Later On

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

Archive for August 26th, 2011

Good tips for hurricane newbies

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Via The Wife, this page of good tips.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good news on protein front

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I’ve gradually drifted into mostly vegetarian fare. It seems easiest and simplest when I’m building a meal from a template to just take a block of tofu or tempeh and let that be the protein. Like tonight: true grub. Here it is:

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion
6 large cloves garlic
3.5 oz tofu
1 zucchini
2 mildly warm red chili peppers (long, wrinkly ones)
good grinding black pepper

I let that sauté a while, then added 1/3 c cooked black rice and sautéed some more. It started to stick with the browning, so I splashed in a good splash of dry Marsala to deglaze the pan, heaped in as much baby spinach as I could fit in the pan, and put on the lid. A few minutes later, I removed the lid; the spinach had of course collapsed completely, so I refilled the pan—the total of both fillings was probably at least 1 qt fresh spinach, more like 1.5 qt. But it cooks down to nothing.

I used the wooden spatula to cut the spinach in the pan, stirred to mix well with the other stuff, and put the lid on and let simmer 20 minutes. A bowl of that, topped with raspberry balsamic vinegar and some Bac’Uns was surprisingly tasty. And you can see how it falls out of the template with tofu for protein and black rice for starch.

So I got to thinking whether I was leaning too heavily on tofu and tempeh as proteins. Tofu seems to be okay. And tempeh, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

No reason to feel paranoid. Nosiree.

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I just received this from Constant Reader in an email:

—So if you think you can hide in a crowd, forget it. Big brother will find you.

THIS IS HOW THE POLICE CAN NOW IDENTIFY RIOTERS & TROUBLE MAKERS USING HIGH DEFINITION ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY. DON’T THINK OF HIDING YOURSELF AMONGST THOUSANDS………….
YOU CAN BE VERY EASILY DETECTED & IDENTIFIED.

Using the same technology as Google Earth to track you, be warned it will be most difficult to lose yourself in any crowd.

This is the crowd before the riots in Vancouver.

Put your cursor anywhere in the crowd and double-click a couple of times [or use the magnifying slider at the upper left—I found that easier – LG].

To further help with image, use the scroll button in the centre of your mouse.

Zero in on any one specific single face.. The clarity is incredible..

You can see perfectly the faces of every single individual – and there were thousands.

Just think what the police and the military have at their disposal.

And they can throw you in prison, keep you as long as they like, move you around as they like, all without giving any reason whatsoever: national security.

But I’m sure there’s no reason to worry. Let the CIA work with the NYPD to set up a secret security-police effort. They can be trusted, surely. [Good job we can trust them since many of the laws they’ll be enforcing are secret and not known to the public or indeed to Congress. So you can be thrown into prison now in the US for breaking secret laws. Has anyone started office pools on when the first “disappearances” are reported? – LG]

UPDATE: And, of course, if you screen-clip any photo of a face, I bet your photo editor could very quickly sharpen up the image.

UPDATE 2: Well, I gave it a go. I zoomed in on more or less the middle of the crowd and picked out this guy:

Unfortunately, iPhoto doesn’t have anything that I found that can sharpen the focus, as it were.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 9:17 pm

A cool tool for strong passwords

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Today’s Cool Tool is a site: http://www.diceware.com. Here’s an explanation.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Technology

Printing your own razor

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I recently posted about MakerBot, a consumer-grade 3-D printer now on the market and in use. (I recall one guy ran off a set of shower curtain hooks that he quickly designed.) Here are various videos of 3-D printing in action, including (somewhere) a working crescent wrench, scanned and printed ready to work, with the adjustment screw printed in a different color.

The thing about printing from a digital file is that digital files are readily copied, altered, and emailed. So it would be easy to have an online repository of printable objects, including razors, and with good design the files should be readily amenable to tweaking: a longer or shorter or thicker handle, perhaps with knurling or with fluting instead, etc. You should even be able to adjust blade angle and exposure to customize aggressiveness. And since you are printing them yourself, from cheap plastic powder, you can readily use trial-and-error to tune the razor to your exact preference. You may discard a dozen, but once you have the file exactly as you want it, you can churn out copies till the cows come home.

We already have plastic (DE) safety razors on the market. Printing your own is now possible. Anyone doing it?

 

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 3:47 pm

Straight razors can be sharp indeed!

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Some microphotographs of razor edges, both double-edged commercial blades and a well-sharpened and honed straight razor. The straight razor wins.

