What am I up to now?

April 6, 2024

I stopped publishing updates here last fall on near-universal advice. Maybe it was my half-hearted endorsement for ecoterrorism or excessive references to the health problems which came alongside a life in West Africa, but academic mentors, family, and friends thought perhaps these updates wouldn’t endear me to PhD admissions committees.

That’s no longer an issue: I’ll be starting the PhDNot actually a PhD. Technically it’s the ‘‘Integrated DPhil (2+2) in economics,’’ because Oxford just has to be special 🙄. I’m going to keep calling it a PhD until someone yells at me. See my homepage for the canonical version of this caveat. in economics at the University of Oxford in October. I was in Oxford for all of February-June, besides one weekend in Boston and a week-long road trip in Scotland. Oxford is a great town, and I’m excited to really settle down for the first time since high school.

Much of my love for Oxford is due to the great people based at the Trajan House offices. Trajan House is the headquarters of CEA, FHI, Forethought Foundation, GovAI, GPI, and many other organizations with similarly opaque names. My host organization, GPI, has been a perfect place to expand out of development economics and back into the economics which will make up my short-term academic future. My visit at GPI came to an end in early July, with the conclusion of two workshops.

Since late June, I met four people who asked me why I stopped writing my book reviews. I never stopped writing them; I just stopped uploading them! Also, because I was too lazy to set up Google Analytics, I had assumed the only people who read this page were my dad and his friends from high school whom he shared it with.Hi Susan, hi Ron. Having been proven wrong, I suppose it’s time to get started again.


  1. Travel
  2. Reading
  3. Research
  4. Listening
  5. Eating


On 25 June, I started a nine-week, six-cityAnd two small coastal towns. tour. While it’s impossible to list all the highlights and excitement, here is a series of one-shots:


Bern was the first stop on my two-month lark. I was attending a week-long workshop on existential risks at a meditation retreat east of the city,Presumably so we could max out on calmness while considering the end of the world. with a couple of days before and after to explore. My first two days were full touristy, swimming in the Aare, drinking in Einstein’s houseWhere he had his annus mirabilis. (now converted into a bar), and seeing the sights with a history buff friend who grew up near the city. The weather could not have been more beautiful for early summer; while this possibly confounds my opinion, Bern solidly makes my top-5-cities-I’ve-ever-visited list.

By the end of day two, following the most fascinating (accidental) seminar on public choice I’ve ever experienced,After the workshop opening dinner, the organizers presented three options for a closing activity to the atteendees: Hike, Swim, and Waterfall. The first decision mechanism proposed was a two-round system, where the least-voted-for option would be dropped after round 1. This failed, as the lesser two options (S and H) had the same number of votes. Several participants suggested approval voting, which was used to knock off W, which had received the most votes in the first round! A simple FPTP vote resulted in a 3-way tie; following this, each participant was given two votes, which finally produced a winner (tho not without some suspected inconsistencies in the vote). I was starting to feel a bit tired. I missed the rest of the conference, including the closing Hike, due to illness.


After a pit stop in Oxford to stash my life’s belongings under my office desk, I flew to DC for a week. Besides catching up with friends and old colleagues, the highlight of the trip home was an evening tour of the monuments with my aunt and her niece.My half second cousin once removed? DC is not known for its natural beauty; it’s the giant mounds of marble which pull any tourists. But that night, the DC sky outdid itself. A WaPo article the next day collected pictures from around the area, but my family and I had the best view.
From my mom’s iPhone.

We sat in the Thomas Jefferson memorial for a half hour, watching the sunset linger behind lightning and rainbows. This was the first time I had been back to TJ since my pre-high school prom pictures,Speaking of: my prom date just got engaged! Congrats Taylor & Connor! so I have a pretty high bar for visiting again.


The next stop was Portland and Eugene, to visit my amazing sister, who definitely lives far away from where she went to college. On my last day there, we went to the World Athletics Championships, held for the first time in the US. There was some fun javelin and long jump, but the highlight of the night was definitely the finals for the women’s 5000m and the 4x100m relays.

A track 5k is incredibly boring, even at World Championship level, unless your life’s passion is watching the 20 lankiest stringbeans with phenomenal lung capacity run at 80% for 10-12 minutes, then sprint like crazy for 2-4 minutes. Thankfully, that is my sister’s life’s passion, and I got a delightful running commentaryDo you get it? of every shimmy and pass and “Oh my gosh what happened to Karissa??” After a long and boring tactical race, three Ethiopians and two Kenyans ran away with it in the last 200 meters. The winner, Gudaf Tsegay, is a surprisinglyTo me, at least.  versatile runner, holding top ten times at distances between 800 and 10,000 meters. She’s also Tigray.The Tigray region of Ethiopia has been at war with the federal government for two years, in a heartbreaking conflict with no good guy, lots of bad guys, and even more victims. I write a bit more about the refugee problem below, in my review of three books on the UN. In the stands that day were dozens of Tigrayan-Americans; there were certainly more Tigrayan flags than Ethiopian flags waving. After Tsegay crossed the finish line, followed by Letesenbet GideyAnother Tigrayan runner. in fifth, one of these spectators ran onto the track with a Tigray flag,
Not my image.
lifted both Tsegay and Gidey in the air, and handed them the flag before being detained by security. Letsrun.com has a great article on the event.

Glacier Bay National Park

I flew from Eugene to Gustavus, AK next — my friend Lucas Wolfman
is finishing up his masters dissertation in this off-the-grid town of 400 people, and his partner Hailey is a park ranger at the National Park.With the big hat and everything. At Hailey’s suggestion, I went out on the small dayboat, which trundles up the bay to the eponymous glaciers at 7am every morning. It was an absolutely perfect day, with views in all directions and wildlife everywhere. As famed naturalist and noted racist John Muir wrote upon stumbling into the Bay,

sunshine streamed through the luminous fringes of the clouds and fell on the green waters of the fiord, the glittering bergs, the crystal bluffs of the vast glacier, the intensely white, far-spreading fields of ice, and the ineffably chaste and spiritual heights of the Fairweather Range, which were now hidden, now partly revealed, the whole making a picture of icy wildness unspeakably pure and sublime.

What an asshole.

Bay Area

After a one-day stop in Seattle, I arrived in San Francisco for a series of conferences, workshops, and baseball games. I won’t list all of the amazing people I met or caught up with,Except Riley, Oraya, and Manisha, who deserve special mention for prompting me to start writing here again. there are too many of you. Instead, the far-and-away highlight of the week was 17 hours in Tahoe. Two serious climbing friends had found a wall and borrowed a Prius; I tagged along to provide moral support and look at pretty rocks.

Late in the afternoon, we left the cliff face for a waterfall
with a pool perfect for deepwater free solos.If you fall 30 feet, you fall into water! We finished the day swimming in Lake Tahoe and devouring the largest burritos east of the Mission.My first trip to SF is a good opportunity to recommend one of my favorite pieces of internet writing: The Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel.

Connecticut and New York


I read more books in 2021 than I expect to read in any other calendar year. I attribute this to:

I won’t read as much in 2022. But here are some of my favorites from the past month.

“Hitler’s Uranium Club,” Jeremy Bernstein

Big Brother, Nazi Nobel Prize winner edition. Put ten captured German nuclear chemists and physicists in a farm house in England, tell them that the Americans made the bomb, accuse them of being Nazis, and bug their rooms. Best reality show of the 1940s.

I re-read this book in June. The body is 250 pages of transcripts of conversations between Heisenberg, Hahn, et al., who had worked on Nazi nuclear projects during the war. These conversations were recorded secretly during their interment at Farm Hall outside Cambridge, following the surrender in 1945. I learned more about both nuclear science and self-deception from this book than any actual textbooks on chemistry or psychology.

Bernstein opens with a primer on nuclear chemistry, segueing into the physics, engineering, and geopolitics of the bomb; his introduction and sidenotes throughout are readable and well-contextualized.That said, this book is not the story of the bomb itself, or those who made it, but those who failed. For ether of the previous stories, the only recommendation is ‘‘The Making of the Atomic Bomb’’ by Rhodes. I will write up my notes on that fantastic and too-long book sometime soon. But this is not a book of physics; it is a psychological drama. Bernstein extracts conversations which develop the Germans’ lesart, or “telling” of their time working on the Nazi bomb. By the end of their internment the scientists kept at Farm Hall have come to believe two non-truths, one explicit and one implicit, which they would tell for the rest of their lives. First, that they each, to some extent, had worked to slow or prevent Nazi progress towards nuclear weapons. There is nuance to calling this a lie: Heisenberg showed reluctance in his most weaponizable research, especially towards the end of the war; he possibly leaked documents on Nazi nuclear progress to Bohr in Copenhagen in 1943. But on the whole, “the so-called ‘good Germans’ wanted Germany to win the war, but Hitler to lose it,” even if that required mushroom clouds over London.

The second lie is encoded in their lesart: if we hadn’t been slowing things down, we could have done what the Americans did. This is false, and shown to be so in the most fascinating act of the drama: when the Germans first hear of Hiroshima over the radio, there’s an immediate incredulity — because they were so far away from developing the bomb, they can’t understand that the Americans got it done.This is really the best moment in the book. After initially supposing that the radio broadcast was faked to trick them, then considering a new type of (non-nuclear) high explosive, by late in the evening of 6 August Heisenberg and Hahn turn to technical suppositions and have already guessed several of the Manhattan solutions to problems which had vexed the Germans for years. These are the great scientists. But within weeks, their stories about how they kept the Nazis non-nuclear imply that, without these crucial actions, a German bomb was imminent. There is no truth to this: since the sinking of the SF Hydro, a German bomb had been impossible.

They’re hypocrites through and through, more so because of the lies they’ve convinced themselves of. Soon after learning details of the Manhattan project, HahnMy favorite character by far, but by no means the most sympathetic. remarks, “If Niels Bohr helped [with the bomb], then I must say he has gone down in my estimation.” In a no-holds-barred sidenote, Bernstein writes, “This is a theme that will be repeated. It never seems to occur to these Germans what Niels Bohr’s estimation of them might be, considering their collaboration with a government which perpetrated almost unimaginable crimes.”

In short, the German scientists failed to develop the bomb, and when confronted with the success of the Allies developed a false narrative in which the reason they failed is because they meant to. There is genius here, but no greatness.

United Nations

While I was in Switzerland for the conference I write about above, I met a half-dozen people working for or around the UN.Despite the conference having nothing to do with the UN, and my not going anywhere near Geneva. Several of these friends are working to influence the agendas of the UN and important member states around emerging technologies and the treatment of future generations.A big part of the upcoming UN agenda is ‘reinvigorating multilateralism.’ If, like me, you have no idea what that means and want to learn, I’m bookclubbing '’The Challenges of Multilateralism’’ with Jacob Arbeid from the Simon Institute in September and October. Reach out if you’d like to join! Here are three books I read about the UN recently.

Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures), by an ensemble

A joint memoir written by three UN humanitarian workers who meet in Cambodia and whose stories intersect in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and other cesspits of the 80s, 90s, and early 00s. It’s the most pessimistic view of active humanitarianism possible. This doesn’t mean it’s superlative: I’ve read other books with the same pessimism, it just doesn’t seem possible to see an emptier glass after excavating your fifth mass grave in Rwanda.

The book isn’t all descriptions of mass graves and rapes and disease and misery, tho there is plenty of that. It’s about finding a way to make it through the day while confronting these things, through whatever Desperate Measures you can.The Emergency Sex mostly comes from just one of the authors, and she holds on to it as the strongest measure she has. ‘‘I think I can make love with a few sexy young soldiers, and a Somali or two, and not forget that children can’t go to school in this country. Does [Andrew, another author] think the Haitians or the Somalis aren’t making love?’’

The writing is fantastic: my favorite parts read as good as my favorite travel writing.I am generally against travel writing as a genre. It says something that my favorite examples from the genre, (Gelhorn, Orwell, Gimlette) are about travelling in warzones. The authors all share a good eye for where their cultures overlap with the locals, and where they don’t. One of my favorite moments, too long to quote in its entirety, is when Ken drives from Cambodia to Thailand just to buy a board and windsail, and, on the drive back to Phnom Penh, trades it temporarily for a Khmer Rouge’s AK-47.

He falls in right away. He falls on top of the sail, then the sail falls on top of him. He goes off the front end and he goes off the back. His trousers slip down, exposing bare arse, which sends the crowd into howls of laughter. But he’s strong and persistent and by now has nothing to lose. Eventually he gets the hang of it and sails off on wobbly knees. But like any novice in that initial moment of euphoria, he goes too far, doesn’t know where to stop or how to turn around. So I have to swim out into the lake and drag him back. He’s wide-eyed and addicted, ready to risk everything to windsurf. He begs me to swap the board for his automatic rifle, and I picture myself in the prison armed with his Kalashnikov and my vitamin B injections.

An Insider’s Guide to the UN, by Linda Fasulo

Reads as a book-length Wikipedia page on the United Nations, with a particular focus on the New York end of things. As I’ve been more interested in the Geneva end of the UN, I skimmed most of the political UNGA sections. The author has covered the UN from New York since the 90s, and releases a new edition this book every five years or so. This certainly makes it valuable to some audience, but I don’t think I’m part of it. Being particularly uncharitable, I’d recommend leaving this one aside unless you’re about to participate in your first Model UN.

Chasing the Flame, by Samantha Power

I’ve wanted a biography of Samantha Power since I read her memoir and rated it “good, not great, huh, is she going to run for something? That’s not what I expected.” Because I’m still waiting for that biography of her, I settled for a biography written by her.

Sergio Vieira de Mello worked for the UN from the age of 21 until 2003, when he was killed by an al-Qaedaal-Qaeda-ish, don’t @ me Kat. bomb. He spent his career working on refugee resettlement and human rights abuses, including one year, his last, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The book is a fantastic intellectual portrait, as well as a history of the worst humanitarian crises of the late 20th century. There’s the mandatory Fukuyama-bashing: “[Vieira de Mello] criticized Fukuyama and others for “a combination of naïve optimism and supreme arrogance.” “No,” Vieira de Mello declared, “history is not finished.””I like to appreciate how good a sport Francis Fukuyama is: he was totally wrong once, 30 years ago, and no one has let it go since. I can imagine how annoying this would be. I really loved ‘‘Political Order and Political Decay’’ in undergrad. His newest book, '’After the End of History,’’ is on my list (and maybe I should have read it before I wrote this footnote). Also, we have the same birthday. But his thought goes further, deeper, and weirder than that. In 1974, Vieira de Mello received his doctorate in philosophy, titled “Civitas Maxima: Origins, Foundations, and Philosophical and Practical Significance of the Supranationality Concept.”His insane productivity is another theme of the book. In 1974, he was already a UNHCR manager: one of his colleagues recalled from the time, ‘‘I was shocked when he told me one day, ‘I’m going to go and defend my thesis.’’ I said, ‘‘Thesis? What thesis?’’ I don’t intend to read a dissertation with a title like that, but Power quotes heavily from a later lecture based on the dissertation given in Geneva. Vieira de Mello argues for a “synthesis of utopia and realism,” recognizing that any particular perfect world is impossible, but working towards it is obligatory. He pulls heavily from Kant, particularly his work on rights to violence and intervention — Kant’s view was that states should not interfere with conflicts contained within other states. The one exception, which Vieira de Mello weaponizes for the crisis of the day in Kurdistan, is when anarchy in one state threatens the integrity of its neighbors. Therefore, he claims, the UN operation in Northern Iraq is Kant-endorsed. Vieira de Mello closes the speech with a Kant quote: “We must act as if perpetual peace is something real, though perhaps it is not.”

What kind of person was Vieira de Mello? Intense, arrogant, charismatic; he was a womanizer, carrying on romantic relationships with multiple women on his staff at the same time; he was nepotistic, flouting UN hiring guidelines and quotas.One hire was Andrew Thomson, one of the authors of ‘‘Emergency Sex’’ from above: ‘‘Slightly tipsy, Thomson marched over to UNHCR headquarters [in NYC] and wandered the halls until he found a door marked CAMBODIA. He knocked and began chatting with an official who was helping to plan the repatriation operation from afar and who seemed thoroughly overwhelmed. Thomson soon finagled a consultant’s contract to join Vieira de Mello’s team.’’ Power doesn’t avoid the unpleasant parts of Vieira de Mello’s story; she frames them as part of his extreme pragmatism and focus on results. He did not care about rules or appearances: a central precept of resettlement is that refugees are only sent back by their own free will. Following the pacification of Rwanda, many Rwandans in Tanzania would have preferred not to return to their ruined homeland. Vieira de Mello repatriated them anyway.For complicated, possibly good, reasons. The Tanzanian government had never really wanted the refugees, and certainly wanted them gone after the genocidal Hutu-led government fell. If a new norm had emerged that refugees could remain in their host country after a conflict stabilized, it would be more difficult to UNHCR to find willing host countries in the future. No decision earned him greater criticism. Similarly, he was willing to work with any faction in a conflict in the interests of displaced people.

Vieira de Mello continued to believe that constructive engagement with the Khmer Rouge was the only way to save the faltering Cambodian peace process. In an internal July 1992 memo he instructed UNHCR officials to refrain—“in accordance with their humanitarian and non-political mandate”—from criticizing the Khmer Rouge in the press.

Vieira de Mello was remembered as an extremely effective bureaucrat in a bureaucracy famous for its ponderousness. His death in 2003 came at an especially bad time: having just been appointed UN Special Representative for Iraq, he had become close with Condie Rice and begun to gain the trust of President Bush as well. After the Canal Hotel bombing, the UN was never able to recover the influence in Iraq which seemed possible under Vieira de Mello.


Two great African albums

Staying on the refugee theme from directly above, I loved “M’berra,” a collaboration between an Italian produce and Malian musicians living in the the M’berra refugee camp just across the border in Mauritania.

The work of an EDM producer is certainly not traditional desert folk, or even the westernized Saharan jazz which I’ve convinced some friends to enjoy,Songhoy Blues is a great group to start with. it doesn’t feel overproduced to me. Some critics disagreed: “the distinctly western dance beats (the electronic claps on “Moulan Shakur” are especially grating) can feel less like a collaboration, more like imperial erasure.” After listening to other records produced by Khalab around the same time, tho, I can’t help but feel that his work in M’berra made him a more interesting artist. And any work which brings me music I wouldn’t otherwise here is worth my time.In the same genre: Music from Saharan WhatsApp. I haven’t listened yet, but I’ve never come across a record label name more up my alley.

The recordings from M’berra would be something special by themselves. Many of the artists have been in the camp for almost a decade; in the summer Khalab visited the camp for the project, temperatures exceed 11547 Celsius. Fahrenheit. My favorite track, “Reste À L’Ombre,” elicits this sense of confinement and oppression. It opens with some Big Man with a megaphone directing the camp residents to move out of the sun, eventually trading off his screechy orders with several guitars and hand drums. The guitars and drums drown out the Big Man, but there’s no escaping the heat. While UNHCR had originally aimed to close the camp in 2020, following repatriations, the population has increased by half since the beginning of the pandemic.


