Later On

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

Archive for March 16th, 2008

More tests from the BBC

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If you liked the test posted yesterday on “What sex is your brain?”, here are a few more along that line.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Sally Kern’s tirade and a response

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Sally Kern is an Oklahoma legislator who has some issues regarding homsexuality. She in fact has a gay son, whom she’s disowned. Here’s a tirade from her:

And here’s a response from an Oklahoma high-school student:

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 2:45 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Deliberate practice and personal finance

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Good post from The Simple Dollar:

Over at the New York Times Freakonomics blog, Stephen Dubner wrote about the use of deliberate practice in driving oneself to become very good at a particular skill. The three tenets of deliberate practice are:

1. Focus on technique as opposed to outcome.
2. Set specific goals.
3. Get good, prompt feedback, and use it.

Here’s a great way to think of it. Many people, when they want to learn how to play a guitar, pick it up and try to bang out some awful rendition of Stairway to Heaven. They’ll practice at that song some, trying it over and over again, and they might eventually figure out how to make it passable, but playing anything else is going to be rather difficult and the person (unless they have obscene natural talent) will never get good enough to play in front of others and earn a positive reaction.

On the other hand, if you sit down for an hour and just work on a single chord, then spend another hour just working on one other cord, then spend two or three hours alternating between the two, you’ll begin to master the basics of how to actually play a lot of things. Add a third chord to that and you can play most of Tom Petty’s songbook. Add a couple more and you can play virtually every well-known pop and rock song of the last sixty years.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life

A test for Parkinson’s disease

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So far, there is no medical test the specifically diagnoses Parkinson’s disease. It is normally established by ruling out other possibilities. But that may change:

A “metabolomic” profile of 1,860 molecules in the blood identifies people with Parkinson’s disease.

With further refinement and validation, the technique could become the first test for Parkinson’s disease. That would be a big boost for doctors, who need a test to diagnose and track the progression of this neurodegenerative disease.

A definitive test would also help researchers looking for Parkinson’s treatments. Currently, clinical trials of promising treatments are confounded by uncertainty as to whether all the patients actually have Parkinson’s.

“Metabolomics” is the study of molecules thrown off by the body’s many metabolic processes. The idea is that specific diseases cause typical changes in the body — and have a unique metabolomic profile, suggests study researcher M. Flint Beal, MD, chairman and professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Using state-of-the-art screening, Beal and colleagues first compared unmedicated Parkinson’s patients to control patients. Then they used the resulting profile to test 66 Parkinson’s patients and 25 control patients.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

More on Shariah

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You’ll recall the recent controversy mentioned at the beginning of this article:

Last month, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture in London about whether the British legal system should allow non-Christian courts to decide certain matters of family law. Britain has no constitutional separation of church and state. The archbishop noted that “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land” there; indeed, ecclesiastical courts that once handled marriage and divorce are still integrated into the British legal system, deciding matters of church property and doctrine. His tentative suggestion was that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.

Then all hell broke loose. From politicians across the spectrum to senior church figures and the ubiquitous British tabloids came calls for the leader of the world’s second largest Christian denomination to issue a retraction or even resign. Williams has spent the last couple of years trying to hold together the global Anglican Communion in the face of continuing controversies about ordaining gay priests and recognizing same-sex marriages. Yet little in that contentious battle subjected him to the kind of outcry that his reference to religious courts unleashed. Needless to say, the outrage was not occasioned by Williams’s mention of Orthodox Jewish law. For the purposes of public discussion, it was the word “Shariah” that was radioactive.

In some sense, the outrage about according a degree of official status to Shariah in a Western country should come as no surprise. No legal system has ever had worse press. To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed. By contrast, who today remembers that the much-loved English common law called for execution as punishment for hundreds of crimes, including theft of any object worth five shillings or more? How many know that until the 18th century, the laws of most European countries authorized torture as an official component of the criminal-justice system? As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Government, Religion

Lovely thought: corned-beef burger

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This sounds good:

As St. Patty’s Day approaches our thoughts turn to thick slices of juicy corned beef, meltingly soft cabbage and fluffy boiled potatoes.  There’s nothing like good corned beef. When you cook it at home inevitably there are leftovers. I love a good corned beef hash or a thick sandwich as much as the next person. Occasionally though, I need a change of pace. Enter the corned beef burger.