From betelgeux, who runs Wicked_Edge, where I mostly hang out, shaving-wise, these days.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Shaving

Why Is President Obama So Anxious to Cut Social Security?

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The post title is a good question. It’s not as though Social Security is in any trouble. Indeed, it has a healthy surplus (most of which was “borrowed” by George W. Bush for his Big War in Iraq), and it could continue with no problem through the rest of this century with minor adjustments. But Barack Obama seems to think that he was elected to dismantle the program. Dean Baker looks at the issue in this column, which begins:

On his tour of the Midwest last week, President Obama again indicated his interest in cutting Social Security. He repeated a proposal that his administration first put forward in the debt ceiling negotiations: he wants to cut the annual cost of living adjustment by 0.3 percentage points.

This cut may sound small, but it adds up over time. A person in their 70s who had been getting benefits for ten years would see a reduction of 3 percent. By the time they were in their 80s, the cut would be 6 percent. And if they lived into their 90s, their benefit would be more than 9 percent lower as a result of President Obama’s proposal.

For an average retiree who can expect to get benefits for 20 years, President Obama’s plan would cut their lifetime Social Security benefits by roughly 3 percent. By comparison, his much feared tax increases on the rich would reduce the after-tax income of someone earning $300,000 a year by just 0.5 percent. In this case, a beneficiary who will be mostly dependent on their Social Security income in retirement will take about six times as large a hit relative to their income under President Obama’s plan to cut Social Security than a couple earning $300,000 would from his plan to raise their taxes.

This cut to Social Security seems especially inappropriate since the near retirees who would feel the full impact of this cut have just seen most of their wealth destroyed by the collapse of the housing bubble and the plunge in the stock market. The typical near retiree (ages 55-64) has just $170,000 in net wealth, including the equity in their home.

This means that if they used every last penny in their 401(k) and other savings, they would have just about enough money to pay off the mortgage on a typical home. This would leave them 100 percent dependent on Social Security for their income. And of course, half of near retirees have less than this amount, meaning that they will not even be able to pay off the mortgage on a typical home. But apparently President Obama feels that these people need to make greater sacrifices.

The determination to cut Social Security is especially strange given the finances of the program. Under the law, Social Security is financed by the designated Social Security tax. It does not contribute to the deficit, since the law prohibits payments from being made if there is not money in the Social Security trust fund. That means that if the trust fund were drained, rather than contributing to the deficit, full benefits would not be paid.

And the date where this could be an issue is still relatively distant. The Congressional Budget Office just released newprojections showing that the Social Security trust fund is fully solvent through the year 2038. Even after that date, the program would have enough money to pay 81 percent of scheduled benefits for the rest of the century. The folks who say that there will be nothing there for our children or grandchildren are just making it up or repeating the nonsense promulgated by some political hack.

Furthermore, this gap is not hard to close. Currently, the tax on the wages subject to the tax is capped at $107,000. The upward redistribution of income over the last three decades has caused a large share of wage income to escape taxation, as more money ends up in the pocket of CEOs and Wall Street types than ordinary workers. If all wage income were subject to the tax, then it would leave Social Security fully solvent for its 75-year planning period.

We could also go the route of increasing the tax on ordinary workers to cover the shortfall. After all, part of the story is that people are enjoying longer retirements, even if the wealthy have benefited much more from the increase in longevity than the typical worker. By 2040, average wages are projected to be 45 percent higher than today, adjusting for the impact of inflation. If just 5 percent of the projected wage growth over this period was used to finance Social Security, the program would be fully solvent for the rest of the century.

Most people would be surprised to know that 5 percent of the wage growth projected over the next three decades would be sufficient to keep Social Security solvent. After all, there is awell-funded and well-connected industry of people spreading disaster stories about Social Security and its massive deficit.

Many people will be taken aback by the idea of “projected wage growth,” after all most workers’ wages have been stagnant or falling in recent years. This is true. The projections refer to average wages, which had been rising, at least until the recession.

This brings up the fundamental point. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:48 am

Neanderthals contributed to our DNA

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I don’t really recall Neanderthals in the Genesis story—or DNA, for that matter—so I imagine that these findings will be denounced from the pulpit by scientific researchers such as Pat Robertson and the like. Still, it’s an interesting story even if it conflicts with Genesis account. Eryn Brown reports in the LA Times:

As recently as 2008, scientists thought that Neanderthals and modern humans had never mated.

Then, last year, they said that the two species had, but that the few Neanderthal genes that survived in modern human DNA were not functional.

Now researchers believe that key versions of immune system genes in modern humans appear to have been passed down by archaic relatives, including Neanderthals, after all.

