Later On

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

Archive for March 5th, 2020

Food notes: Cauliflower

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I roasted some steelhead trout (farmed) for The Wife. I get the skins, which she doesn’t care for. No olive oil needed: just pepper (and salt — optional) on the fillets, which have plenty of fat.

I also steamed a head of cauliflower. I’ve discovered that the trimmings (leaves and core), when chopped coarsely and steamed, are perfectly edible and indeed tasty. Tonight I poured some of the steelhead fat over them before steaming, along with some pepper. Steam for 9 minutes, put into a bowl and squeeze a lemon over them: very tasty indeed.

I do understand that this is not perfectly plant-based, but I am flexible. But do try the cauliflower trimmings sometime: perfectly good and tasty, and would also work well in soup.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 8:05 pm

Latin in the Voynich Manuscript

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Justin Smith blogs:

I think I’m finally ready to come out as a Voynich scholar. I’ve been studying hi-res scans of the manuscript off and on for four years or so, and I’ve been reading the so-called secondary literature for about a year. What compels me to come out is the discovery over this past year that for the most part commentators really do not know what they are doing. They divide roughly into two camps: the cryptographers and information scientists, on the one hand (the “quants”, as we say), and on the other hand the ravers and enthusiasts, the people who do not know how to distinguish between gut feelings and real evidence. There seem to be very few proper palaeographers writing about this text: that is, people who know how to attend to handwriting and codicological evidence until plausible patterns of intention begin to emerge. It may be that such people are scared away by the ravers; one need only briefly glance at a list of all the time-travel, Illuminati, and UFOlogical theories the manuscript has inspired to see that it is a real intellectual danger zone. For me it is however a wonderful case study and autoexperiment in the use of abductive inference. I do not yet think I know anything with certainty that no other researcher has established before me. But over time a picture is emerging that leads me to lend significant credence to some explanations over others.

I am, say, 85-90% certain that the manuscript is not a hoax, or, if it is a hoax, it is one that was perpetuated long before the manuscript came into Wilfrid Voynich’s possession in 1912. I am attracted to the idea that, if it is a hoax, this was a hoax perpetuated on Athanasius Kircher, the one-time owner of the manuscript who was known to hastily claim to have cracked other codes (e.g., Egyptian hieroglyphics), and whom his contemporaries may have wanted to expose in his rashness by sending him a nonsense text to interpret. But this is a low-probability explanation. I am, say, 80-90% certain that the text was in the possession of a German, Dutch, or Flemish scholar who knew Latin, but that the manuscript itself is not written in any of these languages. As others have pointed out, the script of the main body of the text gives no indication of any regular repetitions of inflected word endings, of the sort that exist in all Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages (e.g., the –s and –ed that are attached to plural nouns and passive participles respectively in English). It is plausible, based on quantitative analysis of the script, that it is written in a Sino-Tibetan or other East Asian language, perhaps by a European traveller (e.g., a German Jesuit such as Kircher himself) in Asia. But the lack of any distinctly Asian visual elements in the illustrations weakens this conjecture. The lack of any success so far in identifying any of the numerous botanical illustrations speaks strongly, in fact, in favour of the view that the work is a hoax, or at least a description of fantastical entities coming from nowhere in particular. The calendrical pages however strongly suggest a European provenance, and the illustrations of women bathing strongly suggest that the work is concerned with distinctly European traditions of balearic treatment of illnesses, which, in the early modern period, became a topic of scientific research for iatrochemists and other naturalists working at the intersection of medicine, chemistry, and natural history.

Almost all of the manuscript is written in an unknown script in an unknown language. There are however a few very small exceptions to this: the final . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Roberts Denounces Schumer for Talking About Kavanaugh the Way Kavanaugh Talked About the Senate

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Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate:

On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had a message for Donald Trump’s two nominees to the Supreme Court as the court heard oral arguments in a landmark abortion case that threatens one of the underpinnings of Roe v. Wade. “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price!” Schumer warned of the pair’s jurisprudence since arriving on the bench. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

By Wednesday afternoon, Chief Justice John Roberts had the Supreme Court’s press office issue a stunningly rare and stinging rebuke under his signature:

Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.

