Later On

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

Archive for October 2022

Herschel Walker, dismantled

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Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2022 at 9:38 am

Oh, that Monday shave! I love the Eros.

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I think it’s a good thing to look forward with some eagerness to Monday mornings. My Copper Hat silvertip brush raised a great lather from Barrister & Mann’s Cologne Russe. I started with a well-shaken-out brush that was barely damp, and after starting to load added just a small driblet of water, which turned out to be just the right amount for a perfect loading: ample soap in the brush, with no large bubbles. I noted that the fragrance of this soap is more complex than that of most soaps I use, and much more in the direction of a fine EDT.

I lathered my face well, and then set to work with the Eros, a French slant of a certain age that I suspect is based on a Wahlbusch design (but that’s just a guess). Three easy passes with no damage left my face perfectly smooth.

A splash of Cologne Russe aftershave with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, and the week begins.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Lavender Cream: “A beautifully balanced lavender black tea with creamy vanilla.”

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2022 at 9:32 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Useful food database

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The Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition Focused on Comparison has many useful lists, plus you can do your own searches. If you do your own searches, note that the checkbox for each option is on the LEFT of the item name. (The tendency is to read the item name and then check the box on the right — but that box is for the next item on that row.)

I was interested to see that hearts of palm are very high in potassium. Not so high as paprika, but then who is going to eat 100g (3.5 oz) of paprika?

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 12:26 pm

Artificial sweeteners are touted as an alternative to sugar — but research casts doubt on their safety

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Jason Vermes reports for CBC Radio:

he safety of artificial sweeteners has been debated for decades, but new research is renewing concerns about their potential health impacts.

Researchers behind a large-scale nutrition study out of France say they’ve found associations between consumption of artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose, and cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The NutriNet-Santé study, which included more than 100,000 participants, is among the largest of its kind, and the first to quantify the amount of sweeteners consumed, they say.

“It’s an important step — a new brick to the wall — regarding the weight of evidence that we would train together regarding artificial sweeteners and health,” said Mathilde Touvier, head of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research and one of the study’s authors.

Non-nutritive sweeteners, as they’re known in nutritional science, are intensely sweet — some hundreds of times sweeter than sugar — and favoured by many for offering the taste of sugar without the calories. And as the long-term effects of too much sugar become better known, artificial sweeteners are also seen as an alternative.

While diet soda might be the most obvious source, artificial sweeteners are found in all kinds of common foods, including yogurts, baked goods and even ketchup.

Previous studies have found sugar substitutes can alter gut microbiomes and elevate blood sugar. Other studies have even suggested that they can lead to weight gain, though that has been disputed.

“There really is growing evidence to challenge the assumption that artificial sweeteners are metabolically inert substances. And I do think these findings should give us pause,” said Leslie Beck, a dietitian and health columnist, in an interview with The Dose’s Dr. Brian Goldman.

International health agencies examining sweeteners

The most recent NutriNet-Santé study on cardiovascular health was published last month in the British Medical Journal.

It sorted participants into three groups — lower, higher and non-consumers of artificial sweeteners. Those in the higher cohort  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 12:12 pm

Where Will This Political Violence Lead? Look to the 1850s.

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In Politico Joshua Zeitz looks to US history and notes a recurring refrain of political violence from conservative minorities:

Early Friday morning, an intruder broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and bludgeoned her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, on the head with a hammer.

Details are still scant, but early indications suggest that the suspect, David Depape, is an avid purveyor of anti-Semitic, QAnon and MAGA conspiracy theories. Before the attack, the assailant reportedly shouted, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”

This is the United States of America in 2022. A country where political violence — including the threat of political violence — has become a feature, not a bug.

Armed men wearing tactical gear and face coverings outside ballot drop boxes in Arizona. Members of Congress threatening to bring guns onto the House floor — or actually trying to do it. Prominent Republican members of Congress, and their supporters on Fox News, stoking violence against their political opponents by accusing them of being pedophilesterrorists and groomers — of conspiring with “globalists” (read: Jews) to “replace” white people with immigrants.

And of course, January 6, and subsequent efforts by Republicans and conservative media personalities to whitewash or even celebrate it.

Pundits like to take refuge in the saccharine refrain, “this is not who we are,” but historically, this is exactly who we are. Political violence is an endemic feature of American political history. It was foundational to the overthrow of Reconstruction in the 1870s and the maintenance of Jim Crow for decades after.

But today’s events bear uncanny resemblance to an earlier decade — the 1850s, when Southern Democrats, the conservatives of their day, unleashed a torrent of violence against their opponents. It was a decade when an angry and entrenched minority used force to thwart the will of a growing majority, often with the knowing support and even participation of prominent elected officials.

That’s the familiar part of the story. The less appreciated angle is how that growing majority eventually came to accept the proposition that force was a necessary part of politics.

The 1850s were a singularly violent era in American politics. Though politicians both North and South, Whig and Democrat, tried to contain sectional differences over slavery, Southern Democrats and their Northern sympathizers increasingly pushed the envelope, employing coercion and violence to protect and spread the institution of slavery.

