Later On

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

Archive for June 17th, 2021

The point of “Black Lives Matter”

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 8:38 pm

Artistic Swimming Olympic Games Qualification Tournament 2021 — US team

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Small tempeh-chili delight

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What was left after the first bowl was taken: enough for a second bowl.

I wanted to make just a small batch of tempeh chili, but I didn’t realize how tasty it would be. Once I had the first bowl, I had to have the rest, and anything this good deserves a post.

A 5-ounce block of tempeh

I wanted to make chili because this batch of tempeh is so good. Partly that’s because of the ingredients (black beans and black rice) and partly, I think, because I let it go for four days — plus, of course, all the things I learned and made (many previous batches and two tempeh incubators). It seems just right for chili because a) ingredients and b) nice chewy texture and good stick-togetherness. (The square grid of dots you’ll see if you enlarge the photo at the right are the result of the perforations in the Ziploc fresh-produce bag I used.)

I used my little 8″ nonstick skillet (not cast iron, since I would be simmering tomatoes). It has a lid, which I used for the simmering part.

Recall that my recipes are descriptions of what I did, not what you necessarily should do. You know your tastes.

Small tempeh-chili delight

Put into the skillet:

• 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (and make sure it’s true EVOO)
• 1 1/2 bunches scallions, chopped (including leaves, of course)
• 4 dried chipotles, cut into pieces with kitchen shears
• pinch of salt

I chose scallions over red onions because I wanted the leaves in there — the leaves are why scallions are more nutritious than storage onions. You could use half a small can of chipotles en adobo in place of dried chipotles; dried chipotles is what I happened to have. In either case, in adobo or dried, cut them up with scissors.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the scallions have wilted and are starting to turn transparent. I did this at 2 or 3 on the induction burner. Add:

• 7 cloves garlic, chopped small and allowed to rest
• 1/4 cup cooked kamut
• 4-5 oz tempeh, diced to bite size — I halved the 5-oz slab shown above to make two thin slabs and diced those

After that cooks for a couple of minutes, add:

• 10-12 mini-San-Marzano tomatoes or about 16-18 cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly
• about 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
• about 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile or smoked paprika (or chimayo chile powder)
• about 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

After the tomatoes were cooked enough to start breaking up, I added:

• 1 can Ro•Tel Original
• about 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses (must be blackstrap molasses)
• 1 teaspoon instant coffee (Folger’s, as it happens)
• 1 small square baking chocolate [I actually forgot this, but it should be there]
• about 1 tablespoon tomato paste if you have a tube of it (not worth opening a can)
• dash of liquid smoke (optional, but I like it)

Cover at simmer at 200ºF for 15-20 minutes. I serve a bowl topped with:

• 1 teaspoon Bragg’s nutritional yeast

Man, it’s good! The tempeh really is chewy, like pork. I assume its the mycelium that provides that.

Update: The next batch I made, following the same general recipe as above, was even better, in part because I cut the tempeh into larger pieces. I used chimayo chile powder this time.

 

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 6:16 pm

Climate Change Batters the West Before Summer Even Begins

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And still there are people who deny that it’s happening and fight against efforts to combat it.  Brad Plumer, Jack Healy, Winston Choi-Schagrin, and Henry Fountain report in the NY Times:

A heat dome is baking Arizona and Nevada, where temperatures have soared past 115 degrees this week and doctors are warning that people can get third-degree burns from the sizzling asphalt.

At Lake Mead, which supplies water for 25 million people in three southwestern states and Mexico, water levels have plunged to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s. In California, farmers are abandoning their thirstiest crops to save others, and communities are debating whether to ration tap water.

In Texas, electricity grids are under strain as residents crank their air-conditioners, with utilities begging customers to turn off appliances to help avert blackouts. In Arizona, Montana and Utah, wildfires are blazing.

And it’s not even summer yet.

“We’re still a long way out from the peak of the wildfire season and the peak of the dry season,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better.”

Global warming, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has been heating up and drying out the American West for years. Now the region is broiling under a combination of a drought that is the worst in two decades and a record-breaking heat wave.

“The Southwest is getting hammered by climate change harder than almost any other part of the country, apart from perhaps coastal cities,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist at the University of Michigan. “And as bad as it might seem today, this is about as good as it’s going to get if we don’t get global warming under control.”

