Sunday, June 27, 2010

As high as an elephant's eye

Today I decided to finally put together the sweater that I started knitting two years ago. And while knitting it, I listened to the audio from the documentary "King Corn."

"We subsidize Happy Meals. We don't subsidize healthy meals."
- King of Corn

"If you take that meal, if you take that McDonald's meal. You don't realize it when you eat it, but you're eating corn. Beef has been corn-fed. Soda is corn. It's all high fructose corn syrup. It's the main ingredient even the french fries, which are, you know, half the calories in french fries come from the fat that they're fried in and that fat is liable to be corn or soy oil.

And so when you're at that McDonald's, you're eating Iowa food. Everything on your plate is corn." - King of Corn


It's a pretty powerful demonstration of how the enactment of a government policy shapes our lives. Government incentives and disincentives set the rules of the game. After that we all do our best to win by those rules. Guidelines point us in irresistible directions, and lead to intended and unintended outcomes.

But theoretically in our case, the government is us, so we have a say in what those guidelines are and our government is accountable to us, when assessing the outcomes. That is, if we care enough to pay attention and hold them accountable. Which is more than can be said, in general, for a corporation or a non-profit.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Bureaucratic Fiction

I am reading this book called "Devices and Desires" by K.J. Parker. It's kinda hard to describe. I found it in the SF/Fantasy part of the library but it's not really SF and while it has a Fantasy type setting there are no unicorns or wizards or magical spells.

It's full of tales of bureaucracy, war, engineering, politics, administration, and diplomacy. And while lengthy descriptions of the dynamics of bureaucratic systems would have put me straight to sleep as a teenager, at this age, in my current job, I find it strangely compelling. Much in the same way that I find time management games like "Diner Dash" and "Cake Mania" compelling.

They are not exactly fun. But resemble my daily closely enough while still being simpler and perhaps more manageable. I don't know if I identify with the book, or I just recognize so many aspects of real life in it with and feel a sympathy on some level.

She only wants to see perfection. She lives a tortured life.