Later On

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

Archive for October 29th, 2022

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

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