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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Vending Machines Could Redefine How We Consume Everything, by Alyssa Bereznak, The Ringer

Vengo may be selling a digital iteration of a classic product, but it is just one of many companies to recognize that people enjoy buying things from robots. The first vending machine’s draw, however, wasn’t instant gratification but regulation. And it was not designed to hold condoms, chapstick, or 100 Grand bars, but holy water. In the first century BC, a Greek mathematician and engineer, Heron of Alexandria, was confronted with a problem in his Egyptian city: Denizens of the local temple were taking more holy water than they’d paid for, like college students drunk with power in a Whole Foods prepared-food section. So he invented an apparatus that required tokens to access the liquid. Drop a coin in, and its weight would push against a lever that opened the spout, where holy water would run out. The coin would eventually fall so that the spout would be cut off. According to Vending Machines: An American Social History, there’s no evidence that the dispenser ever made it past a sketch in Heron of Alexandria’s stack of parchment. But it is indisputably the first record of an “automated retail solution,” as the brands call it these days.

Can Sleep Deprivation Cure Depression?, by Richard A. Friedman, New York Times

Jet lag makes everyone miserable. But it makes some people mentally ill.

There’s a psychiatric hospital not far from Heathrow Airport that is known for treating bipolar and schizophrenic travelers, some of whom are occasionally found wandering aimlessly through the terminals. A study from the 1980s of 186 of those patients found that those who’d traveled from the west had a higher incidence of mania, while those who’d traveled from the east had a higher incidence of depression.

I saw the same thing in one of my patients who suffered from manic depression. When he got depressed after a vacation to Europe, we assumed he was just disappointed about returning to work. But then he had a fun trip out West and returned home in what’s called a hypomanic state: He was expansive, a fount of creative ideas.

From An Obit Writer, The Last Word On ‘The Last Word’, by Bruce Weber, New York Times

As a one-time obituary writer for The Times, I was miffed by all this, and especially by Harriet’s suggestion that obituarists aren’t “real” writers. So I leap here to the defense of my noble former colleagues at this paper and others. People who see this movie unawares should be told that it’s fake news, and that it’s the obits themselves that are real news. The kind of article that Anne started writing and that Harriet was trying to orchestrate is more suited to the tiny-type paid death notices placed in newspapers or on by bereft families who wish to announce publicly their bereftness.

'How To Read A Dress' Connects Centuries Of Women Through Fashion, by Genevieve Valentine, NPR

Clothing is communication; it's a language we unconsciously absorb. And as with any language, the finer points bring the vocabulary together. When Janelle Monae walked the red carpet at the Oscars, we recognized the 18th-century influence in her dress. But that's not just for geometric effect. Wide French panniers indicated aristocracy; the neck ruff was an Elizabethan signal of leisure; the embroidered net suggests Empire gowns that ditched dress architecture in favor of gauzy embellishments. Through this lens, Monae's gown becomes a statement of luxury and celebration that deliberately reclaims and challenges a predominantly-white historical narrative and draws on three centuries of fashion history. It's just the sort of garment How to Read a Dress would love.

You're Using Recipes Wrong, by Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

In other words, most recipes invite us to think of cooking projects in terms of discrete meals: a pork roast that feeds six, a veggie pasta for four. But as Liaw notes, "No cuisine in the world could ever have been created in discrete packages." A standard Japanese meal, for example, rests on three elements: soup, rice and pickles. "To make that from scratch three times a day would be impossible, but with good kitchen craft it’s possible to eat a full meal every time with a minimum of effort," he writes.