Later On

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

Archive for June 2012

Maybe climate change is going to be bad in its effects?

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Dana Perino, press secretary for George W. Bush, said that climate change would bring many benefits and should not be condemned. Some of the drawbacks are becoming apparent, though: excruciatingly high summer temperatures combined with drought, producing ravaging forest fires (assisted by mismanagement of forests to avoid any smaller fires so that when fire does come, it comes like Shiva), and now successive derechos from Chicago through Maryland. Here’s a report from Baltimore, and I understand a lot of West Virginia is a disaster area. More derechos on the way.

I’m sure some will say that global warming has nothing to do with the record high temperatures (breaking records every year) and incredibly violent storms not seen before. Those are mostly denialists, who don’t believe that global warming is happening despite obvious evidence. Sen. James Inhofe, for example: a perfect example of a modern Don Quixote, clinging to his beliefs regardless of reality.

UPDATE: In looking over newspaper reports, I see that they so far are extremely careful not to mention “global warming” or “climate change”, presumably on the theory that if we ignore it, it will go away. I do not believe that will work, but I do detect a reluctance to face what’s happening and the clear trend of extreme weather, as predicted a generation ago.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2012 at 10:09 am

Losing weight

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I got an email from an on-line friend asking whether it was harder to lose weight the second time around. He has been involved in studying weight-loss and obesity issues professionally for quite a while, and he notes:

Every successful weight loss effort sets in motion myriad physiological and psychological mechanisms to regain the lost weight and prevent its subsequent loss. Of course, there has been speculation about this for 30 years, but now it seems the mechanisms are becoming clearer.

It appears that even one weight loss episode sets these mechanisms in motion, regardless of age.

So I had a big weight loss (80 lbs) and then I regained 20 lbs, which I’m now rapidly losing. (“Rapidly” does not apply to realistic and sensible weight loss: figure 1 lb/week, on average, and indeed the 80 lb loss took about 80 weeks: right at 18 months. I lost some data at my max because I made some router changes that threw my Withings wi-fi scale off-line, but on 18 June 2010 I was at 246.3; I hit 170.1 on 14 November 2011. Looking back, there was an awful lot of up and down, plus hovering between 180-185 for weeks and weeks, and then dashes down to 172, then back up, and so on. But just taking those endpoints, we’re looking at 17 months. Once I hit 170, I drifted between 170 and 180 for quite a while: not very good control. Then on 19 April 2012 I hit 192.6, and dropped to 186.4, but then back up to 192.9 on 10 May 2012. I paid attention, and generally speaking the weight started dropping.

Today is 30 June, 7.3 weeks later, and I’m at 180.4 this morning (weights are in pounds, not kg). 12.5 lbs in 7.3 weeks, or 1.7 lbs a week: quite a good rate, and included are some mild “blow-out” meals. I use that term for meals I now consider excessive, which is a far, far cry from my old blow-out meals, which now strike me as gargantuan. I have become so accustomed to the meal template, that even a blow-out meal must have a good balance of protein, starch, leafy vegetables, and moderate amounts of oil—and no refined starches or sugars. So the blow-out meals are not really all that bad. The worst part is normally I have a small amount (a half-bottle, generally) of wine, when generally I avoid alcohol altogether: pure calories.

Indeed, I broke the rule of no refined sugar or starch in the lead-up to 192.9 lbs, enjoying ice cream rather too frequently, but lesson learned: those foods are not for me. Theoretically, I could enjoy them in moderation, but moderation is much more difficult than abstinence—plus, I find, moderation is much more difficult for the unconscious mind to grasp: if I know I’m abstaining from ice cream, I can look at it with detachment, though I sensibly avoid looking as much as possible: I don’t even go down the ice-cream aisle in the supermarket. (Why strain my relationship with my unconscious?—particularly when he seems able to accept that we don’t eat that anymore.) But if I’m trying moderation, then any glimpse of ice cream means that I must (at the urging of the unconscious, no doubt) consider whether this is an occasion when I can partake—moderately, of course. But once begun, it’s hard to draw the line that defines where “moderately” ends and excess begins. Is eating just a spoonful a moderate amount? Surely. So perhaps a spoonful every couple of hours, or every 30 minutes, or every 5 minutes, or just sit down with the pint… You see how it becomes hard to draw a definite line on “moderately” but quite easy to know where the line is with “abstain.”

I should note that your adaptive unconscious is your strongest ally or your worst enemy, depending on how you approach him/her. (I find it helpful to consider the adaptive unconscious as a person in his/her own right.) Again I recommend Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious. (By the way, if any of my readers actually read a book I recommend, I’d love to hear that. 🙂 )

So: no, I don’t find it difficult to lose weight I’ve regained, because now I have learned the practical skills of weight loss and I know what to do. I have now also grasped that a 5-lb gain (quite easy to do) means a month (roughly) of work to lose it. When I looked at losing 20 lbs, I estimated I would be working at it for five months, though it looks now as if it will be more like three months.

I think many people have unrealistic internally-felt time tables, and sort of assume that they can blast away a 5-lb gain in a week, so why not put on another 5? That’s amazingly easy to do, especially if you have not actually changed your internal feeling of what a meal is. Thus the importance of the grub template (updated just this morning): once the template is internalized, it makes choosing foods (at a cafeteria, for example) much easier: small portion of protein, skip the bread and ice cream (totally refined foods), thus skipping butterfat as well. Avoid the cheese—a lump of fat disguised as food. Load up on leafy greens and vegetables cooked without fat. Look for some sort of starch that’s not potatoes (too much like refined food). Obviously no french fries, a deadly trio of a simple starch, a lot of fat, and a lot of salt. I sometimes accept cooked dried beans as a starch, though they are also a good fiber and partial protein. In fact, I’m going to start adding cooked pulse to my grub more often: I can lighten up somewhat on the other protein. (Tofu and tempeh are, of course, bean products and also complete proteins, and I use those a lot.)

People with a bad time-sense of weight loss will go a few weeks, see that little is happening, and decide, “To hell with it,” and have a big meal—and if they have not internalized the new way of eating, it will be a big meal of the very sort that created the problem in the first place. Their weight will increase, and they’ll think, “See? It just doesn’t work for me. I must have some special problem that medical science doesn’t yet understand.”

But in fact, I’m losing weight as rapidly as I ever did—indeed, more rapidly, because at this point I have a much better understanding of what I must do (in practical rather than theoretical terms) and I have had much more practice in doing it. Moreover, my gain gain to 192.9 lbs was pretty clearly from making bad choices based on the thought: “My weight is now so low, I can afford to eat some things as I once did.” That turns out to be a false dream. Instead, I should be thinking things like, “My weight is so low, I think I’ll enjoy an alternative meal, like clams and mussels with a small amount of cooked pasta and an enormous salad with 2 tsp of olive oil in the dressing and one glass of white wine.”

My goal now, once I reach 170 again, is to keep my weight between 170 and 173, which means sensible eating every day, rather than foolish eating once a week or so. The foolish eating can rapidly wipe out all that you’ve achieved and also serves to communicate to the unconscious, “Don’t give up hope! We can still eat the old way occasionally: prompt me when you see something tasty,” which means fighting (unconscious) impulses constantly. If you adopt the abstinence mindset, you won’t have the impulses—at least that seems true for me.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2012 at 9:56 am

Posted in Fitness, Food, Grub

Honeysuckle soap and two brushes

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The above is a post-shave photo. All four of the photos pre-shave were out of focus—so much for autofocus. So the brushes are still damp, but at least the sizes are obvious. I did have a Stubby 2, but it felt too large to me, so the remaining Stubby is a 1. The other brush is the Duke 3 Best. The two brushes perform equally well, and it’s difficult to tell the difference between them on the face. The Duke is a tiny bit larger, but a Stubby 2 may equal or exceed the Duke 3 in size.

I noticed that in using my usual lathering method—wet brush the fully (so squeezing or shaking), hold tub on its side over the sink, and brush briskly, firmly, and at length—I really didn’t lose any water into the sink. It’s different with the fluffier, longer-lofted brushes: they hold more water, so some spills out. They also hold more lather and feel softer, but these held plenty of lather, and the slightly firmer feel is nice as well.

I’m still experimenting with the Parker head. This one held a Swedish Gillette blade, and the shave was perfectly fine: it even felt good. So the 92R works and the 99R doesn’t? Same head, doesn’t make sense. OTOH, the 99R I used had an Astra Superior Platinum blade, and the same blade can perform differently in different razors: one guy commented that the Astra in his Wilkinson Sword Classic razor tore up his face, but was as smooth as silk in an Edwin Jagger razor. So I swapped blades between the two razors and will try the 99R on Monday. (No shave on Sunday. Never on Sunday.)

I did use the Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap, and I have to say that mpperry was exactly right when he strongly recommended the soap on Wicked_Age. It is amazing. It took me a long while to get around to trying it, but it was always in the back of my mind. It is well worth trying for you pre-shave beard wash at the sink—and it’s just $1.99/bar. Amazing stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

30 June 2012 at 7:51 am

Posted in Shaving

Readers who are employees: Here is what businesses would do with all employees if they could

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And now that they’re running the country, more or less, thanks to the Citizens United decision, we may see more of this—especially with regulatory agencies deprived of funding so that they cannot function effectively. Steven Greenhouse reports in the NY Times:

Wal-Mart Stores has suspended one of its seafood suppliers in the South as an advocacy group for foreign workers pressed the retailer to improve working conditions there and at a dozen other suppliers cited for hundreds of federal labor violations.

The advocacy group, the National Guestworker Alliance, said on Friday that it had found terrible conditions at C. J.’s Seafood, a crawfish company in Breaux Bridge, La. Several immigrant workers said they had been forced to work 16 to 24 hours consecutively and had even been locked into the plant. Guest workers said they sometimes labored more than 80 hours a week, had been threatened with beatings to press them to work faster and had been warned that their families in Mexico would be hurt if they complained to government agencies.

“It’s one of the worst workplaces we ever encountered anywhere,” said Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, a university-sponsored monitoring group that was asked by the guest-worker advocates to investigate C. J.’s Seafood. “The extreme lengths of the shifts people were required to work, the employer’s brazenness in violating wage laws, the extent of the psychological abuse the workers faced and the threats of violence against their families — that combination made it one of the most egregious workplaces we’ve examined, whether here or overseas.”

Guest workers are temporary workers from abroad who typically receive special visas to do seasonal work.

On Friday, the National Guestworker Alliance released a list of 644 federal citations at 12 other Wal-Mart food suppliers that employ guest workers and used that list to assert that the retailer had fallen short on ensuring that its suppliers complied with its standards.

Lorenzo Lopez, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said the retailer had begun its own investigation of C. J.’s, which supplied its Sam’s Club warehouse stores, and had uncovered violations of some of its supplier standards.

“We have suspended C. J.’s Seafood as a supplier, pending the outcome of the investigation,” Mr. Lopez said.

He said that the United States Labor Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were conducting their own investigations of the seafood processor.

C. J.’s did not respond to several phone messages left at its main office. . .

Continue reading. Of course they didn’t respond. The South has never really given up the idea of having slaves: it’s in their culture. Much the same thing has been found repeatedly in Florida among migrant workers there, some of whom work under conditions indistinguishable from slavery.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 8:23 pm

Probably if a few Google executives went to prison, this sort of thing would stop

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Very interesting story by Peter Maas of ProPublica:

Jonathan Mayer had a hunch.

A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google.

This is precisely the type of privacy violation the Federal Trade Commission aims to protect consumers from, and Google, which claims the cookies were not planted in an unethical way, now reportedly faces a fine of more than $10 million. But the FTC didn’t discover the violation. Mayer is a 25-year-old student working on law and computer science degrees at Stanford University. He shoehorned his sleuthing between classes and homework, working from an office he shares in the Gates Computer Science Building with students from New Zealand and Hong Kong. He doesn’t get paid for his work and he doesn’t get much rest.

If it seems odd that a federal regulator was scooped by a sleep-deprived student, get used to it, because the federal government is often the last to know about digital invasions of your privacy. The largest privacy scandal of the past year, also involving Google, wasn’t discovered by federal regulators, either. A privacy official in Germany forced Google to hand over the hard drives of cars equipped with 360-degree digital cameras that were taking pictures for its Street View program. The Germans discovered that Google wasn’t just shooting photos: The cars downloaded a panoply of sensitive data, including emails and passwords, from open Wi-Fi networks. Google had secretly done the same in the United States, but the FTC, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, which oversees broadcast issues, had no idea until the Germans figured it out.

Nearly every day, and often several times a day, there is fresh news of privacy invasions as companies hone their ability to imperceptibly assemble a vast amount of data about anyone with a smartphone, laptop or credit card. Retailers, search engines, social media sites, news organizations — all want to know as much as they can about their visitors and users so that ads can be targeted as precisely as possible. But data mining, which has become central to the corporate bottom line, can be downright creepy, with companies knowing what you search for, what you buy, which websites you visit, how long you browse — and more. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Target realized a teenage customer was pregnant before her father knew; the firm identifies first-term pregnancies through, among other things, purchases of scent-free products. It’s akin to someone rifling through your wallet, closet or medicine cabinet, but in the digital sphere no one picks your pocket or breaks into your house. The tracking is done mostly without your knowledge and, in many cases, despite your attempts to stop it, as Mayer discovered.

The FTC is the lead agency in the government’s effort to ensure that companies do not cross the still-hazy border between acceptable and unacceptable data collection. But the agency’s ambitions are clipped by a lack of both funding and legal authority, reflecting a broader uncertainty about the role government should play in what is arguably America’s most promising new industry. Companies like Facebook and Google are global brands for which data mining is at the core of present and future profits. How far should they go? Current laws provide few limits, mainly banning data collection from children under 13 and prohibiting the sale of personal medical data. Beyond that, it’s a digital mosh pit, and it’s likely to remain that way because more regulation tends to be regarded by politicians in both parties as meaning fewer jobs. Students will probably continue to beat the FTC to the punch: The agency just has one privacy technologist working in its Division of Privacy and Identity Protection and one in the Division of Financial Practices. “I don’t think it’s controversial to note that they seem to be understaffed,” Mayer said in a phone interview between classes. “I think that’s pretty clear.”

This isn’t the usual sort of story about regulation watered down by intimate ties between government officials and the industry they oversee. Unlike the U.S. Minerals Management Service, where not long ago a number of officials were found to have shared drugs and had sex with representatives of the oil and gas industry, key FTC officials hired by the Obama administration are privacy hawks who worked previously for consumer-rights groups like Public Citizen and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Under Chairman Jon Leibowitz, a Democrat appointed to the FTC in 2004 and tapped as chairman by President Obama in 2009, the FTC has pushed boundaries; its first privacy technologist, hired shortly after Liebowitz became chairman, was a semifamous activist who made a name for himself by printing fake boarding passes to draw attention to airline security lapses (the FBI, which raided his house, was not pleased). The agency is working with the tech industry to create and voluntarily adopt a Do Not Track option, so that consumers can avoid some intrusive web tracking by advertising firms. And it issued a report this year that called for new legislation to define what data miners can and cannot do.

Yet the FTC is . . .

Continue reading. It’s a lengthy article well worth your time.

So long as companies can simply write checks in return for lawbreaking rather than having anyone serve prison time, they will continue to break the law, figuring the checks they write are just part of the cost of doing business. Moreover, the checks are always for insignificant amounts compared to company assets and income. It’s like a driver who knocks down a pedestrian and breaks his leg having to pay a $50 fine. Sure, it’s a fine, but it is really insignificant.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Some GOP governors wrong-footed by Supreme Court healthcare decision

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Interesting article by Kevin Sack and Reed Abelson in the NY Times. Apparently some governors are planning simply not to obey the law—so much for the party of law and order.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act shifts the focus from whether sweeping changes to the health insurance market should take place to a scramble to meet the law’s rapidly approaching deadlines.

A number of largely Republican-led states that gambled on delay now face the unsettling prospect that the federal government could take over their responsibilities, particularly in setting up the health insurance marketplaces known as exchanges, where people will be able to choose among policies for their coverage.

Under the law, which the court upheld in its entirety by a 5-to-4 vote, individuals must be able to buy insurance coverage through the new state exchanges by Jan. 1, 2014. But a more immediate deadline is less than six months away, on Jan. 1, 2013, when states must demonstrate to the Department of Health and Human Services that the exchanges will be operational the next year.

If they do not, the secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, “shall establish and operate” the exchanges for the states, according to the statute, a prospect that Republican governors like Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin would presumably find anathema.

Mr. Walker quickly raised the risk by announcing that, in spite of the ruling, he would continue to delay any imposition of the law while waiting to see whether Republicans took control of the White House or Congress in November. Republicans on Capitol Hill, and the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, have vowed to repeal the entire law if they gain power.

“Wisconsin will not take any action to implement Obamacare,” Mr. Walker said in a statement. “I am hopeful that political changes in Washington, D.C., later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level.”

Mr. Perry issued a statement calling the court’s ruling “a stomach punch to the American economy.” While he did not say whether he would move ahead to put the law in place, he echoed Mr. Walker in using the ruling as a call to political arms. “Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us,” Mr. Perry said, “we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform.”

The court also left conservative states and those with financial troubles to decide whether to participate in a significant expansion of Medicaid eligibility scheduled for 2014. The majority ruled that it was permissible for the federal government to impose such an expansion on states, and to ask that they eventually pay a fractional share of the cost of covering low-income residents.

But it ruled that the federal government could not penalize states for noncompliance by withholding their existing federal Medicaid dollars, effectively eliminating Washington’s enforcement stick.

Ohio’s Republican governor, John R. Kasich, suggested

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 4:53 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Healthcare, Law

Two-bean, two-green, two-fish grub

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I cooked 1 cup of black rice in 2 cups water last night and then ate about 3/4 cup, plus another 1/2 cup in a sardine salad at lunch. So probably about 1 cup cooked black rice made it into the grub

In wide-diameter 6-qt pot:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
generous pinch of salt—probably about 1 tsp

Sweat the onion for 5 minutes or so over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown. Add:

2 Tbsp smoked paprika

Sauté that for about another 4-5 minutes, then add:

1/4 cup minced garlic
3 Serrano peppers, chopped small
3/4-1 cup chopped celery
1 good-sized zucchini, diced
4 domestic white mushrooms, sliced in half then sliced into thick chunks

Sauté for another 5-8 minutes, then add:

4 chopped fresh Roma tomatoes (I pulse in the food processor, leaving them chunky)
1 can black beans, drained rinsed
6 oz green beans, cut into 1″ sections
the cooked black rice—all that was left
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3-4 Tbsp Amontillado sherry
2 Tbsp Taste #5 umami paste

Cook for about 5 minutes more (I want everything hot), then add:

1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed well and chopped
8 oz kale salad (mostly kale, with some red cabbage and coarsely grated carrot)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Simmer covered for 20 minutes, then add:

8 oz Pacific swordfish steak, cut into chunks
8 oz sockeye salmon, cut into chunks

Simmer covered for 10 minutes, check liquid level. This was a little liquidy, so I added:

1/2 cup whole-wheat couscous
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

The couscous absorbs the liquid, the olives I just decided to include on a whim.

This made about 4 qts, I’d say, once everything cooked down. And, as usual, it is delicious.



Simmer 12 minutes more.

Extremely tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 4:43 pm

Plugging away

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Got the bounce: weight is up 1/2 lb: 182.2 today from 181.7 yesterday. I should confess that last night I had a fair amount of fish—12 oz minimum of Pacific sword fish and sockeye salmon—in a salad of greens, half a Vidalia sweet onion, and 1/2 cup black rice. The dressing was 2 Tbsp of olive oil with paprika, salt, pepper, a clove of crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar, shaken vigorously in a small jar and then poured over. Also a half-bottle (split) of chardonnay, with a dry pint of fresh red raspberries for dessert. So I celebrated, and the gain could be that or simply the bounce.

But today I’m making a new batch of grub—finished the last of the two-greens grub yesterday. I will use the rest of the swordfish and salmon I bought in this grub, but I’m adding it at the very end, so it doesn’t get stirred to pieces as the grub cooks. Recipe (probably “description” is a better word) later.

This morning I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the shaving equipment and supplies I’ve accumulated, so in a couple of months I’m going to have a big sale and get rid of a lot of it. More on that later. But I really want to cut back. I have bought things one at a time to try them out so I could write about them in the book, but if you do that over a long enough time, you end up with a lot. (The same idea behind a regular savings program.) Time to trim back.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

An actually good shave

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I thought yesterday’s shave was okay if not particularly smooth, but when The Wife arrived to take me to the doctor, she pointed out a series of cuts on my chin and lower lip—small nicks that I had not noticed right after the shave but that had left a series of small blood clots: unattractive and a pretty clear indication that it was not in fact a very good shave. Two obvious possibilities: the Parker head doesn’t work well for me; or I need to learn the head. I am going to try it a few more times, but I couldn’t face it again so soon, so I picked up my Edwin Jagger lined DE8x model (I cannot remember all the model numbers and have given up trying) and shaved with it today. I could tell the difference in comfort from the first stroke: this razor is for me much better than the Parker. Of course, I’ve also shaved with it more, but I have to admit that I’m inclined to believe that this head is better designed for a close comfortable shave.

The lather was made by the Mühle silver fibre bruhs, which I like quite a bit. It has the same softness—fluffiness, almost—of the Mühle silvertip badger, and is equally good at generating and holding lather. Lather today comes from Kell’s Original Energy shaving soap, a fragrance I like a lot. I took my time loading the brush—I can’t believe how briefly I brushed the soap a couple of years ago—and got a very nice lather with that terrific Energy fragrance.

Three very smooth and comfortable passes with no nicks (a fine thing) and a splash of D.R. Harris Arlington, and I’m ready for a busy day: walk, grocery shop, make grub, Pilates, rip the rest of Don Quixote, and so on. But the house is clean—and I have a new grandson. 🙂 He’s a very handsome guy, just over 2/3 the size of Megs.

Written by Leisureguy

29 June 2012 at 9:07 am

Posted in Shaving

Two very enjoyable movies

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American Pastime I got from the library and thoroughly enjoyed as a visit to the past: the decision to round up certain Americans in WWII based on their race and put them in concentration camps. (Not Germans or Italians, oddly, only Japanese-Americans.) The newsreel footage, which seemed to be authentically of the time, was ironic in the extreme. It’s a baseball movie with a twist. Highly enjoyable, though looking at an aspect of American generally ignored.

Man on a Ledge I’m watching now: a caper movie with a twist coming up. An excellent cast of studio-musician-type actors: Ed Harris, Kyra Sedgewick, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Burns, and others: really well performed, interesting story, good production values.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

How to give customers a definite impression

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On the trip to San Jose we arrived a little early and stopped at a Starbucks near Good Samaritan Hospital, fresh fruit cup for me (only $4.35 for a quarter of an apple, in essence—6 blueberries, 5 grapes, and 4 pieces of unripe cantaloupe in addition). Three guys were working, and all had a 3-day stubble. The hair was pretty bad as well. Fashions do change, but truly a bum looks as good. The unwashed look is not so attractive as these guys believe, I suspect.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good news re: unnecessary trip

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This morning the bubble in my eye isteeny, and of course I’ve done two days of Pilates (which, though not aerobic, is quite strenuous). Last time at this stage, I saw a dark cloud followed by complete retinal detachment (save for the point where the laser repair was done with the first detachment which had only begun). This one left me within 48 hours with no vision at all: a clear tunnel surrounded by darkness, then darkness absolute. I now have full vision in that eye, though the retinal surgeon told me later it was not certain that I would be able to see at all following such a complete detachment. But all’s well that ends well… except this morning I thought I detected a slight sign of a dark cloud at the upper left of my left eye’s field of vision. It was hard to tell, but I am gun-shy at this point, and though I asked my surgeon if I could resume Pilates, I suddenly realized that he might think it was some lightweight, rec-center sort of Pilates class, rather than the individual workout I get.

I called the local office of the retinal group as soon as it opened, and the only appointment before the weekend was one at 3:00 today in San Jose.

I felt I had no choice. The Wife really wanted to go with me—and she didn’t want me driving—so we barreled up there. I saw the surgeon, he examined my eye, and it was securely attached everywhere.

I felt an enormous sense of relief. I hadn’t realized how tense and worried I was, trying to be phlegmatic and all. But all is fine. I asked about Pilates, and it turns out that the surgeon’s wife does exactly the same sort, so he knows how strenuous it is. He suggested no jumping, and I quickly confirmed that this meant I also should not take up boxing, and he agreed and said bungee jumping was out as well: I’m delighted to hear it.

So a return home, an unneeded trip, and an enormous sense of relief. Tomorrow will be a very nice day indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical useful on-line reference

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This site is quite good. From the site:

Drug War Facts provides reliable information with applicable citations on important public health and criminal justice issues. It is updated continuously by its Editor, Mary Jane Borden.

Most charts, facts and figures are from government sources, government-sponsored sources, peer reviewed journals and occasionally newspapers. In all cases the source is cited so that journalists, scholars and students can verify, check context and obtain additional information.

Our mission is to offer useful facts, cited from authoritative sources, to a debate that is often characterized by myths, error, emotion and dissembling. We believe that in time an informed society will correct its errors and generate wiser policies.

It’s an on-line “book”, with links to chapters. Currently (the book is continually updated):

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 9:32 am

Posted in Drug laws

Weighing in

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Down 0.1 lb, to 180.7 lbs. This is quite good: usually after a big drop (183.8 to 180.8), there’s a little bounce up. So perhaps I’m at a new plateau for a few days.

Note how one simply keeps on doing the right things—eating wisely and exercising—and eventually the weight drops. One important skill for weight loss is patience: throwing up one’s hands and reverting to poor eating practices will NOT succeed. I know; I’ve tried that. Instead, with patience and continued good practice, the weight will in time drop. Of course, if the weight seems stuck, it’s a very good idea to look at your food log and think about things not entered (because “they’re not worth entering”—that’s how my habit of taking bites from leftovers after dinner sneaked through for a while) to see if some adjustments should be made to the diet.

And, in particular, look not merely at the (approximate) calorie content of the food (I saw “approximate” because I don’t actually compute the calories, though calorie figures are automatically provided if you use an on-line food log or an iPhone app or the like), but also at the source of those calories. Gary Taubes wrote a terrific book (Good Calories, Bad Calories—inexpensive secondhand copies at the link) on this topic—I highly recommend the book, in case that wasn’t clear—and Mark Bittman has a recent column in the NY Times on the same topic, which begins:

One of the challenges of arguing that hyperprocessed carbohydrates are largely responsible for the obesity pandemic (“epidemic” is no longer a strong enough word, say many experts) is the notion that “a calorie is a calorie.”

Accept that, and you buy into the contention that consuming 100 calories’ worth of sugar water (like Coke or Gatorade), white bread or French fries is the same as eating 100 calories of broccoli or beans. And Big Food — which has little interest in selling broccoli or beans — would have you believe that if you expend enough energy to work off those 100 calories, it simply doesn’t matter.

There’s an increasing body of evidence, however, that calories from highly processed carbohydrates like white flour (and of course sugar) provide calories that the body treats differently, spiking both blood sugar and insulin and causing us to retain fat instead of burning it off.

In other words, all calories are not alike.

You might need a little background here: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 8:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food

All-new shave

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All new products today. The Mühle silver fibre brush and the Coate’s Limited Edition shaving cream came from, in Ireland: airmail shipping was $6, which sees quite reasonable to me (just a little more than US Priority Mail for domestic delivery).

The synthetic fibre brush is extremely handsome: I really like the handle, which looks good from all angles. The brush itself performs indistinguishably (to me) from a good silvertip, at substantially lower cost.

I was eager to try Coate’s, a famous old brand that was in abeyance for a while. This is quite a firm cream, on the order of Proraso soap, so I used my soap-lathering method (fully wet brush) rather than the method for soft shaving creams (shaken out brush twirled on top of the soap to coat the tips of the bristles with shaving cream). I got a good lather and the soap has a fine fragrance—which, of course, I cannot identify, my nose being fragrance-illiterate. (For a highly educated nose, read Chandler Burr’s wonderful book that profiles Luca Turin, The Emperor of Scent—inexpensive secondhand copies at the link.)

It was also a good lather for shaving. I used a Parker 99R, in my continuing investigation of Parker razors, and got a fine shave with an Astra Superior Platinum blade. I was a little concerned about the spiral-engraved handle—a similar design makes the Merkur “Sledgehammer” razor unusable for me, though it’s fine for some—but this razor is not so heavy as the Merkur (despite its being of a substantial feel) and it showed no tendency at all to twist. I got a fine shave, and it’s a good razor.

Finally, I used the Shea Moisture Three Butters lotion (shea, mango, and avocado butters—i.e., oils). Very nice indeed, and I particularly like the fragrance. It’s quite thick, and a little dab rubbed over the face is soothing and leaves a slightly moist feeling, but by the time I had dressed, immediately following the shave, it had dried or been absorbed and my skin felt totally natural. This is an aftershave balm I like.

Written by Leisureguy

28 June 2012 at 8:27 am

Posted in Daily life

Good advice on attitude

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If you find yourself thinking that anyone driving slower than you is “an idiot” and anyone driving faster than you is “a maniac,” you may have the sort of problem Lifehacker discusses in this good post.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2012 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

A terrific portable hard drive

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Wirecutter reviews the Silicon Power Armor A80, which sounds like one hell of a hard drive. 1 Terabyte for $128. (750 GB for $100 at the same link.) Wow.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2012 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Technology

What Rodney King taught America

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Rodney King taught us two things: First, have a video camera ready—and now cameraphones can do that, so a lot of people can take a video to document police misbehavior.

Second, documenting police misbehavior will often have little effect unless the object of their attention is a white middle-class citizen—and the police know this, so they tend to treat white middle-class citizens with more respect. When the officers that beat the helpless King were all acquitted—despite having their actions captured on tape—many of us realized that the US was not what we whites had thought it was. It was an ugly place with thugs and goons in uniform who could be brutal to minorities with impunity.

The impunity started to fade as more and more videos were made, and we realized that it was not only minorities, but any helpless person who might be subjected to the psychological needs some in uniform had: to prove to themselves that they were strong by acting harshly toward those who were weaker: kids, old people, the sick, the homeless, persons of color: all grist for police brutality that would go unpunished even if recorded on tape.

But as more and more of the videos surfaced—pre-teen skateboarders threatened with bodily harm by fat, middle-aged cops who carried a club (excuse me, “baton”) and a gun—people became worried: were we opening the doors to paramilitary aggression. Watching the police club (or should that be “baton”) protesters at various events, or spray them with Mace and other noxious chemicals without provocation, just because the police felt like it, we realized that we ourselves were in danger.

The police responded: they worked to make it illegal to record their aggressive actions against the helpless. Without the documentation of videos, they could simply deny everything and they knew that their brother officers would back them up—or else. (Police don’t hesitate to turn on each other, particularly on officers who report illegal behavior: those officers put their lives at risk.) What we have in more police departments than we want to believe are armed gangs with immunity, who can do as they please.

Video capability is changing that. Police now know to confiscate and destroy cameraphones and video cameras, but now the capability of streaming video directly to the Internet undercuts the efficacy of the tactic—though I’m unclear of how reliable or widespread that capability is.

And in any event, many of the interactions are low-key and over before video can be made, such as the stop-and-frisk harassment dealt out in large doses to minorities in New York City, as reported in the NY Times today by Wendy Ruderman:

Most of the time, the officers swoop in, hornetlike, with a command to stop: “Yo! You, come here. Get against the wall.”

They batter away with questions, sometimes laced with profanity, racial slurs and insults: “Where’s the weed?” “Where’s the guns?”

The officers tell those who ask why they have been stopped to shut up, using names like immigrant, old man or “bro.”

Next comes the frisk, the rummaging through pockets and backpacks. Then they are gone.

Other times, the officers are polite, their introductions almost gentle. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Can you step over here, sir?” “We’d like to talk to you.”

The questions are probing, authoritative, but less accusatory. “What are you doing here?” “Do you live here?” “Can I see some identification, please?” During the pat-down, they ask, “Do you have anything on you?” They nudge further: “You don’t mind if I search you, do you?” They explain that someone of a matching description robbed a store a few days ago, or that the stop is a random one, part of a program in a high-crime area. Then they apologize for the stop and say the person is free to go.

In interviews with 100 people who said they had been stopped by the New York police in neighborhoods where the practice is most common, many said the experience left them feeling intruded upon and humiliated. And even when officers extended niceties, like “Have a nice night,” or called them “sir” and “ma’am,” people said they questioned whether the officer was being genuine.

Michael Delgado, 18, said he was last stopped on Grant Street in East New York, Brooklyn. “I was walking, and a cop said, ‘Where’s the weed?’ ” he recalled. “In my mind, I’m like, ‘Yo, this guy’s a racist.’ He started frisking me, his hands were in my pockets, but I didn’t say anything because my mom always tells me: ‘No altercations. Let him do his thing.’ ”

When the stop-and-frisk was done, Mr. Delgado said, the officer left him with a casual aside to stay safe.

“Stay safe?” Mr. Delgado said. “After he just did all that?”

Last year, city police officers stopped nearly 686,000 people, 84 percent of them black or Latino. The vast majority — 88 percent of the stops — led to neither an arrest nor a summons, although officers said they had enough reasonable suspicion to conduct a frisk in roughly half of the total stops, according to statistics provided by the New York Police Department and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Behind each number is a singular and salient interaction between the officers and the person they have stopped. In conducting the interviews, The New York Times sought to explore the simple architecture of the stops — the officers’ words and gestures, actions, explanations, tones of voice and demeanors.

What seems clear is . . .

Continue reading.

The problem is worsened by the inability of the police to root out bad officers and corruption in their own ranks. The dark side of being a social species is a group cohesion that can lead to destruction of any member who dares to stand apart from the group—as recounted in this report by Joseph Goldstein, also in the NY Times:

In the hallways of Police Headquarters and precinct station houses, posters exhort officers to call the Internal Affairs Bureau if they observe corruption.

The phone numbers could not be easier to remember.

One is 1-800-Pride-PD; 212-CORRUPT is another.

Yet dialing these numbers can be the most difficult call a police officer ever makes.

“I’m reporting a guy on my team. What do I do? What do I do?” said Jeffrey McAvoy, a former narcotics detective who called in 2008 to report a lieutenant whom he suspected of stealing $5,000 hidden in a drug dealer’s sneakers.

“I went to the bathroom about a dozen times and threw up, actually physically threw up, before I made the call,” Mr. McAvoy recalled.

The Patrol Guide, a hefty set of regulations governing conduct in the New York Police Department, states that all officers “have an absolute duty to report any corruption or serious misconduct.” But within the department, that regulation contends with an older taboo against informing on other police officers.

“You’ll be the enemy,” said Frank Serpico, the department’s most famous whistle-blower; his police career ended after he was shot in the face in 1971.

In the decades since Mr. Serpico helped reveal the graft that many plainclothes officers routinely took, the department has tried to lessen the stigma associated with reporting a fellow officer.

But the department’s official stance, according to lawsuits filed by three former detectives and one current one, runs counter to what police officers have experienced.

Those lawsuits, and interviews with several officers who have called Internal Affairs to report their colleagues, seem to provide ample evidence that the anti-snitching culture in the Police Department remains virulent.

The department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, declined to comment.

One plaintiff is . . .

Continue reading.

The police cannot control or regulate the activities of the police, and so misbehavior becomes embedded in police culture. What’s a solution? An alert citizenry, an aggressive and independent press, ubiquity of cameraphones that can record audio and video all help, but as a friend once pointed out, it is nowhere written that every problem has a solution.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2012 at 9:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Groupthink of one

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I’ve several times mentioned the value of habitually asking oneself, on seeing the behavior of others, “What does that tell me?” It works because actions speak louder (and, we feel, more truly) than words. Patterns of behavior are particularly telling.

And I’ve recommended to try the same thing with oneself: to look at one’s own behavior from the outside, as an objective on-looker would see it, rather than through the distorting shimmer of one’s intentions and motivations: the action itself, standing alone. People always have good and sufficient reason (in their eyes) for doing what they do, and they view their own actions in that light, which makes it hard to see how the actions appear to others.

Writers, for example, generally know what they’re trying to communicate, so when they read what they’ve written they read it in the light of that knowledge. Indeed, Robert Graves and Alan Hodge titled their (superb) book on writing The Reader Over Your Shoulder because the goal of the book (discussed, with a link to exercises, in this post) is to help the writer become that (third-party) reader: the one who reads what the writer has written from the view of someone else.

But doing that is extremely hard, so a lot of writing is of the COIK variety: Clear Only If (already) Known. And you constantly see writers trying to convince readers who are puzzled and confused by a passage that the passage is, in fact, perfectly clear, even though the evidence that it’s not is right at hand.

So despite the injunction to view one’s actions as others see it, such a thing is extremely difficult and thus rare. Thus it becomes important to have an actual third person to help: an honest friend or relative who will “lay it on the line.” But our social conventions and personal psychology makes this sort of thing extremely difficult as well. Honesty, it turns out, is very hard to achieve, because it goes against the grain of our training and our nature—cf., for example, the Abilene Paradox, a situation that would have never occurred if any of the people involved could have brought themselves to being honest. But even though the stakes in that situation were very low—nothing seriously at risk in terms of relationships or things of value—none of the group was able to be honest. We have a strong drive to “go along,” conforming to group judgment and perceptions even when those differ greatly from the reality that is in front of us—and worse, this is not done consciously: it seems to be another instance in which the unconscious mind is in control and managing what we perceive. It is, after all, the job of the unconscious mind to translate nerve impulses from the eyes into the “picture” the conscious mind sees: because the unconscious controls that process, it is in a position to make alterations as it wants.

Because honesty is so difficult and thus rare, one treasures the honest friend/relative if one is available. And this is exactly why (good) counselors are useful: a third-party observer to our behavior (as we describe it, but in the descriptions and through the counselor’s questions our specific actions and words can be established), and moreover an observer paid and trained to be honest and one who does not have a dog in the fight, as it were.

So though it’s easy to say/write “look at your actions as a third party would see them,” we are so enmeshed in our intentions and motivations that in general those shape how our see our actions whether we want them to or not. When we look our behavior, we cannot separate it from our intentions, and when our behavior is not interpreted as we expect, our impulse is to blame others for not grasping our intentions, rather than viewing the behavior as it appears to them, because our intentions are so palpably present to ourselves.

I mentioned in the context of the U Va Board how groupthink arises when a small group isolates itself from outside scrutiny and input and works alone: the group psychology overwhelms individual perception so that the group arrives at conclusions that would be quickly rejected if they were operating in a transparent way and getting input and observations from others. As we look (internally) at our own actions, we fall prey to exactly this sort of distortion through isolation and pressure, though this time the pressure is not from a group but from oneself, unconsciously altering the objective view with all the internal considerations: groupthink of one.

The answer here, as for groups making the decision, is to open up the process and seek outside views of what is being considered and thought: the internal view can become terribly skewed otherwise.

UPDATE: I was reminded that one excellent venue for learning how our behavior appears to an outside viewer is well-run group therapy. Moreover, when we hear from several other people at once how behavior strikes others, it’s harder to dismiss than when hearing it from one person (who, we can all too quickly decide, is speaking purely from a strange and idiosyncratic point of view—a rationalization harder to make when four or five agree). An excellent example of this dynamic can be found in Chris Argyris’s Increasing Leadership Effectiveness, in which a group of young CEOs are able to give each other information how how their behavior in leading their companies comes across. (It’s quite difficult for CEOs to get honest feedback, naturally enough, which is why their explicitly expressed code of behavior can drift so very far from the behavior they actually exhibit: subordinates are reluctant to point out instances where the CEOs behavior contradicts the values s/he espouses.) Indeed, all of Argyris’s works are interesting and worth reading: he studied carefully what is involved in creating a learning organization—and, as the next post on the resistance within the NYPD to rooting out police misbehavior shows, organizations can actively resist learning and severely punish those who try.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2012 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Morning weigh-in and work to do

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I’m back on track: getting the diet back to balanced meals (grub, in this case) and doing a bit more exercise (slightly longer walks and the resumption of Pilates) has moved me along: my morning weight for the last three days, from Monday until today, is 183.9, 183.8, 180.8. That’s a nice drop, but you know the pattern: possibly a bump or at least a brief stall. Still, if I keep it up, I should soon be back to target (170). “Soon” is a term of art: based on the 1 lb/week average, ten weeks would be it. Still, I may be able to reach target by the end of July if things go well and I continue on course.

Written by Leisureguy

27 June 2012 at 9:08 am

Posted in Fitness

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