Friday, September 29, 2006

The things I don't know. . .

. . . could fill a book. Okay, maybe a few books. All right, a friggin' encyclopedia.

I have always prided myself in learning broadly and felt confident I was a dependable repository of knowledge ranging from essentially worthless to absolutely critical. However the boundaries of knowledge keep receding further and further from my reach and. . . well, how's a girl to keep up? There are only so many hours in the day for reading, studying, researching, and gargling at the fountains of wisdom. And lately, I've been coming up a little short in some areas.

For YOUR enlightenment, I thought I'd share a few of the ideas and concepts I've tripped over and skinned knees on lately.

Tappas. . . which sounded like a 1950 brand of ovens to me. (Turns out, that was "Tappan.") My second guess was that it was a style of Brazilian gaucho pants that were last in style in the 70's. (I don't get out much.) Turns out, it's "meat," [Well, perhaps not. It turns out that what I heard was wrong-- it comes from the Spanish word "tapa," which means "cover" See, I'm always learning!]. Little tasty (meaty or cheesey or dippy) dishes that are served as apperitifs or light meals in trendy bars. Accompanied by trendy alcohol. Couldn't they just say food?

Feng Shui. . . which sounded like "funk sway" to me and reminded me of George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadellic. Or some such. Movin' and groovin', anyway. Turns out, it's a Japanese philosophy of spatial and architectural arrangement, the principles of which are meant to increase the flow of "chi" in our homes and lives and bring us into harmony with our surroundings. Not a bad concept. Now, if I only understood what "chi" was.

Consilience. . . which sounded like a bizarre blend of "silly" and "conscience." (Kon sil e ence). I had no idea where to start with this one, besides a dictionary. Turns out, it's a new expression of an old idea. . . that similar ideas arise or are deduced (inducted?) from separate fields of study and point to the concurrence or agreement of natural and philosophical concepts. Separate lines of inquiry ultimately leading to the same place? Sounds like a variation on synchronicity to me. Not sure it will catch on at cocktail parties.

Prions. . . sounded vaguely like a humanoid race encountered by Jean Luc Piccard and Number One in episode #46 of The Next Generation. Prions. Weren't they the blue ones with the funny little cone tipped antennae? Turns out. . . not so much. Prions are proteins with an attitude. They're proteins that enter cells and interfere with cellular metabolism and cause mega-illnesses. They've been determined to cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, which is a nasty kind of encephalitis similar to Mad Cow. . . that can be spread through injestion. . . eating. There have been cases of prions causing clusters of fatal illness. . . and prions are one of the several boogeymen pointed to by opponents of genetic alteration of foods. Prions may be bad, but they must not be too widespread or we'd be hearing a lot more about them!

GMF. . . (NOT to be confused with GMC!). . . sounded like a new brand of mountain bike to me. Or maybe a new all-weather radial from Goodyear. Nope. GMF stands for Genetically Modified Food. And it turns out, there are precious few things on grocery shelves these days that don't contain ingredients that come from genetically modified (altered) plants and animals. Virtually all wheat, corn, and soybeans sold for human consumption in the U.S. are "transgenic". . . that is, have genes from other organisms inserted into their code. It ain't just "franken-tomatoes" anymore, folks!

Bioprospecting. . . sounded like biology and prospecting put together. And it is. Bioprospecting is the practice of going to regions identified as rich in "biodiversity" and looking for biological materials--especially genetic-- that may be useful in the "engineering" of food or medicine and can be patented by a bio-tech company. Said bological materials may include the blood of native peoples. A very touchy issue in some parts. And, yes, they're patenting human genes. All over the place. Did you know that patents have been granted for something like 20% of the human genome? Yes, YOUR human genes. Patented. You can't do whatever you want with your genes now. Except, of course, pass them along to offspring. Thank heaven nobody's patented that. Yet.

Polyamory. . . this one I got a handle on without a lot of sweat. It sounds curiously like a combination of "poly" (many) and amorous" (love). Well it is. Defined in the New Webster as: the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. Not exactly a new concept. . . so why haven't we heard the word before? Because before when we talked about it we called it "open" marriage, cheating, philandering, swinging, etc. . . and it generally had a stigma attached. Now we need a new term because we want to be able to talk about it without attaching fusty old moralistic labels. This is a sociological term for a new age.

Well, there you have a few things I didn't know. From time to time, I'll try to update you with neat new finds.

What about you? Got any new words or concepts you're fascinated with and willing to share? They don't have to be new. . . just new to you. . .


Laura Vivanco said...

I didn't know all of those, but I definitely know about tapas. They may be new and trendy where you are, but they've existed for centuries in Spain. And I think 'tapa' could come from the Spanish 'tapa' which means 'to cover', at least, that's what it says in Wikipedia.

You could call them 'food', but as you also said, they're 'apperitifs', snacks, 'tasters'. They whet the appetite and/or keep people going as they go round bars late at night. They can be really tasty and different kinds of tapas are served in the different regions of Spain (see here).

Betina Krahn said...

Laura! I guess the gaps in my knowledge would admit an 18 wheeler! I didn't take Spanish in school and have never been to Spain, so I was totally clueless on this one! But after my first visit to a "Tapas bar" I was hooked!

"Cover" eh? Now I'm gonna have to start "sourcing" my sources! Thanks, Laura!

Michele said...

Ha! I remember my visit to NY for an RWA convention and my editor invited my to a 'tapas bar'. I was very curious about this, because when she said it, it sure sounded like 'topless bar' to me, and I had never met her before, but man, was she a wild and crazy chick, or what? I was a little freaked for that meeting, but I survived, not having to stare at topless women (or men; sigh...) but instead eating some fab tapas and listening to some Spanish music in the background.

The word that always gets me is 'convoluted'. Oh, I know what it means, but I like to say it. And I like to label the kids convoluted, much to their enjoyment. :-)


Betina Krahn said...

Michele! So you can say in all honesty that you really learned something from your editor! Cool.

They just opened a new tapas bar near here that serves great martinis along with terrific little "covers." My favorite is the baked goat cheese in puff pastry (or philo-- I always get those two confused)with some kind of olive and tomato tapenade ladled over it. Yum. And they also serve a chicken croquette thing. . . in addition to bruchetta with fresh tomatoes and basil. . .

Ummm. . . I gotta go. I haven't had breakfast yet. Back soon!

Debra Dixon said...

Cool ! I learned some new things, Betina!

I love learning and part of my regret of a "busy life" is that I normally have to limit my learning to something that will impact my life or my company.

I've been hankering to go to university and pick up some Fine Art courses but there aren't enough hours in the day. maybe some day.

Right now, I don't know Spanish so I'm doing a Pimsleur course. This is my third try at it. I always get distracted and don't make it through all 68 or so hours of course tapes! Then I have to start over. This time I'm determined.

So here's some Spanish I'm sure you'll use.

"Quiero comprar zappatos."
"I want to buy shoes."

Laura Vivanco said...

Now I'm gonna have to start "sourcing" my sources!

Oh dear, that's me showing my academic roots, I'm afraid. I've got so used to footnoting everything and citing my sources that I find it very hard not to do it.

The GMF is made from GMOs (genetically modified organisms). They're not the same as NGOs (non-governmental organisations), but I still think they sound a bit similar, and there's also a similarity between the sound of GMO and UFO (which makes me think of alien vegetables - possibly a genetically modified tomato, landing its tiny space-ship in a field late at night when no-one's around to see the strange red glowing lights).

Debra Dixon said...

Laura said-- "possibly a genetically modified tomato, landing its tiny space-ship in a field late at night when no-one's around to see the strange red glowing lights"

I'm a big believer in the genetically modified tomato! Now if the grocery stores could just genetically modify one that tastes like an heirloom, homegrown tomato!

Betina Krahn said...

Laura-- LOL! Someday we ought to do a blog and try to insert as many acronyms as possible. . . see what happens. But I love the idea of little alien tomatoes! Did you ever see "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?" Awful stuff. But much better if you turn down the sound and make up your own dialog. :>

And honestly, as an old bio major, I'm not all that surprised or overly worried about the GMF's. But I was still shocked by the prevalence of it. And I'm with you, Deb... forget the not-spoiling-for-a-year tomato if you can't make it taste like the tomatoes we all used to know and love.

And Michele. . . convoluted. . . I like it. MIght be more effective if sometimes we threaten to "convolute" them if they don't behave. :>


Helen Brenna said...

I got one for ya. It's not just yoga anymore. There's Hatha, Bikram, Natya, Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, to name just a few.

Can't I just go to the gym and stretch?

Honestly, the whole chi, body interconnectedness stuff does facinate me.

Betina, you got me going. I'll have to put together a post on this!

Betina Krahn said...

Okay, Helen, I could use a few lessons!

I've done yoga, though I've forgotten what they called the type. . . I think it was a version of Hatha. . . Ashranthra or something. I'll look it up.

But I'd love to know more about it. Do you do yoga regularly? It's fabulous for exercising and toning and relaxing, all!

Helen Brenna said...

Believe it or not, all I did in college was yoga, self taught. These days it's become so popular. Would love to do it more often, but it's incredibly time consuming. I know that's waiting for me when the kids have moved on and I have a bit more time!

Mistress Regina said...

I will share with you what I think would be a perfect link exchange. Fear And Loathing - The Gonzo Papers. This is the type of thing that he seems to feast upon.

You are likely to find topics that that will intrigue you. It has served me well as a link exchnage.

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, Mistress R., I'll check it out.