Later On

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

Archive for January 11th, 2019

Cute: Quokkas, the world’s happiest animal

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

The Race to Relearn Hemp Farming

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Interesting: trying to recover discarded knowledge. Leslie Nemo writes in Scientific American:

Angela Post wasn’t supposed to study hemp. The North Carolina State agriculture researcher focuses on small grains like wheat and barley. But after the 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to investigate hemp, it became clear the seeds were lucrative. Post had the right equipment to study them, so the job was hers.

At first, Post thought hemp would get as much attention as the other alternative crops she and her colleagues dabble in. “We didn’t know how fast it would grow,” she says. Once the work garnered the attention of hundreds of would-be hemp farmers, “that’s when we got a sense it was something bigger than anticipated.”

Since then, Post’s work has expanded beyond hemp seeds—and her expertise—to fiber and flowers, which contain cannabidiol, or CBD, which is extracted for use in seizure medications and over-the-counter tinctures. But there’s no turning down hemp studies if you’re an agricultural researcher in one of the states where residents might want to grow the crop, including North Carolina, Vermont, and Kentucky.

Hemp used to be farmed across the United States, but thanks to its association with the psychoactive form of cannabis, the government banned the crop from commercial and university fields for most of the 20th century. Now, hemp could once again become an American staple. For that to happen, researchers like Post—employees of land grant universities, which are located in every state and are federally mandated to help American farmers succeed—can fill in the knowledge gaps that have appeared and widened over decades. “We get tens and tens of questions each week that we can’t answer,” says Post.

These gaps include how best to plant hemp, what varieties to use, which insects and weeds are most likely to cause problems, and, most important of all, how farmers can turn a profit.

These are big questions. The answers have been stymied by the fact that, until recently, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified hemp as Schedule I, which meant fines and jail time for unauthorized possession and regulations that have made experiments extremely challenging. While some research exists—especially from Europe and Canada, where hemp science has been legal since the 1990s—the work doesn’t always translate across environments. And as much as researchers had accomplished since the 2014 Farm Bill, they weren’t ready for the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump in December.

The bill legalizes the crop, allowing any farmer to grow it—whether or not they know how. That’s why NC State’s research approach is, as Post puts it, “all hands on deck.”

Two hundred years ago, cannabis filled the fields of American farms. It also altered the minds of the American public. Often called “hashish,” the plant went into candies and other foods, and went largely unregulated through the 19th century.

But in the early 1900s, around the same time the temperance movement was crusading against alcohol consumption, many Americans adopted the xenophobic assumption that Mexican immigrants were committing cannabis-fueled crimes. This led western states with sizeable Mexican populations to criminalize the plant, and 29 states eventually banned it. The racist fears spread all the way to Capitol Hill. In 1937, Congress passed a bill that taxed cannabis importers the equivalent of about $400 per year in 2018 dollars, and slapped rulebreakers with up to five years in prison and fines that, today, would equate to $35,000.

In 1971, the federal government classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug, which includes those narcotics deemed to have the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Five years later, researchers realized cannabis ought to be classified as two subspecies. One, now recognized as hemp, produces CBD in abundance, but very little of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. But since hemp was already stuck on the Schedule I list, it wasn’t going to sprout from American farms again anytime soon.

The U.S. kept importing hemp, however, a practice that continues today. The plant’s fibers are good for insulation, fabric, and carpet. The seeds can be eaten or pressed for oils used in cosmetics or paint. Or, if a grower plants certain varieties, they can collect CBD. In 2017, America imported $67.3 billion worth of hemp seed and fiber products, and the CBD market was worth nearly $200 million.

To see if the U.S. could re-enter this market, Congress allowed states to try growing the crop in the 2014 Farm Bill. (Farm bills, typically renewed every five years, are the tools through which the country’s agricultural and nutritional policies are set.) Under the legislation, researchers could study hemp if their state legalized and regulated it. For this to work, state governments, departments of agriculture, and the DEA had to collaborate. This process was often bumpy and put the onus of problem solving on the researchers.

That’s what happened to Heather Darby, an agronomy professor at the University of Vermont—a land grant school in a state that legalized hemp. Darby was eager to start hemp projects, but when she approached the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets and the local DEA office to file requests, she was stalled by bureaucracy. For example, the DEA paperwork she needed was only formatted for marijuana research requests, not hemp. Navigating these oversights, Darby says, “was the biggest barrier.”

Even in North Carolina, a state that’s been relatively proactive about allowing hemp, Post chose to keep her research projects small her first year. There was a lag in the state law that would legalize the work, and she risked getting arrested if police found her driving around with hemp buds.

Then there were issues with funding. Researchers typically get money from the federal or state government. But the 2014 Farm Bill didn’t allocate funds for hemp the way it did for, say, citrus disease. And since land grant universities are federally-backed, administrators have been hesitant to funnel their budget into a Schedule I drug.

As such, hemp researchers have had to get financially creative. For example, the University of Kentucky—another land grant school—funds hemp research through private companies, says David Williams, a plant and soil scientist. Though private investors often ask for study results to be proprietary, Williams claims that the vast majority of the research produced by these partnerships has been made public.

At the University of Vermont, however, Darby has mostly seen private offers where the information can’t be shared. To her, that agreement runs counter to her job description. “My goal through the University of Vermont is to make sure whatever we’re doing is for the public good,” she says, which has “made it difficult for us to secure funds.” To help, Darby launched a public crowdsourced campaign in 2016 with the goal of raising $25,000. As of January, the campaign was only a quarter of the way there.

Post is part of the minority whose work is covered by state and federal funding. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture granted her more than $100,000 in the past two years, and in 2018 she also won a one-time $16,000 grant from a USDA fund set aside for pesticide research.

While several of her requests were successful, Post understands that entering a competitive grant application pool with a crop as new as hemp can be intimidating. “I think people, from what I’ve seen, are afraid to put that time and energy and effort into a big proposal knowing the odds,” she says. “It’s already hard with corn and soybean, so it’s daunting for a minor crop.”

Amid all this confusion, hemp scientists are trying to unravel the intricacies of farming the plant. Most are starting with two key strains that are used to make fiber and seed. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 4:33 pm

If You Want to Get Better at Something, Ask Yourself These Two Questions

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Interesting article in the Harvard Business Review by Peter Bregman. From the article:

. . . Whatever it is, you can become better at it. But here’s the thing I know just as clearly as I know you can get better at anything: you will not get better if 1) you don’t want to and 2) you aren’t willing to feel the discomfort of doing things differently. . .

. . . Learning anything new is, by its nature, uncomfortable. You will need to act in ways that are unfamiliar. Take risks that are new. Try things that, in many cases, will be initially frustrating because they won’t work the first time. You are guaranteed to feel awkward. You will make mistakes. You may be embarrassed or even feel shame, especially if you are used to succeeding a lot —and all my clients are used to succeeding a lot.

If you remain committed through all of that, you’ll get better. . .

In this connection, let me highly recommend Mindset, by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 4:29 pm

Very interesting report on exercise: what it can do and what it can’t

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It’s a long read but it’s worthwhile. Vybarr Cregan-Reid reports on “Why exercise alone won’t save us” in the Guardian. A few selections from the report.

. . . Fitness crazes are like diets: if any of them worked, there wouldn’t be so many. CrossFit, the intensely physical, communal workout incorporating free weights, squats, pull-ups and so forth, is still less than 20 years old. Spin classes – vigorous group workouts on stationary bikes – have only been around for about 30. Aerobics was a craze about a decade before that, although many of its high-energy routines had already been around for a while. (The pastel horror of 1970s Jazzercise is probably best forgotten.) Before that, there was the jogging revolution, which began in the US in the early 1960s. The Joggers Manual, published in 1963 by the Oregon Heart Foundation, was a leaflet of about 200 words that sought to address the postwar panic about sedentary lifestyles by encouraging an accessible form of physical activity, explaining that “jogging is a bit more than a walk”. The jogging boom took a few years to get traction, hitting its stride in the mid- to late-80s, but it remains one of the most popular forms of exercise, now also in groups. . .

