Later On

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

Archive for September 6th, 2008

Shiso update

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The shiso crop is going great guns. Today I brought home a little box of sushi for lunch and enjoyed a shiso leaf with every bite, with plenty of leaves still to be harvested. The Eldest called with a recipe for a shiso martini: a regular martini, but with a twist of lime and a shiso leaf float in it in lieu of an olive. We talked about possibly trying sake instead of dry vermouth.

If you didn’t grow shiso this year, give it a go for next year. Very easy to grow (my shiso patch is a disposable roasting pan filled with potting soil, sitting on the balcony), and very tasty to eat.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Guns and suicide in the US

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The New England Journal of Medicine has an interesting article, which begins:

This past June, in a 5-to-4 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court struck down a ban on handgun ownership in the nation’s capital and ruled that the District’s law requiring all firearms in the home to be locked violated the Second Amendment. But the Supreme Court’s finding of a Second Amendment right to have a handgun in the home does not mean that it is a wise decision to own a gun or to keep it easily accessible. Deciding whether to own a gun entails balancing potential benefits and risks. One of the risks for which the empirical evidence is strongest, and the risk whose death toll is greatest, is that of completed suicide.

In 2005, the most recent year for which mortality data are available, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among Americans 40 years of age or younger. Among Americans of all ages, more than half of all suicides are gun suicides. In 2005, an average of 46 Americans per day committed suicide with a firearm, accounting for 53% of all completed suicides. Gun suicide during this period accounted for 40% more deaths than gun homicide.

Why might the availability of firearms increase the risk of suicide in the United States? First, many suicidal acts — one third to four fifths of all suicide attempts, according to studies — are impulsive. Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24% took less than 5 minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70% took less than 1 hour.

Second, many suicidal crises are self-limiting. Such crises are often caused by an immediate stressor, such as the breakup of a romantic relationship, the loss of a job, or a run-in with police. As the acute phase of the crisis passes, so does the urge to attempt suicide. The temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises is evident in the fact that more than 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt, including attempts that were expected to be lethal (such as shooting oneself in the head or jumping in front of a train), do not go on to die by suicide. Indeed, recognizing the self-limiting nature of suicidal crises, penal and psychiatric institutions restrict access to lethal means for persons identified as potentially suicidal.

Third, …

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 10:33 am

The racist Palin

with 11 comments

We haven’t yet got a clear view of this aspect of the VP candidate, but apparently it’s there. Look at this article:

“So Sambo beat the bitch!”

This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.

“It was kind of disgusting,” Lucille, who is part Aboriginal, said in a phone interview after admitting that she is frightened of being discovered telling folks in the “lower 48” about life near the North Pole.

Then, almost with a sigh, she added, “But that’s just Alaska.”

Racial and ethnic slurs may be “just Alaska” and, clearly, they are common, everyday chatter for Palin.

Besides insulting Obama with a Step-N’-Fetch-It, “darkie musical” swipe, people who know her say she refers regularly to Alaska’s Aboriginal people as “Arctic Arabs” – how efficient, lumping two apparently undesirable groups into one ugly description – as well as the more colourful “mukluks” along with the totally unimaginative “f**king Eskimo’s,” according to a number of Alaskans and Wasillians interviewed for this article.

But being openly racist is only the tip of the Palin iceberg. According to Alaskans interviewed for this article, she is also vindictive and mean. We’re talking Rove mean and Nixon vindictive.

No wonder the vast sea of white, cheering faces at the Republican Convention went wild for Sarah: They adore the type, it’s in their genetic code. So much for McCain’s pledge of a “high road” campaign; Palin is incapable of being part of one.

Tough Getting People Who Know Her to Talk

It’s not easy getting people in the 49th state to speak critically about Palin – especially people in Wasilla, where she was mayor. For one thing, with every journalist in the world calling, phone lines into Alaska have been mostly jammed since Friday; as often as not, a recording told me that “all circuits are busy” or numbers just wouldn’t ring. I should think a state that’s been made richer than God by oil could afford telephone lines and cell towers for everyone.

On a more practical level, many people in Alaska, and particularly Wasilla, are reluctant to speak or be quoted by name because they’re afraid of her as well as the state Republican Party machine. Apparently, the power elite are as mean as the winters.

