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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Zero < tolerance << infinite.

One of the most frustrating things about the professor that picked on me was that he was insulated from all my complaints by the ‘Known Asshole’ defense. It was like magic! I would complain to the head of the department that he’d gone after me in class, and the department head would say “Oh that guy. He can be gruff.” Or I’d tell a woman prof about him and she’d say “Yeah. He was inexcusably rude to me in a meeting one time.” I tried a number of different venues, and the answer was always “Yeah. He’s a dick. Bummer that he was a dick to you too.”

It was amazingly frustrating, because I’d spend my appointments with people trying to explain that I’m sure he’s an asshole in general, but he was also gunning for me. I was positive there was an additional increment there, but people kept telling me not to take it personally, he is always rude. In retrospect, I wish I’d said “No fucking way. I don’t care what shit y’all take from him. I don’t care if he’s an asshole to each and every one of you every single day. Even if he is, it is unacceptable for him to treat me like this.” I wish I’d said that.

I’ve seen the Known Asshole defense come up a few places since then. There’s a guy who goes apeshit on our Ultimate fields. We all know he does. He’s done it for years. Most of the time, everyone shrugs; that’s just him and that’s how he does. We finally had to remember that stuff that would be unacceptable from other people is also unacceptable from assholes. Gradually, they do end up being excluded. I’ve been at draft nights where no captain wants to take the guy, despite his athleticism. Someone finally caves, but one day no captain will have him and the league director’ll have to tell him he can’t play in league. In the long run, karma does come for the assholes. In the short run, I vote for calling people on asshole behavior, even if that's how they always are. Especially if that's how they always are.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No manners.

I just saw that the coffee shop wrote the word "bike" on my cup, to know whom to bring the coffee to. SHE HAS A NAME YOU KNOW! It is Clara.

Peter and Noel or DoctorPat or anyone who knows.

We finished my second maxing cycle for deadlift last night. Do I care that my deadlift went up only five pounds in the three months since the last one? It felt smooth and easy, though.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thanks, Daniel, for the excellent recommendation.

Last August, on one of my recurring posts about how awful grad school was, Daniel left me this:
Daniel said...
An excellent book on the same theme: “Disciplined Minds” by Jeff Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt earned a PhD in physics from Cal-Irvine and worked as an editor at Physics Today for nearly twenty years. After writing the book, he was promptly fired.

In the book, he focuses on the experience of graduate students in physics, and how that professional degree program — like all other professional degree programs — is more focused on selecting those candidates who conform to a behvioral pattern than those candidates who would make the best scientists.

My favorite chapter was “How to Survive Grad School With Your Soul Intact", which includes long quotations from the Army manual on resisting interrogation as a POW.

I finally read it last week. It was an incredible relief to have my vague feelings about grad school confirmed. I knew I was failing something besides the material. I knew it was my attitude that set off the professor who told me I didn't belong. I didn't understand why at the time, because I thought that the purpose of grad school was to process the material and develop independent thought. Trusting that was such a mistake for me. "Soul-battering" sounds like a melodramatic overstatement, but that was truly what the isolation and harangues and endless requirements felt like.

The thing that kills me about my situation in second grad school, which I fled with a masters, is that I wasn't even trying to rebel. I am not naturally defiant; I tend to respect and trust authority. I would have been happy to absorb and parrot the party line. My problem, I realized as I read Disciplined Minds, is that I was in too many programs and they had contradictory party lines. I would have been indoctrinated if I could have been, but I simply couldn't do them all at once.

Coming from an engineering degree, I simply could not believe that policy studies were a science. Since I was in law school, I couldn't catch on fast enough that for ecology students, habitat preservation was the sole and overriding goal of everything and not a subject with trade-offs that we should discuss. While I took econ, I didn't understand why you would have any faith in a law you couldn't derive and prove with data. I wasn't sure about econ's laws either, because after taking all that physics I thought that real laws enforce themselves every single time. In law school, the justice issues behind a decision were worth pointing out. But not in econ or ecology.

I didn't want to stand out and be forever blurting out irrelevent stuff that trivialized people's disciplines and offended them. But I wasn't fully immersed in any one program, so I didn't have time to absorb and adopt any one doctrine. The walk across campus wasn't long enough for me to fully shift gears, so I'd point out something interesting! and then realize that I was defying the norms of the discipline. Again. Enough of that and there was no one who would help me stay and work, much less back me against the prof disparaged me in and out of class.

This makes me so sad. Schmidt talks about preserving your radical soul and challenging power structures and doing socially worthwhile work. I wasn't trying for any of that. I wasn't even being noble. I just wasn't nimble or discreet enough. For the costs being a critical outsider caused me, I should at least have been deliberately disobedient. What a waste. What a relief to understand more of why second grad school was so awful.

(The thing that I find interesting is that first grad school wasn't nearly as oppressive. At first glance, you'd think first grad school might be worse. Smaller school, entirely older male engineers, some overtly religious, in the generally conservative culture of agriculture. But at first grad school, my perception was that the deal was "if you show you thoroughly understand this material, you can think anything you like." I was obviously a very strange bird in that program, but I never once felt like my thoughts infuriated people or that they were evaluating me on anything but my classwork. They'd answer anything I asked and as long as I could tell them how pumps worked, I was never scared they wanted me out of the program. I think it was due to the head guy, who still gets all my respect.)

Friday, January 25, 2008

South Bay! What are you doing tomorrow?

Hey, South Bay? What are you doing tomorrow? Want to join me'n'Anand'n'Monica for Chaat-Fest '08? Tomorrow afternoon we are going to three or four chaat places in San Jose or Sunnyvale, I think. Now that Anand lives there, we need to know who makes the best chaat. You should come with us!

You should especially come with us if you are a totally awesome woman who has a dog. You really want to date Anand. You do. He's great. He's handsome and brilliant and funny and nice to the core. I know you're tripping over single men, there in San Jose, but Anand is a catch. You? I don't know. You should have a dog. A black lab would be perfect, but Anand knows we aren't all perfect and he'll love your dog the way it is. He even liked his friend's little yappy dogs, which lost Anand some respect in my eyes. If you wear glasses, Anand'll think you are beautiful. I would specify other stuff, but it turns out I don't know Anand well enough. A couple weeks back, I was lamenting that my date was a great guy, but not funny and there just isn't anywhere to go from there. Anand said "I don't know about that. My ex wasn't funny." I said "Jesus! How'd you ever get it up?", but Anand confirmed that it hadn't been a problem. If he can manage that, you know he isn't gonna let you down, ladies.

This'll be a great time to meet Anand, because even though I am socially inept in lots of ways, I am a fantastic wingman. I'll chat you up all nice and interested and you won't even notice that I am slightly backing you over toward Anand. We'll be eating chaat and it'll all be so fun and I will make the transfer over to Anand and all of a sudden leave to fetch us water. I do this for Chris and Anand all the time. You'd think they'd close the deal more, considering that I do all the work. But! The handoff is smoooooth. You won't even notice, and then you'll be talking to the best guy you'll meet all year.

Anyway, you should come to Chaat-Fest '08. I'll post an itinerary when I know one. Or email me.

Chaat Paradise: About 12:45
Chaat House: About 2:30
Lovely Sweets and Snacks: About 3:10

Thursday, January 24, 2008

On court.

Not everyone has what it takes to see the absent, the missing. Most people just see the blatant, or come to some obvious, unsubtle conclusion based on surface evidence. That's fine, I suppose, if your standards aren't higher. It'll get you by, mostly. There is beauty in the stillness though. A finer mind appreciates the presence and the absence, sees the form and the void. I guess it takes a Zen mind to understand what isn't there. A little more sophistication. Not everyone has that, but I don't think they should feel wholly inadequate. Just... common.

I was watching the Kings last night and do you know what I realized? Ron Artest has not gone crazy. Yeah. That's right. Ron Artest has not charged the crowd and punched a fan since he's been here. He has not publicly requested trades, been benched and sulked. He's not throwing flagrant fouls willy-nilly. He hasn't choked anyone, thrown temper tantrums, or made a scene on court. As far as basketball goes, he has been a productive, non-controversial starter. I WAS RIGHT about him. And you weren't.

If you were one of the several people who emphatically insisted Ron Artest = Impending Implosion, or Ron Artest = CRAZYTIME, I want you to know that the comments here are a shame-free zone. You can admit things there, and we won't judge you. You can admit things like "Megan, you were right and I was wrong." "I was so wrong when I laughed at your team for acquiring Artest and I should never have mocked you for having faith in him." Go ahead. The comments are WIDE OPEN. Get comfy in there. Stretch out. Say the words you know are true. Ron Artest did not go nuts playing basketball in Sacramento. People can change. We redeemed him. JUST LIKE I SAID.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You see what I face out there?

OK, this is funny, right? The comments here. That's funny. I wish she'd taken my bet.

As long as I am talking crazy talk.

You know, I wonder something else too. The picture of a depression that is forming in the comments below is grim. (Keep going, please. I am genuinely interested.) But here is what I wonder.

