🎧 Containers Episode 7: The Lost Docks

Containers Episode 7: The Lost Docks by Alexis C. Madrigal from Containers
It’s 1979 and containerization is sweeping through the San Francisco waterfront, leaving the old docks in ruins. As global trade explodes, a group of longshoremen band together to try to preserve the culture of work that they knew. They take pictures, create a slide show, and make sound recordings. Those recordings languished in a basement for 40 years. In this episode, we hear those archival tapes as a way of exploring the human effects of automation.

A nice bit on the human side of shipping, and in particular how things have changed for longshoremen.

As I listen to this and some of the culture discussed in the episode, I can’t help but wonder about how things change for the modern-day versions of longshoremen. So for example, a lot of programmers have some of this type of culture. I’ll admit it’s early days right now, but what happens to the class of programmers now fifty years on? Could make an interesting plot for a sci-fi story?

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🎧 Containers Episode 5: The America-First Ships

Containers Episode 5: The America-First Ships by Alexis C. Madrigal from Containers
American companies pioneered container shipping, but now the ocean freight business is dominated by foreign firms. Thanks to the Jones Act, a 1920 law, all cargo between American ports must be carried on American-made ships, so we do still have a fleet. But the ships are old and outdated. In episode five, we explore the tragic consequences of this "America-first" trade policy, beginning with the El Faro, which sank in October 2015.

For those who want to learn about poorly done America First policies, this seems to be a great example. Studying what the Jones Act has done to the US shipping business is an excellent case study. There is obviously a gaping hole in the market forces at work here and the Jones Act only seems to be making things worse.

I find it an odd thing to say about a podcast concerning containerized shipping, but this episode is just heart-breaking on so many levels.

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🎧 Containers Episode 4: The Hidden Side of Coffee

Containers Episode 4: The Hidden Side of Coffee by Alexis C. Madrigal from Containers
The coffee world has changed since Starbucks rose to prominence. Not only has the sourcing of beans acquired wine-like precision, but now there are many small, local roasters. How'd this all happen? Episode 4 brings you into the infrastructure underpinning third-wave coffee from a Kenyan coffee auction to a major coffee importer to a secret coffee warehouse in San Leandro with beans from every coffee-growing nation in the world. We’re guided by Aaron Van der Groen, the green coffee buyer for San Francisco’s legendary roaster Ritual Coffee.

Possibly the most interesting episode so far. This one has some specifics which I hadn’t read in The Box or seen in snippets in other places. I was hoping for more specifics like this throughout the series, but have been generally disappointed until now.

🎧 Containers Episode 3: The Ships, The Tugs, and The Port

Containers Episode 3: The Ships, The Tugs, and The Port by Alexis C. Madrigal from Containers
You know you’ve always wanted to ride in a tugboat as it pushes around a huge cargo ship, right? Well, that’s what we do in Episode 3. We go inside working life on the San Francisco Bay to see how brutal competition among shipping companies threatens the viability of the small businesses that ply the waters. Meet a tugboat dispatcher, a skipper, and the first female captain of an American freighter. It’s a case study in how globalization works and our first look at the challenges the port faces.

🎧 Containers Episode 2: Meet the Sailors

Containers Episode 2: Meet the Sailors by Alexis C. MadrigalAlexis C. Madrigal from Containers
What is life like as a modern sailor, a tiny person on a huge ship in a vast ocean? Here is your answer. Episode 2 brings you a rare look into the lives of two Filipino sailors, fresh off a trip across the Pacific Ocean. These are regular people doing heroic work to support their families. And without them, the global economic order doesn't work.

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🎧 Containers Episode 1: Welcome to Global Capitalism

Containers Episode 1: Welcome to Global Capitalism by Alexis C. Madrigal from Containers
Alexis Madrigal brings you the gripping story of how a new way of shipping stuff across the ocean fed the Vietnam War, destroyed America's great port cities, and created global trade as we know it.

Introducing Containers

🎧 What a Cool New Podcast About Shipping Can Teach You About Coffee | Bite (Mother Jones)

What a Cool New Podcast About Shipping Can Teach You About Coffee by Kiera Butler and Maddie Oatman from Bite | Mother Jones
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 Bigger by 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.[1] 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.

h/t to Jeremy Cherfas and his excellent Huffduffer feed for uncovering this particular episode (and podcast series) for me.

References

[1]
A. Madrigal, “Containers,” Medium, 07-Mar-2017. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/containers. [Accessed: 18-May-2017]
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🎧 This Week in Google: #404 Leo Not Found | TWIT.TV

This Week in Google: #404 Leo Not Found by Jeff Jarvis, Stacey Higginbotham, Jason Howell from TWIT.TV
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.

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🎧 This Week in Google: #403 Leo has shared a Google Doc with you | TWIT.TV

This Week in Google: #403 Leo has shared a Google Doc with you by Leo Laporte, Stacey Higginbotham from TWIT.TV
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.

I kinda want Mr. T as my Waze navigation voice…

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🎧 Seeing White, part 7: Chenjerai’s Challenge | Scene on Radio (episode 37)

Seeing White, episode 37: Chenjerai’s Challenge by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene on Radio
“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?

Composite image: Chenjerai Kumanyika, left; photo by Danusia Trevino. And John Biewen, photo by Ewa Pohl.

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🎧 Seeing White, episode 36: That’s Not Us, So We’re Clean | Scene on Radio

Seeing White, episode 36: That's Not Us, So We're Clean by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika from Scene On Radio
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.

A lynching on Clarkson Street, New York City, during the Draft Riots of 1863. Credit: Greenwich Village Society of Historical Preservation.

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🎧 Seeing White, episode 35 Little War on the Prairie | Scene on Radio

Seeing White, episode 35 Little War on the Prairie by John Biewen from Scene on Radio
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.

The Minnesota State Seal, 1858

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🎧 Seeing White, episodes 31-34 | Scene on Radio

Seeing White by John Biewen with special guest Chenjerai Kumanyika from 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.

Part 1: Turning the Lens

February 15, 2017

Part 2: How Race Was Made

March 1, 2017

Part 3: Made in America

March 16, 2017

Part 4: On Crazy We Built a Nation

March 30, 2017


Notes

Part 1:
Seemingly almost too short, but lays some good groundwork (in retrospect) for what is to come.

Part 2:
Here’s where the story begins to heat up and lay some groundwork.

Part 3:
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.

Part 4:
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.

Overall:

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.

Thanks to Jeremy Cherfas who suggested it to me indirectly via his feed.

Resources I’m bookmarking for later reading:

Seeing White
Meeting of the Virginia House of Burgesses, 1619. Library of Congress.
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🎧 Food — and bombs — in Laos | Eat This Podcast

Food — and bombs — in Laos by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
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.

Woman weeds while bomb clearance continues
A technician with a UXO Lao bomb disposal team scans for bombs in a woman’s yard as she continues weeding. They work along a new road built atop the old Ho Chi Minh Trail. ©2006/Jerry Redfern
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🎧 Baking bread: getting big and getting out | Eat This Podcast

Baking bread: getting big and getting out by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Ah, the self-indulgent joy of making a podcast on one of my own passions. “They” say that turning cooking from an enjoyable hobby into a business is a recipe for disaster, and while I’m flattered that people will pay for an additional loaf of bread I’ve baked, there’s no way I’m going to be getting up at 3 in the morning every day to sell enough loaves to make a living. But there are people who have done just that, and one of them happens to be a friend. Suzanne Dunaway and her husband Don turned her simple, delicious foccacia into Buona Forchetta bakery, a multi-million dollar business that won plaudits for the quality of its bread – and then sold it and walked away. Suzanne was also one of the first popularisers of the “no-knead” method of making bread, with her 1999 book No need to knead. Using a wetter dough, and letting time take the place of kneading, has been around among professional bakers and some, often forgetful, amateurs for a long time, but it was Mark Bittman’s article in the New York Times that opened the floodgates on this method. Since then, as any search engine will reveal, interest in the technique has exploded, both because no-knead is perceived as easier and because the long, slow rise that no-knead usually calls for results in a deeper, more complex flavour. I’ve had my troubles with it, and had more or less given up on the real deal. But I’m looking forward to seeing how a quick no-knead bread turns out, especially now that I know that in Suzanne’s case it was the result of a delicious accident.


Yet another episode that I would have listened to for hours if it had gone on. It reminds me how sad it is that they’ve moved out of LA and La Brea Bakery has become so huge. It also reminds me of fond days back on Barry Avenue in my “youth”. I’m always one to daydream about having my own pastry shop, but the repeated instances of 3AM start times reminds me why I don’t do this.

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Baking bread, the Breaking Bad version

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