Later On

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

Archive for January 2018

Radley Balko’s links to law-enforcement problems

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In the Washington Post, a few items from Balko’s list:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 11:59 am

Why hiring the ‘best’ people produces the least creative results

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Scott E Page, the Leonid Hurwicz collegiate professor of complex systems, political science and economics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute, posts in Aeon what seems to be an extract from his new edition of The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy (2017):

While in graduate school in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I took a logic course from David Griffeath. The class was fun. Griffeath brought a playfulness and openness to problems. Much to my delight, about a decade later, I ran into him at a conference on traffic models. During a presentation on computational models of traffic jams, his hand went up. I wondered what Griffeath – a mathematical logician – would have to say about traffic jams. He did not disappoint. Without even a hint of excitement in his voice, he said: ‘If you are modelling a traffic jam, you should just keep track of the non-cars.’

The collective response followed the familiar pattern when someone drops an unexpected, but once stated, obvious idea: a puzzled silence, giving way to a roomful of nodding heads and smiles. Nothing else needed to be said.

Griffeath had made a brilliant observation. During a traffic jam, most of the spaces on the road are filled with cars. Modelling each car takes up an enormous amount of memory. Keeping track of the empty spaces instead would use less memory – in fact almost none. Furthermore, the dynamics of the non-cars might be more amenable to analysis.

Versions of this story occur routinely at academic conferences, in research laboratories or policy meetings, within design groups, and in strategic brainstorming sessions. They share three characteristics. First, the problems are complex: they concern high-dimensional contexts that are difficult to explain, engineer, evolve or predict. Second, the breakthrough ideas do not arise by magic, nor are they constructed anew from whole cloth. They take an existing idea, insight, trick or rule, and apply it in a novel way, or they combine ideas – like Apple’s breakthrough repurposing of the touchscreen technology. In Griffeath’s case, he applied a concept from information theory: minimum description length. Fewer words are required to say ‘No-L’ than to list ‘ABCDEFGHIJKMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ’. I should add that these new ideas typically produce modest gains. But, collectively, they can have large effects. Progress occurs as much through sequences of small steps as through giant leaps.

Third, these ideas are birthed in group settings. One person presents her perspective on a problem, describes an approach to finding a solution or identifies a sticking point, and a second person makes a suggestion or knows a workaround. The late computer scientist John Holland commonly asked: ‘Have you thought about this as a Markov process, with a set of states and transition between those states?’ That query would force the presenter to define states. That simple act would often lead to an insight.

The burgeoning of teams – most academic research is now done in teams, as is most investing and even most songwriting (at least for the good songs) – tracks the growing complexity of our world. We used to build roads from A to B. Now we construct transportation infrastructure with environmental, social, economic and political impacts.

The complexity of modern problems often precludes any one person from fully understanding them. Factors contributing to rising obesity levels, for example, include transportation systems and infrastructure, media, convenience foods, changing social norms, human biology and psychological factors. Designing an aircraft carrier, to take another example, requires knowledge of nuclear engineering, naval architecture, metallurgy, hydrodynamics, information systems, military protocols, the exercise of modern warfare and, given the long building time, the ability to predict trends in weapon systems.

The multidimensional or layered character of complex problems also undermines the principle of meritocracy: the idea that the ‘best person’ should be hired. There is no best person. When putting together an oncological research team, a biotech company such as Gilead or Genentech would not construct a multiple-choice test and hire the top scorers, or hire people whose resumes score highest according to some performance criteria. Instead, they would seek diversity. They would build a team of people who bring diverse knowledge bases, tools and analytic skills. That team would more likely than not include mathematicians (though not logicians such as Griffeath). And the mathematicians would likely study dynamical systems and differential equations.

Believers in a meritocracy might grant that teams ought to be diverse but then argue that meritocratic principles should apply within each category. Thus the team should consist of the ‘best’ mathematicians, the ‘best’ oncologists, and the ‘best’ biostatisticians from within the pool.

That position suffers from a similar flaw. Even with a knowledge domain, no test or criteria applied to individuals will produce the best team. Each of these domains possesses such depth and breadth, that no test can exist. Consider the field of neuroscience. Upwards of 50,000 papers were published last year covering various techniques, domains of enquiry and levels of analysis, ranging from molecules and synapses up through networks of neurons. Given that complexity, any attempt to rank a collection of neuroscientists from best to worst, as if they were competitors in the 50-metre butterfly, must fail. What could be true is that given a specific task and the composition of a particular team, one scientist would be more likely to contribute than another. Optimal hiring depends on context. Optimal teams will be diverse.

Evidence for this claim can be seen in the way that papers and patents that combine diverse ideas tend to rank as high-impact. It can also be found in  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 11:48 am

Games technical education: Becoming more established

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Game design and development have found a home in academia: a recruiting ad for Assistant Professor or Instructor of Game Design and Development:

The Department of Interactive Media at Bradley at Bradley University seeks a dynamic individual to join our award-winning and nationally ranked game program beginning August 2018.

The department welcomes applications from candidates working in industry, academia, or both. The successful candidate will be able to teach students the game development process. Candidates with a background in game art, game programming, game design, game production, or game studies are all encouraged to apply. Professional experience and college-level teaching experience is preferred, but not required. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience and qualifications.

This position may be either a non-tenure-track or tenure-track appointment. . .

Continue reading.

Full disclosure: My son is chairman of that department.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 10:07 am

Posted in Business, Education, Games

The Extinction of the Early Bird

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Fascinating article that examines the interplay of the restaurant business and changing demographics. Jaya Saxena writes in Eater:

The east coast of South Florida feels like purgatory. There’s Miami, and there are beaches, but drive for 20 minutes outside of either, and it’s just vast plains of boxy, beige retirement villages, distinguishable only by their names, which all sound like euphemisms for a place you go when you die — Valencia Isles, Windward Palms, Mangrove Bay — and the relative elaborateness of their welcome fountains. The sky is a flat blue, and the temperature ranges from a chilled 62 degrees indoors to a muggy 85 degrees outside. Entire strip malls have been colonized by medical centers, generically advertising “Eye Care” or “Dermatology,” and every home purchase comes with a subscription to Nostalgic America magazine. “If Florida is the Great American Escape, it is also less enticing: the Great American Dumping Ground,” wrote Gloria Jahoda in Florida: A History in 1984. “It is where Mom and Pop go to die.”

