Later On

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

Archive for October 25th, 2013

Cool Bobby Fischer trap in the accelerated Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense

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Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 11:02 am

Posted in Games

Your microbiome and your genetic profile

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Interesting article by Jef Akst in The Scientist:

Scouring the genomes and body-wide microbial communities of 93 people, researchers have discovered a link between the composition of the microbiome and genetic variation in innate immunity, phagocyte function, and other immune pathways. The research was presented by University of Minnesota population geneticist Ran Blekhmantoday (October 24) at the American Society of Human Genetics 2013 annual meeting in Boston.

“This is cool stuff,” Lita Proctor from the National Human Genome Research Institute wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. “This study is the one of the first documenting the relationship between microbiome composition and the human genome.”

Other researchers have linked specific gene variants to alterations in the human microbiome, notedGeorge Weinstock of The Genome Institute at Washington University, whose own work has shown that host-microbe interactions are influenced by genes involved in drug metabolism. This study, however, may well be the first genome-wide search for such variants in humans, and “genetic variation in mouse does not represent genetic variation that segregates in human populations,” Blekhman noted.

While working as a postdoc in Andrew Clark’s lab at Cornell University, Blekhman knew that the composition of the microbiome was linked to various diseases, like diabetes, and that such diseases had also been shown to have a genetic component. So he was curious to learn how the microbiome is connected to the genes of the host.

To answer this question, he and his colleagues . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:38 am

Posted in Health, Science

Why the government has problems developing software

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Interesting op-ed by Clay Johnson and Harper Reed in the NY Times, taking another look at the reasons the government has a poor track record of developing software: 94 percent of large federal information technology projects over the past 10 years were unsuccessful. That’s not a very good record. Perhaps Congress should provide some guidance. (Just kidding.)

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:36 am

Non-idyllic small towns

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Small-town life is often presented as an idyllic, mutually supportive community, and doubtless some of those exist. But small towns can also be isolated backwaters of prejudice and mob rule. Michael Schaffer takes a look in the New Republic:

Last Sunday, a New York Times reporter visited Maryville, Missouri to report on the existence of a grave threat to the town’s bucolic, Real-America essence: “Ever since The Kansas City Star ran a long article last Sunday raising new questions about the Nodaway County prosecutor’s decision to drop charges against a 17-year-old football player accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, the simplicity of small-town life here has been complicated by a storm of negative attention.”

Leaving aside the dubious victimology—poor Maryville, battered so cruelly by the dark-hearted Kansas City media and their relentless “negative attention”—the paragraph also represents a great big logical problem for anyone who read the Star story, or even the 20-odd inches of stellar Times copy that followed the clunky lede: The whole point of a story of rape allegations dismissed by a political-prosecutorial complex intimately connected to an accused assaulter’s state-legislative relative is that… Maryville never featured any of that simplicity in the first place!

It’d be easy to beat up on a reporter who was tasked with following a competitor’s story and slipped into cliché. In fact, the reductio ad Rockwell is a common tic of journalistic visits to small towns, especially those put on the map by infamy. And it’s one that really ought to stop. Decades of culture wars have left us with a set of social rules where it is largely OK for rural types to slander their citified co-citizens (cf. Sarah Palin, small-town mayor and “Real America” stalwart) but where urbanites can’t dis the country folks without being deemed elitist (cf. Barack Obama, Chicagoite and “cling” apologizer).

Where that leaves us is with few ways of describing small-town life beyond patronizing clichés about their simplicity. But does anyone actually believe that residents of the hamlets and villages of the republic are simpler or cleaner or more honest than anyone else? Come to think of it, there’s a pretty good case for small towns being a lot more complicated than big cities. Consider Maryville again for a moment. There are two ways the town could have lived up to the Times’ rose-colored description of its status quo ante:

1. Beforehand, by not sexually assaulting ninth-graders, videotaping the incident, and leaving a victim asleep on her front lawn in freezing weather.

2. After the fact, by not ostracizing the victim’s siblings, firing her mom from her job, dropping the case inexplicably, and burning the family’s house down.

Now ask yourself whether either of these scenarios would be more or less likely in a metropolitan area. On option number one, . . .

