Later On

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

Archive for July 2022

Extra-heavy mayo

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Since this great mayo comes in a 1-gallon container, you would want to buy it with a few friends — or use it to fill 4 one-quart jars, with three as gifts to mayo-loving friends. When I use mayo, I make my own, and this does suggest that using more egg yolks might be a good idea.  But since I started following a whole-food plant-based diet, I’ve used no mayo (because eggs). Still, this stuff looks good.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Trump Just Told Us His Master Plan

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I hope voters in the US are paying attention. David Frum reports in the Atlantic:

Yesterday, an ex-president who had tried to overturn a democratic election by violence returned to Washington, D.C., to call for law and order. Again and again, the speech reversed reality. The ex-president who had spread an actual big lie against the legitimacy of the 2020 election tried to appropriate the phrase big lie to use against his opponents. The ex-president who had fired an acting FBI director days before that official’s pension was due to be vested lamented that police officers might lose their pension for doing their job.

Yet scrape aside the audacity, the self-pity, and the self-aggrandizement, and there was indeed an idea in Donald Trump’s speech at a conference hosted by the America First Policy Institute: a sinister idea, but one to take seriously.

Trump sketched out a vision that a new Republican Congress could enact sweeping new emergency powers for the next Republican president. The president would be empowered to disregard state jurisdiction over criminal law. The president would be allowed to push aside a “weak, foolish, and stupid governor,” and to fire “radical and racist prosecutors”—racist here meaning “anti-white.” The president could federalize state National Guards for law-enforcement duties, stop and frisk suspects for illegal weapons, and impose death sentences on drug dealers after expedited trials.

Much of this may be hot air. All of it would require huge legal changes, and some of it would require the 6–3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court to overturn established precedents. You should listen to Trump’s speech less as an agenda of things to be done, and more as an indication of the direction of Trump’s thought.

The Trump Republican Party faces a strategic problem and a constitutional opportunity. The problem is that under Trump, the Republican Party is a minority force in American life. The opportunity is that an ever more unbalanced federal structure can enable a minority party based in many small states to control the majority population that lives in fewer big states. Abortion rights are one area where Republicans can use this opportunity, but that is not an area that especially interests Donald Trump.

Instead, and as always, the opportunity that most fascinates Trump is the opportunity to use the law as a weapon: a weapon to shield his own wrongdoing, a weapon to wield against his political opponents.

Trump’s first term was  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 4:27 pm

The power of zooming

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 1:02 pm

Finding a book you want to read

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Check out You can discover a book by reading a page, or by browsing covers, or by a straightforward search, or by browsing other readers’ bookshelves of saved titles. You can save titles to your own bookshelf, which can be public or private, as you prefer. And you can suggest books to be included.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 8:39 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Software

The lasting anguish of moral injury

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Constance Summer writes in Knowledge magazine:

On a Sunday evening in September 1994, David Peters drove to a church service in Beckley, West Virginia, as the sun set over the horizon. He was 19 years old, just back from Marine Corps boot camp. He hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car all summer.

The road curved, and Peters misjudged the turn. Rays from the dipping sun blinded him. The car hit the median and headed straight at an oncoming motorcycle. And then, Peters says, “Everything went crash.”

His friend, sitting in the passenger seat, seemed fine. Peters got out of the car. The driver of the motorcycle was alive, but the woman who’d been riding behind him was now laid out on the pavement. Peters quickly realized she was dead.

Now an Episcopal priest in Pflugerville, Texas, outside Austin, Peters says there have been periods during the last 28 years when he’s found the knowledge that he killed someone almost unbearable. “I felt like I wasn’t good anymore,” he says. At times, he even wished he were dead. Years after the accident, he purchased a motorcycle, thinking “that’d be sort of justice if I died on a motorcycle.”

Moral injury results from “the way that humans make meaning out of the violence that they have either experienced or that they have inflicted,” says Janet McIntosh, an anthropologist at Brandeis University who wrote about the psychic wounds resulting from how we use language when talking about war in the 2021 Annual Review of Anthropology.

Although research on moral injury began with the experiences of veterans and active-duty military, it has expanded in recent years to include civilians. The pandemic — with its heavy moral burdens on health care workers and its fraught decisions over gathering in groups, masking and vaccinating — intensified scientific interest in how widespread moral injury might be. “What’s innovative about moral injury is its recognition that our ethical foundations are essential to our sense of self, to our society, to others, to our professions,” says Daniel Rothenberg, who codirects the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University.

Yet moral injury remains a concept under construction. It is not an official diagnosis in psychiatry’s authoritative guide, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). And until the recent publication of a major study on the subject, researchers and clinicians lacked well-defined criteria they could use to determine if someone has moral injury, says Brett Litz, a clinical psychologist at VA Boston Health Care System and Boston University. “The prevalence of moral injury is utterly unknown, because we haven’t had a gold standard measure of it,” he says.

‘It starts working on your head’

Moral injury was first described by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist in Boston, who defined it as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 7:56 am

Two toddler tools: car seat and high chair

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Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 6:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Revealed: untold story of the CIA/Stasi double agent abandoned after 22 years of service

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A fascinating article by leni Braat, Associate professor of international history, Utrecht University, and Ben de Jong, Research Fellow, Leiden University, that was published in The Conversation:

I was naked, tied to a hard chair with handcuffs. Three or four burly fellows in uniform are standing around me, one of them behind me with a truncheon… ‘Sie sind ein Verräter! [You are a traitor!],’ they snap.

These are the words of double agent “M”, who operated for the Dutch security service and the CIA against the East German Stasi for 22 years. In early 1985, it appeared that the Stasi may have uncovered his deception – and his true loyalty to the west. He was in East Berlin at the time and the men had rudely awoken M around 4am. Still in pyjamas, he was taken from the safe house where he was staying for debriefing sessions with his Stasi handlers to a van with darkened windows that transported him, under armed guard, to a prison.

They told him he was in the Untersuchungshaftanstalt (pre-trial detention center) Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, a notorious site during the cold war under the control of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi). M was forced to undergo a degrading and extremely painful cavity inspection, before being taken – still naked – to an interrogation room.

His captors intimidated him by pouring cold water over him from a bucket until the afternoon. They taunted him constantly, saying things like “You betrayed Marxism-Leninism” and “You are a CIA agent”. Yet M said he felt strangely reassured because these accusations were not specific – they were meant to provoke him. In other words, his interrogators seemed to lack proof.

We interviewed M extensively between 2019 and 2021 about his career as a spy during the cold war. He told us about his life as a “double agent” and how, in the end, he was abandoned by the masters he had served. We checked and cross-referenced his account and our research has been peer-reviewed and published in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. But it is hard to know the full truth when it comes to the secretive world of espionage, so we have tried to highlight those areas which are impossible to verify.

It’s important to underline just how rare it is for a former secret service agent to open up and talk on the record about their experiences. M gave us a truly unique insight into the secret workings of three different intelligence agencies. He spoke about issues he hadn’t even told his wife about.

M’s spying career began in the second half of the 1960s when the Dutch security service, the BVD (Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst) – the predecessor of the present-day AIVD (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst) – recruited him. He was working for a Dutch multinational that we have agreed not to name. That career would go on to provide excellent cover for his clandestine work, as it involved a lot of international travel.

M worked for the Dutch service for many years and subsequently for the CIA. The Americans were keen to use him when they learned he had also been recruited by the foreign intelligence arm of the Stasi – the renowned Hauptverwaltung (Chief Administration) A, known by its acronym HVA.

Over a period of more than 20 years, from the late 1960s until the end of the cold war, the HVA considered M their agent and he gave the East Germans information – much of it acquired through the multinational he worked for. But throughout this time, his primary loyalty was to the Dutch service and the CIA. From the perspective of the East Germans, M was indeed a traitor. After seeing the evidence he provided to us, we believe his account of working against the Stasi is credible.

A double-cross?

M’s motive in sharing his story stems from his desire to learn more about certain episodes from his spying career. He wants to find out, in particular, why his East German handlers, whom he had managed to deceive so successfully for so many years, suddenly seemed to turn against him in the mid-1980s.

It transpired that the humiliating interrogation was in fact a mock arrest led by Stasi handlers to test his mettle. But the episode planted a seed of doubt in M’s mind about whether the Stasi was on to him. A seed that would grow over the years to become an obsession. He would go on to believe that he had been betrayed.

According to M, only “treason” within the CIA could explain it – that a mole within the American intelligence service had betrayed him as a double agent to the Soviet KGB. During the cold war, the KGB, of course, worked very closely with the Stasi. On several occasions, M discussed the possibility that someone like Aldrich Ames, a notorious KGB mole inside the CIA between 1985 and 1994, was responsible for betraying him.

In all six of our interviews, M emphasised the distinctive nature of his relationships with the three different services he dealt with. His two long-time Stasi handlers were . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 5:55 am

“Hard Boiled” now on Prime video

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I haven’t seen Hard Boiled (1992), a John Woo film that stars Chow Yun Fat and Tony Leung, for years, but it is vivid in my memory (though I had forgotten the very nice jazz intro scene). It’s the sort of film you’ll like if you like this sort of film. — update: Hey! Anthony Wong’s in it, too.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Some additions to your budget plan

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Cynthis Measom has a useful article in GO Banking rates on some expense items (and their estimate cost) that should be included among the expense categories for which you put money aside. Some items may not apply — for example, home repair expenses are not part of a renter’s budget. However, a renter might well want to have in savings an amount equal to the cost of a move and renting a new place (which might require an amount equal to three month’s of your target monthly rental: first and last month and security deposit.

At any rate, the article has some useful thoughts that you might want to incorporate in a budget plan like the one I describe in a separate post.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

36 Questions for Increasing Closeness

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From The Greater Good in Action (Science-Based Practices for a Meaningful Life), a set of questions:

Time Required

45 minutes each time you do this practice.

How to Do It

  1. Identify someone with whom you’d like to become closer. It could be someone you know well or someone you’re just getting to know. Although this exercise has a reputation for making people fall in love, it is actually useful for anyone you want to feel close to, including family members, friends, and acquaintances. Before trying it, make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with sharing personal thoughts and feelings with each other.
  2. Find a time when you and your partner have at least 45 minutes free and are able to meet in person.
  3. For 15 minutes, take turns asking one another the questions in Set I below. Each person should answer each question, but in an alternating order, so that a different person goes first each time.
  4. After 15 minutes, move on to Set II, even if you haven’t yet finished the Set I questions. Then spend 15 minutes on Set II, following the same system.
  5. After 15 minutes on Set II, spend 15 minutes on Set III. (Note: Each set of questions is designed to be more probing than the previous one. The 15-minute periods ensure that you spend an equivalent amount of time at each level of self-disclosure).

Set I 

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do . . .

Continue reading.

Also see the tab “Why to Try It” on that page. Click the tab for more information, such as:

Why You Should Try It

Building close relationships in adulthood can be challenging. Many social situations call for polite small talk, not heart-to-heart conversations, making it difficult to really connect deeply with people.

One way to overcome these barriers to closeness is by engaging in “reciprocal self-disclosure”—that is, to reveal increasingly personal information about yourself to another person, as they do the same to you. Research suggests that spending just 45 minutes engaging in self-disclosure with a stranger can dramatically increase feelings of closeness between you. In some cases, these feelings of closeness persist over time and form the basis of a new relationship.

Why It Works

To develop closeness, we need to be willing to open up. But opening up isn’t always easy—we might fear coming on too strong or embarrassing ourselves. The 36 Questions encourage us to open up at the same time and at a similar pace as our partner, reducing the likelihood that the sharing will feel one-sided. It offers space for our partner to respond positively to our self-disclosure—with understanding, validation, and care—in a way that can also enhance closeness. This mirrors the gradual getting-to-know-you process that relationships typically undergo, only at a more accelerated pace. The feelings of closeness generated can, in turn, help us build lasting relationships that increase our overall happiness.

Evidence That It Works

Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R. D., & Bator, R. J. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findingsPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23(4), 363-377.

Unacquainted pairs of participants instructed to ask one another the 36 Questions for Increasing Closeness reported a greater increase in feelings of closeness than pairs instructed to ask one another 36 superficial questions instead. Pairs who completed the closeness exercise felt closer regardless of whether they shared certain core beliefs and attitudes, or whether they expected the exercise to work in the first place. Remarkably, their feelings of closeness following the conversation matched the average level of closeness that other participants reported feeling in their closest relationships.

Who Has Tried the Practice? . . .

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 7:43 pm

Inside an international network of teenage neo-Nazi extremists

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Nick Robins Early, Alexander Nabert, and Christina Brause report in Insider:

Last year, a 20-year-old named Christian Michael Mackey arrived at the Phillips 66 gas station in Grand Prairie, Texas, hoping to sell his AM-15 rifle to make some quick cash. He’d said he wanted to buy a more powerful gun, something that could stop what he called a “hoard of you know what.”

Mackey told an online group chat he’d started looking at Nazi websites at around 15-years-old, when he began spending hours on white nationalist message boards and talking to other extremists on Instagram and encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. Five years later, he was active in a network of violent neo-Nazi groups that organized and communicated through online group chats. He described himself as a “radical Jew slayer.”

When Mackey met his buyer in the gas-station parking lot in January 2021, he didn’t know he had walked into a sting. The woman purchasing his rifle was a paid FBI source with numerous felonies, and Mackey was arrested as soon as the gun changed hands. At his detention hearing a month later, an FBI agent said authorities had found a pipe bomb in Mackey’s parents’ house, where he lived.

Mackey’s stepfather told local news soon after the arrest that his stepson had been radicalized online, and footage showed him ripping up a copy of “Mein Kampf” in Mackey’s bedroom. FBI records and court documents indicated that Mackey had posted more than 2,400 messages in one neo-Nazi Instagram group chat alone, and had told another user “I’m just trying to live long enough to die attacking.”

Stories like this have increasingly played out across the US and around the world in recent years — young people, overwhelmingly white and male, who have become involved in a global network of neo-Nazi extremist groups that plot mass violence online.

Canadian authorities earlier this year arrested a 19-year-old on terrorism charges after they say he tried to join a neo-Nazi group similar to the ones Mackey was involved in. In April, a 15-year-old in Denmark was charged with recruiting for a neo-Nazi organization banned in the country. A 16-year-old became the UK’s youngest terrorism offender after joining that same group, where he researched terror manuals and discussed how to make explosives. Others made it further along in their plots, like a 21-year-old who planted a bomb outside the Western Union office in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.

As far-right extremism has grown over the past decade, so too has the notoriety of various groups and their leaders. Far-right gangs such as the Proud Boys as well as suit-and-tie-wearing white nationalists like Richard Spencer regularly make headlines. But there are also lesser-known groups with more directly violent aims that follow an ideology called accelerationism — the belief that carrying out bombings, mass shootings, and other attacks is necessary to hasten the collapse of society and allow a white ethnostate to rise in its place.

Countries including the United Kingdom and Canada have designated accelerationist groups such as Atomwaffen Division, Feuerkrieg Division and The Base as terrorist organizations. Atomwaffen, which is now largely defunct, was linked to at least five murders in the US alone. The Base’s leader was sentenced in May to four years in prison after plotting to kill minorities and instigate a race war.

Experts trace the origins of groups like these to a neo-Nazi website called Iron March that went offline in 2017, and which notoriously helped extremists from many countries forge international connections and spread accelerationist propaganda.

The ideology has been linked to the 2019 Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, where a white nationalist killed 51 people at two mosques while livestreaming the attack online, and a shooting earlier this year at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY where 10 people were killed.

As part of a joint investigation that Insider undertook with Welt Am Sonntag and Politico, reporters gained access to two dozen internal chat groups linked to a broader network of neo-Nazi accelerationists. Comprising 98,000 messages from about 900 users, the data includes photos, videos, text, and voice messages.

Various participants in the groups have been charged with a range of crimes related to plots to bomb or burn down synagogues and gay bars, attack anti-fascist activists, and illegally traffic firearms. In chat logs that reporters reviewed, members showed off homemade explosives, encouraged one another to kill minorities, and discussed how to get access to weapons.

The scores of messages and propaganda in these chats provide a glimpse into one of the most dangerous corners of modern far-right extremism. It is increasingly international, intent on radicalizing young people, and committed to using violence to further its fascist ideology.

