Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thinking Bigger for a Better Future

Whenever one tosses about ideas for a brighter future, whether it is ideas for food, education, housing, politics, health care, etc. there is always someone telling you how it won't work and why. Of course many new ideas will not work in the current framework. You have to imagine there are new choices and less hindrances. You have to think outside of our reality occasionally. Dreaming is good. It's the first step.

My first dream is for government to bring Kiss to their legislation. No, not the rock band, but the old phrase "Keep it Simple Stupid." When I hear of a 500 page proposal to allocate extra funding to education that includes buried deep within funds for a bridge in Wyoming, and on page 362 funds for a casino in Delaware it infuriates me. They don't know what they vote for because they don't have time to read the whole thing and if they do muddle through it there is just so much.

I want the language and length of these bills simplified so all may read and understand. If something is put to a vote by the people they should know what they are voting for. If the newspaper feels the need to print a full page describing what four proposals mean then those proposals need to be rewritten. There is no reason to hide your real intentions behind murky language. Keep it simple so everyone, including our elected officials, can make an honest decision.

We live in a country of excess. Most manufacturing is automated. We have enough whatsits for every man woman and child in our nation. We also have a great divide between a few "have it all's" a larger group of "have enough's" and a greatly increasing group of "have none." Imagine a world where the resources are redistributed more evenly. I'm not advocating taking from individuals who have worked hard to get where they are. Bear with me, I'll try to explain.

From the perspective of the poor, where would you be if basic food, health care, and housing were already there for you. Would you feel elevated, more of a human being, more worthy? With time freed up that was previously used for basic survival in a world that didn't care, what would you do? Would you volunteer in a community garden, pursue further education, spend more time with your children? Would you work part time for a little extra in life or would you keep plugging away full time? What would you change?

In "The Overworked American" Juliet B. Schor describes a time during the Depression when a 30 hour work week was proposed so the work could be spread out between more workers. Some companies may have done this for a while but big business was definitely against this. Most corporations look at how they can gain from their labor not how they can improve the well being of their work force.

It's time to take the power from the few elite and the corporations. We should have regularly scheduled interviews with normal everyday citizens in the offices of our elected officials. Why do we allow lobbyists who represent corporations visit and gift our officials? Why do corporations have this power over American policy? It needs to change!

Future planner Jacque Fresco known for his "Venus Project" has given much thought to these problems. He is well known for designing buildings and cities of the future. While he shows great detail in his work and it appears like something from a science fiction novel he has also put just as much time into designing a theoretical future society. He proposes a resource based economy where the citizens have control and corporations no longer exist. He acknowledges there will be transitional phases, but to hear him describe it, it seems perfectly feasible.

Fresco proposes we already have the resources for all citizens to live well. Why should a few have an overabundance while others go without basic necessities? His cities would use power from wind, sun, wave or water. Without money and corporations clinging to the old way of doing things, the old way that pollutes our earth and lines their pockets, there would be nothing blocking the use of new technologies. Without a money based society, all citizens would benefit. It's not something that could be transitioned to overnight but it is fun to read his ideas and imagine what life could be like.

In "For Us The Living" Robert A. Heinlen describes daily life in a future Earth society. Basic needs are seen to and people are free to study and work as they wish. Imagine if you were able to study what interested you and choose work based on your passions, not what your earning potential would be. Would there be fewer disgruntled workers?

As for jobs that no-one particularly enjoys, imagine if job sharing was available at all levels. Citizens appear at the factory or field for a four hour shift. No-one is required to toil for twelve or sixteen hour days, six days a week for just a basic living with hardly any family time. That job will be split between four to six people. More people work and there is plenty of time left for creative pursuits, education, gardening, family celebrations, or gathering with neighbors. There may be a few that choose a shoddy life spent in front of the television with just the basics covered but I bet the majority would pursue the life they could only dream about in a conventional society.

Now readers, its your turn. Sit back, shut your eyes, transport yourself 60, 300 or 500 years into the future and tell me what you see.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Thanks to Hulu I just realized a second season of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution has already started. I never watch regular television, but if I can catch something on my time on the computer I will watch the occasional show. I was horrified by the first season. Children in a elementary school had no idea what a tomato was. Many could not distinguish corn from broccoli. It was really sad, and amazing too. It opened my eyes to how corporations have changed our nation, how much control we have given over, and how helpless many of us would be in a large disaster or emergency.

I truly feel inspired to make a few changes in my own kitchen. I already do a lot of from scratch cooking. I visit a fruit stand to get a good price on vegetables, although I really can't afford organic meat. I would love to be able to do this but the price is too high at this time.

I recently purchased "Jaime's Food Revolution" cookbook and have been joyfully trying new recipes each evening after work. The chicken leek stroganoff was okay, the spaghetti Bolognese was amazing, and today's burgers were so delicious even the grandbaby who doesn't eat hamburgers normally gobbled one up. I've been having fun.

I bake from a cookbook not a mix, I make my own white sauce for soups instead of relying on a mix or store bought cans of soup. I am usually good about preparing things myself although sometimes there are a lot of work hours, and mixes for things are on sale, and the budget is tight. I will admit I have never mastered gravy, and spaghetti sauce has usually come from a can or bottle then doctored up with seasonings and vegetables. I'm going to make steps to stop this. I enjoy being in my kitchen too much and I owe my family better. I have the skills to do better.

I wandered about after work gathering what I needed for dinner that night and randomly read a few labels for products I had recently purchased out of thrift or laziness. Second ingredient high fructose corn syrup, third ingredient corn syrup, and that was on just one jar of pasta sauce. Added together what are all of these products doing to us? I deserve better as does my family.

After the extreme success of the spaghetti Bolognese sauce I will be making my own pasta sauces instead of just dumping a jar in a pot to heat.

This is one show I can get behind 100 percent. We really need better food education in this nation. We say we are rushed, tired, poor....but we really need to wake up. Thank you Jamie Oliver for inspiring so many of us to do better.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grocery Store Chatter

The Extreme Couponing chatter will just not die down. Customers in the checkout line will mention it each day, some in amazement of the show and others wishing their coupon skills were better. We now have one or two extreme couponers of our own. I witnessed one the other day making a purchase of 75 Powerades. I didn't see what her final price was because I was on the counter.

I do use coupons myself but not to such extremes. I do not need 150 candy bars at once, nor do I need 80 boxes of pasta, and 50 bottles of ketchup would spoil before we used them. I only buy two newspapers and do not feel the need to climb into a dumpster for more. I do typically save 60 to 70% off the bill with sales and coupons. Last week I purchased a gallon of milk and a large bag of popcorn for 68 cents but that does not happen every week. It was a small purchase as well. It usually is just a random small purchase, not nine carts full of groceries for 50 cents. No TV cameras will follow me about for my shopping.

My dad was the coupon and rebate king. He would visit family and bring laundry detergent, shampoo, cereal, and other household goods as gifts. After his death I was told he did this for extended family and friends as well. My niece said he would show up with a huge box of stuff and say, "Here, I got this for a quarter."

As well as chatter in the store I also get several phone calls a week at the store. People will call and ask what our coupon policy is. Dozens have called asking when we have double coupon days. We have never had double coupons but they insist that it says we do on the Internet. I don't know of any stores close to my area that ever have double coupons.

Like it, hate it, or just plain fascinated by it, I don't see the interest in Extreme Couponing waning any time soon. It is still a big topic of conversation.