. . . Technological innovations have led to countless minor reductions of movement. To clean a rug in the 1940s, most people took it into their yard and whacked the bejeezus out of it for 20 minutes. Fast-forward a few decades and we can set robot vacuum cleaners to wander about our living rooms as we order up some shopping to be delivered, put on the dishwasher, cram a load into the washer-dryer, admire the self-cleaning oven, stack some machine-cut logs in the grate, pour a glass of milk from the frost-free fridge or thumb a capsule into the coffee maker. Each of these devices and behaviours is making it a bit more difficult for us to keep moving regularly throughout our day.

As we step through various innovations, we tend to think of the work that is no longer required as “saved”. Cleaning a rug once burned about 200 calories, while activating a robo-vac uses about 0.2 – an activity drop of a thousandfold, with nothing to replace it. Nobody, when they buy a labour-saving device, thinks: “How am I going to replace that movement I have saved?” . . .

. . . A 2015 report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges called Exercise – theMiracle Cure said that regular exercise can assist in the prevention of strokes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and dementia, reducing risk by at least 30%. With regular exercise, the risk of bowel cancer drops by 45%, and of osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes by a whopping 50%.

Exercise, in these terms, is not a fad, or an option, or an add-on to our busy lifestyles: it is keeping us alive. But before it can work for us, our whole approach needs to change. . .

. . . The health effects of being sedentary are as common and recognisable as they are serious. Anxiety, depression, heart disease, breast and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and the leading cause of global disability, back pain, are all driven by sedentary behaviours.

For our bodies to function properly, they operate on the assumption that we will be burning calories throughout the day, and not in short bursts. It is clear that periods of sedentariness are bad for the human body, and some exercise is always going to be better than none; the issue is not really to do with the types of exercise, but with our approach to them and what we expect them to achieve. We know from the data that the human relationship with exercise is predominantly characterised as both optional and additional to an otherwise sedentary life, which itself causes a ton of problems. As long as physical activity is divorced from the real work of our lives, we will find reasons for not doing it.

No matter how low the institutional expectations for physical activity drop, more of us fail to meet them each year. A Public Health England survey last year found that people in England are becoming so inactive that 40% of those aged between 40 and 60 walk briskly for less than 10 minutes a month. The reasons are numerous, but they seem to be connected to our notion of exercise, and the difference between short bursts of running or cycling and low-level, sustained physical activity. If we go back to the beginnings of exercise, we can see why it is still so problematic for us today. . .

. . . If being fit promotes long life, you might expect being an elite athlete to help you reach a ripe old age. It doesn’t. Olympians buy themselves an extra 2.8 years on average, according to a 2012 study. Devoting your life to sport and exercise will buy you more time, but once you factor in the Olympians’ lifelong sustained attention to diet and healthy living, as well as tens of thousands of hours spent training, 2.8 years might not really seem sufficient recompense.

Instead, the fittest and healthiest people on the planet have never been to a gym. These people, who report high levels of wellbeing and live extraordinarily long lives, inhabit what have been called “blue zones” – areas where lifestyles lead to peculiar longevity. The term was coined by two demographers, Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, who, while collecting data on clusters of centenarians on the island of Sardinia, identified places of especially high longevity on their map with a blue felt-tip pen. Because clusters of long-lived people are often found in geographically remote places (also including parts of Okinawa, Costa Rica and Greece), jackpot genes seem like a strong candidate to explain their longevity. But a famous study of Danish twins has concluded that a long life seems to be only “moderately heritable”. Over the years, many studies have looked at the lifestyles ofpeople in “blue zones” and found that a number of their customs and habits contribute to a long life (everything from a sense of belonging and purpose to not smoking, or eating a predominantly plant-based diet). In the list of contributory factors, there is a noticeable absence of exercise.

