Later On

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

Archive for December 17th, 2016

Significant jump in deaths and injuries from distracted walking

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Jane Brody has a column on distracted walking (e.g., walking while operating a smartphone) in the NY Times. From the article:

. . . “I see a lot of folks who were injured when they tripped on a curb, walked into a pothole or were hit by a car they didn’t see, though they rarely admit they were distracted by their phones,” said Dr.Claudette M. Lajam, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center and the Hospital for Joint Diseases. “Yet you know many were because when they’re in my office and should be interacting with me, all they’re doing is looking at their phones or answering a call.”

Her advice: “Look where you’re walking. Look in front of you, not down at your phone.” Peripheral vision can drop to 10 percent of normal when a person is texting or talking on a phone while walking.

Despite the widespread belief, especially among younger people, that multitasking is both possible and safe, Dr. Lajam echoed the warning issued by a number of experts that “you can’t really pay attention to more than one thing at a time.” That, the experts say, is how the human brain evolved, and to think otherwise is a recipe for disaster. . .

Well, sure, we can’t really pay attention to more than one thing at a time now. But what we’re seeing is natural section at work: eventually a mutation will occur that provides an improvement in multitasking capabilities. Natural selection will favor that mutation and we shall in time evolve into a species with amazing multitasking capabilities.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Daily life

It might turn very bad very fast with China, given Trump

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James Fallows blogs in the Atlantic:


A Tweet from Donald Trump this morning. It carried the meta-data label “Twitter for iPhone,” which has generally meant a staff-written Tweet, in contrast to the freer-swinging 3am messages from Trump’s own “Twitter for Android.” The word “unprecedented” also is not typical of Trump’s own messages.

In my cover story in the December issue of the magazine, on how the United States should prepare for the possibility of a more truculent China, I mention the now-popular concept of the “Thucydides Trap.” The article described the implications:

This concept was popularized by the Harvard political scientist [and my one-time professor as an undergraduate] Graham Allison. Its premise is that through the 2,500 years since the Peloponnesian warfare that Thucydides chronicled, rising powers (like Athens then, or China now) and incumbent powers (like Sparta, or the United States) have usually ended up in a fight to the death, mainly because each cannot help playing on the worst fears of the other. “When a rising power is threatening to displace a ruling power, standard crises that would otherwise be contained, like the assassination of an archduke in 1914, can initiate a cascade of reactions that, in turn, produce outcomes none of the parties would otherwise have chosen,” Allison wrote in an essay for last year.

The idea Allison was getting across—that managing relations between the United States and China is enormously important, and also very complex, and not guaranteed to turn out well—is built into the themes Henry Kissinger was expressing to Jeffrey Goldberg in the interview in that same issue, and that I was explaining in my article, and that every U.S. president from Richard Nixon through Obama has reflected upon and, with some variations, built into his policy toward China, the Koreas, Japan, Asia, and the world as a whole.

Reduced to three elements, the policy would be:

  • Relations with China really matter, for each country’s interests and for the world’s;
  • They’re very complex and less obvious than they seem, in part because the Chinese government sees the world differently from the U.S. government in some important ways; and
  • If poorly managed, they can lead to great danger, even the unlikely-but-conceivable military showdown. This is another way of stating the first point, with emphasis on the downside.

In his press conference yesterday, Barack Obama lightly touched several of these points, in talking about the entities we usually refer to as “Taiwan” (the People’s Republic of China, HQ in Taipei) and “China” (the People’s Republic of China, HQ in Beijing):

There has been a longstanding agreement essentially between China and the United States, and to some agree the Taiwanese, which is to not change the status quo. Taiwan operates differently than mainland China does. China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some agree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence. And that status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and — of people who have a high agree of self-determination.

What I understand for China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket. The idea of One China is at the heart of their conception as a nation. And so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through the consequences because the Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues.

They won’t even treat it the way they issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves.

And their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant. That doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to everything that’s been done in the past, but you have to think it through and have planned for potential reactions that they may engage in.

And now we have Donald Trump, five weeks away from being president but determined to put himself in the middle of U.S.-China relations as he has everything else. Please see update after the jump


As a general principle of life, I’m skeptical of claims that begin, “Oh, this is too complex, leave it to the experts.” Usually there is a simple way to convey the essence of an issue. But the simple way to state the reality of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations is that they are very complex and the product of decades’ worth of trade-offs and understanding, and that they are much easier to destroy than they were to create and sustain.

The joke about Homer Simpson, as the lovably incompetent operator at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, is that he had no idea of the complexity of what he was dealing with—or the consequences of his blunders. It’s not that everything in the world is more complex than it seems—it’s that nuclear plants are more complex, and dangerous.

I can tell you that virtually everyone on the Chinese, North America, Asian and ASEAN, etc. front of U.S.-Chinese relations has a similar dread about Trump’s tweet-based “policy” toward China. He has no idea what he is dealing with, what it has taken to make the relationship as stable as it has been, or what it could mean for it to go awry. Now we see an example of the latter point:

  • Trump challenges and provokes the Chinese, with a literally unprecedented gesture toward Taiwan that—as Obama pointed out, and as Nixon, Reagan, and either of the Bushes, plus Kissinger would have confirmed—challenges what China’s leaders consider the irreducible heart of their national identity;
  • Once Chinese officials determine that he’s not just kidding (the initial press reaction noted that Trump was still a private citizen, soon followed by editorials saying that he was “speaking like a child”), the leaders get their back up, and take their own unprecedented step of seizing this maritime drone;
  • And then Trump, who as   . . . [and do keep reading – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 2:26 pm

The central family value

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For some reason I got to thinking about relationships—we’ve all had them—and I realized that the most important virtue for a good family and family life is kindness. If the people involved are all kind to each other, then things have the best chance of working out—because “kind” is a gateway virtue to “cooperative,” and many hands make light work (or: helping each other and thus sharing the burden). Thus kind people elicit more community resources and help than those who are hostile and generally angry and thus repel people.

Being kind to each other is obviously important for couples—for if your partner is unkind to you, that’s about as direct a message as you can get that’s not couched in actual words (and actions speak louder than words, as we’ve all learned). But it’s also important for families—grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins. If family members are kind to each other, then eccentricities are tolerated and mistakes are forgiven. Everyone is treated as though they are loved—i.e., kindly.

Recall some past bad relationships. Were people treating each other kindly? I would bet not, since “bad” pretty much precludes feeling kindly treated.

Just a thought. But it brings being kind to the fore, which is where it most likely belongs.

This sort of assumes everyone wants a good life, but I can think of some who do not, for whatever reason: because they think they don’t deserve it but instead deserve punishment. All you can do is treat them kindly. In other words, being kind is not conditional on reciprocation. Always be kind, regardless.

A tough rule, but I think it is an important one at this juncture. United, we stand; divided, we fall. We must start treating each other with more kindness as a matter of national security. In fact. (This is a clear example of kindness missing action.)

Hmm. Sounds like “malevolence is not personal: it’s not about you, it’s the flaw in their character that they cannot be kind; recognize it for what it is and take steps to protect yourself, but the malevolent person is driven by internal drives—anger, fear, insecurity, whatever—and their treatment of others has little to do with the others and a lot to do with those internal dynamics. Treat the person much as you would an animal acting weird and hostile: you avoid it, disengage from the encounter, keep your distance. Malevolence is about itself, but it can be harmful to others (and is harmful to self, I would say, even physically).

Update: I realize that I have simply given a secular gloss to a common teaching in several religions—and philosophers as well (Kant’s Categorical Imperative is related): that we must love one another, love our neighbor as ourselves. It’s a way of stepping back from the turmoil of the malevolent, to recognize the drivers of the behavior but not allow them to involve us in the craziness.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 12:29 pm

Penn Students Replace Shakespeare Portrait With African American Writer Audre Lorde

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Unclear on the concept. Associated Press reports at NBC Philadelphia:

Students at the University of Pennsylvania have removed a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with the picture of Audre Lorde, an African American writer, civil rights activist and self-described, “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” reports the students put Shakespeare’s portrait in the office of English department chair and professor Jed Etsy. Etsy told the student newspaper the Daily Pennsylvanian that the students are “affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.” . . .

Continue reading.

I wonder when these students notice that U.S. History courses give almost no African history or the history of, say, China. That’s a big oversight, eh? And how about medical schools? Lots of medical science, but very little physics and practically no geology at all! The outrage!

/snark  – Most people find it perfectly okay if the focus of an English literature department has a focus on English literature. That’s pretty much truth in advertising. Shakespeare actually was an important writer in English literature. Lorde is an American, and would (I imagine) be studied in courses such as American Literature, World Literature, Comparative Literature, and Women’s Literature. (Notice how male authors seems systematically excluded from courses on Women’s Literature?)

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Books, Education

Rhodium-plated British Gillette open-comb Aristocrat goes to auction

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Arist side

Another razor that it’s hard to part with, but it’s now up on eBay.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 11:02 am

Posted in Shaving

WSP Monarch, Mama Bear Spellbound Woods, Fatip Testina Gentile, and D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave

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SOTD 2016-12-17

Mama Bear shaving soaps are glycerin-based, and I find them extremely good. I particularly like the fragrance of Spellbound Woods (available in a tub or as a shave stick):

Spellbound Woods is a blend of Amber, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Cedarwood, and the barest hint of light floral on the dry down.

I washed my stubble with MR GLO as usual, rinsed partially, and then rubbed the stick against the grain all over my beard. I wet the brush well, gave it a good shake so that it was just damp, and brushed the stubble briskly to awaken the lather. Once I had worked this initial lather all over my beard, I added a dollop of water to the brush and brushed briskly over all my beard to develop the lather, which blossomed wonderfully in fragrance and consistency.

The Fatip Testina Gentile does indeed have a nice head: comfortable and efficient, leaving my face BBS after three passes. A splash of D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave, and the day is launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2016 at 8:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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