Later On

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

Archive for May 2022

When police are the problem: The L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy-Gang Crisis

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Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker article on gangs among the police is worth reading:

“I had always heard stories—‘Don’t go to East Los Angeles Station,’ ” Rosa Gonzalez, a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, told me. “ ‘You’re a hard worker. Go somewhere else. East L.A., it’s different from all the other stations.’ ”

But Gonzalez, who is Mexican American and was raised in what she calls “the inner city,” was drawn to East Los Angeles, a historically Latino neighborhood that has long contended with gang violence. “It’s a way to give back to my own community,” she said. In 2011, after finishing the academy and a mandatory turn through the custody division, Gonzalez reported for training at East L.A. She was one of three female trainees, working alongside approximately a hundred men.

She was naïve at first, she said. But a detective told her, “Just pay attention. You’ll find out who’s really in charge.” Officially, stations are run by captains, with the help of an operations staff. At East L.A., Gonzalez discovered, there was a shadow government: a secretive group of sheriff’s deputies known as the Banditos.

Deputy gangs, or “subgroups,” with names like the Grim Reapers, the Regulators, and the Vikings, have plagued the sheriff’s department for fifty years. Members have been accused of serious breaches of department policy and violations of constitutional rights, of terrorizing the public and harassing their fellow-deputies, and of retaliating against whistle-blowers.

According to a lawsuit filed by eight East L.A. deputies and the A.C.L.U., the Banditos gang “controls the East Los Angeles station like inmates running a prison yard.” Leaders, known as “shot-callers,” determined deputies’ hours, promotions, even days off. On patrol, they operated in the gray areas of law enforcement. Gonzalez said that they perpetuated “the code of silence, the culture of the ghetto gunslinger.” She added, “What makes East L.A. so unique is it’s embedded within the Hispanic machismo culture and the Hispanic street gangs.”

The mark of a Bandito is a secret numbered tattoo: a skeleton wearing a thick mustache, a bandolier, and a sombrero, and brandishing a smoking gun. (Deputy-gang tattoos are typically on the leg or the ankle.) Families of those killed by deputies allege that the deputies were “chasing ink”—trying to earn a tattoo. In a recent exposé on CBS News, anonymous whistle-blowers at East L.A. Station said, “If you get in a shooting, that’s a definite brownie point” with the Banditos.

Gonzalez was assigned a training officer, Noel Lopez, who went by “Crook” and who, she understood, was a Bandito. (Lopez did not respond to requests for comment.) As her T.O.—her “daddy,” in station lingo—he was meant to scrutinize her every decision, to make sure that she internalized protocols. “When somebody would ask me to do something—anything, a menial task or favor—I would first have to run it by my T.O.,” Gonzalez said. “He’d say, ‘Who asked you?’ I would tell him the name and he’d say, ‘O.K., no. They don’t matter. Don’t do it.’ If I’d say certain names, ‘O.K., yeah.’ You learn real quick that the tail wags the dog at the station.”

Gonzalez’s connection to a Bandito offered a measure of protection. “I was never forced to do any type of sexual activity to get off training, but you would hear that rumor,” she said. “I talked to a female who got hit across the head during training. Who had all her things thrown out. Who was called a bitch constantly.”

While Gonzalez was at the station, a woman named Guadalupe Lopez was training under Eric Valdez, an alleged Bandito known as the Godfather of East L.A. (Valdez could not be reached for comment.) She filed a lawsuit in 2014, claiming that his cronies had subjected her to relentless sexual harassment and innuendo. She was told that female deputies performed oral sex on Banditos and was cautioned to “submit” if she wanted to complete her training. When she refused, her suit alleged, the Banditos began a campaign of physical intimidation, and after she complained they left a dead rat by her car. The county settled for $1.5 million.

Because Gonzalez was older—in her thirties, with kids—she was known affectionately around the station as Mama G. But her T.O. indicated that she wasn’t necessarily safe from harassment. She said he warned her about another training officer, an alleged Bandito named Rafael Munoz. Years earlier, Munoz had been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon—accused of pointing a gun at his wife, while kneeling on the hood of the car she was in. The department had fired him but, after he was found not guilty, brought him back on.

