Later On

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

Archive for December 2021

What’s Entering the Public Domain in 2022: “The Sun Also Rises,” “Winnie-the-Pooh,” Buster Keaton Comedies & More

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Open Culture has a useful list of what will enter the public domain in 2022. I imagine some of the books will show up on

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 8:34 pm

“I’m a climate scientist. ‘Don’t Look Up’ captures the madness I see every day”

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Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist and author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, writes in the Guardian:

The movie Don’t Look Up is satire. But speaking as a climate scientist doing everything I can to wake people up and avoid planetary destruction, it’s also the most accurate film about society’s terrifying non-response to climate breakdown I’ve seen.

The film, from director Adam McKay and writer David Sirota, tells the story of astronomy grad student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her PhD adviser, Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), who discover a comet – a “planet killer” – that will impact the Earth in just over six months. The certainty of impact is 99.7%, as certain as just about anything in science.

The scientists are essentially alone with this knowledge, ignored and gaslighted by society. The panic and desperation they feel mirror the panic and desperation that many climate scientists feel. In one scene, Mindy hyperventilates in a bathroom; in another, Dibiasky, on national TV, screams “Are we not being clear? We’re all 100% for sure gonna fucking die!” I can relate. This is what it feels like to be a climate scientist today.

The two astronomers are given a 20-minute audience with the president (Meryl Streep), who is glad to hear that impact isn’t technically 100% certain. Weighing election strategy above the fate of the planet, she decides to “sit tight and assess”. Desperate, the scientists then go on a national morning show, but the TV hosts make light of their warning (which is also overshadowed by a celebrity breakup story).

By now, the imminent collision with comet Dibiasky is confirmed by scientists around the world. After political winds shift, the president initiates a mission to divert the comet, but changes her mind at the last moment when urged to do so by a billionaire donor (Mark Rylance) with his own plan to guide it to a safe landing, using unproven technology, in order to claim its precious metals. A sports magazine’s cover asks, “The end is near. Will there be a Super Bowl?”

But this isn’t a film about how humanity would respond to a planet-killing comet; it’s a film about how humanity is responding to planet-killing climate breakdown. We live in a society in which, despite extraordinarily clear, present, and worsening climate danger, more than half of Republican members of Congress still say climate change is a hoax and many more wish to block action, and in which the official Democratic party platform still enshrines massive subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; in which the current president ran on a promise that “nothing will fundamentally change”, and the speaker of the House dismissed even a modest climate plan as “the green dream or whatever”; in which the largest delegation to Cop26 was the fossil fuel industry, and the White House sold drilling rights to a huge tract of the Gulf of Mexico after the summit; in which world leaders say that climate is an “existential threat to humanity” while simultaneously expanding fossil fuel production; in which major newspapers still run fossil fuel ads, and climate news is routinely overshadowed by sports; in which entrepreneurs push incredibly risky tech solutions and billionaires sell the absurdist fantasy that humanity can just move to Mars.

After 15 years of working to raise climate urgency, I’ve concluded that the public in general, and world leaders in particular, underestimate how rapid, serious and permanent climate and ecological breakdown will be if humanity fails to mobilize. There may only be five years left before humanity expends the remaining “carbon budget” to stay under 1.5C of global heating at today’s emissions rates – a level of heating I am not confident will be compatible with civilization as we know it. And there may only be five years before the Amazon rainforest and a large Antarctic ice sheet pass irreversible tipping points.

The Earth system is breaking down now with breathtaking speed. And climate scientists have faced an even more insurmountable public communication task than the astronomers in Don’t Look Up, since climate destruction unfolds over decades – lightning fast as far as the planet is concerned, but glacially slow as far as the news cycle is concerned – and isn’t as immediate and visible as a comet in the sky.

Given all this, dismissing Don’t Look Up as too obvious might say more about the critic than the film. It’s funny and terrifying because . . .

Continue reading. Emphasis added.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 4:18 pm

Vegetable smoothies for the week

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This is a clever idea for a week’s worth of smoothie s. (I do understand, BTW, that some do not like Michael Greger’s voice. I’m not so fond of it myself, but I listen for the content: go for the words, not the music.) 

This is a fairly old video. How Not to Diet has been out for a while (and has excellent advice regarding a good diet).

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 12:09 pm

How to discuss issues with someone who will not listen

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This video is part of a series, and this one has some good tips about when to back off. If you trigger a person by exposing a cognitive dissonance, they go into a kind of panic and simply are unable to listen. If you continue to argue, you reveal yourself to be one of those who will beat their head against a brick wall because they are (a) unperceptive and (b) stubborn. Don’t be that. Back off, let the person collect himself, and perhaps respond with a harmless joke (NOT mocking the person or the position) or stating as best you can the best version of what you understand the other person is saying. (Habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” — in that order). 

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 10:50 am

I love Planet Java Hive — and a comparison of post-shave feel vis-à-vis Otoko Organics

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I noted yesterday that the post-shave skin feel when using Otoko Organics did not seem to be so good as with premium soaps with high fat content, and to check that impression I went with a Phoenix Artisan CK-6 soap today. I chose one of my favorites, Planet Java Hive, because of its very pleasant (to me) fragrance of coffee and honey.

I noticed that most of my badger brushes do not have much loft, particularly when compared to a boar brush or a synthetic. This Plisson European Grey does have a good amount of loft, which — combined with its pebbly feel on the face — makes it a very nice brush indeed. Easy loading and thick (and fragrant!) lather was a good prelude to a superb shave. I’m using my RazoRock Game Changer .84-P, and it did a wonderful job.

A splash of the matching aftersahve (with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, of course) finished the shave — and I do indeed find that my skin feels softer and not dry at all. Still, I do like Otoko Organics, but if I could use only one soap, that would not be it, and Planet Java Hive (CK-6 version) might.

I’ve already rotated my mattress so I don’t have to do it tomorrow. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2021 at 10:35 am

Posted in Shaving

6 relationship resolutions to make this year

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I’m still in year-end-wrap-up and new-beginnings-for-new-year mode, so an article in by Carol Bruess, professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and resident scholar at St. Norbert College, Wisconsin, caught my eye. Her article begins:

Most of us intuitively know that having close, supportive relationships is important to our general happiness and well-being, and decades of scientific research confirm that human connection not only affects our mental health but is also a key determinant to how long we’ll live and how physically healthy we’ll be during those years.

As Robert Waldinger PhD, the director of the long-running Harvard Study of Adult Development (aka “the longest study on happiness”), says in his TED Talk, “People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier; they’re physically healthier; and they live longer than people who are less well connected.”

And we’re not just talking about your intimate, family and spousal relationships. All types of human connection — from the social to the professional, from the people you volunteer with to the man behind you in line at the grocery store — count.

The good news: Making small changes in our relationships can yield big results. Below, I’ve pinpointed six relationship resolutions to consider that could improve your bonds.

1. Change the words you’re thinking about other people  

Words matter. Not only the words we use when we speak to others, but the words we say to ourselves about others. 

Our internal narrative — especially the story we tell ourselves about other people, their decisions, behaviors, quirks and irritating habits — has a profound effect on how we interact with them. When you tell yourself “they’re so controlling” or “they never listen to me” or “they’re so self-centered” before or during a conversation with a partner, colleague or sibling sets you up to be more likely to find evidence of their controlling/non-listening/self-centered behavior because you’ve primed yourself to spot it.

There are three simple steps you can take here. The first is to recognize when one of these judgmental thoughts enters your head that reinforces a negative narrative. Next, stop yourself from telling this story. Finally, replace it with a more positive word or phrase.

No, I’m not asking you to think something that is just plain untrue — as in “they always listen to me” or “they respect that I’m my own person.” Instead, pick a word or phrase that reminds you to show some compassion (“They’re trying their best”), acknowledge the journey you’re on (“We’re all works in progress”) or capture what you want to do more of in your relationships (“Listen — really listen”).

You’ll be surprised how quickly changing your words can also change the quality of your relationships. One of my favorite phrases, which I’ll be recommitting to in 2022, is “They might just be right.” Thinking those five words reduces my need to win arguments and can even prevent me from getting into them in the first place.

Make this phrase or word your screen saver, set a daily reminder with them or leave sticky notes with the phrase or word on the bathroom mirror, your laptop or next to the kitchen sink.

2. Create tiny moments of positivity during your day 

Want to experience more connection in your day-to-day life and a healthier and more connected sense of being in the world? 

Turns out, you can do this wherever you are and wherever you go. Just take five seconds to learn the name of that nice person in the orange apron at Home Depot who helped you find the particular nail you needed and tell them they made your day. Or, look your pharmacist in the eye and thank them for showing up during this challenging time, or stop by your coworker’s office and ask how her aging parents are holding up.

Indeed, whenever you share a tiny, positive moment with another human — even if it’s just a warm smile or your eyes meeting as you acknowledge each other for existing on this planet — you unleash a cascade of positive reactions in you and them. 

And that feeling you experience when you do this? It’s love.

While it might not be the kind of love that brought together, say, Romeo and Juliet, this kind — unlike what drove that doomed pair — will help you live a longer, happier, healthier life. And it has ripple effects. By creating micro-moments of positivity with strangers, acquaintances, colleagues or your close connections, you’re starting a wave of good feelings that spreads through your life and through the lives of those you encounter.

3. When you and your partner argue, hold hands with them (really!) 

When couples are in conflict, it’s important for them to remember they’re on the same team despite their differences. One of the easiest ways to do so is to agree to hold hands while you argue. This simple gesture helps couples feel more connected and, as a result, they’ve been found to be less destructive as they fight.

If this doesn’t work for the two of you, come up with your own way to reinforce your bond.

Maybe you and your partner decide to interrupt each disagreement — at least once — with a 10-second kiss. Or, you could both agree, while fighting, to hold up three fingers at the beginning, middle and end of a tense discussion, a nonverbal symbol that means “I love you.” I once interviewed a couple with an unusual rule: Whenever they argued, they both had to be fully undressed. Unsurprisingly, they reported their conflicts never lasted long!

4. Ask an . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2021 at 3:20 pm

Rosemary Salt, lessons learned

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I just made a batch of Rosemary Salt following the recipe given in the second video in my earlier post.

Here are two things I learned:

  1. Make 1/2 batch for your first effort. That makes a lot, plus it gives you experience you can use for the next batch (i.e., your own lessons learned).
  2. Count the sprigs of rosemary and sage you have BEFORE you start the batch.

I made a full batch, and the one bunch of fresh sage I had turned out to be four sprigs — and the recipe called for eight. The resulting salt is still good, but: lesson learned.

I of course used Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Morton’s kosher salt is, IMO, terrible: pellets instead of flakes.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2021 at 1:52 pm

Otoko Organics and the Fendrihan Mk II — and a bookholder

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The bookholder was a gift from The Brother-In-Law, who’s handy with tools and woodworking. (He built his own house.) It’s a lovely (and useful) piece, and the prop that holds it up folds flat for storage.

And resting on it, in lieu of a book, are my RazoRock Amici shaving brush, Ototko Organics shaving … compound? (it’s not actually a soap), Geo. F. Trumper’s Coral Skin Food, and the Fendrihan Mk II stainless-steel razor (this one bronze coated) — ingredients for a fine shave.

I wet the Amici’s knot well under the hot-water tap and then shook it as dry as I could and began brushing the Otoko Organics puck. The brush immediately began loading, and after adding one small driblet of water to the brush, I easily finished loading and worked up a good lather.

I did add one more driblet of water as I brushed the lather on my face, more or less from a sense of duty than from actual need. I do like Otoko Organics.

The Mk II did a great job — it’s a fine razor — and I very much enjoyed the feel and fragrance of the Coral Skin Food, which has been absent from my routine for a good while. That was an oversight, and I’ll be using it more often. I didn’t feel that this aftershave needed the Hydrating Gel, so I skipped it. 

My skin following this Otoko shave does not feel quite so soft and nourished as when I use one of the high-fat premium soaps, like one of the Grooming Dept formulae, or one of the Milksteak or CK-6 soaps. It’s still a fine shave, but those soaps do indeed seem to bring my skin to a better state of softness.

And more snow seems to be falling on top of what we got last night. Fortunately, yesterday was a day of going store to store, loading up with groceries and such. I even got a 1.5-L widemouth canning jar for a batch of giardiniera, a nice project for a snowy day.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2021 at 10:52 am

Posted in Shaving

States Are Hoarding $5.2 Billion in Welfare Funds Even as the Need for Aid Grows

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Hannah Dreyfus reports in ProPublica:

When Congress passed welfare reform in 1996, states were given more autonomy over how they could use federal funding for aid to the poor. They could demand welfare recipients find work before receiving cash assistance. They could also use their federal “block grants” to fund employment and parenting courses or to subsidize childcare.

Twenty-five years later, however, states are using this freedom to do nothing at all with large sums of the money.

According to recently released federal data, states are sitting on $5.2 billion in unspent funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF. Nearly $700 million was added to the total during the 2019 and 2020 fiscal years, with Hawaii, Tennessee and Maine hoarding the most cash per person living at or below the federal poverty line.

States have held on to more of this welfare money amid rising poverty. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 16.1% of children under age 18 lived in poverty in 2020, up from 14.4% the year before. The poverty rate also ticked up for people aged 18 to 64, from 9.4% to 10.4%. As unused TANF dollars have accumulated, applications to the cash assistance program have waned, though it’s not for a lack of need, say experts and people who have applied to the program.

Bonnie Bridgforth experienced the counterintuitive reality of a state, Maine, that is stockpiling more welfare money while using less to help those in need.

Two weeks away from giving birth near the end of 2014, the stay-at-home mom was thrust into the role of sole income provider when her then-husband was convicted and sentenced to jail time for possession of child pornography. Her family of five was left without a regular paycheck.

Bridgforth, then 35, turned to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, where a caseworker looked past her pregnant belly and told her that to get aid she’d need to meet the state’s requirement that she get a job. After explaining that it would be difficult to find employment with her due date weeks away and four children at home, Bridgforth was approved for $981 a month in cash assistance with the understanding she would start working after she gave birth.

Soon, with two of her children in school and her infant, 2-year-old and 4-year-old in the care of extended family, Bridgforth started working at a gas station. She earned $8 an hour, 50 cents above Maine’s minimum wage at that time, later receiving a 50-cent raise. Bridgforth was also pursuing an associate degree in justice studies and taking a full course load.

Yet less than two years later, DHHS informed Bridgforth that she no longer qualified for assistance, including child care. The notice from the agency said her family did not meet the “deprivation” standard, a TANF requirement that assesses the extent to which children have been deprived of financial support from one or both parents. Bridgforth’s children no longer met the standard because her husband had been released from jail and they were now considered a two-parent household, even though the couple was estranged and he was not living with them. They divorced soon after.

In an email to a DHHS welfare specialist, Bridgforth asked for an explanation. “I think I have whip lash. It is exhausting,” Bridgforth wrote in the Aug. 30, 2016 email.

The specialist replied, “Sorry Bonnie. An eligibility worker was reviewing the case and it appears that a decision was made that deprivation does not exist, I am not an eligibility worker so cannot make this determination.”

Reflecting back on the rejection, Bridgforth told ProPublica, “No one seemed to care that we were living in significant poverty.” During this period, she said, she struggled to buy diapers, gas, clothing and her children’s school books. Her oldest daughter, who was 12, “felt very poor because we couldn’t buy the good shampoo,” Bridgforth recalled.

The same year Bridgforth was kicked off TANF, Maine was sitting on $111 million in unspent welfare dollars. It spent only $45 million on the program that year. The following year — as Bridgforth “fought to keep a roof over my kids’ heads” — the unspent welfare money continued to pile up, reaching $141 million. While its surplus has since declined, Maine continues to have one of the largest per-capita stockpiles of welfare money in the nation, $93 million as of fiscal year 2020. That comes out to $657 per person in poverty.

The unused welfare stash tells a larger story of how the 1996 welfare reform law has failed the poor: It allows states to not distribute cash assistance even when they have the money to do so. . . ..

Continue reading. That welfare reform was Bill Clinton’s doing.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2021 at 6:46 pm

Economic Freedom Around the World

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Click image to enlarge. This comes from Visual Capitalist.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2021 at 12:17 pm

Reinforcing Resolutions

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This is the time of year when most people take stock, make plans, and try new directions. I’ll point out my often-reworked post on applying the 7 habits Stephen Covey found were common among effective people. The post is now stable, and I think would serve as a good starting point for someone who is interested in trying the method. The post includes a protocol for a test run of the method. (You’ll also need a copy of the book — secondhand editions are readily available — though a comment suggests that the 7 habits books for teenagers are better written.)

The other practice I follow is to use to write a letter to myself, to be emailed to me one year from the time I wrote. Your letter might include:

  1. A brief description of your current situation (emotional, financial, educational (i.e., what you’re in the process of learning), spiritual, and your relationships).
  2. Your worries and concerns and even fears for the coming year. (No one else will see this.)
  3. Your hopes for the coming year.
  4. Your specific goals for the coming year — emotional, financial, educational (i.e., what you want to learn), spiritual, and your relationships.
  5. Anything else that occupies your mind: hopes, concerns, activities (current and planned), and so on.

I have found these letters to be useful and illuminating, and I write such a letter the first of each month as part of my budget planning/tracking, when I record my monthly snapshot of my finances.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2021 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Daily life

Strong ‘n Scottish ‘n Vetiver, with the Parker slant

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I responded on Wirecutter to a comment from a man who uses bar soap for shaving (!) because it “works fine” and added “most shaving soap is scented, which I HATE. (Why the hell does everything have to be scented? We live in a world full of of scent pollution.)”

I responded to point out that almost all men who have tried both bar soap and shaving soap find they prefer shaving soap for shaving, and that unscented shaving soaps are commonly available (and provided links to a few). I also noted that the world is filled with fragrances: flowers, newly mown grass, freshly turned dirt, the petrichor fragrance that follows a summer thunderstorm, and so on. The fragrance industry goes back thousands of years because almost all people like good fragrances — for example, the fragranced shaving soaps far outsell unscented versions. 

This was not to say that he personally should enjoy a fragrance in a shaving soap. I know men who dislike fragrances first thing in the morning, and unscented shaving soaps will be perfect for them: formulated to optimize the shave experience and result, but with no added fragrance (though the ingredients themselves do have a subtle scent sometimes).

This came to mind this morning as I loaded the Mühle Gen 2 Synthetic with Meißner Tremonia’s Strong ‘n Scottish shaving soap, the “strong” referring to the fragrance, which fairly bowls you over. It’s a good fragrance, and I like it and its strength — but of course I don’t use it every morning and find it good as a change of pace. And its lather is excellent.

Three passes of Parker’s (semi-)slant left my face perfectly smooth, and I used two squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel to make Guerlain’s Vetiver EDT more like an aftershave (and, come to think of it, here is another very detectable fragrance — and this one I’ll carry with me though day).

Good start to a day that’s still very cold (28ºF right now) with lots of snow on the ground.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2021 at 10:01 am

Posted in Shaving

The Massacre at Wounded Knee

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One incident among many in the genocidal campaign the US has waged against Native Americans. Heath Cox Richardson writes:

On the clear, cold morning of December 29, 1890, on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, three U.S. soldiers tried to wrench a valuable Winchester away from a young Lakota man. He refused to give up his hunting weapon; it was the only thing standing between his family and starvation. As the men struggled, the gun fired into the sky.

