Later On

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

Archive for February 28th, 2011

More on Pilates

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The Wife and I were talking about our Pilates experience tonight. She had mentioned that at the outset my rib cage had been quite prominent—surprisingly so—and she figured that I was just built that way. But now, that’s almost entirely gone, and my ribs have a normal stance and configuration.

I was trying to get my head around how that could happen, and The Wife suggested that I had strengthened certain muscles and learned certain movements and that the muscles were just pulling the ribs into a new configuration.

That sort of baffled me, until I realized I was associating my (living) skeleton, made up of (living) bones held in a tensegrity-like structure, with my previous experience with skeletons, which was quite different: all the (dead) skeletons I had observed, all of those stripped of the muscle and ligaments that once held them in the tensegrity structure that the living embody. So of course systematic and knowledgeable work strengthening specific muscles and muscle groups in the right sequence, aided by apparatus designed for this sort of thing—in fact, for exactly this thing—would, in (a relatively short) time, result in changes such as that made by my ribs.

A more dramatic (and beneficial) change has been observed by The Wife, who has suffered leg problems in her right leg due to an ankle injury she suffered as a child. She has observed that she no longer is having the problems so much, and in fact her leg has straightened quite a bit: she caught sight of herself in a mirror as she walked into a building, and was astonished.

I of course had read about Pilates and his ideas and apparatus, and how the dancers in New York flocked to him for help with strengthening and flexibility and with injuries. Why did they do that? Because Pilates’s methods work.

It’s another example of the phenomenon exemplified by my reading some best seller and being astonished that it’s good. Duh: that’s why it’s a best-seller. Worse yet, I’ve done this repeatedly (with different best sellers, I emphasize). Big double-duh. But I keep making the mistake, and being astonished at the successes of the Pilates method after specifically reading about how the method was sucessful: how thick can one get?

I should note that we have the great benefit of having a truly knowledgeable and capable trainer/instructor—and perhaps that is why the studio (Lighthouse Pilates) is expanding.

Good times on the fitness front.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

More good things about the MacBook

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I continue to be quite happy with the acquisition, and now certainly it is rapidly becoming my “main” computer (though I have quite a bit to transfer—must look into Outlook Exports and Address Book Imports), and today I moved over a file.

On my Windows PC I mailed to myself (since mail is picked up by both computers) the Excel spreadsheet that serves as my check register. Then on the Mac, I opened the delivered message, double-clicked the attached spreadsheet, and OpenOffice opened first itself and then the file, as pretty as you please. Everything was perfectly formatted and usable (though I cannot imagine a simpler or more vanilla spreadsheet—I don’t think it even includes multiplication or division, just straight add and subtract). It felt very cool to have it work so well and be so simple.

Life is good.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 3:55 pm

Texsport is the one

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Despite trying more expensive cast-iron Dutch ovens, which do indeed have their charms and are of high quality, I find that my favorite (at least for now) is the Texsport 2-quart cast-iron Dutch oven, which you can find for less than $20. It’s not enameled, but that has not been a problem. It’s actually slightly larger than 2 quarts, which I like because it better accommodates cooking leafy greens in a GOPM. And since I carefully measure the starch and the protein, the extra room is devoted solely to vegetables. Also, the shape of the Texsport—a taller, narrower cylinder than most—works quite well for this kind of cooking.

So if you going to get into GOPM cooking, and the 2-meal size of pot works in your situation, this is the one I would recommend.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 2:33 pm

NY Times: “All the news (and false information) the government wants us to print”

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The NY Times, once the pre-eminent paper of record, is rapidly becoming a government-run paper, with Times editors running whatever stories the government wants them to, true or false, no questions asked. They have to protect their access to government officials, see, and that means they must do the bidding of government officials, including cover-ups as requested.

Amy Davidson, a senior editor at the New Yorker, has a good piece on this, which begins:

The column by the Timess Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, on the case of Raymond Davis—the man who reportedly had some connection to the C.I.A. and is now in Pakistani custody after killing two policemen who, he has said, he thought were thieves—is genuinely puzzling. The Times reported last week that it had kept silent about Davis’s C.I.A. connection. Brisbane attempted to explain why. Here are the key passages:

The Times jumped on the story, but on Feb. 8, the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, contacted the executive editor, Bill Keller, with a request. “He was asking us not to speculate, or to recycle charges in the Pakistani press,” Mr. Keller said. “His concern was that the letters C-I-A in an article in the NYT, even as speculation, would be taken as authoritative and would be a red flag in Pakistan.”Mr. Crowley told me the United States was concerned about Mr. Davis’s safety while in Pakistani custody. The American government hoped to avoid inflaming Pakistani opinion and to create “as constructive an atmosphere as possible” while working to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

The Times acceded to the Obama Administration’s wishes, as did the Washington Post and the A.P. Brisbane concludes that “the Times did the only thing it could do,” even though “in practice, this meant its stories contained material that, in the cold light of retrospect, seems very misleading.” So the “only thing” the Times could do was be “misleading”? That question contains a lot of sub-questions. Here are some:

1. What was the risk to Davis, exactly? He is in the custody of Pakistan, one of our allies. It is not like he’s being held hostage in a cave somewhere, or on the run. One suggestion, laid out in the Post, is that a prison guard might have killed him out of anger; the Post mentions that other prisoners had, in fact, been killed by guards in the facility he was held in. Were those prisoners also working for the C.I.A.? (Or whatever agency Davis was affiliated with, as an “operative” or a contractor—his exact status is still not clear.) There was rage, maybe even life-threatening rage, at Davis in Pakistan even when the U.S. was pretending he was an ordinary diplomat—pulling out a Glock on the streets of Lahore and shooting two people, then claiming immunity, will do that. He was burned in effigy before the Times used “the letters C-I-A.” One could just as easily argue that news that the American media covered up for Davis would make the Pakistani public even madder, and less willing to trust American justice and intentions, encouraging vigilantes.

(In any event, after the Guardian went with the story, the Administration told the Times that it needed twenty-four hours to get the Pakistanis to put him in a safer facility; if it took the Guardian story to persuade the Pakistanis, could one in the Times have facilitated a move weeks earlier?)

Or is the idea that the attacker wouldn’t be a rogue guard, but an Pakistani government operative sent to take him out, or maybe torture him for intelligence? There are a couple of problems with that: (a) the Pakistani government, if not the public, seems to have known who Davis was without American newspapers telling it; and (b) if we think that Pakistani security services torture or kill people because they are C.I.A. operatives, then why are we giving them so much taxpayer money?

Or would the story endanger his safety because it would undermine a claim to diplomatic immunity, exposing him to years in a Pakistani prison (not so good for one’s health) or even capital punishment? If so, does that count as a good reason? I am not sure of the points of international law here, and have read conflicting assertions about what Davis’s standing was, and exactly what sort of immunity he might have been eligible for. I also am not sure of the penalty for double murder in Pakistan. But if Davis isn’t entitled to diplomatic immunity then he isn’t entitled to diplomatic immunity. Do we believe that it’s the role of newspapers to pretend that he is, if he isn’t—to help the government make legally and factually false claims? (Is the press asked to suppress damaging details in cases of Americans charged with murders abroad who aren’t C.I.A. operatives?) And wouldn’t doing so endanger actual diplomats whose claims would, in the future, be treated with greater skepticism?

Maybe the danger was not to Davis but to the C.I.A.’s ability to operate with impunity within Pakistan. But that’s not the argument Brisbane presents, and has its own problems. (Is it the job of newspapers to create “as constructive an atmosphere as possible” for anything the government wants to do?) Anyway, the damage had been done by the incident itself; it was really a matter of making sense of the wreckage. And Davis was not arrested for spying but for killing people recklessly; the widow of one, an eighteen-year old, killed herself. Do journalists need, at the cost of their credibility, to deny these people’s survivors a day in court?

Maybe the Administration had good answers, and a better explanation of the danger to Davis; but those answers weren’t in the Times.

2. Who was the intended audience, or, rather, non-audience, for the silence? Put differently, who was this supposed to be kidding? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 2:25 pm

Busy-morning report

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Had a very 30 minutes on the Nordic Track, and I’m at the very end of the first part. Eager to re-read (as it were) the encounter Don Quixote has with the Count and Countess. As I recall, the focus was the renowned Helmet of Mambrino.

To Healthy Way for my final visit under the reducing plan, and to get my materials for the maintenance phase. I actually have a bit more to lose, but now I know how to do that.

Then to Whole Foods, then I joined the CSA and mailed them a check, and then to Pilates for yet another good session—and learned that Lighthouse Pilates is expanding into a larger space (at the same location: opening up and taking over the rooms next to it). Pretty exciting.

And now I have an afternoon to review and study Spanish! 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Daily life

A fine shave

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The tools that produced a superlative shave this morning. (I directed.) A fine lather as always from the Irisch Moos, this time ably assisted by the terrific little Gerson brush. Three passes with the Merkur Slant Bar holding a Swedish Gillette blade, a splash of Irisch Moos, and I’m off to my last visit under the reducing contract: I now go on maintenance. (In fact, I still have a few pounds to lose, so I’ll take care of that on my own.)

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Spring is coming: Join a local CSA

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Community-supported agriculture is a great way to help family farms and also get terrific, fresh, local produce. Here’s an article on taking the step—and it’s time to do it, as we head into spring. More efficient than going to a farmer’s market, you get your own box of veggies weekly (usually). The article begins:

So you’re thinking of joining a CSA?

Or maybe you’re just scratching your head right now, wondering: “A CSA? What’s that?” The answer, community-supported agriculture, is an arrangement in which customers pay up front for a share in a local farmer’s harvest, which is then distributed over the growing season.

The farms are generally smaller ones, often using organic or sustainable growing practices. Personally, because they’re a motivating factor in my cooking, I can’t get enough of CSAs and belong to–count ‘em–five: veggies, fruits, eggs, frozen produce in winter, and a “quarter hog” share.

How it works
The farmer sends whatever is ready and ripe, perhaps picked that morning, so you have little to no control over what you get (though a few CSAs now work on more of a “market” model). A meat share includes a variety of cuts, sometimes with specialty items such as charcuterie. Some areas even offer seafood shares.

Some CSAs deliver a box to your door, while others use a central pick-up point; ours drops at a neighborhood church and displays the produce to be collected via an honor system. The simplest, most direct arrangement might be if you live in a rural area and fetch your share from the farm. The farmer organizes the details, whereas in urban programs a volunteer team usually handles logistics and distribution.

What are the benefits?
You support local farmers by investing in a portion of the crop in advance and guaranteeing them a customer base. In return, you receive a basket of sparkling produce, fresher than what’s offered in most stores. You probably end up eating more veggies, too. The connection between farmer and consumer becomes closer, and you get to know the person growing your food. This is a great lesson if you have kids.

We receive a regular newsletter from our farmers, including recipe suggestions and invitations to visit the farms. At the season’s end, members may be encouraged to provide feedback: helping to shape, over the long term, what will be grown.

And there’s the matter of savings: by essentially buying in bulk, you save over buying comparable quality produce at the farmers’ market.

What do I have to lose?
The lack of choice may be a deal-breaker if you like your options (or, say, detest zucchini). And, since you reap the harvest along with the farmer, you also assume the risks. Last summer, for example, our region was hit with late blight, which all but wiped out tomato crops in the northeast. As a result, the usual plump, sweet tomatoes were no-shows. Loyal customers who had pre-paid for an extra “pantry share” of tomatoes opted to forfeit the money in solidarity with the farmer, instead of getting reimbursed.

How do I find my local CSA? . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: After thinking about it a few minutes, I googled “CSA monterey organic” and found a local CSA here and have now joined. Thanks, Janet!

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 9:07 am

Medical malpractice

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According to many doctors, medical malpractice is a phony problem pushed onto the public by trial lawyers and liberals, and in fact if the medical profession could only stop lawsuits by putting ridiculously low caps on awards, there would be no more medical malpractice—because, you see, it could not possibly be the case that doctors are at fault. No, it’s the lawyers!! (Look over there, where I’m pointing, and stop looking at me, say the doctors.)

A counter-example reported in the NY Times by Walt Bogdanich and Kristina Rebelo:

It was well after midnight when Dr. Salvatore J. A. Sclafani finally hit the “send” button.

Soon, colleagues would awake to his e-mail, expressing his anguish and shame over the discovery that the tiniest, most vulnerable of all patients — premature babies — had been over-radiated in the department he ran at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

A day earlier, Dr. Sclafani noticed that a newborn had been irradiated from head to toe — with no gonadal shielding — even though only a simple chest X-ray had been ordered.

“I was mortified,” he wrote on July 27, 2007. Worse, technologists had given the same baby about 10 of these whole-body X-rays. “Full, unabashed, total irradiation of a neonate,” Dr. Sclafani said, adding, “This poor, defenseless baby.”

And the problems did not end there. Dr. John Amodio, the hospital’s new pediatric radiologist, found that full-body X-rays of premature babies had occurred often, that radiation levels on powerful CT scanners had been set too high for infants, and that babies had been poorly positioned, making it hard for doctors to interpret the images.

The hospital had done the full-body X-rays, known as “babygrams,” even though they had been largely discredited because of concerns about the potential harm of radiation on the young. Dr. Sclafani and Dr. Amodio quickly stopped the babygrams and instituted tight controls on how and when radiation was used on babies, according to doctors who work there. But the hospital never reported the problems in the unit to state health officials as required.

A little over a week ago, after The New York Times asked about the situation at Downstate, the state health commissioner, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, ordered two offices of the department to investigate.

“Our investigators will pull films, they will examine the medical records and they will interview relevant staff,” said Claudia Hutton, the department’s director of public affairs. “Our authority to investigate goes basically as far as we need it to go.”

The errors at Downstate raise broader questions about the competence, training and oversight of technologists who operate radiological equipment that is becoming increasingly complex and powerful. If technologists could not properly take a simple chest X-ray, how can they be expected to safely operate CT scanners or linear accelerators?

