Later On

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

Archive for May 28th, 2021

The Effect of Animal Protein on Stress Hormones, Testosterone, and Pregnancy

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Animal protein doesn’t seem to be all that good for you, particular if you eat it every day — and some eat animal protein in every diet. Indeed, some eat only animal protein — the carnivore diet. I’ll be interested to see scientific studies of the long-term effects of their diet (not their own personal impressions).

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 1:55 pm

The Unbearable Burden of Invention

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Novelty is not ipso facto good, as those with some life experience have learned. Witold Rybczynski looks at architecture for examples and finds that innovation grounded in past practice is often good (being version n.0 of past practices), but mere innovation tends to turn out badly (being version 1.0 of a new approach). As he notes in the article, “history was canceled—no more looking back, no more learning from earlier trial and error.” He writes in The Hedgehog Review:

Buildings’ nicknames are the public’s attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible. Several odd-looking London skyscrapers have cheekily illustrative monikers: the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie. Angelenos call the mammoth Pacific Design Center the Blue Whale. Beijingites offhandedly refer to the headquarters of China Central Television as Big Underpants. A Shanghai skyscraper with an aperture at the top is the Bottle Opener, and Bilbao has the Artichoke, Frank Gehry’s titanium Guggenheim museum. My favorite is the nickname of an addition to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam—the Bathtub.

The original Stedelijk Museum, or city museum, was built in 1895 in the style of the sixteenth-century Dutch Renaissance. The gingerbread red-brick building with pale stone stripes is pretty as a picture. The 2012 modern addition, which doubled the size of the museum, is the work of the Amsterdam architectural firm Benthem Crouwel. The competition-winning design ignores its neighbor and obviously aspires to be the Dutch equivalent of the Bilbao Guggenheim, an in-your-face architectural icon. From certain angles, the windowless white form, raised in the air and covered in a reinforced synthetic fiber finished in glossy white paint, really does resemble a giant hot tub. Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times observed that “entering an oversize plumbing fixture to commune with classic modern art is like hearing Bach played by a man wearing a clown suit.” Not good.

“Good architecture can be startling, or at least might not look like what we are used to,” writes the critic Aaron Betsky in Architect magazine. “Experimentation can sometimes look weird at first, but it is a necessary part of figuring out how to make our human-built world better.” Now so used to buildings that break the bounds of convention, we find the suggestion that experimentation is an essential part of good architecture unremarkable, even banal. But is it true?

Berlin’s Altes Museum, built in 1822, doesn’t look like a plumbing fixture. Its architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, modeled the 300-foot façade of giant Ionic columns on an ancient Greek stoa (a covered walkway or portico). Inside, he based a two-story-high rotunda on the Roman Pantheon. Schinkel was one of the most inventive architects of the nineteenth century—the plan of the museum, with its circuit of long, narrow galleries, was without precedent, and the severe side and rear elevations, which would inspire later modernists such as Mies van der Rohe, were almost shockingly plain. Yet like so many architects before him, Schinkel kept one eye on the past. That meant imitation as well as invention.

Imitation was at the heart of the Italian Renaissance. Starting with Filippo Brunelleschi, architects sketched and measured Roman ruins and incorporated the capitals, friezes, and moldings into their own work. Although the functions of the buildings they designed, such as hospitals, palazzos, and country villas, were new, the elements of their architecture—its language—were old. Renaissance architects also copied from each other. Andrea Palladio copied the so-called Palladian window, an arch-and-columns motif, from the Library of Saint Mark in Venice, whose architect, Jacopo Sansovino, had copied it from Donato Bramante, who used it first in the choir of Santa Maria Del Popolo in Rome.

Bramante was responsible for another architectural invention. When he designed the Tempietto, a commemorative monument on the site of St. Peter’s crucifixion in San Pietro di Montorio in Rome, he modeled the tiny chapel on the circular Temple of Hercules Victor, the oldest surviving marble temple in Rome, and he incorporated Roman spolia (repurposed building materials) in the form of reused Tuscan columns. But he also added something novel: a tall drum surmounted by a dome projected above the circular colonnade. This combination of new and old struck his contemporaries as a stroke of genius. Bramante’s influence is apparent in Michelangelo’s great dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, as well as in domed buildings such as St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Panthéon in Paris, and the US Capitol in Washington, DC.

Invention, always a part of architecture, was usually restricted to a few gifted individuals—the rest followed. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness,” wrote Oscar Wilde. Yet imitation not only allowed lesser talents to learn from the masters, and in the process raised the level of workaday buildings, it also permitted great architects such as Michelangelo and Schinkel to build on the achievements of their predecessors.

The architectural Modern Movement of the early twentieth century put a stop to this practice. The credo of the movement was . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Technology

US government sinks to new depths of dysfunction

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The Republican party has blocked an independent commission (which met  the demands the Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans insisted on). This makes sense if the Republicans were complicit in that attack.

A special shout out to Sen. Joe Manchin, who insisted that the filibuster remain, regardless of the damage it does.

I don’t see much hope for the US government going forward. Nicholas Fandos reports in the NY Times:

Republicans on Friday blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, using their filibuster power in the Senate for the first time this year to doom a full accounting for the deadliest attack on Congress in centuries.

With the vast majority of Republicans determined to shield their party from potential political damage that could come from scrutiny of the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, only six G.O.P. senators joined Democrats to support advancing the measure. The final vote, 54 to 35, fell short of the 60 senators needed to move forward.

The vote was a stinging defeat for proponents of the commission, who had argued that it was the only way to assemble a truly comprehensive account of the riot for a polarized nation. Modeled after the inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the proposed panel of experts would have been responsible for producing a report on the assault and recommendations to secure Congress by the end of the year.

The debate played out in the same chamber where a throng of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, egged on by his lies of a stolen election and efforts by Republican lawmakers to invalidate President Biden’s victory, sought to disrupt Congress’s counting of electoral votes about five months ago.

Top Republicans had entertained supporting the measure as recently as last week. But they ultimately reversed course, and the House approved it with only 35 Republican votes. Leaders concluded that open-ended scrutiny of the attack would hand Democrats powerful political ammunition before the 2022 midterm elections — and enrage a former president they are intent on appeasing.

“I do not believe the additional extraneous commission that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to do that.”

Though Mr. McConnell said he would continue to support criminal cases against the rioters and stand by his “unflinching” criticisms of Mr. Trump, the commission’s defeat is expected to embolden the former president at a time when he has once again ramped up circulation of his baseless and debunked claims.

In a matter of months, his lies have warped the views of many of his party’s supporters, who view Mr. Biden as illegitimate; inspired a rash of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states and a quixotic recount in Arizona denounced by both parties; and fueled efforts by Republican members of Congress to downplay and reframe the Capitol riot as a benign event akin to a “normal tourist visit.”

“People are just now beginning to understand!” Mr. Trump wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Democrats denounced the vote as a cowardly cover-up. They warned Republicans that preventing an independent inquiry — led by five commissioners appointed by Democrats and five by Republicans — would not shield them from confronting the implications of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the democratic process.

“Do my Republican colleagues remember that day?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, asked moments after the vote. “Do my Republican colleagues remember the savage mob calling for the execution of Mike Pence, the makeshift gallows outside the Capitol?”

“Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they are afraid of Donald Trump,” he added.

The six Republicans who voted to advance debate on the commission included . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 12:25 pm

New prep technique for beans that will become tempeh

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Previously I have drained the cooked beans (soybeans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, whatever) that I was using to make tempeh, put them in a bowl and tried to dry them (using a hairdryer and paper towels), then let cool to 90ºF, add vinegar (1 tablespoon per cup of uncooked beans) and culture, and bag it in Ziplock fresh produce bags for the incubator.

It suddenly occurred to me that the beans would dry more easily and cool faster if, after I drained them through a sieve, I spread them on a clean white cotton dishtowel and cover them with another dishtowel, pressing gently and rocking the beans to pick up the moisture. (A hair dryer can also be used, but you have to be careful not to blow the beans away.) Once the beans are cool — and they can even coool to room temperature, since the incubator box maintains a steady 88ºF and will warm the beans if they are too cool — I can then move them to a bowl to mix in vinegar and culture and then bag them.

That will be so much easier and faster than what I’ve done in the past. Once again, experience can teach one a lot.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 11:40 am

The Real Problem With the AP’s Firing of Emily Wilder

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Janine Zacharia has a piece in Politico that’s worth reading. Who is she?

Janine Zacharia reported on the Middle East and foreign policy for close to two decades including stints as Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, State Department correspondent for Bloomberg News, Washington bureau chief for the Jerusalem Post, and Jerusalem correspondent for Reuters. She is currently the Carlos Kelly McClatchy lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University, where she teaches news reporting and writing fundamentals and foreign correspondence. She is the co-author ofHow to Responsibly Report on Hacks and Disinformation.

Here’s what she has to say:

In the aftermath of The Associated Press’ May 19 firing of Emily Wilder, a spirited discussion has broken out about social media policies and practices in newsrooms. Wilder, a 22-year-old news associate in Arizona with an online record of pro-Palestinian activism in college, was dismissed, according to the AP, for “some tweets” it said “violated AP’s News Values and Principles.” Which tweets? The organization didn’t say. But Wilder’s firing came on the heels of a campaign by the Stanford College Republicans and allies to portray her as an “anti-Israel agitator” and thus call the AP’s objectivity on the issue into question.

