Later On

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

Archive for November 14th, 2019

Speech pathologist teaches her dog to use a soundboard and now it communicates in sentences

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Tod Perry writes in Upworthy:

Christina Hunger, 26, is a speech-language pathologist in San Diego, California who believes that “everyone deserves a voice.”

Hunger works with one- and two-year-old children, many of which use adaptive devices to communicate. So she wondered what would happen if she taught her two-month-old puppy, a Catahoula/Blue Heeler named Stella, to do the same.

“If dogs can understand words we say to them, shouldn’t they be able to say words to us? Can dogs use AAC to communicate with humans?” she wondered.

Hunger and her fiancé Jake started simply by creating a button that said “outside” and then pressed it every time they said the word or opened the door. After a few weeks, every time Hunger said “outside,” Stella looked at the button.

Soon, Stella began to step on the button every time she wanted to go outside.

They soon added more buttons that say “eat,” “water,” “play,” “walk,” “no,” “come,” “help,” “bye,” and “love you.”

“Every day I spent time using Stella’s buttons to talk with her and teach her words just as I would in speech therapy sessions with children,” she wrote on her blog.

“Instead of rewarding Stella with a treat for using a button, we responded to her communication by acknowledging her message and responding accordingly. Stella’s voice and opinions matter just as our own do,” she continued.

If Stella’s water bowl is empty, she says “water.” If she wants to play tug of war, she says, “play.” She even began to tell friends “bye” if they put on their jackets by the door.

Stella soon learned to combine different words to make phrases.

One afternoon, shortly after daylight savings, she began saying “eat” at 3:00 pm. When Hunger didn’t respond with food, she said,”love you no” and walked out of the room. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more including some videos of Stella in action.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

Enjoyable series on Netflix: “Samurai Gourmet”

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Enjoyable for a foodie, I suppose: lots of nice shots of appetizing food, a comfortable story line, and short (25-minute) episodes. Watch a few. It’s based on a comic book, of all things.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 10:04 am

A Trump Tax Break To Help The Poor Went To a Rich GOP Donor’s Superyacht Marina

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The GOP is looting the US. They’re taking as much money as they can, regardless of the damage they’re doing. It’s like when the Mafia tells a restaurant owner “We’re partners now,” and starts selling off stock, cutting food quality, and in general extracting as much money as possible before the business fails as a result.

UPDATE: Matt Stoller in this column describes the Mafia Method (now the GOP Method):

There’s a scene in the classic mafia movie Goodfellas, where the mobsters pledge to protect the owner of a restaurant at which they hang out. In return for protection they get a regular payment. Whether business is good or bad, it doesn’t matter, their line to the owner is, “Fuck you, pay me.”

At first they get paid out of profits, but sometimes the restaurant doesn’t do well.

Fuck you, pay me.

Tax problems? Rent problems? Doesn’t matter.

Fuck you, pay me.

And so forth. As the owner begins bleeding cash, the mobsters begin working with the owner to liquidate what they can. They run down the restaurant’s credit by buying liquor and selling it half off. Finally they burn down the restaurant for the insurance money. This is called a ‘Bust Out,’ which is the final attempt to steal everything in sight before the game is up.

Justin Elliott, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Kyle Edwards report in ProPublica:

The Rybovich superyacht marina lies on the West Palm Beach, Florida, waterfront, a short drive north from Mar-a-Lago. Superyachts, floating mansions that can stretch more than 300 feet and cost over $100 million, are serviced at the marina, and their owners enjoy Rybovich’s luxury resort amenities. Its Instagram account offers a glimpse into the rarefied world of the global 0.1% — as one post puts it, “What’s better than owning a yacht, owning a yacht with a helicopter of course!”

Rybovich owner Wayne Huizenga Jr., son of the Waste Management and Blockbuster video billionaire Wayne Huizenga Sr., has long planned to build luxury apartment towers on the site, part of a development dubbed Marina Village.

Those planned towers, and the superyacht marina itself, are now in an area designated as an opportunity zone under President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax code overhaul, qualifying them for a tax break program that is supposed to help the poor.

Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott bestowed the tax break on the marina after a direct appeal from Huizenga Jr., according to a 2018 letter Huizenga Jr. wrote that was obtained by ProPublica. Huizenga and his family have been major donors to Scott. Even though the opportunity zone program is supposed to subsidize only new investment, Huizenga cited the already-planned Marina Village in his appeal to Scott.

Noting the “significant private sector investment that is poised to take place,” Huizenga wrote, “This project has been planned for some time as part of the larger Marina Village initiative which incorporates the Rybovich working waterfront marina.”

The state of Florida, based on an analysis of unemployment and poverty rates, had not originally intended to pick the census tract containing the superyacht marina for the program. But those plans changed in response to Huizenga’s lobbying, according to documents from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity obtained by ProPublica.

