Later On

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

Archive for June 18th, 2021

“This Time-Management Trick Changed My Whole Relationship With Time”

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Dean Kissick published this article in the NY Times a year ago, but I just came across it. It has an interesting idea that is worth a try:

A couple of years ago I was told a rumor about a notable artist who would break up everything she did, from making films in the day to running her studio in the afternoon to reading books in the evening, into intervals of 25 minutes, with five-minute breaks in between — 25 minutes on, five minutes off, over and over again. That’s how I first heard of the Pomodoro technique. Invented by Francesco Cirillo, a student at Rome’s Luiss Business School in the late 1980s, it’s a time-management method that takes its name from the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used to regulate its core process, breaking the day into brief intervals. Before long I was trying it for myself, and now I start my first pomodoro as soon as my coffee’s ready in the morning.

Daily schedules, and our shared perception of time, grew hazier and more malleable during the spring lockdown, something that has persisted into our timid reopening. Hours, days and weeks merged into an ambient, dreamlike fugue. My bowl of cereal with milk slid from 2 to 3 to 4 in the afternoon. I’m writing this at 11:03 p.m. on a Thursday while drinking what I consider my afternoon coffee. There are four minutes and 13 seconds left of my pomodoro.

A pomodoro, once started, must not be interrupted, otherwise it has to be abandoned. But in this stringency, there is relief: You are not allowed to extend a pomodoro, either. After a set of four 25-minute intervals are completed, you’re supposed to take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes before continuing. Those are the basic rules of Pomodoro technique. It tells us when to start, and also when to stop; and now, more than ever, we have to be told when to stop.

An unquestioned assumption in our culture holds that the more hours spent on work — whether a passion project or office drudgery — the better we’ll perform and the more successful and happier we’ll be. What if none of that’s true? What if it’s better to spend less time on things?

We waste hours keeping on going when our concentration’s long gone, caught in drowsy, drawn-out moments staring glumly at a screen, and not only when we’re supposed to be doing our jobs. Leisure time has also taken on a timeless, hypnotic quality lately. Everything our culture produces feels at once never-ending and meaningless — or perhaps meaningless because it’s never-ending. Movies explode into cinematic universes; series are designed to be binge-watched; every video, song or podcast tips over and auto-plays another; social media scrolls toward infinity and the news never stops broadcasting. An everlasting present expands around us in all directions, and it’s easy to get lost in there — all the more reason to set some boundaries.

Now that my breaks are short and fleeting, I think more carefully about what I’d like to do with them, and I’ve found it’s quite different from the unimaginative temptations I would otherwise default to (flopping on the sofa, scrolling on my phone, becoming annoyed). Instead I’ll make a sandwich, do a quick French lesson, reply to a few texts, have a shower, go to the laundromat; and such humdrum activities, now that they’re restricted, have become sources of great pleasure.

During lockdown, we were encouraged not to feel pressured into being productive. My alternative approach was to descend into a pomodoro-fueled delirium of work, creativity, household chores, tasks I’ve been avoiding for years, self-betterment and random undertakings from morning to night. I’ve found that tackling a range of tasks in short bursts keeps things interesting and provides a more rounded life. Variety is the sugar that helps the medicine go down; not the mirage of variety conjured by infinite scrolling content, by nearly a hundred different flavors of Oreos, but the genuine variety of pursuing different sorts of interests every day.

Last summer I took  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

He concludes:

. . .The Pomodoro technique showed me how much of my experience of reality is tied up with my subjective perception of it. And it’s not an exaggeration to say that, by changing my relationship with and appreciation of time, the technique has brought me to some profound existential questions about whether I’m wasting my life — my fragile, fleeting life — on activities I neither care about nor enjoy. It has forced me to think about what I’d most like to be doing every day instead. It has made me see time afresh — as something we really don’t have enough of, as something precious precisely because it’s ephemeral.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 5:06 pm

Democracy Is Surprisingly Easy to Undermine

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I wonder whether effective teaching of critical thinking skills, beginning in the earliest grades (see the CoRT program for an example) would help by making people less easily swayed by spurious arguments.

