Later On

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Archive for September 1st, 2021

“I was a combat interpreter in Afghanistan, where cultural illiteracy led to U.S. failure”

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Baktash Ahadi, who served U.S. and Afghan Special Operations forces as a combat interpreter from 2010 to 2012 and formerly chaired the State Department’s Afghan Familiarization course, writes in the Washington Post:

Like many Afghan Americans, I have spent much of the past few weeks trying to secure safe passage from Afghanistan for family, friends and colleagues, with tragically limited success. I also know that many Americans have been asking: Why is this crazy scramble necessary? How could Afghanistan have collapsed so quickly?

As a former combat interpreter who served alongside U.S. and Afghan Special Operations forces, I can tell you part of the answer — one that’s been missing from the conversation: culture.

When comparing the Taliban with the United States and its Western allies, the vast majority of Afghans have always viewed the Taliban as the lesser of two evils. To many Americans, that may seem an outlandish claim. The coalition, after all, poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan. It built highways. It emancipated Afghan women. It gave millions of people the right to vote for the first time ever.

All true. But the Americans also went straight to building roads, schools and governing institutions — in an effort to “win hearts and minds” — without first figuring out what values animate those hearts and what ideas fill those minds. We thus wound up acting in ways that would ultimately alienate everyday Afghans.

First, almost all representatives of Western governments — military and civilian — were required to stay “inside the wire,” meaning they were confined at all times to Kabul’s fortified Green Zone and well-guarded military bases across the country.

Each of my own trips to visit family in Kabul was a breach for which I could have been disciplined. But I’m glad I broke the rules. If my colleagues had been allowed to enjoy the same experiences — the scent of kebab in Shahr-e Naw, the hustle and bustle of Qala-e Fathullah — they might have developed a much better feel for the country, its people and its culture.

As it was, however, virtually the only contact most Afghans had with the West came via heavily armed and armored combat troops. Americans thus mistook the Afghan countryside for a mere theater of war, rather than as a place where people actually lived. U.S. forces turned villages into battlegrounds, pulverizing mud homes and destroying livelihoods. One could almost hear the Taliban laughing as any sympathy for the West evaporated in bursts of gunfire.

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Sometimes, yes, we built good things — clinics, schools, wells. But when the building was done, we would simply leave. The Taliban would not only destroy those facilities, but also look upon the local community with greater suspicion for having received “gifts” from America.

Second, the front-line troops were given zero training in cultural literacy. The Marines I worked with were shocked, for example, to hear me exchanging favorite Koran verses with my fellow Afghans, mistaking this for extremism rather than shared piety. When talking to Afghan villagers, the Marines would not remove their sunglasses — a clear indication of untrustworthiness in a country that values eye contact. In some cases, they would approach and directly address village women, violating one of rural Afghanistan’s strictest cultural norms.

Faux pas such as these sound almost comically basic, and they are. But multiplied over millions of interactions throughout the United States’ two decades of wheel-spinning in Afghanistan, they cost us dearly in terms of local support.

From the point of view of many Afghans, Americans might as well have been extraterrestrials, descending out of the black sky every few weeks, looking and acting alien, and always bringing disruption, if not outright ruin. We failed to understand what made sense for Afghans time and time again. No wonder the Taliban maintained such sway over the past 20 years.

Before long, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 8:40 pm

‘I Helped Destroy People’: Terry Albury on his FBI work

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Janet Reitman reports in the NY Times about Terry Albury’s decision that I was worth going to prison to let the public know what the FBI and other government agencies are doing. The articlee mentions that the Obama administration prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act — for revealing to the public what the government was doing — than all previous administrations combined.

I think it is an ominous sign when a government goes to great lengths to keep its citizens from knowing what it is doing.

This article can be read without the paywall — the NY Times has instituted “gift articles,” and this is one I am giving. The article begins:

Early on the morning of Aug. 29, 2017, Terry Albury awoke with a nagging sense of foreboding. It was not yet dawn in Shakopee, Minn., the Minneapolis suburb where Albury, an F.B.I. special agent, lived with his wife and two young children, and he lay in bed for a few minutes, running through the mental checklist of cases and meetings and phone calls, the things that generally made him feel as if his life was in order. He was a 16-year veteran of the F.B.I.: 38, tall and powerfully built, with buzzed black hair and a black goatee. Most of his career he had spent in counterterrorism, investigating sleeper cells and racking up commendations signed by the F.B.I. directors Robert Mueller and James Comey, which praised his “outstanding” work recruiting confidential sources and exposing terrorist financing networks. He was a careful investigator and a keen observer. “Something is going on behind the scenes that I’m not aware of,” he told his wife the night before. She told him to stop worrying. “You always think there’s something going on.” She was right. But this time he had reason to be apprehensive, even though he’d been careful. The memory card was buried in his closet, tucked into a shirt pocket under a pile of clothes. “Stop being so paranoid,” he told himself. Then he left for work.

Albury had spent the past six months assigned to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a liaison officer. It had always amazed him how little most Americans knew about the legal netherworld of the international terminal, where federal agents from ICE or U.S. Customs and Border Protection could, at the behest of the F.B.I. or another intelligence agency, pull a person out of the customs line and interrogate him or her based solely on being from Pakistan, or Syria, or Somalia, or another country in which the U.S. government had an interest. His role was to supervise this form of intelligence gathering, a particularly unsavory aspect of counterterrorism, as he saw it, though it was better than being stuck at the sprawling, five-story edifice that was the Minneapolis field office, where he had worked since 2012.

That morning, Albury had been summoned to the field office for an interview with a group of F.B.I. inspectors from Washington. It was fairly routine — headquarters was always dispatching inspection teams to make sure agents and their managers were doing their jobs — but Albury had been at the office so infrequently that the last time his supervisor saw him, he asked him what he was doing there. “I work here,” Albury said. The encounter left him with an uneasy feeling.

Traffic was light. With any luck, he figured, he would be back at the airport before lunchtime. He pulled his government-issued Dodge Charger up to the security gate and flashed his credentials at the guard, who waved him through. The underground parking garage was nearly empty. That’s odd, he thought.

A couple of agents stood by the entrance. Albury chatted with them for a few minutes. “I thought you were over at MSP,” one agent said, referring to the airport. Albury mentioned his meeting with the inspectors. The agents rolled their eyes. “Good luck, man,” one said.

Later, Albury would replay certain moments: that the agents, frequently standoffish, seemed unusually friendly; that at 8 in the morning, the fourth floor, where Albury worked, was entirely empty, and that even though a few people began to trickle in by around 8:15, there were far fewer than were usually at the office at that hour. About 15 minutes after he sat down at his desk, the Minneapolis field office’s in-house counsel, an agent he’d seen maybe twice in his life and never off the management floor, appeared in the squad bay, walked past his desk and, Albury thought, appeared to give him a sideways glance. That, he decided later, was the tell.

After checking his email and reviewing his files, he headed upstairs to meet the inspectors. Awaiting him was the same official who weeks earlier asked him what he was doing at the office. He offered to take Albury downstairs to the interview. This also felt off.

The men rode the elevator to the first floor in silence. The interview room was down the hall. Fighting his growing sense of dread, Albury was halfway down the corridor when three F.B.I. SWAT team members appeared in front of him. “Hands on the wall!”

The agents patted Albury down, removing his Glock 23 service pistol from its holster and confiscating his spare magazines, handcuffs, badge and credentials. Then they led him into a small room. I guess this is it, he thought. Game time.

Two agents, a man and a woman, sat at a table. The woman spoke first. “Tell me about the silver camera,” she said.

More than seven months later, on April 17, 2018, Terry Albury appeared in a federal court in Minneapolis, where he pleaded guilty to charges of leaking classified information to the press. The allegations — that Albury downloaded, printed and photographed internal F.B.I. documents on his office computer, sending some of them electronically to a journalist and saving others on external devices found in his home — resulted from a 17-month-long internal investigation by the F.B.I., prompted by two Freedom of Information Act requests by a news organization (unnamed in the charging document) in March 2016. Nine months after these FOIA requests were made, a trove of internal F.B.I. documents shedding new light on the vast and largely unrestricted power of the post-9/11 F.B.I. was posted on the investigative-journalism site The Intercept. The cache included hundreds of pages of unredacted policy manuals, including the F.B.I.’s byzantine rule book, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, exposing the hidden loopholes that allowed agents to violate the bureau’s own rules against racial and religious profiling and domestic spying as they pursued the domestic war on terror. The Justice Department, under the Trump administration’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions, charged Albury with two counts of “knowingly and willfully” retaining and transmitting “national defense information” to a journalist. In October 2018, he was sentenced to four years in prison.

Albury is the first F.B.I. special agent since Robert Hanssen to be convicted under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute that has traditionally been used to punish spies: Hanssen was arrested in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for selling secrets to the Russians. Increasingly, however, the Espionage Act has been used by the Justice Department as a cudgel against people who have leaked sensitive or classified information to the press. The Obama administration prosecuted more government officials for leaking secrets to the press than all previous administrations combined, bringing Espionage Act charges against eight people in eight years and referring 316 cases for investigation. Among those charged were Chelsea Manning, who was tried and convicted in a military court-martial in 2013 for sending hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden, whose 2013 leak of classified N.S.A. documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post alerted the public to the scope of the N.S.A.’s mass-surveillance activities.

The Trump administration referred 334 cases for investigation and brought Espionage Act charges against at least five people in four years. The first was Reality Winner, a 25-year-old N.S.A. contractor who was arrested in June 2017 and accused of leaking a classified intelligence report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to The Intercept. The second national-security leak case of the Trump era was against Terry Albury, though unlike Winner’s case, his received little fanfare. Instead, his lawyers quietly hammered out a plea deal with the Justice Department, avoiding the unwanted media attention that would come with a formal criminal complaint.

In recommending that Albury receive a 52-month sentence, government prosecutors cast him as a compulsive leaker, recklessly endangering national security by “stealing” the government secrets he was sworn, as an F.B.I. agent, to protect. But Albury says he felt a moral imperative to make his disclosures, motivated by his belief that the bureau had been so fundamentally transformed by Sept. 11 that its own agents were compelled to commit civil and human rights violations. “As a public servant, my oath is to serve the interest of society, not the F.B.I.,” he says. “My logic was centered on the fact that the public I served had a right to know what the F.B.I. was doing in their name.”

“These documents confirmed what American communities — primarily Muslims and communities of color — and rights groups had long known or thought to be true,” says Hina Shamsi, director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “For years we’ve been hearing from people who were surveilled or investigated or watchlisted with no apparent basis for the F.B.I. to suspect wrongdoing, but based primarily on their race or religion or political organizing and beliefs. And here’s someone who was trying to do the right things from inside government, and ended up either participating or being a witness or adjacent to a range of abuses that defined, and continue to define, the post-9/11 era. What are you supposed to do as a person of conscience when you see what your country is doing?”

This article is a product of close to three years of interviews with Terry Albury, whom I met for the first time in November 2018, shortly before he went to prison. Our initial, five-hour conversation took place in a hotel room in Berkeley, Calif.; subsequent interviews have been conducted through letters and email while Albury was in prison and more recently using Signal, an encrypted phone and messaging service. He has not previously spoken to the press about his case. In addition to his own account, this article is based on a review of hundreds of pages of government documents and reports by civil liberties and human rights organizations, as well as interviews with Albury’s attorney and friends; experts in national security and constitutional law; and a number of former F.B.I. officials and colleagues, several of whom insisted on anonymity out of a reluctance to publicly criticize the F.B.I. (The F.B.I. declined to comment on Albury’s case.)

“I was very idealistic when I joined the F.B.I.,” Albury says. “I really wanted to make the world a better place, and I stayed as long as I did because I continued to believe that I could help make things better, as naïve as that sounds. But the war on terror is like this game, right? We’ve built this entire apparatus and convinced the world that there is a terrorist in every mosque, and that every newly arrived Muslim immigrant is secretly anti-American, and because we have promoted that false notion, we have to validate it. So we catch some kid who doesn’t know his ear from his [expletive] for building a bomb fed to them by the F.B.I., or we take people from foreign countries where they have secret police and recruit them as informants and capitalize on their fear to ensure there is compliance. It’s a very dangerous and toxic environment, and we have not come to terms with the fact that maybe we really screwed up here,” he says. “Maybe what we’re doing is wrong.”

Albury joined the F.B.I. in 2001, one month before the attacks of Sept. 11. At 22, he had just graduated from Berea, a small liberal arts college in Kentucky, where he became fascinated with the idea of joining the bureau after completing a 10-week summer internship with the F.B.I.’s Crimes Against Children unit in Washington. He spent the summer shadowing agents as they worked cases against child sex traffickers and purveyors of child pornography, and he went back to college intent on joining the bureau immediately after graduation. That August, he was hired as an investigative specialist, an entry-level surveillance job he saw as a steppingstone to his ultimate goal of becoming a special agent and going after pedophiles. “Terry wanted to save people,” recalls his friend Felemon Belay.

Albury was an unusual candidate for the F.B.I. He grew up in . .

Continue reading — without worrying about the paywall. And there is a lot more in the article. At the link, you can also listen to an audio recording of the article.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 7:27 pm

On Milk

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Alicia Kennedy has a post on “vegan milk”. The URL is odd — as though it doesn’t link to a specific post, but just to her most recent post, so the article may later be hard to find. It begins:

The way people talk about non-dairy milk, you’d think it was a fad dreamed up by vegans in the ’90s and gradually force-fed to the populace via overeager baristas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Swedes of Oatly. Unfortunately for people who’d like to simplify all narratives around not using animal products, almond milk dates back to at least 1226, when it was mentioned in A Baghdad Cookery Book. Soy milk came onto the documented scene in 1365, and almond milk had made it to Europe by 1390, when it became popular during Lent. The first written mention in English of soy milk was in 1704. Thank you to the SoyInfo Center!

Contrast this with a “Shouts & Murmurs” in the August 23, 2021 issue of The New Yorker begins its “A History of Alt-Milk” in 218 B.C. with, “Elephant steps on errant walnut” and skips over all actual developments in the name of “humor,” because there is nothing funnier than not drinking the breast milk of another species.

Historically, human diets have been much more diverse and localized than in the West of the past 100 years or so, and the idea of cow’s milk dairy as the most neutral and “normal” is a European invention. “Most people who retain the ability to digest milk can trace their ancestry to Europe,” as Scientific American reported back in 2013. According to this 2002 (yes, old) study, that’s only 35 percent of the global population. That’s the thing we’ve been force-fed: a non-diverse diet based on European taste and genetics, with animal exploitation a given at an industrial level of production. In the U.S., dairy producers received subsidies totaling $3.5 billion in 2020, whereas oat producers received $44 million. The power is not with dairy alternatives, despite whatever guilt the media folk of New York City have observed among their peers.

It doesn’t get everyone on Twitter’s panties in a knot to realize this, though, and panties in a knot are what drive traffic. Better to talk about how “sensible” one’s experience of summer 2021 in Europe was and announce that hot girls are bringing back whole milk, as this Grub Street piece published last week states based on a couple of tweets. Apparently non-dairy milk’s popularity and creep toward culinary normalcy has been manufactured by the wellness industry, and people haven’t felt like they’re “allowed” to have cow’s milk. This idea, in the piece, comes from someone who works in artisanal cheese. It reminds me that the IDFA (International Dairy Foods’ Association) lobbied for more milk in schools against the advice of nutritionists because they see sales declining.

“In 2018 alone, the IDFA spent around $300,000 a quarter lobbying on issues including school lunches,” wrote The Guardian in 2019. “‘Any government program is going to be a huge moneymaker for them and that includes schools,’ said Levin. ‘That’s where a lot of excess surplus product is dumped; it’s dumped in schools, it’s dumped in prisons.’” That’s hot, just like having that European gene for lactose tolerance!

And as Austin, Texas–based barista Katie Hatch tells me, whole milk probably isn’t making a comeback. She has anecdotal experience, yes, but that’s also what the beloved free market tells us: Oat milk sales grew 170 percent in 2020. It seems to be the only consumer choice people are making on a big enough scale to have an actual impact on industrial animal agriculture.

One hypothesis Hatch has is that people realized they don’t want to drink ounces upon ounces of cow’s milk in the morning—that it’s indeed one easy dietary and ethical change they can make in their lives to feel good about.

“I’ve worked in coffee the past seven years and everyone was into the local, low-temp pasteurized, non-homogenized milk in 2014–18,” Hatch tells me. “Since oat milk made its U.S. debut three to four years ago, it has completely changed the game. Cafés are making their in-house chocolate ganache oat-based, featuring seasonal menu items that complement the oat flavor, and making sure they have a vegan or dairy-free version of just about every menu item. I clear a fridge full of oat before I go through four gallons of whole milk these days! Hot girls drink iced oat lattes and tip at least $2. Rich people drink iced Fronk’s lattes (locally made almond, cashew, date blend that has a five-day shelf life and is a $2 upcharge), but mostly because rich people can’t deny the most expensive version of something and Austin can’t deny a local brand.”

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like milk, so I have a pretty fierce anti-milk bias. I use full-fat coconut milk in most recipes, sweet and savory, and also have Costco packs of almond or macadamia around to put in cakes, but I take my coffee black. When I was in college, I would order a double tall soy mocha from Starbucks on my way to school sometimes, because I had been proven lactose intolerant about 100 times over and I was sick of running to various bathrooms (most notable of these vivid memories of gastrointestinal distress involve Dunkin’ Donuts, whether on the Hutchinson River Parkway or Main Street in Port Jeff).

A new restaurant in San Juan, Pío Pío, has challenged my resolve by serving the most exquisite Irish coffee I’ve ever tasted. I drink it, because it is good and because by the time dessert rolls around, I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. Then I pay the price.

I grew up in a whole cow’s milk house, though I would never drink a glass of it on its own, nor would I ever eat anything cheesier than a slice of pizza, because I’ve always been averse to what I would later realize I’m intolerant of. Because of that intolerance and my later strict veganism, I have a very judicious relationship with dairy as a whole. To me, all milk is just . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 7:12 pm

The Complex Truth About ‘Junk DNA’

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Jake Buehler writes in Quanta:

Imagine the human genome as a string stretching out for the length of a football field, with all the genes that encode proteins clustered at the end near your feet. Take two big steps forward; all the protein information is now behind you.

The human genome has three billion base pairs in its DNA, but only about 2% of them encode proteins. The rest seems like pointless bloat, a profusion of sequence duplications and genomic dead ends often labeled “junk DNA.” This stunningly thriftless allocation of genetic material isn’t limited to humans: Even many bacteria seem to devote 20% of their genome to noncoding filler.

Many mysteries still surround the issue of what noncoding DNA is, and whether it really is worthless junk or something more. Portions of it, at least, have turned out to be vitally important biologically. But even beyond the question of its functionality (or lack of it), researchers are beginning to appreciate how noncoding DNA can be a genetic resource for cells and a nursery where new genes can evolve.

“Slowly, slowly, slowly, the terminology of ‘junk DNA’ [has] started to die,” said Cristina Sisu, a geneticist at Brunel University London.

Scientists casually referred to “junk DNA” as far back as the 1960s, but they took up the term more formally in 1972, when the geneticist and evolutionary biologist Susumu Ohno used it to argue that large genomes would inevitably harbor sequences, passively accumulated over many millennia, that did not encode any proteins. Soon thereafter, researchers acquired hard evidence of how plentiful this junk is in genomes, how varied its origins are, and how much of it is transcribed into RNA despite lacking the blueprints for proteins.

Technological advances in sequencing, particularly in the past two decades, have done a lot to shift how scientists think about noncoding DNA and RNA, Sisu said. Although these noncoding sequences don’t carry protein information, they are sometimes shaped by evolution to different ends. As a result, the functions of the various classes of “junk” — insofar as they have functions — are getting clearer.

Cells use some of their noncoding DNA to create a diverse menagerie of RNA molecules that regulate or assist with protein production in various ways. The catalog of these molecules keeps expanding, with small nuclear RNAsmicroRNAssmall interfering RNAs and many more. Some are short segments, typically less than two dozen base pairs long, while others are an order of magnitude longer. Some exist as double strands or fold back on themselves in hairpin loops. But all of them can bind selectively to a target, such as a messenger RNA transcript, to either promote or inhibit its translation into protein.

These RNAs can have substantial effects on an organism’s well-being. Experimental shutdowns of certain microRNAs in mice, for instance, have induced disorders ranging from tremors to liver dysfunction.

By far the biggest category of noncoding DNA in the genomes of humans and many other organisms consists of transposons, segments of DNA that can change their location within a genome. These “jumping genes” have a propensity to make many copies of themselves — sometimes hundreds of thousands — throughout the genome, says Seth Cheetham, a geneticist at the University of Queensland in Australia. Most prolific are the retrotransposons, which spread efficiently by making RNA copies of themselves that convert back into DNA at another place in the genome. About half of the human genome is made up of transposons; in some maize plants, that figure climbs to about 90%.

Noncoding DNA also shows up within the genes of humans and other eukaryotes (organisms with complex cells) in the intron sequences that interrupt the protein-encoding exon sequences. When genes are transcribed, the exon RNA gets spliced together into mRNAs, while much of the intron RNA is discarded. But some of the intron RNA can get turned into small RNAs that are involved in protein production. Why eukaryotes have introns is an open question, but researchers suspect that introns help accelerate gene evolution by making it easier for exons to be reshuffled into new combinations.

A large and variable portion of the noncoding DNA in genomes consists of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Looking forward and looking back: A FutureMe letter from September 1, 2020

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As I’ve occasionally mentioned, I write myself an email the first of every month to be delivered to me a year later. Occasionally, I’ll write a FutureMe email with another interval — for example, when I’m facing a move and worrying about all that might go wrong, I’ll write one to be delivered a few months after Move Day. Then I’ll have moved and settled in, and I have the pleasure of seeing how groundless were my worries. And sometimes I’lll write an email to be delivered in a few years — for example, my predictions regarding how well some president might do.

I received a fairly long letter this morning from 9/1/2020. In it I wrote about my resolutions regarding habits I was establishing, and as I look back at the past year from today, I see clearly how establishing new habits involves what should be viewed as practice attempts but often are seen as failures. In the letter I wrote about resolutions regarding diet, exercise, and finance, and though for some the year was spotty, this past month I feel I’ve corralled all three.

Diet was the easiest. That was mainly a matter of cutting out too-frequent deviations from the diet and establishing a new pattern of eating, which I set out in that letter and is now an established habit — see the Update in this post.  So I’m chuffed that in the past year I’ve stuck with the new meal plan to the point that now I don’t even think about it — it’s just the way I eat.

Exercise took longer to get established, but in late July I took another run at it, going out early morning for a Nordic walk, six days a week. I’ve worked up to a daily walk that lasts at least an hour (3.4 miles) and often about 15 minutes more (4.1 miles). I now readily exceed Cooper’s recommended minimum of aerobic points. My average for August was 39.8 points per week, and that included ramping up gradually to an hour (or more), so September’s weekly average should be better.

Finance reform was hardest — I had to break bad habits solidified over many years — but I kept working at it — practice gradually can eliminate flaws in technique — and finally figured it out. The key elements for me were:

  1. I built my budget on 95% of take-home pay, not 100%. Unexpected expenses occasionally arise. For example: my La-Z-Boy recliner will be repaired on Friday: $150 labor charge (parts covered by lifetime warranty).
  2. At the beginning of the month my monthly income arrives in my checking account, and except for the amount budgeted for day-to-day spending (groceries, miscellaneous, and discretionary), I immediately move the money into my savings account and park it there.
    .
    When I have to pay a bill, that money then comes from savings, not from my weekly day-to-day money in checking. I pay bills with Visa and then immediately pay the charge — by a transfer from checking if it’s a grocery bill or other day-to-day expense, and by a transfer from savings if it’s anything else.
    .
    Thus the day-to-day budget never has to take a big hit — those bills are covered by money I already transferred to savings. And my Visa balance hovers right around zero.
  3. With all the big bills covered by money transferred to Savings, I can focus my attention on remaining strictly within my weekly allotment for grocery, miscellaneous, and discretionary. Staying within budget each week results in staying within budget each month. Today is 1 September and I have money still remaining from my August allotment for G&M and Discretionary, and my Savings account is flush with money for non-daily expenses as they arise.

So reading that letter from a year ago — where I set out what I was going to work on in the coming year — provided a good chunk of satisfaction to begin the day. Tonight I’ll write an email to myself to be delivered September 1, 2022, where I’ll write down new goals for the coming year.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 1:34 pm

Goodfellas/Parker slant, Barrister & Mann’s Cologne Russe, and a soft, dense brush

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It occurred to me this morning as I was lathering with my Yaqi 22mm Soft Cashmere Synthetic Hair Orange Handle Shaving Brush (their description) that this sort of knot — very soft and also very dense — is something that is not so often found with natural bristles (though it certainly exists, as in some make-up brushes) but is quite common among synthetic shaving brushes — the Plissoft/angel-hair brushes are of that sort, though this brush is a bit more extreme in fineness of bristle. Quite pleasant to use, and does a very fine job.

The handle shape is classic, and many shaving-brush handles sport the sort of knobbed base you see here — in fact, for the remainder of the week I’ll use brushes that, in one way or another, share that characteristic shape.

Well-lathered, I enjoyed immensely the wonderful fragrance of Barrister & Mann’s Cologne Russe shaving soap:

Based on one of the oldest forms of perfume, Cologne Russe is a throwback to a scent created by the House of Guerlain for the Russian royal family and discontinued in the early twentieth century.

We blend lemon, bergamot, petitgrain, and herbs with violet, rose, bay, and amber to produce a rich, beautifully fresh scent derived from the colognes of old. The scent is distinctly warmer than most other cologne-type fragrances, owing largely to its inclusion of castoreum, benzoin, and vanilla. Clean and elegant without the aloofness of some other scents, Cologne Russe is the perfect way to brighten your morning.

The Goodfellas’ smile Legione Slant is a Parker slant with a better handle. I inspected the two heads closely, and I have no doubt about it. Goodfellas bought the heads from Parker, added their own (quite nice handle), and presto! a new slant (or “semi-slant,” though Goodfellas quite rightly dropped the weaselly “semi” from the name). It’s a very fine slant, no problem about that, but I would have liked to know in advance that I was buying a duplicate of a razor I already had. (I do that sometimes — I have a couple of aluminum Baby Smooths, one black and one blue.)

With a perfect result after three passes — the Parker/Goodfella really is a good slant — I slapped on a splash of Cologne Russe aftershave (with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, of course), and now my day begins.

It was a late start because I was sidetracked by the email to FutureMe that was delivered this morning though written 1 year ago: September 1, 2020. It was interesting to read today what I was working on then, and how that came out. More in a later post.

Written by Leisureguy

1 September 2021 at 10:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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