Later On

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

Archive for June 14th, 2021

Republicans are on a mission to destroy democracy in the US, and Mitch McConnell is their leader.

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told radio personality Hugh Hewitt that it is “highly unlikely” that he would permit President Biden to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if the Republicans win control of the Senate in 2022.

While it seems certain that, if returned to his leadership role in the Senate, McConnell would block any Biden nominee, the fact he said it right now suggests that he is hoping to keep evangelical voters firmly in the Republican camp. In 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, McConnell refused even to hold hearings for President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. McConnell’s justification for this unprecedented obstruction was that Obama’s March nomination was too close to an election—a rule he ignored four years later when he rushed through Amy Barrett’s appointment to the Court in late October when voting in the upcoming election was already underway—and yet the underlying reason for the 2016 delay was at least in part his recognition that hopes of pushing the Supreme Court to the right, especially on the issue of abortion, were likely to push evangelical voters to the polls.

McConnell’s stance was at least in part directed to the changing nature of the judiciary under President Biden. Last week, the Senate confirmed the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, a truly astonishing first since Muslims have been part of the U.S. since the earliest days of African enslavement in the early 1600s. By a vote of 81 to 16, the Senate confirmed Zahid Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants and veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

More to the point, perhaps, for McConnell, is that the Senate today confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jackson takes the place of Merrick Garland, who is now the attorney general. This post is generally seen as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. Biden has suggested he would appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and Jackson is widely thought to be a top contender.

Aside from its implications for the Supreme Court, McConnell’s stand makes a mockery of Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) insistence on bipartisan support for legislation that protects voting rights. Manchin is demanding that bills protecting voting win bipartisan support because he says he fears that increasing partisanship will injure our democracy. McConnell’s flaunting of his manipulation of Senate rules to cement Republican control of our courts leaves Manchin twisting in the wind.

States, too, are passing voter suppression legislation along strictly partisan lines. The Brennan Center for Justice keeps tabs on voting legislation. It writes that “Republicans introduced and drove virtually all of the bills that impose new voting restrictions, and the harshest new laws were passed with almost exclusively Republican votes and signed into law by Republican governors.”

The Republican domination of the government over the past four years is on the table today as Democratic lawmakers try to get to the bottom of who authorized the FBI under former president Trump to spy on reporters, Democratic lawmakers and their families and staff members, and on White House Counsel Don McGahn and his wife. CNN chief congressional reporter Manu Raju tweeted that Adam Schiff (D-NY) who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says after speaking with Garland that he still doesn’t know who started the investigation. “We discussed the need to really do a full scale review of what went on in the last four years, and make sure that steps are taken to re-establish the independence of the department,” he said.

While Attorney General Merrick Garland has referred the issue to the inspector general of the Justice Department, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), tonight announced the committee would open a formal investigation into the department’s secret seizure of data. “It is…possible that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 10:48 pm

Black kale and collards — and my dinner tonight

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Greens recipe

This turned out very tasty. I used a stainless-steel pot because I was going to simmer with vinegar, and I figured the starting volume would be big because of leafy vegetables, so I went with my 6-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless stockpot. It’s a wide-diameter pot so it does the sautéing well.

I of course prepared all ingredients before heating the pot: chopped vegetables, cut up peppers, minced garlic and allowed it to rest, chopped turmeric small, etc. I cut the central rib out of collards and chop it small, and do the same to the ends of the ribs from the black kale.

• 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 large red onion, chopped (had it on hand)
• 2 slender and long leeks with quite a bit of leaves, chopped (including leaves)
• kale and collard stems, chopped small
• half a dozen dried Sanaam chili peppers, cut up with shears (the peppers are long and thin)
• good pinch of salt

I added that to the pot and put heat at medium low (at 3 on my induction burner). After the leeks had cooked down — and they did collapse a fair bit — I added:

• 1 head of garlic, chopped small
• 3 good-sized turmeric roots, chopped small

I cooked that for a few minutes, then added the rest:

• 1 bunch black kale, chopped
• 1 bunch collards, chopped (stems removed and chopped small, added above)
• bout 1/3 cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
• about 3 tablespoons Yuzu Ponzu sauce
• about 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
• several good shakes fish sauce
• about 1 cup no-salt-added vegetable stock
• about 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper (for the turmeric)

I cooked it on 190ºF for 40 minutes. (The induction burner has a temperature option and a timer function.) The result was very tasty and will last for several meals — the photo above shows what was left after dinner, ready for the fridge.

Cooking the dinner tempeh

In small non-stick skillet that has a lid, I put:

• about 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 miniature San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
• a pinch of Mexican oregano
• 3 Sanaam peppers, cut up with scissors
• dash of Worcestershire sauce
• sprinkling of garlic powder
• pinch of salt

I cooked that covered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes were cooked to be a little mushy. The I added:

• 1 portion of tempeh chopped small

I covered and cooked for about 4-5 minutes, occasionally stirring or shaking the skillet.

Assembling dinner

In a bowl, I put:

• 1/3 Greens (from above)
• 1/3 cup Other Vegetables (made a few days ago)
• 2 tablespoons cooked kamut (from my stash in the fridge)
• the tempeh cooked as described above
• 1 teaspoon Bragg’s nutritional yeast

I stirred it together and found it to be a tasty and satisfying dinner.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 8:01 pm

GOP Senator Says Democracy and Majority Rule Are Not What Our Country Stands For

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In New York Jonathan Chait writes about Rand Paul and his radical beliefs:

One of the edifying side effects of the Trump era has been that, by making democracy the explicit subject of political debate, it has revealed the stark fact many influential conservatives do not believe in it. Mike Lee blurted out last fall that he opposes “rank democracy.” His fellow Republican senator, Rand Paul, tells the New York Times today, “The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for. The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when a majority ignores the rights of others.”

Paul is a bit of a crank, but here he is gesturing at a recognizable set of ideas that have long been articulated by conservative intellectuals. Importantly, these ideas are not identified solely with the most extreme or Trumpy conservatives. Indeed, they have frequently been articulated by conservatives who express deep personal animosity toward Donald Trump and his cultists.

The belief system Paul is endorsing contains a few related claims. First, the Founders explicitly and properly rejected majoritarianism. (Their favorite shorthand is “We’re a republic, not a democracy.”) Second, to the extent the current system has shortcomings, they reveal the ignorance of the majority and hence underscore the necessity of limiting democracy. Third, slavery and Jim Crow are the best historical examples of democracy run amok.

National Review has consistently advocated this worldview since its founding years, when it used these ideas to oppose civil-rights laws, and has persisted in using these ideas to argue for restrictions on the franchise. “Was ‘democracy’ good when it empowered slave owners and Jim Crow racists?,” asked NR’s David Harsanyi. Majority rule “sounds like a wonderful thing … if you haven’t met the average American voter,” argued NR’s Kevin Williamson, rebutting the horrifying ideal of majority rule with the knock-down argument: “If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide.”

It is important to understand that these conservatives have taken Trump’s election, and escalating threats to democracy, not as a challenge to their worldview but as confirmation of it. If Trump is threatening democracy, this merely proves that the people who elected him are ignorant and therefore unfit to rule. The attempted coup of January 6, another NR column sermonized, ought to “remind us of the wisdom that the Founders held dear centuries ago: We are a republic, not a direct democracy, and we’d best act like it.”

The factual predicate for these beliefs is deeply confused. The Founders did reject “democracy,” but they understood the term to mean direct democracy, contrasting it with representative government, in which the people vote for elected officials who are accountable to them.

It is also true that they created a system that was not democratic. In part this was because they did not consider Americans like Black people, women, and non-landowners as deserving of the franchise. On top of this, they were forced to grudgingly accept compromises of the one-man, one-vote principle in order to round up enough votes for the Constitution; thus the “Three-Fifths Compromise” (granting extra weight in Congress to slaveholders) and the existence of the Senate.

Since the 18th century, the system has evolved in a substantially more democratic direction: The franchise has been extended to non-landowners, women, and Black people and senators are now elected by voters rather than state legislatures, among other pro-democratic reforms. To justify democratic backsliding by citing the Founders is to use an argument that proves far too much: Restoring our original founding principles would support disenfranchising the overwhelming majority of the electorate, after all.

Even more absurd is the notion that “Jim Crow laws came out of democracy.” Southern states attempted to establish democratic systems after the Civil War, but these governments were destroyed by violent insurrection. Jim Crow laws were not the product of democracy; they were the product of its violent overthrow.

