Back when Dubya was president, I read Slashdot every day. My wife worked as a journalist and then as a technical writer in the semiconductor industry and she mocked me when I told her about some cool thing I’d seen: either the “news” was like six months old or the story had misrepresented whatever the development was. Any semiconductor story along the lines of some great new manufacturing process or some cool chip or a company merger or…well, anything, it was old, wrong, or both. I eventually gave up on Slashdot and turned to more established news sites.
This morning’s news brief was just full of delightful bits. My head is whirling.
We have the story about the Russian government performing cyberespionage. This will probably surprise someone; not anyone who has been checking their spam folder over the past 20 years, but yeah, the Russians have lots of programmers who write malware.
And then there’s the bit where someone pointed out that we’re not really ready for humans to go live on Mars: Study: Mars One human colony plan ‘unsafe’ and ‘unsustainable’. My reaction of, “Well, duh, I said that when I first heard about the plan,” is tempered by my respect for the scientific process. One might intuit a great many things, but until one tests the hypothesis and collects data and analyzes the data, it’s just supposition. So, cool to see that someone has done the work.
The best bit, though, is the one where the end caps on those guard rails that are part of every freeway everywhere in the U.S. don’t so much collapse and divert cars, as they’re supposed to, but impale them. Good for Virginia, I say, for getting on the job and removing those things.
I forget which science fiction writer talked about time travel stories as an expression of that regretful wish of a child who’s done something wrong: “Make it didn’t happen!” Maybe Larry Niven, maybe Frederick Pohl, I read a lot of SF and can’t keep it straight any more. Anyway, I’m currently reading The Demon Under the Microscope and over and over I’m wishing for a time machine. Sometimes we fantasize about going back in time to get rich from some insider knowledge of the future (as, for example, in Replay) but this time I want to go back in time and tell the chemists at Massengill, “Holy cow, don’t use antifreeze in medicine that’s to be taken internally! You’ll kill people!”
Oh yeah, and I just finished reading The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler, a book whose subtitle reads like an SRL performance (e.g. “A Calculated Forecast of Ultimate Doom: Sickening Episodes of Widespread Devastation Accompanied by Sensations of Pleasurable Excitement”). That book, while also fascinating, has reset my context for the Nazis. I was thinking about that this morning when I read this story about the pope, comparing his resignation to Nixon’s. I mean, are these people serious? Nixon broke the law and tried to subvert the political process and then tried to cover it all up. The pope, as CEO of the Catholic Church, has certainly tried to keep the lid on scandals, but did he direct all the pedophile priests to go forth and molest? His Holiness doesn’t have a G. Gordon Liddy to do time for him. Will young Catholics be urging him to resume his role in fifteen years, wearing T-shirts emblazoned, “Benedict for Pope: He’s tan, rested, and ready!” I doubt it. He’s not like Nixon. And: the idiot you’re arguing with on the Internet? He’s not like Hitler, either.
The thing that has got me motivated enough to write this as a post is this article on the BBC website. It’s got a provocative title, “Green food report favours home-grown curry,” so of course I checked it out. The real meat of the story is that a commission in the UK has just turned in their report on the food production infrastructure in that country and they’ve made some recommendations. Well done, good work, I’m sure the Department of Agriculture (or whatever it’s called in the UK) will be pleased and start publishing tracts and faxing flyers to farms all over England and Wales. But here’s an interesting line, down in the middle of the story:
The project consisted of five subgroups to look at particular areas within the food system – wheat, dairy, bread, curry and geographical areas [emphasis mine] – with the goal of consider ways to “reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing good production”.
A few ideas occurred to me when I read this:
- That’s a heck of a food pyramid. “I think I’ll only have one helping of Kent, I’m trying to stay slim.” “Oh, go on, you know it’s the midlands that have all the calories.”
- Wait a second, we’re gonna look at five different things, two of which are grain? No, I get it, bread is different from grain because bread is processed grain so we need to look at the whole supply and production chain. It’s not a boondoggle to get the commission to pay for junkets to France to look at “bakeries” there.
- Curry? Are we sure this wasn’t put in there to justify the lunch tab at every commission meeting?
- So, a commission starts out investigating how to increase production of curry (and by the way, are we talking hing, chiles, pepper, ginger, fenugreek, turmeric, and on and on? Really? That’s some amazing climate change y’all are expecting in England.) comes to the surprising conclusion that increasing production of curry would be a good thing! And this is so surprising that the Beeb makes that the headline!
It should be no surprise to anyone who’s ever eaten at a hotel or restaurant in the UK that fresh vegetables and fruits are not on that list. Oh hey, this is like in those Stieg Larsson books where the only thing anyone ever eats is white bread and cheese and all they drink is coffee with milk.
I saw this headline on the BBC this morning and I thought, “You know, that is a wrong question.” The right question, I think, is, “How long should a company live?” Whether a company is successful or not, I am of the opinion that it ought to ride the carousel after a brief run and get reincorporated only if society at large thinks it’s a good idea. Seriously, do we want immortal sociopaths running our world?