Later On

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Archive for June 16th, 2020

An Anki observation

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I continue to use Anki daily, and currently I’m using 13 decks, 3 of which I made and 10 downloaded from shared decks. These are all Esperanto decks, so there’s a fair amount of overlap, but each deck has some things the others lack. (I have deleted three decks simply because I had mastered all the vocabulary in them, and I’ve also go through all the cards in four of the current 13 decks so I get only review cards, no new vocabulary.)

You can see how many cards each deck will have for you, and nowadays the total number looks intimidating, but as it turns out many of these are cards I know so well that they should up only once every 2 to 3 months — it’s just that they’re spread out, so I’ll see a good number of them every day (and then not see them again for a few month).

The net result is that almost all the cards for a day are cards I know well, so I can go through them quickly and then not see them again for weeks. Of course, there are some stubborn cards I’m still working on, and occasionally a card I had indicated I knew will return and I’ll find that I don’t know it, so I click “Hard” and it comes back sooner.

I’m impressed by how well (and easily) it works. If there are any subjects that you must learn well and for which flashcards would be helpful, I highly recommend Anki — and do take a look at the shared decks. Those are not all good, but since you can readily edit any card, you can fix up minor errors and/or augment the information on the card.

UPDATE 17 June 2020: Here are the decks as of this morning:

I have no cards to review in Esperanto Affixes, and in Esperanto Correlatives, Recognize False Friends Like a Native!™, and Speak Esperanto Like a Native!™ 1 there are no new words to learn. I’ve been through those decks so it’s only review, and that goes quickly because I know all the words — the review is just reinforcement through spaced repetition.

The green numerals show how many I will review in each deck and the blue numeral shows how many new words are introduced, and I’ve left the default of 10 in place, though you can change that to match your ambition.

Here’s a typical recent word:

If I totally blank on the card, I click “Again,” otherwise I click on how easy it was. As cards are repeated the intervals get longer. Here are the choices for a brand new word:

And here are the choices for a word that I know well:

If I click “Easy,” I won’t see the word again for 4.2 months. Thus over time the daily review lessens dramatically. I average around 5 seconds a card.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 7:18 pm

Interesting Covid-19 statistics

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Take a look at this post by Kevin Drum (with charts).

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 4:17 pm

The Plan to Make Post-Pandemic Flying Miserable

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

Today I’m going to write about how Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is starting to restructure air travel with a little noticed change to consumer protection rules. Here are a few of the other nuggets in this issue:

  • The five dollar footlong rebellion among Subway franchises reveals market power in the franchise economy.
  • A whistleblower from the antitrust division and political interference by Trump
  • Corruption at the United States Trade Representative’s Office
  • The relationship between corporate research levels and antitrust
  • The policy attack on targeted ads
  • Tesla, Nikola, or how the stock market is unreal
  • Concentration in the market for body cameras and policing equipment

First, some housekeeping. I wrote an essay for the American Compass on how to bring back generic pharmaceutical supply chains. The gist of the argument is that our markets are screwed up by monopoly power. We distribute and sell medicine through an opaque system of kickbacks among various large buying groups. If we just got rid of kickbacks, we’d get real prices again, and then we could structure supply chains more safely.

And now…

Planning for the Unfriendly Skies

Perhaps the hardest hit industry during the pandemic is that of commercial airlines. Though the evidence isn’t clear, being confined in a small metal tube with other passengers for hours at a time seems like the best possible way to spread a disease like the Coronavirus, and travel itself using any medium is much riskier these days. Entire countries like New Zealand and Taiwan, and even states, like Maine, are under self-imposed quarantine, which suggests that without a vaccine, the post-pandemic “normal” for airlines will look very different than what we are used to.

Congress recognized this dynamic in March, when it passed the CARES Act to provide specific financial support to the industry. So far, we don’t really know what the end state will be. Some airlines are getting more aggressive on masking policy. On a financial level, both American Airlines and United are putting up their frequent flyer programs as collateral for more loans, while Alaska Airlines is planning large job cuts. Delta reduced hours and pay, which is likely a violation of CARES Act conditions. Most airlines are also making it much harder to get refunds by changing their ticketing practices to prevent class action lawsuits. Airlines seem to be transitioning to a new post-pandemic normal in ways that prioritize cursory health measures and preserve cash by exploiting customers and workers.

Policymaking is also in flux. The existing consumer protection framework is in chaos, with consumers filing 25,000 complaints in March and April, versus 1,500 in a normal month. There are questions about how to restore flying while the virus is on the loose, as well as what to do with people who had planned to fly but could not. It’s an opportune time for forward-looking policymakers to rethink an industry that is both vital and deeply problematic in terms of its competitive dynamics. In Germany, for instance, policymakers are using aid to restructure the industry. Lufthansa, after a fairly bitter negotiating stance, got government aid conditioned on giving up a few takeoff and landing slots at Munich and Frankfurt airport, which may increase competition.

Clearly, the airline industry is at a big inflection point; the next election will likely have a big impact on what the industry comes to look like. The last major pivot point was deregulation of the airlines in 1978, which was a shift from seeing the airline grid as a public utility to one in which airlines simply operated in a normal market for tradable services. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader was the single most aggressive advocate for eliminating the Civil Aeronautics Board, in favor of deregulation, plus a robust consumer protection and antitrust regime. Since that time, consumer protection and antitrust authority has been held mostly by the Department of Transportation.

Deregulation did not work out as Nader (plus other deregulatory champions like Ted Kennedy, Alfred Kahn, and Stephen Breyer) thought it would. In terms of antitrust and mergers, the story is pretty bleak. There’s a story that prices came down because of deregulation, but this wasn’t really true in aggregate; prices had been coming down since commercial airlines began, because technology keeps getting better. Throughout the 1980s, and continuing through the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, the DOT allowed a continued consolidation of airlines. Today there are just four big ones and a few smaller more regionally focused ones. A significant number of routes are monopolized, and smaller airports have seen fewer flights over time. Under Trump, the DOT has been giving antitrust immunity to foreign airlines engaged in joint ventures to fly into and out of the U.S. There were a bunch of bad mergers and there’s plenty of price gouging, but the root problem was deregulation; the economics of airlines simply don’t lend themselves to robust competition without extensive regulatory intervention.

Unlike antitrust, which was weak under both parties, there is a bit of a partisan split for consumer protection, a legacy of the Nader influence among Democrats. Democratic administrations tend to be slightly more aggressive on things like baggage fees, tarmac delays, ticket price transparency, wheelchair accessibility, and so forth., But it’s important not to overstate the difference. In 2015, the DOT issued just 15 consent orders against airlines, with a little over $2M in fines, this despite 19,000 complaints. The National Consumer’s League’s John Breyault noted the total amount of fines since 2009 amounts to $38.7 million, versus $1.4 billion collected via baggage fees just in the fourth quarter of 2019. Here’s a chart of the fairly sad story. . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Bottom line: try not to travel by air.

Later in the article:

In 2017, the airline lobby sought to overturn a bunch of consumer protection regulations, which would give airlines the ability to:

  • Hide the full price of a ticket at the point of purchase
  • Raise the price of a ticket after a consumer has already paid
  • Not divulge how often flights are delayed or canceled when selling tickets
  • Charge multiple baggage fees for an itinerary
  • End the practice of letting consumers cancel within 24 hours of booking a flight
  • No longer promptly provide wheelchair assistance to passengers
  • Have much longer tarmac delays
  • Not have air conditioning or heating during tarmac delays
  • Deny giving paper-based explanations of denied boarding compensation
  • Pay denied boarding compensation in flight credit instead of money

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 4:09 pm

Wallace Shawn, The Art of Theater

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A Paris Review interview from 2012:

Wallace Shawn is recognizable to most of the world as a character actor: he made a memorable debut in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979) and, since then, has appeared in movies as diverse as The Bostonians and The Princess Bride and on the popular television series Gossip Girl. He has also starred in two films made with his longtime collaborator, André Gregory: My Dinner with André (1981) and Vanya on 42nd Street (1994), which were directed by Louis Malle.

It is as a writer, however, that Shawn has most influenced the American stage. Perhaps the noted young playwright Rebecca Gilman, citing Shawn as an influence, put it best when she said of his work, “He’s the only writer who writes about intellectuals in a complicated and even contradictory way. He’s really funny, too.” Shawn has written in other genres as well. His latest book, Essays (2009), is just that, a collection of first-person nonfiction that reflects, among other things, his political activism and his interest in other writers (it includes, for instance, an interview with poet Mark Strand that he conducted in 1998 for The Paris Review).

Shawn was born in New York City in 1943. His father, William Shawn, was, for nearly thirty-six years, the editor of The New Yorker; his mother, Cecille, worked for many years as a journalist. His younger brother, Allen, is a composer (they collaborated on the opera The Music Teacher, which had its New York premiere in 2006). Wallace—or Wally, as he is known to family and friends—graduated with an A.B. in history from Harvard in 1965; that same year, he traveled as a Fulbright scholar to India, where he taught English, and then spent two years at Oxford studying philosophy and economics. He returned to New York in 1970 and has lived there ever since.

Shawn’s first play, Four Meals in May (1967), was written when he was still at Oxford. He continued to write when he came back to New York, supporting himself at different times as a copier in a copy center, a runner in the garment district, and a schoolteacher. Following a trio of early works—The Family Play (1970), The Hotel Play (1970), The Hospital Play (1971)—Shawn’s first professional production came in 1975 with Our Late Night, directed by Gregory. Since then, he has written six plays: A Thought in Three Parts (1976), Marie and Bruce (1978), Aunt Dan and Lemon (1985), The Fever (1990), The Designated Mourner (1997), and Grasses of a Thousand Colors (2008). He has also adapted Machiavelli’s The Mandrake (1977) and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera (2006), Shawn’s first work to reach Broadway.

Our conversation took place in the offices of The Paris Review over a period of three months in 2009 and 2010, during which time it always seemed to be snowing. Shawn’s distinctive voice, thoughtful and deliberate, turned a number of his interlocutor’s questions inside out, which lead to many interesting digressions and further meditations on Shawn’s big  subject: the nature of speech and what we mean when we try to say anything at all.

INTERVIEWER

Why did you choose to leave the theater to perform The Fever?

SHAWN

Because there was something I actually wanted to say. The Fever is a one-person play. I decided I would perform it myself, and I decided I would not perform it in theaters, because the character in the play says certain things that I meant. I thought, I’m not just trying to entertain somebody, I’m trying to tell somebody something that I mean. And you can’t do that in a theater, because if you put a person on a stage in a theater, that person will be interpreted as a character in a story. No matter what happens on that stage, it will be interpreted by everybody as a form of entertainment.

INTERVIEWER

What would be wrong with that? Are you against entertainment?

SHAWN

That’s like saying, Are you against pumpkin pie? Pumpkin pie is enjoyable and people enjoy it, but it’s in a different category from, for example, penicillin. Enjoyment is important, and pie is important, but pie is not the only thing we need.

I didn’t want The Fever to be seen as just another “disturbing” play—“disturbing” being a term of praise for a certain kind of enjoyable or entertaining evening. In an amusement park, you can go on a roller coaster that carries you up and down, or you can go on another kind of ride that whirls you around in a circle. Similarly, there are different sorts of entertaining experiences in the theater. You can go to a play that is enjoyable because it’s funny, and then on the next night you can go to a play that’s enjoyable because it’s “disturbing.” For example, in the sixties, there were plays inspired by the black power movement where a guy would come to the front of the stage and yell at the audience, “You are pigs, we are going to get you.” And the drama critic would say, “My favorite part of the evening was the thrilling moment when that guy approached the audience and said ‘You are pigs. We are going to get you.’ ” To that drama critic, that was an exciting moment of theater. To the writer of the play—well, he might have meant it. But the critic watching the play didn’t really feel threatened, he just thought it was great theater.

The idea that people might react like that to The Fever was nauseating to me. I didn’t want to give someone an agreeable feeling of agitation. I was trying to speak as a friend to a friend, from one human being to another. And that isn’t possible in a theater, because in a theater, even if an actor has a heart attack and dies onstage, the audience always interprets it as part of the show.

INTERVIEWER

Where else could you stage it?

SHAWN

I decided to do The Fever in apartments, in private homes. In a way, the play was a kind of declaration to my own friends, first of all, and then to my class, the bourgeois class. I was telling my own group that I no longer believed in the various justifications for our existence that I’d formerly found convincing. It was like a secret meeting of the bourgeois class, in which I would speak frankly about what we were.

INTERVIEWER

But eventually you did perform the piece in a theater.

SHAWN

Eventually I thought, I can’t keep doing this play for twelve people at a time. I love doing it like that, but I’ve done it now a hundred times, and only twelve hundred people have seen it! If I could only do it in one of those rooms where there are a lot of seats cleverly arranged, a hundred people could see it at once! So I went back to theater, although I did do the piece in a slightly nontraditional way—I mingled with the audience before the play, I didn’t have theatrical lighting or a set or a program, et cetera. Unfortunately, it was pretty brutally denounced.

INTERVIEWER

By critics?

SHAWN

Yes. It was described as something that was almost without any value—a ludicrous display of pomposity.

INTERVIEWER

What did you make of that?

SHAWN

Public humiliation is always quite painful, obviously, because you do feel that everyone on the street has read about you and believed what they’ve read, and they’re all thinking, Ah yes, there’s that pitiful fraud I read about. But mainly I was shattered to realize that The Fever would not become part of a public conversation, would not stretch out across the United States and beyond and have the chance to affect people. I was trying to explain to all the nice people out there how it could be possible that from our own point of view we’re so nice, and we’re so lovable, and we’re so cute, and so sensitive, and yet from the point of view of people who are weak and powerless we are an implacable, vicious enemy. I’d found what I knew were the best words I could ever find to say what I wanted to say, and I realized that because of the negative criticism, those words would be heard only by a handful of odd theater fans, not by society as a whole.

INTERVIEWER

Do you enjoy going to the theater? . . .

Continue reading. Lots more, all good.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

An inspired mash-up of Olympic performances

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Games, Video

Meißner Tremonia’s Strong ‘n Scottish, with the ATT S1

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Meißner Tremonia labels their tubs for shelf storage, where they can be be stacked (since the label on the side remains readable). They would not work well stored in a drawer (no label on top). Declaration Grooming, in the tub of theirs I have, generously labels both side and top with the specific soap, a convenience for the user.

But since I stack my tubs on shelves, Meißner’s method works fine for me, and much better than (say) Phoenix Artisan’s approach: top labels only, which thus requires me to pull out and inspect tub after tub to find the one I’m looking for. (I recognize this is not a problem for most men, who have only one or just a few shaving soaps. Still…)

As I’ve noted previously, Strong ‘n Scottish really is strongly fragranced, in a good way for those who like raw weather of the moors with the smoke from the stills blowing past in the mist, with the warmth of a shot of Laguvulin in the belly.. And the lather is quite good. Each Meißner Tremonia soap has its own formula, though with similarities — for example, they all contain clay, but the particular clay used varies from soap to soap (and in this soap, two varieties of clay are used). Strong ‘n Scottish’s ingredients:

Aqua, Stearic Acid, Cocos Nucifera oil*, Glycerin*, Potassium Hydroxide, Whisky, Orbignya Oleifera oil*, Sodium Hydroxide, Cedrus Deodora oil, Talc, Lanolin, Red Clay, Juniperus Oxycedrus wood tar, Citric Acid, Simmondsia chinensis oil*, Maris sal, Kaolin, Brown Clay

* Organic

Thanks to the Rooney Style 3 Size 1 and my enjoyment of fragrance and lather, I spent some extra time lathering (playing with it on my face), so when I went to work with the Above the Tie S1 (here on a UFO handle), I got a really excellent result: smooth, supple, soft, to a T. A splash of Stirling Soap Company’s Executive Man aftershave, and the day has a good foundation.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2020 at 10:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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