Later On

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

Archive for September 6th, 2022

Men have fewer friends than ever, and it’s harming their health

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Subtitled: “The “male friendship recession” is having dire consequences.” In Vox Aubrey Hirsch has an excellent graphic overview of the friendship desert in which most men dwell and the damage that they suffer as a result. Well worth reading. Here’s one panel as an example:

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 6:54 pm

The Solution to the Trump Judge Problem Nobody Wants to Talk About

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In Slate Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern write:

Legal analysts lit up social media on Monday in response to the broad and potentially devastating order by Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a Donald Trump appointee to the Southern District of Florida, temporarily halting the criminal investigation of the former president and his alleged pilfering of classified documents. Her order further authorized a special master to identify and return the small fraction of materials seized in last month’s court-approved search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence that may belong to him. One analyst after another meticulously detailed the failings of Cannon’s reasoning: It was “untethered to the law,” “a political conclusion in search of a legal rationale,” “deeply problematic,” “laughably bad.” At some point, one truly runs out of euphemisms for lawless partisan hackery.

It’s possible to agree with every one of these criticisms but still find them less than satisfying. Because at the end of the day, no matter how much withering criticism she faces, Cannon still gets to put on the black robe and run interference for her benefactor. She will still get a standing ovation at some future Federalist Society gathering. She remains in control of this case. But it’s not just Cannon: Many smart lawyers also noted that the Justice Department now faces the unenviable task of having to appeal this decision up to higher courts that are filled with Trump appointees, which takes the sting out of the opprobrium: For all we know, the Trump-stacked 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or five radical justices on the Supreme Court may also greet her outrageous decision with a standing ovation.

So the problem is not just the extreme and heinous flaws in Cannon’s ruling. It’s also the Trump-shaped world in which Cannon operates, with impunity, which we will all have to endure for the foreseeable future. It’s the brutal reality that we may face a steady stream of depraved decisions like Cannon’s for the rest of our lives—and the pain of hearing from every quarter that nothing can be done to remedy it.

We watched the same pattern play out at the end of this last Supreme Court term. One case after another blew up decades of existing precedent and tests and doctrine and replaced them with Rorschach exams that transformed contemporary Republican policies into constitutional law. Smart lawyers dutifully digested these opinions and set to work figuring out just how the EPA, or public school districts, or state legislatures that want to stop mass shootings can plausibly work around these new tests. And of course, were we living in a rational regime in which the rule of law governed, that would make perfect sense. But if the last term at the Supreme Court and indeed Cannon’s baffling new order mean anything, they signify that in this new age of legal Calvinball, one side invents new “rules” and then the other scrambles to try to play by them. For every single legal thinker who read the Mar-a-Lago order to mean, quite correctly, that ex-presidents are above the law, furrowing your brow and pointing out its grievous errors only takes you halfway there. The better question is what, if anything, do you propose to do about it? The furrowing is cathartic, but it’s also not a plan.

If there were a principle that best embodies why progressives are losing ground so quickly—even as they are correct on the facts, and the law, and the zeitgeist—it must be this tendency to just keep on lawyering the other side’s bad law in the hopes that the lawyering itself will make all the bad faith and crooked law go away. But for those who are genuinely worried that democracy will rise or fall based on whether a case lands before their judges or others, merely explaining legal flaws in pointillist detail isn’t an answer. And soberly explaining that Cannon was wrong about most stuff but correct about two things is decidedly not an answer, either. You do not, under any circumstances, have to hand it to them.

It is not a stand-alone answer to point out that Cannon was a Trump pick—a member of the extremely not-neutral Federalist Society, seated after Trump lost the election—or that the former president’s lawyers forum-shopped in order to get this case in front of her. It also doesn’t help to note that Cannon herself acknowledged the proper venue to adjudicate the executive privilege claims made in this case (which are on their face absurd) is in fact in a different court in D.C., where Cannon has no jurisdiction and where Trump did not make his case. Nor is it an answer to note that federal judges have literally no constitutional authority to stop an ongoing criminal investigation in its tracks, as Cannon purported to do, rendering her decision an imperious assault on the separation of powers. That, too, is an accurate description of the problem. Stating that, too, is not a solution.

Until and unless those of us who are shocked and horrified at lawless rulings by lawless Trump judges are prepared to propose structural solutions, the aggregated effect of criticizing their rulings won’t be to restore the rule of law or even to restore public confidence in the rule of law. The aggregated effect will be just to confirm that we will all be living under the thumb of Donald Trump’s lifetime-appointed hacks for many decades.

There are solutions out there for the problem of Trump’s runaway judges. Expanding the courts—even just the lower courts—is the most bulletproof. Congress has periodically added seats to the federal judiciary from its inception to help judges keep up with ever-ballooning caseloads. Today’s litigants (who are not named Donald Trump) often face yearslong court delays. The Judicial Conference, a nonpartisan government institution that develops administrative policies, has begged Congress to add seats to the lower courts. Some Republicans have supported the idea in recognition of the crisis facing our understaffed judiciary. Letting Joe Biden balance out far-right courts like the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals—which will weigh Cannon’s ruling if the government appeals—would go a long way to tame the jurisprudence of Trumpism. When district court judges know their radical decisions will be overturned on appeal, they may be less likely to swing for the fences in the first place.

There are other worthy ideas too. Term  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 6:08 pm

New batch of tempeh: Red Kidney Bean plus Little and Foxtail Millets

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I had a small amount of Foxtail millet, so I added enough Little millet to make a total of 1.5 cups before cooking. I also cooked (separately) 1.5 cups red kidney beans (measured before cooking).

The millet seems to want to clump and stick together, so I’m a little apprehensive about this batch. In the future, for a 3-cup batch I might go with 2 cups beans and 1 cup millet instead of 1.5 cups of each.

Still, there it is bagged after cooking, drying, cooling, adding vinegar, and adding starter culture. It is now on the rack in the incubator for the next 24 hours. If all goes well, I’ll have a new batch of tempeh ready about this time on Friday afternoon. 

I am following my usual method of making tempeh.

Tempeh done

I called a finish after about 75 hours. Cross-section is at the right, and more details can be found in this post.

I’m not totally happy with how it turned out. I think a couple of problems might have been a) the red kidney beans were a lot larger than the grains of millet, and b) the millet tended to clump.

Still, it’s perfectly edible, and before I know it, I’ll be fermenting the next batch.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 2:13 pm

Gut microbes eat our medication

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I consciously try to care for my gut microbiome — eating a whole-food plant-based diet, avoiding artificial sweeteners (toxic to the microbiome), and so on — and also to increase its diversity and population — eating fermented foods with live culture, eat fresh fruit daily, and so on. Although I knew some medications — NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and of course antibiotics — can decimate one’s microbiome, it had not occurred to me that one’s microbiome can also attack medications they are taking. (I don’t take medications, so it’s not an issue for me, but plenty of people do.)

An article by Jen Chase in the Harvard Gazette discusses recent research on the effects of the gut microbiome on medications:

The first time a young Vayu Maini Rekdal manipulated microbes, he made a decent sourdough bread, even if he gave little thought to the crucial chemical reactions involved.

More crucial, he would later learn, is the role microbes play in helping our bodies break down foods so they can absorb the nutrients. Since we cannot digest certain substances — all-important fiber, for example — microbes step up to perform chemistry no human can.

“But this kind of microbial metabolism can also be detrimental,” said Maini Rekdal, a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. student in the lab of Professor Emily Balskus, and first author on their new study published June 14 in Science.

According to Maini Rekdal, gut microbes can chew up medications with often hazardous side effects. “Maybe the drug is not going to reach its target in the body; maybe it’s going to be toxic all of a sudden; maybe it’s going to be less helpful,” he said.

In their study, Balskus, Maini Rekdal, and their collaborators at the University of California, San Francisco, describe one of the first concrete examples of how the microbiome can interfere with a drug’s intended path through the body. Focusing on levodopa (L-dopa), the primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease, they identified which bacteria out of the trillions of species is responsible for degrading the drug, and how to stop it.

Parkinson’s disease globally affects more than 1 percent of those age 60 and above. The neurological disorder attacks nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, without which the body can suffer tremors, muscle rigidity, and problems with balance and coordination. The cause of the disease is unknown.

The primary treatment for Parkinson’s symptoms is L-dopa, a drug taken orally that delivers dopamine to the brain. To do so, it must first cross the blood-brain barrier. For most patients, only about 1 to 5 percent of the drug actually reaches the brain. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 1:45 pm

Know Your Hearing Number

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Like many, I have age-related hearing loss. To help my hearing, I wear hearing aids. My vision also requires help, so I wear glasses — it’s the same idea, except hearing aids have been expensive. That’s likely to change by the end of the year, now that the FTC finally got itself together and has approved over-the-counter hearing aids. That will inject some productive competition into a market that has long been dominated by a 5-corporation cabal. We shall certainly see less costly hearing aids and are likely to see a burst of innovation as well.

Knowing your hearing number can help you determine whether it’s time to get some help with your hearing (and thus reduce the likelihood cognitive decline, dementia, depression, social isolation, and loneliness). The site at the link explains the hearing number — what it signifies and how to find out your own. One way is through an audiologist, but there’s also a free downloadable app for a smartphone or tablet that will allow you to do your own test if you have headphones or earbuds. 

This video, along with the website linked above, is worth reviewing. And if your hearing number shows that something that will assist your hearing (as glasses assist your vision), I urge you to take action. Because hearing loss is gradual, many don’t realize how much it has affected them — not only in reduced hearing (and increased frequency of saying “What? Could you say that again?” and/or fixed smiles of incomprehension), but also in decline in cognition and increase in isolation. 

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 1:37 pm

Good electric bass

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I just recently came across Charles Berthoud’s YouTube channel, and I’ve been enjoy it a lot. He plays some unusual instruments — for example, a 12-string bass and a fretless 6-string bass — but he does a lot with a regular 4-string electric bass. Here’s a sample:

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Music, Video

Uruguay to Test Green-Hydrogen Appeal With Offshore Wind Tender

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Using electricity from a zero-emissions source (for example, wind or solar) to power electrolyzers that produce hydrogen from water to use as a zero-emissions fuel — that’s a win-win in anyone’s book. And, I would think, the oxygen that’s produced could also be of value.

Ken Parks reports for Bloomberg News:

Uruguay will gauge investor appetite for developing massive green hydrogen projects in the south Atlantic when it starts the tender of 10 offshore wind power blocs in the coming months covering an area the size of Delaware.

State energy company Ancap plans to publish bidding rules for offshore blocs this year and pick the winners in the second quarter of 2023, Chairman Alejandro Stipanicic said. He’s optimistic that some of the more than 40 oil drillers and renewable firms that inquired about the auction will submit bids. The power is earmarked for electrolyzers that strip hydrogen from water.

“We are offering blocs that have a certain potential that in our judgment justifies multibillion-dollar investments,” Stipanicic said in an interview. “It’s an offer that has attracted the attention of players that already said ‘we are decided to go for those blocs’.”

Oil majors like BP Plc and Shell Plc are pivoting to hydrogen at a time when countries are seeking to limit global warming and bolster energy security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Global output of clean hydrogen could surge as much as 18-fold to 11.6 million metric tons a year by 2030 with strong backing by governments, according to BloombergNEF.

In a good year, Uruguay generates more than 95% of its electricity from renewable sources thanks to investments that poured into wind, solar and biomass power in the last decade. Now the administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou is pitching Uruguay’s untapped renewable resources and tax breaks to put the country on the path to becoming a global hydrogen exporter.

Uruguay’s efforts are starting to pay off with Germany’s Enertrag planning to build 350 megawatts of solar and wind power in northern Uruguay to produce 21,000 tons of hydrogen a year from 2025. Enertrag will process the hydrogen into 100,000 tons of e-methanol, potentially for export to Germany.

Each of the blocs Ancap will tender could generate at least 2.1 gigawatts of electricity, enough to make 187,000 tons of hydrogen a year, according to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 11:50 am

Sheep Are the Solar Industry’s Lawn Mowers of Choice

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 Amrith Ramkumar reports in the Wall Street Journal:

DEPORT, Texas—A team clearing grass from a field of solar panels on a recent day worked without complaint, despite the summer heat.

The panels blanket nearly 1,500 acres of a solar farm in Deport, a town near the Oklahoma border. Ely Valdez, the boss, makes sure prairie grasses don’t block sunshine from the panels. His sheep do most of the work.

Jobs clearing local flora under and around stretches of solar panels have triggered an unexpected boom for Mr. Valdez and other sheepherders working the new photovoltaic fields blooming across America. Centuries after breakout roles in the Bible, shepherds are back in demand.

Sheep, the surprise workhorse of renewable energy, are generating several million dollars in annual revenue tidying up solar farms nationwide.

“It’s changing all of our lives,” said Mr. Valdez, 45 years old. He expects the flocks he oversees to soon generate several hundred thousand dollars in annual revenue. The solar windfall helped Mr. Valdez pay off his house in San Antonio.

The number of acres of solar fields employing sheep in the U.S. has grown to tens of thousands from 5,000 in 2018, according to estimates by people in the business. Flock owners charge as much as $500 an acre a year.

The solar industry auditioned several methods for the job, but requirements weeded out expected contenders. Power mowers, which can’t maneuver easily enough under panels to avoid the risk of damaging equipment, are of limited use.

Grazing animals looked like front-runners but logistical constraints thinned the herd. Cows and horses are too big to fit under the panels. Goats are happy to eat any noxious weed but also chew on wiring and climb on equipment.

Sheep—docile, ravenous and just the right height—easily smoked the field.

Mr. Valdez is responsible for the 1,700 sheep that dot the solar farm owned by Lightsource BP in Deport. He gets a cut of the money paid to the flock’s owner. Where sheep are at work, the sound of bleating pierces the steady buzz of machinery converting sunlight to electricity.

His own 2,000-sheep flock is deployed at three solar projects near his home and watched over by his wife, three children and 10 employees. Like shepherds of the past, he teaches the kids.

Mr. Valdez, who previously owned a concrete company, launched his shepherding business seven years ago. He read an article about solar grazing in Europe that intrigued him and, by chance, saw a frustrated technician doing battle with plants sprouting in a solar field across the street from his house. He made a $30,000 deal for his 27 ewes and ditched the concrete business.

Hiring sheep for landscaping goes back decades. The White House had a flock of sheep to keep weeds in check during  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 11:40 am

Nordic walking effects on my fasting blood-glucose levels

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I resumed Nordic walking on 1 September (with a distance of 1.5 miles), so I have walked for 5 days. (Today’s walk will come later.) When I started, I took a screenshot of my fasting blood-glucose averages as of that day (photo at left). The figures shown are, as indicated, in mmol/L — 6.2 mmol/L, or 112 mg/dL, the latter being the common unit of measure used in the US. 

I have been following a whole-food plant-based diet, a diet that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be a healthful diet and one that is particularly helpful for treating — reversing and even curing — chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. (See How Not To Die, by Michael Greger MD for more detailed information — that’s the book that got me started on my diet.)

But I had stopped exercising. I was interrupted by surgery (to install a pacemaker), which required me to take it easy for six weeks, particularly with my arms (so definitely no Nordic walking). However, on 1 September I received the FutureMe letter I had mailed a year ago, and I decided to tighten up on all fronts (details in this post).

For diet, that mainly meant absolutely no food after 5:00pm. (I had been having the occasional small snack — a few walnuts, for example, or a couple of Medjool dates, or a small portion of my Big Red One fermented vegetables.) I also started eating smaller portions and totally quit eating between meals. (I’ve lost 2.8 lbs since 1 September, but that’s a side effect, not the goal. My focus and goal is to adhere closely to a good WFPB diet with no eating between meals or after 5:00pm.)

And one big change I made on 1 September was to resume Nordic walking. I had the insight (discussed in this post) that the walk’s duration and speed were secondary — that I did not need to concern myself about those but could let them take care of themselves. My focus and primary concern was consistency — that I walk every day. 

If I walked daily, I would (without conscious effort) find myself walking faster and longer as I became fitter. I would not have to push myself to do that because I would gradually increase speed and distance because I was enjoying the walkMy conscious priority was simply to walk every day — the only “pushing” I did was to push myself out the door each day and start walking.

In fact, it’s been surprisingly easy. Once I was telling myself, “Today’s main priority is to take a walk,” I got to it and did the walk. Already I notice that the walks are e.getting easier and, without trying, I’m walking a little faster — 3.12 mph on 1 Sept, 3.31 mph on 5 Sept (yesterday) .On today’s walk, I could try to improve on that speed, but I won’t try. My focus is taking the walk and letting the speed take care of itself. I’ll walk as fast as I feel like walking. If my speed improves, well and good. If it doesn’t, that also is fine. The key is to take the walk.

Adhering to my diet and walking every day is benefiting my fasting blood-glucose levels. At the right you see my new average readings as of today. The average of the past 7 days is 5.7 mmol/L (103 mg/dL) — and this morning’s reading was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL), and that’s in the normal range. 

This is not exactly unexpected — lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking, quitting alcohol, adopting a whole-food plant-based diet (or at least eating meat, fish, and dairy rarely and highly processed foods not at all), and exercising regularly are recommended precisely because they improve one’s health. That’s the whole point of the book How Not To Die, whose recommendations are solidly backed by research results (from studies identified in the books endnotes).

Still, I am pleased to see such rapid improvement — it’s not been even a week — and enormously pleased by the 5.4 mmol/L reading this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 11:28 am

Tobacco again today

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Time for tobacco once more, and this time it’s pipe tobacco. This Phoenix Artisan Cavendish is in their CK-6 formula, so the lather — today created with my Yaqi Cashmere — is exceptional. I applied it to a stubble well prepared with Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave, something I use for every shave but don’t mention every time. For me, it makes for a noticeably nicer shave.

Three passes with my Rockwell 6S using the R4 baseplate. I had to work a little harder than usual, so following the shave I switched to a new blade, and this time I used a Rockwell blade, which seems appropriate.

A splash of Cavendish aftershave with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the job. A great start for a sunny buy cool morning.

The tea this morning is Mark T. Wendell’s Hu-Kwa tea: “Hu-Kwa is a uniquely crafted black tea from the island of Formosa and is considered by many tea connoisseurs to be the benchmark against which all other Lapsang Souchong style teas are measured.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 9:52 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Forgiving debt forgiveness

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Seen on Facebook:

Derek Sabis 26 Aug:
Tom Brady had a $1 million PPP loan forgiven. Khloe Kardashian had her $1.25 million loan forgiven. PDiddy had his $2 million loan forgiven. Reese Witherspoon had her $1 million loan forgiven. Jay-Z and Jared Kushner, both billionaires, had each of their $2 million loans fully forgiven. Numerous members in Congress, from both parties, had their loans forgiven. really don’t want to hear anyone annoyed about $10,000 in student loan debt being forgiven. Shut up.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2022 at 5:19 am

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