Locusts, Blackbirds and Dragons

(a)Surviving on what's abundant, (b)the sci-fi lens, and (c)just because you can, doesn't mean you should

I missed you all last week - sometimes things just get super busy. I’m excited to have three fresh bananas for you today.

Locusts as staple crop. This is a really well told story about a pretty grave fact of life right now. Insect-based protein is all the rage as a curiosity and even a luxury wellness item here, but in war-ravaged Yemen, a plague-level infestation of locusts that feasted on anything left have quickly become the most viable staple food source. This short doc shows you what that really means for individuals, families, and merchants. Who catches locusts? How are they shared and sold? At what scale is this happening? How perishable are they - can they be converted into other forms of currency? And do they qualify as Halal (bonus reading)? If they don’t, what if you have no other choices for sustenance?

Watch the short Al Jazeera segment.


The Dragon-Blackbird and the sci-fi lens. I was captivated by these hybrid military-tech-and-myth creations (found via Dan Hon), done by artist Alex Jay Brady.

This stuff sparked my imagination in an extremely unexpected way. I have been a poor reader of Sci-fi, but it has recently struck me that the longer you live, the more reality warps and morphs before your eyes. And as that happens the more useful Sci-Fi is as a lens through which to think about the elasticity of it all.

Here’s another bit along those lines, about how the notion of zombies and vampires might inform military weaponry, from John Robb, also from Dan Hon’s feed:

Fiction and non-fiction aren’t shelved separately in life as they are in a bookstore. Ideas come from and go to everywhere.


Just give us the throttles that we can use. Latest isn’t necessarily greatest, although that pair seem to be inseparable in corporate environments. Sometimes a switch or a knob is worlds better than a digital interface. I know with making music, there’s still something about manipulating knobs, levers, wheels, and dials that engages a different part of your brain. I love digital interfaces sometimes too, but there seems to be a time for each, and one in no way reigns supreme or universal.

The story I’m sharing here demonstrates that notion that much simpler tools and technologies are sometimes far preferable to newer, cooler, more advanced gear. It just depends what the need is and how it’s best met. The Navy recently decided to go back to physical throttles and helm systems on destroyers as part of the follow-up to recent high profile collisions. It’s fascinating to hear their leadership explain what’s up. These are excerpts from Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Bill Galinis, at a keynote speech:

“As a result of innovation and a desire to incorporate new technology, ‘we got away from the physical throttles, and that was probably the number-one feedback from the fleet – they said, just give us the throttles that we can use.’”

“When we started getting the feedback from the fleet from the Comprehensive Review effort – it was SEA 21 (NAVSEA’s surface ship lifecycle management organization) that kind of took the lead on doing some fleet surveys and whatnot – it was really eye-opening. And it goes into the, in my mind, ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ category. We really made the helm control system, specifically on the [DDG] 51 class, just overly complex, with the touch screens under glass and all this kind of stuff.”

Photo of physical, manual controls instead of fully tech-ed out touchscreens

It’s a remarkably clear-eyed and astute observation, and one that merits consideration far more often than is fashionable out in the world.

Those are the bananas I found for you this week. You can hit “reply” and the email will go only to me. Help me spread the word if you like getting these. And thank you.