My husband and I ventured into this limbo a couple of years ago to visit his grandparents, Seymour and Isabel Lubchansky. Their retirement community, Majestic Isles, in Boynton Beach — located about two hours north of Miami, it’s one of a cluster of towns that might sound as familiar to a Northeasterner with Jewish grandparents as a Florida lifer — was built in 1996, and it’s open to anyone 55 and up. The Lubchanskys’ covered patio, complete with a glass table and four scratchily upholstered chairs, looked out on manicured crabgrass and a man-made pond, where an occasional visit from a snowy egret or a roseate spoonbill would remind you that the Everglades were only 25 miles away. Majestic Isles has a clubhouse where you can play cards, a theater where retirees put on plays, and a shuffleboard court that is only used by visiting grandchildren, and only ironically.

Struck by a vision of faded tropical button-ups, card games, and steam trays full of baby carrots, we decided to go full-old person for the weekend: We’d play shuffleboard, take a slow walk around the block, find an early bird special, and be in bed by 7:30. I was especially charmed by the idea of living the early bird life. An emblem of South Florida’s retiree culture, the early bird is the dietary aspect of the lifestyle one expects to buy into down there — a slice of comforting, if boring, heaven — a time and place where doing the same thing every day is a sign that you’ve got it made. More than an affordable meal, it’s a fully packaged experience that brings elderly people together to gossip over poached sole and to complain about something being too salty before everyone returns to their identical homes in their identical developments.

The first stop on our early bird tour was Mamma Mia, an Italian restaurant in a strip mall whose large portions — perfect for cutting up and storing in the fridge for three days — made its special especially popular, according to Isabel. But at 4:30 p.m., there were no elderly in sight, just teens and young families ordering enormous platters of chicken Parmesan or personal pizzas to go. The hostess assured me that the early bird is always slow.

The next day, we ventured to Scully’s Restaurant, a place that seemed more in line with the “traditional” idea of the early bird — steaks and chops with a vegetable side. At 5 p.m., just three tables were occupied. “You know, I’m surprised with our early dinner menu, that we don’t get more customers,” owner Kevin Scully told me at his bar. “I’m surprised with what we offer before 5:30 that the place isn’t packed.” (This past October, Scully retired and closed the restaurant; in its place will be Driftwood, which is the kind of the place that has “hand-crafted” custom menu holders and $12 riffs on classic cocktails.)

A day later, we drove to a diner that multiple local guides said had the best deal in town, and warned to arrive early to fight for a seat. The parking lot was straight-up empty. Where were all of the old people? What of the need for an $8.99 chicken breast with a pair of watery, steamed-vegetable sides? What happened to the early bird special?

The short answer, I learned, is that the retirees who heralded the early bird are going away, and that their replacements, while burdened by the overall decline of the middle class, have different expectations about what retired life should look like — mostly, they do not want to be reminded in any way that they’re old now, especially if they can afford that luxury. Millennials might be killing chains, but boomers are driving the early bird to extinction.


The phrase “early bird” does come from the proverb about catching the worm, which dates to 1636, but the first appearance of “early bird special” isn’t until 1904, when it shows up in a department store ad hawking a deal on “men’s summer underwear” from 8 a.m. to noon. It pops up on menus sometime in the 1920s, according to Andrew P. Haley, an associate professor of American cultural history at the University of Southern Mississippi, due to a combination of the democratization of restaurants and prohibition. “More people are dining out, the middle class is dining out on a regular basis, they have a broader audience,” Haley told me. “But you have a problem with Prohibition. It hurts the existing restaurant model of fine dining as being the end all of dining.” Without alcohol to offer, restaurants had to find ways to target new audiences, and a family deal at non-peak hours filled seats.

The economic disruptions in the 1930s and 1940s kept these deals popular, and by the 1950s, it was common enough to find an “early bird special” at restaurants of all stripes. In a 1952 ad for San Francisco’s Goman’s Gay 90’s, a vaudeville nightclub that was probably not a hotspot for bluehairs, the early bird was advertised as a “dinner that includes a cocktail, fried chicken, hot biscuits, honey, shoestring potatoes, coffee, and after dinner drink — all for a couple of bucks,” Haley said. “The early bird idea means you have to come before 7:30.”

Another Prohibition-era innovation to get people in the door was targeting specific demographics. In 1921, for instance, the Waldorf-Astoria introduced one of the first children’s menus to reel in families, since liquor was no longer available. Throughout the Depression and into the postwar era, diners became particularly adept at pinpointing groups of people, and eventually they zeroed in on the old. “Diners were very sophisticated in thinking about filling the restaurant through the entire day,” Haley said. “They still appealed to working-class men in the morning and at lunch, they just targeted families at dinner time. And they targeted the elderly as well as any segment that could fill in the afternoon hours.”

Social Security benefits, which arrived with the New Deal expansion of the welfare state, ushered in a new category of personhood — the retiree, who could live independently, if frugally. In the 1950s, lured by the sun and low state taxes, retirees began flocking to South Florida, which had been practically terraformed for them in the preceding decades by real estate developers who tamed the fetid swamps and snarls of trees into a paradise of wide roads, accessible beaches, and endless fields of tract housing. “I can live comfortably, have a whale of a good time, and save money on an income of about $40 per week,” one retiree wrote in a 1956 pamphlet, The Truth About Florida.

As restaurants in Florida adapted to the growing population of the elderly, demographic targeting intersected with the promise of comfort and the value of the early bird special. “In 1972 with inflation on the rise, Social Security benefits are indexed to the consumer index, and that results in an elderly population that is much better cared for in the U.S.,” Haley said. “So you have a richer elderly population that’s now worth investing some resources into. The early bird special, which had made sense because it kept restaurants full at times they were not necessarily full, kind of takes off then.”

As the 20th century progressed, the greatest generation aged into a valuable consumer group. In 1980, 26.3 percent of Americans over 60 who moved chose Florida as their new home; in 1985, there was a joke about the early bird on Golden Girls, cementing the relationship between Florida, the elderly, and the early bird in pop culture. “It is popular with those on a budget, senior citizens, and especially in resort areas like Florida,” the 1994 Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink said of the early bird. By 1995, Nation’s Restaurant News reported that “senior citizens represent in reality an imposing discretionary spending bloc for food service operators,” and that restaurateurs were adding amenities to make their restaurants more appealing to seniors.

