Later On

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

Archive for November 2nd, 2012

New glasses from Zenni Optical

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I just got my new glasses from Zenni Optical. (Cool Tools review here.)

The glasses are very comfortable right out of the box. The  clip-on sunglass thing is no good, but it was just $3.95. Total cost was $52.75, including shipping—without the (optional) clip-ons, $48.80. Progressive lenses, anti-reflective coating, hydrophobic coating (makes them easier to clean and more likely to stay clean), spring-back temples (with spring in temple to keep it adjusted). I think they’re a bargain, though now I must relearn how to tilt my head for computer and book reading.

I took advantage of uploading a photo of me (taken with Photo Booth on my MacBook) so I could “try on” the various frames—i.e., see how they would look on me. I received a little device to simplify measuring the interpupilary distance, which one needs to place an order: after the fact for this order, but doubtless useful in the future. I just go the distance from my optician. They would probably send the device (a cardboard thingy) free if you ask.



Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Daily life

A modest proposal regarding turn signals

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I am just back from a brief shopping trip, during which I don’t believe I saw any vehicle signal a turn. I got to thinking. Cars now are replete with computers and connections, so events can be triggered by the state of the car. I suggest that the steering wheel be modified so that if the cars turns and no turn signal is activated, the driver receive a short, sharp shock. This may cause a temporary spike in the popularity of driving gloves, but perhaps enough people will be influenced so that signaling turns would become the norm instead of the rare exception.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 11:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Priuses for power

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Via The Eldest, a note from one of her students in New Jersey:

Interesting thing about the power outage though – my dad used his Prius as a generator. It was amazing – Toyota should use that in their marketing materials! We just used it to power the refrigerator, freezer, and a couple of power strips (for phones, etc.). But we only used 3 gallons of gas! We plugged in to the battery, and every time it started to wear down, the engine would pop on to juice it back up again. It was a very energy-efficient (and quiet) way to keep the important things going over the last couple of days!”

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Gingers more prone to skin cancer

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Bad news for the red-headed. Jef Akst notes in The Scientist:

Fair-skinned redheads are at a higher risk of sunburn, which at first blush seems like it might explain their higher risk of developing skin cancer and premature skin aging. But according to a study published this week (October 31) in Nature, that’s not the whole story. Instead, the version of melanin that gives gingers their unique coloring also plays an independent role in the development of melanoma.

“There is something about the redhead genetic background that is behaving in a carcinogenic fashion, independent of UV,” David Fisher, a cancer biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who led the study, told Nature. “It means that shielding from UV would not be enough.”

Non-redheads carry a darker form of melanin, called eumelanin, while those with lighter complexion and red hair carry a pigment known as pheomelanin, which is less protective against the sun’s damaging UV rays. To understand how these pigments, which differ by a single mutation in a gene called MC1R, affect one’s risk of developing skin cancer, Fisher and his colleagues investigated three different mouse models—one representing ginger complexion, one for olive-colored skin, and an albino group that totally lacked the enzyme to produce melanin. The researchers genetically engineered all three groups of mice to develop benign moles more readily, and quickly saw the gingers begin to develop melanomas—even before the researchers had a chance to expose the mice to UV light. With UV light apparently not a factor, the researchers concluded that the pheomelanin pigment itself—or the process of producing it—must be causing the melanomas.

However, the finding, while surprising and interesting, is probably not a common cause of skin cancer in people, Eugene Healy, a clinical dermatologist at the University of Southampton, UK, told Nature. Indeed, most human melanomas develop on sun-exposed areas of skin, Healy said. “You almost never see melanoma, for example, on the buttocks.”

“One of the most important messages from this is to avoid an assumption that this takes UV off the hook,” Fisher agreed, noting that one way UV radiation might promote skin cancer is by worsening pheomelanin’s carcinogenic ability.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 9:23 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

How poverty distorts thinking

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Indeed, extremes seem to distort thinking: the London Whale and those in other bastions of great wealth (I’m looking at you, Goldman Sachs) show equally distorted thinking. Aristotle’s wisdom in advocating moderation—the Golden Mean being the best course—seems particularly apposite.

The results of bad thinking induced by the extremes of wealth are all over the front pages of our newspapers. Here are some recent findings for the extreme of poverty, from Science News, reported by Bruce Bower:

Scarcity — of money, time, food or anything else — focuses the mind on immediate concerns and discourages taking a broader perspective. This “scarcity mindset” helps to explain why poor people often save too little and borrow too much, and it presents policy makers with an opening to encourage better financial decisions among low-income individuals, a new study concludes.

Some researchers, however, regard these findings as vague and far from ready for policy prime time. They suggest that the study’s lab-based results may have little relevance in the real world. And with a nod toward the recent financial meltdown, some note that inadequate saving by the poor ought to be of less concern than financial recklessness on the part of the wealthy.

When money is scarce, each current expense looms large and draws attention away from less pressing expenses, say psychologist Anuj Shah of the University of Chicago and his colleagues. For instance, poor people tend to focus on how to pay for groceries today while neglecting to budget for their next rent payment, the researchers propose in the Nov. 1 Science.

For the study, the group tested volunteers who received generous or limited amounts of time and numbers of tries on lab games. Participants, most in their late 20s and early 30s, were recruited from an online site for job seekers.

“Poor” players spent more time on each choice or action in a game, resulting in lower scores on tests of alertness afterward. Given the opportunity during games, these players borrowed a larger proportion of time or tries against their starting amounts than “rich” players did.

In one experiment, players received 15 seconds or 50 seconds of time per round in a trivia game. Each round consisted of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 9:07 am

The blackmail caucus

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Good column this morning by Paul Krugman:

If President Obama is re-elected, health care coverage will expand dramatically, taxes on the wealthy will go up and Wall Street will face tougher regulation. If Mitt Romney wins instead, health coverage will shrink substantially, taxes on the wealthy will fall to levels not seen in 80 years and financial regulation will be rolled back.

Given the starkness of this difference, you might have expected to see people from both sides of the political divide urging voters to cast their ballots based on the issues. Lately, however, I’ve seen a growing number of Romney supporters making a quite different argument. Vote for Mr. Romney, they say, because if he loses, Republicans will destroy the economy.

O.K., they don’t quite put it that way. The argument is phrased in terms of “partisan gridlock,” as if both parties were equally extreme. But they aren’t. This is, in reality, all about appeasing the hard men of the Republican Party.

If you want an example of what I’m talking about, consider the remarkable — in a bad way — editorial in which The Des Moines Register endorsed Mr. Romney. The paper acknowledged that Mr. Obama’s signature economic policy, the 2009 stimulus, was the right thing to do. It also acknowledged that Mr. Obama tried hard to reach out across the partisan divide, but was rebuffed.

Yet it endorsed his opponent anyway, offering some half-hearted support for Romneynomics, but mainly asserting that Mr. Romney would be able to work with Democrats in a way that Mr. Obama has not been able to work with Republicans. Why? Well, the paper claims — as many of those making this argument do — that, in office, Mr. Romney would be far more centrist than anything he has said in the campaign would indicate. (And the notion that he has been lying all along is supposed to be a point in his favor?) But mostly it just takes it for granted that Democrats would be more reasonable.

Is this a good argument?

The starting point for many “vote for Romney or else” statements is the notion that a re-elected President Obama wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything in his second term. What this misses is the fact that he has already accomplished a great deal, in the form of health reform and financial reform — reforms that will go into effect if, and only if, he is re-elected.

But would Mr. Obama be able to negotiate a Grand Bargain on the budget? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 8:53 am

Posted in Congress, Election

Marijuana prohibition hanging by a thread

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The trend toward decriminalization if not outright legalization of marijuana (regulated, taxed, and sold with restrictions much like alcohol) continues. Doug Fine has an excellent report in

Even though I’ve lived west of the Mississippi for half my life, the native New Yorker in me has always been dismissive of reports that my tax dollars are being used to fund black helicopters that are hassling Americans in defense of foreigners, or the UN, or something.

“We have a Constitution,” was my standard tavern line to tipsy ranchers in places like Deming, New Mexico. No Americans are getting invaded by men jumping out of helicopters, I argued. Then I spent a year on the front lines of the war on drugs.

While researching what a post-drug war economy might look like from the producer standpoint — a project spurred in part by the 2011 arrest of the town mayor near my New Mexico ranch on charges that he was a member of a Mexican cartel — I quickly learned to sleep through the roar of helicopter blades that essentially provides the summer soundtrack in American cannabis production country. These choppers are used to seize something like 1% of the domestic cannabis crop. Oh, and sometimes they’re black.

It’s loud and nearly constant, but 40 years of such expensive, constitutionally questionable, cartel-ignoring nonsense has hardly put a dent in supply or demand. How do we know this? Let’s quote the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2009 Domestic Cannabis Cultivation assessment: “The amount of marijuana available for distribution in the United States is unknown…Despite record-setting eradication efforts in the United States, the availability of marijuana remains relatively high, with limited disruption in supply or price.”

Regardless, your tax dollars and mine, by the billions, in a time of fiscal crisis, are going to arrest otherwise law-abiding Americans north of the border. As former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz and even Albert Einstein have pointed out (in 1921 during that early bout of nonsensical Prohibition) this further enriches the murderers south of the border by sustaining a prohibition economy. I don’t know how my neighboring cattle ranchers in the desert knew it, but they’re right: the war on drugs really is being fought for the benefit of foreigners.

Want an example? Just before he and his wife had their Mendocino County, California farm and medical cannabis cooperative destroyed by heavily armed and chainsaw-wielding Drug Enforcement Administration agents last October, a locally permitted, non-profit cannabis farmer and chamber of commerce member named Matt Cohen told me he was confident that he and his fellow American farmers (of America’s far and away number-one cash crop) were on the right side of history.

As we toured the field where his 99 man-sized plants wavered fragrantly in the breeze, the 33-year-old Cohen told me, “By the time alcohol Prohibition ended, on December 5, 1933, 23 states had already enacted laws regulating the alcohol industry.” Yep, he really knew the date. It was kind of his mantra.

In other words, before Congress was forced to wake up 80 years ago, enough states first decided that hysterical zealots telling people what they could or could not ingest was not the way to go, policy-wise. It was no way to run an economy (alcohol taxes at times had provided 70% of federal revenue prior to Prohibition). It was not even a good way to “think of the children,” as the screed still goes. When gangsters control an industry, they don’t ask to see ID. One hundred million Americans have used cannabis, including the last three presidents. “They shouldn’t have to be federal criminals,” Cohen told me last August.

Cohen was not a local criminal. Every plant on his farm wore an expensive, bright-yellow, local permitting “zip-tie” bracelet around its stalk. These represented participation in a new county program started because, in the words of Nobel Laureate free-market economist Milton Friedman in 1991, “Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords.”

True in 1933, true in 1991, true in 2012. With Connecticut’s new medical cannabis law, the latest but not the last, we’re at 17 states now unilaterally declaring peace in the drug war, and that number is going to keep growing (Massachusetts and Arkansas voters go to the polls on the issue in a couple of weeks on the medical side, and Coloradans, Oregonians and Washingtonians will be voting to fully end the drug war by regulating cannabis for adult social use). In fact, despite two recent polls showing a majority of Americans favor full — not just medicinal – marijuana legalization, it looks like the one-state-at-a-time model is going to be the one that ends the four-decade, ineffective, trillion-dollar war on cannabis.

That’s because the drug war issue is, in the words of former New Mexico Governor and current Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the issue of “greatest disconnect” between Americans and their leaders on the federal level.

What he means is, there is as yet almost no support in Congress, especially in the Senate, to get cannabis out of Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. This absurd classification means that officially the plant has no beneficial uses at all. Even cocaine and methamphetamine are in Schedule II. As the tired and wrong rhetoric about brains frying on drugs fades from the society’s zeitgeist, the taxpayer is coming to ask why.

Here’s what I discovered: . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more—and it’s telling.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 8:47 am

Posted in Drug laws, Government, Law

Teakwood and Rose—and a GOPM contest for free shaving soap

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Today’s shave was to test the Omega Bambino shown, which I used in yesterday’s shave with Mike’s Natural shave soap, having to return to the tub to refresh the lather for the third pass. I have that problem with Mike’s Natural soaps and this morning’s shave convinced me that the problem is not the brush: I loaded it with Strop Shoppe’s Special Edition Teakwood shave soap and had copious amounts of superb lather for all three passes. In a way, though, this is not a fair test, since the Strop Shop Special Edition shaving soap is among the very best soaps (if not the best) that I’ve tried. Still: there it is. I will try Mike’s Natural again, using the Rooney Finest brush and see whether I can load the brush sufficiently to get the lather to last. Based on my experience so far, though, I find this soap not fully satisfactory, though I know many like it. I’m hoping that some of those who do will try a side-by-side comparison with (say) this Strop Shoppe soap and let me know their impressions of how the two compare. For me, it’s no contest.

With my beard wonderfully lathered, the bakelite slant with an Astra Superior Platinum blade did its usual magic. What are we going to do when Italian Barber exhausts his stock of these? I can only hope that he (or someone) can commission Merkur to do a special run to replenish the supply. This really is one of the best razors going, regardless of price (and the price for these is modest).

To end the shave, a good splash of Saint Charles Shave Savory Rose. Again, the rose fragrance developed over several minutes, though I believe this must be a fragrance oil, based on the price. And, BTW, the notion “essential oil = good, fragrance oil = bad” is simply wrong: each type has its virtues, and selecting which to use depends on many factors. See, for example, this explanation.

I like the Savory Rose aftershave, but then I generally like Saint Charles Shave aftershaves: they’re just excellent and at reasonable prices. Give them a try. (She does sell samples.)

Now, the contest. When I published my review of Strop Shoppe’s Special Edition shave soap in Wicked_Edge, the proprietor offered to let me run a contest with the prize being the winner’s choice of a Special Edition shaving soap. This is that contest. Decision of the judge is final; offer void where prohibited by law; relatives of judge not eligible; etc.

I fairly often blog a recipe I made up for a Glorious One-Pot Meal (GOPM). Here is the most recent example, which I’ve edited to include a compete description of what exactly a GOPM is. Yarnell’s cookbook, referenced in that post, is likely to be available in your local library, and in any event the idea is simple. You can review all my GOPM posts to get an idea of how they work.

The contest: Add a comment to this post that contains a GOPM recipe in the usual format: a list of layers from the bottom up. That is sufficient. Include measurements when appropriate (especially measurements of the starch, the protein, and the oil). But you can skip measurements in some cases—e.g., the final layer can be simply “Fill the remaining space with frozen cut green beans.” (Frozen vegetables, by the way, cook fine in a GOPM: no need to thaw.)

Next Friday morning, I will pick the winner. Enter your true email address, which I’ll use to email the winner to find which Special Edition soap is desired and to get the shipping address to which to mail it. If an invalid email address is entered (my email bounces), I’ll move to the second-place entry, and so on. (Fairly often when I’ve tried to email a commenter, I find that the email address entered does not work.)

If you have any questions, post them in the comments and I’ll answer; I’ll not respond individually to the entries, though I’ll read them with great interest.

Let the entries begin!

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2012 at 8:28 am

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