Later On

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

Archive for January 30th, 2021

Relevent again: “The Big Short”

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And it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting movie — and with Game Stop worth seeing again. And it’s on Netflix. Do watch. This is my third time seeing it.

Update. Just finished watching it. Wow! Is it good!

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 7:43 pm

Arrows vs Armour – Medieval Myth Busting

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Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in History, Military, Video

How Cognitive Bias Can Explain Post-Truth

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Lee McIntyre has a very interesting article in The MIT Reader, adapted from his book Post-Truth. It begins:

To say that facts are less important than feelings in shaping our beliefs about empirical matters seems new, at least in American politics. In the past we have faced serious challenges — even to the notion of truth itself — but never before have such challenges been so openly embraced as a strategy for the political subordination of reality, which is how I define “post-truth.” Here, “post” is meant to indicate not so much the idea that we are “past” truth in a temporal sense (as in “postwar”) but in the sense that truth has been eclipsed by less important matters like ideology.

One of the deepest roots of post-truth has been with us the longest, for it has been wired into our brains over the history of human evolution: cognitive bias. Psychologists for decades have been performing experiments that show that we are not quite as rational as we think. Some of this work bears directly on how we react in the face of unexpected or uncomfortable truths.

A central concept of human psychology is that we strive to avoid psychic discomfort. It is not a pleasant thing to think badly of oneself. Some psychologists call this “ego defense” (after Freudian theory), but whether we frame it within this paradigm or not, the concept is clear. It just feels better for us to think that we are smart, well-informed, capable people than that we are not. What happens when we are confronted with information that suggests that something we believe is untrue? It creates psychological tension. How could I be an intelligent person yet believe a falsehood? Only the strongest egos can stand up very long under a withering assault of self-criticism: “What a fool I was! The answer was right there in front of me the whole time, but I never bothered to look. I must be an idiot.” So the tension is often resolved by changing one of one’s beliefs.

It matters a great deal, however, which beliefs change. One would like to think that it should always be the belief that was shown to be mistaken. If we are wrong about a question of empirical reality — and we are finally confronted by the evidence — it would seem easiest to bring our beliefs back into harmony by changing the one that we now have good reason to doubt. But this is not always what happens. There are many ways to adjust a belief set, some rational and some not.

Three Classic Findings from Social Psychology

In 1957, Leon Festinger published his pioneering book “A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance,” in which he offered the idea that we seek harmony between our beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, and experience psychic discomfort when they are out of balance. In seeking resolution, our primary goal is to preserve our sense of self-value.

In a typical experiment, Festinger gave subjects an extremely boring task, for which some were paid $1 and some were paid $20. After completing the task, subjects were requested to tell the person who would perform the task after them that it was enjoyable. Festinger found that subjects who had been paid $1 reported the task to be much more enjoyable than those who had been paid $20. Why? Because their ego was at stake. What kind of person would do a meaningless, useless task for just a dollar unless it was actually enjoyable? To reduce the dissonance, they altered their belief that the task had been boring (whereas those who were paid $20 were under no illusion as to why they had done it). In another experiment, Festinger had subjects hold protest signs for causes they did not actually believe in. Surprise! After doing so, subjects began to feel that the cause was actually a bit more worthy than they had initially thought.

But what happens when we have much more invested than just performing a boring task or holding a sign? What if we have taken a public stand on something, or even devoted our life to it, only to find out later that we’ve been duped? Festinger analyzed just this phenomenon in a book called . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. In fact, there’s a whole book more.

See also “How To Handle Post-Truth Now That Trump Is Gone.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes, Science

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The Brandy Manhattan from the Upper Midwest

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I have mentioned in a previous post or two, when partaking of a Brandy Manhattan, how my friend Spaeth (from St. Cloud MN) told me that it was a quintessential Minnesota drink. As it turns out, its origins are in Wisconsin, from which it spread to Minnesota and other parts of the Upper Midwest. Unfortunately, the favored brand (Korbel) seems to be unavailable in Canada.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Memes

Reconstructing the Menu of a Pub in Ancient Pompeii

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30 January 2021 at 4:58 pm

How to enjoy coffee

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Full disclosure: I most often drink freeze-dried instant coffee (Folgers). But I still found the article by Jessica Easto in Psyche of interest:

Need to know

Coffee hasn’t always received the attention it deserves. In many Western countries especially, the beans were low quality. Drinkers didn’t know or care about how coffee was produced, bought or brewed. A lot of coffee was cheap and tasted bitter, and its purpose was practical: medicine or fuel.

But over the past few decades, things have started to change around the world. A global band of intrepid producers, buyers, roasters, baristas and scientists have been elevating coffee to the craft level, like fine wine and beer. You might think that you know what coffee tastes like – roasted, toasty and bitter – but that’s only a sliver of the variety available to you now.

Coffee – what’s called ‘drip’ or ‘filter’ coffee, not espresso – can taste smooth and sweet like chocolate, or provide a zip on your tongue like a bright Champagne, or taste fruity, just like a blueberry. And when I say ‘chocolate’ or ‘blueberry’, I mean the coffee itself literally tastes like those things, without any added syrups or flavourings. The first time you drink coffee that tastes like more than coffee, you’ll never forget it.

This expansion of flavours is partly down to a global trend towards new roasting techniques. All coffee roasters create a roast profile – a manipulation of time and temperature – to achieve flavour in the beans. Historically, coffee has been roasted for relatively long periods of time at relatively high temperatures (think of traditional Italian coffee culture or the giant coffee chains in the United States). This profile tends to emphasise roast character, the flavours imparted by the roasting process – akin to how the process of ageing bourbon in oak barrels imparts a distinct flavour to the spirit. But more recently, distinct coffee cultures – including those of North America, Australia, Britain, Scandinavia and Japan – have been pushing other roasting techniques forward, ones that focus on the qualities of the bean. For example, roasting at relatively low temperatures for a shorter amount of time tends to accentuate what I call coffee character, the unique flavours inherent in the bean itself and where it was grown – or its terroir, to borrow a term from wine.

At the same time, producers all across the ‘Bean Belt’ – the band of coffee-growing countries that fall between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn – are refining their growing and processing techniques, supplying the speciality coffee market with unique, delectable coffee beans. All this has opened the door to a world of possibility for consumers. Coffee has never had more variety or more potential to taste great than it does right now.

Whether you’re a regular coffee drinker or just starting out, the best way to enjoy a cup is by honouring all the craftspeople – the producers, green-coffee buyers, roasters, baristas and more – who made your brew possible. Today’s speciality coffee offers as much range and variety as wine and craft beer, yet it’s mostly still not appreciated and savoured in the same way. Whether you see coffee as an occasional treat or as a daily essential, there is so much more you can learn and enjoy.

What to do

Select high-quality beans. Say goodbye to the large canisters and bags of preground coffee that line the grocery store shelves. You won’t find quality there. I recommend seeking out independent local roasteries, or looking online if there isn’t one nearby. If you can, try to talk to the roasters personally about their coffee, either at their café or over email. In my experience, the more information they’re able to give you about the beans, the more likely that their business values quality and transparency.

A craft roaster (or the barista who is slinging their coffee) should be able to tell you what country the beans come from, the variety of coffee it is, the name of the producer, how the coffee was processed, and even what elevation it was grown at. Knowing this information indicates that care was taken during the production process and that the roaster values their ingredient, both of which are marks of quality. (If the roaster can’t or won’t share this information, then run away fast.) Many craft roasters even take trips to origin – where the beans are grown – to taste and select coffees for their clientele.

Craft roasters often carry both single-origin coffee (meaning the beans come from only one country) and blends (a mix of beans from more than one country). Both of these can be great, but single-origin beans tend to be of a higher quality – they have more potential to be distinct and interesting, with flavours that vary greatly depending on the variety of bean, where they were grown, how they were processed and sorted, and more. In contrast, blends tend to be developed to have a more consistent taste, no matter the season, but are cut with lower quality (but still good) beans for the distinct purpose of making them affordable.

It’s always worth spending a bit more money, if you can. This is partly because of taste – high-quality coffee is more expensive – but it also means your coffee is more likely to be ethically produced. Coffee producers have historically been exploited, and even ‘fair trade’ prices – designed to protect farmers – often aren’t enough; they have barely increased in recent decades. That’s why some speciality coffee roasters make a point to buy above fair-trade prices, which inevitably costs more for consumers. Where possible, buy your coffee from roasters who purchase their beans ethically and transparently at a price that reflects the tremendous amount of human effort and skill involved in coffee production.

Drink thoughtfully prepared cups. One challenge that great coffee has . . .

Continue reading. There is much more — much much more, considering that the article is undoubtedly an extract from her book, Craft Coffee: A Manual (2017).

One strange omission: no link to Sweet Maria’s for those who want to roast their own coffee beans (not difficult).

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 4:49 pm

A house divided cannot stand? I guess we’ll see. ‘I’m just furious’: Relations in Congress crack after attack

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Sarah Ferris and Melanie Zanona report in Politico:

Some House lawmakers are privately refusing to work with each other. Others are afraid to be in the same room. Two members almost got into a fist fight on the floor. And the speaker of the House is warning that “the enemy is within.”

Forget Joe Biden’s calls for unity. Members of Congress couldn’t be further divided.

Just weeks into the 117th Congress, the bedrock of relationships hasn’t been on such shaky ground in more than a generation, with a sense of deep distrust and betrayal that lawmakers worry will linger for years. And those strains could carry long-term effects on an institution where relationships — and reputations — matter more than almost anything else.

“This is a real tension,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who was among the roughly two dozen Democrats barricaded into the chamber during the Jan. 6 riots and later contracted coronavirus after spending hours in a safe room with Republicans who refused to wear masks. “I don’t know if that’s repairable. It is certainly a massive chasm that exists right now between a large majority of the Republican caucus and all of us Democrats across the ideological spectrum.”

The friction is particularly intense in the House, where two-thirds of the GOP conference voted to overturn the election just hours after lawmakers were attacked by a mob that demanded that very action. The position of those 139 members is now threatening to upend decades of relationships in the House, forcing long-time colleagues to work through their raw emotions and palpable anger in the weeks since the attack.

“I’ve really been struggling with it,” added Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who was also in the chamber when rioters breached the building. “I have a hard time interacting with those members right now, especially with those I had a closer relationship with… I’m not going to deny the reality — that I look at them differently now. They’re smaller people to me now.”

Multiple Democrats said they are privately mulling whether to sever ties completely with those Republicans, as their caucus weighs potential forms of punishment — particularly for those still-unnamed members who House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said gave “aid and comfort” to the insurrectionists.

Some Democrats, particularly moderates, argue that their party has no choice but to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s strong and bitter stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 4:04 pm

‘This is literally an industry’: drone images give rare look at for-profit ICE detention centers

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ICE immigration detention in Arizona. Photograph by David Taylor.

The US has for a long time been strongly committed to the idea of locking people up. Indeed, the US is No. 1 by a good amount in this category:

That’s from the Wikipedia article “List of countries by incarceration rate.” Notice the company the US keeps. Much farther down the list, well out of the US neighborhood, you’ll see:

175. Germany (77/100,000)
187. Denmark (63)
193. Sweden (61)
194. Norway (60)
203. Bangladesh (52)

In the meantime, the US continues to construct building complexes in which to lock more people up. “Land of the free” doesn’t really mean much, given the incarceration rate in the US (nor does “Home of the brave,” given the cowardice of Republicans in Congress). Amanda Holpunch has an interesting article in the Guardian, with photos and video by David Taylor. She writes:

“Imagine how it feels there, locked up, the whole day without catching the air, without … seeing the light, because that is a cave there, in there you go crazy; without being able to see my family, just being able to listen to them on a phone and be able to say, ‘OK, bye,’ because the calls are expensive.”

That’s how Alejandro, an asylum seeker from Cuba, described his time in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention center.

His account is one of dozens captured in a collection of audio recordings as part of a project aiming to show how the US immigration detention system, the world’s largest, has commodified people as part of a for-profit industry.

“We’ve commodified human displacement,” said artist David Taylor, who has used drones to take aerial photography and video of 28 privately run Ice detention centers near the US southern border, in California, Arizona and Texas.

West Texas Detention Facility, Sierra Blanca, Texas.

Above: West Texas detention facility, Sierra Blanca, Texas. Photograph by David Taylor

While accounts of abuse and exploitation from inside facilities appear in the news media, the detention centers are usually in isolated, underpopulated areas with access to photographers or film crews tightly controlled.

This new image collection, taken from near the perimeters of the facilities, gives a rare look at just how many of these centers occupy the landscape. “What I want to show through the accumulation of imagery is that this is literally an industry,” Taylor said, “that it’s expansive, that it occupies a significant amount of territory in our national landscape – and I’m only showing a fraction of it.

“That, to me, is an important realization. The scale is shocking; how it is changing the United States,” said Taylor, a professor of art at the University of Arizona.

The imagery will ultimately be shown in an exhibition incorporating the stories of some of the people captured inside this system. These audio recordings come from a collaboration with Taylor and a group which provides free legal service to detained migrants in Arizona, the Florence Project, and writer Francisco Cantú.

When the project is eventually presented in a gallery, it will also include data on the costs, profits and revenue of corporations involved. Late in the the Obama era, the Department of Justice (DoJ) discontinued all use of private prison corporations to house detainees, but the DoJ during the Trump administration reversed this policy. . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And some of the detention complexes are astonishingly large.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 3:45 pm

‘Be ready to fight’: FBI probe of U.S. Capitol riot finds evidence detailing coordination of an assault

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It’s becoming increasingly that what happened on January 6 was a serious and deliberate attempt at a coup, which failed only because of the extraordinarily high level of incompetence of those attempting it .

As an instance of deliberate intent, see “Trump Defense Secretary Disarmed D.C. National Guard Before Capitol Riot,” a report by Mark Sumner in The National Memo, which begins:

testimony before the House this week, Capitol Police and D.C. National Guard officials acknowledged that by Jan. 4 they understood that “… the January 6th event would not be like any of the previous protests held in 2020. We knew that militia groups and white supremacist organizations would be attending. We also knew that some of these participants were intending to bring firearms and other weapons to the event. We knew that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

On that same day, former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller issued a memo to the secretary of the Army placing some extremely unusual limits on National Guard forces for that event. It’s not a to-do list. It’s a list of thou shalt nots. A long list. A list that says guard forces can’t arrest any of the pro-Trump protesters, or search them, or even touch them. And that’s just for starters.

The full memo shows that the D.C. Guard did receive a request from D.C. government for guard presence during the Jan. 6 event. Miller responds promptly to go ahead, so long as the soldiers are given no weapons, no body armor, and no helmets. They can bring agents like pepper spray or flashbangs. They can’t share any gear with Capitol Police or Metro D.C. Police. They can’t … really do much of anything.

When initial reports indicate that the handful of National Guard forces that were deployed to D.C. on that day were dedicated to directing traffic several blocks away from the area of the Trump rally, it may simply be because that’s the only thing they could find for them to do considering the restrictions that were given. It’s clear that these restrictions would have absolutely prevented any guard forces from trying to protect any location. . .

Read the whole thing.

And see also the report in the Washington Post by Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu, and Aaron C. Davis:

When die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump showed up at rally point “Cowboy” in Louisville on the morning of Jan. 5, they found the shopping mall’s parking lot was closed to cars, so they assembled their 50 or so vehicles outside a nearby Kohl’s department store. Hundreds of miles away in Columbia, S.C., at a mall designated rally point “Rebel,” other Trump supporters gathered to form another caravan to Washington. A similar meetup — dubbed “Minuteman” — was planned for Springfield, Mass.

That same day, FBI personnel in Norfolk were increasingly alarmed by the online conversations they were seeing, including warlike talk around the convoys headed to the nation’s capital. One map posted online described the rally points, declaring them a “MAGA Cavalry To Connect Patriot Caravans to StopTheSteal in D.C.” Another map showed the U.S. Congress, indicating tunnels connecting different parts of the complex. The map was headlined, “CREATE PERIMETER,” according to the FBI report, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

“Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in,” read one posting, according to the report.

FBI agents around the country are working to unravel the various motives, relationships, goals and actions of the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Some inside the bureau have described the Capitol riot investigation as their biggest case since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and a top priority of the agents’ work is to determine the extent to which that violence and chaos was preplanned and coordinated.

Self-styled militia members planned days in advance to storm the Capitol, court papers say

Investigators caution there is an important legal distinction between gathering like-minded people for a political rally — which is protected by the First Amendment — and organizing an armed assault on the seat of American government. The task now is to distinguish which people belong in each category, and who played key roles in committing or coordinating the violence.

Video and court filings, for instance, describe how several groups of men that include alleged members of the Proud Boys appear to engage in concerted action, converging on the West Front of the Capitol just before 1 p.m., near the Peace Monument at First Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Different factions of the crowd appear to coalesce, move forward and chant under the direction of different leaders before charging at startled police staffing a pedestrian gate, all in the matter of a few minutes.

An indictment Friday night charged a member of the Proud Boys, Dominic Pezzola, 43, of Rochester, N.Y., with conspiracy, saying his actions showed “planning, determination, and coordination.” Another alleged member of the Proud Boys, William Pepe, 31, of Beacon, N.Y., also was charged with conspiracy.

Minutes before the crowd surge, at 12:45 p.m., police received the first report of a pipe bomb behind the Republican National Committee headquarters at the opposite, southeast side of the U.S. Capitol campus. The device and another discovered shortly afterward at Democratic National Committee headquarters included end caps, wiring, timers and explosive powder, investigators have said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 3:05 pm

Every Denzel Washington movie, ranked

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The list is on Vulture, and as I read through it I realized how many I had seen and — even more keenly — how many I have yet to see. Unfortunately some are not available to stream, a gross failure of streaming content. But some are, and I have added to my queue some to watch and some to rewatch.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

960lbs crossbow vs 150lbs crossbow

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30 January 2021 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Military, Technology, Video

Change is well underway

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30 January 2021 at 12:51 pm

An aftershave duo to pair with a different take on Bay Rum: Grooming Dept.’s Lemon Bay

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This tub of Lemon Bay from Grooming Dept. lacks the top label because this is a sample tub holding half a puck — plenty enough to get a sense of the (excellent) soap. The fragrance is wonderful — I do like it when Bay Rum is taken in a new direction, as with Tallow + Steel’s Grog. The addition of lemon to the traditional bay rum fragrance now — in hindsight, having smelled the soap — seems totally natural: inspiration that when achieved seems so right that one thinks it’s obvious.

An aside: People so quickly assimilate new information that makes sense that they get the illusion that they already knew it and the person telling them brings nothing new to the party but is just stating the obvious. So a good practice before presenting (say) sales results or the outcome of an analysis is to ask those present to make their own estimates, and if it is possible, to record those on a whiteboard. Then if the presented numbers differ significantly, the people present will recognize that they are getting new information that was not in fact obvious. /aside

This Grooming Dept. soap, like yesterday’s, seems to like a little more water than other soaps — not much, but enough to notice. The lather again was quite wonderful. It’s a first-rate soap even apart from the intriguing fragrances on offer. (As the Stockist list at his site shows, the Canadian source is Italian Barber.)

Lemon Bay is unusual not only for the fragrance but also for the ingredients: it’s a donkey-milk, duck-fat, lamb-tallow shaving soap:

Aloe Vera Juice, Stearic Acid, Donkey Milk, Potassium Hydroxide, Duck Fat, Lamb Tallow, Castor Oil, Glycerin, Kokum Butter, Shea Butter, Cupuacu Butter, Sucrose Cocoate, Fragrance, Safflower Oil, Jojoba Oil, Coconut Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Acacia Senegal Gum, Kaolin Clay, Avocado Oil, Mango Butter, Grapeseed Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Citrate, Xanthan Gum, Carnauba Wax, Allantoin, Chamomile Extract, Sea Buckthorn Extract. Flaxseed Oil, Sacha Inchi Extract. Silk Amino Acids and Tocopheryl Acetate.

I say again: the lather experience with this soap is first rate, both in making the lather and in using it. And with the Rockwell 6S (using the R4 baseplate), the shave was superb.

I experimented with a two-aftershave finish: first a splash of Dominica Bay Rum, then a splash of Myrsol’s Agua de Limon. That seemed to work well, but of course I (unlike, say, an elephant) find it difficult to sniff my own cheek.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2021 at 9:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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