For a moment, economic necessity even brought the gospel of the early bird to the young. In 2010, the New York Times reported that the early bird was booming in Florida, as the recession enticed younger diners to partake in off-hours eating. But as the economy recovered, they abandoned it, just like their parents and grandparents.


It’s impossible to talk about retirement trends in America without talking about the Villages, the 115,000-person retirement community in central Florida that is the country’s fastest growing metro areaBuzzfeed described it as “a notorious boomtown for boomers who want to spend their golden years with access to 11 a.m. happy hours, thousands of activities, and no-strings-attached sex, all lorded over by one elusive billionaire.” It’s the epitome of what modern retirement can be for the wealthy and white (of which the Villages is 98 percent) — wild, carefree, and not dictated by Social Security checks. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Why We Applaud Woody Allen’s Misogyny

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Mimi Kramer has an excellent analysis of Woody Allen’s cruel and mean-spirited speech at the American Film Institute’s tribute to Diane Keaton:

A friend asked me, a few months back, whether I’d seen Woody Allen’s speech at the American Film Institute tribute to Diane Keaton in June, when she was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award.

I hadn’t. I’d seen most of the event. It was shown on TCM, and I often have TCM on in the background. But I’d turned the sound down when Allen made his surprise appearance at the end.

I don’t like Woody Allen and haven’t for a while — since around 1979, when he made a movie about a self-involved, middle-aged comedy writer dating and dicking around a 17-year-old. I thought Manhattan was creepy, but not half as creepy as the way Allen got lionized for basically filming his own life in black-and-white and giving it a Gershwin soundtrack. So I missed the part of the AFI tribute when Allen proved, yet again, that being him means you can do almost anything and get people to shower you with praise.

“He did what?” I asked my friend.

“He called her a ‘fellatrix.’ I think that’s what he said.” She was sounding a little less sure now.

She warned me that the video clip of the speech on YouTube, while short, was hard to take, but said I should watch it through to the end.

Much of what I’ve accomplished in my life I owe, for sure, to her. She’s really astonishing. This is a woman who is great at everything she does — actress, writer, photographer, fellatrix, director. Diane Keaton, winner of the 45th annual AFI Life Achievement Award.

I called my friend back.

“Is that what he said?” she asked.

“That’s what he said,” I said.

“And that’s what it means?”

“That’s what it means: ‘a woman who gives blow jobs.’ Only he pronounced it funny, almost as though he were speaking Latin.” I embarked on a lecture on how the word fellatrix should be pronounced in English — with a long a, like dominatrix. Or like fellatio. Allen had given it a flat a, so that it rhymed with the plural of Patrick. We set about pronouncing the word fellatrix, and then fellatio, with long a’ s and short — and also dominatrix, but mostly fellatio and fellatrix — back and forth, over and over, until we were helpless with laughter.

I was still laughing when I went to bed that night. But I keep thinking about Allen’s speech, especially as his character has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. Yesterday, Alec Baldwin went on Twitter to defend Allen against his stepdaughter’s account of having been molested by Allen as a child. Baldwin called Dylan Farrow a liar — an actress, in fact, suggesting that the rage and anguish she has expressed at what she’s perceived for decades as Hollywood’s complicity is a performance. But of course, Allen is the veteran actor in this scenario. If you look closely at his own performance at the AFI tribute last spring, you can see some of the tactics he uses to project a demeanor of plausibility and harmlessness, and how they mask the deliberation and craft behind his routine. You can also watch him making Hollywood complicit before your eyes.

Allen’s speech at the AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was an example of stealth misogyny. He engineered things so that at the climax of the award ceremony, when everyone thought they were applauding Keaton, they were actually applauding him for demeaning her. Allen was the very last speaker; he was to present the award in the next moment. So he knew that, no matter what he said, at the end of his speech everyone would jump up and cheer. By dropping the word fellatrix into the list of Keaton’s professional accomplishments, though, Allen completely undercut everything he seemed to be saying. And by giving it an unconventional pronunciation, he made it unlikely that anyone would understand or be sure what he’d said.

It’s a classic–if byzantine–example of how covertly abusive men force or seduce others into collusion. The AFI tribute to Diane Keaton was covered by five or six industry publications, but none of them commented on Allen’s use of the word fellatrix in his speech. In general, most of them characterized it as a comedy routine or a roast that ended in a loving tribute. Which isn’t at all what it’s actually like. What you miss on the page are the mannerisms, the fake pauses and stammers, the gestures (Allen bringing his hand to his face, fingering his lip, playing with his ring) that made it seem like he was nervous or considering what to say, creating a patina of spontaneity.

It’s a highly rhetorical speech, for all the assumed hesitancy, full of devices drawn from classical oratory as well as classic misogyny. Allen starts with a coercive joke, likening Keaton to “the fictional movie character Eve Harrington.” (The audience is forced to laugh or risk giving people around them the impression that they’ve never seen All About Eve.) “Which is not to suggest,” Allen goes on, “that Diane, when I met her, was ruthlessly ambitious.” That’s called “praeteritio” — where you say something in the act of saying that you’re not going to say it. But the rhetorical flourish there isn’t in the words so much as in the moue of disgust Allen makes after he says “ruthlessly ambitious” — an expression which seems to be saying, “And that’s putting it mildly.”

The speech relies heavily on a combination of aposiopesis (breaking off from speech and not finish a thought), paralepsis (drawing attention to something by seeming to ignore it), and a kind of non sequitur (sometimes called anacoluthon), where you purposely start a thought in a way that creates a false expectation as to how it will finish, then change direction. One striking example of this occurs when Allen is talking about Keaton’s appearance. “She dresses, as you know, to hide her sexuality — and always has, and has done a great job, ’cause it’s never emerged over the years. But,” he goes on, “she’s a beautiful girl.” It feels there as if Allen is going to say something nice, or quasi-nice, or not awful. Then he finishes, “And she’s never succumbed to any face work or anything. She’s very uncompromising. She prefers to look old.” (At this point the camera dwells briefly on Reese Witherspoon, looking at her phone and shaking her head, a pasted smile on her face.) . . .

Continue reading. And do read it all.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Maternal mortality as a measure of a healthcare system’s quality

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post, from which I took these two charts:

That’s certainly a heartening trend, is it not?

Here’s the US:

Not an encouraging trend, is it? Of course, many hold to the belief that the US has the best healthcare system in the world, but those generally do not look at statistics such as this. And the situation in the US will probably get worse once the GOP demolition of the Affordable Care Act is complete.

Do read the whole post.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 9:46 am

Maggard 22mm synthetic, Meißner Tremonia Woody Almond, Fatip Testina Gentile, and B&M Reserve Spice

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In my previous shave with the Fatip Testina Gentile, I noticed that it was not quite so efficient, so I changed the blade, and this is the first shave with the new blade.

The prep was good, and Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond has an almost intoxicating almond fragrance. This is the shave paste, and the lather was excellent, as it is for all the Meißner Tremonia soaps I’ve tried. The Maggard 22mm synthetic is a superb brush at a very low price, and I continue to recommend it.

Three passes with the Fatip showed that the previous shave had indeed been done with a blade that had declined a bit—not much, but enough to require some extra effort under the jawline. Today’s shave was noticeably more efficient, so the problem was simply a blade past its prime.

A good splash of Barrister & Mann Reserve Spice, and we meet the middle of the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Shaving

Wow. Read this Twitter thread by Julian Sanchez

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It starts here.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 2:36 pm

All science-fiction fans: Watch Season 4 Episode 1 of Black Mirror

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If you haven’t already seen it. Absolutely terrific.

I somehow hadn’t seen the series, so that episode was my introduction.

Season 4 is on Netflix here, but not seasons 1-3.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 2:13 pm

A Sustainable Material to Build Houses? “Hemp

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Adam Popescu reports in the NY Times:

The Romans have been using it since the days of Julius Caesar, but not to get high. Both Washington and Jefferson grew it.

Now that several states have legalized the use of marijuana for some recreational and medical purposes, one of the biggest untapped markets for the cannabis plant itself — at least one variety — could be as a building tool.

The most sustainable building material isn’t concrete or steel — it’s fast-growing hemp. Hemp structures date to Roman times. A hemp mortar bridge was constructed back in the 6th century, when France was still Gaul.

Now a wave of builders and botanists are working to renew this market. Mixing hemp’s woody fibers with lime produces a natural, light concrete that retains thermal mass and is highly insulating. No pests, no mold, good acoustics, low humidity, no pesticide. It grows from seed to harvest in about four months.

A strain of the ubiquitous Cannabis sativa, the slender hemp plant is truly weedlike in its ability to flourish in a wide variety of climates, growing as high as 15 feet and nearly an inch in diameter. The plant’s inner layer, the pith, is surrounded by a woody core called the hurd. This is the source of the tough fiber, which can be used for rope, sails and paper.

Hemp is typically planted in March and May in northern climes, or between September and November below the Equator. Once cut, usually by hand, plants are left to dry for a few days before they’re bundled and dumped into vats of water, which swells the stalks. Those dried fibers are then blended for a variety of uses, such as adding lime. This creates block-like bricks known as hempcrete.

Industrial hemp contains a mere 0.3 percent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the substance responsible for the buzz when smoking weed. The cannabis present at a reggae fest, for instance, contains as much as 20 percent.

The two strains look different, too. Hemp’s sativa is taller; the shorter indica has resiny trichomes accounting for its psychoactive power. The rule goes: the better the budding flower, the poorer the hemp.

Also unlike pot, you can’t grow hemp in an indoor hydroponics setup; the plant’s deep roots need to spread, so outdoor cultivation is required. The plant’s seeds and leaves can be eaten raw, dried into powder or pressed into oils.

Getting a mature plant in just a few months — with less fertilizer than needed for industrial crops like corn, and without chemical fertilizers or bug sprays — makes the potential for profit huge. As hemp taps water underground, its long roots circulate air, which improves soil quality — another boon for farmers looking to rotate crops.

Battling the plant’s powerful drug connotation might be the toughest hurdle for farmers and builders, and is possibly a more formidable obstacle during the Trump administration. The plant is still highly regulated.

This January, though, California legalized use of the plant in full. And the federal farm legislation of 2014 legalized hemp’s cultivation for research purposes in universities in states where it’s been approved by law. New York now funds a research initiative for as much as $10 million in grants toward hemp businesses, with participation in thepilot program from institutions that include Cornell University.

Still, in the United States special permits are needed to build with hemp, and the requirements can vary by county and state. The first modern hemp house was constructed in 2010, in North Carolina. There are now about 50 such homes in the country.

But not much hemp is grown here; a little less than . . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot of literature on the benefits of growing industrial hemp and of the plant and its by-products. It grows fast on middling soil, and it has so many uses. During WWII the US government pleaded with farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Congress should just go ahead and legalize marijuana at the federal level and let states decide for themselves how to handle it. Conservative agricultural states might legalize industrial hemp but still restrict marijuana.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 1:52 pm

Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness

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David Shimer reports in the NY Times:

On Jan. 12, a few days after registration opened at Yale for Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life, roughly 300 people had signed up. Within three days, the figure had more than doubled. After three more days, about 1,200 students, or nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates, were enrolled.

The course, taught by Laurie Santos, 42, a psychology professor and the head of one of Yale’s residential colleges, tries to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life in twice-weekly lectures.

“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos said in an interview. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

Dr. Santos speculated that Yale students are interested in the class because, in high school, they had to deprioritize their happiness to gain admission to the school, adopting harmful life habits that have led to what she called “the mental health crises we’re seeing at places like Yale.” A 2013 report by the Yale College Council found that more than half of undergraduates sought mental health care from the university during their time there.

“In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb,” said Alannah Maynez, 19, a freshman taking the course. “The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions — both positive and negative — so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

Students have long requested that Yale offer a course on positive psychology, according to Woo-Kyoung Ahn, director of undergraduate studies in psychology, who said she was “blown away” by Dr. Santos’s proposal for the class.

