Chianti Hornets

3 08 2012

In the north of Italy lies the Chianti region that is known for producing fine red wines that are appreciated world-wide. The Chianti region covers a vast area of Tuscany and includes within its boundaries several overlapping Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regions. The area is noted for the cool climate of its elevated vineyards located up to 3000 feet. The vineyard soils of the region are predominately marl and chalk. The hills approaching the Alps shed the water to eliminate undue moisture. The blue clear skies and vineyards are a feast  for the eyes and microcosm on the complexity of our planet.

Recently scientists have found there is a hornet that lives among the grapes that provides and integral step in producing Chianti wines. Chianti Classico wines tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannin and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic  aroma with these wines and much of this is generated by the yeast that is used to ferment the fruit. Prior to crushing, hornets who frequent the vineyards, travel among the plants to feed upon the fruit. Within their stomach is a brewers yeast, a culture unique and exclusive to the Tuscany region. As the hornet pass from plant to plant, the grapes start early fermentation that world appreciates in fine dry red wines. This was only recently understood by researchers from the University of Florence.

So it begs the thought experiment:   If the growers were to decide that these hornets were a pest, and took steps of eradication,  the complex aromas and flavor of the Chianti would tragically denigrate. Ignorance of the interconnections of our ecology has and can caused great misery and loss. The simple 3rd grade  lessons regarding the “eco-system” of  rain makes , makes evaporation, makes clouds, make rain, , makes evaporation, etc… is forgotten time and time again.

There is an ongoing and  heated debate on the validity of global warning.  The notion of green house gas creating a  bubble that is raising earth’s temperatures was considered fact 25 years ago.  But recently,  a number of naysayers have questioned  the science and it does appear that some pronouncements have been inflated.  And with those discrepancies, it seems these naysayers would prefer to discredit the entire premise and use it to justify the status quo when burning fossil fuels.  Is this wise?

In 1885 there was a great outbreak of cholera in  Chicago due waste flowing into the drinking water of Lake Michigan. Despite efforts to draw water miles and miles off shore,  the water was still polluted.  The notion of reversing the Chicago River was deemed by the captains of industry as too costly and would  irrevocably hurt Chicago business and competitive edge.  The cry to halt raising taxes was upheld  that is until that summer when all exchanges were closed for 20 days. It wasn’t until 12% of the population died that the project was funded, forever solving the problem of having clean drinking water in Chicago.  The Chicago River now flows south into the Illinois River.

As the hornets of Tuscany teach us, our world is interconnected in ways far beyond our knowledge.  We best be careful how we change our environment and not risk the opportunity to sip a dry red Chianti with a glass of pure Lake Michigan.


Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

2 08 2012

Mitt Romney returned from Europe this week.  Wearing is best presidential suit, he visited Great Britain, Israel and Poland.  There was quite a bit of chatter regarding a few gaffs he made “on the campaign trail”. But this was probably true of the then Senator Obama too   when he made his  trip to the Old World  in 2008.   It’s an  ancient  ritual for candidates to “prove” their knowledge and show proof they will be ready for foreign affairs on day One.

This week Governor Romney he returned to a series of new polls: one from   Gallup  and the second from Quinipiac. US News and Reports wrote “Obama Leads Romney in Critical Swing States”.    On the other hand Fox News reported  “Obama popular in voter-rich states but lagging in key battlegrounds”.  When I saw both of the these headlines, and delved into the articles I was surprised how differing these view were, at least at first blush.

To get to the bottom I looked at reference polls. Gallup had large set of data asking voter thoughts across all 50 states ond the District of Columbia.  The poll focused on the percent of voters who think President Obama is doing a good job, while the Quinipiac poll focuses solely on Florida Ohio and Pennsylvania,  and the likelihood they will support the President.   The data stated many facts that were published  in both articles.  However I was still unsure how  the authors referenced the same article and came to two very different conclusions.   How did this happen?

I dissected the articles and realized that both articles, though factually true, spun two different stories based on a nuanced reading of the polls.  These publishers  addressed both sides of  possible outcomes regarding the Presidential race.  Yet each had an argument that was supported by the data. So I was surprised  and wondering why I read articles why did i think i read what I read.  After a bit I realized how much I was swayed by the head line and lead sentence.

Most people are not rational in their decisions. Rarely do they dig deep into the facts. Clever writing and sounds bites most often win the fight. I like to think that intelligent voters, like myself, will make wise and prudent decisions founded in their studies.  Folks like me  desire to honor the truth and upheld it like the statue Lady Justice  the court house. However it was pretty clear that I was being worked by the publishers and I’m not immune  to this kind of marketing.  I guess I’m like the rest of the huddled masses.

In 1906 Mark Twain wrote in the North American Review   ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”  I do believe I’m as gullible as the next when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff with statistics.  It’s pretty clear I need to become more vigilant and not let the slick ad guys in New York and Chicago manipulate my emotions.  It so much work being an informed voter!