Later On

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

Archive for June 6th, 2008

Lovely. The GOP continues its course.

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Take a look at this story by Gretchen Peters of ABC News:

The US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department. The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush’s first business venture, Arbusto Energy.

A spokesman for the FBI said Pharaon was not wanted in connection with the French report, but confirmed he was still sought by the US Justice Department.

“Ghaith Pharaon is an FBI fugitive indicted in both the BCCI and CENTRUST case,” said Richard Kolko, a spokesman for the FBI. “If anyone has information on his location, they are requested to contact the FBI or the US Embassy.”

The US military purchases jet fuel from Attock through the contractor Supreme Fuels, according to a US government website. The $80 million contract for 2008 was posted this week on a US government website . Attock supplied the US military more than $40 million in jet fuel in 2007, according to another spreadsheet posted on the site.

An official at Attock, who did not wish to be named, confirmed the refinery was supplying thousands of tons of jet fuel to the US base at Bagram Air Base every month.

The US military has not responded to requests for comment.

Pharaon could not be reached for comment.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 6:49 pm

Take a little trip

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

Froomkin today

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Froomkin’s column is always worth perusing, and today’s is no different. It begins:

Yesterday’s long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report further solidifies the argument that the Bush administration’s most blatant appeals to fear in its campaign to sell the Iraq war were flatly unsupported.

Some of what President Bush and others said about Iraq was corroborated by what later turned out to be inaccurate intelligence. But their most compelling and gut-wrenching allegations — for instance, that Saddam Hussein was ready to supply his friends in al-Qaeda with nuclear weapons — were simply made up.

In an accident of timing, the report also validates former press secretary Scott McClellan‘s conclusion in his new book that the White House pursued a “political propaganda campaign” to market the war.

The White House response? That officials in Congress and elsewhere were saying the same things about Iraq. Or in other words, that other people bought the administration line. It takes a lot of chutzpah to defend yourself against charges that you’ve engaged in a propaganda campaign by noting that it worked.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 2:43 pm

Benefits of travel by train

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I recall once in Iowa City I was schedule to fly to a conference where I was a presenter. The morning I was to leave I awoke to a world covered in thick (and slick) ice. The guy who was to pick me up slid off the road before he had gone a block. Tree branches were falling from the weight of ice. And, of course, all flights were canceled.

We waited for a while, and then realized we could catch a train to Chicago and make the flight from there. We went to the train station, and our naïveté regarding train travel was soon revealed: we asked how much luggage we could carry on. 🙂 We did make the trip, catch the Chicago flight, and presented as scheduled.

Now Hank Green of EcoGeek is discovering train travel:

I’ve been on this train for less than 10 minutes and I’ve already spotted about 20 things that make this a much more pleasant experience than flying.

  1. No wait, no security. Amtrak asks passengers to be at the train 30 minutes before departure. If you show up a little late, you simply walk straight on the train and find a seat that looks good to you.
  2. If you want to pee, go pee.. There’s never a time on a train when you can’t stand up and do whatever you want. And that includes having a nice lunch in the dining car, which is what I’m going to go do now.
  3. The seats ACTUALLY RECLINE! Instead of the 1.5 inches of lean that the little silver button will give you on a plane, Amtrak’s big black button gives a recline of about eight inches. I could actually sleep in this chair! if I wasn’t so excited about how much it reclines.
  4. PLUGS! Some planes are starting to finally provide power jacks so we can keep charged through long flights. But all Amtrak trains have a three-pronged jacks to keep you electrified throughout your journey.
  5. No NAGGING: It’s a frikkin pleasure not having someone bug me about my seatback and tray tables and whether my electronic device is approved for that particular segment of the trip. And no seatbelts at all! Whether or not that’s technically safe, it’s certainly more comfortable.
  6. Legroom: As a six foot plus guy, I notice a couple extra inches here. And it’s nice.
  7. No beverage cart slamming into your knees and elbows. The beverage cart on a plane absolutely ensures that you never ever ever put any piece of your body into the aisle. Well, the train aisle is considerably wider, for one, and the cart is nonexistent.
  8. Treats: If you happen to want a cheese danish on an airplane, you’re out of luck. Not here my friends…and the cost of said treats is much more modest than the $5 you’ll pay for a snack pack on American Airlines filled with crap you probably don’t even want.
  9. You handle your baggage. If you lose your bags on a train, it’s your fault. There’s no waiting at the baggage claim and no worrying about how the baggage handlers (or TSA) will treat your bags.

