Later On

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

Archive for December 2nd, 2020

On Zoom, men don’t like feeling watched and judged — but women are used to it

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Treena Orchard and Shauna Burke, both Associate Professors in the School of Health Studies, Western University in London, Ont., write in The Conversation:

In Lewis Carroll’s Victorian classic Through the Looking-Glass, Alice steps through a mirror into a world that is a reflection of the one she already exists in. This fictional account of a familiar yet topsy-turvy reality resonates with our lived experiences during the pandemic, where we must navigate work, school and leisure through a screen.

Using our combined observations of hundreds of Zoom meetings and scholarly insights from the fields of anthropology and psychology, we explore these questions to consider the transformative impact of digital platforms on our work environments and identities.

As the legendary Aretha Franklin asks, “who’s zoomin’ who,” and why? And what does this tell us about our pandemic selves?

Men prefer custom backgrounds

Based on our experiences in the new virtual world, men appear to far outnumber women in their preference for using specialty Zoom backgrounds. Popular choices include dungeons, outer space, landscapes and branded University images, the latter of which is common among men in positions of significant power. They sometimes switch designs during meetings, which can be humorous and reflect individual creativity.

In practical terms, the backgrounds may also be used to disguise cluttered or untidy workspaces. The lack of research on Zoom backgrounds makes determining the reasons behind this behaviour challenging to ascertain, but studies about gender and workspace culture may offer some clues.

The idea of men customizing their backgrounds to assert themselves in new spaces aligns with insights from gaming literature. Journalist Gabriel Winslow-Yost argues that gaming can be very grounding among male players given the collective nature of the virtual landscape and the definitive roles each player has.

Unlike video games, Zoom meetings are not usually perceived as leisurely activities or an escape from the “real” world. However, it could be that tech-savvy men are drawn to or comforted in some way by the opportunity to curate their digital environments using unique Zoom backgrounds, or as Winslow-Yost points out with regard to the online gaming world: “… they let us spend a little time in a different room.”

Designs by men

Women have been players in the corporate world for decades, but the style and appearance of many work environments remains quite masculine. This is reflected in the predominance of neutral tones like steely grey, along with Modernist décor and room temperatures two to three degrees lower than what women prefer.

During the pandemic, the spatial distinctions between office and home are eroding because many of us now work in the places where we live. This transition may be especially challenging for men, who mostly prefer clear definitions between office and domestic spaces. In light of this, one suggestion is that men may use specialty Zoom backgrounds as a creative way to exact a sense of control over their new work environments that no longer reflect the masculine design they are used to.

On-screen appearances

We are also regularly observing and being observed by people on the other side of our looking-glass screens, which can increase our focus on the appearance of others and generate discomfort about how we look. There’s a reason cosmetic surgery for facial procedures has skyrocketed since the uptick in Zoom use or “Zoom boom.”

Women are regularly objectified and sexualized for male pleasure or gain, which researchers refer to as the male gaze. This could help explain why women are less likely than men to turn their videos on during Zoom calls. Their decisions to do so stem from appearance-related concerns and, for some, a desire to multi-task, says Portland-based psychologist and tech expert Doreen Dodgen-Magee.

When using Zoom, many of our male colleagues report feeling uncomfortable with being continuously observed. Given this, it is conceivable that some men employ custom backgrounds as protective camouflage to reduce their vulnerability in a glaringly objectified space.

Being visually assessed in such overt ways is not something most men are familiar with, especially in their professional lives. This is demonstrated in a recent study that found that although female workers often perceive themselves to be observed in certain working environments males do not.

Screen reflections

Like Alice’s looking-glass, Zoom is

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 6:09 pm

Dolly Parton knows effective educational intervention

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Erick Moore has a good Facebook post:

In 1990, the high school dropout rate for Dolly Parton’s hometown of Sevierville Tennessee was at 34% (Research shows that most kids make up their minds in fifth/sixth grade not to graduate). That year, all fifth and sixth graders from Sevierville were invited by Parton to attend an assembly at Dollywood. They were asked to pick a buddy, and if both students completed high school, Dolly Parton would personally hand them each a $500 check on their graduation day. As a result, the dropout rate for those classes fell to 6%, and has generally retained that average to this day.

Shortly after the success of The Buddy Program, Parton learned in dealing with teachers from the school district that problems in education often begin during first grade when kids are at different developmental levels. That year The Dollywood Foundation paid the salaries for additional teachers assistants in every first grade class for the next 2 years, under the agreement that if the program worked, the school system would effectively adopt and fund the program after the trial period.

During the same period, Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1995: The idea being that children from her rural hometown and low-income families often start school at a disadvantage and as a result, will be unfairly compared to their peers for the rest of their lives, effectively encouraging them not to pursue higher education. The objective of the Imagination library was that every child in Sevier County would receive one book, every month, mailed and addressed to the child, from the day they were born until the day they started kindergarten, 100% free of charge. What began as a hometown initiative now serves children in all 50 states, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, mailing thousands of free books to children around the world monthly.

On March 1, 2018 Parton donated her 100 millionth book at the Library of Congress: a copy of “Coat of Many Colors” dedicated to her father, who never learned to read or write.

Happy 74th Birthday Dolly Parton!

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 5:55 pm

A walk and a monkey-puzzle tree

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On reading that a brief walk is much better than none, I decided to walk up to our local bulk goods store to get walnuts and more of that smoked garlic-dill-chilli tofu. I read about the walk in a NY Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, who notes:

Walking for at least 11 minutes a day could lessen the undesirable health consequences of sitting for hours and hours, according to a helpful new study of the ways in which both inactivity and exercise influence how long we live. The study, which relied on objective data from tens of thousands of people about how they spent their days, found that those who were the most sedentary faced a high risk of dying young, but if people got up and moved, they slashed that threat substantially, even if they did not move much.

. . . Crunching the numbers further, the researchers concluded that the sweet spot for physical activity and longevity seemed to arrive at about 35 minutes a day of brisk walking or other moderate activities, an amount that led to the greatest statistical improvement in life span, no matter how many hours someone sat.

There’s more in the article, but that provides the finding. And it (and the need for walnuts and desire for tofu) were enough to get me moving. And the way to the store I walk past the monkey-puzzle tree pictured, which looks like a young tree. It turns out to be native to Chile and Argentina.

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Yet another aviation revolution

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From time to time an innovation in aviation technology is hailed as a “revolution.” Some pan out, some are a flash in the pan (cf. . This one looks interesting — and it looks like a descendant of the Aereon 26, immortalized by John McPhee in his book The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed.

Lane Wallace discusses that aircraft in an article in the Atlantic, which is the source of the photo on the right. Perhaps it’s no surprise the two aircraft resemble each other, given the goal of having the body generate life and minimize drag while enclosing a large volume; it might be convergent evolution, but I’m inclined to believe that there was some direct connection.

At any rate, take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 11:46 am

Posted in Technology, Video

Negative scented-candle reviews and the coronavirus

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Christopher Ingraham has an intriguing report in the Washington Post:

Terri Nelson had an unusual question about covid-19: If the virus robs people of their sense of smell, would that be reflected in online reviews of fragrant products? To find out, the Portland, Ore., science illustrator and cartoonist said she looked up reviews of “the stinkiest holiday thing I could think of” — scented candles.


“There are angry ladies all over Yankee Candle’s site reporting that none of the candles they just got had any smell at all,” she wrote on Twitter last week. “I wonder if they’re feeling a little hot and nothing has much taste for the last couple days too,” she added, a nod to other common coronavirus symptoms.

Nelson’s observation, which generated thousands of retweets and likes on the social media site, read like the punchline of a late-night joke. But it caught the attention of Kate Petrova, a research assistant with the Harvard Study of Adult Development at Bryn Mawr College, who decided to test the hypothesis by scraping roughly 20,000 reviews of the most popular scented and unscented candles on Amazon.

“It is rare, at least in my line of work, to stumble upon an anecdotal observation that can be examined using such vast amounts of easily accessible data,” said Petrova, who stressed that this was a personal project with no relation to her research work.

The results were surprisingly clear: Before 2020, reviews of the top scented candles hovered between 4 and 4½ stars, year after year. Since January, however, those grades have fallen roughly one full star.

Unscented candle reviews, meanwhile, don’t show the same pattern. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, including some intriguing charts. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 11:29 am

Wow! Dr. Jon’s Vol 3 is amazing! Tried it with my gentlest brush, and I love it.

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This shave ends my run of gentle brushes, and I end with the gentlest of them all: my Omega 21762 (here with the Razor & Brush commemorate stamp on the handle). At one time I was unhappy with it, wanting it to be something that it’s not, but once I just accepted it for what it is — a very fine gentle brush, unusually so for a boar brush — I have enjoyed it a lot. It’s less resilient than the Pro 48, and it has a better handle.

I became curious about version 3 of Dr. Jon’s handcrafted shaving soap, which he calls “Vol. 3.” He explains on his site:

What is Volume 3?

We wanted to transition from making a high quality vegan shaving soap to making the absolute best vegan shaving soap available and after months of testing we finally settled on a new ingredient list and method of production that we felt was worth making the transition. The addition of slippery elm bark, aloe, soy wax, jojoba oil and sunflower oil allows us to make an amazingly slick soap that leaves your face feeling soft and so moisturized that you don’t need a post shave treatment. 

All of our shaving soap is hand made with natural vegan ingredients including an abundance of luxury conditioning oils to help keep your skin healthy and moisturized. We don’t want to just help you have a great shave, we want to help you have a great face!

The Highest Quality Ingredients

Ingredients: Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Babassu Oil, Sodium Lactate, Essential/Fragrance Oils, Sodium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Myristyl Myristate, Avocado Oil, Sunflower Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Soy Wax, Cucumber Extract, Licorice Extract, Candelilla Extract, Sodium PCA, Sensolene, Squalane, Slippery Elm Bark, Aloe Vera Concentrate, Citric Acid.

I ordered a tub of Pan’s Pipe (Lilac, Ivy, Orange Zest, Dirt, Oakmoss, and Cannabis). It arrived yesterday, and this morning I put it to work. As I note in the title, “Wow!” This is another first-rate premium soap that makes a superb lather and leaves my skin feeling soft and supple. I would put this soap in the same category as other ultra-premium shaving soaps (e.g., Declaration Grooming’s Milkstead formula and Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 formula).

Fully lathered, I set to work with my Rockwell 6S using the R4 baseplate — a great shave, very comfortable. A splash of Flying Bird Bay Rum finished the shave nicely.

That completes the run through the gentle shaving brushes and through my bay rum shaving soaps and aftershaves. Regular shaving will resume tomorrow.

I’ll mention in passing that I blogged in February an interesting talk on the origins of pandemics. Back then, it seemed of interest because there was the possibility of a pandemic arising. Now it’s really hitting the US hard, and when I watched the video of the talk this morning, it was even more interesting than I remembered. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

2 December 2020 at 11:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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