Later On

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

Archive for July 8th, 2008

Another free language tutorial on the Web

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It seems as though language instruction via the Web is booming, a wonderful development. Read MakeUseOf’s report on LiveMocha, written by Saikat Basu.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Daily life

Make a Timeline

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Very cool Web 2.0 application: Timetoast. (Link is to article discussing the app.) You can create the timeline, title and annotate the dates, and then, when you’re ready, make it public. People can then comment on it. Useful for:

  • work projects
  • homework assignments
  • studying history (it’s hard to keep track of which events happened when)
  • residence history (now required for some jobs)
  • work history (hard to remember without a good record)
  • accomplishment history (for example, dates new levels achieved in Go, kung fu, etc.)

Other ideas?

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:59 pm

Dietary fix for cardiovascular disease

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Interesting. (For potassium-rich foods, check this post and remember to bake potatoes to preserve the potassium content.)

A new article indicates that an increased intake in minerals such as potassium, and possibly magnesium and calcium by dietary means may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and decrease blood pressure in people with hypertension. A high intake of these minerals in the diet may also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. These findings are published in a supplement appearing with the July issue of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension. Potassium, specifically, has been hypothesized as one reason for the low cardiovascular disease rates in vegetarians, as well as in populations consuming primitive diets (generous in potassium and low in sodium). In isolated societies consuming diets high in fruits and vegetables, hypertension affects only 1 percent of the population, whereas in industrialized countries which consume diets high in processed foods and large amounts of dietary sodium, 1 in 3 persons have hypertension. Americans consume double the sodium and about half of the potassium that is recommended by current guidelines.

According to the paper, if Americans were able to increase their potassium intake, the number of adults with known hypertension with blood pressure levels higher than 140/90 mm Hg might decrease by more than 10 percent and increase life expectancy. Similar studies show that diets high in magnesium (at least 500 to 1,000 mg/d) and calcium (more than 800 mg/d) may also be associated with both a decrease in blood pressure and risk of developing hypertension. Data regarding these minerals, however, are not definitive.

“If we were to achieve the correct potassium/sodium ratio through dietary means, there would be less hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the population as a whole,” says Mark C. Houston, M.D., author of the study.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Bad Democrats need to be defeated

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We can’t get Congress to function well until we cut out the deadwood—and probably also restrict large companies from giving lots of money to our Representatives and Senators, money that, oddly enough, does indeed seem to influence votes. Go figure. BooMan blasts them in this post:

Seventeen Democratic senators voted for the Bankruptcy Abuse and Prevention Act of 2005. I’ll list them here to shame them:

1. Baucus (D-MT), 2. Bayh (D-IN), 3. Biden (D-DE), 4. Bingaman (D-NM), 5. Byrd (D-WV), 6. Carper (D-DE), 7. Conrad (D-ND), 8. Inouye (D-HI), 9. Johnson (D-SD), 10. Kohl (D-WI), 11. Landrieu (D-LA), 12. Lincoln (D-AR), 13. Nelson (D-FL), 14. Nelson (D-NE), 15. Pryor (D-AR), 16. Reid (D-NV), 17. Salazar (D-CO)

You can read Barack Obama’s floor speech opposing this travesty of a bill here. Let’s have a sample:

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:37 pm

Preschool girls help preschool boys to learn

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Interesting: guys need women, women don’t need guys…

According to a new study, preschool boys perform better on tests that measure learning and other important skills when they are in classes that have more girls than boys. The pattern doesn’t seem to hold for girls, though. For preschool girls, the presence or absence of boys did not affect learning.

The study raises questions about having all-boy or all-girl classes for preschool , says psychologist Arlen Moller, of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, who led the study. Other studies have shown that high-school girls may perform better in all-girl schools. In middle school, however, the effects of same-sex schooling are unclear, and even less is known for very young kids.

To find out, researchers studied 70 preschool classes including a total of 806 children who were between 31/2 and 6 years old. For each class, teachers recorded student progress over a 6.5-month school year.

Their data included teacher scores of motor skills, social skills and thinking skills. The researchers found that boys developed each of these skills more quickly when there were more girls in the class than boys.

In majority-girl classrooms, boys developed at the same rate as girls. But in classes where boys were the majority, boys developed more slowly than girls. Girls tended to advance in classrooms with any combination of boys and girls.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:34 pm

Fish oil and red yeast rice

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Apparently they work well:

A great deal of scientific evidence shows that cholesterol-reducing medications known as statins can help prevent coronary artery disease. Although the safety of these medications has been well documented, as many as 40 percent of patients who receive a prescription for statins take the drug for less than one year. Doctors believe that several factors — including cost, adverse effects, poor understanding of statin benefits and patients’ reluctance to take prescription medications long term — may explain why some patients stop taking these medicines. In the July issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a group of researchers from Pennsylvania examine whether an alternative approach to treating high blood cholesterol may provide an effective treatment option for patients who are unable or unwilling to take statins.

Study design

Researchers followed 74 patients with high blood cholesterol who met standard criteria for using statin therapy. Patients were randomly assigned to either the alternative treatment group or the statin group and followed for three months.

