Later On

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

Archive for March 2014

Kitten cuteness and a nice story

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Apparently the dog is very timid and shy, too afraid of other dogs to have companionship.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Cats, Video

Very cool food-exercise-weight log for OS X

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Diet Controller, $5 from the Apple Store, is really quite good. I just got it yesterday. The weight has crept up, and it’s time to Take Steps. I have had such excellent luck with tracking grocery costs (that is, it painlessly reduced the amount I spent on groceries, just from seeing what I was spending) and tracking charge card expenses as I made them (which makes you conscious of which expenses are—not to put too fine a point on  it—foolish and thus painlessly reduces charging), that I decided that keeping a food log would be the most effective route—plus that’s common knowledge anyway.

So I bought the program and started using it. It’s quite similar to FitDay, which I used in Windows, and much easier to use: better layout, more obvious choices, and so on.

So today is my first full day, and I made an excellent dinner:

4 chicken thighs

Cut out the bone and strip off the skin and put that into a pot with:

2 c water
pinch of salt
a dozen grindings of black pepper
juice of two lemons
1 onion, cut into chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 stalk of celery, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp Bristol Cream Sherry

Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add:

fresh tarragon leaves, chopped — about 1-2 Tbsp

Simmer 5 minutes, strain into pot. I gnaw on the bones, and discard bones and vegetables.

Add 1 cup Cal-Rose medium grain rice, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes until all liquid absorbed.

That’s the rice part. Here’s the chicken part, and I actually started this first, got it simmering, and then started the rice:

Trim, peel, and chop about 1 dozen shallots, but do it in parallel rather than in series—that is trim them all as a first step, peel them all as a second, and then chop.

Heat 1/4 c olive oil in large sauté pan, add the shallots, a pinch of salt, and a dozen grindings of black pepper, and sauté over medium-high heat for around 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Continue cooking until the shallots are beginning to brown slightly.

Add:

12 cloves garlic, minced coarsely
the meat from the chicken thighs, cut into chunks

Sauté over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, until chicken is somewhat browned. Then add

1 26-oz can Italian plum tomatoes (I had whole tomatoes, so cut them up with scissors)
1 16-oz diced plum tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Tarragon leaves
1/2 c (or more) pitted Kalamata olives, chopped coarsely
6 oz paneer cheese, cubed in 1/2″ cubes

Cover the pan and simmer for around 30 minutes or more.

I initially was going to use just the 26 oz can of tomatoes, but it didn’t seem enough. I didn’t have another can, so I used the 16-oz can of diced tomatoes. That total amount seemed about right. As you can see, I was using up the tarragon I had on hand.

The paneer cheese was an experiment. It wasn’t bad at all.

So that’s what we had for dinner. It turned out to be very tasty indeed, especially the rice. Well, and the tomato stuff, too.

After I finished it, I was thinking about getting a little more rice and tomato chicken, when I remembered that then I would have to enter the food, and then I suddenly recalled I was back on the “no bites” rule: no food to enter my mouth except at mealtimes. Somehow that had already slipped my mind.

Well, that’s easy enough. No more food tonight. Already a benefit from using the food log. But then I became aware that I was thinking about the additional bowl of rice and tomato chicken—obsessively so. And I think of it from various angles. something is going on in my unconscious, because I continue to be driven toward having another bowl, and it’s certainly not conscious. Sometimes I think of the taste and the texture as I eat it, sometimes I sort of rehearse getting up and going into the kitchen and dishing it up, and so on. And I catch myself, think of something else, and then suddenly I’m thinking of having more. It’s as though I’m driven toward it.

Something is definitely afoot in my unconscious, because I feel pushed toward having another bowl, and the obsessive thinking and the impulse to eat is certainly not something I’m consciously doing. That is, I’m conscious of it, but it’s like an earworm. A mouthworm.

It’s interesting to me to experience it. And already I can see the Diet Controller being helpful.

I need to get out the measuring cups.

 

 

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 7:40 pm

Prison is not the place for him

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I’m astonished by the sentence of 25 years in prison. The guy is obviously having some sort of schizophrenic break (hearing voices, 23 years old), and he should be in a (secure) mental-health facility. Oh, wait… we’re not that kind of country. We’re the kind that puts mentally ill people in prisons—and clearly not with an eye to helping some incapacitated.

At any rate, read the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 5:59 pm

Sen. Patrick Leahy loves Senatorial privileges more than he loves the country

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It’s pretty evident that Sen. Leahy puts the country’s welfare very much second to Senatorial privilege. The NY Times editorial:

The job of federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for more than eight years, one of the longest vacancies of 83 on the federal bench around the country. Last June, President Obama nominated Jennifer May-Parker, a federal prosecutor, for the position, but she hasn’t even received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee because Richard Burr, the state’s Republican senator, is blocking her.

