What I'm Reading (Nov. 5)

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On the literary menu this time: The disturbing past of statistics ... the intriguing past of textiles ... the hidden cost of flour ... and how we view dining out.

"Statistics, as a lens through which scientists investigate real-world questions, has always been smudged by the fingerprints of the people holding the lens. Statistical thinking and eugenicist thinking are, in fact, deeply intertwined, and many of the theoretical problems with methods like significance testing—first developed to identify racial differences—are remnants of their original purpose, to support eugenics."

If you need to add another reason to understand why you don't like statistics, here it is in the other "scientific" thoughts of its creators, including Ronald Fischer and Karl Pearson. From Nautil. Us, How Eugenics shaped Statistics.

"In a 1991 Scientific American article, the influential computer scientist Mark Weiser predicted a coming era of "ubiquitous computing," operating as seamlessly in the background as the electric motors in a modern car. "The most profound technologies are those that disappear," he wrote. "They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."

With his invocation of seamlessness, weaving and fabric, Weiser nodded, probably unconsciously, toward a far older, equally ubiquitous and rarely acknowledged technology: textiles."

As it turns out, textiles' story has it all, market economies, Luddites, technologic unemployment, industrial espionage, virtue signaling, and war. From the Wall Street Journal, The World-Changing Technology of Textiles

"In March and April 2020, flour vanished from supermarket shelves as locked-down families sought the reassurance of kneading dough, sniffing the aroma of loaves baking in the oven, and relishing the texture and flavor of homemade bread. Photographs of free form loaves flooded social media. A sourdough starter in the refrigerator became the new black. It was as if the pandemic had re-awakened awareness that bread, and more generally cereal grains, have been the staff of life for most of humanity for the past ten thousand years and more.

Yet for all those heart-warming aromas, the baking was scarcely from-scratch. By starting with flour, pandemic cooks dodged all the preliminary stages of turning grains into flour."

It is time to consider another ubiquitous technological advance so old that it has disappeared from our view, flour. From Works in Progress, The Daily Grind

I am a foodie; there is no denying that, and I miss the dining out experience. Over the summer, we did have the opportunity for outdoor dining, which was great. But the Fall brings colder weather and going indoors to dine problematic. Econlife takes on that question with an article entitled, Looking at Our Restaurant Anxiety

My concern is the behavior of the patrons surrounding me – I want them to be at least as responsible as I am towards masks and social distancing. I believe the same is true as we consider what to do about Thanksgiving dinner, an event that is rapidly approaching.