Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Psychology of Dumpster Diving

 How do we analyze our food? Well, we use our senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, taste, as well as all the available information about the food: who made it, where the ingredients came from, the potential health implications; which all contributes to our end feeling about the food.

Sometimes our tools of analysis are restricted or deceived, for example in a grocery store: packaging obscures the view of the product and instead has idealized pictures, we cannot smell the product because the packaging is airtight, we cannot sample the food, and it is covered with information that is solely intended to entice the consumer. In such a case, the consumer is led to have a particular feeling about the product that is different from the feeling they would have given the ability to analyze the food using all tools, and given all relevant information.

For example, "0-calorie" diet soda is deceptive information. It is information that is provided to make weight-conscious people think that the soda they are drinking will help them to slim down. As the product is being consumed, the consumer feels better, without guilt or worrying about the amount that they should be consuming, because after all 10 cans of "0-calorie" soda is still a total of 0 calories, right? The "sugar-substitute" page on Wikipedia cites studies which find,
"the release of insulin causes blood sugar to be stored in tissues (including fat). In the case of a response to artificial sweeteners, because blood sugar does not increase there can be increased hypoglycemia and increased food intake the next time there is a meal."
In other words, diet soda actually makes you fatter.
I use that example not as a starting point to now propel into the corruption of food manufacturers, but instead to lead into the psychology of dumpster diving.

Conceptually, food in the trash gross. Trash is dirty and unsanitary, and food with such qualities is deleterious. So no matter how clean and fresh-looking a piece of food may appear, if you're told that it came from the trash the natural instinct is to feel repulsed. But how factually based is this feeling? Can food from a dumpster be clean and sanitary? Isn't this just the converse situation to the person who feels great drinking their 0-calorie soda -- information taints the food instead of making the food more enticing...?

What emerges from this discussion is the idea that we need food that satisfies two conditions: the food is good for our bodies, and we feel good eating it (for eating food that we don't feel good eating is deleterious itself ~holistic argument). 0-calorie soda does not satisfy the first condition, whereas dumpster food does not satisfy the second, but can that be changed? Can we convince our minds to be okay with eating food from a dumpster? Well, a mind can be okay with eating dumspter food if it doesn't know that the food's from a dumspter: a piece of food is offered, and it's dumpster origin is glossed over; but that doesn't count. I'm talking about taking a piece of food out of a dumpster with your own hands, and feeling perfectly comfortable taking a bite. Freegans have accomplished such a feat, and feel great eating dumpster food because they know that they aren't contributing to the wastefulness and corruption of our capitalistic society. But that only works for people of a certain political orientation, how about a way for anyone to become more comfortable eating dumpster food...rational thinking.
The fact is that businesses can't sell day-old bread, dented cans, a bag of onions with one that's gone bad, etc., so they take these goods, place them in clean plastic bags, and put the bags outside in a metal container. There are other, more serious reasons why things get thrown away, and that's the part that can leave a slight unsettled feeling in one's stomach; no store has to put a "do not eat" sign on dangerous food that they're throwing away. But again, think of the likelihood that a batch of Whole Foods bread got thrown away because it was found to have traces of fill in the blank epidemic/toxic chemical, which can assuage the feeling.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Computer Programming Notes

MySQL notes

MySQL, pronounced My-S-Q-L. It stores tabled data.

Make a backup of all databases:
# mysqldump -u root -p --all-databases  | gzip > FILENAME.sql.gz
It then asks for your mysql password

To restore all databases, unzip then:
# mysql -u root -p < FILENAME.sql

Mathematica Notes

Load vector analysis package:

<< VectorAnalysis`

Divergence of unit vector rho-hat -> Div[{1,0,0}]