Indeed, DNA inherited from Neanderthals and newly discovered hominids dubbed the Denisovans has contributed to key types of immune genes still present among populations in Europe, Asia and Oceania. And scientists speculate that these gene variants must have been highly beneficial to modern humans, helping them thrive as they migrated throughout the world.

This DNA has had “a very profound functional impact in the immune systems of modern humans,” said study first author Laurent Abi-Rached, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of senior author Peter Parham of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Neanderthals were stocky hunter-gatherers who populated Europe and parts of Asia until about 30,000 years ago. In 2010, a team of biologists led by Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, sequenced the Neanderthal genome via DNA extracted from ancient bones.

From this, they estimated that 1% to 4% of modern Eurasian genomes came from our close hominid relatives.

No one knows what Denisovans looked like: The only confirmed evidence of the group, which is thought to have split from the Neanderthals about 350,000 years ago and migrated east, are a tooth and a pinkie finger bone found in a Siberian cave in 2008.

When Paabo and coworkers sequenced DNA extracted from the pinkie in 2010, they calculated that 4% to 6% of modern Melanesian genomes came from Denisovans.

In the new study, Abi-Rached and coauthors decided to focus on a small set of genes on chromosome 6 known as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I genes.

HLA genes carry instruction for making HLA proteins, which help the immune system spot evidence of problems in cells — infection or cancer, for instance — so that it can wipe out abnormalities to fight disease. The genes come in many forms that vary in frequency around the world, probably because our genomes have been tailored by evolution to fight specific disease threats that exist in particular places.

Physicians regularly screen HLA types to find donor matches for transplant patients, providing a rich lode of data for the researchers. Millions of people around the world have had their HLA class I genes typed, giving the team a way to look for ancient Neanderthal and Denisovan HLA variants in present-day people, said coauthor Ed Green, a genome scientist at UC Santa Cruz.

The researchers carefully analyzed the region of the archaic genomes where the HLA genes were located. Then they compared them with the HLA regions of modern-day human populations of different parts of the world.

From the analysis, the scientists estimated, for example, that more than half of the genetic variants in one HLA gene in Europeans could be traced to Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA. For Asians, that proportion was more than 70%; in people from Papua New Guinea, it was as much as 95%. . .

Continue reading. What do these evolution deniers do, when we have actual specific DNA evidence? I suppose they just change the topic.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:44 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

CIA working hard to protect its image

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Burnishing the image of the CIA (“Criminals in Action”) is pretty much a fulltime job: the Agency has missed all the big events of our time, while busy running drugs and overthrowing democratically elected governments to install right-wing dictators, while teaching their minions the arts of torture. The CIA, so far as I can tell, is primarily a source of national shame, while it continually misses things like the building of the Berlin Wall, the fall of the Berlin Wall, whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and so on and on and on.

Now they are trying to rewrite the history of 9/11, as reported by Scott Shane in the NY Times:

In what amounts to a fight over who gets to write the history of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath, the Central Intelligence Agency is demanding extensive cuts from the memoir of a former F.B.I. agent who spent years near the center of the battle against Al Qaeda.

The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript. And he gives a detailed, firsthand account of the C.I.A.’s move toward brutal treatment in itsinterrogations, saying the harsh methods used on the agency’s first important captive, Abu Zubaydah, were unnecessary and counterproductive.

Neither critique of the C.I.A. is new. In fact, some of the information that the agency argues is classified, according to two people who have seen the correspondence between the F.B.I. and C.I.A., has previously been disclosed in open Congressional hearings, the report of the national commission on 9/11 and even the 2007 memoir of George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director.

Mr. Soufan, an Arabic-speaking counterterrorism agent who played a central role in most major terrorism investigations between 1997 and 2005, has told colleagues he believes the cuts are intended not to protect national security but to prevent him from recounting episodes that in his view reflect badly on the C.I.A.

Some of the scores of cuts demanded by the C.I.A. from Mr. Soufan’s book, “The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al Qaeda,” seem hard to explain on security grounds.

Among them, according to the people who have seen the correspondence, is a phrase from Mr. Soufan’s 2009 testimony at a Senate hearing, freely available both as video and transcript on the Web. Also chopped are references to the word “station” to describe the C.I.A.’s overseas offices, common parlance for decades.

The agency removed the pronouns “I” and “me” from a chapter in which Mr. Soufan describes his widely reported role in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an important terrorist facilitator and training camp boss. And agency officials took out references to the fact that a passport photo of one of the 9/11 hijackers who later lived in San Diego, Khalid al-Midhar, had been sent to the C.I.A. in January 2000 — an episode described both in the 9/11 commission report and Mr. Tenet’s book.

