Later On

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

Archive for January 4th, 2022

The dark historical background of cryptocurrencies

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Read this Twitter thread by David Troy.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 7:37 pm

Manufacturing grievances for profit at an industrial scale

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post that begins:

Julian Sanchez says:

Some products satisfy preexisting needs; some need to manufacture a perceived deficiency to move units. Modern politics generates demand by manufacturing grievances.

This is pretty much the Fox News raison d’être. Like the makers of many useless cosmetic products, they can exist only if they create problems their buyers never knew existed and then convince them that only using their product will solve these previously unrecognized problems.

Masks? An invasion of your freedom! CRT? They’re brainwashing white kids! The 2020 election? It wasn’t lost, it was stolen! Some judge had to take down his Ten Commandments plaque? Your Bible is next!

There was a time when this kind of thing was restricted to mimeographed newsletters mailed to maybe hundreds or thousands of people. But Fox News is the Henry Ford of outrage: the first to truly industrialize and then mass produce feverish outrage.

Their secret? Better . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 3:40 pm

How Food May Improve Your Mood

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Anahad O’Connor has a very interesting article in the NY Times. (Gift link: no paywall). The article begins:

As people across the globe grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety this past year, many turned to their favorite comfort foods: ice cream, pastries, pizza, hamburgers. But studies in recent years suggest that the sugar-laden and high-fat foods we often crave when we are stressed or depressed, as comforting as they may seem, are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Instead, whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better bet.

The findings stem from an emerging field of research known as nutritional psychiatry, which looks at the relationship between diet and mental wellness. The idea that eating certain foods could promote brain health, much the way it can promote heart health, might seem like common sense. But historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health. For a long time, the potential influence of food on happiness and mental well-being, as one team of researchers recently put it, was “virtually ignored.”

But over the years, a growing body of research has provided intriguing hints about the ways in which foods may affect our moods. A healthy diet promotes a healthy gut, which communicates with the brain through what is known as the gut-brain axis. Microbes in the gut produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate our mood and emotions, and the gut microbiome has been implicated in mental health outcomes. “A growing body of literature shows that the gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder,” a team of scientists wrote in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry last year.

Large population studies, too, have found that people who eat a lot of nutrient-dense foods report less depression and greater levels of happiness and mental well-beingOne such study, from 2016, that followed 12,400 people for about seven years found that those who increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables during the study period rated themselves substantially higher on questionnaires about their general levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Large observational studies, however, can show only correlations, not causation, which raises the question: Which comes first? Do anxiety and depression drive people to choose unhealthy foods, or vice versa? Are people who are happy and optimistic more motivated to consume nutritious foods? Or does a healthy diet directly brighten their moods?

The first major trial to shed light on the food-mood connection was published in 2017. A team of researchers wanted to know whether dietary changes would help alleviate depression, so they recruited 67 people who were clinically depressed and split them into groups. One group went to meetings with a dietitian who taught them to follow a traditional Mediterranean-style diet. The other group, serving as the control, met regularly with a research assistant who provided social support but no dietary advice.

At the start of the study, both groups consumed a lot of sugary foods, processed meats and salty snacks, and very little fiber, lean proteins or fruits and vegetables. But the diet group made big changes. They replaced candy, fast food and pastries with whole foods such as nuts, beans, fruits and legumes. They switched from white bread to whole grain and sourdough bread. They gave up sugary cereals and ate muesli and oatmeal. Instead of pizza, they ate vegetable stir-fries. And they replaced highly processed meats like ham, sausages and bacon with seafood and small amounts of lean red meats.

Importantly, both groups were counseled to continue taking any antidepressants or other medications they were prescribed. The goal of the study was not to see if a healthier diet could replace medication, but whether it could provide additional benefits like exercise, good sleep and other lifestyle behaviors.

After 12 weeks, average depression scores improved in both groups, which might be expected for anyone entering a clinical trial that provided additional support, regardless of which group you were in. But depression scores improved to a far greater extent in the group that followed the healthy diet: roughly a third of those people were no longer classified as depressed, compared to 8 percent of people in the control group.

The results were striking for a number of reasons. The diet benefited mental health even though the participants did not lose any weight. People also saved money by eating the more nutritious foods, demonstrating that a healthy diet can be economical. Before the study, the participants spent on average $138 per week on food. Those who switched to the healthy diet lowered their food costs to $112 per week.

The recommended foods were relatively inexpensive and available at most grocery stores. They included things like canned beans and lentils, canned salmon, tuna and sardines, and frozen and conventional produce, said Felice Jacka, the lead author of the study.

