Beer, Beans, Banks and Brands

Beer diets, beans diets, Icelandic banks (on a crash diet?), pets, paws and small farm producers. Miscellany from Douglas G. Pearce’s Countryside Digest.

March 21, 2010 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Spring 2010

Beer Diet

“Enkidu, a man raised by wild animals in the classic Sumerian poem Epic of Gilgamesh, knew nothing of beer until a prostitute guided him to a shepherd’s camp. Upon fi nishing seven full cups, ‘his soul became free and cheerful, his heart rejoiced, his face glowed… He became human.’ Beer was so popular throughout ancient Mesopotamia that some historians argue it inspired the earliest farmers to domesticate grain.”

“Rich in carbohydrates, protein, and, of course, alcohol, beer became a dietary staple for many cultures throughout history. In Elizabethan England, mothers safeguarded their adolescents from foul water by serving them ‘beer stew’ – stale bread mixed with beer and spices.”
From Worldwatch, Nov-Dec/09.


“We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”
Herbert Hoover, 1928.

Bean Diet

“Struggling farmers, in an attempt to reap greater profits, cultivated large tracts throughout the Great Plains, removing precious nutrients and moisture from the soil and putting great strain on the land. Couple that with cattle overgrazing and a drought and the dust bowl was born. Enter the soybean: Packed with soil-replenishing nitrogen, it gave back to the land what crops like corn stripped away.

“Planted in large quantities and used in crop-rotation practices fi rst developed in ancient China, soybeans helped suppress erosion and hold the ground together. With the stabilization of the land helping to stabilize the economy, America was slowly pulled out of the Depression, thanks in part to the amazing soybeans – for over 5,000 years an integral part of cultures and diets.”
Hugh Daubney, in Seeds of Diversity, Autumn/09.

Ig Nobel Economics

“After a year filled with a f lock of financial achievements any one of which might merit an Ig Nobel, the economics prize was bound to be controversial. The Ig Nobel committee selected the management and auditors of four Icelandic banks… for  demonstrating that financial market fluctuations can rapidly transform very small banks into very large banks, then rapidly reverse the process, thereby demolishing the national economy.”
From New Scientist, Oct 10/09

Ig Nobel Mathematics

“The mathematics prize went to another financial wizard, Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who imbued his compatriots with a sophisticated understanding of large numbers by printing the national currency in denominations ranging from 1 cent to 100 trillion dollars as the country’s inflation rate soared to 231 million per cent.”
From New Scientist, Oct 10/09.

Id Tags

Some remarks by Wendell Berry made at a meeting on the U.S. National Animal Identification System, which promises to require every single livestock animal to be identified and tagged, no matter the size of the operation:

“The need to trace was made by the confined animal industry – which are, essentially, disease-breeding operations. The health issue was invented right there. The remedy is to put animals back on pasture, where they belong. The USDA is scapegoating the small producers to distract attention from the real cause of the trouble. Presumably these animal factories are, in a too familiar phrase, ‘too big to fail’.”

“This is the first agricultural meeting I’ve ever been to in my life that was attended by the police.”
From Small Farm, Sep-Oct/09.

Dry Cleaning

“The dirty business of laundry has long sought improvements over old-fashioned soap and water. The Celts washed their clothing in human urine. The launderers of ancient Rome rubbed a claylike soil known as ‘fullers earth’ into their stained togas. During the Renaissance, books of ‘secrets’ circulated through Europe, offering such household stain-removal concoctions as walnuts and turpentine.”

“Modern dry cleaning is credited to a Frenchman, Jean-Baptiste Jolly, who in the mid-19th century realized the stain-removal potential of kerosene when his maid accidentally spilled a canful onto his soiled tablecloth. Hydrocarbon-based solvents prevailed thereafter until the 1960s, when flammability concerns and the affordability of new synthetic chemicals led to a switch. Tetrachloroethylene, also known a perchloroethylene (‘perc’) became the preferred solvent among most of the world’s dry cleaners.”
From Worldwatch, Jan-Feb/10.

Paw Prints

“According to the authors of the new book Time to Eat the Dog, it takes 0.84 hectares of land to keep a mediumsized dog fed. In contrast, running a 4.6-litre Toyota Land Cruiser, including the energy required to construct the thing and drive it 10,000 kilometres a year requires 0.41 hectares. Dogs are not the only environmental sinners. The eco-footprint of a cat equates to that of a Volkswagen Golf.”
From New Scientist, Oct 24/09.

Pet Utility

“Dogs can hunt, herd and guard. They can sniff out drugs and bombs and even whale fæces; they guide blind and deaf people, race for sport, pull sleds, fi nd someone buried by an avalanche, help children learn and possibly predict even earthquakes. Cats are good if you have an infestation of rodents.”
From New Scientist, Dec 12/09.

Ad Nauseum

“On average, a child in Canada, the U.S., Britain or Australia will see anywhere between 20,000 to 40,000 commercials a year. In the U.S. and Canada, children on average spend 60 per cent more time watching television in a year than they spend in school. Many schools are infi ltrated by advertising anyway – from compulsory viewing of ads on a ‘news’ program to posters in cafeterias and near soft-drink machines. So incessant is the flow of advertising that a U.S. study found three-year-old toddlers capable of recognizing an average of 100 brand logos.”
From CCPA Monitor, Feb/10.

Computer Whiz

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olsen, President of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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