Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, March 03, 2017

Three Things

1. I enjoyed reading about Google's "secret ... project to put an aquarium full of tiny, wiggly water bears inside your phone":

"It gets to something really big and emerging in culture, which is how the phone is a part of our body -- it stays in bed with us, it's in our pockets, it's this intimate thing that extends the body," said [creative director Jamie] Zigelbaum. "By putting life forms -- pets -- into your phone, it's a way to access some of the thinking around the barrier between organisms, technology, and what the boundary of the human body really is. And that was really exciting for us."
This, and a reproachful letter (from a nun to a rocket scientist) I ran into recently, conspired to remind me of the opening paragraph of Leonard Peikoff's classic op-ed, "Why Christmas Should be More Commercial":
Christmas in America is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously. [bold added]
Christmas, in this positive sense, comes year-round when men are free to tinker, and there are, incidentally, many more of us to enjoy it.

2. What happens when your workman's cafe becomes the mistaken recipient of a Michelin star?
Reporters, TV crews and prospective customers were astounded when they turned up at the Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot plastic tablecloths. Many patrons wear high-visibility vests, it is often packed at lunchtime and the atmosphere is lively, with customers ordering beers at the bar.
The error may have been caused by the cafe having a similar street address to the more upscale establishment which was supposed to have won the star. Everyone involved took the mistake with good humor, and the proprietors involved will be treating each other to meals at their respective establishments.

3. In England, they're tackling an important question. "Were early modern people perpetually drunk?"
Paraphrasing Craig Muldrew's findings, James [Brown] argues that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries beer was more important as a source of energy (via calories both from grain and alcohol) than as an alternative to water (p 66). Amounts consumed were thus considerable, especially for men engaged in moderate to heavy labour, where most institutional allowances ranged from four pints to over a gallon of beer a day (p. 70)...
Dr. B. doesn't have the last word here.

Aside from the amusing line of inquiry, the post brought back pleasant memories of grad school, where a fellowship came with the following requirement: Most Fridays, I had to attend a seminar where beer was provided for all in attendance. (But no, not in a pub, and there was no singing...)

Weekend Reading

"Those who advocate more central planning in health policy might wish to keep these lessons in mind, before proposing 'obvious' ideas to improve Americans' health." -- Paul Hsieh, in "People Confound Experts: Three Paradoxes of Health and Human Behavior" at Forbes

"There is no such thing as good monetary policy." -- Keith Weiner, in "The Big Myth" at SNB & CHF

"Social media cannot make you crazy, but your failure to maintain perspective and focus on other values in life can." -- Michael Hurd, in "Is Social Media Making Us Crazy?" at Newsmax

"[I]f you're single and planning to embark on the adventure of meeting somebody new, especially in and around the nooks and crannies of cyberspace, first take time to get to know yourself better." -- Michael Hurd, in "Is the Internet the Cure for Loneliness?" at The Delaware Wave

"Show them they have minds, and show them how to use them." -- Michael Hurd, in "The Frantic Need to Keep Kids Busy" at The Delaware Coast Press

"In Trump's statements we can sometimes hear a welcome pro-America motif, but the president's signature positions don't live up to that ideal. " -- Elan Journo, in "How Much Ayn Rand Is There in Trump's 'America First' Foreign Policy?" at The American Spectator

-- CAV

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