So you see existing cities imploding. Detroit returning to prairie, housing standing empty, their peoples trapped in very grim fighting. You hear the occasional story of cities planning to become smaller. I'm talking all gloom and doom about depression and climate change. Here's my question. For cities like Detroit, why don't they return to the basics? They are collapsing, right? They are arguably in some sort of negative rate of growth. You can get a relatively small, but pretty reliable rate of return from agriculture. By doing nothing but aggressively farming their city, they could get, say, two or three percent a year return on capital.

I mean, for cities that can't lure industry and have no jobs, cities where policies attached to federal funding do great harm, why not say screw the modern system? We can't make it work this way. But, as an entity, we could feed ourselves and have a very little extra every year*. We can scavenge some of the abandoned capital and improve our quality of life. For some American cities, or some parts of some cities, an economy based on non-monetary self-suffiency has to be an improvement.

Why not? Because most people no longer have the skills? Because most people no longer have that self-conception? Because no one has brought it up? Because the idea of farming, or of leaving a modern economy is stigmatized? Because of property laws? Because the start-up effort for farming is a monstrous amount of work? (But dude. It can't feel worse than begging for food for your family every day.) Because it takes initial capital and organization? Because it would be admitting failure and going backward?

If your blighted city is collapsing, why not farm it? Soil and sun, rain and labor are still there.

*Yes, I genuinely believe that some cities (on the right soils and in some climates, and by that I mean most of the Midwest) could mostly feed themselves with urban agriculture and a huge amount of labor. I wish Margie had sent me those pictures we took last week. I need to show you those.

If it means the return of WPA-style buildings, I'm all for it.

With talk of a recession or even a depression in the air, I have a question for you.

What would a contemporary depression look like? Is it something I would consider a problem? My understanding is that until the amount of unsecured credit is determined, people will not be able to buy stuff on credit. OK. What does that mean for how people will actually live, and what a modern depression looks like? Do I care if there is a depression?

Here's where I stand: deep in my hippie soul, above a level of necessity and a little comfort, I do not think think that consumerism improves people's quality of life. So I don't care if it goes away. If a modern depression means that people live on really tight budgets for the next few years, and can't buy new clothes or remodel their kitchens or travel, I don't give a rat's ass. Does a modern depression mean that people will have to increase their living density? Take in roommates to afford the mortgage? Move into a smaller place closer to work because they can't afford gas and heat? You are not convincing me that a depression is a problem. My life is, like, sparse. I ride my bike around and meet friends to do things and hate gadgets. I have a little money put away for the long term. Will my life change if there is a depression?

But I don't want a depression if it is going to be all dreary and sad and if I'm going to have read bummer stories in the news. Will a modern depression mean big segments of the population out of work and standing on street corners? Kids in newspaper caps without enough food? That's a total downer. Will it mean big diasporas within the country? Starving men, coming round my house asking for food and putting secret codes on my sidewalk? People being sicker, scared-er, hungrier?

What would a depression be like? Not causes or some abstract statistic about home ownership. That doesn't tell me what I am asking. I want to know what a modern depression would feel like as we go through it.

UPDATE: Your answers are AWESOME. Thank you so much for thinking hard about my question. Keep it coming, if you are still willing.

Girl talk with my sister

I sent my sister this:

Really? Sails on container ships?

She sent me:

yah, really. i just started hearing about this myself.
it's a little hard to imagine it catching on widespread, though. a whole extra system on board? does it come with a person who knows how to use it? who decides when to hoist it? who knows how to pack it just right? what if it falls in the water? what if it gets tangled up in the prop? how much does it cost, will it offset that much in fuel costs? what if the wind is variable?
i like the notion.

get this: if a containership slows down 10% it will get a 25% savings in fuel usage... guess how much money that is? you know, $25,000 per day.

$25,000 per day? That is craziness. That means that traveling faster must be worth even more than that. My sister says that crane operators who can shave a few hours off unloading a container ship get tips of $10,000 to $20,000 dollars. Wow.

If she sends me more, I'll post it for you.

She wrote back:
full steam ahead they burn 200 metric tonnes of fuel every 24 hours, and right now fuel costs $500/metric tonne. so that's a lot of money.
but if they slow down too much they won't stay on schedule. so then they might have to add an extra ship to the string, and that might cost even more money! see?

UPDATE 2: You could ask her questions in the comments. Offline, I'll beg her to answer and promise extra babysitting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pleased overall.

I'm a little disappointed that in the middle of my second max cycle, my deadlift doesn't seem to have changed since three months ago. But my trainer's been messing around with some heavy sets of three early in the evening, and says that may explain it. I have one more week to try to lift heavier things than last time.

I am pleased that my max for overhead press was 90lbs. I am even more pleased that we went to a thinner band for pull-ups than I've used before. Seeing a skinnier band and having the pull-ups feel the same is the most tangible progress I've had. It makes me smiley.

Start the training montage, obviously.

I thought this was great. A formal invitation in the mail to please stay away! How great would that be, if, like, half the time you sent/got invitations to things and half the time you sent/got invitations away from things? What if you sent random invitations to stay away? Like, not meaningful stay-the-hell-away-from-my-birthday-party-because-I-still-hate-you, but you just picked random events that you weren't even going to, and sent people invitations telling them not to go either? That would be funny.

Then, this weekend, there was drama. Naturally, I talked through the drama with my friends, and Chris said "Well, how would you handle it if this were the movies?" Monica said "First, I would kidnap the President's daughter. Then we would go on a cross-country road-trip to prove my love for her. Then, just as they caught me and took me to jail, our eyes would meet and she would understand my soul." THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I SHOULD DO! That will solve my drama!

Anyway, I love my new test for undecided situations. What would I do if this were the movies? I think that opens up huge realms of possibility. It reminds me that my ex and I used to think that our life should be more like a soap opera. So he'd come home and ask what I wanted for dinner, and I would shout "You didn't have to sleep with my twin", burst into tears and run out the door. It made everything better.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Loud for sure. Less reckless than you might think.

Capella didn’t like my post on doing stuff, and she makes some good points:

You seem to be ignoring the fact that we all have the same number of hours in a day, and that choosing to do something - however fun and exciting that something is - is inevitably choosing not to do something else. Choosing to stay out bar-hopping until 4 a.m. on Thursday night is also choosing to not do (or not do very well) whatever would have been done Friday morning. Choosing to go on a road trip this weekend is choosing not to do your laundry, read a novel, or visit your parents. These might be the choices you prefer - but you are still choosing not to do things that other people might choose to do. You are not privileging action over inaction; you are privileging the external over the internal and the spontaneous over the planned, and that's a valid choice, but it's unfair to claim that everyone who values organization, routine, and internal progress "does nothing". We aren't boring, just less full of bravado, and mostly we think you're loud and reckless.

The funny part about this is that among my people, I am the staid and conservative one, calculating the chances of success, and wondering if we should scale back*. I’m the one worried about what tomorrow will feel like. More often than not, however, I’m game, and that is based on two things.

First, just like Capella points out, you have to keep your life prepped. It is no fun to spend a beautiful day at the park fretting over your undone laundry and no-food-in-the-house-for-next-week. I try to keep up on those, so I am ready to go when the going presents itself. Or, I go the other route, and know that if I take off, my house will be a disgusting pit for a few days. The key to that is “no regrets”. It was a decision to go; I knew the consequences; when I’m doing chores at midnight two days later, I suck it up. That was the choice and I have the memory of fun to sustain me. Yeah. Behind all that fun spontaneity and gracious house is a fuck of a lot of work. It is not that I am luckier or that it all comes easier or that I am magic and different. It is just that you don’t see it when I bust my ass to recover from some spontaneous weekend.

The other part was a realization I had a long time ago, which is that for most of the developed world, life is safe. The answer to ‘what is the worst that could happen?’ is, in order, ‘your outing will be more expensive than you want, you will be tired, hungry or cold, you will have to ask for help’. That’s pretty much as bad as it gets for middle class people, the vast majority of the time. Those aren’t fun, but they won’t kill you either. With those as my worst likely outcomes, I’m totally willing to gamble on fun. In retrospect, the choice gets even better, because I don’t particularly remember tired and cold, or miss the money, but I do remember the crazy story.

As for favoring one type of activity over others, I don’t think the break is between spontaneous or planned. We do both, and I’m contrasting against people that I can’t get to do either. External and internal might be part of the distinction, but dude. I spend lots of time alone. Time alone is my default. I like it, but it isn’t something I have to create. I don’t know what the difference is. I think it comes down to trusting the world. Trusting the world has worked pretty well for me.

*There are times when Chris brings me to angry, shaking tears. No! I’m scared to climb that! Just cause you can get down doesn’t mean I can. No! It is so late and I was tired two places ago! Let me out of this, I just want to go home! Tomorrow morning everyone will want to eat again, and that means I’ll be up for an hour before all y’all and it is not fair to keep me up! Chris and I have Had Talks about this. I’ve lost it and cursed him out. I’ve put my head down on the table at the cafe, cried and gone to sleep. But in the end, nothing bad actually happened. I was mad or tired or scared. But I am not still stranded at the top of some rocks. He always brought me back. I don’t still miss that sleep. If I could have approached whatever we were doing in good spirits, the same things would have happened and I would have liked them.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chris Rock is right.

One thing my ex was really good about was compliments. He probably told me I was beautiful five or six times a day. He called me Beautiful. I don't think that I'm someone this is especially important to. I have a generous eye and think everyone is beautiful. I don't think about it much in myself. I'm not insecure about my looks. So I don't think I put especially heavy weight on that. But oh man, it mattered so much that he told me time and again that he found me beautiful.

Every day, each time counted. The first couple compliments felt like they were filling the hole that opened overnight. The next couple were nice and solid and leveled me off, sure of him. The final couple times he said it were ones to actually gain ground, to grow on; those were ones to take with me into the world, to think of myself as beautiful and open that to people around me. I could have lived without them, sure. I did forever. But getting them, while I did, was air and food and love and courage.

So, dudes, tell your lady. If you think it, say it. Say it all the time, until it feels natural. Tell her more times than you can imagine she needs. Tell her again. None of this crap about "I told her once and never took it back, so it still stands." Tell her lots. Each time will do something different for her. And if it gets to the point where telling her again doesn't give her anything new, then think how rich she'll be. Say it, 'cause you can't know how much it matters. It matters like breath.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm so glad he writes this stuff down.

I remember them now.

Mostly, we think you're boring.

My friend Dan says that Californians have no sense. He loves that; it is why moving back here is his top priority. I was surprised to hear it. I mean, obviously we have the right amount of sense and other places have some wrong amount that is less or more than ours. But no, Dan says, Californians have no sense. He says that Californians will do anything they think of. Why not?! say Californians. No reason!, say other Californians. He says this is why Californians do really stupid shit and really great shit. Good sense doesn’t stop them from either.

I haven’t decided whether I agree with Dan, mostly because I don’t understand another viewpoint to provide a contrast. I know that for me and my people, the answer to the question “Should we…?” is “Yay! Let’s!” Go somewhere, see something, make something, meet someone, invite, include, do, visit, climb, build? YES! Why not! Sometimes there are good reasons why not. Sadly, consideration of those reasons must follow the initial enthusiasm. Sometimes the un-fun outweighs the fun and then we sit morosely, mourning our abandoned idea.

Dan says this is Californian, and the rest of y’all don’t have the automatic yes. We speculated about why it would be Californian. Is it ‘cause in general, it is beautiful here and nature is kind? No alligators here, and the climate won’t usually kill you, even when the daytime temperatures drop into the 50s. Is it ‘cause we’re anonymous here, with no gossipy elders to judge and scold us? Is it ‘cause everyone here took action to get here, or are descended from people who got up and moved? People who aren’t inclined to do stuff never got this far.

Well, whatever fortuitous combination led to having no sense, I like it. Even more, I like being around people who reinforce that. Fortunately, they sort themselves out. If you’re a person whose answer is always “can’t because’, after not too long, I’m going to stop making suggestions. Why bother? You can’t. I probably like your company, so it isn’t that I’m choosing not to spend time with you. But I’m busy, off with someone who said “yes!”. If you chose not to do the crazy thing with us, because the effort to excitement ratio sounded too high for you, then you won’t be around much either. That’s where we are! We have no sense! The only people I’ll actually avoid are the ones who hear AN IDEA! and consistently shoot it down. (They must be from somewhere else.) Those people are little walking plagues of ineffectual boredom; they’re death looking to come early. They get a few chances, and then uninterested politeness. Life’s too short, man, and we’ve got stuff to do.

Picture by Chris


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tall Chris is right.

The climate change seminar we tried to go to at lunch was so full they turned us away, but they're webcasting it. It is really good.

Half an hour in: No, it is really, really good. You should watch this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The hard way, or the apocalyptic way?

We have to figure out what we want the transition to look like.

That's all.

Via Aquafornia.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The answers are "less, and more expensive."

It isn’t easy to be a water district these days. Water shortages are hitting some of them now and they’re the ones who have to tell people. Water districts deal with specific projects and real people and attitudes in real time. From the lofty position of a state agency, one can opine grandly about trends and inevitabilities. But water districts have to make concrete decisions about how to provide water and they will hear plenty from their customers if the decisions aren’t what everyone is used to. Last year was a drought year; it was likely a herald for a new drier hydrology in California. Districts are looking at maxed-out water supplies and the news that there isn’t more available at the prices they have always paid. But their customers don’t like hearing that water districts cannot create water in their pipes and faucets.

In this LA Times article*, the Eastrn Municpal Wtr District has told a proposed warehouse and associated community that the district does not have enough water to serve them.
The planned distribution center for the footwear firm Skechers USA would rise on 1.7 million square feet in the Inland Empire, making it one of the largest warehouses in the United States. It would anchor a new community called Rancho Belago**, a variation of the Italian for "beautiful lake," after nearby Lake Perris reservoir.

