Just when we thought American isolationism was over . . .

The Americas are moving away from Africa and Europe at the heart-stopping speed of four centimeters a year. If you plan to row the Atlantic, do it now. Your trip’s only going to get longer. 

I couldn’t find any parallel mention of either the Pacific or some continents getting smaller, but systems have only so much give in them, and what’s gained in one place has to show up as a loss somewhere else. What I’m saying is that if that old pair of jeans suddenly fits again, the credit may not go to your new diet, it’s more likely to go to the Atlantic Ocean. 

 

Zoom news

You’ve probably seen this already (and if you haven’t, you may be the only person on the planet keeping that category open), but that’s not going to stop me from telling you about it: A lawyer in Texas appeared in court, via Zoom, to to argue a case while disguised as a cat

Actually, a kitten. If you play the video–and if you haven’t, you really should–you can see his little kitten mouth explaining to the judge, as we all have to at some point in our lives, that he’s not a cat.

“I can see that,” the judge said soberly, although what he was seeing was that the lawyer was in fact a cat. Which proves that witnesses are expected to tell the truth but judges don’t have to. And that we can’t always believe the evidence of our own lyin’ eyes. 

Also that the English language uses the word see loosely.

A rare relevant photo: This is Fast Eddie. He is a cat–on Zoom, off Zoom, in any and all situations. He is also, it’s worth noting, not a lawyer. But he is slightly out of focus. It’s not his fault. 

I don’t know if any of this will give the defendant grounds to appeal, but some inventive lawyer could have a wonderful time with it. 

The lawyer’s not the only person who’s been trapped by Zoom filters since the pandemic forced many odd things to go online. Lizet Ocampo, the political director of People for the American Way, appeared at a work meeting as a potato and couldn’t un-potato herself. 

“As a progressive organization, we fight for justice for all and access to opportunities, and in the last three-plus years, it’s been a little tough,” she said (irrelevantly) after one someone in the meeting took a screenshot and put it on social media. “I just kind of gave up and stayed as a potato for the rest of the call.”

What makes her comment relevant is that an organization that fights for justice should recognize the importance of its directors understanding–at first hand if possible–how hard it is for potatoes to get taken seriously. Ocampo, I trust, now has a visceral understanding of the problem. 

Congressman Emmer, from Minnesota, appeared at a Congressional hearing upside down, with his head disconnected from any recognizable body part, pretty much stopping any sort of sensible discussion. Contributions included, “Is this a metaphor?” “At least you’re not a cat,” and “You could stand on your head.”

 

Food news

Which brings us neatly to our next topic: Scientists have engineered spinach plants to send emails. 

What, you ask, does a spinach plant have to say and why would it want to say it to us, not to another spinach plant? Well, at the moment, the plant doesn’t get to choose. The email will say that the plant found nitroaromatics in the groundwater and the email will go to the scientists. 

Nitroaromatics in groundwater are a sign that explosives might be nearby, and their presence triggers the plant to send a signal, which an infrared camera picks up. Then the camera sends the email. 

Think of the camera as the spinach plant’s office assistant.

We’ve reached a point where no one thinks it’s strange that a camera sends an email, right? Or that your toaster has opinions about your Facebook posts?

What this means, sadly, is that no one wants the spinach plant’s opinion, it’s just a conduit for information that scientists want. 

“Plants are very good analytical chemists,” said Professor Michael Strano, who led the research. “They have an extensive root network in the soil, are constantly sampling groundwater, and have a way to self-power the transport of that water up into the leaves.”

They could, potentially, be set up to send emails related to climate change. 

When I walked past my spinach plants yesterday, I heard them whisper, “We feel so used.” 

I gave them Ocampo’s email address.

*

I don’t know why anyone should believe me on this next item, since I can’t prove it by embedding a link. I’m taking my information from a Twitter ad, which if the culprits have any sense will have been taken down by now, but the makers of Weetabix teamed up with Heinz Corp. and advertised–

Okay, you know how British foodies are trying to rehabilitate the reputation of British food? No? Never mind. They are. And it’s important to them, so the rest of us can just play nice, please, and not do what Weetabix and Heinz have done, which was a very unpleasant playground trick involving dry Weetabix and baked beans. Or more specifically, Weetabix with baked beans poured over them. And offered to the world as something to eat. 

