Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Why you shouldn't refrigerate tomatoes

...a tomato’s flavor — made up of sugars, acids and chemicals called volatiles — degrades as soon as it’s picked from the vine. There’s only one thing you can do now: Keep it out of the fridge.

Researchers at The University of Florida have found in a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that when tomatoes are stored at the temperature kept in most refrigerators, irreversible genetic changes take place that erase some of their flavors forever.

Harry J. Klee, a professor of horticultural sciences who led the study, and his colleagues took two varieties of tomatoes — an heirloom and a more common modern variety — and stored them at 41 degrees Fahrenheit before letting them recover at room temperature (68 degrees Fahrenheit). When they looked at what happened inside the tomatoes in cold temperatures, Dr. Klee said the subtropical fruit went into shock, producing especially damaging changes after a week of storage. After they were allowed to warm up, even for a day, some genes in the tomatoes that created its flavor volatiles had turned off and stayed off.
--Joanna Klein, NYT, on preserving by not refrigerating

Die-hard Clinton supporters are not that different from die-hard Trump supporters

I’ve been asking friends and family the last few days this question: “What could Clinton possibly do that would make you stay home, let alone vote for Trump?” (And for the people who say Trump is an exception, just substitute “George W. Bush” and pretend this was your choice.)

The answer so far: not much.

Imagine, for example, the power couple in Netflix’s House of Cards, who make it to the White House through years of murder and deception and scandals suppressed, but who have a sincere commitment to the issues. Imagine that were Hillary and Bill’s story, and it all came out this week: the hints of sinister murders and drug use and conniving. But still, no dent in the chances Hillary nominates a liberal supreme court judge, or pushes for climate change measures, or treats the 11 million illegals in the country in a humane way.

What I want to ask people is: Would you vote Trump, or even stay home and let Trump win in your state? For committed Democrats, I’m betting the crimes would have to be incredibly bad, and the proof incontrovertible. And the social media bubble would have to stick those unpleasant truths in your face rather than sow doubt about the truth or seriousness of any accusations.

Bizarrely, this makes me feel better about my country. You can look at your fellow Americans and not say “what a bunch of deplorables!”, but instead see a group of people who have a deep commitment to a set of principles and issues, and think their chances are better with Trump than Clinton, however much they might dislike him.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Muslim refugees: The future of Christianity in Europe?

When I first met Mattias in July at a refugee shelter just north of Berlin, he went by the name Mohammed. He had arrived in Germany from Iran the previous fall, along with thousands of other asylum-seekers—sometimes up to 10,000 arrived in a single day. After the German government assigned him to this shelter, he converted to Christianity. “I wouldn’t say I was a Muslim” before, he told me. “I didn’t go to a mosque for an entire year. Now I am going to church every week.” He expects it will take about three weeks to get off his church’s waiting list to be baptized. Perhaps once he’s more settled in Germany, he’ll be able to change his name legally to Mattias, his chosen Christian name. ...

We sat together in a sparse dormitory room at the shelter with three other Iranians who had converted from Islam to Christianity. They attend a Protestant church together...

Throughout Germany, the pews of churches like theirs are filled increasingly by asylum-seekers. ...

Muslim converts to Christianity that I spoke to in Germany cited the redemptive power of Jesus’s story, and disillusionment with Islam. It’s also worth noting the more earthly forces potentially at work: Germany does not grant refugee status to Iranians as easily as it does Syrians and Iraqis. ... Iranians seeking refugee status must prove that if they are sent home, they stand the risk of being persecuted for their beliefs. In Iran, that often means Christian converts. ...

A week after that meal, I visited Trinity Lutheran Church, which also hosts a large Iranian congregation. ...

Up the stairs and past the Iranian ushers, we poked our heads into the nave. There were few seats available, so we crowded into the choir loft along with the other stragglers. There appeared to be around 300 people in attendance, mostly Iranians, but my translator pointed out that a line of men seated behind us included Hazaras from Afghanistan—also current or former Shia Muslims—like the Iranians. Only a dozen or so in attendance appeared to be German. A woman in the front pews still wore a hijab. ...

[Pastor Gottfried] Martens said his congregation was “lucky” to have its pews filled with asylum-seekers from the Muslim world. Being around them, he said, brought meaning to his life. “It’s such a job to be together with these wonderful people who have risked so much for their Christian faith,” he said. “I can hardly imagine [working] in a normal German congregation anymore.” His church currently counts some 1,000 baptized Iranian and Afghan members with 300 on the waiting list, he said. Before someone is baptized, he must pass a kind of Christian entrance exam by taking classes on what it means to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. It’s one way of making sure people aren’t just becoming Christian for the visa, to ascertain whether “they really understand what the Christian faith means,” Martens said.
--Laura Kasinof, The Atlantic, on the spiritual fruit of the refugee crisis

Grant reviewers dislike ideas that are novel and close to their own expertise

...we designed and executed a grant proposal process at a leading research university in which we randomized the assignment of evaluators and proposals to generate 2,130 evaluator–proposal pairs. We find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel. The patterns are consistent with biases associated with boundedly rational evaluation of new ideas. The patterns are inconsistent with intellectual distance simply contributing “noise” or being associated with private interests of evaluators.
--Kevin Boudreau, Eva Guinan, Karim Lakhani, and Christoph Riedl, Management Science, on biases of peer review

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Asian-American experience of otherness

To the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China:

Maybe I should have let it go. Turned the other cheek. We had just gotten out of church, and I was with my family and some friends on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We were going to lunch, trying to see if there was room in the Korean restaurant down the street. You were in a rush. It was raining. Our stroller and a gaggle of Asians were in your way.

But I was, honestly, stunned when you yelled at us from down the block, “Go back to China!”

I hesitated for a second and then sprinted to confront you. That must have startled you. You pulled out your iPhone in front of the Equinox and threatened to call the cops. It was comical, in retrospect. You might have been charged instead, especially after I walked away and you screamed, “Go back to your fucking country.”

“I was born in this country!” I yelled back.

It felt silly. But how else to prove I belonged? ...

You had on a nice rain coat. Your iPhone was a 6 Plus. You could have been a fellow parent in one of my daughters’ schools. You seemed, well, normal. But you had these feelings in you, and, the reality is, so do a lot of people in this country right now.

Maybe you don’t know this, but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience. It’s this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day. That no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don’t belong. We’re foreign. We’re not American. It’s one of the reasons that Fox News segment the other day on Chinatown by Jesse Watters, with the karate and nunchucks and broken English, generated so much outrage.

My parents fled mainland China for Taiwan ahead of the Communist takeover. They came to the United States for graduate school. They raised two children, both of whom went to Harvard. I work at The New York Times. Model minority, indeed.

Yet somehow I still often feel like an outsider.
--My college friend Mike Luo, NYT, on an illustrative encounter

Monday, October 3, 2016

Steve Young's secret psychological frailties

The life story of [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback] Steve Young—“QB: My Life Behind the Spiral” by Steve Young with Jeff Benedict (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), due out Oct. 11, but available for preorder now—is the rare sports book in which the heretofore pristine hero admits to some legitimate human scars. Young grew up so close to his parents that he could never attend sleepovers at friends’ homes, and the separation anxiety and homesickness was a real problem. He threatened to quit Brigham Young multiple times. Young had such performance anxiety that, before a 1993 game, he didn’t sleep for 36 hours, so petrified he was that he’d fail, and spent hours with a psychologist. In fact, that year, Young admits in the book that a depression specialist in San Francisco diagnosed him with separation anxiety and told him: “Never once have I seen an adult with the kind of separation anxiety that you have.”

This was months after Young was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, in 1992.
--Peter King, Sports Illustrated, on the tenuous link between success and mental health