It began with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which stripped accused runaways of their right to trial by jury and allowed individual cases to be bumped up from state courts to special federal courts. As an extra incentive to federal commissioners adjudicating such cases, it provided a $10 fee when a defendant was remanded to slavery but only $5 for a finding rendered against the slave owner. Most obnoxious to many Northerners, the law stipulated harsh fines and prison sentences for any citizen who refused to cooperate with or aid federal authorities in the capture of accused fugitives. Southern Democrats enforced the law with brute force, to the horror of Northerners, including many who did not identify as anti-slavery.

The next provocation was the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, which effectively abrogated the Missouri Compromise and opened the western territories to slavery. It wasn’t enough that Democrats rammed through legislation allowing the citizens of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to institutionalize slavery if they voted to do so in what had long been considered free territory. They then employed coercion and violence to rig the territorial elections that followed.

Though anti-slavery residents far outnumbered pro-slavery residents in Kansas, heavily armed “Border ruffians,” led by Missouri’s Democratic senator David Atchison, stormed the Kansas territory by force, stuffing ballot boxes, assaulting and even killing Free State settlers, in a naked attempt to tilt the scales in favor of slavery. “You know how to protect your own interests,” Atchison cried. “Your rifles will free you from such neighbors. … You will go there, if necessary, with the bayonet and with blood.” He promised, “If we win, we can carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean.”

The violence made it into Congress. When backlash against the Kansas Nebraska Act upended the political balance, driving anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs into the new, anti-slavery Republican party, pro-slavery Democrats responded with rage. In 1856,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 11:29 am

Release ‘Emotional Baggage’ and the Tension That Goes with It

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Julianne Ishler has an interesting article in Healthline that begins:

You’ve probably heard the term “emotional baggage.”

It’s sometimes used to describe the phenomenon of carrying past trauma or so-called negative experiences through life, relationships, or a career.

You may see this reflected in someone’s posture, as if they’re carrying around an unbearable weight. It may even prevent them from moving forward in life.

Everyone carries unprocessed emotions from experiences to some degree. However, emotions that aren’t dealt with don’t just go away.

They can affect:

• the way you think about yourself
• how you react to stress
• your physical well-being
• your relationships with others

After all, emotional baggage gets its name from somewhere, right?

Let’s unpack the layers of how and where emotions get stuck, so you can release what’s weighing you down.

What does it mean to have ‘trapped’ emotions?

Perhaps you’ve heard of people crying during yoga, massage, or acupuncture treatment because of a tender spot that, when activated, appears to lead to an emotional release.

Though some may refer to trauma being “stored” or “trapped” in the body, that isn’t necessarily a scientific way to put it.

However, the symptoms of traumatic stress can manifest physically.

This may be because the brain associates this area with a particular memory — often on a subconscious level.

Activating certain areas of the body may trigger these memories, according to Mark Olson, PhD, LMT, the owner and director of the Pacific Center for Awareness & Bodywork.

“Emotions are constantly being generated — subconsciously or consciously — in response to the reactivation of memories or unsatisfied goals,” Olson says. “The touch to X area is simply a reliable stimulus to reconstruct the pattern associated with that traumatic event.”

Touch may bring up emotions or a memory may create sensations in a particular area of the body. While this is usually associated with a bodily location, Olson believes that everything is happening in the brain.

Alternatively, some believe that trauma and difficult emotions can, in fact, become literally stuck energy in the body, though this isn’t supported by scientific evidence.

According to Bradley Nelson, DC, trapped emotional vibrations cause surrounding tissues to vibrate at the same frequency, known as resonance.

In his book “The Emotion Code,” Nelson writes, “Each trapped emotion resides in a specific location in the body, vibrating at its own particular frequency.”

This may cause you to attract more of that emotion, he says, creating a build-up or blockage.

Still, Nelson’s stance remains theoretical until further research can be done.

How do emotions get trapped?

That said, research as early as 1992Trusted Source along with more current research supports the mind-body connection, or the belief that a person’s mental and emotional health impacts the state of their physical health.

A classic example of this is fear.

If you’re in a situation where you’re afraid, your body generates a physical response to this emotion by activating the fight-flight-freeze response.

According to Nelson, three things happen when an emotion is experienced.

  1. We develop an emotional vibration.
  2. We feel the emotion and any thoughts or physical sensations associated with it. This is where the mind and body’s interconnectedness comes into play.
  3. We move on from the emotion by processing it.

According to Olson and other researchTrusted Source, emotional processing occurs in the limbic structures of the brain.

We’re constantly taking in information, which generates pre-conscious autonomic nervous system responses. This sends a signal to the body activating the corresponding emotion.

In other words, your “feeling” comes from what your nervous system is telling you.

According to Nelson, when the second or third step mentioned above gets interrupted, the energy of the emotion becomes trapped in the body. As a result, you might experience muscle tension, pain, or other ailments. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article you will find this interesting graphic:

Illustration by Maya Chastain

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 11:00 am

Republicans seem ignorant of historical facts

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I do understand that the particular Republican discussed is more likely deceitful instead of (or as well as) ignorant. Heather Cox Richardson:

This week, news broke that as a guest on the right-wing Real America’s Voice media network in 2020, Republican candidate for Michigan governor Tudor Dixon said that the Democrats have planned for decades to topple the United States because they have not gotten over losing the Civil War. According to Dixon, Democrats don’t want anyone to know that white Republicans freed the slaves, and are deliberately strangling “true history.”

