html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hey buddy. How come you're doing this?

I can't be the only person who daydreams about being the calm and collected person who says all the right things to talk the hostage-taker down and defuse the whole situation without anyone getting hurt.

Or the book, maybe.

Alif Sikkiin put up a post about her rush to finish her thesis. I remember that stage. I remember it being strangely peaceful. Having that much work to do takes over everything; all other problems fall to the wayside. I remember being relieved and grateful on Friday nights, because I would have five uninterrupted hours to work on stuff that wasn't due the next day. I could prep the weekend's work! The only logistics I had to figure out was where I would work best during my next free time. Those were a pure few weeks. It was a selfish time as well, since I had nothing left over for anyone, not attention or time or energy, but I warned my friends in advance.

I don't suppose I'll have occasion to do that again (unless I take the bar or the PE), but as long as times like that only come every few years, I kinda like them.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Whatever. I have lots of friends.

Margie and I were talking about what you do when a friend or sweetheart or someone is inadvertently doing something that hurts your feelings or annoys you. Our list, from best to worst:

1. Modify their environment so they can't repeat the hurtful behavior (provide duplicate object, get motion detector that turns lights off for them, set their watch early so they stop being late).
a. In the perfect physical solution, they like the change, never understand the reason, and can't repeat their behavior. This is optimal, so it should be where you put most of your problem-solving thought.
b. It is not quite as good if they perceive the change as neutral or worse, but as long as they don't know reason, you're still good. More points off if you have to come up with a plausible explanation.

Be stoic, say nothing, and decide it wasn't important anyway.

3. Abruptly leave the relationship with no explanation. Sever all contact.

The third option isn't a good option, but presumably you tried 1 and 2 first. We couldn't think of any other options.

Something like that.

I was on my way to dinner last night when my phone rang. It was my tenants, telling me that my house had been broken into. I went straight over and we pieced together what happened. From the looks of it, either Eric Rauchway or Kieran Healy busted through the big window on my porch. You climbed through the jagged glass, guys? Not thinkers. Then they had a sortof fruitless time trying to find something to steal in all my tenants moving boxes and were stymied by the back closet I left a mess. My tenants came home in the middle of that, so the two of them charged out the front door, getting away with only an old laptop. I can only imagine Kieran and Eric spent the rest of the night drinking forties and using their stolen loot to troll comments sections.

Cops came and there wasn't anything for me to do at the house, so I met my dinner companions late. Thief with the Grey Hoodie, Thief with the Buzzcut and I really had a lovely time. I knew they were smart and witty, because I've read their posts and columns and stuff. I am forever hoping to have long dinners with fascinating conversationalists, and a dinner like last night's is exactly why. I was sorry it ended and I had to go back to dealing with some squalid, petty crime.

It'll be worth it, though, because I am confident that I will get justice today! I told the cops where they could find the perpetrators! Even as I type, I'm sure a S.W.A.T. team is descending on Kieran's lecture. Hah! I hope they haul him and Eric away in cuffs! That'll teach them to bust into people's houses and steal laptops! Break people's big wavy glass window! They're gonna put you away for that, guys. If I were a smaller person, I would take some satisfaction from contemplating your fate. But I'm not. I just hope you can rehabilitate yourself. I hope you use your time behind bars to reflect a little and better yourself. Maybe read a book or two. Grow a conscience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This is how it starts, introverts.

I seem to be settling into my gym. I was quiet at first, mostly because I was watching. In the early stages of anything, I want to hear about technique and see who is doing real work and who says clichés that don’t actually fit the problem. I’m not real interested in talking about me, because I know about me, so that is boring. I watch the trainers holding pads for their clients to kick and punch, and I still haven’t told them I spent years doing that.

Three months into it, though, it seems like we’re getting to the friendly stage. It is nice. Of course, I need my trainer, Allyson, with a scary dependency that worries even me. I play it cool though; she probably can’t tell that I would lift anything she ever told me to if she would only praise me again. But the other trainers now have personalities too. Dave with the glasses and huge hops is the other dancer in between sets, so I look over to him when the music is thumpy. I don’t have to say anything to Camilo; he just looks at my bar and offers knuckles. Ajay makes sure to say hi and bye.

I chatted with the owner for the first time last night. He finished his workout and came over singing “I am the strongest. Nobody is as strong as me. You know it. The strongest.” Well. He’s perfectly friendly, but I’ve always hated the dynamic where everyone competes for the head instructor’s attention, so I’ve sortof avoided him. If I get good at this, he’ll come find me. But he was singing a silly braggy song, and trash is the language I speak in my dreams. So I sang silliness back to him, and said hi to Ajay and chatted with Dave until Allyson was ready for me and I really liked my gym.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Good for you.

I am always touched when I hear men unabashedly end phone conversations with their wives with "Love you."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some high points from Thanksgiving.

It was a lovely long weekend, in which I moved no boxes. Very many good things happened.

