August 2014 Archives

Mon Aug 25 15:54:00 BST 2014

recent-ish encounter with Living Below the Line

Sometime in April*, a colleague at Brandwatch sent a message to everyone in the company (about 200 people) about the Live Below the Line challenge (project) to raise awareness (and money) for people living in extreme poverty. The idea is to eat just £1 worth of food a day, for a week, in order to draw attention and (personally) "gain a small insight" to the many millions of people around the world who live in extreme poverty.

I think i ran across mention of the Live Below the Line campaign on Singer's site years ago, but hadn't given it a lot of thought until the message from my coworker.

I've been a "fan" of Peter Singer for a long time... sometime in the Fall of 1986, i was looking through the stacks at the PCL for books on vegetarianism, and came across Animal Liberation, which provide a cohesive philosophical basis to thoughts and feelings i'd had for a few years, and enabled me to undertake an exercise in dietary and moral self-discipline that i'm still conducting today. A bit more recently, around 2009, i read The Life You Can Save, which is an ongoing project.

At the last minute, i decided to do it. Being rubbish at asking people for money, i didn't go the pledge route -- i suppose i was more interested in the experience, and hoping to raise awareness by talking with people about it.

It was a very interesting experience, which i hope to repeat more often. Food is a very emotional and fundamental aspect of human life, and being on a new, restricted diet reminded me of the early days of being veggie. The first thing i realised was that any sort of "fun" food (or drink) was right out. No sweets, no alcohol... no fruit, even. The UK produces a lot of Apples, but they're still not cheap -- 30p each was about the cheapest i could find, and i wasn't willing to blow nearly 1/3 of my daily budget on one single Apple. Like a lot of the Industrialised World, a lot of the (cheaper) fruit and veg. in England is imported, which immediately put it out of reach. What was practical was about 50g of lentils or chickpeas, and 100g of rice or (cheap) bread, which is what i ate, mostly. I splurged on a head of garlic, a carrot, and a chili pepper, at some point. Not really a diet that someone could live on for very long without getting scurvy, rickets, or some nutrition-deficiency-related disease.

Another interesting observation was how -- as if on a timer -- my mind would periodically suggest things like "Hey, now'd be a really nice time for a snack!" when i wasn't really hungry... (maybe i just needed a break to walk around the office and get blood flowing again.)

Of course, buying anything prepared was completely out of the question.

Overall, it was very educational as a greatly simplified and limited experience of what it's like to be terribly poor, as well as in how my day to day choices may effect what the world chooses to produce and sell. (E.g. If we reduced our indulgences, how much would it result in production being more oriented around what people needed?)

The one "vice" i kept was morning coffee -- i rationalised this as necessity: morning work productivity would dramatically drop off with out it. I did manage to work it into the budget -- the morning's double espresso (made at home) came in at £0.31, which was a substantial chunk of my daily allowance.

* Of course, it would have been much better to blog about this at the time, but work and other aspects of life seem to have been consuming most of my "free time" so i'm only just getting to it nearly 4 months later.

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: philosophy

Mon Aug 25 14:07:11 BST 2014

Return of Nanoblogger

About four years ago, when i moved to the UK, i moved my blog to Wordpress because there was a client for my "smartphone," which "freed" me from having to use a (bigger) computer, and meant i could blog from a train, bus, etc. I'd previously used nanoblogger, and i've switched back to that now. I just realised i'd documented that in the old WordPress area, but not here. (Incidentally, i converted the entire WordPress area into static content, which was a huge PITA.) So the list of blogging methods is now:
  1. Editing a flat file with emacs.
  2. LiveJournal
  3. nanoblogger
  4. WordPress
  5. nanoblogger

Posted by johan | Permanent link | File under: blog, paranoia