Later On

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

Archive for January 25th, 2011

Jaw-dropping movie scenes

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It’s pretty rare to see in any movie a scene or segment that is truly jaw-dropping—except, perhaps, for the Busby Berkeley musicals. I just watched Gold Diggers of 1935 and the “Lullaby of Broadway” number yet again establishes Berkeley as an alien mind—or perhaps just a recipient of thought transmissions from alien minds.

UPDATE: And wouldn’t you know it? I leave from writing this post, start watching on Netflix Watch Instantly another movie, more or less at random, and immediately run into a sequence of jaw-dropping scenes, at one of which I laughed so hard I cried. American Raspberry. Two words: Kinky. Friedman.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

More on the inhumane mistreatment of Bradley Manning

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Greenwald has an excellent column on the indefensible and inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning. Tells you all you need to know about the Obama Administration and civil rights: the Obama Administration will ignore civil rights and the law whenever it wants.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 3:07 pm

Texas 2 quarts = 2.5 quarts elsewhere

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I assume that must be the problem: The 2-quart Texsport cast-iron Dutch oven actually is 2.5 quarts. I just measured. That helps explain the extra (and useful) height. Since I carefully measure starch and protein, and then simply fill the pot with low-calorie vegetables, it’s probably not a problem. But I do like accuracy (though it’s not so important in Texas, as anyone who’s followed politics there knows).

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Teapot/teacup blowout!

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The Wife, who is in Paris, was just in Mariage Frères, the famous teamonger, and found some terrific teapots. Take a look at these (note: the link is to page 1 of 10 (!)).

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Warren nimble in building Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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Good news from Kevin Hall at McClatchy—and there’s a video at the link:

The pieces are quietly falling into place to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, designed to prevent the sorts of renegade lending practices that crippled the housing market and nearly brought down the U.S. financial system.

The idea for the bureau was the brainchild of Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren, who was named a special adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last year to help build the new agency from scratch.

The agency was created as part of last year’s Dodd-Frank act, the broadest revamp of financial regulation since the Great Depression. The new bureau, which consolidates powers that were spread among several bank and consumer regulators, must be up and running by July.

Warren has shown herself to be a shrewd tactician, bringing aboard big names and neutralizing opposition to the panel from Republicans who’d vowed to defund and defang it.

One example is the appointment Jan. 6 of Holly Petraeus, the wife of Gen. David Petraeus, who’s overseeing the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, to head an office at the bureau that protects soldiers from predatory lending.

The message in hiring her to head the Office of Servicemember Affairs was clear: Oppose the agency and you’re resisting efforts to rein in abusive payday lending and other ways that unscrupulous lenders prey on the nation’s men and women in uniform.

Similarly, to neutralize concerns by the business community, a high-ranking official from the Federal Reserve’s consumer affairs division, Leonard Chanin, was brought in to head rule-writing efforts. That means it’s highly unlikely that the new agency will trample on providers of credit with little regard to their concerns.

"We’re closing in on six months before the agency must fling its doors open to the public … and so far they’re getting high marks from us in terms of preparation," said Travis Plunkett, who heads lobbying on financial issues for the Consumer Federation of America. "From what I can tell, they’ve laid the groundwork for bringing on a lot of people over a short period of time."

The agency now has more than 134 employees, still a fraction of the 700 to 1,000 it must have in place when it opens. Employees are working out of cramped office space, awaiting word on where a permanent headquarters might be.

Warren has been traveling the country, meeting with trade groups and consumer advocates to get their views on how the agency might work best. The dialogue and outreach have helped quiet opposition, at least for now.

"She is looking at leveling the playing field by focusing a good bit of attention on unregulated consumer-finance providers," said Michael Calhoun, the president of the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group in Durham, N.C. "I think everyone has been impressed with the quality of people she’s been able to attract."

Some of those people include . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 1:46 pm

The dark side of URL shorteners

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Interesting post, via Boing Boing:

URL shortening services have been around for a number of years. Their original purpose was to prevent cumbersome URLs from getting fragmented by broken email clients that felt the need to wrap everything to an 80 column screen. Addendum: They’re useful in print, too. But it’s 2009 now, and this problem no longer exists. Instead it’s been replaced by the SMS-oriented 140 character constraints of sites like Twitter. (Let’s leave aside the fact that any phone that can run a web browser and thus follow links can also run a proper client, and doesn’t have to hew to the SMS character limit.) Since TinyURL, there has been a rapid proliferation of shortening services.

Aside from the raw utility of allowing URLs to fit within a Twitter message, newer services add several interesting bits of functionality. The most important of these is that let the linker turn any link into THEIR link, and view metrics on how far it’s spread and how many clicks it’s gotten. Showing a user how popular his actions are is inevitably addictive. Shorteners are relatively easy and lightweight to set up. Adding a simple interstitial before the redirect provides an obvious way to monetize. And maybe someday all the link data will be worth something.

So there are clear benefits for both the service (low cost of entry, potentially easy profit) and the linker (the quick rush of popularity). But URL shorteners are bad for the rest of us.

The worst problem is that shortening services add another layer of indirection to an already creaky system. A regular hyperlink implicates a browser, its DNS resolver, the publisher’s DNS server, and the publisher’s website. With a shortening service, you’re adding something that acts like a third DNS resolver, except one that is assembled out of unvetted PHP and MySQL, without the benevolent oversight of luminaries like Dan Kaminsky and St. Postel.

There are three other parties in the ecosystem of a link: the publisher (the site the link points to), the transit (places where that shortened link is used, such as Twitter or Typepad), and the clicker (the person who ultimately follows the shortened links). Each is harmed to some extent by URL shortening.

The transit’s main problem with these systems is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Redesigning medical data

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The Wife will enjoy this:

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 1:39 pm

Embracing ignorance as a primary value

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I have never been able to understand the willful ignorance of those in the Tea Party and their allies: being completely ignorant about some topic (on which they take impassioned stands, BTW) and then REFUSING to learn about it.

One explanation is, of course, a kind of specific insanity: the desire to cling to ideas whether they are factual or false, without much caring about the different.

Sometimes it goes further: the willfully ignorant want to make sure that other people also remain ignorant. I see this a lot on the Right, where statements KNOWN to be false are repeated anyway.

And here’s a good example, reported in the NY Times by Michael Luo:

In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?

The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there’s a reason for that. Both scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off funds for such work.

“We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was for about a decade the leading source of financing for firearms research.

Chris Cox, the N.R.A.’s chief lobbyist, said the group had not tried to squelch genuine scientific inquiries, just politically slanted ones. “Our concern is not with legitimate medical science,” he said. “Our concern is they were promoting the idea that gun ownership was a disease that needed to be eradicated.”

The amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result, according to researchers.

The dearth of money can be traced in large measure to a clash between public health scientists and the N.R.A. in the mid-1990s. At the time, Dr. Rosenberg and others at the C.D.C. were becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying guns as a public health phenomenon, financing studies that found, for example, having a gun in the house, rather than conferring protection, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.

Alarmed, the N.R.A. and its allies on Capitol Hill fought back. The injury center was guilty of “putting out papers that were really political opinion masquerading as medical science,” said Mr. Cox, who also worked on this issue for the N.R.A. more than a decade ago.

Initially, pro-gun lawmakers sought to eliminate the injury center completely, arguing its work was “redundant” and reflected a political agenda. When that failed, they turned to the appropriations process. In 1996, Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the C.D.C. budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Chicken Satay as GOPM

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I’m now cooking Chicken Satay, using her recipe except I cut the amount of rice in half: I’m still on a reducing diet. It sounds good. I got a splat of freshly ground peanut butter at Whole Foods (recipe calls for 2 Tbsp), which is used in a sauce with minced scallions, minced garlic cloves, grates fresh ginger, soy sauce, and a little chicken stock. It suddenly occurs to me that I meant to add crushed red pepper flakes to that to avoid the curse of blandness that seems to afflict so many of these recipes. So it goes.

I still find the Texsport 2-quart cast-iron Dutch oven to be the best of the lot that I’ve tried, but I haven’t tried Le Creuset and I haven’t tried the Staub round 2.25-quart cocotte. The latter will arrive tomorrow, so soon I’ll try using that one.

UPDATE: Another “meh” recipe: flat, bland, and not very good. Snow peas, like shrimp and scallops, do not in my opinion work well in GOPM meals—they cook too long. (Green beans, OTOH, work great!)

Tomorrow I’ll do a fish version, but I’m definitely making up my own recipe. Those are ever so much better (to my taste, naturally).

UPDATE 2: I just couldn’t face the other half of this mess and so I threw it away. I hate to throw away food. Then I made up my own recipe, which was quite nice. And I made it in the Cajun Cookware Dutch oven, which actually is 2 quarts: I’m on a reducing diet, so the 2.5-qt Texsport is not what I want now. The layers:

1/2 sweet onion, chopped coarsely
1.5 cups whole wheat rotini (which is 1.5 servings: I go light on the starch)
1/3 cup light coconut milk
1/2 lb Dover sole fillets
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes
4 domestic white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, cored and sliced (fennel works quite well in this method)
1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
6 asparagus stalks cut into 1″ sections
1 Meyer lemon, cut into chunks

Whisk together:

2 Tbsp vinaigrette (I use Bragg’s)
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pour over the top, cover, 45 minutes at 450ºF, two meals.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM

The state of Wikipedia

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Via Open Culture:

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 10:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Free on-line: 25 John Wayne Westerns

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Check ’em out. Doesn’t include The Searchers but does have Stagecoach and She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. Also (from that link):

Tarkovsky Films Free Online

Free Hitchcock Movies Online

Orson Welles’ The Stranger: The Full Movie

The Best of Ken Loach on YouTube

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 10:04 am

Posted in Movies & TV

More examples of optical illusions in physical models

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Remember this guy?

Here’s a longer video with several more amazing illusions.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden: Jeepers Creepers

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Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:51 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer

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Sounds good:

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell

A review by Sarah L. CourteauLast fall, two Harvard psychologists published a study for which they had developed a smartphone application that allowed people to rate their happiness in the midst of everyday activities ranging from sex to commuting. The intrepid (intrusive?) researchers found that people whose minds wander are less happy than those who focus on the present moment. It’s the sort of phenomenon Michel de Montaigne would fasten upon if he were alive today — he spent much of his life disciplining himself to live in the here and now — and one more reminder of why the essays of this minor French nobleman and vintner have resonated with so many readers in the four centuries since he wrote them. Living today amid the wheat and chaff of the Age of I, it’s easy to forget that not long ago, personal accounts, unless they related heroic and likely exaggerated feats or events for the historical record, weren’t written for public consumption. The man who changed that was Montaigne, born near the city of Bordeaux in 1533 to a family that had bootstrapped itself from workaday to nobility. From his pen, which produced 107 essays in all, was born an entire genre based on the idea that writing about one’s own experience can, as biographer Sarah Bakewell puts it, “create a mirror in which other people recognize their own humanity.”

Montaigne spent the last two decades of his life fleshing out his essays, when he wasn’t reluctantly attending to the political duties that sought him out, fleeing an outbreak of the plague, or running interference in the religious wars that were rending France. Some of his essays run a few paragraphs, and others are much longer. In my Everyman edition of his complete works, translated by Donald Frame, his essays occupy 1,000 pages, and his letters and travel journals a few hundred more.

What distinguished Montaigne from his contemporaries, as Bakewell explains in How to Live, her unconventional and thoroughly charming biography, was his interest in how people — and he was always Subject A — actually live, rather than how they ought to live. Whether he was musing on his sensitivity to human body odor, the consciousness of his beloved cat, or the question of whether a captive is likelier to elicit mercy from his captors through pleading or bravado, Montaigne’s writings embody the meaning of the French word essayer, which means to try. He twisted his subjects this way and that, now asking an impertinent question, now adding a colorful observation, now offering a personal or historical anecdote. He often contradicts himself, a habit that seems to reflect his character as much as the fact that his essays are pastiches of at least three major editions. He added — but seldom subtracted — material over the years.

Montaigne gained a large following before his death in 1592, at age 59, of complications related to kidney stones. Informed by the traditions of Stoicism and Skepticism, he has been regarded by some critics in the years since as a bit of a cold fish (and not sufficiently religious), but many others have found his temperate views a comfort. In How to Live, Bakewell organizes her delightful introduction to Montaigne just as the man himself might have wished — not chronologically or comprehensively, but around the loose themes and questions that informed his life and touch upon our own. “I set forth a humble and inglorious life; that does not matter,” he wrote. “You can tie up all moral philosophy with a common and private life just as well as with a life of richer stuff.” It’s hard to imagine a more modern and democratic sentiment in this age when we are all famous for 15 minutes — or believe we have a right to be.

Sarah L. Courteau is literary editor of The Wilson Quarterly.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:49 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

The stage is set early, for success or failure

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Bruce Bower reports in Science News on an interesting finding:

Young kids lacking self-management skills are way more than annoying. They’re more likely to be big-time losers in the game of life, a new study finds.

Low levels of conscientiousness, perseverance and other elements of self-control in youngsters as young as age 3 herald high rates of physical health problems, substance abuse, financial woes, criminal arrests and single parenthood by age 32, says an international team led by psychologists Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Increasing self-control difficulties among children herald progressively greater numbers and seriousness of these adult troubles, the scientists report online January 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, has long held sway as the prime mental influence on health and achievement. But self-control’s close link to adult health and accomplishment remained after researchers accounted for children’s IQ scores and family income. “Self-control and intelligence are both valuable for life success, but after years of effort, IQ has proven difficult to change through interventions,” Moffitt says.

For as-yet-unknown reasons, 7 percent of youngsters in the long-term study developed notably better self-control as they got older. Members of this group displayed better health, made more money and had fewer criminal run-ins as adults than would have been predicted by their self-control levels as young children.