The most insidious aspect of the Lee-Paul right-wing belief system is  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 6:17 pm

6426 steps with flowers and a frog

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A nice walk, and I cleverly put out a bowl of frozen mixed berries before I left so I’d have a treat on my return. I like droopy trees, like the one at the start of the fourth row. The leftmost picture on the bottom row shows an odd plant. I thought initially it was two plants, but I think the two are one.  Enlarge and see what you think. Note the tendrils growing from the vertical narrow cones.

Click any image to get a slide show, and right-click on any slide to open image in a new tab; click it there to enlarge it.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 4:02 pm

Our Little Life Is Rounded with Possibility

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Chiara Marletto, author of The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals and research fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, has an extract from her book in Nautilus:

If you could soar high in the sky, as red kites often do in search of prey, and look down at the domain of all things known and yet to be known, you would see something very curious: a vast class of things that science has so far almost entirely neglected. These things are central to our understanding of physical reality, both at the everyday level and at the level of the most fundamental phenomena in physics—yet they have traditionally been regarded as impossible to incorporate into fundamental scientific explanations. They are facts not about what is—“the actual”—but about what could or could not be. In order to distinguish them from the actual, they are called counterfactuals.

Suppose that some future space mission visited a remote planet in another solar system, and that they left a stainless-steel box there, containing among other things the critical edition of, say, William Blake’s poems. That the poetry book is subsequently sitting somewhere on that planet is a factual property of it. That the words in it could be read is a counterfactual property, which is true regardless of whether those words will ever be read by anyone. The box may be never found; and yet that those words could be read would still be true—and laden with significance. It would signify, for instance, that a civilization visited the planet, and much about its degree of sophistication.

To further grasp the importance of counterfactual properties, and their difference from actual properties, imagine a computer programmed to produce on its display a string of zeroes. That is a factual property of the computer, to do with its actual state—with what is. The fact that it could be reprogrammed to output other strings is a counterfactual property of the computer. The computer may never be so programmed; but the fact that it could is an essential fact about it, without which it would not qualify as a computer.

The counterfactuals that matter to science and physics, and that have so far been neglected, are facts about what could or could not be made to happen to physical systems; about what is possible or impossible. They are fundamental because they express essential features of the laws of physics—the rules that govern every system in the universe. For instance, a counterfactual property imposed by the laws of physics is that it is impossible to build a perpetual motion machine. A perpetual motion machine is not simply an object that moves forever once set into motion: It must also generate some useful sort of motion. If this device could exist, it would produce energy out of no energy. It could be harnessed to make your car run forever without using fuel of any sort. Any sequence of transformations turning something without energy into something with energy, without depleting any energy supply, is impossible in our universe: It could not be made to happen, because of a fundamental law that physicists call the principle of conservation of energy.

Another significant counterfactual property of physical systems, central to thermodynamics, is that a steam engine is possible. A steam engine is a device that transforms energy of one sort into energy of a different sort, and it can perform useful tasks, such as moving a piston, without ever violating that principle of conservation of energy. Actual steam engines (those that have been built so far) are factual properties of our universe. The possibility of building a steam engine, which existed long before the first one was actually built, is a counterfactual.

So the fundamental types of counterfactuals that occur in physics are of two kinds: One is . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 2:00 pm

“Why I Love Lucy Maud”

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Carol Volkart, a retired Vancouver Sun editor and reporter in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, writes in Berfrois;

When I first met Lucy Maud Montgomery in her journals a few months ago, she was a sparkling flirt of 14 tumbling off sleds in winter snowbanks, losing her hat and laughing, laughing, laughing. When I said goodbye to her recently, she was an anguished woman of 67, full of drugs, with a depressive husband and a heartless son who may have harassed her into the grave. The last entry in the journals she kept from 1889 to 1942 described her last years as “hell, hell, hell. My mind has gone, everything I have lived for has gone – the world has gone mad. I shall be driven to end my life. Oh God, forgive me. Nobody dreams what my awful position is.”

Like many people the world over, I have known L.M. Montgomery as primarily the author of Anne of Green Gables, a book I adored as a child. I loved its lyrical descriptions of nature in an idyllic island setting, and its seemingly real characters with their foibles and wit and bravery. I suspect it was Anne that first gave me the idea of writing myself; the notion that the ordinary people and places around me held their own interest and potential for drama. Anne, first published in 1908, still holds its charm for youngsters and draws hordes of tourists to Prince Edward Island, but as an adult, I cooled. Dipping into it briefly a few years ago, I grimaced over the purple passages about nature and never got further.

