Later On

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

Archive for March 22nd, 2013

Off-the-shelf quantum computers available RSN—for real

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This article in the NY Times today is sadly out of date, but it does provide valuable background information. But read this New Scientist note, and you’ll see that the device is indeed a quantum computer.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Science, Technology

Would I?: The perennial exercise-equipment question.

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I’m looking at this Cool Tool. Yes, yes. I know that I have carefully assembled, dusted, and sold exercise bikes in the past, but this one has a couple of advantages: the work surface and a small footprint (smaller than the recumbent exercise bike that was my last effort).

If only one could know in advance which equipment would become clothes racks. I have had two Nordic Tracks, the first of which I had simply used up. The second I sold as part of the move. Although there were stretches when I didn’t use the Nordic Track, there were also stretches where I used it regularly and in fact enjoyed it. But: enormous footprint.

The problem is, of course, that I mostly sit during the day: blogging, reading, or watching movies. Not good. OTOH, I’m not sure how much I would use the desk at the link. Difficult. The ratings on Amazon are encouraging.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

More on the debacle in Cyprus

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I found this article by William Black on New Economic Perspectives to be illuminating.

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias writes columns about economics and finance.  Yglesias has been writing about Cyprus, and my critiques of the policies he has been proposing are the subject of this column.  The short version of the background one needs to understand the issues is that Cyprus is in a crisis and the EU is willing to bail out its collapsing banks only if Cyprus raises revenues.  The EU is unwilling to make the banks’ sophisticated creditors – the bondholders – take any losses.  The EU wanted the banks’ least sophisticated creditors – the depositors – to take losses, even if their deposits were small enough to be within the deposit insurance limit.  The reality, which the EU wishes to obscure by calling its proposal a tax, is that that the EU was insisting that depositors no longer be fully protected from loss by government deposit insurance.  The EU demand was made shortly after the EU and Cyprus’ government pledged that depositors under the insurance limit would suffer no losses.

Cyprus’ government’s duplicity was prompted by its close ties to Russian oligarchs who deposit the funds they loot from Russia in the failing Cypriot banks.  Cyprus’ plan, therefore, imposed a hefty (6.6%) loss on (smaller) insured depositors in order to keep the percentage loss on huge depositors well in excess of the 100,000 euro insurance limit under 10 percent.

The plan was terrible for Cyprus, terrible for insured depositors, and very dangerous to banks in the European periphery (because it could spark large withdrawals of insured and non-insured deposits from such banks).  The plan was also a political failure that enraged most Cypriots into opposing the deal.  Yglesias’ response to the plan was a March 18, 2013 column praising it: “Two Cheers for the Cyprus Bailout.”

The part that Yglesias liked best about the plan was causing depositors – including the fully insured smaller depositors – losses.  The single worst aspect of a terrible plan is what Yglesias cheered.  In fairness to Yglesias, he wrote that the losses imposed on the largest depositors should have been larger and the losses on the insured depositors smaller.  He did not, however, call for Cyprus and the EU not to breach their promises not to force losses on the insured depositors.  His position was that the magnitude of the betrayal of insured depositors be reduced (“It’s perhaps not possible to entirely spare middle-class savers, but they can be cut a much better deal than this.”)  Yglesias’ one sentence summary of his position reads:  “The plan to punish Cypriot bank depositors is hideously unfair, but it contains the germ of a great idea.”

Yglesias unintentionally reveals that this conclusion rests on a mistake of fact in this paragraph: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 2:47 pm

Tiny chameleon

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From The Scientist, a photo of Brookesia micra, endemic to Madagascar. First description of the animal was published in 2012.

Tiny chameleon

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 9:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

A dozen cabbage recipes with not a slaw among them

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I do like to use cabbage in cooking. Mark Bittman has an introduction and then a collection of 12 recipes.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 8:37 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Watch cyberattacks as they occur

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Via an interesting post by James Fallows, this live chart of on-going cyberattacks.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 8:25 am

Posted in Technology

Muzzling the press so we could go to war in Iraq

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Democracy Now! has an interesting interview with Phil Donohue, on how he was fired by GE for presuming to speak out in favor of not going to war in Iraq.

n 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says. [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Phil, I’d like to bring in another subject in terms of this whole issue, the—what happened to you, directly, as a host on MSNBC in the midst of the run-up to the war, and the responsibilities of the press in America and its—the mea culpas that have rarely been uttered by the pundits and by the journalists over what the American press did in the run-up to war.

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I think what happened to me, the biggest lesson, I think, is the—how corporate media shapes our opinions and our coverage. This was a decision—my decision—the decision to release me came from far above. This was not an assistant program director who decided to separate me fromMSNBC. They were terrified of the antiwar voice. And that is not an overstatement. Antiwar voices were not popular. And if you’re General Electric, you certainly don’t want an antiwar voice on a cable channel that you own; Donald Rumsfeld is your biggest customer. So, by the way, I had to have two conservatives on for every liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone, but I couldn’t have Dennis Kucinich on alone. I was considered two liberals. It really is funny almost, when you look back on how—how the management was just frozen by the antiwar voice. We were scolds. We weren’t patriotic. American people disagreed with us. And we weren’t good for business.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, I had this unusual experience, Phil, in July of 2006. It was the 10th anniversary of MSNBC, and I was invited on Hardball by Chris Matthews to celebrate the 10th anniversary. I think first Brian Williams was on the show, and then the Israeli ambassador, and then I was on the show. And we were standing outside 30 Rock. It was a big deal. All the execs were on the top floor of 30 Rock, and they were all about to have a big party. And we were just coming out of a commercial.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to congratulate you, Chris, on 10 years of MSNBC, but I wish standing with you was Phil Donahue. He shouldn’t have been fired for expressing an antiwar point of view on the eve of the election. His point of view and the people brought on were also important.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don’t know what the reasons were, but I doubt it was that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have the MS—the NBCmemo, that was a secret memo—


AMY GOODMAN: —that came out, that said they didn’t want him to be the face of this network, an antiwar face, at a time when the other networks were waving the flag.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Could I answer the question? I’d love to answer that question.

AMY GOODMAN: Phil Donahue is a great patriot.

AMY GOODMAN: I said there, Phil, you were a great patriot. We did have the NBC memo, the secret memo that said they didn’t want their flagship show to be you, when the other networks were waving the American flag.

PHIL DONAHUE: That’s what it said. And, by the way, that memo was written by a Republican focus group, a Republican counseling group that took the focus group and that revealed that most of the people in the focus group didn’t like me. But I saw that, Amy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 8:19 am

Posted in Business, Iraq War

An interesting aspect of the Cyprus debacle

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Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

A couple of years ago, the journalist Nicholas Shaxson published a fascinating, chilling book titled “Treasure Islands,” which explained how international tax havens — which are also, as the author pointed out, “secrecy jurisdictions” where many rules don’t apply — undermine economies around the world. Not only do they bleed revenues from cash-strapped governments and enable corruption; they distort the flow of capital, helping to feed ever-bigger financial crises.

One question Mr. Shaxson didn’t get into much, however, is what happens when a secrecy jurisdiction itself goes bust. That’s the story of Cyprus right now. And whatever the outcome for Cyprus itself (hint: it’s not likely to be happy), the Cyprus mess shows just how unreformed the world banking system remains, almost five years after the global financial crisis began.

So, about Cyprus: You might wonder why anyone cares about a tiny nation with an economy not much bigger than that of metropolitan Scranton, Pa. Cyprus is, however, a member of the euro zone, so events there could trigger contagion (for example, bank runs) in larger nations. And there’s something else: While the Cypriot economy may be tiny, it’s a surprisingly large financial player, with a banking sector four or five times as big as you might expect given the size of its economy.

Why are Cypriot banks so big? Because the country is a tax haven where corporations and wealthy foreigners stash their money. Officially, 37 percent of the deposits in Cypriot banks come from nonresidents; the true number, once you take into account wealthy expatriates and people who are only nominally resident in Cyprus, is surely much higher. Basically, Cyprus is a place where people, especially but not only Russians, hide their wealth from both the taxmen and the regulators. Whatever gloss you put on it, it’s basically about money-laundering.

And the truth is that much of the wealth never moved at all; it just became invisible. On paper, for example, Cyprus became a huge investor in Russia — much bigger than Germany, whose economy is hundreds of times larger. In reality, of course, this was just “roundtripping” by Russians using the island as a tax shelter.

Unfortunately for the Cypriots, enough real money came in to finance some seriously bad investments, as their banks bought Greek debt and lent into a vast real estate bubble. Sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong. And now they have.

Now what? There are some strong similarities between Cyprus now and Iceland (a similar-size economy) a few years back. Like Cyprus now, Iceland had a huge banking sector, swollen by foreign deposits, that was simply too big to bail out. Iceland’s response was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 8:06 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Isaac Asimov in 1988 describes the Internet and its likely effects

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Thanks to Jack in Amsterdam for pointing out this clip:

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 8:01 am

Posted in Education, Technology, Video

Mystic Waters and the Ecotools Kabuki

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SOTD 22 Mar 2013

Extremely good shave: the Ecotools Kabuki did its usual fine job of lather creation, and Mystic Waters Rosalimone is a very pleasant shaving soap. My Tradere Solid Bar holding an Astra Superior Platinum blade and with the Zeus XL UFO handle provided a close, smooth, trouble-free shave. A good splash of K.C. Atwood from, and I am feeling good.

I was going to shave tomorrow with my Eclipse Red Ring, but damned if I can find it. I’m going to have to dig through some boxes still unpacked.

Written by Leisureguy

22 March 2013 at 7:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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