Later On

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

Archive for January 12th, 2018

AlphaZero and the Protected Passed Pawn

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I thought this commentary was particularly good, though I realize tastes differ. Fascinating game.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 11:16 pm

Ratatouille with chicken again and recipe updated

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It’s very tasty indeed. Here’s the updated recipe. Use 1-cup servings, which should be a meal: 3 Weight Watcher points. So even if you eat 2 cups (1 pint), not too bad. And it is as tasty as all getout. The cooking time once the roasted vegetables are in the sauté pan is 30 minutes so that (for example) the thick-cut zucchini is tender but still has good texture (and a wonderful taste).

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 6:06 pm

Suggestion for DIYer: How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required)

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Mark Oppenheimer reports in Politico:

In May 23, 2012, after finishing final exams at the end of his junior year at Yale, a 23-year-old named Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins got two phone calls from people back home in Alaska. The first came from an erstwhile losing candidate for state Legislature; the second, from a longtime high school debate coach who remembered Kreiss-Tomkins as a standout from a rival school’s team. Neither one knew the other was calling, but both had the same idea: Kreiss-Tomkins should drop out of college.

Specifically, he should drop out of college, move home to Sitka and become a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives. They told him he had 10 days to decide.

Kreiss-Tomkins was dubious. There were plenty of reasons to say no. First, he had already planned out the year ahead: A relaxing summer in Sitka, with its 17 hours of sunlight, before starting the White House internship he’d lined up in the fall, then returning to Yale in the spring to finish his political science degree. Even if he could convince himself that giving all that up would be worth it, the race would be a steep uphill climb. Of the 40 members of Alaska’s Statehouse, only 16 were Democrats, several of whom caucused with the Republicans. Kreiss-Tomkins would have to campaign across a district made up of hundreds (if not thousands) of islands, strewn over an area the size of Connecticut. The incumbent Republican, Bill Thomas, chaired the House’s powerful Finance Committee and was widely seen as unbeatable, having eviscerated every opponent since his first election in 2004. In sum, it all added up to a sobering explanation for the phone calls: Alaska’s Democrats couldn’t find anyone else who would run, and turned their lonely eyes to a 23-year-old college student 2,900 miles away.

But why him?

By the time I had met Kreiss-Tomkins earlier that semester in a course I taught at Yale, he was already a campus semilegend, known for his serious hobbies (mountain climbing and ultramarathons) and singular appearance: bald, with a fringe of snowy blond hair and bright blue eyes—at once prematurely aged and precociously youthful, old man meets newborn.

What the folks back home knew—and his college friends didn’t—is that as a teenager, Kreiss-Tomkins had been, in his words, “autodidactically ferocious” about politics. While in high school, he’d memorized all 50 state attorneys general, all 100 U.S. senators, and a couple hundred members of the House of Representatives. At 14, his organizing prowess on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign earned coverage from NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times Magazine. From his home on a “remote Alaskan island,” the Times Magazine reported a month before the 2004 Iowa caucuses, “Kreiss-Tomkins has become especially adept at finding pen pals and online friends, and he now uses that skill on behalf of the Dean campaign, recruiting supporters through the Internet and then sending lists of e-mail addresses to the campaign.”

In college, feeling a bit of “been there, done that” syndrome, as he put it, he had dropped political organizing. But the phone calls from home,urging him to run for office stirred something inside. “I see politics in VORP-like terms,” he explains, using the baseball stat-nerd acronym for “value over replacement player.” Would he be better than a hypothetical average candidate recruited to run for the seat? The deadline approached. Finally, he made up his mind. On June 1, 2012, on his way to the Newark airport to fly home for the summer, he took a detour to the FedEx/Kinko’s in Times Square. “It was the last fax I ever sent,” he remembers. He got his paperwork in just under the wire, “at 8 o’clock Eastern time”—4 p.m. Alaska time. He was in.

Over the next five months, Kreiss-Tomkins campaigned doggedly. He went door to door, by foot, ferry and bush plane. He visited Alaska Native villages, arriving with only a backpack containing a change of clothes, a tube of Ritz crackers, some peanut butter and a stash of business cards.

Thomas, his opponent, hung back, slow to awake to the seriousness of the challenge. Meanwhile, Kreiss-Tomkins, sounding a populist note, hammered him on a vote Thomas had taken to cut taxes for the oil industry. “I framed my candidacy primarily as a referendum on that vote,” Kreiss-Tomkins says, “because I thought his vote on such an important issue directly conflicted with the public interest.”

The election went down to the wire, then past it as absentee ballots arrived from Alaskans around the world—“from a military person in Bahrain, from somebody living abroad in Cambodia”—the closest contest of the season in Alaska and possibly the whole country. State Democrats watched with gnawed-down fingernails and high bar tabs. If Kreiss-Tomkins lost, the Alaska House Democrats would have just nine members, below the one-fourth of the assembly that is required to be considered an official caucus—at which point, according to the Legislature’s rules, they could be excluded from committees and even denied funds for hiring staff. “At one point, my race was dead-even tied,” says Kreiss-Tomkins. “The tabulation would change by the day. Up by two, down by seven. Then there was a recount.”

On December 3, 2012, Kreiss-Tomkins was declared the victor by 32 votes. And although he had no way to know it at the time, it was the beginning of something very unexpected.

In the five years since Kreiss-Tomkins’s upset victory, a most unusual thing has happened: Alaska—which elected Sarah Palin governor and has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson—has turned from red to a bluish hue of purple. Throughout the state, unknown progressives, like the kind Kreiss-Tomkins once was, have been winning. Before the elections of 2012, conservatives controlled all the major seats of power in Alaska: the governorship, both houses of the Legislature, and the mayoralty and city assembly of Anchorage, where 40 percent of the state’s 740,000 residents live; now, progressives and moderates control all of those offices but the state Senate, which has been gerrymandered beyond their control. More than half of the 40-member Alaska House of Representatives has been newly elected since 2012, most of them Democrats or independents, and they have remade the Democratic-independent caucus into a 22-18 majority.

Not all of these newcomer state legislators are typical progressives—“the NPR-listening liberals hunt, fish or camp here,” says Joelle Hall, political director of the Alaska AFL-CIO—but in defeating more conservative candidates, they accomplished something that didn’t happen anywhere else in November 2016: In a state that went for Trump by 15 points, they flipped a red legislative chamber to blue. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 5:39 pm

Weird in all sorts of ways: Time-travel tunnel.

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Towards a catalogue of London’s inter-dimensional gateways.” Just so you know what train you’re on. But very cinéma vérité.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 5:23 pm

Harvard Study Shows Why Big Telecom Is Terrified of Community-Run Broadband

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Karl Bode writes in Motherboard:

A new study out of Harvard once again makes it clear why incumbent ISPs like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are so terrified by the idea of communities building their own broadband networks.

According to the new study by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, community-owned broadband networks provide consumers with significantly lower rates than their private-sector counterparts.

The study examined data collected from 40 municipal broadband providers and private throughout 2015 and 2016. Pricing data was collected predominately by visiting carrier websites, where pricing is (quite intentionally) often hidden behind prequalification walls, since pricing varies dramatically based on regional competition.

In many markets, analysts couldn’t make direct comparisons with a private ISP, either because the ISP failed to meet the FCC’s 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up standard definition of broadband (a problem for countless telcos who refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines), or because the ISP prequalification website terms of service “deterred or prohibited” data collection.

But out of the 27 markets where they could make direct comparisons, researchers found that in 23 cases, the community-owned ISPs’ pricing was lower when the service costs and fees were averaged over four years.

“When considering entry-level broadband service—the least-expensive plan that provides at least 25/3 Mbps service—23 out of 27 community-owned [fiber to the home] providers we studied charged the lowest prices in their community when considering the annual average cost of service over a four-year period, taking into account installation and equipment costs and averaging any initial teaser rates with later, higher, rates,” they noted. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 1:18 pm

“Shithole Countries” Is All About Political Correctness

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Kevin Drum has an interesting comment that rings true. Do read it.

His argument regarding vocabulary resonated with me: it is indeed difficult to delineate nuance if you lack the tools (i.e., the words) to do so. And some people do lack the words—look, for example, how often “nice” is used because other words are too difficult to recall or are unknown:

“How was your day?” “Nice.”

“What did you think of that dinner/party/movie/person/etc.?” “Nice.”

And so on.

Trying to describe an entire country and paint a true and balanced picture using just words and numbers is very difficult. Picking a single-word descriptor for the country—”Nice” or “Spectacular” or “Grim” or “Shithole”—is obviously easier and requires less knowledge of vocabulary and less knowledge of the country: one just names his or her impression of the country.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 11:35 am

The craftsmanship of rejuvenating an old book

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Very interesting piece from Sora News 24, by Audrey Akcasu. It includes this video, and note by click the “CC” button you can turn on English-language subtitles.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2018 at 9:18 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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