random thoughts to oil the mind

Month: October 2007

Ideas for the Web2.0 Generation


This idea is one which keeps popping up from time to time, normally on those occasions when it would actually come in useful, only to be thrown on the backburner for another time or a more talented author. Well this time I’ve decided just to throw the idea down on electronic paper for anyone with the skills and the time to make it work have a go. Of course, it’s quite likely that such a website already exists and that I just haven’t yet been able to find it, but if anyone knows of such a place, let me know!

Ostensibly the website is aimed at those allegedly few remaining people who cook, though it would appear equally useful to people planning dinner parties, students looking for something to go with their pasta, or just about anyone curious enough to experiment with a few different ingredients. In its essence, the website would be nothing more than a large recipe repository, with everything from snacks and sandwiches to stews and casseroles, with anything in between. Recipes would be submitted by users, moderated and standardised, but the slightly clever part is that these recipes would not be displayed as flat text files—it’s 2007 after all—but would be cross-referenced in such a way as to make the whole collection completely accessible.

Domesticating Zebras

Noble—but undomesticable?

How do you domesticate a zebra? You can’t, or at least that’s the justification put forward by Jared Diamond in his Guns, Germs and Steel for why these wild beasts were never used as draught animals or cavalry in sub-Saharan Africa. Much of what Diamond writes has a logical ring to it, and whilst the evidence is sparse and in places contradictory, his conclusions fit the necessarily teleological approach. Others have accused him of too much geographical determinism, and perhaps they have a point, but the one thing which struck me as being peculiarly out of place in Diamond’s writing was his treatment of Africa’s wild animals as being unsuitable for domestication. He argued that it was only by chance that Eurasia benefited from having suitable species such as goats, sheep, cattle and horses, and that the native varieties of these animals in sub-Saharan Africa were inherintly unsuitable.

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