Later On

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

Archive for October 21st, 2019

Google Has Made Generous Contributions to Climate Change Deniers

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I thought Google’s motto was “Do no evil.” Apparently not. Stephanie Kirchgaessener writes in Mother Jones:

Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis.

Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organizations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticized the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.

Google said it was disappointed by the US decision to abandon the global climate deal, but has continued to support CEI.

Google is also listed as a sponsor for an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella organization that supports conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, a radical anti-science group that has chided the teenage activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics”. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 2:59 pm

Wide-Awake at 3 A.M.? Don’t Just Look at Your Phone

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Joanne Chen of Wirecutter offers six tips to fall back to sleep. From the NY Times:

The only thing worse than feeling completely wired at 11 p.m. when you’re ready for sleep is being stark awake at 3 a.m. Blissfully passing out at an appropriate bedtime is cold comfort when the brain wakes up too soon and refuses to take advantage of those eight full hours. I toss and turn and scrunch up my pillow every which way, exasperated and fixated on the impending doom of the alarm clock set to go off at 6 a.m.

About half of all insomnia sufferers experience this middle-of-the-night “sleep-maintenance” insomnia, either by itself or along with the “sleep-onset” sort, trouble falling asleep in the first place, said Jennifer Martin, Ph.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles.

If, after 20 minutes, you’re still up, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends stepping out of the bedroom and doing some reading or other quiet activity. But I didn’t realize that it’s actually a last-resort tactic. “Get up only when you’re so upset you can’t fall asleep anyway,” said Dr. Martin, an insomnia specialist. In fact, some of the best first-line strategies are pursued (more or less) lying down. The next time you find yourself staring at the ceiling at 3 a.m., try these six things:

For you to fall asleep, your heart rate needs to slow down, said Michael Breus, Ph.D., a Los Angeles area clinical sleep psychologist. But when you get up, you elevate it. So my impulse to use the bathroom just because I’m awake only makes matters worse. “Do that only if you need to,” said Breus, who is also the author of “The Power of When.”

And skip the middle-of-the-night snack, unless you have diabetes or low blood sugar. To prevent untimely internal wake-up calls, keep hydrated during the day so that you don’t drink and fill your bladder before bed. Don’t eat too little or too much for dinner, and keep it balanced, complete with protein and fiber, both of which help sustain blood sugar levels until morning. Most important, avoid alcohol in the evening — although it may make you fall asleep faster, it also disrupts your sleep later in the night.

When you can’t sleep, LED indicator lights on, say, printers and cable boxes can feel intrusive. The same goes for light streaming in through cracks in the curtain.

“They’re point sources of light that your eyes are drawn to, and that can keep you up,” said John Hanifin, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who studies circadian rhythms, the brain’s internal sleep/wake cycle.

Dr. Hanifin covers indicator lights with black electrical tape and wears a sleep mask. (Our top pick has deep eye cups so your eyes can open and shut while you wear it.) Of course, avoid scrolling through your smartphone and turning on the lights. If light outside your window consistently keeps you up, it may be worthwhile to install blackout shades. Here are Wirecutter’s recommendations for the best options.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

A new theory of depression: It’s a disease caused by the body’s immune system

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Alexandra Shimo writes in the Globe & Mail:

The idea that depression might be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain – and not a moral failing – grew in popularity with the invention of the drug Prozac in the late ‘80s, and later with the marketing of this and other antidepressants.

This viewpoint helped reduce the stigma around mental illness, but did not provide a cure-all. Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 per cent worldwide since 2005, according to the World Health Organization. At the same time, so too has the consumption of antidepressants. Canada has the world’s fourth-highest use of these drugs, according to a recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Now a new theory about the cause of depression has emerged: That it is a disease caused by the body’s immune system. The idea is that chronic stress causes hormonal dysregulation, and this leads to depression and other inflammatory disorders, such as arthritis, lupus, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.

One of Canada’s leading proponents of this thesis is Dr. Diane McIntosh, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist, and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and author of the new book, This is Depression: A Comprehensive, Compassionate Guide for Anyone who Wants to Understand Depression.

She spoke to The Globe and Mail about cortisol, blueberry cures and why talking to someone is always a good idea.

In your book, you say that depression should be considered an inflammatory illness. What do you mean?

To understand what inflammation is and how it causes depression, you need to understand the role of the brain’s glial cells. These are the brain’s caretakers: they supply the neurons with nutrients and oxygen, protect the brain from infections, and clean up the brain’s waste products, such as dead neurons. Depression can provoke chronically high levels of cortisol, the hormone that we produce when under stress. Too much cortisol causes the glial cells to stop working properly. Instead, they start spitting out proteins called pro-inflammatory cytokines. They damage the glial cells, which causes them to release more cytokines, causing an inflammatory cascade.

If cortisol is a key culprit, is stress a leading cause of depression?

Yes. Chronic stress causes the body to produce high levels of cortisol, which can lead to depression, but depression itself ramps up the cortisol, which worsens the depression.

Depression isn’t the only illness found to be caused by inflammation. Heart disease, HIV, lupus, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, chronic pain and several forms of cancer have also been called inflammatory disorders. Are all of these related?

Yes. We believe inflammation is a critical factor in the mind-body connection. Chronic stress causes an inflammatory cascade, leading to an increased likelihood of developing diseases linked to inflammation, and those inflammatory disorders increase the risk of depression. This is why a person who has an inflammatory disorder such as heart disease or arthritis is more likely to develop depression.

The theory that depression was caused by low levels of brain serotonin (called the “chemical imbalance theory”) was popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, but has been largely discredited. Is the focus on inflammation merely a new version of this?

No. It’s not that we have abandoned the theory of a causal connection between depression and neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, but we now realize that the brain is much more complex and there are multiple factors involved. Glial cells regulate neurotransmitter levels too. Looking at inflammation, and the relationship between cortisol, glial cells, and neurotransmitters helps us understand what is happening in the brain and body.

If blueberries are anti-inflammatory, will eating them help someone who is depressed?

You can’t blueberry your way out of a depression! Nor will a detox enema help. An anti-inflammatory diet may help to prevent those illnesses associated with inflammation, including depression, but it isn’t a form of treatment.

In your book, you’ve written about exercise as both a form of prevention and treatment for depression. How does it help?

Several studies have found that exercise can be effective as medication or talk therapy for mild to moderate depression. Exercise reduces cortisol and increases a critical protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, that is necessary to grow healthy brain cells, called neurogenesis. The benefits of exercise as a treatment depend on the severity of the depression. Walking or running each day will always help, but for a moderate to severe depression, exercise alone isn’t enough.

If depression is an inflammatory illness, how could talking to a therapist help?

If a person learns how to reframe their situation, for example through cognitive behavioural therapy, they are learning the skills to regulate those areas of the brain associated with processing emotion, such as the amygdala. Over time, new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving can become more natural to the person, even automatic. In essence, each new skill that is taught by the therapist to handle stressful situations lays down new neural pathways, and these shape how the brain functions. How a brain is used determines which parts grow larger and shrink. In the long term, what and how we think moulds the physical shape of our brain.

What about talking to a friend? Can that be as helpful? . . .

Continue reading.

A person may not realize that they have clinical depression, since most people figure that their life is just the way things are. Many also think of depression as sadness, which is another thing altogether. One symptom of depression, for example, is that it takes a lot of effort to get through things day to day, and even though the person may not be at all suicidal, they may still view their ultimate death as a great relief: no more work just getting through each day.

This tested and reliable questionnaire (PDF) can give an indication of a person’s degree of depression. The scoring goes like this:

Score — Level of Depression
0-5 — No depression
6-10 — Normal but unhappy
11-25 — Mild depression
26-50 — Moderate depression
51-75 — Severe depression
76-100 — Extreme depression

Your score will probably vary week to week. Anyone with a persistent score above 10 may benefit from professional treatment. Anyone with suicidal feelings should seek an immediate consultation with a mental health professional.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 2:38 pm

Tempeh batch 5 makes me think about tempeh chili

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I can’t get over how good this batch of tempeh is (technical specifications at the link), and I’m already stimulated by its taste and mouthfeel to starting planning a nice batch of chili. Just from sitting in the refrigerator in an enclosed storage container, the beans on the edges and surface that had dried somewhat and become tough are much more tender today: chewy, still, but like meat. And next time I will use a vented foil tent to cover the incubation dish to ameliorate the desiccation. (I enjoy big words. 🙂 ) The photo shows the condensation that I believe tenderized the tempeh’s tough parts, and at the upper right you can see a few cloves of the Russian red garlic that I’m going to roast with some daikon radish — an experiment motivated by the high potassium content of daikon. (Tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes are also high in potassium, so I am going to be using more of those. Cronometer shows that my potassium tends to run a little low if I’m not careful. See this article on how much potassium you need — and note that most people don’t get enough.)

And this batch is really excellent in terms of both texture and structural cohesion. I think by making sure the beans were dry and also somewhat acidic — and well ventilated, not in a bag — I provided an ideal environment for the mold. This photo shows that the beans, once loose, now make up a slab, welded together by the mold so that the slab stays intact when I hold it just by one end.

So given all that, I started thinking about making a batch of chili. I mostly just make a list of ingredients for reference, so when I’m assembling the dish I don’t forget anything. I adjust amounts as I go, depending on how it looks, so the ingredients list is basically just a sketch. Here’s what I have so far:

Tempeh chili – preliminary draft

1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped, including leaves
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeños, chopped small, including core and seeds
1 red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped — or 1 can whole Hatch green chiles, chopped
10 oz mushrooms, chopped somewhat large
2 ancho chiles, cut up with scissors
5 chipotle chiles, cut up with scissors
2 Tbsp Mexican oregano
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground ancho chili
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
2 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 can Aylmer’s Chili tomatoes (540ml ≈ 18 oz) — or 2 10-oz cans Ro-Tel Original
4-5 tomatillos, chopped; I may use canned tomatillos
[optional: 1 small can chipotles in adobo (peppers cut up with scissors) — increases heat]
6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (the kind without oil — Whole Foods sells them)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 square baking chocolate (or 1.5 Tbsp cocoa powder for fewer calories)
6 or 8 oz tempeh, depending on how it looks
1/2 – 3/4 cup cooked Red Fife (or other wheat), depending on how it looks

After cooking is complete:

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and stirred in
1 lemon, peel removed and blended

Normally I would also include one can of Hatch green chiles, either the small can or the large can. (I much prefer to buy the whole chiles and chop them myself than the diced chiles, which don’t hold up so well in cooking.) But I’ve not been able to find them around here. If I could, I would add them to that recipe. You can, of course, add chopped fresh peppers of other types to the recipe: that increases bulk and nutrients but doesn’t increase calories much at all: Anaheim, poblano, banana peppers would all be good and would not increase the heat.

Regarding the lemon, I’ve figured out the best way to remove the peel. Cut off the ends of the lemon, then cut it in half at its equator. Place each half on its large flat side on the cutting board and cut away the lemon’s skin. Then halve each of the halves, cutting parallel to the equator, and remove the seeds from the slabs. Blend the deseeded slabs. I use my immersion blender and the beaker that came with it. This method includes both pulp and juice to get the most nutrients possible. With a thin-skinned Meyer lemon, I think I would blend the entire lemon after cutting off and discarding the ends: skin and all. Even then, though I would cut it into slabs to make blending easier.

Between the tempeh and the mushrooms, I think meat will not be missed. More after I actually make it (sometime next week, most likely).

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 2:08 pm

Plant-based foods and Mediterranean diet associated with healthy gut microbiome

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Interesting article. Note that the gut microbiome feeds on fiber, and fish have no fiber. This is not to say that fish don’t affect the gut microbiome’s population, but fish definitely does not contribute any food, and the make-up of their food would (I think) have a significant effect on the composition of the microbiome.

Luke Paskins reports in a AAAS news release:

(Barcelona, October 21, 2019) A study presented at UEG Week 2019 has shown that specific foods could provide protection for the gut, by helping bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties to thrive.

Researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands have found that certain foods including legumes, bread, fish, nuts and wine are associated with high levels of friendly gut bacteria that aids the biosynthesis of essential nutrients and the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), the main source of energy for cells lining the colon. The findings support the idea that the diet could be an effective management strategy for intestinal diseases, through the modulation of the gut bacteria.

The experts observed four study groups, the general population, patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The researchers analysed a stool sample provided by each participant to reconstruct the host’s microbiota and compared this with the results of a food frequency survey. The results identified 61 individual food items associated with microbial populations and 49 correlations between food patterns and microbial groups.

The experts found that:

  • Dietary patterns rich in bread, legumes, fish and nuts, were associated with a decrease in potentially harmful, aerobic bacteria. Higher consumption of these foods was also associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers in stool that are known to rise during intestinal inflammation
  • A higher intake of meat, fast foods or refined sugar was associated with a decrease in beneficial bacterial functions and an increase in inflammatory markers
  • Red wine, legumes, vegetables, fruit, cereals, fish and nuts were associated with a higher abundance of bacteria with anti-inflammatory functions
  • Plant-based diets were found to be associated with high levels of bacterial SCFA production, the main source of energy for cells lining the colon
  • Plant protein was found to help the biosynthesis of vitamins and amino acids as well as the breaking down of sugar alcohols and ammonium excretion
  • Animal-derived and plant-derived protein showed opposite associations on the gut microbiota

Gut microbiota

Gut microbiota is the term given to the microbe population living in the intestine. Studies have shown that gut microbes play an important role in human health, including immune, metabolic and neurobehavioral traits. Links have also been made to obesity and a lack of diversity of the microbiota has been shown in people with inflammatory diseases such as IBD, psoriatic arthritis, diabetes, atopic eczema, coeliac disease and arterial stiffness. In these diseases, certain diets have been implicated as risk factors and this new research indicates that gut microbiota may help explain the link between diet and disease.

The burden of intestinal diseases

Intestinal diseases represent a significant cost burden to the European economy, population and healthcare systems. Approximately 3 million people in Europe are affected by IBD and it has an estimated direct healthcare cost of up to €5.6 billion. Obesity presents an even bigger public health concern, with over 50% of the European population considered overweight or obese and associated costs of €81 billion each year.

Commenting, lead researcher Laura Bolte said, “We looked in depth at the association between dietary patterns or individual foods and gut microbiota. Connecting the diet to the gut microbiome gives us more insight into the relation between diet and intestinal disease. The results indicate that diet is likely to become a significant and serious line of treatment or disease management for diseases of the gut – by modulating the gut microbiome”.

To conclude the dietary recommendations that could be derived from the study, Bolte added, “A diet characterised by nuts, fruits, greater vegetable and legume intake than animal protein, combined with moderate consumption of animal derived foods like fish, lean meat, poultry, fermented low fat dairy, and red wine, and a lower intake of red meat, processed meat and sweets, is beneficially associated with the gut ecosystem in our study.”

I don’t eat bread, but I do eat intact whole grains (in fact, I just cooked a batch of Red Fife wheat berries), and I would think that would be even better than bread for the microbiome since the intact whole grain has more dietary fiber than flour.


Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 1:10 pm

The Obscure Charges That Utility Companies Add to Your Bills

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Talia Buford reports in ProPubliica:

New Jersey was reeling from the Great Recession, and Gov. Jon S. Corzine had a plan. Infrastructure projects, he decided, would help the state shake off the country’s worst economic downturn in generations.

In April 2009, the state utility regulator approved nearly $1 billion in projects to install energy-efficient streetlights and replace aging gas lines, and in the process create thousands of jobs across the state.

Utilities wouldn’t have to worry about the cost. Instead of tapping their annual budgets, they were given the green light to impose a surcharge on the gas and electric bills of every customer in the state.

Up till then, such surcharges had been rare, used, for example, in the 1970s when Arab oil-producing countries placed restrictions on exports to countries such as the United States that supported Israel, driving the price of oil to quadruple. Surcharges were used to provide utilities some relief from the volatile oil price swings. But instead of being a one-off, the surcharge championed by the Corzine administration a decade ago helped usher in a new era in the economics of energy.

Across the nation, local and state governments have turned to utilities to address acute and pervasive infrastructure needs, while utility companies have looked to surcharges as a way to finance those projects — and ensure steady profits. Sometimes, utilities have used revenue from surcharges to pay for things other than infrastructure, many of which customers might expect are already included in their rates: tree trimming (Kansas), smart meters (Colorado) and pension costs (Massachusetts).

In New Jersey, gas and electric bills are packed with add-ons that pay for everything from installing solar panels to putting substations on platforms above flood levels. For residential customers, a single charge, added to bills in increments as tiny as a thousandth of a cent per kilowatt hour, can add $35 to $45 a year to costs; for industrial and commercial customers, the charges can add up to tens of thousands of dollars annually. And it’s all on top of the price that regulators have agreed customers should pay for their electricity service.

The use of surcharges has proliferated over the last decade as the energy landscape has changed substantially. The price of oil and gas has dropped as domestic supplies have increased, and residential energy use has plummeted as appliances and lighting have become more efficient. Still, the national average price of electricity has increased slightly over the last decade, with additional surcharges counteracting any potential savings. That means at the end of the day, many customers have likely noticed little, if any change in their final bills.

That remains true in New Jersey, where residential bills last year averaged about $106.28 per month, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Garden State residents consume less energy than residents of almost all other states, but they have the 12th highest price per kilowatt hour in the nation, at about 15 cents in 2018. Some critics say surcharges have made energy costs more opaque and made it harder for customers to know enough about what they’re paying for to push back.

“Some of these costs might be for important projects and initiatives,” said Evelyn Liebman, advocacy director for AARP New Jersey. “But the question is: How do you evaluate whether or not the price that you’re asking people to pay is fair and that the benefits outweigh the costs?”

To see how surcharges have affected electricity bills, ProPublica examined the charges assessed over the last decade by PSE&G, the utility arm of New Jersey’s largest energy company, PSEG. For PSE&G, adding surcharges has proved to be easier for financing projects than raising rates on its 2.2 million electric customers. The state Board of Public Utilities, which approves rate increases, has to approve surcharges, too, but the waiting period between when the utility spends the money and when it recovers it from customer bills is shorter.

PSE&G went eight years before seeking its most recent rate increase — a lengthy, rigorous process intended to ensure that utilities are reasonable in their charges and prudent in their spending. By October 2018, when its most recent “rate case” was completed, the number of surcharges on PSE&G customer bills had grown to 14, from five in 2009. (Of those, three charges are included in the “societal benefits” charge paid by every utility customer in the state and were created by legislation.)

This year, PSE&G has added two more surcharges to customer bills, bringing the current total to 16. Most notably, one surcharge, the Zero Emissions Certificate Recovery Charge, raises $300 million to prop up PSE&G’s three nuclear power plants. That charge applies to all New Jersey customers, regardless of who supplies their power.

Nationally, the average price of electricity has slightly increased over the last decade, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. But PSE&G said that over the last decade, its customer bills have decreased even with the surcharges, which have financed investments in solar power, energy efficiency and infrastructure upgrades.

The company said the spending has helped keep electricity service reliable, created jobs and reduced emissions. “Programs have costs,” Scott S. Jennings, a PSEG senior vice president, said in an interview. “We totally recognize that. But customers are paying far less than was paid in the past.”

PSE&G said the median monthly bill for customers who only receive electricity was $102 in 2019, down slightly from 2008 when it was $105. The median bill for customers who receive electricity and gas dropped to $176 per month in 2019 from $249 in 2008. Some of those savings can be attributed to lower fuel costs.

“We see that as a win for customers, the economy and the environment,” PSE&G said in a statement.

No federal entity tracks utility surcharges nationwide, but they have been followed for years by consumer advocates and regulatory groups. The National Regulatory Research Institute, the research arm of the association for utility regulators, has cautioned states to consider the potential impacts of surcharges before approving them, with a 2009 paper recommending that the fees be approved “only in special situations.” A review of the fees conducted for the AARP in 2012 found that at least 30 states add surcharges to customer bills for an array of purposes.

In New Jersey, the BPU energy director, Stacy Peterson, said the infrastructure work financed through surcharges needs to be done. Surcharges allow work to be completed more quickly, she said, and the BPU ensures the surcharge revenue is spent properly.

“We always have the ability to step in,” she said. “We’re not just approving these blindly.”

But some critics say utility regulators have lost sight of their mission when it comes to approving surcharges, particularly for what amount to routine business costs.

Regulators “need to remember that the public interest does not mean serving the utilities,” said David Nickel, state consumer counsel in Kansas. “It means serving the public. And sometimes that means looking at the utility and telling them ‘no.’” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 12:56 pm

How to Find a Hobby

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Tara Parker-Pope writes in the NY Times in an undated article:

In your quest for a balanced life, have you neglected your hobbies? As children, we are experts at finding hobbies. We play sports, take dance and music lessons, collect action figures and spend our days learning everything from languages to wood shop. But somewhere on the path to adulthood, we stop trying new things and spend less time on our non-career interests. It’s not too late. Use this guide to get inspired, spark your interests and follow your passion toward a new hobby.

Hobbies Are Good For You

Need some convincing that you need a hobby?

Let’s start with some science. A large body of research suggests that how you spend leisure time matters to your health, and that your hobbies are good for you in many ways.

In 2010, a team of researchers from universities in Kansas, Pittsburgh and Texas published the results of four large studies with a total of 1,399 participants, including men and women with various health problems, such as upper respiratory illness, arthritis and breast cancer. The researchers developed a scale called the Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test to measure the effect of hobbies and leisure pursuits on overall health. Here’s what they found:

Better physical health. People who scored higher on the enjoyable activities test had lower body mass index, smaller waists, lower blood pressure, lower stress  hormones and better overall physical function. While it’s possible that people who start out healthy are more likely to engage in hobbies, the findings are consistent with other research showing that having hobbies and other leisure pursuits is associated with a variety of benefits, including less severe disease and greater longevity.

More sleep. While you may think that a hobby will take up too much of your leisure time or cut into your sleep, the Pittsburgh study showed that people who spent more time on their hobbies actually got better sleep.

Lower stress. A large body of research shows that leisure activities can help reduce stress. The Pittsburgh study showed that people who took part in a lot of enjoyable activities dealt better with stressful life events. People who scored high on the enjoyable activities test showed lower levels of negative moods and depression, and higher positive attitudes than their low-scoring counterparts.

Happiness. People who said they participated often in enjoyable activities also had greater life satisfaction and felt their lives had a greater sense of purpose and meaning.

More friends. Notably, spending more time on hobbies and leisure pursuits was associated with having a larger and more diverse social network. And we know that a strong social network is a key factor in healthy aging.

And there’s one additional benefit to having a hobby that may surprise you.

Improved work performance. A study at San Francisco State University found that employees who had creative outlets outside of the office were better at creative problem-solving on the job. The findings were based on studies of 430 workers and military personnel that found that having a hobby gave workers a chance to recover from the demands of their jobs, increased their sense of control and in some cases challenged them to learn new skills that were transferable to work.

A word to the wise: Don’t pick a hobby because it will help you at work. Pick a hobby that makes you happy, and any improvement in your work will just be a bonus!

How to Make Time for a Hobby

Yes, we know you are busy, but hear us out. There is time for a hobby.

Most of us have been taught that when it comes to time, productivity is what matters most. As a result, we’ve structured our lives around work rather than play. But with a little thought, you should be able to find more time in your schedule to do the things you love.

Most of us have free time, we just don’t spend it wisely.

The American Time Use Survey measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, child care, volunteering and socializing. This chart shows how much time full-time employed people spend on various activities during the work week.

Average Hours Per Work Day on Various Activities (Among people who work full time)

• Household chores*: 0.96 hours
• Eating and drinking: 1.11 hours
• Leisure and sports**: 3.04 hours
• Sleeping and personal care: 8.64 hours
• Caregiving (for both children and parents): 0.53 hours
• Shopping: 0.43 hours
• Working: 8.80 hours

*It’s worth noting that the 0.96 hours (58 minutes) spent on household chores is an average. Men spend 49 minutes a day on chores, compared to 80 minutes for women.

**Leisure and sports is another category with a gender difference. Men spend 3.5 hours on leisure and sports, while women spend 2.3 hours.

But those are averages! That’s not me. I’m really busy!

Yes, we believe you! But looking at your time a little differently may help you find that free time you crave.

Think in Weeks, Not Days

Laura Vanderkam, a writer and speaker on work-life balance, recommends thinking of time in weeks rather than days to learn where some extra time might be hiding in your schedule. A week “is really the cycle of life as people actually live it,” she said. Each week is made up of 168 hours. If you work 40 hours and sleep eight hours each night, that still leaves 72 hours. “Maybe you can carve out a few hours of really fun, cool stuff per week. That will make the other 165 hours that are in a week feel a lot more doable,” she explained.

To do that, Ms. Vanderkam recommends tracking a week of your life. You  can write down everything you do in half-hour blocks or use these apps recommended by Wirecutter, the New York Times company that reviews products.

Or you can try this simple calculator to take a look at how you are spending your time. It was created by Erik Rood, a Bay Area analyst and founder of a data science service called Data Interview Qs.

Being a data guy, Mr. Rood was using spreadsheets every few months to evaluate how he was spending his time. After talking with friends and co-workers who were also thinking about how they spent their time, he created a simple tool to track hours spent on various activities, including sleeping, working, commuting, gym, chores, grooming and parenting. He has shared the tool on various forums and with friends. Most people, he says, are fascinated. But after playing with the tool, he says, they sometimes get a bit frustrated about the results, because they don’t think they have as much free time as it suggests.

Try it: Calculate Your Free Time 

Whatever your results, the calculator typically will show that there is some free time in your day, and that if you adjust a few factors, more free time can be found. “There’s a ton of ‘busy’ time, no matter how most people cut it,” says Mr. Rood. “But small changes can have huge impacts on overall free time when extrapolated out through one’s life.”

Are You Mindful of Your Downtime?

One of the reasons our calculations of free time don’t match our reality is that we can lose time doing mindless things like checking email and social media, and clicking around the internet. And sometimes, we just do nothing.  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

To some extent, whether something is a hobby or not is simply how you view and approach it. It’s necessary to prepare meals, and you can view meal preparation as a chore or you can view it as a hobby. To some extent, whether something is a hobby or not depends on whether it engages your interest, and to a great extent that is under your control. If you approach it in a curious and learning frame of mind, it will engage your interest simply because when you look at things thoughtfully and in detail they reveal hidden depths that you can explore.

I find meal preparation for me is a hobby, and whenever I’m preparing a meal, I’m thinking about what I’m doing and asking myself questions—why? are there alternatives? what could be a better way?, a better option? what more could be a part of this? what lessons have I learned? — and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 11:44 am

Rebuttal to six criticisms of The “Game Changers” documentary

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I found The Game Changers to be interesting and credible. At the link you can see where you can stream it (e.g., on Netflix).

Here’s the rebuttal:

That’s from this Klaus Mitchell article in Plant-Based News:

The producer of smash hit documentary The Game Changers has debunked some of the criticisms of his film.

James Wilks wrote and produced the movie with Joseph Pace.

He tackled various objections to the movie – which is directed by Oscar-winner Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by Oscar-winner James Cameron – during an exclusive interview with Plant Based News founder Klaus Mitchell.

Men’s Health

Among the top critics of the film are Men’s Health magazine, which published an article titled This New Documentary Says Meat Will Kill You. Here’s Why It’s Wrong. The piece was disputed by physician Dr. Loomis, who appeared in the movie and wrote a rebuttal My ‘Beef’ with the Men’s Health Review of ‘The Game Changers’.

Speaking about the Men’s Health piece, Wilks told Mitchell: “The article started off saying the whole film was built around the study about the Roman gladiators which I came across. They said it wasn’t a study, it wasn’t peer-reviewed, there was no control group, and it wasn’t published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

“First of all, there was a control group, it was a study, and the research was published in two peer-reviewed scientific medical journals. Second of all, the whole film wasn’t based on the findings of the gladiators. That was just an inciting incident for me to look into other research. The article is extremely biased…the author has sold two books heavily promoting a meat-based diet, and he interviewed two ‘experts’, one of which had pretty poor credentials, the other one is funded by the meat industry…you have to look at what the motives are of people.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 10:39 am

This shave-stick journey ends where it begins for many: Arko

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Arko is often the first experience many men have with a shave stick: it’s inexpensive, effective, and readily available. Its fragrance is not very noticeable—a clean-soap fragrance—and clearly not aimed to making any sort of statement. It’s a utilitarian soap, and quite good at its job.

The lather today was brought forth by Mühle’s Gen 2 synthetic, and it was quite a good lather. I’m liking this Fine slant a lot now that I’ve gauged the appropriate pressure: extremely light, as indicated by the light weight of the razor, a weight that seems totally appropriate in this context.

Three passes to a true BBS result—I’m still feeling my face—and then a good splash of Latha’s witch-hazel-based Post-Shave Splash. This seems to be no longer available, but it has exactly the ingredients of the Bathhouse aftershave splash so I presume it is also bottled from this ready-mix. As I noted in the previous shaving post, this is $34.30 for a gallon (128 fl. oz.), so if you use it for a DIY aftershave (e.g., for yourself and for gifts), you get 32 4-oz bottles of aftersahve: just over $1 per bottle. I would say that’s a bargain. Add to that the cost of the bottles, label stock for your printer, and the essential oil(s) you use for fragrance, it’s still pretty inexpensive. Bathhouse didn’t seem to use any fragrance at all, and it smelled good just from the ingredients.

Worth considering if you’re inclined to do that sort of thing. You’d need: bottles and a suitable orifice reducer (optional) and probably a funnel.

Written by Leisureguy

21 October 2019 at 9:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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