Later On

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

Archive for April 11th, 2008

They’re here: reasonable LED bulbs

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By “reasonable,” I mean bulbs that produce as much light as a 100-watt incandescent. Hank Green at Ecogeek has the story:

… The new Evolux line at EarthLED puts off just as much light as a 100 W incandescent but consumes only 13 W. A 13 W CFL, on the other hand, puts out about as much light as an 80 W incandescent would. [see photo at the Ecogeek link – LG]

… The new line also promises to be cheaper than CFLs over the life of the bulb, not so much because of energy savings (though that helps) but because of the bulb’s lifetime. CREE’s LEDs are rated at over 50,000 hours, which is more than a decade of use…and 5X longer than CFLs.

… Besides being more efficient and longer lasting than CFLs, the bulbs also contain no mercury, are significantly more durable and won’t shatter if dropped, and never get too hot to touch. They’re about to release another version of the bulb that will turn any lamp into a dimmable lamp. Simply by turning the lamp on and off quickly, you can select 150 lumen, 750 lumen, or 950 lumen settings. …

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Daily life

Teaching children independence

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The only way to teach children independence, ultimately, is to allow them to be independent. Via Schneier on Security, a mom explains her sensible method. Unfortunately, fear has so gripped the nation, through continual encouragement from the Administration, that people can’t understand. So you get things like the reactions reported in this column.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 4:23 pm

The breaking of Enigma

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Excellent article, via Schneier on Security. Article begins:

As the German military grew in the late 1920s, it began looking for a better way to secure its communications. It found the answer in a new cryptographic machine called “Enigma.” The Germans believed the encryption generated by the machine to be unbreakable. With a theoretical number of ciphering possibilities of 3 X 10114, their belief was not unjustified.1 However, they never reached that theoretical level of security. Nor did they count on the cryptanalytic abilities of their adversaries.

The Enigma machine based its cipher capabilities on a series of wired rotor wheels and a plugboard. Through a web of internal wiring, each of the 26 input contacts on the rotor were connected to a different output contact. The wiring connections of one rotor differed from the connections on any other rotor.

Additionally, each rotor had a moveable placement notch found on an outer ring. The notch forced the rotor to its left to step one place forward. This notch could be moved to a different point on the rotor by rotating the outer ring. The Germans followed a daily list, known as a key list, to indicate where the notch should be placed each day.

Another complication to the machine involved the plugboard, which the Germans called a “Stecker.” The plugboard simply connected one letter to a different letter. That also meant that the second letter automatically connected back to the first. Again, the key list indicated which letters should be connected for that day.

Each day, the Germans followed the key list to plug the plugboard connections, select the rotors to be placed in the machine, change the rotor notch placement, and place the rotors in the left, center, or right position within the machine. Finally, the code clerk chose which three letters were to appear through three small windows next to the rotors. These letters indicated the initial rotor settings for any given message, and the code clerk changed those settings with every message he sent.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Government, Science, Technology

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Back from walk

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Warmish today—I stuck to the shady side of the street. Still have little leg aches when going uphill, especially at the beginning of the walk. I listened to a good jazz musician who will be my Saturday morning jazz post.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Al Gore’s TED talk

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Via Ecogeek, this excellent talk by Al Gore on priorities.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 2:04 pm

Federal corruption

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Via the Reality Based Community, this good (and very brief) video.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

How the press squirms

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The members of the press get very snippy and agitated when their weaknesses in reporting are pointed out. In fact, their first instinct is simply to lie about what they wrote. Glenn Greenwald notes the proclivity here, with quotations of the lie and the original statement. It’s worth reading just to see how deep the flaws lie and how quick the press resorts to lying.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Media

Mukasey, paragon of doublespeak

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In a hearing yesterday, Attorney General Mike Mukasey said the Fourth Amendment “applies across the board, regardless of whether we’re in wartime or in peacetime,” even though the memo by John Yoo, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, had concluded otherwise. Mukasey, however, refused to say whether that memo was withdrawn.

Muskasey is, let’s face it, a little shit.

