The Universe and Me

Friday, October 21, 2016

Nothing can stop them

In the  Genesis song "Return of the Giant Hogweed," they mention the plant's name as Heracleum mantegazzianum, a name I thought they made up as something that sounded botanical and similar to regular hogweed's real name. Being far more into music than vegetation, I honestly didn't know giant hogweed was real. Come to find out, giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus ("The Russian Hills") and central Asia. It may or may not have been a "Victorian explorer" but someone brought it "long ago" in the 19th century to Britain as an ornamental plant. It has also spread to the northeast and northwest US, southern Canada and parts of Europe. It's considered a noxious weed that displaces native plants. Described as "Queen Anne's lace on steroids," a phrase Genesis may wish they thought up, umbrella shaped white flowers might be attractive but the plant's sap is phototoxic and can cause blisters and black or purple scars on human skin. Maybe next I'll find out Triffids are real.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

18 and I like it

Starting this past  month every 18 year old (about 575,000) in Italy, including foreigners, is entitled to a bonus of 500 euros, about $550 US dollars. It's the idea of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who wanted to match the billion euro increased defense and security spending with another billion designated to be spent on culture since "culture beats ignorance." Take that, rock paper scissors lizard Spock. The teens have until the end of next year to spend the entire bonus. After they register, which can be done online, they can choose from museums and galleries, theatre, ballet, concerts, movies, books, archaeological and heritage sites. Says Renzi about this unique way to fight terrorism, “They imagine terror, we answer with culture. They destroy statues, we love art. They destroy books, we are the country of libraries.”