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Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

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Blindfolded Chess 960 (youtube.com)


Chess 960 is a variant of chess where the backrank is shuffled in its position. This helps overcome the opening memorization which is a dominant part of standard chess. This video is of Eric Rosen, an International Master and YouTuber, playing a blindfolded game of it. This means he starts the game not knowing where his pieces are and so you watch him play the game as he figures out the positions while playing against his opponent. A very impressive show of logic and memory.

9/13/2022 7:23 am | |
Tags: chess, memory

"The Hardest Natural Languages" (people.cs.umass.edu)

The linked paper is an academic paper from 1979 and is written with a definite tongue-in-cheek tone.

This was found via Hacker News. There was a fun comment at the top of the conversation when I checked it that referenced this blog post about the difficulties of learning Chinese, which is obviously a related topic to the linked paper:

Someone once said that learning Chinese is "a five-year lesson in humility". I used to think this meant that at the end of five years you will have mastered Chinese and learned humility along the way. However, now having studied Chinese for over six years, I have concluded that actually the phrase means that after five years your Chinese will still be abysmal, but at least you will have thoroughly learned humility.

And lastly, here is the US State department's ranking of languages by difficulty.

(And for the record, I'm not seeking out these linguistic posts. It's by chance I've had a number of topics for linguistics and conlangs based on my feeds recently.)

9/13/2022 11:34 am | |
Tags: linguistics

Sen. Lindsey Graham introduces bill to ban abortion nationally (pbs.org)

This is a fascinating bit of political and theater between the Republicans and Democrats. My guess is that this is a desperation play where they are hoping to scare Republicans who might vote Democratic back to the right. But I can't imagine that this is actually a winning strategy for them.

9/13/2022 3:07 pm | |
Tags: abortion, women's rights, us politics, republicans

"Idaho’s Far Right Suffers Election Loss to 18-Year-Old Climate Activist" (theintercept.com)

The student, Shiva Rajbhandari, was elected to the position by voters in Idaho’s capital last week, defeating an incumbent board member who had refused to reject an endorsement from a local extremist group that has harassed students and pushed to censor local libraries.

In an interview, Rajbhandari told The Intercept that although he had hoped people would vote for him rather than against his opponent — “My campaign was not against Steve Schmidt,” he said — he was nonetheless shocked that Schmidt did not immediately reject the far-right group’s endorsement. “I think that’s what the majority of voters took issue with,” Rajbhandari said.

Maybe the kids will be alright.

9/13/2022 6:22 pm | |
Tags: us politics, school board, idaho

"Kazakhstan approves proposal to restore capital’s old name Astana" (aljazeera.com)

Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has approved a proposal to restore the capital's previous name Astana, in a new sign of a break with the legacy of the country's former longtime leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The skyscraper-filled capital of the Central Asian country was renamed Nur-Sultan in March 2019, in honour of outgoing president Nazarbayev.

9/13/2022 6:24 pm | |
Tags: kazakhstan, history, geography

Are plastics part of the obesity epidemic? (washingtonpost.com 🗝️)

A new theory, far from definite. It is interesting to consider. We'll see where the science lands.

An emerging view among scientists is that one major overlooked component in obesity is almost certainly our environment — in particular, the pervasive presence within it of chemicals which, even at very low doses, act to disturb the normal functioning of human metabolism, upsetting the body's ability to regulate its intake and expenditure of energy.

Some of these chemicals, known as "obesogens," directly boost the production of specific cell types and fatty tissues associated with obesity. Unfortunately, these chemicals are used in many of the most basic products of modern life including plastic packaging, clothes and furniture, cosmetics, food additives, herbicides and pesticides.

Ten years ago the idea of chemically induced obesity was something of a fringe hypothesis, but not anymore.

"Obesogens are certainly a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic," is what Bruce Blumberg, an expert on obesity and endocrine-disrupting chemicals from the University of California, Irvine, told me by email. "The difficulty is determining what fraction of obesity is related to chemical exposure."

9/13/2022 6:41 pm | |
Tags: obesity, chemistry

China, Albania and Cuba are all higher than the USA in Life Expectancy (adamtooze.substack.com)

But stagnation is one thing, the collapse since 2019 is a phenomenon of a different quality. It is a full measure of the disaster that was the COVID pandemic in the United States. Over a million Americans died of COVID, one of the worst outcomes on the planet.

According to the CDC, half the disastrous fall in life expectancy is attributable to COVID with the opioid epidemic being a second significant factor.

In living memory China's life expectancy languished at levels prevailing in the West a hundred years ago. By the 1980s, thanks to the provision of basic sanitation, a minimum standard of living and health care, Communist China had surged ahead of most other developing countries. Chartbook Newsletter #28 showcased the reports of the World Bank on this startling fact. China's dramatic economic growth since the 1980s propelled further steady increases.

In terms of healthy years of life, China overtook the United States already in 2018. At the time the United States was one of only five countries - the others being Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - that were experiencing a fall in healthy life expectancy at birth. Extrapolating those trends, China was expected to overtake the United States in absolute life expectancy by the mid 2020s. The divergence in the handling of the COVID pandemic has brought that moment forward to 2021.

9/13/2022 6:46 pm | |
Tags: science, medicine, cdc, china, albania, cuba, united states

The Gates Foundation released their Goalkeepers report (gatesfoundation.org)

9/13/2022 6:49 pm | |
Tags: gates foundation, charity

"Former Gov. Phil Bryant helped Brett Favre secure welfare funding for USM volleyball stadium" (mississippitoday.org)

Never-before-seen text messages show former Gov. Phil Bryant tried to shepherd a proposal to use welfare funds on the construction of a new volleyball stadium for retired NFL player Brett Favre – a project prosecutors have called a scheme to defraud the government. Bryant has previously denied any involvement with the project, which has emerged as the centerpiece of a massive criminal scandal in which prominent officials misspent or stole millions in welfare funds intended for the nation's poorest residents.

Corruption comes in many forms, some more outwardly evil than others, but never-the-less evil to decide funds that have been assigned to welfare efforts, and instead, to use them build a volleyball stadium at the state college.

9/13/2022 7:41 pm | |
Tags: mississippi, corruption

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