Later On

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

Archive for July 13th, 2008

Getting ready for NaNoMo

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The more preparation you can complete before 1 November, the more likely it is that you can indeed finish a 50,000 novel, all of whose words were written during November. I’ve had a couple of posts already on National Novel-writing Month (“get ready,” “Civil War,” and “breaking through writer’s block“), and I thought it was time for another. Besides, I really like this idea.

No matter in what sequence your novel unfolds—i.e., whether as a straightforward narrative (usually the best), or with flashbacks, or with some weird experimental chopping and reversing of the times—you still need to have nailed down for yourself exactly what the timeline is. If you don’t, you will be constantly struggling to keep the sequence straight, looking back over what you’ve written, and making plenty of mistakes anyway.

So let me suggest that you spend a few days or weeks working out the sequence of events in your novel using Timetoast. That little app makes it easy to revise and update the timeline, and though you won’t be transferring any of that text into the novel come November (which is verboten), you’ll be very glad to have the timeline as a reference.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Software, Writing

Tagged with ,

Laugh? or cry?

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Go see and decide which.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Religion

Now we’re getting someplace: 1.5 Terabyte drives

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Nice. I want one, of course, though I still have lots of room on my current 0.5 TB hard drive. The big drive will be especially helpful to photographers and musicians and moviemakers.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

An earlier media revolution

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Via Raganwald:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Technology

Dinner: ratatouille-esque

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Dinner is now simmering. Here’s what it is:

In large (4-qt) sauté pan, pour a little (~2 Tbs) olive oil and (~1 Tbs) dark sesame oil. Heat, and add 3 medium onions, chopped. As that sautés, add:

Several shakes of crushed red pepper (from a large container with shake top)
Dried sweet basil
Dried oregano
Laver, cut up with scissors (about 1/2 oz)
5 cloves garlic, minced (added after sitting 15 minutes)
3 small-medium zucchini, chopped
2 small yellow patty-pan squash, chopped
1 (~1-1.5 lb) eggplant, chopped

I stopped adding for a few minutes and stirred the above as it cooked. Then I continued adding:

6 Roma tomatoes, chopped (Veggichop very handy)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 regular can diced tomatoes with jalapeño
Fresh tarragon, chopped (about 1 Tbs—all I had)
Frozen baby limas, 1/2 package
Dried mixed mushrooms, a good handful
Mirin (about 3 Tbsp)
Shoyu sauce (about 2 Tbsp)
Worcestershire sauce (about 1 Tbsp)
salt
Pepper

I thought of adding some frozen corn kernels, but the pan is pretty full—had to use the domed lid. I’ve had more or less this same mix (without the tarragon and mushrooms) and it’s very tasty.

UPDATE: After it had simmered over low heat for 40 minutes, I checked and it seemed a little liquidy, so I added 1/2 cup whole-wheat orzo and will cook another 15 minutes.

LATER UPDATE: And this is the way I cook: adding things as I see or think of them. I decided that when I serve this, a topping of shaved romano peccorino cheese would be just the ticket, and I have just the device: a garlic slicer.

Cut a little slab of romano or Parmesan cheese, put it in the hopper, and this little guy will soon produce a pile of shavings. For me, it also worked well with garlic, but read the reviews.

JUST A LITTLE LATER UPDATE: Just as I was about to spoon out a bowl, it occurred to me that about 1/2 cup or so of pitted Saracena olives would make it even better. So I added those. And it occurs to me now that an anchovy or two added at the beginning would have improved the umami (without giving it an anchovy taste). Or Parmesan rinds, of which I have none at the present, would have worked as well.

STILL LATER UPDATE: Decided the hell with it, added two chopped anchovies anyway. Just had a bowl of the stuff. Heavenly with a nice red zinfandel.

