Later On

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

Kale my way

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Just made this for lunch.

1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 Tbsp Enzo Fresno Chili Crush extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Hatch green chilies, seeded and chopped fine
1 bunch Bora red kale (i.e., not Russian red kale)
1 bunch Lacinato kale
1 lemon, diced
2 Tbsp sherry
2 Tbsp Ponzu sauce
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup water

Heat oil in 11″ sauté pan (mine is 4-qt, so you might want to use a pot). Add onioin, salt, and pepper and sauté for a few minutes until the onion turns transparent.

Add garlic and peppers and sauté a few minutes more.

Then add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For lunch I had a bowl of that topped by an over-easy egg cooked in olive oil. Very tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 2:25 pm

Facts or Anecdotes? Pick One and Stick With It.

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Extremely intriguing post by Kevin Drum. And I agree with his recommendation: always issue two different reports, one with statistics, charts, and measures and the other using personal anecdotes as representative examples.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 2:15 pm

Is anybody home at HUD?

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Alec McGillis reports in ProPublica:

In mid-May, Steve Preston, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development in the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., for the new chief of that department, Ben Carson, and five other former secretaries whose joint tenure stretched all the way back to Gerald Ford. It was an event with no recent precedent within the department, and it had the distinct feel of an intervention.

HUD has long been something of an overlooked stepchild within the federal government. Founded in 1965 in a burst of Great Society resolve to confront the “urban crisis,” it has seen its manpower slide by more than half since the Reagan Revolution. (The HUD headquarters is now so eerily underpopulated that it can’t even support a cafeteria; it sits vacant on the first floor.) But HUD still serves a function that millions of low-income Americans depend on — it funds 3,300 public-housing authorities with 1.2 million units and also the Section 8 rental-voucher program, which serves more than 2 million families; it has subsidized tens of millions of mortgages via the Federal Housing Administration; and, through various block grants, it funds an array of community uplift initiatives. It is the Ur-government agency, quietly seeking to address social problems in struggling areas that the private sector can’t or won’t solve, a mission that has become especially pressing amid a growing housing affordability crisis in many major cities.

Despite its Democratic roots, Republican administrations have historically assumed stewardship over HUD with varying degrees of enthusiasm — among the department’s more notable secretaries were Republicans George Romney and Jack Kemp, the idiosyncratic champion of supply-side economics and inner-city renewal.

Now, however, HUD faced an existential crisis. The new president’s then-chief strategist, Steve Bannon, had called in February for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” It was not hard to guess that, for a White House that swept to power on a wave of racially tinged rural resentment and anti-welfare sentiment, high on the demolition list might be a department with “urban” in its name. The administration’s preliminary budget outline had already signaled deep cuts for HUD. And Donald Trump had chosen to lead the department someone with zero experience in government or social policy — the nominee whose unsuitability most mirrored Trump’s lack of preparation to run the country.

This prospect was causing alarm even among HUD’s former Republican leaders. At the Metropolitan Club, George W. Bush’s second secretary, Alphonso Jackson, warned Carson against cutting further into HUD’s manpower. (Many regional offices have shuttered in recent years.) Carla Hills, who ran the department under President Ford, put in a plug for the Community Development Block Grant program, noting that Ford had created it in 1974 precisely in order to give local governments more leeway over how to spend federal assistance.

The tone was collegial, built on the hopeful assumption that Carson wanted to do right by the department. “We were trying to be supportive,” Henry Cisneros, from the Clinton administration, told me. But it was hard for the ex-secretaries to get a read on Carson’s plans, not least because the whisper-voiced retired pediatric neurosurgeon was being overshadowed by an eighth person at the table: his wife, Candy. An energetic former real-estate agent who is an accomplished violinist and has co-authored four books with her husband, she had been spending far more time inside the department’s headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza than anyone could recall a secretary’s spouse doing in the past, only one of many oddities that HUD employees were encountering in the Trump era. She’d even taken the mic before Carson made his introductory speech to the department. “We’re really excited about working with — ” She broke off, as if detecting the puzzlement of the audience. “Well, he’s really.”

The story of the Trump administration has been dominated by the Russia investigations, the Obamacare repeal morass, and cataclysmic internecine warfare. But there is a whole other side to Trump’s takeover of Washington: What happens to the government itself, and all it is tasked with doing, when it is placed under the command of the Chaos President? HUD has emerged as the perfect distillation of the right’s antipathy to governing. If the great radical conservative dream was, in Grover Norquist’s famous words, to “drown government in a bathtub,” then this was what the final gasps of one department might look like. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:37 pm

The Boring Little Budget Office That Trump Hates

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Trump really dislikes any ties to consensual reality. He is determined that everyone should be as ignorant as he is, since others knowing more than him is intolerable if not unthinkable. So there go measures and facts. Steve Rattner writes in the NY Times:

The Congressional Budget Office never exuded sex appeal, at least not until recently. Its bland office building, which sits unobtrusively by a freeway in southwest Washington, houses an often-overlooked assemblage of wonkish economists whose idea of professional happiness is producing 10-year fiscal forecasts.

