Later On

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

Archive for April 10th, 2021

One knot, five applications

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Back in the day — way back in the day — when I was in Cub Scouts I was fascinated by knots. Of course there are the square knot and the granny knot everyone knows, but I liked the sheet bend, the sheepshank, the clove hitch, the timber hitch, the bowline (an essential knot), the bowline on a bight (in part, I think, I like the names). This list of knots is animated, so if you click knot, you see it being tied.

John Donne was partial to knots himself, and they appear frequently in his poems. Knots carry with them a kind of history in the context of how they were used. The Gordian knot has entered common language. The mathematics of knots is formidable and fruitful. Knotted breads (pretzels, braided loaves, and the like) please and delight.

IMO, every young person should learn well how to tie a few dozen knots and understand their use.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2021 at 3:07 pm

How to make friends as an adult

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I found this article by Marisa G Franco interesting (and useful):

Need to know

Friends are a treasure. In an uncertain world, they provide a comforting sense of stability and connection. We laugh together and cry together, sharing our good times and supporting each other through the bad. Yet a defining feature of friendship is that it’s voluntary. We’re not wedded together by law, or through blood, or via monthly payments into our bank accounts. It is a relationship of great freedom, one that we retain only because we want to.

But the downside of all this freedom, this lack of formal commitment, is that friendship often falls by the wayside. Our adult lives can become a monsoon of obligations, from children, to partners, to ailing parents, to work hours that trespass on our free time. A study of young adults’ social networks by researchers at the University of Oxford found that those in a romantic relationship had, on average, two fewer close social ties, including friends. Those with kids had lost out even more. Friendships crumble, not because of any deliberate decision to let them go, but because we have other priorities, ones that aren’t quite as voluntary. The title of the Oxford paper summed up things well: ‘Romance and Reproduction Are Socially Costly’.

Such is the pace and busyness of many people’s adult lives that they can lose contact with their friends at a rapid rate. For instance, a study by the Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst found that, over a period of seven years, people had lost touch with half of their closest friends, on average. What’s especially alarming is that many of us seem to be losing friends faster than we can replace them. A meta-analysis by researchers in Germany published in 2013 combined data from 177,635 participants across 277 studies, concluding that friendship networks had been shrinking for the preceding 35 years. For example, in studies conducted between 1980 and 1985, participants reportedly had four more friends on average, compared with the participants who’d taken part in studies between 2000 and 2005.

If we’re not careful, we risk living out our adulthoods friendless. This is a situation that’s worth avoiding. Friends are not only a great source of fun and meaning in life, but studies suggest that, without them, we’re also at greater risk of feeling more depressed. It’s telling that in their study ‘Very Happy People’ (2002), the American psychologists Ed Diener and Martin Seligman found that a key difference between the most unhappy and most happy people was how socially connected they were. Friends give us so much, which is why we need to invest in making them. Here’s how.

What to do

Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part. It’s an exciting challenge in theory, but one of the first obstacles you’ll encounter is having enough confidence. Especially if you are shy by nature, putting yourself out there can seem scary, triggering fears of rejection. These fears might lead you to engage in two types of avoidance that will inhibit your ability to make friends. First, you might practise ‘overt avoidance’, by not putting yourself in situations where it’s possible to meet new people. Instead of going to your friend’s movie night, with the chance to meet others, you end up staying at home. Second, you might find yourself engaging in ‘covert avoidance’, which means that you show up but don’t engage with people when you arrive. You go to the movie night, but while everyone else is analysing the film after it’s over, you stay silent in the corner, petting someone’s pet corgi and scrolling through Instagram.

Assume that people like you

Both these forms of avoidance are caused by understandable fears of rejection. So imagine how much easier it would be if you knew that, were you to show up in a group of strangers, most of them would love you and find you interesting. This mindset actually has a self-fulfilling quality – an American study from the 1980s found that volunteers who were led to believe that an interaction partner liked them began to act in ways that made this belief more likely to come true – they shared more about themselves, disagreed less, and had a more positive attitude. This suggests that if you go into social situations with a positive mindset, assuming people like you, then it’s more likely that this will actually turn out to be the case.

Of course, you might still be reluctant to assume others like you because you don’t believe it’s true. If this is you, you might take comfort from research that found, on average, that strangers like us more than we realise. The paper, by Erica J Boothby at Cornell University and colleagues, involved having pairs of strangers chat together for five minutes, to rate how much they liked their interaction partner, and to estimate how much their partner liked them. Across a variety of settings and study durations – in the lab, in a college dorm, at a professional development workshop – the same pattern emerged. People underestimated how much they were liked, a phenomenon that Boothby and her colleagues labelled ‘the liking gap’.

What wisdom should we take from this research? It can remind us to go into new social events assuming that people will like us. It can keep us from being paralysed by fears of rejection, pushing us to question some of these fears. Try working on your internal dialogue, your inner voice that perhaps makes overly negative assumptions about how people will respond to you. Doing this will help give you the confidence to go out there and start initiating friendly contact with strangers.

Initiate

In We Should Get Together: The Secret to Cultivating Better Friendships (2020), Kat Vellos describes being inspired to write her book after a moment of feeling utterly alone. She was looking for a friend to hang out with, so she posted on Facebook: ‘Who wants to go eat French fries and talk about life with me?’ Everyone who responded lived in another state; her local San Francisco Bay Area friends were all booked up. As she put it:

I didn’t just want to eat snacks and talk about life. I was craving a different kind of life – one that would give me abundant access to friends who wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see them.