“Mental health is complex,” said Dr. Jacka, the director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia and the president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research. “Eating a salad is not going to cure depression. But there’s a lot you can do to lift your mood and improve your mental health, and it can be as simple as increasing your intake of plants and healthy foods.”

A number of randomized trials have reported similar findingsIn one study of 150 adults with depression that was published last year, researchers found that people assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet supplemented with fish oil for three months had greater reductions in symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety after three months compared to a control group.

Still, not every study has had positive results. A large, yearlong trial published in JAMA in 2019, for example, found that a Mediterranean diet reduced anxiety but did not prevent depression in a group of people at high risk. Taking supplements such as vitamin D, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids had no impact on either depression or anxiety.

Most psychiatric professional groups have not adopted dietary recommendations, in part because experts say that more research is needed before they can prescribe a specific diet for mental health. But public health experts in countries around the world have started encouraging people to adopt lifestyle behaviors like exercisesound sleep, a heart-healthy diet and avoiding smoking that may reduce inflammation and have benefits for the brain. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists issued clinical practice guidelines encouraging clinicians to address diet, exercise and smoking before starting patients on medication or psychotherapy.

Individual clinicians, too, are already

Read the whole thing. (Gift link: no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 2:01 pm

A dystopian practice: The Electronic Shackling of Migrants

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In mainsonnueveJoe Bongiorno describes a horrible practice done in Canada:

Jatinder Singh was having trouble sleeping. In his Montreal apartment, he couldn’t toss and turn at night without worrying about dislodging the cord of his ankle monitor from its charging station. The low-battery device would beep and alert the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), potentially landing Singh back in the Laval Immigration Holding Centre.

Singh, a former farmer, came to Canada as an asylum seeker in 2017. He says he risks being the target of political violence in his home country of India because of his father’s affiliations with a political party. But Singh was denied refugee status in 2019. He remained in Montreal and worked as an undocumented essential worker, driving a delivery truck in the early days of the pandemic. In March 2020, another car bumped into his parked truck. When police arrived on scene, they discovered Singh was undocumented and arrested him, locking him up in the nearby detention centre.

After two months inside, Singh was released with a number of conditions, including that he wear an ankle monitor to track his location and that he live under the watch of family members in Montreal. But the surveillance technology he was forced to bear disrupted more than a night of restful sleep.

On several occasions, Singh’s device malfunctioned and drew the police. “It didn’t work properly,” says Singh’s cousin, who lived in the shared family home and served as his bondsperson (her name is being withheld to protect her identity). She likens the sound of the device to a fire alarm and says the family lived in constant fear that it would go off at any moment.

One night, the family got caught in traffic as Singh’s 7 PM curfew approached. He had had to accompany his cousin to her baby daughter’s appointment across the city because his conditions prohibited him from being alone in the house. When his curfew hit, the tracking bracelet vibrated and sounded its alarm.

Outside the perimeter of the house, Singh was in breach of his conditions and feared getting locked up once more. His phone was ringing and the child was bawling. Terrified, they answered the CBSA’s call to explain what had happened and waited for the police to arrive. By the time the CBSA gave the police on scene clearance to let them go, the family had waited on the road for three hours amid the din.

In spring 2020, the CBSA began releasing migrant detainees from immigration holding centres and jails. The agency has the authority to detain non-citizens for a range of reasons, including if they suspect someone is inadmissible to the country, dangerous, a flight risk, or unable to prove their identity. Amid Covid-19 outbreaks and inmate hunger strikes in detention facilities and prisons across Canada, many people in Quebec and Ontario were released into the community as part of the CBSA’s Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, first implemented in the summer of 2018.

Under the program, a growing number of migrants are electronically tracked like Singh. Ankle monitors are among the latest electronic supervision tools in the CBSA’s ATD toolkit, which also includes cash bonds to secure release and electronic voice reporting. The CBSA employs these tools to track otherwise detained non-citizens and ensure their compliance with immigration proceedings. According to the CBSA, the “ATDs are chosen by analyzing the specific type of risk posed by the individual,” and the agency may impose a variety of different alternatives on a person at once for “maximum risk avoidance.”

Since March 2020, thirty-six “high-risk” individuals have been released from detention centres with tracking bracelets provided to the CBSA by Correctional Service Canada, which itself acquires a least some of those devices from Jemtec Inc., a publicly traded digital IT company. Those with bracelets who do not, for unknown reasons, qualify for the CBSA’s electronic monitoring program—seven people, by the CBSA’s count—are enrolled in a monitoring program managed by a third party.

