A trailer for the upcoming film Jerusalem. It looks gorgeous and some of the shots appear as if they were illustrations for a fantasy novel – I want to visit.
Experiments into how to make the perfect cup:
A few years ago, I started using house guests as subjects in an experiment.1 My experiment was designed to test what variables in the coffee brewing process produce a perceptible improvement in coffee flavor. A frequent assertion is that numerous variables must be carefully considered to brew a good cup of coffee. I wanted to know if this premise was true as humans are really good at creating their own reality distortion fields.2 My main motivation for this experiment was to determine how I could brew the best coffee with minimal time and monetary investment. I didn’t want to buy a $11,000 Blossom Oneif I could avoid it…
A common belief among coffee pundits is that good coffee depends on good grinding. Specifically, coffee ground with a burr grinder purportedly tastes better because it grinds the beans more uniformly and doesn’t over-heat the grounds like traditional blade grinders…In total, 24 data samples were collected in these experiments. Each of the 3 burr grinder models performed comparably. Surprisingly, 13/24 or ≈54% of subjects actually preferred the blade grinder.
And so on. It’s a little wordy on the statistical tests (which is: good? bad?), but I think the moral of the story is just to buy good beans. And maybe an Aeropress.
Who were the Americans who followed Hemingway?
Early in the fifties another young generation of American expatriates in Paris became twenty-six years old, but they were not Sad Young Men, nor were they Lost; they were the witty, irreverent sons of a conquering nation and, though they came mostly from wealthy parents and had been graduated from Harvard or Yale, they seemed endlessly delighted in posing as paupers and dodging the bill collectors, possibly because it seemed challenging and distinguished them from American tourists, whom they despised, and also because it was another way of having fun with the French, who despised them…
They now live in New York. And most of the parties are held at George Plimpton’s large bachelor apartment on Seventy-second Street overlooking the East River, an apartment that is also the headquarters for what Elaine Tynan calls “The Quality Lit Set,” or what Candida Donadio, the agent, calls “The East Side Gang,” or what everybody else just calls “The Paris Review Crowd.”
And includes this darkly humorous episode:
Austryn Wainhouse, who had suspected that suicide was very much on Christopher’s mind, had spent the following week sitting outside of Christopher’s hotel each night watching his window, but one afternoon when Christopher was late for a luncheon date with Wainhouse, the latter rushed to the poet’s hotel and there, on the bed, was the painter.
“Where’s Chris?” Wainhouse demanded.
“I am not going to tell you,” the painter said. “You can beat me if you wish; you’re bigger and stronger than I, and. . .”
“I don’t want to beat you,” Wainhouse shouted. It then occurred to him how ridiculous was the painter’s remark since he (Wainhouse) was actually much smaller and hardly stronger than the painter. “Look,” he said, finally, “don’t you leave here,” and then he ran quickly to a café where he knew he would find Trocchi.
Trocchi got the painter to talk and admit that Christopher had left that morning for Perpignan, near the Spanish border twelve hours south of Paris, where he planned to commit suicide in much the same way as the character in the Samuel Beckett story in Merlin entitled “The End”—he would hire a boat and row out to sea, further and further, and then pull up the plugs and slowly sink.
Trocchi, borrowing thirty thousand francs from Wainhouse, hopped on the next train for Perpignan, five hours behind Christopher. It was dark when he arrived, but early the next morning he began his search.
Christopher, meanwhile, had tried to rent a boat, but did not have enough money. He also carried with him, along with some letters from his former girl friend, a tin of poison, but he did not have an opener, nor were there rocks on the beach, and so he wandered about, frustrated and frantic, until he finally came upon a refreshment stand where he hoped to borrow an opener.
It was then that the tall figure of Trocchi spotted him and placed a hand on Christopher’s shoulder. Christopher looked up.
“Alex,” Christopher said, casually handing him the tin of poison, “will you open this for me?”
Trocchi put the tin in his pocket.
”Alex,” Christopher then said, “what are you doing here?”
“Oh,” Trocchi said lightly, “I’ve come down to embarrass you.”
Christopher broke down in tears, and Trocchi helped him off the beach, and then they rode, almost in total silence, back to Paris on the train.
…After the suicide episode, which, according to George Plimpton, sent at least a half-dozen young novelists to their typewriters trying to build a book around it…
Great writing is great writing.
Paul Klaver has an absolutely breathtaking short film revealing the nutrient cycle spawned (rimshot) by the salmon in Alaska. It’s gorgeous and I just don’t understand how he managed to get some of the shots. Watch it in fullscreen mode.
I have a fond (?) memory of growing up in Portland, Oregon and heading out to “Outdoor School” for a few days, where they attempted to inculcate a love of the outdoors in us city kids. We visited right after spawning season which meant the stream that ran through the camp was surrounded with decaying salmon carcasses, resulting in the entire place smelling of old fish. Lovely, no?
I think this is an absolutely fantastic, clear and concise explanation for why money matters in macroeconomics:
In normal times, people receive apples and money from the sky in the form of endowments (i.e. their wealth), and they make decisions about how to balance their cash and apple balances. Apples are transacted, bellies are filled, and life is good.But suddenly, a recession hits. What does this look like? By definition, a recession is when there is a general glut of goods that aren’t consumed. In this toy economy, this corresponds to a situation in which some people have apples but choose not to eat them! This may seem peculiar, but remember that the market for apples in this model represents a composite of all goods markets. So it could be the case that while everybody has apples, some want Red Delicious while others are looking for the tartness of Granny Smith. In more formal economic models, this is glibly incorporated by requiring that people do not consume their own endowment and instead trade for consumption. In any case, apples aren’t eaten and we have a rotten general glut.
But this seems peculiar — aren’t markets supposed to clear? Not necessarily. Prices don’t always adjust instantly, so we can have excess supplies and excess demands. However, economists do have a way to constrain what this non-clearing state looks like. In particular, according to Walras’ law, assuming everybody spends all of their wealth, if there are excess supplies (i.e. too much produced) in some markets, then they must add up to excess demands (i.e. too little produced) in other markets. In other words, even if supply does not equal demand in each market, supplies must add up to demands across markets.
The requirement that everybody spends their endowment is crucial. It means that Walras’ law doesn’t apply just to the market for apples because not everybody spends all their wealth on apples. Instead, some people may put their wealth in money. But once we include the money market, we do have the condition that everybody spends their endowment, and therefore Walras’ law does apply to the entire macroeconomy of apples and money.
This leads to the most important conclusion from general equilibrium theory as related to monetary economics:
If there is an excess supply of goods, it must be the result of excess demand for money.
Go read the whole thing and follow Yichuan Wang’s blog. He’s one of the best communicators in economics right now.
I am so glad that there is a world championship in this. via metafilter for more goodness
When we found we had been led by this stratagem of the enemy away from the town, we left the bay and came to several houses, but found them al empty, and swept clean, both of inhabitants and provisions. This place of La Serena our pilot had reported to be but a small town, but being arrived there we found in it no fewer than seven great churches and one chapel. In the gardens we found strawberries as big as walnuts and those very delicious to the table. The inhabitants of La serena upon our approach fled, with them the best of their goods and jewels, and what they could not carry away that was of value they buried. Notwithstanding, we took one friar, and two Chilenos, natives of the kingdom of Chili, which adjoins to that of Peru. These prisoners told us that the Spaniards had killed most of their Chilian slaves, fearing they should revolt from them to us. We were about this time troubled with the scurvy; it proceeded, as we judged, from the great hardship and want of provisions we had endured for several months. We killed a mule and got there as plunder a small, quantity of good chocolate, which the Spaniards have in great esteem. In the gardens we found strawberries as big as walnuts.
Next morning, being Saturday, came into the town a flag of truce from the enemy. Their message was to proffer a ransom for the town to preserve it from burning, for now they began to fear we would set fire to it. The chief commanders on both sides met about this point and agreed betwixt them the sum of 95,000 pieces of eight for the whole ransom. This day also there died one of our negroes slaves on board the ship.
Next morning, we set fire to the town. We fired as nigh as we could every house in the whole town to the end that it might be totally reduced to ashes. Thus we left La Serena, carrying with us what plunder we could find.
and (Pirate Christmas):
December the 8th. This day our worthy commander, Captain Sharp, had intelligence given him, that on Christmas day, which was now at hand, the company, or at least a great part thereof, had a design to shoot him; he having appointed that day to be merry. Hereupon he made us share the wine amongst us, as being persuaded they would scare attempt any such thing in their sobriety. The wine we shared out fell out to three jars to each mess. That night the wind increased.
Sunday, December the 25th. This day, being Christmas day, for celebration of that great festival we killed a sow. This sow we had brought from the gulf of Nicoya, being then a suckling pig. With this hog’s flesh we made our Christmas dinner, being the only flesh we had eaten since we left the island of Plata. It was extreme hot weather. We saw much flying-fish, with some dolphins, bonitoes, and albicores, but they will not take the hook.
It’s fascinating reading what it was like to actually be a pirate; they looted and killed, got shot at and lost their legs, had very few morals but some qualms anyway. The whole book is available from the Gutenberg Project, and there is a good article about the central exploits of the book.
Employees sort logs on a bank of the Yenisei at the Novoyeniseisk wood processing plant
I collect photos that I like and stuff them in my Pictures folder on my laptop. Here are some of the latest in my collection (after the fold).
Archival sources, including school inspector reports, reveal that Bach’s education was troubled by gang warfare and bullying, sadism and sodomy – as well as his own extensive truancy…documents damn the boys as “rowdy, subversive, thuggish, beer- and wine-loving, girl-chasing … breaking windows and brandishing their daggers”. He added: “More disquieting were rumours of a ‘brutalisation of the boys’ and evidence that many parents kept their children at home – not because they were sick, but for fear of what went on in or outside school.”
