Later On

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

Archive for September 24th, 2020

Some useful rules of thumb and general guidance

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From Morgan Housel at CollaborativeFund.com:

The person who tells the most compelling story wins. Not the best idea. Just the story that catches people’s attention and gets them to nod their heads.

Something can be factually true but contextually nonsense. Bad ideas often have at least some seed of truth that gives their followers confidence.

Tell people what they want to hear and you can be wrong indefinitely without penalty.

Woodrow Wilson said government “is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.” It’s a useful idea. Everything is accountable to one of the two, and you have to know whether something adapts and changes over time or perpetually stays the same.

Behavior is hard to fix. When people say they’ve learned their lesson they underestimate how much of their previous mistake was caused by emotions that will return when faced with the same circumstances.

“Logic is an invention of man and may be ignored by the universe,” historian Will Durant says. That’s why forecasting is hard.

Being good at something doesn’t promise rewards. It doesn’t even promise a compliment. What’s rewarded in the world is scarcity, so what matters is what you can do that other people are bad at.

The world is governed by probability, but people think in black and white, right or wrong – did it happen or did it not? – because it’s easier [and most people are intellecutally lazy – LG].

Henry Luce said, “Show me a man who thinks he’s objective and I’ll show you a man who’s deceiving himself.” People see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and view the world through the lens of their own unique life experiences.

People learn when they’re surprised. Not when they read the right answer, or are told they’re doing it wrong, but when their jaw hits the floor.

Most fields have only a few laws. Lots of theories, hunches, observations, ideas, trends, and rules. But laws – things that are always true, all the time – are rare.

The only thing worse than thinking everyone who disagrees with you is wrong is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Daily life

Louisiana Officer Hit By Bullet During ‘Ambush’ Actually Shot Himself, Say Police

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Tom Batchelor writes in Newsweek:

A police officer who claimed he was shot during an ambush actually shot himself, his department said following an investigation.

John Michael Goulart Jr., an officer in Pineville, Louisiana, is accused of having “altered the facts” after shooting himself on Sunday, the police department said.

Goulart said he had been shot once in the leg, with a second bullet hitting the rear door of his police car, while he was at a shopping center in the city.

On Monday, Deputy Chief Darrell Basco, the Pineville Public Information Officer, said the officer had come under fire after being “ambushed.”

Local news station KALB-TV quoted Basco as saying: “There were shots fired at the officer. The officer didn’t return fire on anybody. He was exiting the patrol vehicle at the shopping center whenever he was ambushed by an unknown person at this time and two shots were fired. One striking him, and the other hit the vehicle.”

However, on Tuesday the department announced that an investigation had “led to a determination that the officer shot himself, concealed and altered the facts.”

A statement supplied to Newsweek by the Pineville Police Department said . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 11:07 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

$1 hearing aid could treat millions with hearing loss

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From Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, written by Christa Lesté-Lasserre:

As an undergraduate in Mumbai, India, Saad Bhamla wanted to do something nice for his maternal grandparents: Buy them a pair of hearing aids. But the prices were shockingly high—and far beyond his means. Now, 15 years later, the bioengineer has invented a device to help grandparents across the globe: a do-it-yourself hearing aid made from inexpensive, easy-to-find parts. The no-frills device, described in a new study, could help restore hearing to millions suffering from age-related hearing loss—for less than the price of a bottle of water.

The new device is “incredibly compelling,” says Frank Lin, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University who was not involved in the work.

Globally, 230 million people aged 65 and older experience age-related hearing loss. Typically, high-pitch sounds become harder to distinguish, like electronic beeps and speech sounds such as “s” and “th.” Conversations can seem mumbled, and background noise feels distracting and invasive. Such deficiencies can be isolating, Lin says, and his research suggests they can also accelerate cognitive decline.

To regain their abilities, many seniors turn to hearing aids. Custom hearing aids amplify sound in the exact frequencies that the listener cannot hear. But at nearly $5000 a pair, these devices are “practically a luxury item” for many in low- and middle-income countries, says Bhamla, who specializes in “frugal science” at Georgia Institute of Technology. Lower grade hearing aids are cheaper, but they can’t be customized, and they still cost up to $500. They’re like “cheap earphones in an airplane,” Bhamla says.

Inspired by his grandparents and a hearing-impaired colleague—who is first author on the new paper—Bhamla and his team set out to develop a cheap hearing aid built with off-the-shelf parts. They soldered a microphone onto a small circuit board to capture nearby sound and added an amplifier and a frequency filter to specifically increase the volume of high-pitch sounds above 1000 hertz. Then they added a volume control, an on/off switch, and an audio jack for plugging in standard earphones, as well as a battery holder. The device, dubbed LoCHAid, is the size of a matchbox and can be worn like a necklace. At bulk rates, Bhamla says, it would cost just under $1 to make. But anyone with the freely available blueprints and a soldering iron can make their own for not much more—maybe $15 or $20, Bhamla says. The parts are easy to source, he says, and putting them together takes less than 30 minutes.

Next, Bhamla and his colleagues tested the device. They found that it boosted the volume of high-pitch sounds by 15 decibels while preserving volumes at lower pitches. It also filtered out interference and sudden, loud sounds like dog barks and car horns. Finally, tests with an artificial ear revealed that LoCHAid might improve speech recognition, by bringing conversations closer to the quality heard by healthy individuals. It complied with five out of six of the World Health Organization’s preferred product recommendations for hearing aids, the researchers report today in PLOS ONE.

Its simplicity has a few drawbacks, however. The device can’t be fine-tuned for individual needs or adapted to treat other hearing issues. And even though it’s waterproof and shock resistant, the scientists anticipate that LoCHAid’s parts will wear out after about a year and a half. Its bulky size might deter some users, Bhamla says, although a smaller version is in the works.

But engineering is only half the battle. Until LoCHAid is clinically tested, it cannot be sold as a “hearing aid” in most countries—including the United States. Ultimately, Bhamla wants to get an approval to sell the device over the counter without a prescription, like ibuprofen or reading glasses. “It’s something we’re still figuring out,” he says.

The next step is getting people to use the devices. In low- and middle-income countries, only 3% of people with age-related hearing loss wear hearing aids, and in countries like the United States, the adoption rate hovers at about 20%, according to Bhamla. Aside from concerns about cost, Bhamla says, “a lot of people don’t realize they have hearing loss … and then there’s the social stigma of wearing the aid.”

But if these cheap, colorful devices take off, they could benefit many people on the brink of cognitive decline, Lin says. “Theoretically, if you treat hearing loss, you might modify those pathways and reduce the risk of dementia.”

Bhamla wants biomedical devices to be as cheap and accessible as consumer electronics. He still remembers the shock of learning that he couldn’t afford to help his grandparents. “I thought owning a laptop and a cellphone meant I had the means to buy hearing aids, but then I realized how expensive they were,” he recalls. “It was sobering.”

Personal note: My latest pair of hearing aids cost US$3800, which was substantally less than the US$5100 of the previous pair — but still…

Worse: because the ear and its environs present a moist environment, hearing aids eventually corrode and stop working, so a 5-year lifespan is about all that can be expected. I do open the devices and place them in a dehumidifier each night, which might extend their life a bit. That little dehumidfier box (it uses electricity to warm and dry the air) cost US$75, but at a 5-year life and a US$5000 price, if the box extends the life of the hearing aids by one month, it has more than paid for itself.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 10:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Trump’s attack on the election itself serves also to distract

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I think Trump means it — he will do everything he can think of, unrestrained by ethics, morals, laws, integrity, decency, or common sense, to stay in office regardless of election results (while throwing everything he has to sabotage the election) — but it also serves as a diversion, as Heather Cox Richardson points out:

Today Americans were roiled by an article in The Atlantic, detailing the method by which the Trump campaign is planning to steal the 2020 election. The article was slated for The Atlantic’s November issue, but the editor decided to release it early because of its importance.

The article’s author, Barton Gellman, explains that Trump will not accept losing the 2020 election. If he cannot win it, he plans to steal it. We already know he is trying to suppress voting and his hand-picked Postmaster General is working to hinder the delivery of mail-in ballots. Now Trump’s teams are recruiting 50,000 volunteers in 15 states to challenge voters at polling places; this will, of course, intimidate Democrats and likely keep them from showing up.

But if those plans don’t manage to depress the Democratic vote enough to let him declare victory, he intends to insist on calling a winner in the election on November 3. His legal teams will challenge later mail-in ballots, which tend to swing Democratic, on the grounds that they are fraudulent, and they will try to silence local election officials by attacking them as agents of antifa or George Soros. The president and his team will continue to insist that the Democrats are refusing to honor the results of the election.

