Later On

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

101 Simple Salads for the Season, from the NY Times

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An archived page from the NY Times has a great collection of salad recipe ideas. It begins:

1. Cube watermelon and combine with tomato chunks, basil and basic vinaigrette. You can substitute peach for the watermelon or the tomato (but not both, O.K.?). You can also add bacon or feta, but there goes the vegan-ness.

2. Mix wedges of tomatoes and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red-pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime or lemon juice. Astonishing.

3. A nice cucumber salad: Slice cucumbers thin (if they’re fat and old, peel and seed them first), toss with red onions and salt, then let sit for 20 to 60 minutes. Rinse, dry, dress with cider vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard; no oil necessary.

4. Shave raw asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler. Discard the tough first pass of the peeler — i.e., the peel — but do use the tips, whole. Dress with lemon vinaigrette and coarse salt. (Chopped hard-boiled eggs optional but good.)

5. Grate or very thinly slice Jerusalem artichokes; mix with pitted and chopped oil-cured olives, olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkling of coarsely ground cumin. Unusual and wonderful.

6. Sichuan slaw: Toss bean sprouts, shredded carrots and celery, minced fresh chili, soy sauce, sesame oil and a bit of sugar. Top with chopped peanuts and chopped basil, mint and/or cilantro. (The full trio is best.)

7. Grate carrots, toast some sunflower seeds, and toss with blueberries, olive oil, lemon juice and plenty of black pepper. Sweet, sour, crunchy, soft.

8. Chop or slice radishes (or jicama, or the ever-surprising kohlrabi) and combine with chopped or sliced unripe (i.e., still crunchy) mango, lime juice and mint or cilantro.

9. Chop or slice jicama (or radishes or kohlrabi) and mango and mix with coconut milk, lime juice, curry powder and cilantro or mint.

10. Cook whole grape tomatoes in olive oil over high heat until they brown lightly, sprinkling with curry powder. Cool a bit, then toss with chopped arugula, loads of chopped mint and lime juice.

11. . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2023 at 11:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes & Cooking

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In comparison to other wealthy countries, the US fails in keeping its citizens alive

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A country that does a poor job of ensuring that its citizens live is not a successful country on this basic and essential measure. In the Washington Post, Steven H. Woolf, professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Laudan Aron, a senior fellow in the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute in D.C., write (gift link, no paywall):

Last fall, when federal statistics showed life expectancy had fallen for Americans in 2021 for a second year in a row, it was clear that the devastating covid-19 pandemic was the immediate cause. The coronavirus took the lives of more than 1 million Americans. Life expectancy fell by more than two years — and by twice as much among Hispanic, Black and Native Americans — setting the country back by two decades and producing the most abrupt decline in life expectancy since World War II.

But plotting life expectancy in the United States against that of other wealthy countries reveals three dark insights: Our life spans lag behind those of our peers; our life expectancy was already more or less flat, not growing; and most other countries bounced back from covid-19 in the second year of the pandemic, while we went into further decline.

Ten years ago, long before the world was hit by covid-19, we served as the chair and study director for a landmark report that warned about the “U.S. health disadvantage,” a gap in the health and survival of Americans relative to residents of other high-income countries. Released by a committee convened by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the report showed the United States had the lowest life expectancy among peer countries, and higher morbidity and mortality rates for dozens of causes. The disparity had been growing since the 1950s, by some measures, and was pervasive — affecting both sexes, young and old, rich and poor, and Americans of all races and ethnicities.

The committee examined five areas of relative deficiency that are likely contributing to the U.S. health disadvantage: (1) unhealthy behaviors, such as our diets and use of firearms; (2) inadequate health care and public health systems; (3) poor socioeconomic conditions; (4) unhealthy and unsafe environments; and (5) deficient public policies. The last category especially exerts a powerful influence on the other domains — and helps explain why other advanced democracies are outperforming the United States on almost every measure of health and well-being.

In the years before the covid-19 pandemic, as life expectancy continued to increase in other countries, U.S. life expectancy plateaued and then decreased for three consecutive years. Researchers identified a key reason: U.S. mortality in midlife (ages 25 to 64) was increasing, a phenomenon not occurring in peer countries. This, too, became the subject of a landmark report, which cited drug overdoses, alcohol use, suicides and cardiometabolic diseases (e.g., obesity, diabetes, hypertensive heart disease) as leading causes. Enduring systemic racism and health inequities means that the U.S. health disadvantage is particularly acute among people of color, especially Native and Black Americans, whose life expectancy is far lower than that of White Americans.

With the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the long-standing U.S. health disadvantage only worsened. In 2020 and 2021, U.S. deaths were the highest of any country and among the highest per capita. All five domains we identified in the “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” report contributed to the death toll: Health behaviors (e.g., resistance to masking and vaccinations) facilitated viral transmission and limited vaccine uptake; health-care and public health services were unprepared and rapidly overwhelmed; socioeconomic conditions further deteriorated, especially for poorer Americans, as the economy imploded; aspects of the physical environment heightened viral exposure; and the policy response to the pandemic was deeply flawed and highly politicized. Once again, people of color paid the highest price, with Native, Hispanic/Latino and Black Americans experiencing devastating losses in life expectancy, despite an interesting twist: In 2021, declines were higher among White Americans than in most other groups, perhaps because of greater resistance to vaccination and masking in conservative communities. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2023 at 10:42 am

Checking brush action

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A photo modified to look like a painting. At left is a silvertip badger shaving brush with a black handle that has a silver disk printed near the top with the letters WSP in black. Next to it iis a tub of shaving soap with a ble label on the side that has a cream-colored rectangle with "After the Raine" in black. Lying on the tub's lid is a double-edge razor with a heavily knurled stainless steel handle whose base is a knurled ball. Next is a small glass bottle with a white plastic pump top. Printed on the yellow label is "grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum."

After yesterday’s experience of feeling the (silvertip badger) brush sort of “grab” the soap, I wanted to explore the phenomenon a bit further. So today I picked another silvertip badger brush — the Prince, from Wet Shaving Products — and another example of Declaration Grooming Bison-tallow soap, though this soap is their Milksteak, which has a newer formula, which still includes bison tallow:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Vegetable Glycerin, Bison Tallow, Mango Butter, Avocado Oil, Shea Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Lanolin, Bentonite Clay, Yogurt, Buttermilk, Egg Whites, Coconut Milk, Goat’s Milk, Tocopheryl Acetate, Maltodextrin, Milk Protein, Salix Alba L. (White Willow) Bark Extract,  Arctium lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Silk Amino Acids

I do think I detected the brush clinging to the soap a bit, so tomorrow I’ll use a synthetic brush with this same formula.

The lather was terrific, and After the Rain has a pleasant fragrance: “notes of wet pine, muted lavender, cedar, and white pepper.”

The razor head this morning is the Marvel, which once was offered by Fine Accoutrements. They seem to have discontinued selling razors altogether. I do miss their aluminum slant. The Marvel is good, but nothing really exceptional except the look of the head. (The handle is a RazoRock stainless-steel UFO.) Still, it is comfortable and efficient, and I got a very good shave.

A drop of Grooming Dept Rejuvenating Serum, and Friday begins.

The tea this morning is Mariage Frères Smoky Sakura: “This grand tea is smoked with Japanese cherrywood using artisanal methods. The delicate liquor floods the palate with woody notes accentuated by fragrant wisps of incense and liquorice. Issued from a family garden in the region of Shizuoka, near Mount Fuji.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2023 at 10:10 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Stew-fry Seafood Medley

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On a cutting board: red kale, red onion, Yellow bell pepper, poblano pepper, jalapeño pepper, garlic scapes, fresh rosemary, fresh dill, two Sa Marzanao tomatoes, a cup of cooked einkorn, a pile of asparagus not yet trimmed, a knob of ginger, a bunch of brccolini. In back is a supermarket package labeled "Seafood Medley" with a label that says it contains Squid. Cooked Mussels. Cooked Clam and Shrimp.
Not shown: Steelhead Trout, Lemon, MSG (it’s okay)

I celebrate the first of each month, but modestly, as is appropriate for 1/12th of a New Year. I’ve described elsewhere the ritual of The Reading of the Letter from the Past and of The Writing of the Letter to the Future, always a pleasure. And in the food line, I depart from a purely plant-based diet (though I stick with whole-food: refined foods and manufactured foods from highly processed ingredients are no longer appealing). 

Generally, the departure means some sort of fish, and I spotted the package shown in the background of the above image: Seafood Medley with “Squid. Cooked Mussels. Cooked Clam, and Shrimp.” That sounded good. (Clams are extraordinarily high in B12.) 

I had already purchased the red kale, broccolini, garlic scapes, and asparagus, and I immediately thought of a stew-fry. But given all the vegetables — and I definitely wanted to include cooked einkorn after watching a video on ancient grains — I thought I needed more fish, so I bought a 14 oz piece of steelhead trout, popular around here. And I do like asparagus, both because it has a good taste and mouthfeel and because it provides a very good variety of dietary fiber.

Seafood Medley Stew-Fry

• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• Red kale, chopped
• Broccolini, chopped
• Asparagus, tough bottom removed, cut into 1″ sections
• Ginger, minced
• 1/2 large red onion, chopped
• 5 garlic scapes, chopped
• 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
• 1 poblano pepper, chopped
• 1 large jalapeño pepper, chopped
• 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves ground
• 1/2 bunch of dill chopped
• 2 San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
• 1 lemon, diced
• 1 cup cooked einkorn from fridge (cooled to make starch resistant)
• 1 package “seafood medley”
• 14 oz steelhead fillet, cut into bite-size pieces with kitchen shears
• splash of rice vinegar
• 1 teaspoon MSG
• splash of water

I used my 4-qt sauté pan, which turned out to be somewhat of a tight fit, but doable. I started by putting the olive oil into the skillet.

An orange bowl that contains green particles, like a coarse green sand.
Ground rosemary

I ground the rosemary leaves in my spice & her grinder, and it did a bang-up job (see photo at right). I dumped the ground rosemary into the sauté pan and then chopped/sliced and added everything else except the einkorn, the asparagus, and the seafood.

I turned on the induction burner to “3” until things started to cook, stirring to mix them. Then I set the temperature to 225ºF and the time for 10 minutes and covered the pan.

When the timer bell sounded, I returned, mixed the veggies, and added the einkorn, asparagus, and seafood (including the pieces of steelhead). I cover the pa again, set temperature at 225ºF and timer at 12 minutes, and let it continue cooking, stirring once halfway through.

A pot showing a mixed stew of bright colors: red onion, dark green leaves, yellow bell pepper, pieces of pink fish,small brown grains, and asparagus.

I’ve now had a bowl, and it’s very good indeed. Good mix of flavors and mouthfeel and somehow light in taste though certainly filling.

I enjoyed this with a glass of white wine, which suited the dish. There is, as you see, plenty for a few more meals. 

I’ll revert to plant-based in addition to whole-food once this dish is done, though the first of July may see another departure. My interest in the whole-food plant-based diet is health, and a minor departure like today’s meal offers little risk.


Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Recipes & Cooking, Food

“I Tracked Down My Anonymous Landlord… Here’s What Happened.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 12:55 pm

Making a billion-year Lego clock

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Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 11:49 am

“I took anger management classes. Here’s what they get wrong about the world.”

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Olivia Watson writes in the Guardian:

There are six rules of anger management, says my anger workbook. The first rule: “STOP, think, take a look at the BIG picture.” Then, because why use lower-case when you’ve got capitals: “ANGER MANAGEMENT IS A THINKING PERSON’S GAME!”

But thinking, it turns out soon into the course, is discouraged. “I’m not here to psychoanalyze you,” says our group leader, a self-styled anger management guru. “I’m just here to help you follow the program. If you follow the program, you’ll see results.” Later, after one question too many, he tells me: “The problem with you, Olivia, is that you like to complicate things.”

Maybe so, but I ended up in anger management for a simple reason: I’ve always been hot-headed. Sometimes my anger has been explosive, leaving disaster in its wake, and sometimes it’s pointed inwards, manifesting in depression. It was there throughout a childhood with stressed parents who loved me but occasionally snapped under the grinding pressures of work and child-rearing, and there during an adolescence characterized largely by alcohol-fueled outbursts.

Later, for many years, I was an aid worker, caught in events that were worth being angry about: the civil war in Syria, the 2014 Gaza war, Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. In those contexts, it was weird if you weren’t furious, or an alcoholic, or maybe both. While some minimal counseling was offered by one of my employers, I followed the approach generally favored by my colleagues: relying instead on the close friendships forged in those circumstances to deal with what I was witnessing.

And then, just before the world went into lockdown, I had a baby. The fatigue and stress revealed itself as – that’s right – anger.

In January of this year, those stressors were largely gone. The pandemic was receding into the background, the baby was becoming an easy child, and I was no longer traveling to war zones as part of my work. And yet somehow the anger stuck around. I’d get angry about things that didn’t matter, things that were so small in the grand scheme of things as to be completely meaningless. I’d feel it coming and then be swept up in its wake. The lightbulb moment came when I found myself raging at my laid-back partner after he accidentally broke a plastic ice tray worth all of one dollar. It had been a long time coming – those kinds of things had happened before – but in the days afterwards I finally realized, with abject shame, that something had to change.

Soon afterwards, I enrolled in group anger management classes – three hours every Wednesday evening, for 10 weeks – in the hope of sparing us both further days arguing over whatever it was that had triggered this behavior.

I’m not the only one turning to courses like this. Part of the “stress management industry”, which was worth a reported $2bn in 2022, anger management courses have proliferated since the mid-1970s, when the psychologist Raymond Novaco began to publish widely on the origins and forms of anger and to promote relaxation skills and techniques that might prevent aggressive outbursts.

Novaco’s work built on a therapy called “stress inoculation” – as if one can immunize oneself against external pressures – to develop the concept of anger management. Now, such courses are frequently ordered by courts as a condition for probation or by employers faced with unruly employees, or sought out by those struggling in their relationships.

There can be little doubt that, as a society, we haven’t yet got to grips with our anger problem. Celebrity outbursts shock and titillate us – from Christian Bale’s infamous 2009 rant on the set of Terminator Salvation to  Will Smith’s slap at last year’s Oscars – while at the same time provoking widespread condemnation. The idea that aggressive expressions of anger make for a bad citizen have been around since Seneca, but our ways of dealing with such a ubiquitous emotion have been, historically, remarkably poor. The traditionally popular but perhaps not entirely effective technique for dealing with anger – repression – is a Victorian hangover, enforced in particular for women and permitted among men only when channeled into suitably masculine activities. Like boxing, maybe, or war.

But while the end of the era of repression might be welcomed, “management” is a curious replacement. Anger management courses focus on a participant’s triggers, offering a standardized set of guidelines for coping with situations in which they feel the rage rising. Such an approach glosses over the sources of anger – particularly those that might spring from unfair or imbalanced social dynamics – and places responsibility for anger squarely on the shoulders of the angry individual, seeking to treat the symptoms rather than addressing the disease.

As essential as such techniques may be, in particular for those prone to physical aggression, I can’t help but wonder, during the 10 weeks of the course, who else might be benefiting from the “management” of all this anger.

Without exception, everyone on the course is dealing with huge stressors – that is to say, they are angry for a reason. Marriages are collapsing, jobs are on the line, money is short. As we rattle through the introductions, it strikes me that it is stress – specifically the almost unbearable demands placed on us all – rather than anger that unites us. At check-in, we are encouraged to share how we are feeling, as long as we stick to one of the eight workbook-approved emotions on the “feeling compass”. I feel anxious, or I feel sad, come the most frequent responses (apart from, naturally, our leader, a living testament to the program’s success: “I feel peaceful.”).

“I feel anxious,” I recite dutifully at the start of each session, wondering whether “anxious” truly encapsulates the heady mix of shame, hope, dread, and fear that taking such a course produces in me. Shame because enrolling in an anger management course isn’t a high point in anyone’s life, and hope because I thought, in retrospect naively, that taking such a step really could be the beginning of something life-changing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 11:39 am

What Number Comes Next? The Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences Knows.

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Siobhan Roberts has a very interesting article (gift link, no paywall) in the NY Times. It begins:

Some numbers are odd:

Some are even:

And then there are the puzzling “eban” numbers:

What number comes next? And why?

These are questions that Neil Sloane, a mathematician of Highland Park, N.J., loves to ask. Dr. Sloane is the founder of the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, a database of 362,765 (and counting) number sequences defined by a precise rule or property. Such as the prime numbers:

Or the Fibonacci numbers — every term (starting with the 3rd term) is the sum of the two preceding numbers:

This year the OEIS, which has been praised as “the master index to mathematics” and “a mathematical equivalent to the FBI’s voluminous fingerprint files,” celebrates its 50th anniversary. The original collection, “A Handbook of Integer Sequences,” appeared in 1973 and contained 2,372 entries. In 1995, it became an “encyclopedia,” with 5,487 sequences and an additional author, Simon Plouffe, a mathematician in Quebec. A year later, the collection had doubled in size again, so Dr. Sloane put it on the internet.

“In a sense, every sequence is a puzzle,” Dr. Sloane said in a recent interview. He added that the puzzle aspect is incidental to the database’s main purpose: to organize all mathematical knowledge.

Sequences found in the wild — in mathematics, but also quantum physics, genetics, communications, astronomy and elsewhere — can be puzzling for numerous reasons. Looking up these entities in the OEIS, or adding them to the database, sometimes leads to enlightenment and discovery.

“It’s a source of unexpected results,” said Lara Pudwell, a mathematician at Valparaiso University in Indiana and a member of the OEIS Foundation’s board of trustees. Dr. Pudwell writes algorithms to solve counting problems. A few years ago, thus engaged, she entered into the OEIS search box a sequence that arose while studying numerical patterns:

The only result that popped up pertained to chemistry: specifically, to the periodic table and the atomic numbers of the alkaline earth metals. “I found this perplexing,” Dr. Pudwell said. She consulted with chemists and soon “realized there were interesting chemical structures to work with to explain the connection.”

Sequence serendipity provides what Russ Cox, a software engineer at Google, called “amazing cross-connective tissue for the sciences.” Dr. Cox, based in Cambridge, Mass., is the president of the OEIS board. He submitted his first sequence, which emerged from a programming contest puzzle, as a high-school student in 1996. He has twice rewritten the software for the database, which he thinks of as “the collective wisdom of math and science in this interesting numerical form.”

Donald Knuth, a computer scientist at Stanford, known for his analysis of algorithms, among other things, has also chanced upon breakthroughs. Working on a new problem, he always searches the OEIS. “It finds my bedfellows,” he said. “The beautiful thing is that you can compute your way into the literature.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 10:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Math

More shaving discoveries, albeit minor ones

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A silvertip badger shaving brush with a bulbous horn handle that bears a small gold label imprinted in black with "Plisson" stands next to a tub of shaving soap whose top label is a dark maroon on what is an image of a frontal view of a bison's face rendenered in polygons of various shades of brown and tan. Beneath the image, printed in white, is "Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli." Next to that is a short rectangular bottle of clear glass that has a gold cap and a white label on which is printed in brown script "Chatillon Lux." Below that is an open straight razor that hovers above a large fluer-de-lis. At the bottom of the label is printed "Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli." In front is a DE bead-blasted stainless steel safety razor. The upper third of the handle is fluted, the rest plain. The bead blasting gives it a matte finish.

In yesterday’s shave, I used this same soap formula but with a different fragrance: Unconditional Surrender then, Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli now. The first discovery came when the (damp) brush hit the soap. Yesterday I used a synthetic brush, today a Plisson HMW 12 silvertip. The brush today sort of grabbed the soap. The initial feeling was that the brush was clinging to the soap. Yesterday, no such sensation: the brush moved readily across the soap and loaded easily.

Loading was also easy today, butt the feeling was that I was getting more interaction between soap and brush — and perhaps the lather was a little better. In any case, it was a superb lather.

However — second discovery — I found that I like Unconditional Surrender’s fragrance substantially more than Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli. I do like YRP, but I like US a lot more.

Another discovery accompanied the actual shave. The razor is The Razor Company’s stainless steel razor, a razor I like a lot: it’s very comfortable, both on the face and in the hand (and I like the feel of the handle, fluted at the top, plain at base), and it’s highly efficient. Its efficiency led to the discovery: a couple of areas on my neck always require a little extra attention — I think I’ve shaved them well, but when I feel the two places, I almost always discover some roughness that requires a little more work.

Not with this razor. When I moved my fingers across the two trouble spots, I was surprised to find them both already smooth. Credit for that should probably be shared by soap and razor — very good prep helps the razor perform at its best — but I think this razor’s head design is exceptionally good. It has a hint of Henson, but so far as I can tell is an original. (And I’ll note that the ends are flat, not rounded. IMO, flat is better.)

So: a really fine shave. A splash of the Chatillon Lux Yuzu/Rose/Patchouli aftershave lotion, and the day begins.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Hairy Crab Oolong: “Named for its leaves, which are serrated like a hairy crustacean, this oolong is delicate, refreshing and incredibly fragrant. Delicate and refreshing, this semi-fermented Oolong tea has a lovely ripe peach overtone and a fragrance comparable to [but unlike – LG] that of Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 10:01 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

An ad that transcends its commercial purpose

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Written by Leisureguy

1 June 2023 at 7:54 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Video

How much of you is your genes?

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Kevin Drum has a fascinating post on those aspects of us that are genetically determined. From the post:

. . . Overall cognition, which is basically intelligence, is about 70% inherited. The other 30% is influenced by shared and non-shared environment. The same is true for oral reading. The subcomponents of intelligence, fluid and crystallized cognition, are a bit less inheritable.

