Later On

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

Archive for November 4th, 2021

Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants — mind-boggling

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Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

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The Enormous Hole That Whaling Left Behind

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Humans use up too much. Ed Long writes in the Atlantic:

In the 20th century, the largest animals that have ever existed almost stopped existing. Baleen whales—the group that includes blue, fin, and humpback whales—had long been hunted, but as whaling went industrial, hunts became massacres. With explosive-tipped harpoons that were fired from cannons and factory ships that could process carcasses at sea, whalers slaughtered the giants for their oil, which was used to light lamps, lubricate cars, and make margarine. In just six decades, roughly the life span of a blue whale, humans took the blue-whale population down from 360,000 to just 1,000. In one century, whalers killed at least 2 million baleen whales, which together weighed twice as much as all the wild mammals on Earth today.

All those missing whales left behind an enormous amount of uneaten food. In a new study, the Stanford ecologist Matthew Savoca and his colleagues have, for the first time, accurately estimated just how much. They calculated that before industrial whaling, these creatures would have consumed about 430 million metric tons of krill—small, shrimplike animals—every year. That’s twice as much as all the krill that now exist, and twice as much by weight as all the fish that today’s fisheries catch annually. But whales, despite their astronomical appetite, didn’t deplete the oceans in the way that humans now do. Their iron-rich poop acted like manure, fertilizing otherwise impoverished waters and seeding the base of the rich food webs that they then gorged upon. When the whales were killed, those food webs collapsed, turning seas that were once rain forest–like in their richness into marine deserts.

But this tragic tale doesn’t have to be “another depressing retrospective,” Savoca told me. Those pre-whaling ecosystems are “still there—degraded, but still there.” And his team’s study points to a possible way of restoring them—by repurposing a controversial plan to reverse climate change.

Baleen whales are elusive, often foraging well below the ocean’s surface. They are also elastic: When a blue whale lunges at krill, its mouth can swell to engulf a volume of water larger than its own body. For these reasons, scientists have struggled to work out how much these creatures eat. In the past, researchers either examined the stomachs of beached whales or extrapolated upward from much smaller animals, such as mice and dolphins. But new technologies developed over the past decade have provided better data. Drones can photograph feeding whales, allowing researchers to size up their ballooning mouths. Echo sounders can use sonar to gauge the size of krill swarms. And suction-cup-affixed tags that come with accelerometers, GPS, and cameras can track whales deep underwater—“I think of them as whale iPhones,” Savoca said.

Using these devices, he and his colleagues calculated that baleen whales eat three times more than researchers had previously thought. They fast for two-thirds of the year, subsisting on their huge stores of blubber. But on the 100 or so days when they do eat, they are incredibly efficient about it. Every feeding day, these animals can snarf down 5 to 30 percent of their already titanic body weight. A blue whale might gulp down 16 metric tons of krill.

Surely, then, the mass slaughter of whales must have created a paradise for their prey? After industrial-era whalers killed off these giants, about 380 million metric tons of krill would have gone uneaten every year. In the 1970s, many scientists assumed that the former whaling grounds would become a krilltopia, but instead, later studies showed that krill numbers had plummeted by more than 80 percent.

The explanation for this paradox involves iron, a mineral that all living things need in small amounts. The north Atlantic Ocean gets iron from dust that blows over from the Sahara. But in the Southern Ocean, where ice cloaks the land, iron is scarcer. Much of it is locked inside the bodies of krill and other animals. Whales unlock that iron when they eat, and release it when they poop. The defecated iron then stimulates the growth of tiny phytoplankton, which in turn feed the krill, which in turn feed the whales, and so on.

Just as many large mammals are known to do on land, the whales engineer the same ecosystems upon which they depend. They don’t just eat krill; they also create the conditions that allow krill to thrive. They do this so well that even in the pre-whaling era their huge appetites barely dented the lush wonderlands that they seeded. Back then, krill used to swarm so densely that they reddened the surface of the Southern Ocean. Whales feasted so intensely that sailors would spot their water spouts punching upward in every direction, as far as the eye could see. With the advent of industrial whaling, those ecosystems imploded. Savoca’s team estimates that the deaths of a few million whales deprived the oceans of hundreds of millions of metric tons of poop, about 12,000 metric tons of iron, and a lot of plankton, krill, and fish.

Whaling proponents sometimes argue that whales’ gargantuan appetites threaten the food security of coastal nations, dismissing modeling studies that disprove this idea, according to Leah Gerber, a marine-conservation biologist at Arizona State University who wasn’t involved in the new study. By contrast, the empirical results from Savoca’s study “will be hard to refute,” Gerber told me. . .

Continue reading. And read again, “They don’t just eat krill; they also create the conditions that allow krill to thrive.”

Whales consume resources in a way that supports the renewal of those resources. The capitalist approach is strip-mining and clear-cutting and hunting to extinction and discarding waste products, thus destroying the environment. That approach has costs that are now coming due.

See this earlier post on the “extractive circuit.”

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 5:02 pm

How Ultrawealthy Politicians Avoided Paying Taxes

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The US is massively corrupt, but I think people are starting to recognize that.Ellis Simani, Robert Faturechi, and Ken Ward Jr. report in ProPublica:

As a member of Congress, Jared Polis was one of the loudest Democrats demanding President Donald Trump release his tax returns.

At a rally in Denver in 2017, he warned the crowd that Trump “might have something to hide.” That same year, on the floor of the House, he introduced a resolution to force the president to release the records, calling them an “important baseline disclosure.”

But during Polis’ successful run for governor of Colorado in 2018, his calls for transparency faded. The dot-com tycoon turned investor broke with recent precedent and refused to disclose his returns, blaming his Republican opponent, who wasn’t disclosing his.

Polis may have had other reasons for denying requests to release the records.

Despite a net worth estimated to be in the hundreds of millions, Polis paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2013, 2014 and 2015. From 2010 to 2018, his overall rate was just 8.2% — less than half of the 19% paid by a worker making $45,000 in 2018.

The revelations about Polis are contained in a trove of tax information obtained by ProPublica covering thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people. The Colorado governor is one of several ultrarich politicians who, the data shows, have paid little or no federal income taxes in multiple years, exploited loopholes to dodge estate taxes or used their public offices to fight reforms that would increase their tax bills.

The records show that rich Democrats and Republicans alike have slashed their taxes using strategies unavailable to most of their constituents. Among them are governors, members of Congress and a cabinet secretary.

Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer during the George W. Bush administration, said the tax avoidance of these top politicians is “very, very worrisome” since both parties “spend like crazy” and depend on taxes to fund their priorities, from the military to Medicare to Social Security.

“They have the power to decide how much the rest of us pay and the power to spend the money, and then they’re not paying their fair share?” Painter said. “That should be troubling to voters, both conservative and liberal. It should be troubling for everyone.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, for example, is a Republican coal magnate who has made the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. Yet he’s paid very little or no federal income taxes for almost every year since 2000.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the richest people in Congress, was one of the few Republicans to break with his party during the 2017 tax overhaul to fight for a deduction that — unbeknownst to the public — helped him avoid millions in taxes.

And the tax records of Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida and Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, showed that both employed a loophole, which was accidentally created by Congress, to escape estate and gift taxes.

As ProPublica has revealed in a series of articles this year, these tactics, if sometimes aggressive, are completely legal. And they’re not universal among wealthy politicians. ProPublica reviewed tax data for a couple dozen wealthy current and former government officials. Their data shows that many of them paid relatively high tax rates while employing more modest use of the fairly standard deductions of the rich.

The politicians who paid little or exploited loopholes either defended their practices as completely proper or declined to comment.

“The Governor has paid every cent of taxes he owes, he has championed tax reform and tax fairness to fix this broken system for everybody, to report otherwise would be inaccurate,” Polis’ spokesperson wrote in an email.

During the late 1990s dot-com era, Polis earned a reputation as a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 4:33 pm

Findings on fermented foods

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I’m not big on podcasts, but I am looking at making more fermented vegetables, so it caught my eye ear. I ordered and have already received 4 silicone airlock tops and 4 fermentation weights, with the culture on the way. I learned from my previous batch, using a regular-mouth canning jar, that a wide-mouth canning jar works better: the wide-mouth jar is more a cylinder, with no narrowing at the aperture. 

I’m also using a starter culture this time, and the first batch will reprise the carrot-cake-in-a jar recipe, but I look forward to fermenting all sorts of vegetables — leeks and beets come to mind, for some reason.

And because I am looking at fermenting, I found this podcast quite interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 4:05 pm

Leeks and beets

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I bought one bunch of beet greens with beets attached — four beets as it happened — and I realized I needed to cook them. I also had a couple of enormous leeks, each with a long white sectio of considerable diameter. So here’s what I did:

• about 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, drizzled into 4-qt All-Clad Stainless sauté pan or similar
• 1 very large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced, including green leaves (rinse well: often dirty)
•ˀgood sized pinch of salt

Cook over medium-low heat — 3 on my induction burner — until leeks wilt and pan is hot. Add:

• greens from one bunch of beets with greens, rinsed and chopped
• the beets that were attached to the greens, diced
• 2 lemons, ends discard, cut into slabs and diced (with peel still on)
• about 1 Tbsp fish sauce
• about 1 Tbsp apple-cider vinegar

I decided it could use a bit more liquid, so I added:

• 1 can Ro•Tel Original
• about 2 Tbsp Mexican Oregano
* some freshly ground black pepper

I covered it and cooked it for 30 minutes at 225ºF. I had a bowl with some black beans, walnuts, and cooked spelt. Tasty and filling.

No photo because initially I didn’t really think of this as a recipe, just as cooking up some vegetables. But it is very tasty — also very red. The beets add good color.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 3:46 pm

How do tall trees get water to the top?

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Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 1:08 pm

Two video collections of 15-minute dinner recipes

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These are not necessarily whole-food plant-based, but:

  1. I like this guy and his cooking techniques.
  2. You can adapt the recipes — for example, use tempeh or tofu in place of sausage.
  3. Some readers don’t follow a plant-based diet and thus might find these useful

It struck me as interesting that he is apparently making enough from his videos to upgrade the kitchen significantly. Note that his range uses induction burners.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 12:50 pm

This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.

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A statue of Ousamequin, the chief, or sachem, of the Wampanoag Nation, overlooks Plymouth Bay. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Unfortunately, the Pilgrims were ingrates. Dana Hedgpeth reports in the Washington Post. (Gift link: no paywall.)

Overlooking the chilly waters of Plymouth Bay, about three dozen tourists swarmed a park ranger as he recounted the history of Plymouth Rock — the famous symbol of the arrival of the Pilgrims here four centuries ago.

Nearby, others waited to tour a replica of the Mayflower, the ship that carried the Pilgrims across the ocean.

On a hilltop above stood a quiet tribute to the American Indians who helped the starving Pilgrims survive. Few people bother to visit the statue of Ousamequin — the chief, or sachem, of the Wampanoag Nation whose people once numbered somewhere between 30,000 to 100,000 and whose land once stretched from Southeastern Massachusetts to parts of Rhode Island.

Long marginalized and misrepresented in the American story, the Wampanoags are braced for what’s coming this month as the country marks the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and Indians.

But the actual history of what happened in 1621 bears little resemblance to what most Americans are taught in grade school, historians say. There was likely no turkey served. There were no feathered headdresses worn. And, initially, there was no effort by the Pilgrims to invite the Wampanoags to the feast they’d made possible.

Just as Native American activists have demanded the removal of Christopher Columbus statues and pushed to transform the Columbus holiday into an acknowledgment of his brutality toward Indigenous people, they have long objected to the popular portrayal of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving’s hidden past: Plymouth in 1621 wasn’t close to being the first celebration

For the Wampanoags and many other American Indians, the fourth Thursday in November is considered a day of mourning, not a day of celebration.

Because while the Wampanoags did help the Pilgrims survive, their support was followed by years of a slow, unfolding genocide of their people and the taking of their land.

To learn the history of the Wampanoags and what happened to them after the first Thanksgiving, a visitor has to drive 30 miles south of Plymouth to the town of Mashpee, where a modest, clapboard museum sits along a two-lane road. Outside, there’s a wetu, a traditional Wampanoag house made from cedar poles and the bark of tulip poplar trees, and a mishoon, an Indian canoe.

Inside the three-room house sits Mother Bear, a 71-year-old Mashpee Wampanoag, hand-stitching a deer skin hat. She’s lived her whole life in this town and is considered one of the keepers of the Wampanoag version of the first Thanksgiving and how the encounter turned into a centuries-long disaster for the Mashpee, who now number about 2,800.

That story continues to get ignored by the roughly 1.5 million annual visitors to Plymouth’s museums and souvenir shops. The Wampanoag museum draws about 800 visitors a year.

Paula Peters, a Mashpee Wampanoag who is an author and educator on Native American history, said “we don’t acknowledge the American holiday of Thanksgiving … it’s a marginalization and mistelling of our story.”

The Wampanoags, whose name means “People of the First Light” in their native language, trace their ancestors back at least 10,000 years to southeastern Massachusetts, a land they called Patuxet.

In the 1600s, they lived in 69 villages, each with a chief, or sachem, and a medicine man. They had “messenger runners,” members of the tribe with good memories and the endurance to run to neighboring villages to deliver messages.

They occupied a land of plenty, hunting deer, elk and bear in the forests, fishing for herring and trout, and harvesting quahogs in the rivers and bays. They planted corn and used fish remains as fertilizer. In the winter, they moved inland from the harsh weather, and in the spring they moved to the coastlines.

They had traded — and fought — with European explorers since 1524.

In 1614, before the arrival of the Pilgrims, the English lured a well-known Wampanoag — Tisquantum, who was called Squanto by the English — and 20 other Wampanoag men onto a ship with the intention of selling them into slavery in Malaga, Spain. Squanto spent years trying to get back to his homeland.

During his absence,

Continue reading. There’s more, including a video — and the link bypasses the paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 12:22 pm

Posted in History

Love Bombs and a great shave

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I do thoroughly enjoy soaps made using Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 formula, and Love Bombs is one of them. The lather this morning seemed exceptionally good. Perhaps using the (quite gentle) Fine Classic synthetic brush helped. This brush has a 22mm knot, a very good size IMO. 

Three passes with the double-comb Ascension, also from PA and a light razor, made of aluminum — that’s all it took for a perfectly smooth result. A splash of the aftershave augmented with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, and the day belatedly begins. (I woke very early, was up for a couple of hours, then returned to bed to finish the night’s sleep.)

Written by Leisureguy

4 November 2021 at 11:22 am

Posted in Shaving

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