Later On

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

Archive for June 28th, 2017

Jason Kottke: Mark Zuckerberg isn’t running for President; DIY abortions on the rise

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Business, Politics

Jason Kottke on the interplay of government and capitalism

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A post at Kottke.org that’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Rebirth of a knife

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Daily life

Never lose hope.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Kevin Drum: “Let’s Cut the Crap: Trumpcare Cuts Medicaid Spending a Ton”

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And he shows exactly how (hint: thinking about inflation) the spending is cut, in real dollars, and has a chart showing the effects of that on people.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 5:25 pm

The ‘i before e, except after c’ rule is a giant lie

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The rule doesn’t hold. The rule I learned is “I before E except after C and in words that sound “ey” like “neighbor” and “weigh.” But that isn’t even close. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

I before E, except after C.”

The familiar grade school mnemonic is a “supreme, and for many people solitary, spelling rule,” linguist Edward Carney wrote in “A survey of English spelling.” Its primacy has been acknowledged in English grammar textbooks from 1866 (James Stuart Laurie’s “Manual of English Spelling,”) until the present day (Bryan Garner’s “Modern English Usage”).

But like many, many other rules in the English language, it turns out this one is built on a foundation of lies.

A University of Warwick statistician named Nathan Cunningham recently decided to put the i-before-e rule to the test. So he plugged a list of 350,000 English words into a statistical program to see if the math checked out.

The first order of business is to check the ratio of “ie” to “ei” spellings — does i usually come before e? The good news is that it does — in roughly three quarters of all words with either an “ie” or an “ei” pair, the proper spelling is “ie,” as the rule would have you believe.

Think of words like “relief,” “grief,” “niece” or “believe.” The thief was up to a piece of brief mischief in the field, according to the chief.

“So far, the rule is serving its purpose,” Cunningham writes. “If you’re struggling to order an ‘ei’/‘ie’ pair in a word, there’s an approximately three to one chance that the ‘i’ will go first.”

All good so far! Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here.

On to the second part — “except after c.” Cunningham selected all words in his data set with either a “cei” or “cie” spelling. If the rule were as accurate as we’d been lead to believe, you’d expect the “cei” spellings to greatly outnumber the “cie” ones, right? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Writing

Time for more Glorious One-Pot Meals

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As regular readers know, I like a glorious one-pot meal, a description that serves as the title for Elizabeth Yarnell’s book. The blog now has quite a collection of various GOPM recipes, usually made on the fly.

Fair warnings about the book:

  1. The recipes are extremely bland. Crushed red pepper can help, but the idea and approach are so simple that you will quickly be making up your own recipes to use what you have on hand.
  2. She and her husband are, I assume, triathletes. She says a 2-qt GOPM serves two. For normal people it will serve four—and indeed she for some reasons uses four servings of rice in her recipes. I don’t use rice at all, but rather pearled barley, and I use 1/3 cup of the uncooked barley for the 2-qt pot.

Although Yarnell recommends enameled cast-iron, I find that plain cast iron works well, and the Stansport 2-qt cast-iron dutch oven is $20 at Walmart. You can easily remove the two wire handles (and easily replace them if you every want to hang the pot over a fire). Season it first. I highly recommend Larbee (leaf lard and beeswax) or Crisbee (palm and vegetable oil and beeswax) as the best I’ve found—and I recommend the puck over the stick and unscented over scented. See FAQ and instructions.

The enameled pot might be easier to clean, but plain cast iron cleans up readily with hot water and the Ringer, a piece of chain mail used as a scrubber. I wouldn’t use it on an enameled pot, but on plain cast iron it works like a charm, partly because it is flexible so you can feel when there is a spot with something stuck, so you know where to scrub. I clean the pot using just hot water, no detergent. Reseason the pot as needed. You can always start over by putting the empty pot in a self-cleaning oven and running a cycle. Rinse it out well, reseason, and it’s as good as new.

Friday will see another GOPM.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM

A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education

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Tracy Chou writes in Quartz:

In 2005, the late writer David Foster Wallace delivered a now-famous commencement address. It starts with the story of the fish in water, who spend their lives not even knowing what water is. They are naively unaware of the ocean that permits their existence, and the currents that carry them.

The most important education we can receive, Wallace goes on to explain, “isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.” He talks about finding appreciation for the richness of humanity and society. But it is the core concept of meta-cognition, of examining and editing what it is that we choose to contemplate, that has fixated me as someone who works in the tech industry.

As much as code and computation and data can feel as if they are mechanistically neutral, they are not. Technology products and services are built by humans who build their biases and flawed thinking right into those products and services—which in turn shapes human behavior and society, sometimes to a frightening degree. It’s arguable, for example, that online media’s reliance on clickbait journalism, and Facebook’s role in spreading “fake news” or otherwise sensationalized stories influenced the results of the 2016 US presidential election. This criticism is far from outward-facing; it comes from a place of self-reflection.

I studied engineering at Stanford University, and at the time I thought that was all I needed to study. I focused on problem-solving in the technical domain, and learned to see the world through the lens of equations, axioms, and lines of code. I found beauty and elegance in well-formulated optimization problems, tidy mathematical proofs, clever time- and space-efficient algorithms. Humanities classes, by contrast, I felt to be dreary, overwrought exercises in finding meaning where there was none. I dutifully completed my general education requirements in ethical reasoning and global community. But I was dismissive of the idea that there was any real value to be gleaned from the coursework.

Upon graduation, I went off to work as a software engineer at a small startup, Quora, then composed of only four people. Partly as a function of it being my first full-time job, and partly because the company and our product—a question and answer site—was so nascent, I found myself for the first time deeply considering what it was that I was working on, and to what end, and why.

I was no longer operating in a world circumscribed by lesson plans, problem sets and programming assignments, and intended course outcomes. I also wasn’t coding to specs, because there were no specs. As my teammates and I were building the product, we were also simultaneously defining what it should be, whom it would serve, what behaviors we wanted to incentivize amongst our users, what kind of community it would become, and what kind of value we hoped to create in the world.

]I still loved immersing myself in code and falling into a state of flow—those hours-long intensive coding sessions where I could put everything else aside and focus solely on the engineering tasks at hand. But I also came to realize that such disengagement from reality and societal context could only be temporary.

The first feature I built when I worked at Quora was the block button. Even when the community numbered only in the thousands, there were already people who seemed to delight in being obnoxious and offensive. I was eager to work on the feature because I personally felt antagonized and abused on the site (gender isn’t an unlikely reason as to why). As such, I had an immediate desire to make use of a blocking function. But if I hadn’t had that personal perspective, it’s possible that the Quora team wouldn’t have prioritized building a block button so early in its existence.

Our thinking around anti-harassment design also intersected a great deal with our thinking on free speech and moderation. We pondered the philosophical question—also very relevant to our product—of whether people were by default good or bad. If people were mostly good, then we would design the product around the idea that we could trust users, with controls for rolling back the actions of bad actors in the exceptional cases. If they were by default bad, it would be better to put all user contributions and edits through approvals queues for moderator review.

We debated the implications for open discourse: If we trusted users by default, and then we had an influx of “low quality” users (and how appropriate was it, even, to be labeling users in such a way?), what kind of deteriorative effect might that have on the community? But if we didn’t trust Quora members, and instead always gave preference to existing users that were known to be “high quality,” would we end up with an opinionated, ossified, old-guard, niche community that rejected newcomers and new thoughts?

In the end, we chose to bias ourselves toward . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 2:56 pm

Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children

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Julia Angwin and Hannes Grassegger report in ProPublica:

In the wake of a terrorist attack in London earlier this month, a U.S. congressman wrote a Facebook post in which he called for the slaughter of “radicalized” Muslims. “Hunt them, identify them, and kill them,” declared U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican. “Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”

Higgins’ plea for violent revenge went untouched by Facebook workers who scour the social network deleting offensive speech.

But a May posting on Facebook by Boston poet and Black Lives Matter activist Didi Delgado drew a different response.

“All white people are racist. Start from this reference point, or you’ve already failed,” Delgado wrote. The post was removed and her Facebook account was disabled for seven days.

A trove of internal documents reviewed by ProPublica sheds new light on the secret guidelines that Facebook’s censors use to distinguish between hate speech and legitimate political expression. The documents reveal the rationale behind seemingly inconsistent decisions. For instance, Higgins’ incitement to violence passed muster because it targeted a specific sub-group of Muslims — those that are “radicalized” — while Delgado’s post was deleted for attacking whites in general.

Over the past decade, the company has developed hundreds of rules, drawing elaborate distinctions between what should and shouldn’t be allowed, in an effort to make the site a safe place for its nearly 2 billion users. The issue of how Facebook monitors this content has become increasingly prominent in recent months, with the rise of “fake news” — fabricated stories that circulated on Facebook like “Pope Francis Shocks the World, Endorses Donald Trump For President, Releases Statement” — and growing concern that terrorists are using social media for recruitment.

While Facebook was credited during the 2010-2011 “Arab Spring” with facilitating uprisings against authoritarian regimes, the documents suggest that, at least in some instances, the company’s hate-speech rules tend to favor elites and governments over grassroots activists and racial minorities. In so doing, they serve the business interests of the global company, which relies on national governments not to block its service to their citizens.

One Facebook rule, which is cited in the documents but that the company said is no longer in effect, banned posts that praise the use of “violence to resist occupation of an internationally recognized state.” The company’s workforce of human censors, known as content reviewers, has deleted posts by activists and journalists in disputed territories such as Palestine, Kashmir, Crimea and Western Sahara.

One document trains content reviewers on how to apply the company’s global hate speech algorithm. The slide identifies three groups: female drivers, black children and white men. It asks: Which group is protected from hate speech? The correct answer: white men.

The reason is that Facebook deletes curses, slurs, calls for violence and several other types of attacks only when they are directed at “protected categories”—based on race, sex, gender identity, religious affiliation, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation and serious disability/disease. It gives users broader latitude when they write about “subsets” of protected categories. White men are considered a group because both traits are protected, while female drivers and black children, like radicalized Muslims, are subsets, because one of their characteristics is not protected. (The exact rules are in the slide show below.) . . .

Behind this seemingly arcane distinction lies a broader philosophy. Unlike American law, which permits preferences such as affirmative action for racial minorities and women for the sake of diversity or redressing discrimination, Facebook’s algorithm is designed to defend all races and genders equally.

“Sadly,” the rules are “incorporating this color-blindness idea which is not in the spirit of why we have equal protection,” said Danielle Citron, a law professor and expert on information privacy at the University of Maryland. This approach, she added, will “protect the people who least need it and take it away from those who really need it.”

But Facebook says its goal is different — to apply consistent standards worldwide. “The policies do not always lead to perfect outcomes,” said Monika Bickert, head of global policy management at Facebook. “That is the reality of having policies that apply to a global community where people around the world are going to have very different ideas about what is OK to share.”

Facebook’s rules constitute a legal world of their own. They stand in sharp contrast to the United States’ First Amendment protections of free speech, which courts have interpreted to allow exactly the sort of speech and writing censored by the company’s hate speech algorithm. But they also differ — for example, in permitting postings that deny the Holocaust — from more restrictive European standards.

The company has long had programs to remove obviously offensive material like child pornography from its stream of images and commentary. Recent articles in the Guardianand Süddeutsche Zeitung have detailed the difficult choices that Facebook faces regarding whether to delete posts containing graphic violence, child abuse, revenge porn and self-mutilation.

The challenge of policing political expression is even more complex. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 10:54 am

Rod Neep, Propaganda, iKon two-tone combo, Anthony Gold Red Cedar, and a spring shallot

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I did not detect any immediate difference in slickness between Dr. Jon’s Vol 2 shaving soap of yesterday and this Vol 1 Propaganda. You may notice that the tins have been upgraded to threaded tops, an improvement. Propaganda has a wonderful fragrance (though, of course, YNMV): vanilla, sandalwood, mandarin, patchouli and musk.

Having a good lather definitely starts the shave on the right foot. The X3 cap on the DLC baseplate worked fine and indeed the DLC seems more comfortable and less nick-prone that it does with its own cap. I’m in no hurry to switch back. (The handle is a Wolfman Razors handle.)

A splash of Anthony Gold’s wonderful Red Cedar aftershave, and the day begins.

Yesterday I blogged a recipe of which one ingredient was spring shallots. I only recently learned about these, and they are great as the allium in whatever you’re cooking. I have noted that scallions seem to have much more in the way of nutrients than regular onions, and I assume it’s because of the phytochemicals you get by eating the leaves of the scallions. Spring onions and spring shallots and green garlic have a similar abundance of green leaves (in green garlic the leaves are tightly curled in a stalk-like structure, but still edible), so I am assuming that these are also a nutrient powerhouse—and in any case they are tasty and interesting. Here’s a spring shallot:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2017 at 9:52 am

Posted in Shaving

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