Later On

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Archive for June 3rd, 2021

The Capitol Rioters Won

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Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic:

Republicans say they would like to move on from the 2020 election.

“A lot of our members, and I think this is true of a lot of House Republicans, want to be moving forward and not looking backward,” John Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, told CNN on May 19. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections I think is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”

After Thune and 34 of his Republican colleagues used the filibuster last week to block a vote on creating a bipartisan commission to investigate the Capitol riot, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Republicans of fearing the wrath of former President Donald Trump. “Shame on the Republican Party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they’re afraid of Donald Trump,” Schumer said on the floor.

But Republicans are not blocking a bipartisan January 6 commission because they fear Trump, or because they want to “move on” from 2020. They are blocking a January 6 commission because they agree with the underlying ideological claim of the rioters, which is that Democratic electoral victories should not be recognized. Because they regard such victories as inherently illegitimate—the result of fraud, manipulation, or the votes of people who are not truly American—they believe that the law should be changed to ensure that elections more accurately reflect the will of Real Americans, who by definition vote Republican. They believe that there is nothing for them to investigate, because the actual problem is not the riot itself but the unjust usurpation of power that occurred when Democrats won. Absent that provocation, the rioters would have stayed home.

Americans have suffered through a pandemic, an economic crisis, and a presidential election in the past year; it’s understandable that many would want to disengage from politics. With Trump gone from the White House and banned from his favorite social-media platform, the most visible symbol of the nation’s democratic backsliding is out of office. But Trump’s absence has not arrested the Republican Party’s illiberal turn—on the contrary, he is now a martyr to an election that he falsely claims was rigged. If anything, though, our electoral system is rigged in favor of Republicans; Democrats had to overcome a significant structural bias in the Electoral College, meaning Trump almost prevailed again even as his opponent won 7 million more votes.

As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait wrote, the “accommodation” that Republicans “have reached between their violent and nonviolent wings is a legal regimen designed to ensure that the next time a Trump rejects the election result, he won’t need a mob to prevail.” Trump did not impose this belief that elections are valid only if they result in Republican victory on the conservative rank and file; he was a manifestation of it. Nor are Republican officials held hostage by a base they fear; falsehoods about election fraud have been deliberately stoked by Republican elites who then insist that they must bow to the demands of the very misinformed constituents they have been lying to. The last thing ambitious Republicans want is to let this fire go out.

Trump infamously refused to concede the 2020 election until after the mob he had incited ransacked the Capitol in an effort to overturn the outcome. But even afterward, most Republicans in the House, and several in the Senate, refused to vote to certify the results. The rioters were outliers in the sense that they employed political violence and intimidation in an attempt to overturn the election. But the rioters fell squarely within the Republican mainstream in sharing Trump’s belief that his defeat meant the election was inherently illegitimate. The main ideological cleavage within the GOP is not whether election laws should be changed to better ensure Republican victory, but whether political violence is necessary to achieve that objective.

The large majority of Republicans are content with simply changing the rules to make it harder for Democrats to win elections, but figures beloved by the party fringe, such as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Representatives Matt Gaetz and Majorie Taylor Greene, openly flirt with the possibility of seizing power by force.

Greene has warned that freedom is “earned with the price of blood”; over the weekend, Flynn backtracked on a public call for a military coup; and Gaetz, on tour with Greene, told a receptive audience that “the Second Amendment is about maintaining, within the citizenry, the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government, if that becomes necessary.” As far as these three are concerned, this is the idle talk of studio gangsters. The issue is that it reflects a very real rejection of liberal democracy and the peaceful transfer of power among Republican voters.

Republicans are not “moving on” from the 2020 election. In state after state, Republican-controlled legislatures have passed laws making it more difficult to vote, in some cases explicitly targeting Democratic constituencies. Over the weekend, Texas Democrats temporarily blocked one such measure that would have not only outlawed methods that Democratic-led counties have used to increase turnout, but also curtailed early Sunday voting, a tradition for many Black churches. The Texas Republican state legislator Travis Clardy later insisted that the limitation on Sunday voting was a “typo”; if lawmakers can’t draw up legislation dealing with Americans’ fundamental rights without egregiously discriminating on the basis of race, they shouldn’t hold office to begin with.

Texas joins 14 other states in attempting to curtail voting rights in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Some Republican-controlled states have purged officials who refused to obey Trump’s instructions not to certify the election results; a few are considering measures that would allow state legislatures to overturn such results outright.

The risks of such measures are obvious. Between the effectiveness of gerrymandering and the partisan polarization of urban and rural districts, in some states winning a legislative majority is well-nigh impossible for the Democratic Party as currently constituted. In the event that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 2:34 pm

Taylor Glenn offers a new perspective on juggling

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Taylor Glenn has three videos of this unusual view. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Daily life

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David Deutsch on Multiple Worlds and Our Place in Them

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Tyler Cowen interviews David Deutsch. The interview is a podcast, but there’s also a transcript at the link.

Tyler describes Oxford professor and theoretical physicist David Deutsch as a “maximum philosopher of freedom” with no rival. A pioneer in the field of quantum computing, Deutsch subscribes to the multiple-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. He is also adamant that the universe (or multiverse) is not incomprehensible — believing that the multiverse and human beings within it have maximum freedom. He joined Tyler to discuss the importance of these principles for understanding the nature of reality and our place in it.

They discuss the metaphysics of Star Trek transporters, how we can know the laws of physics for the multiverse, what geological strata can illustrate to us about the nature of “splitting” universes, why the “Everett universe” is a misnomer, the factors that differentiate humans from all other species, why he believes the universe is comprehensible — but can never be understood fully, the paradoxes of self-reference, the importance of interference experiments, the sociological reasons more physicists don’t believe in the Everett interpretation, the effects of the influences of positivism and instrumentalism on generations of physicists, the strengths and weaknesses of Karl Popper, his answer to whether we’re living in a simulation, what William Godwin got right about institutions, the potential of an AI slave rebellion, what libertarians largely get wrong about their political project, what alien observers might notice as being special about our planet, the major defect of his preferred electoral system, why what Western science needs most is diversity, and more.

You can also watch a video of the conversation here.

Read the full transcript

TYLER COWEN: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Conversations with Tyler. Today I am with David Deutsch. David, welcome.

DAVID DEUTSCH: Hello! Good afternoon.

On the many-worlds theory

COWEN: Now, I have a question. I am myself a metaphysical agnostic. I’m unwilling to step into a Star Trek transporter machine because I’m afraid it would kill me and it’s a copy of me that would keep on living.

At what price are you willing to step into a Star Trek transporter machine?

DEUTSCH: I certainly wouldn’t want to be the first person, but I suppose you’re asking the question separately from do I think it would work technically?

COWEN: Sure. Assume it works as in the TV show, but metaphysically, there’s a question you face. You believe in many-worlds theory, right?

DEUTSCH: Yes, though I don’t think that is connected. I think it’s more physicalism or something like that: that I believe that there’s nothing to me except this running program in my brain. If that program were to run somewhere else and stop running in my brain, then I wouldn’t notice anything, and I would, indeed, have traveled to that other place.

COWEN: Say the world forks and it’s possible both that you do and do not step into the machine. Isn’t it the case that some version of the earlier you is still existing along one of the forks, so you have nothing to worry about?

DEUTSCH: Some version of me . . . whenever I make a decision which could go either way, some version of me will have presumably made the other decision. Although that’s not as simple as it sounds, because both the other version of me and me are error-correcting entities. That’s the whole point of what human thought is: it’s error correction. Therefore, it will take more than just a cosmic ray hit to make the difference between deciding something yes or no. This would have to be an inconsequential decision, which (unbeknownst to me) will have a large effect, and then later cause me to be a different person, and so on.

That’s happening all the time, independently of Star Trek machines or anything like that. That is the case and fortunately, it turns out — at least if ordinary decision theory is true in nonquantum cases, then it turns out that ordinary decision theory with randomness produces the same rational decisions as quantum decision theory with the multiverse. It shouldn’t make any difference to decisions, and that includes the decision whether to use the Star Trek transporter.

COWEN: Sure. So as long as there’s a possible world where your atoms aren’t scattered and you just didn’t get into the machine, you don’t have to worry too much about your decision?

DEUTSCH: I do, because when you say “so long as there’s a possible world,” that glides over the question, How many? What proportion of the worlds is that going to happen in? What I said just now about decision theory in the multiverse — the proportion of the multiverse that does one thing or another plays the same role in decisions as probability does in a theory where there’s randomness. It really does matter. Just because there are a few worlds in which xy, or z happens, if there are very few of them, they shouldn’t affect my decisions at all.

COWEN: How do we know what counts as a possible world? There’s a certain economy to a many-worlds interpretation of physics, but isn’t a lot of the complexity just being squeezed into this notion of what is a possible world?

DEUTSCH: Yes, and we’re used to that.

COWEN: I’m not used to it.

DEUTSCH: You are when you realize that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 12:25 pm

The empty office: what we lose when we work from home

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This piece suggests science is a social enterprise. (Later in the article, there’s some interesting overlap with issues I discussed in this post.) Gillian Tett writes in the Guardian that begins:

n the summer of 2020, Daniel Beunza, a voluble Spanish social scientist who taught at Cass business school in London, organised a stream of video calls with a dozen senior bankers in the US and Europe. Beunza wanted to know how they had run a trading desk while working from home. Did finance require flesh-and-blood humans?

Beunza had studied bank trading floors for two decades, and had noticed a paradox. Digital technologies had entered finance in the late 20th century, pushing markets into cyberspace and enabling most financial work to be done outside the office – in theory. “For $1,400 a month you can have the [Bloomberg] machine at home. You can have the best information, all the data at your disposal,” Beunza was told in 2000 by the head of one Wall Street trading desk, whom he called “Bob”. But the digital revolution had not caused banks’ offices and trading rooms to disappear. “The tendency is the reverse,” Bob said. “Banks are building bigger and bigger trading rooms.”

Why? Beunza had spent years watching financiers like Bob to find the answer. Now, during lockdown, many executives and HR departments found themselves dealing with the same issue: what is gained and what is lost when everyone is working from home? But while most finance companies focused on immediate questions such as whether employees working remotely would have still access to information, feel part of a team and be able to communicate with colleagues, Beunza thought more attention should be paid to different kinds of questions: how do people act as groups? How do they use rituals and symbols to forge a common worldview? To address practical concerns about the costs and benefits of remote working, we first need to understand these deeper issues.

Office workers make decisions not just by using models and manuals or rational, sequential logic – but by pulling in information, as groups, from multiple sources. That is why the rituals, symbols and space matter. “What we do in offices is not usually what people think we do,” Beunza told me. “It is about how we navigate the world.” And these navigation practices are poorly understood by participants like financiers – especially in a digital age.

The engineers who created the internet have always recognised that people and their rituals matter. Since it was founded in 1986, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has provided a place for people to meet and collectively design the architecture of the web. Its members wanted to make design decisions using “rough consensus”, since they believed the internet should be an egalitarian community where anybody could participate, without hierarchies or coercion. “We reject: kings, presidents and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code” was, and still is, one of its key mantras.

To cultivate “rough consensus”, IETF members devised a distinctive ritual: humming. When they needed to make a crucial decision, the group asked everyone to hum to indicate “yay” or “nay” – and proceeded on the basis of which was loudest. The engineers considered this less divisive than voting.

Some of the biggest decisions about how the internet works have been made using this ritual. In March 2018, in a bland room of the Hilton Metropole on London’s Edgware Road, representatives from Google, Intel, Amazon, Qualcomm and others were gathered for an IETF meeting. They were debating a controversial issue: whether or not to adopt the “draft-rhrd-tls-tls13-visibility-01” protocol. To anybody outside the room, it might sound like gobbledegook, but this protocol was important. Measures were being introduced to make it harder for hackers to attack crucial infrastructure such as utility networks, healthcare systems and retail groups. This was a mounting concern at the time – a year or so earlier, hackers seemingly from Russia had shut down the Ukrainian power system. The proposed “visibility” protocol would signal to internet users whether or not anti-hacking tools had been installed.

For an hour the engineers debated the protocol. Some opposed telling users the tools had been installed; others insisted on it. “There are privacy issues,” one said. “It’s about nation states,” another argued. “We cannot do this without consensus.” So a man named Sean Turner – who looked like a garden gnome, with a long, snowy-white beard, bald head, glasses and checked lumberjack shirt – invoked the IETF ritual.

“We are going to hum,” he said. “Please hum now if you support adoption.” A moan rose up, akin to a Tibetan chant, bouncing off the walls of the Metropole. “Thanks. Please hum now if you oppose.” There was a much louder collective hum. “So at this point there is no consensus to adopt this,” Turner declared. The protocol was put on ice.

Most people do not even know that the IETF exists, much less that computer engineers design the web by humming. That is not because the IETF hides its work. On the contrary, its meetings are open to anyone and posted online. But phrases like “draft-rhrd-tls-tls1.3” mean most people instinctively look away, just as they did with derivatives before the 2008 financial crisis. And, as with finance, this lack of external scrutiny – and understanding – is alarming, particularly given the accelerating effects of innovations such as AI. Many of the engineers who build the technologies on which we rely are well-meaning. But they – like financiers – are prone to tunnel vision, and often fail to see that others may not share their mentality. “In a community of technological producers, the very process of designing, crafting, manufacturing and maintaining technology acts as a template and makes technology itself the lens through which the world is seen and defined,” observes Jan English-Lueck, an anthropologist who has studied Silicon Valley.

When the IETF members use humming, they are reflecting and reinforcing a distinctive worldview – their desperate hope that the internet should remain egalitarian and inclusive. That is their creation myth. But they are also signalling that human contact and context matter deeply, even in a world of computing. Humming enables them to collectively demonstrate the power of that idea. It also helps them navigate the currents of shifting opinion in their tribe and make decisions by reading a range of signals.

Humming does not sit easily with the way we imagine technology, but it highlights a crucial truth about how humans navigate the world of work, in offices, online or anywhere else: even if we think we are rational, logical creatures, we make decisions in social groups by absorbing a wide range of signals. And perhaps the best way to understand this is  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. (It’s a long read.)

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 12:01 pm

The ‘Frog-Pond Effect’ Distorts Your Self-Image

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Markham Heid writes in Elemental:

For a 2012 study in PLOS One, researchers invited a young woman into a laboratory at Ohio University.

The woman learned that she would be taking part in an “aesthetic judgment” experiment. The researchers took a photograph of her face and then asked her to sit at a table that held two objects: a computer monitor and a mirror.

On the monitor, the woman viewed a series of headshots of what the study termed “attractive professional models” — all of them women. Following this barrage of beautiful faces, the woman’s own photograph appeared on the screen. But it wasn’t just a single photo; the woman saw 13 pictures of herself scattered across the monitor. Looking closely, she could see that each version of her face was different from all the others.

Using a specially designed photo-editing program, the researchers had taken the woman’s photograph and created “morphs” — copies manipulated to make the woman appear either more or less attractive. Along with her original headshot, the woman was now looking at eight photographs that airbrushed and otherwise enhanced her appearance — dramatically, in some cases — and four photographs that marred her looks.

With the mirror to guide her, the woman was instructed to pick out her true image from the false ones. Even though the complimentary headshots outnumbered the adulterated ones by a two-to-one margin, the woman selected one of the unflattering photographs as the most authentic representation of what she saw in the mirror.

