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Archive for November 20th, 2021

Cute words from a contest

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The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the winners:

  1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
  2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
  3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
  7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
  8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it
  9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
  11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
  12. Decafhalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
  14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
  15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web
  16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
  17. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn when you discover half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2021 at 7:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Humor

Cheese, Eggs, Milk, and Meat: Solving the Mystery of Saturated Fat

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The idea has been proposed that excess salt is not the reason for high blood pressure, since the body can easily flush excess sodium from the system. The reason that people who cut back seriously on salt see high blood pressure diminish is, this idea goes, is that to do that they must cut back on foods high in salt: bread, cheese, cured meats, and highly processed foods. All those are high in salt, and when you cut back on salt, you eliminate those from your diet. But suppose the problem’s source is those, not salt.

Markham Heid, who writes regularly regarding health issues, has an interesting article in Medium. It begins:

It’s a mystery that has confounded nutrition scientists.

People who have high levels of cholesterol in their blood — especially LDL cholesterol, a.k.a. the “bad” kind — are at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease.

Meanwhile, foods high in saturated fatty acids — including eggs, full-fat dairy products, and red meat — raise blood levels of cholesterol, including LDL cholesterol.

It stands to reason that eating these foods would increase a person’s risks for cardiovascular disease, which is the number-one cause of death  and . This logic has led both the World Health Organization and U.S. health authorities to recommend that people limit their intakes of saturated fat.

But there’s a problem: People who eat these foods don’t seem to develop cardiovascular disease at elevated rates (CVD).

 in the journal Nutrition Reviews looked at the findings of both observational studies and randomized controlled trials. It found no consistent associations between dietary intakes of saturated fat and heart disease — the most common and deadly form of CVD.

What explains this disconnect? , published earlier this year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, may provide the answer.

“I think we have been grossly wrong about saturated fats,” says Marit Kolby, first author of the AJCN paper and a nutritional biologist at Oslo New University College in Norway. “In my opinion, saturated fat has been blamed for what refined carbohydrates do.”

Kolby’s theory revolves around the normal operation of the body’s cells.

She explains that cholesterol can form up to 50% of a healthy cell’s membrane, which is the semi-permeable barrier that selectively allows nutrients, waste, and other stuff to pass in and out of the cell’s interior.

According to her hypothesis, which preliminary evidence supports, cells depend on cholesterol to maintain the right level of membrane rigidity.

When we eat certain foods — particularly those rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils — the cell membrane grows more fluid. As a result, cells pull cholesterol from the blood in order to stabilize the membrane. This helps explain why, when people eat foods that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), blood tests show that their levels of LDL cholesterol go down.

On the other hand, when people eat foods containing saturated fatty acids (SFAs), cell membranes become less fluid and don’t need to draw cholesterol from the blood. Instead, they may excrete cholesterol into the blood so that they have reserves to draw on later, as needed.

And so, rather than being an indicator of trouble, the elevated blood cholesterol that researchers have linked to the consumption of saturated fats may simply be a sign of normal and healthy cell regulation, Kolby says.

“We need to stop demonizing these nutrients that are parts of whole foods and that have been in our diets all the way through evolution,” she says.

But what explains the research-backed associations between blood cholesterol and cardiovascular disease? Kolby and her co-authors think this has little to do with saturated fats.

She says that inflammation interferes with normal cell functioning. If a person is unwell, metabolically or otherwise, persistent inflammation may disrupt cholesterol regulation and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease.

And this is where refined carbohydrates enter the picture.

While the research linking saturated fat to cardiovascular disease is weak and inconsistent,  strong associations between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and CVD.  has tied ultra-processed foods to an elevated risk for , as well as Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, frailty, death, and .

The ultra-processed foods called out in this research include breakfast cereals, soft drinks, snack foods, low-fat dairy products, and pretty much any other packaged food that includes preservatives, artificial flavors, or other additives.

Kolby says that steering people away from saturated fatty acids may be driving them to eat more of these unhealthy processed foods. “The innovation in low-fat and fat-reduced products has been detrimental to our health because of the substitution of fats with refined carbohydrates and problematic additives,” she says. (You can read more about her views on nutrition .)

Others share her take. “The problem is that when you limit fat, you naturally eat a lot more carbs, including both sugars and starches that raise blood-sugar and insulin levels,” says Jeff Volek, PhD, a nutrition researcher and professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University.

He agrees that frightening people away from saturated fats and towards processed carbohydrates is hurting our health, not helping it. “[Ultra-processed] carbs fail to satiate like fat does, they trigger addictive responses in many people, and metabolically they block your ability to access body fat for fuel,” he says.

He points out that at the same time America’s consumption of butter, full-fat dairy, and other traditional sources of saturated fatty acids was going down, the incidence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes exploded.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2021 at 7:11 pm

The Hearing Aid Revolution: Cheaper and Easier to Get

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Those who need hearing aids will rejoice. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has published an interview, in which Brian Sampson interviews  Frank Lin, MD, PhD ’08, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School.

New FDA guidelines are poised to upend the hearing aid market in the U.S., dropping the cost of devices by as much as 90% for those with mild to moderate hearing loss.

The proposed FDA rule, published October 20, allows hearing aids to be sold directly to consumers without an exam or fitting by an audiologist. About 37.5 million American adults have some trouble hearing, but only 16% have ever used a hearing aid, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Current costs for hearing aids can be $4,000 to $5,000—one reason why so few Americans who need them actually use them. The devices are not covered by Medicare or by most private insurance plans.

When the guidelines go into effect as soon as next fall, the U.S. will be the first country to have a regulated market for over-the-counter hearing aids, says Frank Lin, MD, PhD ’08, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School.

“It’s exciting, and invariably where the U.S. goes, it’s going to have trickle down effects on the rest of the world market,” say Lin, who worked on reports from the National Academies of Sciences and White House that influenced 2017 legislation leading to the new FDA guidelines.

In the following Q&A, Lin explains what’s in the new rule, why it’s likely to bring companies like Apple and Samsung into the hearing aid market, and how soon new, cheaper hearing aids will be available.

WHY IS THIS PROPOSED NEW RULE BY THE FDA A BIG DEAL?

The idea that FDA now is finally enacting legislation that we got passed four years ago is exciting because it solves a public health problem through a market-shaping strategy.

They got the regulations right in the sense that there is a very clear glide path for companies like Apple, Samsung, and Bose to enter the hearing aid market. And that shapes the whole dynamic very quickly around stigma, access, cost—everything.

WHAT’S IN THE PROPOSED RULE? IS IT FOCUSED ON THE MARKET? POLICIES OR TECHNOLOGY?

Everything in a way. The law told FDA to establish a new regulatory classification for hearing aids that could be explicitly sold over the counter and would be safe and effective. It sounds simple, like, Oh, just put a bunch of regulations together and just throw it out there. But it’s actually not simple. The FDA had to create a new regulatory class that then preempts state law, and that opens up a whole legal morass. It took a lawyer a lot of time to think through all these scenarios. The nitty gritty, the trickle-down effects on other standards is not easy.

YOU SERVED ON A NATIONAL ACADEMIES COMMITTEE AND ADVISED THE WHITE HOUSE ON REPORTS THAT LED TO THIS PROPOSED RULE. IS THIS WHAT YOU WERE LOOKING FOR?

Yes, amazingly so. There was a lot of concern that the established hearing industry was trying to influence the rule, so these hearing aids wouldn’t be able to help the greatest number of people who could benefit from these OTC devices. In the end, these regulations followed the exact spirit of the truly bipartisan bill, which is fundamentally to drive access and affordability, competition, and innovation. The FDA has set clear guideposts, but it’s not overly restrictive. It’s not going to prevent a company from like Apple, Samsung, or Bose from entering the market.

I CAN UNDERSTAND WHY THIS WILL LEAD TO GREATER AFFORDABILITY. WHY WILL THIS RULE INCREASE INNOVATION?