We went down to Santa Monica and met our excellent cousins there. My grandfather married their grandmother. That hasn't worked out particularly well, but man did that net us some great cousins. We rode the ferris wheel! We played with their girl baby in the waves! We ate fried food!

Anand was in LA for Thanksgiving with his cousins. I got to see him lounge around with cousins, and now I understand why the hippie weekends where we pile into someone's house and goof off all night until we fall asleep in heaps come so naturally to him. He's been doing this his whole life. At the second bar with the cousins, I actually managed to pay for one of my drinks, for which I should get a freakin' Medal of Honor, because that is not easy with that group of Indian men.

You know, there is something especially wonderful about watching your friends mix. A couple summers ago, Anand and hippy co-op friend Joe came over for dinner at my Dad's house. Teddy brought his family over too, and my baby siblings and Dad and all of us ate at the picnic table by the pool. I was almost too happy to talk as I watched them all joking around. Lots of people I love, mixing and figuring out that they are all funny and liking each other. I knew they would, and I got to have them all at once! That evening is still one of my favorite memories.

I got to do more of that this weekend. Anand came out for dinner with Tom and Susan, whom I met here! I felt like I was showing off Anand to them and showing off them to Anand; all the talking was easy and I got twice the friends-cred. And then Anand came out for breakfast with Teddy's family and my baby brother and it happened again! I am so lucky.

I think the best part of the weekend was on Sunday afternoon, though. I was napping and my baby sister (by which I mean the fifteen year old) came and snuggled into bed with me. We ended up talking quietly for a good long time. She's so great. It has been easier for me to get chunks of my brother's time, but I've got to change that, because my baby sister is someone I really want to know well.

On the down side.

I got whupped at backgammon by my Mom's boyfriend. I owe him dozens of push-ups.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I don't need peace. I need a fucking llama.

I get trolled in person! Trolls do not look like you think they look!

Went over to my house last night to do some chores I left without finishing (surprisingly un-fraught); as I pulled up, a pretty blond hippie type stopped her bike in front of my flowers. I stood a few feet away as she broke off one of my blue salvias. I watched as she put it in her backet, not real pleased that she was determinedly ignoring me. When she broke off a large branch, I said, in a regular, bemused tone, "I am RIGHT HERE. You could ask before you take my flowers." And she said...



"You are so angry. Why do you have such anger in you?"

I like to think that I have some small wit, and am good with the quick ripostes, but I just stood there with my mouth open. I could not believe I got trolled in person, and that by magic, she hit on the troll formula I like least in the world. Why do I have such anger in me? Because you're breaking my plants, you twit, while you ignore me AND then you turn the faux-hippie sanctimony on me. I like to be the wielder of hippie sanctimony.

She took my flowers, and then my lunch money, and then violated me real quick before she pedaled away. The last thing she said was "Your flowers are so beautiful. I hope you find peace."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

He lived at my hippy co-op long before I did.

My boss is brilliant. I've long known my boss is brilliant. I take advantage of this by asking him questions on everything I worry about. I quiz him until he remembers he has more important stuff to do than describe dam breaks to me.

I've worked for him for a couple years now, and I only today figured out what is so disconcerting about my boss. My boss experiences no denial. None. He does not engage in denial at all. If something sucks, it sucks. If it is going to be bad, he says so. He's sort of Cassandra around here, while I watch and wonder if they'll notice that what he predicted came to be. Again. But they don't.

Having finally figured this out, I am so curious. I quizzed him some more, and for once he didn't know. Does he realize that he completely skips the denial part? "Well, you have to go with the evidence." Has he noticed that other people don't go with the evidence, that it takes them years to acknowledge bad news? Yes. He has noticed that, but he doesn't get it. What does he do if he's building something and the piece doesn't fit and it is going to take four hours to make the new piece? "You throw it across the room and start over." Do you really, really hope it will fit first? No. It isn't going to fit. Wow.

This leads to my next set of questions. Did you always have no denial in you? He doesn't know. Was this learned, was there an epiphany? He doesn't remember an epiphany. I think you'd remember an epiphany like that, so I believe him that there wasn't one.

He had to go work before I could pin it down, but it wasn't for lack of staring at him with my eyes narrowed. I have to think about it more. No denial whatsoever. The rest of us must frustrate him all the time.

My new weekday digs

Because time is a spiral and my life happens in loops, I am living with Chris' parents again, just like I did in '94. It is familiar and comfortable and easy. This is largely because they are breathtakingly nice. When I got there on Sunday, they had made my room up. The light was on, the bed was turned down. A tray in the middle of the room held a bottle of water and a glass, a bar of chocolate, a vase with early azaleas, and a card telling me how much they love me and want to help me move into my next life. I can stay with them for however long I need. I asked Chris whether he had prepped them, warning them that I was sad and needed extra care. He said he hadn't, that they're just like that. They will always be my inspiration and standard, when I see that people need a hand or haven.

