Run the equator: December 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Third world prices in America

No-nonsense prices!
Click photo to see slideshow
or here for all those veggies

When I was traveling through South America, seeing the ridiculously low prices of fruits and vegetables I ranted on this site about our own grocery stores back home and the exorbitant prices they charge us for the same stuff. The only possible explanation for this rip-off is that it’s not a rip-off at all: we are subjected to a first-world standard-of-living tax that generously flows into an altruistic aid program that subsidizes the mom-and-pop grocers of the third world. Right?

It turns out that it doesn't have to be this way; the first-world sucker tax is optional. Upon our return, Angela has been struck by a sudden, lasting attack of anal-retentiveness and decided that grocery shopping needs to be done by a meticulous plan which will result in significant savings. Thus, for the last few months we have been shopping at the “Asian” grocery markets in the International District. I mean “Asian” in the blatant “most people who work there look vaguely Chinese” way. In those nondescript stores along and behind Jackson Street you can find not only the familiar fruits and vegetables sold by the ubiquitous Fred Meyer, Safeway or QFC, but also others that may require an advanced course in exotic foods before you can figure out what to do with them. The quality is nothing to balk at but the prices are the best part – everything is much cheaper than at the mainstream chain grocery stores. You spend 10 bucks and go out with three full bags. I took some pictures of their convincing price tags – and these are winter prices; in summer, the numbers are half.

Cheap stuff for tightwads

Unless these guys get all their produce straight from China like Walmart or grow them in their basement closets under halogen light bulbs year-round they would have to buy from the same producers like the big stores. They charge lower prices and obviously manage to stay in business and survive the tough competition. This begs the question, why don’t the major stores sell at comparable prices? The answer is, beyond any economic theory bullshit, because they can. For a variety of reasons, the average white American doesn't shop in Chinatown. If you live in the suburbs you have no choice or you just don’t know better – the Asian groceries are confined to a 5-block stretch along Jackson Street, a small and not too interesting neighborhood south of downtown. However the backbone of the American nation, the soccer moms and baseball dads of Seattle, don’t shop in the I.D. because the place is obviously unclean, unhygienic, unsafe and full of foreigners with dreadful accents, who might as well be terrorists. That leaves the minorities, a handful of liberal hippies and the expert-level white people who – like me – have embraced ethnic diversity. Of course, only as long as it comes to cheap food.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Google makes the world grow stupid

It's imaginary, just like your intelligence

It’s no surprise that a blog called “Run the Equator” gets the majority of its hits from people searching the web for something or other related to the Equator. I run a counter on this site which enables me to see how many people have reached it and where the clicks come from, within the limits of geographic IP address mapping. Don’t worry, the counter doesn’t tell me your name, phone number or email address, but it’s very good at measuring stupidity, and there’s no better dumbness-gauge than the words people use in web searches. Words? No, it’s entire phrases and personal questions that people ask Google these days.

The undeniable fact that Google has indexed and catalogued the entire world of online information has led certain of us to believe that the sum of human knowledge is at their fingertips and no effort is needed to retrieve it. Once upon a time it used to be that you needed to read the manual first in order to be able use a tool. If you wanted to get a book on a certain topic from the library, you had to know how to use the index cards or explain your concerns to the librarian, and later on, when you had the book in your hands you actually had to spend some time reading it to get to the information you were looking for. All this sounds pretty darn complicated, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, in the age of instant gratification all these time-wasting efforts have been made obsolete by web search. Who needs a brain when you’ve got Google?

You can get most of what you’re looking for to come willingly to your web browser, depending on your level of skill in manipulating search keywords, but no amount of search and indexing will redeem some of the lost souls who land accidentally on my blog. For their lack of common sense they deserve house arrest without access to the internet and an interdiction to procreate.

Most people get to my blog looking for something simple and objective, which can be expressed in simple queries: visas, information about a certain country or place I happen to have visited and blogged about, hostels, vaccines for the tropical world, travel information. These boring internet surfers seem to have read the manual and don’t expect the web to be able to cure AIDS and slice bread.

A few clueless dweebs, exhibiting a fair degree of anonymous honesty admit that they don’t know where or what this equator-thing is. Fair enough – in this day and age, operating a computer doesn’t require any level of formal education, like going to school. These guys seem to be struggling in a desperate quest for trivial knowledge. Unless they are 8 year-olds, they have already lost the battle and will soon land a job flipping burgers for the rest of their lives if they don’t already do so.

The frosting on the cake are those who have thrown all gray-matter from the skulls into the trash can and would rather be plugged into the Matrix than exercise their atrophied brains, the part of the population whose cortexes have been leveled with a clothes iron by the digital age. These guys ask Google the kind of questions you would ask of an oracle. One who has all the answers to all the riddles in the Universe, or at least to everything involving the Equator. Let’s take a look at the existential problems these monkeys are struggling with. Some questions require algorithmic answers, which reveals a certain complexity of the problem they are trying to tackle, but the mere fact that they ask the search question in raw, human form reveals their total lack of common sense with regard to technology and its limits. Some of them are merely stupid, others completely nonsensical, more appropriate to the prior category, many are just brilliant. The grammar belongs to them.

  • do you have to pass the equator to get to Turkey
  • what towns are on the equator
  • countries which run through the equator
  • what's the distance of istanbul from the equator
  • India is as much a country as the Equator
  • continents that doesn't run through the equator
  • frostbite near the equator
  • map of india with equator on it
  • equator shit time lapse
  • honduras location due to the equator
  • map of thailand equator
  • where does the equator run
  • visa to equator
  • what rivers run away from the equator
  • ten countries along the equator that you fly along
  • I travel around the world but always in a corner i can cross the equator but only only make one trip
  • a list of all country the equator run through
  • turkey spain or egypt what is closer to the equator
  • lands lieng on the equator
  • the capital of the country that crosses the equator
  • india south of the equator
  • why is the Equator famous

Those queries come from the activity logs of the last month only. Too bad I didn’t save the rest. I wanted to make a top-ten out of it but I can’t decide which one deserves the Darwin Award...

For all of you internet-indoctrinated morons, get an atlas! Google maps would do just fine.

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