Later On

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

Archive for July 2018

Excellent points re: Revenge: “Ever Wanted to Get Revenge? Try This Instead”

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A short while ago I responded to a Quora question:

Q: Does taking revenge give you peace of mind? When I think about the consequences, I feel guilty, but I really want to see a person in pain. What should I do?

My answer:

“Living well is the best revenge” has a lot of truth to it. Living well is not being directed by hatred. Living well is directed by other things and in other directions. Live your life to its fullest. That’s the best revenge. The person on whom you wanted to wreak revenge? Forget ’em. Look to what your life can be, not what it has been. That’s revenge you can sink your teeth into!

So I was quite in agreement with Caroline Cox’s column in the NY Times:

So you’ve been wronged. A friend casually dismissed a goal you set for yourself, or a colleague threw you under the bus, and you feel hurt and angry — maybe you even want payback. Sometimes those negative feelings dissipate over time, but other times they fester and become toxic obsessions.

You know that “letting go” is probably the healthiest move, but wanting revenge is often much more appealing.

But why?

It all starts with our nature, since humans are protective beings, especially when we feel threatened, according to Dr. Robin Gaines Lanzi, professor of health behavior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“If what we care about — whether it’s our children, spouse or other loved ones, our work or some cause that we are passionate about — is harmed or threatened in any way, it is instinctual to want to do something about it,” said Dr. Gaines Lanzi. It’s a primal instinct to want to exact revenge when we’re wronged, she added.

To wit: the American figure skater Adam Rippon said he wouldn’t have made it to the Winter Olympics without his haters. The reality star and nascent denim entrepreneur Khloe Kardashian created an entire TV showaround the “revenge body,” wherein someone undergoes a makeover (which often includes losing weight) in retaliation against an enemy, bully or erstwhile romantic partner. And Taylor Swift looks to have used the idea of getting even to fuel the latest trajectory of her career.

Whether we want to admit it, revenge is a bona fide motivator. But is it healthy?

Well … yes and no.

“In novels and movies, revenge turns out to be this great cleansing moment that permits someone who’s been abused to triumph,” said Peg Streep, a science writer and author of “Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt.”

“Revenge works well in plot lines because there’s something very satisfying about a tit-for-tat payback, especially in a world that isn’t always fair,” she said.

But while it’s true that the vigilante is a popular protagonist in everything from cult-level comic books to action blockbusters, studies show that not only is revenge often short-lived, but it can also make the incident much harder to get over.

“Retribution ties you back to the person you’re trying to get payback from, instead of turning on your heel and walking away,” Ms. Streep said. “Revenge keeps you focused on the mistreatment and doesn’t allow you to move forward and redirect your life.”

So if ruminating on the offense to the point of obsession is the wrong way to deal with mistreatment, the right way appears to lie in how you frame or process these toxic emotions, experts said.

“Oftentimes it’s not necessarily the emotion itself that’s bad or toxic, but how one copes with it,” said Dr. Erin Engle, clinical director of Psychiatry Specialty Services at Columbia University Medical Center.

“That’s why people come to therapy, especially for something like anger — the problem is not the anger per se, but the expressing of that anger that results in some sort of negative consequence.”

While these inclinations of anger and revenge are understandable, that doesn’t mean they’ll do us any good. In reality, they’re more likely to just make things worse. That feeling of motivation to “get even” can tether you to the past in a way that overshadows any potential positive outcome the motivation might bring, said Dr. Merideth Thompson, associate professor in the Department of Management at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

“It tends to anchor that person in the past,” she said.

Dr. Thompson co-authored “We All Seek Revenge: The Role of Honesty-Humility in Reactions to Incivility,” a research paper that looked at how the traits of being humble or honest correlated with engaging in overt or covert forms of revenge in the workplace. Dr. Thompson determined that if the motivation isn’t sinking effort, time and attention into a toxic relationship, then revenge, per se, may be helpful.

“If somebody tries to take revenge and have a more future-oriented approach,” she said, “that kind of thinking tends to orient the person to the future and can make them stronger, happier and healthier.”

Think of it this way: You could use a feeling of envy to examine whether or not it illuminates what you value and prioritize, or you could spend time dwelling, ruminating and calculating a plan to hurt someone in an attempt to quash the feeling. Which seems more likely to be ineffective?

According to Dr. Engle, it’s the latter.

“Some of the most important political movements of our time probably started in anger,” she said. The catalyst lies in making meaning of a feeling like anger and channeling it into advocacy, for example.

It’s not about trying to ignore negative feelings entirely, which studies show isn’t effective anyway. Rather, it’s a choice between focusing on the transgressor and making sure they pay, or deciding that the 17th-century English poet and orator George Herbert was right: Living well is the best revenge.

Dylan Marron, a writer and performer who focuses on L.G.B.T. issues, recently gave a TED Talk in which he discussed how he addresses the hateful messages he gets in response to his videos. He reaches out to them to ask, “Why did you write that?”

A digital video maker, Mr. Marron became popular — some of his content went viral, and responses to his work began to pour in.

“Unfortunately, the flip side of success on the internet is internet hate,” he said. After initially responding by blocking and muting people, he began to wonder if some of the negative messages and comments he was getting could be starting points for conversations rather than dead ends.

“I wanted to confront my detractors,” he said, “not to shame them, but to simply ask why they wrote that negative thing about me. And then see where the conversation could go from there.”

Those conversations became part of a podcast Mr. Marron created called “Conversations With People Who Hate Me.” The dialogue often featured people finding a common ground or similar experience, such as being bullied in high school. Through these conversations, Mr. Marron is able to spin negativity into something that can be leveraged for good.

Moreover, letting go of toxic feelings can give you an added bonus of making you feel powerful — not by exerting power over someone else, but power over yourself.

“A person who feels wronged, betrayed or damaged by another person, group or system, might have lost their sense of personal power, and this can be deeply troubling,” said Tiffany Towers, a clinical and forensic psychologist who has worked with parolees who have chronic recidivism issues.

She said a person can develop a type of tunnel vision and start to . . .

Continue reading.

Emphasis above was added by me.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2018 at 8:21 am

WSP Baroness, Van Yulay After Dark, and the Gillette 1940s Aristocrat

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Van Yulay soaps are a favorite, and I do like the fragrance of this one. The Wet Shaving Products Baroness is a very nice brush at a modest price and works quite well.

Three passes with my Gillette Aristocrat left a perfectly smooth face, ready for a splash of After Dark. Then out for a 55-minute Nordic walk. Great way to start the day. And it’s just 8:00 a.m..

Written by LeisureGuy

23 July 2018 at 8:09 am

Posted in Shaving

Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival.

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Liz Alderman reports in the NY Times:

Ramón Rivera had barely gotten his olive oil business started in the sun-swept Algarve region of Portugal when Europe’s debt crisis struck. The economy crumbled, wages were cut, and unemployment doubled. The government in Lisbon had to accept a humiliating international bailout.

But as the misery deepened, Portugal took a daring stand: In 2015, it cast aside the austerity measures its European creditors had imposed, igniting a virtuous cycle that put its economy back on a path to growth. The country reversed cuts to wages, pensions and social security, and offered incentives to businesses.

The government’s U-turn, and willingness to spend, had a powerful effect. Creditors railed against the move, but the gloom that had gripped the nation through years of belt-tightening began to lift. Business confidence rebounded. Production and exports began to take off — including at Mr. Rivera’s olive groves.

“We had faith that Portugal would come out of the crisis,” said Mr. Rivera, the general manager of Elaia. The company focused on state-of-the-art harvesting technology, and it is now one of Portugal’s biggest olive oil producers. “We saw that this was the best place in the world to invest.”

At a time of mounting uncertainty in Europe, Portugal has defied critics who have insisted on austerity as the answer to the Continent’s economic and financial crisis. While countries from Greece to Ireland — and for a stretch, Portugal itself — toed the line, Lisbon resisted, helping to stoke a revival that drove economic growth last year to its highest level in a decade.

The renewal is visible just about everywhere. Hotels, restaurants and shops have opened in droves, fueled by a tourism surge that has helped cut unemployment in half. In the Beato district of Lisbon, a mega-campusfor start-ups rises from the rubble of a derelict military factory. Bosch, Google and Mercedes-Benz recently opened offices and digital research centers here, collectively employing thousands.

Foreign investment in aerospace, construction and other sectors is at a record high. And traditional Portuguese industries, including textiles and paper mills, are putting money into innovation, driving a boom in exports.

“What happened in Portugal shows that too much austerity deepens a recession, and creates a vicious circle,” Prime Minister António Costa said in an interview. “We devised an alternative to austerity, focusing on higher growth, and more and better jobs.”

Voters ushered Mr. Costa, a center-left leader, into power in late 2015 after he promised to reverse cuts to their income, which the previous government had approved to reduce Portugal’s high deficit under the terms of an international bailout of 78 billion euros, or $90 billion. Mr. Costa formed an unusual alliance with Communist and radical-left parties, which had been shut out of power since the end of Portugal’s dictatorship in 1974. They united with the goal of beating back austerity, while balancing the books to meet eurozone rules.

The government raised public sector salaries, the minimum wage and pensions and even restored the amount of vacation days to prebailout levels over objections from creditors like Germany and the International Monetary Fund. Incentives to stimulate business included development subsidies, tax credits and funding for small and midsize companies.

Mr. Costa made up for the givebacks with cuts in infrastructure and other spending, whittling the annual budget deficit to less than 1 percent of its gross domestic product, compared with 4.4 percent when he took office. The government is on track to achieve a surplus by 2020, a year ahead of schedule, ending a quarter-century of deficits.

European officials are now admitting that Portugal may have found a better response to the crisis. Recently, they rewarded Lisbon by elevating the country’s finance minister, Mário Centeno, who helped engineer the changes, to president of the Eurogroup, the influential collective of eurozone finance ministers.

The economic about-face had a remarkable impact on Portugal’s collective psyche. While discouragement lingers in Greece after a decade of spending cuts, Portugal’s recovery has pivoted around restoring confidence to get people and businesses motivated again.

“The actual stimulus spending was very small,” said João Borges de Assunção, a professor at the Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics. “But the country’s mind-set became completely different, and from an economic perspective, that’s more impactful than the actual change in policy.”

The brighter outlook has lifted companies like Elaia, the olive oil producer. Its parent company, Sovena, opened Elaia as a start-up on a vast agricultural plain in southern Portugal in 2007, just before the downturn. Its timing could hardly have been worse, but managers persisted, paving the way for a surge in production when the crisis ebbed.

Elaia says it generates 14 percent of Portugal’s olive oil today, contributing to a renaissance in Portuguese exports, which now constitute 40 percent of economic activity. Drones buzz over vast olive groves, precision-planted with 2,000 trees per hectare, or roughly 2.5 acres, compared with around 150 trees for a traditional farm, monitoring crops for insect infestations, water levels and optimum harvesting time. Olives are picked by machine. Instead of field hands, the company hires technicians to operate the robots, and it has teamed up with universities for research.

“Portugal has benefited a lot after the tough years we had,” said Jorge de Melo, Sovena’s chief executive. “The mood is much better than it was before, and that’s important for the economy.”

Yet Portugal’s success is still vulnerable. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2018 at 4:45 pm

Pork belly at last. Next frontier: Steaks in Argentina

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I have longed to eat pork belly for almost a decade, even since blogging this post. Five years ago, I took a stab at it with this effort (damn you, Nigella Lawson!) One problem that led to the delay was that in the US, all pork bellies seem consigned to bacon and you just can’t buy a pork belly in a store. (I should have tried a butcher shop, but in the US they are uncommon.)

I just was at the Farm & Field Butcher Shop here, and lo! they did have a small piece of pork belly, which I bought at once. Yesterday, I roasted it sensibly: on a rack in my large sauté pan with water covering the bottom of the pan, 300ºF for two hours and then 15 minutes at 400ºF to crisp it.


I’m not sure how good leftover pork belly will be, since the piece I bought was a small piece. Still, I’ll try a larger piece, and probably eat it leftover with Harvy Scarvy. (Note this easy approach to making Harvy Scarvy.)

The next goal, which has been hanging for a dozen years, is to eat some steaks in Argentina. This post explains why.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2018 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

Bach on Bandura and Button Accordian

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2018 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Music, Video

Trial runs for fascism are in full flow

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Fintan O’Toole writes in the Irish Times:

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

Moral boundaries

But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages. I wonder how it will go down with Rupert Murdoch.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

‘Devious’ infants

And the results are quite satisfactory. There is good news on two fronts. First, Rupert Murdoch is happy with it – his Fox News mouthpieces outdid themselves in barbaric crassness: making animal noises at the mention of a Down syndrome child, describing crying children as actors. They went the whole swinish hog: even the brown babies are liars. Those sobs of anguish are typical of the manipulative behaviour of the strangers coming to infest us – should we not fear a race whose very infants can be so devious? Second, the hardcore fans loved it: 58 per cent of Republicans are in favour of this brutality. Trump’s overall approval ratings are up to 42.5 per cent.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2018 at 2:12 pm

In Helsinki, Trump Shows He Is Indeed Guilty of Collusion

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David Corn writes in Mother Jones:

Since being elected president, Donald Trump has vociferously claimed he engaged in “no collusion” with Vladimir Putin’s attack on the 2016 US election and that the investigation of any interactions between him and his associates and Russians was a “witch hunt” or a “rigged witch hunt.” Yet his historic Helsinki summit with Putin—and particularly the unsettling joint press conference they held—provided a clear indication that Trump is indeed guilty of one form of collusion: colluding with Putin to cover up Moscow’s criminal assault on American democracy.

I’ve been making this case for over a year, noting that “Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted” Putin’s plot against the United States by supporting Moscow’s denial that it mounted information warfare that undermined the election and helped Trump. Put aside the notion of whether Trump or anyone in his crew schemed with Russians on how to pull this off. Once the attack became public, Trump and his lieutenants continuously maintained it was nothing but a hoax. When the Democratic National Committee in June 2016 revealed it had been hacked by Russian operatives, the Trump campaign issued a statement huffing, “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.” After WikiLeaks released over 20,000 DNC emails right before the start of the Democratic convention the following month, the Hillary Clinton campaign tried to make the point this was Russian sabotage. Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort hit the cable news shows to call this claim absurd. (Yet just weeks earlier, both had attended a secret meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian emissary, after being told this woman was bringing the campaign dirt on Clinton as part of a secret Kremlin plot to assist Trump.)

Trump led the denial charge himself. After being briefed in mid-August by US intelligence that Russia was behind the hack-and-dump operation against the Clinton campaign, he repeatedly declared that there was no reason to suspect Moscow was the culprit. He did this in speeches. And he did this in the debates with Clinton. At their first face-off, he said the perp “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?” And following the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of a statement in early October 2016 stating that intelligence showed Russia was indeed behind this attack, Trump still vigorously insisted there was no reason to believe Moscow was involved.

Throughout this period, Russia, of course, was denying it was doing anything untoward. So Trump was echoing Putin’s disinformation. He was pushing Moscow’s line and dismissing the US government’s official finding. That made it easier for Russia to get away with the covert operation. With Trump very publicly challenging the notion that an attack was underway, Republican leaders—most notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—were disinclined to join the Obama administration in any effort to challenge or thwart Putin’s assault on the US political system. Trump provided Putin cover.

He continued to do so after the election. When the US intelligence community in January 2017 released an assessment confirming Russia had engaged in this information warfare and noting that this had been done in part to boost Trump’s chances, Trump refused to acknowledge the conclusions or to take clear action against Russia. Rather, he assailed the intelligence community, comparing it to Hitler’s regime. (“Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he tweeted.) And he stuck with this course through the first year of his presidency. After meeting with Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November 2017, Trump told reporters on Air Force One, “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.” Trump added: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that’, but I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” Trump continued, “I think he’s very insulted by it.”

Even though his administration has taken some actions against Russia—such as expelling Russian diplomats after the nerve agent attack in England—Trump has not stopped amplifying Putin’s assertion that Russia is innocent. And he tells his base—all those Fox News watchers—that the investigations are bunk and that the Deep State has manufactured this scandal to nail him. That is, Putin and the Kremlin are not the villains; the enemy is within.

As Putin has tried to cloak Russian culpability, Trump has been an eager helpmate. In the run-up to the Helsinki meeting, Trump  tweeted, “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”

And at a campaign rally a few days later, he declared that Putin was “fine.” Trump was legitimizing both Putin and his disinformation.

Then came the meltdown in Finland.  Shortly after a 90-plus-minutes private meeting with Putin—no aides were present—Trump stood next to the Russian autocrat at a press conference, as Putin once more denied Russian intervention in the 2016 election. Trump then noted he had discussed with Putin “the issue of Russian interference in our elections,” without challenging Putin’s denial. He allowed the denial to stand. By saying nothing—just days after the Justice Department had indicted 12 Russian military officers for the criminal scheme—Trump was providing the Russian strongman a platform for continuing the cover-up.

It got worse. Once again declaring there was “no collusion,” Trump attacked special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “disaster” and “ridiculous.” When he was asked whether he believed the US intelligence community or Putin, first Trump criticized the FBI and prattled on about the phony issue of the DNC server, yet again purposefully distracting from the core elements of the Trump-Russia scandal. Next, he said, “My people came to me. [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coates came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Trump said he had “confidence” in both sides, meaning both Putin and his intelligence team. He continued: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Here was Trump drawing an equivalence between his top intelligence advisers and Putin, the former KGB officer. It was a stunning moment. What more could Putin want? The president of the nation, which, according to its own intelligence and law enforcement agencies, was attacked by Russia, was giving Putin’s denial as much credence as Mueller’s indictments and the findings of various spy agencies, as well as the Republican-led intelligence committees of the House and Senate (which each confirmed the intelligence community’s assessment).

Trump was toiling (and trolling) hand-in-hand with Putin to advance Moscow’s deceit. And here’s a key question:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2018 at 2:07 pm

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