Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Brilliant Career. Partime. Maybe.

Well anyway, I'm thinking about it:



I took an online aptitude test, and scored 100%. It seemed mostly to be testing if I was actually paying attention. Not too hard to do.
     

A Criticism of Critics

I enjoyed reading this:

There's A Meanness Abroad in the Land
[...] In many of the reviews I read daily, on a whole range of subjects besides filmmaking, I am so struck with the underlying view the critics seem to have about intelligence. Review after review bespeaks the idea of "look how intelligent I am, I can see – more than most – everything that's wrong with this." (Whatever the this may be.) I was raised with a very different view of intelligence: it valued "look how intelligent I am, I can see – more than most – all the things there are to appreciate, about this."

In our day, and perhaps in other days as well, it is a far rarer soul who makes appreciation the defining motif of his or her life, than those who make criticism their defining goal. Criticism is easy; it takes no brains to say what's wrong with something. Appreciation however, is difficult; you sometimes have to fight to see things to appreciate, digging for example beneath ugly surface impressions, to see some shining beauty underneath. That's why prejudice flourishes. It takes brains to see what there is to appreciate in every man and woman who was ever born. Which should be the goal of every intelligent man or woman. Civilization never decays or vanishes because of a lack of criticism in a society; it decays or vanishes because of a lack of appreciation in that society. As a direct consequence of this, that society tends to preserve the commonplace, while it casually throws away treasures. And criticism causes more meanness to be abroad, in the land.

Every critic begins with assumptions, usually unexamined, that they use to justify their hammering the thing they are examining. [...]
The other day at dinner, were were talking about people we know (or have known) who are habitually critical and fault finding, and how unhappy they are as a result. This reminded me of that. I know that criticism has it's place, but you sure need to balance it, if you want to be happy.

The writer here was talking about a negative review he read of the movie "The Hurt Locker". I love what he said about that. He also ended it with a quote from the composer Jean Sibelius, which made me chuckle.
     

Why the Democrats are holding out

They feel they have little to lose. Here is one explanation:

Obama’s “small deal” could lead to bigger tax increases
[...] The Senate already passed a bill letting the Bush tax cuts lapse for income over $250,000. That bill is very, very popular. The White House expects that if we go over the cliff, the House will have to pass that bill, too, and the president would have little choice but to sign it. That bill raises taxes by a bit more than $700 billion, which is less than the $1.6 trillion the White House wants. But that $700 billion, to the White House, is the baseline: If they get nothing else, they will certainly get that.

And that’s why Boehner’s offer of $800 billion doesn’t impress. The White House already has some $700 billion in the bank, as they see it. The reason to negotiate with Boehner is that an agreement with him could, in theory, push that number well above $1 trillion while stabilizing the debt and avoiding the economic pain of falling off the fiscal cliff. But there’s no reason to cut a deal with Boehner in which the White House gives up spending cuts in order to get a tax increase they can have anyway.

The talk in Washington now is about a “small deal.” That would likely include the Senate tax bill, some policy to turn off at least the defense side of the sequester and a handful of other policies to blunt or delay various parts of the fiscal cliff.

That’s not a very good deal for the short-term health of the economy. Depending on how much of the fiscal cliff gets delayed, we could tip into recession anyway. But it could lead, in the end, to much more revenue than a “big deal” now.

Here’s how it would go. Some time in the next month or so, the small deal would pass and the White House would pocket that $700-plus billion in tax revenue. They really would get that for free, just as the president told Boehner.

But pressure would quickly mount to strike a larger deal, both because there would be another fiscal cliff coming and because the debt ceiling would need to be raised. (The White House swears they won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling, but it’s not exactly clear what that will mean in practice.)

The White House would insist that the next deal includes a 1:1 ratio of tax increases — all of which could come through Republican-friendly tax reform — to spending cuts. So a subsequent deal that included $600 billion or $700 billion in spending cuts would also include $600 billion or $700 billion in tax increases, leading to total new revenue in the range of $1.2 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

[...]

All of which is to say, if Boehner had taken the White House’s deal in 2011, he could’ve stopped the tax increase at $800 billion. If he took their most recent deal, he could stop it at $1.2 trillion. But if he insists on adding another round to the negotiations — one that will likely come after the White House pockets $700 billion in tax increases — then any deal in which gets the entitlement cuts he wants is going to mean a deal in which he accepts even more tax increases than the White House is currently demanding. [...]
Is this a bit simplistic? It's not up to Boehner alone to accept or not accept a deal. He has the rest of the Republican Party to contend with.

But if this turns out to be mostly true, then it doesn't look like it will got to well for the Republicans.
     

South Africa: Will the ANC split?

If it does, it could be a good thing:

Is South Africa following the path of 'the strongman'?
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, was once a post-apartheid hero. Now it is the latest caricature of African bad governance, and it no longer resonates with the people. At its upcoming meeting, the party must embrace internal debate and reject economic nationalism.

[...]

The regional cost of South Africa's backward drift is significant. The country's gross domestic product, $408 billion in 2011, accounted for roughly one-third of the combined economic output of all sub-Saharan Africa, yet the country's economy is growing at less than half the pace of the continent's economy.

During the ANC's two decades in power, health-care services have declined sharply. And although the government spends 20 percent of state funds on education, quality in the classroom is now among the lowest in Africa – and fewer than half of students finish the equivalent of high school.

Despite the rapid growth of a black middle class aligned to the ANC, the gap between rich and poor has widened. Low productivity and a failure to diversify the economy away from its dependence on mining have resulted in a perpetual trade deficit.

Both Moody's and Standard & Poor's downgraded the country's sovereign credit rating this fall in the wake of rolling wildcat strikes in South Africa's mining sector. That disturbance was punctuated by the massacre of 34 protesting miners by police in August – the worst incident of state violence since the end of apartheid. There are almost weekly local protests over poor delivery of basic necessities such as water and electricity.

ANC leaders have further hobbled the economy with uncertainty by refusing to end their flirtation with nationalizing at least parts of the mining sector, despite party studies concluding such a move would be disastrous to the country's fiscal prospects. Equally troubling are the party's repeated attempts to erode the independence of the judiciary and national prosecutor and to curb the media.

In a sure sign that the party is out of ideas, it has begun couching its economic strategy in terms of a "second transition," much the way the old Soviet Union floated successive five-year plans.

The great fear among pessimists of South Africa's move from white rule to democracy has always been that the country would go the way of the rest of postcolonial Africa. Like Zimbabwe, Kenya, and others before it, South Africa has reached the fragile point when the ruling party's claim to power no longer resonates with the people.

The ANC remains a liberation movement more than a ruling political party. Ordinary South Africans want jobs, schools, and safe neighborhoods. The ANC wants party loyalty among its ranks and supporters. Unnerved by a restive public, the party has turned to manipulating populist causes and silencing dissent. The people aren't buying it, but there's nowhere for them to turn.

[...]

To the ANC's embarrassment, the Western Cape, the one province ruled by an opposition party, outperforms the rest of the country in nearly every social index. The Democratic Alliance is predominantly white, however, with all the baggage that implies for national electoral appeal in a country still scarred by a history of violent minority rule.

For now, a change in leadership appears unlikely. No serious competitor emerged during the party's nominating process to challenge President Jacob Zuma. He's a wily politician who harnessed a populist backlash against his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, to deflect charges of rape and corruption and assume his party's mantle five years ago.

But South Africa is not without safeguards and the promise of a brighter future. Whereas similar conditions in other states led to military coups d'├ętat and civil wars, South Africa has a strong Constitution, a vibrant civil society, and a rich protest tradition. It is unimaginable that the ANC could ever preserve its power through strong-arm tactics and constitutional violations and get away with it in the medium- to-long term, as President Robert Mugabe has done in neighboring Zimbabwe for decades.

