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Archive for October 29th, 2018

Wisconsin’s $4.1 Billion Foxconn Boondoggle

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Bruce Murphy reports in the Verge:


  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wooed Foxconn with a huge subsidy plan, which was first drawn up on the back of a napkin
  • It now totals $4.1 billion, much of it in cash, and many doubt taxpayers will ever be repaid
  • Now, Foxconn no longer plans to build a Generation 10.5 factory manufacturing panels for 75-inch TVs
  • Instead, it plans to build a smaller factory manufacturing smaller panels and requiring far less investment
  • Foxconn maintains it will still create 13,000 jobs, but they will mostly be for knowledge workers developing an ecosystem it calls “AI 8K+5G”
  • Foxconn was given large exemptions from environmental regulations, raising concerns about pollution
  • The Walker administration refused to talk to The Verge for this story

It was a veritable lovefest in Milwaukee in July 2017 when Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and Foxconn chairman Terry Gou announced their plan to create a heavily subsidized manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin. Walker gushed that Gou, who founded his Taiwan-based company in 1974, was “one of the most remarkable business leaders in the world.” Gou returned the favor by saying, “I’ve never seen this type of governor or leader yet in this world.” Effusive, yet ambiguous.

The details of the deal were famously written on the back of a napkin when Gou and the Republican governor first met: a $3 billion state subsidy in return for Foxconn’s $10 billion investment in a Generation 10.5 LCD manufacturing plant that would create 13,000 jobs.

The size of the subsidy was stunning. It was far and away the largest in Wisconsin history and the largest government handout to a foreign company ever given in America. Like most states, Wisconsin had given subsidies to companies in the past, but never higher than $35,000 per job. Foxconn’s subsidy was $230,000 per job.

But Walker was elected in 2010 on a promise of creating 250,000 new jobs in the state in his first term as governor. Six years into his tenure, he still was far short. Running for a third term in 2018, he badly needed a big win.

And the Foxconn deal was beyond big. Some predicted that bringing the company that manufactures devices for Apple and many other tech giants to the state would create the “Silicon Valley of Wisconsin,” which is no small claim in a state that’s far from a high-tech hotbed. Conservatives predicted Walker’s re-election would be a slam dunk on the back of the deal.

But what seemed so simple on a napkin has turned out to be far more complicated and messy in real life. As the size of the subsidy has steadily increased to a jaw-dropping $4.1 billion, Foxconn has repeatedly changed what it plans to do, raising doubts about the number of jobs it will create. Instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn now says it will build a much smaller Gen 6 plant, which would require one-third of the promised investment, although the company insists it will eventually hit the $10 billion investment target. And instead of a factory of workers building panels for 75-inch TVs, Foxconn executives now say the goal is to build “ecosystem” of buzzwords called “AI 8K+5G” with most of the manufacturing done by robots.

Polls now show most Wisconsin voters don’t believe the subsidy will pay off for taxpayers, and Walker didn’t even mention the deal in a November 2017 speech announcing his run for re-election. He now trails in that re-election bid against a less-than-electric Democratic candidate, the bland state superintendent of public instruction Tony Evers.

It all seemed so promising. So how did everything go so bad so quickly?

When Walker signed the Foxconn deal in November 2017, the details matched those jotted on the napkin: the state promised a $3 billion state subsidy if the company invested $10 billion in a plant that created 13,000 jobs.

The size of Wisconsin’s subsidy quickly began to grow, as spelled out in state legislation passed about six weeks later and implemented by the Walker administration. By December 2017, the public cost had grown to include $764 million in new tax incentives from local governments in Racine County, which is just 40 minutes south of Milwaukee where the plant was to be located. Other additions included $164 million for road and highway connections built to service the plant, plus $140 million for a new electric transmission line to Foxconn that would be paid for by all 5 million ratepayers of the public utility We Energies. With other small costs added, the total Foxconn subsidy hit $4.1 billion — a stunning $1,774 per household in Wisconsin.

