Monday, September 2, 2013

    1. The Bet
    2. Execrable Church Name
    3. Terroir (look again; you might have misread)
    4. Fordite
    5. Washington, Bush II, Clinton II
    6. The Weather God


I believed Paul Ehrlich. Then I read Julian Simon, and for complex reasons – oh, heck: it may have been as simple as Ehrlich’s misanthropy in the face of my increasing philanthropy – chose to believe his more counter-intuitive view.

Since Ehrlich was winning tons of attention, Simon attempted an attention-getting bet with Ehrlich, which he allowed Ehrlich to rig: “pick five commodities you’re certain will become more costly and I betcha they won’t.” Ehrlich obliged with chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten. Simon still won, with that basket of commodities dropping in price nearly 50% during the bet period, exposing Ehrlich as unreliable, a sore loser and, eventually (as if we needed more proof), a poor excuse for a human being.

The story of that bet is recounted in a new book, reviewed at the Wall Street Journal (which certainly has a horse named Simon in this race).

I now am again somewhat more in the Ehrlich camp. I don’t see any reason to think that either natural resources or human resourcefulness is literally infinite, which is what would be necessary for limits on exploitation of natural resources not to exist, isn’t it?

Yes, I’m aware that fracking and other neat tricks have gotten us some more oil and beaucoups natural gas. The natural gas “boon” has driven prices so low (since you can’t store it in those quantities) that coal-fired facilities are converting to natural gas – which at least short-term is good for clean air standards, though like all creative destruction, it’s impoverishing some people (to-wit: coal miners).

Bold prediction: some day within my kid’s lifetime, we’ll wish we hadn’t decommissioned those coal plants. Not that coal is limitless either, of course.

But are you aware, if you’re still firmly in the Julian Simon camp, that the ratio of energy invested to energy returned is lowering? Fracking takes a lot more resources and energy than the old glory days “stick a straw in the ground and watch it gush” abundance. Will we get to where it takes 1 unit of energy to extract 1 unit of energy? Game over when that happens.

Economics notwithstanding, stewardship is a human responsibility. Wasteful people are nasty, slightly sub-human, people. Not that Ehrlich’s nice, mind you.


Hoping that there is such a thing as bad publicity, I point out my discovery of <FingernailsOnBlackboard>Innovation Church</FingernailsOnBlackboard>, the name of which, if nothing else, marks it as the ne plus ultra of non-Orthodoxy.

The Krustian name, moreover, is not an accident:

We will change often. We know that God is progressive and so we will lay our ideas, agendas, programs, and everything else down. God is always doing a new thing and so that means as we follow after Him, things will change.

One of their “progressive” innovations, from Robert Bly‘s pen to their ear, is the testosterone-inspired:

MAN UP. Local pubs, food, burping, and Jesus…what more could you want?

I probably should mention now that This is Not The Onion.

De gustibus non est disputandum. I just happen to think Church isn’t a matter of taste and personal preference.

But there is some good news. You’ll not find this little piece of hell on earth on Google maps:

404 Error on that address, dude!
404 Error on that address, dude!


Rod Dreher, stepping away from politics for his other favorite topic, food, extols French terroir, one of those untranslatable words:

The importance of terroir to the French psyche and self-image is difficult to overestimate, because it is a concept almost untranslatable, combining soil, weather, region and notions of authenticity, of genuineness and particularity — of roots, and home — in contrast to globalized products designed to taste the same everywhere.
Though related to the farm-to-table and locavore movements of a new generation, terroir is not about proximity, but about honesty and community, an idea even more important to a France that fears losing its identity in a larger Europe and a competitive world.

Agribiz has killed anything like terroir in the U.S. If anyone were to attempt it too successfully, agribiz would persuade the USDA or FDA that their way of operating was unsafe. The only “safe” food operation is a large, industrial and bureaucratized, of course. That’s why the human race became extinct before we had large, industrial and bureaucratized food suppliers.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal.

Maybe the closest I can come to understanding terroir is my growing appreciation of the distinctiveness of the Lelanau Peninsula wines, or the faint memory of how the taste of milk changed in the spring when cows were put out to pasture again (a memory my kid doesn’t enjoy), eating grass rather than, well, whatever they fed them in the winter. Oh, yeah: Deerings Jerkey in Traverse City, or a good Cajun Andouille. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a truly distinctive and artisanal cheese.

Today, we make pilgrimages (e.g., field trips) to Fair Oaks Farm, which confines its cows (in reasonably humane conditions) and feeds them the identical mixture (made on premises) year-round precisely so there will be no variation in the milk and products. We celebrate that. Even I thought it was pretty amazing and impressive. The neighbors, though, are a bit miffed about the dropping water table.

The pace of life we’ve imposed on ourselves (or maybe it was imposed from outside to a degree) takes its toll in many ways.


We may not have terroir, but we’ve got Fordite, a regional thing thus far.

When we stumbled onto a pendant of Fordite (a/k/a Detroit agate and motor agate) in Traverse City, we had to buy it for my wife’s high school friend, a jewelry lover who worked 35 years or so in paint operations for Ford automotive paint, then DuPont (when Ford sold paint operations).

You see, Fordite (just in case the link takes you to a paywall) is made from the layers of oversprayed automotive paint that collected on the surfaces of painting bays. Quite striking, actually.



The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

(George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796)

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

(George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, 2005)

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending anarchy in our world.

(Hillary Clinton, Second Inaugural Address, 2021 – link regrettably unavailable)


We lived, for 18 months or so, close enough to Okahoma City that it was our shopping mecca. Gary England hadn’t quite arrived at Channel 9 to forecast the weather yet, but we made it out alive anyway.

It sounds as if those living in Oklahoma these days follow Channel 9 weather religiously. I hope the station pays this phenomenal forecaster quite handsomely, because God knows, Oklahoma City needs someone like him.

(Yes, I’m using the holiday weekend to catch up on interesting New York Times articles I saved for later reading. I’ve spared you the ones on obesity.)

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.