Later On

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

Archive for November 20th, 2009

Interesting talk with interesting idea: gene sequencing a city’s sewage

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From the intro at YouTube:

Talk Title: Public Health in the 21st Century: the Open-Source Outbreak

Description: Dr. Jennifer Gardy, an alumnus speaker at the event, is co-leading the new genome research lab at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). She is also known as Nerd Girl from her Globe and Mail blog of the same name. In her talk, Gardy shared how advances in technology have provided increased collaboration on scientific research and scholarly publications — what she labelled as public health 2.0.

For example, she showed how one publication had 36 authors. After leading the audience through the origins of H1N1, she stated how it only took five days from the sequencing of the virus to the first open-source paper. Gardy ended her talk emphasizing how students should be willing to explore the benefits of Open Access publications, collaborative research, and emerging technologies. (From Phillip Jeffreys Macleans oncampus blog)

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2009 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

The Torture Workshop

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Jeff Kaye at Firedoglake:

Back in May 2007, while researching the activities of the American Psychological Association (APA) in support of the U.S. government’s interrogation program, I came across evidence that the APA had engaged in a discussion of torture techniques during a workshop organized by APA and the RAND Corporation, “with generous funding from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).”

The workshop was held at the Arlington, Virginia, headquarters of the privately-held but long linked-to-the-government RAND think tank. APA Director of Science Geoff Mumford acted as liaison to the CIA for the meeting. Susan Brandon, a key APA “Senior Scientist”, and former member of the Bush White House’s Office of Science & Technology Policy, helped organize the affair, along with psychologist Kirk Hubbard, who was then Chief of the Research & Analysis Branch, Operational Assessment Division of the CIA.

The workshop was titled the “Science of Deception: Integration of Practice and Theory”, and it discussed new ways to utilize drugs and sensory bombardment techniques to break down interrogatees. Those are signal techniques of psychological torture long utilized by the CIA and other intelligence agencies and military around the world.

According to the brief APA account:

Meeting at RAND headquarters in Arlington, VA, the workshop drew together approximately 40 individuals including research psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists who study various aspects of deception and representatives from the CIA, FBI and Department of Defense with interests in intelligence operations. In addition, representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security were present…. Following brief introductions and welcoming remarks… workshop participants divided into break-out groups to discuss thematic scenarios….

It was one of the particular “break-out groups” that concerned me. According to APA’s Public Policy Office, which publishes an online newspaper called (with perhaps an unconscious taste for irony) “Spin,” the workshops covered Embassy “Walk-in” informants, Law Enforcement Threat Assessment, and Intelligence gathering (”What are the dimensions of truth?”). But the workshop on Law Enforcement Interrogation and Debriefing had some shocking language (emphasis added, quoted material from APA Government Relations: Science Policy website): …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2009 at 11:11 am

The Volt is looking good

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I hope Chevrolet can make the Volt a success. Certainly it’s an innovative approach. Lindsay Brooke in the NY Times:

Sitting behind the wheel of a 2011 Chevrolet Volt prototype on Wednesday, I found myself confronting what may be the greatest fear that future owners of electric vehicles will face: a battery-charge indicator showing just a few miles of remaining range.

If I were out on a desolate Interstate in a vehicle powered solely by batteries, I’d be praying to the god of electrons for a place to pull off and plug in a charging cord. But my drive is at General Motors’ proving grounds here, and I’m about to experience what the Volt’s vehicle line director (and my passenger), Tony Posawatz, says is the car’s trump card: a gasoline-powered generator under the hood.

Like other reporters, I had already driven Volt prototypes in the battery-powered mode, and they were predictably smooth and silent. But for eventual Volt owners, a crucial — and so far unanswered — question is how the car will perform when the battery’s charge is depleted and all electricity is provided by an onboard generator, driven by a gasoline engine, that has no mechanical connection to the wheels.

Will it be a slug? How annoying will the noise of the generator’s engine be in an otherwise mute car?

G.M. engineers say that a fully charged Volt is capable of 40 miles of purely electric driving before the computer calls for the generator, which has an output of 53 kilowatts (about 71 horsepower), to start and sustain the battery’s minimum charge level — the “extended range” operating mode.

So what is life after 40 like in the Volt? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2009 at 10:59 am

Shoe notes

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One oddity I’ve noticed in my current walking regime, which I’ve commented on previously, is that I’m enjoying the walks. This is new. Previously I’ve tried to distract myself (listening to music or recorded books), but perhaps even then embracing the activity would have made it enjoyable. Still, a couple of things are new.

Carrying the pocket camera is new, and that has enhanced enjoyment because I’m looking around for interesting things to photograph. Paying attention seems to make the walk richer in incident.

But the big change is the shoes: MBT shoes. First, my own observations:

They felt extremely good at first: like they propel you forward. After wearing them, for a few days, though, my legs were sore: new muscles getting a workout. In fact, I switched back to my Mephisto loafers (a standard shoe) for a couple of days, but they didn’t feel right: very clompy, like I was walking along with my feet attached to a 2×4. No roll at all.

