The indices of Harper’s Magazine

I have been a fan of Harper’s Magazine since the 1980s. In particular, I loved the Readings section, as well as the factoids list (with citations) known as Harper’s Index, near the front of each issue. Here are 100 factoids I’ve researched from over the years, dates not important, but they have been taken from issues since 2000. I have favoured factoids that are not dated, but that was difficult as many good ones with dates crept in. The URL for Harper’s magazine is http://harpers.org, and is available on some newsstands, but not as many these days as in days previous.

  • Cost to produce Safeguard, the only U.S. ground-based long-range missile shield ever deployed: $23,500,000,000
  • Number of days in the 1970s that the system was operational before it was abandoned as inadequate: 135
  • Pounds of fuel required to maintain this year’s 11,500 Olympic torches: 2,029
  • Ratio of the amount of energy generated by 1 gallon of ethanol to the amount of energy required to produce it : 1:0.9
  • Number of times Colin Powell said, “I don’t recall” or, “I can’t recall” during his 1987 Iran-Contra testimony: 56
  • Percentage of global economic activity accounted for by the world’s 200 largest corporations: 27.5
  • Percentage of the world’s population that these corporations employ: 0.8
  • Minimum number of mentally retarded Americans who have been executed by the justice system since 1976 : 35
  • Estimated chance that a U.S. prisoner is mentally retarded: 1 in 14
  • Days after Time named George W. Bush 2000’s man of the year that Russians named Vladimir Lenin man of the century: 4
  • Places by which Russia’s ranking in the U.N.’s Human Development Index of living standards has fallen since 1990 : 31
  • Rank of the United States and Britain among nations whose residents are most likely to be obese: 1,2
  • Rank of Hungary: 3
  • Ratio of the number of pardons George W. Bush has issued turkeys to those he has issued human beings: 2:1
  • Ratio of the average life span of a commercially bred turkey to that of a wild one: 1:7
  • Year in which Disney’s Mickey Mouse copyright will expire if the Supreme Court reverses a 1998 extension this winter (2002): 2003
  • Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision while he went to deposit a check: 35
  • Percentage change since 1990 (to 2003) in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled “disabled” : +37
  • Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances: 2 in 3
  • Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3
  • Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25
  • Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida (in 2004): 240
  • Percentage of the 13,129 varieties of dirt in the United States that are endangered: 4
  • Years in prison to which two ex-Pentagon officials were sentenced last year for taking bribes of money and prostitutes: 24
  • Number of years a North Carolina man has been in prison for stealing a television: 33
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March (2005), of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey: 1
  • Rank of Mein Kampf: 2
  • Average percentage by which the power of the male heart declines between the ages of 18 and 75 : 20
  • Average percentage by which the female heart does: 0
  • Amount a Chinese online gamer made last year (in 2004) by selling a virtual sword he had borrowed from a friend: $850
  • Months later that the friend retaliated by stabbing him to death with a real knife: 6
  • Number of beetles that right-wing entomologists have named after Bush Administration officials: 3
  • Number of times that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19,34
  • Number of “Wal-ocaust” T-shirts sold by a Georgia man before Wal-Mart ordered him to cease and desist: 1
  • Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1
  • Portion of states where the projected climate in 2100 will not be able to sustain their official tree or flower: 3/5
  • Number of words spoken by Clarence Thomas during Supreme Court oral arguments since February 2006 (until Aug 2007): 132
  • Number by Samuel Alito, the Justice who spoke the second-fewest words: 14,404
  • Percentage of single U.S. women in their twenties who are “very” or “extremely” willing to marry for money: 61
  • Percentage of women in their thirties who are : 74
  • Percentage change since 1985 (to 2009) in the number of U.S. newspapers with reporters covering Congress : –72
  • Percentage of six- to nine-year-old American girls (in 2009) who wear lipstick or lip gloss : 46
  • Number of poppyseed bagels that could be made with Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest : 357,000,00
  • Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire : 60
  • Number of U.S. states that have more pigs than people : 3
  • Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year : 100,000
  • Number of Bentleys purchased in Russia in 2000 and in 2010, respectively : 0, 113
  • Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead : 1/4
  • Average minutes more exercise per week that a heavy drinker gets than a non-drinker : 21
  • Portion of the total U.S. corn crop that goes to make ethanol : 2/5
  • Projected worldwide surplus of low-skill workers by 2020 : 93,000,000
  • Projected worldwide deficit of high- and medium-skill workers by that time : 85,000,000
  • Rank of China among global beer producers by volume : 1
  • Rank of the United States : 2
  • Percentage change since 1988 (to 2012) in U.S. teen-pregnancy rates : –36
  • In abstinence rates among white teens : +31
  • Among black teens : +56
  • Portion of Americans who don’t walk for at least ten continuous minutes at any point in an average week : 2/5
  • Percentage of American cats that are overweight : 58
  • Percentage of men in dual-income marriages who said they struggled with work-family conflict in 1977 : 35
  • Who say they do today (2013): 60.
  • Average annual cost of detaining an inmate at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay : $900,000
  • At a supermax prison in the United States : $65,000
  • Portion of all online advertising that is never seen by a human being : 1/2
  • Percentage of U.S. children in 1960 who lived in households headed by heterosexuals in their first marriage : 73
  • Who do today (2015) : 46
  • Estimated minimum gallons of water used annually to produce Coca-Cola products : 8,000,000,000,000
  • Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing : 1:1
  • Years in prison to which a New Mexico man was sentenced last year (in 2015) for shooting children with a semen-filled squirt gun : 18
  • Estimated number of people who will be driven into extreme poverty by 2030 because of climate change : 100,000,000
  • Percentage of the world’s civilian-owned firearms that are owned by Americans : 48
  • Number of Americans aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans : 2,800,000
  • Portion of those borrowers who have taken on debt to pay for a child or grandchild’s education : 3/4
  • Percentage of children’s toys available in Sweden that contain banned chemicals : 15
  • Of sex toys available in Sweden : 2
  • Average number of people who die in avalanches in the United States each year : 27
  • Number of FBI confidential informants (in 2017) who worked for Best Buy’s Geek Squad between 2008 and 2012 : 8
  • Rank of Nebraska among states with the least liked state flags : 1
  • Number of days in January that the flag at the state capitol flew upside down before anyone noticed : 7
  • Number of US states in which fluorescent pink is a legal color for hunting apparel : 6
  • Chance an American has taken an “active shooter” preparedness class : 1 in 10
  • Percentage of US “active shooters” from 2000 to 2016 who were killed by police : 21
  • Who were killed by armed civilians : 1
  • Number of universities in which half of all the US tenured and tenure-track history professors are trained : 8
  • Number of the twenty largest German companies that are headquartered in the former East Germany : 0
  • Rank of Germany in consumption of nonalcoholic beer : 2
  • Of Iran : 1
  • Portion of Hawaii’s drinking water that comes from underground wells : 9/10
  • Gallons of raw sewage that leak into the ground from Hawaii cesspools each day : 53,000,000
  • Percentage change since 2009 in reports of human waste on San Francisco streets (in 2018): +391
  • Chance that a given day is a public holiday in Cambodia : 1 in 13
  • Rank of Disneyland among the happiest places on earth, according to Disneyland : 1
  • Percentage of Disneyland employees who worry about being evicted from their homes : 56
  • Number of dead people Americans have elected to Congress : 6
  • Factor by which a millennial is more likely than a baby boomer to claim they have a food allergy : 2
  • Number of states that allow roadkill to be salvaged for food : 31
  • Rank of Arabic among France’s most spoken languages : 2
  • Factor by which graduate students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population : 6
  • Percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they’d like to live forever : 24
  • Of Americans over 55 : 13

In memoriam: World’s oldest living person, dead at 117

Living it up the only way you can!

There is always “the oldest living person” somewhere. Sooner or later, they will pass on, and it is someone else’s turn to be the oldest. But the demise of Nabi Tajima of Japan would not be worthy of further comment, except that it appears as though she was the last person known to have been born in the 19th century. To our knowledge, there are no longer any people born on or before 1900 living anymore. She was said to have 116 descendants, counting children, grand children, and great grand children.

In 1900, the year of her birth, she lived in a world pre-dating Jack London’s Call of the Wild, Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz; just before the days of films and the existence of movie theatres; there were no airplanes, zippers or toasters; no Panama Canal, no Australia, and no radio or TV — to say nothing of internet. Electronic communication was by Morse code over telegraph wires. Transport was either by horse or other beasts of burden, unless you were walking or riding a bike.

Males always seem to die younger than women, and I have found that in going through “oldest living persons” lists, oldest males are usually younger than oldest females. Of the 100 oldest people still living, only 7 are male right now. 1 in 1000 people living past age 100 live past their 110th birthday. Worldwide, there are likely as many as 600 people alive past age 110. Going by the 100 oldest living persons’ list referred to above, the number that can be verified may not be much over 100.

Nabi died of natural causes yesterday in a nursing home where she had been living since 2002.

In Memoriam 2015

January

1: Donna Douglas: Played daughter Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. (Age 82).
1: Mario Cuomo: Governor of New York (1983 to 1994) (Age 82).
2: James Cecil Dickens: Known as Little Jimmy Dickens, best known for his song May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose. A longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry, also made appearances on Johnny Carson (Age 94).
2: Tihomir Novakov: Atmospheric scientist known for his research into a class of airborne particulates known as “black carbon”, contributing greatly to the theory of global warming (Age 85).
3: Bernice Madigan: At the time the oldest resident of Massachusetts, and the world’s 5th oldest living person before her death, died at age 115 in Cheshire, Massachusetts.
4: Bernard Williams: Producer of such movies as A Clockwork Orange and Flash Gordon. (Age 72).
5: Al Bendich: Civil rights attorney who defended poet Allen Ginsburg and comedian Lenny Bruce against obscenity charges. (Age 85).
6: Francesca Hilton: Daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Conrad Hilton, lived in poverty toward the end of her life. Died of a stroke (Age 67).
7: The Editors and writers from Charlie Hebdo magazine: Jean Cabut (“Cabu”) (76), Elsa Cayat (54), Stephanne Charbonnier (“Charb”) (47), Philippe Honore (73), Bernard Maris (68), Mustpha Ourrad (60), Bernard Velhac (“Tignous”) (57), Georges Wolinski (80).
8: William Boeing, Jr.: son of the founder of Boeing Airlines (Age 92).
9: Samuel Goldwyn: Producer of many films since the mid-20th century, up to and including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, produced two years ago (Age 88).
10: Robert Berner: Yale professor known for his modelling of The Carbon Cycle (Age 79).
10: Francis Simard: FLQ member, assassinated Quebec cabinet minister Pierre LaPorte in 1971, and sentenced to life imprisonmnent for murder (Age 67).
10: Taylor Negron: Stand-up comedian who played a key scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Age 57).
10: Robert Stone: Author nominated twice for the Pulizer Prize, and once for the Faulkner Award. (Age 77).
11: Darrell Winfield: Was the Marlborough Man (Age 85).
12: Stephen Gold: Hacker and author. Known for hacking into the private information for Prince Philip. Acquitted on charges, since he did not get any material gain, nor was any sought (Age 58).
13: Mike Marqusee: Left-leaning humanitarian writer (Age 61).
13: Frank Mazzola: Editor of many blockbuster films, such as Rebel Without a Cause, Casablanca, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Age 79).
13: H. Wesley Kenney: Director for the sitcom All in the Family; Produced and directed many soap operas such as General Hospital, and The Young and the Restless (Age 89).
17: Don Harron: Canadian comedian, actor and author, best known for his “Charlie Farquarson” persona, as well as his role in the TV variety show Hee Haw as the news anchor for station KORN (Age 90).
18: Tony Verna: Inventor of the “instant replay” (Age 81).
20: Edgar Froese: Founder of the electronic music group Tangerine Dream (Age 70).
24: Toller Cranston: Canadian figure skater, Bronze medalist (1976 Olympics) (Age 65).
24: Joe Franklin: Longest running TV talk show host (10 years longer than Johnny Carson) (Age 88).
29: Bernice Gordon: Crossword puzzle writer for The New York Times. (Age 101).
29: Will McBride: Photographer and author of the controversial 1975 book Show Me! (Age 84).
29: Colleen McCulloch: Author best known for The Thorn Birds. (Age 77).
30: Rose Frisch: Discoverer of leptin. (Age 96).

February

5: Val Logsdon Fitch: Winner of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics. (Age 91).
8: Thom Wilson: Producer for Burton Cummings, Seals and Crofts, as well as punk acts such as The Dead Kennedys, Social Distortion, and The Adolescents. (Age 55). Note: Wilson’s age was hard to track down. IMDB.com provided his birth date, and calculator.net was used in obtaining his age (exact age at death is thus likely to be 55 years, 9 months and 24 days).
11: Bob Simon: Senior foreign correspondent for 60 Minutes and earlier 60 Minutes II. (Age 73).
12: Sam Houston Andrew II: Founding member and lead guitarist of the rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company. (Age 73).
12: Gary Owens: Radio and TV announcer. Best known for playing the radio announcer on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in. (Age 80).
14: Helen Glass: Saskatchewan nurse. Taught in Regina and Prince Albert. Contributed to the creation of the Canadian Health Act in 1984. (Age 97).
16: Leslie Gore: Singer of such hits as You Don’t Own Me, and It’s My Party. (Age 68).
20: Patricia Norris: Costume designer for movies such as The Elephant Man, and Scarface. (Age 83).
24: Maurice Hurley: Producer of Miami ViceBaywatch and Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Age 75).
25: Harve Bennett: Writer/Producer for Star Trek, The Mod Squad, and The Six Million Dollar Man. (Age 84).
27: Leonard Nimoy: Best known for his role of Spock in Star Trek. He also was one of the lead characters in the series Mission: Impossible. (Age 83).

March

1: Daniel von Bargen: Appeared in sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle. (Age 64).
3: Lynn Borden: Acted in movies in the 70s such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. (Age 77).
5: Albert Maysles: Documentarian best known for his documentaries Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens (Age 88).
8: Lew Soloff: Played trumpet for the 70s rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears. (Age 71).
9: Lou Silverstone: Comedy writer. Listed as one of the “Usual Gang of Idiots” in Mad Magazine between 1962 and 1990. (Age 90).
11: Jimmy Greenspoon: Played in the rock group Three Dog Night. (Age 67).
12: Sir Terry Pratchett: Author of comic fantasy novels. (Age 66).
15: Mike Porcaro: Played bass for the rock group Toto. (Age 59).
16: William Ewald Jr.: Speechwriter for Dwight Eisenhower and historian. (Age 89).
19: Michael Brown: Singer (The Left Banke) and songwriter (Walk Away Renee). (Age 65).
21: Alberta Watson: Canadian actress (The Sweet Hereafter). (Age 60).
26: Tomas Transtromer: Winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature. (Age 83).
28: Richard Bare: Producer of the sitcom Green Acres. (Age 101).
28: Gene Saks: Directed the original Broadway play The Odd Couple. (Age 93).
28: Tuti Yusupova: World’s oldest person (unverified at this writing). Claimed to have been born on 1 July 1880 in Imperial Russia. (Age 134).

April

1: Misao Okawa: World’s oldest confirmed person, Japan. (Age 117).
13:
Gunter Grass: Nobel Prize-Winning author of The Tin Drum and other books. (Age 87).

May

2: Ruth Rendell: Known for the Inspector Wexford series. (Age 85).
4: Michael Blake: Author of Dances With Wolves. (Age 69).

June

9: Vincent Bugliosi: Prosecuting attorney in the Charles Manson case, and author of Helter Skelter. (Age 80).

July

21: E. L. Doctorow: Author of Ragtime. (Age 84).
28: Ann Rule: True crime author. (Age 83).

August

30: Oliver Sacks: Nerologist and author (Age 82).
30: Wayne Dyer: American motivational speaker and self-help writer. (Age 75).

