Later On

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

Archive for September 9th, 2016

SRSLY: Homes for the Old Need to Learn New Tricks

leave a comment »

David Epstein of ProPublica explains the idea of the SRSLY series:

Welcome to SRSLY, an (experimental) newsletter highlighting under-exposed accountability journalism. We’ll distill the important information from investigative reporting you probably missed, and deliver it to you in three-minutes-or-less worth of reading. Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox. (You can, of course, unsubscribe at the first whiff of a bad joke.)

This one is worth reading:

Pearl S. Buck said that “our society must make it right for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is in the way that it cares for its helpless members.” Hubert Humphrey put it differently, suggesting that “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life.” Figures from Gandhi to Winston Churchill weighed in similarly. Point being: a lot of people who are super good at quotes think we ought to treat the elderly with special respect. And, in a nice break from election news, there is some evidence we’re doing a bit of that. According to the Dallas Morning News, infractions for deficient care in nursing homes decreased by 8 percent nationally between 2010 and 2014. In Texas, however, infractions increased 20 percent over that same period. Your four Ws:

What?

… the heck is going on with Texas?? (And I’m not just asking because the Washington Post reported that it’s now a swing state. If you saw that one coming, time for a vacay to Vegas.) The Dallas Morning News reported that Texas’s 1,200 nursing homes also reported 3 percent more “severe deficiencies” in nursing home care from 2010 to 2014 — the kind that might lead to serious injury of residents — while the national number declined 16 percent.

Why?

The usual suspect: money. The new figures come from a report commissioned by the Texas Health Care Association, a trade group for nursing homes, which is concerned about a “crisis” in state funding. The Morning News reported that this is particularly notable, given the association’s “traditional reticence” to openly discuss nursing home inspections. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s nursing home residents are on Medicaid and Texas Medicaid reimbursements “are near the bottom in the U.S.” The lack of funding has left Texas nursing home residents with less attention from staff than is the case in other states. Texas nursing home residents get 3.59 hours of attention from staff per day, compared to 4.64 hours in Florida, which has far fewer “immediate jeopardy” infractions, the kind that “if unabated, will cause serious harm or death,” the Morning News says.

What now? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 2:08 pm

The Math Myth

leave a comment »

Bryan Caplan at the Library of Economics and Liberty, has an essay by math professor David Simon:

The math myth is the myth that the future of the American economy is dependent upon the masses having higher mathematics skills. This myth goes back to at least Sputnik, when the Russians were going to surpass us because they were better in math and science. It returned in the late 80’s when the Germans and Japanese were going to surpass us because they were better in math and science. It’s occurring again now because the Indians and Chinese are better than us in math and science.

I find it difficult to find anyone who uses more than Excel and eighth grade level mathematics (=arithmetic, and a little bit of algebra, statistics and programming). In the summer of 2007 I taught an advanced geometry course and had two students in the class who had been engineers and one who had been an actuary. They claimed never to have used anything beyond Excel and eighth grade level mathematics; never a trig function or even a log or exponential function! There is in fact a deskilling going on in our economy, where even the ability to make change is about to disappear as an important skill.

Vivek Wadhwa has described how there’s no shortage of scientists and engineers. I’ve been concerned with what skills those who are working as scientists and engineers actually use. I find that the vast majority of scientists, engineers and actuaries only use Excel and eighth grade level mathematics. This suggests that most jobs that currently require advanced technical degrees are using that requirement simply as a filter. In particular, I’m working on documenting the following:

Math Myth Conjecture: If one restricts one’s attention to the hardest cases, namely, graduates of top engineering schools such as MIT,  RPI,  Cal. Tech., Georgia Tech., etc., then the percent of such individuals holding engineering as opposed to management, financial or other positions, and using more than Excel and eighth grade level mathematics (arithmetic, a little bit of algebra, a little bit of statistics, and a little bit of programming) is less than 25% and possibly less than 10%.

This is a conjecture that desperately needs resolving with solid statistics and in-depth interviews.

Actually,  I’m already totally convinced of the veracity of the conjecture. This conviction is based upon the numerous scientists, engineers, and professors of science, engineering and math education that I’ve communicated with. In particular, Prof. Warren Seering, an engineering professor at MIT, who does surveys of their graduates, agreed with the conjecture. As did Prof. Julie Gainsburg, an ethnographer of mathematics in the workplace, whose done on-site work with structural engineers.

The following story also confirms the conjecture. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math

Weird and sort of sad: A kind of desert-island ant colony

leave a comment »

Annalee Newitz writes in Ars Technica:

For the past several years, a group of researchers has been observing a seemingly impossible wood ant colony living in an abandoned nuclear weapons bunker in Templewo, Poland, near the German border. Completely isolated from the outside world, these members of the speciesFormica polyctena have created an ant society unlike anything we’ve seen before.

The Soviets built the bunker during the Cold War to store nuclear weapons, sinking it below ground and planting trees on top as camouflage. Eventually a massive colony of wood ants took up residence in the soil over the bunker. There was just one problem: the ants built their nest directly over a vertical ventilation pipe. When the metal covering on the pipe finally rusted away, it left a dangerous, open hole. Every year when the nest expands, thousands of worker ants fall down the pipe and cannot climb back out. The survivors have nevertheless carried on for years underground, building a nest from soil and maintaining it in typical wood ant fashion. Except, of course, that this situation is far from normal.

Polish Academy of Sciences zoologist Wojciech Czechowski and his colleagues discovered the nest after a group of other zoologists found that bats were living in the bunker. Though it was technically not legal to go inside, the bat researchers figured out a way to squeeze into the small, confined space and observe the animals inside. Czechowski’s team followed suit when they heard that the place was swarming with ants. What they found, over two seasons of observation, was a group of almost a million worker ants whose lives are so strange that they hesitate to call them a “colony” in the observations they just published in The Journal of Hymenoptera. Because conditions in the bunker are so harsh, constantly cold, and mostly barren, the ants seem to live in a state of near-starvation. They produce no queens, no males, and no offspring. The massive group tending the nest is entirely composed of non-reproductive female workers, supplemented every year by a new rain of unfortunate ants falling down the ventilation shaft.

Like most ant species, wood ants are tidy animals who remove waste from their colony. In the case of the bunker ants, most of this waste is composed of dead bodies. The researchers speculate that mortality in the “colony” is likely much higher than under normal circumstances. “Flat parts of the earthen mound [of the nest] and the floor of the adjacent spaces … were carpeted with bodies of dead ants,” write Czechowski and colleagues. This “ant cemetery” was a few centimeters thick in places, and “one cubic decimeter sample contained [roughly] 8,000 corpses,” which led the researchers to suggest that there were likely 2 million dead ants piled around the nest mound. The sheer numbers of dead bodies suggest that this orphaned wood ant nest has been active for many years.

The ant graveyard is also host to a tiny ecosystem, where . . .

Continue reading.

There’s a science-fiction short story in there someplac

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Science

A whistle-blower accuses Koch brothers of “poisoning” an Arkansas town

leave a comment »

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker:

In June, Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, launched a new corporate public-relations campaign called “End the Divide,” to advance the notion that Koch Industries is deeply concerned by growing inequality in America. An ad for the campaign urges viewers to “look around,” as an image of an imposing white mansion is replaced by one of blighted urban streets. “America is divided,” an announcer intones, with “government and corporations picking winners and losers, rigging the system against people, creating a two-tiered society with policies that fail our most vulnerable.”

The message was surprising, coming from a company owned by two of the richest men in the world, who have spent millions of dollars pushing political candidates and programs that favor unfettered markets and oppose government intervention on behalf of the poor. But no trouble appeared to have been spared in the commercial’s creation. It features a cast of downtrodden Americans of all colors and creeds. To portray corporate greed, it includes a shot of a Wall Street sign, followed by a smug businessman looking down at the camera, dressed in a flashy suit and tie. But, according to Dickie Guice, who worked as a safety coördinator at a large Koch-owned paper plant in Arkansas, the company need not have gone to such lengths. Instead of scouting America for examples of social neglect, the Kochs could have turned the cameras on their own factory.

This summer, Guice decided to speak out about the paper mill in Crossett, a working-class town of some fifty-two hundred residents ten miles north of the Louisiana border.* The mill is run by the paper giant Georgia-Pacific, which has been owned by Koch Industries since 2005. According to E.P.A. records, it emits more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals each year, including numerous known carcinogens. Georgia-Pacific says that it has permits to operate the mill as it does, and disputes that it is harming local health and safety. But as far back as the nineteen-nineties, people living near the plant have described noxious odors and corrosive effluents that have forced them to stay indoors, as well as what seems to them unusually high rates of illness and death. Speaking by phone from his home, in Sterlington, Louisiana, Guice pointed the finger directly at the mill’s owners, and described a corporate coverup of air and water pollution that he says is “poisoning” the predominantly African-American community.

Guice made his début as a whistle-blower in a new documentary film, “Company Town,” about the pollution of Crossett, which premièred in June at the L.A. Film Festival. Natalie Kottke-Masocco, the film’s director, and Erica Sardarian, its co-director, spent some five years in Crossett, and over time they coaxed Guice to go on camera. “I was warned that I’d never get hired again,” he told me, when I asked why he was coming forward. “But I thought, What the heck, what are they going to do, kill me? It had to be done.”

As Guice tells it, he started working at the Crossett plant in February, 2011, when Larco Inc., a local heavy-equipment and construction firm, where he worked, was contracted by Georgia-Pacific to handle disposal of the paper plant’s waste. According to Guice, the contract called for his company to spread two hundred thousand cubic yards of “ash” dredged from the Georgia-Pacific paper mill’s sediment ponds across four hundred acres of property that it owned in the town. He says that Georgia-Pacific supervisors told him to spread the waste in layers in pits that were sometimes forty feet deep, and then to cover it with six inches of dirt, “so that it looked like a regular piece of land.” The land often flooded, Guice told me, and runoff would flow into trenches that fed into a local creek, which ran behind a residential area. He said that Georgia-Pacific would also dump “big plastic tanks” of untreated liquid waste. “It looks like brown liquor,” he said. “And steam comes up from it, sometimes all day.” Within a few months of starting at the paper plant, Guice said that he fell ill from exposure to the waste, developing respiratory problems. “My doctor told me to get out of there,” he said. “But I needed that job.”

After a year, Guice, who has a certification from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration in environmental safety, was promoted to the position of safety coördinator, again as a Larco contractor to Georgia-Pacific. In his new post, he was given air-quality monitoring equipment, which he told me showed “deadly levels of hydrogen sulfide,” a foul-smelling, colorless gas that has proven carcinogenic to rats and mice. Guice took measurements in the morning, midday, and evening, and documented them all. When he told the Georgia-Pacific supervisors that he was getting readings so high that they indicated a potential for immediate illness and death, he says the company blamed his equipment. After he protested this, they offered to build a roof over the fields where the waste was being spread, but he told them that this would be like building a toxic gas chamber. “They told me it was my problem. They knew it was dangerous, but their attitude was: keep your mouth shut, do the job, and don’t get in anyone’s business,” according to Guice. Eventually, a company official took her own readings, which he says confirmed his own. At this point, the company decided to build a huge stainless-steel chain-link fence around the perimeter of its property, “so you can’t see where the work is,” he told me. Once he was able to get employment elsewhere, Guice, who had been contacted by the filmmakers behind “Company Town,” decided to blow the whistle.

Reached for comment, Kelly Ferguson, the director of public affairs for Georgia-Pacific, said that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 9:34 am

Weber DLC with UFO handle goes to auction

leave a comment »

DLC side

I feel sure there must be some team that uses these colors, and the razor would make a fine gift for a fan of the team. It’s now listed on eBay.

This one I got immediately after Weber brought them to market. The DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) coating is tough and slice and is used on engine parts, for example.

UFO handles are difficult to obtain, but I see on his web site that he will have more on sale on Sept 11.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 9:03 am

Posted in Shaving

Wickham Garden Mint, a Vie-Long, and the RazoRock Old Type

leave a comment »

SOTD 2016-09-09

Wickham’s Super Smooth Garden Mint is a wonderful soap: easy to lather, effective, and carrying the fragrance of spearmint. With the Vie-Long horsehair brush shown, I enjoyed the entire lather process, and then the RazoRock Old Type did a fine job. It’s both very comfortable and very efficient and costs just $15. The handle is quite nice: solid and grippy.

Three passes, BBS result, and a splash of Van Yulay After Dark aftershave splash. A good way to end the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 September 2016 at 8:42 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: