Later On

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

Archive for October 5th, 2019

Documentary on the lone wolf living on an islet near Vancouver Island

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Fascinating documentary, and a very handsome wolf, living in isolation.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Why do people get hungry an hour after eating Chinese food?

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Joe Schwarcz PhD writes for McGill University Office for Science and Society:

As far as I know, this is all anecdotal and nobody has ever done a study to determine if this is actually true. To start with, not all Chinese meals are alike. “American” Chinese food with its bevy of egg rolls, chow mein, and spare ribs is very different from what is consumed in China. Even in China there are large geographic differences with a wide range of meat consumption and rice being popular in some regions and noodles in others. The lack of satiety accusation is usually aimed at American Chinese food with monosodium glutamate (MSG) often targeted as a culprit. There is no evidence whatsoever that MSG interferes with satiety, indeed if anything, it may have the opposite effect. Proteins, which break down during metabolism to amino acids, have been shown to decrease ghrelin, the appetite stimulating hormone, and boost leptin, the hormone that curbs appetite. Monosodium glutamate is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, a common amino acid, and could conceivably play a role in increasing leptin levels. In general, high protein foods, Greek yogurt being an example, have been shown to have a high satiety value.

Chinese meals tend to be rather low in protein. They are also low in fiber, which seems to decrease hunger. Fiber is the indigestible component of grains, vegetables and fruits and fills the stomach before it is eliminated, and a full stomach decreases the release of ghrelin. Pectin in apples and beta-glucan in oat bran are forms of soluble fiber that have been shown to increase the time before hunger appears. There is also the suggestion that western diets often contain potatoes which have a very high satiety value, and by comparison, Chinese meals, which do not feature potatoes therefore leave you feeling hungry.

The “satiety value (SI)” of various foods has actually been investigated by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia. Volunteers consumed a variety of foods, each containing about 240 calories, and then every fifteen minutes reported their feelings of hunger. White bread was chosen as a standard and assigned a Satiety Index of 100, with other foods being evaluated on whether they provoked less or more hunger than the standard. In general, foods that rank high, meaning they satisfy hunger for a longer time, are foods with high protein, water or fiber content. Boiled potatoes turn out to have the highest SI, followed by oatmeal, oranges and apples. As a class, fruits have the highest SI and bakery products such as croissants and doughnuts have the lowest. Eggs, steak, brown pasta, popcorn and baked beans are also satisfying. Interestingly, fat content correlates negatively with satiety. It should be pointed out that the satiety index is just a measure of the onset of hunger and does not relate to the nutritional quality of the foods.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Science

The long-needed modernization happening in our bathrooms

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Matthew Hague reports in the Globe & Mail:

Four years ago, Ivan Gochko had a bit of bad luck: His mother was hospitalized, then he broke his own leg, which made him realize, painfully and personally, how tricky it can be for someone with a disability to lower one’s rear to 14 inches – the standard seat height of the average toilet. Researching ways to improve the ergonomics of his and his mom’s bathrooms, he realized that the design of our lavatories generally makes little sense.

Human bodies have evolved to squat low to the ground during defecation, whereas modern, western loos are made for sitting upright, as though we’re about to pull up to the table at a fancy dinner party. The ultra-erect position, which can cause constipation by kinking the colon into an awkward position (imagine a pinched water hose), gets worse with the kind of raised-up seats commonly used to help people with mobility issues.

At the time of his injury, Gochko co-owned a commercial construction company in Toronto, so had a thorough understanding of complex plumbing. That experience gave him the confidence to build his own throne, one that raises and lowers so that it’s easy to get on before reaching an ideal squatting height of around 10-inches off the ground. While he was at it, he wanted to try to eliminate some other design flaws, including excess water usage and harmful bacteria that can build up in the bowl, especially if someone is on crutches and unable to clean it. In other words, he set out to invent the perfect place to poop.

Such toilet innovation is long overdue. While most modern homes, and the appliances therein, look nothing like they would have at the beginning of the 20th-century – a time before open-concept was a concept at all, let alone other mod-cons such as microwaves and robot vacuums – the bathroom has barely changed.

The design of our lavatories can be traced back to a Victorian desire for more sanitation and less deadly cholera. The features – plumbing that pumps water into and out of everyone’s homes to prevent reliance and disease-spreading shared bath houses, johns and drinking wells – solved the problems of the 1800s (with toilet bowls and tanks popularized by someone whose actual name was Thomas Crapper). But more can be done to address the problems of today, such as the wonky ergonomics Gochko experienced, but also the inefficiency inherent in the space. Most bathrooms produce an incredible amount of waste. The world flushes more than 270,000 trees into the sewer system every day in the form of toilet paper; Americans alone dispose of an average of US$31-billion of paper down the drain every year, while modern plumbing has ballooned our daily use of water from a preindustrial average of three gallons a day for each person to between 80 gallons and 100 gallons, depending on the country.

Recently, though, a number of innovators such as Gochko have decided to rethink the bathroom, promising updates that could improve the functionality and performance, some of which save money in the process. “It’s true that bathrooms haven’t changed much,” says Matt Daigle, the New Brunswick-based founder of Rise, an online information source for sustainable home repairs. But according to him, a great goal in building a better bathroom is to lower the environmental and economic costs of running it. “A low-flow toilet [under 1.3 gallons a flush] is a no-brainer to reduce water consumption. Bidets attachments are a great way to stay clean while minimizing paper usage,” he says.


Bidet solutions are available from the likes of Tushy, which offers an easy toilet attachment.

One of the reasons bidets are getting attention in North America is because of Montreal-born, Brooklyn-based Miki Agrawal. She’s best known as the controversial founder of Thinx, the underwear brand designed for menstruating women to replace pads and tampons (she stepped down after staff complained of harsh working conditions). Now, she’s focusing on a newer venture called Tushy, which sells bidet attachments that cost between US$70 and US$100 and lock onto just about any toilet. Using only the water pressure of the existing plumbing and no additional electricity, Tushy sprays to clean the genitals which, according to the company, can save up to 80 per cent of toilet paper used (Tushy sells bamboo-based, sustainable rolls for those who want to use a few squares to pat dry).

Until recently, bidets have been more common in Europe and Asia, but “I think we’re getting a little less puritanical in North America,” says Tushy CEO Jason Ojalvo, who led Amazon’s Audible audiobooks division before helming the startup. Maybe it helped that Kylie Jenner bought a bidet-style toilet on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, but since Tushy was founded in 2015, they’ve sold more than 50,000 units and are expected to triple sales in 2019.

Japan has long been a global leader in bathroom design and one of their most influential toilet makers, Toto, is also gaining popularity in North America. The company’s sales grew by 30 per cent between 2014 and 2018, largely with models that have bidet-enable seats. But they are also trying to improve public restrooms across the continent. Partnering with a division of Georgia-Pacific Corp., a toilet paper company, they have embedded sensors in toilets to better understand how the hardware actually performs. Some of the early findings have perhaps been obvious – such as the revelation that toilet stalls in airports aren’t big enough to accommodate both a traveller and their carry-on luggage, or that women’s washrooms should be larger than men’s because stalls take up more space than urinals and women statistically need to use the washroom more often (hence the lines). Other insights are more nuanced, such as that men tend to use sit-down toilets more in the mornings and urinals more in the afternoons, so they might need different, time-based cleaning schedules to ensure maximum freshness.

“We’re collecting data that we’ve never had before,” Bill Strang, Toto’s North American president, says. “Soon, it will hopefully allow us to have bathrooms that reflect what people actually need, no outdated guidelines that are based on convention as opposed to reality.”

For Gochko, his toilet design, based on ergonomic measurements, isn’t commercially available yet (the goal is April, 2020), but it’s already been praised by influential eco blog Treehugger.com as possibly “the biggest advance in toilet design in over a hundred years.”

Called the Orca Helix, the design has so far cost more than $400,000 to develop, with Gochko trying to raise another $30,000 through an Indiegogo campaign while also looking for investors. The prototype is nearly ready though and looks a bit like Darth Vader’s helmet but upside down. Smart phone-enabled, it works by moving up and down a central shaft. It starts at a high position of 20 inches (“a good height for men to stand at,” Gochko says), then lowers to a minimum of 10 inches off the ground (achieving the same squatting position that little toilet-side stools such as Squatty Potty offers). At the end, it rises up again for an easy dismount.

The toilet is also designed to be more water efficient. It uses a vacuum suction, similar to the kind found on airplanes and requires 0.6 gallons of water, or less than half the H2O of a standard low-flow loo. For better sanitation, it’s equipped with a UV light that literally zaps germs in the bowl. “But the light is just the first stage,” Gochko says. Once the lid – which has bi-fold, wing-like flaps, a bit like the DeLorean car in Back to the Future – closes, it lets out a blast of steam from a set of embedded vents. “It prevents bacteria from building up that conventional cleaners just don’t get rid of,” he says. “And it means you won’t have to clean it as often.” And these days, when virtually none of us have Victorian chamber maids yet almost all of us have over-demanding schedules, who has time for that any more?


Add some wow to your washroom

Toilet tech isn’t the only innovation transforming our bathrooms. Here, four other standout inventions including futuristic sinks, showers, soaps and scrub brushes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 2:24 pm

Latest tempeh—lentils, black beans, and chia seed—in the incubator

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The incubator is the oven with the light turned on. I cooked 1 cup of dried black beans and (separately) 1 cup of dried green lentils. When the lentils were almost done, I added 1/4 cup chia seed, which thickened the mix noticeably. I think I might go with 2 tablespoons next time, but we’ll see.

I mixed drained beans and lentils and chia seed in a stainless steel bowl and put it in the fridge to accelerate cooling. Once it was at 95ºF, I stirred in 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar (unsweetened) and the tempeh starter, then put it in the 4 ziplock sandwich bags I had perforated with the small-hole punch. They came to around 10 oz each. (I weighed as I went to keep them of equal size.)

I put a tight-grid wire rack on a rimmed baking, arranged the flattened blocks of ur-tempeh, put another rack upside down on them, and put my No. 12 Field Company skillet on that for a weight. They’re in the oven now and by noon Monday should be ready—12:45 pm to be exact (for 48 hours).

I made an especially tasty lunch, but you’re probably tired of my recipes, which do tend to bear a strong resemblance one to another. This one had store-bought tempeh, Russian hard-neck garlic (here for its brief fall appearance), lots of scallions, fresh turmeric, fresh kale (just 4 leaves), 8 oz. domestic white mushrooms (chopped, which I’m doing now instead of slicing), and 8 oz canned borlotti beans. The usual spearmint, marjoram, black pepper, and horseradish, reasons for which are all given in Part 2 of How Not to Die, which explains his dietary recommendations. I used my Field Company No. 10 skillet and 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and after adding the kale I added about 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth. It really tasted good, and it’s enough for both lunch and dinner.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 2:18 pm

In Stockton CA, Early Clues Emerge About Impact of Guaranteed Income

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Sarah Holder reports at CityLab.com:

A totaled car. A mother with cancer. Two kids at home, with field trips and Quinceañera outfits and football gear to pay for. Rent bills of $1,250 due each month. Two jobs—one part-time—both paying around $15 an hour, supplemented by unpredictable child support payments. Lorrine Paradela used to lie awake at night, thinking through all her expenses and income streams, struggling to breathe from the stress of it all.

Now, Paradela says, she’s started sleeping again. She’s one of 125 Stockton, California, residents who have been receiving an unconditional $500-a-month payment since February, as part of the first mayor-led guaranteed income initiative piloted in the United States. Called Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), it’s the passion project of Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and funded by the Economic Security Project, a nonprofit that sponsors other guaranteed income experiments. Eight months into the 18-month project, researchers have released preliminary data about who’s participating, what they’re spending the money on, and how raising the income floor can change the entire structure of a life.

All adult Stockton residents living in neighborhoods where the annual median income was at or below the city’s average of $46,033 were sent postcards last year, inviting them to participate in the project. A smaller group was randomly chosen to receive money from the eligible pool who responded; and a control group, which isn’t receiving money, agreed to share financial information about themselves, too. In Stockton—a diverse, high-poverty city a few hours away from the tech epicenters of Silicon Valley and San Francisco—many residents are in need of such a boost, making it an ideal testing ground for SEED. Unemployment rates in the county reach about 7.5 percent, higher than the state average of 4.3 percent. Stockton is ranked 18th for child poverty out all U.S. cities.

