When we write the history of how technology has made us happier, I hope there's a whole chapter about headphones. Life in the pre-headphones era was a dystopia of un-entertained silences, un-podcasted public transport. Bus rides without TED Talks, old magazines in waiting rooms, flights spent deflecting extroverted strangers. Going for a jog meant listening to yourself breathe.
I have been renting a room from Inge for four months now. She is in her mid-60s, tall and blond and slender, the glowing grandmother in a Nivea commercial.
This is what I am here to do. This is my place in the system.
The first thing that happens is someone tells you.
I've been thinking a lot about my marinara this week because I've been reading Michael Moss's Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Tricked Us. Company after company, product after product, Moss shows how Big Food formulates products for maximum addictiveness and overeatability. Oreos, Cheetos, Lunchables, Wonder Bread, they're all the same Iowa corn and Brazilian sugarcane, just liquefied, dyed and processed into different shapes and colors.
The best advice and the worst advice I've ever gotten were three words long. The best advice was "avoid the treadmill". It was 2003. I was coming to the end of a master's degree in a subject (political philosophy) and a city (London) I was ready to leave. I was 22 years old.
Zimbabwe's per capita GDP is the third lowest in the world, yet the prices of items in the country—$2 for a Coke, $4 for a jar of peanut butter—is comparable to prices in large cities in the U.S. Why is that?
Britain is in the middle of a food crisis. For the first time since World War II, a significant number of Britons don't have enough to eat, and an even more significant number can only afford processed junk food, the biscuits and TV dinners that are always cheaper, always more available, than fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.
Who cares? I had a tasty meal at a reasonable price in a pleasant environment. It was precisely what I wanted.