Mixed messages, Saturday 15 October 2016

These browser tabs won’t close themselves, you know. (The new “Universal Clipboard” feature in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra makes it easier for me to copy links from my iPad to my laptop, though. When it works.)

“The Greatest Restaurant In The World: Discovering A New Era Of Food At Noma”:

When I first encounter René Redzepi, he is cutting a live elk in half with a chainsaw. Noma’s unwavering commitment to native, hyper-local Nordic foods requires its kitchen staff to spend hours every morning foraging the neighboring woodlands and shorelines for wild ingredients, and Redzepi has a gift for sensing gastronomic potential in everything around him.

“A lot of times you can find these lovely little rose hip flowers pickling in the stomach fluids of the larger field mammals that live around here,” Redzepi says, his arm elbow-deep in the abdominal cavity of the freshly bisected animal, its viscera still twitching and gurgling as he fishes out two small, pink, slimy flower petals from within. “Sometimes you have to saw through 20 or so elk before you find any, but it’s always worth the effort. They’re absolutely perfect with caramelized sweetbreads.”

(It gets funnier the deeper it goes.)

Not satire is Gary Sernovitz’s article “The Thrill of Losing Money by Investing in a Manhattan Restaurant” in the New Yorker. Having invested in a restaurant, there’s much that’s painfully familiar here.

If you live in New York City long enough and appear to be successfully employed in an industry that Bernie Sanders dislikes, you will be asked at some point to do three things: sponsor a table at a vanity fund-raiser, become a “producer” of a Broadway play, and invest in a restaurant. I had no trouble declining the honor of hosting a benefit or helping “Hedda Gabler” back to the stage.

I did the restaurant.

And while I am not dumb enough to have imagined I’d make much money as a passive, partial investor in a New York City restaurant, I was dumb enough to think that I could probably earn my money back-ish, while at the same time helping some decent young men fulfill their dream. (Also, it seemed more fun than investing in a municipal-bond mutual fund, which cannot, thanks to the killjoys at the S.E.C., give investors free beers.) But of the many failures of logic and foresight of that investment, which I made in 2010, the one that stings the most is not realizing that so few restaurants in New York make money precisely because too many restaurants in New York have investors like me.

Eponymous Laws — pithy rules with someone’s name attached to them, like the Peter Principle (“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”) or Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (“Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no'”) — have a disproportionate air of authority to them. Ryan Schmeizer writes about how the very appearance of authority can influence us as much as real authority, and that by appealing to authority, eponymous laws can have more persuasive power then the underlying concepts themselves. Also, how to steal 16 cases of beer from Walmart in broad daylight.

This led me to look into the Lindy Effect, which presents a sobering picture for software developers trying to update legacy code.

The 2016 World Stone Skimming Championships took place on Easdale Island on the west coast of Scotland last month. (I’m still confused about when to capitalize compass directions.) Congratulations to Dougie Isaacs (Scotland) with a toss of 61m, and Lucy Wood (England) with 40m in the men’s and women’s championships respectively.

On the subject of lesser-known sports, I played (indoor) cornhole for the first time while I was in New York the other week. For a game whose commonly used terminology includes phrases like “Mustachio”, “Slippery Granny”, and “Dirty Bag”, it’s surprisingly cerebral and tactical.

FanDuel's sport research lab
FanDuel’s sport research lab

I may not like what Medium is doing for the web, but being transparent about their interview process is a bold step. Leslie Miley spoke about how being intentional in the hiring process is necessary for diversity. The UK GDS (Government Digital Service) is explicit about what is OK. Working remotely (or, to turn the concept on its head, location neutral) is still hard, no matter what kind of spin you put on it. All this is important when trying to deal with (and emerge from the shadow of) startup culture.