Later On

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

Scanner Pro 6 simplifies scanning documents with your iPhone

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Maybe this will stop people from cutting pages out of library books. The app is only $2.99.

More at the link above.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2015 at 10:36 am

Posted in Software

Billionaires speaking out on lessening economic inequality

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Interesting development discussed by Alan Feuer in the NY Times:

EARLIER this month, when the billionaire merchandising mogul Johann Rupert gave a speech at The Financial Times’s “luxury summit”in Monaco, he sounded more like a Marxist theoretician than someone who made his fortune selling Cartier diamonds and Montblanc pens. Appearing before a crowd of executives from Fendi and Ferrari, Mr. Rupert argued that it wasn’t right — or even good business — for “the 0.1 percent of the 0.1 percent” to raid the world’s spoils. “It’s unfair and it is not sustainable,” he said.

For several years now, populist politicians and liberal intellectuals have been inveighing against income inequality, an issue that is gaining traction among the broader body politic, as shown by a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that found that nearly 60 percent ofAmerican voters want their government to do more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. But in the last several months, this topic has been taken up by a different and unlikely group of advocates: a small but vocal band of billionaires.

In March, for instance, Paul Tudor Jones II, the private equity investor, gave a TED talk in which he proclaimed that the divide between the top 1 percent in the United States and the remainder of the country “cannot and will not persist.” Mr. Jones, who is thought to be worth nearly $5 billion, added that such divides have historically been resolved in one of three ways: taxes, wars or revolution.

A few months earlier, Jeff Greene, a billionaire real estate entrepreneur, suggested on CNBC that the superrich should pay higher taxes in order to restore what he called “the inclusive economy that I grew up in.”

And in June, Nick Hanauer, a tech billionaire from Seattle, wrote a blog post laying out the capitalist’s case for a $15 minimum wage. The post echoed sentiments that Mr. Hanauer made in a separate polemic he wrotelast summer for Politico, in which he addressed himself directly to the planet’s “zillionaires” and said: “I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.”

What’s going on here? Are all these anxious magnates really interested in leveling the playing field or are they simply paying lip service to a shift in the political winds? Or perhaps it’s just a statistical blip, given that most ofthe world’s 1,800 billionaires are not exactly out at the barricades lifting pitchforks for economic change.

According to Chrystia Freeland, author of the 2012 book “Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else,” the phenomenon of the socially conscious billionaire is . . .

Continue reading.

Consider this chart:

Marginal tax rate top bracket

Of course, this top rate applies only to income above a certain high limit—e.g., in 2014 the top rate for married filing jointly applied only to the income in excess of $457,601. If the income was $500,000, then only to $42,399. All the rest would be taxed at a lower rate.

You’ll note that during the most prosperous period of the US—the 1950s and 1960s—the top tax rate was 90% or 70%. Probably a good time to raise the top tax rate to 90% again and start funding the reapir of our failing infrastructure, among other things. None should go to the military, which already spends an unconscionable amount.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2015 at 6:21 am

Teenager’s Jailing Brings a Call to Fix Sex Offender Registries

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When the “cure” becomes too destructive, it’s not longer a cure. In the NY Times Julie Bosman points out the devastating effects of sex-offender registries:

. . . As Mr. Anderson’s defenders see it, his story is a parable of the digital age: the collision of the temporary relationships that young people develop on the Internet and the increasing criminalization of sexual activity through the expansion of online sex offender registries.

“The whole registry is a horrible mistake,” said William Buhl, a former judge in Michigan who has publicly argued that laws governing registries ought to be relaxed. “I think it’s utterly ridiculous to take teenage sex and make it a felony. This guy is obviously not a pedophile.”

But once Mr. Anderson leaves jail in the coming week, he will be bound by the same restrictions that apply to more extreme sex offenders, tagged with a “scarlet letter” for life, as his father, Lester Anderson, put it.

“At the end of the day, he might be out of jail, but he’ll still be in his own jail,” his father said. “He has to walk down the street every day and think: ‘Am I too close to a school? Is there a child who’s close to me?’ ”

There are fledgling efforts in some states to change sex offender registries so that they do not include juveniles or those guilty of minor offenses. In California, the corrections department announced in March that the state would ease residency requirements for many sex offenders, allowing certain low-risk individuals to live in areas closer to schools and parks that were previously off limits. Many sex offenders have ended up broke and homeless, living in clusters under freeways because they are routinely rejected by employers and landlords, and because they are banned from living in so many neighborhoods that contain public places like parks.

Brenda V. Jones, the executive director of Reform Sex Offender Laws, an advocacy group, said cases like Mr. Anderson’s are common in many states. Frequently, a judge will give the lightest possible sentence, but cannot change the restrictions involving the offender registry.

“It’s like a conviction on steroids,” Ms. Jones said. “Being on a registry becomes a liability for employers, no matter how minor the offense was. Other people will say: ‘I saw your employee on the Internet. He’s a sex offender, and I will not come to your establishment.’ ”

Changing the laws has been a slow fight. “People talk about it, but when you actually try to introduce legislation, lawmakers start to get really nervous,” Ms. Jones said. “Because, oh, my God, we’re going to be soft on sex offenders.”

Mr. Anderson’s parents are fighting back on behalf of their son, saying that while they believe he made a mistake, his punishment is extreme. They have been joined by the girl, who is now 15, and her mother, who have also defended Mr. Anderson, appearing in a Federal District Court in Michigan this spring to ask a judge for leniency.

“I don’t want him to be a sex offender, because he really is not,” the mother said, according to court transcripts. Her daughter told the judge that she felt “nothing should happen to Zach,” adding, “If you feel like something should, I feel like the lowest thing possible.” The judge, Dennis M. Wiley of Berrien County District Court in Michigan, was apparently not swayed by their testimony. After Mr. Anderson pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree, the judge declined to grant him a special status intended for young offenders. The status, under the state’s Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, would have spared him inclusion on the sex offender registry and erased the conviction from his record if he did not violate probation. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2015 at 6:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Copyright overreach: Forbidding evaluation of (e.g.) pacemakers

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Michael Byrne writes at Motherboard:

It’s an uncomfortable thought: The pacemaker in your chest—or that might someday be in your chest—providing the electrical signals necessary for your heart to pump blood and keep you from sudden death is legally a black box. That is, it’s unlawful to tinker with it for any reason, even if that tinkering is meant to evaluate the pacemaker for malfunctions and vulnerabilities. This illegality comes as the result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which affords wide-ranging protections to anyone holding a copyright for intellectual property, no matter if that happens to be a medical device or some other life-saving technology. In the eyes of the Act, pacemakers, nuclear power plant safety systems, and Taylor Swift songs are all the same basic thing.

The DMCA enshrines into law what are known as technological protection measures(TPMs), which are basically the various systems by which a copyright holder may restrict access to a “work”—which could be any number of things, including stuff like songs and movies, but also software. This restriction might come in the form of encryption, password protection, access controls, or, again, any number of things. The DMCA makes it illegal to attempt to bypass TPMs, largely the result of the entertainment industry’s fear that hackers might try to access copyrighted materials for nefarious purposes. As such, the law essentially outlaws reverse engineering, which is (or can be viewed as) a form of TPM circumvention.

The DMCA at least allows for exemptions. Every three years, affected parties can request to be excluded from the TPM rules if they feel that TPMs are restricting legitimate activities. The current round of 44 proposals was collected in 2014 and, this year, we get to see rights holders and petitioners go head to head, making arguments for and against the exemptions in hearings before the Copyright Office. After probably another round of hearings and further reviews, the Office will eventually release its decisions on the proposals.

The requested exemptions fall into two broad categories: interoperability and computer security. From the 44 proposals, the Copyright Office came up with 27 classes of materials to be considered for DMCA exemptions. It’s kind of a who’s-who of copyright absurdity. A sampling: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2015 at 6:03 am

Acceptance (or not) of the theory of evolution depends on cognitive style: Intuitive or analytic

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From an interesting article by Tania Lambrozo at NPR:

. . . A new paper by psychologist Will Gervais, just published in the journal Cognition, sheds new light on these questions. In two surveys conducted with hundreds of undergraduates attending a large university in Kentucky, Gervais found an association between cognitive style and beliefs about evolution. Gervais used a common task to measure the extent to which people engage in a more intuitivecognitive style, which involves going with immediate, intuitive judgments, versus a more analytic cognitive style, which involves more explicit deliberation, and which can often override an intuitive response.

In both studies, Gervais found a statistically significant relationship between the extent to which individuals exhibited a more analytic style and their endorsement of evolution. Importantly, the relationship remained significant even when controlling for other variables that predict evolutionary beliefs, including belief in God, religious upbringing and political conservatism.

The study also replicated prior work that has found a relationship between religiosity and evolutionary beliefs, and between cognitive style and religious disbelief: Participants with a more analytic style were not only more likely to accept evolution, but also to indicate lesser belief in God.

These findings are consistent with at least three possibilities. The first — suggested by the clever title of Gervais’ paper, “Override the Controversy” — is that all individuals have a tendency to reject evolution on an intuitive level, but that some individuals engage in a form of analytic or reflective thinking that allows them to “override” this intuitive response.

A second possibility is that some individuals have stronger intuitive responses than others. Such individuals are likely to experience a stronger pull toward purposive thinking, a greater aversion to uncertainty and other cognitive preferences at odds with evolution. If their intuitive responses are generally stronger, they’re also less likely to succeed in overriding them by engaging in analytic or reflective thought.

Yet, a third possibility . . .

Continue reading.

Analytic thought is for most something that must be learned, since it is a skill—that is, thinking analytically does not come naturally but requires training and practice. It seems to be the case with all skills (i.e., with things that must be learned through practice) that self-taught learners will fall into certain common traps, which is why good coaching can result in rapid improvements in performance. Whether the skill is golf, swimming, analytic thinking, decision making, or whatever, self-taught learners almost inevitably will discover certain counter-productive shortcuts that undermine proficiency. Russo and Schoemaker’s wonderful little book, Decision Traps discusses this in detail and points out ten specific common errors to avoid in making important decisions.

UPDATE: I should mention that Edward de Bono has developed a well-regarded curriculum specifically to teach creativity and critical-thinking skills in the early grades. The materials involve one session per week to develop skills in thinking. For more information, see his site. The site also includes an on-line course of 24 lessons to teach thinking skills.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2015 at 5:47 am

Posted in Books, Education, Evolution

What’s on the other side of the ocean

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Naturally enough, it depends on where you are. From this post at Mental Floss:

the-other-side-of-the-ocean

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2015 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Daily life

A wonderful Independence Day shave with the #102

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SOTD 4 July 2015

The Plisson synthetic brush in the photo is noticeably better (for me) than the $20 Fine synthetic that uses the same fibers, but OTOH the Plisson costs €34.80, or $38.66, almost twice as much. So naturally one would expect it to be somewhat better. Next week I shall do a comparison shave with an Omega S-Series brush (in a regular size, not a pro size) to see how it compares with the Fine.

I got a wonderful lather from Dr. Jon’s Savannah Sunrise: Orange Blossom, Peach, Gardenia, Jasmine and Honeysuckle  The Honeysuckle was quite noticeable this morning, a fine fragrance for a summer day.

Three passes with the iKon Shavecraft #102 slant left my face BBS, effortlessly and enjoyably. Someone mentioned that the curvature of the blade in the #102 may be conical rather than cylindrical, and in looking at the two ends of the razor, one end does look somewhat broader and less curved than the other. But rather looking at design details, I tend to judge a razor more on its feel and performance, not caring so much about how it achieves those. And the feel and performance of the #102 is terrific. I am beginning to think this is my favorite razor. It’s out of stock everywhere now, but iKon says that they will be back in stock this month.

A good splash of Phoenix Artisans Sandalwood, and the holiday beginss.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 July 2015 at 9:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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