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Archive for September 15th, 2020

Curry for a change: Tomato-coconut-chickpea curry with cooked wheat and mushrooms

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With the air quality, I didn’t want to go out, so I made a current from what’s on hand.

In my All-Clad 12″ stainless fry pan:

1 large red onion, chopped
1 bunch large scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 jalapeños, chopped small (with core and seeds)
diced daikon radish — about 2/3 cup

I sautéd those until the onion began to be transparent, then I added:

cloves from 1 head of red Russian garlic, sliced thin

I had done the garlic and let it rest. After I cooked garlic for about a minute, I added:

1 can diced tomatoes (about an 18-oz can)
1 can original Ro-Tel tomatoes
about 2/3 cup roasted unsalted redskin peanuts
about 2/3 cup cooked intact whole-grain red fife wheat
1 can organic no-salt-added garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons Penzeys Maharaja curry powder
good amount of ground black pepper
good splash of Shaoxing wine (or sherry)
good dash of Red Boat fish sauce

I simmered that for a while, then recalled that I had:

1 can coconut milk

So I added that and continued to simmer until it seemed to be done.

At this point I remembered that I had wanted to add mushrooms, so I removed that fry pan from the heat, put on a Field No. 8 cast-iron skillet to heat, and cut up the mushrooms:

10 largish domestic white mushrooms, halved and then sliced thick
2 tablespoons butter (I know, but I had it on hand and need to use it up)

When the skillet was hot, I added butter, and after it melted, the mushrooms, which I cooked until the mushrooms released their liquid, then I added them to the curry.

The fry pan was pretty full. Fortunately at the point that I added the coconut milk, I had already removed a cup of the curry and eaten it for lunch.

It tastes extremely good and I have enough for a few meals.



Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 5:04 pm

Why do conservatives distort and rewrite history: UK edition

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Frank Trentmann, a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London, and who previously taught at Princeton University, writes in the Washington Post. His observations show that the way that American Republican ignore and/or distort historical fact is not limited to the US conservative movement. He writes:

Britain is adrift. Yesterday evening, the British government proceeded with its threat to breach international law by overriding the protocol on Northern Ireland it had agreed with the European Union. This protocol, signed only last January, was designed to protect the fragile peace process by preventing the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The bill passed its first reading with a majority of 77. Time and again, Brexit Britain shows it is adamant at going alone, whatever the cost. In the midst of the first wave of covid-19, it even refused to participate in the European plan to procure medical equipment. Doctors and nurses had to make their own PPE out of trash bags.

Britain’s current isolationism bewilders its allies — but it is not accidental. This stance is linked to a distorted view of its glorious past and inborn genius that became the official history of the government in 2013, three years before the nation narrowly voted to leave the European Union.

The “long and illustrious history” is set out in the official book “Life in the UK.” It was launched by Theresa May, then the Conservative home secretary, who would later become prime minister, and has been “approved by ministers” ever since. It presents a Britain that is never wrong, almost always White and never needs international partners. The rewriting of the national past gives us a worrying window on how Britain sees itself and its place in the world. But it isn’t only symbolic: The official history is required reading for about 100,000 people every year who are applying for citizenship or settlement. Migrants have to read and remember the information, which is then tested in a multiple-choice computer exam.

[Britain’s Brexit crisis was entirely self-inflicted]

So distorted is this official account that more than 600 historians are asking for it to be scrapped until there has been a proper review. (I helped organize the petition.) The criticism focuses on the airbrushing of slavery and colonial violence. The handbook, for example, tells new citizens that slavery within the British Isles was “illegal” by the 18th century and purely an overseas operation; in fact, judges debated the issue, and enslaved people within Britain were openly advertised for sale in newspapers in the 18th century. The unwinding of Britain’s vast colonial project is summed up as “for the most part, an orderly transition.” But that ignores the chaos and violence in many places, such as the partition of India in 1947 and the extrajudicial killings in the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya from 1952 to 1960.

These are not accidental mistakes. They are part of a consistent pattern of deliberate cuts and rewriting. Comparison with earlier editions published under the previous Labour governments shows that migrants used to be taught that enslaved people died in the Middle Passage. In the current version, they are only “traveling in horrible conditions,” an unfortunate wording given that about 400,000 of them died on board British ships. A previous description of the slave trade as “evil” was cut, as was the fact that Liverpool and Bristol profited handsomely from it. In the page on the American Revolution, the British Parliament no longer “refused” to compromise with the Americans (correct) but “tried to compromise” (false).

Ireland falls victim to similar revisionism. Instead of colonizing Ulster by force in the early 17th century, James I now merely “encouraged” English and Scottish Protestants to settle there. The great famine of 1846 is still mentioned, but the fact that Britain might have done more to help the Irish has been excised. The deployment of the British army in Northern Ireland after 1969 vanishes altogether. This willful blindness to Ireland’s past might explain how the British government can play so casually today with its future.

Any mistake or sign of national weakness is stripped from the record. Appeasement in 1938 cannot be mentioned — even though this means Winston Churchill can no longer be celebrated for opposing it. Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia becomes merely “testing Germany’s military strength in nearby countries.”

[Boris Johnson is discovering that Brexit only works when it’s a fantasy]

Nor is there room for ambivalence or regret. When the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is mentioned, you are not told about the many civilian victims but that “scientists led by New Zealand-born Ernest Rutherford, working at Manchester and then Cambridge University, were the first to ‘split the atom.’ Some British scientists went on to take part in the Manhattan Project in the United States, which developed the atomic bomb. The war was finally over.”

One can read this official history as an Anglo-Saxon fantasy of Britain after Brexit — one where, if people of non-European descent feature at all, they do so only as faceless migrants. They are almost never part of British society. Africans and people who escaped slavery and lived in 18th-century Britain have been deleted. Among more than 200 personalities one needs to remember, the only people who are not White are a handful of athletes, the architect Zaha Hadid and Sake Dean Mohamet, a co-founder of England’s first curry house in 1810.

The Home Office (essentially, Britain’s Department of Homeland Security) has been so scrupulous in taking out race that it even cut the previous reference to Hitler’s “racist ideology.” In its place, migrants are now told that “he believed that the conditions imposed on Germany by the Allies after the First World War were unfair; he also wanted to conquer more land for the German people.” That is it. There is plenty about the Second World War, studded with famous quotes from Churchill, but you would not know it was a war of extermination. In more than 180 pages, the Holocaust is not mentioned once. And this in a text that is meant to prepare people for life in the United Kingdom today, at a time of growing concern about anti-Semitism.

The British government trumpets its vision of a new “Global Britain” and dreams of striking quick free-trade deals with the United States and other countries around the world. But judging by this official text, it fundamentally misunderstands what international exchange is about. The list of inventions that “Britain has given the world” includes . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Books, GOP, Government

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The Sturgis Biker Rally Did Not Cause 266,796 Cases of COVID-19

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I thought that number seemed high. Jennifer Beam Down writes in Slate:

The recent mass gathering in South Dakota for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally seemed like the perfect recipe for what epidemiologists call a “superspreading” event. Beginning Aug. 7, an estimated 460,000 attendees from all over country descended on the small town of Sturgis for a 10-day event filled with indoor and outdoor events such as concerts and drag racing.

Now a new working paper by economist Dhaval Dave and colleagues is making headlines with their estimate that the Sturgis rally led to a shocking 266,796 new cases in the U.S. over a four-week period, which would account for a staggering 19 percent of newly confirmed cases in the U.S. in that time. They estimate the economic cost of these cases at $12.2 billion, based on previous estimates of the statistical cost of treating a COVID-19 patient.

Not surprisingly, the internet lit up with “we told you so!” headlines and social media shaming and blaming. The huge figures immediately hit the “confirmation bias” button in many people’s brains. But hold up. There are lots of reasons to be skeptical of these findings, and the 266,796 number itself should raise serious believability alarm bells.

