Later On

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

Archive for April 15th, 2011

Superb book so far: Red on Red

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Red on Red, the first novel (and second book) by NYC police detective Edward Conlon is extremely well written and absorbing. Highly recommended. (I finally worked my way up the hold list at the library and got my copy—for two weeks.)

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Books

Weird! What’s happening is exactly what was expected to happen

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The UK conservatives tackled their deficit the old-fashioned, no-nonsense way: cut government spending to the bone, and to hell with Keynes.

And, of course, what has happened and is happening is exactly what economists like Krugman have been saying for years and years.

I’m sure the conservatives will be staggered to discover that their pet theories, dismissed by economists, were dismissed because their pet theories are stupid, ugly, and wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life

Libya uses cluster bombs on its own people

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Horrifying. And focused on civilian noncombatants.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Interesting Pilates success story

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Worth reading. Pilates is an amazingly effective process—and, as The Wife observed early on, it’s “sticky,” unlike Feldenkreis. Feldenkreis can give you very interesting awareness of various aspects of your body structure and muscles, but it’s like a tour of a science exhibit: quite fascinating, but not much impact on daily life. With Pilates, in contrast, the work induces persisting changes, so that (for example) one obtains better balance, better posture, etc., even after the sessions.

Obviously, progress is always possible, and in any event it’s a process. I don’t know that you would ever “complete” the work. But so far the continuing improvements have certainly been more than worth the cost and (relatively mild) effort.

If you have access to a good Pilates instructor with a well-equipped studio, I’d encourage you to give it a go for 10 private sessions if you can. That’s 5 weeks at two sessions a week, enough to get an idea of what it can do.

I was told that Joseph Pilates said, “10 sessions to change your mind, 20 sessions to change your body, 30 sessions to change your life.” Our instructor commented that over and over she’s seen people start Pilates and then seem to start renewal in other parts of their life. Of course, people who start Pilates are already exhibiting interest in renewal, but Pilates had the interesting view that getting your body to do these specific things while exercising control (his own name for the discipline was “Contrology”)—that develops your brain in new ways, the brain being intimately involved since it, after all, is what controls the body. Indeed, controlling the body and internal processes while maintaining awareness of sensory input from internal and external sources so that the organism can respond optimally: that’s the brain’s job description and primary duties. This consciousness, rational thinking, language thing is a Johnny-come-lately and just a tiny sideline of what the brain does—save, of course, this new environment allowed the emergence and evolution of memes, whose own universe of struggle and development so affects our own lives (and evolution).

At any rate, Pilates is certainly correct that learning these new movements and how to exercise the muscle control to do them must of necessity lead to development within the brain, and since the mind resides there somehow, those changes will undoubtedly have ramifications for one’s mind. So perhaps the practice of Pilates does indeed open one’s outlook for new learning and development.

Try it and see.

UPDATE: The idea of signing up for Spanish classes came to me a month after I started Pilates. FWIW.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

Good response to interesting article

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I mailed a link to this article to a lawyer friend (and classmate). His reply:

The article has an interesting perspective which, while not without its truths, seems to me to be a little too far over the economic right in its analysis.

Jefferson for one, as I’m sure you know, was a left-wing radical for his day, hoping for an agrarian, small-town republic not dominated by money interests; and Franklin is famous for a quip to a lady inquiring about what the convention had wrought with the reply, “A republic, Madam if you can keep it,”  (Franklin in fact candidly doubted it would be kept.)

Moreover, while the Electoral College and other devices (such as property limitations on voting) were designed to insulate the republic somewhat from “the mob,” the Founders could hardly have failed to understand the democratic implications of the structure they had built and the realpolitik logic it would have to follow.

The addition of the Bill of Rights (a condition for ratification by New York, among other states) certainly strengthened the democratic thread of the constitutional fabric.

Of course, it’s also true that the Hamiltonians beat out the Jeffersonians in the initial economic structure of the new nation, but John Adams was the first, last, and only Federalist President, allowing Jefferson a latitude that eventually led to Andrew Jackson and the much further democratization of the government.

So I think the article—again, while not without its kernels of truth—reflects a bit of wishful thinking and cynicism about the true range of the Founders’ thinking.  Its principles, I’m sure they realized, had an inexorable logic of their own, despite the threads of financial self-interest of the well-propertied the document was partly designed to protect.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Government, Politics

Could be worse: An example: Italy

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Although the US has fallen on hard times, it is still leagues ahead of poor Italy, as described in this note by in the New Yorker:

Anniversaries are uplifting when you have something to celebrate. A couple on the edge of divorce do not rejoice that their wedding anniversary is around the corner. Something of the same uneasiness surrounded the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Italian state, on March 17th. As late as February, the government couldn’t decide whether the day should be declared a national holiday. The Northern League, a major party in the ruling coalition, complained about the loss of working hours; many of the League’s members have a separatist agenda and want to avoid a surge in national pride. The governor of South Tyrol, a German-speaking province ceded to Italy after the First World War, said that it was unreasonable to expect his people to celebrate their subjugation to an alien culture.

Nor does the rest of Italy see much reason to celebrate. The economy lags behind the French and German economies. Unemployment is at 8.6 per cent and youth unemployment at nearly thirty per cent. Wages are low, growth negligible. Meanwhile, Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is on trial for allegedly bribing a lawyer and has recently been charged with paying a minor for sex and then trying to obstruct police inquiries. Far from resigning, he has promised to use the trial to denounce a conspiracy against him by “Communist” magistrates and has introduced a bill to curb their powers. A constitutional crisis is brewing at a time when the government’s energies are required elsewhere.

Deeper than this, there has long been a feeling in Italy that the project of national unity was flawed from the start, and will never work satisfactorily—that the country’s government will always be stalled, and the south forever the unmanageable territory of organized crime. Three recent books express the mood in their titles: Manlio Graziano’s ambitious “The Failure of Italian Nationhood” (Palgrave; $80) seeks to get to the heart of the problem, examining crisis after crisis in the past century and a half in search of some recurrent behavior pattern that might explain Italy’s troubles; “Resisting the Tide: Cultures of Opposition Under Berlusconi” (Continuum; $130) and “Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe” (Routledge; $47.95) are collective efforts. The first, edited by a group of Italian scholars from the University of Birmingham—Daniele Albertazzi, Clodagh Brook, Charlotte Ross, and Nina Rothenberg—documents the difficulties of opposing a Prime Minister who owns the three major private TV networks, exercises a profound influence on the three public networks, and controls a large part of the press, the publishing world, and the advertising industry. The second, edited by Andrea Mammone and Giuseppe Veltri, examines a range of troubling economic, political, and social issues. Where many accounts of recent Italian history have been prone to overheated rhetoric and cries of scandal, all three of these books are admirable for their sober, businesslike tone. Nevertheless, their findings are far from optimistic.

The idea of laying bare some persistent group dynamic that would explain the vagaries of Italian public life—Graziano’s aim—has haunted me throughout my thirty years in the country. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 1:57 pm

Possible miracle

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On my walk today, I came across a curious sight:

Apparently someone had no more need for his or her crutches, and there they are, discarded beside the sidewalk. Odd.

I took a fairly long walk: 30 minutes or so. I want to see if my knee can really take it now.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life

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