Monday, February 26, 2007

Marketing the Rutabaga

ARSI President Obie MacAroon III has directed your organization to prepare a major spring drive to promote rutabaga consumption.

ARSI's most recent market survey discloses that, despite the strong nutritional values of our product, the American public remains woefully unaware of the true virtues of the rutabaga. The latest statistics for market share (January, 2007) of the Big Five reveal the following:

  • Percentage of U.S. Market - Big Five root vegetables/tubers

    Potato.......................99.94843 %
    Sweet potato.................00.00766

  • Miscellaneous roots and tubers (beetroots, yams, parsnips, celeriacs, kohlrabi, salsify, scorzonera, skirret, chervils, rampions and scolymus) occupy the remainder of the root market. [Note: The carrot and radish were excluded because they fill a different market niche.]

The Sad Reality: The market share of rutabagas, after reaching a historic peak in 1933, is lower than at any time in modern history. This crisis will be addressed aggressively by your organization with a consumer-education strategy. Its first goal is to implement the "Bury the Turnip" campaign, now under development. This program will allow the rutabaga to finally overtake and eliminate the turnip, our traditional rival. Stay tuned for further details as this exciting campaign gets underway.

Monday, February 19, 2007

UPDATE: Asteroid Apophis approaches

As noted in The Rutabagan just two days ago, a draft UN treaty has been completed to facilitate contingency planning for potential asteroid collisions with the earth. Today, ABC News reports that a likely candidate, asteroid Apophis, will pass very close to the earth in 2029 and again, even more closely, in 2036. Here are some excerpts from ABC's story :
"Circle your calendar. April 13th, 2036 could be a really, really bad day on planet Earth...

"Dr. Dan Barry, a retired astronaut, told ABC News, 'Even if the probability is low of an asteroid hitting Earth, if it has the potential to have a significant impact, then it has to be looked at. It is the absolutely responsible thing to do. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to do so.'

"Barry said more research is needed so that when a potentially dangerous asteroid is found, there is a plan in place. He said it is therefore important to start the search for asteroids now, to allow enough time to effectively deal with them.

"Scientists believe that if advance warnings of dangerous asteroids like Apophis can be made decades in advance, there will be enough time to try and knock them off course.

"Nobody knows for sure what it would take to push a massive asteroid off its course, but the theoretical possibilities include detonating weapons on an asteroid's surface or using gravitational pull to alter a possible collision course. But it could also break an asteroid into many pieces, all still headed toward Earth.

"Some scientists say a better option could be to launch a large satellite to rendezvous with an asteroid. The mass of the satellite alone could produce enough gravitational pull to change the asteroid's course. [ARSI's emphasis.] Another suggestion is to crash a spacecraft into an asteroid in the hopes of changing its direction.

"'Done far enough away, only a small deflection would be needed and it is kept in one piece,' said Barry...

"So, while astronauts blowing up an asteroid may be movie fiction for now, scientists are already thinking about how to save Earth from a massive asteroid possibly on its way."

Scientists estimate that there are 200,000 to 400,000 large "celestial objects" that could "come within range of our home planet."

As reported here on Saturday, ARSI physicists are already creating a plan to launch a giant rutabaga whose gravity could deflect an asteroid's course. Alternatively, the rutabaga could be used as a missile to obliterate the asteroid.

Another intriguing alternative involves assembling a "cluster" of 100,000 ordinary rutabagas, with a total mass of 150 tons (140,000 kg), in lunar orbit. The rutabagas would be tightly held together by a giant fishing net, then launched toward asteroid Apophis. This interplanetary "barge" could be towed into close proximity of the asteroid, where it would be able to exert enough gravitational tug to deflect its course.

Numerous questions still have to be resolved. For example, physicists are now trying to determine whether such a large mass of rutabagas in lunar orbit would pose any risk of deforming the moon's course around the earth.

Maybe it's time for a Department of Home Planet Security.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Interplanetary mission for rutabagas

The BBC reports that a "draft UN treaty" will prepare the way for a contingency plan to deal with potential collisions between the earth and giant asteroids. As required by Congress some years ago, NASA has been monitoring 127 "near-earth objects" that pose a risk of entering the earth's atmosphere. The final treaty should be ready for approval by 2009. The draft treaty is the result of intense lobbying by the Association of Space Explorers.

ARSI is already preparing to bid on the lucrative government contracts that the treaty will inevitably produce. So far, ARSI physicists have found two possible applications of the rutabaga to the asteroid defense program:

  • The extreme macromolecular densities of conventional rutabagas—not to mention genetically-modified hybrids—could offer a major advantage in the intense competition that is sure to come. ARSI physicists estimate that a single rutabaga weighing 1,200 kg/2,640 lbs could generate enough gravitational force (as documented on our website) to deflect an asteroid from a collision course, especially if the rutabaga interception occurs far from earth.
  • Used as a projectile, a genetically-modified rutabaga could disintegrate an asteroid up to 4 cubic km. in size. A large rutabaga launched at a speed of 25 km or 15 miles per second could generate forces equal to a 1 megaton nuclear explosion.
International recognition of the asteroid threat is long overdue. According to the BBC, NASA "estimates that there are about 20,000 potentially threatening asteroids yet to be discovered. 'This has gone from being an esoteric statistical argument to talking about real events,' added Dr David Morrison, an astronomer at the Nasa's Ames Research Center."

Rest assured that your organization is poised to exploit this opportunity to serve humankind in an unprecedented international endeavor.

GRAPHIC: Don Davis, NASA [Note: The object hitting the earth is an asteroid, not a giant rutabaga.]

Around the web

The Los Angeles Times reports that a 75.75 pound Alaskan rutabaga has taken the title of the world's largest rutabaga in the "Heaviest Fruit and Vegetables" category of the Guinness World Records book. [NOTE: Last year, in a controversial decision, the Guiness judges refused to accept a 378.22 pound rutabaga grown in ARSI's experimental labs on the ground that it was "genetically engineered."]

Staff writer Walter Nicholls of the Washington Post, in an article headlined Chefs Transform the Unlovable Rutabaga, notes that "the rutabaga is having a moment in the spotlight." Upscale restaurants are now serving rutabagas with lobster, shrimp stew and "creamy rutabaga soup laced with maple syrup and seasoned with cayenne pepper." Nicholls mentions ARSI's sustained efforts to rehabilitate the rutabaga, but only in passing.

Meanwhile, North Dakota Public Radio's Plains Folk, raises doubts about the credibility of Forest Grove's claim to be the "Rutabaga Capital of the World Since 1951." A hint of envy here, perhaps?

GRAPHIC: John Evans of Palmer, Alaska, with one of his giant rutabagas. He and Mary Evans, his spouse, have accumulated a vast number of prizes for the quantity and quality of their giant vegetable crops.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nanotechnology discovers the rutabaga

Can you imagine a car composed of 25% rutabaga fiber? This prospect is the subject of serious research in nanotechnology at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Forestry. In an interview in the Toronto Daily Mail, Professor Mohini Sain states that "biocomposites" from processed plant fibers may be used in many industrial applications, including auto manufacturing, within five years. Sain states:
"When I put natural fibre in, I take out glass fibre and synthetic plastics. It reduces the consumption of crude oil... In another very exciting area of nanotechnology, we are working on developing commercially viable technology to obtain nano-cellulose fibres from wood fibre, agro-fibre and root fibres (such as rutabaga). We have already demonstrated the excellent performance of these fibres when they are added in a plastic as reinforcement."

Cruciferian Website of the Day

Thanks to our friends at Endless Harvestan organic food delivery service in Ymir, British Columbiafor devoting much of their latest newsletter to the noble rutabaga. They were also kind enough to spread the word about ARSI's internationally-famous recipe for mashed rutabagas. EH's website offers a number of useful links for producers and consumers of organic vegetables, including recommendations on storage. It's gratifying to see that EH and its customers in the stunning Kootenay country are on the cutting edge, so to speak, of the contemporary cruciferian lifestyle.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A response from Mr. Keillor

ARSI staff was pleased, and a bit surprised, to receive an immediate response to our invitation to Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion to visit our headquarters in Forest Grove. Here, verbatim, is a portion of the email that we received last night:

"Thanks for your interest in a touring broadcast of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

"When A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION goes on tour, we usually do so in partnership with the local public radio station that carries our show, at their invitation. We only do a few tour dates each season, and we have over 580 public radio stations that carry the program. Competition for a spot on our touring calendar is very keen. It is likely that your public radio station is aware of this, and has already made an application for a tour visit. We receive many applications each year.

"There are some important responsibilities that are assigned to the station that invites us to their community: they must rent an appropriate theater and its equipment; they must cover local stagehand costs, provide local accommodations for our company (up to 75 room nights), and provide local transportation and catering. Due to the expenses incurred on both sides, and also to provide enough seats people to see the show, we recommend a hall that seats a minimum of 2500 people. We find that, even with that size hall, stations must carefully analyze the expenses and their ability to undertake an event of this size. Because the costs for these local expenses (theater rental, stagehands, and hotel rooms) vary from location to location, there is no set fee that we can quote for an appearance. We arrange a formula to share the ticket sale income with the sponsoring station, and we do find that the event sells out in every community that we visit.

"If you would like to pursue this further, or are a part of an organization that might like to underwrite a tour visit, please be in touch with your local public radio station. Thanks again for your interest in A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Thanks and keep listening."

No doubt a personal message from Mr. Keillor to President Obie MacAroon is soon to follow. We're already looking forward to working with Oregon Public Broadcasting to arrange PHC's inevitable visit to ARSI.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Quote of the Month

"The meaning of life is a rutabaga..."
Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion (February 3, 2007)
In an earlier show (December 31, 2005), Mr. Keillor showed an appreciation of the rutabaga that we at ARSI deeply appreciated (especially his dissing of the turnip), but he also referred to a shadowy organization that either never existed, unfortunately, or has ceased to exist. Here is the text of his comments:
"Garrison Keillor: ...brought to you by RCA, the Rutabaga Council of America, representing America's most under-appreciated vegetable, rutabagas.

"So many people confuse rutabagas with turnips. They're not alike at all. Rutabagas have a pleasant yellow-orange color, large friendly-looking leaves, and a smooth dense texture. Turnips are fish-belly white and purple on top like a bad bruise and have hairy leaves and taste brackish, like swamp water. Rutabagas are the root crop that any sensible person would prefer.

"Rutabaga — it's suitable for any occasion. Rutabagas' firm yet impetuous flavor go well with Bordeauxs, Chablis, or even champagne. Use julienned rutabagas to clear the palate before dessert. Stir-fried rutabagas can bulk up any Chinese dish. Or how about rutabaga ratatouille. And instead of an olive in your Martini, why not try a rutabaga wedge.

"Rutabaga— it's America's under-utilized vegetable."
Nicely stated! As for the mysterious RCA, its leadership never contacted Obie MacAroon or anyone at ARSI, so we harbor a certain skepticism about its very existence.


Recognizing a fellow rutabagan when he sees one, President Obie MacAroon III authorized the following invitation to Mr. Keillor and Prairie Home Companion:
Your devoted fans at the Advanced Rutabaga Studies Institute (ARSI) noted with great pleasure your recent declaration that "life is a rutabaga," and we couldn't agree more. In that spirit, we are delighted to inform you that February has been declared "National Rutabaga Month."

To promote deeper public appreciation of the rutabaga, we invite you to bring your show to Forest Grove, Oregon, the Rutabaga Capital of the World since 1951. ARSI's International Headquarters is located just 22 miles west of Portland in one of the oldest and grandest towns in Oregon. Forest Grove is also the home of Pacific University, the oldest university west of the Mississippi.

Our growing staff of ARSI rutabagans and rutabotanists has been delighted by your continuing efforts to raise awareness of this lowly root vegetable--and to expose the many deficiencies of the turnip, its rival for market share.

In your show on December 31, 2005, you piqued our interest with some astute comments on the virtues of the rutabaga and a reference to the "Rutabaga Council of America."

So whatever became of the RCA? Its leadership never contacted President Obie MacAroon III or anyone else at ARSI, nor did they apply for one of our generous Founder's Grants. Efforts by our researchers to locate the RCA have, so far, been fruitless. We would appreciate any leads that you or your staff may be able to provide.

I hope you will respond favorably to our invitation to come to Forest Grove. We would be honored to give you a tour of ARSI's vast laboratory complex and experimental rutabaga fields during your next visit to Oregon
Stay tuned for details on PHC's visit. Our staff will work closely with Mr. Keillor to arrange a memorable show in Forest Grove.

GRAPHIC "Rutabaga Mama," from Carruth Studios, the fine sculpture gallery of George Carruth

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pushing the edge

Last November, with little fanfare, ARSI acquired 263 acres of logged-over land (left) in the foothills of the Coast Range near our headquarters in Forest Grove. In May, we'll be planting several experimental rutabaga varieties that we expect to thrive in northern latitudes under a global-warming regime. The conditions in our new fields will approximate those of northern Labrador or Quebec in about fifty years. ARSI rutabotanists project that a hundred million acres of cultivable lands will become available worldwide during that time. By developing new varieties of seed for planting in such once-marginal regions, we expect that the rutabaga will be poised to greatly increase its share of the global market for root vegetables.