Later On

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

Archive for November 14th, 2014

Good movie: Berlin Job UPDATE: Also Gettin’ Square

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Very good of kind. British movie.

Gettin’ Square, Australian rom-com with crime/corruption/cuisine background. Also on Netflix streaming.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

A raid, multiple tasings, two arrests, and a home “ripped apart”: Can you guess the suspected crime?

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Underage drinking in a private party at a home. Amazing story, strongly reminiscent of the Keystone Cops.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:47 pm

Little civilian drones are fun, until you nearly kill someone

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Then it’s not so fun.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:45 pm

Are psychologists more open to learning that leads to behavioral change? Because they’re looking at their participation in torture.

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Interesting (if belated) step, reported in The Intercept by Cora Currier:

The top professional organization for psychologists is launching an independent investigation over how it may have sanctioned the brutal interrogation methods used against terror suspects by the Bush administration. The American Psychological Association announced this week that it has tapped an unaffiliated lawyer, David Hoffman, to lead the review. [Good: Not self-policing, which never, ever works. – LG]

In 2002, the American Psychological Association (APA) revised its code of ethics to allow practitioners to follow the “governing legal authority” in situations that seemed at odds with their duties as health professionals. Many argue that the revision, as well as a task force report in 2005 that affirmed that the code allowed psychologists to participate in national security interrogations, gave the Bush administration critical legal cover for torture.

The APA has since removed the just-following-orders excuse from their code, disavowed the 2005 report, and gone to lengths to distance themselves from the controversy.

But it reopened last month, when New York Times reporter James Risen’s book “Pay Any Price” revealed e-mails from the files of a deceased CIA contractor, Scott Gerwehr, showing close contact between the intelligence establishment and leadership at the APA. The emails centered particularly on the 2005 report and suggested that members of the Bush Administration were involved in its conception and drafting.

Nathaniel Raymond, a human rights researcher who also had access to Gerwehr’s emails, told The Intercept in October that he had submitted the emails to the FBI as evidence of criminal racketeering. A law enforcement official confirmed to The Intercept that the FBI in Washington had reviewed Raymond’s materials, but “did not find any criminal violations.” Raymond, who previously directed the Campaign Against Torture at Physicians for Human Rights, called the review a “positive first step” and said that he would share his complaint and any other information with Hoffman. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:42 pm

Prefab gardens

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The Son is an enthusiastic vegetable gardener—I have a few bulbs of excellent garlic from his garden in the kitchen now. I’ll have to tell him about this.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

AT&T Stops Using Undeletable Phone Tracking IDs, Verizon continues

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Report in ProPublica.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Why the NRA opposes gun research: It undermines some articles of faith

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As with any religion, there are statements that are simply to be accepted, and adherents strongly resist efforts to determine whether such statements are in fact true, or not.

One statement of that faith is that an armed citizenry deters criminals. The thinking is that a person is less likely to be attacked if the attacker fears the person is armed, and a house is less likely to be broken into if the homeowner is likely to be armed. With that article of faith, it makes sense to try to ensure that every citizen is armed—and doubtless dangerous. Indeed, the whole picture makes sense, so we certainly feel sure in our expectations.

I have, however, learned how frequently expectations are contradicted by experience, and how, despite making sense, some expectations turn out to be flat wrong when we actually try it. (Shaving analogies abound.)

And is that above—an armed citizenry is a safe citiznry—in fact true, when we look at experience rather than the argument? Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

“More guns, less crime” – surely you’ve heard this mantra before? There’s even an entire book devoted to it. As Emily Badger noted awhile back, it has become a staple of our national gun control debate: “The idea that more guns lead to less crime appears on gun policy ‘fact sheets,’ as evidence debunking gun control ‘myths,’ in congressional committee reports.”

The notion stems from a paper published in 1997 by economists John Lott and David Mustard, who looked at county-level crime data from 1977 to 1992 and concluded that “allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crimes and it appears to produce no increase in accidental deaths.” Of course, the study of gun crime has advanced significantly since then (no thanks to Congress). Some researchers have gone so far as to call Lott and Mustard’s original study “completely discredited.

One of the major critiques of the study came from the National Research Council, which in 2004 extended the data through the year 2000 and ultimately concluded that “with the current evidence it is not possible to determine that there is a causal link between the passage of right-to-carry laws and crime rates.” Or in other words, “More guns, less crime?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

Now, Stanford law professor John Donohue and his colleagues have added another full decade to the analysis, extending it through 2010, and have concluded that the opposite of Lott and Mustard’s original conclusion is true: more guns equal more crime.

“The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue. He says this number is likely a floor, and that some statistical methods show an increase of 33 percent in aggravated assaults involving a firearm after the passage of right-to-carry laws.

These findings build on and strengthen the conclusions of Donohue’s earlier research, which only used data through 2006. In addition to having nearly two decades’ worth of additional data to work with, Donohue’s findings also improve upon Lott and Mustard’s research by using a variety of different statistical models, as well as controlling for a number of confounding factors, like the crack epidemic of the early 1990s.

These new findings are strong. But there’s rarely such a thing as a slam-dunk in social science research. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Science

The rule of law is dying in the US, and the police are the ones killing it

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Along with prosecutors and DAs and judges: the legal system has become protective of the powerful, and thus ends justice. Latest episode, reported in the NY Times by Mike McIntire and Walt Bogdanich:

In the early morning hours of Oct. 5, as this college town was celebrating another big football victory by Florida State University, a starting cornerback on the team drove his car into the path of an oncoming vehicle driven by a teenager returning home from a job at the Olive Garden.

Both cars were totaled. But rather than remain at the scene as the law requires, the football player, P. J. Williams, left his wrecked vehicle in the street and fled into the darkness along with his two passengers, including Ronald Darby, the team’s other starting cornerback.

The Tallahassee police responded to the off-campus accident, eventually reaching out to the Florida State University police and the university’s athletic department.

By the next day, it was as if the hit and run had never happened.

The New York Times looked into how the police handled this case, reviewing law enforcement records and interviewing witnesses, lawyers, the police and a university representative. The examination found that Mr. Williams, driving with a suspended license, was given a break by the Tallahassee police, who initially labeled the accident a hit and run, a criminal act, but later decided to issue him only two traffic tickets. Afterward, the case did not show up in the city’s public online database of police calls — a technical glitch, the police said.

Mr. Williams eventually returned to the scene. But Tallahassee officers did not test him for alcohol. Nor did their report indicate whether they asked if he had been drinking or why he had fled, logical questions since the accident occurred at 2:37 a.m. The report also minimized the impact of the crash on the driver of the other car, Ian Keith, by failing to indicate that his airbag deployed — an important detail because Mr. Keith said in an interview that the airbag had cut and bruised his hands.

The university police, who lacked jurisdiction, nevertheless sent two ranking officers — including the shift commander — to the scene. Yet they wrote no report about their actions that night. Florida State dismissed the role of its officers in the incident as too minor to require a report or enter into their own online police log, comparing it to an instance when campus officers responded to a baby opossum falling from a tree.

The car accident, previously unreported by the news media, comes amid heightened national scrutiny of preferential treatment given to athletes, including articles by The Times examining how the authorities have sometimes gone easy on Florida State football players accused of wrongdoing. The Tallahassee police conducted virtually no investigation of a 2012 rape accusation against quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. Mr. Winston is scheduled for a student disciplinary hearing Dec. 1, nearly two years after the accusation was first made. He denies that he sexually assaulted anyone.

Elijah Stiers, a Miami lawyer who helped write a state law enacted this year that toughened penalties for hit-and-run drivers, said the basic facts of the Oct. 5 crash warranted criminal charges and a sobriety test.

“Two-thirty in the morning, people fleeing on foot — at the very least you’ve got to charge them with hit and run,” he said, adding, “You don’t get out of it just because you come back to the scene.”

The Times also showed its findings to the Tallahassee police chief, Michael DeLeo, who said in an interview that the department would “conduct an investigation to determine what happened and whether the officers acted appropriately.” He added, “No one should be shown any favoritism.”

Florida State declined to make anyone available for an interview. In a series of written responses to questions, the university gave shifting answers, at one point saying, incorrectly, that Mr. Williams drove his car home and that the Tallahassee police were required to call campus police under a “mutual aid agreement.” A Tallahassee police spokesman said there was no policy requiring its officers to contact the university when its students commit traffic violations.

Neither Mr. Williams, named the most valuable defensive player in this year’s national championship game, nor Mr. Darby responded to a request for comment.

In their report of the crash, the Tallahassee officers justified not charging Mr. Williams because he returned “approximately” 20 minutes later without being contacted by the police. That stands in sharp contrast to how the police treated another driver who left the scene and drove home after a minor, low-speed accident in the same area late last month. That driver and his mother contacted the police about a half-hour later to report the accident.

At 5 miles per hour, the collision inflicted far less damage than that caused by Mr. Williams’s car — and no injuries. Even so, the police charged the driver, who was not a Florida State football player, with hit and run. . .

Continue reading.

I can understand the way the perpetrators will not comment or talk. They want this to go away. Sure, they did wrong, but they are important, and things like this should not be held against them.

The death of democracy in action. As transgressions such as these multiply, they reshape our community values, and the rule of law, as a value, vanishes entirely. Soon police will begin stealing money from people, quite openly—oh, wait. They are already doing that.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 1:35 pm

Making Classroom Learning Work for More Students

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If we’re going to do classroom teaching, we should be sure to make it work—and find good alternatives for those whose learning styles do not mesh with the classroom approach. John Mullin writes in Pacific Standard:

With one out of five students not finishing high school, our current models for school-based learning still aren’t working for too many of our youth. Enormous amounts of effort and money have been expended trying to address this—to leave no child behind—but the challenge persists. And our collective failure to solve this problem steals opportunity from millions of students every year.

One area receiving a great deal of focus and investment that could potentially address part of this challenge is adaptive learning—digitized curriculum and courseware that can adjust or adapt what comes next for each student based on their degree of mastery with previous work. Unfortunately, efforts to successfully personalize learning through adaptive curricula will fail many students for several key reasons:

  • They are designed for individual students working in isolation on a computer or device, but that’s not how kids spend their time in schools. Classrooms are dynamic (and sometimes disruptive) environments with many, many variables that affect each student’s learning every day. To truly optimize learning, you need to optimize the entire classroom ecosystem.
  • The exercises and problems within any one adaptive curriculum are limited to those chosen by a particular group of authors, editors, and publishers—their best attempt at a one-size-fits-all subset for each content area. But this is still a small subset of all the problems that could be presented, which limits the learning paths that can be traveled, and, therefore, the students for whom a given adaptive curriculum will be effective.
  • They focus only on student mastery. Did you get the problem right? If so, you move on; if not, you repeat or go back. But this gated approach ignores the deep-engagement measures and growth mindset needed for students to actually want to continue—to foster sustained learning and progress.
  • Current adaptive methods ignore the critical role of the teacher, who happens to be the single greatest determinant of student success inside of schools. If you want to help struggling students succeed, then adaptivity needs to be designed to enhance teaching, not bypass it.

