"it’s like the first ten years of aviation without a plane crash"

My students know just what kind of food system they want: a food system that isn’t based on industrial scale monoculture. They want instead small farms built around nature imitating polycultures. They don’t want chemical use; they certainly don’t want genetic engineering. They want slow food instead of fast food. They’ve got this image of what would be better than what we have now. And what they probably don’t realize is that Africa is an extreme version of that fantasy. If we were producing our own food that way, 60 percent of us would still be farming and would be earning a dollar a day, and a third of us would be malnourished.

That's Robert Paarlberg, talking about his motivation for writing Starved for Science: How Biotechnology is Being Kept Out of Africa in an interview with reason's Kerry Howley.

I'm looking forward to some tasty, locally-grown and most likely organic produce flowing into my kitchen when the Durham Farmer's Market re-opens next week, but this is as good a time as any to point out that environmentalism generally and localtarianism specifically are luxuries enabled by the unprecedented affluence we enjoy in 21st century North America and Western Europe.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is no credible scientific evidence that the genetically modified crops (which constitute a HUGE portion of the American market, especially corn and soybeans) have detrimental health or environmental effects. And in fact, most of them are modified for the express purposes of reducing the need for chemical pesticides and maximizing yield (thus minimizing the ammount of arable land used.)

According to Paarlberg, the influence of (primarily) European NGOs has kept these technologies out of Africa, effectively keeping African agriculture decades behind the rest of the world. Exporting anti-GM hysteria to Africa isn't just patronizing and paternalistic, it's deadly.


this post is illegal in Texas

If I were placed on a jury and the crime in question was a non-violent drug offense--any non-violent drug offense--I would vote to acquit for the purposes of jury nullification. And I would encourage you to do the same. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is the only morally acceptable thing to do in that situation.

A prosecutor in Texas (who wishes to remain anonymous, heh) says making such a statement publicly is itself a crime.

Hey, whoever you are: when I change planes at DFW, I grab a pint here when I have time. Come on by.



helpful hints for undergrads

1) Summer vacations don't happen in the real world. Shit, they don't even happen in grad school. If you are serious about having a career after college, summer is when you should be getting an internship or a job or participating in a summer program that advances you towards this goal.

2) If you've applied for one of those summer programs, you need to tell your parents that you've done so and won't be available to go on a 2-3 week family visit with them.

3) If your parents insist, you need to reevaluate your priorities. Also, your status as an adult.


quick wit, slow fingers

It finally happened.

I won a thread!

(Sometimes you have to learn to find joy in the small things, ya know?)


life in the post doubling era

From my (work) inbox today:

"I found a Zeiss eye piece and most likely a lamp for the microscope in the parking lot. Pls claim it from ... if its yours."


the people who make air travel suck

(a blog post ~11,000 miles in the making)


To be fair, this is in their job description, as far as I can tell.

Cell Phone Guy

I don't mean all the people who make a quick call to their SO to inform them that their travels are going well (or not) or even to fill in the lonely gaps between flights. Nor do I mean the business traveler who wisely takes advantage of the moment to check on things at the office. You know who I mean. He (it is invariably a he) is 25-55, alone, and talks loudly and proudly from the second he can cram that ridiculous Borglike appendage into his ear after clearing security (often before he even puts his shoes on) to the moment the longsuffering flight attendant asks him for the third time to power off his phone so that the plane can, you know, fly.

Look, I'm no maven of cultural trends, but I'm pretty sure that cell phones stopped being status symbols about the time toddlers started carrying them to daycare. Stop it. You are impressing exactly no one with your conversation, least of all the poor sot on the other end of the line who is probably half-listening to you while trying to watch animals fornicate on YouTube.

Aspiring Comedian Flight Attendant

While you are reminding me of all the ways this giant tin can could become my final resting place (water "landing" you say...I have only ever heard of water "crashes") I don't want to hear you trying out your material for open mic night. In fact, I am trying very hard to ignore you completely. If it turns out I need gallows humor for the final moments of my life as we hurtle towards the earth, I will provide it for myself. (I like to think I will have the presence of mind to seize the opportunity and choke Cell Phone Guy with his Bluetooth.)


OK, if I don't notice you, you don't count. Hurray for your parents. Otherwise, you should be considered cargo until you can afford your own ticket.

Perfume Lady

I actually think you should be carded to purchase fragrances, and if you are over 50, you can't buy them anymore. Your sense of smell diminishes with age. The problem is, not everyone else's has yet.


off to the wild, wild west

I'm off first thing in the AM to Tucson, the main event being a certain someone's dissertation defense and associated festivities. Also, visiting with some old colleagues and friends, outdoor fun, spring training, and as much Mexican food as I can possibly manage to eat in seven days.

Then a brief (14 hours to be exact) layover at home; just enough time to catch a nap and switch suitcases (yes, the second one is packed already) and head off to Portland, OR and Stevenson, WA for a meeting and a too-brief visit to Hotel Roko.

All of which is to say don't expect much activity around here for a while.