Saturday, January 31, 2009
As promised, the review of Simon Winchester's book.
I highly recommend this book if you are interested in science, China, Cambridge, philandering, good writing, the left wing, or pretty much any topic. This book was highly engaging throughout; I could barely put it down. I'm really not sure what else to say about it, except - read it!
Apparently as the CO2 in the atmosphere goes up, so does the CO2 in the sea. And when that happens, the pH drops. Ocean acidity results in dissolution of the shells of pteropods (a food source for salmon) while they are still alive, it decreases the calcification of mussels and oysters, it decreases fertilization, and increases juvenile mortality of sea creatures including fish. This could have a far-reaching effect on the ecosystem, wrecking not only ocean habitats, but possibly having effects on the watersheds where anadromous fish usually head.
This talk was given by Richard Feely of NOAA. I will try to link to this talk if they ever decide to put it up.
So many things to worry about, so little time.
UPDATED: Links for an NYT story and CBD press release.
I am so glad I went. This conference was, hands down, the best conference I have been to. And the highlight was a talk given by climate scientist and Nobel recipient Steven Schneider of Stanford. It was insightful, hilarious, inspiring, and the best summary of the best climate science I have heard to date, including a discussion of how to communicate the risk and uncertainty involved.
I would highly recommend that everyone watch the taped version of this speech. Being a government conference, the video link looks quite complicated, but I think it is worth it. Schneider gave the first talk in Plenary D.
If you've ever wanted to learn more about climate change from someone who really knows what they're talking about, this is it.
I may just have to go be his student...
So I headed over to the bus stop. I got there at 7:24, because Matt says you have to get there early to get a seat. There were no people. And no bus, despite the fact that the bus usually takes a 10 minute break there.
Shortly thereafter, a car pulled up to the stop and the front window rolled down. I saw these two older women that I'd run into in the stairwell of my building. We're going down to Castro, they said, would you like a ride?
I thought this over for about one second, before deciding, yes, I would in fact like a ride. After all, the car was nice, they lived in my building, and the bus was obviously not coming.
So I got in.
Scoot over they said, we're picking more people up.
And sure enough, at the next bus stop, we picked up a gentleman who apparently had been getting rides from these ladies for quite some time. I suspect he might have met them just the way I did - at the bus stop. The lady in the front seat told me that they always try to give people rides, but lots of people don't take them up on it - after all, it's not like they know them.
The old lady that was driving the car flew down the hill like nobody's business, with the other lady reminding her to slow down because they had a new passenger. Apparently the driver used to work for Muni. She got down the hill in about two minutes, a trek that would have taken me 20 minutes on foot and 10 minutes on the bus. Then she dropped the other three of us off right in front of the subway station.
I hopped on a train and was at the conference by 7:45.
Only in San Francisco.
I said, "Seriously?" really loudly. Matt elbowed me. Then the kid looked over at me, and I looked right at him and lifted my hands and shoulders in a "What the Hell?" kind of posture. He calmly turned and got off the bus.
I proceeded to lament the rest of the trip that I should have been more forceful with this kid. Maybe told him that the rest of the passengers don't appreciate riding in a crappy bus. And that muni would eventually have to pay to clean it up. Matt thinks I just should have shut up and not worried about it, because what difference would it make.
I just hate feeling so spineless.
On a ride that is supposed to take well over 30 minutes, our driver got us to our destination in just 15 minutes. He apparently spent all the while talking to himself, which is generally a behavior typical of bus passengers, NOT the bus driver.
After we got off the bus, we discovered that he'd been driving the whole way with the engine compartment cover in its open position - in other words perpendicular to the back of the bus, sticking out into traffic. (I had a great picture of this on my cell phone, but being technologically inept, I apparently failed to save it.)
Note to self: don't ride muni after midnight.
If any of you have been to a hockey game before, you probably know that the clientele is generally blue collar, sometimes maybe a bit snaggle-toothed, often quite drunk, and throwing around the f-bomb.
Never have I seen a crowd so white collar and stuck up as the one in San Jose. Apparently the Silicon Valleyites are actually hockey fans. For example, the man next to me was dressed in khakis and a button down shirt, but nevertheless proceeded to have a running commentary throughout the entire game about how stupid the refs were and on and on. Also used the f-bomb liberally.
Then we noticed that the stuck-up button-ups were not afraid to tell people what's what. Repeatedly people who came in just seconds into the start of play were told by other spectators to wait on the stairs until play stops before people would stand up to let them sit down. Now I know it is annoying when people have to walk by you, but give me a break.
Next, apparently because they have to fit more than 17,000 people into the arena, you cannot see all of the action without leaning forward in your seat. And folks, we did not pay $10 for obstructed view tickets as we used to do at AWA. No, we paid good money for these seats. So naturally we leaned forward so we could see the puck. Matt was told in no uncertain terms by the girl behind him that she couldn't possibly see when he leaned forward. So he was forced to miss the action for the rest of the game. (Despite the fact that I was leaning forward nearly the whole time and the girl behind me never said anything.)
Then even after the Coyotes lost, as they are wont to do, a Sharks fan on the train told us that Coyotes fans belong in the back. I kind of laughed at the time, and said, come on, we lost! But then I thought to myself: Is it really okay for somebody to joke about sending someone else to the back of the bus?
Honestly, if I ever wanted to go see another hockey game, I would rather drive to Glendale from my parents' house and hang out with the roughnecks. At least they're not elitist.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Anyway, today Obama signed two exciting directives:
- To make the EPA reconsider whether California should be able to regulate auto emissions linked to global warming (they were denied this ability under Bush)
- To make the Transportation Department require average fuel economy of 35 mpg by 2020 or sooner.
My mother will be so proud of me. On Sunday, Matt and I got library cards! Aside from seeing a gigantic penis entering a person's mouth on someone's computer screen, the library was pretty nice.
I already finished one book - Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou. It was okay, and a very fast read. Now I'm in the middle of The Man who Loved China by Simon Winchester. This book is pretty awesome so far. Of course I also enjoy China. There are some weird things about the writing - like repeated bits of information, but the content is fascinating. It is about a scientist named Joseph Needham who basically first showed that the Chinese invented nearly everything long before anyone else. I will review further when I finish.
Matt was reminiscing about Pizza Hut's old Book It! program that rewarded kids with pizza for reading books. He wishes they had such a program for adults, but frankly, I'm not even sure they do it for kids anymore.
(In case you're wondering, the security guard at the library told Matt there's nothing they can do about the porn watchers. Maybe they should just designate a porn-watching room?)
Friday, January 23, 2009
Ya'll, the world has too many people in it. Props to Obama for supporting family planning.
(Regardless of whether you feel abortion is acceptable or not, isn't it important to allow people access to all the proper information and not prevent good organizations from receiving much-needed money because they differ on one point of family planning?)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
But the one message that hit me most today, aside from the millions of people chanting our new President's name in the terrible cold, was that the reason our country is actually great is the peaceful transfer of power. No matter how power-hungry Cheney might be, no matter how good a president Bush thinks he is, they calmly step aside (or roll aside, as the case may be) when their power expires.
No matter how pessimistic I may be about our country, this is not Russia. Or Zimbabwe. It is a democracy, and we should all choose to participate and never take things lying down (ahem, Al Gore).
P.S. Dear Al, I can't thank you enough for all the work you have done for the environment.
P.P.S. Best of luck to you, Teddy.
Here are some of the highlights I found in Obama's speech:
Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.
...and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.
And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.
And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.
Obviously, I particularly enjoyed the parts where he placed responsibility on the people, and where he mentioned the environment! Read the full text of the speech here.
Solutions from the Green Economy
January 15, 2008
Everyone now understands that the economy is broken.
