Later On

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

Archive for October 9th, 2020

Nice game of me (white) against SparkChess

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Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Chess, Games

Trump Took A Shot At Lincoln Project Cofounder Steve Schmidt And Got Absolutely Torched

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Mike Redmond lays out Schmidt’s reply:

Since returning home to the White House on Monday evening after being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed Medical Center, Donald Trump has been tweeting more than ever, which is a lot if you’re at all familiar with the President’s Twitter habit. However, this time, Trump stepped on a land mine when he decided to insult GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, who famously ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a newly-formed political team consisting of “Never Trump Republicans.” Their aggressive attack ads have consistently gone viral and are clearly getting under the president’s skin based on this latest dust-up.

The situation began when former Fox News anchor Greta Van Susteren chastised Schmidt for calling Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn a “five star fool.” Van Susteren’s tweet caught the President’s attention, and he saw an opportunity to take a crack at The Lincoln Project co-founder. In a boastful tweet, Trump wrote, “I’ve beaten him and his very few remaining clients so much, and so badly, that he has become a blathering idiot.”

This information was not only false, but the attack proved to be a mistake as it provoked Schmidt into unloading a massive Twitter thread taking the president to task for everything from his low SAT scores to his COVID diagnosis to his alleged $500 million

Continue reading. Schmidt pulls no punches. His thread addressed to @RealDonaldTrump is absolutely withering: a scorched-earth response. Do not miss it.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 3:23 pm

John Glubb and Avoiding the Fate of Empires (which tend to have a 250-year lifespan)

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Just to save you the trouble: 1776 + 250 = 2026.

Lee Nicolleto writes in Quillette:

Empires rise, and empires fall. This fact of history—so obvious looking backwards—is all but inconceivable to those living through an empire’s peak. Human life is so short in the scheme of civilisations that we tend to overemphasise the importance and length of our own era, while past ages blur together. We live closer in time to Cleopatra than she did to the builders of the pyramids, but Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome all blend in the popular imagination into a shadowy and distant past.

Culture biases us as much as our sense of time. The Arabic-speaking Moors ruled large parts of what is now Spain for nearly eight centuries—that is, for a third as long again as the 600 years that have passed since they (or at least, their leaders) were driven out by the newly-united Catholic monarchs of Aragon and Castile. Yet through contemporary European eyes, Moorish rule is typically viewed as an “interlude” in the history of the Spanish nation—a nation that, in reality, didn’t come into political being until the late 15th century. And—as many Basques, Catalonians, and Galicians would argue—a nation that has perhaps never truly existed culturally.

Nevertheless, the relative stability of political hegemony lets us overlook many cultural differences and tensions. Today’s Catalan and Basque independence movements may threaten the Spanish state, but they don’t challenge the “empire”—that is, the North Atlantic order, centred on the United States, the European Union, and institutions like the UN, NATO, and the WTO. Similarly, during the golden age of the Emirate of Córdoba, the tensions and rebellions of the Latin-speaking, post-Visigothic kingdoms to the north might have threatened various aspects of the Iberian state, but had little bearing on the sense of hegemonic stability that pervaded the Caliphate, which stretched across the Maghreb through the Middle East to India.

But the Caliphate did fall. And sooner or later, the present North Atlantic empire will lose its hegemony too. Indeed, if there is any truth to the theories of Sir John “Pasha” Glubb, we are already witnessing the final stages of Western dominance, and experiencing a transfer of power (back) towards the East.

Glubb was an English army officer who spent the best part of his career serving the newly-independent governments of Iraq and Jordan. An avid—if amateur—historian, he developed a theory on hegemonic orders that he called the “Fate of Empires.” Comparing a series of ancient and modern empires, he concluded that their average lifespan was 10 generations—about 250 years—and that, despite great geographic, technological, religious, and cultural differences, all empires follow a general pattern as they expand, develop, and finally decline and collapse. Although Glubb himself was the first to acknowledge the risks of over-simplification in his generalised model, his observations aptly describe, in broad-brushstrokes, not only the fate of past empires, but the contemporary situation in global politics today, particularly regarding the West and China.

Glubb was agnostic on whether the “laws” of history he claimed to uncover were at all deterministic, but hoped that, by understanding how empires decline and collapse, modern citizens stood a chance of avoiding their typical fate. And so, I want to consider ways in which the predicted collapse of Western hegemony might be averted. It’s another question whether or not such a collapse ought to be avoided. Glubb—as a man of his time and class—had imperialist tendencies, though his immersion in foreign cultures gave him an open-mindedness that is generally lacking in the present-day imperialists of Western conservative parties. At any rate, as we go along, I’ll suggest that if the West is to avoid the fate of past empires, it needs to stop acting like a typical empire. And to do that, it needs to move as far as possible from modern conservative policy—and its emphasis on corporate profit and economic growth—as it can.

*     *     *

Glubb noted that empires tend to begin with a “breakout” phase, in which an insignificant nation on the margins of an established power—say, the Macedonians before Alexander, the Arabs before Muhammed, or the Mongols before Genghis Khan—suddenly overwhelms its neighbours. This “Age of Pioneers” becomes an “Age of Conquests” when, encouraged by early successes, the rising nation takes over the power structures of its conquered neighbour and continues to expand. Glubb noted that successful new empires are not motivated simply by loot and plunder. With an emphasis on “noble” virtues—adventurousness, courage, strength, and, importantly, honesty—rising empires don’t want simply to subdue the established power; they want to become as they perceive them to be: advanced, technological hegemons. The Arabs took over Greek and Persian institutions—as the Mongols would take over Chinese and Islamic institutions—to become masters of a revitalised and expanded civilisation.

A rising empire, argued Glubb, has at its advantage an . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Evolution, Government, Memes

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Tempeh incubator box version 1.0 complete

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Origin of the incubator

In my previous apartment I routinely produced batches of excellent tempeh. In my new apartment I had a string of failures, and I finally decided that the cause was too high a temperature. [That may or may not have contributed, but cooking the beans with a little added baking soda certainly was a problem. The beans were then alkaline, and the tempeh mold requires an acidic environment. – LG] As the post at the link notes, tempeh is best cultivated at 88ºF. The oven in the old apartment was large and with the door ajar maintained a temperature that produced good batches of tempeh. The new apartment’s oven is smaller and, with the light on, hotter — and I thought that heat might be the source of the problem. (Modern ovens often have a “proofing” setting for making bread, and that would work; my oven is not so modern.)

So I decided to make a tempeh incubation box. There were various suggested DIY videos on YouTube. Those offered some good ideas, and this post describes the route I went. I decided to start with a cardboard box, which (unlike a styrofoam cooler) can be folded flat and easily stored in the back of the closet when not in use.

Incubator construction – Version 1

Update after two batches in this version 1 box: Making Version 2.
After some experience with this first box, I used what I had learned from experience (Poor Richard’s Almanack: “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other…”) to make a better box: cheaper, stronger, not affected by humidity, better insulation, easier to build. See this post for details. The first box was a failure./update

The Version 1 incubator box is now complete. I found a good-sized box — 18″ x 12″ x 12″ — at Staples for $1.79, and above you see it wrapped in closed-cell insulating foam (just 1/8″ thick, but that should be ample). The sides and top are covered with foam, and you can see some double layers when I covered places where cardboard was still exposed after the initial application. The bottom is not insulated: heat rises, so not much will escape from the bottom. [But see version 2 of the box – LG]

A half-sheet rack fits easily into the box and allows good air circulation. The foam I used comes in a sheet 12″ wide and 48″ long, and I bought two of them: 96″ total, 12″ wide. The 12″ width is perfect for the box; the sides took two 30″ strips: a length 12″ + 18″ that’s 12″ wide covers one end and one side. So with 60″ all sides can be covered, and the top can be covered with an 18″ strip that’s 12″ wide. That leaves 18″ for narrow strips to cover exposed edges.

The first step was to cover the sides. I put the box flat and cut off one strip of foam at a 30″ length. That covered one side and one end. Then I flipped the box over and used another 30″ strip for the other side and end. (Thus two of the vertical corner edges required an additional strip of foam to cover the exposed cardboard.)

The top took an 18″ strip: I applied it intact and then used a knife to cut down the middle to free the two flaps. The total used was 78″ of the 96″ I had. I used the remaining 18″ to in relatively narrow strips of foam to cover exposed edges.

The box will be folded flat when not in use, so the flaps for top and bottom and not secured. The heavy book is to keep the top closed. I will in fact use my heavy terrycloth robe folded on the top — that will hold the lid closed while adding more insulation to where the heat tries most to leave.

Result: Excellent temperature control

The thermostat in the photo shows the inside temperature as the box is heating up — 73.7ºF at the time of the photo — and the “heating” indicator is on. if I push the “set” button I can see the target temperature (for tempeh: 88ºF). The box did warm up to target temperature and stabilized, staying within a degree of the target with no problems.

This from an earlier post is interesting:

If the inoculated beans reach a temperature above 92°F (33.3°C), conditions are no longer ideal for Rhizopus spores but are ripe for a different set of organisms such as those of the Bacillus group. Rhizopus can be severely damaged by heat of over 92°F ( 33.3°C).

As a point of interest: I used the new digital thermostat I bought for the incubator to measure my oven temperature with door closed and light on. It was 94ºF — well above 92ºF — so building my tempeh incubator was indeed a good call. But that alone did not solve the problem.

First batch in new incubator: Another failure

I was quite pleased with the box, and was expecting to be even more pleased when it worked. I cooked a couple of cups of soybeans, drained and dried them, and mixed in vinegar and tempeh starter culture. I then bagged some in a Ziploc produce bag and some in a bag I perforated myself and put those on the rack in the box. I used one of these racks. The rack’s legs hold the tempeh well above the heating mat. Because it’s a rack rather than a (solid) baking sheet, air flow within the box is unhindered. The free flow of air should help the temperature within the box to be even (with no hot spots or cold spots).

As you can see in photo at the right, Ziploc produce bags are pre-perforated (click photo to enlarge). Here are the two bags of the first batch. That phot was taken after one day — but after three days the culture had died and I had another failure.

At least this time I knew the problem wasn’t due to the temperature.

One more step to solve the problem

It occured to me, as I listed out exactly what I was doing, that I recently — just about the time I moved into this apartments — started cooking dried beans in water in which I dissolved 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per cup of dried beans. That results in much quicker cooking and nice tender beans. But I realized that the beans then are, unfortunately, toxic to tempeh mold.

I knew that baking soda was alkaline, but I assumed that the vinegar I added (1 tablespoon per cup of dried beans) after the cooked beans were drained and dried would be enough to offset the alkalinity.

Since the baking soda was the sole remaining potential cause, I cooked a batch without any baking soda (and used my tempeh incubator). Cooking the beans in plain water did take onsiderably longer for the beans to become, but the culture was (at last) a great success.

Update: Lid problem.

After the first use, the two insulated lid flaps started to cave in a bit. I’ve figured out what I’m going to do to reinforce them, and I’ll post photos when I’ve done it. 

Update: After a couple more batches, the incubator showed itself to be unsatisfactory. I abandoned it as a learning experience and moved on to make a much better (and so far totally satisfactory) incubator box as described in this post.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Non-animal diet

Tagged with

Superspreader-in-Chief: The timeline of Trump’s deadly coronavirus denial

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This timeline by Dave Gilson, Laura Thompson, Clara Jeffrey, Nina Liss-Schultz, Kiera Butler, and Will Peischel in Mother Jones is well worth reading and pondering. It begins:

On January 22, two days after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States, President Donald Trump breezily declared, “We have it totally under control.” Since then, we have witnessed the devastating consequences of his attempt to spin, bluster, and blame his way out of a national emergency that will go down as the greatest scandal of a scandal-plagued presidency. On the eve of the most important election of our lifetimes, more than 200,000 Americans have died, more than 7 million have been infected, and the numbers in many states are still getting worse. And now, an outbreak centered around Trump and his White House has further exposed just how careless and callous his response to the virus has been. This timeline details how we got here.

Read from the top, filter the entries, or jump to the past two weeks. Check back for regular updates. . .

Continue reading to see the timeline. It begins January 20, 2020, with this entry:

The Centers for Disease Control confirms the first COVID-19 case in the United States, a Washington man who returned from Wuhan, China, five days earlier. • Two days earlier, President Donald Trump received his first major briefing on the virus from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. According to the Washington Post, the president asked Azar when a ban on flavored vaping products would be lifted.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 11:56 am

How traditional French butter is made

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Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 11:03 am

When will men’s hats make a comeback?

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Fashion moves in waves, sometimes back and forth (e.g., hemlines on women’s dresses), sometimes only back with no coming forth (codpieces show no signs of a return, nor do Elizabethan collars of stiffened lace).

Hats are sparsely seen, though caps are common and hoods are everywhere. Hats abound in Western states, but hats of Western style. I’m thinking more of urban hats — the Fedora, the Trilby, the Homburg, the Pork Pie, the Bowler, the Panama. A man’s hat, like a woman’s fan, lends itself to a variety of social signals and rituals, and adds pleasantly to the range of daily experience (except, in today’s rushed and crowded world, finding a place to put the hat when you’re out and about and you need to remove it).

The two prime styles were the Fedora and the Trilby, as I recall. Hats in the Belfry, a store in Annapolis MD (where I lived several times, including going to college), offers this guide:

No two hats are mistaken for one another so much as the fedora and the trilby. Nor have two hats ever stirred up so much controversy as the fedora and the trilby. This confusion and controversy, however, are by and large because of a lack of understanding over what a fedora and a trilby are, what their shape is, and the best way to wear either of the hats.

The fedora is a hat that can be first found mentioned in the last years of the nineteenth century, and is not just part of the same hat tradition as the slouch hat of the mid nineteenth century and the homburg of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but also their natural evolutionary descendent. Popular from its inception until the popularization of hats in the ‘70s, the fedora remains a classic hat.

The great popularity of the fedora arises from the fact that it can be both a casual and a dress hat, and the materials from which it is made reflect that. Wool felt and fur felt are both popular, and most fedoras shown in film are wool or fur felt, but straw, especially Panama Straw and raffia are good for summer wear.

A high quality material and construction for the fedora is a must. The crown is usually four or four and a half inches, with a pronounced “pinch” in the front of the crown. A fedora has either a “teardrop” or a “center dent” crown, and  these ornamentations are pressed an inch or two into the crown of the hat. Although a short, or “stingy”, brim has been popular from time to time, a classic fedora has a brim between two and two and a half inches. A wide, or “generous”, brim of three or more inches has also become recently popular. The brim is always a “snap” brim, meaning that the front or the front and back of the fedora can be snapped up or down, for styling or to protect the wearer from the elements.

Available in practically any material popular for hats, the trilby is a naturally more casual hat, and as a result tends to be made from more inexpensive materials such as cotton, straw, raffia, and wool felt. Unlike the fedora, which has a movable, or “snap” brim, the trilby is made so that the brim is permanently fixed down, and usually the brim is set at a much more severe angle than the fedora. The crown of the trilby is the most identifying feature, and is angled inward more from the brim to the crown than the fedora, and the crown itself is either much taller but usually much shorter than the fedora. Like the fedora, the trilby does have a “pinch” and either a “center dent” or a  “teardrop” crown, but unlike the fedora all of these features are much less pronounced, almost to the point of nonexistence in some cases.

The trilby is a hat first popularized by a hat worn in a certain stage adaptation of George du Maurier’s novel Trilby,  and the name stuck. It was not immediately popularized, but rather was worn as a “rich man’s” hat in the early part of the twentieth century, and then mostly only in Britain. The trilby hat didn’t resurface until the ‘70s, when it appeared on the popular scene as part of the retro movement, but it disappeared again, along with the popular wear of men’s fedora hats and hats in general. The popular use of the trilby again resurfaced in the very early twenty first century, and it was it was from the trilby’s use then that the confusion between the men’s trilby and the men’s fedora began.

What most sets the two hats apart is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 9:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Propaganda smells good

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Let’s consider first the brush, since I’ve been commenting on their handles. Here we have a utilitarian handle for a utilitarian brush — but a brush that shows how excellent utilitarian can be. Just as quotidian life has its own profound pleasures once one awakens to them, simple tools, made well, can provide great satisfaction through their use.

It’s as if one must recalibrate one’s pleasure meter. Some have it set so that “pleasure” requires extreme and/or unusual experience: downhill skiing on new powder with scenic mountain vistas, or a spectacular dinner at a fine restaurant, or a lively party with loud music. Others require less stimulation to awaken a strong pleasure response: a cup of good tea on a misty morning, or just a mindful awareness that brings great appreciation of life’s little pleasures — eating an orange, reading a book, making a meal.

I used the Omega Pro 48 with great pleasure — and of course part of that  was from the lather’s feel and fragrance. Dr. Jon’s Handcrafted Soaps, in my experience, have very interesting fragrances, and Propaganda is one of my favorites:

notes of vanilla, sandalwood, mandarin, patchouli, and musk

Longtime readers will suspect the vanilla as what is pleasing, but it is placed in an unusual context and does not stand out on its own.

I am using his original formulation, and he’s now up to Vol. (i.e., version) 3:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Babassu Oil, Sodium Lactate, Essential/Fragrance Oils, Sodium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Myristyl Myristate, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Soy Wax, Cucumber Extract, Licorice Extract, Candelilla Extract, Sodium PCA, Sensolene, Squalane, Slippery Elm Bark, Aloe Vera Concentrate, Citric Acid.

Citric acid will help the lather if the water’s hard, though it may have other purposes in the soap as well (e.g., as an preservative and antioxidant). I may have to try Vol. 3 (which can be found at the link above).

For the third shave this week, I used a slant. Today it’s RazoRock’s German 37, an excellent 3-piece slant whose head is a Merkur 37 clone. Three comfortable passes followed by Mickey Lee’s Italian Stallion aftershave milk, and I ready for the day. I now have all parts for my tempeh incubator and will make it for a new batch of tempeh tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2020 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

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