September

10: Basil Johnston: Author and Historian for the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation on the Bruce Penninsula in Ontario. (Age 86).
19: Jackie Collins: American best-selling author (Age 77).

October

3: Barbara Meek: Played Ellen Canby in the early 80’s sitcom Archie Bunker’s Place. (Age 81).
5: Larry Brezner: Producer of such comedy films as Good Morning Vietnam, and Throw Momma From The Train. (Age 73).
5: Andrew Rubin: Acted in comedic movies such as Police Academy, and comedic sitcoms such as Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. (Age 69).
5: Henning Mankell: Author who contributed to the “Nordic Noir” genre of crime novels. (Age 67).
6: Billy Joe Royal: Pop singer (Cherry Hill Park, among others). (Age 73).
6: Otto Tucker: Newfoundland heritage activist and educator. (Age 92).
10: Richard Heck: American chemist who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Japanese chemists Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki. (Age 84).
10: Wesley Funk: Saskatchewan novelist and teacher. (Age 46).
14: Eric Wright: Canadian Crime Novelist. (Age 86).
20: Cory Wells: Original lead singer of the 70s band Three Dog Night. (Age 74).
25: Lee Shaw: Known as “The First Lady of Jazz”. (Age 89).
29: Kenneth Gilbert: Actor who performed in the series Doctor Who. (Age 84).
30: Al Molinaro: Played a police officer in The Odd Couple. Appeared in other 70s sitcoms such as Happy Days, and Joanie Loves Chachi. (Age 96).
31: David Shugar: From his arrest in Canada in 1946 for trading state secrets with the Russians to his becoming professor of biophysics and being inducted to the Royal Society of Canada in 1999. For the record, he was found innocent of all charges in 1946. (Age 100).

November

5: George Barris: Designer of the original Batmobile in 1966. (Age 89).
7: Eddie Hoh: Drummer for The Mamas and the Papas, and a studio drummer for Stephen Stills, The Monkees, Donovan, and others. Led a secluded life after 1970. Died in Westmont, Illinois, a half hour’s drive west of Chicago. (Age 71).
9: Andy White: Susbstitute drummer for Ringo Starr for The Beatles’ first single Love Me Do. Affectionately called the Fifth Beatle. Had no further performances with them since. (Age 85).
10: Allen Toussaint: Arranger, producer, songwriter (Working in a Coalmine, Southern Nights). (Age 77).
15: P. F. Sloan: Songwriter for Barry MacGuire, Jan and Dean, Herman’s Hermits, The Mamas and the Papas. (Age 70).
19: Ron Hynes: Newfoundland singer/songwriter. Wrote Sonny’s Dream, covered by many artists worldwide (Age 64).
21: Gil Cardinal: Canadian filmmaker and documentarian. (Age 65).
22: Albert Pick: German banknote collector. Wrote the first reference book for world bank notes, and it remains the standard. (Age 90).
23: Douglass North: Winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Economics, alongside Robert Fogel (1927-2013). (Age 95).
25: Elmo Williams:  Editor and producer in American cinema. Won an Oscar in 1953 for his editing work in the movie High Noon.

December

2: Sandy Berger: Clinton advisor in the early 90s (Age 70).
4: Scott Weiland: Front man for Stone Temple Pilots (Age 48).
5: Chuck Williams: Founder of Willliams-Sonoma, an upscale kitchen shop known for its innovation (Age 100).
6: Marque Lynche: Former Mousketeer; played in The Lion King in Broadway, and American Idol finalist (Age 34).
6: Holly Woodlawn: Transgender actress and Warhol contemporary. Written about in Lou Reed’s hit song Take a Walk On the Wild Side. (Age 69).
7: Martin E. Brooks: Played in many television drama serials in the ’70s and ’80s: McMillan and Wife, General Hospital, Knots Landing, and Dallas. (Age 90).
15: Harry Zvi Tabor: Israeli physicist, brought solar power to the Middle East. (Age 98).
16: Snuff Garrett: Record producer. Produced hits for Sonny and Cher, Vicki Lawrence, Bobby Vee, Del Shannon, Buddy Knox, and many others. (Age 76).
22: Billy Glaze: Accused and convicted serial murderer; died in prison before DNA evidence would have exonerated him. (Age 72).
22: Carson van Osten: Creator of many Disney Comics. (Age 70).
23: Michael Earl: Puppeteer who brought Snuffalupagus to life on Sesame Street. (Age 56).
24: William Guest: Cousin of Gladys Knight, R&B/Soul singer who performed with Gladys Knight and the Pips. The group were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. (Age 74).
25: Robert Spitzer: Psychiatrist known for being a major force in the creation of the DSM. Has been called one of the most influential psychiatrists of the 20th century. (Age 83).
25: George Clayton Johnston: Writer of modern sci-fi/futuristic classics such as Logan’s Run, Oceans 11, and The Twilight Zone. (Age 86).
27: Haskell Wexler: Influential cinematographer, known for the production of movies like: Who’s Afraid of Virginai Woolf?, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Bound for Glory. (Age 93).
28: Ian Frazier Kilmister: Known as “Lemmy”, founded and led the heavy metal group Motorhead. (Age 70).

Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map … barely

Eldred,SK_near_debden
This satellite shot of Eldred and environs pretty much all that mankind seems to know about Eldred at this point. Take note of Eldred Lake, about 5km southwest of Eldred. Eldred itself is near the top centre of the image.

I’ve written about obscure Saskatchewan communities before. Here is another community far to the north of Unity. My ancestors from France settled here.

Many of my ancestors were pioneers that broke new farming ground nearest to a community called Eldred, Saskatchewan. Eldred was about 10 km northwest of Debden along rural route 55. You need to at some point go off-road to an unnamed road to get there. My mother said that it is a community that no longer exists. Well, it appears to exist to someone operating Google Maps, since I can now find it in pretty much the place mom said it was in, so there is no mistake.

So, at this point, it appears that Eldred is not much more than two crossroads: one unnamed road ending on another unnamed road. One is accessible to RR55, and Canwood RR494 (another road); and the other is accessible to RR793. There would be a few homes huddled close together within a 500-metre distance of each other going by this aerial shot, but that’s about it.

At the highest resolution, I can count no more than a dozen or so houses near that intersection. The farms haven’t gone away; they are still there. Eldred is 103 km northwest of Prince Albert, where I went to high school.

Nearby Eldred Lake appears to be just a large slough, being fed only by rain runoff from the surrounding land. I see no river that feeds into it.

The most expensive coffee in the world

Bunk Strutts has written up about kopi luwak, which is regarded as the rarest and most expensive coffee in the world. I thought I would comment on it, since I have read a fair bit about it.

Asian Palm Civet Facts, Habitat, Diet, Life Cycle, Baby ...
The asian palm civet.

First of all, when I first heard about asian palm civets, they were referred to as “civet cats”.  But “civet cats” have been used to refer to almost any odd-looking small furry animal, ranging from raccoons to actual cats. The asian palm civet is related to the mongoose.

The asian palm civet lives in the islands of Indonesia, and they eat the coffee berries, which passes through their digestive tract only partially digested. These partially digested coffee beans are what is used to make kopi luwak, the world’s rarest and most expensive coffee.

I first read about kopi luwak a few years ago from a science journal (a brief article by Dr. Massimo Marcone of Guelph U), and from then I was hooked on the idea. I just found the idea fascinating that the “dump” of a mongoose is so sought after as a high-class delicacy.

What could you do with kopi luwak beans with an off-flavour? If you covered them in chocolate, it would make the world’s most expensive chocolate.

I can understand the coffee being expensive. Just imagine: someone has to follow a small mammal through a thick rainforest, and pick coffee beans from their dump. Now these are small mammals, with small digestive systems, so how far and for how long do you need to follow these mongooses (this plural is from Wikipedia) around to get a pound of coffee? This is the reason that the entire Indonesian output of kopi luwak is under 500 kg per year, and that the price of a pound can actually be up to $600. (Wikipedia)