Later On

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

Archive for July 20th, 2012

Like showbiz comedies? Look no further.

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Go watch The Deal. Or, if you don’t get Netflix Watching Instantly, watch The Deal (for $2.99—it’s well worth it, IMO). It helps if you really like movies and how they’re made.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 9:59 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Got a jazz tune and want to know the personnel?

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Back in the day, the liner notes on LP albums were tremendously informative. Then came the CD and the lengthy essays gave way to a small folded piece of paper, though sometimes a little booklet. Still, there were some comments and (important in jazz, at least) a list of the personnel in the band. Now, with downloads, you mostly get the featured artist. I was listening to a Susannah McCorkle CD I had ripped, and was wondering who the personnel were. Gracenotes is all well and good, but they really don’t show that (at least, not in iTunes).

I sent a query to Gracenotes, and they recommended that the Quintessential Media Player (QMP) shows this information, at least in some cases, but that’s a Windows-only program (the bane of Mac owners, I realize now). As I explained, I wanted something for jazz recordings like IMDb.com does for movies—give IMDb the name of a movie, and it lists the actors and the roles they played (and a bunch of other stuff besides). Isn’t there an on-line database similar to that for jazz? Or does one have to go to something like The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings, which is now in the 9th edition. Here’s a shot from Amazon’s “Look Inside”:

As you can see, the album is listed along with personnel—which to me is more important than the list of tunes. (With jazz, the tune is just the jumping-off place: the famous jazz critic Marin Williams in fact wrote a book on jazz titled Where’s the Melody?) And, BTW, the Vince Guaraldi Trio is dynamite.

It would be nice to have that sort of information on-line. A nice person at Gracenotes unofficially pointed me at AllMusic.com, which greatly resembles what I want. For example, take the Vince Guaraldi album listed above, A Flower is a Lovesome Thing. Search on the album title, and you get a list of possibilities—5 albums and 266 songs (popular tune: note the Marian McPartland and Duke Ellington recordings):

Click on the Guaraldi link and you get a ton of stuff:

I’m not sure what all the links do yet, but this is a dynamite resource of which I had been totally ignorant. I thought I’d point it out in case you also did not know about it.

UPDATE: It’s even better than I thought. I’m listening to that very album now, free, streaming, using the third button (MOG’s Web player; the middle button is for rdio, which even has a free downloadable app to play music (but I’ve not tried it). I’ll look  at the other two—Spotify (on the left) and rdio (in the middle)—later. Wow.

Interesting note: MOG notes that Flash 11.3 (the latest version) has bugs that cause skipping. From the Adobe forum:

While we always recommend using the latest version of Flash Player, sometimes problems are encountered in a new release that were not present in a previous release.  If you are unable to work around these problems and they block functionality you rely on, rolling back to a previous version might be required until an update is made available.  This FAQ will walk you through the steps required for reverting back to a previous version of Flash Player.

1. Follow the steps in the “How do I do a clean install of Flash Player” FAQ, but stop at the end before installing the most recent version

2. Either install the latest 10.3 version or download the previous 11.x version from the Flash Player Archive page.

If you install the latest 10.3 build, you will get a player with all known security patches applied.  It won’t however have the functionality of the 11.x series.  If you install the last version of 11.x, your player might not have all of the known security updates applied but you will have more recent features.

If downloading 11.x from the Flash Player archives, please note that you will be downloading a .zip file that will contain installers for all operating systems.

And then detailed instructions.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 6:40 pm

Posted in Jazz, Technology

“So, Papa, how do you like your new iPad?”

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Via Kafeneio:

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Technology, Video

Speaking of Mitt hiding things…

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Here’s an interesting article in Mother Jones by y Adam Serwer, Andy Kroll, and Stephanie Mencimer about six different things Mitt Romney is hiding:

Presidential candidates try as best they can to control their public image. But by modern standards, Mitt Romney has taken his quest for secrecy to extraordinary lengths. Here’s all there is to know about what we don’t know about Romney.

His Old Emails

Reporters looking for emails and other records from Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts governor are out of luck.

In the final months of Romney’s four-year stint as governor, as the Boston Globe reported, 11 of his top staffers purchased the hard drives in their government-issued computers, preventing state archivists from accessing any of their emails. In its final days, the Romney administration also replaced computers and scrubbed state government servers of all the administration’s emails. As the top attorney for Romney’s replacement, Deval Patrick, put it: “The governor’s office has found no e-mails from 2002-2006 in our possession.”

The Romney administration did turn over to state archivists hundreds of boxes of records, including memos, emails, and other communications among state agencies and cabinet members. However, the boxes containing those records were hand-picked and given over voluntarily by Romney’s staff. It stands to reason that any embarrassing or revealing information—say, internal planning or deliberations about Romney’s universal health care legislation—did not make it into the Romney administration’s record dump.