Back when the subsidy was $3 billion, Wisconsin’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that it would take until 2043 for taxpayers to recoup the subsidy. This long payback period was due to Walker and Republicans effectively cutting the state’s corporate income tax for manufacturers to zero in 2011. This meant the subsidies to Foxconn would not be a tax write-off, but billions in cash that would be paid back by state income taxes paid by Foxconn workers. At $4.1 billion, the payback date for the state was likely 2050 or later.

Some doubt the subsidy will ever actually be recouped. “Realistically, the payback period for a $100,000 per job deal is not 20 years, not 42 years, but somewhere between hundreds of years and never,” wrote Jeffrey Dorfman, an economics professor at the University of Georgia, in a story for Forbes. “At $230,000 [or more] per job, there is no hope of recapturing the state funds spent.” And this was before the subsidy had risen to $4.1 billion, or about $315,000 per job.

In retrospect, it’s clear that Walker had a strong hand to play in negotiations with Foxconn. The company had to locate in a Great Lakes state because of the huge amount of water needed to clean the glass used in manufacturing LCD screens. And no other Great Lakes state came close to offering the $4.1 billion Foxconn is getting. Michigan came the closest, offering $2.3 billion, but it was partly a tax subsidy rather than cash. As for Ohio, Gov. John Kasich condemned the Wisconsin deal. “I’ll tell you one thing,” he said, “it’s not going to take us 40 years to make back the investment we make. We don’t buy deals.”

Over the summer, Walker’s response to such criticism was pointed. ”There’s a whole lot of people out there scrambling to try and come up with a reason not to like this,” he said in July of last year. “They can go suck lemons. The rest of us are going to cheer and figure out how we are going to get this thing going forward.” Several weeks later, he called the deal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that will be “transformational” for the state. “These LCD displays will be made in America for the very first time, right here in the state of Wisconsin.”

The Walker administration did not return repeated requests for comment about when taxpayers would recoup the Foxconn subsidies.

In May, the Nikkei Asian Review reported that Foxconn was greatly scaling back its plans for the plant. Foxconn released a statement “categorically” denying this, but by late June, company officials conceded they would not be building the kind of plant Gou had originally promised Walker.

Instead of a Generation 10.5 plant, which produces 10-foot by 11-foot panels for 75-inch TV screens, Foxconn would be building a Generation 6 plant that only produces 5-foot by 6-foot glass panels. A Gen 6 plant would require about a $2.5 billion investment, according to Bob O’Brien, a partner at Display Supply Chain Consultants, rather than the $10 billion Foxconn initially promised.

Foxconn had hoped to have New York-based Corning build a factory nearby, as the large glass panels required for a Generation 10 plant cannot be transported long distances. But Corning officials made it clear they’d need a subsidy for as much as two-thirds of the cost of this facility, and officials within the Walker administration, suffering continuing criticism about the Foxconn subsidy, ruled out any more handouts. The Walker administration, it seems, had not checked to see if Foxconn could deliver on its promises without help.

Foxconn spokesperson Louis Woo told BizTimes that a co-located glass plant “would no longer be a necessity” with a Gen 6 plant. “We can just ship [glass] from somewhere else… because the pieces of glass that would be required would be a lot smaller.”

But Foxconn officials also said that the company was still committed to a $10 billion investment and 13,000 jobs, adding it might eventually add a Gen 10.5 plant, but it would get there in “phases.” The phases were not spelled out.

Just seven weeks later, in late August, the company announced the plans had changed yet again — far more radically. Woo told the Racine Journal Times that Foxconn would never add a Gen 10.5 plant to its Racine campus, despite past statements, because by the time it was built, the market would be glutted by other manufacturers in China.

And even the Gen 6 panels might not be manufactured in Racine for long. . .

Continue reading.

Scott Walker, scourge of Wisconsin.

Read the whole thing. It’s jaw-dropping. Scott Walker has crushed Wisconsin, much as Donald Trump is crushing the US.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 1:40 pm

9 hours of ‘Executive Time’: Trump’s unstructured days define his presidency

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In Politico Eliana Johnson and Daniel Lippman report on Trump’s lack of interest and engagement in doing the work of president:

President Donald Trump had about three times as much free time planned for last Tuesday as work time, according to his private schedule. The president was slated for more than nine hours of “Executive Time,” a euphemism for the unstructured time Trump spends tweeting, phoning friends and watching television. Official meetings, policy briefings and public appearances — typically the daily work of being president — consumed barely more than three hours of his day.

The president was slated to spend 30 minutes on the phone with CEOs and make brief remarks at a state leadership conference. He was briefed by senior military leaders in the evening and joined them for dinner. Aside from an 11:30 a.m. meeting with White House chief of staff John Kelly — his first commitment of the day — the rest of his day was unstructured, some in blocks as long as 2 hours and 45 minutes.

A review of one week of the president’s private detailed schedules, from Monday Oct. 22 through Friday Oct. 26, showed the president had more free time on Tuesday than on any other day that week, but his Tuesday agenda was hardly atypical. And while the notion of Executive Time, and the president’s increasingly late start to the day, has come under scrutiny over the past year, this new batch of schedules obtained by POLITICO offers fresh insight into the extent to which that unscheduled time dominates Trump’s week and is shaping his presidency, allowing his whims and momentary interests to drive White House business.

“The president’s time is, in many ways, his most valuable commodity because it’s finite,” said Mack McLarty, who served as chief of staff for President Bill Clinton’s first year in office. “It reflects his priorities. It reflects what he’s trying to get done with the country.”

As a freewheeling president in one of the world’s most regimented jobs, Trump appears to be redefining the nature of the role. Past presidents were disciplined in their scheduled time, squired from meeting to meeting, event to event, from the moment they arrived in the Oval Office until they headed up to the residence at night.

Trump, by contrast, enjoys huge blocks of unscheduled time in which he can do as he pleases. He is hardly the first president to have an erratic schedule. Clinton and Jimmy Carter were known to make middle-of-the-night phone calls, and every president has kept different hours: George W. Bush was an early bird, Barack Obama a night owl. But even Trump allies who say the president is always working concede that the Trump presidency is uniquely defined by his down time, when his short-term bugaboos become the drivers of his agenda, rather than any long-term vision.

“He might read something in the paper and immediately you’d get an impromptu meeting on trade,” said a person familiar with the president’s scheduling. “It’s just more impromptu than like a month in advance you have a policy time set that you’re going to work up to.”

Some White House aides insist the president is productive during these open stretches, calling lawmakers, Cabinet members and world leaders, and scheduling meetings rather than simply watching television in the private dining room off the Oval Office. One aide even described Trump as a “workaholic.”

But the president’s official commitments last week began no earlier than 11 a.m. according to the schedules obtained by POLITICO, and on Tuesday — in the midst of a potential serial bomber and two weeks ahead of the midterm elections — they didn’t start until 1 p.m.

Trump’s work activity also reflects much more time spent on the performative aspects of the job, like signing ceremonies and media interviews, than on the actual work of policymaking.

A bulk of the president’s time last week was spent traveling to and from political rallies and campaigning on behalf of Republican candidates ahead of next Tuesday’s midterm elections. On Wednesday, which began with an 11:30 a.m. meeting with John Kelly, Trump delivered brief remarks on the opioid crisis and sat for a media interview before departing for an evening rally in Wisconsin. The rest of his day, according to his schedule, was open.

Last week’s schedules are remarkably light on policy discussions. The president spent a little more than two hours of his week in policy briefings, according to the schedules, and he was scheduled to receive the President’s Daily Brief on just two of the five days reviewed.

Obama, by contrast, was generally booked throughout the day, according to Mona Sutphen, who served as his deputy chief of staff for policy from 2009 to 2011. “I’d say it was significantly, fundamentally a different pace of intensity of workload,” Sutphen said. Her successor, Nancy-Ann DeParle, recalled schedules packed with policy meetings — on average, six to seven hours a day, she said.

“If the president was taking nine hours of Executive Time, we would just say the president was down for the day or something like that,” said a senior Obama White House aide, who declined to be named.

For Trump aides, scheduling presented a challenge from the outset. Accustomed to conducting business largely over the phone from his office in Trump Tower, the president chafed at back-to-back meetings that kept him off his phone and away from the television, according to a half dozen current and former White House aides.

The concept of “Executive Time” was Kelly’s response to the president’s complaints that he was over-scheduled under his previous chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and “didn’t have any time to think,” one of those aides said.

“There was always this tug and pull early in the administration when Priebus was there because if there were too many things on his schedule, he would complain. But if there were too few things on his schedule, the senior staff would complain because he would be left to his own devices and spend more time watching TV or calling people on the phone or calling in advisers unscheduled to the Oval Office,” said a former White House aide familiar with the evolution of his schedule and the president’s gripes about it.

What is unclear is how much thinking and working actually takes places in these off-hours, despite the protestations of some Trump aides — as opposed to tweeting, television-watching, gossiping and venting with friends and allies by telephone.

Last week, White House aides say, Trump was briefed on the spate of attempted pipe bombings that targeted some of his political enemies, last-minute meetings that did not appear on his private schedule. On Monday afternoon, the president said on Twitter that he had just spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, calls also left off the schedule. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 1:33 pm

Luca Turin was on to something: ‘Quantum smell’ idea gains ground

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Jason Palmer reports for the BBC:

A controversial theory that the way we smell involves a quantum physics effect has received a boost, following experiments with human subjects.

It challenges the notion that our sense of smell depends only on the shapes of molecules we sniff in the air.

Instead, it suggests that the molecules’ vibrations are responsible.

A way to test it is with two molecules of the same shape, but with different vibrations. A report in PLOS ONE shows that humans can distinguish the two.

Tantalisingly, the idea hints at quantum effects occurring in biological systems – an idea that is itself driving a new field of science, as the BBC feature article Are birds hijacking quantum physics? points out.

But the theory – first put forward by Luca Turin, now of the Fleming Biomedical Research Sciences Centre in Greece – remains contested and divisive.

The idea that molecules’ shapes are the only link to their smell is well entrenched, but Dr Turin said there were holes in the idea.

He gave the example of molecules that include sulphur and hydrogen atoms bonded together – they may take a wide range of shapes, but all of them smell of rotten eggs.

“If you look from the [traditional] standpoint… it’s really hard to explain,” Dr Turin told BBC News.

“If you look from the standpoint of an alternative theory – that what determines the smell of a molecule is the vibrations – the sulphur-hydrogen mystery becomes absolutely clear.”

Molecules can be viewed as a collection of atoms on springs, so the atoms can move relative to one another. Energy of just the right frequency – a quantum – can cause the “springs” to vibrate, and in a 1996 paper in Chemical Senses Dr Turin said it was these vibrations that explained smell.

The mechanism, he added, was “inelastic electron tunnelling”: in the presence of a specific “smelly” molecule, an electron within a smell receptor in your nose can “jump” – or tunnel – across it and dump a quantum of energy into one of the molecule’s bonds – setting the “spring” vibrating.

But the established smell science community has from the start argued that there is little proof of this.

Of horses and unicorns

One way to test the idea was to prepare two molecules of identical shape but with different vibrations – done by replacing a molecule’s hydrogen atoms with their heavier cousins called deuterium.

Continue reading.

Prof. Vosshall certainly clings tenaciously to his idea. I recall how Alfred Wegener‘s 1912 paper was roundly rejected by scientists for decades.

I highly recommend Chandler Burr’s wonderful profile of Turin, The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession and the Last Mystery of the Senses.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

Lady Leadfoot: Denise McCluggage

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Amy Wallace writes in Sports Illustrated:

MARCH 20, 1961

Five days before the race, the automobiles began to appear in this small backwater town. They came on trailers, on huge haul-aways, on tow-bars behind passenger cars and some under their own power, all accompanied by crews of eager, purposeful men and a few purposeful women. Their goal: to compete in (or at least witness) the Twelve Hours at Sebring, one the premier sports car events in the world. The race’s formal name was the Sebring 12-Hour Grand Prix of Endurance, and the need to endure affected everyone, not just the drivers. Pity the local resident who had the misfortune of blowing an engine during the run-up to the start, because garage space—even filling station space—was suddenly unavailable. Noisy strangers—weekend hobbyist racers and top-flight factory teams alike, including the finest drivers from both the old and new world—thronged restaurants in the center of town. Tourists passing through on their way north were well advised to take alternate routes, for every available bed, even empty bunks in the local jail, had been booked for months.

That said, no one visited Sebring to sleep. In the run-up to race day, the pungent punch of orange blossoms that normally filled the air was replaced by the sharp smell of burned castor oil and exhaust. Even in the small hours of the morning came the sound of engines revving and growling and howling. Over several days of hard-won practice, it would become clear that this Sebring Grand Prix would be a faster and tougher than ever before. One driver completed a one-lap practice dash of the 5.2-mile, 12-turn course in just three minutes and twelve seconds—a record! And every evening after practice sessions ended, the lights in the garages burned for hours as drivers and their crews sought to identify and switch out their cars’ weakest components, hoping for victory.

Into this happy chaos drove Denise McCluggage, a 34-year-old amateur racer who had just bought her very first Ferrari—a dark blue “mouthful of a car,” she liked to say, “with superb handling and wonderful manners.” The used 1960 250 short wheel-base Scaglietti-bodied Berlinetta had set her back $9,000 and was the most expensive thing she’d ever owned by a factor of three, but McCluggage had no doubt it was worth it. A lean, 5-foot-6-inch beauty with short-cropped hair and angular features, she’d been a sports car freak since the age of six. Now, as European sports car racing really began to catch on in the United States, she’d earned a nickname: Lady Leadfoot. 

McCluggage’s entrée to the sport was unusual: She was a journalist who had a reputation for participating in and excelling at the extreme sports she covered. She had jumped out of airplanes, skied treacherous mountains, become a champion fencer—all in search of what she called “the perfect meditation” that well-honed exertion can bring. No matter the contest, she always played to win. But she’d lost at Sebring before—three times. In 1958, she’d raced in a borrowed Fiat-Abarth 750 Zagato but didn’t finish. In 1959, her team came in 18th in an OSCA. In 1960, she drove in another OSCA, but didn’t complete the race. Now, on her fourth consecutive try, she hoped driving her own Ferrari would give her an advantage. In terms of international prestige, Sebring was second only to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in France. But the French didn’t let women drive. This, then, was McCluggage’s shot at the big time, her chance to go down in history. Maybe this race would bring her better luck. 

The only question was with whom she would share the driving. No one completed Sebring’s dozen hours alone. The course demanded not just concentration, but agility and physical strength. It was utterly exhausting, which is why several cars would be piloted by as many as four people. This year, McCluggage planned to make do with two. If she had her way, she and her boyfriend—a jazz saxophonist named Allen Eager—would take turns in the Berlinetta, spelling each other, switching out when it was time to refuel. McCluggage had been coaching Eager for months; this would be his first race ever. But to qualify, he had to pass the physical. And that was by no means a sure thing.

The first time Denise McCluggage cracked a joke, it was about a car. She was five years old, riding in a Dodge sedan her father was thinking of buying. The salesman was taking her family for a demo ride, and was weaving sharply in and out of traffic. “No wonder they call it a Dodge,” she piped up from the back seat, and everyone laughed.

That Dodge notwithstanding, the McCluggages were an Oldsmobile family. They had a mud-colored sedan, probably a ’36. Each summer, it transported the whole clan—Robert, a lawyer, Velma Faye, a court reporter, Denise and her two younger sisters (a third had died of measles and pneumonia)—from Topeka, Kansas, to Tincup, Colorado, to escape the heat. Every year, upon arrival, they would take up residence in a rented log cabin chosen for its location (next to a creek, famous for good fishing) more than its amenities (no plumbing and no electricity).

One summer, the family went to watch the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb—an annual race run on the narrow dirt roads that ascend the mountain’s face. It was there that she first saw Louis Unser, whose nephews Al and Bobby would later combine to win seven Indy 500s between them, and even filmed him with the family’s eight millimeter camera. Years later, he would pilot a Maserati to victory on that course. For the rest of her life, Denise would call the daring, dark-haired Unser her hero.

Cars always seemed to speak to her. There was the Baby Austin 7 she saw when she was six, parked on the street in Topeka. (She promptly asked Santa to bring her one for Christmas). There were the kiddie-sized racers her family encountered at a carnival in Manitou Springs, Colo. Denise got to drive one for a dime a lap, and put her foot down, hard.

MARCH 25, 1961

With one hour to go before the start, there was no avoiding the jitters. After months of preparation, the Sebring four-wheeled endurance marathon was about to begin.

Denise McCluggage was ready; she even had a back-up plan. Worried that Allen Eager wouldn’t be allowed to compete, she’d invited another driver, Fred K. Gamble, a Floridian who’d raced a Corvette the previous year at Sebring, to join her team as an alternate. The reason: Like many jazz musicians, Eager had experimented with drugs. Heroin, specifically. Though he’d been clean for some time, McCluggage worried the mandatory physical might trip him up. Moreover, Gamble recalled: “We didn’t think the race organizers would let him drive, because he’d never driven a race before.” But McCluggage and Gamble hadn’t factored in Eager’s star power. The saxophonist had played with Tommy Dorsey! He knew Miles Davis! The race organizers loved the buzz Eager’s fledgling race would generate, so they cleared him to drive. Gamble, relegated to the sidelines, would shoot home movies of the race.

Now, it seemed as though all the energy in town converged around the track. After just 10 years in existence, the Sebring International Raceway had a well-earned reputation as a treacherous course. Like many early racetracks, on series of a World War II era landing strips—the former Hendricks Army Airfield. The concrete expanse was broken by large seams, its surface so uneven that racers often scraped their cars’ undercarriages as they careened by, sending sparks flying. Even the best drivers had trouble keeping a grip on the wheel. Then there was the track’s irregular shape. Instead of an oval, Sebring was a road course whose dozens turns included one head-spinning hairpin and several high-speed 90-degree corners. There was very little elevation change and little camber—or tilt—at the turns, which made it difficult to maintain speed while turning. As if that weren’t enough, the course was poorly marked with orange cones banded in reflective tape. Since the race began precisely at 10 o’clock in the morning and ended at 10 o’clock at night, drivers would be navigating these obstacles for about four hours in the dark—a confusing task at best and, at worst, a fatal one.

McCluggage knew the risks were real. She’d seen more than one racing phenom lose his life to the sport—Herbert MacKay-Fraser, Jean Behra, and Peter Collins to name a few. This was a time before roll bars and flame retardant suits, an era when race car driving was defined largely by machismo. Few women attempted to compete in such a male-dominated space; those who did were mostly relegated to so-called Ladies Races or “Powder Puff Derbies.” But today would be different. Of the 65 vehicles entered, two would be piloted by teams that included a woman driver.

In endurance sports car racing, the cars are the stars. Most fans root for manufacturers, not drivers. This year, the cars were as varied as they were spectacular. Two Triumphs, three Arnolt Bristols, four Sunbeam Alpines, five Corvettes, six Maseratis, seven Porsches and 13 Ferraris were competing, not to mention a few OSCAs, Alfa Romeos and Elva Couriers, among other models. As always, there were two categories for the entrants—Sports Prototype and Gran Turismo (or GT). As a general rule, GT cars are vehicles you could buy at a dealership that have been prepared for racing, while Prototypes are limited production cars built specifically for racing. At the end of 12 hours, one car would win in each category. All told, the 65 cars would be driven in shifts by 145 drivers.

With its engine running, McCluggage’s Ferrari would be blazing inside—way hotter than Florida’s balmy 75 degrees. But she didn’t care. She strapped on her signature polka-dot crash helmet, determined to win.

Denise McCluggage would never forget the sight of her father sitting in the Olds, his ear to the car radio, the summer the Germans marched into Poland. She was 12. “I didn’t understand what was going on but clearly it had import beyond rainbow trout,” she wrote. “The Olds was parked creekside… Daddy sat sideways in the car with the door open, a solemn look on his face, listening to the news.”

Like most things in her life, Denise’s memories of her parents would be intertwined with automobiles. The way her father hated to stop for gas, for example. (“Daddy was a champion avoider. As a child, I thought everyone routinely ran out of gas, because we did. Daddy strove to wean every car he drove.”) Or the way, in bad weather, he wrestled “to keep tall wheels lightly aimed on a slithering pathway, solemnly seeking higher ground.”

She had always been drawn to sport. “I like to experience those clear neon-lined moments of being truly tuned in,” she wrote. “And I like to watch the concentration of energy in anything done purely—two good doubles teams ricocheting volleys at the net, the perfect ballooning of a spinnaker, a kid bending a skateboard around a corner—golly, a Frisbee that doesn’t wobble! Beauty is a tremor of the spine.”

Growing up, her first love was football—tackle, not touch. On hard Kansas vacant lots after school and all-day Saturdays, Denise showed up to play, gravitating not to the glory role, but the brutish ones. “I liked to block,” she recalled. “I liked that hard contact. That force hitting force. That unequivocal confrontation that said, ‘This is Me; that is Not Me.’” But she knew her football days were numbered. Girls did not play football. It wasn’t acceptable.

She was never unaware of the complexities of being a strong girl. Her first best friend was a boy named Sammy Barnhill. They rode scooters and bikes together, and signed secrets in blood. But then, he had a birthday, and invited only boys to the party. “I was so convinced there had been a mistake I cried my eyes out,” she recalled. “Well, they let me go along after all. But it wasn’t the same.” Later, she told an interviewer, “There were no boys in the family, and I awfully wanted to be one.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life

Natural trans fats

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I didn’t realize this:

Natural trans fats are formed by bacteria in the stomach of cattle, sheep and goats. These trans fats make up 3–7% of the total fat in dairy products, such as milk and cheese, 3–10% in beef and lamb and just 0–2% in chicken and pork (12).

I wonder whether these trans fats are responsible for some of the adverse health effects of consuming cheese, beef, and lamb. I’m surprised at how much in the way of trans fats beef and lamb can contain.

The whole article is interesting, but its main focus (and list) is of foods that contain artificial trans fats.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 11:18 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Police are using artificial intelligence to spot written lies

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Olivia Goldhill reports in Quartz:

There’s no foolproof way to know if someone’s verbally telling lies, but scientists have developed a tool that seems remarkably accurate at judging written falsehoods. Using machine learning and text analysis, they’ve been able to identify false robbery reports with such accuracy that the tool is now being rolled out to police stations across Spain.

Computer scientists from Cardiff University and Charles III University of Madrid developed the tool, called VeriPol, specifically to focus on robbery reports. In their paper, published in the journal Knowledge-Based Systems earlier this year, they describe how they trained a machine-learning model on more than 1000 police robbery reports from Spanish National Police, including those that were known to be false. A pilot study in Murcia and Malaga in June 2017 found that, once VeriPol identified a report as having a high probability of being false, 83% of these cases were closed after the claimants faced further questioning. In total, 64 false reports were detected in one week.

VeriPol works by using algorithms to identify the various features in a statement, including all adjectives, verbs, and punctuations marks, and then picking up on the patterns in false reports. According to a Cardiff University statement, false robbery reports are more likely to be shorter, focused on the stolen property rather than the robbery itself, have few details about the attacker or the robbery, and lack witnesses.

Taken together, these sound like common-sense characteristics that humans could recognize. But the AI proved more effective at unemotionally scanning reports and identifying patterns, at least compared to historical data: Typically, just 12.14 false reports are detected by police in a week in June in Malaga, and 3.33 in Murcia.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the tool is perfect. “[O]ur model began to identify false statements where  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 9:54 am

25 Biohacks to Improve Writer Productivity

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Some time back (a decade, in fact) I blogged a post on improving writer productivity. This morning I received an email suggesting that I include this infographic (from here):

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 9:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Writing

LA Shaving Soap and Stirling Lemon Chill

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LA Shaving Soap Company’s Vanilla/Eucalyptus/Mint has a wonderful fragrance, as special as the fragrance of Nancy Boy shaving cream but with a different palette, as it were. The lather, too, is excellent, and the WSP Prince made a very nice lather. LASSC not only makes a fine soap but its proprietor has helped other soapmakers.

The iKon 102 slant continues to be a favorite, and three passes left a perfectly smooth face to receive a good splash of Stirling’s Lemon Chill aftershave splash. “Chill” means “menthol,” of course, but the menthol hit was a delayed reaction. Still, the chill did arrive, and the lemon fragrance is distinct: quite a good aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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