Later On

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

Archive for July 14th, 2008

Programmers: you should play Go

with 2 comments

Here’s why.

Non-programmers: you also should play Go. It’s fun, after all.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Go

The Bat-umbrella

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More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Daily life

Targeting bad Democrats

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Glenn Greenwald writes today about the coalition working to unseat bad Democrats, and the column begins with why the coalition even exists:

In the 2006 mid-term elections, Americans handed The Democratic Party a sweeping, staggering, and historic victory — as the GOP was removed from power and Democrats given control over both the House and Senate. It marked only the third time in the last 60 years that there was a change in control of the Congress. The Democrats defeated six GOP Senators, and picked up 31 House seats. Six Governorships switched from the GOP to the Democrats. Not one single Democratic incumbent in Congress and not one Democratic Governor lost — only the second time in U.S. history in which one of the major parties failed to defeat even a single Congressional incumbent from the other party.

Since that overwhelming Democratic victory, this is what the Democratic-led Congress has done:

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 1:30 pm

For those who run errands on a bike

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Cetmarack

CETMArack

You want to get one of these racks.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

Cool chair

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Slice Chair

Slice Chair

Very cool, eh? Read about it here (with more photos).

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

McCain: early stages of dementia?

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I’ve mentioned it before: McCain’s gaffes are increasingly strange—facts he definitely should know, repeated errors as though he cannot remember his briefings, and so on. And ThinkProgress has this note:

During a press availability today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he’s been concerned by “a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several day,” including “reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.” But, as TPM’s Greg Sargent points out, Czechoslovakia hasn’t existed in 15 years. This isn’t the first time McCain has made this mistake. At a debate in Oct. 2007, McCain said that America needs to “have a missile defense system in place in Czechoslovakia and Poland.”

Update: Sargent notes that McCain also made the Czechoslovakia mix up about three months ago on Don Imus’s radio show.

Keep in mind that one of McCain’s claims is that he’s “ready to go” as President because of his extensive foreign-policy knowledge.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2008 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Tillman-Lynch report released

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From Russ Kick at the Memory Hole:

From the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

Committee Releases Proposed Tillman Report

A proposed Committee report on the investigations into the death of Corporal Patrick Tillman and the capture of Private Jessica Lynch discloses important new details about the incidents, but could not resolve “the key issue of what senior officials knew” because “the investigation was frustrated by a near universal lack of recall.” The full Committee will meet on Thursday to approve the report.

Documents and Links

  • Report: Misleading Information from the Battlefield: The Tillman and Lynch Episodes (383 KB)
  • Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:54 pm

    New biomass cookstoves

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    Is it just me, or do these cookstoves look an awful lot like Rocket Stoves?

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Posted in Daily life, Technology

    Foods for kids: worthless

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    Packaged foods, that is.  The reason, I think, is that businesses view kids as not very important, so who cares what nutrition they get? Take a look:

    Nine out of ten regular food items aimed specifically at children have a poor nutritional content – because of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium – according to a detailed study of 367 products published in the July issue of the UK-based journal Obesity Reviews. Just under 70 per cent of the products studied – which specifically excluded confectionery, soft drinks and bakery items – derived a high proportion of calories from sugar. Approximately one in five (23 per cent) had high fat levels and 17 per cent had high sodium levels. Despite this, 62 per cent of the foods with poor nutritional quality (PNQ) made positive claims about their nutritional value on the front of the packet.

    “Children’s foods can now be found in virtually every section of the supermarket and are available for every eating experience” says Professor Charlene Elliott from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Trustee of the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition.

    “Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children. Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious.”

    Only 11 per cent of the products Professor Elliott and her colleagues evaluated provided good nutritional value in line with the criteria laid down by the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit agency that received the Food and Drug Administration’s highest honour in 2007.

    The CSPI nutritional standards state that healthy food should not derive more than 35 per cent of its calories from fat (excluding nuts and seed and nut butters) and should have no more than 35 per cent added sugar by weight. They also provide guidance on sodium levels, ranging from 230mg per portion for snacks through to 770mg per portion for pre-prepared meals.

    CSPI’s standards are adapted from those developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, a coalition of some 300 health and nutrition organisations in the USA. The organisation states that its standards represent a compromise approach. They allow for the marketing of products that may not be nutritionally ideal, but that provide some positive nutritional benefits that could help children meet the US Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Posted in Business, Daily life, Food, Health, Science

    Tagged with

    Eggplant, ginger, shallots, and chicken

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    I’ve been enjoying eggplant lately, so I’ll definitely give this a go. Mark Bittman:

    Chicken Breast With Eggplant, Shallots and Ginger
    Yield 4 servings  Time 30 minutes

    For years, I believed salting the eggplant aided in browning. But browning is more of an issue when you slice eggplant and want crisp tenderness. Here you want it to become soft, almost mushy, so don’t waste your time salting.

    • 8 ounces shallots (about 6 large)
    • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed
    • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger or 2 teaspoons dried ginger
    • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (4 half breasts)
    • 1/4 cup or more minced fresh cilantro

    1. Peel shallots. If they are small, leave them whole. Otherwise, cut them in half the long way. (Most large shallots have two lobes and will naturally divide in half as you peel them.) Heat the broiler or a gas or charcoal grill.

    2. Place oil in a large nonstick skillet, and turn heat to medium high. Add shallots, and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add eggplant, salt and pepper, and lower heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until eggplant softens, about 15 minutes.

    3. When eggplant begins to brown, add half the ginger, and cook 3 minutes or so more, until eggplant is very tender and the mixture fragrant.

    4. Meanwhile, rub chicken breasts with salt, pepper and remaining ginger. Grill about 4 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes a side or until done.

    5. Stir half the cilantro into eggplant mixture. Serve chicken breasts on a bed of eggplant. Garnish with remaining cilantro.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

    Continuing corruption of the Federal government

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    Take a look:

    Former Congressman Curt Weldon‘s employer Defense Solutions got a good deal in Iraq. So good, that “the deal, for decades-old, equipment, included terms so lopsided, they likely would have been illegal under U.S. law.” Defense Solutions got a contract with the Iraqi government in 2005 to refurbish obsolete Soviet-era Hungarian tanks. While U.S. law would dictate that the company’s fee be tied to performance, Defense Solutions’ contract not only ensures payment, it also gives them a percentage of the total cost. Even the Pentagon admits that “A cost plus percentage of cost type arrangement would encourage the contractor to experience as much cost as possible to receive a greater amount of fee.” The status of the tanks is not known, and the amount paid to Defense Solutions is confidential. The contract was signed on the Iraqi side by Ziad Cattan, who was put in place by the U.S. to oversee Iraq’s defense procurement. During his time in Congress, Weldon was on the House Committee on Armed Services and chaired the Military Procurement Subcommittee under Armed Services.

    Source: Wired’s Danger Room, July 10, 2008

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

    Tagged with

    Short-story contest: 500 words, 20 July

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    So to warm up from NaNoMo’s 50,000-word novel-writing, try writing something 1% as long. But the contest ends 20 July. You can email entries. Here are the details.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Posted in Daily life, Writing

    Could a real Batman last long?

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    We’re talking surviving. And the answer is, as anyone would suspect, “No.” But there’s more to it than that. Read this Scientific American column for the full story. A note on fighting multiple attackers, though: in Aikido the mass attack is a standard practice routine, and a skilled and trained Aikidoist can do a very good job of holding them off.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Posted in Daily life, Science

    Tagged with

    Wall Street Journal pushes conservation

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    Amazing, eh? You’ll recall Cheney’s speech a few years back disdaining conservation. It’s a long road that has no turning. Read the whole column. The sidebar to the column offers these tips:

    TIPS FOR STAYING COOL

    The Internet offers dozens of tips for surviving the summer without air conditioning. Among them: Sleep in wet socks. Position a fan to blow at you across a pan of ice. Suck on a mint. Eat spicy foods. Try yoga.
    Energy efficiency experts, however, say your best bet is to weather-proof your home. Here’s how:
    Install ceiling fans. They can cool a room by several degrees, for just pennies a day. Box fans work well, too.
    Use a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature to match your daily routine. Letting the A/C rest while you’re out at work can shave as much as 12% from your bill.
    Maintain your air conditioner at peak performance by changing the filters and dusting the coils regularly
    Shade the air conditioner’s outside condenser. This will improve its efficiency.
    Caulk around windows and weather-strip doors to prevent cool air from leaking out. A $3 tube of caulk can make a big difference.
    Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use less energy and give off less heat. Over the life of one bulb, you’ll save about $25.
    Use window curtains or shades to keep out the sun during the heat of the day
    Insulate your attic. Otherwise, the sun’s heat beating down on your roof will penetrate the house.
    Cook on an outdoor grill or in an electric crock pot to avoid using the oven.
    Sources: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores; Xcel Energy.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Posted in Daily life

    Tagged with

    What happened in Afghanistan?

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    Spencer Ackerman explains:

    As U.S. casualties continue to climb in Afghanistan, an American public distracted by the war in Iraq can be forgiven for wondering: what happened? How did a war that seemed won in late 2001, just months after the Oct. 7, 2001 air campaign against the Taliban, suffer this sharp reversal fortune in less than seven years?