Pam Wilmot, the director of Common Cause Massachusetts, the Bay State affiliate of the good-government lobbying group, says no previous administration went to the same lengths as Romney’s to keep its communications secret from reporters and the public. “In retrospect, there does seem to be a substantial difference between [Romney’s] administration and other administrations on transparency,” Wilmot says.

Offshore Accounts

Mitt Romney might not see anything wrong with putting his money into offshore investment holdings to avoid US taxes, but he hasn’t been especially keen on letting the public know how much he’s done it. According to a recent story by the Associated Press, Romney failed to include more than 20 investment holdings on his federal financial disclosure reports. Of those, at least seven were in foreign countries.

The only reason the public knows about these financial instruments now is that Romney, under duress, finally released his 2010 tax returns, which showed the existence of dozens of investments, many of which were never included on his state or federal disclosure forms. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 11:05 am

Posted in Business, Election, GOP, Law

Releasing tax returns: Will Congress require that of itself?

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I would say that Congress will probably not require members to release tax returns for much the same reason that Mitt Romney won’t release his: too much to hide. But it’s interesting to see how quickly strong outrage about the latter becomes defensiveness about the former. David Lightman reports for McClatchy:

Congressional leaders were defiant Thursday that Capitol Hill lawmakers should not release their tax returns – even as Democrats kept demanding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney release his.

“When I run for president of the United States, you can hold me to that standard,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who refuses to disclose her returns, told reporters during a tense news conference.

A day after McClatchy reported that most members of Congress refused repeated requests to release their tax returns, Pelosi talked at some length about why Romney, who has released 2010 returns and says he will release 2011 data when it’s ready, should release even more returns.

“If you release them you tell a story,” she said. “If you don’t release them you leave it up to the imagination of anybody who wants to talk about it to talk about it.”

But she reacted testily when asked whether she and members of Congress should abide by such rules.

“There are no rules. There are no rules. There’s no rule about releasing his tax return, so what rules are you referring to?” she asked, growing clearly frustrated. Asked about the standard she had cited for a presidential candidate, Pelosi said, “It’s up to the American people. The American people are the judges of that.”

After being questioned about why her demand for more transparency from Romney shouldn’t apply to Congress as well, she briefly changed course and said the issue of tax returns was not important.

“The tradition that was honored by this same person’s father,” Pelosi said, recalling how George Romney released his returns when he ran for president in 1968. “Now I’m not here, this is not important to me, let me say this: What’s important to me are jobs and the rest,” Pelosi said.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had a terse response. “I’ve never released my tax returns. That’s my private business, just like it’s your own private business,” he told a news conference.

Boehner called the furor over returns a “sideshow . . . the American people are asking the question where are the jobs. They’re not asking where are the tax returns.”

Over the last three months, McClatchy asked all members of Congress to provide their tax data. Seventeen gave their returns, or provided similar documentation of their tax liabilities. Nineteen including Pelosi would not disclose returns. Most did not respond.

Moves were afoot Thursday to increase disclosure, but not necessarily for members of Congress. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, is preparing legislation requiring presidential candidates to disclose 10 years of returns. He is studying whether to include members of Congress and congressional candidates. Levin’s Website features five years of his tax returns.

In the Senate, Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., want all members of Congress, candidates for federal office and any federal employee to file disclosure forms to report annually on a financial interest in a country considered a tax haven.

Lawmakers now must annually file financial disclosure forms, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 11:00 am

Posted in Congress

Is this action by the Border Patrol tantamount to murder?

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The above photo is from a hidden camera set up by the group No More Deaths. It shows Border Patrol agents destroying water left in the desert for migrants to drink. The video will be broadcast tonight on the PBS show “Need to Know.” The story, by John Carlos Frey, is in Salon and begins:

The bodies have been turning up for years, thousands of them, scattered across the borderlands in the American Southwest. Ever-stricter border enforcement has encouraged migrants to avoid cities like San Diego and El Paso and take their chances at remote desert crossings instead. As they trek across the vast, unfamiliar and scorching terrain, many get disoriented and run out of water, with devastating consequences. So far this year, 94 bodies have been recovered in Arizona alone.

Since 2004, a faith-based coalition called No More Deaths has been leaving gallon jugs of water near common migration routes in a desperate bid to save lives. But in May of this year, just as temperatures in the harsh Sonoran Desert climbed above 100 degrees, the group’s volunteers began to notice that their water bottles were being slashed, destroyed or emptied. With violence from ranchers and vigilantes a constant threat, No More Deaths installed hidden cameras. They were surprised at what they found: Border Patrol agents were purposely, even gleefully, destroying the life-saving jugs of water.

