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July 10, 2012

The Delphi Technique: a way to silence dissent and bring a group to your consensus

Have you ever been broken out into small groups with facilitators and white boards and forced to discuss trivial problems while ignoring the larger ones? You've probably been at the receiving end of the Delphi Technique. It's a management technique for quelling large groups of people into submission, busted out frequently at raucous schoolboard meetings or town halls or in corporate offices when a particularly noxious change is being floated (which is my own personal experience with it). The idea is that by breaking a large group that could ordinarily benefit from hearing what each other have to say and could potentially turn on whatever awful idea the organizers have into many small groups you isolate the "troublemakers" and by having a facilitator stay on-message in each of those groups and control the conversation with a whiteboard or flip pad you end up ramming your agenda through in a way that doesn't appear malevolent. Click through for more about this method AND for how to short-circuit it. Delphi Technique Reading Massachusetts
The Delphi Technique. What Is It? "The goal of the Delphi technique is to lead a targeted group of people to a predetermined outcome, while giving the illusion of taking public input and under the pretext of being accountable to the public." The Delphi Technique is a calculated method some administrators (such as school superintendents), committees (such as a school committee or school building committee), group facilitators and special interest groups (some ballot question groups and less-than-honorable architectural firms) use to achieve "consensus." Through the use of the Delphi Technique and the promotion of an "us" vs "them" mentality among the citizens of a community, dissenting voices are identifed, marginalized and discredited and the (often hidden) agendas of various groups and controlling individuals promoted. . . .

June 29, 2012

Genetics: Making tomatoes more red makes them taste awful

Flavor Is the Price of Tomatoes’ Scarlet Hue, Geneticists Say - NYTimes.com
Yes, they are often picked green and shipped long distances. Often they are refrigerated, which destroys their flavor and texture. But now researchers have discovered a genetic reason that diminishes a tomato’s flavor even if the fruit is picked ripe and coddled. The unexpected culprit is a gene mutation that occurred by chance and that was discovered by tomato breeders. It was deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes because it conferred an advantage: It made them a uniform luscious scarlet when ripe. Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, researchers report that the very gene that was inactivated by that mutation plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are the essence of a fragrant, flavorful tomato. And these findings provide a road map for plant breeders to make better-tasting, evenly red tomatoes. The discovery “is one piece of the puzzle about why the modern tomato stinks,” said Harry Klee, a tomato researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved in the research. “That mutation has been introduced into almost all modern tomatoes. Now we can say that in trying to make the fruit prettier, they reduced some of the important compounds that are linked to flavor.” The mutation’s effect was a real surprise, said James J. Giovannoni of the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service, an author of the paper. He called the wide adoption of tomatoes that ripen uniformly “a story of unintended consequences.”