Food and Drink

Here’s the second MRUniversity video from India. It’s a little different than what we have done before and a bit of an experiment; an interview with Shannon D’Souza one of the proprietors of my favorite coffee shop in Mumbai, Koinoina Coffee. We talk about what it’s like doing business in India.

Enjoy! And if you are in Mumbai do stop by Koinoina Coffee Roasters in Chuim village and tell them Alex sent you.

…teenagers are increasingly delaying activities that had long been seen as rites of passage into adulthood. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Child Development, found that the percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver’s license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade.

The declines appeared across race, geographic, and socioeconomic lines, and in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

…Between 1976 and 1979, 86 percent of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63 percent had, the study found. During the same period, the portion who had ever earned money from working plunged from 76 to 55 percent. And the portion who had tried alcohol plummeted from 93 percent between 1976 and 1979 to 67 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.

Here is the Tarah Barampour WaPo story.  Is it evolutionary psychology pushing us more into a more stable mode of behavior for safe circumstances, or perhaps teens being more aware of the need to build their resumes?  Or something else altogether different?

These developments are mostly positive, both as symptoms and as active causal agents, and yet…

Somewhere along the line there is a positive social payoff from risk-taking, including sometimes from teenagers.  How would rock and roll evolved in such a world?   Who is to help undo unjust social structures?  The graybeards?

We find that staggering SNAP benefits throughout the month leads to a 32 percent decrease in grocery store theft and reduces monthly cyclicity in grocery store crimes.

That is by Jillian B. Carr and Analisa Packham (pdf), via Alexander Berger.

I say no, but some disagree:

There hasn’t been an innovation in the world of chocolate since the white variant was introduced in 1930, which is fine because — in the immortal words of Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast” — if ain’t baroque, don’t fix it.

But still, we’d never turn away a new kind of creamy, chocolate-y thing to munch on while we binge-watch Netflix.

And thanks to some Swiss chocolate scientists over at Barry Callebaut — the world’s leading manufacturer of the good stuff, producing 1.8 million tons of cocoa every year and with a revenue of almost $10 billion — that’s exactly what we’re getting. A brand new chocolate flavor called Ruby, developed from the Ruby Cocoa bean, colored a pleasingly millennial pink hue and that tastes like sweet, sweet berries despite having no added color or flavoring.

“Ruby chocolate is the fourth type of chocolate [after milk, white and dark] and is an intense sensorial delight,” a spokesperson for Barry Callebaut said after launching the chocolate to a panel of experts in China.

Here is the (noisy) link, via the excellent Samir Varma.

1. Xue Yanfeng has now filed 40 lawsuits against supermarkets and retailers for violating food safety laws.

2. Under Chinese law, it is no longer the case that a victimized customer has to prove personal injury or loss to receive compensation.

3. Xue has found raisins with no nutritional labels, potato chips with proscribed additives, and biscuits with multiple production dates.

4. In the past 18 months, he has been awarded somewhat over $10,000 in compensation, plus there are 18 other settled cases where compensation was not disclosed.

5. Some provincial reports indicate that 80 to 90 percent of food safety complaints are from “specialist” plaintiffs.

China, of course, has had notoriously lax food safety practices in the past.  So might the actions of these individuals be efficiency-enhancing?  But more than 2/3 of the cases are based on labeling mistakes.

The above is from Bloomberg News.

Burger King launches WhopperCoin crypto-cash in Russia

That is from the BBC, sprightly throughout, via Stuart Harty.

I will be doing a Conversation with Tyler with her.  On the off chance you don’t already know, here is a brief Wikipedia summary of her work:

Mary Roach is an American author, specializing in popular science and humor.[1] As of 2016, she has published seven books,: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003), Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) (published in some markets as Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008), Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (2010), My Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013), and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War (2016).

But there is much more to her than that.  Here is the full Wikipedia page.  Here is her own home page.

So what should I ask?  I thank you in advance for your inspiration.

This very nice article covers “…a line of people wrapped around the block outside a newly opened restaurant”:

…Surkus, an emerging app that allowed the restaurant to quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay the people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. They’ve even been hand-picked by a casting agent of sorts, an algorithmic one that selects each person according to age, location, style and Facebook “likes.”

They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their “reputation score,” an identifier that influences whether they’ll be “cast” again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won’t be paid — their movements are being tracked with geolocation.

Here is the WaPo Peter Holley piece, interesting throughout.  Note that women are often paid more than men, and comedians are starting to use it to fill seats in the nightclub.

Skopje notes

by on August 11, 2017 at 12:11 am in Food and Drink, History, The Arts, Travels | Permalink

Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, is a dream world for lovers of concrete communist architecture.

Link here, photos recommended.  It seems it is also the roast pepper capital of the world, and this:

The city center holds concrete masterpieces sitting alongside every possible era of architecture from the last two millennium. An ancient Castle fortress looks down from one side, and the world’s biggest cross sits atop an inner city mountain on the other. On one side of the Vardar river that cuts through the city center, is a ancient neighbourhood that could be straight out of Istanbul. On the other, the city square with an enormous “Man On a Horse” statue (just don’t say it’s Alexander the Great, believe me) is a pleasurable and walk-able area normally bustling with activity. Connecting the two areas, is the Stone Bridge, built about 700 years ago – on top of much older Roman foundations. The layers and the contrast is unique for any city of this size.

Imagine a city that is part Habsburg in style, part Ottoman, part communist brutalism, and part Las Vegas/Venetian kitsch except it isn’t kitschy, and with a dash of 300 thrown in for good measure, distributed across dozens or is it hundreds of large statues?

The earthquake of 1963 is mentioned fairly often; it destroyed about 80 percent of the city.

Mother Teresa was born in Skopje, and there is a museum in her honor.  A good day trip from Skopje is the St. Jovan Bigorski monastery, some of the finest woodcarving I have seen.  It is striking to view the church in conjunction with the Saudi-financed mosque across the valley, thereby inducing one to ponder the use of stones to capture space in the game of Go.

I am told there are Macedonian enclaves in Totowa, Clifton, and Garfield, New Jersey.

The food is phenomenal, in addition to the roast peppers there are breads, baked pies, meats stewed with vegetables, white beans, stuffed peppers, trout, and Balkan cheeses, all with that farm to table touch.  Further to the south I recommend the garlic spread.

There is sexual dimorphism in Skopje, and I am told that Donald Trump is more popular in this country than in any other.

The major Macedonian exports are chemical goods, machinery, clothing, iron, and steel.  The measured unemployment rate is about 23 percent, and there is a comparative advantage in producing “fake news.”  There are varying estimates for per capita income, but about 13k (PPP) seems in the ballpark.

Politics was discussed and maps were shown.  To put a twist on the famous quotation about religion in India, when it comes to history, every Macedonian is a millionaire.

English proficiency is high, as Macedonian has only slightly more than 2 million inhabitants and none of the immediate neighbors has a language that is very useful elsewhere.  The people are very friendly and helpful, and it is quite safe here for a tourist.

On the television I watched the first quarter of “NBA Team Africa vs. NBA Rest of the World,” Serge Ibaka vs. Dirk Nowitzki, etc., a real game with refs and a crowd, does the NBA even tell the American market about contests such as this?

If food, architecture, and history interest you, visit the fresh and vibrant Skopje.

In countries with a tradition of plough use, women are less likely to participate in the labor market, own firms, and participate in national politics.

And:

…societies that historically used the plough are characterized by higher parental authority granted to the father, by inheritance rules that favor male heirs, and by less freedom for women to move outside the house. She also finds that, in these societies, women are more likely to wear a veil in public and polygamy is less accepted or illegal.

Furthermore:

Past societal norms, too, are related to domestic violence today: women in societies formerly characterized by bride-price have a lower probability and lower intensity of violence today.

That is from a new NBER working paper by Paola Giuliano.  Among other things, this means that how you treat people today really matters for the longer run.

Cellophane gets an entire chapter in Hisano’s book. As she explains in the paper, cellophane packaging let food vendors manipulate the appearance of foods by controlling the amount of moisture and oxygen that touched a product, thus preventing discoloration. “Cellophane played a big part in how the color of food started to be controlled and standardized,” she says.

…Cellophane, the world’s first transparent packaging film, was invented in 1908 by the Swiss engineer Jacques Brandenberger. He dubbed it “cellophane” as a combination of the words “cellulose” (of which it was made) and “diaphane” (an archaic form of the word “diaphanous,” which is a fancy word for “transparent”). He assigned his patents to La Cellophane Societe Anonyme, a French company formed for the sole purpose of marketing the invention. In 1923, the company licensed to DuPont the exclusive rights to make and sell cellophane in the United States.

…Initial versions of cellophane were waterproof, but not moisture-proof. So, while it was effective for wrapping products like candy and cigarettes, it wasn’t effective for packaging fresh food. In 1927, DuPont developed moisture-proof cellophane, food manufacturers started using it to package items like cakes and cheeses, and cellophane sales tripled between 1928 and 1930.

Here is the full story, interesting throughout, via the estimable Chug.

Since 2008, Ford has been continually expanding its Asia Pacific odor laboratory in Nanjing, China. Today, the team consists of 18 ‘super smellers’, who conduct about 300 odor tests each year on materials and components that go into its Asia Pacific vehicles.

…Every year Ford runs an application process to select its team of super smellers in China. Would-be testers can come from any department within the company and are asked to judge material samples in 16 jars. They are judged on their smelling ability and consistency, but must also meet other requirements to qualify for a spot on the prestigious panel.

“You can’t smoke or have allergies and sinus issues,” says Mike Feng, a Ford smell tester for four years. “Wearing perfume, leather jackets or nail polish is also not allowed, and you shouldn’t use strongly scented shampoo to ensure your senses aren’t compromised.”

Ford’s super smellers must requalify annually to maintain their position on the panel and must be available to attend regular odor tests throughout the year. A small group of six panelists form the smell jury for each test and an average of their scores is given to each material sample.

“I’ve always been able to smell things before other people,” adds Feng. “My colleagues say that I can smell what the canteen is serving for lunch before anyone else.”

Here is the full story, via John Chilton.

1. Especially outside the immediate center of town, it feels as if something wacky is always happening.  Someone is screaming, backslapping, bumping fists, or screaming while backslapping and bumping fists.  Interactions appear to be random, highly intense, and short in duration.  The following interaction is more intense yet.  It reminds me of that old Humphrey Bogart movie “Beat the Devil.”

2. Every cabbie seems to know a random person standing on a street corner, who somehow mysteriously signals to that cab to be picked up, even if said cab already is delivering a Western passenger to some other location.  Shouting ensues, the random person is moved along in the cab only a short distance, always along the Westerner’s route, and then the person is let off again.  With a shout.  Rinse and repeat.

3. It is a better city for street food and stall food than is Chengdu.  The tastes are stronger and spicier, though I believe the peaks of Chengdu are higher and more subtle.

4. Don’t just stick to “the peninsula,” also travel to the alternate sides of the city’s two rivers, the Jialing and the Yangtze.

5. Haagen-Dazs is much more popular in China than in the United States, at least at the retail level.

6. “Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party chief of the Chinese city of Chongqing, is under investigation by authorities, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing people it didn’t identify.”  He had been considered a possible successor to Uncle Xi.

7. On my flight from Kunming to Chongqing, I witnessed my first “facial surveillance” arrest.  Just as they were about to let us off the plane, two policemen appeared at the entrance, with a copy of a facial surveillance photograph.  (Before you board any plane in China, they photograph your face plenty, and match it to various databases.)  They walked down the aisle, turning left and right, looking for the passenger who matched the photo.  They found him and escorted him off the plane, with the crowd watching nervously.  He showed neither surprise nor did he protest his innocence.

8. An excellent room in a five-star luxury Chongqing hotel, with view and upgrade to a larger suite, costs $70 a night.

9. Nearby is “the world’s longest cantilevered glass skywalk.

The city’s “mind-blowing overpass has five layers, 20 ramps and eight directions,” good photos at that link.

Here is Wikipedia on Chongqing, by one measure it is China’s most populous metropolitan area.  “Its population is already bigger than that of Peru or Iraq, with half a million more arriving every year in search of a better life,” and that was written eleven years ago.

This is evidence from Seattle, from a new paper by Subir K. Chakrabarti, Srikant Devaraj, and Pankaj C. Patel.  Here is the abstract:

We assess the effects of rise in minimum wages on hygiene violation scores in food service establishments. Using a difference-in-difference analysis on hygiene rating of food establishments in Seattle [where minimum wage increased annually between 2010 and 2013] as the treated group and from New York City [minimum wage was constant] as the control group, we find an increase in real minimum wage by $0.10 increased total hygiene violation scores by 11.45 percent. Consistent with our theoretical model, an increase in minimum wage in Seattle has no influence in more severe (red) violations, and a significant increase in less severe (blue) violations. Our findings are consistent while using an alternate control group – Bellevue City, King County, located near Seattle.

Of course this makes perfect sense.  Even when minimum wages do not much decrease employment, they are not a free lunch, so to speak.  “There ain’t no such thing as a healthy free lunch” [TANSTAAHFL, the pronunciation differs only slightly] could be the new catchphrase.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

That is the title of my latest Bloomberg column; I love Chinese megacities, don’t you?  Here is the first and most general point:

Chinese megacities are associated with the greatest migration in human history, namely the movement of several hundred million people from the countryside into urban areas. This has created over 100 cities with a population of more than one million. And while Westerners tend to see only the harmful effects of that transformation, it’s gone fairly smoothly. Wages and living standards have risen to create the biggest rapid boost in prosperity the world has seen, ever. Surely it’s worth taking a closer look at that.

Here is the most important point:

If you spend a few days in these places, they will stand out as quite distinct. To suggest otherwise is actually to repeat a common Western imperialist meme about the Chinese, namely that they “are all the same” in some underlying manner. Observing and understanding diversity is a skill, and the Chinese megacities are one of the best places for cultivating this capacity.

By the way, the cameo appearance in the opening bit is Dan Wang.