Later On

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

Archive for November 15th, 2008

Enormous complex city built and run with no one in charge

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Incredible that something so complex can be constructed and maintained with no one in charge. From this site.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 9:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Interesting idea: put intelligent people in charge

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Jacob Weisberg has a very interesting article at Slate. It begins:

Here’s a radical suggestion: Barack Obama should pick the smartest people he can find for his Cabinet.

Brilliance has sometimes been a criterion in presidential appointments, of course, but seldom the major one. It usually takes a back seat to rewarding friends and backers, playing congressional politics, seeking diversity, and appeasing industry and interest groups. Presidents also feel obliged to avoid too many retreads and place a high premium on personal loyalty.

Obama can’t avoid such considerations, of course. He needs to cultivate his congressional relationships, avoid alienating allies where possible, and rely on people he trusts. President No Drama doesn’t want a Cabinet full of undisciplined prima donnas. But it makes sense for Obama to give greater weight to intellectual acumen and subject-specific knowledge than his recent predecessors have, both because of the depth of the problems he faces and because of his own style as a thinker and a decision-maker. Bush, whose ego was threatened by any outburst of excellence in his vicinity, politicized all policymaking and centralized it in the White House. Obama, happily, has the opposite tendencies. He is intellectually confident, enjoys engaging with ideas, and inclines to pragmatism rather than partisanship. He can handle a Lincolnesque “Team of Rivals” or a FDR-style brain trust. And he’s going to need one.

The issue starts at the Treasury Department, where the best choice would be …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 8:54 am

Movies report and recommendations

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Two movies I saw yesterday are well worth seeing.

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash is a documentary that grabs your interest at the outset and doesn’t let go. Quite fascinating, and explores aspects of the issue I had not previously considered. The reality of the crisis is enormous, yet by and large our leaders are simply waiting for the disaster. Some very intelligent people provide the commentary and information. This one is one of the Netflix movies that you can watch instantly on your computer, but it is almost an hour and a half long, so you may want to get it as a DVD. I got it from the library.

Alex and Emma is a very well done romance novel of a movie. It’s directed by Rob Reiner and it takes a while—well, a fairly long time—to set the engine of the movie into motion, but once it’s going, the movie is a delight. Luke Wilson plays a novelist in a life or death NaNoWriMo situation: he must complete an (unstarted) novel in 30 days to pay off a gambling debt or the Cuban Mafia will kill him. Kate Hudson plays the stenographer to whom he dictates his novel. The interplay between the novel and real life is what drives the humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life

Obama speaks to the nation

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 8:21 am

Archive Mac sticky notes as PDF file

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I don’t fully understand the Mac, but this post sounds as though it might be useful the you Mac fans.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 8:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Social Networks, Privacy, and Self-Portraiture

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Very interesting illustrated article by the artist Ethan Ham. Well worth the click.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 7:45 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Technology

Usability of Web site: key to Obama victory?

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Very interesting: a usability test conducted on the Obama and McCain campaign Web sites found the Obama Web site had much better usability—which, perhaps, led to the Obama victory. At any rate, usability is damned important, and you can improve it only by testing. Thanks to The Wife for pointing this out. The summary from the post at the link:

A quick online usability study of the Obama and McCain websites was conducted on November 3rd and 4th, 2008. Preparation for the study took about 2 hours and data analysis took about 4 hours. Participants were asked to do four tasks on one of the sites: find where to vote, find the candidate’s position on Social Security, find a photo of the candidate waving, and find the impact of the candidate’s tax plan on them. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two sites; 44 of them completed the tasks. Task success (self-reported), task times, and task ease ratings were collected, as were ratings on several scales, including the System Usability Scale (SUS). Overall, the users were successful with 78% of their tasks on the Obama site but only 47% on the McCain site. Users of the McCain site also took 28% longer and rated the tasks as 27% more difficult. Users rated the Obama site as being significantly easier to find information on and significantly more visually appealing. And the Obama site received a mean SUS score of 76% compared to 45% for the McCain site. Usability issues with both sites were identified from user comments. Overall, it was a landslide usability victory for the Obama website.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 7:42 am

Posted in Daily life

Another exceptional shave…

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That’s a Valobra shave stick, which is a very good shave stick indeed. The brush is a no-name brush that I bought on eBay quite a while back—I believe it was from Tones Barber Shop. I got a fine lather, and the Gillette President with a used Astra Superior Platinum blade did a fine job. As you can see, the President looks exactly like the 1940s Aristocrat except parts of the handle that were smooth on the Aristocrat are knurled on the President and the President is nickel plated rather than gold plated. The aftershave, Stetson Sierra, was just the finishing touch I wanted.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 November 2008 at 7:39 am

Posted in Shaving

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