Later On

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

Archive for January 3rd, 2013

Great find for jazz fans

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The Wife pointed out this marvelous Web site:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Jazz

Good example of bureaucratic stupidity and inertia

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It would seem as though this problem could be solved instantly by one call from the president. Nick Bilton reports in the NY Times:

Over the last year, flying with phones and other devices has become increasingly dangerous.

In September, a passenger was arrested in El Paso after refusing to turn off his cellphone as the plane was landing. In October, a man in Chicago was arrested because he used his iPad during takeoff. In November, half a dozen police cars raced across the tarmac at La Guardia Airport in New York, surrounding a plane as if there were a terrorist on board. They arrested a 30-year-old man who had also refused to turn off his phone while on the runway.

Who is to blame in these episodes? You can’t solely pin it on the passengers. Some of the responsibility falls on the Federal Aviation Administration, for continuing to uphold a rule that is based on the unproven idea that a phone or tablet can interfere with the operation of a plane.

These conflicts have been going on for several years. In 2010, a 68-year-old man punched a teenager because he didn’t turn off his phone. Lt. Kent Lipple of the Boise Police Department in Idaho, who arrested the puncher, said the man “felt he was protecting the entire plane and its occupants.” And let’s not forget Alec Baldwin, who was kicked off an American Airlines plane in 2011 for playing Words With Friends online while parked at the gate.

Dealing with the F.A.A. on this topic is like arguing with a stubborn teenager. The agency has no proof that electronic devices can harm a plane’s avionics, but it still perpetuates such claims, spreading irrational fear among millions of fliers.

A year ago, when I first asked Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., why the rule existed, he said the agency was being cautious because there was no proof that device use was completely safe. He also said it was because passengers needed to pay attention during takeoff.

When I asked why I can read a printed book but not a digital one, the agency changed its reasoning. I was told by another F.A.A. representative that it was because an iPad or Kindle could put out enough electromagnetic emissions to disrupt the flight. Yet a few weeks later, the F.A.A. proudly announced that pilots could now use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals.

The F.A.A. then told me that “two iPads are very different than 200.” But experts at EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., say there is no difference in radio output between two iPads and 200. “Electromagnetic energy doesn’t add up like that,” said Kevin Bothmann, the EMT Labs testing manager.

It’s not a matter of a flying device hitting another passenger, either. Kindles weigh less than six ounces; Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs weighs 2.1 pounds in hardcover. I’d rather be hit in the head by an iPad Mini than a 650-page book.

In October, after months of pressure from the public and the news media, the F.A.A. finally said it would begin a review of its policies on electronic devices in all phases of flight, including takeoff and landing. But the agency does not have a set time frame for announcing its findings. . .

Continue reading. It’s quite clear that the FAA is making up reasons to have the rule, rather than basing the rule on reasons. Apparently it is just a sort of agency Viagra, to feel their power.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 6:19 pm

Good summary of solid studies showing the role of environmental lead in criminal violence

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The evidence established by several studies, which took into account other factors, has been overwhelming: environmental lead is a social disaster. Kevin Drum has a recent article in Mother Jones that looks at the studies:

WHEN RUDY GIULIANI RAN FOR MAYOR of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.

Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called “broken windows,” popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. “If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired,” they observed, “all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.” So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.Giuliani won the election, and he made good on his crime-fighting promises by selecting Boston police chief Bill Bratton as the NYPD’s new commissioner. Bratton had made his reputation as head of the New York City Transit Police, where he aggressively applied broken-windows policing to turnstile jumpers and vagrants in subway stations. With Giuliani’s eager support, he began applying the same lessons to the entire city, going after panhandlers, drunks, drug pushers, and the city’s hated squeegee men. And more: He decentralized police operations and gave precinct commanders more control, keeping them accountable with a pioneering system called CompStat that tracked crime hot spots in real time.

The results were dramatic. In 1996, the New York Times reported that crime had plunged for the third straight year, the sharpest drop since the end of Prohibition. Since 1993, rape rates had dropped 17 percent, assault 27 percent, robbery 42 percent, and murder an astonishing 49 percent. Giuliani was on his way to becoming America’s Mayor and Bratton was on the cover of Time. It was a remarkable public policy victory.

But even more remarkable is what happened next. Shortly after Bratton’s star turn, political scientist John DiIulio warned that the echo of the baby boom would soon produce a demographic bulge of millions of young males that he famously dubbed “juvenile super-predators.” Other criminologists nodded along. But even though the demographic bulge came right on schedule, crime continued to drop. And drop. And drop. By 2010, violent crime rates in New York City had plunged 75 percent from their peak in the early ’90s.

All in all, it seemed to be a story with a happy ending, a triumph for Wilson and Kelling’s theory and Giuliani and Bratton’s practice. And yet, doubts remained. For one thing, violent crime actually peaked in New York City in 1990, four years before the Giuliani-Bratton era. By the time they took office, it had already dropped 12 percent.

Second, and far more puzzling, it’s not just New York that has seen a big drop in crime. In city after city, violent crime peaked in the early ’90s and then began a steady and spectacular decline. Washington, DC, didn’t have either Giuliani or Bratton, but its violent crime rate has dropped 58 percent since its peak. Dallas’ has fallen 70 percent. Newark: 74 percent. Los Angeles: 78 percent.

There must be more going on here than just a change in policing tactics in one city. But what?

THERE ARE, IT TURNS OUT, plenty of theories. When I started research for this story, I worked my way through a pair of thick criminology tomes. One chapter regaled me with the “exciting possibility” that it’s mostly a matter of economics: Crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it’s in a slump. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t seem to hold water—for example, crime rates have continued to drop recently despite our prolonged downturn.

Another chapter suggested that crime drops in big cities were mostly a reflection of the crack epidemic of the ’80s finally burning itself out. A trio of authors identified three major “drug eras” in New York City, the first dominated by heroin, which produced limited violence, and the second by crack, which generated spectacular levels of it. In the early ’90s, these researchers proposed, the children of CrackGen switched to marijuana, choosing a less violent and more law-abiding lifestyle. As they did, crime rates in New York and other cities went down.

Another chapter told a story of demographics: As the number of young men increases, so does crime. Unfortunately for this theory, the number of young men increased during the ’90s, but crime dropped anyway.

There were chapters in my tomes on the effect of prison expansion. On guns and gun control. On family. On race. On parole and probation. On the raw number of police officers. It seemed as if everyone had a pet theory. In 1999, economist Steven Levitt, later famous as the coauthor of Freakonomics, teamed up with John Donohue to suggest that crime dropped because of Roe v. Wade; legalized abortion, they argued, led to fewer unwanted babies, which meant fewer maladjusted and violent young men two decades later.

But there’s a problem common to all of these theories: It’s hard to tease out actual proof. Maybe the end of the crack epidemic contributed to a decline in inner-city crime, but then again, maybe it was really the effect of increased incarceration, more cops on the beat, broken-windows policing, and a rise in abortion rates 20 years earlier. After all, they all happened at the same time.

To address this problem, the field of econometrics gives researchers an enormous toolbox of sophisticated statistical techniques. But, notes statistician and conservative commentator Jim Manzi in his recent book Uncontrolled, econometrics consistently fails to explain most of the variation in crime rates. After reviewing 122 known field tests, Manzi found that only 20 percent demonstrated positive results for specific crime-fighting strategies, and none of those positive results were replicated in follow-up studies.

So we’re back to square one. More prisons might help control crime, more cops might help, and better policing might help. But the evidence is thin for any of these as the main cause. What are we missing?

Experts often suggest that crime resembles an epidemic. But what kind? Karl Smith, a professor of public economics and government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, has a good rule of thumb for categorizing epidemics: If it spreads along lines of communication, he says, the cause is information. Think Bieber Fever. If it travels along major transportation routes, the cause is microbial. Think influenza. If it spreads out like a fan, the cause is an insect. Think malaria. But if it’s everywhere, all at once—as both the rise of crime in the ’60s and ’70s and the fall of crime in the ’90s seemed to be—the cause is a molecule.

A molecule? That sounds crazy. What molecule could be responsible for a steep and sudden decline in violent crime?

Well, here’s one possibility: Pb(CH2CH3)4.

IN 1994, RICK NEVIN WAS A CONSULTANT working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities.

But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might be missing something. A recent study had suggested a link between childhood lead exposure and juvenile delinquency later on. Maybe reducing lead exposure had an effect on violent crime too?

That tip took Nevin in a different direction. The biggest source of lead in the postwar era, it turns out, wasn’t paint. It was leaded gasoline. And if you chart the rise and fall of atmospheric lead caused by the rise and fall of leaded gasoline consumption, you get a pretty simple upside-down U: Lead emissions from tailpipes rose steadily from the early ’40s through the early ’70s, nearly quadrupling over that period. Then, as unleaded gasoline began to replace leaded gasoline, emissions plummeted.

Intriguingly, violent crime rates followed the same upside-down U pattern. The only thing different was the time period: Crime rates rose dramatically in the ’60s through the ’80s, and then began dropping steadily starting in the early ’90s. The two curves looked eerily identical, but were offset by about 20 years.

So Nevin dove in further, digging up detailed data on lead emissions and crime rates to see if the similarity of the curves was as good as it seemed. It turned out to be even better: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 2:03 pm

Taxes and the rich

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Interesting short, narrated by Ed Asner:


Note that the different amounts of taxes paid are roughly equal in value to the taxpayer: the modest payment from the poor person means as much to him as the bigger amounts paid by middle class people and much bigger amounts paid by the wealthy: all are parting with (roughly) an amount of equal value to the taxpayer—the “widow’s mite” idea (or the marginal utility theory of the value of fungible things).

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Government, Video

A big Texas welcome

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Texas continues to amaze me. Read about this traffic stop and how it escalated for no reasons that make any sense whatsoever.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Government, Law

Eggnog Latté Cheesecake and New Year’s resolutions

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My resolution is to eat one of these:

Eggnog latte cheesecake

Simple step-by-step recipe here.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 9:14 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

Spencer & Devon

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SOTD 3 Jan 2013

Totally wonderful shave. A reader suggested I try Spencer & Devon shaving cream. I chose the Spice fragrance and used it this morning with the Mühle silvertip brush shown. The cream has a very nice fragrance and is of the soft variety: wet brush well, shake it out well, and twirl the tips to coat them with cream. Brush that on your (wet, washed) beard to coat the entire beard, then run a driblet of hot water into the center of the brush and work up the lather, adding additional water as needed.

This is a premium (read: expensive) shaving cream and contains shea butter, which doubtless increases the moisturizing properties. Shea butter is a favored ingredient in many shaving products: from l’Occitane, Insitut Karité (of course), Shea Moisture Three Butters Lotion, and quite a few of the artisanal shaving soaps and creams (e.g.,, Strop Shoppe, and others). Not to put too fine a point on it, you can get the benefits of shea butter at a lower price. Still, this is an excellent shaving cream.

The lather comes up quite readily—the sort of lather that really doesn’t give the shaver much to do, unlike soap lather (which is perhaps why I prefer lather from soaps: I feel then as though I contributed). It feels nice and shaves well, this morning with the bakelite slant (treasured now all the more since the supply is exhausted), holding a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade.

I realized recently why some don’t like this razor (without trying it that is: a dislike similar to those who say they dislike a food they’ve never tasted): their criteria include the material of which the razor is made (i.e., the criterion is “metal”) rather than the characteristics of the material of which the razor is made (i.e., the criteria used to define the material that will be used). The former is more like a marketing criterion, the latter more like a materials engineering set of criteria.

For example, looking at the criteria for the material to be used, one thinks of things like:

  • Stable over time and in the special environment of shaving (e.g., it must withstand constant exposure to water and humidity, be unaffected by alcohol and relatively high temperatures (as high as the boiling point of water));
  • Light in weight (a significant advantage for a slant, whereas for a straight-bar razor this criterion would be the opposite: a massive head aids a straight-bar’s chopping action);
  • Rigid;
  • Low heat conduction (several have commented how nice it is to rinse the razor under very hot water and then touch it to their cheek and not feel heat-burn);
  • Amenable to molding and mass production; and
  • Ideally, inexpensive (i.e., cost-effective: getting the biggest bang for the buck).

Using these criteria, stainless steel fails easy molding, low heat conduction, and inexpensive. Regular steel fails badly in stable in the shaving environment. Brass plated with some other material (nickel, gold, rhodium) fails only heat conductivity and (relative) cost.

I did not start out with these criteria, but rather came up with them after discovering what a superb razor this is and got to wondering why they decided to make it from Bakelite. That made me think of the criteria one would use to select the material from which to make a slant-bar razor. As I thought about the criteria, I realized that Bakelite really is an optimal solution.

In any event, I enjoyed an excellent shave, followed by a splash of Pashana so I will be in top form for the dentist this morning.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 January 2013 at 9:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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