Later On

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

Archive for January 5th, 2018

Prince plays jazz piano and coaches his band in a sound-check: “Summertime”

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Really good, IMO. More information in the post at Open Culture:


Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

Enjoying Weight Watchers Freestyle: Dinner tonight

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I have made this a lot, and it turns out to be a low-point meal. Very tasty. Made for two, each gets a 5-point serving.

First, “preserve” a lemon the Mark Bittman way: cut off the ends and discard, cut lemon into slabs and then dice. Put in a small bowl and add:

3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar (that’s 1 point each: 3/4 tsp sugar for each of two servings).

Let it sit at least 20 minutes; longer is fine.

1 lemon (preserved as described above)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (4 points each)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch red (or Swiss) chard, chopped, stems chopped small—two bunches also good
salt (I used about 2 tsp)
pepper (I used about 1 Tbsp)
3/4 – 1 lb Dover sole.

Heat oil in large sauté pan (11” diameter). Add onion, garlic, and chard stems. Cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until onion is soft and translucent.

Add the preserved lemon along with any liquid in the bowl and cook that for a minute or two, then add the chopped chard and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to wilt. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Layer the sole over the chard. If you use a pound, you will have to overlap some, but that’s no problem. Cover and cook over medium heat for 14 minutes.

Divide equally into two bowls.

It was really good. If you want, a little balsamic vinegar would be good, but if you use 1 teaspoon that would add one more point; 1/2 teaspoon is zero points, though.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 7:50 pm

Amazing figue skating

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

How to Fix Facebook—Before It Fixes Us

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Roger McNamee writes in the Washington Monthly:

In early 2006, I got a call from Chris Kelly, then the chief privacy officer at Facebook, asking if I would be willing to meet with his boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I had been a technology investor for more than two decades, but the meeting was unlike any I had ever had. Mark was only twenty-two. He was facing a difficult decision, Chris said, and wanted advice from an experienced person with no stake in the outcome.

When we met, I began by letting Mark know the perspective I was coming from. Soon, I predicted, he would get a billion-dollar offer to buy Facebook from either Microsoft or Yahoo, and everyone, from the company’s board to the executive staff to Mark’s parents, would advise him to take it. I told Mark that he should turn down any acquisition offer. He had an opportunity to create a uniquely great company if he remained true to his vision. At two years old, Facebook was still years away from its first dollar of profit. It was still mostly limited to students and lacked most of the features we take for granted today. But I was convinced that Mark had created a game-changing platform that would eventually be bigger than Google was at the time. Facebook wasn’t the first social network, but it was the first to combine true identity with scalable technology. I told Mark the market was much bigger than just young people; the real value would come when busy adults, parents and grandparents, joined the network and used it to keep in touch with people they didn’t get to see often.

My little speech only took a few minutes. What ensued was the most painful silence of my professional career. It felt like an hour. Finally, Mark revealed why he had asked to meet with me: Yahoo had made that billion-dollar offer, and everyone was telling him to take it.

It only took a few minutes to help him figure out how to get out of the deal. So began a three-year mentoring relationship. In 2007, Mark offered me a choice between investing or joining the board of Facebook. As a professional investor, I chose the former. We spoke often about a range of issues, culminating in my suggestion that he hire Sheryl Sandberg as chief operating officer, and then my help in recruiting her. (Sheryl had introduced me to Bono in 2000; a few years later, he and I formed Elevation Partners, a private equity firm.) My role as a mentor ended prior to the Facebook IPO, when board members like Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel took on that role.

In my thirty-five-year career in technology investing, I have never made a bigger contribution to a company’s success than I made at Facebook. It was my proudest accomplishment. I admired Mark and Sheryl enormously. Not surprisingly, Facebook became my favorite app. I checked it constantly, and I became an expert in using the platform by marketing my rock band, Moonalice, through a Facebook page. As the administrator of that page, I learned to maximize the organic reach of my posts and use small amounts of advertising dollars to extend and target that reach. It required an ability to adapt, because Facebook kept changing the rules. By successfully adapting to each change, we made our page among the highest-engagement fan pages on the platform.