This experience made Vellos realise that she needed more friends, so she created and executed a plan to make some. Eventually, she was running two successful meetup groups, and had established friendships with people she liked and wanted to get closer to. How did she change her life? She initiated. Vellos set aside time to reach out to people regularly, to revitalise old relationships and to awaken new ones, to check in, to find time to hang out. Her story reveals how initiative can change the course of our friendships.

To embrace the importance of initiating, you must to let go of the myth that friendship happens organically. You have to take responsibility rather than waiting passively. Science backs this up. Consider a study of older adults in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The participants who thought friendship was something that just happened based on luck tended to be less socially active and to feel lonelier when the researchers caught up with them five years later. By contrast, those who thought friendship took effort actually made more effort – for example, by showing up at church or at community groups – and this paid dividends, in that they felt less lonely at the five-year follow-up.

But it’s not just showing up that matters, it’s saying ‘hello’ when you get there. This means introducing yourself to other people, asking them for their phone numbers, following up and asking them to hang out. Initiating is a process, one that we must do over and over again to make new friendships.

Initiation is particularly important for people who find themselves in new social settings – such as people who have moved to a new city, started a new school or job. In a study of first-year undergraduates at the University of Denver in 1980, it was those students who rated themselves as having superior social skills who managed to develop more satisfying social relationships. Moreover, in the Fall, when everyone was new, it was specifically ‘initiation skill’ that was most important. Once friendships were more stable, it didn’t matter as much.

Although we might fear that other people will turn us down if we initiate with them, the research finds that this is a lot less likely than we might think. When the American psychologists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder asked research participants to open up conversations with their fellow train commuters, can you guess how many of them were shot down? None! Epley and Schroder concluded that: ‘Commuters appeared to think that talking to a stranger posed a meaningful risk of social rejection. As far as we can tell, it posed no risk at all.’

Keep showing up

Once you’ve initiated some new contacts, the challenge . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And the article ends with links to more resources.

Friendship is important for one’s mental health and sense of well-being, so developing friendships is worth doing.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2021 at 1:00 pm

Henson Shaving makes a standout razor!

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I just recently learned of the Henson Shaving razor. It looked intriguing, so I bought one, and today is my first shave with it.

I began, as always, with the prep. (That’s why they call it “prep.”) Another Mystic Water shaving soap today, Field of Dreams (scroll down at the link):

The inspiration for this soap comes from my own memories of hanging out at my brother’s Little League games and my uncles’ baseball games every summer of my childhood: the leather glove, the dirt of the infield, freshly cut grass, and wood notes. 

Certainly the fragrance is appropriate to the season with MLB getting underway, and I found the fragrance quite pleasant. The lather, as always, was excellent, thanks in part to the excellent Edwin Jagger synthetic shaving brush, whose knot has more texture than the Plissoft sort of knots.

Now, the razor. It comes in you choice of color: Silver (Aircraft Aluminum), Jet Black, Steel Blue, Rocket Red, Military Green, Purple, Tan, Coral, and Azure. You could buy 3 razors of different colors — say, Red, Silver, and Blue — and make 3 different razors using 3 from a choice of 6 combinations of the 3 colors (first, either Opt 1 or 2; second, either Opt 3 or 4; and third, either Opt 5 or  6):

  Opt 1 Opt 2 Opt 3 Opt 4 Opt 5 Opt 6
Cap: Red Red Silver Silver Blue Blue
Baseplate: Silver Blue Red Blue Silver Red
Handle: Blue Silver Blue Red Red Silver

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I, however, purchased only one razor.  It’s fit and finish were first-rate — threads work smoothly, everything fitting together with total precision. The pattern on the handle is interesting and provides a good grip. The base of the handle is rounded, so you won’t be standing this razor on its base (nor do I do that with any razor).

Henson Shaving made a brief video that discusses some of their design decisions. In addition, you’ll find much more information on their website (which includes a list of vendors who stock the razor, here and abroad).

The US price is $50, and the razor comes as Model AL13 and Model AL13 Medium (slightly more efficient) and also in Titanium (substantially more expensive). The difference between the AL13 and the AL13 Medium is, I imagine, similar to that between the RazoRock Game Changer .68-P and .84-P, both of which are quite comfortable and (for me) similarly efficient.

The head design looks unusual — in part because, as the video explains, they wanted to grip the blade firmly near the cutting edge to eliminate any flutter/chatter. Bending the blade over a hump in the baseplate will made the blade rigid in one direction (the edge will remain straight) while still allowing movement in the other direction (the edge as a whole can move up and down). That up-and-down movement is restricted by clamping the blade close to the edge, and the Henson takes the clamp very close to the edge, which (combined with the guard) minimizes the chance of nicks.

And in fact, the Henson baseplate lacks a central hump: the baseplate is flat and supports the blade except for close to each edge. The cap then bends the blade slightly downward at each edge, imparting rigidity and also clamping down on chatter because the distance from bend to edge is minimized.

I will note also the head covers the end tabs of the blade, something I like (and something the Utopia Care and King C. Gillette (among others) fail to do).

It’s clear that a lot of thought and iteration went into the design. So how does it shave?

Great, in a word. Despite the somewhat odd appearance of the the razor head, I had no problem at all in finding the right angle — and a bad angle causes disengagement, not cuts. The razor is among the most comfortable razors I have ever used. It’s totally nonthreatening, the polar opposite of yesterday’s Utopia Care. And withal it does a very efficient job of removing stubble. I like it so much I’m thinking I’ll try the AL13 Medium (just as I have both a .68-P and .84-P Game Changer). But for me, the AL13 does a great job.

This razor would be an ideal razor for a beginner because of its comfort and disinclination to nick (while still being very efficient). I’m updating my list of recommended razors to include the Henson.

A splash of The Shave Den’s Patchouli-Rose aftershave, and the weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2021 at 11:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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