Later On

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

Archive for March 26th, 2008

Intro to the Aptera

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I want one.

And an interview with the CEO:

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 7:15 pm

There Bush goes again

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Putting in charge of cyber-security a person (undoubtedly a donor) who has zero cyber-security experience. This is at least consistent with the pattern of Bush appointments.

The Bush administration is planning to tap a Silicon Valley entrepreneur to head a new inter-agency group charged with coordinating the federal government’s efforts to protect its computer networks from organized cyber attacks.

Sources in the government contracting community said the White House is expected to announce as early as Thursday the selection of Rod A. Beckstrom as a top-level adviser based in the Department of Homeland Security. Beckstrom is an author and entrepreneur best known for starting Twiki.net, a company that provides collaboration software for businesses.

The new inter-agency group, which will coordinate information sharing about cyber attacks aimed at government networks, is being created as part of a government-wide “cyber initiative” spelled out in a national security directive signed in January by President Bush, according to the sources, who asked to remain anonymous because they did not have permission to talk publicly about the information.

The presidential directive expanded the intelligence community’s role in monitoring Internet traffic to protect against a rising number of attacks on federal agencies’ computer systems. According to the sources, the center will be charged with gathering cyber attack and vulnerability information from a wide range of federal agencies, including the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Defense Department. Beckstrom will report directly to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 4:21 pm

Recycling into furniture

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Some very cool stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good grief! Will Clinton stop at nothing?

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John Cole:

The big money Clinton backers, pissy that their candidate is doing poorly and stands no chance at winning unless the super-delegates overrule the voters, are putting the screws to Pelosi:

Twenty top Hillary fundraisers and donors have sent a scathing private letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, chastising her for publicly saying that the super-delegates should support the winner of the pledged delegate count and demanding that she say that they should make an “independent” choice.

Greg Sargent has the whole letter [at the link in first paragraph – LG].

As someone new to the party, I have to say the awesomeness of the Democratic circular firing squad really can not be explained to outsiders. You can try to explain it, but it just doesn’t sink in until you are actually a part of it. The Bush administration and Republican rule has been an unmitigated disaster for this country, and the Clinton camp seems dead set on making sure we get four more years of it. Bush’s poll number are worse than syphilis, and yet the Clinton campaign and their supporters keep making me yearn for the decency and the integrity of the say-anything Romney crowd.

This primary has truly been full of win for me, and a real eye-opener. While the GOP is turning lemons into lemonade with McCain, the Democrats are showing the world they know how to turn filet mignon into a shit sandwich. Impressive work.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Back from library, etc.

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Took a brief walk, augmented by parking at the extreme end of lots. On my trip to Baltimore, I learned from The Eldest that Eliot Pattison (note: NOT “Patterson”) has written several mysteries after his Edgar-award-winning debut, The Skull Mantra, which was excellent. So I checked the library (once I figured out how his name is spelled), and found that all were in the collection and all were available save the most recent (on which I now have a hold). I now have at home nos. 2 through 4:

  1. The Skull Mantra (1999)
  2. Water Touching Stone (2001)
  3. Bone Mountain (2002)
  4. Beautiful Ghosts (2004)
  5. Prayer of the Dragon (December 2007)

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Books

“Independent” (not) studies

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Ugly:

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that a particular chemical in plastic was not harmful, they used scientific studies to prove it. But they relied on just two studies that were funded by the Society of the Plastics Industry, a subsidiary of the American Chemistry Council. On the other hand, they ignored “hundreds of government and academic studies showing a chemical commonly found in plastic can be harmful to lab animals at low doses.” Of those two industry-funded studies, one “has never been published, and therefore never subjected to peer review; the second has been heavily criticized by researchers who say the results are inconclusive because of flawed experimental methods.” This only came to light when Michigan Democrats Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak, who leads a subcommittee, launched an investigation into the use of bisphenol A in containers used by infants and toddlers. “Anila Jacob, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group … said she was surprised that the FDA so openly admitted to relying on those two studies, particularly when one of them has never been published or released to the scientific world for review. ‘There’s a lack of transparency here,’ she said, adding that the agency’s reliance on these studies ‘doesn’t serve the public.'”
Source: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, March 21, 2008

This is typical of the problems that result when government regulatory agencies fall into the hands of strongly pro-business political parties, such as the GOP: independence goes by the board. Another example:
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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 1:50 pm

Filing the complaint against McCain

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Extremely nice heating pad

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When you need a heating pad, you need one. This one from Cool Tools looks very nice indeed:

