Later On

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

Archive for August 21st, 2008

James K. Galbraith on speculators

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Interesting article by James Galbraith (son of John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006). It begins:

Whenever economies sour, politicians blame speculators. But on occasion, they are right to do so. Speculators did wreak havoc in 1630s Holland, 1720s France, and in the American stock market in 1929. That crash led to the Great Depression and 60 years of tight controls on speculation. Now, thanks to our 30-year infatuation with free markets, the controls are off, and the mad gamblers are at it again. Yesterday’s burst bubble was housing; today’s expanding ones are energy and food. True, we have major long-term energy problems that cannot be laid at the feet of speculators. To avoid catastrophic global warming, we will be obliged to reengineer the country, from housing to transport to forests, and also to develop and export the technologies required for the rest of the world to do likewise. Eight years of George W. Bush’s policies have made this much harder, and during that time the world may have passed “peak oil”—that moment when half the recoverable reserves of conventional oil have been drained and burned—so that from now on short supplies will be endemic. Meanwhile, demand grows, notably from China and India, which account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s population.

But do supply and demand explain oil prices at $140 per barrel, with voices from Goldman Sachs projecting $200 for next year (a figure that would push gas prices above $5 per gallon) and Russia’s Gazprom saying $250, despite a likely US recession? Do they explain the historic price hikes in rice, corn, and wheat, leading to hunger in the developing world? Do they explain the absolutely stratospheric price of copper? No they do not.

Yes, Virginia, speculators can affect the price—if they are large and relentless enough to dominate a market, and especially if they can store the commodity and keep it off the market as the price rises.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Cool as a cucumber

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I just noticed this post by hyperwarp on the Razor and Brush message board. I didn’t realize until I read it that Thayers had a Cucumber Witch Hazel Toner (i.e., alcohol free):

Stay Cool as a Cucumber, Whatever the Weather. THAYERS® Alcohol-Free Cucumber Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera Formula Toner cooling essence has a deliciously serene effect on the body. Experience our formula for serenity now! • Fragrance-Free • Paraben-Free • Naturally Preserved • Hypoallergenic.

Ingredients: Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Certified Organic Filet Of Aloe Vera), Glycerin (Vegetable), Hamamelis Virginiana (THAYERS® proprietary un-distilled Witch Hazel) Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Citric Acid, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Tocopheryl (Vitamin E) Acetate.

He was particularly attracted because he’s a big fan of Nancy Boy Replenishing Shaving Cream:

Ingredients: Purified water, potassium myristate (from natural vegetable oils), sodium stearate (from natural vegetable oils), glycerin, cocos nucifera oil (from coconuts), aloe barbadensis leaf juice, avocado oil, pistacia vera seed oil, natural cucumber hydrosol, essential oils, allantoin (from comfrey plant), bitter orange flower extract, cucumber extract, propylene glycol, tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), methyl gluceth-20 (from corn), polyquaternium-7, methylparaben (anti-microbial), hydroxyethylcellulose (natural stabilizer), propylparaben (anti-microbial).

The cucumber products sound very nice indeed. Nancy Boy also makes a Replenishing Aftershave Gel, again with cucumbers. And, of course, one has Hendrick’s.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Your Money or Your Life

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Interesting post over at The Simple Dollar on the book Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. (At the title link, you’ll find copies for $1.) I agree with him that this is the one personal finance book to get and follow—but, as you might guess, the trick is following it. His post begins:

Over the last two years, I’ve reviewed almost 100 personal finance books on The Simple Dollar and read many more (most of which were so redundant, factually incorrect, or poorly written as to not be worth my time to review). After all of those books, I still find that Your Money or Your Life is the most powerful and influential book I’ve read on personal finance management. It just clicks for me in a way that no other personal finance book ever has.

But it probably won’t click for you.

The actual personal finance advice in Your Money or Your Life is pretty standard. It lives by the “spend less than you earn” mantra that almost every other personal finance book also prescribes. It encourages you to eliminate debt, offers specific tips on spending less, and pushes the reader to set goals, keep track of progress, and work towards one’s dreams.

Your Money or Your Life spoke to me specifically because of …

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Contraception = abortion?

with 6 comments

So it seems, at least in the Bush Administration:

The Bush Administration is proposing a new Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regulation that would define abortion as including certain methods of contraception, and that would render unenforceable existing state laws that require Catholic hospitals and charities to cover birth control for their female employees. California and New York enacted such laws in response to health insurance plans that agreed to pay for male potency drugs like Viagra while denying women coverage for birth control pills. The administration’s proposed rule would also allow pharmacists to refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions and not refer customers to other pharmacies, as California’s law now requires them to do. The rule proposes to define abortion as any procedure that terminates a human life after conception, “whether before or after implantation.” DHHS Secretary Michael Leavitt says the proposed rule would protect healthcare workers’ religious freedom.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 12:36 pm

Saving, paycheck to paycheck

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Interesting:

Americans are better at saving money when they set goals in the near future — such as next month — rather than the more distant future, according to a new study by researchers at Rice University and Old Dominion University. The study was presented this month at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. “While many Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, to effectively protect ourselves for the future we need to start saving paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Paul Dholakia, associate professor at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Management. He co-authored the study with Leona Tam, assistant professor of marketing at Old Dominion.

“Our study shows that Americans are better at saving money when they are thinking about it month-to-month, on an ongoing basis rather than a long-term goal.” Dholakia said.

The study asked participants to make savings estimates for next month, for a specific month in the future or for next year. Participants who planned their savings month-to-month and those who planned for the coming year each estimated they would save about the same amount, but the month-to-month planners actually wound up saving much more. For example, in one study, those saving for next month estimated they would save $287 but actually saved $440. On the other hand, participants who were asked to estimate how much they would save in a specific month in the future indicated a much higher value — $946 — but ended up saving far less — only $123.

“Americans always assume a windfall of some sort,” Dholakia said. “We plan on pay raises, work bonuses and other monies to come forward, but we cannot be thinking this way. We need to start saving money every day.”

Planning too far in advance also does not work, the study found. People who formed savings goals for specific months in the future not only saved much less when that time came, but they also made riskier financial decisions in the present. Examples included choosing risky investment ventures and preferring jobs with high pay and low job security to those that were more secure but lower-paying.

“Planning too far in advance not only makes consumers over-optimistic regarding how much they will save, but it also makes them behave in more aggressive and risk-seeking ways in other financial arenas,” Dholakia said. “It’s double jeopardy.”

There are easy ways and painful ways to save money.

“The easiest thing to do is to be a smarter consumer and make spending and saving decisions thoughtfully on a daily basis — that extra cup of coffee every morning, carpooling with a co-worker and cutting out the ‘extras,'” Tam said. “The harder and more prudent thing to do is to mindfully take a portion of your earnings each pay period and save it in the bank.”

Dholakia said, “Americans can’t solely depend on their retirement plan. It will be painful, but like that mortgage or car-loan payment, we need to start thinking about a savings transfer every pay period.”

Source: Rice University

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 10:32 am

Posted in Daily life

Shaving poetry

with 2 comments

The writer of the following is being shy, so no names. It wasn’t I, for sure. A great little poem:

To His Dull Gillette
(With apologies to Andrew Marvell)

Had we but foam enough, and time,
This dullness, mach3, were no crime.
I might stand here and think which way,
To lubricate your wretched shave;
Thou by my bloodied sink abrade,
My sideburns ragged, my cheekbones flayed.
Of Feathers would I fantasize,
Smooth, close shaves, not realized.
And I should, if I please, dispose,
‘Til my Gillette collection grows.
My shave accoutrements expand,
Vaster than Achims’s and more grand.
A dozen Fatboys sit uncleaned,
The Visa’s maxed, my wife is steamed.
That bargain Superspeed? I’ve learned,
Some ebay vendors leave you burned.
Ten cents, I crowed, for every blade,
This hobby’s cheap, it’s money saved!
But, I’m compulsive, I collect,
I’m rather off in that respect.

But in my heart, I always know,
Like bikes, CDs, tube audio,
These things get pricey, they occupy,
My office shelves all piled high.
A close shave is no more the point,
My intent is to fill the joint.
My echoing song “It’s an investment!”
My wife’s a skeptic, though e’er indulgent.
She rolls her eyes, I freely chatter,
A dull disourse: The ideal lather.
The head’s a fine and private place,
But must you detail every shave?

Now therefore, when the AM stubble
Falls from my chin, I mustn’t trouble,
And razor burn, severe, transpires,
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let me shave me, while I can
A loathsome task for modern man,
Rather for some, this curious pleasure,
I’ll take an hour, at my leisure.
Let me jam all my gear, and all
My blades into one shelf, one wall;
Confine my talk to forum natter,
And spare my wife my dreadful patter.
Thus, though I cannot make my shave
Butt smooth, yet I’ll contain my rave.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 10:04 am

Posted in Shaving

Weight gain: another cause

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It’s not just “eat less and exercise more”—the epidemic of obesity deserves some investigation of what the causes might be. And here’s another:

A Monash University scientist has discovered key appetite control cells in the human brain degenerate over time, causing increased hunger and potentially weight-gain as we grow older. The research by Dr Zane Andrews, a neuroendocrinologist with Monash University’s Department of Physiology, has been published in Nature.

Dr Andrews found that appetite-suppressing cells are attacked by free radicals after eating and said the degeneration is more significant following meals rich in carbohydrates and sugars.

“The more carbs and sugars you eat, the more your appetite-control cells are damaged, and potentially you consume more,” Dr Andrews said.

Dr Andrews said the attack on appetite suppressing cells creates a cellular imbalance between our need to eat and the message to the brain to stop eating.

“People in the age group of 25 to 50 are most at risk. The neurons that tell people in the crucial age range not to over-eat are being killed-off.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

The “liberal media”

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A commenter this morning brought out once more the tired trope of “The Liberal Media.” The Media are not liberal. The Media are at best moderately conservative, but generally more than that. Glenn Greenwald has a good column on this very topic today, and as he points out:

Over the past seven years, the following people have hosted prime-time cable news shows: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Michael Savage (MSNBC), Glenn Beck (CNN), Tucker Carlson (MSNBC), Nancy Grace (CNN), Bill O’Reilly (Fox) and Sean Hannity (Fox).

On the radio, Rush Limbaugh reigns supreme, supported by a whole host of right-wing talk shows.

The national press strongly supported the unprovoked invasion of Iraq and have generally report the White House and GOP talking points as though they were news.

Liberal media? Not so.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 8:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Media

McCain doesn’t know how many houses he owns

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Now, I’m not saying that this is because he’s old and gets easily confused about things and has a hard time remembering things. But still…  The story:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

“I think — I’ll have my staff get to you,” McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. “It’s condominiums where — I’ll have them get to you.”

The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties.

More at the link. Josh Marshall is trying to find out. Best guess currently is between 8 and 10, but perhaps as many as 12. And these are NOT your usual suburban flat-lot split-levels. These are luxury homes, befitting an extremely wealthy woman and the man who married her.

UPDATE: Yglesias explains why it’s a difficult question.

UPDATE 2: A couple of the homes: here and here.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 8:12 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Bugs and their bites

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Lyme disease is serious. But do you know what a deer tick (the common vector) looks like? And what a deer tick bite looks like? This excellent slide show has photos of various disease-carrying bugs and of their bites. Worth checking out.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 8:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Privacy is a right

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Bruce Schneier has a good comment on privacy in Wired. It begins:

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures — is this line: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Some clever answers: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” “Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.” “Because you might do something wrong with my information.” My problem with quips like these — as right as they are — is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 8:01 am

Why schools are what they are

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This is just Part 1, so there will (I presume) be more. And it’s part of an interesting series (to which you can subscribe via RSS):

The author is Peter Gray. Part 1 of “Why School Are What They Are” begins:

When we see that children everywhere are required by law to go to school, that almost all schools are structured in the same way, and that our society goes to a great deal of trouble and expense to provide such schools, we tend naturally to assume that there must be some good, logical reason for all this. Perhaps if we didn’t force children to go to school, or if schools operated much differently, children would not grow up to be competent adults. Perhaps some really smart people have figured all this out and have proven it in some way, or perhaps alternative ways of thinking about child development and education have been tested and have failed.

In previous postings I have presented evidence to the contrary. In particular, in my August 13 posting, I described the Sudbury Valley School, where for 40 years children have been educating themselves in a setting that operates on assumptions that are opposite to those of traditional schooling. Studies of the school and its graduates show that normal, average children become educated through their own play and exploration, without adult direction or prodding, and go on to be fulfilled, effective adults in the larger culture. Instead of providing direction and prodding, the school provides a rich setting within which to play, explore, and experience democracy first hand; and it does that at lower expense and with less trouble for all involved than is required to operate standard schools. So why aren’t most schools like that?

If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective. And so, as a first step toward explaining why schools are what they are, I present here, in a nutshell, an outline of the history of education, from the beginning of humankind until now. Most scholars of educational history would use different terms than I use here, but I doubt that they would deny the overall accuracy of the sketch. In fact, I have used the writings of such scholars to help me develop the sketch.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 7:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Greenland ice cap news

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It looks as though the Greenland ice cap may be falling apart faster than predicted. The bad news is that if the whole ice cap melts, sea levels will rise around 6 feet—very bad news indeed for the state of Florida and all coastal cities. Here’s the report (with satellite images at the link):

Researchers monitoring daily satellite images here of Greenland’s glaciers have discovered break-ups at two of the largest glaciers in the last month. They expect that part of the Northern hemisphere’s longest floating glacier will continue to disintegrate within the next year.

A massive 11-square-mile (29-square-kilometer) piece of the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland broke away between July 10th and by July 24th. The loss to that glacier is equal to half the size of Manhattan Island. The last major ice loss to Petermann occurred when the glacier lost 33 square miles (86 square kilometers) of floating ice between 2000 and 2001.

Petermann has a floating section of ice 10 miles (16 kilometers) wide and 50 miles (80.4 kilometers) long which covers 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers).

What worries Jason Box, an associate professor of geography at Ohio State, and his colleagues, graduate students Russell Benson and David Decker, all with the Byrd Polar Research Center, even more about the latest images is what appears to be a massive crack further back from the margin of the Petermann Glacier.

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Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 7:41 am

Posted in Global warming, Science

Yummy roasted tomatoes

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First batch came out of the oven this morning: olive oil, salt, pepper, and 1/2 with coriander the other with cayenne. Very yummy. This recipe.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 7:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Almond and Arlington

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D.R. Harris this morning: Almond shaving cream and Arlington aftershave. I put a new Treet Classic blade in the Merkur Slant and enjoyed a remarkably smooth and effortless shave. The lather, typical of D.R. Harris, was exceptional, thanks no doubt in part to the Rooney Style 2. And now I’m enjoying a nice cup of hot water—cutting back on coffee.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2008 at 7:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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