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September 5, 2009
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

  The column of lasting insignificance  
       


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 



September 5, 2009

“Fields are not ‘natural’; nor are crops: both are wildly successful human inventions. In nature, plants don’t want to be eaten, they want to thrive. Indeed, the closer a plant is to its natural state the more likely it is to poison you which is why humans have spent 10,000 years breeding out harmful traits from crops.”
---Observer columnist Robert McKie in a piece questioning the value of organic food.

THE BEST CHEF in the world is what innumerable people have called Spain’s Ferran Adrià whose Costa Brava restaurant elBulli manages to seat a mere 8,000 of the 300,000 potential customers who request a reservation every year. Adrià, 47, is notorious for such dishes as fried tobacco balls, a chicken skin and orange blossom envelope and ice cream served on garlic oil and vinegar. Delicious! (to some), but is it art?   It’s provoked a fierce argument in art and foodie circles, exacerbated by the publication of Adrià’s book, Food for Thought, Thought for Food, already in three languages and claimed to have “revolutionized the world of gastronomy”. Some critics lashed into the chef when his recent ‘artwork’ was to create special dinners at Documenta (held every five years at Kassel in Germany). One, José de la Sota, wrote: “Adriá is not Picasso…What is art now? Is it something or nothing?”

LIES ARE EVERYWHERE and we can’t survive without them writes psychologist Robert Feldman in his new book, The Liar in Your Life. “Teens who are good liars tend to be more successful socially, and cancer patients who can deceive themselves into believing a falsely sunny prognosis are better at combating the disease”.

CALIFORNIA AS A Third World country. That’s the prospect envisaged by Alex Alexiev as he forecasts that “immigrants will likely soon dominate the state’s overall population and politics”. It’s not just that Hispanics are already a minority in the schools and that 40 per cent of immigrant families depend on public assistance, he writes in National Review, but that even after 20 years in the U.S. most remain “poor, unskilled and culturally isolated, a new permanent underclass”. And the site now has the country’s highest adult illiteracy. “We are witnessing a highly advanced and prosperous state, long endowed with superior human capital  turning into the exact opposite in just one generation” Alexiev declares.

THE CSI EFFECT may be wonderfully convincing to television viewers but is very misleading to jurors, says Popular Mechanics, who “routinely afford confident scientific experts an almost mythic infallibility because they evoke the bold characters from crime dramas”. The magazine devotes eight pages to examining ballistics, bite marks, blood splatter patterns to conclude that much of the ‘science’ behind forensic science “rests on surprisingly shaky foundations”. In fact, it says, it was developed not by scientists but by cops “often guided by little more than common sense”. Even fingerprints have their limitations, although DNA evidence “has become the strongest tool in the courtroom”.

RACING AGAINST EACH OTHER,  teams milked a cow, rushed the milk in a steaming pitcher to a home espresso machine and created a cappuccino on the spot for the judges. The report in barista magazine is of an earlier contest for the annual Nordic  Barista Cup, an event that will take place Sept 16-19 in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik. For this year’s event, to be attended by baristas from dozens of countries, teams will spend two days in the wilderness together, before returning to the capital to study in depth the coffee culture of Costa Rica to which the winning team will be transported next spring.

MACHISMO IN MEXICO is being undermined by the growing number of edecans (models hired for what Ms reports is a “steady stream” of expositions at the five enormous convention centers in the capital, whose population now tops 22 million. “The edecan is the first image clients get when they arrive” comments Isaac Abadi, head of a design firm, although it’s reported that as part of the job involves flirting, the ladies still have to deal with a lot of harassment and are sometimes regarded as prostitutes. Brazilians, Venezuelans, Argentinians and Czechs fill most of the $300-a-day jobs—“typically tall, voluptuous and golden skinned” the magazine explains, “representing an ideal Latin or European woman with little resemblance to the average Mexican woman”.

