- Discussing with two of my aunts my bosom size and how lucky I was to be well endowed. I was TEN.
- Inviting my boyfriend (if you can even call him that) in the 7th grade and his mother over for tea. So embarrassing. I don’t even think I spoke more than 20 words to him the whole time we went steady, let alone stare lovingly into his eyes. Sorry, Bas.
- Treating me like a princess for a day. I think I was 7 or 8 years old. Even though I was the only child living at home by that time, my mom still made a big deal out of it.
- Insisting that I take private Portuguese lessons over Christmas break even though we had just moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and my language teacher had decided not to give me a grade as I was so new.
- Not insisting that I continue to take ballet or guitar lessons. Thank you, mom.
- Buying me a paperback copy of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care two months after Christian was born. Perhaps it was her way of telling me I wasn’t doing it right. But, at least, she did not judge.
- Walking through the snow and ice in Pittsburgh during the winter of 1979 to catch the bus out to Northway Elementary School. It was miserable, but we did it every school day for several months. We had just moved back to the States after 5 years in Western Australia. And, my new classmates were weird.
- Walking everywhere. All of the time. Mom loved to walk fast.
- Making and eating pie. Mom used to bake them when I was little, lemon meringue in particular. But, in later years, she was always on the hunt for a competent, made-from-scratch piece of pie.
Writing of these few memories reminds me how my mom taught me to be open minded, to embrace different cultures and experiences, and to love and be loyal to my family. I only hope I can provide my son with half of the memories mom left me.
In this post I share the Free Exchange column from the September 6, 2014, edition of The Economist. It addresses one of my favorite things: Change.
DESTROYING the old to make way for the new is the essence of market economies. Karl Marx thought it one of the nastier qualities of capitalism whereas Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist, cast “creative destruction” in more positive light, as the only route to sustained growth. In the 1990s Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, gave the notion a modern sheen with his theory of “disruptive innovation”. The term is now everywhere. Uber is said to be disrupting the taxi business, Cronuts are disrupting breakfast and Twitter is disrupting communication.
A disruptive innovation, in Mr Christensen’s work, is a very specific thing: a new technology that is inferior in certain respects to existing ones, but has other desirable attributes. He cites eight-inch floppy disks, which could store more data than smaller ones, but were nonetheless supplanted because they were too big and expensive for desktop computers. By the same token, publishers of music and newspapers were wrong-footed by the advent of online distribution, which was initially of lower quality. So was digital photography, but it nonetheless ended up displacing film.
Most studies that examine the size of a firm and its capacity to innovate fail to detect a relationship between the two. Yet that in itself is odd. Established firms ought to enjoy big advantages over would-be disrupters: skilled employees, infrastructure at the ready and the opportunity to share costs among products. At worst, incumbents should be as capable as new entrants of succeeding in nascent markets. Yet research by Rebecca Henderson of Harvard Business School finds that the money old firms in fast-evolving industries devote to research brings much lower returns than the research budgets of their younger rivals.*
Divining the reason for this poor performance is a challenge. Firms with straitened finances might be unable to invest adequately in a new business without cannibalising the old. That, in turn, might lead them either to decide not to invest in the new market, or to invest less than they should in both the old and the new. Yet the adjustment is often most difficult for firms that are wildly profitable in their established lines of business.
Profitable firms might underinvest in a competing technology for fear of hastening the end of their existing, successful business. Rational managers should be able to see that cannibalising their own sales and surviving is preferable to sticking to their knitting and falling prey to competitors. But bosses may not think much about the long term, or may be reluctant to write off sunk costs.
Yet even short-sighted or embarrassed managers should react when the threat from upstart technologies becomes clear. They do not, economists reckon, because of organisational rigidities. Ms Henderson suggests firms can be seen as giant information-processing organisations that evolve a structure and personnel to fit their respective business. Information on sales or production is efficiently filtered to decision-makers, who can then direct new research. When new technologies are no more than tweaks to old ones, this set-up is a competitive advantage. When innovations are more radical, however, the old networks are a hindrance.
In other research with Sarah Kaplan of the Wharton School of Business, Ms Henderson considers why older firms struggle to pursue new technologies. Many of them have systems in place to detect and respond to changing market conditions or new technologies. But they have also built up a system of incentives to ensure employees meet existing goals. Systems designed to encourage consistency and efficiency in the production of established goods or services might be a powerful deterrent to experimentation or creative thinking about new markets, regardless of what the corporate memos say.
