Later On

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

Archive for February 5th, 2021

A culture war is brewing in North Korea. It shows Kim Jong Un’s deepest fear. — and a good TV series from it.

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Olivia Schieber, the senior program manager of the foreign and defense policy department at the American Enterprise Institute, writes in the Washington Post:

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did something none of his predecessors dared to do: He admitted that his country is in crisis. A grim reality may have left him little choice. The hermit kingdom is reeling from sanctions, natural disasters, famine and the covid-19 pandemic. And since life in North Korea looks likely to get even worse in the months ahead, the regime is doubling down on its efforts to prevent the flow of outside information into the country.

At the end of 2020, North Korea passed a slew of new laws to rein in what it calls “reactionary ideology and culture.” Key details of these laws, set to go into effect last month, recently emerged. They inadvertently reveal one of North Korea’s chief concerns: an influx of South Korean media. Reportedly, the new measures threaten anything from up to 15 years of hard labor for possessing South Korean books or movies to up to two years for just speaking with a South Korean accent. The laws even plan to hold parents accountable, calling for fines of roughly $111 to $222 for fathers and mothers who “failed to raise their children properly.” (One estimate puts the average monthly salary for North Koreans at about $4.) Distribution of foreign materials may warrant the worst punishment of all: death.

The regime has cause for concern. A 2019 study of 200 defectors showed that more than 90 percent had watched foreign or South Korean media before they defected. South Korean dramas pose a particular problem. Not only do they depict life in a wealthier, freer country, but also they threaten the fabric of state-sponsored culture. Even South Korean accents and slang have become more common as a result of the popularity of dramas in North Korea.

Of note is the South Korean 2019 hit rom-com, “Crash Landing on You,” a drama popular among defectors and North Koreans alike. The film partially takes place in North Korea and has been praised for its honest depictions of North Korean life. A sarcastic phrase from the drama, “You think you’re the general or something?” has reportedly become commonplace, angering North Korean authorities, who believe it is used to mock Kim (often known in the North simply as “the General”). While some criticize the drama for romanticizing life in North Korea, the regime is not too keen on the portrayals of its corrupt leadership, referring to the work as an “atrocious provocation.”

Northerners’ demand for products and information from the South appears to be growing. Some estimate as many as a quarter of North Koreans have mobile phones, many of which were illegally smuggled over the Sino-Korean border. This past October, authorities began a renewed crackdown on foreign cellphone usage by promising forgiveness if citizens and brokers “voluntarily” turned in their phones.

Before covid-19, North Koreans gained access to bootleg dramas via smuggled USBs sold in the jangmadang (private markets at times tolerated by the authorities). And South Korean media consumption has fueled demand for other illicit South Korean imports such as cosmetics, with some women using South Korean beauty products as a silent protest against the regime.

Ironically, . . .

Continue reading.

Crash Landing on You is on Netflix, and I’m watching it now (in episode 6). Episode 1 is somewhat tedious since it is focused on setting out the situation and background, but from episode 2 on, the series strikes me as quite interesting. Worth watching the first few episodes.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 10:10 pm

Cute commentary on teaching

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Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Education, Math, Video

“I denied my combat trauma for years. Survivors of the Capitol attack must not do the same.”

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Former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander is the president of Veterans Community Project and hosts the political podcast “Majority 54.” He writes in the Washington Post some excellent advice for those who minimize negative experiences (and men in particular are prone to do this from attempting to live up a the kind of masculine ideal typified by, say, Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns). The column begins:

Some advice for the members of Congress, their staff, law enforcement, building employees and anyone else who lived through the violent insurrection attempt Jan. 6 at the Capitol: Don’t make the same mistake I did.

For the decade after I served a tour as an Army intelligence officer in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, I denied the trauma I brought home with me. For 10 years, I compared, ranked and ultimately dismissed my own combat experience. Unlike some of my friends, I hadn’t been physically wounded; fortunately, I’d never had to kill another human being. So I ignored my violent nightmares, hyper-vigilance, shame, self-loathing and emotional numbness.

I hid my symptoms from everyone. I became depressed. I eventually fell into suicidal ideation. All because I didn’t think my trauma measured up.

You, too, have undergone trauma. Armed insurrectionists smashed their way into your place of work, looking to kill the people inside. They placed pipe bombs near the building you walk into every day. It would be normal — not unique; normal — for it to have affected you. If you believe that anyone whose workplace or school was terrorized by an attack is justified in seeking counseling, you must extend yourself the same compassion.

Some of the lawmakers present on Jan. 6 have already taken the brave step of opening up, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) virally among them. Many received her candor about fearing for her life with appropriate compassion, but others — some of them her Republican colleagues — mocked it. While their craven partisan motive is as disgusting as it is predictable, the real damage won’t be to her, but in the chilling effect that sort of reaction has on the rest of you inside the Capitol that day who might be inclined to understate your wounds.

Cynical forces might seek to dismiss your trauma, to politicize your decision to even see it as trauma. Do not let their self-interested spin keep you from help. Do not let their words work their way into your head: “They never came banging on my door. They didn’t leave death threats on my desk. I shouldn’t let this affect me.” An individual brain doesn’t know or care what another has experienced, just as one arm broken slipping down the Capitol steps wouldn’t be any less serious if someone else broke both.

And for all you know, the unaffected appearance of some who survived the insurrection might be a pretense. Perhaps they’re just waiting for someone else to go first. Your decision to open up and get help might allow them to do the same. Getting help can be scary because it requires that you admit that something is wrong — and it is terrifying to think that something is wrong.

The constraints of working in the public eye only ratchet up those worries. Whether as Missouri secretary of state or later as a potential presidential candidate, I repeatedly denied the reality of my situation because — among other reasons — I didn’t think I could be so openly flawed and hold office at the same time. But I was wrong. And even if I had been right, it wouldn’t have mattered, because my health should have come first.

You suffered an injury, and it is normal to treat an injury. In fact, it is not normal to not treat an injury. Treating it doesn’t mean you can’t do your job; it simply means you can do your job better.

Eventually, I got help, and today I am living a productive and enjoyable life of post-traumatic growth. I do not dread going to sleep. I can sit with my back to a door. I love what I do, I like who I am, and I’m emotionally present as a father and husband. But I nearly waited too long, all because I didn’t think I’d done enough to earn the right to label what I experienced as trauma.

Ignore all the forces that discourage you from . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 4:02 pm

Evolution of the pink power juice slushie recipe

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I started with Dr. Greger’s relatively simple recipe, but gradually it has evolved. The photo above shows what I’m drinking right this minute. It is made as I described earlier. (At the link are three brief videos: Greger’s original, why erythritol is good, and why cranberries are good but commercial cranberry juice is not so hot.) That earlier recipe:

1 lemon, peeled as shown here
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
1 1/2 cups frozen cranberries (or enough to almost fill the beaker)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
3 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
hibiscus tea to cover

But this I included several good dashes of Peychaud’s bitters. Very nice.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 3:32 pm

Kenyan woman finds a way to recycle plastic waste into bricks that are stronger than concrete

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Catherine Garcia reports in Yahoo News:

Using her ingenuity and engineering skills, Nzambi Matee found a way to help the environment by converting plastic waste into building materials.

In 2017, Matee opened a factory in Nairobi called Gjenge Makers, where workers take plastic waste, mix it with sand, and heat it up, with the resulting brick being five to seven times stronger than concrete. The factory accepts waste that other facilities “cannot process anymore, they cannot recycle,” Matee told Reuters. “That is what we get.”

The bricks are made of plastic that was originally used for milk and shampoo bottles, cereal and sandwich bags, buckets, and ropes. Every day, Gjenge Makers produces about 1,500 bricks, in different sizes and colors. Matee is a materials engineer, and she designed the factory’s machines after becoming sick of waiting for government officials to do something about plastic pollution. “I was tired of being on the sidelines,” she told Reuters.

Since opening, Gjenge Makers has recycled 20 tons of plastic waste, and Matee plans on adding a larger production line that will allow the factory to triple its output.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 1:42 pm

Booth Tarkington describes an American weakness: A lust to grow profits

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In the very opening of The Turmoil, the first volume in the Growth Trilogy set, Booth Tarkington describes what many now see as a bad tradeoff. (The ebook at the link is free to download in various formats.) The first chapter of the book:

There is a midland city in the heart of fair, open country, a dirty and wonderful city nesting dingily in the fog of its own smoke. The stranger must feel the dirt before he feels the wonder, for the dirt will be upon him instantly. It will be upon him and within him, since he must breathe it, and he may care for no further proof that wealth is here better loved than cleanliness; but whether he cares or not, the negligently tended streets incessantly press home the point, and so do the flecked and grimy citizens. At a breeze he must smother in the whirlpools of dust, and if he should decline at any time to inhale the smoke he has the meager alternative of suicide.

The smoke is like the bad breath of a giant panting for more and more riches. He gets them and pants the fiercer, smelling and swelling prodigiously. He has a voice, a hoarse voice, hot and rapacious trained to one tune: “Wealth! I will get Wealth! I will make Wealth! I will sell Wealth for more Wealth! My house shall be dirty, my garment shall be dirty, and I will foul my neighbor so that he cannot be clean⁠—but I will get Wealth! There shall be no clean thing about me: my wife shall be dirty and my child shall be dirty, but I will get Wealth!” And yet it is not wealth that he is so greedy for: what the giant really wants is hasty riches. To get these he squanders wealth upon the four winds, for wealth is in the smoke.

Not so long ago as a generation, there was no panting giant here, no heaving, grimy city; there was but a pleasant big town of neighborly people who had understanding of one another, being, on the whole, much of the same type. It was a leisurely and kindly place⁠—“homelike,” it was called⁠—and when the visitor had been taken through the State Asylum for the Insane and made to appreciate the view of the cemetery from a little hill, his host’s duty as Baedeker was done. The good burghers were given to jogging comfortably about in phaetons or in surreys for a family drive on Sunday. No one was very rich; few were very poor; the air was clean, and there was time to live.

But there was a spirit abroad in the land, and it was strong here as elsewhere⁠—a spirit that had moved in the depths of the American soil and labored there, sweating, till it stirred the surface, rove the mountains, and emerged, tangible and monstrous, the god of all good American hearts⁠—Bigness. And that god wrought the panting giant.

In the souls of the burghers there had always been the profound longing for size. Year by year the longing increased until it became an accumulated force: We must Grow! We must be Big! We must be Bigger! Bigness means Money! And the thing began to happen; their longing became a mighty Will. We must be Bigger! Bigger! Bigger! Get people here! Coax them here! Bribe them! Swindle them into coming, if you must, but get them! Shout them into coming! Deafen them into coming! Any kind of people; all kinds of people! We must be Bigger! Blow! Boost! Brag! Kill the faultfinder! Scream and bellow to the Most High: Bigness is patriotism and honor! Bigness is love and life and happiness! Bigness is Money! We want Bigness!

They got it. From all the states the people came; thinly at first, and slowly, but faster and faster in thicker and thicker swarms as the quick years went by. White people came, and black people and brown people and yellow people; the negroes came from the South by the thousands and thousands, multiplying by other thousands and thousands faster than they could die. From the four quarters of the earth the people came, the broken and the unbroken, the tame and the wild⁠—Germans, Irish, Italians, Hungarians, Scotch, Welsh, English, French, Swiss, Swedes, Norwegians, Greeks, Poles, Russian Jews, Dalmatians, Armenians, Romanians, Serbians, Persians, Syrians, Japanese, Chinese, Turks, and every hybrid that these could propagate. And if there were no Eskimos nor Patagonians, what other human strain that earth might furnish failed to swim and bubble in this crucible?

With Bigness came the new machinery and the rush; the streets began to roar and rattle, the houses to tremble; the pavements were worn under the tread of hurrying multitudes. The old, leisurely, quizzical look of the faces was lost in something harder and warier; and a cockney type began to emerge discernibly⁠—a cynical young mongrel barbaric of feature, muscular and cunning; dressed in good fabrics fashioned apparently in imitation of the sketches drawn by newspaper comedians. The female of his kind came with him⁠—a pale girl, shoddy and a little rouged; and they communicated in a nasal argot, mainly insolences and elisions. Nay, the common speech of the people showed change: in place of the old midland vernacular, irregular but clean, and not unwholesomely drawling, a jerky dialect of coined metaphors began to be heard, held together by “gunnas” and “gottas” and much fostered by the public journals.

The city piled itself high in the center, tower on tower for a nucleus, and spread itself out over the plain, mile after mile; and in its vitals, like benevolent bacilli contending with malevolent in the body of a man, missions and refuges offered what resistance they might to the saloons and all the hells that cities house and shelter. Temptation and ruin were ready commodities on the market for purchase by the venturesome; highwaymen walked the streets at night and sometimes killed; snatching thieves were busy everywhere in the dusk; while housebreakers were a common apprehension and frequent reality. Life itself was somewhat safer from intentional destruction than it was in medieval Rome during a faction war⁠—though the Roman murderer was more like to pay for his deed⁠—but death or mutilation beneath the wheels lay in ambush at every crossing.

The politicians let the people make all the laws they liked; it did not matter much, and the taxes went up, which is good for politicians. Lawmaking was a pastime of the people; nothing pleased them more. Singular fermentation of their humor, they even had laws forbidding dangerous speed. More marvelous still, they had a law forbidding smoke! They forbade chimneys to smoke and they forbade cigarettes to smoke. They made laws for all things and forgot them immediately; though sometimes they would remember after a while, and hurry to make new laws that the old laws should be enforced⁠—and then forget both new and old. Wherever enforcement threatened Money or Votes⁠—or wherever it was too much to bother⁠—it became a joke. Influence was the law.

So the place grew. And it grew strong.

Straightway when he came, each man fell to the same worship:

Give me of thyself, O Bigness:
Power to get more power!
Riches to get more riches!
Give me of thy sweat that I may sweat more!
Give me Bigness to get more Bigness to myself
O Bigness, for Thine is the Power and the Glory! And there is no end but Bigness, ever and forever!

That sets the scene, and the story proper begins in the next chapter,  Chapter II.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 12:47 pm

Gut Microbiome – Strike It Rich With Whole Grains

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The gut microbiome seems to be coming up a lot, perhaps because scientists are learning more and more about what an important job it does and more and more about the kind of diet sustains it. This brief video came up this morning, though it is from a few years ago:

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 11:44 am

Why does walking through a doorway make you forget what you were about to do?

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It’s called the “Doorway Effect,” and psychologist Tom Stafford writes about it on BBC:

We’ve all done it. Run upstairs to get your keys, but forget that it is them you’re looking for once you get to the bedroom. Open the fridge door and reach for the middle shelf only to realise that we can’t remember why we opened the fridge in the first place. Or wait for a moment to interrupt a friend to find that the burning issue that made us want to interrupt has now vanished from our minds just as we come to speak: “What did I want to say again?” we ask a confused audience, who all think “how should we know?!”

Although these errors can be embarrassing, they are also common. It’s known as the “Doorway Effect”, and it reveals some important features of how our minds are organised. Understanding this might help us appreciate those temporary moments of forgetfulness as more than just an annoyance (although they will still be annoying).

These features of our minds are perhaps best illustrated by a story about a woman who meets three builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing today?” she asks the first. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” sighs the first. “What are you doing today?” she asks the second. “I’m building a wall,” is the simple reply. But the third builder swells with pride when asked, and replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”

Maybe you heard that story as encouragement to think of the big picture, but to the psychologist in you the important moral is that any action has to be thought of at multiple levels if you are going to carry it out successfully. The third builder might have the most inspiring view of their day-job, but nobody can build a cathedral without figuring out how to successfully put one brick on top of another like the first builder.

As we move through our days our attention shifts between these levels – from our goals and ambitions, to plans and strategies, and to the lowest levels, our concrete actions. When things are going well, often in familiar situations, we keep our attention on what we want and how we do it seems to take care of itself. If you’re a skilled driver then you manage the gears, indicators and wheel automatically, and your attention is probably caught up in the less routine business of navigating the traffic or talking to your passengers. When things are less routine we have to shift our attention to the details of what we’re doing, taking our minds off the bigger picture for a moment. Hence the pause in conversation as the driver gets to a tricky junction, or the engine starts to make a funny sound.

The way our attention moves up and down the hierarchy of action is what allows us to carry out complex behaviours, stitching together a coherent plan over multiple moments, in multiple places or requiring multiple actions.

The Doorway Effect occurs when our attention moves between levels, and it reflects the reliance of our memories – even memories for what we were about to do – on the environment we’re in. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

The way we use external things as memory aids is, of course, the idea behind souvenirs and other such mementos, and accidental mementos are common — sounds (e…g., songs), fragrances, and tastes often trigger memories, and in so doing, they seem a part of ourselves. This is why losing all one’s possessions — for example, when one’s home burns completely, as happened to thousands in California over the past few years — is so devasting: in a sense, one loses a part of oneself: all those things attached to our memory and thus our identity.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) Sends a Message to Nebraska GOP State Central Committee

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I thought this statement by Ben Sasse was quite good, though I’ve noticed over the years that his words are much better than his actions and his spoken sentiments are quite often not consistent with the votes he cast. Still, it’s a good statement.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 11:15 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Politics

Mike’s Natural Orange, Cedarwood, & Black Pepper shaving soap, finished with a Mandarin Orange aftershave

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Photo is minimally altered so that you can still read the top label. You’ll note that I have taken matters into my own hands regarding the side label. I decided I’ll create a side label for all tubs that lack one, adding the label as I use the soap (so I don’t have to do them all at once).

The soap itself had a very nice and somewhat unusual fragrance. It was not a heavy fragrance — by no means in your face — but quite distinct and the adjective that came to mind was “charming.” Once again, I noticed the clay effect, though today I had to add but two driblets of water during loading.

My Fatip Testina Gentile did a fine job, and Royall Mandarin finished the shave with an orange flourish. And it’s a sunny day, so perhaps a walk is in order.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2021 at 11:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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