August 20, 2018

Anthony Bourdain "Let the Locals Shine"



(p. A15) People are mourning celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain all over the world--from Kurdistan to South Africa, from Gaza to Mexico. That may surprise American social-justice warriors who have turned food into a battlefield for what they call "cultural appropriation."

"When you're cooking a country's dish for other people," an Oberlin College student wrote last year, "you're also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture. So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as 'authentic,' it is appropriative." This was prompted by a dining-hall menu that included sushi and banh mi. Celebrity alumna Lena Dunham weighed in on the side of the social-justice warriors.


. . .


Bourdain was a frequent target of similar criticism. When he declared Filipino food the next big thing, a writer for London's Independent newspaper complained that his "well-meaning" comments were "the latest from a Western (usually white) celebrity chef or food critic to take a once scoffed at cuisine, legitimize it and call it a trend."

Bourdain took it in stride. Asked on his CNN show, "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," what he thought about culinary cultural appropriation, he said: "Look, the story of food is the story of appropriation, of invasion and mixed marriages and war and, you know . . . it constantly changes. You know, what's authentic anyway?"


. . .


When Bourdain took us to places like Libya and Venezuela and West Virginia, he let the locals shine. His vocation was about more than food. It was about people--understanding their cultures and their lives, lifting them up and making their dishes.



For the full commentary, see:

Elisha Maldonado. "Bourdain vs. the Social-Justice Warriors; The celebrity chef scoffed at the notion of opposing 'cultural appropriation.'" The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, June 12, 2018): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 11, 2018.)








August 19, 2018

A Dinner to Remember



(p. 6) The economist Dambisa Moyo, author most recently of "Edge of Chaos," loves Agatha Christie's "detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep" Hercule Poirot.


. . .


You're organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

1) Vikram Seth, the economist turned novelist. His "A Suitable Boy" remains one of my all-time favorite books. 2) Ayn Rand, the philosopher and novelist. I am drawn to her irreverence -- a woman ahead of her time. 3) Maya Angelou, the poet who penned "Still I Rise" and "Phenomenal Woman" ... enough said.



For the full interview, see:


Dambisa Moyo. "'BY THE BOOK; Dambisa Moyo." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, April 29, 2018): 6.

(Note: ellipsis between sentences added; ellipsis internal to sentence, and bold question, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date April 26, 2018. The first sentence and the bold question are by the unnamed writer-interviewer. The answer after the bold question is by Moyo.)


Moyo's book, mentioned above, is:

Moyo, Dambisa. Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth, and How to Fix It. New York: Basic Books, 2018.






August 18, 2018

Resilient Wichita Zoo Flamingo Flies Free in Texas



FlamingoFreeTexas208-08-02.jpgFlamingo stands free and tall in Texas, nearly 13 years after escaping Wichita zoo. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A13) That can't be right.

A flamingo? In South Texas?

Ben Shepard, in the first week of his summer internship with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, thought it must have been something else.


. . .


Mr. Shepard had the rare pleasure of spotting No. 492, an African flamingo that, for more than a decade, has shown you can still survive when no one gets around to clipping your wings.


. . .


In June 2005, on a very windy day in Wichita, a guest reported seeing two flamingos out of their enclosure. No. 492 and No. 347 had flown out; the staff had missed the signs that their feathers needed to be clipped again.

Each attempt to approach the flamingos spooked them. Soon they flew away to a drainage canal on the western side of Wichita, where they remained under observation of park officials for a week, Mr. Newland said.

They couldn't get closer than 50 yards away from the birds, and were stumped on how to get them back. Perhaps they could try in the cover of night, using a spotlight to disorient them.

They never got the chance. July 3 brought a terrible thunderstorm. And on July 4 -- Independence Day, . . . -- the birds were gone.


. . .


But great fortune was ahead for No. 492. Soon after it arrived in Texas, it found an unlikely companion: a Caribbean flamingo that, Mr. Newland speculates, may have been blown into the Gulf during a tropical storm. They were seen together as early as 2006 and as recently as 2013.

"Even though they're two different species, they are enough alike that they would have been more than happy to see each other," he said. "They're two lonely birds in kind of a foreign habitat. They're not supposed to be there, so they have stayed together because there's a bond."

Though they're often referred to as mates, no one knows the sex of either bird. And Mr. Newland said the fact that they're roughly the same height suggests they're likely to be the same sex.


. . .


"It's less about animals escaping from a zoo than how resilient the animals on our planet are," he said.



For the full story, see:

Daniel Victor. "Flamingo, After Cinematic Escape and Years on the Run, Is Spotted in Texas." The New York Times (Thursday, June 28, 2018): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 27, 2018, and has the title "A Flamingo? In Texas? A Zoo Fugitive Since 2005 Is Still Surviving in the Wild." Where the wording differs between versions, the quotes above follow the somewhat more detailed online version.)






August 17, 2018

Union Slows UPS Automation



(p. B1) As UPS tries to satisfy America's 21st-century shopping-and-shipping mania, parts of its network are stuck in the 20th century. The company still relies on some outdated equipment and manual processes of the type rival FedEx Corp. discarded or that newer entrants, including Amazon.com Inc., never had.

UPS says about half its packages are processed through automated facilities today. At FedEx, 96% of ground packages move through automated sites. UPS workers are unionized; FedEx's ground-operations workers aren't.


. . .


(p. B2) UPS is negotiating with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to renew a five-year contract, which expires July 31. Representing 260,000 UPS drivers, sorters and other workers, the union wants UPS to hire more full-time workers to help handle the surge in packages. It has opposed technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones and is wary of projects that do work with fewer employees.

"The problem with technology is that it does ultimately streamline jobs," says Sean O'Brien, a Teamsters leader in Boston. "It does eliminate jobs. And once they're replaced, it's pretty tough to get them back."

FedEx, with no unionized workforce in its ground network, doesn't have to worry as much about labor strife. And because it built its ground network more recently, it hasn't had to retrofit older facilities with automation. "For an older hub, automating is like heart surgery," says Ted Dengel, FedEx Ground's managing director of operations technology. "We can drop automation in before a package hits a facility."



For the full story, see:

Paul Ziobro. "UPS is Running Late." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, June 16, 2018): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 15, 2018, and has the title "UPS's $20 Billion Problem: Operations Stuck in the 20th Century.")






August 16, 2018

Emmanuel Macron Invokes the Spirit of Joseph Schumpeter



(p. A7) PARIS--Speaking at the annual gathering of the business and political elite in Davos earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron invoked the spirit of one of his favorite early-20th-century thinkers, Joseph Schumpeter.

The economist is the father of "creative destruction," the theory that innovation sustains growth by destroying old business models. The embrace of such thinking has made Mr. Macron, an investment banker turned head-of-state, a darling of the globalist set. But this time, Mr. Macron warned that disruption was descending into a battle for the survival of the fittest.

"Schumpeter is very soon going to look like Darwin. And living in a completely Darwinian world is not good," Mr. Macron said.

France's president is on a mission to save globalism from itself and, lately, that has become a lonely road.



For the full story, see:

Stacy Meichtry and William Horobin. "Macron Walks a Line on Globalism." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 21, 2018): A7.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 20, 2018, and has the title "Macron's Lonely Road: Saving Globalism From Itself." In the last couple of sentences quoted, the wording follows the online version rather than the slightly different print version.)






August 15, 2018

"Books Were Systematically Burned"



(p. 12) Vandalizing the Parthenon temple in Athens has been a tenacious tradition. Most famously, Lord Elgin appropriated the "Elgin marbles" in 1801-5. But that was hardly the first example. In the Byzantine era, when the temple had been turned into a church, two bishops -- Marinos and Theodosios -- carved their names on its monumental columns. The Ottomans used the Parthenon as a gunpowder magazine, hence its pockmarked masonry -- the result of an attack by Venetian forces in the 17th century. Now Catherine Nixey, a classics teacher turned writer and journalist, takes us back to earlier desecrations, the destruction of the premier artworks of antiquity by Christian zealots (from the Greek zelos -- ardor, eager rivalry) in what she calls "The Darkening Age."


. . .


Debate -- philosophically and physiologically -- makes us human, whereas dogma cauterizes our potential as a species. Through the sharing of new ideas the ancients identified the atom, measured the circumference of the earth, grasped the environmental benefits of vegetarianism.

To be sure, Christians would not have a monopoly on orthodoxy, or indeed on suppression: The history of the ancient world typically makes for stomach-churning reading. Pagan philosophers too who flew in the face of religious consensus risked persecution; Socrates, we must not forget, was condemned to death on a religious charge.

But Christians did fetishize dogma. In A.D. 386 a law was passed declaring that those "who contend about religion ... shall pay with their lives and blood." Books were systematically burned.


. . .


. . . she opens her book with a potent description of black-robed zealots from 16 centuries ago taking iron bars to the beautiful statue of Athena in the sanctuary of Palmyra, located in modern-day Syria. Intellectuals in Antioch (in ancient Syria) were tortured and beheaded, as were the statues around them.


. . .


Nixey closes her book with the description of another Athena, in the city of her name, being decapitated around A.D. 529, her defiled body used as a steppingstone into what was once a world-renowned school of philosophy. Athena was the deity of wisdom. The words "wisdom" and "historian" have a common ancestor, a proto-Indo-European word meaning to see things clearly. Nixey delivers this ballista-bolt of a book with her eyes wide open and in an attempt to bring light as well as heat to the sad story of intellectual monoculture and religious intolerance. Her sympathy, corruscatingly, compellingly, is with the Roman orator Symmachus: "We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth?"



For the full review, see:

Bettany Hughes. "'How the Ancient World Was Destroyed." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, June 10, 2018): 12.

(Note: ellipses between, and at the start of, paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to paragraph, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date June 8, 2018, and has the title "How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World.")


The book under review, is:

Nixey, Catherine. The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.







August 14, 2018

Entrepreneur Was Frustrated by Patients' Pill Confusion



(p. B2) TJ Parker grew up working the counter for his father's pharmacy in Concord, N.H., where he became frustrated by how much customers struggled to keep track of their medications.

He went to pharmacy school but rather than take up the family business, he and a friend set out to change it. In 2013, they launched an online pharmacy from Manchester, N.H. On Thursday, the 32-year-old CEO said he sold his startup to Amazon.com Inc. It was a roughly $1 billion deal, according to people familiar with the deal. Mr. Parker is expected to stay involved after the deal, said a person familiar with the matter.


. . .


One of the company's earliest investors, David Frankel of Boston-based Founders Collective, wrote in a post on the website Medium Thursday that the company showed promise with two founders that complement each other.

"TJ cherishes beautiful design but has the bearing of a doctor," he wrote of Mr. Parker, while Mr. Cohen was able to master the technical challenges behind an "indispensable pill dispensing solution."


. . .


While attending the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, he started taking fashion-design classes at the nearby Massachusetts College of Art. "Pharmacy school was sooo boring," he said in the interview.

His design-school stint was short-lived, but the expertise, he said, inspired PillPack's concept of simplifying medication regimens by sorting pills into so-called "dose packets," dispensed from a small box in baggies marked with the date and time they are to be taken.

It turned out to be a billion-dollar idea.



For the full story, see:

Eliot Brown and Sharon Terlep. "Frustrated Pharmacist Came Up With PillPack." The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 29, 2018): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 28, 2018, and has the title "Behind PillPack's $1 Billion Sale, a Frustrated 32-Year-Old Pharmacist.")






August 13, 2018

Zuckerberg Calls Musk "Pretty Irresponsible" on A.I. "Doomsday" Fears



(p. 1) SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark Zuckerberg thought his fellow Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk was behaving like an alarmist.

Mr. Musk, the entrepreneur behind SpaceX and the electric-car maker Tesla, had taken it upon himself to warn the world that artificial intelligence was "potentially more dangerous than nukes" in television interviews and on social media.

So, on Nov. 19, 2014, Mr. Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, invited Mr. Musk to dinner at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. Two top researchers from Facebook's new artificial intelligence lab and two other Facebook executives joined them.

As they ate, the Facebook contingent tried to convince Mr. Musk that he was wrong. But he wasn't budging. "I genuinely believe this is dangerous," Mr. Musk told the table, according to one of the dinner's attendees, Yann LeCun, the researcher who led Facebook's A.I. lab.

Mr. Musk's fears of A.I., distilled to their essence, were simple: If we create machines that are smarter than humans, they could turn against us. (See: "The Terminator," "The Matrix," and "2001: A Space Odyssey.") Let's for once, he was saying to the rest of the tech industry, consider the unintended consequences of what we are creating before we unleash it on the world.


. . .


(p. 6) Since their dinner three years ago, the debate between Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Musk has turned sour. Last summer, in a live Facebook video streamed from his backyard as he and his wife barbecued, Mr. Zuckerberg called Mr. Musk's views on A.I. "pretty irresponsible."

