Wednesday, October 03, 2012

News of the Day

Last week I heard that there would be a significant shortage of bacon in the coming year.  I find it fascinating that there are people out there who are gauging the supply and demand of bacon.

This morning, I listened to a piece on NPR about apple harvest in the Pacific Northwest.  This is interesting to me, because we know people in the apple business out in Washington.  This year is slated to be a banner year in apple production in Washington.  Not in other "apple" regions of our nation.  Michigan's fruit growers took a major hit this year in all things fruit, because there was a very mild winter in Michigan last year.  It was so mild that the apple trees and cherry trees blossomed early.  And after the blossoming, came as many as 27 frosts and freezes, which effectively froze the fragile blossoms.  If you recall your high school biology, the blossoms are where the fruit develops:  No blossoms, no fruit.  

The problem the apple growers are experiencing in Washington this month is that they do not have nearly enough apple pickers to harvest their banner crop.  There is a brief window of time during which apples can be picked during apple season.  It's much like any fruit season - get the fruit picked and sent in to the packing houses before the fruit is over-ripe, before it falls off the trees, while it's still in its "crisp" stage, etc.  And apple picking is very difficult manual labor: climbing ladders while balancing and filling an apple sack (which can weigh ~ 40 lbs).  Injuries occur every apple and cherry season.  For decades, apple picking has been a job which few (if any) Americans are willing to apply for.  The job has traditionally (again, for DECADES), gone to our neighbors to the south: the Mexican migrant workers.  I have visited apple and cherry orchards during their seasons, and the language spoken out in the trees is Spanish.  Not English.  This year, the need is for more apple pickers than in past years, and the migrant workers are just not there.  So the apple growers are looking at a hardship: any apples which are not harvested in a timely manner go on to become applesauce and apple juice - not as much return in those two.

Anyway, heed my warning: get ready to substitute your bacon craving for...applesauce?

And here is an interesting note about that Spouse o' Mine, that few people outside of my parents know: two decades ago he developed an "instrumented sphere", or IS, which, as the name suggests, is a sphere (read: ball) which can be made the size of an egg, an apple, a kid's brain, or whatever.  This IS can be used in such practices as harvest and post-harvest handling of fruit, e.g., apples.  This IS would be dropped from an apple tree, such as an apple would be, into the picker's sack, and then poured from the picker's sack into the bushel basket, and from there, the truck, and from there, to the packing line at the packing house (look up Stemilt for a really BIG packing house in Washington).  After all this travelling, one could retrieve the IS, which really is a teeny, tiny computer, and plug it in to a larger computer, and it would give the grower all the harvest/post-harvest information regarding where the IS (or apple) received its worst damage.  In this way, the orchard growers could/can improve their practices and operations to get a better yield of healthy fruit.  His IS has also been used by folks such as Dole (pineapple) and helmet manufacturers.  The helmet people used an IS inside a model of a skull to show how/where the greater impact(s) on a brain could be in a cycling accident.

Huh.  Some folk think he is just an expert on NIR spectroscopy.

The other news which has caught my attention today is the Presidential debate this evening. The debate will consist of questions for which the candidates have two minutes to reply.  Two minutes is not much, and yet what I was reading was saying that the average American will not have the attention span to assimilate the discussions.


I admit, I will have a difficult time assessing what information the candidates give is REALLY information (none?), and which is, as one reporter termed, "Dodgeball".  But the suggestion that the average American will not have the attention span to assimilate the discussions...that got MY ATTENTION!!.  Immediately, I thought of Sesame Street, some 30+ years ago, and how they constructed their kiddy show to have only 2-3 minute blurbs, because they felt that it was the amount of time kids have to process material.

So, I ask: now that the Sesame Street generation has come full circle: can we not focus on something more than soundbites?  Is this as well as the Sesame Street generation can cope?

By the way: I am not political, in any way, shape or form.  I have thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, to be sure.  But I hate politics.  I will end this by saying that I think the real problem is not our President Obama, but the bi-partisan Congress.  If they can't get together for our good, then we should vote each and every one of them OUT.

And that is all the news I have to discuss today.
~ T.

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