Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Why supermarket tomatoes taste flat

It's not because Florida tomato growers can't produce good-tasting tomatoes.

Art Carden explains:
Florida tomato grower Joe Procacci came up with a tomato that tasted great and could be produced economically. After intervention by the Florida Tomato Commission, however, Procacci was barred from selling his tomatoes to willing buyers.
After a decade of experimenting with Heirloom tomatoes, Procacci developed what he called the UglyRipe tomato, which the Florida Tomato Commission barred from export because it didn't meet its standards for roundness.

Gary Galles wrote in 2005:
In effect, the government has delegated [the FTC] the power to criminalize selling fruit other growers deem unfit to sell or selling it in ways they don’t approve of, even when buyers, fully in­formed about any shortcomings, would be eager customers. (Procacci had to turn away out-of-state buyers and take about $3 million in losses when denied an exemption from the roundness rules in January [2005].)
Whatever this is, it's not the free market at work. The FTC apparently wanted to protect the reputation of the state's tomato growers by limiting export to lousy-tasting tomatoes that were round.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Phelps vs. Cavic

I salute Michael Phelps for his incredible accomplishments at the Beijing Olympics. I also salute Milorad Cavic, whom Phelps beat by .01 seconds in the 100 meter butterfly to win his seventh gold medal, tying him with Mark Spitz. It was the closest race Phelps has had, with one more to go. According to what I've read, it is the smallest margin of victory possible in the Olympics.

But I am nagged by doubt. I watched the race and the video replays immediately after. The replays were far from conclusive. The Serbs filed a protest, but Olympic officials stood by the results, in spite of what the video showed. From a Reuters report:
Serb Olympic team officials believed Cavic had touched first and the timing system may have failed but Ben Ekumbo, the race referee, ruled the result should stand.

FINA [the sport's governing body] also said Phelps would not have lost the gold medal if the Serb protest had been upheld.

"It was a question to share or not share first place," said Cornel Marculescu, FINA's executive director. "With everything we saw, the first arrival was Michael Phelps."
According to race referee Ben Ekumbo of Kenya:
"I personally looked at the video footage and it was very clear that the Serbian swimmer touched second after Michael Phelps," said the Kenyan.

"It was clear from the video that it was an issue of stroking. One was stroking and the other was gliding.
If these officials saw video that convinced them I would like to see it. Michael Phelps is Big Money -- big money for more than Michael Phelps. A loss in his quest for a seventh gold medal would have deflated his market value considerably. It would have deflated interest in watching the Games. There were too many people in positions of power who stood to lose too much money if Phelps lost.

I don't know if the race results were fixed in any way. Maybe Phelps won because he really touched first. Maybe Phelps won because Cavic was too soft on his touch, as Ekumbo claimed. But saying Cavic was too soft on his touch is different than claiming Phelps touched first. Marculescu said "the first arrival" was Phelps. Ekumbo agreed. It sounds like the officials want to say Cavic touched first but not hard enough to register, and that he didn't touch first, Phelps did. Which is it, guys?

Given all the politics and money involved with the Olympics, this case is far from settled, for me, at least. But regardless, Michael Phelps is still a great champion, and I wish him well.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tomatoes, anyone?

I have ten tomato plants growing in my backyard and today's haul was the best ever - 35 tomatoes, with more ripening on the plants.

Growing your own tomatoes (or other crops) can be very satisfying.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lobbyists spend billions

The U.S. government's 2008 fiscal year budget is $3 trillion.  Should we be surprised that there are over 15,600 registered lobbyists trying to snatch a portion of this loot?  Who are the biggest lobbyists?  According to AIER writer Richard Ebeling, the biggest industry lobbyist is pharmaceuticals and health care, followed by insurance, computers, and electric utilities. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the largest individual lobbyist, having spent over $52 million in 2007 attempting to shape government to its advantage.  Southern Company, my former employer, ranks No. 10, with 2007 expenditures of $14,560,000.

Freddie Mac ($8.5 million) and Fannie Mae ($5.6 million) have seen their bribes pay handsomely, securing for themselves a government bailout.  Or more precisely, a bailout provided by taxpayers. 

The taxpayers, of course, are always the forgotten ones

Kindle or Kindling?

According to an article on Wired.com, Amazon has sold 240,000 Kindles since the hand-held reading device went on sale last November, for a revenue of $100 million.  But what is the future of e-readers like Kindle?  Is the market saturated?  The heaviest readers are females 50 or over.  (Book writers, take note.) Quite possibly Amazon can get more customers by lowering the price significantly and making textbooks available as Kindle downloads.  They might also consider talking to Apple about redesigning it.  It's too clunky to get excited about.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hurricanes frequently happen

The politically-correct and taxpayer-funded global warming movement has critics who say, essentially, that the conclusion is not supported by the evidence.  But the critics don't get the funding.