Administrators like Dr. Ahn expected significant enrollment for the class, but none anticipated it to be quite so large. Psychology and the Good Life, with 1,182 undergraduates currently enrolled, stands as the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history. The previous record-holder — Psychology and the Law — was offered in 1992 and had about 1,050 students, according to Marvin Chun, the Yale College dean. Most large lectures at Yale don’t exceed 600.

Offering such a large class has  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 1:06 pm

Cape Town asks for disaster zone status to stave off drought

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Climate change is starting to bite hard. Aislinn Laing reports in the Times:

Cape Town has pleaded with the South African government to declare a national disaster as it faces the prospect of becoming the first modern city in the world to run out of water.

Draconian restrictions will be imposed this week to try to eke out dwindling water supplies, but unless the four million people living in and around the city drastically cut their usage the taps will be turned off on April 12, known locally as Day Zero.

Most residents will have to collect water for washing, cooking and drinking from one of 200 communal collection points to be installed around the city and guarded by soldiers in case the shortages lead to violence.

The region has experienced three years of drought; conditions so dry that they can be expected only once every 300 years. That, and a failure by national and local governments to maintain the city’s infrastructure and curb water usage, is being blamed.

From Thursday, when summer temperatures are forecast to hit 28C, residents will be asked to use only 50 litres a day per person, down from 87 litres. Those who fail to adhere to the measures will have restricters placed on their taps. An eight-minute shower typically uses more than 60 litres.

Helen Zille, the provincial governor, has written to President Zuma warning of an “imminent crisis” and urging him to declare a disaster, which would allow extra funding and police, military and medical specialists to be deployed. She said that thousands of jobs had already been lost in the agricultural sector and that the vital tourism sector was also at risk as visitors cancelled their summer holiday trips.

Residents, fearing the worst, have been urged not to stockpile water from their taps but usage appears to have risen anyway as the restrictions loom.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 10:45 am

In ‘Brave,’ Rose McGowan Exposes Hollywood Exploitation

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In the NY Times Michelle Goldberg reviews Rose McGowan’s new book:

If I had read Rose McGowan’s new memoir, “Brave,” in a vacuum, absent the feats of investigative reporting that took down the former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, I would have thought it overwrought and paranoid. McGowan describes a life of almost ceaseless abuse, of falling into the clutches of one sadistic ogre after another as powerful forces conspired to crush her rogue spirit. “My life was infiltrated by Israeli spies and harassing lawyers, some of the most formidable on earth,” she writes on the first page. “These evil people hounded me at every turn while I went about resurrecting the ghosts that have made up my time on earth.” Come on — Israeli spies?

Of course, we now know: Yes, Israeli spies. In October 2016, McGowan posted three tweets accusing a “studio head” of rape, using the hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport. She was referring to Weinstein, who, it’s since been revealed, had paid her $100,000 for her silence about a 1997 encounter at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. As Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker in November 2017, shortly after McGowan’s tweets Weinstein hired several private security agencies, one run largely by veterans of Israeli intelligence, to try to stop the story of his longtime sexual predation from coming out. Agents were explicitly directed to spy on and undermine McGowan. “It was like the movie ‘Gaslight,’ ” McGowan told Farrow. “Everyone lied to me all the time.”

One of the greatest tricks that the patriarchy plays on women is to deliberately destabilize them, then use their instability as a reason to disbelieve them. Much of “Brave” reads like the diary of a woman driven half-mad by abusive men who assume no one will listen to her. In this case, the truth was finally — and, for McGowan, triumphantly — exposed, but reading “Brave,” I kept thinking about how many more women must be written off as crazy and crushed under the weight of secrets no one wants to hear.

Even before she met Weinstein, McGowan had been through hell. She was raised in the polygamous Children of God cult, though her family fled when its leadership started encouraging sex with children. She then spent years bouncing back and forth between her cruel father and her unreliable mother, who for a time dated a vicious man who McGowan says was later charged with sexually abusing his own daughter. McGowan did a brief stint in rehab during junior high school and later lived as an itinerant street punk. Eventually she made her way to Hollywood and was emancipated from her parents before she was old enough to drive.

This bitter history clearly left a mark, and her book is furious and profane, wild and a little unhinged. “Very few sex symbols escape Hollywood with their minds intact, if they manage to stay alive at all,” McGowan writes early on. There’s no glamour in “Brave,” and very little joy; I’ve never read anything that makes being a starlet sound so tedious and demeaning.

The book hinges on McGowan’s encounter with Weinstein, whom she refers to only as “the Monster.” Here, for the first time, she tells the story of what he did to her. It’s both disgusting and, if you’ve followed the Weinstein coverage, very familiar. She was summoned to a morning meeting in the restaurant of an exclusive hotel in Park City, Utah. When she arrived, the restaurant’s host directed her to Weinstein’s suite, saying he was stuck on a call. “I was certain we would be working together for many years to come, and we were here to plot out the grand arc of my career,” McGowan writes.

Instead, Weinstein pushed her into a room with a Jacuzzi and pulled off her clothes. “I freeze, like a statue,” she writes. As she describes it, he put her on the edge of the Jacuzzi, got in, and performed oral sex on her while masturbating. Her experience sounds similar to the one that the actress and director Asia Argento described to The New Yorker. Like Argento, McGowan says that she feigned pleasure in the hopes of bringing the event to a quicker conclusion. “He moans loudly; through my tears I see his semen floating on top of the bubbles,” she writes.

Afterward, McGowan writes, she was taken to a photo-op with Ben Affleck, her co-star in “Phantoms,” a movie she was promoting. Seeing her shaken and hearing where she came from, the actor said, “Goddamn it. I told him to stop doing that.” (It’s unclear what Affleck meant by that statement; he has never responded to the accusation that he knew about Weinstein’s abuse.) Others, McGowan writes, “counseled me to see it as something that would help my career in the long run.” Wanting to press charges, she spoke to a criminal attorney who told her she would never be believed.

Soon she heard that Weinstein was calling around town telling people not to hire her. “It seemed like every creep in Hollywood knew about my most vulnerable and violated moment,” she writes. “And I was the one who was punished for it.” Her film career was derailed.

McGowan would eventually find success playing one of a trio of witches on the TV show “Charmed.” She describes working on the show as a deadening experience, a “prison for my mind.” Her sense of martyrdom can be a bit much; she writes of feeling “robbed” by having to get married on TV before her real wedding. “Your entertainment comes at a cost to us performers,” McGowan writes. “You should know this and acknowledge.”

Yet it’s McGowan’s profound dissatisfaction with her profession — one she seems to have fallen into rather than pursued — that has given her the freedom to gleefully burn bridges. She loathes the entertainment business, describing Hollywood as a cult worse than the one she grew up in. Though she’s in her 40s, she sometimes writes with the grandiosity of an alienated adolescent whose mind was blown by “The Matrix.” “You may think that what happens in Hollywood doesn’t affect you,” she writes. “You’re wrong. My darlings, who do you think is curating your reality?”

For most adult readers,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 10:29 am

Mühle silvertip, Phoenix Artisan Alt-Eleven, Fine slant, and Alt-Innsbruck

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Yesterday the Fine slant did an excellent on a two-day stubble. I wondered if I could comfortably shave a one-day stubble—the regular daily shave—with no problem now that I’ve learned the razor.

After shower and MR GLO, I loaded the brush from Phoenix Artisan’s excellent Alt-Eleven shaving soap. Like all their soaps nowadays, this leaves my skin feeling soft and supple, and the lather is quite good. This Mühle brush is exceptionally soft and pleasant on the skin—soft enough to serve as a mnemonic for using very light pressure on the razor.

The Fine aluminum slant worked extremely well now that I understand how light the pressure must be. I also found myself unconsciously improving the blade angle, so that the razor had more glide along with the efficient cutting. Three passes, absolutely smooth face, and no nicks or burn. I’m liking this razor more and more: the more I use it and pay attention, the better it performs. (I sometimes call this “breaking in the razor,” but of course it is actually learning (mostly unconsciously) from a focused awareness during the shave how best to use the razor.)

A splash of Alt-Innsbruck, and I see that, once you learn it, the Fine slant can be an excellent daily razor. Just keep that pressure lighter than you are probably accustomed to.

Just to be clear: I buy all my products at retail, and I have no affiliations with any vendor. What I write are my opinions based on my experience with the products.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2018 at 9:55 am

Posted in Shaving

An ER visit, a $12,000 bill — and a health insurer that wouldn’t pay

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Sarah Kliff reports in Vox:

Brittany Cloyd was doubled over in pain when she arrived at Frankfort Regional Medical Center’s emergency room on July 21, 2017.

“They got me a wheelchair and wheeled me back to a room immediately,” said Cloyd, 27, who lives in Kentucky.

Cloyd came in after a night of worsening fever and a increasing pain on the right side of her stomach. She called her mother, a former nurse, who thought it sounded like appendicitis and told Cloyd to go to the hospital immediately.

The doctors in the emergency room did multiple tests including a CT scan and ultrasound. They determined that Cloyd had ovarian cysts, not appendicitis. They gave her pain medications that helped her feel better, and an order to follow up with a gynecologist.

A few weeks later, Cloyd received something else: a $12,596 hospital bill her insurance denied — leaving her on the hook for all of it.

“We have a mortgage, we have bills, we have student loans,” says Cloyd, who works for the Kentucky government and has a 7-year-old daughter. “There is absolutely no way I could pay a $12,000 bill. I don’t even have $1,000 sitting around.”

Cloyd has her health insurance coverage through her husband’s job. His company uses Anthem, one of the country’s largest health insurance plans. In recent years, Anthem has begun denying coverage for emergency room visits that it deems “inappropriate” because they aren’t, in the insurance plan’s view, true emergencies.

The problem: These denials are made after patients visit the ER, sometimes based on the diagnosis after seeing a doctor, not on the symptoms that sent them, like in Cloyd’s case.

The policy has so far rolled out in four states: Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky.

“We cannot approve benefits for your recent visit to the emergency room (ER) for pelvic pain,” the letter that Cloyd received from Anthem stated, which she shared with Vox. “Emergency room services can be approved …

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

The situation will undoubtedly worsen as Trump’s sabotage of the program takes effect.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2018 at 3:52 pm

Sugar and cognitive decline: The sugar-Alzheimer connection

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A low-carb, high-fat diet is looking better and better. Olga Khazan writes in the Atlantic:

In recent years, Alzheimer’s disease has occasionally been referred to as “type 3” diabetes, though that moniker doesn’t make much sense. After all, though they share a problem with insulin, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease caused by diet. Instead of another type of diabetes, it’s increasingly looking like Alzheimer’s is another potential side effect of a sugary, Western-style diet.

In some cases, the path from sugar to Alzheimer’s leads through type 2 diabetes, but as a new study and others show, that’s not always the case.

longitudinal study, published Thursday in the journal Diabetologia, followed 5,189 people over 10 years and found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar—whether or not their blood-sugar level technically made them diabetic. In other words, the higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline.

“Dementia is one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions strongly associated with poor quality of later life,” said the lead author, Wuxiang Xie at Imperial College London, via email. “Currently, dementia is not curable, which makes it very important to study risk factors.”

Melissa Schilling, a professor at New York University, performed her own reviewof studies connecting diabetes to Alzheimer’s in 2016. She sought to reconcile two confusing trends. People who have type 2 diabetes are about twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s, and people who have diabetes and are treated with insulin are also more likely to get Alzheimer’s, suggesting elevated insulin plays a role in Alzheimer’s. In fact, many studies have found that elevated insulin, or “hyperinsulinemia,” significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, people with type 1 diabetes, who don’t make insulin at all, are also thought to have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. How could these both be true?

Schilling posits this happens because of the insulin-degrading enzyme, a product of insulin that breaks down both insulin and amyloid proteins in the brain—the same proteins that clump up and lead to Alzheimer’s disease. People who don’t have enough insulin, like those whose bodies’ ability to produce insulin has been tapped out by diabetes, aren’t going to make enough of this enzyme to break up those brain clumps. Meanwhile, in people who use insulin to treat their diabetes and end up with a surplus of insulin, most of this enzyme gets used up breaking that insulin down, leaving not enough enzyme to address those amyloid brain clumps.

According to Schilling, this can happen even in people who don’t have diabetes yet—who are in a state known as “prediabetes.” It simply means your blood sugar is higher than normal, and it’s something that affects roughly 86 million Americans.

