Later On

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

Archive for February 1st, 2021

Ancient technology: Eel weirs in US rivers

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Ad Crable reports at CNN:

As a kid growing up on Bald Top Mountain above the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, Van Wagner would look down during times of low water to see a mysterious “V” rising from the bottom, pointing downstream.

Later, he learned it was an old eel weir built from stacked river rocks, a simple but effective way to funnel and catch migrating American eels. As the eels swam downstream, the walls of the weir funneled them to a narrow point where they could be captured in traps or speared more easily.

As Wagner shows in a recent drone video, the two walls of the weir rise about 3–5 feet from the river bottom. The weir is about one-eighth of a mile wide at the top of the V.

Wagner, a high school environmental science teacher from Danville, PA, was told a story that has been handed down by generations of local residents: The weir had been built by Native Americans. Indeed, the weir is located at the mouth of Mahoning Creek, where a community of Native Americans once lived.

Wagner’s own research led him to the startling theory that not only was the weir erected by Native Americans, but that it was perhaps built well before the great pyramids of Egypt. He asserts this possibility because wood recovered from an old capture basket at the end of an eel weir in Maine was carbon-dated to an origin of approximately 6,000 years ago.

Moreover, it seems the Susquehanna is full of old eel weirs, underwater landmarks still standing after centuries, if not eons, of floods.

The historical record does not include much documentation of eel weirs in Pennsylvania. But when COVID-19 grounded field trips this year at Lewisburg Area High School, Wagner tasked his students with poring over satellite imagery of the Susquehanna to find the telltale Vs of eel weirs.

So far, they think they have found several dozen. And almost all are near documented Native American sites.

That’s no surprise to Aaron Henning, a fisheries biologist with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. “There are hundreds out there. There’s one next to the airport in Harrisburg,” he said.

One simple reason may be that the snakelike eels were once a primary source of food for people living along the Susquehanna. “Native Americans used to smoke and dry the eel meat to be used all winter. This was likely the most important source of protein and calories for local people for several thousand years,” Wagner said.

Swatara Creek near Harrisburg draws its name from a Native American word believed to mean “where we feed on eels.” Swatara Township has an eel in its crest. The city of Shamokin, which drains into the Susquehanna, is said to mean Eel Creek in the language of the Delaware tribe.

According to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website, “Estimates of historical abundance suggest that eels made up 25% of all fish biomass in the Susquehanna River basin.”

Weirs also have been found in Maryland, New York and Delaware.

In his master’s thesis, Prehistoric Fish Weirs in Eastern North America, Allen Lutins wrote that eels and other fish played an important role in the diets of Native Americans along rivers and the Atlantic Coast before the Woodland Period, which stretched from 500 BC to AD 1100.

The reason: Catching fish required little effort and risk. And, American eels were plentiful. Wagner marvels that Native Americans obviously knew the natural history of eels even though it takes place entirely under water. They knew to operate their weirs in the fall when adult eels migrated in mass numbers down the Susquehanna. The fish were on their way to the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean to spawn and die, a far-off central gathering spot for American eels that was only discovered a few decades ago.

The eel is the only fish in the Susquehanna to spend its adult life in the river, then return to the sea.

Lutins, citing other scholars, said it is often difficult to distinguish between prehistoric eel weirs and those built by early colonists who copied the Native American techniques. He cited several settlers who described stone or stake weirs in Virginia’s James and Shenandoah rivers still in use at the time by Native Americans.

Newly arrived colonists took over the weirs and built new ones. Eels became a diet staple of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 8:39 pm

Wisconsin pharmacist who destroyed more than 500 vaccine doses believes Earth is flat, FBI says

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:sigh: Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain. Andrea Salcedo reports in the Washington Post:

When a pharmacist discovered that 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine were left to spoil outside a Wisconsin clinic’s refrigerator in December, the worker immediately suspected a colleague who had spread false and outlandish claims, according to court records.

For months, Steven Brandenburg, the overnight pharmacist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis., had said he thought the vaccine would harm people, make them infertile and implant them with microchips.

Now, federal authorities say his belief in debunked claims went beyond the vaccine. The pharmacist, who has agreed to plead guilty to charges of attempting to spoil the vaccine, also believes the Earth is flat and that the sky is not real, according to court documents.

His beliefs were revealed in court after a search of Brandenburg’s phone, computer and hard drive by the FBI. The documents include interviews with Brandenburg and Aurora Medical Center pharmacy technicianSarah Sticker, who told authorities she discovered the unrefrigerated doses of the Moderna vaccine at around 3 a.m. on Dec. 26. The unsealed records were first reported by the Daily Beast.

“Brandenburg was very engaged in conspiracy theories,” Sticker told law enforcement, according to court records.

Jason D. Baltz, Brandenburg’s attorney, declined to comment to The Washington Post late Sunday.

The pharmacist removed 57 vials, each containing enough for 10 vaccinations, of the Moderna vaccine from the hospital’s refrigerators the nights of Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, prosecutors say. . . .

Read the whole thing.

Later in the article:

. . . “I did so with the purpose of allowing the vaccine to be outside the temperature range so that it would not be effective,” Brandenburg said in an email to Advocate Aurora Health investigators, noting he believed the vaccine “would be harmful to individuals that receive it.”

That same day, Advocate Aurora Health announced Brandenburg no longer worked at the hospital.

In another interview with authorities, Sticker said Brandenburg sent her text messages promoting false beliefs he supported, including that the sky was not really the sky but a “shield put up by the government to prevent individuals from seeing God,” court records show.

Brandenburg, in a separate interview with the Grafton Police Department and the FBI, said “he has had an interest in conspiracy theories” for the past seven years. . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 4:25 pm

Why I generally choose lentils as the legume for my meals

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Following Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, I eat a serving of beans or lentills (which nowadays for me is 1/4 cup cooked) at each meal, and lately I always choose lentils — green lentils, brown lentils, black beluga lentils, Du Puy lentils (but not red lentils, which lack the skin and turn to mush). Here’s why:

An easy and tasty recipe from ingredients you may have on hand: Frances Moore Lappé’s Lentiils Monastery Style, which I’ve been making off and on since Diet for a Small Planet was first published. Note that the recipe at the link calls for 1 cup of lentils not 1 pound of lentils, which are generally packaged in a 1-lb bag. (I made the mistake once, using 1 bag instead of 1 cup. Today it’s not an issue since I buy lentils from the bulk bins.)

Generally, though, I don’t make a soup, but cook and drain the lentils and then refrigerate them, which makes the starch resistance so they are not digested so quickly and thus extend the period of satiation. I then use the lentils in a salad of some sort (Lebanese lentil salad, for example, or just add to a tossed salad).

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 2:29 pm

The Boogaloo Bois Have Guns, Criminal Records and Military Training. Now They Want to Overthrow the Government.

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A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, and Lila Hassan and Karim Hajj, FRONTLINE, report in ProPublica:

Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol.

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building.

In a series of posts, the Last Sons said her death should be “avenged” and appeared to call for the murder of three more cops.

The group is part of the Boogaloo movement — a decentralized, very online successor to the ­­militia movement of the ’80s and ’90s —­ whose adherents are fixated on attacking law enforcement and violently toppling the U.S. government. Researchers say the movement began coalescing online in 2019 as people — mostly young men — angry with what they perceived to be increasing government repression, found each other on Facebook groups and in private chats. In movement vernacular, Boogaloo refers to an inevitable and imminent armed revolt, and members often call themselves Boogaloo Bois, boogs or goons.

In the weeks since Jan. 6, an array of extremist groups have been named as participants in the Capitol invasion. The Proud Boys. QAnon believers. White nationalists. The Oath Keepers. But the Boogaloo Bois are notable for the depth of their commitment to the overthrow of the U.S. government and the jaw-dropping criminal histories of many members.

Mike Dunn, a 20-year-old from a small town on Virginia’s rural southern edge, is the commander of the Last Sons. “I really feel we’re looking at the possibility — stronger than any time since, say, the 1860s — of armed insurrection,” Dunn said in an interview with ProPublica and FRONTLINE a few days after the assault on the Capitol. Although Dunn didn’t directly participate, he said members of his Boogaloo faction helped fire up the crowd and “may” have penetrated the building.

“It was a chance to mess with the federal government again,” he said. “They weren’t there for MAGA. They weren’t there for Trump.”

Dunn added that he’s “willing to die in the streets” while battling law enforcement or security forces.

In its short existence, the Boogaloo movement has proven to be a magnet for current or former military service members who have used their combat skills and firearms expertise to advance the Boogaloo cause. Before becoming one of the faces of the movement, Dunn did a brief stint in the U.S. Marines, a career he says was cut short by a heart condition, and worked as a Virginia state prison guard.

Through interviews, extensive study of social media and a review of court records, some previously unreported, ProPublica and FRONTLINE identified more than 20 Boogaloo Bois or sympathizers who’ve served in the armed forces. Over the past 18 months, 13 of them have been arrested on charges ranging from the possession of illegal automatic weapons to the manufacture of explosives to murder.

Most of the individuals identified by the news organizations became involved with the movement after leaving the military. At least four are accused of committing Boogaloo-related crimes while employed by one of the military branches.

Examples of the nexus between the group and the military abound.

Last year, an FBI task force in San Francisco opened a domestic terror investigation into  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

The Marine Corps is working to root out extremists from its ranks, a spokesman said.

“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield said.

No reliable numbers exist about how many current or former military members are part of the movement.

However, military officials at the Pentagon told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that they have been concerned by a surge in extremist activity. “We are seeing an increase in concerning behavior,” said one official, stressing that military leaders are “very actively” responding to tips and are thoroughly investigating service members linked to anti-government groups.

Experts worry about people with military training joining extremist groups.

Boogaloo Bois with military experience are likely to share their expertise with members who’ve never served in the armed forces, building a more effective, more lethal movement. “These are folks who can bring discipline to a movement. These are folks that can bring skills to a movement,” said Jason Blazakis, director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:44 pm

Pandemic Last Supper

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Humor

The Science of Reasoning With Unreasonable People

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Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, writes in the NY Times:

A few years ago, I made the mistake of having an argument with the most stubborn person I know. R., whose initial I’m using to protect his privacy, is a longtime friend, and when his family came to visit, he mentioned that his children had never been vaccinated — and never would be.

I’m no proponent of blindly giving every vaccination to every newborn, but I was concerned for his children’s safety, so I started debunking some common vaccine myths. After days of debate, I was exhausted and exasperated. Determined to preserve our friendship, I vowed never to talk with him about vaccines again.

Then came 2020. Fear of the vaccine may be the greatest barrier to stopping Covid-19. It stretches far beyond the so-called anti-vaxxer community: About half of Americans harbor questions about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines; 39 percent say they definitely or probably won’t get one.

I decided to see if I could open R.’s mind to the possibility. What I didn’t realize was that my mind would be opened as well.

As an organizational psychologist, I’ve spent the past few years studying how to motivate people to think again. I’ve run experiments that led proponents of gun rights and gun safety to abandon some of their mutual animosity, and I even got Yankees fans to let go of their grudges against Red Sox supporters. But I don’t always practice what I teach.

When someone seems closed-minded, my instinct is to argue the polar opposite of their position. But when I go on the attack, my opponents either shut down or fight back harder. On more than one occasion, I’ve been called a “logic bully.”

When we try to change a person’s mind, our first impulse is to preach about why we’re right and prosecute them for being wrong. Yet experiments show that preaching and prosecuting typically backfire — and what doesn’t sway people may strengthen their beliefs. Much as a vaccine inoculates the physical immune system against a virus, the act of resistance fortifies the psychological immune system. Refuting a point of view produces antibodies against future attempts at influence, making people more certain of their own opinions and more ready to rebut alternatives.

That’s what happened with my friend. If I wanted him to rethink his blanket resistance to vaccines, I had to rethink my approach.

Several decades ago, when treating substance abuse problems, psychologists developed a technique called motivational interviewing. The central premise: Instead of trying to force other people to change, you’re better off helping them find their own intrinsic motivation to change. You do that by interviewing them — asking open-ended questions and listening carefully — and holding up a mirror so they can see their own thoughts more clearly. If they express a desire to change, you guide them toward a plan.

Say you’re a student at Hogwarts, and you want to help your uncle reject Voldemort. You might start like this:

You: I’d love to better understand your feelings about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

Uncle: Well, he’s the most powerful wizard alive. Also, his followers promised me a fancy title.

You: Interesting. Is there anything you dislike about him?

Uncle: Hmm. I’m not crazy about all the murdering.

You: Well, nobody’s perfect. What’s stopped you from abandoning him?

Uncle: I’m afraid he might direct the murdering toward me.

You: That’s a reasonable fear — I’ve felt it too. Are there any principles that matter so deeply to you that you’d be willing to take that risk?

In controlled trials, motivational interviewing has helped people to stop smoking, abusing drugs and alcohol, and gambling; to improve their diets and exercise; to overcome eating disorders; and to lose weight. The approach has also motivated students to get a good night’s sleep; voters to reconsider their prejudices; and divorcing parents to reach settlements.

Recently, thanks to a vaccine whisperer, it has been applied to immunization. Arnaud Gagneur is a pediatrician in Quebec who encourages reluctant parents to immunize their children. In his experiments, a motivational interview in the maternity ward after birth increased the number of mothers willing to vaccinate their children from 72 percent to 87 percent; the number of children who were fully vaccinated two years later rose by 9 percent. A single conversation was enough to change behavior over the next 24 months.

I set up a conversation between Dr. Gagneur and my friend. After 90 minutes, it was clear to me that R.’s vaccination stance had not changed.

“I have tried to apply all the principles of motivational interviewing, but I have had the unpleasant feeling of not doing so well,” Dr. Gagneur wrote to me in email. “R. is very knowledgeable and always ends up finding arguments that support his decision.”

Strangely, I didn’t feel defeated or irritated. I wanted to learn how my friend’s views could evolve.

The pioneers of motivational interviewing, William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, have long warned against using the technique to manipulate people. It requires a genuine desire to understand people’s motivations and help them reach their goals. Although R. and I both want to keep his children healthy, I realized I had never tried to understand his perspective on vaccines before. So the next morning, I called him.

In our past debates, R. had focused only on the potential downsides of vaccinations. With Dr. Gagneur, though, he acknowledged that vaccines could be good for some but not necessarily for others. If he lived in a country experiencing an outbreak of, say, malaria, would he consider immunization? “You weigh the pros and cons,” he said.

Psychologists find that when we listen carefully and call attention to the nuances in people’s own thinking, they become less extreme and more open in their views. I wondered how my friend’s ambivalence applied to Covid, and I knew that the kinds of questions I asked would matter. Social scientists have found that asking people how their preferred political policies might work in practice, rather than asking why they favor those approaches, was more effective in opening their minds. As people struggled to explain their ideal tax legislation or health care plan, they grasped the complexity of the problem and recognized gaps in their knowledge.

So for my second attempt,

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Politics, Science

Tagged with

Simplified shave: Superior shaving soap obviates need for aftershave

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Acting on a tip from Grooming Dept., I used again the soap I used Saturday, a donkey-milk, duck-fat, lamb-tallow shaving soap (so not completely vegan, though it also includes some vegan ingredients). That soap, as I mentioned at the time, left my skin feeling quite good, and the tip is that with this sort of soap it’s worth skipping the aftershave — just finish the shave by rinsing your face (and for that I like to use first warm water, then a splash of cold).

In addition to liking the ingredients, I also wanted to use the soap again because I was intrigued by how it seemed to load: although it contains no clay, it loads just like a soap that does contain clay. So I had to try it again to verify, and yes, that is indeed the case: if you didn’t check the ingredients, you would swear by the way the soap loaded (requiring a little extra water) that it contained clay.

The lather from this soap is really excellent, today brought forth with my ebony-handled Sabini brush. The lather has a wonderful fragrance, and it is very thick, creamy, and slick, providing superior glide.

The razor this morning, rapidly becoming my favorite slant, is the iKon stainless slant with the coated head. It’s an absolutely wonderful razor if you pay attention to the angle (keep the cap in contact with your face, the handle away from your face) and pressure (light).

Three passes left my face perfectly smooth, and after rinsing and drying my face, my skin feels wonderful. A trace of the soap’s fragrance remains.

I should note that because Grooming Dept. does small batches, his stock tends to sell out, so if you want some of his soap, check out his site and also the online vendors that stock his soaps — for example, West Coast Shaving in the US, Italian Barber in Canada, Slickboys in the UK. It’s worth noting that in addition to shaving soaps, Grooming Dept. offers a range of grooming products:

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2021 at 10:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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