Later On

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

Archive for May 23rd, 2020

Triple domino spiral — 15,000 dominoes

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And even more ambitious, with a hefty slice of Rube Goldberg:

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2020 at 5:48 pm

Posted in Video

From homeless refugee to chess prodigy, 9-year-old dreams of becoming youngest grandmaster

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Aishwarya Kuma reports at ESPN:

IT’S 9 P.M., and 8-year-old Tani Adewumi is wired, like he’d just swallowed a bag of sugar. He had played chess all day, but he wanted to play more, at least until midnight. The first day of the 2019 New York State Scholastic Chess Championship had just ended, and he finished with three wins in as many matches, surprising a former champion and two other seeded players. He was heading into Day 2 — the final day of the tournament — in the lead, and he wanted to keep up the momentum when he returned to the huge Airbnb he was sharing with his family, his coach and a few other coaches in Saratoga Springs.

“If you want to win tomorrow, you better get your butt to sleep like the rest of the champions are right now,” his coach, Shawn Martinez, told him. And so, reluctantly, Tani went to bed, and as soon as he closed his eyes, he fell asleep. Already in his young life, Tani had spent nights in fear — fear for his own life, fear for the lives of his parents. Nerves over a chess match weren’t about to cause a single lost z.

The next day, Tani won his fourth match, no sweat. In the semifinal, Tani did something unorthodox: He purposely sacrificed his bishop for a pawn.

Why did you do that? Martinez wondered. I wouldn’t have made such a risky move.

It appeared to be a blunder, but Tani knew exactly what he was doing. He remembered studying a 19th-century chess game played by the legendary Paul Morphy, and he knew if he could bait his opponent into taking his bishop, he could win the game.

His opponent gave him a wry smile as he realized — too late — why Tani had made that move, the one that would send him to the championship match with a perfect record.

Incredulous, Martinez plugged all of the moves up until the sacrifice of the bishop into an automated chess program on his laptop. After the match, he showed the results to Tani: The strongest move Tani could have made at that point was to sacrifice his bishop. It was aggressive, bold and brave. It was a move most chess players wouldn’t even consider.

But Tani is no ordinary chess player. And his journey isn’t ordinary, either. Fifteen months earlier, his family had settled into a New York City homeless shelter after fleeing Nigeria. Thirteen months earlier, he couldn’t tell a rook from a pawn. That March day, after drawing in the final, he was crowned a state champion. They didn’t know it then, but Tani’s 8-year-old brain and its ability to think 20 moves ahead on an 8-by-8 chessboard were about to change the Adewumis’ lives forever.

“That moment was everything,” Martinez says. “I knew then he was meant for greatness.”

ON A DREARY December 2016 afternoon, Tani’s father, Kayode Adewumi, sat in his dining room chair in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, with his palms on his head, staring at his computer. A poster with the words “No to Western education” and “Kill all Christians” screamed at him from the screen. But what was more terrifying was the logo that accompanied the words — a logo he could recognize in his sleep. It was Boko Haram.

Four men had come into his printing shop earlier that afternoon and, after handing him a thumb drive, asked him to print 25,000 copies of the poster saved on the drive. Kayode didn’t think much about it until this moment, back in his house, with his wife, Oluwatoyin, looking at him, her eyes narrowed and worry smeared across her forehead.

Accepting the business meant he had to work for Boko Haram, a terrorist organization, and that, as a Christian, and a human being, he couldn’t bring himself to do. But refusing essentially meant a death sentence for him and his family, especially now that he’s seen what the poster says and can identify the four men.

He could hear Tani, 6, and his older brother, Austin, playing with friends out in the front yard, arguing about who gets to kick the soccer ball, and a fresh wave of fear went through his body.

What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?

Even before that threat, the Adewumis noticed their country changing under the attack of Boko Haram. Ever since the 2014 abduction of 276 girls from a northern Nigerian high school, Boko Haram’s attacks on civilians had only increased. In 2015, a bomb blast occurred so close to Oluwatoyin’s office that she could feel the heat as security escorted her out of her office. The day before the Boko Haram men came into Kayode’s print shop, Tani and Austin had come home from school early — they were evacuated after Boko Haram sent a message threatening another attack on a school in Abuja. Tani had peppered his parents with questions. “Why were we let off early?” “Who is Boko Haram?” “What is religious extremism?” All the while, his parents were able to shield him. They didn’t know how much longer they could keep doing that.

Kayode came up with a plan. When the men come for their posters the next day, he’ll tell them he couldn’t do the job because his printing press had broken the previous evening. He’ll then hand them the flash drive and tell them he hadn’t looked at it because he hadn’t needed to. Clean lie. He prayed they’d bite and leave his family alone.

They didn’t believe him. A week later, when only Oluwatoyin was home and the children were asleep, they showed up at the Adewumis’ house looking for Kayode’s laptop. They assumed Kayode had seen the poster and saved it to use against them. Let’s use Oluwatoyin to send Kayode a message, Oluwatoyin heard them whisper to each other in Arabic.

What they didn’t know was this: Oluwatoyin was raised Muslim and spoke Arabic growing up. When she heard this, she knew they were going to kill her or rape her. So she did the one thing she could still do: She knelt and began to pray. Atuasal iilayk — I’m begging you. She said the Arabic phrase over and over. “Are you a Muslim?” they asked her. “Yes,” she whispered, as tears fell down her cheeks. Silence followed her response. They looked at each other, and without saying another word, they exited the house.

A few weeks later, Kayode asked Oluwatoyin to pack a small bag of necessities. Without informing anybody, the family moved to Akure in rural Nigeria, to a house with a tall fence. They hid there, using their savings to get by, hoping Boko Haram would lose track of them so they could eventually go back to living a normal life in that small town.

A few months into their life in Akure, when they were getting ready to go to bed, they heard a noise — like somebody was shaking their fence. Boko Haram, they realized, had found them. “You’ve been escaping us for far too long, but we know you are inside, and we know that today you will go to heaven,” they heard the group of men yelling from outside. Kayode asked Oluwatoyin to go to their kids’ bedroom and pray hard, because nothing short of a miracle could save them now.

Kayode knew it would take a while for them to knock down the fence, but a back door attached to the fence led directly to the kitchen. If they found the back door, they’d get inside within minutes. He came up with a plan: He would push open the kitchen door and announce himself. They’d follow him and leave his family alone. It worked — even if by accident. When they heard him, Kayode believes they mistook him for the police and yelled, “It’s the police, let’s go,” and jumped into a car and fled. Kayode stayed outside the kitchen door all night, waiting to see whether they’d come back.

As daylight broke, Kayode wearily walked back into the house to find Oluwatoyin calling him frantically. The kids, who were asleep before, were now awake, fear etched on their faces.

Their faces confirmed the one thing he’d been thinking over and over in his head. They had to leave the country for good — and they had to do it now. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2020 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Chess, Daily life, Games

Nike Turned Away a Public Health Official From Its Warehouse Days After a Worker With COVID-19 Died

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Corporations have no moral sense, though they have greed aplenty. Wendi C. Thomas reports in ProPublica:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The security guard said no. It didn’t matter that the visitor was from the Shelby County Health Department.

It didn’t matter that she was there to investigate health conditions at a Nike distribution center where, five days earlier, company officials learned a temporary worker had died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.

The security guard staffing the gate at the sprawling site said that without an appointment, no one could come in.

On the afternoon of April 16, the county environmental health employee left her card but without answers to a complaint the department had received that the giant athletic wear maker wasn’t cleaning thoroughly or allowing for social distancing among workers.

The incident, which has not been reported before, illustrates a health department caught off guard by the refusal of a corporate giant to let it inside a southeast Memphis facility and the yawning communication gaps between the county agency charged with protecting the public’s health and the state agency charged with workplace safety. At least one complaint about conditions at the facility visited by the environmental health worker was also filed with the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but it wasn’t passed on to the county Health Department.

As of May 18, 21 workers at Nike’s five Memphis warehouses and distribution centers have tested positive for the coronavirus, up from nine workers less than three weeks earlier.

Nike’s footprint here is massive: In 2015, it opened its largest distribution center in the world, the 2.8 million square foot North America Logistics Campus, on the city’s far north side. And with more than 5.3 million square feet of warehouse space in the metro area, Nike runs the region’s largest proprietary distribution operation, according to the Memphis Business Journal.

About 3,100 employees work at Nike’s distribution centers and warehouses across the Memphis metro area. They work to fulfill online orders from around the United States. Since Nike shuttered its physical stores in mid-March, such orders have soared. In at least one facility, workers were given masks with swooshes on them.

Between March 26 and May 12, the Health Department received 201 COVID-19 complaints about businesses, including concerns about nonessential businesses that were still operating, a lack of social distancing and insufficient cleaning. This particular Nike facility was the only one at which the department was turned away, Health Department officials said.

On April 17, a day after the security guard turned away the environmental health worker, whose formal title is environmentalist, a Nike administrator spoke to her by phone. The administrator said that, to protect workers, the company had installed markers on the floor spaced 6 feet apart and the facility closed every Tuesday for cleaning.

With that explanation, the Health Department was satisfied. The department did not return to the distribution center to verify that what Nike said was true.

The environmentalist “felt at that time there was nothing else that needed to be done,” said Kasia Alexander, environmental health administrator for the department.

The department has the authority to summon police to access a business immediately, and has exercised that authority in the past, said Dr. Bruce Randolph, the department’s health director.

But he defended the decision not to escalate matters. “We don’t just automatically get law enforcement involved simply because the first time we show up, some security and management person refuses to allow us access.”

A Nike spokesperson said the company has taken extensive measures to minimize workers’ exposure to the virus, including expanding social distancing in doorways, breakrooms, the warehouse floor and other areas from 3 feet to 6 feet in early April. There’s plexiglass separating workstations and markings on tables showing how far apart workers should sit. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2020 at 9:12 am

Beef short ribs later today

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I follow a whole-food plant-based diet almost exclusively, and today the emphasis is on “almost.” For some reason I got a hankering for beef after seeing some extremely nice beef short ribs at the supermarket. I got three very chunky short ribs — much meat, little bone — and I browned them well on all sides in a cast-iron skillet while I prepared the veg for slow roasting in my Staub 24cm Round Cocotte, which holds 4 US quarts.

2 heads spring garlic, chopped small along with about 5″ of the stem
2 carrots cut in large dice (or moderate chunks)
1 large red onion cut into chunks
1 largish turnip cut into chunks
about a dozen small domestic white mushrooms, entire

The garlic and carrots went into the pot for the bottom layer, then I nestled the browned shorts into those veg. I scattered the red onion, turnip, the mushrooms over the meat, then added:

about 2 teaspoons dried thyme, rubbed between my hands to crush it
a good amount of ground black pepper
a pinch of smoked salt
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
juice of 2 lemons
a sprinkling of malt vinegar
about 1/4 cup good cognac

Here’s the result:

I covered the pot and put it into a 200ºF oven, where it will laze away the day.

I bought some crème fraîche and I’ll mix that with some:

ground white pepper
horseradish from the refrigerated section, squeezed dry
a little Dijon mustard
a pinch of sugar

That will go nicely with the beef.

UPDATE: The turnips are in lieu of potatoes — potatoes are too starchy for my diabetes. And I like the flavor of turnips. It occurs to me that a cup or so of shredded red cabbage might be very good. I think I’ll add it. One benefit of long slow cooking is that it accommodates afterthoughts.

ANOTHER UPDATE. I found a useful post on the sizes of the Staub round cocottes (and oval cocottes as well). Note that in that post “quart” means the Imperial quart: 1 Imperial qt = 1.2 US quarts. The Staub cocotte pictured is the 24cm one, so is 3.3 Imperial quarts — 3.96 US quarts. My little red Staub round cocotte is 20cm, or 2.25 US quarts.

I really like these Staub round cocottes, FWIW.

VERDICT: I had a bowl at 4:00pm — seven hours of cooking. Delicious. Pot is now atop stove, cooling, and oven is off. Here they are with one bowl (including one short rib) already removed (and eaten). The horseradish sauce,  BTW, was top-notch.

It occurs to me that a little crushed red pepper flakes would have been good — not a lot, just to provide some warmth and presence.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2020 at 9:08 am

Declaration Grooming’s Icarus base, compared

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A few days ago I was bowled over by Declaration Grooming’s new Milksteak shaving soap. Their previous premium formula was the Icarus formula, so I thought it would be interesting to revising that. Icarus ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Avocado Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Mango Seed Butter, Potassium Hydroxide, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Bison Tallow, Lamb Tallow, Colloidal Oatmeal, Goat’s Milk, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tussah Silk

And, for comparison, Milksteak ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Bison Tallow, Mango Butter, Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Egg Whites, Coconut Milk, Goat’s Milk, Tocopheryl Acetate, Maltodextrin, Milk Protein, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract,  Arctium lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Silk Amino Acids

With the RazoRock Bruce shaving brush, I easily got a good lather. It was quite satisfactory, but it was not in the same league as the Milksteak lather. Declaration Grooming seems to have discontinued the Icarus line in favor of the Milksteak mix, and it’s easy to see why. Back in the day Sears Roebuck like to have three catalog entries for a product type: good, better, and best. Icarus is in the “better” category; Milksteak is in the “best” category.

My RazoRock Game Changer .84-P did a very nice job, and I do love Mickey Lee Soapworks’s Italian Stallion aftershave milk. The scent (to my nose) is wonderful. I had no real interest in the product until I received a sample with an order I had placed, and once I tried the sample, I immediately ordered a bottle. It’s no longer available, alas.

Great shave, and a very good soap — just not so good as that Milkbase soap.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2020 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

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