hungry for a rant

Amazingly enough in the daily 20+ deluge of blog postings, one caught my eye this morning — mainly because it was the last one posted, not because fate pushed my nose into it. The blog post posed the question “Could you survive on $62 a week in groceries?” [ link ], and my answer to that is simply, yes. It notes that there is a woman doing an “experiment” to see what it would be like to live at the poverty level. The task is to only spend $62 a week for two people, all the other icky stuff associated with poverty are unsurprisingly overlooked.

I have been accused of being painfuly frugal, but that was the way I was reared. My parents grew up in an agricultural community in a developing nation. I have been taught that food is a basic necessity and shouldn’t be a luxury. Much to my chagrin I have grown to savor expensive foods and preparations but I’ve been marred to feel guilty about it, so I have taken to not be so decadent in my daily life.

Not to sound patronizing or insensitive to the hungry in America, it is completely possible to live on such a budget. However, the tastes of the main-stream American and the marketing of food here doesn’t make it easy for one to stick to the budget.
** Please note, the following is treading upon the lines of modern jackass (definition) **
Grocery stores are partially to blame for this, since product turn-around and brand competition causes prices to go up. I shy away from processed foods and only buy convenince foods when I’m lazy. So, the processed foods that I do buy, I have to do further processing at home. I must admit, I do shop bargain meats because my ethnic training has taught me to work with cheaper cuts of meat and embarassingly enough… old… maybe putrifying meats. To that point, I have to say that my tastes run the gammut from peasantry to haute cuisine and being reared the way I was, I’m ok with meat being a condiment rather than the main course.

So, what would comprise the rest of the food shopping? Answer: Rice and produce.

Produce, it’s a sore subject in certain parts of America. Urban sprawl and giant corporations made way for mega-stores to sprout up causing people to buy foods that have been shipped from far and wide. Now, there are some benefits to shipping foods; bananas year-round from Ecuador, peaches in winter time, and hot-house tomatoes; but we pay the price for these things. I’m not saying to go back to the frontier lifestyle where we eat only root vegetables in the winter time, but given the good local growing season of parts in America, one doesn’t have to rely on big box grocery stores. I am lucky that Detroit has one of the oldest farmers markets in the country ( ), and I take advantage of that from time to time. Those who don’t live in cities with a farmer’s market, or sadly where the farmer’s market has turned trendy and given rise to expensive organically-inflated pest-free art-foods; there are green grocers whose only business is produce. Since turn-around is so frequent the products are fresh and the prices are low. My weekly spending at a green grocer is about $7, unless if I splurge and rack up a $11 to $13 bill.

I haven’t posted my rant about bread, because it is rather lengthy but suffice it to say that since it is a processed food and the fact that wholesome hand-crafted bread is sold at a premium, I do not like to buy it. Rice would be my preferred choice of starch, if I wasn’t so in love with Snuffy. Long-suffering as it can be, he and I do not share the same palate, so… bread and potatoes add to the food budget. He is the reason for my prediliction for blaming the connundrum we are in on American tastes. He likes processed food, he likes good old foods that scream Americana, and we do enjoy eating in nice restaurants. Agreed, he did not grow up eating scraps of meat scattered amongst a melange of edible leaves, shoots, berries, and vegetable matter; so I can’t fault him for liking the things he does eat (heeey). I threaten him with reverting back to a simple fish broth and rice with salt when he gets over-indulgent.

So, bottom line… I’m depressed at this woman’s venture into hunger. She’s bringing in baggage from a world of abundance to dabble in the world of poverty. I hate to say that she’s a dilettante, but hell… she’s received some minor fame for it by the editor of Epicurious magazine, which only seems to bring attention to what could be a very insubstantial trial.

capitalist in the heart, socialist pushing the cart

I must say I glean much pleasure in feeding the capitalist beast. Turning a blind eye to the evil marketing that pushes people in pursuit of the american dream closer to debt, I trek on to the warehouse stores, the pricey grocery stores, and ritzy department stores. This does not mean that I lack social graces during bargain hunting nor does it mean that I am unaware of how I carry myself in these places. I find that common courtesy seems to be the one thing that one cannot buy in any store.

1. This is not a country with right-hand drive. Please stay to the right of the aisle. Also, please observe car traffic rules when turning, stopping, or merging.

2. Do not wear a track suit and proceed to eat meatballs on a stick, this destroys the athletic look of the tracksuit.
(supplimental: do not wear a track suit if you have let your body go and haven’t toned up in the last 20 years)

3. I know that you are blissed out on your free sample, that doesn’t mean that you’ve become invisible. Please treat the samples carts as if you were at a fancy dinner party, PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU. There’s no need to be hunkered over your little cup of fish stick bites, chewing with your mouth open like there’s no tomorrow. I do not take free samples and because you’ve swerved ahead and cut me off in the aisle, I will judge you more as you stuff that third pierogi down your gullet.

4. Do not shout down the aisle to your shopping partner. Though this may be fun when you two are drunk, it is not funny when the aisle is crowded. If you must shout, please do so only when truly necessary… unlike today when I heard “Just pick a potato chip that goes with a salad.” ??? Is there a potato chip that goes with a salad? Perhaps I need to try pairing salad greens with potato chips.

I implore you the reader, think of your fellow man when you are in stores. Together as advocates for social organization, we can change the aisles of stores through basic human decency.

passive smoking no, passive racism yes

The smoking shelter is a welcomed respite for those people who are grinding away at their day-to-day tasks in the corporation that I work in. My office suite is near the loading bays for the entire building so there’s a mix of blue and white collar workers that have to share the smoking area. Men and women from different backgrounds, working in IT mixed with the hard-nosed no-nonsense inventory managers and inventory transporters.

In the wintertime, when the cold winds and numbing precipitation falls we all huddle together underneath the glowing filaments of the space heater clutching our cigarettes and cups of coffee. We all wax longingly about warm weather, vacations, and how we can get out of the cold… but when the climate changes so does the socialization. I am very sensitive to race relations and I would like to consider myself an open and accepting person. Now, it could just be me and my over-analysis but I see passive racism in the smoking shelter.

One can attribute this phenomenon to the social schism between white collar workers and blue collar workers. Furthermore, one can say that people just click with other people in their own department. People talk shop, in their own jargon, but is that a way to shun people from interaction? I could understand that people just don’t want to sit in a box of smoke, inhaling second-hand and their own first hand smoke. Mechanics aside, what is the motive? I really can’t say but from what I see, I am hurt by the turned backs and the misdirected glances. I often find myself sitting on one of the few chairs in the shelter while a group of people look at me square in the face and walk on by. Conversely, that same group could be occupying those seats and when I walk into the shelter I do get an obligatory fleeting look, but no more. Others not of the same ethnicity or culture don’t even bother and would rather stand out in the elements… passive racism?

In interest of full disclosure, I generally don’t engage people so I could be perpetuating/perpetrating this… or this could totally be in my head. I don’t particularly want to talk to these people, but I don’t want to be dismissed either.

this used to be my high speed playground…

Last week Cingular announced their initial rollout of 3G services. Before the SBC acquisition of AT&T wireless, there was a core group of UMTS test markets; Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. At the beginning of the ATTWS to Cingular transition, there were talks of keeping the UMTS markets alive but looking at the message boards, users were being offered one-time inconvenience packages for UMTS service outages. With the dismantling of the domain, all information about subscribing to 3G services for now “Cingular Blue” customers were now closed.

All year, we’ve seen the rollout of the EVDO 3G services by Verizon and Sprint. Granted, this is a large country and there are lots of mobile subscribers out there to which 3G means nothing. To us gear heads and technophiles, this is just another cool-tool swinging on the batman utility belt, or in my case the hipster sling bag or Cafe Bag. The huge problem is that there needs to be a profitable hook for 3G. In the United States, the world of mobitainment is in its infancy. WAP sites aren’t generally geared for the go-go media saturated American market, so mobile phone carriers waited to roll out content when the bandwidth was able to handle what we apparently want to see. The problem is, that we aren’t a culture of phone-gazers. Unlike in Japan, we don’t have a contingency of fashionista girls traipsing the streets of megalopolis socially networking with other fashionistas pushing the limits of mobile communications. We use our phones to natter on about the most mundane portions of our lives. Services like text messaging and WAP were big in other countries because it was a cheaper alternative to voice transactions. Now with the internet thrusting into the operational core of major media firms, heck all businesses for that matter, there is an emerging desire for truly mobile internet access. Sure, there are traditionalists that sit down in public hotspots to surf the internet (in the matter of full disclosure, I am one of those people), but that’s not good enough anymore. I want to be able to surf the internet at a reasonably fast connection while being chauffeured around the countryside. Fanciful dreaming yes, but being in the first world, I expect to be wrapped in geeky unguents. Unfortunately, the America is full of average Americans who don’t want this unadulterated bandwidth coursing through their pockets. I don’t know the hard numbers of people who enjoy the 30 second video clips of television shows, ostensibly a way to generate buzz about a failing show, on their tiny mobile phone screens. My best guess is that there isn’t a lot, and on top of that I bet they don’t want to pay a premium to access this media. It is the masses and services that have chosen to add a mobile component like Yahoo Flickr, Google, CNN, BBC, and TextAmerica, that push the need for better mobile access.

Business people can afford this by claiming it as a necessary expense, but that doesn’t help the content get any better. I do subscribe to a data plan to allow for mobile communications. I wanted the UMTS service and I live in the area that AT&T marked as covered. I would like to consider myself a mobile professional, but only in the sense that I work as a professional and I happen to like mobile communications, they aren’t tied together by any means. Reports of Cingular launching HSPDA with UMTS services were very thrilling. I saw myself importing a Japanese UMTS phone… All hopes were dashed when I saw that the initial market for their “BroadbandConnect” service is not going to be laid over the UMTS infrastructure in Michigan. Why did Cingular decide not to build here? AT&T was bold enough to test market here, why not include it in the release? I can understand if there was a lack of interest in the service, but towers were built, people subscribed, kiosks were erected to tout the service. What I fear is that the state economy or the cooling auto industry is what kept us from the roll out.

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