Later On

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

Archive for May 13th, 2021

I really like the new induction burner (with the 9″ induction coil).

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I think of this dish as “asparagus,” but it includes some other things.

My new induction burner is the Max Burton 6600 18XL — so big it requires two model numbers. I just cooked some Other Vegetables in my 12″ Stargazer cast-iron skillet, and it went ever so much better than with the Duxtop 9100MC (which has a 4″ induction coil) — I would say two-and-a-quarter times better. 🙂 Update: I finally figured out that the on/off switch on the Max Burton works not by pressure but by conduction. It is neither necessary nor desirable to press it firmly. Just rest your fingertip on it for a moment and that will activate the switch. /update

Here’s what I cooked:

• 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 bunches very thick scallions, chopped
• 1 large Anaheim pepper, just starting to turn red
• pinch of salt
• about 2 tsp ground black pepper
• about 2 tsp dried mint
• about 2 tsp Herbes de Provence

Cook at setting 4, stirring frequently. After onions have cooked down a bit, add:

• cloves from 1 head of garlic, chopped small and let rest for 15 minutes
• 2 shallots (that I had on hand), peeled and chopped

Cook for a minute or two, then add:

• about 1 quart domestic white mushrooms, sliced thick
• 1 bunch asparagus chopped

Cook, and add:

• good dash of fish sauce

Once mushrooms are cooked and asparagus is tender, it’s done.

I ate a bowl with

• 2 tablespoons of kodo millet,
• 2 tablespoons of green lentils,
• 2 tablespoons walnuts,
• 1 teaspoon Bragg’s nutritional yeast (flavor and B12), and
• a good dash of chipotle hot sauce.

It was very tasty. My weight had crept up, so now I eat 3 pieces of fruit (tangerine, apple, and pear) in the morning for breakfast, then a meal at noon, and another meal around 4:00 or 4:30, with no eating beyond that.

Greger suggests a serving size of 1/4 cup of  nuts (so for now that is cut in half). Also, instead of 1/2 cup beans/lentils and 1/2 cup whole grain (the rated serving size), I use 2 tablespoons. I had already cut beans and grain to 1/4 cup, so I’ve now halved it again, to 2 tablespoons.

For Greens and Other Vegetables, I now take 1/3 cup (instead of 1/2 cup) as the serving size.

That regimen, together with discontinuing alcohol for now, has resulted in slow and steady weight decrease. Once I get to target weight, I’ll increase portion size somewhat.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 3:53 pm

Ancient gut microbiomes may hold clues for modern diseases

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The more we learn about the human gut microbiome and its effects on mind and body, the more important it is seen to be. Eric Bender of the Joslin Diabetes Center has an article for the Harvard Medical School that begins:

Over the past several years, scientists have generated intriguing insights suggesting that variations in gut microbiomes—the collections of bacteria and other microbes in our digestive systems—may play harmful roles that precipitate the development of diabetes and other diseases.

Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center have found dramatic differences between gut microbiomes from ancient North American peoples and modern microbiomes, offering further clues about how these microbes may have evolved with changing  diets.

For the study, the scientists analyzed microbial DNA found in indigenous human paleofeces (desiccated excrement) from unusually dry caves in Utah and northern Mexico.

The work, published May 12 in Nature, is believed to represent the most in-depth genomic analysis of ancient human gut microbiomes to date and the first to reveal never-before-identified microbial species from the specimens, said study senior author Aleksandar Kostic, assistant professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School and assistant investigator at Joslin Diabetes Center.

The role of gut bacteria in disease and health has been the focus of Kostic’s ongoing efforts. In previous studies of children in Finland and Russia, Kostic and his colleagues showed that children in industrialized regions, who were much more likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those in non-industrialized areas, also had very different gut microbiomes.

“We were able to identify specific microbes and microbial products that we believe hampered a proper immune education in early life,” Kostic said. “And this leads later on to higher incidence of not just type 1 diabetes, but other autoimmune and allergic diseases.”

Loss of gut microbial diversity in industrial populations is suspected to play a role in the development of chronic diseases, which underscores the importance of studying our ancestral gut microbiome, Kostic said. However, relatively little is known about the composition of the pre-industrial gut microbiome.

So what would a healthy human microbiome look like before the effects of industrialization?

“I’m convinced that you can’t answer that question with any modern living people,” says Kostic.

Insights from the ancient gut

Steven LeBlanc, an archeologist formerly with Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, came to Kostic with a possible solution: microbial DNA found in human paleofeces samples that museums have collected from arid environments in the North American Southwest.

Kostic and graduate student Marsha Wibowo took on the challenge, eventually comparing the DNA from eight exceptionally well-preserved ancient gut samples from dry caves, some dated as first century, with DNA from 789 modern samples.

Slightly more than half of the modern samples were from people known to have industrialized “Western” diets and the remainder from people consuming nonindustrialized foods grown mostly within their own communities.

The differences between microbiome populations were striking.

For instance, a bacterium known as Treponema succinifaciens “is not in a single Western microbiome that we analyzed, but it’s in every single one of the eight ancient microbiomes,” Kostic said.

The ancient microbiomes did match up more closely with modern microbiomes from individuals consuming nonindustrialized diets.

Strikingly, Wibowo found that almost 40 percent of the ancient microbial species had not been seen before. What might explain this high genetic variability? One possible explanation, the researchers hypothesize, could be diet.

In ancient cultures, the foods people ate were very diverse and could support the growth and presence of a more eclectic collection of microbes,” Kostic said. “But as people moved toward industrialization and more of a grocery-store diet, you lose a lot of nutrients that help to support a more diverse microbiome.” [emphasis added – LG]
The ancient microbiomes also had relatively higher numbers than the modern industrial microbiomes of transposases—transposable elements of DNA sequences that can change location on the genome.

“We think this could be a strategy used by the microbes to adapt in an environment that shifts a lot more than the modern industrialized microbiome, where we eat the same things and live the same life more or less year-round,” Kostic said. “By contrast, in an environment marked by change, the microbes might use this much larger collection of transposases to grab and collect genes that could help them adapt to the different environments.”

Moreover, the ancient microbial populations incorporated fewer genes related to antibiotic resistance. The ancient samples also had lower numbers of . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Once again we see the importance of a diverse plant-based diet. I know many people who like to eat the same foods every day. That’s a bad idea and a worse practice.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:55 am

Battery breakthrough for electric cars

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Leah Burrows reports in the Harvard Gazette:

Long-lasting, quick-charging batteries are essential to the expansion of the electric vehicle market, but today’s lithium-ion batteries fall short of what’s needed — they’re too heavy, too expensive and take too long to charge.

For decades, researchers have tried to harness the potential of solid-state, lithium-metal batteries, which hold substantially more energy in the same volume and charge in a fraction of the time compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries.

“A lithium-metal battery is considered the holy grail for battery chemistry because of its high capacity and energy density,” said Xin Li, associate professor of materials science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). “But the stability of these batteries has always been poor.”

Now, Li and his team have designed a stable, lithium-metal, solid-state battery that can be charged and discharged at least 10,000 times — far more cycles than have been previously demonstrated — at a high current density. The researchers paired the new design with a commercial high energy density cathode material. [If you charge the battery once every day, 10,000 charges = just over 27 years. – LG]

This battery technology could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars — 10 to 15 years — without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.

The research is published in Nature.

“Our research shows that the solid-state battery could be fundamentally different from the commercial liquid electrolyte lithium-ion battery,” said Li. “By studying their fundamental thermodynamics, we can unlock superior performance and harness their abundant opportunities.”

The big challenge with lithium-metal batteries has always been chemistry. Lithium batteries move lithium ions from the cathode to the anode during charging. When the anode is made of lithium metal, needle-like structures called dendrites form on the surface. These structures grow like roots into the electrolyte and pierce the barrier separating the anode and cathode, causing the battery to short or even catch fire.

To overcome this challenge, Li and his team designed . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:48 am

The Darkness Descends

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“この世界は, 暗黒に包まれている. 風は止み. 海は荒れ. 大地は腐っていく.” — Final Fantasy

Translation: “This world is surrounded by darkness. The wind stops. The sea is rough. The earth is rotten.”

Noah Smith uses that quotation as the epigraph for his post:

There is a Darkness creeping over our world.

That is a melodramatic thing to say. But when I reach for words to express the profound unease that I feel watching the advance of illiberalism across my planet, the language of fantasy novels, children’s movies, and video games is the only one that seems up to the task. Throughout my youth, I consumed a great many stories that all had the same basic premise — an ancient evil, long ago banished from our world, is now returning, and once again we are called upon to rise up and fight it. Perhaps all those stories shaped my worldview and made me see complex, gritty reality in epic, Manichean terms. Or perhaps the stories were written by people who had themselves lived through a global wave of illiberalism, and were trying to pass down a warning.

There is plenty of darkness in the world even at the best of times. Wars, ethnic cleansing, rights violations, suppression of speech and religion…these things are always, or almost always, happening in some part of the globe. No leader and no country is spotless. And yet observers of comparative government and human rights are able to clearly identify times when respect for the rights and liberties of human beings begins to gutter and wane.

We are now in one of those times. The news headlines from around the world give us a continual stream of dark portents. Concentration camps and forced mass sterilization of minorities in China. Millions rendered stateless by a new law in India amid a retreat of secularism. A coup attempt and election denial as a normalized political strategy in America. Rising authoritarianism in Turkey, in Hungary, in Brazil, in the Philippines, in Israel. Protesters massacred in Myanmarmassacred in Iransuppressed in Belarussuppressed in Hong Kong. Mass surveillance everywhere. Internet shutdowns. “Anti-terrorism” laws.

But headlines are just anecdotes. Unfortunately, data tell the same story.

Freedom House, a think tank that tracks political and civil liberties around the world, warns in its 2020 report that “democracy and pluralism are under assault”. You can quibble with Freedom House’s measurements and definitions, but at least they’re consistent across time, and for a decade and a half now they’ve shown a world inching toward illiberalism: . . .

Continue reading. The charts are chilling. And later in the column:

Trump did various nasty things (family separation, using federal agents as cops, etc.). But the biggest threat here by far is the apparent rejection of electoral democracy by the dominant faction of the Republican Party. Trump’s attempt to brazenly deny the result of the 2020 election and use every means short of civil war to overturn the result might not a one-off thing; they provided a blueprint that the GOP now seems to be embracing for the future:

If electoral democracy in America relies on Democrats never losing an election, it’s doomed. If the GOP doesn’t change its tune and agree that the rules by which Americans choose their leaders are legitimate, the next decade could be one of rolling constitutional crises…or worse.

But beyond America’s flirtation with autocracy, the coalition that it assembled to win the Cold War is just much weaker now than it was in the 1980s. . .

Read the whole thing. There’s much more.

Later in the column:

How did our world begin to fall into Darkness? Why did a 25-year trend of increasing human freedom and human rights stall and go into reverse? Everyone is going to have their favorite answer to this question. Those will include the death of the WW2 generation, the rise of social media, new disruptive technologies, economic inequality, the failures of late capitalism, and so on. Any and all of those might well be contributing factors. But while we’re here, I might as well tell you my answer.

My answer is “fear”.

If Freedom House and V-Dem are to believed, the Darkness began to return right around the mid to late 2000s. Two notable geopolitical events occurred in that decade — the rise of China, and the Iraq War. And both events can be interpreted as being broadly part of the same overarching trend — diminution of the United States of America.

The Iraq War did incalculable damage to the moral standing the U.S. had accumulated since its intercession in World War 2 and its construction of the postwar liberal order. We invaded a non-threatening country on the thinnest of false pretexts (don’t deny it), inflaming an entire region of the globe. Hundreds of thousands died. A few of our troops committed well-publicized atrocities. If I had to tell you a single moment when the Darkness was released from the barriers that sealed it beyond the boundaries of the world, it would be this moment:

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:37 am

In the GOP today, lying is a non-negotiable requirement

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Judd Legum has a very good column in Popular Information. A few snippets:

For the Republican party, there is only one thing that is non-negotiable. Trump says that Biden stole the 2020 election. Republicans must not contradict him.

In 2016, Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) was elected to Congress as “an unabashed supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.” In 2019, Cheney co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney endorsed Trump again in 2020. Here is how she described her support for Trump in a July 2020 appearance on Fox News:

So there is no comparison in terms of the kind of leadership that we need in the world and the choice is a very clear one. You know, the American people are going to have to choose between a world in which the United States and the other free nations set the rules of the road or a world in which China and Russia and our adversaries, who do not believe in freedom, set the rules of the road. That is the world you will see under a Joe Biden presidency… We are all going to work together to stop that.

In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, Cheney supported Trump’s position on 95.8% of her votes. In the last two years, Cheney supported Trump’s position 92.8% of the time. That’s a higher level of support than Trump received over the same time period from Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC), who Trump later selected as his Chief of Staff.  .  .

But despite that, Cheney was voted out of her Republican leadership post in the House and is now ostracized and ridiculed by her fellow Republicans.

Her offense, according to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy? She would not “move on” from fights about the 2020 election. Legum quotes some Republicans about how important it is to “move on”:

“I don’t think re-litigating the 2020 election is a winning strategy,” opined Senator John Thune (R-SD), one of the Republican leaders of the Senate.  Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who voted to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial, agreed. “Let’s move on,” she said. “She seems not to be able to leave it,” Sen. Kevin Cramer said of Cheney (R-ND).

Legum points out:

But is it really Cheney who is responsible for extending disputes about the 2020 election? If Trump would admit the truth and concede that Biden won fairly and there is no evidence of meaningful voter fraud, the issue would disappear. The same thing would happen if Trump just stopped talking about it. But in recent weeks, Trump has issued one statement after another perpetuating the lie the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Journalist Jon Ward compiled a list of statements issued by Trump in recent weeks claiming the election was rigged:

March 20

April 2, 4, 5, 6, 12, 23, 24 (4x), 26 (2x), 27

May 3, 5, 6, 7

During the time period, Cheney issued one tweet calling out Trump’s lies. It’s clear that Trump is the one who hasn’t moved on. But Republicans are now required to endorse or ignore his lies to remain in good standing with the party.

There’s much more, and it exposes the rotting corpse of a party that at one point had some integrity.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:18 am

The Most Antioxidant-Packed Whole Food

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs:

Are the apparently amazing benefits of amla—dried Indian gooseberries—too good to be true?

In reference to amla, also known as the Indian gooseberry, it’s been said that “medicinal plants are nature’s gift to human beings to promote a disease free healthy life.” The fruit has also been described as “the Ayurvedic wonder.” You hear a lot of that larger-than-life talk about amla coming out of Indian medical journals. Who can forget the review article titled, “Amla…a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer”? Amla is so revered that you can find serious scientists at serious academic institutions making statements like this in serious peer-reviewed medical journals: “Every part of the [Indian gooseberry] plant has its unique therapeutic characteristic for the remedy of almost all the ailments. For the mankind, it can be adopted as a single bullet”—emphasis not added—against disease. Okay, then.

I first ran across amla in a famous article that looked at the total antioxidant content of thousands of different foods. I produced a series of videos about it ages ago. To my surprise, the number-one, most antioxidant-packed single whole food on the planet, was, on average, amla. Dried powdered Indian gooseberries beat out cloves, the prior heavyweight champion, with up to a hundred times or more antioxidants by weight than blueberries, for comparison. 

So, here’s this fruit that “enjoys a hallowed position in Ayurveda,” the ancient system of medicine in India—in fact so hallowed that it was mythologically pegged as “the first tree to be created in the universe.” So, for thousands of years—before we even knew what an antioxidant was—people were revering this plant that just so happens to turn out to be the most antioxidant-packed fruit on Earth. You’ve got my attention, but I still needed to see it put to the test.

Indigenous tribal healers used amla to treat diabetes, so researchers decided to give it a try, too. “Effect of Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis Gaertn.) on blood glucose and lipid profile [cholesterol levels] of normal subjects and type 2 diabetic patients” was the study that originally bowled me over. In fact, it was the subject of one of my very first NutritionFacts videos more than five years ago where I talked about the jaw-dropping effects of five cents’ worth of this powdered fruit—just five pennies’ worth—compared to a diabetes drug. But, what about the cholesterol effects?

As I discuss in my video The Best Food for High Cholesterol, if you take healthy individuals and give them a placebo sugar pill, nothing much happens to their cholesterol. Ideally, we want our total cholesterol to be under 150, which is where the normal control group came in, a pretty healthy group. The average cholesterol in the United States is over 200, which is where the diabetics started out in this study. And, when you give the diabetic subjects placebo pills, nothing much happens to them either. But what happens when you give people about a half teaspoon of amla powder a day? Not some extract or something, but simply dried Indian gooseberries—just a powdered fruit. As you can see at 3:05 in my video, there is about a 35 to 40 percent drop in cholesterol values in three weeks. Absolutely astounding! That’s the kind of result we may see about six months after putting patients on statin drugs.

What we care most about is LDL, though, the so-called bad cholesterol, ideally shooting for under at least 70. As you can see at 3:36 in my video, the placebo had no impact on LDL, but once again, just about a half teaspoon of amla, which would cost you about 5 cents a day, achieved significant results. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 10:03 am

iKon Short Comb and Catie’s Bubbles Waterlyptus

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Waterlyptus (watermelon + eucalyptus) has a refreshing fragrance, and the later created by my Simpson Duke 3 Best was excellent.

iKon is right now selling their razors at a steep discount. I have no idea of the motivation, but my fear is that it is a matter of clearing out stock prior to discontinuing production: he’s been making razors for a good while, and retirement might be appealing. (FWIW, Krampert’s Finest have closed their virtual doors and discontinued production. Their Acadian Spice Bay Rum is my favorite, and some vendors still have stock. I highly recommend picking up a bottle before they’re gone.)

I have to say I cannot recommend the iKon Short Comb, though. It’s always been a problematic razor for me. With Grooming Dept pre-shave, it works well, but it still comes up short in the comfort department. However, I do highly recommend the following, shown on this page (and note that you can also buy the head alone, both from iKon and from dealers such as Maggard Razors):

• X3 Slant on bulldog handle
• B1 OSS
• B1 Standard
• B1 Open Comb
• B1 Slant

And if you ever find a 101, buy it. It’s shown as out of stock on that page, and the wonderful 102 is not even listed.

Despite my misgivings about the Short Comb, I did get an excellent shave from it this morning (along with one good nick, sealed with My Nik Is Sealed). The razor is indeed highly efficient, it just (for me) falls short in comfort.

A splash of Stirling’s Executive Man, and the (very sunny) day begins.


Written by Leisureguy

13 May 2021 at 8:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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