Sunday, July 29, 2007

Steps You Can Take #1: buy your produce locally

The transportation of agribiz products across the globe accounts for an immense proportion of fossil fuel use. Moving "fresh" fruit & veg across the globe is big business-- and means big polluion.

The choices we make at the grocery store directly impact greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Start at home: make a bold step in the right direction by committing to buy your produce locally. Read labels; sometimes they reveal the country of origin. And start simply: buy USA produce only, nothing shipped internationally. Eventually, you can become more discriminating in your purchasing choices. Make a conscious effort to find out where your produce comes from: ask you your grocer if the label is not clear.

Tip: local farmers' markets are great places to get locally-grown food, meet like-minded people, reduce your carbon footprint, and enjoy better-tasting, healthier foods. Look one up near you.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

dining out

When I was a kid, my brother and I would occasionally play a game that involved us alternately assuming the roles of waiter and dining customer. I don’t recall if we had a name for this game, but it was surely a variation on a theme played out by countless generations of children the world over: Servant and Master.

As the youngest child, I suppose I was sensitive to exploitation, since I was naturally exploited by my siblings (much to the same extent that any group of humans—children and adults alike—express their innate tendency to create hierarchy). And perhaps my brother was indeed keen for an excuse to have me at his beck and call in a structure sanctioned by us both; but we did switch roles and each had a turn to enjoy the ministrations of the other, so I was never unhappy to play.

In addition to the preparation and serving of food, the waiter’s role included drawing up a menu for his customer. If memory serves, the result was only as elaborate as a folded piece of white paper with a penciled bill of fare, but it was enough to convey that feeling of privilege—perhaps of entitlement—that adult diners takes for granted, but which made us giddy as children. Menu selections were always a la carte, and I don’t recall a menu that did not have that quintessential American childhood classic: the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. (Our culinary expertise and kitchen permissions were limited.)

This memory was summoned up from its sleepy mental hammock by the likeness I have lately found it shares with my present-day dining experiences. Overall, the menu selection has certainly improved, but the essential nature of the experience hasn’t really changed. In fact, I find that the reconnection with this dusty memory has clarified my present thinking about dining out. And it’s this: when we dine out, we’re all still just playing at the waiter/diner game. There is a thin facade of convention draped over the experience like a crisp, white, well-starched tablecloth covering an otherwise worn and unremarkable table. But it's still visible.

It’s all just a game.

The stakes now are money balanced against the diner’s desire, not only for good food, but for a shot at that childhood giddiness that comes with playing the role of master. The rules binding our adult selves to the respective roles of server and served are perhaps a bit more rigid; but not by much, and that difference is merely ingrained convention rather than any great immutable law: it’s just force of habit. When I am in the frame of mind to notice the habit, to see through the thin veil of this comedy we play whenever we patronize a restaurant, I am each time amused by the experience and am likely to recall my brother and I taking turns to amuse each other in our gentle and mutual exploitation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Randomness and the Social Web

I've heard kids around here use the word "random" to mean, roughly, what we used to mean back in the 80s, when we said "weird" and meant "weird in a cool way".

That's the kind of randomness I mean, as in, "Dude, this is so random!"

Since I've been blogging again, I decided to see if SharedYes had any links to it, so I searched for "sharedyes". Google wanted to know if I meant "shared yes", so I played along, and put it in quotes.

Up came an XML feed from another Blogger, in a post from 2005, musing about the concept of a "shared yes". Looked up his email address, and it turns out that his Blogger blog (several of them, actually) is fairly compatible with SharedYes in terms of sustainability, environmental awareness, etc. So, for your edification, I now present you with the profile (and many blogs) of one cool Canuck, Todd Lucier.

The conceptual universe is unimaginably vast, and yet a two-word phrase can link people with similar interests in virtual space -- a space we are referring to as the "social web" now, but which will, in a few years, just be called "the web". Everything will work this way because it's the way our minds work, the way the Web works, and the way human connections work: relationally.


Global Petrol Usage

A graph published by The Economist gives one pause. Sometimes it takes a visual reminder to be aware of what is really going on in the world. Haven't clicked on the link yet? Okay, take a moment to visualize something:

How much gasoline/petrol does the United States use, vis a vis other countries?

Have a picture in your mind?

Okay, now click the link.

And tell us, in a comment, whether (and how) your mental picture was different than the graph.


Side Effects of the Wall

This is incredibly sad, and sadly predictable: the wall being built along the US/Mexico border is forcing migrants to take more dangerous and remote routes to their dreams - and more of them are dying on the way, 275 already since the wall went up:

I hope these statistics make the gummint rethink their approach to immigration issues, but I am afraid the prospect of pulling down the wall is getting more remote all the time. One day I can imagine a South American or Mexican politician, in the wake of the US dollar's collapse and the painful recognition that we are no longer the power we once were, commmanding, imperiously:

"El señor presidente, rasga abajo esta pared."


This Just In: Secret Underground Bunker May be Underwater

It's just a thought, but ...

could it be possible that the Veep's "secret underground bunker" might be underwater?

(If not, I'll bet he has one on hand just in case ...)


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Most Significant Photo Ever?

So says Anthony Doerr in the current online issue of Orion magazine:

"Whatever we believe in—God, children, nationhood—nothing can be more important than to take a moment every now and then and accept the invitation of the sky: to leave the confines of ourselves and fly off into the hugeness of the universe, to disappear into the inexplicable, the implacable, the reflection of that something our minds cannot grasp."

I can't disagree. Here's the photo:

And here's a link to the piece. Well worth reading. Comments?