Later On

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

Archive for November 2nd, 2020

A recipe for a dark and stormy night

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Such a night as we’re now having calls for warm comfort food. This is easy:

Cut into 1″ pieces or large cubes, and put into a large bowl:

2 medium carrots
2 medium red beets
2 medium leeks (white part up to the branching leaves — save those for later)

Put into a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, some toasted sesame oil, and some of this if you have it — it’s not necessary, but I have some. Add:

• a dash of tamari sauce and some pinches of Maldon salt.

Stir with spatula, and add

• about 2 cups small crimini mushrooms or medium criminis halved

Stir some more so that everything’s well coated.

Put onto baking sheets lined with foil or parchment paper or (what I use) silicone baking mats. Spread out so it’s not piled up. If you give it room it will roast; if you don’t, it will steam.

Put in preheated 400ºF oven for 30 minutes. Remove, let cool a bit, then enjoy. Better than popcorn and IMO easier.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 7:35 pm

Human maliciousness eases the pain of mortality

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In some cases, human maliciousness makes mortality a reward. I’m not advocate of suicide, nor have I ever been, but I (probably like you) recognize my mortality. There was a time — I’m thinking of a conversation in a car traveling from my hometown village (pop. 2200) in southern Oklahoma to the magnificence of the county seat (pop. 18,000 — actually a little less) where I would attend a meeting of a chess club — when I thought I would love to live for centuries.

I no longer harbor that love (fortunately), and in part the breakup is due to the fact that human maliciousness is increasingly evident to me. Who needs that?

The obvious examples we see all around us, and it’s particularly evident to me in the US (because I am so familiar with the US). But the triggering event today was discovering the my computer has been infected with some malware that now prevents me from using my printer.

Perhaps in time I will figure out how to remove the malware, but what struck me is the maliciousness of those who simply want to harm others. Getting shut of that is not a bad thing at all.

I’ll continue to enjoy the good things of life, but the bad things increasingly demand our attention — a pain.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life

Amish View on How to Use Technology

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Datlin Crump (a name to reckon with) writes in Medium:

At first glance, it may be easy to regard the Amish as backward, even foolish for their avoidance of many comforts and conveniences the rest of us take for granted. But it takes more than a glance to truly know a person — what they feel, what they believe, and why. After taking more than a glance at the Amish — their beliefs and way of life — I think there’s a lot they can teach me about using technology.

The Amish are a people who have managed to preserve a religion and rich cultural heritage very different from the rest of us for hundreds of years — since long before the United States of America existed.

One reason they have been so effective in preserving their way of life — despite having no central church authority — is because each district (congregation) has its own set of unwritten rules for Amish living. This set of rules, called an Ordnung, is maintained and administered by the members of the district. Due to the aforementioned decentralized church governance, these rules can vary between districts. For example, one district may allow the use of bicycles while another may forbid them.

Though the rules may vary across districts, the Amish believe the existence of and obedience to the Ordnung is vital to the preservation of their community, cultural identity, and faith. It is also important for the protection of the family.

The Amish don’t believe technology is evil in and of itself. In fact, they make use of many modern technologies such as batteries, electric lights, farm equipment, and landline telephones (although they usually do not have a phone inside their home, but in a small shed somewhere on their property).

What concerns the Amish is that, unchecked or used improperly, technology can negatively impact, even destroy the things they hold most dear — the things the Ordnung is intended to protect and preserve. For example, they do not own automobiles because they believe that the ability to more quickly travel longer distances would cause them to move further apart from each other, separating families and eroding their tight-knit community. Using a horse-and-buggy to travel helps to keep everyone closer together and tied to a smaller geographic area.

When it comes to technology, the Amish seek to be its master rather than allow it to master them. They are selective about the things they allow into their lives and use those things intentionally to help them live in harmony with their values.

I think the Amish are wise to be cautious about technology. They have problems like everyone else, but not problems like these:

I’m not intending to trade my car in for a horse-and-buggy, nor am I intending to cut myself off from the Internet or get rid of my gadgets. After all, it’s Internet-connected devices that have allowed me to quickly and easily learn more about the Amish in the first place.

But this example of selective and intentional use of technology has caused me to deeply reflect on questions such as:

What are the most important things in my life? What are my values?

Is the technology I use helping me or hindering me in living my life according to my values?

If I knew that a certain technology was negatively impacting what’s important to me or had the potential to do so, would I limit my use of that technology or give it up altogether? Why or why not?

What changes will I make now to better align my use of technology with my values?

I recently watched American Experience: The Amish, a PBS documentary. Near the end of the program, an Amish man relates the following story: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

How Your Brain Tricks You Into Taking Risks During the Pandemic

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A double-barrelled expert — psychologist and champion poker player — discusses how our brains can mislead us. Marshall Allen and Meg Marco report in ProPublica:

It was mid-February and Maria Konnikova — a psychologist, writer and champion poker player — was on a multicity trip. From her hotel room in New Orleans, she called her sister, a doctor, to discuss the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Konnikova saw there were early cases in Los Angeles, where she was headed for a poker tournament.

The odds of Konnikova getting infected or spreading the virus by participating in a large indoor event were unknown. But as a poker player she had a lot of experience thinking through the probable risks associated with different decisions. So she played it conservatively. She cut short her trip and went home to quarantine in New York.

Konnikova’s psychology expertise tells her that most people have a hard time thinking through the uncertainty and probabilities posed by the pandemic. People tend to learn through experience, and we’ve never lived through anything like COVID-19. Every day, people face unpleasant and uncertain risks associated with their behavior, and that ambiguity goes against how we tend to think. “The brain likes certainty,” she said. “The brain likes black and white. It wants clear answers and wants clear cause and effect. It doesn’t like living in a world of ambiguities and gray zones.”

Many months into the pandemic, even as the nation faces its highest average daily case counts to date, people still don’t agree on how to live in the era of COVID-19. We know how to protect ourselves — washing our hands, wearing masks and staying socially distant — but many people still take unnecessary risks, even at the highest levels of government.

In late September, the White House hosted an indoor party celebrating the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. It became a possible superspreader event because attendees did not wear masks and ignored social distancing recommendations. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn’t wear a mask at the event. He also went without one when he helped President Donald Trump prepare for his first debate. Christie later spent a week in intensive care with COVID-19 and then wrote an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal titled “I Should Have Worn a Mask.” “I let my guard down,” he wrote.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called on Americans to wear masks in July. So why is it so hard for people to mask up and practice other established behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19? The problem, experts who study the way we think say, is that the unprecedented nature of the pandemic makes us vulnerable to subtle biases that undermine how we process information and assess risk. Our brains can play tricks on us. That causes some people to underestimate their risk, the experts said.

When Las Vegas reopened, crowds showed up without masks. An estimated 365,000 people attended the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Many didn’t wear helmets or masks. The festivities included a non-socially distanced concert by Smashmouth. And even though masks were distributed and required at a recent Trump campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, some attendees did not wear them, and the campaign packed people into crowded buses.

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It may not always seem like it, but people are rational and weigh the costs and benefits when they make decisions, said Eve Wittenberg, a decision scientist at the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “People are not stupid here,” she said. But they have no experience thinking through a pandemic and are also getting mixed and conflicted messages from leaders, she said. That creates uncertainty and can lead people to rely on patterns of risk perception that may not be accurate.

The Power of Social Norms and Personal Experience

People may be more likely to participate in riskier activities because they tend to behave according to the norms that surround them, said Lisa Robinson, a senior research scientist at the Center for Health Decision Science. If we’re surrounded by people who behave a certain way, she said, we are more likely to behave the same way.

At this point the facts about COVID-19 are well established. It’s extremely contagious and transmitted via droplets that come from an infected person’s mouth or nose. This can happen during speech, coughing, sneezing or breathing — whether a person is experiencing symptoms or not. Older and sicker people are at higher risk of serious illness or death. But young, healthy people can still become infected and sick, and they can also put others at risk by spreading the virus.

A well-known historical example of people being directed by social norms is smoking, Robinson said. For decades the societal norm said smoking was cool, even after it was known to kill people. That contributed to a lot of people smoking, willing to take the risk. Then the norm flipped and smoking became uncool, and fewer people smoked. “We take a lot of cues from our environment,” Robinson said. “If I see a lot of people wearing a mask, I wear a mask.”

Betsy Paluck, a professor of psychology and public policy at Princeton University and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, studies how these social norms are formed and how they shift over time.

“There’s a lot of competing information out there,” Paluck said. “Your individual decisions are very real to you, of course, but they need to be validated by other people in your neighborhood, your organization.”

Paluck said everyone is influenced by social norms, including her. She has a newborn and elderly parents, so she’s been cautious during the pandemic. But it’s getting harder to be careful as people broaden their social lives.

She talked recently to a friend who is holding her kids out of school, opting for all virtual instruction. The friend’s decision felt like a huge relief because it affirmed Paluck’s own feelings. It showed her how much we all rely on our shared reality. “Holding the line on your own is just not tenable,” she said.

Personal experience also has an outsized role in decision-making. People who were in the hot zones of New York City and New Jersey during the initial spread of COVID-19 witnessed the effects of the virus. They may have become infected themselves or known others who became sick or even died. They might have known health care workers who cared for the sick, potentially exposing themselves in the process. Meanwhile, people in parts of the country that have not been hit hard by the virus might not have had that experience and therefore fail to appreciate the risk.

Poker players, along with folks like meteorologists, horse race handicappers and lawyers who work on a contingency basis are routinely rewarded or punished based on the odds. This gives them a rare visceral, experiential understanding of percentages and lets them short-circuit a cognitive effect called the “description-experience gap,” which leads people to underestimate risk based on their own personal experiences.

Even Nobel Prize-winning economists are susceptible to it. The pandemic is beyond the limits of human intuition, said the psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman on Konnikova’s podcast.

Wittenberg pointed to the work of Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who coined the term “availability” to describe how we base our thinking on what we’ve seen or experienced. We see it show up when a person assesses his or her risk of a heart attack by recalling instances among acquaintances, the two researchers wrote in their 1974 paper, “Judgment Under Uncertainty.”

The researchers also noted how some instances might come to mind more easily than others and thus get more heavily weighted in decision-making. Other instances might be more salient or may have happened more frequently, so they come to mind faster. Relying on “availability” to make decisions introduces biases, according to Kahneman and Tversky. “It is a common experience that the subjective probability of traffic accidents rises temporarily when one sees a car overturned by the side of the road,” the researchers wrote.

The Need for Leaders and Institutions to Guide Us

The confusion surrounding COVID-19 was magnified by a lack of testing in the early days of the pandemic and then delays in test results, Wittenberg said. That meant people didn’t have clear data to anchor their risk assessment.

The confusion called for leaders to guide the public with clear public health messages, but instead they have exacerbated the problems. It was well known relatively early in the pandemic that wearing a mask could help prevent the spread of the virus, but it took until July before Trump wore one in public for the first time. Some governors have downplayed the risk posed by the virus, others have emphasized it. That’s left the public “grappling with mixed and conflicted messages,” Wittenberg said.

Baruch Fischhoff, a psychologist who studies risk and decision-making at Carnegie Mellon University, said people are good at perceiving risk if they are getting information from a trustworthy source. But the risks associated with the coronavirus, which is invisible, are not intuitive, he said. It’s hard for people to project the exponential spread of the virus, he said. Our minds don’t easily extrapolate it, so we need leaders to help protect us from ourselves, he said.

The situation could be compared to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 3:18 pm

The local garlic I love

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This is garlic grown in Saanich that becomes available each fall for a brief period — the autumn equivalent of spring onions. It’s a hardneck garlic, and as you see the head and cloves run to enormity. The cloves shown are from one head of the garlic, similar to the head shown.

Beyond size, two very nice things about it. First, the cloves are easy to peel since the clove’s covering is very like a shell — rigid and easy to pop off if you twist the clove a bit. Second, its garlic flavor lacks the pungent sting of the common white softneck paper-skin variety. What’s in the photo is Russian red garlic and it’s a specialty of the Pacific Northwest (see article at link).

I will slice the cloves thinly to cook with greens later today. Whole Foods is so far the only local source I’ve found for collard greens — quite a nutritious green beyond being tasty and somewhat sweet. I cut out and mince the stems and sauté those along with the onions.

I also got a bunch of very fresh and very dark red kale — not red Russian kale, which tends to be somewhat scraggly, with long stems and spaced leaves. The leaves in this kale are curly and tight, and it’s very dark — as you see in the photo at the right.

I’ll use olive oil, and Whole Foods also had some fresh, thick scallions. I’m thinking a couple of bunches of those and a couple of jalapeños sautéed for a while, then the thinly sliced garlic, and then the collards, the kale, and a block of frozen chopped spinach with a diced lemon, a good dash of tamari, a splash of mirin, and about 1/4 cup vinegar (in this case, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar). I’ll cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.

I’m still following Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen pretty closely, and 1/2 cup of this for two meals a day will check the “greens” box.

Update: At the left are those cloves after slicing. As you see, they pretty much fill this little bowl. I’ll let them rest while I prepare the scallions, jalapeños, and greens. That will certainly take at least 15 minutes, the minimum amount of time I let garlic rest after being sliced or minced before I add it to the hot pan to cook.

Slicing the garlic is a breeze and takes about 2 minutes because I use a garlic mandoline.

Also update: While I was looking in the fridge for the jalapeños (only one, alas; I’ll make up the difference with crushed red pepper), I found a couple of leek tops (the green extreme) saved from when I roasted leeks. I’ve sliced those up to cook with the scallions.

To enlarge any of the photos, click them.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 12:38 pm

Another no-waist brush handle, with Tallow + Steel’s bay rum idea and the wonderful Fine slant — plus a drawing for Fine’s “world’s finest razor”

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This Mühle brush handle does have a neck of sorts, but its body is full with no defined waist or flared base. Despite that, the handle feels comfortable, and the silvertip badger knot is soft — even fluffy, though when it’s packed with lather, it readily does the job.

The brush was easily loaded from Tallow + Steel’s extremely nice Grog from a few seasons back. Grog is their take on bay rum, and it’s a good soap for an overcast fall morning. As is my conscious practice now, having played with bowl lathering for a couple of days, I loaded the brush at length, then coated the stubble with that thick mix. I then added tiny amounts of water to the brush and worked that into the stubble until the lather — in the brush and on my face — was perfect, which was good enough for me.

A reminder on slant razor technique

Fine’s slant razor is truly a marvel. Not the Marvel, a different Fine razor — also quite good, but not in the class of the slant, which — now that I’ve found the angle — is one of the best razors I have.

With the Fine slant — indeed, with any razor — success depends on three key factors. (I almost wrote “secrets,” but of course if they were secrets, they would hardly be published in a blog post — plus they are much too well known to be “secrets,” even if they are sometimes overlooked.)

  1. Good prep — I use MR GLO always as a pre-shave beard wash, and then apply lather as described above, using (a) a good shaving soap and (b) soft water. Getting the lather just right takes a little time — a benefit, since the time allows the lather to work its magic on the stubble.
  2. Good brand of blade for that razor — I was curious and checked to see which brand I was using today in this razor: a Treet Platinum, I first tried this brand after reading “The Science of Blade Sharpness” in Sharpologist, and it turned out to be excellent (at least for me) for reasons noted in the article.
  3. Good technique — “Good technique” mainly refers to using light pressure and good angle, but it also refers to your overall approach. For example, it’s good technique to use progressive stubble reduction through multiple passes (generally three: with the grain, then across the grain, and finally against the grain except in any areas in which you tend to get in-grown whiskers). Good technique includes lathering before each pass and rinsing afterwards, and on each pass lathering your chin and around your mouth first and shaving your chin and around the mouth last. (Reason: the toughest stubble grows there.)

    For the Fine slant in particular, the pressure must very light (and the razor’s light weight is a useful haptic mnemonic), and the best angle for this razor puts the razor’s handle far from the face, so the razor rides on the cap, turned faceward just enough to cut the stubble.

For me the problem I had for a while with this razor was from number 3. The razor initially was perfect, but then I drifted into using slightly too much pressure and definitely holding the handle too close to my face — and that resulted in nicks.

When nicks occur, don’t jump to blaming blade or razor (though those can certainly be at fault) but look first at your practices: your prep, blade/razor match, and — most of all — your technique. Looking to technique is particularly important if a razor that once was good seems to have lost its magic. That happened to me for two razors: my iKon stainless slant and this Fine slant. In both cases the problem was primarily the angle I was using, secondarily the pressure.

Slants are more technique-sensitive than good (comfortable and efficient) conventional razors, but the same guidance applies if you encounter problems with a conventional razor: check products, prep, pressure, and — particularly — blade angle.

The shave this morning was wonderful in both experience and outcome. Not only did I observe all of the above, but I was shaving a two-day stubble. My face is truly baby-smooth and baby-soft. Quite a nice way to start the week.

Drawing for “World’s Finest Razor”

Fine has an even more premium razor (though not a slant), but it’s pricey at US$165. However, right now there’s a drawing to get one free, and (full disclosure) I’ve entered. The drawing is open only for another day, so if you’re interested, act now.

Written by Leisureguy

2 November 2020 at 11:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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