Visible on the tape, which will be broadcast for the first time tonight on the PBS show “Need to Know,” are three Border Patrol agents, two men and a woman, walking along a migrant trail and approaching half a dozen one-gallon jugs of water. The female agent stops in front of the containers and begins to kick them, with force, down a ravine. The bottles crash against rocks, bursting open. She’s smiling. One of the agents watching her smiles as well, seeming to take real pleasure in the spectacle. He says something under his breath, and the word “tonk” is clearly audible. “Tonk,” it turns out, is a bit of derogatory slang used by some Border Patrol agents to refer to undocumented immigrants. One agent told me it’s derived from the sound a flashlight makes when you hit someone over the head — tonk. After destroying the entire water supply, the three agents continue along the path.

(In response to specific questions about these events, Border Patrol officials replied only with a general statement emphasizing that misconduct would not be tolerated and that agents were trained to treat migrants with dignity and respect.)

The event was not an anomaly. A volunteer with No More Deaths had complained several months earlier to Lisa Reed, community liaison for the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, that water was being destroyed by agents. Reed responded then with an email saying, “I am preparing a memo from the Chief to all the agents directing them to leave water alone.” The agents on the tape apparently either never got the memo — or simply ignored it.

This attitude extends into the Border Patrol’s holding facilities.

I met Demetrio, a migrant in his early 20s from Veracruz, Mexico, after he was apprehended by the Border Patrol. At the time of his capture, he’d been lost in the Arizona desert without food or water for three days. When he arrived at the Border Patrol custody facility outside Tucson, he told agents he felt sick and was running a fever. “I asked to see a doctor … and they said no,” Demetrio said. “One of them said, ‘Put him in there and let him die.’” They shoved him into an overcrowded cell. He was vomiting blood and felt so faint he could barely stand. Yet, according to Demetrio, he was not given any food or water for at least six to seven hours.

Border Patrol protocol requires agents to provide detainees with food, drinking water and emergency medical services, to hold them under humane conditions, and to refrain from making degrading remarks, but this is rarely honored in practice, say human rights advocates. . .

Continue reading. If this were being done by law-enforcement personnel in another country, how would we react? How, indeed, does the public react to such actions in this country? Those Border Patrol agents know that they will suffer no censure or punishment for their actions, and they may even be encouraged to do such things: it sounds as though the organization has developed a mindset that infects all agents, not just those in the field, as shown by what is done at the holding facilities. The problem with this law-enforcement mindset is that it tends to spread: the “us” against “them” develops to the point where “us” applies only to law-enforcement personnel, and “them” applies to everyone else, including you and me. We’ve seen that in many other countries, and it seems to have taken root here as well—cf. Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s actions against Latinos (including US citizens) and his baseless lawsuits against critics (including a Republican member of the Board of Supervisors, a judge, and others).

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 10:47 am

Posted in Government, Law

Avoidable patient deaths in hospitals

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In the 10 December 2007 issue of the New Yorker, Atul Gawande had an extremely interesting and informative article on the importance and effectiveness of checklists in hospitals. In the body of the article, he provides an illustrative story and a medical application:

. . . On October 30, 1935, at Wright Air Field in Dayton, Ohio, the U.S. Army Air Corps held a flight competition for airplane manufacturers vying to build its next-generation long-range bomber. It wasn’t supposed to be much of a competition. In early evaluations, the Boeing Corporation’s gleaming aluminum-alloy Model 299 had trounced the designs of Martin and Douglas. Boeing’s plane could carry five times as many bombs as the Army had requested; it could fly faster than previous bombers, and almost twice as far. A Seattle newspaperman who had glimpsed the plane called it the “flying fortress,” and the name stuck. The flight “competition,” according to the military historian Phillip Meilinger, was regarded as a mere formality. The Army planned to order at least sixty-five of the aircraft.

A small crowd of Army brass and manufacturing executives watched as the Model 299 test plane taxied onto the runway. It was sleek and impressive, with a hundred-and-three-foot wingspan and four engines jutting out from the wings, rather than the usual two. The plane roared down the tarmac, lifted off smoothly, and climbed sharply to three hundred feet. Then it stalled, turned on one wing, and crashed in a fiery explosion. Two of the five crew members died, including the pilot, Major Ployer P. Hill.

An investigation revealed that nothing mechanical had gone wrong. The crash had been due to “pilot error,” the report said. Substantially more complex than previous aircraft, the new plane required the pilot to attend to the four engines, a retractable landing gear, new wing flaps, electric trim tabs that needed adjustment to maintain control at different airspeeds, and constant-speed propellers whose pitch had to be regulated with hydraulic controls, among other features. While doing all this, Hill had forgotten to release a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls. The Boeing model was deemed, as a newspaper put it, “too much airplane for one man to fly.” The Army Air Corps declared Douglas’s smaller design the winner. Boeing nearly went bankrupt.

Still, the Army purchased a few aircraft from Boeing as test planes, and some insiders remained convinced that the aircraft was flyable. So a group of test pilots got together and considered what to do.

They could have required Model 299 pilots to undergo more training. But it was hard to imagine having more experience and expertise than Major Hill, who had been the U.S. Army Air Corps’ chief of flight testing. Instead, they came up with an ingeniously simple approach: they created a pilot’s checklist, with step-by-step checks for takeoff, flight, landing, and taxiing. Its mere existence indicated how far aeronautics had advanced. In the early years of flight, getting an aircraft into the air might have been nerve-racking, but it was hardly complex. Using a checklist for takeoff would no more have occurred to a pilot than to a driver backing a car out of the garage. But this new plane was too complicated to be left to the memory of any pilot, however expert.

With the checklist in hand, the pilots went on to fly the Model 299 a total of 1.8 million miles without one accident. The Army ultimately ordered almost thirteen thousand of the aircraft, which it dubbed the B-17. And, because flying the behemoth was now possible, the Army gained a decisive air advantage in the Second World War which enabled its devastating bombing campaign across Nazi Germany.

Medicine today has entered its B-17 phase. Substantial parts of what hospitals do—most notably, intensive care—are now too complex for clinicians to carry them out reliably from memory alone. I.C.U. life support has become too much medicine for one person to fly.

Yet it’s far from obvious that something as simple as a checklist could be of much help in medical care. Sick people are phenomenally more various than airplanes. A study of forty-one thousand trauma patients—just trauma patients—found that they had 1,224 different injury-related diagnoses in 32,261 unique combinations for teams to attend to. That’s like having 32,261 kinds of airplane to land. Mapping out the proper steps for each is not possible, and physicians have been skeptical that a piece of paper with a bunch of little boxes would improve matters much.

In 2001, though, a critical-care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital named Peter Pronovost decided to give it a try. He didn’t attempt to make the checklist cover everything; he designed it to tackle just one problem, the one that nearly killed Anthony DeFilippo: line infections. On a sheet of plain paper, he plotted out the steps to take in order to avoid infections when putting a line in. Doctors are supposed to (1) wash their hands with soap, (2) clean the patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic, (3) put sterile drapes over the entire patient, (4) wear a sterile mask, hat, gown, and gloves, and (5) put a sterile dressing over the catheter site once the line is in. Check, check, check, check, check. These steps are no-brainers; they have been known and taught for years. So it seemed silly to make a checklist just for them. Still, Pronovost asked the nurses in his I.C.U. to observe the doctors for a month as they put lines into patients, and record how often they completed each step. In more than a third of patients, they skipped at least one.

The next month, he and his team persuaded the hospital administration to authorize nurses to stop doctors if they saw them skipping a step on the checklist; nurses were also to ask them each day whether any lines ought to be removed, so as not to leave them in longer than necessary. This was revolutionary. Nurses have always had their ways of nudging a doctor into doing the right thing, ranging from the gentle reminder (“Um, did you forget to put on your mask, doctor?”) to more forceful methods (I’ve had a nurse bodycheck me when she thought I hadn’t put enough drapes on a patient). But many nurses aren’t sure whether this is their place, or whether a given step is worth a confrontation. (Does it really matter whether a patient’s legs are draped for a line going into the chest?) The new rule made it clear: if doctors didn’t follow every step on the checklist, the nurses would have backup from the administration to intervene.

Pronovost and his colleagues monitored what happened for a year afterward. The results were so dramatic that they weren’t sure whether to believe them: the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven per cent to zero. So they followed patients for fifteen more months. Only two line infections occurred during the entire period. They calculated that, in this one hospital, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths, and saved two million dollars in costs. . .

I strongly encourage you to read the entire article: the whole thing is fascinating. He shows the need for checklists, their development, and the strong resistance hospitals have shown to using them, with results such as the recent death of the 12-year-old boy in New York.

ProPublica’s Tracy Weber, Charles Ornstein, and Marshall Allen have discovered recent examples of hospital failures in basic care, and they are beginning a project to document and report on this area of healthcare in the US:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 10:19 am

Fine shave from inexpensive razor

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A fine shave today from the “all-metal” safety razor. But first: At a reader’s suggestion, I tried a Noble brush, and it works quite well. While not silvertip, it was comfortable and ginned up a lather from Honeybee Soaps Piña Colada shaving soap—a very pleasant fragrance and great lather—with no problems.

I cannot recall the name or link for this razor and could not readily locate it on Amazon, where I bought it in a blister pack. It was under $6, as I recall. It’s quite lightweight, so the shaver must supply the pressure, but with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade, I got a fine shave in three passes. I’m still not sure about this as a beginner razor, though: the head may be tricky for the novice, and the lack of weight may throw the novice off stride, leading to overcorrecting on pressure.

A splash of Acqua di Parma, and I’m off to get some groceries.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2012 at 9:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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