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Posts Tagged ‘London

“The sea hath fish for every man”*…

A few weeks ago, (Roughly) Daily shared the story of The Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ attempt to rebrand invasive Asian Carp as Copi in an attempt to make it a more appealing food. Kane Hsieh, writing in Spencer Wright‘s always-illuminating The Prepared, elaborates on the theme…

… It’s worked in the past: Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), monkfish (goosefish), and uni (urchin, also called whore’s eggs by American fisherman as recently as 1990) were all successful rebrandings.

Speaking of fish, it’s always a surprise to me how much of what feels like traditional cuisine is actually very modern, accidental, or even engineered. In Japanese cuisine, tuna and salmon rose to their contemporary status only in the 20th century: tuna was a poor man’s fish until post-war Western influence brought a taste for fattier meat, and salmon was an undesirable fish until the 80s when a desperate Norwegian government ran aggressive ad campaigns in Japan

Trash to table: rebranding fish to make them more palletable, from @kane in @the_prepared.

William Camden

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As we contemplate cuisine, we might recall that it was on this date in 1838 that it rained frogs in London. Indeed, there have been numerous instances on polliwog precipitation in the area, most recently in 1998, when an early morning rain shower in Croydon (South London) was accompanied by hundreds of dead frogs.

A woodcut showing a rain of frogs in Scandanavia, from ‘Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon,’ one of the first modern books about strange phenomenon, published in 1557 [source]

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 30, 2022 at 1:00 am

“A beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude”*…

This huge rocking chair (the world’s largest at 56.5 feet/46,200 pounds) can be found in Casey, IL.

Big things in small towns…

Casey, Ill., is home to 12 of the world’s largest objects, including a swizzle spoon, wind chime and most impressively, the world’s largest rocking chair. The 23-ton rocker took two onerous years to meticulously construct and included fastidious wood carving and diligent staining. The seat was certified as the world’s largest rocking chair back in 2015 after 10 sturdy individuals proved that the chair could actually rock back and forth. Looming at a monumental 56 feet high, Grandma would have to climb the world’s tallest ladder if she wanted to knit in this chair, proving that the town’s motto “Big Things Small Town” is an apropos sentiment…

One one several stops on a tour of massive novelties in small communities across the U.S.: “The Weird World of Gigantic Roadside Attractions,” from @FiftyGrandeMag.

See also: “The World’s Largest Ball Of Twine is a preserved in a gazebo in Darwin, Minnesota,” from @BoingBoing.

* Aristotle, Poetics

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As we muse on the monumental, we might recall that it was on this date in 1859 that the Clock Tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster (the seat of Parliament) in London was completed. It housed, at the time, the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. It quickly became known by the nickname of its Great Bell (the largest of five), Big Ben.

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“I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”*…

Humans claim to be intelligent, but what exactly is intelligence? Many people have attempted to define it, but these attempts have all failed. So I propose a new definition: intelligence is whatever humans do.

I will attempt to prove this new definition is superior to all previous attempts to define intelligence. First, consider humans’ history. It is a story of repeated failures. First humans thought the Earth was flat. Then they thought the Sun went around the Earth. Then they thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then they thought the universe was static and unchanging. Then they thought the universe was infinite and expanding. Humans were wrong about alchemy, phrenology, bloodletting, creationism, astrology, numerology, and homeopathy. They were also wrong about the best way to harvest crops, the best way to govern, the best way to punish criminals, and the best way to cure the sick.

I will not go into the many ways humans have been wrong about morality. The list is long and depressing. If humans are so smart, how come they keep being wrong about everything?

So, what does it mean to be intelligent?…

Arram Sabeti (@arram) gave a prompt to GPT-3, a machine-learning language model; it wrote: “Are Humans Intelligent?- a Salty AI Op-Ed.”

(image above: source)

* Oscar Wilde

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As we hail our new robot overlords, we might recall that it was on this date in 1814 that London suffered “The Great Beer Flood Disaster” when the metal bands on an immense vat at Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery snapped, releasing a tidal wave of 3,555 barrels of Porter (571 tons– more than 1 million pints), which swept away the brewery walls, flooded nearby basements, and collapsed several adjacent tenements. While there were reports of over twenty fatalities resulting from poisoning by the porter fumes or alcohol coma, it appears that the death toll was 8, and those from the destruction caused by the huge wave of beer in the structures surrounding the brewery.

(The U.S. had its own vat mishap in 1919, when a Boston molasses plant suffered similarly-burst bands, creating a heavy wave of molasses moving at a speed of an estimated 35 mph; it killed 21 and injured 150.)

Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery

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“There are more invisible than visible Natures in the universe”*…

 

Ancient-Mariner-crop

Gustave Doré. From an illustration in the 1877 edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

Roaring out of the radical 1790s, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a founding fable for our time. A fable must by definition revolve around an animal, and in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s nightmare the slain albatross hangs around the fated sailor’s neck like a broken cross, an emblem of his sin against nature. It is all too relevant today, as a statement of isolation and despair: “Alone, alone, all, all alone, / Alone on a wide, wide sea!” Yet in that forlorn expression is great power; the power of art to change us…

Slavery, ecocide, plague … the warnings of Coleridge’s poem resound down the ages.  Now 40 actors, musicians and authors are performing in a daily mass-reading: “Why Willem Dafoe, Iggy Pop, and more are reading The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to us.”

Then experience “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Big Read.”

[TotH to friend MK]

[image above: source]

* Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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As we dig for a drop to drink, we might recall that it was on this date in 1665 that Samuel Pepys made his first diary reference to the Great Plague in London.  “Great fears of the sicknesses here in the City, it being said that two or three houses are already shut up. God preserve us all.”  The entries in his diary continue throughout the year, documenting the horrifying conditions in the city, as many thousands died, until Winter’s freezing cold reduced the number of fleas that spread the disease.  (Pepys also wrote, the following year, about the Great Fire of London.)

pepys plague source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“A good rule of thumb is to assume that everything matters”*…

 

Dayen-financial-climate 112019

 

Every few months, a news outlet will write a story heralding the next financial crisis, with an assumed assuredness that we should all view as suspect. Predicting the next crisis has become a sport, one that typically magnifies risks and displays an unreasonable degree of certainty. But if you had to choose a looming event that’s most likely to produce a negative shock to the financial system, it would almost certainly be the climate emergency.

That’s the takeaway from a fascinating issue brief… from the Center for American Progress’s Gregg Gelzinis and Graham Steele from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Both worked for the Senate Banking Committee for many years, and they make a compelling case, not only that headline risks to financial stability will flow from a warming planet and the efforts to mitigate that, but that federal banking regulators have gone almost completely AWOL in monitoring or even assessing this legitimate threat.

Worse, to the extent that any financial regulators in Washington are paying attention to the climate crisis, they’re seeking to dismiss it. A subcommittee formed at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to look at climate-related market risk is stacked with fossil fuel industry representatives, including several executives from climate-polluting agribusiness, banks with significant carbon-intensive portfolios, and fossil fuel giants BP and ConocoPhillips.

The committee’s clear intent is to examine the climate risks to polluting companies’ core business, not from their polluting. As one critic—Paddy McCully, the climate and energy director at the Rainforest Action Network—notes, “We should recognize that there’s risk from the climate to the economy, and that the corporate sector needs to assess their contributions to climate change and then deal with it.”

The report explains that global economic losses from a rise in temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius have been estimated at $23 trillion per year. This would pose two kinds of risk to the financial system: physical risk from natural disasters, and a more indirect risks from transitioning away from fossil fuels…

A new paper makes the case that financial regulators are ignoring the significant risks from a warming planet and even from efforts to green the economy.  The fascinating– and chilling– analysis in full at “The Biggest Threat to Financial Stability Is the Climate.”

* Richard Thaler

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As we internalize externalities, we might recall that it was on this date in 1952 that the Great Smog of London began,  A period of cold weather, combined with an anticyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants—mostly arising from the use of coal—to form a thick layer of smog over the city.  It caused far more severe disruptions than “pea-soupers” of the past,  reducing visibility and even penetrating indoor areas.  While the Underground maintained service, bus service was virtually shut down (as visibility was so severely and reduced; and thus, the the roads, congested). Most flights into London Airport were diverted to Hurn, near Bournemouth and linked by train with Waterloo Station.

Government medical reports in the following weeks estimated that 4,000 people had died as a direct result of the smog; and 100,000 more, made ill by the smog’s effects on their respiratory tracts.  More recent research suggests that the total number of fatalities may have been considerably greater, one paper suggesting about 6,000 more died in the following months as a result of the event.

The disaster had huge effects on environmental research, government regulation, and public awareness of the relationship between air quality and health.  It led quickly to several changes in practices and regulations– perhaps most notably, the Clean Air Act 1956.

Nelson's_Column_during_the_Great_Smog_of_1952

Nelson’s Column during the Great Smog

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 5, 2019 at 1:01 am

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