Later On

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

Archive for August 7th, 2008

GOP’s vote-suppression campaign

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As is well known and fully acknowledged, the GOP works hard to suppress voting by poor and/or minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic—thus all the “voter ID” laws to prevent “voter fraud,” even though voter fraud rarely happens and, when it does, it happens through absentee ballots, not at the polling place. But even the voter ID laws are not enough: when it comes down to it, there’s nothing like just stopping someone from voting. Read this account. And in the meantime, the GOP is doing all it can to purge voter rolls of those likely to vote Democratic.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Lightning in super slow motion

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Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

Monkeyshines

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Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Daily life

What sleep does for your thinking

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It does a lot, as it turns out.

  • As we snooze, our brain is busily processing the information we have learned during the day.
  • Sleep makes memories stronger, and it even appears to weed out irrelevant details and background information so that only the important pieces remain.
  • Our brain also works during slumber to find hidden relations among memories and to solve problems we were working on while awake.

Read the whole article, which begins:

In 1865 Friedrich August Kekulé woke up from a strange dream: he imagined a snake forming a circle and biting its own tail. Like many organic chemists of the time, Kekulé had been working feverishly to describe the true chemical structure of benzene, a problem that continually eluded understanding. But Kekulé’s dream of a snake swallowing its tail, so the story goes, helped him to accurately realize that benzene’s structure formed a ring. This insight paved the way for a new understanding of organic chemistry and earned Kekulé a title of nobility in Germany.

Although most of us have not been ennobled, there is something undeniably familiar about Kekulé’s problem-solving method. Whether deciding to go to a particular college, accept a challenging job offer or propose to a future spouse, “sleeping on it” seems to provide the clarity we need to piece together life’s puzzles. But how does slumber present us with answers?

The latest research suggests that …

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The flawed thinking of the administration’s torture advocates

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An excellent examination of the bad thinking that advocates the use of torture. It’s written by Steven Kleinman, a military intelligence officer with twenty-five years of operational and leadership experience in human intelligence and special operations. He served as an interrogator in three major military campaigns in addition to teaching advanced interrogation and resistance to interrogation courses. What he has to say is well worth reading.

The format consists of questions that he believes should be asked, followed by the reasons each question is important.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Justice Dept subpoenas its former Civil Rights lawyers

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Very interesting report by Murray Waas. It begins:

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed several former senior Justice Department attorneys for an investigation into the politicization of the Department’s own Civil Rights Division, according to sources close to the investigation.

The extraordinary step by the Justice Department of subpoenaing attorneys once from within its own ranks was taken because several of them refused to voluntarily give interviews to the Department Inspector General, which has been conducting its own probe of the politicization of the Civil Rights Division, the same sources said.

The grand jury has been investigating allegations that a former senior Bush administration appointee in the Civil Rights Division, Bradley Schlozman, gave false or misleading testimony on a variety of topics to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sources close to the investigation say that the grand jury is also more broadly examining whether Schlozman and other Department officials violated civil service laws by screening Civil Rights attorneys for political affiliation while hiring them.

Investigators for the Inspector General have also asked whether Schlozman, while an interim U.S. attorney in Missouri, brought certain actions and even a voting fraud indictment for political ends, according to witnesses questioned by the investigators. But it is unclear whether the grand jury is going to hear testimony on that issue as well.

One person who has been subpoenaed before the grand jury, sources said, was Hans von Spakovsky, who as a former counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights was a top aide to Schlozman. An attempt to reach Spakovsky for comment for this story was unsuccessful.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 1:11 pm

82% of US: health care system needs major overhaul

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One hopes that a majority of 82% is enough to stir Congress into action. Still, Congress seems impervious to need and public sentiment at times. Here’s the report:

Corresponding report lays out strategies for a better organized, more efficient health care system

Americans are dissatisfied with the U.S. health care system and 82 percent think it should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt, according to a new survey released today by The Commonwealth Fund. Also today, The Commonwealth Fund Commission on A High Performance Health System released a report outlining what an ideally organized U.S. health care system would look like, and detailing strategies that could create that organized, efficient health care system while simultaneously improving care and cutting costs.

