Later On

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

Archive for August 23rd, 2022

Impromptu sauce

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Left after first use

Just made a sauce for my stir-fry — and the new batch of tempeh really is good (i.e., it doesn’t just look good) — and thought I’d share. As usual, I’m just describing what I did. Feel free to vary; I generally do. In fact, I thought about adding a good dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce, but my stir-fry was spicy enough that I thought in this instance it would be coals to Newcastle.

Put into the immersion blender’s beaker:

• 1 large lemon, peeled
• 1.5 Tbsp Kozlik’s Sweet & Smokey Mustard
• 1/4 – 1/3 cup gemai miso (I buy Amano)
• 3-4 tablespoons Soom tahini
• 2 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
• about 1/2 cup water
• [dash of Louisiana Hot Sauce if you want spicy — or chop a jalapeño or Serrano or cayenne pepper and include that, since it’s blended.] 

Be sure to chop the dates, otherwise they may jam and break the blender.

Blend the ingredients, using as much water as needed to get the consistency you want. 

As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been getting South African lemons, which are large, juicy, and thin-skinned. I like them a lot. 

Now that I’m writing about it, I wish I had included some herb(s) — say, marjoram or spearmint or savory. I can do that next time. I might also have included some ginger root and/or a clove of garlic. Perhaps a dash of tamari would have been good. 

One thing about these sauces, you can play around with them a lot.

See also this post for a variety of sauce recipes.

Date trick for grocery shopping

I learned an interesting tactic. As you set out to go grocery shopping, eat one or two Medjool dates. They totally eradicate any feelings of being peckish, so you can shop with no particular longing for the foods you see.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 3:25 pm

Mental disorders aren’t diseases, they’re networks of symptoms

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Richard J McNally, a professor and the director of clinical training in the department of psychology at Harvard University and author of several books, including What Is Mental Illness? (2011), has in Psyche an article that I assume is an extract from his book. The article begins:

Views on what a mental disorder is have changed radically in the past hundred years. For much of the 20th century, psychiatrists under the spell of psychoanalysis interpreted the symptoms of mental illness as clues to patients’ unconscious internal conflicts, not as indicators of specific diseases. Accordingly, the aim of therapy was to identify and resolve these conflicts. All that changed in the 1960s and ’70s: like so many other Establishment institutions, psychiatry came under attack, even from within its own ranks, with critics challenging the reliability of psychiatric diagnosis and even the very concept of ‘mental illness’.

As the reputation of psychiatry reached its nadir, a group of research-oriented psychiatrists sought to restore the credibility of their profession. These self-described ‘neo-Kraepelinians’ revived the descriptive tradition championed by the psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, who believed that careful observation of the signs, symptoms and course of mental illness had to provide the basis for reliable diagnosis. This, in turn, could guide speculation about aetiology and treatment development. This perspective informed a pivotal revision of psychiatry’s ‘bible’, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM-III (1980) and subsequent editions, which reflected the aim of objective and reliable diagnostic criteria for each category of mental disorder, galvanised research on the prevalence, mechanisms and treatment of mental illness.

Despite these advances, the limitations of this now-dominant framework for understanding mental illness have become increasingly apparent in recent years. The difficulty scientists have had finding biological markers of the mental disorders listed in the DSM prompted a former head of the US National Institute of Mental Health to wonder whether our diagnostic categories were nothing more than reified labels, not genuine disease entities. Perhaps an implicit assumption of many neo-Kraepelinians — that a cluster of signs and symptoms associated with a diagnostic category reflects a common underlying cause, akin to a malignant tumour or bacterial infection — was incorrect. Another source of concern is the frequent co-occurrence of supposedly distinct mental disorders. Does a person who meets criteria for panic disorder, major depression, and social anxiety disorder really suffer from three discrete conditions, similar to someone with pancreatic cancer, AIDS, and COVID-19? For the latter conditions, scientists have discovered distinct aetiologies that are confirmable by X-rays, cultures, biopsies, and other tests. This is not the case with mental disorders as they are currently defined.

A novel perspective on psychopathology promises to help solve the problems vexing the neo-Kraepelinian paradigm. This is the network perspective, pioneered by the Dutch psychometrician Denny Borsboom and his colleagues. Borsboom was inspired by contemporary theorising about intelligence – specifically, how it might emerge from the interactions of multiple cognitive subsystems. According to the network perspective he and others have developed, a psychiatric disorder, such as major depression, is itself an emergent phenomenon. It arises from a network of interactions among its constituent elements (e.g., sleep, mood, and energy).

For an example of how this could work, consider someone who has  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 2:43 pm

Bacon & God’s Wrath

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 2:33 pm

Historical prevalence of slavery predicts contemporary American gun ownership

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Nicholas Buttrick and Jessica Mazen authored an interesting study published in PNAS Nexus, Volume 1, Issue 3, July 2022. The abstract:

American gun-owners, uniquely, view firearms as a means of keeping themselves safe from dangers both physical and psychological. We root this belief in the experience of White Southerners during Reconstruction—a moment when a massive upsurge in the availability of firearms co-occurred with a worldview threat from the emancipation and the political empowerment of Black Southerners. We show that the belief-complex formed in this historical moment shapes contemporary gun culture: The prevalence of slavery in a Southern county (measured in 1860) predicts the frequency of firearms in the present day. This relationship holds above and beyond a number of potential covariates, including contemporary crime rates, police spending, degree of racial segregation and inequality, socioeconomic conditions, and voting patterns in the 2016 Presidential election; and is partially mediated by the frequency of people in the county reporting that they generally do not feel safe. This Southern origin of gun culture may help to explain why we find that worries about safety do not predict county-level gun ownership outside of historically slave-owning counties, and why we find that social connection to historically slaveholding counties predicts county-level gun ownership, even outside of the South.

It’s interesting how cultural learning can persist for generations. Their significance statement:

We suggest that the distinctly American belief that guns keep a person safe was partially formed in the backlash to Reconstruction after the American Civil War—a moment when a massive increase in the availability of firearms coincided with a destabilization of White politics in response to the emancipation and empowerment of Black Americans. We show that the historical prevalence of enslavement in a county predicts present-day frequency of firearms, and we show that the relationship between feeling unsafe and county-level firearms ownership is stronger in counties with a history of enslavement. Looking outside the South, we further show that social connection to historically slaveholding counties predicts firearm ownership.

The paper itself begins:


Over 45% of all the civilian-owned weapons in the world are owned by the 5% of the world population that is American (1). Firearm-owners in America are distinct in how they think about their weapons: Over two-thirds report that they own a gun, at least in part, to keep themselves safe (2). Despite these beliefs, studies show that gun ownership doubles the likelihood that someone in the household will die in a violent homicide and triples the likelihood of a death by violent suicide (3), while offering little-to-no protection against assailants (4). These risks are understood by citizens of comparable nations, where people are more likely to think of firearms as dangerous than as safe (56).

Why do so many Americans look to their firearms for safety? According to the Coping Model of Protective Gun Ownership, gun-owners use guns symbolically as an aid to manage psychological threats stemming from their belief that the world is a dangerous place from which society will not protect them (78). American gun-owners are more likely than non-gun-owners to believe that the world is dangerous (9) and that institutions of order, such as government or police, are unable or unwilling to keep them safe (10). These beliefs trigger worries in gun owners concerning their fundamental needs, including their safety (11), their control and self-efficacy (12), and their place in society (13). Guns, in turn, become more salient to owners when core identities are threatened (14). Gun owners use their weapons to defend against all these meaning-threats (15), with owners more likely to believe that a gun keeps them safe (2), keeps them in control (16), and keeps them belonging to important social groups (17).

Where does this culturally unique belief that guns can be an effective coping mechanism come from? The belief that guns keep one safe was not widespread in the American antebellum era, where guns were more often viewed as tools (18). We argue that this changed during the Civil War. The end of the war and the demobilization of over half a million men, with their guns, left America as one of the most heavily armed societies in the world (19). With the destruction of the Southern economy after the war, these guns took on an important role. A contemporaneous estimate, for example, suggested that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 2:19 pm

“Slavery and war are tightly connected – but we had no idea just how much until we crunched the data.”

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Monti Datta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond; Angharad Smith, Modern Slavery Programme Officer, United Nations University; and Kevin Bales, Prof. of Contemporary Slavery, Research Director – The Rights Lab, University of Nottingham write in The Conversation:

Some 40 million people are enslaved around the world today, though estimates vary. Modern slavery takes many different forms, including child soldiers, sex trafficking and forced labor, and no country is immune. From cases of family controlled sex trafficking in the United States to the enslavement of fishermen in Southeast Asia’s seafood industry and forced labor in the global electronics supply chain, enslavement knows no bounds.

As scholars of modern slavery, we seek to understand how and why human beings are still bought, owned and sold in the 21st century, in hopes of shaping policies to eradicate these crimes.