Gellman warns that the Trump team is already exploring a way to work around the vote counts in battleground states. Rather than appointing Democratic electors chosen by voters, a state legislature could conclude that the vote was tainted and appoint a Republican slate instead. A Trump legal advisor who spoke to Trump explained they would insist they were protecting the will of the people from those who were trying to rig an election. “The state legislatures will say, ‘All right, we’ve been given this constitutional power. We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state,’ ” the adviser explained. The election would then go to Congress, where there would be two sets of electoral votes to fight over… and things would devolve from there.

They would likely end up at the Supreme Court, to which Trump this morning said he was in a hurry to confirm a new justice so there would be a solid majority to rule in his favor on the election results. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” he said. “Having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation.”

Amidst the flurry of concern over The Atlantic piece, a reporter this afternoon asked Trump if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens,” Trump said. “You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.” He went on to say: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very — we’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”

In response to this shocking rejection of the basic principles of our government, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted, “This is how democracy dies.” He said: “This is a moment that I would say to any republican of good conscience working in the administration, it is time for you to resign.” But only one Republican, Mitt Romney (R-UT), condemned Trump’s comments as “both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

On Facebook, veteran journalist Dan Rather wrote of living through the Depression, World War Two, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, Watergate, and 9-11, then said: “This is a moment of reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime…. What Donald Trump said today are the words of a dictator. To telegraph that he would consider becoming the first president in American history not to accept the peaceful transfer of power is not a throw-away line. It’s not a joke. He doesn’t joke. And it is not prospective. The words are already seeding a threat of violence and illegitimacy into our electoral process.”

There is no doubt that Trump’s statement today was a watershed moment. Another watershed event is the fact that Republicans are not condemning it.

But there are two significant tells in Trump’s statement. First of all, his signature act is to grab headlines away from stories he does not want us to read. Two new polls today put Biden up by ten points nationally. Fifty-eight percent of Americans do not approve of the way Trump is doing his job. Only 38% approve of how he is handling the coronavirus. Voters see Biden as more honest, intelligent, caring, and level-headed than Trump. They think Biden is a better leader.

Trump’s headline grabs keep attention from Biden’s clear and detailed plans, first for combatting coronavirus and rebuilding the economy, and then for reordering the country. The Republicans didn’t bother to write a platform this year, simply saying they supported Trump, but Trump has not been able to articulate why he wants a second term.

In contrast, Biden took his cue from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and has released detailed and clear plans for a Biden presidency. Focusing on four areas, Biden has called for returning critical supply chains to America and rebuilding union jobs in manufacturing and technology; investing in infrastructure and clean energy; and supporting the long-ignored caregiving sector of the economy by increasing training and pay for those workers who care for children, elderly Americans, and people with disabilities. He has a detailed plan for leveling the playing field between Black and Brown people and whites, beginning by focusing on economic opportunity, but also addressing society’s systemic racial biases. Biden’s plans get little attention so long as the media is focused on Trump.

The president’s antics also overshadow the reality that many prominent Republicans are abandoning him. Yesterday, Arizona Senator John McCain’s widow Cindy endorsed Biden. “My husband John lived by a code: country first. We are Republicans, yes, but Americans foremost. There’s only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is [Biden].” She added “Joe… is a good and honest man. He will lead us with dignity. He will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight.”

McCain is only the latest of many prominent Republicans to endorse Biden, and her endorsement stings. She could help Biden in the crucial state of Arizona, especially with women. “I’m hoping that I can encourage suburban women to take another look, women that are particularly on the fence and are unhappy with what’s going on right now but also are not sure they want to cross the line and vote for Joe. I hope they’ll take a look at what I believe and will move forward and come with me and join team Biden,” McCain said.

That McCain’s endorsement stung showed in Trump’s tweeted response: “I hardly know Cindy McCain other than having put her on a Committee at her husband’s request. Joe Biden was John McCain’s lapdog…. Never a fan of John. Cindy can have Sleepy Joe!”

And, of course, Trump’s declaration has taken the focus off the Republican senators’ abrupt about-face on confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year. The ploy laid bare their determination to cement their power at all costs, and it is not popular. Sixty-two percent of Americans, including 50% of Republicans, think the next president should name Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement.

The second tell in Trump’s statement is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:24 am

Trump’s Motto: Your Money or Your Life

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Thomas Friedman writes in the NY Times:

Whenever I talk about Covid-19 or climate change with skeptics, I use a simple analogy: Imagine that your child is sick with a disease and you decide to take her to 100 different doctors to get multiple opinions — and 99 doctors give you the same diagnosis and prescribed treatment and one tells you that there’s nothing to worry about, that your child’s disease will “disappear … like a miracle, it will disappear.”

What parents in their right minds would follow the advice of the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis?

This, alas, is no hypothetical. This, alas, is actually the most important question facing voters in choosing our next president. Are you ready to trust your own child’s and the country’s health to the guy who holds the one-out-of-100 view on both climate change and Covid-19? He being Dr. Donald Trump, founder of Trump University, where he apparently earned a B.S. in B.S.

It is stunning to me how many conservatives want to go with the doctor with the one-out-of-100 diagnosis, since doing so is anything but conservative. It’s Trotskyite radical.

And to riff off Trotsky for another moment, Republicans may not be interested in Mother Nature, but Mother Nature is interested in them. Both climate change and Covid-19 have brutally elbowed their way into our lives in the past year, and for the same reason: We have been stressing our ecosystems to their limits and beyond.

We’ve done this by invading wilderness areas and extracting wildlife carrying viruses never borne before by human beings and by emitting CO₂ that is heating the planet, amplifying storms that brought four months of rain in four hours in Florida and wildfires of epic proportions to the West Coast.

Joe Biden wants to proceed with more caution, and Trump wants to throw caution to the wind. That’s why the widely respected science journal Scientific American did something last week for the first time, declaring: “Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history — until now. The 2020 election is literally a matter of life and death. We urge you to vote for health, science and Joe Biden for President.”

The choice could not be more stark or important. Trump’s implicit motto when it comes to Covid-19 and environmental protection is always the same: Your money OR your life?

Which do you value more? Biden’s motto has been your money AND your life — you should not, and do not, have to choose between them, if we are wise and follow science.

How so? On Covid-19, for Trump, it’s jobs or masks, opening school or masks, social distancing or Big Ten football, science or church. Everything is black or white. And so is the result: So many Americans are jobless today and watching their kids learning remotely from home because Trump pitted masks against in-classroom schooling, masks against jobs, masks against indoor restaurant dining and masks against gathering for church services.

And too many Americans chose jobs and school and church out of desperation, and they’ve already paid the price or will pay it.

Biden, by contrast, is a unifier. He’s argued that if everyone wears a mask, practices social distancing and gets tested, we can BOTH protect many more jobs AND protect many more lives. Masks are not at war with jobs; they are the driver and protector of job growth in a pandemic. Masks are the vehicle to opening schools and other indoor activities — not their enemy. Just ask the Germans, Singaporeans or South Koreans.

Ditto when it comes to the environment and climate change. Trump wants everyone to believe that protecting nature means unemploying people. It’s clean air OR economic growth. It’s gas guzzlers OR unemployment. He’s forever pitting jobs against nature.

Biden stands for the unity of jobs AND the environment, the unity of jobs AND mitigating climate change. A clean, green economy equals better health AND more and better jobs. And the beauty is this: All that Biden has to do to prove his point is read aloud from the business and science pages:

Oct. 15, New Scientist: “The green economy has grown so much in the U.S. that it employs around 10 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry — despite the past decade’s oil and gas boom.”

June 30, Bloomberg.com: “Tesla Inc.’s market value has surpassed Exxon Mobil Corp.’s in a sign that investors are increasingly betting on a global energy transition away from fossil fuels.” Tesla makes electric cars, batteries and solar products.

Aug. 25, CBS News: “Exxon Mobil, which joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1928, is being removed from the blue-chip stock market index. Its replacement: enterprise software company Salesforce.com.”

April 6, Recharge: “Renewables accounted for nearly three-quarters of global power capacity additions last year — half of which was switched on in Asia, according to latest figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency.”

Sept. 17, Fortune editor Alan Murray: “Lululemon C.E.O. Calvin McDonald told me yesterday his company now has more U.S. stores closed due to environmental risk — fires in the West, hurricane in the Gulf, etc. — than due to Covid-19.”

If climate change turns out to be a less serious problem than predicted, and we pursue all of the above anyway, we will be like an athlete who trains for the Olympics, but the Olympics are postponed. No problem. We’ll just be that much healthier. Our air will be cleaner, our industries and vehicles and homes and industries will be so much more efficient and our economy will be the world leader in the clean power technologies that every country will want to import from us — climate change or not — as we add nearly a billion people to the planet by 2030. Yes, there will be nearly one billion more people on the planet in 10 years.

On the other hand, if we treat climate change like a daydream and it proves to be a nightmare, we will be in real trouble as a species. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:20 am

Pro-Trump activists plotted violence ahead of Portland rallies

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Jason Williams and Robert Evans report in the Guardian:

Leaked chat logs show Portland-area pro-Trump activists planning and training for violence, sourcing arms and ammunition and even suggesting political assassinations ahead of a series of contentious rallies in the Oregon city, including one scheduled for this weekend.

The chats on the GroupMe app, shared with the Guardian by the antifascist group Eugene Antifa, show conversations between Oregon members of the Patriots Coalition growing more extreme as they discuss armed confrontations with leftwing Portland activists, and consume a steady diet of online disinformation about protests and wildfires.

At times, rightwing activists discuss acts of violence at recent, contentious protests, which in some cases they were recorded carrying out. At one point, David Willis, a felon currently being sued for his alleged role in an earlier episode of political violence, joins a discussion about the use of paintballs.

Where other members had previously suggested freezing the paintballs for maximum damage, Willis wrote: “They make glass breaker balls that are rubber coated metal. They also have pepper balls but they are about 3 dollars a ball. Don’t freeze paintballs it makes them wildly inaccurate” [sic.]

Willis did not immediately respond to voice and text messages sent to his listed cellphone number.

Another prolific poster is Mark Melchi, a 41-year-old Dallas, Oregon-based car restorer who claims to have served as a captain in the US army.

Melchi has been recorded leading an armed pro-Trump militia, “1776 2.0” into downtown confrontations in Portland, including on 22 August. At several points in the chat he proposes violence in advance of those confrontations, and appears to confess to prior acts committed in the company of his paramilitary group.

In advance of the 22 August protest, Melchi wrote: “It’s going to be bloody and most likely shooting, they’re definitely armed… so let’s make sure we have an organized direction of movement and direction of clearing or other Patriots will be caught in the possible cross fire. When shit hits the fan.”

He advised other members to ignore weapons statutes, writing, “I saw someone say bats, mace, and stun guns are illegal downtown. If you’re going to play by the books tomorrow night, we already lost. We are here to make a change, laws will be broken, people will get hurt… It’s lawlessness downtown, and people need to be prepared for bad things.”

Following these comments, several rightwing demonstrators were recorded using gas and bats on 22 August, where Melchi and his militia were also present.

In other remarks ahead of the day, Melchi draws on what he claims is his group’s history of traveling to multiple states to engage in violence at protests.

“My Group 1776 2.0. Has been fighting Antifa in Seattle, Portland, for months”, Melchi writes, adding “this won’t be a simple fist fight. People will get shot, stabbed and beat.”

He also claims police cooperation in interstate violence, writing “Yes, going after them at night is the solution… Like we do in other states, tactical ambushes at night while backing up the police are key. You get the leaders and the violent ones and the police are happy to shut their mouths and cameras.”

Melchi nevertheless recommends that members disguise themselves to avoid the consequences of homicide.

“We must be ready to defend with lethal response… Suggest wearing mask and nothing to identify you on Camera…to prevent any future prosecution.”

In response to detailed questions about these contributions, Melchi responded with an email that falsely suggested his comments might have been photoshopped, and concluded with direct threats.

Melchi wrote: “I suggest you don’t threaten combat veterans sweetheart, might get a little uncomfortable for ya big guy!”

Melchi’s sentiments in the chat logs were in keeping with fantasies of, and plans for, violence, which are constantly discussed by group members.

Although some members are connected with extremist groups or militias, on the whole they describe themselves as “patriots”, and they express no clear ideology beyond a hatred of the left, and a preparedness to use violence. The shared allegiances expressed in the group are mostly to the police, the United States and Donald Trump, a person whom some say they are prepared to kill for.

Ahead of 22 August, a user “Paige” says “I’m waiting for the presidential go to start open firing”.

Melchi, the militia leader, responds, “Well Saturday may be that go lol”. . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:14 am

The GOP is testing whether Gresham’s law applies to politics

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So far it certainly seems to have worked within the Republican party.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:09 am

Posted in GOP, Law, Politics

CK-6 and the X3: a winning combo

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The Green Ray made a wonderfully rich (and fragrant) lather from Phoenix Artisan’s Dapper Doc’s Old Time Lilac & Fig CK-6 formula shaving soap. It’s good to lay off the super-premium soaps for a while so you can be bowled over anew at how good they are when you return.

Here my iKon Shavecraft X3 is mounted on a RazoRock Barberpole handle, and it delivered a superb shave (with a little work — I’m going to change to blade to an Astro Ceramik Platinum, a generous gift from a reader).

A splash of Lilac & Fig aftershave, and the day begns — a day with some rain up here.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2020 at 9:08 am

Posted in Shaving

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