Later On

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

Archive for March 19th, 2021

Just some cooking: Greens and a Grain (kodo millet)

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Today’s Greens

• about 1 tablespoon olive oil, drizzled across 4-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless sauté pan
• 1 bunch scallions, chopped
• small pinch of kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is the best)
• 8 cloves garlic, chopped small and allowed to rest 15 minutes
• 4 huge domestic white mushrooms, halved and sliced
• 1 lemon, ends discarded then diced
• 6 small (miniature) San Marzano tomatoes, sliced
• 1 tablespoon dried mint
• 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
• good shaking of crushed red pepper, probably 1/2 teaspoon
• several generous dashes fish sauce
• 1 small bunch intensely dark red kale
* 2 300g packages frozen chopped spinach
• 1/2 cup mushroom broth

Sauté scallions for a while, then add garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook until mushrooms start to release their liquid. Add the rest. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, uncover to break up the blocks of spinach, stir to mix well, then cover again and continue cooking.

Today’s Grain: Kodo millet

• 1 cup unpolished kodo millet (polished millet is not so healthful as unpolished)
• small pinch of salt
• 2 cups mushroom broth
• 1 pat butter or about 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Put millet and salt in a pan and toast over high heat until it smells toasty. Add broth and butter, reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, cook 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and leave covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and refrigerate (to make the starch resistant).

Dinner

1/2 cup of the greens
1/2 cup of my ratatouille variant
1/4 cup black beans
1/4 cup kodo millet
1 teaspoon Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast (for B12 and flavor)

Mix in bowl, eat.

Then for dessert, I had some of the millet with a little black-truffle oil and a pinch of Maldon salt.

Millet is a grain — seeds of plants from the grass family.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 5:50 pm

More about discrimination against Asians: Some recent history

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

On Tuesday, in Georgia, a gunman murdered 1 man and 7 women, at three spas, and wounded another man. All three of the businesses were operating legally, according to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and had not previously come to the attention of the Atlanta Police Department, although all three had been reviewed by an erotic review site. The man apprehended for the murders was 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, who is described as deeply religious. Six of the women killed were of Asian descent.

Yesterday, at the news conference about the killings, the sheriff’s captain who was acting as a spokesman about the case, Jay Baker, told reporters that Long was “pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.” The spokesman went on to say that the suspect “apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction,” that had spurred him to murder, and that it was too early to tell if the incident was a “hate crime.” Long told law enforcement officers that the murders were “not racially motivated.” He was, he said, trying to “help” other people with sex addictions.

Journalists quickly discovered that Baker had posted on Facebook a picture of a shirt calling COVID-19 an “IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA.”

As Baker’s Facebook post indicated, the short-term history behind the shooting is the former president’s attacks on China, in which he drew out the pronunciation of the name to make it sound like a schoolyard insult.

The story behind Trump’s attacks on China was his desperate determination to be reelected in 2020. In 2018, the former president placed tariffs on Chinese goods to illustrate his commitment to make the U.S. “a much stronger, much richer nation.” The tariffs led to a trade war with China and, rather than building a much stronger nation, resulted in a dramatic fall in agricultural exports. Agricultural exports to China fell from $15.8 billion in 2017 to $5.9 billion in 2018.

To combat the growing unrest in the agricultural regions of the country, where farm bankruptcies grew by nearly 20% in 2019, Trump paid off farmers hurt by the tariff with subsidies, which made up more than one third of U.S. farm income in 2020. In June 2019, he also begged Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win the 2020 election. He told him that farmers were important to his election prospects, and begged Xi to buy more soybeans and wheat from U.S. farmers.

In January 2020, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He signed a deal that cut some U.S. tariffs in exchange for Chinese promises to buy more agricultural products, as well as some other adjustments between the two countries. On January 22, Trump tweeted: ““One of the many great things about our just signed giant Trade Deal with China is that it will bring both the USA & China closer together in so many other ways. Terrific working with President Xi, a man who truly loves his country. Much more to come!”

But, of course, the novel coronavirus was beginning to ravage the world.

On January 24, Trump tweeted: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”

Five days later, at a signing ceremony, he said: “I think our relationship with China now might be the best it’s been in a long, long time.”

On February 7, Trump called journalist Bob Woodward and said of the coronavirus, “This is deadly stuff. You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed…. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” Still, on February 10, he told supporters in New Hampshire that the coronavirus would “miraculously” go away when the weather got warmer, and in mid-February, he defended Xi’s handling of the epidemic, saying China was working hard and “doing a very good job” and that they “have everything under control.”

Shortly after the U.S. shut down to combat the pandemic in mid-March, Trump began to turn on China. On March 22, after 33,000 Americans had tested positive for the virus and 421 had died of it, Trump seemed to think better of his praise for Xi. He insisted that China had not told him about the deadly nature of the virus, and began to call it the “Chinese virus,” or the “Chy-na virus.”

By April 17, a Republican strategy document urged candidates to deflect attention from the nation’s disastrous coronavirus news by attacking China, which “caused this pandemic by covering it up, lying, and hoarding the world’s supply of medical equipment…. China… has stolen millions of American jobs, [and] sent fentanyl to the United States.” Democrats would not stand up to China, the document told Republican candidates to say, but “I will stand up to China, bring our manufacturing jobs back home, and push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic.”

In May, Trump announced the U.S. would leave the World Health Organization because it had been too easy on China in the early days of the pandemic.

To undercut his own association with China, Trump somewhat nonsensically tried to link his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, to China. He claimed—falsely—that China had paid Biden’s son, Hunter, $1.5 billion. He and his appointees Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, Attorney General William Barr, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, all claimed—again falsely– that China was interfering in the election to help Biden.

This week, the intelligence community reported that, in fact, China did not try to influence the election because it did not “view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling.”

As Trump politicized the pandemic and attacked China, hate crimes against Asian-Americans began to rise; there were about 3800 of them between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. In cities, hate incidents increased by 150%.

In this context, the suggestion of a police spokesman who had posted pictures celebrating a shirt that called Covid-19 the “VIRUS IMPORTED FROM CHY-NA” that a gunman had killed six women of Asian descent because he had had “a really bad day,” along with the officer’s apparent acceptance of Long’s statement that the killings were not racially motivated, outraged observers.

That seemingly cavalier dismissal of the dead while  . . .

Continue reading. And do read the rest — it’s good to know (or to refresh one’s memory).

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 4:32 pm

Microsoft tried a 4-day workweek in Japan. Productivity jumped 40% — that was Nov 2019. What happened after the trial?

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If you search “Microsoft Japan 4-day workweek,” you’ll find many reports from November 2019. Here’s one Bill Chappell wrote in NPR:

Workers at Microsoft Japan enjoyed an enviable perk this summer: working four days a week, enjoying a three-day weekend — and getting their normal, five-day paycheck. The result, the company says, was a productivity boost of 40%.

Microsoft Japan says it became more efficient in several areas, including lower electricity costs, which fell by 23%. And as its workers took five Fridays off in August, they printed nearly 60 percent fewer pages.

All of the employees who took Fridays off were given special paid leave, the company says. Encouraged by the results, it plans to hold a similar trial in the winter.

Because of the shorter workweek, the company also put its meetings on a diet. The standard duration for a meeting was slashed from 60 minutes to 30 — an approach that was adopted for nearly half of all meetings. In a related cut, standard attendance at those sessions was capped at five employees.

In a blog post announcing the plan in July, Microsoft Japan said there was often no reason for meetings to run an hour, or to tie up multiple people from the same team.

Citing the need for a shift in time management, the Microsoft division also urged people to use collaborative chat channels rather than “wasteful” emails and meetings.

The news prompted excitement among many workers in Japan. A sampling of comments from the Asian news site Sora News 24 ranges from “Here’s to hoping my boss reads about this” to “So I guess me feeling like I’m ready to be done for the week by Wednesday is pretty natural.”

Four-day workweeks made headlines around the world in the spring of 2018, when Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, announced a 20% gain in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after a trial of paying people their regular salary for working four days. Last October, the company made the policy permanent.

The Microsoft trial roughly doubled Perpetual Guardian’s productivity gain. But for now at least, the company isn’t saying whether it will test the four-day workweek policy in other locations or consider making it permanent. . .

Continue reading.

And the reasons for not making it permanent? Presumably because companies do not like increased productivity or lower electricity costs. Or: beats me. You’d think in a competitive free-market situation companies would be leaping at something that increases productivity and cuts costs.

See also this article.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

One year alone building a log cabin in Sweden

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Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Fantasy and the Buffered Self

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Alan Jacobs writes in The New Atlantis:

When asked by the editors of the website The Immanent Frame to summarize the key concerns of his vastly ambitious book A Secular Age (2007), Charles Taylor wrote,

Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other. We are “buffered” selves. We have changed.

As Taylor makes clear, the shift from a porous to a buffered self involves a complex series of exchanges. But to put that shift in simple terms, a person accepts a buffered condition as a means of being protected from the demonic or otherwise ominous forces that in pre-modern times generated a quavering network of terrors. To be a pre-modern person, in Taylor’s account, is to be constantly in danger of being invaded or overcome by demons or fairies or nameless terrors of the dark — of being possessed and transformed, or spirited away and never returned to home and family. Keith Thomas’s magisterial Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971) specifies many of these dangers, along with the whole panoply of prayers, rites, amulets, potions, chants, spells, and the like, by which a person might seek protection from the otherwise irresistible. It is easy, then, to imagine why a person — or a whole culture — might, if it could, exchange this model of a self with highly permeable boundaries for one in which the self feels better protected, defended — impermeable, or nearly so.

The problem with this apparently straightforward transaction is that the porous self is open to the divine as well as to the demonic, while the buffered self is closed to both alike. Those who must guard against capture by fairies are necessarily and by the same token receptive to mystical experiences. The “showings” manifested to Julian of Norwich depend upon exceptional sensitivity, which is to say porosity — vulnerability to incursions of the supernatural. The portals of the self cannot be closed on one side only. But the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence. Safety is purchased at the high price of isolation, as we see as early as Pascal, who famously wrote of the night sky, “Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie” (“The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me”).

In these circumstances, one might expect people to ask whether so difficult and costly an exchange is in fact necessary. Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self.

Before pursuing my argument, I must make two clarifications. First, fantasy itself is not a recent development but rather an ancient form (though not under its current name). What we now call “fantasy” is something closer to “realism” in the pagan world, which is populated by many powers capable of acting upon “porous” human selves. In the pagan world, success in life is largely a matter of navigating safely among those powers, which are unpredictable, beyond good and evil, and often indifferent to human needs. (Such indifference means that they can help as well as hurt, but also that their assistance can never be relied upon.) In this environment, fantastic creatures are at the very least personifications or embodiments of powers genuinely believed to exist. The realism is not strict, in that the writers and readers of earlier times did not necessarily believe in the existence of precisely such creatures as were described in their stories — perhaps not Apollo or Artemis any more than Dante’s Geryon or Spenser’s Blatant Beast, though such questions are necessarily and notoriously vexed. But at the very least the pre-modern world is one in which powers like those hold sway and cannot be safely neglected; a world in which what we would call the fantastic is an intrinsic element of the real.

