Later On

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

Archive for July 30th, 2021

First week of resumed walking

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Today wraps up my first week back at walking. I am using my Nordic walking poles — more exercise with no perceptible increase in effort, but more important more enjoyable than walking without them, plus using them greatly improves my walking posture. In addition, using them results in greater stride length and faster pace, so I finish quicker.

My morning walk today was 3617 steps in 33 min 33 seconds, so about 108 steps/minute. According to my odometer app it was 1.86 miles. I picked up additional steps today running some errands — all to the good, but without benefit of the Nordic walking poles.

As I get in better shape, walk will get a little longer. Target is about a one-hour walk, which in the past has been about 3.8 miles.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 6:52 pm

How a Liberal Michigan Town Is Putting Mental Illness at the Center of Police Reform

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Lynette Clemetson, director of Wallace House, the Knight-Wallace Fellowships for Journalists and the Livingston Awards at the University of Michigan, writes in Politico:

The first arrest was over trash. It was September 2009, and Anthony Hamilton, then 17, was arguing on the phone with a girlfriend. He was on medication, working with a psychiatrist to control his emotions, but as the argument dragged on he could feel his anger overwhelming him. Past midnight he slipped out of his house. Walking down the sidewalk he began kicking over trash cans and yelling, disturbing the stillness of the upscale subdivision where his family lived.

At 1:25 a.m., a neighbor called 911. The Ann Arbor police officer who responded identified “a light skinned black male with a light colored hoodie walking in and around the garbage.” The officer ordered him to remove his hands from his pockets and lower himself to the ground, hands extended away from his body. The officer found no weapon. He noted that the subject was “verbally abusive,” yelling profanities as he was escorted to the cruiser. The report notes that the subject had no identification and didn’t respond to questions. There is no indication the officer ever considered the teenager might be in his own neighborhood, or that his parents might have been nearby. The high school senior was arrested, photographed, fingerprinted and charged with misdemeanor disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.

Anthony lowers his head in frustration when he thinks back to that night almost 12 years ago when everything started spinning out of control. Now 29, he’s sitting in the Washtenaw County Jail, a neat, red brick complex tucked inconspicuously into a tree-lined lot just outside Ann Arbor. Anthony glances around the drab meeting room where we are sitting and twirls nervously with the corner of his mustache. “I remember sitting in a room like this,” he says, “not saying anything and just feeling really stupid.”

Anthony is currently on his 23rd stay in the county jail. Diagnosed as a child with a host of mental illnesses—anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and other learning issues—Anthony’s adult run-ins with police have followed the highs and lows of his ongoing struggles with mental illness. His record is a series of escalating charges, disturbing the peace, petty theft, traffic violations, misdemeanor assault. His most recent charge is for manufacturing and delivering heroin and cocaine, a felony that could send him to prison for the first time, for as many as 20 years.

It is an outcome that many see as a preventable failure of the criminal legal system. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the people who believes this is in charge of the jail where Anthony now sits.

When I ask Washtenaw Sheriff Jerry Clayton what he thinks about Anthony’s cycle of incarceration, he shakes his head slowly in frustration and says, almost inaudibly, “Shouldn’t be here.” When I ask him to elaborate, he returns to his full and commanding voice: “It’s not only a criminal justice failure, it’s a societal failure. The criminal legal system is the tool that society uses to carry out its policies. Society’s lack of understanding and sensitivity to mental illness have led to these terrible situations like Anthony’s and many others like him.”

In the volatile aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, much of the attention and political heat has focused on so-called “defund the police” initiatives—drastic proposed cuts to department payrolls to prevent violent and potentially deadly encounters between police and people of color. But within that debate there is another reform movement that aims to disentangle people with mental illness from the criminal legal system by replacing or supplementing police response with community clinicians trained to recognize and respond to mental health crises.

In Washtenaw County, one of the most liberal counties in Michigan and home to the state’s flagship university, officials have struggled to balance the urge for dramatic reform and achievable, long-term solutions. In the spring, after heated public meetings and thousands of letters and emails demanding dramatic cuts to police spending, the city council in Ann Arbor, the county seat, voted to back a program for unarmed response to certain 911 calls in coordination with non-police professionals. Supporters contend that non-dangerous disturbances involving behavioral health crises—like the one that prompted Anthony’s spiral—should be diverted from police whenever possible. But the proposed program is still in the exploratory phase; specific recommendations about structure, training and funding are expected by the end of the year.

“Right now, we’re asking police to do a whole bunch of things that they’re not well equipped to do,” says Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin, a Democrat whose district includes Washtenaw County. He introduced a bill this spring requiring the state to develop requirements for training police in de-escalation, implicit bias and behavioral health. “When they try to solve those problems that they shouldn’t be solving, a lot of times they make the problem worse,” Irwin says.

Sheriff Clayton, now in his fourth term, has seen the immediate results of that counterproductive response. On any given day up to two-thirds of the Washtenaw jail occupants have some kind of mental health issue. That’s why he has worked for decades to eliminate bias in policing and to improve awareness of mental health issues among law enforcement. He has implemented coordinated response protocols with mental health partners that he says will limit violent encounters between law enforcement and civilians, divert mentally ill people toward treatment rather than incarceration and ultimately save taxpayers money by reducing the number of people cycling through the jail. Overlaying those challenges, he says, are racial disparities and tensions that make reform necessary: Black people account for roughly 12 percent of the county’s population, but more than 50 percent of the jail population.

“I’ve been in the profession for 33 years, but I’ve been Black for 56 years. And when I leave the profession I am still going to be Black, so I understand these feelings and experiences,” Clayton tells me as we discuss the widespread fear and distrust of law enforcement that is driving much of the national reform debate. He is wary, he says, of headline-grabbing budget-slashing proposals that he believes could ultimately undermine public safety. “I think we can have a deliberate, intentional, strategic, long-term conversation about what it means to reduce the footprint of the police in our communities.”

Clayton is engaging in that conversation with various residents across the county. Among the people he increasingly finds himself in the same meeting rooms and public spaces with is Anthony’s mother, Cynthia Harrison. The two met for the first time this spring over Zoom after Cynthia raised concerns with community mental health providers that services they were proudly touting were not reaching her son in the jail. Clayton has since recommended Cynthia for committees charged with reform. “People might think we should be adversaries,” says Cynthia, 50, a program manager for a small business incubator focused on women of color. “But I want and need to work with him.”

“For years I didn’t speak out much, because of shame and stigma over the mental illness and all the arrests,” Cynthia says. “There is so much strain and stress on the whole family. But if they send Anthony to prison it is all over, he’s gone. I can’t let that happen.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 6:38 pm

She Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize For It.

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I found this video via an interesting post in Jason Kottke’s Noticing blog, a post that begins:

As I’ve written before, in the history of astronomy and astrophysics, women have made major discoveries and played a significant role in advancing our understanding of the universe but have often not gotten the recognition their male peers enjoy. In 1967, while she was working on her doctoral research with her advisor Antony Hewish, Jocelyn Bell Burnell (then Jocelyn Bell) discovered a new and unusual kind of object, the pulsar. In this short documentary, Bell Burnell shares her story — how she got interested in radio astronomy, the prejudice with which she was treated as the only woman in her university program, how she discovered the first pulsar and persisted (more than once) through Hewish’s assertions that the object was “interference”, and how she was passed over for the Nobel Prize for her discovery.

In 2018, Bell Burnell was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics “for fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community”, joining past honorees like the LIGO team, Stephen Hawking, and the team that discovered the Higgs boson. She donated the entire $3 million prize to the Institute of Physics to help support “PhD physics students from under-represented groups” with their educations.

It’s not justice, but I will note that Bell Burnell’s Wikipedia page is longer and more substantial than Hewish’s, despite his Nobel.

See also “Pop Culture Pulsar: The Science Behind Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Springtime Shanghai Bok Choy

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After taking out a serving, so this is left for future meals.

I bought 5 medium heads of Shaghai bok choy and cooked them in the 4-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless sauté pan:

• about 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 spring shallot, chopped with the leaves (the last one on hand)
• 1 1/2 bunches scallions, chopped (with leaves)
• pinch of salt
• about 1 rounded teaspoon black pepper
• 1 head of red Russian garlic (head was on the small size), cloves peeled and chopped small
• 5 heads Shanghai bok choy, chopped
• 1 can Ro•Tel Original with green chiles
• dash of Red Boat fish sauce
• splash of Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar

First I chopped the bok choy and put that in a bowl to rest for 45 minutes. I also peeled and chopped the garlic and set it aside so that it could rest.

After allowing time for the sulforaphane to form in the bok choy, I chopped the spring shallot and the scallions and proceeded to cooking, my prep complete.

Oil into pan along with shallot and scallions. Turned the burner to medium (3) and cooked the shallots and scallions, stirring from time to time, and adding salt and pepper along the way.

When they seemed cooked, I added the garlic and cooked it for about 1-2 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spatula. Then I added the bok choy, cooked that for another few minutes, stirring often, and added the remaining ingredients. I turned the burner temperature setting to 225ºF and set the burner’s timer for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, I still had a fair amount of liquid — I was checking to see that it did not boil off all the liquid — so I replaced the cover and gave it 10 minutes more.

i just had a bowl with some lentils I cooked earlier this morning and some kodo millet and, topped with a teaspoon of Bragg’s nutritional yeast, a little chopped red onion, and a dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Very tasty indeed, with a glass of iced hibiscus tea to accompany it.


Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 3:19 pm

Entering Steppelandia: pop. 7.7 billion

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The Great Steppe (shown in blue): First a barrier, then a highway

In The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, a title perhaps familiar from my list of repeatedly recommended books, David Anthony describes how, until the invention of the wheel (and thus of wagons and carts), the Great Steppe that crosses Eurasia (see map above, with Italy visible at the left and Korea at the right) was impassible: trackless grassland, the grass an average of 5 feet tall, with water hard to find, impossible to traverse on foot.

Horses are native to the Great Steppe and adapted to life there — for example, cattle and sheep will die when snow covers the steppe, but horses will dig through the snow to the hay-like grass that lies beneath — and, as Anthony explains, horses were at first meat animals for steppe-dwellers as meat animals. At some point a stallion traded liberty for the luxury of getting laid, and herds of horses could be kept for food. (Almost all domesticated horses are, as we know from their Y-chromosomes, descended from that stallion.) Horses when hobbled do not roam, so no fences were required — and hobbles are easier to make and maintain than fences. Finally some brave souls tried riding the horses, and suddenly people could go faster and farther than when afoot.

But even when people were able to enter the steppe on horseback, the distances and sparseness of running water kept the step impassable. But when the wheel was invented, by the Assyrians, wagons were possible, and horse-drawn wagons could carry a lot of supplies. The flat plains of the steppe were transformed from barrier to highway, allowing the fierce speakers of Proto-Indo-European to prey on villagers across Eurasia, and later serving as a route for trade and commerce.

I highly recommend Anthony’s book. Razib Khan has an interesting article on the Great Steppe today:

Whenever I write deep-dive Substack posts on genetics and human history (IndiaItaly, even China), I end up cutting reams of in-depth background on the steppe before I hit “publish.” Why? The Eurasian steppe is my compulsive digression. Everything canonical, everything human… makes more sense if I make sure you understand the steppe first. But too many don’t. And I fear they don’t even know what they’re missing. I want to bring my readership along on my steppe obsession, not least so that the rest of my posts will be more meaningful reads.

In that spirit, the following piece kicks off a foray deep into the Eurasian steppe and its centrality to human history, civilization and genetics. This free post is the personal why of the steppe for me. In the subsequent series of long-form, subscriber-only pieces, I’ll be expanding on the what, who and when of 5000 years of the steppe.

Steppe super-fan or steppe-skeptic, I hope you’ll consider subscribing to Razib Khan’s Unsupervised Learning for more in this vein.

On a lighter note, try your hand at my two-minute “Your Steppe IQ” quiz. Legit bragging rights if you earn Khan status or make it to Steppelandia. And my best steppe reading recommendations for all who finish!

I am haunted by the steppe. Yes, my surname comes from a Turkic language of the eastern steppe, in modern-day Mongolia. The only language I read has its ultimate origins on the steppe, among the kurgan burial-mound builders who flourished east of the Dnieper five thousand years ago. And sure, over four thousand years ago, my direct paternal ancestors were steppe pastoralists occupying lands west of the Volga. But the motives for my obsession aren’t that self-involved.

I probably don’t need to explain this to anyone who’s read me for long, but I churn through exhaustive obsessions in my readings. For example, in 1986 I read the last word I craved (or could find) on climatology, in 1987 dinosaurs, in 1988 military history, robotics and board games, in 1990 physical geography and overpopulation models, in 1993 cosmology and physics, in 1994 the Welsh, in 1995 Thomas Sowell and the history of science fiction, in 1996 Naomi Wolfe, in 1998 Luca Luigi Cavalli-Sforza and the Jewish people, in 1999 the Stoics, South Africa and Intelligent Design, goldfish in pre-9/11 2001, Salafists in post-9/11 2001, in 2003 David Hume, in 2004 Wittgenstein, in 2005 Catholicism, in 2006 R.A. Fisher, the Mormons and cognitive science of religion, in 2007 the Abbasids, in 2015 the Russians and in 2018 Critical Theory. To be sure, new contributions to a field draw me back into past passions on the regular. And certain domains I closed the book on tend to age better than others; my children regularly dismiss me among themselves: “Daddy only knows the old dinosaurs.”

But there are a few through-lines I’m never done with. Even 30 years into reading, I always feel I’m barely past the preface. In the broadest strokes, “peoples” have obsessed me since my earliest childhood. I clearly remember peppering my parents’ graduate-school acquaintances with “Which humans have the best vision?” and “Which humans are strongest?”-type questions before I could really read. And I couldn’t be born to a luckier age, because this consuming passion with human population history can now be yoked to the powerful engine of historical population genomics. I expect the riches of this field to remain inexhaustible generations after I am but dust.

Populations, population genomics and the histories of ancient nations we can infer from them, are what I live for. Which populations? No surprise that I’m never done with China or ancient Rome. But also the people of the steppe. Always the steppe. What even is the steppe? A void so under-examined, its illustrious peoples don’t even merit a single umbrella term. An expanse so vast it spans eight time zones. A word I’m disappointed to find few know and a world fewer still explore. Does any region whose influence touched empires and cultures across Europe, the Middle East and China, languish less examined?

The culture and genes of people all across the world today come from the steppe. The ancient Romans, Chinese and Arabs all have their advocates and chroniclers. They tell their story in their own voice. The Mongols may cut an impressive swath through history, but too often they see print only for the horrific deeds chronicled by their enemies. What if what we knew of the Romans only came via the Gauls after Caesar’s genocide against them? What if all that remained of Seinfeld were Wikipedia plot summaries by his vengeful antagonist Newman? What if Trump were our only observer of Obama?

Whether we are astute enough to recognize it or not, the shape of the modern world has been molded by conflict between the nomads of the Eurasian steppe and the loose arc of civilized societies that happened to lay curled around their domains. The politics, history, and geography of the steppe are critical lacunae in most grand historical narratives. The fall of the first Han Dynasty, the fall of the Roman Empire and the conquest of India by Muslims all owe to a sequence of events unleashed by Eurasian steppe nomads.

Grass from sea to shining sea

Beginning with the Great Hungarian Plain in the west, a broad ribbon of rich grassland stretches nearly unbroken across all of Eurasia to the Pacific, unfurling in infinite sameness between boreal forests to the north and arid deserts to the south. For an American kid weaned on 1980’s nature specials, my idea of vast open lands was the idyllic American prairie or the African savanna teeming with wildebeest. But the Eurasian steppe dwarfs both. The largest uninterrupted grassland ecosystem in the world, it spans 10,000 kilometers. It is more oceanic than continental in size. Even the scale of smaller subsections of this ecosystem is hard to fathom. The Pontic steppe north of the Black Sea begins on the edge of Romania and runs all the way east to the Volga river, where Europe gives way to Asia. A tarp cut from just the far eastern Mongolian reach of the steppe could casually smother all of Germany and France.

Thinking back, to arrive at my full appreciation of the importance of the steppe, I had to first get over a matter of elementary-school pedantry. The extensive color-coded maps in my beloved “biomes of the world” reference books had driven home Eurasia’s vastness. Our planet’s mega continent, Eurasia of course has the biggest biomes, chief among them the taiga, “forest” in Siberian Turkic languages. An uninterrupted expanse extending from Scandinavia to the Pacific ocean, the immense taiga is unmistakably more extensive than the steppe it parallels. Which is all very well if you are a wolf, moose, or bear and this is your prime habitat. Less so for a human. 

For our Ice-Age ancestors, the open steppe may not have been much more appealing than the semi-arctic forests, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, History

Motivational Poster for Shaving

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Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 11:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Tip regarding daily chores: Puracy

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I read a recommendation for the spot-and-stain-remover Puracy, so I thought I’d give it a go. It truly is amazing: tumeric stains and berry stains on napkin: totally gone. Yellow sweat-stain that accumulated around around neck of pyjamas: totally gone, the white fabric with blue stripes totally restored. I’m astonished — and very pleased.

Follow instructions for best results: spray stain or spot and let it sit for 15 minutes before laundering. More at link and on bottle.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life

Walkies are coming along

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This morning I had an early walk because the forecast is for a hot day. I did 1.86 miles in 33 min 33 seconds, 3617 steps (so about 108 steps/minute, a good cadence, producing a speed of 3.32 mph — though 5.3 kph sounds better.

What, I wonder, is the internal mechanism that makes some decisions snap into place and lock, while other decisions are loosely held with a lot of play and break free easily? The walking, this time, seems to be one of the locking decisions, at least for now.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 9:26 am

Pink Grapefruit and Hâttric

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G.B. Kent’s Infinity synthetic is a good little guy. It’s a 22mm knot with good resilience along with a 52mm loft. A resilient knot with a good loft provides a very nice feel — that’s the combination found in the Omega Pro 48, for example, though the two brushes don’t feel all that similar — for one thing, the bristles differ substantially: Infinity has fine synthetic bristles, Pro 48 has boar bristles.

Gettig a good lather from a Meißner-Tremonia shaving paste is child’s play, and the fragrance is extremely nice, the eucalyptus offsetting the sweetness of the pink grapefruit much as Cate’s Bubbles in Waterlyptus uses eucalyptuss to offset the watermelon fragrance. I think this probably works in general: eucalyptus plus peach, for example.

The Baili BR171 is a very fine razor despite its low price: $6. A good razor for beginner or practiced shaver, being both very comfortable (which includes being disinclined to nick) and very efficient. Three passes left my face perfectly smooth.

A splash of Hâttric with a squirt of Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for the day — predicted to be hot, so the walk will be early.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2021 at 8:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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