    A new book by one of the most respected journalists of Afghanistan and Pakistan contends that the years between 2002 and 2007 were as crucial to the stability of the region as they were squandered by the Bush administration. A combination of lassitude and ignorance on the part of President George W. Bush and his war Cabinet — fueled by, paradoxically, the initial, rapid success of the Afghanistan war — led to a vicious circle of both Afghan and Pakistani corruption, violence and instability.

    Descent Into Chaos by the prolific Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid chronicles how Afghanistan went from being a success story to a more dangerous place than Iraq; how Pakistan went from being a stalwart U.S. ally to a “bolt hole,” in Rashid’s words, for Al Qaeda, and the relationship of each to the other. It argues that Central Asia, rather than Iraq, is the major front on the war on terror; and methodically documents the success over the last six years of the forces of extremism, violence and terror. And it raises the uncomfortable prospect that, after nearly seven years in Afghanistan and billions of dollars spent supporting proxy governments in Kabul and Islamabad, the U.S. might be at greater danger from the region than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001.

    With both presidential candidates attempting to checkmate the other on national security, Rashid’s book raises an uncomfortable question: can anything be done to reverse the region’s anti-American trends?

    Continue reading.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Potentially useful software: good deal on 14 July only

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    Today only: one is on sale at 45% off, the other is free. But today only. You can read about them here.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Posted in Daily life, Software

    Cats: wonderful

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    Or at least we think so. And here’s an interesting post on the topic. It begins:

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” — Albert Schweitzer

    Last year I covered 5 unusual studies on the psychology of dogs and their owners. This kicked off a comment thread which discussed how dogs act as ice-breakers, how they might mediate the tension between couples and how long after you died they would wait to feast on your flesh.

    Apparently dogs wait longer than cats although I’m pretty sure there’s no experimentally controlled evidence for this.

    But what about cat-lovers and research into the psychology of cats? Inspired by MindHacks, I’ve uncovered a small literature on cats’ effects on human mood, their ability to become attached to their owners, their personalities and our relationships with them.

    Can cats improve your mood?

    Cats are frequently accused of being selfish, but it’s humans who are often being a little selfish when they get a cat – they hope it will give them pleasure. But do cats really consistently improve mood – was Albert Schweitzer right?

    Research carried out by anthrozoologists suggests …

    Continue reading.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Posted in Cats, Daily life, Science

    Tagged with

    More technology from evolved structures

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    Hundreds of millions of years of trial and error do indeed produce amazing structures. I mentioned earlier the bumps on the fins of the humpback whale, now imitated on fan blades. And now the teeth of the marine worm get close attention. (Scary photo at link—and you can enlarge it, too.)

    Researchers in California and New Hampshire report the first detailed characterization of the protein composition of the hard, fang-like jaws of a common marine worm. Their work could lead to the design of a new class of super-strong, lightweight materials for use as construction and repair materials for spacecraft, airplanes, and other applications.

    In the new study, Chris C. Broomell and colleagues note that Nereis virens, also known as the sandworm or ragworm, is a burrowing marine worm found in shallow waters in the North Atlantic region. Researchers remain intrigued by the remarkable hardness of its jaws and long pincers, which rivals that of human teeth and exceed the hardness of many synthetic plastics. But little is known about the exact chemical composition of these structures.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 11:34 am

    Posted in Science, Technology

    Tagged with

    Slife: Mac only

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    This little free time-management software package sounds nice. Mac only, though.

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 11:25 am

    Posted in Daily life, Software

    Water-permeable pavement

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    Transmaterial reports on a water-permeable pavement. As water becomes scarce over the next generation, ideas for water conservation and replenishment will become increasingly important. This one looks good:

    The management of storm water runoff has become a significant environmental and economical challenge in cities. Conventional drainage systems are designed to carry water great distances to large municipal sewer systems. Moreover, storm water is often combined with other sewage, resulting in a significant quantity of waste water that must be processed by overtaxed facilities.

    Permapave attempts to address the storm water problem at the source. By allowing storm water to pass through paved surfaces, pressure on local pollution control facilities is reduced while underlying water tables are replenished with much-needed groundwater.

    Developed in Australia and New Zealand, the bonded, natural-stone permeable pavers provide a simple and attractive solution to eliminate 100% of gross pollutants with a flow through rate of up to 7.5 gallons per second per square foot. The non-slip pavers are also strong enough to support light traffic areas, such as parking lots, driveways and bicycle paths.

    Installed similarly to traditional brick pavers, the durable two-inch-thick material can also be specified as a storm water filtration system. When used in conjunction with a Permapave curbside or footpath bio-retention system, the Permapave system can filter up to 60% of phosphorus, 70% of heavy metals, and 98% of hydrocarbons from storm water, eliminating pollution before it permeates the ground. [Contact: Permapave Industries, LLC, Syosset, NY.]

    Written by LeisureGuy

    14 July 2008 at 10:52 am

    Posted in Daily life, Technology

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