🎧 Outside In | Invisibilia (NPR)

The last episode of season 2. Somehow the first long segment of this episode doesn’t quite fit into the broader theme of the rest of the episodes. It felt like the producers needed to fill in the space or took a pitch from outside. The story of the twin sisters, one with diabetes, was interesting, but not exceptional.

The final piece about animals brings it all back home though.

This may be my least favorite of all of the episodes thus far, but I’m excited to hear what comes in season 3.

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🎧 This Week in the Indieweb Audio Edition • March 18th – 24th, 2017

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.

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🎧 Sacha Baron Cohen interview on WTF with Marc Maron

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?

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🎧 Flip the Script | Invisibilia (NPR)

Wow! Just wow! This concept is certainly worth thinking about in greater depth.

I loved the story of police and harassment; it is particularly interesting given the possible changes we could make in the world using these techniques. It shows what some kindness and consideration can do to reshape the world.

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🎧 This Week in Google #396: Mechanical Turking

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…

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🎧 The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes | Invisibilia (NPR)

Awesome little episode. Clothes are highly visible, but their true effect is deeply hidden. They could probably do an episode like this on make up as well.

Glasses, hoodies, lab coats, shoes (or lack thereof), and a Nazi shirt have never been so interesting.

The story about the man dressing as a woman was possibly the most intriguing.

🎧 Industrial strength craft beer | Eat This Podcast

Industrial strength craft beer by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
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.

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🎧 A computer learns about ingredients and recipes | Eat This Podcast

A computer learns about ingredients and recipes What else would you put on a peanut butter sandwich? by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Recommendation engines are everywhere. They let Netflix suggest shows you might want to watch. They let Spotify build you a personalised playlist of music you will probably like. They turn your smartphone into a source of endless hilarity and mirth. And, of course, there’s IBM’s Watson, recommending all sorts of “interesting” new recipes. As part of his PhD project on machine learning, Jaan Altosaar decided to use a new mathematical technique to build his own recipe recommendation engine. The technique is similar to the kind of natural language processing that powers predictive text on a phone, and one of the attractions of using food instead of English is that there are only 2000–3000 ingredients to worry about, instead of more than 150,000 words. The results so far are fun and intriguing, and can only get better.Recommendation engines are everywhere. They let Netflix suggest shows you might want to watch. They let Spotify...

Back in February I had retweeted something interesting from physicist and information theorist Michael Nielsen:

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 [1] 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 [2] 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.

Small World

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.
H. This, “La gastronomie moléculaire,” Sci Aliments, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 187–198, 2003 [Online]. Available: http://sda.revuesonline.com/article.jsp?articleId=2577 [Source]
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🎧 How much does a nutritious diet cost? | Eat This Podcast

How much does a nutritious diet cost? Depends what you mean by "nutritious" by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Recently I’ve been involved in a couple of online discussions about the cost of a nutritious diet. The crucial issue is why poor people in rich countries seem to have such unhealthy diets. One argument is about the cost of food. Another is about everything other than cost: knowledge, equipment, time, conditions. My own opinion is that given all those other things, the externalities, a nutritious diet is actually not that expensive. But that’s just an opinion, so I went looking for information, and found it in a paper entitled Using the Thrifty Food Plan to Assess the Cost of a Nutritious Diet, published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs in 2009.Recently I’ve been involved in a couple of online discussions about the cost of a nutritious diet. The cruci...

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.

Some of this discussion reminds me of a talk I saw back in August by Sam Polk, co-founder and CEO of Everytable, a for-profit social enterprise that sells fresh, healthy ready-to-eat meals affordable for all, and founder and Executive Director of Groceryships, a Los Angeles non-profit working at the intersection of poverty and obesity. He was also the author of the book For the Love of Money: A Memoir of Family, Addiction, and a Wall Street Trader’s Journey to Redefine Success.

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.

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🎧 Food and status | Eat This Podcast

Food and status I'll have what their lordships are having by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Food has probably been a marker of social status since the first woman gathered more berries than her sister. It still is. Some foods are authentically posh, others undeniably lower class, and there’s no way I’m going to go out on a limb and say which is which. Because foods serve as social markers, the history of cuisine is also a history of the democratisation – some would say vulgarisation – of elite dishes, and perhaps noone has chronicled that more effectively than Rachel Laudan. Her book Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History shows clearly how foods move from high cuisine to low. Recently, in some places, the flow has reversed as elites have taken up what they imagine to be rustic, peasant food. The 100% wholewheat sourdough loaf, chewy of crust and riddled with large holes, became a desirable bread only very recently. As we chatted about these things, one thing became clear. There’s very little chance that food will lose its status as a marker of status any time soon. Food has probably been a marker of social status since the first woman gathered more berries than her si...

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.

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🎧 Knives: the new bling | Eat This Podcast

Knives: the new bling by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
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.Peter Hertzmann Bling, the Urban Dictionary tells me, is an onomatopoeic representation of light bouncing off a diamon...

Peter Hertzmann 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.

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