In a letter sent Aug. 19 to the F.B.I.’s general counsel, Valerie E. Caproni, a lawyer for Mr. Soufan, David N. Kelley, wrote that “credible sources have told Mr. Soufan that the agency has made a decision that this book should not be published because it will prove embarrassing to the agency.”

In a statement, Mr. Soufan called the C.I.A’s redactions to his book “ridiculous” but said he thought he would prevail in getting them restored for a later edition.

He said he believed that counterterrorism officers have an obligation to face squarely “where we made mistakes and let the American people down.” He added: “It saddens me that some are refusing to address past mistakes.” . . .

Continue reading. The CIA denies everything. That’s what they do. A person who would trust the CIA should not be allowed out of the house without an escort.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:37 am

Posted in Books, Government, Terrorism

Rick Perry weighs in on things he doesn’t understand

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I think we’ll see a lot of Rick Perry pronouncements that turn out to be false in every respect—not that I expect his supporters to criticize him for that. Indeed, that’s probably why they like him.

For example, his comment that the schools in Texas teach creationism or Intelligent Design or whatever the term is now used for the Genesis myth that is taken as literal truth by so many: they may indeed, but the curriculum guidelines and requirements are in conflict with his statement.

And Ezra Klein takes him to task for his obviously false statement about scientific support for anthrogenic global warming:

Over the past few days, fact-checkers have been kept busy debunkingthis statement from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), on why he doesn’t believe that humans are heating the planet: “I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

It’s not a tricky argument to dismiss. In 2010, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a survey of 1,372 climate researchers, finding that 97 to 98 percent of those publishing in the field said they believe humans are causing global warming. That’s the same majority that existed in a similar 2009 survey. Dissenters do exist, thePNAS study found, but “the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced … are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.” Either way, the ranks of dissenters don’t appear to be swelling. (When contacted by the Washington Post, the Perry campaign responded with links to news stories that, reporter Glenn Kessler concluded, were “anecdotal in nature.”)

Still, it’s worth adding one overlooked point to all this fact-checking. It’s not just that Perry’s wrong. In many ways, the field of climate science is moving in precisely the opposite direction that he’s suggesting. Recall that back in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change put out a report synthesizing the scientific work on global warming. While the report sounded quite certain on a number of topics—noting, for one, that it was “very likely” that most of the observed temperature increases since mid-century were due to man-made greenhouse gases—there were still plenty of vague spots in the report, especially with regards to sea-level rise.

Yet rather than poke further holes, much of the climate science that’s been published since 2007 appears to have strengthened the consensus, not weakened it. Another synthesis report published last May by Britain’s Met Office, looking at more than 100 peer-reviewed post-IPCC studies, found that the case for human influence has been bolstered: “We can say with a very high significance level that the effects we see in the climate cannot be attributed to any other forcings.”

Relatedly, at last year’s annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, UC Santa Barbara’s William Freudenberg gave a presentation in which he revealed that “new scientific findings [since the IPCC] are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is ‘worse than previously expected,’ rather than ‘not as bad as previously expected.’”(Credit for the links goes to Climate Progress’s Joe Romm.)

Granted, it’s always possible that what’s going on here is that, as Perry has charged, “there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Though that theory’s looking weaker by the day, too: The National Science Foundation, for instance, just . . .

Continue reading. I am strangely surprised at the inability of the American people to understand the most basic findings of science, combined with their eager willingness to swallow obvious nonsense: Jenny McCarthy as medical scientist, anyone?

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:25 am

“It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”

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Something to kick off the weekend:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 10:15 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Terrific rosy shave

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I want to thank the commenter who focused my attention on rose-fragranced shaving soaps/creams/aftershaves. Rose is indeed a regal fragrance and adds a lot to one’s feeling of fitness and command for the day.

Cyril R. Salter is a stalwart name in shaving creams—their Vetiver is superb—and I recently ordered this tub as part of my rose expansion—the D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave is another part of that. It ginned up a terrific lather with the Edwin Jagger boar brush, though I felt it was cheating, in a way: that brush is not broken in enough to deliver that sort of lather with shaving soap.

Three smooth passes with the OSS holding (I’m sure—didn’t check) a Swedish Gillette blade, very easy, very pleasant. The alum bar, a rinse and a dry and a splash of Pink, and I’m ready for the day, which (being Friday) begins with laundry.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2011 at 7:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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