“The GOP is kind of like organized crime up here,” an insurance agent in Anchorage who knows the Palin family, explained. “It’s corrupt and arrogant. They’re all rich because they do private sweetheart deals with the oil companies, and they can destroy anyone. And they will, if they have to.”

“Once Palin became mayor,” he continued, “She became part of that inner circle.”

Like most other people interviewed, he didn’t want his name used out of fear of retribution. Maybe it’s the long winter nights …

Continue reading. There’s lots more. She’s Cheney in a dress.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 10:28 am

John McCain: Reformed Maverick

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Scathing letter from Alaska

with 4 comments

It’s about Palin, and thanks to The Younger Daughter for pointing it out. Read it here. It begins:

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in common: their gender and their good looks. 🙂

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .


[ Note by web_admin: This was already posted on Washington Independent comments area and was meant by the author to be read by many, but readers need sourcing. The NY Times has talked with Anne since. ]


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 10:15 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

The Information Paradox

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John Stewart looks at McCain’s acceptance speech.

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Joe shows how it’s done

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 9:19 am

Musical interlude: Debussy

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Go to Christy Hardin Smith’s post for a wonderful musical interlude complete with the backstory.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Music

Omega-3 and you

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Miranda Hitti has a good summary of some recent studies of the effects of consuming omega-3 fats. Her article begins:

Omega-3 fatty acids may help some older adults avoid dementia and live longer, but they may not brighten the moods of seniors who aren’t depressed. That’s the short version of three new studies from September’s edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The studies focused on older adults and omega-3 fatty acids, which the body needs to be healthy and can only get from food (such as salmon, herring, walnuts, and flaxseeds) or supplements.

Though the three new studies all focus on older adults, omega-3 fatty acids are important for people of all ages. The new studies “underscore the potential importance of maintaining high dietary omega-3 fatty acid intakes throughout life,” states an editorial published with the studies.

Having high blood levels of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA, which is found mainly in fish but not in plants, may help longevity, one of the new studies shows.

The study took place in Norway. The researchers measured omega-3 fatty acid blood levels in 254 frail, elderly people (average age: 82) admitted to a Norwegian hospital.

Over the next three years, the patients with high blood levels of EPA were less likely to die than those with low levels of EPA.

That finding may stem from EPA’s heart-healthy benefits, since heart disease was to blame for most patient deaths. Other omega-3 fatty acids — and omega-6 fatty acids, which are more common than omega-3s in the typical American diet — didn’t affect the results.
Less Dementia With Omega-3s

In the second study, people with high blood levels of EPA were less likely to develop dementia. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Evolutionary mystery: why children love parents

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Interesting question:

In an earlier post, I list some of the remaining mysteries in evolutionary psychology, which I initially listed in the final chapter of our book Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters.  My friend and LSE colleague, David de Meza, has just suggested a potential solution to Remaining Puzzle #7:  Why children love their parents.

As I explain in the earlier post, parents have been selected to love their children, whether children love them back or not, in order to motivate the parents to invest in the children and to increase their reproductive success.  It is not necessary for the children to love their parents, as parents are evolutionarily designed to love their children regardless of whether children love them back or not.  Hence the mystery.

However, David points out that, given that parents already love their children, children who love their parents and thus invest in them are expected on average to do better than children who don’t love their parents and thus do not invest in them.  This is because, given that the parents love their children unconditionally, a large proportion of resources invested  in the parents will be transferred back to the children and their children, the parents’ grandchildren.  So the children of people who love and invest in their parents on average receive greater resources than the children of people who don’t love and invest in their parents.  Hence a tendency of children to love and invest in their parents will be selected and spread throughout the population.

Of course, children only share half their genes with their parent, the same proportion as they share with their own children or full siblings.  So, reproductively speaking, investing resources in a parent is at most only as good as investing in their children or siblings.  Further, one’s children and siblings are expected to live much longer (and have much longer remaining reproductive life) than one’s parent, so investing in children and siblings should always be better than investing in their parents.

However, David points out that, once their children and siblings are fed, clothed, and otherwise taken care of, investing further resources in them will have diminishing returns, and resources might be better used by investing them in their parents.  If the parents live longer and stay healthier, they can be around to look after their grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, thereby increasing the individual’s reproductive success.

David’s explanation not only explains why children may love their parents, …

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Interesting book based on E. Coli

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Fascinating review of Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life. The review begins:

I come face-to-face with Escherichia coli every day. In a sense, we all do–as billions of E. coli inhabit every individual’s intestines. But for me, E. coli is a protein factory. I’m a structural biologist, and my work depends on being able to produce large amounts of specific proteins–generally proteins found in humans or mice. However, purifying large amounts of these proteins from humans or mice would be virtually impossible, and manipulating these proteins in the manner I need for my studies would be literally impossible. Instead, all I have to do is introduce a small piece of engineered DNA into a single E. coli bacterium–just one cell–and in less than 24 hours, I’ll have billions of E. coli bending to my will and producing milligrams of my protein of interest on demand.

This only works because, as Nobel laureate Jacques Monod once quipped, “What is true for E. coli is true for the elephant.” E. coli. along with all other forms of life share the same basic cellular machinery and the same genetic code, so a piece of DNA from one species will be read in exactly the same way (with a few caveats) in another species. It is because of this truism that scientists have been able to develop E. coli into a successful biotechnological tool and a model system for studying the basis of life. It is also from this truism that Carl Zimmer–accomplished science writer and blogger at The Loom–takes the name of the second chapter of his latest book, Microcosm.

In Microcosm, E. coli becomes much more than just a biotechnological tool, but a conduit for exploring the fundamentals of evolution, biological networks, cooperation, human health and disease, bioethics, our relationship with nature, and–of course–life itself. The so often unexamined life (at least for someone like me) of E. coli comes alive, and the reader discovers that–as so many microbiologists already have–E. coli is interesting in its own right. E. coli has many stories to tell, and Zimmer communicates them in his usual interesting, informative, and very readable manner. …

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:32 am

Posted in Books, Science

Shifting the argument

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Joe Klein has a good column on the attempt to shift the focus from the issues to irrelevancies. It begins:

It has been fascinating to watch the right-wing press lap up the anti-media nonsense put out by the McCain campaign’s Steve Schmidt regarding Sarah Palin. The latest is Jeffrey Bell, in the Weekly Standard, who makes the media’s attempt to find out just exactly who Palin is part of a seamless, anti-clerical cloak that goes all…the…way…back…to…the French Revolution:

The most important thing to know about the left today is that it is centered on social issues. At root, it always has been, ever since the movement took form and received its name in the revolutionary Paris of the 1790s. In order to drive toward a vision of true human liberation, all the institutions and moral codes we associate with civilization had to be torn down. The institutions targeted in revolutionary France included the monarchy and the nobility, but even higher on the enemies list of the Jacobins and their allies were organized religion and the family, institutions in which the moral values of traditional society could be preserved and passed on outside the control of the leftist vanguard.

Wow. What hogwash. The deviation from the actual truth of the matter–pretty close to 100%, I’d say–is astonishing. If the Democratic Convention is any gauge, liberals aren’t very much interested in social issues at all–but they are obsessed by the frightening economic conditionss we’re facing right now. (Mr. Bell might consider taking a gander at the front page of the paper today–6.1% unemployment, the costly collapse of Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac.) They are concerned about making the tax code as progressive as it was during the Clinton boom, and also about rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, finding new jobs in alternative energy industries and making health insurance available to all Americans. You may feel positive or negative about their solutions, but that’s what liberals care about.

Then there’s this: …

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Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:28 am

Posted in GOP, Media

Good comedy with shaving subplot

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Last night I watched Human Nature (2001), an unusual comedy (written by Charlie Kaufman, who, after writing this screenplay, went on to write Adaptation (2002), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Worth seeing, in my opinion. And not just for the shaving. (Although I do wonder why the switch from a tradition safety razor in the first shaving scene to the multiblade cartridge used later—the movie never explains.)

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:26 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Shaving

Sandalwood Vanilla again

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This morning I used Honeybee Spa’s Sandalwood Vanilla, another fine soap. I picked up a Gillette English Aristocrat Junior—like the Rocket on steroids—that had a previously used Black Beauty blade. Fine three-pass shave, and I finished with Coty’s Raw Vanilla aftershave. Very pleasant.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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