Later On

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

Archive for July 25th, 2012

Who knew? Toothpowder still around and well-liked

with 3 comments

I had no idea. I think I have to try some. When I was a kid, we used Py-Co-Pay toothpowder. But that’s been gone for years.

pycopay

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good example of a law that’s needed: EMV credit-card security

leave a comment »

Kevin Hall reports for McClatchy:

At a bustling H&M clothing store in Toronto’s chic downtown area, Canadian shoppers rack up purchases on their debit and credit cards, unaware that they’re getting a level of protection that U.S. consumers lack.

Canadian consumers are issued credit and debit cards that have embedded chip technology, shorthanded as EMV, which provides them a greater layer of security. The chips make it difficult for criminal rings to fabricate counterfeit cards or traffic in stolen cards.

“There’s no question that chip-and-PIN is a much safer technology than signature-based cards, which are a lot easier to replicate,” said Diane Brisebois, the president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada, the national trade group for retailers.

Canada’s consumer protection is all the more striking given that the United States generated about 27 percent of payment-card purchases yet accounted for 47 percent of global payment-card fraud, the industry newsletter The Nilson Report said last November.

Why is fraud in the United States, which amounted to more than $3.56 billion in losses in 2010, so high? The report and retailers point to the relatively sparse use of the EMV technology, named for the big companies Europay, MasterCard and Visa.

EMV’s embedded chips foil counterfeiters because the chips transmit different unique numbers to the payment processors each time the cards are used rather than customers’ name and signatures. In Canada, the chips are paired with personal identification numbers to add another level of security

The chip cards also aren’t as exposed to data breaches since names aren’t transmitted and thus aren’t in the pool of data that computer hackers often seek. Armed with names and card numbers, organized crime rings can create counterfeit credit and debit cards for use anywhere in the world.

When Americans travel to Toronto or other Canadian cities, their cards still work. But Canadian retailers . . .

Continue reading.

Congress could easily pass a law requiring this protection. Why doesn’t it? I would imagine because banks simply don’t want them to, and (as you’ve doubtless noticed) Congress pretty much toes the line on what banks demand.

Still: it would be interesting if we all emailed our Representative and asked that this credit-card technology be mandated for implementation within a few years. I’m going to, along with a link to the McClatchy story.

You can get your Representative’s email address by entering your ZIP code here. Then click the little “envelope” icon, and there you have it.

UPDATE: Here’s the note I sent Congressman Sam Farr:

See the story at the link below, reported in McClatchy newspapers, on how Canadian credit cards are protected by EMV chips:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/25/157721/us-slow-to-embrace-anti-fraud.html

The story reports that the US, with 27% of credit card purchases globally, has 47% of credit-card fraud—because in the US credit cards are not protected.

I ask that you pass legislation to require US credit cards to carry EMV chips.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 5:43 pm

Shaving soaps question

with 14 comments

I’m curious about whether my stash of shaving soaps is of any value to anyone. I have an enormous amount, many of them barely-used, purchased so I could test them in order to know from my own direct experience what I was writing in the shaving book. But I’m in the process of dispossessing my apartment of its clutter in preparation for an eventual move.

But there’s a problem with shaving soaps: individual sale of slightly-used soaps is too difficult, yet simply discarding them seems horribly wasteful. I’m thinking I might fill a Priority Mail flat-rate box with a selection of soaps at some low price—$3/tub or puck—and sell that as a “sight-unseen” deal. But would anyone be interested? The shipping would be $10.85 for the box. (I recently shipped a package Parcel Post and it came out to just over $11: it would have been money ahead to go with the Priority Mail flat rate. Thus the shipping choice here.)

When I get around to razors and brushes, those seem suitable for eBay, but approach doesn’t make sense for the soaps.

So: what do you think/advise?

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Shaving

What is the word for when police departments secretly spy and build dossiers on citizens who have done nothing wrong?

leave a comment »

Haven’t we seen this movie in other countries? The Associated Press has an article by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo:

He saw something. He said something. And he inadvertently uncovered a secret spying operation that the New York Police Department was running outside its jurisdiction.

In June 2009, a building superintendent at an apartment complex near the Rutgers University campus opened the door to unit 1076 to conduct an inspection. Tenants had been notified of the inspection weeks ago and the notice was still stuck to the door.

He turned his key, walked in and immediately knew something was wrong. A colleague called 911.

“What’s suspicious?” a New Brunswick police dispatcher asked.

“Suspicious in the sense that the apartment has about – has no furniture except two beds, has no clothing, has New York City Police Department radios,” he replied.

“Really?” the dispatcher asked, her voice rising with surprise.

The caller, Salil Sheth, and his colleagues had stumbled upon one of the NYPD’s biggest secrets: a safe house, a place where undercover officers working well outside the department’s jurisdiction could lie low and coordinate surveillance.

Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD, with training and guidance from the CIA, has monitored the activities of Muslims in New York and far beyond. Detectives infiltrated mosques, eavesdropped in cafes and kept tabs on Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers.

The NYPD kept files on sermons, recorded the names of political organizers in police documents, and built databases of where Muslims lived and shopped, even where they were likely to gather to watch sports. Out-of-state operations, like the one in New Brunswick, were one aspect of this larger intelligence-gathering effort.

The Associated Press previously described the discovery of the NYPD inside the New Jersey apartment but, after a yearlong fight, New Brunswick police released the tape of the 911 call and other materials this week.

“There’s computer hardware, software, you know, just laying around,” Sheth continued. “There’s pictures of terrorists. There’s pictures of our neighboring building that they have.”

“In New Brunswick?” the dispatcher asked, sounding as confused as the caller.

New York authorities have encouraged people like Sheth to call 911. In its “Eight Signs of Terrorism,” people are encouraged to call the police if they see evidence of surveillance, information gathering, suspicious activities or anything that looks out of place. The Homeland Security Department has long encouraged citizens to be vigilant under its “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

The call from the building superintendent sent New Brunswick police and the FBI rushing to the apartment complex. Officers and agents were surprised at what they found. None had been told that the NYPD was in town. . .

Continue reading.

This operation and this sort of activity seems clearly illegal and unconstitutional to me. I wonder if any sanctions or punishments were applied—for example, how many lost their job over this? (My guess: zero. For one thing, note the 3-year fight to keep the entire incident a secret. And how the operations switches from a police operation (so it must be kept secret) to not a police operation (so it’s okay to do it outside their jurisdiction. The entire operation was done in bad faith.)

We have come to this: police departments deploying their own covert operations in other states (note in the rest of the story: as far away as New Orleans). I do not believe that this is a sensible use of tax dollars.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 11:14 am

Posted in Government, Law

Harry James: Don’t Be That Way

leave a comment »

A signature tune for James with Buddy Rich on drums. Via 30sJazz.com:

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 9:59 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

The Story of Change

leave a comment »

Annie Leonard, already well known for her fascinating video The Story of Stuff (21 very worthwhile minutes), has created a 6-minute video that is equally good: The Story of Change—and change we must:

I was struck by a comment on YouTube:

Great video … but I really can’t share it. It’s too long. The people whom we must convince to take action are busy, and aren’t likely to commit 6 minutes to a video. (At least the people to whom I am connected.) Perhaps we can edit these ideas into smaller videos.

This puts a serious limit on the depth of public discussion: one can go only so deep into any subject when relying purely on sound-bites. Analysis requires more, I believe. I’m not contradicting the comment, I’m just pointing out how that restriction limits what can be done.

If you like Ms. Leonard’s work, she has other videos—take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 9:35 am

Not knowing what you’re feeling

leave a comment »

I happened to note a particular passage in a book I mention from time to time: Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious:

At the beginning of the chapter I mentioned a standard view of the adaptive unconscious: it consists of a vast array of mental processes that can result in feelings, which emerge into consciousness. Imagine a compact disc player that can be programmed to search for and play various kinds of musical selections. The hardware and software that find and play the music operates out of view; but the end product—the sweet melody of an early Beatles song, say—is what we hear (what reaches awareness). Similarly, mental selection and interpretation can be non-conscious, but the feelings they produce are conscious.

In contrast, I have argued that even the products of the adaptive unconscious—the melody itself—can fail to reach consciousness. Nonetheless, I think that feelings differ from the rest of the adaptive unconscious in their potential to reach awareness. … Under some circumstances, however, people are aware of the feelings they produce.

It might even be the case that the default is for feelings to emerge into awareness, and that it take special circumstances to prevent them from doing so. We have seen three such circumstances. The first is repression, whereby forces are brought into play to hide a threatening feeling (as in the case of homophobia). The second is inattention, or the failure to notice that a feeling has changed (as in Carpenter’s example of falling in love). The third is the obscuring of feelings by the smoke screen of people’s conscious theories and confabulations. People fail to recognize a feeling or evaluation if it conflicts with a cultural feeling rule (“people love their ponies,” “my wedding day will be the happiest time of my life”), a personal standard (“I am not prejudiced at all toward African Americans”), or conscious theories and inferences about how one feels (“I must love him because he conforms to my idea of Mr. Right”).

He goes on to say that, as we observe, we generally do recognize our feelings and their causes, but that failure to recognize some feelings is probably not all that rare. It occurs to me that some of that lack of recognition is also due to misdirection, as when a magician (the unconscious) focuses our attention in the wrong direction to hide what is actually happening: we see this in maladaptive responses to situations/feelings.

It’s a fascinating book, at least to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 9:20 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Fox guarding the henhouse in the banking industry

leave a comment »

Pam Martens has an interesting column in Wall Street on Parade today:

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s statement to Congress last week that the process for setting Libor is “structurally flawed” may live in infamy as the understatement of this financial era.

According to documents available on the British Bankers Association’s web site, just 90 days before Barclays was charged with rigging Libor and fined $453 million by U.S. and U.K. regulators, it had been appointed to a steering committee to oversee the integrity of Libor.

LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, is the benchmark interest rate set each business day, in 10 currencies and 15 maturities. It is supposed to represent the actual rate at which banks are borrowing from each other.  The rate is used as an index to set approximately $10 trillion in consumer loans, including adjustable rate mortgages, credit card debt and student loans in the U.S.  It also impacts the rate of interest received by municipalities, pensions, and corporations around the world on hundreds of trillions of dollars in interest rate swaps. Financial institutions peg their interest rates on notes they issue to Libor as well and it impacts trillions in exchange traded derivatives.

On March 28 of this year, the BBA announced that a Libor review was being conducted to consider three areas: “The financial instruments included for the purposes of defining the rate; a rigorous code of requirements for all contributors; and strengthening the statistical underpinning of the contributions.”

Conducting the review would be a steering group to “include Barclays, . . . “

Continue reading. There’s more. The fact that Barclays leads the list of the steering group is an artifact of alphabetic listing, but there’s still a lot of meat in the article. From further down in the article:

Up to now, the public had been led to believe that the British Bankers Association (BBA), a  trade association of international banks, was overseeing the setting of Libor. As bad as that sounds, the reality is even worse. . .

And a related story in the NY Times by Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg: New York Fed Faces Questions Over Policing Wall Street. And, of course, Timothy Geithner, former head of the NY Fed, is now our Secretary of Treasury, where he oversees much more. The tentacles extend in all directions.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 8:22 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

FLAC -> MP3

leave a comment »

I belatedly realized that a bunch of music tracks I transferred from my Windows machine to my MacBook were in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) format—high fidelity, but also about 5-6 times larger: 13MB instead of 3-4MB, for example. This makes them too large for convenient loading to an MP3 player, so I cast about for a solution and found the free special-purpose Mac program All2MP3. The program converts MPC, APE, WV, FLAC, OGG, WMA, AIFF and WAV to the MP3 format. It has no controls, really: you highlight the programs in Finder (a search of “All files” for “.flac” will display all the .FLAC files), then drag them to the All2MP3 window. It loads them and awaits your command. You cannot change the bitrate option—at least not if converting FLAC to MP3: it converts at a high bitrate setting, appropriately enough. You can have it trash the FLAC files on completion, which I did after my first tentative batch and it worked fine.

So now all my former FLAC files are in MP3 format, taking up much less space and perfectly fine for the sort of listening that I do. Installation of All2MP3 is quite simple: you don’t have to drag an icon to the Apps folder, it simply installs itself. It exits completely when you close it, unlike other Mac apps (because, I believe, it’s simply a script), so to keep it, I first dragged the icon on the dock to the Apps folder. Now it sticks around in case I have other files I need to convert—I’m pretty sure I have some in .OGG format.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 7:26 am

Posted in Software

An artisanal lavender shave

with 5 comments

Mostly artisanal products this morning. First, the Whipped Dog ceramic-handled silvertip brush and Mystic Waters shaving soap. A couple of things I noted this morning: I really like the look and feel of the handle, but ceramic is indeed slippery when wet and soapy (no surprise: so is everything), so a certain amount of care must be exercised. Simply rinsing the handle works, or one can use the alum-block trick: brushing wet fingertips across the block to enable a secure grip—which also readies that hand for skin-stretching in the shave. The brush lost 3-4 hairs in this shave, which I think is its second or third: normal.

Also, for some reason the lather was short lived in the first pass. It may be that I didn’t load the brush long enough, but I’m going to try a different Mystic Water soap to see whether this is a peculiarity of this variety. It wasn’t a real problem: I simply reloaded the brush prior to the second pass, and all went well.

The Gillette Slim Handle with an Astra Keramik Platinum blade did a terrific job: three very pleasant passes to a smooth face, and then a splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Bulgarian Lavender as a finish. The feel of the Saint Charles Shave splashes is quite nice and unlike other splashes: a kind of smooth almost powdery drydown.

Altogether a fine start to the morning.

I’m thinking of moving shaving-related posts to a new blog, whose focus would exclusively be shaving. Your thoughts are welcome.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2012 at 7:13 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: