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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: February 3, 2007


SPERM DONORS IN DENMARK have helped to engender 12,000 children around the world according to the Cryos International Sperm Bank in Arbus, a university town on the northeast coast of Jutland. Up to 15% of men have a low sperm count which accounts for the success of an export industry estimated to be worth up to $40million a year with the largest buyers of Cryos sperm coming from Ireland, Belgium, and Finland. And although a sample of 50 million wriggling sperm in a “straw” (chilled to minus 196C and preserved in liquid nitrogen) costs about $400, treatment at a fertility clinic costs more than ten times that figure. “Denmark has a long tradition of donating” says a spokesman explaining why the country has become the world’s main exporter or sperm.

THE DISAPPEARENCE OF TEASPOONS is still a worldwide phenomenon says a Daily Telegraph columnist, that it can’t be explained by theft or normal wear and tear.  Calculating that 600,000 tons of teaspoons disappear every year, Moya Kessler links them to the disappearance of old socks and suggests that one explanation could be found in the concepts of Douglas Adams; author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  Spoons, he says, may be migrating to a planet “where they enjoy a uniquely spooned lifestyle, responding to highly spoon-oriented stimuli and generally leading the spoon equivalent of the good life.”

SUPPLIED WITH BLANKETS, linen, and a single power point, drainpipes six feet in diameter have been converted into inexpensive hotel rooms in Austria, with the first experimental ones sited near public toilets in a park beside the Danube at Ottensheim, near Linz. Tiny windows tops the 9-ton concrete rooms which can be booked at

EVEN THOUGH IT’S STILL a couple of years away, the impending battle for the late-night television audience is causing speculation in network circles now that it’s known that David Letterman will be on CBS until 2010 at least a year after Conan O’Brien takes over Jay Leno’s Tonight Show on NBC. Writing in Variety, Brian Lowry says that Leno might have felt “betrayed at being elbowed out however gently”, could be asked to stay longer, or conceivably go to Fox or ABC setting up the possibility of a Leno-Letterman-O’Brien configuration — “three larger-than-life personalities eying two established seats”.

THREE TEAMS HAVE ALREADY joined the Rocket Racing League whose events will allow spectators to watch the action on high tech monitors. “Think Indy cars in the sky” says founder Granger Whitelaw who expects to stage the first races next summer above his site near Las Cruces, NM.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Calling NASA’s plan to build a base on the moon “an outrageous waste of money”, Gregg Esterbrook writes in that “the real purpose of the base, of course, is simply to keep budget lines and contracts flowing to Nasa’s beloved contractors”…. Writing in the Nation, Eric Alterman suggested that maybe it was time for newspapers to abandon their editorial page because the age-old separation between fact and opinion was not always perceived as such by readers in search of bias…. Nudged by chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign to revitalize nutritional standards for children, British education authorities will reintroduce cookery lessons into the school syllabus next year…. Hot Tubs at a spa near Japan’s Mount Fuji are filled with a choice of green tea, sake or Beaujolais wine…. Because Britain allows foreign residents to keep their money offshore and tax only what they bring into Britain, its 34 foreign billionaires paid only $26 million last year on their combined incomes of $240 billion… Researchers at the University of Rhode Island affirm that eating more slowly consumes less calories. ”Satiety signals need time to develop” explains spokeswoman Kathleen Melanson…. Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power — Benjamin Franklin