Cocktail Chatter

Waiting in Line, Where Ketchup Comes From, and Our Search for the Perfect Office Chair

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Aaron Chair

The Quest for the Perfect Office Chair: Why we haven’t found it yet,” by Heather Murphy. In this addition to Slate’s series on The Evolution of Everyday Objects, Murphy delves into the history of the office chair. Considering how much time many people spend in their office chairs, why hasn’t the sitting apparatus been perfected?

What You Hate Most About Waiting in Line (It’s not the length of the wait.)” by Seth Stevenson. Stevenson takes a look at the insightful psychology behind queuing theory. This is the first piece in a series on operations management

Who Wants a Terrible Facebook Phone? I’m guessing nobody,” by Farhad Manjoo. There are two ways to make money in the smartphone business: the product-focused Apple way and the operating-system-focused Google way. Manjoo argues that it is unlikely that Zuckerberg will succeed at either.

What Robert Caro Got Wrong: He is one of our greatest historians. So why is his retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis so mistaken?” by Fred Kaplan. The Passage to Power, Robert Caro’s fourth volume in his series on the life of President Lyndon Johnson, covers the 1960 election of JFK through LBJ’s first actions as president. Volume 4, however, is less essential than Caro’s previous works, and, more seriously, fails to accurately depict the Cuban missile crisis, a defining moment of the JFK administration.

 “A Cad Gets His Due: The world knows that John Edwards is loathsome. That’s enough,” by Emily Bazelon. Following the sputtering end to Edwards’ trial, Bazelon jests “Loathsome but not a criminal—that’s the glorious tagline John Edwards can write for his obituary,” as she urges us to turn our attention to the worrisome amount of money pouring into the 2012 election.

Is Gay Good? Linda Hirshman’s history of gay rights argues that the moral battle has been won,” by Nathaniel Frank. As part of this month’s Slate Book Review, Frank considers Hirshman’s assertion in Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution that the gay rights movement decidedly triumphed over opposition in 2011. Also check out our gallery of Ten Great Moments for Gay Rights.

The Cosmopolitan Condiment: An exploration of ketchup’s Chinese origins,” by Dan Jurafsky. Did you know that modern ketchup originates from Chinese fish sauce? Jurafsky explores the Eastern roots of the American fast food staple.

The GOP Sees Dead People—Voting: Why Republican plans to fight voter fraud are based on nightmares, tall tales, and paranoid fears,” by Scott Keyes. New voter ID laws in many states, passed by conservatives paranoid about widespread voter fraud, could disenfranchise the most voters since the 1960s.

False Fronts in the Language Wars: Why New Yorker writers and others keep pushing bogus controversies,” by Steven Pinker. The supposed clash between “prescriptivist” and “descriptivist” language theories continues in this month’s New Yorker.

Dodgy Boffins: What’s wrong with science journalism in the U.K.?” by Daniel Engber. A worrisome amount of “scientific” research coming out of the U.K. is just plain rotten. Engber tries to answer why the Brits are particularly susceptible to publicity-seeking studies and explains the danger of the proliferation of these studies on the Internet.

The Future of Food: Five Frontiers: How nanotechnology, vertical farms, and lab-grown meat may change the way you eat,” by Elizabeth Weingarten. Kicking off a monthlong series on the future of food, Weingarten summarizes five exciting developments in food technology that may change the way future people eat.