Later On

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

Archive for September 2nd, 2022

Student Debt Relief Is Undermining the Military’s Predatory Recruiting Practices

leave a comment »

Jordan Uhl writes in Jacobin:

Amid a brutal year for military recruiting, conservative war hawks are openly fretting that President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a onetime means-tested student debt cancellation will undercut the military’s ability to prey on desperate young Americans.

“Student loan forgiveness undermines one of our military’s greatest recruitment tools at a time of dangerously low enlistments,” Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) tweeted shortly after the announcement.

In the six years since Banks first ran for Congress, he has taken more than $400,000 from defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, and other major players in the military-industrial complex. Corporate political action committees for Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, L3Harris Technologies, and Ultra Electronics have each donated tens of thousands of dollars to Banks, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data analyzed by OpenSecrets. He now sits on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Department of Defense and United States military.

Members of the committee have already collectively received more than $3.4 million from defense contractors and weapons manufacturers this election cycle.

Banks’s admission highlights the way the student debt crisis has been exploited by the military-industrial complex. By saying the quiet part out loud, Banks is finally speaking the truth about how military recruiters use the GI Bill — the 1944 law that awards a robust benefits package to veterans — as a remedy for the cost of higher education to convince young people to enlist.

“To have members of Congress openly imply that the answer to this is to actually exacerbate hardship for poor and working-class youth is, actually, the best thing for young Americans to see,” Mike Prysner, an antiwar veteran and activist, told the Lever. “It proves their reasons for not joining are totally valid. Why allow yourself to be chewed up and spit out in service of a system that cares so little for you and your well being?”

Biden’s initiative will cancel up to $10,000 of federal student loan debt for people who make under $125,000 annually, plus an additional $10,000 for these borrowers who received a Pell Grant in college. The program is estimated to eliminate roughly $300 billion in total debt, reducing the outstanding student debt nationwide from $1.7 trillion to $1.4 trillion.

According to the College Board’s 2021 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid report, the average cost for annual tuition and fees at public four-year colleges has risen from $4,160 to $10,740 since the early 1990s — a 158 percent increase. At private institutions, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 7:09 pm

How to Learn From Your Failures

leave a comment »

My own suggestion is stop using the word “failure” and instead view your efforts as “practice.” When a pianist tries playing a new piece of music and makes mistakes, the pianist doesn’t consider the practice session a “failure.” The whole idea is to have a time where things can be tried, mistakes can be made for free, and learning can occur through the experience of trying things and seeing what works. To call practice sessions “failure sessions” because mistakes are made would totally miss the point.

So when you’re learning some new skill or trying something new, allow yourself to practice — when you make a mistake, see what it tells you and what you can learn from it. That’s a good part of my post on finding pleasure in the discomfort of learning new skills. (Last night, in fact, I wrote a new intro to my post on personal finance to emphasize this very point.)

Jeremy Adam Smith writes in Greater Good Magazine:

Sooner or later, everyone fails at something. But does everyone learn from their failures? In fact, the evidence suggests that most people struggle to grow from mistakes and defeats.

When researchers Lauren Eskreis-Winkler and Ayelet Fishbach developed the “Facing Failure” game, they wanted to test how well people learn from failure. The game consists of successive rounds of multiple-choice questions, where feedback from earlier rounds can help you perform better in later rounds—and getting more correct answers means making more money.

However, across many different studies, the researchers have consistently found that people “underlearn” from failure in the game. In fact, people continue to not learn from errors even as the incentives to do so increase.

“Even when participants had the chance to earn a learning bonus that was 900% larger than the participation payment, players learned less from failure than success,” they write. It’s a result echoed by other studies. The “ostrich effect” describes the tendency for investors to stop checking their stocks when market value tumbles—whereas they’ll compulsively do so when things are going well. One 2012 study found that novices often avoid negative performance feedback.

Why do people avoid the lessons of failure? That’s the question Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach explored in a recent paper published by Perspectives on Psychological Science. They find a host of emotional and cognitive obstacles to learning from failure—and they provide concrete steps to overcoming them.

Overcoming feelings of failure

Failure bruises the ego, that metaphorical seat of our self-esteem and self-importance. When we fail, we feel threatened—and that sense of threat can trigger a fight-or-flight response.

“Fight” in the context of failure looks like wholesale dismissal of the value of the task, or criticism of the people involved or the unfairness of the situation you faced. However, “flight” might be the more common response to failure. When we flee failure, we disengage our attention from the task that threatens our sense of ourselves as effective people.

In a series of six experiments published in 2020, Hallgeir Sjåstad, Roy Baumeister, and Michael Ent randomly assigned participants to receive good or bad feedback on a cognitive test or academic performance. They found that participants who initially failed at a task predicted that succeeding in the future would make them less happy than it actually did—and they tended to dismiss the goals of the tests. The researchers coin the term “sour grapes effect” to describe this kind of response.

How do we make failure less threatening to the ego? Research offers a few suggestions.

Observe other people’s failures. In their paper, Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach propose removing the ego from failure as much as possible by looking at other people’s failures first, before you take on a task yourself. In one of their studies, half of participants got lessons from other people’s negative results in the Facing Failure game before playing it themselves—and learned more from those failures than they did from their own. In other words, when you set out to learn out to ski, it will probably help to watch YouTube videos about common mistakes, before you hit the slopes yourself.

Get some distance. If negative emotions are getting in the way of your understanding, they also suggest trying self-distancing techniques. This involves thinking of your personal experience from the outside perspective of a neutral third party, asking, “Why did Jeremy fail?” instead of “Why did I fail?” While that might sound cheesy, it seems to work. As Amy L. Eva writes in Greater Good:

According to research, when people adopt a self-distanced perspective while discussing a difficult event, they make better sense of their reactions, experience less emotional distress, and display fewer physiological signs of stress. In the long term, they also experience reduced reactivity when remembering the same problematic event weeks or months later, and they are less vulnerable to recurring thoughts (or rumination).

It may also help to write about the failure in the third person or from the point of view of a future self who is looking back on the failure. [Here’s where can be very useful. See note below. – LG]

Share your own failure story. People tend to hide their own failures, out of a sense of shame, but there are ways to turn failure into success by transforming it into a story of growth.

In a series of 2018 and 2019 studies with Angela Duckworth, Eskreis-Winkler and Fishbach asked people to turn failure . . .

Continue reading.

In my post on Covey’s 7 habits, there’s a section titled “One approach to learning/testing this method,” and in that section, one part is particularly relevant to learning any new approach: “Set up post-trial evaluation.”

The suggestions there can be generalized to any situation in which you are going to learn something new. Take a look at the ideas there and adapt them as needed.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 5:21 pm

Today’s walk: a little faster, a little longer

leave a comment »

The longer distance is because I took out the trash and so started the walk from the dumpster out back instead of in front of the building. The speed, however, is a nice improvement: 3.12 mph yesterday, 3.26 today. I happened to notice my stride length: 32″. Normally it’s 30″. I imagine the additional 2″ is due to the push from the Nordic walking poles. 

I’m still somewhat skeptical of the heart-rate readings, but I do trust the distance and time and thus the speed. I’m sure the exercise is beneficial (even though today I got only 4 PAI points).

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 4:18 pm

Crypto currency is a digital form of beanie babies

leave a comment »

People use money to buy things they need (for example, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and taxes to support the government in doing its tasks) or things that are investments and thus return money (for example, rental property, a share in a company that makes money from making and selling things or services, and things like beanie babies).

“Things like beanie babies” are things that don’t do anything that produces a good or provides a service, but just sits there while you hope a greater fool will come along and pay you more for it than you paid to get it. Beanie babies — the plush toys of yesteryear — are an example of such an investment, as were tulips at the time of the tulip craze, as the slap-dash unfinished, unliveable apartments in China’s ghost cities have been recently, as much of the high-end art market is today, as baseball trading cards have been, and — it strikes me — as crypto currency is now.

Crypto currency doesn’t generate any income nor is it useful in itself. It isn’t even pleasant or attractive (as are beanie babies, tulips, art, and baseball cards). It exists only so that you will transfer money to someone to obtain it in the hope that someone else will come along and give you more money for it.

This perhaps reveals that I don’t truly understand crypto currency — but on the other hand there have been quite a few spectacular failures.

Update: Here’s a good interview with a person intimately involved with, and knowledgeable about, crypto currency.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Daily life

Even more evidence links highly processed food to a greater risk of cancer and death

leave a comment »

Aria Bendix reports at NBC News:

Evidence linking processed food to serious health issues like cancer and even death continues to mount.

A pair of studies published Wednesday highlights the risk of frequently eating items such as hot dogs, cheese puffs, soda and french fries.

The first study, which looked at more than 24,000 adults in Italy, found that those who consumed ultra-processed foods in large quantities had a higher risk of death overall, and mortality from heart disease in particular, relative to people who ate less food in this category.

The second study followed more than 200,000 U.S. health care workers over a span of 24 to 28 years, and found that men who consumed lots of ultra-processed food — more than nine servings per day, on average — had a 29% higher risk of colorectal cancer than men who ate around three daily servings.

Fang Fang Zhang, the second study’s senior author and an associate professor at Tufts University, said the group with the highest consumption of ultra-processed foods probably got around 80% of their daily calories from those items. The U.S. average is around 57%.

The study did not find an association between the consumption of ultra-processed food and colorectal cancer in women, though scientists aren’t sure why. One theory is that higher levels of estrogen could have a protective benefit, Zhang said. But the result could also be an anomaly, since most risk factors for colorectal cancer are similar for both sexes.

Prior research has linked ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cognitive decline, breast cancer and cancer in general.

Foods considered “ultra-processed” contain more artificial ingredients than those that are simply processed by adding salt, sugar or oil. Ultra-processed foods usually have very few whole ingredients and contain flavorings, colorings or other additives. Condiments, microwaveable dinners, packaged doughnuts and ice cream, for example, all fall under this label.

“It’s sort of an attempt to get a definition of junk food, which I think we all sort of know when we see it,” said Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who was not involved in either study.

Because the colon and rectum are “on the frontlines of our diet” as part of our digestive system, Willett said, “colorectal cancer seems to be more directly related to diet than most other cancers.”

Colorectal cancer rates have increased among young adults in recent decades. A study from the American Cancer Society found that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 9:33 am

Prosecutors detail items seized from Trump estate, including dozens of empty ‘classified’ folders

leave a comment »

The empty folders are worrisome since we have no idea where the contents are. However, Jared did get $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.

Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney report in Politico:

Agents who searched Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate recovered records with highly classified marking mixed in boxes with other personal items like books and clothing, according to a government inventory unsealed in a court filing Friday.

The more detailed description of items seized during the Aug. 8 search also shows dozens of empty folders with classified marking, and many labeled “return to staff secretary/military aide.”

The filing comes a day after a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, heard arguments from the Justice Department and Trump’s legal team about potential restraints on the department’s access to the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago.

Trump’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

The new inventory shows that along with those records marked classified in one box of documents recovered from Trump’s estate were 99 press clippings, 69 government records without classification markings, 43 empty folders with “classified” banners and 28 empty folders marked “Return to Staff Secretary/Military Aide.”

Emphasis added.

“Clusterfuck” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 9:28 am

A true Luxury shave, and the wonderful Dorco PL602

with 2 comments

Grooming Dept Luxury shaving soap is indeed luxurious. The soap is the Kairos formula, and its fragrance is oud and leather. I loaded my Phoenix Artisan Green Ray brush well — a bit longer than I normally would — and got a wonderful lather.

The Dorco PL602 is increasingly difficult to find, and that’s a shame because it is a truly wonderful razor in terms of feel and performance. Three comfortable passes left my face totally smooth.

A splash of Fine Accoutrement’s l’Orange Noir (with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel) finished the shave and launched the day.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lemon tea: “Featuring the flavour of fresh lemon on rich Ceylon, Darjeeling, Keemun, and Nepal black teas.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 September 2022 at 8:59 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

%d bloggers like this: