Later On

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

Archive for April 2nd, 2022

The heart-rate trick works: Start your walk by going uphill

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Today I wanted to confirm my finding that I get more PAI points when I begin my walk by going uphill for the first leg of the walk. That raises my heart rate, and then a reasonably brisk pace (3.45 mph, 110 steps per minute) will maintain the elevated heart rate, that that’s what delivers the PAI points. Today I garnered 38 points with a relatively short walk.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 2:27 pm

Republicans look forward to revenge

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Kevin Drum points out how modern Republicans view politics:

Ladies and gentlemen, behold the modern conservative movement:

This is the kind of revenge culture that Vladimir Putin would understand and approve of.¹ If a corporation does something conservatives disapprove of, they should expect a conservative president to use the full power of the US government to wage war on them. Your copyrights will be toast. The Justice Department’s antitrust division will break you up. Any official levers that we can use to make your life miserable, we’ll use them. You should understand that we will treat the government as simply an extension of our own personal rage.

Both parties support policies that have the potential to hurt certain categories of companies. Democrats favor labor unions, for example, which has the potential to hurt any company that hates the thought of being unionized. Republicans oppose abortion, which has the obvious potential to hurt any organization that supplies abortion services.

That’s fine. But singling out a specific company for state sanctioned revenge because it said or did something your party opposes? That’s banana republic stuff. It’s also how many Republicans view politics these days.

¹Needless to say, Donald Trump also understands and approves of this. It’s basically the guiding principle of his life.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 1:27 pm

Thucydides was a Realist

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I’m a sucker for the Great Books canon, and this article seems worthwhile. Bill Darkey, one of my Freshman Seminar tutors (the other being Eva Brann), said that when he read Thucydides, he underlined passages that struck him particularly forcibly, and on his seventh reading of the book noticed he had underlined every sentence in it.

Patrick Porter writes in Engelsberg Ideas:

The study of Thucydides has become so sophisticated that it has reached the point of overcorrection. When it comes to reading and interpreting the Athenian admiral, exile and historian, who wrote of the cataclysmic Peloponnesian war (431-404BC) between Athens, Sparta and their allies, specialist scholars frequently accuse International Relations theorists of oversimplification. They particularly chide realists—those who see international relations as anarchic, inherently war-prone and competitive—for claiming Thucydides as their intellectual ancestor. When realists try to tease out general patterns from Thucydides that guide our understanding of human behaviour, they attract eye-rolling frustration. Graham Allison was most recently met with scorn when he applied Thucydidean insight into the US-China antagonism, identifying a pattern of power-transition crisis echoing the power-shift that Thucydides said was the ‘truest cause’ of war between Athens and Sparta.

But this is not particular to Allison. For some critics, the whole endeavour to pull from history a picture of recurring structural pressures that can lead to war, or to hold up examples from antiquity to guide the present, is suspect  and dangerously deterministic. Some even argue that International Relations scholars should de-centre Thucydides’ history, one of the greatest works on conflict and struggle in the western tradition, stop treating it as a forerunner of their theories, or even, just stop reading it altogether. In this way, complexification can lead to its own reductionism, having the effect of turning Thucydides’ history into little more than a parochial anecdote.

Indeed, Thucydides’ work is a layered and sometimes ambiguous work that modern scholarship has superbly excavated. For many lively minds, our main duty is to read it with caution, to resist generalisation, and by appealing to context, to find subtle meaning between the lines. But in the effort to correct superficial readings, to uncover the text’s rich complexity, interpreters can over strive, inadvertently diluting its core insights. For the main duty of academic minds is not just to uncover nuance, but also to find fundamentals and larger patterns. If we lose sight of this, we can nuance a text to death. Nuance, indeed, can be over-rated. For all the caveats, Thucydides was still a realist.

What does it mean to say Thucydides was a realist? It is to say that he was one of the founders of a pessimistic intellectual tradition that believes the world, like the one he endured, is inherently a cold, harsh, dangerous place in which power and its acquisition is paramount. In this world, interests diverge and clash, and cooperation is bound to be impermanent. There is no reliable authority above the fray. No-one can be certain of others’ intentions, which can change. This makes for a world of ultimate solitude. Ruthless self-help and prudent self-restraint are both imperative. To survive in it, polities must accept and work within its constraints.

Thucydides’ history is also many other things. It is part investigative and part didactic. It dwells on suffering, greatness, chance, honour, pity, the dangers of demagoguery, and the author’s own ambition for intellectual immortality. Thucydides recast Athens’ defeat as a tragedy, too, and propagandised for his own political faction. As an exile and a patriot, he mixed horror in Athens’ descent into tyranny with pride in its power.

Still, the work also builds on a core worldview, a set of assumptions about what drives humans and undoes them. In the best ‘realist’ reading of Thucydides’ history, to be prudent in realist terms means looking first to your ramparts and maintaining robust defences, being wary of over-reliance on international friendships, notions of justice, or appeals to heaven, or to a harmony of interests, and remembering that hard power unapologetically applied is the ultima ratio. More agonisingly, it means that while states should be continuously prepared for war, they should also be mindful that unleashed, war can destroy everything.

Thucydides wrote in the belief that we can devise large-scale maps about how the world works, what we call ‘theory.’ As a universalist, he offered empirical observations about the patterns of international politics that hold across time and space. Assuming the past can shed light on the future given the constants in human nature, he wanted it ‘to be judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events that happened in our past’ which would ‘at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.’ In this spirit, consider some propositions that we can derive from the text.

In a hostile world, fear above all defines the human condition.

Fear haunts and overshadows Thucydides’ history more than any other thing. The word for ‘danger’ occurs over two hundred times. After all, as the scholar Arthur Eckstein observes, the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, War

Notes from Lviv

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A great account in Esquire by Matt Gallagher about training civilians for war in Ukraine, with many photos. It begins:

Locals tell an old joke about the Ukrainian city of Lviv. A man emerges from a train at the railway station there, glad to have finally reached the faraway east. Across the platform, another man steps down from another train. He takes in a breath of air in the strange, exciting west.

Lviv is a gateway, a cipher, a place caught between. Refugees, aid workers, idealists, and goons gather there now because of the war, some coming, others going. It’s become a haven for those fleeing the horrors to its east while a staging ground for those bound for the same. They call it the City of Lions, and it would be difficult for even the most obtuse visitor not to connect their chosen symbol with the emerging national will that’s so fierce it seems to belong to a past century.

In early March, a few days after Russia’s multifront invasion of Ukraine, I joined a small group traveling to Lviv to help advise and train a city defense force of local volunteers. I’d gotten on the plane there mostly thinking I was going as a journalist. Once we landed I knew that one more writer looking for a story was the last thing Ukraine needed. My friends, though, sought a third trainer. So I said I’d do it. They didn’t pressure me. The moment did.

We are all American combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We went on our own volition, representing only ourselves. We brought tourniquets instead of guns, experience instead of Javelins.

We taught basic urban-combat tactics and survivability to teachers, bus drivers, IT workers. Deceit marks any war, and the information battles in Ukraine have become case studies in real time. Yet I never got one whiff of duplicity in the confines of our training compound. These people were who they said they were, which is to say they are regular folks who want nothing to do with any of this but find themselves forced to act.

How do I know? If you’ve ever seen a middle-aged lawyer try to bound across an open field for the first time, you just do.

Then that lawyer does it again, and again, and again, and then, all at once, he’s capable. Because he must be. Every woman and man there said they’ll defend their homes if the war comes to western Ukraine. I pray it doesn’t, but they’ll be ready if those pleas go unheard. During our two weeks together, they gave our group their trust, their commitment. It’s a heavy thing, to pick up a gun in war. The choice, if it does come, belongs to them alone.

One trainee was a twenty-year-old student I’ll call Roman. (Ukrainian names have been changed to conceal their identities.) He proved a natural, kicking down doors and moving through rubbled terrain like a guerrilla. Still, he’d never fired a rifle before we took the Ukrainian civilians to a weapons range. After he squeezed the trigger a few times, putting rounds on target, I asked how he felt.

“There’s going to be a human being on that end,” Roman said.

“Yes,” I said.

“And that human being will have come here to shoot me,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Okay.”

Okay’s the right conclusion, I think.

Was Lviv safe while we were there? Yes. The city was, and still is, calm enough to quarter an entire brigade of foreign journalists in its hotels, all chasing the same whispers about arriving international legionnaires, trying to share the handful of translators who haven’t yet been snatched up by the local government. Don’t let the performative Kevlar helmets trotted out for TV fool you. Even the alcohol ban’s been lifted.

Was it also dangerous? In its way. No one who knew anything of the war was talking, and anyone who was talking knew nothing. Everyone watched the latest combat porn on their phones, via Telegram, Signal, YouTube, for morale, for something like proof. Distrust and paranoia crackled most everywhere we went. Was that helpful man on the bench a spy or Good Samaritan? How about that woman at the corner, saboteur or patriot? That person in the idling black car: special police or special police? And then there’s the sky. It could spit out death from above at any moment—Lviv’s become a target for Russian cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea—and no amount of tactical training can prepare for that.

War-adjacent life comes with its edges. Nothing was simple. Nothing was clean.

A night curfew and the insistent howl of air-raid sirens could only suppress so much, though. In Lviv, you can walk under  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 12:44 pm

Indian Flavour and Esbjerg

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Meißner Tremonia’s Indian Flavour has a wonderful fragrance and also a mighty fine lather. I used my Wet Shaving Products Monarch, and I was able to load the brush quite full without adding any water.

Three passes with Rockwell’s original Model T did a good job, and I do love Esbjerg aftershave gel. This version, the Sensitive, has a good feel and very clean fragrance.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s CBC Radio Blend: “A blend of choice Ceylon and China black teas, Jasmine and other green teas with a touch of citrus,” or, as they say in another description, “tickled with lemon.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 10:09 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Sleep discovery for better sleep

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My apartment is dimly lit at night. Though I draw the curtains some light gets through — enough to get around when I awaken in the middle of the night. And, according to an NPR article, that has adverse health effects.

So last night I wore my sleep mask (a good one: Bucky 40 Blinks No Pressure mask), and I did indeed sleep much better.

From the article:

New research suggests that one night of sleep with just a moderate amount of light may have adverse effects on cardiovascular and metabolic health.

“I was surprised that even this fairly, I would say, small amount of light just getting through the eyes to the brain still had such notable effect,” says Dr. Phyllis Zee, senior author of the new study and director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University.

The findings tie into a broader body of evidence that indicates being exposed to light at night may be harmful in a variety of ways and could predispose people to chronic diseases.

Physiological effects of light

The small, 20-person study conducted by Zee and her team at Northwestern was designed to measure the physiological effects of 100 lux of artificial light on healthy adults while they were sleeping.

“This is about enough light that you could maybe see your way around, but it’s not enough light to really read comfortably,” says Zee. For the study, . . .

Continue reading.

And if your nighttime bedroom has enough light for you to see even dimly, try wearing a sleep mask for a week and see what difference it makes — i.e., experiment. The Bucky masks at the link are very comfortable and those are what I’d recommend.

Written by Leisureguy

2 April 2022 at 8:10 am

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