Saturday assorted links


So, the EU has deprived itself of Swiss researchers? I suppose they have to maintain their rules or discard them but, still, that seems be a case of taking knives to noses.

Nope. The article is quite plain -

'That success is due, in part, to Switzerland’s push to lure the best scientists from around the world with the promise of ample funding, superb facilities and a high standard of living. This is reflected in the fact that of the 22 consolidator grants Switzerland won, just eight went to Swiss nationals. Only Britain had a comparably low proportion (27 out of 62) of its own nationals among its grant winners.

The top two Swiss institutions in the 2013-14 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, ETH Zürich (14th globally) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (37th), both score extremely highly for their large proportions of foreign academics, students and collaborations. According to Ralph Eichler, president of ETH Zürich, 70 percent of his faculty are non-Swiss, as are 65 percent of Ph.D. students and 35 percent of master’s students.'

It's the Swiss who decided that immigration is a problem who are seemingly unaware of the foundation that Swiss science rests on.

The Swiss - or, at least, a comically small majority of them - have not decided that "immigration" is a problem but that some forms of it are. As far as I can tell, they have no plans to close the borders and erect a giant wall.

Well, it depends - if you know what the word Entfremdung means, you will understand why some Swiss have a problem being overrun with people who actually speak the same language (though a different dialect). The same can be seen in the dynamic between Canada and the U.S. - the Canadians aren't really fans of having their country taken over by American culture.

What is notable is that such places as Basel, with a large amount of non-Swiss residents and workers, were opposed to the proposal, while the places with the least contact were supporters.

No one expects income to cover expenses at an opera company

Why not? As someone who admittedly knows little about the opera industry, I would have expected that.

Revenue comes in bursts, when a rich patron dies and bequeaths their estate to the opera. So most of the time, you run at a loss.

Opera companies have always relied on patrons. Who fork out money for very foolish reasons. It means that opera management has never had to take management seriously.

The problem here is an easy one to spot, apart from the long term decline of Western civilization - the Unions. Because Opera companies were and are run by luvvies, with no particularly expectation of making money and a deep and abiding belief in the stupidity of the government funding bodies, they have always signed the dumbest contracts with unions you can imagine.

Unions are a problem albeit a small one.
Opera is just crazy expensive to make. But it is a prestige thing. No city in the western world can be taken seriously without an Opera.
The French state founds most of the budget of the Paris opera.

That entire article was about how Unions are not a small problem but THE problem. Do you have any reason to think they are wrong?

I do not agree Opera is crazy expensive to make. It is crazy expensive to make with Union labor.

And, as I said, they know they have fools for patrons who, as you say, fund the Opera out of prestige reasons. I feel for the poor Germans who are still, in a mild way, trying to maintain almost every Royal Opera House even though those Royal Houses are long gone.

#2 - some rather obviously stupid items in this article. Mintel stats cant be checked without a subscription but most of the new microwaves are installed with new housing, thus the peaking some time before the new housing boom collapsed (indicative of how developers purchase components). As the commenter (in article) mentions, toaster ovens last 3 years, microwaves forever.

The author just started masturbating at the 4th paragraph, getting himself off around American Hustle. Would have been sooner but he had to deal with that unfortunate popcorn graph.

Exactly. A household item whose sales mirrored the housing boom, who would've guessed?

Yeah, stupid. Then I scrolled down and found an equally stupid article about the SAT. It seems perhaps Quartz is a rather stupid site.

It is run by the Atlantic.

Actually it is probably the Atlantic's best site, which isn't saying much, take a look at

A google N-gram search for "microwave oven" & varients on English language books reveals a peak usage around the year 1990 & then a steady fall with 2008 popularity of the word being back to about 1980 levels.

Not sure if that means anything.


(Our host has had a stiffie for Quartz for a while.)

I have to agree that the article on microwaves is lame, at best.

The authors starts with seemingly bold statistics about how microwave oven sales have fallen off the cliff, and that it much be because we're all flame-roasting our organic kale, instead.

Until, far far down, two important qualifications emerge:

1. Microwave ovens last longer, now. Indeed...I can remember when they tended to burn out after a few years, well into the 1980s. Only well into the 1990s did they really get reliable...meaning that 7-8 years later, the replacement market is going to dry up.

2. The shocking statistics of decline are only for _tabletop_ microwaves. Sales of built-in microwaves are up over 100% since 2000. Du-oh! And it's true: most houses and apartments today come with a built in microwave...because really, why should one use a large chunk of counter space or a separate piece of furniture for a kitchen essential?

So, microwave sales are declining...except that's because they are lasting longer and more are being built in. And well over 90% of households have them. So much for the author's just-so story about us wanting to eat healthier food...

Not sure which is more horrifying -- that this infantile article was written and published, or that an econ professor would link to it with an approvingly smug "thank goodness."

Microwaves are a godsend to any busy person. And they do NOT have to be used to cook unhealthy food. I can't quite fathom what kind of a tunnel-visioned bigot you would have to be to think they can only cook junk.

Guessing he's more concerned with taste/texture than healthfulness. I think food out of microwaves largely sucks.

I steam broccoli and cook eggs in the microwave.

It's too bad the science oven takes all of the nutrition out of my broccoli.

Exactly, it is a time/taste trade-off for most foods. I do the vast majority of my cooking on a gas range, but I'll "heat" in a microwave.

A good toaster oven (convection) is also very good. Real taste in less time than it takes to preheat the oven. Makes roasted potatoes a quick item. (When I grew up I perceived a toaster oven as for people without real ovens. People with real ovens had "toasters." I've moved beyond this bias.)

You should learn how to cook.

The heating characteristics of microwave ovens are both unique and astoundingly useful in a well-rounded cook's kitchen. A microwave is no replacement for a cooktop, oven, grill, or toaster - but neither are any of those a replacement for a microwave.

(That was addressed to Steve-O. I agree wholeheartedly with john personna.)

I agree that cooking yams or sweet potatoes at 10 minutes for a standard full power uWave is fast and tastes about as good almost as a baked tator at a fraction of the time.

As others have pointed out, this article is kind of crappy. Tracking sales says nothing about use. According to NPD (which tracks food consumption), microwave usage went up (peaked!) during the recession and only recently (last couple years) started declining to pre-recession levels. Given that usage remains high, I wouldn't say that the appliance is dead. Sales are down for reasons cited by others (ex. new housing).

#2 to boost sales, the microwave manufactures need to do what the PC manufactures have long mastered: use sh.itty components & shoddy assembly to reduce reliability. fatter profits and more sales. win-win

What's the fraction of PC's that get dumped because they actually conked off versus just got supplanted by a newer, cooler, faster model?

The optical drives always go first - they aren't built to last.

Exactly. I've never had a computer break or wear out. Apparently the manufacturers are spending TOO MUCH on lasting components if my experience is representative. I'd rather they use cheaper parts and pass the savings on to me.

My experience has been the opposite. I only buy new computers when my old one breaks down, which happens every 2-3 years, even for the expensive models. I feel like a $1k+ piece of equipment should last longer than that.

As an aside, Max Factor is right about optical drives: every computer I've had in the past 9 years has had its optical drive go out within a year of owning it...and that includes 2 MacBook Pros, which are supposed to be solid.

I'm still using my 2006 vintage Dell Inspiron laptop at home. Cost me $350 back then. Don't know if I got lucky. Though true that the optical drive did conk off (but somehow I find very little use for it these days) and it has a dead row of pixels. I did have to replace the battery twice but OEM replacements were ~$100 each.

It isn't the fastest, coolest laptop but I'm lazy about transferring all my programs & settings and other little things to my new laptop.

Heh, it would be funny if the people complaining about failures were Mac-is-best groupies, and the Dell folks were saying huh?

#1. Is it too much to ask that a short article which cites a very short MR post contain more information than the MR post?