The alternative treatment group participants received daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplements, and they were enrolled in a 12-week multidisciplinary lifestyle program that involved weekly 3.5-hour educational meetings led by a cardiologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and several alternative or relaxation practitioners. Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice. A dietary staple in some Asian countries, it contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol production.

The statin group participants received 40 milligrams (mg) of Zocor (simvastatin) daily, as well as printed materials about diet and exercise recommendations. At the end of the three-month period, participants from both groups underwent blood cholesterol testing to determine the percentage change in LDL cholesterol.


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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Daily life

What if you published a book and no one noticed?

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This guy is finding out. Full story at the link; story begins:

As a Los Angeles county prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi batted a thousand in murder cases: 21 trials, 21 convictions, including the Charles Manson case in 1971.

As an author, Mr. Bugliosi has written three No. 1 best sellers and won three Edgar Allan Poe awards, the top honor for crime writers. More than 30 years ago he co-wrote the best seller “Helter Skelter,” about the Manson case.

So Mr. Bugliosi could be forgiven for perhaps thinking that a new book would generate considerable interest, among reviewers and on the broadcast talk-show circuit.

But if he thought that, he would have been mistaken: his latest, a polemic with the provocative title “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” has risen to best-seller status with nary a peep from the usual outlets that help sell books: cable television and book reviews in major daily newspapers.

Internet advertising has been abundant, but ABC Radio refused to accept an advertisement for the book during the Don Imus show, said Roger Cooper, the publisher of Vanguard Press, which put out the book.

ABC Radio did not respond to a request for comment.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:25 pm

Overweight and insulin resistant women at risk for breast cancer

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New finding:

Women who have risk factors commonly associated with Type 2 diabetes also have much greater odds of being diagnosed with an advanced breast cancer, according to research to be presented today (Tuesday 8 July 2008). University of Melbourne researcher Dr Anne Cust was a key collaborator on an international study which will today be presented to the Population Health 2008 Conference in Brisbane.

The study found that women who were overweight or had signs of insulin resistance – such as elevated blood glucose or insulin levels – were about 50 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced breast cancer tumor.

Researchers tracked more than 60,000 Swedish women over a 20-year-period from 1985 to 2005. All were cancer free when recruited and their blood tested for glucose, insulin and other hormones associated with obesity and diabetes risk.

Insulin resistance is most commonly caused by being overweight and inactive and is often a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Cust said that previous research had shown a strong link between being overweight and increased breast cancer risk in post menopausal women– but this study was the first to demonstrate the influence of insulin resistance on the stage of cancer diagnosis.

“Women with insulin resistance or who were overweight were less likely to be diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancers but at greater risk of being diagnosed with stage 2 to 4 tumors – larger more advanced cancers,” she said. “We know that being overweight and having insulin resistance is a risk factor for getting cancer but – in the case of breast cancer – our study indicates that the cancer will be more advanced.”

Dr Cust said the research findings were particularly significant at a time when there were major public health concerns about obesity and Type 2 diabetes rates.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:21 pm

Cutaneous Horns

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From Kircher Society. More information at that link and also in this article. He’s well on the road to recovery now.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Daily life

Jellyfish lake

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Swimming with jellyfish. From this site (which has more info).

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

Drawbacks to the rotating wind towers

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Loud creaking noises, for one. EcoGeek discusses a number of problems with the idea.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:58 am

Floorplanner to help plan moves

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Or furniture re-arrranging, which seems to be The Wife’s hobby. There’s a new beta of Floorplanner (free Web 2.0 tool), as explained in this Download Squad post.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:55 am

Posted in Daily life

Weird vehicles

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Take a look—and the linked page is only Part 3. (It does include links to the two previous parts.) Via Dynasty of Lao.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life

Green urban technology

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Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:18 am

Bush’s stewardship of the environment

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I would say that Bush gets a grade of F- on the environment. From ThinkProgress today:

Last October, Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the “Human Impacts of Global Warming.” Gerberding told the committee that global warming “is anticipated to have a broad range of impacts on the health of Americans,” but gave few specifics, instead focusing on CDC’s current preparation plans.

CDC officials revealed that the reason for the weak testimony was that the White House had heavily edited Gerberding’s testimony, which originally was longer and had more “information on health risks“:

“It was eviscerated,” said a CDC official, familiar with both versions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process.

The official said that while it is customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly “heavy-handed,” with the document cut from its original 14 pages to four. It was six pages as presented to the Senate committee.

The White House tried denying that it had “watered down” Gerberding’s testimony, but Press Secretary Dana Perino later admitted that the Office of Management and Budget had redacted testimony that contained “broad characterizations about climate change science that didn’t align with the IPCC.”

A new letter from former EPA administration official Jason Burnett, however, reveals that the White House was lying. In fact, Vice President Cheney called for the deletions because he feared tough testimony by Gerberding might make it harder for the Bush administration to avoid regulating greenhouse gas emissions:

The White House, at the urging of Cheney’s office, “requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change,” wrote Burnett.

“CEQ [Council on Environmental Quality] contacted me to argue that I could best keep options open for the (EPA) administrator (on regulating carbon dioxide) if I would convince CDC to delete particular sections of their testimony,” Burnett said in the letter to Boxer.

The White House’s deletions — which were “overwhelmingly denounced” by scientists and environmental health experts — included “details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC’s analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels.” (See the unredacted testimony here.)

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:15 am

Get a ginger-beer plant and make your own ginger beer

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Nothing like making your own beverages. The Eldest passes along a site where you can buy a ginger-beer plant to get started.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 11:13 am

More on learning a language

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P.J.T. Glendening wrote a very helpful little book Teach Yourself to Learn a Language, now out of print but occasionally available through secondhand books sites. He provides excellent advice, including a core vocabulary that can take you far in any language (the essential words: man, woman, day, night, week, tomorrow, yesterday, bring, take, and so on). He also emphasizes the importance of learning both the ordinal numbers (first, second, third, and so on) as well as the cardinal numbers (one, two, three, and so on)—when you’re on the phone and get a phone number or an address or want to tell someone the time and date to meet, you’ll need those numbers.

One key skill, usually learned in the first foreign language one learns, is not to fixate on a particular set of words you want to say, but to think about the idea and communicate it in words that you know. If you want to say particular words, you can readily get “stuck” because you don’t know some word, but if you’re willing to paraphrase using the words you know, you can talk around the difficulty. This skill probably accounts for the success of a Finnish experiment: most students study three years of German, but an experimental group studied a year of Esperanto, followed by two years of German (with the Esperanto continued as the language in geography classes). The Esperanto group, at the end of the three years, knew German better than those who had three years of German: they were more fluent, for example, and they found it easier to communicate. The idea was that in learning Esperanto (which was specifically designed to be easy to learn), they also picked up all sorts of skills in language learning in general, which they then used in learning German.

These thoughts stimulated by Felicia Wong’s excellent advice on learning a language. And Ira Glass’s advice applies to this activity as well: at first you won’t be happy with your efforts, but if you spend time daily doing some work on the language (listening, talking, reading, and writing: four separate skills, all of which must be exercised), you’ll in time be happy with your performance.

Note also these free language courses, and free electronic flash cards are very useful.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 10:37 am

Great advice from Ira Glass

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This video strikes me as extremely important. It should be mandatory annual viewing in every school in the nation in every grade from 1 through 12. The truth is that, when you start an activity, you can tell that what you produce is not something that you’re proud of or even that you like—and that is okay: it’s normal, it’s part of process. It seems to apply to everything I’ve tried, many of which I dropped because what I was doing was so unsatisfactory to me: woodworking, Go, writing, cooking, drawing, playing the piano, and many more. But when I was interested enough to actually persist (Go, writing to some degree, and cooking) I gradually got to where what I was doing was, to my taste, okay, sometimes even good. And who knows? If I had kept doing woodworking, for example, I may have gotten good. If I had continued to draw, maybe today I would satisfy myself. (And the important thing is to satisfy yourself—you should be happy with what you’re doing, regardless of what others may think or say.)

The key, as Glass says, is to commit to continue turning out completed works—for some time (maybe years) they won’t be what you want, but if you continue to complete things and pay attention to what you’re doing and to the outcome that results, judicious experimentation and the education of the unconscious will almost certainly ultimately result in works that satisfy you—that you like.

This is via Kevin Purdy on Lifehacker,com, and at the link you’ll find where you can watch the entire interview, of which this video is only a segment. Also, note this post on how geniuses become what they are: more or less by following Glass’s advice.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Education, Writing

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Smoky BBQ chicken sandwich with NC coleslaw

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Beautiful, is it not? The recipe is here, and I would make one addition to it: in cooking the chicken thighs, the chipotle powder will give a hint of smoke, but I would also add a dash of liquid smoke (hickory, apple, mesquite, or pecan)  to complete the package.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 9:23 am

Better golfers see a bigger hole

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Many athletes and performers talk about the importance of visualizing their actions—and the following suggests that perception can indeed affect performance:

A new study demonstrates that imagination can have a direct effect on our perception of the world. This may help explain why more accomplished sports-players describe perceiving the ball, or target such as a golf cup, as bigger.

Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor at Purdue University, found that golfers who play well are more likely to actually see a bigger hole.

Witt’s research team conducted three experiments. In the first, 46 golfers were asked to estimate the size of the hole after they played a round of golf. The diameter of a golf hole is 10.8 centimeters. The golfers selected one of nine black holes from a poster that ranged in size from 9-13 centimeters. Those who selected larger holes were the same players who had better scores on the course that day.

These findings matched up with previous research by Witt and Proffitt which found that people who were successful at hitting a ball remembered it as larger.

The question all golfers, and other athletes, will be asking is: how can I change my perception to increase my performance? Unfortunately this study can’t tell us what causes what. The big question is whether playing better causes the hole to appear larger, or imagining the hole is larger causes better play.

Although Witt’s research doesn’t tell us, a second new study does show how easy it is for imagination to directly influence our perception of the world. Joel Pearson from Vanderbilt University and colleagues found that people’s imagination influences both how they currently see something and how they see it in the future.

In their experiment …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 July 2008 at 9:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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