Later On

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

Archive for September 30th, 2022

Elon Musk’s Texts Shatter the Myth of the Tech Genius

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Power not only corrupts, it seems to cause cognitive disconnect if not decline. Charlie Warzel reports in the Atlantic (no paywall):

Yesterday, the world got a look inside Elon Musk’s phone. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is currently in litigation with Twitter and trying to back out of his deal to buy the platform and take it private. As part of the discovery process related to this lawsuit, Delaware’s Court of Chancery released hundreds of text messages and emails sent to and from Musk. The 151-page redacted document is a remarkable, voyeuristic record of a few months in the life of the world’s richest (and most overexposed) man and a rare unvarnished glimpse into the overlapping worlds of Silicon Valley, media, and politics. The texts are juicy, but not because they are lurid, particularly offensive, or offer up some scandalous Muskian master plan—quite the opposite. What is so illuminating about the Musk messages is just how unimpressive, unimaginative, and sycophantic the powerful men in Musk’s contacts appear to be. Whoever said there are no bad ideas in brainstorming never had access to Elon Musk’s phone.

In no time, the texts were the central subject of discussion among tech workers and watchers. “The dominant reaction from all the threads I’m in is Everyone looks fucking dumb,” one former social-media executive, whom I’ve granted anonymity because they have relationships with many of the people in Musk’s texts, told me. “It’s been a general Is this really how business is done? There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence.”

Appearing in the document is, I suppose, a perverse kind of status symbol (some people I spoke with in tech and media circles copped to searching through it for their own names). And what is immediately apparent upon reading the messages is that many of the same people the media couldn’t stop talking about this year were also the ones inserting themselves into Musk’s texts. There’s Joe Rogan; William MacAskill, the effective altruist, getting in touch on behalf of the crypto billionaire and Democratic donor Sam Bankman-Fried; Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer (and the subject of a recent, unflattering profile); Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist, NIMBY [this link is worth reading; no paywall here – LG, and prolific blocker on Twitter; Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who was recently revealed to have joined a November 2020 call about contesting Donald Trump’s election loss; and, of course, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO. Musk, arguably the most covered and exhausting of them all, has an inbox that doubles as a power ranking of semi- to fully polarizing people who have been in the news the past year.

Few of the men in Musk’s phone consider themselves his equal. Many of the messages come off as fawning, although they’re possibly more opportunistic than earnest. Whatever the case, the intentions are unmistakable: Musk is perceived to have power, and these pillars of the tech industry want to be close to it. “I love your ‘Twitter algorithms should be open source’ tweet,” Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir, said, before suggesting that he was going to mention the idea to members of Congress at an upcoming GOP policy retreat. Antonio Gracias, the CEO of Valor Partners, cheered on the same tweet, telling the billionaire, “I am 100% with you Elon. To the mattresses no matter what.”

Few in Musk’s phone appeared as excitable as . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 5:21 pm

Transforming a wild tree into a bonsai

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Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Video

A Custody Evaluator Who Disbelieves 90% of Abuse Allegations Recommended a Teen Stay Under Her Abusive Father’s Control

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Some things make one despair. The subtitle to this ProPublica article by Hannah Dreyfus:

In Colorado family courts, parents can request an expert evaluation of their case, which sometimes includes allegations of abuse. Mark Kilmer is routinely appointed to evaluate families despite his own history of domestic violence.

Mark Kilmer is Val Kilmer’s brother.

The report itself begins:

Elina Asensio had a restraining order in place against her father when she met with a court-appointed psychologist assigned to determine whether he should be part of her life.

She expected Mark Kilmer, the Colorado “parental responsibility evaluator” appointed to her parents’ custody case, would want to hear about the incident that had led to her father being charged with felony child abuse and pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault. The 14-year-old was surprised, then, as she talked to Kilmer on the front porch of her mother’s suburban Denver home in October of 2020, that he didn’t seem interested in learning about it.

