I have no potatoes in the house, and now I am craving potatoes

All because I read The Angry Chef’s praise for the potato.

Potatoes are quite possibly my favourite ever thing. No, fuck it, they are my favourite thing. They are versatile, delicious, cheap, and accessible. From a culinary and scientific point of view they are deeply fascinating and they form the basis of many of my favourite foods. Cooked correctly, they can make the heart sing with joy. My reputation as a chef is, perhaps quite tragically, built on a number of remarkable dishes that I make with potatoes. I have spent many working days perfecting my potato cookery and after twenty years in professional kitchens I am still learning more about them all the time. I believe that I know how to make the perfect roast potatoes, crisped the the point of near caramelisation on the outside, with a light fluffy interior, a hint of thyme and the richness of beef fat. I can make mashed potato so silky, rich, buttery and creamy that it once made someone cry. I have spent an entire week trying to make the the perfect chips (they are good, but not perfect – yet) and it makes me genuinely weep inside when someone cooks a jacket potato in the microwave. I love dauphinoise, Lyonnaise, rostis, sautéed, Bombay, crisps, waffles, hash browns (basically working class rostis), croquettes, gnocchi and Patatas Bravas. I love cottage pies and hotpots and believe that potatoes slowly cooked with meats often become more delicious than the meat itself. When made well, freshly cooked chips are as much of a cause for celebration as the flash, needy offerings of Michelin starred restaurants and superstar chefs. When eaten out of paper by the sea they are the greatest culinary pleasure I know.

But potatoes are bland, you say — not when they’re cooked with the right spices. And what better spice is there than brutal denunciations of the paleo diet and other stupid fads?

Potatoes are a delicious, with remarkable culinary and nutritional properties. So why is it that health bloggers, Paleo nuts, wellness gurus and various other dietary fools reject them so vociferously? The reasons behind this beautifully exposes the hidden and pernicious nature of dietary wellness trends. In understanding why potatoes are rejected we reveal the true face of the wellness industry, an industry built on lies and false promises.

The pseudoscience and nutri-bollocks behind fad diets is nothing but a smokescreen to disguise their true nature. The reality of Clean Eating, Paleo, Alkaline and Detox is that they are damaging restriction diets, more about thinness than wellness. Whilst they talk about a lifestyle and wellbeing, these are just euphemisms for weight loss, driven by societies permitted fat-shaming prejudice and an insatiable desire to achieve thinness without effort.

Fad diets will proliferate if they have simple rules and pseudoscience justifications to help them stick in people’s minds, but examine them in detail and the logic falls apart. Take Paleo for instance, based on the premise that we are not ‘designed’ to eat certain foods. Newsflash genius, not sure if you missed the memo about Darwin and Wallace, but we are not ‘designed’ to do anything and neither is any part of the natural world. We evolved from a random sequence of evolutionary accidents, existing only because certain characteristics keep us marginally ahead in the arms race of existence. Nature is not pure and benign, it has no wisdom and it does not exist to nourish us and help us thrive. Nature is vicious, harmful and for thousands of years has been trying to fucking kill us. In the Palaeolithic period it was far better at doing this, with survival beyond thirty being extremely unlikely. Our ability to control the natural world, to process and store foods and to adapt our environment to meet our requirements is the one thing that has kept our head above the evolutionary waters and saved us from the miserable fate that befell every other hominid species in history.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Yes, children, we old people struggled with complex technology too

There was a time when we had to have those new-fangled communications devices explained to us. Here’s a silent film with instructions on those new ‘rotary dial phones’. You may not be familiar with them anymore.

Maybe you’re too modern to want to sit through a slow old silent black and white movie that takes 7 minutes to explain how a dial works. If so, here’s a 10 minute talkie about explaining to grandpa how to use a phone. It’s even more agonizing. Check out the Mid-Atlantic accent used by the woman doing the explaining.

Australia’s leading erotic poet disproves mathematics

Please, crackpots, I am not your sympathetic ear. Stop sending me stuff.

The latest entry in the pile of bogus crapola is a “book”, if you can say that of a 14 page long pdf file that uses a very large and ugly font — this is the tech equivalent of sending someone a long letter written in crayon. Here, you can read it for yourself: All things are possible: Case study in the meaninglessness of all views By Colin leslie dean. It has more impact in the original Gibberish.

allthingspossible

Professional typesetting sets the tone, doesn’t it?

But once you get past the eye hemorrhages from trying to read it, the content…is worse. For instance, he disproves mathematics.

Again
1+1=2
And its negation
1+1=1
It be said that 1+1=2 be a
certain truth
Blah
1 number + 1 number = 1
number
1 number (2) +1 number (2)
=1 number (4)
So 1 +1=2
And
1 + 1 = 1
Thus a contradiction in
mathematics

I love the “blah” in the middle.

Another bonus in his book: he claims to be Australia’s leading erotic poet. I don’t believe it. I looked at one of his erotic books, and sheep aren’t mentioned even once. (Oh, that was mean of me, and I’m sure you Australians are tired of that joke.)

Yeah, you can read it for yourself. 100 Views of Mons Venus by Hiroshige Basho by c dean. I find myself hoplessly confused by just the title. I’ve heard of Utagawa Hiroshige, the ukiyo-e artist, and I’ve heard of Matsuo Basho, the poet, but not the chimera, Hioshige Basho. And who wrote the book? Hiroshige Basho or Dean? But hey, maybe you’ve got a thing about very short poems that combine “lips” and “petals” with lots of adjectives, and will enjoy the work.

Move over, Martin Shkreli: Palmer Luckey is here!

Give a young man way too much money, and they turn into instant assholes. That’s what I conclude from the story of Palmer Luckey, who was one of the people behind the VR headset Oculus Rift, which he sold for over $2 billion dollars. He’s now worth $700 million (what happened to the other 1.3 billion?), and he’s got to do something to better humanity with that that money.

So he’s funding a company that’s backing Donald Trump.

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey financially backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America, a self-described “social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit” in support of the Republican nominee.

A social welfare organization? Well, that sounds nice. Except, here’s what it’s really all about.

We’ve proven that shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real. So many of you have asked us, how we can bring this to real life. We wanted to do it in a way that was transparent and had purpose. Not just sell t-shirts to sell them, but to sell t-shirts to shitpost. We’ve worked with lawyers and RNC consultants to advise us on how to establish the proper entities to do this right, and we’ll be transparent with all financial activity from Reddit. We’ve also worked with the Reddit admins to make sure all of our activity operate within their guidelines.

Announcing Nimble America, Inc., a social welfare 501(c)4 non-profit dedicated to shitposting in real life.

Oh, hell no. How can someone grow up to think that “shitposting” is the great cause to which they will dedicate their life and fortune?

But wait! There’s more! What do you think the lofty goal of virtual reality programs might be?

Someone in the audience asked Palmer Luckey a rather odd but revealing question: Why did he and his chief technology officer, video game pioneer John Carmack, often speak of a “moral imperative” to bring virtual reality to the masses?

“This is one of those crazy man topics,” Luckey answered, “but it comes down to this: Everyone wants to have a happy life, but it’s going to be impossible to give everyone everything they want.” Instead, he went on, developers can now create virtual versions of real experiences that are only enjoyed by the planet’s privileged few, which they can then bestow to the destitute of the world.

He is so generous.

Well, then, I say we should give Luckey what he wants, and condemn him to spend the rest of his life with an Oculus Rift shackled to his head, and free access to all the VR he wants, while he lives in a shack and works 16 hours a day assembling expensive electronic gadgets in a Chinese factory.

It is a shame, though, that the Oculus Rift looks like a nifty toy, but now I’ll never buy one.

Commutation of sentence

There I was, heaving a bow saw against the shrubbery, sweat running into my eyes, red-faced, and maybe looking a little over-stressed, and my wife gives me one of her looks and tells me that maybe I ought to call it a day, she was about to drive off to the dump with a load of brush and was a little bit afraid that she’d find me slumped into an unconscious heap when she got back.

Now you know, this is an affront to my manhood. I quickly marshaled many fierce replies, but I was slowed in delivering them because I was panting so hard. Otherwise, I was ready to tell her…

“At least I will have died like a man, with my tool in my hand!”

Or maybe the classic,

“We all gotta go some time.”

But then it sunk in that if I said anything like that, I would sound like Gary Johnson.

My gob, what an idiot. Aren’t you New Mexicans a little embarrassed about having elected this guy?

So I surrendered meekly and have gone into the house. I guess being sensible and cautious is one way to avoid surrendering to our fate.

Oh! And as I walked into the house, I got handed some bulky certified mail. Richard Carrier is suing 7 entities, and I’m two of them. He’s demanding $1,050,000 in compensation and another $1,050,000 in punitive damages. So there’s another fate I won’t be surrendering to.

Winter is coming

And that means that Mary and I are spending our morning doing yard work, hard physical labor. I’ve already killed one tree and dismembered it, and next I’m going to murder a lot of shrubbery.

They’ll get their revenge tonight when I’m lying prostrate and moaning about my sore muscles and aching back, though.

Black hole discovered inside the astronomy community

It’s name is Scott Lewis. He has “borrowed” over $30,000 from various people by telling tales of financial misery, getting pitying contributions, and then turning on his donors.

Scott Lewis tells many persuasive tales of woe involving former partners and/or friends designed to appeal to his current target’s compassion and desire to make a difference in his life. In hindsight, it should have been an obvious red flag to us that he seems to have an alarming number of these stories. By connecting with each other, we have now realized that many of the stories we had heard about each other were in reality blatant lies, crafted by Scott Lewis presumably to dissuade us from contacting each other. As author Lynn Fairweather puts it, “…an abuser’s prospect becomes an even better potential victim if she’s willing to listen to his tale of woe and offer him sympathy and encouragement, because then he’s hit the jackpot: He’s found a “saver,” a nurturing woman who compulsively takes in troubled souls, blind to the inherent risks to her own well-being”. Each of us have wanted to be “better than all the previous people” when we first entered his life.

Scott Lewis deliberately maneuvers his new target into disliking all his ex partners and previous friends. This is also why we have been silent for so long; for a very long time we were too scared to reach out to anyone else, or speak about what he did to us. We knew that he would always craft his narrative to portray himself in the best possible light while making us look vindictive, petty, and delusional. We were scared that he would reach out to mutual friends first with his own version of the story, to further isolate us and make his deception and abuse less likely to be called out. Since connecting with other victims of Scott Lewis’s abuse, we have been able to see exactly how he distorts the things that he does; the way he minimizes his own role, plays the victim, and pins all the blame on the actual victim instead. We were surprised to realize we each experienced the exact same cycle of abuse at his hands.

I used to be so optimistic about human beings.

The evolution of caffeine

Let us turn now to the One True God of science and atheism, the Ground State of our existence. We shall now contemplate Caffeine. Raise your cup in praise.

caffeine

This morning, as I was sipping the blessed stimulant and browsing the journals, I learned a little something. I learned how caffeine evolved, and it was both unsurprising and surprising. I am not a biochemist, so it’s always enlightening to read a little out of that field. This, for instance, is the chemical precursor in the synthesis of caffeine.

xanthosine

Oh, I said, I certainly do recognize that — I’ve been teaching budding cell biologists about important biological macromolecules for the past few weeks, and that’s a nucleoside. Note the ribose sugar with the attached nitrogenous base, the double ring of one pentagon attached to a hexagon? That’s xanthosine, which is also a precursor in the synthesis of those purines our cells use in signaling and assembling chains of nucleotides in DNA and RNA. That’s obvious. And then you look at caffeine, and it’s also obvious how cells make it: slap a couple of methyl groups (those -CH3s sprinkled around), and presto, you’ve got a happy drug. Easy.

Except…not all cells make significant amounts of caffeine. It takes specific enzymes to glue those methyl groups onto the core base with any reliable yield, and my cells might have xanthosine around, but they aren’t making any for me. I have to raid the vegetable kingdom and tear off their leaves and beans and hit them with boiling water to extract the blessed caffeine. And then not all plants make it — I can’t get a buzz on with a bowl of peas in the morning.

And then I learn that caffeine has evolved independently at least 5 times, and that the distribution of caffeine is patchy — some species in a genus will make it, while other related species in the same genus don’t. The caffeine molecule in Coffea (coffee) and Camellia (tea) and Theobroma is identical, but it’s synthesized by different pathways.

My mind is blown. Excuse me, but I have to take a break and think about this. I’m going to take a walk down to the coffee shop and gurgle down a couple of cups to help absorb this information. I’ll resume this post a little later.

You understand, don’t you? Go have another cup of coffee or tea while you’re waiting.

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