Later On

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

Archive for October 3rd, 2018

How to dice an onion

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This is basically the method I use, but better: I sliced crossways before lengthwise, but this way seems better:

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Michael Lewis on His New Book About Trump’s Wholesale Destruction of the Government

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I’m reading the book. The damage to the US that is being done is serious. Gabriel Debenedetti writes in New York:

Shortly before Donald Trump took office, the retired Air Force lieutenant general in charge of the country’s nuclear weapons program packed up his office. He’d submitted his resignation, as required, and no one from the incoming Trump team told him to stick around. Trump’s Day One drew closer, and only after Ernest Moniz, the outgoing Energy Secretary, personally called some senators to alert them to what was going on did the Trump team perk up. It was the day before the inauguration when the officer got the call: Please bring back your belongings, he was told. The job’s still yours. Crisis averted, for now.

This anecdote of Trump team incompetence is one genre of tale told by Michael Lewis — the author of a ton of books you’ve read — in his new offering, The Fifth Risk. Other stories in the book cover mismanagement, and others still look at a more targeted kind of destruction. Take, for example, the case of the weather. Over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, bureaucrats await the arrival of Barry Myers, Trump’s pick to lead the administration. Myers got the nod after years of lobbying to stop the National Weather Service from communicating with citizens in his private capacity as the head of AccuWeather — which, itself, relies on the government’s weather information. If you’re not concerned about the prospect of weather forecasts that are reserved for those who pay for them, Lewis suggests, you should be.

Stories like these may terrify in isolation, but when considered together, they overwhelm. And they exist, Lewis says, all over the government — far enough from the public eye that, the majority of the time, we have no idea they’re happening.

With almost everyone you talked to, you asked about their biggest concern, the biggest risk. After all this, what’s yours?
Sacrificing the long term for the short term. Trump’s such a myopic creature and so much of his behavior is driven by short-term rewards. If you look at the institution I was trying to describe, it’s a mess. I mean, the people are great, but they’re all old. Here’s an incredible one: there are five times more people working for the government over the age of 60 than under the age of 30. And you can find analogous situations with the technology. It feels like this old machine has been starved, neglected, shat upon for three decades, and it’s waiting for someone to come take a sledgehammer to the side of it, and he’s doing it.

Short-termism isn’t a new problem, though. You’re saying Trump’s just the one taking advantage of it?
Well, true. He’s much more of a short-termist. In the book you can see other presidents doing things that aren’t going to pay off for them. Think about it this way. An awful lot of what an administration does is invest for the distant future. All the basic science. None of that pays off for the current president. None of it. That pays off for like two generations on. Trump has no interest in any of it. Bush had a big interest in it. He created the [research funding agency] in the Energy Department: ARPA-E. So everywhere [Trump] can pull in resources to make his little moment seem good, and screw future generations, he will.

In the book you refer a few times to “willful ignorance” that created this moment, of which Trump is the ultimate manifestation.
It’s easier to behave the way he behaves if you don’t know anything. If you actually collide with some piece of information then you have a problem, and I think he moves through the world avoiding colliding with the information.

You describe some people in the administration similarly.
Perry. Think about this with Perry, obviously it’s a joke — and it’s one of the reasons I got interested in the project — that he was appointed head of the Energy Department. But it wasn’t just that he didn’t know the name of the department that he was going to cut when he said he was going to cut it, and not only was it that inside this place are nuclear weapons, but those weapons are assembled in the Texas Panhandle. He was the governor of Texas! How on earth do you go through a day as governor of Texas without knowing that you’ve got a nuclear risk in the Texas Panhandle? That’s just mystifying to me.

In your telling, he’s “the shell-shocked grandmother trying to preside over a pleasant family Thanksgiving dinner while pretending that her blind-drunk husband isn’t standing naked on the dining-room table waving the carving knife over his head.” The grandmother understands what she’s doing, though. Do you think Perry does?
I don’t know. I do know he’s not really engaged with the department, that he flies around a lot, he’s a public face. He tweets a bit. I know that he never got the briefings. But beyond that I don’t know. I don’t know how! Incuriosity seems to be a feature of the administration, an incuriosity you and I would find alien.

If the government workers who keep their heads down and do their jobs are heroes, the book’s opening basically positions Chris Christie as an almost-hero for his role setting up the Trump transition, before his work was trashed. Is that fair?
I do think it’s fair. It isn’t my judgment. The best referee of this process, Max Stier [of the Partnership for Public Service] — he sits in the middle of this process, the transition, and he’s seen it several times now so he can compare Trump to Romney to Obama, and he thought [Christie’s] operation was almost as good as it got. He thought they were ready to go in, having the right people, having a structure, all that — in spite of Donald Trump. Which is pretty impressive, like building a good football team with a moronic coach. Or a moronic GM.

