Later On

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

Archive for September 2022

Elon Musk’s Texts Shatter the Myth of the Tech Genius

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Power not only corrupts, it seems to cause cognitive disconnect if not decline. Charlie Warzel reports in the Atlantic (no paywall):

Yesterday, the world got a look inside Elon Musk’s phone. The Tesla and SpaceX CEO is currently in litigation with Twitter and trying to back out of his deal to buy the platform and take it private. As part of the discovery process related to this lawsuit, Delaware’s Court of Chancery released hundreds of text messages and emails sent to and from Musk. The 151-page redacted document is a remarkable, voyeuristic record of a few months in the life of the world’s richest (and most overexposed) man and a rare unvarnished glimpse into the overlapping worlds of Silicon Valley, media, and politics. The texts are juicy, but not because they are lurid, particularly offensive, or offer up some scandalous Muskian master plan—quite the opposite. What is so illuminating about the Musk messages is just how unimpressive, unimaginative, and sycophantic the powerful men in Musk’s contacts appear to be. Whoever said there are no bad ideas in brainstorming never had access to Elon Musk’s phone.

In no time, the texts were the central subject of discussion among tech workers and watchers. “The dominant reaction from all the threads I’m in is Everyone looks fucking dumb,” one former social-media executive, whom I’ve granted anonymity because they have relationships with many of the people in Musk’s texts, told me. “It’s been a general Is this really how business is done? There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence.”

Appearing in the document is, I suppose, a perverse kind of status symbol (some people I spoke with in tech and media circles copped to searching through it for their own names). And what is immediately apparent upon reading the messages is that many of the same people the media couldn’t stop talking about this year were also the ones inserting themselves into Musk’s texts. There’s Joe Rogan; William MacAskill, the effective altruist, getting in touch on behalf of the crypto billionaire and Democratic donor Sam Bankman-Fried; Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer (and the subject of a recent, unflattering profile); Marc Andreessen, the venture capitalist, NIMBY [this link is worth reading; no paywall here – LG, and prolific blocker on Twitter; Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, who was recently revealed to have joined a November 2020 call about contesting Donald Trump’s election loss; and, of course, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO. Musk, arguably the most covered and exhausting of them all, has an inbox that doubles as a power ranking of semi- to fully polarizing people who have been in the news the past year.

Few of the men in Musk’s phone consider themselves his equal. Many of the messages come off as fawning, although they’re possibly more opportunistic than earnest. Whatever the case, the intentions are unmistakable: Musk is perceived to have power, and these pillars of the tech industry want to be close to it. “I love your ‘Twitter algorithms should be open source’ tweet,” Joe Lonsdale, a co-founder of Palantir, said, before suggesting that he was going to mention the idea to members of Congress at an upcoming GOP policy retreat. Antonio Gracias, the CEO of Valor Partners, cheered on the same tweet, telling the billionaire, “I am 100% with you Elon. To the mattresses no matter what.”

Few in Musk’s phone appeared as excitable as . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 5:21 pm

Transforming a wild tree into a bonsai

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Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Video

A Custody Evaluator Who Disbelieves 90% of Abuse Allegations Recommended a Teen Stay Under Her Abusive Father’s Control

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Some things make one despair. The subtitle to this ProPublica article by Hannah Dreyfus:

In Colorado family courts, parents can request an expert evaluation of their case, which sometimes includes allegations of abuse. Mark Kilmer is routinely appointed to evaluate families despite his own history of domestic violence.

Mark Kilmer is Val Kilmer’s brother.

The report itself begins:

Elina Asensio had a restraining order in place against her father when she met with a court-appointed psychologist assigned to determine whether he should be part of her life.

She expected Mark Kilmer, the Colorado “parental responsibility evaluator” appointed to her parents’ custody case, would want to hear about the incident that had led to her father being charged with felony child abuse and pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault. The 14-year-old was surprised, then, as she talked to Kilmer on the front porch of her mother’s suburban Denver home in October of 2020, that he didn’t seem interested in learning about it.

A year earlier, according to police reports, her father had grabbed Elina from behind by her lucky charm necklace and hoodie and dragged her up a flight of stairs. “Dad, I cannot breathe. … You’re hurting me, stop it,” Elina had screamed, according to the police report. She was left with burst blood vessels on her eyelids and a deep cut from ear to ear where the necklace had dug into her neck, according to the police report. A child welfare investigator described the resulting scar as a “ligature mark,” the imprint left after strangulation.

It was Elina who first brought up the incident, mentioning it after Kilmer asked why, “if you love your Dad,” she was not attending therapy with him, according to notes that accompanied Kilmer’s report to the court.

“I still feel my dad’s hands around my neck sometimes,” she recalled telling Kilmer, who is the brother of actor Val Kilmer.

He responded with a blank stare, she said.

Elina told him about other violent incidents involving her father, including one directed at a sibling, according to Kilmer’s notes.

Colorado family courts began appointing parental responsibility evaluators, or PREs, to custody cases 14 years ago as a privately funded alternative to court-furnished evaluators. The litigants shoulder the cost, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and in some instances the PRE is paid by only one of the parents in a dispute. The intent was to allow a broader range of psychologists, including those the court could not afford, the opportunity to lend their expertise to custody decisions. They have operated with little oversight.

Elina didn’t know at the time they met that Kilmer says he does not believe about 90% of the abuse allegations he encounters in his work, or that he himself had been charged with domestic violence. Kilmer was arrested and charged with assault in 2006 after his then-wife said he pushed her to the bathroom floor, according to police reports. Following the incident, the woman obtained a restraining order against him and he was required by the court to give up his guns pending resolution of the criminal charges, according to court documents.

The following year, he pleaded guilty to harassment and, in a separate divorce proceeding, temporarily lost decision-making power over his children because of concerns about his parenting. The court placed him on probation for 24 months while he completed domestic violence counseling. After he completed probation, the court dismissed the assault charge.

“Unfortunately, I had a conflicted divorce myself,” Kilmer said in an interview. “She made up these false allegations and had me arrested. It was pretty humiliating and shocking.” His guilty plea was the result of poor legal representation, he said, and he regrets not going to trial.

Kilmer, who received a doctorate in psychology from the California Graduate Institute, had also been previously disciplined by the State Board of Psychologist Examiners in 2009 for revealing confidential information about one client to another client in an effort to set them up on a date. He was required to have his practice monitored for a year but was allowed to continue working as a custody evaluator. (Kilmer said he obtained consent from both parties before introducing them, according to board records. The board noted clients “cannot consent to a boundary violation and/or breach of confidentiality.”) Today, Kilmer’s psychological license is in good standing.

Colorado’s State Court Administrator’s Office, which is responsible for vetting PREs, said a criminal misdemeanor conviction older than 15 years does not disqualify a custody evaluator from family court appointments. ProPublica found that four evaluators on the state’s roster of 45 PREs, including Kilmer, have been charged with harassment or domestic violence. In one case, the charges were dismissed. In the two others, it is unclear how the charges were resolved.

The court administrator’s office also said  . . .

Continue reading. There’s a LOT more.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 10:52 am

Dr. Selby’s return, honored in today’s shave

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As I blogged yesterday, Dr. Selby is returning to the US. This 3X concentrated shaving cream is made in Uruguay, and I like it a lot, and not just for the packaging, which is clever. The photo at the right shows how the lid, once removed, becomes a pedestal for the tub. Very cool, IMO.

My limited edition synthetic from Chiseled Face (years ago) has a very nice Plissoft knot, and it easily made a thick and creamy lather from the shaving cream (which has the consistency of a soap).

My Fatip Testina Gentile is a superb razor — extremely comfortable yet quite efficient. Three enjoyable passes left my face perfectly smooth, and Chatillon Lux’s Gratiot League Square aftershave toner finished the job. This toner has a wonderful fragrance and also good things for the skin. He doesn’t seem to be interested in aftershaves anymore, though; a pity.

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

30 September 2022 at 9:54 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Avoid rancid brain fat by eating brain-healthy foods

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This is a fascinating video in showing how one can look into a person’s eyes to check the health of their brain — and, at the end of the video, the specific foods that help the brain stay healthy.

From the video, comparing the lutein/zeaxanthin content of some foods:

I’m going to make this:

Kale Kicker

• a few sprays of extra-virgin olive oil
• 2-3 cloves garlic (Russian red garlic for me), chopped small
• 1 bunch scallions (or 1/2 large red onion), chopped
• 1 bunch Lacinato kale (aka Tuscan kale, dino kale), chopped
• 1-2 teaspoons dried marjoram
• 2 tablespoons vinegar

Put the chopped kale into a food processor and chop it further — finely chopped is what we’re going for. Let it rest 45 minutes so we can get the benefit of the sulforaphane. 

Mince garlic and let it rest 15 minutes.

After those have rested, spray skillet with a few Evo-sprays of extra-virgin olive oil, then sauté the scallions (or onions) and the garlic for few minutes. Then add the kale and marjoram and vinegar, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or so over low heat, stirring occasionally.

I haven’t made this yet, but I’m going to, and I’ll eat 1/2 cup of that with each meal.

Update: See also this recipe: Lotsa Lutein Soup.

BTW, cooking kale reduces the lutein content by half, but kale contains so much that you still get more than most foods. However, that does suggest baby-kale salads (raw kale) is a good idea.

Other foods high in lutein include winter squash, collards, and peas.

See also this report (brought to my attention by a reader, Montreal Steve), and in particular this table in the report. Pesto is a terrific source, a wonderful thing to know. And I’m going to start eating corn tortillas with my meals.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 6:25 am

Republicans are determined to destroy the US

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Heather Cox Richardson describes the outcome of the GOP retaking control of either the House or the Senate: an insane refusal to raise the debt ceiling (which does not create new debt but simply allows the US to pay for programs that Congress already passed). She writes:

Today the Senate approved a short-term extension of government funding to prevent a shutdown. The deal funds the government until December 16 and also provides about $12 billion in aid to Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s invasion. The House is expected to pass the measure tomorrow.