A year earlier, according to police reports, her father had grabbed Elina from behind by her lucky charm necklace and hoodie and dragged her up a flight of stairs. “Dad, I cannot breathe. … You’re hurting me, stop it,” Elina had screamed, according to the police report. She was left with burst blood vessels on her eyelids and a deep cut from ear to ear where the necklace had dug into her neck, according to the police report. A child welfare investigator described the resulting scar as a “ligature mark,” the imprint left after strangulation.

It was Elina who first brought up the incident, mentioning it after Kilmer asked why, “if you love your Dad,” she was not attending therapy with him, according to notes that accompanied Kilmer’s report to the court.

“I still feel my dad’s hands around my neck sometimes,” she recalled telling Kilmer, who is the brother of actor Val Kilmer.

He responded with a blank stare, she said.

Elina told him about other violent incidents involving her father, including one directed at a sibling, according to Kilmer’s notes.

Colorado family courts began appointing parental responsibility evaluators, or PREs, to custody cases 14 years ago as a privately funded alternative to court-furnished evaluators. The litigants shoulder the cost, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and in some instances the PRE is paid by only one of the parents in a dispute. The intent was to allow a broader range of psychologists, including those the court could not afford, the opportunity to lend their expertise to custody decisions. They have operated with little oversight.

Elina didn’t know at the time they met that Kilmer says he does not believe about 90% of the abuse allegations he encounters in his work, or that he himself had been charged with domestic violence. Kilmer was arrested and charged with assault in 2006 after his then-wife said he pushed her to the bathroom floor, according to police reports. Following the incident, the woman obtained a restraining order against him and he was required by the court to give up his guns pending resolution of the criminal charges, according to court documents.

The following year, he pleaded guilty to harassment and, in a separate divorce proceeding, temporarily lost decision-making power over his children because of concerns about his parenting. The court placed him on probation for 24 months while he completed domestic violence counseling. After he completed probation, the court dismissed the assault charge.

“Unfortunately, I had a conflicted divorce myself,” Kilmer said in an interview. “She made up these false allegations and had me arrested. It was pretty humiliating and shocking.” His guilty plea was the result of poor legal representation, he said, and he regrets not going to trial.

Kilmer, who received a doctorate in psychology from the California Graduate Institute, had also been previously disciplined by the State Board of Psychologist Examiners in 2009 for revealing confidential information about one client to another client in an effort to set them up on a date. He was required to have his practice monitored for a year but was allowed to continue working as a custody evaluator. (Kilmer said he obtained consent from both parties before introducing them, according to board records. The board noted clients “cannot consent to a boundary violation and/or breach of confidentiality.”) Today, Kilmer’s psychological license is in good standing.

Colorado’s State Court Administrator’s Office, which is responsible for vetting PREs, said a criminal misdemeanor conviction older than 15 years does not disqualify a custody evaluator from family court appointments. ProPublica found that four evaluators on the state’s roster of 45 PREs, including Kilmer, have been charged with harassment or domestic violence. In one case, the charges were dismissed. In the two others, it is unclear how the charges were resolved.

The court administrator’s office also said  . . .

Continue reading. There’s a LOT more.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 10:52 am

Dr. Selby’s return, honored in today’s shave

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As I blogged yesterday, Dr. Selby is returning to the US. This 3X concentrated shaving cream is made in Uruguay, and I like it a lot, and not just for the packaging, which is clever. The photo at the right shows how the lid, once removed, becomes a pedestal for the tub. Very cool, IMO.

My limited edition synthetic from Chiseled Face (years ago) has a very nice Plissoft knot, and it easily made a thick and creamy lather from the shaving cream (which has the consistency of a soap).

My Fatip Testina Gentile is a superb razor — extremely comfortable yet quite efficient. Three enjoyable passes left my face perfectly smooth, and Chatillon Lux’s Gratiot League Square aftershave toner finished the job. This toner has a wonderful fragrance and also good things for the skin. He doesn’t seem to be interested in aftershaves anymore, though; a pity.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s London Afternoon: “Fragrant rose petals are interwoven with smoky Lapsang Souchong, sweetened with creamy vanilla and a touch of bright bergamot.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 9:54 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Avoid rancid brain fat by eating brain-healthy foods

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This is a fascinating video in showing how one can look into a person’s eyes to check the health of their brain — and, at the end of the video, the specific foods that help the brain stay healthy.

From the video, comparing the lutein/zeaxanthin content of some foods:

I’m going to make this:

Kale Kicker

• a few sprays of extra-virgin olive oil
• 2-3 cloves garlic (Russian red garlic for me), chopped small
• 1 bunch scallions (or 1/2 large red onion), chopped
• 1 bunch Lacinato kale (aka Tuscan kale, dino kale), chopped
• 1-2 teaspoons dried marjoram
• 2 tablespoons vinegar

Put the chopped kale into a food processor and chop it further — finely chopped is what we’re going for. Let it rest 45 minutes so we can get the benefit of the sulforaphane. 

Mince garlic and let it rest 15 minutes.

After those have rested, spray skillet with a few Evo-sprays of extra-virgin olive oil, then sauté the scallions (or onions) and the garlic for few minutes. Then add the kale and marjoram and vinegar, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or so over low heat, stirring occasionally.

I haven’t made this yet, but I’m going to, and I’ll eat 1/2 cup of that with each meal.

Update: See also this recipe: Lotsa Lutein Soup.

BTW, cooking kale reduces the lutein content by half, but kale contains so much that you still get more than most foods. However, that does suggest baby-kale salads (raw kale) is a good idea.

Other foods high in lutein include winter squash, collards, and peas.

See also this report (brought to my attention by a reader, Montreal Steve), and in particular this table in the report. Pesto is a terrific source, a wonderful thing to know. And I’m going to start eating corn tortillas with my meals.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 6:25 am

Republicans are determined to destroy the US

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Heather Cox Richardson describes the outcome of the GOP retaking control of either the House or the Senate: an insane refusal to raise the debt ceiling (which does not create new debt but simply allows the US to pay for programs that Congress already passed). She writes:

Today the Senate approved a short-term extension of government funding to prevent a shutdown. The deal funds the government until December 16 and also provides about $12 billion in aid to Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s invasion. The House is expected to pass the measure tomorrow.

Behind this measure is a potential nightmare scenario. MAGA Republicans have already threatened to refuse to fund the government unless President Joe Biden and the Democrats reverse all their policies. If Republicans take control of either the House or the Senate—or both—in the midterms, they have the potential to throw the government into default, something that has never happened before.

The Republicans have this weapon because the U.S. has a weird funding system put in place more than 100 years ago. Congress appropriates money for programs that the Treasury then has to fund. But there is a “debt ceiling” for how much the government can borrow. If Congress has spent more money than the debt ceiling will permit, Congress must raise that ceiling or the government will default.

The debt ceiling is not an appropriation, it simply permits the government to pay debts already incurred.

Congress actually originally intended the debt ceiling to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing. In the era of World War I, when it needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used.

Now, though, the debt ceiling has become a political cudgel because if it is not raised when Congress spends more than it has the ability to repay, the country will default on its debts.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since it first went into effect, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, and indeed, the Republicans raised it three times under former president Donald Trump. But when they had to raise it almost exactly a year ago under Biden, Republicans refused.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned then that a default “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” It would jeopardize the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency. Financial services firm Moody’s Analytics warned that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth.

And yet, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in his career, said, “There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will…help Democrats…resume ramming through partisan socialism.” His stand was in part because it was not clear he had the votes he needed to support an increase, even though establishment Republicans like McConnell were quite aware of the damage a default would create.

Driving the Republican stance was . . .

Continue reading. Most voters oppose Republican programs and policies (e.g., outlawing abortion), which is why Republicans running for office won’t talk about them nor about anything specific that they will do. But now they are specific about one thing: if Congress will not reverse legislation already passed and in effect, then Republicans will destroy the economy.

The US has become a hot mess.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 6:18 am

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