Right now, five multinational companies control more than 90% of the global marketplace for hearing aids. And this is possible because it’s a low-volume, high-margin market where the audiologist is the gatekeeper to these technologies for patients and consumers. But when manufacturers can sell directly to the consumer and retail market, this fundamentally changes that business model. It affects how the companies think about innovation and being directly responsive to consumer needs. Large consumer technology companies like Apple and Bose that are already making innovative hearing technologies currently can’t enter the hearing aid market because they wouldn’t be permitted to sell these hearing aids directly to consumers. These new regulations from the FDA will change this.

TELL US WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT. WHEN WILL WE SEE THESE OTC HEARING AIDS ACTUALLY ON STORE COUNTERS? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2021 at 5:21 pm

Knife-sharpening discoveries

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I like to cook, and so I like good knives that are very sharp. It’s easy to buy a good knife — I’ve done it often — but thanks to entropy, a sharp knife is a sometime thing, and one must learn to sharpen knives or suffer the consequences of using dull knives (knife more apt to slip, cutting onions produces more atomized spray (to your eyes’ dismay), loss of prep pleasure, the start of a slippery slope to a degraded existence). 

Some can do a good job using waterstones. The key is to maintain a constant angle, and I cannot do that very well. (It’s a skill, so acquired by practice, and I’ve not done the practice.) So instead of waterstones, I have tried various sharpening devices that grip the knife and use a guide to keep the angle constant. My current one is large and has been awkward to use, so I postpone the sharpening effort because it was practically an event. Eventually I bring out the sharpener, put it on a stool, draw up a chair, and sharpen a few knives before I tire of the effort.

This time, however, I discovered a better approach. I decided to take my time and not try to do it all in one session. I started by just bringing out the sharpener in its case and setting it in the middle of  the floor as a reminder for the following day. 

The next day I spent doing other things, but I did take the sharpener from its case, assembled the few parts that are removed for storage, clamped a knife in place to be sharpened, and put it on the stool.

The next day I had an idea. I moved the sharpener to the table, and voilà! that is what it was designed for. Resting on a table, it is at the exact height so I can sharpen a knife while standing comfortably erect (instead of, as before, being seated in a chair and my having to work hunched over the sharpener sitting on the stool). 

I was so pleased I moved at once to sharpen the first knife — a Yaxell Dragon 8″ chef’s knife with a very rounded belly. This knife has a 16º bevel, and I like a 15º bevel: a slightly more delicate edge, but a noticeably smoother cut — and in my cooking, I don’t have to worry about (say) bones (since my diet is plant-based). To go from a bevel of 16º to one of 15º means removing a fair amount of metal with the coarse (100 grit) stone. I have to remove enough metal so I can feel a burr on each side — and that takes quite a while. 

Once the new bevel of 15º has been achieved, the process goes faster, working through the set of stones from coarse to fine: 200 grit, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, and ending with 1500 grit. I could go further, using leather and a very fine abrasive liquid to polish the edge, but I don’t bother. 

By the time I finished the Yaxell, I felt I had done enough for the day, so I rinsed and put away that knife and clamped the next knife — a Bulat chef’s knife — into place. (Bulat sells only on-line, as at the link, which is why their prices are so reasonable given the (high) quality of the knife.) My idea is to lower the barrier to beginning the next session by having all in readiness. (If you want a horse to jump a fence, make the fence as low as possible.)

I just now sharpened my Bulat. As noted in the post at the link, the Bulat chef’s knife comes with a 17º bevel, and I already reduced that to 15º, so sharpening this time went very quickly. With the 100 grit stone, I almost immediately felt the burr, and then it was just a matter of going through the stones to smooth the edge — as you progress through the stones, you still feel a burr, finer and finer, and getting the burr takes no time at all. 

Now the next knife is clamped in place, ready to go. It’s a Miayabi 5000MCD 8″ chef’s knife (gyuto) with a Karelian birch handle. (Karelian birch was used to make one of the Fabergé eggs.) I’ve never sharpened this, and it currently has a 19º bevel, so it will be a bit of work.

I really like sharpening just one or two knives a day, working steadily through the collection. I know I’ll eventually get all knives sharpened, and the effort seems much less when stretched out over days. Once a knife is sharp, it stays sharp for a long time, since it’s easy to touch up the edge with a smooth steel.

I complain about entropy, but I admit that it’s nice that, say, spoons don’t gradually get very sharp edges as we use them, so that periodically we must dull our spoons.


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Update:  I just learned something: I use 100 grit to set the bevel. You can use a black magic marker on the edge and see what angle removes it, so you stick with original bevel, but my eyes are not so good, and I find it easier just to set a new bevel. I use 15º for me (good cutting, delicate edge) and 19º for others (still good cutting, edge not so delicate). After the 100 grit, I’ve been going 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, and 1500. What I learned is to skip the last two. Stopping after 1000 leaves some toothiness to the edge so that it cuts a bit more aggressively. 

After the knife’s been used a while, the edge will curl over from the pressure of cutting and will seem dull, but by using a smooth sharpening steel you can easily straighten the curl and thus “sharpen” the knife. Eventually, of course, the edge wears down and the knife truly is dull and the sharpening steel will not do the trick — you actually have to resharpen the knife. That goes quickly and easily if you’re not resetting the bevel.

The ridged sharpening steels are IMO not so good as the smooth ones, and the diamond-abrasive and ceramic steels, which actually grind away some metal, are very bad since they can totally screw up the bevel.

It took just one week to sharpen all my knives and knives for The Wife and a friend. /update

Update: This video suggests that I should rethink my sharpening method. The notes to the YouTube: video are worth reading. 

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2021 at 12:59 pm

Grooming Dept Corretto — even better than Almond Vanilla

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This morning I brought out the other Grooming Dept Mallard soap I bought: Corretto.

Scent Notes: Coffee, Brandy, Plum, Berries, Honey, Cacao Dust, Vanilla, Patchouli.

I like this fragrance even better than the Almond Vanilla, and it truly comes alive in the lather, much more present than in the puck. It’s a wonderful fragrance. 

I noticed again that this soap is somewhat thirsty. Today I use a natural-bristle brush, my Rooney Style 2 Finest, and the lather was again outstanding in both consistency and fragrance. I love this soap. 

Although his site shows all soaps as sold out, it has a note: “Next Friday Mallards Shipping to Vendors.” No date is provided, so that may refer to yesterday (11/19) or perhaps to this coming Friday (11/26). In any event, apparently some of the manufacturing run was reserved for the vendors who stock Grooming Dept. I highly recommend that you check those sites frequently, and when the soaps are posted, buy immediately — they are sure to run out quickly. I am thinking I might try Kulfi, which sounds intriguing (“Cardamom, Rose water, Coconut, Spices, Milk, Nuts, Butter, Sandalwood”).

Update: At least some vendors have the soaps listed as “sold out” (which, I imagine, means that they have not yet received the shipment), and they off an email notification for when it is in stock. I have taken advantage of that. /update

The razor has an Edwin Jagger head (or a clone: EJ does not use a logo or brand on the head, so their marketing manager apparently doesn’t care whether you buy an EJ or a clone). That’s quite a nice head design.

I noticed the handle also seemed particularly nice, and a lot of handle makers fail to brand their handles, but when I check the base, there was the Maggard maple leaf. It’s their MR8, a nice no-nonsense design — “timeless classic” would be the marketing message. (iKon also marks the base of their handles: “iKon” with the “o” surrounding a death’s head. RazoRock does not brand their handles, nor do the Above the Tie handles I have, though their rounded bases serve as a brand marker if you already know, as does Tradere’s flared base. UFO did not brand the base of the handles I have, a serious oversight given that their entire business is making handles (a Spanish business that I believe is current inactive).

All this handle talk moved me to order another RazoRock Barber Pole handle — a handle I like a lot — and also a stainless-steel RazoRock UFO handle. (I don’t think the UFO here is the same UFO as the Spanish company (a company of one), but perhaps it is.)

This is a great start to the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2021 at 11:12 am

Posted in Shaving

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