TRANSFORMING SCHOOL LEARNING

We can do better—by harnessing the power of real-time classroom data to not just adapt, but to actually create, curricula unique to each student and each specific classroom. We can adapt, not just for one student working in isolation on a computer, but also for the entire classroom working with their teacher, together, in real time.

This breakthrough technology—which we call generative adaptation—doesn’t just re-organize content like a playlist for each student, it generates new content to fill in the gaps in a curriculum—it makes each curriculum virtually infinite. And then it continuously identifies and refines personalized pathways through that courseware—pathways that optimize both engagement and mastery for each learner.

Because this approach is capable of adapting in real time for every student in the classroom, and filling in any content gaps for each student, we can now deliver one-size-fits-one—a personalized curriculum that is continuously created for and adapted to the individual. . .

Continue reading.

I have to say, “Been there, done that.” Computer-managed instruction is an old idea, and I had the good fortune to work with a man who took it to a high level. But the entrenched bureaucrats of public education can pretty much stomp any idea to a shape that fits with what they’ve always done, even if doing so destroys what the innovation would have delivered. The educational establishment is astonishingly resistant to change, in part because the control is almost always local: school board by school board, and each one resisting any change: “Let’s do it the way it was done in my day—I succeeded pretty well in that environment!”

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Education, Technology

The Dunning-Kruger Effect explored: 7 Lessons About Human Ignorance From David Dunning’s Reddit AMA

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The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a type of self-deception that particularly seems to afflict well-educated and successful people, who imagine that their mastery of one facet of human activity and knowledge extends to pretty much everything they examine. They casually make confident judgments in areas in which they are ignorant, and their confidence stems from the fact that they are so ignorant that they cannot even grasp how ignorant and ill-informed they are. If they are surrounded by their peers—people who work in the same field of knowledge as they, and who thus respect their ideas (in the field)—then their pronouncements are often accorded attention and respect, even though they may resemble in essence the ramblings of the village idiot, similarly uninformed and confident, but less likely to be believed.

Oddly enough, in the specific area of a person’s knowledge, expertise, and experience, they are often much less confident, because in those areas they are painfully aware of how much they do not know, of problems still unsolved, and the like. (And unfortunately, we tend to value the opinion of the confident though ignorant witness over the unconfident expert—a point well made in Winning Decisions, by Russo & Schoemaker. We trust confidence, but confidence along warrants no trust.)

The phenomenon of self-deception is fascinating and has attracted scientific study, and in many cases the deception’s purpose is self-protection, by avoiding (conscious) knowledge of painful truths. I highly (and repeatedly) recommend Daniel Goleman’s excellent (and interesting) book Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception. (At the link, secondhand copies for $1.)

Dunning had a Reddit Ask Me Anything that was quite successful, and Pacific Standard extracted from it 7 key facts, beginning with “By definition, you can’t know when you’re a victim of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Well worth reading (and pondering).

I fell into the Dunning-Kruger effect recently, though not so spectacularly as Tim Jenison and Penn Gillette did. They made a documentary of Tim’s “discovery” of how Vermeer painted his photo-realistic paintings—“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” for example, or more famously, “The Music Lesson,” the painting replicated in the documentary. But Tim Jenison, an inventor, has no knowledge at all in art (he said it took him 30 minutes to learn how best to use the brush), and Penn Gillette’s expertise is in prestidigitation, not art. And my own background includes no real education or experience in the making of art.

However, Jenison and Gillette are well-recognized for their knowledge and expertise in other fields, and they are confident, knowledgeable people—the very people most prone to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and they fall headlong into it with their documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.

Here’s a viewer’s review from the one-star reviews on Amazon:

The most accurate and important review of this movie was made by the Academy Award committee who decided it was not worthy of Academy Award , much less even for a final nomination.

Tim did not solve any mysteries regarding how Vermeer painted. It has been known for centuries that Vermeer did use lenses and optics, and it is not cheating to use those tools. Without a doubt, Vermeer did not paint with anything even resembling Tim’s gizmo.

VERMEER DID NOT USE TIM’ S DEVICE TO PAINT

Here is the proof.

1. On Google ( images) type in ‘ Monet’s Haystack Paintings’. This series of Monet paintings show how living light changes minute by minute, not to mention hourly and seasonally. Monet changed his canvas every half hour to hour, as the lights, the colors, the values and chroma would change -as the sun rose and set. No one, not even MONET and certainly not TIM with his gizmo, can paint fast enough to record living changing light. If you disagree with this, then you may as well not read the other reasons I will list. I shake my head at even thinking of Tim in the French countryside, painting the haystacks with his ” mirror on a stick, comparator device”. Those who believe he could do it … have been fooled.

2. Vermeer did not faithfully copy living changing light. Not in his interior scenes and not in his outdoor scenes. The magic you see in his paintings is a ‘ creative construct’, like all the masterpieces of all the great Masters. Personal choices in colors, values, composition and paint application, carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully decided, painted, then changed, rethought and repainted again and again and again, until it was exactly ” right” – as his mind wanted it to be.

3. Vermeer painted exactly as Rembrandt painted, beginning with a brown or muted underpainting color ( called the dead color) to establish the composition. On this structure, he applied glazes for transparency, scumbles for translucent optical grays, and impasto for opacity. Every great Master of his era used this method, based on over 200 years of tradition. This method gives their paintings the magic of color and light we see in their paintings, and respond to aesthetically.

4. X-rays by the National Gallery, of ” The Girl with the Pearl Earring” prove his use of a flat dark brown under painting. This proves Tim’s device was not used.

5. David Hockney, in the year 2000, 13 years before this movie, published his book, Secret knowledge’. It proves without any doubt that many of the a Great Old Masters, 250 years before Vermeer was born, perfected the use of mirrors and optical lenses to paint photographic looking paintings. Professor Philip Steadman, published his landmark book in 2000, proving without a shadow of a doubt, that Vermeer used the Camara Obscura.

6. Vermeer used the Camara Obscura like others of his era. With this crude camera, he was able to trace and copy the verisimilitude of nature of an optical projection – exactly like a camera. It would be foolish to outline this verisimilitude, but he could easily paint it with a brown monotone. He painted a monotone because no one can paint accurate colors in the dark. Once his monotone (dead color) was completed, he then painted with colors in studio lighting.

7. There is no question, Vermeer completed his final coloring from both, direct observation of the model and from copying values and colors from a 2 mirror set up. A mirror flattens the colors and values nature’s colors and values.

8. Vermeer had a traditional ‘ light meter’ to gauge variations in values and colors. This dry ” value scale” of ten to 12 values or more, was used by placing it next to the image reflected in the 2nd mirror.

9. Vermeer had access to a ‘ wet controlled palette’, a premixed wet color palette in separate value scales of his primary colors as well as black to white. Many artists today, painting in a realism style still use that ancient method.

10. Vermeer and all the Masters applied an “oil out” as they painted. This kept the colors saturated so new color values could be accurately judged. It is impossible to gauge color values without an “oil out”. Some artists call it a ‘ retouch”. When the Old masters’ painting was finished, it was glossy and had lustrous color depth, and no need for varnish. Both Penn and Tim described their finished painting as chalky and matte. To saturate the colors, Tim varnished it. The Old Masters did not varnish their paintings until the paint cured sufficiently, normally 6 to 12 months later, and it was strictly for protection of the paint, not for saturation of color.

11. If I have not yet convinced you, then imagine this. Imagine TIM overlooking the City of Delft, with his gizmo in place. Imagine him trying to copy the living changing lights and colors of the buildings as the North Sea dark clouds overhead steam by. Buildings are cast into deep shadows while those next to them are in brilliant lighting, only to change in a light flash. See the sparkling reflections of the water, reflecting onto the ships, twinkling and flashing changes of sparkling lights. The thought of any mechanical ” color swatch match” device being able to do this is laughable. BUT , VERMEER did it …. But not with a gizmo comparator device.

CONCLUSION : If I have not fully convinced you, then see a REAL documentary on how Vermeer actually painted, it is the 2009 film, ” Vermeer: Master of Light” by the National Gallery of Art. (It is free on YOUTUBE). It is not as ” entertaining” as Tim’s, Teller’s and Penn’s Hollywood movie, with his daughter in an armature evoking viewer sentimental reaction ( Vermeer used mannequins) . Nor does it have silly comments such as , ” some say he is the greatest artist that ever lived.”.

The National Gallery Documentary, is a well made and accurate scholarly research study.

PART TWO. The first part of my review (above) was written after I saw the film at the theater in January. In June, bought the DVD download version when released . By viewing the movie on an IPAD, one can stop the film to examine it. These are the key points proving Vermeer did not use Tim’s gadget to paint with.

1. Tim and Penn state that Vermeer drew no lines and that x-rays prove no lines are under the oil paint. Scientific x-rays confirm this. YET…stopping the film with an IPAD, lets us see the extensive outline drawing on the Masonite wood panel before Tim begins to paint. This very careful outline drawing shows the architecture of the room, the mirror and painting on the back wall, windows and their glass design, the virginal, floor tiles, furniture, rug, plus many other things, ALL IN OUTLINE DETAIL. Like a paint by number oil painting set for kids. At no time in the film, is there an explanation WHY the under drawing was put there, nor does the film show HOW the drawing was done. It appears to be a tracing from a color reproduction of a color photograph. We simply do not know! But we do know Vermeer did NOT draw any lines…..SO….why and how …did Tim?

2. The Van Eycks were born 200 years before Vermeer, and their paintings are even more photo realistic than those of Vermeer. In 2001, David Hockney’s book ” secret knowledge” eloquently proved they did this by using simple “projection ” optical lenses and mirrors 200 years before Vermeer was born. . Vermeer did not discover this knowledge..he learned it from the long tradition of their use . It is NOT Cheating to use these projection tools to trace reality and it’s verisimilitude. There is NO Vermeer secret, except that he was a genius who expressed his own aesthetic.

3. Tim and his gadget could never paint a view of Delft with his gadget. But, we know Vermeer did it. Imagine Tim overlooking the city of Delft with his Texas high tech studio in place. His trusty gadget in his hand. Hockney and Steadman are by his side. Now Tim begins to paint……with his gadget.

Overhead the North Sea winds blow dark clouds over the city of Delft! The church steeple INSTANTLY turns dark black , covered with shadows..but seconds later it is gleaming, bathed by brilliant light shafts……The people on the shore are walking to and fro, busy with their lives. Just as we see in Vermeer’s masterpiece.!!!

Suddenly, the ships hoist their anchors, the sails billow out with air, and the ships float away!!!!What will Tim do? Will he have everything stand still for five months? His gadget gizmo is a failure because it cannot copy the rapidly changing profound colors and lights and movements of living nature! Mother Nature stands still for no man…and not for Tim’s gadget! This is the absolute proof Vermeer did NOT use any mechanical gadget, gizmo, comparator device, to paint with

In the movie, Tim nailed the coffin on his gizmo when he stood in front of Vermeer’s ” View of Delft” painting in the Mauritshuis museum. Tim said, it looked like a Kodachrome slide. Kodachrome is a 20th century intense color, photographic medium. NOTHING in nature…and certainly not a view of Delft, is ever seen live with Kodachrome colors, appearing like a Kodachrome slide or photograph. This questions Tim’s claim…that Vermeer may have used a comparator device to EXACTLY COPY the colors of nature…Kodachrome colors that do not exist in nature!

4. At the beginning of the movie, the video camera zooms in within an inch of Vermeer’s original paintings. We see the great Master’s beautiful and sophisticated application of the oil paint. Vermeer’s paintings are truly stunning! It leaves us breathless and spellbound! For good reason his paintings are prized and are in the world’s great art museums. At the end of the movie, the film makers DO NOT DARE zoom in closely on the surface of Tim’s finished painting. They SHOULD have – and COULD have – placed magnified zoom details of both paintings side by side so we could COMPARE the Vermeer masterpiece with the “Tim-piece”. For good reasons, the public was never allowed to see it up close to examine it and compare it to the Vermeer.

5. Computer digital Video graphic artists do not use paint colors….they use colored light. Modern video graphics have an unending number of colors. Tim’s “compare” device can match colors that DO NOT MOVE, but it cannot match the living, moving profound changes of natures colors and daylight due to daylight changes of the day and season.
Vermeer and the Old Masters had very few colored paints, but by a sophisticated method of applying the paint, they painted highly realistic and photographic-like images. Vermeer …used an ancient artist’s VALUE FINDER to ” compare” the gradations of values and colors. It is simple to make. You draw ten squares in a line. Place pure black paint in one square and at the other end you put pure white paint.Then you carefully mix each square so it shows the subtle gradations of the grays ( values). Every Old Master knew how to use it. It is as effective as a modern light meter.

SUMMARY
Tim did NOT discover Vermeer’s secret because there is NO secret on how Vermeer painted his pictures. Vermeer’s paintings are the result of hard work combined with his genius. OF COURSE Vermeer used optical tools to help him with TRACING space, and perspective and verisimilitude….but he changed the colors and he changed the lights, and restructured the size and shape of objects in the composition. Yes, Vermeer created photographic looking paintings. BUT, Vermeer did not COPY an exact scene of what his optical tools projected. If it were possible to take a modern photo of Vermeer’s subject and then compare it with his final painting, the TWO would NOT look the same. A photo is a frozen moment of time…Vermeer’s paintings are a created construct by an artistic genius.

If you Google ( images) of “Monet’s Haystacks”, series, you will see the profound nuances of nature’s living changing colors and light. Beginning at sunrise Monet painted the same haystack throughout one day. Each hour he changed the canvas. Note how the colors, lighting, and the shadows change. Daybreak colors are muted and cool, early morning they become brighter and warm, at noon the colors are stark bright with dark contrasts, early afternoon colors become romantic, late afternoon they become bluish. Mother Nature holds still for no man ….and for no “comparator” gadget.

To see how Vermeer really painted , see the Youtube film TITLED: The madness of Vermeer: Secret lives of the artists. This 4 part series on Youtube is a scholarly documentary by the BBC. The information in this documentary PROVES Vermeer did not use a ” comparator mirror” device to ” color swatch match” the constantly changing and profound colors and lights of Mother Nature. Tim’s movie reinforces that proof.

– Cordially, Louis R. Velasquez; Professional artist, age 70 , retired art teacher, publisher of books and DVDS on the methods and materials of the Old Masters.
PS: Several readers have encouraged the writing of my comments. I hope my comments are of help to others. I wish Tim, Penn, and Teller and their families the very best in life.

Thanks to reader Arne from Wisconsin for pointing out this splendid example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action: both the creators of the documentary and the enthusiastic watchers of the documentary are prime examples.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 1:07 pm

The Art of Breeding ‘Super Bastard’ Chickens

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They are not so much “bastard” chickens—chickens don’t tend to marry, with the result that extra-marital eggs are the only eggs laid—but rather the opposite of “purebred”: instead of coming from a narrow gene pool, the chickens are deliberately bred from as broad an ancestry of modern chickens as possible: chickens from across the globe brought into the flock, as it were.

Whilst most breeders are trying to selectively breed chickens with a limited gene pool, Vanmechelen is doing the opposite. Starting with the cross-breeding of two purebred chickens (Mechelse Koekoek and Bresse), subsequent generations have been further bred with chickens sourced from across the globe—they contain “cosmopolitan genetic material.” The resulting chickens with an abnormally wide gene pool are “super bastards.” These are the opposite of pedigrees and they are sweeping the board with their genetic advantages.

He explains to me how he has proved, by DNA sequencing the 18th generation, that increased genetic diversity of the chickens has led to “an increased fertility and immunity three times greater than commonly bred chickens.” It is an important find, when the selective breeding and domestication of chickens has left them vulnerable to diseases that could wipe out whole populations. Vanmechelen is in consultation with chicken breeders around the world proposing alternatives. “Every organism is looking for another organism to survive, and the same applies to man and chicken,” he says.