But the Universal Basic Income concept, which has roots dating back to the Civil Rights Era, has recently gained more national traction: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is campaigning on the idea that, to prepare for a future when automation makes most jobs obsolete, all Americans should be paid a “freedom dividend” of $1,000 a month—a sentiment shared by tech founders like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Other Democratic candidates—Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker—are proposing guaranteed tax refunds for low-income families, and interest-accruing “baby bonds” accounts for all American children, respectively.

Detractors of guaranteed income say they’re concerned that free funds will discourage people from working—or encourage spending on what they’d consider the “wrong” things. Countering these narratives is one of Tubbs’ goals with SEED; the project has been described as “a hand up, not a hand out.”

“In Stockton, like much of America, there’s this Puritan ethos of, ‘I work hard. If you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat,’” said Tubbs. “And [we’re] really illustrating to people, no, just like you there are people who are working hard who are struggling—not because they’re lazy, but because wages haven’t kept up with inflation, wages haven’t kept up with costs.”

About 43 percent of SEED recipients are currently working full or part-time, according to the researchers—11 percent are taking care of parents or children, 20 percent reported a disability, 8 percent had retired, 5 percent were students, and only 2 percent said they weren’t actively looking for work.

And the economic decisions they made during the first five months of the program were “really rational,” said Stacia Martin-West, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work and the co-principal investigator on the project. Each recipient was given a debit card that automatically loads with $500 each month, so the researchers can categorize spending.

Of the money tracked, 40 percent went towards food. Sales and merchandise made up another quarter of the monthly spending, and about 12 percent was spent on utilities.

Not everyone trusted the trackable debit card, however, said Amy Castro Baker, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the other co-principal investigator. “Stockton is a city that’s had experience in the past with many predatory lenders and un-banked or underbanked, neighborhoods,” she said, and some recipients have watched as other basic income experiments shut down without warning. To protect themselves, many people transferred money into traditional financial institutions or withdrew cash, using it the way they normally would: at the farmer’s market, or to pay their babysitter.

Allowing people to spend the money how they want, when they want, without oversight or judgement, is the point. “Because Stockton is so diverse, it was important to show the country and the city, to challenge tropes we have about people of color in particular … about their work ethic, intelligence, capacity,” said Tubbs. “To really show that, no: people can trust the vast majority of people to make good decisions.”

***

When Paradela, who works with children who have autism, first got the SEED postcard in the mail, she was skeptical. Getting a large, no-strings-attached grant like this seemed too good to be true.

After talking to researchers and social workers about the program, Paradela felt a little more confident. And when the money finally showed up that first month, “it came just in time,” she said: Her car battery had died, and she needed money to fix it. A few months later, her car was hit by a driver making an illegal U-turn. If the vehicle stayed out of commission, she wouldn’t be able to get to work, or visit her mother in the hospital down in Hollister.

Recovering from an accident like this can plunge many Americans into debt: The Federal Reserve Board estimates that 40 percent of Americans can’t cover an unexpected $400 expense; other studies put that destabilizing amount at $1,000. If it had been a normal month, Paradela wouldn’t have been able to cover it, either. “I don’t like asking for help,” she said.

But through SEED, the help came without her having to ask, as it has every month since. Paradela was able to make a down payment on a replacement car, and is now using the funds to cover her insurance.

Other Stockton residents are using the funds to plug more consistent income gaps, researchers say. “As we’re talking about guaranteed income at a national level, one of the things we often hear is that $500 doesn’t go that far, or isn’t that much,” said Martin-West. But the household median monthly income of SEED recipients was $1,800 a month, and the average was $2,700. (The median national household income is about $3,500). Adding $500 in guaranteed income to a $1,800 salary boosts those monthly earnings by about 30 percent.

One danger of supplementing low wages is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

What You Need to Know About Pneumonia and Flu Shots

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Christopher Labos MD writes at McGill Office for Science and Society:

Recently, Oprah got pneumonia. Then she went on Ellen to recommend that everyone get their flu and pneumonia shots. Given that only 42 per cent of Canadians over the age of 65 got the pneumonia vaccine in 2016, maybe Oprah can get us over the 80 per cent target.

Sadly, Oprah has not always been a strong advocate for science. She gave a platform to Jenny McCarthy when she started claiming that vaccines caused her son’s autism, and she also introduced the world to Dr. Oz.

But as Oprah explained to Ellen, pneumonia is no joke. Around 1.5 million people are hospitalized with pneumonia every year. Around 100,000 die in hospital and a third of people hospitalized with pneumonia die within the year.

Older patients are at greater risk and so are those with pre-existing lung disease. Smoking is also a risk factor for pneumonia, so if you need an extra incentive to stop smoking, this is it. But the main way to prevent pneumonia is with vaccines.

Pneumonia and the flu are not the same thing, of course. The flu is a viral infection caused by the flu virus, and pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pneumoniae (sometimes also called pneumococcus). However, people who get the flu are more likely to get pneumonia, which is why the flu shot is often cited as a way to prevent pneumonia. But the flu does not “turn into” pneumonia as many people say. What happens is that after being infected with influenza, they then get a secondary infection with pneumococcus. Thus the main ways to prevent pneumonia are to get the flu shot, get the pneumonia vaccine, and of course quit smoking.

The problem with the pneumonia vaccine is not one of efficacy. A Cochrane meta-analysis of 18 randomized trials found that the pneumonia vaccine led to a substantial reduction in infections. The problem is which pneumonia vaccine to give people.

There are essentially two types of pneumonia vaccines. The first type is a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV), which was first introduced in 1977 and protects against 23 types of pneumococcus. It is usually sold under the name Pneumovax-23. However, there is also a newer pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which is usually sold as Prevnar-13 or Prevar-7 or Synflorix depending on whether it protects against 13, seven or 10 serotypes.

At first look, the Pneumovax-23 vaccine would seem obviously superior since it protects against more pneumonia strains. But the conjugate Prevnar vaccine offers some other advantages. Whereas Pneumovax-23 is not effective in infants and children, Prevnar-13 is. Also, the Prevnar conjugate vaccine can stimulate an immune response in the mucosal lining of the nose, which is where most bacteria live. This has the indirect effect of making it less likely that you will pass on the bacteria to someone else. In addition, Prevnar-13 protects against serotype 6A, which is not found in the Pneumovax-23 vaccine, and the immune response of Pneumovax tends to wane after five to 10 years, which might require a booster.

While there is an obvious benefit for children, it is not really clear whether adults should get one or both vaccines. The CDC recommends people over 65 have both, whereas Health Canada is more ambivalent (though it does recommend both in people with weakened immune systems). The incremental benefit of getting both if you’ve already had one vaccine might seem small, especially if you are asked to pay out of pocket. Also, while Pneumovax and Prevnar protect against the most common pneumoccocus strains that cause pneumonia, more than 90 such strains exist, so they do not offer 100 per cent protection. Still though, the pneumonia vaccine will go a long way to reducing your likelihood of getting very sick. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 12:02 pm

Col. Conk and a fine lather, with The Holy Black SR-71 slant

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Col. Conk was held in very low esteem some years back as artisanal shaving soap vendors began to arise, and yet withal it makes a very nice lather indeed, which seems to be a characteristic of glycerin soaps (at least when the water’s reasonably soft). The fragrance falls short—certainly not unpleasant, but not very present—but the lather is as good as Mama Bear or Kell’s Original, though the later clearly are leagues ahead in scent.

My Maggard 22mm synthetic easily loaded and made the same fine lather as my Mama Bear shave sticks, but without the magic feeling of brushing a wet stubble and having lather spring up as did the original Spartan soldiers when Cadmus sowed the dragon’s teeth Athena gave him.

The Holy Black’s SR-71 slant somehow ended up in the back of my razor drawer, found only now when I am working through all the slants. It will now be up where I can use it more often because it is indeed a very nice slant. It is a Merkur 37 clone—think “37B”—and the stocky handle is hefty because it’s made of brass. Like the Merkur, this is a two-piece razor—twist the base to unscrew the cap—and the SR-71’s handle is the same length as the Markur 37 handle, though the larger diameter and greater heft make it feel as though it were stubby.

The SR-71 handles quite well, and it feels good on the face. Three passes produce a BBS result. This is a very nice little razor, and I’ll not let it slip away again.

It’s always a good thing to use Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, and its woody fragrance made up for Col. Conk’s lack of presence.

Altogether a fine shave to start the weekend, and I’m glad to have the SR-71 in rotation once more.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 October 2019 at 10:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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