Hyperactivity is almost entirely inherited. Anxiety, by contrast, is only weakly inherited. It’s apparently caused mostly by environmental factors.

Reading for pleasure is almost entirely influenced by genes. Oddly, though, . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 9:44 pm

India cuts periodic table and evolution from school textbooks — experts are baffled

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Apparently, India believes that ignorance is good and nations should move toward making sure its citizens are ignorant. Dyani Lewis reports in Nature:

In India, children under 16 returning to school this month at the start of the school year will no longer be taught about evolution, the periodic table of elements or sources of energy.

The news that evolution would be cut from the curriculum for students aged 15–16 was widely reported last month, when thousands of people signed a petition in protest. But official guidance has revealed that a chapter on the periodic table will be cut, too, along with other foundational topics such as sources of energy and environmental sustainability. Younger learners will no longer be taught certain pollution- and climate-related topics, and there are cuts to biology, chemistry, geography, mathematics and physics subjects for older school students.

Overall, the changes affect some 134 million 11–18-year-olds in India’s schools. The extent of what has changed became clearer last month when the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) — the public body that develops the Indian school curriculum and textbooks — released textbooks for the new academic year that started in May.

Researchers, including those who study science education, are shocked. “Anybody who’s trying to teach biology without dealing with evolution is not teaching biology as we currently understand it,” says Jonathan Osborne, a science-education researcher at Stanford University in California. “It’s that fundamental to biology.” The periodic table explains how life’s building blocks combine to generate substances with vastly different properties, he adds, and “is one of the great intellectual achievements of chemists”.

Mythili Ramchand, a science-teacher trainer at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, says that “everything related to water, air pollution, resource management has been removed. “I don’t see how conservation of water, and air [pollution], is not relevant for us. It’s all the more so currently,” she adds. A chapter on different sources of energy — from fossil fuels to renewables — has also been removed. “That’s a bit strange, quite honestly, given the relevance in today’s world,” says Osborne.

More than 4,500 scientists, teachers and science communicators have signed an appeal organized by Breakthrough Science Society, a campaign group based in Kolkata, India, to reinstate the axed content on evolution.

NCERT has not responded to the appeal. And although it relied on expert committees to oversee the changes, it has not yet engaged with parents and teachers to explain its rationale for making them. NCERT also did not reply to Nature’s request for comment.

Chapters closed

A chapter on the periodic table of elements has been removed from the syllabus for class-10 students, who are typically 15–16 years old. Whole chapters on sources of energy and the sustainable management of natural resources have also been removed.

A small section on Michael Faraday’s contributions to the understanding of electricity and . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 9:06 pm

Community-Owned Broadband Network Again Tops List Of Most Popular ISPs

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Karl Bode writes at Techdirt:

For two decades, frustrated towns and cities all over the country have responded to telecom monopolies by building their own fiber broadband networks. Data routinely shows that not only do these networks provide faster, better, and cheaper service, the networks are generally more accountable to the public — because they’re directly owned and staffed by locals with a vested interest in the community.

And despite industry lobbyist efforts to paint these networks as some kind of socialist boondoggle hellscape, locally owned community ISPs continue to be extremely popular. Last week, PC Magazine ranked all broadband ISPs, noting that the most popular ISP in the country is Nextlight, owned by the town of Longmont, Colorado:

The town of Longmont, Colorado, took broadband into its own hands and launched NextLight. The community made the right decision. NextLight is not only the overall top ISP this year, but it also earns stellar scores unlike any we’ve seen before in any category for Readers’ Choice.

Funny how that works. For decades, telecom giants and the politicians, think tankers, lobbyists, academics, and consultants paid to love them insisted that such networks were a dangerous socialist hellscape, doomed to failure. In reality, they’re a popular, grass roots, organic local response to decades of shitty broadband foisted upon them by monopolies and the corrupt politicians that protect them.

When you look at the overall ratings of Longmont compared to big ISPs like Comcast (Xfinity) or Charter (Spectrum), it’s not even a fair fight: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 4:17 pm

The cult of being confident and why it doesn’t help women

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Rosalind Gillis, professor of social and cultural analysis at City, University of London, and Shani Orgadis, professor of media and communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science, recently published the book Confidence Culture. Their article in Psyche seems to be an extract from the book:

The imperative for women to be self-confident is ubiquitous. In the workplace, even as pay and seniority gaps barely shift, women are called on to believe in themselves. They are often encouraged to enrol in leadership and confidence training courses, such as Google’s #IAmRemarkable programme designed to boost the ability of women (and other under-represented groups) to self-promote and speak up about their talents. In the beauty industry, where women and girls are subjected to unrealistic body ideals, brands hire ‘confidence ambassadors’, tasked with making women feel more confident in their appearance. Meanwhile, the fashion industry tells women ‘confidence is the best thing you can wear’. Advertising, notorious for its reliance on sexist, racist, ageist and ableist stereotypes, is being reinvented as ‘femvertising’. There is a proliferating genre of women-oriented self-help that places female self-confidence at its heart, including books such as Sheryl Sandberg’s hit Lean In (2013), The Confidence Code (2014) by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, and Rachel Hollis’s bestseller Girl, Stop Apologizing (2019). Motivational speakers share tips on how women can develop their self-esteem, and inspirational quotes circulate on social media calling on women to ‘have the courage to stand up for yourself’ and ‘be proud of who you are unapologetically.’

