Later On

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

Archive for August 22nd, 2012

Assisted dying

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Terry Prachett, the science-fiction writer, has been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and he is working to change laws to something like the “Death with Dignity” laws now in effect in Washington and Oregon, which I blogged recently. A reader passes along a video Prachett helped make:

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 9:26 am

The importance of the no-bites rule

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An interesting article by Matt Richtel in the NY Times reminded me of why I instituted the no-bites rule: that food can enter my mouth only when I am eating a meal (or having a piece of fruit mid-morning or mid-afternoon). Other than those times, only water or tea: no foods.

My reason for instituting the rule was that after dinner I was taking “just a bite” of leftovers—but doing that each time I was in the kitchen, so that (in effect) I was eating two dinners each evening. Richtel describes the same sort of thing:

They sit there, five little pasta shells, nestled in a shallow bath of melted butter and Parmesan: the remains of dinner for my toddler son and daughter. I cannot help myself. I reach over, grab the pink plastic bowl and scoop a bite into my mouth. At that moment, I realize something has gone terribly wrong.

A decade ago, my cholesterol hit two-alarm levels, and several doctors encouraged me to adopt a healthier diet. I purged the salami and hot dogs from the fridge and learned to love egg whites and low-fat cheese. Still, my cholesterol edged up. I redoubled my discipline.

But now there are two small people whose tastes skew the dinner and snack menus: buttery cheese and fatty salami, pasta, salty hot dogs, French fries, Goldfish crackers. None are daily staples, but they are hardly strangers.

It’s in the middle of shoving the rest of the pasta shells into my mouth that I realize how far I’ve backslid. I play garbage pail at dinner (proudly, hate to waste that extra bite), and when I’m making a good-night snack for one of my kids, I usually make one more for myself. A few days ago, I considered eating a piece of mozzarella my daughter had dropped. Onto the pavement. At the zoo. . .

Continue reading. “No bites” at least confines food intake to the actual meal (and the two snacks). The next step then is to control the amount of food in the actual meal.

“No bites” is much easier than trying to (say) “eat moderately.” An absolute prohibition is easier to follow since the line is so clearly drawn. And knowing that you won’t take a bite except at meals means that you are freed from having to decide whether this particular bite (of a sample at the supermarket, for example) is okay or not: if it’s a bite of food, don’t put it in your mouth. Much easier decision than trying to decide whether the little sample cup of tuna salad or whatever is “okay.” Or whether 5 pasta shells is okay, or 3, or 1… “No bites” means “no bites.” Easy decision.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 9:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Eating eggs

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I have an egg each morning, over easy, atop my hot breakfast cereal (a savory mix: right now 2 Tbsp each of chia seed, flaxseed, and rolled oats, plus a few grindings of black pepper, 2 tsp turmeric, 1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses, about 2 Tbsp of homemade pepper sauce, 1/3 cup oat bran, all cooked in 1 cup water).

So I naturally found this note on a recent study of eggs and arterial health of interest. If you enjoy eggs, you also will find the note useful.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:58 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Salmon GOPM

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The Wife liked this one—and as you see, she’s currently fond of Brussels sprouts.

Layers in 2-qt Dutch oven (I used 2.25-qt Staub round cocotte), from the bottom:

Spring onion – this one was large, so I used half the bulb, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup converted rice
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
9 oz salmon, cut into chunks. I used sockeye.
1 diced organic lemon (I cut off the ends, then diced the whole lemon, including skin)
2 sliced Roma tomatoes (enough to make a layer)
freshly ground black pepper
12-14 Kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 large zucchini, diced
Sliced Brussels sprouts to fill pot

2 Tbsp Bragg’s vinaigrette
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp smoked paprika

Cover, put in 450ºF oven for 45 minutes. Two or three meals.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM, Recipes

Interesting idea: A Transparency Index for science journals

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Some previous posts have commented on problems with scientific papers published in various journals—problems that led to papers being retracted or experiments that could not be replicated. Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky offer an interesting proposal in The Scientist: creating a Transparency Index for journals so that the overall process will become more reliable. They begin:

Scientists are universally familiar with the Impact Factor, even if they’re often frustrated with how it can be manipulated and misused. More recently, Ferric Fang and Arturo Casadevall have introduced the idea of the Retraction Index, a measure of how many papers journals retract for every 1,000 they publish. As science journalists who have spent the last 2 years closely monitoring retractions, we think this is a great idea.

Last year, in a post on our blog Retraction Watch, we recommended that journals publicize their Retraction Indices just as they trumpet their Impact Factors. It’s unlikely many will take us up on the suggestion, but we’ll go once more into the breach anyway and suggest another metric of journal performance: the Transparency Index.

