California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo has a huge, 350-student “viticulture and enology” program, preparing its majors for an industry critical to the state’s economy (and with a venerable international cachet) — but puritanical state law continues to hobble it. Many in Cal Poly’s four-year wine-making program must arrange for a fifth year — after they turn 21 — because, otherwise, faculty and administrators could be felons for “furnishing alcohol to a minor” when they assign students to taste their own class creations. The current California legislative session is considering allowing underage wine-making students to sip and spit.
Science on the cutting edge
Argentinian agricultural scientists in 2008 created the “methane backpack” to collect the emissions of grazing cows (with a tube from the cow’s rumen to the inflatable bag) in order to see how much of the world’s greenhouse-gas problem was created by livestock. Having discovered that figure (it’s 25 to 30 percent), the country’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology announced recently that it will start storing the collected methane to convert it to energy. In a “proof of concept” hypothesis, it estimates that 300 liters of methane could power a refrigerator for 24 hours.
Scientists just wanna have fun
Artist Diemut Strebe offered his 3-D-printed re-creation of the famous ear of Vincent van Gogh for display in June and July in a museum in Karlsruhe, Germany — having built it partially with genes from a great-great-grand-nephew of Van Gogh — and in the same shape, based on computer imaging technology. (Van Gogh reputedly cut off the ear himself, in 1888, during a psychotic episode.) Visitors can also speak into the ear and listen to sounds it receives.
The fine points of the law
Paul Stenstrom, 62, lived comfortably in his Palm Harbor, Fla., home from 2002-2014 without paying a penny of his $1,836 monthly mortgage bill, exploiting federal bankruptcy law that forces foreclosing creditors to back off once a debtor files for protection. Stenstrom and his wife filed 18 separate petitions in that 12-year period, according to an April Tampa Bay Times report, until a judge recently cut them off. They recently were preparing to relocate, but Stenstrom said he was considering buying the house back (since the price has dropped because of the foreclosure).
Leading economic indicators
Several “professional organizers” in New York City told a New York Post reporter in May that this summer is far busier than in years past for clients who need help packing their kids’ trunks for summer camp. One consultant, who charges $250 an hour, said it is as if moms fear that the slightest change from home life will stress out their little darlings. Some mothers’ attention to details include packing the same luxury bedding the campers sleep on at home, along with their special soap and candles and even separate plastic boxes to provide the cuties more storage space.
Daneson (an Ontario “purveyor of fine toothpicks”) recently introduced $35.99 “Artisanal Toothpicks” (that’s per dozen, in “Single Malt” and other exotic flavors) for the discriminating dental raker. The lemon-flavored picks are a bargain at only $19.99, yet are made from the same “finest quality Northern White Birch,” “prepared according to exacting recipes.”
Least competent criminals
Notorious San Diego tagger Francisco Canseco, 18, was present in a downtown courtroom in June for a hearing on 31 misdemeanor paint-vandalism charges and apparently could not contain his boredom. While waiting (as officials discovered only the next day), Canseco managed to tag numerous chairs in the courtroom, along with benches in the hallway. (Vandalism of a courthouse is a felony.)
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