LAST UPDATE: After two meals of the stuff, I can say that this combination works like a charm. Extremely tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Ridding your computer of shovelware

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“Shovelware” is a term for the tons of crippled software that computer manufacturers are paid to install on your new computer—programs that you don’t want, probably can’t use, and in any event require a purchase to be fully functional. MakeUseOf has a detailed review of Revo Uninstaller, a free program that works well as an uninstaller pure and simple but that will also hunt down shovelware. Well worth reading—and I have installed it. The review begins:

I have been looking for something like Revo Uninstaller for years.  If you’ve ever used “Add or Remove Programs” on Windows, you know that it’s slow, uninformative, and sometimes not very good at its sole function: uninstalling things. Revo Uninstaller aims to correct those design flaws by being conversely fast, helpful and very effective at uninstalling just about anything you can throw at it.

The interface centers on the main uninstaller, which is very easy to use.  You can view your installed programs as either large icons or in a detailed list view.  I prefer the list view because it lets you sort by name, size, installation date or company.  Revo Uninstaller also displays the version number and the product’s website, if applicable.

When you find something you want to uninstall, …

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Imitating evolved structures

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Evolution takes a long time for creatures of lifespans similar to ours, but given a few million years of trial and error, the process can work out surprising and highly effective solutions that a designer would not have thought of. For example, the bumps on a humpback whale’s fins make for greater efficiency. Who knew?

Take a look at Treehugger’s article, and at the Christian Science Monitor article, and at the resulting business Website.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 1:12 pm

One reason local governments like the War on Drugs

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It’s a money machine:

IN 2005 the Montgomery County district attorney’s office held a party at the county fair in east Texas. They had beer, liquor and a margarita machine. The district attorney, Mike McDougal, at first denied that this had been paid for by drug money. He acknowledged that his office had a margarita machine at the fair. In fact, he said, they won first prize for best margarita. But he insisted they came by it fair and square. In any case, he pointed out, the county’s drug fund was at his discretion. Under Texas forfeiture law, counties can keep most of the money and property they rustle up.

As the drug war continues, the practice of asset forfeiture has come under question. Last year, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, $12 billion was smuggled from the United States to Mexico. Federal officials seized about $1.6 billion of that. State and local agencies got many millions more. The idea is to discourage drug smugglers by taking away their profits. At the federal level, forfeited assets go into a dedicated fund. But at state level, various rules apply. In Indiana, for example, extra money goes to a general school fund. In Texas, most of it stays with the sheriffs or district attorneys whose offices found it.

This was meant to help out and encourage local law enforcement by giving officers some discretionary income. In most cases it does. But Mr McDougal’s margarita machine was not an isolated abuse. A district attorney in west Texas took his whole staff to Hawaii for a training seminar. Another spent thousands of dollars on commercials for his re-election campaign. John Whitmire, a Democratic state senator, wants to prosecute such abuses and held a hearing last month to examine the issue. He found an immediate obstacle to punishing the profligate district attorneys. “I ain’t figured out what the hell law they violate,” he said. Chapter 59 of the Texas criminal code, which covers forfeiture, is vague on the subject. It says only that assets must be used “for law-enforcement purposes”.

Mr Whitmire is mostly concerned with the waste of public money. But the asset-forfeiture programme has various problems. Some poorer counties have come to rely on drug money to pay for their basic operations. Even in counties that are not strapped for cash, there is an extra incentive for sheriffs to go after money, so they may have more interest in the southbound traffic than in people heading north.

Another concern is that the government has broad powers to seize assets. In criminal cases, forfeiture follows a conviction and so it requires a guilty person. In civil cases, the property itself is considered guilty, and the government has only to show by “a preponderance of the evidence” that the money or gun or car was somehow shady. That is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” used in criminal cases.

Sometimes the patrolman gets things wrong. In 2005, for example, Javier Gonzalez was stopped in South Texas with about $10,000 in cash in a gym bag. He was going to visit a sick aunt and planned to use the money to make funeral arrangements. He was pulled over, and the cash was seized…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:58 pm

Attacking Michelle Obama

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Disgusting:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Media

Selling access

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Many news stories today about how Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.” Specifically, access to Cheney and Rice, possibly others. But how could the tape get made? It would require a representative of the unnamed Asian president to help. Crooks and Liars has the explanation and also the video. Basically, it was payback.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:52 pm

Cool architectural reuse

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Take a look. I particularly like the boat home.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Excellent article on National Healthcare

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Jonathan Cohn is the author of Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis—and the People Who Pay the Price (currently a Bargain Book on Amazon at the link). He has some cautionary words for people like me, who are strong advocates of the single-payer system. His article begins:

If you are one of those people who believes the government, rather than for-profit corporations, should provide all Americans with health insurance, then you haven’t had much trouble finding evidence to support your view. “Single-payer” systems, as these schemes are known, don’t fritter money away on marketing, profits, and the constant efforts insurers make to enroll only healthy, cheap-to-insure customers. Single-payer systems also offer free choice of doctor and hospital, a privilege your typical managed-care enrollee covets. Most important of all, the people who get insurance from single-payer systems seem to be rather happy. Just go ask the citizens of France, who enjoy a system that combines legendary convenience with cutting-edge cancer care. Or, closer to home, ask a senior citizen: Medicare, which covers virtually every American 65 and over, is a single-payer system of sorts; it is also, according to surveys, far more popular with its enrollees than private insurers are with theirs.

But, if you were hoping that Washington would take your views seriously, then you’ve probably been pretty disappointed. The votes for creating a single-payer system just don’t exist on Capitol Hill. So, when Washington gets serious about reforming the nation’s health care system, as it is right now, the single-payer crowd inevitably ends up on the margins. You can see it in the press coverage, as reporters, myself included, hype the work of lawmakers like Senator Ron Wyden, who has been pushing a bipartisan bill that would give everybody private insurance. Meanwhile, almost nobody bothers to interview Representative John Conyers, even though his single-payer bill has 90 co-sponsors–not enough to earn it passage, perhaps, but surely enough to earn it a place in the conversation.

For you, then, July 8 should have been a day to celebrate. That’s when …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:44 pm

Schwarzenegger speaks up about global warming

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And makes a very good point. Video at the link to ThinkProgress.

On Friday, the Bush administration “rejected its own experts’ conclusion that global warming poses a threat to the public welfare, launching a comment period that will delay action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least until the next president takes office.” As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson “attack[ed] the clear and present threat of global warming” and dismissed it as a “‘complex’ issue that hinges on ‘interpretation of statutory terms.’”

The decision was quickly denounced by environmental experts, EPA staffers, and even a member of President Bush’s own party — California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In an interview this morning with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Schwarzenegger laments that the Bush administration “did not believe in global warming.” He adds that even if officials had done something on Friday, he would have thought it “bogus anyway…because you don’t change global warming and you don’t really have an effect by doing something six months before you leave office“:

[I]t just really means basically this administration did not believe in global warming, or they did not believe that they should do anything about it since China is not doing anything about it and since India is not willing to do the same thing, so why should we do the same thing.

But that’s not how we put a man on the moon. We did not say let everyone else do the same thing, then we will do it. We said we want to be the pioneers, we want to be out there in front. … I think we have a good opportunity to do the same thing, also, with fighting global warming.

As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has explained, Schwarzenegger also confirmed that he believes the strong wildfires in California are partially a result of global warming. Watch it:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:34 pm

Goodbye, fish

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Jeremy Elton Jacquot has a saddening post at Treehugger:

It’s bad enough fish already have to deal with the consequences of overfishing; now, according to a new study authored by a team of UBC fisheries scientists, dozens will be faced with the prospect of extinction by 2050. Even slight fluctuations in temperature could cause many cold water species to perish as they attempt to seek out new, more amenable habitats, reports ScienceNOW‘s Christopher Pala.

Another study authored by Daniel Pauly, a fisheries expert at UBC, has found that fisheries catches in some tropical island countries may be up to 17 times higher than officially reported, writes IPS‘s Stephen Leahy.

Using a model that tracked a range of habitat conditions, including water temperature and depth from sea ice, to predict which habitats would be most impacted by climate change, William Cheung, the study’s lead author, and his colleagues found that around 50 species of commercial fishes living near or at the poles will go extinct within the next 4 decades. Those species that can will try migrating toward the Arctic and Southern oceans or end up trapped in closed seas.

While fisheries species in colder waters succumb to climate change, those living in tropical waters will also be feeling the heat from overfishing. According to Pauly, all of the 20 Pacific island nations in his study underreported catches because they didn’t include the catch of local fishers (something developed nations like the U.S. fail to do as well).

The problem is that governments, scientists and major international organizations like the FAO rely on this faulty data to decide on fish quotas and licensing. The aid money some of these groups funnel to fisheries in developing countries often ends up benefiting large commercial-scale fisheries, the study also found. Most of these fish end up being exported to wealthy countries. As a result, local fishers may be forced to increase their catch rates — aggravating an already serious predicament — in order to survive.

You can read more about Cheung’s model and UBC’s “Sea Around Us” project, which monitors global catch rates, at the Fisheries Center website.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 12:26 pm

Straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel

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It puzzles me that Christian Fundamentalists make such a big deal of fighting evolution—which, after all, not only makes sense, but you can actually see it happening in organisms with short lifespans (microbes) and see in the fossil record transitional forms galore and trace structural similarities across many species (all mammals, for instance)—and yet seem to have no fight with quantum physics, which is really weird. For example:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 9:07 am

Anger

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I imagine that you, too, have known people who are more or less constantly simmering with anger, ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. And Reuters has a story on growing anger in the workplace. So what is the benefit that feeling angry delivers? It must do something for the person who’s angry. A psychologist explains in a piece titled “If Anger Helps You Feel in Control, No Wonder You Can’t Control Your Anger!“.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Vegetarians live longer

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We keep being told this, but still most eat meat. Why is that? From Treehugger:

The battle has long been waged, and will certainly continue in spite of this study. Are humans designed/evolved to eat everything and at risk of malnutrition as vegetarians? Or is vegetarianism the healthy and ethical choice? The most impressive data arises from a study of 1904 vegetarians over 21 years by the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsche Krebsforschungszentrum). The study’s shocking results: vegetarian men reduced their risk of early death by 50%! Women vegetarians benefit from a 30% reduction in mortality.

Long-term Study of Vegetarians
The participants of the the German Cancer Research Center study included 60 vegans (no animal products consumed), 1165 vegetarians (eating eggs, milk but no meat) with the remainder described as “moderate” vegetarians who occasionally ate fish or meat. The health of these study participants was compared with the average German population. Living longer seems not to be exclusively related to eating meat, though, as the results for moderate vegetarians was not statistically different from those for vegan or strict vegetarian diets.

To the argument that it is not vegetarianism but a general interest in a healthier lifestyle which leads to such notable results, scientists reply with evidence that the majority of vegetarians do not cite health reasons for their lifestyle, but make their choice based on ethical commitment, environmental concerns or simply personal taste.

Vegetarians and Malnutrition
Research by a team led by Professor Ibrahim Elmadfa at the University of Vienna found a much better than average intake of Vitamin C, Carotinoides, Folic acid, fiber and unsaturated fats. Where shortcomings may arise is for Vitamin B12, calcium und Vitamin D in a vegan diet. Astoundingly, however, study participants did not suffer from diseases, such as osteoporosis, typically related to inadequate intakes of these micro-nutrients.

More on Vegetarians
Cut Global Warming by Becoming Vegetarian
How to Become a Vegetarian
Hollywood’s Sexiest Vegetarians
Smart Kids More Likely to be Vegetarians

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 8:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Compare and contrast

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First, this post by Michael Balter on Vélib, the bicycle-sharing system in Paris.

Next, this little condescending talk by Rep. Patrick McHenry:

Firedoglake’s A. Siegel notes:

Representative Patrick McHenry made a name for himself in 2007 as seriously Energy Dumb in his truthiness attack on the Energy Bill as focused on bicycles as the solution path. Amid the $billions of spending (and tax benefits) under consideration, the insightful McHenry focused on $1 million per year in spending on bicycles as somehow representing “the” Democratic solution path to America’s energy challenges. While McHenry did use a true fact (yes, there was $1 million in funding), his commentary was neither truthful nor speaking truth, since it tried to represent this extremely small portion of the bill as central and somehow quite significant. (If he had used more accurate words like “less than 1/100 of 1 percent of funding”, would his demagoguery perhaps been undermined?)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2008 at 7:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Global warming, GOP, Government

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