Voluntarily.

What is or are Weetabix? Allegedly, a breakfast cereal, although I have tried the stuff and wasn’t convinced. It (I ate less than one, so let’s commit ourselves to the singular) is wheatish and shaped like a raft with rounded corners. Or like a dish sponge. Dry, it tastes like straw. Wet, it tastes like bread that you soaked overnight in lukewarm water. 

Yes, I know: Someone out there loves it/them. Possibly even you. And I respect that, although you’re making a terrible mistake, possibly even wasting the part of your life that you spend eating breakfast. But hey, who am I to judge?

Someone with a blog and no editor to keep me from writing myself over a cliff edge, that’s who. 

But if I go so far as to admit that I could be wrong about Weetabix (and I’m fairly sure I haven’t), I think even people who like Weetabix, or who at least respect them, will admit that pairing them up with baked beans is one of those errors in judgement that comes from being in lockdown too long. 

If you’re good with technology, you might be able to find the ad and turn it into a Zoom filter, then appear at your next job interview as baked beans on Weetabix. The way the job market is these days, how good were your chances anyway?

*

The History of Parliament blog called my attention to a new electronic tool that lets researchers (along with any fool who stumbles in after them) search parliamentary debates and find out how many times a word like, say, Brexit shows up. So someone’s used it to search for all mentions of the word cucumber

Come on, someone had to do it. Let’s be glad they just went ahead and got it over with.

The news–and I know this will surprise you–is that it doesn’t come up often. Even in a debate about the Tomatoes and Cucumbers Marketing Board in 1950.

No, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m too earthbound.

I may be misreading this, but the introductory paragraph seems to say that the word’s never been used but later on the post produces an example of when it was used: in December 4, 1656, right in the midst of Oliver Cromwell’s protectorate. We don’t think of that as a particularly funny time, but during a debate about the rights and privileges of the burghs (don’t ask, because what’s important here is the cucumber), the discussion got increasingly convoluted and MP Philip Jones compared it “to the dressing of a cucumber. First pare, and order, and dress it, and throw it out of the window.”

Reword that and you’d get a laugh. It’s all in the delivery. 

 

Archeology

A four-year-old walking the beach with her parents spotted a dinosaur footprint. It’s 220 million years old and was preserved in the mud. No one’s sure what kind of dinosaur left it but it would’ve been small and walked on two legs.

It was on a beach called the Bendricks, in Wales, which the South Wales group of the Geologists’ Association called “the best site in Britain for dinosaur tracks of the Triassic Period.

*

A couple of prehistoric teeth found in Jersey may be evidence that modern humans didn’t displace Neanderthals but merged with them. The teeth come from two different people and combine features of both modern humans and Neanderthals, suggesting that the blend was common in the population. Modern humans and Neanderthals overlapped by 5,000 years, which is a long enough time to get acquainted, even outside of speed-dating situations.

76 thoughts on “Just when we thought American isolationism was over . . .

  1. I’m eating my breakfast. Thinking about baked beans on Wheatabix really isn’t helping my digestion. I like the one and I’m indifferent to the other, but together? It’s definitely one of those ideas that someone should have slept on and then forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was just reading that this morning. It came complete with a picture of a group of Neanderthals and I think the real problem was that they were all male. No females, no descendants. You’d think scientists would’ve figured that out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I live where lots of beans are grown and from where shipped all over the world. I hope some make it into many an English breakfast, sort of hands across the seas!

    As for spinach-grams, once they determined the iron in spinach was difficult for humans to metabolize, I went through a phase where I stuck up my nose before I’d eat any. I still won’t eat the slop in cans, but fresh spinach redeems the plant. That I could actually send messages via spinach is just one more reason to stick with it. LOL! As Popeye put it, “Toot Toot”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t know that about iron and spinach. I can’t say I’d have much cared, but it’s not anything my plants have mentioned to me. Clearly, whatever messages they’re going to send, they’re not a tell-all sort of species.

      I don’t like the stuff in cans either. Horrible.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Given how long it took executives to start sending their own emails, I think it will be a while before spinach plants are sending their own messages – which, I’m sure would be “Eat more kale!”

    Although wheatabix isn’t on our shopping list, we (well, my wife) gets some Heinz products from a site that sells the British variety. The ingredients more closely resemble food instead of a chemical concoction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Are they crazy encouraging intelligence and communication skills in spinach? Have they not read or seen ‘The Day of the Triffids’?

    Weetabix is one of the British foods that we must keep stocked in my house. The others are Salad Cream and brown sauce (HP preferably but any brand will suffice). I do not eat any of these items but I make sure the British stomach needs of my family are met by sourcing them locally.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I never could abide Weetabix anyway, so I’m missing nothing.

    As for the spinach, I’m wondering how it could be applied to identifying explosive-riddled areas: I seem to remember there’s a plant that was found to change colour near explosives, but the problem in using it was – how to get the plants into the ground in the first place. Would broadcasting seed really be enough?

    Fascinating quote about cucumber: I believe Dr. Johnson made much the same remark about it – clearly it must have been around as a popular saying for a long time, maybe well before even Mr. Jones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They did quote Dr. Johnson, but I thought I’d go for the earliest quote they had to offer. It was a fairly garbled article.

      I hadn’t thought about the problem of planting the spinach. That’s a serious drawback to the plan.

      Like

  6. Considering the current situation(s) in Texas, the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the junior senator are probably wishing they had been photographed disguised as a cat, Or even a reasonably intelligent plant, such as spinach.

    Don’t know about Weetabix, but I’ve never understood Grape Nuts.

    Modern folks have been documented with Neanderthal DNA so it is beginning to be accepted that they never really went extinct. If you met one wearing a suit and tie instead of the stereotypical Fred Flintstone outfit you probably would not think there was anything unusual. Especially if you’ve been watching the videos of the DC insurrection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For some reason, I spent a good bit of time when I was a kid trying to make sense of the name Grape Nuts. I never did succeed. Or taste the stuff. I’m not a big fan of cold cereal.

      I’m sure you’re right about Texas. Maybe the entire legislature should meet disguised as cats. Maybe the musical should be revived. Maybe we should all dedicate ourselves to electing politicians who have some intention of running a country/state/city instead of just posturing.

      Oh, don’t be silly, Ellen.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I learned about the continents drifting apart in my college geology class way back in 1980. It has to do with the mid Atlantic rift forming new crust. Some of which form volcanic Islands. The Azores are an example which I have visited. Don’t get me started on British food, rotten foul, salty paste like substance, and deep fried greasy fish. No wonder there is such an obesity problem..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Living in Portugal (and I’m working from reputation here, since I’ve never been in Portugal), you can afford to detest all British food. We’ve had to find bits and pieces that we like. The apple pie, for example, puts US apple pie to shame. And scones are good. And–well, there’s always cooking at home.

      Like

  8. Oh the cat video! I played it from your link just to laugh again! His eyes!. I’m still laughing helplessly. The dark square in the top left is the judge. He had to turn off his video because he was laughing, too…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Earlier today I was telling my kids that being laid up has given me entirely too much time to read online flotsam. Your post has just proven my point. This is the second time in less than 24 hours that I have read about Heinz baked beans. In the 1960s, The Who put out an album titled The Who Sell Out. Part of the cover art was Roger Daltry in a bathtub full of Heinz Baked Beans. I have never eaten this brand of baked beans, but they are now forever linked in my brain with odd British advertising. (I’m sure Fast Eddie agreed with the cats here that the lawyer’s looks were immeasurably improved by the filter.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • To start from the bottom: Eddie agrees entirely. He just went out to consult his own lawyer about the mouse I took from him this morning and he’s not happy with humans in general and me in particular just now. I haven’t met his lawyer, although I’ve received the occasional rodent corpse, which I take is the form a cat lawyer’s letter takes.

      I somehow managed to miss that Rolling Stones album. I think I’m glad. No, I know I am. Especially the cover.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ms Ellen – We don’t know if it is illegal to take away mice in Cornwall. However, it is not polite. We hope you are not charged with stealing food. Mom told us what happened to a human named Mr. Valjean when he stole food in France. Purrs, Snoops and Kommando Kitty

        Liked by 1 person

        • I did try to make up for it by offering treats and some time with the cat dancer. Both were accepted, so I may have been forgiven, in which case no charges will be filed. I’ll wait nervously to find out. Thank you for warning me.

          Liked by 1 person

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