Wednesday, September 17, 2003

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Long and uneventful day today. In the morning I went to Chinese class. Spent some time on the computer, then biked back home. Set off to Krogers on my bike, which is the opposite way from campus. The scenery along the road is just beautiful; for some strange reason the land around here is developed in patches, meaning that bits and pieces of forest spring up, even along Liberty Street. Before Krogers, I stopped at an "organic market," which turned out to be a lot like Trader Joes.

A little tangent about organic/synthetic, and the economics of the difference. Cancer rates are much higher than they've ever been. People wonder why. Some blame pollution, others blame chemicals in paint or asbestos. The real reason, I believe, is what we purposefully ingest every morning, afternoon and evening: food. Which is not really food anymore. Most of it is hand-... no, test-tube crafted in factories around the world. It isn't even grown, really. Assembled, you might say. I read a chapter from Eric Schlosser's (SP?) Fast Food Nation which pretty much confirmed my suspicion. Guys in lab coats in New Jersey develop the tastes we eat. But not only these chemicals. You might assume, then, that it would be safe to eat fruits and vegetables, or unprocessed meats. But no. Plants these days are so fertilized and pesticided that they too are full of weird and wonderful man-made chemicals. Meat? Hormones and drugs are what you're looking at there.

Truly organic food is very scarce, and hence very valuable -- at least in the United States. You would have to search in organic markets to find this stuff, and it costs twice as much as a manufactured copy at, say, Krogers or Luckys. Why the difference? We're not only paying for scarcity -- this wouldn't explain why organic markets still exist. The difference in price exists because people accept lower quality foods in order to feel better about paying less, and to have extra money to go to Lake Tahoe on vacation. People are willing to sacrifice their long-term health for usually short-term financial utility.

If I were to truly believe this, and act upon it, I would be shopping at farmers' markets and buying exclusively organic products. I don't at the moment. My long term plan is to get some marketable skills and then move to a place like China, India or Pakistan where people are more sensible about what they put in their mouths.

Yah, either that, or just forget about the whole thing and live with the consequences of our collective irresponsibility.

I've digressed far too long, so I'll keep it short. Came back from the grocery store loaded down with $60 worth of groceries (about two weeks, it'll last me). I decided in the past week that I was going to eschew window managers on my computer, so I've set the initrc to boot me into runlevel 3, which means no more pretty pictures on my screen, only text. Also, for those familiar with computer terms, the screen program is my new best friend. I've got the Function keys (F1, F2, &c) mapped to different screen windows, all very convenient. I've got these programs running: ssh'ed into school for pine, lynx in a couple windows, bittorrent downloads running in a couple more, and of course a music window for mpg123'ing songs. All good stuff. A good day. Now I just gotta type up a couple page paper on Ken Pomeranz's The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy.

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