Later On

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

Archive for September 3rd, 2022

Walk realization

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Way back when, in my post on Nordic walking, I noted this:

In the course of a month of Nordic walking, I found I had gradually increased the walk duration to just over an hour—about 8000 steps, 4.1 miles—simply because I enjoyed it so much. (My plan originally was to walk for 30 minutes, but now I really enjoy the longer walk.)

In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Sherlock Holmes says to Dr. Watson, “You see, but you do not observe.” Like Dr. Watson, I also saw but did not observe. That is, I failed to draw the obvious conclusion from what I saw (and experienced). I have now added to that post:

I recently realized that I had happened upon something significant in that paragraph above, but it didn’t sink in to the point that I explicitly recognized it. It is this: Focus on consistency (walking every day), and let speed and duration take care of themselves — you don’t need to think about them because they will improve on their own, so long as you are consistent in walking every day.

To achieve consistency, I found the idea of “priority” useful. In the evening, when I think about what’s on my plate for the next day, I say to myself, “Well, my main priority is to take a walk.” And each morning when I awaken, I think “Today’s priority is to take a walk.”

I don’t worry about how fast or how long I walk, but focus solely on making sure that I do take a walk. If I walk every day, then as my strength and my fitness improve, I will gradually find myself walking longer and faster because I feel like it, not because it’s a goal. The only goal is to go for a walk each day. That is the priority.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 8:23 pm

Another day, another walk

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I’ll take a break from posting my walk data — I imagine they are of interest mostly to me — but I thought that I would post today’s because that’s three days in a row, enough to suggest (though not establish) a new habit — or, as in this case, a renewed habit. Perhaps renewing a habit requires fewer repetitions than establishing a habit.

Speed is down slightly, as are the total PAI points, but still I did well — 25 PAI points today, for a current cumulative total of 95, close to the minimum of 100 PAI that I should maintain. (The 100 point minimum is for the cumulative seven-day total (current day and previous six days). That is, it’s not 100 PAI points a day.) I’ll easily achieve the minimum tomorrow, and then the goal is to keep it at 100 for 90 days. I was almost at 90 days when I had to stop last time, so I hope I can get the 90 days this time. 

Yesterday for some reason I got only 4 PAI for the walk. That was due to the Amazfit not picking up heart rate accurately. But 25 PAI today seems good, and day before yesterday I got 45 PAI — first time out and the Amazfit was working, so I got a lot of VO2 Max.

Note that the heart rate today looks totally reasonable. The dip occurred when I was traversing a section that is downhill for a while, so that makes sense. That’s a nice distribution of Intensive, aerobic, anaerobic, and VO2 Max, the last of which brings in lots of PAI points. 

The impetus to begin again was that FutureMe letter from a year ago. I really like that service.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 2:18 pm

The world’s first 100% hydrogen passenger trains are now running in Germany

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If solar energy is used to break apart water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen (both of which can be sold), then the production costs are free, though of course capital investment is required to build the production plant and solar array. The point is that both the production of the fuel (hydrogen) and the operation of the engine are then zero emissions.

Adele Peters reports in Fast Company:

Sitting inside a diesel train, you can be exposed to more pollution than if you were standing next to a busy street at rush hour. The trains are still common—especially in the U.S. But in Germany, one small train line that used to run on diesel is moving to 100% hydrogen.

Inside fuel cells, hydrogen stored on the roof of the train combines with oxygen to make power. The process emits only water vapor.

“It’s less noisy,” says Bruno Marguet from Alstom, the France-based company that designed and made the trains for LNVG, the German regional rail company that operates the trains. “You don’t smell the diesel smoke when you’re in the station . . . there aren’t diesel emissions from [nitrogen oxides], which are harmful for health.”

Without CO2 emissions from the smokestack, it’s also better for the climate. Right now, some of the hydrogen supplying the line is made with fossil fuels, but the train operator plans to work with partners to produce the hydrogen with local wind power instead.

Around half of Europe’s train lines have been electrified, and can use electric trains. But on lines that aren’t used as often, adding overhead electric wires can be too expensive. Hydrogen trains can also go farther before needing to refuel than a battery-electric train can go on one charge; Alstom’s trains go 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles, before the hydrogen tanks need to be refilled. On LNVG’s regional route between smaller towns, the trains can run all day without refueling.

The company plans to transition completely away from diesel. “We will not buy any more diesel trains, in order to do even more to combat climate change,” Carmen Schwable, a spokesperson for LNVG, told Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster. “We [also] are convinced that diesel trains will no longer be economically viable in future.” Trains are already a lower-carbon choice for travel than flying, but like every other industry, train companies will have to move away from fossil fuels to meet global climate goals. Since trains can last for 30 years, new diesel trains arguably need to be phased out now.

The new route, between . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 12:03 pm

World’s Highest-Jumping Robot

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Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 11:50 am

Trump Is Having a Nuclear Meltdown on His Sad Social Media Platform

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In the New Republic Alex Shephard looks at Trump’s decompensating under pressure. This archived version of the article doesn’t have the paywall, but the title of the article is overlaid. The article begins:

This week, the Department of Justice released photographs of highly sensitive, top secret documents that were recovered during the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago last month. If it’s true that a picture speaks a thousand words, then some of those words, in this instance were, “Wow it sure looks like Trump committed a serious crime,” and “If this was any other person, they’d likely be indicted right now, if not down a deep, dark hole.” But Trump is not “any other person: As a once and (he hopes) future head of state, he’s being treated with a lot more deference than most suspects. He’s also unlike other people in another way: He seems bent on personally decimating his own defense, with the help of his allies.

Since the DOJ executed their search warrant, there has been little doubt that this was a more serious matter than most other Trump peccadilloes. But throughout his political career—and business career, for that matter—Trump successfully skirted out of danger, often on some very flimsy premises. When impeached the first time for trying to withhold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on Joe Biden—a scandal that only looks worse with every passing week of Russia’s invasion—he and Republicans hung on to a sliver of ambiguity, arguing that there was never an explicit quid pro quo. When impeached a second time—this time for inciting a riot that nearly killed members of Congress—they followed more or less the same strategy. Sure, Trump implored his followers to “fight like hell.” But he didn’t mean it literally. In fact he meant the opposite.

There is no sliver of ambiguity now. The photographs released by the Department of Justice on Tuesday is the equivalent of the quintessential “drugs on the table” pictures associated with narcotics busts. The FBI went to Mar-a-Lago and found hundreds of pages of documents clearly marked “top secret.” Donald Trump, a private citizen, is not allowed to have those documents. Not only that, his lawyers lied to the Feds. For the first time in his post-presidency, it now seems more likely than not that he will be prosecuted. Trump is currently benefiting from the Department of Justice’s quasi-official directive to not indict a political figure within 90 days of an election. But it would not be surprising to see an indictment come the early winter. Trump is screwed. But so are the Republicans who have insisted that there was nothing to see here.

For weeks, Trump has rotated through a variety of implausible explanations for why he was hanging on to these materials: First the documents were fake; later, despite being fake, he had declassified them anyway. With few exceptions, Republicans initially jumped into the fray in Trump’s defense, perhaps understandably considering he’d historically wriggled his way out of each and every jam. Trump’s defenders argued that the Department of Justice and its leader, Merrick Garland, were acting like the Gestapo; that this was a sign that the United States had become a banana republic. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised retaliation against Garland; others threatened to investigate Biden and his family when they retook power. (As if they aren’t already planning to do this.) Some issued calls to defund the FBI—an organization that, in their view, needed to be purged.

This response was almost autonomic; like watching the leg of a dead frog kick when an electric current runs through its corpse. Over the last seven years, there has only been one ironclad rule of GOP politics: The only excommunicable sin is to go against Donald Trump. And so Republicans reflexively backed him to the hilt—forgetting, as my colleague Matt Ford argued last month, that the smarter move is to always anticipate that something worse is coming.

They’d also forgotten that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 11:19 am

Hey, Pete Buttigieg, Use Your Power to Get Us Better Airline Service

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Pete Buttigieg talks well but is weak in terms of action (and actions speak louder than words). Luke Goldstein reports in the Washington Monthly:

Anticipating disruptions to airline travel over the Labor Day weekend, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to the 10 largest airlines’ chief executives censuring their recent behavior as “unacceptable.” “These aren’t just numbers. These are missed birthday parties, graduations, time with loved ones, and important meetings,” he wrote in August. Buttigieg threatened to post an online chart assessing the airlines’ performance if things got worse.

The secretary should and could do much more. Nightmarish airline travel conditions have become a fixture this summer. It has gotten so bad that 38 state attorneys general, from both red states and blue states, sent a joint letter on Wednesday to Senate and House leadership explicitly calling out Buttigieg’s Transportation Department for failing “to respond and provide appropriate recourse” for frustrated airline flyers. Airlines delayed more than a million flights and canceled almost 129,000 from January to July, more than in 2021 and surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 11 percent. ​​In many cases, the airlines know beforehand that they’ll have to cancel flights at the last minute because of staffing shortages or scheduling complications. They sell tickets anyway, betting that many customers won’t cash in the vouchers they receive. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, the airlines made $10 billion in 2021 from unredeemed vouchers.

Yet Buttigieg’s idea of getting tough on airlines seems to mean pummeling by PowerPoint. Instead, the secretary needs to use his powers. Section 411 of the Federal Aviation Act, for example, grants the secretary of transportation the authority to “investigate and decide whether an air carrier, foreign air carrier or ticket agent has been or is engaged in an unfair or deceptive practice or an unfair method of competition in air transportation or the sale of air transportation.”

In 2010, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood used this authority to issue severe penalties for airlines that left passengers waiting on tarmacs for hours before canceling flights, a widespread problem at the time. Many members of Buttigieg’s party, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, are urging him to use that power again. New York Attorney General Letitia James has even told him exactly how to do it. “Airlines knowingly advertising and booking flights they do not have adequate staff to operate are flying in the face of the law,” James said at a press conference.

Buttigieg shouldn’t stop there. Most of what’s gone wrong with flying is rooted in monopoly, and, as it happens, federal law also gives the Transportation Department substantial authority over airline mergers.

After a wave of large mergers from 2010 to 2013, just four airlines now control most of the market. The Big Four can tacitly collude to keep prices high and lower seat supply, which helps explain why fare hikes this summer have far surpassed inflation. Amplifying the effects of monopoly, a small group of giant institutional investors—notably BlackRock—all hold major stakes in each of the four major airlines. A 2018 paper by the economists José Azar, Martin Schmalz, and Isabel Tecu showed that this concentrated ownership structure reduces the incentive to compete and increases consumer costs.

The flying public pays. Domestic ticket prices jumped  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 10:53 am

Psychology is experimental history

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has an intriguing view of what psychology is all about. He writes:

Turn on the TV and you’ll see psychologists: In TreatmentLie to MeCriminal MindsMindhunterThe Sopranos. Go on the internet and you’ll see psychologists: of the top 25 most-viewed TED talks of all time, five are by psychologists (seven if you count psychiatrists and neuroscientists). Go to college and you’ll see psychologists: 60% of college students take Psych 101. Of course, to get there, you’ll have to take psychological tests: the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, or Sorting Hat.

Talk to humans and you’ll hear words psychologists made up: cognitive dissonance, implicit bias, emotional intelligence, grit, growth mindset, stereotype threat, extraversion, nudges, confirmation bias, and groupthink, not to mention the alphabet soup of diagnoses (ADHD, OCD, PTSD), and the Freudian classics (ego, repression, anal fixation). Visit Google, Apple, Amazon, or Facebook and you’ll find psychologists tinkering with the tools that govern our lives.

Psychology is successful because people are naturally more interested in what’s going on in their minds than what’s going on in their small intestines. We fall in love with humans, give birth to them, work for them, vote for them, buy things from them, and sometimes get killed by them, so understanding them a little better seems like a good use of time. (Whether psychologists deserve all this attention or use it wisely is a separate question.)

Yet most people don’t really understand what psychologists do. I rediscover this every time someone at a party asks me what I do and I have to explain what I don’t do: I’m a psychologist but I don’t treat patients, I can’t figure out what’s wrong with their mother, and I can’t prescribe them anything. When I tell people that I spent much of the past five years asking study participants to have conversations and then asking them when they wanted those conversations to end, they don’t know what to do with me. (Studying when conversations end makes me a real hit at parties.) “So, uh, what…what do you learn from that?” they ask before gently drifting away to talk to someone else. This isn’t just because I’m a social psychologist rather than a clinical psychologist; my clinical colleagues don’t have much more success explaining that they’re writing a statistical package that calculates bridge centrality, or that they’re collecting data on “finstagrams.”

I don’t blame them. I didn’t begin to understand what psychologists do until I started doing it myself. In high school, I played pretend chemist by making green fire with barium and a Bunsen burner. I played pretend biologist by collecting lots of potato bugs and putting them in a jar; I forget what we were supposed to learn from this, but a lot of potato bugs died. I played pretend mathematician by proving you can solve a triangle if you know the length of two sides and the angle between them. I played pretend historian by reading Anne Frank’s diary, pretend author by writing a poem, pretend politician by running for student council.

But I never got a chance to play pretend psychologist. Even when I took Psych 101, I learned things like “Wilhelm Wundt made the first psychology lab” and on the exam it asked “Who made the first psychology lab” and I had to say “Wilhelm Wundt.” Surprisingly, this doesn’t come up often in my work today.

