Later On

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

Archive for August 25th, 2015

Nice hummus variant

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I usually make it from a can of chickpeas. In a (small like this one works great) food processor, put:

1/4 c tahini
1/4 c lemon juice

Process for a minute, wiping down the bowl when half done. Add

1-2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped—even just halved
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (the good stuff)

Process for a minute wiping down the bowl half way through.

1 can chickpeas, rinsed well; OR (better) 1.5 cup cooked chickpeas, about 9.3 oz. Just soak the chickpeas overnight, and then bring to a bowl, reduce to simmer, skim the scum for a couple of minutes, and let simmer 1 hour.

Add half the chickpeas, process as usual; then add the other half and process those.

Drizzle with EVOO before serving.

This time I used 1/2 sweet onion (really sweet: like eating an apple) instead of the garlic (though perhaps it should have been in addition to the garlic), along with the cumin and salt I added 1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika.

Damn good.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Another of the collection up for sale: Gillette Toggle, Date code F4 = 1960 Q4

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The collection slowly shrinks. Here’s the listing. Seven-day auction this time.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Shaving

The Wisconsin water-fight reminds me of all those treaties we made with Indians “as long as grass shall grow and water run” and then broke

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When the going gets tough, the tough ignore what they had agreed to. Monica Davey has a very interesting report in the NY Times of an opening salvo in the war for fresh water.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 3:34 pm

On why old people don’t crave excitement

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Or, to put it positively, why mundane routines are pleasurable. From a book review by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker:

. . . Consider the following scenario. One afternoon, you’re sitting in your office with wads of cotton stuck up your nose. (For the present purposes, it’s not important to know why.) Someone in your office has just baked a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. The aroma fills the air, but, since your nose is plugged, you don’t notice and continue working. Suddenly you sneeze, and the cotton gets dislodged. Now the smell hits, and you rush over to gobble up one cookie, then another.

According to Steinberg, adults spend their lives with wads of cotton in their metaphorical noses. Adolescents, by contrast, are designed to sniff out treats at a hundred paces. During childhood, the nucleus accumbens, which is sometimes called the “pleasure center,” grows. It reaches its maximum extent in the teen-age brain; then it starts to shrink. This enlargement of the pleasure center occurs in concert with other sensation-enhancing changes. As kids enter puberty, their brains sprout more dopamine receptors. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays many roles in the human nervous system, the sexiest of which is signalling enjoyment.

“Nothing—whether it’s being with your friends, having sex, licking an ice-cream cone, zipping along in a convertible on a warm summer evening, hearing your favorite music—will ever feel as good as it did when you were a teenager,” Steinberg observes. And this, in turn, explains why adolescents do so many stupid things. It’s not that they are any worse than their elders at assessing danger. It’s just that the potential rewards seem—and, from a neurological standpoint, genuinely are—way, way greater. “The notion that adolescents take risks because they don’t know any better is ludicrous,” Steinberg writes.

Teen-agers are, as a rule, extremely healthy—healthier than younger children. But their death rate is much higher. The mortality rate for Americans between fifteen and nineteen years old is nearly twice what it is for those between the ages of one and four, and it’s more than three times as high as for those ages five to fourteen. The leading cause of death among adolescents today is accidents; this is known as the “accident hump.”

Steinberg explains the situation as the product of an evolutionary mismatch. . .

Evolution again: adolescents are exploratory and experimental-minded, with benefits to the group as a whole: finding new sources of food (plant, animal, or region), thinking up new ways to hunt, and undoubtedly a fair number dying from consuming toxic food—but the group thus learns and advances. Doesn’t this remind you of the viral swarm entity a few blog posts ago?

Steinberg explains why the risky behavior is done to get attention, and why attention is so important—i.e., such a reward.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 3:24 pm

Interesting reflections on the Ashley-Madison hack

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By Spocko at Hullabaloo:

Hey, did you read that Josh Duggar was on the Ashley Madison list? And it wasn’t a fake email address either! He confirmed it!

I know that some people get a feeling of joy or pleasure seeing Duggar suffer more misfortune. That’s nice for them. But with all the genuine suffering that this exposure will be causing innocents, can we at least get something good out of it?

The media are already using it for their headlines, therapists and divorce lawyers will be using it to get new clients. But can we get more out of this hack than media hits and billable hours?

We know that some people use disasters to profit, others to push an agenda. “We are going to turn Iraq into a free market paradise using these Heritage Foundation interns!”

I propose we have a couple of items to push on our agenda.

First, increase the importance of privacy in both private governments and corporations. Second, use this data to show the problem with passing judgement on the private lives of ordinary people.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his piece, The Puritanical Glee Over the Ashley Madison Hack,

[None of us should cheer when the private lives of ordinary people are indiscriminately invaded, no matter how much voyeuristic arousal or feelings of moral superiority it provides. We love to think of ourselves as so progressive and advanced, yet so often leap at the opportunity to intervene and wallow around in, and sternly pass judgment on, the private sexual choices of other adults.

But, what are the concrete things we can change beyond trying to change attitudes? [Emphasis added, since this is key: What to do, specifically? – LG] How about a focus on . . .

Continue reading.

It is in fact a well-thought-out list of specific, concrete steps. Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 2:50 pm

Why Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric is important

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Kevin Drum has a very interesting post. Well worth reading—and it’s brief: 4 paragraphs, one chart.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 2:45 pm

No one can read this (fascinating) article and deny evolution—and a swarm as the entity

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Really worth reading in its entirety, and just the right level (at least for me) of technical detail: enough so you can understand how/why it works, but not so much that you get lost in the trees. Carrie Arnold writes in Quanta about how the virus isn’t the living, evolving entity; it’s the swarm, instead. Very science-fictiony, eh?

Sometime in late 2013, a mosquito-borne virus called chikungunya appeared for the first time in the Western Hemisphere. Chikungunya, or “chik,” as it’s called, rarely kills its human hosts. But it can cause fever, rash and debilitating joint pain. In the two years since it first arrived in the Caribbean, chik has spread wildly across the Americas. It is now suspected of having infected over 1 million people in 44 countries and territories, creating a hemisphere-wide horde of mosquito-borne suffering.

The same biological quirks that have contributed to chik’s success are showing researchers how to fight it — and other viruses like it. Chik is an RNA virus, just like influenza, West Nile virus, hepatitis and Ebola, among others. Unlike DNA viruses, which contain two copies of their genetic information, RNA viruses are single-stranded. When they replicate, any errors in the single strand get passed on. As a result, copying is sloppy, and so each new generation of RNA viruses tends to have lots of errors. In only a few generations, a single virus can become a mutant swarm of closely related viruses.

This viral genetic jumble has given Marco Vignuzzi, a virologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, a way to predict the future evolution of RNA viruses like chik. Vignuzzi has re-created a single mutation in chik that occurred early in the virus’s around-the-world adventure, work that illuminated how the virus was able to spread so widely in such a short amount of time. Now Vignuzzi is trying to predict chik’s future. This past June, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, Vignuzzi showcased the two mutations in chik that are most likely to develop next.

Viruses are tricky and complex beasts; no one can predict exactly what they will do. But if researchers are ever to get a step ahead of the rapidly shifting world of viruses around us, they will need to deconstruct the viral swarm.

A Viral Potluck

For almost 40 years, scientists have worked to understand how RNA viruses can have so many mutations and still be so successful.

In the late 1970s, the virologist Esteban Domingo of the Autonomous University of Madrid was trying to measure the sloppiness of replication using an RNA virus that infects bacteria. He found that one mutation occurred every time the virus copied its genome, on average. As a result, a single virus produces an array of daughter viruses that are almost, but not quite, identical. Every generation spawns another array of viruses, leading to what Domingo called a “mutant cloud” of viruses.

However, most of the mutations in viral clouds create problems for the virus. Researchers assumed that any single mutated version of a healthy virus was likely destined for extinction. But then in 2006, scientists published an account of a thriving dengue virus in Myanmar with what should have been a catastrophic error in the middle of a vital gene. . .

Continue reading. He explains how it works and discovers the true entity, as alien as anything in a science-fiction story—and I think I’ve read a number of stories in which the alien was along these lines: the individual animals/plants/people were not the entity with which you had to deal, it was the total group: the swarm.

Read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 2:28 pm

Game has passed me by, Part 2: World trade visualization software for all $15.3 trillion of it

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Astonishing. Emiko Jozuka reports in Motherboard:

World economies can be mind-boggling systems made up of complex chains of supply and demand, buoyed by commodities and fueled by different currencies.

Owen Cornec and Romain Vuillemot, data visualization fellows at Harvard Kennedy School, wanted to reimagine the global spread of goods in a new visualisation. Dubbed the “Globe of Economic Complexity,” Cornec and Vuillemot’s colorful 3D world portrays cold economic fact as “clouds of confetti.”

The Globe of Economic Complexity—an interactive tool—lets users see a country’s total trade as well as which products are made, and where in the world they’re exported. The map allows specialists and non-specialists alike to explore and understand the world through the production and trade trajectory of commodities. It was inspired by the original Atlas of Economic Complexity, which is a tool used by policymakers to view exports and the economic health of countries.“We wanted to find a novel way to convey the scale, diversity, and inequality of world economies using new 3D web technologies, to make these massive amounts of international trade beautiful and understandable,” Cornec told me over email.

The data visualization maps out “the entire world production of goods” by visualizing the $15.3 trillion-worth of world exports reached in 2012. One tiny dot equates to $100 million of exports (the “equivalent of 15,0000 swiss watches”). Each color represents a different industry and there are 153,000 dots in total.

What’s fun about the site is that it allows you to explore the similarities and differences in products stemming from different countries. A range of products including “vegetable products,” “textiles,” and “metals” are listed at the bottom of the site. Click on any given one, and the distribution of where those products are in the world emerges on the world map. The visualization also makes clear that no country can export everything, and that some industries such as machinery will generate more networks around the world as opposed to something like vegetables. . .

Continue reading.

Here’s what it looks like:

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 1:39 pm

When it hit me that the game has passed me by: Building apps using blockchains

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Oh, my. Alyssa Hertig reports in Motherboard:

We live in a day and age where it only takes 48 hours to program a decentralized horse registry.

All it takes is the Ethereum blockchain, also known as the “world computer,” which seeks to use the technology that enables cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to support other applications.

You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin. You might have heard of Ethereum, whose developers have far-reaching goals like disrupting the internet. (Interesting  internship opportunity?) Blockchains are the open, tamper-proof, distributed databases—meaning they don’t require a central keeper—that underpins each of them.

At a recent 48-hour hackathon, developers explored the power of the Ethereum blockchain, building decentralized replacements for Twitter, lawyers, and horse registries.

“This is not a regular bleeding-edge event,” said Joseph Lubin, founder of ConsenSys, which hosted the hackathon (dubbed dAppathon) a week ago in New York. “It’s sharp all over the place.” ConsenSys is Brooklyn-based blockchain production studio that toils away on everything dApps (decentralized apps) and designs tools like BlockApps that helps developers to code up their own.

Tweether, for instance, is a censorship-resistant version of Twitter created by hackathon participant Stefan George. He kicked off his presentation with a list of countries where censorship is commonplace. The Twitter copycat uses the Ethereum blockchain, which again, is totally tamper-proof. So when you “Tweeth” with the app, it uses the blockchain so that no one can later remove it, foiling censors.

