Later On

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

Archive for January 2023

For police PR flacks, quack lives matter

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Chris Rock has a very telling brief routine on the “bad-apple” trope: “Sure, those five six seven cops murdered Tyre Nichols, but they were just a few bad apples.”

Radley Balko at The Watch points out another trope used to protect cops:

The San Francisco activist and attorney John Hamasaki tweeted out this amusing thread today:

The entire thread includes six stories about cops rescuing baby ducks. Which is a lot!

I’ve written quite a bit over the years about how local media cover police, but until today I was unaware of this particular trope. So I did a quick Google search of my own. And, my goodness. I had no idea!

I found 30 — yes 30 — separate stories from just the last two years before I decided I’d spent enough time on this post. I’m sure a more thorough search would have turned up a lot more.

What’s incredible is not just that so many baby ducks keep wandering into storm drains, but also that there are so often police officers nearby to save them, and that word of these rescues keeps finding its way to a local news reporter. It’s quite the fortuitous string of coincidences.

In any case, please enjoy these 30 stories about police saving baby ducks.

This post is not paywalled, so you won’t be billed.



Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2023 at 6:09 pm

The links among our food, gut microbiome, and depression

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Jessica Wapner writes in the Washington Post about the importance of the gut microbiome, which a whole-food plant-based diet totally supports:

Research has long suggested a link between our diet and our mental health. The gut microbiome — the collective genome of trillions of bacteria that live in the intestinal tract that are created largely by what we eat and drink — appears to influence our mood and mind-set.

But human studies large enough to pinpoint what bacteria matter, if they matter at all, have been missing.

That’s slowly changing. The largest analysis of depression and the gut microbiome to date, published in December, found several types of bacteria notably increased or decreased in people with symptoms of depression.

“This study provides some real-life evidence that you are what you eat,” says study author Andre Uitterlinden, who researches genetics at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Or to be exact, how you feel is closely related to what you consume.

The gut-brain axis

The gastrointestinal system has been featured in brain research for centuries. In the early 1800s, John Abernethy, a popular London physician, held that “gastric derangement” was the root of all mental disorders.

And gastrointestinal symptoms often are reported in people with psychiatric illness. Weight and appetite changes are common among people with depression, from adolescence to older age. Anxiety has been tied to a heightened risk of nausea, heartburn, diarrhea and constipation. The link between food and mood is there even when we reach for macaroni and cheese to comfort us during a stressful time.

Interest in the gut-brain axis has had a resurgence in the past 20 years. A host of studies has pointed to a connection between the microbiota living in our intestinal tract, and our minds, including our memorymood and cognitive skills.

Such research has spawned an industry of probiotics, prebiotics and fermented everything. Scientific names like bacteroidetes and lactobacillus, two of the most common bacteria found in healthy humans, have become household terms.

[The best foods to feed your gut microbiome]

The health trend has gotten a bit ahead of the evidence. Most of the studies linking depression and the gut, for example, have been in animals and studies involving human participants have been small.

Still, the evidence thus far shows a link between the two. In one noteworthy study, entitled “Transferring the Blues,” bacteria-free rats given fecal samples from humans diagnosed with major depression became anxious and disinterested in pleasurable activities. Their metabolism of tryptophan, a chemical connected to depression, changed. But the mechanics behind the microbe-mood pathway — and which bacteria matter — has been harder to uncover.

Bacteria that predict depressive symptoms

This new study moves that needle, largely because of its size. The investigators, led by Najaf Amin, who researches population health at Oxford University, analyzed data from the Rotterdam Study, a decades-long effort to understand the health of the local population.

Amin and her colleagues focused specifically on

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2023 at 3:52 pm

A nice explanation of a Go game

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For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, many people do not yet play Go. But I think even those who haven’t yet learned Go might enjoy this brief video. (And see also: AlphaGo.)

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2023 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Games, Go/Baduk, Video

The secret to using Dr. Bronner’s shaving cream —and the annual Groundhog Day shaving test

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A shaving brush with synthetic bristles, a white handle, and a red base. Next to it is a tall light-green tube of Dr. Bronner's shaving cream, and then a green bottle with a gray metal cap in the shape of a crown labeled "Royall Spyce."

I mentioned earlier that Dr. Bronner’s shaving cream is a viscous brown liquid — the same formula as his Organic Sugar Soap (ingredients listed at the link). In that earlier post I had some thoughts on how to improve the lather:

The lather was not quite so dense as from some of my shaving soaps, but this is the first shave, so I expect there will be a learning curve — perhaps a bit more soap, and/or a bit less water in the brush, will result in a thicker lather.

Today, I squirted a small amount of the soap/shaving cream into my cupped palm and then brushed it vigorously with the dry brush — totally dry, off-the-shelf dry. I got no lather, but I did transfer almost all the soap to the brush. 

I had prepped my face — wet my stubble well with hot water and then rubbed a tiny amount of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave over all my beard, massaging it in well, and then partially rinsed with a couple of splashes of hot water — so my face was somewhat wet. I brushed the stubble briskly and this did transfer soap to my face but did not really raise a lather. I did, however, brush well all my stubble, and there was some mixing of soap and water.

Then I wet just the end of the brush — not much — and brushed my beard briskly again, and now the lather emerged, and it was a good lather. It is not so rich and thick as the premium soaps, but it was a decent lather. 

Lesson learned: This requires even less water than does The Dead Sea, the previous record holder for minimal water use. And in this case, “requires little water” does not mean “you can use just a little water,” it means “you must use just a little water.”

Henson Shaving’s AL-13 is a terrific razor, and with this prep I got an exceptionally smooth result. A splash of Royall Spyce mixed with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel worked fine as an aftershave. Back in the day, the Royall line was quite the thing. Royall Lyme was the first and the flagship product, and I was very proud of that green bottle on my shaving shelf. 

The tea this morning, Smoky Sakura, is another gift from The Wife’s visit to Paris and another Mariage Frères tea. This is exceptionally good. The Bangkok Love tea is a novelty tea, but this one is a solid and traditional tea, and the cherrywood used in smoking it does give a smoke of a particular flavor.

The Groundhog Day shaving test

Because the subjective time a shave requires doesn’t change much — you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, and if you follow the guidance I’ve offered in my Guide, you are in a state of flow, in which awareness of time is lost. But if you use a timer to get the objective time your shave takes, you’ll find that the time the shave requires dwindles — quickly in the first weeks, but continuing more gradually for quite a while.

graph of a curve that, as you move from left to right, drops quickly and then more slowly.
x-axis: calendar time
y-axis: amount of time shave requires

Graphing time required for a shave against a calendar thus gives a curve something like the one shown on the right: rapid decline initially, slow (but continuing) decline later, approaching a limit. For me, the limit seems to be 5 minutes.  

My suggestion is to time your shave annually, and Groundhog Day seemed a good choice. In your first year of DE shaving, you might want to time your shave monthly.

A few ground rules: While it’s reasonable to set up the shave to standardize the starting position and minimize total time (for example, have the cap already removed from the tub of soap and bottle of aftershave, have a boar brush already soaked and ready), it is not reasonable to rush the shave. Hasty shaving is a mug’s game.

Shave at your normal pace, paying attention and doing a good workaday shave. What you’re looking for is the duration of your normal current shave.  

Here’s a template I’ve used:

A. Prep: describe pre-shave preparation (e.g., pre-shave oil/cream/gel/soap, whether use lathering bowl, shaving soap or cream, hot towel, whatever)

B. Shave: razor and (if DE) blade used

C Post shave: whether alum block used, whether styptic needed, aftershave.

Time: from when prep begins until aftershave applied.

Result: Quality of shave experience and shave result, graded separately


DO NOT RUSH: try to take the same amount of time that you typically do. You’re not going for a personal record, you’re trying to find how long your usual morning shave takes. No haste, no hurry. Enjoy the process.

The payoff is seeing what a difference a year makes.  IT IS NOT A COMPETITION. 

Here’s an example from Reddit a decade ago. If you post your findings as a comment to this post, I’ll link to it a year hence.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2023 at 11:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Tofu leeks

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Another ad-hoc meal. This time I used my MSMK 12″ nonstick skillet.

I’ve mentioned that freezing tofu and then thawing it in the fridge makes it like a water-filled sponge. The slightest pressure causes water to gush out of it, and by controlled firm squeezing it with your hands over the sink, you can pretty much empty it of water, leaving the sponge ready to soak up a marinade.

The texture is different — more like a fine sponge than the normal smoothness of tofu — but it is still tofu, and — especially when combined with some grain.

I had frozen half a block of tofu. I squeezed out the water and diced the squeezed-out tofu. Then I made a marinade, looking at this page for ideas. This is what I made:

Ponzu sauce
maple syrup
liquid smoke
onion powder
garlic powder
ground black pepper
Montreal steak seasoning
smoked paprika,
Frank’s RedHot Xtra Hot
sweet vermouth
extra-virgin olive oil

I whisked that together in a bowl, dumped in the cubes of tofu, and stirred with a silicone spatula. The tofu immediately absorbed almost all the liquid, but I left it for a while.

I brought two medium-small leeks from the store and halved those vertically and rinsed them well to remove all traces of dirt, then sliced them thinly including the green leaves. (I can’t believe I used to discard the leaves. What was I thinking?)

I drizzled some olive oil in the skillet, added the chopped leeks, and let it start cooking. I added:

1/2 cup cooked intact whole-grain Kamut®
1/2 teaspoon Windson salt substitute
about 5 dried tomatoes, sliced thinly

And stirred well to mix. I let that cook for five or six minutes, then I added:

marinated tofu cubes with leftover marinade

One nice thing about plant-based cooking: you can use leftover marinade in the dish you’re cooking, or as a sauce. (With meat — such as chicken — that would be a bad idea.)

After the tofu was heated through and had cooked a while, I had a bowl. Very tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2023 at 4:28 pm

This report sees journalistic “bias” less as partisanship and more as relying on too-comfortable habits

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A fascinating report by Joshua Benton from NiemanLab:

When people say the news is biased, what do they mean? Versions of the critique can range from the cartoonishly simple to the paralyzingly complex.

On one end of the spectrum lie straightforward claims of journalistic corruption. (“George Soros pays reporters to write fake news!” “No reporter can tell the truth without getting fired by their corporate masters!”) On the other, there’s room for nuance. (Who was in the room when that story was pitched? What were the underlying assumptions that shaped it, and what drove those assumptions? What perspectives weren’t considered important enough to seek out, or understand, or publish?)

It’s easy for journalists to get so annoyed at the cartoonish claims of bias that they ignore all the other ones. Nobody likes to be told they aren’t doing their job well. So the critiques that bother to dive deeper — to complicate the mechanics of bias — are worth paying special attention to.

That’s why I’d like to highlight a new report from the U.K. today that seems to do just that. It has the thoroughly bureaucratic title of the Review of the Impartiality of BBC Coverage of Taxation, Public Spending, Government Borrowing and Debt and it is, um, a review of the impartiality of BBC coverage of taxation, public spending, government borrowing and debt. Important, nation-shifting topics all — but ones notoriously difficult for news audiences to understand (much less enjoy).

The review did not find any systemic political biases in the BBC’s economics reporting — in the sense that it consistently favored one party’s views or others. But what it did find is more interesting. (All emphases mine.)

We found widespread appreciation for BBC coverage of tax, public spending, government borrowing and debt, and plenty to applaud. But against a test of broad impartiality, we also had concerns — about gaps and assumptions that put impartiality at risk.

These weaknesses can lead to output that appears to favour particular political positions, but curiously these lean left and right. That makes a charge of systematic political bias in this area hard to sustain. So while the risks to impartiality may look political, we think they need a better explanation, which is that they’re really journalistic. This is no less serious and raises questions for the BBC and its journalists about what kind of journalism they want to do and how to do it. Inevitably, we focus on what could change. Much could apply at least equally to other UK media.

We think the emphasis on broad impartiality in the BBC’s response to the Serota Review timely and necessary. We found that significant interests and perspectives on tax, public spending, government borrowing and debt could be better served by BBC output and were not protected by a simpler model of political impartiality. We would not call this bias. But we don’t see how BBC coverage can be described as always fair to different interests if it’s unbalanced in this broad sense. This is an exacting and exciting ideal that drives much that follows.

The 50-page review was written by Michael Blastland and Sir Andrew Dilnot — a journalist and economist (respectively) who have collaborated on a BBC series and a book on the subject of statistics in the news. They examined coverage across platforms from October 2021 to March 2022, reviewing 11,000 pieces of BBC content (focusing on about 1,000 of them), and interviewing over 100 people inside and outside the corporation. (It’s also a much clearer, more enjoyable read than most 50-page reports I’ve come across over the years.)

They say the BBC is doing a good job on the subject overall. (Most people they interviewed “thought the output good (we agree). There was huge appreciation for its quality, seriousness, and especially the strengths of specialists.”) So what were the sources of the imbalance and journalistic weaknesses they found? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2023 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

A 20-string Doolin Harp Guitar

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I had never heard of a harp guitar, and now I see them a lot. Here’s one with a set of treble strings as well as the usual bass strings.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2023 at 1:27 pm

Green Tobacco and Blue Tea

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A shaving brush with a white "keyhole" handle (a bottom is a truncated cone that holds a sphere, which holds the knot — in profile, the traditional keyhole pattern), with a tube of shaving soap whose label shows tobacco flowers, next to a clear glass bottle of aftershave. In front is a slant razor on a stainless steel handle with a barber-pole spiral design.

Today is sunny and clear, and I’m celebrating with the photo uplifted a bit. My RazoRock Keyhole brush made quite a nice lather from Tcheon Fung Sing’s Tabacco Verde shaving soap. I think “The first Hard Shaving Soap” must mean the first in Italy — TFS was founded immediately after the war, so perhaps the Italian market still had only the soft shaving soaps — croaps, as some call them, a portmanteau word packing in “cream” and “soap” — and Tcheon Fung Sing made the first actually hard soap. I think hard shaving soaps were already common in, say, the UK.

At any rate, it’s a very nice little soap, and I loaded the brush well to get a thick lather. The razor is the iKon Shavecraft X3, an excellent little slant, mounted on a RazoRock Barber Pole stainless-steel handle. It did a sterling job and my face is wonderfully smooth — the Monday shave always starts the week on a very pleasant note.

A splash of another Prospector Co. aftershave, K.C. Atwood today, augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel, and the shave is done.

The tea this morning is special, a gift The Wife brought back from Paris. This tea is, as the label says, “Thé Bleu Parfume” — Fragrant Blue Tea — and specifically Bangkok in Love. The color is actually pink, presumable from the rose petals, and the aroma is a delight.

Mariage Frères Blue tea™ sounds as though the tea is blue — and there are teas that are blue (in color), typically from including butterfly pea flowers in the tea. But for Mariage Frères, “Blue tea™” is a term of art (thus the ™).

Blue tea™ represents a half-way stage between green and black tea. The leaves undergo a brief oxidation. Blue tea™ is also called Oolong which means “black dragon”, and occasionally Bohea (or Bohe or even Bou) which is a deformation of Wu Yi, the name of the famous mountain in China’s Fujian Province where the most highly esteemed blue tea is made.

So when Mariage Frères says “Blue tea™”, they are, in effect, saying “oolong” (no ™). My beloved Murchie’s Hairy Crab Oolong would presumably be Blue Hairy Crab for Mariage Frères.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2023 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

“Use the Difficulty”

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Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2023 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Sunday coffee is great

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One advantage of having coffee only twice a week is that you really enjoy the taste and are conscious of it. Another advantage is that I believe the infrequency will forestall physical addiction.

I have mastered the Clever Coffee dripper method — update 2023-02-21: The instructions below, even though I found them on the internet, are ludicrously misguided. Corrections in [square brackets].

  1. Fold over the crimped part of the paper filter, put it into the dripper, and rinse with hot water (to remove filter taste). I use unbleached filters.
  2. Put a rounded quarter-cup of coffee grounds (for 16 oz water) into the filter. (see update below) [I now buy unground coffee beans; I weigh out 29g and put the beans into my Cuisinart Spice & Herb grinder and grind until the grind is fine. The grind is not perfectly even, but overall fine works well.]
  3. Heat water to around 200ºF, start the timer and pour in just enough to thoroughly wet the grounds. Wait while they absorb water and expand. [This is totally misguided: pouring a little water on the grounds and letting them expand is done for pour-over coffee, not steeped coffee. I fell for the idea because it was familiar from when I used a Chemex pour-over coffee maker. And the low-temperature water produces a weak brew. I now bring water to the boil, remove the kettle and wait until the active boiling stops, then just pour all the water over the grounds and start the timer.]
  4. At 30 seconds, pour in the rest of the water and put the cover on the dripper. [This step is gone — I have already poured all the water over the grounds.]
  5. At 2 minutes, stir the coffee gently so the crust of floating grounds sinks into the coffee.
  6. At 3 minutes 30 seconds, put the filter on my Joveo Temperfect mug and go start eating my breakfast pudding.
  7. At about halfway through my breakfast, go dump the filter and grounds into the trash and return with coffee to enjoy.

I recall some years ago some guy — and I presume a young guy — asked, “Why do people like coffee? It’s so acid and bitter and awful tasting!” I responded that his question was similar to people asking, “Why do people like milk? It has such a foul smell and tastes awful and has lumps in it!” The problem wasn’t coffee per se, it was the cup of (bad) coffee he was drinking.

My coffee this morning is wonderful, and on Wednesday I’m going to get a fresh pound of coffee at Fantastico. Maybe someday I’ll get another good burr grinder so I buy whole beans and grind them just before I brew the coffee (though god knows where I’d put another appliance).

— Wait! A manual burr grinder! Of course! I already have one, in fact, but it’s dedicated to use as a pepper grinder. I could get another for coffee beans.

Update: Manual grinder ordered — Hario Skerton Pro. Each Sunday and Wednesday I will weigh out 27.9g of beans and grind them for my coffee. update 2023-02-21: the Skerton is too hard to use and too slow. I am now using my Cuisinart Spice & Herb grinder.

Update 2: Better coffee calculator.

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2023 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Good idea that seems not so good until experienced

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I wash dishes by hand, and I used Dawn 3X detergent for quite a while, and then when it became available 4X detergent because so little was needed. I would buy it at Costco, and then — it was gone! In its place was Dawn 5X — well and good, but it was in a spray bottle. The idea was to spray it on a dish and then wash the dish. Hmm. No, thanks.