My familiarity with building organic engagement put me in a position to notice that something strange was going on in February 2016. The Democratic primary was getting under way in New Hampshire, and I started to notice a flood of viciously misogynistic anti-Clinton memes originating from Facebook groups supporting Bernie Sanders. I knew how to build engagement organically on Facebook. This was not organic. It appeared to be well organized, with an advertising budget. But surely the Sanders campaign wasn’t stupid enough to be pushing the memes themselves. I didn’t know what was going on, but I worried that Facebook was being used in ways that the founders did not intend.

A month later I noticed an unrelated but equally disturbing news item. A consulting firm was revealed to be scraping data about people interested in the Black Lives Matter protest movement and selling it to police departments. Only after that news came out did Facebook announce that it would cut off the company’s access to the information. That got my attention. Here was a bad actor violating Facebook’s terms of service, doing a lot of harm, and then being slapped on the wrist. Facebook wasn’t paying attention until after the damage was done. I made a note to myself to learn more.

Meanwhile, the flood of anti-Clinton memes continued all spring. I still didn’t understand what was driving it, except that the memes were viral to a degree that didn’t seem to be organic. And, as it turned out, something equally strange was happening across the Atlantic.

When citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, most observers were stunned. The polls had predicted a victory for the “Remain” campaign. And common sense made it hard to believe that Britons would do something so obviously contrary to their self-interest. But neither common sense nor the polling data fully accounted for a crucial factor: the new power of social platforms to amplify negative messages.

Facebook, Google, and other social media platforms make their money from advertising. As with all ad-supported businesses, that means advertisers are the true customers, while audience members are the product. Until the past decade, media platforms were locked into a one-size-fits-all broadcast model. Success with advertisers depended on producing content that would appeal to the largest possible audience. Compelling content was essential, because audiences could choose from a variety of distribution mediums, none of which could expect to hold any individual consumer’s attention for more than a few hours. TVs weren’t mobile. Computers were mobile, but awkward. Newspapers and books were mobile and not awkward, but relatively cerebral. Movie theaters were fun, but inconvenient.

When their business was limited to personal computers, the internet platforms were at a disadvantage. Their proprietary content couldn’t compete with traditional media, and their delivery medium, the PC, was generally only usable at a desk. Their one advantage—a wealth of personal data—was not enough to overcome the disadvantage in content. As a result, web platforms had to underprice their advertising.

Smartphones changed the advertising game completely. It took only a few years for . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Later in the article:

Algorithms that maximize attention give an advantage to negative messages. People tend to react more to inputs that land low on the brainstem. Fear and anger produce a lot more engagement and sharing than joy. The result is that the algorithms favor sensational content over substance. Of course, this has always been true for media; hence the old news adage “If it bleeds, it leads.” But for mass media, this was constrained by one-size-fits-all content and by the limitations of delivery platforms. Not so for internet platforms on smartphones. They have created billions of individual channels, each of which can be pushed further into negativity and extremism without the risk of alienating other audience members. To the contrary: the platforms help people self-segregate into like-minded filter bubbles, reducing the risk of exposure to challenging ideas.

It took Brexit for me to begin to see the danger of this dynamic.

And later:

I realized that the problems I had been seeing couldn’t be solved simply by, say, Facebook hiring staff to monitor the content on the site. The problems were inherent in the attention-based, algorithm-driven business model. And what I suspected was Russia’s meddling in 2016 was only a prelude to what we’d see in 2018 and beyond. The level of political discourse, already in the gutter, was going to get even worse.

See also “Social Media Has Hijacked Our Brains and Threatens Global Democracy.”

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 11:42 am

Being Black in Trump Country: Dozens of People Arrested for Less Than an Ounce of Weed

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Shaun King reports in The Intercept:

WHEN A PANICKED stranger emailed me this past weekend to say that police in Cartersville, Georgia, had “locked up a hundred kids when they claimed to find less than an ounce of weed at a house party,” I didn’t need to ask if the kids were black. I already knew. Police departments across north Georgia, a region north of Atlanta where Cartersville is located, just aren’t that likely to arrest 100 white kids at a house party if they discovered less than an ounce of marijuana.

But that’s exactly what happened in Cartersville. When I searched for local news reports in Atlanta and found that police actually arrested, charged, and jailed these people — the overwhelming majority of them young and black — for marijuana possession, I was initially puzzled. Had all 70 of them possessed marijuana? Nope.

After claiming to find less than an ounce of weed in total — which has a street value of around $150 to $200 and would mean only a ticket in the nearby city of Atlanta — police in Cartersville charged all 70 people gathered for a birthday party — including men, women, boys, and girls, ranging from the ages of 15 to 31 — with drug possession and hauled them off to Bartow County Jail.

A pregnant woman said she was verbally abused and mistreated in jail. Another person said they were threatened with Tasers and locked in actual cages. Some of the attendees were military veterans and college students who were home for the holidays. Others were standout student athletes.

Many of these people’s lives will be ruined because of that small amount of marijuana. Scores of lawyers have been hired; nearly $100,000 in bail money was paid; and good people — who, for all we or the cops know, have never even smoked weed — are wondering if they are about to have a criminal record. Their mugshots were publicly released. Unable to afford bail, many of the men and women who were arrested were then fired from their jobs after they were left in jail for days on end.

“I thought they were just gonna shut the party down and everybody was going to go home,” said Deja Heard, who had rented the home on Airbnb for her 21st birthday. And the partygoers didn’t even understand what was happening: “We did not know what we were going to jail for,” said Nija Guider in an interview with Tyisha Fernandes of Atlanta’s CBS affiliate. Other attendees said police initially had told them to get into the police vans to get warm since it was freezing cold outside — only to keep them there and haul them off to jail.

THIS IS SOMETHING you might expect in north Georgia. I know Georgia and these parts of it well. I lived in Atlanta for most of my adult life — the actual city. North Georgia likes to consider itself part of Atlanta, but it’s not. One of the reasons is that it’s outside a belt around the city where the dynamics surrounding race suddenly change. That’s not to say that black people don’t face the risk of arrest for marijuana in the immediate Atlanta area; in fact, the two Georgia counties that make up Atlanta and some of its surroundings have some of the most racially disproportionate rates of marijuana arrests in the U.S., according to a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union. . . ./

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 11:00 am

False Claims for Acupuncture

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Steven Novella writes at

The principles of science-based medicine include using all available scientific evidence to assess the safety, efficacy, and risk vs benefit of any medical intervention. Further, treatments supported by rigorous evidence should be preferred over those with less scientific support, and there should be a lower boundary of plausibility and evidence below which it is unethical to recommend treatments. Finally, the ethics of patient autonomy require transparency and honesty. Patients cannot make informed decisions and cannot protect their autonomy if they are lied to.

There are regulations about what kinds of claims can be made for medical products and services, but they vary from country to country, and generally are fairly loose. Even when regulations exist, enforcement is largely inadequate. This leaves consumers fending for themselves when it comes to important medical decisions involving complex and technical scientific data.

This is an endemic and significant problem in the arena of “alternative” medicine. This artificial category was created in order to market dubious treatments that lack scientific support. Proponents have been working for decades to weaken standards of care for themselves and their treatments, change the rules of science, and carve out a favorable regulatory space in which to operate. When you lower standards in this way it should be no surprise that all standards suffer – including basic transparency and honesty.

A recent study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal reviews claims made for acupuncture on practitioner websites. They found:

A search of acupuncturists’ websites shows that many claim to be able to treat a wide range of conditions, despite a lack of evidence showing the efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of those conditions. Practitioners and owners of websites likely to be in breach of the Medicines Act include many committee members from acupuncture’s professional bodies.

The study was performed by Daniel Ryan from the Society for Science Based Healthcare. He compared the claims to a list of medical conditions that it is illegal to claim to treat without approval, and found:

… for the 101 included websites, the three most frequent claims were around the treatment or prevention of mental illness, infertility and arthritis (all on the list).

Combined, these claims appeared on 73 per cent of the websites. He also found 11 per cent of sites claimed acupuncture could treat or prevent cancer, 23 per cent made diabetes claims, 19 per cent targeted thrombosis and 14 per cent offered help for heart disease.

For comparison, I did a quick survey of 10 acupuncturist websites local to me in Connecticut. Two sites did not make specific disease claims, only offered acupuncture for a “variety of conditions.” The other eight sites made specific claims to be able to treat many conditions, including arthritis, hypertension, migraine, Lyme disease, anxiety, allergies, insomnia, Bell’s palsy, stroke symptoms, and more. Half of the sites claimed to treat over 50 conditions with acupuncture. None claimed to treat cancer, but half claimed to treat the side effects of chemotherapy or cancer pain.

Kate Roberts from Acupuncture New Zealand, in response to Ryan’s article, said in an interview:

Roberts said Ryan was also a member of the Skeptics Society and the report was part of a “witch hunt” against acupuncture that was “tiresome, often misinformed and misleading”.

“They say acupuncture has no evidence base, but that’s absolutely incorrect. There are huge numbers of systematic reviews on acupuncture proving that it is a good treatment for many conditions and that is why it is in 1000 clinical guidelines worldwide.”

That, of course, is the question – what does the evidence say about the effectiveness of acupuncture?

A science-based review of acupuncture finds that the claims made for it are highly implausible and there is no single indication for which there is robust evidence of efficacy. Yet proponents, like Roberts, claim that there is evidence. Why the disconnect?

I won’t speculate about the honesty of proponents like Roberts – I don’t know what she really believes, but that does not really matter. It is possible that she simply has a very different idea of what constitutes scientific evidence than I do. I my experience when a proponent of alternative medicine claims that a treatment is evidence-based or backed by science they mean that there is some study somewhere that was positive. They do not mean that the evidence meets a reasonable science-based standard.

To review that standard (which bears frequent repeating): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

“I’ve Studied the Trump-Fox Feedback Loop for Months. It’s Crazier Than You Think.”

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Matthew Gertz reports in Politico:

On Tuesday night, I, along with many Americans, was shocked when President Donald Trump tweeted that his “Nuclear Button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s.

Having spent the past three months monitoring Trump’s Twitter feed professionally, I also had a good sense of why this spectacle was unfolding. After watching a recording of the previous few minutes of Fox News, my hunch was confirmed: The president was live-tweeting the network’s coverage.

Everyone has a theory about Trump’s hyperaggressive early morning tweetstorms. Some think they are a deliberate ploy the president uses to distract the press from his administration’s potential weaknesses, or to frame the public debate to his liking. Others warn his rapid shifts from one topic to another indicate mental instability.

But my many hours following the president’s tweets for Media Matters for America, the progressive media watchdog organization, have convinced me the truth is often much simpler: The president is just live-tweeting Fox, particularly the network’s Trump-loving morning show, Fox & Friends.

It’s no secret, of course, that the president likes to tweet about what he sees on TV. Thanks to diligent reporting from the White House beat, we know Trump often watches several hours of cable news each day via the “Super TiVo” he had installed at the White House. And journalists at CNNthe Washington PostNew York magazine, among others, have compiled lists of Trump tweets they believe were inspired by Fox.

But here’s what is shocking: After comparing the president’s tweets with Fox’s coverage every day since October, I can tell you that the Fox-Trump feedback loop is happening far more often than you think. There is no strategy to Trump’s Twitter feed; he is not trying to distract the media. Heis being distracted. He darts with quark-like speed from topic to topic in his tweets because that’s how cable news works.

Here’s what’s also shocking: A man with unparalleled access to the world’s most powerful information-gathering machine, with an intelligence budget estimated at $73 billion last year, prefers to rely on conservative cable news hosts to understand current events.

I have long known that the president is a Fox & Friends superfan—well before he ran for office, he had a weekly guest spot on the program for years, and since his election, he has regularly held the program’s co-hosts up as model journalists. But one morning in October, a colleague pointed out that Trump had tweeted an endorsement of a book minutes after the author, appearing on Fox & Friends to promote the work, praised him. Curious if there was a pattern, I examined the rest of the president’s tweets from that morning, and found that several others seemed to line up with the program, reacting or commenting on various topics raised by the broadcast—from kneeling NFL players to negotiating with Democrats over immigration—without ever explicitly mentioning the show itself.

The results were so striking that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2018 at 10:33 am

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