Later On

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

Archive for November 9th, 2012

Wired editor leaves for DIY

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Interesting development, reported by Richard Florida in the Atlantic:

Wired’s long-time editor in chief, Chris Anderson, announced on Friday that he was leaving the magazine to become CEO of his DIY-drone company, 3D Robotics. This move comes a month after the release of his latest book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. In an interview last week (and a brief follow-up after Friday’s announcement), Anderson talked with me about today’s biggest revolution in how and where we actually make things. If the last few decades have been about big digital forces — the Internet, social media — he notes that the future will be about applying all of that in the real world. “Wondrous as the Web is,” he writes, “it doesn’t compare to the real world. Not in economic size (online commerce is less than 10 percent of all sales) and not in its place in our lives. The digital revolution has been largely limited to screens.” But, he adds, the salient fact remains that “we live in homes, drive in cars, and work in offices.” And it is that physical part of the economy that is undergoing the biggest and most fundamental change.

RF: So you’re leaving Wired to concentrate on your company, 3D Robotics, which makes DIY drones. This seems very closely related to the things you write about in Makers. It seems like you’re shifting your own life from a thinker and writer to a maker. Did your writing of this book influence this life-changing decision. If so, how? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Contest winner announced

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We have a winner in the contest. The Barrister has won, and Strop Shoppe has been notified. Soon he will enjoy a tub of Strop Shoppe’s Special Edition shaving soap.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Shaving

Heavy irony regarding love and the Good Samaritan

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Most of us are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The link is to the informative Wikipedia article, which begins with this note:

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus and is mentioned in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament. According to the Gospel of Luke (10:29-37) a traveller (who may or may not be Jewish) is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan helps the injured man. Jesus is described as telling the parable in response to a question regarding the identity of the “neighbour” which Leviticus 19:18 says should be loved.

Portraying a Samaritan in positive light would have come as a shock to Jesus’ audience. It is typical of his provocative speech in which conventional expectations are inverted.

Wikipedia then notes the actual words of the questioner and of Jesus (who Christians believe is in fact God):

In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is introduced by a question, known as the Great Commandment:

Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind [Deuteronomy 6:5]; and your neighbour as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].”

He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”

— Luke 10:25–29, World English Bible

Jesus replies with a story:

Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?”

He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do.”

— Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible

The parable is certainly consistent with the oft-stated idea “God is love.” Wikipedia provides more historical context later in the article:

Samaritans were hated by Jesus’ target audience, the Jews, to such a degree that the Lawyer’s phrase “The one who had mercy on him” may indicate a reluctance to name the Samaritan. The Samaritans in turn hated the Jews. Tensions were particularly high in the early decades of the first century because Samaritans had desecrated the Jewish Temple at Passover with human bones.

As the story reached those who were unaware of the oppression of the Samaritans, this aspect of the parable became less and less discernible: fewer and fewer people ever heard of them in any context other than as a description. Today the story is often recast in a more modern setting where the people are ones in equivalent social groups known not to interact comfortably. Thus cast appropriately, the parable regains its message to modern listeners: namely, that an individual of a social group they disapprove of can exhibit moral behavior that is superior to individuals of the groups they approve. Many Christians have used it as an example of Christianity’s opposition to racial, ethnic and sectarian prejudice. For example, anti-slavery campaigner William Jay described clergy who ignored slavery as “following the example of the priest and Levite.” Martin Luther King, Jr., in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, described the Samaritan as “a man of another race,” while Sundee Tucker Frazier saw the Samaritan more specifically as an example of a mixed-race person. Klyne Snodgrass writes “On the basis of this parable we must deal with our own racism but must also seek justice for, and offer assistance to, those in need, regardless of the group to which they belong.”

The Baltimore Love Project has as its mission painting 20 murals, each on the side of a building, that simply represent the word “love” spelled out in sign language:

They have now painted 15 of these murals and approached Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore to paint a mural there.

The irony comes crashing down: Good Samaritan Hospital won’t allow Baltimore Love Project to paint their wall just because BLP has partnered with Planned Parenthood. The messages (both BLP’s one-word message and the message conveyed by Good Sam’s actions) are clear. I would say that Good Samaritan Hospital executives have either not read or not understood the very parable for which their hospital is named, or they are deliberating flouting God’s clear commandment.

In related news, the Komen Foundation struggles to regain support (after eliminate $680,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings and education programs). From the story at the link:

Komen seizes every chance to remind critics of its good deeds. “What we are focused on now is mission,” said Andrea Rader, its managing director of communications. “There are people who are still interested in talking about the controversy. They will do that. All we can do is demonstrate that what we do is important, it matters, …”

I think Ms. Rader very much misses the point: people already believe that what Komen Foundation does is important and that it matters. That is precisely why they are dropping support: because of what Komen Foundation did. (More irony: it’s all around us.)

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 12:54 pm

Banks have clearly not learned a damn thing

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I’m hoping that Obama will fire his financial advisers, beginning with Timothy Geithner, and install a team that will take on the banks and financial industry. Paul Kiel reports for ProPublica:

An executive who the Justice Department says facilitated a scheme to defraud Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is now spearheading JPMorgan Chase’s role in the government’s program to compensate victims of the big banks’ abusive foreclosure practices.

The executive, Rebecca Mairone, worked at Countrywide and Bank of America from 2006 until earlier this year, when she left for JPMorgan Chase, according to her LinkedIn profile.

In a lawsuit filed last month in federal court in New York, Justice Department attorneys allege that Countrywide, which was bought by Bank of America in 2008, perpetrated a two-year scam to foist shoddy home loans on Fannie and Freddie. Neither Mairone nor any other individuals are named as defendants in the civil suit, and no criminal charges have been filed against her or anyone else in connection with the alleged misconduct. But Mairone is one of two bank officials cited in the suit as having repeatedly ignored warnings about the “Hustle,” as the alleged scheme was called inside the company, and she prohibited employees from circulating some of those warnings outside their division.

Mairone was chief operating officer of the Countrywide lending division that allegedly carried out the “Hustle.” She took the helm of JPMorgan Chase’s involvement in the Independent Foreclosure Review this summer, according to a former Chase employee.

The review, overseen by federal banking regulators, requires the nation’s biggest banks to compensate victims for harm they inflicted on borrowers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Climate and the collapse of a civilization

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Interesting article in Science News by Bruce Bower:

Classic Maya civilization rose and fell with the rains.

This once-majestic society, known for massive pyramids and hieroglyphic writing, expanded during an unusually rainy time and declined as the sky’s spigots dried up and periodic droughts arrived, a new study suggests.

A 2,000-year climate record, gleaned from a stalagmite inside a Belize cave, highlights a central role for climate shifts in the ancient civilization’s fortunes, say anthropologist Douglas Kennett of Penn State University and his colleagues.

A bounty of rain nurtured Maya agriculture and city building from the years 440 to 660, Kennett’s team reports in the Nov. 9 Science. A drying trend and occasional droughts after 660 were accompanied by declining crop yields, increasing warfare among Maya city-states and a shift of political centers northward into the Yucatan Peninsula, the researchers say. After the collapse of Maya political systems between 800 and 1000, a severe drought hit southern Belize from 1020 to 1100 and apparently motivated remaining Maya to leave the area.

“It looks like the Maya got lulled by a uniquely rainy period in the early Classic period into thinking that water would always be there,” Kennett says.

His team analyzed a stalagmite that grew in Yok Balum Cave from 40 B.C. to 2006 A.D. Rainfall estimates for each year of rock formation were derived from measurements of oxygen that accumulated in the stalagmite as runoff from rains entered the cave.

Yok Balum lies near a half-dozen major Classic Maya sites. The scientists compared the climate data with historical records, carved on stone monuments at these sites, of Maya warfare and political events.

Researchers have argued for decades about whether the Classic Maya collapse stemmed more from droughts or from warfare and weakened political systems. Kennett says the new evidence is consistent with climate changes interacting with social forces to pull Classic Maya civilization in different directions. Maya city-building before the Classic era (SN: 5/22/04, p. 334) may have enabled rapid social advances when early Classic rains pelted down. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 9:54 am

Drumming and the brain

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Mickey Hart seems to be an extremely interesting guy. He was a drummer for the Grateful Dead, a famous rock band, and he wrote a book Drumming at the Edge of Magic: A Journey into the Spirit of Percussion. Now Dan Cossins reports in The Scientist on a collaborative effort of Hart and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley:

This September, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart exposed his brain to a live audience at the annual meeting of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in New Orleans, Louisiana. With an electroencephalography (EEG) device strapped to his head, Hart strutted across the stage, drum in hand, as images of the rhythms pulsing through his brain were projected on big screens at the front of the hall. “It was like taking my brain out of my skull and watching it dance,” he says.

The stunt was the result of a collaboration between Hart and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. Brought together by their shared interest in the power of rhythm, the duo says they hope to generate new research into its role in higher-order brain functions—and find ways to influence brain rhythms to improve cognitive health.

“Mickey had an experience several years ago with his grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s,” says Gazzaley. “He noticed she was most communicative when he played the drums. It hit home that music and rhythm could have therapeutic impact, something he’d suspected for a long time.” So the AARP put Hart in touch with Gazzaley, who studies how brain rhythms change with normal ageing and disease, to help raise funds for research designed to explore the science behind Hart’s observation. . .

Continue reading.

From the article:

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 9:22 am

Posted in Science

Long handle for Bakelite slant

with 8 comments

Today’s shave is in part a response to a query from Wicked_Edge, on what the Bakelite slant would be like with a long handle. I used the handle from the ARC Weber, whose threads matched the slant’s perfectly.

First, though, the usual pre-shave beard wash with MR GLO, followed by the luscious lather from the combination of the Wee Scot and Strop Shoppe’s Special Edition Teakwood shaving soap.

The Frankenrazor with the same Astra Superior Platinum blade did fine. The balance was a little different—it felt slightly lightheaded—but no real problem. The tiny nick I got yesterday seemed to snag the razor’s edge and I worsened it today. Still, My Nik Is Sealed was effective, and I’ve changed the blade in case the nick came from a damaged edge.

Tomorrow, BTW, I’ll try the complementary Frankenrazor: the Bakelite handle and the ARC Weber head.

A good splash of Bulgarian Rose from Saint Charles Shave—I do like that aftershave—and I’m good to go. And I got a double-yolked egg this morning: whether that augurs well or ill I’ll learn later.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2012 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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