Thursday, September 16


I was shopping at the supermarket in my village in France yesterday, listening to my iPod on shuffle, when on came a song from the Kraftwerk album "Computer World." Their music seemed more fitting here, with their accented English and techno bleeps that spawned the dance music that's rampant here, blasting from polished cars and playing, though more softly, in kids' carousels around Geneva.

I looked at the prices for chicken, and they're expensive, though not outrageous. But beef really puts a dent in the wallet. I was at dinner last week with some co-workers from CERN and they were talking about the cost of meat in different countries. "Beef is really cheap in the U.S., isn't it?" one of them asked me. "Yeah, but that's because the corn they feed the cattle is heavily subsidized by the government." They shook their heads and I said, "I know, it's really hypocritical. The politicians always fly the banner of free trade,* but then they say, 'Oh, but not with beef. Not with steel.'"

All this made all the technology and management behind producing meat, or any food, a bit more tangible. The French have a romance with their supposed roots in the countryside, I read in Paris to the Moon. On my way from my village to my work at a huge physics research center, I ride my bike past fields of corn. Maybe they just have different zoning around here, but it seems like the French like to see their farms. But even with movements toward free-range animals and organic foods, we're still a long way from the farming of a century ago. The fluorescent-lit aisles of the supermarket, felt less like the country and more like a computer world.

*note: quotes may have been changed to make me look better


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