Behind this measure is a potential nightmare scenario. MAGA Republicans have already threatened to refuse to fund the government unless President Joe Biden and the Democrats reverse all their policies. If Republicans take control of either the House or the Senate—or both—in the midterms, they have the potential to throw the government into default, something that has never happened before.

The Republicans have this weapon because the U.S. has a weird funding system put in place more than 100 years ago. Congress appropriates money for programs that the Treasury then has to fund. But there is a “debt ceiling” for how much the government can borrow. If Congress has spent more money than the debt ceiling will permit, Congress must raise that ceiling or the government will default.

The debt ceiling is not an appropriation, it simply permits the government to pay debts already incurred.

Congress actually originally intended the debt ceiling to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing. In the era of World War I, when it needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used.

Now, though, the debt ceiling has become a political cudgel because if it is not raised when Congress spends more than it has the ability to repay, the country will default on its debts.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling more than 100 times since it first went into effect, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, and indeed, the Republicans raised it three times under former president Donald Trump. But when they had to raise it almost exactly a year ago under Biden, Republicans refused.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned then that a default “could trigger a spike in interest rates, a steep drop in stock prices and other financial turmoil. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.” It would jeopardize the status of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency. Financial services firm Moody’s Analytics warned that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth.

And yet, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who had voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in his career, said, “There is no chance, no chance the Republican conference will…help Democrats…resume ramming through partisan socialism.” His stand was in part because it was not clear he had the votes he needed to support an increase, even though establishment Republicans like McConnell were quite aware of the damage a default would create.

Driving the Republican stance was . . .

Continue reading. Most voters oppose Republican programs and policies (e.g., outlawing abortion), which is why Republicans running for office won’t talk about them nor about anything specific that they will do. But now they are specific about one thing: if Congress will not reverse legislation already passed and in effect, then Republicans will destroy the economy.

The US has become a hot mess.

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2022 at 6:18 am

Thousands were released from prison during covid. The results are shocking.

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Molly Gill, vice-president of policy for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

We are keeping many people in prison even though they are no danger to the public, a jaw-dropping new statistic shows. That serves as proof that it’s time to rethink our incarceration policies for those with a low risk of reoffending.

To protect those most vulnerable to covid-19 during the pandemic, the Cares Act allowed the Justice Department to order the release of people in federal prisons and place them on home confinement. More than 11,000 people were eventually released. Of those, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) reported that only 17 of them committed new crimes.

That’s not a typo. Seventeen. That’s a 0.15 percent recidivism rate in a country where it’s normal for 30 to 65 percent of people coming home from prison to reoffend within three years of release.

Of those 17 people, most new offenses were for possessing or selling drugs or other minor offenses. Of the 17 new crimes, only one was violent (an aggravated assault), and none were sex offenses.

This extremely low recidivism rate shows there are many, many people in prison we can safely release to the community. These 11,000 releases were not random. People in low- and minimum-security prisons or at high risk of complications from covid were prioritized for consideration for release.

Except for people convicted of some offenses, such as sex offenses, no one was automatically barred from consideration because of their crime, sentence length or time served. The BOP instead assessed each eligible person individually, looking at their prison disciplinary record, any violent or gang-related conduct and their risk to the public.

The agency allowed a person’s release if they had a home to go to and would be able to weather all the burdens of home confinement. Home confinement requires people to wear an ankle monitor with GPS tracking, stay home except when given permission to leave for things such as work or doctor’s appointments and remain drug- and crime-free. No one was simply released onto the street without support or supervision.

The Cares Act policy teaches us that many of our prison sentences are unnecessarily lengthy. People who commit crimes should be held accountable, and that might include serious time in prison. Many of the people released to home confinement had years or even decades left to serve on their sentences. But they changed in prison and are no longer a danger to others, as the new data confirms.

Releases to home confinement were also focused on two groups of people who pose little to no risk to public safety: the . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

It’s good when people learn from experience. Apparently most of the convicts did. I’ll be most corrections officers have not — and, of course, the privatization of prisons means that some major corporations have a financial interest in maximizing the number of people in prisons. That industry has lobbied heavily for mandatory minimum sentences (keeping people in prison longer) and for three-strikes laws (keeping people in prison until they finally die). The reason is not public safety, it is corporate profit.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 9:06 pm

Asking one simple question can entirely change how you feel

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Christian Waughi, professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, writes in Psyche:

The pursuit of happiness is many people’s primary goal in life, and a subject that’s occupied countless philosophers and psychologists over the millennia. It is usually painted as an effortful and difficult aim to accomplish, especially in trying times. Indeed, it’s through their promises to help us reach a happier place that many self-help gurus pay for their mansions on the beach. However, taking the first step to being happier could be a lot simpler than many people realise.