In our research, we take this new ‘common sense’ to task. Our aim is not to argue ‘against’ confidence in some straightforward way. After all, who could possibly be against confidence? Would anyone genuinely want to position themselves against making young women feel more comfortable in their own skins, endowing mothers with self-esteem, or helping older women feel confident in the workplace? Of course not. Moreover, we are ourselves implicated in confidence culture: moved to tears by some of its exhortations, excited by equality and diversity programmes that seem genuinely to celebrate women’s achievements, and often encouraging our female students and colleagues to be more assertive.

Yet precisely because confidence has become such a prominent and unquestioned social good, it demands serious interrogation. What ideas, discourses, images and practices make up the confidence culture? Why has it emerged and proliferated across so many areas of life at this particular moment? And, crucially, what does the contemporary cultural preoccupation with confidence do – both at an individual level for those addressed as needing greater confidence, and on a wider social and political scale? These are the questions we address in our book Confidence Culture (2022). Confidence, we argue, is both culture and cult. It disseminates across multiple domains in culture: in relation to body image, in the workplace, in sex and relationship advice, in parenting, and in development initiatives in the Global South. It is also a cult, in the way it has been placed beyond debate, almost like an article of faith.

The contemporary cultural prominence of confidence is the result of multiple trends and shifts. It is situated in the rise of therapeutic cultures and the way that psychological ideas have come to shape workplaces, schools, the military, the carceral system, parenting and many other spheres – all part of the ongoing remaking of capitalism along more psychological lines. It is underscored, too, by the huge expansion in self-help, particularly that which is directed at women, with the notion that femininity is a ‘problematic object in need of change’. The soft power of lifestyle media adds to this, and social media have become sites of a huge range of aphorisms, affirmations and ‘inspo’ messages, often organised around hashtags such as #MotivationMonday, #WellnessWednesday and #SelfCareSunday.

The versions of feminism deployed in confidence culture are troublingly individualistic

The cultural resonance of confidence is also closely related to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 12:36 pm

Exploring Transgender Law and Politics

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Catherine MacKinnon has an interesting essay in Signs:


This discussion of transgender law and politics, held at Oxford University on November 28, 2022, was sponsored by the Oxford Philosophy, Law and Politics Colloquium, the Oxford Feminist Jurisprudence Discussion Group, and the Oxford Jurisprudence Discussion Group. Professor Kate O’Regan of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights generously provided the space. The dean of the Oxford Law Faculty, Professor Mindy Chen-Wishart, opened the proceedings, framing jurisprudence as the place “where. . .philosophy, law and politics come together to answer pressing issues of the day.” She wished us all, and herself, “an eye-opening, paradigm-changing experience.”

Professor Ruth Chang, who organized the event and made it possible, charged the participants to “think together about how to move forward in discussing the pressing and urgent issues surrounding transgender politics, issues that are a matter of discrimination, violence, abuse, hardship, and indeed a matter of life and death for some members of our community.” She also observed that “mere discussion of these issues has itself often been marked by acrimony, name-calling, violence, discrimination, anger, and hatred.” Professor Chang initiated the proceedings—its transcript was created by Ellie Jerome and lightly edited by each author for publication—with the hope, shared by the panelists, that the discussion would pave the way for respectful, insightful, and fruitful exploration going forward.

Exploring Transgender Law and Politics
Catharine A. MacKinnon

For the first time in over thirty years, it makes sense to me to reconsider what feminism means. Trans people have been illuminating sex and gender in new and insightful ways. And for some time, escalating since 2004 with the proposed revisions in the UK Gender Recognition Act,[1] a substantial cohort of self-identified feminists have opposed trans peoples’ existence as trans.[2]  Male power, which seldom takes seriously anything feminists say, has weaponized the feminist critique against trans people in both the US and the UK.[3] In the process, many issues central to the status of the sexes have been newly opened or sharpened; many are unresolved. I hope to learn from our discussion. My thoughts are provisional and could be subtitled “what I’ve learned so far.”

Much of the current debate has centered on (endlessly obsessed over, actually) whether trans women are women. Honestly, seeing “women” as a turf to be defended, as opposed to a set of imperatives and limitations to be criticized, challenged, changed, or transcended, has been pretty startling. One might think that trans women—assigned male at birth, leaving masculinity behind, drawn to and embracing womanhood for themselves—would be welcomed. Yet a group of philosophers purporting feminism slide sloppily from “female sex” through “feminine gender” straight to “women” as if no move has been made,[4] eventually reverting to the dictionary: a woman is an “adult human female.”[5] Defining women by biology—adult is biological age, human is biological species, female is biological sex—used to be criticized as biological essentialism. Those winging to the Right are thrilled by this putatively feminist reduction of women to female body parts, preferably chromosomes and reproductive apparatus, qualities chosen so that whatever is considered definitive of sex is not only physical but cannot be physically changed into.

Feminism, by contrast, is a political movement. If some imagine a movement for female body parts, the rest of us are part of some other movement, one to end the subordination of women in all our diversity. In other words, what women “are” does not necessarily define the woman question: our inequality, our resulting oppression. Those of us who do not take our politics from the dictionary want to know: Why are women unequal to men? What keeps women second-class citizens? How are women distinctively subordinated? The important question for a political movement for the liberation of women is thus not what a woman is, I think, but what accounts for the oppression of women: who is oppressed as a woman, in the way women are distinctively oppressed?

Women are not, in fact, subordinated or oppressed by our bodies. We do not need to be liberated from our chromosomes or our ovaries. It is core male-dominant ideology that attributes the source of women’s inequality to our nature, our biological sex, which for male dominance makes it inevitable, immutable, unchangeable, on us. As if our bodies, rather than male dominant social systems, do it to us. It is as if Black people’s melanin content is the cause of police violence against them, rather than the meaning police attribute to their appearance (racial markers in this instance) and the law and culture of impunity for their actions. If women’s oppression is defined by what defines women, and that is our sexed biology as this group defines it, the very most we can change is the excesses of male power. Never male power itself.

In reality, women’s inequality—with the oppressive practices that inequality makes possible and that reinforce it through gender, specifically gender hierarchy—has long been recognized as a social and political, not biological, arrangement.[6] Inferiority, not difference, is the issue of hierarchy, including gender hierarchy. On the technical meaning of sex as physical and gender as its social meaning, sex is equal. It is gender that is unequal. Women are not men’s biological inferiors; we are constrained to be men’s social inferiors. Who knew we would have to keep repeating this. It is gender that constructs women as men’s inferiors, as valued less to worthless, as weak and dependent, as stupid and illogical and emotional, as soft and yielding and receptive, as bitchy and ditsy, whiny, seductive, and manipulative, destined only to reproduce. These attributions, this power division, not our bodies, is what makes women a political group, caste, or class; resistance to them is what makes the women’s movement a political movement.

These imposed fabrications and their dynamics, by the way, have nothing to do with . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 11:29 am

Unconditional Surrender & Goodfellas’ smile Legione slant razor

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A shaving brush with a butterscotch octagonal base, white bulbous handle, and white synthetic knot stands next to a tub of shaving soap whose top label is white printed in brown with a frontal view of a bison bhead rendered planes of shades of brown. The name "Unconditional Surrender" is printed below the head, and "Chatillon Lux" is printed sideways on one side, "Declaration Grooming" on the other. Next to it is a small rectangular glass bottle with a tall cap of matte silver and a while label with "Chatillon Lux" printed in large script letters at the top. beneath that is printed an open straight razor overing over a large fleur-de-lis, and below that, in small letters, "Unconditional Surrender." In front is a slant razor with a knurled handle that has a dimpled base.

My Phoenix Artisan Solar Flare brush made an exceptionally good lather from Declaration Grooming’s bison-tallow shaving soap. This was one of the soaps Declaration Grooming made in partnership with Chatillon Lux, which provided the fragrance and made the aftershave. The fragrance is extremely appealing to me, though fragrances have an ineluctable YMMV aspect. The lather, however, would please any shaver: thick, creamy, and slick. The fragrance will please those who like the combination of “amber, tonka bean, amyris, cedarwood, agarwood, vetiver, cigar tobacco, black tea, jasmine, and geranium.” 

I don’t fully understand the logic of the razor’s name: Goodfellas’ smile Legione slant. Why isn’t “smile” capitalized? “Legione” seems to refer to the handle style. Also available at Italian Barber:

• Goodfellas’ smile Gladio razor (bar guard or comb guard)
• Goodfellas’ smile Impero razor (ditto)
• Goodfellas’ smile Italico razor (ditto)
• Goodfellas’ smile Styletto aluminum razor

Regardless of the name, though, this is an exceptionally nice slant: extremely comfortable and non-threatening, while also highly efficient. The shave this morning was such a pleasure I’m thinking of getting one of the others in the Goodfellas’ smile line — a Gladio or Impero or Italico. I would go with a bar guard. Those are all priced at US$38, which is reasonable. (The slant is $45 — and well worth it, IMO. The Styletto is $80.)

Three passes to perfection, and then a splash of Chatillon Lux’s Unconditional Surrender aftershave lotion to finish — and again the fragrance was a rush of olfactory pleasure.

The coffee this morning is Fantastico’s Carrizal: “Approachable and Easy Drinking. Full Bodied and Balanced With a Combination of Milk Chocolate, Praline, and Caramel.”

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 10:15 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Autism and identity

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Terra Vance has an intriguing article at Neuroclastic, in which autism is seen as a difference at the level of identity. From the article:

I asked people one question: Who are you?

Almost unilaterally, non-autistic people began describing themselves in terms of their relationships to others — if they were a parent, a spouse, what their career was, where they lived, what their religion is, and what their roles were related to others (sister of a Senator, military brat, pastor’s wife, soccer mom, etc.).

And, almost unilaterally, autistic people described themselves as what they loved to do, what their values were, and what they had experienced. Many even said this, having intuited the basis of the theory. Among the answers were, “I am a verb,” or “I am what I love,” or “Who I am is what I do.” Autistics would answer, “Lover of Justice,” or “Dreamer,” or “One who values autonomy.” Some would describe themselves as a “lover of” or “obsessed with” an intense passion, like trains, lichen and fungi, or theoretical physics and black holes.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2023 at 6:28 am

The goal of education

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I attended a college whose motto is “Facio liberos ex liberis libris libraque” — “I make free adults out of children by means of books and a balance.” The motto reflects the goal of a liberal arts eduction: to liberate (thus “liberal arts”). The books represent the books we studied and discussed and the balance represents the laboratories where we learned how science works.

Critical thinking skills — learning how to question and how to learn — enable students to learn for themselves. A good education frees students from simply accepting ideas and pushes them toward understanding ideas — which means questioning the ideas, seeing how the ideas work, what they imply, what they truly mean.

Home schooling perhaps in theory can do this, though it necessarily limits diversity of views and backgrounds, and those differences spark learning and provide questions.

In the Washington Post, Peter Jamison has a thoughtful profile (no paywall) of a husband and wife, both home-schooled, who decided that their children would go to public schools. It’s worth reading.

ROUND HILL, Va. — They said goodbye to Aimee outside her elementary school, watching nervously as she joined the other children streaming into a low brick building framed by the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Christina and Aaron Beall stood among many families resuming an emotional but familiar routine: the first day of full-time, in-person classes since public schools closed at the beginning of the pandemic.

But for the Bealls, that morning in late August 2021 carried a weight incomprehensible to the parents around them. Their 6-year-old daughter, wearing a sequined blue dress and a pink backpack that almost obscured her small body, hesitated as she reached the doors. Although Aaron had told her again and again how brave she was, he knew it would be years before she understood how much he meant it — understood that for her mother and father, the decision to send her to school was nothing less than a revolt.

Aaron and Christina had never attended school when they were children. Until a few days earlier, when Round Hill Elementary held a back-to-school open house, they had rarely set foot inside a school building. Both had been raised to believe that public schools were tools of a demonic social order, government “indoctrination camps” devoted to the propagation of lies and the subversion of Christian families.

At a time when home education was still a fringe phenomenon, the Bealls had grown up in the most powerful and ideologically committed faction of the modern home-schooling movement. That movement, led by deeply conservative Christians, saw home schooling as a way of life — a conscious rejection of contemporary ideas about biology, history, gender equality and the role of religion in American government.

Christina and Aaron were supposed to advance the banner of that movement, instilling its codes in their children through the same forms of corporal punishment once inflicted upon them. Yet instead, along with many others of their age and upbringing, they had walked away. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2023 at 6:34 pm

Did Scientists Accidentally Invent an Anti-addiction Drug?

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Sarah Zhang writes in the Atlantic:

All her life, Victoria Rutledge thought of herself as someone with an addictive personality. Her first addiction was alcohol. After she got sober in her early 30s, she replaced drinking with food and shopping, which she thought about constantly. She would spend $500 on organic groceries, only to have them go bad in her fridge. “I couldn’t stop from going to that extreme,” she told me. When she ran errands at Target, she would impulsively throw extra things—candles, makeup, skin-care products—into her cart.

Earlier this year, she began taking semaglutide, also known as Wegovy, after being prescribed the drug for weight loss. (Colloquially, it is often referred to as Ozempic, though that is technically just the brand name for semaglutide that is marketed for diabetes treatment.) Her food thoughts quieted down. She lost weight. But most surprisingly, she walked out of Target one day and realized her cart contained only the four things she came to buy. “I’ve never done that before,” she said. The desire to shop had slipped away. The desire to drink, extinguished once, did not rush in as a replacement either. For the first time—perhaps the first time in her whole life—all of her cravings and impulses were gone. It was like a switch had flipped in her brain.

As semaglutide has skyrocketed in popularity, patients have been sharing curious effects that go beyond just appetite suppression. They have reported losing interest in a whole range of addictive and compulsive behaviors: drinking, smoking, shopping, biting nails, picking at skin. Not everyone on the drug experiences these positive effects, to be clear, but enough that addiction researchers are paying attention. And the spate of anecdotes might really be onto something. For years now, scientists have been testing whether drugs similar to semaglutide can curb the use of alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and opioids in lab animals—to promising results.

Semaglutide and its chemical relatives seem to work, at least in animals, against an unusually broad array of addictive drugs, says Christian Hendershot, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Treatments available today tend to be specific: methadone for opioids, bupropion for smoking. But semaglutide could one day be more widely useful, as this class of drug may alter the brain’s fundamental reward circuitry. The science is still far from settled, though researchers are keen to find out more. At UNC, in fact, Hendershot is now running clinical trials to see whether semaglutide can help people quit drinking alcohol and smoking. This drug that so powerfully suppresses the desire to eat could end up suppressing the desire for a whole lot more.

The history of semaglutide is one of welcome surprises. Originally developed for diabetes, semaglutide prompts the pancreas to release insulin by mimicking a hormone called GLP-1, or glucagon-like peptide 1. First-generation GLP-1 analogs—exenatide and liraglutide—have been on the market to treat diabetes for more than a decade. And almost immediately, doctors noticed that patients on these drugs also lost weight, an unintended but usually not unwelcome side effect. Semaglutide has been heralded as a potentially even more potent GLP-1 analog. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2023 at 12:08 pm

Tobacco Road and the Stealth

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A shaving brush with a white "keyhole" handle — a sphere atop a turncated cone — and a light-tan synthetic knot with gray tips stand next to a white tub of shaving soap with a black side label, printed in white with "Tobacco Road Ultima" and a medusa head. On top of the tub lies a black double-edge slant razor with a ribbed handle. Next is a black squat rectangular bottle — almost square — shose black label is printed in white with "Arianna & Evans" at the top, "Tobacco Road" at the bottom, and — vertically — at each side: "Ultima" and "Splash." Centeed in white is a medusa face with 10 snakes equally spaced around the perimeter. The face has narrow eyes and a pointed chin.

RazoRock’s Keyhole brush is an admirable instrument, and this morning it brought forth a rich lather from Arianna & Evans’s excellent Ultima formula, this one with their Tobacco Road fragrance: “Hinoki, Honey, Bay Leaf, Tobacco, Smoke, Amber.” The lather is thick in consistency, slick in feel, and very nice to one’s skin.

The RazoRock Stealth, now a vintage razor, is exceptionally comfortable and efficient, and the angle, with the handle held close to the face, is always a bit of a surprise. But it easily smoothed my face in three passes.

A splash of Tobacco Road aftershave, and the day began (some hours ago — I forgot to post this).

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 to create a comforting blend.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2023 at 11:31 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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