Modeling infection transmission dynamics is hard, as we have seen by the less than stellar performance of many predictive COVID-19 models thus far. (Remember back in April, when the IHME model from the University of Washington predicted zero U.S. deaths in July?) Pandemic spread is difficult both to predict and to explain after the fact—like trying to explain the direction and intensity of current wildfires in the West. While some underlying factors do predict spread, there is a high degree of randomness, and small disturbances (like winds) can cause huge variation across time and space. Many outcomes that social scientists typically study, like income, are more stable and not as susceptible to these “butterfly effects” that threaten the validity of certain research designs.

The Sturgis study essentially tries to re-create a randomized experiment by comparing the COVID-19 trends in counties that rallygoers traveled from with counties that apparently don’t have as many motorcycle enthusiasts. The authors estimate the source of inflow into Sturgis during the rally based on the “home” location of nonresident cellphone pings. They use a “difference-in-difference” approach, calculating whether the change in case trends for a county that sent many people to Sturgis was larger compared with a county that sent none. They looked at how cumulative case numbers changed between June 6 and Sept. 2.

While this approach may sound sensible, it relies on strong assumptions that rarely hold in the real world. For one thing, there are many other differences between counties full of bike rally fans versus those with none, and therein lies the challenge of creating a good “counterfactual” for the implied experiment—how to compare trends in counties that are different on many geographic, social, and economic dimensions? The “parallel trends” assumption assumes that every county was on a similar trajectory and the only difference was the number of attendees sent to the Sturgis rally. When this “parallel trends” assumption is violated, the resulting estimates are not just off by a little—they can be completely wrong. This type of modeling is risky, and the burden of proof for the believability of the assumptions very high.

More critically, the paper assumes the “noise” in COVID-19 cases from different counties averages out over time and thus comparing the trends is valid. We all probably know by now that epidemic curves are not so predictable and are heavily dependent on the luck of floating wildfire embers, so to speak. This approach may work for changes in the uptake of state benefits or other outcomes traditionally analyzed by difference-in-difference designs, but not for outcomes that are serially correlated, like wildfires or epidemics. Thus, this idea—that even if the parallel trends assumption held, differences in COVID-19 cases across counties are fully attributable to the rally—is a strong ask.

Having estimated such a large number of additional infections due to the Sturgis rally from aggregate data, the authors should have wondered if such high levels of transmission were epidemiologically feasible over the short time frame. But as computational social scientist Rex Douglass details in this Twitter thread, the paper doesn’t provide a model of infectious disease transmission—a pretty major oversight. Basically, the authors don’t outline what transmission on this scale would have to look like to reach 266,796 infections—for example, X percentage of attendees arriving infected across the 10 days, Y percent transmitting the virus to Z new people, etc. Given the staggered arrivals (traffic flow data show that about 50,000 showed up per day) and incubation period (roughly five days), it seems likely that those infected at arrival could only have infected on average one or two new “generations” of infections during the rally itself. Even with a bleak assumption that 1 percent of attendees arrived already infectious (spread over 10 days) yet well enough to ride motorcycles to South Dakota, and all of them were “superspreaders,” passing their infection along to another 10 people, back-of-the-envelope math makes it hard to get in the ballpark of this number of infections that could have happened at the rally.

Of course, the study measures new cases in home counties, so perhaps that’s when the transmission really explodes. Let’s recall this was a motorcycle rally, so many attendees almost certainly didn’t fly home as soon as possible. High numbers of people came from California, Nevada, and Florida, so we can assume the return trip home took at least a few days for those heading home directly. The lure of the open road in August after months of worldwide lockdown may have even induced many riders to take a meandering path home. In short, it is a stretch to believe that so many infected riders could have gotten home in the short time frame required to infect others, incubate, get tested, and have these infections show up in county statistics by Sept. 2, just two weeks after the conclusion of the rally. In theory, the authors could have used the cellphone ping data to incorporate this variation in return times and routes, but they don’t mention doing so in the paper.

Since attendees hardly had time to attend the rally, get infected, and then bike home and infect others, the fact that rates in large sending counties are higher than those for non-sending countries strongly suggests that these differences in trends were in the works anyway due to local transmission dynamics, and not a direct result of the rally. As Ashish Jha, a physician and the dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, pointed out on Twitter, the raw data show no spikes in counties where the authors say the rally attendees came from, increasing the mystery of where the 266,796 cases could have taken place.

If thinking through the required transmission dynamics doesn’t raise your alarm bells, consider this: The paper’s results show that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 11:19 am

The Media Learned Nothing From 2016

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James Fallow writes in the Atlantic:

We’re seeing a huge error, and a potential tragedy, unfold in real time.

That’s a sentence that could apply to countless aspects of economic, medical, governmental, and environmental life at the moment. What I have in mind, though, is the almost unbelievable failure of much of the press to respond to the realities of the Trump age.

Many of our most influential editors and reporters are acting as if the rules that prevailed under previous American presidents are still in effect. But this president is different; the rules are different; and if it doesn’t adapt, fast, the press will stand as yet another institution that failed in a moment of crucial pressure.

In some important ways, media outlets are repeating the mistake made by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In his book about the Mueller investigation, True Crimes and Misdemeanors (and in a New Yorker article), Jeffrey Toobin argues that Mueller’s tragic flaw was a kind of anachronistic idealism—which had the same effect as naivete. He knew the ethical standards he would maintain for himself and insist on from his team. He didn’t understand that the people he was dealing with thought standards were for chumps. Mueller didn’t imagine that a sitting attorney general would intentionally misrepresent his report, which is of course what Bill Barr did. Mueller wanted to avoid an unseemly showdown, or the appearance of a “fishing expedition” inquiry, that would come from seeking a grand-jury subpoena for Donald Trump’s testimony, so he never spoke with Trump under oath, or at all. Trump, Barr, and their team viewed this decorousness as a sign of weakness, which they could exploit.

Something similar is going on now with many members of the press. They’re behaving like Mueller, wanting to be sure they observe proprieties that would have made sense when dealing with other figures in other eras. But now they’re dealing with Donald Trump, and he sees their behavior as a weakness he can exploit relentlessly.

Much as Mueller didn’t recognize these realities in time, neither did much of our print, broadcast, and cable media four years ago. Networks ran Trump’s rally speeches endlessly from mid-2015 onward, giving him free airtime valued at some $2 billion. Why his speeches, and not Hillary Clinton’s or Bernie Sanders’s? Because they were deemed great TV, and the channels’ own ratings went up when the rallies were on. As the race continued, cable channels demonstrated their supposed balance by stocking political discussion panels not with representatives of conservative viewpoints but rather with tribalists and die-hard team members, people who would defend whatever Trump had done or said. (One of these people is now the White House press secretary, and her press briefings are like her old cable hits.) The choice of panelists did not reflect a range of policy viewpoints; it was sitcom casting, with people playing their predictable, recognizable parts.

Also in pursuit of the ritual of balance, the networks offset coverage of Donald Trump’s ethical liabilities and character defects, which would have proved disqualifying in any other candidate for nearly any other job, with intense investigation of what they insisted were Hillary Clinton’s serious email problems. Six weeks before the election, Gallup published a prophetic analysis showing what Americans had heard about each candidate. For Trump, the words people most recognized from all the coverage were speechimmigration, and Mexico. For Clinton, one word dwarfed all others: EMAIL. The next two on the list, much less recognized, were lie and Foundation. (The Clinton Foundation, set up by Bill Clinton, was the object of sustained scrutiny for supposedly shady dealings that amount to an average fortnight’s revelations for the Trump empire.) One week before the election, The New York Times devoted the entire top half of its front page to stories about FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of an investigation into the emails. “New Emails Jolt Clinton Campaign in Race’s Last Days” was the headline on the front page’s lead story. “With 11 Days to Go, Trump Says Revelation ‘Changes Everything,’” read another front-page headline.

Just last week came a fresh reminder of the egregiousness of that coverage, often shorthanded as “But her emails!” On Wednesday, September 9, Bob Woodward’s tapes of Trump saying that when it came to the coronavirus, he “wanted to always play it down” came out, along with a whistleblower’s claim that the Department of Homeland Security was falsifying intelligence to downplay the risk of Russian election interference and violence from white supremacists. On the merits, either of those stories was more important than Comey’s short-lived inquiry into what was always an overhyped scandal. But in this election season, each got a demure one-column headline on the Times’ front pageThe Washington Post, by contrast, gave Woodward’s revelations banner treatment across its front page.

Who knows how the 2016 race might have turned out, and whether a man like Trump could have ended up in the position he did, if any of a hundred factors had gone a different way. But one important factor was the press’s reluctance to recognize what it was dealing with: a person nakedly using racial resentment as a tool; whose dishonesty and corruption dwarfed that of both Clintons combined, with most previous presidents’ thrown in as well; and whose knowledge about the vast organization he was about to control was inferior to that of any Capitol Hill staffer and most immigrants who had passed the (highly demanding) U.S. citizenship test.

Now it’s four years later. And we’re waking up in Groundhog Day, so far without Bill Murray’s eventual, hard-earned understanding that he could learn new skills as time went on. For Murray, those were things like playing the piano and speaking French. For the press, in these next 49 days, those can be grappling with (among other things) three of the most destructive habits in dealing with Donald Trump. For shorthand, they are the embrace of false equivalence, or both-sides-ism; the campaign-manager mentality, or horse-race-ism; and the love of spectacle, or going after the ratings and the clicks.

Are these familiar problems? Yes, indeed! As familiar as “I Got You Babe” playing every single morning on the alarm clock in Groundhog Day. Over the past few years, they’ve been the object of careful, continued analyses by the likes of Margaret Sullivan, now of The Washington Post and the last really effective public editor of The New York Times (before the paper mistakenly abolished that position); Dan Froomkin, formerly of the Post and now of Press Watch; Jay Rosen, of New York University and PressThink; Eric Boehlert, of Press Run Media; Greg Sargent of “The Plum Line” at The Washington Post; Brian Beutler of Crooked MediaEric Alterman of CUNY Brooklyn College, author of the new book Lying in State; the linguist George Lakoff, who has promoted the concept of countering lies with a “truth sandwich”; and many others. For my own part, I wrote a book called Breaking the News nearly 25 years ago, excerpted as an Atlantic cover story, about trends like these that were evident then and have metastasized through the years since.

But it’s precisely because these trends are familiar that they matter. As Ed Yong has demonstrated in his latest Atlantic piece on the pandemic, and as Adam SerwerIbram X. Kendi, and others have argued about racial-justice struggles, it’s rarely the new issues that most bedevil us. It’s the same old problems and failures and blind spots and biases, again and again and again.

How are we again seeing these patterns, and what can we do about them?


This is the shorthand term for most journalists’ discomfort with seeming to “take a side” in political disputes, and the contortions that result.

Of course, taking a side is fundamental to the act of journalism. Everything we write or broadcast is something we’re saying deserves more attention than what we’re not discussing. The layout of a front page, in print or online; the airtime given to TV or radio reports; the tone and emphasis of headlines; and everything else down the list of communication tools reflect choices. When we investigate and present exposés, we are taking a side in favor of the importance of these subjects, and the fidelity of our account. A 19th-century editor of what was then The Manchester Guardian argued that the function of a newspaper was “to see life steady and see it whole,” a variation on a line from the poet Matthew Arnold. Every choice about the steadiness and the wholeness represents taking a side.

But on the narrow, specific question of Republican-versus-Democratic disagreements, newspaper and broadcast reporters are profoundly uncomfortable with appearing to take a side. This issue has been extremely well discussed over the years, for example in a dispatch titled “The View From Nowhere,” by Jay Rosen back in 2010; and in an article from Dan Froomkin a few weeks ago. The simplest version of the point is that reporters are most at ease when they can quote first one side and then the other, seeming neutral between the two—or when they present a charge and then the response. It’s a role idealized by John Roberts asserting, during his confirmation hearings to become chief justice of the Supreme Court, that his role as jurist was just “to call balls and strikes,” or by Fox News’s amusing motto “We report, you decide.”

Everyone in journalism has sat through countless discussions of the limits of objectivity. But the power of the impulse still shows up now, in 2020, in several distinctive ways.

One is a habitual, even reflexive presentation of claims or statements that a reporter knows are not of equivalent truthfulness, as if they were. (Thus, “false equivalence.”) A stark recent example was an AP story on September 4, with the headline “Dueling Versions of Reality Define 1st Week of Fall Campaign.” It began:

NEW YORK (AP) — On the campaign trail with President Donald Trump, the pandemic is largely over, the economy is roaring back, and murderous mobs are infiltrating America’s suburbs.

With Democrat Joe Biden, the pandemic is raging, the economy isn’t lifting the working class, and systemic racism threatens Black lives across America.

The first week of the fall sprint to Election Day crystallized dizzyingly different versions of reality as the Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger trekked from Washington and Delaware to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and back, each man on an urgent mission to sell his particular message to anxious voters.

All the conflicting messages carry at least a sliver of truth, some much more than others …

The “some much more than others” phrase is a way to signal what the reporter certainly knows: that Joe Biden’s claims are within the realm of normal political spin and emphasis, while Trump’s are not true. The U.S. is nowhere near the end of its pandemic nightmare; the economy has recovered barely half the jobs lost since February, and worse times may be ahead; the urban crime rate remains near its low point in recent decades, and crime is not spilling out to the suburbs. But the story presents them merely as “dizzyingly different” perspectives—gee, it’s all moving so fast; how can we make sense of it?—with an insider’s wink and nod that not all these claims are equally true: “some much more than others.” What might the reporter have written instead? Something like “Trump is running on a falsified vision of America, and hoping he can make enough people believe it to win.” A statement like that might have seemed more “intrusive” by the canons of wire-service “objectivity” in another age, but it is far truer to the realities of this moment, and would stand up far better in history’s view.

As Daniel Dale has tirelessly demonstrated, Trump lies in public statements dozens of times a day. So do his representatives: This past Wednesday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, coolly claimed in the White House briefing room that Trump had “never downplayed” the threat of the virus, just minutes after CNN aired Bob Woodward’s tape of Trump saying he had “wanted to always play it down.”  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it shows that the US continues to flounder.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 10:33 am

Master of the chair — and other furniture

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Brian Boggs, who makes stunning furniture, is the subject of a good article by Janine Latus in Craftsmanship magazine.

Brian Boggs made what some people called the perfect chair. A ladder-back with a woven hickory bark seat, it was beautiful, durable, lightweight, and, most important, comfortable no matter your body type. He named it the Berea Chair, after Berea, Kentucky, where he briefly went to college, had a family, honed his craft.

He’d innovated the backs and the legs, taking a 200-year-old design that farmers had made in barns and Shakers had made in simple wood shops and “he did something to the seat and a lot of something to the back and performed a simple trick that rotated the back legs,” says Gary Rogowski, who runs the Northwest Woodworking Studio, a furniture-making school in Portland, Oregon. Boggs tinkered with this chair until it was as beautiful and sturdy and comfortable as it could be, until it was the kind of chair that other chair makers, including Rogowski, bought for their own homes. When it was done, Boggs loved it. “It’s the best chair you can make!” he’d tell people at craft fairs. And plenty of others agreed.

“In my judgment Brian developed a chair that is in some overall way the finest chair I’ve come upon,” says Peter Korn, director of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine, and a habitually tough critic. “It’s comfortable, durable, beautiful, light weight. From a woodworker’s point of view, it makes incredibly good use of wood as a material to get the most out of it in terms of natural properties of strength.”

Over time, Boggs’ muscle memory could turn out one of these chairs in 10 hours flat. To accomplish this, he’d even created a collection of his own tools. He modified a curved spokeshave to weigh just right in the hand, which sped the shaping of the chair’s legs and spindles. He’d also redesigned a shave horse—a common tool whose design has remained basically the same for centuries—so that it adapted to any artisan’s body, thereby alleviating his own aching back. For his first 300 chairs he hadn’t plugged in a power tool. When he finally got an electric router, he turned it on, then promptly put it back in the box. “It seemed like someone screaming at me,” he says.

But because he’s Brian Boggs, he took the router out again, curious about what he could do with it—what designs and efficiencies he could create, and what chairs he could make if he could accept a newer technology. He also redesigned the router over and over until it could create the locking tapered joints that opened up the household chair to a world of revolutionary possibilities. “It’s prestidigitation, almost like magic,” says Rogowski, a discriminating critic in his own right. “You’re going ‘what the hell is that?’ ‘Who comes up with that?,’ because that’s crazy stuff. He just blows me away, and he just continues to do it.”

But then Boggs was done. In the spring of 2018, he quit making the Berea chair. “I knew in my gut that I was overdue for the next step,” he says. “It’s an ancient idea of a chair design. And they’re so good. But I can’t fix that form, so I learned how to make a much, much better chair.”


At this point, Boggs hadn’t made any improvements in his Berea chair since he splayed the legs back in 2000. He was tired of being restricted by a small set of tools, a log of wood, and some hickory bark. “Each addition of a tool,” he says, “added a color to my palate or a degree to my bandwidth in thinking.” Now he wanted to combine his skills, his knowledge of wood, and his new techniques to create something even better.

Every solution creates its own problems, Boggs says. “We had to destroy a bunch of material in the process of fumbling along, figuring out how all of these things responded to each other.”

Besides, the Berea chair was bugging him. The seat had no specific shape. The rationales behind the time-honored way of making it had less to do with function and durability and more with the technological limitations of the time. “Those chairs evolved out of a very primitive barn, a lathe, a chisel and very little else,” he says. “And access to trees. That’s beautiful and I love that, but it’s very limiting. I had to leave it. It seems in some ways less genuine every year to continue making this chair. It was who I was, not who I am.”

There was also a limit on how much money Boggs could make on a peasant chair, and he wanted to expand from vow-of-poverty chair-making to building a business. By this time, Boggs had moved back to his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, and married his second wife—Melanie Boggs, his now-business partner. They soon opened a 10,000-square-foot shop, called Brian Boggs Chairmakers, on the edge of Asheville’s River Arts District. Here, looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, 11 employees (including the Boggses) turn out approximately 200 pieces a year.

In 2018, Boggs took a risk. He told the 30 customers on his waiting list that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 10:06 am

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life

Wholly Kaw and the Rockwell Model T

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This shave I did use the Copper Hat silvertip brush shown, and it made quite a nice lather from Wholly Kaw’s Monaco Royale (tallow version):

Top notes: Lavender, Bergamot, Neroli, Petitgrain
Middle notes: Oakmoss, Cedarwood, Tonka Bean, Ambergris*
Base notes: Guaiacwood, Agarwood, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Labdanum and Musk

*synthetic version of ambergris is used.

I applaud the way Wholly Kaw clearly lists the fragrance profile, and I did enjoy this fragrance — so much that another Wholly Kaw soap is on deck for tomorrow.

The more I use the Model T, the more I like it. (I have no idea why it’s named after Ford’s Model T automobile, a car I’ve never driven, though I did learn to drive on a Ford Model A.) After the final pass I did not have the smoothness to which I’ve become accustomed, so I cranked it up from 3 to 4 on the settings, and that did the job. Possibly it needs a new blade, but I think I’ll leave it at 4 for a while.

A splash of Barrister & Mann Reserve Cool, because I am, after all, a cool guy, and I’m ready for th day.

Unfortunately, the day is not ready for me:

“10+” is an understatement. The current AQI for PM2.5 (fine particulate matter, no greater than 2.5 microns in diameter — the diameter of the average human hair is 50 microns) is 226 and we’ve reached 253 in the past 24 hours. My windows are shut and I have a fan going that has a HEPA filter, and still I cough and sneeze.

It is, of course, much worse in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Written by Leisureguy

15 September 2020 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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