Anne Applebaum writes in the Atlantic:

Here’s a quiz: Which world leader made the following statements?

We are witnessing the greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy.”

This may be the most important speech I’ve ever made. I want to provide an update on our ongoing efforts to expose … tremendous voter fraud and irregularities.”

“The election will be flipped, dear friends.”

If you guessed Donald Trump, you are only one-third right. The first statement was made by Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Israeli prime minister, soon after his opponents formed a parliamentary coalition to oust him. He has since grudgingly made way for a new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, but he hasn’t conceded that his loss was fair. The third statement came from Keiko Fujimori, a daughter of Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s former autocratic leader. She also just lost an election, but has not yet recognized the result. But yes, Trump did make the second statement. It comes from a speech he delivered on December 2, in which he detailed “tremendous voter fraud and irregularities” at great length. Although Trump stepped down, he has also yet to admit that he lost.

And he never will. Neither Netanyahu nor Fujimori is likely to concede either, and no wonder: In all three cases, the personal stakes are high. Trump is threatened by multiple lawsuits and potential business failure. Netanyahu has already been indicted for corruption and fraud. Fujimori previously spent a year in jail while awaiting trial for allegedly collecting illegal campaign contributions, and she could conceivably be sent back.

The political stakes are high too, because—at least to hear them talk—all of these leaders claim to believe that, in addition to what they might personally suffer, their nation will pay a huge price for their loss as well. Netanyahu, who had to be ushered to his seat on the opposition benches after losing the vote, calls the new government a “dangerous coalition of fraud and surrender,” and has vowed to “overthrow it very quickly.” Fujimori has described her leftist opponent’s victory as a mortal threat to Peru and a guarantee that the country will follow Venezuela into repression and poverty. Trump, of course, has never acknowledged that there is such a thing as legitimate opposition to himself at all. Even before the election took place, he made clear that unless he won, he would not recognize the result.

The consequences for democracy—democracy around the world, not just in America, Israel, or Peru—are higher still. Elections have been stolen before. Dictators have falsified results before. But losing candidates in established democracies do not normally seek to turn their supporters against the voting system itself, to discredit elections, to undermine the very idea of competitive politics. No modern U.S. president has done so. No postwar European democratic leader has tried it either. And there is a reason: At its core, Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign presents an existential challenge not to his opponents, but to democracy itself. If, by definition, your opponent’s victory can be obtained only through fraud, then how can any election be legitimate? If, by definition, your opponent’s victory represents the death of the nation, then why should any election be allowed to take place, ever? A few days ago, I asked Larry Diamond, a scholar of democracy at Stanford, if he could think of a precedent for Trump’s fraudulent, virulent, ongoing campaign against the November election result, and he could not. “I know of no instance of an advanced industrial democracy coming anywhere near this close to abandoning fundamental standards of electoral democracy,” he told me.

Maybe we should be surprised that it hasn’t happened more often. Democracy has alway been corruptible. Aristotle dismissed democracy because it was so likely to slide into tyranny; the Founding Fathers stuffed the Constitution with checks and balances for exactly that reason. Benjamin Franklin, when once asked what America would be, “a republic or a monarchy,” responded: “A republic, if you can keep it.” More recent politicians, including some rather surprising ones, have understood the fragility of democracy too. Richard Nixon, when advisers suggested that he contest the results of the incredibly tight 1960 presidential election, refused: “Our country can’t afford the agony of a constitutional crisis—and I damn well will not be a party to creating one just to become president or anything else.”

Democracy can’t function without a certain level of civic virtue, a modicum of consensus; at the very least, everybody has to agree to play by the rules. When that doesn’t happen, contested elections, violence, even civil war can result. For many decades now, Americans, like Israelis and many Europeans, have been spared those plagues. Unlike Franklin and Nixon, too many of us now take our system for granted. Few of us are mentally prepared for the highest offices of state to be occupied by people who do not play by the rules, are not suffused with civic virtue, and do not mind damaging the delicate democratic consensus if that’s what it takes to win.

For Americans, Israelis, and many others, the primary danger of “Stop the Steal” tactics lies precisely in their novelty: If you haven’t seen or experienced this kind of assault on the fundamental basis of democracy—if you’ve never encountered a politician who is actively seeking to undermine your trust in the electoral system, your belief that votes are counted correctly, your faith that your nation can survive a victory by the other side—then you might not recognize the hazard. The majority of Republican voters appear not to. Other than Representative Liz Cheney, Representative Adam Kinzinger, and a handful of other officials, even elected Republicans seem not to understand exactly how corrosive this form of politics might eventually become.

The secondary danger of these tactics is  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 2:53 pm

The decay of American democracy is real

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From a column by Fareed Zakahria in the Washington Post:

“America is back,” Joe Biden kept repeating on his first trip abroad as president. It’s a fair description of what he accomplished — a restoration of the United States’ role as the country that can set the global agenda, encourage cooperation and deter malign behavior. So, American diplomacy is back — but is America? That’s a more complicated question.

The United States’ influence has always been built on a combination of power and purpose. Biden went into this trip with two significant achievements under his belt. First, he ramped up vaccinations so far and so fast that the United States is the first major country to enter a post-pandemic world. Second, he passed a massive relief bill that will ensure that the U.S. economy has a roaring recovery.

But prosperity alone is not enough to lead. President Donald Trump presided over a booming economy before the pandemic, yet polls showed that most leading nations neither respected him nor the United States under his leadership. . .

The Biden team has led by focusing on the big issues on which U.S. allies agree: strengthening ties among free countries, combating climate change, deterring Russian aggression in various forms, stepping up to the challenge from China. It was a far cry from the behavior of Trump, who reveled in denigrating NATO and its members.

The meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was not a “superpower summit,” as some in the media described it. Russia is not a superpower. Its economy doesn’t even crack the top 10 and is in decline on many key measures. But the country, spanning 11 time zones, has one of the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear weapons, a robust military and a United Nations veto. Under Putin, it has been eager to play the role of spoiler on the international stage — annexing territory in Europe for the first time since 1945, engaging in cyberattacks on a massive scale, and pursuing and assassinating dissidents even if they live abroad.

Biden handled the meeting with his Russian counterpart with professionalism and skill, prompting Putin to call Biden “a very experienced” statesman and “a balanced, professional man” (in contrast to his recent comments about Trump being a “colorful individual” who made “impulse-based” decisions). Despite Trump’s fawning behavior toward Putin, Putin might recognize that it is better to have a calm and rational U.S. president than a mercurial and unpredictable showman. For its part, Washington’s goal toward Russia should not be ceaseless hostility but rather some kind of stable relationship in which problems can be discussed, negotiated and managed.

The biggest news out of the Biden-Putin meeting involves cyberspace. The problem of cyberattacks, cybercrime and ransomware has grown exponentially. And yet governments have appeared either unable or unwilling to do much about it. When North Korea launched a devastating cyberattack on Sony Pictures in 2014 to punish it for a movie satirizing Kim Jong Un, destroying 70 percent of the company’s computers, the U.S. government did little in response.

Biden has moved policy in this realm significantly forward, for the first time signaling that the United States would be willing to use its considerable cyber capacities to retaliate against a Russian attack.

 . . . In one fundamental way, things look worse now than in prior periods of crisis. After Watergate, many were surprised that the world looked up to the United States for facing and fixing its democratic failures. It was a sign of the country’s capacity to course-correct. But imagine if after that scandal, the Republican Party, instead of condemning Nixon, had embraced him slavishly, insisted that he did absolutely nothing wrong, settled into denial and obstructionism and proposed new laws to endorse Nixon’s most egregious conduct? Imagine if the only people purged by the party had been those who criticized Nixon?

The decay of American democracy is real. . .

Continue reading.

And see the next post.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 2:43 pm

Fleeing Venezuela

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Governments can go very bad, which is why the effort by Donald Trump to overthrow the election, an effort in which he has been aided and supported by many Republicans, is so worrisome. This article in Persuasion by Carlos Hernández shows the impact on an individual. The article begins:

It is easy to talk about the stakes in the fight between democracy and autocracy in abstract terms. Around the world, there is now a contest between freedom and tyranny, between the rule of law and the arbitrary exercise of naked power. But when dictators destroy democracy, this has a real and direct impact on millions of people. This harrowing account of fleeing Nicolás Maduro’s brutal regime, by the brave Carlos Hernández, gives a vivid description of what that impact looks like in Venezuela. We are proud to publish it. – Yascha


.
By Carlos Hernández

If I turn my head, I can see a thick cloud of dust trailing the motorbike. We’re far off-road, riding fast along on a wildcat dirt track through the bone-dry shrublands that make up the northern end of Venezuela’s 2,000-kilometer (1,300-mile) border with Colombia. The Caribbean Sea isn’t far, but you can’t see it from here. I’m hanging onto the little grill behind me for dear life as my “driver” pushes the bike hard toward the border.

I have a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket. Nothing else. No money, no passport, no cellphone, no debit cards, no food, no water. Home—the once-industrial city of Puerto Ordaz, in Venezuela’s southeast—is some 1,300 kilometers behind me. My destination is about 950 kilometers ahead: Medellín, in the middle of Colombia. The sun is blazing overhead. I’m thirsty, hungry, and I’ve barely slept for two nights. I’m completely alone and utterly defenseless.

This part of the border is controlled by Colombia’s ELN guerrillas. They’re technically Marxist, but they seem to spend more time smuggling cocaine and fuel than overthrowing the bourgeoisie. The Venezuelan government calls itself Marxist, too, but also seems to spend more time dreaming up ways to make a buck than on anything like a revolution. They’re made for each other.

I know it’s not a safe route. But it’s safer than the alternative: the hardtop road, which is controlled by Venezuela’s viciously predatory military.

The bike comes up to a tiny adobe hut in the middle of the scrubland and we stop. Two little kids, both rake-thin, have laid a fallen tree trunk across the only passable bit of dirt track. It’s a “tollbooth,” and the umpteenth shakedown on my trip. With their short black hair and round faces, you can see that they’re Wayuus, the indigenous group that’s been living in these parts since before there was any such thing as a Colombia or a Venezuela, much less a border between them. The kids are barefoot. One wears black shorts, the other green ones.

The sun has sucked every last bit of moisture from the ground. It’s unbearably hot. The double face mask and my acute dehydration make even brief stops excruciating. The kids seem unfazed.

They say something to the bike driver in Wayuu, a language I don’t understand. He hands them a few Colombian peso coins. One kid lets out a small “hehe” as he looks at the coins, while the other goes running to drag the tree trunk away to open up the dirt track for us.

When I set off from Puerto Ordaz, two days earlier, I was prepared. I had my old national ID card (expired, but new ones take years to get issued), my Venezuelan passport, three different types of currency totaling almost $200, debit cards, face masks, hand gel, and food and water for the trip. By Venezuelan migrant standards, I was royalty.

Bit by bit, all but the COVID-related supplies got stolen.

I knew this could happen. I assumed it would. But I couldn’t stay in Puerto Ordaz. In 2014, after oil prices peaked, my country’s economy started shrinking, and it hasn’t really stopped. The basics of modern urban life have collapsed there, one after the other. There are power or data blackouts constantly, often multiple times a day, making my online freelancing gigs almost impossible to keep. Even when the internet works, it’s excruciatingly slow. There’s no public transport, sometimes there’s no cooking gas, and even the most basic of foods, like bananas, keep getting more and more expensive.

Water problems came close to driving me over the edge. The taps usually run dry, and the water that does come through the pipes is so dirty you can’t possibly drink it. So every other day, my morning routine there included heading out to buy bottles of drinking water to carry home. Sometimes there’s no water in the city at all, and all I can do is wait, thirsty, sweaty, in a house that smells like the toilet we can’t flush.

Probably what did it for me, though, was . . .

Continue reading. There’s MUCH more. And see the next post.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 2:19 pm

Facial Recognition Failures Are Locking People Out of Unemployment Systems

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Todd Feathers writes in Vice:

People around the country are furious after being denied their unemployment benefits due to apparent problems with facial recognition technology that claims to prevent fraud.