Rather than a centralized group, it is a loosely connected network that rises and falls as its members are killed or arrested — but never seems to entirely go away. And unlike extremist groups that want to integrate their beliefs into political parties or run for local office, the aim of accelerationist groups like these is primarily to create violent chaos. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 4:57 pm

The weekend, a great slant, a fine soap, a superb aftershave — what’s not to like?

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The iKon stainless slant, now sold with a B1 coating, is certainly a classic among slants, and once I learned its preferred angle (handle well away from face, razor riding on the cap’s edge), it became totally gentle on my face, milld and comfortable in feel while being breathtakingly efficient at removing stubble. 

This morning it was gliding on a luxury lather from Grooming Dept Luxury shaving soap, which uses the Kairos (tallow-based) formula. Three enjoyable passes and my face was left smooth and soft (the latter thanks not only to the soap but also to Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave).

A splash of Chatillon Lux’s aftershave toner — a wonderful formula, but he seems to have discontinued his aftershave line — finished the job. I really like the fragrance and feel of this toner, which I chose this morning because it so often accompanies luxury. (“Vide poche” means “empty pocket.”) 

In that connection — luxury = empty pocket — I happened across an article on how 40% of Americans cannot handle an unexpected $400 expense. I totally understand, because it took me literally decades to figure out how to handle money to the extent that I am prepared both for expected expenses and an occasional unexpected expense. (See this post.)

It helps, of course, that, unlike those living in the US, unexpected medical expenses are not in the picture. My recent acquisition of a pacemaker via an unanticipated surgery, with brief hospital stay, did not impact my budget at all. I noticed that when I went in for my 6-week clinic visit and they checked out the pacemaker and gave me a monitor so they could remotely track my pacemaker’s daily activity, the total cost of the visit was $3.50 (parking). 

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lavender Cream: “the robust black tea base is rounded out with calming flavours and aromas of lavender and vanilla.”


Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 9:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Umami Exists and MSG is its Messenger

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Jehan writes in Atoms vs Bits:

Umami’s not what you think it is. It’s translated as “savoriness”, but that’s usually misinterpreted as a kind of general descriptor, the way food could be called “filling” or “chewy”. It’s also got a sense of being this subtle and higher-order property of good cooking, brought to us from the mysterious East.

Umami is a molecule. Well, actually a class of molecules that hit mGluR1 receptors (among others) in your mouth so that you get a meaty, savory taste. And it’s not only appreciated by the discerning Japanese, but also by the somewhat less discerning hamsters.[1] It’s a basic taste in the same way the other four are: The particular ingredient has been identified in food and the taste receptor has been identified in your mouth. Some don’t believe in umami, but you still experience it unless you are missing the receptors for some reason, which would constitute a minor disability.

The most significant umami compounds are glutamates, which are the salts of glutamic acid, and in practically everything you enjoy as savory. Most cultures have created a glutamate-rich cooking ingredient that seems absolutely disgusting without an additional “this has glutamates” explanation. These include decomposing fish (anchovies, Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce), decomposing beans (soy sauce, miso), decomposing milk (cheese), and leftover beer-goo.

The way to conceptualize glutamates is to think of a culture that never isolated salt as a cooking ingredient. Salt is straightforward to isolate from seawater or to mine directly, but one could imagine a culture that loves foods such as olives, chips, pickles, and caviar without ever realizing what they really love is salt. Eventually, through trial and error, this culture ends up adding these sorts of ingredients to its savory dishes without ever recognizing the underlying principle.

This is roughly the state of the average Westerner in regards to umami, which results in the strange situation that Western cuisine is to Eastern medicine as Eastern cuisine is to Western medicine. Western medicine identifies the anatomical structure in the body, identifies the compounds which affect that structure, then dose the isolated compound directly to achieve a physiological effect. Eastern medicine has various substantiated or unsubstantiated theories on the physiological effect, and to the extent it has succeeded, it has been through trial and error without a physical understanding of the structures or mechanics.

Many of us are adding foods like Parmesan cheese, anchovies, stock, and tomatoes to food because they improve the taste, without realizing what we’re doing is adding glutamates. More aware chefs and consumers get an intuitive understanding of the principles, though often with some extraneous quirks.

A final more bizarre twist on this metaphor is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

Excellent movie: “The Last Full Measure”

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The Last Full Measure on Netflix now is an excellent movie with an excellent cast. Based on a true story.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 2:19 pm

Reprise of Whole-Food Spicy Avocado-Lime-Cilantro Sauce

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I just made a batch of this recipe, but used a peeled Meyer lemon and a splash of rice vinegar because I had no limes, and a good-sized squirt of Huy Fong Sriracha sauce because I had no hot peppers. I also used 4 Deglet Noor dates because I’m out of Medjool dates. (Dates must be chopped before blending or they jam the blender.)

Still, it tastes very good, and I like using fresh garlic instead of garlic powder and a couple of scallions instead of onion powder. I chop both garlic and scallions to give the blender an assist.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 10:53 am

Cross-pollination among neuroscience, psychology, and AI research yields a foundational understanding of thinking

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Paul S. Rosenbloom, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Christian Lebierem, Research Psychologist, Carnegie Mellon University, and John E. Laird, John L. Tishman Professor of Engineering, University of Michigan, write in The Conversation:

Progress in artificial intelligence has enabled the creation of AIs that perform tasks previously thought only possible for humans, such as translating languagesdriving carsplaying board games at world-champion level and extracting the structure of proteins. However, each of these AIs has been designed and exhaustively trained for a single task and has the ability to learn only what’s needed for that specific task.

Recent AIs that produce fluent text, including in conversation with humans, and generate impressive and unique art can give the false impression of a mind at work. But even these are specialized systems that carry out narrowly defined tasks and require massive amounts of training.

It still remains a daunting challenge to combine multiple AIs into one that can learn and perform many different tasks, much less pursue the full breadth of tasks performed by humans or leverage the range of experiences available to humans that reduce the amount of data otherwise required to learn how to perform these tasks. The best current AIs in this respect, such as AlphaZero and Gato, can handle a variety of tasks that fit a single mold, like game-playing. Artificial general intelligence (AGI) that is capable of a breadth of tasks remains elusive.

Ultimately, AGIs need to be able to interact effectively with each other and people in various physical environments and social contexts, integrate the wide varieties of skill and knowledge needed to do so, and learn flexibly and efficiently from these interactions.

Building AGIs comes down to building artificial minds, albeit greatly simplified compared to human minds. And to build an artificial mind, you need to start with a model of cognition.

From human to Artificial General Intelligence

Humans have an almost unbounded set of skills and knowledge, and quickly learn new information without needing to be re-engineered to do so. It is conceivable that an AGI can be built using an approach that is fundamentally different from human intelligence. However, as three longtime researchers in AI and cognitive science, our approach is to draw inspiration and insights from the structure of the human mind. We are working toward AGI by trying to better understand the human mind, and better understand the human mind by working toward AGI.

From research in neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology, we know that the human brain is neither a huge homogeneous set of neurons nor a massive set of task-specific programs that each solves a single problem. Instead, it is a set of regions with different properties that support the basic cognitive capabilities that together form the human mind.

These capabilities include perception and action; short-term memory for what is relevant in the current situation; long-term memories for skills, experience and knowledge; reasoning and decision making; emotion and motivation; and learning new skills and knowledge from the full range of what a person perceives and experiences.

Instead of focusing on specific capabilities in isolation, AI pioneer Allen Newell in 1990 suggested developing Unified Theories of Cognition that integrate all aspects of human thought. Researchers have been able to build software programs called cognitive architectures that embody such theories, making it possible to test and refine them.

Cognitive architectures are grounded in multiple scientific fields with distinct perspectives. Neuroscience focuses on the organization of the human brain, cognitive psychology on human behavior in controlled experiments, and artificial intelligence on useful capabilities.

The Common Model of Cognition

We have been involved in the development of three cognitive architectures: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 10:08 am

A major publishing lawsuit would cement surveillance into the future of libraries

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One problem with corporations is that, though legally treated as persons, they lack some essential attributes of personhood, such as empathy, a moral compass, and any sense of the public good (since their sole focus is private gain). As corporations accumulate wealth, they also become more powerful, and they use that power exclusively to benefit themselves (aka increase shareholder value without regard of the impact on employees, customers, and community). This results in monetization and degradation of the commons and of daily life.

Lia Holland and Jordyn Paul-Slater write in Fast Company:

Amid the inflection point of library digitization, publishing corporations want to reduce and redefine the role that libraries play in our society. Their suit seeks to halt loans of legally purchased and scanned books, cementing a future of extortionate and opaque licensing agreements and Netflix-like platforms to replace library cards with credit cards. If successful, they will erode the public’s last great venue to access information free from corporate or government surveillance. This dire threat to the privacy and safety of readers has gone largely unnoticed.

Big Tech monopolies like Amazon and its Kindle e-reader shamelessly collect and store data on readers. They do this in order to exploit readers’ interests and habits for advertising and to gain an advantage in the market—but that same data can be shared with law enforcement or bounty hunters to prosecute people exploring topics such as abortion or gender affirming healthcare. Libraries, on the other hand, have a centuries-old practice of vigorously defending the privacy of their readers. Even the Oklahoma library system that recently threatened librarians if they so much as “use the word abortion” is still doubling down on providing better anonymity for patrons. The function of a library is antithetical to the prerogatives of surveillance capitalism.

Today, libraries generally are blocked from purchasing and owning digital books—and readers are in a similar boat. Instead, publishers offer only high-cost licenses for which libraries rely on emergency funds and may only be able to afford the most popular works. These costs put libraries at a disadvantage in serving traditionally marginalized communities, including particularly young, disabled, rural, and low income readers who may rely on e-books. Already, public schools bound by state law to protect the data of their students are having to pay $27 per digital copy of Anne Frank’s Diary of A Young Girl each year. Publishers are sending a clear message that privacy will be a premium feature if they have their way.

This lawsuit is a digital book burning to end libraries’ most viable avenue to loan and preserve diverse, surveillance-free digital books: scanning the books themselves. If libraries do not own or control the systems for accessing digital books, or can only afford digital books with a “let our corporation surveil your patrons” discount, people who rely on digital books from libraries are much more likely to be surveilled than those privileged enough to travel to check out a paper book.

But it is not only readers whose opportunities are on the chopping block. If publishers are able to charge more money for a smaller list of books, authors will be in a more dire position for publishing opportunities, making an already exclusive and white industry even less hospitable for diverse and emerging authors. To be published at all, even more authors will be forced to turn to Amazon’s extractive self-publishing e-book and audiobook monopoly. To access those books, readers already have to pay both in dollars and in data.

Surveillance endangers traditionally marginalized people the most, and publishing urgently needs to confront this blind spot. The authors listed in the suit appear to be about 90% white, 60% male, and 17% deceased. While it would be ludicrous to blame deceased authors for not speaking out, the others have been resoundingly complicit: allowing publishing companies, associations, and other institutions to outrageously claim that the existence of libraries in the digital age harms their intellectual property and smear librarians as “mouthpieces” for Big Tech.

Authors listed in the suit include James S. A. Corey, best known for The ExpanseA Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin, Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame, and Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly as well as multiple titles by Lemony Snicket are also listed. Sarah Crossan’s YA novel Resist, and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven are also among titles the Internet Archive is being sued for owning and loaning. Ironically, Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath is also among publishing giants’ arsenal.

This lawsuit illustrates a new level of unabashed greed from publishing corporations and their shareholders, swathed in a record-profits-fueled PR campaign using inadequately compensated authors as human shields. Not only will

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 9:58 am

Hubble v. Webb leather-themed shave

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Hubble v. Webb

A very fine shave this morning, beginning with the excellent lather that my Rooney butterscotch Emilion brought forth from Wholly Kaw’s Project Leather, which does indeed boast a leather lather fragrance.

The razor this morning is the RazoRock Game Changer .68-P. (I misidentified the .84-P in an earlier post as the .68-P. Apologies for that, and this morning’s razor really is the .68-P, as you will see in a close inspection of the photo.)

Three passes left my face perfectly smooth and ready for a splash of Geo. W. Trumper’s Spanish Leather aftershave (with two squirts of Hydrating Gel mixed in).

The tea this morning is Murchie’s No. 22: “a superb blend of green Gunpowder and Jasmine, as well as Keemun and Ceylon black teas. All the flavour of our world famous No. 10 Blend, with a touch of bergamot to brighten the flavour and Ceylon to strengthen the brew. With slightly more pronounced citrus and floral tones than No. 10, this makes a great cup of tea.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2022 at 8:58 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Why humans run the world

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Very interesting TED talk by Yuval Noah Harari. It seems to me that the cement that enables large-scale cooperation among humans is trust, and currently that is being diluted and undermined by those who exploit it selfishly.

What he calls “fictions” are, in my view, a variety of memes (cultural entities).

Also, interesting quotation:

We are social creatures to the inmost centre of our being. The notion that one can begin anything at all from scratch, free from the past, or unindebted to others, could not conceivably be more wrong.

-Karl Popper, philosopher and professor (28 Jul 1902-1994)

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2022 at 2:34 pm

Here’s a test to see whether Supreme Court justices are above the law

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Jennifer Rubin, a Republican (but also rational) columnist for the Washington Post, has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) today:

The 65 Project, a bipartisan group dedicated to disbarring lawyers who filed frivolous cases related to the 2020 election, or who otherwise participated in the coup attempt, has been very busy in recent months. It filed a series of complaints against advisers of defeated former president Donald Trump, including Jenna Ellis, Boris Epshteyn, Cleta Mitchell, John Eastman and Joseph diGenova, as well as two lawyers who signed on to be fake electors and two lawyers who participated in the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Now, the group is making its most ambitious move yet: It is filing a specific demand with the Supreme Court to kick Eastman, the chief architect of the coup plot, out of the elite Supreme Court Bar (lawyers eligible to argue in the highest court). And it has requested that Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the disciplinary proceeding because of the role that Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, played in the 2020 scheme.

The complaint, made available to me before it was filed, states that Eastman “bolstered and amplified” claims not backed by evidence or the law. It also alleges that Eastman “actively participated in an effort to undermine our elections – a scheme that led to the gravest attack on American democracy since the Civil War.”

The complaint describes five “spokes” in the coup plot, all of which included Eastman. They include litigating the 65 bogus lawsuits; arranging slates of phony electors in seven states; pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes; pressuring state lawmakers to overturn votes or rescind electors; and summoning “Trump’s supporters to Washington, D.C. and, having spent months lying to them about fraud and a stolen election, sending them to the Capitol, agitated and armed, to stop the electoral vote count.”

After a detailed review of facts revealed in the Jan. 6 hearings and in reporting, the group argues that Eastman’s conduct warrants expulsion from the Supreme Court Bar as well as the loss of his California legal license. The complaint amounts to a handy guide not only to Eastman’s professional violations, but also to facts that might be the basis for criminal charges in state and federal court.

Michael Teter, the 65 Project’s managing director, tells me, “If Mr. Eastman is allowed to continue to remain a member of the highest court in the United States despite the undisputed facts regarding his actions, the American public’s quickly eroding confidence in the Supreme Court will deteriorate even faster.”

But that’s not even the most intriguing part. Citing the obligation for federal judges to . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Update: One of the comments on the article:

CitizenCO July 28, 2022 11:41am

“… an important first step toward the Court’s regaining some of its legitimacy.”

I think the legitimacy ship has sailed. By several hundred steps.

McConnell denied Garland a lawful hearing, pushed through Barrett while the last 3 SCOTUS nominees brazenly lied to the Senate in saying they considered Roe settled precedent then ruled with the opinion that the Roe precedent was illegitimate. Add Roberts shepherding through the Citizens United ruling, the single most destructive ruling by the court to American Constitutional good order since Dredd Scott. Add the many shadow docket and one-off rulings without “setting precedent” and the Supreme Court legitimacy is well down the sewer.

Thomas, the long serving weakest jurisprudence wit on the court, whose record of probing questions could not even fill a napkin, recusing himself will not serve to add one iota of legitimacy to an already tainted court. The present court would be more legitimate in the public’s eyes if they just admitted they represented the interests of the largest corporations, whatever the Federalist society tells them to believe and that, like the Alito ruling, will twist the Constitution to suit their sponsors positions, however damaging to the citizens of the United States.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2022 at 10:01 am

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