Continue reading. I like how a large city can in effect dilute the poisons that can become concentrated in a small town.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Media

OSHA chief warns rules are ‘dangerously out of date’

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Maybe some year soon Congress will cease posturing and playing to the media and actually start to govern. (Yeah, right.) The Hill has an article by Julian Hattem that caught my eye. My father was killed in an industrial accident a couple of months before my 8th birthday. It obviously completely changed the course of my life, and the accident was unnecessary and with good practices would not have happened. A lot of people don’t like OSHA, particularly large businesses who don’t want to bother keeping workers safe (coal mines leap to mind, but it seems a lot of businesses are perfectly happy with putting their workers’ health and lives at risk—Bangladesh is merely more open about it). At any rate, I recommend the article:

Federal limits on the amount of hazardous chemicals that workers can be exposed to are decades out of date, the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said on Thursday, and workers across the country could be at risk even if their employers are following the rules.

David Michaels said that it has become nearly impossible for the agency to update its chemical safety regulations, so it is urging companies to take action on their own.

The agency’s rules on what workers can be exposed to “are dangerously out of date, dating from the 1970s or even earlier, and do not adequately protect workers,” he told reporters.

“The complexity of OSHA’s current rulemaking process makes it extremely difficult for us to update our chemical safety standards and issue new standards in a reasonable period of time. We recognize this and are developing new ways to approach the problem of workplace exposure to hazardous substances,” he added. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:19 am

Posted in Business, Government, Health

Krugman offers counseling to those with apocalypse addiction

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Excellent column by Paul Krugman in the NY Times. From the column:

As I’ve already suggested, there are two remarkable things about this kind of doomsaying. One is that the doomsayers haven’t rethought their premises despite being wrong again and again — perhaps because the news media continue to treat them with immense respect. The other is that as far as I can tell nobody, and I mean nobody, in the looming-apocalypse camp has tried to explain exactly how the predicted disaster would actually work.

On the Chicken Little aspect: It’s actually awesome, in a way, to realize how long cries of looming disaster have filled our airwaves and op-ed pages. For example, I just rereadan op-ed article by Alan Greenspan in The Wall Street Journal, warning that our budget deficit will lead to soaring inflation and interest rates. What about the reality of low inflation and low rates? That, he declares in the article, is “regrettable, because it is fostering a sense of complacency.”

It’s curious how readily people who normally revere the wisdom of markets declare the markets all wrong when they fail to panic the way they’re supposed to. But the really striking thing at this point is the date: Mr. Greenspan’s article was published in June 2010, almost three and a half years ago — and both inflation and interest rates remain low.

So has the ex-Maestro reconsidered his views after having been so wrong for so long? Not a bit. His new (and pretty bad) book declares that “the bias toward unconstrained deficit spending is our top domestic economic problem.”

Also, read this very clear explanation.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:13 am

Posted in Business, Government

Interesting mustard on the way

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After reading this interesting post by James Fallows, I have ordered some Raye’s Mustard directly from their Eastport ME in solidarity for a sardine industry that slipped away. (I live about two blocks from Cannery Row, the subject of novels by John Steinbeck.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 10:10 am

Posted in Food

15 years ago, Congress kept Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. Will they do it again?

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US copyright laws have become distorted through the influence of major corporations to lock up intellectual property forever, even if the corporation had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation. Of course, Walt Disney did originally create Mickey Mouse (plus ripped off many folktales from the public domain and then copyrighted everything in sight). Timothy Lee has a good article on the overall situation and issue:

For most of history, a great character or story or song has passed from its original creator into the public domain. Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and Beethoven are long dead, but Macbeth and Oliver Twist and the Fifth Symphony are part of our shared cultural heritage, free to be used or re-invented by anyone on the planet who is so inclined. But 15 years ago this Sunday, President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which retroactively extended copyright protection. As a result, the great creative output of the 20th century, from Superman to “Gone With the Wind” to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” were locked down for an extra 20 years.

It was a windfall to the families and corporations that owned these lucrative copyrights. But it meant these iconic works would be off-limits to those who wanted to reuse or reinvent them without permission. And hundreds of thousands of lesser-known works aren’t available at all, because there’s no cost-effective way to obtain permission to republish them.

The copyright extension Clinton signed will expire in five years. Copyright holders like the Disney Corp. and the Gershwin estate have a strong incentive to try to extend copyright extension yet further into the future. But with the emergence of the Internet as a political organizing tool, opponents of copyright extension will be much better prepared. The question for the coming legislative battle on copyright is who will prevail: those who would profit from continuing to lock up the great works of the 20th century, or those who believe Bugs Bunny should be as freely available for reuse as Little Red Riding Hood.

Longer and longer

Today, copyrights can easily last for more than a century. Things were very different when America was founded. In America’s original copyright system, protection only lasted for 28 years. By the mid-20th century, Congress had doubled the maximum term to 56 years. Then, in 1976, Congress overhauled the copyright system. Instead of fixed terms with a maximum of 56 years of protection, individual authors were granted protection for their life plus an additional 50 years, an approach that had become the norm in Europe. For works authored by corporations—Hollywood blockbusters, for example—copyright terms were extended to 75 years.

The 1976 legislation granted a retroactive extension for works published before the new system took effect. The maximum term for already-published works was lengthened from 56 years to 75 years. That meant that any work that was still under copyright in 1978, when the new system took effect, was eligible for an additional 19 years of protection. Without the term extension, works published between 1922 and 1941 would have fallen into the public domain between 1978 and 1997.

Instead, those works remained under copyright, providing a windfall to the owners of iconic copyrighted works such as the original Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willy,” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” When the 1990s arrived, the holders of those older copyrights began agitating for another extension. Copyrighted works from the 1920s were scheduled to begin falling into the public domain again in 1998, and copyright interests wanted Congress to stop that from happening.

Following Europe’s lead

“There was not a single argument that actually can stand up to any kind of reasonable analysis,” says Dennis Karjala, a law professor at Arizona State who emerged as a de facto leader of the opposition to the law. The supporters of the law, Karjala says, were “basically the Gershwin family trust, grandchildren of Oscar Hammerstein, Disney, others of that ilk”—that is, holders of copyrights in old works that were on the verge of expiring.

Supporters of the extension pointed to Europe. In 1993, the European Union added 20 years to the term of European copyrights. Under European law, American authors would only enjoy longer copyright terms in Europe if the United States followed Europe’s lead and adopted “life plus 70” copyright terms.

“It didn’t seem like there was any reason why American creators should be at a disadvantage vis a vis their European counterparts,” says Preston Padden, who represented Disney in the late 1990s and is now affiliated with the University of Colorado Law School. “The old disparity invited mischief, like American creators artificially creating legal domiciles for Europe in order to gain the benefit of the longer license term.” And, advocates said, if Congress was extending terms for new works, it would only be fair to extend terms for existing works as well.

Critics pointed out that extending copyright terms retroactively wouldn’t benefit the public. After all, William Faulkner, George Gershwin and Walt Disney had died decades earlier. Granting longer copyright terms for their existing works couldn’t cause them to produce any more masterpieces.

“To suggest that the monopoly use of copyrights for the creator’s life plus 50 years after his death is not an adequate incentive to create is absurd,” wrote Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.) in a 1996 report for the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The real incentive here is for corporate owners that bought copyrights to lobby Congress for another 20 years of revenue—not for creators who will be long dead once this term extension takes hold.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 9:16 am

Posted in Art, Books, Business, Government

Great lather, fine shave

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SOTD 25 Oct 2013

Day 2 of Mystic Water’s Indian Summer seasonal shave soap for the Sharpologist Scent-Off. (I’ll like to Mark’s summary reports when they go up.)

Today I used a badger brush, the Wet Shaving Products Monarch silvertip, a truly fine brush. I got a different lather, and I experimented by adding a little more water as I loaded the brush. When I rinsed after the passes, I noticed that this lather is exceptionally slick—very nice indeed. And I continue to like the fragrance without (given my nose) being able to pick out the individual notes.

The Wilkinson “Sticky” with a previously used Feather blade produced a BBS finish, but I did have to do a little bit of blade buffing here and there, so I replaced the blade (with a new Feather: that brand works well for me in this razor, which tends toward the mild side).

A good splash of Hâttric Classic—I read recently of this aftershave on WE and was interested to give it a try. I like it. You want to know what the fragrance is, specifically? I cannot say. But I do like it.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2013 at 9:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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