In this analogy, there’s also a quarterback who refuses to take the field?Yes! I think he would have done the country a great service. Having said that, I think Trump’s a nightmare no matter what. He’s got all kinds of other problems in addition to his inability to run the government. And it is possible if you had given him more of an ability to run the government, it would have let him do more damage elsewhere. So it’s possible it’s a blessing in disguise that he’s so obviously inept.

You seem to have had no interest in the usual coverage of this administration — Who was yelling at who—
No, no, no. I did care — the one thing I really did care about was exactly how the transition went down. To this day, there’s the question: Why? The unsatisfying answer, the answer that’s offered, is that Jared [Kushner] just had it in for Christie. But why did Trump say “We have to fire them”? Yeah, he’s ignorant, but I think there was probably a positive reason for what he did. And that is, he wanted the chaos, because among other things it let him put people in positions that the transition would never have. They vetted [Michael] Flynn out. They didn’t let him get into trouble that he wanted to get into. And I suspect Russia has something to do with it. If you had managed the government normally there would have been a lot more due diligence, a lot more windows into Trump’s relations with the Russians. So partly to cover it up, partly to muddy the water. And an instinct toward total commotion. Two weeks ago you were obsessing about the Mueller investigation. In the last four days you haven’t thought about it at all.

So you think that’s a strategy?
I think it’s been very interesting the last few days to see Trump let [Brett] Kavanaugh get all the attention. And I’m asking myself, “Why isn’t he throwing the spotlight back on himself?” Which is what he often does. In a way, it’s been a relief to not be thinking about Trump. Two thoughts: One is he’s fiddling around with the Mueller investigation in some way, and the other is Stormy Daniels’s book comes out [this week]. And nobody’s talking about it because they have a good proxy here that’s not her. And I wonder if that’s in the back of his mind: Let’s let this run, because I want this to dominate the news cycle.

This reminds me of the saga of Scott Pruitt at the EPA, how it dominated the headlines. But to you, Pruitt is something different from Perry, and from others? . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 3:56 pm

What jobs did the #GOPTaxScam REALLY create?

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Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 11:32 am

Interesting ciders by Sea Cider

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Vancouver Island has a strong “make it local” tradition, with various distilleries and vineyards along with agriculture and fishing. I am intrigued now by the interesting ciders (and a perry) offered by Sea Cider. Here’s just a sample; click the link for more.

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 8:20 am

Posted in Business, Drinks

Christmas Is Coming, and the Labor Market Is Finally Getting Tight

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Kevin Drum has a sensible take:

Amazon is raising wages: said it is raising the minimum wage it pays all U.S. employees to $15 an hour….“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Mr. Bezos in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.”

Hmmm. A regular reader emails with further information:

My wife is an HR manager in manufacturing at a plant that pays permanent employees over $15 per hour. Earlier this year they increased the wages for temps to $13.50 to try to increase retention, and they have not had good results. The labor market is tight, and these are not skilled positions, but they cannot hold onto new (temp) employees.

I work with fabricators and machine shops, and multiple shops are having trouble hiring to the point where several shops have warned us they may not meet commitments because they cannot find enough workers to hit their planned labor hours. My anecdotal evidence tells me it is most likely that Amazon is moving to $15 wages due to upward wage pressure, and not the goodness of Jeff Bezos’ heart or the power of Bernie’s persuasion.

That sounds exactly right. And there’s more:

Faced with a tight labor market and a busy holiday shopping season, retailers have boosted wages to lure workers. In typical fashion, however, Amazon has outdone them. The e-commerce giant’s decision to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour will make it harder for traditional retailers to hire the staff they need. The result could be lost sales or, worse, crowded stores without enough staff, sending shoppers online, most likely to Amazon.

Nobody is moving to $15 wages because they’ve been watching all the progressive rallies and they’re suddenly getting woke. They’re doing it because it’s the only way to attract workers.

This is a two-edged sword, of course. With the unemployment rate so low, the people they’re attracting off the sidelines are largely those with  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 8:02 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

How the English Failed to Stamp Out the Scots Language

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Dan Nosowitz writes in Atlas Obscura:

OVER THE PAST FEW DECADES, as efforts to save endangered languages have become governmental policy in the Netherlands (Frisian), Slovakia (Rusyn) and New Zealand (Maori), among many others, Scotland is in an unusual situation. A language known as Scottish Gaelic has become the figurehead for minority languages in Scotland. This is sensible; it is a very old and very distinctive language (it has three distinct rsounds!), and in 2011 the national census determined that fewer than 60,000 people speak it, making it a worthy target for preservation.

But there is another minority language in Scotland, one that is commonly dismissed. It’s called Scots, and it’s sometimes referred to as a joke, a weirdly spelled and -accented local variety of English. Is it a language or a dialect? “The BBC has a lot of lazy people who don’t read the books or keep up with Scottish culture and keep asking me that stupid question,” says Billy Kay, a language activist and author of Scots: The Mither Tongue. Kay says these days he simply refuses to even answer whether Scots is a language or a dialect.

What Scots really is is a fascinating centuries-old Germanic language that happens to be one of the most widely spoken minority native languages, by national percentage of speakers, in the world. You may not have heard of it, but the story of Scots is a story of linguistic imperialism done most effectively, a method of stamping out a country’s independence, and also, unexpectedly, an optimistic story of survival. Scots has faced every pressure a language can face, and yet it’s not only still here—it’s growing.

SCOTS ARRIVED IN WHAT IS now Scotland sometime around the sixth century. Before then, Scotland wasn’t called Scotland, and wasn’t unified in any real way, least of all linguistically. It was less a kingdom than an area encompassing several different kingdoms, each of which would have thought itself sovereign—the Picts, the Gaels, the Britons, even some Norsemen. In the northern reaches, including the island chains of the Orkneys and the Shetlands, a version of Norwegian was spoken. In the west, it was a Gaelic language, related to Irish Gaelic. In the southwest, the people spoke a Brythonic language, in the same family as Welsh. The northeasterners spoke Pictish, which is one of the great mysterious extinct languages of Europe; nobody really knows anything about what it was.

The Anglian people, who were Germanic, started moving northward through England from the end of the Roman Empire’s influence in England in the fourth century. By the sixth, they started moving up through the northern reaches of England and into the southern parts of Scotland. Scotland and England always had a pretty firm border, with some forbidding hills and land separating the two parts of the island. But the Anglians came through, and as they had in England, began to spread a version of their own Germanic language throughout southern Scotland.

There was no differentiation between the language spoken in Scotland and England at the time; the Scots called their language “Inglis” for almost a thousand years. But the first major break between what is now Scots and what is now English came with the Norman Conquest in the mid-11th century, when the Norman French invaded England. If you talk to anyone about the history of the English language, they’ll point to the Norman Conquest as a huge turning point; people from England have sometimes described this to me, in true English fashion, as the time when the French screwed everything up.

Norman French began to change English in England, altering spellings and pronunciations and tenses. But the Normans never bothered to cross the border and formally invade Scotland, so Scots never incorporated all that Norman stuff. It would have been a pretty tough trip over land, and the Normans may not have viewed Scotland as a valuable enough prize. Scotland was always poorer than England, which had a robust taxation system and thus an awful lot of money for the taking.

“When the languages started to diverge, Scots preserved a lot of old English sounds and words that died out in standard English,” says Kay. Scots is, in a lot of ways, a preserved pre-Conquest Germanic language. Guttural sounds in words like fecht(“fight”) and necht (“night”) remained in Scots, but not in English.

Over the next few centuries, Scots, which was the language of the southern Scottish people, began to creep north while Scottish Gaelic, the language of the north, retreated. By about 1500, Scots was the lingua franca of Scotland. The king spoke Scots. Records were kept in Scots. Some other languages remained, but Scots was by far the most important.

James VI came to power as the king of Scotland in 1567, but was related to Elizabeth I, ruling queen of England. When Elizabeth died, James became king of both Scotland and England in 1603, formally joining the two nations for the first time. (His name also changed, becoming James I.) He dissolved the Scottish parliament, moved to London, and, in a great tradition of Scotsmen denigrating their home country, referred to his move as trading “a stony couch for a deep feather bed.”

Scottish power was wildly diminished. The country’s poets and playwrights moved to London to scare up some patronage that no longer existed in Edinburgh. English became the language of power, spoken by the ambitious and noble. When the Reformation came, swapping in Protestantism for Catholicism in both England and Scotland, a mass-printed bible was widely available—but only in English. English had become not only the language of power, but also the language of divinity. “It’s quite a good move if you’re wanting your language to be considered better,” says Michael Hance, the director of the Scots Language Centre. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 7:57 am

Posted in Daily life

Yuzu and rose and patchouli

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Rob in Korea asked whether The Shave Den’s Rose Patchouli aftershave was similar to the Chattilon Lux Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli. I had not made the connection, but they are quite similar, though of course the Yuzu adds a twist. But I brought out these to check in today’s shave.

Declaration Grooming makes quite a nice shaving soap, and my Rooney Emilion created a very nice lather from it. The Charcoal Razor feels good and performs well and easily smoothed away the stubble.

A small splash of Chatillon Lux’s aftershave lotion (not only smells good, it also feels good) finished the job.

Written by Leisureguy

3 October 2018 at 7:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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