As we slide ever deeper into the totalitarian right-wing abyss that the next four years will represent here in the once-proud United States, it occurs to me that perhaps I should be trying to find good things to say about the world as a whole, because otherwise I may just have to park my sanity at the door and start believing in the effectiveness of supply-side economics in a demand-side economy and no good ever comes of that.
There are good things, even if they can be easily obscured by the larger picture.
So I figured I’d start small by listing a few things that make the world better. Truly we live in an age of miracles.
1. Instant-on LED light bulbs.
These are just the greatest things ever made. They are cheap if you amortize them out over the life of the bulb, because they last basically forever. They fit into your pre-existing light fixtures. They actually provide bright and reasonably-hued light. And you don’t have to wait for them to warm up the way the old ones used to require (and the way CFLs still do). Seriously – these things are just the bomb. Am I allowed to say “bomb” these days? We’ll find out.
2. Digital cameras.
It took me a long time to make the switch from film to digital, but I’m glad I did. They’re fast, they have resolution that’s as good or better than film these days, and you can take as many pictures as you want without worrying about the cost – a prime consideration on vacations, or when giving cameras to young children. You do have to be a bit more focused on printing the photos – my guess is that the overwhelming majority of photographs taken in the last decade will never actually be printed – and I do worry about the long-term accessibility of the files, since computer formats are ephemeral. I can print 150-year-old glass plate negatives, but try to read a 20-year-old computer disk sometime. That said, digital photos are fun, and to be honest most film photographs didn’t survive either.
3. Electric teakettles.
We discovered these on a trip to England in 2004, and I have no idea how I ever managed to live without them. You plug in the base, fill the kettle, and just a couple of minutes later you have hot water for tea. And the bottom of the kettle is cool, so you can put it on your table without scorching anything. These are great – I cannot imagine why they’re not in every home in the world. We use them so hard we burn through one about every eighteen months, and they’re just lovely.
4. Free shipping
The modern world runs on logistics – it’s an intricately connected web of supplies that all, somehow, manages to get things from where they are to where they need to be mostly on time and in good condition. And we’ve got this down to such an art now that the costs of it all can be absorbed into the item cost without anyone getting upset about it. That’s an astonishing thing, from a historical perspective. It wasn’t all that long ago that nothing in the world moved faster than 3mph over any appreciable distance and carrying costs were often higher than the value of the goods carried. Things have changed.
5. Buffalo wings
I love spicy food. I am reaching the point in my life where I’m no longer convinced that this love is reciprocated, but that hasn’t stopped me yet. I’m the sort of person who uses hot sauce where most people use ketchup – as an all-around condiment to be put on pretty much everything. I rarely bother with Chinese menu items that aren’t printed in red. I’m long past the days when I saw this as a contest with myself – Colonel Johnson’s Thermonuclear Ribs were remarkably efficient at dispelling that illusion, thank you – but if it has salt, vinegar, and hot peppers mixed together chances are I’ll eat it and be happy. The fact that you can get chicken covered in that combination and that, further, you can dip that chicken into bleu cheese dressing, is just the pinnacle of culinary bliss as far as I am concerned.
Life can be good. Really, it can.