One very interesting aspect of living with Chris' parents is that they don't have wireless internet. Can't find any feral internet either. In a couple more days, I expect I'll stop searching for a corner of the house where I can get signal. So last night, I sorted some stuff for a while and then I read a book!1,2 I went to sleep at ten-thirty, and woke up early. It was lovely. I am very much looking forward to this new arrangement, where I live in a family and do long-delayed chores and read long-postponed books in the evening and sleep early. This is already good for me.

1A book is like a blog, if all of the posts were on one topic and continuous. Then, it would be like if you printed all the posts onto paper, and gathered the paper together on one side, so that you could flip the pages and read one very, very long post.

2The book you recommended, Kwindla. Radio Free Dixie. Dude. That's some brutal reading.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The only thing left to do tonight is leave.

I think I'll just sit for a few more minutes.


I'm on hour thirteen of moving my house by myself. Why didn't I line up help? Two hours to go, I think. I'm busted. Nothing left. I'm probably hungry, but food isn't in arms length. My thighs are hollow and breathing takes effort. I've been sitting for fifteen minutes and I bet if I stood, I'd already be stiff and aching. I haven't been sad today. There is too much to do, and I am still taking care of my house.

I have to get the energy for another push, but where from?


I am starting to feel like there has never been a time when I wasn't carrying boxes.

But such is not the case.

If there were anyone here with any sense:

1. I would not be lifting really fucking heavy speakers up a ladder over my head into the attic.

2. Food would precede (and perhaps avert) a collapse into shaking and tears.

Update: I only barely got food in time. They were asking me really hard questions, like 'debit or credit', and I had to struggle to understand what she meant. Also, I remembered caffeine, once I saw coffee cups. Next shift starts in ten minutes!

Persimmon rustlers strike early!

He approached his prey all stealth-like, not noisy at all, real quiet. He didn't want to startle it; no one wants to give chase at six-thirty in the morning. When he got into striking range, he struck, like a silent snake strikes or something!

Little did he know that the tree was guarded! Not by a dog like a watchdog or a rottweiler or a dog that is fierce with strangers but would protect the family with his life and is so gentle with the kids, or a llama who you put into a flock of sheep to chase off wild dogs. There was no llama guarding this tree, and so the rustler made his move, unaware that not ten feet away but on the other side of a fence and a bedroom wall lay a woman with considerable crimefighting experience.

I drew on my vast knowledge of criminology, recalling that I have many ripe persimmons on my tree! I listened with my ears, and heard leaves rustling! I looked through the window, which is transparent and not opaque, and saw a long-handled fruit picker reaching into the branches of my tree! My brain made a billion connections in that instant and everything, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place in a flash that nearly overwhelmed me. Understanding flooded through me! He was taking my fruit!

I pondered my options. Unleash the llama? No. I do not have a llama. That was not actually an option. Procure llama against future thefts? Must discuss with sister. The babies would probably like a llama, if it would give them rides. But would a llama eat my arugula? It is bad enough that my sister eats my arugula. She already gives the kids rides, although she does not give wool or guard the herd, chasing off wild dogs. The role of llama is still unfilled in that household, and whether we have a llama should be an explicit decision and not just an effect of path-dependency and reversion to the default no-llama state.

Sometimes one does not have a llama, but one must nevertheless fight crime! This was one of those times! Because I did not have a llama, but a crime was going down right outside my window! I OPENED MY WINDOW! I said, "Dude! Stop that." He said, "How are you going to make me stop, lady? I don't see a llama." His syndicate must have cased the joint! They planned this crime for months, watching my house, learning my routine, taking careful notes, including a sentence in all-caps, bolded, 28 point font, brief but given lots of exclamation points for additional emphasis: NO LLAMA!!!!!!!

I was out of patience. I threw the smaller of the knives under my pillow at him, then impaled his still twitching body on the sharpened post right next to the persimmon tree, pour descourager les autres. I'll leave a note for the renters, promising to take that down once I've picked all my persimmons.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Right now...

It is hard for me to believe there is anything I want more than I want to live in my house. This "sex" thing people keep telling me about better be good.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The blogging format runs deep.

For the two years I was in school in San Luis Obispo, I sent my then-boyfriend a card in the mail every single week. Filled the blank page with some story about how much I missed him. I have a few of them left, some old jokes, some purely sweet. I don't mind tossing those in the recycle bin, but it would be nice to be writing letters to a beloved again.

UPDATE: Heh. I just found my ex's box with all of those cards. He must have left it. It goes straight up to the attic; I'm not nostalgic enough to want to re-visit those. But if I ever need to remember 97-98, I bet they'd take me right back.

The options.

I either need to be more grateful or I need to stop buying Thank You cards.

Why am I just now checking out my attic, at 9 on Friday night? Because I PLANNED IT THAT WAY, OK?

