mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?

April 1, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

I’d always heard it was a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Wikipedia.org is not so sure.

Notwithstanding the source, I think we’re there.

We’ve written increasingly on the recession that has arrived, and the depression that might be lurking. Perhaps it’s time for a nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© link table.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price … power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

Jon Taplin, who always has interesting, big picture points of view, has a big word to teach us.

Read the rest of this entry »

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mm266: Follow-ups and other voices heard

January 26, 2008

MUDGE’S Musings

Responding to some internal and, interestingly, external disquiet regarding this space’s latest experiment with themes available here at the incomparable WordPress.com, we have, as we’re sure you’ve noticed, changed again.

Our latest choice is less visually jarring, at the cost of some blandness. Our critics might tell us that bland is beautiful, compared to the mess we left behind, and we apparently agreed. Responsiveness to the audience – what a concept!

Let us know whether you think we’re in a better place.

And, lest you, as does yr (justifiably) humble svt, miss our logo, as the new theme doesn’t allow header customization, here’s a fix.

l-hc780x95

Okay, let’s move on, shall we?

It’s a big planet, and there are a multiplicity of viewpoints and a waterfall of information pouring into this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© every nanosecond.

So, we’re taking a breath, and taking an alternate look at a couple of topics covered earlier.

You guessed it: another episode of SASB: Short Attention Span Blogging!©

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Culling the planet’s herd

A couple of days ago, we explored some of the implications of the FDA’s approval to introduce cloned meat and dairy products into the marketplace. The concern is that as producers go for the easy, repetitive score, i.e., clone what works and eliminate the rest, the planet will permanently lose something important: species diversity.

This week’s NYTimes Magazine explores the issue from a different direction (and continent!), selective breeding rather than cloning (two sides of the same coin, actually).

nytimesmagazine

herdextinct

A Dying Breed

By ANDREW RICE | Published: January 27, 2008

GERSHOM MUGIRA COMES from a long line of cattle-keepers. His people, the Bahima, are thought to have migrated into the hilly grasslands of western Uganda more than a thousand years ago, alongside a hardy breed of longhorns known as the Ankole. For centuries, man and beast subsisted there in a tight symbiotic embrace. Mugira’s nomadic ancestors wandered in search of fresh pasture for their cattle, which in turn provided them with milk. It is only within the last few generations that most Bahima have accepted the concept of private property. Mugira’s family lives on a 500-acre ranch, and one sunny day in November, the wiry 26-year-old showed me around, explaining, with some sadness but more pragmatism, why the Ankole breed that sustained his forebears for so many generations is now being driven to extinction….

In recent decades, global trade, sophisticated marketing, artificial insemination and the demands of agricultural economics have transformed the Holstein into the world’s predominant dairy breed. Indigenous animals like East Africa’s sinewy Ankole, the product of centuries of selection for traits adapted to harsh conditions, are struggling to compete with foreign imports bred for maximal production. This worries some scientists. The world’s food supply is increasingly dependent on a small and narrowing list of highly engineered breeds: the Holstein, the Large White pig and the Rhode Island Red and Leghorn chickens. There’s a risk that future diseases could ravage these homogeneous animal populations. Poor countries, which possess much of the world’s vanishing biodiversity, may also be discarding breeds that possess undiscovered genetic advantages. But farmers like Mugira say they can’t afford to wait for science. And so, on the African savanna, a competition for survival is underway….

The Food and Agriculture Organization, an agency of the United Nations, recently reported that at least 20 percent of the world’s estimated 7,600 livestock breeds are in danger of extinction. Experts are warning of a potential “meltdown” in global genetic diversity. Yet the plight of the Ankole illustrates the difficulty of balancing the conflicting goals of animal conservation and human prosperity. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s rural poor, some 630 million people, derive a substantial percentage of their income from livestock. Increase the productivity of these animals, development specialists say, and you improve dire living standards. The World Bank recently published a report saying it was time to place farming “afresh at the center of the development agenda.” Highly productive livestock breeds, the World Bank asserts, are playing an important role in alleviating poverty.

As controlled interbreeding takes place, Africa’s indigenous cattle are gradually converting into distinctly highly productive Holsteins.

One additional advantage of the imported genetic stock: Ankole cattle require huge swaths of grassland; Holsteins can be penned. Writer Andrew Rice quotes some experts who say that “ethnic” warfare in Rwanda and Darfur as “really a fight over grass.”

The diversity the planet is losing is dire:

Many tropical breeds may possess unique adaptive traits. The problem is, we don’t know what is being lost. Earlier this year, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization released its first-ever global assessment of biodiversity in livestock. While data on many breeds are scant, the report found that over the last six years, an average of one breed a month has gone extinct. “The threat is imminent,” says Danielle Nierenberg, senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental group. “Just getting milk and meat into people’s mouths is not the answer.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

A Dying Breed – New York Times

A lengthy, but most worthwhile read. The law of unintended consequences is one that will never be repealed.

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Ultimately, it’s ALL recycled, isn’t it?

The water crisis in the Southeast and Western U.S. was approached a couple of weeks ago here.

Wired magazine has an intriguing update.

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waterpurification

New Purification Plant Answers California’s Water Crisis

By Dave Bullock | 01.25.08 | 8:00 PM

FOUNTAIN VALLEY, California — As Southern California faces a worsening water crisis, Orange County has implemented a $480 million microfiltration system so advanced it can turn waste water into drinking water.

Fewer words than intriguing pix in this story.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

New Purification Plant Answers California’s Water Crisis

Facilities like this one are going to have to become the norm if people insist on living in the desert.

Not as cheap as piping it in from the Great Lakes, Orange County, but that’s not on the table anyway.

All the water on the planet has been here since the catalytic cataclysm that created it in the first place. We’ve been drinking recycled water forever.

Thanks to this Fountain Valley facility and others soon to follow elsewhere, engineers have simply shortened the recycling time.

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Democracy, it’s a virus

… and it could be catching on in China.

Several months ago, monks in Burma led massive demonstrations noted here, against the government which were ultimately suppressed, as usual, by the oppressive regime.

In Shanghai, people have been massing to demonstrate against expansion of a maglev high-speed rail line. The Washington Post has the story.

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shanghaicitizensprotest

Shanghai’s Middle Class Launches Quiet, Meticulous Revolt

By Maureen Fan | Washington Post Foreign Service | Saturday, January 26, 2008

SHANGHAI — Bundled against the cold, the businessman made his way down the steps. Coming toward him in blue mittens was a middle-aged woman.

“Do you know that we’re going to take a stroll this weekend?” she whispered, using the latest euphemism for the unofficial protests that have unnerved authorities in Shanghai over the past month.

He nodded.

Behind her, protest banners streamed from the windows of high-rise apartment blocks, signs of middle-class discontent over a planned extension of the city’s magnetic levitation, or maglev, train through residential neighborhoods.

They live in China’s most Western mainland city, and they’ve learned the advanced Western concept of NIMBY (Not in my back yard). And they’ve taken to the streets.

And Shanghai’s government has been forced to pay attention.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Shanghai’s Middle Class Launches Quiet, Meticulous Revolt – washingtonpost.com

The single most relentless enemy of authoritarian governments is the middle class. Even George III’s Venezuelan nemesis, Hugo Chavez, failed in his attempt to modify the constitution.

Citizens who have attained middle class status by dint of hard work, and loosened societal constraints, can embrace artifacts of civilization available to those living above the subsistence level.

Such as education.

Satellite television (Ronald Reagan and CNN both helped end the Cold War, to MUDGE’s generation’s eternal surprise).

The Internet and its blogs and bulletin boards (those portions that the Chinese government can’t censor).

Cellular telephones with text messaging.

Don’t think there’s much of a middle class in Burma as yet. So that 2007 effort was doomed. Like Chicago Cubs fans everywhere, one can only say, “wait until next year!”

Short Attention Span Blogging

… is only short for the reader, not, for heaven’s sake, the blogger! But kudos to faithful reader for getting this far!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm161: Miscellanea, or, this and that, the sequel

October 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

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Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

It is disappointing, not to say tragic, that events in Burma seem to be shaking out in favor of the generals.

Last week (and here), the rest of the world was hopeful that, in light of the new channels of communication available in both directions, that the people of Burma would prevail in their demonstrations against the repressive regime.

Now, reality has descended, as have those hopes, with a bloody thud.

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Myanmar junta sets Suu Kyi talks conditions

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military ruler set conditions on Thursday for meeting detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as security forces continued to round up people and interrogate hundreds more arrested in a ruthless crackdown on protesters.

In the first official remarks since a visit by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari this week, junta chief Than Shwe said he would hold direct talks with Suu Kyi if she publicly agreed to four conditions.

Than Shwe told Gambari that Suu Kyi must abandon her “obstructive measures” and support for sanctions as well as her positions that were “confrontational” and for “utter devastation,” state television said, without elaborating on how the Nobel laureate could meet the demands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Myanmar junta sets Suu Kyi talks conditions | Reuters

It’s apparent that, even as we were beginning to feel optimistic toward the course of events, old fashioned thuggery was trouncing Web 2.0.

Wait until next year?

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

From TechCrunch.com, the following interesting observation.

techcrunch

The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free

2007 is turning out to be a terrible year for the music industry. Or rather, a terrible year for the the music labels.

The DRM walls are crumbling. Music CD sales continue to plummet rather alarmingly. Artists like Prince and Nine Inch Nails are flouting their labels and either giving music away or telling their fans to steal it. Another blow earlier this week: Radiohead, which is no longer controlled by their label, Capitol Records, put their new digital album on sale on the Internet for whatever price people want to pay for it.

The economics of recorded music are fairly simple. Marginal production costs are zero: Like software, it doesn’t cost anything to produce another digital copy that is just as good as the original as soon as the first copy exists, and anyone can create those copies (meaning there is perfect competition and zero barriers to entry). Unless effective legal (copyright), technical (DRM) or other artificial impediments to production can be created, simple economic theory dictates that the price of music, like its marginal cost, must also fall to zero as more “competitors” (in this case, listeners who copy) enter the market. The evidence is unmistakable already. In April 2007 the benchmark price for a DRM-free song was $1.29. Today it is $0.89, a drop of 31% in just six months.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free

The complete story above, and the potential for a continuing dialog around both sides of the argument, bear watching. An example of why TechCrunch has been all but a charter member of the L-HC blogroll2.

Meanwhile, MUDGElet No. 3 being a musician with hopes of earning a living practicing that art or some related element of it (i.e., studio production), the MUDGE of the family can’t help but be concerned about the concept of free music.

Of course, MUDGE has absolutely no difficulty consuming it. Thus joining the other 6.6Billion walking contradictions on the planet.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm137: Intriguing wisdom, found on the way to finding other things…

September 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Courtesy of reddit.com is this fascinating nugget.

Another way of looking at our world…

Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World

This map reflects the fact that a large number of basic values are closely correlated; they can be depicted in just major two dimensions of cross-cultural variation.

culturalmap

This version of the graphic has been reduced slightly from the original, so you might want to check it out on the site itself…

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Link to the story

An unusual way to look at the world, indeed.

One wonders whether the researchers began with an outcome in mind, and drew their map to fit their preconceptions:

Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.

This produces a culture of trust and tolerance, in which people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, and have activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that the political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy.

If a democratic world is the goal, a whole lot of “continental drift” is going to be necessary…

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE