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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Friday, May 13, 2005

All the News That Fits (in my garage)

Their masthead proudly proclaims "all the news that's fit to print," and quite a bit of news it is if the mountains of unread papers in my garage are any indication. Every newspaper recycling day, my wife and I have a little discussion about the unofficial archive of The New York Times that is residing in my garage. Fearful that she might actually be spiriting some of these as yet unread papers past my ever vigilant guard, I took the desperate step of going through the main sections of the papers and pulling out the one or two articles that might interest me so that I could discard the rest.

The problem is that there's just not enough time for any working person with a modicum of curiosity to work his way through that august publication on a daily basis. Let's take yesterday (Thursday May 12th) for example. The main section of the paper yielded only two rather off beat pieces that caught my eye. One was about the discovery of a previously unknown rodent found in Laos. Amazingly, wildlife scientists had never seen this animal before despite the fact that they often show up in Laotian markets being sold as food (guess scientists have been dining elsewhere). The Southeast Asian scientists must truly be asleep since DNA revealed that the family this little critter belongs to took the fork in the road of the rodent family millions of years ago. Never one to rush to judgement with a claim, scientists have just announced this discovery despite the rodent having been "discovered" in the late 90s when a visiting scientist from Madison, Wisconsin discovered them on a market table. The scientist, Dr. Timmins, said he was not tempted to taste one of them, but that "in Laos, pretty much everything gets eaten." To my credit, my interest in this has been slaked and I truly have no interest in reading their findings just published in a report in the journal Systematics and Biodiversity.

Fortunately, my interest in current events has practically evaporated, and the only other main section story that interests me is entitled How Do Japanese Dump Trash? Let Us Count the Myriad Ways by Norimitsu Onishi. It appears that cleanliness is next to timeliness in the lives of the Japanese. For those of us who are challenged by the mysteries of recycling, consider this -- residents of Kamikatsu (population 2,200) must sort their garbage among 44 different categories. Even in locations where there are less categories (Yokahama has only ten) the instructions are rather inscrutable:

  • Socks? If only one, it is burnable; a pair goes into used cloth, though only if the socks "are not torn, and the left and right sox match."

In land scarce Japan, 80% of the non-recycled garbage is incinerated while in the US, the same 80% ends up in landfills. Obviously, the Japanese are always several steps ahead of us, and it's not hard to see why. The Times article had a quote from one of Japan's "garbage researchers," and told of people volunteering to be garbage guardians. Spotting mistakes and bringing the wrongdoers to justice is evidently easy since your garbage must be in clear bags and labelled with your ID number. The penalty for non-compliance? Well, the article did tell of one 77 year old volunteer who complained to the owner of an apartment building about one young non-compliant couple and they were evicted! Way to go, Japan!

It's Saturday night and I'm still going through Thursday's paper. Coming up -- interesting articles about Elmore Leonard and Caleb Carr, and something truly dangerous for ye of little willpower -- podcasting.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

Thanks for reading and summarizing the articles, Andy. The more you do this, the less time I'll have to spend reading the longer versions.

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