I'd personally like to see people look at the Crimea situation a bit more from Putin's point-of-view. From his view, the Maidan protests just lost him the second biggest piece of the old Soviet empire besides Russia itself. His move in Crimea is a fairly desperate attempt to hold on to what little he can after the disaster of the Yanukovych ousting. And given how the opposition is fairly gun-ho about joining the EU I don't think it's enitirely paranoid on Putin's part to think that this could threaten his access to the Baltic.

The Economist is acting as if Putin's move in Crimea is some kind of win for him. A random exercise of power to prove he can do it. Really, it seems more like damage control to me.

Agreed 101%.

It's Putin's attempt to make it look like he knows what he's doing.

Given that Saint Petersberg, not to mention the little piece of Prussia that the Soviets stole from Germany, front directly on to the Baltic, I find it hard to believe that anyone is going to deprive Russia of access to that sea any time soon.

Although I would like to see it very much.

Germany's failed attempt to dominate the world was dealt with by mass rape from the Soviet Army and a division of the country for 50 years. We have played nice with the nastier former Soviet Union because, well I am not sure. I suppose the fact that most of the West's leaders spent their youths actively working for a Soviet victory might have something to do with it.

We should be thinking of sowing their land with salt. Making sure Russia can never threaten the West again. But they seem to be doing a good job of it themselves. If the Russians wish to turn Ukraine from a second Belorussia into a second Poland, that can only work to the West's long term benefit. This is one case where Putin's clever diplomacy has not worked for him.

Did a Russian steal your girlfriend? Seriously, your comment reads like a sad loveless coldhearted postmodern version of a pre-Elizabethan wrong-headed boring morality play footnote. Remember, it is always wrong when the innocent suffer for the crimes and sins of the powerful and guilty. This is true no matter how guilty the powerful are, and no matter how evident their crimes are. One more time - the innocent should not suffer for the sins of the guilty, and the crimes of the powerful should not., no matter what emotions of contempt they inspire, render powerless people unable to be fair to other powerless people. The Red Army rapists have all been punished, each and every one of them, many times over for their rapes, and anyone who wants to salt the land of innocent powerless people needs to repent, right now. In five words, none of them original to me, God refuses to be mocked.

Where are the innocent here who are being punished? Those Red Army rapists were not punished. They have been glorified. Every time a Western politician goes to Russia, they lay a wreathe to commemorate them. Which is about on par with Reagan going to Bitberg.

What the Russian people need is to be protected from themselves. It did not help the Germans that we allowed them to try again after WW1. It did help the Germans that we prevented them trying again after WW2. The innocents were protected from themselves. If ever a people need protection from themselves, it is the Russians. As we can't do that, we should at least try to make sure they can't rape their way across Europe again.

We should encourage the loss of as much sea access as possible. We should be doing everything we can to encourage fracking. But as I said, the Russians are doing worse to themselves than we ever could - and this action in Crimea is just another example. They are drinking themselves to death. A country that was half Russian and oriented towards Moscow has become much less Russian and now firmly oriented to the West. We don't need to salt their land when they are so willing to do it themselves.

Of course the Russians got land. Did you forget that the Germans lost both wars?

Not much of the land came from Germany.

"2. The slow death of the microwave (thank goodness)."

I'm not sure what's behind the anti-microwave snobbiness. A low point was reached in this 2008 NY Times article where Mark Bittman discovered that he can actually use his microwave oven to cook vegetables.
That's akin to discovering that your freezer can be used to make ice cubes.

And most every recipe that I read that call for melting chocolate will still instruct the cook to use a double boiler, and since most of us don't have a double boiler, will unhelpfully describe a Rube Goldberg construction of perching a metal bowl atop a sauce pan with simmering water -- but not too hot, and never touching the bottom of the bowl.

Much faster and easier is to put the chocolate into a microwave for 30 seconds, check how warm it's getting, and put it back in for 15-30 seconds more. Contrary to the paranoid warnings in the cookbooks, I've never come close to scorching the chocolate while using a microwave oven.

Add tasks such as poaching fish, warming leftovers, making an ultra-quick sauce/topping for pasta, etc. etc. and microwaves remain a supremely useful and convenient appliance.

The appliance that I was a slow adopter of was the toaster oven. But I pretty much use it only for baking a small amount of par-baked bread or making a small batch of cookies. And sometimes toast (but as Consumer Reports always points out, most toaster ovens do a bad job of toasting bread). It's faster and more convenient that heating up a full sized oven. So I'l glad I have one, but I don't use it very often.

I also use a microwave to heat one cup of water, or the milk for my coffee, which is (I hope) more efficient than using the stove, and at least competitive (and faster) than using a dedicated kettle, and also doesn't generate any dishes whose washing will use more resources (energy, water).

the fact that my microwave is 30 some years old and i have never bought a tv dinner should say something about the bs of this article.
+1 to quincy and mkt.

Everything I make at home is microwaved. Does that make me a hipster for keeping retro alive?

I'm not sure if the anti-microwave snobbery is so much a retro/hipster thing as an example of ignorant prejudice, much like many consumers' reflexive hostility to GMO foods. In both cases people are trying to reject a technology, albeit for different reasons -- the anti-GMO people at least have examples of introduced species gone haywire and threatening entire ecosystems to substantiate their fears; the anti-microwave people only have some strange Luddite nostalgia to justify their attitudes.

I have a toaster oven that uses infrared lamps as its heating elements. It does an excellent job of toasting, and an acceptable job as a miniature oven. Highly recommended. The Panasonic FlashXPress, although there may be similar products on the market now.

It's a lot pricier than my cheap-o toaster oven, but from the descriptions I can certainly believe that it performs a lot better -- and faster too. I'll probably get one like that FlashXPress when/if my current oven breaks down (but toaster ovens tend to have a long lifetime in my experience; not a whole lot of moving parts).

It seems that my brand new microwave isn't much different from the one I grew up with 30 years ago while my refrigerator/stove/toaster oven are much improved: of course sales of durables with low rates of innovation will eventually drop.

Clearly Apple needs to bring out a iMicrowave or perhaps someone could build a ChromeBox. It would be like any other microwave but it would come to cool colors and tell the NSA what you had for dinner.

I had to buy some water faucets the other day. Apart from being unbelievably expensive (The Chinese don't make water faucets?) what struck me is how little the design has changed. Odd that.

What do you want it to do? Play music while it squirts the water out?

Throw in some LED lights and you've got yourself a winner.

What amazes me about plumbing fixtures is the staggering number of valve stems any hardware store needs to stock to have a reasonable selection. No standardization at all. It's like the very early years of lightbulbs, when there were dozens of bases.

Who needs a microwave when you have take-away, with home delivery? :-)

My fellow man's taste is not getting any better.

C'mon, Tyler .. this is not a worthy post. To say that stand-alone microwave sales are declining because built-in microwave sales are increasing is a non-story ... the fact is that nobody's giving up on microwave popcorn and Trader Joe's meals even though we're all moving in to houses (and townhouses, and condos) with microwave ovens doesn't mean that microwave use is declining. You need to give us better fodder than that!

microwave popcorn is very bad, in several senses.

#2: Unlike you Tyler to snobbishly write off a very convenient little appliance for both the serious and casual, the accomplished and merely work-a-day cook. As someone who fits all four of these categories, I can think of twenty reasons to have a microwave in my kitchen: from quickly creating a roux for baking my daily bread to the melted butter for garlic bread, the lime, mustard, and honey butter sauce for my brussel sprouts, to the perfectly done asparagus, to the warmed oysters lightly steamed open and bathed in buerre blanc, yes even to quickly poaching a slab of salmon or sole, to warming up the tepid cup of coffee, and well -- Tyler -- use your imagination. But don't demean yourself by implicitly demeaning those either more busy or more clever than you in the kitchen and who have their reasons. I am not so concerned about your ignorance in this respect (we all have our blind spots) as I am about the affectation of bitchy superiority implicit in your remark . Bitman many need it, but you don't.

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