Been packing all day, and have a stack of boxes to take up to the attic. My heart sank when I got up there; it was so much more full than I remembered. Where am I gonna put all my stuff? But I went to shift things around and half the boxes were empty! Empty boxes and a half-empty attic? I feel like I won the fuckin' lottery!

My sister is of the 'just-in-time manufacturing' mindset, and insists that we do not store empty boxes or buy items in bulk, that our houses be rigorously uncluttered. She trusts the production chain, I guess, and since she is all organized in advance of a move, that works for her. But she threw out perfectly good boxes when we cleaned the back porch, and I've been mourning those all day. I snuck these ones by her, through my extreme cleverness in storing and forgetting them. Years ago I must have anticipated this hour of need.

Also, since I've rolled both ankles in the past month, my trainer has had me doing overhead and military presses and not much else. I'm feeling pretty pleased about that too, as I wobble on the top of my ladder and lift boxes of books above my head into the attic. Prescient of us, I say.

Update on the EMPTY BOXES: On closer inspection, I never put those empty boxes up there. This is good, because I like to think I mostly remember everything, and I wouldn't have forgotten putting boxes in my attic. They were the boxes of a roommate I was never much fond of, but who has redeemed herself in a big way tonight.

A whole houseful.

Back when I was moving so much, I'd stash and return to my stuff every other year or so. I starting thinking of it as the Magic Store. It was like this awesome store, where I liked everything in it! And it was all free! If you can manage to forget some of it in between, that helps too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Justin reminds me that not everyone gets sentimental about houses. I know from my sister that not everyone gets sentimental about stuff. I guess she gets that from my Dad. When I called to tell my Dad that my car was stolen and I felt bad, he said "Kids and dogs. If it isn't a kid or a dog, don't call me about it." I presume he would grudgingly extend that to my cat. It was way foreseeable that I would get attached to my house, though. I wanted a house so bad.

If you count moving home for the summer and switching rooms, I moved about twenty-five times between 1990 and 1998. There were smaller and larger moves, although I nearly always repainted the place. I also did the moving-between-cities, cleaning-two-places, start-your-job-the-next-day move a couple times as well. By the time I got into second grad school, I wanted to do one last move and never move again. When my Dad called to tell me that he and Mom had been talking and if I wanted to buy a house they would give me the down, it was far better news than getting into grad school. When I put down the phone I walked straight out the door to go buy a book on home-buying, which I read as soon as I got home.

I still feel like buying that house was as hard as anything I've done, including grad school. I had no idea how. It was so complicated, and every task was new. How does one find the right realtor? I picked one, who eventually worked, but whom I had to constantly convince that a single girl like me didn't want a nice town-house in a safe suburb. Again and again I told her my street boundaries, and I am still sort of sorry she talked me out of the house with six abandoned houses on the block, directly across from two crackhouses. It was such a cute house, on a quarter acre, with a full guest house over the garage. For $89K. I would totally have gotten a big German Shepard, if that's what it took to live in that house. She said she wouldn't help me buy it, though. "Maybe if you had a husband... such a bad neighborhood... ." Every house on that block is fixed up now.

I grew to dread her phone calls. Every one of them meant a couple hours of research and work at a task I didn't understand. Phone call: get pre-qualified for a loan. What? How? What is a mortgage broker? Where does one get one? Now? I have a day to get this done? What? Phone call: Home inspection. Where does one find a trustworthy inspector in a new city and how much will that cost me? I understand it all better now, but at the time it was a month or so of mysterious unexpected tasks that I had no idea if I was doing right, in order to get something I wanted real bad.

We found my house. The previous owner was a trip. Neato woman my age, whose whole life revolved around becoming an ATF agent. She didn't have possessions; those would only hold her back. I met a boyfriend of hers later who told me that every six months or so, she would throw out everything she owned. She had one picnic table under the front window and a few books on shelves on one wall. That was it. Well, except for her three parrots, in two cages that filled the dining room. For the sake of the parrots she never once used the fireplace (CO2, dangerous to birds!) and installed an oversize air conditioner, which I gave away after three years of not turning it on. She let the birds fly free when she was home, and the carpet was gross. When I brought home kittens, I figured they must have loved the smell of the birds.

I moved in on the Fourth of July, with huge plans and no furniture. I did some of the plans, slowly. I learned why you don't believe first-time homeowners when they tell you about all the fantastic things they're going to do. I slowly got furniture, and about a year ago, I finally got a couple pieces of decent furniture. I like looking at those, so perhaps I'll try that again with more furniture.

It was a wonderful house for me. I'm the type to make associations, so all those wonderful dinners and parties seem to have sunk into the walls. Somehow, I never held the bad periods against the house. I would love to think I'm coming back to it, imagine bringing a husband and baby back to such a good house. I can't predict that, though, because it won't be entirely up to me. I should be comforted by thinking that the only reason I wouldn't come back to my pretty little house is that I have something better. I suppose that is true, but I'm doubtful. Better than my house is a pretty high bar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Well, sortof.