A little more than a week after the Huizenga letter, Scott announced his opportunity zone picks, which included the Rybovich marina area. At the same time, Scott rejected other, poorer tracts that the city of West Palm Beach had asked to be named opportunity zones.

Two other Scott donors, both billionaires, also benefit: Jorge Pérez, the Related Group chairman and CEO known as the condo king of South Florida; and Stephen Ross, a prominent Trump fundraiser, real estate magnate, and Miami Dolphins and Equinox gym part-owner. Ross’ Related Companies owns a quarter of Related Group, which is Rybovich’s partner on the planned Marina Village development.

It’s unclear how valuable the tax break could be, and the public may never know because the Trump law included no public reporting requirements. But Pérez recently boasted that the new subsidy would add jet fuel to the investment returns, telling Bloomberg this year: “It worked as a market-rate rental. Now, it works that much better as an opportunity zone.”

Huizenga and Pérez weren’t the only beneficiaries of Scott’s largesse. In a separate case in Tampa, the Florida documents show, Scott made a wealthy downtown area an opportunity zone at the request of a firm controlled by yet another billionaire donor, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. This, too, does not involve a new investment. Since as early as 2014, Vinik has been planning a massive redevelopment project in the area that will include luxury residences, hotels and shops.

Trump has hailed the opportunity zone program. Opportunity zones “are doing unbelievably well. And you’ll see that, and you’ve already seen it,” he said in August. “And the biggest beneficiary there is African Americans.”

But in Florida, the tract selections highlight one significant vulnerability in the opportunity zone process. The Trump tax law gave governors the authority to distribute valuable tax breaks, and they have wielded it to benefit the politically connected.

“That’s the real scary part of this program, that you give such incredible power to politicians to designate zones,” said Nathan Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies economic development. “The fact that this process was not transparent in almost any state is shocking.”

Previous revelations about billionaires taking advantage of the opportunity zone program for already-planned developments in wealthy areas have spurred congressional scrutinySen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced a bill to overhaul the program, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has called for it to be abolished.

A spokesman for Scott, who is now one of Florida’s U.S. senators, declined to comment on the superyacht marina case but said in a statement: . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The US is being mugged.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 9:54 am

The Unexpected Joy of Repeat Experiences

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If I’ve enjoyed them a lot, I reread books and rewatch movies and relisten to music and repeat meals and drinks — and I would bet that you do as well. Revisiting the familiar can be very pleasurable and surprisingly often one discovers some new aspect of it. Leah Fessler comments in the NY Times on this pleasure:

Scrolling through Instagram can quickly convince you that everyone’s life is more interesting than yours. During a particularly adventurous week on Instagram Stories recently, I saw water skiing in Maui, hiking in Yosemite, and swimming with wild pigs in Bermuda. Wild pigs!

Impulsively, I started Googling flights to new places. Then I ordered pho from the same Vietnamese place I eat at every week and … felt bad about not trying somewhere new.

This fear of missing out is rooted in a common psychological tic: Evolutionarily, we’re disposed to find novel experiences more exciting and attention-grabbing than repeat experiences, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. It’s basically fight or flight psychology — our brains can’t process all the stimuli around us, so we evolved to pay attention to new, flashy, and potentially dangerous things more intently than familiar things, which we’ve seen enough to know they’re not dangerous. What’s more, words like “repetition” and “repetitiveness” — unlike “novelty” — tend to be associated with more negative emotions, said Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School.

“Classic research shows that when we think about upcoming experiences, we think about variety,” said Mr. Norton, who specializes in consumer behavior. “If I ask you right now to select a yogurt for each day next week, you’ll pick your favorite flavor — say, blueberry — a few times, but you’ll mix in some strawberry and peach. Because who wants to eat that much blueberry yogurt? Over the longer term, though, as the original experience fades in time and memory, repetition can become more pleasurable.”

He added: “We’re simply more boring than we’d like to admit.”

Our obsession with novelty is also enhanced by the influencer and experience economies, which confer social status based on how many new things you can do, see and buy, as Leah Prinzivalli unpacks in a recent article documenting the rise of Instagram to-do lists. This can be emotionally and financially draining: Few of us have the time or money to regularly indulge new experiences, which can lead us to feel bad about our lives’ monotony. However, recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology about repeat and novel experiences suggests we ought to reconsider how we digest those feelings of monotony.

This research centers on hedonic adaptation — when an identical stimulus provides less pleasure the more it’s consumed.

Some previous research has painted a negative picture of repeat experiences, citing that doing the same thing twice can feel inherently less valuable. But Ed O’Brien, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, wondered whether behavioral science misconstrued hedonic adaptation, and people actually underestimate how positively they react to repeat experiences. Many of us happily listen to our favorite song on repeat, he noted, or rewatch favorite movies and TV shows. This repetition was the whole point of purchasing music or film before the age of Spotify and Netflix. This conflict is why Mr. O’Brien launched a series of studies on the topic. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 9:45 am

The Benefits of Wakame Seaweed Salad on Blood Pressure

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Michael Greger, MD, blogs:

I used to think of seaweed as just a beneficial whole-food source of minerals like iodine, for which it is the most concentrated dietary source. Indeed, just a daily half-teaspoon of mild seaweeds, like arame or dulse, or two sheets of nori should net you all the iodine you need for the day. But, the intake of seaweeds is advised not only as a whole-food source of iodine, but also, evidently, “for the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease….” Based on what?

As I discuss in my video Wakame Seaweed Salad May Lower Blood Pressure, the reasoning is that the Japanese live long and eat seaweed, so there is speculation that seaweed might have “influence on life expectancy,” based on suggestive reports. But when we see long lists of the supposed benefits a particular food is purported to have, such as “compounds found in [seaweed] have various biological activities including anticoagulant, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-allergic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, and neuroprotective properties,” we need to know if they are based on clinical data, meaning studies with actual people, or so-called preclinical data, that is, from test tubes and lab animals. I mean, what are we supposed to do with a study talking about the effects of “seaweed-restructured pork diets” on rats? Those researchers tried to use seaweed, as well as other ingredients, to “improv[e] the ‘image’ of meat product.” Researchers also tried to add grape seeds to meat, they tried flaxseeds, they tried walnuts, they tried purple rice, and they even tried “thong-weed.”

When you look at epidemiological studies, where you compare the diets and disease rates within a population, you see that Japanese pre-schoolers who eat seaweed tend to have lower blood pressures, suggesting “seaweed might have beneficial effects on blood pressure among children.” That could make sense given all the minerals and fiber in seaweed, but cause and effect can’t be proven with this kind of study. Perhaps other components of the diet that went along with seaweed eating that made the difference.

It’s even harder to do these kinds of studies on adults, since so many people are on high blood pressure medications. University of Tokyo researchers took an innovative approach by comparing the diets of people on different intensities of medication: low-dose of a single blood pressure drug, high-dose of a single drug, and multiple drugs. And, although they all had artificially normalized blood pressure “as a result of effective medication,” those who ate the most fruits and sea vegetables tended to be the ones on the lower dose of a single drug, supporting a dietary role for seaweed. An interesting finding, but why not just put it to the test?

A double-blind, crossover trial found that seaweed fiber lowered blood pressure, apparently by pulling sodium out of the system. Real seaweed couldn’t be used in the study, because the subjects wouldn’t be able to be fooled with a placebo, but why not just put whole powdered seaweed into pills? That was finally attempted ten years later. Compared to doing nothing, subjects receiving a daily dose of dried wakame powder in capsules had beautiful drops in blood pressure. The researchers, however, desalinized the seaweed, taking out about two-thirds of the sodium naturally found in it. So, we still don’t know if eating seaweed salad is actually going to help with blood pressure. What we need is a randomized, controlled trial with plain, straight seaweed. No one had ever done that research, until…they did!

Six grams of wakame, with all of its natural sodium, led to a significant drop in blood pressure, especially in those who started out with high pressure. The subjects experienced only minor side effects and ones that could be expected with increasing fiber intake. A nice thing about whole-food, plant-based interventions is that we sometimes get good side effects, such as the resolution of gastritis (stomach inflammation) some subject had been having, as well as the disappearance of chronic headaches.


What other foods might help with high blood pressure? See: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 9:20 am

Excellent acoustics again, with a strong woody fragrance

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My Simpson Emperor 3 Super brush is the next to last brush on the Simpson shelf, so tomorrow I’ll finish another shelf in the brush odyssey. This morning it made a great lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond shaving paste, whose strong almond fragrance with clear cedar overtones gripped my nose firmly: a breathtaking (and very nice) fragrance.

I used the uncoated version of yesterday’s DLC-coated stainless steel iKon slant, and once again was rewarded with:

  1. an absolutely stellar shave: smooth, easy, close, and without even the threat of a nick or burn.
  2. a tiny concert of stubble being raked away: a continuous ripple of quiet popping

I love this shave: a great way to start any day, but this was today and that was the shave.

I finished it with another clear and distinct woody fragrance: Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave — I should perhaps write Red Cedar aftershave, given the presence of that fragrance. It’s a great aftershave, which I bought from The Copper Hat some years back. I just got a notice that they are closing their physical store at the end of December because so much of their business has become on-line. I also note that the bottle is nowadays much smaller — but then, of course, so am I. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2019 at 9:16 am

Posted in Shaving

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