Sunday, January 3, 2016

July 2015: Potpourri

     In my Desire to Catch-Up: I began writing this musing e-letter in July of 2015. It is now January 3rd and I am just finishing it. There is a lot of negative things I can say about this lack of discipline, effort, etc. etc. But what is the point? I will celebrate instead, in a glass half full way, that I did finish and distribute it.
      Since I am writing this on January 3, 2016 allow me to acknowledge two special birthdays. My sister Nancy is celebrating a milestone birthday that ends in a zero. My grandson, Vaughn Alexan, is celebrating his first. Happy birthday to Nancy and Vaughn!
      Polygamy Cometh? In June, US Supreme Court ruled that Gay Marriage was a constitutional right. Mostly supporters were quite happy. Facebook was full of joy and well wishes. There was an app that many folks used to add a rainbow tint to their cover photos. Amid all of this were also posts where folks felt their religious views trampled on.
      I wrote about this in December of 2010. I pretty much stand where I was then. I am more amazed by what was once taboo is now the norm and what was once the accepted bias is now taboo. This amazes me. I am not so sure why this amazes me and not others. Maybe I am more an observer.
     I do observe that people are happy that they can wed, that they have legal status, and shared benefits. This is good and a long time in coming. Yet, I also sympathize with good decent people who feel that a leg has been kicked out from their belief structure.
     I also observe religions having to come to grips with this. The Wall Street Journal had an Op Ed on June 30th said that this, Obergefell v. Hodges, decision will result in more litigation than even Roe v. Wade. There is a lot of hyperbole in the article but I think the author has a point.
     The title of the December 2010 article was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – Polygamy. Then as well as now, I am kind of wondering what the social implications of this monumental ruling will have. Then as now, I am suggesting that Polygamy is next in line to, first, become acceptable and then to be the law of the land. I find this logical extension amusing. Amusing? How so?
     Polygamy amuses me because of there is a delicious dichotomy with Islam and Mormonism. Both these religions, and I am spitballing here, probably are against same sex marriage but might view polygamy favorably. How can one not be amused by this? 
     By logical extension, polygamy should be a legal no brainer. We are talking about consenting adults. Marriage used to be between a man and woman. Now, that has been opened to men marrying men and women marrying women. One thing that did not change is that marriage is one-to-one. It was and is between two people.
     You are not allowed to marry yourself which would actually be an intriguing topic for a future blog. You are also not allowed to marry two men and three women. Certainly, there is the well-known fact or belief that people have to put in a whole lot of effort to make work. If this is true about one-to-one marriages, imagine how hard it would be to make a polygamous committee function with any degree of civility.
     The reason polygamy will not gain the legal status of marriage as defined as today. One of the compelling features of marriage is the sharing of benefits. Gay couples and nuclear families can now cover their loved ones just as heterosexual marriages and families have always done.
     Corporations were ahead of the curve on this one. They had established the status of partner to cover gay marriages years before the first legal gay marriage. It made sense for both creating a harmonious workforce but also to avoid the kinds of litigations that were obviously coming. 
     When it comes to polygamy, it is doubtful that the corporate world would want to adopt this. The reason is quite simple: the cost factor. People covered could grow geometrically in the multi-spouse world. People would marry their friends with no sexual benefits just to get them real benefits. Prenuptials could cover the estate planning issues. Because of this, I do not anticipate polygamy being legalized very soon. 
     Hold on, Just a Second: On June 30, the last minute of the day was 61 seconds long. The extra second, referred to as a leap second, was added to keep the atomic clocks in sync with the earth’s rotation which apparently has irregularities.
     Leap seconds are not scheduled on a regular basis as are Leap Years. This is all managed by the International Earth Rotation System and Reference Systems Service (IERS) an international organization established in 1987 and headquartered in Germany. We did not really need Leap Seconds before we established official time as set by atomic clocks. The variation of atomic clocks is apparently less than the variation of the earth’s rotation. So, every once in a while a second must be added or subtracted from the atomic clock so it stays in sync with the earth.
     When I was a kid, this would have bothered me. Leap year bothered me. I expected, wanted, perhaps even demanded that the physical world operate in a fixed and predictable manner. Variation and entropy made no sense to me. I simply did not understand how or why God did not design things in a more orderly fashion.
     Over the years, I have clearly gotten over this. Part of the passage from adolescence into adulthood is to except certain thing as just the way they are. This, of course, included cosmic architecture and design. The universe operates as it does. The measurement and tracking of time is a human invention. Whatever underlying postulates guide our logic and science are not necessarily in sync with the aforementioned cosmic architecture and design. Variation is part of the cosmic architecture and design. 
     All this is so much blah blah where astronomy and theology overlap. In the case of the extra second on June 30th, it was unnoticeable. If it weren’t in the news, I would have been blissfully unaware. 
     ISIS Revisited: I just learned that ISIS executed an Armenian, Hovsep Tomasyan, in Kobane on June 24th. Per
Four ISIS members wearing Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) uniforms shot the 45-year-old father on the morning of June 24, according to Aram [Hovsep’s 14 year old son]. “My father was bleeding from his heart when he fell on the ground. Despite this he still raised his hand and said, ‘Son, run, they are ISIS.’ I ran. If I hadn’t run, I would have been shot too…”
