Later On

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

Archive for November 14th, 2022

“Bai lan” (Let it rot) — Youth giving up in China

leave a comment »

Interesting video.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 7:39 pm

A brief, cutting, accurate profile of E. Musk

leave a comment »

Click the pic link if it doesn’t display. (It should, but: WordPress)

That first link is to a terrific article, BTW.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 6:52 pm

The Beautiful, Brutal World of Bonsai

leave a comment »

39-year-old Ryan Neil, seated next to a large bonsai and leaning against it.

In the New Yorker, Suzanne Saroff has a profile (no paywall) of an American bonsai master who studied in Japan. The profile begins:

In the winter of 2002, a young American named Ryan Neil joined an unusual pilgrimage: he and several others flew to Tokyo, to begin a tour of Japan’s finest collections of bonsai trees. He was nineteen, with an athlete’s body and a sunny, symmetrical face. The next-youngest adult in the group was fifty-seven. Then, as now, rearing tiny trees in ornamental pots was not commonly considered a young man’s hobby.

Neil had grown up in a small Colorado mountain town. For much of his youth, he was focussed on playing sports, especially basketball, which he approached with an almost clinical rigor: during high-school summer breaks, he’d wake up every day at five-thirty and attempt twelve hundred jump shots before going to the gym to lift weights. By his junior year, he was the best player on the team. By his senior year, he had torn one of his quadriceps—“It was hanging on by just a thread,” he recalls—and was looking for a new obsession.

Like many Americans of his generation, Neil had discovered bonsai through the “Karate Kid” films. He was especially fond of the third movie in the series, which features dreamy shots of characters rappelling down a cliff face to collect a miniature juniper. In the films, the wise karate instructor, Mr. Miyagi, practices the art of bonsai, and in Neil’s young mind it came to represent a romantic ideal: the pursuit of perfection through calm discipline. One day, after seeing bonsai for sale at a local fair, he rode his bike to the library, checked out every book on bonsai, and lugged them all home.

About a month later, he got his hands on a trade magazine, Bonsai Today, which featured an article about Masahiko Kimura, the so-called magician of bonsai, who is regarded by many enthusiasts as the field’s most innovative living figure. (Kunio Kobayashi, one of Kimura’s chief rivals at the time, called him “the kind of genius who comes along once every hundred years, or maybe more.”) The article described how Kimura had transformed and refined a small juniper tree that had been collected in the wild. A scruffy, shapeless plant had become a cantilevered sculpture. As Neil saw it, Kimura had given the tree not just a new shape but a soul.

Near the end of high school, Neil laid out a meticulous long-term plan that would culminate in his travelling across the Pacific to apprentice under Kimura, who was considered the toughest bonsai master in Japan. Neil knew that the work would not be easy. Bonsai apprenticeships could last anywhere between five and ten years. At the time, some fifty people had begun working under Kimura, but only five had completed the apprenticeship, all of them Japanese.

Neil went to college at California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, where he majored in horticulture and studied Japanese. He helped take care of the university’s bonsai collection and travelled around the West Coast to attend master classes with renowned practitioners. While other students were partying, he stayed home looking at bonsai blogs, or drove his pickup truck to remote mountain locations in search of wild miniature trees. “He was possessed,” his father recalls.

Neil signed up for the tour of Japan during his sophomore year, and took a short leave from school. On the second day of the trip, the group visited Kimura’s garden, in a rural area some thirty miles northwest of Tokyo. It was a cool, gray morning; Neil wore a hoodie. The group was met by one of Kimura’s apprentices and ushered past rows of ancient and pristinely shaped bonsai into the back garden—the workshop—where few visitors were allowed.

Neil later likened the moment to peering into the mind of a mad genius. Hundreds of knee-high trees, in various states of arboreal surgery, were lined up on benches and beer crates. Custom-made power tools were scattered around the workshop, including a machine, used to sculpt trunks, that shot out tiny glass beads. Kimura was famed for his deft use of these devices to carve rippling torrents of shari—bone-white deadwood that is laced with thin veins of living wood.

That day, Kimura, who was then in his sixties, was working on . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall) 

Photos of bonsai.

A bonsai created by Kimura called "The Dance of the Flying Dragon," discussed and described in the article
Kimura’s “The Dance of the Flying Dragon”

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Memes

Get your flu shot

leave a comment »

Chart show very steep and very early rise of flu infections — in mid-November the infection rate matches late December of previous years.

The chart above is from an article in Vox by Karen Landman. The article begins:

Flu season is here — and early red flags suggest it’s on track to be very, very bad. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Flu View report show extraordinarily high numbers of positive flu tests reported to the agency from labs around the US. As of November 5, nearly 14,000 positive flu tests had been reported, as shown in the orange line on the above chart. That’s more than 12 times the number reported at the same time in 2019 (shown in the black line).

This year’s early and meteoric rise in flu transmission is at least somewhat related to the fact that more people are being tested for the flu than during previous years. Over the past five weeks, nearly twice as many flu tests were done at clinical labs nationwide as during the same period last year (about 460,000 versus 254,000). More testing means more cases will get picked up.

But there are other signs that these numbers represent real and very scary trends.

For starters, . . .

Continue reading. And get your Covid booster, too, if you haven’t already done so.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 12:27 pm

A thought about veterans

leave a comment »

Peter Coy wrote this in his newsletter from the NY Times but I couldn’t find the column until today. His column (no paywall) begins:

With each passing Veterans Day, there are fewer veterans in America for other Americans to thank. The number of living Americans who had served in the military fell to 16.5 million last year from 26.4 million in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. This shrinkage is good in one important respect — it’s a sign that the United States, while not fully at peace, has needed fewer troops in recent decades than in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The current number of active-duty troops, at 1.4 million, is little more than a tenth of the peak of 12.1 million in 1945.

But it’s a problem, too. The military still needs troops in this dangerous world, and recruiting suffers when there are fewer veterans to serve as role models and storytellers. “The grandpas, uncles, aunts who served just have an extraordinary influence,” Thomas Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general who is the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, told me this week. “You may not think it’s a big deal, but it plants a seed in young people. It helps with recruiting.”

This Veterans Day I want to write about why young people do and don’t join the all-volunteer armed forces and what the services can do to reach their recruitment goals. As The Times reported this year, the recruiting deficit “is on pace to be worse than any since just after the Vietnam War. It threatens to throw a wrench into the military’s machinery, leaving critical jobs unfilled and some platoons with too few people to function.”

People join the armed forces to defend their country, to share esprit de corps, to continue a family tradition, to see the world, to learn a trade or to land a stable job with reasonable pay and generous benefits. Those who don’t join the armed forces might fear getting hurt or killed, or dislike the military, or think they have better career options in civilian life.

New research published in this month’s issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics could help young people and their families decide whether the military, or at least the Army, is right for them. (The article is behind a paywall; an earlier draft that’s nearly identical is here.) The researchers found that race matters: In the long run, while enlisting in the Army is roughly neutral for white people economically, it is significantly positive for Black people. “Army Service in the All-Volunteer Era,” as the study is titled, finds that Black people who enlist earn $5,500 to $15,000 more per year 11 to 19 years after applying than otherwise similar Black people who don’t enlist, while white service members “do not experience significant changes.” Enlisting also boosts homeownership and marriage rates for Black people.

A possible explanation for the racial differential is that Black applicants tend to have worse alternative opportunities. For example, the research shows they tend to come from families with lower incomes and from counties with worse economic conditions than white applicants, so they have more to gain from military experience. Citing previous studies, they say it may be that Army service provides Black soldiers with human capital, access to networks and “credentialing effects that diminish racial discrimination.”

For the overall applicant pool, moving beyond pay, Army service increases disability compensation by around $3,000 per year, mostly for partial disability payments available only to veterans, but it’s impossible to know how much of that is because they’re more disabled versus better compensated for their disabilities. Army service has a small to insignificant effect on full disability and no effect on mortality 11 to 19 years out, the study finds. Homeless veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are the sad exception, not the rule.

That’s good news, because it undermines the narrative that serving in the military is outright bad for people economically, physically and mentally.

The five economists who wrote the paper include . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 11:55 am

The wonderful Dr. Selby, the iKon X3, and Alt-text

leave a comment »

Shaving set up. Left to right: Simpson Wee Scot brush, open tub of Dr. Selby 3X Concentrated shaving cream, iKon X3 slant on tub, bottle of Lavender water from Wild Coast Perfurmery.

If you hover your mouse over the photo, you will see a box of text appear. — oops! Not so in WordPress. That’s the way it works in Mastodon, but not here. I asked The Wife, an accessibility expert, and she explained, “It’s in there, and the screenreader can see it. It’s a site style decision to display alt-text to sighted users, but it’s not necessary.” I added the same text as title text so it will show up. And then she told me that some screenreaders will read both, so the title text is going …. now! (It’s gone.)

Alt-text is used so that a screenreader can recite what’s in the photo, which otherwise is just noise for a visually impaired reader. I am embarrassed to say that I have never until now provided this alternative text (aka alt-text) for the images in my blog. I was ignorant, but I have learned a lot on Mastodon (where I am 

For more information on alt-text — and if you put up online images, you really should use alt-text. This guide is excellent — very informative with good tips. I now understand how important this is.

Today I used Dr. Selby’s excellent 3X concentrated shaving cream, as solid as a soap and extraordinarily generous with lather. My Wee Scot, once loaded, easily took me through the entire shave, and the glide was wonderful (assisted, of course, by the tiniest application of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave).

The iKon Shavecraft X3 is an excellent slant, and here it is mounted on one of my favorite handles, the RazoRock Barber Pole. With this razor (and this prep), three comfortable passes left my face totally smooth. (Note the nice symmetry: 3X and X3.)

For the aftershave, I put a dot of Proraso white aftershave balm on my palm, added several sprays of Eau de Lavande from Wild Coast Perfumery, and applied that to my face. I can’t get over how smooth, soft, and nice my face feels — thanks to 1) good products, 2) slant razor, and 3) Monday morning shave, which for me means a two-day stubble.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Ode to Joy, a seasonal tea that The Younger Daughter introduced me to: “Opening with a lovely jasmine aroma, the familiar body of a light afternoon tea, and accented with just a hint of apricot.”

As you can tell from the “Oops” section above, there was a bit of back-and-forth, but now it’s resolved. I eliminated title text, and even though you cannot see the alt-text, the screen reader can (and I can when I am editing that block). Here’s how it looks in HTML:

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2022 at 10:56 am

Posted in Daily life

%d bloggers like this: