Later On

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

Archive for August 28th, 2010

Black rice better than blueberries

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Guess I’m switching to black rice. Thanks to TYD for the link.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Review justifiably critical of Catholic church

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Worth reading:

  • The Pope Is Not Gay by Angelo Quattrocchi, translated by Romy Clark Giuliani
    Verso, 181 pp, £8.90, June 2010, ISBN 978 1 84467 474 9

In 1993 John McGahern wrote an essay called ‘The Church and Its Spire’, in which he considered his own relationship to the Catholic Church. He made no mention of the fact that he had, in the mid-1960s, been fired from his job as a teacher on the instructions of the Catholic archbishop of Dublin because he had written a novel banned by the Irish Censorship Board (The Dark), and because he had been married in a register office. Instead he wrote about the great gift of being brought up in the Catholic Church:

I have nothing but gratitude for the spiritual remnants of that upbringing, the sense of our origins beyond the bounds of sense, an awareness of mystery and wonderment, grace and sacrament, and the absolute equality of all women and men underneath the sun of heaven. That is all that now remains. Belief as such has long gone.

In considering a future in which the Church in Ireland would have no power at all, a future that has, due to the antics of its leadership, very quickly come to pass, McGahern quoted a letter Proust wrote in 1903, at the height of an anti-clerical wave which was sweeping through France:

I can tell you that at Illiers, the small community where two days ago my father presided at the awarding of the school prizes, the curé is no longer invited to the distribution of the prizes … The pupils are trained to consider the people who associate with him as socially undesirable … When I think of all this, it doesn’t seem to me right that the old curé should no longer be invited to the distribution of the prizes, as representative of something in the village more difficult to define than the social function symbolised by the pharmacist, the retired tobacco-inspector and the optician, but something which is, nevertheless, not unworthy of respect, were it only for the perception of the meaning of the spiritualised beauty of the church spire – pointing upward into the sunset where it loses itself so lovingly in the rose-coloured clouds; and which, all the same, at first sight, to a stranger alighting in the village, looks somehow better, nobler, more dignified, with more meaning behind it, and with, what we need, more love than the other buildings, however sanctioned they may be under the latest laws.

Within 15 years of McGahern’s essay, the power of the Church in Ireland has been fatally undermined. A number of reports into the abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy have found that such abuse was widespread, at times endemic, and that the Church authorities failed almost as a matter of policy in their duty to protect children. The bishops in response have learned the language of apology, which they use as often as they can. There are fascinating lapses, however, such as the outburst, at the end of the three-day Irish Episcopal Conference last March, by the bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones, a member of the Bishops’ Liaison Committee for Child Protection, who accused the media of being ‘unfair and unjust’: ‘Could I just say with all this emphasis on cover-up, the cover-up has gone on for centuries, not just in the Church … It’s going on today in families, in communities, in societies. Why are you singling out the Church?’ ‘I object to the way the Church is being isolated,’ he continued, ‘and the focus on the Church. We know we’ve made mistakes. Of course we’ve made mistakes. But why this huge isolation of the Church and this huge focus on cover-up in the Church when it has been going on for centuries? It’s only now, for the first time ever, that victims have been given a voice to publicly express their pain and their suffering. And, before that, for centuries, no one spoke.’ He added that when Freud alluded to the high levels of venereal disease among children, ‘he had to withdraw it. That’s the kind of cover-up that has gone on for centuries.’

Such lapses in the new humility were echoed in the Vatican on Easter Sunday this year when Cardinal Sodano dismissed criticism of the child sex abuse scandal in the Church as ‘idle gossip’. Or on Palm Sunday in New York when Archbishop Timothy Dolan compared the pope to Jesus, saying he was ‘now suffering some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar’, and ‘being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo’. Or on Good Friday in the Vatican when Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the papal household, told those at St Peter’s Basilica, including the pope himself, that he was thinking about the Jews in this season of Passover and Easter because ‘they know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognise the recurring symptoms.’ He was referring to the ‘collective violence’ of those who have been critical of the Church. He went on to quote from a letter written by an unnamed Jewish friend: ‘I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-semitism.’

The idea that the Church authorities simply don’t understand what is going on was further emphasised when the Vatican last month . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Books, Government, Law, Religion

Brief conversation between me and The Wife

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I like to do things right and in a rational manner, potentially verging on eccentricity. So The Wife and I have occasional conversational exchanges about some of these. Today I was waiting for a left turn signal at a multi-lane intersection (multi-lane in all directions). When I got the signal, I naturally continued driving straight until reaching the point at which the left turn is made, rather than simply cutting across the shortest distance (may be illegal and certainly unwise as a habit). So as I did the turn, The Wife spoke up at the driving-straight-ahead part, just before the turn.

As I turned, I said, "Look, this is the right way to do a left turn." There was a slight grumble from The Wife, so I continued, "You knew when you married me that I was better than other people."

We both laughed at this until we got to the store.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tactics to feel full (other than eating a lot)

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Good article in the New Scientist:

Two ways in which dieters try to make themselves feel full without stuffing themselves with food have been backed up by separate research teams.

One effect of overeating is to disrupt the action of appetite-suppressing hormones, leading people to eat even more. The role of exercise in restoring the hormones’ action, and so helping people feel full, has been investigated by a team from the State University of Campinas, Brazil.

The hormones leptin and insulin both act to control appetite by binding to receptors in a brain region called the hypothalamus, initiating the "I’m full" feeling. Overeating generates excess fatty acids that inflame part of the hypothalamus, decreasing the uptake of these hormones.

After exercising lean and obese rats, the team observed their eating habits over the following 12 hours. Obese rats ate about 25 per cent less than they had before their workout but no change was seen in the lean rats’ eating habits (PLoS Biology, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000465).

The team also found that, after exercising, the obese rats’ brains contained dramatically increased levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that are produced during muscle contractions, compared with the lean rats. Co-author José Carvalheira reasons that exercise didn’t affect the lean animals’ appetite because their hypothalamus was not inflamed.

If exercise doesn’t appeal, you could try drinking a few glasses of water before eating a meal. At this week’s meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, Brenda Davy from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg announced the results of the first clinical trial into this practice. She and her colleagues found that over 12 weeks, adults on a low-calorie diet who drank two glasses of water before meals lost 7 kilograms, while non-water-drinkers lost 5 kilograms.

After the end of the low-calorie diet, water drinkers who continued the practice for 12 months while eating well were better at keeping the weight off. "This is an important finding," says Davy, as keeping off lost weight is a major challenge for people who have been dieting.

Sara Stanner, from the Nutrition Society in the UK points out that drinking water is easy to implement and encourages good hydration, "which in itself is beneficial for health".

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 12:03 pm

Long argument: part 1

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I’m slowly working on a long argument that has many disparate parts, and I really don’t know where to begin.

So let’s begin with some pebbles in interstellar space, and consider the variety of forces continuously acting on the pebbles from many sources:

1. Gravity: the pebbles of course attract each other (or, equivalently, distort space-time so that their timelines through space-time show “attraction” among the pebbles. Note that the resultant of the various attractions (the pebbles for each other, plus the gravitational effects of distant stars and galaxies) means that the pebbles’ paths through space, much less space-time, are extremely complex—indeed, constitute chaotic systems that we cannot actually analyze completely. Indeed, we start to fail just with three pebbles (the three-body problem). And it turns out that our own solar system is a chaotic system. Later we’ll look more deeply at chaotic systems and their characteristics. The point here is that the gravitational influence is extremely complex—yet the pebbles unerringly follow the appropriate resultant path of all the different gravitational attractions they experience. At every instant, each body move exactly right for all the gravitational forces acting on it.

2. Electromagnetic radiation: the pebbles are bathed in electromagnetic radiation across the spectrum. This radiation certainly affects the pebbles, both from the pressure of photons and also interactions with the atoms of which the pebbles are made.

3. Heat: heat energy flows in complex patterns through solids. Think of a sheet of metal of varying thickness, perhaps pierced here and there, with heat sources along two edges and heat sinks along the other two. Heat will flow through the sheet in a complex pattern—and yet the heat flows exactly as the system dictates. To the degree that we can analyze heat flow mathematically, it follows rules.

4. Chemical: chemical interactions among the atoms constituting the pebbles may be slow in interstellar space, but we are free to use as much time as we want, consistent with the age and development of the universe. If chemical reactions are possible within the pebbles, they will occur.

5. Physical impacts: other pebbles might bump into them, breaking them apart so the individual pieces have their own paths through space-time.

I’m sure this list of forces could be extended. And each pebble is responding to ALL the forces simultaneously and also finding at every instant the exact right step to take next (in terms of velocity, position, composition, etc.). And, of course, all those things influencing the pebble are moving and changing themselves, and the pebble itself is moving and changing.  Writing down the mathematical descriptions of everything that’s happening and predicting what happens next is not merely difficult: it is impossible. It’s a chaotic system.

And yet we feel quite sure that the pebbles, down to their constituent atoms and quarks and so on, are doing exactly the “right thing” at each instant. There’s no deviation from the path whose each step is the resultant of all the forces acting at the instant.

As I contemplate this, I am amazed at the complexity hidden beneath the surface when we try to get at what is actually going on—but for the pebbles, it’s no problem. They just go with the flow, exhibiting no volition and making no decisions. They simply slide along their path through space-time, each instant exactly determined, but so complex we ultimately cannot analyze it, though we get the general picture.

More to come. Think about that so far.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 11:20 am

Posted in Long argument

I’m enjoying CSI. The reality is not so good.

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I just finished Season 1 of CSI. It’s formulaic, and one often can spot the villain early, but it’s harmless geeky fun. Not so harmless: corrupt forensic departments. Ed Brayton:

Balko has a disturbing article about a crime lab in North Carolina where corruption may have sent innocent men to their death.

Greg Taylor served 16 years in prison after he was falsely convicted of murdering a prostitute in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was released in February by a special three-judge panel after it was discovered the blood police claimed to have found in his SUV wasn’t blood at all. In the wake of that debacle, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper ordered two retired FBI agents to conduct an investigation on the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) crime lab. The report came out last week, and it is damning.

The report found that SBI agents withheld exculpatory evidence or distorted evidence in more than 230 cases over a 16-year period. Three of those cases resulted in execution. There was widespread lying, corruption, and pressure from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials on crime lab analysts to produce results that would help secure convictions. And the pressure worked.

This is the most disturbing part:

A stunning accompanying investigation by the Raleigh News & Observer found that though the crime lab’s results were presented to juries with the authoritativeness of science, laboratory procedures were geared toward just one outcome: putting as many people in prison as possible. The paper discovered an astonishingly frank 2007 training manual for analysts, still in use as of last week, instructing researchers that “A good reputation and calm demeanor also enhances an analyst’s conviction rate.” Defense attorneys, the manual warned, often “put words into the analyst’s mouth to try and raise inaccuracies.” The guide also instructs analysts to beware of “defense whores”–analysts hired by defense attorneys to challenge their testimony.

This focus on conviction rate by anyone but prosecutors is incredibly destructive. I’ve actually seen judges running for reelection on the grounds of their conviction rate. But the job of a judge is not to convict, it is to see that justice is done — and in many cases, justice means acquittal.

The same is true of a crime lab. Their job is not to convict people, it is to do good science and get accurate results. Whether those results help convict someone or help acquit them has nothing at all to do with the quality of their work.

Even for prosecutors to focus so much on conviction rate is problematic, but at least with them a high conviction rate can — even if it often doesn’t — indicate a careful prosecutor who doesn’t bring charges without a strong case grounded in the evidence. But for judges and crime labs, a focus on conviction rates is a primary cause of injustice.

The relationships between SBI crime lab researchers and North Carolina prosecutors aren’t just cozy, they’re downright cuddly. The News & Observer reports that in one case two blood-spatter specialists ran through multiple experiments in order to produce even one that would make the blood patterns on a defendant’s shorts support the prosecution’s case. The two analysts are seen on video high-fiving after finally producing the desired result.

For those clinging to the notion that analysis in a law enforcement-managed laboratory can be independent, the newspaper uncovered prosecutor reviews of crime lab analysts indicating the contrary. In 2003, for example, prosecutor Ann Kirby, wrote in a review of a drug analyst, “If Lisa Edwards gets any better on the witness stand, the Johnston County defense bar is going to try and have her banned from the county!”

These weren’t a few rogue analysts; the crime lab’s problems extend across a wide array of forensic disciplines. Until 1997, the lab’s serology unit didn’t release negative test results as a matter of policy. If tests showed that a substance that police claimed was blood wasn’t in fact blood, analysts simply kept those results to themselves.

Greg Taylor was wrongly convicted precisely because of this policy. A substance that police falsely identified as blood was found in Taylor’s truck. But the field tests that police use to find blood at a crime scene have a high margin for error. More sophisticated lab tests showed that the substance wasn’t blood, but a SBI analyst testified at Taylor’s innocence hearing that technicians were told to ignore these tests if they contradicted the field-test results.

In another case, an attorney for a woman accused of killing her mother was shocked to learn that the lab’s DNA tests on blood found at the crime scene matched his client. He called the lab and asked them to retest. They refused. He was finally able to obtain a court order for a new test. It was negative. It turned out that a lab technician had swapped the sample provided by his client with blood taken from the crime scene.

This pattern has played itself out all over the country, in state after state. We need a fundamental restructuring of our criminal justice system, from top to bottom.

Read the entire Balko article.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 10:20 am

Nordic Track

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15 minutes, one brief stop: the spoken word doesn’t work so well as music, so I stopped Macbeth and listened to Ruby Braff. Stop was around 4 min in. No other stops.

The plan, thanks to TYD for suggesting it:

Stay at 15 minutes for 7 days (through next Friday)

Then resume adding 30 sec/day until 5 more minutes are added: 10 days.

Stay at 20 minutes for 7 days.

Then resume adding 30 sec/day until 5 more minutes are added: 10 days.

And so on. At 30 minutes I’ll probably stay until I decide whether to move on to 40 or 45 minutes as the final duration.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 10:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

I thought the GOP was OPPOSED to unemployment benefits

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And yet… It’s the old IOKIYAR rule, once more. Zaid Jilani for ThinkProgress:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) today fired the state’s Education Commissioner Bret Schundler, after the state lost a $400 million Race To The Top grant due to an error made in the application process. Now, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that Schundler specifically asked to be fired, instead of voluntarily resigning, so that he would be able to receive unemployment benefits:

Ousted state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler today said he asked Gov. Chris Christie to be fired from the work he considered his “life’s dream,” rather than resign, so he could receive unemployment benefits to pay his bills. “I asked if they would mind writing a termination letter, instead of a resignation letter, because I do have a mortgage to pay, and I do have a daughter who’s just started college,” he said in an interview this morning. “And I, frankly, will need the unemployment insurance benefits until I find another job. … And they said fine. They said sure.” […]

Schundler’s financial disclosure form, released Thursday by the State Ethics Commission, show he and his wife had less than $5,000 in the bank.

Schundler’s case is particularly important because the Republican Party and conservative movement he belongs to have recently made the unemployed a frequent political punching bag. For months the party has fought every vote to extend unemployment benefits, despite double-digit unemployment rates across the country.

And to add insult to injury, major Republicans have derided the character of the recipients of unemployment benefits. NY GOP gubernatorial primary candidate Carl Paladino has suggested sending people receiving unemployment benefits to prison dorms, Nixon administration official and conservative pundit Ben Stein has complained that the unemployed are “unpleasant people…who do not know how to do a day’s work,” Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) suggested the jobless are “sitting back and waiting” instead of looking for work, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has claimed “welfare” is making the persistently unemployed lazy.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 8:53 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Molly taking a tidy little nap

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Molly taking a little nap. I like how she has her back feet under the blankie.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 8:50 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

Sandalwood Saturday

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The other Queen Charlotte soap that I ordered: Sandalwood, a traditional fragrance. I got a very good lather using the Grosvenor boar/badger combo brush, which I soaked while showering. The three smooth passes with the Elite gold-laced white quartz razor (which has the Merkur Classic head), using an old Astra Keramik blade. Very nice shave, and a splash of TOBS Sandalwood aftershave completes the theme.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2010 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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