For me, the issues surrounding her firing are important for journalism, but they’re personal, too: She was my student at Stanford.

Since her dismissal, many journalists and commentators have focused on the dissatisfaction and disagreements in newsrooms over how reporters should behave online. It’s a cacophony that’s creating headaches for reporters and managers alike. Without consensus, McClatchy News, for example, says it’s OK to put #BlackLivesMatter in your Twitter handle, while Wilder’s AP editor told her to delete it from hers.

This all needs to be fixed. But unclear, opaque and inconsistently enforced social media policies aren’t the biggest problem here. For the AP and other news managers, the most urgent issue in Wilder’s dismissal is that a reporter was targeted by a disinformation campaign—in this case, by people who took issue with Wilder’s documented pro-Palestinian views—and rather than recognizing it as such, the organization essentially caved to it.

Disinformation campaigns against journalists are a growing problem in our age of information overload, and it’s essential that news outlets in particular are able to distinguish between organic outpourings of outrage or grievance online and targeted campaigns that seek to undermine the legitimacy of news organizations and obscure the facts around conflicts.

As someone who spent many years reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including posts in Jerusalem for Reuters and the Washington Post, I am more sensitive than most to the kind of scrutiny newsrooms face over their coverage of this issue.

But I am perhaps even more sensitive to disinformation campaigns. I also spent two years recently as part of a Stanford working group studying the way actors use information warfare for political purposes.

And during those discussions, my colleague Andrew Grotto, a former senior director for cybersecurity at the White House, and I concluded journalists were themselves vulnerable to propaganda campaigns by foreign and domestic actors who want to harm our democracy. We realized that newsrooms could benefit from a straightforward protocol for situations involving various forms of propaganda. The first news outlet we consulted as we were developing our guidelines was the AP.

“Remember that journalists are a targeted adversary and see yourself this way when digesting disinformation,” we wrote in our playbook. “Familiarize everyone in your newsroom with this minefield so they are aware of the risks.”

The campaign against Wilder is an excellent case study of these risks. On May 17, the Stanford College Republicans posted a Twitter thread of old social media posts and articles from her undergraduate years and described her as an “anti-Israel agitator.”

Soon, conservative commentators and news outlets were circulating the tweets to increasingly wider audiences.

These attacks on Wilder came at a particularly useful time for defenders of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. Israeli forces had recently destroyed the building where the AP was located in Gaza City, alleging Hamas operated out of it, too, a claim for which Israel has not yet given evidence. But the confusion over the strike was fertile ground for those who allege pro-Palestinian bias in the media.

The disinformation in this case was that Wilder’s college advocacy for Palestinian rights would “fuel concerns about the AP’s objectivity amid revelations that the news outlet shared an office building with Hamas military intelligence in Gaza,” as the Washington Free Beacon wrote, echoing a theory about possible cooperation between Hamas and the AP made by prominent Republicans, including Senator Tom Cotton.

Within hours of a story on Fox News’ website May 19, Wilder was fired. The Stanford College Republicans responded. “Emily Wilder is not a journalist, she is an unhinged, Marxist, anti-Israeli agitator. We are proud that our efforts directly led to this outcome—the leftist media must be held accountable, and that happened in this case,” the group gloated. They thanked those who amplified their original Twitter attack, including former Daily Wire editor Ben Shapiro and Cotton.

It bore all the classic marks of a disinformation campaign. Pushing the Wilder story refocused attention from Israel’s bombing of the AP bureau to a junior news associate who had just started in Arizona. As Grotto and I warned in our guidance: “Beware of campaigns to redirect your attention from one newsworthy event to another.”

This disinformation technique was not dissimilar from the redirect used by Russia in 2016. When the Washington Post published the audio from an old Access Hollywood recording, which featured a famously lewd comment by Donald Trump, WikiLeaks followed less than 60 minutes later with the release of Russian-hacked Democratic National Committee emails. Journalists need to be on high alert for stories intended to shift the news cycle.

Several disinformation experts saw parallels in the Wilder case. “Influence Ops are not just the domain of foreign gov’ts, and journalists are definitely targets,” Nathaniel Gleicher head of security at Facebook, said in a tweet of Wilder’s case. Disinformation expert Kate Starbird at the University of Washington explained how Wilder’s firing was an “example of a coordinated active measures campaign meant to do its damage through the reaction of the target (in this case the AP).”

When drafting our recommendations on how to report on disinformation, I was eager to have the AP adopt them because they are indeed the news organization that customarily leads. When the AP decided to capitalize Black last summer, for instance, most organizations quickly followed.

Perhaps most important, Grotto and I recommended news outlets focus on the “why” something was leaked as opposed to the “what.” In this case, AP managers scrutinized Wilder’s few social media posts since being hired that included one opining on the meaning of objectivity in language chosen to describe the conflict, her retweets of stories about the devastation in Gaza and the digital record of her college activism as opposed to why the College Republicans may have dug up all this stuff in the first place—to go after a former classmate whose views they loathed and to perpetuate a false perception that the AP is biased in its reporting on the conflict.

The AP’s firing of Wilder demonstrates that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 11:31 am

Exercise and eating right reduces your biological age

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Wikipedia has an extensive article on the topic of biological age, determined by DNA methylation levels. From that article:

In 2010, a new unifying model of aging and the development of complex diseases was proposed, incorporating classical aging theories and epigenetics.[20][21] Horvath and Raj[22] extended this theory, proposing an epigenetic clock theory of aging with the following tenets:

  • Biological aging results as an unintended consequence of both developmental programs and maintenance program, the molecular footprints of which give rise to DNA methylation age estimators.
  • The precise mechanisms linking the innate molecular processes (underlying DNAm age) to the decline in tissue function probably relate to both intracellular changes (leading to a loss of cellular identity) and subtle changes in cell composition, for example, fully functioning somatic stem cells.
  • At the molecular level, DNAm age is a proximal readout of a collection of innate aging processes that conspire with other, independent root causes of ageing to the detriment of tissue function.

More information is found on this page.

DNAm age can be reversed to some degree by a good diet (such as a whole-food plant-based diet) and regular exercise, along with adequate rest and an optimistic outlook. Science Daily has a report of a clinical trial that measured this:

A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients.

Aging published “Potential reversal of epigenetic age using a diet and lifestyle intervention: a pilot randomized clinical trial” which reported on a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients.

Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was conducted on saliva samples using the Illumina Methylation Epic Array and DNAmAge was calculated using the online Horvath DNAmAge clock (also published in Aging).

The diet and lifestyle treatment was associated with a 3.23 years decrease in DNAmAge compared with controls.

DNAmAge of those in the treatment group decreased by an average 1.96 years by the end of the program compared to the same individuals at the beginning with a strong trend towards significance.

This randomized controlled study, published in Aging, suggests that specific diet and lifestyle interventions may reverse Horvath DNAmAge epigenetic aging in healthy adult males.

The study’s lead author, Kara Fitzgerald ND IFMCP, from The Institute for Functional Medicine said, “Advanced age is the largest risk factor for impaired mental and physical function and many non-communicable diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”

Methylation clocks are based on systematic methylation changes with age.

DNAmAge clock specifically demonstrates about 60% of CpG sites losing methylation with age and 40% gaining methylation.

Almost a quarter of the DNAmAge CpG sites are located in glucocorticoid response elements, pointing to a likely relationship between stress and accelerated aging. Cumulative lifetime stress has been shown to be associated with accelerated aging of the methylome.

Other findings include that PTSD contributes to accelerated methylation age; and that greater infant distress is associated with an underdeveloped, younger epigenetic age.

This is to say the authors have tentatively accepted the hypothesis that the methylation pattern from which the DNAmAge clock is computed is a driver of aging, thus they expect that attempting to directly influence the DNA methylome using diet and lifestyle to set back DNAmAge will lead to a healthier, more “youthful” metabolism.

The Fitzgerald Research Team concluded . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 10:40 am

Dr. Jon’s Eucalyptus & Spearmint for a sunny late Spring morning

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A brilliantly sunny morning seemed to call for something light and minty, and Dr. Jon’s Eucalyptus & Spearmint seemed just the ticket. This is his Vol. 3 formula and makes quite a fine lather, this morning with my Mühle Gen 2 synthetic. 

We learn from experience and later iterations (Vol. 3, Gen 2) grow from the lessons experience teaches. I have completed my V. 2 tempeh box, and in doing that learned several things that would make a V. 3 box better (and less costly — three 24″ squares rather than one 24″x 8′  board — and easier: by increasing the length of the box and buying the squares, I make fewer cuts. I updated this post to include lessons learned, but the box as built will work fine. As I write, soybeans are simmering for a new batch of tempeh.

Back to shaving. RazoRock’s superb MJ-80A is everything that the Edwin Jagger razor aspires to be: a head made of a substantial material, a better handle, and the excellent performance the design provides. Three passes left my face remarkably smooth, and a splash of La Toja’s very nice aftershave finished the job.

The long weekend is in view.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2021 at 9:52 am

Posted in Shaving

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