And all of the additional, everyday benefits remain. It’s cheaper, more environmentally friendly, you can use cell phones and there are even some cars with beds.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Use fresh garlic

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You obviously should use fresh garlic, but now it’s also been established by a study:

The next time you serve your favorite Italian dish, consider ditching the bottled garlic and opt for fresh garlic instead. Fresh garlic may be better for you, according to new research published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Researchers in Japan compared fresh garlic with garlic preserved in water, alcohol, and vegetable oil, specifically measuring a key ingredient called allicin. Allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic and the chemical responsible for its characteristic smell.

Allicin is widely promoted for its antibacterial properties. Some studies have shown that allicin helps fight infections and may help prevent bacteria-related food poisoning. Other research has suggested that the compound can help against blood clots and certain cancers.

Allicin is fragile and disappears quickly, leading the study’s researchers to question whether various storage methods would affect its levels.

The team’s experiments revealed that fresh crushed garlic is more stable and maintains higher levels of allicin than preserved versions.

Garlic stored in water at room temperature is better than garlic preserved in vegetable oil. Allicin levels decreased by about half after about six days in water, but the vegetable-oil storage method robbed garlic of half its allicin in a few hours.

Garlic’s antibacterial properties declined as allicin levels dropped. However, researchers believe the allicin breaks down into compounds that may still be helpful.

Also note that if you’re going to sauté the garlic, let it sit for 10-15 minutes to stabilize, otherwise the allicin is destroyed by the heat. If you’re using the crushed garlic in a dip or the like, no wait is needed.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

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Extremely cool illustration of our galaxy

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As seen from above (or below). Your own location is visible if your cursor over the illustration.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Science

Richard Clarke on the liars in the White House

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Good column in the Houston Chronicle by ElJefeBob:

On Countdown last night, Keith went after GWB and his administration over the new Phase 2 Report on Iraq intelligence issued yesterday under chairman Jay Rockefeller. The conclusions reached by this report were vastly different from the Phase 1 report under Republican Senator Pat Roberts, where he essentially stonewalled any serious investigation for over 2 years until the Dems took the Senate in 2006. The report documents the manipulation of intelligence, the distortions, and the outright lies told to the world to whip up a war against a country that had not harmed us and was no threat to us.

In an interview with Keith, Richard Clarke, chief of counter terrorism under Clinton and demoted by GWB, talked about just how egregious the lies and distortions by the Bush administration were in the runup to the war. In his conclusion, Clarke made a startling assertion that I happen to agree with. When asked about repercussions for those who lied, he said that at a minimum, “We should not allow these people back into polite society and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and just pretend that nothing happened when there are over 4,000 Americans dead and over 25,000 Americans grievously wounded. They’ll carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives. Someone should have to pay, in some way.”

Here’s the interview in its entirety:

Impeachment is what GWB and Cheney deserved at a minimum. It is way too late for that, obviously, but there should be a public reckoning for those who perpetrated this war based on exaggerated intelligence and outright lies to the American people.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 1:22 pm

John Edwards for VP

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Edwards was my original choice for president, but I’m perfectly happy with Obama. And I think an Obama-Edwards ticket would be quite strong. See this post. But I wouldn’t cry if Edwards became Attorney General, either.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Kids need more vitamin D

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Kids who are apparently healthy can still be deficient in vitamin D levels.

Many healthy infants and toddlers may have low levels of vitamin D, and about one-third of those appear to have some evidence of reduced bone mineral content on X-rays, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. Reports of a resurgence of vitamin D deficiency and rickets, the resulting bone-weakening disease, have emerged in several states, according to background information in the article. Vitamin D deficiency also appears to be high in other countries, including Greece, China, Canada and England.

Catherine M. Gordon, M.D., M.Sc., and colleagues at Children’s Hospital Boston, studied 380 healthy children ages 8 months to 24 months who visited a primary care center for a physical examination between 2005 and 2007. Parents filled out a questionnaire regarding their nutritional intake and that of their children, and also reported on the use of vitamin D and other supplements, time spent outdoors, socioeconomic status and education level.

Among the 365 children for whom blood samples were available, 12.1 percent (44) had vitamin D deficiency, defined as 20 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, and 40 percent (146) had levels below the accepted optimal level of 30 nanograms per milliliter. Breastfed infants who did not receive vitamin D and toddlers who drank less milk were at higher risk of deficiency (for each cup of milk toddlers drank per day, blood vitamin D level increased by 2.9 nanograms per milliliter).

Forty children of the 44 with vitamin D deficiency underwent X-rays of the wrist and knee. Thirteen (32.5 percent) had evidence of bone mineral loss, and three (7.5 percent) exhibited changes to their bones suggestive of rickets.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Tagged with

Lose weight without losing bone

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Often a diet that results in weight reduction also causes bone loss. A recent University of Illinois study found that by increasing both the protein (lean protein, note) and dairy content of the diet, bone loss is minimized:

A higher-protein diet that emphasizes lean meats and low-fat dairy foods as sources of protein and calcium can mean weight loss without bone loss–and the evidence is in bone scans taken throughout a new University of Illinois study. The research, which compared the results of a high-protein, dairy-intensive diet with a conventional weight-loss diet based on the food-guide pyramid, was published in this month’s Journal of Nutrition.

