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Nov. 19th, 2007

Isaiah 1:25
I will turn My hand against you
and will burn away your dross completely;
I will remove all your impurities.

Sep. 28th, 2007

Which is more dangerous, an elephant or a minivan? For most readers of this newspaper, the answer is going to be a minivan. From childhood, people in motorised civilisations are warned about the dangers of running into the road, taught the appropriate highway code and—when old enough—permitted to get behind the wheel only after having undergone a rigorous programme of training that ends with a formal examination.

You might think, therefore, that such people would be more aware of the movements of vehicles than of animals. But if you did think that, you would be wrong. An experiment just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Joshua New of Yale University shows that people pay more attention to the activities of animals than to those of vehicles. That applies even among urban Westerners who rarely see an animal from one year's end to the next.

From the Economist.

Solution: cars that look like animals.

Pale Fire

What moment in the gradual decay
Does resurrection choose? What year? What day?
Who has the stopwatch? Who rewinds the tape?
Are some less lucky, or do all escape?
A syllogism: other men die; but I
Am not another; therefore I’ll not die.
Space is a swarming in the eyes; and time,
A singing in the ears. In this hive I’m
Locked up. Yet, if prior to life we had
Been able to imagine life, what mad,
Impossible, unutterably weird,
Wonderful nonsense it might have appeared!

May. 21st, 2007

Fear of Eating

These are anxious days at the lunch table. For all you know, there may be E. coli on your spinach, salmonella in your peanut butter and melamine in your pet’s food and, because it was in the feed, in your chicken sandwich.

Who’s responsible for the new fear of eating? Some blame globalization; some blame food-producing corporations; some blame the Bush administration. But I blame Milton Friedman.

Why is regulation always touted as the solution for our food ills?

If a company has to be forced to prevent contamination and remove contaminated items...what does that say about the company? Why should I buy food from such a company?

You can regulate Conagra to death, but I'm no longer going to buy from companies that aren't accountable to their customers.

The thing Milton Friedman was wrong about was thinking that just because it's in the self-interest of big companies to avoid bad publicity, they they are in the best position to make and sell safe food. They aren't- obviously they have become too big to really control their supply lines.

Furthermore, since consumers are typically ignorant about food, they know they can get away with cutting corners. Because of the nature of food poisoning, it's difficult to trace and assign blame, so the incentive actually is less strong than it would seem, especially with pathogens like Listeria that take awhile to cause symptoms. Also, cheap methods of eradicating pathogens often do not truly serve the consumer's interests because they can impair taste and allow agricultural practices most consumers would find abominable.

I think actually that advocates of local and small producers should oppose more stringent regulations. If big ag companies are forced to act like they care, then it will reduce the incentive for consumers to seek alternative products.

A Winter’s Tale - DH Lawrence

YESTERDAY the fields were only grey with scattered snow,
And now the longest grass-leaves hardly emerge;
Yet her deep footsteps mark the snow, and go
On towards the pines at the hills’ white verge.

I cannot see her, since the mist’s white scarf
Obscures the dark wood and the dull orange sky;
But she’s waiting, I know, impatient and cold, half
Sobs struggling into her frosty sigh.

Why does she come so promptly, when she must know
That she’s only the nearer to the inevitable farewell;
The hill is steep, on the snow my steps are slow—
Why does she come, when she knows what I have to tell?

Another reason to see concerts and travel

Music of the Hemispheres

[Dr. Levitin] is a cognitive psychologist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal, perhaps the world’s leading lab in probing why music has such an intense effect on us.

This summer he published “This Is Your Brain on Music” (Dutton), a layperson’s guide to the emerging neuroscience of music...His experiments have even suggested that watching a musician perform affects brain chemistry differently from listening to a recording.

I don't know about others, but for me a concert is usually so much more powerful than I listen to the artist in question less after the concert because the recording just doesn't cut it anymore.