moldybluecheesecurds 2

Monday, June 29, 2009

Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?

A fascinating study reported on in the Well Blog, examining how short bursts of intense activity can have as much of a physical health improvement (by some measures) as long activity.

I thought it interesting what they said about running:

There’s a catch, though. Those six minutes, if they’re to be effective, must hurt. “We describe it as an ‘all-out’ effort,” Gibala says. You’ll be straying “well out of your comfort zone.” That level of discomfort makes some activities better-suited to intense training than others. “We haven’t studied runners,” Gibala says. The pounding involved in repeated sprinting could lead to injuries, depending on a runner’s experience and stride mechanics. But cycling and swimming work well. [emphasis mine]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farm Fetish

From Kung Fu Monkey:

He wants to know why we spend so much time interviewing farmers on newscasts to get a sense of what Real America thinks. A sample, from CNN:

ANDERSON: We stopped by the Lebanon [Kansas -- ed.] hotspot, Ladow's Market, where one local told us Hollywood just can't relate to a farming way of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've never been back in here to know what it's like to actually have to make a living doing this.

You know what, Unidentified Male? You're right. I don't know what it's like to have to make a living farming. NOBODY DOES.
His analysis only gets better...
For chrissake, only 17% of Americans live in rural settings anymore. Only 2 million of those people work on farms or ranches (USDA figures). Hell, only ten percent of the average farm family's income even comes from farming anymore (did you know that? I didn't. Funky).
Compare that 2 million this this final Monkey fact:
Four million people in the US play World of Warcraft.
Of course, I have no idea how many of them are in farming.

When statisticians go too far

FiveThirtyEight:
Only here could you find a table trying to correlate the various types of pantsless transgressions with the offender in an attempt to understand the public call for resignation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An open letter to audiobook readers

Dear voice actor,

First of all, I really admire your work.  Audiobooks are really fun to listen to and I enjoy the fact that I listen slower than I read, so I savor a good book more.

However, I have a beef.  Many books in the science fiction / fantasy genre come in series, with the same characters reappearing over several books.  I don't understand why the reader changes from book to book, only that it happens.  So, to those readers who are not the first to read a given series,  please answer me this:

Why in God's name do you not listen to the prior audiobooks before recording yours?  And if you do, is there some perverse and ego-driven rationale for changing the pronunciation of every proper noun in the whole book? 

It's bad enough that your voice sounds so different from the first guy and that I already had my ridiculous preconceptions about the pronounciation of characters, cities, and magical items skewered so thoroughly when listening to the first book.  Why must you pour salt in my open, nerdy wounds? 

And is there some law about audiobooks that says "thou shalt not ask the author," who, if you recall, actually penned the tale you are now reading?

Because he's particularly egregious, here's spit in the eye of the reader of David Eddings' Tamuli series, Kevin Pariseau, for changing the pronounciation no fewer than 20 names: Berit, Bevier, Ulath, Stragen, Ehlana, Dolmant, Emban, Chyrellos, Elenia, Myrtai, Danae, Khalad (is he Arabic now?), Platime, Deira, Alcione, Arcium, Azash, Annias, Thalesia, Cimmura.  I have no doubt you would have mangled the protagonist's name - Sparhawk - except that it doesn't lend itself to your perverted sense of language.

Fiscal Conservatism? Try stupid

Dear public radio,

When a Republican governor attempts to reject the federal stimulus dollars for his state, he is not "burnishing his fiscal conservative credentials," he is an idiot.  Basic macroeconomic theory (read: Keynes) tells us to increase government expenditures via direct spending or tax cuts to help mitigate an economic downturn.  Doing otherwise, and thus increasing the pain and suffering of your citizens by deepening the recession is not only dumb - how can politicians who claim to believe in markets have so little understanding of them? - it is immoral.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A public option is crucial for health care reform

The debate isn't really a debate, except in Congress, as nearly three-quarters of Americans support a government-provided option for health insurance, to help negotiate lower prices and keep private insurers honest.

So why is Congress, controlled by supposedly liberal Democrats, stalling on the key component to universal, affordable health care? From FiveThirtyEight:
"Can we actually see -- statistically -- the impact of lobbying by the insurance industry on the prospects for health care reform? I believe that the answer is yes."
Check out the link. It's a stunning indictment of the role of money in the health care legislation, with a strong statistical correlation between insurance PAC donations and lower support for the public health option.

Save the planet for 18 cents a day

Paul Krugman Blog: In his latest, Krugman notes that the Congressional Budget office estimates the cost to the economy of Waxman-Markey at 18 cents per person per day. That sounds like affordable environmental policy.

The kooks continue to use the economics as a shield for their real argument, which Krugman illuminates:

"we need to be clear about who are the realists and who are the fantasists here. The realists are actually the climate activists, who understand that if you give people in a market economy the right incentives they will make big changes in their energy use and environmental impact. The fantasists are the burn-baby-burn crowd who hate the idea of using government for good, and therefore insist that doing the right thing is economically impossible.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This forecast comes with education

With your average forecast, you get temperatures, precipitation, and maybe a few corny jokes. Paul Douglas still gives you corny jokes, but how often does your weather include cloud types, a NASA photo of an African thunderstorm, and a link to Latin cloud meanings from the weather notebook?

Check it out.

"Tear Down This Cyberwall!"