Unemployment recipients have been complaining for months about the identity verification service ID.me, which uses a combination of biometric information and official documents to confirm that applicants are who they claim to be. The complaints reached another crescendo this week after Axios published a “deep dive” article about the threat of unemployment fraud based on statistics provided to the outlet by ID.me.

Some unemployment applicants have said that ID.me’s facial recognition models fail to properly identify them (generally speaking, facial recognition technology is notoriously less accurate for women and people of color). And after their applications were put on hold because their identity couldn’t be verified, many should-be beneficiaries have had to wait days or weeks to reach an ID.me “trusted referee” who could confirm what the technology couldn’t.

On Twitter, there are dozens of complaints about ID.me per day, and local news articles all over the country have detailed the problem over the course of months. In California, 1.4 million unemployment beneficiary accounts were abruptly suspended on New Year’s Eve and the beneficiaries were required to re-verify their identity using ID.me, a process which many found difficult and resulted in them waiting for weeks to reactivate their accounts while they struggled to make ends meet.

In Colorado, benefit recipients who had no problem establishing their identity before ID.me took over were suddenly rejected and went months without receiving the payments they were eligible for.

The story is similar in FloridaNorth CarolinaPennsylvaniaArizona, and many other states.

ID.me CEO Blake Hall told Motherboard that the company’s facial recognition technology does one-to-one matching—comparing one face against a picture of that same face (from a driver’s license, say)—whereas other applications of facial recognition attempt to find a match for a face in a large dataset of faces, known as one-to-many matching.

“The algorithms used for Face Match operate ~99.9% efficacy,” Hall wrote in an email to Motherboard. “There is in fact no relationship between skin tone and Face Match failure on a 1:1 basis” according to a regression analysis the company performed.

That doesn’t mesh with the experiences being shared on Twitter by people like Tim Weaver, a gig economy worker in Las Vegas who was suddenly cut off from his unemployment benefits in late March after ID.me failed to identify him.

Weaver told Motherboard that when he attempted to pass ID.me’s facial recognition test he held a phone in front of him in the instructed position but “it rejected it, didn’t give us a reason, just rejected it. It rejected it three times, and then it locked me out of the system.”

Weaver said he attempted to contact the company’s customer support through its chat feature, which claims to provide assistance 24-hours a day, seven days a week. He tried numerous times at all hours of the day. He tried contacting the state of Nevada for help, but the employees there directed him back to ID.me.

This went on for several weeks, Weaver said, until he tweeted a scathing criticism of the company, which then reached out and—after several more frustrating days—verified Weaver’s identity.

Weaver went for three weeks without receiving his benefit. “I couldn’t pay bills,” he said. “Luckily I had enough food saved up so I didn’t have to worry about that. It’s just ridiculous.”

In his statement to Motherboard, Hall said that facial recognition failures are not a problem with the technology but with  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

This is bad, and the company is taking no responsibility. Welcome to dystopia.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 1:13 pm

U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, new Gallup report finds

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The finding is not all that surprising, given (a) the adversarial relationship most companies have with their employees and (b) the finance sector’s encouragement of that aversarial relaationship — for example, Wall Street constantly pressures Costco to cut employee wages.

Jennifer Liu writes in CNBC MakeIt:

U.S. workers are some of the most stressed employees in the world, according to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workplace report, which captures how people are feeling about work and life in the past year.

U.S. and Canadian workers, whose survey data are combined in Gallup’s research, ranked highest for daily stress levels of all groups surveyed. Some 57% of U.S. and Canadian workers reported feeling stress on a daily basis, up by eight percentage points from the year prior and compared with 43% of people who feel that way globally, according to Gallup’s 2021 report.

This spike isn’t surprising to Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief workplace scientist, who tells CNBC Make It that rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward for American workers since 2009. Concerns over the virus, sickness, financial insecurity and racial trauma all contributed to added stress during the pandemic.

But stress spikes were especially acute for women in the last year: 62% of working women in the U.S. and Canada reported daily feelings of stress compared with 52% of men, showing the lasting impact of gendered expectations for caregiving in the household, ongoing child-care challenges and women’s overrepresentation in low-wage service jobs most disrupted by the pandemic. By contrast, the daily stress levels for women in Western Europe went down in the last year, which researchers attribute to social safety nets for parents and workers to prevent unemployment.

And while employee engagement dipped in the rest of the world, it rose to 34% in the U.S. The correlation of higher engagement but also higher stress can result in burnout and mental health challenges and indicates “the intersection of work and life needs some work,” Harter says.

Young people expect their workplace to improve their overall well-being

These sentiments come at a time when younger generations expect their workplaces to provide more value than just a paycheck, Harter says, drawing on previous Gallup research. And in turn, he says organizations have a responsibility to help improve employee well-being if they want to support a resilient workforce; improve learning and performance; and attract top talent.

He points to five elements workplaces can focus on to improve employee engagement and help individuals thrive: career well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, physical well-being and community.

Stress in any one of these areas, such as financial stress due to inequitable pay, or community stress due to an unsafe work environment, can negatively impact a worker’s mental health.

Leaders can do an audit, like through surveys and focus groups, to see if any of their company policies, structures, communications or programs negatively impact their employees’ overall well-being. And when leaders introduce new programs or benefits, Harter says, leaders should connect the value of them to “those five elements, so people understand why you’re providing various benefits, and why you’re trying to provide an overall culture of thriving.”

Who plays the biggest role in employee well-being

It’s crucial CEOs communicate this priority from the top, Harter says, but managers play the biggest role in actually helping improve worker well-being throughout all levels of an organization.

“The most important thing employers can do is to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 12:07 pm

Influence: A Go-inspired game

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You can play against an AI (or watch it play itself) or play against another player. Simple rules:

Players take turns to select and color a tile. At the end of a turn, each tile will influence its neighbors by imparting some of its color.

If a tile gains enough color to pass the threshold, it can no longer be selected and will have a dark border. Conversely, a tile can lose its dark border and become selectable if it loses enough color.

The game ends when all tiles pass the color threshold. The player with the most colored tiles wins!

AI

Change the difficulty or color of the AI player in the settings menu. To play against a friend, simply disable the AI for both colors.

Give it a go.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 11:54 am

Posted in Games

Catholic bishops back creation of document that some hope will limit Biden’s participation in Communion

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I don’t recall Catholic bishops being so vigorously active and outraged when the issue was merely priests (and bishops) raping children. Apparently, they view pedophilia more kindly than allowing non-Catholic women to make their own medical decisions. (It is obvious to most, I would think, that President Biden has never had an abortion nor does he want to require women to have abortions. His position is only that a woman should decide for herself, in consultation with her doctor, whether to have an abortion or not. Catholic bishops do not condone non-Catholic women having a free choice in the matter. The bishops believe that they themselves are uniquely qualified to decide (not on moral grounds — the bishops’ defense of pedophiles within the church showed that they do not tread on such grounds — but on the grounds of having power: might makes right is the principle at hand).

In fairness, the bishops also strongly oppose protecting LGBTQ people.

This earlier post is highly relevant.

Michelle Boorstein reports in the Washington Post:

Catholic bishops Friday voted to create guidelines on the meaning of communion, a move that could be an early step towards limiting the serving of the eucharist to President Biden and other politicians who support abortion rights.

The vote came after a 3 ½ hour emotional discussion Thursday at the annual spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Multiple bishops clashed over how, or if, they should single out the church’s teaching on abortion.

The vote on whether to create a draft document about the meaning of the Eucharist, the bread-and-wine rite at the heart of Communion, needed a simple majority. The measure passed 168-55 with 6 abstentions.

The presidency of the country’s second Catholic president is revealing deep divisions among U.S. bishops, and one after another appeared Thursday at their annual meeting to say their fraternity is now at a crossroads .

Embedded in the organization’s agenda this week were explosive, profound differences about theology, pastoring, human nature and a political backdrop that set off a rare public show of division among the bishops . One bishop said the men were meeting at a time of “historic opportunity.” Another said he could not recall a moment like this in 30 years. Yet another said the bishops’ discussion was the most robust discussion in a decade.

Each side said the other was jeopardizing the church’s reputation. Normally, the men meet for three days each June in a huge Baltimore ballroom, but this year (like last year) they were spread across the country, addressing one another virtually.

“Our credibility is on the line. … The eyes of the whole country are on us. If we don’t act courageously, clearly and convincingly on this core Catholic value, how can we expect to be taken seriously on another matter?” asked San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. He was among the members who urged the creation of the document, an idea that grew from Biden’s election in November and concern about the image of him receiving Communion at Mass each week.

But San Diego Archbishop Robert McElroy said the threat was the vote — which would link a politician, their policy position and the Eucharist, considered the heart of Catholic worship.

“The Eucharist itself will be a tool in vicious partisan turmoil. It will be impossible to prevent its weaponization, even if everyone wants to do so,” he said. “Once we legitimize public-policy-based exclusion … we’ll invite all political animosity into the heart of the Eucharistic celebration.”

A document that so elevates the sinfulness of an abortion policy — not a personal viewpoint, as Biden says he personally accepts the church’s teaching on the topic — McElroy argued, would fatally undermine the bishops’ ability to speak on other things, “including the condemnation of poverty, racism and environmental destruction.”

The bishops spoke emotionally about their desire to be unified, and how much they all treasure the Eucharist, which Catholicism teaches brings God to worshipers who have prepared by examining their sins, confessing periodically and fasting. Yet their appearances raised starkly different perspectives. Does a good Catholic priest focus on sin and repentance or first inclusion? Elevate abortion above everything else or not? Is it a priest’s job to assess policy solutions to a sin or stick to teaching theology?

The bishops have talked for several years about reviving interest in the sacrament of the Eucharist. But when Biden was elected last fall, the USCCB created a working group to deal with what its president, Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, said was the “problem” of Biden and his policies on abortion and LGBTQ protections. That working group recommended that the conference produce a document on “Eucharistic consistency.” Some bishops immediately expressed concerns about the aims of such a group; others celebrated it.

Biden, while he attends Mass weekly, has not spoken much since taking office about his faith and how it impacts his policy views, including on abortion. The White House . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Someone should explain to the Catholic bishops that the US is a secular nation, not a theocracy, and while religions — many religions, including some inconsistent with the Catholic faith — are protected, they do not rule, and is not a good idea for one religion to impose its rules on those who do not follow that religion.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 10:37 am

Disparate responses from disparate experience

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There’s an old saw that goes, “If you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing his, then you probably don’t understand the situation.” For example:

In the previous post (on my morning shave) I gave a  low-voltage example of this sort of error, which was my dismissing the practice of “blooming” the shaving soap because, when I tried it, it did nothing — blooming the soap or not made no difference. But I was limited by my experience (shaving with soft water) and did not understand what those who had to use hard water experienced.

That dissonance in that case is relatively mild, but in other situations a lack of insight due to (a) lack of experience and (b) not truly listening, can be devastating. The NY Times recently had a book review by Janice Nimura that discusses a disgraceful history of one long-running example of this type of error. She writes:

UNWELL WOMEN
Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World
By Elinor Cleghorn

In order to recognize illness, you have to know what health looks like — what’s normal, and what’s not. Until recently, medical research generally calibrated “normal” on a trim white male. Such a patient, arriving in an emergency room clutching his chest as they do in the movies — and in the textbooks — would be immediately evaluated for a heart attack. But heart disease in women, inconveniently, doesn’t always come with chest pain. A woman reporting dizziness, nausea and heart-pounding breathlessness in that same E.R. might be sent home with instructions to relax, her distress dismissed as emotional rather than cardiac.

Heart disease has clear markers and proven diagnostic tools. When a woman’s symptoms are less legible or quantifiable — fatigue, vertigo, chronic pain — the tendency to be dismissive grows. In “Unwell Women,” the British scholar Elinor Cleghorn makes the insidious impact of gender bias on women’s health starkly and appallingly explicit: “Medicine has insisted on pathologizing ‘femaleness,’ and by extension womanhood.”

Cleghorn, framing her argument in terms of Western medicine, starts with Hippocrates, the Greek physician of antiquity who refocused medical science on the imbalances of the body rather than the will of the gods. Hippocrates understood that women’s bodies were different from those of men, but in his view, and for millenniums to come, those differences could be reduced to a single organ: the uterus. A woman’s purpose was to procreate; if she wasn’t well, it was probably her womb that was to blame. One Roman writer described the uterus as “an animal within an animal,” with its own appetites and the capacity to wander through the body in search of satisfaction. Most female afflictions could be reduced to “hysteria,” from the Greek word for womb. “The theory that out-of-work wombs made women mad and sad was as old as medicine itself,” Cleghorn notes. The standard cure was marriage and motherhood. As Hippocratic medicine was refracted through the lens of Christianity, the female anatomy was additionally burdened with the weight of original sin.

Moving steadily through the centuries, Cleghorn lays out the vicious circles of women’s health. Taught that their anatomy was a source of shame, women remained in ignorance of their own bodies, unable to identify or articulate their symptoms and therefore powerless to contradict a male medical establishment that wasn’t listening anyway. Menstruation and menopause were — and often still are — understood as illness rather than aspects of health; a woman’s constitution, thus compromised, could hardly sustain the effort required for scholarship or professional life. A woman with the means and the talents to contemplate such ambitions soon bumped up against the rigid shell of the domestic sphere. Her frustration and despair could cause physical symptoms, which her doctor would then chalk up to her unnatural aspirations. Conversely, a perfectly healthy woman who agitated for radical change — a suffragist, say — was clearly suffering from “hysteric morbidity.”

Though hormones eventually replaced wandering wombs as central to understanding women’s health, “old ideas about women’s bodies being naturally defective and deficient still pulsed through endocrinological theories,” Cleghorn writes. The marketing for early forms of hormone replacement therapy to relieve the discomforts of menopause was often directed at men. One horrifying magazine ad showed a radiant older woman laughing alongside male companions, with the tagline “Help Keep Her This Way.” Was hormone replacement therapy a way of liberating women from their reproductive biology, or keeping them cheerful for their husbands? And, as questions grew about estrogen and cancer, at what cost?

The intersection of class and race complicates things further. As early as 1847, the Scottish physician James Young Simpson argued in favor of anesthesia during labor and delivery, contradicting the age-old belief that the pain of birth was part of God’s judgment. (To this day, women who opt for an epidural instead of “natural childbirth” can feel a nagging sense of failure.) But even liberal-minded men like Simpson believed that what he called the “civilized female” needed his revolutionary innovation more than her less privileged sisters. Black women were thought to be less sensitive to pain and working-class women were considered hardier in general; certainly no one worried about whether these women could work while menstruating.

Each scientific advance came with its own shadow. Margaret Sanger may have  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 9:34 am

Love Bombs and a note on blooming

with 6 comments

This morning I went for a CK-6 soap, Love Bombs, apparently a one-off and at any rate no longer available. I like the fragrance:

Dark Chocolate, Rose, Rosewood, Bergamot, Tea, Orange, Lemon, Black Pepper, Ginger, Palo Santo, Vetiver, Cedar, Tobacco, and Rose Absolute.

Mr Pomp, the name of the brush with the striped polo handle, easily aroused the lather — in part because the water here is extremely soft.

Some men make it a practice to put a little water on a puck of shaving soap and leave it there (while they shower, for example) to “bloom” the soap to make it easier to load the brush. I have tried this myself and could never detect any benefit at all: unbloomed soap loaded as readily for me as bloomed soap. So I dismissed the practice, which I now see as an error caused by the limitations of my own experience — for by chance I have always shaved with soft water. When I lived in a hard-water area, I had a water softener, and when I resumed wet-shaving I lived in a soft-water area. I have always had soft water when I loaded the brush, and thus I had no experience with the challenge of loading the brush when the water is hard. It seems likely to me that the practice of blooming soap does offer a benefit when your tap water is hard. Try it and see whether it makes a difference for you. In the meantime, again living in a soft-water area, I will skip that step.

Well-prepped (Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave) and well-lathered, I set to work with my RazoRock Old Type, a wonderful razor that is extremely comfortable while also being highly efficient. Three passes left my face totally smooth and ready for a good splash of Love Bomb.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 9:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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