Etc: Links for 20th December, 2019

  1. The coolest things that David Perell learnt in 2019. He has a paragraph on Twitter, from Bill Gurley, that I wholeheartedly agree with. Tempers run high on Twitter, true, but it is a magnificent learning tool for me.
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    “One of the examples is a famous New York City physician who was renowned for his ability to predict that patients would get typhoid. He predicted the sickness time and again. He would palpate their tounge (feel around their tongue) and predict, weeks before patients had a single symptom, over and over, and became famous, and as one of his colleagues said, he was a more productive carrier of typhoid than even Typhoid Mary because he was giving his patients Typhoid with his hands. In that case, the feedback he was receiving was reinforcing exactly the wrong lesson.”
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  2. Two articles that I got to read as a consequence of subscribing to Joanna Lobo’s Newsletter (if you are interested in writing, either as a hobby or a career, this is a newsletter worth subscribing to). The first is about the perils of comfort food…
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    “Every meal was meticulously pre-portioned and packaged for every individual. We never ate family-style, which was how I grew up eating, and how I learned that portion control is often not within your control: You are not just eating for yourself, and the choice to eat (and how much) often symbolizes love and affection more than physical nourishment. What is considered a “serving” when your chopsticks keep dipping back into shared plates and the diet app you use doesn’t even know what 鱼香茄子 (Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce) is? How can you not overeat when people were heaping dishes onto your plate without you asking? Is it rude to not finish that tofu someone offered you? What is fullness?”
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  3. “A Zomato spokesperson tells Open they are currently in the process of doing away with their food-reviewing levels. The titles have already been removed from the mobile app, the spokesperson says, and they will soon be removed from the website too. According to her, this has nothing to do with complaints about soliciting money, or restaurants and connoisseurs coming together to bump up an establishment’s ratings. “We are just coming up with a newer version, a new engagement tool for users,” the spokesperson says over the phone.”
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    A long read about gaming restaurant reviews.
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  4. Bourbaki’s influence is still alive and well. Now in “his” 80th year of research, in 2016 “he” published the 11th volume of the “Elements of Mathematics”. The Bourbaki group, with its ever-changing cast of members, still holds regular seminars at the University of Paris.
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    A lovely essay from the Madras Courier about Bourbaki, the “guy”.
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  5. Lots of links to work through in this video, but worth your time! Stats nerds only.

RoW: Links for 6th November, 2019

  1. “The food courts are good, and clean, but too homogenized for my taste. Plastic trays reign.”
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    Tyler Cowen is not, on the face of it, a fan of food courts, but to a relative novice like me – and perhaps you – they are a great way to sample the food of the country you happen to be in. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating at food courts in KL, and now in Bangkok.
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  2. Six different food courts to choose from in Bangkok…
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  3. But I can vouch for the best of the lot – unreservedly so – Pier 21. And  if I may be so bold: ignore all of what is said over here, and have the stewed pork leg with fried pork, rice and eggs. Ooh yum.
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  4. There’s still a lot of to-do’s on my South East Asian list
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  5. By the time you read this, I hope to have tried out at least some of Mark Wiens’ recommendations.

Etc: Links for 1st November, 2019

  1. We’ve been eating at Kiss Restaurant in Pattaya since 2011, and haven’t had a bad meal once. They’ve grown to having four branches now, and as far as I’m concerned, have consistently great food.
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  2. The quieter side of Pattaya: Jomtien. Public transport is practically non-existent, but the opportunity cost is that it is very, very quiet indeed.
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  3. A New York Times article from almost a decade ago about how Pattaya is trying to reinvent itself. Has it succeeded? Somewhat, I’d say.
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    “Indian couples, Chinese tour groups and vacationing Russian families stroll around the city. A dozen luxury hotels cater to the weekend crowd of wealthy Thais from Bangkok who mingle with tourists at a huge shopping mall. Pattaya has a growing number of fancy restaurants, an annual music festival and, perhaps most improbably, regular polo tournaments.Long derided as a city of sleaze, the city is reaching for respectability.”
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  4. If you ever want to do touristy things in Pattaya, this might be a useful set of links for you.
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  5. Honestly, when it comes to street food in Pattaya, it is practically impossible to go wrong. That being said, this might be useful if you are looking for high end dining. Honestly, though – don’t look for high end dining.

