Later On

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

Archive for August 16th, 2015

Another razor up: Stainless steel Pils, gold-plated

leave a comment »

Pils side

Pils does make some brass models (or did), but this is the stainless steel Pils. I just liked it so much I had it gold plated.

Listed here.

I should add—and wish I had put in the description—that the Pils has the alignment studs on the baseplate instead of on the cap. Therefore, when you load a new blade, you load it onto the baseplate, not on the cap. The studs (cap or baseplate, depending on the razor) keep the blade aligned as the razor is tightened.

There are other razors with alignment on the baseplate—the iKon S3S, for example.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2015 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Shaving

Amazon workers need to unionize

with one comment

The writer of this NY Times Magazine article on Amazon as a workplace—and as a microculture—that, despite the writer’s best efforts, sounds dehumanizing in the extreme and a rather overt program to work their employees to the point where karōshi is seen. From the article:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

Certainly there are attractive aspects (no red tape: that’s a winner simply by definition of “red tape”), but it is not a cost-free proposition—the cost to the employee’s lives and general welfare. Amazon (and its shareholders) certain gain by the program, and cost to the organization for the program is, I would think, relatively low: just incubating the basic memes until they take off, and then the meme-cluster takes care of the rest, including personnel selection (and self-selection by the personnel: the people who tend to join Amazon are, naturally enough, people who are attracted to the situation described).

At any rate, an interesting article, and one that makes one examine his values.

Also from the article:

“This is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things, and those things aren’t easy,” said Susan Harker, Amazon’s top recruiter. “When you’re shooting for the moon, the nature of the work is really challenging. For some people it doesn’t work.”

Bo Olson was one of them. He lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

We need a modern Dickens, it sounds to me.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2015 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Unions

Pushback against the low-carb diet

with one comment

Very interesting article by Richard Harris at NPR (with podcast at the link):

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably gotten drawn into the argument over whether it’s better to cut carbs or fat from your diet. A new study doesn’t completely resolve that question, but it does provide an important insight.

Some proponents of the low-carb diet insist that you must cut carbs to burn off body fat. Their reasoning goes that when you cut carbs, your body’s insulin levels drop, and that’s essential in order to burn fat.

To put that question to the test, Kevin Hall at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and colleagues recruited 19 obese volunteers (average weight over 230 pounds) to participate in a rigorous study.

For two weeks they were kept in a lab around the clock, where scientists could provide them a precise diet. One group got a low-carb diet that reduced their total calories by 30 percent. Another group went on a low-fat diet that also reduced their total calories by 30 percent. Then, after a few weeks of rest, the two groups switched diets.

As Hall now reports in the journal Cell Metabolism, cutting carbs did work.

“We cut the carbohydrates, insulin went down, and fat burning went up, exactly the way that theory predicts, and people lost fat,” Hall says.

The average participant lost about a pound of fat over two weeks, and about 4 pounds of weight total (the rest was probably water).

But Hall’s study also showed that the low-carb, low-insulin conditions were not necessary to shed body fat. In fact, the low-fat diet also led to the loss of about 1 pound of body fat. So it was just as good.

Hall says, so much for the idea that only low-carb diets can help people shed fat. “That theory, as it stands — that very strong claim — is certainly not true,” he says.

Instead, his evidence favors those who say if you want to lose body fat, total calories matter most. . .

Continue reading.

Now that I am trying reduce if not eliminate meat from farm-raised animals from my diet (I still am comfortable eating wild-caught fish), my net-carb amount (total carbs minus dietary fiber) has gone up somewhat, but I still try to keep it below 50g. And I strenuously avoid refined flour (products such as bread, pasta, pizza (crust), doughnut, and so on), simple starches (potatoes), and sugar (cake, ice cream, jellies and jams, fruit juices, and so on). So the carbs I get are complex and tend to be high in fiber. (E.g., I just made a lentil soup, a Lebanese lentil salad, and a bean salad I made up using Corona beans.) Tofu and tempeh have, of course, re-entered the menu.

So my diet is not so low-carb as before, but I still avoid simple carbs and sugar and am more relaxed about fats. Fats are slow to digest and convey feeling of satiation (plus, of course, they’re delicious: evolution’s handiwork given that they’re 9 cal/gram vs 4 cal/gram for proteins and for carbs: more bang for the weight/buck). There’s a reason so many like bacon.

Recipe note on the Lebanese lentil salad. I use French green lentils, which hold their shape well. (Black Beluga lentils also work well in salads.) Since 3/4 c of chopped red bell pepper is pretty much 1/2 a pepper, I think next time I’m just going to double the recipe, using the full 1 pound package of lentils. (1 pound ≈ 2 cups: “a pint’s a pound the world around”).

Lentils Monastery Style is my standard recipe, from Diet for a Small Planet:

Lentils Monastery Style

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
3 cups stock or seasoned water
1 CUP dried lentils
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 14.5-oz can of tomatoes
1/4 cup sherry
3/4 c grated Swiss cheese

Use a Parmesan rind in the soup if I have it on hand.

Heat oil and sauté onions and carrot for 5 minutes. Add thyme and marjoram and sauté 1 minute more. Add all but sherry and cook covered until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Add sherry. Put 2 Tbs of grated cheese in each serving bowl and top with soup. Very good with corn muffins.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2015 at 11:37 am

Kitten therapy for depression

leave a comment »

Nice little essay by Hannah Louise Poston in the New York Times:

When his depression was at its worst, my partner, Joe, would wake up in the morning engulfed in a fog so palpable that its presence would sometimes startle me awake, as if I had smelled something burning.

During the first few years of our relationship, I often wished he would roll over with a cheery “Good morning!” and a kiss instead of stumbling blankly out of bed, zombielike, toward coffee.

I eventually figured out that lying alone in bed and fantasizing about a nondepressed Joe was a terrible idea. It made me grumpy, and then we would both be having a bad day.

So, in as chipper a manner as possible, I would pull on my bathrobe and rubber boots and go gather the delicate blue eggs of our housemate’s Aracuna chickens.

At my approach, the floor of the coop would animate into a rustling whirlpool of hay and fur as a pack of rats scurried back to their nest behind the compost bin. Rats had overrun us, and wishing they would go away was no more effective than wishing Joe would stop being depressed.

“We need a kitten,” I would announce nearly every morning as I arranged the warm eggs in a basket on the kitchen counter. I lobbied hard, explaining that even if it didn’t grow up to be a ratter, just having a cat around the house would deter infestations.

Joe wasn’t sure about the kitten. He was always skeptical of seemingly rash ideas — slow to accept new things, slow to change.

“Have you thought about why you want a kitten?” he asked me one evening.

“What do you mean, why?” I was insulted. He seemed to be implying that, beyond the rats, I may have unhealthy reasons for wanting a kitten. “Why does anyone want a kitten? It’s a kitten.”

“It just seems like it will take a lot of energy,” he said.

Joe and I were close to our relationship’s three-year mark, the point at which, a study had shown, a swath of long-term couplings end. (“The 7-Year Itch Is Now the 3-Year Glitch,” one article said.)

His depression came in frequent cycles, often lingering for days. During those days, if I brought home a pint of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream (Joe’s favorite), it would go unremarked upon or even uneaten.

No, he did not want to go to a movie or go dancing or have sex. Any offering, even that of my own body, would tumble into the gray sinkhole, rendering me ineffectual and pathetic. I learned that the best way to love Joe during those times was to leave him alone.

“You can’t cure depression,” Joe told me once. “You can only get better at living with it.”

I got better at living with it; I started buying my own favorite flavor of ice cream instead of his. And when I finally drove across Portland to the Oregon Humane Society one day in August, I did it secretly, rebelliously and entirely for my own inarticulate reasons.

It had been a particularly difficult week. My carefully honed strategy for loving a depressed man was to help myself instead of trying to help him. “And today,” I thought as I pulled in to the humane society parking lot, “I am helping myself to a kitten.”

When Joe arrived home that evening, the kitten — just a pinch of striped fluff — popped out from under the bed. I took a long breath, ready to defend my decision.

But then I saw her sly green eyes holding his handsome sad ones, and it seemed as if there were fireworks and unicorns leaping, the aurora borealisdescending between them. When the kitten tried to vogue, swoon and crab-leap sideways all at once, consequently tripping over her paws, I think Joe’s eyeballs may have rolled back into his head to reveal two glittery pink hearts pasted onto his sockets in lieu of pupils.

The next morning when we woke up, the first words out of Joe’s mouth were, “Where’s the kitten?” And the kitten’s first act, when she heard his voice, was to ice-pick her way up the quilt and jump on his face. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2015 at 8:12 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Techno-adventuring: A Tanzania project

leave a comment »

In an email exchange with a guy who’s going to buy one of my razors (the original Tradere open-comb, Serial No. OC-00011), he described a project he had done, and I got his permission to blog it because I thought it was interesting:

A friend from high school (hard to believe it’s been that long) had set up a Wi-Fi and cell phone network in Mississippi following Katrina. He used donated equipment, and set up a network for emergency responders. After Katrina, he packed it up, believing people with more expertise would take over the task of deploying networks in emergencies. They didn’t. Then he had a friend who was a journalist who got killed in Tahrir square in Egypt, because he was using a network monitored by the state. We came up with a way to make an anything-to-anything router – satellite modem to cell service, Wi-Fi mesh, you name it. The idea was to place it with journalists in conflict areas, or put it in disaster areas.

We deployed in Tanzania, along Lake Tanganyika, a 500km long lake that borders TZ with Congo. It’s pretty remote, and there’s no infrastructure at all. They have health clinics 20-50km up and down the lake, and if one’s closed and you need treatment, you drag yourself 20-50km up the lake in hopes that they’re open. They closed 1.5 weeks out of the month so that the practitioner could take paper records back to the ministry of health. They didn’t get paid unless they brought the paper in by motorcycle, 4×4, seaplane, or walking.

We put in our servers, running off car batteries charged by solar power, and used radio with low data speeds to network between the sites, with Wi-Fi for laptops donated by HP. I designed a medical records system working with some medical doctors in the US, suitable for people who had never used a computer before. Result: The clinics stay open all month, the records are wired back to a hospital in a city, and printed there. Everyone gets paid, no clinics close, and if I’m optimistic, I imagine lives are saved as a result. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done for next to no pay. No foundations want to donate for equipment – it’s not as sexy as donating to buy hypodermic needles. I still think having actual histories for people as opposed to treating each symptom in a vacuum has to be beneficial. Before we did this, there were no patient histories.

I really feel like I was along for the ride for that adventure, it was my friend from high school who drove it, and I supported and helped him make it happen every way I could. For a time he was also part of the SafeCast project to make cheap Geiger counters and map radiation after Fukushima. We worked on making sensor networks for the Al Dhakira mangroves in Qatar, which he turned into an open source student project there. The point was to monitor the oxygen potential and temperature of the mangrove seawater and be able to quantify the ideal conditions for their health. The mesh network in the mangroves was the precursor to the one we deployed in Tanzania.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2015 at 7:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

%d bloggers like this: