Economist #2

It has been a dry two months since my first Economist post in October. Except for an article on a world kick-ball federation, there have been few articles sufficiently intriguing to merit inclusion at, a decidedly upscale source of well-presented, intelligent information.

Has The Economist lost their touch?

No. They were merely saving up for December 10th, 2005.

Our Neighbors to the North

EconomistAll the Canadians I know are happy to be Canadian and enjoy pointing out various reasons why Canada is superior to the United States. It does not matter that most of the country is a frozen wasteland and that 80% of them live within 100 miles of The Great Satan.

Pay your taxes, read your books, wait in line for medical treatment, and sell your natural resources and industrial output to the Devil.

Living in China, I don’t know how much time the United States’ media allocated to the recent collapse of the Canadian government (government slush fund and fraud associated with annoying the French, in case you missed it). The majority of Americans probably see no harm in needling the French – quid pro quo.

The latest Frenchie dispute is decidedly more serious than governmental collapse, fraud or the secession of Quebec. It also has the added intrigue of involving a heinous crime by The Great Satan’s every day low price champion, Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has been accused of selling ‘contraband yellow margarine.’

Prior to December 10th, 2005, I did not realize that margarine was white. The ‘appetizing’ yellow color comes from chemicals. Frenchie Quebec requires white margarine so that it cannot be confused with the ‘creamy consistency’ of butter. This law is supported by a parliamentary resolution instructing Canada’s global trade negotiators to be yellow. According to The Economist, plainclothes inspectors from the agriculture ministry ‘swooped’ on Wal-Mart and discovered yellow margarine. Wal-Mart claims the illegal shipment was intended for a different province and is not a yellow conspiracy.

Who do you believe?

However, it is not Wal-Mart but the Canadian province of Alberta that is escalating the row with French Quebec. It seems that Alberta produces the oil seeds that are used to manufacture margarine and has charged the yellow law amounts to an unfair restraint of trade. Alberta’s vegetable oils trade association has now threatened retaliation against Quebec’s dairy association – white margarine in Quebec will result in no butter in Alberta.

Indeed, these are serious questions for a serious country.

I’ve Got Small Balls

Do you remember AC/DC’s cultural triumph ‘Big Balls’?

I’m upper, upper class high society
God’s gift to ballroom notoriety
And I always fill my ballroom
The event is never small
All the social papers say I’ve got the biggest balls of all

I’ve got big balls
I’ve got big balls

The Economist is more succinct in noting that ‘men are often accused by women of having their brains in their balls.’ Of more delight is that Scott Pitnick at Syracuse University suggests that there is a real tradeoff between brains and balls.

Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Mr. Pitnick and team argue that bigger testes mean smaller brains. Size does matter.

The women are correct, but who do they select?

There was a two-part hypothesis. First, that the more promiscuous the females in a species, the bigger the average male’s testes (as a fraction of body weight). Second, since brain tissue and testis tissue are physiologically very expensive to maintain, given a fixed energy budget, bigger balls = smaller brains.

The Economist notes that for primates, historical research suggests the first part of the hypothesis is true – if your mate is the sexually adventurous sort you need bigger balls. The reason? You need to produce more sperm to increase the odds knocking out the competition.

Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson were not part of the study. Mr. Pitnick focussed on 334 species of bats – a ‘well studied’ group.

The results of the detailed study? The well-endowed Rafinesque big-eared bat is dumb as a post.

The Rafinesque big-eared bat’s balls are 8.4% of total body mass compared to .11% of body mass for the Harvard-bound African yellow-winged bat. The basic hypothesis was proven across species. The female Rafinesque are getting it on, big ears and all.

Human male balls (as a % of body mass) fall between dinky Gorilla balls (whose Alpha male kills off competitors) and a Chimpanzee’s big balls (you go girl).


My simplified analysis: if you are well endowed, you are dating a whore.

As usual, The Economist was much more articulate:

If the girls are putting it about,
it is better to be virile and dim
than impotent and smart.

Beijing Forecast

I returned to Beijing over the weekend. There is a very convenient direct flight from Chicago to Beijing – about 13 hours duration.

United has automated video screens at each gate in O’Hare International Airport. These screens provide details about the flight (destination, duration, type of plane, flying time, departure status, etc). It also includes a summary of the current weather.

I laughed at the Beijing weather summary provided by United Airlines on departure from Chicago.

At 1:30 AM on Sunday, January 8, Beijing Capital Airport was zero degrees Celsius with conditions described as Smoky.

I arrived to what I would describe as your normal winter day in Beijing. I guess you get used to the smoke.