Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2014

The story of your life

with 2 comments

When I was very young, I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandmother. I liked her place a lot—a wood-burning Ben Franklin stove in the living room, in which I could build fires: how cool is that? Plus I could dig foxholes in her garden plot in the back yard. (This was during WWII, so foxholes were well known.) I’d dig earnestly, sometimes holes as deep as two feet—well, certainly 18 inches. At least a foot. Maybe less. And then when I had given that up for the pleasure of climbing the big oak tree in her front yard to sit in the tree house platform my uncles had built in earlier years, she would fill the holes with table scraps, feathers from slaughtered chickens (she raised, killed, cleaned, plucked, and cooked her own chickens), and the like and then cover the hole to let the buried matter contribute to the garden’s bounty. Or I could pick Monarch caterpillars from her dill plants (naturally, she put up pickles). In those days we saw a lot more butterflies and birds—I imagine the increasingly heavy use of pesticides accounts now for their relative rarity.

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar

She was an interesting woman. She had a Merriam-Webster 2nd International Unabridged Dictionary and we used to read words from it. She bought herself a typewriter when she was in her 60’s—a large office Royal—and taught herself to type. She had a rain gauge and reported rainfall to the US Weather Bureau for a modest stipend. She got a book on clouds and taught me the names of many. On summer nights we’d lie on cots in the garden and look at the stars and watch for meteors—and saw some, too. We played checkers a lot on a homemade board with whiskey caps (the cork part cut off) for pieces. I never really wondered why the whiskey caps were so plentiful in a dry state, but my paternal grandfather, whom I never knew, had been an alcoholic—and as a result I have always been wary of alcohol during my adult life, though I am not a teetotaler. (I did not have my first drink until my freshman year of college, though.) I recall her telling me once while cooking hotcakes (the regional term for pancakes) that when she cooked for a restaurant in New Mexico, the hotcakes had to be perfectly round.

All that is to say that, now that I’m her age, I really wish I had learned more about her. I have lots of questions, but no one to ask. I do recall that when she was quite young, she told me that her family “headed west.” I was fascinated by that. “In a covered wagon?” I asked. “No,” she said. “We took the train.” That was such a letdown I didn’t ask much more, though as I recall they traveled as far as Greenville TX, and that at the time Wee Scot the end of the line. I do know that my own father was born in a tiny hamlet called “Lone Tree,” which had vanished by the time I grew up. Lone Tree, IT (Indian Territory, before statehood).

I got to thinking about how one becomes curious about one’s progenitors as on reaches their age, and so I decided on a little project: I’m starting to collect recollections of my childhood and subsequent life in a Scrivener document—no rush, I hope—and when I have it in shape, I’ll use CreateSpace to make a book of it for my grandsons. Then it will be available as they reach my age and (perhaps) become curious about me.

I have to say that in looking back and recounting events, I see some in a very different light now: the same events I’ve always known, but transformed by new insights and new information. It’s an interesting exercise.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

Law enforcement slow to adapt regarding marijuana

leave a comment »

Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:

Skyrocketing incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenders have come to symbolize the futility of the national “war on drugs.” Even the most ardent drug legalization opponents are beginning to view drug use through the lens of public health, rather than criminal justice.

This shift in focus is evident at the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which for decades has been the command center of the federal war on drugs. The ONDCP now emphasizes “balance” as a key component of federal drug strategy. “Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated,” the agency states on its website. “Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.”

That said, it doesn’t seem that the nation’s law enforcement agencies have embraced the new approach. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationally since 1991, the share of arrests related to simple marijuana possession has more than tripled over the same time period. . .

Continue reading. Good graphs at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 1:53 pm

Industrial hemp has promise in supercapacitors (to replace batteries)

leave a comment »

Very interesting report by April Short at Alternet. There are some plots of industrial hemp being grown in the US this summer—over the DEA’s strong objections. Industrial hemp is no more intoxicating if smoked than, say, cotton, but no one has ever claimed that US drug laws or rational or that the DEA is reasonable: quite the contrary, in fact, if you look at the science.

But the DEA believes that their remit covers not only marijuana but also plain old hemp used for making rope, paper, cloth, and now (perhaps) supercapacitors. And since the only action of which the DEA is capable is to forbid things, they took it upon themselves to forbid industrial hemp. But Congress put enough pressure so that the DEA did allow some experimental industrial hemp crops, though even then they tried at the last minute to seize the hemp seeds being imported for the test crops—much to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s anger, one of the tests being in Kentucky.

Short’s report begins:

On top of its vast medicinal benefits and a “high” that’s safer and mellower than alcohol, what if cannabis could also power a cheap, sustainable super battery and forever change the energy game? It sounds like a far-fetched dream cooked up by Cheech and Chong after a bong rip or three, but it’s possible, according to a team of researchers at the University of Alberta.

During the American Chemical Society’ [3]s national meeting in San Francisco on Tuesday, engineering professor David Mitlin (who now works at Clarkson University in New York) presented the findings. The study he led investigates the potential for industrial hemp (the non-psychoactive cannabis plant closely related to marijuana) to aid in the creation of extremely efficient batteries called supercapacitors, or “supercaps.” By heating hemp fibers, the researchers were able to rearrange the plant’s carbon atoms to create thin, two-dimensional sheets, or nanosheets. Those nanosheets are then used as electrodes (electrical conductors) in the supercaps.

Prior research into supercaps broke ground using graphene [4], rather than hemp, to create the nanosheets with unmatched results for energy storage. Since then, scientists have been looking for ways to use “graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive,” ACS reported in a press release [3].

The recent hemp study shows hemp to be more efficient than graphene, and 1,000 times cheaper, since hemp is fast-growing and relatively easy to process.

“Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin said in the ACS press release. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process, and therefore, are much cheaper than graphene.” . . .

Continue reading.

It’s amazing what can be discovered once research is allowed—but the DEA stands firm against any research involving marijuana. You’ll note that this result came from Canada, which grows industrial hemp and is the source of much of the US supply. (It’s perfectly legal to import it, just illegal to grow it. —  I know, I know. Ask the DEA.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 12:52 pm

Excellent photo to illustrate an abstract scientific finding

leave a comment »

The finding was an experiment to determine whether a person is more likely to buy the game s/he’s researched and read good reviews about, or one s/he knows that friends have already purchased?

Here’s the article that explains the study and findings. And clearly we are a social species. I think the result would be very different for, say, tigers—but then tigers would not even use Facebook (even if they could): they’re not all that social.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Good post from Paul Krugman giving a well-deserved kudos to the Public Editor of the NY Times

leave a comment »

Krugman posts:

The Times’s public editor weighs in on the sliming of Rick Perlstein, and concludes:

So I’m with the critics. The Times article amplified a damaging accusation of plagiarism without establishing its validity and doing so in a way that is transparent to the reader. The standard has to be higher.

Read at the two links, the latter first. It’s at least a blow struck in favor of good journalism.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Books, NY Times

For those who are mildly obsessive in tracking things

leave a comment »

Take a look at this review of rTRACKER. I would buy it in a heartbeat if I had a smartphone—and if I had a smartphone, I think I would go with iPhone based on what I’ve been reading about security issues: Android phones, in being more open, are also more vulnerable. But even the iPhone is a little unsettling in how much info is collected.

Still, for me it’s not an issue: I’m mostly at home. But I do like rTRACKER.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 11:37 am

Why car thieves overwhelmingly prefer pre-1997 Hondas

leave a comment »

Because those Hondas are still worth something and later cars are too hard to steal. Kevin Drum points out the virtuous circle that results.

OTOH, I have frequently seen in movies how you can just reach under the dash, pull some wires loose, touch two of them, and the car starts with no problem. Hmmm. I wonder: can it possibly be that movies are not a reliable guide to daily life?

Written by LeisureGuy

13 August 2014 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Technology

%d bloggers like this: