Later On

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

Archive for April 15th, 2018

The painful truth of life after prison: Getting a job can be impossible

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And now President Trump has cut off assistance (food stamps, heating bills, Medicaid, etc.) to those who do not work. And those who can’t find a job are out of luck. The US is becoming a heartless place.

D. Watkins writes in Salon:

One day I pulled over in front of my aunt’s place to use the bathroom. Six pounds on the door before Big Guy A yelled across the yard, “She not home, dummy, you just missed her!”

(I’m calling him Big Guy A to protect his identity.)

“Lemme use your bathroom, bro!”

He cracked the door as I ran past the small group of dudes hanging in front of the complex. They were playing cards, talking trash, trading insults — just waiting around. Being black and poor comes with a lot of waiting.

A steamy locker room funk greeted me at the door. Clothes decorated the floor; I tried not to step on them but couldn’t help kicking some jeans out of the way to close the door. This bathroom had never been cleaned. I aimed for the center of the brown-tinted water in the rusted bowl and flushed with the tip of my Nike. A white bar of soap with beige edges perched on the sink. I just used water.

I glanced in the kitchen on the way out, and saw Big Guy A taking empty gel caps out of a plastic bag and placing them into a drawer next to his fridge. I understood the dirty soap, stink and overall grimness of the spot. I was in a trap house.

A trap house is a place where illegal drugs are bought, sold, packaged and stored. The word “trap” is pretty self-explanatory — once you start, death or jail (which is basically death) are the only two destinations, so we call it a trap.

“Yo, you want some water, bro?” Big Guy A said, opening a 24-pack of Deer Park. “I got chips too!”

“Bring the water out front, homie,” I replied. “I can’t chill in a trap house, man. Plus it stinks in here.”

He laughed and followed me out front with three waters and a bag of Rap Snacks, the chips with a picture of Fabolous on the front. Big Guy A tossed me the bottle of water and flopped on a busted office chair pulled up to a makeshift table made from a milk crate and half of a broken-off door. Teenage boys lined each corner of the complex. Their heads tilted toward their phones until customers walked up: middle-aged black dudes, white men in Under Armour and work boots, and a slew of El Salvadorian guys dressed like construction workers in carpenter jeans and unbuttoned flannels. The game is the same as it has always been: One kid collects the money and sends a signal to another kid who fetches the product, repeat over and over, like clockwork.

“Grandpa! We almost up,” a thin, heavily tattooed woman with small square gold teeth yelled. “We ready to be done, you can come out in like 30 minutes.”

“Hurry up Lil Man,” Big Guy A yells at her. “I’m tryin to eat too! Damn!”

She looked him up and down, laughed, shook her head, squinted her eyes and said, “You ain’t ruining my Sunday, pops, so shut ya mouth before I shut it for you.” She gave me and another dude a handshake and walked over to stand next to the kid who was collecting the money.

“They not your workers?” I asked Big Guy A. “This is your strip, right?”

“Nah, they work for her,” he replied. “I can’t sell a thing until the kids say it’s OK. They got the muscle, the weapons, they out here. It’s really their block.”

Big Guy A used to be a street legend. He’s a god’s height, preteen goofy, wide as an Escalade and stayed covered in gold and diamonds. He never ratted, wasn’t a hater and always made everyone laugh. He’s a real OG, and always gave advice, his grandmother’s wisdom and $20 to all of kids who chased the ice cream trucks up and down Broadway. I’m not sure how or why he got in the drug game, but I do know that he ran it like a champ.

“You know I did all that time, bro,” Big Guy A said, removing some bags of weed and gel caps from his pocket and placing them under the crate. “When I came home my team was gone, the block has changed, and I’m just out here tryin to live.”

Big Guy A sat in federal prison for about eight years for drug distribution. He came home, lived in a halfway house and created a plan to stay out of prison, which basically consisted of working two or three jobs until he saved up enough money to buy a dump truck.

“With a dump truck,” he explained, “I could get money in the blizzard, when it’s hot out, all that. The one I want cost like $28-30 thou at the auction. I’m tryin to stack. Still looking for a job, too. I filled out apps everywhere. Ain’t no work out here for me.”

My aunt pulled up with some grocery bags. I helped her carry them into the house. She put them away and joined me on the front steps, asking me about work. “Work is cool.” I couldn’t help but watch Big Guy A in action. Well, it wasn’t much action; he mostly lounged in the chair and waited, and every once in a while a straggler would straggle by and make a purchase.

“He is too old,” my aunt said about Big Guy A. “Some people never grow up.”

I saw him make about four sales over two hours. Every transaction looked painful. Big Guy A was like the before model in a Bengay ad. Dude was slow — too slow to outrun anything­­ — and slanging dope is a young person’s game. You should be sharp, agile, ripped and able to dip, duck, hide and fit into small places. A few people stopped by to crack jokes, and I saw him hesitantly passing money to a woman who only yelled at him, but he mostly sat alone.

“Big fella,” I said, walking in his direction.“It’s crazy out here, be careful.”

He got up to greet me. “All I can do; if you hear anything about a job, bro, holla at me,” he said, giving me a half-hug with a handshake. “Janitor, dog walker, mall rental cop, whatever. I’ll do anything to get from up and around here, you hear me? I’m tryin to work.”

I told him I’d try as I walked back to my car. He thanked me too many times. I turned around to yell “no problem,” and the sun fell on his sad eyes and wet smile. “Take care!” I said one more time before pulling off.

I’m an artist, not a reentry expert, and I have little to no experience getting companies to hire ex-offenders, but I do care and want to help. I put in a good word for a few of my friends who had spent some time in jail and some got hired because of my connections. They didn’t get high-paying jobs, but they made enough to leave the streets alone.

We condemn people who are in and out of prison, but regularly fail to address the system that prohibits ex-offenders from successfully reentering society.

The hard truth is that everyone does not have connections. Going to jail as a poor person is easy; going to jail as a poor black person is super-easy. So many people who are lucky enough to survive prison like Big Guy A did have nothing to come home to. We have to be the generation that changes this.

The Ban the Box campaign was set up to remove questions about prior criminal activity from job applications­, to give ex-offenders a fair shot at gaining employment with livable wages. To date, 45 cities and seven states — Hawaii, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Connecticut — have complied. This progress is amazing, but we still need more. Many of those states have online databases where anybody can gain civil or criminal background information on anybody as long as you can spell their name correctly.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2018 at 1:45 pm

My current diet advice

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I’ve tinkered with my diet over the years, trying this and that, and here’s my current approach. (“Current” really does mean current: I revisit the post and update it as I learn new information, most recently 14 January 2019.) It takes a couple of weeks to get the hang of it, so I would recommend you stick with it for two months and then take stock, evaluating it in the light of your own experience.

Your overall health depends heavily on five things: your genetic make-up (and that ship has sailed), the nutrition you get from your diet, adequate exercise (cardio exercise in particular), adequate sleep and rest, and a positive and optimistic outlook (cf. Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman). This post mentions cardio exercise (and provides some links), but its focus is your diet, as the title implies.

TL;DR: Here’s the core of the argument that follows, but without a lot of detail—e.g., guidance for the novice cook is found below, but it’s not part of the core argument.

It’s all about food choices

Weight loss is almost totally driven by food choices (which foods and how much of them). Exercise is essential for endurance fitness (stamina), gained through cardio (sustained, aerobic) exercise like brisk walking (3 mph/5 kph or faster, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), running, bicycling, swimming, and the like. Cardio exercise is required for good health. You can also exercise for strength (gained through weight and resistance training and mat exercises) and for flexibility (stretching, yoga, Feldenkrais, and the like), and while strength and flexibility are good, cardiovascular fitness is essential for your health.

In terms of weight loss specifically, exercise is neither necessary nor sufficient to lose weight. In contrast, good food choices are both necessary and sufficient to lose weight. This is borne out from studies discussed in a recent article in the Guardian: people in 1976 were slim, and they ate substantially more calories than do the obese population of today—but they ate different foods. And from this heartbreaking (and infuriating) article by Michael Hobbes:

Since 1980, the obesity rate has doubled in 73 countries and increased in 113 others. And in all that time, no nation has reduced its obesity rate. Not one.

The problem is that in America, like everywhere else, our institutions of public health have become so obsessed with body weight that they have overlooked what is really killing us: our food supply. Diet is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than five times the fatalities of gun violence and car accidents combined. But it’s not how much we’re eating—Americans actually  consume fewer calories now than we did in 2003. It’s what we’re eating.

For more than a decade now, researchers have found that the quality of our food affects disease risk independently of its effect on weight. Fructose, for example, appears to damage insulin sensitivity and liver function more than other sweeteners with the same number of calories. People who eat nuts four times a week have 12 percent lower diabetes incidence and a 13 percent lower mortality rate regardless of their weight. All of our biological systems for regulating energy, hunger and satiety get thrown off by eating foods that are high in sugar, low in fiber and injected with additives. And which now, shockingly, make up 60 percent of the calories we eat.

And see also “The Useless Concept of ‘Calories’.” It is an eye-opener.

Looking at foods just in terms of calories misses an essential point. Suppose you got in your car and the fuel gauge was close to “Empty,” so you want to fill the gas tank, which takes 11 gallons. Would you use whatever liquid is handiest (and cheapest)? Or would you look not just at quantity but also at the nature of the liquid? Using only volume to select fuel makes no more sense than using only calories to select food.

I strongly recommend you prepare your meals from scratch (and below I list suggestions—tips, tools, techniques, and recipes—to make that an enjoyable activity). The quotation above helps explain why it’s good for your physical health to prepare your meals from scratch. It’s also good for your mental health because with experience you feel competent and self-reliant, with the locus of control within yourself—plus it gives you control of what you eat.

Exercise’s role in weight loss and fitness

Exercise is not necessary for weight loss because even someone who is quite sedentary (me, for example, when I lost most of my weight) can easily lose weight by making good food choices (which foods and how much), and exercise is not sufficient for weight loss because even someone who exercises daily can consume enough high-caloric and unhealthful foods so that they will not lose weight—for example—so even if you exercise you must pay attention to what you eat and make good food choices. Thus good food choices are both necessary and sufficient for weight loss.

An example of how exercise without good food choices is insufficient: a person who runs two miles every morning and then celebrates by having a medium glazed doughnut. Running two miles ≈ 200 calories; one medium glazed doughnut ≈ 255 calories. The daily run is a good cardio exercise and does contribute to fitness, but the person (assuming the rest of his diet is enough to maintain weight—that is, the rest of his diet represents good food choices) will slowly but surely put on weight from the surplus 55 calories per day. And in fact many who take up exercise do eat more (and make bad food choices) because they are hungrier and/or feel that since they’re exercising they can eat anything and as much as they want.

My own exercise choice—for fitness, not weight loss

I did find that as I neared my target weight, I encountered a lengthy plateau. (More on plateaus below.) I began doing a 20-minute daily walk, and weight loss immediately resumed, so exercise can indeed be helpful as you get closer to your weight goal. (Cardio exercise is, as noted above, essential for cardiovascular health—diet alone is insufficient for that—and as my diet produced results and I lost weight, I was moved to improve my overall health—thus my beginning cardio/aerobic exercise.)

I use a smartphone app, Pedometer++, to track steps, and within a few weeks I was doing 8000-10,000 steps a day, with my morning walk (about 7200 of those steps) taking around 66 minutes. (In addition to tracking steps, Pedometer++ computes distances, keeps track of consecutive days meeting your goal, displays total steps and distance since you installed the app, doles out awards, and so on.)

I found that using Nordic walking poles was quite helpful in two ways: first, they make the walk more interesting and enjoyable; and second, they exercise the arms and shoulders (thus burning 20% more calories than regular walking with no discernible increase in effort—indeed, they seem to make the walk easier by distributing the effort among more muscles). The reason my walk grew to an hour is because using Nordic walking poles made the walk so enjoyable. I was pulled to walking an hour rather than pushing myself to do it. (It’s interesting that the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in its guidelines for starting an exercise program, also stresses that your exercise program should be something you enjoy. They write, “Your goal is to establish an exercise routine you enjoy. Make sure your first activity sessions are fun and not tiring.”)

Nordic walking poles are not the same as trekking poles. Trekking poles are for back-country and trail hiking over uneven terrain, whereas Nordic walking poles are for exercise walks in town and parks. The differences (in design, purpose, and technique), once you see example poles in action, are clear. Current research finds that doing your walk in the woods, a park, or other natural surroundings is ideal in benefiting your mental health as well as your physical health, as can regular visits to the cinema, theatre, or museums, which has been shown to dramatically reduce the chances of becoming depressed in older age.

Even a plain walk, without Nordic walking poles, can be highly beneficial. Kenneth Cooper, in his books on aerobic/cardio exercises, provides research-based guidelines on the minimum amount of weekly exercise required to get the benefits of the training effect. I recently looked at how my Nordic walking fits with Cooper’s point system for cardio exercise. (I highly recommend Cooper’s books on aerobic exercise. Secondhand copies are readily available from

It should be noted that if you are walking a good distance each day, abruptly discontinuing your exercise routine can be risky to your health.

Refined sugar and simple carbohydrates: bad

Refined sugar and simple carbohydrates—white potatoes (hash browns, french fries, potato chips, roasted, etc.), rice (brown or white: they both have a high glycemic index), foods made with flour (e.g., bread, bagels, pasta, muffins, pancakes, boxed cereals), juice (which is terrible), etc.—disrupt the metabolism, as described in Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes. His excellent book Good Calories, Bad Calories summarizes the research that demonstrates that not all calories are the same: 100 calories from refined sugar or white bread affect the body in a very different way than 100 calories from, say, extra-virgin olive oil or crisp bacon. That’s why those who focus only on calories—”just consume fewer calories than you burn”—miss a vital point: the nature of the foods that carry the calories is extremely important, and you cannot (without consequences) ignore the nature of the foods and look only at the calories they contain. See, for example, Dr. David Ludwig’s article “The Case for a Low-Carb Diet Is Stronger Than Ever.” Indeed, the particular foods you eat (regardless of their calories) can even affect the health of your skin.

Sugar, BTW, is not so simple as you might think, and different sugars have different effects. This article has a good explanation—and note the dangers of fructose. And, interestingly, the quantity of refined sugar in the food supply is strongly linked to the rate of diabetes in the population: see this report. My grandmother commonly used the term “sugar diabetes” instead of just “diabetes,” and wrt type 2 diabetes, she was onto something.

Refined sugar is particularly bad. See “The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s” and watch this video:

Why did we not know how harmful sugar is to our health? Simply put, the sugar industry paid scientists to lie, and lie they did. (The article at the link implies that accepting industry money to lie was understood at the time to be perfectly okay, but the article itself is lying at that point.)

A longer video by Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” has more details on how refined sugar undermines health (and adds pounds).

Resistant starch

There are “resistant starches” (e.g., cooked dried beans) that resist digestion in the stomach and pass on largely undigested to the small intestine, where they serve as a prebiotic—i.e., food for the gut microbiome (in a section below I discuss how the gut microbiome can drive food cravings). Thus these starches do not have the immediate effect of raising blood glucose levels (triggering an insulin rush and, over time, insulin resistance) that happens when you’ve eaten a simple high-glycemic starch (e.g., potatoes, rice, white bread, sugar).

However, if you cook a simple starch (potato or rice, for example) and cool it, the starch reconfigures itself and becomes a resistant starch. See this article for details. And you can repeat the process: cook rice, cool it; reheat it, cool it again. Then you can make (e.g.) fried rice from it.

I realized that I’ve been using this idea without knowing it. Each week I cook a batch of oat groats (whole-grain oats—in a pot, put 1 cup oat groats, 3 cups of water, a pinch of sugar, and simmer it until the oats are thick, about an hour or a little more). I refrigerate this, and the for The Wife’s breakfast, heat 1/2 cup in the microwave and top it with two eggs scrambled in 1 teaspoon butter along with a good pinch of shredded cheese. Cooking the oat groats and refrigerating them makes the starch in them resistant.

How excess fat works to destroy you

Excess fat (adipose tissue) is bad for reasons other than appearance and stamina. Fat, particularly excess fat, acts as a gland, secreting enzymes that affect your body, including (among other things—search “excess fat body damage” for more) causing chronic inflammation, which in itself is destructive and may even be linked to depression: see this article on the depression epidemic, which discusses the possibility that depression is caused by inflammation in the brain—and note that the increase in obesity in the US has been accompanied by an increase in the number suffering from depression. Search “depression and inflammation” and you’ll find many hits. The book The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression will soon be available in the US.

Getting rid of excess fat is an important health priority: New evidence that fat cells are not just dormant storage depots for calories (and click the link at the beginning of that article for the original research report). See also: Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ. Moreover, fat desensitizes the brain to a hormone that diminishes appetite.

Minimize net carbohydrates

I follow a diet that severely restricts net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber—dietary fiber is not restricted) and totally eliminates the simple carbohydrates mentioned above (sugar, refined flour, potatoes, rice). Unlike fats and proteins, there are no “essential net carbohydrates,” so minimizing net carb intake runs no risk of a deficiency disease. The calories lost by restricting intake of net carbs are replaced by calories from fat, which is digested more slowly and thus prolongs satiation, meaning that one tends to eat less and/or less often. See A low-carb diet for beginners and A Low Carb Diet Meal Plan and Menu That Can Save Your Life for an introduction. Dr. David Ludwig’s article “The Case for a Low-Carb Diet Is Stronger Than Ever” is worth reading. That article includes a link to his research study.

This post describes several diets low in net carbs and includes a chart of the effects of various levels of net carb intake. I followed the Atkins Diet recommendation by keeping my intake of net carbs below 20g/day for the first two weeks, then increased that until I was comfortable (but still keeping net-carb intake below 50g/day). I consume 30g-40g/day of net carbs.

When I was doing less than 20g/day, I did get morning headaches after the first several days—presumably withdrawal symptoms, just as when I abruptly stopped drinking coffee and got the same morning headaches for a few days. This post describes the “keto flu” (as it’s commonly called) and how to treat it. For me, the headaches stopped after 3-4 days.

If you’re concerned about the health effects of eating fats, I highly recommend the book The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz. (Book links are to inexpensive secondhand copies.) And note this regarding cholesterol (which is made by the body as well as being in one’s diet): Dietary guidelines should stop warning about cholesterol in food – Harvard Health Blog.

A diet low in net carbs is often called a “low-carb high-fat diet” (LCHF diet, with the Keto diet, the Atkins diet, and the Paleo diet being variants), but that’s a bit of a misnomer: fat is increased only enough to replace the calories lost by restricting carbs, and since fat is 9 calories/gram and carbs only 4 calories/gram, you don’t need all that much fat. If you cut net carbs by 100g/day (about 3.5 oz), which amounts to 400 calories, then to replace those calories you would increase fat by 45g/day (about 1.6 oz), also 400 calories.

Protein intake remains normal

Protein intake is not increased: carbs go down, fats go up to replace the calories lost, and protein remains the same. The reason for keeping protein at the same level is that higher levels of protein intake can be hard on the kidneys (see High-protein diets: potential effects on the kidney in renal health and disease and Dietary protein intake and renal function and on the heart (see High-protein diets are linked to heightened risk for heart disease, even for vegetarians). Unless you’re building new muscle at a good clip (for example, an adolescent or a weight trainer), protein intake should be kept at normal levels—see How much protein do you need every day?.

One of the common mistakes made by people who choose a low-carb diet is to increase their protein intake. (Another is to consume insufficient sodium (see link), so salt your food.)

LCHF diets are great for those with diabetes or insulin resistance

I should note that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which is what made me switch to a low-carb, high-fat diet. That diet did in fact put my diabetes in remission and I have maintained an HbA1C of 5.8% or less for years now, with my most recent test showing an HbA1C of 5.3%. That test was done four months after I started Nordic walking, so I’m sure the cardio exercise accounts for the 0.5% drop.

If you also have type 2 diabetes—it is unfortunately not rare—I highly recommend The Other Diabetes, by Elizabeth Hiser. The TedX talk in this post describes how a low-carb diet effectively fights type 2 diabetes.

LCHF diet is not a weight-loss diet per se

It’s important to note that the LCHF diet is not intended as a weight-loss diet; its purpose is to address metabolic issues. Weight-loss diets require calorie restriction. Many do lose weight on the LCHF diet (because the increase in satiation results in eating less and/or less often), but that’s not true for everyone, and I was one who did not lose weight on the LCHF diet.

However, when I combined the LCHF diet with the online WW Freestyle program, the pounds dropped away easily. I like that program because I can do it online (no meetings) and I have to do very little counting because an enormous number of foods have zero points (though obviously one should not be a glutton in any event). And, best of all, the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance is very easy: you change the setting on your WW page from “lose” to “maintain,” and points allowances are adjusted accordingly—there is no change at all in the foods you eat.

Temporary diets = bad diets

Some people go on odd diets—the celery and water diet, for example—to lose weight fast. They cannot stay on these diets permanently (since such diets are invariably nutritionally incomplete), so they know from the outset that the diet is temporary. However, the appeal is that they will have to eat it only for a short while (fast weight loss being the goal), and then once they reach their target weight, they return (with relief) to their regular diet. And so, of course, they regain the weight they lost, since it was their regular diet that resulted in that weight in the first place. What they need is a comfortable and satisfying and nutritionally complete way of eating that can be their permanent diet. That’s what I describe.

Foods that cause weight loss (and other fairy tales)

I fairly frequently read of people who believe the wishful superstition that adding some special foods to their regular diet will result in weight loss. Typical of these “magic” foods are cinnamon, honey, ginger, garlic, green tea, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, guava leaves, and hot water, alone or in some combination. Obviously, adding more foods to your regular diet will not cause you to lose weight. The quick fix (without fundamental change) is always appealing because it is easy. (Stephen Covey talks about this in another context in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Peopleread this (very incomplete) outline (PDF) to get an idea of the book, which is definitely worth purchasing, reading, and applying.)

How to be happy with your diet

Look to all the zero-point foods and meals you can make with them. If you focus your attention on what you can eat and not dwell on what you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat, you’ll feel much more satisfied with your lot. If you constantly obsess about foods you should avoid, you’ll make yourself unhappy and undermine your will to eat well. I mention this because it seems that people have a tendency to focus on what they lack and not on what they have. (“We look before and after, And pine for what is not; Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught; Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.” – from To a Skylark.)

Prepare your meals from scratch—it quickly becomes enjoyable

If you don’t prepare your own meals already, I highly recommend that you start doing that. Preparing your own meals gives you complete control of what you eat, it’s satisfying (in part because it is one of the few situations in which you exercise complete control), and it imparts a useful skill (and exercising a skill you’ve acquired is another source of pleasure). And if you improvise your recipes (as I typically do), it makes you pay focused attention to what you’re doing—an exercise of mindfulness: becoming absorbed in the experience of an activity. You become mindful both in the prep and cooking (e.g., deciding what to include and then preparing it) and in the eating (e.g., figuring out what worked and what didn’t and how to make it better next time).  See: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

I’ll add this: If you really commit to doing the approach described in this post, then do it in the right spirit: exploration, enjoyment, and creativity. My mantra is “If you must do something, then make it enjoyable.” In this particular instance, commit = must do, so make it enjoyable. To make it enjoyable, look for enjoyment. You can actually find pleasure in, or derive pleasure from, each step along the way:

  • making up recipes with low points (and reducing points by reducing net carbs, since with that you lose nothing essential)
  • shopping for groceries (selecting produce, changing your menu ideas based on what’s looking particularly good, etc.)
  • preparing the food (mindful of what you’re doing and why)
  • cooking the food (in the same way)
  • eating the food (in the same way)
  • cleaning up afterward (this is easy since I clean as I cook, so at the end I usually have just a bowl and spoon to wash—and I find pleasure in leaving the kitchen shipshape, just as I found it)

When you do it right—with the right mindset—you will feel pleasure, which is from your spirit being nourished. Spiritual nourishment is what people lose if they subsist on foods they’ve not themselves prepared. Obviously, they can derive spiritual nourishment in other ways (to get their minimum daily requirement—spiritual nourishment, it turns out, is essential: dystopias are universally depicted as low in, if not devoid of, spiritual nourishment, generally in addition to other privations—but spiritual starvation is enough to make it dystopia). But do recognize what you lose by not preparing your own meals. The process of meal preparation is, in a sense, part of the diet: it, too, provides nourishment.

Excluding junk food will help your food budget, as will preparing your own meals rather than buying prepared food, but how much should you expect to spend? In the US, the USDA publishes each month a set of “typical” food budgets. Here’s what it shows for December 2018, just as an example:

Screen Shot 2018-12-22 at 5.45.51 AM

Since vegetables are zero points, we eat a lot more of those than we did before, and I buy both both organic vegetables (for the “dirty dozen“) and conventional vegetables (from the “clean fifteen“).  I avoid organic extra-virgin olive oil because it is contaminated with high levels of the pesticide rotenone. (“Organic” does not mean “no pesticides,” a surprise to many.) Organically grown leafy greens (kale, spinach, et al.) are prone to bacterial contamination (look at the list of FDA recalls) and so I buy conventionally grown greens and rinse well, using a salad spinner to dry them after rinsing.