While many name the mortgage and credit-default-swap crises as culprits, they are only the most recent indicators of an economy with fatal design flaws. Our economy has long been based on what economist Herman Daly calls “uneconomic growth” where increases in the GDP come at an expense in resources and well-being that is worth more than the goods and services provided. When GNP growth exacerbates social and environmental problems—from sweatshop labor to manufacturing toxic chemicals—every dollar of GNP growth reduces well-being for people and the planet, and we’re all worse off.
Our fatally flawed economy creates economic injustice, poverty, and environmental crises. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can create a green economy: one that serves people and the planet and offers antidotes to the current breakdown.
Here are six green-economy solutions to today’s economic mess.
1. Green Energy—Green Jobs
A crucial starting place to rejuvenate our economy is to focus on energy. It’s time to call in the superheroes of the green energy revolution—energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and plug-in hybrids—and put their synergies to work with rapid, large-scale deployment. This is a powerful way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation (with jobs that can’t be outsourced), declare energy independence, and claim victory over the climate crisis.
2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds
How are we going to pay for this green energy revolution? We at Green America propose Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Modeled after victory bonds in World War II, Americans would buy these bonds from the federal government to invest in large-scale deployment of green energy projects, with particular emphasis in low-income communities hardest hit by the broken economy. These would be long-term bonds, paying an annual interest rate, based in part on the energy and energy savings that the bonds generate. During WWII, 85 million Americans bought over $185 billion in bonds—that would be almost $2 trillion in today’s dollars.
3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink
Living lightly on the Earth, saving resources and money, and sharing (jobs, property, ideas, and opportunities) are crucial principles for restructuring our economy. This economic breakdown is, in part, due to living beyond our means—as a nation and as individuals. With the enormous national and consumer debt weighing us down, we won’t be able to spend our way out of this economic problem. Ultimately, we need an economy that’s not dependent on unsustainable growth and consumerism. So it’s time to rethink our over-consumptive lifestyles, and turn to the principles of elegant simplicity, such as planting gardens, conserving energy, and working cooperatively with our neighbors to share resources and build resilient communities.
4. Go Green and Local
When we do buy, it is essential that those purchases benefit the green and local economy—so that every dollar helps solve social and environmental problems, not create them. Our spending choices matter. We can support our local communities by moving dollars away from conventional agribusiness and big-box stores and toward supporting local workers, businesses, and organic farmers.
5. Community Investing
All over the country, community investing banks, credit unions, and loan funds that serve hard-hit communities are strong, while the biggest banks required bailouts. The basic principles of community investing keep such institutions strong: Lenders and borrowers know each other. Lenders invest in the success of their borrowers—with training and technical assistance along with loans. And the people who provide the capital to the lenders expect reasonable, not speculative, returns. If all banks followed these principles, the economy wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.
6. Shareowner Activism
When you own stock, you have the right and responsibility to advise management to clean up its act. Had GM listened to shareholders warning that relying on SUVs would be its downfall, it would have invested in greener technologies, and would not have needed a bailout. Had CitiGroup listened to its shareowners, it would have avoided the faulty mortgage practices that brought it to its knees. Engaged shareholders are key to reforming conventional companies for the transition to this new economy – the green economy that we are building together.
It’s time to move from greed to green.--Alisa Gravitz
See the full article here. And while you're at it, check out the Responsible Shopper website to find out what corporations you can buy from to do the least damage, environmentally and socially.
Monday, January 19, 2009
To compound the problem even more, of course, Obama picked Rick Warren to deliver the invocation. Rick Warren rises prominently to near the top of my list of "people I don't like," largely for his role in support of Proposition 8 and other activist stances against gay marriage, despite the fact that he loves "gays and straights." Obama of course defended his choice, saying the two don't have to agree on everything. And pat him on the back, he let a gay bishop perform the invocation at a lesser ceremony that was held Sunday.
Nevertheless, the honor bestowed upon Warren seems a bit high and mighty for someone with such a die-hard anti-civil rights belief. There have been recent protests in Atlanta and California.
Come on, Obama, I know you're trying to show us damn liberals that you're not afraid to go center, but surely you could have picked someone other than Warren. Or maybe you could have brought up the point that religion doesn't belong in the inauguration. Have a separate service, if you're so inclined, but in this day and age, is there really a need for opening prayers and swearing on the bible?
I firmly believe in working with people who have different beliefs, but sometimes you just need to tell people they are wrong. And actively destroying a small bastion of gay marriage is wrong. Don't stand there and condone it, Obama. Stand up for your beliefs.
Picking Rick Warren just doesn't seem like the voice of hope and change to me.
The sheer quantity of things people put out on the side of the street in San Francisco is impressive. This find puts an end to a 1.5 year ongoing argument between me and Matt about him needing a desk (that isn't also my place of business). Matt didn't want to pay for one. So our new free acquisition (although possibly a dresser?) solves the dilemma - somewhere to put the crap that belong on his desk. Meanwhile, he can still use Dave (the blue thing at the side) as his laptop table.
The excitement was slightly diminished when we found the corner of a condom wrapper inside...
Monday, January 12, 2009
It's 70 degrees and sunny here in San Francisco. I'm outside on my balcony, working. Who says the weather here is bad in the winter (or all year, for that matter)?
P.S. Dear salmon, I'm sorry that I'm enjoying the lack of rain while it's literally ruining your lives. Miss you, Alison.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
This movie made me cry. I cry at movies at home on a fairly regular basis, but I always try really hard not to cry in the theater. I couldn't help myself. The movie was beautiful, moving, sad, and amazing, all at the same time. It seems such a silly premise, someone aging backwards, but the implications of the story can make you think about your own life, aging forwards and maybe not so gracefully.
I might even say it was worth the $11 ticket, but generally there's nothing in this movie that would be lost on a small screen.
The other book Matt got me for my birthday because of our recent trip to Monterey's Cannery Row. I wasn't sure I would like Steinbeck, as I can't even remember if I ever read or got through the famous Grapes of Wrath. However, I really enjoyed this book! Steinbeck's descriptions of everything are unmatched, from a frog-hunting trip to a grocery store to rivers of silver fish. And the characters come to life, even seeming likable no matter what they're really like. Highly recommended, even if you've never been to Monterey. The town is hardly reminiscent of its past.
Matt got me this book, by Armistead Maupin, for my birthday, recommended by a local bookstore. Although I wasn't in love with the writing, I enjoyed reading about the San Francisco of the 1970s, noticing some things that had changed and some that are still firmly the same (Social Safeway, Mama's, the nude beach full of men). The characters were so scintillating that I almost want to read the other 6 books in the series to find out what happens to them, but that seems so indulgently smut-filled.
I'm not sure if I recommend this book. Maybe if you live in San Francisco. Or you're looking for a quick read full of pansexual affairs and mysterious pasts.
The real part of Chinatown, filled with groceries and pastry shops to which I never took Bernie. Matt didn't take any pictures here because he couldn't handle all the people crowding the sidewalks. We did check out a pretty neat Taoist temple and sampled fortune cookies at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company. Apparently fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco. This store also sells "adult" varieties if you're in need of some party favors.
This card is all about the touristy part of Chinatown, where we have also been before. However, it's always fun to check out the shops, taste the tea, and buy Japanese candies. We also discovered Portsmouth Square, where elderly locals hang out in groups, playing games, and grandchildren run around on the jungle gym.
And, of course, the famous Dragon Gates:
We'd been to Union Square before to do some shopping, but we checked out the walk anyway. We found a high-class alley with a Frank Lloyd Wright building, and a swanky hotel (sorry about the blurry picture, but I tried to capture the chandeliers and stained glass ceiling.
More fun if you like shopping (and have a lot of money).
What a great walk! Although Matt works in South of Market, and I have been in the area many times for various reasons, I had no idea many of the things on this card existed. We didn't go in any of the museums because it was such a gorgeous day, and the MOMA has free and half-price days that would be better-suited to our less than art-savvy selves.
However, at Yerba Buena Gardens we found a great MLK memorial:
A beautiful grassy esplanade:
Also an awesome playground for kids, an ice rink, bowling alley, movie theater, and an arcade with more skill cranes than you have ever seen. Possibly approaching 100. (Okay, maybe only 50). Oh also, we found a Chronicle Books store, publisher of this series, and their offerings were fabulous. Everyone should expect gifts from here in the future. And there was a children's tech museum we didn't go in, Zeum, but their gift shop was full of fantabulous toys as well.
I had heard bad things about living in SOMA (South of Market), but this area seems like it wouldn't be bad. Also recommended.
On Saturday mornings, the Ferry Building hosts a fantastic (and expensive) farmer's market. The weather was beautiful, as were the peppers.
People were out and about enjoying the day.
Welcome to a new, recurring section of my blog. For Christmas, my sister and brother-in-law gave us a neat little present involving urban hiking. Chronicle Books, right here in San Francisco, publishes a series called City Walks for a variety of locations around the world. These are not books, but rather a box of 50 cards, each of them featuring a different walking adventure. This is a fantastic idea because instead of hauling around an entire book, you can just grab a couple cards and appear far less touristy (haha). Each card has a map on one side (see examples below) and a description of the walk and attractions on the other side.
Matt and I have decided to walk all 50, more or less in order, and tell you about each one! We are excited to learn more about all the different neighborhoods here in San Francisco. And you can tell us where you want to go when you come visit! Just click on the theme "City Walks SF" to view all the posts together. Enjoy.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Because Matt and I almost always bring our own bags to the store, I often find it necessary to bag myself. Although BYOB is becoming much more common, many baggers simply can't figure out how to bag in a timely fashion if the bag is not already attached the handy little metal holder thing. (This is especially a problem at Target, where the check-out lanes are just not set up to handle BYOB very well.) So anyway, Matt pays while I bag, me being the one with professional grocery store experience and all.
Last night, the bagger on our lane was stupendously far behind, and nearly the whole end of the lane was still covered in food from the previous customer. Instead of helping to bag, our intrepid cashier began scanning our items, and stacking them carefully next to the scanner, so as not to confuse them with the other person's items. So I quickly whipped out my bags and started tossing in items, of course being careful to put the heavy things in the bottom and spread out, the crushables on top, and the cold items in their own bags. (Baggers just don't bag like they used to.)
The cashier actually told me, albeit somewhat jokingly, that I shouldn't go so fast because I would spoil their routine. Apparently, he thinks customers enjoy standing in endless check-out lanes just so he doesn't have to strain himself, and since no one is usually there to demonstrate how a grocery check-out should actually happen, the customer doesn't know the difference. Meanwhile, when the bagger finally finished with the previous customer, I had about one bag to go. Did he offer to take over? No. He just stood there and watched me, as did the cashier. As we were leaving, the cashier was still going on about how I was making them look bad. No kidding.
(Granted, had the bagger taken over, I would have just complained per usual about how slow he was. Also, note that these people make at least $9.79 per hour (minimum wage in SF), far more than I made as a cashier back in high school.)
[Update: and another questionable shooting of a young non-white man by police.]
In other bad news, someone drew swastikas and angry messages about the Catholic church's support of Prop 8 on the pro-gay Catholic Church in the Castro where I went to Christmas Mass with my mom. Yes, the Catholic Church in general stuck their nose places they should not have in the Prop 8 campaign, but it is still the right of gay people who otherwise believe in the faith to practice their religion, especially at such a liberal church. The Christmas Eve celebration was fantastic. The pews were packed by a large majority of men -many with their arms around each other, some women, and a very few kids. Everybody sang together, and everybody seemed to know each other. Trust me, this is not typical in the Catholic church. It seemed to be a wonderful community, and they did not deserve that graffiti. Yes, Prop 8 sucks, but let's not spread blame to places it doesn't belong.
Monday, January 5, 2009
P.S. My birthday present turns out to be a boy. If I still buy pink things, will my sister acquiesce to my nuttiness or to social conformity? To be continued...
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is super famous, because it is awesome, and also created the Seafood Watch Pocket Guide with which I hope you are familiar. If you are not veggie or vegan or like Matt, a meatatarian who despises seafood, you should check this out. Please make sure you are not eating bad fishies. This is very important for your health and for the ecosystem.
The Aquarium also does some other awesome things. It houses 5 of the cutest sea otters ever. All of them are unreleasable for one reason or another. At least one of them, in fact, has toxo, which I recently learned about at NASW. Accordingly, one of the Aquarium's educational campaigns is to teach people that even outdoor cats should have litter boxes. When cats pick up toxo from rats and then poop, water carries some of that toxo-fied poop into waterways and eventually into the ocean, where tiny sea creatures pick it up, and then pass it on to bigger creatures like sea otters. Sea otters with toxo cannot survive in the wild, but they can live in captivity if medicated. So if you have an outdoor cat (or ahem, monkey), you are supposed to train it to poop in an outdoor litter box, and then send the poop to a landfill in a bag where it cannot escape.
Three of the resident sea otters also serve as surrogate moms to orphaned pups. Pups who have lost their mothers are brought to the aquarium, where a resident sea otter teaches it to forage and other such things that sea otters need to know. It also provides maternal comfort. The surrogate moms do such a good job that the pups can then be released back into the wild. Isn't that the cutest thing ever? See a success story here.
Save the Oceans
The Aquarium also helps provide other opportunities for people to contribute to ocean health and sustainability, and can keep you informed about specific issues that require action.
Throughout the Aquarium, there are tips about how you can make a difference. I learned not to stand on things near tidepools that probably are alive. Although Matt and I learned our lesson and stepped carefully post-Aquarium visit, we saw many others smashing cute little creatures unknowlingly.
From the jellyfish to the rays to the river otters, there were some phenomenal things on display. I may have had to fight children to see them, but see them I did.
And the Cons...
I did have some concerns, such as the sign that assured me I could touch the rays because they had had their stingers removed, and the volunteers who told a guest that they moved creatures out of the touch pools when they showed signs of stress. Although I did enjoy touching the starfish, I certainly don't want to contribute to its elevated stress levels. Which brings me back to the question; is it okay for some animals to be, in a way, sacrified, so more people can care about the oceans and the creatures and learn how to protect them? I don't know where to draw the line.
(and the cute but not-so-cuddly)
~Coast scenery similar to what we saw on our honeymoon, only closer to San Francisco and more populated.
~Monterey Bay Aquarium. I have so much to say about this, I think I might write another post.
~Fantastic beaches and tidepools
~Butterflies! by the thousand
~So many other creatures! Whales, sea lions, seals, sea otters, dolphins. The sea otters are my favorite.
~Whale watching. Yes, we took a boat ride, after I verified that the company followed protocols and wouldn't get too close to the creatures, etc. No, I wouldn't do it again. The humongous (! I am not exaggerating. They were bigger than our 75 foot boat!) ocean swells even made Matt's stomach do flips. We never thought we'd eat again, especially when the German next to us went to the back of the boat and threw up after a lengthy conversation with his wife.
~Eating lunch in our scrubby clothes in Carmel-by-the-Sea (hoity toity town where Clint Eastwood used to be mayor)
~I'm sure I'm forgetting something. It was beautiful. You can view pictures of our trip on Picasa.