Later On

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

Archive for August 11th, 2021

How Facebook Failed to Stem Racist Abuse of England’s Soccer Players

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Another example of Facebook failure. Mark Zuckerman is not interested in fixing this because he makes money from it. Ryan Mac and Tariq Panja report in the NY Times:

In May 2019, Facebook asked the organizing bodies of English soccer to its London offices off Regent’s Park. On the agenda: what to do about the growing racist abuse on the social network against Black soccer players.

At the meeting, Facebook gave representatives from four of England’s main soccer organizations — the Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League and the Professional Footballers’ Association — what they felt was a brushoff, two people with knowledge of the conversation said. Company executives told the group that they had many issues to deal with, including content about terrorism and child sex abuse.

A few months later, Facebook provided soccer representatives with an athlete safety guide, including directions on how players could shield themselves from bigotry using its tools. The message was clear: It was up to the players and the clubs to protect themselves online.

The interactions were the start of what became a more than two-year campaign by English soccer to pressure Facebook and other social media companies to rein in online hate speech against their players. Soccer officials have since met numerous times with the platforms, sent an open letter calling for change and organized social media boycotts. Facebook’s employees have joined in, demanding that it to do more to stop the harassment.

The pressure intensified after the European Championship last month, when three of England’s Black players were subjected to torrents of racial epithets on social media for missing penalty kicks in the final game’s decisive shootout. Prince William condemned the hate, and the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, threatened regulation and fines for companies that continued to permit racist abuse. Inside Facebook, the incident was escalated to a “Site Event 1,” the equivalent of a companywide five-alarm fire.

Yet as the Premier League, England’s top division, opens its season on Friday, soccer officials said that the social media companies — especially Facebook, the largest — hadn’t taken the issue seriously enough and that players were again steeling themselves for online hate.

“Football is a growing global market that includes clubs, brands, sponsors and fans who are all tired of the obvious lack of desire from the tech giants to develop in-platform solutions for the issues we are dealing with daily,” said Simone Pound, head of equality, diversity and inclusion for the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union.

The impasse with English soccer is another instance of Facebook’s failing to solve speech problems on its platform, even after it was made aware of the level of abuse. While Facebook has introduced some measures to mitigate the harassment, soccer officials said they were insufficient.

Social media companies aren’t doing enough “because the pain hasn’t become enough for them,” said Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, an organization that supports equality in soccer.

This season, Facebook is trying again. Its Instagram photo-sharing app rolled out new features on Wednesday to make racist material harder to view, according to a blog post. Among them, one will let users hide potentially harassing comments and messages from accounts that either don’t follow or recently followed them.

“The unfortunate reality is that tackling racism on social media, much like tackling racism in society, is complex,” Karina Newton, Instagram’s global head of public policy, said in a statement. “We’ve made important strides, many of which have been driven by our discussions with groups being targeted with abuse, like the U.K. football community.”

But Facebook executives also privately acknowledge that racist speech against English soccer players is likely to continue. “No one thing will fix this challenge overnight,” Steve Hatch, Facebook’s director for Britain and Ireland, wrote last month in an internal note that The Times reviewed.

Some players appear resigned to the abuse. Four days after the European Championship final, Bukayo Saka, 19, one of the Black players who missed penalty kicks for England, posted on Twitter and Instagram that the “powerful platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages” and called it a “sad reality.”

Yet as the Premier League, England’s top division, opens its season on Friday, soccer officials said that the social media companies — especially Facebook, the largest — hadn’t taken the issue seriously enough and that players were again steeling themselves for online hate.

“Football is a growing global market that includes clubs, brands, sponsors and fans who are all tired of the obvious lack of desire from the tech giants to develop in-platform solutions for the issues we are dealing with daily,” said Simone Pound, head of equality, diversity and inclusion for the Professional Footballers’ Association, the players’ union.

The impasse with English soccer is another instance of Facebook’s failing to solve speech problems on its platform, even after it was made aware of the level of abuse. While Facebook has introduced some measures to mitigate the harassment, soccer officials said they were insufficient.

Social media companies aren’t doing enough “because the pain hasn’t become enough for them,” said Sanjay Bhandari, the chair of Kick It Out, an organization that supports equality in soccer.

This season, Facebook is trying again. Its Instagram photo-sharing app rolled out new features on Wednesday to make racist material harder to view, according to a blog post. Among them, one will let users hide potentially harassing comments and messages from accounts that either don’t follow or recently followed them. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 7:46 pm

The Tangled Web We Weave

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Michael A. Cohen has an excellent Truth and Consequences column today. The blurb:

Criticism of Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan is leaving out some highly pertinent information. Also, Andrew Cuomo finally gets his due.

The column begins:

Last week I wrote about the situation in Afghanistan and warned that it was only a matter of time before the armchair foreign policy pundits began to criticize Joe Biden for “abandoning” Afghanistan and demonstrating “American weakness.” Right on cue, Bruce Hoffman of the Council of Foreign Relations proves me prescient.

In a piece co-written by Jacob Ware, Hoffman, one of the foremost commentators on terrorism, argues that leaving Afghanistan will make America less safe. It’s a tired and dubious argument that I usually wouldn’t bother deconstructing. But I bring it to your attention today because it offers a compelling example of how foreign policy and national security pundits manipulate readers and use fear rather than facts to further their arguments. Consider this a primer in reading between the lines of national security opinion writing and separating the facts from the scare tactics.

According to Hoffman and Ware:

Members of the al-Qaeda movement had both trained and fought alongside the Somali militiamen that fateful day in Mogadishu. To bin Laden’s thinking, it had taken the deaths of 241 U.S. marines to get the U.S. out of Lebanon in 1983. A decade later, the loss of less than a tenth of that number had prompted an identical reaction. As bin Laden explained in his 1996 declaration of war on the United States:

[W]hen dozens of your troops were killed in minor battles, and one American pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area defeated, carrying your dead in disappointment and humiliation. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge. But these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. God has dishonored you when you withdrew, and it clearly showed your weaknesses and powerlessness.

Bin Laden was emboldened to believe that if U.S. foreign policy could be influenced by a score of military deaths in an East African backwater, it could be changed fundamentally by thousands of civilian deaths in the United States itself. Thus, the road to 9/11 started in Beirut, led a decade later to Mogadishu, then wound its way through Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Aden before arriving in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania (italics added). No one could have anticipated the exact chain of events. But the retreats from both Beirut and Mogadishu nonetheless set those events in motion by feeding a dangerous perception of American weakness.

The problem with this argument is obvious … a lot of other things happened between 1983 and September 11, 2001. For example, one major historical event stands out, the stationing of hundreds of thousands of US troops in Saudi Arabia and the subsequent invasion and liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi control. Indeed, in his 1996 declaration of war against America, Bin Laden cited the presence of non-Muslim American troops in Saudi Arabia as a key reason for his jihad against America.

There is no more important duty than pushing the American enemy out of the holy land. … The presence of the USA Crusader military forces on land, sea and air of the states of the Islamic Gulf is the greatest danger threatening the largest oil reserve in the world. The existence of these forces in the area will provoke the people of the country and induces aggression on their religion, feelings and prides and pushes them to take up armed struggle against the invaders occupying the land.

One could undoubtedly construct an argument that it was this US decision that pushed Bin Laden to act. He also referenced US support for Israel and the UN sanctions against Iraq — pushed by the United States — which caused widespread human suffering.

In Michael Moore’s polemic, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the director claims that it was the US decision to send weapons to the mujahedin fighting the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that led to the events of September 11. That is a dubious argument, but there is a kernel of truth that the war in Afghanistan did embolden some jihadists, like bin Laden.

The truth is, there’s no singular explanation for Bin Laden and al Qaeda’s radicalism, and there’s certainly no singular explanation that can be blamed on American policymakers. Should the United States have stayed in Beirut and Somalia indefinitely because leaving would have emboldened bin Laden? Indeed, Hoffman and Ware’s argument removes agency from bin Laden al Qaeda, as if their nihilism, sociopathy, and malignant worldview is not the primary reason for their embrace of terrorism.

What’s happening here is not a careful review of the historical record. Rather, the authors distort what happened in the past because it allows them to further the argument they want to make about what should happen in the future. Hoffman and Ware want to argue that Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan is bad for US national security and will weaken America, so they fit the square peg of US withdrawals from Lebanon and Somalia into a round hole. But, of course, I could make the exact opposite argument: that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is good for US national security because stationing American troops in an Islamic country inflames Muslim public opinion— just look at the example of bin Laden and the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia. When a foreign policy pundit offers a monocausal explanation for an historic, global event, you should immediately suspect that you’re being had — because the chances are that is exactly what is happening.

Blurring the Picture

Another tactic that foreign policy pundits use to manipulate and confuse is to . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more — and the part on Andrew Cuomo is spot on.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 5:41 pm

The Infrastructure Bill Is Divorced From the Reality of Climate Change

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The US dithers while the world burns. Aaron Gordon writes in Vice Motherboard:

On Monday, two separate yet intertwined events took place that served as yet another reminder how discombobulating it can feel to live in a world with a rapidly changing climate and political leadership acting as if there is little they can or will do about it.

One of those events was the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that, among other things, concluded a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise is unavoidable. “Nobody is safe, and it’s getting worse faster,” said Inger Andersen, who serves as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme in a press briefing. “We must treat climate change as an immediate threat, just as we must treat the connected crises of nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, as immediate threats.”

The other event demonstrated that the U.S. political system will not do that very thing. In Washington, the Senate plodded along on its laborious path to passing an infrastructure bill through a torturous bipartisan compromise that is being referred to as a “down payment” on addressing the climate crisis yet may well in fact increase carbon pollution. It is also, through the complicated machinations of Washington politics, just a part of a companion effort to force through a supposedly larger, more aggressive climate policy through the budget reconciliation process. Given the razor-thin voting margins in the Senate, it is a delicate balancing act, and ultimately a bill that doesn’t rise to meet clear, urgent warnings detailed in the IPCC report.

The bill has a little bit more money for things that might help reduce emissions like public transportation and passenger rail at a slightly higher ratio than previous infrastructure bills relative to forms of transportation that produce emissions like roads, highways, bridges, and airplanes. But it still gives $350 billion in new spending authority to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), compared to just $158 billion to the Federal Transit and Railroad Administrations. And the money to the FHA has no provision requiring states to fix aging infrastructure first rather than building new highways. One cannot expect things to get better if we don’t change what we’re doing.

The upshot of this political maze is that the House likely currently has the votes for something approaching an aggressive climate policy, but the Senate does not. This is not surprising, as the entire premise of the Senate’s existence is to prevent exactly this type of legislation from passing.

The Senate, as James Madison wrote, is to be “an anchor against popular fluctuations.” The writings of the Founding Fathers are littered with antidemocratic musings about just how much the aristocracy has to fear from the people—”The evils we experience flow from an excess of democracy,” said Elbridge Gerry, a representative from Massachusetts and influential voice during the Constitutional Convention—and the necessity of a house within the legislative branch to ensure a check on their power. For more than half of this country’s history under the current constitution—RIP Articles of Confederation—U.S. senators were not elected by the people, but by votes in state legislatures.

After living through four years in which the passions of the people resulted in a bloviating ignoramus assuming the highest office in the land, I am more tempted to see the wisdom in this approach than I was previously (although such an event would never have come to pass without one of the Founding Fathers’ other ideas, the electoral college). Roger Sherman doesn’t sound to modern ears entirely off base when he pronounced “The people should have as little to do as may be about the government…they lack information and are constantly liable to be misled.”

Of course, people have more information now than they did in the 18th Century. We know why rivers flood, why forests light on fire, why summers are hotter on average than they used to be and why people get sick. Within the last 18 months we have discovered and succumbed to a new virus. We have also invented and widely distributed an effective, safe, and lasting vaccine to hundreds of millions of people. Every single concept in those last two sentences would have been a complete mystery to the men who created and sat in the early Senates. Men who, for all their worldly wisdom, knew less about how the world works than the average high schooler today.