Logic dictates that happiness relies, at least in part, on a person’s ability to regulate their emotions. After all, emotion regulation is the process of trying to change one’s current emotions to reach a more desired emotional state. For example, I hate crying at sad movies, so whenever I feel the sadness creeping up, I usually crack a joke to ward it off. Many of the emotion-regulation strategies people commonly use might be familiar to you, such as doing fun things, talking with a friend, and trying to think about the situation differently.

However, there is actually a much simpler way to change how you feel, as my colleagues and I, along with other researchers, have found. It starts with answering the question ‘How do you feel?’ You might think of the answer as just a ‘report’ of your current emotional state or mood, end of story. But there’s more to it: research shows that the mere act of answering this question actually changes the emotions you are currently feeling.

When we put our feelings into words in this way, scientists call it ‘affect labelling’. In psychology, the word ‘affect’ (the ‘a’ is pronounced as in the word ‘tap’) refers to the family of feelings that include emotions and moods. So, if someone asks you how you feel or if you ask yourself the same question, you ‘affect label’ if you respond by saying something like ‘I feel angry’, but not if you just respond with a grunt or a grimace.

Studies have shown that when people label their negative emotions, it can decrease how negative they feel. For this research, participants typically view various negative emotional stimuli (such as images of snarling dogs or impoverished children) and then the researchers ask them to either label the emotion of the image (eg, ‘fear’ or ‘sad’) or, for a control comparison, to label the content of the image (eg, ‘animal’ or ‘person’), and finally the participants will report their emotional feelings. Importantly, at no point do the researchers instruct the participants to purposefully and effortfully reduce their negative emotions. Most participants are also unaware that labelling their emotions might change their feelings. The fact that labelling the emotion provoked by an image nonetheless has this dampening effect on participants’ negative feelings suggests that affect labelling is different from those deliberate emotion-regulation strategies I mentioned earlier. It seems that affect labelling can help reduce negative emotions ‘implicitly’ – or without a conscious goal.

Affect labelling helps people feel better by dampening negative emotions while also heightening positive emotions

You might wonder what this has to do with experiencing more happiness, rather just less misery. Relevant here is whether  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 5:48 pm

Broccoli in garlic sauce, incidentally vegan

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This recipe looks interesting — and presented at a good clip. I particularly found the Marmite tip of interest: use it in a sauce to add umami (and B vitamins). 

I certainly would not use white rice, which lacks the minerals found in the bran. I would use brown rice or — more likely — a more nutritious grain (like kamut or rye) or pseudo-grain (like quinoa). Those are more nutritious than rice and also tastier, IMO.

Another change I would make: after cutting up the broccoli, I would let it rest for 45 minutes to prevent the loss of sulforaphane. (The video at the link provides a workaround to preserve the sulforaphane if you don’t let the broccoli rest.) I routinely use the “hack-and-hold” method when I cook broccoli (or kale or cabbage or any other cruciferous vegetable). I like doing that better than using the workaround.

I would also probably skip the sugar and molasses, but that’s me.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 5:06 pm

Good walk

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Now that I am walking longer and faster, the training effect has really taken hold. Today:

3.07 miles
52 minutes 10 seconds
3.54 mph
110 steps/minute
33″ stride (average)
5765 steps

My daily goal is 6000 steps, and 6000 steps in the walk alone would be nice, so I might after a while extend the length of the walk another quarter-mile or so. Or maybe extend the time, so that I do a 1-hour walk. It’s gotten pleasant now: good weather for walking, and I am fit enough now so that the walk is not a strain.

I do use Nordic walking poles, of course, which makes the walk more enjoyable and also a better exercise (since it becomes a full-body exercise, with the arms, shoulders, and upper back involved — plus using the poles improves my walking posture. The map and tracking info is from my Amazfit GTS 4 Mini.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 3:01 pm

Great news! Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream shall return!

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Dr. Selby’s 3X Concentrated Shaving Cream is solid to the touch, like a soap, and it makes a wonderful lavender-scented lather — it’s one of my favorite lather sources — see this post. It has sadly been absent from the US for several years — it’s made in Uruguay (a very interesting country, FWIW).

I just got a comment that Dr. Selby’s shall return. I’ll post more about this as I learn more.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:24 pm

Billionaire-backed legal group sues to block student loan forgiveness

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Judd Legum reports at Popular Information:

In August, President Biden announced he would provide student debt relief to lower and middle-class borrowers. Under the plan, eligible individuals would get up to $20,000 in student debt canceled if they received Pell Grants and up to $10,000 otherwise. The program is open to individuals who make less than $125,000 annually ($250,000 for married couples). The plan will benefit up to 43 million borrowers, and up to 20 million people will see their loans zeroed out.

On Tuesday, a man named Frank Garrison filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the relief. Here is how the Washington Post reported the news:

A public interest lawyer in Indiana is suing to block President Biden’s plan to cancel some student debt, arguing that the policy will force him to pay state taxes on the forgiven amount.

