Later On

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

Archive for March 10th, 2020

Dinner tonight: Chicken hearts with mushrooms, spring onions, and a bamboo shoot

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This is the “before” photo, of course. I halved the chicken hearts as an experiment. Spring onions have a short season so I try to use them as often as possible while they’re around. I used only a little of the red onion.

The garlic here comes from Spain, and it’s a wonderful variety: can can peel a clove just by twisting it. It’s as though the clove can’t wait to jump out of its skin.

The bamboo shoot definitely requires peeling: skin is tough and fibrous, interior is brilliant green and somewhat like a good summer squash in density.

The crimini mushrooms I chop rather than slice, and I chop the peppers including core and seeds (though I do cut off and discard the caps). Kalamata olives are included because I have quite a few on hand.

The Field No. 12 is heating in the oven. I’ll sauté the spring onions and the bit of red onion in EVOO, then add chopped garlic and cook a minute, and then the rest, probably with some black pepper and perhaps some marjoram and/or mint.

The half-bottle of wine will accompany the dinner. I imagine there will be leftovers. I though to include 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced, but turns out that I didn’t have one on hand.

Update: Here it is cooking — and yes, lots of leftovers.

I should have skipped the little red peppers — it was a little too hot (but still edible). I’ll have another couple of meals at least from this. — Interesting: as the dish cooled in temperature, it also cooled in spiciness. Not bad when I had a bit more after cooling.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Algorithms Learn Our Workplace Biases. Can They Help Us Unlearn Them?

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Corinne Purtill reports in the NY Times:

— Iris Bohnet, a behavioral economist and professor at the Harvard Kennedy School

In 2014, engineers at Amazon began work on an artificially intelligent hiring tool they hoped would change hiring for good — and for the better. The tool would bypass the messy biases and errors of human hiring managers by reviewing résumé data, ranking applicants and identifying top talent.

Instead, the machine simply learned to make the kind of mistakes its creators wanted to avoid.

The tool’s algorithm was trained on data from Amazon’s hires over the prior decade — and since most of the hires had been men, the machine learned that men were preferable. It prioritized aggressive language like “execute,” which men use in their CVs more often than women, and downgraded the names of all-women’s colleges. (The specific schools have never been made public.) It didn’t choose better candidates; it just detected and absorbed human biases in hiring decisions with alarming speed. Amazon quietly scrapped the project.

Amazon’s hiring tool is a good example of how artificial intelligence — in the workplace or anywhere else — is only as smart as the input it gets. If sexism or other biases are present in the data, machines will learn and replicate them on a faster, bigger scale than humans could do alone.

On the flip side, if A.I. can identify the subtle decisions that end up excluding people from employment, it can also spot those that lead to more diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Humu Inc., a start-up based in Mountain View, Calif., is betting that, with the help of intelligent machines, humans can be nudged to make choices that make workplaces fairer for everyone, and make all workers happier as a result.

A nudge, as popularized by Richard Thayer, a Nobel-winning behavioral economist, and Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor, is a subtle design choice that changes people’s behavior in a predictable way, without taking away their right to choose.

Laszlo Bock, one of Humu’s three founders and Google’s former H.R. chief, was an enthusiastic nudge advocate at Google, where behavioral economics — essentially, the study of the social, psychological and cultural factors that influence people’s economic choices — informed much of daily life.

Nudges showed up everywhere, like in the promotions process (women were more likely to self-promote after a companywide email pointed out a dearth of female nominees) and in healthy-eating initiatives in the company’s cafeterias (placing a snack table 17 feet away from a coffee machine instead of 6.5 feet, it turns out, reduces coffee-break snacking by 23 percent for men and 17 percent for women).

Humu uses artificial intelligence to analyze its clients’ employee satisfaction, company culture, demographics, turnover and other factors, while its signature product, the “nudge engine,” sends personalized emails to employees suggesting small behavioral changes (those are the nudges) that address identified problems.

One key focus of the nudge engine is diversity and inclusion. Employees at inclusive organizations tend to be more engagedEngaged employees are happier, and happier employees are more productive and a lot more likely to stay.