The strange part is that Mr. Burr himself recommended her for the seat in 2009. But now he’s changed his mind and won’t say why, exploiting an archaic Senate tradition to make sure Mr. Obama can’t fill that vacancy.

That tradition, known as the blue slip, gives senators the ability to block any judicial nomination in their state, no explanation necessary, before it even reaches the stage of a committee hearing — never mind the Senate floor. There’s no formal rule enshrining this tradition, and the committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, could end it tomorrow. But he has inexplicably clung to the practice, preventing worthy nominees from being confirmed and allowing petty Republican politics to reduce Mr. Obama’s influence on the bench.

If a home-state senator won’t return a blue piece of paper agreeing to a judicial nomination, Mr. Leahy won’t give the nominee a committee hearing or a vote. It’s a form of senatorial courtesy that goes back to 1917 or so, giving senators an anti-democratic power never contemplated in the Constitution.

As with the filibuster, members of both parties have abused the privilege, but only when it suits them. When Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican of Utah, was the chairman of the committee during the presidency of George W. Bush, he would allow nominations to proceed over the objections of both home-state senators, as long as the president “consulted” with them first.

Senator Leahy has not the done the same for President Obama and his nominees, thus undercutting the important Senate rules change in November that prevented a minority of senators from blocking any executive nomination. Blue slips, or the lack thereof, have held up 11 judicial nominees; there are also 30 vacancies with no nominees because it is clear that a Republican senator would object.

The administration has been reduced to nominating a few unpalatable judges in the hopes of cutting deals. Texas has nine court vacancies, but its two senators won’t work with the White House on any nominees.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Mr. Leahy claims that the Senate will always defer to home-state senators. But, if he were to eliminate the practice, he would force senators to raise their objections publicly.

Now they hide behind a procedure that allows them to block able nominees because they want one of their cronies to get the job, or don’t want liberals or minorities on the bench or are afraid that any appearance of collaboration would rile the Tea Party.

Senators with real complaints should state them on the floor and hope to persuade a majority. At the moment, unfortunately, Republicans believe they have a serious chance of regaining the Senate in November, and they seem to have no interest in approving any of Mr. Obama’s judicial nominations through the end of his term. That’s an abuse of the system, and Mr. Leahy is running out of time to stop it.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Jobs and skills and zombies

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Paul Krugman has a good blog post:

A few months ago, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and Marlene Seltzer, the chief executive of Jobs for the Future, published an article in Politico titled “Closing the Skills Gap.” They began portentously: “Today, nearly 11 million Americans are unemployed. Yet, at the same time, 4 million jobs sit unfilled” — supposedly demonstrating “the gulf between the skills job seekers currently have and the skills employers need.”

Actually, in an ever-changing economy there are always some positions unfilled even while some workers are unemployed, and the current ratio of vacancies to unemployed workers is far below normal. Meanwhile, multiple careful studies have found no support for claims that inadequate worker skills explain high unemployment.

But the belief that America suffers from a severe “skills gap” is one of those things that everyone important knows must be true, because everyone they know says it’s true. It’s a prime example of a zombie idea — an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.

And it does a lot of harm. Before we get there, however, what do we actually know about skills and jobs?

Think about what we would expect to find if there really were a skills shortage. Above all, we should see workers with the right skills doing well, while only those without those skills are doing badly. We don’t.

Yes, workers with a lot of formal education have lower unemployment than those with less, but that’s always true, in good times and bad. The crucial point is that unemployment remains much higher among workers at all education levels than it was before the financial crisis. The same is true across occupations: workers in every major category are doing worse than they were in 2007.

Some employers do complain that they’re finding it hard to find workers with the skills they need. But show us the money: If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it’s very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases, and the cases you can find don’t fit the conventional wisdom at all. It’s good, for example, that workers who know how to operate a sewing machine are seeing significant raises in wages, but I very much doubt that these are the skills people who make a lot of noise about the alleged gap have in mind.

And it’s not just the evidence on unemployment and wages that refutes the skills-gap story. Careful surveys of employers — like those recently conducted by researchers at both M.I.T. and the Boston Consulting Group — similarly find, as the consulting group declared, that “worries of a skills gap crisis are overblown.”

The one piece of evidence you might cite in favor of the skills-gap story is the sharp rise in long-term unemployment, which could be evidence that many workers don’t have what employers want. But it isn’t. At this point, we know a lot about the long-term unemployed, and they’re pretty much indistinguishable in skills from laid-off workers who quickly find new jobs. So what’s their problem? It’s the very fact of being out of work, which makes employers unwilling even to look at their qualifications.

