Multiculturalism and Lobster

Readers and fellow bloggers should note that I didn’t describe our diving excursion and grilled crustacean dinner yesterday (only) to make them jealous–I did manage to get in a little paen to globalization at the end. Anyway, just consider it a little travel writing–you get to enjoy the experience vicariously (right…).

But it does also provide another point of departure for a subject that has always fascinated me–differing food tastes among different cultures. North Americans have been eating lobster and crab since, well forever, including the European settlers. Lobstering was one of the earliest industries in New England among the English colonists. But think about it–these are basically just big bugs. (In fact, in southern California, that’s the nickname that lobster divers use for them–they go out off Palos Verdes or out to the channel islands with a “bug bag.”)

Yet, if we find arthropods on land, we will exterminate them, or ignore them, but we will not consider eating them–the thought turns most American stomachs, including mine. Yet just one country to the south, fried ants, roaches and termites are considered a crunchy delicacy in Mexico.

So what is it about crustaceans that makes them palatable to North Americans at the same time that we are disgusted by land-dwelling arthropods? That they come from the water–why would that make a difference? That they’re big enough that the yummy meat can be easily separated from the yucky bits? That we’re close minded about food (I find the latter an unlikely explanation in a culture that will drink crappucino coffee from beans processed by monkey intestines).

I profess to have no answers, but I’d be interested in any explanations from readers.

Got War?

Apparently, we don’t need it, or at least not a formal declaration of it, to try our enlightened Mariner (as in from Marin County) for treason, at least if Mark Levin’s analysis is correct.

On his reading of the Constitution (which makes sense to me):

The issue, therefore, is not whether the U.S. has declared war, but whether Walker has waged war against the U.S., or whether he has given aid and comfort to the enemy.

The whole analysis is worth a read.


I just want to add that I have little to add in the blogger pile on of Mr. Walker. They’ve already beaten me to all the worthwhile things to say, and James Lileks’ latest rant should be the last word. Of course, it won’t be, because the so-called professional pundits will continue to say mind-bogglingly stupid things about it.

The Two-Edged Sword Of Racial Demagoguery

Apparently, Democratic race baiting caused blowback in a South Carolina state senate race. In their usual bid to boost black turnout, the Dems ran one of their typical odious ads about how Republicans want to keep blacks ignorant and segregated. The Republican campaign decided to buy ad time for the same ad in media with white demographics. While the ad had its intended affect of getting out the black vote, it also energized whites who resented the tactic and the accusations of being racists. The result was a win for the Republican candidate. I hope that this bodes well for the future, either because such ads will become counterproductive, or better yet, will cease to be produced.

A Return To Serious Government

Steve Chapman has a nice piece in this morning’s Trib on how the war has returned the federal government to seriousness. I do disagree with one statement, however:

The signature moment of his [Clinton’s] administration may have been when, in a major speech on education, he solemnly advised parents to start singing to their infants–and “immediately,” in case anyone doubted his resolve. A lot of adjectives were used to describe the Clinton presidency, but “imperial” was not one of them.

Well, actually, it was by many. If nothing else, like many emperors, he considered himself to be above the law and the Constitution, and he considered the Secret Service to be part of his Praetorian Guard (along with all of the handlers, hangers on and cabinet officials who he blithely sent out to lie for him).

Of course, Caligula beat Bill, in that he managed to put his entire horse in the Senate, instead of just its nether regions…

What’s In A Name?

In one more riff on the space tourist theme, Jay Zilber notes:

A SPLENDID DICKENSIAN NAME: Mark Shuttleworth, 27, is set to become the second “space tourist” to fly to the station, arriving in a Russian Soyuz rocket next April.

Yes, but the really ironic thing is that he’s not allowed to go on the Shuttle.

What’s In A Name?

In one more riff on the space tourist theme, Jay Zilber notes:

A SPLENDID DICKENSIAN NAME: Mark Shuttleworth, 27, is set to become the second “space tourist” to fly to the station, arriving in a Russian Soyuz rocket next April.

Yes, but the really ironic thing is that he’s not allowed to go on the Shuttle.

What’s In A Name?

In one more riff on the space tourist theme, Jay Zilber notes:

A SPLENDID DICKENSIAN NAME: Mark Shuttleworth, 27, is set to become the second “space tourist” to fly to the station, arriving in a Russian Soyuz rocket next April.

Yes, but the really ironic thing is that he’s not allowed to go on the Shuttle.

New Boston Tea Party

I hadn’t been paying much attention to this because it seemed so…quixotic, and I didn’t want to get hopes up only to be dashed. But according to Dale Amon over at Samizdata, there really does seem to be a serious movement to eliminate the state income tax in Massachussetts. Even if it fails, it’s nice to at least see a serious media-grabbing political debate on the subject.

Getting Past The Giggle Factor

Recommended reading for those interested in space–a nice piece in the Washington Post today on space tourism, and its continuing progress in getting taken more seriously. Odd timing, though–the reporter is describing a conference that occurred in late June.

When Rogers first started talking in public about space tourism, his wife, Estelle, refused to come hear him speak. “I can’t stand people laughing at you,” she told him. Today, as one Federal Aviation Administration official puts it, “space tourism now passes the laugh test…”

This is important. As Arthur C. Clarke used to say when asked when some technological advance would occur, “…about five years after we stop laughing at it…”

…When Anderson talks about the future of space tourism, he points to other benefits. For example, vehicles capable of hauling sightseers into orbit could also be used for rapid, point-to-point transportation. Washington to Sydney in 45 minutes, for example. Anderson believes “space business jets” capable of flying his suborbital missions will be available in three years, an optimistic timeline, according to the people at NASA, where they put the figure at five to seven years.

Given their track record, why does or should anyone take what NASA says seriously? Not that I disagree in this particular case, but I find it irritating that reporters always feel that they have to balance anything any non-NASA person says about space with a quote (often anonymous) from “people at NASA.”

It’s particularly damaging when the most-quoted person at NASA says nonsense like the following:

Daniel S. Goldin, who recently retired as NASA administrator after nine years on the job, says that NASA’s professional space shuttle crews know there is “a 1 in 250 probability they are not coming back.” He contrasts that with a 1 in 20,000 probability flying air combat and 1 in 2 million for commercial airline passengers. “This is very serious stuff,” he says, and should be reserved for highly trained professionals. “It is not for the faint of heart. This is not Disneyland.”

Who ever claimed that it was for the “faint of heart,” Dan? This is what’s called a “straw man” argument. The level of safety is simply not an issue, and in some cases, danger actually makes the experience more appealing. As the article points out (again quoting Space Adventures’ Eric Anderson):

Anderson acknowledges that in its early days, space tourism is bound to be terrifying, uncomfortable and, yes, dangerous. But then again, so is climbing Mount Everest. Yet every year more than 100 people paying more than $50,000 each reach the summit (and, on average, three a year die trying). Tito was airsick during the two-day ride to the space station, but, once there, he reported back to Earth, “I don’t know about this adaptation that they’re talking about. I’m already adapted. I love space!” Even with the risks, proponents believe there are enough people who want space vacations to create the economies of scale needed to reduce the cost of putting stuff in orbit.

More nonsense from Dan:

Goldin ran NASA from 1992 until last month, making him its longest-serving administrator. A poor kid from the South Bronx who had 25 years with defense contractor TRW before joining NASA, Goldin managed to survive the first Bush administration, two terms of the Clinton administration and the first year of the second Bush administration by being pretty adroit. But he also doesn’t mince words. “Flying rich guys and gals in space is not space tourism,” he says.

No, Dan Goldin was never afraid to mince words, even (or especially) when he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Just one of the many reasons that his too-long tenure at NASA was disastrous. We’ll see if his replacement, Mr. Okeefe, will actually support public space travel, instead of just giving it lip service while undermining it at every opportunity.

This article is one of the better ones that I’ve seen on the subject, and given that it’s in the mainstream press, it’s a milestone.

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