Later On

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

Archive for December 27th, 2022

The Southwest Airlines implosion

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This thread explains what happened to Southwest Airlines and why passengers have no recourse..

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 10:29 pm

The Finale of the Great Internet Grievance Wars Is Here

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Justin Peters writes in Slate:

On Thursday night, the journalist Bari Weiss posted an article on the online magazine she edits, the Free Press, that purported to tell the story behind the “Twitter Files”—the investigatory series, based on a strategic leak, that Weiss has helped to author. “At dinner time on December 2, I received a text from Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, founder of SpaceX, founder of the Boring Company, founder of Neuralink, on most days the richest man in the world (possibly history), and, as of October, the owner of Twitter,” Weiss wrote. “Was I interested in looking at Twitter’s archives, he asked. And how soon could I get to Twitter HQ?”

These archives were a trove of internal company documents left behind from the previous corporate administration. They purported to show that, before Musk bought the company for $44 billion this fall, Twitter had engaged in surreptitious strategies of content moderation that suppressed certain right-leaning statements, opinions, stories, and individuals on its platform. Throughout the month of December, Weiss and a few other journalists—including former Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, the author of 2021’s San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities—have been surfacing and interpreting these files in a sequence of Twitter threads that happen to confirm many conservatives’ prior assumptions. So far, there have been six installments, pertaining to Twitter’s alleged practice of “shadow-banning” certain right-oriented accounts, its working relationship with various U.S. government departments, its moderation strategies in response to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and its decision to boot then-President Donald Trump from the platform. They have inspired headlines on Fox News and cries of “I knew it!” from the kind of Twitter personalities who say things like “woke mind virus” without a hint of irony.

In other words, the Twitter Files’ authors and their ideological counterparts have framed this material as evidence that Twitter, in thrall to its woke workforce and progressive politics more generally, had become an anti-democratic tool that extended the privilege of free speech only to those who held the proper political opinions. “Twitter’s former leadership curtailed public debate; drew arbitrary lines about what’s fake and what’s real; and gaslit ordinary Americans,” Weiss wrote in her Thursday night article. “Musk says he won’t do that.”

Right around the same time that Weiss’s piece went up, several mainstream journalists learned that their Twitter accounts had been suspended. Ostensibly, this was done in response to the journalists’ linking or referring to the Mastodon page for an account called @elonjet, which posts publicly available flight data about Musk’s private plane. Musk suspended @elonjet from Twitter earlier this week (reversing an earlier promise), and on Thursday night he justified all these media suspensions by claiming that @elonjet’s posts were the equivalent of “assassination coordinates.” It just so happened that all of these journalists had reported or commented critically on Musk’s tenure as Twitter’s boss; it also turned out that the story Musk had shared to justify the ban, involving a supposed threat to his son, had some glaring holes, too. By Saturday, after polling his Twitter followers about how long the bans should last, Musk had reinstated many of the suspended accounts. Later that day, Twitter suspended Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz after she asked Musk on Twitter to comment on a story she was working on regarding the original suspensions. (She’s since been reinstated.)

It is not at all surprising to watch Musk preen about exposing his predecessors’ alleged abuses of power while simultaneously engaging in the exact same behaviors that he had promised to avoid. Musk has always been too rich and too grandiose to care about following through on his promises. To hear Weiss tell it, Musk pitched her on his recent takeover of Twitter as his attempt to secure “the future of civilization.” While it is easy to believe that Musk thinks of himself in messianic terms, there’s no reason why the rest of us should rush to join his apostolate.

Even so, I am reluctant to dismiss the Twitter Files out of hand. The Twitter Files are inherently interesting if only because they help to illuminate the inner workings of one of the world’s most prominent tech companies during several pressure-cooker episodes. You don’t have to like Weiss, Taibbi, Musk, or the term “San Fransicko” to acknowledge that the documents do seem to illustrate certain contradictions between what Twitter professed in public and how some of its employees acted in private. How did Twitter make  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 9:47 pm

Reasons to move from LastPass to 1Password

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Jeremi Gosney has a very informative post on Mastodon that lists a series of excellent reasons to ditch LastPass in favor of 1Password. I had already moved when I read this (though I had read his earlier posts, which include several of the items in this post. Here’s what he writes:

I recently wrote a post detailing the recent #LastPass breach from a #password cracker’s perspective, and for the most part it was well-received and widely boosted. However, a good number of people questioned why I recommend ditching LastPass and expressed concern with me recommending people jump ship simply because they suffered a breach. Even more are questioning why I recommend #Bitwarden and #1Password, what advantages they hold over LastPass, and why would I dare recommend yet another cloud-based password manager (because obviously the problem is the entire #cloud, not a particular company.)

So, here are my responses to all of these concerns!

Let me start by saying I used to support LastPass. I recommended it for years and defended it publicly in the media. If you search Google for “jeremi gosney” + “lastpass” you’ll find hundreds of articles where I’ve defended and/or pimped LastPass (including in Consumer Reports magazine). I defended it even in the face of vulnerabilities and breaches, because it had superior UX and still seemed like the best option for the masses despite its glaring flaws. And it still has a somewhat special place in my heart, being the password manager that actually turned me on to password managers. It set the bar for what I required from a password manager, and for a while it was unrivaled.

But things change, and in recent years I found myself unable to defend LastPass. I can’t recall if there was a particular straw that broke the camel’s back, but I do know that I stopped recommending it in 2017 and fully migrated away from it in 2019. Below is an unordered list of the reasons why I lost all faith in LastPass:

– LastPass’s claim of “zero knowledge” is a bald-faced lie. They have about as much knowledge as a password manager can possibly get away with. Every time you login to a site, an event is generated and sent to LastPass for the sole purpose of tracking what sites you are logging into. You can disable telemetry, except disabling it doesn’t do anything – it still phones home to LastPass every time you authenticate somewhere. Moreover, nearly everything in your LastPass vault is unencrypted. I think most people envision their vault as a sort of encrypted database where the entire file is protected, but no — with LastPass, your vault is a plaintext file and only a few select fields are encrypted. The only thing that would be worse is if…

– LastPass uses . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Software, Technology

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The dance of the naked emperors

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This is a very interesting paper by Adam Mastroianni:

Last month I published a paper by uploading a PDF to the internet and people were like “nice paper, here are some thoughts!”

Two weeks ago I wrote a post saying peer review is a failed experiment and that one alternative is to upload PDFs to the internet and some people were like “HOLD ON THERE, BUSTER!”

A tenured professor hinted she might try to get me fired. A person with a PhD accused me of “cynical metacognitive polywaffle,” which a good name for a postmodern noise band. I got some weird and vaguely threatening emails, including one that had a screenshot of my personal website with my improv experience highlighted, proof that I am literally a clown. Which is, I guess, true.

(People said nice things too.)


To recap, I argued in my last post that:

  1. We’ve published science lots of different ways for a long time, and universal pre-publication peer review is both pretty new and historically strange.
  2. That system doesn’t seem to accomplish the goals that it claims to or that we wish it would.
  3. It’s worthwhile to try other things.

At its core, this is an argument against scientific monoculture. Why should everyone publish the same way? You’d have to be extremely certain that way was better than all other ways—and that it was better for every single person!—and that amount of certainty seems pretty loony to me. Uploading a PDF to the internet worked for me, but there are lots of other ways people could communicate their findings, and I hope they try them out.

This generated, in addition to the threats, some great comments. Thanks to everyone who wrote! Here are some responses.


First, some people were worried about what might happen in a world where everyone chose to upload PDFs to the internet instead of publishing in journals. For instance, Annon writes:

I don’t know what the solution is. Full disclosure, I’ve been working in journal publishing for 15 years.

You successfully self-published an article. If everyone who wrote a paper did that, there would be 100s of manuscripts uploaded weekly with zero quality control and zero discoverability unless like a self-publishing fiction author you work your ass off at social media to get noticed.

I understand this fear, but I think it’s got the wrong model of the world.

Imagine that the Nobel Committee decides to stop picking Nobel Prize winners. “Everybody can print out their own Nobel Prize certificate at home!” they announce.

It would be silly to worry that people would spend all day printing out Nobel Prizes—there’s no reason to, because they’re now worthless. If you show up to the lab and say, “Look everybody, I have four thousand Nobel Prizes!” everyone is going to laugh at you.

I think it would work the same in publishing papers. Right now you get credit for each paper you publish in a journal (with more credit for more prestigious journals), so you want to publish as many as you can. But if “publishing” is just “uploading a PDF to the internet,” you get no credit for the act of publishing itself, so publishing lots of papers just for the sake of publishing them would only make you look dumb.

I don’t have to imagine what this would be like, because it’s exactly the situation I’m in right now. When I work on projects that are intended to be published in journals, my brain goes, “PLAY THE GAME, PRODUCE LOTS OF PAPERS, GET IT OVER WITH.”

But when I work on projects intended to be published on Experimental History, my brain goes “make sure you do a good job! Be honest, interesting, and kind!” Without a journal to vouch for me, all I have is . . .

a very interesting paper.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Two new slants from Phoenix Artisan

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Two slant open-comb razors, a clear on lying on a box labeled "Filament" and a blue one on a box labeled "Phantom Blue," which has a figure shrouded in white with head covered.

Two slants arrived in today’s mail. The blue one is a “double slant,” which has to the eye an intimidating amount of blade exposure, though the feel on the face may not be so bad. The clear one is a regular slant. 

I’ll be taking these for a spin soon. I loaded them with Derby Extra blades for the trial runs.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Viking Textiles Show Women Had Tremendous Power

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Francine Russo writes in Scientific American:

Archaeology has a representation problem. For most of the time that scholars have been probing the human past, they have focused mainly on the activities of men to the exclusion of women. There are a couple reasons for this bias. One is that the kinds of artifacts that tend to preserve well are made of inorganic materials such as stone or metal, and many are associated with behaviors stereotypically linked to men, such as hunting. Another reason is that early archaeologists were mostly men and more interested in men’s work than in women’s. As a result, our understanding of past cultures is woefully incomplete.

In recent years archaeologists have sought to fill that gap in our knowledge, in part by taking a closer look at traditionally ignored remains such as textiles, which had long been dismissed as trivial. Cloth rarely survives the centuries because it decomposes easily except under ideal preservation conditions. But even in a fragmentary state, it contains a wealth of information about the people who made and used it.

Michèle Hayeur Smith, an anthropological archaeologist at Brown University, has been at the forefront of efforts to glean insights from ancient cloth, scouring archaeological sites and museum collections for textiles that could illuminate the lives of women in early North Atlantic societies. Her work has shown that the Vikings never would have expanded their known world without the women’s work of weaving.

Hayeur Smith’s study of early North Atlantic textiles took off from the basement storage area of the National Museum of Iceland, its rows of metal shelving bursting with boxes and bags of dirt-covered cloth. She first visited in 2009 to inspect the museum’s collection of remains from the Viking Age and later periods. “It was literally thousands of fragments,” she says. Yet they were just sitting there, hardly examined by anyone.

Hayeur Smith grew up surrounded by fabrics her anthropologist mother collected from around the world. In her 20s Hayeur Smith earned a fashion degree in Paris. She knew that the way people in the past clothed themselves and wove everything from currency to cloaks could reveal a great deal about a lost culture, especially its women. In the 1990s, as a Ph.D. student at the University of Glasgow, she’d devoted herself to studying Viking women’s dress and ornament, typically from artifacts found in burial sites. Inspired by her first glimpse of the wealth of textile remnants in the museum’s storeroom, Hayeur Smith eventually decided to uncover the lives of the ordinary women who stood weaving at their looms.

Ever since then, she has been analyzing textiles spanning 900 years of history, starting with the Viking settlement of Iceland in C.E. 874. She has pored over thousands of soil-encrusted fragments dense with information about the women who made the fabric. Her resulting studies of that museum’s neglected collection of little brown scraps, as well as many other specimens of ancient Viking and later North Atlantic fabric, are among the first to prove the old guard wrong about the importance of cloth and women in ancient societies.

Textiles trivial? In my Zoom interview with her, Hayeur Smith, blond hair spilling to her waist, calling to mind a Valkyrie, speaks in a voice ringing with conviction: “No. Textiles and what women made were as critical as hunting, building houses and power struggles,” she says. In the Viking and medieval eras, women were the basis of the North Atlantic economy, and their cloth allowed people to survive the climate of the North Atlantic.


In popular culture, Viking women are seen through the eyes of the era. In the 1950s they were portrayed as weak and subservient to men. In the 1970s they were sexualized. In recent shows such as Vikings and The Last Kingdom, they are depicted as shield-maidens or warriors.

Until Hayeur Smith began her work, the real lives of Viking women were largely unknown to science. According to archaeologist Douglas Bolender of the University of Massachusetts Boston, who studies the Viking Age and the medieval North Atlantic, the basic outline of Viking society came from the Icelandic sagas. Those book-length narrative accounts were set down more than 300 years after the events they describe. And the authors, who were men as far as we know, were Christianized people writing about their “pagan” ancestors.

Viking women have long been stereotyped in archaeology as performing primarily domestic tasks: child-rearing, cooking, weaving and making clothing. Written accounts and archaeological evidence confirm that they were weavers. Yet for years at a time during their husbands’ absences for raids or trading expeditions, women ran the farms and engaged in trade, Hayeur Smith says.

“There’s some truth” to the idea that we’ve found women’s work less interesting, says archaeologist Thomas McGovern of the City University of New York. McGovern, whose full white beard evokes an Old Testament patriarch, entered archaeology in the 1970s. “Mostly it was old white guys,” he recalls. Since then, however, the field has changed for the better, he says, with far more women and diversity generally.

Yet traditional views of women still color researchers’ interpretations of evidence, says archaeologist Marianne Moen of the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo. A Viking expert who studies gender in the archaeological record, she says that she regularly sees how the meaning of artifacts is distorted by preconceptions of what they must signify. For example, a grave filled with a warrior’s weapons at the Viking site of Birka in Sweden was long thought to be a man’s final resting place until DNA evidence proved it was a woman’s.

Alexandra Sanmark of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Perth, Scotland, an authority on Vikings and medieval archaeology, agrees. A man buried with scales is seen as a merchant, she says, but a woman buried with scales must be a merchant’s wife, despite ample evidence that women conducted trade.


Hayeur Smith decided to seek out North Atlantic women in the work of their hands. So little has been known about them until now, she says, “because it was men analyzing this from the perspective of men and medieval law codes written by men. Nobody had gone and looked at the actual stuff made by women.”

She did not begin her textile analysis completely from scratch. There had been a few studies of textiles, most notably by . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 11:48 am

Posted in Daily life, History, Science

‘Toxic masculinity’ may be caused by an actual, infectious, brain-altering parasite

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Mark Sumner writes at Daily Kos:

When you look around America these days, it’s hard to feel like there hasn’t been some kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers event. So many people seem not just anxious, but genuinely militant in their desire to bend back the arc of history. So many seem to be willing to work against their own best interests only because it brings other people pain.

People have looked for explanations, from prolonged exposure to Fox News to frustration over the slow decline of rural America, to a whole swath of isms: racism, sexism, etc. Watching people frothing at a Donald Trump rally, or beating police on the steps of the Capitol, or carrying an assault rifle to the grocery store, or screaming at their local school board, it all seems so … irrational. And, has long been noted, no amount of facts or reasoning seems to work in getting someone back once they have boarded the Q-train or decided that vaccines are the work of interstellar lizard people.

But what if the problem behind these seemingly irrational actions isn’t just caused by listening to AM radio and feeling resentful about that girl who turn you down in high school? What if it’s a disease caused by a genuine brain-eating parasite?

In November, Communications Biology included a paper from researchers looking at the behavior of grey wolves in Yellowstone National Park. They identified a series of “risk-taking” behaviors in these wolves, including leaving their pack, fighting to achieve dominance in the pack, and approaching people or cars. These behaviors all came with the risk of increased death, either at the teeth of other wolves or from the vehicles and guns of humans in and around the park.

What they found was simply amazing.

While male wolves who were infected with a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii were no more likely to approach humans than uninfected wolves, they were 3.5 times more likely to leave their pack than uninfected wolves, and an absolutely astounding 46 times more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected wolves. In general, these wolves were more dominant, more aggressive, and less predictable.

At the conclusion of the study the researchers noted that T. gondii infections are possible in almost all mammals, and: “Infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii has been linked to increased risk-taking in rodents, chimpanzees, hyenas, and now gray wolves.”

That leads directly to the question … what about people?

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, toxoplasmosis is common in the United States and is “considered to be a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness.” However, the relative number of those considered to show serious effects of T. gondii is quite low, generally less than 200 in any given year. According to the CDC, that’s because even though large numbers are infected with the parasite, “very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.”

But does it? Just because it doesn’t get reported as generating symptoms, that doesn’t mean the parasite isn’t having some effect. In fact, back in 2007, the National Institutes of Health published a paper compiling several studies looking into how toxoplasmosis affects human behavior.

Until recently, latent infections in humans were assumed to be asymptomatic. Results of animal studies and recent studies of personality profiles, behavior, and psychomotor performance, however, have led to a reconsideration of this assumption.

As in other mammals, the effects of infection by T. gondii are very different between males and females. But here’s what happens to men infected by this tiny, single-celled organism:

… the personality of infected men showed lower superego strength and higher vigilance. Thus, the men were more likely to disregard rules and were more expedient, suspicious, jealous, and dogmatic.

Suspicious. Jealous. Quicker to make an immediate judgment. Less willing to listen to others. Guys who were ready to break the rules if it helped them personally. Sound familiar? Other factors, such as self-control and even “clothes tidiness” were found to be decreased by infection. Here’s another one: Infected men scored significantly lower than uninfected men when it came to establishing relationships with women.

It is very hard not to draw a line between these results and guys like . . .

Continue reading.

I hope someone gets a grant to do some field research to compare, say, the rate of infection in a random US population and the rate of infection among self-identified incels.

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 10:37 am

A good slant this morning

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A shaving setup with a silvertip badger brush having an ivory handle labeled "Emperor" next to a tub of soap with a round white label saying The Strop Shoppe Russian Tea.' Next is a rectangular bottle of aftershave with a black cap labeled Rserve Spce. In fron is a gold-plated slant-bar razor lying on its side.

I settle comfortably back into my morning routine with an excellent shave — a two-day stubble since no Boxing Day shave. The Strop Shoppe may have been the first US artisan making an ultrapremium soap. Russian Tea remains quite a good soap, one with a spice fragrance. My Simpson Emperor 3 Super easily awakened an excellent lather, and I enjoyed working it into the stubble already being a thin coating of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave.

The Merkur 37G is a fine slant that still holds its own, and with a sharp blade it easily and comfortably removed all traces of stubble. I rubbed in a drop of Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum and then added a splash of Barrister & Mann’s Reserve Spice, and the day begins.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Hatley Castle: “a mix of black and green teas that include Ceylon, Keemun, Jasmine, and Gunpowder.” (The catalog entry does not include this information; I’m quoting an email I received in response to a query.)

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2022 at 8:41 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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