“This is an important finding because many people, especially women in mid-life, are concerned with both obesity and osteoporosis,” said Ellen Evans, a U of I associate professor of kinesiology and community health and member of the U of I Division of Nutritional Sciences.

“Furthermore, treating obesity often increases risk for osteoporosis. Many people lose bone mass when they lose weight,” she said.

Study co-author Donald Layman, a U of I professor of nutrition, has previously reported that protein-rich weight-loss diets preserve muscle mass, help lower blood sugar and lipids, and improve body composition by targeting weight carried in the abdomen.

In the recent study, Layman’s diet prescribed approximately 30 percent of all calories from protein, with an emphasis on lean meats and low-fat dairy products. …

… “Essentially we substituted lean meats and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, etc., for some of the high-carbohydrate foods in the food-pyramid diet. Participants also ate five servings of vegetables and two to three servings of fruit each day,” Evans said. …

… “The combination and/or interaction of dietary protein, calcium from dairy, and the additional vitamin D that fortifies dairy products appears to protect bone health during weight loss,” he added.

Because higher-protein diets have been associated with elevated urinary calcium levels, some scientists have feared that these diets cause bone demineralization.

The U of I team measured these levels at the beginning and eight months into the study. Although the researchers did note increased amounts of urinary calcium in the higher-protein group, they attributed the source of the increased calcium to improved intestinal absorption of calcium rather than bone loss.

“Other recent studies using radiolabeled calcium have shown that the higher urinary calcium levels associated with higher-protein diets are not coming from bone as some researchers had believed,” Thorpe said.

Complete article.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Tagged with ,

The universe is made of mathematics

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I was told as an undergraduate that in the Middle Ages the only dialogue of Plato that was known was the Timaeus, a rather far-out dialogue. In it, the universe is portrayed of being, at its foundations, mathematical objects. As is often said, wherever you go, you meet Plato coming back. Via the Drupal construct Eureka!, this story:

The mathematicians were trying to extend an illustrious result in their field, the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra. The astrophysicists were working on a fundamental problem in their field, the problem of gravitational lensing. That the two groups were in fact working on the same question is both expected and unexpected: The “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” is well known throughout the sciences, but every new instance produces welcome insights and sheer delight. In their article “From the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra to Astrophysics: A `Harmonious’ Path”, which appears today in the Notices of the AMS, mathematicians Dmitry Khavinson (University of South Florida) and Genevra Neumann (University of Northern Iowa) describe the mathematical work that surprisingly led them to questions in astrophysics.

The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra (FTA), proofs of which go back to the 18th century, is a bedrock mathematical truth, elegant in its simplicity: Every complex polynomial of degree n has n roots in the complex numbers. In the 1990s, Terry Sheil-Small and Alan Wilmshurst explored the question of extending the FTA to harmonic polynomials. In a surprising twist in 2001, Khavinson, together with G. Swiatek, applied methods from complex dynamics to settle one of the cases of Wilmshurst’s conjecture, showing that for a certain class of harmonic polynomials, the number of zeros is at most 3n – 2, where n is the degree of the polynomial.

When she was a postdoc at Kansas State University, Neumann mentioned the 3n-2 result in a talk, and Pietro Poggi-Corradini wondered whether Khavinson and Swiatek’s complex dynamics approach could be extended to counting the zeros of rational harmonic functions. (A rational function is a quotient of polynomials, and a rational harmonic function is the sum of a rational function and the complex conjugate of a rational function.) She later asked Khavinson about this possibility. “We didn’t have any idea what the answer would be,” she said. And they certainly had no idea that an astrophysicist had already conjectured the answer.

“We were slightly surprised that the number came out different, 5n – 5 vs. 3n – 2,” recalled Khavinson. They also wondered whether the bound of 5n – 5 was “sharp”—that is, whether it could be pushed any lower. “After checking and re-checking it, we posted a preprint on the arXiv and then returned to our respective business,” Khavinson said. “Literally, a week later we received a congratulatory e-mail from Jeffrey Rabin of UCSD kindly telling us that our theorem resolves a conjecture of Sun Hong Rhie in astrophysics.” Khavinson and Neumann had no idea that anyone outside of mathematics would be interested in this result.

Rhie has been studying the problem of gravitational lensing, a phenomenon in which light from a celestial source, such as a star or galaxy, is deflected by a massive object (or objects) between the light source and the observer. Because of the deflection, the observer sees multiple images of the same light source. The phenomenon was first predicted in the early 19th century, using Newtonian mechanics. A more accurate prediction was made by Einstein in 1915 using his theory of general relativity, and early observational support came in 1919 during a solar eclipse. The first gravitational lensing system was discovered in 1979.

It turns out that at least in some idealized situations one can count the number of images of the light source seen in a gravitational lensing system by counting the number of zeros of a rational harmonic function—exactly the kind of function Khavinson and Neumann had been studying. While investigating the possible number of images produced by a gravitational lens that has n point masses deflecting the light, Rhie had conjectured the bound of 5n – 5 that so surprised Khavinson and Neumann. Rhie also came up with an ingenious way of constructing an example of a rational harmonic function with exactly 5n – 5 zeros. Together with the result of Khavinson and Neumann, this example establishes that their 5n – 5 bound is sharp.

After hearing about Rhie’s work, Khavinson and Neumann contacted other mathematicians and astrophysicists who worked on similar problems and received feedback they then used to revise their paper (it has since appeared in Proceedings of the AMS). These interactions led Khavinson into fruitful collaborations with astrophysicists on related questions. Some of the new results from this work are mentioned in the Notices article.

“I find this kind of interdisciplinary collaboration extremely exciting and stimulating,” said Khavinson. “I just hope that I will be able to continue these collaborations. It is one of the most exciting experiences I have had in my life.” Neumann is just as enthusiastic, and is grateful to Kansas State physicist Larry Weaver, who helped her to understand the physics of gravitational lensing, and to Rabin, who acted as the link between mathematics and astrophysics. “Professor Rabin’s generous email introduced both Dmitry and me to an entirely new world,” she said.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Science

Tagged with

Zemanta today

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Farzana Shaheen, 25, sits with her two sons while protesting in front of the Supreme Court of Pakistan March 29, 2007. She believes that her husband, Muhammad al Taf, 34, (in photo), was

Image by Getty Images
via Daylife

I just read a post in (on?) Download Squad about Zemanta, a software package to help in blogging. So I’ve installed it and taking it out for a spin. This post will be of interest only if you, too, are a blogger, but these days I would estimate that there’s a 75% chance that you are, so I’ll go ahead and publish the post. Once you write 300 characters, it makes some suggestions for a possible illustrations, such as:

And it also suggests possible links, such as the one below. And it suggests lots of links and tags I could use. Hmm. I’m not sure this one’s for me.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Making the Mint Julep

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Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 11:50 am

Cheapest fruits and vegetables by month

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Buying what’s in season not only saves you money but also is ecologically sound in that the seasonal foods don’t require transport from (say) another hemisphere. Via the Simple Dollar, here’s a handy list from Erin Huffstetler’s Frugal Living section of

January: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, tangelos, lemons, papayas, cabbages: red, white and green; leeks, broccoli, cauliflower

February: oranges, tanelos, grapefruit, lemons, papayas, broccoli, cauliflower

March: pineapples, mangoes, broccoli. lettuce

April: pineapples, mangoes, zucchini, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce

May: cherries, pineapples, apricots, okra, zucchini, rhubarb, artichokes, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce

June: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apricots, corn, lettuce

July: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, apricots, kiwi, raspberries, plums, cucumbers, tomatoes, summer squash, corn, green beans, lettuce

August: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, apricots, kiwi, raspberries, plums, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, lettuce

September: grapes, pomegranates, persimmons,eggplants, pumpkins, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce

October: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, grapes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce

November: cranberries, oranges, tangerines, pears, pomegranates, persimmons, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, spinach

December: pears, oranges, tangelos, grape fruit, tangerines, papayas, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Method Shaving Skypecast tomorrow 1:00 pm CDT

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Just a reminder. Tomorrow’s the big day:

We are pleased to let you know that beginning June 7, Charles [Roberts, originator of Method Shaving] will be hosting a monthly Skypecast on Method Shaving. This Skypecast is free and available by simply listening in.

He will be discussing the basics of Method Shaving, including the history of Method Shaving, products, techniques and news. There will also be a question and answer format so you can email your questions or ask them directly during the Skypecast.

Follow this link on June 7 at 1 p.m. CST to tune in!

We look forward to you joining the conversation.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in Shaving

Bay rum, yo ho ho

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Perhaps it’s because I’m rereading Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series (I’m almost done with HMS Surprise now), but bay rum has started to appeal again. And I wanted to use another Em’s Place soap, and Bay Rum I have. Another great lather, this time with the Rooney Style 2, and the Gillette TV Super Speed gave an extremely smooth shave with a Treet Blue Special with a shave or two already on it. I used my own mix for the oil pass, and then Dominica Bay Rum aftershave. Extremely pleasant.

Late start today. That happens.

Written by Leisureguy

6 June 2008 at 10:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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