Like Butter in the Bank

A strategic reserve is a commodity held back by governments to stabilize prices or protect against shortage. Your mind may go immediately to the 35 million barrels or so of crude oil that the US has in storage, but there are all kinds of strategic reserves around the world. From cotton in China, to butter and wine in the EU, to the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, we talk about strange stockpiles (mostly food) and their effect on producers and consumers.

Buried beneath the earth in central Russia, squirreled away in former mine tunnels, sits a top-secret cache of cereals, sugar, canned meat, and other food staples. The site is considered a state secret; even the exact location isn’t known by anyone who doesn’t need to know it. We do know that the complex is vast, climate controlled, airtight, and nuke-proof. The facility also includes a laboratory, so that the food can be tested against the government’s nutritional standards, and the inventory is rotated on the regular, to ensure that none of it goes bad. Today, we’ll be focusing on stockpiles of sustenance, collections of commestibles, these funds of foodstuffs. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.

A strategic reserve is the reserve of a commodity or items that is held back from normal use by governments, organisations, or businesses in pursuance of a particular strategy or to cope with unexpected events. Your mind may go immediately to the 35 million barrels or so of crude oil that the US has in storage, but there are all kinds of strategic reserves, sometimes called stockpiles, throughout the world.

The rationing, deprivation, and economic collapse that were part and parcel to WWII affected the lives of Europeans so profoundly that the European Economic Community, a precursor to the European Union, began subsidizing farmers. Farmers have never been raking in the big bucks, even when the are outstanding in their field [rimshot], but they were no longer able to rely on it to support their families, especially on land pock-marked with those pesky bomb craters. Under-production was endemic to the 1950’s.

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The Last Word(s)

We assign a great deal of significant to last words. We expect them to be deep and profound, the sort of thing you immortalize on a $3,000 headstone. We hope we’ll say something really clever when it’s our turn, and not “what’s this button do?” or “hold my beer.”  But you may end up with last words like American author Henry David Thoreau, who simply said “moose…Indian.” From the profound to the prophetic, from the ironic to the ignominious, from founding fathers to TV stars, we look into the final utterances of the famous and infamous alike.

“I am about to — or I am going to — die; either expression is correct.” These were the last words of 17th century French Jesuit priest, grammarian, and man after my own heart, Dominique Bonhours. That’s right up there with 18th century aristocrat the Marquis de a Favras, who pronounced, “I see you have made three spelling mistakes,” as he read over his own death warrant. We assign a great deal of significant to last words. We expect them to be deep and profound, the sort of thing you immortalize on a $3,000 headstone. We hope we’ll say something really clever when it’s our turn, and not “what’s this button do?” or “hold my beer and watch this.” But you may end up with last words like American author Henry David Thoreau, who simply said “moose…Indian.” My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.

Many people think Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde’s last words were, “Either this wallpaper goes or I do.” That would be typical Wilde, but there are two small factual inaccuracies there. The actual quote is “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do,” and he said this a few weeks before he died. Oscar Wilde’s actual last words were a mumbled Catholic prayer. He did also say toward the end of his life, as he lay in bed sipping champagne, ”I am dying beyond my means.” With about a third of the world being Christian, it’s not surprising that God gets mentioned a fair amount. When the priest performing last rites for Charlie Chaplain reached the line,“may God have mercy on your soul,” Chaplain replied, “Why not? After all, it belongs to him.”

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