Before the echoes died, troops fired a volley that brought down half of the Lakota men and boys the soldiers had captured the night before, as well as a number of soldiers surrounding the Lakotas. The uninjured Lakota men attacked the soldiers with knives, guns they snatched from wounded soldiers, and their fists.

As the men fought hand-to-hand, the Lakota women who had been hitching their horses to wagons for the day’s travel tried to flee along the nearby road or up a dry ravine behind the camp. The soldiers on a slight rise above the camp turned rapid-fire mountain guns on them. Then, over the next two hours, troops on horseback hunted down and slaughtered all the Lakotas they could find: about 250 men, women, and children.

But it is not December 29 that haunts me. It is the night of December 28, the night before the killing.

On December 28, there was still time to avert the Wounded Knee Massacre.

In the early afternoon, the Lakota leader Big Foot—Sitanka—had urged his people to surrender to the soldiers looking for them. Sitanka was desperately ill with pneumonia, and the people in his band were hungry, underdressed, and exhausted. They were making their way south across South Dakota from their own reservation in the northern part of the state to the Pine Ridge Reservation. There, they planned to take shelter with another famous Lakota chief, Red Cloud. His people had done as Sitanka asked, and the soldiers escorted the Lakotas to a camp on South Dakota’s Wounded Knee Creek, inside the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

For the soldiers, the surrender of Sitanka’s band marked the end of the Ghost Dance Uprising. It had been a tense month. Troops had pushed into the South Dakota reservations in November, prompting a band of terrified men who had embraced the Ghost Dance religion to gather their wives and children and ride out to the Badlands. But, at long last, army officers and negotiators had convinced those Ghost Dancers to go back to Pine Ridge and turn themselves in to authorities before winter hit in earnest.

Sitanka’s people were not part of the Badlands group and, for the most part, were not Ghost Dancers. They had fled from their own northern reservation two weeks before when they learned that officers had murdered the great leader Sitting Bull in his own home. Army officers were anxious to find and corral Sitanka’s missing Lakotas before they carried the news that Sitting Bull had been killed to those who had taken refuge in the Badlands. Army leaders were certain the information would spook the Ghost Dancers and send them flying back to the Badlands. They were determined to make sure the two bands did not meet.

But South Dakota is a big state, and it was not until late in the afternoon of December 28 that the soldiers finally made contact with Sitanka’s band, and it didn’t go quite as the officers planned: a group of soldiers were watering their horses in a stream when some of the traveling Lakotas surprised them. The Lakotas let the soldiers go, and the men promptly reported to their officers, who marched on the Lakotas as if they were going to war. Sitanka, who had always gotten along well with army officers, assured the commander that his band was on its way to Pine Ridge anyway, and asked his men to surrender unconditionally. They did.

By this time, Sitanka was so ill he couldn’t sit up and his nose was dripping blood. Soldiers lifted him into an army ambulance—an old wagon—for the trip to the Wounded Knee camp. His ragtag band followed behind. Once there, the soldiers gave the Lakotas an evening ration, and lent army tents to those who wanted them. Then the soldiers settled into guarding the camp.

And they celebrated, for they were heroes of a great war, and it had been bloodless, and now, with the Lakotas’ surrender, they would be demobilized back to their home bases before the South Dakota winter closed in. As they celebrated, more and more troops poured in. It had been a long hunt across South Dakota for Sitanka and his band, and officers were determined the group would not escape them again. In came the Seventh Cavalry, whose men had not forgotten that their former leader George Armstrong Custer had been killed by a band of Lakota in 1876. In came three mountain guns, which the soldiers trained on the Lakota encampment from a slight rise above the camp.

For their part, the Lakotas were frightened. If their surrender was welcome and they were going to go with the soldiers to Red Cloud at Pine Ridge, as they had planned all along, why were there so many soldiers, with so many guns?

On this day and hour in 1890, in the cold and dark of a South Dakota December night, there were soldiers drinking, singing and visiting with each other, and anxious Lakotas either talking to each other in low voices or trying to sleep. No one knew what . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2021 at 6:48 am

2021: The Year of the Worker

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Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 7:24 pm

A quick look at the evidence about mask wearing

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As Kevin Drum points out, there are two aspects in the efficacy of wearing masks: one is how well the mask protects the wearer from getting infected, and the other is how well the mask protects others from getting infected by the wearer. Drum writes:

How useful are face masks in halting the transmission of COVID-19? There are two things to look at.

First, how well do they protect the wearer? Here are the results of a literature review done last year:

These are not super great results, and the authors warn that most of the studies were underpowered and had large error bars. N95 masks did a better job than the others, but most likely masks in general do little to protect wearers.

More important is how well masks prevent transmission of COVID within a community. I couldn’t find any recent literature reviews that address this, but an informal review in JAMA earlier this year listed eleven studies of mask wearing on community spread of COVID: . . .

Continue reading. Good chart at the link. Click it to enlarge it.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 6:53 pm

Global GDP 2021 in a complex pie chart

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Click to enlarge. From Visual Capitalist:

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 2:49 pm

The Single-Staircase Radicals Have a Good Point

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Henry Grabar makes a good point in Slate:

The Seattle-based architect Michael Eliason has a number of complaints about the way America makes its apartment buildings. The components are inferior, he says: The best sliding doors and windows are made elsewhere. The designs rarely accommodate larger families. And there are too many staircases.

Too many what now? Eliason is the founder of Larch Lab and the lead evangelist of a small group of architects and developers intrigued by the possibilities of making multifamily buildings with only one stairway. And conversely, fed up with the North American standards that require most apartments to be accessible by two of them.

Mandating two stairways, Eliason says, produces smaller, more unpleasant, more expensive apartments in larger buildings full of wasted space. He likes to contrast the boxy North American multifamily building with nimbler designs from South Korea, China, Sweden, Italy, or Germany. In those countries, apartments in midrise buildings may be served by a single stair, often encircling or adjacent to the elevator. Online, Eliason is a founding father of what he’s called Floor Plan Twitter, where he shares these foreign, single-stair blueprints with a gusto usually reserved for imports like wine or sports cars.

Of all of Eliason’s beefs with U.S. building practices, which he has outlined for the environmental news site Treehugger, this one is both the most tangible—you don’t need to be an architect to understand the difference between two staircases and one—and the most opaque. It’s one staircase, Michael. What could it cost?

The answer, Eliason and the single-staircase brigade insist, can be measured in terms of light, air, space, and money.

Most American apartment buildings over four stories are required to include two means of egress from every apartment. In Canada, the height limit of a single-stair building is just two stories. The purported reason for such rules is fire safety, though there’s no evidence that Americans and Canadians are any safer from structure fires than our neighbors around the world, where one-staircase construction is permitted even in buildings eight, 10, or 20 stories high.

That second staircase is a drag. When we spoke last week, Eliason showed me a presentation he gives to drive home the building culture that is shaped by the two-stair system. It featured a still from the movie The Shining, of Danny riding his tricycle down the long, carpeted hallway of the Overlook Hotel. If you’ve been in an American apartment building of the past half-century or so, you probably recognize this airless environment, which architects call a “double-loaded corridor” because it has doors on both sides. Nobody likes these hallways. The double-loaded corridor, the architect Frank Zimmerman writes, is a “case study in anti-human engineering.”

Eliason observes that when you require every apartment to connect to two staircases, you all but ensure those units are built around one long double-loaded corridor, to give all residents access to both stairways. You tilt the scales in favor of larger floor plates in bigger buildings, because developers need to find room for two stairways, and connect them—and then compensate for the unsellable interior space consumed by the corridor.