Psychology is such a powerful force in our lives that we ought to understand what it is and how it works. I’d like to offer an explanation. I ought to warn you that some of my colleagues may not agree with it, and while I’m making a case to you, I also want to make a case to them. It goes like this: psychology is experimental history.


History is the attempt to tell true stories about humans. Historians hope to answer big questions by picking the right subjects and researching them carefully: What caused World War I? How did humans invent penicillin? Was Suleiman the Magnificent really all that magnificent?

Psychology is also the attempt to tell true stories about humans. We hope to answer big questions by picking the right subjects and researching them carefully, but instead of waiting for stories to happen, we create them. We construct situations, place humans inside them, and record what happens.

Sometimes the situations are very simple, like giving the participant a vignette to read. Sometimes the situations are clever little plays, like convincing the participant that someone in the next room is having a heart attack. In most psychological research, however, psychologists cause people to do something that they would not have done otherwise, even if it’s just answering a question. That is, psychologists make experimental history.

The base unit of mass is the kilogram, the base unit of length is the meter, and the base unit of history is the story. (That’s why “history” is just “story” with a little greeting tacked on the front). The base unit of psychology is also the story. Read the methods section of any psychology paper and you will find people doing things at times in places––stories. And it has to be that way. Humans are not hydrogen atoms; each one is different. Situations cannot be brought to standard temperature and pressure; each one is different. The interaction of humans and situations produces stories as inexorably as the interaction of elements produces mass: these people did this thing in this situation.

We call lots of things “stories” these days so to be clear: the stories I’m talking about are literal accounts of what people did, the stuff that populates methods and results sections. You know that’s where the action is because nobody will ever remember anything else. (Anyone recall the introduction to the Milgram shock studies?) Everything surrounding the story is exposition, exegesis, or salesmanship.

Of course, you don’t have to be a psychologist to make stories. Doctors . . .

Continue reading.

Religion seems to fall into the category of telling stories: stories about what particular people have done and what happens, often with God playing a role. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, and many more familiar to most Christians. The Book of Daniel consists of terrific stories — Chapter 5 is a short story in itself. But note the first chapter of the Book of Daniel — I quoted it in this post, but it seemed worth a post of its own, so I moved the content to this post.

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 10:28 am

Tobacco today

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Today I used the brush formerly known as Wee Scot 3 and now yclept “Case,” a doughayty little brush that set productively to work on my diminishing puck of Puros la Habana, by Van Yulay. This is quite a good soap, as Van Yulay soaps tend to be. From the catalog listing:

Shaving Soap Contents:

  • Tallow – has been used as an effective skincare ingredient for centuries!  As your skin need all vitamins to replenish the daily lives, tallow has Vitamin A, D, E and K, as well as Omega – fatty acids.
  • Emu Oil – contains high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, therefore it is able to easily penetrate the skin’s barriers for deep moisturization. When compared to other types of oil, emu oil had 2-4 times greater penetration of the skin. These effects show that emu oil is able to moisturize and rejuvenate the skin extremely effectively.
  • Silk Amino Acids – This silk forms a natural layer over the skin, keeping moisture locked in and harsh conditions out, leaving skin protected and well-nourished.
  • Babassu Oil is an antioxidant and will help destroy the free radicals that cause premature aging and cancer. The oil is naturally anti-inflammatory and is often used to treat skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Coconut Fatty Acid – excellent lathering and conditioning when used in shave soap.
  • Bentonite Clay – Gives an extra creaminess and silkiness to the shave soap. Generally, white clay’s natural absorbing, detoxifying and exfoliating properties makes it an indispensable ingredient in shaving products.
  • Silk Amino Acid is a unique silk peptide and one of the best at reducing fine lines and other signs of aging. Aside from the amazing texture of silk extracts, silk amino acids contain properties which allow it to rejuvenate skin tone, reduce wrinkles and hydrate your skin tissues to protect from free radicals.

That’s a partial list of ingredients — just the high points. The complete list is at the link. And the lather is very nice indeed: fragrant, bountiful, and slick.

Three passes of The Holy Black’s SR-71 slant, a clone of the Merkur 37, left my face perfectly smooth albeit with one nick, so My Nik Is Sealed rode to the rescue.

A splash of Tabac aftershave with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the job.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lavender Cream: “the robust black tea base is rounded out with calming flavours and aromas of lavender and vanilla.”

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2022 at 9:24 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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