One still might expect more adaptability given a serious enough threat, argues Ms Henderson in another paper along with Timothy Bresnahan of Stanford University and Shane Greenstein of Northwestern University. Established firms, they point out, can always set up loosely affiliated “entrepreneurial” divisions with the freedom to build a new business from the ground up. Yet even this will often prove difficult, they argue, thanks to assets like a firm’s reputation that cannot help but be shared between the old business and its internal rival.
IBM, for example, was initially a mainframe computing company that set up an internal unit devoted to developing personal computers. The PC business did well at first, thanks in part to IBM’s longtime reputation for quality. Yet this became a problem when the mainframe buyers became big consumers of PCs—an embryonic business in which kinks were still being ironed out. Customers began to interpret quality problems in the PC business as quality problems within IBM as a whole, undermining the existing mainframe business. When IBM resolved internal tensions by reabsorbing the PC unit, it in effect conceded the PC market to others.
Innovate or buy
Disruption need not be a death sentence, however. IBM remains a big, profitable firm. Work by Matt Marx of MIT, Joshua Gans of the University of Toronto and David Hsu of the Wharton School suggests that survival often comes down to what they call “co-operative commercialisation”. Once it becomes clear that start-ups have an edge in a new technology, incumbents can respond by striking deals with or purchasing their new rivals. The authors focus on the business of speech-recognition, but there are lots of other examples: Facebook, for instance, has gobbled up one competitor after another. To most, “If you can’t beat them, join them” has a more appealing ring than “Innovate or die”.
The future is here, happening every day. And, the robots are coming. Are you ready?
Christian was bored this morning so he decided to cook up a batch of benne wafers. Go figure. Of course, he included a “super sized” version.
Here’s the recipe courtesy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. light-brown sugar
3 tbsp. flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and lightly flour some cookie sheets. Put the sesame seeds in a small pan and stir or shake them over moderate heat until they are slightly brown. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between them for the cookies to spread. Bake until just slightly brown, 4 – 6 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheets very carefully while still warm. If they stiffen and are hard to remove, put the cookie sheets back in the oven for 1 minute. Makes about 36 cookies.
June 21, 2013
Well, that’s easy.
I did it. I took a restaurant reviewer up on a recommendation and dove in. Manhattan is a daunting place–one does not decide what to eat but rather where to eat. It’s definitely not Charleston where there are maybe two or three worthwhile Asian spots. Leaning towards ordering room service, I checked the menu and nearly coughed up my lunch. $19.25 for a grilled cheese??? On my feet went my wide, white, I-am-a-tourist New Balance 940’s, and I headed down 7th Avenue, after a short detour to Central Park, to try my first izakaya.
Even more daunting was knowing what to order…such pressure to fit in, to be cool. So, I asked my new friends at the bar. I’m going back. To Sake Bar Hagi.
He had wanted badly to let her run along beside him while he pedaled. So be it, I said. And, they did. It’s something. Jasmine actually pays attention to his every move, as if to say, “See? I told you I could do it!”
Kona, on the other hand, is quite perplexed. “Stay within our sight!” I yell as they ride and run off. Kona tugs on the leash, begins to wimper, moving into full whine. And, then high pitched barks. “Wait,” I scold her, “only Jasmine may do that!” Not to worry, Kona gets her chance, every once and a while. But, poor thing, she doesn’t seem to get the anticipate-the-bike and slow down parts.
Christian is happy. I am happy and predict many adventures with his co-pilot.
Yesterday as I thumbed through the online edition of The Wall Street Journal while sitting on my chair in the sky, an article reviewing the benefits of grape seed oil caught my eye.
We began using it for cooking after first making David Chang‘s recipe for ginger scallion sauce. Since then, it has become a kitchen staple for us. So, I thought I would share both the recipe and the article. Plus, what better ways to continue enjoying a good wine way past its time: Eat it then slather it all over you!
Ginger Scallion Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
2½ cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
½ cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1½ teaspoons soy sauce, preferably usukuchi (light soy sauce)
¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, or apply as needed.
Here’s the article by Laura Johannes:
From Cabernet to Chardonnay, the seeds leftover from winemaking are used to make a cooking oil and skin-care products. Doctors say grapeseed oil is a healthy oil for cooking and a good moisturizer, but there is scant evidence that it keeps skin looking youthful.
Some 900 new products containing grapeseed oil have been introduced in the U.S. over the past five years—mostly for personal-care and for consumption, according to Datamonitor.
For cooking, grapeseed oil has a high smoke point—meaning it can get very hot without smoking—and a mild flavor that doesn’t interfere with other ingredients. Grapeseed oil is comparable to other better-known heart-healthy oils, but not necessarily better, says Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s nutrition committee. Grapeseed, canola and olive oils all “have high concentrations of unsaturated fat that help promote beneficial cholesterol levels,” she says. Since each healthy oil has a different nutrient profile, Dr. Johnson says, she recommends eating a variety—but in moderation, since oils in general have about 120 calories per tablespoon.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional database, 100 grams of grapeseed oil contains 28.8 milligrams of the antioxidant vitamin E—double that of olive oil. It contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats, including linoleic acid, and is low in artery-clogging saturated fat.
The label of Napa Valley Naturals Grapeseed oil, sold by Spruce Naturals LLC of Reno, Nev., for $9.29 for a 25.4 ounce bottle, says grapeseed oil “offers one of the highest concentrations of heart healthy mono and poly-unsaturated fats of any vegetable oil, and the lowest levels of saturated fat of ANY oil.”
The USDA database shows that a tablespoon of grapeseed oil has 1.31 grams of saturated fat; olive oil has 1.86 grams and canola oil, 1.03 grams.
Fatty acid content in vegetable oils can vary significantly, a spokeswoman for Spruce Naturals says, depending on factors such as differences in climate, soil, seed variety and how the oil is pressed. The lowest values for grapeseed oil can be lower than some canola oils, she added.
A spokeswoman for the USDA says its database does account for seasonal, geographic, and varietal differences, although the information isn’t meant to serve as an authority for claims made, including claims on labeling and in marketing.
The market for grapeseed oil as a cosmetic is booming. Aura Cacia, a skin-care, grapeseed oil from Frontier Natural Products Co-op Inc. that sells for $4.99 for four ounces, has an “excellent balance of skin supporting compounds,” such as oleic and linoleic acids, according to the Norway, Iowa, company’s website.
Grapeseed Co., Santa Barbara, Calif., sells about 80 products containing byproducts from the wine industry—including Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot seeds pressed into oils. The label for Grapeseed Co.’s 100% pure grapeseed oil, $16 for 4.4 ounces, says “anti-aging skin care from the vine.”
According to the website, the product is rich in antioxidants, which “help fight free radical damage, the signs of aging, and heal skin exposed to natural elements.”
Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist and author of “Feed Your Face,” a book about nutrition and food-based topical treatments for skin, says “there is very little in the way of clinical trials” showing the anti-aging benefits of grapeseed oil.
Grapeseed Co. and Frontier say they haven’t done clinical studies on their products. Grapeseed’s CEO Kristin Fraser Cotte says the company’s claim of anti-aging is based on the fact that its products contain antioxidants, or substances that protect cells against unstable molecules called free radicals, which can damage cells.
She adds that the company’s oil absorbs into the skin “quickly and easily” and customers are happy with the products.
Frontier spokesman Thomas J. Havran says the company’s claim of skin-supporting is based on a “general body of knowledge” about the value of essential fatty acids for skin.
It is unclear whether the antioxidants in grapeseed oil penetrate the skin sufficiently to benefit the skin, dermatologists say. But since grapeseed oil is a light oil, its antioxidants stand a “better chance” of penetrating than those in some other oils, says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Tina Alster.
Antioxidants applied topically have been shown to protect against sun damage that can cause wrinkles and changes in skin pigmentation, Dr. Alster says. Vitamin E in particular can help boost collagen, a protein that gives skin its structure, she says.
Dr. Wu says fatty acids such as linoleic acid have been shown in scientific studies to be good for dry skin—and since dry skin can look more wrinkled, this could soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. She says grapeseed oil is a good moisturizer and is thinner than many other oils so “you won’t look like you are walking around with oil slick on your face.”
– Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2013
Taking a big step can be scary.
I begin a new job tomorrow. Off on an (very) early morning flight to the big city. I cannot wait!
Leaving something you know, something you enjoy is hard. People wonder why you want to change. But these people understand. They know me. They matter.
Here’s another new favorite thing.
I used to get really annoyed when I couldn’t get that perfect shot. Now, when we visit popular spots, I take photos of other people taking photos.
Some may consider this photo voyeurism. Maybe it is. I do have one rule: No derogatory comments about people I don’t know.
It’s fun. Enjoy the view from Twin Peaks!