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Born today in 1891: Actress and producer Katherine MacDonald


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Global warming myopia

You hear a lot of debate about global warming these days. Traditionalists by and large argue that either (A) global warming isn’t real, or (B) it might be real but if so it’s certainly not caused by human (“anthropogenic”) activity. Progressives, along with most of the scientific community, argue that (C) global warming IS real AND anthropogenic.

Since anything that gets in the way of short-term profits for multibillion-dollar corporations is automatically anathema to traditionalists, they tirelessly lobby against any form of carbon emissions trading and, ideally, any legally compelling restrictions on industrial effluent at all.

They’ll point out that the polar bears have always managed just fine without us, and (apparently innocent of the concept of long-term averages) that any recent airport-closing snowstorm that comes along simply helps pound another nail in the pro-global warming coffin.

So in summary: If global warming IS real and IS anthropogenic we should do something about it; otherwise, we should shut up and continue business as usual.

Well, no. Not exactly.

Since the promoters of position (A) above either belong to the academic fringe, are bankrolled by entrenched smokestack interests, or both, I have no problem seeing that global warming is very real. Even if position (B) above turns out to be accurate, it doesn’t matter who or what causes it. Even a subtle overall temperature rise will alter the climates and sea levels upon which we and the entire biosphere have always been precariously dependent and we need to do everything physically possible to halt or at least mitigate it.

And although it sometimes seems like hardly anyone has mentioned it around here since the Carter administration, there is the related and equally dire issue of pollution in general. Measures that reduce net CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions almost invariably curb that along with it.

Common mispronunciations that we should go on using
(unless we want people to stare at us)

Word How everyone says it But if you want to be
annoyingly correct
Anna Kournikova koor-ni-KOVE-a KOOR-ni-ko-wa
Baal pronouncing it the same way as bail ba-al (2 syllables)
Beijing bay-ZHING bay-JING
[Great Pyramid Pharaoh]
CHEE-ops KAY-ops
Dick Cheney CHAY-nee CHEE-nee
Dr. Seuss sooss soyss
err pronouncing it the same way as air just make an R sound: rrr
Evelyn Waugh
EV-e-lin (3 syllables) EEV-lin (2 syllables)
[meaning talent]
for-tay fort
herb erb herb (like the name)
long-lived using a short I use a long I
Mikheil Saakashvili
[Georgian president]
sa-kash-vee-lee (4 syllables) sa-a-kash-vee-lee (5 syllables)
Mount Everest EV-er-est (3 syllables) EEV-rest (2 syllables)
Neanderthal as spelled, using the TH sound use a T sound instead (such as in Beethoven)
Newfoundland NEW-fund-lund or, even worse, new-FOUND-lund new-fund-LAND
Osama bin Ladin Osama rhyming with comma, Ladin with sodden Rhyme Osama with gamma, Ladin with sadden
Pierre de Fermat
[as in Fermat’s Last Theorem]
“fur mat” fur-MA
Pompeii pom-PAY pom-PAY-ee
[as in the battleship or faked dog-and-pony villages to impress important visitors]
po-TEMP-kin po-TYOMP-kin
spurious rhyming with “curry us” rhyme it with curious
Tijuana tee-a-WA-na (4 syllables) tee-HWA-na (3 syllables)
[the original cape in Spain]
tra-FAL-gar (like the square in London) tra-fal-GAR
turmeric TOO-mer-ic TUR-mer-ic (the way it’s spelled)
Vannevar Bush
[computer pioneer]
VAN-e-var van-EE-var (though his friends usually just called him Van)
ZaSu Pitts
[golden era movie actress]
ZAH-soo SAY-zoo

ZaSu Pitts ZaSu Pitts
I’ve avoided foreign words and names except for a few that are pretty much incontestable. The interesting thing with Arabic, as seen with bin Ladin above, is that it often uses the a in “cat” (remember Arafat?). So there’s really no logical reason to water that down for English.

When pronounced correctly, err is the only real word in our language that consists of a single phoneme. Cheops, also above, is a Greek version of the original Egyptian name Khufu. (Cheops began with the letter chi in Greek, hence that Kh/Ch business.)

Time makes a lot of difference. As I see in dictionaries dating from the 1800s, for example, it was previously unacceptable to use an N in restaurateur or to silence the first R in sarsaparilla. Drysdale, in those unsullied pre-Beverly Hillbillies days, was normally pronounced DRIZ-del.

If you help us, we’ll help you.

Here’s some invaluable advice for those of us who get into big-time legal hot water. I’m an expert on these things, having watched hundreds of crime documentary episodes on nighttime cable.

1. While barreling down the road with swag or illicit drugs in your car you might get pulled over by the cops. Nothing works like reverse psychology, so wave your right to decline a search and tell them to be your guest. As they rummage around, glance frequently toward the areas where your stashes are hidden to make extra sure they’re good and safe.

2. If you’ve just killed your spouse, call 911 immediately to report him or her as unresponsive. Make sure you howl and hyperventilate a lot. These things will deflect all suspicion from you.

3. Since lawyers just get in the way, always accept any invitation from the police to join them, alone, in a cramped windowless room at headquarters. With your wit and sophistication you can handle anything they may throw at you.

4. That rectangular mirror on the wall? Don’t worry, it’s furnished free of charge to help everyone look their best. To that end, make sure you don’t accidentally flick off the light switch (or you’ll see, instead, some people in the adjoining room glaring back at you). And that security camera, assuming it’s even recording, is only there to discourage you from freaking out and going for their guns. As long as you don’t plan to do that you have nothing to worry about.

5. Whatever you discuss with the police will always remain in the strictest confidence, so don’t hold anything back. As they’ve already explained, if you help them, they’ll help you. If you fess up right off the bat, they’ll tell the judge how super-cooperative you were and you’ll probably get off with community service.

6. If the cops have to leave the room for a moment, it’s just to indulge in various woolgatherings that have nothing whatsoever to do with either you or the case. They’ll be so sidetracked by the time they return, in fact, that they probably won’t remember anything inconsistent or incriminating you might have let slip earlier.

I think I’m coming down with pellagra. Please pass me the Coke.

There’s been a recent flap about the FDA cracking down on Diet Coke Plus™, charging that its nutrient fortifications aren’t high enough to merit legally the “Plus” in its name and re-emphasizing that the administration doesn’t consider it appropriate to add such things to snack foods in the first place.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients of Diet Coke Plus to see exactly what we’re getting:

Carbonated water
Magnesium sulfate (i.e., Epsom salt)
Caramel color
Phosphoric acid (adds tanginess)
Potassium sorbate (preservative)
Potassium benzoate (preservative)
Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
Natural flavors, something along the lines of:
     Cinnamon oil
     Coriander oil
     Lemon oil
     Lime oil
     Neroli oil
     Nutmeg oil
     Orange oil
     Vanilla extract
Acesulfame potassium (artificial sweetener)
Zinc gluconate
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B12

Now here’s a more precise listing of the drink’s added nutrients. The RDA stands for Required Daily Allowance of that nutrient1, the next column is the upper safe limit 2, and the next is the ratio of the two (“therapeutic ratio”) which gives a rough idea of the safety margin. I then compare the actual amount of each of these in the drink with the daily dosage you might find in a health store product.

Nutrient A: RDA B: Upper safe limit Ratio of
Total in 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke Plus Typical supplement
B-3 16 mg 35 mg 2.2 15% RDA or 2.4 mg 500 mg
B-6 1.3 mg 100 mg 77 15% RDA or 0.2 mg 50 mg
B-12 2.4 μg 15% RDA or 0.36 μg 500-1000 μg
Magnesium 420 mg 350 mg (!) 0.83 10% RDA or 42 mg 400 mg
Zinc 11 mg 40 mg 3.6 10% RDA or 1.1 mg 30 mg

As you can see, Diet Coke Plus’s nutritional assets are pretty scant. In addition, B-12 is a rather persnickety animal that doesn’t tolerate stomach acids very well. Consequently most vitamin B-12 supplements come in the form of sub-lingual lozenges, mouth sprays, or enteric tablets.

Magnesium would appear to have an alarmingly low therapeutic ratio, though as it happens most people’s kidneys will happily filter out any excess. Those whose kidneys are in any way compromised wouldn’t want to go anywhere near this stuff without professional medical advice.

Manufacturers like Coca-Cola are in a bind when it comes to marketing nutritionally fortified snack foods, FDA or no FDA. If they put enough of these goodies into the product to make any real impact on anyone’s health, there’s the risk that such quantities might at the same time endanger some of their consumers who have various pre-existing conditions or take medications that might react adversely.

It would also cost so much that hardly anyone would buy it.

1, 2. From the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for 30-year-old male.

Note: The information above is not to be interpreted as medical advice. If you believe you have a medical condition, see your professional health care provider.