What I'm Reading (May 9)

By Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA — May 09, 2024
In war's grim wake, destruction finds its seed, Spotify's AI, a DJ's guise,Guides our ears through time Angus Deaton calls for equity in prices, fair for all. How far from original can one stray? A Caesar salad bends tradition
Image by moonflower5 from Pixabay

War can be so destructive to lives and infrastructure, and, as it turns out, seeds.

“An early victim of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the genetic riches of one of the traditional breadbaskets of humanity. In the first months of the conflict, Russian shells hit the Plant Genetic Resources Bank in Kharkiv. Founded in 01908, the gene bank preserved the seeds of 160,000 varieties of crops and plant seeds from around the world, and was the repository for many unique cultivars of Ukrainian barley, peas, and wheat. Tens of thousands of samples, some of them centuries old, were reduced to ash.

‘Under Hitler’s Germany, when the whole of Ukraine was under occupation, the Germans did not destroy this collection,’ a lead researcher at the institute told the online newspaper The Insider. ‘They knew their descendants might need it. After all, every country’s food security depends on such banks of genetic resources.’”

From Long Now, To Save it, Eat it.


Are you open-eared, willing to listen to new music, or stuck in the past like me?

“I recently tried Spotify's new DJ feature in which an AI bot curates personalized listening sessions, introducing songs while explaining the intention behind its selections (much like a real-life disc jockey). Every four or five pieces, the bot interjects to set up its next block of music, ascribing a theme to these upcoming works. Here are some of my example introductions:

  • "Next, we're gonna play some of your favorites from 2016."
  • "Here are some of your favorite indie rock songs from the 2010s."    
  • "Up next, we have some music inspired by your love of 2000s hip-hop."

With each DJ interlude, something became increasingly clear: my music taste had barely changed over the course of a decade.”

Our musical tastes seem to be set in our teen years. I was lucky because mine tracked with some of the greats in the 60s and 70s. One question to ponder: are our tastes in foods also stuck in the past? From Stat Significant: When Do We Stop Finding New Music?


Dynamic pricing, surge pricing for Ubers, or perhaps a surcharge for Wendy’s, an extra charge to get in the plane early so your carry-on has a home, all make understanding the price of something far less concrete than in the past. Angus Deaton, Nobel Laureate, and economist, has weighed in on economist’s focus on efficiency rather than fairness.

“One of those two was Angus Deaton, a Princeton economist who won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for his work on poverty, and who in recent years has publicly questioned the way his discipline looks at the world. Deaton argues that when it comes to pricing, economists are too focused on maximizing efficiency, without taking fairness into account. In a world of scarce resources, perhaps rationing by time is fairer than rationing by price. We all have different amounts of money, after all, whereas time is evenly distributed. Then there’s the way economists decide what’s good. The mainstream economist thinks that the best policy is the one that maximizes total economic surplus, no matter who gets it. If that benefits some people (companies) at the expense of others (consumers), the government can compensate the latter group through transfer payments. “A lot of free marketers say you can tax the gainers and give it to the losers,” Deaton says. ‘But somehow, miraculously, that never seems to happen.’”

The article has far more to say. From The Atlantic, Welcome To Pricing Hell


Where I live on Long Island has a wonderful local venue where you can sit near the stage for $50, have free parking, and a great time, as long as you are willing to listen to tribute bands or the occasional band with only one or two remaining original members. That has often made me wonder how far you can stray from the original and still retain the name. It seems I am not alone in that query.

“It’s all a little peculiar, at least in the sense that words are supposed to mean something. Imagine ordering a “hamburger” that contained a bun and some lettuce, with chicken, marinara sauce, and basil Mad-Libbed between. Or cacio e pepe with, say, carrots and Christmas ham. To be clear, modifying the Caesar isn’t fundamentally a bad thing, as long as the flavors resemble those of the original. Baz likes her Caesar with anchovies (traditional! controversial! correct!) but said she’s happy to swap in fish sauce, capers, or “other salty, briny things.” Jacob Sessoms, a restaurant chef in Asheville, North Carolina, told me he doesn’t mind an alternative green but draws the line at, say, pomegranate seeds. Jason Kaplan, the CEO of a restaurant-consulting firm in New York, doesn’t mind a miso Caesar. “Because of the saltiness and the complexity, because it’s a fermented soybean paste, you know?” he told me. ‘That doesn’t piss me off as much as somebody saying that ‘this is a Caesar salad,’ when clearly there’s nothing to say it’s even closely related.’”

From The Atlantic, Something Weird Is Happening With Caesar Salad

Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA

Director of Medicine

Dr. Charles Dinerstein, M.D., MBA, FACS is Director of Medicine at the American Council on Science and Health. He has over 25 years of experience as a vascular surgeon.

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