UPDATE: More on the little shit here.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 12:30 pm

Shaving frugality

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In thinking about shaving frugality, consider the Astra Superior Platinum blade, which is, for most, an excellent blade. (Like any brand, it works for some and not for others, hence the sampler packs.) You can buy 1100 of them for $100. That’s just a tiny bit over 9¢ a blade. Or, to put it another way, if the blade lasts a week, which is reasonable, that’s 1100 weeks of shaving, or just over 21 years—about $4.75 a year for blades. Compare that with the cost of 21 years of Gillette Fusion Power disposable cartridges. Assume a cartridge lasts 2 weeks. 21 years is thus 546 cartridges, or (at $26 for 8 cartridges, the price I find on Amazon) $1,775, or $1,675 more than enjoyable shaving would cost (for blades alone).

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Tagged with

Genetically modified crops: same yields as before

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Interesting, although genetic modification is often for different reasons than simply increasing yields—for example, to add essential vitamins (as beta-carotene to rice), to increase resistance to pests and disease, to increase resistance to herbicides, and so on. Still, this is intriguing:

Coinciding with a manifesto from Country Life launched today, which urges people to ‘learn to love GM crops’, the Soil Association has published a report on the latest available research on GM crop yields over the last ten years. The yields of all major GM crop varieties in cultivation are lower than, or at best, equivalent to, yields from non-GM varieties.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “GM chemical companies constantly claim they have the answer to world hunger while selling products which have never led to overall increases in production, and which have sometimes decreased yields or even led to crop failures. As oil becomes scarcer and more expensive, we need to move away from oil dependent GM crops to producing food sustainably, using renewable energy, as is the case with organic farming.”

Latest Research on GM Crop Yields

GM crops as a whole
First generation genetic modifications address production conditions (insect and weed control), and are in no way intended to increase the intrinsic yield capacity of the plant.

  • An April 2006 report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that “currently available GM crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. […] In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars”. (Fernandez-Cornejo, J. and Caswell, 2006)
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2004 report on agricultural biotechnology acknowledges that GM crops can have reduced yields (FAO, 2004). This is not surprising given that first-generation genetic modifications address production conditions (insect and weed control), and are not intended to increase the intrinsic yield capacity of the plant.
  • A 2003 report published in Science stated that “in the United States and Argentina, average yield effects [of GM crops] are negligible and in some cases even slightly negative”. (Qaim and Zilberman, 2003). This was despite the authors being strong supporters of GM crops.
  • Yields of both GM and conventional varieties vary – sometimes greatly – depending on growing conditions, such as degree of infestation with insects or weeds, weather, region of production, etc. (European Commission, 2000)

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:55 am

“Street money” = buying votes?

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Apparently. From the LA Times:

Fourteen months into a campaign that has the feel of a movement, Sen. Barack Obama has collided with the gritty political traditions of Philadelphia, where ward bosses love their candidates, but also expect them to pay up.

The dispute centers on the dispensing of “street money,” a long-standing Philadelphia ritual in which candidates deliver cash to the city’s Democratic operatives in return for getting out the vote.

Flush with payments from well-funded campaigns, the ward leaders and Democratic Party bosses typically spread out the cash in the days before the election, handing $10, $20 and $50 bills to the foot soldiers and loyalists who make up the party’s workforce.

It is all legal — but Obama’s people are telling the local bosses he won’t pay.

That sets up a culture clash, pitting a candidate who promises to transform American politics against the realities of a local political system important to his presidential hopes. Pennsylvania holds its primary April 22.

Obama’s posture confounds neighborhood political leaders sympathetic to his cause. They caution that if the senator from Illinois withholds money that gubernatorial, mayoral and presidential candidates have willingly paid out for decades, there could be defections to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. And the Clinton campaign, in contrast, will oblige in forking over the money, these ward leaders predict.

More at the link. But it boils down to this: if Obama pays, he gets the votes; if he doesn’t, and Clinton pays, she gets the votes. Sure sounds to me as though the votes are for sale.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:34 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Analgesics and kidney failure

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Apparently, taking any of the common analgesics regularly can cause kidney problems and, ultimately, kidney failure. This page has information:

An analgesic is any medicine intended to relieve pain. Over-the-counter analgesics—that is, painkillers available without a prescription—include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and others. These drugs present no danger for most people when taken in the recommended dosage. But some conditions make taking even these common painkillers dangerous for the kidneys. Also, taking one of these drugs regularly over a long period of time may increase the risk for kidney problems. Most drugs that can cause kidney damage are excreted only through the kidneys. That is, they are not broken down by the liver, as alcohol is, or passed out of the body through the digestive tract.

Analgesic use has been associated with two different forms of kidney damage: acute renal failure and a type of chronic kidney disease called analgesic nephropathy.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Health horror stories

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Paul Krugman gives some examples of what happens in “the best healthcare system in the world.”

Not long ago, a young Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, who was having health problems while pregnant, tried to get help at a local clinic.

Unfortunately, she had previously sought care at the same clinic while uninsured and had a large unpaid balance. The clinic wouldn’t see her again unless she paid $100 per visit — which she didn’t have.

Eventually, she sought care at a hospital 30 miles away. By then, however, it was too late. Both she and the baby died.

You may think that this was an extreme case, but stories like this are common in America.

Back in 2006, The Wall Street Journal told another such story: that of a young woman named Monique White, who failed to get regular care for lupus because she lacked insurance. Then, one night, “as skin lesions spread over her body and her stomach swelled, she couldn’t sleep.”

The Journal’s report goes on: “Mama, please help me! Please take me to the E.R.,” she howled, according to her mother, Gail Deal. “O.K., let’s go,” Mrs. Deal recalls saying. “No, I can’t,” the daughter replied. “I don’t have insurance.”

She was rushed to the hospital the next day after suffering a seizure — and the hospital spared no expense on her treatment. But it all came too late; she was dead a few months later.

Further analysis at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:19 am

The problem with domestic surveillance

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The problem with setting up surveillance operations is that, once in place, their use tends to grow far beyond the original purpose. For example, in Britain:

A council has used powers intended for anti-terrorism surveillance to spy on a family who were wrongly accused of lying on a school application form.

For two weeks the middle-class family was followed by council officials who wanted to establish whether they had given a false address within the catchment area of an oversubscribed school to secure a place for their three-year-old.

The “spies” made copious notes on the movements of the mother and her three children, who they referred to as “targets” as they were trailed on school runs. The snoopers even watched the family home at night to establish where they were sleeping.

In fact, the 39-year-old mother – who described the snooping as “a grotesque invasion of privacy” – had held lengthy discussions with the council, which assured her that her school application was totally in order.

Poole borough council disclosed that it had legitimately used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on the family.

This has led to fears that parents all over the country could be monitored by councils cracking down on those who bend the rules to get their children into a good school.

The Act was pushed through by the Government in 2000 to allow police and other security agencies to carry out surveillance on serious organised crime and terrorists. It has since been taken up by councils to catch those carrying out any “criminal activity”.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Civil justice: where do the candidates stand?

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Good point in the Watchdog Blog:

Public Citizen is proud to join the Drum Major Institute and its coalition of organizations to support the “Pro Civil Justice Presidential Platform.”  Our goal is to get the attention of the presidential candidates and ask them to support our civil justice platform:

•Provide counsel for people who cannot afford it any important case;
•Ban forced arbitration in consumer contracts;
•Stop federal preemption of state consumer protection laws;
•Reduce secret settlements that keep health and safety information from the public;
•Ensure injured patients’ right to justice; and
•Effectively regulate the insurance industry to curb unfair practices.

These issues have been conspicuously absent from the candidates’ stump speeches.  We are not sure why, but we are going to find out.

Back in January, the Drum Major Institute released a report outlining six policy proposals.  They are ripe for any (or all) of the presidential candidates to include in their platform, but so far there have been no takers.  Taken together, you have a strong, winning agenda for ensuring access to the civil justice system for all Americans.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 10:12 am

Time to act on global warming

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Good points from Suemedha Sood in the Washington Independent:

Joe Romm of Climate Progress has been challenging Roger Pielke this week to admit that he was wrong, wrong, wrong in his Nature article. In the Nature piece, Pielke argues that technological breakthroughs are necessary before we can really tackle climate change in a big way. Romm points out that this debate is at the heart of climate policy:

This issue of insisting we must wait for energy technology breakthroughs that rarely come (as explained here) vs. deploying our existing or near-term technology as fast as is humanly possible is perhaps the central climate debate of the day, one we can’t afford to lose. That’s why I blog so much on it.

The problem with this is the “versus.” Using existing technology to reduce CO2 emissions and other pollutants that cause global warming should go hand in hand with working actively toward technology that can bring large-scale emissions reductions. It can’t be one or the other. Policy should reflect both the importance of spending money on R&D for new technology and the importance of using what we have now to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, in as many places in the world as possible.

Romm makes a good point that policy changes can achieve goals where technological breakthroughs would be of no help.

How can breakthroughs overcome the classic hurdles like utility regulations that favor generation over efficiency, or hurdles that favor large central generation over more distributed generation, or that grandfather dirty coal plants or a thousand other well-documented hurdles that can only be fixed by changing policy?

But I actually think Pielke has a point too.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 9:59 am

McCain being pressured to support GI Bill

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His reluctance is difficult to understand. But the pressure’s being applied. From The Washington Indpendent:

The pressure on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to endorse an expansion of the GI Bill keeps getting stronger.

Last week,, a veterans advocacy PAC, launched a video urging the likely GOP presidential nominee to support the proposal. Featuring testimonials from soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s getting tens of thousands of hits on YouTube, while an accompanying petition has gathered almost 25,000 signatures.

Then on Wednesday, former NATO commander Wesley K. Clark joined VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz to pen a piece in The LA Times applying similar pressure.

The original GI Bill transformed American history, providing education for returning soldiers … But the original GI Bill has become woefully outdated, to the point where the average benefit doesn’t even cover half the cost of an in-state student’s education at a public college.

McCain has said repeatedly that he supports the idea of expanding the education benefit for Iraq and Afghanistan vets, but hasn’t had time to read the bill. That response, while not believable, is not rare either. (The same question posed to the Department of Defense and the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week brought the same dodgy reply.)

Clark and Soltz were incredulous, and called on McCain to get reading.

It’s hard to believe that neither he nor anyone on his staff has had time to read such an important bill, which has been around since before he started running for president. But, even if true, McCain must do the right thing now, when his leadership is needed.

The topic has put McCain and other Republican leaders between a rock and a hard place, forcing them to weigh whether to oppose the bill and risk being labeled unsupportive of the troops, or endorse it and risk giving the Democrats an enormous legislative victory in a contentious election year.

We should soon know the answer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he wants to pass the new GI Bill before Memorial Day. That deadline, it seems, will be no symbolic help to opponents of the effort.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 9:55 am

Thursday steps: 11,333

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Hey, a full house! I did the regular route, which I’ll hit again today. I’m getting used to this walk. I’m going to try taking a couple of ibuprofen before setting out and see what that does. (No weight loss yet, though.)

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 9:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Trying a preshave gel

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I’ve heard now from a couple of shavers who found that the Taylor of Old Bond Street Herbal Preshave Gel was effective. I had tried it in the past, but it didn’t seem to help, but then I didn’t realize that you don’t just apply it and lather: instead, you apply it and let it sit for a while and then lather. So I’m going to use it for a week, and then a week not using it, and see what I find.

This morning, then, I washed my beard with MR GLO, as always, and then applied a bit of the gel. I puttered about, washing my glasses and so on, and then lathered: Institut Karité shaving soap and the Rooney Heritage Alibaba Large. I still find that brush a problem: too stiff and dense to work easily, and it doesn’t hold much lather. I’ll continue to use it to see whether it breaks in, but if not, look for it on the Selling/Trading forum.

I used the Edwin Jagger ivory Chatsworth with the Astra Superior Platinum blade, which I just used, to see if I could tell the difference in the shave. I couldn’t really, but I did get a very good shave. I finished with an oil pass using Leisureguy’s Last-Pass Shaving Oil™, and then rinsed, dried, and applied Jade East aftershave. Quite a nice shave, overall.

Written by Leisureguy

11 April 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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