Later On

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

Archive for April 29th, 2009

Roasting bacon is the berries

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Roasting bacon instead of sautéing it is great:

  1. You don’t have to watch it.
  2. You can cook a lot of strips at once.
  3. It comes out perfect.

I just roasted 11 strips: 400º F for 19 minutes. I line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, put a rack atop the foil, and lay the bacon strips across the rack. Better if they don’t touch each other: when they do, they stick together as they cook.

So now I have bacon for a salad for dinner and also for some kale I’m cooking. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 2:42 pm

John Cole on the Permanent Republican Minority

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I would have called it the Dwindling Republican Minority, perhaps, but his post is excellent. Go read.

In another post, Cole quote Bradley Smith’s post:

Now that Specter’s gone, we can turn to the real enemy – Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe!  Then the only thing between us and victory will be Graham, Lugar, McCain, Murkowski, Grassley, Hatch, and some of the RINOs in the House.  And the Governors, like Crist and Douglas and Lingle and anyone not named Palin or Jindal.  And the Supreme Court Justices like the radical Kennedy.  But time is on our side.  If we get small enough, voters will finally see true conservatism, and then we’ll have to win.

Riiight.

Smith is not that far off the mark. Read this post.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Good argument against special prosecutor for torture

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post, quoting David Corn’s arguments against appointment of a special prosecutor. Go read.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 2:04 pm

Emotional cartography

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Very interesting—and from Mind Hacks, not Strange Maps:

We covered Christian Nold’s brilliant project to create emotion maps of cities before, and I had the pleasure of going to the launch of his new book on Emotional Cartography on Friday. It’s awesome for lots of reasons, but one of the best ones is that you can download it free from the project website.

Nold came up with the idea of fusing a GSR machine, a skin conductance monitor that measures arousal, and a GPS machine, to allow stress to be mapped to particular places. He then gets people to walk round and creates maps detailing high arousal areas of cities.

The biomapping website has some of the fantastic maps from the project.

His book, called Emotional Cartography: Technologies of the Self contains some of the wonderful maps images, but also chapters by artists, psychogeographers, designers, cultural researchers, futurologists and neuroscientists who examine the relationship between space and the self.

One of the chapters is written by our very own Tom Stafford who explores the neuroscience of the self through a case study of an amnesic patient from the scientific literature called SS, who seemed to be unaware of his own depression because of his profound memory problems. Tom also gave a great talk at the launch, which you can also read online.

If you want to read the books, and I highly recommend it, you can download the book as a screen quality or print quality PDF, and its released under a Creative Commons license so you can take it to your nearest copy shop if you want a hard copy.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Ecstatic seizures

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Interesting post at Mind Hacks:

A 2003 study in Epilepsy and Behavior has some descriptions of the ecstatic seizures experienced by some patients with epilepsy.

They include intense erotic and spiritual experiences, feelings of become close to and blending with other people, and some sensations that couldn’t be fully captured in words.

I’ve put some of the descriptions below because they sound absolutely wonderful:

Patient 1
The first seizure occurred during a concert when he was a teenager. He remembers perceiving short moments of an indefinable feeling. Such episodes recurred and a few months later evolved into a GTC [generalized tonic–clonic seizure]. He characterizes these sensations as “a trance of pleasure.” “It is like an emotional wave striking me again and again. I feel compelled to obey a sort of phenomenon. These sensations are outside the spectrum of what I ever have experienced outside a seizure.” He also describes cold shivering, increased muscle tension, and a delicious taste, and he swallows repeatedly. He enjoys the sensations and is absorbed in them in a way that he can barely hear when spoken to. When in a particular, relaxed mood, he can sometimes induce seizures by “opening up mentally” and contracting muscles. He denies any religious aspects of the symptoms. “It’s the phenomenon, the feeling, the fit taking control.” It lasts a few minutes and afterward he is tired with difficulties expressing himself for about 1 hour.

