The Magic of Avocado

My best friend and I decided long ago that a meal without an avocado is not a meal, but a collection of food. The old saying: ‘An avocado a day, keeps the doctor away’ has always been a guiding principle for me so imagine my delight when reading this research today out of the University of Illinois.

Science is only beginning to understand the complicated way our microbiome affects our health, but it’s certain that the gut microbiota is intimately tied to not only digestion but immune response and wellness. In this study avocados were seen to improve gut flora noticeably— presumably because of their high fat and fibre content. So… get eating!

Moon Rocks Touchdown

China’s Chang’e 5 probe landed safely in Inner Mongolia in the early hours of this morning, bringing moon rock to Earth for the first time since 1976. Two kilograms of the rocks were delivered in the probe.

Brad Jolliff, director of the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis was one of many celebrating the Chinese achievement:

“These samples will be a treasure trove!” Jolliff wrote. “My hat is off to our Chinese colleagues for pulling off a very difficult mission; the science that will flow from analysis of the returned samples will be a legacy that will last for many, many years, and hopefully will involve the international community of scientists.

Time Magazine online

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, recovery crew members film the capsule of the Chang'e 5 probe after its successful landed in Siziwang district, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.
Kind of fitting that Inner Mongolia looks a bit like the moon this time of year…

Bill Gates: Holiday Books for 2020

Bill Gates has always been a voracious reader and at the end of each year he makes some recommendations. In the past, I enjoyed some of his selections so I like to see what he’s been reading— as well, I find it next to impossible not to click on ‘book list’ videos…

From his picks this year, I’ve only read ‘Range’ — which was good enough for me to buy a hard copy after finishing the audiobook — so I expect the others here will be worth reading.

Have you read any of these titles?

Book 49: Let’s Go (So we can get back) – Jeff Tweedy

Let’s Go (So we can get back)’ is Jeff Tweedy’s story. It was published in 2018.

I do enjoy these musical memoirs and the fact that even moderately successful musicians like Ben Folds and Jeff Tweedy have books out, suggests I’m not the only one.

My first encounter with Wilco was hearing ‘Being there’ in ‘99. It struck me back then as alt-rock masterpiece and it continues to be a favourite. Unlike true Wilco fans though, I haven’t enjoyed recent albums that much . Even the album that (almost!) brought them mainstream success, ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’, isn’t an album I got on with. So with that said, on to the book….

For me, this memoir, is a moderately good read (or listen, I was on scribd for this) without ever reaching the heights of the best memoirs. Tweedy is a hearfelt, humble kind of guy but there’s a slightly depressive quality throughout. His battles with addiction left him with a world-weariness that doesn’t always translate into readability. I found that some of his recollections were glossed over, as if from afar, overlooking the fine details that all stories need. As well, he talks about his family too much for my taste, though hearing him talk about his dad was one of the highlights of the book.

Tweedy was at his best talking about creativity and his song writing process, and while he didn’t quite manage to communicate the joy of making and recording music as well as he might have, there was plenty in these sections to ponder. In fact, this year Tweedy released another book, exclusively on songwriting, which would definitely be worth a look.

So in all, a moderately good read — probably most suited to fans of the band.

A Song for Sunday with Wilco

Wilco’s Being there was released in ’96, it was their second studio album and remains my favourite of their albums. One thing that surprised me reading Jeff Tweedy’s biography recently was that this album didn’t get a single mention anywhere, despite its popularity. Found this a rather strange omission. Perhaps the fact that the album ended up costing the band around $600,000 USD due to their insistence on releasing it as a double album at a price of a single might explain Tweedy’s lack of enthusiasm…

Wilco - Being There | Rhino

In any case, the album’s single ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’ was their first to get on the Billboard Charts (it reached number 22) and a barnstormer of a track….have a listen:

The Future of Food: Part Two

After looking into cultured meat this week, youtube hasn’t been shy about recommending videos on the topic — some of them have been interesting.

In the video below, Bruce Friedrich adds context to the shorter ‘Just’ video I added to Thursday’s post.

As already discussed, these cultured meats have the potential to address imminent threats to the environment, the climate and global food production. As such, Friedrich believes governments, as well as the private sector, need to begin investing in this technology as a priority.

Elon Musk on Failure

For Elon Musk, failure is an essential part of success:

Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.

Elon Musk

This philosophy was on display yesterday when the SN8 Starship ended its test run by exploding in a massive fireball on impact. He tweeted:

Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point! Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!! SN8 did great! Even reaching apogee would’ve been great, so controlling all way to putting the crater in the right spot was epic!! Mars, here we come!!

Elon Musk on Twitter

Musk’s mindset of growth is so flexible, that even the word crash becomes an RUD ‘Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly’ (brilliant!).

SpaceX's Starship prototype explodes on landing after test ...

And when Musk says that failure (and risk) is inextricably linked to success, he’s got the CV to prove it. So much to learn from this guy:

Cultured Meat: The Future of Food?

Back a few years ago, when we first began hearing about ‘cultured meat’ or ‘clean meat’, there were several obstacles that needed to be overcome before it could be made in an ethical, sustainable way. Back in 2008 for example it cost about $1 million USD to create 250 grams of ‘beef’ — there was also the problem of finding an alternative to one of the key ingredients Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), which is as gruesome as it sounds.

The technology has come a huge way since then. With each passing year the costs come down, and as they do their potential impact on the food system is clear to see. One study estimates that cultured meat would produce ’78 to 96 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions, use 99 percent less land and (need) between 82 and 92 percent less water.’ Now I’m not much of a meat eater myself, but billions are, so this is clearly technology that could have a global impact.

With in mind, it was very interesting to see Singapore approving lab-grown meat this week. Singapore a small country without the space to farm livestock. They import 90% of their food and they see this type of ‘cellular agriculture’ as a way to combat the shortcomings of their own food production going forward.

The company at the forefront of this revolution is ‘Eat Just’. These guys are at the stage where they are able to manufacture meat in a lab, using cells from the chicken’s feather (!) and plants. Whether or not this is even meat is open to debate!

This video really opened my eyes to the massive potential of this technology:

Whether or not this type of meat will eventually be produced at scale will depend, to some extent, on the quality of this initial product and the general perception people have towards it. One common objection to the technology — that it seems somehow ‘unnatural’ or ‘icky’— should immediately fall away if people were to be shown footage of their ‘natural’ meat desperately bleating and trying to escape as they are slaughtered in cold blood…

Interesting times ahead.

Interpretation of a dream in which you saw «Chicken»

Book 48: Moshi Moshi – Banana Yoshimoto

Banana Yoshimoto is the unlikely pen name of the Japanese writer Mahoko Yoshimoto. Looking online, she has quite a back catalogue of titles and considerable popularity around the world — though when I picked up this title I knew none of that.

Moshi Moshi - Banana Yoshimoto | Full Stop

This isn’t the ‘Tokyo ghost story’ that one prominent reviewer said it was…but it is set in Tokyo, so fans of that city (like me) are off to a good start. The story is set in the hip suburb of Shimokitazawa and follows the fortunes of a young lady whose father has just died in a suicide pact with an unknown woman. The young lady slowly adjusts to the reality of her situation through deepening relationships, a supportive community and great food.

There were shades of Murakami here with the surreal dreamscapes and frequent food diversions— and I did enjoy the slow, gradual set up. I also enjoyed how small unremarkable details of ordinary lives (in that Japanese way) become full of meaning and interest.

There was considerable soul searching and emotional conversation from the start of the book, and as these reflections continued through the chapters it became clear that the plot would centre around the personal growth that comes with overcoming trauma. This was fine unto itself, but for me, the essential plot events that would have elevated the story never came and I was left slightly underwhelmed. There was enough here to keep me turning the pages but I’d say that was more in expectation of twists that never came than a result of the story itself. So a mixed bag for me but I did enjoy exploring some of Tokyo — and I’ll take international travel where I can find it at this stage!