If Schumer’s repudiated words sounded at all familiar to you, or to the chief justice, it might be because at his confirmation hearing, then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh turned to the Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and pledged as follows:

Since my nomination in July, there’s been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything, to block my confirmation. You sowed the wind for decades to come. I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.*

The upshot here is that Schumer didn’t necessarily start this fight and maybe the guy whose honor Roberts just jumped in to defend bears some responsibility for the threatening rhetoric. Since striding onto the national stage, Roberts has claimed the mantle of being the balls-and-strikes guy at the high court. This is one of those instances, though, in which Umpire Roberts clearly can only see one side of the plate. To his credit, he has, on occasion pushed back against some of Trump’s most extreme efforts to upend our democratic institutions and pushed back against a few of the president’s worst threats to the judicial branch, most notably when Trump implied last year that judges appointed by Barack Obama were illegitimate. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said at the time. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

But Roberts—whose entire daily life has been reduced to a Shakespearian tragedy in which he must pretend to float above the sordid reality of trashed institutions and shattered judicial norms while at all times secretly rooting for the team that wears the MAGA jerseys—has drawn a truly terrible card in this whole constitutional poker game called the Trump presidency. It’s been a pickle, but for the most part, even through the living hell of the impeachment trial and the dramatic end of the last term, he’s managed to thread a sort of pox-on-both-your-houses needle when constitutional players behave in an unseemly manner. Indeed, if Wednesday morning’s arguments in June Medical serve any kind of predictive value, Roberts was again caught between the rock that is his careerlong desire to overturn Roe and the hard place that was the staggeringly garbage legal arguments from counsel representing Louisiana in its efforts to help him achieve it.

Still, it beggars belief that  . . .

Continue reading.

What is it with the inability of Republicans to see that what they are outraged about is something that they do routinely? I suppose it’s the old IOKIYAR.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government, Law

You Can Still Vote for Elizabeth Warren if You Think She’d Be the Best President

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I don’t hold much hope, but Elizabeth Warren was the candidate I most favored. I do think that if Biden is the nominee, the choice for vice-president will be extremely important. The question is whether Warren would be more effective by remaining in the Senate than as vice-president? One thought: Stacey Abrams for vice-president…

Ben Mathis-Lilley writes in Slate:

Morning broke on Monday, and, with the news that Pete Buttigieg has dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary, it apparently became smart to say that the race is now between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and no one else. Here’s a dissenting view: That’s absurd! Forty-six states have yet to vote, including the 22 most populous states; 96.1 percent(!) of the convention delegates that Democrats will vote to award remain unawarded. As Biden’s performance in South Carolina shows, a candidate’s narrative momentum can be reversed in a single day. No one is out of the race until they are out of the race.

One of the other people who are still in the race, fatalistic over-extrapolation of very recent trends aside, is Elizabeth Warren. If you are a Democrat and polls are correct, you would probably be OK with her becoming the nominee. It might also be relevant to you that she’s not a nearly 80-year-old man who has recently experienced heart problems, evident cognitive decline, or being embarrassed by Elizabeth Warren on national television. So why not vote for her—which, again, if polls and on-the-ground reporting are correct, is probably something you’ve already considered doing

That this feels like a contrarian thing to suggest—voting for the famously well-prepared presidential candidate to be president, as a hot take—gets at Warren’s weird status as a public figure. Since she came to prominence in the Obama years, her real reputation and identity haven’t changed at all, as far as most Democrats are concerned: She’s an advocate for public accountability and an enemy of unethical corporate executives. More or less via force of will alone, she—as a private citizen!—created an entire new arm of the government that protects consumers and borrowers and helped make sure that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (i.e., the bank bailout) wasn’t a boondoggle. As a senator, she shamed the rest of the government into holding Wells Fargo accountable for some of its many crimes. As a candidate, she has laid out ambitious but practically achievable ideas for a department of “public integrity” and a system of day care subsidies, just to name two of many.

Despite this consistency, her candidacy has been a roller coaster—not of accomplishments and defeats, or of sudden shifts in positions and style, but of meta-indecisiveness regarding her perceived potential strength in an election that is still eight months off. In a race that has been defined by voters changing their minds about who could best persuade other voters to vote against Donald Trump, she has been extra-volatile.

For years before she even entered the race and for months thereafter, there was concern that Trump would caricature and destroy Warren by belittling her past claims of Native American ancestry, or that she would be perceived as too leftist, angry, or nonmale for the general electorate. So despite being one of her party’s most well-known, enthusiasm-inspiring figures, she launched her campaign with little support from her peers, and her poll numbers stayed in the single digits for months.

From summer through early fall of 2019, though, she rose steadily to become a front-runner. This “surge” coincided with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 12:42 pm

Unconscious Bias is Running for President

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Rebecca Solnit writes at Literary Hub:

Unconscious bias is running for president again. Unconscious bias has always been in the race, and Unconscious Bias’s best buddy, Institutional Discrimination, has always helped him along, and as a result all of our presidents have been men and all but one white, and that was not even questionable until lately. This makes who “seems presidential” a tautological ouroboros chomping hard on its own tail. The Republican Party has celebrated its status as the fraternity of bias that’s conscious till it blacks out and becomes unconscious bias. But this also affects the Democratic Party and its voters, where maybe bias should not be so welcome.

One of the ugly facts about the 2020 election is that white men are a small minority of people who vote Democrat but have wildly disproportionate control of the money and media and look to have undue influence over the current race for the nomination, which is just one of the many fun ways that one person one vote isn’t really what we have.

In 2016 white men were approximately 34 percent of the electorate, but about 11 percent of the Democratic votes, because more than two thirds of them voted for Trump or third-party candidates. Black voters were also about 11 percent of the Democratic vote total (and black women voted 94 percent Democratic, the highest total of any major social group). Black and Latina women alone constitute a proportion of the Democratic electorate comparable to white men. So in a completely egalitarian system, what black voters or nonwhite women want in a Democratic candidate should matter at least as much as white men.

But power is not distributed equally, and too many white men—politicians, media powerhouses, funders, people I crash into on social media—are using theirs in all those familiar ways. Also a whole hell of a lot of them are medaling in unconscious bias. In 2016 I wrote, “With their deep belief in their own special monopoly on objectivity, slightly too many men assure me that there is no misogyny in their subjective assessments or even no subjectivity and no emotion driving them, and there are no grounds for other opinions since theirs is not an opinion.” I wish that wasn’t still the case, and I fear how it will yet again affect election outcomes.

I’ve just spent a month watching white male people in particular arguing about who has charisma or relatability or electability. They speak as if these were objective qualities, and as if their own particular take on them was truth or fact rather than taste, and as if what white men like is what everyone likes or white men are who matters, which is maybe a hangover from the long ugly era when only white men voted. It’s a form of self-confidence that verges on lunacy, because one of the definitions of that condition is the inability to distinguish between subjective feelings and objective realities.

Ryan Lizza, fired from the New Yorker for undisclosed sexual misconduct, tweeted, “The Kamala Harris fundraising numbers drive home just how impressive Pete Buttigieg’s fundraising numbers are” when hers were nearly twice as large, and maybe who has money to donate and why white men have always been carried forward and black women have always been held back are relevant things here. One notable thing about the 2016 election is that some of the leading pundits whose misogyny helped shape the race—including Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Mark Halperin, Glenn Thrush—were later charged with sexual abuse or harassment; that is, their public bias was paralleled by appalling private misconduct. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes were outed earlier; heads of networks, directors, and producers have also been outed as serial sexual abusers in charge of our dominant narratives. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 12:32 pm

My implicit spending almost did me in

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I have another story up on Medium. It begins:

Years ago I was mystified at how consistently I ran short of money each month. I understood why someone supporting a family on a low-paying job (or two) would face financial straits. But I was earning a decent salary and living on my own — and still I came up short. That made no sense.

Implicit spending

Continue reading.

Update: The Eldest points out that “implicit spending” is quite well known and usually is called “depreciation.” (A liberal arts education leaves some fields of ignorance untouched.) I did know that in a general way, but I painfully acquired specific knowledge through experience (which, as Ben Franklin observed, “keeps a dear school but fools will learn in no other”). I do like my term better, though, because it emphasizes the spending aspect more strongly.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A pantry project

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David at Raptitude has another excellent column, and I’ll be following his advice willy-nilly with the move: going through the pantry and cabinets and seeing exactly what I have and what to get rid of (or prioritize to use up). Worse yet, I tend to buy spares…

David writes:

When I assembled my supplies for hiking New Zealand’s Milford Track, I made a miscalculation that’s funny in hindsight but sure wasn’t at the time.

It was a four-day trek, and my food strategy was to keep things small, cheap, and utilitarian. For some reason I decided to base my menu around a sporty-person meal replacement bar called “One Square Meal.” My luxury dinner items were spaghetti and pesto sauce, and I rounded things out with a dense loaf of Danish rye bread and a small jar of peanut butter. I liked the idea of roughing it, rationing what little I had, like some kind of romantic vagabond. Each crumb would be valued and enjoyed.

My mistake was assuming that a single One Square Meal bar would serve as one square meal. Upon reading the label at my first meal stop, I learned that it takes two of these bars to constitute a meal, and that it is not recommended to replace most of your meals with meal replacements.

The hikers I dined with brought the most luxurious trail meals imaginable. They somehow produced steaming bowls of beef bourguignon and chicken teriyaki, taboulis and pilafs, soups, omelettes, fine cheeses and fruit.

On the third day, I was saved when I discovered an unwanted bag of quick oats on the cabin’s “free food” shelf. (Each cabin had one of these shelves, but the others only had salt, pepper, and Marmite.)

I reminisced about that heaven-sent bag of oats just the other day, when I was loading some new groceries into my pantry, and had to cram my own unwanted bag of quick oats on top of some cans to make everything fit.

It made me realize that much of my pantry is filled with perfectly good food that does not seem destined to be eaten. When will I actually use this barley, these yellow lentils, these dried white beans? Why did I buy penne when I already had open bags of rigatoni, fusilli, and miniature shells? What is parboiled rice and why do I have some?

I suspect this happens in every pantry. Food goes in that will never see the table. We might assume we’ll get around to everything in there eventually, but it doesn’t work that way. The favored, high-turnover foods live and work at the front, where they’re easily retrieved and replaced. Meanwhile, an underclass of less charismatic items is always being pushed to the back. These foods are perfectly worthy of becoming meals, but their moment never comes.

A Job For Every Bean

When I realized I was genuinely unsure whether I or my navy beans would be the first to expire of natural causes, I decided to make a plan. My latest experiment is to finally make use of my most neglected foodstuffs.

I emptied the pantry and laid everything out on my kitchen table. I cleaned the empty shelves, and got rid of the few items that appeared to be too far gone: bulk oats that had absorbed the scent of nearby cloves, molasses that had turned tarlike. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Bay Rum and a renewed appreciation of badger brushes

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I do like the feel and performance of (modern) synthetic brushes, whose price/performance ratio is extremely low—much lower (i.e., better) than for high-quality badger brushes. Badger brushes, though, have quite a different feel, and if there is one thing I like, it is variety. After a succession of shaves using only brushes with synthetic knots, the return to badger is like a joyful school reunion: the familiar become new.

This Plisson European Grey badger has loads of texture and just the right resilience to give it presence without making it stiff and scrubby (which I like in brushes I use for, say, cleaning the floor, but don’t much enjoy on my face in the morning). It has just the right amount of give, and it is a lather wizard.

I loaded it with Phoenix Artisan’s Bay Rum, and lathering my face made the day seem better right out of the gate. With the superb Baby Smooth, three easy and comfortable passes delivered the eponymous result.

The cork on my bottle of Dominica Bay Rum is broken, so on its next appearance it will be sporting a snap-down bottle stopper. It is definitely a keeper, and a good splash of that finished the shave and sent me on my way with a smile on my face.

For my South African readers: check out The Boar and Badger, a new online shop with a selection of good shaving products.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 9:12 am

Posted in Shaving

One example of the US criminal justice system showing actual justice

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Read this Twitter thread. It’s long but absorbing. Link takes you to a tweet; click “Show this thread” to read the thread.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2020 at 9:02 am

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