Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2008

Interesting step in the evolution of books

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Take a look at this post by J.B. Balkin. It begins:

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 1998 book, Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Yale University Press has created an new online version with a difference: It allows readers to write comments, questions and annotations for any passage in the book, and to create threaded discussions and links to other projects. They have opened up the book so that readers can use it as a online platform for commentary and discussion.

Yale has done this with a few other titles recently, including Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks and Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of The Internet. The Press should be congratulated for experimenting with innovative ways to present the ideas in their books. Equally important, they have been courageous and innovative in using online distribution to generate interest in print sales as well as make more knowledge available to more people. The idea of spreading information and knowledge widely is what ties these three books together.

Cultural Software was a comparatively early work about memetics; it argues that we can better understand the phenomenon of ideology by thinking about it in terms of the transmission and reproduction of memes in human minds. There have been a bunch of books written about memetics since then, but few have tried to use memetics to talk about questions of ideology, social theory, and justice.

Using memetics to explain ideology has lots of interesting theoretical consequences. First, …

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

United States, the prison nation

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Not only prisons for people convicted of crimes (often harmless crimes like use of medical marijuana), but prisons for people who merely suspects and indefinitely imprisoned (Guantánamo and the secret system of CIA torture prisons) and prisons for immigrants. For instance,

He was 17 when he came to New York from Hong Kong in 1992 with his parents and younger sister, eyeing the skyline like any newcomer. Fifteen years later, Hiu Lui Ng was a New Yorker: a computer engineer with a job in the Empire State Building, a house in Queens, a wife who is a United States citizen and two American-born sons.

But when Mr. Ng, who had overstayed a visa years earlier, went to immigration headquarters in Manhattan last summer for his final interview for a green card, he was swept into immigration detention and shuttled through jails and detention centers in three New England states.

In April, Mr. Ng began complaining of excruciating back pain. By mid-July, he could no longer walk or stand. And last Wednesday, two days after his 34th birthday, he died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a Rhode Island hospital, his spine fractured and his body riddled with cancer that had gone undiagnosed and untreated for months.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:56 am

Amazon Prime

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Mighty Bargain Hunter has a good post summarizing the benefits of Amazon Prime, which I first learned about from The Eldest. It’s a good service, and getting free two-day shipping regardless of the size of the order has meant that I’m more willing to buy something (at a discounted price and no sales tax) since I don’t have to buy anything else to get the free (fast) shipping.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Looking at lunchboxes

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Taking one’s lunch to work/school saves lots of money over the long haul, but it works only if it’s actually enjoyable. That means food that you enjoy and a transportation system (aka “lunchbox”) that’s pleasant and effective to use. The Vegan Lunch box has found a design that looks very good indeed. Check it out. I anticipate that, as the country slides deeper into recession, more and more will be finding ways to be frugal, and taking one’s lunch is a good one.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Kindle owners, please note

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Don’stuff has a link to a good source of digital books: thousands of them. Check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:40 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Suspense and thrills

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When I get to the place in a movie where suspense is running high, I have to turn the movie off for a while. I just can’t take it. Same thing with a book: when the going gets suspenseful and tough, I shut the book for a while. And now I discover the movies and books indeed provide the same thrills:

Watching Keanu Reeves walk along the ledge of a skyscraper and lose his footing in The Matrix can make us skip a heartbeat or sweat, as if we were risking our own life. This sharing of other people’s emotions in movies has been shown to depend on the fact that observers the same brain regions are activated in the observers when they feel an emotion and when they see someone else experience a similar emotion. We all know, however, that reading a book describing the same scene can be similarly gripping. This week, in a paper published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE, Mbemba Jabbi, Jojanneke Bastiaansen and Christian Keysers show us why. At the NeuroImaging Center of the University Medical Center Groningen of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), Jabbi and colleagues compared what happens in our brains when we view the facial expressions of other people with the brain activity as we read about emotional experiences.

“We placed our participants in an fMRI scanner to measure their brain activity while we first showed our subject short 3s movie clips of an actor sipping from a cup and then looking disgusted,” said Christian Keysers. “Later on, we asked them to read and imagine short emotional scenarios; for instance, walking along a street, bumping into a reeking, drunken man, who then starts to retch, and realizing that some of his vomit had ended up in your own mouth. Finally, we measured their brain activity while the participants tasted unpleasant solutions in the scanner.”

“Our striking result,” said Keysers, “is that in all three cases, the same location of the anterior insula lit up. The anterior insula is the part of the brain that is the heart of our feeling of disgust. Patients who have damage to the insula, because of a brain infection for instance, lose this capacity to feel disgusted. If you give them sour milk, they would drink it happily and say it tastes like soda.”

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

OMG! Mascarpone ice cream!

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Recipe here for all you who have your own ice-cream maker (a machine and, ideally, a person).

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:18 am

More on Chandler 1.0

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Lifehacker has a detailed review of Chandler 1.0. As you can see, the writer is looking forward to Chandler 1.5, if not 2.0. But I’m a great admirer of the wonderful program Lotus Agenda, and I’m willing to cut Chandler some slack at this point. Also, I have to admit, that my to-do list these days is mighty short. Still, a review worth reading if you’re a person who has to get things done.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Maureen Dowd: hopeless

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I no longer read Maureen Dowd at all. I gave up on her when she was relentlessly attacking John Kerry, relying to a large part on anecdotes already shown to be false. She is really, really bad. Booman has a fine post explaining exactly why. It begins:

I still run into old friends occasionally that not only think Maureen Dowd is a good columnist but that she is a liberal and uses her column to advocate for the Left. Without fail, these friends are busy people that have not spent the Bush years reading alternative media and blogs. They’re somewhat like Democrats that were trapped in amber sometime in 2000-2001, just before the rise of the Blogosphere. They have puzzled about why Dowd spent the last three months of the 2000 campaign writing about how horrible Al Gore was as a candidate, but then they remember those zingers she put down on Dick ‘Big Time’ Cheney and his geographically-impaired sidekick. Ooh…that felt sooo good.

This is a message to my old friends trapped in amber. Maureen Dowd doesn’t root for Democrats. She uses her column to mock Democrats, drive wedges between Democrats, and to reinforce negative stereotypes about Democrats. Yes, she is somewhat irreverent and she does her share of blasting Republicans. Occasionally, when her righteous ire is up, she can really let the Republicans have it. But you can start a count now. It’s August 13th. Dowd does two columns a week. If she doesn’t take any time off, she’ll write thirty-three more columns between now and the election. I guarantee you that the majority of them will not be helpful to the cause of Barack Obama. Today’s column is about as unhelpful as it gets.

While the column is ostensibly about the Clintons’ ‘solipsistic’ behavior, the real motivating force is to light a match to the raw feelings that have carried forward in the Obama and Clinton camps from the primary. Barack Obama granted both Bill and Hillary Clinton speaking spots at the convention. In Maureen Dowd’s mind this is a big mistake. …

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 8:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Media, NY Times

Coffee and caffeine in general

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I am, of course, now sitting here with my mug of hot coffee, getting myself up to par. I found this table, showing caffeine content of all sorts of things, of interest. And, speaking of drugs, it’s interesting that caffeine is a drug routinely provided to children. Where is the DEA on this?

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 7:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

JF today

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I used the mysteriously named JF (by Floris London) shaving soap and aftershave today. The soap is excellent, though I’m told that they’ve changed their formula—and, as so many changes of that sort, not for the better. There’s quite a thread on SMF about the Floris No. 89 shave soap.

The razor was the Merkur Futur, still with its Treet Black Beauty blade. A very fine and smooth shave.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2008 at 7:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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