Later On

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

Archive for August 16th, 2022

How Was Abortion Understood Historically?

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Nautilus‘s newsletter today had a one-question interview by Brandon Keim:

One question for Claudia Ford, an herbalist and midwife turned environmental historian at SUNY Potsdam whose Ph.D. dissertation examines the use of plants for reproductive health by women in 18th and 19th century America.

This idea of a fetus as a person is only as recent as this incredible book that came out in the 1960s, A Child Is Born, which was the first time that somebody made high-quality pictures of live fetuses in utero. When that book came out, it really changed things. Until we could actually visualize that, we understood pregnancy and periods and cycles, but not to the extent of naming a fetus as a person.

Going back time, there was no moral restriction against abortion, even in the Catholic church. For many millennia the fetus was not considered an entity until quickening, which is when the mother can feel the fetus move. In the first baby, that’s usually around 16 weeks, and it can be a little earlier in subsequent babies because you know what to feel. But until such time as that movement started to happen, it was not a thing. Even if a woman realized she wasn’t having her menses, and she might know she was pregnant, still there was no association with a fetus.

So terminating a pregnancy was seen more as part of the menstrual cycle, not part of pregnancy. Pregnancy is something that led to labor and childbirth; terminating a pregnancy was part of your menstrual cycle.

At that time, somebody with a uterus is bleeding every month unless something else is going on. And that “unless something else is going on” was pretty big because we didn’t have as much knowledge. If you had a late period, the first thing people would think would not necessarily be pregnancy. They might know that, but they would be thinking “OK, how do I bring on this period?” Not, “How do I not have a baby?”

I know that is semantics. But Dobbs is all about semantics, right? And that’s a really important thing. I think somebody else has said that abortion is not an alternative to having a baby; let’s separate those things. Historically the termination of pregnancy was seen as part of the menstrual cycle. Some women were having periods that were too little; some, too much; some were too painful, too frequently, not frequently enough. There was always a desire: What can I do? Are there some plants that can help me to regulate these cycles so that I can feel healthy? And sometimes that absolutely included, “I’m late. I want my period to come. How can I bring it on?”

There was knowledge that if the period didn’t come, it would lead to a pregnancy. But in those first three months, it wasn’t thought of as, “I’m pregnant, I’m going to stop this.” It was thought of as more, “I haven’t had my period. Do I want my period? Or do I want to see where this is going to go?” I know it sounds like it’s splitting hairs, but it’s a very different perspective.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 8:00 pm

When Parents Tell Kids to ‘Work Hard,’ Do They Send the Wrong Message?

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Michael Blanding writes at the Harvard Business School:

It takes more than grit to succeed in a world rife with systemic inequity. So why don’t we tell children that? Research by Ashley Whillans and colleagues shows how honest talk about social barriers could empower kids to break them down.

“Work hard, and you’ll be successful.”

How often do we tell children that the key to success is putting forth effort? That advice might seem like admirable inspiration to encourage kids to work hard as they pursue their goals. However, new research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that those messages may have an unintended consequence, making people believe that someone who isn’t succeeding isn’t bothering to try. And those perceptions can perpetuate inequality in society.

“How do all of these lessons about working hard potentially carry over to our beliefs about other people?” asks Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, who co-authored the study. “If you are learning that effort is the way to achieve success, and you see people who have less, you might assume they didn’t work hard enough—as opposed to recognizing the systems and institutions we know can stand in the way.”

Whillans explored these questions in a trio of studies of parents and children along with Antonya Gonzalez, assistant psychology professor at Western Washington University; and Lucia Macchia, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy.

The research is particularly relevant, they say, given that many early educators today are focusing on willpower, grit, and a “growth mindset,” teaching kids that intelligence can be grown like a muscle, and that it’s not inherited or predetermined.

“There is such an emphasis now with kids on effort and taking control of your own learning and abilities,” says Gonzalez. “But it’s not possible for everyone to overcome certain challenges.”

The belief that effort is the key to success could also influence people’s perceptions of workers in various jobs, particularly low-wage positions, the researchers say.

“This overemphasis on effort could lead people to believe that workers in low-wage jobs are not deserving of increased pay or better working conditions,” says Whillans, which is an idea that is consistent with some of her ongoing research with HBS doctoral student Elizabeth Johnson.

Studying luck, ability, or effort—with aliens

To test the effects of these messages, the researchers considered three possible explanations for why one person might be more successful than another. The cause might be situational, based on where a person grew up, the family they were born into, or the educational opportunities they had—in other words, luck. It might be individual, based on factors beyond a person’s control, such as raw intelligence or athletic skill—meaning ability. Or it might be individual but based on controllable factors, such as hard work or persistence—in other words, effort.

The researchers conducted an online survey of 200 Americans, presenting them with a fictional story about a planet with two alien species, Blarks and Orps, who differed in their amount of wealth, educational attainment, job status, or hierarchy. Parents were asked to imagine how they might explain a discrepancy in achievement between the two species to their children—attributing it to luck, ability, or effort. They chose to use these study details based on past research to make the study cleanly about inequality as opposed to pre-existing beliefs about certain groups in society.

More respondents, about 41 percent, chose to explain the species with lower achievement levels as . . .

Continue reading.

And see also “The Making of the Self-Made Man” in Current Affairs.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 7:43 pm

How a simple, Bauhaus-designed chair ended up everywhere over the past 100 years.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 6:38 pm

Road to war: U.S. struggled to convince allies, and Zelensky, of risk of invasion

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I don’t believe that Donald Trump as President was even capable of the kind of leadership President Biden has shown in responding to Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. I understand that Trump would not want to lead our allies; my point is that, even if he did want to, he is incapable of doing it.

Shane Harris, Karen DeYoung, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ashley Parker, and Liz Sly have a remarkable report (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post. The report begins:

On a sunny October morning, the nation’s top intelligence, military, and diplomatic leaders filed into the Oval Office for an urgent meeting with President Biden. They arrived bearing a highly classified intelligence analysis, compiled from newly obtained satellite images, intercepted communications, and human sources, that amounted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war plans for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

For months, Biden administration officials had watched warily as Putin massed tens of thousands of troops and lined up tanks and missiles along Ukraine’s borders. As summer waned, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, had focused on the increasing volume of intelligence related to Russia and Ukraine. He had set up the Oval Office meeting after his own thinking had gone from uncertainty about Russia’s intentions, to concern he was being too skeptical about the prospects of military action, to alarm.

The session was one of several meetings that officials had about Ukraine that autumn — sometimes gathering in smaller groups — but was notable for the detailed intelligence picture that was presented. Biden and Vice President Harris took their places in armchairs before the fireplace, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined the directors of national intelligence and the CIA on sofas around the coffee table.

Tasked by Sullivan with putting together a comprehensive overview of Russia’s intentions, they told Biden that the intelligence on Putin’s operational plans, added to ongoing deployments along the border with Ukraine, showed that all the pieces were now in place for a massive assault.

The U.S. intelligence community had penetrated multiple points of Russia’s political leadership, spying apparatus and military, from senior levels to the front lines, according to U.S. officials.

Much more radical than Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and instigation of a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, Putin’s war plans envisioned a takeover of most of the country.

Using mounted maps on easels in front of the Resolute Desk, Milley showed Russian troop positions and the Ukrainian terrain they intended to conquer. It was a plan of staggering audacity, one that could pose a direct threat to NATO’s eastern flank, or even destroy the post-World War II security architecture of Europe.

As he absorbed the briefing, Biden, who had taken office promising to keep the country out of new wars, was determined that Putin must either be deterred or confronted, and that the United States must not act alone. Yet NATO was far from unified on how to deal with Moscow, and U.S. credibility was weak. After a disastrous occupation of Iraq, the chaos that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and four years of President Donald Trump seeking to undermine the alliance, it was far from certain that Biden could effectively lead a Western response to an expansionist Russia.

Ukraine was a troubled former Soviet republic with a history of corruption, and the U.S. and allied answer to earlier Russian aggression there had been uncertain and divided. When the invasion came, the Ukrainians would need significant new weaponry to defend themselves. Too little could guarantee a Russian victory. But too much might provoke a direct NATO conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

This account, in previously unreported detail, shines new light on the uphill climb to restore U.S. credibility, the attempt to balance secrecy around intelligence with the need to persuade others of its truth, and the challenge of determining how the world’s most powerful military alliance would help a less-than-perfect democracy on Russia’s border defy an attack without NATO firing a shot.

The first in a series of articles examining the road to war and the military campaign in Ukraine, it is drawn from in-depth interviews with more than three dozen senior U.S., Ukrainian, European and NATO officials about a global crisis whose end is yet to be determined. Some spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence and internal deliberations.

The Kremlin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

As Milley laid out the array of forces on that October morning, he and the others summed up Putin’s intentions. “We assess that they plan to conduct a significant strategic attack on Ukraine from multiple directions simultaneously,” Milley told the president. “Their version of ‘shock and awe.’ ”

According to the intelligence, the Russians would . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) This is a gripping account.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 6:12 pm

An orange salad dressing (color, not flavor)

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Just now: put into a blender or the beaker that comes with an immersion blender:

• 1 large lemon, peeled
• about 1/2-3/4″ fresh ginger root in thin slices
• 1 large garlic clove, sliced or chopped
• 1 Medjool date, pitted and chopped
• 1 red Fresno pepper, stem removed and then chopped
• 1-1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
• about 1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
• small pinch of MSG
• dash of tamari

Blend that until smooth. Then add slowly while blending:

• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Notes: Lately we’ve been getting lemons from South Africa: very large, very juice, fairly thin skin. Very nice for this. Using the entire lemon provides more nutrients because you get the pulp as well as the juice. I used a clove of Russian red garlic; if you use regular garlic, you might want two cloves. Chopping the garlic (and slicing the ginger root) assists with the blending.The date was to add some some sweetness, the Fresno pepper to add some spice.. The date must be chopped or it might jam the blender. 

The idea is that the mustard blended with the non-oil ingredients will work to create an emulsion with the olive oil so that it does not separate.

It was tasty, and I have quite a bit for future salads.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 6:00 pm

Alt-Eleven and the Henson AL13 Medium

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Alt-Eleven is Phoenix Artisan’s homage to Alt-Innsbruck, and a very nice fragrance it is. The soap is their Kokum Butter formula, and while not so extraordinary as their CK-6 formula, it is nonetheless an extremely good shaving soap the provides a fine lather, this morning generated with their Amber Aerolite brush. I did the usual thorough loading I now practice, and I loved the lather.

Henson Shaving makes a remarkably good razor with an innovative design. Both the AL13 and the AL13 Medium work fine for me. These are aluminum and run $90. Henson also offers a titanium model at just over $320, but I don’t really see the point. This morning I found that three easy passes produced a perfectly smooth result.

A tiny dab of Phoenix Artisan’s Star Jelly aftershave balm finished the job and left my face feeling pampered.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Vanilla Jasmine: “A balanced blend of black, green, and oolong teas, with an enticing aroma of vanilla, jasmine, and magnolia.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 10:15 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Finally! F.D.A. Clears Path for Hearing Aids to be Sold Over the Counter

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I have strong feelings about giving the public affordable access to hearing aids (excellent news in a NY Times article — and that’s a gift link, no paywall). My step-father worked as a carpenter and builder for most of his life, long before it was thought important to provide hearing protection around power tools (which are extremely loud and you work extremely close to them). As he aged, he became increasingly deaf. He did finally get hearing aids, but those early models were uncomfortable, and often he would not wear them, preferring to sit among us and just smile as we talked, isolated from the conversation.

Then it became clear (not so much to me as to my wife and others around me) that my own hearing had started to fail. I got a hearing test and indeed my hearing at higher frequencies was poor. I bought a pair of hearing aids at the eye-watering price of US$3500 for a pair. I was told that I would probably want to replace them in about five years, but I thought “Hah! Not likely!” Regardless of how nifty any new designs were, I would just stick with the ones I had.

As it turns out, it’s not so much “want” to replace them as “have to.” Hearing aids are worn on one’s head, behind the ear, means that it spends its days in a humid environment — and 1) it’s electronic, and 2) it has small openings (for microphone input, for one thing). As a result. over time, slow corrosion will take it down, and indeed just five years later one unit stopped working and the other was subpar. (Hearing aids worn inside the ear canal instead of behind the ear are in an even more humid environment and have an even shorter life.)

My new pair cost CA$5100, and this time (3 years ago) I spent an additional US$78 to get a hearing aid dryer — a small unit that plugs into the wall and has a chamber into which I put my opened hearing aids at night. The little unit gently warms the hearing aids, drying them out and slowing corrosion. The cost of hearing aids has been high enough that the dehumidifier will almost pay for itself if it extends hearing-aid life by just one month over five years — and if I get two more months of life, the device has more than paid for itself.

So less costly but still effective hearing aids (and, given competition beyond the five-company hearing-aid cabal, likely more effective) is of great personal interest.

But it goes beyond that. Millions of people who need hearing aids don’t even go to get tested because the cost of the devices is so high. And yet, as I noted a while back, uncorrected hearing loss “is associated with cognitive decline, depression, isolation and other health problems in older adults.”

There are few pairs of words that strike more terror into my heart than “cognitive decline.” When I was walking around with uncorrected hearing lost — and like my step-father, wearing a more or less constant smile of incomprehension and/or too frequently repeating “Huh? Say again?” — I was able to tolerate my hearing loss (though, I now realize, while being rather irksome company). When I learned that hearing problems cause cognitive decline, I was in an audiologist’s office in a New York minute.

I did turn out to have serious high-frequency hearing loss, so I bought a pair of hearing aids, and — wow! — the world seemed to go from black-and-white to color, from a flat surface to three-dimensional. It’s astonishing how hearing opens up one’s immediate access to the world around them, far beyond mere conversation. The sounds of the world make it real. I have that sense of entering a richer reality each morning when I put on my hearing aids: the world becomes alive around me. And The Wife reported that my cognition did seem better — I had very gradually become duller, but with the hearing aids, I was again snappy on the uptake and seemed more cognitively present.

As Matt Stoller pointed out, the hearing-aid cartel of five companies strongly fought the legislation to allow competition that would provide inexpensive hearing aids. (And Stoller found that his column caused “quite a shitstorm” in the industry.) But now the FDA has finally moved, after dragging its feet for years, and the picture should quickly change. I have been following this (see this scrollable list of previous posts), and I’m so pleased the day will have finally come (a couple of months from now) when good and affordable hearing aids hit the market.

Written by Leisureguy

16 August 2022 at 9:16 am

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