I guess Bach was a teenage thug, though that seems like it was pretty par for the course back in the day. Also, Mozart apparently loved scatological humor as seen in this beautiful letter to his cousin:
Well, I wish you good night
But first shit into your bed and make it burst.
Sleep soundly, my love
Into your mouth your arse you’ll shove.
I moved to New York City, and I needed to make money. I wasn’t having luck getting a job. It’s a common tale.
My solution was to grab my typewriter that I bought at a yard sale for 10 dollars and bring it to a park. I’d write stories for people, on the spot—I wouldn’t set a price. People could pay me whatever they wanted. I knew that I had the gift of writing creatively, very quickly, and my anachronistic typewriter (and explanatory sign) would be enough to catch the eye of passersby. Someone might want something specific; they might just want a story straight from my imagination. I was prepared for either situation…
I woke up one day not long after I started “Roving Typist” to a flurry of emails, Facebook posts, text messages and missed calls. A picture of me typewriting had made it to the front page of Reddit…
Without the sign, without the context, I definitely look like someone who is a bit insane. That’s how I thought of it, before I clicked to look at the hundreds of replies; I figured people were probably wondering why I would bring my typewriter to a park. And when I started reading the comments, I saw most people had already decided that I would bring my typewriter to the park because I’m a “fucking hipster.” Someone with the user handle “S2011” summed up the thoughts of the hive mind in 7 words: “Get the fuck out of my city.”
Illmatic707 chimed in: I have never wanted to fist fight someone so badly in my entire life.
Leoatneca replied: Bet 90% of his high school did to. It’s because of these guys that bullying is so hard to stop.
I’m back in Portland right now which is full of…”hipsters” like these. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own stories and reasons for what they do – it’s not always what you assume it is. This story about how someone, somewhat undeservedly, became a hated hipster meme is both gripping and an insightful reminder of how careful we need to be.
In college I learned that Salvador Dali made a movie where somebody slashed an eyeball open. He and Bunuel wanted to make a movie that “offended bourgeois sensibilities”. Instead, the French bourgeois moviegoers loved it, something highly Bunuel. Now imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a bar and on pops a movie:
Now if this movie isn’t Eraserhead Jr., I don’t know what is. One thing the short film is able to evoke is the sense of being a dream. Many films try it and almost all fail: that sense of one thing leading to another leading to another in a slightly logical but entirely elliptical manner is hard to pull off.
Every so often someone writes about how this or that region is going to collapse. Today we get a perspective on why agriculture will collapse in the Great Plains:
The seed, it turned out, was organic, as were all of Teske’s crops — though he was quick to clarify that this was “not just for moral reasons.” On the contrary, organic farming seemed to him the only sensible option left. Decades of innovation had turned conventional farming into such an expensive and technical proposition that it was hopeless for anyone but agribusiness conglomerates to attempt it. This, he said, was the real cause of depopulation. Modern technology made it possible, and more or less obligatory, for a single owner to work fifty times as much land. So neighbors got to buying out neighbors, and then were bought out themselves. The only way forward, Teske figured, was to reject all those modern innovations, at which point you were basically “organic.”…
Sprawling beneath eight states and more than 100 million acres, the Ogallala Aquifer is the kind of hydrological behemoth that lends itself to rhapsody and hubris. Ancient, epic, apparently endless, it is the largest subterranean water supply in the country, with an estimated capacity of a million-billion gallons, providing nearly a third of all American groundwater irrigation. If the aquifer were somehow raised to the surface, it would cover a larger area than any freshwater lake on Earth — by a factor of five.
Within a decade thousands of wells were drilled, creating a spike in productivity as unprecedented as it was unsustainable. Land that had been marginal became dependable; land that was dependable became bountiful. Even as the U.S. population surged, with soldiers returning and babies booming, the output of the plains rose fast enough to meet and exceed demand…Then, during the early 1990s, farmers throughout the Great Plains began to notice a decline in their wells. Irrigation systems from the Dakotas to Texas dipped, and, in some places, have been abandoned entirely…None of which, he went on, is likely to come back. For complex reasons involving wind, weather, and soil composition, the Ogallala does not recharge in the way one might expect. In fact, of the eight states above the aquifer, only Nebraska, with its sandhill dunes, is permeable enough to contribute any serious replenishment…
The farmers we stopped to talk with seemed to break his heart more each day. On a 12,000-acre plantation near Weskan, Kansas, we stood inside a cavernous warehouse of gleaming tractors and combines while the owner chattered and Teske interjected questions about loan terms and well output. He nodded gravely at the answers and chomped on the stub of his cigar until, as we headed down the driveway, his face collapsed and he moaned, “That poor bastard can’t even see the cliff he’s going off.”
One of the major ecological problems in the country – in the world – is the drainage of aquifers and dwindling water supply. It actually shocks me how little news it gets. Read the article, it’s absolutely great writing and had me gripped throughout the long, long article.
He has a bunch of other stuff worth checking out, too. I like this animated Cheeatah infographic and this one about porn and dopamine (whose scientific data on ‘porn viewing’ is made up, but whose graphical presentation I love).