Later On

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

Archive for September 27th, 2015

Pope drops ball on clergy’s sexual abuse of children

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He’s trying to recover, but to view (and explicitly state) that the suffering victims of this scandal are the priests and bishops shows an amazing disregard for the actual victims: the children who were raped.

The NY Times has a story on the Pope’s fumble and his belated (and inadequate) attempt at recovery, a story worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 3:26 pm

Amazon Fire TV Stick fix for Netflix

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I have an Amazon Fire TV Stick and over the past couple of days I’ve had buffering problems: about every 2-4 minutes the picture will pause, and I’ll see the little percentages flash by until it’s recaptured the signal or refilled the buffer, then it resumes and repeats.

It makes the picture unwatchable. My speed test showed that I get a 14.5 Mbps download speed, which should be ample. I tried the usual stuff: unplugging the Fire TV Stick for 30 seconds, then plugging it back in, and doing the same thing on the router. I finally called Netflix, and was quickly directed to this page.

I followed the steps and the problem cleared immediately. I’m passing along the fix in case any of you encounter such a problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Technology

Interesting brief discussion about God and how we should relate to God

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Short but insightful: Darin Strauss talks with Erik Kolbell, a writer, psychotherapist, Yale Divinity School graduate, and ordained minister, and the first Minister of Social Justice at Riverside Church in New York City. Kolbell wrote What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Books, Religion

Baltimore police officer in what I would say is a justified shooting

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The Baltimore PD has released a surveillance video (without sound) that shows a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man, who died. In looking at the video and reading what witnesses said, this shooting seems justified: the man who was shot was behaving in a threatening manner and even mimicked drawing a gun (with his hand hidden by his body) and then whipping that hand around to point it at the officer, who (according to witnesses) continually tried to get the suspect to cooperate.

If the police officer had been equipped with a body camera, I imagine the video, shot from the POV of the officer, would show clearly how the suspect’s response looked to the officer: as though the suspect were drawing a weapon.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 10:14 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

A good potted history of how the VW fraud played out

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What seems to be a quartet of writers (but might be a trio with an extra comma), Danny, Hakim, Aaron Kessler, and Jack Ewing, tell a good account of the origins and discovery of the VW fraud. Well worth reading. From the article:

. . . It is not Volkswagen’s first run-in with regulators over emissions. When the United States began regulating tailpipe pollutants in the 1970s, Volkswagen was one of the first companies caught cheating. It was fined $120,000 in 1973 for installing what became known as a “defeat device,” technology to shut down a vehicle’s pollution control systems. This time, it equipped its vehicles with software that was programmed to fake test results, an action the E.P.A. rebuked in 1998, when it reached a $1 billion settlement with truck-engine manufacturers for doing the same thing.

Over the last year, when confronted with evidence that its system was not performing as promised, Volkswagen aggressively pushed back, saying that regulators were not doing the testing properly. . .

And, later in the article:

. . . In 2013, a nonprofit group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, proposed testing on-road diesel emissions from cars in the United States — something never done before.

California regulators decided to team up with the group. They had an attractive chip to offer: the state’s laboratory, where vehicles were tested for California emissions compliance.

The transportation council, staffed by a number of former E.P.A. officials, did not expect to catch Volkswagen, or anyone else, cheating. In fact, it assumed that American diesel cars would run much cleaner than their European counterparts, thanks to stricter United States emissions rules. The group felt that by promoting a success story for diesel, it could pressure — and perhaps shame — automakers in Europe into improving their own emissions.

“We thought we would be seeing some clean vehicles,” said John German, one of the project leads at the council. “That was the whole point when we started.”

It was only by chance that the group’s testing of three vehicles began with two Volkswagens. The researchers already had a BMW X5 and aVolkswagen Jetta — and then a Passat owner happened to see an ad seeking cars for the project and offered up his.

Researchers hit the road, traveling five routes with varying terrain and traffic. Almost immediately, the two Volkswagens set themselves apart from the BMW.

“If you’re idling in traffic for three hours in L.A. traffic, we know a car is not in its sweet spot for good emissions results,” said Arvind Thiruvengadam, a research professor at West Virginia University, which was hired to conduct the tests. “But when you’re going at highway speed at 70 miles an hour, everything should really work properly. The emissions should come down. But the Volkswagens’ didn’t come down.”

It was difficult to know what was going on: When the two Volkswagens were placed on a “car treadmill” known as a dynamometer, they performed flawlessly.

“It just didn’t make sense,” Mr. German said. “That was the real red flag.”

Coming Clean

By 2014, the California regulators determined what to do next. First, they alerted their federal counterparts at the E.P.A. Then, they opened an investigation. “We brought in Volkswagen and showed them our findings,” said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. “We asked them, ‘How do you explain this?’ ”

Volkswagen fired back. “They tried to poke holes in our study and its methods, saying we didn’t know what we were doing,” Mr. Thiruvengadam said. “They were very aggressive.”

The company offered many explanations: Weather conditions. Driving styles. Technicalities that it claimed the researchers and regulators did not understand.

“There was always some story, some reason they’d come up with each time,” Mr. Young said. “Meeting after meeting, they would try to explain it away, and we’d go back to the lab and try again. But we’d get the same results.”

The back-and-forth lasted for months. Finally, in April, Volkswagen made an offer: It would conduct a voluntary recall, or service campaign, to fix the problem in certain model year 2010 to 2014 diesel vehicles.

Regulators got the software update for their test vehicles and returned to the lab. The results were not good. “It didn’t solve the problem,” Mr. Young said.

Confronted again, Volkswagen continued to maintain that there was a problem with the testers, not the vehicles.

California regulators changed tack, examining the company’s software. Modern automobiles operate using millions of lines of computer code. One day last summer, the regulators made a startling discovery: A subroutine, or parallel set of instructions, was secretly being sent by the computer to what seemed to be the emissions controls.

Regulators were floored. Could Volkswagen be trying something similar to what the heavy-truck industry did to manipulate emissions tests in the 1990s?

Regulators set out to cheat the cheat, tweaking lab test parameters to trick the car into thinking it was on the road. The Volkswagens began spewing nitrogen oxide far above the legal limit. . .

Read the whole thing.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 9:55 am

Francis, the perfect Pope for the 19th century

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Maureen Dowd has an excellent column today, and the comments to the column are well worth perusing. The column begins:

After attending a canonization Mass at Catholic University with the pope who rails against the excesses of capitalism, I walked off campus to a festival of capitalism.

Vendors were hawking pope bracelets, buttons and T-shirts.

Excited by seeing the humble black Fiat in person and infused with Papa’s warning against the numbing effects of the “culture of prosperity,” I resisted all sales pitches. Until I got to the last guy.

He was selling blue-and-white T-shirts for $10 with the declaration “Coolest Pope Ever.”

Francis is undeniably cool. He once worked as a nightclub bouncer in Buenos Aires. He got a serenade to “Frank, baby,” from his fan Stephen Colbert. He spurred nuns to have a tailgating party at Catholic U. before his Mass, inspired the Internet to erupt in photos of dogs sporting miters and persuaded a blubbering John Boehner that he would never have a day that good again.

Though Friday was dry, Francis got a rainbow before his triumphant tour of Central Park. And he felicitously leaves the country before the super blood moon Monday morning — considered by some Christians to be a sign of the apocalypse.

Cleaving closer to the teachings of Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, Francis rejected the fancy red slippers of predecessors in favor of plain black shoes. He scorned the papal palace for a suite in the Vatican guesthouse. He ended the fixation on divisive social issues and refocused the church on healing social justice and the Golden Rule.

On Friday, Rolling Stone premiered a single called “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!,” from the coming pop-rock album Francis is dropping in November, sort of a “Shake It Off” for apathy and selfishness.

Yet his very coolness is what makes his reign so hazardous. Watching the rapturous crowds and gushing TV anchors on his American odyssey, we see “the Francis Effect.” His magnetic, magnanimous personality is making the church, so stained by the vile sex abuse scandal, more attractive to people — even though the Vatican stubbornly clings to its archaic practice of treating women as a lower caste.

Pope Francis would be the perfect pontiff — if he lived in the 19th century. But how, in 2015, can he continue to condone the idea that women should have no voice in church decisions?

In a scandal that cascaded for decades with abuses and cover-ups, the church was revealed to be monstrously warped in its attitudes about sex and its sense of right and wrong.

Yet shortly after he was elected, Francis flatly rejected the idea that the institution could benefit from opening itself to the hearts and minds of women. Asked about the issue of female priests, he replied, “The church has spoken and says no,” adding, “That door is closed.”

Francis preaches against the elites while keeping the church an elite boys’ club.

Cleaving closer to the teachings of Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, Francis rejected the fancy red slippers of predecessors in favor of plain black shoes. He scorned the papal palace for a suite in the Vatican guesthouse. He ended the fixation on divisive social issues and refocused the church on healing social justice and the Golden Rule.

On Friday, Rolling Stone premiered a single called “Wake Up! Go! Go! Forward!,” from the coming pop-rock album Francis is dropping in November, sort of a “Shake It Off” for apathy and selfishness.

Yet his very coolness is what makes his reign so hazardous. Watching the rapturous crowds and gushing TV anchors on his American odyssey, we see “the Francis Effect.” His magnetic, magnanimous personality is making the church, so stained by the vile sex abuse scandal, more attractive to people — even though the Vatican stubbornly clings to its archaic practice of treating women as a lower caste.

Pope Francis would be the perfect pontiff — if he lived in the 19th century. But how, in 2015, can he continue to condone the idea that women should have no voice in church decisions?

In a scandal that cascaded for decades with abuses and cover-ups, the church was revealed to be monstrously warped in its attitudes about sex and its sense of right and wrong.

Yet shortly after he was elected, Francis flatly rejected the idea that the institution could benefit from opening itself to the hearts and minds of women. Asked about the issue of female priests, he replied, “The church has spoken and says no,” adding, “That door is closed.”

Francis preaches against the elites while keeping the church an elite boys’ club. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 9:14 am

Posted in Religion

Virtual reality helps one walk in another’s shoes: cf. street harassment

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Kari Paul reports at Motherboard:

The constant barrage of verbal harassment that women endure day-to-day is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, but a new virtual reality program seeks to simulate exactly how pervasive it can be.

Through Compliment, a new immersive VR adventure created by Parsons MFA student Lucy Bonner, anybody can walk down the street as a woman and experience the harassment that ensues firsthand. Bonner was inspired to create the project after she moved to Brooklyn and was confronted with an overwhelming amount of daily catcalls.

She found that when she simply explained what was happening to friends, many were incredulous––it was clear they had never experienced anything similar for themselves.

“They were surprised by the regularity, pervasiveness, and severity of my harassment experiences, and wanted to dismiss it as just something that has to be dealt with,” she wrote of the project on her site. “Perhaps if they experienced it themselves they would be a little less quick to dismiss this constant and pervasive intrusion on women’s lives.”

She taught herself 3D development tool Unity for the project, which was her first in virtual reality. The project is uncannily realistic. When I tried on the Oculus and walked through Bonner’s Compliment world, I felt like I was reliving my walk to work that day.

“I wanted to make it as realistic as possible,” she told Motherboard. “Every piece of harassment that is in Compliment is something that has been said to me.”

Bonner replicated an endless parade of men shouting lewd comments, grunting, smacking, or whistling, and purposely made the point of view of the simulation from a relatively short person’s perspective.

“I designed the point of view to be small so you get a sense of the vulnerability you often feel in those situations,” she said. “A lot of men said the height thing really got to them, because that is something you can’t really experience as a six foot tall guy.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2015 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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