Later On

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

Archive for March 9th, 2012

Timeline of Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 6:54 pm

What God had to say when He came to town

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I’m going to make a few statements about religion and people’s religious beliefs, and I want to point out at the outset that such statements are always imprecise because of the usual normal distribution of observations. For example, if I write “people in general hold the same religious outlook and beliefs as their families” that’s only approximately true—perhaps something like a Pareto’s rule applies so that the statement is (say) 80% true, with the other 20% being individuals whose beliefs are strongly at variance with those of their families.

Christians have a special advantage over other religions in that for Christians, God Himself came to town (in the Person of Jesus: God the Son). So God (as Christians view it) got to speak directly to us about what He considers important. We don’t have to guess, we just have to observe and listen: “Those who have eyes, let them see; those who have ears, let them hear.”

This is particularly useful because we are told repeatedly that God works in mysterious ways, we often don’t understand His plan or why things happen, and so on. Indeed, we are often told that by the same people who proclaim that they happen to know exactly what God wants in certain areas (and, astonishingly, it frequently turns out that God wants exactly what those people themselves want—e.g., for homosexuals to be put to death, as in the fundamentalist-supported legislation in Uganda).

But let’s take a look at what God did talk about when He came to town. (Cf. the Jefferson Bible.)

First, it should be noted that God Himself apparently doesn’t give a damn one way or another about homosexuality. He Himself never bothered to so much as mention it while He was around. (OTOH, He talked about wealth quite a bit: he was against it—and He was quite clear on that. Not many sermons in the US speak out against wealth, however.) I suspect that your sexual orientation, much like your height, is a matter of indifference to God—if not, it at least was certainly and clearly a matter He didn’t consider worth mentioning.

Second, when people actually did ask God, “Well, what are we supposed to do?”, He replied that we should love God as we love ourselves and treat people with decency and respect, as we ourselves would like to be treated. He was quite clear, too: the conversation as reported in Luke:

25And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

26What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you understand it?” 27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ”

28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do that, and you will live.”

That’s clear enough, seems to me.

God also had strong words about loving your enemy and the like. He was called Prince of Peace for a reason, though the Strategic Air Command apparently has a special New Testament to which I am not privy:

The above came to mind on reading looking at this story in the NY Times.

It’s worth noting the incident occurs in the Catholic church, whose leadership actively protected and promoted pedophile priests and bishops and which still would make divorce, birth control, and abortion illegal (in the secular state)—not just illegal for those in their own congregations but for anyone, regardless of the individual’s own religious beliefs or lack thereof.

The Catholic church has frequently demonstrated throughout history how little tolerance it has for individual freedom. At the link is a case in point. It also is an example that strikes me as totally inconsistent with what God had to say when He did come to town. Many who believe (as do Catholics) that Jesus is God have no problem at all with the varieties of sexual orientation that humans exhibit—at least, no more problem than did God Himself. So the intolerant attitude specifically condemned by God is not uniform across the Christian world, but where the attitude exists (as in the Catholic church), it’s strong. I think it’s more about power, though, than love.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Watching Wushu

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Apparently aka Jackie Chan’s Wushu. So far, so good. Propagandistic overtones are simply patriotic overtones as viewed by an outsider: certainly some US movies are pretty heavy-handed in heaping praise on the US. The approach taken in Wushu is appropriate to a kid’s movie: making everything of an unlikely niceness.

One interesting convention: friends come in ratios (male to female) of 2:1 up to 4:1. I suspect this is simply to reflect facts on the ground in a nation that so long had a one-child per family policy combined with amniocentesis (to determine sex of fetus) and abortion and a veneration for males: way too many males on hand. (I don’t actually have figures: that’s just a deduction from the policy and the procedures and the clue in the movie’s depiction of a good match of friends. Can you imagine Friends as comprising four men and one woman? That is, I suspect, the situation in China.

Perhaps that is why the incessant mass synchronized physical drills and songs. As William H. McNeill observes in his admirable book The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000, a happy discovery in the development of military power was how having troops march in step and do other synchronized group movements (“close-order drill”) built a kind of esprit de corps that was never previously achieved: it built a loyalty of individual to group. I supposed it brought into being a meme entity built from the consensual awareness of all within the group. Once the individual is quite ready to sacrifice his life for his group, you have the modern army. And the group synchronized movements seem essential.

At any rate, the movie has quite a few. Maybe in part it’s to sop up all the extra energy from the unattached males. McNeill points how this has historically been a fraught situation. Napoleon solved it by sending excess French males off to invade other countries and thus (in effect) be supported by them. England sent its excess sons out to Empire, as officers and soldiers. India alone must have sopped up quite a few.

This should not be construed as disapproval: just observation. Indeed, I see a lot of value in wushu, and both grandsons are students.

UPDATE: According to Wikipedia:

According to a report by the State Population and Family Planning Commission, there will be 30 million more men than women [in China] in 2020, potentially leading to social instability, and courtship-motivated emigration.[71] The correlation between the increase of sex ratio disparity on birth and the deployment of one child policy would appear to have been caused by the one-child policy.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Movies

Physical notes

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Interesting: had my first incidence of night sweats in quite a while. And night sweats are quite different than simply sweating at night. So I got up, chewed a Tums, drank a glass of water, back to bed, and the sweats stopped forthwith.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

What-I-have-on-hand grub, stew category

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I had half a bunch of collards, and that I needed to use up. Rinsed, discarded leaf that had gone over, chopped leaves, minced stalks, and simmered in a little water (not quite to cover) for 20 minutes.

Into 4-qt pot I put:

1.5 Tbsp true EVOO
1 med Spanish onion, chopped

Sautéd that until onion begins to change color, then added:

2 good-sized handfuls chopped celery
2 cloves garlic (all I had, alas)
several grindings black pepper

Sautéed a few minutes more, then added:

1 can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked rice (starch, and completes the protein)
1 can Hatch geen-chile chopped tomatoes
the collards already cooked
1 Tbsp Penzeys chicken soup base
1 Tbsp (more or less) pepper sauce
1 qt water

I simmered that for 30-40 minutes. I’m a little unsure of protein content, so I put a chopped hard-boiled egg in the bowl and spooned stew (fairly thick) over that. I also have some tofu on hand if needed.

UPDATE: Went in to give stir and check on it. I saw a sample of Penzeys Turkish seasoning, and I tasted that. Excellent! I added a good shake. This is going to be a good stew. If I want it thicker, I’m planning to stir in 1/3-1/2 cup rolled oats.

UPDATE 2: To enhance flavor, added a small amount (~2 Tbsp) good cognac to entire pot. I wanted Amontillado sherry, but I think I’m out. Am trying the rolled-oats thickener for the first bowl by itself.

UPDATE 3: Man, this stuff is tasty! The chopped egg was excellent idea: not only ensures protein (at a modest calorie count) it adds new texture and taste: the yolk taste stays distinct. Oatmeal thickener worked great: I’m doing the whole pot now.

UPDATE 4: I keep thinking of all the different directions to take this. For example, skip the egg and use some chicken breast cut into chunks (or chunks of, say, Pacific swordfish) in the stew. Carrots would go nicely. Or grated beets instead. Some chopped Italian parsley would not go amiss. I’m intrigued by how hearty the stew tastes (the browned onion, I imagine) without my having any need to add (say) an anchovy or two.

Note that the tomatoes contribute acid, and pepper sauce is, mainly, vinegar. The acid here is important, I think.

UPDATE 5: Just located some preserved Meyer lemons while trolling through the fridge. I took two sections of lemon, minced them, and put them in the bowl for dinner. I’ll do the chopped hard-boiled egg as well: sort of a deconstructed avgolemono sauce, though I guess it could equally be viewed as a deconstructed Hollandaise.

Does everyone peel hard-boiled eggs by smashing each end on the table top and then rolling the egg on the tabletop under gentle pressure from your hand to reduce the shell to a fine mosaic held together by the lining, which is then easily peeled away?

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 10:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub, Recipes

Lather-making, grade prediction, and other non-precision procedures

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I blogged earlier today about the strange obsession for perfect soap/bowl fit that some seem to exhibit. The phrase, “Lather-making is not a precision operation” came to mind: sure, the loose fit of soap to bowl may make it a little sloppier, but let’s face it: slop is what it’s about (within limits, as always: avoid the extremes is what I’m saying).

My mind is set to automatic analogy-seeking = T, and I immediately thought of one from my earlier career, during which time I worked for a large college-admissions-testing company in the Midwest. I worked there twice, in fact, and in the interregnum I served as a consultant when the company wanted to get an admissions perspective (I was a director of admissions at the time) on the upcoming new features (“advantages, and benefits” my brain automatically adds: the FAB statement from some ancient sales/marketing training).

In particular they thought they had improved their predictions of freshman year first-semester GPA, including by subject area. And there was also collecting and reporting of out-of-class accomplishment data with some quite intriguing supporting research: it turns out that out-of-class accomplishment (in those days, kids just doing things on their own) had close to zero correlation to grades (best was something like 0.30 Pearson linear-r correlation between grades in English and writing—very little—and the others were below 0.10 and above -0.10 as I recall. NOTE: I am writing this from memory (with my eyes closed…  and now:  backwards!) Thus the wise reader will realize the specifics may well be much less accurate than they are precise.

However, to continue the story, the out-of-class accomplishments turned out to correlate well with later life experience—not a great surprise; indeed, any other outcome would be surprising—because people who show that they will go and do things on their own learn through that the practical skill of doing things on their own, and so continue, and the small headstart widens considerably over the years, earlier experiences informing later.

And grades, it turns out, correlate well only with other grades: junior high grades correlate well with high school grades, those with undergraduate grades (and the tighter the connection the better the prediction: one can more accurately predict the first-semester freshman GPA of a student than his four-year overall GPA).

BUT—and here’s the rub—grades don’t correlate at all with (a) out-of-class accomplishments (as noted above) or (b) subsequent real-life accomplishments. No matter how you define “success”—e.g., number of patents, size of income, peer recognition, number of publications, and so on, with more specific measures by area of endeavor—just as the specific out-of-class accomplishments were different for each subject area. And cleverly done, too: I won’t go into details, but the options were very cleverly selected based upon research findings and reporting goals.

One amusing sidelight: One of the authors of the scale who had done much of the research in establishing it remarked that an amazing number of people objected to the scale on the basis that, once kids knew which out-of-class accomplishments would be asked about, would simply go out on their own and do those things. “So?” was, I think, the best answer. The educator making the objection had completely missed the point (and by the nature of the position was one responsible for the education of our country’s youth: not a good sign). So what if kids went out and did those things? They would still be out-of-class accomplishments, and the kid would then also acquire the experience and practical knowledge such things deliver, thus actuating the process the measure describes. (I’m reminded in Moneyball of how the old guys couldn’t grasp that the thing was to get on base, and no one cares how you got there: walk, hit, or be hit. The point is to get on base. And here the point was to see which students had, of their own initiative, gone out and done those accomplishments. (I fear that the measure may now be undermined somewhat by the accomplishments now less influenced by individual student initiative—the student may have coaches, for example—so that the initiative-measuring fact is down. But OTOH, the experience of the accomplishment is still the same, and some habits are doubtlessly established that support initiative: i.e., habit. If the student has the habit each summer of doing something new, even if the first few are coached, the habit settles and the student eventually seeks out things to do: “If I must do something this summer, I may as well figure out something I’d like to do that will be supported.” That’s the seed of initiative.)

So yes, the student can then go out and do those accomplishments. And we hope that they will. We are trying to educate them, aren’t we? To draw from them their natural talents and help them embed those in a supportable matrix? Isn’t that what it’s all about? Hello? (The condition from which the question-raiser suffers was known at an earlier age as “Lights are on, but nobody’s home.”)

Only one student—from AT&T Bell Labs, as I recall—ever showed any significant correlation between grades and success in later life. (As I recall—note caveat above—it was managerial rank at AT&T and college GPA: which could be an artifact of artificial barriers based on grades. While one does want a certain level of competence—one would not select a surgeon who had received straight failing grades (thankfully, you cannot select such a surgeon)—it turns out that once a surgeon gets at least, say, a C, the addition grade points have no correlation with later success in life (defined, as noted, any way you like). This one, for example, included income, papers, operations, and (critically) number of other surgeons who would choose the given surgeon for that type of surgery: all independent of grade if the surgeon got a least a C.

Back to the AT&T study: so, possible. But that was the only study found that showed such a correlation. And—weird thing—AT&T would not release the data.

From an admissions point of view, this new measure gave a new way to structure the incoming class: not just on academic accomplishment, but also to include a good number of those with various out-of-class accomplishments (science, writing, whatever: I don’t remember all the scales—not all, however, were academic).

So—as you can doubtless tell—I was pretty stoked by this idea. The grade prediction bit, left me cold, however. “Look,” I said, “your own research shows you that grades are unrelated both to current and later-life accomplishment outside of class, where, after all, the students will spend most of their lives. That should be the focus. Trying to improve grade prediction is,” I said, with what I thought was a splendid analogy, an attitude consistent with (and responsible for) much of my success-rate in organizations, “like trying to sharpen a turd. First, the material itself simply doesn’t admit of that level of precision. Second, even suppose somehow that you’ve succeeded, what do you now have?”

So you can see how that leapt to mind as I thought about becoming over-precise in soap shaping vis-à-vis lather production (which is, after all, the goal, no?).

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 10:27 am

A few food thoughts

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Cooked rice is good to have on hand. Easy to measure (1/2 cup = 1 starch serving, so I usually take 1/3 cup as a starch serving), can be used in many ways (in soups, salads, stir-fries, stews, side dishes (by itself or combined with other things), etc.). I’m right now cooking 2 cups of converted rice. I like converted rice because of the relatively low glycemic index, but I also like brown (full-grain) rice (which doesn’t keep so well but is a richer source of fiber and nutrients) and true (Minnesota) wild rice.

I’m also soaking a pot of small red beans to cook and have on hand: good fiber, protein (when used with rice (or other grain) and/or dairy), and again usable in many ways. And easy to measure a serving.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2012 at 9:20 am

Posted in Daily life

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