Useful tools and methods for meal preparation—and some recipes 

Preparing vegetables usually involves a certain amount of chopping. That works best if you have a good chef’s knife. These are modestly priced but quite good:

Mercer Millennia 8″ Chef’s Knife – less than $20
Winco KFP-80 8″ Chef’s Knife – less than $20
Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8″ Chef’s Knife – less than $40
Mercer Renaissance 8″ Chef’s Knife – less than $40

Watch this excellent (and free) 4-lesson series: Complete Knife Skills Cooking Class. You will eventually have to sharpen the knife, but if you get a good steel you can touch up the edge for quite a while. (The knife’s fine cutting edge curls over a bit in use, and the steel straightens it back to sharpness.) Also, this review of chef’s knives is helpful and interesting.

A good cutting board/prep surface helps a lot, and end-grain hardwood works best in providing a good surface and treating kindly the knife’s edge. I have had a variety of cutting boards, and the Ironwood Gourmet 28217 14″x20″ acacia end-grain prep station is by far the best of the lot: it’s stable (with plastic feet) and it’s large enough to provide plenty of work room. (It has a few negative reviews about a glue problem, but those are from some years back, and it seems as though the manufacturer paid attention: no problem at all with my board, though I did give it a sanding just to smooth a couple of spots—but that is certainly not required). I also have tried a variety of board treatments to preserve the wood, and I like John Boos Butcher Block Board Cream best. Once the food is prepped (sliced, chopped, minced, whatever), this little rimmed food scoop makes it easy to move food from the prep board to bowl or pot. I find I use it constantly.

Important tip: Complete chopping and weighing and measuring ingredients before you begin cooking, so that everything to be used is already prepared, weighed, and measured. I use various prep bowls to hold the ingredients. (Ingredients added at the same time can go into the same prep bowl.) The cooking then consists of simply dumping the contents from the prep bowls into the pot in the proper sequence and at the proper time. Rinse each bowl as you empty it, and put it into a rack to dry. Cleaning as you go means that when you finish cooking, the kitchen will be clean. (Bowls and measuring utensils that were used with oil will require a little detergent, but for other ingredients a rinse is sufficient.)

By doing all prep work ahead of time, you avoid being rushed and frantic when you start cooking. (It took me way too long to learn this.) “Measuring” includes weighing (particularly meat), so a digital kitchen scale (about US$10) is a good investment. I have this one and I like it a lot: the flat surface makes cleaning a snap.

You will want a good skillet, and fortunately the best (in many ways) is a carbon-steel skillet, which costs around $40. See this post for details, why you would want one, and which brand is rated best (Matfer Bourgeat). I have two: 8 5/8″ for breakfast eggs/scrambles and 11 7/8″ for bigger dishes, steaks, and the like. The video at the link shows how to season carbon steel and lets you see how nonstick they are once they’re seasoned. Getting that degree of nonstickness requires seasoning and some patience: seasoning improves with use over time.

Also you might consider a cast-iron skillet, which is also an excellent cooking tool if you get a good one. Based on my experience with several brands, I would say your best bet is Field cast-iron, though if you have the tools you can get a good result from grinding smooth the cooking surface of a Lodge skillet. (Lodge does not polish their sand-cast iron, so the cooking surface is as bumpy and irregular as smooth sand.)

See also “How to make cooking easier.”

Glorious one-pot meals

One very easy way to prepare meals is the technique Elizabeth Yarnell developed under the name “Glorious One-Pot Meals” with the food put in layers in a cast-iron dutch oven. She recommends using an enamelled cast-iron dutch oven, but plain cast iron also works. If you do use plain cast iron, I highly recommend Larbee or Crisbee cast-iron conditioner (see FAQ page and instructions). Larbee is made of leaf lard and beeswax, so Jews and Muslims will want Crisbee, made of palm and vegetable oils and beeswax. I recommend the puck over the stick, and unscented (which smells faintly of beeswax) over the scented versions. I also use these conditioners for my carbon-steel pans. They work extremely well.

A 2-qt dutch over is an ample size for 2 meals for active adults (e.g., triathletes) or 4 meals for more sedentary adults, of which my wife and I are two. The food is cooked for just 45 minutes in a hot oven (450ºF/232ºC), then let rest for 15 minutes. The food is thus steamed inside the closed pot. This means that the meat is not browned, but it is tender. Very fatty meats don’t work well in this method of cooking. The best thing about the meals, beyond nutrition and taste, is that they make improvisation easy. Check out these links for:

GOPM: Explanation and template
First Glorious One-Pot Meal in quite a while
Lamb sausage one-pot meal
Time for more Glorious One-Pot Meals  

Those offer general guidance and advice, and you can see various recipes here: GOPM | Later On. Once you’ve made a couple, you’ll get the idea and then you can freely improvise. In this method of cooking you don’t need prep bowls since you add to the pot each ingredient in its layer as you prep it. The pot itself acts as one big prep bowl, then you cook the meal in it.


Another good way to improvise is to make a stir-fry. This video walks through an excellent explanation for the novice cook and describes several good practices.

Assuming that you use 1 Tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil, this entire dish totals 4 WW points since everything but the oil is zero points. If you use the dish for two meals, it’s 2 points per meal.

Changes in food choices as a result of program

After being on WW Freestyle for a few months, I noticed that our food choices changed. (I do all the cooking in our family.) Proteins are now almost entirely eggs, fish, shellfish, and boneless skinless chicken breasts, and we now eat a lot more vegetables (because they are zero points). It’s been a healthful change and surprisingly easy since we were not pushed to it (by stern admonitions) but rather drawn to it (by our own choices to minimize the WW points of our food intake). We now eat very little red meat (pork, beef, and lamb—a big change from before) and much less cheese and butter. This change is beneficial, in the light of this study.

Economists will see another example of how just a slight increase in the cost of something (in this case, cost = WW points) results in one seeking lower-cost alternatives (i.e., alternatives that have fewer WW points). Example: 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil is 4 points, 1 tablespoon of butter is 5 points. That small difference is enough that I now almost always use olive oil instead of butter (though I do occasionally use butter). And that sort of gentle nudge on all our food choices gradually shifted our diet in a more healthful direction.

A solution for your sweet tooth

A very tasty low-carb dessert that we often enjoy is a bowl of berries. I buy frozen berries, and we put them in the bowl before dinner so they can thaw. I like mixed berries (blue-, rasp-, and blackberries) and my wife likes wild blueberries. Costco sells large bags of excellent mixed berries. A half-cup of raspberries has only 4g net carbs (and 4.5g dietary fiber). (The USDA Food Composition Databases site is an excellent resource.) I pour 1/2 cup of plain (unsweetened) kefir (2 points) over the berries, assisting the gut microbiome—you could also use a nonfat yogurt with active culture (0 points). One idea: mix 2 tablespoons chia seed, 1 cup nonfat yogurt, and 1/2 cup frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries, or a mix), and let that sit a few hours in the fridge. If you do it overnight, you have a good breakfast; it also serves as a nice pudding.

Food cravings and your gut microbiome

Note that food cravings can be driven by the makeup of your gut microbiome. If you eat high-starch food, the microbiome tilts strongly toward microbes that prefer such foods, and the microbiome can drive food cravings if those microbes become hungry—see Why you’re still hungry: 6 obstacles to healthy eatingBy sticking with the LCHF diet (with or without WW guidelines), your gut microbiome will change in favor of other microbes (and that change occurs rapidly), and carb cravings will dwindle. Read this article on the care and feeding of your gut microbiome. From that article:

Your microbiome can also lay the groundwork for weight gain or loss. “People who eat lots of saturated fat tend to have more bacteria called Firmicutes, among others, which are more efficient at absorbing calories from food,” Dr. Rakel explains. (Not the kind of efficiency most of us are hoping for.) “When they switch to a Mediterranean diet, with lots of colourful produce, whole grains, beans, and little meat, their level of Firmicutes goes down and their microbiome shifts toward one that is less efficient at storing energy, making it easier to stay lean.” Indeed, a 2017 International Journal of Obesity study found that the presence of a diverse array of gut bacteria protected against weight gain.

Dietary fiber is an important food source for gut microbes, so pay attention to it—see How probiotics and prebiotics team up in your gut. (And see also “Dietary Fiber Protects Against Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome.”) Each morning I take 1-2 teaspoons of inulin (in a glass or water) and 2 tablespoons of flaxseed (which I grind, since whole flaxseed is not digested) to which I add a little hot water to make a kind of hot cereal. (I also often mix in 1 tablespoon miso to aid the gut microbiome.) Flaxseed has benefits beyond fiber, of course. See also this post. (And as noted above, in the LCHF diet, one counts net carbs: total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber. Flaxseed has very low net carbs: 2 tablespoons has 5.95g carbohydrates and 5.6g dietary fiber, so only 0.35g net carbs.)

You can substitute 2 tablespoons of chia seed for 2 tablespoons of flaxseed. Chia seed does not require grinding, so you can just stir it into the glass of water with the inulin. It’s also quite good mixed with yogurt: 2 tbsp chia seed, 3/4 c yogurt, and 1/2 cup frozen berries makes an excellent breakfast, snack, or dessert. Mix well, let it sit for a while so the chia seed softens, and enjoy.

Dietary fiber is not just for weight loss: it’s vital to our health. See Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why. The recommended fiber intake is 30g to 38g per day for men, for women between 18 and 50 years old 25g per day, and 21g per day for women 51 and older. Most people get much less fiber—in the US, typically 15g per day or less. Fiber-rich foods are in general inexpensive.

If you must regularly take antibiotics, which can annihilate gut microbes, you might try Floristor, a yeast-based probiotic unaffected by antibiotics.

And develop your taste for the savory over the sweet, since natural sweeteners are high-carb, and “Artificial Sweeteners Have Toxic Effects on Gut Bacteria.” Protect your gut microbiome: go for savory, or spicy, but not sweet.

Omega-3 and Omega-6

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential (the body cannot make them). Omega-9 fatty acids are also important, but the body can make those. This article provides essential information on the omega-3 and omega-6 families, and this article discusses fats in general and explains the reasons for the focus on omega-3 in particular. This article discusses how much of which types you should take.

See also this NIH study, which notes:

Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects

Omega-3 fatty acids come in three forms: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA comes from plants, and flaxseed is an excellent source; EPA and DHA come from animal sources (notably cold-water fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, herring, and others) but can also be made by the body from ALA, though the conversion rate is small. (This page lists dietary sources of the essential fatty acids.) Still, you don’t need much EPA and DHA—the article states the the recommended amounts to get are “2.22 grams of ALA; and 0.65 grams of DHA/EPA combined.” This article lists two studies that support taking fish-oil supplements, so I take a wild-salmon oil (or krill oil) capsule, but I also eat plenty of cold-water fish. And, as mentioned, I also eat ground flaxseed (and in fact take a flaxseed oil capsule).

I should add that herring, mackerel, and sardines are very high in purines, which can trigger the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints, a (very) painful condition known as gout. I suggest you pace the eating of this fish to avoid creating the condition. I was eating them daily and sometimes twice a day, since they seemed healthful and also 0 WW points—and then I had a gout attack, which certainly got my attention. I still eat them, but occasionally. More info on gout at this site, and this information on how diet can affect gout is also good to know.

Pomegranate juice, white tea, and health

I also drink 2 oz (1/4 cup) of pomegranate juice (unsweetened) each day because of its arterial health benefits. (See also “Pomegranate Juice May Clear Clogged Arteries” and this more technical report and also this report.) I buy a pomegranate juice not made from concentrate. And over the course of the afternoon I drink a pitcher of iced white tea (again, for health reasons —and see also this post ). I order pu-erh tea cakes from Teasenz.


Plateaus are important in weight loss. They are a time when the body makes changes: shrinking the skin, rearranging things internally, etc. Those who get bariatric surgery achieve rapid and significant weight loss without plateaus, but then cosmetic surgery is generally required to remove the floppy skin that results. My daughter knows a woman who did have bariatric surgery and then had to have cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin on thighs, tummy, and arms.

Knowing that plateaus serve a purpose makes them easier to endure. SIn general, each plateau seems to last twice as long as the previous one. In my current weight-loss regimen, I hit my first plateau at Day 47, and then for 11 days my weight stayed at 208.x, going up and down within that range, before resuming a steady loss. I expected my next plateau will last around 22 days, and it did.

Mushrooms—and breakfasts

Lately I’ve been eating about an ounce of oyster mushrooms a day, usually with my breakfast eggs. Here’s why: What Is the Health and Nutritional Value of Mushrooms?