That may have been why I let Montgomery’s five volumes of journals, published between 1985 and 2004, gather dust on our bookshelves until last summer, when Covid isolation opened up more time for reading. Curiously, my partner John, who had never read any of Montgomery’s fiction, was intrigued by the journals. He began buying them for me as gifts as soon as they were published, and went on to buying them for “us,” gobbling them up himself whenever a new one came out.

Now I know why. The journals are far more fascinating than Anne or any of its sequels. They’re a classic tale of a love-starved child overcoming tremendous odds to achieve great success, then toppling to a sad end. Beyond that, they’re a unique look – through the sharp eyes and articulate pen of a rural Canadian woman – at a rapidly changing society, from the late 1800s through the First World War, the Depression and into the Second World War. We learn what it was like to wear puffed sleeves so big that women had to be stuffed into their coats, to travel for hours in a horse-drawn buggy through rain and snowstorms, to wait obsessively for news from the trenches of the war, to watch a best friend die of the 1918 Spanish flu, to first encounter motorized vehicles, wireless, the telephone and even catch the first glimpse of an airplane. But what keeps us hooked are the small details of the daily life of a remarkable woman: Here’s the internationally famous author cleaning out the stables when her husband isn’t up to the job, grinding her way through boring church teas in her role as a minister’s wife, dealing with nosey neighbours, misbehaving sons and covering up for her husband’s dramatic mental breakdowns. As we accompany her step by intimate step, we’re also drawn by a sense of foreboding; clues abound that the path ahead is dark. As in a horror movie, we want, at some points, to yell: “Don’t go down to the cellar, Maud!” For those of us who like to dig into the whys and wherefores of human lives – possibly to better understand our own – Montgomery’s is a feast.

To me, the most intriguing aspect of Montgomery’s life is  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 1:53 pm

The Historian and the Murderer

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Dominique K. Reill, an associate professor in modern European history at the University of Miami, and the author most recently of The Fiume Crisis: Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire, writes in Zócalo:

On May 14, 2018, I was led into a nondescript courtroom in Kew Gardens, Queens to testify at a murder trial. I am a historian who loves details, and the resources involved in getting me into that humdrum room to be questioned with a jury to my left, a judge to my right, and a murderer sitting in front of me astounded. An entire system of asking, telling, tracking, and filing for the grand finale of live community listening and judging: no wonder so many historians love to study court cases.

From years of obsessively watching Law & Order, I had assumed my questioning would focus on the titillations mass media devours—which was how my name was associated with the crime in the first place. My involvement with the case did not begin January 31, 2015 when the 42-year-old Croatian historian William Klinger was shot twice in an Astoria park in broad daylight and left to die. After he was declared dead in a New York City emergency room, no one had informed me because I was irrelevant to his life. Three weeks later, however, I got emails and calls because the murderer claimed I was part of why Klinger had died.

Police determined that Klinger had been in the park alone with a friend, 49-year-old Alexander Bonich. They also discovered that Klinger had wired $85,000 to Bonich in order to purchase an apartment in Astoria. Anyone who knows anything about New York real estate can smell a rat in this story. An apartment in Astoria costs about $700,000, if you’re very lucky. In New York City, real estate fraud is a believable motive for killing. Bonich was arrested posthaste.

To counter the murder charge, Bonich insisted he shot Klinger out of self-defense. As Bonich told police and then a New York Times journalist, on the day of his death Klinger behaved strangely. He seemed unhinged, filled with emotional rage triggered by the fact that he had deserted his family in Europe “to meet a woman named Dominique.” With Klinger coming at him, Bonich insisted he had shot Klinger to forestall Klinger doing the same to him.

There are very few people connected with Croatian academia who share my first name. Within minutes of the New York Times article giving Bonich’s side of the story going live, a friend wrote me an email to alert me. Within an hour, my inbox was filled with queries from journalists and police. The idea that Klinger’s grieving wife and children would have to suffer the killer’s lies cut me to the quick and I responded by contacting anyone I could to set the record straight.

The New York Times immediately erased my name from the article they had published online. I gave journalists, police, and lawyers full access to all my communications with Klinger. At some point, the murderer had also asserted that Klinger and I had had a rendezvous in New York in the days prior to the shooting. To disprove this, it took just a few minutes to supply travel itineraries and credit card statements showing how I was nowhere near New York City at the time.

At Bonich’s trial three years later, I assumed I was being called to the stand to disprove assertions about Klinger’s relationship to me. Imagine my surprise, then, when two minutes into my deposition the prosecutor asked me, “What are the archives?”

In my professional life as a history professor at an elite research university, “what are the archives?” is a question that gets posed regularly, often by professors encouraging students to think about how history “gets made.” When the prosecutor asked me this question, it was in response to my explanation of how I had first met Klinger. I had said “I met him in the archives in Rijeka [Croatia],” assuming this was straightforward. When asked to elaborate, I still assumed that the question was not about the things I usually talk about when discussing archives, but about the nature of my relationship to the deceased.

Was it possible that the prosecutor feared the jury imagined we had met at some nightclub called “The Archives”? Maybe those Queens residents were picturing us drinking cocktails at a bar pretentiously decorated with old-school card catalogs, green banker’s lamps, and anachronistic maps? So, instead of answering what archives were in a professional sense, I focused on how unsexy—how all work, 8 a.m.-to-2 p.m. no fun—they are.

Here is where it became clear that all my assumptions about why I was in that courtroom were wrong. As I was explaining how archivists regularly introduce scholars to each other in the reading room, the defense attorney called out: “Judge, I’m going to object to the witness being nonresponsive.” Though the judge overruled the objection, the effect of the defense attorney’s intervention was significant.

From then on, my job in the almost 80 questions that followed was not to disabuse the court of ideas of adulterous encounters but instead to explain what this strange profession of “historian” was, and what role it played in bringing Klinger into that Astoria park on the day he died.

I told the jury how Klinger had attended some of the most prestigious institutions in Europe, how he had published widely in several languages, and how he was generally considered the expert in his field, even though he could not find permanent, full-time employment anywhere. A long-time motto repeated ad nauseam in academia is “Publish or perish.” In essence, I was there to explain how this historian perished in our profession even though he had published, and how his professional disappointment set him up for associating with someone who would kill him for real.

When reading over the court transcripts, it is hard to remember that we were all sitting together in that room because a man had died. The questions were not about Klinger or his murderer. Instead, they focused on the intricacies of how difficult it is for a historian to make a living.

I explained how historians can’t get academic jobs through individual merits in the U.S. or Europe. You need networks. I talked about “markets,” the expectations of what CVs (the academic term for resumes) should look like, and how getting noticed by universities is dependent not just on productivity but also on references from people of great esteem. With every explanation I gave, another question came up. What is a postdoc? What is an editor? What is a letter of recommendation? How does anyone get paid?

The questions kept coming because the answers I was giving made no sense to how people imagined someone survived as a professional historian. Weren’t historians like artists or writers? Wasn’t their worth and position dependent on the quality of what they produced? Or maybe they were like journalists, paid per column or through working on producing publications? Or maybe historians were like teachers, their employment opportunities dependent on the degrees they had obtained?

I’m sure it was confusing when I told the lawyers, judge, and jury about how the writing and publishing process works. I said: “People don’t make money working for journals; you do it as a volunteer for the state of the field. There are no paying jobs.” Both the defense attorney and the prosecutor had been under the impression that Klinger’s arrival in the United States would solve his miserable professional status in Europe. My testimony underscored that it was far from the truth—but that Klinger didn’t know it, and that’s what made him vulnerable.

Though he had published much and the solidity of his research was undeniable, Klinger had not proven himself as a man who worked within structures. He had never taught in an American classroom. He had no portfolio of teaching evaluations. He had not participated in a research facility where interdisciplinary collaboration was emphasized. He had almost no links within the wider profession, meaning there were few who could vouch for him to those outside his relatively obscure specialty. This also meant he could not help future students procure positions.

Klinger did history like a starving artist might: he worked alone, he published in the easiest and quickest (rather than the most prestigious) journals, and he struggled to broaden his profile. His lack of networks was partly a result of the fact that no one in Italy or Croatia would give him a permanent position. But it was also partly because he was so passionate about the researching and writing that he didn’t prioritize the other stuff.

I had explained to Klinger “at the archives” and in emails what I had said in court: procuring permanent employment in the United States is a slow, networked, highly professionalized process that proves unsuccessful for most. I had told him explicitly that there is no way to just publish, come, and get a job. But Klinger ignored me and decided instead to believe a man who told him what he wanted to hear.

Apparently, Bonich promised Klinger all: not just an apartment but also a job at Hunter College in New York City based on his qualifications, with no application, interview, or letters of recommendation required. That is as inconceivable as the $85,000 price tag for an Astoria apartment. Nonetheless, Klinger wanted to believe. The murderer also told the court Klinger had deserted his family in part because I had arranged a position for him as a journal editor in Maryland, one which would pay enough for him to build a new life for himself.

This, too, was not just a lie; it was impossible.

It didn’t matter that Klinger and I barely knew each other. It didn’t matter that the journal the killer named did not exist. It also didn’t matter that history journals do not pay book review editors. The killer told those lies because he thought they were believable, because that’s how he thought the historical profession worked. Just like Klinger, Bonich did not realize that there are almost no historians in the world who can survive on their writing, their editorships, or their qualifications. Historians in the United States are paid for how they work within institutions. And getting into the institutions is a herculean feat only the most obstinate should try to undertake.

We’ll never know how  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 1:46 pm

How Software Is Eating the Car

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Robert N. Charette writes in IEEE Spectrum:

Predictions of lost global vehicle production caused by the ongoing semiconductor shortage continue to rise. In January, analysts forecast that 1.5 million fewer vehicles would be produced as a result of the shortage; by April that number had steadily climbed to more than 2.7 million units, and by May, to more than 4.1 million units.

The semiconductor shortage has underscored not only the fragility of the automotive supply chain, but placed an intense spotlight on the auto industry’s reliance on the dozens of concealed computers embedded throughout vehicles today.

“No other industry is undergoing as rapid technological change as the auto industry,” says Zoran Filipi, Chair of the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. “This is driven by the need to address impending, evermore stringent CO2 and criteria emission regulations, while sustaining unprecedented rate of progress with development of automation and infotainment, and meeting the customer expectations regarding performance, comfort, and utility.” 

The coming years will see even greater change, as more auto manufacturers commit to phasing out their internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles to meet global climate-change targets by replacing them with electric vehicles (EVs) that will eventually be capable of autonomous operation.

The past decade of ICE vehicle development illustrates the rapid progress it has made, as well as where it is heading.

“Once, software was a part of the car. Now, software determines the value of a car,” notes Manfred Broy, emeritus professor of informatics at Technical University, Munich and a leading expert on software in automobiles. “The success of a car depends on its software much more than the mechanical side.” Nearly all vehicle innovations by auto manufacturers, or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as they are called by industry insiders, are now tied to software, he says.

Ten years ago, only premium cars contained 100 microprocessor-based electronic control units (ECUs) networked throughout the body of a car, executing 100 million lines of code or more. Today, high-end cars like the BMW 7-series with advanced technology like advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) may contain 150 ECUs or more, while pick-up trucks like Ford’s F-150 top 150 million lines of code. Even low-end vehicles are quickly approaching 100 ECUs and 100 million of lines of code as more features that were once considered luxury options, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, are becoming standard.

Additional safety features that have been mandated since 2010 like electronic stability control, backup cameras, and automatic emergency calling (eCall) in the EU, as well as more stringent emission standards that ICE vehicles can only meet using yet more innovative electronics and software, have further driven ECU and software proliferation.

Consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited estimates that as of 2017, some 40% of the cost of a new car can be attributed to semiconductor-based electronic systems, a cost doubling since 2007. It estimates this total will approach 50% by 2030. The company further predicts that each new car today has about $600 worth of semiconductors packed into it, consisting of up to 3,000 chips of all types.

Totaling the number of ECUs and lines of software only hints at the intricate electronic orchestration and software choreography found in vehicles today. By observing how they perform together, the extraordinary complexity that is meant to be invisible from a driver’s perspective begins to emerge. New safety, comfort, performance and entertainment features, the commercial imperative to offer scores of options to buyers resulting in a multiplicity of variants for each make and model, and the shift from gasoline and human drivers to electric and artificially intelligent drivers and the hundreds of millions of lines of new code that will need to be written, checked, debugged and secured against hackers, are making cars into supercomputers on wheels and forcing the auto industry to adapt. But can it? 

Features and Variants Drive Complexity

The drive over the last two decades to provide more safety and entertainment features has transformed automobiles from mere conveyances to mobile computing centers. Instead of . . .

Continue reading.  There’s much much more, including an interesting chart showing what jobs are assigned to microprocessors.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 1:00 pm

The GOP is disassembling American democracy

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Kevin Drum points out how the US is sliding into becoming a banana republic:

The most dangerous part of all the new Republican voting laws isn’t the hodgepodge of rules about closing times and ballot boxes and so forth. It’s the rules that allow Republican legislatures to replace election officials if they’re unhappy about how the count is going. But the AP reports that these rules might not even be necessary:

After facing threats and intimidation during the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath, and now the potential of new punishments in certain states, county officials who run elections are quitting or retiring early. The once quiet job of elections administration has become a political minefield thanks to the baseless claims of widespread fraud that continue to be pushed by many in the Republican Party.

….About a third of Pennsylvania’s county election officials have left in the last year and a half….The executive director of a clerks association in Wisconsin said more than two dozen clerks had retired since the presidential election and another 30 clerks or their deputies quit by the end of 2020.

….The exodus comes as Republicans in a number of states pursue legislation that imposes new fines or criminal penalties on local elections officials or makes it easier to remove them, as part of the GOP campaign to rewrite rules for voting and administering elections. A new law in Iowa imposes a $10,000 fine on elections administrators for a technical infraction of election rules. A similar law in Florida could lead to $25,000 fines for elections supervisors if a ballot drop box is accessible outside early voting hours or is left unsupervised.

The new Republican rules are apparently just a backup. The real plan is simply to terrorize local election officials into quitting so they can be replaced with true believers who can make sure that next time Donald Trump has all the votes he needs to win. Welcome to the latest installment of Banana Republicanism, my friends.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 11:33 am

A drawback to a big batch of tempeh

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Normally I use 2 cups of uncooked beans for a batch of tempeh. This latest batch I used 2 cups of black beans and 1 cup of black rice, and after cooking them separately and drying them (not a problem with the rice, which iis cooked until the water’s all absorbed), I combined them, added vinegar and culture, and put the batch into a Ziploc fresh-produce bag: beans (and rice, in this case) into the bag, zip bag shut, place it on its side, and spread the beans in the bag to make a uniform layer that fills the flat bag from side to side and top to bottom. I noticed immediately that the 3-cup batch made a layer noticeably thicker than the 2-cup batch, but didn’t see the implication. Then the bag goes into the incubator at 88ºF to get the fungus established.

Once the fungus gets a good start in the incubator, I turn the thermostat down to 77ºF. The fungus generates its own heat as it grows, and if the temperature gets too high, the fungus will start to spore, which produces unsightly gray and black patches (perfectly edible, but off-putting). So once this batch was going, I turned the thermostat down and went on my way. But when I checked later, the temperature in the incubator was 92ºF. It had gone up, not down.

Those little guys really do throw off the heat. I tried to get the temperature down through several steps: 1) move lid so top is partially open; 2) remove lid altogether; 3) remove batch from incubator and put it on a rack (so air can circulate) in the kitchen. I then took the internal temperature: 99ºF! I moved the batch into the refrigerator for a while, then removed it. I went back and forth to the fridge for an afternoon. Right now the internal temperature is 100.3ºF and the photo shows what the batch looks like. I guess back into the fridge for a while.

Lesson learned: When I use the Ziploc fresh-produce bags, I’ll stick to 2-cup batches. Those seem not to heat up so much, probably because the beans make a thinner layer. I’m curious to see how this batch comes out. I’ll let it work for another day or two to see whether the internal temperature will drop.

Update: The batch ultimately turned out fine — indeed, I would say excellent. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 11:10 am

Tuning in to a TV/streaming series, with “Ragnarok” as an example.

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I’ve been watching on Netflix a Norwegian series titled “Ragnarok,” which explores Norse mythology in a modern context. Last night I watched Season 2 Episode 5, and by now I’m thorough transfixed. The initial episodes were interesting enough to keep me watching, but now I’m gripped by the drama.

