Europeans sure do know how to keep their weekends. I was walking around Sunday and everything was closed*. People were actually "window shopping". Instant gratification is difficult if the item of interest is locked away inside the window of a store with indeterminate hours. Compare and contrast with the U.S. where in the interest of convenience and economy everything is open 24 hours a day. I find it a bit troubling that the grocery store in the small town in Montana where I live actually closes at night, such is my expectation that I should be able to buy what I want (Krispy Kremes) when I want (3 AM). Given the sad, sad state of the dollar, it makes one wonder if all the extra hours we put in compared to our European cohorts are worth it. We're expected to work more, for less money, with an artificially low dollar so that we can buy more crap at the Sprawlmart. I suppose this makes sense in some Greenspanian-Bushian Bizarro world of keeping the economy afloat. Yes, our trade deficit means that foreign investors have capital, and -- at least for now -- they pump it back into the U.S. economy. Outsourcing our industries, McDonald's PlayPlaces, military, and government doesn't seem like a good idea to me. Isn't this a security issue? And if not that, how about just one of pride? How much longer can we sustain this? At some point, the U.S. is just going to be a bad investment. Our trade-deficit partners will take our money elsewhere and the downward spiral will continue. 5 years ago, we lost parity with the Euro. Now a greenback only gets you 0.68 eurocents (tm). Embarrassing. *The doner kebap stands were open, thank God.
I was having dinner tonight and struck up a conversation with a fellow patron, someone younger than I who clearly made more money and had a deep sense of entitlement. I pushed the issue a bit but backed off when it was clear he couldn't justify even a fraction of his wages, using simple arguments about the profit margins of the company, his contribution, etc. I used to get riled up about people who made more money than me for jobs that leave no lasting mark on humanity and contribute nothing of any value to society. I'm much too experienced now to care about such trivialities. I'm also not so naive to believe that science is a purely altruistic enterprise. Still, I believe in the overall scientific process, both as a vehicle for discovery as well as a worthy way for seeing the world. Approach everything with an open mind. Observe. Learn. The forum doesn't matter, the subject matter isn't important. Collect the facts. Maybe it's food you've never tried before, a book you don't think you would like, or a situation you feel timid about. Maybe I should be a scientologist? PS. It's snowing in Park City tonight. I'm eating lentils and rice with my feet propped up on the window sill drinking wine from a box.
I just read an interesting article in the April 3, 2006 issue of the New Yorker on how the poverty level is defined in the United States (and elsewhere). The relatively simple familiar for the poverty threshold was established by creating a suggested diet for a family, calculating its cost, and then multiplying that value by three using government statistics indicating that families spend 1/3 of their income on food. Rather tautological. The article puts forth a new mechanism for defining poverty using "relative deprivation". Here, someone's poverty is related to the overall wealth of an area. I don't have time for a full exposition - jjust filing this for future reference.