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And they call it progress

Register • Dec 16, 2013 at 1:20 PM

New and improved doesn’t always mean better.


From technology to foods, we are always looking for ways to improve upon what already exists.


Sometimes we’re successful.


Sometimes we’re not.


Produce in your local grocer looks better than ever, lasts longer than ever and tastes worse than ever. All the refinements and tinkering that have resulted in the availability of beautiful, shiny, perfect vegetables and fruits all year round have also robbed them of their taste.

Compare the Styrofoam-like taste and texture of tomatoes in most salad bars with a fresh-from-the-vine, organically-grown heirloom tomato. There is no comparison; it’s as if they were two different fruits. (Yes, tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable.)

I feel sorry for today’s kids, who will likely never enjoy the taste of freshly pressed apple cider. They’re stuck drinking the pasteurized cider that state regulations demand. It’s still good, but if you’ve ever tasted the real thing, you know there’s a hug difference.

It’s as if processing sucks the essence out of the food being treated.

It’s not just taste that’s affected. A study last week showed that organic milk is far more healthful for us than the commercially processed variety. “Real” milk has more of beneficial fat and less of the harmful type.

A friend of mine gets all of his meat from his in-laws’ farm. Their cattle are allowed to graze and eat grass, instead of being fed corn/soy- based concoctions or worse. No antibiotics, hormones or steroids are used.

His steaks not only melt in your mouth, the taste is incredible! It makes you wonder what they’re doing to commercial beef to drain all that delicious flavor away.

Consider the difference between a quarter-pound patty of fresh ground chuck made at home with a quarter-pound patty from McDonald’s. Both are 100 percent pure beef. And yet they taste nothing alike. The difference between organic, hormone/ drug-free beef and commercial beef is just as pronounced.

Technology is much the same as well. It’s been said that too much is always better than not enough, but I sometimes wonder. They cram so much stuff onto devices today that it’s almost impossible to take anything out of the box and use it at once. Half the instruction manuals look like a textbook for a class, there is so much to learn.

It used to be if you rented a car, you filled out the paperwork, paid the bill, got a key and drove away.

But today’s cars have so much technology, and that technology is evolving so fast, it’s possible you might not even get a key. If you are not familiar with the type of car you’re renting, you might not be able to operate everything without spending an hour with the owner’s manual. Don’t ask the car rental employees; they know about as much as you do.

I’m working on a short story about a detective who’s been driving the same beat-up car from the ‘80s, subjecting him to a lot of grief from his friends, who urge him to quit being so cheap and get a new car.

Our hero succumbs and buys a state-of-the-art modern marvel. That night, he sets out on his latest case. His suspect leaves the main road and drives down a gravel path into the woods. The PI follows, but doesn’t want to alert the suspect that he’s being tailed. So the detective switches off his lights.

Only they don’t go off. Because a safety feature built into the car automatically puts on the lights any time the engine is running. The PI opens the hood and gets out of the car to see if there are any wires he can pull.

Before he can react, however, the suspect has spotted him and comes roaring back down the path and onto the highway, fleeing at high speed.

Our hero dashes back to the car to follow. Unfortunately, the car has automatically locked its doors -- and the PI’s keys are still in the ignition.

The new “safety” features continue to thwart our hero’s attempts to perform his job.

Detectives aren’t the only ones affected. When I pull into my drive late at night and am listening to the radio or a CD, I can’t turn off my lights and listen to the rest of the show or tune. If the car is running, the lights are on -- much to the chagrin of any neighbors whose windows the lights shine into. 

Several times when I’ve gotten gas my car has decided for no reason that NOW would be a good time to lock the doors. As a result, I always carry a spare key, just in case. It may be new.

It may be improved.

Just give me the original, please.

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