Category Archives: Food

Edible Wrappers Are Centuries Old. Why Are They Now Disruptive?

In 1846 a chef in Paris created a disruptive edible paper portrait of a visiting Egyptian dignitary, perched on top of a pyramid of pulled sugar steps:

On the top of the [sugar] pyramid was a portrait painted in food dyes on sugar paste, of the Pasha’s venerated father Ibrahim. As the Pasha picked it up to examine it more closely he saw that embedded in the filigree icing frame of the portrait was a tiny, but perfect, portrait of himself.

Pretty innovative, considering edible wafer paper already had been around for hundreds of years before that.

In another disruptive example about 50 years later, a London chef started a “fad” of edible paper, including a dinner menu.

It appears an ingenious chef conceived the idea of making an edible menu card, and, after many experiments, he produced one composed of the sugar tissue paper which is used on the bottom of macaroons, and which is, of course, edible.

Edible wrappers have been so common, so easy to make and use, we might take them for granted and forget they even exist.

Here’s a sentence I found on a site that sells very large boxes of edible wrappers at super low cost, right next to their DIY recipe:

Wafer paper is a single most affordable product in edible printing industry, everyone uses it, from big box bakeries to stay at home moms.

Surely that was supposed to say stay at home parents. Or are they trying to imply stay at home dads can’t afford or use edible wrappers?

Anyway here is some “big disruption” news, in stark contrast to all this ancient history of edible wrappers:

‘A disruptive solution to pollution’: introducing edible packaging.

Indeed. Someone has just introduced something very familiar.

We’re told an inexpensive and common thing, centuries old, is about to start disrupting.

Combining her engineering background with her passion for a ‘cradle to cradle’ lifecycle, Lamp has launched a new company, Traceless, to commercialise the idea.

Lamp? She didn’t want to name her new company something like Illuminated? Also “cradle to cradle” sounds like it’s going exactly nowhere. Like saying from point A to point A. Are we there yet?

And I would be more impressed if she was marketing her idea as a way to deliver one-time written passwords (OTWP), or send ephemeral messages, which obviously you eat after reading.

One can only imagine if she had an history background. Would she still have gone commercial? I suspect no historian would be framing something centuries old as her new idea.

Traditional nougat wrapped in traditional traceless edible packaging anyone?

Why Charity Water Wells May Be Worse For Women Than Long Walks With Cans

Women had been carrying important information over private networks for centuries if not longer. It was so effective that to outsiders only the water was seen.
Part four in a three part series

I told myself I wouldn’t treat this lightly and so it ended up being delayed a long while.

In a nutshell when a “water charity” would roll into villages in Africa they believed dropping a well directly outside homes would liberate women and children from the burden of long walks with heavy loads.

These wells in fact undermined a core network and fabric of social order and thus dangerously unbalanced power — women no longer had private time in shared chores away from the home at their “workplaces” and overall safety/security of the region was significantly undermined.

This is not conjecture. I was working with a huge global tech firm that was pushing a water charity donation pledge. When I started to question the ethics of the charity, the head of it came to meet with me in person.

At first it was cordial and he said things like “happy to answer your questions” though soon he seemed a bit frustrated, even deflated as if I had unmasked him. I had asked straight questions like “exactly how many villages had security issues after a well was dug”.

To his credit he told me could confirm exactly 15 examples (at that time). I appreciated the transparency, yet he seemed disturbed by having to admit to the fact an utterly simplistic solution (get donations, drive in, dig a well, leave) to a complex problem was in fact making lives worse.

In other words I was told by the head of a major charity that in more than a dozen cases soon after the new well was established armed rebels were known to target it, seize control and force all residents into refugee camps. That was fascinating, and still didn’t go deep enough for me as it focused on militant action more than the subtle process of cultural devaluation and collapse (e.g. Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart“). He admitted the lost villages were never reported, despite his transparency with me.

He also tried to muster some of the usual “big picture is we’re helping a lot of people” chaff. When I dug into his actual data (at that time) even it was questionable, suffering from big data integrity issues like obvious copy/paste numbers for a map of the wells scattered across an entire continent.

