Flourishing romance noise and sex

June 28, 2011

The headline isn’t supposed to make sense as a sentence, it’s the topics covered in my discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today.

Umair Haque urges us to turn our back on oppulance and seek eudaemonia instead. He defines that as flourishing – the pursuit of fulfilment, inspiration, creation and accomplishment.

Romance novelists and readers defend romance fiction against the accusation that “women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books’ .

On a related topic, the Guardian has taken a paragraph  from 10 books and asks if you can tell the sex of the author. I scored only 6/10 and that came with an accusation of sloppy thinking.

Maybe the sloppy thinking is the result of too much noise – Alan Schwarz writes in the New York Times about pumping up the volume for fans at sports games.

Recession deepens milk surplus climbs

January 12, 2009

If the demand for widgets drops it’s not difficult for the factories producing them to reduce production.

It’s much harder with plants and animals so although the demand for dairy products has fallen farmers can’t turn off the milk tap and as the New York Times reports  that’s leading to stockpiles of milk powder.

As a breakneck expansion in the global dairy industry turns to bust, Roger Van Groningen must deal with the consequences. In a warehouse that his company runs here, 8 to 20 trucks pull up every day to unload milk powder. Bags of the stuff — surplus that nobody will buy, at least not at a price the dairy industry regards as acceptable — are unloaded and stacked into towering rows that nearly fill the warehouse.

Mr. Van Groningen’s company does not own the surplus milk powder, but merely stores it for the new owners: the taxpayers of the United States. To date, the government has agreed to buy about $91 million worth of milk powder.

. . .  Government price supports provide a price floor for agricultural products as a way of keeping farmers afloat during hard times and ensuring an adequate food supply.

. . . Some critics of farm subsidies argue that price support programs are antiquated and allow farmers to continue producing even when the economics make no sense, as taxpayers will always buy up the excess production.

The USA isn’t along in stockpiling milk powder. The EU is too and  it’s also happening in New Zealand although here it’s the farmer owned company Fonterra and not the government doing it.

Roarprawn asks whether Fonterra shareholders are getting the true picture when Agridata points out that stock piles mean milk isn’t selling.

I was at a meeting in December where we got a frank account of the state of the industry and while whitegold has lost the lustre it had just months ago, the long term outlook is positive.

That doesn’t mean the short to medium term will be easy, especially for those who converted recently when land, stock and building prices were at their peak.  And if dairy farmers are tightening their belts their employees and those who service and supply them will feel the pinch too.

In light of this, farmers who’ve put their efforts, and money, into expensive supplementary feeding systems designed to increase production would do well to remember New Zealand’s competitive advantage is the ability to grow grass which gives us a low cost, pasture based dairy industry.

As for Fonterra, the measure of a company is not how it handles a rising market but how well it does when prices fall and it will be some months until we can judge them on that.

Chinese farmers victims too

October 5, 2008

The production chain from pasture to plate is a sophisticated one in New Zealand with high standards for quality at every link.

The New York Times  paints a very different picture in China where turning grass into milk doesn’t seem to have evolved much beyond peasant farming and where the farmers are as much the victims of the melamine milk poisoning scandal as the consumers.

Hat Tip: The Hive

There were warnings in China

September 28, 2008

The New York Times gives a background to the melamine milk poisoning in China which confirms it shouldn’t have been unexpected.

The three page article which is worth reading in full lays the blame on the Communist administraion, the desire to look good for the Olympics and constraints on media which thwarted attemtps to publicise concerns.

It also says contamination wasn’t unusual:

Some dairy farmers interviewed this week in Hebei Province said it was an open secret that milk was adulterated, although many claimed they did not know that melamine was being used. Some dairies routinely watered down milk to increase profits, then added other cheap ingredients so the milk could pass a protein test.

“Before melamine, the dealers added rice porridge or starch into the milk to artificially boost the protein count, but that method was easily tested as fake, so they switched to melamine,” said Zhao Huibin, a dairy farmer near Shijiazhuang.

Mr. Zhao said quality testers at Sanlu took bribes from farmers and milk dealers in exchange for looking the other way on milk adulterated with melamine. “In this business, bribery keeps everyone silent,” he said.

This is why strict quality controls all along the production chain which we have in New Zealand are so important.

But quality controls can’t be trusted if there isn’t openness and a lack of corruption.

Hat Tip: The Hive

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