Later On

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

Archive for November 11th, 2022

“How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis”

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Alison Gopnik has a very interesting essay (no paywall) in the Atlantic:

In 2006, I was 50—and I was falling apart.

Until then, I had always known exactly who I was: an exceptionally fortunate and happy woman, full of irrational exuberance and everyday joy.

I knew who I was professionally. When I was 16, I’d discovered cognitive science and analytic philosophy, and knew at once that I wanted the tough-minded, rigorous, intellectual life they could offer me. I’d gotten my doctorate at 25 and had gone on to become a professor of psychology and philosophy at UC Berkeley.

I knew who I was personally, too. For one thing, I liked men. I was never pretty, but the heterosexual dance of attraction and flirtation had always been an important part of my life, a background thrum that brightened and sharpened all the rest. My closest friends and colleagues had all been men.

More than anything, though, I was a mother. I’d had a son at 23, and then two more in the years that followed. For me, raising children had been the most intellectually interesting and morally profound of experiences, and the happiest. I’d had a long marriage, with a good man who was as involved with our children as I was. Our youngest son was on his way to college.

I’d been able to combine these different roles, another piece of good fortune. My life’s work had been to demonstrate the scientific and philosophical importance of children, and I kept a playpen in my office long after my children had outgrown it. Children had been the center of my life and my work—the foundation of my identity.

And then, suddenly, I had no idea who I was at all.

My children had grown up, my marriage had unraveled, and I decided to leave. I moved out of the big, professorial home where I had raised my children, and rented a room in a crumbling old house. I was living alone for the first time, full of guilt and anxiety, hope and excitement.

I fell in love—with a woman, much to my surprise—and we talked about starting a new life together. And then my lover ended it.

Joy vanished. Grief took its place. I’d chosen my new room for its faded grandeur: black-oak beams and paneling, a sooty brick fireplace in lieu of central heating. But I hadn’t realized just how dark and cold the room would be during the rainy Northern California winter. I forced myself to eat the way I had once coaxed my children (“just three more bites”), but I still lost 20 pounds in two months. I measured each day by how many hours had gone by since the last crying jag (“There now, no meltdowns since 11 this morning”).

I couldn’t work. The dissolution of my own family made the very thought of children unbearable. I had won a multimillion-dollar grant to investigate computational models of children’s learning and had signed a contract to write a book on the philosophy of childhood, but I couldn’t pass a playground without tears, let alone design an experiment for 3-year-olds or write about the moral significance of parental love.

Everything that had defined me was gone. I was no longer a scientist or a philosopher or a wife or a mother or a lover.

My doctors prescribed Prozac, yoga, and meditation. I hated Prozac. I was terrible at yoga. But meditation seemed to help, and it was interesting, at least. In fact, researching meditation seemed to help as much as actually doing it. Where did it come from? Why did it work?

I had always been curious about Buddhism, although, as a committed atheist, I was suspicious of anything religious. And turning 50 and becoming bisexual and Buddhist did seem far too predictable—a sort of Berkeley bat mitzvah, a standard rite of passage for aging Jewish academic women in Northern California. But still, I began to read Buddhist philosophy.

In 1734, in Scotland, a 23-year-old was falling apart.

As a teenager, he’d thought . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 9:23 pm

Why Didn’t the Government Stop the Crypto Scam?

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Matt Stoller explains (no paywall):

“I’m sorry. That’s the biggest thing. I fucked up, and should have done better.” – crypto Ponzi schemer Sam Bankman-Fried, 2022

“Recklessness and deceit do not automatically excuse themselves by notice of repentance.” – Louis Brandeis, 1936

Just before he became President, and as the world slid into the worst part of the Great Depression, New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave a speech attacking Herbert Hoover for failing to tame the Wall Street traders who had fostered the crisis through corrupt and fraudulent activities. “The public has burned its fingers in the flame of wild speculation and has learned to fear the fire,” he said. “While it still fears the fire is the time for us to act.”

One of Roosevelt’s first acts was to regulate stock trading through the Securities Act, which forced public companies to disclose relevant material information to investors, and thus prevent the market manipulation so common on Wall Street. These disclosures are now what investors rely on today when analyzing stocks. Originally the Securities Act was enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. And New Dealers hated the FTC, as it was slothful and corrupt, having been run by monopoly-friendly cronies for a decade. But it was all that existed.

By 1935, the New Dealers had set up a new agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and cleaned out the FTC. Yet there was still immense concern that Roosevelt had not been able to tame Wall Street. The Supreme Court didn’t really ratify the SEC as a constitutional body until 1938, and nearly struck it down in 1935 when a conservative Supreme Court made it harder for the SEC to investigate cases.

It took a few years, but New Dealers finally implemented a workable set of securities rules, with the courts agreeing on basic definitions of what was a security. By the 1950s, SEC investigators could raise an eyebrow and change market behavior, and the amount of cheating in finance had dropped dramatically.

Institutional change, in other words, takes time.

It’s a lesson to remember as we watch the crypto space melt down, with ex-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried – who was one of the single largest political donors in 2022 – turning out to be nothing more than a standard Ponzi schemer. I summarized the scam he was running a few days ago.

Over the last forty eight hours, SBF’s $15 billion net worth evaporated in a fraud-induced bank run common to the crypto space. SBF’s situation is a lot like that of Enron. One of his companies, FTX, claimed to have substantial assets valued at billions, but it didn’t disclose that the market price of those assets – called FTT tokens – was set by trading back and forth to another one of his company’s, Alameda Research. All the value was based on sham prices in sham transactions. When a rival decided to engineer a bank run on FTX, his network of firms simply didn’t have enough cash to honor the withdrawal requests. Bloomberg has written SBF lost 94% of his net worth yesterday, and he’s now under Federal investigation.

It’s not like perfidy in crypto was some hidden secret. At the top of the market, back in December 2021, I wrote a piece very explicitly saying that crypto was a set of Ponzi schemes. It went viral, and I got a huge amount of hate mail from crypto types. (SBF actually reached out to meet with me in between his lobbying meetings, but I decided out of either laziness or integrity that I didn’t feel like taking a short cab ride to Capitol Hill to do so. Instead I invited him to my office, and so we never connected.) I’m not some sort of genius, I just hate group-think around obvious fraud. I mean, in April, SBF literally said on Bloomberg’s Odd Lots that much of what he was doing was facilitating Ponzi schemes. But it didn’t seem to matter, because back then he seemed to have a lot of money.

Today, a lot of people are mad at SBF for stealing. But one of the more bizarre aspects of the crypto meltdown is the  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 9:11 pm


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I once again improvised a dish and, after having a couple of bowls of it, realize that it’s really tasty. I just my 12″ MSMK nonstick skillet, which conveniently came with a lid.

This time I did spray the olive oil but drizzled it over the bottom. Then I put the prepped food into the cold skillet as I prepared it. I used what I had on hand, so you can vary this as you want

• 5 cloves garlic, chopped small — Russian red garlic so the cloves are large
• 7 or 8 thick scallions (the whole bunch), chopped
• 5 large domestic white mushrooms, halved and then sliced
• 1/2 bunch thinnish asparagus, chopped
• 1 celery heart (the package holds a pair), chopped
• 2 Serrano and 2 yellow cayenne peppers, chopped
• about 8 oz soybean+oat tempeh, diced medium
• ~2 tablespoons dried marjoram
• 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste (which I buy in a tube so I don’t have to use a whole can)

I started cooking it over medium heat, stirring occasionally. It seemed to need some liquid, so I added:

• 1 540 ml can Aylmer® Accents® Chili Seasonings Diced Stewed Tomatoes

Once the tomatoes were added, and thinking of chili, I also added:

• ~2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
• ~1 tablespoon ground cumin
• ~2 teaspoons dried thyme
• ~2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
• ~1 tablespoon Wright’s liquid smoke
• dash of tamari
• about 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (to finish the bottle)

I cover the pan, set the burner to 225ºF and the timer to 20 minutes, and let it simmer. I stirred it a couple of times along the way.

When it was done I dished up a bowl and added:

• about 1 tablespoon Bragg’s nutritional yeast.

For the second bowl, I also added

• about 2 tablespoons unsalted roasted pumpkin seed.

Lots left for future meals.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 8:39 pm

The Six Steps to a Good Apology

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The New Yorker has an interesting article (no paywall) that discusses the website, which is well worth a look.

The website lists these six steps to a good apology:

  1. Use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” (“Regret” is not apology!)
  2. Say specifically what you’re sorry FOR.
  3. Show you understand why the thing you said or did was BAD.
  4. Be VEEERY CAAAREFUL if you want to provide explanation; don’t let it shade into excuse.
  5. Explain the actions you’re taking to insure this won’t happen again.
  6. Can you make reparations? Make reparations.

The website contains many examples of unapologetic apologies, bad apologies, and apologies that make things worse.

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Daily life

A quiz: Is This Vegetable Healthier Raw or Cooked?

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The NY Times has a nifty little quiz (gift link — I think that expires in a fortnight) on whether a given vegetable is more nutritious raw or cooked. I got them mostly right but learned a few things.

The authors, however, do not allow for cooking tactics that preserve nutrients. Garlic, for example, they say is better raw than cooked because cooking interrupts the formation of the beneficial nutrient by destroying the enzyme essential to the process. What they don’t seem to realize is that you can mince (or crush or chop) the garlic and then let it rest for 15 minutes before cooking. After that amount of time, the enzyme has done its work, and the nutrient thus created is heat-stable, so cooking it is fine. The same thing applies to cruciferous vegetables (though the enzyme and reaction are different). I chop broccoli and let it rest 45 minutes before I steam it.

On the whole, though, I have no quarrel with the quiz, and found the information useful

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 2:51 pm

The Crypto Ponzi Scheme Avenger

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A while back it came to me that cryptocurrencies are the techno-nerd version of beanie babies. And, like beanie babies, wild speculation and mass hysteria resulted in a run-up in prices, the (inevitably) followed by a crash. After the crash, the beanie-baby collectors had a better outcome: they at least had the stuffed animals. Crypto players have little but memories.

David Segal in the NY Times has a good profile (no paywall) of a man who has long sounded the alarm on the crypto scam. Segal writes:

Last year, Danny de Hek was a social media guru badly in need of a social media guru. A buoyant New Zealander with geeky glasses, he dispensed advice about how to vastly expand your online audience, to a group of just 350 subscribers.

He earned a living by drop shipping electronics as he searched for ways to make serious money. Then, in February, the husband of a friend sent the 52-year-old Mr. de Hek an email crowing about a company that somehow guaranteed outsize and clockwork returns. Investors in what was then known as HyperFund — it has since been rebranded twice — could triple their money in 600 days.

“It’s the best passive income retirement plan I have ever seen,” the acquaintance wrote. Get in now then sit back and watch the cash roll in.

The message changed Mr. de Hek’s life, though not in the way his friend might have hoped. After a few days of looking into HyperFund, Mr. de Hek concluded it was a scam, one that he estimates has attracted at least $1 billion by recruiting thousands of participants, some of whom put up as little as $300 or as much as $50,000 or more.

By March, he had crafted a new online identity: crypto Ponzi scheme buster. Mr. de Hek has since denounced HyperFund in more than 130 videos posted to YouTube, some of them nearly two hours long, lecturing viewers in a style that toggles between goofball and scold.

“When I looked into HyperFund, to me it just seemed black and white,” Mr. de Hek said during one of several interviews from his home in Christchurch. “Then I thought, I need to warn people about this.”

Mr. de Hek is one of the few voices flagging crypto-based Ponzi schemes, which U.S. investigators say are a severely underpublicized scourge. The past week has shown just how volatile the market is: One of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, FTX, collapsed and the industry, is in meltdown.‌

Amid that kind of uncertainty, many investors have decided that if their tokens won’t recover from the steep drop in value that began last November, why not take a flier on a company that sounds crypto-adjacent?

“People are desperate, and out of desperation they’re giving it a go,” Mr. de Hek said. “It’s depressing because this is often a last-ditch effort.”

A Ponzi scheme, for those in need of a refresher, is an age-old fraud in which inflows of new money pay off earlier investors. Using cryptocurrencies does little more than lend the whole plate-spinning contraption a patina of the cutting edge — Hey, it’s on the blockchain — and makes it harder to pin down who is in charge. But the story ends the same way: champagne for those at the top, tears for everyone else.

U.S. investigators have busted a handful of crypto Ponzis over the years. Among them is OneCoin, which was based in Bulgaria and which prosecutors allege brought in roughly $4 billion from investors around the world. The charismatic co-founder of that fraud, Ruja Ignatova, disappeared after the fund closed in 2017 and is the subject of an 11-part BBC podcast, “The Missing Cryptoqueen.”

“We’ve worked multiple cases that involve more than $1 billion, and those are only the ones we hear about,” said Jarod Koopman, the acting executive director of the Cyber and Forensic Services section of the Internal Revenue Service, which spearheads crypto-Ponzi investigations, in a phone interview. “These are traditional Ponzi schemes that have been adapted to the digital landscape, recruiting investors through social media to make them look great. And they’re completely bogus.”

Mr. Koopman would not comment on cases other than those that are already public, and he declined to discuss HyperFund. The company has attracted the attention of regulators in Britain, where . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 1:02 pm

The First Step

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Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Humor, Politics

The Year 2038 Problem

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I didn’t even know that there was a Y2038 problem, but there is. The cartoon is by xkcd.

From the Wikipedia article: “By coincidence, the date to which vulnerable systems will reset is a Friday the 13th, considered an unlucky day in Western culture.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 12:18 pm

Propaganda (in this case) is terrific, as is the Dorco PL602

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This tub of Propaganda is the Vol 3 formulation:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Babassu Oil, Sodium Lactate, Essential/Fragrance Oils, Sodium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Myristyl Myristate, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Soy Wax, Cucumber Extract, Licorice Extract, Candelilla Extract, Sodium PCA, Sensolene, Squalane, Slippery Elm Bark, Aloe Vera Concentrate, Citric Acid.

With the (pre-Vulfix) Simpson Wee Scot, the lather was excellent, and I do love the fragrance of Propaganda in the morning: “vanilla, sandalwood, mandarin, patchouli, and musk.” That turns out to be a great combination.

The excellent Dorco PL602, unfortunately increasingly hard to find and now priced well above the $2 it once sold for, did an admirably easy and efficient job, leaving my face totally smooth.

A splash of what strikes me as an aftershave milk, Valley of Ashes by Southern Witchcrafts, finished the job and left a different fragrance in its wake: “Coal, Tar, Bourbon, Tobacco, Bitter Citrus, Smoke, Leather, Motor Oil, Burning Rubber, Diesel, Clove, Birch Tar, Bergamot.” Also pleasant, but a different sort of pleasant.

The tea this morning is Mark T. Wendells Pu-erh Tuo Cha: “Maintaining the Pu-erh tradition of being sold in various shapes and sizes, this selection has been compressed into small nest shapes, often referred to as tuo cha. We have found that each Yunnan black tuo cha tea piece will make approximately 16 ounces of hot tea. When brewed, Pu-erh tuo cha tea yields a dark, full-bodied brew that has a unique damp and earthy aroma taste. It retains its flavor through several infusions very well.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 November 2022 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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