Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Friday, January 29, 2010

To Your Health

It seems ironic to say the least that the current so-called health care debate contains no discussion about health. The health of twenty first century Americans is horrific and it’s horrific because of two factors: poor diet and lack of daily physical exertion. Actually I feel it’s more like one or the other because a very physical lifestyle can make up for quite a few poor food choices and a well-thought out diet can accommodate a sedentary lifestyle, but when you have neither that’s when the big problems start. Bottom line is that we drive too much and we eat too much processed food.

I was very disappointed to see how much new road construction is in President Obama’s stimulus package. We shouldn’t build a single new road. Instead we should be maintaining the existing infrastructure while phasing in bicycle lanes and mass transit. The American ideal of driving solo in an SUV from the home garage to the office garage is unsustainable.

When I lived in Japan I walked a mile and an half from the train station to the office, I found walking along either daydreaming or conversing with my co-workers – running into a co-worker was inevitable as there was no parking at the office so everyone walked – very enjoyable. Imagine how many gyms would be selling off their equipment and how many stupid diet plans would go by the wayside if office workers had to walk a mile each morning and afternoon to and from the desk chair. I won’t even go into the social and mental benefits that come from daily interaction with one’s community.

The most efficient method of traveling from point A to point B is by bicycle. It is also supremely enjoyable. Unfortunately most American cities, especially those west of the Eastern seaboard were designed for cars; cars and only cars. I ride my bike in Seattle on a nearly everyday basis, so there is no need to tell me how dangerous cycling is, and I don’t blame folks for not wanting to go to two wheels for fear of their lives. If we want people to ride we have to build bike lanes, or to borrow a line from the movie that made my home state famous: if you build it they will come.
Far-sighted officials in Copenhagen re-worked their streets to make their city more bike-friendly and now bicycling is the single most popular way of getting around town. An entire industry of commuter specific bicycles was resurrected from the ashes: check out this cool company In order for bicycle commuting to take off it first needs to be safe and that means dedicated bike lanes. I would have no problem paying a $2.00 a gallon tax on gasoline or paying road tolls if I knew that the money would be dedicated towards bicycle lanes and mass transit. I would then have a choice: either take the easy way and sit in my car or take the hard, but cheaper and usually quicker, way via bicycle or mass transit. Oh I can already hear the automobile lobbyists, the auto insurance lobbyists, the oil lobbyists, the road construction lobbyists, the pharmaceutical and medical lobbyists (healthy people are bad for business) screaming in the halls of Congress.

The second leg of the American health disaster is the Western diet. The problem with the Western diet can be summed up in two words: processed foods. What’s wrong with processed foods you might ask, well the answer is simple: too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt.
Our Stone Age ancestors were continually in search of three things: fat, sugar and salt. The human who had a lust for these three items survived, breed and passed on to his/her offspring these same desires. Fortunately ten thousand plus years ago fat sugar and salt were all very difficult to find. Fat, mostly from game, was a rare delicacy, sugar, mostly from fruits, was seasonal and salt was found in only a few locations and therefore was one of the first trading commodities. We humans are wired to crave fat, sugar and salt, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

In our current age of lot-fed beef, high fructose corn syrup and salt mines the size of large cities food scientists have exploited our weaknesses by packing their food substitutes (I don’t consider it real food) with good old fat, sugar and salt. The inertia behind our current agribusiness culture is staggering. We simply have so much invested in monoculture, feed lots, mega poultry farms, herbicides, pesticides, Round-Up Ready seeds and so on that change seems unlikely. I’ll guarantee you that ADM isn’t going down without a fight. I suppose all can do is do the best you can for yourself and your family. The best way to start is by avoiding the inner aisles at the grocery store, do that one thing and you’ll both lose excess weight and feel better.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Love This Place

I love living in a town where you get reports like these in the local newspaper:

A handcarved wooden pheasant statue was likely stolen from a woman’s Island House apartment sometime between Jan. 2 and Jan. 6. There is also a chance that it was misplaced or given away, according to the woman’s daughter. No suspects are known.

A 19-year-old Mercer Island male shoplifted a bottle of Advil from the QFC on S.E. 28th Street on Jan. 12. He was detained by store security officers who saw him leave without paying. The suspect confessed to the theft. Police confirmed the suspect’s identification, and he was cited and released.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

At Least It Looked Good

After being turned away on Saturday night Sam and I managed to secure tickets to Avatar on Sunday afternoon. The hype is warranted, I mean what an incredible production, I found myself swatting at 3-D bugs that seemingly hovered just in front of my nose. On the other side of the coin, however, the story line was at best predictable, but I’d go so far as to say it was trite and insulting.