To make this beauty we diced and shredded some leftover corned beef (what can I say, we couldn’t wait until Monday). We folded the cooked meat into some lean ground beef with a bit of cold, grated butter, a pinch of salt and a touch of cayenne pepper. We seared the burgers in a hot, dry pan allowing them to cook in their own rendered fats. The outsides crisped beautifully and the smell was intoxicating. While the burgers were resting we fried English muffins in the drippings and used them to cradle our patties.  The corned beef burger, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 12:00 pm

What happened, US?

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Things change:

The dollar plunged to new lows against foreign currencies this week. There are plenty of reasons for its plunge, but at the most basic level, the dollar’s weakness reflects the world’s collective, two-thumbs-down verdict about the ability of the United States—businesses, individuals, the government, the Federal Reserve—to manage the global financial system and the world’s largest economy. Countries that outsourced their monetary policy by pegging domestic currencies to the dollar are having second thoughts. Kuwait last year detached the dinar from the dollar, and Qatar government officials last week said they were considering doing the same with their currency. International financiers are unnerved by the toxic combination of “misplaced assumptions about housing, a lack of necessary regulation and irresponsible use of debt with sophisticated financial instruments,” said Ashraf Laidi, currency strategist at CMC Markets.

Dissing American financial management is an affront to national pride tantamount to standing in Rome and asking, loudly, if Italians are able to make pasta. The United States invented the concept and practice of running large, complex systems. Along with baseball and deep-frying, management is one of our great national pastimes. The world’s first MBAs were awarded by pioneering yuppie factories such as the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. (Wharton’s founding in 1881 was quickly followed by the world’s first time-share summer houses in the Hamptons.) Henry Ford’s revolutionary assembly line was the gold standard in global manufacturing for decades. Contemporary American institutions stand for excellence in managing everything from supply chains (Wal-Mart) to delivery services (Federal Express and UPS).

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 11:29 am

Women and Hillary

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Lynda Obst has an interesting take:

Women of my generation have clearly lost their minds. Not that I can blame them, apparently being invisible and all. Now with Geraldine Ferraro making outrageous nut-jobber remarks she doesn’t even seem to understand, and realizing our tragic generation was once proud of her as a “pioneer,” you can see how deluded we are as well. Worse, only this week, a heroine of mine, Tina Brown, got it utterly wrong in Newsweek, saying all boomer women had to be for Hillary. Tina drank the victim Kool Aid.So I want my peers to meet an original (begged for him to run) pro-Barack boomer 50-something careerist woman, who chose Barack above and beyond — hear me, Geraldine, you utter moron — from the best field of Democratic candidates we’ve had for years, many of whom I’ve been big fans of forever, for their various courageous stands on Central America (Dodd,) Iraq (Biden, Richardson and Kucinich.)

But Hillary? Never liked her. Many of my best friends and favorite women have always felt the same. Something unsettling about her. A feminist? Maybe. But a compromised one, having risen to fame as the victim of Monica and having been famously on bimbo eruptions in her White House patrol. She was the destroyer of Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers, the very blue collar ladies she is now being saved by. Kind of yucky, really. And hanging in there, through all the humiliation, and that making her a star. Left a bad taste in my mouth. Moving on.

What about my generation’s desperation that there will never be another female candidate? Why? Is our gender about to die out? Do you all know something I don’t? I can understand the 80-year-olds, I guess. But to me, Hillary Clinton is merely the first credible candidate, and the most flawed. And the only one not to rise on her own coattails, which is the real reason she doesn’t appeal to both me and many young, yes, in their own way, feminists. And what about Claire McCaskill? She’s great! And she just emerged this year! Why do we act like Hillary is our last great chance? How damaged and pathetic. I see fantastic women in their 30s all the time. To wit, Chelsea’s undamaged generation. Not polarizing, like us ceiling crashers. I can sympathize, I am, too.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 10:30 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

War is evitable

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A hopeful article, which begins:

Frans de Waal stands in a watchtower at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center north of Atlanta, talking about war. As three hulking male chimpanzees and a dozen females loll below him, the renowned primatologist rejects the idea that war stems from “some sort of blind aggressive drive.” Observations of lethal fighting among chimpanzees, our close genetic relatives, have persuaded many people that war has deep biological roots. But de Waal says that primates, and especially humans, are “very calculating” and will abandon aggressive strategies that no longer serve their interests. “War is evitable,” de Waal says, “if conditions are such that the costs of making war are higher than the benefits.”

War evitable? That is a minority opinion in these troubled times. For several years I’ve been probing people’s views about war. Almost everyone, regardless of profession, political persuasion, or age, gives me the same answer: War will never end. I asked 205 students at the college where I teach, “Will humans ever stop fighting wars, once and for all?” More than 90 percent said no. This pessimism seems to be on the rise; in the mid-1980s, only one in three students at Wesleyan University agreed that “wars are inevitable because human beings are naturally aggressive.”

Asked to explain their views, most fatalists offer variations on Robert McNamara’s remarks in the documentary The Fog of War. “I’m not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war,” said McNamara, who was the U.S. defense secretary during the Vietnam War. “We’re not going to change human nature any time soon.” War, in other words, is inevitable because it is innate, “in our genes,” as my students like to put it.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 9:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Creationism metastasizing

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Creationism is being pushed across the Atlantic. Ken Ham is, I hope, no relation to me.

After the Sunday service in Westminster Chapel, where worshipers were exhorted to wage “the culture war” in the World War II spirit of Sir Winston Churchill, cabbie James McLean delivered his verdict on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“Evolution is a lie, and it’s being taught in schools as fact, and it’s leading our kids in the wrong direction,” said McLean, chatting outside the chapel. “But now people like Ken Ham are tearing evolution to pieces.”

Ken Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis, a Kentucky-based organization that is part of an ambitious effort to bring creationist theory to Britain and the rest of Europe. McLean is one of a growing number of evangelicals embracing that message — that the true history of the Earth is told in the Bible, not Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”

Europeans have long viewed the conflict between evolutionists and creationists as primarily an American phenomenon, but it has recently jumped the Atlantic with skirmishes in Italy, Germany, Poland and, notably, Britain, where Darwin was born and where he published his 1859 classic.

Darwin’s defenders are fighting back. In October, the 47-nation Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, condemned all attempts to bring creationism into Europe’s schools. Bible-based theories and “religious dogma” threaten to undercut sound educational practices, it charged.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 9:02 am

Posted in Education, Religion

Watch those emails you write!

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NSA will be reading them:

The National Security Agency, once known for its skill in eavesdropping on the world’s telephone calls, is adapting to the times by “focusing on widespread monitoring of e-mail messages and text messages, recording of Web browsing, and other forms of electronic data-mining, all done without court supervision,” reports Declan McCullagh. “Taken together, those activities raise unique privacy and oversight concerns greater than those posed by large-scale monitoring of voice communications. … If the reports are correct, what this transactional-data-dragnet amounts to is a rebuilding of the Defense Department‘s Total Information Awareness program, which promised to do extensive warrantless data-mining to identify ‘information signatures’ that could identify criminals [and trouble-makers – LG].”
Source: The Iconoclast, March 11, 2008

The Surveillance Society: get used to it.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 8:35 am

Disney’s The Little Match Girl

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Via Razor and Brush’s board. Giovanni explains: ” Conceived by Roy Disney as an episode for “Fantasia 3”, a movie which was shelved, this animated short of Andersen’s “The little match girl” is a small masterpiece. Directed by Roger Allers. Moving and essential; the best thing to come out of the Disney studios in the last ten years, IMHO. A classic. Thanks, Roy!”

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 8:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Green Irish Tweed

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With St. Patrick’s Day in the offing, I thought Creed’s Green Irish Tweed was an ideal soap for today’s travel shave. With the Rooney Style 2 Finest, I got a fine lather and, still sticking with the Gillette open comb English Aristocrat and the Treet Blue Special blade, a very smooth and easy shave—the third one on that blade, as I recall. For the Oil Pass, Rituals Skincare shaving oil, and the aftershave was New York. Wonderful stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2008 at 8:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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