Finally, when I broached this subject with regional conflict experts they confirmed that the resource charity model was typically flawed from the start, and conditions worsened without analysis. They knew of the problems, and again said none of it was ever reported. More to the point, they confirmed they knew how introduction of wells (or similar technology shifts for that matter, such as men on bicycles fetching water) destroyed a traditional model of safety and power for women.

While perhaps counter-intuitive that reducing a burden creates far worse burdens, it lays bare the kind of false assumptions someone can make when they look at ways to “fix” networks and markets they observe only as “do good” outsiders.

If we think only about carrying water as hard we risk projecting that mindset into other communities and look for ways to remove that specific pain point. Instead we should think about how hard life becomes for people if they don’t have the opportunity to carry water on long isolated paths (removal of private time/place to communicate translates directly to loss of power).

The water charity seemed to be attempting what Fela had written about in the mid 1970s, in a song called “Water no get enemy“.

Water probably calculated at first as the safest possible bet for large and sticky donations — nobody could hate something as useful as this, and detractors were expected to only look wrong. However someone seriously underestimated wider risk management related to resources.

To be blunt, the water charity appeared to be started by a man who felt guilt for being an awful person and decided “white savior” of black people by delivering water meant nobody would question him, probably including himself. Unfortunately things are not so easy, and the fact he was searching for such trivial criticism-proof answers to the wicked complexity of real life just circles back onto how he ended up disliking himself in the first place.

The security processes and procedures around assets and political power, not to mention the privacy and safety of women and children, all were tragically disrupted by a simple failure to threat model water distribution. Hubris proved even water could get an enemy.

Why Violent Suicide Biker Gangs Love And Hate Masks

A long time ago, what seems like a hundred years from today, I wrote a post called “1873 Slaughterhouse Cases Explain US #Covid19 ‘Anti-Mask’ Cultism” on why Americans are so slavishly (pun not intended) obsessed with refusing to wear a simple safety mask that benefits society as well as themselves.

Today we have multiple examples of this manifesting in violent “biker” culture, as aggressive fringe groups and criminal syndicates operate campaigns to undermine rights by campaigning for suicidal anti-freedoms.

I don’t use the suicide phrase lightly, as just the other day I was sitting down with a biker (yes, I ride) who proudly explained his machine to me — an open fat drive belt by his ankle “sometimes rips pants off”, situated just in front of a giant “suicide shift” lever topped by a skull. He said he made it all so hard to operate safely it prevented anyone from stealing his ride and living to tell.

Imagine a guy thinking he needs to make his seat so miserable for others they wouldn’t dare try to steal it from him, devaluing it entirely while at the same time bragging about what a supremacist he is for being able to keep power out of the hands of others. Here’s how HD Forums describes the suicide shifter lifestyle:

Now, I realize there are plenty of semantic arguments about what constitutes a “suicide” shifter. But for the sake of this question, let’s just say the term refers to a hand shifter, rather than the conventional foot set up which became standard around the end of the Eisenhower administration.

Do you know what else became standard around the end of Eisenhower administration? Desegregation meant to allow blacks to have a seat.

As we talked I noted this guy had hung on his wall a framed Confederate dollar above a picture of Ronald Reagan, which clearly to him represented the same thing.

In other words, do you want to ride a motorcycle safely for yourself and everyone around you? Some bikers hate that.

Do you want to be free of mindless assaults and horrible designs of a simplistic/selfish predator? Some in society violently disagree — are more than ready to kill you and themselves as a “protest” against such asinine freedom (of course fraudulently calling it a defense of freedom when they deny freedom to you).

This is like asking do you want the freedom to drink water without known poison, or breathe air without known toxins? Allegedly there are restaurant and factory owners who ride bikes and demand their “god given” right, above any governmental interference, to deny everyone else any freedom from harm.

These are the people who see themselves as individual victims of concepts of society, fighting against everything always, angry at the world. The idea that someone could be given kindness or spared a dangerous moment without some kind of divine intervention or having to pay a huge price… is an unthinkable one.

Such perpetually dis-satisfied and unhappy people are in a constant state of anger at the world.

They ride without helmets, emitting noise and pollution, smoking cigarettes… and thus it is no stretch (pun not intended) that just like all the other ways to do harm since 1873, they can’t put on masks even today if they think it would help someone else. If it helps them directly (e.g. avoid being identified and held responsible for their actions) they have no hesitation to put on a mask. However, in terms of helping society… about as likely as that guy taking Ronald Reagan’s portrait off his wall. For them it is only one more thing to be angry about.

The Give and Take of Cake

I’m curious about a theory posted in a rhyming-slang encoding guide meant to demystify some fun yet secretive communication:

…no cake can be eaten that has not been given (by a shopkeeper) and taken…

“Give and Take”, which rhymes with cake, is thus said to mean cake.

However, cake can be eaten alone. Cake also can be baked and not given away, only eaten. Does nobody in the rhyming slang context bake a cake and eat it themselves?

And that brings to mind something more like a “cake and eat it too” explanation:

…to have or do two good things at the same time that are impossible to have or do at the same time…

It looks like there are interesting cultural clues in a key to decoding signals, although the current reference may actually be incorrect or misleading.

The Movie “Jaws” Foreshadowed America’s Disinformation Crisis

If you want to talk about disinformation in America, “Jaws” is one of the best examples of how a simple story based on a false fear can do exceptional long lasting harm.

It is very difficult to get sharks back to what they are, correctly seen as loving and affectionate.

An example of shark reality is from 1959 to 2010 the TOTAL number of fatalities was 26 in America (0.5/year average). Only 1 in a 3.7 million chance.

For an obvious comparison in risk homeostasis, lightning data shows a 37.9/year average. That average means 1 in 180,746 Americans will be killed by lightning. And that actually is less likely even than being killed by a dog, which is 1 in 118,776!

Ok, to be fair American citizens killed by anything means we take the population total and divide by recorded deaths. The resulting number really shouldn’t be substituted for a probability because factors creep in.

Do you swim every day with sharks? Things like that make better factoring for probability.

Speaking of swimming with sharks then, here is another example of shark reality, as written by Sune Nightingale:

On a dive one day Cristina Zenato noticed a hook inside a shark’s mouth. In the end she just stuck her hand in and pulled it out. From that moment on the shark changed her behaviour and would show up on the dive and allow Cristina to stroke her, and would give Cristina a little nudge on the hip as if to say “hey I’m here”

Then other sharks started showing up wanting hooks removed…..Cristina now has a box of over 300 removed hooks.

“This is a wild animal and she’s giving me full trust…….It is something to be absolutely in awe of no matter how many times it happens …..what I developed is an appreciation for their vulnerability.”

Really changes your perception of sharks doesn’t it to see one being so cuddly and kind?

Again the odds of an American being killed by shark are about 1 in 3.7 million for everyone in the general population. It’s super remote on a generic predictive scale prone to error.

Yet here we see the odds of being killed by a shark actually even MORE remote, reaching towards zero for someone swimming with them constantly. They seem to love her and trust her.

The author of Jaws expressed his deep regrets for writing such a dangerous fiction, but obviously it did little to change the disinformation effect of his book and the movie.

“Spielberg certainly made the most superb movie; Peter was very pleased,” Wendy Benchley told Associated Press. “But Peter kept telling people the book was fiction, it was a novel, and that he took no more responsibility for the fear of sharks than Mario Puzo took responsibility for the Mafia,” she said, referring to Puzo’s screenplay and novel “The Godfather.”

“Jaws” was “entirely fiction,” Peter Benchley repeated in a London Daily Express article that appeared last week.

“Knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today,” said Benchley, who also co-wrote the screenplay for “Jaws.” “Sharks don’t target human beings, and they certainly don’t hold grudges.”

Americans target sharks and hold grudges against them. Not the other way around.