Later On

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

Archive for October 17th, 2013

The problem(s) with Wolverine

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Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Portal chess

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Weird but interesting:

More detailed instructions at YouTube entry.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 11:30 am

Posted in Games

Catholic Hospitals Grow, and With Them Questions of Care

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Interesting article in ProPublica by Nina Martin:

Over the past few years, Washington state’s liberal voters have been on quite a roll. Same-sex marriage? Approved. Assisted suicide? Check. Legalized pot? That too. Strong abortion protections? Those have been in place for decades.

Now, though, the state finds itself in the middle of a trend that hardly anyone there ever saw coming: a wave of mergers and alliances between Catholic hospital chains and secular, taxpayer-supported community hospitals. By the end of this year, the ACLU estimates, nearly half of Washington’s hospital beds could be under Catholic influence or outright control.

Many of the deals have been reached in near secrecy, with minimal scrutiny by regulators. Virtually all involve providers in Western Washington, which voted heavily for same-sex marriage last November and the Death with Dignity Act in 2008. The cultural divide between the region’s residents (Seattle recently edged out San Francisco as the area with the largest proportion of gay couples) and the Catholic Church (whose local archbishop led the effort against marriage equality and is overseeing a Vatican crackdown on independent-minded American nuns) couldn’t be wider. And yet more and more hospitals there — sustained by taxpayers, funded by Medicare, Medicaid, and other government subsidies — could be bound by church restrictions on birth control, sterilization and abortion, fertility treatments, genetic testing, and assisted suicide.

In affected communities, the news is not going over well.

“It’s the perfect storm here,” said Kathy Reim, president of Skagit PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) north of Seattle, where four area hospitals have been in merger talks this year. “We are the only state that has all these rights and privileges available to our citizens. Yet many of our hospital beds are being managed by a system that, for the most part, cannot and will not honor these rights and laws.”

Meanwhile, the deals just keep coming. Earlier this month, hospital commissioners approved a letter of intent between Skagit Valley Hospital and PeaceHealth, a Catholic enterprise that runs nine medical centers and dozens of clinics in three states. The week before, Franciscan Health System (which already has six hospitals in the region) said it would affiliate with an acute-care facility in the sprawling suburbs south of Seattle. In mid- September, UW Medicine, which includes the University of Washington’s teaching centers, signed a “strategic collaboration” with PeaceHealth to provide advanced specialized in-patient care.

In all, Washington has seen at least 10 completed or proposed Catholic-secular affiliations in the past three years, more than anywhere else in the country, says Sheila Reynertson of MergerWatch, a New York-based nonprofit group that tracks hospital consolidations. Three of the state’s five largest health-care systems are Catholic. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 11:20 am

Posted in Medical, Religion

Bring back Home Ec!

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An interesting article by Ruth Graham in the Boston Globe on how Home Ec is an eminently practical and useful course that can convey a lot of important life information. I’m wondering though… I had a woman who worked for me when I was director of admissions who was a powerhouse: intelligent, good judgment, lots of initiative, and so on. I more or less stood back and marveled at her accomplishments.

She was from a small town in Texas, and was about my age (born in the early 1940s), and since she was a woman, her h.s. guidance counselor helpfully outlined career choices for her: secretary, nurse, teacher, and so on. I’m not sure how she settle on home ec, but perhaps at the time and in the region it was the natural choice.

She brought her amazing gifts to the job and was constantly creating extensions to the standard course materials. For example, her students couldn’t understand how a sewing machine worked, so she had a model with an enormous needle (a knitting needle, with a hole drilled near the tip) with string for thread. It sewed when you turned a crank, so you could make it go slowly and watch exactly how the needle and thread (knitting needle and string) did their work.

That was only one. She had scores of projects like that.

Were she a young woman today, she would be thinking more of working toward being a CEO or head of R&D or whatever. Truly, she was enormously gifted.

So that was the sort of person teaching home ec back in the day. Today, with more opportunities for energetic and intelligent women, perhaps home ec teaching would not be so attractive a career.

But that’s part of the overall problem of the US: compare how we train and pay teachers with how (say) Finland does.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

‘Calvin and Hobbes’ Creator Bill Watterson On Creators’ Rights and Creative License

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Very interesting post at ThinkProgress. Here’s the quotation from Watterson:

Just to be clear, I did not have incredible autonomy until afterward. I had signed most of my rights away in order to get syndicated, so I had no control over what happened to my own work, and I had no legal position to argue anything. I could not take the strip with me if I quit, or even prevent the syndicate from replacing me, so I was truly scared I was going to lose everything I cared about either way. I made a lot of impassioned arguments for why a work of art should reflect the ideas and beliefs of its creator, but the simple fact was that my contract made that issue irrelevant. It was a grim, sad time. Desperation makes a person do crazy things.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 9:24 am

Posted in Business, Writing

The Backfire Effect

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Craig Silverman has an interesting, if discouraging, article in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Which of these headlines strikes you as the most persuasive:

“I am not a Muslim, Obama says.”

“I am a Christian, Obama says.”

The first headline is a direct and unequivocal denial of a piece of misinformation that’s had a frustratingly long life. It’s Obama directly addressing the falsehood.

The second option takes a different approach by affirming Obama’s true religion, rather than denying the incorrect one. He’s asserting, not correcting.

Which one is better at convincing people of Obama’s religion? According to recent research into political misinformation, it’s likely the latter.

The study was led by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, two leading researchers examining political misinformation and the ways in which it can and can’t be refuted, among other topics. Their 2009 paper, “The Effects of Semantics and Social Desirability in Correcting the Obama Muslim Myth,” found that affirming statements appeared to be more effective at convincing people to abandon or question their incorrect views regarding President Obama’s religion.

I found their work courtesy of an exhaustive post on You Are Not So Smart, a blog about “self delusion and irrational thinking” by journalist David McRaney.

McRaney spends several thousand words explaining the “backfire effect,” which he nicely summarized in one sentence: “When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.”

As I detailed in a recent column, the backfire effect makes it difficult for the press to effectively debunk misinformation. We present facts and evidence, and it often does nothing to change people’s minds. In fact, it can make people dig in even more. Humans also engage in motivated reasoning, a tendency to let emotions “set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about”.

These two important cognitive effects can have a significant impact on society and debates in the public sphere. They also end up negating some of the debunking and reporting work done by the press. My recent attempts to understand the backfire effect and motivated reasoning has transformed into a search for ways to combat these entrenched human phenomena.

I sought out Reifler, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia State University, to learn more about his and his colleagues’ findings regarding affirmative statements and their effect of the Obama Muslim myth. I asked him if there are other other ways of presenting information that can debunk lies.

“I’m sure that there are but I don’t know what they are,” he told me, ever the cautious researcher.

Nevertheless, he did offer some encouragement.

“I think we’re moving in that direction,” he says.

Part of the process of discovering what works is to rule out what doesn’t. I listed a some of them in my previous column, and Nyhan and Reifler provide more evidence in a 2010 paper, “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions,” published inPolitical Behavior. (Note that their definition of a correction is different from the ones used in the press.) Their study saw respondents read a mock news article “containing a statement from a political figure that reinforces a widespread misperception.” Some of the articles also included a paragraph of text that refuted (or “corrected”) the misperception and statement.

One article, for example, led with President George W. Bush talking about Iraq and the possibility it “would pass weapons or materials or information to terrorist networks.” It then transitioned to a graph that cited information from a CIA report that Iraq did not in fact possess illicit weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion. Would these corrective paragraphs influence respondents who believed Iraq had WMDs?

As the researches write, the corrective sections “frequently fail to reduce misperceptions among the targeted ideological group.”

Then there’s that familiar term: “We also document several instances of a ‘backfire effect’ in which corrections actually increase misperceptions among the group in question.”

So perhaps a single, credible refutation within a news article isn’t likely to convince people to change their views. But other research suggests that a constant flow of these kind of corrections could help combat misinformation. The theory is that the more frequently someone is exposed to information that goes against their incorrect beliefs, the more likely it is that they will change their views.

“It’s possible there is something to be said for persistence,” Reifler said. “At some point the cost of always being wrong or always getting information that runs counter to what you believe is likely to outweigh the cost of having to change your mind about something. We need to figure out what is the magic breaking or tipping point, or what leads people to get to that tipping point. I think we’re just scratching the surface.”

He pointed to a 2010 paper in Political Psychology by David P. Redlawsk and others,“The Affective Tipping Point: Do Motivated Reasoners Ever ‘Get It’?”

The researchers sought to determine if a tipping point exists that could cause voters to abandon motivated reasoning and view facts in a more rational way.

“We show experimental evidence that such an affective tipping point . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 8:43 am

Vannevar Bush from July 1945: An interesting essay

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From the Atlantic archives:

As Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Dr. Vannevar Bush has coordinated the activities of some six thousand leading American scientists in the application of science to warfare. In this significant article he holds up an incentive for scientists when the fighting has ceased. He urges that men of science should then turn to the massive task of making more accessible our bewildering store of knowledge. For years inventions have extended man’s physical powers rather than the powers of his mind. Trip hammers that multiply the fists, microscopes that sharpen the eye, and engines of destruction and detection are new results, but not the end results, of modern science. Now, says Dr. Bush, instruments are at hand which, if properly developed, will give man access to and command over the inherited knowledge of the ages. The perfection of these pacific instruments should be the first objective of our scientists as they emerge from their war work. Like Emerson’s famous address of 1837 on “The American Scholar,” this paper by Dr. Bush calls for a new relationship between thinking man and the sum of our knowledge. —THE EDITOR

This has not been a scientist’s war; it has been a war in which all have had a part. The scientists, burying their old professional competition in the demand of a common cause, have shared greatly and learned much. It has been exhilarating to work in effective partnership. Now, for many, this appears to be approaching an end. What are the scientists to do next?

For the biologists, and particularly for the medical scientists, there can be little indecision, for their war has hardly required them to leave the old paths. Many indeed have been able to carry on their war research in their familiar peacetime laboratories. Their objectives remain much the same.

It is the physicists who have been thrown most violently off stride, who have left academic pursuits for the making of strange destructive gadgets, who have had to devise new methods for their unanticipated assignments. They have done their part on the devices that made it possible to turn back the enemy, have worked in combined effort with the physicists of our allies. They have felt within themselves the stir of achievement. They have been part of a great team. Now, as peace approaches, one asks where they will find objectives worthy of their best.


Of what lasting benefit has been man’s use of science and of the new instruments which his research brought into existence? First, they have increased his control of his material environment. They have improved his food, his clothing, his shelter; they have increased his security and released him partly from the bondage of bare existence. They have given him increased knowledge of his own biological processes so that he has had a progressive freedom from disease and an increased span of life. They are illuminating the interactions of his physiological and psychological functions, giving the promise of an improved mental health.

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose. If the aggregate time spent in writing scholarly works and in reading them could be evaluated, the ratio between these amounts of time might well be startling. Those who conscientiously attempt to keep abreast of current thought, even in restricted fields, by close and continuous reading might well shy away from an examination calculated to show how much of the previous month’s efforts could be produced on call. Mendel’s concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential.

The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 8:34 am

Posted in Science

First-rate shave, great lather

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SOTD 17 Oct 2013

I decided to use my Edwin Jagger Synthetic brush today, and I happened to note that the knot looks identical to my Mühle Silverfiber—no big surprise, since EJ and Mühle cooperate in many ways. They developed the new razor head together, now used on both Edwin Jagger and Mühle razors, and their soaps and shaving creams seem to be identical.

As I looked at the knot, which is predominantly grey, I saw why the name “silverfiber”: “silver” sounds more upscale than “grey.” As a former marketing guy, I wonder whether the process they use to create synthetic bristles means that white bristles are not possible or perform worse than grey bristles. That would explain a marketing name to make a virtue of the color. Just speculation.

Certainly both brushes perform extremely well indeed. I was moved to haul out my tub of J.M.Fraser after reading this review on Wicked_Edge. In particular, I was curious about the lather. I don’t recall any problems at all in getting quite a fine lather from J.M. Fraser, and quite easily, and again this morning it worked well;: a good, thick, protective lather. I think the difference between my experience and the reviewer’s is that he uses a bowl to create lather, and apparently J.M. Fraser in a bowl doesn’t whip up into the creamy peaks he gets from other shaving creams. I, in contrast, lather directly on my beard, and in that context the lather works very well indeed.

Three passes of my English Gillette Aristocrat, Jr., holding a Trig blade. Very smooth result, no nicks, and a tiny dab of Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte finished the job with a nice moisturizing touch: it makes a great aftershave balm, but is best received as a gift: it’s somewhat expensive.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2013 at 8:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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