Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sugar Plums Dancing in My Head, Ed. #1

So pretty! Read on to find out who made it and how to make one, too.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out in the long run, or how frequently this will appear, but I thought it might be fun to do a round up of things I’ve spotted online; things that have got me thinking, making, wanting, and occasionally, lusting after. True to (my) form, these ideas range from very serious to extremely frivolous. Here we go:

Barbara at Tigers & Strawberries discusses the many ways corporate restaurants waste food:
Most corporate chain restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and the like have a very strict policy of dumping this perfectly good food out into the dumpster, which is often locked and behind enclosures in order to keep enterprising individuals from “harvesting” or saving this food. (If these enclosed or locked bins tampered with, even by a hungry person, they can then be arrested and charged not with just vandalism for breaking the locks, but for breaking and entering and theft. Imagine being charged with stealing garbage–the whole point of garbage is that the former owner of it no longer wants it, so why is it illegal for someone else to take it before it is heaped into a landfill?) Employees who are caught taking food of this kind home or eating it, or donating it are treated as thieves and are often fired.
Barbara's analysis is thoughtful, lucidly-written, and illuminating.

A few weeks ago, Shane and I had a little debate on whether money could buy happiness; my thought was "no" and Shane's was, "I've never been rich; how could I possibly know?" The theory of money not buying happiness was supported in a mid-1970's study by Richard Easterlin, then an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, although to be fully truthful, Easterlin argued the more subtle point that economic growth doesn’t necessarily lead to more satisfaction.

A new paper rebuts Easterlin's argument. In it, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers (economists who are also from the University of Pennsylvania) argue that money does tend to bring happiness, if not guarantee it. To quote the New York Times' article:

If anything, Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers say, absolute income seems to matter more than relative income. In the United States, about 90 percent of people in households making at least $250,000 a year called themselves “very happy” in a recent Gallup Poll. In households with income below $30,000, only 42 percent of people gave that answer. But the international polling data suggests that the under-$30,000 crowd might not be happier if they lived in a poorer country.

I think it's pretty obvious that humans have needs that must be met and, in our current economic and governmental system, you need money to be able to meet those needs. But we also live in a society that values consumerism -- so it doesn't surprise me that people who make $250,000+ annually say they are happy; they've got lots of money, so they can buy lots of stuff (in fact, they have to buy lots of stuff to follow the norms of their socio-economic group) and consumerism teaching us that buying and having is what makes us happy (and maybe even worthy). If we weren't so obsessed with buying, buying, buying, and what that represented, would we view money as so important?

As for the statement that "the international polling data suggests that the under-$30,000 crowd might not be happier if they lived in a poorer country" I wish there was more clarification. Which poorer country are we talking about? What sort of social benefits to citizens get? What are the social norms of this country? Etc., etc.

These ideas, and many, many others, are being debated in the NYT's comment section; please take a look. (If you're not a registered member, head over to Bug Me Not for a username and password.)

I'm not a Chris Matthews fan (I saw him in person once while covering a local news story) but reading this piece (another NYTimes piece, this time in its Sunday magazine) just made me feel bad for him. He was on The Colbert Report Monday night and it's clear that this is a man with a desperate need to be thought well of. Consequently, he marinates in flop sweat constantly.

On a lighter note, maybe it’s spring – I don’t know -- but I suddenly have a massive urge to be crafty (in the let’s-paint-a-picture way, not the Machiavellian sense.) Unfortunately, many of the craft projects I’m initially attracted to don’t even get started because I think, “what am I going to do with this thing when it’s done?” Do I need a cross-stitched pillow, even an alternative one? Where would I wear jewelry made from poultry products?

Still, I am in search of the great creative project that will be ultimately functional. I don’t really need another USB drive but taking one apart to put it into a Lego brick casing, or turn on into a tromp l'oeil eraser is very appealing. (I spent way too much time on Instructables yesterday, and I think it’s going t happen again today. They even have a food section!)

I love Angie’s project on The {New New} York Etsy Street Team to turn aluminum cans into jewelry (pictured at the top of this post.) If you didn’t know the origin, you’d never have guessed what it was made from; it just looks lovely, minimalist, and modern. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get my hands on an eyelette setter and disc/stamping... In case I can't, though, I can just pick one up at Angie's Brooklynsoul Etsy store.

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