Later On

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

Archive for November 9th, 2020

Republican view about how to accept defeat in elections

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Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Brace yourself: The Next Two Years Will Be All About a Stolen Election

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Read this post by Kevin Drum.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Congress, Election, GOP

Motion picture of same route 113 years apart, shot from a suspended electric train in Germany

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And below is a more extended video of the entire route in 2015. More info on the train in this Wikipedia article and this Open Culture post.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 1:28 pm

And you thought the Electoral College was bad: Look at how the doge was elected

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. . . The Great Council of Venice was a large legislative body made up of a relatively small number of noble families. Obviously, everyone wanted to be the doge [the leader of the group], but the council was very keen to avoid behind-the-scenes bribery, dirty deals, intrigue, and extended and contentious campaigns. To achieve this, the election of the doge went through multiple steps, all designed to reduce power consolidation.

First, thirty members of the Great Council were chosen at random. Then nine of those thirty were chosen, again randomly. Those nine members picked the next set: forty people from the Great Council. And those forty? Twelve, randomly picked from their number, moved on to the next step. Those twelve chose twenty-five; those twenty-five were randomly pared down to just nine. Having fun yet?

This set of nine members chose forty-five more; eleven were picked – again at random – from those forty-five. The eleven chose forty-one members. Those forty-one (finally!) voted for the doge.

There were some additional checks against skulduggery. Each noble family couldn’t have more than one member in each group, and members couldn’t vote for their own relatives. Every time a set of members voted for the next group, more than a simple majority was required: around three quarters of the voting group had to agree. (For the final election, just 25 of the 41 had to agree.)

To recap, this is the process:
Great Council > 30 > 9 < 40 > 12 < 25 > 9 < 45 > 11 < 41 > 1.

Because of this complexity,  . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 1:05 pm

An interesting approach to a theory of everything: Karl Friston’s free energy principle

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Shaun Raviv has a long and absorbing article in Wired that is well worth reading and pondering. It describes a principle that accounts for life at all scales, from microbes to animals to memes and cultural dynamics — the latter akin, as the article notes to Hari Seldon’s psychohistory is the Isaac Asimov Foundation series. The article begins:

When King George III of England began to show signs of acute mania toward the end of his reign, rumors about the royal madness multiplied quickly in the public mind. One legend had it that George tried to shake hands with a tree, believing it to be the King of Prussia. Another described how he was whisked away to a house on Queen Square, in the Bloomsbury district of London, to receive treatment among his subjects. The tale goes on that George’s wife, Queen Charlotte, hired out the cellar of a local pub to stock provisions for the king’s meals while he stayed under his doctor’s care.

More than two centuries later, this story about Queen Square is still popular in London guidebooks. And whether or not it’s true, the neighborhood has evolved over the years as if to conform to it. A metal statue of Charlotte stands over the northern end of the square; the corner pub is called the Queen’s Larder; and the square’s quiet rectangular garden is now all but surrounded by people who work on brains and people whose brains need work. The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery—where a modern-day royal might well seek treatment—dominates one corner of Queen Square, and the world-renowned neuroscience research facilities of University College London round out its perimeter. During a week of perfect weather last July, dozens of neurological patients and their families passed silent time on wooden benches at the outer edges of the grass.

On a typical Monday, Karl Friston arrives on Queen Square at 12:25 pm and smokes a cigarette in the garden by the statue of Queen Charlotte. A slightly bent, solitary figure with thick gray hair, Friston is the scientific director of University College London’s storied Functional Imaging Laboratory, known to everyone who works there as the FIL. After finishing his cigarette, Friston walks to the western side of the square, enters a brick and limestone building, and heads to a seminar room on the fourth floor, where anywhere from two to two dozen people might be facing a blank white wall waiting for him. Friston likes to arrive five minutes late, so everyone else is already there.

His greeting to the group is liable to be his first substantial utterance of the day, as Friston prefers not to speak with other human beings before noon. (At home, he will have conversed with his wife and three sons via an agreed-upon series of smiles and grunts.) He also rarely meets people one-on-one. Instead, he prefers to hold open meetings like this one, where students, postdocs, and members of the public who desire Friston’s expertise—a category of person that has become almost comically broad in recent years—can seek his knowledge. “He believes that if one person has an idea or a question or project going on, the best way to learn about it is for the whole group to come together, hear the person, and then everybody gets a chance to ask questions and discuss. And so one person’s learning becomes everybody’s learning,” says David Benrimoh, a psychiatry resident at McGill University who studied under Friston for a year. “It’s very unique. As many things are with Karl.”

At the start of each Monday meeting, everyone goes around and states their questions at the outset. Friston walks in slow, deliberate circles as he listens, his glasses perched at the end of his nose, so that he is always lowering his head to see the person who is speaking. He then spends the next few hours answering the questions in turn. “A Victorian gentleman, with Victorian manners and tastes,” as one friend describes Friston, he responds to even the most confused questions with courtesy and rapid reformulation. The Q&A sessions—which I started calling “Ask Karl” meetings—are remarkable feats of endurance, memory, breadth of knowledge, and creative thinking. They often end when it is time for Friston to retreat to the minuscule metal balcony hanging off his office for another smoke.

Friston first became a heroic figure in academia for devising many of the most important tools that have made human brains legible to science. In 1990 he invented statistical parametric mapping, a computational technique that helps—as one neuroscientist put it—“squash and squish” brain images into a consistent shape so that researchers can do apples-to-apples comparisons of activity within different crania. Out of statistical parametric mapping came a corollary called voxel-­based morphometry, an imaging technique that was used in one famous study to show that the rear side of the hippocampus of London taxi drivers grew as they learned “the knowledge.” . . .

Continue reading. The segment presented here does not touch on Friston’s idea — that comes later in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 11:42 am

The wonderful Monday shave, with Milksteak and the iKon slant

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Monday, when I have a two-day stubble after skipping shaving Sunday, is always a good shave day. I think it’s important to start the week with a very pleasant experience, so in addition to sporting a heavy stubble I almost always pick a good slant razor to do the job, and the iKon slant is one of the best provided you use light pressure and (most important) keep the handle away from your face and let the razor glide on the edge of the cap, just at the angle where the blade begins to cut.

This is the original iKon stainless slant, which I bought as soon as it came on the market. Later I purchased another version: same stainless head but with a DLC coating. I’m pretty sure the idea was to avoid tea stains — small spots of rust that develop when using some brands of blades (Gillette Rubie, for example). Even though razor and blade are both stainless, something in the formulation leads to rust spots. With the coating, that doesn’t happen.

Current this same excellent head has a B6 coating, which seems to be tougher (less inclined to chip) than the DLC coating I have, though I’ve experienced no problems with mine.

But before bringing razor into play, one must prepare. Today I chose a very satisfying soap — Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak formulation in the Cuir et Épices formula — and a Vie-Long horsehair brush. I soaked the brush, shook it well, and loaded carefully. I had to add a small amount of water three or four times during loading, perhaps because the brush is a natural fiber and/or a coarse fiber.

Once the brush was loaded (and my stubble washed with MR GLO), lathering was a pleasure. I was more conscious this morning of the excellence of the fragrance (“a blend of leather, tobacco flower, cedar, anise, oakmoss, and patchouli), though certainly I was also aware of the superb lather. I coated my stubble, then worked in just a bit more water — very little — before picking up the razor and setting to work.

I gave myself a flawless shave, and followed it with a good splash of TOBS No. 74, a very fine traditional aftershave.

What a great way to start the week.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 10:47 am

Posted in Shaving

Republicans are now showing an adjustment reaction to reality

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The bizarre extremes of denial exhibited by (current) President Trump and his followers strikes me as an adjustment reaction to reality, and it clearly has hit them hard — see this column by Heather Cox Richardson.

For example, I have read innumerable comments from cult members that “networks don’t decide who’s President,” even though literally no one has said that they do. Rudolph Giulani went on to say “the courts do,” apparently not understanding the role of the Electoral College, which will render the official decision in mid-December.

What networks (and their statisticians) do is project the Electoral College bote, based on the popular-vote ballots counted to date. And — an important point apparently too abstruse for Trump followers to grasp — the networks’ statistical projections (based on ballots counted, not on poll results) have in recent decades proved absolutely correct.

The last time a projection was in error, to best of my recollection, was in 1948. In the decades since, data collection and statistical knowledge have improved substantially, and there is no reason at all to think that the network projections of the Electoral College vote is wrong.

But still Trump followers insist that all those projections are wrong. So what do we do? My suggestion is to bet heavily that Biden will be chosen as President, and even give them good odds. See if they put money where their mouth is.

Written by Leisureguy

9 November 2020 at 4:03 am

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