Patient 6
This man has a multifaceted symptomatology and a tendency to interpret bodily sensations as supernatural phenomena. Nevertheless, from the beginning of his forties, he experienced distinct, stereotypical attacks with a “change of concept of the surrounding world.” He reports an “oscillating erotic sensation, like twinkling polar light” in his pelvic region and down the inside of his thighs. This is described as different from sexual excitement, more like “an erogenous charge of the skin.” He may also have a clairvoyant feeling of a “telepathic contact with a divine power.” These sensations are of short duration and may be accompanied by faintness and followed by drowsiness. With carbamazepine treatment, the frequency of these attacks has been considerably reduced.

Patient 11
The attacks started in his first school year. The experiences are beyond what can be described in words. “I can sense the colours red and orange without seeing them. The feeling has an erotic aspect. It starts in the stomach and spreads upwards. It is pleasant, but not similar to ordinary joy. It is like an explosion.” In the close presence of another person, he can feel a sort of peculiar unification. An intense déjà vu sensation, a queer taste, and “gooseflesh” are also components of the seizures. As a child he was surprised that his friends denied having similar feelings, and he learned to keep them to himself. Sometimes these attacks evolved into CPSs with reduced consciousness and complex automatisms and afterward he had transient difficulties speaking. Before the diagnosis of epilepsy was made in his late teens, he was referred to a psychiatrist. A right-sided temporal lobe calcification was diagnosed by computed tomography at about 30 years, but he refused surgery. At 42, an expansion in the same region was found by MRI, and he was operated for an anaplastic oligodendroglioma. He was seizure-free for 6 years until recurrence of the tumor.

One of the striking things about epilepsy is how different each person’s experience of having a seizure can be.

While it is stereotypically assumed to be a negative experience, some aspects can be remarkably beautiful.

The Russian author Dostoyevsky famously said of his epilepsy "I would experience such joy as would be inconceivable in ordinary life – such joy that no one else could have any notion of. I would feel the most complete harmony in myself and in the whole world and this feeling was so strong and sweet that for a few seconds of such bliss I would give ten or more years of my life, even my whole life perhaps."

There are several more case descriptions in the article, all of which have some aspect which touch at least the edge of ecstasy, if not the very heart of the experience.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Shell shock revisited

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Mind Hacks:

New Scientist covers the debate on the causes of the non-specific emotional and cognitive symptoms that are appearing at an alarming rate in US soldiers who have been caught up in blasts while on service.

The controversy centres on whether the symptoms of ‘post concussional syndrome’ (which can include depression, irritability, concentration difficulties, headaches and reduced memory function) are caused by damage to the brain from shock waves of the explosion, or are largely triggered by an emotional reaction to the stress of war.

It’s an interesting debate, not least because it’s almost 100 years since almost exactly the same debate raged over shell shock.

This is from an excellent article by medical historian Edgar Jones and colleagues who discuss the similarities between the ‘shell shock’ debates, and the current controversy:

Frederick Mott, then Britain’s leading neuropathologist, who was recruited by the War Office to discover the etiology of the disorder, argued that in extreme cases shell shock could be fatal if intense commotion affected "the delicate colloidal structures of the living tissues of the brain and spinal cord," arresting "the functions of the vital centers in the medulla". It was also speculated that the disorder resulted from damage to the CNS from carbon monoxide released by the partial detonation of a shell or mortar. In other words, shell shock was formulated as an organic problem even though the pathology remained unclear.

However, research conducted in 1915 and 1916 by Myers, consultant psychologist to the British Expeditionary Force, led to a new hypothesis. Based on his own observations, an increasing appreciation of the stress of trench warfare, and the finding that many shell-shocked soldiers had been nowhere near an explosion but had identical symptoms to those who had, Myers suggested a psychological explanation. For these cases, the term "emotional," rather than "commotional," shock was proposed. The psychological explanation gained ground over the neurological in part because it offered the British Army an opportunity to return shell-shocked soldiers to active duty.

As mentioned by the NewSci two big studies have recently found strikingly similar results: many soldier who have the symptoms of ‘post concussional syndrome’ were never actually in an explosion.

Extreme stress and trauma, of whatever type, seems to predict the likelihood of someone having the symptoms better than actually being caught up in an explosion.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:58 pm

The GOP lives in its own reality

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I wonder whether the GOP will simply cease to exist as a political party and be replaced by some other conservative party—one that is in touch with reality.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

No-fly also means no-flyover

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Bruce Schneier:

I’ve previously written about the piece of counterterrorism silliness known as the no-fly list:

Imagine a list of suspected terrorists so dangerous that we can’t ever let them fly, yet so innocent that we can’t arrest them — even under the draconian provisions of the Patriot Act.

Turns out these people are so dangerous that they can’t be allowed to fly over United States territory, even on a flight from Paris to Mexico.

What makes the whole incident even more interesting is that Air France had only sent its passenger manifest to the Mexicans, but now it is clear that Mexico shares this information with the United States.

Hernando Calvo Ospina has written articles about the United States involvement in Latin America, and is currently writing a book about he CIA. The exact reason for him being on the terrorist watch list is unknown, and we’ll probably never know what criteria are used for adding people to it. Air France is considering asking the United States for compensation. Good luck with that.

Additional links.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

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Ireland rejects e-voting, goes back to paper

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Good idea:

File this in the "exporting democracy" category, or not: a recent report from Europe serves as a reminder that serious problems with e-voting aren’t just an American malady, although it’s much easier to move back to paper ballots if your country is fairly small. Just ask the Irish, who have announced their decision to scrap their e-voting system and return to paper. Ireland has already put about $67 million into building out its e-voting infrastructure, but the country has apparently decided that it would be even more expensive to keep going with the system than it would be to just scrap it altogether.

In a statement, Ireland’s Environment Minister John Gormley blamed the decision partly on the economic crisis, which has had an impact of nearly Icelandic proportions on the country’s real estate market and banking system.

"It is clear from consideration of the Report of the Commission on Electronic Voting that significant additional costs would arise to advance electronic voting in Ireland. This decision has been taken to avoid such costs, especially at a time of more challenging economic conditions. The financial and other resources that would be involved in modifying the machines in advance of implementation could not be justified in present circumstances", Minister Gormley said…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:23 pm

Making pantry staples

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Things like bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, jam, and the like. Here’s the article, which I found via Lifehacker. It begins:

Although I love to cook, I’ve always secretly, darkly, suspected it is costlier to craft at home what you can buy at Ralph’s. Obviously, homemade bread tastes better than Wonder, but does playing Martha Stewart really save you money? While packaged food is mostly lousy, some of it can be spectacularly inexpensive. Out of work and increasingly obsessed with our grocery budget, I decided to test my intuition and run a cost-benefit analysis on how much I’d save—if anything—by making from scratch six everyday foods that I usually purchase from Safeway and my local bakery.

Except where noted, I chose the most affordable products and ingredients available (i.e., the 10-pound sack of generic sugar instead of a tiny pouch of organic cane sugar from Whole Foods) and priced everything down to the last grain of salt. Based on an estimate from my utility company, it costs around 32 cents per hour to run an electric oven. To melt butter slowly over a gas burner: 9 cents per hour. To boil water, more like 14 cents per hour. I take it as a given that everyone knows better than to quit their job—any job—to take up cracker-baking, so I attached no value to time. I happen to love messing around in the kitchen. Here’s what I found: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:20 pm

Planning walking/jogging/biking routes

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Very good post at MakeUseOf on using Gmaps Pedometer. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Time-tracking software

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Free-lancers generally must carefully track their hours, but anyone who has to fill out a time sheet has the same requirement: tracking how much time was spent on each of several different projects. MakeUseOf has a good round-up of six such packages, with screen shots and reviews. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:06 pm

Quadrennial Defense Review

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Good post by Colin Clark at dodbuzz:

It sounds almost Chinese. The five threats. The five challenges. The six principles.

That was how Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, outlined the Pentagon’s approach to the Quadrennial Defense Review. But the key to this QDR: balance. Balancing “current operational needs with an increasingly uncertain future” and balance between the current and future budgets. Flournoy said Defense Secretary Robert Gates was sharply focused on balance, as he made clear in his April 6 budget speech. Among the key decisions in this QDR will be what kind of investments the country will make in the future. “Greater priority should be given to systems that respond to asymmetric challenges,” she said.

Among the key asymmetric threats Flournoy said the country must do more to counter are anti-satellite systems, anti-air systems, anti-ship systems, undersea war and cyber attacks. Of course, dealing with all this means “we are going to be pulled in different directions to deal with the threats of the future.”

The five threats: globalization, combined with increasing poverty and increasing inequality; global climate change and its effects on failing states; demographic changes and the ominous “youth bulges” in the Mideast and other regions where the average age is 20 or younger; increasing competition for oil, gas and water; and finally, the continued spread of destabilizing technologies.

The five challenges: new terror groups; failed and failing states; the spread of weapons of mass destruction; “fundamental shifts in the global balance of power” such as the rising power of China; managing the global commons and maintaining its accessibility.

The six strategic principles that Flournoy said will guide the QDR are: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 1:00 pm

More on the popularity of toxic sludge

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Interesting:

Source: Mother Jones, May/June 2009

In our 1995 book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You, we examined how the Environmental Protection Agency and the sewage industry turned toxic sewage sludge into a "safe" fertilizer through PR, political bullying and weakened government regulations. Fourteen years later, Mother Jones revisits the issue, noting that "more than half the 15 trillion gallons of sewage Americans flush annually is biologically scrubbed, ‘dewatered,’ and processed into products with names like BioEdge, Nitrohumus, and Vital Cycle and spread on farmland, lawns, and home vegetable gardens. … Sludge could be the ultimate growth industry; as one trade publication observes dryly, ‘There will continue to be more wastewater solids to manage with every passing year.’ … [A]s sludge has spread across the country, so have concerns that it may cause as many environmental problems as it solves. In communities where sludge has been used, residents have reported ailments ranging from migraines to pneumonia to mysterious deaths."

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29 April 2009 at 12:56 pm

Greenwald asks a question

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In this column:

Tom Friedman and Garrison Keillor predictably join the virtually unanimous chorus of media voices who believe that government leaders (but not ordinary citizens) should be allowed to break the law with full impunity.  At this point, these pro-immunity columns are so redundant that a software program (an extremely primitive one) could write them.  Armando examines some of the depravity in Friedman’s column, which excuses torture more overtly than most of its kind are willing to do.

I was wondering if someone could answer this question:  we have a large number of criminal laws that purport to restrict what political leaders are allowed to do.  What is the point of having those laws?  I’d genuinely be interested in hearing an answer to that question, because — in light of the elite consensus that prosecutions for government leaders are too divisive, vengeful and distracting to pursue — I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.

And I also have a question: Is saying “I was just following orders” truly now accepted as a defense?

Obama seems to say that this defense is adequate for the CIA torturers. At one time (notably, the Nuremberg trials), that defense was not allowed, but nowadays it seems to be okay.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 12:52 pm

Constructing addictive food

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The following story is interesting, but I would like to see more research on the salt-sugar-fat combination. Here’s the story:

Source: Washington Post, April 27, 2009

The law requires nutritional labels on retail groceries, but not on restaurant meals, so when former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David A. Kessler asked to see the nutritional labels for foods he likes at Chili’s restaurant, Chili’s refused. An inveterate researcher, Kessler resorted to late-night dumpster-diving to obtain them. He discovered that a single serving of Chili’s Southwestern Eggrolls contains a whopping 910 calories, 57 grams of fat and 1,960 milligrams of sodium. The labels mention salt eight different times, and sugars five times. After leading efforts at FDA in the 1990s to regulate nicotine as a drug, Dr. Kessler is exploring the phenomenon of American overeating and the reasons behind the skyrocketing weight gain among the general U.S. population over the last three decades. Dr. Kessler, who has struggled with his own weight over his adult life, discovered that the combination of salt, sugar and fat in foods triggers a chemical change in people’s brains that makes them crave more foods containing that same combination. Dr. Kessler sees a parallel between the food industry and the tobacco industry, in that that the food industry manipulates this special salt-sugar-fat combination to induce this neurological response. In his new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, Dr. Kessler describes how the food industry tries to "hijack" peoples’ brains to sell more food.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 12:08 pm

Try nine new aftershaves

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In responding to a comment from Dr. Lao asking about the Booster June Clover aftershave, I made an awesome discovery: Shaving Essentials sells a sampler pack of ALL the Booster aftershaves, 9 aftershaves in 1 oz. bottles, for $13.49. This is a fantastic bargain and the aftershaves are wonderful. Highly recommended. Since you’re going to have to pay shipping costs, why not also order a jar of the curiously effective J.M. Fraser shaving cream, also a great bargain.

Order now so you’ll be greeting Spring in style. And tell them that Leisureguy sent you.  🙂

UPDATE: Just got an email from Shaving Essentials:

We have been very successful with the Booster samplers. Just as a point of information we also sell a Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Cream sampler for $20. Each sample is an individually packaged .5 oz and includes all 10 of their scented shaving creams (their unscented sensitive skin is excluded). This sampler also includes their new Jermyn Street scent.

I also wanted to mention that the manufacturer of Fraser’s and Booster has been expanding their range of Fraser’s scents. There are now Fraser’s original 14oz (corresponds with Booster Iced Lime), Fraser’s Polar Ice 8oz, Fraser’s Oriental Spice, 8oz and the recently added Fraser’s Mosswood 8oz.

Each of these new Fraser’s will be continuously stocked items with other scents made on as limited specials.

There will also be many more new items like these in the near future. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 11:35 am

Posted in Shaving

“Stand By Me”

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playingforchange.com – From the award-winning documentary, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music”, comes the first of many “songs around the world” being released independently. Featured is a cover of the Ben E. King classic by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it travelled the globe.

You can order the CD/DVD Playing For Change “Songs Around The World” at amazon.com.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about ““Stand By Me”“, posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 11:13 am

Posted in Music

Slow start

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Probably going to be light blogging today. Partly I don’t seem to be in the mood to blog—not sure why that is—but also I’m working on typing up an excerpt from a particularly interesting book I’m reading on process philosophy so that I can post it. Process philosophy makes so much sense to me that I think everyone ought to know about it. That sort of thing.

I’m also having a bit of politics overload. The GOP seems to be running around doing and saying stupid things, hardly worth reporting. Arlen Specter’s move to the Democratic side is sort of nice, but he’s totally unreliable. Glenn Greenwald noted one prime example:

Arlen Specter is one of the worst, most soul-less, most belief-free individuals in politics.  The moment most vividly illustrating what Specter is:  prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, he went to the floor of the Senate and said what the bill "seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years" and is "patently unconstitutional on its face."  He then proceeded to vote YES on the bill’s passage.

Specter also continues to oppose Dawn Johnsen’s appointed as White House Legal Counsel: hardly a Democratic stance.

Of course, there is still food to blog about, and movies, and the like. Maybe once I get going I’ll overcome the inertia.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 10:54 am

Posted in Daily life

Patchouli and June Clover

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You’ve seen previously the Harvard 3 Best, the Patchouli shave stick, and Booster’s fine June Clover aftershave. But the razor might be new to you: I’m using it for the first time. It’s a US-made Gillette, very like a Super Speed—or a Milord, since it’s gold-plated—but with an open comb instead of a guard bar. I loaded it with a Treet Black Beauty, and it did a fine job. It seemed slightly better than the regular Super Speed, but it’s hard to be sure.

At any rate, a fine shave with a “new” razor.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2009 at 9:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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