Short reviews, in decreasing order of fame (but not my love):

I was pleasantly surprised by Sara Bareilles sneaking back into my life recently. She has the same energy when she’s writing a song and speaking to the Hollywood Bowl and giving a Tiny Desk. Each track on her 2022 live album is twice as long as the song, because she spends time chatting with audience members. One woman, close enough for the stage mics to pick up, was at UCLA with Bareilles, and yelled something about a comedy sketch they had done together. Someone else asks Bareilles to perform her favorite song, and while she declines to change the setlist, promises that all future performances will be dedicated to her. Three couples get engaged during “I Choose You,” and Bareilles feels compelled to find each in the audience, and adorably gasp at them from a quarter mile away. The new performances of old songs are vigorous; “She Used to Be Mine” is the only one which disappoints, but only because she tries a new instrumentation which feels too crowded.

Norah Jones re-released “Come Away With Me” earlier this year; I was five when it first came out, and probably didn’t hear some of these ballads until I was 20. The re-release has a couple dozen outtakes and demos, the best of which are just Jones and an upright bass. Covers of “Walkin’ my Baby Back Home” and “Hallelujah, I Love Him So” are new highlights where she seems to be having an exceptional amount of fun. Highly recommended for nostalgia of multiple flavors.

Maggie Rogers released “Surrender,” her second album, two months after submitting her dissertation with the same name to the Harvard Divinity School. Two friends of mine who were at the graduation ceremonyYeah I have friends who went to Harvard. How do you like that flex separately told me about watching Rogers while an undergrad warbled off key through the national anthem and two other songs. They conveyed an affect of pity for Rogers; I can’t help but think she would have found a performance like that funny. Perhaps being a Master of Divinity helped Rogers put together a more enlightened and exuberant record in “Surrender.” “Want Want” and “Be Cool” are more lighthearted than anything from her first release. I enjoyed the new album a lot, tho maybe differently than other listeners. My favorite two songs, “I’ve Got a Friend” and “Shatter,” happen to be the two which Pitchfork chose to hate on.

Despite being second to last on this list, Jodie Nicholson’s album “Live at the Old Church Studio” is my favorite singer-songwriter album from 2022 (so far!). I don’t remember how I came across it — it had fewer than 1,000 streams when I first listened. While I was trying to learn more about Nicholson, all I could find were a stream of glowing reviews of an electronically-laden single she released in 2020. This confuses me — the greatest backhanded compliment I can give “Move” is that it sounds like early Maggie Rogers. It’s a smooth, overproduced track with fantastic vocals; nothing special. The Old Church sessions are a different beast altogether. An unforgettable voice singing shockingly poignant lyrics without any accompanimentExcept her piano. or anyone sharing writing credit.

I found Amalie Bryde’s first EP when I mistyped Amelia Maciszewski’s first name on Spotify. Bryde, a Danish singer-songwriter based in London, has now dropped two EPs in less than a year. Her label, and reviewers, are placing her in a box labeled R&B, but these releases are too alt-pop to fit so neatly.Ted Gioia is almost ‘‘ready to write off the British blues rock tradition as a plaything of the superannuated.’’ I steal most of my music opinions from Gioia, and he seems mostly right here. “In and Out of Love,” from earlier this year, doesn’t have as clear a narrative as her first EP, but this turns out to be a strength. Self-produced, with one collaboration, the new record is colorful and tight.


6% of Americans are vegetarian or vegan, compared to 40% of people who have strong opinions about Kant. Among my colleagues at GPI, a much higher proportion abstain from animal products of all sorts (including the economists!).

Staff at GPI care deeply about animal welfare. Chapter 9 of Will MacAskill’s new book has a humbling section on non-human animals; Phil Trammell is working on a really exciting project discussing meat-eating in general equilibrium. Hayden Wilkinson, along with some other GPI-adjacent names, has done important work on offsetting behaviors such as eating meat. One visitor to GPI in May and June introduced himself as “the vegan economist,”presumably indicating his research interests as well as his dietary preferences. The organizations we share Trajan House with have a similar story. CEA has paid out over $10M through it’s Animal Welfare Fund since 2018; FHI, despite their name, has hosted research scholars with animal welfare interests. This old blog post is particularly on-brand from them.

It makes sense, then, that our cafeteria is 100% vegan. My first month in the building, lunch came as pre-portioned meals from a vegan caterer elsewhere in Oxford. In March, however, our amazing office manager Jonathan contracted the most popular vegan café in Oxford, Greenbox, to open and staff an in-house kitchen. The response was ecstatic: Charles, Ross, and the rest of the rotating Greenbox team have become members of the Trajan community. They’re also miracle workers.

No-avocado guacamole: It turns out the essence of guacamole is not avocado. I have no idea what that essence is, but Greenbox are able to make the guacamole bit happen without a single avocado.Why bother? It’s not that Charles fears that avocados are secret moral patients, but concerns over water use and exploitative labor practices. For a view that buying avocados may be morally obligatory, see Wilkinson (2022).

Pastries: When I came to Trajan House, I was worried about making friends. To bait potential friendships, I practiced a few vegan baking recipes: cookies, brownies, banana bread, a carrot cake. The plot worked, but not through any particular skill. Greenbox’s Tuesday-Thursday pastry service has shown me there’s a new ceiling for vegan baking which I am unlikely to come near. Particularly try their coffee muffins.

Vegan cheeses: OK, Greenbox doesn’t make their own vegan cheeses, but they’ve opened me up to a whole new world. Their feta is particularly godly and confusing.

A floor above the cafeteria in TrajanThere’s a pattern to where my food came from during early 2022. , there’s a magic wall with dozens of varieties of vegan protein bars.And a tiny selection, one or two, of vegetarian bars. These created minor confusion and regret when some, who hadn’t been reading the labels, learned of the milk protein within. Here are some quick reviewsMethodology: I picked three bars which I hadn’t had before and then wrote this in 10 minutes. of some of these bars.

The Soy-mellier

PhD SMART BAR: Reminiscent of a stale PayDay bar. PhD tries to hide their 18 grams of protein in a cylinder wrapped in caramel, peanuts, and chocolate, but this only leads to a chaotic and upsetting texture. One spot at which they excelled is the aftertaste: I am often deeply put off by the aftertaste of soy protein bars, but for PhD, the chocolate and peanut is all that lingers. 6/10

Primal Spirit — Thai Peanut Vegan Jerky: The packaging was very difficult to open — I almost gave up after 30 seconds. While vegan jerky is interesting, this was probably not worth the frustration. I probably enjoyed this more than any meat jerky I’ve had, as I often feel weighed down by salt afterwards. I’m beginning to suspect the concept of jerky isn’t for me. Also — “Thai peanut?” Is “satay” too complicated? 4/10

Kinder Bueno: OK, this is in no way a protein bar. But I had never had one before and I didn’t know that! America is missing out on the greatest chocolate bar in the world. I have absolutely no notes. Great job, Kinder Bueno. 10/10

I also found this delightful Google sheet a few months back; I can’t find the original source now, but the doc owner is Roxanne Heston, which entirely fits.At the ‘‘What We Owe The Future’’ book launch party in NY, Rox lent me her clip-on nose ring. I have never felt nattier. Enter your preferences along price/carb/protein/sugar dimensions and the sheet will spit out its top ten recommendations for you from more than 75 vegan protein bars. It’s a great tool, but I’ll warn against following it off a cliff. There’s a ton of subjective variety among these bars in taste, and of the top five recommended to me, I absolutely cannot stomach No Cow, Lenny and Larry’s, and Raw Rev Glo.


November, 2021

October, 2021

September, 2021

July, 2021

June, 2021

May, 2021

What am I up to now? - April 6, 2024 - Joseph Levine