Lawyerless, created by hackathoners Jeff Ward, Mike Goldin, and Jess Grushak, helps regular people . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Software, Technology

Another Reason to Use an Ad Blocker: Malvertising Has Tripled This Year

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Some sites—Hulu, for example—have user-blockers that are trigger by the detection of use of an ad-blocker. I cannot use Hulu unless I turn off the ad-blocker so they can play their ads—and I’m not about to do that for reasons explained in this Motherboard article by Nicholas Deleon:

Proponents of ad-blocking software may have another reason to continue blocking ads.

A new report from cybersecurity firm Cyphort published this morning notes that instances of malware served via online advertising networks increased 325 percent between June 2014 and February of this year. The report notes that several high-profile websites, including the Forbes, Huffington Post, and LA Weekly, served malware via their ads in that time frame.

Spreading malicious software, or malware, via online advertising networks is commonly referred to as “malvertising,” and, according to Cyphort, is seen by cybercriminals as being particularly effective because compromised ads are visually indistinguishable from safe ads.

The process typically works as follows: Posing as benign advertisers, cybercriminals will initially seed advertising networks with safe ads in order to build trust with the networks and the websites that use these networks. They then periodically insert ads laden with malware, which then infect users’ computers. Infected ads are typically Flash-based, which is partly why so many companies, including Mozilla and Amazon, are phasing out their support of Flash.

In the short term, Cyphort notes that infected ads can be blocked through the use of software like ad blockers like Adblock Plus and uBlock. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 1:26 pm

The Black Lives Matter policy agenda is practical, thoughtful — and urgent

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Very interesting, and it has the potential to make a big difference. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Last week, the leaders of Black Lives Matter* released a series of policy solutions to address police killings, excessive force, profiling and racial discrimination, and other problems in law enforcement, called “Campaign Zero.” Critics and police organizations have portrayed Black Lives Matter as radical, anti-police, and anti-white. But the policies Campaign Zero is pushing are none of those things. Instead, they’re practical, well-thought out, and in most cases, achievable. Most will also directly benefit everyone — not just black people.

In most cases, the policies Campaign Zero is suggesting are already in place in one or more police departments across the country, and Campaign Zero points this out. That’s smart, and I suspect that it will prove to be effective. It makes it more difficult for police groups to portray those proposals as “anti-cop.” But it also makes it easier to pitch those ideas to policymakers and the public. They’ve already been field-tested. As a set, these policies are more a list of “best practices” than revolutionary reform. A few of the proposals will be a tougher sell, but even those are far short of world-shaking. There are no calls to disarm the police. No calls to abolish law enforcement agencies. No demands that police unions be prohibited. This isn’t a fervid manifesto. It’s a serious effort to solve a problem. (Its practicality is undoubtedly born of urgency. There’s no time for wild-eyed ideology when people are dying.)

This isn’t criticism, but praise. These are proposals that will almost certainly have an impact, even if only some of them are implemented. The ideas here are well-researched, supported with real-world evidence and ought to be seriously considered by policymakers at all levels of government.

Here’s a quick rundown: . . .

Continue reading.

A step taken with hope, and a good hope: something that will help us all. And, as Balko points out, these are not mere aspirations, these are things actually being done in some police departments. It’s totally possible.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 1:23 pm

Physicists Make Single-Photon Quantum Logic Gates

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Wow! Michael Byrne of Motherboard reports:

Physicists from the University of Toronto have succeeded in constructing logic gates from single particles of pure light, according to research published in this week’sNature Physics. It’s an accomplishment that not only offers insight into the still rather mysterious world of light particles, but it may have implications for future quantum computers, which depend far more on interactions between individual particles (of light, usually) than our primitive electric current-based conventional computers.

A logic gate is the fundamental building block of any computing machine. In conventional computing schemes, information is served to these gates as high and low currents, representing 1s and 0s. A gate’s job is to take that information and spit out a 1 or 0 in response, again in the form of high and low currents. This is the foundation of everything a computer does: memory, arithmetic, I/O, etc.

The situation in a quantum computer is different. Rather than bits, which represent information as either a 1 or a 0, we have qubits. Qubits offer the possibility of having values that are simultaneous combinations of 1s and 0s, where the two possibilities exist together in quantum superpositions. This offers an enormous leap in computing power, but managing this sort of information isn’t easy.

For one thing, we’re no longer dealing with information represented by bulk collections of particles, e.g. electric current. Information in a quantum computer is instead represented at the level of individual particles. This means that we need to consider some pretty fundamental changes to computing hardware.

“Thanks to modern technologies, it is now quite straightforward to put a single quantum particle like a photon in a superposition of two different states,” Aephraim M. Steinberg, a physicist at the University of Toronto and a study co-author, told me. “But putting a beam of many photons into such a superposition&mash;in which, say, either every single photon is horizontally polarized or every single photon is vertically polarized, but no one in the universe knows which is the case—is precisely analogous to Schrödinger’s famous cat.”

With some many particles at once representing a single qubit, it’s exceedingly likely that one particle will be interfered with in some way, which, in a quantum system, has the effect of “opening the box” and wiping out the superposition and, thus, the qubit.

“If you have a single photon, it can travel nearly 100 kilometers in optical fibre, for instance, before anything happens to it—no one has any information about what state it’s in,” Steinberg explained. “But if there were a million photons, within about 100 millimeters, at least one of them would probably get absorbed—that single event would be enough to destroy the delicate superposition state quantum logic relies upon.” No more superposition, no more information.

And so it’s much more desirable to work with single photons. This has its own difficulties, however, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Science, Technology

Heinz Ketchup today is “tomato seasoning,” not “ketchup”

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Heinz Ketchup contains 21% tomato concentrate. Israel requires ketchup to have 41% tomato concentrate. So in Israel, it’s Heinz Tomato Seasoning.

Story here.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Government

The monetarization of latte art

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It had to happen.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Business

Mindfulness in the classroom: An interesting experiment (not to mention a heartwarming story)

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It’s worth the 8 minutes:

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 11:24 am

Nice kitty

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Turn on the sound:

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 11:11 am

Posted in Cats, Video

iKon Short-Comb Shavecraft, an interesting aftershave, and the alum block works on nicks (if used properly)

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SOTD 25 Aug 2015

Very nice shave today.

Truefitt & Hill is one of the three “T”s of English shaving (the others being Geo. F. Trumper and Taylor of Old Bond Street), and though the reformulation scourge may have hit it as well, this soap is several years old and is excellent. It makes a wonderful lather with a fine traditional lavender fragrance.

The razor is the new iKon Shavecraft Short-Comb, mounted here on a Tradere Above the Tie handle. I got a BBS result in three passes and one nick. I would say this razor is not so comfortable as the Shavecraft #101, which also is (more or less) an open comb. (The #101 is ostensibly asymmetric, but both sides feel the same on the face and it functions like an open comb.) I thought the Short-Comb head might be stainless steel—it has some heft to it—but iKon tells me that “the head is a proprietary hardened aluminum unique to our manufacturing process.” The fit and finish are excellent.

Having at last achieved a nick, I was able to experiment with what I learned about using the alum block as a styptic rather than a skin treatment: press the block against the nick or cut and hold it there for a minute or so. And indeed that worked. I just hadn’t realized how to use it properly. On the whole, I still prefer My Nik Is Sealed—faster acting, easier to apply—but the alum block is definitely an alternative.

I got a sample of Esbjerg Sensitive Aftershave Gel with a recent soap order, so I gave it a go this morning. I like it a lot: excellent fragrance (for me), feels nice on the skin, and is indeed soothing. Worth considering.

I still have some soap collections left: a miscellany of 10 good soaps, lightly used, for $50 with free two-day shipping included in that price (or it’s $40 for the box plus $10 shipping, if you prefer). Email me if you want one to verify that one is available.

Written by Leisureguy

25 August 2015 at 9:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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