Later On

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

Archive for July 4th, 2009

More on Orion cooker

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Just split a rack of baby back ribs with The Wife, with 5 left over. Completely done, tender, and juicy in 1 hr 7 min. Must be very careful taking them off the rack when done—don’t try to take rack out, or it will tip and they will slide into the drip pan. Instead, remove ribs from rack.

I used Penzey’s Bicentennial Rub, a favorite, but I don’t think it works well with the smoker: the flavor of the rub obscures the flavor of the smoke. The next time I do ribs, I’ll just use salt and pepper and some cayenne.

Still delighted with the cooker.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Are we losing our ability to think critically?

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Interesting article by Samuel Greengard in the Communications of the ACM:

Society has long cherished the ability to think beyond the ordinary. In a world where knowledge is revered and innovation equals progress, those able to bring forth greater insight and understanding are destined to make their mark and blaze a trail to greater enlightenment.

"Critical thinking as an attitude is embedded in Western culture. There is a belief that argument is the way to finding truth," observes Adrian West, research director at the Edward de Bono Foundation U.K., and a former computer science lecturer at the University of Manchester. "Developing our abilities to think more clearly, richly, fully—individually and collectively—is absolutely crucial [to solving world problems]."

To be sure, history is filled with tales of remarkable thinkers who have defined and redefined our world views: Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity; Voltaire altering perceptions about society and religious dogma; and Albert Einstein redefining the view of the universe. But in an age of computers, video games, and the Internet, there’s a growing question about how technology is changing critical thinking and whether society benefits from it.

Although there’s little debate that computer technology complements—and often enhances—the human mind in the quest to store information and process an ever-growing tangle of bits and bytes, there’s increasing concern that the same technology is changing the way we approach complex problems and conundrums, and making it more difficult to really think.

"We’re exposed to [greater amounts of] poor yet charismatic thinking, the fads of intellectual fashion, opinion, and mere assertion," says West. "The wealth of communications and information can easily overwhelm our reasoning abilities." What’s more, it’s ironic that ever-growing piles of data and information do not equate to greater knowledge and better decision-making. What’s remarkable, West says, is just "how little this has affected the quality of our thinking."

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading declined 10 percentage points from 1982 to 2002 and the rate of decline is accelerating. Many, including Patricia Greenfield, a UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, believe that a greater focus on visual media exacts a toll. "A drop-off in reading has possibly contributed to a decline in critical thinking," she says. "There is a greater emphasis on real-time media and multitasking rather than focusing on a single thing." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 2:07 pm

Global warming –> Shrinking island sheep

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The mysterious shrinking sheep of St Kilda sounds like a job for super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

The case involves a rare herd of wild sheep on the remote Scottish island – known in Scottish Gaelic as Hirta – that are refusing to bow to conventional evolutionary pressure, which says big is best. Instead, they have steadily decreased in size since the 1980s.

Scientists have now stepped in to solve the conundrum, and fingered the culprit as the new Moriarty of mankind: global warming.

The experts say shorter and milder winters mean that lambs do not need to put as much weight on during their first few months of life. Smaller animals that would have perished in harsh winters a few decades ago can now survive to their first birthday. As a result, the average weight of the sheep has dropped by 81g each year.

The difference is …

Continue reading. I assume that those who don’t believe in evolution will dismiss this—generally they don’t believe in global warming either.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 2:04 pm

Ugliness in Iran

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Good article in the Christian Science Monitor, from which this quotation:

The hard-liners in Tehran appear to be consciously pursuing increased isolation for themselves and their country to create an impression that dangerous outside forces – and not legitimate domestic grievances – were behind the outpouring of national anger at the election result. They appear to believe such a course will make it easier to silence their opponents.

"This is their way of saying we have a focal point of attack – keep sending out the message that this is all a foreign plot. I don’t have any faith that the government really believes this, but I don’t foresee them giving up this card very easily," says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council in Washington. "In fact these demonstrations … are disorganized, spontaneous. They’re out there because of their rage and frustration at seeing their election stolen."

Mr. Parsi and other analysts say now the government’s biggest hurdle is credibility with its own citizens.

"If you proceed the way [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei and Ahmadinejad have proceeded, then gradual change through the ballot box cannot occur," says Parsi. "If they don’t have that minimum level of credibility, the social contract has collapsed, leaving ruling by force their only option."

Much more at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 1:56 pm

Essential free downloads

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Lifehacker has the lists:

Best free Windows downloads

Best free Mac downloads

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Hidden airline fees charted out

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Check this post for a useful chart of the various extra fees airlines are now charging. Southwest Airlines is still the hero.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 11:14 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Strange effort to reduce transparency on NYSE

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This is odd. Matt Taibbi writes:

In a move set to infuriate and send many Zero Hedge readers over the top, the NYSE has taken action to make sure that nobody will henceforth be able to keep track of the complete dominance that Goldman Sachs exerts over the New York Stock Exchange. This basically ends our weekly Program Trading updates disclosed every Thursday indicating that Goldman has singlehandedly captured all of NYSE’s program trading.

via Zero Hedge: NYSE Halts Transparency, Feels Goldman Program Trading Disclosure Is Unnecessary.

I’m sorry I didn’t post this earlier, but I urge readers to go over to Zero Hedge and check out this post about the NYSE’s recent decision to change its procedures… to protect Goldman Sachs from bloggers like Zero Hedge!

This is complicated stuff (for people with no financial background, like me, it’s nightmarish) and I have a longer thing about this coming out later. But the essence of this story is that Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge has, for months, been complaining that Goldman has been manipulating the NYSE, in particular manipulating program trading in somewhat the same way (although perhaps not to the same extent) that they manipulated the commodities markets. In order to make his case — and his theory has gained a lot of acceptance, to the point where Goldman had to respond to the allegations publicly — he has been analyzing data the NYSE releases on program trading every week.

So what happened this week? The NYSE announced that it will no longer be releasing its weekly program trading data. This is quite obviously a move designed to make it even more impossible to track what’s going on in the NYSE and shield, in particular, Goldman Sachs. Let’s hope there’s a public uproar about this; Zero Hedge posted contact info for NYSE officials, and has urged readers to petition the exchange to restore the old rules in the name of transparency.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2009 at 9:40 am

Posted in Business

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