Later On

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

Archive for June 2nd, 2011

Projections of food prices/supply vis-à-vis climate change

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Oxfam has run some studies. Grim, at best.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Food, Global warming

Things like this are why I worry about the debt ceiling

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Look what the GOP in Indiana is doing. I swear the entire party has gone batshit insane. And Rick Scott down in Florida is about the same. This willingness to do serious damage to the common weal simply to “prove” some ideological point is worrisome. I think many of the GOP are willing—as indeed they say that they are—to let the US default. They think it will somehow “teach us a lesson.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 7:21 pm

Human memory, internal and external

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I’m reading with great fascination and enjoyment Joshua Foer’s book Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything. As he takes care to point out, this is not a self-help book. Rather, it is a book about human memory: the forms it takes, how it works, and techniques once commonly used to allow humans to remember vast amounts of information—quite solid techniques that were unceremoniously discarded and forgotten once the invention of writing began the rush to maximize external memory—to the point where (as he writes) we now value the skill of being able to find information more than the skill of remembering information. And when I say “forgotten”, I don’t mean that we knew we once had those techniques but we don’t know what they are, but rather that we even forgot that such techniques existed, so that we are now amazed at relatively trivial feats of memory—say, at a person who goes into a room, meets a dozen new people just before he gives a presentation, and when asked a question during the presentation, always addresses the questioner by name. We’re floored, since most of us have trouble recalling the name when we are introduced to one new person (exception: if you find person is sexually attractive, the name is remembered without effort). And yet that sort of skill is trivial and, as demonstrated to Joshua in his investigations, can be taught in ten minutes.

I’m blogging right now not so much because the book is extremely interesting and highly entertaining, though it is, but because of what just happened.

I’m learning a lot of new Spanish vocabulary this afternoon—about 30 new words, some of which are naturally hard to recall. Then I thought, what the hey? why not try the technique Foer describes in the book?

I am stunned. I know every one of those words, more or less indelibly, after just one pass. And it’s permanent: I’ll know them tomorrow and next week, just as described.

Highly recommended, with this caveat: the explanation for why the technique works recognizes human evolution as a fact.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

Wrapping up the weight loss

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I will reach goal this month: I have 5.6 lbs to go, and I have discovered (through trial, error, and pattern recognition) some of the problems that were slowing my loss. One thing is that it takes much less food to maintain my weight than what I had been eating. (Wonder whether that might not have something to do with putting on all that surplus weight… nah, probably not.)

I’m pretty tickled about cracking this final puzzle. I was at 184.7 lbs on 4 April and at 184.1 lbs on 29 May. In between I had gone up and down, just a few pounds each way: highs around 186.7 lbs, low at 179.5 lbs. But, essentially, no loss for two months.

The good news is that it shows that I can maintain—at least for a couple of months. And now I think I have a good meal approach that will lose the last of the weight—but not too rapidly.

Now that I think about it, it has been exactly one year since I started this effort. So overall weight loss for the year was 72.4 lbs: 1.4 lbs/week, on average—not a precipitous weight loss by any means. “Slow and steady wins the race.” – Grandmother Ham.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Fitness

Advice for the financial apocalypse from The Simple Dollar

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As we move closer to the day in August when the US will hit the debt ceiling, people are getting worried. Trent Hamm has some good common-sense advice at The Simple Dollar.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 11:59 am

Posted in Daily life

Why make new mistakes when you can make old mistakes all over again?

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This article is well worth reading—unfortunately, the full thing is not on-line. From the abstract at the link:

ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF NATIONAL SECURITY about whether Iran’s nuclear program is being exaggerated. Is Iran actively trying to develop nuclear weapons? Members of the Obama Administration often talk as if this were a foregone conclusion, as did their predecessors under George W. Bush. There’s a large body of evidence, however, including some of America’s most highly classified intelligence assessments, suggesting that the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago—allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state’s military capacities and intentions. The two most recent National Intelligence Estimates (N.I.E.s) on Iranian nuclear progress have stated that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any effort to build the bomb since 2003. Yet Iran is heavily invested in nuclear technology. In the past four years, it has tripled the number of centrifuges in operation at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, which is buried deep underground. International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) inspectors have expressed frustration with Iran’s level of coöperation, but have been unable to find any evidence suggesting that enriched uranium has been diverted to an illicit weapons program. In mid-February, Lieutenant General James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, provided the House and Senate intelligence committees with an updated N.I.E. on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program. A previous assessment, issued in 2007, created consternation and anger inside the Bush Administration and in Congress by concluding, “with high confidence,” that Iran had halted its nascent nuclear-weapons program in 2003…

Continue reading. Glenn Greenwald has a short comment on the article with some good quotations from the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 11:35 am

Quite a Supreme Court we have now

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From an Ed Brayton post (and I recommend you read the whole thing):

In other words, the government can arrest someone under the material witness statutes for any reason whatsoever, even if it has nothing to do with them being a material witness, and there is no legal recourse whatsoever for the person who was wrongfully arrested. And this was an 8-0 decision (Justice Kagan recused herself, presumably because her office had argued the case in the appeals court when she was Solicitor General).

Written by LeisureGuy

2 June 2011 at 11:25 am

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