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Archive for February, 2010

Arresting Development

The observant among you will have noticed a new link to this site labeled “Other Endeavors.” Sure enough, I have been endeavoring for some months now to do a podcast on the expatriate life in Kigali, and after much trial and tribulation, four shows are now posted. I’m calling it Arresting Development.

The podcast is produced with some financial support from the business school at the University of South Carolina, and soon enough they’ll begin marketing them to students. You, the select few readers of this blog, are however being given a first look. The podcast is still a work in progress–and I aim to please–so head over to the site, subscribe in iTunes, listen, and share your thoughts.

Is it too long, too short, boring, dry, without substance? Are there any topics you’d like to me to cover?  Do let me know.

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Via Marginal Revolution, I discover something peculiar about flights and blasé about Germans:

Bei dem im Flugzeug herrschenden niedrigen Luftdruck steigt die sogenannte Geruchs- und Geschmacksschwelle – Kräuter, Gewürze, Salz und Zucker müssen höher dosiert werden, um wahrgenommen zu werden. Man rieche die Speisen und Getränke “als hätte man einen Schnupfen”, sagte Burdack-Freitag der Zeitung. Salz werde 20 bis 30 Prozent, Zucker 15 bis 20 Prozent weniger intensiv geschmeckt.

My literalish translation:

With the low air pressure prevalent in an airplane, the so-called smell and taste threshold rises–herbs, spices, salt and sugar must be given in higher doses in order to be discerned. One smells the meals and drinks “as if one had a cold,” said Burdack-Freitung to the newspaper. Salt was tasted 20 to 30 percent less acutely, and sugar 15 to 20 percent less.

This Lufthansa-backed study is offered as explanation for the inordinate fondness of Germans to order tomato juice on a flight (more popular than beer, according the article). As we all know, when low air pressure conspires to make your taste buds weak, the best way to kick it up a notch is to order tomato juice.

Two thoughts:

  • Like some people, I have an airplane drink, which is something you only order (or drink mostly) on flights. Mine happens to be apple juice, because apfelsaft was the simplest drink order I had confidence saying on my first flight to Germany–since then I’ve always gotten at least one glass per flight anywhere.  Apple juice is also the drink I associate most strongly with Germany.
  • One of my German colleagues in Schwerin had cousins in Texas and spent a lot of time there growing up. He scoffed the German dislike for spice and nearly killed me a few times because I was one of the few with whom he could share his love for hot sauce.

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A letter-to-the-editor in this past week’s Economist:

SIR – Far from being the odd man out, France’s attitude to religion is spot-on (“The war on French dressing”, January 16th). Religion is a private matter and should be kept that way. Countless millions have died in religion’s ongoing campaign to force its beliefs on its victims. Religion is socially divisive by design and is mostly about the desire of competing religious hierarchies to control people’s minds, just like communism or fascism. Religion seems to have an amazing immunity from normal laws. If anyone advertised that by taking a certain medicine one would live for ever and go to heaven, the product would be banned under the trades description act. Yet religion can publicly make its totally unprovable claims and get away with it.

We owe it to ourselves to push back against this tide of intolerance. The problem lies not with someone obtaining quiet comfort from their belief, but with vehement modern crusaders who would have us live by 10th-century standards or teach our children that Earth was created a ridiculous 6,000 years ago. The same goes for those Jews who think they have a god-given right to grab Palestine and the Catholic church with its policy of indoctrinating children when they’re most young.

Brian Smale
Hoeilaart, Belgium

This a popular category error made with religion. People make dumb decisions all the time: for love, for marriage, for career, etc. They can even do great harm to themselves or others in the process. But we don’t condemn love or marriage or career because of it. We condemn the bad decision.

If you’re willing to propose restrictions on religion because it can lead people to make bad decisions, then to be consistent you must also be willing to advocate restrictions on love, marriage, career, and anything else that leads people to make bad decisions. And we all know where that would end: everyone drinking Sam Adams.

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