Later On

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

Archive for January 12th, 2017

I’m becoming a fan of blended wines

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I think I’ve mentioned the excellent and interesting Apothic Inferno, which we had for Christmas dinner. And also I mentioned Hahn GSM, another blend, very pleasant. And Apothic Dark has an interesting taste that I really like, but The Wife does not. Tonight I opened a bottle of Apothic Crush and I think it’s wonderful.

I like what Apothic seems to do: use the fact that the wine is a blend to do things you cannot do with a vintage varietal, with the blend capable of tastes and contrasts not available in a single wine.

I’m quite won over, and I highly recommend Apothic Crush. Google for those who are fortunate enough to live in states with online sales.

I think I like it when a blend embraces the fact that it’s a blend and sees what it can do with that, rather than a blend that tries to approximate some varietal. Let’s stretch the envelope!

Same thing with synthetic shaving brushes: I think they took their great leap forward when they stopped trying to imitate natural fibers and instead see what they could do with a synthetic, embracing its syntheticness (-osity?).

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Drinks, Shaving

I really like Paprika Recipe Manager: Baked Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

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The store had some very nice looking shrimp today, so I got a pound. I had no real idea what to do with them—cook them, obviously, but how? So I open PRM, click the “Shrimp” category and get a short list of recipes I know I like.

I picked this one by David Tanis. I often make changes, so I offer here how it is in my PRM after my editing:

Baked Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta

Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, diced, about 1 cup
8 garlic cloves, minced
20-25 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Salt and pepper
28 oz + 15 oz San Marzano tomatoes
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1.85 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces Greek feta cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons roughly chopped mintHeat oven to 400 degrees.

Put 4 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to keep mixture from browning. Add 28-oz can and 15-oz can San Marzano tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir in chopped Kalamata olives.

Cook, stirring, until mixture is juicy and tomatoes have thickened and reduced somewhat, about 20 minutes.

Put peeled shrimp into a mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, season shrimp with salt and pepper and stir to coat. Arrange shrimp over tomato mixture in one layer. Crumble cheese over surface and sprinkle with oregano.

Bake for 12 minutes, until tomatoes are bubbling and cheese has browned slightly. Remove from oven and let dish rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with mint and serve.

/recipe

Tomorrow I’ll buy another pound of the shrimp (a little extra doesn’t hurt) and the good feta—as good as local supermarket gets, which is the whole feta, not the crumbled feta—and mint.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 4:03 pm

Another way the NFL sucks

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Other than destroying the players and trying to cover it up. Take a look at Kevin Drum’s brief past.

BTW, on the municipality or county paying for a new stadium, or even paying for a portion of a new stadium: shouldn’t that be an investment? Should the city or county get a good rate of return on their investment? So much a year for so many years, guaranteed via some sort of preferred stock, taking a portion of the gross.

Surely the government does not take taxpayer money and simply give it to a private business that will make a profit on the enterprise? What earthly sense would that make?

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Business, Government

What seems very weird about James Comey

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is how he said that he couldn’t comment on any investigation of Trump because he simply does not comment on current investigations. That was just before he sent a letter to all the world commenting on a current investigation into the computer of sleazebag sex offender Anthony Weiner because it might possibly could be contain some new examples of Hillary Clinton’s reckless use of her server. And then, also commenting on a current investigation, another letter to all the world 11 days later, just a few days before election day, saying, “Nope. Nothing there. False alarm about the Hillary Clinton emails in this case, though….” But for Trump? with aides in regular contact with the Kremlin? with money coming into the campaign from Russia? Totally tight-lipped, and for a good reason: He “does not comment on current investigations.” It’s such an huge, enormous, obvious lie, that I suppose nowadays he will get away with it.

I hope the Inspector General does a good job. Something is wrong there.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 3:47 pm

White House to End Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas

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I don’t see how conservatives, with their anti-immigration fervor, can do anything but applaud this, but seeing as how it’s Obama doing it, I feel sure they will express outrage.

The story in the NY Times is by Julie Hirshfield Davis:

The Obama administration on Thursday will terminate the so-called wet foot, dry foot policy that allows Cubans who arrive on United States soil without visas to remain in the country and gain legal residency, a senior administration official said, in an unexpected move long sought by the Cuban government.

The action, first reported by The Associated Press, will come through a new Department of Homeland Security regulation and an agreement with the Cuban government. Details of the decision were disclosed on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement expected later Thursday.

The Obama administration had long insisted it was not planning to change the policy after President Obama’s move in 2014 toward normalized relations with Cuba. But the thaw prompted speculation that once diplomatic relations resumed, as they did in 2015, the arrangement would end.

Under the current policy, Cubans detained at sea who are trying to reach the United States must return to their country, but those who make it onto American soil are allowed to stay and eventually apply for legal permanent residency. The unusual arrangement has been unique to Cuban refugees. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 3:03 pm

Survey reveals disconnect between police and public attitudes

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Police departments, like other organizations that operate closely and under stressful conditions (examples: military, firefighters, floor traders, and others), develop a strong microculture that makes sharp distinctions between “us” and “them” and become quite tribal. The result is that sometimes the worldview of the microculture diverges in destructive ways from the worldview of the general population.

Scott Clement and Wesley Lowery report in the Washington Post:

Two-thirds of the nation’s police officers say the deaths of black Americans during encounters with police are isolated incidents, not a sign of broader problems between law enforcement and black citizens, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday.

The findings underscore a stark disconnect between many rank-and-file officers and the public and reveal that scrutiny since the 2014 fatal police shooting of Michael Brown has prompted many officers to be less aggressive in day-to-day policing.

The survey of nearly 8,000 local officers is the first nationally representative measure of police reaction to the debate about officers’ treatment of black Americans that followed Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and sparked a national protest movement.

The survey, which drew on departments with at least 100 officers, was administered from May to August 2016 by the National Police Research Platform in partnership with Pew.

It reveals in detail how officers view their jobs and the scrutiny they face: More than 8 in 10 officers say the public does not understand the risks and challenges of their jobs, and a similar number say their departments are understaffed. Half reported concerns about their safety.

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“Our goal was to measure how police think about these issues,” said Rich Morin, senior editor at the Pew Research Center. “And to offer an insight into police lives, both the good and the challenges.”

When a separate Pew poll asked Americans overall about black individuals who died in police encounters, 60 percent said the deaths represent broader problems between police and black citizens. But only 31 percent of police officers say the same, Pew found.

Police expressed cynical views of protests across the country following controversial deaths. The poll finds that 92 percent say protests have been motivated at least in part by long-standing anti-police bias; only 35 percent say protesters were motivated by a genuine desire to hold officers accountable.

Officers say the high-profile deaths have changed the way they do their job — and have made it harder.

More than 7 in 10 say officers have become more timid about stopping to question suspicious people, roughly three-quarters say fellow officers report they are more reluctant to use force when necessary, and more than 9 in 10 say fellow officers have grown more worried about their safety.

“How officers see their job and how they perform on their job has changed as a result of these high-profile incidents and the resulting protests,” Morin said.

The degree to which the nation’s officers reject the notion of systemic racial issues and dismiss protests surprised some policing experts, including some chiefs and union officials. Several said that the gulf in perception between police and the public underscores a much deeper divide [The two worldviews are so different that the two—police and civilians—inhabit two different (cultural) realities. And the police subculture has quite a few ways to enforce its memes: hazing, blue code of silence, severity of ostracism (including danger to one’s life, as Serpico discovered), and so on. How much these tools are used to enforce cultural norms and worldviews I don’t know, but given the pscyhological need for a tight cohesive group (among high-stress occupations where people work in close proximity and often as a team) would suggest that enforcement would be quick, frequent, and emphatic. – LG]

“I wish the community had a greater understanding of why the police do what we do, and sometimes we have to do a better job of putting ourselves in their shoes as well,” said Don De Lucca, the chief of police in Doral, Fla., and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “We’re at a crossroads, and we both need to be willing to listen.” . . .

Continue reading. More at the link, including more charts. It’s a lengthy and interesting article about problems that can arise as cultures evolve in different directions because of external conditions and the effects of other memes.

I believe in the understaffing, and I also think many departments are undertrained, and the cause for those is the same: efforts to cut taxes and thus cut government revenues. Good government costs money to run, and refusing to raise taxes is a head-in-the-sand approach to governance. Taxes are required, and corporations and the wealthy must pay more. We’re all in this together, and taxes should be paid by all at about the same level of financial pain, which means that the wealthy should pay a lot more in taxes than I do: the marginal utility value of money (value to you of each dollar you have declines substantially as the number of dollars you have climbs: a billionaire really doesn’t worry about $1, one way or the other. It makes no material difference.

/rant, but I do get irked that people want good government but don’t want to pay for it. Or participate in it even if just staying informed and voting. (Millions do not even do that.)

One more thing: I am not saying that the majority culture is necessarily right: a subculture can be more together than the culture at large, and I’m sure you can think of examples—the Society of Friends comes to mind.

So how do you judge cultures?, given that something that one culture values another may not: laws, foods, rituals, etc. Probably there are several ways of going about it (e.g., one can ask of customs, “Do they harm individuals?” and the answer (to my minds) undermines the case for, say, honor killings. Honor killing is a strong meme, and it is fact a meme for judging other memes, and it protects itself fiercely. But the fact is that this meme leads to actual physical harm of others, who are generally trying to get by and doing the best they can. That (in my mind) condemns honor killing.

Indeed, such things seem more about defending the meme than the host: ISIS, for example, is ruthless in defending itself as a memeplex, to the great detriment of many of the hosts harboring that meme: it’s the meme that is important here, not the host. The meme is using the hosts, and sometimes the usage is hard on the host.

But there are other tests, and one is to test suppositions and expectations against reality. E.g., police are in less danger than ever before, as Google will show you. But the feeling of danger (a meme) is greater than ever.

I suspect this fear is the unintended consequence of training police officers a military model adopted from the US occupation of Afghanistan or something very like it: The police/military occupying a hostile territory in which people dressed as civilians might at any time try to kill you because a lot of them (in Afghanistan) suffer both an ideology and a loss of family members. And the primary order is that the officer/soldier return home safely (regardless of the loss of other life). In other words, the training they get gets them all to accept the meme of constant danger/military occupation/hostile population. Of course they feel a greater sense of danger.

And I think you can see how this mindset/worldview could lead to police shooting quickly on any sign of a suspicious movement, and lord knows that’s happened quite often—a bit of knowledge heavily dependent on cameraphones. It’s a true Panopticon, on the police are on the receiving end. (They don’t seem to like it, judging by the number of quite illegal seizures and arrests for taking photos of police in action, and the effort by police and their unions in some states to make the taking of a photo or recording video and/or audio illegal: they don’t want people to see what they do.)

UPDATE: In this connection, a recent NY Times column by Kate Murphy is quite interesting:

We live in a culture that celebrates individualism and self-reliance, and yet we humans are an exquisitely social species, thriving in good company and suffering in isolation. More than anything else, our intimate relationships, or lack thereof, shape and define our lives.

While there have been many schools of thought to help us understand what strains and maintains human bonds, from Freudian to Gestalt, one of the most rigorously studied may be the least known to the public.

It’s called attachment theory, and there’s growing consensus about its capacity to explain and improve how we function in relationships.

Conceived more than 50 years ago by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby and scientifically validated by an American developmental psychologist, Mary S. Ainsworth, attachment theory is now having a breakout moment, applied everywhere from inner-city preschools to executive coaching programs. Experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, sociology and education say the theory’s underlying assumption — that the quality of our early attachments profoundly influences how we behave as adults — has special resonance in an era when people seem more attached to their smartphones than to one another.

By the end of our first year, we have stamped on our baby brains a pretty indelible template of how we think relationships work, based on how our parents or other primary caregivers treat us. From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense, because we need to figure out early on how to survive in our immediate environment.

“If you’re securely attached, that’s great, because you have the expectation that if you are distressed you will be able to turn to someone for help and feel you can be there for others,” said Miriam Steele, the co-director of the Center for Attachment Research at the New School for Social Research in New York.

It’s not so great if you are one of the 40 percent to 50 percent of babies who, a meta-analysis of research indicates, are insecurely attached because their early experiences were suboptimal (their caregivers were distracted, overbearing, dismissive, unreliable, absent or perhaps threatening). “Then you have to earn your security,” Dr. Steele said, by later forming secure attachments that help you override your flawed internal working model. . .

Continue reading.

She goes on to describe successful interventions with at-risk youth to help them break the old attachment, which in some cases has been passed down through generations. The obvious question: What would be the result if an entire police department went through attachment therapy? (And is it ever obvious this is about memes.)

ANOTHER UPDATE: The day after this was posted, the NY Times had a lengthy article on the Department of Justice’s finding that the Chicago Police Department routinely and systematically violated civil rights of citizens, particularly African-American and Latino citizens.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 2:44 pm

How the mind comes into being

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Martin Butz has an interesting post on Oxford University Press blog that is an extract from his book. About Butz:

Prof. Martin V. Butz is full professor in cognitive modelling in the department of computer science and the department of psychology of the faculty of science at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Equipped with a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, IL (UIUC), Butz has pursued interdisciplinary research on the mind, cognition, and behaviour for more than fifteen years. He is the author of three monographs, has co-edited seven multiauthor volumes, and has published more than fifty journal articles in various disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals – including, for example, Neural Networks, volutionary Computation, Biological Cybernetics, the Journal of Vision, Experimental Brain Research, PLoS ONE, and Psychological Review. Additionally, Butz is a co-author of How the Mind Comes into Being: Introducing Cognitive Science from a Functional and Computational Perspective.

The post proper begins:

When we interact with our world – regardless if by means of a simple grasp, a smile, or the utterance of a sentence – we are typically quite confident that it was us who intended to and thus executed the interaction. But what is this “us”? Is it something physical or something mental? Is it merely a deterministic program or is there more to it? And how does it develop—that is, how does the mind come into being?

Clearly, there is not a straightforward answer to these questions. However over the last twenty years or so, cognitive science has offered a pathway towards an answer by pursuing an “embodied” perspective. This perspective emphasizes that our mind develops in our brain in close interaction with our body and the outside environment. Moreover, it emphasizes that we do not passively observe our environment – like the prisoners in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” – but that we are actively interacting with it in a goal-directed manner.

Even with such a perspective, though, challenging questions remain to be answered. How do we learn to control our body? How do we learn to reason and plan? How do we abstract from and generalize over our continuously incoming sensorimotor experiences and develop conceptual thoughts?

It appears that key computational and functional principles are involved in mastering these immense cognitive challenges. First of all, bodily features can strongly ease the cognitive burden, offering embodied attractors, such as when sitting, walking, holding something, or when uttering a certain sound. The addition of reward-oriented learning helps to accomplish and maintain the stability of these attractors. Think of the joy expressed by a baby, who has just accomplished the maintenance of a novel stable state for the first time, such as taking the first steps successfully!

However, our minds can do even more than expressing reactive, reward-oriented behavior. Clearly, we can think ahead and we can act in anticipation of the expected action effects. Indeed, research evidence suggests that an “image” of the action effects is present while we interact with the world. It seems that this image focusses on the final effect of the action – such as holding an object in a certain way after grasping it. Thus, predictions and anticipations are key components of our minds. Combined with the principle of stability, desired future stable states can be imagined, their realization can be accomplished by goal-oriented motor control, and the actual accomplishment can trigger reward.

How are these principles spelt out in our brains? When considering the brain’s neural structures and their sensory- and motor-connectivity, it may be possible to describe a pathway towards abstract thought. Hierarchical, probabilistic, predictive encodings have been identified, which can be mimicked by computational processes. When allowing interactions between multiple partially redundant, partially complementary sensory information sources, progressively more abstract structures can develop. These include:

  • Spatial encodings – such as the space around us as well as cognitive maps of the environment;
  • Gestalt encodings of entities – including objects, tools, animals, and other humans;
  • Temporal encodings – estimating how things typically change over time.

These encodings are temporarily or permanently associated with particular reward encodings, depending on the experiences.

When reconsidering behavior in this scenario, it becomes very clear that hierarchical structures are also necessary for realizing adaptive and flexible behavior. To be able to effectively plan behavioral sequences in a goal-directed manner, such as drinking from a glass, it is necessary to abstract away from the continuous sensorimotor experiences. Luckily, our continuous world can be segmented in an event-oriented manner. An event-boundary, such as the touch of an object after approaching it, or the perception of a sound wave after a silence, indicates interaction onsets and offsets. Computational measures of surprise can be good indicators to detect such boundaries and segment our continuous experiences.

But what about language? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Books, Memes, Science

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