Later On

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

Archive for December 19th, 2012

Senate Wants To Sneak Warrantless Spying Bill Extension Into Law Without Debate; Let’s Call Them and Tell Them No

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From EFF:

The Senate is about to vote on an extension of the controversial FISA Amendments Act—the unconstitutional law that allows the NSA to warrantless spy on Americans speaking to people abroad. Yet you wouldn’t know it by watching CSPAN because the Senate isn’t debating it.

When Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, despite deep privacy concerns by Americans across the political spectrum, they included an expiration date of December 31, 2012 to ensure that the law would get a thorough review. Yet Senate leaders have so far refused to schedule any time on the Senate floor for debate or consideration of vital privacy-protecting amendments. Worse, they won’t even tell the American public when they’re going to vote on it. It’s possible they may vote on this bill—with no privacy protective changes—without any debate at all, and we won’t know until it is happening.

Contact your Senators today to tell them how important this is.

The FISA Amendments Act continues to be controversial; key portions of it were challenged in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court this term. In brief, the law allows the government to get secret FISA court orders—orders that do not require probable cause like regular warrants—for any emails or phone calls going to and from overseas. The communications only have to deal with “foreign intelligence information,” a broad term that can mean virtually anything. And one secret FISA order can be issued against groups or categories of people—potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans at once.

Senate leaders, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell, owe the American public a debate about this law—including how many Americans have been scooped up in it, how many times it has been used in non-terrorism investigations and how much it has cost the American taxpayers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 4:07 pm

Bacteria can drive weight gain

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From New Scientist:

Weight gain bugging you? Evidence is mounting for the central role that bacteria play in causing obesity.

Liping Zhao and his team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China put a morbidly obese man on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and non-digestible carbohydrates for 23 weeks. The diet was designed to inhibit the bacteria thought to be associated with weight gain by increasing the pH in the colon.

The 175-kilogram volunteer lost 51 kg, despite not exercising. People who have had weight-loss surgery lose on average 49 kg.

To see if the bacteria present also changed, the team looked at what species were prevalent in the volunteer’s gut before and after the diet. Before the regime, Enterobacter – a toxin-producing pathogen – was most abundant, accounting for 35 per cent of the gut bacteria. After the diet, it was reduced to undetectable levels.

The researchers fed mice samples of this bacterium from the volunteer’s gut to determine whether the pathogen was a cause or a result of his obesity. They found that the mice with the new bacteria gained significantly more weight on a high fat diet than control mice, also on a high fat diet (International Society for Microbial Ecology, doi.org/jz9).

Previous work has shown a link between gut bacteria and obesity, but Zhao describes this as “the last missing piece of evidence that bacteria cause obesity“. Treatment with an appropriate diet could be cheaper and more effective than surgery, he says.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 4:04 pm

RIP: Alex Moulton, 1920-2012

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Alex Moulton, inventor of the Moulton bicycle (full disclosure: I have one) has died at the age of 92. Here is an obit.

The bicycle is amazingly good. Hand-built as a road bike, and supremely comfortable. It is not a folding bicycle, but some models (and the original bikes) quickly come apart to take up very little space.

He simply rethought the bicycle from an engineer’s perspective. He is also the man behind the original Mini Cooper suspension system.

The NY Times also has a nice obiturary by Bruce Weber:

Alex Moulton, a British automotive engineer who created a small-wheeled bicycle that fired a trend in the 1960s and became the forerunner of the collapsible, portable bikes of today, died on Dec. 9 in Bath, England. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his grandnephew Shaun Moulton, the chief executive of the Moulton Bicycle Company, which Alex Moulton founded and which still makes by hand bicycles based on his original design in Bradford-on-Avon, where Mr. Moulton lived.

Mr. Moulton, who had made a number of innovations in automobile suspension systems, began toying with a small-wheel design for an adult bicycle in the late 1950s. His interest was partly spurred by gasoline rationing in Britain during the Suez crisis, which began when Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, an act that threatened to halt oil shipments to Western Europe from the Persian Gulf.

But the design was also fostered by his own engineer’s determination to make things better: “The Moulton bicycle was born out of my resolve to challenge and improve upon the classic bicycle,” he said.

His idea was to create a more efficient, all-purpose vehicle, suitable for errands and commuting at least as much as for recreation. He wanted it to have substantial carrying capacity, to be maneuverable in traffic, to roll smoothly and to be pedaled easily.

He came up with a bike with wheels 16 inches in diameter, high-pressure tires for minimum rolling resistance, front and rear rubber suspension systems for smooth riding on potholed or cobblestoned roads, and a step-through frame (that is, without the top tube of the traditional diamond-shaped frame) for easy dismounting (and more suitable for women wearing skirts). The small wheels left plenty of room for carrying briefcases, shopping bags or overnight luggage.

The early bikes could easily be taken apart for convenient stowing, though they were not really foldable. “Alex’s bicycles are an alternative to a conventional, diamond-framed performance road bike, so no compromise by adding a hinge,” Shaun Moulton wrote in an e-mail. Still, the small-wheel collapsible bikes of today owe a debt to the original Moulton.

Mr. Moulton completed the prototype in 1959 and offered to license it to the Raleigh bicycle company. When it turned him down, he began making them himself, introducing the bicycle at a London bicycle fair in 1962 and founding the Moulton Bicycle Company in Bradford-on-Avon in 1964. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

Golden-eagle kid snatch

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UPDATE: It’s a hoax. Worse yet, it’s a hoax encouraged—practically required—by a professor at Centre NAD in Montreal. Presumably professors teaching accounting encourage embezzlement and require an example for course credit. Professors teaching writing require plagiarism. And so on: unethical and antisocial behavior can indeed be encouraged. Wonderful.

Via The Wife.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

“I am Adam Lanza’s psychiatrist”

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Interesting column by an anonymous psychiatrist:

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys — and their mothers — need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”

These are the words that spread across the Internet written by Boise mother Liza Long describing the challenge of grappling with her exceptionally gifted — and exceptionally aggressive — teenage son. Long gave a voice to the complicated “risk” burden that lies on parents, doctors and community to identify these potential dangers before it’s too late.

Or as in the case of the “Dark Knight” shootings, to prevent another mother from wearily confirming over the phone after being informed her 24-year-old son could be the culprit of mass homicide: “You have the right person.”

As Long wrote incisively in her essay about her 13-year-old, “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.”

I know what challenges she faces, because — in the words of Long — I am Adam Lanza’s psychiatrist. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s psychiatrist. I am James Holmes’s psychiatrist. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s psychiatrist. And it is absolutely time to talk about mental illness.

Parents like Long definitively do not cause these types of mental illnesses that morph into violence. More often than not, the desire is there for the best treatment possible. Unfortunately, my chosen field of psychiatry has a lot of limitations.

In terms of the relationship between mental illness and violence, here is the little we do know. According to APA Council on Law and Psychiatry (Access to Firearms by People With Mental Illness: Resource Document, Arlington, Va., American Psychiatric Association, 2009), “The ‘absolute risk’ message is that the vast majority of people with mental illness in the community are not violent. The ‘relative risk’ message is that people with serious mental illness are, indeed, somewhat more likely to commit violent acts than people who are not mentally ill. And the ‘attributable risk’ message is that violence is a societal problem caused largely by other things besides mental illness (ready availability of guns, for example).”

I have had patients who have believed they were “chosen” to carry out a mission or who started to speak of the devil being present in the form of human beings. But are they violent? Do they need to be locked up? At what point do I inform the authorities when no specific plans to commit violence are mentioned to me, but the words start to become more terror-inducing. “Enemies” are mentioned. “Hate” punctuates every other word. Conscience can appear strikingly absent or little, if at all. Behavior is erratic — but does not pose a technical threat.

I have had patients that are ticking time bombs.

I know the responsibility that lies upon me. When there is a sense that a patient is near breaking. When it is missed, I spend the rest of my life second-guessing myself and wondering what I may not have seen. It happens. Too often.

It is fair to say that pretty much everyone is enraged at my profession right about now. This is what happens when the time bomb is not caught, not stopped, not prevented.

We as psychiatrists need to find a way to catch our troubled sons — the next Adam Lanza — in the moment when he changes from chronically dangerous (that dreaded sense of ticking time bomb) to acutely dangerous (when the violence amps up to meeting the criteria for commitment to a hospital).

Because this boy was missed. That moment is now gone, and we as a nation are grieving with the consequences of the failure.

The only move left is for me to ask for help. And that’s exactly what I am doing.

1) The US Congress: Please create better laws to ensure the ticking time bomb is caught before it is too late. Make it much easier for a family to get a potentially dangerous person into mandated treatment. This means less paperwork, too. We need to support parents and mental health professionals.

2) The US Justice Department: It’s time we enacted a Health Law Court. Have doctors serve as judges and streamline legal proceedings for tough medical and psychiatric cases. Go to commongood.org for ideas on how this can be done.

3) Health Insurance Companies: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 3:08 pm

Houseshoes

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I know various people who have a “no-shoes” rule for inside the house. In fact, I found to my surprise recently that I’m married to one of them. But I really don’t like to go about in stocking feet. However, it turns out that the rule is really “no-outdoor-shoes,” and houseshoes are not only okay but in fact desirable (at least to me): comfortable, easy to slip on and off, keep feet warm, etc. It had not really hit me that “houseshoes” are shoes you wear around the house. Duh.

I have a pair of L.B. Evans Aristocrat Opera houseshoes in black that I really enjoy a lot. In fact, I now really enjoy slipping into my houseshoes as soon as I come through the door. It feels more like being home and relaxes. Can a smoking jacket be far away? — well, yes, I guess it can: I don’t smoke. But still: there’s something about the style

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

Comparison shave for Webers

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SOTD 19 Dec 2012

I decided to try both the DLC and the Polished Head (PH) Weber for a comparison shave. But first, the lather. Above is my new Brent Brushes brush. The knot is severely lopsided, as you see. Artisans and craftsmen reveal their criteria in the pieces they sell: we see the standards they have established for their products. (Of course, some rejects are also sold, but clearly marked as “seconds”: each year the potters around Santa Cruz have a big “seconds” sale, where one can pick up serviceable but flawed bowls, glasses, cups, and the like at a good discount.) The brush above, however, was not sold as a second.  UPDAtE: Brent saw this post and immediately volunteered to fix the brush. See comments. A very good sign when an artisan stands behind his products. I am happy with his service.

Valobra is a fine shaving soap, and the shave stick is on a par with Speick (i.e., much better than Erasmic, for example). I got a good lather but the loft of the brush turns out to be a little more than I like and I had some trouble keeping the lather. This is not a flaw, at least not in the sense the lopsided knot is: it’s simply a characteristic of a very long loft. This brush will probably do better with tub soaps, and I’ll try it in those.

I shaved alternatively with the two Webers shown, one carrying a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade, the other a Swedish Gillette blade. Both shaved extremely well: comfortable, smooth-shaving, and a BBS result. They do have a slightly different feel, but it’s clearly the same excellent head. Very pleased with razors and shave.

I inadvertently photographed the Klar Seifen Klassik aftershave backwards. :sigh: Photography is difficult for me. But it’s a wonderful aftershave and I particularly enjoyed the fragrance today.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2012 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Shaving

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