Ironically, the best buffer may be the ANC itself. It is an article of faith among political observers that South Africa will remain a de facto one-party state until the ANC splits. That view holds – and the split looks increasingly inevitable.

The ANC governs in a coalition with its liberation-era partners the Communist Party and congress of trade unions. While that grouping served the cause of overthrowing apartheid, it has become steadily more strained in governing. If the alliance survives one more election cycle, it seems poised to fragment afterward. [...]
Somethings gotta give. An ANC split into two parties could make things very interesting.
     

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Funnies; Mayan Predictions


Since getting DSL, I've been looking at some of the Mayan 2012 prediction videos on Youtube. They're pretty nutty.

Here is my prediction:



     

How about "Mental Illness Control"?

A Proper Response to the Connecticut Murders
[...] But no one can discount one over-riding issue that links every like event involving these types of mass murders, mental health. The Aurora, WV Tech and the Newton slayings all involve a significantly mentally ill individual.

We, as a nation, decided three or four decades ago, that we didn’t have the will or resources to create safe, reliable and appropriate facilities for those who suffer with mental illness. One reason we started to lose our appetite to deal with the mentally ill appropriately was the ever expanding definition that was being associated with the diagnoses. Eventually, every drunk and drug user was labeled mentally ill, and resources allocated to the mentally ill were quickly filled and demand for more and more and more resources taxed the mental health support system.

A history of tragic abuse in mental health facilities also came to light as mental institutions became the playground for every kook doctor who espoused a cure for mental health. With little or no oversight mental health institutions became a real life horror stories. One has to look no further than the lobotomy of Rose Marie Kennedy to demonstrate these abuses.

Thus, by the time the 1980′s rolled around mental health institutions were burdened with more demands for an every expanding diagnose and marked by the mark of abuse. Lost respect led to lost funding which eventually led to the closing of many public mental health institutions.

And, now, mental health, marred by expanded definitions, history of abuse and quackery, lost funding and lost public support, ranks low in the priorities of the American public.

We should realize that there are individuals, through no fault of their own, who suffer from mental illness, which needs to be recognized and dealt with. Additionally, families of these individuals need support, both in resource and emotional support. In return for this support the mental health community needs to stop the ever expanding definition of mental illness and separate those who choose to abuse drugs and alcohol from those who suffer from a non self-inflicted malady. [...]
Our country has had a long history of gun ownership, without these mass slayings. So what has changed? We used to lock up people who had serious mental problems. And now we don't.

*
     

How to seismically retrofit a doublewide


Quake Safe Products
[...] QuakeSafe® foundation systems are specially designed to protect manufactured homes in the event of an earthquake. Standard manufactured home foundations are simply stacked cinder blocks that offer no stability in an earthquake. QuakeSafe bracing is engineered to fully support your home even if the cinder blocks fail. QuakeSafe foundations are engineered and certified to meet state earthquake resistance codes. [...]
The site has a slide show of an installation.

Manufactured Housing Disaster-Resistant Pier Systems
[...] A good foundation gives homeowners peace of mind. For manufactured homes, one option is a disaster-resistant pier system -- stout members rigidly connecting the home's chassis to a slab, grade beam, or array of pads. Some systems incorporate lateral or diagonal bracing for greater resistance. Although often referred to as "earthquake resistant bracing" (ERB) systems, many also resist high winds, frost heaves, and floods. Not only are these systems cost-effective in reducing structural movement (compared to conventional manufactured housing foundations), they can save lives and property. [...]
Most of the articles I've been able to find talk about doing the install while the double wide is being installed. I've yet to see one about retro-fitting, doing the install after the home is build without the bracing.
     

Where "Liberal Democratic" means "Conservative"

San Francisco? Yes, there too, but I'm talking about Japan:

Japan's Governing Party Resoundingly Ousted in Shift to Right
TOKYO — Japan's governing party has suffered a crushing election defeat. Results of parliamentary elections Sunday show the next government will be formed by the Liberal Democratic Party. The conservatives and their allies are expected to take a more hawkish approach in confronting the country's neighbors, but what they plan to do to reverse Japan's long economic decline remains murky.

Japanese voters, as forecast, have tossed out the party they brought into power three years ago.

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), crippled by defections of lawmakers from its ranks, lost more than two-thirds of its seats in the more powerful 480-seat lower house of parliament (officially the House of Representatives).

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda conceded at a brief news conference.

Noda says the defeat is his personal responsibility, therefore he will resign as head of the party.

Among the dozen parties fielding candidates, at the top with a landslide victory is the Liberal Democratic Party, capturing a comfortable majority of seats. It governed Japan virtually uninterrupted from 1955 until 2009.

The LDP, Japan's traditional conservative party, allied with the New Komei Party (which is closely linked to the controversial Buddhist sect Soka Gakkai), is poised to have a two-thirds majority in the lower house. That will allow it to over ride any vetoes of legislation by the upper house (also known as the House of Councilors), where the Democratic Party of Japan is the largest single party.

The next upper house election is expected in July. [...]
It's an interesting glimpse into Japanese politics.
     

Faith, and Response to a Tragedy

Newtown was a lot like the town I grew up in. I haven't anything to say about it, that hasen't been said by others. I did like this post from The Anchoress:

Newtown and the God who Knows
[...] People will ask, “where was God, in all of this.” God was in the teachers who pulled little kids into classrooms and went into lockdown, and in the first responders who got survivors to safety and reunited with their parents (pray for the first responders, too; they suffer — often in silence — after they have made safe). God was right beside everyone, and is with them in grief. Because he is the God Who Knows all we feel and experience. [...]
She's is Catholic, and is trying to respond to this as a person of Faith. I'm not a Catholic, but I think you don't need to be Catholic to understand or appreciate some of the subtleties she is communicating.

H.T. to Michelle Malkin for the link.

     

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A "Martin Luther" for Islam?

Who Wrote the Koran?
For more than two decades, Abdulkarim Soroush has been Iran’s leading public intellectual. Deeply versed in Islamic theology and mysticism, he was chosen by Ayatollah Khomeini to “Islamicize” Iran’s universities, only to eventually turn against the theocratic state. He paid a price for his dissidence. Vigilantes and other government-supported elements disrupted his widely attended lectures in Iran, beat him and reportedly nearly assassinated him. In a country where intellectuals are often treated like rock stars, Soroush has been venerated and reviled for his outspoken support of religious pluralism and democracy. Now he has taken one crucial step further. Shuttling from university to university in Europe and the U.S., Soroush is sending shock waves through Iran’s clerical establishment.

The recent controversy began about eight months ago, after Soroush spoke with a Dutch reporter about one of Islam’s most sensitive issues: the divine origin of the Koran.

[...]

Soroush has been described as a Muslim Luther, but unlike the Protestant reformer, he is no literalist about holy books. His work more closely resembles that of the 19th-century German scholars who tried to understand the Bible in its original context. Case in point: when a verse in the Koran or a saying attributed to Muhammad refers to cutting off a thief’s hand or stoning to death for adultery, it only tells us the working rules and regulations of the prophet’s era. Today’s Muslims are not obliged to follow in these footsteps if they have more humane means at their disposal.

Soroush’s latest views have not endeared him to the powerful conservative wing of Iran’s establishment. Some have accused him of heresy, which is punishable by death. There have been demonstrations by clerics in Qom, the religious capital of Iran, against his recent work. But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, unexpectedly warned against feeding the controversy. He said those who are employing “philosophy or pseudo-philosophy” to “pervert the nation’s mind” should not be dealt with “by declaring apostasy and anger” but rather countered with the “religious truths” that will falsify their arguments.

In Iran today, many opponents of the government advocate the creation of a secular state. Soroush himself supports the separation of mosque and state, but for the sake of religion. He seeks freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Thus he speaks for a different — and potentially more effective — agenda. The medieval Islamic mystic Rumi once wrote that “an old love may only be dissolved by a new one.” In a deeply religious society, whose leaders have justified their hold on power as a divine duty, it may take a religious counterargument to push the society toward pluralism and democracy. [...]

     

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Rita Hayworth is "Stayin' Alive"



We recently got DSL at our house. No more "FAP" usage to worry about, and now we can watch video in real time too. Hooray!

My dad sent me a link to this video. I thought about it tonight, because the song "Stayin Alive" was mentioned at my CPR class tonight (because it has the right 'beat' for doing CPR!).

It made me think of Rita, and I've wanted to post this for a while now, because she was a fabulous dancer. And these dance moves are timeless.
     

Coming soon to the USA?

Report: Two-thirds of Millionaires left Britain to avoid 50p tax rate resulting in billions in lost revenue for UK government      

Two Oregon Historical Disasters

I heard about these at a C.E.R.T. class, and then looked them up on the internet:

When dynamite truck blew up in Roseburg, it looked like nuclear war
A truck driver parked 13,000 pounds of explosives next to the hardware store downtown. That night the hardware store caught fire … and so did the dynamite, in the biggest human-caused disaster in Oregon history.[...]
It's quite a story. Has 8mm film footage of the aftermath.

Then there's this:

The Biscuit Fire
The Biscuit Fire was a wildfire that took place in 2002 that burned nearly 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) in the Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon and northern California, in the Western United States. The fire was named after Biscuit Creek in southern Oregon. [...]
It has a satellite photo that shows the enormity of the fire.
     

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Irish Solution for Israel?

Maybe:

Applying lessons from Northern Ireland
Israel should push for the establishment of a semi-permanent peace conference involving moderate Arab countries and representatives of the Quartet.
[...] Two creative breakthroughs are needed: the first is to see moderate Arab states as true partners with a common interest in resolving the problem, and to break with the decades old Israeli doctrine that we should never meet the Arab world as a whole. This policy is based on the denial of historical reality: The Arab world as a whole needs to accept Israel's presence in the Middle East.

The Arabs should help us? Yes. Social psychology has shown time and again that the best way to create solidarity between feuding parties is to have them work on a common problem. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just our problem: It is one of the whole Arab world, because it fuels Islamic fundamentalism and destabilizes the region. No Palestinian leader can opt for compromise without looking for the legitimacy bestowed by all Arabs.

The second breakthrough we need is to rethink Israel's phobia of participating in permanent conferences that allow a process to evolve. This is exactly the opposite of the situation of the Camp David summit in 2000, which was completely identified with Bill Clinton, who was in the last phase of his presidency. The frantic pressure of having to strike a deal before he left the White House, with no one in sight who would shepherd the process to an end, was a recipe for failure.

Instead we need to apply the model of the Northern Ireland process. In Alderdice's view the major factor that made success in that process possible was the participation of the British and Irish governments, as well as the support and involvement of the American government. All pledged to be there for as long as it took to reach an agreement.

Psychologically, it makes a huge difference to know that external support is there to stay. [...]
Some good stuff here. But where is the Palestinian's Nelson Mandela? That would help too.      

About the 3,000,000 Republicans who didn't vote, and other reasons why the GOP lost

How Republicans Can Rebrand
While listening to conservative pundits lamenting Mitt Romney's defeat, incredulous that three million Republicans didn't vote -- ostensibly because the GOP (Grand Old Party) had failed to get out the vote -- the real problem hit me: cultural infantilism. Liberalism, and its pillars entitlement and dependency, is now so pervasive, corrosive, and infectious that many of America's adults have regressed.
The GOP shouldn't have to "get out the vote" in any election. Responsible adults know that voting is a civic duty, a responsibility, an obligation, a self-directed act. We tell children to fulfill their obligations, right? Barack Obama exhorted his sycophantic base to vote, even instructing them that voting is the best revenge. Although he won, Obama received 10 million fewer votes in 2012 than he did in 2008.
Adults, conversely, get themselves out to vote. They take responsibility for their lives, make difficult choices and sacrifices, fight to limit government, and control their own destinies. Adults respect the laws of finance and accounting, resent wealth confiscation and redistribution, and loathe unpayable debt.
Alas, there are few adults in socialistic America; that's why Barack Obama, the Candy Man, appeals so much to Candylanders, who childishly accept free candy in exchange for their own freedom. President Obama understands the infantilism of his base and, accordingly, crafted a simple re-election strategy: promise and deliver them free candy; they will overlook my failures and vote for me with messianic zeal. It worked. [...]
That's one way of looking at it. I understand the rest of the author's rant, and as much as I sympathize with his proposed solutions, I'm not sure it's that simple, or that his proposed solutions alone would be effective enough. I think there is more that needs to be considered.

This also makes a lot of sense to me:

Republicans learn the hard way: George W. Bush was right
[...] Compassionate conservatism always struck me as a philosophical surrender to liberal assumptions about the role of the government in our lives. A hallmark of Great Society liberalism is the idea that an individual's worth as a human being is correlated to his support for massive expansions of the entitlement state. Conservatives are not uncompassionate. (Indeed, the data show that conservatives are more charitable with their own money and more generous with their time than liberals). But, barring something like a natural disaster, they believe that government is not the best and certainly not the first resort for acting on one's compassion.

I still believe all of that, probably even more than I did when Mr. Bush was in office.

But, as a political matter, it has become clear that he was on to something important.

Neither critics nor supporters of compassionate conservatism could come to a consensus over the question of whether it was a mushy-gushy marketing slogan (a Republican version of Bill Clinton's feel-your-pain liberalism) or a serious philosophical argument for a kind of Tory altruism, albeit with an evangelical idiom and a Texan accent.

Some sophisticated analysts, such as my National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru, always acknowledged the philosophical shortcomings and inconsistencies of compassionate conservatism, but argued that something like it was necessary nonetheless. The evolving demographics of the country, combined with the profound changes to both the culture and the economy, demanded the GOP change both its sales pitch and its governing philosophy. [...]
The playing field has changed. There are new demographics at work. The GOP needs to stop acting as if it's still the 1980s, if it wants to remain relevant.

And this too:

The real reason Obama won
History, not an imagined rejection of capitalism, explains the president's re-election victory
[...] In 1992, George H.W. Bush, presiding over a sluggish economy, faced the hard-charging Bill Clinton, who promised fundamental changes in the nation's economy and an alteration of priorities. Mr. Clinton's charisma and message that he represented change, coupled with a third-party candidacy in the person of Ross Perot, helped ensure Mr. Bush's defeat.

This year, Mitt Romney talked about change but failed to offer a clear agenda that represented a recognizable break with the past. Most informed voters surely recognized that they had heard the promised magical benefits of tax cuts before. In fact, the policy was very recently in place during the administration of George W. Bush, and helped turn a $290 billion budget surplus into a $455 billion deficit, while nearly doubling the national debt from $5.6 trillion to more than $10 trillion. Mr. Romney's assertions that he would reduce spending and close tax loopholes (without meaningful specifics), along with promised defense increases, prevented his ever gaining the credible high ground in the economic conversation. Bill Clinton's retort that "it's arithmetic" probably rang truer with voters than anything offered by the billions of dollars spent on political advertising.

While this year presented an economy still in slow recovery from its 2008 collapse, the other factors present in past presidential defeats were clearly lacking. President Barack Obama had no primary challenge, nor was there any thorny third-party candidacy. He was spared blame for the economic collapse, while being able to take credit for slow but undeniable growth. No charismatic personality dominated the agenda, and the challenger never offered an inspirational program of truly new ideas that signaled a compelling reason for change.

These facts, more than any theories about the rise to prominence of some entitlement-dependent mass bent on turning America into Europe, provide the basis for why the country decided to stay with the guy in office.
Read the whole thing. I think it's possibly the most objective and fair explanation I've read so far, based on historical comparison and analysis, of why the GOP didn't defeat the incumbent. All things considered, the outcome was inevitable.

It's not the end of the world, IF the GOP learns from it's mistakes. And as the next article I'm linking to points out, the Democrats would do well to not become over confident:

Don’t get cocky, Democrats: The post-Romney GOP looks just like you did two decades ago
You’re looking at a political party that has lost the popular vote in five of the past six elections; whose one winning presidential candidate achieved the White House thanks to a fluke; and whose prospects for the future seem doomed by demography and geography.

No, it’s not today’s Republican Party you’re looking at—it’s the Democratic Party after the 1988 elections. And the past (nearly) quarter-century is an object lesson in the peril of long-term assumptions about the nature and direction of our political path.

Consider where the Democrats found themselves that November. They had just lost their third straight presidential election, and not to the formidable Ronald Reagan, but to George Herbert Walker Bush, a WASP aristocrat prone to sitting down at a diner and asking for “a splash of coffee.” They’d lost by more than seven points in the popular vote, and by 416-111 in the Electoral College, winning only 10 states.

The most enduring element of their geographic base had vanished. The once-solid Democratic South was now solidly Republican and, for the second straight election, their candidate had not won a single state in the region.

But that was only the start of the wretched geographic picture. Four of the six New England states had gone Republican, and the Plains and the Mountain West were all in the GOP camp. Most daunting, three big states—New Jersey, Illinois and California, with 87 combined electoral votes—had gone Republican for the sixth consecutive election. The weakness of Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis could not explain away a recent political fact: The Republican Party appeared to have “an electoral lock” on the White House.

What had happened to the Democrats? What changed? And why is this relevant to Republican woes today? [...]
Read the whole thing, for a good reminder of how things can change.      

Monday, November 12, 2012

USA, the world's largest oil producer?

Yep. That's where we are heading:

U.S. to become world's largest oil producer before 2020, IEA says
The U.S. will become the world’s top producer of oil within five years, a net exporter of the fuel around 2030 and nearly self-sufficient in energy by 2035, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.

It’s a bold set of predictions for a nation that currently imports some 20% of its energy needs.

Recently, however, an “energy renaissance” in the U.S. has caused a boost in oil, shale gas and bio-energy production due to new technologies such as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fuel efficiency has improved in the transportation sector. The clean energy industry has seen an influx of solar and wind efforts.

By 2015, U.S. oil production is expected to rise to 10 million barrels per day before increasing to 11.1 million bpd by 2020, overtaking second-place Russia and front-runner Saudi Arabia. The U.S. will export more oil than it brings into the country in 2030.

Around the same time, however, Saudi Arabia will be producing some 11.4 million bpd of oil, outpacing the 10.2 million from the U.S. In 2035, U.S. production will slip to 9.2 million bpd, far behind the Middle Eastern nation’s 12.3 million bpd. Iraq will exceed Russia to become the world’s second largest oil exporter.

At that point, real oil prices will reach $125 a barrel. By then, however, the U.S. won’t be relying much on foreign energy, according to the IEA’s World Energy Outlook.

Globally, the energy economy will undergo a “sea change,” according to the report, with nearly 90% of Middle Eastern oil exports redirecting toward Asia. [...]

This report also confirms the claims made by Porter Stansberry, that I referred to in an earlier post about President Obama capitalizing on an oil boom, like Teddy Roosevelt and FDR did. And with the same corrupting influences.

   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Honor of Veteran's Day 2012



To All of Our Veterans,

Thank You


   


We owe you more
than words can say.

Will Obama become America's Hugo Chavez?


Here is one person's version of "What's Next": The Third Term

On the above link, a video will try to play, showing text with someone narrating it. It's very long. If you prefer to read (as I do), simply try to shut the window. When you do, a pop up will ask you if you really want to leave. Don't do anything for a moment; the page will reload, with the full text from the video. Then from the pop-up box you can choose to stay on the page and read.

It's a long ramble, by Porter Stansberry, who is trying to sell his investment newsletter. In the course of that, he predicts that Obama, in his second term, will consolidate and keep his power from an economic boom caused by shale oil and natural gas.

That may sound far-fetched, but he does explain with extensive sources and data to back his prediction. He also makes two very compelling historical comparisons, with Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, who both used similar circumstances to do what Stansberry believes Obama will also do. FDR managed a third term, and Obama could do the same, either by changing the constitution or by having his wife Michelle run as his proxy.

The data he gives for shale oil and natural gas is also fascinating. He uses his record of past accurate predictions, to bolster his predictions for Obama. The extensive references and data he offers to back up his ideas and predictions seems very plausible; it pieces together a lot of things I've heard from various other sources.

I wanted to print some excerpts here, and discuss some of the ideas, but blogger has changed it's publishing software, and I am now finding it very difficult to work with. The new blogger software requires me to do extensive reformatting of excerpted text, which is very time consuming. And even then, it often won't let me publish it (like it did today, after I did all the work!).

Thus, I predict, that I will not be blogging very much anymore. I have a life, and I'm going to start living it more. I may occasionally post interesting links and small amounts of text, but I'm pretty sure my most active blogging days are behind me.

It was fun, it was a learning experience. But now, seeing as Blogger has made this so unnecessarily arduous and time-consuming, methinks it's time to make better use of my time.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Don't Worry, The End is Near

     

Health related links, 11-03-12

Are There Natural Options for Treating GERD?
[Dr. Sinatra]Program for Digestive Health
     

Hooray for the Old West!

Or rather, Hooray for the Old in the West:

In U.S., 15% of Registered Voters Have Already Cast Ballots
Early voting highest in the West and among seniors; similar by party ID
[...] 2012 Early Voters Are Older, Concentrated in the West

Early voting this election year is most prevalent in the West, followed by the South and the Midwest, but is relatively light in the East. These differences largely reflect regional differences in state laws on absentee and mail voting, with two states -- Washington and Oregon -- focused exclusively or mainly on mail-in voting. One in four voters in the West say they have already voted, and another 30% plan to vote before Election Day. The combined 55% in the West contrasts with 40% in the South, 23% in the Midwest, and 9% in the East.

Early voting is also strongly related to age, with seniors the most likely to have already voted (26%), compared with 7% of voters aged 18 to 29.

Postgraduates are more likely than voters with no more than an undergraduate-level education to say they have voted or plan to vote early, while adults with no college experience are the least likely. [...]


More Republicans vote early, among other statistics. Read more for a further breakdown of the stats.      

Friday, November 02, 2012

Over-powerful Unions are for the birds

Report: Non-union utility crews turned away from NJ
Not exactly helpful to the suffering victims with no electricity and heat, as nighttime temperatures turn freezing.

The above picture has nothing to do with the article. But I had noticed, that in several of the photos of the flooding caused by Sandy, there were Swans. This one was my favorite. The title of this blog post, an excuse to use it. A bit of natural beauty among a lot of tragedy.
     

If Candies Were Taxes...

From the Mouths of Babes:



H.T. Happy Redistributionist Halloween!      

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Do American's really want a One Party State?

"One party RULE?" File this under "WTF?":

Americans' Preference Shifts Toward One-Party Government
Change in preferences driven mostly by Democrats
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A record-high 38% of Americans prefer that the same party control the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say it would be better if the president and Congress were from different parties and 33% say it doesn't make any difference. While Americans tend to lean toward one-party government over divided government in presidential election years, this year finds the biggest gap in preferences for the former over the latter and is a major shift in views from one year ago.

These findings are based on Gallup's annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 6-9. The data show an increased level of support for one-party rule amid a currently divided government in which the Democrats control the presidency and the Senate, while the Republicans control the House. This suggests many Americans are experiencing divided-government fatigue.

Opinions on divided government have fluctuated over the years. When one party controlled both Congress and the presidency in 2006 and 2010, Gallup found near-historical lows supporting one-party rule. This suggests Americans may simply tend to prefer what they don't have or see problems in whatever the current situation is. At least one chamber of Congress changed hands in the subsequent elections, and the increase in support for one-party government in 2008 foreshadowed an election that would give the Democrats sole control of the presidency and both houses of Congress.

Just once, in 2005, have a plurality of Americans preferred divided government since Gallup began asking this question, indicating division at the federal level is rarely popular. The "makes no difference" response has generally been the most popular, though support for it fell this year to tie the lowest level Gallup has found. [...]
Ok, so its talking about One Party dominating government, not a one-party state. In theory, that at least leaves the door open for a change in government. BUT. For many years, I've heard many Democrats complain, that they hate our two party system of government. I've heard them say that they feel we really need only one party in the USA, and that to make any progress politically, the Republican party needs to be destroyed/disbanded. Or at least marginalized to the point where they have no power, and are merely "window dressing" for the pretense of a multiparty state.

Excuse me. There is a word for that. It's called "Fascism". And I'm afraid the Democrats have been flirting with fascism for a long while now, which is one reason why I stopped being a Democrat years ago.

This article by Gallop goes on to explain in detail how this "One Party" trend is being driven mostly by Democrats.  No surprise there.

Combine that, with our current Democrat Administration's penchant for quietly dismantling America, and what do we end up with? What will we end up with, if this Administration get's four more years, years where they will not have to worry about another election, and can just push 100% for what they want?

I don't like the Democrats. But I believe both the Democrats and the Republicans benefit by having a strong political opposition opposing them. It makes them both shape-up, try harder, and makes an incentive to strive to reach for bi-partisan legislation and solutions. When one party dominates too much, we end up with extremes, and the worst aspects of the dominating party. IMO, that is what we have seen in the past.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We need BALANCE.


   

The Benefits of a "non-credit" Education

I've been looking at ways to expand my current work skill-set. I came across this website, which offers many different kinds of courses on-line:

www.ed2go.com
Online Courses:

Comprehensive online course in a convenient six-week format

Expert instructors lead each course

Engaging student discussion areas

New sessions starting monthly

Confirmation of completion awarded with passing score

These courses are non-college-credit courses, so they cost much less. You do get a certificate of completion afterwards, so if you use them to learn business skills, you have something to show that you studied the material and passed the exam. You just can't apply it toward college credit, which is fine if you aren't aiming for a degree.

You can take these courses directly from the website. But it's worth noting that Ed2go also has partnerships with colleges, where the college offers these courses as part of the college's own website. My local community college does this, and cost of taking courses through them is more than 1/3 cheaper than taking courses directly from Ed2go.

The courses I looked at took six weeks to complete, with an additional two week grace period to complete the work and take the completion exam.

If the courses that Ed2go.com offers are not substantial enough for you, they have a link on the lower right side of their front page, to more substantial offerings:

www.gatlineducation.com
Online Career Training Programs:

Learn in-demand skills recognized by employers

Start anytime - work at your own pace and complete in 3 to 6 months

Textbooks and learning materials are included

Support offered via phone, email, or live chat 7 days a week

Expert instructor assistance provided

These are also non-credit courses, but more specifically oriented toward job goals. For instance, their Bookkeeping course is for preparing the student to take a national exam to become a certified bookkeeper. Their Pharmacy Technician course prepares the student to take the Certified Pharmacy Technician's exam. Etc.

The Gatlin website is also run by Ed2go, but these more advanced courses are not offered directly by Gatlin or Ed2go; they must be taken via a participating partner school. They have a page where you can type in your zipcode, and it will show you the nearest partner school to you.

Even so, since these courses are on-line, you can usually register with the partner-school for the courses without ever having to set foot on their physical campus.

These courses are typically 3 to 6 months long, you can do them when it's convenient for you, and if you don't finish by the end of the course, you can get a 6 month extension to compete it, free of cost.

I like this a lot, because you can take the courses at your own pace, you get the benefit of the knowledge and a certificate to prove that you did the work, but you don't have to go into debt borrowing money to earn college credits that you may not want or need.

For anyone who is just looking to increase their job skills, I'd say it's definitely worth checking out.

     

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Middle Age Musings and A Tender Heart

Martin Amis Contemplates Evil
[...] “Your youth evaporates in your early 40s when you look in the mirror. And then it becomes a full-time job pretending you’re not going to die, and then you accept that you’ll die. Then in your 50s everything is very thin. And then suddenly you’ve got this huge new territory inside you, which is the past, which wasn’t there before. A new source of strength. Then that may not be so gratifying to you as the 60s begin [Amis is 62], but then I find that in your 60s, everything begins to look sort of slightly magical again. And it’s imbued with a kind of leave-taking resonance, that it’s not going to be around very long, this world, so it begins to look poignant and fascinating.” [...]


"Midlife Is A Crossroads, Not A Crisis"
[...] At midlife, we find ourselves experiencing a discrepancy between who we thought we were and who we actually are now.

To make matters worse, while the person we thought we were seems to be dissolving, the person we hoped we weren't begins to show up more and more.

This clash of images can leave us feeling sad, depressed, angry and very alone. We might feel a sense of profound loss that we cannot really explain to ourselves.

Midlife transformative forces can push us deeply into our fear. Then we see its real nature. Behind our fear is a sadness that is an expression of a tender heart. This tender heart is an important source of compassion and concern for others as well as of awe and wonder about the mystery of life.

When we connect with our tender heart, we no longer have to be embarrassed about who we are.

There is an art and science to making a midlife transformation. First we need to recognize that the turmoil we feel represents life working on us rather than evidence that we are sick or other than we should be.

At midlife our soul makes a grab for the steering wheel, it wants to drive. Ego's dress rehearsal is over.

Death is no longer hidden on the horizon. We need to face the task writing a script for the second half of our lives, so we can live with conviction and real intent.

As we give up our concepts of who we are and what we "should" be, we can then become sensitive to a kind of internal guidance.

Our psyche, at first, frightens us by shaking up our world entirely. It then stimulates us by pointing to some of life's most interesting possibilities. Our task is listening and attending to what our soul is telling us.
   

What's going on in Turkey?

Turkey clips military's wings in landmark verdict
 
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The jailing of hundreds of Turkish army officers including top generals accused of plotting to topple Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan underscored how far he has come in gaining control of the country's once all-powerful military.

But Erdogan, 10 years in power, must grapple with suspicions among critics and even some sympathizers that he is using this and other coup investigations to silence opposition as he sets about taming a militant secularist establishment. Far from flinching, he may seek more power in a revamped presidency.

The verdict against 325 officers at the end of the 21-month trial on Friday would have been unthinkable a decade ago, when generals regularly intervened in policy-making as self-appointed guardians of Turkish secularism.

Judges in the case, dubbed Sledgehammer, handed down prison sentences ranging from six to 20 years against the officers for plotting to wreck Erdogan's rule almost 10 years ago, soon after his Islamist-rooted party swept to power with the biggest share of the vote in decades.

Hilmi Ozkok, who was head of the armed forces at the time, rejected accusations the court's decision was driven by revenge.

"The ruling will serve as a deterrent and has a lesson for everyone ... in understanding how much Turkey and the rest of the world has changed," Ozkok told Milliyet newspaper on Sunday.

[...]

 
Under Erdogan, a devout Muslim, curbs on religion have been relaxed. Women are allowed to more freely wear the Islamic headscarf, alcohol is heavily taxed, and students at religious high schools are able to more easily attend university.

Journalists complain of pressure to write favorable stories about the government, and a number of writers are among those arrested under another plot investigation, "Ergenekon".

"This (Sledgehammer) case is an important step towards ending the army's political role but it's not enough to stop it completely," said Sahin Alpay, professor of political science at Bahcesehir University and a columnist for Zaman, seen as close to the government.

"Now we need a new constitution and laws that place the army under civilian supervision and reform military schools to reflect the values of a liberal democracy," he said.

A new constitution is now under consideration to replace a restrictive code inherited from the military after a 1980 coup. Turkey may well emerge from the debate with a presidential republic and a powerful president in Erdogan.

Alpay acknowledged there were questions about the case with so many defendants on trial at once, the judges' refusal to allow in some defense evidence and the lengthy sentences.

A key issue at appeal is likely to be the defense's inability to submit legal expert testimony that computer documents submitted as evidence appeared fake.

Defense lawyers said they would appeal the verdict this week to Turkey's upper court and, if necessary, eventually apply to the European Court of Human Rights. [...]
I've posted before about the complexity of Turkish politics. Both the secular and the religious sides have legitimate complaints and concerns. It's not easy to sort it all out, and even more difficult to guess where it's all going to lead to.
   

The Literal High Price (or prices!) of QE3

 QE3 Will Further Destroy U.S. Dollar
  [...] The actions of the Federal Reserve have a dramatic impact on the lives of every single American. The central bank essentially controls the value of the money that we have in our pockets. QE1 and QE2 can be blamed in large part for the skyrocketing price of food at the grocery store. The same supply and demand rules apply to money. The more dollars we have in the circulation, the less valuable the money becomes. The Fed is a main reason why it’s costing us more dollars to fill up our gas tank nowadays.

For decades, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) was the lone voice in Washington speaking out against the Federal Reserve. He writes that “the inflation tax, while largely ignored, hurts middle-class and low-income Americans the most. Simply put, printing money... dilutes the value of the dollar, which causes higher prices for goods and services. Inflation may be an indirect tax, but it is very real — the individuals who suffer most from cost of living increases certainly pay a ‘tax.’” QE1, QE2 and QE3 are nothing more than stealing wealth from the people through the hidden tax of inflation.

Our Founding Fathers would surely be outraged by the existence of the Fed. These great men believed in a limited government that was held accountable to the people. The Federal Reserve, which is generally regarded as a quasi-governmental entity, has less oversight than even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The most powerful central bank in the world makes all of its decisions without even a single vote from our elected representatives in Congress.

You can bet that the Fed is up to no good behind closed doors. Due to a provision under the misguided Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a one-time, watered-down audit of the central bank back in July. It gave the American people their first peek into the central bank’s books but prevented investigators from peering into their deliberations on interest rates and the most crucial transactions of the Fed. We still need to pass a true audit the Fed bill like Ron Paul’s Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011 that would require comprehensive audits on a regular basis.
The first ever audit revealed that the central bank “loaned” out $16 trillion at a zero percent interest rate to corporations and banks around the world during the height of the financial crisis. To put that number into perspective, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the value of all economic activity within a country— of the United States is only $14.12 trillion. It’s no wonder that the Fed is desperately trying to protect their privileged secrecy. 
[...]
There is much evidence to demonstrate that the Federal Reserve is a major part of the problem, not the solution:

Fed Up with the Fed?
[...] The policies of this administration make it risky to lend money, with Washington politicians coming up with one reason after another why borrowers shouldn't have to pay it back when it is due, or perhaps not pay it all back at all. That's called "loan modification" or various other fancy names for welching on debts. Is it surprising that lenders have become reluctant to lend?

Private businesses have amassed record amounts of cash, which they could use to hire more people— if this administration were not generating vast amounts of uncertainty about what the costs are going to be for ObamaCare, among other unpredictable employer costs, from a government heedless or hostile toward business.

As a result, it is often cheaper or less risky for employers to work the existing employees overtime, or to hire temporary workers, who are not eligible for employee benefits. But lack of money is not the problem.

Those who are true believers in the old-time Keynesian economic religion will always say that the only reason creating more money hasn't worked is because there has not yet been enough money created. To them, if QE2 hasn't worked, then we need QE3. And if that doesn't work, then we will need QE4, etc.

Like most of the mistakes being made in Washington today, this dogmatic faith in government spending is something that has been tried before— and failed before. [...]
Sowell goes on to show how history is repeating itself.

Owning a business is similar in some ways, to raising a child.  You have to anticipate all of it's needs in advance, and provide for them.   When the economic climate is uncertain, you have to maintain cash reserves to plan to deal with the unexpected, to insure that your business will continue to survive.  The current Administration seems to have no clue about this, just as it has failed to learn the lessons of history.

Germany in the 1920's learned a very hard lesson about Quantitative Easing, as the article at the following link demonstrates, with pictures of the actual currency in the final months. Absolutely horrific:

Quantitative Easing, Weimar Edition

Would it not be better to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us, instead of repeating those mistakes ourselves?    

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Could the four American Deaths in Libya have been prevented?

It's looking more and more like the answer is "yes":

Revealed: inside story of US envoy's assassination
The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.

American officials believe the attack was planned, but Chris Stevens had been back in the country only a short while and the details of his visit to Benghazi, where he and his staff died, were meant to be confidential.

The US administration is now facing a crisis in Libya. Sensitive documents have gone missing from the consulate in Benghazi and the supposedly secret location of the "safe house" in the city, where the staff had retreated, came under sustained mortar attack. Other such refuges across the country are no longer deemed "safe".

Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.

According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.

Mr Stevens had been on a visit to Germany, Austria and Sweden and had just returned to Libya when the Benghazi trip took place with the US embassy's security staff deciding that the trip could be undertaken safely.

Eight Americans, some from the military, were wounded in the attack which claimed the lives of Mr Stevens, Sean Smith, an information officer, and two US Marines. All staff from Benghazi have now been moved to the capital, Tripoli, and those whose work is deemed to be non-essential may be flown out of Libya. [...]

Wouldn't the embassy's security staff have decided differently, had they been given the benefit of earlier mentioned intelligence information? Someone dropped the ball.

The UK's Daily Mail has some pretty dramatic photos of the continuing Middle East rioting.

     

Clint Eastwood sticks by "empty chair" speech

Eastwood: My convention message was simply ‘don’t idolize politicians, they work for you’
[...] When asked if he regretted his speech, Eastwood shook his head. Then, when told that Mitt Romney had enjoyed the speech, Eastwood shared that the GOP nominee has a much better sense of humor than he’s often given credit for.

Eastwood said he hadn’t meant to be disrespectful in his speech — a criticism that keeps popping up in discussions of his presentation — but noted that people often end up insulting one another in politics. His message, he said, is that you don’t have to “idolize” people in politics — they’re here to work for you. [...]

In other words, it's OK if you don't think Obama is a "sort of God".
     

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Hearing Color" guy an advocate for Cyborgs

This was both interesting and annoying:

I listen to color
(CNN) -- I come from a place where the sky is always grey, where flowers are always grey, and where television is still in black and white.

I actually come from a world where color doesn't exist; I was born with achromatopsia, I was born completely colorblind. So I've never seen color, and don't know what it looks like. But since the age of 21, I can hear color.

In 2003, after studying fine arts and while studying music at Dartington College of Arts in England, I began a project with computer scientist Adam Montandon with the aim of extending my senses. The result, with further collaborations with Peter Kese and Matias Lizana, is an electronic eye: a color sensor between my eyes connected to a chip installed at the back of my head that transforms color frequencies into sound frequencies that I hear through my bone.

I've had the electronic eye permanently attached to my head and I've been listening to colors nonstop since 2004. So I find it completely normal now to hear colors all the time. At first, I had to memorize the sound of each color, but after some time this information became subliminal, I didn't have to think about the notes, color became a perception. And after some months, color became a feeling. I started to have favorite colors and I started to dream in color.

When I started to hear colors in my dreams, I noticed that my brain and the software had united and given me a new sense. My brain was creating electronic sounds in my dreams, not the device. That was the point when I started to feel no difference between the software and my brain: The cybernetic device had become an extension of my brain -- an extension of my senses. I started to feel like a cyborg: The cybernetic eye was no longer a device but a part of my body.

After some time it even became a part of my official image. You are not allowed to appear with any electronic equipment on the UK passport photo, but I insisted that what they were seeing was not a piece of electronic equipment but a new part of my body.

Since I started to hear color, my life has changed dramatically. Art galleries have become concert halls; I can hear a Picasso or a Rothko or an Andy Warhol. And supermarkets have become like night clubs. I love how they sound, especially the aisles with cleaning products. [...]

It's gets even more interesting - annoying - weird as it goes on. He ends up advocating cyborgism for the masses.

It's not that long, and worth reading the rest. It's interesting, but also annoying, because, well. It's like this.

I see plenty of people in life who haven't seemed quite able to manage even the five senses they do have.

Now here is this guy claiming he can "hear" color. Perhaps he has learned to identify what we call color, with sounds. But he is still NOT experiencing actual color; he's experiencing sound.

Some of the comments after the article, note that he does not seem too aware of how color affects people who can actually see it; color to him is sound and therefor "feeling". Thus, he can wear bright colors to a funeral because it matches his feelings, without understanding what it looks like to people who judge colors by how they look.

Anway. I don't say that it's right or wrong. But is sure is different. And perhaps inevitable in the Brave New World that is coming with technological advances.

I'm just concerned that, if everyone starts "augmenting their senses" like this, that we might collectively be moving farther and farther from reality, lost in a technological fantasy.

It's fine to reach for the stars, as long as you also remember and know how to keep your feet on the ground, when you need to.
     

Managing Fat: subcutaneous VS visceral

The Truth About Belly Fat
What you need to know -- and do -- about belly fat.
Belly fat: Did you know that it's not just about your waist size?

It's also about your health. And you can do something about it, starting right now, at any size.

But first, let's be clear: This is not about fat phobia. Your body needs some fat. And it's not about judging yourself or anyone else, or trying to reach some unrealistic ideal.

Instead, it's about getting a handle on your fat -- even the fat you can't see.

Location, Location, Location

That's right: You have fat you can't see. We all do.

People store most of their fat in two ways:

Just under the skin in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen. That's called subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. It's the fat that you notice.

Deeper inside, around the vital organs (heart, lungs, digestive tract, liver, etc.) in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. That's called "visceral" fat. It's so deep inside you that you can't notice it from the outside.

Many people are self-conscious about the fat they can see. But actually, it's the hidden fat -- the visceral fat -- that may be a bigger problem, even for thin people.

Like Another Organ

Fat doesn't just sit there. It makes "lots of nasty substances," says Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

We all have visceral fat -- and it isn't all bad. It provides necessary cushioning around organs.

The problem is when there's too much of it. That's linked to a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers (including breast cancer and colon cancer.)

How Did I Get It?

When obese, a body can run out of safe places to store fat and begin storing it in and around the organs, such as the heart and the liver.

“Fatty liver disease was, until recently, very rare in nonalcoholics. But with obesity increasing, you have people whose fat depots are so full that the fat is deposited into the organs,” says Carol Shively, PhD, professor of pathology-comparative medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “Now there is much interest in fat being deposited around the heart, as well.”

Now that you know more about the fat that we all have, it's time to take action.

[...]

Thin People, Too

Even thin people can have too much visceral fat, though you'd never know it by looking at them.

It's partly about their genes. Some people have a genetic tendency to store visceral fat.

But it's also about physical activity. Visceral fat likes inactivity. For instance, a British study showed that thin people who maintain their weight through diet alone, skipping exercise, are more likely to have unhealthy levels of visceral fat.

So the message is, get active, no matter what size you are.

Controlling Belly Fat: 4 Steps to Take

There are four keys to controlling belly fat: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management. [...]

It goes on to give advice, about what works, and why.
     

The Next Generation of Computer Chips

Intel's Haswell chips are engineered to cut power use
Intel has released early details of its Haswell computer chips, due for release in the middle of next year.

One version of the processors will run at 10 watts, about half as much as its current Ivy Bridge design.

It said the improvement would mean devices could become thinner, faster and offer extended battery life.

In addition it said the chips were designed to better support "perceptual" tasks such as voice recognition, facial analysis and depth tracking.

[...]

Another innovation on the new chips is a more powerful GPU (graphics processing unit). This is designed to handle tasks in which a large number of calculations can be carried out simultaneously, rather than one-at-a-time.

Speech and face recognition are highly parallelisable tasks and will thus benefit from this improvement.

Intel is working with speech-recognition company Nuance to create a software kit to help developers best unlock the chips' potential.

In addition it suggests Haswell-based computers will also be better suited to tracking objects placed close to their camera sensors allowing further development of gesture controls and augmented reality. [...]

More on the voice aspect:

Intel brings voice search to ultrabooks
Intel is going to integrate a Google Voice-like technology into its future ultrabooks.

By partnering with voice specialist Nuance, Intel will let ultrabook buyers use speech to control their laptop, Dadi Perlmutter, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, said in a keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Tuesday.

In an onstage demonstration, attendees saw an Intel developer instruct a Dell XPS ultrabook to search the web, look up a product on Amazon, tweet a link to it, and then play some music. All of this was done with voice control.

The software "is running native on the platform. This is not a cloud service, this requires the high-performing CPU and the capabilities inside", Perlmutter said. Intel has worked with Nuance to tune the application for its processors to maximise performance, he said.

The software pairs Nuance's Dragon Assistant technology with Intel-based ultrabooks and should be available as a beta in late 2012 and as a full product in the first quarter of 2013.

It is reminiscent of Google Voice, which lets Android users search the web and control their phone by talking to it. The main difference is that Intel's software is initiated by the user saying 'Hello Dragon' to their computer, while Google typically requires the user to touch the screen.

Nuance's flagship product for PCs is Dragon Naturally Speaking. Furthermore, its technology sits at the heart of Apple's Siri voice search technology. [...]
     

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Health Links 09-08-12

Is it "feed a cold, starve a fever" or vice versa? And should you?
[...] The idea, if not the exact wording, dates back to 1574, when a dictionary maker named Withals wrote, "Fasting is a great remedie of feuer."

You're thinking: this guy wrote a dictionarie? His medical advice wasn't so hot either. Doctors have been trying to stamp out the above piece of folklore for years. Current medical thinking is that you want to keep an even strain when you're sick with either a cold or a fever, and you certainly don't want to stress your system by stuffing or starving yourself.

Nobody's sure where the notion of feeding colds and so on arose. (It surely didn't originate with Withals.) One somewhat dubious explanation has it that the proverb really means "If you feed a cold now, you'll have to starve a fever later." A more plausible interpretation is that the feed-a-cold idea arose out of a folk understanding of the disease process, namely that there were two kinds of illnesses, those caused by low temperatures (colds and chills) and those caused by high temperatures (fever). If you had a chill, you wanted to stoke the interior fires, so you pigged. If you had a fever, you didn't want things to overheat, so you slacked off on the fuel. [...]
WebMD goes a bit further, and gives lots of advice on How to Feed a Cold:

Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever?
Do you starve a cold and feed a fever when you're feeling under the weather? Or is it the other way around? Good news -- starving is never the correct answer. [...]
Read the whole thing for detailed recommendations.


8 Lifestyle Tweaks for Restless Legs Syndrome
If you've got restless legs syndrome (RLS), your daily habits can make a difference to your condition.

Revamping your diet, exercise, and medications is just the beginning of what you can do to improve your RLS. You might even find some help in unexpected places. [...]


Can't Sleep? When to Get Out of Bed
You wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep.

Whether you drank one cup of coffee too many earlier, or you've got a lot on your mind, it's time to decide whether to get up or stay in bed.

Getting out of bed makes sense at some point. Tossing and turning endlessly isn't going to help.

If you do get up, though, you're not giving up for the night. You still need rest. So your goal should be to get back to sleep as soon as possible.

Some activities help with that. Others put sleep even further out of reach.

What you do now, in the wee hours, will affect how the rest of your night goes. That could make all the difference in how you feel tomorrow. [...]
Read on for suggestions.
     

Re-engineering Human DNA?

Sounds like someone wants to:

Breakthrough Changes Thinking About DNA
Sept. 7, 2012 -- In what scientists call the biggest breakthrough in genetics since the unraveling of the human genome, a massive research effort now shows how the genome works.

The human genome contains 3 billion letters of code containing a person’s complete genetic makeup.

The biggest surprise is that most of the DNA in the genome -- which had been called "junk DNA" because it didn't seem to do anything -- turns out to play a crucial role. While only 2% of the genome encodes actual genes, at least 80% of the genome contains millions of "switches" that not only turn genes on and off, but also tell them what to do and when to do it.

Eleven years ago, the Human Genome Project discovered the blueprint carried by every cell in the body. The new ENCODE project now has opened the toolbox each cell uses to follow its individual part of the blueprint. The effort is the work of more than 400 researchers who performed more than 1,600 experiments.

The genome, with its 3-billion-letter code, reads from beginning to end like a book. But in real life, the genome isn't read like a book. The ENCODE data shows it's an intricate dance, with each step carefully choreographed.  [...]
OK, that's all very interesting. It's a fascinating article. But this jumped out at me:
[...] Eric D. Green, MD, PhD, director of the NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), notes that most known disease-causing DNA mutations are in the small part of the genome that encodes genes.

"Most of these known mutations cause rare diseases," Green said. "But for the great majority of diseases, it's changes in the switches themselves. Diseases that are more common probably involve multiple DNA variants outside the genes. Common diseases like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes are probably caused by things sitting in these switches." [...]
No. The "switches" don't cause the disease. The causes are things like bad diet and lack of exercise, etc, conditions which in turn cause the body to have a natural response by triggering things in the switches.

The disease is a warning that we are doing something wrong. Dr. Green seems to be implying that if we can turn off the triggers in the switches, we can stop the disease. But if we do that, you can be sure that the imbalance that would have triggered the disease, will then manifest somewhere else, some other way, in perhaps even a worse form.

Duh! I don't need a PhD to see that.

It's an area of study that we will inevitably pursue, but how that knowledge is used should be approached very conservatively. Nature does things for a reason. Altering that should not be approached lightly. Anyway, it IS an interesting read.    

Canada severing ties with Iran

Canada closes embassy in Iran, gives Iranian diplomats in Canada 5 days to leave
TORONTO — Canada shut its embassy in Tehran on Friday, severed diplomatic relations and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave, accusing the Islamic Republic of being the most significant threat to world peace. The surprise action reinforces the Conservative government’s close ties with Tehran’s arch foe Israel but also removes some of Washington’s eyes and ears inside the Iranian capital.

[...]
Baird said Canada was officially designating Iran a state sponsor of terrorism and gave a long list of reasons for Canada’s decision, including Tehran’s support for Syria’s embattled President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war.
“The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with U.N. resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide,” Baird said in a statement. “It is among the world’s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.”
Baird said he also was worried about the safety of diplomats in Tehran following attacks on the British embassy there.
Britain downgraded ties with Iran following an attack on its embassy in Tehran in November 2011, which it insists was sanctioned by the Islamic Republic’s ruling elite. After the attack, Britain pulled all of its diplomats out of Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats from U.K. soil.
Most European countries maintain a diplomatic presence in Tehran despite increased tensions over European Union sanctions that block imports of Iranian oil. The Swiss represent diplomatic interests of the United States, which broke ties with Tehran after protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in the chaotic months following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days. [...]
   

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Is Venus The Cat for Real?

Meet Venus, the Two-Faced Cat
As adorable cats go, Venus earns a double take. Literally.

Her face appears to be split in two: half black cat, half ginger tabby cat.

The latest Internet feline fixation is a chimera cat by genetics. Three vets have confirmed this to Venus's owner, according to a post on the kitty's Facebook page, which has already garnered 32,000 Likes – and counting.

Also contributing to the appearance of two faces: 3-year-old Venus's blue and green eyes, which are the result of heterochromia iridum, or a change in coloration.

But don't be fooled by her looks – Venus, whose story went viral two weeks ago when someone posted her photo to user-generated news site Reddit, seems to be anything but two-faced.

"She's as sweet as can be ... gentle, loving, and has this little tiny kitten like 'meow,' " her owner writes on Facebook. "She acts like a big baby in the way that she loves to be babied. She doesn't bother any furniture with her claws and uses a scratching post."

Adds Venus's owner, who rescued the cat in September 2009: "She does not have one single bad habit ... she's perfect!"

Well, there might be one thing – if you ask her canine siblings. [...]
Is she even real? The link is from People Magazine, but their source is a facebook page? Has anyone actually seen it? Is there any video? If it's been photoshoped, it's really well done. In case anyone is wondering what a chimera is:
[...] Genetics . an organism composed of two or more genetically distinct tissues, as an organism that is partly male and partly female, or an artificially produced individual having tissues of several species. [...]
It also means a monster made up of various parts. Sweet little kitty couldn't be that, could it? Ask the dogs in her household!    

When Spyware Literally Kills

Or at least, get's you killed:

Google engineer finds British spyware on PCs and smartphones
FinSpy turning up in dictatorships across the world
Two security researchers have found new evidence that legitimate spyware sold by British firm Gamma International appears to be being used by some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Google security engineer Morgan Marquis-Boire and Berkeley student Bill Marczak were investigating spyware found in email attachments to several Bahraini activists. In their analysis they identified the spyware infecting not only PCs but a broad range of smartphones, including iOS, Android, RIM, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7 handsets.

The spying software has the capability to monitor and report back on calls and GPS positions from mobile phones, as well as recording Skype sessions on a PC, logging keystrokes, and controlling any cameras and microphones that are installed.

They report the code appears to be FinSpy, a commercial spyware sold to countries for police criminal investigations. FinSpy was developed by the German conglomerate Gamma Group and sold via the UK subsidiary Gamma International. In a statement to Bloomberg, managing director Martin Muench denied the company had any involvement.

"As you know we don't normally discuss our clients but given this unique situation it's only fair to say that Gamma has never sold their products to Bahrain," he said. "It is unlikely that it was an installed system used by one of our clients but rather that a copy of an old FinSpy demo version was made during a presentation and that this copy was modified and then used elsewhere."

Parallel research by computer investigators at Rapid7 found command and control software servers for the FinSpy code running in Indonesia, Australia, Qatar, Ethiopia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Mongolia, Latvia, and the United Arab Emirates, with another server in the US running on Amazon's EC2 cloud systems. Less than 24 hours after the research was published, the team noted that several of these servers were shut down.

Gamma and FinSpy gained notoriety last year when documents apparently from the company were found in the Egyptian security service headquarters when it was ransacked by protestors after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. These appear to be a proposal that the Egyptian government buy a five-month license for the software for €287,000. Again Gamma denied involvement.

But Marquis-Boire and Marczak told The New York Times that they appear to have found a link to Gamma in these latest code samples. [...]
One of the negative aspects of the new technology of our Brave New World, is how some people will choose to use it.  Death by Smartphone.