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tsemaz:childhood memories of chinatown

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tsemaz:

childhood memories of chinatown

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jepler
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Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
CrystalDave
1 hour ago
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“Get Out of Jail Free” Cards

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In the movies I’ve seen people who try to get out of a traffic ticket by telling the police officer they made a donation to the policeman’s ball, but those were comedies. I had no idea that not only does this exist there are official cards. In fact, the police in New York are livid that the number of cards is being limited:

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.

“They are treating active members like s–t, and retired members even worse than s–t,” griped an NYPD cop who retired on disability. “All the cops I spoke to were . . . very disappointed they couldn’t hand them out as Christmas gifts.”

A Christmas gift of institutionalized corruption.

Here’s another article on these cards which just gets all the more stunning.

First, there are tiers of cards. Silver cards are the highest honor given to citizens. It’s almost universally honored by officers, and can also help save money on insurance. Gold PBA cards are only given to police officers and their families. You’d be hard-pressed finding a cop who won’t honor a gold card.

Gold and silver cards! It gets better. You can buy these cards on eBay. Here’s a gold New Jersey card on sale for $114. A silver “family member” shield goes for $299. Some of these are probably fake. The gold and silver are rare but remember, cops get 20 to 30 regular cards so you can see why they might be upset at losing them.

The regular cards have become more common as NYC hires more police. The union may in fact be trying to bump up its monopoly profit by restricting supply.

The cards don’t just go to family members. The rot is deep:

Union officials say the cards are also public relations tools and tokens of appreciation handed out to politicians, judges, lawyers, businessmen, civil service workers and members of the news media.

A retired police officer on Quora explains how the privilege is enforced:

The officer who is presented with one of these cards will normally tell the violator to be more careful, give the card back, and send them on their way.

…The other option is potentially more perilous. The enforcement officer can issue the ticket or make the arrest in spite of the courtesy card. This is called “writing over the card.” There is a chance that the officer who issued the card will understand why the enforcement officer did what he did, and nothing will come of it. However, it is equally possible that the enforcement officer’s zeal will not be appreciated, and the enforcement officer will come to work one day to find his locker has been moved to the parking lot and filled with dog excrement.

He’s not kidding. Here is what seems like a real police officer on a cop chat room (from Mimesis law)

It’s important for me to get in touch with shield [omitted] and ask him why he felt it necessary to say “I’m not even going to look at that” to my PBA card and proceed [sic] to write a speeding ticket on the Bronx River Parkway yesterday afternoon to my fukking WIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll show him the courtesy he so sorely lacks by not posting his name on a public forum.

Any help would be appreciated.  Please inbox me.

I will find you.

I find these cards especially odious as more and more police are funding themselves through fines and forfeitures. Discriminatory taxation increases the tax rate. It’s one rule for the ruler and another for the ruled.

The cards are not a secret but I agree with my colleague Mark Koyama who remarked:

Sometimes you find out something about the country you live in that makes it appear little better than a corrupt, tinpot, banana republic.

The post “Get Out of Jail Free” Cards appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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CrystalDave
2 hours ago
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skorgu
4 hours ago
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What surprises me is that this surprises people. PBA cards have been well known in my circles since the 80s.
StunGod
5 hours ago
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Of course this is a thing. We don't have equal justice, we have discretionary justice for sale.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
JimB
5 hours ago
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You have to hope that this is fake news. Corruption is bad news.
wmorrell
6 hours ago
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Police are just another gang, part 8179.
duerig
6 hours ago
Too often, people in power are held to a lower standard than others. But in a just society, they must be held to a higher standard instead. Whether it is cops and traffic tickets or bosses and workplace romance. The price of power should be increased scrutiny and decreased freedom of action.

To Serve Man, with Software

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I didn't chose to be a programmer. Somehow, it seemed, the computers chose me. For a long time, that was fine, that was enough; that was all I needed. But along the way I never felt that being a programmer was this unambiguously great-for-everyone career field with zero downsides. There are absolutely occupational hazards of being a programmer, and one of my favorite programming quotes is an allusion to one of them:

It should be noted that no ethically-trained software engineer would ever consent to write a DestroyBaghdad procedure. Basic professional ethics would instead require him to write a DestroyCity procedure, to which Baghdad could be given as a parameter.

Which reminds me of another joke that people were telling in 2015:

Donald Trump is basically a comment section running for president

Technically, technically I run a company that builds comment sections. Here at the tail end of 2017, from where I sit neither of these jokes seem particularly funny to me any more. Perhaps I have lost the capacity to feel joy as a human being? Haha just kidding! ... kinda.

Remember in 2011 when Marc Andreeseen said that "Software is eating the world?"

software is eating the world, Marc Andreessen

That used to sound cool and inspirational, like "Wow! We software developers really are making a difference in the world!" and now for the life of me I can't read it as anything other than an ominous warning that we just weren't smart enough to translate properly at the time. But maybe now we are.

to-serve-man

I've said many, many times that the key to becoming an experienced software developer is to understand that you are, at all times, your own worst enemy. I don't mean this in a negative way – you have to constantly plan for and design around your inevitable human mistakes and fallibility. It's fundamental to good software engineering because, well, we're all human. The good-slash-bad news is that you're only accidentally out to get yourself. But what happens when we're infinitely connected and software is suddenly everywhere, in everyone's pockets every moment of the day, starting to approximate a natural extension of our bodies? All of a sudden those software accidents become considerably more dangerous:

The issue is bigger than any single scandal, I told him. As headlines have exposed the troubling inner workings of company after company, startup culture no longer feels like fodder for gentle parodies about ping pong and hoodies. It feels ugly and rotten. Facebook, the greatest startup success story of this era, isn’t a merry band of hackers building cutesy tools that allow you to digitally Poke your friends. It’s a powerful and potentially sinister collector of personal data, a propaganda partner to government censors, and an enabler of discriminatory advertising.

I'm reminded of a particular Mitchell and Webb skit: "Are we the baddies?"

On the topic of unanticipated downsides to technology, there is no show more essential than Black Mirror. If you haven't watched Black Mirror yet, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go immediately to Netflix and watch it. Go on! Go ahead!

⚠ Fair warning: please DO NOT start with season 1 episode 1 of Black Mirror! Start with season 3, and go forward. If you like those, dip into season 2 and the just-released season 4, then the rest. But humor me and please at least watch the first episode of season 3.

The technology described in Black Mirror can be fanciful at times, but I can think of several episodes that portray disturbingly plausible scenarios with today's science and tech, much less what we'll have 20 to 50 years from now. These are very real cautionary tales, and some of this stuff is well on its way toward being realized.

Programmers don't think of themselves as people with power. Most programmers I know, including myself, grew up as nerds, geeks, social outcasts. Did I ever tell you about the time I wrote a self-destructing Apple // boot disk program to let a girl in middle school know that I liked her? I was (and still am) a terrible programmer, but oh man did I ever test the heck out of that code before copying on to her school floppy disc. But I digress. What do you do when you wake up one day and software has kind of eaten the world, and it is no longer clear if software is in fact an unambiguously good thing, like we thought, like everyone told us … like we wanted it to be?

Months ago I submitted a brief interview for a children's book about coding.

I recently recieved a complimentary copy of the book in the mail. I paged to my short interview, alongside the very cool Kiki Prottsman. I had no real recollection of the interview questions after the months of lead time it takes to print a physical book, but reading the printed page, I suddenly hit myself over the head with the very answer I had been searching my soul for these past 6 months:

Jeff Atwood quote: what do you love most about coding?

In attempting to simplify my answers for an audience of kids, I had concisely articulated the one thing that keeps me coming back to software: to serve man. Not on a platter, for bullshit monetization – but software that helps people be the best version of themselves.

And you know why I do it? I need that help, too. I get tired, angry, upset, emotional, cranky, irritable, frustrated and I need to be reminded from time to time to choose to be the better version of myself. I don't always succeed. But I want to. And I believe everyone else – for some reasonable statistical value of everyone else – fundamentally does, too.

That was the not-so-secret design philosophy behind Stack Overflow, that by helping others become better programmers, you too would become a better programmer. It's unavoidable. And, even better, if we leave enough helpful breadcrumbs behind for those that follow us, we collectively advance the whole of programming for everyone.

I apologize for not blogging much at all in 2017. I've certainly been busy with Discourse which is actually going great; we grew to 21 people and gave $55,000 back this year to the open source ecosystem we build on. But that's no excuse. The truth is that it's been hard to write because this has been a deeply troubling year in so many dimensions — for men, for tech, for American democracy. I'm ashamed of much that happened, and I think one of the first and most important steps we can take is to embrace explicit codes of conduct throughout our industry. I also continue to believe, if we start to think more holistically about what our software can do to serve all people, not just ourselves personally — that software can and should be part of the solution.

I tried to amplify on these thoughts in recent podcasts:

 Community Engineering Report with Kim Crayton
 Developer on Fire with Dave Rael
 Dorm Room Tycoon with William Channer

Software is easy to change, but people ... aren't. So in the new year, as software developers, let's make a resolution to focus on the part we can change, and keep asking ourselves one very important question: how can our software help people be the best version of themselves?

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CrystalDave
23 days ago
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Seven Years

9 Comments and 34 Shares
[hair in face] "SEVVVENNN YEEEARRRSSS"
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popular
38 days ago
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CrystalDave
40 days ago
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angelchrys
40 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
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8 public comments
chrisrosa
38 days ago
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😢
San Francisco, CA
rjstegbauer
39 days ago
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Touching and beautiful! One of your best.
alt_text_bot
39 days ago
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[hair in face] "SEVVVENNN YEEEARRRSSS"
ameel
40 days ago
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<3
Melbourne, Australia
MaryEllenCG
40 days ago
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::sniffle::
Greater Bostonia
kyleniemeyer
40 days ago
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😭
Corvallis, OR
marcrichter
40 days ago
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Awesome. I'm speechless.
tbd
deezil
40 days ago
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OKAY I'M CRYING AT MY DESK NOW.
Louisville, Kentucky
sfrazer
40 days ago
God damnit, Randal.
deezil
40 days ago
For those that don't know the whole story: Approximately 7 years ago (imagine that) Randall posted this on the blog https://blog.xkcd.com/2010/11/05/submarines/ and made some vague references to tough times in the comics. On in to 2011, he posted this on the blog, and things seemed to be scary but hopeful. https://blog.xkcd.com/2011/06/30/family-illness/ . He's made mention several times about it over the years inside the comics, and I really believe that "Time" was made for some express purpose as to get his emotions out. But this update seriously is making a grown 32 year old man weep openly at his desk (thankfully I have a door that closes), as I always wondered how things were. Things look good, and this makes my heart happy.

What should young people do with Grandma's china?

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I call my Oma, who lives in Florida, to ask how her Thanksgiving was. We talk only for 15 minutes because she needs to get back to the lebkuchen she’s baking for a church Christmas fundraiser. She tells me her Thanksgiving was small but nice; she made Cornish hens for everyone instead of a huge turkey. She’s like this, traditional at times but flexible and pragmatic at others.

I’m dancing circles around the topic I want to ask her about: her china. I want to know whether she used it at Thanksgiving, whether it’s meaningful to her, whether she wants to keep it in the family. I can’t quite decipher what it is I’m afraid of hearing.

“China? No, we used the regular stuff. I put it in the dishwasher,” she answers, surprised I would even suggest the china. It’s a 120-piece German set she was gifted as a wedding present from her in-laws in 1954, and I’ve never seen it out of its quilted, protective box. My mom describes the china as gold-rimmed, with a bumpy sort of pattern along the edge and a spray of pink roses to one side of the dinner plates. I’m picturing garish florals and a Precious Moments color palette. The set includes place settings for twelve diners, not eight, my Oma tells me with audible pride.

She says she’s used it twice in her entire life. “It’s for you, Katie. How will you come get it? You’ll have to take a couple weeks from work, I guess, and drive down here.”

She’s serious. And thus, the modern china paradox: Families hardly ever use it, but there’s an expectation it will be passed down, inherited, stored, and then what? At best, maybe it’s dredged out of the dust during the holidays and slipped back into plastic-wrapped neglect until the following December. But as we fickle, mobile millennials stand to collect these familial troves of porcelain, silver, and crystal, what the hell are we supposed to do with it all?

“Royal Doulton figurines? Shoot me.”

That’s Kim Diamond, a Toronto-based professional organizer and one half of Clutterfly Inc., a organizing and estate management service she founded with her sister. I asked her about the types of collections she encounters when carrying out estate clearing services either before or after a person has passed away. I wanted to know what other families do with their silverware, tea cups, gravy boats, Lladrós.

“We find a lot of china collections. And it’s up there in terms of really difficult things to get rid of, because nobody wants it,” she says.

If you’re an adult under the age of 65 who cares about china, Diamond says you are, indeed, a rare breed. Popular sentiment backs her up. “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff” reads an especially frank Forbes headline from earlier this year.

Young people’s general indifference toward china is the result of several things. But reserving those for discussion later, there’s a reality many people aren’t aware of: China, at least the stuff most people have in their attics, isn’t worth much monetarily.

“There’s a large portion of the aging population unloading these things, so there’s a glut in the market, whereas when they bought these, they were worth something. Explaining that is usually a bit of a shock to most people,” Diamond says. “This also applies to pianos, by the way. Nobody wants them.”

Seriously? It’s tempting to reason that even if you’re not interested in your family’s china collection on face, it’s at least an investment worth preserving. This probably isn’t the case, says Victor Wiener, director of Victor Wiener Associates LLC in New York City. He specializes in the appraisal of art and high-end collections, and was executive director of the Appraisers Association of America for 21 years.

“Everything is collectible. There are people who collect china, which is just everyday ceramics, but they’re not going to pay huge amounts of money,” he says. He travels annually to the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets in Brimfield, Massachusetts, where he commonly sees china collections sold, but for very low prices.

Once you take into account the time you’ll spend cleaning, photographing, and listing your family’s china for sale, Diamond says you’re better off donating it.

Monetary value isn’t the root of most fraught relationships to our families’ heirlooms, though; it’s personal. My mom is still vaguely resentful she wasn’t gifted my Oma’s china set at her own wedding, for reasons unclear to me. She bought herself china instead, an understated and elegant $2,000 Lenox set that she says is the only purchase she ever made on installment. After she and my father divorced, it remained at my dad’s house, where he uses it for Christmas and Easter.

Despite my china apathy, I’ve learned that Oma’s plates and saucers are imbued with serious emotional weight for my mother’s relatives; I feel like I’m approaching a hot oven when I ask too many questions about it. Perhaps my aversion to familial discord contributes to my attitude here. I’d prefer to avoid such a loaded topic, especially if it manifests in a superfluous set of dishes with little relevance to my daily life.

Currently, I live in a 1,000-square-foot house with little room for another cookie sheet, let alone a set of 120 fragile, special occasion pieces. But I love my Oma, and have memories of years spent together in the kitchen cooking together, and if the china was somehow important to her, well … do I hold on to it for her sake?

“Guilt is a very powerful emotion that people, especially women, tend to attach to things,” Diamond says. My family is Catholic, so I note that this goes double for me.

“A lot of people are afraid of making these decisions, afraid of getting rid of something and then regretting it later. If I sense that they’re hanging on to it for the wrong reasons like guilt or an obligation, we talk through it.”

If I’ve never actually laid eyes or hands on my Oma’s china, I wonder whether it could still hold meaning for me and, by extension, for my family.

This seems like I’m wading into psychosocial territory, so I speak to Dr. Linda Price, the Philip H. Knight Chair and professor of marketing at the Lundquist College of Business at the University of Oregon. She’s studied collective identity and consumer networks, fluid identity, and materiality—in short, how we make meaning out of the stuff we own. I told her about my Oma’s china as well as her sammeltasse, a German word for a collection of commemorative teacups and saucers. I think my Oma has about 40 of them locked behind glass in one of her china cabinets. I explain the conflict between my Oma’s obvious affection for them and my ashamed indifference.

“If you want to have your teacups go forward, you have to make those teacups valuable to the next generation. You can and should emphasize that they’re fragile, but if you take them completely out of circulation, they won’t get passed forward because they won’t have meaning,” Dr. Price says. “You have to be displaying them and telling stories about them that give their heritage, how you came to own them, why they’re culturally significant. You also have to map them onto rituals.”

Rituals are incredibly important for creating meaning out of objects. Food is a major part of most rituals, so meals and their accoutrement, like china, tend to have serious sticking power when it comes to emotional value. We associate special meals with the objects that surround them, and then imbue those forks and candlesticks with not just memories but projections. We’re not just thinking of our family as it is, but our family as we’d like it to be.

“In my data on heirlooms, what I also discovered is that people are constantly trying to create heirlooms which will in fact capture what they want their family identity to become. And so it’s aspirational as well as it is historical,” Dr. Price says.

Millennials like me want to create our own traditions, too, but I doubt many of them involve multiple types of spoons. We change jobs; we move often; we upgrade apartments every three years. We value experiences over tangible stuff, and flaunt our personal identities through our possessions. Don’t make meaning for us; we’re doing it ourselves.

“As much as heirlooms can be this celebration of family identity, they can also be this stricture that tightens you into an identity that you don’t want to claim,” Dr. Price says. “In a highly individualistic society like the U.S., there is clearly tension because you would like to believe that you can elect which parts of the family identity you want to keep and which you want to shed.”

This last bit stirs me. I’ve always felt a dichotomy in my response to certain family expectations: I’m generally eager to please people and gain their approval, but I have a sharp defiant streak that chaffs at preset expectations. Maybe, I consider, if I could view the china as an object I’m actively accepting rather than an heirloom sloughed onto me, I could make it my own. I can make it mean what I want it to mean, reminding me of my Oma and my family in a way I determine. Maybe I’ll take Oma up on her offer.

Then I’m back at square one, though: Where to physically put this stuff. Here, professional organizer Kim Diamond offers advice for all us square-footage-starved millennials out there:

“One client already had a set of china, her mother had china, then the grandmother was unloading some china. She loved it but couldn’t fit it in her apartment, so she took a cup and saucer and got them professionally framed in a shadowbox and let the rest go to donation. If you’re just keeping china stuffed in a storage locker, why is it there?”

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How an unpaid UK researcher saved the Japanese seaweed industry

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Enlarge / A nori farm off the coast of Japan. (credit: H. Grobe)

The tasty Japanese seaweed nori is ubiquitous today, but that wasn't always true. Nori was once called “lucky grass” because every year's harvest was entirely dependent on luck. Then, during World War II, luck ran out. No nori would grow off the coast of Japan, and farmers were distraught. But a major scientific discovery on the other side of the planet revealed something unexpected about the humble plant and turned an unpredictable crop into a steady and plentiful food source.

Nori is most familiar to us when it's wrapped around sushi. It looks less familiar when floating in the sea, but for centuries, farmers in Japan, China, and Korea knew it by sight. Every year, they would plant bamboo poles strung with nets in the coastal seabed and wait for nori to build up on them.

At first it would look like thin filaments. Then, with luck, it grew into healthy, harvestable plants with long, green leaves. The farmers never saw seeds or seedlings, so no one could cultivate it. The filaments simply appeared every year. That is, they appeared until after World War II, when pollution, industrialization along the coast, and a series of violent typhoons led to a disastrous drop in harvests. By 1951, nori production in Japan had been all but wiped out.

Nori’s secret identity

Fortunately, on an island at the other end of Eurasia, Kathleen Drew-Baker had recently gotten fired. She had been a lecturer in botany at the University of Manchester where she studied algae that reproduced using spores rather than flowers. But the university did not employ married women. So when she got married to fellow academic Henry Wright-Baker she was kicked off the faculty and relegated to a job as an unpaid research fellow.

Drew-Baker focused on a type of nori unfamiliar to nearly everyone: Porphyra umbilicalis. It's a leafy seaweed that grows off the coast of Wales. Locals harvest it, grind it up, and use it to make bread or soup. Known colloquially as laver, it's still eaten in Britain but has not attained the international standing of nori.

Drew-Baker and her husband made a seaside lab where she could study its lifecycle. During her research, she noticed that she kept running across what seemed to be an entirely different species, known as Conchocelis. Conchocelis is a group of single-celled organisms that look like pinkish sludge and grow on the inside of abandoned shells. Drew-Baker noticed the pink sludge was especially common during the summer months, while the seaweed showed up during the winter months.

Eventually, Drew-Baker realized she was dealing with the plant equivalent of a superhero who is never seen at the same time as his alter-ego. These seemingly different species were actually the same. They were both a type of algae. In the summer, the leafy green seaweed sent out spores that collected and grew as the pink sludge in shells. In the winter, the pink sludge sent out spores that collected on debris (and bamboo poles) and built up into the seaweed again. In 1949, Drew-Baker published a paper in Nature detailing her discovery, "Conchocelis-Phase in the Life-History of Porphyra umbilicalis."

This might have been nothing more than a bit of trivia if it weren't for a second expert. Back in Japan, Segawa Sokichi at the Shimoda Marine Biological Station read Drew-Baker's paper and realized that what was true for Welsh seaweed was probably true for Japanese seaweed. The reason nobody had been able to find nori seeds was because they were looking for the wrong plant. And nori had stopped thriving of the coast because of disruptions to seabeds full of the shells where the pink sludge liked to grow.

Thanks to Drew-Baker's work, Segawa was able to invent the industrial process that lead to the stable, predictable production of nori, for which everyone with a taste for sushi should be grateful.

Seaweed goes high tech

Today, nori farmers leave nothing to luck. They still harvest the leafy stage of the seaweed from the sea. After that, technology takes over. Any spores grown by the leafy form of nori are chopped down to an ideal seeding length of 0.4mm. To encourage the spores to grow into their single-celled stage, farmers import shells from oyster fisheries, string them on fishing line, and hang them in huge vats of water that reproduce the ideal environment for the pink sludge to grow.

Inside the tanks, chlorine is added to the seawater to get rid of any harmful pathogens. It's filtered with sand to remove pollution. Industrial workers regulate the oxygen levels in the tanks and add in precise amounts of magnesium, sodium, iron, and potassium. Even the light levels are controlled. Indeed, nori farms only use the bottom shell of oysters because they are smoother and allow for more control over the level of light the Conchocelis spores are exposed to.

While the spores grow, a bit of biological engineering goes on as well. Each new batch of spores brought in from the ocean is sampled, cultured, and stored. Its production rate and the conditions under which it thrives are noted. As a result, researchers have identified spores that produce seaweed in waters of varying levels of saltiness, as well as various temperatures. With rising global temperatures, knowing which spores can survive best in warmer water will probably come in handy sooner rather than later.

Nori tanks also use temperature to induce the Conchocelis to move into the next stage of its life cycle. The waters are kept at summer-warm levels until it's time to harvest the spores that will produce seaweed. Then the facilities drop the temperature in the tanks to shock the Conchocelis into work.

An agitator encourages the release of the second set of spores and gets them swirling around the tanks. Most facilities have the agitation state timed to the minute. Then workers put nets into the tanks for "seeding." The nets are rolled onto human-sized spools to be sent to farms or stored in freezers until they're needed. At every stage they're checked for the quality and concentration of the spores on them. People no longer need to put bamboo poles in the ocean and hope for luck.

Drew-Baker's discovery was the first step toward the industrialization of a form of farming that seemingly couldn't be industrialized. Segawa and countless later innovators in Japan turned an unpredictable crop into a sure harvest. The application of technology to farming, especially this kind of farming, has entirely changed the game. Even the people involved in nori production have changed. While most types of fishing and farming are losing workers, nori farming keeps attracting young, technologically minded people. Seventy years after the nori farming industry was seemingly destroyed, it is thriving more than it ever has before.

Thanks to her many discoveries, Drew-Baker's career thrived, too. Despite being fired for getting married, she became the first elected president of the British Phycological Society in 1952. Today, Drew-Baker is known in Japan as "the mother of the sea," and every year a festival is held in her honor in Uto City.

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CrystalDave
64 days ago
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jepler
64 days ago
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Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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