Mr. Zhou, the son of a Chinese army general, said that he and his colleagues began to develop such software after the 1999 Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong (which the authorities denounce as a cult). One result was a free software called Freegate, small enough to carry on a flash drive. It takes a surfer to an overseas server that changes I.P. addresses every second or so, too quickly for a government to block it, and then from there to a banned site.

Freegate amounts to a dissident’s cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer.


A fascinating piece on the use of technology to help spread democracy and opposition to totalitarian regimes. The sad note is that the Chinese-American hosts of this program may have to cut off Iranian use because their servers are overloaded.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stealing the Iranian Election

The Iranian "election" returns Ahmadinejad to the throne. Read on for six facts (if you needed any) that illuminate the election theft.

Hat tip to Eric Black at Minnpost.

Stimulus history lesson - Paul Krugman

This is what we call a graphical smackdown.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Canada would be a great thing for the U.S.

Nicholas Kristof:

The swift boating of Obama's health care plan has begun, with comparisons to the scary Canadian system (note: the ads always seem to leave out the buses of seniors going to Canada to get affordable prescriptions).

How bad is the Canadian system? The Kristof article has this anecdote from an American who had a stroke while working in Canada:
There were two patients to a room, and conditions weren’t as opulent as at some American hospitals. “The food was horrible,” she said...

[But] “They never spoke to me about money,” she said. “Not when I checked in, and not when I left...” [emphasis mine]
She now pays the equivalent of just $49 a month for health care

She had a relapse while visiting in the United States, and the story was different:

Ms. Tucker fainted while on a visit to San Francisco, and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital. But this was in the United States, so the person meeting her at the emergency room door wasn’t a doctor.

“The first person I saw was a lady with a computer,” she said, “asking me how I intended to pay the bill...”

Nothing was seriously wrong, and the hospital discharged her after five hours. The bill came to $8,789.29. [emphasis mine]
I think it's time we ask for a better health care system.

Menu psychology - no $, more $

Consumerist:

"Have you ever noticed that the menus in nice restaurants leave the currency signs off prices, or spell them out in words rather than Arabic numerals? The intended effect is pretty much what you would assume - to remove the association between prices on the menu and actual money. Now, there's actual academic research showing that half of this theory is true."
The research compared menus priced with "$20", "20" and "twenty," and surprisingly, it was in establishments where the menus priced with "20" that people would generally spend more.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A day of animal death

This was not a happy day for wildlife around me.

It started this morning, on a long trip to a meeting in a rural community. For much of the morning, we trailed a semi on a 2-lane road. As we came through a small town, we had slowed to 30mph. A dog was romping with two attendants along the right side of the road, when suddenly he dashed into the street toward the semi. He turned sharply as if intending to parallel the truck, and then darted into the gap under the trailer. He didn't make it, the rear trailer wheels catching him across the hindquarters and rolling him under. I'm not sure if I'm more upset having seen the truck roll on or his owners rushing into the street to scoop him up and then desperately looking around, subconsciously aware that nothing could be done.

Tonight the circle of life played out in my front yard, as our faithful feline defender, Nora, took up the mantle of her predecessor, Leo. "Slayer" had discovered a baby bunny, disabled it, and was in the process of finishing the job as we lef the house.

Goal for tomorrow: not witness the death of an animal

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Table of Condiments"

Lifehacker:

A clever play on words to tell you when various foods go bad.

Women more likely to be elected in male-dominated districts

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right:

"Although women are still having a relatively tough time getting elected in general -- they represent just 17 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress -- Congresswomen, as opposed to Congressmen, are more plentiful in areas where the male-to-female ratio is higher."
This is a fascinating analysis of how females tend to have greater electoral success in states and districts where the male:female ratio is higher. It holds true across all partisan leanings, though the more Democratic the district, the higher the success rate for female candidates.

No underlying demographic was able to explain the discrepancy, though the author wonders if more women run for office in male-dominated areas than otherwise...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The man who exposed illegal wiretapping

He lost his job and is threatened with jail for exposing the government's illegal action, while those who worked with the government (phone companies) were given immunity.

A Whistleblowing Patriot | shadoweyes:

"Thomas Tamm is a similar patriot who deserves to be honored - and treated with as much respect as any other person who puts the welfare of the many above himself at great risk to himself. Newsweek ran 'The Whistleblower Who Exposed Warrantless Wiretaps.'

In the spring of 2004, Tamm had just finished a yearlong stint at a Justice Department unit handling wiretaps of suspected terrorists and spies—a unit so sensitive that employees are required to put their hands through a biometric scanner to check their fingerprints upon entering. While there, Tamm stumbled upon the existence of a highly classified National Security Agency program that seemed to be eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. The unit had special rules that appeared to be hiding the NSA activities from a panel of federal judges who are required to approve such surveillance."

Monday, June 01, 2009

The financial crisis, nutured in the early 1980s

Op-Ed Columnist - Reagan Did It - NYTimes.com:

Paul Krugman finds the financial policies early in the Reagan Administration - the loosening of mortgage restrictions in the 1982 Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act - started laying the groundwork for shifting America from a nation of savers to debtors.

"the prime villains behind the mess we’re in were Reagan and his circle of advisers — men who forgot the lessons of America’s last great financial crisis, and condemned the rest of us to repeat it."