The designs that result, Eliason argues, are more likely than not to offer smaller, cookie-cutter units constrained by their position along the long hallway. Apartments must look either north or south. Sunlight or shade. Sunrise or sunset. Busy street or quiet back yard. And no one, save perhaps a lucky occupant of a corner unit, gets a cross-breeze.

Cut out one of those staircases, and you can cut out the corridor, too. Narrower sites are suddenly in play. Construction costs go down. The ratio of “rentable” space in a building goes up, which makes development cheaper. That in turn can translate into lower rents or more flexible designs. Two or three units a floor is suddenly more economical, which makes the stairway a more intimate, closely shared space. Family-size units. Units where the living room faces south to the sun and the street and the bedrooms face north to the quiet shade. “In the architecture world it’s hammered in from the beginning that we need two exits from every space,” Eliason said. “But in most other countries, that second means of egress is the fire brigade.”

Another Floor Plan Twitter fan is Conrad Speckert, an architecture student at McGill University who takes that required second staircase personally. “I grew up in a three-storey, single egress apartment building where we knew our neighbours well, the stair landings were generous and naturally lit, and everyone got pretty crazy with their Christmas decorations,” he writes on the website for his master’s degree project, Second Egress. “My . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 2:16 pm

Looking a little more deeply into VR headsets and workout programs

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After my earlier post on using a VR headset with a VR workout program, I got to looking a little more deeply into it. Here’s a playlist of YouTube videos on the Oculus Quest 2, workout programs, and a glimpse of a high-end VR headset (US$1400 but also requires a gaming computer for ideal performance).

My overall impression is that the technology still has a ways to go, but at least now there seems to be a reasonably good reasonably priced starting point.

There are several YouTube videos on “best VR headsets.” The one at the link looks at the best for 2021, as does this one (from a different reviewer).

Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 12:44 pm

A walking challenge from Garage Gym Reviews

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This week between Christmas and New Year’s is traditionally a time of taking stock of where we are, thinking about where we want to be, and making plans for how to get there, and those plans generally include a genuine resolve to move in some new directions. 

Of course, it’s difficult to make a detailed plan for a year, but it’s also pointless. Just as no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, a detailed plan of things to accomplish over the course of a year will generally run aground on things that crop up day by day and week by week.

One way to finesse this difficulty is to keep the overall long-range goal in mind, but make a plan for just a week — and even in that plan include fallback options to work around interruptions and small emergencies. (I describe one method of doing that — including forms to assist — in this post.)

A perennial goal for many whose daily routine and regular job does not include much physical exertion is to get more exercise — particularly aerobic exercise, which is essential for cardiovascular health (a very good kind of health). That’s what caught my eye when this walking challenge landed in my in-box. It’s a 28-day walking challenge, and it seems like good resolution fodder: rather than attempting a half-hearted commitment for the year, resolve only to complete this 28-day challenge — and in fact, first just commit to getting out next Monday and walking for 10 minutes, rain or shine, snow or not. Then commit to finishing that week. Then, with that accomplished, commit to doing three more weeks.

Little by little, bit by bit — persistence delivers. Slow and steady wins the race. Brick by brick the wall is built. 

The full challenge page contains much more than just the schedule of walks. It also offers reasons to accept the challenge, and some tips on how to make the walk more enjoyable (on the sensible idea that it’s much easier to persist if you figure out a way to make repeated tasks enjoyable).

Take a look. And then maybe commit to doing just the first week. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so take the step.


Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 11:58 am

Jessica Williams – Blue Tuesday

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I immediately wondered whether each day of the week has a good jazz piece. Certainly this one takes care of Tuesday.

Levon Levonyan notes i the description to the video:

Due to her being based in northern California, Jessica Williams is a bit underrated, but (on evidence of her sets for Jazz Focus and Hep) she is one of the top jazz pianists of today. Williams is a powerful virtuoso whose complete control of the keyboard, wit, solid sense of swing, and the influence of Thelonious Monk have combined to make her a particularly notable player.


Written by Leisureguy

28 December 2021 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

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