Later On

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

Archive for August 18th, 2008

West Nile Virus: recovery time, 1 year

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Not good news:

West Nile virus is sneaky and can be stealth-like. It’s hard to even know you have it. Most infected people do not have symptoms. Some think they have the flu or a cold. But for those who do get West Nile virus, what does the future hold? A new study looks at how well people recover from the mosquito-borne illness that can affect the central nervous system.

The study’s lead author, Mark Loeb, MD, with McMaster University, says in a news release that until now little has been known about the long-term effects of West Nile virus. In this new study, he says, “We found that both physical and mental functions, as well as mood and fatigue, seemed to return to normal in about one year.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Cool vertical wind turbine

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Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 4:30 pm

Lunchtime conversational gambits

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Paradoxes are always good.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

DHS’s idea of “Welcome home!”

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Grim story:

I arrived at JFK Airport two weeks ago after a short vacation to Syria and presented my American passport for re-entry to the United States. After 28 hours of traveling, I had settled into a hazy awareness that this was the last, most familiar leg of a long journey. I exchanged friendly words with the Homeland Security official who was recording my name in his computer. He scrolled through my passport, and when his thumb rested on my Syrian visa, he paused. Jerking toward the door of his glass-enclosed booth, he slid my passport into a dingy green plastic folder and walked down the hallway, motioning for me to follow with a flick of his wrist. Where was he taking me, I asked him. “You’ll find out,” he said.

We got to an enclosed holding area in the arrivals section of the airport. He shoved the folder into my hand and gestured toward four sets of Homeland Security guards sitting at large desks. Attached to each desk were metal poles capped with red, white and blue siren lights. I approached two guards carrying weapons and wearing uniforms similar to New York City police officers, but they shook their heads, laughed and said, “Over there,” pointing in the direction of four overflowing holding pens. I approached different desks until I found an official who nodded and shoved my green folder in a crowded metal file holder. When I asked him why I was there, he glared at me, took a sip from his water bottle, bit into a sandwich, and began to dig between his molars with his forefinger. I found a seat next to a man who looked about my age — in his late 20s — and waited.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 12:11 pm

Privacy going, going, …

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The Scientific American has an issue devoted to privacy and its diminution. Here’s the introduction:

A cold wind is blowing across the landscape of privacy. The twin imperatives of technological advancement and coun­terterrorism have led to dramatic and possibly irreversible changes in what people can expect to remain of private life. Nearly 10 years ago Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously pronounced the death of privacy. “Get over it,” he said. Some people, primarily those younger than about 25, claim to have done just that, embracing its antithesis, total public disclosure. And of course in many cases—determining the whereabouts of a terrorist or the carrier of a disease—public interest has an overwhelming claim on information that is usually private.

Yet in many contexts—banking, commerce, diplomacy, medicine—private com­­munications are essential. The founding fa­­thers of the Republic put great stock in personal privacy; privacy is embodied (though, as we are often reminded, not stated) in the Bill of Rights. In her keynote essay Esther Dyson clarifies what “privacy” means by reminding us what it is not: several important issues commonly labeled dilemmas of privacy are better understood as issues of security, health policy, insurance or self-pre­sentation.

Terrorism and digital connectedness have both made privacy a hot-button issue, but there are plenty of other good reasons to look closely at the future of privacy. One is the upcoming U.S. election, which is being held at a time of tremendous upheaval in the legal and legislative framework of government wiretapping.

A second is the allure of substantial benefits from disclosing certain kinds of information: en­hanced medical care through electronic medical and genetic records, for instance, or better protection from identity theft via biometric authorization. A third is that the threats posed by technology to personal privacy and even personal security are unprecedented, both from the unintended effects of increased self-disclosure as well as from the rapidly evolving sophistication of surveillance gadgetry, radio-frequency ID chips and data fusion—not to mention the viruses and other pests that infest the Internet.

In spite of all the threats to privacy, an astonishing variety of technology for protecting privacy has been devised, yet it lies virtually untapped. Maybe part of the reason is that so many young adults find all the anxieties about privacy to be much ado: many in the new generation are only too happy to trade their parents’ version of “private information” for a rich life in the fishbowl of social networking.

For all those reasons and more, the editors of Scientific American present this issue devoted to the future of what Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis called “the right to be let alone.”

Also note this article (on breaking into a woman’s bank account using public information) and this article (on the ubiquity of CCTV in public places).

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 10:57 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government, Technology

Tagged with

Problems in FBI case against Ivins

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Glenn Greenwald points out some serious problems with the case against the anthrax researcher.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 10:19 am

Endangered species: “Kill ’em all” says Bush

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In effect, you understand. That’s not a direct quotation, but it coveys the essence of this:

Currently, the Endangered Species Act requires independent scientific assessment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service of proposed construction projects. But the Bush administration has proposed allowing construction to proceed, if the agency whose project it is sees no problem — even if the agency has no biologist on staff. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne “described the new rules as a ‘narrow regulatory change’ that ‘will provide clarity and certainty to the consultation process under the Endangered Species Act.'” Others see it differently. Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said, “I am deeply troubled by this proposed rule, which gives federal agencies an unacceptable degree of discretion to decide whether or not to comply with the Endangered Species Act. Eleventh-hour rulemakings rarely, if ever, lead to good government — this is not the type of legacy this Interior Department should be leaving for future generations.” Bob Irvin of Defenders of Wildlife called the change “a case of asking the fox to guard the chicken coop.”

Source: Washington Post, August 12, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 10:17 am

How Obama is rebuilding the Democratic Party

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God knows that the Democratic Party desperately needs rebuilding to have a better focus on—and better support of—its founding principles. Maybe this will do it. Fascinating article in The American Prospect by Dana Goldstein and Ezra Klein. It begins:

An unassuming building at 430 South Capitol Street, in a forlorn corner between the Capitol and a highway overpass, is the home address of the Democratic Party. But though mail still gets delivered to the Washington, D.C., address, many of the Democratic National Committee’s employees–the men and women who make up the party’s central infrastructure–are no longer around to receive it. They are in Chicago, where Barack Obama moved them after he captured the Democratic Party’s nomination.

It was a peculiar decision for Obama, who had built his campaign, and even his political identity, around an eloquently stated, post-partisan revulsion with the divisiveness of modern party politics. Following the strategy of “outsider” candidates before him, Obama set his headquarters outside the District in order to create distance, both physical and perceptual, between himself and the consultants, interest groups, party hacks, and congressional busybodies who populate the nation’s capital.

The effort was so successful that some feared …

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Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 10:11 am

Upgrade in DVD player, though not to Blu-Ray

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The Blu-Ray players still have not come down enough in price—I want them at around $125 or so—but Toshiba is promising an improved image from regular DVD discs by making the player smarter:

Today Toshiba announced a new “video enhancement technology” for standard definition DVDs with introduction of the XD-E500. Toshiba explains that XDE or “eXtended Detail Enhancement”, is more than just typical DVD upconversion from 480i/p to 1080p. XDE has three picture enhancement modes will give your old DVD movies sharper contrasts and colors, and bring them closer to an HD experience.

The XD-E500 will also have HDMI-CEC, Divx certification, JPEG capabilities, MP3 and WMA playback, and more. The player will ship later this month with an MSRP of $149.99.

For more information check out Toshiba’s official site here.

More details here on Amazon, which sells it for $180.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 9:58 am

Life report

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What’s going on now: I can see that my blogging is drifting into a new direction and pattern. Probably fewer posts in the future (though still daily blogging) to make time for more walking and reading and watching of movies. (BTW, last night I watched again Moulin Rouge, which I like a great deal. I do have to say, though, that there’s some chemistry missing between Ewan MacGregor and Nichole Kidman. Jim Broadbent is fantastic.)

Still cooking and focusing on better foods for me: more vegetables and fruit, less meat and cheese. When I took a little quiz a while back, it showed that I wasn’t eating enough fruit, and I’ve solved that problem. The solution is simple: buy lots of fruit. If it’s here, it’ll get eaten. So a standard part of my grocery shopping now is loading up on fresh fruit along with fresh vegetables. As I eat salads, they more and more often include fruit, even if it’s a savory salad (e.g., a peach included in a chicken salad).

Clearly, both The Wife and I need more exercise, and today we’re taking steps to improve in that area. It’s a struggle, but one worth winning.

Megs is loving her canned food (Innova Evo canned food). Very gratifying to see her pack away half a can a day (i.e., around 2.7 oz).

I hope that all is going well with you.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life

Taking your journal to the next level

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Via Notebookism, the book Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art looks interesting, as in fact do other books linked on the page at the link. It’s not clear whether it teaches drawing as a skill—for that, the best book I’ve found is by Betty Edwards, and the current version is titled The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and you can get (on that same page) the book together with a spiral-bound exercise book.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Human relations

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Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People seems to some the epitome of cheesiness, a guide to manipulating people. Yet the actual contents deserve a better treatment—and a better title. Perhaps How Not to be a Jerk would more accurately describe the book: it’s a guide to treating people decently and with respect. Here’s a post that outlines the contents.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 9:33 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Cyber Command shutdown

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This is extremely interesting. One really wants to know what’s going on in the background. Article begins:

The Air Force is about to suspend its controversial effort to reorganize its forces to “dominate” cyberspace. The provisional, 8,000-man Cyber Command has been ordered to stop all activities, just weeks before it was supposed to be declared operational.

Transfers of manpower and resources, including activation and reassignment of units, shall be halted,” according to an internal e-mail obtained by Nextgov’s Bob Brewin — and confirmed by Air Force sources. Instead, the Air Force’s new leadership — including incoming Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz — will be given time to rethink how big the command will be, and what exactly it will do.

The suspension is yet another body blow to a service …

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 8:33 am

Shorter shave very smooth

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Normally I do a pass with the grain, then across the grain, and finally against the grain, and following that with polishing off any rough spots. I’ve been experimenting with doing a first pass across the grain, followed by the pass against the grain and then the polishing. It seems to work well, though I think I still like the longer version a bit better.

The soap was QED’s Anise Lavender shave stick, and the Plisson Chinese Grey Badger in the brass handle worked up a fine lather. Again the Merkur Slant Bar with the Iridium Super Blade, and a super shave it was, too. Aftershave was TOBS Mr. Taylor’s. Very nice.

Written by Leisureguy

18 August 2008 at 8:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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