Food for thought

The success of the modern food industry lies in its ability not just to provide us with hitherto unimaginable quantities of food, but to deliver it in good, or at least edible, condition. Most of it doesn’t taste as nice as it might have done straight out of the ground, but since most of us rarely eat really fresh food, we’ve forgotten what it’s supposed to taste like anyway.

Carolyn Steel
Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives

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Money for nothing…

Last week I had a very pleasant experience. I went to the bank with two jars of change and cashed them in.

The jars were the regular plastic one kilogram peanut butter jars. I’d estimate they hold about a litre. Whenever I get home from any sort of shopping, like most other guys, I empty my pockets of change. After getting sick of it slowly covering most horizontal surfaces, I saved the peanut butter jars, cleaned them, and started using them as change-dumps. When I had two  jars filled, off to the bank I went. Imagine my delight when I learned the change totalled $866.89!

Granted that’s probably about three years of change, but like I said, a very pleasant experience!

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Less or fewer?

Years ago, my friend Jessica told me how less and fewer are often, and incorrectly, used interchangeably. Whether I thank her or curse her for his enlightenment depends on the day. I value knowledge, but people make this mistake so often that once you know the rule governing their use, the incorrect usage will drive you to distraction. It seems to happen all over the web, where anyone with Internet access can style themselves a writer.

Just this morning, I was reading Michael Lavorgna’s article, “The Ayre QX-5 Twenty: The Digital Hub” on Stereophile. The article opens with this sentence:

Let’s say you want less boxes in your hi-fi but you don’t want to give up the stuff you need and the stuff you like.

Less boxes? No, it’s fewer boxes. I’m guessing they don’t have an editor over there.

The rule is straightforward. If you can count the objects in question, it’s fewer. If not, it’s less. You can certainly count the number of components in your hi-fi so it’s fewer boxes.

With that in mind, it’s fewer boxes, less sand, fewer people, less water, and fewer troubles, for example.

While it is less sand and less water, it would be fewer grains of sand and fewer litres of water. You can’t count sand or water, but you can count units of sand and water, therefore less becomes fewer when you attach units.

So remember, if you can count the objects in question, it’s fewer. If not, it’s less.

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The Royal ‘we’

A new book, and some new knowledge! In this case, why a monarch will use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ when referring to themselves.

Since mediaeval times, the King had been seen as two bodies in one: a mortal entity and “the King’s person,” representing unending royal authority; monarchs therefore referred to themselves in the plural form as “we.”

Alison Weir, Henry VIII: The King and His Court, 2001

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Sarah Palin, the science wannabe

Sarah Palin ripped into Bill Nye Thursday at a Washington event for a film to discredit climate scientists. According to The Hill, she claims he has no authority to say climate-change skeptics are wrong.

Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am. He’s a kids’ show actor; he’s not a scientist1.

The only reason I can think she singled him out is that he’s one of the most recognizable science popularizers right now. He simplifies the science for the regular joe. If she was as much a scientist as he is, she wouldn’t be attacking him at all. She’s be going after the climate scientists directly. But she’s not.

Let’s take an abbreviated look at her claim. To simplify things, compare their education and first jobs:

Bill Nye earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University, after which he worked at Boeing where he developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for the Boeing 7472.

Sarah Palin earned a bachelor’s degree in communications after attending five universities, after which she worked as a sportscaster for KTUU-TV and KTVA-TV in Anchorage and as a sports reporter for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman3.

So who will you believe when they talk science?


  1. Timothy Cama, The Hill, “Palin: Bill Nye ‘as much a scientist as I am’,” April 14, 2009
  2. Wikipedia, Bill Nye, retrieved April 15, 2006
  3. Wikipedia, Sarah Palin, retrieved April 15, 2016
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