I’ve noticed before how some series get significantly better as they progress, and I wonder whether that’s because the writers and actors better understand the characters and their possibilities (thus the series really does get better), or whether it’s that we the audience are learning the series pace and meaning of the series (“meaning” in the sense of our understanding what the director thought important and what the actors convey). That is, the series had its qualities from the start, but we only gradually become attuned to them and start to get it.

It’s probably a bit of both, plus as the series goes on we by watching know some of the history and backstory and understand the characters’ histories and motivations, so that after a few seasons, a very small incident — say a character refusing a cigarette offered by another character, carries layers of meaning to those who see the incident in the context of all that has come before.

In the case of “Ragnarok,” another factor might be in play for audiences outside Norway. The series is in Norwegian (with English subtitles, thank Odin), and the writer, director, and actors are all Norwegian, so I imagine that they were steeped in Norse mythology from childhood simply as a component of cultural tradition. The gods and giants and heroes and incidents are for them a familiar terrain and easily carry mean and evoke emotional responses. Those memes for them have immediate meaning.

But that US/Canadian audiences are not so immersed in that knowledge, so initially it is more remote. However, as we watch the series, we gradually tune in and start to see and understand the patterns, background, motivations and interplay, and the story becomes deeper and more meaningful.

Some series develop a gripping and coherent story world through the sort of development I describe. “West Wing,” was one, and certainly “The Wire” is like this in spades, as characters develop, move to new jobs, and relationships develop and change. The French series “Spiral” (“Engrenages“) is another example.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 9:55 am

Cool pattern generator

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This little pattern generator is fun to play with. Click “Shuffle” to see new random patterns, which you can modify by fiddling with the various controls and options.

Update: Turns out that there a lot of pattern generators, including (for example) plaid generators.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 9:25 am

The tedious drone of obscene speech

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Some people routinely use obscenity in speaking — for example, “I was fucking surprised when he put out that shit, and it pissed me off like a motherfucker. What an asshole!” While at first there may be have some exultation in breaking through societal norms, the result is just another norm and one that I find does not wear well. It’s in fact boring.

But I had a thought. In some poorly directed movies, the characters all seem angry (for no discernible reason), and speak loudly even in casual conversation. I think they are trying to get some energy into the scene, and don’t know to do that except through anger. Good acting is, I think, harder than it looks (work done to remove traces of work), and those who can’t act, shout and frown.

Perhaps a constant drone of obscenity in speech is done with the same unconscious idea: trying to make what one has to say seem more interesting.

It doesn’t work. What once may have been shocking has become boring. It’s like the poor guy in the Rodgers and Hart song “Johnny One Note.”

Update

I suddenly recalled a passage from Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes”:

. . . In olden days a glimpse of stockings
Was looked on as something shocking,
Now, heaven knows,
Anything Goes.

Good authors too who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words
Writing prose,
Anything goes. . .

As the song implies, when anything goes, nothing is shocking. It’s analogous to an observation made by W.S. Gilbert, “When everybody is somebody, nobody is anybody.” If obscenity loses its capacity to shock, then what good is it?

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Wish the Stealth razor would return

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I haven’t use Otoko Organics, an unusual shaving soap from Australia, for a while. It’s such a good shaving soap, with an unusual fragrance from the pear essence in the formulation — very clean smelling, excellent lather. This is a tall brush, as you see. I bought it from a local shop, the Copper Hat, and the brush is one of their own creations, made using a Delrin® handle, which has a good feel and a nice heft. They offer the design now in aluminum in various colors. Delrin (used, for example, to make gears) is fairly dense for a plastic compound, but aluminum is about twice as dense: Al is 2.7g/cc, Delrin 1.4g/cc.

Well-prepped (Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave plus Otoko Organics lather), my stubble offered no resistance to the scythe of the Stealth, and the shave was uncommonly comfortable and close, with no damage done. I mentioned on Saturday how much I like the Stealth, and with a two-day stubble I had to use it again. Really, Italian Barber should bring back this fine razor. It’s one of the most comfortable slants I have.

Aftershave was a splash of l’Occitane Cade EDT, and now the day is truly launched — an overcast day, it must be said, with rain predicted for the afternoon.

Written by Leisureguy

14 June 2021 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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