BORN OUT OF the space industry, solar energy has Bell Labs to thank for its initial success declares Ron Pernick in a Via Satellite story which declares that it is via space that solar power will eventually reach its high point. “Five power satellites could supply 2 percent of the energy needs for the United States” claims John Mankins, prexy of the Space Power Association which monitors current technology. “The development of space solar power must be an international undertaking and the U.S. should definitely play the leadership role in developing that effort”.  The magazine cautions that not only will it be considerably more expensive to place this solar array in space rather than on the ground, but that the geo-stationery orbit where it must go, is already perilously crowded with satellites. Nevertheless, says Mankin, it would “encourage countries to start working together instead of in isolation”.

BY THE TIME the Fed caught up with Albert Talton in March, he’d successfully created and passed seven million dollars, maybe even more, and America’s most successful forger is now serving nine years. The story is told in this month’s Details: how Talton, 44, a career criminal, learned to counterfeit watermarks and security strips, to emulate the 75/25% cotton-linen paper, and fool the detection pens that make  a yellow mark on genuine bills. “The security features make it more difficult” says Treasury Agent Edwin Donovan, “but there’s no such thing as uncounterfeitable”. After hanging them up to dry on a clothesline, Talton distributed the $100 bills (for about $12-16 apiece) to intermediaries, one of whom carelessly betrayed him. “A wise printer insulates himself do that the person who spends the money has no idea of its source” comments the magazine.

THE WILCOCK WEB: At a time when path-breaking advances are being made in biotechnology, nanotechnology and a dozen other similar areas, science journalism is declining says the Nation reporting that the number of U.S. papers with newspaper science sections has shrunk by almost-thirds….Involuntarily swearing when you hit your thumb with a hammer may be a good thing, says Keele University’s Dr. Richard Stephens, raising levels of adrenaline which acts as an anaesthetic?….. For a contest at Cambridge University next spring, 18 competitors are competing--for a prize of $15,000—at sending  some half-ounce sized object into orbit on a miniscule budget of $1,500 ….Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone” jeered Gertrude Stein…. You may think that burquas and niquabs demean women, says Christopher Caldwell, but what about “jeans that cinch halfway down the bumcrack?”…..Maybe that firm that invested (and lost) $585 in Readers’ Digest didn’t read the magazine first….A dozen members of Britain’s Upper House known as Law Lords, who have up to now been responsible for hearing final appeals, will don robes next month and be renamed as the country’s first Supreme Court… Small time preachers go to jail for stealing a few thousand bucks from church funds so how come televangelists who take millions get a pass?….Longchamp indubitably has the ugliest models…. Available soon: Inflatable walls, inset with air filters and oxygen supplies, that can be moved along on a cart by coal miners to block off the tunnel after an underground disaster....At a cost of $30,000 each, San Francisco is installing 360 new bus shelters whose solar panel roofs will channel thousands of kilowatts into the city’s grid…..Obviously New York’s blind Governor David A. Paterson can’t do the job  as well as a sighted person but it’s not politically correct to say so, so nobody does….More than 200 people have booked $200,000 seats on Virgin Galactic’s space flights scheduled to begin next year. Among other operators planning flights are Xcor (offering four-minute fights for a bargain $95,000; the European Commission’s Fast 20XX (from Sweden but not before 2015); and $20 million seats available for  Russia’s next flight in 2011… Deft definition: Osteopornosis -- a degenerate disease….On Washington’s National Mall next month, 20 student teams will compete to build the most efficient solar-powered home….”The secret to creativity” alleged Albert Einstein,“is knowing how to hide your sources …. Getting attention on some college campuses are contests with the atlatl, a 25,000-year-old weapon which is described by Celine Rainville as “a stick that can hold a spear, or dart, and acts like another joint for your arm, giving you the ability to hurl a spear further.”…”To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it”—Confucius (550-479BC)

John Wilcock is currently touring the Norwegian fjords

8/29/09

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