Later On

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

Archive for August 5th, 2008

Uh-oh! I just lost all interest in Google apps

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Take a look:

Nick Saber isn’t happy now. Monday afternoon, after lunch, Nick came back from lunch to find out that he couldn’t get into his Gmail account. Further, he couldn’t get into anything that Google made (beside search) where his account credentials once worked. When attempting to log in, Nick got a single line message:

Sorry, your account has been disabled. [?]

That’s it.

Nick sent a message or three to Google for support. He got back this:

Thank you for your report. We’ve completed our investigation. Because our investigation was inconclusive, we are unable to return your account at this time. At Google we take the privacy and security of our users very seriously. For this reason, we’re unable to reveal any further information about this account.

And that’s it.

Suddenly, Nick can’t access his Gmail account, can’t open Google Talk (our office IM app), can’t open Picasa where his family pictures are, can’t use his Google Docs, and oh by the way, he paid for additional storage. So, this is a paying customer …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Why some are addicted after one cigarette

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New research from The University of Western Ontario reveals how the brain processes the ‘rewarding’ and addictive properties of nicotine, providing a better understanding of why some people seemingly become hooked with their first smoke. The research, led by Steven Laviolette of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry could lead to new therapies to prevent nicotine dependence and to treat nicotine withdrawal when smokers try to quit. The paper is published in the August 6th Journal of Neuroscience. “Nicotine interacts with a variety of neurochemical pathways within the brain to produce its rewarding and addictive effects,” explains Laviolette. “However, during the early phase of tobacco exposure, many individuals find nicotine highly unpleasant and aversive, whereas others may become rapidly dependent on nicotine and find it highly rewarding. We wanted to explore that difference.”

The researchers found one brain pathway in particular uses the neurotransmitter ‘dopamine’ to transmit signals related to nicotine’s rewarding properties. This pathway is called the ‘mesolimbic’ dopamine system and is involved in the addictive properties of many drugs of abuse, including cocaine, alcohol and nicotine.

“While much progress has been made in understanding how the brain processes the rewarding effects of nicotine after the dependence is established, very little is known about how the mesolimbic dopamine system may control the initial vulnerability to nicotine; that is, why do some individuals become quickly addicted to nicotine while others do not, and in some cases, even find nicotine to be highly aversive.”

The scientists identified which specific dopamine receptor subtype controlled the brain’s initial sensitivity to nicotine’s rewarding and addictive properties and were able to manipulate these receptors to control whether the nicotine is processed as rewarding or aversive.

“Importantly, our findings may explain an individual’s vulnerability to nicotine addiction, and may point to new pharmacological treatments for the prevention of it, and the treatment of nicotine withdrawal,” says Laviolette. The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation.

Source: University of Western Ontario

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Roasted beet salad with beet greens and feta

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From Epicurious, via Slashfood. But the beets are braised, not roasted. I think I’d try roasting them: cut into chunks, toss with a little olive oil, and roast at 450º until done.

Roasted beet salad with beet greens and feta
Bon Appétit |  March 1997

Good cooks never discard the nutritious beet greens. Here, the greens are combined with roasted beets, capers and feta in a Greek-inspired salad. Offer this before roast leg of lamb with crisp potatoes.

Serves 6.

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic

7 medium-large beets (about 3 inches in diameter) with greens
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped drained capers

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic in small bowl to blend. Season dressing generously with salt and pepper.

Cut green tops off beets; reserve tops. Arrange beets in single layer in 13x9x2-inch baking dish; add 1 cup water. Cover; bake until beets are tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Peel beets while warm. Cut beets in half and slice thinly. Transfer to large bowl. Mix in capers and 1/4 cup dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut stems off beet greens; discard stems. Wash greens. Transfer greens, with some water still clinging to leaves, to large pot. Stir over high heat until just wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain greens; squeeze out excess moisture. Cool; chop coarsely.

Transfer greens to medium bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange beets in center of platter. Surround with greens; sprinkle with feta. Drizzle with any remaining dressing.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 5:16 pm

Extremely nice Glenn Miller album

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More accurately, the Glenn Miller band, long after Glenn Miller had been killed in a WWII accident. (His P-38 flew into an area in which bombers returning from an incomplete mission dropped their bombs.) Free download of the entire album. Via Boing Boing.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Music

More on inflating your car’s tires

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In a series of public events today, John McCain has ramped up his disingenuous attack on the impact proper tire inflation can have in saving energy. At a rally in South Dakota, a hyper McCain yelled to the crowd: “My opponent doesn’t want to drill. He doesn’t want nuclear power. He wants you to inflate your tires.” Earlier in the day, he said: “We’re not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires.”

Watch a compilation:

Of course, Obama has never suggested that proper tire pressure would “break our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.” McCain’s insincere demagoguing of this issue overlooks a crucial and important fact – ensuring proper tire pressure is a better and more immediate response than oil drilling to the nation’s pain at the pump.

In a post on the Wonk Room, Charles Territo, the director of communications for the Auto Alliance (which represents Chrysler, Ford, and GM, among others), notes some facts McCain should keep in mind:

• The Department of Energy estimates that 1.2 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in 2005 as a result of driving on under-inflated tires.

Fuel efficiency is reduced by 1% for every 3 PSI that tires are under-inflated.

• Proper tire inflation can save the equivalent of about 1 tank of gas per year.

Proper tire inflation also reduces CO2 emissions.

• Experts estimate that 25% of automobiles are running on tires with lower than recommended pressure, because people don’t know how to check their tires or don’t realize that tires naturally lose air over time.

Territo notes that the Auto Alliance sponsored tire pressure checks for members of Congress and their staff last week. “Surprisingly, we found that most drivers had tires between 5 and 7 pounds under inflated — some had tires under-inflated by as much as 20 pounds,” he writes. “This significantly reduced their vehicle’s fuel economy.” If conservatives truly want to take immediate action on energy, they can stop wasting time on political stunts and start checking their tires.

Update: At his South Dakota rally, McCain yelled: “When I’m president of the United States, I’m not going to let them [Congress] go on vacation!” Brad Johnson documents McCain’s record of absenteeism on some important votes.
Update: Sen. Barack Obama responds: “Now two points, one, they know they’re lying about what my energy plan is, but the other thing is they’re making fun of a step that every expert says would absolutely reduce our oil consumption by 3 to 4 percent. It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 1:28 pm

Those activist judges

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Very interesting analysis of judicial decisions by Cass Sunstein. It begins:

Study of over 20,000 decisions reveals how politics shapes rulings.

Who are the real activists on the U.S. Supreme Court? Do Republican appointees differ from Democratic appointees? How much? Are federal judges political?

I have been studying these issues with several colleagues, including Thomas Miles, an economist and lawyer at the University of Chicago Law School, for a number of years now. One big question: Do judges show a political bias? We also wanted to see what any bias might tell us about how judges might rule in the future – under, for example, an Obama or McCain administration.

We catalogued thousands of judicial decisions — well over 20,000– to analyze this. We looked for partisan bias by studying whether and when judges vote to uphold decisions of federal agencies, in areas including environmental protection, labor, telecommunications, discrimination and occupational safety.

We investigated which members of the Supreme Court are the most partisan — in that they are more likely to vote in favor of conservative agency decisions than liberal ones. (Because Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito have been on the court only a short time, we did not include them because we had too little data.) We wanted to see if some justices are more political in their voting patterns than others  and also learn something about how future administrations are likely to fare in the Supreme Court.

We used a simple test to decide whether an agency’s decision should be counted as liberal or conservative. If a decision was challenged by a public-interest group, like the Sierra Club or Environmental Defense, we counted it as conservative. If it was challenged by a corporation, like Exxon or General Motors, we counted it as liberal.

We used this method because the relevant question is not whether an agency’s decision is liberal or conservative in the abstract — it is how and why that decision is challenged in its context. In addition, though we had many students working on this, we read every decisions ourselves, making adjustments when our method led to errors.

We wanted to know: Is it true that liberal justices are more partisan than conservatives? Who is the most partisan member of the Supreme Court? Who the most neutral?

Our answers: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

The Army: sometimes very, very stupid

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The Christian Science Monitor reports today that the Army may begin paying retention bonuses worth as much as $150,000 to Arabic-speaking soldiers, “in reflection of how critical it has become for the US military to retain native language and cultural know-how in its ranks.” Yet as Steve Ralls points out, the Army is “taking almost every step imaginable” to keep Arabic speakers except rescinding the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which resulted in the expulsion of dozens of Arabic speakers and translators. A GAO report found that between 1998 and 2003, more than 60 linguists specializing in Arabic or Farsi were expelled from the military for being gay.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Military

Teaching college students to create computer viruses

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Somehow this seems wrong, but the professor makes a good case for it.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 11:12 am

This flat planet

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Sometimes I despair of the number of climate change/global warming deniers (denialists?) still active, but then I realize that there are still many who believe firmly that the Earth is flat, including (for example) a computer scientist. If you read the BBC news story at the link, you’ll hear echoes of the global warming deniers’ claim that the whole global warming thing is a fradulent conspiracy hatched by a global consortium of scientists for their own enrichment.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 11:10 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

The Army cover-up of rape and murder

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Read this post, which begins:

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Private LaVena Lynn Johnson killed herself on July 19, 2005, eight days before her twentieth birthday. Exactly how did she end her life? She punched herself in the face hard enough to blacken her eyes, break her nose, and knock her front teeth loose. She douched with an acid solution after mutilating her genital area. She poured a combustible liquid on herself and set it afire. She then shot herself in the head. Despite this massive self-inflicted trauma, she somehow managed to drag her then fully clothed body into the tent of a KBR contractor, leaving a trail of blood along the way and set the tent ablaze in a failed attempt to cover up her crimes against herself.

If this story sounds plausible to you, you may have missed your calling as an officer in the U.S. Army, because Army officers, speaking with a straight face, would have you believe that such a thing is not only possible, but actually happened.

In reality, LaVena Johnson was raped, beaten, and murdered by someone on a military base in Balad, Iraq, and the Army doesn’t want you to know about it. Army officers most especially didn’t want her parents to know about it, so they concocted the suicide story, informing them that their daughter had shot herself in the head in her barracks.

When LaVena’s body was returned to her parents, however, her father, Dr. John Johnson, immediately noticed that her nose was broken and her lip was torn. He was surprised to discover that her gloves were glued to her hands (as it turns out, to hide burns). As a former military man himself, he also recognized that the exit wound from the bullet could not possibly have come from the weapon the military claimed LaVena used to kill herself. He knew then that the Army was lying to him, that his daughter had been murdered. He made these discoveries three years ago. Today, the Army is still lying to him, and to us.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 11:06 am

Posted in Army, Military


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Very cool search engine, with multiple views, including 3-D. Take it for a spin. I just added it to my Firefox as one of the search engines.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 10:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Reading the dictionary for fun

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Interesting book review, which begins:

Ammon Shea, a sometime furniture mover, gondolier and word collector, has written an oddly inspiring book about reading the whole of the Oxford English Dictionary in one go. Shea’s book resurrects many lost, misshapen, beautifully unlucky words — words that spiraled out, like fast-decaying muons, after their tiny moment in the cloud chamber of English usage. There’s hypergelast (a person who won’t stop laughing), lant (to add urine to ale to give it more kick), obmutescence (willful speechlessness) and ploiter (to work to little purpose) — all good words to have on the tip of your tongue when, for example, you’re stopped for speeding.

Shea’s book offers more than exotic word lists, though. It also has a plot. “I feel as though I am eating the alphabet,” he writes halfway through, and you want him to make it to the end. This is the “Super Size Me” of lexicography.

Shea is well equipped for the task he has set himself. He owns about a thousand dictionaries, which he keeps on shelves in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend, Alix, who teaches psychology courses at Barnard. Some of the dictionaries he bought from a book dealer named Madeline, who lives in a loft in Lower Manhattan. Madeline owns 20,000 dictionaries. She taught Shea, he says, “the ineffable joy that can be had in pursuing the absurd.”

Back in the ’90s, Shea read Webster’s Second from beginning to end — no easy feat. Did doing so help him in any way? No. It didn’t make him a better or smarter person, or improve his test scores. In fact, it seems to have hindered his capacity for self-expression. “My head was so full of words that I often had trouble forming simple sentences out loud,” he writes, “and my speech became a curious jumble of obscure words and improper syntax.” But Shea seems to have loved this experience of verbal overspill — he underwent the prolonged brain-shiver that comes when thousands of unfamiliar meanings pour in without stopping. “It felt wonderful,” he says.

The logical next step was to read the O.E.D., but …

Continue reading. Full disclosure: My own father used to enjoy reading the dictionary (Merriam-Webster 2nd International Unabridged, which I still own with the ink stain down one side where I spilled a bottle of ink around age 3).

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Mouse double-clicking

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For some reason my mouse has begun double-clicking from time to time—fairly often, in fact. I do a single click, but that results in a double-click. I uninstalled recent software, but the behavior persists. Any thoughts on a possible fix?

UPDATE: Problem fixed by turning mouse off and then turning it back on.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Ratatouille variant

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Very tasty big batch of a vegetable mix. Here’s what I did, though obviously you can vary it a lot to suit your own taste and ingredients.

Put some olive oil in large (4 qt) sauté pan, along with some hot-pepper sesame oil. Heat and add:

1 red onion, chopped
Several large cloves of garlic, minced in Veggichop and let sit for 15 minutes
3 serrano peppers, minced in Veggichop (cut off top, but mince seeds and all)
3-4 medium zucchini, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
2-3 Japanese eggplant, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1-2 oz dulse, cut up with scissors (adds excellent umami)
2 tsp salt

Sauté that for a while, then add:

2 cans diced tomatoes
good dash of shoyu sauce
good dash of mirin
Lundberg short-grain brown rice

The rice: soak 1 cup overnight in 2 cups of water, then simmer the next day in that water until all water is absorbed. I added the full batch of cooked rice.

Simmer the above for 30 minutes, then stir in 1/2 c or so of Red Pepper Garlic Miso (or Dandelion Leek Miso) from South River Miso.

I might have added some frozen corn kernels if I had thought of it, and perhaps a few chopped shallots. Also, a cup of pitted Saracena olives would not have been amiss. At any rate: very tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 10:44 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

$285,000: McCain’s price to switch position on off-shore drilling

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Interesting. Now we know how much he sells for.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 9:56 am

Better oversight needed

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A Department of Veterans Affairs investigation has found that there were “rampant violations” in an Arkansas veterans hospital’s human experiments program, “including missing consent forms, secret HIV testing and failure to report more than 100 deaths of subjects participating in studies.” The report from the VA’s Inspector General says the program “involved thousands of veterans.”

But note this from the report:

The board, which conducted oversight of the experiments, had been implemented and operated by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences but was transferred to the VA after the investigation began. The VA created a review board and halted all new experiments involving human subjects.

“The issues at the VA medical center in Little Rock were detected by VA employees, revealed through investigations by [the Food and Drug Administration] and VA’s Office of Research Oversight, and ultimately referred to VA’s Office of the Inspector General,” said VA spokesman Matt Smith. “This is an example of VA detecting and fixing its own problems.

“The issues cited in VA’s Inspector General report are being addressed through an aggressive action plan. The Little Rock research program is under heightened scrutiny to ensure no recurrence,” Mr. Smith said.

It sounds as though that, despite the experiments being situated at the veteran’s hospital, they were run by University of Arkansas and that, once they were transferred to the VA, the abuses were detected and addressed. The culpability seems to be with the U of Arkansas.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 9:52 am

Faking the casus belli: a Bush specialty

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Just read this post by Kevin Drum. And there’s more here.

UPDATE: And more here.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 9:43 am

Feel-good video

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More information, including how to purchase a full-length DVD:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life

The KBR electrocutions of American soldiers

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Ms Sparky commented on my earlier post regarding KBR’s lethal work (and the Pentagon’s disregard of it), and pointed to a good series of posts on her blog. She gave testimony at the Congressional committee hearings, so take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 8:38 am

Slant again

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The Slant with its Iridium Super blade did such a fine job that I had to reprise the arrangement. The lather this morning was from Truefitt & Hill 1805 shaving cream and the Rooney Style 2 shaving brush.

Once again a great shave, almost perfectly smooth by the end of pass 2. Aftershave was Mugo Real, and I’m feeling great. (I took a little walk yesterday and slept much better than I have been.)

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2008 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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