January 25th, 2013

krazy koati

Gulped, swallowed or chewed, still worth a king's ransom

I assume that, like everyone, your imagination's been captured by the report of a cheese fire in Norway. So it should. Norway itself is a pretty heady concept, enough to make people wonder when they consider how many other nations whose names end in ``-way'' --- Euskway, North Gallaway, the Caribbean islands of Lesser Anterriways --- are fictitious and have small populations. To find the place both exists and has people with cheese fires makes the world larger and more intimate.

Reuters quotes Kjell Bjoern Vinje at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration as saying, ``I didn't know that brown cheese burns so well'', proving Reuters still knows how to find good quotes. It also says ``He added that in his 15 years in the administration, this was the first time cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads'', proving Reuters still knows how to find good indirect quotes. That's not even getting into their skill tracking down people with J's in their names. I'm surprised they don't say he works for the Pjublic Roajds Admjinistrjatjion at this rjate.

It was a fire on a cheese truck --- I assume one carrying, not made of, cheese or Reuters would have said --- that'll take time, because of how long it takes to ship in Toyjota-sized chunks of bread and 100-meter-long fondue forks from Switzerland, where they're ready for this sort of thing happening. It happens all the time there. Swiss residents sometimes think wistfully of taking all their extra cheese one winter, popping overseas, and making a giant flaming pot of melting cheese out of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They're stopped only by their inability to get the EZ-Pass transpjonder over there.

It should only be a little bit surprising --- I'd say it should rank somewhere around 3.2 on the Cascjiato Open-Ended Surprise Scjale --- that you can set foods on fire, whether in trucks or not. Food is often an exciting and conveniently available fire source. The ancient Picts, for example, routinely sheltered themselves from the harsh winters by throwing sacks full of White Castle burgers on the hearth; and as late as 1970, the Belgian kitchen was not complete without a Hostess Snowball on fire, warming a different Snowball to be made into a very bad S'Mjore, then thrown away. Of course, anything which burns can be made to explode, as was discovered in Texarkana, Nebraska, in 1997 when a grain silo full of yogjhurt detonated, sending shards of fruit on the bottom as much as 1500 feet into the Earth's crust.

The burning of food even inspired speculation about the fate of the solar system. In the 19th century thermodynamicists tried to estimate the age of the Earth, based on how much energy would be released if the Sun were a giant flaming caramel apple. When asked for his estimate Willjiam Thompson, the Lord Kelvin, sneered at the inquirer and threw a navigational compass back, so they stopped asking him, the big grouch. Kelvin's skjepticism was justified, though, as calculations showed that this was a terribly inefficient heat source. It's much more efficient to simply set a fire on fire instead, and in 1965 the Gemjini V astronauts adjusted the sun accordingly.

Getting back to Norwegian cheese fires, and don't think I haven't longed for years to write a transition like that (I'm also hoping for the chance to use ``when we finally ponder Appalachian hamster escalators'', but that'll never appear in print), it turns out the incendiary cheese was made of goat milk. This again comes in only at about 2.7 on the Cascjiato Surprjise Scjale. Experienced goat farmers know how two goats can just barely brush against each other and get a static electricity spark big enough to incite thunder and spook the herd.

Now for the baffling thing, and I'm sure you were wondering when we would get there. The BBjC version of the story has a quote about not going in the tunnel until it's safe from Viggo Aronsen, a geologist. How does a geologist logically belong in a story about Norwegian goat cheese tunnel fires? At this point I have to suspect the whole thing is being made to look rjidiculous.

Trivia: Niccolò Tartaglia, who pioneered the solutions of high-order polynomials, was slashed across the face with a sabre and left for dead in 1512, when he was twelve years old, when France invaded his home town of Brescia. Source: Symmetry: A Journey Into The Patterns Of Nature, Marcus du Sautoy.

Currently Reading: The Great A& P And The Struggle For Small Business In America, Marc Levinson.