The news…

Lots of interesting stuff in the papers in the last few days. My favorite was pointed out to me by a coworker. It’s a review of a new book by NY Times Columnist Thomas Friendman, “The World Is Flat: A Short History of the Twenty-First Century.” The book is basically about how technological change is driving cultural, political and economic change all over the world. By building a robust and cheap communications network worldwide ill-fated companies like Global Crossing unleashed the creativity and entrepreneurial powers of developing nations like China and India. Whereas once if were a genius born in a developing nation you’d work to get yourself to the US for study at a university and work at a successful US company so that you’d have a chance for the best in education and resources to fuel your genius and ambition, now because you have just as much access to information and knowledge resources in Bangalore as you do in Boston you’re actually better off staying in Bangalore.

I particularly liked this passage though:

America now imports foreigners to do the scientific work that its citizens no longer want to do or even know how to do. Nearly one in five scientists and engineers in the United States is an immigrant, and 51 percent of doctorates in engineering go to foreigners. America’s soaring health care costs are increasingly a burden in a global race, particularly since American industry is especially disadvantaged on this issue. An American carmaker pays about $6,000 per worker for health care. If it moves its factory up to Canada, where the government runs and pays for medical coverage, the company pays only $800.

Nice tidy argument in favor of universal health coverage.

This article in the SF Chronicle just plain cracked me up.

A study commissioned by Hewlett-Packard has found that excessive day-to- day use of technology — whether it’s sending e-mails or using mobile phones — can be more distracting and harmful to the IQ than smoking marijuana.

Now I know what’s happened to my brain. Smoking weed would probably have been more fun though.

This item, also from the Chronicle, is just tragic. I purchased some brie not too long ago, which I hadn’t done in awhile, and boy did it ever taste funny. Now I know why. Food fear is ridiculous. A healthy person needn’t worry about bacteria in their cheeses. We have this absurd notion in America about sanitation and sterility. Look up the word sterile in the dictionary (oh heck, I’ll do it for you – sterile: ADJECTIVE:1. Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. 2a. Not producing or incapable of producing seed, fruit spores, or other reproductive structures. Used of plants or their parts. b. Producing little or no vegetation; unfruitful: sterile land. 3. Free from live bacteria or other microorganisms: a sterile operating area; sterile instruments. 4. Lacking imagination, creativity, or vitality. 5. Lacking the power to function; not productive or effective; fruitless: a sterile discussion. – from the American Heritage Dictionary), basically that which is sterile is dead. Dead is bad. Our bodies are not discrete organisms. The human physiology (actually all complex organisms work this way) are colonies of millions of discrete organisms living in a symbiotic manner. We are able to digest the food we eat due to the hard work of the bacteria that live in our digestive tracts. Our skin and hair crawls with creatures who eat things that get stuck to us (sort of like catfish cleaning the bottom of a lake, only on a nearly molecular-sized level). It’s more appropriate to think of the human body as an ecosystem than to think of it as a solitary, individual, discrete organism.

My point is that we obtain sustenance from the food we eat because it was alive. There’s a reason why eating uncooked (and therefore still living) vegetables and fruits provides so much more nutritional bang for the buck than eating cooked (and therefore dead) portions of the same foods. We also need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that food is medicine. It’s not. Certain foods taste good because we’ve been programmed through evolution to use our senses of smell and taste to tell the difference between things we should eat and things we shouldn’t. If it tastes good, it is good. The pleasure we get from eating tasty food is an evolutionary clue. Soft cheeses taste good. Heck, they taste divine. But pasteurized soft cheeses taste bland. No, I’ll rephrase that. Pasteurized soft cheeses taste bad. If it tastes bad, you shouldn’t eat it.

“We used to get these little French goat cheeses that tasted just like the field the goats were grazing on,” says Goldsmith of the Cheese Board, “and we’ll never see those again. I do support food safety, but is there an issue of food safety? That’s my question.”

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