Later On

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

Archive for April 6th, 2022

The first 147 in a snooker world championship (1983)

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Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Games, Snooker, Video

Why Christopher Alexander Still Matters

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Michael W. Mehaff writes in Planetizen:

This week [week of March 22, 2022 – LG] came news of the passing of Christopher Alexander, widely described as one of the most influential architects and urbanists of the last half-century. Robert Campbell, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Boston Globe, probably spoke for many when he observed that Alexander “had an enormous, critical influence on my life and work, and I think that’s true of a whole generation of people.”

Certainly, a remarkably diverse group of architects, urban planners and researchers claims to have been influenced by Alexander, including Rem Koolhaas, Andrés Duany, Bill Hillier, and many more. Many other widely known theorists and authors were influenced by him too, including Stewart Brand, author of How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Builtand The Whole Earth Catalog.

Alexander’s influence also extended far beyond architecture and urbanism. Ward Cunningham, inventor of wiki (the technology behind Wikipedia), credits Alexander with directly inspiring that innovation, as well as pattern languages of programming, and the even more widespread Agile methodology.  Will Wright, creator of the popular games Sim City and The Sims, also credits Alexander as a major influence, as do the musicians Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Apple’s Steve Jobs was also said to be a fan.

Moreover, one can also find direct applications of Alexander’s pattern language methodology in product design, engineering, anthropology, sociology, biology, and many other fields. In fact, the chances are that every day, you are using—in your iPhone, on your computer, when you use Wikipedia or Google, or in countless other ways—some form of Alexander-inspired technology.

What is it about Alexander’s work that has made it so useful for all these fields? Moreover, what does his work say about where we are today in urbanism and architecture, and in design and technology more broadly—and where we need to go?

Most people who know Alexander’s work are most familiar with his 1977 book (written with six student co-authors), A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. For many people, this “pattern language” methodology offered a very helpful and appealing tool to help to organize a design process, and moreover, to create a web-like interrelation between the elements of a design. But there was a deeper set of ideas behind this methodology—one that many people found to be revolutionary and inspirational.

For Alexander, we’ve been getting some things very wrong—most centrally in our approach to the relationship between technology and life. In fact, we’ve embraced a deathly form of technology, one that is killing the planet, and certainly killing human habitats. (That goes for financial technology as well as planning and design technology, in addition to other kinds of technology.) The core problem is that we have failed to understand the living processes going on all around us, and instead of supporting them, our more mechanically oriented technology is destroying them. This need not be so, however, if we understand the kinds of mistakes we are making today.

Alexander made a contrast with the remarkably robust and beautiful structures of past societies. Whatever their faults, we can see that there was some kind of “unself-conscious process” at work in creating the richness and beauty of these cultures, and we can learn much from that process.  Indeed, it is now critical that we recapture this life-supporting process, albeit in a necessarily more self-conscious form. Our goal now must be to recapture a “timeless way of building”—and a timeless kind of technology that is more supportive of life.

Alexander believed that a “timeless way of building” is not . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 7:24 pm

A good walk on a sunny day

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After a couple of days off (weather unsuitable for walking), I resumed walking today — a sunny day that, though cool, was not so cool that I had to wear a jacket. I focused on walking briskly and did the first leg uphill. The green dot is the starting point, and mile markers for mile 1 and mile 2 are shown. From the starting point to the second corner before the mile 1 marker is a gradual uphill climb, and walking quickly got my heart rate up, as you can see from the graph.

The speed was 3.51 mph and my cadence averaged 110 steps per minute with a max of 114 steps per minute. I feel good about that: my goal in general is 3.5 mph and 110 steps per minute. The walk itself was 5053 steps, so average stride was 33 inches. That’s a little longer than my typical stride just as the pace is faster than my typical pace, and I’m sure the Nordic walking poles were responsible for stride and pace: that little push at every step helps a lot, and I particularly notice the benefits when going uphill.

Today’s walk brought 52 PAI points, which is good, but of course in a week those points expire.

 

Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 4:45 pm

The Invisible Hand of Steve Twist

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Nicole Santa Cruz reports in ProPublica:

When Josh Tate was sentenced in 2017 to 10 years in prison for getting caught with drugs multiple times, his wife, Claire Tate, tried not to dwell on the moments he would miss with their two young kids. She didn’t see the purpose in sending Josh — who had struggled with a meth addiction for years but never been convicted of a violent crime — away for so long.

“You can’t punish a drug addiction out of somebody,” Claire Tate said recently.

Last year, state legislation supported by prominent conservative groups seemed to offer Josh Tate a chance to serve a larger portion of his sentence at home after completing education and self-help programs.

Claire and Josh began making plans, big and small, for once he was out of prison: going to a grocery store, visiting a hot dog stand in a small southern Arizona town, taking the kids to the beach.

One man had the power to delay their early reunion: Steve Twist. Twist has never held elected office. But over four decades the Arizona victims’ rights advocate, adjunct law professor and former assistant state attorney general has had an enduring impact on policies that created one of the nation’s most punitive state criminal justice systems.

As he had done several times before, Twist worked to torpedo the early release bill, meeting with lawmakers and sharing a list of concerns, including fears that people convicted of certain violent crimes would qualify for release.

Across the country, states both liberal and conservative have taken steps to reduce their prison populations. Similar efforts in Arizona have been incremental. The state established mandatory minimums for people who commit multiple and violent crimes; combined with a law that requires almost every prisoner to serve 85% of their sentence in prison — with the exception of people, like Josh, convicted of drug possession, who still serve 70% — this makes Arizona’s criminal justice system one of the harshest in the nation. Locking up so many for so long comes at a high price: Only four states spend a bigger share of their budgets on corrections.

Organizations and lawmakers attempting to change the state’s sentencing laws have blamed their failure on the tight grip Twist and his allies hold on criminal justice policy in Arizona.

In the 1970s, first as a lobbyist for Arizona police chiefs, then as a lawyer for the Arizona Legislature, Twist helped rewrite the state’s criminal code to make sentencing more punitive. Later, as an assistant state attorney general in the 1980s, he continued to push for harsher laws that kept people in prison even longer. In the 1990s, working for the National Rifle Association, he helped enact similar policies in other states, including requirements that people serve at least 85% of their sentenced time, imposing life sentences after a third conviction for a violent felony, enforcing the death penalty and allowing young people to be charged as adults.

In more recent years, those who have worked with Twist and observed him closely said he remains a gatekeeper for criminal justice policies in Arizona. This continuing influence comes not only from his past work but also his . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 2:41 pm

Microplastics found deep in lungs of living people for first time

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Microplastics now contaminate the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. Photograph: David Kelly

One of the warnings I got when I was reconsidering my diet was that seafood is now infested with plastic microparticles due to how heavily humans have polluted the oceans. As I was told, 

. . . it is important to remember that some of the pollutants we are discussing are endocrine disruptors. For example, the plastics that can be found in shellfish do not need to be present in large quantities to have significant effects on the body, due to the nature of amplifying pathways in the body.

Now such plastic microparticles are found in humans. Damian Carrington reports in the Guardian:

Microplastic pollution has been discovered lodged deep in the lungs of living people for the first time. The particles were found in almost all the samples analysed.

The scientists said microplastic pollution was now ubiquitous across the planet, making human exposure unavoidable and meaning “there is an increasing concern regarding the hazards” to health.

 

Samples were taken from tissue removed from 13 patients undergoing surgery and microplastics were found in 11 cases. The most common particles were polypropylene, used in plastic packaging and pipes, and PET, used in bottles. Two previous studies had found microplastics at similarly high rates in lung tissue taken during autopsies.

People were already known to breathe in the tiny particles, as well as consuming them via food and water. Workers exposed to high levels of microplastics are also known to have developed disease.

Microplastics were detected in human blood for the first time in March, showing the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.

“We did not expect to find the highest number of particles in the lower regions of the lungs, or particles of the sizes we found,” said Laura Sadofsky at Hull York medical school in the UK,a senior author of the study. “It is surprising as the airways are smaller in the lower parts of the lungs and we would have expected particles of these sizes to be filtered out or trapped before getting this deep.”

“This data provides an . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 2:14 pm

This Is What Happens When Globalization Breaks Down

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Chaos ensues when regular routines are disrupted and things on which we have come to rely prove unreliable. Peter S. Goodman surveys the wreckage in his article in the NY Times (gift link; no paywall):

Hagan Walker contemplated the geography of the planet and felt pangs of agitation. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean seemed to be stretching wider.

His start-up company, Glo, makes novelty items — plastic cubes that light up when dropped in water. He started the business six years ago in the compact town of Starkville, Miss., while relying on factories 8,000 miles away in China to make his products.

That distance suddenly felt unbridgeable.

It was December 2020, nearly a year into the pandemic, and China’s industrial might was sputtering. The factory making Glo’s next order in the Chinese city of Ningbo warned him that the costs of key materials like plastic were soaring. The shipping industry was straining under an overwhelming flow of goods from Chinese plants to American consumers. Booking a shipping container seemed akin to trying to catch a unicorn.

Calm and reserved, Mr. Walker, then 28, was generally comfortable with risk. In 2016, fresh from Mississippi State University with an engineering degree, he turned down a job at Tesla that would have paid him $130,000 a year. Instead, he opted to remain in Starkville, his college town, to start his own business.

Yet he was increasingly worried that his next order would not make it to his warehouse in Mississippi in time for Christmas — still a year away.

“I was scared,” Mr. Walker said matter-of-factly. “I was willing to pay pretty much whatever.”

By now, the disruptions to the supply chain are widely known. The still unfolding turmoil has been amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine along with fresh Covid lockdowns imposed in China. Yet the story of how a single container made it from coastal China to central Mississippi shows the complexity of the troubles — a condition unlikely to give way to normalcy anytime soon.

The largest multinational retailers like Amazon and Walmart have responded to the convulsions in the supply chain by chartering their own container ships, amassing empires of warehouse space and stockpiling products. Such options are beyond the reach of small companies like Glo, which employs 27 people. Modestly profitable, the company aims for $4 million in revenues this year.

The order that Mr. Walker placed for the Christmas season just past was the most important in Glo’s brief history. His light-up cubes had begun as . . .

Continue reading. (Gift link; no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 1:47 pm

What’s in my bag of ideas

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Cool Tools has a series called “What’s in my…” and the current list is by yours truly. Regular readers of the blog will find much of it familiar. It begins with a brief bio:

My “bag” contains things I wish I had known when I was younger.

Early is important. Tom Gilb’s one-word rule has consistently proved invaluable.

Set and achieve goals. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People helped me through a bad case of burnout when I applied the book’s ideas. I also once found John Crystal’s Where Do I Go From Here With My Life? helpful.

Make tasks enjoyable. When a task is enjoyable, you don’t have to push yourself to do it. Spend some thought, effort, and even money to make necessary tasks enjoyable, particularly tasks done repeatedly, like exercise or cooking. To make walking enjoyable I tried distraction (audiobooks, music) but then decided to make the walk enjoyable in itself. For me, that solution was Nordic walking.

Shaving was once a boring, tedious, hateful chore, so for decades I had a beard. Then I decided to make shaving enjoyable, a great way to start each day, and nowadays I am clean-shaven. My guide explains how I did it; the basics are in this post.

Find pleasure in learning new skills. Learning is a common task, particularly learning new skills. Early stages can . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 11:40 am

Dark Limes and West Indian Limes

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The lime fragrance of Meißner Tremonia’s Dark Limes is not so much the fragrance of the fresh fruit but a more subdued — darker — version, one that is pleasing in a shaving soap. My Vie-Long brush did an excellent job with the lather, and for me the Baby Smooth is a terrific razor that always easily delivers a great shave, and today was no exception. A splash of Geo. F.Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes aftershave, augmented with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, and the day begins.

My tea this morning is Murchie’s Assam Tippy Golden: “A dark, rich tea with full-bodied, malty flavour, with a hint of sweetness and a silk smooth finish. Assam teas are especially good where water conditions overpower more delicate teas, and are often enjoyed with milk.” It does indeed have a full-bodied taste and is very smooth.

Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act

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I truly do not understand the Republican mind and their overt hostility to those who struggle economically — not just those in poverty but those in the lower-middle class. My own view is that a nation is stronger when its citizens are educated and healthy, and thus it is in the national interest to ensure that education and healthcare are available for all citizens. Moreover, the US Constitution states in its Preamble — the mission statement of the Constitution — that among its goals is to ensure the general welfare, something that providing education and healthcare to the public would contribute to.My own view is that a nation is stronger when its citizens are educated and healthy, and thus it is in the national interest to ensure that education and healthcare are available for all citizens. Moreover, the US Constitution states in its Preamble — the mission statement of the Constitution — that among its goals is to ensure the general welfare, something that providing education and healthcare to the public would contribute to.

Heather Cox Richardson points out their hatred of Obamacare and their determination to kill it:

Today, former president Barack Obama returned to the White House at President Joe Biden’s invitation to talk about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare. He noted there have been changes in the White House since he left in 2017. For one thing, “[t]here’s a cat running around,” he joked, “which I guarantee you [his family’s dogs] Bo and Sunny would have been very unhappy about.”

Obama signed the ACA into law in 2010. Today, 31 million Americans have healthcare coverage thanks to it. They can’t be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions. The ACA has lowered prescription drug costs for 12 million seniors, and it has enabled young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26. It’s eliminated lifetime limits on benefits.

Republicans have loathed the ACA since Obama signed it into law in 2010. This is a modern-day stance, by the way: it was actually Republican president Theodore Roosevelt who first proposed universal healthcare at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Republican president Dwight Eisenhower who first tried to muscle such a program into being with the help of the new department created under him: the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which in 1979 became the Department of Health and Human Services. Its declared mission was “improving the health, safety, and well-being of America.” In contrast to their forebears, today’s Republicans do not believe the government has such a role to play.

Last month, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) said the Republicans’ goal is to obstruct Biden and the Democrats until they retake power, and then immediately make good on old promises like repealing the ACA. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proposed sunsetting all laws after five years and then passing the popular ones again. Since Republicans kill all social welfare bills with the filibuster, it’s not hard to imagine that Scott has the Affordable Care Act in his sights.

Enrollment in healthcare coverage under the ACA is at a record high since Biden took office, since he helped to push enrollment by opening special enrollment periods and dramatically increasing outreach. The law is popular: a poll last month by healthcare analysts Kaiser showed that 55% of Americans like it while 42% do not.

Today, Biden signed an executive order to increase outreach and coverage still further, and to urge Congress to deal with the “family glitch” in the law that determines eligibility for subsidies based on whether the primary enrollee can afford coverage for herself, rather than for her family. Fixing this glitch would lower costs for about 1 million Americans and open up coverage for another 200,000.

Before the signing, Obama, Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris used the ACA to talk about the difference between the two parties.

Harris noted that “the ACA is the most consequential healthcare legislation passed in generations in our country” and that it was more than just a law, it was “a statement of purpose; a statement about the nation we must be, where all people—no matter who they are, where they live, or how much they earn—can access the healthcare they need, no matter the cost.”

She called on Congress to pass legislation that would let Medicare directly negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies (as every other developed country does). With 60 million people enrolled in Medicare, the program would have significant bargaining power to negotiate prices.

The vice president also called on the 12 states refusing to expand Medicaid to do so, enrolling the 4 million people who are now excluded. Acknowledging those people determined to take away abortion rights, she noted that women without medical care during pregnancy are significantly more likely to die than those who do have it.

Obama then explained why the Democrats worked so hard to begin the process of getting healthcare coverage for Americans. “[W]e’re not supposed to do this just to occupy a seat or to hang on to power,” he said. “We’re supposed to do this because it’s making a difference in the lives of the people who sent us here.”

The ACA shows, he said, that “if you are driven by the core idea that, together, we can improve the lives of this generation and the next, and if you’re persistent—if you stay with it and are willing to work through the obstacles and the criticism and continually improve where you fall short, you can make America better—you can have an impact on millions of lives.”

Then Biden took the podium before signing the executive order, adding that passing the ACA was about dignity. It was about the “countless Americans lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wondering, ‘My God—my God, what if I get really sick? What am I going to do? What is my family going to do? Will I lose the house?’ Discussions we had in my house with my dad when he lost his health insurance—’Who’s going to pay for it? Who’s going to take care of my family?’”

He warned that the Republicans want to get rid of the law. “[P]ay very close attention, folks,” he said. “If Republicans have their way, it means 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions can once again be denied healthcare coverage by their insurance companies. That’s what the law was before Obamacare. In addition, tens of millions of Americans could lose their coverage, including young people who will no longer be able to stay on their parents’ insurance policy to age 26. Premiums are going to go through the roof.”

“Instead of destroying the Affordable Care Act,” he said, “let’s keep building on it.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to double down on the culture wars that whip up their base. By a vote of 70 to 14, the Oklahoma legislature has just passed a Republican bill making it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion unless the patient’s life is in danger. Violating the law carries a punishment of up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. There was little discussion of the measure, since lawmakers unexpectedly added it to the agenda Monday night.

Abortion is a constitutional right, defined by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It is also popular in the U.S., with about 60% of Americans supporting Roe v. Wade and about 75% believing that abortion access should be between a woman and her doctor. Only 20% say that access should be regulated by law.

Those culture wars are pushing today’s right wing toward authoritarianism as they seek to enforce their views on the rest of the country. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

6 April 2022 at 7:43 am

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