Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues





"History is just people doing things"


                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 317......May 2022

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com



Nematodes are a big family of little worms a millimeter or two long with worldwide distribution. They’re about as tough as related tardigrades of which the Correspo has recently spoken. Sometimes you’re glad to have nematodes eating other little critters that prey on the crops in your fields. Companies even sell beneficial nematodes to spread in the fields. Then again, other types of nematodes are unwelcome to farmers raising crops like soybeans and potatoes, “taking 10% of crops worldwide every year.” (I watched a farmer friend make a decision one morning about whether or not to spray a 3000 acre soybean field with anti-nematode potion. He knew there was some nematode infestation, but also knew that if it were to rain…and the weather was uncertain…the potion would have no helpful effect. At $10/acre for the potion, he was making a $30K bet, one among several scary bets in a week.) A team at North Carolina State University has been experimenting successfully with a new approach to shooing nematodes away from potatoes, sharply increasing yields while dramatically reducing the amount of anti-nematode potion used.  They start by  collecting the waste stems from which bananas are harvested, grinding them to small particles, making a slurry of that material, and spreading it thin to dry. That provides sheets of “banana paper.” They wrap the potatoes they are planting (small pieces of potato containing “eyes” from which new plants grow) in the banana paper and stick them in the ground. The paper contains natural chemicals that prevent the nematodes from detecting the aroma of delicious new potato roots, so the new plants thrive. In a somewhat more complicated version of this, the paper is treated with a very small amount of anti-nematode potion…making the overall application of the stuff less than 5% of what would be sprayed in a field…and net potato production is enormously increased. It sounds labor-intensive to wrap the seed potatoes that way and one supposes that it helps to be working where bananas are grown (the team has been working in Africa), but the risk/reward ratio looks appealing. Nobody has speculated in the reports we’ve seen about wrapping soybeans in banana paper when planting, but maybe some analog of the potato method would be helpful.



It was startling the other day to encounter a group of folks riding horses in Corrales, not because horses are unusual in that rural community, but because one of the riders was in a saddle atop a huge draft horse among the usual equestrian mounts. (This rider and her horse effectively stared down impatient drivers as the troupe crossed the road.) This recalls Mado’s report of their first encounter with German soldiers during the WWII invasion as she and her mom and sister fled Brussels to the family home in La Flèche in France. Some of the invading soldiers were riding draft horses bareback, transport they’d picked up from farms along the way. It seemed incongruous then as now. Surprisingly WWII featured more than one cavalry charge (we’re talking real horses, not tanks). I had long thought that a 1939 Polish Cavalry charge was the last in “modern” times, but even more recent activities of that sort have occurred. See this and this. Think Green Berets.

A friend received a Bronze Star for his participation

in the Battle of the Bulge. All he’d say about it was,

“There was a hassle and I helped hassle.” When

pressed once, he admitted that he had been in the

Artillery. “The Infantry walks. The Artillery rides.”




In their concentration on efforts to guide automated vehicles the media found time recently to report on successful efforts to train a fish to guide a vehicle...not a boat, surprisingly, but a wheeled vehicle. (The second video at the site is more informative.) This recalls Iben Browning’s report of chatting with animal trainers at John C. Lilly’s porpoise establishment long since. Those folks were persuading a variety of improbable animals to perform tasks. “The turtles must be quite a challenge,” said Iben. A trainer just shrugged, commenting “If it eats, we can train it.” Fish eat.



The Correspo has touched more than once on substantial commercial efforts to produce meat… hamburger, steaks, chicken, fish, etc…by means other than growing animals and killing them, on the theory that the process can be more humane and will provide big environmental benefits. We shall see. A company called Compound Foods is with decent funding now developing artificial methods to produce coffee, ideally in varieties with all the nuances the coffee connoisseurs seem to detect and appreciate. No specific humanitarian issue in this, apart from the reduction of need for pesticides (do nematodes like coffee?), but one worries about the coffee farmers and their employees, along with ranchers and their cowboys, fishermen, the manufacturers of coffee grinders and all that. We have managed to get along without needing many buggy whips and without a whole lot of swords as technology has changed, but the social aspects of changing the source of coffee (no, not Postum) are intriguing.



In the Item From The Past below I’d first typed “Cripes!” instead of “Challenges abound.” considering it a pretty much inoffensive expression like “Yipe!” but thinking on it, of course it’s another euphemism for “Christ!” This recalls participating in a radio production of some Restoration Comedy years ago in which a character expressed annoyance by saying “Zounds!” The Yankee actor pronounced it “zownds.” The director stopped him to explain that this was very strong language in its time, not just a quaint phrase, but a shortened version of “God’s Wounds!” and would be spoken with vehemence. Our daily languages are fraught with little leftovers of meaning of which we’re mostly unaware.




This item from 2006 is brought to mind by the

current confusion arising from the change in

this new Covid Era from gathering in offices

for work to performing that work remotely.


Americans, who worry a lot about high blood pressure, are sometimes startled to hear that the French worry more about low blood pressure, and take steps to prevent it. One hears also that the epidemic of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the United States, attributed to repetitious activity like working at a keyboard, is virtually unknown in some countries where similar percentages of the population engage in the same activities. It isn’t just that folks there are too stupid or stubborn to recognize the problem...they really don’t have it. Expectation seems to have much to do with creating real effects. An acquaintance who is involved in setting up production plants for a multinational company (they go to places like secondary cities in China, where the culture is notably different from that in Wichita or Buffalo) reports some surprising experiences. In Vietnam, for example, official doctrine reportedly declares that an eight hour workday is virtually built into the laws of Nature so firmly that any increase over eight hours of work will have physically debilitating effects on the workers. Taught by enthusiastic believers in this idea, the population at large has embraced it. A number of multinationals these days are organized on a four-day work week with ten-hour shifts on those days. The scheme is popular with employees in many Western countries because it gives them regular three-day weekends to use as they will. Since company operations in different time zones all over the world are coordinated, operating any one plant on a different schedule becomes complicated. When one multinational negotiated a trial of the four-days-of-ten-hours schedule in Vietnam, workers fell ill, even fainted when working the longer shifts. The employees weren’t malingering; they were really affected, not by working longer hours, but by their belief that it was bad for them. Obviously, Americans have also cultivated a variety of superstitions that produce real physical and mental effects...some of them presumably desirable... that have no other detectable causes. One wonders what they are, and how to change them or preserve them.

The general perception, quite new in society, is

that that anybody who carries a smartphone is

not only available for communication at any

time in any place, has access to immense

resources, and is equipped to use them for

productive work. 

It’s almost true; everybody now seems to have a

smartphone, and knows how to use it better than I. 

This gives us frightening vulnerabilities along with

empowering flexibility while reducing the need to

pay rent for office space, buy furniture, and

hire cleaning services.

The “virtual company” whose people may be spread

all over the world, and may be constantly on the

move, their locations unknown, did not begin with

Covid, of course. Some of us began slipping ever

deeper into that mode some decades ago, but until

the last few months, this was not a universal cause

for private soul-searching and public concern.

Just sticking to the narrower consideration of

employee health touched on in this item from sixteen

years ago…there are some practical as well as moral

issues in this. Governments have begun to pass laws

forbidding companies to contact employees outside

of specified working hours, basically because it seems

like exploiting them.

Well, yeah, but I’ve had meetings at four in the

morning with people who were alertly having their

third cup of coffee at their desks at ten in the morning

in Europe. Whose time do you go by?

An associate is managing work in as many as sixteen

different time zones, and is often exhausted by trying

to communicate with everybody only in their suitable

working hours.

The media have recently featured discussions of

conventional sleep hours, pointing out that the

habit of sleeping a good eight hours each night is

fairly recent…in other eras, two shorter sleep

periods were considered normal. The number

and timing of meals in a day (“but we haven’t had

second breakfast!”) seems also to depend not only

on the availability of food, but the habits of local


The use of random work hours in random locations

is enabled by new communications technology that

society has not yet assimilated, and which will be

changing as we proceed. It’s always hard to figure

out what’s real, and what’s superstition. It’s even

harder when you’re dog-tired.

Just a note: The smartwatch I bought a few days ago

to aid my activity in virtual companies does much of

its work through my still-a-mystery smartphone. So

far I cannot reliably get the watch to show me what

time it is, but it keeps telling me to stand up for a

couple of minutes and congratulating me patronizingly

if I happen to do it for other reasons. Maybe the copy

of Apple Watch for Dummies that arrived this morning

will help to sort out these issues. Challenges abound.


Everybody is a Somebody


After some years of working and reworking, this has become a real book, via Lulu Publishing. The blurb on the back (under a picture of the author looking unnaturally cheerful) says:

 “This book is Nels Winkless’s wry look at his half-century-and-more as a “professional outsider” writing, editing, interpreting, presenting new ideas, and serving as a sounding board for interesting people who have influenced some of the major technical developments of the era. While fascinated by the dazzling advance of technology, he’s most intrigued by the savage resistance people have to every sort of change, making technical progress virtually miraculous, and he suggests an explanation for this puzzling conflict.
   His recollections of the work and people are often funny, sometimes painful, and usually surprising.

ISBN: 978-0-557-05785-6                        Review(s)               Available at


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