Later On

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

Archive for April 22nd, 2017

Larkin on Poetry’s Pleasure Principle

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Phillip Larkin writes with stunning clarity:

It is sometimes useful to remind ourselves of the simpler aspects of things normally regarded as complicated. Take, for instance, the writing of a poem. It consists of three stages: the first is when a man becomes obsessed with an emotional concept to such a degree that he is compelled to do something about it. What he does is the second stage, namely, construct a verbal device that will reproduce this emotional concept in anyone who cares to read it, anywhere, any time. The third stage is the recurrent situation of people in different times and places setting off the device and re-creating in themselves what the poet felt when he wrote it. The stages are interdependent and all necessary. If there has been no preliminary feeling, the device has nothing to reproduce and the reader will experience nothing. If the second stage has not been well done, the device will not deliver the goods, or will deliver only a few goods to a few people, or will stop delivering them after an absurdly short while. And if there is no third stage, no successful reading, the poem can hardly be said to exist in a practical sense at all.

What a description of this basic tripartite structure shows is that poetry is emotional in nature and theatrical in operation, a skilled recreation of emotion in other people, and that, conversely, a bad poem is one that never succeeds in doing this. All modes of critical derogation are no more than different ways of saying this, whatever literary, philosophical or moral terminology they employ, and it would not be necessary to point out anything so obvious if present-day poetry did not suggest that it had been forgotten. We seem to be producing a new kind of bad poetry, not the old kind that tries to move the reader and fails, but one that does not even try. Repeatedly he is confronted with pieces that cannot be understood without reference beyond their own limits or whose contented insipidity argues that their authors are merely reminding themselves of what they know already, rather than re-creating it for a third party. The reader, in fact, seems . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Writing

Here’s why cats love hopping into boxes

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Nicholas Dodman, professor emeritus of behavioral pharmacology and animal behavior at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, writes in TheConversation.com:

Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.

This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest Pets” series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and even wide-necked flower vases.

“That’s so cute … but why do you think she does that?” was always the question. It was as if each climbing or squeezing incident had a completely different explanation.

It did not. It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.

When young, they used to snuggle with their mom and litter mates, feeling the warmth and soothing contact. Think of it as a kind of swaddling behavior. The close contact with the box’s interior, we believe, releases endorphins – nature’s own morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress.

Along with Temple Grandin, I researched the comforting effect of “lateral side pressure.” We found that the drug naltrexone, which counteracts endorphins, reversed the soporific effect of gentle squeezing of pigs. Hugs, anyone?

Also remember that cats make nests – small, discrete areas where mother cats give birth and provide sanctuary for their kittens. Note that no behavior is entirely unique to any one particular sex, be they neutered or not. Small spaces are in cats’ behavioral repertoire and are generally good (except for the cat carrier, of course, which has negative connotations – like car rides or a visit to the vet).

One variation on this theme occurs . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Interesting facts about Genghis Khan

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Fascinating nuggets of information in this thread.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Is It Time to Break Up Google?

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Jonathan Taplin has an interesting column in the NY Times:

In just 10 years, the world’s five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed, save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place.

They’re all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market. In classic economic terms, all three are monopolies.

We have been transported back to the early 20th century, when arguments about “the curse of bigness” were advanced by President Woodrow Wilson’s counselor, Louis Brandeis, before Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. Brandeis wanted to eliminate monopolies, because (in the words of his biographer Melvin Urofsky) “in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people.” We need look no further than the conduct of the largest banks in the 2008 financial crisis or the role that Facebook and Google play in the “fake news” business to know that Brandeis was right.

While Brandeis generally opposed regulation — which, he worried, inevitably led to the corruption of the regulator — and instead advocated breaking up “bigness,” he made an exception for “natural” monopolies, like telephone, water and power companies and railroads, where it made sense to have one or a few companies in control of an industry.

Continue reading the main story

Could it be that these companies — and Google in particular — have become natural monopolies by supplying an entire market’s demand for a service, at a price lower than what would be offered by two competing firms? And if so, is it time to regulate them like public utilities?

Consider a historical analogy: the early days of telecommunications.

In 1895 a photograph of the business district of a large city might have shown 20 phone wires attached to most buildings. Each wire was owned by a different phone company, and none of them worked with the others. Without network effects, the networks themselves were almost useless.

The solution was for a single company, American Telephone and Telegraph, to consolidate the industry by buying up all the small operators and creating a single network — a natural monopoly. The government permitted it, but then regulated this monopoly through the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T (also known as the Bell System) had its rates regulated, and was required to spend a fixed percentage of its profits on research and development. In 1925 AT&T set up Bell Labs as a separate subsidiary with the mandate to develop the next generation of communications technology, but also to do basic research in physics and other sciences. Over the next 50 years, the basics of the digital age — the transistor, the microchip, the solar cell, the microwave, the laser, cellular telephony — all came out of Bell Labs, along with eight Nobel Prizes.

In a 1956 consent decree in which the Justice Department allowed AT&T to maintain its phone monopoly, the government extracted a huge concession: . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 6:28 pm

Purplecarrot.com: Vegan dinner recipes with option to get ingredients delivered

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The Purple Carrot site has a lot of interesting vegan recipes, and if you want, you can sign up for weekly delivery of appropriate ingredients for three meals—or you can just work from the recipes and do your own shopping. Mark Bittman joined them to help with recipe development, but has now left, though he still has some ownership stake in the company.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 6:26 pm

It was James Comey who decided the election.

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Two articles worth reading:

Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election.” by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, Adam Goldman, and Eric Lichtblau in the NY Times.

Let’s Talk About Bubbles and James Comey,” by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 3:46 pm

No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump’s wall

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Nikita Vladimirov reports in The Hill:

No member of Congress who represents districts on the U.S.-Mexico border support funding President Trump’s signature border wall, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

According to a survey conducted by the publication, no lawmaker representing the region expressed support for Trump’s request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of the project.

The survey included nine members of the House and eight senators from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California — including four Republican senators.

According to the report, some GOP lawmakers raised concerns about whether the wall is too focused on a physical barrier, rather than funding other high-tech solutions that could prove to be more effective. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 12:34 pm

In Secret Court Hearing, Lawyer Objected to FBI Sifting Through NSA Data Like It Was Google

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Secret courts making secret decisions regarding secret laws is in my mind strongly associated with totalitarian regimes, which do not want the public to know what the government is up to. But that’s what we have in the FISA court. Alex Emmons reports in The Intercept:

In her first appearance representing the American public before the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Amy Jeffress argued that the FBI is violating the Fourth Amendment by giving agents “virtually unrestricted” access to data from one of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, which includes an untold amount of communications involving innocent Americans.

The NSA harvests data from major Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Apple without a warrant, because it is ostensibly “targeting” only foreigners. But the surveillance program sweeps up a large number of Americans’ communications as well. Then vast amounts of data from the program, including the Americans’ communications, are entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer at the 2015 hearing described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”

The FBI routinely searches this database during ordinary criminal investigations — which gives them access to Americans’ communications without a warrant.

Jeffress, a former federal prosecutor now serving as an independent “friend of the court,” expressed frustration over the casualness with which the FBI is allowed to look through the data. “There need be no connection to foreign intelligence or national security, and that is the purpose of the collection,” she told Thomas Hogan, then the chief judge of the court. “So they’re overstepping, really, the purpose for which the information is collected.”

The ACLU obtained the hearing transcript and other legal documents related to the secret court proceedings under the Freedom of Information Act, and released them to the public on Friday.

The FISA Court has been widely criticized for its secrecy, its extreme tendency to defer to the government, and the fact that until recently it only heard the government’s side of the case. In 2015, Congress passed a law establishing the position of “amicus curiae” to represent the interests of the public and civil liberties, and Jeffress is one of five amici now serving.

Jeffress, who is now a partner at the law firm Arnold and Porter, declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of the FISA Court’s proceedings.

The NSA program in question, called PRISM, operates under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is scheduled to sunset in December unless it is reauthorized by Congress. What critics call the FBI’s “backdoor search loophole” is likely to be a major topic of debate in the coming months. Section 702 also authorizes a program called “Upstream,” which grabs massive amounts of data off major Internet backbones inside the U.S. without a warrant — again, because it is ostensibly “targeting” foreign communications.

The FBI’s backdoor searches are so controversial that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed measures in 2014 and 2015 requiring agents to get a warrant before conducting them, although the Senate refused to take up either proposal.

“Section 702 backdoor searches of Americans’ private communications are plainly unconstitutional, and the FBI’s warrantless searches are especially troubling,” said Ashley Gorski, a staff attorney with the ACLU.

The CIA and even the NSA itself have imposed a requirement that each query they run on 702 data involving a U.S. person be supported by a statement of facts that explains why the information being sought is relevant to foreign intelligence – as the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recommended in 2014.

But when Hogan asked if the FBI were willing to do the same thing, the lawyer representing the Department of Justice at the hearing – whose name the government redacted in the transcript – brushed him off.

The lawyer said that searches of the FBI’s “lawfully acquired data” are so common that requiring agents to document them would be impractical, and even dangerous.

“If we require our agents to write a full justification every time — think about if you wrote a full justification every time you used Google. Among other things, you would use Google a lot less,” the Justice Department attorney said. “We want the FBI to look and connect the dots in its lawfully acquired information.” . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 10:25 am

Van Yulay Puros la Habana and the Stealth

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Van Yulay (and others) seem in their ingredients to be much more an artisan soap than the Zi’ Peppino I used in yesterday’s shave. I continued the tobacco theme, switching from green to cured, with Van Yulay’s Puros la Habana, which has these ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Babassu-Manteca-Argan-Abyssinian-Coconut Oils, Kokum & Cocoa Butters, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, Allantoin, Silica, Liquid Silk, Bentonite Clay, Tobacco Absolute, and Fragrance.

Compare that with the ingredients in Zi’ Peppino (which I like a lot and will continue to use):

Stearic Acid, Aqua(Water/Eau), Cocus Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance(Parfum), Sodium Carbonate, Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Benzyl Benzoate, Buthylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydrocitronellal, Limonene, Linalool, Evernia Furfuracea Extract.

Both make an excellent lather and both have a fine fragrance, but I like the Van Yulay ingedients more.

The lather, made with my Rooney butterscotch Emilion, was excellent, and the RazoRock Stealth has a very smooth feel and is extremely efficient, though it never nicks. Three passes to perfect smoothness, then a dab of Van Yulay Puros la Habana aftershave balm, and the weekend begins.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2017 at 10:15 am

Posted in Shaving

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