Later On

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Archive for November 9th, 2019

The smart move: we learn more by trusting than by not trusting

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Hugo Mercier, a research scientist at the CNRS (Institut Jean Nicod) in Paris where he works with the Evolution and Social Cognition team, writes in Aeon:

We all know people who have suffered by trusting too much: scammed customers, jilted lovers, shunned friends. Indeed, most of us have been burned by misplaced trust. These personal and vicarious experiences lead us to believe that people are too trusting, often verging on gullibility.

In fact, we don’t trust enough.

Take data about trust in the United States (the same would be true in most wealthy democratic countries at least). Interpersonal trust, a measure of whether people think others are in general trustworthy, is at its lowest in nearly 50 years. Yet it is unlikely that people are any less trustworthy than before: the massive drop in crime over the past decades suggests the opposite. Trust in the media is also at bottom levels, even though mainstream media outlets have an impressive (if not unblemished) record of accuracy.

Meanwhile, trust in science has held up comparatively well, with most people trusting scientists most of the time; still, in some areas at least, from climate change to vaccination, a share of the population doesn’t trust science enough – with devastating consequences.

Social scientists have a variety of tools to study how trusting, and how trustworthy, people are. The most popular is the trust game, in which two participants play, usually anonymously. The first participant is given a small amount of money, $10 say, and asked to decide how much to transfer to the other participant. The amount transferred is then tripled, and the second participant chooses how much to give back to the first. In Western countries at least, trust is rewarded: the more money the first participant transfers, the more money the second participant sends back, and thus the more money the first participant ends up with. In spite of this, first participants on average transfer only half the money they have received. In some studies, a variant was introduced whereby participants knew each other’s ethnicity. Prejudice led participants to mistrust certain groups – Israeli men of Eastern origin (Asian and African immigrants and their Israeli-born offspring), or black students in South Africa – transferring them less money, even though these groups proved just as trustworthy as more esteemed groups.

If people and institutions are more trustworthy than we give them credit for, why don’t we get it right? Why don’t we trust more?

In 2017, the social scientist Toshio Yamagishi was kind enough to invite me to his flat in Machida, a city in the Tokyo metropolitan area. The cancer that would take his life a few months later had weakened him, yet he retained a youthful enthusiasm for research, and a sharp mind. On this occasion, we discussed an idea of his with deep consequences for the question at hand: the informational asymmetry between trusting and not trusting.

When you trust someone, you end up figuring out whether your trust was justified or not. An acquaintance asks if he can crash at your place for a few days. If you accept, you will find out whether or not he’s a good guest. A colleague advises you to adopt a new software application. If you follow her advice, you will find out whether the new software works better than the one you were used to.

By contrast, when you don’t trust someone, more often than not you never find out whether you should have trusted them. If you don’t invite your acquaintance over, you won’t know whether he would have made a good guest or not. If you don’t follow your colleague’s advice, you won’t know if the new software application is in fact superior, and thus whether your colleague gives good advice in this domain.

This informational asymmetry means that we learn more by trusting than by not trusting. Moreover, when we trust, we learn not only about specific individuals, we learn more generally about the type of situations in which we should or shouldn’t trust. We get better at trusting.

Yamagishi and his colleagues demonstrated the learning advantages of being trusting. Their experiments were similar to trust games, but the participants could interact with each other before making the decision to transfer money (or not) to the other. The most trusting participants were better at figuring out who would be trustworthy, or to whom they should transfer money.

We find the same pattern in other domains. People who trust the media more are more knowledgeable about politics and the news. The more people trust science, the more scientifically literate they are. Even if this evidence remains correlational, it makes sense that people who trust more should get better at figuring out whom to trust. In trust as in everything else, practice makes perfect.

Yamagishi’s insight provides us with a reason to be trusting. But then, the puzzle only deepens: if trusting provides such learning opportunities, we should trust too much, rather than not enough. Ironically, the very reason why we should trust more – the fact that we gain more information from trusting than from not trusting – might make us inclined to trust less.

