Later On

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

Archive for November 17th, 2022

Tennis Ball on His Day Off

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Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

5 reasons to ditch Twitter for Mastodon

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Given what’s going on today and what seems likely to have over the next few days, I might say “Ditch Twitter before it ditches you.”

In the meantime, here’s another video explanation of the strengths (and weaknesses) of Mastodon. One interesting bit of advice: join a small instance (server), not a large one. It’s more comfy for reasons explained in the video, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s easy to move to another instance.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:48 pm

DHS: The Twenty-Year Boondoggle

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I earlier blogged about the counterproductive incompetence manifested by DHS. That turns out to be the tip of the iceberg. Amanda Chicago Lewis reports in The Verge:

Just a week after 9/11, while the country was still reeling, a series of letters began arriving at news organizations and Senate offices. The envelopes were innocuous, indistinguishable from other mail, but inside was a white powder, a rare bacteria that can be fatal if inhaled — anthrax. Five people died, and 17 were sickened in one of the most deadly biological attacks in US history. Yet anthrax had the potential to inflict far more harm: if the spores had been released from a rooftop in downtown Washington, DC, it might have infected hundreds of thousands of people. One letter included the message, “DEATH TO AMERICA,” perhaps indicating more to come. But how could we plan for a silent, odorless killer?

Responding to the universe of new threats facing the country soon became an all-out scramble, consuming the public and the federal government’s attention for several years. The man that President George W. Bush chose to manage America’s preparation for a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear incident was a renowned physicist and weapons expert named Penrose “Parney” Albright.

Albright is exactly the kind of guy you’d want in charge of protecting the country from a devastating attack. Known for his candor and ingenuity, he is one of those people with a talent for both hard science and political science. He had excelled at places like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) because he knew how to bring big, complex projects across the finish line.

So as the Bush administration finalized its plans for a new Department of Homeland Security, ultimately bestowing him the title of assistant secretary for science and technology, Albright was alarmed to find that the people around him were not as prepared.

“There was almost nobody in the senior leadership at the Department of Homeland Security who really understood the details of what it took to run a cabinet agency,” he told me. When DHS officially began operations on March 1st, 2003, everything was so haphazard that one undersecretary worked out of a former cleaning closet with a shower curtain for a door. There was no human resources professional to help Albright hire people and no bank account for his budget. When he tried to type out an email, an orange bar would pop up, freezing everything for three to four minutes; DHS employees soon took to calling this the “orange screen of death.”

The dysfunction might have been funny, in a Dilbert-meets-Veep way, if the stakes weren’t so high. Albright was overseeing a project called BioWatch, a system intended to detect traces of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. Bush described BioWatch in his 2003 State of the Union as “the nation’s first early warning network of sensors,” which would initiate processes to mobilize hospitals, alert the public, and deploy supplies from the national stockpile.

There was only one problem: BioWatch never functioned as intended. The devices were unreliable, causing numerous false positives. “It was really only capable of detecting large-scale attacks,” Albright explained, because of “how big a plume would have to be” for the sensors to pick it up. And the system was prohibitively slow: every 24 hours, someone had to retrieve a filter and then send it to a laboratory for testing, which might then take another 24 hours to discover a pathogen.

“The time required after BioWatch might pick up evidence of a toxin and the time required to get it to somebody who might be able to reach a conclusion there might be a terrorist attack — my God, by that time, a lot of people would have gotten sick or died,” former Senator Joe Lieberman told me.

Albright did his best to make it work. He ramped up  . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . These days, the mess at the Department of Homeland Security is one of the only things that all of Washington can agree on. Disliked by both Democrats and Republicans, DHS has metastasized into the worst version of what we imagine when we think of bureaucracy: rigid, ineffective, wasteful, chaotic, cruel. Since its inception, DHS has been on the Government Accountability Office’s “High Risk List,” which highlights programs vulnerable to “fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.” It consistently has the lowest morale of any federal agency with more than a thousand employees, according to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

“It’s like an agency no one wanted and everyone is stuck with,” said Juliette Kayyem, assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at DHS from 2009–2010.