Given the state of the world in the 18th Century, it should come as no surprise the institutions they created aren’t fit to deal with the climate emergency, a deeply modern problem stressing and vexing all of our institutions, new and old. The entire point of the Senate is to slow change, to calm passions, to tell the House of Representatives to chill out while everything blows over. The Senate is incrementalism, margins, tweaks to the system, never wholesale change. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

And see also: ‘Bipartisan Compromise’ on Infrastructure Dooms Planet Earth

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 3:55 pm

Anti-Vax Doctor Goes Wildly Viral on YouTube, Facebook

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Facebook lies constantly, and they always lie when they say they will do something about the misinformation and disinformation propagated through their site. The company really requires strict regulation. The same with YouTube, though Facebook seems to be worse.

Samantha Cole writes for Vice Motherboard:

A video of a man saying COVID-19 vaccines makes COVID worse at an Indiana city’s school board meeting is going massively viral on YouTube and Facebook—despite these platforms pledging to combat misinformation about the coronavirus. 

Dan Stock calls himself a “functional family medicine physician” and claims to be trained in “immunology and inflammation regulation.” In the seven minute clip, he makes several claims about masks, vaccinations, and how the virus spreads that have all been proven false in studies done by the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health. He says that you “cannot make these viruses go away,” because “the natural history of all respiratory viruses” is that they wait until people get sick or “become deranged” with vaccines, and that “people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection actually get no benefit from vaccination at all“—along with several other misleading and incorrect claims about vaccinations and COVID. 

Among other things, Stock promotes an “active loading” treatment involving the antiparasitic drug ivermectin as a treatment for COVID. Recently, a meta-analysis and systemic review concluded that ivermectin “is not a viable option to treat COVID-19 patients.” 

Essentially everything he claims in the board meeting is false and YouTube recently demonetized channels for the DarkHorse podcast due to statements hosts Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying made about ivermectin in particular. YouTube, Facebook, and several other platforms have, however, allowed the video of Stock to reach wide audiences. 

A call to Stock’s practice went directly to voicemail, which had the following message: “Because of the overwhelming response to the video of the testimony at the local school board, I’m unable to take your call right now. If you’re calling to voice your support, please express yourself to your state and local legislators and know that I am grateful and support you. If you’re calling to get a copy of the studies that were given to the school board, I am working to get these loaded to my website.”

While at least one version of the video has been taken down for violating YouTube’s community and guidelines, there are numerous uploads of this video to be found via a quick search of its keywords, many with several hundred thousand to more than a million views. At least one upload of the video on Facebook has been labeled as “false” and links to a factcheck that notes Stock “baselessly claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines, which have been shown to be safe and effective, ‘fight the virus wrong and let the virus become worse than it would with native infection.’ He also incorrectly said no vaccine prevents infection and contended that people previously infected with COVID-19 do not benefit from vaccination, despite studies that suggest otherwise.”

YouTube claims to ban false information about COVID and vaccines. In March, it removed 30,000 videos with COVID misinformation. But this video has been allowed to run rampant, traveling across Youtube channels to Facebook uploads: According to Media Matters, which examined how the video spread across platforms, it now has 90 million total Facebook engagements, most of which come from YouTube, and three videos in particular that were originally removed from YouTube but have been reuploaded to different channels. Each of those videos gained “at least hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube before they were removed,” according to Media Matters’ report. Facebook also claims to prohibit COVID misinformation. 

From there, the videos have traveled to far-right social platform Gab and anti-vaccination platform Rumble, where they’ve gotten hundreds of thousands more views.

School board meetings have been a hotspot for the spread of misinformation about COVID, as well as threats against people who speak up in favor of scientifically-proven efforts to combat the virus. On Tuesday, a meeting in Franklin, Tennessee ended with people harassing medical professionals who spoke in favor of masks in schools. 

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s disturbing.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 3:47 pm

Sheepdog pup sees sheep for the first time

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Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Fiber vs. Low FODMAP for SIBO Symptoms

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This is very interesting. On my diet, last I checked (with, I was getting 65g dietary fiber a day.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 3:12 pm

New test detects COVID-19 variants in your spit

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An accompanying smartphone app analyzes the fluorescent readout on miSHERLOCK, giving users a clear “Positive” or “Negative” result.
Images courtesy of Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Lindsay Brownell of

With the delta variant wreaking havoc on unvaccinated populations, the ability to quickly diagnose and track emerging variants of the virus is crucial. Researchers have now created a simple, inexpensive, CRISPR-based diagnostic test that allows users to test themselves for multiple variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at home, using just a sample of their saliva.

Developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and several Boston-area hospitals, the diagnostic device, called Minimally Instrumented SHERLOCK (miSHERLOCK), is easy to use and provides results that can be read and verified by an accompanying smartphone app within one hour.

miSHERLOCK successfully distinguished between three different variants of SARS-CoV-2 in experiments, and can be rapidly reconfigured to detect additional variants like delta. The device can be assembled using a 3D printer and commonly available components for about $15, and re-using the hardware brings the cost of individual assays down to $6 each.

“miSHERLOCK eliminates the need to transport patient samples to a centralized testing location and greatly simplifies the sample preparation steps, giving patients and doctors a faster, more accurate picture of individual and community health, which is critical during an evolving pandemic,” said co-first author Helena de Puig, a postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute and MIT.

The diagnostic device is described in a paper published Friday in Science Advances.

From supply chain to SHERLOCK

As an instructor in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital with a specialization in infectious diseases, co-first author Rose Lee has been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year. Her experiences in the clinic provided inspiration for the project that would ultimately become miSHERLOCK. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Memetic evolution is fast!

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 2:08 pm

How to curate (just about) anything

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Glenn Adamson, a curator whose books include Fewer, Better Things (2019) and Craft: An American History (2021), writes in Psyche:

Need to know

Next to me, on my desk, is a pile of about 50 books. Some of them I bought. Some I was given by friends. Some were sent by people I didn’t even know, who thought I might be interested in their work. Individually, the books are interesting. Together, though, they have become downright oppressive.

Desks, in this respect, are a lot like closets. And kitchen cupboards. And two-car garages. All seem to naturally fill up with stuff, stuff we kinda sorta want, enough not to ditch it, anyway. My father is a good example. He subscribes to The Economist magazine, and at some point, long ago, decided he would never throw away an issue until he’d read it cover to cover. Last year, he brightly announced that he’d finally reached the September 2001 edition. He was fascinated, from this distance, to see the debates over the World Trade Center attacks and their implications. Just wait till you get to 2020, I said.

In his novel Homer and Langley (2009), E L Doctorow offers a more extreme example: a fictionalised account of the real-life Collyer brothers, whose hoarding instincts were so strong that they ended up living in a narrow warren of passages, squeezing through towering, ramshackle stockpiles of their own belongings, ‘a labyrinth of hazardous pathways, full of obstructions and many dead ends’. Doctorow adds drama and poignancy to the tale by telling it from the perspective of Homer, the elder brother, who is blind, though the house becomes so crowded that illuminating it is impossible anyway. Homer’s brother Langley also navigates it in near-darkness. Eventually, the brothers are grimly undone by their own packrat ways. And this part of the story, sadly, is true: in 1947, Langley was crushed by a fall of domestic detritus. Homer, unable or unwilling to escape, starved to death.

Most of us should be able to sympathise with the Collyers, because we dislike throwing out things at least a little. Yet the idea that our possessions might turn the tables and possess us holds a certain fascinating horror. Our complex relationship with our things is behind the runaway popularity of Marie Kondo, the diminutive Jedi of decluttering, who has conquered the world with her ‘six rules of tidying’ – most memorably, the injunction to ask of every single thing in your environment: ‘Does it spark joy?’ If not, she counsels, out it goes.

Kondo gives good advice. But we should go further. Her injunctions aren’t much use in helping me figure out how to reduce my book pile, for instance. I do read for joy, sometimes, and occasionally even find it. But I have books for many other reasons, too: for reference, to learn things, to transform my understanding and see the world a bit differently. Kondo’s combination of empathy and minimalism makes for good television. But it won’t get you to the kind of lived-in, peculiarly personalised space that, for most people, defines the ideal of home.

Past the tidying stage, a more capacious process awaits: curating. Before we go any further, let’s admit that overuse has worn the word a bit thin. Even before the rise of social media – which allows a user to carefully curate an avatar self, one post at a time – it was already suffering mission creep. Wedding receptions, department store windows, dinner parties, your weekend away: no longer are these things planned or arranged. They are ‘curated’. A quick incidence search of the term in Google Books shows an astonishing rise, from all-but-zero in 1960 through a slight rise to 1980, and then up a Matterhorn-steep climb to the present day. There is a book out there offering a ‘curated’ tour of America’s RV parks. Another photography book is ambitiously titled Reality, Curated (2021). A website called Curated offers advice on buying just about anything, which will be offered by a 100 per cent human expert (‘or should we say, your new friend’).

Unsurprisingly, museum curators – among whom I number myself – can be irritated by all this. It sometimes feels like a land grab of our professional territory. The meaning of real curatorial work is diluted, while the project of organising everyday things is made pretentious. But what if we accept the overuse of the word as evidence that people actually want to curate? What if we apply museum procedures and principles – the things that curators actually do for a living – to our everyday activities and things? It’s an interesting idea.

What to do

The word curate derives from the Latin curare, ‘to care for’. As anyone who has ever had a child or a pet knows, caring for something is a two-way street, and it’s perfectly OK if most of the traffic is going outbound. The curator’s creed is: ask not what your stuff can do for you, but what you can do for your stuff.

Buy with confidence

In one important respect, this attitude doesn’t translate well to normal life. When a curator writes a ‘case for acquisition’ (as such internal documents are usually called), which are typically reviewed by a broader collections committee, they are singling out an object from the vast number of other things in the world. To acquire something for a museum collection is to designate it as worthy of permanent preservation. The curator is saying to the museum and its visitors and the world: this object is important, and you should think so too.

To apply this attitude to personal possessions would be rather arrogant – think of how awful it can be when parents try to impose their possessions on their own children. (And I’d like to thank my dad for recycling his Economists when he’s done with them.) In some ways, however, a genuine museum curatorial process is a great model to bear in mind.

For starters, a collection is always built in light of a stated mission. Curators don’t ask simply: is this thing great? They ask: is it great for my institution, and my department? This means having a deep understanding of the long-term historical trajectory not just of the object, but of the place where it will reside.

Many factors can come into play when making this determination. Is a prospective acquisition redundant with other objects already in the museum’s holdings? Or, conversely, does it fill a conspicuous hole in the collection? What is the full story of the object, its authorship, medium and history? Is it what it purports to be, and is it in good condition? A good case for acquisition goes into all these questions in depth, and if it’s really well done, might even become a key research tool for future curators.

It would be ridiculous to sit down in the department store to write up all the pros and cons of buying a jacket for the fall season. Still, curatorial questions are the right ones to be asking. Something can be wonderful – epaulettes! – without being right for everyone. Issues of redundancy, complementarity and authenticity must be taken into account. Curatorial habits of mind can prevent impulse-buying, and the regret that follows.

Active storage

Let’s be honest, though. Even the most cogently conceived and consistently applied collections policy is no match for the law of closets. Storage is an unavoidable part of life. It’s very unusual for a museum to have more than about 10 per cent of its holdings on view at any given time. Storage, however, doesn’t necessarily mean dead space. Curators work closely with registrars to ensure that collections remain active, through gallery rotations and touring exhibitions, and, most importantly in recent years, through digital access.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where I used to work, has more than . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life

Exploring Antarctica’s Upside-Down World

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In 2010, through a narrow hole in Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf, researchers found thousands sea anemones clinging to the underside of the ice—a mysterious species, new to science. BOB ZOOK / SCINI ROV

Douglas Fox writes in bioGraphic:

At 3 a.m. on December 31st, 2019, the clouds hung low over Thwaites Ice Shelf, on the remote coast of Antarctica.

A line of small tents reached into the distance, each flanked by a windbreak of snow blocks, though the air was presently still. The wan light left no shadows, and no clear horizon between the sky and the white plain that stretched out in all directions.

The tents’ 11 residents would normally be asleep at this time on an Austral summer night, eyes covered against the 24-hour daylight, sweaty socks and thermals hanging to dry inches above their heads. But now, most of them, bundled in red and orange parkas, clustered around a metal scaffold.


An electric winch growled as it reeled cable from a hole in the ice. The hole was the diameter of a basketball, but deep. The winch had already pulled in more than a half a kilometer of cable. Dangling at the end, somewhere beneath our boots, was a string of precious instruments.

This was a moment of truth that these scientists had waited years for: a chance to glimpse a vast, hidden swath of ocean that humans had never seen.

You wouldn’t have known it from the icy landscape, but we were standing above nearly a kilometer of water. The Thwaites Ice Shelf—an extension of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that protrudes from the coastline, 300 meters thick in this location and 5,500 square kilometers in area—floats on the ocean. Ostensibly, the scientists had come to measure currents that are melting this ice from beneath. But they would soon discover something else entirely.

The group was quiet as they drew in their quarry. Erin Pettit, a glaciologist from Oregon State University, clenched a wadded rag around the cable, scraping away the ice. Ted Scambos, a glaciologist from the University of Colorado Boulder, pushed a lever, slowing the winch to get the equipment past a dangerous chokepoint in the hole.

As a video camera enclosed in a steel cylinder rose into view, the group murmured in surprise. A rubbery yellow tendril thin as a shoelace and several meters long dangled from the cable. It was soft and organic—obviously once alive, and utterly at odds with the sterile marine desert that the scientists had imagined below, 10 kilometers from the nearest possibility of sunshine.

“This is really weird shit,” said Scambos.

“Alien guts,” muttered someone else. Though in reality it might have come from a jellyfish.

Back in a work tent, Scambos pored over the camera footage. He is 65 and muscular, with a tangle of brown curls stuffed under a knit cap and a full white beard. At first, the field of view appeared pitch black. But then, one by one, strange creatures flashed through the camera’s lights—krill and shrimp-like amphipods. A frowning, bristle-finned fish, followed by a transparent, eel-like arrow worm. A gelatinous siphonophore drifted by, its delicate lacy skirts rippling in the water. An orange squid darted in, ogled the camera with its saucer eye—then jetted off with a gush of green ink. “Holy smokes!” said Scambos.

”Poor little guy, he’s scared!” said Pettit, the field team’s leader, as she peered over Scambos’s shoulder. Pettit’s . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including photos and videos.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 1:44 pm

An expert’s idea of a layperson’s knowledge

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Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Daily life

Andrew Cuomo, petty bully: Good riddance

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Inae Oh writes in a newsletter from Mother Jones:

As my colleague Tim Murphy writes in his excellent good-riddance piece, Andrew Cuomo has always been a vindictive, corrupt bully. The sort of Machiavellian politician who, despite holding a powerful perch in both New York and national politics, can’t help but inject himself into the pettiest of squabbles—simply because he can.

So small-minded is the disgraced governor that it appears as though Cuomo may have gone out of his way to stick it to President Biden, who, shortly before Cuomo’s bombshell announcement on Tuesday, had presumably been celebrating the Senate’s passage of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan. But mere minutes after the bill’s victory in the Senate, Cuomo instantly stole the spotlight with an epic, Nixonian resignation speech that effectively kicked Biden’s major bipartisan accomplishment off the front pages. The timing hasn’t gone unnoticed either. From the Daily Beast:

A source familiar with the mood in the White House sniped that it was “fitting” that “a guy who made a global pandemic all about himself would Leeroy Jenkins the biggest investment in American infrastructure in a generation!”

Or, as a White House staffer texted: “Hahahaha… shocker.”

It’s a small thing to his ignominious departure. But it goes straight to the heart of the kind of person Andrew Cuomo is and has always been.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 12:43 pm

Serious omission in the infrastructure bill

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Cristiano Lima reports in the Washington Post:

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive bipartisan infrastructure package Tuesday allocating $65 billion for Internet connectivity. The bill marks President Biden’s first major legislative victory on broadband since taking office and will infuse efforts to close the digital divide with a huge influx of cash.

But some of the measure’s staunchest supporters say they are frustrated by what wasn’t included in the bill: provisions to encourage municipal broadband — Internet service that is partially or fully owned by local governments.

Consumer advocacy and anti-monopoly groups say helping cities build their own Internet services is crucial for expanding connectivity nationwide.

And they say it could also dramatically increase competition in areas where only a few major telecom companies dominate the market.

Locally owned networks, proponents contend, aren’t driven by profit margins but rather a desire to serve their communities, and thus could serve as an important alternative to private companies.

Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, called for promoting competition by eliminating “barriers that prevent municipally-owned or affiliated providers and rural electric co-ops from competing on an even playing field with private providers.”

The White House proposed prioritizing such networks when doling out funds, arguing that those providers have “less pressure to turn profits” and a “commitment to serving entire communities.”

But the Senate bill that sailed through the chamber this week eschewed those ideas.

Municipal broadband networks won’t be prioritized when the new money is dolled out, and the legislation won’t preempt state measures that restrict those networks. More than a dozen states had laws on the books restricting municipal broadband networks as of earlier this year, according to research by BroadbandNow, a site that tracks Internet service providers.

These limitations are a win for critics, who question the efficacy of city projects, and Republicans, who have pushed for tighter restrictions against municipal programs, which they argue actually hamper competition through costly overregulation.

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, called that a major “missed opportunity.”

“If you want to build a successful company, you probably don’t want to compete against Comcast, or Charter, or AT&T Fiber because those big companies can run you out of business by temporarily lowering their prices. … That means that in the private sector, there’s not a lot of hope for real robust competition for broadband in most communities.”

He added, “But local governments have a different set of incentives. Local governments are not just trying to maximize their short-term revenues. … They’re trying to lower the aggregate amount that families spend on broadband, you know, across the community.”

Randolph May, president of the Free State Foundation, pushed back on claims that favoring municipal broadband would boost competition.

“The history of failure of many muni projects is well-documented, with taxpayers and bondholders often left on the hook to bail them out,” he said.

May argued that local governments, if prioritized, can “favor themselves … in ways that tilt the playing field against private providers,” thus harming competition.

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), one of the lead negotiators on broadband in the infrastructure package, said if the decision were up to him, the deal would have included language to lift state bans against municipal broadband networks.

“Still, we fought to ensure that municipal networks were eligible for funding in the bill because we’ve seen in Colorado how important they are to increase competition and connect communities,” he told The Technology 202. “The bipartisan infrastructure bill isn’t a panacea, but it’s a historic step toward bridging the digital divide.”

Senate passage was the first major step toward enactment for the infrastructure package, but it’ll now head to the House, where lawmakers will have the chance to push for changes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 12:15 pm

June Clover and the Parker (Semi-)Slant, with Mystic Water Marrakesh

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I did my usual prep with Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, and I’ve reverted to using the formula with the soft-wax consistency, which I much prefer. Of course, shaving is a YMMV thing (as indeed are most things) and apparently my preference is a minority opinion. Perhaps at some point Grooming Dept can offer a limited line — one fragrance only — of the soft-wax formula and call it “Heritage Edition” or some such.

The brush is a Maggard Razors synthetic with a 22mm knot, my preferred size, and it quickly generated a generous lather from the Mystic Water soap (whose fragrance seemed light — but whose lather was excellent).

The Parker Slant, which they call a “Semi-Slant” (I believe that is for marketing reasons, to try to make the razor more appealing to those who for some reason fear a slant), does an excellent job. I found the original handle too long for my taste, so I swapped it for this Yaqi handle from another razor.

Three easy passes removed all traces of stubble, with never a threatening moment: it’s a very comfortable razor.

A splash of Booster’s inestimable June Clove (now, sadly, no longer available), and I’m ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2021 at 9:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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