India: Links for 28th October, 2019

  1. “On the night of Laksmi Pujan, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their cleaned homes and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. While the cleaning, or painting, of the home is in part for goddess Lakshmi, it also signifies the ritual “reenactment of the cleansing, purifying action of the monsoon rains” that would have concluded in most of the Indian subcontinent. Vaishnava families recite Hindu legends of the victory of good over evil and the return of hope after despair during the Diwali nights, where the main characters may include Rama, Krishna, Vamana or one of the avatars of Vishnu, the divine husband of Lakshmi.”
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    Always a good place to begin, Wikipedia. Even for Diwali!
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  2. “Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return. The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar. It is related to Diwali, celebrated by Hindus in other parts of the world, which also celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. Diwali, however, is held at the end of the year.”
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    Meanwhile, as they say, in Indonesia
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  3. “The whole thing was designed in such a fashion that when Hanuman’s tail was lit—in remembrance of an episode in the Ramayan—he “begins to fly in the air, setting fire to various houses in this Lanka of fireworks”. So intrigued was the Peshwa by this report that a similar contrivance was engineered even in Pune, setting the ball rolling for modern Diwalis with fireworks and displays.”
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    The perenially interesting Manu Pillai never disappoints.
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  4. “In Telugu, teepi gavvalu literally translates to ‘sweet shells’. It is made rolling a dough made from flour and jaggery into pretty shell shaped curls that are then deep fried and dipped in sweet sugar syrup. It a popular festive snack in Andhra Pradesh.”
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    Practically every Indian, no matter which part of they country they hail from, will squeal in playful outrage upon reading this – for every state has its own version.
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  5. “If we go further North to Himachal Pradesh, we could expect to get wada and bedami puris made on festive occasions for Diwali says Sherry Mehta Malhotra who cooks Pahari food for pop up events. This is served with lentils and a bread called siddhu. Siddhus are made with wheat flour and yeast and take a while to make and are always served with ghee. Depending on the stuffing, these ball shaped breads, could be savoury or sweet. The thing about Pahari cuisine, Sherry says, is that it uses a lot pulses and flours as a base as fresh vegetables are hard to get. Dishes such as siddhu and the badami pedas are had through the year as well, but taste extra special during festivals.”
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    And from a while ago, but still worth reading – food from across the country that is special during Diwali. If you have corrections, suggestions, additions, please – please! let me know.

 

Happy Diwali, all!

India: Links for 30th September, 2019

  1. Ferry Crossing: Short Stories from Goa
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  2. Goa: A Daughter’s Story.
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  3. “There was also a section of the local upper class, who mingled and partied with the higher echelons of the Portuguese and shared our culture and food with them whilst at the same time absorbed and learnt the finer nuances of their cuisine. The Goan upper classes, who had the advantage of closeness with the Portuguese, influenced Goan cuisine to a large extent, especially in the variety of ways of usage of the prime product – coconut. The locals, poor as they were, generally used the grated coconut in their preparations as ‘Soimirem’, but the upper classes taught them how to use the extract, thus upgrading the product quality.”
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    On the influence of the two dominant cultures of Goa on Goan cuisine. Nostalgia is well worth a visit, in Madgaon.
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  4. I have not read this one yet, but have ordered it. On Portugese forts in Goa (and other places besides)
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  5. The things they do in Goa.

Yes, I am very much in Goa (well, ought to be. These posts are being scheduled in advance) , as you might have guessed. Recommendations most welcome.

Etc: Links for 13th September, 2019

  1. The filmy divide in India.
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  2. Man or woman?
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  3. “Bau once told Rahul Bhattacharya, in an encounter for the ages from the book Pundits from Pakistan, that the action was “all artificial”, part of a carefully created persona built to defeat batsmen. It wasn’t the bowler or the ball that beat batsmen, it was this persona. They say that about Shane Warne too, about how batsmen were dead just from the theatre of Warne at the top of his mark, but man, did it ring true with Bau.”
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    Osman Samiuddin on Abdul Qadir.
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  4. “When we seek Western fads at Indian levels of income, the economic cost of our perceived moral rectitude will be borne by the poor.”
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    On opportunity costs.
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  5. On food, history, India and Asia.

RoW: Links for 11th September, 2019

  1. “Bangkok has 9.7 million automobiles and motorbikes, a number the government says is eight times more than can be properly accommodated on existing roads”
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    As an Indian, this is a somewhat reassuring read, in the sense that misery loves company!
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  2. A little vague, but I got to learn what sanuk means.
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  3. “The rapid expansion of the middle class among India’s 1.3 billion people has prompted Thai authorities to upgrade their estimates of Indian visitors. At least 10 million are now expected to arrive in 2028, a more than five-fold increase on 2018 visits. That sort of growth trajectory would mimic the rise of Chinese tourists, who jumped from 800,000 in 2008 to more than 10 million last year.”
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    I can account for three out of those 2 million.
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  4. “Obesity has reached alarming levels in Thailand, which ranks as the second-heaviest nation in Asia, after Malaysia. One in three Thai men are obese, while more than 40 percent of women are significantly overweight, according to Thailand’s national health examination survey.”
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    This was, to me, rather surprising.
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  5. “A couple of generations ago, Thais were rural folk who ate at home and took pride in offering food to the monks, but as they have moved to the cities they are likely to grab a polythene bag of curry on the way home to reheat. There is almost a stigma attached to cooking for yourself. “There is an embarrassment about spending time in the kitchen, it is seen as old-fashioned and a sign that you haven’t made it.”
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    On why Thai street food in Bangkok is so delicious. The article is about much more than that, but this was my main takeaway.

Links for 30th August, 2019

  1. The Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon.
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  2. “It even makes its way into common parlance: in Kannada, hasidu halasu tinnu, undu maavu tinnu (loosely: eat jackfruit when hungry, eat mango when full) and in Bengal, summers are synonymous with aam kanthaler gandho (loosely: fragrance of mango and jackfruit). It is used in different ways all across the country, where it goes by different names: kathal (Hindi), kothaal (Assamese), chakka (Malayali), phanas (Marathi), ponos (Konkani), halasa (Kannadiga).”
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    A lovely read about one of my favorite fruits: the jackfruit.
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  3. “Just as the current disaster was made in Washington, it can be unmade in Washington, and rather quickly, simply by enforcing the existing U.S. Code on patents, government science, and the public interest.  ”
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    Can you guess what the article is about by just reading the excerpt above? Informative, if not always prone to being agreeable.
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  4. Plant a trillion trees“.
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  5. Bugs deserve our respect.

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!

Etc: Links for 19th July, 2019

  1. “Almost half of all U.S. rice comes from Arkansas. When a rice farmer who was also a state legislator bought some and tasted it, he decided the label had to be banned. So, during March, Arkansas legislators prohibited the cauliflower rice name from all food labels in the state. Saying that the word rice has to refer to actual rice, the law included a $1000 fine for a “mislabeled” product.”
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    What’s in a name? A rice by any other name, it turns out (forgive the pun), ain’t quite the same thing, legally speaking.
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  2. ““By lowering the barrier to initiate communication, the hidden side effect is that Slack has the quiet capacity to exponentially increase communication overhead. Resulting in much more voluminous, lower quality communication.”In other words, talk is cheap and we’re spending like crazy.”
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    The problem with all these awesome tools that help us communicate better is that they help us communicate better. Folks with GIPE id’s… tried out Hangout Chat on your phone just yet?
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  3. “I kind of have a perfectionist type of mentality. Things kind of irritate me and get more and more irritating over time and it was just really confirmed to me that I couldn’t make it better. So I threw out this problem to the group: “Wouldn’t it be great if customers just gave us a chunk of change at the beginning of the year and we calculated zero for their shipping charges the rest of that year?””
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    The most popular form of the sunk cost fallacy in the world: it’s origins explained. If you’re confused about how this is about the sunk cost fallacy, ask yourself this: how often have you checked the Flipkart app after you became a Prime member?
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  4. “Influencers won’t receive a cut of the sales their posts generate. They will, however, have access to a shared analytics dashboard with robust metrics that the tagged brand can also see. Previously, influencers relied on screenshots and other imperfect methods to communicate engagement numbers with brands, so tying their influence directly to sales was nearly impossible. Having a more streamlined framework and detailed analytics will be incredibly valuable for influencers. “It gives you more leverage when you’re negotiating rates,” says Aimee Song, a fashion influencer.”
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    The evolving economics of Instagram influencers. What do you think will happen next?
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  5. “In his time around Italy, especially in Venice, Ghosh was struck by the fact that the language he heard the most after Italian, is Bengali. He explains, “The people who literally keep Venice going are Bengalis. They are the ones making the pizzas, the hotel beds. They play the accordion even. Bengalis have absolutely become the working class. It is such a striking thing that people don’t seem to notice. The tourists don’t notice. Even the Indians who go there, don’t seem to notice. Venice is like a gigantic stage set. So people only notice the setting. They don’t notice who keeps it going; it is literally the Bengalis.””
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    Just in case you have not read any of Amitav Ghosh’s works, this might get you interested in them. If you are looking for a good place to start, I’d suggest The Hungry Tide.