html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm in love with Representative Waxman.

I used to like the Endangered Species Act primarily because it is our best hope of saving species. Now though, I think I mostly like the Endangered Species Act for the way it must drive Vice President Cheney to distraction.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pacing is for suckers.

Speaking of life with expensive gas, I have anecdotes! I am definitely seeing more bikes out. I don't know whether it is the warm weather or expensive gas, but bikes are chained to my parking poles and we suddenly have to figure out the right of way when bikes arrive at stop signs at the same time. I've never had either trivial problem before. What is much worse, however, is that my last four near-collisions have been with new bicyclists. Dudes. Off the sidewalk!

I know you're scared of cars, and you should be. They're too big and the hazard is all one way. They might kill you just by inattention, which is too dangerous a threshold for something that humans do. But if you're on the sidewalk, I think you aren't understanding where the risk is.

New cyclists, the car that kills you will most likely hit you from the side. In Midtown, that'll be coming out of an alley or blowing a red light. You are much less likely to be hit from behind as you ride in a lane. Even car drivers are likely to see a cyclist moving in their same lane ahead of them. So ride in the street. After getting T-boned, the next most dangerous part is getting doored. DO NOT RIDE WITHIN DOOR RANGE. If the lane isn't big enough for cars to pass you when you are out of the range of doors, take the lane.

Chris and I were hanging out one time when he looked up from his laptop, startled. "That can't be right," he said. I asked what, and he said that he'd done a b.o.t.e. calculation that showed that someone will open a car door on you every ten miles or so. I thought about it. I live about a mile from work, ride back and forth every day, and someone opens a car door on me on that route about... once a week. Yeah. Getting doored is a big risk. Ride on the street like a car, and ride wide.

Anyway brand new cyclists, I hope you're loving being on your bike. But you are scaring me as you pop out of sidewalks or go the wrong way in the bike lanes. Please, get used to riding and then do what you do when you drive. Take the lane and turn from the left turn lane. You should especially take the bike safety courses. My friends teach those and they're good. I so want to welcome all of you to riding Sacramento's streets, but we need you to ride predictably.


My comment on How the World Works got a little star! I have been graded and validated! You can't know how my perpetual student's soul craves that. (On second thought, I suspect everyone who reads here knows that feeling well.) One day I will write a post good enough to be linked on How the World Works*, and then I will be happy forever.

*Or one funny enough to get linked by Defective Yeti.

In the comments where some people got stars and some people didn't, I saw this by futhark:
3. Probably 5 out of 6 people alive in the world today are here because of the bounty we have enjoyed due to using petroleum as a resource to plow, plant, fertilize, irrigated, cultivate, harvest, process, and distribute food. In the days when agriculture depended on real "horse power", a third of the acreage under cultivation was devoted to raising grain and fodder for the horses. When the oil bounty is exhausted, a substantial portion of the world's population will of necessity expire.

That is the unsourced-by-me rule of thumb I've heard as well. A third of the grain you raise with animal power goes to your ox. I knew that cheap energy was a substitute for human labor and I knew that cheap water is a substitute for careful management. But this was a reminder that cheap energy is also a substitute for animals and land.

I didn't agree with this comment by IaintBacchus:
I'd be more concerned about whole metro areas, LA and Phoenix come to mind, that are too large and situated too far from any source of agriculture to feed in a low energy culture.

I think L.A. could provide a good chunk of its own food if it had to. It was an agricultural region in my lifetime; I remember the orange and walnut groves. Even in a low energy culture, if sustenance were on the line, there's a lot L.A. could do. They have a year-round growing season, good soils, aquifers in the San Fernando Valley and available labor. Some of those laborers were peasants recently enough that they still know how to grow food (it would be fun to watch their skills suddenly become valuable). With greywater systems in houses (low energy costs), cisterns (low energy costs), wastewater treatment plants, imported water and solar power, I think L.A. could grow just about everything but major grains. If you switched out lawn for garden everywhere and people re-learned how to do manual labor, Los Angeles could substanially feed itself.

Remember, in food production, cheap gas is a substitute for labor. If you have reserves of labor (on the couch perhaps, watching television) close to your food production, you can do without cheap gas. People would have to be willing and knowledgeable, and I fully recognize that most don't think of themselves as gardeners or growers. But I think if gas got radically expensive, Angeleños would decide to grow their much of their own food before they abandon the region.

I assume they would get major grains by freight or container shipping.
Not much meat in that diet.
I think this is true for the major valleys and L.A. Basin. In an expensive energy scenario, the circumference deserts will be abandoned when air conditioning, fire protection costs, importing water and commutes get too expensive.
When I say "grow pretty much everything" in L.A., I really mean it. They can even grow the bananas I eschew out of fanatic self-righteousness. I have heard, though, that they may be losing their apricot crops for lack of winter cold. That brought a sheen of tears to my eyes, because I can describe the three apricot trees we had in our back yard in elaborate detail. The middle one was the sweetest.
I did not cry one single tear for news that an oleander blight is going to take out all the oleanders in California. Good. Neutral-looking poisonous non-native plants. I never liked them. It'll change the look of California when they don't line the median of our freeways, but I won't miss them.
Of course, if gas becomes radically expensive, food production will be a minor problem for Los Angeles compared to transportation costs. But this is a water and ag blog with a bike fetish, not a transportation blog.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My WonderTwin!!

best of craigslist > washington, DC > Want your ex-boyfriend back? [Unfortunately] I can help.

Originally Posted: Fri, 4 Apr 11:52 EDT
Want your ex-boyfriend back? [Unfortunately] I can help.
Date: 2008-04-04, 11:52AM EDT

So, I've recently come to the realization that I possess a remarkable skill. I have the ability to reconnect women with ex-boyfriends that broke up with them. Now, some of you might be saying "Hey, that's pretty cool! How do you do that? I could make millions, or at least I could use that to trick women into sleeping with me!". Let me tell you, it sucks! The last three "girlfriends" I've had have all had their ex-boyfriends contact them shortly after starting to date me!

It took about a month and a half after we began dating for the first girl's ex to reconnect with her. And I really liked her (and he is an abusive asshole, she deserves so much better). Man did that suck. With the second girl, it took about three and a half weeks for her guy to come back (he was supposed to have left the freaking country!). I really liked her too. The third girl, it took her ex literally two days to contact her after our first date (and they had been apart for over five years!).

So, I appear to be getting better at this. Not only can I get you your boyfriend back within a few days, I can bring him back from incredibly unlikely circumstances. Have you been pining over an ex? Want him to give you a call? Perhaps he moved to Russia 12 years ago, got married, has 7 children, and you haven't heard from him since. No problem! One dinner and a movie with me and he'll likely be waiting on your doorstep when I drop you off.

Now, I haven't had a chance to properly test this, but I suspect that my skill works much better if we sleep together. Now, this might not be absolutely necessary, but you do really want to see your ex again right? Why risk it.

* Location: Herndon
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

All right Internets. Are you all-powerful and connected or not? How fast can you guys find this guy in DC and send him here? Tell him I've got him beat by one, and that he can read about it here, here and here. I'll stop the clock when I get an email from him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I crack myself up.

I laughed when I saw this news article title: “Residents to oppose water fee increases” and figured I would skip to the next story, the one about how the sun rose in the east this morning. But I read it anyway, and came across two things that caught my attention. The first was this line:
The water district is proposing a $2.30 increase on its pumping fee for large water users in the area…
I am fairly sure the reporter meant $2.30/acrefoot pumping fee, else I can’t imagine why large water users would care. I am sure we all agree that this is yet another example of the flagrant journalistic misconduct that has dominated our discourse for the past many years.

But journalists dropping units from their reporting has been endlessly hashed out on the leftwing blogs, and I was actually more interested in this line:
Smith and Beuhler said if 50 percent plus one of the land owners at the meeting vote against the fee hike, the district will not be able to implement the increase.
Naturally, I thought ‘Fifty-one percent of landowners, or fifty-one percent by acreage?” Did you know that different water districts have different ways to vote in district elections? Some districts have a one-landowner, one-vote structure; others have a voting structure where the vote is weighted by amount of acreage the vote caster owns; others have a voting structure where the votes is weighted by the dollar value of the land the voters owns. ‘Aha!’, you said to yourself! ‘At long last, I know the difference between a water district and an irrigation district!’ Not so fast, Spanky. I thought that too, but we’re both wrong.

After consulting the General Comparison of Water District Acts*, I found that it can be all over the board. Irrigation districts have a one-person, one-vote rule. Reclamation districts go by one vote per dollar assessed value of taxable land and improvements. Water Conservation Districts formed under the 1927 Act go by one vote per acre, but Water Conservation Districts formed under the 1931 Act allow all registered voters to vote in district affairs. Water districts can weight votes by dollars or by acreage.

There are people who think that this is important stuff. I can see that. Water districts have an awful lot of local authority, and the ability to assess taxes on landowners in the district, hold liens on land and use eminent domain. There is a fair amount of room for very large landholders to dominate water district decisions, which can be the same as land use decisions in farming regions. It certainly is not a very egalitarian, democratic voting method. Dr. Goodall looked at water district voting structure in California district and civic life, and found correlations. East side of the San Joaquin Valley has irrigation districts, more varied agriculture, more small farms, nice towns. The west side has big farms, water districts with one dollar, one vote rules, no cities worth, no non-farm anything**.

I can’t get too worked up over it. For one thing, if there is a cause in water district voting structures, it is long lost. Second, most districts assess landowners for improvements by acreage. If landowners are going to pay by the acre, maybe they should vote by the acre. Wouldn’t want a bunch of little guys to decide on a canal that one big landowner would substantially pay for. So I dunno. I don’t have a huge stake in it. But it crossed my mind when I read that article and having two whole thoughts as I read a short article is reason enough to tell you water stories.

*I’ll have you all know that I walked across the street to get a copy of Bulletin 155-94, General Comparison of Water District Acts, and carried a paper copy of it back to my desk. Don’t you ever question my dedication to accuracy on this here blog. I’m glad I did. I’d never heard of half these kinds of districts. A Protection District, to protect property from overflow damage by widening, deepening, changing, straightening, etc., channel of any innavigable stream, watercourse or wash? Resort Improvement Districts? Districts created by individual acts of the Legislature? New obscure forms of government? LOVE IT.

**It is true for the length of the Great Valley that cities on the 5 are horrible places, with the exception of Red Bluff. Towns on the 99 can be lovely and usually have at least remnant downtowns. (Um, Sacramento is on both. I guess I think it has the characteristics of a city on the 99.) But if you really want to go to an eerie place in California, you should divert west of the 5 south of Coalinga to go to Avenal. Avenal and that whole valley is very strange. The prison is there, and there is an entire settlement up on one hill that looks to be entirely makeshift, dozens of houses on dirt, no visible infrastructure. Chickens and clotheslines and no foundations. With zero evidence whatsoever, I’ve decided it is a frontier type place; I imagine it is run by some local strongman. Like I say, I have absolutely no proof of that, but when I mentioned Avenal to my boss, he emphatically agreed that it is a lost place. I’m sure that if the comments were on, someone would show up to tell me that Avenal is just lovely, a place with real great neighbors. (Also, you guys know that Coalinga is named that because it used to be Coaling Station A, right?)

Monday, April 21, 2008


I think the following would be enough to completely satiate my body:

Sleep from ten to six on weeknights. Weekends, sleep as fun allows.

Hour walk on weekday mornings.
Swim at noon five days a week.
Lift heavy three times a week.
Dance hard, outside, two to three hours, about three times every two weeks.
Ride bike for transportation.
Play catch once or twice a week.

Assisted stretching for half an hour, once a week.
Hour and a half massage, once a week.

Sleep next to a man, nightly.
Twice a day ought to be plenty.
Pick a kid up for a hug, couple times a day.

I think that if I got that, I would finally be saturated for motion and touch. My face would relax, my brows and cheeks soften. My shoulders would drop from my neck. My hips would loosen, my gait would get springier. My feet would still hurt, but that's how it is.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time to learn hardstyle, I think.

I went to this* last night: a public dance at a BART station in SF. I went by myself and had a really good time. What was it like, you ask, to go by myself to a dance party? Well, it was exactly like going with one of my worthless friends (you should hear that in the most resentful embittered tone you can summon). After years of practice, we have the routine perfected. We go to a party or bar and I hear good music. I ditch them immediately to dance and they drink and hold the wall up or talk to each other. We're past any thoughts that it could be different. I don't ask them to dance anymore; they don't keep me from the dancing, trying to talk to me as I stare mesmerized at the dancers. So really, there was no point in trying to haul one of my non-dancing friends out with me.

I didn't need them anyway. Last night was testimony to the power of self-selection. I have never been in such a big crowd of people who danced just like me. My dance style, I thought until last night, is unusual. Lots of traveling, loose jointed floppy knees, hips sometimes, arms doing things. It is, I hope, goofy and fun; it is not, I don't think, sexy. This is because I do not want it to be sexy. Sexy dancing is mostly boring dancing. Sexy dancing brings some guy who also wants to do sexy grinding and it turns out that grinding gets old fast. If you are not actually going to leave to have sex, there isn't anywhere for grinding to go. Grinding is about the same ten seconds in, a minute in, a song in, and the next song. Yep. Grinding. Hips, back and forth. Yep. If you want to mix it up when the song changes, you can't while you're grinding. Boring.

But the people last night weren't boring. Near all of them danced like me! Exuberant! That was fun. If you don't dance, you might not know how much dancing is a conversation between everyone on the floor. There are people picking the topics and people responding and redirecting. In a good crowd, there is eye contact and smiling. There is a fair amount of joking around. My favorite dance last night came 'cause I was checking out this guy with glasses. I'd sorta seen him and thought he looked smiley, so I danced over and saw he was with this girl. I wondered if they were a couple but couldn't tell. She had short hair and a cardigan over a buttoned up shirt and tie, which made me think that maybe she wasn't dating him. I checked with her before I danced in on the guy she was with. She smiled and offered him up. Dancing with him was fun, but I turned away from him and back to her at one point. Dancing with her was GREAT. She was fun and smart and responsive and subtle, great sense of humor. I danced with her for a few songs. I hope she's at the next one.

Now that I know how great it is to dance outside, I want to do it all the time. Two weekends in a row I got to dance outside. And surprisingly, at a dance of several dozen people in San Francisco, I ran into two people I know. Dan (played on a couple of my league teams, is at the grocery store every third time I go**) and I had this unilluminating conversation.

Me: !!!!
Dan: !!!!
Me: What are you doing here?!
Dan: I came to dance! What are you doing?!
Me: Dancing! But.. you live in Sac!
Dan: So do you!

I gave up and went back to dancing. Truly, a good time.

*Just the first dozen pictures or so. WARNING! Brace yourself and cover the children's eyes. There is quite a bit of breast visible in one picture. I know how you hate to be surprised by glimpses of breasts. I didn't see any of me in any pictures, although one guy took a few shots of me. That happened last week in Sacramento, too. Dude with a huge lens taking pictures of me dancing. I don't care, except that I would like to know where to see them later.

**Dan's one of those people with imaginary spouses. You know they're married, but the spouse never comes to any games, and they go to league parties alone. Despite the fact that I see Dan grocery shopping more than anyone but Dave, I've never seen her there too. And! He was at the dance last night alone. Dude, you're visiting another city for the weekend, going to dances. Where's your wife?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Go emptyhanded...

...when you go to dance.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It is not a tamarind candy, as falsely reported later in that comment thread. Do not trust the internets, folks.

This post about the Democratic debates is funny and all, but the important comment is this one:
I'm bitter like that nasty Chinese candy that is made of smoked plums or something like that. makes you want tot tuem your mouth inside out.

Aw holy fuck! Cimhou! Or something. I have no idea how it is spelled. I just know that it is freakin' awful. It is. It is some sort of salted smoked plum, sometimes rolled in sugar. I see it in stores and I back away from it. I hope to never taste it again, and I'll go to some lengths to arrange that. My girlfriend Le doesn't hate it and reports that her uncle loves it. He loves it so much that he makes special trips to a candy vendor in San Francisco two doors down from a vegetarian Chinese restaurant my friends and I like. Anand and I cross the street when we get to that storefront and then cross back to go to the restaurant, so that I don't have to walk too close to the cimhou. Another girlfriend of mine, Heather, loves candy so much that she reads forums dedicated to discussing candy. She says that cimhou makes a regular appearance as the worst candy ever and everyone chimes in with vehement agreement. I am not surprised.

Also, when I read about how bad the moderators were, I wonder, why does everyone accept that they'll see no consequences? I read on all the blogs that there are a dozen particularly shallow journalists and pundits and that their influence harms our discourse. Then bloggers throw up their hands and say it can't be changed. That is simply not true. It could be changed. Everyone is vulnerable to some leverage somewhere.* It would take a concerted effort by a lot of people, but it could surely be done.

A genuine effort to make an example of one bad pundit would focus specifically on that person. That person's behavior is chronicled somewhere and linked to specific damage. With a record in place, you go after the things that matter to his or her employer. You get a group and you apply pressure everywhere that show ever goes. You respectfully contact advertisers to that show and ask them not to advertise there anymore. You keep doing that. You find the lurkers of blogland who know the producer, the director, anyone affiliated with the show and you get them to talk to their friends in the show. The producer's waiter in the diner should mention he hates that host. You use the regular channels to file formal complaints. You have people across the country go to their local channel affiliates and have small markets drop the show as long as that person is the host. You get the candidates themselves to refuse to work with that host. You offer the candidates alternate venues for debates. You get Op-Eds in local papers and in big papers. You make removing that person the low-level buzz of the country.

