Sunday, January 28, 2007

But, I don't want to be a vegetarian.

It all started when I read this awesome article written by Peter Singer for the New York Times. His ideas about eliminating world poverty were interesting. Then, I decided that because he was such an interesting writer, I wanted to read some of his other work. I picked up "The Way We Eat", which he co-wrote with Jim Mason. Well, now that I read that, I've decided that I can no longer support factory farms with a clear conscience. That's why I said after the Philadelphia trip that I've decided to become more discerning in what I eat at restaurants. At least when I shop and cook on my own, I have more control over where my meat comes from. Now, Jake decided to read some of the book, too. He doesn't want to become vegetarian either. But, now he's taken away different things from it that I decided I wasn't going to let bother me. Now he wants to buy the milk at the store that costs $6 a gallon because the cows that produce it are fed grass and aren't stored in crates. I thought we were doing ok with the brand that costs $4 a gallon produced by Whole Foods. Apparently not.
Damn it. I refuse to become vegetarian. I want to still be able to eat meat on my own terms. I won't be one of those people who call themselves vegetarian and then get mocked for eating meat now and again. So, I'm not a vegetarian. I'm just reducing my meat consumption and trying to eat in a way that is for the most part environmentally and socially responsible. I don't think Jake is happy about it either. He complained that we haven't eaten meat all week long and then he had the chance to order some from this Thai place on Friday. I ordered a tofu dish. I wanted to order a shrimp dish and then deduced that the shrimp the restaurant serves probably comes from Asia, which the Seafood Watch list says to avoid. I figured Jake'd order something with meat and then he decided to order a vegetarian curry. He told me that reading the book is starting to bother him, too.
I'm going to read Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" next. I'm hoping that it gives me more to go on to counter the arguments for being vegan in Singer's book. Gah, it's so much easier to just go with the flow and do what everyone else does. If I keep reminding myself of all the facts about why it's not good to eat meat, I will probably end most of my meat consumption. But, if I allow myself to forget it and distract myself, I'm sure I could go back to eating the things I used to eventually.
Anyway, I'm not a vegetarian. Not now, anyway. I went out to eat with these girls I know last night and I ordered food without meat. They asked me if I was a vegetarian. I said, "No, but I've decided that I can't support factory farms anymore." I think they looked sort of relieved that I wasn't vegetarian, and they nodded like they understood what I was saying about factory farms. I think maybe I could more effectively convince other people to reduce their meat consumption if I don't become a vegetarian. Does that make sense? Like, I can tell them, "I'm just like you. I enjoy meat. It's delicious. I've just decided that we all live on the earth and we need to protect it for future generations. So, I just want to make wise choices about the meat that I eat."

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Weekend in Philly

Jake and I decided that because we both had off for MLK Day, we'd take a short trip up to Philadelphia for the weekend. Here's a picture of us in front of the art museum there. Anyone interested in seeing more pictures can go to Jake's Album.

Highlights of the weekend:

We got lunch in Chinatown. I ordered the "House Special Chow Mein" only to discover that it had more animals in it than I could fully identify. There was pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, squid, scallops, and other random creatures. Huh. Not what I expected.

Jake and I toured Independence Hall and also saw the Liberty Bell.

I ate a Philly cheesesteak, which was on my "50 things to do before I die" list. (See my post from September 2005 to see the list.) From the point of the Philly cheesesteak forward, I have decided that am going to be more discerning regarding the meat I eat in restaurants. I just had to get that off the list first.

A bum tapped me on the elbow while I was waiting in line for a cheesesteak. He asked me for money to help him buy cigarettes and beer before the start of the Eagles game. I said no, and he proceeded to ask people ahead of me in line for money. One of the cooks at the steak place said, "Hey, you can't be pimpin' in here" and kicked him out. A second bum also got kicked out while I was still in line.

I watched the Eagles vs. New Orleans game in a bar and drank cheap beer.

Jake and I wandered through the Italian Market.

I ran up the stairs to the art museum, and a random man began singing the "Rocky" theme song. Jake captured some of this on video.

I drank some good beer and read in the hotel room while Jake watched "24". I had a beer called Samuel Smith's Imperial Stout, which was excellent. I also had a Belgian ale that I enjoyed.

Um, yup...that's about it. I wish we could have seen the King Tut exhibit that's coming in a few weeks to the Franklin Institute Science museum. Oh well, we still had an enjoyable time.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I need to be more of a pretentious asshole.

At work this week, I mentioned to a coworker of mine that I was tired of eating the same sandwich and yogurt every single day for lunch. I asked what he was eating, and he said that he brought a microwavable chicken pot pie. He then said, "Yeah, they're like 4 for $2 at Wal-mart. So, then your lunch is only 50 cents." I just sort of nodded and kept quiet. But inside, all I could think about is what cheap chicken pot pies probably actually end up costing humans and the earth. How much in wages did Wal-mart end up cheating workers, both in their own stores and out in the fields collecting the vegetables for that pot pie? How much environmental damage is probably being done by the factory farms producing the chicken for the pot pie? And, since I know that the CEO of Wal-mart makes 966 times the wage of the average Wal-mart employee, what percentage of that 50 cents goes directly to him?

I'm such a coward. I need to care less about what people think about me. I want people to like me, but maybe it matters less if people like me and more that I am able to change the attitutes and habits of other people to encourage environmental responsibility and social and economic justice. I wonder what my coworker would have said if I gave him a lecture instead of just letting his comments fly. I wonder what my mom would say if she found out that I haven't shopped at Wal-mart in like three years. I remember her implying that Derk is a kook for refusing to shop there and for refusing to eat chocolate that isn't fair trade.

I think I am going to stop eating meat at restaurants unless I know that the supply is raised in an environmentally sustainable way. I'm going to start bothering waiters about where the food they serve comes from. I know Chipotle's meat is free-range and not fed antibiotics, so I'll keep eating there.

Ugh. This all seems like so much work. I'd rather be a coward and just go with the flow of everything, so I don't have to conflict with friends and family. I feel like in a way I may have to "come out" to my family as being this environmentalist/human rights activist. I don't know how they'll react. I remember my mom being critical of me when I was vegetarian for a summer. Maybe I'll just tell my mom I've decided that I want to be a pretentious asshole. Yup, that's what it is...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Action Plans

Okay, I know I have been slow about putting up these action plans. But, believe me, they have been developing in my head and I have even been making small changes in my life.

The first action plan is environmental responsibility. Step one: I have already made some changes by purchasing environmentally friendly cleaning products. I will not use products that contain things like chlorine or hydrocloric acid...I'm switching over to nontoxic products. I've already found nontoxic cleaning spray, and Jake picked up environmentally friendly toilet bowl cleaner and laundry detergent. Step two: Continue to bring in reusable bags to the grocery store. Step three: Buy a few more houseplants and nuture them properly. Step four: Get Jake to bother Dominion Power to switch over our electricity to wind-powered electricity instead of coal-fueled electricity. Step five: Continue to educate myself and slowly make changes...Does anyone else have suggestions? I've been reading this book by Peter Singer about the ethical consequences of our food choices. I think I've already decided that I'm not eating chicken out at restaurants anymore. I want to make sure that what I eat isn't coming from one of the factory farms wreaking havoc on the environment. I probably won't want to eat anything by the time I finish the book.

Oh, and a sidenote: I don't want to be embalmed and put in a casket when I die. I'm interested in the idea of "green burials" and I wonder if that might be better than being cremated. But, yeah, when I die...don't embalm me.

Okay, action plan number two: becoming healthier. Step one: I need to drink a proper amount of water. I have been carrying a water bottle with me at work, but it would probably be a good idea for me to drink water along with breakfast and dinner as well. Step two: Make a doctor's appointment sometime this year and get a real physical. Talk to the doctor about my blood pressure. Step three: Eat more fiber. Step four: At a bare minimum, exercise the equivalent of taking a half hour walk each day. Step five: Make an eye appointment and look into the possibility of lasik surgery for my left eye. Put away money into Jake's flexible spending account to pay for it. Step six: Continue to educate myself and develop new goals. Suggestions?

Action plan three: continue to develop my life philosophy. I'm pretty sure my life philosophy involves advancing knowledge and living responsibly on the earth. It does not involve religion. To continue to develop my philosophy, I will educate myself more about science. I want to read about physics. I want to read about evolution. Hmm...I'm not sure what else I want to do in this area. I guess this isn't very specific is it?

Action plan four: contribute to the human legacy. By this, I mean being creative. I also mean putting my own ideas forward in order to shape the environment I live in. I want to be able to advance changes in the moral and social climate. I just finished reading this book by Richard Dawkins and he discussed the idea of memes, which are units of cultural information. Memes (according to theory) may work similarly to genes and evolve according to natural selection. I think I need to be contributing memes in order for society to advance. (And, eventually, I will contribute my genes, too...when I'm good and ready.) Anyway...Step one: Continue to blog. Step two: Be less afraid to voice my own opinion. Step three: Do arts and crafts. Take my ceramics class (which starts tomorrow!). Step four: Take advantage of new situations, learn, and try new things. Meet new people. Have conversations. Play music. Etc.

Well, this is the start to becoming a better person. Maybe I can have the same action plans next year and add in new specific goals that build off of what I'll accomplish this year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The New Year

I'm incredibly tired. I can't think straight. I'm staying up, though, waiting to see if the airline will deliver my bags. They were lost last night on the flight back to DC. They are supposed to be coming tonight. A flight came in at 2pm today that supposedly had my bags on it. I called Frontier (the airline I flew) this afternoon to see if they were on the way. The guy told me that my bags should have been picked up at 4pm by a delivery company today. He also said, however, that it could take 4-5 hours plus before the bags get to my apartment...maybe more because there are lots of lost bags to deliver from holiday flights. Ugh.

Anyhow, I am working on my action plans. I have four broad plans, which I need to come up with specific small steps to achieve. Here are the four plans:

1) Become an environmentally responsible person.
2) Become healthier.
3) Develop my philosophy of life.
4) Contribute to the human legacy.

I know these are excessively broad. I bet I can even keep these action plans for next New Year. But, hopefully I will be steps closer to "perfection" in each one.

I do have smaller steps for each of these. I don't feel like writing them out right now, though. Plus, I think I need to develop better, more specific steps for some of them, which will take more thinking and effort than I'm willing to put forward tonight. I'm so ready to pass out.

I read that recent Census data indicates that about three quarters of college freshmen say that their primary personal objective is "being financially well off". Back in the 70s, I guess college freshmen said that their objective was "developing a meaningful philosophy of life". Isn't it depressing that our society has become so money-focused? What does that say about America? Man, I want to push back and have a movement toward making life meaningful. I guess I don't know exactly what the meaning of life is, but I'm sure money isn't the meaning of life. Maybe money faciliates some meaningful life experiences, but it's not the reason that I exist.

I have so much more to say, but I feel completely wiped. I feel like I think about a million more things than I'm able to blog about lately.

Hopefully, I'll write more tomorrow or something. I also want to write about what I did over break. Jake should have pictures and I should be able to get those from him after Thursday.

I think I'm going to go to sleep and see if the airline calls me in the middle of the night. It's 9:30 and I can't keep my eyes open anymore.