Later On

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

Archive for November 24th, 2009

Megs loves the little chunks of chicken

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I’ve been feeding Megs nothing but the Evo 95% Duck for a while—she didn’t like the little bit of homemade food I added. But tonight I decided to try the little chunks of chicken skinless thigh meat. I snipped off about 9-10 and pushed them into the canned food in her bowl before I gave it to her, and covered them up.

I put the bowl down, and she started eating. After about 5 seconds she obviously had the first little chunk of meat because she stopped and sat up a little, chewing vigorously—and seemingly with relish. It probably was, since she immediately went to work on the rest of it and stopped only when she had eaten all the little chunks of chicken, along with more than half the canned food in the bowl. She’ll finish the rest later.

It did my heart good to see how much she enjoyed the little bits of chicken meat.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Cats, Food, Megs

Just read the annual report from the Drug Policy Alliance

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It was impressive. They are doing a lot of work in many areas, they fully deserve any support you can provide. Take a look at their site to see the things currently underway. I encourage you to join.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

When your USB (or other) cable is too long

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Clever way to shorten.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Daily life

America’s Health is America’s Business

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Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight.com:

Imagine what the American Trucking Association would say if the interstate highway system was a jumble of unconnected, poorly paved roads, every mile of which was nonetheless tolled at exorbitant rates. Think what the American Telemarketing Association would do if half the calls their employees dialed every day were abruptly disconnected because of faulty, unreliable telephonic infrastructure. And how quickly would the Direct Marketing Association, which relies on the U.S Postal Service, mobilize on Capitol Hill if millions of their mail pieces each day never arrived at their intended addresses?

In my Baltimore Sun column today, I ask the $7 trillion dollar question few seem to be asking, no less answering:

In October 2007, the Milken Institute published "An Unhealthy America: The Economic Burden of Chronic Disease," a report analyzing the long-term economic costs of leaving unchecked just seven maladies: cancer, heart disease, hypertension, mental disorders, diabetes, pulmonary conditions and stroke. Comparing a scenario of "reasonable improvements in treatment and behavior" with a "business as usual" baseline, the report estimated that cumulative savings in health care expenditures over two decades, from 2003 to 2023, could total $1.6 trillion. That’s $80 billion saved per year – no small sum.

But those savings are dwarfed by the costs to the American economy caused by an unhealthy work force. "Chronically ill workers take sick days, reducing the supply of labor – and, in the process, the GDP," the report’s executive summary explains. "When they do show up to avoid losing wages, they perform far below par – a circumstance known as ‘presenteeism,’ in contrast to absenteeism."

Milken’s estimated cumulative loss to America’s GDP of doing nothing during the same period? Almost $7 trillion.

We wouldn’t tolerate $7 trillion sort of inefficiency and loss if resulted from a tax increase or proposed business regulation. Wouldn’t Grover Norquist and his gang be screaming tirelessly, perhaps with cause? Yet as a nation we sit back passively and allow our capitalist economy to be hobbled by solvable problems with the most important infrastructural input of all: the labors of the American workforce. What’s amazing is that American workers today work longer hours and are more productive than earlier generations of workers–despite our health problems.

When the government does or doesn’t do something that is bad for American capitalism, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 1:06 pm

New findings in global warming

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Very good article by Aaron Weiner in the Washington Independent. From the article:

… A study released today by 26 leading climatologists finds that the climate situation is actually far more dire than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had led us to believe.

The new report, dubbed “The Copenhagen Diagnosis,” seeks to fill in the gaps since the last IPCC assessment, published in 2007 but drafted earlier. Its authors include 14 members of the IPCC, the world’s top climate change authority.

Jonathan Hiskes, who’s compared the two reports in greater depth than I have, writes:

The new diagnosis finds that arctic sea ice is melting 40 percent faster than the panel estimated just a few years ago. Another startling finding: Satellites have found that the global average for rising sea levels was 3.4 millimeters per year from 1993-2008. The IPCC estimated it would be 1.9 mm for that period—short by 80 percent.

Here’s a summary of the new report’s key findings:

Surging greenhouse gas emissions: Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 were nearly 40% higher than those in 1990. Even if global emission rates are stabilized at present –day levels, just 20 more years of emissions would give a 25% probability that warming exceeds 2oC. Even with zero emissions after 2030. Every year of delayed action increase the chances of exceeding 2oC warming.

Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-based warming: Over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.190C per decade, in every good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short- term fluctuations are occurring as usual but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.

Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps: A wide array of satellite and ice measurements now demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world has also accelerated since 1990.

Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline: Summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. This area of sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.

Current sea-level rise underestimates: Satellites show great global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be 80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice-sheets.

Sea-level prediction revised: By 2100, global sea-level is likely to rise at least twice as much as projected by Working Group 1 of the IPCC AR4, for unmitigated emissions it may well exceed 1 meter. The upper limit has been estimated as – 2 meters sea-level rise by 2100. Sea-level will continue to rise for centuries after global temperature have been stabilized and several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries.

Delay in action risks irreversible damage: Several vulnerable elements in the climate system (e.g. continental ice-sheets. Amazon rainforest, West African monsoon and others) could be pushed towards abrupt or irreversible change if warming continues in a business-as-usual way throughout this century. The risk of transgressing critical thresholds (“tipping points”) increase strongly with ongoing climate change. Thus waiting for higher levels of scientific certainty could mean that some tipping points will be crossed before they are recognized.

The turning point must come soon: If global warming is to be limited to a maximum of 2oC above pre-industrial values, global emissions need to peak between 2015 and 2020 and then decline rapidly. To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society – with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases – need to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-90% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 1:03 pm

Putting free lighting to work

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Very interesting post at Treehugger:

A hundred years ago there were all kinds of sophisticated technologies to manage, direct and control natural light. Cheap electricity made such variable and hard-to-manage sources unnecessary; just throw in a couple of fluorescent fixtures and it didn’t matter how far you were from a window. But electricity isn’t so cheap any more, and daylighting is making a comeback. Add some computers and controls and you get the new world of daylight management, where shading devices, heliostats and skylights are integrated with interior lighting systems to get the best and cheapest light possible…

Continue reading. Included are photos of the new devices.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

East Antarctica ice loss is accelerating

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Skeptical Science:

Over time, I gradually update what the science says on each skeptic argument to include new papers (or old papers I hadn’t read yet). The idea is that a clearer picture will emerge as new research and data comes out. For example, skeptics used ice gain in the East Antarctic interior to prove that "Antarctica is gaining ice". The original response was that while East Antarctica was gaining ice in the interior, it was losing ice around the edges. These two effects roughly cancelled each other out, leaving East Antarctica in mass balance. When you include strong ice loss from West Antarctica, the continent was overall losing ice. Last month, this was updated with the latest satellite data finding that Antarctic ice loss was now accelerating. Today, I’ve updated the Antarctica page yet again as the latest data shows that East Antarctica is no longer in mass balance, but losing ice mass.

The results are published in Accelerated Antarctic ice loss from satellite gravity measurements (Chen 2009) which compares two independent measurements of Antarctic ice loss. One method is the GRACE satellites which measure changes in gravity around the Antarctic ice sheet. The latest GRACE data analyses measurements from April 2002 to January 2009. Another method to determine mass balance is to combine snowfall estimates with InSAR satellites. These use radar waves to measure the speed of ice sheets as they calve into the ocean…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 12:22 pm

More good travel photos from Japan

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Strongrrl: Life, With Muscle is in Japan and has been blogging some great photos of her trip. By all means, take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

Brussels sprouts for The Wife

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Brussels sprouts were ruined for quite a few years by a breeding program that focused on yield rather than taste: they turned bitter and unpleasant. Eventually, producers came to their senses, and Brussels sprouts today are quite tasty, but grudges formed during the dark period remain. So I’m going to tempt The Wife with this recipe passed along by The Eldest:

Shredded Brussels sprouts

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb Brussels sprouts, shredded
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
A few sprigs thyme, chopped
3/4 c chicken stock
1 Tbsp butter, chopped
A few sprigs tarragon, chopped

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Stir in the Brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.

Stir in the shallot, bell pepper, garlic and thyme. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and cook until evaporated, 2 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and tarragon.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Back from shoe-donation run

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I took 15 pairs of shoes to the local drop-off for Soles4Souls. Most were in very good shape, including a pair of excellent, unused hiking shoes I bought with some dim (-witted) idea that I would start hiking the trails hereabouts. The guy told me that at Natividad homeless people regularly show up who have no shoes at all. It’s very good that the shoes that were just sitting in my closet will now do someone some good.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 11:54 am

Remembering those less fortunate

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From an email from the Center for American Progress:

This Thursday, many Americans will sit down with friends and family to enjoy a hearty meal. Unfortunately, far too many of our nation’s citizens will go hungry. A record 49 million Americans had trouble finding enough to eat in 2008. The USDA’s annual food security report, released last week, showed that the number of people who "lacked consistent access to adequate food" soared to the highest level since the study began 14 years ago. About a third of these people were forced to "skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year" while the other two-thirds generally had enough to eat, but only by eating "cheaper or less varied foods" or by "relying on government aid." Even more disturbingly, nearly one in four children — almost 17 million — lived in households in which food was at times scarce. President Obama called the data "unsettling" and restated his commitment to end child hunger by 2015. "These numbers are a wake-up call…for us to get very serious about food security and hunger, about nutrition and food safety in this country," added Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Unfortunately, these numbers will only get worse in the short-term due to 2009’s rise in unemployment and the difficulty charity groups have had in keeping up with the increased demand.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Problems with the Obama direction in the war

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Glenn Greenwald has a good column today, but let me just post the first update.

The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill reveals that the U.S. military is using Blackwater — Blackwater — as part of "a secret program in [Pakistan in] which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives."  McClatchy reports that Obama has made a decision to send 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan which, if true, means, as Juan Cole says, that "Gen. Stanley McChrystal has won the struggle for policy decisively." 

So, to recap:  we have indefinite detention, military commissions, Blackwater assassination squads, escalation in Afghanistan, extreme secrecy to shield executive lawbreaking from judicial review, renditions, and denials of habeas corpus.  These are not policies Obama has failed yet to uproot; they are policies he has explicitly advocated and affirmatively embraced as his own.

And if you haven’t seen or read Bill Moyers’ amazing — and obviously relevant — examination this week of how and why President Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, I can’t recommend highly enough that you do so.

The entire column is worth reading for those who are stunned to see the US moving away from the rule of law.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:57 am

Manufactured failure: The wrap-up

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James Fallows sums up the "manufactured failure" of Obama’s trip. Post begins:

I think this is it for a while, in three extensive sub-parts! Background here.

1) Today the Columbia Journalism Review published part 2 of its interview with Howard French; first part was here and was discussed here. It is long and convincing, but here is the heart of its criticism of the dominant "Obama was a wimp" coverage. French says:

"I am known for having had a pretty consistent focus on human rights in my work as a journalist [JF note: this is very true], so the comments that will follow should not in any way suggest that I believe in a de-emphasis in human rights with regard to China…. But the problem with the way the press has covered this is there’s a kind of implicit premise [that…] is misleading, I think. Maybe disingenuous is even a better word, because it seems to suggest that if Obama had pulled a Khrushchev and banged his shoe on the table on these issues and really jumped up and down and made a lot of noise, then this would have achieved a markedly different result for the better. I don’t think there’s any evidence of that. It may have made certain people in this society feel better about themselves, but if the goal is changing behaviors in China or obtaining political or diplomatic results with China, I think the evidence is the contrary."

2) From the U.S. government official who has appeared twice before, these final comments on the trip and its consequences:

On atmospheric payoffs of the trip:

"Two of the press conferences, in Japan and South Korea, both began with the same elements. In Japan, Prime Minister Hatoyama got up and gushed that "my friend Barack calls me ‘Yukio.’" Then the Korean press conference began with [president] Lee Myung-bak saying, ‘We have become close friends.’ That says something. Those are not just routine polite words. It meant that Obama is profoundly popular in those countries.  Hatoyama’s poll numbers are high but dropping, Lee Myung-bak has been embattled, though recovering. But both saw it as enormously important in terms of their own agenda to be identified with Barack Obama. In my mind, the personal popularity and respect for him is a strategic asset. And not one that gets you results in a day. If you have foreign leaders who see their own fate tied up with Obama, that becomes a chip you can draw on. If you need a last minute shift on climate change, they do not want to separate from Barack Obama. Everyone wants to be his best friend."

What about the view that Obama caved to the Chinese on human rights?

"Here are the things we tried to do. Number one, he made a robust statement in Shanghai. Number two, have that reach as many tens of millions of Chinese as possible. You can argue about the degree of success, but the message got out. They had a chance to see him in a setting no Chinese had seen before. And beyond that was to be explicit and direct in the private meetings about the importance of our values and the effect on our relations. And then we put in references in the press conference statement to Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and the importance of rule of law, freedom of expression, protection of the rights of minorities, which was an obvious reference to the Uighurs and Tibetans. We went straight to Tibet in the statement, saying that we consider it part of China and urge direct negotiations with the Dalai Lama."

[NB: This following paragraph is from me, JF, and not the official. Before the trip, Obama postponed a meeting with the Dalai Lama, and the DL said in public that was fine with him, since smooth US-Chinese relations at the start of an Administration were important. Obama said that the fact of a meeting was not in doubt, only the timing. I said then and still think that the test will come in the next three or four months If Obama meets the Dalai Lama during that period, he will have preserved the tradition of his predecessors in treating the D.L. as a substantial religious and cultural figure who has earned international respect. If he doesn’t, then it will be time to talk about "caving."]

About non-China aspects of the trip: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:54 am

Health insurers stand between you and your doctor

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Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

One of the most common right-wing memes used by opponents of health care reform is that progressive solutions to America’s health care problems place “Washington bureaucrats firmly between you and your doctor.” Again and again, conservatives have deployed this meme to demagogue the health care debate.

However, the reality is there already is someone standing between you and your doctor: health insurance companies. Single mother Ellen Hayden knows this from experience. After losing her mother at the age of 7 from breast cancer, Hayden has done everything she can to get regular mammograms. Following an abnormal mammogram, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. After the scan, her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, refused to pay for the procedure and is also refusing to pay for a follow-up second MRI her doctor has suggested.

Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive who now works at the University of New Hampshire, told Sea Coast Online that this is Hayden’s case is an example of “insurance people” getting between patients and their doctors:

“It’s understandable that this is an emotional issue because most patients believe that ‘nothing is going to stand between me and what I want to get done,’” said Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive and director of the N.H. Institute of Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. […]

“We have this notion in our political debate and popular culture that we can’t have reform because that means that government bureaucrats will make decisions but we already have insurance people playing that role,” said Helms

Helms went on to say that one of the major obstacles to attaining proper reform is the way insurance companies often “write their own rules for the road.” Late last year, former Cigna executive Wendell Potter left his 15-year career at the major health insurer and joined the fight for universal health care. He told Bill Moyers last July that politicians who warn about the government getting between patients and their doctors are “ideologically aligned with the [health insurance] industry.”

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:49 am

Climate Change Futures Markets

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Extremely interesting post by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com. It begins:

George Mason University economist Robin Hanson makes two interesting points in response to the controversy over the hacked e-mails at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, which triggered a self-congratulatory reaction among global warming skeptics.

Robin’s first point is that the apparent bad behavior among the academic scientists is really nothing more and nothing less than you might expect if you’d unearthed ten years’ worth of e-mails from virtually any academic department at virtually any academic institution in the world. I’m not an academic myself, but I work with them, socialize with them, interview them — and I grew up as a university brat. The notion that academics are immune from institutional or external political considerations, that they’re devoid of their own viewpoints and biases, or that they are otherwise some Platonic manifestation of the ideals of the scientific method is hopelessly naive. But that’s an indictment of the scientists and not of the science — and I’d virtually guarantee that if you’d hacked into the inbox of a global warming skeptic, or a Republican member of Congress, or the Exxon Corporation, you’d find them saying things that were equally uncouth.

But Dr. Hanson’s more important argument is this one: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:44 am

Interesting comments from a former Senate staffer

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UPDATE: A response by a political scientist to the comments below.

Reported by Josh Marshall at the TPM Editors Blog:

From TPM Reader JB, an old senate hand, now decamped to distant parts …

As you know, I used to work in the Senate. When I did, the threat of extended debate was made fairly often: usually to delay legislation until some matter of parochial concern to one or more Senators was dealt with, occasionally to threaten with extended publicity the passage of legislation thought to be unpopular.

It was always understood that legislation thought deeply inimical to one or more states’ most vital interests might be opposed with every resource at the disposal of an individual Senator or group of Senators. The inhibitions — all of them unwritten — against deploying those resources routinely, though, were considerable. If this had not been the case, legislation like the 1986 Tax Reform Act (which overhauled the entire federal tax code), the Goldwater-Nichols bill of that year restructuring the Pentagon, and the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments could never have been enacted.

Within today’s Senate it appears understood that these inhibitions are all gone now. Even the threat of extended debate — the traditional filibuster — has degenerated into the threat to prevent debate, by objecting to the motion to proceed to legislation. Southern segregationists in the 1960s, facing the passage of voting rights legislation aimed at uprooting the foundations of their states’ political and social order, did not go as far in obstructing the consideration of legislation as opponents of health care reform are going today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:37 am

Seven quick fixes for healthcare

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Ryan Teague Beckwith has a good post at Congress.org. From that post:

… In reality, most of the changes — such as the new health insurance exchanges and insurance mandates for individuals — would not take place until 2014 (or 2013 in the House version).

Still, a few provisions are set to begin next year, if the legislation passes.

Some of the most significant changes would extend existing programs and rules in order to immediately reduce the number of uninsured Americans. Others would end unpopular practices in the private insurance industry.

The measures are designed to build immediate support for the longer-term provisions in the bills, which could still be changed by future legislation. They will also provide President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats with talking points going into the 2010 elections.

If the bill passes, expect to hear a lot more about these provisions in the near future.

Below, a few of the immediate changes:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:26 am

Another fine shave

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Today was the first use of the Semogue 1305 boar brush. Before showering, I ran a sink full of hot water and tossed in the brush, which broke off a large chip of the white paint: the bottom edge hit the porcelain of the sink, and the chip broke from the underside paint. So note that a rather brittle paint is used on these.

After soaking, the brush worked up a very good lather from the Institut Karité shaving soap. That was for the first pass—the lather for the second pass was almost nonexistent, so I returned to the soap. For the last pass, I wondered how it would do with a hard-to-lather soap like l’Occitane shaving soap, so I tried it: great lather.

The Futur did a fantastic job, as usual. A great razor, this time with a previously used Astra Keramik blade. And Booster Jickey, which I’ve not tried before, is a very nice old-timey fragrance.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 November 2009 at 9:22 am

Posted in Shaving

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