Thinking about how nice it would be to have stronger text-to-speech transcriptions for podcasts. I was mentioned briefly in this podcast for having bookmarked an article earlier in the week. Webmentions for audio don’t (can’t?) exist, but a transcription would have included my name (and in this case even my URL) which potentially could have sent me a webmention of the fact.
You know Borat. You know Bruno. You know Ali G. But you probably don’t know much about Sacha Baron Cohen. The man himself sits down with Marc in the garage to talk about what goes into bringing such rich comedic characters to life, why he was drawn to comedy in the first place, and what’s next, with his new movie The Brothers Grimsby on the horizon.
I haven’t heard or seen any extended interviews with Sacha Baron Cohen. While this one goes a bit overboard on some of the making of his antics and films, there is some great personal background about how he got into comedy. Interestingly, he gets into an extended conversation about the theory of bouffon and clowning. It would have been nice if they detoured into 16th century commedia dell’arte, but you can’t have everything now can you?
In 2005, Teri Knight drove 650 miles on midwestern roads through Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois, pleading with the public to help her do what law enforcement and the FBI had not been able to: find the remains of her children Sarah and Philip Gehring. An Ohio woman read about Teri Knight’s search in her local paper, and decided she would try to help.
A short, but mildly odd drama. You know in advance how the story is sure to turn out because someone is bothering to tell it, but it’s just tenuous enough to make you wonder if that’s where it’s really going…
People have faked death to escape criminal convictions, debts, and their spouses. In 2007, a man named Amir Vehabovic faked his death just to see who showed up at the funeral (answer: only his mom). It’s an appealing soap-opera fantasy, but actually disappearing requires an incredible amount of planning. How do you obtain a death certificate, a believable new identity, or enough money to start a new life? Today — the answers to those questions, stories of fake death gone wrong, and a man who spends his life bringing back the dead.
Brings up a lot of interesting “what if” questions. I’ll bet that if web browsers opened up some of their data, the data exhaust one spews on a daily basis could be easily used to track one down.
South By Southwest news from Austin local Stacey Higginbotham. 100 announcements from Google Cloud Next. Can Google fix its "one true answer" problem? U.S. charges 4 Russians with Yahoo Hack. The best iPhone case ever.
Danny's Article: Your guide to using Google Assistant and the Google search app on Android & iPhone
Stacey's Thing: Lutron LZL-4B-WH-L01 Connected Bulb Remote
The Google search issue that’s discussed reminds me of the problems in World War I in which larger guns and more automatic guns rose to prominence and gave one side an edge over the other. The solution sadly becomes arming the other side similarly, but who will do that and how is that going to occur?
After the end, I’m more tempted than usual to go out and do some home automation…
Google's Algorithm is lying to you about Obama, women, and onions. All the News from the Google Cloud Next Conference. Wikileaks' CIA hacking tools and their funny names. Mark Zuckerberg finally gets a Harvard degree. Twitch's new Twitter killing app. Nest's secretive upcoming projects. The MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award.<br><br>
Stacey's Thing: Fujifilm Instax Mini 8<br>
Jeff's Number: Top Google Play downloads over 5 years<br>
Leo's Tool: Adobe Lightroom for Pixel
No more Pixel laptops. Google's confusing Android Messages strategy hinges on RCS. Uber sued by Waymo and women, and yelled at by its own drivers. Amazon S3 outage. Is posting on Facebook a Constitutional right? YouTube's streaming TV service. Boston Dynamics' Handle robot, robot-made pizza, and Pizza Hut-ordering shoes.
Stacey's Thing: Bond IR appliance controller
Jeff's Number: YouTube streams more than 1 billion hours of video every day
Leo's Pick: Bill Gates' David S. Pumpkins-esqu Reddit AMA announcement
How have I missed David S. Pumpkins all this time?
Italy, land of fabled wines, has seen an astonishing craft beer renaissance. Or perhaps naissance would be more accurate, as Italy has never had that great a reputation for beers. Starting in the early 1990s, with Teo Musso at Le Baladin, there are now more than 500 craft breweries in operation up and down the peninsula. Specialist beer shops are popping up like mushrooms all over Rome, and probably elsewhere, and even our local supermarket carries quite a range of unusual beers. Among them four absolutely scrummy offerings from Mastri Birai Umbri – Master Brewers of Umbria. And then it turns out that my friend Dan Etherington, who blogs (mostly) at Bread, cakes and ale, knows the Head Brewer, Michele Sensidoni. A couple of emails later and there we were, ready for Michele to give us a guided tour of the brewery.
I’m sure there was audio all the way through the tour, but portions of it were cut out, likely for time editing, but I kind of wish the whole thing was there… I could probably listen to this kind of beer talk all day long. I would also appreciate a more chemistry-based technical approach to the topic as well.
The question of the definition of craft beer versus industrial beer is a very good, yet subtle one.
I’m actually curious to try a beer that’s based on legumes to see what the increased protein percentages do to the flavor. It’s also interesting to hear about the potential creation of a signature Italian style beer.
Perhaps you've heard about IBM's giant Watson computer, which dispenses ingredient advice and novel recipes. Jaan Altosaar, a PhD candidate at Princeton University, is working on a recipe recommendation engine that anyone can use.
I found the article in it so interesting, there was some brief conversation around it and I thought to recommend it to my then new friend Jeremy Cherfas, whose Eat This Podcast I had just recently started to enjoy. Mostly I thought he would find it as interesting as I, though I hardly expected he’d turn it into a podcast episode. Though I’ve been plowing through back episodes in his catalog, fortunately this morning I ran out of downloaded episodes in the car so I started streaming the most recent one to find a lovely surprise: a podcast produced on a tip I made.
While he surely must have been producing the episode for some time before I started supporting the podcast on Patreon last week, I must say that having an episode made from one of my tips is the best backer thank you I’ve ever received from a crowd funded project.
Needless to say, I obviously found the subject fascinating. In part it did remind me of a section of Herve This’ book The Science of the Oven (eventually I’ll get around to posting a review with more thoughts) and some of his prior research which I was apparently reading on Christmas Day this past year. On page 118 of the text This discusses the classic French sauces of Escoffier’s students Louis Saulnier and Theodore Gringoire  and that a physical chemical analysis of them shows there to be only twenty-three kinds. He continues on:
A system that I introduced during the European Conference on Colloids and Interfaces in 2002  offers a new classification, based on the physical chemical structure of the sauce. In it, G indicates a gas, E an aqueous solution, H a fat in the liquid state, and S a solid. These “phases” can be dispersed (symbol /), mixed (symbol +), superimposed (symbol θ), included (symbol @). Thus, veal stock is a solution, which is designated E. Bound veal stock, composed of starch granules swelled by the water they have absorbed, dispersed in an aqueous solution, is thus described by the formula (E/S)/E.
This goes on to describe in a bit more detail how the scientist-cook could then create a vector space of all combinations of foods from a physical state perspective. A classification system like this could be expanded and bolted on top of the database created by Jaan Altosaar and improved to provide even more actual realistic recipes of the type discussed in the podcast. The combinatorics of the problem are incredibly large, but my guess is that the constraints on the space of possible solutions is brought down incredibly in actual practice. It’s somewhat like the huge numbers of combinations the A, C, T, and Gs in our DNA that could be imagined, yet only an incredibly much smaller subset of that larger set could be found in a living human being.
The additional byproduct of catching this episode was that it finally reminded me why I had thought the name Jaan Altosaar was so familiar to me when I read his article. It turns out I know Jaan and some of his previous work. Sometime back in 2014 I had corresponded with him regarding his fantastic science news site Useful Science which was just then starting. While I was digging up the connection I realized that my old friend Sol Golomb had also referenced Jaan to me via Mark Wilde for some papers he suggested I read.
T. Gringoire and L. Saulnier, Le répertoire de la cuisine. Dupont et Malgat, 1914.
I love that Jeremy raises the question of preparation time in discussing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s something that doesn’t seem most people would consider, but which in the modern world has become a major consideration. To some extent a lot of the growth of obesity in the U.S. is as a result of people going to restaurants and eating less healthy food out, but justifying it for the savings in time and the general convenience.
As I’m listening, I’m curious what these types of programs look like in other countries? How does the U.S. compare? Do those countries leverage the same types of research and come up with similar plans or are they drastically different? I’m thrilled that in the very last line of the episode, Jeremy indicates that he may explore this in the future.
I’ll also guiltily admit that while listening to this episode, I was snacking on M&M chocolate candies while drinking a sugary supplemented beverage. Perhaps I’ll pay my penance later by baking a fresh loaf of bread.
Interesting to think about the shifts of food stuffs between the upper and lower classes over time.
I half expected some discussion of dentition and bone studies, but this was a bit more broadly historical in scope. I always loved the studies of civilizations around 12,000 years ago at the dawn of the agricultural age and the apparently terrible ravaging effects of settling down and living off of of agriculture rather than hunting and gathering.
Bling, the Urban Dictionary tells me, is an onomatopoeic representation of light bouncing off a diamond. Or a Bob Kramer original hand-made chef’s knife, which goes for $2000 and up. Of course some people might be able to justify spending that kind of cash on what is, after all, one of the key tools of the trade … if your trade happens to be cooking. But my guest today, Peter Hertzmann, says he sees lots of knives, maybe not quite that expensive, hanging on the wall in people’s kitchens, unused. “Kitchen knives”, he told this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, are “the new bling”.
Peter teaches knife skills, has written extensively on the topic, and one of the things he is adamant about is that you never chop, you slice. Even if you’re pretty handy with a blade, you can probably learn a thing or two from his video Three Aspects of Knife Skills. I know I did.
Knife skills and knife care are rarely spoken about in many settings and when they are, they’re usually horribly inconsistent, if not butchered. Here Jeremy interviews a real knife guru. Sadly in an audio podcast there’s only so much that can be covered without video. I could have done with another hour on the topic along with some video perhaps.
The Fertile Crescent, the Yangtze basin, Meso America, South America: those are the places that spring to mind as birthplaces of agriculture. Evidence is accumulating, however, to strengthen eastern North America’s case for inclusion. Among the sources of evidence, coprolites, or fossil faeces. Fossil human faeces. And among the people gathering the evidence Kris Gremillion, Professor of Anthropology at Ohio State University. She was kind enough to talk to me on the phone, and I made a silly mistake when I recorded it, so please bear with me on the less than stellar quality. I hope the content will see you through. And I’ll try not to let it happen again.
You’ve got to love an episode of a food podcast that starts out with the line:
It’s astonishing what you can learn from a dried up piece of feces.
Henry Hobhouse’s book Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (now six, with the addition of cacao) contains the remarkable fact that at the height of the slave trade a single teaspoon of sugar cost six minutes of a man’s life to produce. Reason enough to cheer the abolition of slavery, I suppose. But that doesn’t mean that everything is sweetness and light in the business of sugar. Or salt. A photo gallery in The Big Picture made that very clear, and inspired Rachel Laudan, a food historian, to write in praise of industrial salt and sugar.
Most dilettante foodies I know probably regard frozen beef as an acceptable substitute only when fresh is unavailable. Sure the fresh must be grass-fed, dry-aged, properly hung and all that – but mostly it must be fresh, not frozen. However, unless your climate is wonderfully mild, that grass-fed beef is going to be eating something else over the winter, and that’s not great for the meat. Ari LeVaux, a syndicated food writer, reckons that except at the end of the growing season, when the animals have just finished feasting on lush pastures, well-frozen good beef is a far better option than fresh. When we spoke last week, I started by asking Ari why most people – foodies included – have such a poor opinion of frozen beef?
In fact, I’d say there is a general misconception about “freshness”. There was a rage for fresh pasta in England a while ago. And to me it was unfathomable. Good dried pasta is so superior to the slimy industrial stuff that it is almost another food. Sure, fresh often is good. But with foods that can be preserved in other ways, and have been, a good product properly prepared is often superior.
As for the nutritional composition of grass-fed versus conventional beef, there clearly is a difference. A mega-review by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that milk and meat from grass-fed animals has lower total fat than conventional, but the fat is higher in what might loosely be termed “good” fats, things like omega–3 fats and conjugated linoleic acid. On the other hand, the evidence for health benefits is more mixed. Some studies on animals and people have shown benefits, but they are by no means absolutely conclusive.
So on its own, better nutrition is perhaps not enough reason to seek out grass-fed beef. On the other hand, if omega–3 fats are what you really want, you can do much better eating oily fish. But hey! It can’t hurt, and eating great beef less often is a win in so many other areas.
A stunningly interesting episode.
After listening to this I’m assuredly going to have to look around online for a proper purveyor of frozen beef now. I’ve read several of the studies on the general health benefits of grass fed beef over cornfed, which it terrifically unnatural in the first place.
Frozen meat from the summer slaughter season for the winter months may be just the ticket to a higher quality product. (Though admittedly, they’re right on taking the proper precautions for the freezing/thawing processes as this can make all the difference.)
I find it interesting that the economics of the situation don’t help to better drive this process in the market. While the podcast mentions companies like Whole Foods attempting to educate their customers, I certainly haven’t come across this idea previously, and I typically go out of my way to consume this type of information.
The tough part of the process is determining when the product was frozen, as I’m sure many processors may just as readily freeze their excess winter slaughter. I checked in a local high end grocery store today and found a few types of frozen grass fed beef, including one from New Zealand, but the packaging didn’t indicate when it was frozen or even by whom in the process. There was only an obscure future date which I could only take to be either a “sell by” or “consume by” date as it wasn’t otherwise marked. If purveyors want to improve their position in the market, providing this type of data would be helpful, though I suspect it’s more in their interest not to indicate anything at all unless bulk purchasers and distributors like Whole Foods pressure them to do so. Perhaps the majority of the demand in the market (and specialty pricing) stops at the words “grass fed”?
Be sure to click through to the notes and additional resources for the episode.