June 18th, 2008

Thin, Exercise, Serious

Consumerism and Patriotism

Even though I certainly have other stuff occupying my mind (starting my trip in 15 min.), I just wrote to NPR about a story they aired just now about the price of oil, plastics, and consumer demand. I just HAD to!

This morning's story on energy prices ("Energy Costs Drive Up Prices of Nearly Everything") unsurprisingly left out a key point about consumer demand for plastics and other goods. I say unsurprisingly because when people connected to big business or corporate economics talk about consumer demand, they almost always look at decreased consumer demand as a bad thing. People buying less stuff? Economy is down. However, when you look at the economics of plastics and other newly produced consumer goods, isn't it possible that people are buying less stuff because they're actually conserving, recycling, using cloth bags instead of plastic, glass instead of Tupperware? These days it seems like consumerism is equated with patriotism ("Keep on buying, folks!") but in my view, it's conservation of resources and pure thriftiness that's the more patriotic virtue. Until we as a country come to consensus on that point, we will be forever mired in the dictum that tells us that if consumers are buying and buying, the the world is at an end.

For the past 2-3 years, I swear my 1970s / Euro outlook on consumerism and conservation has returned (not that it entirely disappeared!) with a vengeance. I find it so annoying that convention says it's spending and consumption that equate with a robust economy and, well, a good state of the world. Isn't that what led us into this mess the world is in?

Headed toward lands with a better attitude, thankyouverymuch...

...and I am outta here!

OK, headed off to Euro-land. Oh, and Pound-land, too. Trip summary:

Up to Newark -- layover
Lufthansa to London, via Dusseldorf
London, wedding, and meat pies for 3 days
BA to Berlin
5 days of what I hope to be spectacular cosmopolitanality
Deutsche Bahn to Dusseldorf
2 days decompressing, stocking up on stockings, bread, goodies
Lufthansa back to Newark and
Back to Atlanta


Well, no, actually. See subsequent voice posts.

Voice Post - Trip Cancelled and It's All My Fault

440K 2:17
“Well the trip is off, it is my fault. We got to the airport this morning you know having put all this work into the trip and having passed and you know cost 30's and got it alright except for one critical bit which is that passport expired last week. I got it expired in July but thinking is different than knowing and I did not actually check until we had already gone through security on our way to New York and then we talked to 5 or 6 different people and they said there's nothing that can be done there's no way that I can get a valid passport no sooner than 3 weeks from now. So we did not fly to New York we're waiting for my bag to come back. I'm not going anywhere Kelb(?) is going because he says that he does not want to go on a 10 weeks a 10 day vacation without me and he's getting his freaking flyer miles back and no he will use them to go on a yes he has to use them by the end of the year but he'll either you know make another trip by himself or he'll go with Daniel or you know he might go with me maybe not maybe he's gonna be too mad at me but anyways yeah so pretty much you know slipping in and looking forward to for months and months like since last fall it's not gonna happen and I'm gonna have to go back to work tomorrow. I feel really really stupid. So yeah this is like the worst day like the most crushing news I've had since I was tired and I just hope it doesn't cut me into some kind of spiral. I'm trying to think positive things like I have a good job and you know I have a house and food and I'm healthy and my parents are alive and all this stuff but I'm very upset. I guess I'm gonna stop this recording now.”

Auto-Transcribed Voice Post - spoken through SpinVox

To clarify the bad auto-transcription:
My passport expired last week, so I had to cancel the trip. (And even if it hadn't expired I would still have had problems with re-entry since travel is curtailed if you are within 6 mo. of the expiration date.) Caleb's trip if off, too, because he wouldn't go without me (not in sympathy, but because he doesn't want to be alone). He is going to try and get his frequent flyer miles back and use them later and meanwhile I have promised to pay up for any non-refundable expenses. Needless to say, this is the worst disappointment I've had since I got fired, although in this case I am mad at myself and not anyone else. I felt I was fired unjustly but with this, I know it's my fault and I could have prevented this by some simple foresight. Oh, and I will be reminded of this every day for the rest of my life, if Caleb has anything to do with it.

Good to know

One thing I learned today is that it's not enough just to have a passport that hasn't expired. Did you know that even if you passport is "good," a lot of countries won't accept it if it's set to expire within six months? Here's what the Dept. of State web site says:

How long is a passport valid and when should I renew my passport?
If possible, you should renew your passport approximately nine (9) months before it expires. Some countries require that your passport be valid at least six (6) months beyond the dates of your trip. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.

So I guess it's possible that even if my passport expiration date had been July 15 or even sometime this fall, officials could've axed my travel plans anyway. Of course, if I had gone ahead and renewed the thing back in, say, December, instead of worrying it would take too long and instead of paying close attention to the date and/or passport rules, I wouldn't have had to ever learn any of this.

But, OK, the application's in the mail and from what I gather, I should get the new thing in about a month.