Many of the answers trace back to causes like poverty, corruption and inequality. But they also stem from something less discussed: war.

In 2016, the United Nations Security Council named modern slavery a serious concern in areas affected by armed conflict. But researchers still know little about the specifics of how slavery and war are intertwined.

We recently published research analyzing data on armed conflicts around the world to better understand this relationship.

What we found was staggering: The vast majority of armed conflict between 1989 and 2016 used some kind of slavery.

Later in the article:

Alarming numbers

In our recently published analysis, we found that contemporary slavery is a regular feature of armed conflict. Among the 1,113 cases we analyzed, 87% contained child soldiers – meaning fighters age 15 and younger – 34% included sexual exploitation and forced marriage, about 24% included forced labor and almost 17% included human trafficking.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 12:51 pm

Stop drinking, keep reading, look after your hearing: a neurologist’s tips for fighting memory loss and Alzheimer’s

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Gaby Hinsliff reports in the Guardian:

You walk into a room, but can’t remember what you came in for. Or you bump into an old acquaintance at work, and forget their name. Most of us have had momentary memory lapses like this, but in middle age they can start to feel more ominous. Do they make us look unprofessional, or past it? Could this even be a sign of impending dementia? The good news for the increasingly forgetful, however, is that not only can memory be improved with practice, but that it looks increasingly as if some cases of Alzheimer’s may be preventable too.

Neuroscientist Dr Richard Restak is a past president of the American Neuropsychiatric Association, who has lectured on the brain and behaviour everywhere from the Pentagon to Nasa, and written more than 20 books on the human brain. His latest, The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind, homes in on the great unspoken fear that every time you can’t remember where you put your reading glasses, it’s a sign of impending doom. “In America today,” he writes “anyone over 50 lives in dread of the big A.” Memory lapses are, he writes, the single most common complaint over-55s raise with their doctors, even though much of what they describe turns out to be nothing to worry about.

Coming out of a shop and not being able to remember where you left the car, for example, is perfectly normal: it’s likely you just weren’t concentrating when you parked, and therefore the car’s location wasn’t properly encoded in your brain. Forgetting what you came into a room for is probably just a sign you’re busy and preoccupied with other things, says Restak.

“Samuel Johnson said that the art of memory is the art of attention,” he says, down the line from his office in Washington DC (at 80, Restak is still a practising clinical professor at George Washington Hospital University School of Medicine and Health). “Most of these sins of ‘memory loss’ are sins of not paying attention. If you’re at a party and you’re not really listening to someone, because you are still thinking about some work-related matter, suddenly later you find you can’t remember their name. The first thing is you put the information in memory – that’s consolidating it – and then you have to be able to retrieve it. But if you’ve never consolidated it in the first place, it doesn’t exist.”

But what if you forget where you left your car keys, and eventually find them inside the fridge? “That’s often the first sign of something serious – you open up the refrigerator door, and it’s the newspaper, or your car keys, inside. That’s a little bit beyond forgetful.”

Memory does vary, he points out, and some people will always have been scatty. But the real red flag is a change that seems out of character. If you’re a keen card player who prides yourself on always keeping track of which cards have been played, and suddenly realise you can’t do that any more, it could be worth investigating. Similarly, Restak has noticed that many patients in the early stages of dementia stop reading fiction, because it’s too difficult to remember what the character said or did a few chapters earlier – which is unfortunate, he says, because reading complex novels can be a valuable mental workout in itself.

Restak and his wife are currently on Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, which has a complex sprawling cast: “It’s an exercise in being able to keep track of characters without going backwards from one page to another.” If that’s already difficult for you, he says, it’s fine to underline the first mention of a new character and then flip back to remind yourself later if necessary. “Do whatever you have to, to keep yourself reading.”

Like following a recipe, keeping track of fictional plots is an exercise of working memory – as distinct from short-term memory (temporarily storing something like a phone number that you can safely forget the minute you’ve dialed it) or episodic memory, which covers things like recollections of childhood. Working memory is what we use to “work with the information we have”, says Restak, and it’s the one we should all prioritise. Left to its own devices, he points out, memory naturally starts to decline from your 30s onwards, which is why he advocates practising it daily.

Restak’s book is full of games, tricks and ideas for honing recall, often involving creating vivid visual images for things you want to remember. He holds a mental map of his neighbourhood in his head, incorporating visually familiar landmarks – his house, the local library, a restaurant he often goes to – and for each item on a list he wants to remember, he will create a memorable visual image and attach it somewhere specific on the map. To remember to buy milk, bread and coffee later, for example, he might envisage his house transformed into a carton of milk, the library full of loaves rather than books, and a giant cup of coffee spilling out of the restaurant.

The book also touches on broader lifestyle advice. Recently, research from the Lancet’s commission on dementia suggested up to 40% of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented or delayed – much like heart disease and many cancers – by  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 11:58 am

Simple electricity guide

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 11:51 am

Posted in Science

Climate change/global warming: Point and counterpoint

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 11:47 am

Good brief survey of the state of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 10:54 am

Best of the Edwin Jagger/Mühle razor head design family: RazoRock MJ-90A and D.R. Harris’s wonderful Marlborough

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D.R. Harris has much single-handedly maintained the integrity of the classic line of English shaving soaps, the others having fallen by the outsourcing and reformulation wayside. (With shaving creams, the story is different: D.R. Harris offers good shaving creams, but so do Cyril R. Salter, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and others — but I’m a shaving soap guy.)

And of D.R. Harris’s shaving soaps, Marlborough is my favorite. The fragrance is “a subtle blend of woods including Cedar and Sandalwood,” and from the soap the lather is just about perfect, a characteristic of D.R. Harris shaving soaps. Because I used this morning a shave stick, I could not use the LABL (Load A Bit Longer) method I use with a puck in a tub, so instead is rubbed the shave stick a bit longer against the grain of my stubble. WSP’S Prince shaving brush, which has a doughty little knot, then worked up a thick and creamy lather redolent of the fragrances of freshly planed wood.

I just love D.R. Harris lather. Early in the days after I returned to traditional shaving, trying many different products, I would have a shave and think, “Wow! That’s a good lather!” and when I checked, it was inevitably a lather from a D.R. Harris shaving soap.

As I note in the title, of all razors based on the Edwin Jagger/Mühle design, I consider RazoRock’s MJ-90A to be the best. It is extremely comfortable and also extremely efficient, and the materials and workmanship are first rate. The original EJ/Mühle head is made of chrome-plate zinc alloy and has an unfortunate tendency to break at the point where the threaded lug attaches to the cap. I believe this is almost always due to over-tightening the head. Zinc alloy, even plated with chrome (and EJ’s own chrome plating is absolutely first rate), does not have much tensile strength, and so over-tightening will stress the metal at the connecting point, weakening it slightly each time the head is over-tightened, until one day the metal simply gives way. The MJ-90A uses an aircraft-aluminum alloy that is much tougher (though over-tightening is still a bad idea) and so does not break. 

But the thing you notice immediately is the excellence of the shave experience when you use the razor — and, when you’re done, the excellence of the shave result.

A splash of Marlborough aftershave with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the job and carried forward that wonderful fragrance. What a great way to start the day!

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Editors’ Blend: “a smooth, medium blend of black Ceylon, Keemun and Yunnan with sweet honey notes.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 10:51 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

The river Loire is NOT in fact running dry

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I shared on Facebook a post that I also blogged, and I just got a Facebook fact-check that showed the information I shared was in fact misinformation. From that link:

Did the Loire River, the longest in France, run dry for the first time in at least 2,000 years due to an unprecedented drought in southwestern Europe? No, that’s not true: The Loire River did not run dry, nor did it fall to a record low flow rate. This photo shows a branch of the Loire that dries up when the water level falls. This fact check is intended to add context about the path of the river and the supplemental water from the reservoirs.

It is true that the river’s flow rate was extremely low, and at its lowest since dams had been installed in the 1980s. Drought conditions did require some crisis measures to conserve water in mid-August. The riverbed is engineered to contain the flow to one main channel. The Loire splits and flows to either side of an island, “île Batailleuse.” The trees visible on the right side of the photo are on the island. The road connecting the former communes of Varades on the north side of the river and Saint-Florent-le-Vieil to the south crosses the island by way of two bridges. The second bridge, not visible in this photo, spans the narrow but navigable portion of the Loire River hidden by the trees.

A series of photos of the Loire riverbed by press photographer @DubrayFranck was posted to Twitter on August 9, 2022, by the newspaper Ouest-France. One Twitter post featuring just one of the photos began to get attention online around August 10, 2022. An August 14, 2022, Facebook post with a caption that claimed “nowhere in the past 2000 years has the Loire run dry” was shared over 30,000 times. That post was updated on August 20, 2022, to include some additional links and context.

Apologies to my readers. I shall be more careful in the future, particularly with quoting things from Facebook. I do applaud Facebook for the correction.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2022 at 2:55 am

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