The survey of more than 1,000 adults was conducted by Harris Interactive in May 2008; and the vast majority of those surveyed – nine out of ten — felt it was important that the two leading presidential candidates propose reform plans that would improve health care quality, ensure that all Americans can afford health care and insurance, and decrease the number of uninsured. One in three adults report their doctors ordered a test that had already been done or recommended unnecessary treatment or care in the past two years. Adults across all income groups reported experiencing inefficient care. And, eight in ten adults across income groups supported efforts to improve the health system’s performance with respect to access, quality and cost.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 12:44 pm

Changing driving habits

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I note that my driving habits have grown more conservative as I’ve aged. No, not driving at 35 mph in the lefthand lane on the freeway, wearing a hat and with my left blinker going. Not that. Not yet.

But, for example, I now come to a full stop at all stop signs (even if no cars are in sight) and look both ways. I always use turn signals. I avoid changing lanes when possible—I stick with the lane I have, and I get into the correct lane (for the route I’m taking) blocks and blocks ahead of time, at the first good opportunity, if I know the route. I’m extraordinarily cautious in parking lots, always expecting that the guy in back of me has chosen to back out at the same time I’m backing out, so keeping my eye out for him. And so on.

So far, so good.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in Daily life

Harissa

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Since I’m going to the store anyway, I’m picking up the red bell pepper and dry-pack sun-dried tomatoes for this recipe. Why? Read the intro:

In the last week, I have eaten harissa with

boiled potatoes
stewed beans
scrambled eggs and a 3-minute egg
pasta (I know, I know), and
sardines on toast.

Yes, it’s true. Apparently, harissa is something that goes well with everything.

I had no idea. I really didn’t. Would you know that harissa used to be something I looked at sideways, with suspicion? I would like to smack that former self of mine. How many couscous meals did I have in Paris that were simply begging to be adorned with that reddish manna? How many merguez sausages did I eat, blithely, stupidly unaware of how good they could have really been? Silly me, walking around Paris like I thought I knew what was what, eating baguettes and falling in love and living in a tiny garrett when what I really should have been doing was eating harissa.

Note that she admits she didn’t use the original amount of garlic. I’ll certainly correct that. Also, I have destemmed and deseeded soaked dried chilis without gloves. No problem. If I do a lot, my hands do get hot for a while, but it’s mild. I am, however, careful not to rub my eyes.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Can you say “conflict of interest”?

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Interesting finding, but note that the report fails to address the pesticide and herbicide residues on the food—it’s simply not mentioned. I think that most people buy organic to avoid pesticide residues, in the belief that food lacking such residues is more healthful. Few, I think, believe that the organic food miraculously has more vitamins and minerals. So careful research addressing the wrong question so that people will continue to employ chemical engineers in food production.

For more on pesticide residues: here and here. These levels were measured after washing. I no longer buy strawberries if they’re not organic, and I buy only organic apples as well.

Here’s the report:

New research in the latest issue of the Society of Chemical Industry’s (SCI) Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture shows there is no evidence to support the argument that organic food is better than food grown with the use of pesticides and chemicals Many people pay more than a third more for organic food in the belief that it has more nutritional content than food grown with pesticides and chemicals.

But the research by Dr Susanne Bügel and colleagues from the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, shows there is no clear evidence to back this up.

In the first study ever to look at retention of minerals and trace elements [the wrong question – LG], animals were fed a diet consisting of crops grown using three different cultivation methods in two seasons.

The study looked at the following crops – carrots, kale, mature peas, apples and potatoes – staple ingredients that can be found in most families’ shopping list.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 10:08 am

Calves’ foot jelly

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Good post on calves’ foot jelly, both the sweet and the savory. The problem is that, with centralized butchering and shipment of the beef already broken down, you cannot find cow foot or calf foot anywhere. And even the (valuable) suggestion to include chicken feet in making soup or stock is bootless: none of the stores here carrry chicken feet. Centralized processing is wiping out all the interesting cuts of meat. A cow’s foot is vital for good menudo rojo, yet…

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Likely cause of postpartum depression

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Interesting:

Unique biochemical crosstalk that enables a fetus to get nutrition and oxygen from its mother’s blood just may cause common postpartum blues, researchers say. That crosstalk allows the mother’s blood to flow out of the uterine artery and get just a single cell layer away from the fetus’ blood, says Dr. Puttur D. Prasad, biochemist in the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine.

That controlled exchange between the blood of mother and fetus is courtesy of the placenta regulating levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter commonly associated with depression. But platelets that enable blood clotting also secrete serotonin which prompts platelets to aggregate and the placenta to want to get rid of it.

“If there were no proper control here, blood leaving the mother’s blood vessel would trigger release of serotonin, platelets would aggregate, vessels constrict and the fetus wouldn’t get what it needs,” says Dr. Prasad. An MCG research team led by Dr. Vadivel Ganapathy first reported evidence of serotonin transporter gene expression in the placenta back in 1989 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Now they know the gene plays an important role in the crosstalk that forestalls clotting until after birth.

When the fetus and placenta are gone, blood continues flowing from the mother’s uterine artery until platelets move in to stop it, Dr. Prasad explains. Serotonin levels begin to rise and interact with receptors on the smooth muscle of the uterus. This stimulates production of interleukin-1 beta which the MCG researchers found regulates expression of serotonin-hoarding transporters. Interleukin-1 beta gets in the mother’s bloodstream, crosses the blood brain barrier and creates more serotonin transporters on the neurons when they are not needed.

Until interleukin-1 beta levels normalize, there’s too little communication between serotonergic neurons and moms get the blues, says Dr. Prassad. “We believe that 80 percent of women experience postpartum blues because of this effect of interleukin-1 beta. If our hypothesis holds true, lowering interleukin-1 beta levels may be a better treatment option.” He notes that while serotonin reuptake inhibitors, commonly used for depression, work well in these women, transferring the drug to the baby during nursing can be problematic.

But there’s more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 9:50 am

Odd locutions

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This review of a book on the automobile’s impact and future is of minimal interest, but I found this statement intriguing:

The car’s weak heel, of course, is its dependence on petroleum.

Obviously, he intends “Achilles’ heel,” but chooses to replace “Achilles” with “weak” to produce a weird expression I’ve seen nowhere else. Is he fearful that people won’t know who Achilles is? or why his heel was his point of vulnerability? I really don’t think “weak heel” is going to make it as a figure of speech.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 9:48 am

Posted in Daily life

Kale salad

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I have always eaten my kale cooked, but I’m going to have to try this salad. I forgot to get the feta for the roasted beet salad, so while I’m there, I’ll pick up some kale. I always have pecorino romano on hand, so that’s no problem. I think I’ll use a lighter hand with the olive oil: the recipe calls for an ounce (2 Tbs) per person. That’s a lot.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life

Some helpful spices & herbs

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WebMD article by Salynn Boyles suggests that some spices and herbs are beneficial.

The spice cabinet may prove to be a source of help for diabetes patients.

Some of the most commonly used dried herbs and spices may help block the inflammation believed to drive diabetes and other chronic diseases, laboratory studies conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia suggest.

The researchers tested extracts from 24 common herbs and spices and found that many contained high levels of inflammation-inhibiting antioxidant compounds known as polyphenols. …

More at the link. Top among spices was ground cloves, with cinnamon coming in second (and easier to find uses for). More from the story:

Spices — derived from seeds, berries, bark, or roots — tended to have higher levels of polyphenols than dried herbs, derived from plant leaves.

Of the herbs tested by the researchers, oregano, marjoram, and sage had the highest polyphenol levels, followed by thyme, Italian seasoning, tarragon, mint, and rosemary. Black pepper had the lowest polyphenol content of any of the tested herbs and spices.

UPDATE: I added 1/2 tsp of ground cloves to the morning cereal. Not bad at all.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 8:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Leisureguy’s Guide: #386 with a bullet!

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The Guide to Gourmet Shaving (second edition) now stands at #386 in Lulu sales rankings: in the top 400! I’m thrilled—and, of course, starting to seriously believe that it might make the top 100 in Lulu sales.

And a German edition will be coming out, probably through Amazon.de.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 8:37 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Shaving

Sea buckthorn and sandalwood

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Edwin Jagger’s sea buckthorn shaving soap this morning, creating a good lather with the Simpsons Emperor 3 Super shaving brush. I picked the EJ lined Chatsworth and loaded it with a new Treet Classic blade. What a smooth shave! Rituals Skincare shave oil for the oil pass and then TOBS Sandalwood aftershave. Extremely nice.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2008 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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