by Vadim Drobinin

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

15.09.2020 (read in browser)

On moving fast

This week I had a joyful reason to reminiscent on the last four years of my life and dreams turned into reality.

I heard once, that there is more to life than simply increasing its speed. While it still holds true, noticing that things spin out way faster than they used to is definitely a nice metric to be aware of.

If one moves too fast, the memories won't hold together. If it is too slow, everything turns into a comfort zone and most likely becomes boring.

I am pretty sure the balance I have for the last year or so is somewhere in-between, and evens out more and more.

Especially these days, when I have the privilege of being even more present.

Things I enjoyed reading

1. The Magical Art of Selling Soap by @EllenWaylands

A fascinated look into the history and marketing of soap bars.

Ivory soap alone resisted product differentiation, marketing a single soap product for toilet, kitchen, and laundry but offering detailed instructions on how to use it in each context. Almost without exception, soap manufacturers crafted their advertisements around the principle that proper cleansing helped the skin and scalp perform its “natural” biological functions.

Who'd think that such a simple thing has so many secrets behind?

2. The Science of Yogurt Marinades by @abrowntable

In my home country, yogurt- (or mayo-) based marinades are one of the staples of local cuisine.

I was usually erring on the side of just utilising pepper, salt, and oils for tender cuts, and then throwing in kiwi pulp for everything else, but nice to see that Serious Eats are doing as great of the job as usual:

In terms of protein texture, the groups treated with lactic and citric acid produced the least amount of cloudy precipitate, while acetic acid produced the cloudiest specimens. In each case, the meat was tender, very soft, and cut easily.

3. Talking Is Throwing Fictional Worlds at One Another by [Kevin Berger]

An interesting interview with a linguist on words being the medium of our own perception:

Our own internal worlds are what we represent and think about the external world. They’re probably all wrong to start with, and then we try and link those fictions with other people’s fictions. I think most of our interaction is an attempt to align the fictions that we build to be able to survive in the world. And this goes back to culture wars. People have different fictions of the world and sometimes they are pretty brutally out of alignment.

4. A Brief Cultural History of the Parking Lot by Eran Ben-Joseph

Keeping up with the history game, a story of parking lots:

Early codes suggest two definitions of automobile parking: “live” and “dead.” A live vehicle is one whose driver is present and prepared to move the vehicle; a “dead” vehicle is one whose driver is absent or unable to move the vehicle.

I mean, not that much has changed since but the world itself surely did.

5. How do Routers Work, Really? by @anotherkamila

I did know what a router is, but I never thought how does it work, nor how to code one.

At the end of this exposition, I will give you the complete source code to a functional router (written in P4, the new & shiny software-defined networking thing). My aim is that you will understand every line of that.

Or I didn't up until now.

6. Why Goodreads is bad for books by @sarahmanavis

Reading books requires effort and concentration, but finding the right one is sometimes as hard.
Goodreads was around for as long as I remember, and yet it never grew on me. Good to know that I am not the only one:

In an alternate universe, we could be living with a meticulous tool for finding books we would love to read, from a much wider diversity of authors. Instead we have a book tracker that, for many people, barely works.

7. The State of SwiftUI by @steipete

I personally wouldn’t yet go all-in on SwiftUI for production apps, although the crash rate is likely manageable and Apple is actively improving things with every release. Remember that SwiftUI ships with the OS, not with your app, so any bug fixes will only help if your users update the OS.

Peter pretty much summarises my thoughts here. SwiftUI is a way more proprietary technology than Swift. It is not open-sourced. It's nice to be exposed to something like that and try it out in the wild, but when making a transition decision you should also care about the users who will be affected.

8. Coordination, Good and Bad by @VitalikButerin

I always loved the game theory, and this article gives a very good sneak peek into the reasons:

This fact, the instability of majority games under cooperative game theory, is arguably highly underrated as a simplified general mathematical model of why there may well be no "end of history" in politics and no system that proves fully satisfactory; I personally believe it's much more useful than the more famous Arrow's theorem, for example.

9. Let employees sell their equity by @derivativeburke

But you can also try to eliminate an advantage that public companies have by letting your employees sell their equity. Not just, like, one time, at a huge discount before you go public, or when you get to Stripe's size and want to appease your employees. But routinely; because your employees want to boost their cash base, or buy the stock market, or buy a vacation, or whatever.

So much that. I used to own a stock which one couldn't sell, and that was one of the most disappointing things, a kind of handcuffs which don't really work and yet leave this bitter aftertaste.

10. The Napoleon Technique: Postponing Things to Increase Productivity

I am thankful to Napoleon for two things: a cake named after him, and this legit reason to procrastinate a bit.

For example, if you use the Napoleon technique when it comes to replying to someone who keeps sending you small questions that they could easily find the answer to, using the Napoleon technique can help teach that person to be more thoughtful when asking you for help. Similarly, if you implement the Napoleon technique as a manager, when it comes to replying to messages from employees who are needlessly afraid to take initiative, strategically using the Napoleon technique can help encourage them to take initiative in areas where they should.

Things I didn't know last Tuesday

1. ANSI K 100.1-1974

The year is 1974. The American National Standards Institute introduces safety code and requirements for dry martinis, and boy-oh-boy are they good.


An unpardonable form of perversion. See onion soup.


Test Methods

[...] In testing, the taster shall watch for lightness of color, absence of sediment, a delicate aroma that effectively combines the scent of the juniper with the herbal infusion in the vermouth, a taste that is both sharp and clean with a faint body, and a light delicate aftertaste.

2. Liquid Helium is dangerous for iPhones

If you work in a lab with liquid helium (or with magnets, filled with it) watch out for iPhones 6 (or newer) as they don't particularly like such environment.

The problem is that in newer iPhones, Apple has swapped out a quartz oscillator, used in older versions of the phone, with a microelectromechanical systems chip (MEMS) which is sensitive to the presence of helium gas. This sensitivity is indeed mentioned in the User Guide of the iPhone.

3. Tamale

I am pretty sure I had them before in Indonesia, maybe in one form or another (and also tried to eat the banana leaf wrapping -- a rookie mistake).

A tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican dish, made of masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based), which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. The wrapping can either be discarded prior to eating or used as a plate.

4. Silent Pool

While the legends are interesting, I can also add that the Silent Pool Gin is worth buying (I first tried it in a delicious Martini in Portsmouth).

The silent pool is known for its otherworldly stillness which, combined with the surrounding screen of evergreen trees, gives it an ethereal feeling throughout the year. It’s no surprise that this ancient lagoon has given rise to fantastical legends.

And the distillery indeed uses the water from the pool. Now I am just not sure whether it is good or bad.

5. Bottomless portafilter

For the last week or so I am learning how to make a coffee from sratch, with a semi-manual espresso machine, lots of wasted coffee beans, and gallons of used milk.

There are two important and yet not so obvious things when it comes to making espresso: a basket and a portafilter. The basket is, well, the basket. It holds ground beans. The portafilter hold the basket.

The majority of entry-level espresso machines come with double-walled baskets and sprouted portafilters. The former means, that they "fake" cremá on top by adding the second wall between coffee and the cup. The latter means that there is another wall at the bottom of the portafilter with two holes, which controls the coffee pour.

Now, the bottomless portafilter is different. The basket in it is usually single-walled. There is no additional wall in the portafilter (it's just a ring with a handle).

Bottomless portafilters give you a clear view into what’s going on in your filter basket. You’ll be able to visualize areas that are not extracting properly and adjust your technique for a more even extraction.

And also it is very beautiful.

6. Nottingham Knockers

Living in a ground floor flat has its own pros and cons. Sometimes they are both, like being closer to such a trivia:

Nottingham Knockers are doorstep callers who offer a selection of household products for sale. The scam is believed to have originated in Nottingham, hence the name.

7. Cappelletti Aperitivo

This week is the Negroni week! However, if you ever had a look at the Campari's ingredients, you would notice that its colour is not natural.

However, Cappelletti Aperitivo, another amaro on the market with a similar hue, uses bettles to colour the liquid. Very organic.

It is made from a century old secret formula that skilfully blends white wine, herbs and selected spices which are left to steep in the alcohol.

8. Humphrey Davy

I never thought that there were successful attempts to generate light before Thomas Edison:

He developed an electric arc lamp by connecting Volta’s electric pile (basically a battery) to charcoal electrodes. The electrodes made a bright arc of light, but it burned too bright for everyday use and burned out too quickly to be practical. But still, Davy gets credit as the first person to use electricity to generate light.

9. Incompatible Food Triad

One of the most tasty math (and food science) problems:

Can you find three foods such that all three do not go together (by any reasonable definition of foods "going together") but every pair of them does go together?

What would you think of as the answer? I really enjoy author's notes on some of the readers' suggestions.

Book of the week

I'd love to share the book I've been reading most of the time but as it is in Russian, and I am not going to offend the author with my jokes of translation, we will have to stick to the book I have just started to explore.

From Yotam Ottolenghi's "Flavour":

The relationship between sweetness and ripeness in fruit is clear: the riper the fruit, the sweeter, softer and juicier it will be.

What might be less obvious is the difference between climacteric and non-climacteric fruit. Climacteric fruit, such as bananas, apricots, tomatoes and melons store their sugar in the form of starch. Once picked, this starch is converted back into sweetness. This makes them forgiving and versatile to the home cook, who can either ripen them at home or enhance their sweetness through cooking. Non-climacteric fruit, on the other hand, is not so malleable. This category of fruit includes things like peaches, strawberries, grapes and citrus fruit. Their sweetness will not develop beyond the point at which they’re picked.

So, when we state the need for 300 grams of ripe strawberries for our watermelon and strawberry sorbet, then ripe-and-ready they need to be. Making a sorbet with unripe strawberries is never going to capture the essence of summer.

Ottolenghi has a store in a short walk distance from my previous flat, and I had a chance to observe his previous books on the shelves for years. Also leaving in London means that pretty much every week one of your friends would brag about visiting one of his restaurants.

This book is different from the previous ones though. Maybe because it is less about vegetables in recipes and more about process, paring, and produce of them. Maybe because he got more relaxed and easily throws cheeses and meat into dishes.

Most importantly, it links great to one of the facts I've mentioned in the previous week's edition of the newsletter, which is how I come across the book.

Thank you and see you in a week!

If you have any questions, or want to suggest a link for the next newsletter, please drop me a message on Twitter or reply to this email.

Cheers! 🍸