Later On

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

Archive for July 12th, 2010

Good thriller

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I’ve been reading The Killer, by Tom Hinshelwood. Quite good apart from his intermittent tin ear.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Books

LoveNotes Quartet: Come Fly With Me

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Thanks to Steve for pointing out this group. Formerly known as the Underage Quartet (the name changed, I presume, for the obvious reason), they have lots more on YouTube:

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Music, Video

Figured out my diet

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The way this plan works is that I can eat regular food (with certain obvious specific exceptions—no peanut butter at this point, for example), but with requirements and limits in various categories (protein, starch, fruits, and oils). Obviously, many different limits and combinations of limits are possible, which is why I went through that first week of an “adjustment” diet (quite specific) and then the body-composition analysis. The diet I then was given was based on my lean muscle mass and assumed a normal level of activity. Aha. Since, despite my workouts, I remain quite sedentary (the walking will get underway 20 lbs from now), the limits they recommended were too high for me: thus the bouncing up and down.

But now I am trimming the diet somewhat (smaller starch portions, and one fewer; dropped one snack; etc.), I am back to losing weight. So I just keep the diet trimmed. (They re-do the body-composition analysis at various points along the way and doubtless adjust the diet limits accordingly—as my limit (even if self-imposed) will have to be adjusted once I begin walking.)

It only took me a month to figure that out. Current goal: Lose 20 lbs more by October. (I leave then on a trip east to visit my offspring.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

No wonder the Palestinians get angry

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Matt Duss at ThinkProgress:

Here’s a report on systemic discrimination against Palestinians buying land in Jerusalem from a surprising source — Fox News:

Despite claims from the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that Jerusalem’s real estate market is free and open to anyone regardless of race or religion, a new study shows Palestinians do not have equal access to property in Jerusalem.

The Israel group Ir Amim released a new study showing that 80 percent of land in Jerusalem cannot be purchased by Palestinians.

Watch it.

Key members of the GOP have openly supported Israel’s Jerusalem policies. Last August, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) led a congressional delegation to Israel, defended Israel’s evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers, and criticized the Obama administration’s efforts to halt the evictions.

In May, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spoke at a rally sponsored by a number of pro-settlement groups, including the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, a group that “works to transfer ownership of Arab homes to Jewish families in East Jerusalem.”

And former presidential candidate/current Fox News host/future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has made numerous trips to Israel sponsored by Friends of Ateret Cohanim, voicing his support for the continued growth of settlements and the expulsion of the Palestinians, stating that they should be made to find a homeland “elsewhere.”

What is it these politicians are actually supporting? A European Union report last year “accused both the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality of working deliberately to alter the city’s demographic balance and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank”:

[The EU report] said that both bodies assist right-wing organizations, such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad, in their efforts to implement this “strategic vision,” especially around the Holy Basin area. These organizations buy houses in Arab neighborhoods, and make “attempts to implant further Jewish settlements into the heart of the Muslim Quarter.”

The municipality, the report continued, discriminates against the city’s Arab residents with regard to building permits, health services, education, sanitation and more.

All of this has been reported on for years by Israeli human rights organizations like B’Tselem, Ir Amim, and Peace Now, as well as international human rights NGOs like Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, all of whom are under increasing attack by the Israeli government. Unfortunately, the reporting thus far hasn’t resulted either in Israel changing the policy, or in the country with the most leverage over Israel — the United States — taking serious steps to get Israel to change the policy, which generates understandable resentment and anger among Palestinians, which in turn powers extremism and violence.

I say again: Israel has no interest in peace, only in eradicating the Palestinians.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 12:15 pm

11 lbs total lost to date

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As of my weigh-in today, 11 lbs lost (or 17% of my goal).

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Where is the GOP on broadband?

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Having faster broadband in the US does not seem to be a political, Left vs. Right issue. Yet those pushing the FCC for faster broadband are all Democrats. Where are the Republicans? Could it be that the GOP is so extremely respectful of Big Business that they think the decision should be left to the telecoms? From Congressional Quarterly:

Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee have signaled that goals set by the Federal Communications Commission for fostering broadband access are too modest.

In March, the FCC unveiled its congressionally mandated National Broadband Plan. One of the goals outlined in the plan was for at least 100 million U.S. households to have “affordable access” to broadband at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for download and 50 Mbps for upload by 2020.

Committee Democrats made clear, in questions submitted to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski following his testimony in April before the panel, that that goal is insufficiently ambitious.

Hawaii Democrat Daniel K. Inouye noted that 100 Mbps broadband is already available in other countries and asked Genachowski, “What is the FCC’s rationale for a vision that appears to be firmly rooted in the second tier of countries?”

Genachowski told Inouye the plan “will help ensure America’s global competitiveness in the 21st century.” He also defended the plan’s goal of universal broadband download speeds of at least 4 Mbps, and upload speeds of at least 1 Mbps, by 2020 as an “aggressive” target.

South Dakota Democrat Byron L. Dorgan pointed to data that ranked his largely rural state as 42nd in broadband speed, and he asked Genachowski how he intended to meet the plan’s goals “in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the digital divide.” Genachowski replied that the 4 Mbps target will be re-evaluated every four years “to ensure that consumers in rural areas receive broadband speeds reasonably comparable to urban areas.”

Alaska Democrat Mark Begich asked Genachowski why the FCC settled on the 4 Mbps download speed, saying, “It seems a bit modest for a goal.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:38 am

Five books on drug policy

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Mark Kleiman knows a lot about drug policy, so his post is worth noting:

Five Books” is a website with an interesting premise: find someone who works on a given topic and ask him or her to name five books to read on that topic, and then discuss them.

When I was asked to name five books on drugs, I quickly agreed. But it turned out to be a harder assignment than it seems. Vigorous efforts to persuade Anna Blundy, who runs the site and does the interviewing, that five equals ten – for sufficiently large values of five – were unavailing.So I wound up leaving out more great books than I could include, and the final selections reflected considerations of topical balance as much as quality.

Here’s the list of five:

  1. Philip J. Cook, Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control
  2. David Boyum and Peter Reuter, An Analytic Assessment of US Drug Policy
  3. Maia Szalavitz, Help at Any Cost
  4. Gene Heyman, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice
  5. Huston Smith, Cleansing the Doors of Perception

That meant leaving out:

  1. Jonathan Caulkins, Susan Everingham, Peter Rydell, and James Chiesa, An Ounce of Prevention, A Pound of Uncertainty
  2. David Courwright, Dark Paradise and Forces of Habit
  3. John Kaplan, The Hardest Drug
  4. Rob MacCoun and Peter Reuter, Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Times, Places and Vices
  5. Don Perrine, The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs
  6. Robin Room, Benedikt Fischer, Wayne Hall, Simon Lenton and Peter Reuter, Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate
  7. Andrew Weil and Winifred Rosen, Chocolate to Morphine

And yes, all of this will be on the exam.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:33 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Drug laws

Which Infant Formulas Contain Secret Toxic Chemicals?

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Laura McClure reports at Mother Jones:

I stared again at the breast milk-increasing tinctures and fenugreek capsules under the dainty "For Moms" sign in Whole Foods, too embarrassed to ask where the corresponding "So You’ve Failed As a Mother" aisle might be. Eventually I discovered a short shelf of cans across from pet food. Even in San Francisco’s most stroller-endemic neighborhood store, you can buy a dozen herbal options to increase breast milk supply, but only two brands of infant formula—and one label actively encourages you not to buy it for actual infants under the age of one. I finally left with a guilty conscience and a tin of Earth’s Best Organic Infant Formula With Iron to try out on my six-month-old son. But what was I feeding him, exactly?

Infant formula has come a long way since chemist Justus von Liebig first patented a commercial cocktail of cow’s milk, wheat flour, malt flour, and potassium bicarbonate in 1865. Today, Similac, Enfamil, Earth’s Best, and other brands are fortified with everything from iron to the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, and most brands attempt to chemically match human milk as closely as possible. But even though artificial human milk is regulated by the FDA, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that a thyroid-affecting chemical used in rocket fuel contaminates 15 brands of powdered infant formula, including two that accounted for 87 percent of market share in 2000. The CDC study omits the names of the top offenders, but a little sleuthing reveals (PDF) that they are referring to Similac and Enfamil, produced by Ross (now Abbott Nutrition) and Mead Johnson Nutrition respectively. (The Environmental Working Group handily includes phone numbers here for those and other infant formula companies if you’re interested in questioning the makers of your child’s brand.)

Not surprisingly, the International Formula Council blames any perchlorate in their formulas on the water used to make them. Unfortunately, pre-mixed liquid formulas come with …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:31 am

Three minutes of Immanuel Kant

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Again via Open Culture:

Dan Colman points out:

S. Peter Davis also has three minute takes on Descartes, Hume, Aristotle, Locke, Galileo, Pythagoras, and Aquinas.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Tribute to Nicholas Tesla

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This past weekend was his 154th birthday. Via Open Culture:

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:26 am

Should businesses be run like the USPS?

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Alexander Hart writes in The New Republic:

The post office plans to raise stamp prices again. The usual groans about government inefficiency are sure to follow. But the post office doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Contrary to popular perception, it receives no federal funding for its operations, subsisting almost entirely on the fees it charges for delivering mail. It’s a great bargain: It’ll take your letter anywhere in the country for what’s still a modest fee. And when Consumer Reports compared package services, it concluded that “the good old U.S. Postal Service is often cheapest by far.”

But put all of that aside. The post office bests the private sector in another way: It’s actually put the money aside to pay for its workers’ retirements. Audits show that, at the end of fiscal 2009, it had contributed enough funds to cover all but 1 percent of future pension obligations to its current workers. The post office does this because it must: Federal law mandates that the post office, like all other federal agencies, finance pensions fully. The private sector faces a similar requirement, but many firms use loopholes to wiggle out of their responsibilities. A recent study shows that pensions among S&P 1500 companies are underfunded by 21 percent. In other words, they’ve promised workers money that may not be there when they retire.

If the companies attempt to shed their pension obligations by declaring bankruptcy, as they’ve been known to do, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will become responsible for paying the retirees—potentially putting taxpayers on the hook for tens of billions of dollars. And, even then, workers will lose out, since PBGC payments are often smaller than what corporate pensions originally promised.

The contrast with the way the post office and private sector handle retiree health benefits is even more dramatic. The post office is socking away about $5.5 billion a year in order to finance health care that its workers won’t use for decades; these payments are the primary reason it’s losing so much money. And a recent report even suggests that an accounting error resulted in the post office putting away far more money than will be needed.

Private companies, on the other hand, are not legally required to pre-pay retiree health benefits the way the post office is. And the private companies take advantage of that. A2007 survey showed that, in the previous three years, 75 percent of large employers hadn’t put away a single cent toward future retiree health benefits. By the way, the PBGC doesn’t protect these benefits. Workers at some of these companies could retire and end up with no health benefits at all.

Think about that the next time a politician mocks a government program as having “the efficiency of the post office.” You should be so lucky.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:24 am

The Deficit Commission Refuses to Talk to Anyone Who Knows About the Economy

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Bad news, but not unexpected. Congress is too much a subsidiary of Big Business now to take any effective actions that BB doesn’t want. Dean Baker, an economist:

Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission and a director of the Wall Street investment bank Morgan Stanley,claimed that the current economic crisis (which is projected to add more than $4 trillion to the national debt) was "largely unforeseen." This is not true. Competent economists saw the crisis as an inevitable outcome of the housing bubble. It is remarkable that the deficit commission seems to be relying exclusively on economists who could not see this $8 trillion bubble, the collapse of which wrecked the economy.

The commission also does not appear to be considering any measures that would challenge powerful interest groups like the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, highly-paid medical specialists, or the Wall Street banks. Rather than incur the wrath of these powerful interest groups by reining in medical expenses or reducing the rents earned by Wall Street bankers, the commission seems intent on taking back Social Security and Medicare benefits for ordinary workers. The reporters covering the commission should be reporting on the failure of the commission to follow its mandate in this respect.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:21 am

Kettlebells moving along

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I’m now doing my 1/4 Turkish Get-Up with a 15lb kettlebell. No changes in the other weights: just keeping on.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Mr. Taylor’s fine shave

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Mr. Taylor all the way—and a nice fragrance it is, too. A fine lather with the Rooney, then the Slant Bar with a Swedish Gillette blade did three smooth passes. A splash of aftershave, and I was on to the kettlebells.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2010 at 10:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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