Later On

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

Archive for October 19th, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson on the NY Times special section on Donald Trump’s abject unfitness for office

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Richardson’s entire column is worth reading, but note this paragraph:

The editorial board of the New York Times today ran a special section of the Sunday Review to explain to readers in thirteen essays why Trump “is unfit to lead the nation.” The essays cover his corruption, incompetent statesmanship, attacks on women and minorities, rejection of science, and so on. The editorial introducing the issue begins: “Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II.” What follows is a blistering litany of the actions of the man who is “without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history,” the editors say. He is conducting “an intolerable assault on the very foundations of the American experiment in government by the people.” The editorial concludes: “Mr. Trump is a man of no integrity. He has repeatedly violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States…. Now, in this moment of peril, it falls to the American people — even those who would prefer a Republican president — to preserve, protect and defend the United States by voting.”

Always, at the end of her column she provides links for the information mentioned int he column. Here’s the link for the above.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 6:42 pm

From fluffy to valuable: How the brain recognises objects

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Dr. Martin Hebart, Research Group Leader for Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig has a précis of recent research:

To recognise a chair or a dog, our brain separates objects into their individual properties and then puts them back together. Until recently, it has remained unclear what these properties are. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have now identified them – from “fluffy” to “valuable” – and found that all it takes is 49 properties to recognise almost any object.

We live in a world full of things that we have to identify and classify into different categories. Only when you are able to identify the things around you, you can communicate with others about them and act in a meaningful way. If we see something in front of us that we recognise as a chair, we can sit on it. Once we have identified an object as a cup, we can lift it up and drink from it.

In order to carry out this mapping and make sense of our environment, we have to constantly compare the input to our senses with the information we have already learned. To do this, the brain breaks down an object into its individual properties, compares them with those that are already known, and puts these properties back together. Depending on how similar the observed object is to a known category, it is then recognised as a piece of furniture or a vessel. So far, however, it has remained unclear how we consider things to be similar or less similar. In other words, what are the characteristics that make us recognise objects?

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, in collaboration with the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, USA, have now identified a set of 49 properties that allow us to determine almost all objects, i.e. the properties underlying their so-called mental representation. This representation reflects the format into which the brain translates a stimulus. In the case of an object, it is composed of, for example, colour, shape and size, but perhaps also of the fact that it “is natural”, “can move”, “is valuable” or “is animal-related”. The researchers had been looking for the set of dimensions that were interpretable and minimally sufficient, i.e. that contained as few properties as possible and yet were enough to describe everything.

“Our results show that it actually takes surprisingly few dimensions to characterise all objects in our environment,” says Martin Hebart, first author of the article describing these results. The human brain breaks down the environment into a total of 49 properties, which are sufficient to categorise all objects. “From these dimensions we can

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Why New Zealand rejected populist ideas other nations have embraced

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Charlotte Graham-McKay from Wellington writes in the Guardian:

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Labour prime minister who was returned to power for a second term with a commanding majority, has often been hailed internationally as a foil to global surges in right-wing movements and the rise of strongmen such as Donald Trump and Brazil’s leader, Jair Bolsonaro.

But the historic victory of Ardern’s centre-left party on polling day – its best result in five decades, winning 64 of parliament’s 120 seats – was not the only measure by which New Zealand bucked global trends in its vote. The public also rejected some political hopefuls’ rallying cries to populism, conspiracy theories and scepticism about Covid-19.

The lack of traction gained by fringe or populist movements was due to the majority of New Zealanders’ long-term contentment with the direction the country was headed – which had persisted for more than 20 years, through both centre-right and centre-left governments, and prevented populist sentiment from taking root, analysts said.

“When you look at the numbers, New Zealanders have essentially been satisfied with their government since 1999,” said Stephen Mills, the head of UMR, Labour’s polling firm. That period had spanned two Labour and two centre-right National prime ministers – including Ardern – all of whom had led fairly moderate governments.

‘Basically positive’

Since 1991, UMR has asked poll respondents whether they felt the country was on the right track, with the response staying “basically positive” for the past 21 years, even during the global financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has prompted the deepest recession in decades.

“People were deeply satisfied with the government,” during the peak of New Zealand’s coronavirus response, said Mills (Ardern has won global accolades for her decisions during the crisis, with New Zealand recording one of the world’s lowest death tolls).

“Records were set during Covid with that number in our polls, which is so weird when you think about it, during a pandemic,” Mills said.

David Farrar, the founder of Curia Market Research, National’s polling firm, also asks the “right or wrong direction” question and has recorded a “strong net positive” result since 2008 – meaning people mostly thought the country was traveling the right way.

“We have a functioning political system, we have one house of parliament and a neutral public service,” Farrar said.

In contrast, he said, the US had seen “net negative” results for most of the past 40 years, meaning people felt the country was headed in the wrong direction.

“That’s corrosive; 40 years of negative feeling,” Farrar said of the United States.

Murdoch-owned press

In Australia – where news outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch have been decried for driving confrontational politics and elevating populist sentiment – “right direction” polls were often negative too.

“A huge reason that our politics is not so extremely polarised and so far out there is because we no longer have Murdoch-owned press in New Zealand, and it’s never taken a foothold,” said David Cormack, the co-founder of a public relations firm and a former head of policy and communications for the left-leaning Green party.

. . . Advance NZ, a new party in the 2020 election that made its name by campaigning against Ardern’s Covid-19 restrictions, vaccinations, the United Nations, and 5G technology, won just 0.9% of the vote, attracting 21,000 ballots from the 2.4 million New Zealanders who cast them. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 2:17 pm

A stunning list of how far the Trump administration has shifted the US from its former “normal”

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The list was compiled Amy Siskind, and she comments on the selection from her list that appears in the Washington Post:

Experts in authoritarianism advise keeping a list of things changing, subtly, around you, so you’ll remember. Days after the 2016 presidential election, I started a list. Each week, I chronicle the ways Donald Trump has changed our country. This selection, adapted from more than 34,000 entries — or about 1 percent of the total — focuses on the norms he and his administration have broken. The List offers us a road map back to normalcy and democracy.

WEEK 1
“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory” is how Richard Spencer greets members of his “alt-right” movement gathered in Washington to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory; the group, mostly male white nationalists, responds with cheers and Nazi salutes.

WEEK 2
Trump says he has no legal obligation to cut ties with his businesses: “The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

WEEK 3
Trump tweets that there were “millions of people who voted illegally”; aide Kellyanne Conway and other loyalists parrot the false claim.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says that in a phone call with the president-elect, Trump commended him on his handling of his country’s drug war, which includes extrajudicial killings about which Duterte brags.

Trump has the first known contact by a U.S. president or president-elect with a Taiwanese leader since diplomatic ties were cut in 1979.

WEEK 4
Trump will continue in his role as executive producer of “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

The Republican National committee will hold its holiday party at a Trump Hotel.

Trump’s team asks for a list of climate scientists.

WEEK 5
Asked why he has availed himself of only four of 31 intelligence briefings, Trump responds, “I’m, like, a smart person.”

Kellyanne Conway says Trump is looking at ways to get around nepotism rules so he can include his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner in his administration.

Trump criticizes Lockheed Martin in a tweet just before the market opens, and the stock craters, as traders have started to anticipate the tweets.

The president-elect excludes Twitter from a meeting of tech leaders at Trump Tower that includes Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Tesla; Politico reports that this is because Twitter’s CEO had not allowed the Trump campaign to produce a “Crooked Hillary” emoji.

WEEK 6
Trump plans to keep . . .

Read the full list if you have the stomach for it.

I’m sure his calls to lock up his election opponent are on the list…

And it’s worth noting that the GOP has gone along with this — with all of it.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 2:09 pm

Holly Krieger on the Mandelbrot set

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Holly Krieger is a lecturer at University of Cambridge (she was raised in Illinois, thus her accent) and has a number of fascinating videos for Numberphile. Here’s one:

After you see that, watch this even more amazing video. It relates the the fourth video in the list below.

I do like Holly Krieger, and here are some other Mandelbrot-related Numberphile videos she’s done:

Filled Julia Set: https://youtu.be/oCkQ7WK7vuY (part 2 of the video above)
63 and -7/4 are special: https://youtu.be/09JslnY7W_k
Pi and the Mandelbrot Set:
https://youtu.be/d0vY0CKYhPY
Fibonacci Numbers in the Mandelbrot Set:
https://youtu.be/4LQvjSf6SSw

Bernoit B. Mandelbrot was a genius who asked the right questions and noticed the right oddities. His word started in looking for ways to avoid signal loss on telephone lines, something very important for IBM, at whose Research Center he worked. This video summarizes that work and his investigations and also is worth watching.

The story goes that he was asked what the “B.” stood for in “Bernoit B. Mandelbrot.”

He answered, “The ‘B.’ stands for ‘Bernoit B. Mandelbrot.'”

Update: For further exploration.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Math, Video

Daily Dozen Digest: Beverages and Exercise

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From a newsletter series from Dr. Michael Greger:

Who’s new favorite breakfast is a big bowl of oats, loaded with berries and fruit, and topped with nuts, flax, and cinnamon? So many boxes checked in just the first meal of the day!

It’s hard to believe, but together we’ve covered all of the food items on the Daily Dozen! We have just a few topics left to cover. The Daily Dozen is composed of more than just food, because a well-balanced diet should also be complimented with proper hydration and exercise. So this week we’re bring you another power pair – Beverages & Exercise. Let’s sweat the details together and figure out what beverages are the healthiest and just how much we should be exercising!

Quick Tips

Beverages – the healthiest beverages are water, green tea, or an herbal tea called hibiscus.

Exercise – walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, aerobics, dancing, martial arts, competitive sports, yoga. Find a safe activity you enjoy, and go do it!

Fast Facts

  • Unless you have a condition like heart or kidney failure or your physician advises you to restrict your fluid intake, Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen recommendation is to get at least five 12-ounce (60 oz total) servings of water per day. We can even get water from eating fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise is so important that not walking an hour a day is considered a high risk behavior.
  • If the U.S. population collectively exercised enough to shave just one percent off the national body mass index, two million cases of diabetes, one-and-a-half million cases of heart disease and stroke, and a hundred thousand cases of cancer might be prevented.

Tasty Recipes

Lemon-Ginger Cooler

You can also serve this scintillating beverage as a hot tea

Mango Blueberry Smoothie

A delicious beverage or even a snack!

Top Viewed Videos on Beverages & Exercise

Better than Green Tea?

The antioxidant content of a number of popular beverages is compared: black tea, coffee, Coke, espresso, grape juice, green tea, hibiscus (Jamaica flower) tea, milk, Pepsi, Red Bull, red tea, red wine, and white wine. Which beats out even powdered (matcha) green tea?

How Much Hibiscus Tea Is Too Much?

The impressive manganese content of hibiscus tea may be the limiting factor for safe daily levels of consumption.

How Much Should You Exercise? 

Physical fitness authorities seem to have fallen into the same trap as the nutrition authorities, recommending what they think may be achievable, rather than simply informing us what the science says and letting us make up our own mind.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 10:31 am

A good political process in action

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This is from a Facebook post by Qasim Rashid, who is running for Congress in Virginia’s First District because (as he states at the link) “The First District of Virginia has been inadequately served by a corporate-funded Congressman for too long. It’s time to elect a representative that will serve the district by putting working families, veterans, federal employees, and environmental protection first.”

The photo above is from an event with an outcome uncommon today:

We held an outdoor campaign event at Aquia Harbor in Stafford, VA, and had a decent crowd of about 30 people. With a large RASHID FOR CONGRESS sign behind me, it wasn’t long before Trump supporters began driving by, honking, and waving their flags.

Soon a few Trump supporters showed up on foot, waving their flags. Perhaps it was an attempt to interrupt or intimidate, or, just to exercise their free speech. After all we respect the First Amendment. In any case, I had a decision to make. Do I ignore them or do I tell them to leave?

I decided neither. Instead, I called them over.

I had the mic and called out, “Hey y’all, you don’t have to stand over there waving that flag. You can come join us. Our events are open to all. We’re expanding our tent, not closing it down.”

To their credit, they came and joined our group and listened in.

“What’s your name?” I asked one of the gentlemen. “Chad,” he responded.

The Q/A continued with our supporters. Eventually, Chad asked about the Supreme Court and the claim that Democrats want to “Pack the Court.”

I responded, “Sure, let’s talk about packing the court. Let’s talk about how Republicans have won the popular vote only 1 of last 7 Presidential elections but have nominated 14 of last 19 SCOTUS picks. Let’s talk about how Mitch McConnell denied President Obama’s appointments of 110 Federal judges, and a SCOTUS appointment. Those 110 appointments were then appointed by President Trump with conservative judges, and the SCOTUS pick denied to Obama was given to Trump. And now, going back on their own rule to not appoint SCOTUS justices in an election year, the GOP wants to appoint a justice in an election year. You can’t accuse Democrats of a hypothetical event that never happened while ignoring the actual court packing done by Republicans.”

Chad the Trump supporter was silent and finally responded, “Yeah I agree that’s hypocritical.”

I give Chad credit for being honest and calling out the GOP hypocrisy and responded to Chad, “Thank you. Here’s the truth. I’m running as a Democrat because I believe the Democratic platform is more aligned with justice. But if you’re looking for me to say that Democrats can do no wrong, and Republicans can do no right, then you’ve found the wrong guy because I don’t believe that. I’m committed to upholding justice as the supreme standard. You have my word.”

Chad responded, “I can agree with that.”

The tone changed from one of hostility and distrust to one of recognizing that we as Americans truly want the same things—justice and fairness. Soon after Chad left the gathering on his own, but not before sharing with our host that he walked in viewing us as the enemy, and left realizing we actually have a lot in common in wanting to uplift our nation.

But it’s what happened after all this that truly left me in awe.

As the event ended, at least 5 of the attendees walked up to me and shared that they’re life long Republicans who have never voted Democrat before, and have always voted for my GOP opponent. But now, for the first time in their life they’re voting for a Democrat—Qasim Rashid—for US Congress.

They’re drawn to our campaign that refuses to respond to hate with hate. They’ve seen my opponent’s attacks on my faith and see us responding with compassion and justice. They see that we’re talking about the issues that matter like healthcare, broadband, the environment, small businesses, and stopping COVID19,. They see that I’m committed to ensuring I represent all my constituents, not just those who vote for me. And they see that I truly represent the people and reject CorpPAC money.

We left the event with more volunteers, more support, and a more united community. That’s what we’re fighting for. We need you in this fight with us. In these final 15 days, join us and let’s form that more perfect union—together.

https://secure.actblue.com/donate/qasim_social…

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 9:29 am

What’s under the surface with high-functioning anxiety

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Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 9:15 am

Experimenting is deliberate learning from experience: Lathering

with 2 comments

Tony5419 described in a comment his technique for lathering, using a lathering bow. I’ve not used a lathering bowl for a long time (issue: bathroom countertop real estate), but  I thought I’d give it a go.

I also long since stopped soak badger brushes but I could detect not difference at all between a soaked and an unsoaked badger brush (unlike for a boar or a horsehair brush, where the difference is distinct). Obviously soaking does nothing for synthetic brushes: the fibers are waterproof.

I’m using my other WSP Monarch brush — the one I like better — to reset the WWBT standard in our mind, and I like it soak while I showered. I then followed the procedure as described in tony5419’s comment. I didn’t quite see the change in texture/appearance that he describes — I need more experience for that — and as a result I think I added just a little too much water.

Still, the lather was excellent, and I do love the iKon DLC (now B6) slant now that I improved my technique (by keeping more of the cap in contact with my skin, the handle farther from my face). It’s a totally comfortable and highly efficient razor and left my skin perfectly smooth (and totally undamaged).

A tiny squirt of Hermès Eau d’orange verte balm (moisturizing cream), and the week begins with pleasure.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2020 at 8:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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