Later On

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

Archive for December 9th, 2008

Broccoli kitten shows some fast paw action

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Cats

Vitamin D and your health

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Readers of this blog know that I pretty consistently find articles on the importance of vitamin D and the fact that many people in the US lack sufficient vitamin D for optimal health. In fact, you can do a search on the blog (use the search box on the right) on “vitamin D” and find quite a few articles. Here’s another:

She didn’t always order the test. For more than two decades in private practice, in fact, Dr. Patricia Czapp almost never checked the vitamin D levels of her patients.

Things have certainly changed.

“For the last two years, I’ve been testing virtually all of my patients,” said Czapp, a family doctor at Annapolis Primary Care. “The vast majority are straight-out deficient or insufficient. It’s frightening to think there’s that many people walking around with that deficiency.”

What doctors are beginning to understand is that vitamin D isn’t just important for absorbing calcium and building bones. And new research seems to be coming out by the day suggesting vitamin D deficiency can lead not just to osteoporosis but possibly to heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, even cancer. Vitamin D is believed to impact the immune system and, one researcher suggests, perhaps even the functioning of the brain.

“When you start reading about vitamin D, how can you not offer that to your patients?” said Czapp, who was persuaded by a newly trained colleague to check for deficiencies. “What we’re coming to find out is most of the cells in the body have a vitamin D receptor. Vitamin D touches hundreds of different genes in the body, regulating the immune system, fighting infection, cancer cells.”

She isn’t the only physician ordering more vitamin D tests. She is part of a growing trend among doctors turning the once-rare test into a routine part of the annual physical, making it one of the top five blood tests ordered nationwide, according to two leading lab companies.

Patients, reading recent headlines about vitamin D or hearing about it on the news, are also pushing the popularity of the test, asking their doctors about a vitamin they rarely thought about before. One grass-roots health organization is advocating that everyone have their vitamin D levels checked.

All this comes as the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommendation last month of how much vitamin D children should take daily and as other groups are pushing for adults to get up to 10 times more than is currently recommended in their diets.

As many as half of Americans, middle-age and older, are believed to get an inadequate amount of vitamin D. …

Continue reading. The article includes this useful sidebar:

Vitamin D sources
Vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods, so it may be difficult to get all you need in your diet. Vitamin D can be found in:

Foods: Milk, juice and cereals are fortified with vitamin D. It occurs naturally in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and wild salmon.

Supplements: Many doctors are now recommending patients take over-the-counter supplements.

Sun: In warmer climes and in the summer, people can get enough vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin,” from 10 to 15 minutes in the sun in the middle of the day, but only if their skin is not covered with sunscreen. The rays needed to become vitamin D cannot get through sunscreen’s barrier.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 10:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Excellent articles on the brain

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New Scientist has ten articles, and now you don’t have to be a subscriber to read them:

A vast increase in brain research in recent years is giving us a much improved picture of what’s going on in our white and grey matter.

In case you hadn’t noticed, is now making the last 12 months’ of articles free for everyone to read. Here we round up the top 10 in-depth articles on the brain from 2008.

This list of articles is found here.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Effect of poverty on children’s brains

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Perhaps some of the explanation for the income mobility chart in the post below is found in how poverty affects children. It’s already known that the main impediment to a good education (nationally) is living in a state of poverty—if you want to improve education, the path leads right through alleviating poverty. And now here’s a mechanism to explain why:

A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

“It is a similar pattern to what’s seen in patients with strokes that have led to lesions in their prefrontal cortex,” which controls higher-order thinking and problem solving, says lead researcher Mark Kishiyama, a cognitive psychologist at the University of California-Berkeley. “It suggests that in these kids, prefrontal function is reduced or disrupted in some way.”

The study adds to a growing body of evidence that shows how poverty afflicts children’s brains. Researchers have long pointed to the ravages of malnutrition, stress, illiteracy and toxic environments in low-income children’s lives. Research has shown that the neural systems of poor children develop differently from those of middle-class children, affecting language development and “executive function,” or the ability to plan, remember details and pay attention in school.

Such deficiencies are reversible through intensive intervention such as focused lessons and games that encourage children to think out loud or use executive function.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 10:41 am

Men hard-wired to overspend?

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Bling, foreclosures, rising credit card debt, bank and auto bailouts, upside down mortgages and perhaps a mid-life crisis new Corvette—all symptoms of compulsive overspending. University of Michigan researcher Daniel Kruger looks to evolution and mating for an explanation. He theorizes that men overspend to attract mates. It all boils down, as it has for hundreds of thousands of years, to making babies.

Kruger, an assistant research scientist in the School of Public Health, tested his hypothesis in a community sample of adults aged 18-45 and found that the degree of financial consumption was directly related to future mating intentions and past mating success for men but not for women.

Financial consumption was the only factor that predicted how many partners men wanted in the next five years and also predicted the number of partners they had in the previous five years, Kruger said. Being married made a difference in the frequency of one-time sexual partners in the last year, but not in the number of partners in the past or desired in the future.

The 25 percent of men with the most conservative financial strategies had an average of …

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 10:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Income mobility

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The idea that one’s children will do better in life than oneself is embedded by nature in every parent. In terms of income, this means that one’s children will advance to a higher socio-economic class—the great American dream.

Yet the US is not so good at this:


That chart is from a post by Ezra Klein—go read it for more information. Highly interesting. And, as Ezra says about the chart above:

Arguably, it’s simultaneously one of Americas strengths and its weaknesses that these data would likely surprise most Americans. Indeed, our countrymen are much likelier to believe that people are rewarded for their effort and much less likely to believe that family riches are important for getting ahead than residents of other countries. That’s good from an entrepreneurial standpoint, but it creates a society that believes strongly in economic mobility and doesn’t have it. A society, in other words, at odds with its own deeply held values.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 10:02 am

Posted in Daily life

Holiday Keynesian reading

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Ezra Klein has some recommendations:

I did a bit of this last year, and folks seemed to like it, and the economy will collapse if you all don’t spend some money, so this week, I’m going to offer a few Christmas gift recommendation posts. The links here will route through my Amazon associates account, meaning that whatever you buy through them, be it the recommended books or a new TV, will also go to support this blog (you’ll only pay the normal Amazon price, of course). And if that weirds you out, you can find this stuff on Powell’s and a variety of other fine internet retail establishments as well. Today’s edition, in no particular order, are the best political books I read this year:

The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power by Gene Healy
: One of the big themes of this blog is the importance of legislative politics and the need for reformers to have a clearer conception of the limitations of the executive. Healy’s book fits neatly into that. But it’s more than just a guide to why you shouldn’t expect too much from the executive: It’s a history of how we’ve come to view the president as central to not only our politics but our national conception of self. Its emphasis on the limitations of the president are as relevant to those who seek to make the state work better as to those who seek to imprison it. Moreover, Healy is a graceful, funny, and fluid writer. It was, by far, the best political book I read this year, and just as it proved a welcome antidote to the mania of the campaign season, I imagine it will be a useful counterweight to the soaring hopes of its aftermath.

The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot: But don’t let the Healy book get you down. The Liberal Hour is an awed and somewhat elegiac examination of the incredible legislative achievements of the 60s. This was, arguably, the most important decade in recent American history. The bills enacted — Medicare and the Civil Rights Act and the Clean Air Act, among others — are fundamental features of our current legislative architecture. Realizing that our society managed to overcome its basic preference for stasis and do so much in so little time is exhilarating. The failures and missteps are sobering.

The Sack of Rome: Media + Money + Celebrity = Power = Silvio Berlusconi by Alexander Stille: Simply a great read. And because it’s about Italy, it’s also a fun read. Our politics has its problems. But they’re in a madhouse. Berlusconi, too, is a particularly interesting figure: We talk about politicians who manipulate the press, but he’s a politician who literally controlled the press, not to mention some of the most powerful symbols of Italian pride (AC Milan). He had, in other words, an autocrat’s assets in a democratic country. And the book is pretty good about showing how those autocratic assets part rendered the democratic part pretty meaningless.

Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats by Matthew Yglesias: I really liked Matt’s book. Also, I have a personal stake in books by young political bloggers selling millions and millions of copies.

The American Prospect: Less a book than a magazine, obviously. And the one I write for, no less. But unlike a book, a magazine changes every month! And unlike a blog, the articles go deep, and benefit from editing and substantial reporting and lots of collaboration! Frankly, it’s a much better deal than some heavy tome you’ll only read half of. And it’s about the same price. Plus, you’ll be supporting a great progressive institution. Folks complain all the time about wingnut welfare and the heterodoxies of The New Republic, but the antidote to that is the success of places like TAP, whose fortunes demonstrate the market for progressive commentary, and whose existence ensures a place where progressives can find a paying gig that lets them simultaneously make rent and argue for things that rich people often don’t like.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 9:58 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Cool lamps and lighting

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WebUrbanist regularly runs a collection of interesting photos about some aspect of urban living. I could link to every one of them—they all seem to be interesting—but, really, you should simply subscribe to WebUrbanist in your reader. Here’s the latest collection.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life

Secondhand smoke = Domestic violence

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At least it does in the Philippines:

The Philippines has enacted a law that treats the exposure of women to secondhand smoke in the home as a form of domestic violence punishable by law. Under the law, a woman can seek a protection order requiring her partner to stop smoking around her. Between 1981 and 1989 Philip Morris (PM) performed at least 115 studies at their secret overseas biological labs on the toxicity of secondhand tobacco smoke and found that secondhand smoke is four times more toxic by inhalation and 2-6 times more tumorigenic on skin than mainstream smoke (the smoke the smoker himself inhales). PM never published their studies or shared the information with governments or the public. PM also carried out elaborate media strategies in the U.S. and other countries aimed at confusing the public about the health dangers of secondhand smoke. Deborah Sy, a legal consultant with the Health Justice Foundation in the Philippines, explained the law by saying “Exposing another to second hand smoke has the same effect as exposing someone to poisons and dangerous toxins. It is an act that has immediate effects such as nausea, dizziness, headache or irritation of respiratory system. Normally, the exposure to smoking suffered by women is prolonged. Hence, the damage to the body is more significant.”

Source: ABS-CBN News, Philippines December 5, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 9:10 am

Technology: the equalizer

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The Colt .45 revolver was known in the American West as the “Equalizer” since it leveled the fighting field between the small guy and the big guy. It occurs to me that technology is another equalizer, this time between citizens and government, particularly when the government has grown corrupt and abusive. For example, handing out video cameras to peaceful demonstrators has resulted in convincing records of excessive force by police—and probably in some cases, when the police noted the number of cameras, prevented excessive force. (I’m ignoring, for this discussion, instances in which police technology itself has captured police misbehavior—for example, the video cameras carried in many state police vehicles or the surveillance cameras in jails have occasionally caught police violating the law and led to suspensions and firings.)

Once the equalizer is out there, some people start to think of ways to maximize its effectiveness. For example, here’s a live video of an illegal police raid:

Here’s the explanation:

More information here.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 8:51 am

Layered cabbage casserole

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Take a look at a serving:


Doesn’t that look good? “The cabbage becomes meltingly soft and infused with the flavors of the stuffing and the poaching liquid, which also becomes the sauce.” This sounds like a recipe to make.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Greenwald on Obama’s picks

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Greenwald has a good column in which he deals with the question of those selected to be in the Obama Administration. He begins with a specific case and then moves on to a more general discussion. It begins:

A report from U.S. News & World Report today suggests that Obama is considering having Gen. Michael Hayden — Bush’s former NSA Director — remain on as CIA Director.  I have no idea whether that report is true, but here is what I do know:

(1) In May, 2006, Barack Obama voted against confirming Gen. Hayden as CIA Director. Obama was one of only 15 Senators to oppose Hayden.  In his speech on the Senate floor explaining his vote, Obama emphasized Hayden’s role as Bush’s NSA Director in implementing and overseeing Bush’s illegal warrantless surveillance programs — programs Obama has repeatedly decried as an assault on the rule of law.

In fact, Obama, while acknowledging in his speech that Hayden was “qualified,” described Hayden — accurately — “as the architect and chief defender of a program of wiretapping and collection of phone records outside of FISA oversight.”  Obama said his vote against Hayden’s confirmation was necessary “to send a signal to this Administration that even in these circumstances President Bush is not above the law” and “in the hope that [Hayden] will be more humble before the great weight of responsibility that he has, not only to protect our lives, but to protect our democracy.”

If, less than 3 years later, Obama chooses as his CIA Director the very same Michael Hayden — who, during his confirmation hearing, justified Bush’s illegal NSA spying and said how proud he was to help implement it [to say nothing of his (at best) equivocations on torture] — then it should be quite . . . let us, for the moment, say “interesting” . . . to watch him and his most loyal supporters explain and justify that. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:23 am

Media mentions of climate change

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Take a look at the depressing graph in this post by Kevin Drum. Read the post, too—not a good sign.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:18 am

Posted in Global warming, Media

Robert Gates on reprogramming the Pentagon

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Gates has his work cut out for him under Obama, and you can see the direction he plans to go in his essay in Foreign Affairs. It begins:

The defining principle of the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy is balance. The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.

The strategy strives for balance in three areas: between trying to prevail in current conflicts and preparing for other contingencies, between institutionalizing capabilities such as counterinsurgency and foreign military assistance and maintaining the United States’ existing conventional and strategic technological edge against other military forces, and between retaining those cultural traits that have made the U.S. armed forces successful and shedding those that hamper their ability to do what needs to be done.


The United States’ ability to deal with future threats will depend on its performance in current conflicts. To be blunt, to fail — or to be seen to fail — in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:16 am

Obama’s theory of change in action

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An excellent post by Ezra Klein. It begins:

Steve Hildebrand, one of Obama’s top organizers and advisers, took to Huffington Post this week to call for calm among Obama’s more liberal critics. The argument is much as you’d expect, but one graf deserves a bit more notice:

As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new president to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That’s his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let’s get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end climate change and restore our place in the world.

Check out that framing: Withdrawal from Iraq, health care reform, and climate change are repositioned as mainstream priorities rather than liberal agenda items. Indeed, Obama’s attention to these, in Hildebrand’s telling, might annoy liberals for a time, but is important nonetheless. Presuming this is a calculated messaging strategy and not just some odd writing on Hildebrand’s part, it reads as an effort to take the liberal agenda and rename it the center, which necessarily means redefining both the center and the liberal agenda. So health care reform becomes what the country wants, while liberal priorities are assumed to be something further left than even that. It’s an interesting strategy, and was well-explained by Mark Schmitt in his seminal essay on Obama’s theory of change: …

Continue reading. And I highly recommend Mark Schmitt’s essay at the link in the last line of the quote.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:10 am

Floris London

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Floris London’s JF this morning. The Plisson Chinese Grey Badger again—as I said, I’m liking it these days. It is soft, but unlike a Silvertip, you can feel the distinct bristles like tiny fingers as you build the lather. And a very fine lather it was. The UK Gillette open-comb Aristocrat delivered a very fine shave indeed—sometimes everything works together flawlessly. JF aftershave was a fine finish.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 December 2008 at 7:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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