Panicking about A.I. now, so early in its development, could threaten the many benefits that come from things like self-driving cars and A.I. health care, he said.

"With A.I. especially, I'm really optimistic," Mr. Zuckerberg said. "People who are naysayers and kind of try to drum up these doomsday scenarios -- I just, I don't understand it."



For the full story, see:

Cade Metz. "Moguls and Killer Robots." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, June 10, 2018): 1 & 6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 9, 2018, and has the title "Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and the Feud Over Killer Robots.")






August 12, 2018

Chinese Communists Plan to Dominate Memory Chips by Stealing Micron Innovations



(p. B1) JINJIANG, China -- With a dragnet closing in, engineers at a Taiwanese chip maker holding American secrets did their best to conceal a daring case of corporate espionage.

As the police raided their offices, human resources workers gave the engineers a warning to scramble and get rid of the evidence. USB drives, laptops and documents were handed to a lower-level employee, who hid them in her locker. Then she walked one engineer's phone out the front door.

What those devices contained was more valuable than gold or jewels: designs from an American company, Micron Technology, for microchips that have helped power the global digital revolution. According to the Taiwanese authorities, the designs were bound for China, where they would help a new, $5.7 billion microchip factory the size of several airplane hangars rumble into production.

China has ambitious plans to overhaul its economy and compete head to head with the United States and other nations in the technology of tomorrow. The heist of the designs two years ago and the raids last year, which were described by Micron in court filings and the police in Taiwan, represent the dark side of that effort -- and explain in part why the United States is starting a trade war with China.

A plan known as Made in China 2025 calls for the country to become a global competitor in an ar-(p. B2)ray of industries, including semiconductors, robotics and electric vehicles. China is spending heavily to both innovate and buy up technology from abroad.

Politicians in Washington and American companies accuse China of veering into intimidation and outright theft to get there. And they see Micron, an Idaho company whose memory chips give phones and computers the critical ability to store and quickly retrieve information, as a prime example of that aggression.



For the full story, see:


Paul Mozur. "Darker Side Of Tech Bid By China." The New York Times (Saturday, June 23, 2018): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 22, 2018, and has the title "Inside a Heist of American Chip Designs, as China Bids for Tech Power.")






August 11, 2018

How Precision Metalwork Was Required for Industrial Revolution



(p. 16) In "The Perfectionists," Simon Winchester celebrates the unsung breed of engineers who through the ages have designed ever more creative and intricate machines. He takes us on a journey through the evolution of "precision," which in his view is the major driver of what we experience as modern life.


. . .


This expert working of metal is traced back to James Watt and his development of the steam engine. The first prototypes leaked copious amounts of steam and weren't very efficient. The problem was that the piston didn't fit exactly in its cylinder -- small imperfections in the surfaces of both allowed pockets of air to escape. Watt enlisted the help of John "Iron Mad" Wilkinson, so called because of his expertise (even obsession) with metal. Wilkinson had previously patented a way to bore out precise cylinders for more accurate cannons, and he suggested the same method be applied to Watt's ill-fitting system. It worked, and the improved engine allowed the conversion of energy to movement on an unprecedented scale. The Industrial Revolution, Winchester declares, could now begin.



For the full review, see:

Roma Agrawal. "Perfect Fit." The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, June 17, 2018): 16.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May [sic] 14, 2018, and has the title "Under Modernity's Hood: Precision Engineering.")


The book under review, is:

Winchester, Simon. The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2018.









Eight Most Recent Comments:



PaulS said:

Wonderful. Let's go for strict temporal gating as well as spatial gating. Exile everyone not made of money to the anti-social hours of the clock as well as the monster commutes of the far reaches of Queens and Staten Island. How about fixing the subways, and abolishing the nonsense that makes it take 90 years to build one small 2nd Ave line? How about dispersing the overconcentration of people a bit? It's a huge country and modern communication exists. How about paying for same by taxing the living daylights out of the billionaire rentier class who create the problem by forcing ever more people to cram into highly dysfunctional megacities as the price of having any income at all? You gotta love the nexus between airheaded liberals who want to pile everyone on Earth with a sob story into a few US-ian megacities (rather than fix their own governments and problems), and economics types who then want to punish the very same folks by blocking off absolutely everything with an extortionate toll gate. Not.



PaulS said:

"when the alternative is to have $10 and go thirsty"

In the real world, the politics will get "interesting" with respect to folks who *don't* have $10 to pay for what normally costs $1 or $0.10, and will therefore go thirsty, or be stranded, or worse. Then, also be aware of simple resentment. Then, aggravate the anger with runaway inequality so extreme that the elites running the show will not be inconvenienced in the slightest by any likely level of 'gouging'. Then brace for a social explosion.

All told, it seems fatuous to expect very many people to be happy about being charged, say, an entire car payment just to get home across town from the holiday party. (It seems even more fatuous to expect happiness when the 'gouging' comes as an ongoing life-upending surprise, as with I-66 in Virginia.)

It helps to instead ground oneself in reality. After doing so, it's ridiculously easy to imagine the relevant government and/or employer simply declaring, for example: "If you wish to be allowed to drive a taxi at all, then you will make yourself available, to some specified extent, even at times that may be inconvenient for you."

Indeed, such rules and regulations are utterly banal and commonplace. Nary a soul would weep for Uber if it and its drivers were regulated - even rather harshly - in such a manner. Of course, some souls would become exercised over the minor economic inefficiency of such regulation, but they would number far too few to matter.



PaulS said:

"Dr. Gray was skeptical about the causes of climate change, prompting vitriolic exchanges with other scientists. Judith A. Curry, who was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, accused him of 'brain fossilization.'"

I had no idea. These days, after all, Curry is very much in the doghouse as a "climate denier". Wow. What, then, can we deduce about the typical (or merely politically-correct?) level of hysteria in the "climate community"? Of course, many in said "community" would force most of us back into the Stone Age while they themselves continue to jet across the world at whim to attend "conventions" in order to signal virtue by delivering half-hour diatribes on saving the "planet" from impending doom.

Maybe, then, The Donald is right (???!) that it is fairly safe to behave just as the doomers do, and ignore the threat - and their own diatribes - as a practical matter? Wouldn't that be weird?



PaulS said:

Another case in point: between them, Google, Tesla, and others have spent countless billions on mapping the USA, enough for at least $1000/mile including every last obscure Forest Service track. That should be more than enough to catalog everything down to the embossing style on every manhole cover. And yet a person can find their way to Grandma's new house with vague turn-by-turn directions or a vague line-sketch that shows no details whatsoever about the road surface or the sidewalks or the crosswalks. And a person will manage the task without needing, in advance, a finely detailed map of the current construction projects, including lane changes etc. But that severe incompleteness won't stop morally-posturing politicians from forcing autonomous cars onto the populace years or even decades before they are actually ready for unsupervised consumer use. That is the essentially only kind of use they will get in the real world. After all, politicians love to posture, they love to toady up to rent-seeking billionaires, and they love photo-ops of themselves gawking at shiny new tech gadgets. Note that when signals were first installed on the Chicago El, the accident rate went up for a time, as trained motormen became careless about watching where they were going. Not-so-trained consumers will be far too busy fiddling with their phones to be ready to take over on a split-second's notice.



PaulS said:

And there will be unicorns. So we'll have some remote working, but we'll be jailing ever more techies in a few obscenely overcrowded, otherworldly-expensive megacities. Just as Microsofties once told us wasting two days on the now-infamously godawful airlines just to physically attend an hour meeting was going away, but both the meetings and the airlines only got worse and worse.

So not really a big deal, just another stylistic business fad. Those come and go like mayflies - while being crammed, confined, and nailed down, remains eternally.



rjs said:

there's a lot GDP doesnt capture, but i'm not sure where Feldstein is coming from about statins...the consumption of drugs is included in the non-durable goods component of PCE, consumption of health care services by themselves account for 12% of GDP, and R & D would be included in investment in intellectual property products.. the problem is that everyone is trying to make GDP into something it's not...it's a measure of goods and services produced by the economy, full stop. it's not intended to measure increases in life expectancy or well being, or any other intangibles..



rjs said:

actually, if every adult spent the $10,000 that was given to them, it would add about 13% to GDP (less any inflation adjustment) furthermore, as the US is the creator of its own currency, there would be no need to "pay for" such a citizen bonus...we certainly managed to conjure up trillions of dollars to bail out the banks a few years back without "paying for it"; we could just as easily do the same for this case..



Aaron said:

An appropriately sweet topic this Valentine's day, though this may make you this holiday's Scrooge.





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Archives















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats