Later On

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

Archive for March 17th, 2017

A game against a computer, and I won. Ha ha ha.

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I have Spark Chess and frequently play a game against Claire. Win some, lose some, but I save those that I win, so in retrospect, my recorded games look pretty good. Here’s one. I’m White.

  1. d4 f5
  2. e3 Na6
  3. Bc4 d5
  4. Bb3 g5
  5. Ne2 Nh6
  6. f4 gxf4
  7. exf4 b5
  8. O-O e6
  9. Nd2 Bg7
  10. Nf3 O-O
  11. Ne5 c5
  12. c3 c4
  13. Bc2 Bxe5
  14. fxe5 Nf7
  15. Nf4 h6
  16. Nh5 b4
  17. Nf6+ Kh8
  18. Qh5 bxc3
  19. bxc3 Qb6
  20. Bxh6 Nxh6
  21. Qxh6# { – White wins. } 1-0

I really don’t know how to play against the Dutch Defense. I play it like Sicilian Gambit Declined. In this case, it worked, but the game is probably horrible. In Go games between novices, it’s said that the winner is the player who made the next-to-last mistake.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Games

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Trumpcare’s Lonely, and Seedy, Supporter: Conflict of interest in action

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David Leonhardt writes in the NY Times:

The Republican health bill doesn’t have many outside supporters. Groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, retirees, patients of various diseases and even insurers have all criticized it. Some of the only outside praise has come from the chief executive of Anthem, the country’s second largest insurer.

And therein lies another tale of the Trump administration’s conflicts of interest.

It turns out that one of the bill’s few high-profile fans may not even support it on the merits. Instead, Anthem appears to be providing political cover to the administration at the same time that company officials are lobbying the administration for a favorable decision on another matter. It’s pretty brazen.

Here are the details: Anthem, which is based in Indiana, is already the largest insurer in California, Kentucky, Virginia and elsewhere. Two years ago, its chief executive, Joseph Swedish, made a big bet. He decided to put public pressure on Cigna, another major insurer, to accept a merger. Eventually, Swedish succeeded, and Anthem agreed to pay $48 billion to buy its rival.

But the Obama administration’s Justice Department filed suit against the merger, arguing that it would force consumers to pay higher prices. Last month, a federal judge agreed and blocked the merger. Cigna isn’t happy with the deal anymore either and has filed a $14 billion lawsuit against Anthem. None of it makes Swedish look good.

Anthem’s best remaining hope for the deal is probably to persuade the Trump administration to take a different view of the merger and unblock it.

Against this backdrop, Swedish wrote a carefully worded letter last week to Congress praising the Republican health bill. He stopped short of supporting the entire bill, as Jordan Weissmann of Slate has noted. Rather, Swedish lauded a few provisions (which would clearly help Anthem’s bottom line) and offered enough kind words that the White House could claim Anthem supported the bill.

“The time to act is now,” Swedish wrote. The bill, he added, “will ensure more affordable health plan choices for consumers in the short term.” More objective evaluators of the bill — like the Congressional Budget Office — are less sanguine.

Regardless of its accuracy, though, the letter seemed to make the White House happy. “Progress on repeal & replace: Major insurer supportive,” Kellyanne Conway tweeted, linking to Politico’s story about the letter.

More significantly, President Trump and Tom Price, the Health and Human Services secretary, granted Swedish a private meeting this week. At it, Swedish lobbied for changes to the bill that would benefit Anthem, according to reports in Bloomberg and Modern Healthcare.

Anthem’s chief financial officer, John Gallina, all but bragged the next day at an industry conference about the meeting’s success: “We feel very good, very encouraged, by the fact that the president and his team are listening and actually making changes based on feedback that the industry is providing.”

It’s too early to know whether his self-interested optimism is warranted. The health care bill is in enough political danger that no version of it may pass, and the Anthem-Cigna merger may likewise be unable to come back from the dead. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 4:30 pm

Conservative Fantasies, Colliding With Reality

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Facts are stubborn things, and reality is in it for the long haul.

Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

This week the Trump administration put out a budget blueprint — or more accurately, a “budget” blueprint. After all, real budgets detail where the money comes from and where it goes; this proclamation covers only around a third of federal spending, while saying nothing about revenues or projected deficits.

As the fiscal expert Stan Collender put it: “This is not a budget. It’s a Trump campaign press release masquerading as a government document.”

So what’s the point of the document? The administration presumably hopes that it will distract the public and the press from the ongoing debacle over health care. But it probably won’t. And in any case, this pseudo-budget embodies the same combination of meanspiritedness and fiscal fantasy that has turned the Republican effort to replace Obamacare into a train wreck.

Think for a minute about the vision of government and its role that the right has been peddling for decades.

In this vision, much if not most government spending is a complete waste, doing nobody any good. The same is true of government regulations. And to the extent to which spending does help anyone, it’s Those People — lazy, undeserving types who just so happen to be a bit, well, darker than Real Americans.

This was the kind of thinking — or, perhaps, “thinking” — that underlay President Trump’s promise to replace Obamacare with something “far less expensive and far better.” After all, it’s a government program, so he assumed that it must be full of waste that a tough leader like him could eliminate.

Strange to say, however, Republicans turn out to have no ideas about how to make the program cheaper other than eliminating health insurance for 24 million people (and making coverage worse, with higher out-of-pocket spending, for those who remain).

And basically the same story applies at a broader level. Consider federal spending as a whole: Outside defense it’s dominated by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — all programs that are crucial to tens of millions of Americans, many of them the white working-class voters who are the core of Trump support. Furthermore, most other government spending also serves purposes that are popular, important or (usually) both.

Given this reality, why are so many people opposed to “big government”?

Many have a distorted view of the numbers. For example, people have a vastly exaggerated view of how much we spend on foreign aid. Many also fail to connect their personal experience with public policy: Large numbers of Social Security and Medicare recipients believe that they make no use of any government social program.

Thanks to these misperceptions, carefully nurtured by right-wing media, politicians can often get away with running on promises of drastic spending cuts: Many, perhaps most voters don’t see how such cuts would affect their lives.

But what will happen if anti-big-government politicians find themselves in a position to put their agenda into practice? Voters will quickly get a lesson in what slashing spending really means — and they won’t be happy.

That’s basically the wall Obamacare repeal has just smashed into. And the same thing will happen if this Trump whatever-it-is turns into an actual budget.

Mr. Trump himself gives every indication of having . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 4:20 pm

Extremely well stated: How best to respond to Trump supporters who have regrets

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 3:06 pm

The U.S. has gone batshit crazy: Hamilton church volunteers denied entry to U.S. so they wouldn’t ‘steal American jobs’

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So those are the jobs Trump is bringing back: volunteer work! (But isn’t that what they have now?)

Mahoor Yawar reports for CBC News:

A group of church volunteers from Hamilton heading south to do relief work were denied entry to the U.S. for fear they would take American construction jobs, said a spokesperson for the church.

The 12-person contingent from Hamilton’s Rehoboth United Reformed Church was travelling by road on the morning of Saturday, March 11, to New Jersey.

Erik Hoeksema, the church’s outreach director who was travelling with the group, said they intended to spend March break cleaning up and rehabilitating neighbourhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. border law says Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country for volunteer work, as long as they can provide proof that their work will not be compensated.

Hoeksema says the group was told they had failed to have a letter sent from the host church “paroling” them into the country.

“So what ends up happening is the organization that you’re going to work with sends a letter to border patrol saying this is what they’re going to be doing. What our group did not do, is we did not send that ahead of time,” he admitted.

Hoeksema said the border patrol officer, who treated them cordially, told the group he would grant an exception and let them through if the host church managed to fax or email a letter right away.

‘Stealing American construction jobs’

Hoeksema says he contacted Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, the pastor at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in central New Jersey, which would be hosting the group, so he could fax a letter to border patrol explaining their intended purpose. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 2:24 pm

Trump’s staff actually included a link to this document to support Trump’s “budget”

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It’s true. They did. The article headline reads “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why” and the article begins:

Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.

What are we cutting?

The State Department, by 29 percent: Right now, all the State Department’s many qualified employees do is sit around being sad that they are never consulted about anything. This is, frankly, depressing, and it is best to put them out of their misery. Besides, they are only trained in Soft Diplomacy, like a woman would do, and NOBODY wants that. Only HARD POWER now that we have a man in charge who thought the name Rex Tillerson was not manly enough and rechristened himself Wayne Tracker. With the money we will save on these sad public servants, we will be able to buy lots of GUNS and F-35s and other cool things that go BOOM and POW and PEW PEW PEW. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 1:55 pm

Exclusive: How To Break Up The Silicon Valley Boys’ Club

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Susan Wojcicki has a dynamite article, and do watch that video “Youtube’s First Eureka Moment” (which, oddly, is not on Youtube).

Every year around this time, we hear the same story in Silicon Valley. This year, it was Susan Fowler’s distressing account of her year at Uber, followed closely by A.J. Vandermeyden’s story alleging a culture of “pervasive harassment” at Tesla. Like many who read the stories, I was mad. But I was also frustrated that an industry so quick to embrace and change the future can’t break free of its regrettable past.

The allegations of explicit gender discrimination that Susan and A.J. describe are unacceptable, and any report of harassment deserves a thorough examination. But implicit biases can also harm women in the workplace through more subtle forms of gender discrimination. These include being frequently interrupted or talked over; having decision-makers primarily address your male colleagues, even if they’re junior to you; working harder to receive the same recognition as your male peers; having your ideas ignored unless they’re rephrased by your male colleagues; worrying so much about being either “too nice” or “sharp elbowed” that it hurts your ability to be effective; frequently being asked how you manage your work-life balance; and perhaps most difficult of all, not having peers who have been through similar situations to support you during tough times.

Fortunately, there is a solution that has been proved to address gender discrimination in all its forms, both implicit and explicit: hiring more women. Employing more women at all levels of a company, from new hires to senior leaders, creates a virtuous cycle. Companies become more attuned to the needs of their female employees, improving workplace culture while lowering attrition. They escape a cycle of men mostly hiring men. And study after study has shown that greater diversity leads to better outcomes, more innovative solutions, less groupthink, better stock performance and G.D.P. growth.

Despite this evidence, tech lags other male-dominated industries, such as finance and media, when it comes to gender balance, according to a 2016 World Economic Forum Study. So how can tech do better? Well—unlike the work of many Silicon Valley companies—it’s not rocket science.

First, tech C.E.O.s need to make gender diversity a personal priority. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 1:50 pm

The Distractions are the Story

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David Pell writes in Medium:

For the past few months, we’ve seen a common trend emerge. It goes something like this:

Trump says something bombastic, offensive, jaw-dropping, terrible, dangerous, horrific, stupid, false, or — as is most often the case — all of the above.

Social media, as it’s designed to do, goes berserk. Mainstream media picks up on the moment as well, and covers it ad nauseam.

Then, across all forms of media, the backlash occurs. Social media rips mainstream media for being distracted by Trump’s follies, instead of focusing on the real story. Similarly-themed thinkpieces appear in publications right next to the stories still covering the distraction. And on cable news, pundits interject into their realtime coverage of the distraction to self-flagellate over their own failure to change the subject back to the real news (which they once again seem unable to do even as they critique their own failure to do so).

How can we be talking about tweets concerning Pence’s trip to Hamilton when there’s a more important story about the $25 million judgment against Trump University? How can we be focused on a slapstick press conference when we should be digging into the ties between Russia and the Trump team?

Stop beating yourself up.

The distraction is the story.

When Mike Pence goes to Europe, anxious leaders there need to be assured that their relationship with the US is still secure and can still be depended upon. The same goes for Mattis, Tillerson, and other members of Trump’s team. Trump’s erratic behavior, crazy statements, and horrible lies are precisely what we should be focused on; because the world is watching, and that’s exactly what they’re focused on — and deeply concerned about. Our allies have been offended and unnerved. Our enemies have been buoyed.

That’s no distraction. It’s a crisis.

When it comes to international relations, personalities matter. They can change history. And there’s almost no clear-thinking leader in the world who thinks Trump’s will change history for the better.

And the so-called distractions matter at home too. When Trump attacks the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 12:57 pm

Books Can Take You Places Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Go

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Hisham Matar writes in the NY Times:

Whenever I was encouraged by my elders to pick up a book, I was often told, “Read so as to know the world.” And it is true; books have invited me into different countries, states of mind, social conditions and historical epochs; they have offered me a place at the most unusual gatherings.

I have had access to private rooms, overheard exquisite conversations and been able to observe subtle changes in another person’s inner life. Books have shown me horror and beauty. All this is true.

But the most magical moments in reading occur not when I encounter something unknown but when I happen upon myself, when I read a sentence that perfectly describes something I have known or felt all along. I am reminded then that I am really no different from anyone else.

Perhaps that is the secret motive behind every library: to stumble upon ourselves in the lives and lands and tongues of others. And the more foreign the setting, the more poignant the event seems. For a strange thing occurs then: A distance widens and then it is crossed.

How many times, and in ways that did not seem to require my consent, have I suddenly and in my own bed found myself to be Russian or French or Japanese? How many times have I been a peasant or an aristocrat? How many times have I been a woman? I have been free and without liberty, gay, disabled, old, loved and loathed.

All great art allows us this: a glimpse across the limits of our self. These occurrences aren’t merely amusing or disorientating or interesting experiments in “virtual reality.” They are moments of genuine expansion. They are at the heart of our humanity. Our future depends on them. We couldn’t have gotten here without them.

Just as a river leads to the sea — and from Jane Austen’s vernacular social order to William Faulkner’s American South, from Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo to Tayeb Salih’s village in Sudan — the particular in great literature has always flowed to the universal.

That is perhaps what the author of the iconic novel “The House of Hunger,” the Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera, meant when he said, “If you are a writer for a specific nation or a specific race,” then he had no use for you. What he was resisting was narrow provincialism, the sort of identitarianism that has invaded our academies and public discourse, and which sees individual life as, first and foremost, representative of a racial, religious or cultural category.

Mr. Marechera was instead promoting a courageous universalism that is at the heart of how literature works and, I believe, central to our resistance to the narrow visions of right-wing populists such as Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders and Nigel Farage.

Nothing we read can import new or foreign feelings that we don’t, in one form or another, already possess. “Every reader,” as Marcel Proust writes in “Time Regained,” “is actually the reader of himself.” Books can’t install unknown feelings or passions into us. What they can do is develop our emotional, psychological and intellectual life, and, by doing so, show us how and to what extent we are connected.

This is why literature is the greatest argument for the universalist instinct, and this is why literature is intransigent about its liberty. It refuses to be enrolled, regardless of how noble or urgent the project. It cannot be governed or dictated to. It is by instinct interested in conflicting empathies, in men and women who are running into their own hearts, in doubt and contradictions. Which is why, without even intending to, and like a moon to the night, it disrupts the totalitarian narrative. What it reveals about our human nature is central to the conversation today. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 11:33 am

Posted in Books

WSP Monarch, Van Yulay After Dark, Fine Superlite slant with Derby blade: Success

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Thanks to Larry for recommending using a Derby blade in the Fine Superlite.

But first, the prep. My Wet Shaving Product Monarch brushes are extremely good, and the more I use Van Yulay soaps, the more I like them. The formulation varies from soap to soap. After Dark has these ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut-Emu-Babassu-Olive-Argan-Jojoba-Oils, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, Allantoin, Silica, Liquid Silk, Bentonite Clay, Essential Oil, and EO’s and Fragrance.

At the link above she explains the particular benefits of the various ingredients. Note that neither soap nor aftershave is vegan: both contain emu oil.

The fragrance:

Cinnamon, leather, cypress, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, lavender, mandarin orange, musk, benzoin, vanilla, apple, cedar and bergamot.  Compared to Carlos Santana Fragrance.

And now my thanks to Larry for suggesting I try a Derby blade in my Fine Superlite, which has been for me nick prone, unlike the Merkur vintage white bakelite slant on which it was modeled. This morning I got no nicks at all, and moreover the razor feel was very much like the feel of the white bakelite slant. Now I see what Fine means about the two razors being the same—or almost the same, since a brand that works well for me in the white bakelite was very nicky in the Fine. But with the Derby blade, I got a comfortable and very efficient shave.

A splash of After Dark aftershave (and Van Yulay’s aftershaves are also interesting) and the weekend draws nigh.

Written by Leisureguy

17 March 2017 at 8:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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