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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How Do Mathematicians Cut Cake?, by Ben Christopher, Priceonomics

You might think the answer is simple. Just count the number of diners at the table and divide up the frosting-coated surface evenly. Diets and gluten allergies might complicate your calculations, but really, you might think, this isn't advanced mathematics.

Except advanced mathematics is exactly what this is. And clearly you have failed to ask the important questions.

The Nobility Of Service, by Will Guidara, Lucky Peach

There are some people who come to forget things. Life is hard, and sometimes you need to go into a bubble where everything’s perfect for a little while. Fine dining should be make-believe; it should be the world as you wish it existed.

Also, I came to fine dining to take care of people. There’s nowhere else where you have the time and resources to really take care of people. I think hospitality can exist in all forms of restaurants if people decide that it’s important to them. I think it can exist at a McDonald’s, at a Shake Shack, a diner, a noodle bar. But the highest fulfillment of what it can be is not possible in a five-minute transaction.

The Sweet Science, by Dave Chang, Lucky Peach

To me, there is no better analogy for fine dining than boxing.

The comparison starts outside of the ring, with training and dedication and preparation and the choice to pursue the path. There is no room for a halfhearted boxer. When you sign up, you are signing up for a beating, for countless years in gyms and weight rooms and at the other end of another guy’s gloved fists.

Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Kingdom Of Speech’ Takes Aim At Darwin And Chomsky, by Dwight Garner, New York Times

Mr. Wolfe, now 85, shows no sign of mellowing. His new book, “The Kingdom of Speech,” is his boldest bit of dueling yet. It’s a whooping, joy-filled and hyperbolic raid on, of all things, the theory of evolution, which he finds to be less scientific certainty than “a messy guess – baggy, boggy, soggy and leaking all over the place,” to put it in the words he inserts into the mouths of past genetic theorists.

Secondarily, this book is a rebuke of the work of the linguist Noam Chomsky, whom Mr. Wolfe refers to as “Noam Charisma.” Rebuke is actually too frivolous a word for the contumely Mr. Wolfe looses in his direction. More precisely, he tars and feathers Mr. Chomsky before sticking a clown nose on his face and rolling him in a baby stroller off a cliff.

Planet Of The Apps — Have We Paved The Way For Our Own Extinction?, by John Thornhill, Financial Times

Most books that try to predict the future turn out to be wrong — sometimes spectacularly so — given that history rarely moves in straight lines. Extrapolating current trends is often misleading.

We had better hope that Yuval Noah Harari also suffers from faulty foresight. The future world that the Israeli historian describes in Homo Deus is terrifying — even though he stresses that his scenarios should be understood as possibilities rather than prophecies.

Indie Crossword Puzzlers Are Shaking Up A Very Square World, by Oliver Roeder, FiveThirtyEight

“I think of the indie world like we’re all craft beer brewers,” Brendan Emmett Quigley, a professional puzzle constructor, told me. The Times is a Budweiser lager; the indies are small-batch saisons and IPAs.

“My favorite thing about indie puzzles is the timeliness,” Neville Fogarty, an avid indie solver who helped found the Indie 500 crossword tournament, told me. Indie puzzles don’t have to wait months in a publication queue, as they would at the Times. They also aren’t subject to the stylistic constraints of a large media institution. Topics and themes, however recent, modern, niche or profane, are fair game. Nor are they subject to the physical constraints of a major newspaper. With few exceptions, all daily Times puzzles use 15-by-15 grids with rotational symmetry, a convention indies can and do break.

The Veggie Burger’s Ascent, by Erik Piepenburg, New York Times

It had been a culinary nobody, mushy and maligned.

But when a chef as decorated as Daniel Humm turns his attention to perfecting a veggie burger, the signal is clear: That second-fiddle vegetarian staple has arrived.