Later On

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

Archive for June 6th, 2009

Father’s Day thought

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I can’t help but think that Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving: Shaving Made Enjoyable is an ideal present for a beardless father.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Books, Shaving

Thermocules redux

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I haven’t said much about my Outlast bedding, which uses embedded thermocules to moderate the temperature: the thermocules absorb heat when your body’s throwing it off, and then in the next stage of the sleep cycle as your body temperature drops, the thermocules release heat. I found that, for me, I sleep much more comfortably.

You can read the full Outlast story here. I have the mattress pad, the cotton blanket (which is all I use in the summer), and the duvet. I tried the pillow, but I prefer my buckwheat pillow.

I’ve heard that you don’t want the mattress pad if you use a Tempurpedic mattress, since that mattress depends on getting the full heat from your body.

All in all, this product has worked extremely well for me, and I’ve not had a night since when I felt too hot with the covers on and too cold with the covers off—it’s always just right.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 11:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Great kitchen toy

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I got one of these Preptaxi Food Scoops yesterday, and it’s great. I have used something similar: the side of a Chinese knife (cleaver shaped) and, lately, a dough scraper. But this is better: it has sides to keep the chopped food from spilling, and it’s larger (holds 3 cups). They also make a plastic model, but according to the comment on Amazon, those warp in the dishwasher, so the stainless is better. Extremely handy. I got mine at Sur La Table.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life

The efficiency of the Invisible Hand of the market

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The faith in market efficiency and in the ability of the free market to solve problems never made much sense to me. It required altogether too much trust in businesses. Now I see that the faith in market efficiency is falling. Joe Nocera in the NY Times:

For some months now, Jeremy Grantham, a respected market strategist with GMO, an institutional asset management company, has been railing about — of all things — the efficient market hypothesis.

You know what the efficient market hypothesis is, don’t you? It’s a theory that grew out of the University of Chicago’s finance department, and long held sway in academic circles, that the stock market can’t be beaten on any consistent basis because all available information is already built into stock prices. The stock market, in other words, is rational.

In the last decade, the efficient market hypothesis, which had been near dogma since the early 1970s, has taken some serious body blows. First came the rise of the behavioral economists, like Richard H. Thaler at the University of Chicago and Robert J. Shiller at Yale, who convincingly showed that mass psychology, herd behavior and the like can have an enormous effect on stock prices — meaning that perhaps the market isn’t quite so efficient after all. Then came a bit more tangible proof: the dot-com bubble, quickly followed by the housing bubble. Quod erat demonstrandum.

These days, you would be hard-pressed to find anybody, even on the University of Chicago campus, who would claim that the market is perfectly efficient. Yet Mr. Grantham, who was a critic of the efficient market hypothesis long before such criticism was in vogue, has hardly been mollified by its decline. In his view, it did a lot of damage in its heyday — damage that we’re still dealing with. How much damage? In Mr. Grantham’s view, the efficient market hypothesis is more or less directly responsible for the financial crisis.

“In their desire for mathematical order and elegant models,” he wrote in his firm’s quarterly letter to clients earlier this year, “the economic establishment played down the role of bad behavior” — not to mention “flat-out bursts of irrationality.”

He continued:

“The incredibly inaccurate efficient market theory was believed in totality by many of our financial leaders, and believed in part by almost all. It left our economic and government establishment sitting by confidently, even as a lethally dangerous combination of asset bubbles, lax controls, pernicious incentives and wickedly complicated instruments led to our current plight. ‘Surely, none of this could be happening in a rational, efficient world,’ they seemed to be thinking. And the absolutely worst part of this belief set was that it led to a chronic underestimation of the dangers of asset bubbles breaking.”

(Mr. Grantham concluded: … )

Continue reading

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 10:17 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Reminders of the Soviet show trials

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During the heyday of Stalinism, the Soviet Union specialized in show trials: some poor dissident or otherwise bothersome person would be taken into the KGB dungeons and tortured questioned using harsh interrogation techniques until he (or she, but mostly he) got straight the story the KGB had decided on and was able to recite it well. Then there would be a big public trial, where the “guilty” individual would testify to whatever crimes he was said to have committed and admit that he did them all and was totally guilty. Then he would executed, or sent to Siberia.

Other nations—especially the US—condemned these parodies of justice, but now I see that the US is moving to adopt something uncomfortably reminiscent of those bad old days. William Glaberson in the NY Times:

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom.

The proposal, in a draft of legislation that would be submitted to Congress, has not been publicly disclosed. It was circulated to officials under restrictions requiring secrecy. People who have read or been briefed on it said it had been presented to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates by an administration task force on detention.

The proposal would ease what has come to be recognized as the government’s difficult task of prosecuting men who have confessed to terrorism but whose cases present challenges. Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons. In any proceeding, the reliability of those statements would be challenged, making trials difficult and drawing new political pressure over detainee treatment.

Some experts on the commissions said such a proposal would raise new questions about the fairness of a system that has been criticized as permitting shortcuts to assure convictions.

David Glazier, an associate professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who has written about the commission system, said: “This unfortunately strikes me as an effort to get rid of the problem in the easiest way possible, which is to have those people plead guilty and presumably be executed. But I think it’s going to lack international credibility.” …

Continue reading. Doesn’t that strike you as a very bad idea? Sweeping the awkward details under the rug through an execution. Sounds very Bushian (or Cheneyish) to me.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has a good column that springs from the phrase highlighted in this sentence from the article above: “Much of the evidence against the men accused in the Sept. 11 case, as well as against other detainees, is believed to have come from confessions they gave during intense interrogations at secret C.I.A. prisons.” The NY Times will go out of business before it will call torture by its name. Greenwald finds other instances of this sort of bland Newspeak—NPR is one of the worst, interestingly.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 10:01 am

More on Mephisto Sano shoes

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I realize that my comment yesterday—that they are extremely comfortable—doesn’t quite cover the innovative design that makes the shoes feel quite different from other shoes when you walk. The difference is all to the good, making your feet and step feel more lively. It’s a great shoe, and if you can find a dealer near you, it’s certainly worth the experience to go in for a try-on. A try-on doesn’t cost anything, and you’ll be surprised at how they feel. Lots of models for both men and women. Not inexpensive, but I think they may well be worth it.

One oddity: My feet seem a size or two larger than they were, say, 20 years ago. I didn’t know that one’s feet continued to grow, but by all means have your foot measured from time to time and don’t assume that your shoe size will never change.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life

Blenheim Bouquet

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A particularly nice shave today. The redoubtable G.B. Kent BK4 worked up an extremely good lather from Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet shaving soap, and the Vision provided a very smooth and irrestible shave, well finished with a splash of Blenheim Bouquet aftershave.

I have mentioned before that when I first resumed traditional shaving, I had problems getting a good lather from soaps, which led me to discontinue using shaving cream so that I could focus on the problem. The reason for me was not that the water was hard or the brush was soft—it was simply that I wasn’t getting enough soap on the brush to begin with. That’s one reason why I now recommend that newbies begin with a shaving stick (soap in stick form), since using that will automatically put enough soap on the shaver’s beard for a good lather.

If you’re working with a puck of soap in a shaving bowl, I recommend wetting the brush well with hot water, giving it a shake, and then brushing the tips briskly over the soap for some time. Don’t be in a hurry—enjoy watching the little lather build up, but keep rubbing to get as much soap on the brush as you can. Maybe take a full minute.

Then brush that over and into your wet beard, thoroughly. It won’t lather much, but you’ll have a nice thick coating of soap all over your beard. Then add a driblet of hot water to the center of your shaving brush and work up the lather. It may take a driblet more, but as you continue to work the brush over your beard, the lather will build.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 June 2009 at 9:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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