5 Good Things – 1/9/17

January 9, 2017

Every couple of weeks I’ll share a few things that I found interesting, enjoyable, or otherwise worth sharing.

1. The News Is Wrong Again

In order to be a reasonable person who wants to be informed about the world, you cannot trust any given news source to report accurately. Slate Star Codex elaborates on a NY Times piece that completely mangles the results of a poll of economists in order to spin it to support the author’s argument.

If you’re thinking “of course, that’s the NY Times! They’re biased”, you’re missing the point. No news source should be trusted completely. Verify what you read and look at original reports/studies/documents as much as possible. From my personal experience, and from the experience of people I have spoken with, any story based on a study, poll, or report should be particularly scrutinized.

2. Lapsang Souchong Tea

I’m a big fan of Chinese tea, and after a long hiatus from drinking tea (for no apparent reason–I just stopped), I decided to try something new. I’d had a bag of this for over a year and never bothered to open it. As soon as I opened the package, the intense scent of single-malt Scotch hit me. I’ve never smelled anything quite like this from a tea before. I have an Oolong tea that produces a strong malt flavor, but nothing quite so similar to Scotch as this.

It tasted as it smelled, and it was delightful. After some researched I found out that it’s actually a black tea that is smoked, which is how it gets that unique malty/campfire scent. I’m a huge fan.

I’m also a huge fan of Music City Tea, which is where I buy pretty much all of my tea. Back when I was really getting into tea a few years ago I discovered them as a source of high-quality loose-leaf Chinese teas. They have a good selection of all of the major tea types (though not as large as some other retailers), but what really stands out are their prices. I still haven’t been able to find any other tea seller online that can beat them.

Example: Dragonwell Green Tea. This is a very common, solid green tea. For 2 oz:

$12 from Music City

$15 from Teavana

$17 from Red Blossom

Granted, there might be small differences in the quality, year, or harvest times between those three (e.g. Red Blossom specifies theirs as a “pre-rain” Dragonwell. I don’t know if the others are, if this just a marketing ploy and all Dragonwells are harvested at this time, etc), but I don’t think you would be able to taste much of a difference unless you’re an aficionado.

Red Blossom is another company I buy from occasionally. Their website is a fantastic resource about proper infusion methods and the centuries-long traditions the Chinese have with their tea. They also sell fantastic and rarer teas, just at a much higher price compared to Music City.

Continuing with food…

3. The Best Bolognese Recipe

I am a huge fan of bolognese. It’s been one of my favorite things to make for years. But this recipe is absurdly good. I would have never thought to use gelatin in this way, but it makes the sauce incredibly luxurious. When I made it I was not able to procure chicken livers. I also did not include celery and only had a fraction of the specified panchetta on hand.

Next time I make this I want to do it by the book, particularly since I love chicken liver, and I think I’ll make pasta for it as well instead of using dried pasta. It’s that good. One of the best meals I’ve ever made.

4. Trump And The Batman Effect

Another gem from Slate Star Codex highlighting the marketing strategy Trump is likely to use as president. A couple of thoughts:

  1. I think the “jobs saved” rhetoric might be one of the most damaging and harmful aspects of modern American politics. It’s an infallible assumption that saving jobs is a good thing. First of all, it’s super easy to manufacture jobs numbers. A lot of it comes down to assuming the intent of the company who is supposedly changing their mind to create more jobs in America. Second, it values jobs in America over not only jobs in other countries, but overall economic and quality of life improvements. It’s a nationalistic perspective. Third, it’s the classic case of the seen vs the unseen. Hazlitt wrote about this in Economics in One Lesson many years ago, and it’s one of the fundamental principles of thinking rationally not only in economic matters, but with everything..
  2. Because this seems to be Trump’s go-to PR move, it becomes very easy for a company to co-op this for their own benefit. All they need to do is “plan” to build a facility overseas, chat with Trump, then “change their mind”. Trump then gets to brag about how he saved jobs, and the company gets free advertisement. Incentives matter. This is classic crony capitalism.

On crony capitalism, I think people focus too much on entirely the wrong types of crony-ism. They see it as politicians cutting backdoor deals to enrich themselves, when really there are so many problems more inherent in the regulatory institutions themselves. Three concepts you should educate yourself about:

1. Rent-Seeking Behavior

2. Regulatory Capture

3. Regime Uncertainty

Now, more about Batman in a less depressing way:

5. Batman and “Bent” Narratives

I don’t know if I have much to say about this one, other than that it got me thinking about the assumptions and rules of the game we presume about the narratives we like, and how thin that line could be between the narratives we do like and the ones we think are preposterous. More about this maybe at a later date.







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