I travelled to Sardinia to meet Pes and find out more about his work. He has a vested interest in longevity. His great uncle was a supercentenarian (living beyond 110). The years that Pes is interested in finding out more about are the good ones, not those spent with 24-hour care in a nursing home (there are also none of these in Sardinia’s blue zones). A trial by a group of gerontologists based at Boston University reported that 10% of supercentenarians made it to the final three months of their lives without being troubled by major age-related diseases.

In my conversation with Pes, he repeatedly stressed that while diet and environment are important components of longevity, being sedentary is the enemy, and sustained, low-level activity is the key that research by him and others has uncovered: not the intense kinds of activity we tend to associate with exercise, but energy expended throughout the day. The supercentenarians he has worked with all walked several miles each day throughout their working lives. They never spent much time, if any, seated at desks. . .

. . . For those of us who can’t move to Sardinia and become a shepherd, a review published in the Lancet in 2016 found that “high levels of moderate-intensity physical activity (ie, about 60-75 min per day) seem to eliminate the increased risk of death associated with high sitting time”.

So even if we go to the gym on a Saturday morning, our absolute inactivity at other times can still be damaging to the body. Low and moderate activity for longer or sustained periods seems to produce the best results. It looks like excessive high-intensity activity (the kind we see in elite athletes) drives metabolism and cell turnover, and may even, when all factors are taken into account, accelerate the ageing process. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 4:21 pm

Tim Scott: Why are Republicans accused of racism? Because we’re silent on things like this.

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Tim Scott, a Republican, represents South Carolina in the U.S. Senate and writes in the Washington Post:

Over the past two years, Republicans have focused on spreading opportunity, and it has paid dividends: From the creation of opportunity zones in some of our nation’s most distressed communities to amazing job-creation statistics and low unemployment rates, there’s no doubt that the future is brightening for many Americans.

However, we are often still struggling when it comes to civility and fairness. This was driven home once again Thursday as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) wondered aloud: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

I will admit I am unsure who is offended by the term “Western civilization” on its own, but anyone who needs “white nationalist” or “white supremacist” defined, described and defended does lack some pretty common knowledge.

Three months ago, a white supremacist killed two black peoplein a parking lot in Kentucky. We are only 18 months from Charlottesville, where white nationalists killed a white woman with a car and severely beat multiple black people. Almost four years ago, a white supremacist murdered nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, S.C. In 1998, white supremacists dragged James Byrd Jr., behind a pickup truck through Jasper, Tex., decapitating him in the process.

hese are just a sliver of the havoc that white nationalists and white supremacists have strewn across our nation for hundreds of years. Four little girls killed in a bombing in Birmingham, Ala., thousands lynched and countless hearts and minds turned cruel and hateful.

When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole. They want to be treated with fairness for some perceived slights but refuse to return the favor to those on the other side.

Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said. Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people.

I do support border security not because I want to keep certain ethnicities out of our nation, but because I support enforcing our laws. I do not care if you come from Canada, France or Honduras, if you break our laws, there should be consequences. But it has become almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation along those lines. That’s in part why I laid out my agenda on civility, fairness and opportunity on Thursday on the floor of the Senate.

King’s comments are not conservative views but separate views that should be ridiculed at every turn possible. Conservative principles mean equal opportunity for all to succeed, regardless of what you look like or where you are from. It is maddening to see so many folks who believe this and have only good intentions in their hearts tarnished by these radical perspectives.

That is why silence is no longer acceptable. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Interesting metal craftsmanship

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The video really just scratches the surface. See the photos in his blog post.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 9:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

I love the Baby Smooth

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“Defiance” seems to be in the air and people start to resist the direction politics has one. With the RazoRock Keyhole synthetic, this soap by Dr. Jon made a very nice lather, and the Baby Smooth easily removed every tangible trace of stubble.

A good splash of Red Cedar aftershave lotion by Anthony Gold finished the job on a very good note.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2019 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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