Later On

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

Which countries dominate the world’s dinner tables?

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The article in the Economist states:

“THE DESTINY of nations,” wrote Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, an 18th-century French gastronome, “depends on how they nourish themselves.” Today a nation’s stature depends on how well it nourishes the rest of the world, too. For proof of this, consider the rise of culinary diplomacy. In 2012 America’s State Department launched a “chef corps” tasked with promoting American cuisine abroad. Thailand’s government sends chefs overseas to peddle pad Thai and massaman curry through its Global Thai programme. South Korea pursues its own brand of “kimchi diplomacy”.

But which country’s cuisine is at the top of the global food chain? A new paper by Joel Waldfogel of the University of Minnesota provides an answer. Using restaurant listings from TripAdvisor, a travel-review website, and sales figures from Euromonitor, a market-research firm, Mr Waldfogel estimates world “trade” in cuisines for 52 countries. Whereas traditional trade is measured based on the value of goods and services that flow across a country’s borders, the author’s estimates of culinary exchange is based on the value of food found on restaurant tables. Domestic consumption of foreign cuisine is treated as an “import”, whereas foreign consumption of domestic cuisine is treated as an “export”. The balance determines which countries have the greatest influence on the world’s palate. . .

Continue reading. (Though the rest is behind a paywall if you’re not a subscriber.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Politics

In Men, It’s Parkinson’s. In Women, It’s Hysteria.

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David Armstrong reports in ProPublica:

Once it was called “hysterical” movement disorder, or simply “hysteria.” Later it was labeled “psychogenic.” Now it’s a “functional disorder.”

By any name, it’s one of the most puzzling afflictions — and problematic diagnoses — in medicine. It often has the same symptoms, like uncontrollable shaking and difficulty walking, that characterize brain diseases like Parkinson’s. But the condition is caused by stress or trauma and often treated by psychotherapy. And, in a disparity that is drawing increased scrutiny, most of those deemed to suffer from it — as high as 80% in some studies — are women.

Whether someone has Parkinson’s or a functional disorder can be difficult to determine. But the two labels result not only in different treatments but in different perceptions of the patient. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is likely to create sympathy, but a functional diagnosis can stigmatize patients and cast doubt on the legitimacy of their illness. Four in 10 patients do not get better or are actually worse off after receiving such a diagnosis and find themselves in a “therapeutic wasteland,” according to a 2017 review of the literature by academic experts.

“This is the crisis,” said University of Cincinnati neurologist Alberto Espay, the author of guidelines on diagnosing functional movement disorders. “It shouldn’t be stigmatized but it is. No. 1, patients are wondering if it is real. ‘Does my doctor think I am crazy?’ Secondly, doctors can approach it in a way that implies this is a waste of their time.”

A study published last year in a leading neurological journal stoked the growing controversy. Of patients diagnosed with functional symptoms, 68% were women. This finding, the authors wrote, “suggests that female sex may be an independent risk factor for the development” of functional symptoms.

The study prompted a furious letter to the journal’s editor from Dr. Laura Boylan, a New York City neurologist. She argued that the study’s results might demonstrate instead that symptoms thought to be psychogenic were actually the result of Parkinson’s, and that doctors were slow to identify the brain disease in women. “Disparities in healthcare for women are well established,” she wrote, adding, “Women commonly encounter dismissal in the medical context.”

For Boylan, the issue was more than a professional debate. It was personal. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s-like symptoms that her doctors, all top caregivers at some of the world’s leading medical institutions, largely believed to be psychogenic or side effects of medication. Most of her doctors were men, but two were women. Boylan, herself a brilliant neurologist, disagreed vehemently with them. She attributed her problems to a physiological cause, a tiny cyst in her brain, and grew despondent when other neurologists doubted her theory. She gave up her medical practice, became housebound and contemplated suicide. Even today, her case remains a mystery.


The first sign that something was wrong came in 2008.

At the time, Boylan was busy with a successful career that included work as a teacher, researcher and clinician. She was an assistant professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine; the director of the behavioral neurology clinic for the VA in New York City; and an attending physician at a hospital in Pennsylvania. She was married to another neurologist, Daniel Labovitz, who is a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and practices at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

It was while driving at night on a Pennsylvania highway that Boylan experienced a vivid hallucination. She saw a cartoonish chipmunk on the steering wheel, smiling and waving at her. Another time, two blue men with red hats appeared on either side of her. She knew the images were not real, but she couldn’t make them go away.

Her doctors at the time blamed the hallucinations on side effects of psychiatric medicine Boylan took for her long-diagnosed bipolar disorder. Her bipolar condition would later add another element of uncertainty to the debate over her Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Studies show that people with preexisting psychiatric disorders are more likely to develop Parkinson’s — or have a functional disorder with similar symptoms. Boylan said she sees a psychiatrist for the bipolar disorder, but it’s “just not a big deal in my life.”

Over time, her health continued to worsen. In early 2011, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 12:10 pm

Six-minute lithium battery recharge for phones and cars on way

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Amazing. Mike Scialom writes in Cambridge Independent:

Echion Technologies, the Sawston-based battery specialist spun out of Cambridge University, is preparing to commercialise technology which has been trialled to allow charging times for both mobiles and electric cars to drop to six minutes.

The development could revolutionise the electric transport era, allowing electric car owners to recharge at any garage over a cup of coffee rather than having to stay close enough to recharge overnight at home.

The restrictions are being lifted thanks to technology which involves replacing graphite with a new material, possibly a compound – but Dr Jean De La Verpilliere isn’t saying what.

Echion is the brainchild of Dr De La Verpilliere. Two years ago, while studying for a PhD in nanoscience at the University of Cambridge, he created a material that could be used in lithium batteries. In 2017 – the final year of his phD – he founded Echion, with a focus and expertise on high performance materials innovations for lithium, or Li-ion, batteries. Echion “engages with chemicals and battery cell manufacturers to integrate its materials solutions into next-generation products”. Currently, materials are simply ‘dropped in’ to lithium battery infrastructure.

One of the materials is graphite, which Echion has replaced with its own material. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 11:52 am

Got my erythritol and tried the pink juice with green foam

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It’s great! I use my immersion blender and its beaker. Put into the beaker:

1/2 cup frozen cranberries
a handful of fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons erythritol
1 cup of water

Blend that, then add enough water to bring the total to 2 cups, stir, and enjoy.

Erythritol is good. It doesn’t cause gas or bloating, doesn’t raise blood glucose or trigger insulin, has no side effects, and is just about zero calories. Use it instead of granulated sugar, teaspoon for teaspoon.

Since I’m consuming the whole cranberry and not just extracted juice, I’m  thus getting fiber and the bioflavonoids that are in the skin, making this a very healthful drink indeed.

Next I’m going to try frozen cherries and lemon juice with water to make 2 cups.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 11:49 am

World’s Lightest Solid!

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 11:15 am

Posted in Science, Technology

Avocado and cholesterol

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 10:31 am

What the Free College Movement Can Learn from Kalamazoo

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It’s not all bad news these days. Michelle Miller-Adams has a good report in the Washington Monthly:

The 700 students who graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools in 2019 are unique. They are the first graduating class in this high-poverty city, located halfway between Chicago and Detroit, to have spent their entire K through 12 years knowing that their college tuition and fees will be largely or entirely free.

For this, they can thank the Kalamazoo Promise, the first of the current wave of place-based scholarship, or “promise,” programs. Launched in November 2005 by a group of anonymous philanthropists, the Kalamazoo Promise has provided scholarships to almost all of the city’s public school graduates since 2006. For students who attend Kalamazoo Public Schools starting in kindergarten, any in-state public college or university, along with a select group of private colleges, is tuition-free. For those who attend for just high school, 65 percent of tuition is covered.

In the fourteen years since it was announced, the Kalamazoo Promise has reached more than 6,000 students. The Kalamazoo school district has grown by 25 percent, academic achievement is up, and the high-school graduation rate is rising. Almost 90 percent of the district’s graduates head to college or another form of post-secondary training—an exceptionally high rate for a low-income urban school district. Of the district’s graduates, 50 percent complete a post-secondary degree or credential within ten years of graduating, up from 40 percent before the program.

Most high school graduates are not so lucky. After marching across commencement stages, many end their education. Those who go on must pay for increasingly expensive college degrees. College costs have been rising for decades, and the growing burden on students and families has moved center stage as student loan debt has reached crisis-level proportions. As a result, “free college” has become an increasingly popular idea, making an appearance in the platform of almost every Democratic presidential candidate, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Free college is a powerful concept, and it can boost college enrollment and completion. But the experiences of Kalamazoo and other cities with promise programs offer valuable lessons on how free college should work. Few promise programs are as simple and generous as the Kalamazoo Promise. Many provide students with less money and fewer choices, and make what they do offer contingent on student performance. As a result, they do not reach as many students and families.

Policymakers should instead make promise scholarships generous. They should make them available to all students, not just those with the highest grades. And as scholarship programs in places as diverse as Kalamazoo, El Dorado, Arkansas, and the state of Tennessee show, promise programs are especially effective when they provide recipients with community support, not just money.

Since Kalamazoo set course, nearly 150 local communities and almost two-dozen states have created their own free-college programs. But the impact in many places has been less dramatic than in Kalamazoo. That’s because of design decisions made by program stakeholders.

Consider program generosity. In Kalamazoo and a few other communities, scholarships are awarded on a “first-dollar” basis, where promise money is used first and low-income students can add their Pell grants on top of it, allowing them to cover some living expenses. In most places, stakeholders have opted for “last-dollar” structures, where low-income students must use Pell grants first and the promise scholarship closes any remaining gap. This decision may save money, but it has the largely unintended outcome of channeling more promise dollars to non-poor than to poor students. More importantly, it means that low-income students receive little “new” money, making it harder for them to afford all the other costs of college—from books to meals.

Another key question is who receives the scholarship. Many communities have sought to target their promise scholarships on “deserving” students, measured by high-school GPA and attendance rates. On the surface, this may seem like a sensible way to conserve resources. But such targeting tends to disadvantage low-income students who generally have lower academic achievement levels. In a promise experiment in Milwaukee, for example, the average GPA of ninth graders at the time the program was announced was 1.8 on a 4.0 scale, and the average attendance rate was 81 percent. Yet the program required a GPA of 2.5, and 90 percent attendance. These cutoffs mean Milwaukee’s Promise was uniquely ill-suited to help the students it pledged to serve. Ultimately, only 21 percent of students ended up eligible for the scholarship.

Proponents argue that performance cutoffs inspire students to work harder. But researchers have found no evidence that that’s the case. Instead, all they do is direct resources to high-performing students, a group that is typically wealthier, and that needs the scholarship least. In one Michigan community, for instance, students must have a 3.5 high-school GPA to receive a promise scholarship, yet they are only allowed to use it at one of two local, non-selective two-year institutions. This high GPA requirement means that the program benefits white, non-poor students and school districts far more than the area’s low-income students of color. And it does this by channeling them into institutions that are, academically speaking, generally a poor fit. It’s kids with GPAs below 3.5—not A-level students—who would benefit most from free community college. But they are the ones left out.

In Kalamazoo, by contrast, rules are minimal. Academic success has no bearing on scholarship eligibility (although it will naturally determine where students will be admitted). The scholarship is awarded irrespective of financial need. Students have 10 years after high-school graduation in which to access their promise funding. The application form is a single page.

As a result, the Kalamazoo Promise (and programs like it) reach a critical mass of students attending the same school district and living in the same community. It is therefore perceived as being for the community rather than for a specific group of students, resulting in broad buy-in. “It changed the debate about . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2019 at 9:02 am

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