The researchers repeated versions of this experiment with roughly 70 other men and women. Over and over again, the people who looked at lineups of beautiful faces tended to select self-portraits that had been manipulated to look less attractive.

On the other hand, when the researchers flipped the script and showed people unattractive faces, those people tended to view their own faces more favorably.

Since the inception of social-comparison theory in the early 1950s, psychologists and sociologists have piled up evidence that human beings form opinions of themselves — their looks, aptitude, intelligence, and achievement — based in large part on the qualities they see in the people with whom they identify and associate. When those comparisons lead to inaccurate self-representations or appraisals, this distortion is sometimes referred to as the “frog-pond effect.”

The phrase stems from a 1966 paper that found college students at elite universities who had low GPAs tended to view their own academic abilities less favorably than students at lower-tier colleges who had good GPAs. “It is better to be a big frog in a small pond than a small frog in a big pond,” the author of that paper wrote.

The “frog-pond effect” continues to show up in research today.

“We use the term ‘frog-pond effect’ as shorthand for this tendency of people with a high rank in a low-rank group to evaluate themselves more favorably than people with a low rank in a high-rank group,” says Ethan Zell, PhD, author of the PLOS One study and an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

In other words, we look at other people as a frame of reference when we are evaluating ourselves. While “upward” social comparisons can make us feel less attractive, less capable, or otherwise inferior, “downward” social comparisons tend to have just the opposite effect. “These effects are magnified when we’re comparing ourselves to people we view as peers, or those in a similar situation to ourselves,” Zell explains.

It’s difficult to overstate the role that social comparison plays in our lives, perhaps especially when we’re young or vulnerable.

Research has found that all of us engage in social comparisons — consciously or unconsciously — dozens and perhaps hundreds of times each day. To one extent or another, these comparisons influence every facet of our well-being and behavior, from our confidence and self-regard, to our willingness to take risks, to the likelihood that we’ll develop anxiety or depression.

Upward social comparison is not inherently harmful. “It can inspire us to take better care of ourselves, or to be ambitious in positive ways,” Zell says. But like anything else, too much of it can cause problems.

Unfortunately, modern life may overwhelm us with comparisons that distort our self-image and so threaten our well-being.

Inthe context of social media, the “highlight reel” effect describes people’s tendency to put only their best, most-flattering selves online. There’s mounting evidence, especially among young people, that the more time we spend looking at these glamorized depictions of others, the more the frog-pond effect and upward social comparisons do a number on our egos.

“Social media and technology have really expanded the reach of comparisons,” Zell says. Like the young woman in his study whose self-assessment took a hit after she viewed beautiful faces, many of us can’t help but feel inferior when we’re exposed to image after image or post after post of people who seem cooler, more interesting, funnier, prettier, or more stylish than we are.

“When we’re surrounded by people we view as somehow better than us — even if objectively we’re above average — that can be really demoralizing or deflating,” Zell explains.

Social media influencers may be especially damaging to our self-appraisals. We tend to view these people as peers, rather than what they really are — minor celebrities who are often paid handsomely to project a certain image or lifestyle. We may hear about their bad days or insecurities, but the overall message our brain is receiving is “this is a better version of me.”

Before social media, most of our comparisons were based on face-to-face interactions with friends, schoolmates, co-workers, and those who occupied our real-world social spheres. We saw the good and the bad — the features and the flaws — in something closer to equal measure. And this helped properly calibrate our self-assessments.

There’s also evidence that, in offline contexts, we frequently downplay our shiniest attributes. Research has found that being the target of an upward social comparison is unpleasant for us, and so we tend to shift our behavior in an effort to better mesh with our peers. “We can sense when other people feel bad because we’re better off than them and we adjust, but that doesn’t seem to be the case on social media,” Zell explains.

All of this suggests that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 11:52 am

Why an Entire Field of Psychology Is in Trouble

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Science makes many hypotheses, and it decides which are correct by comparing the idea to reality, either through experiments (chemistry, for example, and terrestrial physics) or observation (astrophysics, for example, or botany and zoology).

Having a way to test ideas to see whether they fit reality is a great benefit, which is obvious when you compare scientific ideas to (say) religious ideas. To decide whether a religious idea is “correct” — for example, whether the substance of the consecrated bread and wine in the Catholic mass becomes the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation) or the substance of the bread and wine coexist with the body and blood of Christ (consubstantiation) — one cannot do an experiment to settle the matter — and thus we have religious schisms and even religious wars, since there is no way to decide the issue.

This is not to say that science gets everything right. It doesn’t — nor does religion, at least from the point of view of other religions. But when science gets something wrong, testing the idea against reality will eventually settle the matter, though it may take some time and many experiment (or much observation). Thus science is always changing as it drops ideas that have disproven by reality or turn out to be special cases of a more general theory.

This brief video discusses a course-correction now underway in psychology. Notice that no combat is required (or used): just testing the ideas against reality is sufficient.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 11:42 am

Greece’s Secret to Perfect Honey

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Rob Waters has an interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine, which begins:

  1. Greece’s Potent Herbs
  2. Honey from Tree Sap
  3. Bee Wizard at Work
  4. Honey’s Professional Allure
  5. The “Mystery” Behind Bee Colony Collapse
  6. The Forgotten Bees
  7. Natural Farming, Unique Flavors
  8. A Mystical Connection

Few countries love honey and revere beekeepers more than Greece, and perhaps no country has a deeper history in this craft. According to mythology, Greece’s first keeper of bees was the demigod Aristaeus, who was said to have learned beekeeping as a child from the Nymphs who raised him, and to later pass his knowledge to humans. He “invented the riddled hive… and made a settled place for the labors of the wandering bees,” wrote the poet Nonnus in his epic fifth-century poem, “Dionysiaca”. Nonnus also credited Aristaeus with developing the first beekeeping suit, and to have been reared on nectar and ambrosia, the honey-based foods of the gods.

Mythology aside, beekeeping may have come to Greece as early as 1500 BCE, when laws promulgated by the Hittites outlined the punishment for theft of a hive (5 shekels of silver, about the same as for stealing a sheep). In Athens, archaeologists have excavated cylindrical hives, made from pottery dating to 400 BCE, which often were reused as coffins for children.

Today, the average Greek consumes approximately 3.6 pounds of honey a year, the largest amount per capita in the European Union and more than double the U.S. consumption. According to a 2013 study, Greece has the greatest density of bee colonies in Europe, with 11.4 colonies per square kilometer. (The U.S., by comparison, averages only one colony in twice that amount of land.) The country also produces some of the finest honey in the world. At the 2019 London Honey Awards, judges bestowed prizes on 17 Greek honey producers, crowning them with three of five possible platinum awards.

While bee colonies in the U.S. have been famously dying at a catastrophic rate for at least 10 years, dragging down American honey production, Greece’s honey industry has remained stable, producing honey that is widely praised. Indeed, Greek scientists have found that bee colonies on Mount Olympus, mythical home of the 12 Greek gods, produce several varieties of honey that are among the most potent in the world, containing antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties.

With the Greek economy still reeling from its years-long debt crisis, and unemployment hovering dangerously around 17 to 18 percent, beekeeping is still flourishing—an economic refuge for some, and a growing cottage industry.

I’ve come to Greece to understand why this country has so many prospering bees and beekeepers, and why theirs is so widely ranked as some of the most flavorful, potent, and healthful honey in the world. I also want to learn why Greece has largely avoided the catastrophic die-off of honeybees that has afflicted so many other countries—and what lessons Greek practices might yield for those countries. My questions went well beyond gastronomic concerns. In July, 2019, the Earthwatch Institute declared the honeybee “the most important living being on earth.” The reason: 70 percent of the world’s agriculture depends on bees, yet we’ve managed to let this insect’s population decline so dramatically that bees are now considered an endangered species.

My efforts to answer these questions took me all over Greece, from the craggy, southwestern reaches of the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece, to Karditsa, a small, bicycle-friendly city in the center of the country, and finally to Amorgos, a narrow island shaped like a comma in the Aegean Sea.


My journey begins with a drive into the Taygetos Mountains in the Peloponnese with Kostas Stagakis, an organic beekeeper and farmer, and his friend and fellow beekeeper, Kostas Perdikeas. I’m jammed into the back seat of Perdikeas’s four-wheel drive pickup truck with my interpreter for the day, Vivi Letsou, the owner of Zen Rocks Mani, the yoga retreat center that is housing me. Perdikeas swerves around fallen boulders and charges over deep ruts, tossing Letsou and me around in the back seat. He’s stocky, bearded, and wears mirrored sunglasses, making him look like a rugby player, or an off-duty mercenary.

As we ascend into the Taygetos, we pass . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 11:16 am

The cultural iceberg

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The image below presents various memes, memes being the atoms from which human culture evolves. A meme is anything you can learn from another person or teach to another person. Everything listed as part of the iceberg meets that definition.

Once a meme is born (by something being taught/learned), it evolves (and quite rapidly — millions of times faster than lifeforms evolve) Meme evolution follows Darwinian logic: just like lifeforms, memes reproduce and the new generation resembles the first with occasional variations (when one person learns from another, the meme from the first is reproduced in the second, who may not do it quite the same way). So while reproduction does result in the reproduced memes being like the original, some variation occurs — and variations that have a survival advantage (e.g., a better or easier way of doing something) tend to replace the original.

Moreover, mutations can arise (a person creates a new song (not yet a meme: it was not learned from another nor taught to another), and when they teach the song to others, it becomes a meme. If the song becomes popular, it is learned by many and the meme thrives and grows.

Not all memes thrive. Human attention is limited, so a natural selection works on memes takes place. While some memes are widely reproduced (look at how many speak English), others occupy a small niche (many fewer speak Esperanto) and some go extinct (dialects of ancient Sumerian that today are unknown). The result is the on-going process of evolution.

The image includes various things we learn from others, and sometimes the meme is not formally taught but is learned through osmosis:  by simply living in the culture into which one was born. Nevertheless, these all are learned behaviors and attitudes, as shown by how they differ from culture to culture. That variance shows that the behaviors and attitudes are not inborn but rather are taught/learned.

To a great degree the memes we host control and direct our actions — we make decisions and live our lives mostly under the sway of the memes we’ve collected (or — another way of looking at it — with which we’ve been infected).

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 11:08 am

Best Food to Prevent Common Childhood Infections

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When my children were little they ate nutritional yeast tablets a lot. We promoted it as a treat.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 10:53 am

James Bond’s shaving soap

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Today I used James Bond’s shaving soap — not his own bowl of soap, but the same make (Floris of London) and fragrance (No. 89, their street address being 89 Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6JH, UK). I purchased long before their disastrous reformulation — and I have no idea of the quality of the current soap, but at the price you’re better off so far as lather’s concerned by buying a top-notch artisan soap, such as a Phoenix Artisan CK-6 or Declaration Grooming Milksteak shaving soap. The fragrance, of course, is the soap’s claim to fame:

TOP NOTES:  Bergamot | Lavender | Neroli | Nutmeg | Orange | Petitgrain

HEART NOTES:  Orris | Geranium | Rose | Ylang Ylang

BASE NOTES:  Cedarwood | Musk | Oakmoss | Sandalwood | Vetiver

The Maggard Razors 22mm synthetic raised a fine lather, and of course Parker’s Semi-Slant is an excellent razor, so the shave was thoroughly enjoyable. Three passes, a perfect outcome, and a good splash of the aftershave to finish.

Written by Leisureguy

3 June 2021 at 10:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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