Regardless of what metric scientists use to rank journals, one of the reasons they read the top-ranked journals is their sense that the information is reliable. We believe, and we’re not alone here, that journals become more trustworthy when they are open about not only their successes, but also their failures.

We understand—in theory, at least—why some journals and editors might be reluctant to share the details of a retraction with their readers. Sometimes the problems involve shoddy reviews, failure to check a manuscript for evidence of plagiarism or duplicate publication, or other avoidable mistakes.

But lack of transparency serves only to reinforce a sense of incompetence. Journals and editors willing to pull aside the curtain to show readers what went wrong with a particular article or group of articles send the messages that 1) they care about conveying truth to their audiences; 2) they are committed to producing a high-quality publication; and 3) potential fraudsters are not welcome in their pages.

Our hope is to turn the above criteria into a numerical metric that can give authors and readers a sense of a journal’s transparency. How much can they trust what’s in its pages? Help us refine . . .

Continue reading to see some factors that might be used to create the Transparency Index.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:27 am

Posted in Science

Another source of trouble for our food supply

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It’s strange how much we abuse our food sources. Obviously global warming will take a severe toll, and the huge amounts of toxins (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides) with which we deluge our crops and lands—think of the accumulated total over decades—undoubtedly has some environmental impacts. And now, according to recent studies, nanoparticles from pollution degrade crops measurably. Given the degree to which our lives depend on food, this mistreatment seems ill-advised, to say the least.

Janet Raloff reports in Science News:

Nanoscale pollutants can enter crop roots, triggering a host of changes to plants’ growth and health, two studies find. These tiny particles can stunt plant growth, boost the plants’ absorption of pollutants, and increase the need for crop fertilizers.

Nanomaterials that get released in the exhaust from diesel-fueled tractors can rain down onto crop fields. Those used in fabrics, sunscreens and other products collect in the solids separated out of sewage and wastewater — nutrient-rich solids that are routinely spread on U.S. fields to improve soils. The new studies offer a glimpse at the toxic effects such nanoparticles may pose to future crops as exposures rise.

The new data now “forewarn of agriculturally associated human and environmental risks from the accelerating use of manufactured nanomaterials,” Patricia Holden of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her colleagues report in one of the studies, published online August 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Manufacturers have been turning to nanoparticles in recent years because they perform differently than larger-scale versions of the same product, notes Jason White of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. If nanoscale materials behave differently, both chemically and physically, he asks, “Why should we have assumed they’d behave the same biologically?”

To study the impact of such materials on crops, Holden’s team . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:20 am

Proactive security check

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I’ve mentioned before the site, which will let you know whether your email address has appeared in any list of security compromises. (Because companies suffer no penalties if their files of logons—email addresses with associated passwords are hacked—they do not take any great pains to have rigorous security to protect those, so we routinely read of hundreds of thousands of passwords being copied.)

You can enter your email address at the link and the site will tell you if that email address appears in any list of compromised logins. You then can set about changing passwords as needed.

(I should also point out that if you use LastPass, among the Tools that site offers is an extremely useful and good Security Check, which is an eye-opener to run.)

The point of this post is that now offers to proactively notify you if your email shows up in one of the hacked lists, rather than your having to go there to check. This plan is called Email Watchdog and it’s free if you have only a few email addresses to watch. More information at the link.

UPDATE: Strange: cannot log into my account there, even when I reset the password. Avoid for now: possibly start-up problems.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

The Vie-Long and the Feather AS

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I used the Vie-Long brush again because I wanted to see what it was like if I let it soak while I showered. It was indeed somewhat softer, but I do think that, if it is a boar brush, it’s a peculiar one: finer bristles than I associate with boar. But whatever: it’s a terrific brush at a low price ($15 from BullgooseShaving). I can use it quite happily unsoaked, as well.

The lather was excellent—Trumper’s Coconut Oil shaving soap is quite nice.

I used the Feather this morning because I got a query from someone who found that the Feather All-Stainless (AS) model shown was not cutting his beard well. My initial thought was that he was using too shallow an angle, but it may have been the blade. I have always used a Feather blade in this razor—it comes with a pack of those blades—and find that blade, which can be problematic for me in other razors, a highly efficient pussycat in this razor. That is, it is quite comfortable and not at all prone to nick, but it removes stubble with awesome efficiency.

The razor this morning has a Kai blade, which I tried in response to another reader problem, discussed a few shaves back, but I got the same comfort and efficiency. The man with the non-cutting Feather, however, was using a Super Iridium blade; I suggested that he try the razor with a Feather blade. I’m not sure that will solve the problem—it may still be a matter of angle—but certainly I confirmed again this morning that this razor is both comfortable and highly efficient, at least for me (and others): a perfectly smooth finish, with the third pass almost superfluous.

A little bit of Trumper’s Coral Skin Food, and I’m ready to tackle the storage room today.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2012 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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