“Even for someone who is kind of cynical, it was shocking,” said John Roth, the DHS inspector general from 2014–2017. “You do a little scratching, and there was just rot underneath.”

We see the downstream effects of the Kafkaesque ineptitude at DHS every day, even if we don’t recognize the connection between headlines about alleged sexual abuse at migrant detention centers, billions of dollars disappearing into fraudulent disaster aid, and the erasure of text messages likely detailing an attempted coup. DHS functions as a loose confederation of subagencies, meaning that the absurdity of security procedures at airports is attributed to the Transportation Security Administration, not to DHS, and the anemic response to Hurricane Katrina was blamed on the Federal Emergency Management Agency, not its parent organization. Yet the tensions between these satellite operations and the cabinet secretary’s headquarters in Washington, DC, are crucial to understanding DHS.

“I would call it unwieldy,” said Kevin McAleenan, who served as acting secretary of homeland security in 2019 after working at the department since it was founded. McAleenan recalled moments when he saw people at headquarters “trying to direct activities they didn’t understand very well and mission sets they weren’t familiar with and legal frameworks they hadn’t studied, and I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work. We’re not going to overcome the problem of expertise or, in this case, the lack of expertise.’”

Some consider the Department of Homeland Security successful because there has not been another major terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. And it’s true that only about a hundred people have died on US soil from Islamic terrorism in the past two decades. But domestic terrorism and mass shootings are on the rise, with Americans now justifiably afraid of malls, parades, supermarkets, churches, and elementary schools. Militias plot against democracy. A deadly virus has killed over a million Americans. Foreign governments infiltrate social media and snatch our data. Storms and wildfires grow bigger and more frequent every year. Tens of thousands of migrants linger in refugee camps at the southern border. Those that make it across face what one high-level whistleblower called “a system that involves widespread abuse of human beings.”

All of this is under the purview of DHS. . .

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:07 pm

The Psychopharmacology Of The FTX Crash

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Astral Codex Ten has an interesting post:

1: Was SBF Using A Medication That Can Cause Overspending And Compulsive Gambling As A Side Effect?

Probably yes, and maybe it could have had some small effect, but probably not as much as the people discussing it on Twitter think.

Milky Eggs reports a claim by an employee that Sam was on “a patch for designer stimulants that mainlined them into his blood to give him a constant buzz at all times”. This could be a hyperbolic description of Emsam, a patch form of the antidepressant/antiparkinsonian agent selegiline. The detectives at the @AutismCapital Twitter account found a photo of SBF, zoomed in on a scrap of paper on his desk, and recognized it as an Emsam wrapper.

Emsam is a brand of selegiline, a medication used since the 1960s to treat Parkinson’s disease. Selegiline is a MAOB inhibitor2. MAOB is an enzyme that breaks down dopamine3. If you inhibit it, you get more dopamine. So in a very broad sense, selegiline gives you more dopamine.4

Dopamine does many things in many brain systems. Here’s an oversimplified chart: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 8:47 pm

AI images for Shakespeare’s plays

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One image per play.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Software, Technology

How to Argue

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More useful videos in this post on Open Culture.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 5:04 pm

“Free-speech absolutist” — Elon Musk’s understands that term in a special way

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Headline in the NY Times:

SpaceX Employees Say They Were Fired for Speaking Up About Elon Musk

Noam Scheiber and Ryan Mac report (no paywall):

In June, about 20 engineers were invited to a meeting hosted at the headquarters of the rocket manufacturer SpaceX. The subject of the conversation: the company’s founder and chief executive, Elon Musk.

The day before, the company had moved to fire five employees who had written a letter calling on SpaceX to condemn the “harmful Twitter behavior” of Mr. Musk, who had used the social network to make light of a news report that SpaceX had settled a sexual harassment claim against him. Several of the engineers filed into the meeting expecting a sympathetic ear, as some managers and executives had indicated that they did not condone Mr. Musk’s behavior.

But the meeting, which has not been previously reported, quickly became heated, according to two SpaceX employees in attendance.

They said Jon Edwards, the vice president leading the meeting, had characterized the letter as an extremist act and declared that the writers had been fired for distracting the company and taking on Mr. Musk. When asked whether the chief executive could sexually harass his workers with impunity, Mr. Edwards did not appear to answer, the two employees said. But they said the meeting had a recurring theme — that Mr. Musk could do whatever he wanted at the company.

“SpaceX is Elon and Elon is SpaceX,” the two recalled hearing Mr. Edwards declare.

The SpaceX letter ultimately led to the firing of nine workers, according to the employees and their lawyers. On Wednesday, unfair-labor-practice charges were filed with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of eight of those workers, arguing that their firings were illegal.

The SpaceX case raises new questions about the management practices at Mr. Musk’s companies, where there is little tolerance for dissent or labor organizing.

Tesla, the electric car manufacturer that Mr. Musk also runs, has resisted unionization attempts at its factories and is embroiled in legal action brought by workers who said they were not given adequate warning before a layoff in June.

After Mr. Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion last month, he immediately fired executives before laying off half of Twitter’s 7,500 employees. This week, he had subordinates comb through the internal communications and public tweets of Twitter employees, leading to the firing of dozens of critics.

Interviews with the eight SpaceX employees who filed the charges highlight Mr. Musk’s firm grip on his workplaces, perhaps even beyond the restraints of federal law. Six of those employees spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal and are not identified by name in the labor board filings.

Legal experts said the law, which gives workers the right to come together for “mutual aid or protection,” most likely protected the writing of the letter, which, in addition to addressing Mr. Musk’s online habits, urged SpaceX to enforce its harassment policies more effectively. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 4:28 pm

Celery+Mushroom Delight

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Chopped vegetables in skillet — most visible are celery, mushrooms, red pepper, and scallions.
Celery+Mushroom Delight

Here’s another dish improvised from what I have on hand, stemming from a desire to cook a little something. I learned recently, from a quiz linked in an earlier post, that [spoiler alert] celery is more nutritious when cooked. Specifically, 

These crunchy, leafy stalks are full of vital nutrients: antioxidants, fiber, folate, potassium and vitamins A, C and K. In one 2009 study, researchers found that cooking celery — whether via boiling, pressure-cooking, baking, griddling or frying — increased its antioxidant levels. And in another, published in 2018, cooking increased levels of vitamin K in all kinds of vegetables, including broccoli, potatoes, onions and carrots. While there’s not much research on how folate and potassium react to cooking, one 1989 study found that folate levels were more available when celery was boiled.

But many people turn to celery for the fiber content, Dr. Ho said, which is lost through cooking. And as with most vegetables, cooking also reduces levels of vitamin C.

Reduced vitamin C is not an issue since I eat three pieces of fruit for breakfast, along with 3/4 cup frozen berries in my chia pudding. (The fruit today was one each of red Bartlett pear, Fuyu persimmon, and Mandarin orange.)

Seafood mushrooms, which are white, with long stems and a small cap
Seafood Mushrooms

I did have a heart of celery on hand, so I thought that I’d cook it. And I also had mushrooms, some domestic white but also some seafood mushrooms (see photo at right).

So I got out my 12″ MSMK nonstick skillet and its lid, and added to it:

• drizzles of extra-virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon total
• 1 celery heart chopped
• 6 thick scallions (1 bunch), chopped including leaves
• 4 sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not in oil), chopped
• 1 red sweet-tooth pepper, seeded and chopped
• pinch of MSG (it’s okay)
• sprinkling of Aleppo pepper (about 1-2 teaspoons)
• a few Evo-sprays of toasted sesame oil

I cooked it for about 15 minutes total, mostly covered, stirring occasionally.

The first bowl I had with navy beans and also unpolished little millet, both from the fridge, about 1/4 cup each, topped with oyster sauce.

The second bowl was without the beans and millet and just a dash of tamari.

It’s very tasty and not a heavy meal.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 3:15 pm

3 key insights on just how broken Twitter has become under Elon Musk

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Jude Cramer reports in Fast Company (no paywall) on the effect Musk has had on Twitter:

It’s no secret that Twitter’s employee basebusiness model, and overall reputation have plummeted since Elon Musk took over the platform last month. But in his short tenure, exactly how bad have things gotten at Twitter, and is there any way out for Musk?

Fast Company’s Max Ufberg took to Twitter Spaces with contributor Chris Stokel-Walker to discuss what damage Musk has already done, and what potential ups and downs are in Twitter’s future.

Here are three key takeaways from their conversation.


Last night, security giant Norton sent an email to its users warning that Twitter’s rampant impersonation problems, compounded by Musk’s failing Twitter Blue verification program, could enable phishing schemes on the platform. Many weren’t sure if this was a real concern from Norton or just an attempt to capitalize on the news cycle. Stokel-Walker assures us that, yes, Twitter does have major security problems.

“There is a real concern about this, not least because the changes to verification have a major impact on who can pretend to be whomever,” Stokel-Walker says. “But also, it’s coupled with the fact that we’ve seen the content moderation team at Twitter completely be routed.”

That loss of personnel means even longstanding problems at Twitter could become significantly worse, simply due to the lack of employees to handle the chaos.

“Previously, pre-Musk takeover and pre-layoffs, Twitter would be able to potentially step in relatively quickly and then do something about that,” Stokel-Walker says. “Now, I’m not so sure they’d have that nimble response.”


Musks’ now notorious layoffs have affected every corner of Twitter, but one of the most devastating blows was to Twitter’s communications department. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

I think finding a savior CEO to replace Musk will face the insurmountable obstacle that anyone who would be competent for the position would also recognize that Musk will be unable to relinquish control — Musk, for one thing, would want the accolades for himself.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 11:12 am

Three guilty as court finds Russia-controlled group downed civilian airliner MH17 in 2014, killing 298 people

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Russia seems to really like to attack civilian targets. Anna Holligan and Kate Vandy report for BBC News:

A Dutch court has found three men guilty of murder for shooting down a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.

The court found that a Russian-made missile supplied from Russia and fired by an armed group under Russian control brought down flight MH17.

The men – two Russians and one Ukrainian – were found guilty in absentia and sentenced to life in jail. A third Russian was acquitted.

The missile attack was one of the most notorious war crimes in Ukraine before allegations of atrocities there became an almost daily reality.

Many of the victims’ relatives believe if the world had reacted differently, and taken a tougher stance against Russia eight years ago, the invasion of Ukraine and the geopolitical instability that has followed could have been avoided.

The judges ruled that it was a deliberate action to bring down a plane, even though the three found guilty had intended to shoot down a military not a civilian aircraft.

  • Igor Girkin, the military leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, was convicted of deploying the missile and seeking Russian help
  • Sergei Dubinsky was found to have ordered and overseen the transport of the Buk missile launcher
  • Leonid Kharchenko was found to have overseen the Buk, acting on Dubinsky’s instructions.

Oleg Pulatov was the only one of the four accused to have legal representation at the trial. The judges acquitted him, although they found he knew about the missile.

On 17 July 2014, 298 people, including 80 children and 15 crew, boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The plane was cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine. It was the early days of Russia’s efforts to control parts of the country.

At the time this was a relatively low-level conflict zone, but f

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 11:05 am

Measles outbreak jumps to 7 Ohio daycares, 1 school—all with unvaccinated kids

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An article by Beth Mole in Ars Technica about children paying the price of their parents’ stubborn ignorance. The article begins:

A measles outbreak in Ohio has swiftly expanded, spreading to seven childcare facilities and one school, all with unvaccinated children, according to local health officials. The outbreak highlights the risk of the highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease mushrooming amid slipping vaccination rates. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

Measles, a virus that spreads via coughing, talking, or simply being in the same room with someone, will infect an estimated 90 percent of unvaccinated people who are exposed. Once infected, symptoms generally show up seven to 14 days later, starting with a high fever that can spike above 104° F, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes. A few days after that, a telltale rash develops.

In the decade before a measles vaccine became available, the CDC estimates that the virus infected 3 to 4 million people in the US each year, killing 400 to 500, hospitalizing 48,000, and causing encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in 1,000.

Measles was declared eliminated from the US in 2000, meaning that—thanks to vaccination—it no longer spreads continuously in the country. But it has not been eradicated worldwide and thus is still brought into the country from time to time by travelers, posing a constant threat of outbreaks in any areas with low vaccination rates. If measles is brought in and continues to spread for more than 12 months, the US will lose its measles elimination status, which it nearly lost in 2019.

A highly effective and safe vaccine against measles has been around for decades. Measles is a bad disease to get — not only does it have its own dangers, it does long-term damage to the immune system, a danger unmentioned in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 10:15 am

The complicated business legacy of GE’s Jack Welch

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My view is that Jack Welch not only ate away at the foundation of GE, leading to its subsequent collapse, but he also was responsible for the same sort of damage to capitalism, being a major contributor to the era of hypercapitalism.

In Fast Company, Kaushik Viswanath reviews (no paywall) William D. Cohan’s book Power Failure, a history of General Electric (and thus a close look at Jack Welch). Viswanath writes:

Plenty of ink has been spilled on General Electric, the storied 130-year-old conglomerate that had its origins with Thomas Edison. With his new book Power Failure, William D. Cohan, a journalist and author of several books on American business, adds nearly 800 pages to this corpus, with the aim of delivering the definitive and final history of the company. And there is an air of finality to it: Although GE survives today, it has fallen far from the status it held in the ‘90s as the world’s most valuable company, and awaits being broken up into three separate companies next year.

Cohan tells the story chronologically, beginning with the founding of the company in the 19th century. He shines a light on a figure whose talent for business gets overshadowed in most other accounts by Edison’s genius for invention: Charles Albert Coffin. In 1883, Coffin, the CEO of a Massachusetts shoe company, bankrolled a struggling maker of dynamos in town. With Coffin’s guidance and capital, Thomson-Houston Electric Company achieved success, becoming a formidable competitor to the Edison General Electric Company. Coffin then conspired with Edison’s financial backers, including J.P. Morgan, to merge the two companies against Edison’s wishes, leaving a furious Edison with a mere 10% stake—and Coffin the president of the new General Electric Company, formed in 1892.

The early history of GE is fascinating not only for . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:52 am

The mild-feeling Maggard V3A razor, with a remarkably good sandalwood soap (and aftershave)

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Shaving set-up, left to right: brush with translucent amber handle and short synthetic knot, razor with barberpole handle on its side atop a tub of soap labeled AOS Sandalwood, and a sandalwood EDT.

I do like the amber-handled Yaqi shaving brush shown, but I do wish the loft were a little greater. Just 5mm would make a big difference.

Art of Shaving Sandalwood is an exceptionally good shaving soap. Sandalwood, though, is a fragrance that a few men find doesn’t work well with their skin. Luckily, I’m not one of them, and the fragrance of this soap, like its lather, is a wonderful treat.

Maggard Razors calls their V3A head “aggressive,” by which they must mean “efficient,” because it is an extremely comfortable razor whose feel is not in the least aggressive. But three passes later my face is perfectly smooth, with no problems along the way.

I applied several sprays of Saint Charles Shave’s Sandalwood EDT over a smidgen of Proraso white balm in my hand, rubbed my hands together, and applied that mix to my face — a very nice finish. Saint Charles Shave is no more, but I still have some of their products, and this EDT is exceptionally nice.

The tea this morning is my own blend — equal amounts of three varietals from Murchie’s: Ceylon Kenilworth, Assam Tippy Golden, and Keemun Extra Superior

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 9:29 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Clever Coffee dripper

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A Clever Coffee dripper with coffee brewing inside and lid on top

I mentioned the Clever Coffee dripper in my post yesterday on the many health benefits of coffee — though it’s important to note that those benefits are negated if dairy milk or cream is added to the coffee. If you want that sort of coffee and also its health benefits, then use oat milk or oat creamer instead of dairy. 

I used a link in that post, but I later found a better link that offers more explanation. (I’ve updated the original post.)

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2022 at 8:04 am

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