Dixon’s was a pure white power rant, but she was amplifying a theme we hear a lot these days: that Democrats were the party of enslavement, Republicans pushed emancipation, and thus the whole idea that Republican policies today are bad for Black Americans is disinformation.

In reality, the parties have switched sides since the 1850s. The shift happened in the 1960s, and it happened over the issue of race. Rather than focusing on party names, it makes more sense to follow two opposed strands of thought, equality and hierarchy, as the constants.

By the 1850s it was indeed primarily Democrats who backed slavery. Elite southern enslavers gradually took over first the Democratic Party, then the southern states, and finally the U.S. government. When it looked in 1854 as if they would take over the entire nation by spreading slavery to the West—thus overwhelming the free states with new slave states—northerners organized to stand against what they called the “Slave Power.”

In the mid-1850s, northerners gradually came together as a new political party. They called themselves “Republicans,” in part to recall Jefferson’s political party, which was also called the Republican party, even though Jefferson by then was claimed by the Democrats.

The meaning of political names changes.

The new Republican Party first stood only for opposing the Slave Power, but by 1859, Lincoln had given it a new ideology: it would stand behind ordinary Americans, rather than the wealthy enslavers, using the government to provide access to resources, rather than simply protecting the wealthy. And that would mean keeping slavery limited to the American South.

Prevented from imposing their will on the U.S. majority, southern Democrats split from their northern Democratic compatriots and tried to start a new nation based on racial slavery. They launched the Civil War.

At first, most Republicans didn’t care much about enslaved Americans, but by 1863 the war had made them come around to the idea that the freedom of Black Americans was crucial to the success of the United States. At Gettysburg in 1863, Lincoln reinforced the principles of the Declaration of Independence and dedicated the nation to a “new birth of freedom.” In 1865 the Republican Congress passed and sent off to the states for ratification the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ending enslavement except as punishment for crime (we really need to fix that, by the way).

After the war, as southern Democrats organized to reinstate white supremacy in their states, Republicans in 1868 added the Fourteenth Amendment, giving the federal government power to guarantee that states could not deny equal rights to American citizens, and then in 1870 the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing Black men the right to vote. They also established the Department of Justice to defend those rights. But by 1871, white Republicans were backing away from federal protection of Black Americans.

Democrats continued to push white supremacy until 1879, when  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 8:11 pm

Antidepressant + probiotics

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Scott C. Anderson has an interesting article in Psychology Today:

Key points

  • Psychobiotics are bacteria that can improve your mood.
  • Clinical trials are just starting for psychobiotics as treatment options.
  • As adjuncts to antidepressants, psychobiotics are showing value.

Psychiatry is becoming more aware of the power of probiotics to improve mood. Nevertheless, most psychiatrists are wary of replacing antidepressants with probiotics until more clinical research is completed. But how about probiotics as an adjunct? A new study by Anna-Chiara Schaub and colleagues tested that proposition. What they found should put psychiatrists on the alert.

Their study took patients with major depressive disorder and split them into two groups: one getting a probiotic and another getting a placebo. All stayed on their current antidepressants. After a month, the group taking probiotics had a significant improvement in their mood, compared to placebo.

As the researchers put it, “Our results suggest that an add-on probiotic treatment improves depressive symptoms and increases specific health-related bacterial taxa. On a neural level, probiotics alter negative biases and emotional valence additionally to treatment-as-usual for depression.”

Probiotics that can improve mood are called psychobiotics, and the main constituent of the probiotic used in the study was Lactobacillus, a well-known psychobiotic. This study tracks with a meta-analysis done in 2021 that also showed a large improvement when pairing antidepressants with probiotics.

How does it work?

How can microbes improve depression? A lot of it has to do with . . .

Continue reading

The above article is news to me — not the part about the gut microbiome affecting the brain, which has been well-established for some time, but that psychiatrists and therapists are actually putting that knowledge into practice by having patients take both an antidepressant and a probiotic.

In fact, it seems that there are even probiotics selected specifically for their psychological benefit — for example, the probiotic shown at right.

Obviously, antidepressants are prescribed by a doctor or therapist, but I think a patient might well want to ask about including a probiotic in the treatment regimen. In any event, probiotics are good for your overall health, provided you also eat prebiotics, the dietary fiber that feeds the probiotics. Those eating a whole-food plant-based diet don’t need to worry. The WFPB diet includes plenty of fiber, and with the fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of probiotics as well, though I do supplement those by also eating fermented vegetables that I make (see this post).

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 7:29 pm

Wonderful chairs (including a rocking chair)

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I was about to blog an article, when I realized I had already blogged it long ago — but it’s worth pointing out again. Here are two related posts, a short one followed by a longer one.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Art, Business, Daily life

Universal Basic Income Has Been Tested Repeatedly. It Works. Will America Ever Embrace It?

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It’s unfortunate that demonstrating that something actually works fails to convince people who are comfortable with the notions they already have and don’t want to learn anything new — and in particular, don’t want to learn anything that conflicts with what they already believe. The number of such people is surprisingly large, and many of them vote or even hold office. Thus progress is slow. (The same thing is seen in many fields — for example, an entire generation of surgeons had to pass from the scene before washing hands before surgery became a standard practice.)