Moffitt and Caspi say that their findings offer the first evidence that even small improvements in children’s self-control have the potential to reduce health care costs, cut welfare dependency and lower crime rates.

Home and school programs designed to strengthen self-management show promise in early trials, Moffitt holds. Researchers need to confirm the effectiveness of these approaches so they can be adapted for widespread use, in his view.

Interventions exist that parents and teachers can use to strengthen children’s self-control, remarks criminologist Alex Piquero of Florida State University in Tallahassee. A 2010 research review led by Piquero concluded that programs grounded in behavioral rewards, training in coping skills and role-playing stimulated by videotaped situations worked best in boosting kids’ self-control.

In the new investigation about 1,000 children . . . 

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:39 am

The Müller technique

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Thanks to Jack in Amsterdam for pointing out this article in Slate by Sarah Wildman:

For as long as I can remember, my father has maintained the same workout regimen. Most mornings, as the rest of the house struggles to start the day, he begins a series of exercises—the "Müller technique." Body swings. Stretches. Hopping on one foot. Lunges with arms windmilling, first backwards, then forwards. Sit-ups, push-ups, toe-touches. He does all this clothed in nothing but underwear. He is finished in 25 minutes, or less.

When I was very young, I remember watching my grandfather practice Müller as well, as he had each morning since he learned it at Jewish summer camp on the banks of Austria’s Lake Wolfgangsee. After I gave birth and found it harder to get to the gym, my father suggested I try Müller: "You can do it at home!"

Born in Asserballe, Denmark in 1866, J.P. Müller was, for a time, as famous as that other Danish export, Hans Christian Anderson. Maybe more. At the turn of the last century, Müller’s wildly popular cult of physical fitness swept Mitteleuropa, turning parlor-sitting dandies from Copenhagen to Berlin to London into ironmen. Müller’s My System was published first in 1904 as little more than a long, bound pamphlet graced with an image of the Greek athlete Apoxyomenos naked and toweling himself. The exercise guide, which promised that just "15 minutes a day" of prescribed* exercise would make "weaklings" into strong men (and women), was ultimately translated into 25 languages, reprinted dozens of times, and sold briskly well into the 20th century.

Müller was the Tom Paine of free body movement and fresh air. Like many a radical, he was resisted at first, called pornographic (partly because he often appeared in a loincloth—even while skiing in St. Moritz). His was a call to throw off the restrictive shackles of the Victorian era—a literal stripping away of restrictive layered clothes and corsets, a rejection of the "pallid, sickly looks" once prized as beautiful, and the "false dignity which forbids people, for instance, to indulge in so healthy and beneficial an exercise as running." He admonished: "Do not let a day pass without every muscle and every organ in your body being set in brisk motion." And bathing—the man had a fondness for cleanliness many of his contemporaries did not share: "This does not only refer only to people of the ‘working’ classes. I have often met ‘gentlemen’ in frock-coats and top hats and ladies in evening dress of whom you could tell by the smell of them, even at a distance of several feet, that they seldom or never took a bath."

Born sickly himself, so small "I could be placed in an ordinary cigar box," Müller nearly died of dysentery at two and "contracted every childhood complaint." His own strength, in other words, was acquired, not inherited, through physical exercise.

The Müller system is pretty much as I observed each morning growing up; it is something like a precursor to Pilates, it borrows from ballet, and it needs no equipment, other than commitment. It is strict but appealingly accessible. Unlike some of the other popular physical fitness gurus of the time—including the Prussian Eugene Sandow, who is known as the father of bodybuilding—Müller wasn’t interested in building muscle mass through dumbbells. And while My System wasn’t only aimed at men—in his original pamphlet, he explains that a woman needs to develop a "muscular corset" (that is, core muscles)—Müller, eventually, added to his bookshelf, writing My System for Ladies and My System for Children. There was also the remedial My Breathing System for those for whom, trapped in a Victorian sartorial nightmare, respiration had to be taught.

Aside from being popular, My System was also intuitively, precociously, on the mark. . .

Continue reading. And there’s an interesting video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:32 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Fitness

Boots and Mühle

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A shave stick today, and I do like the Boots packaging—and the shave stick inside isn’t bad at all. A very good lather, thanks in part to the Lucretia Borgia, then the Mühle open-comb and a Swedish Gillette blade did three passes, very smooth and trouble-free. I noticed when I rinsed out the brush that I had enough lather for two or three more shaves.

Then a splash Mr. Sidney’s Original Aftershave, and I’m ready to dive into the day, having already done my 30′ of Nordic Track.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2011 at 9:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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