Nevertheless, it’s an agency of indispensable importance that is now coming under attack not only from Critic-in-Chief Donald Trump but from a broad array of Republican leaders, including even Speaker Paul Ryan.

If, as Oscar Wilde said, that you can judge a man — or in this case an institution — by the quality of its enemies, then the C.B.O. has chosen very well.

The current Republican beef with the C.B.O. is that it has repeatedly (and undoubtedly correctly) concluded that conservative proposals to gut the Affordable Care Act would cost tens of millions of Americans their health insurance.

Amazingly, in July, the White House even put out a 45 second video contending that “the Congressional Budget Office’s math does not add up.” A few days later, two senior Trump aides labeled the C.B.O.’s health care scoring “fake news” in a Washington Post Op-Ed. In 40 years of observing the budgeting process, I can’t recall anything remotely like this criticism of the

Developing long-term projections — particularly for complex policies like health care — is exceptionally difficult. And by no means do C.B.O. analyses invariably prove correct.

But passing sweeping legislation without input from the budget office would be like planning a picnic without checking the weather forecast. Meteorologists are not always right either but imagine what life (and businesses such as agriculture) would be like without them.

Health insurance changes may now be on hold for the moment, but other critical policy issues — notably, tax reform and next year’s spending — are moving to the front burner.

The C.B.O. was established in 1974 to do precisely what Republicans now don’t want it to do: serve as an independent counterpoint to the Office of Management and Budget. As a creature of the executive branch, the O.M.B. is often, and appropriately, criticized for lacking that nonpartisan viewpoint.

Keith Hall, the current director of the C.B.O. was selected two years ago by the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill — some of the same individuals who are now attacking the agency’s credibility. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:34 pm

Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Illuminating Future of LED Lighting

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Kevin Hartnett writes in Quanta:

In the 1950s, Philip Anderson, a physicist at Bell Laboratories, discovered a strange phenomenon. In some situations where it seems as though waves should advance freely, they just stop — like a tsunami halting in the middle of the ocean.

Anderson won the 1977 Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of what is now called Anderson localization, a term that refers to waves that stay in some “local” region rather than propagating the way you’d expect. He studied the phenomenon in the context of electrons moving through impure materials (electrons behave as both particles and waves), but under certain circumstances it can happen with other types of waves as well.

Even after Anderson’s discovery, much about localization remained mysterious. Although researchers were able to prove that localization does indeed occur, they had a very limited ability to predict when and where it might happen. It was as if you were standing on one side of a room, expecting a sound wave to reach your ear, but it never did. Even if, after Anderson, you knew that the reason it didn’t was that it had localized somewhere on its way, you’d still like to figure out exactly where it had gone. And for decades, that’s what mathematicians and physicists struggled to explain.

This is where Svitlana Mayboroda comes in. Mayboroda, 36, is a mathematician at the University of Minnesota. Five years ago, she began to untangle the long-standing puzzle of localization. She came up with a mathematical formula called the “landscape function” that predicts exactly where waves will localize and what form they’ll take when they do.

“You want to know how to find these areas of localization,” Mayboroda said. “The naive approach is difficult. The landscape function magically gives a way of doing it.”

Her work began in the realm of pure mathematics, but unlike most mathematical advances, which might find a practical use after decades, if ever, her work is already being applied by physicists. In particular, LED lights — or light-emitting diodes — depend on the phenomenon of localization. They light up when electrons in a semiconducting material, having started out in a position of higher energy, get trapped (or “localize”) in a position of lower energy and emit the difference as a photon of light. LEDs are still a work in progress: Engineers need to build LEDs that more efficiently convert electrons into light, if the devices are to become the future of artificial lighting, as many expect they will. If physicists can gain a better understanding of the mathematics of localization, engineers can build better LEDs — and with the help of Mayboroda’s mathematics, that effort is already under way.

Rogue Waves

Localization is not an intuitive concept. Imagine you stood on one side of a room and watched someone ring a bell, only the sound never reached your ears. Now imagine that the reason it didn’t is that the sound had fallen into an architectural trap, like the sound of the sea bottled in a shell.

Of course, in an ordinary room that never happens: Sound waves propagate freely until they hit your eardrums, or get absorbed into the walls, or dissipate in collisions with molecules in the air. But Anderson realized that when waves move through highly complex or disordered spaces, like a room with very irregular walls, the waves can trap themselves in place.

Anderson studied localization in electrons moving through a material. He realized that if the material is well-ordered, like a crystal, with its atoms evenly distributed, the electrons move freely as waves. But if the material’s atomic structure is more random — with some atoms here, and a whole bunch over there, as is the case in many industrially manufactured alloys — then the electron waves scatter and reflect in highly complicated ways that can lead the waves to disappear altogether.

“Disorder is inevitable in the way these materials are created, there’s no way to escape it,” said Marcel Filoche, a physicist at the École Polytechnique outside Paris and a close collaborator of Mayboroda’s. “The only thing to hope is that you can play with it, control it.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Math, Science, Technology

An idea for Democrats: Tackle criminal-justice reform

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Obviously, criminal justice reform is needed especially at the state level, but the program of reforming the criminal-justice system could be a plan in the national Democratic platform, with mission carried out at muncipal, county, state, and national levels.

On the topic, Jon Schuppe has an article on bail reform at NBCNews.com:

On the ground floor of a deteriorating county courthouse, in a room outfitted with temporary office furniture and tangles of electrical wires, a cornerstone of America’s criminal justice system is crumbling.

A 20-year-old man in a green jail jumpsuit appears on a video monitor that faces a judge. It is early June, and he has been arrested for driving a car with a gun locked in the glove compartment.

If he were in almost any other courtroom in the country, he’d be ordered to stay behind bars until he posted bail — if he could afford it. This is what millions of people charged with crimes from shoplifting to shootings have done for more than two centuries. The bail system, enshrined in the Bill of Rights, is meant to ensure that all defendants, presumed innocent before trial, get a shot at freedom and return to court.

But allowing people to pay for their release has proved unfair to people who don’t have much money. The poor are far more likely to get stuck in jail, which makes them far more likely to get fired from jobs, lose custody of children, plead guilty to something they didn’t do, serve time in prison and suffer the lifelong consequences of a criminal conviction. Those who borrow from a bail bondsman often fall into crippling debt.

At the same time, the wealthy can buy their way out of pretrial detention on just about any offense, including murder.

The bald inequity of this system has triggered a national movement to eliminate bail altogether.

But what to replace it with?

In New Jersey, the answer is an algorithm, a mathematical formula to determine whether someone is likely to return to court for trial or get arrested again.

Back in the courtroom, the formula has run the criminal history of the man caught with the gun. The young father ─ who said he didn’t know the weapon was in the car ─ has nothing on his adult record, but he pleaded guilty to sex assault as a juvenile. That record has been given a numerical weight and then boiled down to two numbers that appear on the judge’s computer screen. They say the man is a low risk of skipping court and committing a new crime.

“Release On Own Recognizance,” the formula tells the judge.

But prosecutors think he’s too dangerous. They want him locked up. Their disagreement forces a second hearing in which the government must persuade a judge to override the algorithm’s recommendation.

This is what the new vision of American justice looks like.

Created by data scientists and criminal-justice researchers, the algorithm — one of dozens of “risk assessment tools” being used around the country — promises to use data to scrub the system of bias by keeping only the most dangerous defendants behind bars, regardless of their socioeconomic status. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 10:27 am

Antarctic mystery microbe could tell us where viruses came from

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A fascinating report by Michael Marshall in New Scientist:

A peculiar Antarctic microbe may offer a clue to one of the biggest mysteries in evolution: the origin of viruses.

The microorganism is host to a fragment of DNA that can build a capsule around itself. It may help solve the mystery of how viruses first arose.

Viruses are not like other life forms. Arguably, they are not alive at all. All other living things are made of cells: squashy bags filled with the other essential molecules of life. Cells are intricate machines that can feed and reproduce independently.

Viruses are much simpler. A typical virus is a small piece of genetic material encased in a shell called a capsid. On its own, a virus can do little. But if it enters a living cell, it starts making copies of itself. Viruses often harm their hosts: for instance, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cause AIDS when it infects a person.

Biologists have puzzled for decades about where viruses come from. Are they an older, simpler form of life – or are they parasites that arose only once cells had evolved?

Blurred lines

Ricardo Cavicchioli of the University of New South Wales in Australia and his colleagues have found a microorganism in the lakes of the Rauer Islands off the coast of Antarctica that might shed some light on the question. The organism, which they named Halorubrum lacusprofundi R1S1, is an archaean: a kind of single-celled organism that looks like a bacterium, but actually belongs to a separate domain of life.

The group knew that viruses often play an important role in Antarctic ecosystems, so team member Susanne Erdmann searched for viruses inside the organism’s cells. She found something unexpected: a plasmid.

Plasmids are small fragments of DNA, often circular, that reside in living cells. They are not part of the cell’s main genome, and can replicate themselves independently. Often, a plasmid will carry a gene that is somehow useful to the cell: for instance, antibiotic resistance genes are sometimes found on plasmids.

The plasmid Erdmann found, which the team calls “pR1SE”, is unusual. The genes it carries allow it to make vesicles – essentially bubbles made of lipids – that enclose it in a protective layer. Encased in its protective bubble, pR1SE can leave its host cell to seek out new hosts.

In other words, pR1SE looks and acts a lot like a virus. But it carries genes that are found only on plasmids, and lacks any telltale virus genes. It is a plasmid with the attributes of a virus. “There really are no major distinctions left between plasmids and viruses,” says Cavicchioli.

Escaping genes

He suggests that viruses could have evolved from plasmids like pR1SE, by acquiring genes from their host that allowed them to make a hard capsid shell rather than a soft vesicle.

This lines up with existing evidence on the origin of viruses.

There have been three leading ideas: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 9:50 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

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