Later On

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

Archive for January 24th, 2015

How ‘Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?: North Korea edition

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Retention is always a problem:

As a math professor in North Korea, Jang Se-yul was among the nation’s relatively privileged classes; he got to sit in special seats in restaurants and on crowded trains, and more important in a country where many go hungry, was given priority for government food rations. Then he risked it all — for a soap opera from South Korea.

The temptation in this case was “Scent of a Man,” an 18-episode dramaabout the forbidden love between an ex-convict and his stepsister. A graduate student had offered him the bundle of banned CDs smuggled into the North and, too curious to resist, Mr. Jang and five other professors huddled in one of their homes binge watching until dawn. They were careful to pull the curtains to escape the prying eyes of neighbors taught to turn in their fellow citizens for seditious activities. But they were caught anyway and demoted to manual labor at a power plant.

Mr. Jang said they most likely escaped prison only because they paid bribes, but facing a lifetime of social stigma — and having had a glimpse of the comforts of South Korea in “Scent of a Man” — he decided to defect. He now leads a defectors’ group that sends soap operas and other entertainment to the North to try to empower people to demand an end to authoritarian rule.

“I am sure these soaps have an impact on North Koreans, and I am the proof,” he said. “In the future, if they spread, they can even help foster anti-government movements. That’s why the North Korean authorities are so desperate to stop them from spreading.”

The decidedly lowbrow dramas — with names like “Bad Housewife” and “Red Bean Bread” — have, in fact, become something of a cultural Trojan horse, sneaking visions of the bustling South into the tightly controlled, impoverished North alongside the usual sudsy fare of betrayals, bouts of ill-timed amnesia and, at least once, a love affair with an alien.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has issued increasingly pointed warnings to his subjects about . . .

Continue reading.

Watching natural selection on memes in action.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2015 at 9:10 pm

Does the US really want peace between Palestinians and Israel? Read this before you decide.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2015 at 9:03 pm

Kansas Senate does its part to remove safety training for firearms

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Ian Millhiser writes at ThinkProgress:

Obtaining a concealed-carry permit in Kansas isn’t exactly a difficult task. A 2006 law made Kansas a “shall-issue” state, meaning that law enforcement does not have discretion to deny permits to people who meet certain qualifications, though people who want to carry concealed firearms also are required to complete a gun-safety class. A majority of the state’s senators, however, believe that it should be even easier to pack heat if you live in the Sunflower State. Twenty-six of the state’s 40 senators co-sponsored a bill eliminating the requirements to take the class and to obtain the a permit.

The bill is labeled a “constitutional carry” bill because of its supporters’ mistaken belief that a permitting requirement and similar restrictions on concealed firearms violate the Second Amendment. As the Supreme Court explained in District of Columbia v. Heller, the right to bear arms is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Nor is this conception of the Second Amendment particularly new. To the contrary, Justice Antonin Scalia explained in his majority opinion, “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.”

Echoing National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre’s claim that “[t]he only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Kansas State Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce (R) claims that this legislation will “lead to more protection of individuals.” Empirical data, however, does not bear out this claim. A literature review by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center determined that areas with more guns have higher homicide rates, for example. Another study found that, in higher education settings “there were more gun threats at schools that allowed firearms possession than schools that prohibited students from owning guns.”

Other data shows that the premise of the NRA’s good guy/bad guy framework is flawed. In reality, mass shootings — the kind of situation where a “good guy with a gun” might be best poised to end a killer’s rampage — are quite rare. Meanwhile, according to Washington State Sociology Professor Jennifer Schwartz, “[n]early half of all homicides, committed by men or women, were preceded by some sort of argument or fight.” Forty percent of male offenders and about one-third of female offenders were drinking alcohol when they committed a homicide offense.

Homicides, in other words, don’t often occur for want of a good guy with a gun. They occur much more often because two guys are arguing at a bar, and one of them happens to be armed.

I imagine the next step is to issue a driver’s license to anyone who wants it, without requiring any sort of exam or test. Makes a much sense.

Keep in mind that Kansas is the state that re-elected Huckabee.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2015 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Guns

Memes driving other memes: World’s oldest butchering tools gave evolutionary edge to human communication

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University of California, Berkeley, has a report in ScienceDaily. Their summary:

Two and a half million years ago, our hominin ancestors in the African savanna crafted rocks into shards that could slice apart a dead gazelle, zebra or other game animal. Over the next 700,000 years, this butchering technology spread throughout the continent and, it turns out, came to be a major evolutionary force, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Liverpool and the University of St. Andrews, both in the UK.

Combining the tools of psychology, evolutionary biology and archaeology, scientists have found compelling evidence for the co-evolution of early Stone Age slaughtering tools and our ability to communicate and teach, shedding new light on the power of human culture to shape evolution.

To be reported Jan. 13 in the journal Nature Communications, the study is the largest to date to look at gene-culture co-evolution in the context of prehistoric Oldowan tools, the oldest-known cutting devices. It suggests communication among our earliest ancestors may be more complex than previously thought, with teaching and perhaps even a primitive proto-language occurring some 1.8 million years ago.

“Our findings suggest that stone tools weren’t just a product of human evolution, but actually drove it as well, creating the evolutionary advantage necessary for the development of modern human communication and teaching,” said Thomas Morgan, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at UC Berkeley.

“Our data show this process was ongoing two and a half million years ago, which allows us to consider a very drawn-out and gradual evolution of the modern human capacity for language and suggests simple ‘proto-languages’ might be older than we previously thought,” Morgan added.

Morgan and University of Liverpool archaeologist Natalie Uomini arrived at their conclusions by conducting a series of experiments in teaching contemporary humans the art of “Oldowan stone-knapping,” in which butchering “flakes” are created by hammering a hard rock against certain volcanic or glassy rocks, like basalt or flint.

Oldowan stone-knapping dates back to the Lower Paleolithic period in eastern Africa, and remained largely unchanged for 700,000 years until more sophisticated Acheulean hand-axes and cleavers, which marked the next generation of stone tool technology, came on the scene. It was practiced by some of our earliest ancestors, such as Homo habilis and the even older Australopithecus garhi, who walked on two legs, but whose facial features and brain size were closer to those of apes.

In testing five different ways to convey Oldowan stone-knapping skills to more than 180 college students, the researchers found that the demonstration that used spoken communication — versus imitation, non-verbal presentations or gestures — yielded the highest volume and quality of flakes in the least amount of time and with the least waste.

To measure the rate of transmission of the ancient butchery technology, and establish whether more complex communication such as language would get the best results, study volunteers were divided into five- or 10-member “learning chains.” The head of the chain received a knapping demonstration, the raw materials and five minutes to try their hand at it. That person then showed it to the next person in the chain, who in turn showed the next person, and so on. Their competence picked up significantly with verbal instruction.

“If someone is trying to learn a skill that has lots of subtlety to it, it helps to engage with a teacher and have them correct you,” Morgan said. “You learn so much faster when someone is telling you what to do.”

As for what the results mean for the Oldowan hominins: . . .

Continue reading, by all means: there is more. Very intriguing, and think of it from the point of view of memes. One meme pushed the development of another to aid its own transmission, but the advances that flowed from that tool of communication totally transcended the easier reproduction of hand-axes. It seems that once you get a tool to communicate, that tool in itself leads to all sorts of investigations and explorations, probably because questions are more easily poised and communicated, leading to crowd-sourcing the search for answers.

The survival advantage of the original meme—making a hand-ax—was enough to get the ball rolling and shape the direction. Then as hand-axes proved so useful, the tool to facilitate making them grew due to the same survival advantage.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2015 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Memes, Science

Chiseled Face soap and aftershave—and a BBS result with the #101

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SOTD 24 Jan 2015

A very nice shave, which started with a great lather—well, just before that, the usual pre-shave beard wash with MR GLO. For the lather, I used my brand new Omega S-Series brush, shown in the photo. Since I eschew shaving in the shower, I can use a wood-handled brush with no problem, and I thought this guy looked very nice. And it really does the job—at least with a good soap, which is what Chiseled Face soaps seem to be, based on this one. A nice but unobtrusive fragrance, and the #101 with a Personna Lab Blue blade produced a totally smooth result in three passes.

A good splash of Sherlock aftershave, which has too much menthol for my taste, but probably just right for menthol lovers. (I like the menthol level of Floïd aftershave: detectable but not overwhelming.)

All in all, a very fine shave, and I have another soap to put in the “good soaps” list.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 January 2015 at 8:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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