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Anunţ publicitar al Statului Român in ziarele mari ale lumii:

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Preferăm vorbitori de Româna!


luni, februarie 20

In vino veritas -- Terroir

It's All Just Myths, You See

No data, no good
Photo by: Jon Moe
When scientists assert there's no evidence of terroir, Matt Kramer says the proof is on the palate.

Matt Kramer

Comes now yet another book-length agony letter from the wine science establishment declaring how we in the popular press know nothing about wine, and furthermore, how you (and me) in the wine-drinking public don't know a damned thing either.

This is nothing new. Starting in the 1960s and accelerating in the 1970s and '80s, wine scientists in California, Australia and Germany regularly inveighed, in interviews, articles and books, about how they, scientists with data, knew what really happened in winemaking and grapegrowing. What they didn't or don't agree with or like was and is invariably dismissed as "mystical," "magical," "folkloric" or "myth."

Mark Matthews, a professor of viticulture at the University of California at Davis, is the latest in a long line of such wine scientists and makes clear his perspective from the titular get-go with his Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing (University of California Press, 2015).

Wine scientists, we're told by professor Matthews, have data. Data! Facts. Scientific verities. They are the real truths, ones with numbers, not the phony hand-me-down poetry put forth by the Frenchies and their credulous followers, the better to flog (and fog) their wines at high prices to an equally credulous, ill-informed, mysticism-loving wine-drinking public.

In 221 pages, professor Matthews (no relation to Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews) puts forth that the Augean stable of myths must be cleansed with Herculean ferocity. "The troubling evidence that runs counter to the myths of winegrowing does not appear in the popular press, where there is essentially no reference to the existing viticultural literature and exceedingly limited engagement with its authors," he declares. Pay attention to us!

Professor Matthews examines the myths, as he sees them, of how low yields are conventionally thought to be better than high yields; about the concept of "vine balance"; about so-called critical ripening and vine stress; and above all, about the sheer fatuity of the concept of terroir.

All of these are not just myths, they are (and I quote) … bullshit. "When I told the winemaker at one of Napa Valley's leading midsize wineries," writes professor Matthews, "that I was working on a book that dealt with bullshit in winegrowing, he responded with a chuckle and asked, 'How are you going to know when to stop?'"

Actually, professor Matthews does not know when to stop and, even more important, why he should. The problem, from this writer's perspective, is not that conventional thinking in grapegrowing (the professor's academic specialty) shouldn't be questioned or challenged. Rather, it's a larger matter of wine scientists' abiding belief—dare one call it faith?—in the ostensible truth of data alone. There's a word for this particular perspective: It's called "scientism."

Allow me to digress briefly, as "scientism" is very much at the root of why so many wine scientists have been so wrong about so many features (and achievements) of fine wine—as opposed to bulk or ordinary wine.

This business of fine wine is a vital distinction, as fine wine, unlike ordinary, is all about shadings and nuances, a word wine scientists abhor as having no metric or verifiable basis. (Professor Matthews, for his part, always places the word "finesse" in quotes to underscore the scientific dubiousness of the term.) Ordinary or bulk wine is simpler and, indeed, more available to credible measurement from which one can reasonably extrapolate.

So what is scientism? It's best explained in the recent book Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, edited by Richard Williams and Daniel Robinson (Bloomsbury, 2015). This is no crank tract, given its illustrious contributors, such as Lawrence Principe who holds two doctorates, one in organic chemistry from Indiana University and another in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. The other eight contributors, including the well-known philosopher Roger Scruton, hold comparable scholarly credentials.

Scientism: The New Orthodoxy notes emphatically, "It must be made clear at the outset … that to express a concern about, or to criticize over-reliance or overconfidence in science is not to oppose science or to diminish its accomplishments."

Scientism, the authors note, involves a "zealous metaphysical commitment and a requisite orthodoxy in method and in thought regarding the nature of the world and how understanding of the world is to be approached."

Their definition of the term embraces four tenets, two of which are pertinent to the present discussion. The first is: "It is a tenet of scientism that only certifiably scientific knowledge counts as real knowledge. All else is mere opinion or nonsense."

"A second tenet … is that the methods and assumptions underlying the natural sciences are appropriate for all sciences. … A corollary doctrine is that the arts, if they seek to be more than myth and self-expression, must somehow be brought under the umbrella of science."

The four-part definition notes, "Scientism exudes and promotes an exaggerated confidence in science … to produce knowledge and solve the problems of humanity."

With this in mind, it brings into focus the fault line of professor Matthews' assertions about, as he titles his book, terroir and other myths of winegrowing. Are his assertions necessarily wrong-headed? Hardly. Some of them are both fascinating and surely worth pondering, especially those in his specialty of grapegrowing. What's more, the illuminations in that field have hardly been ignored in the past or present, even if they haven't necessarily been widely embraced either, which clearly irks the author.

For example, agronomists and viticulturists have been insisting for decades that low yields do not, in the scientific data, correspond to demonstrably higher quality. And within the confines of what such data can establish, such as sugar content, acidity, color, pH and the like, it's true. The numbers from such experimental tests prove it. This is not news and plenty of winemakers and viticulturists already know it.

Viticulturists such as Richard Smart, who holds two doctorates in the field of grapegrowing and is the author of Sunlight into Wine (1991), have campaigned for decades about changing grape canopies to create higher yields with no loss of measurable grape or wine quality.

So why, to the evident frustration of professor Matthews, has the wine establishment not embraced what to him are proven truths?

The answer involves not a gullibility for myths, as professor Matthews repeatedly insists, but rather what might be called the more finely detailed demands of the fine-wine ambition. Here the data frequently fail to prove to the satisfaction of many practitioners the truths proclaimed as proven and universal. I wish I had a dollar for every winemaker and grapegrower I've met in Napa, Sonoma and elsewhere in the world of fine wine who have told me that they had to unlearn everything they were taught by their wine science professors in order to gain traction in their fine-wine ambition.

Too often the nuances sought for fine wine are not necessarily captured by the "facts" established in one or another often-narrow scientific experiment.

Sometimes the narrowly rational and scientifically provable has to give way to the seemingly irrational or to beliefs not easily proved by conventional scientific methods. How else can you explain why so many otherwise rational, educated and intelligent fine-wine producers have embraced low yields even though it means seriously reducing their income?

One of the features of professor Matthews' book—and virtually all of the others of its sort penned by his fellow academic wine scientists—is that it never reports actually tasting wines, let alone trying to correlate tasting experience with academic knowledge. Nowhere in Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing does the author refer to a tasting experience. Such a thing is too subjective and thus inherently suspect.

Knowing this helps explain astonishing statements such as: "It is generally true that grapevines do well in calcareous soils, but it is probably more clear empirically that chalk deposits are good for holding oil reserves, than for flavors imparted to Chardonnay or other grapes."

Does that sound like someone who knows anything about fine wine? Does that sound like someone who has experienced—and accepted as real—the singular sensation of a great Chablis?

Such declarations pepper Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing, nowhere more so than in the chapter "The Terroir Explanation," which is the epicenter of the book's provocative title. Professor Matthews reserves a special scorn for the concept of terroir, which scorn, I might note from my experience, is very nearly a prerequisite for employment in his academic world.

Having written at length about terroir over the decades, I was not surprised to see my work cited, although I have to say that the citations used are both brief and factual; I was hardly in the crosshairs, so to speak. So I have no axe to grind on that account.

Where I do feel free to sharpen such an instrument lies with a substantial difference of opinion about the legitimacy of the concept of terroir and of its essential reality. Simply put, professor Matthews dismisses the idea of terroir as a modern invention, and a cynical one at that.

Noting that the word once denoted an unpleasant taste (which historically was true, at least in the French phrase "goût de terroir"), professor Matthews notes the sharp increase and transformation of the word terroir as a consequence of new French appellation regulations in the mid-20th century: "All concerned capitalized on the value of having an attractive story that included the regional terroir explanation for distinctive wines."

"The second situation that correlates in time with the dramatic uptick in the use of terroir," writes professor Matthews, "is the increase in international competition in the world of wine." The author then elaborates how difficult it has become for many tasters to distinguish between wines of similar types grown in various parts of the world, citing among other examples, the famous confusion between French and American Chardonnays and Cabernets by judges in the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.

At root lies a disdain for the influence of soil in wine distinction: "Unfortunately, the 'discovery' of terroir in the popular press was not preceded by scientific discoveries of soil-derived flavors, or other validations of putative characteristic flavors from a more broadly defined terroir."

Bottom line: There are no data proving that soil informs wine. Therefore it's a shuck. Terroir is a fake. Distinctions among wines are mere public relations for which the ambiguous word terroir is conveniently invoked. Terroir is a myth promulgated by romanticists such as wine writers and cynical marketing sorts seeking to distinguish their wines from those of the competition.

All I can say is this: Taste some wine. Is a good Chablis really the same as any other Chardonnay grown in a comparably cool climate, never mind whether the soil is chalk or clay or sand? Really?

Does Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Stags Leap District taste the same as that grown on Howell Mountain? Of course it doesn't. Anyone can taste the difference if presented with two well-made examples. Or 10 such examples for that matter. Of course there are reasons: climate, microclimate, elevation, sunlight intensity, wine, rain and yes, soil. Believers in the existence of terroir are the first to mention all of these and more.

Such differences are collectively called terroir. What's so hard to accept about that? What's so difficult in accepting such a notion as both real and legitimate?

Is terroir necessarily ambiguous? Sure it is. Everything about fine wine is ambiguous. That's what makes it so difficult to pinpoint precisely why La Tâche tastes different from neighboring Richebourg. No scientific evidence exists, to the best of my knowledge, that definitively identifies and proves the causes of the difference. Therefore, as wine scientists would have it, any differences we find are invalid as they're not verifiable. So we're seen as dupes. Myth lovers. Irrational fools.

But we're not. Those of us who credit the existence of terroir, of its legitimacy as a metaphor for understanding the natural world know that recognizing terroir is no more—and no less—than a way of being alert. We know that the differences we apprehend with our senses are real and far from illusory—or mythical. We know also that soil plays an informing role, in some sites more strongly and clearly than in others.

Scientism says that such conclusions are inadmissible. No data, no good. ("It is a tenet of scientism that only certifiably scientific knowledge counts as real knowledge. All else is mere opinion or nonsense.") Our collective and profound experience in apprehending and distinguishing such very real differences among fine wines is dismissed as, well … you know what.

It's all myths, you see. You do see that, don't you?

joi, februarie 16

A iubi este un delict?
Categoric NU!

Bogdan Duca

O profesoară, soţie de preot, mamă de trei copii, de 40 de ani, are un "crush" sentimental pentru un elev seminarist de 17 ani.
Fac prostii şi, când decide să se despartă de elev, acesta se sinucide din dragoste....

Femeia este însărcinată cu un al patrulea copil (nu ştim dacă al soţului ei sau al seminaristului sinucigaş).

Ce face legea românească? O arestează pe femeie, care are toate şansele să petreacă până la 15-25 ani de închisoare pentru....relaţii sexuale cu un minor, urmate de sinuciderea acestuia (sinuciderea seminaristului din dragoste fiind considerată circumstanţă agravantă).
Presa bălind în faţa unui astfel de subiect savuros şi anticlerical, dă inclusiv imagini cu victima şi cu femeia acuzată: nu de alta, dar să fie siguri că scandalul va fi suficient de puternic ca să mânjească.

Dar unde este umanitatea şi logica noastră?
Da. Femeia aia a greşit. Da. Nu mai are ce căuta în învăţământul preuniversitar. Da. Are o problemă dificilă de tot în relaţia cu soţul, propria ei familie şi cei apropiaţi ei,

Dar e mamă de 4 copii. Cum să o arestezi? De ce să o arestezi? E pericol public? Crezi că va sări să "violeze" pe stradă?

Avem penitenciarele pline de oameni care sunt condamnaţi pentru fapte ce ar putea oricând să îşi găsească alte forme de ispăşire (amenzi penale, muncă în folosul comunităţii).
Cred că asta e chestia care mă scârbeşte cel mai tare la societatea românească: ipocrizia.... Ţară plină de şobolani care dacă şi-au pus nişte aripi de carnaval, se cred batmani.....

Profesoara de romana, sotie de preot si mama a 3 copii, arestata pentru relatii intime cu un elev minor. Baiatul s-a sinucis

Profesoara de romana, sotie de preot si mama a 3 copii, arestata pentru relatii intime cu un elev minor. Baiatul s-a sinucis
spaceplay / pause

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12 6 seek to 10%, 20% … 60%


Poveste socanta, la Piatra Neamt. O profesoara de limba si literatura romana, in varsta de 40 de ani, a fost arestata, pentru ca ar fi intretinut relatii intime, cu unul dintre elevii sai, de la Seminarul Teologic.
Cumplit este ca baiatul de 17 ani s-a sinucis la sfarsitul anului trecut. Femeia, considerata responsabila de acest deznodamant cutremurator, a fost trimisa dupa gratii. Ea este sotie de preot si are trei copii. Anchetatorii spun profesoara in varsta de 40 de ani a intretinut relatii intime cu baiatul care ii era elev in clasa a XI-a.
Relatia nefireasca dintre cei doi a durat mai bine de jumatate de an, din decembrie 2015 pana in iunie 2016. Baiatul caruia i-a sucit mintile era unul dintre cei mai buni elevi ai liceului teologic ortodox "Sfintii Imparati Constantin si Elena" din Piatra-Neamt. Participase la numeroase olimpiade si era apreciat de dascali.
In noiembrie anul trecut, a disparut insa de acasa. In aceeasi zi, un tanar a fost vazut sarind in raul Bistrita. Ai lui s-au rugat cu disperare sa nu fie vorba de el.
profesoara Neamt
Tatal baiatului: "Nicio schimbare in comportamentul lui vizavi de noi. Nu am simtit o racire intre noi. L-am cautat. Noi ne-am consolat ca o fi la vreo manastire ca ii placea sa mearga la manastiri sa cante.”
Mama baiatului: "E cumplit, e cumplit. Nu se poate descrie in cuvinte pentru o mama. E foarte greu.”
Din pacate, dupa o luna, cele mai negre temeri s-au adeverit. Cadavrul a fost gasit, iar bietii oamenii au fost devastati. Apa le-a furat unicul fiu. Inainte sa recurca la gestul extrem, cateva camere de supraveghere l-au suprins pe terenul de sport al liceului, vorbind cu cineva la telefon.
Ultimul lui apel a fost catre profesoara de romana, anchetata acum. Autoritatile au inteles in final ca tanarul minor se iubea cu aceasta femeie. Pentru faptele sale, profesoara de limba romana ar putea sa stea 10 ani dupa gratii.
elev neamt

peromaneste:  Atat de putin se intelege IUBIREA in Romania procurorilor si a mass media?  Punem legea pe pilot automat si nu gandim la spiritul, ci la litera legii?  Cat de adanca ne e caderea?!

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

luni, februarie 13

Why nature restoration takes time: fungi grow 'relationships'

How strong are the 'relationships' in soil communities? From left to right the interaction strength between groups in seminatural grasslands are visualized on recently, mid-term and long-term abandoned agricultural fields. Credit: Elly …more
'Relationships' in the soil become stronger during the process of nature restoration. Although all major groups of soil life are already present in former agricultural soils, they are not really 'connected' at first. These connections need time to (literally) grow, and fungi are the star performers here. A European research team led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) has shown the complete network of soil life for the first time. This Wednesday, the results of the extensive study are published in Nature Communications.
Earthworms, , nematodes, mites, springtails, bacteria: it's very busy underground! All soil life together forms one giant society. Under natural circumstances, that is. A large European research team discovered that when you try to restore nature on grasslands formerly used as agricultural fields, there is something missing. Lead author Elly Morriën from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology explains: "All the overarching, known groups of soil organisms are present from the start, but the links between them are missing. Because they don't 'socialise', the community isn't ready to support a diverse plant community yet."
When nature restoration progresses, you'll see new species appearing. But those major groups of soil life remain the same and their links grow stronger. "Just like the development of human communities", says Morriën. "People start to take care of each other. In the soil, you can see that organisms use each other's by-products as food." In this way, nature can store and use nutrients such as carbon far more efficiently.
Fungi as drivers
"Fungi turn out to play a very important role in nature restoration, appearing to drive the development of new networks in the soil." In , the thready fungal hyphae are severely reduced by ploughing for example, and therefore the undamaged soil bacteria have an advantage and rule here. The researchers studied a series of former that had changed use 6 to 30 years previously. With time, there is a strong increase in the role of fungi.
Earlier, researchers did look at fungal biomass, but that won't show you the whole story. "After six years, about 10% is fungal biomass and 90% is from bacteria. Still, we discovered that already at that stage, about half the carbon - being the food - goes to the fungi. After 30 years, that share has risen to three quarters of the carbon stored. Fungi really are the drivers in natural soils."
From steppe to savannah
The international team compared grassland soils from all over Europe. In the Netherlands, research fields on the Veluwe were included. "Worldwide, you find many types of grassland ecosystems. Think of steppes, tundras, prairies and savannahs."
A unique opportunity, Morriën calls it. Because of the European consortium EcoFINDERS, data for many species of from many different locations could be studied. By labelling the carbon atoms, the research team was able to follow the food flow throughout the whole soil ecosystem. In this way, they could link the organisms to their corresponding functions in the community. Morriën: "This linking has never been done at such a large scale before. Now we can finally get an advanced view of a complete and intricate community." And who knows: "We might be able to help the fungi restore the missing links, which will speed up nature restoration considerably."

More information: Elly Morriën et al, Soil networks become more connected and take up more carbon as nature restoration progresses, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/NCOMMS14349

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marți, februarie 7

You Say, “Tomato” …

And others say, "tasteless"
Photo by: Jon Moe
Matt Kramer asks if we're training a generation to equate "more" with "better."

Matt Kramer
Posted: February 7, 2017

It's no news that American agribusiness, with the enthusiastic support of university-based agricultural scientists, pretty much destroyed the American tomato. But now at least one horticultural scientist and his colleagues say redemption is at hand.

Big Food wanted a tomato that could be shipped and stocked in supermarkets without damage. Big Ag scientists delivered. Over decades, plant geneticists and horticulturists helped perfect a tomato so impervious to damage that it could be dropped from a height of 6 feet without its skin breaking (the infamous Walter tomato).

The modern American tomato was deemed perfect. Except for one thing: It was tasteless. Yet the tomato industry, and the university scientists who served it, issued a stream of denials that there was anything wrong with the commercial American tomato.

The late Charles Rick (1915–2002), a plant geneticist at the University of California, Davis, who was the undisputed father of tomato genetics, once declared, "I don't think it's right to attribute poor market quality to breeding. That's a bunch of nonsense."

Yet now, in a recent issue of Science magazine, Harry Klee, a horticultural scientist at the University of Florida and the lead author of a study on tomato flavor, effectively begs to differ. The study flatly states, "Modern commercial tomato varieties are substantially less flavorful than heirloom varieties."

"To understand and ultimately correct this deficiency," say the authors of the study, "we quantified flavor-associated chemicals in 398 modern, heirloom, and wild accessions. … We found that modern commercial varieties contain significantly lower amounts of many of these important flavor chemicals than older varieties."

In an article reporting on the study in The New York Times, professor Klee says, "Think of the tomato flavor as a symphony with lots of notes. Over the last 50 years, they've removed one instrument at a time."

Some 26 genes are critical to producing flavorful volatiles, according to the study. The problem? Modern tomato varieties have versions of these genes that produce smaller amounts of the volatiles than heirloom varieties.

The answer? Create a hybrid tomato (by traditional crossbreeding rather than genetic engineering) that restores full-fledged genes that create flavor. "Now we know exactly what needs to be done to make it right. We just have to turn the crank," says professor Klee.

Talk about coming full circle.

Surely you know where I'm going with this. The similarities between tomatoes (which is a fruit, after all) and wine grapes are considerable. With both tomatoes and fine-wine grapes it's a matter of nuance, of trace elements, of an interplay of sometimes infinitesimal yet vital compounds.

True, tomatoes have seen vastly more genetic manipulation than grapes. Still, there's been plenty of cross-breeding with wine grapes over the past century, never mind clonal selection within traditional grape varieties.

Yet would anyone submit that any of the many wine-grape hybrids, such as Scheurebe, Ruby Cabernet, Flora, Baco Noir, Maréchal Foch, Rubired or Seyval, to name just a few, are superior to heirloom grapes? They serve, especially in extreme growing conditions. But they fail to conquer.

With the advent of clonal selections in fine-wine grapes, such as the now-widespread Dijon clones of Pinot Noir named after the Burgundy-based research program that selected and endorsed specific strains, we're now seeing, as we did with tomatoes, a narrowband spectrum of preferred commercial characteristics that compromise "flavor as a symphony with lots of notes."

In wine today we are experiencing a loss, to greater or lesser degrees depending upon the grape variety, of a "symphony with lots of notes" thanks to a narrowing of clonal diversity and an equal narrowing of the definition of ideal ripeness, which means ever-later picking times. ("We pick each clonal block at optimal ripeness.")

Add to that an increasingly common, if furtive, addition of water to the fermenting juice (called "watering back") to compensate for the dehydration of grapes intentionally picked late and the use of post-fermentation techniques such as spinning cones and reverse osmosis machines to reduce alcohol, and you've got a potent mix of forces.

The combination creates a fine-wine equivalent of a supermarket tomato: perfect, yet soulless and contrived.

Professor Klee himself was dismayed that one of his young students preferred a tasteless supermarket tomato over a flavorful heirloom variety in a tasting panel. "Have we trained a whole generation," he asked, "that doesn't know what a good tomato is?"

Good question. Can we now ask the same about, say, excessively overripe Cabernet Sauvignons? Or Pinot Noirs composed of just a handful in flavor-intensive clonal selections?

Is a new generation of wine drinkers now being trained to think that mere flavor intensity—the more, the better—is the determinant of quality? And, moreover, that the very word "nuance" is suspect, even illegitimate? Or worse yet, that it's not even understood as a concept? You tell me.

luni, februarie 6

For the Love of Italy

Deborah Needleman

In 1989, the building that housed the restaurant was sold and Bulleri was forced to move. When Mongiardino heard he was searching for a new location in a dreary business district of the city, he proposed to Bulleri that if he stayed in the neighborhood, he would design the space for free. "Giacomo was terrified," offers Roberto Peregalli, 55, who at the time was assisting Mongiardino on some of his projects. "He thought 'Renzo will ruin me!' "

Giacomo Pasticceria, run by Bulleri's granddaughters, resembles a French boulangerie of the Belle Époque. Bert Teunissen

We are sitting in the early afternoon light at a corner table by the window in Giacomo Bistrot, designed by Studio Peregalli and opened in 2007. Bulleri is with his daughter, Tiziana, and we are eating the last of fall's white truffles on risotto. He dismisses Peregalli's assessment that he was afraid with a wave of his hand. "I did think, though, 'What does Renzo know of restaurants?! He makes homes for billionaires,' " he adds. Regardless of whether Bulleri was afraid, this is a good question. The original da Giacomo was a simple restaurant and Mongiardino a creator of very fancy places. What was the thread connecting the rarefied architect of rich Italians to the proprietor of a modest trattoria?

Entering da Giacomo today, the restaurant Mongiardino made for Bulleri in 1989 on Via Pasquale Sottocorno, you could be forgiven for mistaking it, as a recent edition of the Michelin guide did, for an intact trattoria from the beginning of the 20th century. And yet, nothing about the interior feels dated. "Everything Mongiardino did remains exactly as it was because there has never been a reason to change a single thing," Bulleri says when we walk through the space. "It is perfect," he adds. Indeed, it is so perfect that you could easily not notice that it is one of the most exquisite restaurant interiors in the world. There is a poverty to its beauty, in the restraint of its décor, despite every element having been painstakingly crafted.

Mongiardino's intention had indeed been to invoke a Lombard trattoria from the early 1900s, a place intended for the daytime, when lunch was the main meal. He chose the pale colors based on his memory of the latterie, or dairy shops, of his youth: reseda green for the ornate wood paneling and yellow for the embossed wallpaper above. These details, along with other artisan-made elements like the stucco, moldings and tile floors, and the quite basic wood chairs, give a sense of being transported back in time. Bulleri's cooking, too, with an emphasis on fish fresh from the sea, invokes a beloved rural way of life that no longer exists. "Innovative restaurants, people go there to try," Peregalli says. "Here, they come to eat." In spite of this, or more likely because the place exists outside any trends shaping design or food, da Giacomo is a staple of the cool-seeking missile that is the international fashion set. For the last 27 years, when that group descends on Milan, it flows through da Giacomo's doors.

In 2007, Bulleri asked Peregalli and his partner, Laura Sartori Rimini, to create a new restaurant to accommodate the overflow of customers. Peregalli and Sartori Rimini formed their studio in the early 1990s; they both refer to Mongiardino as their master. For the new place, Studio Peregalli sought to retain the feeling of timelessness and attention to detail, but to do something completely different. If the trattoria felt wonderful during the day, then the new restaurant would be for evening, with a sense of glamour. The menu would be a bit richer too, focusing on meats and foie gras. The idea, according to Sartori Rimini, "was a place that would make you feel cozy and beloved even in a foreign city. A place where you could come alone straight from the airport or after the cinema or theater." Unlike da Giacomo, which took a year or so to catch on, the Bistrot immediately became a beloved destination, in part because it feels keenly cognizant of so many of the world's most cherished establishments.

Giacomo Bistrot, with its dark wood paneling and Moroccan leather-bound books, is a stately yet homey mix of 19th-century French, northern Italian and Victorian design. Bert Teunissen

If you can, picture a marriage between exquisite old-guard Parisian outposts like Le Voltaire or Le Grand Véfour and lively English restaurants like the Wolseley or Wiltons. In creating an atmosphere of a Milan from days gone by, Sartori Rimini and Peregalli wove through some of the elements of French taste that were influential in northern Italy at the end of the 19th century, along with ornate Victorian details found in English clubs. From England one can trace the dark polished wood paneling with pilasters and arches, antique mirrors, brass details and stucco ceilings. From France one gets the hand-painted cotton and velvet fabrics, the rare books, the Coromandel screen and oil paintings. Studio Peregalli custom-designed the tables, chairs, lights and tableware and sourced whatever details they didn't draw, from the antique sugar pots to the glass goblets.

The trio teamed up again in 2010, with Giacomo and Studio Peregalli winning a competition to design a restaurant for the Museo del Novecento, or Museum of the 1900s, opening in a Fascist-style building that overlooked the historic Piazza del Duomo. Given the somewhat oppressive strength of the architecture, Sartori Rimini and Peregalli decided to invoke the optimism of New York in the Deco period, infused with the Modernism of European designers Adolf Loos and Jean Michel Frank. To give it a twist, they added elements from the Italian metaphysical painters Giorgio de Chirico and Mario Sironi. Again, every detail — from the lacquered panels, brass grills, ebonized wood and gilded boiseries down to the light fixtures and the tableware — was designed by the duo to contribute to the overall mood. Partly through its décor and also because of its location, Giacomo Arengario reflects a more global sensibility, serving a lighter, international menu and catering to a newer, more global clientele.

The dramatic, Art Deco-inspired entrance of Giacomo Arengario. The restaurant, designed by Studio Peregalli in 2010, includes a purple resin floor, replicating the igneous rock porphyry. Bert Teunissen

In addition to those restaurants, Bulleri also opened a tobacco shop and a pastry shop, then a cafe, and, this spring, the carryout spot, all designed by Studio Peregalli. Each is a strong and romantic expression of its genre. In retrospect, what the erudite architect, his elegant protégées and the country cook — or "impenitent Tuscan scamp" as he refers to himself — have in common is quite obvious: not just a dedication to quality, but a belief that without the past, the present loses richness and meaning.

Mongiardino believed the separation we create between then and now is an artificial one, and stepping into any of Bulleri's places is like entering a living portal to another time. Back in the beautiful Bistrot, Peregalli explains that he and Sartori Rimini have tried to create a sort of "Proustian reverie," but one that is relevant and joyful for today. Meanwhile, Bulleri, sitting on a Napolean III burgundy velvet chair, is recounting the way some precious meat was stretched in his youth so that a small bit could be shared among many. He looks into the middle distance, and rubbing his forefingers and thumb together in front of his nose in the way Italians do to indicate the union of aroma and emotion, utters, "Carne buona; I'm smelling it now."

vineri, februarie 3


In cities the world over, men (and, to a lesser extent, women) who urinate in the street — al fresco — are a scourge of urban life, costing millions of dollars for cleaning and the repair of damage to public infrastructure. And, oh, the stench.

Now, Paris has a new weapon against what the French call “les pipis sauvages” or “wild peeing”: a sleek and eco-friendly public toilet. Befitting the country of Matisse, the urinal looks more like a modernist flower box than a receptacle for human waste.

You can even grow flowers in its compost.

The Parisian innovation was spurred by a problem of public urination so endemic that City Hall recently proposed dispatching a nearly 2,000-strong “incivility brigade” of truncheon-wielding officers to try to prevent bad behavior, which also includes leaving dog waste on the street and littering cigarette butts. Fines for public urination are steep — about $75.

Even that was not deterrent enough, officials say. A small brigade of sanitation workers still has to scrub about 1,800 square miles of sidewalk each day. And dozens of surfaces are splattered by urine, according to City Hall.

Enter the boxy Uritrottoir — a combination of the French words for “urinal” and “pavement” — which has grabbed headlines and has already been lauded as a “friend of flowers” by Le Figaro, the French newspaper, because it produces compost that can be used for fertilizer. Designed by Faltazi, a Nantes-based industrial design firm, its top section also doubles as an attractive flower or plant holder.

The Uritrottoir, which has graffiti-proof paint and does not use water, works by storing urine on a bed of dry straw, sawdust or wood chips. Monitored remotely by a “urine attendant” who can see on a computer when the toilet is full, the urine and straw is carted away to the outskirts of Paris, where it is turned into compost that can later be used in public gardens or parks.

Fabien Esculier, an engineer who is known in the French media as “Monsieur Pipi” because of his expertise on the subject, said the Uritrottoir was more eco-friendly than the dozens of existing public toilets which dot the capital and are connected to the public sewage system.

“Its greatest virtue is that it doesn’t use water, and produces compost that can be used for public gardens and parks,” he said.

So far, Paris’s Gare de Lyon, a railway station that has become ground zero in the capital’s war against public urination, has ordered two of the toilets, which were installed on Tuesday outside the station, and the SNCF, France’s state-owned national railway, says it plans to roll out more across the capital if the Uritrottoir is a success.

“I am optimistic it will work,” said Maxime Bourette, the SNCF maintenance official who ordered the toilets for the railway. “Everyone is tired of the mess.”

He said it remained to be seen whether the toilets were cost effective — he said the SNCF paid about $9,730 for two, while it would cost about $865 a month to pay a sanitation worker to clean the toilets and take away the waste.

A designer of the Uritrottoir, Laurent Lebot, 45, an industrial engineer who has also invented an eco-friendly vacuum cleaner, said Nantes, in western France, had ordered three for the spring. He had also had inquiries from local councils in Cannes, France; Lausanne, Switzerland; London; and Saarbrücken, Germany. A large model can handle the outflow of 600 people; a smaller model absorbs 300 trips to the toilet.

“Public urination is a huge problem in France,” Mr. Lebot said. “Beyond the terrible smell, urine degrades lamp posts and telephone poles, damages cars, pollutes the Seine and undermines everyday life of a city. Cleaning up wastes water, and detergents are damaging for the environment.”

France is far from alone in combating public urination. In San Francisco, a street lamp whose base was damaged by urine recently collapsed, almost injuring a driver. The city has since installed public urinals adorned by plants.

New York has also long suffered from drunken urinating revelers, but the City Council recently downgraded the offense, along with littering and excessive noise, as part of its effort to divert minor offenders from its already overstretched court system. Nevertheless, offenders face a fine of $350 to $450 if they commit a third offense within a year.

In Chester, northwest England, the local government has clamped down on public urination amid concerns it was damaging the city’s medieval covered walkways.

In France, the acrid smell of urine has been a particular blight on the nation’s capital stretching back centuries, and Mr. Lebot noted that the carbon of the straw had the added benefit of combating the odor of urine. His next challenge, he added, was to design an aesthetically pleasing public toilet that women could use.

Among the steepest fines for an act of public urination — about $37,500 — was meted out to Pierre Pinoncelli, a French citizen who urinated on the artist Marcel Duchamp’s Dadaist porcelain urinal “Fountain” in 1993 — considered a masterpiece of conceptual art — before hitting it with a hammer.

In 2006, he was fined about $230,000 after he attacked the artwork a second time.

The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say

Carl Zimmer

Over the years, scientists have come up with a lot of ideas about why we sleep.

Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators.

A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.

In 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

In the years since, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli, along with other researchers, have found a great deal of indirect evidence to support the so-called synaptic homeostasis hypothesis.

It turns out, for example, that neurons can prune their synapses — at least in a dish. In laboratory experiments on clumps of neurons, scientists can give them a drug that spurs them to grow extra synapses. Afterward, the neurons pare back some of the growth.

Other evidence comes from the electric waves released by the brain. During deep sleep, the waves slow down. Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli have argued that shrinking synapses produce this change.

Four years ago, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli got a chance to test their theory by looking at the synapses themselves. They acquired a kind of deli slicer for brain tissue, which they used to shave ultrathin sheets from a mouse’s brain.

Luisa de Vivo, an assistant scientist working in their lab, led a painstaking survey of tissue taken from mice, some awake and others asleep. She and her colleagues determined the size and shape of 6,920 synapses in total.

The synapses in the brains of sleeping mice, they found, were 18 percent smaller than in awake ones. “That there’s such a big change over all is surprising,” Dr. Tononi said.

The second study was led by Graham H. Diering, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Diering and his colleagues set out to explore the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis by studying the proteins in mouse brains. “I’m really coming at it from this nuts-and-bolts place,” Dr. Diering said.

In one experiment, Dr. Diering and his colleagues created a tiny window through which they could peer into mouse brains. Then he and his colleagues added a chemical that lit up a surface protein on brain synapses.

Looking through the window, they found that the number of surface proteins dropped during sleep. That decline is what you would expect if the synapses were shrinking.

Dr. Diering and his colleagues then searched for the molecular trigger for this change. They found that hundreds of proteins increase or decrease inside of synapses during the night. But one protein in particular, called Homer1A, stood out.

In earlier experiments on neurons in a dish, Homer1A proved to be important for paring back synapses. Dr. Diering wondered if it was important in sleep, too.

To find out, he and his colleagues studied mice genetically engineered so that they couldn’t make Homer1A proteins. These mice slept like ordinary mice, but their synapses didn’t change their proteins like the ones in ordinary mice.

Dr. Diering’s research suggests that sleepiness triggers neurons to make Homer1A and ship it into their synapses. When sleep arrives, Homer1A turns on the pruning machinery.

To see how this pruning machinery affects learning, the scientists gave regular mice a memory test. They put the animals in a room where they got a mild electric shock if they walked over one section of the floor.

That night, the scientists injected a chemical into the brains of some of the mice. The chemical had been shown to block neurons in dishes from pruning their synapses.

The next day, the scientists put all the mice back in the chamber they had been in before. Both groups of mice spent much of the time frozen, fearfully recalling the shock.

But when the researchers put the mice in a different chamber, they saw a big difference. The ordinary mice sniffed around curiously. The mice that had been prevented from pruning their brain synapses during sleep, on the other hand, froze once again.

Dr. Diering thinks that the injected mice couldn’t narrow their memories down to the particular chamber where they had gotten the shock. Without nighttime pruning, their memories ended up fuzzy.

In their own experiment, Dr. Tononi and his colleagues found that the pruning didn’t strike every neuron. A fifth of the synapses were unchanged. It’s possible that these synapses encode well-established memories that shouldn’t be tampered with.

“You can forget in a smart way,” Dr. Tononi said.

Other researchers cautioned that the new findings weren’t definitive proof of the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis.

Marcos G. Frank, a sleep researcher at Washington State University in Spokane, said that it could be hard to tell whether changes to the brain at night were caused by sleep or by the biological clock. “It’s a general problem in the field,” he said.

Markus H. Schmidt, of the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute, said that while the brain might prune synapses during sleep, he questioned whether this was the main explanation for why sleep exists.

“The work is great,” he said of the new studies, “but the question is, is this a function of sleep or is it the function?”

Many organs, not just the brain, seem to function differently during sleep, Dr. Schmidt pointed out. The gut appears to make many new cells, for example.

Dr. Tononi said that the new findings should prompt a look at what current sleeping drugs do in the brain. While they may be good at making people sleepy, it’s also possible that they may interfere with the pruning required for forming memories.

“You may actually work against yourself,” Dr. Tononi said.

In the future, sleep medicines might precisely target the molecules involved in sleep, ensuring that synapses get properly pruned.

“Once you know a little bit of what happens at the ground-truth level, you can get a better idea of what to do for therapy,” Dr. Tononi said.

INTELect si ARTa: A new theory promises to unlock your body’s full p...

INTELect si ARTa: A new theory promises to unlock your body’s full p...:

Written by Scott Carney

Today tens of thousands of people are discovering that the environment contains hidden tools for hacking the nervous system. But no matter what they might be able to accomplish, they’re not superhuman—the fortitude they find comes from within the body itself. When they forego a few creature comforts and delve more deeply into their own biology, they’re becoming more human.

For at least half a century, the conventional wisdom about maintaining good physical health has rested on the twin pillars of diet and exercise. While those are no doubt vital, there’s an equally important, but completely ignored, third pillar: environmental stimulation.

Anatomically, modern humans have lived on the planet for almost 200,000 years. That means your officemate who sits on a rolling chair beneath fluorescent lights all day has pretty much the same basic body as the prehistoric caveman who made spear points out of flint to hunt antelope. To get from there to here, humans faced countless challenges as we fled predators, froze in snowstorms, sought shelter from the rain, hunted and gathered our food, and continued breathing despite suffocating heat.

Until very recently, there was not a time when comfort could be taken for granted—there was always a balance between the effort we expended and the downtime we earned. For the bulk of that time, we managed these feats without even a shred of what anyone today would consider modern technology. Instead, we had to be strong to survive.

Despite all of our technology, our bodies are just not ready for a world so completely tamed by our desire for comfort. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, humans invented some things that made life easier—fire, cooking, stone tools, fur skins, and foot bindings—but we were still largely at the mercy of nature. About 5,000 years ago, at the dawn of recorded history, things got a little easier still as we domesticated various animal species to do work for us, built better shelters, and carried more sophisticated gear. As human culture advanced, it all was getting incrementally easier. And then, sometime in the early 1900s, our technological prowess became so powerful that it broke our fundamental biological links to the world around us. Indoor plumbing, heating systems, grocery stores, cars, and electric lighting now let us control and fine-tune our environment so thoroughly that many of us can live in what amounts to a perpetual state of homeostasis.

We have a nervous system that is almost perfectly attenuated for homeostasis, which is the effortless state where the environment meets every physical need. Our nervous system automatically responds to challenges in the world around us—triggering muscle contractions, releasing hormones, modulating body temperature, and performing a million other tasks that give us an edge in a particular moment.

But barring an urgent need for survival, the human body is perfectly content to simply rest and do nothing. The programming that makes us gluttons for the easy life didn’t emerge out of nowhere: Almost every organism struggles against the environment that it inhabits. Every creature, whether it is an amoeba or a great ape, needs motivation to overcome the challenges of the world around it: Comfort and pleasure are the two most powerful and immediate rewards that exist.

What is comfort? It’s not really a feeling as much as it is an absence of things that aren’t comfortable. We sate our thirst, don layers of clothing on cold winter days, and clean our bodies because that yearning for comfort is hardwired into our brains. It’s what Freud called the “pleasure principle.”

Effortless comfort has made us fat, lazy, and increasingly in ill health. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside—scorching heat, blizzards, thunderstorms, or just fine summer days—a person can now wake up long past when the sun rises, eat a breakfast chock-full of fruits flown in from a climate halfway across the globe, head to work in a temperature-controlled car, spend the day in an office, and come home without ever feeling the outside air for more than a few minutes. Modern humans are the very first species since the jellyfish that can almost completely ignore their natural obstacles to survival.

Yet comfort’s golden age has a hidden dark side. While we can imagine what a difficult environment might feel like, very few of us routinely experience the stresses of our forebears. With no challenge to overcome, frontier to press, or threat to flee from, the humans of this millennium are overstuffed, overheated, and under-stimulated. The struggles of us privileged denizens of the developed world—getting a job, funding a retirement, getting kids into a good school, posting the right social media update—pale in comparison to the daily threats of death or deprivation that our ancestors faced. Despite this apparent victory, success over the natural world hasn’t made our bodies stronger. Quite the opposite, in fact: Effortless comfort has made us fat, lazy, and increasingly in ill health.

The developed world no longer suffers from diseases of deficiency. Instead we get the diseases of excess. This century has seen an explosion of obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, hypertension, and even a resurgence of gout. Millions of people suffer from autoimmune ailments—from arthritis to allergies, and from lupus to Crohn’s and Parkinson’s disease—where the body literally attacks itself. It is almost as if there are so few external threats to contend with that all our stored energy instead wreaks havoc on our insides.

There is a growing consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for eternal and effortless homeostasis. Evolution made us seek comfort because comfort was never the norm. Human biology needs stress—not the sort of stress that damages muscle, gets us eaten by a bear, or degrades our physiques, but the sort of environmental and physical oscillations that invigorate our nervous systems.

There is a growing consensus among many scientists and athletes that humans were not built for eternal and effortless homeostasis. Muscles, organs, nerves, fat tissue, and hormones all respond and change because of input they get from the outside world. Critically, some external signals set off a cascade of physiological responses that skip the conscious parts of our brains and connect to a place that controls a well-spring of hidden physical reactions called collectively fight-or-flight responses. For example, a plunge into ice-cold water not only triggers a number of processes to warm the body, but also tweaks insulin production, tightens the circulatory system, and heightens mental awareness. A person actually has to get uncomfortable and experience that frigid cold if they want to initiate those systems. But who wants to do that? The bulk of us don’t see environmental stress in the same light as we do, say, exercise; there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason to leave our shells of environmental bliss.

Maybe that’s not entirely fair. In recent years a counterculture has tried to push back against technological overzealousness to reclaim some of our animal nature. They’ve shucked fancy footwear for flat shoes (and some cases no shoes at all). They’ve turned away from climate-controlled exercise gyms in favor of rough obstacle courses and boot camps that force muscle groups to work in unison. They’re hacking their diets: eating tubers and meat and foregoing grains reminiscent of our Paleolithic ancestors. At least eight million people have bought a product called the Squatty Potty, a device for the toilet to help a person poop in a squatting stance like our pre-toileted forebears did.

Millions more sign up for obstacle course races that feature electrified grids, pools of freezing water, and grueling climbs over wooden barriers. They compete until they are so bone tired that their muscles shake. They puke in the mud with tears in their eyes. It’s not exhilaration they’re seeking: it’s suffering. Their pain is so much on the forefront of the experience that the industry of obstacle courses and boot camps are sometimes called “sufferfests.” Think about that for a second: There are companies out there that literally make fortunes by selling suffering. How did pain become a luxury good? Could it be that there is a specific sort of pain that might serve a hidden evolutionary function?

Advanced technology permeates everything we do, but the people who decide to abandon some of that comfort for the rawness of nature represent an indigenous ethos that has almost been wiped out by a societal desire for comfort. They’re learning that if they embrace the way their bodies respond to the natural world, they can unlock a hidden wellspring of animal strength.

For most of our evolutionary past, comfort was a rare treat and stress was a constant. The lower parts of our brain formed in environments where there were always physical challenges to overcome, and those challenges were part of what made us human in the first place. Despite all of our technology, our bodies are just not ready for a world so completely tamed by our desire for comfort. Without stimulation, the responses that were designed to fight environmental challenges don’t always lie dormant. Sometimes they turn inward and wreak havoc on our insides.

This book is largely about what happens when we reexamine our relationship with the environment and see ourselves as a part of something bigger than the comfortable spaces we mostly choose to live in. It explores how changing the environment around the body also fundamentally changes the body itself. More importantly, it shows how it is possible to manipulate our external environment to trigger autonomic responses in predictable ways. Once you realize that you can manipulate deep parts of your physiology by intentionally tweaking identifiable pre-programmed responses, you can begin to cede aspects of that automation to your consciousness.

It’s a strange claim to make for an investigative journalist who has spent much of his career trying to debunk false prophets and medical voodoo. For that matter, it’s an odd statement for a man whose spirit animal is still mostly made of “jelly.” But these findings are grounded in current science and the real lives of people around the globe who have taken control of their bodies to an extraordinary extent.

This is an edited excerpt from Scott’s book, What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @sgcarney.