More gruel
Link Roundup, 5/1/2017

Link Roundup, 5/1/2017

From CityLab: Finding an upside in the collapse of the “brick-and-mortar” retail business.

From Cook’s Science: A fun, interesting dive into the business and science of salt.

From The Atlantic: Why you keep hearing the term “late capitalism”.

From Ars Technica: Research on monarch butterflies explains some holes in the way we evaluate scientific data.

From Buzzfeed: Digging into the threats Trump has leveraged against business and legal opponents.



  1. EJ

    The French election results have been announced: the liberals under Macron won, the Fascists under Le Pen lost, and the conservatives and communists split their votes between the two. A friend of mine summed it up by saying that Le Pen got cucked. It’s a very 2017 way of putting it, but I wouldn’t disagree.

    Two things immediately spring to mind regarding the difference between this and the disastrous 2016 Anglosphere elections:

    Firstly, turnout was low by French standards but high by the standards of any other nation: around 75% of people cast a vote.

    Secondly, while there was fake news and Russian hacking as in earlier elections, this didn’t help; indeed, French newspapers have suggested that such tactics may have cost Le Pen voters.

    Vive la Republique. Hopefully this is a good sign for the June and September elections this year in the UK and Germany respectively.

  2. So, as an a avocational cook, I read the piece about the priest of salt. I know why I use Kosher salt and when, and where table salt is appropriate. We have these pretty salt containers on our counters holding various ‘artisnal’ salts we’ve received as gifts, and I’ve never used. I’ve never been able to taste the difference. I guess tonight I’ll try this one from Murry River in OZ on the steak. It’s pink…

    1. “as an a avocational cook… I know why I use Kosher salt and when, and where table salt is appropriate.”

      As an avocadon cook, I know why I make tacos and when, and where guacamole is appropriate.

      By the way, have you heard of the Spanish lawyer that always ate guacamole? He was known around town as the Abogado de Avocado.

  3. As to the collapse of retail, and abandoned malls.

    So, how about we build apartments over the parking lots at the mall? The enclosed mall would the town center for the residents. Small businesses would thrive in the airconditioned space, since the customer base would find them convenient. Elderly residents would find it very attractive and non residents might find enough reason to visit just to wine and dine. It seems that you could attract every age group with some thought.

    And some people wouldn’t have to migrate from hot Houston to cooler Canada every year.

    1. EJ

      People do that here in Europe. I’m not a town planner so I can’t tell you whether it’s considered a success or not. What I can tell you is that the children and teenagers who live in those apartments start hanging around the mall, which frightens away a lot of the elderly customers. Mall security can’t chase them away, because they live there.

      I’m an able-bodied man who’s over six foot and under forty, so I’m not afraid of loitering teens. Some people are.

      1. We’ve have the problem of mall rats here. Seems like a problem any community would have.

        The solutions could be different in a mall. I believe that in the US, as property owned by a corporation, certain rights are considered differently. That is the mall promenade would not be considered a public place like a public street.

        Certainly should be a consideration of space planning. That is, to allow the sorting of tribal hierarchy among young people. And allow them a space to be themselves as long as they stay off my lawn.

  4. CHRIS, I believe you’re working on a book about science and politics, and I remember you once mentioned you might get into travel writing.

    I was wondering if you’ve ever considered writing a personal memoir, something like Hillbilly Elegy. That word makes me cringe, and I don’t mean to ascribe that term to you, but a memoir about growing up as a not-too-rich White in Beaumont amid racial tension and other circumstances unique to East Texas, and then broadening your horizons and pursuing law and sales engineering; with personal anecdotes about your parents and grandparents; and of course, your lifelong interest in politics and your changing (and unchanging) feelings about the 2 main political parties, etc.

    You have an excellent way of writing about your personal life, so maybe by writing a memoir you’d improve your chances of getting your message about politics and science across — a warm memoir versus another cold, objective book about politics.

    1. You’ve put together a fine outline there. Might give it a shot.

      By the way, referring back to an old comment, you’re right about my grandfather. He was an extremely sharp guy. He related to the world by taking things apart and putting them back together. He had a whole barn full of the various extra pieces from those exercises. Things never went back together in quite their original state. When we reached the age of the black box, he found himself very uncomfortable.

      Oh, and by the way – you just might be a hipster. That hobby, reimagining old tools and technologies in new contexts is a fascination in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco. Your work would be popular. They take it seriously as an art form.

      Have you ever heard the term ‘steampunk’?

      1. No, I’d never heard of the term “steampunk” until now. I just skimmed the Wikipedia entry. Interesting.

        I sometimes imagine that after a catastrophic event years from now, someone with no recollection of life in the 20th century, living among the ashes, would distractedly and accidentally spin a plate-shaped object and hold a sharp, pointed object over it and be surprised to find it make a sound, and thus “discover” the concept of phonograph records.

      2. I used to do that as a kid — take one of my mom’s sewing needles and touch it to a record spinning on the turntable — and I was amazed to still be able to hear the music, albeit minus the bass.

        Like your grandfather, I was also good at destroying objects as I experimented.

      3. Chris, I’ve seen suggestions that you should inject more of yourself into your new book. Well, I think you should go all the way and make it a personal memoir, a memoir of your life presented against the backdrop of a changing political, sociological, and technological landscape.

      4. Ironically, another way in which we’ve come full circle (sort of) is with rotary phones.

        I usually pay my bills by phone through the automated system (I feel like Harpo Marx every time I press a key to confirm and the key makes a sound, like Harpo honking his horn to say yes).

        I couldn’t pay my bills with my rotary phones because I needed a touch tone phone, but with hands-free mobile phones, we now have the option to press or SAY 1, so now it’s possible to pay bills using a rotary phone by SAYING One into the phone. No need for push buttons anymore.

  5. Tutt – Does the TV still work? If so, well, as they said, “The quality goes in before the name goes on!”

    The bad news of course is that it can no longer receive terrestrial broadcast signals, and it probably has no video input, so you have to use a channel 3/4 modulator input which is pretty horrible. Also, the remote you have is not the really cool original rod banging design the those of us who were in that field thought was so innovative. I’d place it on the coffee table as a relic of things past, and get a new flippin’ TV, girl! Also, that TV uses enough power to heat a small house. 😉

      1. Of course, the DVD-VHS player has to be of a certain age because it has to have a coax connection to be able to hook up to the transformer which attaches to the TV, via the hooks, to where the antenna would attach.

        And yes, I have tried using the RF modulator plus converter box to watch broadcast and yes, it was inconvenient, but I enjoy making things work. It’s a hobby for me.

      2. Mime, I enjoy proving people wrong when they tell me something is obsolete, and I like to make things last as long as possible. I detest electronic waste, so in that way I’m an accidental environmentalist.

        As for how I learned how to make all these connections, it started with a conversation I had about 20 years ago with an elderly gentleman who owned a TV repair shop, and I was telling him it was a shame I couldn’t watch VHS movies on my old console TV, because that TV had such a beautiful, rich sound, and he said, yes, you can, and he gave me an extra transformer he had lying around his shop and showed me how simple it was to connect it.

        As for how to use the RF modulator, I learned that from surfing the web.

      3. Tutt, what an interesting and useful hobby! If you ever make it to Farmington, New Mexico you’ll have to go to the B-Square Ranch with me. They have a huge warehouse packed with the weirdest assortment of old electronic gear you will ever find.

        As I was reading your posts, I began to wonder if our brains innately prioritize whether sight or sound is more important to us. I know that you love listening to radio programs and mention your old TV’s beautiful sound.

        Sound is important to my husband as well. He doesn’t like to watch a movie without surround sound and a big sub-woofer shaking the house. To him, the sound quality is more important than the picture.

        I’m the opposite. As long as voices can be clearly heard, I’m fine. The picture quality is what is important to me. I like a big screen with high resolution images. Last night I watched a DVR recording of Wolf Hall on PBS. I loved seeing the detail of clothing and furnishings at the time of Henry VIII.

        I’ve gotten used to seeing detailed facial expressions and motion. I couldn’t go back to an older TV. The same goes for my old camera. I’ve become so used to large image files and Photoshop to the point I can’t conceive of ever dropping off rolls of film at a camera shop and waiting for them to develop like I used to do.

        What do you think? Do our brains have an inherent preference when it comes to prioritizing sound or sight?

      4. OV, although I truly appreciate and enjoy HD screens and Retina displays, sound quality is more important to me.

        I’ve read that people to whom sound is more important are actually visual people, visual in the sense that they have the capacity the visualize things in their mind’s eye without the aid of actual visual scenes.

        I never did like MTV, because when I hear music, my mind conjures up all sorts of images to go along with the music, adn MTV, with its silly little scenarios, was a major letdown.

        I do prefer radio programs, podcasts, and audiobooks to movies and TV. I was raised listening to radio, including 15-minute Mexican radio soap operas, which my mom would often have on, and some of my favorite memories were of when my mom would turn on the radio at 8pm, set the dial at about AM700, and call me over and say, “Listen, you can hear Mexico . . . ” I thought it was so cool to hear these faraway voices and music coming from Mexico City all the way to Houston through the static. I STILL thinks it’s cool.

  6. This is for FIFTY and Unarmed:

    I have a Zenith TV from the late 70s (ok, I admit I am a collector of old tech), and it has a Space Command remote which does use a battery — a 9-volt. It works by turning the channel dial, left and right (shown as “low” and “high”).

    Vintage tech, with its woods and richness, gives me a warm, cozy feeling, whereas modern tech, with its metals and plastics and overall sterility, makes me rather sick to the stomach, literally.

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