With temperatures expected to keep rising as nations struggle to rein in their planet-warming emissions, the Western United States will need to take difficult and costly measures to adapt. That includes redesigning cities to endure punishing heat, conserving water, and engineering grids that don’t fail during extreme weather.

This month has offered glimpses of whether states and cities are up to that task and has shown they still have far to go.

From Montana to Southern California, much of the West is suffering from unusually high temperatures. Some 50 million Americans face heat-related warnings. Records have been tied or broken in places like Palm SpringsSalt Lake City and Billings, Montana.

As 115-degree temperatures cooked Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row Arts District on Tuesday, Timothy Medina, 58, was perched on a black metal platform 12 feet above the sidewalk, finishing the blue lettering of a sign for a coffee shop. “It’s brutal — that heat against the wall,” he said. “Let me take a quick swig of water.”

Construction workers, landscapers and outdoor painters like Mr. Medina have few options but to bear the heat. He wore jeans to avoid burning his skin, along with a long sleeve fluorescent yellow shirt and a $2 woven hat. But soon the heat was winning.

“I start feeling out of breath, fatigued,” he said.

Extreme heat is the clearest signal of global warming, and the most deadly. Last year heat killed at least 323 people in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, a record by far. . .

Continue reading. There is a lot more, and many photographs.

And from here on, it’s going to get worse. What we’re seeing now is mild compared to what’s coming. But inaction seems attractive to most. An article by Catherine Garcia in Yahoo News, “NASA: Earth is trapping ‘unprecedented’ amount of heat, warming ‘faster than expected’,” spells it out. From the article:

Since 2005, the amount of heat trapped by the Earth has roughly doubled, according to a new study by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers.

This is contributing to warming oceans, air, and land, the scientists write in the study, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “The magnitude of the increase is unprecedented,” NASA scientist and lead author of the study Norman Loeb told The Washington Post. “The Earth is warming faster than expected.”

Using satellite data, the researchers measured the planet’s energy imbalance, which is the difference between how much energy the planet absorbs from the sun and how much is radiated back into space. If there is a positive imbalance, the Earth is absorbing more heat than it is losing; in 2005, there was a positive imbalance of about half a watt per square meter of energy from the sun, and in 2019, the positive imbalance was one watt per square meter, the Post reports.

“It is a massive amount of energy,” NOAA oceanographer Gregory Johnson, a co-author of the study, told the Post, adding that this energy increase is equivalent to everyone on Earth using 20 electric tea kettles at the same time. The team needs to . . .

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 5:19 pm

Cool time-lapse video of a picturesque Austrian village

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Florida Pol Threatens to Put ‘Hit Squad’ on Rival Congressional Candidate

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Guess that politician’s political party. (One guess only, please.)

Benjamin Hart reports in New York:

An obscure Florida Republican congressional candidate was heard on a recording claiming that he could send a “hit squad” after a leading GOP candidate in the race.

Politico reports that William Braddock, a 37-year-old lawyer, made the comments about Anna Paulina Luna, who is running for a vacant seat in Florida’s 13th District. Braddock was speaking with Erin Olszewski, a conservative activist who was so alarmed by the conversation that she turned it over to the police.

“I really don’t want to have to end anybody’s life for the good of the people of the United States of America,” Braddock said, according to Politico.
“That will break my heart. But if it needs to be done, it needs to be done. Luna is a f—ing speed bump in the road. She’s a dead squirrel you run over every day when you leave the neighborhood.”

Later, Braddock said that to make sure Luna didn’t win the race, he would “call up my Russian and Ukrainian hit squad, and within 24 hours, they’re sending me pictures of her disappearing,” adding that he wasn’t joking.

Asked by Politico whether it was him on the recording, Braddock dissembled, and claimed the tape may have been altered.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Luna had obtained a stalking injunction against Braddock, who she claims is working with two other political adversaries to kill her. One of them, Amanda Makki, ran against Luna in a primary for the same congressional seat last year.

“I received information yesterday (at midnight) regarding a plan (with a timeline) to murder me made by William Braddock in an effort to prevent me from winning the election for FL-13,” she wrote.

Luna claimed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 4:05 pm

Phone Network Encryption Was Deliberately Weakened

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Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai writes in Vice:

A weakness in the algorithm used to encrypt cellphone data in the 1990s and 2000s allowed hackers to spy on some internet traffic, according to a new research paper.

The paper has sent shockwaves through the encryption community because of what it implies: The researchers believe that the mathematical probability of the weakness being introduced on accident is extremely low. Thus, they speculate that a weakness was intentionally put into the algorithm. After the paper was published, the group that designed the algorithm confirmed this was the case.

Researchers from several universities in Europe found that the encryption algorithm GEA-1, which was used in cellphones when the industry adopted GPRS standards in 2G networks, was intentionally designed to include a weakness that at least one cryptography expert sees as a backdoor. The researchers said they obtained two encryption algorithms, GEA-1 and GEA-2, which are proprietary and thus not public, “from a source.” They then analyzed them and realized they were vulnerable to attacks that allowed for decryption of all traffic.

When trying to reverse-engineer the algorithm, the researchers wrote that (to simplify), they tried to design a similar encryption algorithm using a random number generator often used in cryptography and never came close to creating an encryption scheme as weak as the one actually used: “In a million tries we never even got close to such a weak instance,” they wrote. “This implies that the weakness in GEA-1 is unlikely to occur by chance, indicating that the security level of 40 bits is due to export regulations.”

Researchers dubbed the attack “divide-and-conquer,” and said it was “rather straightforward.” In short, the attack allows someone who can intercept cellphone data traffic to recover the key used to encrypt the data and then decrypt all traffic. The weakness in GEA-1, the oldest algorithm developed in 1998, is that it provides only 40-bit security. That’s what allows an attacker to get the key and decrypt all traffic, according to the researchers.

A spokesperson for the organization that designed the GEA-1 algorithm, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), admitted that the algorithm contained a weakness, but said it was introduced because the export regulations at the time did not allow for stronger encryption.

“We followed regulations: we followed export control regulations that limited the strength of GEA-1,” a spokesperson for ETSI told Motherboard in an email. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 3:36 pm

Edward de Bono has passed away

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Edward de Bono looms large in my legend. He is among the authors in my list of books I find myself repeatedly recommending. The specific book I mention is Po: Beyond Yes and No, but he wrote many books, and I read a substantial number of them and did my best to apply what I learned from them.

He also established a foundation, CoRT (Cognitive Research Trust), which publishes an excellent set of materials to teach critical thinking skills to young children, a program that I wish would be universally adopted. (I doubt it will be. Children who learn critical thinking skills will start using their skills, to the dismay of parents who do not welcome questioning, thought, or dialogue.)

Stuart Jeffries writes de Bono’s obituary in the Guardian:

The thinker and writer Edward de Bono, who has died aged 88, once suggested that the Arab-Israeli conflict might be solved with Marmite. During a 1999 lecture to Foreign Office officials, the originator of the term lateral thinking argued that the yeast extract, though proverbially socially divisive, could do what politicians and diplomats had failed for years to achieve. The problem, as he saw it, was that people in the Middle East eat unleavened bread and so lack zinc, which makes them irritable and belligerent. Feeding them Marmite, therefore, would help create peace.

Through his 60-plus books, including The Mechanism of Mind (1969), Six Thinking Hats (1985), How to Have A Beautiful Mind (2004) and Think! Before It’s Too Late (2009) [I’ve added links to inexpensive secondhand copies of the books. – LG], as well as seminars, training courses and a BBC television series, De Bono sought to free us from the tyranny of logic through creative thinking. “What happened was, 2,400 years ago, the Greek Gang of Three, by whom I mean Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, started to think based on analysis, judgment, and knowledge,” he said. “At the same time, church people, who ran the schools and universities, wanted logic to prove the heretics wrong. As a result, design and perceptual thinking was never developed.”

De Bono’s revolution began in 1967 with his book The Use of Lateral Thinking. Imagine, he said, that a money lender claims a merchant’s daughter in lieu of her father’s debt. The merchant and daughter concoct a compromise. The money lender will put a black stone in one bag and in the other, a white. If the daughter chooses the black stone, she will be doomed to marry the money lender and the debt cancelled; if the white she will stay with her father and the debt be cancelled. But as the trio stand on a pebble-strewn path, she notices the money lender putting a black stone in each bag. What should she do to avoid a nightmarish fate?

This is where lateral thinking – ie, employing unorthodox means to solve a problem – comes in. De Bono suggested the daughter should pick either bag, but fumble and drop her stone on to the path. “Since the remaining pebble is of course black, it must be assumed she picked the white pebble, since the money lender dare not admit his dishonesty.”

What De Bono called vertical thinking, typified by logic, would be useless in reaching this elegant solution. It is lateral thinking that creates new ideas – Einstein and Darwin, according to De Bono, were lateral thinkers. “Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion [a point stressed by Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — see this brief outline. – LG] and this can lead to new ideas. Logic will never change emotion or perception.”

De Bono believed humour was one of the most significant characteristics of the human mind, precisely for its basis in shifting perceptions. “Let me tell you a joke,” he said. “An old man dies and goes to hell. When he gets there, he sees his friend, a 90-year-old man, with a beautiful woman sitting on his knee. He says to his friend, ‘This can’t be hell, you’re not being punished, you’re having fun!’, to which his friend replies, ‘This is punishment – for her!’”

His most trenchant thinking concerned children’s education. “Schools waste two-thirds of the talent in society. The universities sterilise the rest,” he said. The Maltese thinker was particularly scathing of Britain, where, he claimed, rigid thinking and an obsession with testing led to many children leaving school “believing they are stupid. They are not stupid at all, many are good thinkers who have never had the chance to show it. But that lack of confidence will pervade the rest of their lives.”

Rather than teaching children to absorb information and repeat it, he argued, schools should equip them to think creatively. He once did a study in which he asked children to design a sleep machine, an elephant-weighing machine, a system for constructing a house and a system for building a rocket. His 1972 book Children Solve Problems described the results.

In Six Thinking Hats, De Bono suggested that business meetings might be more efficient if attendees wore imaginary colour-coded hats. The black hat signified negative or realistic thoughts; white, information; red, emotion; blue, management; green, creativity; and yellow, optimism. Everyone in the meeting would figuratively place a coloured hat on their heads. This way, he claimed, “ego would be taken out of the situation”.

The method found its devotees. Motorola, IBM, and Boeing reported cutting meeting times by half by applying it. De Bono reported that one of his clients, Ron Barbaro of Prudential Insurance, said that after suggesting an idea that executives might counter was too risky, “he would say: ‘Yes, that’s fine black hat thinking. Now let’s try the yellow hat.’”

De Bono was convinced about its importance. “The Six Thinking Hats method may well be the most important change in human thinking for the past 2,300 years,” he wrote in the preface to the book.

Certainly, he was rarely burdened with humility, informing the world that his childhood nickname was “Genius”. By contrast, he did not suffer detractors gladly. Years after a stinking review of Six Thinking Hats appeared in the Independent, written by Adam Mars-Jones, De Bono told the Guardian: “That book, we know, has saved $40m dollars and tens of thousands of man-hours. Now, some silly little idiot, trying to be clever, compared to the actual results, that just makes him look like a fool.”

Mars-Jones retorted that when his review appeared, De Bono “wrote to the editor [saying] … that he was entitled to compensation for the loss of earnings which my comments had inflicted on his lecture tours (which he assessed at £200,000). He seemed less taken with my proposal that he pay a dividend to every journalist who, by taking him seriously, had inflated his earning power.”

Born in Saint Julian’s Bay, Malta, Edward was the son of Joseph de Bono, a physician, and Josephine (nee O’Byrne), an Irish journalist. He went to St Edward’s college in Malta and jumped classes twice. “I was always three or four years younger than anyone else in my class.”

He qualified as a doctor at the Royal University of Malta before going to Christ Church, Oxford, as a Rhodes scholar to study for a master’s in psychology and physiology (1957), and a DPhil in medicine (1961). There, he represented the university in both polo and rowing, and set two canoeing records, one for paddling 112 miles from Oxford to London nonstop.

Following graduation he worked at Oxford as a . . .

Continue reading. An amazing manwith many good ideas.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 3:26 pm

To ban teaching about systemic racism is a perfect example of systemic racism

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I am indebted to The Eldest for pointing out the nice recursion of the title. Someone then commented about a video of a teacher who totally understands teenagers:

Teacher: I’m not allowed to teach you about critical race theory.

Class: What’s that?

Teacher: I’m not allowed to tell you.

Class: What?? Not fair! (Then they all looked it up in Wikipedia.)

Chris Argyris in his (excellent) books on management theory and what distinguishes a learning organization from one that resists learning. One difference, of course, is success vs. failure over the long term, but also organizations that resist learning typically have double-layer taboos on some topics within the organization: not only can you not talk about X, you also cannot talk about not talking about X. It will be interesting to see whether the Right is so far gone they will prohibit teachers from explaining why they cannot teach critical race theory. (My guess is that the Right is indeed so far gone — and even farther.)

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 2:25 pm

Mathematicians Prove 2D Version of Quantum Gravity Works

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Charlie Wood writes in Quanta:

Alexander Polyakov, a theoretical physicist now at Princeton University, caught a glimpse of the future of quantum theory in 1981. A range of mysteries, from the wiggling of strings to the binding of quarks into protons, demanded a new mathematical tool whose silhouette he could just make out.

“There are methods and formulae in science which serve as master keys to many apparently different problems,” he wrote in the introduction to a now famous four-page letter in Physics Letters B. “At the present time we have to develop an art of handling sums over random surfaces.”

Polyakov’s proposal proved powerful. In his paper he sketched out a formula that roughly described how to calculate averages of a wildly chaotic type of surface, the “Liouville field.” His work brought physicists into a new mathematical arena, one essential for unlocking the behavior of theoretical objects called strings and building a simplified model of quantum gravity.

Years of toil would lead Polyakov to breakthrough solutions for other theories in physics, but he never fully understood the mathematics behind the Liouville field.

Over the last seven years, however, a group of mathematicians has done what many researchers thought impossible. In a trilogy of landmark publications, they have recast Polyakov’s formula using fully rigorous mathematical language and proved that the Liouville field flawlessly models the phenomena Polyakov thought it would.

“It took us 40 years in math to make sense of four pages,” said Vincent Vargas, a mathematician at the French National Center for Scientific Research and co-author of the research with Rémi Rhodes of Aix-Marseille University, Antti Kupiainen of the University of Helsinki, François David of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Colin Guillarmou of Paris-Saclay University.

The three papers forge a bridge between the pristine world of mathematics and the messy reality of physics — and they do so by breaking new ground in the mathematical field of probability theory. The work also touches on philosophical questions regarding the objects that take center stage in the leading theories of fundamental physics: quantum fields.

“This is a masterpiece in mathematical physics,” said Xin Sun, a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania.

Infinite Fields

In physics today, the main actors in the most successful theories are fields — objects that fill space, taking on different values from place to place.

In classical physics, for example, a single field tells you everything about how a force pushes objects around. Take Earth’s magnetic field: The twitches of a compass needle reveal the field’s influence (its strength and direction) at every point on the planet.

Fields are central to quantum physics, too. However, the situation here is more complicated due to the deep randomness of quantum theory. From the quantum perspective, Earth doesn’t generate one magnetic field, but rather an infinite number of different ones. Some look almost like the field we observe in classical physics, but others are wildly different.

But physicists still want to make predictions — predictions that ideally match, in this case, what a mountaineer reads on a compass. Assimilating the infinite forms of a quantum field into a single prediction is the formidable task of a “quantum field theory,” or QFT. This is a model of how one or more quantum fields, each with their infinite variations, act and interact.

Driven by immense experimental support, QFTs have become the basic language of particle physics. The Standard Model is one such QFT, depicting fundamental particles like electrons as fuzzy bumps that emerge from an infinitude of electron fields. It has passed every experimental test to date (although various groups may be on the verge of finding the first holes).

Physicists play with many different QFTs. Some, like the Standard Model, aspire to model real particles moving through the four dimensions of our universe (three spatial dimensions plus one dimension of time). Others describe exotic particles in strange universes, from two-dimensional flatlands to six-dimensional uber-worlds. Their connection to reality is remote, but physicists study them in the hopes of gaining insights they can carry back into our own world.

Polyakov’s Liouville field theory is one such example.

Gravity’s Field

The Liouville field, which is based on an equation from complex analysis developed in the 1800s by the French mathematician Joseph Liouville, describes a completely random two-dimensional surface — that is, a surface, like Earth’s crust, but one in which the height of every point is chosen randomly. Such a planet would erupt with mountain ranges of infinitely tall peaks, each assigned by rolling a die with infinite faces.

Such an object might not seem like an informative model for physics, but randomness is not devoid of patterns. The bell curve, for example, tells you how likely you are to randomly pass a seven-foot basketball player on the street. Similarly, bulbous clouds and crinkly coastlines follow random patterns, but it’s nevertheless possible to discern consistent relationships between their large-scale and small-scale features.

Liouville theory can be used to identify patterns in the endless landscape of all possible random, jagged surfaces. Polyakov realized this chaotic topography was essential for modeling strings, which trace out surfaces as they move. The theory has also been applied to describe quantum gravity in a two-dimensional world. Einstein defined gravity as space-time’s curvature, but translating his description into the language of quantum field theory creates an infinite number of space-times — much as the Earth produces an infinite collection of magnetic fields. Liouville theory packages all those surfaces together into one object. It gives physicists the tools to measure the curvature —and hence, gravitation — at every location on a random 2D surface.

“Quantum gravity basically means random geometry, because quantum means random and gravity means geometry,” said Sun.

Polyakov’s first step in exploring the world of random surfaces was to write down an expression defining the odds of finding a particular . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 2:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math, Science

Best board games of the ancient world

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Meilan Solly has an interesting and well-illustrated article on a variety of ancient board games (including some still popular: Go, chess, backgammon, and the Royal Game of Ur. She writes:

ong before Settlers of Catan, Scrabble and Risk won legions of fans, actual Roman legions passed the time by playing Ludus Latrunculorum, a strategic showdown whose Latin name translates loosely to “Game of Mercenaries.” In northwest Europe, meanwhile, the Viking game Hnefatafl popped up in such far-flung locales as Scotland, Norway and Iceland. Farther south, the ancient Egyptian games of Senet and Mehen dominated. To the east in India, Chaturanga emerged as a precursor to modern chess. And 5,000 years ago, in what is now southeast Turkey, a group of Bronze Age humans created an elaborate set of sculpted stones hailed as the world’s oldest gaming pieces upon their discovery in 2013. From Go to backgammon, Nine Men’s Morris and mancala, these were the cutthroat, quirky and surprisingly spiritual board games of the ancient world.

Senet

Beloved by such luminaries as the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun and Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II, Senet is one of the earliest known board games. Archaeological and artistic evidence suggest it was played as early as 3100 B.C., when Egypt’s First Dynasty was just beginning to fade from power.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, upper-class members of Egyptian society played Senet using ornate game boards, examples of which still survive today. Those with fewer resources at their disposal made do with grids scratched on stone surfaces, tables or the floor.

Senet boards were  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more. And this is helpful:

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, History

Fixing equipment in the lab teaches life lessons

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I imagine we’ve all found that we learn a lot about how to do something by actually doing it. Experience is a fantastic teacher since it provides only feedback, not criticism, allows you to see for yourself the effects of mistakes you make, and offers the chance for active participation in finding solutions. James Crawford writes in Nature of what he learned from hands-on involvement:

The focus of my PhD thesis is examining ways of upgrading biomass to transportation fuels, and I regularly use a variety of analytical equipment and reactor systems in my laboratory at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

An expert is rarely on-site to assist with equipment repairs, which can range from simple tasks such, as replacing a used gasket on a vacuum chamber, to cumbersome rebuilds for pumps, furnaces, mass spectrometers and adsorption analysers.

Paying for specialist help is often financially out of the question — and, although reading through a manual for a broken stir plate might not be a bucket-list item, I have found, over the past four years of graduate school, that understanding and repairing equipment has given me more valuable experiences than I’d expected.

What I learnt from fixing a temperature controller

One key role of a chemical engineer working in industry or in the lab is process control — monitoring and controlling an operation to achieve the desired temperature, pressure, concentration or any other important parameter.

During my undergraduate studies at Montana State University in Bozeman, we were taught the fundamental theory, essential rules of thumb and computational methods for process control, but application of the knowledge was limited.

In the second year of my PhD, I had a chance to apply this knowledge when a power surge destroyed a previously functioning heater and temperature controller. This equipment worked in the same way as a household boiler and thermostat: tell the machine what temperature you want, and the system attempts to hit that target. Behind the scenes, control parameters determine how aggressively the system pursues that target.

After the power surge, the temperature controller would not power on. I enlisted the help of a fourth-year PhD student to diagnose and repair the damage. But, in the process of rebuilding, stored parameters in the memory of the temperature controller were lost.

I thought back to my undergraduate courses — and, after watching a few YouTube videos with the fourth-year student and checking Wikipedia, we successfully tuned and tested the rebuilt heating system. The process of diagnosing the problem, gathering relevant information and developing a solution was really empowering, and motivated me to continue fixing problems in the lab.

I was fortunate to take on this repair under the guidance of a more senior student, whose experience and patience was profoundly influential for me. In a graduate programme, it can be hard to find time to help others, so his efforts mentoring me were deeply appreciated and transformative for my future endeavours working with other students.

What I learnt from fixing a chemisorption analyser

A year later, I was trying to work out the structure of some catalyst materials that I had synthesized. Chemisorption, or the adsorption of vapour molecules in a sample, is a valuable analytical technique that provides information about the surface chemistry of a catalyst.

After being trained, I attempted to run my samples on our chemisorption system, but I found that the data were not reproducible. I spoke to some colleagues, and it became clear that the instrument was somehow malfunctioning, and so was being used only for basic qualitative analysis. For my purposes, it was important to fix the instrument so that the data collected from it were reproducible and quantitative. I got permission from the principal investigator in charge of the instrument, and teamed up with a chemistry PhD student to resolve the problem.

We ran a standard sample on the chemisorption instrument. This process would normally be automated, but we needed to catch the error as it occurred. We monitored the progress of the experiment for 12 hours. Taking turns watching the instrument and keeping notes, we discovered that a portion of the tubing was blocked: when gases were sent to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

My own experience in learning was finally nailing down how to make good tempeh, which involved also learning how to build a good incubator (it took two versions to learn how to build the next version best, though version 2 is perfectly workable). But the most recent batch is the best yet, and next with will chickpea-and-peanut tempeh.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 12:25 pm

My second Pfizer is in my arm

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Pleasant walk on a nice day to an efficient immunization operation set up in the downtown conference center. I’m at 7000 steps for the day so far.

No side-effects yet.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Leaked Audio of Sen. Joe Manchin Call With Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse of Dealmaking on Filibuster and January 6 Commission

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A little glimpse of the process of making sausage legislation. Lee Fang and Ryan Grim report in the Intercept:

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, in a private call on Monday with a group of major donors, provided a revealing look at his political approach to some of the thorniest issues confronting lawmakers.

[report at the link includes an audio playback of the call – LG]

The remarks were given on a Zoom teleconference session that was obtained by The Intercept.

The meeting was hosted by the group No Labels, a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the gathering’s newsworthy revelations: Manchin described an openness to filibuster reform at odds with his most recent position that will buoy some Democrats’ hopes for enacting their agenda.

The call included several billionaire investors and corporate executives, among them Louis Bacon, chief executive of Moore Capital Management; Kenneth D. Tuchman, founder of global outsourcing company TeleTech; and Howard Marks, the head of Oaktree Capital, one of the largest private equity firms in the country. The Zoom participant log included a dial-in from Tudor Investment Corporation, the hedge fund founded by billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. Also present was a roster of heavy-hitting political influencers, including Republican consultant Ron Christie and Lieberman, who serves as a representative of No Labels and now advises corporate interests.

The meeting was led by Nancy Jacobson, the co-founder of No Labels.

The wide-ranging conversation went into depth on the fate of the filibuster, infrastructure negotiations, and the failed effort to create a bipartisan commission to explore the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, and offers a frank glimpse into the thinking of the conservative Democrat who holds the party’s fate in his hands.

Manchin told the assembled donors that he needed help flipping a handful of Republicans from no to yes on the January 6 commission in order to strip the “far left” of their best argument against the filibuster. The filibuster is a critical priority for the donors on the call, as it bottles up progressive legislation that would hit their bottom lines.

When it came to Sen. Roy Blunt, a moderate Missouri Republican who voted no on the commission, Manchin offered a creative solution. “Roy Blunt is a great, just a good friend of mine, a great guy,” Manchin said. “Roy is retiring. If some of you all who might be working with Roy in his next life could tell him, that’d be nice and it’d help our country. That would be very good to get him to change his vote. And we’re going to have another vote on this thing. That’ll give me one more shot at it.”

Regarding Blunt, Manchin appears to be suggesting — without, perhaps, quite explicitly saying so — that the wealthy executives on the call could dangle future financial opportunities in front of the outgoing senator while lobbying him to change his vote. Senate ethics rules forbid future job negotiations if they create a conflict of interest or present even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Manchin, notably, doesn’t suggest that the donors discuss a job, but rather says that people who Blunt may later be working with would be likely to have significant influence, reflective of the way future job prospects can shape the legislative process even when unspoken.

The commission, Manchin tells No Labels, is important in its own right, necessary to determine how security failed and what former President Donald Trump’s role was in the riot, if any. But it’s also critical to maintaining support for the filibuster. The January 6 commission got 56 votes, four short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster — a thorough embarrassment for those like Manchin who claim bipartisanship is still possible in the divided Senate chamber.

Manchin told the donors he hoped to make another run at it to prove that comity is not lost. He noted that Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who missed the vote, would have voted for it had he been there, meaning only three more votes are needed. “What I’m asking for, I need to go back, I need to find three more Republican, good Republican senators that will vote for the commission. So at least we can tamp down where people say, ‘Well, Republicans won’t even do the simple lift, common sense of basically voting to do a commission that was truly bipartisan.’ It just really emboldens the far left saying, ‘I told you, how’s that bipartisan working for you now, Joe?’” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 9:37 am

An off-diet breakfast to celebrate second shot

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It’s a beautiful morning and I’m up after a good night’s sleep and a wonderful shave, so I decided to walk over to Floyd’s Diner for a celebratory breakfast. The walk takes me past a park with some enormous growth — and some springtime pine cones.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Medical

Cedar — and The Copper Hat

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Grooming Dept Cedarwood is in the Nai formula, a complex vegan shaving soap:

Aloe Vera Juice, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Castor Oil, Cupuacu Butter, Mango Butter, Camelina Oil, Fragrance, Marshmallow Extract, Glycerine, Cera Alba, Sunflower Lecithin, Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Larch Arabinogalactan, Tara Gum, Erythritol, Glucomannan (Konjac root), Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Silk Peptides, Propanediol, Beta Sitosterol, Hydrolyzed Whey Protein, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Citrate, Sodium hydroxide, Olive Oil Unsaponifiables, Betaine, Sasha Inchi Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Allantoin, Argan Oil, Shea Olein, Oleic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Fragrance, Colloidal Oatmeal, Sucrose Cocoate, Sodium Gluconate, Calendula Extract, Ceramide 3, Liquorice Root Extract, Beta Glucan, Broccoli Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Hyaluronic Acid, Grape Seed Extract, Chamomile Extract, Sea Kelp Extract, Green Tea Extract, Alpha Bisabolol, Inositol, Histidine, Lysine, Arginine, Sodium PCA, Sodium Alginate, Aspen Bark Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf extract, Phospholipids, Resveratrol, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E).

It makes a splendid lather, and that Rooney Emilion did an excellent job — as did the iKon stainless open comb, a truly wonderful razor.

And speaking of razors, I got a note this morning from Rockwell Razors to announce the availability of their Model T2 razor — version 2 of their TTO adjustable razor. It’s pricey, but I imagine that, experience being such a good teacher, it is better than version 1 by a substantial margin. It’s amazing how much you learn by actually doing something.

I finished the shave with a splash of one of my favorite aftershaves, Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar Aftershave. I bought this locally, at The Copper Hat, and I have learned from the proprietor the story behind the name. With his permission, I quote:

When we started the company a little over 10 years ago we had just received some of Kate’s grandfather’s hat collection including a few stetsons and the likes.  He was a farmer and agricultural engineer in Alberta and had spent his life trying to better the world as he could.  He embodied the kind of attitude we wanted to run the company with: local, supportive and to leave things better than when you found them.  One of the hats has a copperish hue to it and so it became the icon and then the name!  Makes no sense from an internet marketing perspective lol but that’s who we are!

The Copper Hat has closed their physical store and now are on-line only.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2021 at 8:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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