Later On

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Archive for January 2nd, 2021

What New Science Techniques Tells Us About Ancient Women Warriors

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The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
— L.P. Hartley, writer (30 Dec 1895-1972)

A NY Times article suggests how people attempt to project their own cultural and social conventions on other societies even when it is totally inappropriate. To be fair, such projection is generally done from ignorance rather than ill will, though ill will quickly arises if the conventions are questioned. I think this is because people construct their identities from memes, generally taken from their cultural/social environment, so those conventions tend to be view as natural law with a heavy moral overlay. To deny them can feel to some as if their identity is in danger.

Of course, culture and social convention are subject to evolution and thus change over time. As an example of a change in social/cultural conventions, take the author of the article mentioned below, Mx. Annalee Newitz. Some decades back we went through a cultural shift away from the requirement that the marital status of women must be signified in the honorific: back then one had to use “Miss” for unmarried women, “Mrs.” for married women. (Men, of course, were called “Mr.” regardless of their marital status.)

The inequality was obvious, so in a relatively short period of time, the honorific “Ms.” (pronounced “mizz”) became common, readily adopted because it solved the problem of knowing which honorific to use when you did not know the woman’s marital status. (“Miss” and “Mrs.” were outliers among honorifics in requiring knowledge of marital status, since other honorifics — Mr., Capt., Dr., Rev., Prof., etc. — required no knowledge of marital status.) Indeed, in Southern speech, “mizz” was long since commonly used for both “Miss” and “Mrs.”

“Mx.” eases the burden of knowledge one step further: “Mx.” (pronounced “mix”) is an honorific that applies to a person without regard to gender — in effect, it is the honorific equivalent of “human” or “person.”

I think it would be quite useful, and will be quickly adopted by those whose name is ambiguous as regards gender and thus frequently get the wrong honorific (“Mr.” when “Ms.” is right, or “Ms.” when “”Mr.” is right — “Mx.” finesses the problem altogether). I’m thinking of names like Shirley (remember the spots columnist Shirley Povich?), Pat, Robin, Leslie, Sandy, Kim, Marion (John Wayne’s real name), Charlie, Evelyn, Sue, and so on.

So “Mx.” is the honorific equivalent of “human” or “person”: no comment regarding gender, but showing respect as a person.

Mx. Newitz writes:

Though it’s remarkable that the United States finally is about to have a female vice president, let’s stop calling it an unprecedented achievement. As some recent archaeological studies suggest, women have been leaders, warriors and hunters for thousands of years. This new scholarship is challenging long-held beliefs about so-called natural gender roles in ancient history, inviting us to reconsider how we think about women’s work today.

In November a group of anthropologists and other researchers published a paper in the academic journal Science Advances about the remains of a 9,000-year-old big-game hunter buried in the Andes. Like other hunters of the period, this person was buried with a specialized tool kit associated with stalking large game, including projectile points, scrapers for tanning hides and a tool that looked like a knife. There was nothing particularly unusual about the body — though the leg bones seemed a little slim for an adult male hunter. But when scientists analyzed the tooth enamel using a method borrowed from forensics that reveals whether a person carries the male or female version of a protein called amelogenin, the hunter turned out to be female.

With that information in hand, the researchers re-examined evidence from 107 other graves in the Americas from roughly the same period. They were startled to discover that out of 26 graves with hunter tools, 10 belonged to women. Bonnie Pitblado, an archaeologist at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, told Science magazine that the findings indicate that “women have always been able to hunt and have in fact hunted.” The new data calls into question an influential dogma in the field of archaeology. Nicknamed “man the hunter,” this is the notion that men and women in ancient societies had strictly defined roles: Men hunted, and women gathered. Now, this theory may be crumbling.

While the Andean finding was noteworthy, this was not the first female hunter or warrior to be found by re-examining old archaeological evidence using fresh scientific techniques. Nor was this sort of discovery confined to one group, or one part of the world.

Three years ago, scientists re-examined the remains of a 10th-century Viking warrior excavated in Sweden at the end of the 19th century by Hjalmar Stolpe, an archaeologist. The skeleton had been regally buried at the top of a hill, with a sword, two shields, arrows and two horses. For decades, beginning with the original excavation, archaeologists assumed the Viking was a man. When researchers in the 1970s conducted a new anatomical evaluation of the skeleton, they began to suspect that the Viking was in fact a woman. But it wasn’t until 2017, when a group of Swedish archaeologists and geneticists extracted DNA from the remains, that the sex of the warrior indeed proved to be female.

The finding led to controversy over whether the skeleton was really a warrior, with scholars and pundits protesting what they called revisionist history. Although the genetic sex determination thus was indisputable (the bones of the skeleton had two X chromosomes), these criticisms led the Swedish researchers to examine the evidence yet again, and present a second, more contextual analysis in 2019. Their conclusion again was that the person had been a warrior.

The naysayers raised fair points. In archaeology, as the researchers admitted, we can’t always know why a community buried someone with particular objects. And one female warrior does not mean that many women were leaders, just as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I was not part of a larger feminist movement.

Challenges to “man the hunter” have emerged in new examinations of the early cultures of the Americas as well. In the 1960s, an archaeological dig uncovered in the ancient city of Cahokia, in what is now southwestern Illinois, a 1,000-to-1,200-year-old burial site with two central bodies, one on top of the other, surrounded by other skeletons. The burial was full of shell beads, projectile points and other luxury items. At the time, the archaeologists concluded that this was a burial of two high-status males flanked by their servants.

But in 2016 archaeologists conducted a fresh examination of the grave. The two central figures, it turned out, were a male and a female; they were surrounded by other male-female pairs. Thomas Emerson, who conducted the study with colleagues from the Illinois State Archaeological Survey at the University of Illinois, alongside scientists from other institutions, said the Cahokia discovery demonstrated the existence of male and female nobility. “We don’t have a system in which males are these dominant figures and females are playing bit parts,” as he put it.

Armchair history buffs love to obsess about  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 4:54 pm

Mile-Long Wooden Xylophone Plays Bach in Japanese Forest

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Cute idea. The article by Dawn Hammon includes a video and begins:

While music and design may not seem to go hand in hand at first glance, a giant mile-long xylophone certainly fits the bill for both. After all, it’s likely the only instrument on the planet that can make Bach resonate through the surrounding trees — a sound created using nothing more than wood planks and a ball.

The enormous xylophone started out as a marketing idea. At the time of its inception in 2011, Morihiro Harano held the position of creative director at Drill, Inc, a Japanese advertising agency. The client was a telecom company called NTT DoCoMo who was preparing to launch the wood-encased Touch Wood SH-08C device, which was made using branches from overgrown trees in Japanese forests. To create excitement around the new device, Harano, along with carpenter and wood engineer Mitsuo Tsuda, sound engineer Kenjiro Matsuo, and a team of construction workers, put together the musical masterpiece. Not an easy feat by any design measure.

He explains that “the finish of the xylophone itself became an artwork, so we only put an effort into making the scene — the xylophone playing the music — as real as possible. It was a very hard project to realize, but the skills of Japanese craftsmen are just impressive. They not only made it more accurate than the blueprints, but also created a visually beautiful xylophone.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Art, Music

Home-Brewed Hydrogen Powers His House and Car

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Roy Furchgott reports in the NY Times on what strikes me as an unusually reasonable approach. So far as the “dangers” of hydrogen, keep in mind that natural gas and gasoline are also “dangerous.” We just learned how to deal with the danger. And hydrogen is not carcinogenic.

In December, the California Fuel Cell Partnership tallied 8,890 electric cars and 48 electric buses running on hydrogen batteries, which are refillable in minutes at any of 42 stations there. On the East Coast, the number of people who own and drive a hydrogen electric car is somewhat lower. In fact, there’s just one. His name is Mike Strizki. He is so devoted to hydrogen fuel-cell energy that he drives a Toyota Mirai even though it requires him to refine hydrogen fuel in his yard himself.

“Yeah, I love it,” Mr. Strizki said of his 2017 Mirai. “This car is powerful, there’s no shifting, plus I’m not carrying all of that weight of the batteries,” he said in a not-so-subtle swipe at the world’s most notable hydrogen naysayer, Elon Musk.

Mr. Strizki favors fuel-cell cars for the same reasons as most proponents. You can make fuel using water and solar power, as he does. The byproduct of making hydrogen is oxygen, and the byproduct of burning it is water. Hydrogen is among the most plentiful elements on earth, so you don’t have to go to adversarial countries or engage in environmentally destructive extraction to get it. The car is as quiet to drive as any other electric, it requires little maintenance, and because it doesn’t carry 1,200 pounds of batteries, it has a performance edge.

His infatuation with hydrogen began with cars, but it didn’t end there. In 2006 he made the first house in the United States to be powered entirely by hydrogen produced on site using solar power. Nine years later he made the second. He says he has built hydrogen-power home systems for conservationists and celebrities — one of his systems reportedly powers Johnny Depp’s private island in the Bahamas.

Mr. Strizki is using his retirement to evangelize for the planet-saving advantages of hydrogen batteries. He has faced opposition from the electric, oil and battery industries, he said, as well as his sometimes supporter, the Energy Department. Then there is the ghost of the 1937 Hindenburg explosion, which hovers over all things hydrogen. The financial crash of the high-flying hydrogen truck manufacturer Nikola hasn’t advanced his case.

Like anyone with evangelical fervor, he can be easy to write off as a kook. It doesn’t help that many of his achievements aren’t reliably documented — he said was not legally allowed to identify the celebrity homes he has electrified. (News of the Depp island installation leaked out.) Mr. Strizki concedes the point and dismisses it with a colorful version of “I don’t care what anyone thinks.”

“Mike is sort of an eccentric guy,” said Tom Sullivan, the founder of Lumber Liquidators, who invested in a Connecticut company that makes water-to-hydrogen converters. “I’m sure people thought Edison was a kook,” he said. “People need a few kooks.” Mr. Sullivan also deserves an asterisk as the owner of two East Coast Mirais that, he said, are “collecting dust” in Massachusetts.

Mr. Strizki’s expertise has made him a cult figure in hydrogen circles, where he has consulted on notable projects for two decades. He has worked on high school science projects as well as a new $150,000-ish hydrogen hypercar that claims to get 1,000 miles per fill-up.

“Oh, I know Mike Strizki very well, very well,” said Angelo Kafantaris, chief executive of Hyperion, the company that makes that Hypercar, the XP-1. Using a federal-standard dynamometer test, the XP-1, which claims a 0-to-60-m.p.h. time of 2.2 seconds and a top speed of 221 miles an hour, is said to achieve a range of 1,016 miles on a single tank. “I think Mike is an integral part of everything we do at Hyperion,” Mr. Kafantaris said.

Mr. Strizki, 64, wasn’t always a conservationist. He said he had spent a decade drag racing at the Englishtown Raceway in New Jersey with a succession of cars, including a Shelby GT350 with a Boss 302 engine transplant. “The car was hot,” he said. “I didn’t see the ground for the first two gears.”

He discovered hydrogen power while working at the New Jersey Transportation Department’s Office of Research and Technology. Batteries that powered electric message signs didn’t hold a charge in severe cold. Mr. Strizki was tasked with finding a solution. He turned to hydrogen fuel cells like those NASA used in space.

When Cinnaminson High School in New Jersey entered an alternative-fuel vehicle contest, the 1999 Tour de Sol, Mr. Strizki was tapped to assist. “It changed my life,” he said. “As a racecar driver, it was always doing more with more — making more horsepower, burning more fuel. They taught me it was about doing more with less.”

Back at work, he proposed that a hydrogen car would be good publicity. “Anything that got good press for clean air was a priority,” Mr. Strizki said. A consortium of high schools, colleges and tech companies built a hydrogen Tour de Sol entry from a Geo Metro they called the New Jersey Venturer, which was succeeded by the New Jersey Genesis, built from a prototype aluminum Mercury Sable donated by Ford.

“I never would have done fuel cell cars if I had not been at the Tour de Sol,” Mr. Strizki said. The last year of competition was 2006.

He left his state job for the private sector, where he worked on . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and there are photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 3:53 pm

A Canadian ‘Buy Local’ Effort Fights Amazon on Its Own Turf: Not-Amazon.ca

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Geneva Abdul reports in the NY Times about an initiative that could grow rapidly.

The snow was falling outside Ali Haberstroh’s apartment in late November when the idea came to her.

At the time, Canada was nearing a second lockdown to curb rising coronavirus cases. In anticipation, the owner of a vintage clothing store in Toronto who is a friend of Ms. Haberstroh’s had put together a list of other local vintage shops offering curbside pickup and deliveries in lieu of being able to open their doors.

“It was a wake-up call,” Ms. Haberstroh, 27, said of the list, which reminded her how enormous retailers like Walmart, Costco and Amazon had thrived during the pandemic while many smaller, local businesses had been shut. “I thought if there is one tiny thing I can do to help, then I should get on it.”

Inspired to build a more comprehensive list, Ms. Haberstroh promptly created an Instagram post, tagging independent businesses and shopkeepers across Toronto. Included was a new website, Not-Amazon.ca — a URL that she had bought for $2.99.

Introduced as a local list to help keep small businesses alive, Not Amazon was created “so you don’t have to give any money to Amazon this year!” the post read.

What began as a Google spreadsheet with more than 160 businesses collated initially from Ms. Haberstroh’s memory and research became a directory of hundreds that have a website and a high-quality photo and offer nationwide shipping, curbside pickup or delivery.

So far, the website has garnered more than half a million page views and grown to include 4,000 businesses across Toronto, Calgary, Halifax and Vancouver. The site is now submission-based, and thousands of businesses are awaiting Ms. Haberstroh’s approval.

“In a big city like Toronto, where it feels like most businesses are local, I think it’s so easy to think these things will be here forever,” said Ms. Haberstroh, who works as a social media manager at a marketing firm and plans to expand Not Amazon to even more cities. “You don’t think that they’re going to go anywhere.”

Small and medium-size businesses contribute more than 50 percent to Canada’s gross domestic product. But since the pandemic lockdowns, 40 percent of small businesses have reported layoffs while 20 percent have deferred rent payments, according to government data.

At the same time, Amazon and big-box retailers with more robust e-commerce platforms have far outpaced small competitors, turning online shopping from a convenience into a necessity for consumers worldwide.

Ms. Haberstroh’s attempt to even the playing field has been welcomed by small-business owners like Tannis and Mara Bundi, twin sisters who opened the Green Jar in Toronto last December. The store specializes in bulk items, like soap and honey, that customers buy to refill their own containers, reducing single-use plastics and household waste.

When the pandemic took hold in March, the sisters swiftly focused on their online operations and offered pickup and delivery, but even as restrictions eased, business remained touch and go. Since being on the Not Amazon site, the Green Jar has seen online orders rise 500 percent and has been “incredibly busy,” Tannis Bundi said.

“This type of initiative really gave an opportunity for small businesses to be seen and appreciated,” she said. “Large corporations, like Amazon, they’re making millions and millions of dollars, and there’s a disconnect and a detachment. As a small business I have a much smaller carbon footprint, I have a vested interest in my community, and I’m more likely to invest back into my community through charity and hiring locally.”

Amazon declined to comment for this article.

Local campaigns by independent sellers have also  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 3:38 pm

Facebook managers trash their own ad targeting

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Sam Biddle reports in the Intercept:

FACEBOOK IS CURRENTLY waging a PR campaign purporting to show that Apple is seriously injuring American small businesses through its iOS privacy features. But at the same time, according to allegations in recently unsealed court documents, Facebook has been selling them ad targeting that is unreliable to the point of being fraudulent.

The documents feature internal Facebook communications in which managers appear to admit to major flaws in ad targeting capabilities, including that ads reached the intended audience less than half of the time and that data behind a targeting criterion was “all crap.” Facebook says the material is presented out of context.

The documents emerged from a suit currently seeking class-action certification in federal court. The suit was filed by the owner of Investor Village, a small business that operates a message board on financial topics. Investor Village said in court filings that it decided to buy narrowly targeted Facebook ads because it hoped to reach “highly compensated and educated investors” but “had limited resources to spend on advertising.” But nearly 40 percent of the people who saw Investor Village’s ad either lacked a college degree, did not make $250,000 per year, or both, the company claims. In fact, not a single Facebook user it surveyed met all the targeting criteria it had set for Facebook ads, it says.

The complaint features Facebook documents indicating that the company knew its advertising capabilities were overhyped and underperformed.

A “February 2016 internal memorandum” sent from an unnamed Facebook manager to Andrew Bosworth, a Zuckerberg confidant and powerful company executive who oversaw ad efforts at the time, reads, “[I]nterest precision in the US is only 41%—that means that more than half the time we’re showing ads to someone other than the advertisers’ intended audience. And it is even worse internationally. … We don’t feel we’re meeting advertisers’ interest accuracy expectations today.”

The lawsuit goes on to quote unnamed “employees on Facebook’s ad team” discussing their targeting capabilities circa June 2016:

One engineer celebrated that detailed targeting accounted for “18% of total ads revenue,” and $14.8 million on June 17th alone. Using a smiley emoticon, an engineering manager responded, “Love this chart! Although if the most popular option is to combine interest and behavior, and we know for a fact our behavior is almost all crap, does this mean we are misleading advertiser [sic] a bit? :)” That manager proceeded to suggest further examination of top targeting criteria to “see if we are giving advertiser [sic] false hope.”

“Interest” and “behavior” are two key facets of the data dossiers Facebook compiles on us for advertisers; according to the company, the former includes things you like, “from organic food to action movies,” while the latter consists of “behaviors such as prior purchases and device usage.”

The complaint also cites unspecified internal communications in which “[p]rivately, Facebook managers described important targeting data as ‘crap’ and admitted accuracy was ‘abysmal.’”

Facebook has said in its court filings that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 3:29 pm

This 1937 Film Perfectly Explains How a Car Differential Works

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The beginning of the video in the article shows a motorcycle team demonstrating its driving skills, but stick with it. Unless you are besotted with motorcycles, you might want to skip to 1:56 in the video, when the actual explanation begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Technology, Video

A floral shave is a fine thing — case in point: rose

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Yesterday’s violet shave reminded me of how pleasant a floral fragrance can be, especially in the winter, so I decided today to go for rose. D.R. Harris Rose shaving cream is a stalwart, and that Maggard 22mm synthetic easily produced a rich, creamy, fragrant lather.

The Rockwell Model T somehow looks large and awkward but in fact handles quite well and — at least for me — delivers a fine shave. I negligently place the razor so the setting fails to show in the photo, but I have it set to “3.” I might try a “4,” just from curiosity.

Three passes left my face smooth for a splash of D.R. Harris Pink After Shave. My bottle of D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk, also a rose fragrance, was a victim of the move, falling to the sidewalk on the way in. At some point I might replace, since on this cold, raw day an aftershave milk would be just the ticket. (As I’ve observed, a milk is a balm’s idea of a splash.)

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2021 at 11:39 am

Posted in Shaving

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