Later On

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

Archive for December 16th, 2019

The Cult of Spicy Chilli Crisp Is Real

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After reading this article on Spicy Chilli/Chile Crisp, I of course ordered a jar. It arrived today and it is extremely tasty. Definitely worth trying. Crunchy, sweet, savory, slightly spicy, it goes well on many foods.

See also “The 5 Best Chile Crisp Sauces You Can Buy Online,” by Tiffany Hopkins at Epicurious.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Food

Blood test results on whole-food plant-based diet

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I got my first cholesterol reading from a blood draw this morning, after 7 months on a whole-food plant-based diet (and after having dropped my simvastatin (cholesterol-lowering drug) on the doctor’s advice 4 months ago). All is well: cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides all comfortably within range. Triglycerides, for example, are supposed to be <2.21 mmol/L and mine are 0.89 mmol/L

Where I shine (especially given that I am a type 2 diabetic not taking any medication for the past 4 months) is in the blood glucose readings: my fasting blood glucose was 5.2 mmol/L (normal range is 3.3-5.5). That corresponds to 93.6 mg/dL.

And my HbA1c is 5.3%, the normal range being 4.5% to 6.0% The report notes:

Therapeutic target for most adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes is <=7.0%. In
the frail elderly and patients who are prone to hypoglycemia, target is <=8.5%. A1c >=6.5% meets the criterion for type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults.

I think this whole-food plant-based diet works.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 6:20 pm

Wealth corrodes morality: Latter Day Saints division

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Jon Swaine, Douglas MacMillan, and Michelle Boorstein report in the Washington Post:

A former investment manager alleges in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has amassed about $100 billion in accounts intended for charitable purposes, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post.

The confidential document, received by the IRS on Nov. 21, accuses church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.

A spokesman for the church did not respond to detailed questions from The Post about the complaint. “The Church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.

The complaint provides a window into the closely held finances of one of the nation’s most visible religious organizations, based in Salt Lake City. It details a church fortune far exceeding past estimates and encompassing stocks, bonds and cash.

The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters.

Nonprofit organizations, including religious groups, are exempted in the United States from paying taxes on their income. Ensign is registered with authorities as a supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of the Mormon Church. This permits it to operate as a nonprofit and to make money largely free from U.S. taxes.

The exemption requires that Ensign operate exclusively for religious, educational or other charitable purposes, a condition that Nielsen says the firm has not met.

In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Nielsen urges the IRS to strip the nonprofit of its tax-exempt status and alleges that Ensign could owe billions in taxes. He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 6:02 pm

Good example of how wealth corrodes simple morality

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I updated this post from earlier today with a report of the Sackler family’s takings from the opioid crisis that is single-handedly responsible for the decline in US longevity.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Things are getting out of hand: Gender-reveal party division

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From “The Year in Stupidity” in the New Yorker by Naomi Fry:

. . . this was the year when gender-reveal parties—fêtes in which parents-to-be announce the sex of their forthcoming spawn to their loved ones—grew so extravagant that they became dangerous. In July, Australian police released a video taken on the country’s Gold Coast, where last year a car emitting blue smoke to indicate the coming birth of a boy burst into flames; in September, in Texas, a crop-duster plane stalled and crashed after dumping hundreds of gallons of pink water, to mark the arrival of a girl. In October, in Iowa, a homemade explosive device that was supposed to shoot off colored powder detonated during the party, and one of its metal components hit a woman on the head, killing her on contact. Amid the wreckage, one began to wonder whether, as our understanding of gender has become more fluid, these completely preventable disasters were the result of increasingly extreme attempts to assert gender’s immutability.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 9:19 am

Posted in Daily life

The falling price of a TV set is the story of the American economy

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Noah Kulwin writes in The Outline:

The last TV I bought was a 43-inch smart TV that cost me roughly $500 in 2016; it’s no longer in my possession, but my old roommate is still using it to his great joy. This means that once again I am poking around online for a new TV. I’ve noticed something exciting but sort of crazy: I can purchase a bigger TV for less money, reflecting a broad trend of how high-quality TV got insanely cheap over the past decade.

It’s not like they started out particularly expensive — a 2011 New York Times story noted that TV prices had been trending downward in the previous few years, “a result of a huge increase in manufacturing capacity that has led to an oversupply and continued downward pressure on prices from low-cost manufacturers and online retailers.” But the pace of price decline has stayed consistent since then: The price of a 50-inch 4K HD television, the major new picture quality standard introduced in the last decade, declined by roughly 80 percent to $467 between 2012 and 2017, according to the market research firm Statista. Between 2018 and 2019, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average price of TVs slipped almost 20 percent.

Conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute have said that these price declines mean that we should reevaluate what poverty means (“How poor can you really be if you have a TV?”). Though this argument holds no water when you consider that plenty of more essential things such as health care have gotten more expensive, the falling price of TVs speaks to evolutions in both how people buy and use TVs — and how TV makers themselves actually make money. Both these shifts are representative of how the American economy as a whole has changed in the last decade.

There are a few immediate causes for the continued decline of TV prices. For one thing, there are a lot more companies that can now manufacture a lot more TVs; a few of the biggest manufacturers (Vizio, TCL) only exploded in popularity in the U.S. over the past 10 to 15 years. Additionally, you don’t actually need a TV to watch TV anymore; Nielsen data pretty consistently shows that people are watching more stuff on their phones and less stuff on their actual TV sets. With less demand for actual TVs, there’s less reason for manufacturers to price them even more highly.

But the most interesting and telling reason for why TVs are now so cheap is because TV manufacturers have found a new revenue stream: advertising. If you buy a new TV today, you’re most likely buying a “smart” TV with software from either the manufacturer itself or a third-party company like Roku. The cut of the advertising revenue from those pre-installed video channels is big business for actual TV makers, as is the business of selling user viewing data and other information to marketers.

Because only 37 percent of U.S. homes currently have a smart TV, according to the market researchers at Forrester, that means there’s a lot of revenue these companies have yet to squeeze. TV makers, understandably, are doubling down: This week Vizio announced that it was launching its own in-house advertising unit, looking to capture a bigger slice of the estimated $4.4 billion video-streaming ad market in 2020.

The story of the cheap HD television in the last decade is, in many ways, the story of the American economy writ large. Prices may be low, but so are most people’s wages. And although customers are getting a glut of new free content from TV products, that’s because customers are now themselves the products that TCL can sell to outside marketing companies.

For many big companies that make physical products, the business of making stuff isn’t sufficiently lucrative anymore. Automakers, for example, can now expect to see bigger profits from the loans they make on selling cars than from selling the actual cars. And like the TV manufacturers and car companies, even ad-unfriendly tech giants like Apple know that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 8:26 am

A feel-good quilt story

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Claire Voon writes in Atlas Obscura:

SHANNON DOWNEY, THE CREATOR OF a website called “Badass Cross Stitch,” is a crafter, activist, and serial estate sale shopper. When the Chicago artist finds unfinished embroidery works on her household hunts, she often buys and completes them, so that their makers’ souls can rest in peace. Because she frequently adopts patterns that she would never choose herself—Downey gives the examples of “Bible quotes, cats, or ‘Home Sweet Home’”—many eventually end up at Goodwill.

But this October, in the bedroom of a stranger’s suburban home, Downey stumbled upon a project she immediately knew was different. Preserved in a plastic bin were the fabric pieces needed for a giant quilt made of hexagons, decorated with stars and the outlines of the 50 U.S. states, complete with their official birds and flowers. Its artist had finished stitching just two states—Alaska and Georgia—as well as a neat and intricate map of the country for the quilt’s center. Her name, Downey learned, was Rita Smith. She was a school nurse and highly skilled crafter who had died in August, at age 99.

“I almost started crying, because I was like, ‘This is so big, I can’t do this—but I must,’” Downey says. She bought the materials for six dollars and put out a call on Instagram, where she has cultivated a large and loyal following for her unapologetically feminist ‘craftivism.’ (One neatly embroidered message reads, “THE PATRIARCHY ISN’T GOING TO SMASH ITSELF.”) Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 people had offered their hands and needles. The volunteer pool kept growing as news outlets from The Washington Post to CNN lauded the project as a feel-good story about strangers coming together.

Downey assigned individual states and stars—already outlined by Rita on separate scraps—to the earliest responders and mailed the designs across America. (Two went to Canada.) She gave her collaborators some general guidelines, but for the most part, each had the freedom to add personal marks. Phyllis Liu, for one, filled their star with a poetic saying in elegant Nüshù, a script developed and used exclusively by women in China’s Hunan province.

Last Saturday, with the finished hexagons back in Chicago, 35 skilled quilters gathered to piece them together. They met at Wishcraft Workshop by invitation of studio owner Candice Blansett-Cummins, and for seven hours, they sewed under the guidance of seasoned longarm quilter Sarah Evans. They used supplies donated by . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 8:21 am

Posted in Daily life

Reprise on dangers of wealth

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I noticed that this seven-year-old post is getting some hits. I reread it, added an update, and think it is more relevant than ever. Note that it was written long before Donald Trump became so visible and active.

Update: And notice this report today: Purdue Pharma’s Payments to Sacklers Soared Amid Opioid Crisis,” by Jan Hoffman and Danny Hakim in the NY Times. The Sackler family, you will recall, pushed hard the sale of OxyContin even after it was clear that many were dying from their addiction to the drug. The report begins:

As scrutiny of Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic intensified during the past dozen years, its owners, members of the Sackler family, withdrew more than $10 billion from the company, distributing it among trusts and overseas holding companies, according to a new audit commissioned by Purdue.

The amount is more than eight times what the family took out of the company in the 13 years after OxyContin, its signature product, was approved in 1995. The audit is likely to renew questions about how much the Sacklers should pay to resolve more than 2,800 lawsuits that seek to hold Purdue accountable for the opioid crisis.

The family has offered to contribute at least $3 billion in cash as part of a settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought by state and local governments against Purdue. But 24 states, led by Massachusetts and New York, have refused to sign onto the agreement, arguing that the Sacklers should pay more.

The new report, a 350-page forensic accounting prepared by Alix Partners, a consulting firm that Purdue has hired to help guide the company through Chapter 11 restructuring, was filed in bankruptcy court in White Plains, N.Y., Monday evening.

Ultimately, it does not answer a key question for investigators — how much the Sacklers are actually worth and where their money is located.

“The fact that the Sackler family removed more than $10 billion when Purdue’s OxyContin was directly causing countless addictions, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and tearing apart millions of families is further reason that we must see detailed financial records showing how much the Sacklers profited from the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic,” said Letitia James, the attorney general of New York, in a statement. “We need full transparency into their total assets and must know whether they sheltered them in an effort to protect against creditors and victims.”

The report does detail checks and disbursements that Purdue made to the family in the years after the company’s guilty plea in 2007 to federal charges that it deceptively marketed OxyContin as nonaddictive. It could be used to support allegations as to whether the Sacklers intentionally withdrew large annual sums to shield the money from litigation as legal pressures mounted.

The audit notes that in the first dozen years that OxyContin was approved — from 1995 through 2007 — Purdue’s payouts to the Sacklers totaled just $1.32 billion; from 2008 through 2017, the period of intense scrutiny by the auditors, the payments totaled $10.7 billion.

By 2017, the Sacklers had voted to stop taking cash payments and so Purdue ended the practice.

The report also shows that nearly half the amount sent to the Sacklers was designated to pay taxes, suggesting that less than half the Sackler distributions might actually be available in cash. During the years covered by the audit, the report says, Purdue paid $4.1 billion to the Sacklers, $1.6 billion to their affiliated companies and $4.6 billion for taxes.

The auditors reported that they did not know how much cash distributed to the Sacklers was actually used to pay taxes. The payments were often directed to trusts based in countries known as tax havens, like Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands, the records show. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 8:18 am

The wooden-tub series continues with a rebranded Truefitt & Hill

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Years ago, before Vintage Blades LLC was sold and Jim Ayers was still running it, he came out with this soap. He strongly hinted that it was in fact Truefitt & Hill’s soap (and this was long before T&H outsourced their soap production and changed the formula — this is from when the soap still was good.

And indeed I got a wonderful lather with a fine traditional English lavender fragrance. My 102 delivered a perfect result but with a little effort required, so a new blade (Treet Platinum this time) went into the razor after the shave.

A tiny dab of Esbjerg aftershave gel provided a fine finish — it has a pleasant feel and a very interesting light fragrance. This is one example of where a sample with an order resulted in a sale (and, I suppose, some word-of-mouth publicity).

A great way to start the week. Christmas looms.

My morning shave as art:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2019 at 8:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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