Two water stories that aren't quite what I'm used to:

To combat the drought in Georgia, Governor Perdue called on citizens to gather and, um, pray.
At the state capitol in Georgia Tuesday, the governor tried something different. On a partly cloudy warm fall day, hundreds of people from the region came to join Gov. Sonny Perdue in a prayer service for rain.

"I'm here today to appeal to you and to all Georgians and all people who believe in the power of prayer to ask God to shower our state, our region, our nation with the blessings of water," Perdue said.

Perdue, a Baptist, said people here have not done all they can to conserve and manage the state's resources. ...

Carla Clark and her pastor, David Harris, came from Cumming, Ga.

"There's no doubt in our minds," Clark said. "We came prepared with our umbrellas because we fully expected the heavens to open."

They did not teach us this in my hydrology classes. I do not understand how the mechanism works. I suppose that if one has not built a very large storage and delivery system, one must try other options. Since we aren't sure that our very large plumbing will be sufficient to meet our needs under climate change, perhaps I will mention this approach to the authors of the Water Plan.

Via Slog

Also, this:
Restoring the LA River is a Very Fine Idea. I am one hundred percent behind it, and think that you should click on over and give all your possessions to FoLAR. But that picture? The LA River will never look like that. That is not a western river. Perhaps it is the Hudson or something. Whatever it is, it is ALL WRONG, in lots of ways.

The two blatantly wrong things about that "river" is that it has water in it, and that it is straight. That is so silly. Rivers aren't like that. Just so's you appreciate, Mr. Fancy Ad Design Person from far away, rivers out here are braided channels, that dry up over summer. Big water in the LA River in the summertime would be landscaping run-off and we can't afford to let our sprinklers run long enough to fill a river.

That straight channel for that river makes me sad. If it is some eastern river, as I suspect, maybe it was straightened for transportation? But if it is a western river that got channelized, it was straightened for flood control. The old flood control paradigm was to get big amounts of water out to the ocean as fast as possible. Now that we're afraid of floods that are too big for our current channels, we're re-thinking all of it. Where there's room, the goal should be levees set far back from the river. Engineers with advanced degrees call those "set-back levees", but it would take too long for me to try to explain that to you. The goal of wide set-back levees is to give the river room to roam and also have riparian vegetation, which makes for good fish habitat in the river. Fish like shade and nooks from fallen limbs and nutrients from debris. When floods come crashing through straightened channels, the velocities are so high they can strip the river bare. When the floods recede, there's no vegetation left to reestablish itself. Big wide channels mean slower floods, and hope of vegetation persisting to re-establish itself after the flood.

Anyway, the point of all that was that the LA River, fantastic idea that it is, will never look like that picture. It could look good, though. It could and should be a functioning river again, meandering through a wide and changing bed.

Via MilitantAngeleno, via BagNewsNotes.

I've linked this before, because it is effin' incredible. If you haven't clicked through the full-river-length pictures of the Los Angeles River, you should.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You should have seen it.

Anthony told me one time that my house looks like my soul. I want that to be true, but even if it isn't, that's what this move feels like. Like I'm being ripped apart from my soul. This is melodramatic and ridiculous. On the scale of human problems, 'voluntary move to beautiful neighboring city into adorable house with great sister and perfect nephews' doesn't really rate. But leaving my house, oh. I can barely tell you. I stand in the center of each room, swaying and sobbing, hands clasped and curled under my neck. There is now a small finite number times that I will ride my bike home from work and by the time I've turned onto my street, tears are streaming down my face. Three blocks later I get to my house and have to prepare myself to lift my bike up the steps without folding over or staggering from the sobs. My neighbor is going to think I'm dying. I've cried so much in the past couple days.

I can't figure out what is really going on. Surely there must be something deeper, that leaving my house should hurt like this. I keep trying on theories, and they don't ring true. I ran one by Margie. "Maybe I don't want to go because it feels like I failed Sacramento." "Dude," said Margie. "Sacramento failed you." Chris pointed out that neither of those are true. Chris suggested that maybe I don't want strangers living in my house, but that isn't it. The renting guy is, like, a best friend of a best friend. I've heard about him for fifteen years. Besides, I love knowing that my house is sheltering people and taking care of them. And they've been all nice and solicitous about me. So, not that. I'm not mourning my unfinished life here; my life in this house has been good but stagnant for years. The high priority stuff got finished.

No, the closest I come is when I look around my house and think "it is so beautiful." It is. It is such a pretty little bungalow. From the sidewalk, you see through my open front door and big wide windows to bright warm colors. It has plants and red couches and a burnished wood floor and matching old light fixtures. It isn't a shy house. It wants you to come in and be comfortable. I've moved the furniture in every way I thought people would like, parties for five and thirty and a hundred, circles of people eating in my living room. It is a little house, but it was never too small. I lived in every room, with no neglected hollow spaces. I walk through it in the dark, easy as day. I never felt unsafe here, crazy people on the sidewalk or no. I love the house itself, in every dimension.

Chris asked if I wanted to undo my decision. I don't. I want change, and I have to do new things if I want different outcomes. Like I said, when I'm in Oakland, I really like it. I'm excited for my new room, to see what my next self will look like. I sortof love choosing my few favorite things from here, for a distilled version of me there. But oh lord. What I would bring, if such a thing were possible, is my house. I loved living in the spaces and color and feel of it. I love my house.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am most worried about moving my cat.

The littler little and I went for a walk this morning. It was lovely; quiet 'good mornings' from neighbors, pointing out cats in windows, lots of different plants to look at. My room is painted blue; it wants only window installation and trim painting before I can move in. I ate kale, arugula and beet greens out of the garden I planted. I still have no idea about a job here, but my priorities are in order, since I think I know my next gym and pool.

I have until Sunday to clear out my house in Sacramento. The packing goes slow. I get interrupted by waves of sobs that double me over. I haven't figured out why it is this wrenching, especially since when I'm in Oakland, I don't miss Sac very much.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

There was no other reason it was funny.

Get this! My sister's new neighbor knows Will! Man alive! I haven't thought about Will in years. When we were kids, my parents were way social. They had lots of dinner parties, and put us at the kids' table with WillnEric. I mean, they came over for dinner for years. After dinner, we were shooed into the back room, where we played endless ferocious games of King of the Mountain. Will! Eric! The dinner parties ended before junior high; I haven't seen WillnEric for probably seventeen or eighteen years. I totally remember them, though.

I remember, WillnEric used to tell dirty jokes at dinner. That was pretty funny. I remember one in particular. Three boys something something caught by a mean lady. The mean lady was going to beat them up? Something. But she said she'd let them go if each told her what her fathers did. The first said that his father worked in a scissor factory, so she took a pair of scissors and cut off his dick! The second said that his father was a lumberjack, so she took an ax and chopped off his dick! When she asked the third boy what his father did, he said "My Dad works in a lollipop factory!" HAHAHAHAHAHAH! That was funny! Because he tricked her! You can't suck hard enough to take his dick off, so he saved himself! What a clever boy! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The nephews work too, but they're wiggly.

Today I would like to sit with a little girl on my lap and read a book to her. I would gather her hair up, pull the sides off her neck, twist it softly and let the coil fall down her back. I wouldn't really read the book so much; they aren't all that great. I'd mostly just watch her, her face in profile or the back of her head. I'd ask her to point to birds on the page, or mice or cats. She'd be warm against my front, and tucked under my throat. Her hair would smell sweet. I'd tighten my arms around her, cuddle her until she gets bored and she goes back to the book. I'd keep a big stack of books next to our soft chair, so it lasts for a long time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pressure's on.

Did I tell you guys that I went to a weightlifting competition? I went to cheer for my trainer and to check it out because the people at the gym keep telling me I should compete. I went, and it was just like always. Oh friends. I hate competitions.

Walking into the weightlifting competition felt exactly the same as ever. Whatever that mixture is, sweat, testosterone, fear and excitement, it smells the same at every competition I’ve ever been to. The vibe was exactly the same. People milling around, nervously glancing at the competition; the long-timers joking with each other, the very slightest bit self-satisfied with their insider status. Officious bustling for some and long monotonous waits for the competitors. Being at a competition means daylong stretches of nervous boredom, usually in an ugly gym. Walking in there brought it all back.

Even so, there were things I loved. New arcane rules to figure out! It is the side judge’s responsibility to make sure the bar is loaded right. Only thing the lifter has to do is lift. People with different techniques to compare! New cheers! I especially loved ‘battle that bar!’, which I will now say to anyone I ever see picking anything up. New clichéd explanations! I hope I never explode too fast at the beginning of the lift. That would be bad. There were goofy people in shirts so tight they couldn’t bend or lower their arms. That was silly. There’s something else I love. I’ve seen it lots, and it moves me every time. I love watching coaches and judges and crowds take beginner or not-talented athletes seriously. Seeing three giant dudes giving all their concentration to spotting a tiny woman benchpressing a bar they could twirl like a baton, all of them cheering her on, gives me tear prickles. It is plain decency, but it is lovely to see.

The important part of all this is that it is your responsibility to keep me from competing again. I will not enjoy it, and I will be pissed I squandered a whole day. I will feel yucky, sitting there waiting for my event to be called. I do not care if I win, and I do not care if I lose, and I do not care if anyone else knows the full extent of my extraordinary natural strength, and I do not like the company of competitive athletes during competition, so there is no point to it. But. There is that narrow slice of stuff I really love, including training and rules and technique, and that opens a wedge. If the cool kids admire my biceps and tell me that it won’t hurt the first time, I might fall for it. If I come back here and mention that just maybe I might enter this one event, you need to tell me that I will hate it. And invite me to something funner, like, say, anything else in the world. And do an intervention, all discreet and friendly-like. That is your role in all this.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

But China is next year!

Rolled my right ankle this morning, a pretty severe wrench. That means my left ankle, which I rolled ten days ago and is still painful when I walk but has regained full mobility, is now promoted to "good ankle."

This can't be right.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Not quite coming out and saying it...

When people ask me if California has enough water, I never know what to say. Enough water for what? Enough water for us to maintain healthy rivers and give everyone a generous health and safety allotment? Oh yeah. More than plenty. Enough water for us to have healthy rivers, live in verdant cities and supply half the nation’s fruits and vegetables? No. We do not have enough water for that. We’re about to have dramatically less water than we’ve known since the west was settled. We will not have enough water to do what we’ve done for the past sixty years. Water use is going to shift dramatically, and if demographics are destiny, agriculture is going to get the shaft.

Far as I can tell, California agriculture will soon be getting the shaft from both ends. Cities have all the people, and urban folk will insist on using water. They also seem to insist on environmental uses for water, ‘cause they’re sentimental like that. As water gets scarcer, it will be drawn away from agricultural uses and put to urban and environmental purposes. Scarcity isn’t the only problem for agriculture, though. Changing precipitation from snow to rain means huge new floods. The central floodfighting concept is changing from channelizing rivers to move water fast as we can out to the ocean to controlled water spreading. We need bypasses and sinks and places we can put large pulses of water. I tell you what, every single time this comes up the first thing everyone says is ‘we can put flood flows on ag lands!’.

I don’t see much use in arguing whether moving water out of agriculture and putting flood flows on ag lands are good or bad things. They simply are. It will happen. If we don’t make deliberate choices in advance, the default is lots of individually negotiated small water transfers between savvy districts and cities to implement the shift to urban use. The flood use will arrange itself. If we want a different picture, we will have to choose it and deliberately change course to protect the form of agriculture that we want.

I have a strong vision of what I want California agriculture to do, and it runs to the picturesque. I want prime ag land to remain farmed, and I want it to stay ag land much more than I want it to be turned into suburbs. I want California ag to be part of a stable local economy, and generate jobs that support migrants as they move their children out of a life of manual labor. I want California to grow and process stunningly delicious food. I want California agriculture to address and reverse environmental degradation; farms can deliberately sequester carbon; pastureland can deliberately harbor native grasses; farms be managed to support wildlife from insects on up. I want farm communities that develop local traditions and teach the dozens of skills that farming requires. I like farms that grow a wide variety of crops.

Farms can do all that neat stuff, but they cannot do it on the slim profit margins of our cheap food system. They probably won’t do it on their own initiative, out of the goodness of their hearts. So when we discuss the transition that climate change is forcing on them, we should define very carefully what we want our ag lands to do. When we have a clear picture of what California agriculture to look like, we can devise a strategy for getting there.

We'll still send you oranges at Christmas.

If I’m telling the truth, my new system of California agriculture would be to institute a quota system that supports small farms. Honestly, I’d be happy if California farms produced just enough food to feed Californians, and not one tomato more. What most people don’t realize is that produce is a water transfer. Farm products are bundled sunlight and water, conveniently packaged like wheat or something. So the waters of my state, my public trust good, plus the sunlight that I am less protective of, are gathered up by farmers and sent away in exchange for some money that I never see. It is a pretty sucky deal for me. They send water and sunlight out of California, but as you no doubt recall from your force diagrams, there is always, always an opposite arrow. In the case of conventional agriculture, the inward arrows are some money and environmental degradation.

Since we are facing substantially less water for agriculture in California (cut by a third this year alone, and maybe down to half or so over the long haul), I would like it if we decided collectively to grow only what California needs and have Californians buy all of that. Even under climate change, we’ll have enough developed water to do that and leave far more in our rivers. Other states should develop their local water resources and convert corn and soybeans fields into produce producing farms. Maybe they’ll be willing to sell you far away people their water, sunlight and environmental quality. I don’t want to sell you mine.

I also don’t want California agriculture to collapse, because I like it. I would prefer it take on different qualities, as described above, and as a state, we support those through a quota system that keeps small farms stable. I would match those farms to good ag land, and I would let the rest become wildland again. A free market might arrive at this system, maybe, if oil and gas become vastly more expensive. But I would rather we chose it.


Felix is coming! This weekend! He's back in town, so we all have to get together to see Felix!!! My inbox is SO EXCITED.

I have never met Felix. Felix lived at the co-op after my time, but people have our eras blended, and they assume I know and adore Felix like everyone does. I get updates on Felix. I'm reminded to invite Felix to things. People reminisce about the fun times I've had with Felix. I don't know Felix.

I'm sure I would like Felix, if we met. But for now, his visit is a matter of benign indifference for me. I'll be psyched if it means we all hang out, however.


A few years back, I somehow got included on an email list for friends of a local activist who got hit by a car. I never met the guy, had no idea who he was. A friend of his visited him at the hospital a lot, and wrote long, detailed emails about his brave fight with pain, and how his suffering never dimmed his cheerful strength. I'd get these emails once a week or so, and it took that guy about four months to die. I never had the courage to tell our mutual friend that I didn't want the emails, that I'm sure the dying guy was great, but I didn't really want to join the story so close to the end. So I got poignant emails for what seemed like a really long time and felt guilty for being callous the whole while.

Friday, November 02, 2007

For you, Cryptic Ned.

Right after people say “Rice! In California!”, they say “alfalfa! With subsidized water! And cotton!” Why would you ever grow a low value crop like alfalfa in California! We shouldn’t be growing any crop that can’t support itself in the market! My response to that is threefold.

First, I wonder, what is so wrong about growing things in the desert? I mean, the desert we’re talking about is the Great Valley of California, by which I mean to say, hundreds of miles of prime farmland, some of the best soils in the world. It has a long growing season, gets tons of sunshine, rarely frosts. What better use could we put that land to? Putting houses on it? Yes, water doesn’t fall during the summer, but we can move water. Compared to developing good soil or providing sunshine, moving water is easy. Compared to leaving some of the best farmland in the world fallow, I’d rather store and move the water. It should be farmed.*

Right, you say, but not alfalfa, which is a low value, thirsty crop. Now, I’m down with that, but I don’t think most people understand the rest of what they're saying. Subsidized water growing cheap alfalfa and silage is the underpinning of cheap meat. I wouldn’t care one whit if cheap meat vanished tomorrow, but if you aren’t already buying grassfed beef and you like meat more than once a week, then I don’t think you really mean it. Alfalfa in the desert! goes in straight line to a conventional meat diet; you can’t end the outrage of subsidizing water to grow a thirsty, low-value crop in the desert without eating much less meat than you do. But if that’s what you really meant, well, cool.

But the most of all, I wonder what it would actually mean, to end growing low-value crops with subsidized water. Like, what? Imagine all of y’all who read Cadillac Desert clapped really really hard and believed, and when you were done, there were no more subsidies for water or for cotton and rice. What then? Would that happen fast? ‘Cause there are people on the other end of those subsidies. There are growers, their laborers and the local economies they support.

Some of those are outrageously wealthy corporations. A lot of the wealth of subsidies gets concentrated in a few ag corporations; if they lost all governmental support instantaneously, I’d celebrate. Not all growers translate subsidies into money in the bank. In California, the large majority (by number) only get subsidies in the form of cheaper water than hypothetical market value. Alfalfa doesn’t get crop subsidies from the Farm Bill. Whatever you think of subsidized water, after two generations, that value has permeated all of California ag. Those subsidies aren't money anymore. They're vast diffused improvements, shaped like tractors or sprinkler systems. Land values now reflect their access to cheap water; that subsidy has been capitalized. Yanking the subsidies would radically de-value land; lots of growers hold most of their wealth as land. So what will farmers do, faced with the full costs of water? Switch crops? If you believe that growers choose a crop to maximize profit, alfalfa or silage was the best they could do. If they switch out of alfalfa, what would they grow? Not almonds. Not vines. The idea of switching to a high-value crop is great, but if a higher value crop were readily available to growers, wouldn’t they have grown it before, with their cheap water? Maybe “end water subsidies” will translate into “marginal farms out of production.” I don’t mind the idea of that, but again, it will ruin real people who depend on the system the way it is now. They can't pull the wealth of the subsidy back out of a farm that isn't viable anymore, not all of it. They won’t even be able to sell their land for much. Before we implement a blanket policy of “no more subsidies to low value crops”, we should make explicit decisions about their transition and fate.

That raises one more point, one that I don’t find persuasive, but also isn’t irrelevant. The great water projects were built to do something. They were meant to settle the west, to put farms on every horizontal acre and grow things. The water projects did what they were meant to do; people responded to the all that potential, the rich soils and the sunshine and the water that we gutted rivers to bring to them. In some ways, the growers that are so easy to vilify are still living out the deal that America promised them. In exchange for working the west, they get cheap water.

That old bargain is the default; people structured their lives around it and depend on it. It probably** isn’t the deal we want anymore. But changing parts 'cause they sound outrageous just tinkers with a system that is overwhelmingly geared for the outcome that has been realized, the one that dominates our interior. If we want a new landscape, we should openly and collectively discuss and select goals. Once we have the goals, we should design a system that will get us to the state we want to live in. I have some thoughts on what that should look like.

*Not the selenium soils on the west side of the Valley. Those can’t be drained and should be retired immediately.
**I say 'probably' because I am constantly surprised by what all y'all want. Maybe you freakshows do want big conventional agriculture. The world is large and varied.