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Remembering Anthony Bourdain, The Last Curious Man

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For GQ, Drew Magary talked to the family, friends, and coworkers of Anthony Bourdain for this piece on the life of the late chef/traveler/writer/explorer/whatever. Here’s how he got his big writing break, which led to so much else:

David Remnick (editor in chief, ‘The New Yorker’): My wife came home one day, and she said, “Look. There’s a really nice woman at the newspaper. Her son is a writer. She wanted you to take a look at his work,” which seemed…adorable, right? A mother’s ambition for a son. I took this manuscript out of its yellow envelope, not expecting much. I started to read. It was about a young cook, working at a pretty average steak-and-frites place on lower Park Avenue. I called this guy up on the phone. He answered it in his kitchen. I said, “I’d like to publish this work of yours in The New Yorker. I hope that’s okay.” That was the beginning of Anthony Bourdain being published. I don’t know if there’s any way to put this other than to say he invented himself as a writer, as a public personality. It was all there.

Prior to becoming the best-ever host of a travel show, he’d actually traveled very little internationally (only France and Japan) and his first go of it wasn’t successful:

Tenaglia: Japan was a fucking disaster.

Chris Collins (co-founder, ZPZ): The mistakes were very clear. He did not engage with us. He would not acknowledge our presence and that we were there working together.

Tenaglia: I think he was thinking, “Great! I just got a free ride to all these countries.”

Collins: It was a ruse. It was, I’m gonna double dip here. I’m going to be able to get paid to go make something, and I’m going to write articles.

Tenaglia: We would go back to the hotel and say, “We are so screwed.”

But it turns out this inexperienced traveler & newbie TV host was the exact right person for the job.

He came alive, because those frames of reference were starting to pop. His sudden inclination was to turn and share that with us. You could sense this excitement, like, “Holy crap, I’m actually on the ground in a location that I have studied, that I know, that I have references to.” You know, Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness, Graham Greene, the Vietnam War. He was percolating with an excitement that was very genuine.

My only complaint about this piece is the length…I would have happily read on for hours.

Paula Froelich (author, journalist): I’ll never forget laughing my ass off because he was obsessed with my dog, who’s a small dachshund. He’d always walk my dog, and he was so tall and the dog was so long and short, they would look like this movable L.

Tags: Anthony Bourdain   Drew Magary   food   interviews   travel
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10 hours ago
Gone too soon!
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Information Attacks against Democracies

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Democracy is an information system.

That's the starting place of our new paper: "Common-Knowledge Attacks on Democracy." In it, we look at democracy through the lens of information security, trying to understand the current waves of Internet disinformation attacks. Specifically, we wanted to explain why the same disinformation campaigns that act as a stabilizing influence in Russia are destabilizing in the United States.

The answer revolves around the different ways autocracies and democracies work as information systems. We start by differentiating between two types of knowledge that societies use in their political systems. The first is common political knowledge, which is the body of information that people in a society broadly agree on. People agree on who the rulers are and what their claim to legitimacy is. People agree broadly on how their government works, even if they don't like it. In a democracy, people agree about how elections work: how districts are created and defined, how candidates are chosen, and that their votes count­ -- even if only roughly and imperfectly.

We contrast this with a very different form of knowledge that we call contested political knowledge, which is, broadly, things that people in society disagree about. Examples are easy to bring to mind: how much of a role the government should play in the economy, what the tax rules should be, what sorts of regulations are beneficial and what sorts are harmful, and so on.

This seems basic, but it gets interesting when we contrast both of these forms of knowledge across autocracies and democracies. These two forms of government have incompatible needs for common and contested political knowledge.

For example, democracies draw upon the disagreements within their population to solve problems. Different political groups have different ideas of how to govern, and those groups vie for political influence by persuading voters. There is also long-term uncertainty about who will be in charge and able to set policy goals. Ideally, this is the mechanism through which a polity can harness the diversity of perspectives of its members to better solve complex policy problems. When no-one knows who is going to be in charge after the next election, different parties and candidates will vie to persuade voters of the benefits of different policy proposals.

But in order for this to work, there needs to be common knowledge both of how government functions and how political leaders are chosen. There also needs to be common knowledge of who the political actors are, what they and their parties stand for, and how they clash with each other. Furthermore, this knowledge is decentralized across a wide variety of actors­ -- an essential element, since ordinary citizens play a significant role in political decision making.

Contrast this with an autocracy. There, common political knowledge about who is in charge over the long term and what their policy goals are is a basic condition of stability. Autocracies do not require common political knowledge about the efficacy and fairness of elections, and strive to maintain a monopoly on other forms of common political knowledge. They actively suppress common political knowledge about potential groupings within their society, their levels of popular support, and how they might form coalitions with each other. On the other hand, they benefit from contested political knowledge about nongovernmental groups and actors in society. If no one really knows which other political parties might form, what they might stand for, and what support they might get, that itself is a significant barrier to those parties ever forming.

This difference has important consequences for security. Authoritarian regimes are vulnerable to information attacks that challenge their monopoly on common political knowledge. They are vulnerable to outside information that demonstrates that the government is manipulating common political knowledge to their own benefit. And they are vulnerable to attacks that turn contested political knowledge­ -- uncertainty about potential adversaries of the ruling regime, their popular levels of support and their ability to form coalitions­ -- into common political knowledge. As such, they are vulnerable to tools that allow people to communicate and organize more easily, as well as tools that provide citizens with outside information and perspectives.

For example, before the first stirrings of the Arab Spring, the Tunisian government had extensive control over common knowledge. It required everyone to publicly support the regime, making it hard for citizens to know how many other people hated it, and it prevented potential anti-regime coalitions from organizing. However, it didn't pay attention in time to Facebook, which allowed citizens to talk more easily about how much they detested their rulers, and, when an initial incident sparked a protest, to rapidly organize mass demonstrations against the regime. The Arab Spring faltered in many countries, but it is no surprise that countries like Russia see the Internet openness agenda as a knife at their throats.

Democracies, in contrast, are vulnerable to information attacks that turn common political knowledge into contested political knowledge. If people disagree on the results of an election, or whether a census process is accurate, then democracy suffers. Similarly, if people lose any sense of what the other perspectives in society are, who is real and who is not real, then the debate and argument that democracy thrives on will be degraded. This is what seems to be Russia's aims in their information campaigns against the US: to weaken our collective trust in the institutions and systems that hold our country together. This is also the situation that writers like Adrien Chen and Peter Pomerantsev describe in today's Russia, where no one knows which parties or voices are genuine, and which are puppets of the regime, creating general paranoia and despair.

This difference explains how the same policy measure can increase the stability of one form of regime and decrease the stability of the other. We have already seen that open information flows have benefited democracies while at the same time threatening autocracies. In our language, they transform regime-supporting contested political knowledge into regime-undermining common political knowledge. And much more recently, we have seen other uses of the same information flows undermining democracies by turning regime-supported common political knowledge into regime-undermining contested political knowledge.

In other words, the same fake news techniques that benefit autocracies by making everyone unsure about political alternatives undermine democracies by making people question the common political systems that bind their society.

This framework not only helps us understand how different political systems are vulnerable and how they can be attacked, but also how to bolster security in democracies. First, we need to better defend the common political knowledge that democracies need to function. That is, we need to bolster public confidence in the institutions and systems that maintain a democracy. Second, we need to make it harder for outside political groups to cooperate with inside political groups and organize disinformation attacks, through measures like transparency in political funding and spending. And finally, we need to treat attacks on common political knowledge by insiders as being just as threatening as the same attacks by foreigners.

There's a lot more in the paper.

This essay was co-authored by Henry Farrell, and previously appeared on Lawfare.com.

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1 day ago
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Doughnut Benedict

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I was in LA last week and was fortunate to make a trip to Sidecar Doughnuts. I was intrigued by their Doughnut Benedict. They wrapped a poached egg in doughnut dough, deep fried it. They stuffed the filled doughnut with hollandaise sauce and topped it with fresh basil. I am intrigued by the savory breakfast in a doughnut. Now I need to figure out how to wrap my head and dough around the idea and see if we can integrate savory into our Doughnutland.




Years Past

December 3, 2017

December 3, 2016

December 3, 2015

December 3, 2014

December 3, 2013

December 3, 2012

December 3, 2011

December 3, 2010

December 3, 2009

December 3, 2008

December 3, 2007

December 3, 2006 

December 3, 2005

Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work

Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook

Gluten Free Flour Power: Bringing Your Favorite Foods Back to the Table

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7 days ago
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Thursday assorted links

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The post Thursday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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8 days ago
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Cam Girl Economics

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Former Cam Girl Aella offers a detailed, analytical, and interesting guide to the economics of the industry.

My credentials: I was a camgirl for five years. My highest earning month was $50,000, and my highest rank (on MFC) was #7, meaning I earned the 7th most money that month. I was, at one point, one of the most (if not the most) widely known working camgirls thanks to some viral content. My average income per hour was $200. Getting there was not easy and took a ton of mistakes and work, so I hope this helps you.

I was initially surprised that a cam girl can make more money than a prostitute. But the reason is simple, a cam girl is selling a non-rival good and can thus have more customers at a point in time than a prostitute. (In other words, the same economics as online education!) I suspect women would prefer to be cam girls than prostitutes so we should expect the supply of cam girls to increase and the supply of prostitutes to decrease thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute.

Male psychology plays an important role for the clever cam girl:

Men want a few things, and probably one of the biggest is winning a competition.

You see, you’re not just trying to get a guy to pay you – you’re trying to get a guy to pay you in front of a bunch of other guys. This is a super key. A man wants to feel attention from an attractive women on him, and this is made even more satisfying when it’s to the exclusion of those around him. He is showing off his power by buying your happiness.

So, when tipped, make sure you say his name (or username). A lot of girls use subtly masculine-competition language when referring to high tippers, such as “hero,” “champion,” or “winner”. I often would ask questions like “who is going to save my night?” or “who is going to be the one to make me feel x”?

The ‘control show’ I mentioned above plays into this. Give men a way to fight against each other, with tokens. A common tactic is to have guys buy into “teams”, and whichever team tips the most, wins (with the prize being a video or literally anything – you’d be surprised at how many competition prizes are just the guy’s name being listed on the girl’s profile). Have guys fight to put on or off your clothes, or force you/rescue you from doing something gross.

The most profitable thing I ever did was have a ‘war’ with another camgirl, and it became my tipping members vs. hers. Competition is bread and butter. Competition is love. Competition is life. Competition is your key to a life full of luxury handbags and butlers.

Just don’t be too obvious about it. All of this stuff I’m saying can be done with too heavy a hand, and then guys feel gross and leave.

Intrinsic and extrinsic incentives:

Divorce what you’re doing from money as much as you can. Never refer to tokens as money!! Refer to tokens as little as you can while still being clear. One of my camgirl friends would use the technique where she’d say, “This is  like – I’m sitting at a bar, all alone over here. Is someone gonna be a gentleman and get me a drink?” And then someone would tip and she’d drink.

Classic marketing advice:

How do you get whales? A lot of it is high variance – a tiny fraction of the camwatching population is made out of very rich men, and so you might get one passing through your cam room once a week without you ever knowing, and you have no idea when or if you’ll be doing something interesting at that point.

But one technique to help is to give them something to do. If you have listed tip options as “40 tokens spank! 20 tokens kiss the mirror!” and your whale has 40,000 tokens he wants to drop today, then the best he’s going to get from you is some crying and screaming.

Thus, always have the absurd “nobody would ever buy that that would be insane” option.

Hat tip: Emil O W Kirkegaard.

The post Cam Girl Economics appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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8 days ago
More to it than meets the eye.
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A Glut of Math Jokes

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The Optimist & the Pessimist

2018.6.1 glass half full

The statistician, meanwhile, is not going to draw any hasty conclusions about glass fullness from a data set where n=1.


The Venn Diagram of Practicality and Fuzziness

2018.6.4 carpets

Did I reverse-engineer the “practical” and “fuzzy” labels to make the diagram work? YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE IT MY BLOG-READING FRIEND


Temperature/Pressure Diagrams

2018.6.5 pressure temperature diagram

In hindsight I would draw this one rather differently. The existing diagram suggests that increasing life pressure can drive me from coffee to iced coffee (maybe true) but also that increased ambient temperature can drive me from iced coffee to lemonade (definitely false).


Devil’s Advocate

2018.6.7 devil's advocate

“What, are you saying the devil doesn’t deserve due process?”
“Yes! And also, the devil’s not on trial! We really don’t need the devil to have a representative in every meeting!


A Package for the Square Root of 2

2018.6.8 package for root-2

Far and away the most positive response I’ve gotten for a cartoon on Facebook! It goes to show, I have no idea what cartoons people will love.


Step Count

2018.6.11 fitbit for proofs

I’ve seen 7th-graders do this not for fitness-related reasons, just for the love of the game. Right on, 7th-graders. Take the scenic route to an answer.


Platonic States of Matter

2018.6.12 platonic liquid

Alas, it’s very hard to tell Platonic liquids from Archimedean liquids – or irregular liquids, for that matter.


Data vs. Anecdotes

2018.6.14 anecdotes vs. data

The correct answer is C: self-referential cartoons about data and anecdotes!


Prime Factorization

2018.6.15 you just broke number theory

G.H. Hardy confidently asserted that number theory would never serve any “warlike purpose,” but I think we can all agree that G.H. Hardy was a rube and a fool.


Infimum Wage

2018.6.18 infimum wage

I mean, what if there’s an infinite sequence of workers making $8 + 1/n?



2018.6.19 scooped

Preliminary data points towards “probably not.”


2018.6.21 years of grad school

“Are you finishing soon?
[bloodcurdling scream] “THE AGONY!!! OH, THE AGONY…”
“Nice, only two years left! Good luck with your thesis project.”


Time Moves Fast

2018.6.22 dt-dt is 1

This joke never gets old! Well, it does, but only at a rate of 1 year per year.


How Many Negatives Make a Positive?

2018.6.25 four negatives

I think this phrase is more useful in describing language (where it’s sometimes true, and at least easy to interpret) than in math (where it just confuses).


The Equation’s Story

2018.6.26 every equation a story

Really, this equation is a murder mystery. One of the variables is zero, and you’ve got to find out which one!

(Twist ending: it’s both.)


Nuts and Bolts

2018.6.28 nuts and bolts

Sounds like… a breakfast cereal? Or something to do with why tables don’t fall down? I’ve always wondered about that…


How Excited

2018.6.29 how excited are you

8.7! That is pretty darn excited.

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12 days ago
Some good ones here.
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