Later On

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

Archive for September 3rd, 2008

Packing good school lunches

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Very useful article with a stunning photo. For those with kids in elementary school—or for those who pack their own lunch (like The Wife).

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

The Bizarro GOP

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Good article by John Dickerson in Slate. It begins:

The first official night of the Republican Convention was one for contradictions. Party stalwarts gathered to celebrate both members of their ticket for bucking their party. The man who waged one of the most desultory campaigns for president in recent memory gave the most rousing speech. And the night ended with a call for loyalty from a member of the opposition party.

John McCain was celebrated for bucking entrenched interests, even in his own party. He was praised for standing up to Republican icon Ronald Reagan just after Reagan had been heralded with a video. Sarah Palin was also cheered for bucking her party. The crowd roared to hear that McCain would change Washington, D.C.—even though that same crowd had just cheered loudly for George Bush, the leader of their party and the person most responsible for the situation that needs changing.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:58 pm

Posted in GOP

What will kill you

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What will kill you

What will kill you

More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Bike helmets save lives

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From Treehugger (and there’s more details at the link):

Whenever we do a post about bike helmets, we get a controversy in comments that often includes statements like “Nowhere that has introduced a helmet law or considerable helmet promotion has been able to demonstrate any reduction in risk to cyclists.”

Well, now they have. A new study released in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the death rate in Ontario, Canada for kids on bikes before and after the mandatory helmet law was passed in 1995 and found that it cut the death rate in half.

“If you just look at that, then the average of deaths pre-[legislation] and average number of deaths post-[legislation], there is a significant reduction. … And it turns out it’s a 52-per-cent reduction,” said Patricia Parkin, senior author of the study and director of the Paediatric Outcomes Research Team at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

The law only covers those under 18 years old; among adults, who do not have to wear helmets, the death rate rose 5%. Now the authors of the study recommend that the mandatory helmet law be extended to adults as well. ::Globe and Mail

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Daily life

Poor little Chevron

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It’s being victimized:

The second-largest U.S. oil company sees itself as a victim, and it’s going on a PR offensive to explain why. In an “unusual move,” Chevron “has approached the media to offer a briefing” on an upcoming civil trial, “in which it faces charges of wrongful death, civil conspiracy, torture and negligence.” The case, Bowoto versus Chevron, was brought by Nigerian villagers and stems from a 1998 incident where the Nigerian military shot at protesters on one of Chevron’s offshore platforms. The soldiers were paid by Chevron and flown to the platform in Chevron helicopters, according to EarthRights International. A U.S. district court judge recently concluded that Chevron personnel “were directly involved” in and approved of the attack. Chevron denies the charges, saying the protesters “took Chevron workers hostage and attacked law enforcement when it arrived.” Chevron has hired Singer Associates, the San Francisco PR firm that defended the city zoo after one of its tigers escaped its enclosure and killed one person. Chevron’s PR push is part of a trend of companies doing more media work around legal cases. The traditional “‘no comment’ approach” yields “the entire dialog to the other side,” explained PR executive Erin Powers.

Source: East Bay Business Times (California, sub req’d), August 29, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Business

Bring Chrome features to Firefox

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Good post on how to implement in Firefox some of the features found in Google’s Chrome browser.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:45 pm

Mac apps for fun

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For my Macintosh readers.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Digital textbooks: when? and what?

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Very interesting page on the desiderata for digital textbook. A snippet:

Textbooks are an essential but increasingly expensive part of obtaining a college degree. With students spending between $700 and $1,000 per year and prices rising faster than inflation, the need for a solution is increasingly urgent.

Digital textbooks are a promising way to lower costs for students.  The digital format has the potential to cut production costs, increase options for students, and open up the market to more competition.

Digital textbooks are now beginning to gain a more prominent position in the textbooks marketplace, making it a critical time to ensure that they are on the right track.  We are concerned, however, that digital textbooks are on the wrong track.

The Student PIRGs conducted this study to determine how digital textbooks can live up to their potential as a solution.  Through a survey of 504 students from Oregon and Illinois and 50 commonly assigned textbook titles, we confirm three fundamental criteria – affordability, printing options, and accessibility.  We found that publishers’ digital “e-textbooks” fail to meet these criteria, and that an emerging form of digital textbooks – open textbooks – are a perfect match.

REPORT FINDINGS

1. Digital textbooks must meet three criteria – …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 2:27 pm

Washing machine for the future

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It uses 96% less water than a comparable model. Read about it here. For example:

The Aqua Loop water-saving technology uses 96% less water than an equivalent Sanyo washer from just a decade ago, while still working like a washing machine. The three-in-one machine not only washes but also dries clothes and recycles water. Manager Koji Nobuchi says the new Sanyo machines were designed to recognize the global wastewater management problem. The machine doesn’t need water to sterilize or deodorize clothes and recycles bath water, using a filtration system.

The drum-style machines converts air to ozone to eliminate bacteria and odor, a process previously used only in commercial washing machines like those in hospitals with ozone-generating machines. But Sanyo is now packaging the technology for household use. Water is purified using a recycling process. The ozone washes away bacteria, which can lead to smells, and dirt.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

What’s wrong with the St. Paul police?

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I’m amazed by the harsh and (I would say) even totalitarian behavior of the police at the GOP convention. They recently attacked a totally peaceful and authorized march. The police blocked all side streets, then both ends of the block the marchers were in, and then lobbed tear-gas grenades into the crowd. And the mainstream media (and the mayor of St. Paul) are totally silent about all this.

Read here. And there are other incidents. I’ll update this post as I come across more incidents. But clearly the police are not acting to preserve peace and protect constitutional rights to speech and to peacefully assemble.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

Bristol Palin’s pregnancy

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It’s important to remember that Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was announced by the McCain campaign. In other words, the McCain campaign brought up this issue for discussion. And McCain has now welcomed (on TV) Britol’s “redneck” boyfriend (that’s his own description on his MySpace page, which was taken down, though not before he revealed that he doesn’t “want kids”).

Obviously, questions have been asked: for example, whether Bristol’s plight suggests that “abstinence-only” sex education doesn’t really work very well—whether a real sex-eduction program, with information on contraception, might have served her better. (Refusal to answer from the GOP representative.) Also, it puts in an interesting light Gov. Palin’s cutting the budget for a residential program for unmarried teen mothers, a program that helps them with the baby and also acquire knowledge and skills to support themselves).

Dana Goldstein has an interesting article on this issue. It begins:

You have to feel sorry for Bristol Palin. Because of her mother’s place on the Republican ticket, the biggest challenges of Bristol’s life thus far — becoming a parent and a wife before she has even graduated high school — will now play out on the national stage, opening her up to the judgments of hundreds of millions of gossipy Americans, not to mention election-watchers across the globe. Barack Obama was right to react with disgust Monday when asked if his campaign would make an issue out of Bristol’s pregnancy. Everyone recognizes that Bristol doesn’t deserve that.

At the Republican National Convention in St. Paul Monday, outside of a Lifetime Television event honoring young women leaders, a young Lifetime staffer breathlessly relayed the story to GOP Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. “So she’s keeping the baby. And she’s getting married to her boyfriend. And apparently the McCain people knew.” The congresswoman furrowed her brow.

“Wow,” McMorris Rodgers replied, taking it all in. “Oh my.” She paused. “Politically, I think it would be fine. Personally, I think it would be draining.”

In conservative circles, the pregnancy news is more than just fine — politically, it is playing like a dream among Republican delegates in St. Paul. The idea that the Christian right would have judged Sarah Palin a failure in imparting proper values to her sexually active daughter is silly — a typical liberal misreading of contemporary conservative ideology. Though the religious right promotes abstinence-only sex education, vows of chastity, and dances at which prepubescent girls pledge their virginity to dad, conservatives do live in 21st-century America, just like the rest of us. They know teen sex happens. They just also happen to believe, against all common sense, that it can be eradicated.

The truth is, conservatives are more familiar with teen parenthood than are secular liberals. On the whole, red states have higher teen pregnancy and birth rates than blue states. In Texas, the state with the highest teen birth rate, 63 out of every 1,000 young women aged 15 to 19 has had a baby. California has the lowest teen birth rate; only 39 of every 1,000 15- to 19-year-old girls there have carried a pregnancy to term. Alaska, where Bristol Palin grew up, has a typical teen birth rate of about 42.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

Genetic component for commitment in relationships

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This is an interesting story, which begins:

Scientists have identified a common genetic variation that appears to weaken a man’s ability to emotionally attach to one partner.

The study, to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to try to examine whether a hormone that encourages monogamy in animals plays a similar role in male humans. Before getting ideas about a DNA-fidelity test, though, women should consider that the study wasn’t designed to determine how much — or even whether — the gene in question is responsible for monogamy in humans.

More at the link. Interestingly, this gene plays several roles (list at the link, along with some discussion of the recent study). Mind Hacks observes:

In this case, the gene codes for the receptor of vasopressin, a hormone thought to play a role in bonding in some mammals, but it’s still a long way from the gene to the behaviour.

The media reporting of genetics studies often makes the common mistake of explaining these sorts of findings as ‘a gene for…’ – misdescribing the gene as being specifically for a high-level behaviour and implying a sort of mysterious Gene Genie that magically allows this tiny part of a molecule to influence our lives.

However, these studies only report a statistical association and usually do not tell us about how the gene is linked to behaviour.

This is nicely illustrated in a number of studies that have linked genes to some really quite surprising things.

One of my favourite studies has found that the gene hTAS2R16 is reliably associated with alcoholism. It would be easy to explain this as “a gene for alcoholism” but we know exactly what it codes for: a bitterness receptor on the tongue.

One hypothesis is that people with this version of the gene are less sensitive to bitter things, so they find drinks such as beer more enjoyable, so they tend to drink more, are exposed to more alcohol and so have a higher chance of becoming alcoholic.

From tongue to addiction through the fog of everyday life – maybe. We need to do further studies to test this out and you can see how complex it could get.

Even more counter-intuitive is evidence from a twin study

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Cool Google search tricks

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Check ’em out. They include:

  • tracking packages
  • information on any flight
  • built-in calculator functions
  • finding out the weather
  • what time it is anyplace
  • dictionary functions
  • show times for movies
  • UPC Codes
  • phone book and residential listings

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Daily life

Sarah Palin

I have just now (1:00 p.m. my time) caught up (temporarily) with the tsunami of events and revelations about the VP candidate and what is going on. Amazing. Let me just summarize a few things I’ve learned:

Far from cooperating with the investigation into her firing of the public safety director, Gov. Palin is now refusing to testify and has moreover—you really start shaking your head at this point—has filed an ethics complaint AGAINST HERSELF (full story here) in an effort to wrench the investigation from the special investigator appointed by the legislature and turn it over instead of a 3-person panel—a panel that SHE HERSELF appointed! Ye gods.

And, of course, it has been fully established (a) that she was NOT against the Bridge to Nowhere as she claimed, but in fact promoted it as part of her campaign (she later did oppose it after the project was already dropped, but did keep all the money); (b) she hired a lobbyist (with ties to Abramoff, no less) to secure federal pork when she was mayor of the town (and got a lot—so much that other towns in Alaska now emulate the method; (c) three separate times John McCain singled out her federal grants as “objectionable spending” in his reports on bad federal earmarks. That’s just for starters. There’s lots more.

Carly Fiorina has said that criticism of Palin’s lack of experience is “sexist”. I presume, then, that the McCain campaign’s criticisms of Obama’s inexperience are racist.

This quote from an insider, via TalkingPointsMemo:

Either McCain’s vetting process was a complete sham. Or his press operation is the worst in modern presidential politics history. Or some unholy blend of both.Campbell Brown isn’t the story – people are underestimating her, as they always have. No, the story is that Tucker Bounds went on national television without material to answer what is maybe the simplest, most straightforward follow-up question any reporter can ask: “What’s your evidence for that assertion?” And I suspect that the reason they canceled Larry King is not to punish CNN (it doesn’t work that way) it’s that they still couldn’t come up with an answer to the question by the time his show aired.

Now look at this comment from McCain honcho Steve Schmidt to Katie Couric last night: “Members of this campaign went to off-the-record lunches with reporters today, and they were asked if she would do paternity tests to prove paternity for her last child. Smear after smear after smear, and it’s disgraceful and it’s wrong. And the American people are going to reject it overwhelmingly when they see her.”

First of all, that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone in the campaign/political press throw out the notion of paternity tests. So Schmidt is to blame for bringing that issue into the mainstream. If anyone is smearing the candidate, it’s Schmidt. This is as cynical a tactic as I’ve ever seen in politics.

Secondly, how can it be a “smear” if it was during an off-the-record lunch with McCain campaign aides?

Thirdly, hey, colleagues, you’re on notice: Steve Schmidt does not respect “off the record.” Watch your backs, my friends.

There’s much more. I’ll try to catch up.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has a good Palin summary.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

Late posting

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I’m getting a late start at posting today because I’m still following with fascination the unending stream of reports about McCain’s choice as the person most qualified to be President should he (age 72, 4 bouts of melanoma cancer, physically damaged by being tortured as a POW) die or become incapacitated in office.

And, of course, it’s interesting to see the GOP run its campaign as reformers, given that the past 8 years have had the GOP in the President’s office and the GOP in control of Congress for six of those years. I guess they plan to reform themselves. Certainly the GOP strongly believes that industry can police itself. The GOP motto: “Just put your faith in trust.”

At any rate, I’ll soon get back to blogging. Food note: last night pork spareribs cooked at 200º uncovered on a baking sheet for four to four-and-a-half hours. Only seasoning: lime juice on ribs, then sprinkled with Penzey’s seasonings: Bicentennial Rub and then Pork Jerk.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOP

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Truefitt & Hill Luxury

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I used T&H’s Luxury Shaving Soap today—a very nice soap indeed. The Rooney Style 2 did it’s usual great job on the lather, and the Edwin Jagger lined Chatsworth with a Treet Classic blade (previously used) did a fine, smooth job. Booster’s June Clover was the fully satisfying aftershave.

I got an email asking why I posted the EJ ivory Chatsworth as a favorite razor over the EJ lined Chatsworth (both in gold). Answer: I had to have one, and I went with the one earlier in the alphabet. In John Barth’s excellent novel The End of the Road, the protagonist has a decision problem. At the beginning of novel, he’s advised to make choices using a simple rule: if presented spatially, the choice on the left; if presented temporally, the first choice mentioned; if presented otherwise, the earliest in the alphabet. I used that rule. Both are excellent razors: the lined is heavier, so if you like heft, get that one.

I’m also reminded of a story told during the House Judiciary Committee hearings at the time of Nixon’s impeachment—the last political event I watched with such fascinated absorption as this Republican convention, which is turning out to be a fast-moving trainwreck. The story:

A boy’s mother gave him two ties for his birthday. The next morning he came down to breakfast wearing one of the ties, and she said, “Aw, you don’t like the other tie.”

But I do like both Chatsworths. :)♠

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2008 at 11:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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