So on my next Costco trip, I tried again — and again they only had the 5X with spray bottle: “Dawn Powerwash.” I gave up and got it.

To my surprise, it’s wonderful. Using a spray keeps one from wastefully using too much (5X, after all — even a small glug from a pour bottle would be overkill). And it works like a charm: I put dirty dish in the sink, spray two or three sprays onto them, fill with hot water and let soak a while, and then they wipe clean with no effort.

I was so sure that it was a bad idea, and now I think it’s a great idea. A prior judgments seem often to be wrong.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2023 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Daily life

Two slants, contrasted

with 2 comments

Small Omega shaving brush (the Mixed Midget, boar and badger), a tiny tub of Nancy Boy Signature shaving cream, a rough-textured brown bottle of Stetson Sierra aftershave, and an plastic, light-orange slant razor with an extreme slant.

My tiny tub of Nancy Boy Signature Shaving Cream is almost empty. I think I am going to replace it, even though I have a fair number of shaving soaps. The fragrance and performance of this shaving cream are really extraordinary, and if I had a full tub I would use it more frequently. 

Given the tiny tub, I used a tiny brush, Omega’s Mixed Midget (badger and boar), soaking it while I showered for the sake of the boar. Loading the brush was easy — though the tub holds little shaving cream now, the cream has no place to hide.

Well lathered (and enjoying again the fragrance and refreshing feel of the Nancy Boy formula), I set to work with my El Fantasma “Naranja” Double Slant razor. What a contrast with yesterday’s painfully careful shave! This slant is so comfortable and non-threatening, once you apply it to your face (its appearance is somewhat intimidating), that you shave without care and with considerable pleasure. And this slant is amazingly efficient, both in stubble removal and in the absence of any cutting resistance at all.

As I note in the slant post I mentioned earlier, one benefit of the slant design is that it sharply reduces cutting resistance, but that benefit depends on the amount of cutting resistance normally encountered. A teenager who’s just starting to shave will not detect any improvement in using a slant because peach fuzz presents little cutting resistance to begin with, and thus a conventional razor can easily do the job.

But a man whose beard is thick, wiry, and tough will be amazed by how much easier a slant razors does the job, and I believe the more slanted the blade, the easier the cut. Moreover, the slant also removes stubble somewhat better. The slant, with its easy cutting action, will cut through very fine stubble (at the corners of the mouth for example) that a conventional razor pushes over without cutting. After the shave, with face (and stubble) dry again, uncut stubble, though fine, feels rough. 

Today’s razor is wonderful and at the price a bargain worth snapping up. (The Double Slant comes in various colors. The two I have now shave the same.)

A splash of Stetson Sierra with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel finished the job, and the weekend begins on a pleasurable note.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s 1894 Select Orange Pekoe: “1894 Select Orange Pekoe is one of Murchie’s original blends, named after the year of our founding. A union of bright Ceylon and rich Assam teas, this strong, traditional blend is designed to celebrate and elevate the everyday ‘cuppa’ tea.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2023 at 11:04 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

“A Virus Killed My Mom. It Took 30 Years. Nobody Knew What Was Wrong.”

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CONTENT WARNING: This article is a brief memoir, and it’s grim. I found it worth reading, so I wanted to call your attention to it, but it’s tough.

Jessica Wildfire writes at OK Doomer:

It started sometime around my fourteenth birthday.

My mom began acting stranger than usual. She said things that didn’t make sense. She didn’t seem to understand what year it was. She talked about things that happened decades ago as if they’d happened yesterday. She remembered other things that had never happened at all. She said she’d lived in Paris.

My dad got frustrated and went to bed early.

He asked me to keep an eye on her and my brother, who was seven or eight at the time. “See if you can get her to talk sense.”

I tried.

Somehow I took it as a personal mission to lead my mom out of her fog. I listened. I tried to see if she was playing some kind of game with us. Maybe she was acting confused on purpose. Maybe she was angry about something and wanted me to figure it out. I stayed up with her until two or three. Then I crashed.

The next morning, she was still up.

She hadn’t slept.

She’d spent all night smoking cigarettes and drinking black coffee, sitting in pretty much the same place, barely responsive.

That went on for a couple of days, into the weekend. My dad made sarcastic remarks. Then he started giving her commands. He told her to stop acting weird. He told her to go outside and get some fresh air.

He made threats.

Finally, I convinced him to take her to the hospital. He treated it like a punishment, and an inconvenience. He acted like he was calling her bluff, that faced with a night in the ER, she’d admit it was all an act.

I remember walking my mom into the emergency room on a Friday night. She moved like she was underwater. It just seemed to make my dad even angrier. He walked so far ahead of us that I lost sight of him.

He acted embarrassed.

We spent all night there, waiting for  . . .

Continue reading. The mystery is explained, but the damage has been done.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 8:12 pm

To protect the children, let’s make churches adults-only venues

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Guy Lancaster writes in the Arkansas Times:

When Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Of Course) spoke up in committee on January 19 in defense of his bill, SB43, which would designate drag shows as “adult” venues, he quoted at length from an ostensible communique he received from a drag queen, begging him to protect Arkansas’s children and assuring him that “a lot of nudity, a lot of sex, a lot of things” goes down at drag shows.

Granted, Stubblefield could give no actual examples of any child being assaulted at a drag show, but let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is genuinely interested in protecting Arkansas’s children. On January 25, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed total support for SB43, saying, “I think we have to do everything — I’ve been very clear and talked about this pretty extensively — to protect children. And I think that’s what this bill does, and so would be supportive of it in its current form. We’ll continue to take steps and do things that I believe protect the children of Arkansas.”

n that case, Sen. Stubblefield and Gov. Sanders will want to take the next logical step and put forward a bill designating the state’s many, many churches to be adults-only venues. We need to protect the children, after all, and we know that the church is a hub of child sexual abuse by clergy in Arkansas and the nation.

The Diocese of Little Rock maintains a website disclosing a list of all those Roman Catholic priests who have been credibly accused of abusing children. The list was made public in 2018, 16 years after the Boston Globe broke the story of a massive coverup of known pedophile priests in the United States. Then, in 2019, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News started reporting on sex abuse in Southern Baptist churches; a 2022 third-party report highlighted how the Southern Baptist Convention, like the Roman Catholic Church, had been hushing up cases of such abuse for years and years. The SBC eventually released its own list of accused sex offenders, which included many in Arkansas.

Churches make opportune places for pedophiles to set up shop. First, most Christian ideologies position priests and pastors in the role of God’s emissary upon this earth. It’s hard to argue with “God’s will,” or to speak up from the very bottom of this well-established hierarchy. And in a church culture that prizes “sexual purity” above all else, children who have been molested are even more reluctant to come forward. It’s no wonder churches have been at the center of child sexual abuse scandals.

And children in church are also exposed to materials that would easily qualify as obscene or harmful to minors. For example, take this passage, Ezekiel 23:19-21 (New Revised Standard Version): . . .

Continue reading.

The comments are pretty good, too. One includes the almost-certain rebuttal from Sen. Stubblefield (and Gov. Sanders): “Well, that’s different.”

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 5:32 pm

Tempeh Spinach, a What-I-Have-On-Hand™ recipe

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A cutting board on which are a large carrot, a beet half a small red cabbage, a large red onion, 2 boxes frozen spinach, 2 large jalapeños, 3 small red Thai chiles, half a head of red garlic, a turmeric root, a piece of ginger root, a block of tempeh, a tin of smoked paprika, a jar of dried marjoram, a pepper grinder, Windsor salt substitute, a jar of chipotle-garlic paste (homemade), and a big slab of tempeh (also homemade).
Tempeh Spinach (before)

I have eaten through the dishes previously prepared, and so I looked around for what is possible with what I had on hand. I came up with this, for which I used my 4-qt sauté pan:

Tempeh Spinach

• extra-virgin olive oil
• 10-12 oz diced tempeh (chickpea and rye)
• 1 big red onion, chopped
• 1 enormous carrot, diced
• 1 red beet, diced
• 2 jalapeños, chopped small
• 3 Thai red chiles, chopped small
• 1 tablespoon chipotle-garlic paste
• 5 dried tomatoes, chopped
• 3 cloves red garlic, chopped small
• 1 small piece ginger root, minced
• 2 turmeric roots, minced (only 1 in photo; didn’t seem enough)
• 3 small Meyer lemons, diced
• 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
• 1/2 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika
• about 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon Windsor salt substitute

Sauté the above for a while. Then add:

• 2 pkgs frozen spinach
• about 3 tablespoons tomato paste
• good splash of tamari
• about 3 tablespoons Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar
• about 1/4 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A pot of greens, with pieces of lemon, carrot, and other vegetables visible.
Tempeh Spinach (after)

This recipe covers seven of the Daily Dozen:

Beans, Grain: Tempeh (chickpeas+intact whole rye)
Greens, Cruciferous Vegetable (cabbage) – Spinach, red cabbage 
Other Vegetables – Onion, carrot, beet, chiles, tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic  
Fruit – Meyer lemons 
Herbs & Spices – Marjoram, paprika, ginger, turmeric pepper 

And breakfast took care of

Berries (frozen mixed, dried barberry, amla)
(rolled oats)
Nuts & Seeds (walnuts; chia seed)
Herbs & Spices (cloves, marjoram, spearmint, cinnamon, cocoa)
Fruit (3 pieces: mandarin, Bosc pear, apple)
Beverages (1 pint of tea)

But no real Exercise today, I admit.

I’m having a bowl of Tempeh Spinach now, generously sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds (more Nuts & Seeds). Very tasty, and not so hot as the chiles might suggest — but definitely some spicy warmth, good on a cold night.

Next day: I put some fermented beets in a bowl, topped it with Tempeh Spinach, and sprinkled roasted pumpkin seeds on top (a good source of zinc).

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 4:58 pm

RazoRock Superslant razors back in stock (for now — limited quantities)

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Just to be clear: I get no kickback from Italian Barber, and this is not an affiliate link. But as a service to my readers, I wanted to let you know that the Superslant — one of the best slants I’ve used, both extremely comfortable and extremely efficient — is back in stock for now. I got the L1++, and my review is here.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 2:55 pm

Retrospection for a Ragtime King: Scott Joplin and the American devaluation of Black art

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I found the above in a post that collected seven performances of Scott Joplin’s compositions. I wanted to go beyond the familiar pieces — The Entertainer and Maple Leaf Rag. I was looking for a Joplin introduction to Adrienne Davich’s fine essay in Van Magazine, which begins:

In 1991, when I was eight years old, I found a simplified version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and relished playing it for most of the year that I was in third grade. My parents had recently divorced. I’d moved from Las Vegas to Reno with my mother, a kindergarten teacher. Before and after school, I played “The Entertainer” on an out-of-tune piano in my mother’s classroom. I played it obsessively, perhaps because it occupied my hands and sounded jolly. I didn’t feel sad when I played it, though I missed my dad fiercely; instead, I felt indefatigable and industrious. The lyrics on my sheet music described a clownish performer doing “snappy patter and jokes” that please “the folks.” I know I imagined a Black man on stage, but I didn’t know about minstrel shows or much else about America’s racist past and present. 

My babysitter, who was 13 and also white, loved “The Entertainer” so much that she asked me to teach her how to play it. She’d never taken piano lessons, but she patiently learned the right-hand notes and I accompanied her with the left-hand part. We created a duet and took turns singing the words. I don’t know about her, but I never once thought deeply about what the lyrics evoked: a “mask that grins and lies.” The entertainer I envisioned was a lot like Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who looks happy tap-dancing alongside Shirley Temple in her childhood movie series. I presumed that the imagery associated with minstrelsy was normal and innocuous, just as I thought topless showgirls performing in my city’s casinos was. I’m not ashamed of this, but it’s baffling to think that in the 1990s I lived in a place where I was able to spend a year playing “The Entertainer” and learn absolutely nothing about the history of African American music, specifically ragtime, and the life of Scott Joplin.

I still knew nothing about Joplin, the man, when I was 14 and my piano teacher asked me to learn “Maple Leaf Rag.” Or I knew almost nothing. I’d at least learned that Joplin was Black because his photo appeared on my spiral-bound volume of his music. His race didn’t register with me as particularly important, but on the other hand, from somewhere I’d absorbed the idea that ragtime music was simpler and less important than the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. When my teacher, who was a professor of music at the university, handed me the “Maple Leaf,” I presumed it was because he’d disqualified me from playing other, “more serious” pieces. I felt bad about being asked to devote my time to a piece that’s often programmed into player pianos. 

That is, until something unexpected happened: I began playing it reasonably well and people loved it. When guests came to my mother’s house, my stepfather urged me to play it. He never asked for Mozart or Scarlatti. Joplin’s rag was more delightful and impressive. It is, after all, a vivacious, happy piece that looks harder to play than it actually is.

Can you play a piece of music well without knowing its background? Is everything you need to know really on the page? 

During the years I studied piano, we presumed yes. At weekly lessons, I learned theory, practiced sight-reading, and played pieces from every musical period. Although I was expected to know the dates and features of different musical styles, my teachers rarely if ever contextualized the music they asked me to play. It’s curious to me now that we didn’t talk about historical backdrops and personal tragedies. I know for certain that my teachers had rigorously studied classical music history. Did they think that I didn’t care? Or had they found that students fared better focusing solely on the music as written and their technique in playing it? 

I’ve asked these questions because the pieces I played during my formative years are embedded in my soul. They’re part of my identity. I didn’t choose to bring them into my life (a teacher usually did), but ultimately, I did choose them, because I stuck with them. The two pieces that have haunted me the most are ones I started playing at 13 and 14 years old. I felt proud to play the first of these, Debussy’s “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”; I believed it represented me, with its melancholic air and evocation of loneliness and longing. But the other piece, Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” didn’t flow from somewhere inside me. I would have to inhabit it in a different way.

Joplin was born around 1868, possibly in the vicinity of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Art, History, Jazz, Music

A slant revisited: Phoenix Artisan’s Alpha Ecliptic

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A box showing a Buck Rogers era spaceman whose helmet antenna is issuing lightning streaks of radiation, with the label "Slant Action Alpha Ecliptic Galactic Shave Tech. Next i a shaving brush: black base, red handle, black bristles. Then a tub of Tombstone shaving soap next to a rectangular glass bottle of Tombstone aftershave. In front is a blue humpback slant in aluminum.

A new soap and razor today. The soap is Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 Tombstone: “Gunpowder, Leather, Tobacco, Geranium, Bergamot, Lady Banksia White Rose [sourced from Tombstone, AZ].” The blend of fragrances — the rough-tough stough (gunpowder, leather, and tobacco) and the florals (geranium, bergamot, and white rose) — is an intriguing (and pleasant) scent, and the CK-6 lather of course is excellent. And I do love the RazoRock Amici brush.

For some reason, I kept putting off ordering this slant, but I finally succumbed, and now I realize I have had the same slant in the past and found that it didn’t work all that well for me. I started the shave this morning hoping that my greater experience would result in the razor’s working better, but based on today’s shave, I might have to once again pass the razor along.

See this post (first shave with my earlier purchase) and this post (comparison of Alpha Ecliptic and Eros slants) and this post (trying the plastic version of the Alpha Ecliptic). 

Based on all that, I would have to say that this slant is just not my cup of tea. I still like the French Eros a lot, and the design is so similar that I think the Eros is either a knockoff of the Walbusch or a rebranded licensed copy. (Walbush, BTW, made the first adjustable slant, something I would dearly love to have, but they are exceedingly rare (and expensive).)

While I was browsing through my old posts, I came across this deep dive into slants and why they work for some and not others. I updated it somewhat (it’s from 2016), and I think it’s still a good reference.

Three passes produced a smooth result with a couple of nicks. I’ll try again with a different brand of blade, but I am not hopeful. I don’t understand why I can’t find the right angle, but we all know that what works for A may not work for B. With this razor, I’m B.

A splash of Tombstone Aftershave & Cologne augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for the day.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Black Currant Tea: “Dried blueberries and blue cornflower are added to the sweet-smelling tea blend to add to the allure.”

Written by Leisureguy

27 January 2023 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Is Cheese Really Bad for You?

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2023 at 7:33 pm

Antidepressants help bacteria resist antibiotics

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Pink E. Coli on pebbly gray surface.
In the presence of antidepressants, the Gram-negative bacterium E. coli can fend off antibiotics.
— Credit: Steve Gschmeissner/Science Photo Library

Liam Drew writes in Nature:

The emergence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics is often attributed to the overuse of antibiotics in people and livestock. But researchers have homed in on another potential driver of resistance: antidepressants. By studying bacteria grown in the laboratory, a team has now tracked how antidepressants can trigger drug resistance1.

“Even after a few days exposure, bacteria develop drug resistance, not only against one but multiple antibiotics,” says senior author Jianhua Guo, who works at the Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. This is both interesting and scary, he says.

Globally, antibiotic resistance is a significant public-health threat. An estimated 1.2 million people died as a direct result of it in 20192, and that number is predicted to climb.

Early clues

Guo became interested in the possible contributions of non-antibiotic drugs to antibiotic resistance in 2014, after work by his lab found more antibiotic-resistance genes circulating in domestic wastewater samples than in samples of wastewater from hospitals, where antibiotic use is higher.

Guo’s group and other teams also observed that antidepressants — which are among the most widely prescribed medicines in the world — killed or stunted the growth of certain bacteria. They provoke “an SOS response”, Guo explains, triggering cellular defence mechanisms that, in turn, make the bacteria better able to survive subsequent antibiotic treatment.

In a 2018 paper, the group reported that Escherichia coli became resistant to multiple antibiotics after being exposed to fluoxetine3, which is commonly sold as Prozac. The latest study examined 5 other antidepressants and 13 antibiotics from 6 classes of such drugs and investigated how resistance in E. coli developed.

In bacteria grown in well-oxygenated laboratory conditions, the antidepressants caused the cells to generate reactive oxygen species: toxic molecules that activated the microbe’s defence mechanisms. Most prominently, this activated the bacteria’s efflux pump systems, a general expulsion system that many bacteria use to eliminate various molecules, including antibiotics. This probably explains how the bacteria could withstand the antibiotics without having specific resistance genes.

But exposure of E. coli to antidepressants also led to an increase in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2023 at 7:12 pm

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