Later On

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

Archive for September 27th, 2016

Phoenix Artisan misunderstanding

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As recently as today, a couple of comments on Wicked_Edge went into a familiar rant: that the proprietor of Phoenix Artisan posed as a veteran and thus we must downvote any favorable mention of his company or products: the Internet lends itself to that sort of cybermob, and of course anonymity is a factor as well.

As you know, rumors are so common on the Internet that there are several sites like and that exist solely to rebut the various false rumors. But it is inevitable that this will happen. The nature of memes is that there is some variation as the meme (and its variants and their variants, etc.) are copied/repeated. Darwinian law applies in the meme struggle for survival, and the meme that reproduces most dominates. In the Darwinian/survival sense, that version is a “better” meme—that is, more likely to be repeated. However, as you can see (scroll down), does not mean that the highly successful meme-variant actually corresponds to the truth. Its success is derived from its fecundity of reproducing (being repeated), not from its truth (which, from a meme point of view, is irrelevant—the meme is fighting to survive, and only the most repeatable variants will succeed. The “better”  meme is just a meme that propagates well—and in this case, that is not the meme of what actually happened (as you see—scroll down). One of the two memes just does better in the memeverse.

UPDATE: Other examples of memes that are highly successful at propagating despite being false: childhood vaccines cause autism and global warming is a hoax.

UPDATE 2: Someone on Wicked_Edge got the impression that this stuff about memes is something I created. Regular readers know that memes have been of interest to me for a while, and memetics is in fact a subject of study, not something I made up. I do find that it provides a look at how human culture evolves that seems valid to me, but I make no claim for originality or authority in discussing memes. For those interested, here is a brief reading list:

Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene, chapter 11 is where “meme” was first defined and introduced.
Susan Blackmore: The Meme Machine
Rober Aunger (editor): Darwinizing Culture: The Status of Memetics as a Science
Richard Brodie: Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme
Tim Tyler: Memetics: Memes and the Science of Cultural Evolution

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 6:22 pm

Stop-and-frisk: Trump made four claims about it in the debate, all four wrong

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Kevin Drum has a short and well-written post (with a chart) that shows how very wrong/uninformed Donald Trump is. Ignorance can bestow confidence, betraying the fool.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 5:23 pm

Win, Lose, or Draw: U.S. Special Operations Command Details Dismal U.S. Military Record

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Nick Turse reports at

Winning: it’s written into the DNA of the U.S.A.  After all, what’s more American than football legend Vince Lombardi’s famous (if purloinedmaxim: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”?

Americans expect to be number one.  First Lady Michelle Obama recently called the United States the “greatest country on Earth.” (Take that, world public opinion, and your choice of Germany!) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went even further, touting America as “the greatest country that has ever been created.”  Her rival, Donald Trump, who for political gain badmouths the country that made him rich and famous, does so in the hope of returning America to supposedly halcyon days of unparalleled greatness.  He’s predicted that his presidency might lead to an actual winning overload.  “We’re going to win so much,” he told supporters.  “You’re going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President… don’t win so much’… And I’m going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again… We’re gonna keep winning.’”

As Trump well knows, Americans take winning very seriously.  Look no further than the U.S. gold medal count at the recent Rio Olympics: 46. The next highest total?  Great Britain’s 27, almost 20 fewer than those of the country whose upstart rebels bested them in the eighteenth century, the nation’s ur-victory.  The young United States then beat back the Brits in the early 1800s, and twice bailed them out in victorious world wars during the twentieth century.

In the intervening years, the U.S. built up a gaudy military record —slaughtering native tribes, punishing Mexico, pummeling Spain — but the best was yet to come.  “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” boasted President Barack Obama in this year’s State of the Union address.  In this he echoed his predecessor, George W. Bush, who, in May 2001, declared that “America today has the finest [military] the world has ever seen.”

In the years between those two moments of high-flown rhetoric, the United States military fought in nine conflicts, according to a 2015 briefing produced by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the umbrella organization for America’s most elite forces including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets.  The record of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, according to SOCOM: zero wins, two losses, and seven ties.

This dismal record is catalogued in a briefing slide produced by SOCOM’s Intelligence Directorate last September and obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act.  “A Century of War and Gray Zone Challenges” — a timeline of conflicts ranked as wins, losses, and ties — examines the last 100 years of America’s wars and interventions.

“Gray zone” is an increasingly popular term of the trade for operations conducted somewhere on the continuum between war and peace.  “Traditional war is the paradigm,” the briefing slide asserts.  “Gray zone conflict is the norm.”

While he finds a great deal to fault in SOCOM’s analysis, retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, believes its assessment of post-9/11 conflicts “is quite accurate.”  Although American politicians like Hillary Clinton regularly insist that the U.S. possesses “the greatest military” on the planet, they avoid addressing the question of what the country’s armed interventions have actually accomplished when it comes to policy goals — the true measure of success in war.  “We have not shown an ability to achieve our stated political aims in a conclusive way at an acceptable cost,” Bacevich says.  “That’s simply a fact.”


The Greatest Journeyman Military in History?

Twelve wins and nine losses.  In baseball, it’s the annual record of a journeyman pitcher like Bill Caudill of the Seattle Mariners in 1982, Dave LaPoint of the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1983, or Norm Charlton of the Cincinnati Reds in 1990, to mention just three examples.  It’s certainly not the record of an ace.

Likewise, 12 victories and nine losses is a far-from-dazzling stat when it comes to warfare, especially for a nation that prides itself on its martial prowess.   But that was the SOCOM Intelligence Directorate’s assessment of the last century of American war: 12 and 9 with a mind-boggling 43 “ties.”

Among those 64 conflicts, the command counts just five full-fledged wars in which the U.S. has come up with three wins (World War I, World War II, and Desert Storm), one loss (Vietnam), and one tie (Korea).  In the gray zone — what SOCOM calls “the norm” when it comes to conflict — the record is far bleaker, the barest of winning percentages at 9 victories, 8 losses, and 42 draws. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 11:33 am

Posted in Government, Military

Baffling statement about the election

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Emma Roller has a column in the NY Times about last night’s debate. From the column, quoting Mr. Lipina:

“Who do I hope will win? Donald Trump.”

He said that while his own political philosophy aligns more with Mr. Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, he wants anyone but Mrs. Clinton to win because he finds her untrustworthy.

I cannot understand how anyone could view Donald Trump as trustworthy. He lies constantly, changes his story frequently, hides his federal tax return, declare bankruptcy repeatedly, refuses to pay his contractors for work that they’ve performed, and so on. Those are not the actions of a trustworthy person. But Mr. Lipina doesn’t like the “untrustworthy” Clinton and so will vote for Trump.

Our country is becoming very weird, it seems to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 11:25 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Structure evolves from dramatic ideas, not from filling in a template

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A very interesting post by Bruce Adolphe at the Oxford University Press blog:

The sonata concept served some of the greatest imaginations in the history of music, but seriously it is, as I like to say to students, “so not a form.” Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms were not in need of a standardized template, and in essence what has come to be called sonata form is more like courtroom procedure: a process that allows for an infinite variety of stories to be unfold, from a fender bender to vandalism to murder.

Musical form is the result of content, not the other way around. Teaching and understanding composition should be about the use of musical vocabulary to communicate a drama: the drama comes first, the form evolves.

Students who have been taught to think of music as a series of forms into which composers pour their ideas, will have difficulty composing. Instead of bringing the “form” to life, as they desire to do, they build a scaffold and hang a motif by the neck till dead. The remedy for this is to teach the process rather than emphasize the blueprint: dramatic narrative grows the structure.

The way we teach composition can inspire creativity or dull it. For example, here are three ways to give a composition assignment:

  1. Imagine you are in the audience at a concert hall. A pianist comes on stage and plays a violent opening phrase. Then, the music builds in unpredictable thrilling rhythms and suddenly stops. This is followed by a quiet, reflective passage based on the opening, which then swiftly builds to an electrifying climax. You love the music! Write down what you can.
  2. Imagine you are waiting for a train and suddenly a man violently pushes people around on the platform and then runs off and cannot be found. Someone who was hurt cries softly and then the violent man returns! Use this scenario to write a piano solo.
  3. Write an ABA structure for piano solo that begins with a unison theme in forte; continue it with varied dynamics and shifting rhythmic patterns. Follow this with a piano contrasting B section and then a return of the A music with an appropriate coda.

The three assignments above all describe ABA forms. The first is about imagining music as if you are an excited listener, a perspective that can set your imagination free.The second version is dramatic scenario to be portrayed musically. The scenario happens to be in a form we could call ABA, but it is described only as a human drama.

The third version is a typical assignment, and rather dull — and is actually hard to do because one does not feel inspired or motivated. And, worst of all, it feels like a test. Learning about form is dull and meaningless if the way content drives form is missing from the method.

To make a personal statement about form, I will write here about my recently premiered piano concerto. In this work, which I composed in 2013 and which was first performed this past summer (10 July 2016) by the Italian pianist Carlo Grante with maestro Fabio Luisi conducting the Zürich Philharmonia, all my decisions about form were the result of one dramatic idea: the emotional conflicts and struggles that people who suffer from bipolar disorder must endure. It seemed to me that a piano concerto could embody opposing states of mind, with the solo piano representing the sufferer, and the orchestra taking a variety of roles: an amplification of the piano personality in the first movement; a sympathetic psychiatrist in the second movement; and in the third movement, society itself — fast-paced, indifferent, anonymous.

At no time in the process of composing this work, did I consider form as separate from the message of the drama. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 11:18 am

The Iraq War evaluated from the British side

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In the NY Review of Books Goeffrey Wheatcroft has a very interesting review of three recent books on Britain’s part in the Iraq War failure, one of which is the Chilcot Report. The review is definitely worth reading. The review begins:

How did it happen? By now it is effortless to say that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by American and British forces was the most disastrous—and disgraceful—such intervention of our time. It’s also well-nigh pointless to say so: How many people reading this would disagree? For Americans, Iraq is their worst foreign calamity since Vietnam (although far more citizens of each country were killed than were Americans); for the British, it’s the worst at least since Suez sixty years ago this autumn, though really much worse on every score, from political dishonesty to damage to the national interest to sheer human suffering.

Although skeptics wondered how much more the very-long-awaited Report of the Iraq Inquiry by a committee chaired by Sir John Chilcot could tell us when it appeared at last in July, it proves to contain a wealth of evidence and acute criticism, the more weighty for its sober tone and for having the imprimatur of the official government publisher. In all, it is a further and devastating indictment not only of Tony Blair personally but of a whole apparatus of state and government, Cabinet, Parliament, armed forces, and, far from least, intelligence agencies.

Among its conclusions the report says that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein; that the British “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted”; that military action “was not a last resort”; that when the United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said weeks before the invasion that he “had not found any weapons of mass destruction and the items that were not accounted for might not exist,” Blair wanted Blix “to harden up his findings.”

The report also found that deep sectarian divisions in Iraq “were exacerbated by…de Ba’athification and…demobilisation of the Iraqi army”; that Blair was warned by his diplomats and ministers of the “inadequacy of U.S. plans” for Iraq after the invasion, and of what they saw as his “inability to exert significant influence on U.S. planning”; and that “there was no collective discussion of the decision by senior Ministers,” who were regularly bypassed and ignored by Blair.

And of course claims about Iraqi WMDs were presented by Downing Street in a way that “conveyed certainty without acknowledging the limitations of the intelligence,” which is putting it generously. Chilcot stops short of saying directly that the invasion was illegal or that Blair lied to Parliament, but he is severe on the shameful collusion of the British intelligence agencies, and on the sinister way in which Blair’s attorney general changed his opinion about the legality of the invasion.

Planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam “were wholly inadequate,” Chilcot says, and “the people of Iraq have suffered greatly.” Those might seem like statements of the blindingly obvious, as does the solemn verdict that the invasion “failed to achieve the goals it had set for a new Iraq.” It did more than merely fail, and not only was every reason we were given for the war falsified; every one of them has been stood on its head. Extreme violence in Iraq precipitated by the invasion metastasized into the hideous conflict in neighboring Syria and the implosion of the wider region, the exact opposite of that birth of peaceable pro-Western democracy that proponents of the invasion had insisted would come about. While Blair at his most abject still says that all these horrors were unforeseeable, Chilcot makes clear that they were not only foreseeable, but widely foreseen.

Nor are those the only repercussions. Chilcot coyly says that “the widespread perception”—meaning the correct belief—that Downing Street distorted the intelligence about Saddam’s weaponry has left a “damaging legacy,” undermining trust and confidence in politicians. It is not fanciful to see the Brexit vote, the disruption of the Labour Party, and the rise of Donald Trump among those consequences, all part of the revulsion across the Western world against elites and establishments that were so discredited by Iraq. And so how could it have happened? . . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 10:59 am

Part 6 of “Where did the money go?”: Were paper losses the goal all along?

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David Dayen continues his interesting series of big-corporation criminality in The Intercept. The blurb for the latest installment:

If your goal is to launder money through a brokerage account, paper losses are worth serious money. Buying imaginary shares of a stock guaranteed to lose value is an awesome way to do that. You just need someone to set it up.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 10:47 am

That vaunted Apple concern for the customer seems to be fading

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Just read this article on the iPhone 6 touchscreen disease. Charging $329 to replace a phone that fails due to bad design doesn’t seem all that customer-oriented to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 10:15 am

Posted in Business, Technology

The RazoRock Old Type is a terrific razor—and costs $15

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SOTD 2016-09-27

This morning I again noted the excellence of the RazoRock Old Type ($15 from Italian Barber): a very comfortable and very efficient razor. I have not used the Gillette Old Type, but from what I’ve read, the RazoRock Old Type is much more comfortable. The RazoRock Old Type would be a very good razor for the novice, particularly a novice who wants a metal razor (thus not the Dorco PL602, an excellent razor though made of plastic (and costs $6.75 for two on eBay, including shipping) but doesn’t want to spend $30 to see how DE shaving will work for him.

Of course, prep is always important, and today I used Wet Shaving Products Formula T Tobacco and got a very good lather using the Fine Classic brush. The fragrance is somewhat muted, but nothing wrong with the lather.

Three passes with the Old Type and my face was BBS without even the threat of a nick. A good splash of Chiseled Face Trade Winds aftershave from the sample shown and I’m ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2016 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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