Second, some of the most celebrated practitioners of modern fantasy share with their pre-modern predecessors this belief that the fictional apparatus of fantasy is a relatively close approximation to the way things really are for human beings. J. R. R. Tolkien may not have believed in Sauron, but he surely believed that there are in human history people who sell themselves to the Enemy and find themselves as a result of that decision first empowered and then destroyed. And when, at the beginning of Lewis’s Perelandra (1944), the protagonist Ransom’s progress toward a friend’s house is impeded by invisible forces who fill him with fear, Lewis was describing the work of spirits whom he truly believed to exist, though under a slightly different description, just as he probably believed that some forms of scientistic rationalism are the product of demonic influence. In short, these writers sought to present their readers with an image of an enchanted world, of selves fully porous to supernatural forces. But because they did so in genres (fantasy, science fiction) known for the imaginative portrayal of the wholly nonexistent, readers confident in their buffered condition can be delighted by those stories without ever for a moment considering the possibility that the forces portrayed therein might correspond to something real. Indeed, the delight of the stories for such readers consists primarily in their perceived unreality.

Concentrating Spiritual Power

The Judeo-Christian world is alien to the pagan one primarily in its concentration — in most of its versions — of all power in the hands of an omnipotent God, from whom everything else has only derivative strength, virtue, and indeed existence. People who do not accept this account of things commonly perceive it as comforting, though a reading of the first chapter of the book of Job — with its bland explanation that the Satanic torments of a righteous man occur at the explicit permission of the Almighty — should be enough to complicate that view. On the other hand, people fully shaped by this account of the world, with its emphasis on explaining why there is something rather than nothing, will necessarily find paganism insufficiently curious about where the powers that afflict human lives come from. After all, many pagan mythologies have no creation stories, or thin, minor ones. The powers of the pagan world just are: to reckon with them — to appease or evade them, to thwart them with some greater power, to swear fidelity to them — is a full-time job; there can be little energy left over to speculate about their origins.

So radical monotheism, though it does not alter the condition of porosity, and does not disenchant the world, forcefully concentrates charisma. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 12:13 pm

Breaking time symmetry

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Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Science, Video

The nurturing of children: Best practices in parenting

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Having three young grandsons and now a very young nephew, I am sensitive to findings on best how to encourage children to find and develop their strengths — thus my earlier posts: the Atlantic interview of Michaeleen Doucleff (author of Hunt, Gather, Parent) and her NPR article. This morning I came across two more articles, both of which seemed useful. The better of the two is (IMO) Lisa Feldman’s article in CNBC’s Make It. Rather than focus on the goal to be achieved, it lists specific things parents can do (which lead to achieving the goals). It begins:

A child’s brain is not a miniature adult brain. It is a brain born under construction that wires itself to the world. And it’s up to parents to create a world — both physical and social — that is rich with wiring instructions.

Based on years of research in neuroscience and psychology, here are seven parenting rules to help your kid build a brain that is flexible and therefore resilient.

1. Be a gardener, not a carpenter.

Carpenters carve wood into the shape they want. Gardeners help things to grow on their own by cultivating a fertile landscape.

Likewise, parents can sculpt their child into something specific, say, a concert violinist. Or they can provide an environment that encourages healthy growth in whatever direction the child takes.

You might want your kid to play violin in Symphony Hall someday, but forcing them to take lessons (the carpenter approach) might build a virtuoso, or a kid who views music as an unpleasant chore.

The gardener approach would be to sprinkle a variety of musical opportunities around the home and see which ones spark your child’s interest. Do they love to bang on pots and pans? Maybe your child is a budding heavy metal drummer.

Once you understand what kind of plant you’re growing, you can “adjust the soil” for it to take root and flourish.

2. Talk and read to your child. A lot.

Research shows that, even when children are just a few months old and don’t understand the meanings of words, their brains still make use of them.

This builds a neural foundation for later learning. So the more words they hear, the greater the effect. They’ll also have better vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Teaching them “emotion words” (i.e., sad, happy, frustrated) is especially beneficial. The more they know, the more flexibly they can act.

Put this advice into action by elaborating on the feelings of other people. Talk about what causes emotions and how they might affect someone: “See that crying boy? He is feeling pain from falling down and scraping his knee. He is sad and probably wants a hug from his parents.”

Think of yourself as your children’s tour guide through the mysterious world of humans and their movements and sounds.

3. Explain things.

It can be exhausting when . . .

Continue reading.

The second article is by Amy Morin, also in CNBC Make It. In her article, Morin focuses more on the outcome desired, though also offers some means to achieve that.

As a psychotherapist, one of the most common questions parents ask me is: What are the key strengths I should be teaching my kids?

There are several, but the type that will really help them become their best selves and get through life’s toughest challenges is mental strength.

Mental strength requires you to pay attention to three things: the way you think, feel and act. Thinking big, feeling good and acting brave helps us grow our mental muscles. Of course, it takes practice, patience and constant reinforcement to get to a point where you’ll do these things naturally.

But I’ve seen many young people successfully achieve it over time. Here are seven things mentally strong kids always do, and how to help your kids get there if they haven’t already:

1. They empower themselves

If your kid says, “My friend got a higher score on the quiz, which makes me feel bad about myself,” they’re essentially giving someone else power over their emotions.

But kids who feel empowered don’t depend on other people to feel good. They choose, for example, to be in a bright mood even when someone else is having a bad day or tries to take their anger out on them.

Create catchphrases: Work with your kid to come up with phrases that they can repeat to themselves. Use words that show they are in charge of how they think, feel and behave — regardless of how those around them are doing.

This will help drown out the negative voices in their head that try to convince them they lack the potential to succeed. The most effective catchphrases are short and easy to remember:

  • “All I can do is try my best.”
  • “Act confident.”
  • “I’m good enough.”
  • “I choose to be happy today.”

2. They adapt to change

Whether it’s moving to a new school or not being able to play with friends during the pandemic, change is tough. Your kid might miss the way things used to be or worry that what’s happening might make their life worse.

But mentally strong kids understand that change can help them grow into an even stronger person, even though it might not feel that way at first.

Name your emotions: Change feels uncomfortable. But just putting a name to your feelings can lessen the sting of these emotions.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about how we feel. In fact, even as adults, we tend to put more energy into fighting our emotions.

So when your kid is faced with a major change, have them talk elaborately about how they’re feeling. More importantly, help them find — and define — the right words to describe it (e.g., sad, happy, frustrated, nervous, eager).

3. They know when to say no

Everyone struggles to speak up, say no, or express their feelings once in a while. But depending on the situation, choosing not to say yes makes you stronger.

Kids often struggle to say no because . . . [My guess is that she does not have a two-year-old, who in my experience readily and easily say “No.” – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 11:15 am

Simpson Emperor 3 Super (pre-Vulfix) and the Charcoal clone of the EJ razor, with Chiseled Face Sherlock

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My Emperor dates from before Vulfix acquired Simpson. It’s a brush with a good-sized knot. The current Emperor 3 has a 20mm knot, but I thought mine was bigger — I would have guessed 24mm — but perhaps I was misled because it has a good amount of loft. When filled with lather, it is formidable, and I greatly enjoyed lathering my face (already prepped with Grooming Dept pre-shave).

The razor is Charcoal’s Edwin Jagger clone head (which I think they no longer offer) on a Wolfman handle, and it did a superb job. Of course, a great shave is the result of a good team (soft water, good pre-shave, fine soap, excellent lather, well-designed razor head, a brand of blade that’s good for you in that razor, and a modicum of skill acquired through practice). When all those are i place, the shave is a pleasure, and the fragrance of the lather is the frosting on the cake (or the cherry on the sundae if your taste runs to dairy).

Today I had another super-smooth result, and I think these are more frequent now that I’m using Grooming Dept pre-shave. Previously, the frequency was — this is a guess, based on rough recollection — I got a super-smooth result 50-60% of the time. Now I would say I’m getting such a result 70-80% of the time. The non-super-smooth shaves are perfectly good, but lack the mystery of baby-smooth skin on an aged face. If you’ve started using this pre-shave, I’d be interested in hearing your own observations of the changes in the shave result.

Another sunny day, and today I get a shipment of a couple of millets (kodo and finger). I’m eager to try them.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 10:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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