Later On

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

Archive for August 15th, 2022

A Fascinating Demonstration of the Differences Among English, German, Dutch, and Afrikaans

leave a comment »

An article by Lori Dorn at Laughing Squid includes two videos. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 9:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

What happened in 1926?

with 3 comments

In an earlier post — What is the optimal diet? — I included a chart that I captured from the video of the mortality rate in England and Wales from coronary disease:

I could not think of what might have caused that inflection point and subsequent rapid and steady rise of heart disease, and I asked if anyone had any ideas. Arne, in a comment, pointed to this interesting chart from the video ‘Diseases of Civilization: Are Seed Oil Excesses the Unifying Mechanism?‘ by Dr. Chris Knobbe.

Three obvious caveats:

  1. The USA is not England and Wales — however, seed-oil consumption might well have increased in both countries as the technology of industrial refinement of crop by-products was established.
  2. The dates don’t quite line up, but of course the effects (if any) of increased consumption of seed oils would not show up immediately but after some time. 
  3. Correlation is not causation — however, causation does create a correlation, and it seems worth considering whether the correlation in this case might indeed indicate a cause, especially given that diet in general and fats in particular have been demonstrated to have causative effects on coronary disease. 

I have not eaten seed oils for a long time, but recently started eating canola (rapeseed) oil in Hollyhock salad dress. I think I’ll discontinue that dressing, tasty as it is, and resume my usual olive oil vinaigrette, but perhaps with some nutritional yeast added for flavor (though of course I could just sprinkle the yeast on the salad). This is the dressing I have in mind:

• 1 lemon, peeled
• 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (perhaps flavored: tarragon, blue cheese, etc.)
• pinch of salt
• pinch of MSG

Put that into a blender or into the beaker that comes with an immersion blender and blend well for a minute or so. Then gradually add, while still blending:

• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

That makes enough for multiple salads. An Asian variation: 

• add to the initial list of ingredients 2 tablespoons tamari
• include with the olive oil 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil 

That is, put 2 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil in a measuring cup and add enough olive oil to make a total of 1/2 cup

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 8:44 pm

Amazing Bicycle Cars – Human Powered Vehicles

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 2:24 pm

Your employer will be always watching: The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score

leave a comment »

Jodi Kantor and Arya Sundaram have a disheartening report (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times. The article conveys the feeling of being a worker tracked by the corporation by providing surveillance feedback as you read the article.

The article begins:

A FEW YEARS AGO, Carol Kraemer, a longtime finance executive, took a new job. Her title, senior vice president, was impressive. The compensation was excellent: $200 an hour.

But her first paychecks seemed low. Her new employer, which used extensive monitoring software on its all-remote workers, paid them only for the minutes when the system detected active work. Worse, Ms. Kraemer noticed that the software did not come close to capturing her labor. Offline work — doing math problems on paper, reading printouts, thinking — didn’t register and required approval as “manual time.” In managing the organization’s finances, Ms. Kraemer oversaw more than a dozen people, but mentoring them didn’t always leave a digital impression. If she forgot to turn on her time tracker, she had to appeal to be paid at all.

“You’re supposed to be a trusted member of your team, but there was never any trust that you were working for the team,” she said.

Since the dawn of modern offices, workers have orchestrated their actions by watching the clock. Now, more and more, the clock is watching them.

IN LOWER-PAYING JOBS, the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon, where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers and millions of others. Eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers track the productivity metrics of individual workers, many in real time, according to an examination by The New York Times.

Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees. Many employees, whether working remotely or in person, are subject to trackers, scores, “idle” buttons, or just quiet, constantly accumulating records. Pauses can lead to penalties, from lost pay to lost jobs.

Some radiologists see scoreboards showing their “inactivity” time and how their productivity stacks up against their colleagues’. At companies including J.P. Morgan, tracking how employees spend their days, from making phone calls to composing emails, has become routine practice. In Britain, Barclays Bank scrapped prodding messages to workers, like “Not enough time in the Zone yesterday,” after they caused an uproar. At UnitedHealth Group, low keyboard activity can affect compensation and sap bonuses. Public servants are tracked, too: In June, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority told engineers and other employees they could work remotely one day a week if they agreed to full-time productivity monitoring.

Architects, academic administrators, doctors, nursing home workers and lawyers described growing electronic surveillance over every minute of their workday. They echoed complaints that . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

The only way to combat this sort of surveillance is through the government — Congress can pass laws and regulations to restrict this sort of Orwellian nightmare. Read this interview with Zephyr Teachout. It begins:

Zephyr Teachout opens “The Boss Will See You Now,” her essay from the Review’s Summer Issue about the proliferation of surveillance at work, with an anecdote about working as a personal assistant to a wealthy writer. Teachout fondly remembers the cadre of three other full-time employees who worked alongside her, and their occasional lunches together spent gossiping and laughing. But, she cautions, “Our wages and raises were all unpredictable. Two of the staff relied on green cards. These circumstances, which had been the subject of so many conversations, suddenly became the source of insecurity. We gradually, then all at once, stopped having lunch together.” The paranoia Teachout identifies—the question of what employers know about their employees’ communications, and what they might do with it—is also, she elaborates, a method of alienating workers from one another.

Teachout is an attorney and organizer, a professor at Fordham Law School, and, as of January 2022, a special advisor and senior counsel for economic justice for the New York state attorney general’s office. This week I e-mailed her to ask about resisting surveillance regimes, enforcing labor law, and life on the stage.

Daniel Drake:
 I’m curious about the current legal status of surveillance at the workplace. You note that “nothing except for unionization or new laws would stop an employer from taking all the data it is gathering and…using them to more precisely adjust wages.” What kinds of protections, if any, do current laws offer employees, both against being surveilled in general and against the kind of capricious, tournament-style wage fixing you describe?

Zephyr Teachout: It’s a messy, weak, and unstable web of protections. At the state level, the common law tort of invasion of privacy usually doesn’t help, because courts typically find that employees have no reasonable expectation of privacy at work so long as the employer can give any semblance of a business justification for intrusion. A California court found that an employer using access to an e-mail account to investigate compensation claims clearly represented a privacy intrusion, but those wins are rare. Searches at any time are expected, and any use of work e-mail, phones, work social media, or other tools can be studied without permission. Some states have protections for public-sector workers. A handful of states forbid employers from demanding access to passwords, and others have placed limits on employers’ use of social media data. (While some states require consent before gathering some communications information, the typical power dynamic is such that employees will almost always agree.) There are no federal laws that meaningfully limit surveillance in the private sector, except that employers can’t spy on labor organizing activities.

What might effective enforcement of labor laws look like? Is union pressure a necessary component, or could the NLRB be pressured into pursuing companies that break the law?

Strong labor laws make it easier for workers to coordinate. Strong antimonopoly laws make it harder for capital to coordinate. We need better enforcement of both at every level, and we are starting to see that. I hope my essay shows that surveillance makes worker coordination and solidarity harder, and big data makes capital coordination easier, so the need for both pro-labor and antitrust laws is greater than ever before. At the same time, if we are going to have a public sphere, everybody has got to spy less, and that requires simple bans on data collection in many of the spheres we’ve allowed it to creep into. If we rely on consent-based models, the power dynamic won’t change—the power dynamic will lead to consent, and surveillance that has seemingly been ratified by the people being spied upon.

Something I appreciated about your essay was its emphasis on how worker solidarity is not just a useful tactic, but in fact one of the major pleasures (or consolations) of work. What do you think are the fundamental impediments to successful unionization drives and other methods of creating workplace solidarity? 

We are in a moment right now. Over two hundred Starbucks stores have  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 1:30 pm

7 charts that show the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade

leave a comment »

Saima May Sidik has a very interesting article in Nature, which begins:

In June, the US Supreme Court ruled that the constitution does not confer the right to an abortion. Now, 13 states have greatly restricted access to the procedure, and about a dozen more are expected to follow suit.

For a high-income country to take such a giant leap towards prohibiting what many people consider a basic human right is nearly unprecedented. Health researchers are scrambling to predict the effects of such changes. Most experts expect that abortions will continue to happen, but will be harder to obtain legally — sometimes requiring extensive travel — and could become less safe. Less certain are the long-term effects on abortion rates, public health and pregnant people’s economic prospects. “If people want me to extrapolate from prior evidence to what’s going on now, I don’t think there’s any comparable evidence,” says sociologist Jonathan Bearak at the Guttmacher Institute, a policy group in New York City focused on sexual and reproductive health rights.

As the United States hurtles into the unknown (see ‘Changing landscape’), evidence suggests that enacting abortion restrictions will create substantial burdens, both for people seeking abortions and for the clinics that continue to offer these procedures. . .

There’s more, including the seven charts. I’ll show two, with the introductory info.

Abortions won’t stop

Evidence from around the world suggests that restricting abortion doesn’t put an end to it. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. Bearak and Bela Ganatra, a behavioural scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, and their colleagues compiled 2,415 data points, including survey results and health records, to estimate the number of unwanted pregnancies and the rate of abortions in 195 countries and territories around the world1. The analysis found that high-income countries where abortion is broadly legal have the lowest rates of abortion (see ‘Legality and reality’).

And one more of the seven charts:

Maternal deaths are likely to rise

When carried out safely, an abortion poses less risk to a person’s health than does carrying a baby to term. As a result of reduced access, the number of pregnancy-associated deaths is expected to rise.

In a preprint study8, Amanda Stevenson, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, and her colleagues modelled what would have happened in 2020 if no one had had access to abortions in 26 states that have imposed bans or are reasonably likely to do so in the future. The authors of the study made some assumptions: for example, that people who request abortions have the same age distribution as do those who have babies, and that the risk of maternal death is the same in people who have abortions as in those who don’t. With those and other limitations in mind, they estimated that if there had been no abortions in 2020, an additional 64 pregnant people would have died — an increase of 14% (see ‘Death rates rising’).

It’s worth reading the entire article to get an idea of how much damage Republicans have done in this area.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 11:53 am

Probably the best razor I own, plus The Dead Sea

leave a comment »

In loading my Whipped Dog silvertip — a very nice little brush — I continued my recent practice of loading longer than I’m accustomed to, and I was rewarded with a wonderful lather. RazoRock’s The Dead Sea is an especially good (and interesting) soap that requires that the brush be just barely damp — even a little water in the brush is too much for this soap. But with a damp brush, the lather is instant andd wonderful.

iKon’s coated stainless-steel slant is a remarkably good razor — extremely comfortable if you maintain a good angle, with the handle (in this case, a handle from Above the Tie) held well away from the face, and extraordinarily efficient. It also has excellent acoustics, to better enable you to hear the soft sound of cutting.

Three pleasurable passes presented a perfect outcome: total smoothness, no damage. A splash of Alpa 378 with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the job and started the week with a fine shave and a good experience.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s London Afternoon: “Fragrant rose petals are interwoven with smoky Lapsang Souchong, sweetened with creamy vanilla and a touch of bright bergamot.”

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 10:17 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Climate change and drought

leave a comment »

Update: Loire River runs dry.

This morning I read an article in the Boston Globe on the effects on Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, from the drought there: people no water in their homes and businesses for a few days each week, with some not having had water for a month — and when the water does flow, the pressure can be too low to fill a tank to save water for future use. (The article might be behind a paywall. However, I was able to read it because the Globe just had a subscription offer of $1 for six months. It’s a very good paper, so I jumped at the opportunity to have it for six months, though I doubt I’ll renew at the full rate.)

From that article:

Faced with this situation, the government of Nuevo León announced that there would be water restrictions: Once a week we would not have water for a day. However, the cuts began to be more frequent.

Sometimes there is water only in the mornings, other times there is water all day, but sometimes two, three, four days can pass without water. This has been my experience, but there are people who have had to go up to a month without water in their homes. This has caused demonstrations where people have blocked avenues demanding water for their neighborhoods.

Most of the houses were not equipped with water tanks. People have purchased them, but sometimes it is hard to fill the tanks because there is not enough pressure or enough water on the days they have running water. So they have to buy water from water tankers to fill them because the government does not bring water to all the neighborhoods.

On days when there is water at home, we store it in buckets so we are prepared when there isn’t. We also buy bottles of water at the supermarket (in some stores you cannot buy more than a certain number of bottles).

When there is water, we take advantage of it to take a shower, wash dishes and clothes because we don’t know if there will be water in the following hours or days. We have to do everything we need to do with water because there is always the question of whether there will be any tomorrow. It is also important to mention that women are the ones who have carried out the most work during this situation because in most households in Mexico, women are in charge of the majority of the domestic labor and care activities. They have been forced to adjust their schedules and drop everything the minute they notice that water is available in order to perform those activities and collect water to store it for the rest of the day or the week.

One day, I posted on Facebook: “Has anyone around here had to call a water tanker? Do you have any situation in your home, neighborhood, or business that you consider to be more serious than the rest? Send me a message, please.”

I was surprised by the number of friends who answered. That afternoon I spent taking calls and messages. “I’ve been without water for a week”; “I had to move in with my parents who do have water”; “We have to pee in a single toilet, and wait until the end of the day to flush it because we can’t waste the little water we have”; “Everyone in my house had COVID-19, we had no water in the house, it was the worst week of our lives. I was sick, sweating and couldn’t wash my sheets.”

It is difficult to listen to these experiences and know that there are people who are having a worse time. I think of the houses where older adults or sick people live. It is also important to consider that not everybody has the means to buy water bottles, install a water tank system, or buy water from a water tanker.

The drought in Mexico is a bad sign for the American Southwest, already struggling with the drying up of the Colorado River, which affects agriculture and the lives of millions who dwell in cities in that region. Seven states are now working out what they will do when that water is no longer available.

And The Eldest point out an article in Sky News on how Europe is suffering the worst drought in 500 years. From the article:

The latest data from the European Drought Observatory (EDO) shows some 47% of the bloc’s territory under “warning” conditions, the second of three drought categories, during the 10 days leading to 30 July.

More worrying is the 17% of land that has moved into the most severe “alert” state, meaning not only is the soil drying out after low rain, but plants and crops are suffering too.

When water becomes scarce, not only are there food shortages (from crop failures and loss of livestock), but also people also must move away, so I expect there will be mass migrations from regions that lack water. That seems likely to lead to conflict.

The Great Famine in China under Mao resulted in millions dying (see this earlier post). The impact of climate change will almost certainly be worse.

It’s a great tragedy that humanity seems incapable of facing this on-coming crisis with constructive actions. (And “on-coming” is a bit of a misnomer: from the CO2 already added to the atmosphere, even if we discontinued today the use of all fossil fuels so that humans add no more CO2, conditions would still worsen for decades. The crisis has already happened; the effects will unfold over the coming decades.)

The best hope is a technology that would enable direct capture of CO2 from the atmosphere, and certainly people are working on that.

However, there are still a great many who deny that climate change is caused by human activity and who strongly resist any efforts to address climate change (because such efforts would be an admission that climate change is real)— the Republican party is a prime example. (I think in the case of Republicans, a stumbling block is that effectively addressing climate change requires large-scale group effort and almost certainly government leadership. That’s hard for Republicans to accept, since their philosophical outlook is that problems are solved through individual effort, heroic loners who require no help. In this view, help is for sissies. Republicans believe that problems should be addressed through competition, not cooperation. Libertarians take this attitude to an extreme, so that its failure is more immediately evident.)

Some states in the Southeast whose Atlantic coasts face ocean-level rise have passed laws to forbid the use of the words “climate change,” which seems a lot like magical thinking: “If we don’t say it aloud, it will not happen.” Examples: North Carolina and Miami (which already routinely sees sunny-day flooding). While such laws do show an effort to confront climate change, I do not see that that approach will be effective in addressing the problem, even in the relatively short term. It does, however, illustrate the first and most primitive psychological defense mechanism: denial.

Written by Leisureguy

15 August 2022 at 9:02 am

%d bloggers like this: