24 April 2008
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The Days of Rice and Sugar

When I was a small human the plea fell on deaf ears:

Mom:  Eat your [veggies | liver].  There are starving children in Europe. 
Me:  Why don't you send my [veggies | liver] to Europe, then?

It was a logical response, even though I was too young to consider the actual shipping cost of a refrigerator ship dedicated to a piece of liver, or perhaps strap-on boosters (which didn't exist at the time) for an asparagus spear.  Not to mention the guidance package!  (No microchips, either.)  To this day I reject asparagus in any form; I have not been tested with a liver platter for the obvious reason that nobody else likes it either.  And the locale has changed as well.  Europe can generally afford food.  But much of Africa can't, and now, it seems, neither can Asia, whose staple sustenancericehas come under pricing and supply pressure.

There would seem to be no rice shortage in the United States.  You might think otherwise if you read the news today:  Sam's Club is rationing it.  If you go to purchase rice, you will be limited to only 4 sacks of 20 pounds each.  To a person such as myself, whose appetite for rice is limited, (and probably about average,) this represents a five year's supply.  I could go back the next day and obtain provender for the balance of the decade.  Of course, since there is now de facto rationing in effect, demand will shoot up and we will all be storing multiple year's worth while "the children in Asia" aren't getting enough to eat.  Whose fault is this?  The "market"?  Greedy farmers?  Asian governments who promote this and forbid that and try to control supply and demand with disastrous effect?  I'm sure they're all to blame, and we'll be taking them in right after this blog.  But I'd like to blame someone else, too:  My mom.  At the very beginning of this blogitem, she implicitly cautioned me against waste.  Not enough of that lesson stuck.

At some oriental restaurants, the refrain "White rice or brown rice"? is often heard.  With such, the waitron is inquiring about the diner's preference, since a small bowl of rice comes with most dishes.  A couple of weeks ago I was in such a situation.  My dining companion selected the brown rice.  I was given no option because I had ordered a noodle dish that is supplied customarily without rice.  And yet, when our meals arrived, there were two bowls of rice.  Large bowls.  One brown, one white.  I disregarded the white rice as I was engaged in stuffing myself with noodles, and disregarded it yet again when the inevitable "doggie bag" was packed. 

One big bowl of white rice thus was almost certainly discarded due to the restaurant's carelessness in providing it and my indifference to retaining it.  I hate waste.  The simple fact that this episode has remained in my alleged mind for weeks should indicate how vexed (and perhaps a bit guilty) I feel.  I refrain with difficulty from calculating just how much rice is discarded uneaten by the millions of diners in the thousands of oriental restaurants in the United States, not to mention how many ships it would require to deliver it to people who today can't get it and can't afford it even if they can.  Perhaps it's time for a Million Mom March. 

Also In The News Today

Israel bombed and destroyed Syria's almost-operational nuclear reactor.  Syria, according to the news reports, was planning to use it to create plutonium, presumably for an atomic weapon. 

Not any more...

What hasn't been mentioned in any of the stories I read today is how the destruction was accomplished. 

The original building, slightly larger than a baseball diamond, was located in Syria's eastern desert near the village of At Tibnah, about 90 miles from the Iraqi border and a few hundred yards from the Euphrates River.  (The Washington Post)

Depending on how the Israeli bombers reached the facility, they would have to have flown inside Syrian airspace from 90 miles (staging through Jordan and Iraq) to about 200 miles flying from the closest point in Israel.  Shorter distances through Syria would have required correspondingly longer distances for the total mission.  Consider:

  • Uganda didn't have great air defenses during the Israeli operation at Entebbe.

  • Iraq may not have been all that concerned that Israel would destroy the Osirak reactor before they did so.  After all, at the time, Israel hadn't destroyed the Osirak reactor.

  • But:  Syria, fanatically (and, in this case, justifiably) suspicious of Israel, does have air defenses.  And probably remembers that Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor.

In all the stories I have read, it would seem that Syria had a reactor, went to sleep, and woke up without one.  Won't this be an interesting story when the details finally leak!

The Sugar Harvest

Sugar is one of the four major food groups.  (The other three are chocolate.)  I am going to disclose some important experimental results about sugar intake, but due to the unplanned news interruption above, I shall defer it until tomorrow. 

NP:  "Share The Land" - Guess Who

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