Tuesday Triage

Tuesday Triage #192

Published 3 months ago • 23 min read

by Vadim Drobinin

Your weekly crème de la crème of the Internet is here!

19.03.2024 (read in browser)

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  • #189 on tasting chocolate, where I taste my way through dozens and dozens of chocolate bars, delve into nuances of Australian cuisine, and learn about woodshedding.
  • #190 on meat curing chamber, where I share my journey to building a curing chamber and hanging first 20+ lbs of salami to cure, try to learn Korean in 15 minutes, and read textbooks on meat production.
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On little cheese

I spent a noticeable part of the weekend taking care of the ever growing knives collection:

There are still a few blades I am slightly afraid to touch with the stone, but overall it just takes practice and time.

Meanwhile, Sasha went through numerous trials perfecting a recipe for a peculiar sweet snack from our childhood, сырок (syrok):

While its name translates as "little cheese", its main ingredient is somewhere between cottage cheese and ricotta, with a slightly sour taste and a texture of a well-strained yogurt. Being dairy-based, it's very rich in protein and calcium, but it also might have a sweet filling: chocolate, cookie dough, dulce de leche and so on.

I don't think Sasha is opening mass production yet (she should though), but I might be able to persuade her to do a small flash sale for subscribers of the newsletter.

That being said, I think it needs a new name work in the UK: for locals it will be associated with the word "syrup" at best. Something to hint that it's easy to eat on the go and yet luxury and dairy-based.

A cream bar?

Things I enjoyed reading

1. Take Ownership of Your Future Self by Benjamin Hardy

I recently shared an essay with a few similar ideas, but this one even better and explores how important it is to plan for the future despite living in the moment:

It’s much easier to default to the present than to imagine a different future. But if you don’t take the time to imagine who you want to be, then you’ll reactively become whatever life drives you towards. Research has shown that shaping your future self requires “deliberate practice,” or the ability to develop yourself towards a specific goal. You can’t effectively grow without a direction to that growth; you need a clear goal to shape the process.

For example, when I decided I wanted to become a professional writer, the idea alone wasn’t enough. I had to turn my idea into a measurable outcome — getting a six-figure book deal with one of the Big Five publishers in New York — and then I could reverse-engineer a process for reaching that goal. Having a clear goal enabled me to ask useful questions to the right people.

My perspective on the issue shifted over the last decade: I used to meticulously avoid any possible plans for longer than a week's time, but these days could easily schedule a visit to a theatre in a year's time.

It's not only about theatres though, and the author takes a great care to show how we can build a better future for ourselves by starting with a robust plan.

2. I Always Knew I Was Different. I Just Didn’t Know I Was a Sociopath by Patric Gagne

This is a very interesting long read in an attempt to look into someone's mind and understand hidden motifs of their actions:

I nodded and pointed to the closet. Together we went through the box. I explained what everything was and where it had come from. Once the box was empty, she stood and said we were going to return every item to its rightful owner, which was fine with me. I didn’t fear consequences and I didn’t suffer remorse, two more things I’d already figured out weren’t “normal.” Returning the stuff actually served my purpose. The box was full, and emptying it would give me a fresh space to store things I had yet to steal.

It also makes me wonder about some of the people I grew up with, and if what they'd do on day-to-day basis was more than a sum of their education and a moral compass.

3. ‘I know someone who played noughts and crosses on one’: meet the top surgeon who burned his initials on a patient’s liver by Jenny Kleeman

I remember reading a news story abotu a surgeon who used to carve out their initials on patients' internal organs, and it felt like a plot for a horror movie, but this great piece of journalism work shows a completely different perspective:

Nearly 900 people signed a petition demanding all charges against Bramhall be dropped and he be reinstated. “Any surgeon possessing pride enough in their work to want to sign it should be celebrated and not vilified” reads the wording above their signatures.

Was it pride that spurred Bramhall to burn initials on to his patients, or something more sinister? If so, why did so many people demand his return to surgery? Is he a bad apple, an embarrassment to his profession, or the product of a broader culture in surgical theatres that encourages and celebrates big egos and allows them to act with impunity? Is Bramhall just the one who happened to get caught?

The story is about many other things as well, but I guess the main highlight for me was that burning initials on a liver's outer surface won't actually affect its performance. At that point it's not really that different from signing a piece of code, right?

4. Britain’s interwar apartment boom by Jon Neale

This story reminds me of a British dystopian thriller High-Rise, but it's just looking back at the history of British apartments:

In contrast to the semi-rural, nostalgic imagery used to sell semi-detached suburbia at the time, modernity, convenience and sophistication were central to flat marketing campaigns. One of the largest developments, the 780-flat Du Cane Court in Balham, had a cavernous lobby, a social club, a bar and a restaurant, while the vast Latymer Court in Hammersmith claimed to be the largest block of flats in Europe at the time, with ‘the most modern style and amenities’. It was superseded by Dolphin Square in Pimlico, which featured over 1,200 apartments alongside its own upmarket restaurant, shopping arcade, tennis court and croquet lawn, all on the banks of the Thames, and later hosted Princess Anne, Harold Wilson, Christine Keeler, Rod Laver, and William Hague.

As someone who purposefully spent lots of money and effort to live surrounded by a semi-rural, nostalgic imagery, I don't really understand these developments, and the continuing attempts to put as many skyscrapers in London as possible, but I guess that's one way to solve the housing crysis.

5. Stylized image binning algorithm by Benjamin Dicken

I love when people get passionate enough by something to understand how it works in great details and then share their learnings. Here the author walks us through a process of developing an algorithm to turn photos into pixel art-like images:

You might notice there’s a lot of loops going on here. Accounting for the function calls, at some point this code gets six for-loops deep! At a surface level this may seem like a bad thing, but actually in total, the whole process of binning an image only needs to make at most three passes over each pixel of the image. The first pass is just whiting-out the image, which is very efficient. In the binning algorithm, at most two passes are made over every pixel. One as a part of the process for getting the average, and another for drawing the black rectangle (which is actually not a full pass, only some of the pixels are “visited”). This could be made a bit more efficient by doing the white-out as a part of the process of filling in the black rectangles, but for the sake of organization and simplicity, it’s nice to have it as a separate pass.

I am still not sold by the performance of this approach by the way, but it works (there is a live demo in the post) and works well.

6. A ChatGPT for Music Is Here. Inside Suno, the Startup Changing Everything by Brian Hiatt

I remember trying this startup's product a few months ago, when they just launched, and the quality of a few songs it generated for me (music, lyrics, and even voice over) was already exceptional:

Suno says it’s in communication with the major labels, and professes respect for artists and intellectual property — its tool won’t allow you to request any specific artists’ styles in your prompts, and doesn’t use real artists’ voices. Many Suno employees are musicians; there’s a piano and guitars on hand in the office, and framed images of classical composers on the walls. The founders evince none of the open hostility to the music business that characterized, say, Napster before the lawsuits that destroyed it. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to get sued, by the way,” Rodriguez adds. “It just means that we’re not going to have, like, a fuck-the-police kind of attitude.”

These days they introduced multiple paid plans (makes total sense) and restricted a bunch of prompts (somewhat makes sense), but are still not as popular as I thought they'd be (doesn't make sense at all).

7. Reverse engineering a car key fob signal (Part 1) by

Another great dive into the details of how things work, but I am pretty much convinced the author just wanted to brag about their Flipper – a little gadget, often referred to as a hacker's Swiss knife.

The module that’s interesting to us in the Flipper is the Sub-GHz one, which is essentially a CC1101 chip that supports frequencies that are typically used in wireless consumer devices, and that are under 1 GHz, hence the name of the module.

It’s important to note, however, that one could just buy the CC1101 module separately ($5+) and make it work with an Arduino/Raspberry Pi or simply a USB-to-TTL adapter, but the Flipper is definitely cooler and more practical.

The story is about car key fobs though, and I had no idea how much more advanced they're comparing to door fobs from my childhood.

8. Hidden giants: how the UK’s 500,000 redwoods put California in the shade by James Tapper

I shared my surprise last week when I learnt that there are thousands of redwoods here in the UK, but this time I came across a way more detailed story about how widespread they actually are.

Perhaps the unique appeal of the redwoods is their scale; the oldest of them existing before the English language and the tallest of them, at 115 metres, higher than St Paul’s Cathedral. And possibly they would have been felled, like most of England’s forests, had they been discovered by the Elizabethans who built Wakehurst and believed the task of man, as the historian Keith Thomas put it, was to “level the woods, till the soil, drive off the predators, kill the vermin, plough up the bracken and drain the fens”.

Oddly enough, they seem to thrive in England way more than in Scotland.

9. Why Are (Most) Sofas So Bad? by Dan Nosowitz

I am not particularly picky, but my wife put lots of effort into choosing a sofa and I could easily tell it's a great one – a way better one comparing to the one we had before. How come it was so hard to find it though? There are multiple theories:

Manufacturers realized they could cut all kinds of corners, from materials to process. One of those is a technique called "eight-way hand-tying," a method of attaching individual seating coils together and to the frame of a sofa for support, usually using twine. (The eight ways: front to back, side to side, and diagonally in each direction.) It’s a time-consuming process that requires training, but serious furniture folks love it: It allows for only the springs you sit on to mold around your body, without altering the position of the rest of the suspension—like a hammock, Houston says.

Seems like the right approach is to buy an old but well-preserved one and keep taking a great care of it.

10. Who or what is the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui? by Steven McKenzie

A curious story of the origins of a legend about the second highest mountain in Britain:

Collie looked around but could see nothing. The footsteps continued - they were following him.

He said he was terrified and ran for miles to escape the sinister presence.

Newspapers picked up the story and the legend of the Big Grey Man of Ben Macdui was born.

I don't think there is any consensus on what actually caused the scientist's experience back there, but seems like the locals quite enjoyed the story and keep remembering it to this day.

Things I didn't know last Tuesday

1. Well-being apps could be harmful

I never though of well-being apps from this perspective, but this is an interesting research into how the majority of mainstream well-being apps try to help their users and how for many it doesn't work as expected:

The Well-being Struggle team closely studied more than one dozen [1] of the most popular digital mental well-being apps — like Calm, Headspace, and Insight Timer — tracking their content and psychological methodologies. They then shared their findings with a diverse set of mental health and technology experts: psychologists, psychology scholars and thinkers, Buddhist practitioners, cognitive scientists, and AI experts.

What's interesting is that the supposed harm mostly comes from apps setting unrealistic expectations. They also seem to come as employment benefits, and that forces the focus on well-being to the employee, not the employer.

2. Urban humans have lost much of their ability to digest plants

This is an interesting research into humans' gut bacteria and how different it is for people with different diets:

Present-day hunter/gatherers and those living in a rural environment, both of whom eat very high fiber diets, still had about 20 percent prevalence of these cellulose-digesting species. By contrast, those in industrialized countries had a prevalence under 5 percent.

It doesn't really mean though that people with the cellulose-figesting bacteria feel better or live longer, just a noticeable difference.

3. "Ford Ahead" road sign

I have probably seen this sign before, but never though about its meaning:

A ford is defined as a shallow place in a river or stream allowing one to walk or drive across. Although, you should be careful following heavy rainfall, as the water may have risen to a point that's dangerous for some vehicles to tackle.

That being said, the more I look at the driving rules, the less I want to drive myself.

4. White-nose syndrome

While this might sound like something common among top ranks of London's financial sector, this is actually a worrying disease that's affecting bats in the States:

A fungal disease called white-nose syndrome is decimating bats across North America, killing an estimated 6.7 million since it was first detected in upstate New York in 2006. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has been documented in bats in 40 US states, and its known northern spread includes eight Canadian provinces.

Hopefully scientists figure out the vaccine before it spreads further North.

5. Éabha

It was the St. Paddy's day and I was brushing up my knowledge of Irish names' pronunciation. This one is my favourite:

Éabha is pronounced with a long E and sounds similar to the name “Ava,” but it’s actually “the way Eve is spelled in the Irish language Bible,” says Ó Séaghdha.

And if you were wondering, that last name is pornounced "O Shay".

6. Cosmic dust on cathedral roofs

If you come across lads dusting the roof of Canterbury Cathedral, don't be too surprised:

Researchers are turning to micrometeorites for clues about the chemistry of asteroids and meteorites. By looking at chemical variants known as isotopes, scientists can understand more about the parent body that the cosmic dust came from – and what happened to it as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.

Why catherdrals though? Apparently their roofs are large, inaccessible and largely untouched.

7. Wasabi is used to protect ancient papyrus

I wonder who folks came up with this idea, did someone drop their takeaway box in the room with ancient scrolls or what?

These fungi can be difficult to remove without further damaging the papyrus. But now a team of researchers primarily based in Egypt have found a way to safely and effectively remove fungus from papyrus, without harming any pigments: using the Japanese plant wasabi.

Oh the irony that fake wasabi powder from shops (aka coloured horseradish) won't work.

8. T Coronae Borealis

At some point between now and September in the Northern hemisphere we could see an exploding star with naked eye – so once in a lifetime experience:

The star, which is 3,000 light-years from Earth, is expected to burst in a gigantic explosion — known as a nova — in the coming months.

NASA said in a statement that the once-a-lifetime event could be so big that it can be seen by the naked eye. It should be visible for up to a week.

The exact dates are not announced yet, but it will probably hang there for a week or so – get ready.

9. Ravenswood Standing Stone

Imagine looking out of your window every morning and seeing this stone that's older than English language.

Very little is known about this sole megalith. It has been dated to the Neolithic period, putting its age somewhere around 4,000 years. No one knows its true purpose, but it has been speculated that it was erected to signify an ancient battle or to serve as some indicator of rituals. Its continual presence is a persistent reminder of ancient mysteries.

(image: Katielee Arrowsmith / SWNS)

As you can tell, Scots have an astonishing fascination with stones (and occasionally try to touch them), so this one is caged just in case.

10. Venison used to refer to all game meat

I wonder if that's something common in the UK or all over the globe, but apparently not so long ago "venison" was used to refer to any game:

Venison was originally described as the meat of any game animal killed by hunting. The term was used for animals belonging to families of deer, hares, wild pigs and certain species of goats and ibex.

However that probably also highlights how much hunters on the island relied on deer over centuries.

Book of the week

A mate showed me Danny Child's Slow Drinks the other day and I while looking the name I thought it will be a book about mocktails, it's actually a well written foraging guide about transformation of herbs and fruits into meads, sodas, tinctures and so on.

My grandfather is an avid birder, citizen scientist, and an all-around naturalist in the truest sense of the word. Knowing that he lives in a part of Pennsylvania where ramps are, well, rampant, I have been asking him for years to keep his eye out for them, and that year he finally hit the jackpot. We went out to his spot together and after wandering through rolling meadows and pasture, came to a wooded hill next to a stream that was covered with a sea of green ramp leaves, mixed with stinging nettles, fiddlehead ferns, and mayapple.

After my grandfather and I harvested just enough for ourselves, I brought them home to begin the work of processing them. My favorite way to use them in the kitchen is to vinegar pickle them and use the delicious brine to make a Dirty Gibson, a close cousin of the Martini that is traditionally served with a pickled cocktail onion. I don’t find bar guests asking for Gibsons often, but for those who do, I love talking them into trying a Dirty Ramp Gibson instead and watching their expression as they experience this wild, unique flavor for the first time.

I also quite like books organised by seasons: it doesn't always work perfectly, as seasons in Scotland are a bit different from those in England, not to mention States or Australia, but it's a very good guidance anyway.

My favourite part is that many drinks in this book do not fall into the usual juice- or syrup-based sweet-and-sour category: there are martinis and old fashioneds, rare guests in foraging books.

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Tuesday Triage

by Vadim Drobinin

Every Tuesday, I sift through thousands of articles, posts, tweets, videos, facts, and trivia to bring you the crème de la crème of the Internet in cooking, technology, arts, and more.

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