It is simply not true that these people are invulnerable. It is true that it would take a huge amount of distributed work to remove any one of them. It could be done though, if a lot of people agree that the problem is truly offensive and a compelling person were willing to dedicate two or three years to organizing the effort. That won't be me. I don't watch any media, so I don't care enough.** Someone who does care absolutely could do it, if we skip the step where everyone agrees that it is impossible and go straight to the step where we talk about how.

*I am not talking ridiculous mafia leverage. I'm talking about completely legitimate pressures.

**I also think the fascination with the New York Times Op-Ed page is completely odd. I've never had any concept that the NY Times was some revered influence, or that who wrote for it mattered in the least. It was some paper on the other side of the Sierras, and if I want news, I'll look to the Bee, Chron and LA Times to find out what will matter to me. I never even knew the names of their writers until people on blogs told me they sucked.

As long as I'm going on like this, I'll mention that Harvard holds zero mystique for me. Harvard took three kids from my high school, each of them exactly B-rate minds (and grades, at my very good high school). Whatever their selection process is, it narrowed in on people who had never impressed me. They turned away better thinkers, too. Now Stanford picked out exactly the two people who fucking blew me away and turned me down too. That's the pick I would have made. A Stanford degree impresses me. Berkeley, where I went? They took, like, forty of us, all bright. But Stanford took the creme, Berkeley the crop, and Harvard the chaff. I'm sure Harvard is a fine school, but the name held no glamour for me after that.

UPDATE: This makes me want to continue with my school reviews. I've noticed a Yale theme among some blogs I read and am approaching an opinion that Yale kids are smart but skewed from normal. They have strong perspectives. I am not solidified on an opinion on Yale kids, since I don't have that much exposure. But I have a working theory.

You know who I really respect? Anyone who went to Lowell High School in SF. Lowell and my high school were the one and two high schools in California during my era and I have yet to run into someone from Lowell who isn't very sharp. When I heard that Lemony Snicket went to Lowell I wasn't surprised in the least.

I'm sure you're dying to hear what junior high pedigrees mean to me. Well. Twenty years ago, coming from Reed meant smart but strong RPG tendencies. A Reed kid could make a strong run for highest grades in high school, but you wouldn't expect one to socialize well with anyone not from Reed. Portola kids are dauntingly smart and, I thought, mostly normal despite that. Sepulveda kids were bright and could actually talk to strangers. Eagle Rock kids were stealth. It seemed like they were a little more street, but they were secretly pulling down very solid grades and pretending not to. Shoot. I'm forgetting one --starts with the letter O?? Can't remember. I'll have to leave it off, but then how will you ever know how to stereotype someone based on what junior high she went to in Los Angeles two decades ago?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I'm into having sex, I aint into makin' love. (Would that it were a live issue.)

The problem with having an amazing dance session is that you remember that it is among the best feelings in the world and you remember how much you want to dance like that all the time. You miss it again and dancing around as you do the dishes just isn't the same.

But as small consolation, I found a mash-up I knew I had heard on the radio one time. I literally cannot watch the video to this, but I've played it through three times with a different window in front. Eminem and Panjabi MC are good, but Nine Inch Nails and 50 Cent are way better.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Anand had better things to do.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Come quick! Before it is spoiled!

Sacramento has arrived. It did it. It is the next city you're going to hear about. I'm here for the first weekend I've been in Sac since November. I wanted to go to Second Saturday, when all the art galleries open their doors and put out food. Second Saturday was incredible, and it is only April. I've been going to Second Saturdays for years and they're always fun. You always see people you know and you look at the watercolors of the oak foothills and eat the cheese and crackers. It is a good night. But tonight wasn't like any Second Saturday I've gone to.

I'd say there were four times as many people out as I have ever seen, even compared to the busy ones at the height of summer. Every single bike rack was full; bikes were stacked on every pole. Every block had a band or two. Every store front was open and had a table in front. And people are finally bringing their own creativity, doing their own things without permissions and sponsors. There was a samba parade, instruments and dancers. There was a troop of bikers on little tiny bikes. There was a remote controlled dog out on the streets. Everywhere, everywhere had people. On porches. Eating at sidewalk tables. Playing guitars. Old people. People with babies and people with kids. Fake tan girls and popped collar boys. The queers were out. The skaters were out. Middle age couples strolled. Everyone was out. I've never seen it like this.

I saw some art, but got drawn in by the best house music I've heard in several years. I danced and danced. I danced hard for three hours and people danced and left and came back. We danced, so many of us. A style-y young Iranian crowd. A couple Islanders. Four Hispanic guys, one of them with his three year old son. Black men danced through. A hip girl with bleached hair and tattoos. Sorority-looking Asian-Am girls. Four darling shaggy-haired indie boys. Two ten year old boys. We all danced. I wouldn't have picked the middle-aged Lebanese(?) couple for house music fans, but they were stalwart. It was as much fun as I have ever had, dancing outside on a warm night under big lit up elms, next to a packed street.

I had no idea Second Saturday was going off like this, and I suspect that it hasn't until now. But the point has tipped, the energy was everywhere. If Second Saturday stays like this all summer, you are going to start to hear about Sacramento.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I usually like ephemeral things. But not right now.

When I went to Uzbekistan, our group stayed in the mountains three weeks. One day our hosts came back to camp, excited by news from the villagers. They knew of snow leopards on a mountain close by. My fierce and wonderful professor drew in a breath. “Which one? Which one has a snow leopard on it?” I was startled; I would never think that she’d be one to lead a hike to find and bother snow leopards. Our hosts hemmed and hawed. “You’d never find them. They’re very elusive.” “Oh no,” she said. “I just want to look at a mountain that has a snow leopard on it.”

My professor loved the idea of snow leopards so much it made one stark white peak stand out from the others. There are so many ideas I love so much. A wolverine in Tahoe. Tall Chris’s sweet new girlbaby. Tom and Susan’s beautiful new boy. All my friends gathered into one place. Bats under rail trestles in the Causeway. The American chestnut. The basil seeds I planted next to the nasturtiums. You opening your door to show me in. Artesian springs in orange orchards. The long narrow table I never built for my own front porch. The aurora borealis. Some of those ideas will turn real, then vanish again. Some will never be something I can experience. Some of them I can make real, to stay with me for a season or until the clock strikes midnight.

But one idea is about to be gone and I won’t ever get it back. In a few days or weeks I will never again know that my grandfather lives in Florida and loves us with all his huge heart.

Friday, April 11, 2008

and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope

When I'm finally driven off the internet, it will be because of the petty people. Those small, picky, ungenerous men who have to weigh in. It won't be the vicious abuse or the rape threats. Those are rare, and I recover after a while. It won't be disagreement. I don't care if other people think different things. It won't be the humorless, although they're a real problem. They sit out there like sodden lumps, missing the joke and then blaming me for it! But I can't help them. I conferred with my sister; I checked with Anand; I asked the funnier Megan. We don't explain jokes. People gotta keep up. We mourn if the humorless fall by the wayside, but we don't mourn for long, because someone just said something funny. The contrarianism is annoying, but that's because it is so predictable. I skip it. No. Those aren't the problem. The problem is the relentless mind-driven evaluation. You guys can't stop and I can't read any more.

I am done with being evaluated here. I'm done. Y'all don't hire me and you don't teach me and you have no standing. You also don't have nearly enough information to guess whether I'm a good person, what my affect is like, or if I'm an intense control-freak. You can't tell, because you don't know me. You are welcome to know me, and you would do that by meeting me and hanging out. In person. But way too many of you who are moved to post comments offer some sort of evaluation of some sort of contruct of me and after two years, I'm done with that. For weeks now I've been drawing back. I don't post much personal stuff here anymore, because you'll just tell me what is good and bad about it and who the fuck are you to have an opinion about me? I dread policy conversations because I've heard them before. I wouldn't read the comments, except that I have to moderate them. I know there are good ones in there, but the two or three that annoy me infuriate me. I am done.

Teo said that he's not always sure what I want out of this blog, and that made me wonder. I decided that what I want out of this blog is what I always want in general. I want people around and I want friends. And here's the thing. My friends don't evaluate me. That isn't what we do. I say, 'Chris! Silly concept!' and he says 'Megan! Same concept in a new direction!'. I say 'Anand, I did something!' and he says 'Meggie! Was it fun?'. I say 'Sister, the babies are beautiful.' and she says 'I found us a beehive.' I say, 'Roxie! Want to go throw?' and she says 'Yes!'. You know what conversation I never have with my friends? Me, 'Interesting thing!' and friend, 'you're wonderful!'. I also never say 'Some odd angle on something' and have a friend answer 'Your saying that proves this about you.' In real life, you very rarely talk about someone to her. That isn't how friends act. In blog life, I've had enough of it.

Look, in real life, I carry my attention out in front of me, about a foot. When I meet you, I want your attention to join it and then they can zing off together to look at something shiny. We arrive at the same place for the purpose of playing and finding neat things and laughing at stuff. If you force our attention back to me, I'm confused. That isn't what people do and it interrupts the flow. If you evaluate me on top of that, then I remember that you aren't my parents and you have no claim. If you evaluate me by some picky, ungenerous, small, cramped and cautious worldview, then I remember that that we aren't anything alike and why am I writing to you everyday?

I now have two problems. First problem is that I think MOST of you aren't like that. Some commenters automatically understand how we play. They get jokes and make them better. They want to talk about the stuff and point to even better stuff. I also think most of the lurkers fall in that category. I meet you, or you write to me and we talk about the things we do. No evaluation. Dewb and I chattered right along. I hope to go dancing with Asymptote Beagle. Jess and Sherry and Daisy and so many of you are out there and I know that we're friends first and evaluation never.

My other problem is that I think that this constant evaluation is a function of the media. Maybe it happens whenever a person is publicly displayed; people start to think they can have an opinion about her. But in blogging the feedback is easy and instant. Or maybe it is that so much of my blogging circles are the ones where critique is constant. I do it and that's some of who is here. Maybe this is a selection problem, where I disproportionately experience a small fraction of the response.

Three. Three problems. I don't know what to do about the comments. I know that I might be losing good ones. Kwindla's are thoughtful and thorough and compassionate, even as he disagrees. Mitch is funny. JMPP shows me great links. Doctor Pat tells stories. So does Noel. But here's this. I deeply believe that the people who are in this evalutating, critiquing mode can't get out of it. At least, not by some girl blogging about it. The times I've talked about it, they didn't know what I meant. If thinking and judging mode is your whole world, me saying to do something different doesn't make any sense. They tell me that they don't know what an experiental sentence would be or why it matters, and I believe them. So. I had a comment policy I wasn't enforcing and I don't think a comment policy about "No Evaluating Me" will work either. But I've been dreading my own comments, because of the few that disproportionately PISS ME OFF, and that is unacceptable too. I'll try no comments, but I'll miss my friends who act like friends. Dunno, man. Unresolved.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More climate change thoughts.

I can't do justice to the fantastic presentation by the guy from PG&E, who seriously knew his shit. Here's a slightly older paper of his. Maybe y'all are right that companies that sell things have incentives to know their systems and innovate. But the part I loved best was that he pulled up his first slide and started "California has basaltic faults in the northeast, metamorphic granites throughout the Sierra and [something or other] in the southern Sierra." I nearly wriggled with happiness, because I love being validated.


I don't read this stuff because I meant it when I swore off arguing with climate change denialists. (I also meant it when I swore off arguing with libertarians. My traffic has halved, but I will not be an internet cliché.) But The Poor Man linked the type of post I don't read, so I saw it anyway. A sample:
[T]here is no way I am going to buy into global warming as anything but a blatant attempt to control industry, take freedom away from the people and put political power into the hands of a bunch of elitist wimps who would like nothing better than to tell America what to do, how to think and how many trips they can make to the bathroom every day.

People, this is nothing but a bald faced power grab using flawed science and scare tactics aided by a lap dog media and opportunist politicians and globalists who see a way to squeeze America a little more.
Whatever. Sure. But here's the thing I wonder. How do people who deny climate change reconcile that with guys like this, who are spending entire careers on teasing out really non-dramatic aspects of climate change? This guy is not measuring carbon concentrations in oyster shells for the glory. There are thousands of these people, dorkily and steadily piecing out the causes and predicting effects.

If it is all a conspiracy and nothing is happening, how do denialists conceive of these guys? Do they think these monotonous nerds who talk in jargon (don't take that the wrong way. I'm sexually attracted to every one of them.) are making it up to promote the conspiracy? Like, they spend the morning thinking up esoteric ways of measuring wave energy by sand lost at different gauges around the state, and the afternoon faking their data so they can please Al Gore? They've done this now for ten years and they plan to make an entire career out of making up the detailed groundwork for fake climate change? All of them? On nothing? Imagine the secret conferences they must hold to synchronize their stories and settle on an allowable variance between the made-up river data, the made-up precipitation data and the made-up ocean data. Besides the groupies, WHAT FOR?


That reminds me that I haven't answered all those emails you guys send me, begging for an open thread to discuss this climate change seminar series. Not all of them have been as dramatic as the really excellent overview, but there have been definite high points along the way. Here's your chance to talk about those.

Some pretty pictures, while we're at it.

Like liveblogging, but really obscure and not live.

DUDE! I went to the most awesome seminar on Monday. It was on climate change and energy in California, mostly hydropower. I've never thought much about hydropower before because it isn't irrigation, so who cares?! But going over to other people's fields turns out to be neato. Everything is new! Even though those people tended to think about things in skewed and odd ways, they said interesting things.

First thing I noticed is that those hydropower people do not care that water is water. As far as they are concerned, their dams are holding back money. It is money shaped like water that could turn a turbine, but they do not care about its other water-like properties. All they want their dams to do is hold their money until August, when electricity is worth lots to all you air-conditioning folks. The idea that water stored behind your dam is simply stored head reminds me a little of the guy who pointed out to me that wheat is stored sunshine and water.

The first guy to shake me was the guy who gave a presentation on extreme heat events in California. They care about that stuff because heavy air-conditioning days are apparently the peak load. Who knew? It could get a lot hotter, y'all. Under the A2 Scenario* (worst case), there may be about ten times as many T9 heat events (days the temperature exceeds the 90th percentile hot day for your locale (here in Sac, that's 105° F)). Basically, the T9 events will last all summer.

I'm looking at that and thinking, "hm. Well, I like the heat. I don't like everybody whining about the heat, but by then I'll be even better at ignoring it." Then he put up a graph of daily temperature, which looks like you'd think. Low in the morning, high in the late afternoon, low in the evening and night. I'm looking at this and I was actually sure I was reading it right, but I wanted to say the words out loud. So I asked. "Does that chart say that it will be 105° by 7:30 in the morning and will be at least that hot until 10:30 at night?" Yes. That is what it said. Dude. I'm fine through the late afternoon peak, but even I don't like to roll out of bed to 105°F. Then I was thinking, "that's the kind of thing that kills old people" and then I looked at the chart and it said 2050. I'LL BE OLD! CHANGE YOUR WAYS!

Then, they were talking about the ways the new hydrology will change hydropower generation. There'll be two effects. First is that when water falls as rain, it runs off earlier and second is that there'll be less overall. Unlike farmers or flood people, they don't care that it is earlier. They can catch that in their dams whether it shows up in March as rain or April as snowmelt. But they do care that there's less. From the quick look I got, ten percent less water means seven or eight percent less hydropower.

Here's the thing I didn't get, and I'm hoping one of you can tell me. They were talking about strategies for getting more power out of less precipitation. They talked about changing reservoir operations** and raising reservoir heights (to capture more liquid money). Increasing power generation showed up in the presentation, but no one talked about it. Why not? Internet, please tell me. Why not stick more turbines at the base of your dam? I can imagine a bunch of problems, but I don't know which one is the binding constraint. Is it the cost of punching another hole in your dam and attaching it to a new power plant? Is the process of FERC re-licensing prohibitive? Is that when people put in expensive infrastructure like powerplants, they did a really good job sizing them and there aren't a lot more gains to be had? This would surprise me, because I know of power plants in Sequoia that were packed in on mules a long time ago. They're totally gorgeous, with the real brass fittings on the turbines. But can it really be true that you couldn't do much better now? Have there been big efficiency gains in water turbines in the last century? Are the mountains still so hard to reach that it is not economically worth it yet? See, internets? I'm so ignorant that I can't even guess which is the big problem.

*The cognescenti seem to know a suite of model scenarios by name. I'm starting to recognize a couple of them. A2 is Bad News, and what we're doing now. There's the one where we drastically cut back emissions and find Jesus and things only get worse by about ten percent. I think that is B-something. Those are the brackets. I guess they run these standardized scenarios through lots of different models to compare the model outcomes. Sadly, they weren't given intuitive names way back when people were first doing these models, like "SUVs Everywhere" and "I bring my own shopping bag." Maybe if they'd known these were the names everyone would be stuck with for the next fifteen years....

That reminds me that I spent a summer duplicating the very first water model done in California, which might also be the first big water model ever. It was a 1956 study of how much water would be in the Sacramento River during the summer if Reclamation hadn't built Shasta Dam. They originally did it on huge sheets of paper, with hundreds of boxes. At the front of each row, it said what the operation was and what boxes above you multiplied or subtracted or whatever. Then you go down a row and do the new operation. People filled in the boxes by hand to run the model. There was a new version a year later called version C-57 (or something like that). The "C" stood for Computer and freedom from huge scrolls of paper.

**This is code for knowing when your water is going to arrive. If you know you'll only get February storms, you hold on to every drop until you use it in August. If you know you'll get an April storm, you sell your February hydropower and store your April water until August. The big risk is that your reservoir will be full when a flood arrives and you can't catch it. That screws people downstream and also wastes money you could have captured.

We were just talking about this.

I just now saw a beeswarm, all bunched up at the base of a tree! My sister and I want a beehive. I should box it up, leave the box in my office all afternoon, carry it on my bike to the train station, take our swarm on the two hour train ride, ride another twenty minutes with the box in my arms and bring our bees home to us! It's perfect.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Conversations I have with Chris.

Chris: Hee.
Megan. Oooh. Fed-Ex traffic.
Chris: I love traffic.
Megan: You love some traffic.
Chris: That's what heaven looks like.

Megan: I built this tomato cage my ownself!
Chris: Megan, tomatoes can't run away.

Chris: You might want to downshift on this grade.
Megan: More hamsters!
Chris: Bigger, stronger, slower hamsters.
Megan: Different hamsters!

After I fall on a series of unlit steps:
Chris: HAHAHAHAHAA! Ahh haha hahah hahah hah ha ha ha! HO HAHA HAHA!
Megan: Dude. I just feel on the steps.
Chris: Yeah, but you fell UP the stairs. Last time you fell down the stairs! Now you're even.
Megan: (in my head) They both hurt, fucker. Why are you laughing?

Chris: It is easy to lift the bike from the vertical post...
Megan: (in my head) Did he just give me advice on how to lift my bike? I've been on my bike for TWO YEARS NOW. I lift my bike on stairs and trains all the time. Did he not notice that I've been lifting my bike like that for years? What is a car driver doing telling a bike-person how to lift her bike?
Chris: ...down by the center of gravity...
Megan: (in my head) But sometimes he explains the basics and they're really helpful and I didn't think of that. Is that more helpful than telling me how to lift my bike is annoying? Yes. (sigh).

Saturday, April 05, 2008

So wonderful.

I love the shot and the caption, but most of all I love the title.

New friends.

My ride home from the Emeryville train station takes me through North Oakland, in genuine bars-on-windows, chainlink fence territory. I can't decide how dangerous it is. There are far too many murders, but I haven't seen anything scary. I get in after dark sometimes, but I feel fine as long as I keep moving on my bike.

Tonight I heard shouts and saw three bikes on the block ahead of me, swooping and veering erratically. I was gaining on them, but relaxed when I realized they were kids, somewhere around twelve. They were shouting to each other, so they didn't hear me ride up on them. I got even with them and was riding fully in between the three of em, when one kid shouted "fuck me". It wasn't to me, they didn't know I was there. They were just feeling all bad-ass. His voice cracked though, so his friends laughed and his other friend said, no, like this, man. He put on his deepest, biggest voice and said "Fuuuuuck me. Bend me over right now."

I didn't think that was proper, so I said "Well, I hardly know you." They jumped and looked me for the first time, and then we laughed. I was nearly past them at that point, so I kept going. One kid paced me for a few more seconds, but saw a man he knew in the street ahead. He turned hard, peeled out pretty sweet and stopped inches from him. Lots of style, that one.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Because it sucks to admit you don't live by your morals, that's why.

Oddly, widespread media attention to one of their faculty's most famous works does not seem to have made it to the front of the Boalt Hall page. Their bookstore manager is retiring, though.

Also, why aren't we hearing more from people inside the school? There's this guy, who is totally bummed those hippies who live in the past interrupted his class today. But that's the only blog I can find telling us what it is like to be in this situation. Considering how rich this topic is, why don't we have lots of thoughtful people telling us what the dilemma means and what they balance?

Maybe if the country were torturing white girls.

I want a statement from Boalt Hall and from the Regents of UC clearly stating their position on John Yoo. They could say lots of things. They could say:

Dude. We love torture and wish we could crush the testicles of small children personally, but our dirty hippie neighbors won't watch our houses for us when we go on vacation if we do. Prof. Yoo is our man!

They could say:

Oh man. Firing him would be a huge hassle. You don't know. Besides tenure, there are a million contract issues and the press would be unbelievable. From the inside, on a daily basis, he does a decent job teaching and is reasonably socialized and by now I'm pretty good at walking past him in the halls and shutting out the idea of repeatedly drowning innocent men. Besides, those men didn't look like me.

They could say:

It is too bad that we can't follow the train of causality between Yoo's memo and establishing a novel torture regime in the United States. These things are so complicated and all he did was write a memo. If only there were some discipline, some field that deals with responsibility for crimes, how to weigh those and what the penalties should be. But since there isn't, we don't know what to do. I guess we'll just do nothing!

They could say:

Thinking about this makes me aware that everything we teach about the rule of law is a blatant lie. Thinking about how I violate my personal standards for decency every day that I work with John Yoo makes my head hurt. So I'm not going to think about it. Hasn't the asparagus been tasty recently? I grilled it last night! Delicious.

They could say:

You know what is important to me? Technicalities and protecting the privileged. I love an abstract idea about scholarship way more than I care about torturing brown people. I don't even have to watch the torturing, so it practically doesn't exist! Now see, I can talk how tenure works and if I think about it long enough, it totally balances out practically non-existant things.

They could say:

Yes. Integrity matters to us and so does the concept of consequences. We are not a body that punishes, but we do not have to have a man who enabled our country to descend into torture among us. Praise the day when he is brought before a war tribunal, but until then, we will not tolerate him in an institution dedicated to the principle of law.

They have to say something, though. Dodging the question is unacceptable for a public university. I would respect any of the statements above more than I respect pretending that it isn't a problem.

UPDATE: Full props to Berkeley Law School Dean Edley for explicitly stating his position on Prof. Yoo. Looks like they went with Option 4. Also worth noting is that Dean Edley's read on the Faculty Code of Conduct is very close to Prof. Rauchway's.

UPDATE 5/6/8: Strangely, William Drummond, Chair of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate of the University of California went with Option 3, "No Expertise". Honestly, I didn't think Option 3 would get any takers. I thought my made-up reasons were facially ridiculous.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The blog has been good practice.

One day I want to be knowledgeable. I want to look at the world and know why things happened. I want to understand the forces in motion, and who is reacting to what. I have theories about things now, and I’m not one to back away from a generalization. But I never feel like I know enough. Some people know things. You ask, ‘why is that there?’ and they explain to you the history of that political struggle and how it evolved and how it contrasts with that one neat case that illuminates this other facet. And you’re all, ‘but you’re a limnologist. Why do you know that?’. Anyway, one thing about those people who really do understand things is that they’re usually older than me. This is a relief. I have time to catch up.

I might not catch up. Remember, two years ago when I said that what I really need to do to understand the world is take a soils class? Yeah. Two years later and I still haven’t taken a soils class and I still don’t know how soils work. This despite the fact that I’ve written at least half a dozen posts where the answer to ‘how come?’ is ‘what are you standing on and how does it act?’.

On the other hand, I might finally have enough breadth that I can spot things. I was reading this LA Times article about how the West is warming up faster than the rest of the country and I was idly musing about what it means for cannibals to eat only organic local foods when I came across a surprising name. The University of Colorado climate professor is an Udall? I know I’ve heard the name Udall before. So I check it, and I better know the name Udall. There were lots of them and they did important things all over the west. The fact that there were lots of them makes me feel a little better about not being able to place a single person, but then, looking at this rather great Wikipedia page, I’m a little horrified that I missed an entire important western dynasty. How’m I supposed to catch on to alliances and stories if I can’t even tell you how an Udall acts? I’ve requested Morris Udall’s book, Too Funny To Be President*, so soon I’ll know a little better.

Anyway, I want to be knowledgeable because I’m really looking forward to delivering extended monologues at family dinners whenever anyone asks me any sort of question. For too long I’ve been letting other people speak sometimes. I don’t listen to them or anything, but it is time to step up my game.

UPDATE 4/22/8: Too Funny To Be President was actually pretty good. Some interesting stuff about why Ted Stevens hates Mike Gravel, leading back to a dispute in the 80's. He writes a chapter on the rise of the environmental movement, and describes his choice to support the Central Arizona Project. I mention all this because we now have two data points suggesting that Udalls support water projects. Three times is a law.

*I hear you, my brother.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More counter-factual ineptitude from the Bush administration.

This is just so, so wrong. Remember Monica Goodling, the appointee at the U.S. Attorney General's office who thought that extreme rightwing political ideology was the right basis to evaluate, hire and fire federal attorneys general? She's also mixed up in firing an "excellent" attorney general on suspicion of being lesbian. According to an anonymous Republican source, "To some people, that's even worse than being a Democrat."

I am so fucking tired of Bush appointees who have no clue about the subjects they are meddling in, or worse, regulating. It is blatantly obvious to anyone even a little bit sophisticated or cosmopolitan, to anyone who has any familiarity with people who aren't narrowminded rightwing religious freaks that it is WAY BETTER TO BE LESBIAN THAN A DEMOCRAT!

Is she kidding me? Being lesbian would be great! You get to be a hot chick and date hot chicks! That's, like, hotness squared! You would like breasts and also have them. If you also like dicking, you can buy one, or lots, and use them whenever you want! You don't have to wait around for men to believe your propositions (if they recognize them in the first place) and be sure of their feelings and crap. It is so easy to flirt with women and flirting with lesbians goes even faster. You're always the coolest person in the room if you're lesbian. Margie says that once you're lesbian and out, everything is easy. As long as you don't wear combat boots and shave your head, you're mainstream. Your choice of pets and cars is totally settled. You only have to choose which singer-songwriter you're gonna go with.

By contrast, being a Democrat is pretty miserable. You always immediately identify with the downtrodden, which sucks because they're downtrodden. You have to watch an administration systematically corrupt and destroy your government, which furthers their arguments that government doesn't work. You have to evaluate your culpability when institutions you are part of do heinous shit like torturing people, because you can't pretend you don't know that the system is answerable to the collective you. You feel cognitive dissonance when your actions and ideals aren't aligned, because you are aware of the small hypocrisies and shortcuts that make life convenient. You don't revel in poor people's hurts because that just goes to show they weren't meritorious; you have to look for causes, which requires unpleasant thinking. You have to look at really painful, expensive truths and do more than hope for unicorns to bring cheap energy or hold levees in place. Doing things sucks, and doing expensive things can mean short-term sacrifice. No one wants short-term sacrifice. Your heart just bleeds and bleeds and bleeds, and it bleeds some more when you think of boys and girls getting thrown into the Iraq War blender, when you know people in your country live in tent cities, when it matters to you that we're ten years away from no more salmon in California, when people are getting raped in jail. Really, being Democratic isn't the fun and games Goodling makes it out to be.

I can't believe that even a Bush official can go around spewing nonsense like 'being lesbian is worse than being a Democrat'. Sometimes I think they've hit bottom, but then the trapdoor opens and I fall into a whole new cellar of bullshit rightwing ignorance.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I will do original reporting!

The Clintons have been trying to speak in a way my peoples will understand:
According to a Clinton supporter, the Governor's wife, Hillary Clinton, took her husband aside just before a debate and told him: "If Jerry Brown goes off on some wild tangent against you, just remind him he's from California and what they say out there is chill out . Just tell him to chill out."

Sure enough, as Mr. Brown started to inveigh against the Clinton civil rights record, Mr. Clinton interrupted cheerfully with "Jerry, chill out! You're from California—chill out. Cool off a little." That became the sound bite used on all the evening news shows the next day. Note how Governor Clinton slipped in the definition, "to cool off," so that non-Californians would understand.
They're a generation older than I am, and have this mildly skewed by my standards. I would issue a "Chill, dude", without the follow through preposition. In my sister's circles, they say "Chilly" or "Keep it chilly" as an admonition to stay calm and keep one's head in a pressured situation. I think that is an idiosyncratic usage, from their time playing sports together.

Nevertheless, I am in my mid-thirties, which makes me a generation older than anyone who is actually cool. I'm sure that I am not right either. However! I know a fourfifteen year old girl! I will ask her, and she will tell me what the Clintons should have said to be hep cats.

UPDATE: Seems like the Clintons are more au courant than I am. My fifteen year old source reports that she would use chill or chill out interchangeably.