So I just got done reading an interesting article which I think is a transcript of a speech given at the Museum of Natural History in New York by Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, which if you haven't read it is a very interesting book about the geographical and cultural coincidences that have shaped the course of human history. (It's not without its problems, but it's definitely a worthwhile read.) Anyway, the article is called "How to Get Rich", although of course that's just a catchy title and if you read it you can draw your own conclusions as to what it's really about. I'd summarize it as a discussion of the social, cultural, and historical factors that shape the course of human economies and technological development, and speculation about what level of organization works best for organizing groups of people (in particular, groups of people producing things, so think companies).
Anyway, I was motoring through it just fine, a little annoyed that it was comparing the relative efficiencies of various industries without ever defining efficiency, and then I stumbled across the sentence "...the German beer industry suffers from small-scale production." Oops, what now? I'd much sooner say the U.S. beer industry suffers from large-scale production! While I understand it's inefficient for everybody to produce everything they need on their own, beer included, at a certain point you get efficient to the point of producing Budweiser and Coors, and really, who wants that? Likewise, a little later Diamond says "...chicken in Japan costs $25 a pound. The reason the Japanese can get away with that is that Japanese chicken producers are not exposed to competition with super-efficient American chicken producers." Dude. If by "super-efficient American chicken producers" he means factory farms where the birds are pumped full of hormones and don't have room to move, count me on the side of the inefficient. Diamond also mentions the fact that beef is really expensive in Japan, but not the fact that it's so cheap in the U.S. because it's highly subsidized by the government, so that annoyed me as well. Anyway... it was a thought-provoking piece, but it's kind of long, so consider yourselves warned.
Updated to add: Oh, and tonight's successful culinary experiment of sorts is: If you've got some granola that's gone a little chewy from sitting out too long, you can bring back the crunch by putting it on a baking sheet and toasting it in the oven for a bit (I just put mine in the toaster oven, set to toast medium-lightly). It'll be soft when you get it out of the oven, but crunchy when it cools! Yay!