Later On

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

Archive for August 8th, 2011

I fear we may be in for interesting times

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The DOW drop reminds us that, as I’m sure others have observed, with the level of algorithmic trading now going on—level not only in volume but also in computational/programmatic complexity (and I’m sure they must be using genetic algorithms and neural nets in this—it only makes sense)—no one really has any idea what the programs doing the trading are going to do, what directions the software will take them… and us. And we’re stuck with it: they can’t dismantle the machine at this point—too much already depends on it—but it’s now passed as much out of our control as that colored-lights-and-sound synthesizer did when the scientist/engineer flipped the switch and turned complete control over to the computer (in Close Encounters of the Third Kind). It’s out of our control, and we’re going to have to live with whatever those programs do.

UPDATE: What’s particularly interessting is that no one intended or planned or had as a goal that a bunch of complex (and thus buggy) software programs, making decisions beyond the ken of their creators or “controllers”, would have so much influence (and, let’s face it, control) over the well being of this country and its people. It was accomplished blindly, as if by instinct, much as termites construct those perfectly aligned and ventilated structures. And here it is. Because of the stresses the systems are getting, I suspect we’ll quickly find some odd outcomes from at least some of these programs. But what do I know? This is all speculation.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2011 at 7:01 pm

Nice batch of hot sauce

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I went to Whole Foods to pick up a couple of things for lunch and was pleased to see lots of red Fresno peppers. I got about a quart, along with ten habaneros and when I got home immediately made a hot sauce, now bottled. The ingredients:

Red Fresno peppers, caps cut off and discarded
Habanero peppers, stems removed and discarded
10 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 c sea salt
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 small can whole chipotles in adobo sauce
White vinegar just to cover

Blended, brought to boil and simmered 20 minutes, cooled 20 minutes, and then bottled. I added the oil because it occurred to me that some of the spiciness might be oil-soluble and perhaps this would help—plus I like the taste of toasted sesame oil. The garlic also adds a nice note.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2011 at 10:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Perfect PDF reader for the iPad

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2011 at 8:15 am

Posted in Software, Techie toys

Sic transit gloria mundi: The Magdalenians

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I’m reading (among other books) The Human Web: A Bird’s-Eye View of World History, by J.R. McNeill and William H. McNeill. I do love William H. McNeill’s work. Here’s an intriguing “what-it-must-have-been” passage from pp. 22-23:

The famous Magdalenian cave art of southern Frnce and northeast Spain, dated between about 10,000 and 13,000 years ago, is an equally amazing product of human cooperation and inventiveness [comparable to the Inuit culture from about 800 CE, when technology and techniques were developed to enable whale-hunting]. People who, it is now believed, harvested migratory reindeer, having learned to store the meat (presumably by smoking it, as the Indians of the Pacific coast smoked their salmon), used their spare time to elaborate the mysterious rituals of the caves—whatever they may have been. Almost nothing is known about the so-called Madalenian society that gave birth to this extraordinary cave art. A great variety of tools, made of bone and wood as well as of stone, and a few ivory carvings, attest to very considerable manufacturing skill, and the precision of line exhibited by the cave paintings leads some art historians to suppose that the draftsmen were full-time professionals.

Archeologists have recently discovered Magdalenian living sites, located close to defiles through which migrating reindeer had to pass as they moved from winter to summer pastures. A 95 percent predominance of reindeer bones among animal remains at these campsites is, indeed, the only basis for supposing that the Magadlenians stayed put and relied on migratory herds for food throughout the year. We may imagine how large numbers of reindeer may have been captured and killed each year by driving them into trap-enclosures constructed ahead of time along the routes of migration; but since no traces of such structures have yet been found, no one knows for sure.

The ideas behind Magdalenian cave art and the ceremonies that most certainly took place deep within the bowels of the earth are equally unknowable. Very likely singing and dancing were central. [The authors previously pointed out how group participation in rhythmic singing and dancing builds group solidarity. – LG] Some of the galleries adorned by Magdalenian painters resound eerily to the human voice; and it is tempting to suppose that they were once the site of echoing musical conversations with the spirit world. But no one knows, and no one is even sure of what happened to the Magdalenians. Climate change eventually allowed forests to grown on what had been lush tundra, fed by moisture and warmth from the Atlantic, and as that occurred, reindeer migrated northward. Magdalenian hunters may have gone with them. But, like North American potlatches and totem poles, the cave art they left behind constitutes an extraordinary example of what humans can do with spare time when seasonal harvesting of food suffices year round.

It takes only a little imagination to picture what life among the Magdalenians might have been. With no writing, a few generations can seem like a vast history, and generations in those days were shorter. After three hundred years—the blink of an eye—the way of life would have seemed eternal: the excitement as the days shorten toward fall and preparations mount for the big fall reindeer harvest: as the leaves start to turn, the building of the traps, plus (doubtless) the excitement of courtship for the feasts and celebrations and matings that would follow the butchering and smoking of meat, getting all in ready for the winter. (Babies conceived in the fall would be born in the summer, an advantage.)

Then as winter settled in and the days grew dark, the descents into the cave to celebrate in a more solemn manner, with the echoing songs and call-and-response of sacred ceremonies. One can only speculate on the musical structures that were created and evolved. Perhaps after a dozen generations of refinement and practice they reached a pitch of perfection that human vocal music can never again attain.

But then the climate gradually changed, and the reindeer stopped coming south, so the people had to leave the hills and caves and follow the reindeer. The music stopped and could not be repeated—songs sung in the open air tend to vanish into the immensity and certainly would not have the emotional impact when they were sung in a dark, warm, crowded, echoing space while snow swirled in the overcast days outside and the people were filled with the confidence and sense of security of a good supply of food.

We can never know, but things did happen then, things immeasurably moving and important and—to the Magdalenians—never to be forgotten, to be sung and celebrated forever. Or until the climate changed.

UPDATE: You can see a 3-D movie (made by Werner Hertzog) of the paintings—3-D being important because the paintings exploit the curvatures and irregularities of the cave wall.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2011 at 7:44 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Super smooth with Slant Bar

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Extremely good shave, but no wonder: two-day stubble, excellent prep (thanks in part to the wonderful badger+horsehair shaving brush from Vie-Long), and the Slant Bar with a good blade.

The Irisch Moos contributed a good amount of soap, thanks to the stubble, and the badger-and-horsehair shaving brush produced from it an excellent lather, close to Creamy Lather for all that I was working it up on my beard. Horsehair is wonderful.

Three smooth passes with the Slant Bar holding a Swedish Gillette blade, a splash of Irisch Moos aftershave, and I’m good to go.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2011 at 6:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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