So I went back to the MBTs, which I’ve used in all my walks. As my walks have become longer, I’ve noticed that the shoes are not quite stable. The instability is not so much as to be a danger, but it does require that your feet, ankle, and calf muscles are more or less constantly doing little things to maintain best balance. The instability along the length of the shoe is obvious: it has a curved sole, so it rocks a little as you’re standing. (My marketing mind leaps into action: “These shoes really rock!”) But there’s also a slight side-to-side instability, so that your muscles must also accommodate that.

I figure that two things were happening when I first started using them: unused muscles were getting a workout for the first time in God knows when (thus the soreness), and also I was learning (unconsciously) how to walk in them—like learning a dance, for example: you practice so that your unconscious learns the moves and then your body, in effect, takes over from your mind.

The other thing I’ve noticed on recent walks is that walking this way, over (in effect) slightly unstable terrain (though the instability is really from the shoe-sole design) is quite pleasurable. I understand now why people might actually take a walk for enjoyment. And, as with shaving, if you have a chore you must do daily, it works best if you can transform the chore so that it becomes a source of enjoyment. Right now I’m actually looking forward to today’s walk.

So last night I finally watched the video below all the way through. (It comes on a DVD delivered with the shoes.) I learned some things:

1. They recommend that for the first week or so, you wear the shoes only half a day. Right. I agree. It takes a while for your unused muscles to get in shape, so don’t rush it.

2. They include an interesting exercise in finding the bar of stability that’s right under your instep. I actually had sort of felt that as I walked: when my foot rolls forward from the heel-plant, it finds a transitional spot that feels solid, and then it rolls on toward the toe. They have you stand on the stable bar to locate it.

3. They suggest a kind of fast walk that they call “floating,” and today I’ll definitely give that a go.

So I would say that these shoes are incredibly worth the money. In particular, people who walk long distances in daily life (letter carriers, people living in New York, and so on) would find these to be absolutely wonderful.

I’ve been very happy with FootwearEtc.com: free shipping, free returns, and always several models on sale for around $150. The returns are trivial: you go to their web site, look at your account, click the shoe(s) that you’re returning, and they print out a shipping label. Put the shoes back into their box and then into the shipping box, attach the label, and drop it off at the nearest Kinko’s: trivially easy. In fact, I just bought this pair, which is now my favorite.

Take the time to watch the video. You’ll note that the shoes don’t make walking any less effort (in terms of calorie burning), but walking certainly seems easier and the activity is definitely now enjoyable, whereas before it was a chore.

UPDATE: Cool Tools also reviewed these shoes.

UPDATE 2: I just figured out one thing: why, compared to traditional shoes, the MBT shoes feel alive and responsive. For example, when you’re simply standing, with the MBT shoes your foot position is dynamic, though the range of motion is small: a little rocking and tiny tipping this way and that. But that little, constant movement makes your feet feel alive and involved. In a regular shoe your feet instead lie immobile, trapped in position.

UPDATE 3: In talking about the shoes the other night with TYD, I realized that MBT shoes really are a specialized, single-purpose show. They are designed and intended for straight-ahead walking. They’re not suited for running, nor are they “cross trainers”, such as you might use for general workouts, playing squash or racquetball or tennis or basketball—any sport where you run and change direction quickly. The instability that makes them so pleasant for walking and standing works against them when running or changing direction quickly. So take note of their limitations. (The limitations don’t affect me: I don’t run, play basketball or racquet sports, etc.) I did buy a pair of cross-trainers for my work with kettlebells.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2009 at 10:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

A new shaving cream—and brush

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That’s another Omega Pro 48 brush—they make it with silver plastic handle and with a gold plastic handle (shown) and, if I’m not mistaken, as a banded boar as well.

The shaving cream was a free sample that Vintage Blades LLC sent with a recent order. It struck me as  exceptionally good. Take a look at the ingredients—and note the first in the list:

Ingredients: Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Water, Potassium Myristate, Potassium Stearate, Sodium Myristate, Sodium Stearate, Glycerin, Certified Organic Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Certified Organic Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Fruit, Certified Organic Oleifera (Green Tea), Camellia Sinensis (White Tea), Althea Offininalis (Marshmallow) Root, Calendula Officinalis Flower, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria), Lavandula Agustifolia (Lavender), Trifolium Pretense (Clover) Extracts, Vitamin E Acetate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D, Vegetable Oil, Sorbic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose. May contain fragrance or essential oils.

I have the Herbal Citrus, but it’s also available in unscented, Lavender, Rose, and Sandalwood. Worth considering. Very high quality at a very reasonable price.

The shave itself was superb—with a good lather from the shaving cream, the Merkur Futur just slid through the stubble, its Astra Keramik blade still quite sharp. A fully enjoyable shave.

And Lustray Spice is a fine aftershave—a favorite. Very warm spice fragrance.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2009 at 10:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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