Later On

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

Archive for November 7th, 2013

Very cool (as it were) radiators

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Europe has stolen a march on the US, which has stuck with the same radiator designs from time immemorial. Click the link to see some stunning alternatives.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Daily life

The military’s version of the saying is “If it’s broke, don’t fix it.”

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The military has an absolutely ghastly record regarding sex-related crimes, and things have not improved over the years despite high-level attention. In fact, some officers responsible for handling sexual harassment have themselves been convicted of sexual harassment.

Sen. Karen Gillibrand identified one problem: the commanding officer has the discretion to

Jennifer Steinhauer reports today in the NY Times:

Reports of sexual assault in the military increased sharply during the last fiscal year, new Pentagon figures showed Wednesday, just weeks before a defense bill with provisions to tackle the problem is expected to reach the Senate floor.

There were 3,553 sexual assault complaints reported to the Defense Department in the first three quarters of the fiscal year, from October 2012 through June, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. Defense Department officials said the numbers had continued to rise.

Read the whole thing. Later, she writes:

Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is to offer an amendment that would take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command and give military prosecutors, rather than accusers’ commanders, the power to decide which cases to try. Pentagon leaders are strongly opposed to Ms. Gillibrand’s amendment.

The Pentagon leaders recognize that there is indeed a serious problem, but they don’t want to change anything—presumably because they think what they have works?? For years now, the Pentagon has said that they will fix the problem within the existing structure. They have failed. They still don’t want to change. This, to me, seems utterly pig-headed. If the system is broke, fix it. (They still don’t want to.)

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 11:37 am

Posted in Law, Military

Democracy Now! interviews Matthieu Aikins on possible US war crimes

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I blogged already about Lieu’s Rolling Stone article. Democracy Now! has a video interview with him, along with a transcript of the interview. The blurb:

Shortly after the U.S. military was forced to vacate a base in Afghanistan’s Wardak province this spring, the bodies of 10 Afghan villagers were found nearby. All of the people had disappeared after being detained by U.S. Special Forces. The base was used by a unit known as “The A-Team,” which has also been linked to eight other murders in Wardak. The mystery behind the deaths is the center of a shocking new exposé which reports the disappearances and killings could amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by U.S. forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. We are joined by Matthieu Aikins, an award-winning investigative journalist based in Kabul who spent five months investigating the killings for his Rolling Stone article, “The A-Team Killings.”

UPDATE: Democracy Now! has also posted a grim video:

A video just posted online by Rolling Stone shows a hogtied prisoner being whipped by Afghan security forces, as what appears to be two unidentified American military officers look on. According to investigative reporter Matthieu Aikins, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command confirmed an ongoing investigation into the incident. Aikins says the video fits with a general pattern of recurring abuse of detainees in U.S. and Afghan custody.

At the link is the video and also Amy Goodman talking with Matthieu Aikins about it.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 11:28 am

Consolidate your loyalty cards

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Cool Tools points out a site that lets you print all your loyalty barcodes on a small piece of paper.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 11:12 am

Posted in Daily life

Typography Book Explores What It Feels Like To Have Dyslexia

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Very interesting indeed. Those who lack dyslexia have a hard time experiencing what it’s like, but this book would surely help.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 11:07 am

Posted in Books, Medical

Rating movies based on whether women are shown as persons or objects

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That’s more or less what it amounts to. A few years ago I blogged about the Bechdel test, and Sweden is now using that to rate movies for “feminism,” a term I am growing to dislike because it somehow hits that the issues are of interest and importance only to women, when I believe that both (all?) genders have a strong interest in treating people with respect. All people. The test:

(1) The movie must have at least two women in it, who

(2) talk to each other about

(3) something other than a man.

Pretty minimal requirements, but few movies pass the test. A few of the failures, from the list of 3 years ago:

Green Zone, Hot Tub Time Machine, Iron Man 2, How To Train Your Dragon, Kick-Ass, MacGruber, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Shutter Island, The Wolfman, (500) Days of Summer, Angels & Demond, Antichrist, Avatar, Bruno, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, District 9, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Funny People, The Hangover, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Knowing, Moon, Ninja Assassin, Sherlock Holmes, The Taking of Pelham 123, Up in the Air, Watchmen, and Up.

Obviously a movie’s quality, qua movie, is independent of the test: both good and bad movies pass it, both good and bad movies fail it.

Alexander Abad-Santos writes at the Atlantic Wire:

Movie theaters in Sweden have introduced a new rating system based on gender bias. To get an “A” rating, a movie needs to have two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. It sounds simple enough, but a ton of successful blockbusters would fail this rather facile test. “The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network,  Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test,” said Ellen Tejle, a director of an art-house movie theater in Stockholm, told the AP. The test she’s referring to is the so-called Bechdel test (named for the cartoonist who popularized the idea), and that’s quite a roster of award-winning movies that wouldn’t pass.

Though the test isn’t about quality, it does shine a light on how many “good” movies and money-making blockbusters don’t do enough when it comes to female stories and female characters. That’s half of the goal with this test. The other goal is the hope to effect change, and encourage more female stories and more dynamic female characters like those seen in The Hunger GamesThe Iron Lady,and The Savages.

The ratings haven’t come without their share of critics. Studio execs and higher-ups have often said that a female superhero or action star wouldn’t sell as an explanation for why they’ve been reluctant to back a superhero flick with a female lead. (Again, see Hunger Games and the Underworld franchise to get why they are wrong.) That’s a big reason why female heroes and protagonists may be underrepresented and are even on the decline from nearly a decade ago. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film‘s statistics from 2011: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 10:06 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Why a Single Compound in Cannabis May Revolutionize Modern Medicine

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Interesting: now that scientists are actually getting a chance to study marijuana, it turns out to be a very useful plant for industry (hemp fibers and hemp oil) and medicine, in addition to its recreational use. Martin Lee writes in The Nation:

For many years, the federal government has subsidized studies designed to prove the negative effects of marijuana, while blocking inquiry into its potential benefits. Ironically, the government’s steadfast search for harm has yielded remarkable scientific insights that explain why cannabis is such a versatile remedy and why it is the most sought-after illicit substance on the planet.

Cannabis and the unique chemical compounds produced by the plant, called cannabinoids, have been at the center of one of the most exciting—and underreported—developments in modern science. Research on marijuana’s effects led directly to the discovery of a molecular signaling system in the human brain and body, the endocannabinoid system, which plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes: hunger, sleep, inflammation, stress, blood pressure, body temperature, glucose metabolism, bone density, intestinal fortitude, reproductive fertility, circadian rhythms, mood and much more.

Within the scientific community, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system is increasingly recognized as a seminal advance in our understanding of human biology. The Rubicon was crossed in 1988, when a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine determined that the mammalian brain has an abundance of receptor sites—specialized protein molecules embedded in cell membranes—that respond pharmacologically to compounds in cannabis.

More than 100 unique cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis; of these, the best known is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s principal psychoactive component. In addition to the phytocannabinoids produced only by the marijuana plant, there are endogenous cannabinoids that occur naturally in the human brain and body (our “inner cannabis,” so to speak), as well as potent synthetic cannabinoids created by pharmaceutical researchers.

In October 2003, the federal government awarded the Department of Health and Human Services a patent titled “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants,” which states: “Cannabinoids…are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

Some highlights from the exploding field of cannabinoid science:

§ THC and other plant cannabinoids are not only effective for the management of cancer symptoms (pain, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, etc.); they also confer a direct anti-tumoral effect, according to peer-reviewed studies by scientists at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Complutense University in Madrid, Spain.

§ Investigators at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found that THC inhibits an enzyme involved in the accumulation of beta amyloid plaque that disrupts communication between brain cells, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia.

§ According to researchers at Kings College in London, cannabinoid receptor signaling choreographs neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) in adult mammals and also regulates the migration and differentiation of stem cells.

§ Chinese scientists have shown that the painkilling effects of acupuncture are mediated by the same cannabinoid receptors that are activated by THC.

§ Pharmaceutical companies are exploring ways to induce therapeutic outcomes by manipulating levels of the body’s own cannabinoids. Animal studies indicate that it’s possible to attenuate a wide range of pathological conditions (including hypertension, colitis, neuropathic pain and opiate withdrawal) by preventing or delaying the enzymatic breakdown of endogenous cannabinoids.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a nonpsychoactive component of the cannabis plant, is generating quite a buzz among medical scientists and health professionals. Nothing else is able to help treatment-resistant epileptic children with Dravet syndrome and related disorders. On August 11, 2013, Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s nationally televised report on CNN discussed the astonishing transformation of Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old epileptic who had 300 “tonic-clonic” seizures a week until she ingested a CBD-infused tincture. She has been nearly seizure-free since her parents began giving her a daily dose of CBD. Nor is Charlotte an isolated case: dozens of families with children suffering from intractable epilepsy are reporting dramatic results with cannabidiol.A gifted compound with a wide spectrum of action, CBD shows promise as . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 9:36 am

Can Science Explain Tea Partiers’ Rage?

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Joshua Holland interviews Chris Mooney at Moyers & Company:

A growing body of research suggests that we are a nation divided not only by partisanship or how we view various issues, but also by dramatically different cognitive styles. Sociologists and psychologists are getting a better understanding about the ways that deep seated emotional responses effect our ideological viewpoints.

Last week, Moyers & Company caught up with Mother Jones science writer Chris Mooney, host of the Inquiring Minds podcast and author of The Republican Brain: the Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality, to talk about what this research may tell us about the attitudes of those involved in the tea party movement. Below is a lightly-edited transcript of our discussion.

Joshua Holland: Chris, let’s talk about morality. I’m personally offended by the tea partiers’ resistance to giving uninsured people health care. I find it a bit shocking that a political movement could be so filled with animosity toward the idea. But according to NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt — and other scholars — conservatives have a different moral compass entirely. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Chris Mooney: Absolutely. There are many people doing research in the psychology of politics. Jonathan Haidt is a pioneer in the psychology of morality and how that feeds into politics, and it really helps with something like this where you have strong emotional passions that are irreconcilable on the left and the right.

So what you’re describing is his moral foundation of “harm,” which liberals tend to feel more strongly about. These are emotions relating to empathy and compassion – measured by the question of how much someone is suffering and how much that suffering is a moral issue to you. How much is caring for the weak and vulnerable a moral issue to you?

It’s not that conservatives don’t feel that emotion, but they don’t necessarily feel it as strongly. They feel other things more strongly. So to Haidt, this explains the health care debate because liberals feel, most of all, this harm-care-compassion thing. Conservatives feel it a little bit less strongly, even as they have this other morality. Haidt compares it to karma — it’s really interesting — where basically, you’re supposed to get what you deserve. And what really bothers them is somebody not getting what they deserve. So the government getting involved and interfering with people getting what they deserve is really bad. That, I think, is the clash.

Holland: Jared Piazza — a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania — did a study which found that political and religious conservatives tend to avoid what he called ‘consequentialist thinking.’ So basically, they tend to see something as right or a wrong, in black and white, and if a policy that they believe to be right — say, not having the government get involved in health care — causes real world harm, they’re more likely to dismiss that. That seems consistent with what Haidt is saying, right?

Mooney: Sure. Part of his whole theory is that you feel these views before you think these views, and then you rationalize your beliefs.

Now, he would say that both sides do it. But it’s actually an open debate whether one side does it more. But certainly, if conservatives have reached a position for moral reasons, are they then more likely to discount evidence suggesting some problem with their position? Absolutely. They’re also more likely to take whatever evidence there is out there and twist it so that it supports their view. And, the more intelligent ones will be better at doing that. [laughs] That’s what all the research shows.

Holland: Right. And it all seems fairly consistent to me. I’ve interviewed George Lakoff at UC Berkeley. He talks about how people don’t judge a political issue on its merits, but tend to filter the world through a moral lens. He talks about a “moral cascade,” where we connect policies with deep-seated values. All of this research seems to be very consistent with what other people are doing.

Mooney: That’s right. And you wouldn’t want to believe it if it were just one paper in just one journal by just one researcher. That’s what, as a science writer, we’re skeptical of. We look for multiple people working in multiple fields all converging and then we say, ‘okay, there’s knowledge here,’ something reliable is being discovered. With the psychology of politics – the psychology of ideology — it is actually surprising how rapidly all of this knowledge has come together. I don’t think we’re completely there yet, but I think that you can’t miss the fact that there are huge commonalities between Lakoff, Haidt and a lot of other people that we haven’t mentioned who are doing research in this same field.

Holland: Let’s dig a bit deeper into Haidt’s moral foundation theory. In your Mother Jones interview with Haidt you have a graph comparing how liberals, conservatives, and then also libertarians score on what Haidt calls the “seven moral foundations.”

moral-foundations-1024x833

And when you look at the graph, the biggest disparities between liberals and conservatives — and, again, libertarians — are “purity” and “authority.” That’s where you see the biggest gaps between the groups. What is purity in Haidt’s reckoning?

Mooney: Purity is basically whether you feel moral emotions when someone does something you view as disgusting or indecent. A lot of this is going to involve your judgments about what’s sexually proper, but it could be other things that are disgusting. Basically, this is a way of measuring the emotion of disgust, and what this shows — this is the most striking disparity of all of them — is that liberals and libertarians really don’t sense disgust very much. And they’re together on that completely. There’s an amazing number of things that liberals and libertarians are together on. But conservatives feel it much more than either of them. And so this can explain a great deal in politics — it’s most regularly invoked to explain gay rights and how people respond to that, which I think is very appropriate. But I think it also gets into a lot of bioethical issues.

Holland: And we’ve discussed authority before. That’s really central to understanding the conservative mindset. There’s been a lot of research on the so-called authoritarian personality type, and I want to connect this with the idea of political polarization.

One of the things that we understand about authoritarians is that they have a stronger sense of the importance of loyalty to one’s own in-group. How does that factor into this equation, do you think?

Mooney: Again, this is an area where liberals and libertarians differ from conservatives markedly. Liberals and libertarians aren’t particularly tribal in the sense of having loyalty to their group, and they aren’t particularly authoritarian in the sense of thinking you have to follow a strong leader. And basically, authoritarianism is also associated with sort of black and white, ‘you’re with me or you’re against me’ thinking. But it’s also about deference to authority, whether that’s the police officer or your father or God. You must obey authority and if you don’t, that’s a moral wrong.

Holland: Jonathan Weiler at the University of North Carolina did a study which found that you can predict a person’s ideological leanings by how they answered just a few questions about child rearing. And one of the questions was whether someone values obedience or creativity more in a child. It’s really — it’s telling stuff. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 9:25 am

To Gov. Christie, From The Teacher He Screamed At

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Melissa Tomlinson, who asked a question and got a rage outburst instead of an answer (generally a sign that the question poked at things the person questioned wants to keep hidden: rage is the mask of fear), has penned an open letter in response:

Dear Governor Christie,

Yesterday I took the opportunity to come hear you speak on your campaign trail. I have never really heard you speak before except for sound bytes that I get on my computer. I don’t have cable, I don’t read newspapers. I don’t have enough time. I am a public school teacher who works an average of 60 hours a week in my building. Yes, you can check with my principal. I run the after-school program along with my classroom position. I do even more work when I am at home. For verification of this, just ask my children.

I asked you one simple question yesterday. I wanted to know why you portray New Jersey public schools as failure factories. Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.” Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.

We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education. To me, there is never enough money that is spent on education. To invest in education is to invest in our future. We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn. As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing. Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs.

But let’s put money aside for a moment. What do I want? What do ‘we people’ want?

We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel?

The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth?

This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments. The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the New Jersey Department of Education.

I am all for evaluation of a teacher. I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job. This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching. I cannot be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth.

Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child’s educational success. If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened.

Getting back to the issue of money. I am fully aware of our educational budget. Where is all of this money? To me it seems like it is being siphoned right off into the hands of private companies as they reap the benefits of the charter schools and voucher programs that you have put into place.

It certainly hasn’t gone to improve school conditions in urban areas such as Jersey City. The conditions that these students and teachers are forced to be in are horrifying. Yet you are not allowing the funds needed to improve these conditions. Are you hoping that these schools get closed down and more students are forced to go to private charter schools while the districts are being forced to pay their tuition?

I know for a fact that this is what has happened in Camden and Newark. Yet these charter schools are not held to the same accountability as our public schools. Why is that? . . .

Continue reading. You can see why Christie did not want these questions raised: they point in the direction of corruption and the undermining of public education.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 9:04 am

Gut Microbes May Impact Autoimmunity

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It seems that our microbiome plays an important and active role in our health: the obese have a different gut microbe population than the svelte, for example. (Correlation does not equal causation. (We’re now required to state that bromide any time a connection is noted.)) Now autoimmune diseases turn out to have some connection to our gut microbes. Abby Olena explains at The Scientist:

The more scientists learn about the gut microbiome, the more roles it seems to play. New evidence from researchers at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and the Harvard School of Public Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shows a correlation between onset of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with the prevalence of a certain microbe—Prevotella copri. The work was published this week (November 5) in eLife.

“It’s been suspected for years and years . . . that the development of autoimmune diseases like arthritis is dependent on the gut microbiota,” Diane Mathis, a professor of microbiology and immunobiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the work, told ScienceNOW. “It’s a very striking finding,” she added.

The researchers sequenced bacterial genes in 114 fecal samples from patients who had recently been diagnosed with RA, patients who had been treated for RA, patients with a different type of autoimmune arthritis (psoriatic), and healthy controls. They found P. copri in 75 percent of the samples from patients who had just been diagnosed with RA, but only in 21 percent of samples from healthy controls, 38 percent of samples from patients with psoriatic arthritis, and in less than 12 percent of samples from patients who had been treated for RA. Then the researchers compared P. copri DNA from several of the samples from newly diagnosed RA patients and controls and found that P. copri strains from recent-onset RA patients had fewer genes to metabolize purines and vitamins. The team also inoculated mice with P. copri and showed that the bacteria not only colonized their guts, but also seemed to make the rodents more susceptible to inflammation.

“That they were able to associate one bacterium with one pathology is remarkable,” immunologist Yasmine Belkaid of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, who did not participate in the work, told ScienceNOW.

“At this stage, however, we cannot conclude that there is a causal link between the abundance of P. copri and the onset of rheumatoid arthritis,” coauthor Dan Littman, a professor of immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a statement. “We are developing new tools that will hopefully allow us to ask if this is indeed the case.”

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 8:34 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Perfect shave

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SOTD 7 Nov 2013

A commenter on Wicked_Edge pointed out that, given that the Scent-Off has multiple judges, I should probably not post my detailed review of the shaving soap in question until all judges have submitted their ratings. I think the fear was that I would reveal the correct answers. 🙂

At any rate, that corresponded with a little unease I was feeling: that I was jumping the gun. So I’ve decided for the duration of the Scent-Off, I’ll schedule my lather notes so that they will be published at noon PDT on Monday, which is after Sharpologist publishes the summary.

Still, without going into detail on soap or lather, I can (I believe) comment on the shave itself. And today’s shave was extremely good. The Vie-Long horsehair brush shown seemed just perfect today, and the Eclipse Red Ring with a Personna Lab Blue blade did a super job: very easy passes, no nicks or burn. It was one of those shaves where I could relax, feeling that cutting myself was simply not gong to happen. A relaxed shave, and a BBS shave.

Guerlain Vetiver made a very nice aftershave.

For lather details, see Monday’s post. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2013 at 8:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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