With Humu, if data shows that employees aren’t satisfied with an organization’s inclusivity, for example, the engine might prompt a manager to solicit the input of a quieter colleague, while nudging a lower-level employee to speak up during a meeting. The emails are tailored to their recipients, but are coordinated so that the entire organization is gently guided toward the same goal.

Unlike Amazon’s hiring algorithm, the nudge engine isn’t supposed to replace human decision-making. It just suggests alternatives, often so subtly that employees don’t even realize they’re changing their behavior.

Jessie Wisdom, another Humu founder and former Google staff member who has a doctorate in behavioral decision research, said sometimes she would hear from people saying, “Oh, this is obvious, you didn’t need to tell me that.”

Even when people may not feel the nudges are helping them, she said, data would show “that things have gotten better. It’s interesting to see how people perceive what is actually useful, and what the data actually bears out.”

In part that’s because

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 3:55 pm

Utah: The surveillance state

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Jason Koebler and Emanuel Maiberg write in Vice Motherboard:

As the state of Utah funneled hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to a private surveillance company building unproven technology to fight the opioid crisis, public health officials asked if the money could instead be used to buy a life saving drug that stops potentially fatal overdoses, Motherboard has learned.

The money, which Utah gave to a company called Banjo via the state’s Department of Health, in this instance totaled $250,000. Emails between the Utah Department of Health, the state’s Attorney General’s office, and the Drug Enforcement Agency obtained via public records request show that the Department of Health asked if some of the money allocated to Banjo via a program called DEA 360 could be used to buy naloxone (sometimes sold under the brand name Narcan), a medication used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose. The Department of Health said it was facing a funding shortage that would result in a gap in its naloxone supply and believed the money allocated to create an unproven AI would be better spent on the overdose-stopping drug.

“I wanted to follow up regarding the remaining funds for DEA 360 ($250,000),” Anna Fondario, who manages the Violence & Injury Prevention Program at the Utah Department of Health wrote in a March 2019 email to Brian S. Besser and Ciara Gregovich at the DEA and the Utah Attorney General chief of staff Ric Cantrell. “We previously discussed having the AG’s Office invoice us for BANJO related activities. Is this still the case?”

Fondario added: “If not, we’ve identified a need for an additional supply of naloxone kits to cover a potential two month gap before other funding is available for kits, Would you be interested in using some of this funding for naloxone?”

Later that same day, Besser forwarded Fondario’s email to Cantrell and Gregovich, saying: “I want these funds (the whole $250K) to go to Banjo … I thought this was already in progress?”

While these funds were not specifically earmarked for the purchase of naloxone, the news shows how governments spend vast amounts of money on private, for-profit companies developing unproven and untested policing technologies while failing to fund projects that pay for medication that can save the lives of people caught in the country’s opioid crisis.

In an interview, Fondario said that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 12:08 pm

The U.S. hasn’t signed the world’s foremost women’s rights treaty. Activists have gotten local versions passed instead.

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Heidi Nichols Haddad reports in the Washington Post:

On International Women’s Day, how is the United States doing on women’s rights? That question could be answered in many ways, pointing to anything from Harvey Weinstein’s recent conviction for sexual assault to how a diverse Democratic field of presidential candidates narrowed to a race between two white men. But let’s look at a different, less celebrated arena: local governments. In the past several years, HonoluluCincinnatiPittsburghSan JoseBerkeley and the counties of Miami-Dade and Santa Clara have put binding gender equality laws on the books.

Turning to local government to get past national gridlock

These local laws are a direct answer to federal inaction on women’s rights. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would constitutionally enshrine equal rights regardless of sex, failed to win the necessary 38 state ratifications by the legislation’s 1982 expiration date.

Further, the United States is one of only six United Nations member states — and the only industrialized democracy — that hasn’t joined the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The other non-signatory countries are Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

The U.S. might ratify the ERA. What would change?

Dubbed the “international women’s bill of rights,” CEDAW represents the most comprehensive global consensus on promoting and protecting women’s rights and the associated obligations of both governments and private actors. President Jimmy Carter signed CEDAW in 1980. The Senate held hearings on CEDAW in 1988, 1990, 1994, 2002 and 2010, and twice reported favorably on it, but the treaty never reached the Senate floor for a vote.

U.S. policymakers have generally agreed with CEDAW’s goal of eliminating gender discrimination. But they clash, mostly along party lines, over its likely effect on the private lives of Americans. During the 2002 hearing on CEDAW, Republican Sens. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) questioned why the United States would join a treaty that did not reduce women’s oppression in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. The activist groups Concerned Women for America and the National Right to Life Committee mobilized against CEDAW, seeing it as undermining traditional family roles and implicitly endorsing abortion.

Democratic senators countered with expert testimonies asserting CEDAW is “abortion neutral” and does not obligate governments to regulate gender roles and family structures. They also highlight United Nations and NGO studies demonstrating CEDAW’s efficacy in developing countries. In the 2010 hearing on CEDAW, Ambassador Melanne Verveer said U.S. CEDAW ratification was critical to the legitimacy of U.S. efforts “to promote and defend the rights of women across the globe.”

Local CEDAW ordinances are not just symbolic. They have a real effect.

Into this logjam stepped local activists. Two San Francisco-based women’s rights activists attended the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing — and decided to bring human rights directly to their city. Because of their work, San Francisco adopted the first-ever local CEDAW ordinance in 1998. Los Angeles followed suit in 2003.

These original CEDAW ordinances had two goals: . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

A local approach to women’s rights is not merely a strategic response to federal inaction. Local governments most closely touch everyday lives. Cities and counties provide critical services like education, policing and public health care; by applying a CEDAW analysis, they can examine whether they are serving women and men with equal effectiveness. They employ thousands of firefighters, teachers and municipal workers; a CEDAW analysis can help expose pay inequities. Cities and counties also have broad regulatory powers, governing everything from plastic bag bans to minimum wage laws — and can use those to correct gender imbalances.

My research on the implementation of the two longest-standing CEDAW ordinances demonstrates CEDAW ordinances have in fact advanced gender equality. In San Francisco, a CEDAW-related analysis of the Department of Public Works led the city to put in curb cuts to accommodate strollers and reconsider streetlight placement so women could feel safer walking at night. A major work-life policy survey, commissioned under the CEDAW ordinance, recommended city government implement flexible schedules and telecommuting, long before these became popular, to accommodate workers with families and other life demands. After reforming policies and expanding services for domestic violence survivors, the city went 44 months without a domestic violence homicide.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 10:30 am

An insight into why President Trump downplays the coronavirus situation

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I think Kevin Drum has it right.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 10:01 am

Trying the OneBlade once more

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The OneBlade’s feel and performance are great, and in use the only drawback for me is that it is a single-edge razor, and I find the double-edge format better in practice since I can accumulate more lather before having to rinse. In fact, though, the OneBlade this morning easily held all the lather from a single pass, thanks in part to the excellent quality of the lather created by the Martin de Candre shaving soap and my Simpson Chubby 1 Best. (The Chubby Super I tested seemed too stiff for my taste. The Best is better.)

The main problem is blade cost: $365/year if you follow their recommendation to change the blade after each shave (vs. $4.68/year for my Astra Superior Platinums, which cost me 9¢ each and last a week). A blog reader pointed out that OneBlade seems to have realized that cost might be for some a barrier. He wrote:

If you go to the OneBlade website, you’ll see that they have backed off from the “change the blade with each shave” recommendation. I think that the blade cost must have been their biggest sales barrier. They now say that the best results are achieved when a blade is used 2-3 times. No mention anywhere of changing the blade each time.

Even if you change the blade every 2-3 shaves, the cost remains high: 2 shaves per blade = $183/year; 3 shaves per blade = $122/year. Compared to $4.68 per year for an equally good shave (assuming you choose a good razor), that’s steep, especially since it’s not a one-time cost (as paying (say) $100 for a razor is).

That said, this morning’s shave was excellent. So now let’s see how tomorrow and Friday do.

A splash of Speick made a fine end to the shave, and the day begins.

Written by Leisureguy

10 March 2020 at 8:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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