t be that hard, says Edelheit. An insurance company could waive all deductibles and co-pays, offer to cover travel costs for the patient and family members, even throw in a cash incentive, and still save tens of thousands of dollars. After all, a heart procedure that costs $100,000 in the U.S. runs only $10,000 to $20,000 at some of the best private hospitals in Asia. And the quality of care? Foreign hospitals in such arrangements are typically approved by Joint Commission International, part of the same nonprofit organization that accredits American hospitals.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 11:10 am

Credit cards

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Credit cards

Or, equivalently (and not switching the metric from cards per person to persons per card, as the graphic does):

5.000 cards per person: US
0.400 cards per person: Brazil
0.169 cards per person: Russia
0.030 cards per person: China
0.015 cards per person: India

On another (perhaps related) note: 1€ now is worth US$1.56.

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 10:58 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Election math

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It’s extremely difficult to define election rules that will always result in “good” results:

When Ralph Nader recently announced he was entering the 2008 presidential race, many Democrats groaned. It was his fault, they say, that George Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000. But Nader retorted that the Democratic Party has only itself to blame for the loss in 2000.

Mathematicians offer a different perspective. The problem, they say, doesn’t lie with Nader or with the Democrats. It lies with our voting system.

Complaints about the obscure Electoral College system are common, but the mathematicians’ objection is even more basic. Presidential elections in the United States are decided using a variation of a method known as plurality voting: each person votes for one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins.

Seems like the obvious approach—but obvious doesn’t always mean effective. “The plurality vote is pretty much the worst voting system there is,” says Donald Saari, a mathematician at the University of California, Irvine.

The 2000 election gave a vivid demonstration of plurality voting’s limitations. Polls indicated that most people who voted for Nader would have preferred Gore to Bush. The votes for Nader and Gore combined in Florida would have beat Bush. But with the votes divided between them, Bush emerged the winner.

Though this example is especially dramatic, Saari has found that determining voters’ preferences from their ballots is often tricky. For example, suppose three candidates, A, B, and C, are competing. The preferences of the voters are as follows:

  • 3 people rank A first, B second, and C third;
  • 2 people rank A first, C second, and B third;
  • 2 people rank B first, C second, and A third; and
  • 4 people rank C first, B second, and A third.

Plurality voting would name A the winner, with 5 votes.

On the other hand, suppose one wanted the candidate that was least disliked. Six people rank A last, two people rank B last, and three people rank C last, so in that case, B should win.

Yet another method would be to assign 2 points for a first place vote, 1 point for second place and none for third. In this method, known as the Borda count, C walks away the winner with 12 points, beating out B’s 11 points and A’s 10.

So who should win the election?

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 10:15 am

Posted in Election, Science

Cal Tjader, 1925-1982

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I really like Cal Tjader, who’s known mainly for Latin Jazz. He’s definitely worth listening to. He started out working with David Brubeck, whom he met in college (San Francisco State), who introduced him to Paul Desmond. Tjader primarily played the vibraphone, but also played drums, bongos, congas, timpani, and the piano.

“Soul Sauce” was one of his big hits.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz, Music

Getting along with Col. Conk

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I’ve not much cared for Col. Conk shaving soaps, though they are quite popular. But I’ve mostly tried the small format. Yesterday I came across a larger (3 3/4 oz.) puck in its little clear-plastic snap-open case, and so this morning I gave it a go. It was Amber (with Avocado Oil, a plus), and with the G.B. Kent BK4 I got an immediate and splendid lather. What went wrong earlier? Who knows? This time the lather was just fine.

I used the same razor and blade as yesterday—Gillette English open-comb Aristocrat with Treet Blue Special blade—and got a smooth, easy, and nick-free shave. For the Oil Pass I used Pacific Shaving Co.’s All Natural Shaving Oil, and the aftershave was the same as yesterday’s, since I enjoyed it so much: the Spanish Floïd.

Great shave. Haven’t felt this good since Friday morning.

Written by Leisureguy

15 March 2008 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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