When our trust is disappointed – when we trust someone we shouldn’t have – the costs are salient, and our reaction ranges . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 2:09 pm

Scientist Who Discredited Meat Guidelines Didn’t Report Past Food Industry Ties

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Tara Parker-Pope and 

surprising new study challenged decades of nutrition advice and gave consumers the green light to eat more red and processed meat. But what the study didn’t say is that its lead author has past research ties to the meat and food industry.

The new report, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stunned scientists and public health officials because it contradicted longstanding nutrition guidelines about limiting consumption of red and processed meats. The analysis, led by Bradley C. Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, and more than a dozen researchers concluded that warnings linking meat consumption to heart disease and cancer are not backed by strong scientific evidence.

Several prominent nutrition scientists and health organizations criticized the study’s methods and findings. But Dr. Johnston and his colleagues defended the work, saying it relied on the highest standards of scientific evidence, and noted that the large team of investigators reported no conflicts of interest and conducted the review without outside funding.

Dr. Johnston also indicated on a disclosure form that he did not have any conflicts of interest to report during the past three years. But as recently as December 2016 he was the senior author on a similar study that tried to discredit international health guidelines advising people to eat less sugar. That study, which also appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was paid for by the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, an industry trade group largely supported by agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical companies and whose members have included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill, one of the largest beef processors in North America. The industry group, founded by a top Coca-Cola executive four decades ago, has long been accused by the World Health Organization and others of trying to undermine public health recommendations to advance the interests of its corporate members.

In an interview, Dr. Johnston said his past relationship with ILSI had no influence on the current research on meat recommendations. He said he did not report his past relationship with ILSI because the disclosure form asked only about potential conflicts within the past three years. Although the ILSI-funded study publication falls within the three-year window, he said the money from ILSI arrived in 2015, and he was not required to report it for the meat study disclosure.

“That money was from 2015 so it was outside of the three year period for disclosing competing interests,” said Dr. Johnston. “I have no relationship with them whatsoever.”

Critics of the meat study say that while Dr. Johnston may have technically complied with the letter of the disclosure rules, he did not comply with the spirit of financial disclosure.

“Journals require disclosure, and it is always better to disclose fully, if for no other reason than to stay out of trouble when the undisclosed conflicts are exposed,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University who studies conflicts of interest in nutrition research. “Behind the scenes, ILSI works diligently on behalf of the food industry; it is a classic front group. Even if ILSI had nothing to do with the meat papers — and there is no evidence of which I am aware that it did — the previous paper suggests that Johnston is making a career of tearing down conventional nutrition wisdom.”

Notably, Dr. Johnston and colleagues thought it was important to fully disclose their personal eating habits. The meat paper includes an appendix titled “Summary of Panelists’ Potential Conflicts of Interest,” that discloses whether each author eats red or processed meat and how often. Johnston reported no financial conflicts of interest but disclosed that he eats one to two servings of red or processed meat per week.

“We think that’s a potential bias that is worth disclosing,” said Dr. Johnston about the researchers’ personal eating habits.

Dr. Johnston’s ties to the 2016 ILSI-funded sugar study show how ILSI has methodically cultivated allies in academia around the world, and how it recruits influential scientists to help shape global nutrition advice and counter what it perceives to be anti-food industry guidelines by health organizations.

When Dr. Johnston and his colleagues first published the sugar study, they said that ILSI had no direct role in conducting the research other than providing funding, but later amended their disclosure statement in the Annals after The Associated Press obtained emails showing that ILSI had “reviewed” and “approved” the study’s protocol.

Dr. Johnston said that when he published the sugar study in 2016, he put his connection with the food industry group “front and center.” He said in hindsight he was “naïve” when he agreed to work on the ILSI-funded study about sugar guidelines. It was during a conference call on the sugar study that he realized the extent that industry figures were involved with that organization. He declined to say who was on the conference call. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 2:03 pm

Trump rails against impeachment: ‘They shouldn’t be having public hearings’

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And yet Republicans demanded transparency and in fact stormed a hearing room (in which Republicans were represented) to demand transparency. Odd. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill:

President Trump on Friday said there should be no public hearings in the impeachment inquiry as he railed against the process unfolding in the House.

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax,” Trump said as he left the White House for events in Georgia.

The comments mark a sharp break from Trump’s allies, who have spent recent weeks complaining about the lack of transparency in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The first public hearings in the process are set to take place next week.

House Democrats are investigating allegations that Trump abused his office by urging foreign governments to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his domestic political rival, as well as Biden’s son.

The committees leading the impeachment inquiry this week released transcripts of their closed-door hearings with several current and former officials.

Each of the testimonies indicated that there was widespread concern about the role of Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in the administration’s Ukraine policy and described a campaign by Giuliani to oust a U.S. ambassador.

A few witnesses testified that a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president was contingent on his publicly announcing investigations that Trump wanted.

Trump on Friday blasted the impeachment proceedings in his most extensive public comments since the first transcripts were released on Monday. He attacked Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment process and suggested an attorney for the whistleblower who raised concerns about his call with the Ukrainian president should be sued “and maybe for treason.”

Trump downplayed the potentially damaging effects of the transcripts that have been released thus far, claiming he was unfamiliar with many of the witnesses and that none of them had first-hand information.

“I’m not concerned about anything,” Trump said. “The testimony has all been fine. I mean for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. There are some very fine people. You have some Never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge.”

The president asserted that the only thing that counts is the partial transcript from his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. While Trump has insisted that document shows the call was “perfect,” it depicts the president urging his Ukrainian counterpart to “look into” the Bidens after Zelensky brought up the need for military assistance.

Trump added  . . .

Continue reading.

Emphasis added.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:59 pm

Hillary Clinton’s Zombie Impeachment Memo That Could Help Fell Trump

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Darren Samuelsohn reports in Politico:

document Hillary Clinton helped write nearly a half century ago has returned from the dead to threaten the man she couldn’t vanquish in 2016.

The bizarre, only-in-D.C. twist centers on a congressional report penned by a bipartisan team of young attorneys that included Hillary before she was a Clinton and written in the throes of Watergate. Then, unlike now, not a single lawmaker had been alive the last time Congress impeached a president. They had little understanding of how to try and remove Richard Nixon from the White House. So they tapped Clinton and a team of ambitious staffers to dive into the history of impeachment, stretching back to the 14th century in England: How has impeachment been used? What were the justifications? Can we apply it to Nixon?

The resulting document became a centerpiece of the congressional push to drive the Republican president from office. But then Nixon resigned. The memo was buried.

That was just the report’s first life.

In an ironic twist, the document was resurrected in the late 1990s. Republicans gleefully used it to bolster their unsuccessful bid to oust Clinton’s now-husband, President Bill Clinton. Then it faded from public conscience — again.

Until now, that is. The 45-year-old report has become a handbook House Democratic lawmakers and aides say they are using to help determine whether they have the goods to mount a full-scale impeachment effort against President Donald Trump, the same man who three years ago upended Hillary Clinton’s bid for a return trip to the White House.

Essentially, Clinton, albeit indirectly, might get one last shot at accomplishing what she couldn’t in 2016 — defeating Trump.

“I can only say that the impeachment Gods have a great sense of humor,” Alan Baron, an expert on the topic who has staffed four congressional impeachments against federal judges, said of the recurring role Hillary Clinton keeps playing in this story.

It started in early 1974.

The walls were closing in on a beleaguered President Nixon. His aides were going down one by one. He had tried — and failed — to halt the investigations into his behavior by cleaning house during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”

On Capitol Hill, Hillary Rodham, a 26-year-old law school graduate, was hired by the House Judiciary Committee to work on a bipartisan staff effort to help determine whether to impeach Nixon. She joined a team of aspiring lawyers that also included Bill Weld, who would go on to his own illustrious career as a top Justice Department prosecutor, Massachusetts governor and most recently as a long-shot 2020 GOP primary challenger against Trump.

Over a couple of months just before the climactic end of the Watergate scandal, the team dug deep into constitutional and legal arcana scouring documents that dated to the country’s founding, as well as century-old newspaper clippings in the Library of Congress.

The resulting title of the report, “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” may elicit yawns. But what they produced became a seminal 64-page road map with appendices that looks into what counts as an impeachable offense.

At the time, lawmakers needed the guidance. They had not had to think seriously about these issues for more than 100 years, when Congress rebelled against President Andrew Johnson over his handling of reconstruction after the Civil War.

The staffers’ research broke ground by making an accessible argument that a president doesn’t have to commit a straight-up crime for Congress to consider the historic step of impeachment.

“The framers did not write a fixed standard. Instead they adopted from English history a standard sufficiently general and flexible to meet future circumstances and events, the nature and character of which they could not foresee,” the House staffers, including the future first lady, wrote about the ill-defined constitutional working of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Their exhaustive report also included a whirlwind history lesson about how America’s founders had been well-versed in impeachment when they included the language in several clauses of the Constitution — the British Parliament had used the impeachment process as a check on royalty for more than 400 years, dating to the 14th century.

And the process hadn’t just been used to remove alleged criminals from office. In the United States, 83 articles of impeachment had been voted out of the House up to that point against a dozen federal judges, one senator and Andrew Johnson, and fewer than a third actually involved specific criminal acts. Far more common, they wrote, was that the House was dealing with allegations that someone had violated their duties, oath of office or seriously undermined public confidence in their ability to perform their official functions.

“Because impeachment of a President is a grave step for the nation, it is to be predicated only upon conduct seriously incompatible with either the constitutional form and principles of our government or the proper performance of constitutional duties of the presidential office,” the House staffers concluded.

While the document Hillary Rodham and her colleagues produced got marked as a staff report, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee still used it to justify their historic votes against Nixon. In fact, two of the three articles of impeachment adopted by the powerful panel — dealing with the Republican president’s abuse of power and contempt of Congress — didn’t cover areas that fall neatly into the category of federal crimes. A final staff report submitted to the House just days after Nixon made history as the first president to resign from office quoted from the staff’s earlier analysis.

More than two decades later, though, Clinton may have wished she had never helped write the document.

It was 1997, eight months before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. President Bill Clinton was facing Republican outrage over everything from allegations of campaign finance irregularities to Whitewater, the probe into the Clinton’s Arkansas real estate investments. To legitimize their anger, some Republicans turned to a document that likely hadn’t been discussed for a generation — the 1974 impeachment report Hillary Clinton had worked on.

Georgia GOP Rep. Bob Barr resurfaced the report in a sarcasm-laced op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that opened with the line “Dear Mrs. Clinton.”

The conservative congressman went on to thank the first lady for giving lawmakers a “road map” to consider her husband’s impeachment with a report that “appears objective, fair, well researched and consistent with other materials reflecting and commenting on impeachment.”

“And it is every bit as relevant today as it was 23 years ago,” he added.

In time, both parties would cite from the Judiciary Committee’s 1974 staff report as they fought over whether the conduct associated with President Clinton’s sexual relationship with Lewinsky merited impeachment.

Calling the Watergate document “historic,” then-Virginia GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte argued in the fall of 1998 that Clinton’s offenses, like those of Nixon, had extended beyond questions of obstruction of justice to whether the president betrayed the public trust. Then-Rep. Charles Canady, a Florida Republican chairing a House subcommittee on the Constitution, referred repeatedly to the Watergate panel’s work during the House debate and later in Bill Clinton’s Senate trial, which ultimately concluded with his acquittal.

Democrats, meanwhile, had a different read on the group’s findings.

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who had worked for a member of the Judiciary Committee during Watergate, shared copies of the more than 20-year-old report with colleagues from both parties and posted a link to it online — she had an offer from law school students to type it out so it could be searchable by word but internal ethics rules prevented that move. Her primary argument was that Clinton’s lies about his relationship with Lewinsky, while immoral, didn’t match the historical precedents outlined as qualifying for impeachment in the 1974 staff analysis.

“The interesting thing is they cited it for purposes it didn’t support. I wonder whether they read it or whether they had index cards prepared by their staff,” Lofgren said in a recent interview when asked about the Republicans who were using the report to justify removing Clinton from office.

Ted Kalo, a former top Democratic aide on the Judiciary panel, said there was widespread bipartisan agreement that the Watergate staff report mattered — even amid the differing interpretations.

“Great books have been written and eloquent testimony was given in the 1998 hearing on the topic, but even in 1998, the 1974 staff report was considered to be state of the art,” he said.

“It’s the most concise, easily understood document on the history of the impeachment clause and the intent of the framers, including the issue of what constitutes an impeachable offense that I’ve come across. And it faithfully and logically describes what was intended to be the appropriate scope of the House’s impeachment power,” he added.

Now it’s 2019. President Donald Trump is an unindicted criminal co-conspirator who has fended off myriad congressional probes and watched his aides go to prison over an investigation into the Trump campaign. Most Democrats — not to mention their fervent progressive base — are clamoring for impeachment. And yet again, the 1974 impeachment report is getting a rereading on Capitol Hill.

Just as the Watergate staff suggested, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:54 pm

Batch 7 tempeh after 48 hours

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This is the plain green-lentil tempeh. It has been sitting out on the counter the past 24 hours, just at room temperature, though the mold seems to generate quite a bit of heat. I took its temperature using a digital probe thermometer: 106ºF.

It also throws off a lot of moisture. Last night I cut a hole about the size of a quarter in the center of the foil with which it’s loosely tented and pulled the foil up so that exhaust hole was sort of at a peak. That seemed to work well.

I was going to let it go until this evening, but it seems to be in fine shape already.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Food, Plant-only diet, Recipes

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Philip Pullman’s dark arts

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The Economist 1843 reruns a Robert Butler interview of Philip Pullman that was originally published in 2007:

He had written fairy tales, detective stories, melodramas, thrillers and fantasies. But when Philip Pullman embarked on his trilogy, “His Dark Materials”, he went back to the most fundamental story of all: the one with the snake, the apple and the fig leaf. He recast Adam and Eve as a 12-year-old girl and boy living in parallel universes, who meet, fall in love and spend the night together. This time God, known as the Authority, fades away and dies. “I thought there would be a small audience,” Pullman says, “a few clever kids somewhere and a few intelligent adults who thought, “That’s all right, quite enjoyed it.'” Well, he got that wrong.

The books have been translated into 40 languages and sold 15m copies, and that’s only the beginning. In 2003 and 2004, a stage version was a big hit at the National Theatre in London. This month the phenomenon goes to another level with the release of the film, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It’s produced by New Line, which brought us “The Lord of the Rings” 1, 2 and 3. By the time New Line has worked its way through the trilogy, Pullman’s rewrite of Genesis 3 will have gone far beyond its bedtime-reading, Waterstone’s-shopping, theatre-going constituency. It will have become a story known by people who may not even read.

“His Dark Materials” has its origins in the writings of Milton, Blake and Kleist, but if that sounds literary and erudite, don’t worry, it won’t show: this is a big-budget fantasy movie playing at a cinema near you, and near pretty well everyone else. Its main characters–Lyra, Mrs Coulter, Lee Scoresby–will shortly be as famous as Dumbledore and Gandalf. But there’s a difference. Pullman has written an epic with the entertainment value to capture a mass audience, which simultaneously taps into the same profound themes as Homer and the Bible. It’s a story with a dark and powerful undertow: a creation myth for the 21st century.

Its author sits in the study of his farmhouse near Oxford surrounded by books, Black & Decker woodwork equipment, and a rocking horse that he’s making for a grandchild. Two pugs, Hoagy and Nellie, run in and out. Next door, our photographer and her two assistants are transforming his kitchen into a photographic studio. (“I’ve never been on a front cover, have I?” Pullman says to his wife, Jude, who greets this invasionary force with warm and unconcerned tolerance.) During the shoot, his broad face and high-domed forehead change dramatically when he dons a wide-brimmed hat (a little reluctantly) and a beret (more enthusiastically): as an author, he would rather be cast as a Paris intellectual than a Tory squire.

On the dining-room table next door, a pile of new publications and spin-offs sits next to a picture of Pullman with the new James Bond. “His Dark Materials” comprises three books, “Northern Lights” (1995), “The Subtle Knife” (1997) and “The Amber Spyglass” (2000). It’s “Northern Lights” that has been made into the movie, called “The Golden Compass”– the name of “Northern Lights” in American bookshops. Genesis 3 runs to 24 verses; “His Dark Materials” weighs in at 1,300 pages. Pullman spent seven years in a shed at the bottom of his Oxford garden, doing his three pages a day (no more, no less). About one in ten pages made the cut. The mathematics alone is impressive.

It all began in the last 15 minutes of a wet Friday afternoon in a classroom in Oxford. Or that’s how you would want to tell it. After reading English at Exeter College, Oxford, Pullman did stints working at Moss Bros, the suit-hire shop, and a public library. Aged 25, he qualified as a teacher, mainly, he says, because he liked the idea of the holidays. It was the early 1970s, there was no National Curriculum, no Sats and league tables, and “no bumptious ignorant twit in Whitehall telling me what to do and how to teach”. So Pullman found that he had time to tell stories. He believes all teachers should be able to tell a story “at a moment’s notice to a class for the last quarter of an hour on a wet Friday afternoon”. Not read it, he insists-tell it. “If you’re reading out of a book all the time, nothing changes. But if you tell it face to face, you improvise a bit, you play around…”

He set about this task in a typically deliberate way. In the first term, he decided, he would do the births and deaths of the gods and goddesses, their natures and deeds; in the second term he would do the origins of the Trojan war, which would segue into “The Iliad”; and in the third term, he would do “The Odyssey”. He prepared each week’s story thoroughly so he could tell it without notes. He was teaching three separate classes, which meant telling each episode three times in a week. Again, the maths is impressive. “I must have told each story 36 times.”

It was a perfect apprenticeship, giving him “an unsupervised, unnoticed little area of ground” to cultivate his own talent and find out what kinds of stories he could tell. Others might be good at making people laugh; he wasn’t particularly. “But I was good at doing exciting stuff that kept them listening.” He was drawn to a world of “once upon a time”, “meanwhile”, and “suddenly”, of hidden hands and knocks on the door, of dark, stormy nights, shadows and surprises, ogres and-time and again-orphans. He says he couldn’t do the storytelling now. “I’d be sacked, I’d go to prison: “You’re not fulfilling the requirements of the National Curriculum! Away with you!'”

At each school where he taught, Pullman wrote and produced the end-of-term plays, which enabled him to reach another captive audience: the parents. He treated the parents and children as one audience (he dislikes the business of throwing in sophisticated jokes for the grown-ups) and wrote for both age groups at the same time. “I got better at it. It’s to do with taking your story seriously, laughing, yes, but never scoffing at it, always taking the story seriously.”

His inspiration came from a family-run toy shop in Covent Garden. “I wanted costumes, I wanted colour and spectacle. My source for all this was toy theatre, those lovely little things that you can get from Pollocks. I’ve got the lot. I discovered them as a grown-up and fell in love with them.” Some of his school plays became children’s books: “Clockwork”, “Count Karlstein” and “The Firework-Maker’s Daughter”. Go into a bookshop and Pullman can be found between Marcel Proust and Mario Puzo on the fiction shelves, and between Terry Pratchett and Arthur Ransome in the children’s section. The only difference is the cover.

When Pullman got home from school in the evenings, his eldest son would be doing his music practice (he is now a professional viola player) and Pullman would go to his shed at the bottom of the garden. He is the most successful writer since Roald Dahl to have worked in a shed. “My real life began”, he says, “when I came home from the job and sat at my table and wrote three pages for the day.”

No one could accuse Pullman of under-researching his subject: the heroine of “His Dark Materials” is a 12-year-old tomboy called Lyra Belacqua, and Pullman spent 12 years teaching girls of this age. He taught at three schools in Oxford, one working-class, one middle-class, one in between. The working-class pupils, whose parents mostly worked at the car factories, were very direct and let him know immediately what they thought. The middle-class pupils, many of whose parents were dons, had subtler ways of expressing their disapproval. The three schools were diverse in socio-economic terms, but he discovered that within the classroom the same patterns of behaviour applied. There were certain roles that always had to be filled: the clown, the smelly one who no one wanted to sit next to, and the king and queen.

“If you work out quickly in the first couple of days who the king and queen are, and you direct all your attention to them in the first week or so, get them on your side, you won’t have any discipline problems because everyone follows them. They don’t follow you. They follow them.”

The girls in particular fell into two groups. “There were the . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Books, Religion

Another Remembrance Day story: How an Overweight, Failed Victoria BC Real Estate Agent Won the Great War

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Tristin Hopper reports in The Capital:

Victoria’s Arthur Currie wasn’t charming, well-connected or well-educated. He got crippling stomach pains during periods of high stress, which had caused him to miss the Boer War. In an era of wiry men with distinguished moustaches, Currie was doughy and clean-shaven; few would encounter him without mentioning his enormous girth. In the words of one author, he was “embarrassingly unassuming in appearance and bearing.”

The 40-year-old had been a disastrous real estate developer; on the eve of the First World War he was so ridden by debt that he would embezzle the equivalent of $250,000 from the reserve militia where he was an officer.

Within only two years, however, this was the man picked to stand as the most powerful Canadian who had ever lived. Currie was placed in supreme command of the deadliest army his home country has ever assembled. And in one of the most meteoric ascensions in Canadian history, a man who had exuded little more than stable mediocrity in Victoria would become an unparalleled bringer of death and destruction to Europe.

When Currie had first come to Victoria from Ontario in the 1890s, he had gotten work in Victoria and Sidney as a schoolteacher. He then left to get into real estate, following a path familiar to many modern Victorians: Effortless climbing a real estate bubble, only to be left overleveraged and in ruins when it burst.

But it was Currie’s extracurricular activities as a member of the local militia that would unwittingly place him in the limelight. Joining a Canadian militia in the 1890s was akin to joining a yacht club; it was mainly a good place to find business contacts and secure dinner invitations. But Currie ended up taking the militia far more seriously than most. He pored over military textbooks and absorbed every class or exercise the military could serve up. “When some of my associates were playing lawn tennis or swinging golf clubs, I was at the armouries or on the rifle ranges with the boys,” he would say later.

Under normal circumstances, Currie’s martial enthusiasm would have amounted to little more than an unusual hobby. But Currie lived in the early 20th century, just as Europe was descending into armed, mechanized chaos. As Canada scrambled for officers to command its rapidly swelling volunteer army for the Western Front, Currie found himself on a troopship in charge of the 2nd Infantry Brigade.

Once in Europe, the Victorian quickly rocketed through the ranks until he was commander of all Canadian soldiers in Europe. Not only did Currie keep orchestrating battlefield successes, including the legendary victory at Vimy Ridge, but in a war of tragically mediocre generals, fellow allies began to notice that the overweight Canadian seemed to be the only one who knew what he was doing.

“There was something great and terrible in his simplicity and sureness of judgment, and this real—estate agent … was undoubtedly a man of strong ability, free from those trammels of red tape and tradition which swathed round so many of our own leaders,” wrote the British war correspondent Philip Gibbs.

The British prime minister of the time, David Lloyd George, would call Currie “the only soldier thrown up by the British side who possessed the necessary qualifications for the position.”

n Victoria, Currie had been unable to hold together a minor real estate concern. But when thrown into the worst carnage humanity had ever seen, he thrived as a master of strategy, organization and calm.

“He has made war a business,” one British general would explain of the Canadian.  “He is the managing director; his working capital is the lives of 125,000 Canadians. He carefully watches his expenditure and mentally keeps a profit and loss account of each engagement, and his dividends are many.”

Currie was surrounded by fellow Allied commanders who refused to acknowledge the realities of modern war. Sir Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, never abandoned the romantic notion that the war would be won with cavalry charges. French commanders had been so wedded to tradition that they had sent their soldiers into battle wearing bright red trousers. Even generals in the savvier German ranks had sent countless doomed infantry charges into machine gun fire.

But Currie approached war like a math problem. He had no military pedigree and hadn’t even attended Canada’s Royal Military College. His inexperience made him see the First World War for what it was; a completely new kind of war demanding a completely new kind of tactic.

He grilled fellow allied generals on strategy. He relentlessly picked apart prior battles and had a particular genius to determine what caused certain attacks to succeed and others to fail.

One of the most telling indicators of Currie’s eerie meticulousness came in the aftermath of the Battle of Passchendaele. Currie had attempted to resist Douglas Haig’s orders to capture the inconsequential Belgian village, arguing that it would cost 16,000 Canadian casualties. When he was overruled, he turned out to be almost exactly right; the battle ultimately cost 15,654 Canadian casualties.

Currie may have been fighting an analytical war, but it was no less brutal. He followed the cold calculus of killing as many Germans as he could – as often as he could – believing it the fastest way to restore peace to Europe and bring his men home. Under his leadership, the Canadian Corps became the most enthusiastic users of poison gas on the Western Front. Canadians shot at anything that moved, and bombarded rear German positions constantly. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 11:42 am

Posted in Army, Military

A heart-warming report for Armistice/Remembrance/Veterans Day

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Christy Somos reports for

The recently-built village of tiny homes for Canadian veterans in Calgary is set to receive its new tenants today, as the Homes for Heroes Foundation marks the beginning of a pilot project to provide housing and other support to struggling ex-servicemen.

“The idea behind the village is to bring the veterans together so that they can interact and support each other,” said veteran support worker Don Mcleod on CTV’s Your Morning Friday

“We find them, we’re going to house them, and we’re going to give them the opportunity to engage with programs we’re going to provide for them,” he said.

Mcleod said he had interviewed around 16 veterans so far and found that “the majority are coming from the homeless environment,” with financial, mental health or substance use difficulties.

“The program… will give them a place to stay and sleep, and then we can work together as a team to move them forwards… in their lives,” said Mcleod, adding that the “ultimate goal” will be to transition the veterans back to independent living in the broader community.

Mcleod said that the response from the community has been “incredible,” with organizations like the local foodbank and Veterans Affairs “stepping up” to provide support.

“We’ve had so many different organizations working so hard to assist in this project, which is why I say this is going to be such a wonderful success,” he said. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 11:25 am

I give up on Czech & Speake shaving soap

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Starting the Simpson shelf of brushes with the Case, and since it’s a small brush I chose the travel-size puck of Czech & Speake in the nifty (and hefty) machined aluminum case with a screw top. The soap is simply terrible, one of the worst shaving soaps I’ve used. I knew it was bad but I kept trying to ignore that because this sucker cost so much — though, truthfully, I suppose the “sucker” here is I.

I was careful to load the brush very well, remembering past experience. It did no good: there was almost no lather for the second pass, and for the third pass I had to reload. I’m going to pry out the soap and put in soap that will produce a decent lather, probably by grating a puck of (say) Arko and pressing it into the cavity. Once I’ve made lather from it, the moisture will weld it together.

There was another terrible shaving soap that was quite similar in (lack of) performance: Caswell-Massey. Czech & Speake is as bad if not worse. Maybe it was a terrible batch. I’ll never know because I will never again buy that brand.

Still, the Lupo delivered an excellent shave in terms of closeness and efficiency. There’s rather more blade feel than one would want for extreme comfortable, but it’s certainly comfortable enough and I got no nicks — and the smoothness is remarkable.

A splash of Alt-Innsbruck with the old menthol kick and I’m ready for the weekend to roll.

Did you watch The Game Changers on Netflix? One guy posted that the movie was made to sell product, and I’m baffled. I did not see a single product placement (no big, glowing Coke or Pepsi machines, for example, or cans of soda or beer with the brand name carefully turned toward the camera) or product mention in the movie, but maybe I missed it. Did anyone who saw it notice any pushing of product?

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2019 at 9:25 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Shaving

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