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Knowledge, London cabbies and American sommeliers

Friday, October 26th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — inheritor of yet another form of knowledge]
.

  • NYT, The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS
  • New Yorker, The Cheating Scandal That Has Shaken the World of Master Wine Sommeliers
  • **

    For Bates it came down to a lifetime of knowledge. “While many questions may seem simple taken on their own, it is really about the amount of information needed to correctly answer one question. For example, if a question was asked about the location of a village in Germany, knowing where that one village is located is a very small part of the preparation for that question. To be sure to get that one question correct, I had to learn every major wine producing village in Germany, broken down by region, in order from north to south and west to east, with 2 or 3 of the most important villages in each. In order to be able to recall that information on demand, I had to learn to draw a map from memory of every wine growing region in the country. All that for the sake of be able to answer one or two questions that, out of context, may not have been all that hard.

    McCabe turned east on Coldharbour Lane, wending through the neighborhoods of Peckham and Bermondsey before reaching the tunnel. He emerged on the far side of the Thames in Limehouse, and from there his three-mile-long trip followed a zigzagging path northeast. “I came out of the tunnel and went forward into Yorkshire Road,” he told me. “I went right into Salmon Lane. Left into Rhodeswell Road, right into Turners Road. I went right into St. Paul’s Way, left into Burdett Road, right into Mile End Road. Left Tredegar Square. I went right Morgan Street, left Coborn Road, right into Tredegar Road. That gave me a forward into Wick Lane, a right into Monier Road, right into Smeed Road — and we’re there. Left into Stour Road.”

    **

    In early September, fifty-six nervous sommeliers in pressed suits and shined shoes assembled at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. They were there to attempt the most difficult and prestigious test in their industry: the Master Sommelier Exam, a three-part, application-only ordeal that just two hundred and forty-nine individuals worldwide have passed—fewer than have travelled to space.

    It’s not enough to know every wine region, village and district in the world, candidates also need to know which years were better than others for each region. The blind tasting of six wines requires not only identifying the grape varietal, but the region it came from and the year it was made. That’s merely scratching the testing surface though; during the service portion examinees have to recall facts about sake, spirits, distilling methods, apertifs and of course ideal food pairings.

    Knowledge of cigar production, with special reference to Havanas, will be required.

    **

    When trees leave, they find a spot where the sunlight can get through despite the existing leaves, and put out a leaf there.

    Suggestion: find, on the limb, branch, and in time, twig of the tree of knowledge you feel most passionate about, a space nobody else is occupying, and know it — in the kind of detail a knowledgeable cabbie knows London, or a master sommelier the aperitifs, wines, beers, ciders, liqueurs, brandies, whiskeys and cigars of the world.

    It’s worth a try.

    **

    esto nobis praegustatum
    in mortis examine.

    In the case of such Knowledge as most concerns us, the examen is still to come.

    King Canute, Imperial Beach, CA, and rising tides

    Monday, October 22nd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a coastal California town has learned the lesson King Canute either taught his nobles or learned the hard way himself — but what can anyone do about it? ]
    .

    **

    Okay, here’s the first para of Can a California town move back from the sea? Imperial Beach considers the unthinkable: a retreat from nature:

    At the start of each year, Southern California gets a glimpse into a future of rising seas, through an annual event called the king tide. On that day, the sun, moon and Earth align to create a heavy gravitational pull, leading to the highest tides of the year. If “king tide” sounds ominous, that’s because it is, particularly for a city like Imperial Beach, a small coastal town near the Mexican border surrounded by water on three sides: San Diego Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Tijuana River Delta to the south.

    It doesn’t hurt that there’s a king reference there either, from my POV — because?

    **

    Because King Canute.

    As a Brit, I was introduced to King Canute at an early age, along with every last one of the other Kings and Queens of England — and their dates — memorize them! Americans, however, have shaken off the dust of kings and queens, and may not know the tale of King Canute and the waves. Was he, as my gold-embossed, colour-plated richly patriotic children’s book had it, an imperious royal who set his chair in the sand before the incoming tide, and not about to lose one inch of English sovereign soil to the waves, dared the Atlantic to encroach on his royal prerogative?

    Or was he, as Henry of Huntingdon, the original chronicler of the tale has it, a humble and wise, one might say ecologically sound king, who set his chair in the sand to demonstrate to his fawning and flattering courtiers that look, not even my royal command can overrule the laws of God — or Nature?

    **

    So, back to the humbling question — rising tides?

    Currently an anomaly, the king tide is a portent of things to come. Researchers warn that, due to myriad factors including the Earth’s rotation, California will deal with even higher sea-level rise than other locations, as the atmosphere and oceans warm. The oceans are now rising at a faster rate than any time since the last Ice Age, about half an inch or more per decade. While much of this is understood by researchers and informed readers, very little has been done by coastal cities to confront this slow-moving catastrophe.

    And Imperial Beach in particular?

    That is what makes Imperial Beach so interesting. Here, at the southernmost beach town in California, in an obscure corner of the United States, one small city is asking: What if we just got out of nature’s way?

    **

    Sources and readings:

  • High Country News, Can a California town move back from the sea?
  • The Sun, You Canute be Serious

  • Wikipedia, King Canute and the tide
  • New York Times, Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040
  • ipcc, Global Warming of 1.5°C
  • Moment of Poetic Justice, huzzah!

    Monday, October 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — a non-alcoholic Monday morning pick-me-up ]
    .

    Congratulations to this year’s winner of the Rooney Literary Prize, for more reasons than one — first, for an exemplary example of life imitating art..

    Second: that’s wonderful!

    And huzzah! is a polite, secular hallelujah!

    **

    Sources:

  • Good Will Hunting:
  • Washington Post, This author also works as a janitor.
  • See also:

  • Quartz, A prestigious university just awarded a literary prize to one of its janitors

  • it was the fact that Lally scrubs lecture halls, offices, and a library at Trinity every morning, rising at 4:45 am, and cleaning from 6 am to 9:30 am, before returning home to care for her infant daughter, that brought her international media attention.
  • **

    Nota bene: I am not the first to note the parallel between Good Will Hunting‘s plot line and this year’s Rooney Prize story — but the pair of them also make for an exemplary DoubleQuote example, eh?

    Kavanaugh, last chance

    Friday, October 5th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — between the cloture vote and the final Senate nomination vote on Judge Kavanaugh for the USSC, a moral moment ]
    .

    Two to be read in counterpoint:

  • Brett Kavanaugh, I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge
  • Brett Kavanaugh, The Judge as Umpire: Ten Principles
  • **

    Judge Kavanaugh‘s extended description of the function of the judge as umpire deserves its place right alongside his recent op-ed apologia and apology — indeed it’s interesting to see an apology within an apologia, which, as Cardinal Newman well knew, is not inherently about apologizing but an apologia pro vita sua or [proactive] defence of one’s own life — both as an expanded sports and politics metaphor, and as an urgent indicator within which to frame his op-ed.

    Now is decision time: consider these two in tandem.

    **

    With Sens. Collins’ and Manchin’s Yes votes now declared shortly after I posted the above, the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seems all but assurred.

    Sunday surprise — mourning, a global view

    Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — starts with an anthro DoubleQuote inspired by this morning’s readings & a Steve Martin tweet — though in sensitive times it might be best not to chuckle, let alone guffaw, at strangers’ strange ways ]
    .

    One: The tearless eye of a NASA camera on the occasion of the Challenger blow-up:

    One of our reporters, who happened to be at a distant nasa base at the time, tells us that afterward a television monitor for nasa’s own internal satellite service kept on its screen a view from a camera on the beach at Cape Canaveral which had been following the spacecraft’s ascent. Now that camera simply stared searchingly out over the blue-gray sea to where it met the blue-gray sky, like a sailor’s widow gazing endlessly at the horizon. Twenty-eight years into the space age, the sea is as much a symbol of eternity as the sky. Both have swallowed up the Challenger and its crew, leaving behind a double emptiness of sea and space.

    Two: The professional Ghanaian substitute for tearless eyes:

    Here’s an account in the news:

    Ami Dokli is the leader of one of the several groups of professional mourners in Ghana. In a recent interview with BBC Africa, she said that some people cannot cry at their relatives’ funerals, so they rely on her and her team to do the wailing. Dokli and the other women in her team are all widows who, after their husbands died, decided to come together to help others give their loved-ones a proper send-off to the afterlife. But crying for strangers is not the easiest thing in the world, so professional mourners charge a fee for their services, the size of which is in direct relation to the size of the funeral. If it’s a big funeral, their tears cost more.

    And here’s an American FB version of the ad Steve Martin’s tweet captured:

    Do you want to boost your funeral? Hire me….the professional mourner to come and cry at the funeral. Below are the “Summer Special” prices:
    .
    1. Normal crying $50,
    2. Bahamian hollering $100,
    3. Crying and rolling on the ground $150,
    4. Crying and threatening to jump into the grave $200,
    5. Crying and actually jumping in the grave $1000

    That’s my DoubleQuote for the day.

    **

    A clutch of videos:

    Ghanaian Professional Wailing mourners:

    Promotional — funerala with a white lady mourner, extra:

    Ghanaian troupe of Dancing Pallbarers:

    Chinese professional mourning performer:

    N’Orleans Second Line:


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