Later On

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

Archive for May 6th, 2018

Updates to diet advice

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I continue to update my diet advice as I think of things—most recently pomegranate juice (1/4 cup/day) and iced white tea (a pitcher a day), with the post containing links to why.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

What’s wrong here? Unemployment is below 4 percent, but wage growth is still lousy.

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Matt O’Brien writes in the Washington Post:

The unemployment rate has dropped below 4 percent for the first time in 18 years, and the truth of the matter is we have no idea how much further it can go.

That’s the silver lining for what is, if not a dark cloud, at least a surprisingly off-color one: Even though unemployment is a mere 3.9 percent, wages don’t seem to be rising much faster than they have for the last couple years, and at nowhere near the rate they were before the crash. That’s not what’s supposed to happen when unemployment gets as low as it can … which tells us that unemployment must not have bottomed out yet.

If this sounds familiar, well, that’s because it is. We’ve been going through different versions of this for a few years now, as unemployment first hit a 10-, then a 16-, and finally an 18-year low. Each time, this was better than economists had thought was possible not long before; each time, wage pressure was still muted to the point of being almost completely quiescent; and each time, there weren’t any signs that this was about to stop, as the economy was still chugging along at the same good-but-not-great pace it had been for most of the recovery.

The details, of course, have been different every month, but this big picture has not. In April, for example, the economy added a slightly worse-than-expected 164,000 jobs, but over the last three months it’s still averaging a robust 208,000. Similarly, the labor force just shrank by a disappointing 236,000 — the unemployment rate fell for this bad reason that fewer people were looking for work rather than finding it — but, again, this is more than in line with what we thought would happen if you look at the last three months and see that it’s up 412,000 over that time. And wages, as we already said, were up the same 2.6 percent that they have been for most of the last three years.

The simple story, then, is that the economy is adding somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs a month, just enough people are entering the workforce to offset all the baby boomers’ retirements, and wage growth is stuck at a level that suggests the recovery still has a ways to go.

In other words, the natural rate of unemployment must be much, much lower than we thought.

That, you see, is the point at which unemployment has fallen so far that inflation starts rising. The idea is that lower unemployment means companies will have to start paying people higher wages as they compete over the dwindling supply of workers, which will then eat into their profits enough that they have to raise prices. Economists used to think this happened at around 5 or 6 percent unemployment for no other reason than that sounded pretty low, but, well, it didn’t. Nor did it when joblessness fell to 4.5 or even 4 percent. The best you can say is there are signs that it might happen soon. Alternative measures of wage growth have shown it growing at a slow and steady pace, and inflation has already in fact risen back to the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. But if you look at the average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers — the only numbers we have that go back to the last time unemployment was this low — you see a different story right now: stagnant wage growth no matter how low unemployment is. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 11:02 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Ten signs you’re not drinking enough water

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Active people sometimes don’t drink enough water. This is not a problem for me, since I keep a pitcher of iced white tea beside my chair and sip it through the day. (White tea because it is even better than green tea to prevent cancer.)

Here are ten signs that you’re not drinking enough water.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 10:34 am

Interesting: Differences between American and British pocket billiards

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 9:44 am

Posted in Games, Video

The World’s Greatest Goldbeater

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Erla Zwingle writes in Craftsmanship magazine:

Tungsten is harder. Rhodium is rarer. Californium is more expensive. Copper was worked earlier. But gold is more beautiful than any of them, and we seem to be born craving it.

The Egyptians called gold “the breath of God.” The Inca called it “the sweat of the sun.” (The somewhat less poetic Aztecs called it teocuitlatl, the “excrement of the gods.”) The ultimate measure of anything, of course, is “the gold standard.” And Italian mothers, tucking in their children for the night, wish them sogni d’oro: “Dreams of gold.”

While it’s possible that Marino Menegazzo’s mother also told him this, it’s unlikely that she meant it literally. But he doesn’t have to dream of gold—as a battiloro (batty-LOW-ro), or goldbeater, he has spent 40 years pounding the noblest of the eight “noble” metals into gossamer tissue that gleams from churches, monuments, doors and domes around the world.

In Venice, where he was born and still works, there once were 340 goldbeaters hammering away in 46 workshops, an extravagant number in a famously extravagant city. The craft came to Venice in about 1000 A.D., brought by masters from Byzantium. Venetians produced sheets of gold to gild icons, Gothic palaces, Baroque picture frames, furniture, books, walls, and the numberless gleaming mosaic tesserae that cover the walls and ceiling of the legendary basilica of San Marco. The façade of one palace on the Grand Canal once shone with so much gold leaf—22,000 sheets—that it was nicknamed simply Ca’ d’Oro, the “House of Gold,” a nickname it holds to this day.

Just behind the goldbeaters, other crafts flourished; in the eighteenth century there were 71 workshops in Venice that did nothing but stamp gold leaf onto leather. There were also scores of gold-cutters, and tiraori, or drawers of gold wire for fabric and jewelry. The drawers and cutters are gone, the gilders are dwindling, and Menegazzo is the last artisan in Europe who is still beating gold the traditional way.

In the farther reaches of the Cannaregio district is a quiet little lobe of Venice that once resounded with myriad crafts, as the street names attest, but which now counts mainly a florist, a hardware store, and a few stone carvers chiseling tombstones for the nearby cemetery. On a truncated side street is a small courtyard called “Campo del Tiziano,” so named because the door at #5182 opens into what was once the house and workshop of Titian, the immortal 16th-century Venetian painter. Far from being a shrine, the house now contains a few upstairs apartments, while at street level is the small workshop, office, and cutting room of “Mario Berta Battiloro.” There is no sign outside, only the name on the doorbell.

At 7:30 on a foggy autumn morning Marino Menegazzo is already in his minuscule office, having made the daily commute from Spinea, a mainland town 10 miles away. (Like many Venetians, the Menegazzo family decamped years ago for a more affordable and convenient dwelling beyond the lagoon.) His welcoming handshake is firm; as he speaks, his manner is calm and affable. Meanwhile, his wife and twin daughters, Sara and Eleonora, are seated at their worktables in the adjoining room, visible through a large square window. Beating gold leaf is one thing, but without his family’s help the results would never leave the lab. The women are deftly taking the leaves that he pounded yesterday, cutting them into precise shapes according to the order (4 by 8 centimeters, 9 by 9, and so forth), then placing them, one by one, into 25-page booklets (libretti), which is how the gold will be sent out. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, including some great photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2018 at 8:53 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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