Improving quality of life

I saw this post recently and thought it was worth pulling out:

My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s

Progress is usually debated in terms of the big things like lifting the Third World out of poverty, or science & tech: discovering gravitational waves, creating world champion AIs, turning AIDS into a treatable rather than terminal disease, conquering hepatitis C or, curing deadly cancers with genetically-engineered T-cells. But as cool as those big things are, and matters of life-and-death for many, such achievements tend to be remote from ordinary people, and not your everyday sort of thing (or so one hopes). Small stuff matters too.What about the little things in an ordinary life?

There’s a lot about computers and technology, of course, because how could there not be. But also this:

Environment: air quality in most places has continued to improve, forest area has increased, and more rivers are safe to fish in

Board Games have been revolutionized by the influx of German/​European-style games, liberating us from the monopoly of the Amerigame Monopoly

I hear a lot about this being the golden age of board games due to Kickstarter. I’m sure it’s true.

Even Mass-Market Grocery Stores like Walmart increasingly routinely stock an enormous variety of foods, from sushi to goat cheese to kefir.

They do, by the way! I recently noticed the only brand of coconut milk I actually like is now being carried at the local Walmart. That was a surprise!

and finally and least importantly:

Better Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts no longer taste quite so bad due to artificial selection

I wouldn’t know, having purchased Brussels sprouts several times because they were so beautiful in the store, only to discover that no matter what you do with them, they are awful. Not tasting quite so bad is doubtless a good thing, though!

Anyway, by all means click through and scan the whole list if you’re interested.

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7 thoughts on “Improving quality of life”

  1. The washing machine is way, way up on the list. Washing clothes by hand is horrible drudgery. Gas range and vacuum cleaner are great, but washing machine is easily #1 here.

    Also: brussels sprouts are delicious unless they are overcooked. Then they are disgusting. And if they are cooked whole, they *will* be overcooked. They are best cut in half and roasted (with olive oil, salt, and hot-ish chili pepper flake.)

  2. Pete, I agree with your list as the most important improvements, though of those, the vacuum cleaner would be the easiest to do without. Using sweepers and mops, brushes and dustpans gets the same result with only a little more effort, especially if you choose a wood or tile or vinyl flooring instead of carpeting.
    But the timeline for those is longer.

    Electric lights, clean tap water indoors (and the concomitant safe disposal of wastewater), washing machines, vacuumcleaners, and gas appliances for cooking and heating, and the wiring and piping needed for those – all the greatest improvements to quality of life already existed long before 1990, and were already widespread in first-world countries in the 1950-60s. The shame is that 70 years on,there are still areas of the world where they are not.

    The most crucial improvements outdoors are also more than a century old. In my view those would be well-designed (graded and supported), hard-surfaced roads for ease of travel and transport; the tractor and plough (and other agricultural implements) for ease of food production, freeing up people’s time to do and invent other tbings; and mills and all their attendant machinery to grind flour, pump water and saw wood etcetera, also freeing up human time an labour from these monotonous back-breaking tasks.

    I know, the ways those inventions were implemented were often detrimental to parts of society at the time, and/or the environment, but over all, in the long term, they did lead to an improved quality of life for most people, over the endless backbreaking toil to raise enough food pre-mechanization.

    I don’t see any modern improvements leading to that kind of positive phase-change for society, though they do change things, sometimes for the better.
    Though computers are easier & faster to write on than typewriters, and those were faster than pens, clerks still put in nearly the same kinds of workdays – as productivity rose, more was expected of them.
    Same goes for cars: living in far-flung suburbs, needing to use the car to get to work or big shopping malls, creating air pollution, global warming and traffic deaths as by-products, does not seem like a big improvement to me over the way things were done before cars, with people living closer to their work and the shops, walking to the corner store, and going to their job by bike or bus or tram.
    Cheap cars created a huge change in society and our (built) environment, but not for the better; and electric cars won’t change that impact enough to undo the harm.

    Is that too awfully reactonary of me, to think that most modern improvements are either just incremental, or trying to undo the harm caused by earlier “improvements”?

  3. Pete, I am familiar with the Theory of Brussels Sprouts Edibility, but unpersuaded. Even though I like other crucifers fine, Brussels sprouts are not among the palatable flora of the world no matter how they’re cooked.

    They’re above turnips, though. Barely.

  4. If you’re interested in trying out some board games, Ticket to Ride has a good online version and is a great starting place. It has a decent “play against the computer” mode too.

  5. I found brussel sprouts improved to some degree when cooked in an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. But it wasn’t enough improvement to make them good to eat.

    I suspect this is like the cilantro thing: for some people it tastes like soap or another disgusting flavor. For others it tastes just fine.

  6. Rachel Neumeier

    Irina, you made me laugh! I guess we need heritage varieties of Brussels sprouts, which probably do exist come to think of it.

    I agree with Elaine; I suspect a real difference in taste. My mother has the cilantro-bad perception, and I think I got a Brussels sprouts-bad one.

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