Megan Greenwell has a very interesting article (no paywall) in the Washington Post Magazine:

n January 2019, Zohna Everett was sitting in an airport when her phone rang. On the other end of the line, a voice informed her that she had been randomly chosen to receive $500 a month as part of something called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration.

When Everett had first heard about SEED a few weeks earlier, she’d wondered if it might be a scam, as things that sound too good to be true often are. Her pastor assured her that it was real — that 125 residents of poor neighborhoods in Stockton, Calif., would receive money as part of a groundbreaking experiment. When she got the call, Everett thought she was receiving a one-time payment, which was thrilling enough. Then the woman on the phone told her she’d receive $500 every month for a year and a half, with no strings attached. She nearly collapsed from joy right there in the airport.

Suddenly, Everett — who in 2018 had lost her job as a Department of Defense logistics specialist, had subsequently tried to make ends meet by driving for DoorDash, then had taken out significant unsubsidized loans to attend college online in a bid to improve her employment prospects — saw a path back to stability. She would be able to cover her car payments and the rent, to keep her phone on without giving up her monthly tithe to her church.

For Mayor Michael Tubbs, that was exactly the point. Since childhood, Tubbs had watched his mom and his friends struggle with everyday expenses while receiving only minimal help from the government in Stockton, one of the poorest cities in the country, which sits in California’s Central Valley. He theorized that a relatively small guaranteed income — just $6,000 a year per recipient, enough to cover the occasional emergency expense or supplement a minimum-wage salary — would single-handedly eliminate the insecurity that governed the lives of many poor Stockton residents. And so, with funds and guidance from the nonprofit Economic Security Project, he created a pilot program — one of the first of its kind in the country. His goal was as simple as it was ambitious: to run a demonstration project so successful that national politicians would have no choice but to consider adopting guaranteed income as national policy.

Sitting in a Stockton Starbucks nearly three years later, a soft-spoken Everett remembered nearly every detail of that fateful phone call from SEED. Swaddled in a white puffer coat on an unseasonably cold day, her hair in a low bun, she looked younger than her 51 years as she cradled a caramel Frappuccino and choked up as she described the immediate impact the payments had on her life. She quit driving for DoorDash, which gave her the time to find a job as a factory worker at Tesla’s plant in Fremont, 60 miles from Stockton. She was able to escape a dysfunctional marriage and move into her own home. “For me, it was a steppingstone. It got me to where I was okay by myself,” she says. “It was right on time. Everything in me was just like, ‘Oh, thank you so much, Lord.’ ”

The SEED program was scheduled to end in the summer of 2020, but its founders secured additional donations to fund an extra six months to get people through the worst days of the pandemic. That was another lifesaver for Everett, who was diagnosed with a severe case of covid-19 and struggled with lingering symptoms, leaving her unable to work for most of that year. Fortunately, the $500 a month from SEED, plus disability payments, proved to be enough to pay her bills.

If you just learned about guaranteed income in the past few years, chances are it was from the presidential campaign of Andrew Yang, who got a lot of attention for his proposal that the government offer $1,000 monthly payments to all Americans. But versions of this concept had been circulating for decades among academics and progressive activists. And as the country shut down in the early days of the pandemic, the conditions appeared ripe to try something new, something radical. Pilot programs launched in Los Angeles, in New Orleans, in Denver, but also in historically less progressive cities like Birmingham, Ala.; Columbia, S.C.; and Gainesville, Fla. In March 2020, even a vast majority of congressional Republicans backed a $2 trillion stimulus bill that included unconditional cash payments for tens of millions of Americans. Since then, the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition, which grew out of SEED, has swelled to more than 90 members and three dozen programs; a $15 million donation from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey helped fund many of the pilots.

Now, though, as the country emerges from the pandemic, the guaranteed income movement sits at a crossroads. The pilot programs have created scores of stories like Everett’s about how a small amount of money led to massive change in a recipient’s life. And a growing body of research based on the experiments shows that guaranteed income works — that it pulls people out of poverty, improves health outcomes, and makes it easier for people to find jobs and take care of their children. If empirical evidence ruled the world, guaranteed income would be available to every poor person in America, and many of those people would no longer be poor.

But empirical evidence does not rule the world, and it is far from clear that there is a political path forward for guaranteed income on a large scale. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 12:32 pm

Turmeric supplements have been linked to liver damage in five people

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I try to minimize my intake of supplements, preferring instead to get my vitamins and minerals via the foods I eat. (I do a fair number of searches on “foods high in…” and find invaluable — take a look at the “Food Lists” in the top menu.) The only supplement I currently take is D3, which I think is useful in the winter, particularly given how far north I live.

I avoid supplements for a few reasons. First, the industry is not regulated, so it’s not always clear what is in a given supplement. Second, absorption can be poor from a supplement. And third, a purified supplement of one component by itself is likely to miss the synergies from consuming the vitamin or mineral in the context of other compounds found in food.

Alice Klein reports in New Scientist:

Turmeric supplements and teas have been linked with five new cases of liver injuries that caused people’s skin to turn yellow. All cases recovered with treatment.

Turmeric is a yellow spice from the Curcuma longa plant. It has become a popular supplement as it contains a compound called curcumin, which has slightly eased inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and hay fever in small studies.

As of May 2021, more than a dozen cases of turmeric-related liver injuries had recently been reported to the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Five new incidences were presented at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in North Carolina this week.

One case, presented by Angeline Luong at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in California, is a 49-year-old woman with no underlying health issues who developed nausea and vomiting after taking a daily turmeric supplement, the dose recommended on the packaging, for three months.

Her symptoms resolved when  . . .

Continue reading.

I do include turmeric routinely in my diet, generally as minced fresh turmeric root I cook in various dishes (e.g., greens and tempeh), and I include black pepper to aid in absorption. I also use ground turmeric from time to time, again with black pepper.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 12:20 pm

Elon and Jack are not “competitors.” They’re collaborating.

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Dave Troy has an interesting article in Medium that begins:

Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter has been met with surprise, derision, and gnashing of teeth — and an overwhelming amount of well-intentioned but poorly-informed commentary and analysis.

As someone who has followed the company closely since its inception and has had a chance to talk in depth about technical topics with Jack Dorsey and the company’s other founders over the years, I have a different view.

Here’s a series of common questions regarding the deal and the relationship between Dorsey and Musk about which I see the most errors and misconceptions.

Q: Jack Dorsey is launching “Bluesky,” a new social network to compete with Twitter. I’ll just join that instead!

A: Sorry to disappoint, but Dorsey played a key role in Musk’s deal to take Twitter private. The two are good friends. And Bluesky is an initiative launched by Twitter. In April, Dorsey wrote“In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter. It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company. Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.”

Q: Uh, if “no one should own or run Twitter,” why did Dorsey advocate selling it to Musk… I’m confused?

A: To get it out of the hands of Wall Street investors, and turn it into a “public good at a protocol level, not a company.” Dorsey and Musk believe it can do more good for humanity if it’s an open technology than if it’s a company owned by any one person or by Wall Street investors trying to maximize profits for shareholders.

Q: What do you mean, a “public good at a protocol level?” What even is that?

A: The foundation of the Internet is built on . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 11:15 am

Weighted Blankets Promote Melatonin Release, May Improve Sleep

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What I found particularly interesting was that the article provides specific guidance for the weight of the blanket: 12% of body weight (18 lbs for a 150-lb person). Pam Harrison reports in Medscape:

A weighted blanket of approximately 12% body weight used at bedtime prompted the release of higher concentrations of melatonin, as measured in the saliva, compared with a lighter blanket of only about 2.4% of body weight.

This suggests that weighted blankets may help promote sleep in patients suffering from insomnia, according to the results from the small, in-laboratory crossover study.

“Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and plays an essential role in sleep timing,” lead author Elisa Meth, PhD student, Uppsala University, Sweden, and colleagues observe.

“Using a weighted blanket increased melatonin concentration in saliva by about 30%,” Meth added in a statement.

“Future studies should investigate whether the stimulatory effect on melatonin secretion remains when using a weighted blanket over more extended periods,” the researchers observe, and caution that “it is also unclear whether the observed increase in melatonin is therapeutically relevant.”

The study was published online October 3 in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Weighted blankets are commercially available at least in some countries in Scandinavia and Germany, as examples, and in general, they are sold for therapeutic purposes. And at least one study found that weighted blankets were an effective and safe intervention for insomnia in patients with major depressive disorder, bipolar disordergeneralized anxiety disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and led to improvements in daytime symptoms and levels of activity.

Study Done in Healthy Volunteers

The study involved a total of 26 healthy volunteers, 15 men and 11 women, none of whom had any sleep issues. “The day before the first testing session, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 10:05 am

A brush with a soft touch and the apotheosis of the Edwin Jagger razor

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The Mühle silvertip badger has a lovely and exquisitely soft knot, very gentle on the face but also very easy to load and a fantastic lather facilitator, the lather this morning was derived from Tallow + Steel’s excellent Cognac shaving soap:

Stearic Acid + Water + Organic Argan Oil + Organic Glycerin + Organic Castor Oil + Organic Safflower Oil + Potassium Hydroxide + Tallow (Pasture-Raised) + Organic Coconut Oil + Bentonite Clay + Sodium Hydroxide + Vitamin E + Silk + Natural Fragrance (Botanical Extracts)

I see now the bentonite clay. That explains the need to add a little water as I loaded the brush — only a little, and only once, but definitely needed.

The soap’s fragrance profile is pleasing: 

Cognac (38%) | Oakwood (21%) | Vanilla (18%) | Orange (8%) | Tobacco (7%) | Cocoa (6%) | Jasmine (2%) | 100% natural aromatic extracts from botanicals.

RazoRock’s MJ-90A is a wonderful razor. As the title suggests, the MJ-90A is everything the Edwin Jagger could be if the quality of materials and manufacturing method were raised a level or two. Very easy, very pleasant shave with a very smooth outcome.

I’ve mentioned the dual role of an aftershave: fragrance + skincare. Tallow + Steel did a good job on the first (see above) and then paid special attention to the second. Check out the ingredients of the aftershave:

Witch Hazel + Organic Aloe Vera + Water + Organic Glycerin + Organic Quillaja Extract + Organic Rose Hydrosol + Organic Calendula Hydrosol + Alcohol + Organic Willow Bark Extract + Organic Cucumber Extract + Organic Licorice Root Extract + Organic Rosemary Extract + Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate + Lactobacillus + Coconut Fruit Extract + Natural Fragrance (Botanical Extracts)

A great way to start the weekend.

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

29 October 2022 at 9:56 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

The Pelosis and a Haunted America

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Maureen Dowd has a good column in the NY Times (no paywall):

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I loved putting up twinkling bats and watching midnight monster-chiller-horror movies.

Not this year.

The world is too scary. Politics is too creepy. Horror is too real.

When I was a child, on Oct. 31, my older brother would put on a vinyl LP of Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” that he had carefully cleaned. The eerie music was used by Walt Disney in the segment of his animated masterpiece “Fantasia” about the surreal celebration of evil during the night of the witches’ Sabbath.

Chernabog, the lord of evil and death, wrapped in a dark cape, stands atop a jagged peak, summoning ghosts, witches and vampires to swirl out of the mountain and pay homage. I was so relieved when, at dawn, church bells rang and drove them off.

But now the bad spirits are lurking all around us. They will not be driven off.

America seems haunted by random violence and casual cruelty every day. In New York, subway riders getting pushed onto the tracks and innocent bystanders being shot. Officials across the country facing kidnapping plots, armed visits to their homes, assaults and death threats. No place seems safe, from parks to schools to the supposedly impregnable, guarded Capitol and homes of the wealthy and well known.

In some states, women — and girls — seeking abortions are treated as criminals. In Uvalde, Texas, terrified children frantically calling the police are slaughtered by a teenage psychopath with an AR-15-style rifle as 376 police officers lingered in and around the elementary school waiting for … what?

On Friday, The New York Post broke the news that someone I know, the former Obama official and former New York City Transit president Sarah Feinberg, was sucker-punched in the face in Chelsea by someone walking by in the bike lane.

Now comes news of a maniac breaking into a house in the middle of the night, bludgeoning an 82-year-old man in the head with a hammer while demanding to know where his famous wife was. Perfect Halloween movie fare. Except it actually happened.

One of the most macabre stories to come out of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and democracy, ginned up by Donald Trump, was when the mob roamed the halls, pounding the speaker’s door with bloodcurdling taunts of “Where’s Nancy?”

Speaker Pelosi was not there, thank God. She was huddling with other top officials in a secure bunker, placing call after call for help that was slow to arrive.

Luckily, she was safe, in D.C. with her security detail, when a man broke into her Pacific Heights home in San Francisco early Friday morning. He smashed the patio glass door and attacked her husband, who struggled with the attacker for control of a hammer. In a tingly echo of Jan. 6, the man shouted at Paul Pelosi, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” When police arrived, the man said he was “waiting for Nancy.”

Mr. Pelosi, . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 6:40 pm

Science Over Capitalism: Kim Stanley Robinson and the Imperative of Hope

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James Bradley’s interview with Kim Stanley Robinson is excerpted from the book Tomorrow’s Parties: Life in the Anthropocene and appears in The MIT Press Reader:

There is no question Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the most important writers working today. Across almost four decades and more than 20 novels, his scrupulously imagined fiction has consistently explored questions of social justice, political and environmental economy, and utopian possibility.

Robinson is probably best known for his Mars trilogy, which envisions the settlement and transformation of Mars over several centuries, and the ethical and political challenges of building a new society. Yet it is possible his most significant legacy will turn out to be the remarkable sequence of novels that began with “2312.” Published across less than a decade, these six books reimagine both our past and our future in startlingly new ways, emphasizing the indivisibility of ecological and economic systems and placing the climate emergency center stage.

The most recent, “The Ministry for the Future,” published in 2020, is a work of extraordinary scale and ambition. Simultaneously a deeply confronting vision of the true scale of the climate crisis, a future history of the next 50 years, and a manifesto outlining the revolutionary change that will be necessary to avert catastrophe, it is by turns terrifying, exhilarating, and finally, perhaps surprisingly, guardedly hopeful. It is also one of the most important books published in recent years.

This interview was conducted between January and March 2021, beginning in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the United States Capitol and the inauguration of President Biden, and ending as a second wave of the COVID pandemic began to gather pace in many countries around the world. As we bounced questions back and forth across the Pacific, a drumbeat of impending disaster grew louder by the day: atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 417 ppm, a level 50 percent higher than preindustrial levels; a study showed the current system responsible for the relative warmth of the Northern Hemisphere — the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation — at its weakest level in a thousand years; and Kyoto’s cherry blossoms bloomed earlier than they have at any time since records began in the ninth century CE.

James Bradley: In several of your recent novels, you’ve characterized the first few decades of the 21st century as a time of inaction and indecision — in “2312,” for instance, you called them “the Dithering” — but in “The Ministry for the Future,” you talk about the 2030s as “the zombie years,” a moment when “civilization had been killed but it kept walking the Earth, staggering toward some fate even worse than death.” I wonder whether you could talk a little bit about that idea. What’s brought us to this point? And what does it mean for a civilization to be dead?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I’m thinking now that my sense of our global civilization dithering, and also trying to operate on old ideas and systems that are clearly inadequate to the present crisis, has been radically impacted by the COVID pandemic, which I think has been somewhat of a wake-up call for everyone — showing that we are indeed in a global civilization in every important sense (food supply, for instance), and also that we are utterly dependent on science and technology to keep eight billion people alive.

So “2312” was written in 2010. In that novel, I provided a timeline of sorts, looking backward from 2312, that was notional and intended to shock, also to fill the many decades it takes to make three centuries, and in a way that got my story in place the way I wanted it. In other words, it was a literary device, not a prediction. But it’s interesting now to look back and see me describing “the Dithering” as lasting so long. These are all affect states, not chronological predictions; I think it’s very important to emphasize science fiction’s double action, as both prophecy and metaphor for our present. As prophecy, SF is always wrong; as metaphor, it is always right, being an expression of the feeling of the time of writing.

So following that, “The Ministry for the Future” was written in 2019, before the pandemic. It expresses both fears and hopes specific to 2019 — and now, because of the shock of the pandemic, it can serve as an image of “how it felt before.” It’s already a historical artifact. That’s fine, and I think it might be possible that the book can be read better now than it could have been in January 2020 when I finished it.

Now I don’t think there will be a period of “zombie years,” and certainly not the 2030s. The pandemic as a shock has sped up civilization’s awareness of the existential dangers of climate change. Now, post COVID, a fictional future history might speak of the “Trembling Twenties” as it’s described in “The Ministry for the Future,” but it also seems it will be a period of galvanized, spasmodic, intense struggle for control over history, starting right now. With that new feeling, the 2030s seem very far off and impossible to predict at all.

JB: In “The Ministry for the Future,” the thing that finally triggers change is the catastrophic heat wave that opens the book. It’s a profoundly upsetting and very powerful piece of writing, partly because an event of the sort it depicts is likely to be a reality within a decade or so. But as somebody whose country has already experienced catastrophic climate disaster in the form of fire and flood and seen little or no change in our political discourse, I found myself wondering whether the idea such a disaster would trigger change mightn’t be too optimistic. Do you think it will take catastrophe to create real change? Or will the impetus come from elsewhere?

KSR: People are good at . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 6:32 pm

Welcome to hell, Elon

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The title comes from an interesting article by Nilay Patel in Verge. As the article makes clear, Elon Musk has now bitten off more than he can chew, and we are about to watch a Dunning-Kruger-based breakdown. The problem with arrogance is that it encourages (self-)blindness. The article begins:

You fucked up real good, kiddo.

Twitter is a disaster clown car company that is successful despite itself, and there is no possible way to grow users and revenue without making a series of enormous compromises that will ultimately destroy your reputation and possibly cause grievous damage to your other companies.

I say this with utter confidence because the problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. They are political problems. Twitter, the company, makes very little interesting technology; the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. You! You, Elon Musk, are addicted to Twitter. You’re the asset. You just bought yourself for $44 billion dollars.

The problem when the asset is people is that people are intensely complicated, and trying to regulate how people behave is historically a miserable experience, especially when that authority is vested in a single powerful individual.

What I mean is that you are now the King of Twitter, and people think that you, personally, are responsible for everything that happens on Twitter now. It also turns out that absolute monarchs usually get murdered when shit goes sideways.

Here are some examples: you can write as many polite letters to advertisers as you want, but you cannot reasonably expect to collect any meaningful advertising revenue if you do not promise those advertisers “brand safety.” That means you have to ban racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total assholes. So you can make all the promises about “free speech” you want, but the dull reality is that you still have to ban a bunch of legal speech if you want to make money. And when you start doing that, your creepy new right-wing fanboys are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.

Actually, there’s a step before trying to get the ad money: it turns out that most people do not want to participate in horrible unmoderated internet spaces full of shitty racists and not-all-men fedora bullies. (This is why Twitter is so small compared to its peers!) What most people want from social media is to have nice experiences and to feel validated all the time. They want to live at Disney World. So if you want more people to join Twitter and actually post tweets, you have to make the experience much, much more pleasant. Which means: moderating more aggressively! Again, every “alternative” social network has learned this lesson the hard way. Like, over and over and over again.

Also, everyone crying about “free speech” conveniently ignores that the biggest threat to free speech in America is the fucking government, which seems completely bored of the First Amendment. They’re out here banning books, Elon! President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have identical policy positions on Section 230: they both want to repeal it. Do you know why? Because the First Amendment prohibits them from making explicit speech regulations, so they keep threatening to repeal the law that allows social networks to even exist in order to exert indirect pressure on content policy. It’s not subtle!

State governments are even less subtle: both Texas and Florida have passed speech regulations that overtly tell social media companies how to moderate, in open hostility to the First Amendment. Figuring out how to comply with these laws is not an engineering problem (not least because compliance might be impossible). It is a legal problem because these laws are blatantly unconstitutional, and the only appropriate response to them is to tell the government to shut up and go away. (A big problem here is that the courts are pretty stupid about the internet!) A challenge to these laws, partially funded by Twitter, is headed to the Supreme Court, which is the polar opposite of a predictable system: it is a group of uncool weirdos with lifetime appointments that can radically reshape American life however it wants.

You can’t deploy AI at this problem: you have to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 5:30 pm

“How communism got me into reading as a child”

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Claudia Befu writes at Story Voyager:

One of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood is bulging into the house on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and asking my mother:

‘Did it start?’

On the days when the answer was ‘It already finished a long time ago’ I started crying.

‘Why didn’t you call me?’

‘You were playing.’

‘But I wanted to see the cartoon!’

I grew up in communism, and we only had cartoons on TV on Saturday and Sunday from 1 pm to 1:05 pm. Usually, it was one episode of ‘Tom and Jerry’, ‘Bolek a Lolek’, or some other party-approved cartoon.

As I grew up and started to play outdoors with other kids from the neighborhood, I usually missed the weekly episodes, and I was devastated.

The advantage of growing up with communist TV 📺 

I am already on day 38 of my 100-day TV detox challenge, and I can’t believe how time is flying. Things have been very busy at work lately, and this newsletter filled up the gap left by not watching Netflix in my free time. I also started to meet more people and generally spend quality time with my husband.

Aside from a couple of documentaries and some TikTok and YouTube videos, I haven’t watched anything during this time.

Between weeks two and four, I automatically thought about watching a series or a movie whenever there was some unstructured time. I am surprised at how deeply ingrained watching entertainment is in my psyche. But about one week ago, my brain stopped craving for series, and now I don’t think about it as often.

Besides, I can’t watch anything right now. I feel physically ill every time I think of starting a Netflix series.

How did I get to this?

This question made me go down the rabbit hole on the TV detox topic and look at my life through the TV lens.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things is that I grew up watching very little TV.

It wasn’t by choice but by design. The communist TV diet was rationed like our food, hot water and electricity.

For example, a family of four could only buy one litter of cooking oil and half a kilogram of sugar per month. This was enough fat and sugar for the whole family for an entire month.

Hot water was dispensed twice weekly because showering every other day was more than enough. And electricity was cut for some hours during the night since everyone was sleeping anyway.

We had around seven to nine hours of TV every weekend and about two hours in the evening during the week. Of course, some TV entertainment was allowed on weekends, such as 5 minutes of cartoons or party-approved Romanian film productions.

But during the week, the two hours of TV were filled with news about the dictator.

Almost every evening, we would watch Nicolae Ceausescu pour cement into the foundation of yet another communist building while his wife observed him with a watchful eye. When he wasn’t pouring cement, he would walk through a laboratory wearing a white doctor’s coat or a factory wearing a safety helmet.

His wife, Elena Ceausescu, was always next to him, featuring her version of the ‘Thatch’ helmet hair and her Channel knock off suits made in Romania.

Left without much choice, I was gorging on the Encyclopaedia TV program that was running once a week, inspiring me from a very young age to become an astronaut. But, as you can conclude, the inspiration wasn’t strong enough.

This strict TV diet also had its advantages. As I grew up, my parents read a lot to us, and after I learned how to read at the ripe age of six, I started reading books myself, and I didn’t stop for the next six years.

Everyone who knew me during that time remembers me holding a book in my hand. Or a stash of books if they saw me on my way back from the library. Without a TV to distract me, I fully embraced the magic of books and developed a lifelong love for reading.

Do you doubt I read so much as a child just because I didn’t have anything age-appropriate to watch on TV?

Let me introduce you to the next chapter of my life.

The glory of capitalist TV

In the autumn of 1989, about three years after I started reading books, communism fell, and suddenly we had twelve hours of TV programs every day.

I remember watching my first . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 3:25 pm

Making a dish once vs. making it daily

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I pointed out the recipe for my breakfast chia pudding to a friend, who responded that it sounded tasty but also time-consuming and difficult to make. That puzzled me because I make it every evening around 6:00pm (I have a repeating reminder in my calendar), and making it takes about 7 minutes.

Then I realized: he was thinking about making it once — getting out all the measuring spoons and ingredients, referring to the list of ingredients, fumbling a bit here and there, and so on: feeling his way through the process.

But since I make it daily, I have two things he lacks: 1) organization and 2) experience.

“Organization” means I am set up to make it. I have the ingredients (except for milk and wheat germ, which stay in the fridge) lined up in a row on the counter, the dry ingredients in canning jars and the maple syrup and vanilla extract in their bottles.  At the end of that row, standing in an open plastic container, the measuring spoons I’ll use. The nut & spice grinder is also ready on the counter.

“Experience” means that I’ve done this so often that I don’t need to refer to the recipe. I can move quickly through the whole process, practiced in what I’m doing at the moment and knowing exactly what I’ll do next.

It’s important to view a recipe in the context it will have. A one-off works very differently from a daily routine. Routines become efficient exactly because of experience and organization, and thus the work required is noticeably less than for a one-off task.

I now mention this aspect in the recipe post.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 10:38 am

The Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness

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Gretchen Rubin writes:

In my study of happiness, I’ve labored to identify its fundamental principles. Because I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism (the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the eight auspicious symbols), I decided to dub these fundamental principles as my Eight Splendid Truths.

Each one of these truths sounds fairly obvious and straightforward, but each was the product of tremendous thought. Take the Second Splendid Truth—it’s hard to exaggerate the clarity I gained when I finally managed to put it into words. Here they are:

First Splendid Truth

To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Second Splendid Truth

One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy;
One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

Third Splendid Truth

Days are long, but years are short. (Click here to see my one-minute movie; of everything I’ve written about happiness, I think this video resonates most with people.)

Fourth Splendid Truth

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 October 2022 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life

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