That cuppa joe you just sipped? Its long journey to your cup was made possible by shipping containers—those rectangular metal boxes that carry everything from TVs to clothes to frozen shrimp. And there’s a whole host of characters whose lives revolve around this precious cargo: gruff captains, hearty cooks, perceptive coffee tasters, and competitive tugboat pilots. This is the world journalist Alexis Madrigal illuminates in his new podcast Containers. Alexis tells us how the fancy coffee revolution is shaking up the shipping industry, and reveals his favorite sailor snack. Bite celebrates its first birthday, and Kiera gets up-close-and-personal with a kitchen contraption that’s sweeping the nation: the InstantPot.
This is a cool new podcast I hadn’t come across before. This particular episode is a bit similar to my favorite podcast Eat This Podcast, though as a broader series it appears to focus more on culture and society rather than the more scientific areas that ETP tends to focus on, and which I prefer.
The bulk of this episode, which discusses shipping and containers (really more than food or coffee which is only a sub-topic here), reminds me of the book The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Biggerby Marc Levinson which I’d read in July/August 2014. (The book is now in its second addition with an additional chapter.) I suspect it was some of the motivating underlying material for Alexis Madrigal’s Containers podcast series. The book had a lot more history and technical detail while I suspect Madrigal’s series has more of the human aspect and culture thrown in to highlight the effect of containerization. I’m subscribing to it and hope to catch it in the next few weeks. The discussion here is a quick overview of one of his episodes and it goes a long way towards humanizing the ever increasing linkages that makes the modern world possible. In particular it also attempts to put a somewhat more human face on the effects of increasing industrialization and internationalization of not only food production, but all types of manufacturing which are specifically impacting the U.S. (and other) economy and culture right now.
The InstantPot segment was interesting, particularly for cooking Indian food. I’m always intrigued by cooking methods which allow a modern home cook to better recreate the conditions of regional cuisines without the same investment in methods necessitated by the local cultures. Also following Alton Brown’s mantra, it sounds like it could be a useful multi-tasker.
Echo Show, Google I/O, Samsung Dex.
Amazon announces the Echo Show, an Echo with a touch screen and video calling functionality. Google I/O is next week - what will we see? Guest host Jason Howell demonstrates the Dex, Samsung's phone dock that turns your Galaxy S8 into a desktop computer. What is Fuchsia, Google's new OS? Use Google Home API and a Raspberry Pi to create a smart candy dispenser. Google plans their own city. Hackers break SMS two factor authentication. America bans laptops on flights from Europe.
Jason's Tool: Google search highlights events near you;
Jeff's Numbers: Snap and Yelp earnings;
Stacey's Thing: Notifi Smart Doorbell;
Stacey's dog Sophie's Tricks: twirl, sit, touch, walk
I’m kinda tempted to try out the new Amazon Echo Show, but somehow I haven’t really been motivated enough to buy into either the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Leo was on vacation and didn’t appear in this show, so it’s more tech/spec focused rather than philosophy focused. Can’t wait for him to be back.
In this episode, we talk about Audrey's decision to block annotations from her websites.
A great little episode that talks about annotations, but impinges on a lot of issues relating to ownership and running of a (personal) website. It discusses a lot of things that folks on the web often take for granted, but which should really be done with a lot more civility and care for others.
While I have been seeing some really great and thoughtful conversations, particularly in the last 6 months or more, as a result of people posting on their own websites and using open standards like webmentions to carry on conversations, the rest of the internet still needs to take great strides to improve itself. A lot of these issues are ones of bias, and particularly of the white male sort, but I think that the ideas encapsulated in this short podcast will help to open people’s eyes. While it’s sad that Audrey had these experiences on Twitter, I’m glad that she and Kin took the time to discuss them here in hopes of improving the space in the future for others.
Don't open that emailed Google Doc.
Guests: Danny Sullivan
Don't fall for the latest Google Docs phishing scam! How Google measures quality and authority. Alphabet quarterly earnings. Pixel head says goodbye after 6 months. Twitter wants to be TV. Hulu wants to be Cable. Elon Musk wants to dig huge tunnels under LA. Senate ID cards have a picture of a security chip. 9 senators want to kill net neutrality forever. People are mean to robots.
Danny's Pick: Cook with Google Home;
Stacey's Pick: The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge;
Leo's Pick: Mr. T navigation voice for Waze
The net neutrality fight is starting to gear up.
How has the Google Pixel head only managed to last 6 months? This has got to be a tremendously interesting section to lead for them.
In relation to civility, the section on children being mean to robots was interesting. I’d like to delve into this research a bit more.
“How attached are you to the idea of being white?” Chenjerai Kumanyika puts that question to host John Biewen, as they revisit an unfinished conversation from a previous episode. Part 7 of our series, Seeing White.
There are some great questions here that are well worth revisiting in light of the remainder of the series.
Some of this discussion reminds me of a lazy, 20-something comedian I heard recently. He hadn’t accomplished anything useful in his life and felt like (and probably was in the eyes of many) a “complete failure.” He said he felt like an even worse failure because in the game of life, playing the straight white male, he was also failing while using the game’s lowest difficulty setting. I wish I could give the original attribution, but I don’t remember the comedian and upon searching I see that the general concept of the joke goes back much further than the source–so it may seem he was an even bigger failure in that he was also lifting the material from somewhere else. What else should we expect in a society of such privilege?
When it comes to America’s racial sins, past and present, a lot of us see people in one region of the country as guiltier than the rest. Host John Biewen spoke with some white Southern friends about that tendency. Part Six of our ongoing series, Seeing White. With recurring guest, Chenjerai Kumanyika.
Having lived in many parts of the country growing up (Dahlonega, GA; Burlington, CT; Calhoun, GA; Baltimore, MD; Charlotte, NC; etc.), I can attest that the generalities described here do dovetail with many of my experiences. The cultures with respect to racism are very different depending on town, region, state, and histories.
Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen heard next to nothing about the town’s most important historical event. In 1862, Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history – the hanging of 38 Dakota warriors – following one of the major wars between Plains Indians and settlers. In this documentary, originally produced for This American Life, John goes back to Minnesota to explore what happened, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it afterwards.
These episodes and the brutal history they contain and suggest have been pretty gut-wrenching so far. This by far delves more deeply into the history and as a result is much more hear-rending than the others. It really makes me sick what our “nationalistic” tendencies have wrought thus far, and by all intents continues to continue to do.
If you haven’t been listening to this excellent series, I hope you’ll stop what you’re doing right now and listen to them all. I highly recommend it as required listening for everyone–even if you think you know what the message is.
Though this particular episode wasn’t specifically created for this series, it fits in incredibly well. I almost wish that some of the others in the series delved this deeply into some of the history as this one does. It really brings the problem into high relief and puts a more human face on the problems we may not see around us by looking back at a particular incident.
Seeing White by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika(Scene on Radio)
Events of the past few years have turned a challenging spotlight on White people, and Whiteness, in the United States. A podcast series from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University explores what it means to be White.
Seemingly almost too short, but lays some good groundwork (in retrospect) for what is to come.
Here’s where the story begins to heat up and lay some groundwork.
I’d never thought about the subtle changes in early American law that institutionalized the idea of slavery, race, and racism, which is very well laid out in the third installment, though I suspect is just a short sketch of a more horrifying past. In particular: laws that indicated that slaves who became Christian didn’t need to be freed, laws which indicated that the slave status of children was derived from the mother (and not the father), and laws which prevented white women from marrying African Americans.
I’d sadly never heard the history of the case of John Punch or any of the other examples in episode 3.
Having been born in South Carolina and then living in Georgia on a mountain at which John C. Calhoun apparently pointed at and uttered the phrase, “Thar’s gold in them thar’ hills.” I’m all too entrenched in his version of history. I’m also viewing this from a larger big history perspective and see a few other things going on as well, but sadly I’m woefully undereducated in these areas. I’m going to have to get some new reading materials.
There’s a lot of history concerning Thomas Jefferson and even Ralph Waldo Emerson which I’m going to have to go back and brush up on as there are large pieces missing from my general education. The discussion certainly reframes the way one could see America and it’s history from a vastly different perspective that just isn’t discussed enough.
I’ll have to go back and relisten to this for some great quotes as well as one from T. Veblen.
There are at least two more episodes in the series that I can’t wait to listen to before I surely circle back around and listen to them all a second time. This series is truly great. I’m subscribing to their prior episodes and can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future. I highly recommend it.
Karen Coates is a freelance American journalist who writes about food – among other things. She emailed to ask if I would be interested in talking to her about a book that she and her husband, photographer Jerry Redfern, have produced. It’s called Eternal Harvest, but it isn’t about food, at least not directly. Its subtitle is the legacy of American bombs in Laos. Some of those bombs are 500-pounders. Lots of them are little tennis-ball sized bomblets, which are as attractive to farm kids as a tennis ball might be, with horrific consequences. The story of unexploded ordnance in Laos was an eye opener, for me. But I also wanted to know about food in Laos, and so that’s where we began our conversation.
Interesting to hear about the monotony of some of the local diets, which across large areas are actually quite diverse. The limited selections show a high incidence of forced locovorsim while the lack of diversity also goes to show limited trade areas and links between towns and villages. The show also touched on some longer 500 year trends in food in the area, but only in a passing manner. Even small amounts of animal protein in diets shows how important they can be in the long run.
A fascinating tool for exploring how, where and when diets evolve. Foodwise, what unites Cameroon, Nigeria and Grenada? How about Cape Verde, Colombia and Peru? As of today, you can visit a website to find out. The site is the brainchild of Colin Khoury and his colleagues, and is intended to make it easier to see the trends hidden within 50 years of annual food data from more than 150 countries. If that rings a bell, it may be because you heard the episode around three years ago, in which Khoury and I talked about the massive paper he and his colleagues had published on the global standard diet. Back then, the researchers found it easy enough to explain the overall global trends that emerged from the data, but more detailed questions – about particular crops, or countries, or food groups – were much more difficult to answer. The answer to that one? An interactive website.
While this seems a short and simple episode with some engaging conversation, it’s the podcast equivalent of the floating duck–things appear smooth and calm on the surface, but the duck is paddling like the devil underneath the surface. The Changing Global Diet website is truly spectacular and portends to have me losing a day’s worth of work or more over the next few days.
I’d be curious to see what some of the data overlays between and among some of these projects looked like and what connections they might show. I suspect that some of the food diversity questions may play into the economic complexities that countries exhibit as well.
If there were longer term data over the past 10,000+ years to make this a big history and food related thing, that would be phenomenal too, though I suspect that there just isn’t enough data to make a longer time line truly useful.
D. Hartmann, M. R. Guevara, C. Jara-Figueroa, M. Aristarán, and C. A. Hidalgo, “Linking Economic Complexity, Institutions, and Income Inequality,” World Development, vol. 93. Elsevier BV, pp. 75–93, May-2017 [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.12.020
S. Ronen, B. Gonçalves, K. Z. Hu, A. Vespignani, S. Pinker, and C. A. Hidalgo, “Links that speak: The global language network and its association with global fame,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111, no. 52. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pp. E5616–E5622, 15-Dec-2014 [Online]. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1410931111
Burger King's new ad sets off Google Home on purpose. Mastodon is great, but it's not a Twitter killer. Facebook's $14 million investment in reputable news. How to keep from being dragged off a plane. Whatever happened to Google Books' plan to digitize all books?
Kevin Marks guests on the show and discusses Indieweb, Mastodon, and GNU Social beginning at about 1:18:00 into the show.
The Guadalupe River that flows through Texas used to be known as The River of Nuts, a fact that Wikipedia does not confirm. The nut in question is the pecan, Carya illinoinensis, and the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas. The groves of wild pecans that lined the rivers of Texas are, however, threatened by the very popularity of the nuts they bear, and in particular by the fickle global nut market. The Chinese, you see, have gone nuts for pecans, increasing their purchase of American pecans from 3–4% in 2006 to 30–40% today. And if they abandon the pecan as quickly as they took it up, the wild pecan groves might be abandoned too. All this, and much more, I learned from James McWilliams, professor of history at Texas State University. His new book is one of those delights that looks at the global sweep of human endeavour through a little lens, in this case the pecan.
Why it was the Chinese, rather than the French, the English or some other country, that chose to absorb the pecan surplus, I guess we’ll never know. McWilliams told me that Chinese people he spoke to believe the nuts prolong life; irrational as that may seem, no American grower is going to say they don’t. And while the high prices are good news for growers, they’re not so good for people who want pecan-containing industrial food.
When you’re on holiday, or just away from home, do you seek out the “authentic” local food, or look for a reassuringly familar logo? Backpackers, keen to distinguish themselves from the vulgar hordes who are merely on holiday, seek out the authentic, at least to begin with. Dr Emily Falconer has been studying women backpackers. That’s her in the photo, doing a little field research over a bowl of something exotic in Thailand. And she says that while they start out seeking the grottiest places to eat, after they’ve been on the road for a while, their thoughts stray guiltily to familiar, comforting foods. I know the feeling
Emily Falconer didn’t set out to study backpackers and food, but soon discovered that no matter what the subject, the people she was talking to sooner or later brought up food. I’m no exception, and although I’ve never been a great backpacker myself, I do prefer to seek out reasonably local eating places where I can, and I’ve had some memorable meals as a result. The most memorable of those was in Kunming, China, where I detached myself from the group I was with and went in search of something to eat. I didn’t find it at the food fair that was on at the same time, but in the end I fetched up in a place so authentic it didn’t even have photographs of the food. I indicated to the waiter that I was hungry and he brought me food. I had no idea what any of it was, and aside from one soupy dish that was almost too hot even for me, it was all delicious. Next time I might take with me a book, this book.
A bit surprised that human’s evolutionary predilection against eating foods they’re not familiar with didn’t come up in conversation, but there’s so much rich material here otherwise, I’ll wager it may have been excised for time constraints.
Words of the day: grotty and neophobia
Somehow I’ve never had a bacon sandwich (BLTs, yes, but never just bacon). Will have to remedy that.
What, really, is the point of conserving agricultural biodiversity? The formal sector, genebanks and the like, will say it is about genetic resources and having on hand the traits to breed varieties that will solve the challenges tomorrow might throw up. Thousands of seed savers around the world might well agree with that, at least partially. I suspect, though, that for most seed savers the primary reason is surely more about food, about having the varieties they want to eat. David Cavagnaro has always championed that view. David’s is a fascinating personal history, which currently sees him working on the Pepperfield Project, “A Non-Profit Organization Located in Decorah, IA Promoting and Teaching Hands-On Cooking, Gardening and Agrarian Life Skills”. I first met David 15 or 20 years ago at Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah. This year, I was lucky enough to be invited there again, and I lost no time in finding time for a chat.
David pointed out that immigrants are often keen gardeners and, perforce, seed savers as they struggle to maintain their distinctive food culture in a new land. That’s true for the Hmong in Minneapolis, Asian communities in England and, I’m sure, many others elsewhere. What happens as those communities assimilate? The children and grandchildren of the immigrant gardeners are unlikely to feel the same connection to their original food culture, and may well look down on growing food as an unsuitable occupation. Is immigrant agricultural biodiversity liable to be lost too? Efforts to preserve it don’t seem to be flourishing.
Seed saving for its own sake, rather than purely as a route to sustenance, does seem to be both a bit of a luxury and to require a rather special kind of personality. John Withee, whose bean collection brought David Cavagnaro to Seed Savers Exchange and people like Russ Crow, another of his spritual heirs, collect and create stories as much as they do agricultural biodiversity. And that’s something formal genebanks never seem to document.
There’s a lot to unpack here with respect to agricultural diversity and evolution. Mass food manufacture is a boon for the world, but this type of industrial process should be working on ways to keep some programmed diversity in the process as well. I would have been perfectly happy for this interview to have gone on for several hours and in greater depth.