Later On

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

Archive for March 2015

US prisons very unlike Norwegian prisons

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In the US, for example, many prisons are run by companies that seek to make a profit from incarcerating prisoners, which of course means cutting costs. These companies generally have little or no regard for the prisoners in their keeping—including one that took away prisoner’s wheelchair in revenge for the prisoner reporting misconduct. Alice Ollstein reports at ThinkProgress:

The for-profit prison health care company Corizon continues to fight accusations from around the country that they have abused or neglected the inmates in their care.

In a new case in Fresno County, California, an inmate with a degenerative spinal disease says a Corizon doctor took his wheelchair away in retaliation for his previous complaints about her. When detectives with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office investigated the complaint, they found the company had also appeared to have falsified and altered the inmate’s medical records to cover up the abuse, as documented in a search warrant revealed by the local ABC channel.

These allegations come just four months after Corizon took over operations at the jail, a $100 million contract they won based largely on a promise to save Fresno County $5 million.

Nearby California counties have found that lawsuits against the company for the death of inmates can make an originally cheap contract quite expensive. The company paid the largest wrongful death settlement in state history in February to Alameda County, and promised to end its cost-cutting tactic of using less-trained vocational nurses instead of registered nurses.

Corizon also paid a settlement last week — the amount is secret — to the family of an inmate in Minnesota who died in their care. Jerrell Hammond, 34, begged Corizon doctors to be taken to an emergency room in the hours leading up to his death from blood clots. The case follows several other wrongful death and neglect lawsuits against the company from other inmates and their families that have been filed in recent years, including a case in which Corizon staff put a notereading “faker” in a suffering inmate’s medical file, then later destroyed the note when he became partially paralyzed due to lack of treatment.

And in Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union is investigating multiple claims that Corizon staff have been denying HIV medication to inmates. Corizon responded that the allegations are “untrue” but refused to comment further. Local advocates warn the situation is causing a public health crisis both in the jail and the greater community as untreated offenders are released.

Early this year in the same county, an inmate died after not receiving his epilepsy medication.

Corizon is currently gunning for a $66 million contract to take over operations at DC’s two local jails, paying for ads on Twitter and Google, hiring local insidersto lobby on their behalf, and enlisting the powerful PR firm Edelman.

Referencing the many lawsuits against the company, which can be massively costly for any county or city that works with Corizon, the Chair of the DC Counciljust announced his opposition to awarding Corizon the contract.

The US not only imprisons a higher proportion of its citizens than other nations (and the difference in incarceration rate is substantial), it also treats its prisons inhumanely as a matter of routine—as in Florida and New York, where prison guards routinely beat prisoners to death or close to death.

This conduct is particularly shameful when, as we see, the people imprisoned are often innocent, railroaded by unethical prosecutors and inadequate public defenders.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 6:43 pm

Venetian cauliflower is quite tasty

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I just made this recipe. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly easy, but it’s not very hard—but you do need a well-stocked spice shelf. I suggest measuring everything out before you begin. You’ll need a large pot (6-8 qts) or when you add the cauliflower to the boiling water the temperature will drop drastically.

Drain in a colander, not a sieve. I don’t know that I’ll make it again, but I probably will: I now have currants and golden raisins on hand. And it is tasty.

UPDATE: After blanching the cauliflower, turn it onto a chopping board and chop it up reasonably small. Large florets don’t work well in mixing with the other ingredients.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Nuts Are a Nutritional Powerhouse

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Jane Brody reports in the NY Times:

. . . A series of large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study of 76,464 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 42,498 men, found that the more nuts people consumed, the less likely they were to die at any given age, especially of cancer or heart disease. And aclinical trial conducted in Spain showed that death rates were lower among those consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra nuts.

However, these studies were conducted almost entirely among relatively well-to-do, well educated, white individuals, and despite the researchers’ care in controlling for other factors that could have influenced the results, there remained the possibility that characteristics of the participants other than nut consumption could account for their reduced death rates.

Now, strong links between nuts and peanuts and better health have also been found in a major study of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and varied ethnic groups — blacks, whites and Asians — many of whom had serious risk factors for premature death, like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The results were published in March in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Their study, conducted among more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes and especially from heart disease and stroke.

And while it is true that more people today are allergic to nuts, and to peanuts in particular, than ever before, two recent studies have pointed to ways that may prevent children from developing a nut allergy. The first study, published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, found that women who consumed the most nuts or peanuts during their pregnancies were least likely to have children with this allergy. The reduction in risk was highest among children whose mothers ate nuts five or more times a month.

The second study, published in February in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that introducing peanuts into the diets of infants 4 to 11 months old who were considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy actually greatly reduced their risk of being allergic at age 5. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Obama administration provides support to Egyptian dictator, regardless of human rights record

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Obama has promised to give Egypt more military aid. Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

Yesterday, the Egyptian regime announced it was prosecuting witnesses who say they saw a police officer murder an unarmed poet and activist during a demonstration, the latest in a long line of brutal human rights abuses that includes imprisoning journalists, prosecuting LGBT citizens, and mass executions of protesters. Last June, Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian “security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.”

Today, the White House announced that during a telephone call with Egyptian despot Abdelfattah al-Sisi, President Obama personally lifted the freeze on transferring weapons to the regime, and also affirmed that the $1.3 billion in military aid will continue unimpeded. Announced the White House:

President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi today regarding the U.S.-Egyptian military assistance relationship and regional developments, including in Libya and Yemen. President Obama informed President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits.  The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt.

But for those who think the U.S. should not lavish vicious tyrants with arms and money, don’t worry! During the call, “President Obama also reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials,” and “encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States.” To read that is to feel the sincerity and potency of those presidential words.

The move comes as the U.S. is also heavily supporting the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, also involving some of the region’s worst tyrants (also known as: the U.S.’s closest allies). So the U.S. is, as usual, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the region’s most oppressive regimes, whose survival at least partially depends on the abundant U.S. largesse they receive, once again provoking that age-old mystery: Why do they hate us? 

Obama’s move is as unsurprising as it is noxious, as American political elites – from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright – along with the Israeli Right have been heaping praise on Sisi the way they did for decades on Mubarak (“I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family,” said Hillary Clinton in 2009. “So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States”). . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 2:28 pm

Facebook Tracks You Even If You Opt Out

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Nicole Kobie reports for Motherboard:

If you’ve visited a Facebook page—even if you don’t have an account, and even if you’ve opted out of tracking—the social network drops a long-lasting cookie onto your computer, and follows you everywhere you go.

That’s according to an in-depth ​report from a pair of Belgian universities, who were commissioned to investigate the issue by​ their local data protection agency. (Asked for a response, the UK’s own Information Commissioner Office directed us to Ireland’s data protection watchdogs, saying it wasn’t their remit as Facebook is based in Ireland.)

The report found that Facebook tracks users even if they’re logged out, have deactivated their account, or have opted out of behavioural advertising. The problem centres on Facebook’s social plugins, those widgets that people install on their sites with the Like button.

The researchers suggested that Facebook sets a tracking cookie that can last for two years on your PC or device in three​ instances. First, when you visit a Facebook page—whether it’s your own profile or a company page when you’re not signed in; second, if you visit specific third-party websites (including and, rather oddly,; and third, rather ironically, if you go to the European D​igital Advertising Alliance website to opt out of tracking.

From then on, every time you visit a page with a Like button or other social plugin, it sees the cookie and sends the tracking details back to Facebook. That happens even if you don’t click Like, login to Facebook, or interact in any other way with the site.

If all this sounds exactly what you’d expect from Facebook, you’re not alone. Paul Bernal, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia’s law school, wasn’t surprised by the report, though he said the extent of the tracking goes further than he would have thought. “Facebook has a record of pushing the boundaries, and for finding new ways to invade privacy, which is one reason that people like me, who understand at least part of how they work, are not generally on Facebook,” he told me. “So it’s not a surprise that they’re doing whatever they can to track us, but this looks a bit more brazen than I suspected. They’ve had their fingers burnt in this field before, and I thought they might be a bit more circumspect.”

Facebook said the report contained “factual inaccuracies” but did not detail them; the authors didn’t speak to the social network “to clarify any assumptions” before it was published. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 12:33 pm

A new way to reform the criminal justice system

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Douglas Starr reports in the New Yorker:

Last year, the district attorney’s office in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, blew a case. The chairman of the county’s Republican Party, Robert J. Kerns, had been accused of rape by a woman who worked at his law firm. The woman said that Kerns had offered her a ride after an alcohol-fuelled office party. Along the way, she said, he gave her wine and raped her in his Mercedes, and then again in her home. Hospital reports showed bruising consistent with a sexual assault, and DNA on the woman’s underwear was consistent with Kerns’s profile. A key piece of evidence was a urine test apparently showing the presence of Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien. Prosecutors secured a grand-jury indictment on more than a dozen criminal counts, including rape and aggravated indecent assault. Afterward, they held a press conference.

Several months later, a toxicologist hired by Kerns’s defense took a closer look at the lab report. Although the word “Zolpidem” appeared, what the document indicated was that the test had detected “less than” five nanograms per milliliter, which in this case was zero. Kerns’s lawyer got in touch with the prosecuting attorneys, who were horrified to realize that they had misinterpreted the findings—a rookie mistake.

“It was a huge embarrassment,” Risa Ferman, Montgomery County’s district attorney, told me. She and her staff had plenty of evidence that Kerns had committed a sexual assault, but, because the drugging was written into the indictment, they had to drop charges and refer the case to the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s office. A newspaper called the incident a “fiasco.”

Normally after such a mistake, the D.A. would fire the responsible parties and announce that she had cleaned house. Instead, Ferman did things differently: rather than find a culprit to blame, she held a series of meetings to discover the organizational errors that had led to the mistake. “These were skilled professionals,” she told me, who had not set out to sabotage their case. What factors, she wondered, had caused competent people to make bad choices?

In asking this question, Ferman was following a procedure alien to the justice system but entrenched in the health-care and transportation industries. A few decades ago, administering anesthesia was one of the most dangerous medical procedures, and had a mortality rate of about one in ten thousand. By analyzing the circumstances of those deaths through an independent review process, experts learned that a few simple equipment changes could save lives: making the nozzles and hoses of oxygen and nitrogen incompatible, for instance, so that patients could not be given the wrong gas. Today, the death rate involving anesthesia hovers at around one in a hundred and eighty thousand.

Nowadays, flying a commercial airplane is one of the safest things that you can do, notwithstanding high-profile tragedies such as the crash of a Germanwings flight last week. That’s because, after each accident, the National Transportation Safety Board conducts a thorough and objective review, protecting involved parties from prosecution and liability, and focussing solely on improving safety. (Even though the N.T.S.B.’s findings are made public, the information is not admissible as evidence in court.) Many improvements, from the strip lighting along the aisle to the way in which cockpit staff communicate with each other, resulted from this review process, often referred to as “sentinel event analysis.”

A series of experiments over the past year has aimed to build similar safeguards into the justice system. A veteran Boston defense attorney, James Doyle, observed the proliferation of exoneration cases in the post-DNA era and has worked on a number of reform efforts. “No one gets into this job to convict innocent people,” he told me. “The real problem is developing the capability for dealing with inevitable mistakes.” He wondered if “sentinel event analysis”— reviewing legal errors in a blame-free environment—could tease out the sequence of factors that might have contributed to a mistake and, perhaps, lead to a more accident-proof legal system.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, Doyle travelled the country interviewing police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims’-rights groups, among others, culminating in a kind of summit meeting in Washington, D.C. Based on his work, the Institute organized an experiment in which three jurisdictions—Milwaukee, Baltimore, and a third, in Philadelphia—volunteered to do a systems analysis of a high-profile failure. The Montgomery County experiment, conducted in parallel with the N.I.J. study, was a fourth.

In every case, the horrendous legal accident turned out to have multiple causes embedded in the legal system. There was no single bad actor. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 12:23 pm

Important for those who are not dysgraphic: Ditch the Keyboard, Take Notes By Hand

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post on a recent study of note-taking methods (by hand vs. on computer) and learning. The students who took notes by hand did significantly better. Read the post for details. Note that some suffer from dysgraphia—the writing equivalent of dyslexia—and trying to write by hand doesn’t work at all well. Those may wish to use something like the Livescribe pen: it records audio and allows you to make notes in a notebook. Later, you can place the pen on a note and hear the recording of what was being said at that point.

One well-known template for taking notes in lecture classes (which wouldn’t help much in the St. John’s College discussion-based classes, but almost all colleges depend on the lecture as the teaching format) is the Cornell note-taking system:


From the “Useful Posts” page:

The Cornell note-taking system — excellent way to take lecture notes
Notalon — a program for Cornell note-taking (Mac, Windows, Linux)

It’s not clear that Notalon would deliver the benefits of taking notes by hand, though it does use the Cornell notes format.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Education, Science

Red Meat Is Not the Enemy

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All the misinformation that Ancel Keys forced onto the medical profession and the public—he was a consummate bully—is gradually being corrected. Eggs are not a problem. Bacon is not a problem. And now: beef is not a problem. (All that is from the dietary point of view: other considerations may apply.)

Aaron Carroll reports in the NY Times:

There are people in this country eating too much red meat. They should cut back. There are people eating too many carbs. They should cut back on those. There are also people eating too much fat, and the same advice applies to them, too.

What’s getting harder to justify, though, is a focus on any one nutrient as a culprit for everyone.

I’ve written Upshot articles on how the strong warnings against salt andcholesterol are not well supported by evidence. But it’s possible that no food has been attacked as widely or as loudly in the past few decades as red meat.

As with other bad guys in the food wars, the warnings against red meat are louder and more forceful than they need to be.

Americans are more overweight and obese than they pretty much have ever been. There’s also no question that we are eating more meat than in previous eras. But we’ve actually been reducing our red meat consumptionfor the last decade or so. This hasn’t resulted in a huge decrease in obesityrates or deaths from cardiovascular disease.

The same reports also show that we eat significantly more fruits and vegetables today than we did decades ago. We also eat more grains andsweeteners.

This is the real problem: We eat more calories than we need. But in much of our discussion about diet, we seek a singular nutritional guilty party. We also tend to cast everyone in the same light as “eating too much.”

I have seen many people point to a study from last year that found that increased protein intake was associated with large increases in mortality rates from all diseases, with high increases in the chance of death fromcancer or diabetes. A close examination of the manuscript, though, tells a different story.

This was a cohort study of people followed through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or Nhanes. It found that there were no associations between protein consumption and death from all causes or cardiovascular disease or cancer individually when all participants over age 50 were considered. It did detect a statistically significant association between the consumption of protein and diabetes mortality, but the researchers cautioned that the number of people in the analysis was so small that any results should be taken with caution.

The scary findings from two paragraphs up are from a subanalysis that looked at people only 50 to 65. But if you look at people over 65, the opposite was true. High protein was associated with lower levels of all-cause and cancer-specific mortality. If you truly believe that this study proves what people say, then we should advise people over the age of 65 to eat more meat. No one advises that.

Further, this study defined people in the “high protein” group as those eating 20 percent or more of their calories from protein. When the Department of Agriculture recommends that Americans get 10 to 35 percent of their calories from protein, 20 percent should not be considered high.

If I wanted to cherry-pick studies myself, I might point you to this 2013 study that used the same Nhanes data to conclude that meat consumption is not associated with mortality at all.

Let’s avoid cherry-picking, though. A 2013 meta-analysis of meat-diet studies, including those above, found . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 9:08 am

Test shave: VDH razor, WSP Monarch and Kent BK4

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SOTD 31 Mar 2015

A couple of tests today. One was to compare the WSP Monarch brush shown—and which of the current Monarchs it corresponds to, I can’t say. You’ll note it’s a three-band, though. And I also used the Kent BK4.

The two brushes are both excellent. The Kent has a slightly softer feel on the face, and the Monarch is a bit more resilient. I would be happy with either, but of the two I personally prefer the feel of the Kent because I enjoy a soft, fluffy brush. Others might well prefer the Monarch.

I was curious to try the Van Der Hagen razor, which seems to be a Weishi in origin. I haven’t used a Weishi in a long time, and I found it better than I remembered. I will still recommend the Parker 24C (or 26C) as a beginner razor, but the Weishi would certainly work. I used it with a Personna Lab Blue blade and got a fine shave. I would guess it will work best with a relatively sharp blade (such as the Lab Blue). It’s not at all bad as a first razor—a great relief, since I suspect this will be the first razor for many.

A splash of Ginger’s Garden aftershave, which I do like, and the day is now underway.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2015 at 9:02 am

Posted in Shaving

Under Obama, access denied: Reporters say federal officials, data increasingly off limits

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Obama’s words about “transparency” are completed contradicted by his actions. He talks the talk, but he doesn’t walk the walk. Paul Farhi reports in the Washington Post:

Stacey Singer, a health reporter for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, was perusing a medical journal in 2012 when she came across something startling: a federal epidemiologist’s report about a tuberculosis outbreak in the Jacksonville area. Singer promptly began pursuing the story.

But when she started seeking official comment about the little-reported outbreak, the doors began closing. County health officials referred her to the state health department. State officials referred her to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the CDC’s own expert had written the investigative report, the agency’s press office declined to let Singer speak with him. A spokesman told her it was a local matter and sent her back to the state office in Tallahassee.

Through public-records requests, Singer eventually was able to piece together the story of a contagion that had caused 13 deaths and 99 illnesses — the worst the CDC had found in 20 years.

“It’s really expensive to fight this hard” for public information, said Singer, now an editorial writer at the newspaper, who suspects that officials were slow to respond because news of the TB outbreak might have harmed Florida’s tourism industry. “They know that to delay is to deny. . . . They know we have to move on to other stories.”

The stories aren’t always as consequential or as dramatic as a TB outbreak, but Singer’s experience is shared by virtually every journalist on the government beat, from the White House on down. They can recite tales with similar outlines: An agency spokesman — frequently a political appointee — rejects the reporter’s request for interviews, offers partial or nonresponsive replies, or delays responding at all until after the journalist’s deadline has passed.

Interview requests that are granted are closely monitored, reporters say, with a press “minder” sitting in. Some agencies require reporters to pose their questions by e-mail, a tactic that enables officials to carefully craft and vet their replies.Tensions between reporters and public information officers — “hacks and flacks” in the vernacular — aren’t new, of course. Reporters have always wanted more information than government officials have been willing or able to give.

But journalists say the lid has grown tighter under the Obama administration, whose chief executive promised in 2009 to bring “an unprecedented level of openness” to the federal government.

The frustrations boiled over last summer in a letter to President Obamasigned by 38 organizations representing journalists and press-freedom advocates. The letter decried “politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies” by spokesmen. “We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear,” the groups wrote.

They asked for “a clear directive” from Obama “telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so.”

Obama hasn’t acted on the suggestion. . .

Continue reading.

Our government is going dark. And Obama has repeatedly proved to be untrustworthy. Of course he’s not acted on the suggestion. He doesn’t want the government to be open and transparent.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 5:57 pm

Totally missing the impact of the Indiana law

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Lesley Clark writes in McClatchy: “Republican presidential hopefuls are lining up behind a controversial Indiana law that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers by invoking religious freedom.”

She totally misses the point. Religious beliefs are very personal and idiosyncratic. A Christian, for example, might turn away someone who’s divorced, since Jesus condemned divorce. Or some might believe that African-Americans are the cursed descendents of Ham, as the Mormons once held (and some Mormons might still believe). Or a person might refuse service to someone of another religion, a “pagan” or “heathen” of one sort of another.

Really, the law allows businesses to refuse to serve anyone, since the test is personal religious belief, and that can be pretty much anything. Gays and lesbians are only a small part of it.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 5:52 pm

Non-hierarchical management system

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Very interesting development, reported by Rebecca Greenfield in Fast Company:

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh offered his nearly 4,000 employees an ultimatum last week: accept Holacracy or leave.

While the word may conjure images of a new-age cult, Holacracy is an alternative organizational structure that has been adopted by companies around the world—including Medium, the alt-publishing platform from Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, and the David Allen Company, the productivity consultants. It sheds traditional hierarchies for self-governing teams that get work done through tactical meetings. Zappos is the largest company to have adopted the system, and the transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. By multiple reports and now an admission in an internal memo, first posted by Quartz and obtained by Fast Company, people don’t love the idea of relinquishing their manager titles.

Nevertheless, Hsieh is anxious to fully embrace Holacracy, and is going all-in on the new structure by offering three months severance to people who don’t want to adapt. “We’ve been operating partially under Holacracy and partially under the legacy management hierarchy in parallel for over a year now,” Hsieh writes in the memo. “Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization.”

Adopting Holacracy isn’t cheap or easy. The system has its own set of rules and lingo, and is complicated to implement. The Holacracy parent company, HolacracyOne, helps companies transition by offering consulting services that run from $50,000 to $500,000, depending on how long it takes to achieve self-sufficiency. Even for much smaller companies, like Medium, which implemented Holacracy when it was just a couple dozen people in 2012, the journey takes multiple years and has a steep learning curve.

Holacracy was invented by Brian Robertson, a 35-year-old former programmer with barely any management experience. He created Holacracy in 2007 because he had a “burning sense that there has to be a better way to work together,” he said in an interview with Fast Company. Robertson, who describes himself as a coding savant, says he taught himself to program at age 6. By the time he was 13, he says he was charging $25 an hour for software development through the Sierra Network, an early competitor to AOL. “They had no idea how old I was” Robertson said. “I didn’t even know enough to name my business.”

After dropping out of the Stevens Institute of Technology, 17-year-old Robertson managed to get a job at Analytical Graphics, an aerospace company known for its perk-laced work culture. “You couldn’t beat the benefits, the environment, the culture. From a conventional view, they were really cool” he said. They had free meals, a gym, and a game room. Robertson had a great boss, who he still considers a friend and mentor. Analytical Graphics even won an award for being one of the best small companies to work for in the U.S. by the Great Place to Work Institute.

Robertson hated it.

“The bureaucracy seemed to be set up in a way that people couldn’t use their gifts, their talents,” Robertson said. In 2001, he started his own company to figure out a better way to run one.

Robertson certainly isn’t alone in his disdain for top-down order. Holacracy comes out of and operates within a milieu of unconventional ways to work that have become more popular in the last decade as younger and more visionary CEOs eschew tradition and seek out a new way of working. Among the options are sociocracy, Freedom at Work, the Morning Star Self Management System, and the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). Each of those systems, including Holacracy, has a distinct approach to the same general problem. “The industrial age operating system is no longer compatible,” said Traci Fenton, the founder and CEO of WorldBlu, which preaches the Freedom at Work method used by hundreds of companies worldwide, including Zappos before it adopted Holacracy. “You have to move into the new age to realize we’ve outgrown the clothes.”

The hierarchical organization dates back to the industrial revolution, when companies wanted to preserve accountability while employing large numbers of people. . .

Continue reading. A sidebar to the article defines some terms:


Circle: In a Holacracy, people work within circles that represent different aspects of a company’s work.

Role: A job with a specific mandate within a circle. The person who empowers a given role has autonomy over that domain.

Governance: A regimented meeting where the structure of the organization—circles, roles—is decided. These can happen as often as an organization thinks is necessary.

Tactical Meeting: A replacement for weekly team meetings, during which circle members “process tensions” until they’re resolved.

Tension: “Dissonance between what is (current reality) and what could be (the purpose).” In other words: the problem someone has with the work.

Tension Processing: Each person talks out his problem with the group until he who raised the tension is satisfied with a next step.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Business

GitHub’s Largest DDoS Attack Is Still Going, 4 Days Later

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The Chinese government is determined to keep their citizens from getting information from the outside world. Report at Motherboard.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 9:51 am

Posted in Government, Technology

Indiana Is Neither Kind Nor Welcoming to Gays

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Excellent post by Kevin Drum on Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s refusal to recognize the language and plain intent of the law he signed. Pence was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and twisted himself silly to avoid understanding (or answering) the questions he was asked. From Drum’s post:

Hoosiers may indeed be the kindest and most welcoming folks in the country, but that cuts no ice in court. In court, any business can claim that it’s being discriminated against if it’s forced to sell its services to a gay couple, and thanks to specific language in the Indiana statute, no court can throw out the claim on the grounds that a business is a public accommodation.

That’s different from other RFRAs, and it’s neither especially kind nor welcoming. Indiana has taken anti-gay hostility to a new and higher level, and Pence and his legislature deserve all the flack they’re getting for it. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 9:32 am

Posted in Government, Religion

Interesting analysis of the movie Pretty Woman

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I hadn’t realized that it was the 25th anniversary of Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall and starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. I had seen it mentioned a couple of places, so I just watched it again, and then I found these two excellent exegeses of the movie, one on plot and one on the use of fashion. It always surprises me at how little is left to chance in a big-budget movie: everything is a carefully considered decision. The articles are recommended:

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 9:02 am

Posted in Movies & TV

i Coloniali and the Walbusch

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SOtD 30 Mar 2015

Not so good a shave, though the aftershave is surprisingly good—it has a very interesting note in the fragrance.

The Kent BK4 is a terrific brush. My error was in forgetting how very thirsty i Coloniali’s soap is. I should have added some driblets of water as I loaded the brush. Thus the lather was somewhat subpar, but totally my own fault.

Then the Walbusch vintage plastic slant, normally superb, had a blade that, after finishing the first pass, just seemed too dull. So I removed it (a Personna Lab Blue) and replaced it with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge. Whether my error, the dull blade, the new blade, or the contrast, I managed to get two nicks. Neither was serious, but this is normally a nick-free razor. Again, I chalk it up to operator error, and I am thankful that I have My Nik Is Sealed on hand: great stuff and highly effective.

A splash of the aftershave which I discovered lurking at the back of one of the lower shelves, so it’s not been used for a while, and I did like it for the interesting fragrance. I’ll probably be using it more often.

Still, I look forward even more to tomorrow’s shave. Learning through experience is what it’s all about.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2015 at 8:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Drink notes

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Lately I’ve been enjoying of an evening a Bourbon Manhattan on the rocks (a true Manhattan uses rye and is served straight up), using Bullett Bourbon, Fee Brothers Peach Bitters, and Dolin sweet vermouth. The peach bitters are noticeable and excellent. Fee Brothers have quite an assortment of bitters:

I will warn you that the Lemon Bitters will attack the plastic dropper cap and make it come off, so a “dash” becomes “half the bottle.” Be careful.

Amazon, for the adventurous, offers the complete set. They’re also good in lemonade, gin and tonic, highballs, and other drinks, as well as on fruit salads, etc.

The list above fails to include Boker’s style Cardamom Bitters, an essential ingredient for many Pre-Prohibition vintage cocktails. And, of course, I’m not even mentioning Berg & Hauck’s Bitters, though they, too, are available from Amazon. And of course you can find Scrappy’s Bitters… and many more. Bitters constitute a little world of their own.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2015 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

More from Pilots and Doctors on the Germanwings Crash

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James Fallows has had more responses on the crash:

Following this initial item on what could, and could not have been foreseen about the Germanwings murder/suicide, and this followup in which professional pilots talked about shortcuts in modern training systems, more response from aviators and others:

1) “If you had a mental issue, there’s only one drug the FAA would allow you to take. That drug is alcohol.” From a professional pilot:

Add me to the extensive list of pilots you’ve heard from, regarding the Germanwings tragedy.  I agree with the people saying we only can blame ourselves, wanting cheap airfare and safe airlines, all while paying pilots nothing.  I personally have avoided working for the airlines, having figured out that the charter and medical flying seems to have a better quality of life, better pay over the life of the career, and more job security…

When it comes to prevention of accidents like this, I honestly don’t know what can be done.  I don’t believe having two people in the cockpit at all times would have prevented this specific instance; the guy was willing to take a lot of lives with him, what would the flight attendant standing in the doorway have been able to do to prevent that?

Many of your writers have mentioned the new ATP rules… [JF: higher flight-time requirements before pilots can be considered for flight-officer jobs] but I don’t see a solution in arbitrary flight times and educational achievement.  The European model, where pilots are hired and trained by the airline from the very beginning does seem more sustainable in my opinion, compared to the US model where pilots end up in excess of $100,000 in debt before they can even think of getting a job.

The person who pointed out the adversarial process of the FAA medical hit the issue right in the nose.  Until recently, depression alone was enough to keep you out of the cockpit, stabilized treatment regimes and doctors letters be damned.

To put it bluntly, if you had a mental issue that could be helped with medication, the FAA would allow you to take one drug that didn’t require reporting and documentation. That drug is alcohol.

2) On the tensions built into the medical-examination system. Another reader:

One pilot quoted in your piece wrote:

“The system gives pilots an incentive to cheat themselves out of the best quality of care. Any arrangement that promotes an adversarial relationship between doctor and patient compromises medicine.”

I fail to see how the relationship between doctors and pilots can be inherently anything other than adversarial.  There is no upside for the pilot when a pilot currently holding a health certificate sees a doctor.  The best result for the pilot is the continuation of the status quo.  The worst result is the suspension or ending of his career.

I hope most pilots would face this periodic career peril with a moral sense of duty to passengers and therefore will be honest and forthright in any medical exam and would promptly disclose to their employers any relevant medical condition. However human nature shows us that a meaningful percentage of pilots will conceal medical conditions or at least be very strategic in how the are examined (choosing a physician known to be lenient, seeking private diagnosis and treatment, etc.)

Thus it seems to me that the solution to this unique situation is not a more treatment-oriented system, which doesn’t address the conflict inherent in the situation.  Rather, the solution is to recognize that pilots are unique in that they must be highly skilled and physically and mentally healthy, while being entrusted daily with hundreds of lives.  Thus pilots should be required to give up their medical privacy to the degree necessary to ensure that all relevant medical facts are available to regulators and to their employers.

3) On the alcohol issue. From a doctor: . . .

Continue reading. Very thought provoking. A letter from later in the column:

It is implicit in your argument about airline cost-cutting (although it wasn’t explicitly stated) that flight crew pay must also be an indirect factor. The Colgan Air flight 3407 crash in Buffalo in 2009 is a case in point. The co-pilot had an annual salary of $16,200.

Tim Cook got a pay package worth $378 million to run Apple; if your iPhone doesn’t work, you send it back. But in some cases with commuter airlines, your life is literally in the hands of an overworked and undertrained flight crew member who makes McDonald’s wages.

A great illustration, à la Milton Friedman, of how the free market infallibly puts the right monetary value on services (snark).

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2015 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The Pope Is a Christian!

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Gary Wills is a thoughtful and good writer. His essay in the NY Review of Books:

At a recent I talk I gave about Pope Francis, a man asked me, “Why do more non-Catholics like the pope than Catholics do?” He was wrong, of course. A Pew poll two months ago found that 90 percent of Catholics like what the pope is doing—and the number is even higher (95 percent) among the most observant, Mass-attending Catholics. The percentage of non-Catholics who view the pope favorably does not get above the 70s.

Yet the question was understandable. There is a perception of great resistance to the pope in his own church. This is largely the product of noise. Extremists get more press coverage than blander types, and some Catholic bloggers have suggested that the pope is not truly Catholic. They are right to be in a panic. They are not used to having a pope who is a Christian. They call Francis a radical because he deplores the sequestration of great wealth for a rich few and deprivation of the many poor. But Francis is a moderate. Jesus was the radical: “How hard it will be for the wealthy man to enter the kingdom of God….It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23,26). In the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31), when the rich man (Dives) calls for succor from hell, Abraham, holding the poor man (Lazarus) in his bosom, answers: “All the good things fell to you while you were alive, and all the bad to Lazarus; now he has his consolation here, and it is you who are in agony.”

Some right wing Catholics would haul Dives up and enshrine him in the one percent of rich men who trickle wealth down on the rest of us. They are also descendants of those Pharisees who tried to keep people away from Jesus because “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1-2). The modern Pharisees try to refuse the Eucharist to politicians who do not meet their doctrinal tests. Pope Francis’s response to this patrolling of the communion line is in his major statement so far, The Joy of the Gospel (No. 47):

The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.

Which position would Jesus agree with? We find the answer in the Gospel of Mark (1:17), where Jesus says:

It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick; I did not come to invite virtuous people, but sinners.

Pope Francis describes the church as a ministry to wounded people:

I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.

Some “traditional” Catholics also see the church as a battlefield; but they go out after battle to shoot the wounded. They are typified by hierarchs like Cardinal Raymond Burke, who says Catholics who remarry outside the church are like murderers, living defiantly in public sin. Or like Cardinal Salvatore Cordileone, who issued a guide for teachers in the Catholic schools of San Francisco, requiring them to oppose—in the classroom and in their private lives—abortion, contraception, artificial insemination, same sex marriage, adultery, fornication, masturbation, and pornography. He also installed a water system in the overhang at Saint Mary’s Cathedral to soak homeless people who were trying to sleep there. Every hour or half hour, for 75 seconds, the pipes would gush down on those below and flush them away like human refuse.

Contrast that with the reaction of Pope Francis when he found that homeless people were sleeping at the entrance to the Vatican piazza. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2015 at 10:26 am

Posted in Religion

A skateboard without the board part

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From this NPR story:

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2015 at 9:10 am

Posted in Techie toys, Toys

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