For my wife’s breakfast, I formerly made this recipe each week: Low-carb breakfast on the run. Very tasty, very easy, and light on the carbs—plus she could eat it in the car when she had to commute. It also has the advantage that you cook just once to get 9 breakfasts.

Now that she doesn’t commute, her breakfast is a couple of eggs scrambled in 1 teaspoon butter with 2 tablespoons grated cheese, which takes about 3 minutes including clean-up. (This pan makes clean-up easy now that it’s fully seasoned.) For myself, for the past several weeks  I’ve been eating this breakfast, but doubtless that will vary in time.

Egg hint: I read that it is better to crack eggs on a flat surface rather than (e.g.) on the edge corner of the counter. After a few weeks of trying both ways, I agree: crack eggs on a flat surface. If you do, broken yolks occur much less frequently.

Preparing and using chicken breasts

An excellent way to cook chicken breasts so they are moist and tender rather than dry and tough is included in this recipe: Ratatouille with chicken. (You can browse recipes on my blog to get ideas: Recipes | Later On) Because bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts cost a little less than boneless skinless chicken breasts, I occasionally get those. Those I don’t poach, but I do cook them slowly (at a low temperature) to allow time for the thicker part to cook through without overcooking the thinner part: see recipe.

Even easier than (and as tasty as) the Ratatouille with Chicken recipe is this recipe: you simply cut up a variety of spring vegetables (see what looks good at the market) and sauté them in a little olive oil, then add chicken breast (or shrimp or cod or haddock) cut into chunks, along with a little liquid (stock, wine, sherry, lemon juice, or water), bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20-25 minutes—tasty, healthful, easy, and quick.


An important recent finding: savory foods (high in umami) may promote healthy eating through changes in the brain. I more or less deliberately retrained my taste to prefer savory to sweet (and that preference is important and worth working on). I regularly use a pinch of Aji-no-moto (MSG) in my cooking, MSG being an easy way to boost umami. (MSG’s supposed harmful effects have been totally debunked (and see also this article on the relationship of xenophobia and MSGphobia).) The suggestion at the link, to begin a meal by drinking an umami-rich broth, is definitely worth trying. You can also simply use umami-rich ingredients in your recipes.

Try measuring out one cup of food for your meal

For most cooked dishes, a 1-cup serving works well: enough for a meal, and makes it easy to calculate points. I have found a 1/2-cup ladle (the 62172 Vollrath, with a gray handle) to be extremely useful: dish up two scoops, and you have your dinner or lunch. Highly recommended. (Two 1/2-cup scoops works better than one 1-cup scoop in terms of spillage and effort.)

Cooking oils

I suggest you avoid seed oils (oils like grapeseed, corn, peanut, soybean, cottonseed, safflower—they tend to have bad (high) omega-6 to omega-3 ratios). Canola (rapeseed) oil is an exception: it has very good omega-6 to omega-3 ratios: 2:1 for expeller pressed, 3:1 for refined. Soybean oil and cottonseed oil are mostly found in processed foods (e.g., store-bought mayonnaise and salad dressings) because those oils are cheap—so read ingredients labels. (It’s easy to make your own mayo. It takes about 5 minutes including cleanup if you have an immersion blender.

For a salad dressing, I put into a small jar 2 teaspoons extra-virgin oil, juice of 1 lemon, a good pinch of salt, about 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, and about 1 teaspoon smoked (Spanish) paprika and shake well: 3 WW points.)

Use avocado oil for high-temperature sautéing (it has a smoke point of 271ºC / 520ºF, higher than any other cooking oil), and use extra-virgin olive oil for low-temperature cooking (as in roasting foods or sweating onions) and in salad dressings and to drizzle over steamed vegetables, hummus, and the like. More info here: Healthiest Cooking Oil Comparison Chart with Smoke Points and Omega 3 Fatty Acid Ratios. For an excellent discussion of avocado oil and its health benefits, read this article.

Regarding olive oil, I highly recommend this fascinating and informative book: Extra-virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. After reading that book, I became much more careful about the olive oil I bought. I now almost always buy California olive oils bottled by the grower. If you find an amazingly inexpensive imported olive oil, it almost certainly is not pure extra-virgin olive oil but is adulterated with some cheap oil. Note this very useful list: “Which Olive Oil to Buy.” And note this very recent article in Olive Oil Times on how the counterfeits spread: greed is powerful. I certainly was making a point of buying high-quality California EVOO, though after reading “Which Olive Oil to Buy,” I bought a large (101-ounce) tin of Partanna Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a “cold-pressed oil, unfiltered oil grown and packaged in Partanna, Sicily. The Asaro family has been producing it since 1916. This EVOO has been the winner of Gold Medals at the L.A. County Fair.” I just opened it, and the olive oil tastes really wonderful. (I just subscribed to Olive Oil Times, whose subscriptions are free.)

Make it a game

For many routine tasks and chores, I have found it useful to work out a way to make the activity pleasurable (cf. my approach to shaving in Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving or my approach to exercise). If an activity is interesting and pleasurable, we are drawn to it rather than having to push ourselves. In managing my meals, I play a “9-to-5 work-week” game: for the Monday-Friday workweek, I challenge myself to eat so that each day I have between 9 and 5 (inclusive) Weight Watcher points left when I go to bed. It’s easier than it sounds because you can pad out the meals with zero-point foods (eggs, seafood, skinless chicken breast, beans, and vegetables) and add any points lacking by using a little extra-virgin olive oil (1 point per teaspoon). Thus, I would win a week if the points remaining during that week were 5 (Monday), 6 (Tuesday), 7 (Wednesday), 9 (Thursday), and 6 (Friday). I find some satisfaction in using all 5 possibilities (9, 8, 7, 6, 5: “9 to 5”) in the course of the week—and extra satisfaction if I use them in that order.

Now it’s your turn. 🙂

Supplement on supplements

Someone asked what supplements I take. I formerly took quite a few but then I started entering what I ate in’s food log, which provides an analysis of micronutrients. I found that my regular diet satisfied almost all my essential requirements, so I discontinued most supplements. I also learned that, lacking FDA regulation, the ingredients in supplements are not always to be trusted. I do continue to take some supplements, and I thought that full disclosure required me to list them:

Daily: Niacinamide (I’m a type 2 diabetic), Calcium Citrate tablet (one-half the daily dose: 1 tablet instead of 2), CoQ10 100mg, 81mg aspirin, 1000mg Flaxseed oil capsule, 1000mg wild-salmon (or krill) oil, Kelp powder, Turmeric Curcumin (which needs good amount of black pepper to be absorbed—pepperine helps, from what I’ve read—so I’m generous with black pepper in my cooking, and we also have curries: turmeric is a powerful anti-oxidant — but note that for about 5% of people taking a turmeric supplement can cause liver problems), and 4 prescribed medications. As noted above, I also take 1-2 teaspoons daily of inulin, a good dietary fiber.

Regarding fish-oil supplements, note this article: “Fish-oil drugs protect heart health, two studies say.”

After reading this article and considering that I am doing 396 minutes a week (22.8 miles) of brisk Nordic walking, I added to my daily supplements: 1000mg Vitamin C, 400IU Vitamin E, and 25,000IU beta-carotene. On the advice of a pharmacist, I will be cutting back substantially on the beta-carotene.

Not daily: Three 2000 IU Vitamin D capsules per week. (Vitamin D is recommended, but it seems that those taking more than 6000 IU per week were prone to bone fractures.)

UPDATE: Julia Belluz wrote an interesting account of her experience of using a metabolic chamber to measure her metabolism. Long, but worth reading.

UPDATE: This is useful knowledge:

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2018 at 9:18 am

The tale of the painting robot that stole no one’s job

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Matt Simon writes in Wired:

THE ARRIVAL OF the robotic arm was not a happy affair at Professional Finishing in Richmond, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. In contrast to the hulking factory arms that have traditionally labored in isolation, this robot was meant to work right alongside humans, delicately sanding and painting things like speaker cases or cabinets for medical devices. Which sounded a lot like a first step toward replacing the company’s workers altogether.

“We did have one employee tell us, ‘Hey let me know when the robot’s up and running and I’ll just quit,’” says Professional Finishing co-owner Dawn White. “We said, just bear with us. Watch what happens. Help us and everybody will keep their jobs.”

Everyone did indeed keep their jobs. Today, three of these machines from Universal Robots handle the brute sanding and painting, while humans handle more complicated tasks like assembly. Some of these workers even turned into robot technicians. It’s called collaborative robotics, and it’s popping up all over the place, thanks to advanced machines that sense when they’ve contacted a person and stop, as opposed to launching them across the room.

Like many companies, Professional Finishing moved into robotics as a matter of economics. Just months after purchasing the business in 2013, Dawn White and her husband Chad learned that the minimum wage would jump from $9 an hour to $15 by 2020. Which is great for workers—don’t get me wrong—but certainly complicates matters for a finishing company that’s competing with cheap labor abroad.

“It was a matter of survival for us,” says Dawn. “We would have closed in less than two years if we had not brought in the robots. Everyone here would have lost their jobs.”

So 10 months after purchasing the company, the Whites hired their first robot painter, which increased the productivity of the human laborers by a factor of four. And bonus: those humans’ jobs got a lot easier. “The operator would have to do a lot of bending, crouching, lifting the part, twisting, just all day long,” says Chad. “The robot now does all that for them. And now the the operators who used to paint these parts are now actually running the robot.”

Which of course required some adaptation on the part of the humans. “The robot made me nervous, I thought it was going to lead to layoffs,” says painter Eric Magallon, who now works as a robot operator, making sure it’s loaded with enough paint and the like. “But when we started working with the robot it became normal. We got used to it.”

You are more likely to work with a robot than have one replace you in the near future. Because while robots are great at repetitive tasks, humans still beat them at delicate, complex jobs. “We think more jobs will change their activities than completely disappear, and so we’ll see more of these collaborations between machines and people,” says Michael Chui, a partner at McKinsey Global Institute and co-author of a recent report on automation. “When you actually have a robot next to a person or artificial intelligence next to to a person and they work better together to produce higher quality products than any one of them working alone.”

The machines aren’t so much stealing jobs en masse as they are taking over parts of jobs. Professional Finishing’s workers don’t have to do all that crouching and twisting anymore, but they do have look after the machines and handle more sensitive tasks. A desk job is no different: Think how much time you save and productivity you gain by using a simple word processor instead of a typewriter. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2018 at 8:29 am

Wage growth well short of what was promised from tax reform

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Chris Macke reports The Hill:

The latest Employment Situation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows weekly employee earnings have grown $75 since tax reform passed, well short of the $4,000 to $9,000 annual increases projected by President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

During the three months following passage of the tax bill, the average American saw a $6.21 increase in average weekly earnings. Assuming 12 weeks of work during the three months following passage of the corporate tax cuts, this equates to a $75 increase.

Assuming a full 52 weeks of work, the $6.21 increase in weekly earnings would result in a $323 annual increase, nowhere near the minimum $4,000 promised and $9,000 potential annual increases projected by President Trump and Speaker Ryan if significant cuts were made to corporate tax rates.

Unless something drastically changes, it seems that Americans are going to have to settle for much less than the $4,000 to $9,000 projected wage increases. An extra $322 a year isn’t going to do much to pay down the $1 trillion in additional debt they are projected to take on as a result of the tax cuts.

Yet, a key part of the argument for the recently passed corporate tax cuts and more than a trillion dollars in debt was the substantial wage hike promised by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

From a document titled, “Corporate Tax Reform and Wages: Theory and Evidence,” on the White House’s website:

“Reducing the statutory federal corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would, the analysis below suggests, increase average household income in the United States by, very conservatively, $4,000 annually.”

The document goes on to say:

“When we use the more optimistic estimates from the literature, wage boosts are over $9,000 for the average U.S. household.”

No less than Speaker Ryan’s website trumpeted the Council of Economic Advisers report claiming that on average, the proposed corporate tax cuts would result in at least a $4,000 annual increase in wages.

Now, some supporters of the tax bill may say this analysis is unfair because it is too early for the effects of the tax bill to show up in wages. By that logic, they also shouldn’t take credit for reported employment growth increases.

Still others may point to the $1,000 bonuses announced by some companies shortly after passage of the tax bill. First, that is significantly less than the promised $4,000 to $9,000. Second, these are not wage increases; these are one-time bonuses.

Will companies pay them again, and if so when? Third, the $1,000 represents a fraction of the estimated potential company tax savings.

Using 2016 net income, 2016 effective tax rates, the new 21-percent corporate tax rate and company bonuses, we estimated company bonuses as a percentage of a number of company’s potential tax savings. The results: In many cases, the bonuses represent a mere pittance of the possible tax savings. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, including a chart that will make your blood boil.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2018 at 6:52 am

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