Later On

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

Archive for December 12th, 2015

My small chili recipe

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I make this in a 2-qt sauté pan.

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium or 1/2 large onion, chopped
salt (about 1 tsp)

Sauté for about 10 minutes, then stir in:

4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 link of sausage, about 4-6 oz, chopped—uncooked beef chorizo today, cooked garlic sausage tomorrow

Sauté until meat is browned. Add:

1 can Ro-Tel chopped tomatoes with green chili (or store brand equivalent)
1 4-oz can diced mild green chili
1 16-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle
1 square 100% cacao baking chocolate
1 packet Starbucks instant coffee
1 tsp soy sauce
2-3 Tbsp chia seed

Cover and simmer 20 minutes covered. 2-3 servings.

It’s quick, easy, and tasty. The chia seed, in addition to nutritional value, thickens the chili. Measurements are mostly by eye.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2015 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

What Happens When Computers Learn to Read Books?

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Caleb Garling writes in Pricenomics:

In Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Cat’s Cradle, the character Claire Minton has the most fantastic ability; simply by reading the index of the book, she can deduce almost every biographical detail about the author. From scanning a sample of text in the index, she is able to figure out with near certainty that a main character in the book is gay (and therefore unlikely to marry his girlfriend). Claire Minton knows this because she is a professional indexer of books.

And that’s what computers are today — professional indexers of books.

Give a computer a piece of text from the 1950s, and based on the frequency of just fifteen words, the machine will be able to tell you whether the race of the author is white or black. That’s the claim from two researchers at the University of Chicago, Hoyt Long and Richard So, who deploy complicated algorithms to examine huge bodies of text. They feed the machine thousands of scanned novels-worth of data, which it analyzes for patterns in the language — frequency, presence, absence and combinations of words — and then they test big questions about literary style. 

“The machine can always — with greater than a 95 percent accuracy — separate white and black writers,” So says. “That’s how different their language is.”

This is just an example. The group is digging deeper on other questions of race in literature but isn’t ready to share the findings yet. In this case, minority writers represent a tiny fraction of American literature’s canonical text. They hope that by shining a spotlight at unreviewed, unpublished or forgotten authors — now easier to identify with digital tools — or by simply approaching popular texts with different examination techniques, they can shake up conventional views on American literature. Though far from a perfect tool, scholars across the digital humanities are increasingly training big computers on big collections of text to answer and pose new questions about the past.

“We really need to consider rewriting American literary history when we look at things at scale,” So says.

Who Made Whom

A culture’s corpus of celebrated literature functions like its Facebook profile. Mob rule curates what to teach future generations and does so with certain biases. It’s not an entirely nefarious scheme. According to Dr. So, people can only process about 200 books. We can only compare a few at a time. So all analysis is reductive. The novel changed our relationship with complicated concepts like superiority or how we relate to the environment. Yet we needed to describe — and communicate — those huge shifts with mere words. 

In machine learning, algorithms process reams of data on a particular topic or question. This eventually allows a computer to recognize certain patterns, whether that means spotting tumors, cycles in the weather or a quirk of the stock market. Over the last decade this has given rise to the digital humanities, where professors with large corpuses of text — or any data, really — use computers to develop hard metrics for areas that might be previously seen as more abstract.

Ted Underwood at the University of Illinois specializes in 19th century literature. He oncetook on economist Thomas Piketty’s claim that financial descriptions fell from fiction after 1914 due to a devaluation of money after the World Wars — and using machine analysis, seemed to prove the celebrated economist wrong. But Underwood’s work primarily uses computers to understand how genre has evolved over time.

He tests how the machine matches books against thousands of already-scanned books within a genre. Detective stories? Easy. The general cadence of the plot — the crime, the interrogation, the resolution — has stayed fairly consistent since the genre began. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2015 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Books, Software, Technology

Martin Shkreli Plans To Hike Up the Price for Another Life-Saving Drug, This Time for Poor People

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Martin Shkreli seems to be a highly successful sociopath. Melissa Cronin reports on his latest scheme to squeeze the poor. (The poor are vulnerable and lack the resources to fight back, so they become the natural target of a certain sort of personality—cf. the St. Louis County court system.)

Martin Shkreli, a man who holds the title “most hated” in the disparate fields ofhealth care and rap, is back to his usual tricks: ratcheting up the price of life-saving medications and generally being vile.

Shkreli set his sights on a drug that fights Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that affects 6 to 7 million people, many of them poor. Last month, Shkreli took control of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, a company that sells benznidazole, a common treatment for Chagas disease. According to The New York Times, Shkreli plans to take advantage of a federal program that awards vouchers to develop drugs that one company can then sell to another for millions. From the Times:

Mr. Shkreli said on a conference call with KaloBios investors last week that if the company won F.D.A. approval for benznidazole, it would have exclusive rights to sell it in the United States for at least five years. He said the price would be similar to that of hepatitis C drugs, which cost $60,000 to nearly $100,000 for a course of treatment.

Right now in Latin America, where Chagas disease is most common, the typical treatment costs $50 to $100. In the U.S., benznidazole is given out free on an experimental basis to the few cases that crop up.

People are usually infected with Chagas disease by getting bit by a blood-sucking insect. If untreated, the disease can be life-threatening.

But Shkreli, who made headlines earlier this year after he pulled a similar stunt with Daraprim, another dug to fight a parasitic infection, is more likely to sell the voucher to develop the drug than actually develop it himself, given that there’s a very small market in the U.S., a way to profit off life-saving medications while not actually helping the people who suffer from them.

Here are some of the ways that scientists the Times spoke to described Shkreli’s latest venture: “an abuse of the system” and “pretty devastating.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2015 at 10:29 am

Posted in Business, Medical

Fear and Worry in the USA

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The USA is simultaneously the most powerful nation and also the most fearful. (Compare, for example, the US response and the Canadian response to the Syrian refugees. The US is too frightened to accept people who need help; Canada offers them a warm welcome.) In the Atlantic James Fallows points out two excellent articles on the situation we find ourselves in:

I found these two articles worth reading, about the current political mood.

1) “Inside the GOP: Report on focus groups with Evangelical, Tea Party, and moderate Republicans.” This report in PDF, from Stan Greenburg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert for Democracy Corps, is two years old but seems very fresh. It is about the “we’re losing our country!” sentiment that is now buoying the Trump movement, and about related cleavages within the GOP. Obviously it comes from Democratic consultants, but I found it very clarifying as reportage. Thanks to Rich Yeselson for the lead. Here’s a word cloud from the report that sums up its findings from Tea Party and other conservative focus groups:

Word cloud

2) “Obama’s Address: The Truth But Not the Whole Truth,” by Robert E. Hunter.  Over the years I’ve often pointed to Hunter’s analyses for their common-sense and sophisticated appraisal of long-term U.S. interests. This one parallels the discussion in our Chickenhawk Thread about the tensions between the logic of President Obama’s recent anti-ISIS speech — which I found compelling, and with which Hunter also agrees — and the political / media response for a more emotional response to the latest terrorist attacks.

The whole piece is worth reading, but here is a sample: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2015 at 9:24 am

#102 and QED’s new shaving soap (with The Copper Hat’s wonderful brush)

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SOTD 12 Dec 2015

An extremely nice shave today. The Copper Hat shaving brush I like more and more. As I’ve previously noted, the handle is molded of Delrin®, a dense, tough plastic often used to make gears. had an excellent of extremely good glycerin-based shaving soaps, but their soapmaker retired and for a while they had no soaps. The soaps are back, using the sort of formulation more popular nowadays. This one, for example, is made of

shea butter, kokum butter, palm oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, vegetable glycerin, and clay, combined with an exhilarating refreshing blend of spearmint, orange, and lavender essential oils (that not only provide a subtle delightful scent but are purported to be antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and toning). The formula is cruelty-free (neither made from, nor tested on, animals) and vegan.

The fragrance is wonderful—an excellent combination, as it turns out—and the soap made a fine lather, though I will note that it is an exceptionally thirsty soap, perhaps because of the clay. I had to add a fair amount of water, a driblet at a time, as I loaded the soap.

One novice mistake: the label is not waterproof, so the printing will be gone after a few more shaves. Other soapmakers have run into this, but they eventually bite the bullet and get waterproof labels.

The shave with the #102 was its usual excellent self. The comfort level of this razor is quite high, so it almost feels as though you’re shaving without a blade, but then after the second pass you discover that your face is already BBS in large areas. AFter the third pass, ATG, the result for me using the #102 is almost always a perfect BBS result, with no nicks and no burn. So it was today as well.

A good splash of Stetson Classic aftershave, and the weekend is launched. I note that has not yet run out of the #102. (And note you can buy just the head, for $45.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2015 at 9:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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