ROW: Links for 7th August, 2019

We’re off to Thailand this year for our holiday (can’t hardly wait!), and am therefore reading up a fair bit about that country. And that’s why today’s links are about Thailand! Thai culture, today – and for me, that mostly means my particular interest area: food.

  1. “For weeks leading up to the coronation, officials collected water from more than 100 sources across the country between 11:52 and 12:38 – deemed an auspicious time in Thai astrology.”
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    Thailand has a new king, and his coronation took place recently. That much I knew – but the ceremony itself had some interesting details.
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  2. “The forty-seven stanzas of the poem are divided into three sections: savory dishes (khrueang kao), fruit (phonlamai), and sweets (khrueang wan). It provides reference to fourteen types of savory dishes, fourteen kinds of fruits, and sixteen kinds of sweets. Moreover, despite its theme of love and longing of a man for a woman, in the genre of a poetic boat song (kap heruea) used for pacing oarsmen in the procession of royal barges, the detailed description of food provides not only their name, but also the ingredients as well as the cooking techniques. Reading the poem today, its vivid description appears still very relevant to the repertoire of dishes in Thai cuisine.”
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    A very (very!) long read on the origins of Thai cuisine, with digressions into trade, war, geopolitics, literature and etymology. There’s a Thai love poem that has not just 47 different dishes, for example, but also their recipes. Bookmark and savor at leisure.
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  3. Just the Goodreads page on the best book that I have read (so far) about Thai food.”
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  4. “Thoresen Thai’s CEO Chalermchai Mahagitsiri said that Taco Bell Thailand should do well in the territory as “the strong flavours meet the palate of Asian people.”
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    Taco Bell itself might not be the best ambassador, but Mexican food being paired with Thai food is… interesting.
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  5. The 36 hours in… series has always proven its worth, and hopefully Bangkok will be no exception!
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Tech: Links for 30th July, 2019

  1. “In an ever-changing work environment, ‘AQ’, rather than IQ, might become an increasingly significant marker of success.”
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    I’m never sure that lists are a good idea, but I enjoyed scanning this one. 101 people, ideas and things that are changing the way we work today.
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  2. “Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. And he regrets what he did to this day.“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. “That’s what I think we actually did.””
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    A lament for the creation of the retweet button. I disagree though – I continue to maintain that Twitter (and by extension the retweet button) are net positives. The article is interesting throughout, and some of the suggestions for “curing” the retweet problem are fascinating – and perhaps overdue.
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  3. “In this so-called golden age of television, some critics have pointed out that the best of the form is equivalent to the most enriching novels. And high-quality programming for children can be educational. But the latest evidence also suggests there can be negative consequences to our abundant watching, particularly when the shows are mostly entertainment.”
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    You are shaped by influences around you – relevant to Twitter (see above) and also TV.
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  4. “WeWork was born as a co-working space based partly on the idea that it should be easier for entrepreneurs like Neumann to get their ideas, good or bad, off the ground. Its core business is simple: lease offices from landlords — the company owns hardly any real estate — slice them up, and rent them out in smaller portions with an upcharge for cool design, regular happy hours, and a more flexible short-term lease. There are hundreds of co-working companies around the world, but what has long distinguished WeWork is Neumann’s insistence that his is something bigger. In 2017, Neumann declared that WeWork’s “valuation and size today are much more based on our energy and spirituality than it is on a multiple of revenue.””
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    A very long profile of WeWork and its founder.
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  5. “Our reporting finds that Alphabet is already generating several billion dollars annually from Google Maps, an amount that isn’t yet material to the company’s financial results. But although officials state they are taking a leisurely approach to monetizing Google Maps, which is a core part of Alphabet’s search business, revenue is picking up at a healthy pace as Google experiments with new local ad formats within Google Maps. As Google Maps gets around to targeting more verticals, the only thing that might stand in its way from becoming a ubiquitous superapp may be users’ mobile behavior and regulators looking to break up big tech.”
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    The app that underpins a lot more than you think: Google Maps.

Etc: Links for 5th July, 2019

  1. “…in the series, Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), a member of the Academy of Sciences, lives in nearly the same kind of squalor as a fireman in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat. In fact, Legasov would have lived in an entirely different kind of squalor than the fireman did.”
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    This is one of many, of course, but that line above was particularly illuminating. A review of the excellent series, Chernobyl.
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  2. “The productivity equation is a non-linear one, in other words. This accounts for why I am a bad correspondent and why I very rarely accept speaking engagements. If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time, and that will, with luck, be read by many people, there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.”
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    Neal Stephenson (whose books are excellent, and uniformly so) on productivity.
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  3. “Thanos, observing that there were too many people, decided to kill half of them. But this is curiously short-sighted for a man regarded by many as a policy prophet. Any exponential population growth process will soon replace the lost people: that is why exponential growth is such a headache in the first place. For example, if an economy’s resource footprint grows exponentially at a rate of 7 per cent, it doubles in just ten years — meaning that in less time than has elapsed since the first Iron Man movie, we could be back where we started.The only lasting solution is an economy that uses resources at a sustainable rate. Malthus’s qualms notwithstanding, contraception has been a very good start. The world population growth rate is steadily approaching a very sustainable-sounding zero.”
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    Tim Harford analyzes Thanos like only an economist can.
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  4. “Imagine you’re cooking a roast dinner for your family of four. You opt for beef with all the trimmings, safe in the knowledge that it’s a firm family favourite. But just as you’re about to serve up, your daughter announces she’s vegetarian, your partner texts to say they’re running late, and your son tells you he’s invited “a few” friends over for dinner too. Then, your dog runs off with the joint of beef while you’re desperately trying to work out how you are going to meet the needs of all these (quite frankly) very demanding and unruly individuals.”
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    The BBC on the problem of dynamic resource allocation. The excerpt, by the way, has nothing to do with the rest of the article.
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  5. “Because at the end of their pilgrimage, the weary are rewarded with two things: a footbath and a bowl of steaming noodles. The footbath is just a footbath, but the noodles are extraordinary. Su filindeu is—quasi-official designation here—the rarest pasta on the planet. The dish is made specifically for this occasion; its very existence revolves around this trek. So specialized and obscure and mind-bendingly intricate is it that only a few souls can make it. And only those who reach Lula will ever try it.”
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    The rarest pasta on earth. Why wouldn’t you want to read!