And this is the lead of CNN’s story:

In one of the first significant legal challenges to President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, a public interest lawyer filed a lawsuit Tuesday arguing that the policy is an abuse of executive power.

In both stories, we later learn that Garrison is being represented in the case by his employer, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), which the Washington Post describes as a “conservative public interest law firm.” But what you will not learn from either story is that the Pacific Legal Foundation receives extensive funding from right-wing billionaires. And this “public interest law firm” has a record of filing lawsuits that advance its donors’ economic and ideological interests.

Among the PLF”s major donors are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:16 pm

Just how racist is the MAGA movement? This survey measures it.

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Jennifer Rubin has an interesting column (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

It has long been understood that the MAGA movement is heavily dependent on White grievance and straight-up racism. (Hence Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow racist groups and his statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” in the violent clashes at the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.)

Now, we have numbers to prove it.

The connection between racism and the right-wing movement is apparent in a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute. The survey asked respondents about 11 statements designed to probe views on racism. For example: “White Americans today are not responsible for discrimination against Black people in the past.” The pollsters then used their answers to quantify a “structural racism index,” which provides a general score from zero to 1 measuring a person’s attitudes on “white supremacy and racial inequality, the impact of discrimination on African American economic mobility, the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, general perceptions of race, and whether racism is still significant problem today.” Higher scores indicate a more receptive attitude to racist beliefs.

The results shouldn’t surprise anyone paying attention to the MAGA crowd’s rhetoric and veneration of the Confederacy. “Among all Americans, the median value on the structural racism index is 0.45, near the center of the scale,” the poll found. “The median score on the structural racism index for Republicans is 0.67, compared with 0.45 for independents and 0.27 for Democrats.” Put differently, Republicans are much more likely to buy into the notion that Whites are victims.

The poll also found that the religious group that makes up the core of today’s GOP and MAGA movement has the highest structural racism measure among the demographics it surveyed: “White evangelical Protestants have the highest median score, at 0.64, while Latter-day Saints, white Catholics, and white mainline Protestants each have a median of 0.55. By contrast, religiously unaffiliated white Americans score 0.33.” This is true even though Whites report far less discrimination toward them than racial minorities do.

The survey also captured just how popular the “Lost Cause” to rewrite the history of the Civil War and downplay or ignore the evil of slavery is on the right: “Republicans overwhelmingly back efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy (85%), compared with less than half of independents (46%) and only one in four Democrats (26%). The contrast between white Republicans and white Democrats is stark. Nearly nine in 10 white Republicans (87%), compared with 23% of white Democrats, support efforts to preserve the legacy of the Confederacy.”

Americans who fully support reforming Confederate monuments have a much lower structural racism index score, while those who oppose it have a much higher score. The same is true when it comes to

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:13 pm

Good news for many: Coffee Linked to Reduced Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

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Megan Brooks reports in Medscape:

Drinking 2 to 3 daily cups of coffee, including ground, instant, or decaffeinated coffee, is associated with significant reductions in new cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality, compared with avoiding coffee, a new analysis of the prospective UK Biobank suggests.

Ground and instant coffee, but interestingly, not decaffeinated coffee intake was also associated with reduced risk of new-onset arrhythmia, including atrial fibrillation.

“Our study is the first to look at differences in coffee subtypes to tease out important differences which may explain some of the mechanisms through which coffee works,” Peter M. Kistler, MD, the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia, told | Medscape Cardiology.

“Daily coffee intake should not be discouraged by physicians but rather considered part of a healthy diet,” Kistler said.

“This study supports that coffee is safe and even potentially beneficial, which is consistent with most of the prior evidence,” Carl “Chip” Lavie, MD, who wasn’t involved in the study, told | Medscape Cardiology.

“We do not prescribe coffee to patients, but for the majority who like coffee, they can be encouraged it is fine to take a few cups daily,” said Lavie, with the Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The study was published online today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. 

Clear Cardiovascular Benefits

A total of 449,563 UK Biobank participants (median age 58 years; 55% women), who were free of arrhythmias or other CVD at baseline, reported their level of daily coffee intake and preferred type of coffee on questionnaires.

During more than 12.5 years of follow up,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 1:02 pm

Van Yulay and the iKon open comb

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Van Yulay’s After Dark is a favorite. Van Yulay shaving soaps vary in their formula from soap to soap, and the catalogue entry for each soap explains the benefits of the various ingredients used in the soap. Here’s what this one is made of:

Stearic Acid, Coconut Fatty Acid, Palm Stearic, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium& Sodium Hydroxide, Aloe Vera, Coconut-Tallow-Lanolin-Babassu-Manteca-Argan-Emu Oils, Shea & Kokum Butters, Sodium Lactate, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Allantoin, Silica, Bentonite & Kaolin Clay, and Fragrance.

I noticed in loading the effect of the two clays — a little slower and a little thicker on the brush — but the resulting lather, once I worked in a little more water as I brushed my face, was extremely nice, as was the fragrance: “Cinnamon, leather, cypress, sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, patchouli, lavender, mandarin orange, musk, benzoin, vanilla, apple, cedar, and bergamot.”

Well lathered — and the Plisson synthetic did a fine job — I brought my iKon stainless open-comb razor into play. This is not the Shavecraft version (cast aluminum head, and called “Short Comb”), but the stainless version, currently sold with a B1 coating. This is a remarkably good razor — extremely comfortable with no sacrifice of efficiency. Using it is always a pleasure. Mine, as evidence by the bare stainless steel, is from long ago, and I enjoyed it from the start.

Three passes left my face smooth and undamaged, and a good splash of Van Yulay’s aftershave splash (a witch-hazel-based formula, which among other things includes emu oil — so shake well) ended the shave and started a new day on a good note.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria: “

Originally blended in the 19th Century, this is a blend of some of Queen Victoria’s favourite teas that were delivered by our founder John Murchie when HRM was in residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This regal blend is one of Murchie’s most notable blends, yielding a smooth but complex tea incorporating the rich fruit flavours of Darjeeling, brisk Ceylon, smoky tones of Lapsang, and the underlying sweetness of Jasmine.

And, as I do most mornings, I enjoyed a bowl of the chia pudding I made last night.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2022 at 10:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Ultra-processed foods are extra tasty concoctions that we eat every day. They are also linked with chronic diseases and a higher risk of early death.

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Anahad O’Connor reports (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post:

Is your diet ultra-processed?

In many households, ultra-processed foods are mainstays at the kitchen table. They include products that you may not even think of as junk food such as breakfast cereals, muffins, snack bars and sweetened yogurts. Soft drinks and energy drinks count, too.

These foods represent an increasingly large share of the world’s diet. Almost 60 percent of the calories that adults in America eat are from ultra-processed foods. They account for 25 to 50 percent of the calories consumed in many other countries, including England, CanadaFranceLebanonJapan and Brazil.

Every year, food companies introduce thousands of new ultra-processed foods with an endless variety of flavors and ingredients. These products deliver potent combinations of fat, sugar, sodium and artificial flavors. They are what scientists call hyper-palatable: Irresistible, easy to overeat, and capable of hijacking the brain’s reward system and provoking powerful cravings.

Yet in dozens of large studies, scientists have found that ultra-processed foods are linked to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. A recent study of more than 22,000 people found that people who ate a lot of ultra-processed foods had a 19 percent higher likelihood of early death and a 32 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with people who ate few ultra-processed foods.

So how do we break our dependence on ultra-processed foods? You can start by learning which foods in your diet count as ultra-processed. You don’t necessarily have to give them up. But once you know how to spot an ultra-processed food, it’s easy to find a less-processed substitute.

This is your body on ultra-processed foods

The growing focus on ultra-processed foods represents a paradigm shift in how the scientific and public health community is thinking about nutrition. Instead of focusing on the nutrients, calories or types of food, the emphasis instead is on what happens to the food after it’s grown or raised and the physical, biological and chemical processes that occur before we eat it.

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

I shop in the produce section (vegetables, fruit, greens) and the bulk bins (grain, dried beans/lentils, nuts & seeds). From the shelves I buy some spices but not much else — hot sauce occasionally, but I also make my own.

Once I got accustomed to it and learned my way around, a whole-food plant-based diet is easy — it’s also tasty, satisfying, and healthy.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2022 at 12:36 pm

Some hospitals rake in high profits while their patients are loaded with medical debt

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The Canadian healthcare system is by no means perfect, but IMO it’s much better than the rapacious hypercapitalistic US system where the drive to grow profits penalizes patients. Noam Levey reports for NPR:

PROSPER, Texas [ironic name, eh? – LG] — Almost everything about the opening of the 2019 Prosper High School Eagles’ football season was big.

The game in this Dallas-Fort Worth suburb began with fireworks and a four-airplane flyover. A trained eagle soared over the field. And some 12,000 fans filled the team’s new stadium, a $53 million colossus with the largest video screen of any high school venue in Texas. Atop the stadium was also a big name: Children’s Health.

Business has been good for the billion-dollar pediatric hospital system, which agreed to pay $2.5 million to put its name on the Prosper stadium. Other Dallas-Fort Worth medical systems have also thrived. Though exempt from taxes as nonprofit institutions, several, including Children’s, notched double-digit margins in recent years, outperforming many of the area’s Fortune 500 companies.

But patients aren’t sharing in the good times. Of the nation’s 20 most populous counties, none has a higher concentration of medical debt than Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth. Second is Dallas County, credit bureau data show.

The mismatched fortunes of hospitals and their patients reach well beyond this corner of Texas. Nationwide, many hospitals have grown wealthy, spending lavishly on advertising, team sponsorships, and even spas, while patients are squeezed by skyrocketing medical prices and rising deductibles.

A KHN review of hospital finances in the country’s 306 hospital markets found that several of the most profitable markets also have some of the highest levels of patient debt.

Overall, about a third of the 100 million adults in the U.S. with health care debt owe money for a hospitalization, according to a poll conducted by KFF for this project. Close to half of those owe at least $5,000. About a quarter owe $10,000 or more.

Many are pursued by collectors when they can’t pay their bills or hospitals sell the debt.

“The fact is, if you walk into a hospital today, chances are you are going to walk out with debt, even if you have insurance,” said Allison Sesso, chief executive of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys debt from hospitals and debt collectors so patients won’t have to pay it.

A community shadowed by debt

Across the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area — the nation’s fourth-largest — the impact has been devastating.

“Medical debt is forcing people here to make incredibly agonizing choices,” said Toby Savitz, programs director at Pathfinders, a Fort Worth nonprofit that assists people with credit problems. Savitz estimated that at least half their clients have medical debt. Many are scrimping on food, neglecting rent, even ending up homeless, she said, “and this is not just low-income people.”

David Zipprich, a Fort Worth businessman and grandfather, was forced out of retirement after hospitalizations left him owing more than $200,000.

Zipprich, 64, had spent a career in financial consulting. He owned a small bungalow in a historical neighborhood near the Fort Worth rail yards. His daughters, both teachers, and his four grandchildren lived nearby. He had health insurance and some savings, and he’d paid off his mortgage.

Then in early 2020, Zipprich landed in the hospital. While driving, his blood sugar dropped precipitously, causing him to black out and crash his car.

Three months later, after he was diagnosed with diabetes, another complication led to another hospitalization. In December 2020, covid-19 put him there yet again. “I look back at that year and feel lucky I even survived,” Zipprich said.

But even with insurance, Zipprich was inundated with debt notices and calls from collectors. His credit score plummeted below 600, and he had to refinance his home. “My stress was off the charts,” he said, sitting in his neatly kept living room with his Shih Tzu, Murphy.

Overall in Tarrant County, 27% of residents with credit reports have medical debt on their records, credit bureau data analyzed by KHN and the nonprofit Urban Institute shows. In Dallas County, it’s 22%.

That’s more than five times the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2022 at 12:08 pm

Tertius and Lo Storto

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Tertius is the only Ariana & Evans soap I have, but it definitely makes me want to buy more of them. “Leather, Tobacco, & Oud, supported by a hint of Rose & Patchouli.” (And it’s on sale at the link, not an affiliate link.) The formulation is their new formulation:

Kaizen 2e Ingredients: Stearic Acid, Beef Tallow, Aqua, Goats Milk, Potassium Hydroxide, Kokum Butter, Shea Butter, Beer, Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Aloe Juice, Avocado Oil, Apricot Kernel Seed Oil, Lanolin, Agave, Sorbitol, Slippery Elm, Sodium Lactate, Xanthan Gum, Emu Oil, Hyaluronic Acid, Silk Amino Acid, Colloidal Oatmeal, Yogurt, Tussah Silk, Marshmallow Root, Fragrance

And that works very well. My Rooney Emilion easily created an extremely rich lather. I did notice that the soap was somewhat thirsty. I shake my brush well before I start loading, so that it is barely damp. For some soaps (like The Dead Sea), that’s enough, but others require adding a little water during the loading, and today I had to add water several times — and the lather was really excellent.

Fatip’s Lo Storto is a wonderful little slant, quite comfortable and extremely efficient. Cutting was remarkably easy (and restricted to the stubble), and the end result was perfect smoothness.

A splash of Irisch Moos with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel and the shave is ended and the day begun — rather a rainy day, by the looks of it.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Victorian Garden: “Notes of jasmine, lavender, sweet pea and bergamot are combined with strawberry and vanilla in this smooth and well-rounded blend of green and black teas. This tea evokes the beautiful florals that are a quintessential part of Victorian gardens.” I believe the reference is to the era, but it applies equally well to the city.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2022 at 9:46 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Servants of the Damned

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Judd Legum has a very interesting interview at Popular Information. It begins:

I recently finished reading “Servants of the Damned,” a new book by New York Times business investigations editor David Enrich. The book exposes how Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms, has used its immense power to enable corporate misconduct and, more recently, the Trump administration. I reached out to Enrich because his book provides essential insights into how corporations, with the help of firms like Jones Day, manipulate the political system. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. I hope you enjoy it. — Judd

LEGUM: You describe regulatory changes around advertising that facilitated the growth of Jones Day and other law firms into much larger, much more powerful forces. It switched the focus of the firm from being officers of the court to doing whatever it takes to advance corporate interests and maximize firm profits. How much of this do you think is a reflection of Jones Day’s evolution versus Jones Day responding to the demands of the modern corporation?

ENRICH: It’s actually a really easy answer to that question. It’s both. There’s a symbiotic relationship between these law firms and their big corporate clients. It’s not a coincidence that as the global economy globalized and big companies became global, law firms were following suit.

