Notes & Writing
Some thoughts about food, the environment, and technology.
I’m in the middle of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver right now. It’s historical fiction about the Age of Enlightenment, and there’s this anecdote about a scientist who is attempting to create a taxonomy of plants and animals. The scientist is, unfortunately, distracted from this task by an urgent and troubling concern:
We all have a superpower. And if you’re reading this, I’m putting it at 75% likely that yours has something to do with making computers do cool stuff. It’s a lucky superpower to have, in this day and age, since it usually implies things like a decent salary, stock options, and company lunch. Plus you get to build things; exercise the creative parts of your brain.
Every now and again I find myself doing something awesome, but feeling guilty about it afterwards because of the associated environmental impact. Like when I drive for hours to visit far-away friends. Or like when I eat something delicious that contains meat.
In 2007, someone anonymous wrote a letter to UC Berkeley environmentalists who were protesting cutting down trees by sitting in them. Here is an excerpt:
Humans have a penchant for believing they are living in revolutionary times, on the brink of massive change. Just ask anyone who spent time in San Francisco during the late 1960s… It’s a tendency lodged deep in our psyches, no doubt rooted in the same reptilian muck that fuels religious obsession with imminent Armageddon.
But oh yes indeed, there would appear to be some rather serious shit going down these days. So then, are we truly on the verge of revolutionary change? Or are we once again succumbing to the propensity to overestimate the importance of our own era?
For the past 24 days, I have been avoiding my car like the plague, by not driving as an experiment. I wanted to see if I, and perhaps by extension other car-driving Americans, could live a fulfilling life without driving. Next Friday (the day after Christmas) my experiment will be over, and then I will decide whether I should give up my car for good.
I have been without a car for a little bit over a week now, and so far it hasn’t been too much of a problem. Rides to school and home haven’t been a difficult thing to arrange, given that a lot of people from Clarkson seem to live in my area. And while here in Potsdam, I’ve taken my bicycle to go shopping once, and again for a theatre rehearsal at the stage in Old Snell. The first ride was very cold; the second time I learned my lesson and wore a warm hat and gloves.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am home from school this week to commemorate the holiday, and I’m remembering how nice it is to not have to run from class to class and do tons of homework all the time. As usual, I had a very long ride home, and this time as I was traveling I made a resolution worthy of a blog post:
Have you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? If you haven’t, you should. It’s one of my favorite books, because it makes me think, and because it was written with a lot of thought and care.