Later On

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

Archive for August 3rd, 2008

Learning from life

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Extremely interesting post, via Gina Trapani: Five Life-Changing Mistakes and How I Moved On

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Bush’s America

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Living inside the bureaucratic walls, wondering what lists you’re on and when they will come for you.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 1:05 pm

Daniel Goleman on compassion

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Daniel Goleman wrote a superb book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths—highly recommended and well worth the minimal price at the link—and I thought this talk was interesting

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Daniel Goleman on compassion“, posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

Culinary notes

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Last night I made the lamb with peaches, which The Wife found of greater interest once she realized that I had not said, “Lamb with beet juice.” It was excellent, even though at the end I forgot the chopped cilantro and lime juice. So it goes—but a good excuse to make it again. Rather than buying the boned shoulder, etc., I just bought two pounds of lamb stew meat.

The Wife had made bacon chocolate chip cookies for dessert: wonderful! That recipe’s a keeper.

Today I’m using the chopped cilantro in an ceviche recipe…

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 11:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Sexual assault in the military—and the cover-up

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Very good article by Col. Ann Wright, which begins:

There was quite a struggle in Congress this week. The Department of Defense refused to allow the senior civilian in charge of its Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) to testify in Thursday’s hearing on sexual assault in the military. Rep. John Tierney, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, angrily dismissed Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Michael Dominguez from the hearing when Dominguez said that he, the DoD chief of legislative affairs and the chief of public affairs, had ordered Dr. Kaye Whitley, chief of SAPRO, to refuse to honor the subpoena issued by the subcommittee for her appearance.

Full committee Chairman Henry Waxman called the DoD’s decision to prevent Whitley from testifying “ridiculous and indicating DoD is covering something up.” It could also place Whitley in contempt of Congress. Rep. Christopher Shays said the DoD’s decision was “foolish.”

One of the questions that would have been put to Whitley was why DoD had taken three years to name a 15-person civilian task force to look into allegations of sexual assault of military personnel. The panel was finally named early in 2008 but has yet to meet. She would have also been queried on the SAPRO program’s failure to require key information from the military in order to evaluate the effectiveness of sexual assault prevention and response programs.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 10:30 am

FBI virus warning

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The FBI and its partner, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), have received reports of recent spam e-mails spreading the Storm Worm malicious software, known as malware. These e-mails, which contain the phrase “F.B.I. vs. facebook,” direct e-mail recipients to click on a link to view an article about the FBI and Facebook, a popular social networking website. The Storm Worm virus has also been spread in the past in e-mails advertising a holiday e-card link. Clicking on the link downloads malware onto the Internet connected device, causing it to become infected with the virus and part of the Storm Worm botnet.

A botnet is a collection of compromised computers under the remote command and control of a criminal “botherder.” Most owners of the compromised computers are unsuspecting victims. They have unintentionally allowed unauthorized access and use of their computers as a vehicle to facilitate other crimes, such as identity theft, denial of service attacks, phishing, click fraud, and the mass distribution of spam and spyware. Because of their widely distributed capabilities, botnets are a growing threat to national security, the national information infrastructure, and the economy.

“The spammers spreading this virus are preying on Internet users and making their computers an unwitting part of criminal botnet activity. We urge citizens to help prevent the spread of botnets by becoming web-savvy. Following some simple computer security practices will reduce the risk that their computers will be compromised,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, Chief, FBI National Press Office.

Everyone should consider the following:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting personal information via e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site.
  • Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits information.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, please go to the FBI website and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI’s New E-Scams and Warnings webpage.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 10:01 am

Posted in Daily life

Cheap gas is not the goal

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Good article by Janet Raloff in Science News. Worth reading. From the article:

… Borrowing from Shakespeare, Sen. Ben Nelson (one of the gang) argued that the dilemma being fought over will no longer pivot around whether “to drill or not to drill. That’s no longer the question.”

Added his Senate colleague Mary Landrieu: “This bill will do more to lower gas prices at the pump today than anything that this Congress has done in recent memory.”

I’m not sure I buy her assessment. But even if that’s how it would play out, that’s not what we should be working toward. The goal should not be to lower the price of gasoline at the pump. That sends a signal to continue the fuel profligacy that has reigned for decades in America.

Oil is not cheap. In a real sense, it never has been. But through a series of subsidies and a failure to capture the life-cycle costs of oil’s use, we Americans have lived this fairy tale existence suggesting that our fossil fuels are cheap.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 9:56 am

Giving the devil his due

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Brad De Long has an extensive piece by Milton Friedman on his blog, and I read it with interest. I think that Friedman fails to recognize that what he calls “economic freedom” can lead to a considerable loss of personal freedom. The problem lies not in the system as he presents it (small merchants and individual dealers buying and selling at a personal level) but rather in the accumulation of economic power as businesses grow, gradually buying or wiping out smaller competitors, and their impact on the freedoms of daily life. Some counterbalance in power is required—more than the individual employee or consumer can command. To me this is evident, but free marketeers generally tout the power of the individual to choose not to buy or not to work. Leaving a job is, for these proponents, a small matter, but for most of us, having families to support and mortgages to pay, leaving a job is very big deal indeed, especially if the employer is pretty much the only game in town. It may be that the employee hasn’t the money to move elsewhere and look to start over in some other career. Here I’m thinking of the power coal companies have on coal towns and how happy those companies would be to reduce costs by eliminating safety procedures—and how they often do that, illegal or not. But there are also airline companies, eager to avoid inspections and maintenance, food companies happy to package foods made with harmful chemicals, toy manufacturers eager to cut costs no matter what the risks to children, and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 9:44 am

Unanswered questions in the anthrax case

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Glenn Greenwald has a good start on the list of questions still not answered in the anthrax case.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 9:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

The Shakespeared Brain

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Very interesting article by Phillip Davis in the Literary Review. It begins:

In Shakespeare what is apparently a small matter is actually often a big deal made seemingly small only because it is happening at pace. The moment of a decision in Macbeth, of a death in Lear: they are no sooner there than gone, with hardly time for the thing to sink in. Says poor Phebe in As You Like It, at the sight of what she takes to be an angry but beautiful young man: ‘Faster than his tongue/Did make offence his eye did heal it up.’ ‘Faster’: that’s why such things strike with disproportionate emotional violence – they are big matters contained within a small space, more than one thing happening fast at a single instant. The conceptualisation comes along afterwards, like the old nurse reporting to an impatient young Juliet: slow, belated and heavy.

I believe that the conceptual language with which we talk about Shakespeare is not very good, because it is far too much after the event. In fact I also believe that, in general, our thinking about what goes on so invisibly, so microscopically in the mind, is cumbersome and restrictive. The enemy is paraphrase, the loss of original experience within a second-hand normalising language. Whereas Shakespeare at the moment of formulation offers the great creative example of what the human mind can do.

This is why one day I knocked on the door of two brain scientists: first Neil Roberts at the University of Liverpool, then Guillaume Thierry at Bangor. I told them about the work of E A Abbott.

Abbott (1838-1926) was one of the great Victorian schoolmasters, who wrote, at the age of thirty, A Shakespearian Grammar. He described it as an attempt to illustrate some of the differences between Elizabethan and Victorian English so that his students could understand that the difficulty of Shakespeare lay not so much in the individual words, which could always be looked up in a glossary, as in the syntactic shaping of his thought. In Elizabethan grammar, he said, ‘it was common to place words in the order in which they came uppermost in the mind’ – and then fit the syntax around that mental excitement. Elizabethan authors, he continued, never objected to any ellipsis – any grammatical shortcut – ‘provided the deficiency could be easily supplied from the context’.

I told my brain scientists that one small but powerful example of this quick Elizabethan shorthand is what is now called functional shift or word-class conversion – which George Puttenham, writing in 1589, named ‘enallage or the figure of exchange’. It happens when one part of speech is suddenly transformed into another with a different function but hardly any change of form. It sounds dull but in performance is almost electrically exciting in its sudden simple reach for a word. For example: an adjective is made a verb when in The Winter’s Tale heavy thoughts are said to ‘thick my blood’. A pronoun is made into a noun when Olivia in Twelfth Night is called ‘the cruellest she alive’. Prospero turns adverb to noun when he speaks so wonderfully of ‘the dark backward’ of past time; Edgar turns noun to verb when he makes the link with Lear: ‘He childed as I fathered.’ As Abbott says, in Elizabethan English ‘You can “happy” your friend, “malice” or “foot” your enemy, or “fall” axe on his head.’ Richard II is not merely deposed (that’s Latinate paraphrase): he is unkinged.

This mental instrument of fresh linguistic coinage, which Shakespeare used above all, holds in small within itself three great principles. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life, Education

Fuel cells getting closer

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Good news:

Monash University scientists have revolutionised the design of fuel cells used in the latest generation of hybrid cars which could make the vehicles more reliable and cheaper to build. The breakthrough, published today in the journal Science, revolves around the design of a fuel cell in which a specially-coated form of popular hi tech outdoor and sporting clothing material Goretex® is the key component.

The team of Monash scientists have designed and tested an air-electrode, where a fine layer – just 0.4 of a micron thick, or about 100 times thinner than a human hair – of highly conductive plastic is deposited on the breathable fabric. The conductive plastic acts as both the fuel cell electrode and catalyst.

Monash University’s Dr Bjorn Winther-Jensen said just as Goretex® had revolutionised the outdoor clothing industry, it could hold similar promise for motorists.

“The same way as waste vapour is drawn out of this material to make hikers more comfortable to less prone to hypothermia, so it is able to ‘breathe’ oxygen into our fuel cell and into contact with the conductive plastic,” Dr Winter-Jensen said.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 8:57 am

Massive government intervention in family life

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The mammoth increase in the United States’ prison population since the 1970s is having profound demographic consequences that disproportionately affect black males. “This jump in incarceration rates represents a massive intervention in American families at a time when the federal government was making claims that it was less involved in their lives,” according to a University of Washington researcher who will present findings Sunday (Aug. 3) at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Drawing data from a variety of sources that looked at prison and general populations, Becky Pettit, a UW associate professor of sociology, and Bryan Sykes, a UW post-doctoral researcher, found that the boom in prison population is hiding lowered rates of fertility and increased rates of involuntary migration to rural areas and morbidity that is marked by a greater exposure to and risk of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV or AIDS.

These effects are most heavily felt by low-skill black males, and she said the disproportionately high incarceration rates among African-Americans suggest the prison system is a key suspect in these demographic results.

Pettit said well-documented facts – one in 100 Americans is behind bars in 2008, about 2.4 million people currently are incarcerated and nearly 60 percent of young black males who dropped out of high school have served time in jail – don’t seem to register with Americans.

“These kinds of rates were not historically true 30 years ago. Today, we are giving people custodial sentences that we wouldn’t have in the past for victimless crimes. Our justice system has become more punitive,” she said, adding that most demographic data collection is decades behind the times and masks this racial disproportionality. That’s because most surveys, which are federally funded, were begun in the 1960s and 70s and excluded the prison population, which was significantly smaller at that time.

In addition, she noted that the effects of an ever-growing criminal justice system extend beyond those who are serving sentences to include children, partners and even entire communities. Among the findings outlined in Pettit’s presentation are:

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 8:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Bush’s promise

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Jon Perr on Crooks & Liars has a very good post:

Eight years ago today, George W. Bush uttered the now broken promise that has come to define his failed presidency. Accepting his party’s nomination, Governor Bush promised to restore “honor and dignity” to the White House. But as events continue to show, a more accurate – and ironic – mantra for the lawless Bush White House would be “no controlling legal authority.”

At the time it was delivered, Bush’s acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia was an arrogant, deceitful broadside against the Clinton/Gore years. But the very words Bush used to tar Al Gore with the blight of the Lewinsky scandal may now constitute the epitaph for the Bush presidency:

“So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.”

That hateful address (video excerpts here), of course, was filled with exactly the kind of lies and taunts – the smallness – that came to define George W. Bush.

His false charges about American military readiness (”Not ready for duty, sir!”), his long since abandoned philosophy when it comes to using American force (”the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming”), his smearing of Al Gore that foreshadowed his own legacy (”he now leads the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the only thing he has to offer is fear itself”) and his obscene claim to be a “uniter” (”I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it”), all were in keeping with the dark Bush character.

Bush broke all of these promises. But his original sin, from which all other of his crimes and errors flow, is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 8:07 am

Killing the oceans

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Humanity is, in the mass, irresponsible in the extreme. Indeed, looking at the results, self-destructive and stupid might be added as well. Take a look:

BARCELONA, Spain — Blue patrol boats crisscross the swimming areas of beaches here with their huge nets skimming the water’s surface. The yellow flags that urge caution and the red flags that prohibit swimming because of risky currents are sometimes topped now with blue ones warning of a new danger: swarms of jellyfish.

In a period of hours during a day a couple of weeks ago, 300 people on Barcelona’s bustling beaches were treated for stings, and 11 were taken to hospitals.

From Spain to New York, to Australia, Japan and Hawaii, jellyfish are becoming more numerous and more widespread, and they are showing up in places where they have rarely been seen before, scientists say. The faceless marauders are stinging children blithely bathing on summer vacations, forcing beaches to close and clogging fishing nets.

But while jellyfish invasions are a nuisance to tourists and a hardship to fishermen, for scientists they are a source of more profound alarm, a signal of the declining health of the world’s oceans.

“These jellyfish near shore are a message the sea is sending us saying, ‘Look how badly you are treating me,’ ” said Dr. Josep-María Gili, a leading jellyfish expert, who has studied them at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona for more than 20 years.

The explosion of jellyfish populations, scientists say, reflects a combination of severe overfishing of natural predators, like tuna, sharks and swordfish; rising sea temperatures caused in part by global warming; and pollution that has depleted oxygen levels in coastal shallows.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2008 at 7:14 am

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