I’m not giving away any plot secrets when I say that the story is the white Messiah myth wherein the white warrior finds empathy with his foe, switches sides, becomes leader of the “savages” and then leads his newfound brethren in an effort to defeat the more technologically superior, yet emotionally inferior, invaders. The storyline is similar to Dances With Wolves with one very important divergence: in Dances With Wolves Dunbar doesn’t become their leader, instead he’s just another warrior, albeit a very good one.

Cameron was politically correct enough to make sure that the bad guys were not U.S. solders but were instead mercenaries hired by a private corporation, so at least the main character wasn’t a traitor to his nation; he was only a traitor to his “race.” Despite this, the references to the treatment of the American Indian and our current debacle in Iraq are unmistakable.

The conservative right’s outrage over this film is understandable as it questions the right-wing theory of might makes right. I listened to Michael Medved review the movie on To the Point during which he stated that the fact that Pissaro was able to conquer the Incas was proof that sixteenth century Spanish culture was superior to that of the Incas. Pissaro was able to conquer and subjugate the Incas not because his culture was superior but because he had guns and steel – might makes right in Mr. Medved’s eyes. The former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany could have used – and probably did use – the same justification.

Mr. Medved was especially distraught about the fact that Avatar glorified treason, of course it did that was the point. When a warrior becomes empathetic to his enemy all bets are off. The system breaks down. If you see your enemy as something slightly less than human, as a Hun, a Jap, a Krout, a Gook, a Raghead it becomes easier to drop those daisycutters. If, on the other hand, we view our enemy as one of us, in other words feel empathy towards them, it’s almost impossible to wage war against them. Think about how quickly we went to the aid of those being murdered in the former Yugoslavia – white folks – but we as a nation did nothing to stop the bloodshed in Rwanda, East Timor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia.

Endless was is good for military contractors, what’s good for military contractors is good for the rich and powerful, what’s good for the rich and powerful is good for the Republican party. It’s no wonder that Conservative pundits are getting all wound up about a blockbuster movie that calls into question the idea that superior technology creates superior culture. I’m not even getting into the fact that Avatar celebrates earth worship pantheism - I can save that for another day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Just finished the book Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford. Crawford, a motorcycle mechanic with a Ph.D in political philosophy, writes a very interesting and valuable book, but at times I must admit to wondering “what the hell is this guy talking about.” In one sentence he’s throwing out expectatives like a Marine drill sergeant, and in the next he’s going into the details of cognitive theory. I couldn’t figure out whether his target audience was tradesmen or post graduate students. Anyway it’s worth reading if only for the encouragement to learn to “take care of your stuff.”
I’m going down this road because yesterday I replaced the brake pads in the Subaru. It was an easy job – it took me three hours, a mechanic could have done it in one – but it was satisfying. As a stay at home dad I feel like I need to earn my keep – fixing the car, fixing the dishwasher, building furniture – and the labor charges I saved yesterday definitely kept me here on easy street for another week.
There is a certain amount of soul satisfaction to be found in taking care of your stuff. Either you are master of your stuff or it becomes master of you. It’s easy to become a slave to technology, completely unaware of what goes on under the hood. Being self-sufficient is a harder life, but it’s also a freer life.
My dad gave his children a do it yourself mentality; like a surgeon he’d bark out orders for tools and it didn’t take long to learn the difference between a ratchet and a brake-over bar. Back in the seventies a lot of dads in the neighborhood would be seen under the hood of their station wagons on a Saturday morning, and it was to my great pride that many of those guys would come over with greasy hands asking my dad for help, advice or to borrow a tool. Dad was respected not because he made a big paycheck, which he didn’t, but because he had brains and he knew how to use his hands.
Today I wonder what passes for respect. Why weren’t these assholes at AIG tarred and feathered, why weren’t those so-called financial wizards run out of Wall Street on a rail. Another thing my dad taught me was to not be what he called “a social parasite,” a non-value added middleman. Despite their delusion of being important those hucksters on Wall Street will be the first ones selling their cuff links to the plumbers and electricians when times go bad.
I can’t but feel anxious as we digress into what economists call a “service economy.” What a load of crap. By shipping overseas the manufacture of things, we are jackhammering the very foundation of our economy not to mention our society. We need more consumerism, more debt because more and more of our dollar is being shipped to Asia. We leave for our children a house of cards.