Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Occassional Dimes

  • Randy Pausch's Last Lecture: Beloved Computer Science professor at Carnegie-Mellon, a pioneer in the field of computer graphics and animation -- he has advanced stage pancreatic cancer. What a moving video! Randy also maintains a chronicle of his battle with cancer.

  • Canada's Highway To Hell: This insightful feature article will surprise a lot of Americans -- it did me. Our neighbors up in Alberta are extracting large amounts of oil and destroying vast landscapes in the process. Oil in the tar sands is extremely difficult and energy-intensive to extract. The demand is fueled mostly by the US , but the question remains, why are the other Canadian provinces tolerating such destruction? If we, in the lower 48 states, can stop oil drilling in the Arctic National Refuge in Alaska, why are environmentalists up north so powerless? Perhaps its Canada's over dependence on mining and commodities ("... the GDP of energy-rich Alberta expanded by 6.8% last year, compared with Ontario's 1.9% and Quebec's 1.7%"). I definitely need to learn more about the Canadian environmental movement. We consumers need to be aware of where are oil comes from: 16% of oil imports are from Canada, already the largest source, and with expanded exploration of the tar sands, slated to get even larger.

  • 11 Item You Don't Have To Buy Organic: Dr. Andrew Weil has a list of fruits and vegetables that you can buy, conventionally-grown, if you are on a budget. Hat Tip to zaddik2004.

  • Alms and the Monks: An informative perspective on the situation in Burma, from the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.

  • The Bay Area and the Microcredit Movement: The SF Chronicle highlights several Bay Area companies, including a few based in Davis, at the forefront of the microcredit movement.

  • China Bloggers Stew About Olympic Pigs: In China some people would rather eat like Olympic pigs.
    In recent weeks, news that hogs are being specially raised to feed the athletes at the next year's Beijing Olympics has spurred an outcry on the Internet. The pigs are reportedly being fed an organic diet and getting daily exercise, treatment that has China's bloggers variously mocking, lamenting and raging online.

    "I would rather be a pig for the Olympics than a human in a coal mine!" wrote a blogger who calls himself Shiniankanchai, referring to the reported deaths of thousands of workers in China's mines so far this year.

    Shiniankanchai's sentiments soon spread to other blogs and to Tianya, the biggest Chinese-language Web forum. They reflect a growing frustration among ordinary Chinese with tainted food, dangerous or inhumane work environments and corrupt officials -- a frustration that is being expressed with increasing frequency.

    It's "just ridiculous!" said Jane Xun, a 24-year-old employee of a Shenzhen logistics company, in an interview after she posted her own online objections to the pig-rearing program for the Olympics. "It actually shows how serious the food-safety problem is. What am I going to eat?"

    ... But a program to raise pigs specifically to feed the Olympic athletes, both the Chinese and those from other countries, is seen by many citizens as a sign of mad excess and pandering to foreigners.

    Pigs are such an important commodity in China that the nation has a strategic pork reserve, a little like the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to stabilize prices. China's pork reserve releases frozen meat and live hogs in a supply emergency. A recent jump in the price of pork after an outbreak of blue-ear disease among pigs played a part in pushing up China's inflation rate to 6.5% in August -- a serious concern for a government worried about an overheating economy, asset bubbles and a disgruntled rural populace.

    Coming in the wake of reports of tainted Chinese food and toys, news of the Olympic-pig project are adding fat to the fire for some citizens. The special pigs "show how serious our food safety issue is," Shiniankanchai commented in an Internet posting. "While the government is devoted to solving the athletes' pork-eating problem, common people are asking: How about the food safety problem for people living in this country?"

    The Olympics pork supplier, Qianxihe Food Group, or Lucky Crane, as the company brands itself in English, held a press conference in Beijing in August to announce the project. According to reports in the Chinese press, which widely covered the press conference, the company said its aim is to provide athletes with the purest of meat, free of any substances that could cause them to fail doping tests.

  • Previous Dimes can be found here.

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