Schilling is not primarily a medical researcher; she’s just interested in the topic. But Rosebud Roberts, a professor of epidemiology and neurology at the Mayo Clinic, agreed with her interpretation.

In a 2012 study, Roberts broke nearly 1,000 people down into four groups based on how much of their diet came from carbohydrates. The group that ate the most carbs had an 80 percent higher chance of developing mild cognitive impairment—a pit stop on the way to dementia—than those who ate the smallest amount of carbs. People with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, can dress and feed themselves, but they have trouble with more complex tasks. Intervening in MCI can help prevent dementia.

Rebecca Gottesman, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, cautions that the findings on carbs aren’t as well-established as those on diabetes. “It’s hard to be sure at this stage, what an ‘ideal’ diet would look like,” she said. “There’s a suggestion that a Mediterranean diet, for example, may be good for brain health.”

But she says there are several theories out there to explain the connection between high blood sugar and dementia. Diabetes can also weaken the blood vessels, which increases the likelihood that you’ll have ministrokes in the brain, causing various forms of dementia. A high intake of simple sugars can make cells, including those in the brain, insulin resistant, which could cause the brain cells to die. Meanwhile, eating too much in general can cause obesity. The extra fat in obese people releases cytokines, or inflammatory proteins that can also contribute to cognitive deterioration, Roberts said. In one study by Gottesman, obesity doubled a person’s risk of having elevated amyloid proteins in their brains later in life.

Roberts said that people with type 1 diabetes are mainly only at risk if their insulin is so poorly controlled that they have hypoglycemic episodes. But even people who don’t have any kind of diabetes should watch their sugar intake, she said.

“Just because you don’t have type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can eat whatever carbs you want,” she said. “Especially if you’re not active.” What we eat, she added, is “a big factor in maintaining control of our destiny.” Roberts said this new study by Xie is interesting because it also shows an association between prediabetes and cognitive decline. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2018 at 3:15 pm

The self, empirically amenable to scientific investigation

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Şerife Tekin, an assistant professor of philosophy and the director of the medical humanities minor at the department of philosophy and religious studies at Daemen College in Buffalo, New York, writes in Aeon:

‘Know thyself’ is one of philosophy’s most ancient aphorisms. But is there such a thing as the self and, if there is, can it be empirically investigated through scientific methods? Antirealists deny the existence of the self – for them it is an illusion, a fiction of the mind. If there was no one to perceive it, there would not be a self. The concept of the self, in their telling, is invented by cultural, social and linguistic conventions. It is nothing but a useful conceptual tool for organising human experience.

David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher and economist, remains the preeminent antirealist. He suggests that we have no experience of a simple, individual impression that we can call the self – where the ‘self’ is the totality of a person’s conscious life. In A Treatise of Human Nature (1740), Hume wrote:

When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception.

Today, Daniel Dennett, a philosopher of mind and cognitive scientist at Tufts University in Massachusetts, also defends the antirealist view. For Dennett, each ‘normal’ individual of the species Homo sapiens creates a self by spinning stories about herself in the process of presenting herself to others through language. The tendency to create selves by way of creating stories, for humans, is akin to how spiders weave webs to protect themselves: it is both intrinsic and unconscious, argued Dennett in Consciousness Explained(1991). Because the self is constructed and abstracted out of narratives, it is permeable and flexible, and because of its permeability and flexibility, the self eludes scientific scrutiny.

The antirealists also argue that the phenomenal experience of the self requires ‘privileged access’, whereby the subject is a witness to her own mental states, and these mental states are not intersubjectively validated. For instance, how a teenager conceives of her body (say, as overweight) is given directly only to her, not to others. Perhaps she falsely represents herself to herself as overweight, due to cultural influences on her conception of what the ideal weight is. The self, then, according to the philosopher David Jopling at York University in Ontario, is experienced in ways that are intimately interlaced into the fabric of culture and language, so variations in culture and language will lead to different experiences of the self, making the self a non-stable, moving target, escaping scientific enquiry.

Or take individuals with schizophrenia, some of whom report a deep sense of disintegration between themselves and their actions. They feel that they are automatons, not agents who see, feel, eat, suffer – their bodies can feel to them like alien objects. Meanwhile, phenomenologically typical individuals are immediately aware that they are the subject of their feelings or actions, as they are simultaneously aware of said feelings. For them, the self is the ‘unarticulated constituent’ of experience, in the words of the philosopher John Perry of Stanford University in California. If science aims to come up with generalisable explanations and predictions of human behaviour, how can it empirically track a self that appears to be intrinsically flexible, private, subjective and accessible only to the subject whose self is in question?

The answer is that science does all this by rejecting antirealism. In fact, the self does exist. The phenomenal experience of having a self, the feelings of pain and of pleasure, of control, intentionality and agency, of self-governance, of acting according to one’s beliefs and desires, the sense of engaging with the physical world and the social world – all this offers evidence of the existence of the self. Furthermore, empirical research in the mind sciences provides robust reasons to deny antirealism. The self lends itself to scientific explanations and generalisations, and such scientific information can be used to understand disorders of the self, such as depression and schizophrenia, and to develop this self-understanding facilitates one’s ability to live a rich moral life.

I call my proposed model the ‘multitudinous self’. ‘Do I contradict myself?’ asks the poet Walt Whitman in ‘Song of Myself’ (1891-92), ‘Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)’ The multitudinous self is empirically tractable and responsive to the experiences of ‘real people’ who do or do not have mental disorders. According to this model, the self is a dynamic, complex, relational and multi-aspectual mechanism of capacities, processes, states and traits that support a degree of agency. The multitudinous self has five distinct but functionally complementary dimensions: ecological, intersubjective, conceptual, private, and temporally extended. These dimensions work together to connect the individual to her body, her social world, her psychological world, and her environment.

The multitudinous self is based on the psychologist Ulric Neisser’s account of the self, laid out in his paper ‘Five Kinds of Self-knowledge’ (1988). Neisser encourages us to reevaluate the sources of information that help us to identify the self. There are five sources, which are so different from one another that it is plausible to conceive each as establishing a different ‘self’. First there is the ecological self, or the embodied self in the physical world, which perceives and interacts with the physical environment; the interpersonal self, or the self embedded in the social world, which constitutes and is constituted by intersubjective relationships with others; the temporally extended self, or the self in time, which is grounded in memories of the past and anticipation of the future; the private self which is exposed to experiences available only to the first person and not to others; and finally the conceptual self, which (accurately or falsely) represents the self to the self by drawing on the properties or characteristics of not only the person but also the social and cultural context to which she belongs.

The multitudinous self is a variation of the Neisserian self in that it individuates the self as a complex mechanism with many dimensions that interact and work together to maintain a more or less stable agency over time. At times these different dimensions of the self contradict each other (very well then). Interpersonally, I might come across as gregarious, and present an image of a someone who enjoys companionship, yet my private sense of self might be that I am shy and introverted. Because these five dimensions are all more or less integrated, however, they help with self-regulation, and function as a locus of experience and agency. The multitudinous self gives a partial but helpful representation of the selves we encounter in our daily lives. It is also scientifically scrutable.

To see how this is so, take the following example. We can acquire information about the selfhood of 12-year-olds, tracking information about them in all five dimensions by relying on both first-person and third-person perspectives. First, we could interview them on how the physical changes in their bodies are manifested in their ecological dimension: how the changes in their height or weight affect their physical activity, or how such physical changes affect their interpersonal dimension through their effects on the nature and quality of their interpersonal relationships.

Similarly, we can acquire information on how the physiological changes are manifested in the temporal, private and conceptual aspects of themselves. For instance, through first-person reports, we can evaluate whether and what kind of short-term memory loss the preteen might be experiencing, and whether it affects his sense of the future. This would yield information about the temporal dimension of the preteen self. Or we might learn about the private aspect of the self by interviewing them about ‘what it is like’ to be 12.

Finally, to develop a robust understanding of how their self-concepts are evolving in response to the changes they are undergoing, we might ask them how they represent themselves to themselves. Some might be changing their physical self-concepts – they might consider themselves tall after a radical growth spurt, or might think of themselves as overweight. Note that these alterations in self-concepts are not necessarily accurate or truth-tracking: a girl’s (or boy’s) weight might be considered in a typical range for her height, sex and age, but not seem so to herself.

The self of the preteen is also empirically tractable from a third-person perspective through sciences of the mind, including cognitive psychology, social psychology, clinical psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and genetics. Through physiology and biology, we can determine the statistically typical range of changes in preteens’ bodies for their sex- and age-groups. We can evaluate the changes in their interpersonal dimensions, such as increased conflict with parents, by referring to research in developmental psychology, neuropsychology and social psychology. Similarly, we can acquire information about short-term memory loss and how it shapes temporality. Changes in the private dimension of the self can be at least partially tracked by analysing how behaviour changes. And alterations in the preteens’ conceptual dimension can be tracked through psychology and anthropology. For example, children in the United States tend to experience a decline in their positive self-concepts during their adolescent years; this decline often begins around age 12 for girls. Based on these first- and third-person perspectives, then, we can indeed draw reliable inferences about preteen selves.

Recall that the antirealists argue that the self is flexible, private, subjective and accessible only to the subject, which precludes the self from being the subject of sciences. The multitudinous-self model is responsive to this challenge as well. The flexibility, subjectivity and transiency of the self that antirealists have in mind are the features of the private and conceptual dimensions of the self – but this is not the whole complex mechanism of the self; there are other dimensions. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2018 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Science

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Liking the Fine slant, with Meißner Tremonia Pink Grapefruit shaving paste

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An absolutely terrific shave this morning: a two-day stubble well-prepped (shower first, wash with MR GLO, and then an extremely nice lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Pink Grapefruit shaving paste. The Mühle synthetic shown has a different feel from the Plissoft type, but is quite efficient and comfortable, plus I like the handle as a change of pace.

As I’ve learned, with the Fine slant you let the (extremely light) weight of the razor do the work. With the absence of pressure, performance is splendid, with no nicks and a perfectly smooth result after three passes. This, I now realize, is just as good a slant as Mr. Fine said. You just have to learn what it needs for best performance, and that is light light light pressure.

A splash of l’Occitane Cade as an aftershave and my bachelor week is launched. (The Wife is away on a business trip.)

Man, my face feels good!

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2018 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

Why you’re still hungry: 6 obstacles to healthy eating

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Carrie Dennett has a very interesting column in the Washington Post. Do read the whole thing; I’ll quote just one section:

Your gut microbiota isn’t diverse enough

Your gut, and the microbes that dwell in it, act as a “mini brain,” influencing, among other things, mood, appetite and food cravings. The tens of trillions of bacteria and other microbes in our gut produce a number of compounds, including some that are identical or similar to appetite hormones. About 20 minutes after a meal, certain bacteria in your gut send signals that you’ve had enough to eat by stimulating the release of a hormone that has been linked to feelings of satiety. But if you don’t have a very diverse microbiota — the microbe population living in our intestines — other species can become dominant, and what they need to survive and thrive may be different from what your body needs.

When you and a dominant group of microbes aren’t on the same page, they will try to manipulate your eating behavior for their benefit. They may cause cravings for their preferred foods, or for foods that suppress their competitors. They may simply increase your hunger levels until you eventually eat what they want you to eat. Either way, this creates a vicious cycle. For example, if you eat a lot of sugary foods, “sugar-loving” microbes will thrive, whereas microbes that don’t do so well on sugar may weaken or die. Because the sugar-loving microbes are well-nourished, they’ll gain even more influence, increasing sugar cravings.

Support a diverse microbiota by eating foods rich in fiber and probiotic bacteria, being physically active, handling stress and getting adequate sleep. This reduces the chance that any single species will have the numbers to gain an upper hand, and may help reduce food cravings and unusual hunger.

To which I’ll add:

  • The gut microbiome flourishes in a gut having sufficient fiber. 45g a day is not too much. (The average is around 19g/day, which is insufficient.)
  • If you are taking antibiotics, use a yeast-based probiotic (unaffected by antibiotics) rather than a bacteria-based probiotic (vulnerable to antibiotics).
    Florastore Daily Probiotic Supplement is a yeast-based probiotic.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2018 at 7:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Dynamite answer on Quora by Franklin Vieux

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Extremely well stated, IMO:

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2018 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Daily life

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