It’s a cycle that kind of reinforces itself, because the more you expand, the more revenue you need to pay for that expansion, which means you need to become more aggressive in pursuing clients and assignments. The bigger you get, and the faster you get bigger, the more pressure there is on your lawyers to swallow the concerns that they might otherwise have had, put morality aside, and really just focus, within the confines of legal ethics and the law, on how far can we push to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

LEGUM: One of the through lines of the book I was really interested in is this idea of the law firm and how it chooses its clients. Do the misdeeds of the client reflect on the attorney? The pat answer that Jones Day keeps falling back on is that everyone needs an attorney, even unpopular people.

ENRICH: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2022 at 8:08 pm

Good old Anki — that’s Alfa November Kilo Lima —and the NATO phonetic alphabet

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I just shipped a big box of Go boards to The Son for The Grandsons, and UPS notified me that there was an “exception,” so of course I called. I ended up having to give the tracking number — which actually includes both numbers and letters — to three operators. The letters turned out to be difficult.

When I called, I naturally got the Canadian UPS representative, who had had trouble in getting the tracking number right from my dictation. Once she got it right, she saw that the package is now in Seattle, so she transferred me to a US UPS representative. The US representative (once she got the tracking number right from my dictation) saw that the package was an international shipment, so she had me call an international UPS representative. The international representative had no trouble with the tracking number because by then I had learned how to dictate the tracking number correctly, and she informed me that the exception was already cleared and the package was continuing to wend its way (not her words) to the destination.

My takeaway from all that: I really must learn the NATO phonetic alphabet. That alphabet has been carefully developed so that the phonetic name for each letter sounds distinctly different from any of the other letter names so that you don’t run into the confusions that ensue when, say, “b” is heard for “v” or vice versa — Bravo (b’s name) does not sound at all like Victor (v’s name). Moreover, it is a standard a phonetic alphabet, so people are generally familiar with it if they do any work at all with spelling out words or tracking numbers.

All the NATO letter names are spelled as usual, with two exceptions:

“Alfa” and “Juliett” are intentionally spelled as such to avoid mispronunciations.

That quotation is from a Wikipedia article, which is interesting and worth reading.

So I decided to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet and to start today. From my Esperanto study, I know that Anki is perfect for this. As you can see at the link (and again the Wikipedia article is worth reading), Anki is a flashcard system that uses spaced repetition to ensure efficient and relatively easy learning — that is, things you are having difficulty with you see often, and things you know fairly well you see less often, and things you really know you see quite seldom (but still occasionally — and if you have difficulty when they pop up, then you will see them again sooner).

You can — and in most cases should — make your own deck of flashcards, but decks can be shared and if a deck is made to match the sequence of a particular textbook, for example, it makes sense to share. And the NATO phonetic alphabet is a natural for a shared deck. As the Wikipedia article says:

While Anki’s user manual encourages the creation of one’s own decks for most material, there is still a large and active database of shared decks that users can download and use.[13] Available decks range from foreign-language decks (often constructed with frequency tables) to geography, physics, biology, chemistry, and more. Various medical science decks, often made by multiple users in collaboration, are also available.

Anki has two websites: one is to download the app, and the other is used by the app for decks of flashcards. “Using” generally refers to the daily practice of going through the deck(s) you are learning, but it can also mean creating a flashcard (or a whole deck) — or searching through the shared decks and downloading any that are relevant.

So I downloaded one of the NATO phonetic alphabet decks, and I have already reviewed the first 10 cards. (Anki gives you only a few new cards each day, and since in this case there are only 26 cards, I’ll quickly get through them.)

Tomorrow I’ll use the app again, and it will present me with some new cards and also some of the cards from today — namely, those that gave me trouble. Within a few days I’ll know the NATO phonetic alphabetic cold.

I wrote a fairly detailed post on my own experience with Anki when I was studying Esperanto. If you’re interested in learning anything where spaced repetition and flashcards might be useful, take a look.

Update: Great way to practice

After I had learned the phonetic alphabet cold using Anki, I noticed a marked mental pause when I would try to use it in practice. It was as if I knew it, but to access it to use it, I had to go into a different mental room and take it off the shelf. In other words, it wasn’t at the tip of my tongue so I could just cite by reflex. The NATO name was indeed attached to its letter, but by a long tether, as it were.

What I needed was to routinely practice for a few minutes each for, say, a week, until the tether shortened and finally the NATO name was actually part of the letter itself. I found on the web a random letter generator — in fact, a random word generator, but it will also generate random letters.

So I set it to generate random uppercase letters, 10 at a time. I then recited aloud the NATO name for each letter as fast as I could. Each run-through took about 6 seconds, so in 30 seconds I could do 5 run-throughs, 50 letters in all.

I decided 5 run-throughs of 10 letters each was enough for a session. I did a morning run-through and an evening run-through, and in a week, the NATO name was embedded in the letter: no hesitation, no need to wait to adjust.

I figured once every week or two, I’ll refresh, but now I have it. A few days ago, I again had to recite a tracking number, and this time the NATO names just came automatically from my mouth — and the customer-service agent readily recognized them, because are the names that people are familiar with.

Written by Leisureguy

27 September 2022 at 5:32 pm

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