The entire Motherboard article by Katharine Lewis is worth reading. It begins:

“This is not a chicken, it is absolutely a piece of art.” This is the announcement with which Koen Vanmechelen, conceptual artist and chicken breeder, begins a TEDx talk. He repeats it to me word for word in the chambers of the Crypt Gallery, deep beneath London’s St Pancras Church, where we stand before a giant photographic print of a chicken.

“What makes this art?” I ask him. He points to the metal ring around the bird’s leg. “That,” he explains. “Man’s intervention.” The chicken before me is not just any chicken; it is a 17th generation, “cosmopolitan” chicken, one of the hundreds Vanmechelen has been breeding over the last 20 years in The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project. It contains a combination of DNA from chickens across the globe; it is unique, and of current scientific interest.

The exhibition Darwin’s Dream, running at the Crypt Gallery till mid December, is the latest instalment of his lifelong project. Koen has brought life, art, and science together within the caverns: work includes a living jungle, giant prints, abstract sculptures, and ranks and ranks of taxidermy. It is an artistic documentation of a scientific process. . . .

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Health, Science

People Who Use Obamacare Sure Do Like It

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Kevin Drum posts the good news on Obamacare.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Government, Healthcare

The Mathematics of Herding Sheep

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From an article in Motherboard by Michael Byrne, a comparison of actual sheep-herding behavior (the data model on the left) and a computer algorithm developed to do herding:

The article begins:

Sheepdogs think algorithmically. Using just two fundamental rules, the dogs analyze the state of a given herd and determine the best action to take among a limited set of possibilities.

The resulting effectiveness is so astounding that a description of these dog algorithms could have profound uses in not just herding and livestock management, but in controlling crowds and even cleaning up the environment.

This is according to a new study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface describing a general algorithm derived from sheepdog/herd behaviors by which a single individual can influence the group behavior of a massive and unwilling crowd.

“Some of the most striking examples of this collective [swarm-like] behaviour occur in the presence of threat; when flocks, shoals and herds aggregate and evade their predators,” the authors, led by evolutionary biologist Andrew King, note.

This behavior is thought to be governed by a powerful theory called the “selfish herd.” First described in 1971 by the evolutionary biologist WD Hamilton, this theory explains the “gregarious” behavior of individuals in a herd under threat.

Simply, when a herd member perceives themselves to be in danger, they tend to seek cover, pushing as deeply into the herd as possible. As a whole, this tendancy acts as a centripetal force, pulling the herd inward on itself into a vortex of increasingly dense states. This persists until the threat is gone.

Sheepdogs know all about selfish herds and they utilize this knowledge to accomplish herding tasks beyond the capabilities of human shepherds. “But herding of larger groups (more than 40 individuals) typically requires multiple shepherds,” the authors write. “However, single sheep dogs can successfully herd flocks of 80 or more sheep both in their everyday work and in competitive herding trials.”

They do this via the aforementioned two simple rules. When sheep become dispersed beyond a certain point, dogs put their effort into rounding them up, reintroducing predatory pressure into the herd, which responds according to selfish herd principles, bunching tightly into a more cohesive unit.

With that accomplished, moving the herd from place to place once again becomes efficient. Simply, if all of the sheep (“flocking agents”) are within a certain radius of the herd’s center, the sheepdog aims in the driving direction; if this is not the case, the sheepdog aims for the sheep that’s the furthest away from this center. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 10:01 am

Posted in Science

What the Ebola failures reveal about the culture of America hospitals

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The common approach of American hospitals to errors is to deny and to defend—not an environment conducive to learning or continuous improvement. Bruce Lambert and Timothy McDonald write at Talking Points Memo:

Sometimes, when errors are egregious or there is intense media scrutiny, as in the case of the misdiagnosis and death of Texas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, hospitals eventually apologize and make financial settlements. But without media attention, routine harm resulting from errors still typically receives the “deny and defend” response.

Such behavior has failed to make the U.S. health care system safer or more humane for patients and families. The good news is better alternatives may now be available.

This past week’s announcement of President Barack Obama seeking $6.2 billion for Ebola-related funds from Congress — including $2.4 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — demonstrates that many feel the Ebola crisis will likely continue to stress the US healthcare system. In doing so, the situation will reveal many of its flaws and weaknesses.

Every day in every hospital in America, health professionals make mistakes that harm patients. The frequently cited estimate from the Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on medical error was that 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. A 2013 estimate from the Journal of Patient Safety put the number of deaths due to preventable harm at 400,000, with perhaps 10-20 times more people being seriously but not fatally harmed.

From the perspective of patients and families, the typical hospital response prevents access to the truth. It also denies them a chance to tell their stories, denies them an apology when they deserve one, and denies them an opportunity to reach rapid and equitable out of court settlements.

Such an approach is anathema to learning and improving. It promotes secrecy about the individual and systemic causes of medical errors and substandard care, makes it impossible to identify and learn from patterns of error, and leaves us defenseless against present and looming health threats.

A 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that . . .

Continue reading.

And contracts that that require binding arbitration (with the arbitrators selected and paid by the company—so guess how they rule) extend this “deny and defend” policy to nursing homes. Nicole Flatow writes in ThinkProgress:

Evan Press’ father was in a Fayetteville, Arkansas, nursing home for three months when he died. Press said he had a bed sore the size of his fist, and that an attendant says he was so dehydrated that he appeared not to have been given any liquid or food for four or five days, according to a report from local news station KARK.

The nursing home may dispute these allegations. But Press will never be able to hash it out in court, because his contract contained a boilerplate clause. The advent of contractual terms known as “arbitration clauses” seem particularly dry and obscure on their face. They’re about procedure, and contract law. But what they mean is that people like Press can’t hold companies accountable. Nursing homes are one of a number of industries in which arbitration clauses have become a standard for those pages-long contracts that customers and employees believe they have no choice but to sign. What they do is bind customers to take their case to a private arbitrator, rather than to court.

The arbitration hearing is private, so the nursing home won’t necessarily receive public reprisal for its actions. The arbitrator is not a government service, and has to be paid by somebody. Usually, it’s paid for by the company to handle its entire roster of cases, which could be one of several explanations for why arbitrators overwhelmingly side with these companies. Even when arbitrators do side with individuals, they are likely to get a much lower judgment than they would in court. And arbitration doesn’t come with any of the procedural protections that exist in court, including the right to appeal. So whatever they come up with is binding.

Clauses like this give companies such as a nursing home significantly less incentive to quash bad behavior. The same sort of disincentives apply to cell phone contracts, cable contracts, and others that you sign with large companies just to be their consumer. They also frequently apply to employees, who are denied judicial recourse for workplace abuse.

Couch went public with his case, because he wants others to know what the real-world effect is when individuals are unknowingly signing these contracts, even in cases where you are trusting a business with a relative’s live. “People just need to know when they’re signing that initial paperwork if something happens it’s going to arbitration. That’s the way the facilities want it, that’s not how it should be,” he told KARK.

Unfortunately for Press, the U.S. Supreme Court has been one of the greatest friends to these clauses. California tried to make its own state law saying some arbitration clauses are unconscionable and should not be enforced. The Roberts Court struck it down. Even small businesses tried to challenge an an arbitration clause that prevented them from challenging the alleged monopolistic practices of American Express. The Roberts Courtstruck that, too, over a dissent by Justice Elena Kagan that called the ruling a “betrayal of our precedents, and of federal statutes.”

A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau study found that arbitration clauses are even worse than they seemed. Because even though companies claim going to arbitration is easier and faster than filing a lawsuit, almost nobody goes to arbitration.

Congress could have reformed arbitration clauses with a bill known as the Arbitration Fairness Act. But that bill is even less likely to go anywhere in a Republican-controlled Congress.

There’s one other avenue for reform. . .

Continue reading.

Your credit card agreement, your telecom agreement—all dote on mandatory binding arbitration as the only allowable avenue. And company-paid arbitrators are standing by, ready to rule against you (regardless of the merits or facts of the case).

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 9:29 am

The invention of sliced bread, 1928

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Fascinating story of the struggles and triumph of the inventor who brought us sliced bread (in 1928).

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 9:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Technology

Interesting locknut innovation

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Sometimes small objects whose technology one would think long since settled admit of marked improvement—nails, for example. And now we have a new and better lock nut.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 9:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

The most frightening thing about the Supreme Court: Narrow range of life experience

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Dahlia Lithwick has a thought-provoking article in The New Republic:

Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court has emerged as one of the most ideologically aggressive in decades, and its rightward trajectory is usually attributed to this simple fact: a majority of the justices are very conservative. Today’s Court contains, according to one study, four of the five most conservative justices to sit on the bench since FDR; Anthony Kennedy, the putative swing vote, is in the top ten.

But having covered the Court for 15 years, I’ve come to believe that what we’re seeing goes beyond ideology. Because ideology alone would not propel the justices to effect such massive shifts upon the constitutional landscape, inventing rights for corporations while gutting protections for women, minorities, and workers. No, the real problem, I think, is that the Court as a whole has gotten too smart for our own good.

The current justices are intellectually qualified in ways we have never seen. Compared with the political operators, philanderers, and alcoholics of bygone eras, they are almost completely devoid of bad habits or scandalous secrets. This is, of course, not a bad thing in itself. But the Court has become worryingly cloistered, even for a famously cloistered institution. Every justice is unavoidably subjected to “public deference” when they ascend to the bench, as I heard Sonia Sotomayor describe it at a conference last June. Now, on top of that, today’s justices filter out anything that might challenge their perspectives. Antonin Scalia won’t read newspapers that conflict with his views and claims to often get very little from amicus briefs. John Roberts has said that he doesn’t believe that most law-review articleswhere legal scholars advance new thinking on contemporary problemsare relevant to the justices’ work. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia’s opera-going buddy, increasingly seems to revel in, rather than downplay, her status as a liberal icon. Kennedy spends recesses guest-teaching law school courses in Salzburg.

Before the Affordable Care Act cases were heard in 2012, aspiring spectators lined up for days (mostly in vain, because seats are so limited). Meanwhile, this Court goes to considerable lengths to keep itself at oracular remove. The texts of many of the justices’ speeches are not publicized. Cameras and recording devices remain barred from oral arguments, and protesters may not even approach the spotless white plaza outside. But the most symbolically potent move came in 2010, when the justices closed off the giant bronze doors at the front of the building, above which the words EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW are engraved. Today, the public must enter the building from the side, beneath the marble staircase, through dark, narrow entrances feeding into metal detectors. It is a fitting setup for a Court that seems to want neither to be seen nor to really see us.

Paradoxically, the Court that has gutted minority voting rights in Shelby County and limited women’s access to birth control in Hobby Lobby has never looked more like the country whose disputes it adjudicates. It includes three women, an African American, the first Hispanic, two Italian Americans, six Catholics, and three Jews. On the federal bench, President Obama has appointed more women, minorities, and openly gay judges than any president in history.

But while we have gained diversity of background, we haven’t gained diversity of experience. A study released in February revealed that 71 percent of Obama’s nominees had practiced primarily for corporate or business clients. The Supreme Court is even more homogeneous, because the modern confirmation gauntlet only lets one kind of person through. Post-Robert Bork, a nominee must not have too obvious an ideological agenda, as some judges and almost all elected officials do. Post-Harriet Miers, a prospective justice must possess not just a stellar résumé but also a track record of judicial rulings and legal writings from which future decisions can be confidently deduced.

The result has been what Professor Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School calls the “Judicialization of the Judiciary,” a selection process that discourages political or advocacy experience and reduces the path to the Supreme Court to a funnel: elite schools beget elite judicial clerkships beget elite federal judgeships. Rinse, repeat. All nine sitting justices attended either Yale or Harvard law schools. (Ginsburg started her studies in Cambridge but graduated from Columbia.) Eight once sat on a federal appellate court; five have done stints as full-time law school professors. There is not a single justice “from the heartland,” as Clarence Thomas has complained. There are no war veterans (like John Paul Stevens), former Cabinet officials (like Robert Jackson), or capital defense attorneys. The Supreme Court that decidedBrown v. Board of Education had five members who had served in elected office. The Roberts Court has none. What we have instead are nine perfect judicial thoroughbreds who have spent their entire adulthoods on the same lofty, narrow trajectory.

A Supreme Court built this way is going to have blind spots. But right-wing legal and political groupswho are much better at the confirmation game than their equivalents on the lefthave added a final criteria that ensures the Court leans strongly in their favor. They have succeeded in setting the definition of the consummate judge: a humble, objective, nearly mechanical umpire who merely calls “balls and strikes,” in Roberts’s insincere but politically deft phrasing. This lets conservatives sell nominees who are far more conservative than liberal nominees are liberal. A Democratic-appointed justice makes the short list by having her heart in the right place, but will be disqualified for heeding it too much. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 8:47 am

Posted in Education, Law

“The American Dream” as envisaged by Scott Walker: No healthcare

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Scott Walker has a peculiar idea of the American Dream: Tara Culp-Pressler writes at ThinkProgress:

Defending his fellow Republican governors’ decision to block Medicaid expansion in their states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Friday suggested that denying health coverage to additional low-income Americans helps more people “live the American Dream” because they won’t be “dependent on the American government.”

Walker has recently leveled some criticism at other GOP leaders for accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, saying they shouldn’t necessarily trust the government to come through with the federal funds to cover the policy. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Walker was asked whether his position stemmed from an “ideological criticism,” and if he believes the handful of Republican governors implementing this provision of the health law are not “genuine conservatives.”

The governor didn’t explicitly answer that question, pointing out that every state has different needs. But he did offer a broader criticism of the public health program.

“Beyond that, I just ask the basic question: Why is more people on Medicaid a good thing?” he said. “I’d rather find a way, particularly for able-bodied adults without children, I’d like to find a way to get them into the workforce. I think ideologically, that’s a better approach, not just as a conservative, but as an American. Have more people live the American dream if they’re not dependent on the American government.”

In reality, however, the majority of people who stand to benefit from the Medicaid expansion are already in the workforce. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been closely tracking the policy effect of states’ decisions on this Obamacare provision, most of the people in this coverage gap are part of a demographic group known as the “working poor.” Two thirds of them are part of a family where someone is working, and more than half of them are working themselves — often in sectors like the agricultural and service industries, which have a history of failing to provide insurance benefits to their workers.

Last fall, the New York Times analyzed the data about the coverage gap and confirmed that the Americans being denied Medicaid are cashiers, cooks, nurses’ aides, waiters and waitresses, and janitors. Most of them are people of color, and many are single mothers. They don’t fit the conservative trope of the lazy individual who is overly dependent on the government programs — and, as the New York Times reported at the time, they are actually “the very kinds of people that the [Medicaid] program was intended to help.”

Nonetheless, 20 states have refused to move forward with the expansion. According to Kaiser’s latest estimates, about four million low-income people across the country currently fall into the coverage gap. If every state accepted the Medicaid expansion, the national uninsurance rate would be two percentage points lower.

Although Walker has maintained his resistance to Obamacare’s traditional Medicaid expansion, there isn’t a coverage gap in his state. Even before the passage of the health reform law, Wisconsin had a generous Medicaid program that allowed people with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line to qualify. But the threshold varies for each state, and low-income people living in other places aren’t so lucky. In Louisiana and Texas, for instance, a family of three with an annual income over $5,000 makes too much money to receive any Medicaid assistance.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 8:38 am

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

Gillette vintage razors can really be great

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SOTD 14 Nov 2014

Really an extraordinarily nice shave today. It’s been a while since I used my 1940’s Gillette Aristocrat (the razor pictured on the cover of the Guide as shown at the right) and this morning it felt extremely good.

First was the prep, of course: the Vie-Long horsehair brush, bristles well wetted before my shower, worked up an easy and pleasant lather from D.R. Harris Rose shaving cream. (I should note, BTW, that I returned to sniff the D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk: it is indeed rose. Somehow I couldn’t identify it but (interestingly) it had an extremely masculine fragrance, not knowing what it was.)

The Aristocrat, with a Kai blade, did a wonderful job and left a BBS finish, to which I applied a splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Bulgarian Rose aftershave.

Friday: the vestibule of the weekend. At last.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2014 at 8:30 am

Posted in Shaving

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