With technologists in many states lightly regulated, or not at all, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 8:59 am

Punish the children—they can’t fight back

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Politicians must love it that children can’t vote and have no lobby, because that gives the politicians a group they can starve and hear few complaints. Politicians love the poor and powerless for the same reason: smash them down, and they won’t fight.

Texas, for example, is carefully protecting its plutocrats by throwing the children to the wolves. Paul Krugman:

Will 2011 be the year of fiscal austerity? At the federal level, it’s still not clear: Republicans are demanding draconian spending cuts, but we don’t yet know how far they’re willing to go in a showdown with President Obama. At the state and local level, however, there’s no doubt about it: big spending cuts are coming.

And who will bear the brunt of these cuts? America’s children.

Now, politicians — and especially, in my experience, conservative politicians — always claim to be deeply concerned about the nation’s children. Back during the 2000 campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush, touting the “Texas miracle” of dramatically lower dropout rates, declared that he wanted to be the “education president.” Today, advocates of big spending cuts often claim that their greatest concern is the burden of debt our children will face.

In practice, however, when advocates of lower spending get a chance to put their ideas into practice, the burden always seems to fall disproportionately on those very children they claim to hold so dear.

Consider, as a case in point, what’s happening in Texas, which more and more seems to be where America’s political future happens first.

Texas likes to portray itself as a model of small government, and indeed it is. Taxes are low, at least if you’re in the upper part of the income distribution (taxes on the bottom 40 percent of the population are actually above the national average). Government spending is also low. And to be fair, low taxes may be one reason for the state’s rapid population growth, although low housing prices are surely much more important.

But here’s the thing: While low spending may sound good in the abstract, what it amounts to in practice is low spending on children, who account directly or indirectly for a large part of government outlays at the state and local level.

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

But wait — how can graduation rates be so low when Texas had that education miracle back when former President Bush was governor? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 8:49 am

Viewing retirement options in a new light

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More and more I’m convinced that making a change requires first a change in how you view the situation at hand: the situation with respect to which a change is needed.

For example, in losing weight the most effective approach (short- and long-term) is to change your view of food and eating (and, probably, exercise as well). Obviously, making changes in how you view the world seems somewhat scary, though anyone with any experience in what is euphemistically called “the world of work” has done such a thing. In that context it’s called an attitude adjustment and it may be demanded by your boss or self-assigned. It occurs when you are handed a task or a work situation that you don’t like. You can quit your job (though often this is not a realistic option), you can make yourselves and others miserable by being more or less constantly unhappy with the job, or you can do an attitude adjustment: pull up your socks and set your mind to focusing on the challenges in the task and doing them well, making the very best possible out of a bad situation.

This is a change in your worldview with respect to that situation, and it’s exactly the kind of change required to lose weight effectively. People don’t like to face that necessity, so they focus on making peripheral changes: counting calories, or not eating starches, or joining a weight-loss club. These are changes that one can easily make with no effect on his worldview. They are changes without deep roots that will drift away because we have not made internal changes. They are the kinds of changes made by people who want to change without making a change.

But consider: if you’re obese and you don’t like the obesity and want a different sort of outcome, changes have to be made upstream. Food is part of the problem, but food is not going to change: it will continue to be food, and available. Let’s see, what else is involved? Why, we are—and that’s the very part of the picture that is under our direct control and that we can change when we want.

Once you change your view of food, you change your habits with respect to food, and the process itself takes care of the problem.

Trent Hamm, over at The Simple Dollar, reviews a book that takes a similar approach to preparing for retirement effectively: change how you view the situation. His post begins:

It was the subtitle of Jacob Lund Fisker’s Early Retirement Extreme that convinced me to pick it up. “A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence.” Intriguing enough for my eyeballs, particularly since the subject matter of the book seemed to be in line with my own experiences on what it takes to be financially independent, as revealed from the text on the back cover (which explains the book so well, I’ll just quote it here):

This book provides a robust strategy that makes it possible to stop working for money in less than a decade. It provides a shift in economic perspective from consuming to producting. Your value to society is not how much you earn or buy, but what you create and produce. Consumers are often forced to buy expensive solutions, but producers have the flexibility to create their own solutions at a quarter of the cost. The resulting savings are invested to cover the remaining expenses, resulting in financial independence.

The strategy can also be used to pay off debt, travel the world, volunteer, go back to school, or simply work without worrying about the next paycheck. It offers a compelling alternative to the default choice of getting a college degree, buying a house, filling the closets with stuff, and then spending the next 40 years paying it off.

In other words, if you focus every action – or as many actions as possible – in your life on producing rather than consuming, you’re going to set yourself up for lasting financial success.

It’s a very interesting perspective to have on personal finance as a whole, one that goes hand in hand with voluntary simplicity and frugality. Let’s dig in to see what else Fisker has to say. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2011 at 8:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

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