     In this year when we are commemorating the Armenian Genocide, we are watching the last Christians being driven out of Iraq and Syria because of the civil wars. It seems ISIS has earned at the lion share of the blame for their brutal treatment of Christians and Moslems that are not like them. It was inevitable that Armenians living in Iraq or Syria would become casualties. I am sure Tomasyan is not the first. I am simply sickened by all of this and especially this second Genocide of Christians by ISIS. 
     The world really is doing nothing. The US is doing nothing. As I wrote a year ago, ISIS is partly our creation. But, after prolonged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were stalemates if not outright defeats, we do not have the resolve to go back in. There is some moral outrage. We are providing some air support and military advisors in Iraq. But, there is nothing like Mideast Relief. 
     There were two points of view that resonated with me when I read them. First, we are underestimating ISIS the same way the world underestimated the Bolsheviks when they overthrew Russia. The underestimation is not in the brutality against innocents but rather their military resolve and evolving capability. 
     The meager response of whatever coalition or alliance we think we are in are leaving the fighting to the Kurds and whatever Iraqi Army there is. It is unclear what the result of all this will be in Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan, and perhaps even Turkey. I am hoping that ISIS is not part of it.
     Salt Craze: Let’s move from the serious to the truly mundane.
     I never gave salt much thought. It came in a blue cardboard cylinder from the Chicago base
Morton company that mined it from the huge salt mines underneath Chicago. When I was younger, I thought our table sale came from the Detroit Salt Mines. But no, the salt mined from under Detroit is used for rock salt and de-icing products.
     In teaching microeconomics, I use table salt as an example when we cover price elasticity of demand which is the sensitivity of demand to changes in price of an item. My point is that table salt, the Morton blue cylinder, is bought so infrequently that no one ever remembers the price last paid for the product. If you need salt, you buy it and it has almost nothing to do with the price.
     Well… that was the case.
     Now, the table and cooking salt market has kind of expanded into different and more expensive variants. There is Kosher Salt and sea salts of a dizzying variety. A quick internet search yields sea salts from France, Italy, Peru, and the Himalayas. Sea salts are also infused with almost any other spice or flavoring one can think of from roasted garlic to porcini from vanilla bean to matcha (green tea). Samplers of these gourmet salts can be $130 for 24 small 5 oz bottles. This comes to $.82 per oz. The 26 oz cylinder of Morton sells for $2.43 or $.093 per oz. These new salts are getting a 9-fold price premium. It seems crazy to me.
     There are two websites that provided most of the information in this article. Between the both of them, you would get all you need to know about this sea salt craze.
  1. Sea Salt - Tech Insider
  2. Authority Nutrition - Different Types of Salt. This is the source of the table at the end of this letter.
     What is it about sea salt versus regular old table salt. Table salt is processed a bit more. They have anti-clumping agents in them thus allowing for the Morton tag line of “When it rains, it pours.” Generic table salt is also iodized. Goiters caused by iodine deficiency was a bigger problem in the past. In the early 1900s, it was decided to iodize salt and solve this problem. Most sea salts are not iodized nor do they contain the anti-clumping agents. Sea salts are dried and are thus naturally flakier and coarser than the highly ground table salts which until recently were the only standard.
Kosher salt is almost exactly the same as table salt except for a few key differences. While they are both mined from seabeds and salt deposits, kosher salt's individual grains are coarse, asymmetric, and slightly larger than table salts'. That's because it's left to dry naturally after it's mined. It also generally doesn't have any anti-clumping agents or iodine additives, making it the purer cousin of table salt. 
And despite its confusing name, kosher salt is not actually kosher. Rather, it's used in the koshering process. To remove "impurities" from meat, people slather the rough salt onto the outside of a cut to pull blood from surface tissues. The big grains absorb a lot of blood and can be easily washed away after the process without leaving the meat too salty.
~ Tech Insider
      People like sea salt because they are something new, more expensive and hence differentiating, and there is a perception that they are more natural or healthy. OK… according to the two weblinks, they are not any more healthy than regular old table salt. Salt is essential to our diets. Yet, too much salt is unhealthy no matter if it is Morton, Maldon, Indian Black Sea Salt, Celtic Salt, Kosher Salt, or Chicago Street Salt. Salt is one of the top three taste components used in foods. The other two are sugar and fat. In moderation they are good, in excess all three are bad. I never reach for the salt shaker though it is always on the table. Most food is salty enough, especially if it is processed and packaged (read the labels if you doubt me). This is why I am only writing about these exotic sea salts instead of being a consumer of them.
      What makes Pink Himalyan Sea Salt pink and desired by so many gourmets? Rust. Iron Oxide. Yum. It is the trace minerals, or impurities if you prefer, that give the variety of sea salts their distinction. Come to think of it, rust is coarse and flakey too.
      Lastly, this sea salt thing has spread to confections. In our never ceasing efforts to create unhealthy but delicious foods, we now have Salted Caramel. Sweet and salty like sweet and sour seems oxymoronic. Yet, it is everywhere. I do believe regular old caramel candies can still be purchased but for the most part all I see are Salted Caramel this and that everywhere I go.

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