Later On

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

Archive for May 4th, 2020

The role of corporate influence in the obesity epidemic

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 7:51 pm

Time through time

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 7:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Virtuosity exemplified

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Music, Video

The experience of an alien from a distant galaxy observing life and civilization on Earth

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Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Video

The Wonderful, Transcendent Life of an Odd-Nosed Monkey

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A fascinating (and long) article about a fascinating (and long(-nosed)) primate, published in Haiki magazine, written by Jude Isabella, begins:

Choosing a good place to sleep should be simple. But along the Kinabatangan River in Borneo, the monkeys swinging through the trees lining the water’s edge are picky and rambunctious as they search for a spot that’s just right. Their lives can depend on it.

Monkeys, in general, prefer trees without a lot of cover so they can spy predators, such as clouded leopards. Some spots are safer than others—like the slender ends of long branches where a monkey is out of reach of most predators and could be shaken awake by a stealthy cat approaching. But there’s a downside—a monkey that snags a perch on a tapering limb hanging over the river could tumble into the water if the branch snaps.

“We did a GPS survey on the crocodiles; they hunt below trees,” says Benoît Goossens. We’re in a boat with several students, learning how to conduct a primate survey. Goossens, an ecologist and the boat’s pilot, points to a macaque settling onto the branch of a dead tree overhanging the river. “That one’s ripe for falling in and getting eaten by a croc.” A monkey squabble, though, is usually the reason for an unintended dive.

To spot monkeys, Goossens’s first instruction is: look for moving branches. Counting them is fairly straightforward too—at least from a boat on the river—since the monkeys are nicely silhouetted by the setting sun. Identifying individual species, however, takes practice.

Silvered langurs, for example, have triangular heads with tufts of hair sticking out the sides and growing up in a spiky tuft. They have long tails and very orange offspring. They’re the placid onlookers in this monkey world. They avoid the shenanigans in the nearby trees, where gray-brown long-tailed macaques bounce about like young children putting off the moment they wink out at night—jumping on beds, scurrying about the room, monkeying around until their little bodies give out. . .

Continue reading. Video clips included in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Science

If Virus Tests Were Sodas

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Paul Romer writes:

Imagine a world in which the only way to get a soda is to get your doctor to write a prescription. It costs $20 per can. Your insurance company pays. The economy produces about 100,000 sodas each day.

If you lived in this world, do you think you could get people to scale up the production of soda to a level of millions of cans per day? It would be a challenge, but not because it is hard to produce and distribute soda.

The Hypothetical

Because they have to keep total costs from running out of control, insurance companies, health care providers, and government regulators have cobbled together a system that limits access to soda. One part of this system is an expensive regulatory process that has to approve:

  • the ingredients in each particular brand of soda;
  • the insert that comes with the soda informing patients about its risks and benefits;
  • the delivery system used by the soda supplier, be it a glass bottle, an aluminum can, a paper cup, etc.

Then, everyone decides that they want more soda. Why, they ask, can’t the nation produce enough soda for everyone to have some each day?

Here’s how might things might then play out:

  1. The only people who can get sodas are those already under the care of the health care system. They are not thirsty, but the insurance company covers the cost, so whatever.
  2. People who are thirsty start going to the hospital just to get soda. Doctors comply with their requests for a prescription. Soda producers try to increase output, but soon run into “bottlenecks.” One vendor with an approved soda delivery system that packages a straw with a can finds that its supplier of straws can not keep up with the increased demand. This soda company explains to its unhappy customers that it has FDA approval only for a product that includes a straw from its traditional supplier. The soda company says that it is applying to the FDA for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that gives it permission to bundle a can with a straw from a different vendor. As it waits, it keeps repeating its excuse: “There is a straw bottleneck!”
  3. Meanwhile, researchers on university campuses discover that you do not need a straw. But these researchers have no reason to go through the laborious process of filing for an Emergency Use Authorization that allows drinking from the can. The “straw bottleneck” persists.
  4. In their experiments with drinking from the can, these same university researchers realize soda is just flavored sugar water and that they could produce millions of sodas per day at a price well under $1 per can. The researchers publicize their findings. Policy wonks urge them to get going: “Produce the sodas that a thirsty nation needs.” But these do not say anything about who will pay for all these additional sodas. The researchers are good sports, but they are not idiots. They produce some token batches of soda and go back to writing papers.
  5. The wonks are surprised to discover that their meetings and documents do not yield the soda supply surge they anticipate.
  6. Everyone gets discouraged. The wonks conclude that even an economic system as big, as powerful, and as innovative as the one we have established in the United States cannot rise to the challenge of producing millions of sodas per day. They settle for a stretch goal of offering one soda per month to each family.

The Facts

  • Researchers affiliated with Rutgers University did discover that you do not need a swab to do an RT-PCR test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They even went to the trouble to get an EUA to conduct tests on saliva samples.
  • No one has proposed a way to . . .

Continue reading.

Capitalism works, except where it doesn’t.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 3:18 pm

Amazon VP quits over whistleblower firings in scathing blog post

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Kim Lyons reports in the Verge:

Tim Bray, a senior engineer and vice president at Amazon Web Services, has quit his job because he was “dismayed” that the company fired whistleblowers who were trying to draw attention to the dire straits of Amazon warehouse workers, he wrote in a blog post.

“Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Bray said. “So I resigned. The victims weren’t abstract entities but real people; here are some of their names: Courtney Bowden, Gerald Bryson, Maren Costa, Emily Cunningham, Bashir Mohammed, and Chris Smalls.

“I’m sure it’s a coincidence that every one of them is a person of color, a woman, or both,” the post continues. “Right?”

Amazon fired Cunningham and Costa, two workers based in Seattle, earlier this month after criticizing the company on Twitter. The two had also been critical of Amazon’s climate stance, part of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group that demanded the company’s AWS division end its contracts with oil and gas companies. Bray writes that, compared to the higher-paid workers at AWS, warehouse workers have little power within the company’s current structure.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances,” Bray writes. “The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker, what with mass unemployment and (in the US) job-linked health insurance. So they’re gonna get treated like crap, because capitalism. Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength.”

Amazon has faced withering criticism for a slew of complaints about how it has treated its warehouse workers who say they lack protective equipment and are kept in the dark about whether co-workers have tested positive for the virus. In addition to Costa and Cunningham, the company fired six tech employees who took a sick day in April to protest Amazon’s treatment of workers. Amazon also fired New York warehouse worker Chris Smalls who organized a walkout in March. The company said Smalls was fired for “violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk.”

Later reports suggested that Amazon planned to publicly smear Smalls and discredit the budding labor movement within its workforce. New York Attorney General Letitia James called the firing “disgraceful” and pushed for an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board.

Amazon has hired 175,000 workers in the past several weeks to keep up with the spike in demand for delivery goods amid the ongoing pandemic. It raised workers’ pay by $2 an hour through May 16th for a base hourly rate of $17.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos praised workers in a note to investors announcing the company’s first quarter earnings. “We are inspired by all the essential workers we see doing their jobs — nurses and doctors, grocery store cashiers, police officers, and our own extraordinary frontline employees,” Bezos wrote. He added that the company expected to spend $4 billion on COVID-related charges in the second quarter. “If you’re a shareholder in Amazon you may want to take a seat.”

But workers say . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 3:03 pm

And, of course, this for today (5/4)

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I got to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet in concert once, in Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 8:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Tallow + Steel Grog: A nice take on Bay Rum

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I like Tallow + Steel Grog quite a bit, but Tallow + Steel rather quickly retires fragrances to bring out new ones. I’ve not tried any of their current collection (some of which I notice is already sold out), but it’s a brand I trust

With my Plisson European Gray the lather was excellent. I did have to add water for the loading — the Gray has a rather large knot. The end result was fragrant and dense, and the Above the Tie S1 slant, here on a UFO handle, delivered a wonderful shave — exceptionally smooth, due in part I suspect to the two-day stubble.

A splash of Grog (on the face) finished the job, and the week is well-launched.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2020 at 7:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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