So how does the myth of a skills shortage not only persist, but remain part of what “everyone knows”? Well, there was a nice illustration of the process last fall, when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The NSA divulges top-secret information when it serves to promote the NSA

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Glenn Greenwald points out in The Intercept a peculiar inconsistency in the NSA’s position:

Over the last 40 years, the U.S. government has relied on extreme fear-mongering to demonize transparency. In sum, every time an unwanted whistleblower steps forward, we are treated to the same messaging: You’re all going to die because of these leakers and the journalists who publish their disclosures! Lest you think that’s hyperbole, consider this headline from last week based on an interview with outgoing NSA chief Keith Alexander:

keith1

The NSA engages in this fear-mongering not only publicly but also privately. As part of its efforts to persuade news organizations not to publish newsworthy stories from Snowden materials, its representatives constantly say the same thing: If you publish what we’re doing, it will endanger lives, including NSA personnel, by making people angry about what we’re doing in their countries and want to attack us.

But whenever it suits the agency to do so–meaning when it wants to propagandize on its own behalf–the NSA casually discloses even its most top secret activities in the very countries where such retaliation is most likely. Anonymous ex-officials boasted to the Washington Post last July in detail about the role the agency plays in helping kill people by drones. The Post dutifully headlined its story: “NSA Growth Fueled by Need to Target Terrorists.”

And now, Keith Alexander’s long-time deputy just fed one of the most pro-NSA reporters in the country, the Los Angeles Times‘ Ken Dilanian, some extraordinarily sensitive, top secret information about NSA activities in Iraq, which the Times published in an article that reads exactly like an NSA commercial:

FT. MEADE, Md. — In nearly nine years as head of the nation’s largest intelligence agency, Gen. Keith Alexander presided over a vast expansion of digital spying, acquiring information in a volume his predecessors would have found unimaginable.

In Iraq, for example, the National Security Agency went from intercepting only about half of enemy signals and taking hours to process them to being able to collect, sort and make available every Iraqi email, text message and phone-location signal in real time, said John “Chris” Inglis, who recently retired as the NSA’s top civilian.

The overhaul, which Alexander ordered shortly after taking leadership of the agency in August 2005, enabled U.S. ground commanders to find out when an insurgent leader had turned on his cellphone, where he was and whom he was calling.

“Absolutely invaluable,” retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former U.S. commander in Iraq, said in an interview as he described the NSA’s efforts, which led to the dismantling of networks devoted to burying roadside bombs.

John “Chris” Inglis just revealed to the world that the NSA was–is?–intercepting every single email, text message, and phone-location signal in real time for the entire country of Iraq. Obviously, the fact that the NSA has this capability, and used it, is Top Secret. What authority did Chris Inglis have to disclose this? Should a Department of Justice leak investigation be commenced? The Post, last July, described Alexander’s “collect-it-all” mission in Iraq which then morphed into his approach on U.S. soil (“For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ observers say”), but did not confirm the full-scale collection capabilities the NSA had actually developed.

What makes this morning’s disclosure most remarkable is what happened with last week’s Washington Post report on the MYSTIC program . . .

Continue reading. Read the whole article. The NSA simply cannot be trusted: its statements and positions are inconsistent and self-contradictory. Later in the article:

. . . This demonstrates how brazenly the NSA manipulates and exploits the consultation process in which media outlets are forced (mostly by legal considerations) to engage prior to publication of Top Secret documents: They’ll claim with no evidence that a story they don’t want published will “endanger lives,” but then go and disclose something even more sensitive if they think doing so scores them a propaganda coup. It also highlights how cynical and frivolous are their claims that whistleblowers and journalists Endanger National Security™ by reporting incriminating information about their activities which they have hidden, given how casuallyand frequently they disclose Top Secret information for no reason other than to advance their own PR interests. It’s the dynamic whereby the same administration that has prosecuted more leakers than all prior administrations combined freely leaks classified information to make Obama look tough or to help produce a pre-election hagiography film. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 1:00 pm

Reforming high-frequency trading

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The NY Times has a long extract from a new book by Michael Lewis on high-frequency trading and the technology behind it. I don’t fully follow all the explanations (in part, I suspect, because Michael Lewis doesn’t fully understand what he’s writing about), but it is interesting about how untrustworthy the financial service industry is. They often simply lie about what they’re doing.

Here’s a review of the book.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2014 at 9:52 am

Posted in Business, Technology

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