Later On

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

Archive for July 16th, 2018

My first Nordic walking formal lesson: What I learned

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The problem with self-taught practitioners is that they virtually always fall into common errors: the self-taught swimmer who keeps his or her head out of the water, the self-taught right-handed golfer who bends his/her left arm in the swing, and so on.

Unfortunately, many very important skills are self taught and most people never get professional help to enable them to correct the common errors that they have adopted. That’s the value of a good coach: not in improving your performance to world-class levels, but in correcting the obvious (to the coach) common errors that degrade your performance—and correcting those errors can immediately and significantly make a dramatic improvement in performance.

Important skills that commonly are self-taught (and thus prone to common and easily correctable errors) include decision-making, negotiation, listening, study skills, task and time management, and so on. (Some of these skills are analyzed and discussed in books found in this list; others yield to a good search engine.)

Today, I—a self-taught Nordic walking enthusiast—went for my first formal lesson. I learned a lot I would not have known. Some examples:

Arm swing: arms are not bent in the swing, but swing from the shoulders like pendulums. Bending the arm leads to pushing too directly down on the poles, whereas the correct push is back as well as down, with perhaps an emphasis on the “back.” Pushing back on the poles propels you forward. I have found that my walking speed when using Nordic walking poles is considerably brisker than when I don’t — and I also don’t get so tired.

Moreover, the arms’ swing is not symmetric, but skews more toward the back. At the back of the swing, your arms are well behind you. The instructor said to imagine that you’re in an elevator and reaching behind you to push your hands against the wall: back like that. The “push against the wall” is the finishing thrust back (and somewhat down) against the pole. If you push back firmly, the swing will find its own range, the forward part of the swing bringing the arm more or less in line with the leg or slightly in front. If you can see your arm in your peripheral vision (you’re looking toward the horizon with head erect), then the arm is swinging too far forward. Focus again on pushing your hand against the back wall of the elevator, and keep your arms close to straight (not rigid, but relaxed). The backward push comes from the upper back and shoulders and is transmitted through the glove to the pole.

She also covered walking pace (find your own most comfortable pace) and how to grip the poles (gentle firmness with thumb and forefinger straight, other fingers not involved) and how to exert pressure (downward on the glove, not on the handle). In practice, since the glove is clipped to the pole, I really don’t hold the pole handle at all, and just push down and back on the glove, when transmits the force to the pole through the clip.

The instructor also made an interesting point: some activities consist of repetitive actions—swimming, rowing, Nordic walking, etc. In repetitive-action activities, technique is very important. Since the action is repeated over and over, it is important that it is done exactly right, the effects of imperfect technique being amplified by repetition. So I definitely will take another lesson, and if you have access to a certified Nordic walking instructor, I recommend that you take a lesson or two as well. You at least can use the information in this post to avoid the most egregious errors, but I imagine I have just scratched the surface. I do think tomorrow’s walk will be much more interesting with better arm movement (which also involves more muscles in upper back).

I continue to recommend Nordic walking highly. Here are some relevant links. And for those who live in or near Victoria, check out

This histogram shows my walking activity for the past 7 days. Note the lesson day (most recent).

UPDATE: The first day following the lesson described above, I applied what I learned. I noticed that my upper body was more relaxed and the effort expended seemed less, presumably because I was employing larger and/or more muscles than I was using with my improper technique. Good technique is in general more efficient (getting more done with less effort) than poor technique—that’s why they call it “good.” 🙂

UPDATE 2: I no longer use the Pedometer++ app, which provided the chart above. The Eldest gave me an Amazfit Band 5, and I find that it provides much more information, including route (on a map), distance, time, speed, calories burned, and average and maximum heart rates. Here’s my review.

UPDATE 3: The Amazifit software conked out in just under a month, but I am now addicted to the wealth of data a fitness tracker provides (e.g., on heart rate), so I’ve order a different tracker. Details in that review, which has been updated wit this new info.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 6:50 pm

This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans

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James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not  realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.

Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”).

I am old enough to remember Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon telling lies on TV, about Vietnam in both cases, and Watergate for Nixon. I remember the travails and deceptions of Bill Clinton, and of George W. Bush in the buildup to the disastrous Iraq War.

But never before have I seen an American president consistently, repeatedly, publicly, and shockingly advance the interests of another country over those of his own government and people.

Trump manifestly cannot help himself. This is who he is.

Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their country rather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.

For 18 months, members of this party have averted their eyes from Trump, rather than disturb the Trump elements among their constituency or disrupt the party’s agenda on tax cuts and the Supreme Court. . .

Continue reading.

And note the other articles listed in the sidebar at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 12:36 pm

Take a Walk in the Woods. Doctor’s Orders.

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Amitha Kalaichandran, M.D., writes in the NY Times:

On a damp Saturday morning last August, I joined 10 others in the woods outside Ottawa, Canada, as part of a “forest bathing” session offered by a local wilderness resort.

First we sat in a circle on the leafy ground, each sharing a moment in nature from our childhood that filled us with joy. Next our guide, Kiki, a newly trained forest therapist who insisted we call her by her first name, led us on a mindful — and very slow — walk through the forest.

“What do you hear, smell, see?” Kiki asked, encouraging us to use all five senses to become deeply “immersed” in the experience.

An older woman in the group told us that she was undergoing a difficult and stressful period in her life, and that being among the trees felt “healing.” Others mentioned that the activity reminded them of walks they took as part of Boy Scouts or commented on the sounds: insects, birds, the rustling of leaves. I noticed the bright green acorns that dotted the forest floor, which reminded me of my childhood collection of acorns and chestnuts. Admittedly, I was also worried that the early morning rain was fertile ground for vicious mosquitoes (West Nile!) and ticks (Lyme!).

We ended the two-hour forest walk with a tea ceremony, sipping a concoction of white pine needles steeped in hot water.I left feeling relaxed and more at peace, though with at least two dozen bites from mosquitoes that seemed immune to DEET.

Kiki had been trained according to standards set by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, a professional group that has certified more than 300 people across North America to be forest therapy guides, among them psychotherapists, nurses and six M.D.s. The sessions are modeled after the Japanese tradition of shinrin-yoku,or forest bathing.

Over the years, I’ve had physician mentors recommend Richard Louv’s books, “The Nature Principle” and “Last Child in the Woods,” which describe the benefits of time spent in the wilderness, from stimulating creativity to reducing stress. Florence Williams’s best-selling book, “The Nature Fix,” has a chapter dedicated to the benefits of forest therapy. And now, it appears that more North American doctors are starting to incorporate spending time in forests into their practice.

Some small studies, many conducted in Japan and Korea, suggest that spending time in nature, specifically in lush forests, might decrease stress and blood pressure (especially in middle-aged men), improve heart-rate variability and lower cortisol levels while boosting one’s mood. An analysisof studies from 2010 that focused on exercising in nature found improvements in self-esteem, particularly among younger participants. Overall effects on mood were heightened when there was a stream or other body of water nearby.

But other studies have shown mixed results. A cross-sectional study from Korea found no change in blood pressure with forest bathing, and a systematic review from 2010 found that while time in the forest may boost mood and energy, any effects on attention, blood pressure and cortisol may not be statistically significant. Another recent review from Australia underscored the challenges of drawing causal links to disease prevention, with the authors calling for robust randomized controlled trials.

Several theories have been proposed as to why spending time in forests might provide health benefits. Some have suggested that chemicals emitted from trees, so-called phytoncides, have a physiological effect on our stress levels. Others suggest that forest sounds — birds chirping, rustling leaves — have a physiologically calming effect. Yet evidence to support these theories is limited.

On a recent visit to Japan, I met with Dr. Hiroko Ochiai, a surgeon based at Tokyo Medical Center, and her husband, Toshiya Ochiai, who is currently the chief executive of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine. Dr. Ochiai is trained in forest therapy and currently conducts most of her sessions with volunteers within a forest in Nagano, about three hours from Tokyo, with the help of a local guide, and plans to offer forest therapy soon at one of Tokyo’s largest hospitals.

“I usually encourage participants to sit or lie down on the forest ground and listen to the sounds,” she says. “The hypersonic natural world can be soothing, and things are always moving even while we are still. It can be very calming.”

Last June the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta began to formally offer forest therapy as part of a pilot project in collaboration with the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Twelve patients with newly diagnosed cancers recently signed up for a session, according to Christy Andrews, the executive director of Cancer Support Community Atlanta.

“It was a four-hour session that seemed to have an impact on the patients,” she said. “I remember one participant telling me afterward that it was a way to ‘steer away from cancer,’ and the group became very cohesive. I think it helped reduce the isolation in a way that’s different from a regular support group.”

Dr. Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, an obstetrician-gynecologist based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, began guiding patients in her practice through the Prairie Woods in Hiawatha Iowa, though she has also led groups in forests around Des Moines. She became a certified guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy three years ago and tries to tailor her offerings based on the group she is leading.

“I generally get a sense of where people are at. For some, it’s best for me to stick to the science, but others may literally want to hug a tree. The traditional tea ceremony at the end might turn some people off, so I’m conscious of that and adjust accordingly,” she says.

In one exercise, she has participants close their eyes as she guides them through experiencing the different senses, imagining feeling their feet growing into the ground like roots of a tree, for instance, listening to nearby sounds and observing how far they may extend, or smelling the air. It’s similar in many ways to a guided meditation.

“I recently held a session where four out of the 20 participants were in wheelchairs, so I found a local park that had plenty of trees and a paved sidewalk so everyone could enjoy it,” she says.

At the University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Dr. Nooshin Razani, a pediatric infectious disease doctor and director of the Center for Nature and Health, has offered a similar program for the past four years. The “Shine” program,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 11:53 am

US law enforcement links from Radley Balko

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A few of Balko’s weekend links:

  • In what has to be the most disturbing story of the week, an internal probe found that police officers in a Miami suburb were ordered to pin unsolved burglaries on random black people in order to help the police chief achieve his goal of a 100 percent clearance rate.
  • A 13-year-old Illinois boy has been charged with felony eavesdropping for recording a conversation with his school administrators.
  • Milwaukee pays out $3.4 million to settle lawsuit claiming that police targeted blacks and Latinos for stop and frisk without probable cause.
  • In more encouraging news, a broad, left-right-libertarian coalition is coming together to advocate reining in the qualified immunity granted to law enforcement officials for civil rights violations.
  • In less encouraging news, a panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has ruled that Transportation Security Administration screeners are immune from lawsuits, even for egregious violations of passengers’ constitutional rights.
  • Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office releases copies of subpoenas and arrest warrants it has issued — not for people suspected of crimes, but for witnesses to and victims of crimes.
  • After his analysts were caught giving conflicting, pro-prosecution forensic testimony in two rape/murder cases, the director of the Orange County, Calif., crime lab says he’s too busy see if bad forensics contributed to other convictions. And the state’s courts don’t seem particularly interested in making him.

I emphasized one phrase in the above, since it seems to indicate a move toward saying the government can do what it wants with no repercussions.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 11:46 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

He Preyed on Men Who Wanted to Be Priests. Then He Became a Cardinal.

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I just was involved in a discussion on Quora in which the “No true Scotsman” fallacy was flagrantly used. The person with whom I was having an exchange is an Islamophobe and was pointing out how terrible Muslims are by recounting various Muslim terrorist incidents.

I agreed that those were terrible, but pointed out that there are many Muslims, and certainly not all are terrorists, and that we see Christian terrorists as well, and that in his saying what bad things Muslims do, he should be aware that Christians also do bad things, and pointed out the story in today’s NY Times about Cardinal McCarrick’s sexual abuse of young men.

His response was a classic “No true Scotsman” example:

As for Christians, too much is done in the ‘name’ of Christianity but they aren’t Christians. Know the difference.

That is, if a Christian does something bad, the person is not really a Christian, but if a Muslim does something bad, then the person is definitely a Muslim.

It’s difficult to deal with such bias and myopia.

In this case, he claimed that Cardinal McCarrick was not a true Christian since he did something bad. Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman report in the NY Times:

As a young man studying to be a priest in the 1980s, Robert Ciolek was flattered when his brilliant, charismatic bishop in Metuchen, N.J., Theodore E. McCarrick, told him he was a shining star, cut out to study in Rome and rise high in the church.

Bishop McCarrick began inviting him on overnight trips, sometimes alone and sometimes with other young men training to be priests. There, the bishop would often assign Mr. Ciolek to share his room, which had only one bed. The two men would sometimes say night prayers together, before Bishop McCarrick would make a request — “come over here and rub my shoulders a little”— that extended into unwanted touching in bed.

Mr. Ciolek, who was in his early 20s at the time, said he felt unable to say no, in part because he had been sexually abused by a teacher in his Catholic high school, a trauma he had shared with the bishop.

“I trusted him, I confided in him, I admired him,” Mr. Ciolek said in an interview this month, the first time he has spoken publicly about the abuse, which lasted for several years while Mr. Ciolek was a seminarian and later a priest. “I couldn’t imagine that he would have anything other than my best interests in mind.”

Bishop McCarrick went on to climb the ranks of the Roman Catholic hierarchy — from head of the small Diocese of Metuchen to archbishop of Newark and then archbishop of Washington, where he was made a cardinal. He remained into his 80s one of the most recognized American cardinals on the global stage, a Washington power broker who participated in funeral masses for political luminaries like Edward M. Kennedy, the longtime Massachusetts senator, and Beau Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Suddenly, last month, Cardinal McCarrick was removed from ministry, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an accusation that he had molested a 16-year-old altar boy nearly 50 years ago.

Cardinal McCarrick, now 88, who declined to comment for this article, said in a statement last month that he had no recollection of the abuse. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the United States to be removed for sexual abuse of a minor.

But while the church responded quickly to the allegation that Cardinal McCarrick had abused a child, some church officials knew for decades that the cardinal had been accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching adults, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Between 1994 and 2008, multiple reports about the cardinal’s transgressions with adult seminary students were made to American bishops, the pope’s representative in Washington and, finally, Pope Benedict XVI. Two New Jersey dioceses secretly paid settlements, in 2005 and 2007, to two men, one of whom was Mr. Ciolek, for allegations against the archbishop. All the while, Cardinal McCarrick played a prominent role publicizing the church’s new zero-tolerance policy against abusing children.

The scandal of child sexual abuse by clergy has gripped the Catholic Church for nearly two decades, resulting in billions spent by the church on lawsuits, settlements and prevention programs. But while the church has made strides in dealing with sexual abuse of children, it has largely avoided a reckoning over sexual harassment and abuse suffered by adult seminarians and young priests at the hands of their superiors, including bishops.

Because bishops have control over priests’ assignments and complete loyalty is expected by the church’s clerical culture, seminarians and priests can be especially vulnerable to sexual harassment by their superiors.

“In the corporate world, there are ways to report misconduct,” Mr. Ciolek, 57, said at his home in New Jersey. “You have an H.R. contact, you have a legal department, or you have anonymous reporting, you have systems. Does the Catholic Church have that? How is a priest supposed to report abuse or wrong activity by his bishop? What is their stated vehicle for anyone to do that? I don’t think it exists.”

Now, after the fall of Cardinal McCarrick, some Catholics are saying that the church is on the verge of confronting its own #MeToo moment, akin to the wave of painful truth-telling that has swept through other workplaces, schools and Hollywood.

The Rev. Hans Zollner, a member of the Vatican’s commission for advising the pope on protecting minors, said that he has seen more victims come forward in recent months with accounts of sexual abuse in the church that they experienced as adults.

“The #MeToo movement has created a momentum,” he said. “It has brought another level of attention to this kind of hidden abuse.”

‘Uncle Ted’

With his warm, gregarious presence, Cardinal McCarrick rose quickly through the ranks of the church after being ordained a priest in 1958. As a bishop, he took pride in his success at recruiting young men to the priesthood — including one he met in an airport, according to his colleagues.

In 1981, the New York-born clergyman was made the bishop of the newly created diocese of Metuchen in central New Jersey. The young men he recruited would attend seminary at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland, before being ordained as priests for the diocese.

Those who interacted with him back then said he was friendly with all the seminarians, but would invite a few he especially favored to overnight stays at a beach house in Sea Girt, N.J. It was a small, simple house, some six blocks from the ocean — a retreat that the diocese had purchased at Bishop McCarrick’s request in 1984. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 10:39 am

Trump’s Tariffs and High Prices Are Sinking the Midwest

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Kevin Drum notes the beating the Midwest is taking from Trump:

You can call ’em tariffs or you can call ’em taxes, but they’re all the same to me. Tory Newmyer reports from the heartland:

In Iowa, Mike Naig, the state’s Republican secretary of agriculture…. “Current commodity prices are not equaling the cost of production … There has been a 20 percent drop in prices.” In South Dakota, Kolberg-Pioneer, which manufactures equipment for making crushed stone and gravel, is contemplating its second price increase of the year to deal with  higher steel prices thanks to Trump’s metals tariffs…. Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader’s Dana Ferguson and Jeremy Fugleberg report the trade fight has “already cost South Dakota farmers and ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars, experts said, as the value of their crops has dipped.”

….In Utah, the steel tariffs could add roughly $15 million to the cost of a new state prison already over budget. …In Wisconsin, a range of businesses are feeling the effects of retaliatory tariffs from Canada, designed as a “surgical strike” on the state and others that backed Trump, Scott Gordon of the Wisconsin State Farmer writes: “With new tariffs on greeting cards, tissue paper, napkins, toilet paper and even playing cards, Canada puts pressure on a range of products that has represented more than $2 billion in exports from Wisconsin to that nation over the past decade.”

That’s just a sampling. Some other headlines:

  • From WECT in North Carolina: “Trump’s trade war with China could affect local jobs”
  • From the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri: “’Trying to keep the faith’: Missouri farmers brace for Trump’s trade war — and drought”
  • From WKRG in Mobile, Ala.: “Local leaders say Trump tariffs threaten Mobile economy
  • From The Day in New London, Conn.: “Local manufacturers feel the pain of aluminum, steel tariffs
  • From the South Bend Tribune in Indiana: “Indiana farmers not exempt from prolonged tariff battle”

Do all these folks still think it was a great idea to vote for Trump? Dave Weigel takes the pulse of the Midwest: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 10:25 am

Puny Humans Crushed By Machines Yet Again

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Kevin Drum has an intriguing post:

In the latest heavyweight challenge to the human mind, the human mind ended up on the canvas bloodied and beaten:

When the results came in, Biomind beat the doctors squarely in both rounds. In round one, it correctly answered 87% of the questions, versus 66% for the doctors. In round two, it won by 83% to 63%.

In the first round, doctors and computers competed to identify tumors. In the second round they looked for signs of stroke. And it was all done on a ritzy, live, Iron Chef style television show:

According to Raymond Moh, chief executive officer of Hanalytics’ Beijing office, Biomind diagnoses diseases with 90% accuracy, without fatigue. “The role of AI is not to replace doctors but to help to investigate blind spots: ‘ Please investigate further.’

….Last year a robot developed by iFlytek and Tsinghua University passed China’s medical licensing exam with a score that was higher than 96% of candidates. Yitu Technology — a facial recognition specialist — is involved in a project in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in southern China, to diagnose cancer, while Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are all involved in AI health projects.

We’re still at the “don’t worry, robots are just here to help you” stage, but don’t be fooled. Radiologists are already in trouble, and if a robot can pass a medical licensing exam summa cum laude then how much longer can it be before robots are making house calls? Everybody thinks of truck drivers and retail clerks as the first victims of the coming robot revolution, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Jobs that require no tricky physical proficiency but very deep analytical skills are going to be some of the first to put people permanently out of work. In a sense, though, this is a good thing, since it means the challenge ahead will finally get some serious attention.

Of course, it will really get some serious attention when it starts putting journalists out of work. How long before that happens?

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 10:22 am

WSP Prince, Mickey Lee’s Bee Witched, Maggard V3A, and Musgo Real

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A very nice and workmanlike shave: straightforward and enjoyable.

I do like Mickey Lee’s Bee Witched. I think he should do it again. (It was a seasonal one-off.) Great lather and fine fragrance, thanks in part to Wet Shaving Products’ Prince silvertip brush.

The Maggard V3A is a very nice head indeed, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Three passes, perfect smoothness, no nicks.

A splash of Musgo Real and out for the walk. The first day with my Nordic walking poles this walk took 47 minutes 30 seconds. Today it took 44 minutes 50 seconds. I think the main reason for the improvement is that my arms have strengthened a bit, plus I’m sure I’m more into the rhythm of Nordic walking. Highly recommended.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2018 at 9:12 am

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