“Lopez told me, ‘Hey, if you’re ever called by Munoz, or any of the other guys, if they ever ask you, Hey, can you bring beer?, or, Hey, can you come over?—don’t do it,’ ” Gonzalez said. “ ‘Tell them you’re busy. You can’t. You have a family.’ ” When Munoz did eventually call and ask her to bring beer, she begged off.

Gonzalez managed to evade the Banditos again, when Valdez and another alleged member, Manny Navarro, summoned her to meet at a doughnut shop and asked her to join them on the early shift. Gonzalez knew that the early shift, a crew of wee-hours hunters who roamed the streets looking for troublemakers, was dominated by Banditos. Pretending to be flattered, she demurred.

Later, Gonzalez was herself put in charge of a trainee. This, she believes, is what turned the Banditos against her. Her supervisors and the station captain had approved the decision. “But, remember, they’re not really in charge,” she said. “It’s Valdez. And I never got his approval. I never would have, because of my gender. And they already had someone in mind for it, one of their male prospects.”

In a lawsuit that Gonzalez filed in 2015, she claims that a sergeant—who admitted under oath to being a tattooed Bandito—removed her trainee and threatened to sabotage her career if she objected. She filed a grievance, and then punishment began. Fellow-deputies, she alleges, refused to provide her with backup. Once, responding alone to a burglary at a grocery store, she radioed for help repeatedly, but no one came to her aid.

“I went from being a shining star at East Los Angeles Station to, less than twenty-four hours later, walking down the hall and people just turning their heads and looking the other way,” Gonzalez said. “When they’re retaliating against you, you become like the plague. You’re untouchable.” Superiors determined that her life was in danger and transferred her to another station.

The county settled Gonzalez’s lawsuit, for a million dollars, and she eventually became a sergeant. But, dismayingly, neither her suit nor Guadalupe Lopez’s weakened the Banditos. Gonzalez allowed herself a measure of hope in 2018, when  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2022 at 5:55 pm

The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives

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Very interesting article, though it is painfully clear that those who oppose gun control readily accept the cost in (others’) lives lost as simply the price of readily available firearms. The goal is gun ownership and use, and those who support unrestricted ownership and carry are comfortable with the loss of life.

The editors of Scientific American write:

Some editorials simply hurt to write. This is one.

At least 19 elementary school children and two teachers are dead, many more are injured, and a grandmother is fighting for her life in Uvalde, Tex., all because a young man, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, decided to fire in a school.

By now, you know these facts: This killing spree was the largest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Law enforcement couldn’t immediately subdue the killer. In Texas, it’s alarmingly easy to buy and openly carry a gun. In the immediate hours after the shooting, President Biden demanded reform, again. Legislators demanded reform, again. And progun politicians turned to weathered talking points: arm teachers and build safer schools.

But rather than arm our teachers (who have enough to do without keeping that gun away from students and having to train like law enforcement to confront an armed attacker), rather than spend much-needed school dollars on more metal detectors instead of education, we need to make it harder to buy a gun. Especially the kind of weapons used by this killer and the white supremacist who killed 10 people grocery shopping in Buffalo. And we need to put a lasting stop to the political obstruction of taxpayer-funded research into gun-related injuries and deaths.

The science is abundantly clear: More guns do not stop crime. Guns kill more children each year than auto accidents. More children die by gunfire in a year than on-duty police officers and active military members. Guns are a public health crisis, just like COVID, and in this, we are failing our children, over and over again.

In the U.S., we have existing infrastructure that we could easily emulate to make gun use safer: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Created by Congress in 1970, this federal agency is tasked, among other things, with helping us drive a car safely. It gathers data on automobile deaths. It’s the agency that monitors and studies seat belt usage. While we track firearm-related deaths, no such safety-driven agency exists for gun use.

During the early 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to explore gun violence as a public health issue. After studies tied having a firearm to increased homicide risk, the National Rifle Association took action, spearheading the infamous Dickey Amendment, diverting gun research dollars and preventing federal funding from being used to promote gun control. For more than 20 years, research on gun violence in this country has been hard to do.

What research we have is clear and grim. For example, in 2017, guns overtook 60 years of cars as the biggest injury-based killer of children and young adults (ages one to 24) in the U.S. By 2020, about eight in every 100,000 people died of car crashes. About 10 in every 100,000 people died of gun injuries.

While cars have become increasingly safer (it’s one of the auto industry’s main talking points in marketing these days), the gun lobby has thwarted nearly all attempts to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2022 at 5:43 pm

A study gave cash and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to men at risk of criminal behavior. 10 years later, the results are in.

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That something works and that it can be demonstrated that it works is totally unconvincing to many. Sad but true. reports in Vox:

What if someone told you that you could dramatically reduce the crime rate without resorting to coercive policing or incarceration? In fact, what if they said you could avert a serious crime — a robbery, say, or maybe even a murder — just by shelling out $1.50?

That’s such an incredibly good deal that it sounds too good to be true. But it’s been borne out by the research of Chris Blattman, Margaret Sheridan, Julian Jamison, and Sebastian Chaskel. Their new study provides experimental evidence that offering at-risk men a few weeks of behavioral therapy plus a bit of cash reduces the future risk of crime and violence, even 10 years after the intervention.

Blattman, an economist at the University of Chicago, never intended to conduct this study. But in 2009, he was hanging out with an acquaintance in Liberia named Johnson Borh, who showed him around the capital city of Monrovia. Since Blattman studies crime and violence, Borh took him to visit the pickpockets, drug sellers, and others living on the margins of society.

Along the way, they kept running into guys who were sitting on street corners, eking out a meager living by shining shoes or selling clothes. When these men spotted Borh, they’d run to give him a hug. Blattman recalls that when he asked the men how they knew Borh, they’d say something like, “I used to be like them,” and point to the nearby pickpockets or drug sellers. “But then I went through Borh’s program.”

That’s how Blattman learned about the program Borh had been running for 15 years: Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia. It offered men who were at high risk for violent crime eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT, as it’s called, is a popular, evidence-based method of dealing with issues like anxiety, but Borh adapted the therapeutic strategy to deal with issues like violence and crime.

Meeting with a counselor in groups of around 20, the men would practice specific behavioral changes, like managing anger and exerting self-control. They’d also rehearse trying on a new identity unconnected to their past behavior, by changing their clothes and haircuts and working to reintegrate themselves into mainstream society through community sports, banks, and more.

Blattman wanted to formally study just how effective this kind of program could be. He decided to run a big randomized controlled trial with 999 of the most dangerous men in Monrovia, recruited on the street. The results were so promising that they’ve already inspired a sister program in a very different city: Chicago.

In Chicago, the murder rate is troublingly high, and the police fail to solve 95 percent of all shootings. Finding a way to prevent shootings and other violent crimes is an urgent priority — not only in that city, but across the US, as the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, remind us. Given that direct interventions like removing guns are largely blocked by political polarization, and trying to crack down on crime after the fact carries with it risks of policy brutality, we desperately need new solutions to the problem of violence.

Therapy plus cash was a surprisingly successful combo

The 999 Liberian men were split into four groups. Some received CBT, while others got $200 in cash. Another group got the CBT plus the cash, and finally, there was a control group that got neither.

A month after the intervention, both the therapy group and the therapy-plus-cash group were showing positive results. A year after the intervention, the positive effects on those who got therapy alone had faded a bit, but those who got therapy plus cash were still showing huge impacts: crime and violence were down about 50 percent.

But Blattman didn’t dare to hope that this impact would persist. Experts he surveyed predicted that the effects would steeply diminish over the years, as they do in many interventions.

So it was a great surprise when, 10 years later, he tracked down the original men from the study and reevaluated them. Amazingly, crime and violence were still down by about 50 percent in the therapy-plus-cash group.

Blattman estimates that there were 338 fewer crimes per participant over 10 years. Given that it had cost just $530 per participant to implement the program, that works out to $1.50 per crime avoided.

In short, it worked extremely well. But why did the combination of CBT and some cash work?

Practice makes perfect

The most plausible hypothesis, according to Blattman, is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2022 at 5:14 pm

La Toja for the win

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In a previous post, I blogged La Toja’s story, and I still find the shaving soap exceptional. So far as I can tell, it comes only as a shave stick, but that’s not really a problem. The lather the Duke 3 Best generated was top-notch, and the Above the Tie S1 slant (a slight slant, I’ll admit) did a fine job, leaving my face smooth and unharmed. A good splash of La Toja aftershave (with a couple of squirts of Hydrating Gel), and the day — the very last day of May — begins. 

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria: ” rich Darjeeling and Ceylon, smoky Lapsang Souchong and sweet Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2022 at 10:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Cool technology: Slide-on portable dual monitors to add to your laptop

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Pretty damn cool.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

A Balm for Psyches Scarred by War — Also good for those who were in a mass shooting?

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Rachel Nuwar’s article in the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) discusses MDMA-based therapy purely in the context of PTSD caused by experiences in battle, but the US has a rapidly increasing civilian population suffering from PTSD as an outcome of a mass shooting. For example, I think it’s obvious that many children and adults in Uvalde will experience PTSD. Texas ranks last in the US in mental-health services, so these people are not likely to receive treatment, but they should. (Texas Gov. Greg Abbot proclaimed the need for expanded mental health services (words) but in fact cut from the budge funds for such services (actions).)

Nuwar writes:

Nigel McCourry removed his shoes and settled back on the daybed in the office of Dr. Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in Charleston, S.C.

“I hadn’t been really anxious about this at all, but I think this morning it started to make me a little bit anxious,” Mr. McCourry said as Annie Mithoefer, a registered nurse and Dr. Mithoefer’s colleague and spouse, wrapped a blood pressure cuff around his arm. “Just kind of wondering what I’m getting into.”

Mr. McCourry, a former U.S. Marine, had been crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder ever since returning from Iraq in 2004. He could not sleep, pushed away friends and family and developed a drinking problem. The numbness he felt was broken only by bouts of rage and paranoia. He was contemplating suicide when his sister heard about a novel clinical trial using the psychedelic drug MDMA, paired with therapy, to treat PTSD. Desperate, he enrolled in 2012. “I was willing to do anything,” he recalled recently.

PTSD is a major public health problem worldwide and is particularly associated with war. In the United States, an estimated 13 percent of combat veterans and up to 20 to 25 percent of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives, compared with seven percent of the general population.

Although PTSD became an official diagnosis in 1980, doctors still have not found a surefire cure. “Some treatments are not helpful to some veterans and soldiers at all,” said Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and retired U.S. Army brigadier general. As many as half of veterans who seek help do not experience a meaningful decline in symptoms, and two-thirds retain their diagnosis after treatment.

But there is growing evidence that MDMA — the illegal drug known as Ecstasy or Molly — can significantly lessen or even eliminate symptoms of PTSD when the treatment is paired with talk therapy.

Last year, scientists reported in Nature Medicine the most encouraging results to date, from the first of two Phase 3 clinical trials. The 90 participants in the study had all suffered from severe PTSD for more than 14 years on average. Each received three therapy sessions with either MDMA or a placebo, spaced one month apart and overseen by a two-person therapist team. Two months after treatment, 67 percent of those who received MDMA no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis, compared with 32 percent who received the placebo. As in previous trials, MDMA caused no serious side effects.

Mr. McCourry was among the 107 participants in earlier, Phase 2 trials of MDMA-assisted therapy; these were conducted between 2004 and 2017 and sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, a research group that has led such studies in the United States and abroad. Fifty-six percent of Phase 2 participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD after undergoing several therapeutic sessions with MDMA. At least one year after participation, that figure increased to 67 percent.

A decade later, Mr. McCourry still counts himself among the successes. He had his first MDMA session in 2012 under the guidance of the Mithoefers, who have worked with MAPS to develop the treatment since 2000. He shared the video of that session with The New York Times. “I was suffering so badly and had so little hope, it was inconceivable to me that doing MDMA with therapists could actually turn all of this around,” he said.

The second Phase 3 trial should be completed by October; FDA approval could follow in the second half of 2023.

“We currently deal with PTSD as something that needs to be managed in an ongoing way, but this approach represents real hope for long-term healing,” said Rachel Yehuda, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“What makes this moment different from 20 years ago is the widespread recognition that we should leave no stone unturned in identifying new treatments for PTSD,” said Dr. John Krystal, the chair of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved in the research. Although data from the second Phase 3 trial are needed, he says, the results so far are “very encouraging.”

Mr. McCourry, 40, lives in Portland, Ore., and comes from a military family. He joined the Marines in 2003 because he wanted to make a positive difference, he said: “When I went over to Iraq, I felt like we were there because it was for the overall good.” . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 12:01 pm

The way English sounds to Italian speakers, and the way French/Italian sounds to English speakers

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Vittorio Traverso has an interesting article in Atlas Obscura on the tradition of imitating for speakers of one language sounds and rhythms of another, but in a nonsense song. The tradition goes back at least as far as

Grammelot, a system of languages popularized by Commedia dell’arte, a theatrical form that started in Italy in the 16th century and later spread around Europe. Grammelot was used by itinerant performers to “sound” like they were performing in a local language by a using macaronic and onomatopoeic elements together with mimicry and mime.

The entire article is worth reading. It includes two videos.

First, a nonsense song showing what English sounds like to Italian speakers:


And then a nonsense song showing what French and Italian sound like to English speakers.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 11:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Haruki Murakami Jazz Mixes: Hear Playlists of Jazz Pieces Namechecked in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84

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Colin Marshall has an interesting piece in Open Culture. It begins:

Haruki Murakami has long since broken with the traditional model of the novelist, not least in that his books have their own soundtracks. You can’t go out and buy the accompanying album for a Murakami novel as you would for a movie, granted, but today you can even more easily find online playlists of the music mentioned in them. A die-hard music lover, Murakami, has been name-checking not just musicians but specific songs in his work ever since his first novel, 1979’s Hear the Wind Sing. Eighteen years later, he titled a whole book after a Beatles number; the tale of yearning and disaffection in 1960s Tokyo that is Norwegian Wood would become his breakout bestseller around the world.

When Norwegian Wood first came out in Korea, where I live, it did so as The Age of Loss (상실의 시대). That title is still referenced in the video above, an hourlong mix of songs from the novel posted by the Korean Youtube channel Jazz Is Everywhere. (This doesn’t surprise me: here–where Murakami’s many avid fans in Korea refer to him simply as “Haruki”–more of his work has been translated into Korean than ever will be into English.) Selections include the Bill Evans Trio’s “Waltz for Debby,” Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Desafinado,” Thelonious Monk’s “Honeysuckle Rose,” and Miles Davis’ “So What.” More recently, Jazz Is Everywhere put up a mix of songs from Murakami’s 2011 novel 1Q84, featuring the likes of Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington.

These mixes focus on jazz, one of Murakami’s most beloved genres; as is well known, he even ran his own jazz bar in Tokyo before turning novelist. (Its name, Peter Cat, now adorns a book café here in Seoul.) But . . .

Continue reading. The Open Culture piece has the two playlists. Here’s the one for Norwegian Wood:

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 9:55 am

Posted in Books, Jazz

Truefitt & Hill by another name, and Balmoral Blend

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I do love a good boar brush, and the lather this Omega 20102 aroused from my tub of rebranded Truefitt & Hill (old formulation) was excellent. My Goodfellas’ Smile Legione Slant did an excellent job. (“Goodfellas” in honor of Ray Liotta, who starred in that Martin Scorsese movie, along with Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci — movie available now on Netflix.) This slant is quite similar to the Parker Semi-Slant in feel and performance. 

A splash of Musgo Real aftershave with a couple of squirts of Hydrating Gel, and the week begins.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Balmoral Blend: “a strong, traditional, rich blend of bright Ceylon and malty Assam teas.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 9:17 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Potatoes and me

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Potatoes have various nutritional virtues: they are extremely satiating and high in potassium, and colored potatoes — particularly purple potatoes — are high in antioxidants. OTOH, they have general spiked my blood glucose. 

I decided to try an experiment. I quartered a Yukon Gold potato, sprayed it with a little olive oil, and roasted it in my air fryer. I ate two of the quarters right from the little oven — and the next morning my blood glucose was up. I refrigerated the other two, and ate them last night — and this morning my blood glucose was down.

That’s certainly not definitive, but it seems promising. I did know that refrigerating a starch after cooking it makes the starch resistant (not so quickly digested), and I regularly chill the beans and (intact whole) grains I cook before I eat them.

So I am tentatively bringing cooked, chilled potatoes back into my diet. I thus did a search on “most nutritious potato” and came across an interesting blog post by Michael Greger, MD. Based on that, I am going to seek out purple potatoes, and after chilling them I’m going to use them in a salad

• boiled or baked potatoes, chilled and diced
• cooked chilled broccoli
• scallions
spray of olive oil (or perhaps toasted sesame oil and a little splash oof soy sauce)
• vinegar

And perhaps also, depending on what I have:
• chopped tomato
• diced avocado
• some chopped greens (cilantro, parsley, watercress, Romaine, or the like)

Greger’s post is worth reading. It begins:

Americans eat a lot of pale and beige foods: white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white rice. 

Are Potatoes Healthy?

Potato eaters tend to live just as long as non-potato eaters. That’s actually bad news. A whole plant food that’s not associated with living longer? A neutral effect on lifespan? Now it’s not like meat, that may be actively shortening your life, but there’s an opportunity cost to eating white potatoes, since every bite of a potato is a lost opportunity to put something even healthier in your mouth that may actively make your life longer.

But what if you really like white potatoes? The type of potato and how you cook them makes a big difference.

Protein In Potatoes

There’s actually an appetite-suppressing protein in potatoes called potato protease inhibitor 2, but the way you prepare your potatoes makes a difference. Both boiled and mashed potatoes are significantly more satiating than French fries.

Potato Calorie Density

As I discuss in my video Exploiting Sensory-Specific Satiety for Weight Lossin the landmark study “A Satiety Index of Common Foods,” in which dozens of foods were put to the test, boiled potatoes were found to be the most satiating food.  Two hundred and forty calories of boiled potatoes were found to be more satisfying in terms of quelling hunger than the same number of calories of any other food tested. No other food even came close.

No doubt potatoes’ low calorie density played a role. For people to eat 240 calories of spuds, the researchers had to feed them nearly a pound of potatoes, compared to just a few cookies, for example––but that’s kind of the point. And they had to feed people even more apples, grapes, and oranges, though, yet each fruit was still about 40 percent less satiating than the potatoes.

Are Purple Potatoes Healthier Than White Potatoes?

Colorful foods are often healthier because they contain antioxidant pigments, whether it’s the beta-carotene that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange, the lycopene antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red, or the anthocyanin pigments that make blueberries blue. The colors are the antioxidants.

Sweet potatoes are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2022 at 7:56 am

Interview of the writer of “You eat a credit card’s worth of plastic every week”

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I blogged the article earlier, and now the interview:

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2022 at 3:53 pm

How The French New Wave Changed Filmmaking Forever

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When innovations are broadly accepted into our daily experience, we tend to forget their innovative nature because now they just are the way things are. This brief video explains where some of the filmmaking techniques now in common use first arose.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2022 at 1:23 pm

Bad design costs lives

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Road design is a critical factor in preventing accidents. Consider paper-cutting machines. One approach to ensure that they are operated safely and to pevent accidents is to post signs warning operators to keep their hands away from the blade, trusting that operators will always be attentive, alert, and aware.

Another approach is to recognize that operators will sometimes be distracted, tired, under the weather, and upset about something, and design the machine so that two widely spaced switches must be simultaneously kept pressed for the blade to operate, thus ensuring that the operator’s hands are out of the danger zone regardless of the operator’s mood and attentiveness.

The same principle applies to road design. While indeed it’s true that drivers should always be alert, attentive, aware, in good health, not in emotional distress or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, experience has (repeatedly) proven that occasionally a driver will fail to measure up to optimum standards.

Roads should be designed to ensure public safety even when sub-optimal drivers are at the wheel. “Don’t fail” is obviously good advice, but it doesn’t prevent all failure. Signs and rules and exhortations are not by themselves enough. Good design is also required.

That’s by way of introduction to this brief video:

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2022 at 12:31 pm

Fresnel lens solar cooker

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I followed the link in the previous post to the Solar Cookers International wiki, and in looking at the various kinds of solar cookers spotted those using Fresnel lenses — like this one:

The video is from 2014, so it’s unclear whether it ever went into production — but cool idea.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2022 at 4:50 pm

This summer try using a solar oven

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Annie Ewbank has a fascinating article in Gastro Obscura:

This week, I’ve given myself both a sunburn and a crash course in solar cooking. 

This culinary vacation from my kitchen started when I unearthed a strange cardboard contraption in the attic. It looked like a flattened box, but unfolding it revealed printed instructions on one side and a gleaming, chrome-painted lining on the other. 

The device was a solar oven. Specifically, a CooKit, a cardboard oven created by Solar Cookers International, a non-profit based in Sacramento, California. Solar ovens are more than science fair experiments. For decades, SCI has used them to fight all manner of social, economic, and environmental ills, from the respiratory illnesses caused by smokey cookfires to the high price of fuel.

The CooKit solved one issue for me this week: how to cook during a heatwave without heating up the house. The last few days, I’ve roasted vegetables and baked cakes in my backyard. Sure, each dish took twice as long as usual, but they required no more attention than adjusting the oven every so often to follow the sun.

Solar cooking has been around for hundreds of years, but the case for it (no fuel, zero pollutants, no need to use an indoor stove during ever-hotter summers) is stronger than ever. Could this be the dawn of a new era of cooking?

Sunny Science

In Enlightenment-era Switzerland, a Renaissance man by the name of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure had a space-age idea. In 1767, the mountaineer-physicist-meteorologist layered together sheets of glass to create the first solar oven, even hauling the contraption up and down the Alps to test it at different altitudes and temperatures.

The following centuries saw a slew of inventors follow in his footsteps. They used glass, reflectors, and curved mirrors to direct light to a focal point, such as a pot. The pot absorbs heat, which is trapped by a glass or plastic cover.

Though solar-oven cooking takes longer than the average stove, the heat is so low and even that there’s no need to stir or even monitor the food. Burning food in a solar oven is almost impossible.

Even in the early days of solar power, people recognized its potential. Mountaineers and militaries have constantly experimented with solar cooking over the years, since there’s no need to haul heavy fuel with a solar oven on hand. 

Many restaurateurs have also used it as a compelling draw. During the Qing dynasty, a Chinese mathematician used mirrors and reflectors to start a sun-roasted duck business. Today, restaurants in ArmeniaChile, and Thailand all cook with sun power.

Solar Cookers For All

There’s about 2.6 billion people worldwide who are cooking over open fires, which is incredibly harmful to people’s individual and family health, as well as our planet.

People who are cooking this way don’t have other choices. They have to cut down trees, which also contributes to climate change and deforestation. And so when we are able to offer the solution of solar-thermal cooking, people can cook with no emissions and no pollutants. 

What is your day-to-day like at SCI?

Solar Cookers International has . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

See also: The Best Solar Ovens for 2022.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2022 at 3:38 pm

Russian Tea, Diplomat, and Baker Street Blend

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Two kinds of tea today. Russian Tea has a slightly spicy fragrance, and the lather is quite good (Strop Shoppe, after all), with Mr Pomp delivering the goods in making the lather. Fine Accoutrements Marvel head on a bronze UFO handle provided an exceptionally good shave and result, and the splash of Diplomat was, as always, a great pleasure.

The other tea this morning is Murchie’s Baker Street Blend: “Lapsang Souchong, smooth Keemun, rich Ceylon, Gunpowder and floral Jasmine.” This one is definitely a favorite.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2022 at 11:58 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Quartet for the End of Time/The Crystal Liturgy

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Simon F.A. Russell writes:

Olivier Messiaen‘s Quartet for the End of Time premiered on 15 January 1941 in the prisoner-of-war camp where the composer was interned during World War Two. To celebrate the 75th anniversary Sinfini Music commissioned me to create an animation around it. Working with Prof. Marcus du Sautoy I used the piece to explore Messiaen’s complex relationship to mathematics, music and religious belief.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2022 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Art, Music, Video

Picasso’s self portraits through the years

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Definitely worth a look: a series of self portraits by Picasso, beginning in 1896, when he was 15, and going through July 3, 1972, when he was 90.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2022 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

Penrose-tiling a bathroom

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Cool idea. Penrose tiling should be more common. Image is from a post by Lior Pachter that describes the project. I blogged earlier a video on Penrose tiling.

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2022 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math

An unknown, extraordinarily ancient civilisation buried under eastern Turkey

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From Sean Thomas’s article in The Spectator:

… [T]he Great Pyramid at Giza is 4,500 years old. Stonehenge is 5,000 years old. The Cairn de Barnenez tomb-complex in Brittany, perhaps the oldest standing structure in Europe, could be up to 7,000 years old.

The oldest megalithic ritual monument in the world (until the Turkish discoveries) was always thought to be Ggantija, in Malta. That’s maybe 5,500 years old.

His article begins:

I am staring at about a dozen, stiff, eight-foot high, orange-red penises, carved from living bedrock, and semi-enclosed in an open chamber. A strange carved head (of a man, a demon, a priest, a God?), also hewn from the living rock, gazes at the phallic totems – like a primitivist gargoyle. The expression of the stone head is doleful, to the point of grimacing, as if he, or she, or it, disapproves of all this: of everything being stripped naked under the heavens, and revealed to the world for the first time in 130 centuries.

Yes, 130 centuries. Because these penises, this peculiar chamber, this entire perplexing place, known as Karahan Tepe (pronounced Kah-rah-hann Tepp-ay), which is now emerging from the dusty Plains of Harran, in eastern Turkey, is astoundingly ancient. Put it another way: it is estimated to be 11-13,000 years old.

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Karahan Tepe, and its penis chamber, and everything that inexplicably surrounds the chamber – shrines, cells, altars, megaliths, audience halls et al – is vastly older than anything comparable, and plumbs quite unimaginable depths of time, back before agriculture, probably back before normal pottery, right back to a time when we once thought human ‘civilisation’ was simply impossible.

After all, hunter gatherers – cavemen with flint arrowheads – without regular supplies of grain, without the regular meat and milk of domesticated animals, do not build temple-towns with water systems.

Do they?

Virtually all that we can now see of Karahan Tepe has been skilfully unearthed the last two years, with remarkable ease (for reasons which we will come back to later). And although there is much more to summon from the grave, what it is already teaching us is mind stretching. Taken together with its age, complexity, sophistication, and its deep, resonant mysteriousness, and its many sister sites now being unearthed across the Harran Plains – collectively known as the Tas Tepeler, or the ‘stone hills’ – these carved, ochre-red rocks, so silent, brooding, and watchful in the hard whirring breezes of the semi-desert, constitute what might just be the greatest archaeological revelation in the history of humankind.

The unveiling of Karahan Tepe, and nearly all the Tas Tepeler, in the last two years, is not without precedent. As . . .

Written by Leisureguy

27 May 2022 at 11:56 am

Posted in History, Science

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