Many legal experts question the justification of the electronic monitoring program in a country that sets no limits on how long authorities can keep a person in immigration detention or on its alternatives. Tracking people like Singh might keep them out of jail cells or holding centres, but “it is one hundred percent an intrusion on their right to privacy and liberty, citizen or not,” says Anthony Navaneelan, vice president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

Immigration and refugee lawyer Jared Will agrees. Tracking bracelets impose more restrictions on liberty than can be justified legally or morally, he says, citing the example of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 1:49 pm

Body Farms and Human Composting

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Mallory McDuff describes in Wired what strikes me as an excellent idea. From his article:

The first step in human composting begins with the body in a “cradle” surrounded by organic materials, such as wood chips, alfalfa, and straw. For about 30 days, the body remains in a “vessel,” where microbes and heat transform it into compost. During the process, nutrients in the human body support new life in the soil, saving an estimated one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person from entering the atmosphere compared to standard burial or flame cremation.

Read the whole thing.

The idea is attractive to me more because it continues a natural cycle than for the environmental reasons.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 1:42 pm

From seed to 600kg (1323lb) Giant Pumpkin

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Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

The truth about corporate contributions to Republican objectors since January 6

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Judd Legum has some encouraging findings in Popular Information. Contrary to newspaper headlines and claims by lobbyists, corporate contributions to the Republican members of Congress who objected to the election results (even though those results were certified by the various states) have plummeted. Read the whole article. The nut graf:

94 Republican objectors … are running for reelection in 2021 and also ran as incumbents in 2019. These 94 Republican objectors raised $11,052,925 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2021, the most recent data available. The same 94 Republican objectors raised $27,205,290 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2019. So while the media narrative is that corporate PAC contributions to Republican objectors have returned to normal, the reality is that they’ve dropped by 60%.

Do read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 12:32 pm

Wood fragrances and a comment on open-comb razors

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The loft of this G.B. Kent BK4 brush — 52mm — is just a little more than the loft of yesterday’s Rooney Style 2 Finest, but the Kent has a much softer feel on the face. I presume that it is partly because the Finest hairs are more resilient and perhaps also the Finest knot is packed tighter.  I don’t see this as a difference in quality — the BK4 brush is of excellent quality, and I do like the handle design — but as a difference in feel. (In terms of performance, both brushes are excellent.) 

I easily loaded the well-shaken-out brush with no additional water (I think there was more water left in the brush than usual), and though I added one driblet as I worked up the lather on my face, I did that more as a matter of from than from any need. I like the performance of this Meißner Tremonia soap, but I don’t get a lot of fragrance from it.

I was reading Sharpologist’s list of best DE razors for last year. It differs from my list of my favorite razors, but in part that is because I ignore type and focus solely on feel and performance (and I don’t consider any razors that cost more than $100). The Sharpologist lists “best” for each type of razor, and I noted this entry:

Best Open Comb Razor: Parker open comb razors, the 24C and the 26C (differing only in handle design. Both shave very well and are not overly-aggressive). Honorable mention: Merkur 1904.

The Parker 24/26C head is indeed quite good, but you get a better bang for the buck by getting a Maggard V2 Open Comb head with a Maggard stainless steel handle ($20) instead of a Parker 24C or 26C ($29). The Maggard V2OC head is a clone of the Parker 26/24C head, so the shave is the same, but the Maggard handle is stainless steel (and in fact you have a choice of Maggard handles).

But my difference goes deeper. In my experience, the RazoRock Old Type — the razor I used this morning and shown in the photo above — is a better open-comb razor in terms of both feel and performance — and you can get the head alone for $8. (The Maggard V2OC head alone is $16.) The complete razor — head and handle — is $20. So if you have a spare handle, you’re in business for $8.

The Old Type always takes me by surprise. Even though I know that, the level of comfort and quality of shave I get still surprises me. My face this morning feels as smooth as yesterday’s shave, and that’s saying a lot.

A splash of Saint Charles Shave Woods aftershave — with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, of course — and I am ready for the day. Very late start this morning because I stayed up very late last night.

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Shaving

Great movie: “The Ghost Writer”

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Directed by Roman Polanski, with Ewan MacGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, Timothy Hutton, Tom Wilkinson, et al. Worth watching closely. Netflix. From 2010

Written by Leisureguy

4 January 2022 at 12:00 am

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