Finally a digital heating pad that can maintain a temperature you set — not just one of three arbitrary settings. This heating pad has a range from 86 to 166 degrees F that can be adjusted in 2-degree increments. I don’t have any particular injury or ailment, other than occasional mild back pain, but I use this unit daily (actually nightly). This is probably not recommended use, but I have developed the habit of sleeping with a heating pad. Instead of running all the time like older units, though, this one has an auto-off function that lets you set it to stay on up to 60 minutes at a time. Also it only turns on the heating coils to bring it up to temp and when it falls below temp. Once it reaches the desired temp, it shuts off. The heat generally continues to rise 2-3 degrees, peaks, then starts to fall, then kicks back on. And so it cycles for the amount of time you program into it (the default is 30 minutes). I prefer 118°, which seems to work best for me. You can also switch the display to a ‘monitor mode’ and see the actual temp it’s reading from the pad instead of what you’ve set the thermostat to. I have no idea about the “moist” aspect of the heating pad, since I only use it as a dry heating pad. At about $60, it is a bit expensive if you’re used to the $20 pads. Also the cord to the controls could be longer and there’s no back-light on the controls, so it’s harder to use in total darkness. But once it’s set at night, I don’t have to fiddle with it or remember to turn it off anyway. The pads come in various sizes. The one I have is the 14″x14″ blanket pad. — Jay Harrison

TheraTherm Digital Heating Pad; $51 — Available from Amazon
Manufactured by Chattanooga Group

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Richard Widmark dies at 93

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Richard Widmark

Richard Widmark (1914-2008) has died after a long illness. He’s memorable in all his movies, but I particularly remember his performance in the great Western Warlock (1959). The photo shows him in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).

Here he is in a clip from Kiss of Death (1947), his debut movie. From the second link:

The film [Kiss of Death] landed him an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award for best newcomer – but he was not entirely enamoured with fame.

“That damned laugh of mine!” he said in 1961. “For two years after that picture, you couldn’t get me to smile.

“I played the part the way I did because the script struck me as funny and the part I played made me laugh.”

And here’s a bit from Sammy Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (1953):

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 11:42 am

Posted in Daily life

Domestic spying by the government

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From the Wall Street Journal. Much more at the link. (No subscription wall.)

 Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans’ privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn’t disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

NSA Spying

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 11:20 am

Forbidden delights

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From The Frontal Cortex (“treyf” is the antonym of “kosher”):

I was raised in a kosher household, which meant that I grew up convinced that bacon, lobster, pepperoni pizza and cheeseburgers were the promised land of food. (I assumed the banning of treyf was part of God’s punishment for Eve and the apple.) I’m no longer kosher, which means that I’ve since learned that I was right: bacon really does make everything taste better. If I see shellfish on a menu, especially when the shellfish is combined with a pork product (scallops wrapped in prosciutto?) I can’t not order the dish.

My point is that we learn to crave what we are denied. It’s a perversity of human nature, but it’s also rather universal. My friends who couldn’t drink Coke as kids now chug it for breakfast. If sugary gum was forbidden, then they now chew a pack of Bubbalicious every day. And so on. Nothing is more rewarding than rewards that feel a little illicit – just ask Eliot Spitzer.

Which brings to me to this bit of research:

Dr. Vaillant compared 136 men who were alcoholics with men who were not. Those who grew up in families where alcohol was forbidden at the table, but was consumed away from the home, apart from food, were seven times more likely to be alcoholics that those who came from families where wine was served with meals but drunkenness was not tolerated.He concluded that teenagers should be taught to enjoy wine with family meals, and 25 years later Dr. Vaillant stands by his recommendation. “The theoretical position is: driving a car, shooting a rifle, using alcohol are all dangerous activities,” he told me, “and the way you teach responsibility is to let parents teach appropriate use.”

“If you are taught to drink in a ceremonial way with food, then the purpose of alcohol is taste and celebration, not inebriation,” he added. “If you are forbidden to use it until college then you drink to get drunk.”

In a more recent study of 80 teenagers and 80 young adults in Italy, Lee Strunin, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, found that drinking wine in a family setting offered some protection against bingeing and may encourage moderate drinking.

In other words, people who were never exposed to alcohol as young adults treated booze the way I treat bacon. The end result is that they didn’t know how to consume it (they’d never been taught the proper rituals) and were convinced that alcohol was this incredible reward, which is why they had to wait 21 years for it. And then they binge, which is why I always order the bacon cheeseburger.

Here’s an experiment I’d like to see: take a bunch of kids raised kosher and flash them pictures of bacon in an fMRI machine. Then, compare these scans to people with no dietary restrictions who were also shown pictures of treyf. (You’d need some non-kosher Jews for control.) Look for activity in the dopamine mid-brain. My hypothesis is that people who have never eaten bacon would be most excited by images of bacon. The forbidden fruit is the sweetest fruit.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Monsanto: “Anything to increase profits”

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Good old capitalism at work. Of course, if consumers don’t want milk with bovine growth hormone, they can just vote with their feet—oh, wait. They can’t if Monsanto gets its way: consumers won’t have the necessary information. (Companies hate it when consumers vote with their feet. Companies don’t want consumers to vote once they’re buying the companies’ products—thus the great appeal of addictive products such as cigarettes, and the continuing effort of companies to hide true social costs and to keep information from consumers.) Here’s the story:

New York state dairy farmer John Bunting doesn’t use an artificial bovine growth hormone on his cows for one key reason. He doesn’t want them getting sick. “I care about my cows,” he said, “I like my cows.”

The growth hormone in question is made by the Monsanto Company. The current debate about Monsanto’s hormone involves labels. The multinational agricultural biotech company seems to be getting nervous about the prospect of telling consumers what’s in their milk – or rather, what’s not in their milk.

A Monsanto-backed advocacy group is now going from state to state, fighting labels that declare dairy products free from the bovine growth hormone. Monsanto is the only producer of an artificial hormone, the Posilac brand recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST or rBGH), that increases milk production in cows. Labels saying “rBST-free” could lead to financial losses for the corporation.

The growth hormone can mean more milk at cheaper prices. But Posilac has been linked to health problems in both cows and humans — one reason the European Union and Canada both banned its use. Anti-labeling measures by Monsanto are facing a backlash from consumers who want to know what goes into their milk. Labeling would alert many to the fact that a large majority of American dairy products come from cows injected with the hormone. Many dairy processors are now using rBST-free alternative to meet these growing consumer concerns, for the hormone has been linked to cancer and other problems. Yet it doesn’t look like the FDA-approved synthetic hormone will be pushed out of the market any time soon.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 10:32 am

Open Source Accounting Software

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Much more information here (including OpenCourseWare, degrees available, etc.), but here are the packages:

Open Source Accounting Software Rankings

#1 OSAS

OSAS is award-winning accounting software for Windows, Linux, UNIX and Mac users. The software is designed for small businesses, but can be customized to work for almost anyone. Primary features include budgeting and reporting tools, general ledger accounting and cost accounting capabilities.

#2 GnuCash.org

GnuCash is freely licensed financial accounting software for individuals and small businesses. The software is easy to download and works with GNU/Linux, BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. Features include double-entry accounting, graphing and reporting capabilities, stock and mutual fund tracking, invoice generation, expense tracking, and other common financial tools.

#3 Grisbi

Grisbi is a basic personal accounting application for GNU/Linux and Windows users. The software allows you to manage multiple accounts, currencies and expenditures and comes with a free manual to guide you through the application.

#4 Quasar Accounting

Quasar is business accounting software that works with Windows or Linux. It is very similar to QuickBooks and has many useful features, such as import and export capabilities, easy data entry, a graphical user interface and the ability to manage multiple accounts and currencies.

#5 KMyMoney

Designed for Linux users, KMyMoney is free personal financial management software that uses double entry accounting principles. KMyMoney is easy to use and works a lot like Quicken and MS Money. Special features allow you to import and export data, categorize expenses and work with different accounts.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 10:21 am

Health plan differences

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Three different health plans from the three candidates:

…  The different proposals among the candidates — and in Washington — boil down to three issues: Who gets health insurance, how should they get it and who pays.Clinton’s and Obama’s plans are similar in many ways, but they disagree on at least one key point: Clinton would require all people to have insurance. Obama would only require parents to have coverage for their children.

McCain would emphasize tax credits to help purchase health coverage and not require anyone to have insurance.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 10:04 am

Posted in Election, Medical

Yet another law-breaking president?

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McCain seems cast in the mold of George W. Bush: if the law seems restrictive, ignore the law. I just got this email:

John McCain is breaking the law.

When McCain’s presidential campaign was in trouble, he opted-in to public financing through the primary, limiting him to a $54 million spending cap.

But laws aren’t for “mavericks”…

McCain’s latest spending report, filed by his own campaign, shows he has spent in excess of $58 million so far — a public admission by his own hand that he has broken the law.

We filed a formal complaint to Federal Election Commission yesterday, and we want you to sign-on for a second delivery of signatures later this week.

Please read and co-sign the letter to the FEC right now.

http://action.firedoglake.com/mccainfec

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 9:38 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Fascinating interview

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Glenn Greenwald has in his column today a fascinating interview: Charlie Rose interviewing two Iraqis resident in the US about their view of the invasion. Absolutely a must-watch. And the column, which includes the passage below, is a must-read:

The significance of the interview lies as much in what it says about the American occupation of Iraq as it what it illustrates about the American media. In the American media’s discussions of Iraq, when are the perspectives expressed here about our ongoing occupation — views extremely common among Iraqis of all types and grounded in clear, indisputable facts — ever heard by the average American news consumer? The answer is: “virtually never.”

Rose was as adversarial and argumentative — angry, even — as he ever gets with anyone, because he plainly did not anticipate, and did not like, that he was being exposed to such hostility towards our Freedom-spreading, Liberty-loving Liberation of the grateful, lucky (dead and displaced) Iraqi people.

To see how scripted and narrow the American media’s discussion of Iraq continues to be — as Americans are told that it is a matter of mandated orthodoxy that they believe that the Surge is Working (so much so that John McCain actually demanded yesterday that Hillary Clinton “apologize” for daring to question the pronouncements of the High, Honorable Commanding General, David H. Petraeus) — watch the entire interview and consider how those views are never heard. For those who do not watch, I will excerpt just a few of the illustrative exchanges, beginning with this opening exchange:

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 8:59 am

Greens and beans

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A very healthful combination:

Beneath a thatch of wilted dandelion greens, the Christmas lima beans spill out, earthy and enticing, their pretty speckled markings still faintly visible after a few hours in the pot. This is the brilliant architecture of a taco so tasty that it might just replace carne asada in your dreams.

And if you cook the beans ahead, it’s a simple supper built with ease and grace. Sauté dandelion greens or arugula in a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Then grill a stack of corn tortillas and stir together a bowl of spicy salsa verde and you have everything you need for dinner. The beans have a wonderful texture, vaguely reminiscent of classic refried beans yet with a nutty, almost meaty taste. And the greens, still faintly spicy after a few minutes in a hot pan, are redolent of the garden they’ve so recently left.

Greens have a certain brightness that contrasts beautifully with shell beans. The emerald leaves unfurl with possibilities, while the beans, toothsome and earthy, seem to reference the ground they both came from. Together, they create a balance — of flavors and textures, colors and even temperatures.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 7:54 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Hurting the environment hurts everyone

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Take a look:

Italians often minimize what afflicts them with this philosophy: Without the bad, no one would appreciate the good.

The question now on the table, almost literally, is whether their passion for food — and the money it makes — will finally force action against the lawlessness that is hurting the name of one of Italy’s most revered delicacies: mozzarella made with buffalo milk.

In the last few months, sales of buffalo mozzarella have dropped 40 percent, the product’s trade association says. The problem makes for a near-perfect morality play about Italy: For years, the nation’s paralyzed political class has done little to halt huge-scale illegal dumping of trash, some of it toxic, around Naples. That area happens to produce some of the best mozzarella.

A new trash crisis peaked yet again, and last week fears that food might be contaminated seemed confirmed when health officials announced elevated levels of the carcinogen dioxin in samples of buffalo mozzarella. Last weekend, South Korea banned imports of the cheese, and Italy began scrambling to avoid deep damage to one of its most emblematic products.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 7:48 am

Good work, Baltimore!

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This is heartening:

When Wilbert and Patricia Savage missed two mortgage payments on their tidy row house here last fall, Mr. Savage, 75, despaired that they could ever catch up.

But he remembered Roy Miller, a nonprofit housing counselor with a nearby storefront office who had helped other neighbors in trouble. The Savages visited Mr. Miller, and he called their lender and was able to work out a repayment plan for the missed payments, something Mr. Savage said he could never have managed on his own.

“Without Roy, we’d probably be out of the house or close to it,” he said.

As home foreclosure rates rise around the country, they appear to have stabilized or dropped in one neighborhood here, Belair-Edison, providing a model that local housing officials say can be copied in other areas.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 7:46 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tuesday’s steps: 3856

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I got more steps without even taking a formal walk: I just parked at the far end of the parking lot, and my route to and from the car went the perimeter of the lot. With three stops, that was enough. But today, I think, I’ll have to do an actual walk to keep the steps increasing.

Written by Leisureguy

26 March 2008 at 6:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

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