Now, in a sign of growing water anxieties, the Skechers warehouse and six other large projects in western Riverside County are on hold until March or later because the local water agency could not promise to deliver water to serve them.The dilemma shows what can happen when construction and global trade, key drivers of the regional economy, are reined in by a potential lack of water.

"Just looking at the raw numbers, we kept coming up short," said David J. Slawson, president of the board of directors of the Perris-based Eastern Municipal Water District, one of the largest districts in the state.

This distresses the local building industry and business leaders, who worry this threatens continued development. I would think that major corporations would be glad to find out there isn’t water to serve their 1.7M square foot warehouse before they build it, but apparently they resent hearing that limiting factors exist in the physical world. The water district wants to serve them. It is doing on a district scale what the entire state is going to have to do. They’re looking at the total amount of water they control and thinking about shifting it between uses. They’re hoping to pick up new supplies from a wholesaler. They’re scrounging, trying to figure how they’re going to provide water as their population more than doubles.

UPDATE 4/22: Looks like they found water for the warehouse, by xeriscaping a proposed housing project.

In San Diego County, Valley Cntr Municpal Wtr District customers are not happy about cutbacks. They are so not happy that they are threatening to stop paying their water bills if the district approves new developments.

"There has been a fairly common response to the calls for voluntary conservation, and that has essentially been: 'Why should we conserve just so youcan sell water meters so developers can build new homes?' " Valley Cntr Municpal Wtr District's general manager, G4ry 4r4nt, said in a Dec. 17 report to the board of directors.

So far, angry customers haven't banded together in opposition, but 4r4nt and Rainbw Municpal Wtr District Manager D4ve S*ymour said this week that their agencies have been bombarded with calls from individuals arguing that it was unfair for districts to issue new meters during drought conditions.

I’m sympathetic, sortof. Agricultural water users, which is most of the people in that district, are facing mandatory 30% cuts, which will cost them some of their orchards and livelihoods. Why should they reduce their water use to accommodate new development? Well, because people are coming; 1.5 million more people will live in San Diego County by 2050. Valley Cntr Municpal Wtr District is also doing in microcosm what the whole state will have to do. They’re shifting water from agricultural uses to urban uses and begging urban users to conserve. Only it isn’t an abstract trend for them. They have to hear about it from disgruntled people, their own customers and neighbors. They will know, specifically, what less water means to the people they live among.

Water districts don’t have a lot of the authority to make the changes they want. They aren’t the first line of land-use decision-making; all they can do is inform the county planning commission about their supplies. They can’t directly regulate customer water use. They can raise prices, but only to cover their own costs. They aren’t allowed to make a profit; most water district bylaws forbid that. The district boards are elected from the district. Even necessary price increases can cost directors their seats. They can’t refuse to serve people that are already in the district. If they have any excess water, they are obligated to serve new customers who ask for district service. They have very little direct authority to make people use less water. They also don’t have much power to get more water. They can’t grow new rivers. They can try to buy from a wholesaler, but even the big wholesalers are just about fully committed and expecting cutbacks. They can try to look for unconventional new sources, like buying from ag in northern California. That is so complex as to be barely possible. It may be their only option, but it is not an easy one.

Yeah. Water districts are in a rough place. It is a good time to watch them, because need will have them improvising like crazy. Rainbw Municpal Wtr District Manager S*ymour said
"I don't have all the answers, but if we don't see an end to this current drought, we are all going to have to find out what the answers are pretty quick."

Best of luck to you, mister. I’m watching to see what you’ll do.

UPDATE: Another example of a district heading out on the path we'll all be walking soon. They're installing irrigation systems that talk to local weather stations to decide how much to water the landscaping that day. They cost, but for big users of urban water I think the payback period on those is just a few years.

*The title of that article is particularly bad. “Water laws may throttle growth”? The problem isn’t that there are laws requiring districts to assess their supplies before committing them. The problem is that there is ONLY SO MUCH WATER IN THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DESERT. Not having water should stop growth, unless you are fond of building houses that will stand empty when no water comes out of the tap. Building houses does not draw rain down from the sky, nor open springs to fill reservoirs nor summon the unicorns with cold pure streams gushing from their horns.

**The developers of Rancho Belago are not helping their cause much with these pictures of their proposed development. Folks, western Riverside is a desert. Look in the middleground of that picture. See how it is brown, no vegetation? That means desert. You should propose water efficient developments. Also, I don’t mean to get all nitpicky, but that golf course in the foreground? It sure looks like that is on an alluvial fan, just like the ones across the valley, which means that the very ground was born by sliding down the mountain. If you use your top-secret decoder ring for Naturespeak, this means YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF LANDSLIDES. If you crank your decoder ring one more time, it translates to DO NOT PUT HOUSES THERE!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


If you mention in your personal ad that you really like deep voices, the first time you talk to a dude, his voice is going to sound all constricted and self-conscious. Not his fault.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sometimes the obvious, self-evident explanation is the correct one.

I've looked at these pictures a bunch of times. Damn.

Look in pictures 5-7, at how many of those slides started at roads. At a road ecology seminar, the speaker explained it to us. The road constructors cut away the back slope, leaving it steeper than the ground line, hollowing out the hill to collapse. They put any excess on the fill slope, which is too heavy and slides downhill from that.
Then, in picture 8, that bridge probably wasn't undersized for the original creek flow. The pre-logged hydrology was forested; water infiltrated the soil before running off. Water would still move downhill through the soil to the creek, but slower. The flows might run big for longer, but the biggest flow was never like you see in picture 8.
Everything is connected. If you mess with a physical system, the costs will ALWAYS come due.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Because it works.

This is why, and it is important. This is what Obama does that is different. He embodies the conflict resolution approach, and that influences the people around him. Obama’s techniques are straightforward, instantly recognizable to anyone trained in mediation. Demonize nobody. Listen hard to everybody. Restate people’s positions. Identify underlying interests, so you don’t get stuck wrangling over positions. Do not shut anyone out, even the crazies. Address the problems causing conflicts. Have faith in people.

I know you think that I favor the conflict resolution approach because I am a hopelessly naïve hippie, that I only see people’s inner goodness through the stars in my eyes. I dunno, maybe that is true. But that’s not why I favor the conflict resolution approach. I favor it because it is the only thing that works. It actually solves the problem. Using power to force outcomes on people simply never works for long. Forcing people to accept outcomes doesn’t actually work; people have nearly infinite capacities for resentment and resistance. Short of genocide, it is impossible to apply enough force to make a human conflict go away.

I see it everywhere. I was talking to a friend about the controversy in Sacramento over developing our railyards. Standing in line at a buffet, I said “Sometimes I think that everything that happens in this town goes back to the Alhambra Theater.” The stranger in line next to me turned and said “That is exactly right. In this city, it is always about demolishing the Alhambra.” That was thirty-five years ago, people, and the groups that formed then are still fighting that fight. Over on Unfogged, people were discussing what to do about an obsessed stalker, sentenced to prison but due for release in a few years. Confining the stalker is as much force as our civil society can exert, but it didn’t solve anything. The stalker hasn’t changed and the victim’s life is still derailed. When the stalker gets out in a few years it could start again, because they reached no resolution. In Los Osos, people have spent entire careers trying to make the town accept a sewer. There have been no stakes so high (the financial ruin of the town, a generation of discord, threat that people will lose their houses) that make the activists back down. They only renew their vows to resist. You can use power to bring about a short-term outcome, and that outcome may be well worth fighting for. But power cannot bring a solution that gets people what they want and makes them stop fighting you. Only mediation or conflict resolution does that. Conflict resolution is the only technique that actually works.

Conflict resolution seems all soft and squishy, but practicing it is damn hard. The piece that is so hard and so unnatural and so counter-intuitive is believing that your enemy can change. You know that you are a reasonable person who can walk away from your well-justified anger, once the real problem is solved. But your enemy, man. She’s different. She’s an emotionally damaged, constantly conniving fuck, motivated by deep springs of pathological fury. Bitch crazy. Reason doesn’t reach her. Nothing could get her to shift.

Practitioners of conflict resolution do not think that. I haven’t seen a consistent way they overcome the human impulse to demonize people. Some use deep personal religious faith. They believe everyone is made in God’s image and refuse to believe anything else. I’ve seen people get there through Buddhist meditation. I don’t have access to either of those, so my certainty is based on the fact that I have seen people change through mediation techniques. I’ve seen it in real life and I’ve seen it in the comments here. I don’t know what motivates Obama, but my guess is that he saw it work while he was doing community organizing in rough Chicago. I imagine he found himself dealing with entrenched conflict in a bad neighborhood and watched conflict resolution change people who had previously been written off as bad news. I don’t know how he came by it, but he believes now. You can see it. ‘Iran is not an enemy.’ ‘I’ll talk to anybody.’ ‘Republicans aren’t enemies; they’re the other half we need to get somewhere.’

Obama is right about the power of this approach and its potential to change people. Mediation techniques work when you apply them directly to the people in conflict, but they are so powerful that they work simply by inspiration. Obama’s example even swayed Andrew Sullivan, if only for a while. For as long as Sullivan remembers, he wants to be like Obama, reasonable and high-minded. I like Obama’s platform fine, but that isn’t why he has my support. I like Obama because he uses conflict resolution approaches reflexively and constantly and those approaches are transformative.

via Ezra. (Slightly edited, several hours after posting.)

Way I see it,

Clinton is saying "if you elect me, I will do a skilled job within the system towards these ends." OK. Good. I respect skill and mostly agree with those ends.

Edwards is saying "if you elect me, I will do a passionate job within the system towards these ends." Cool. I like those ends even better.

But Obama is saying "if you elect me, I will play an entirely different game that also includes these ends." I know his game and I like his ends, so that's what I want.

(Posted later, but moved in time to satisfy my sense of how the posts should be ordered.)

according to my professor, anyway.

A professor of mine synthesized two human biases into something he called the Devil Shift. He said that for parties locked in longterm conflict, the combination of:
1. valuing losses more than gains, and
2. assimilation bias

result in demonizing your opponents.

Parties in conflict may struggle over policies for decades. Over the course of years, both will win and lose some battles. If people value losses more than gains, they will remember their loses more strongly than their wins. Over years, this will accumulate into a feeling that they frequently lose to their opponents, which will then feel as if their opponents are disproportionately powerful.

Assimilation bias is fairly straightforward. It says that people see and accept evidence that supports their positions better than they see and accept evidence against their positions. It can be as blatant as simply seeing the words on a page. If you give people numbered lists of ten statements that oppose their position, take the paper away and ask them how many sentences were on the page, they say "oh, you know. Seven or eight." They aren't lying. They didn't see the rest. Because of biased assimilation, people in policy conflicts think data and evidence that opposes their position is weaker than it is. Over time, they come to believe that people drawing conclusions from that data are exaggerating or outright liars.

Once you believe your opponents are disproportionately powerful liars, you have completed the Devil Shift.

Part of Dr. Sabatier's Advocacy Coalition Framework, Devil Shift.


The storm blew mistletoe down from the ash trees around town. There are mistletoe sprigs bruised in cold puddles and strewn on the hard sidewalks. All those kisses, wasted, while some of us go wanting.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Then we go through all the fly positions.

I got some good answers to the personal ad I didn't bother telling you guys about. I took a sweet tone this time, on the theory that you get back what you put out. I was a little afraid the ad wouldn't be a good filter, but it did real well. Not too many answers, good ones among those.

I got a couple straight up compliments. Not guys who want to date, just people sending good wishes and saying they liked what I wrote. Those are nice. I've started doing that for ads that wouldn't be a good match for me but were well done. I got one from a guy saying that he wasn't applying for the vacancy, but wanted to let me know that an imaginary version of him would take an imaginary version of me out to dinner sometime this week. I wrote back to tell him that I'm sure we had a great imaginary time, and also to tell him about the blog. I figured that if he was imaginary, he belonged here. He wrote me back to tell me that now he remembers me from the hippie co-op. Oh.

Even reading the anonymous text-only personal ads in Craigslist, I've started to recognize people. I catch some of Jason's, 'cause he's mostly fucking around, being obscene and funny. I sometimes recognize Matt, because his ads are unusually sweet and direct. Also, he mentions being tall. There are people who recognize me. If I post in Sacramento, Ajay will nearly always send a 'Hi, Megan'. Worse, though, is the people who don't recognize me. Guys that I've already met for coffee will answer ad after ad, composing long emails and sending them to me, hopefully . I'm sorry, dude. I met you and it didn't go anywhere. After a couple of those, I start feeling like answering them ('Yeah, hi. It's just me. No, not this time either.') is worse than not-answering. I'm probably contributing to the conception that women are too snobby to answer personal ads, but we're all victims of the system here.

Because I'm way, way too heady.

Heh. I work backward from my body all the fucking time. It might be my primary technique for figuring out what is going on with me. I've gotten better at it recently, added some refinements. I mean, I knew that biting my nails meant that I was worried about something. But I've got two new ones now:

Stomach twinges, scalp on top of head tingles: I am lying. I have to go back and figure out what I just said that I don't really mean.

Throat aches, low and in the back: There's something important that I am scared to say.

They're reliable indicators. I just have to be paying close attention to catch them.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

That said,

my trainer told me to come up with a list of goals. So far, I haven't had any goals for weight training. I have been spectacularly passive, not even calculating how much weight we're putting on the bars. I figure if it is important, she'll tell me.

She mentioned a goal, but I am still very reluctant. The very fleeting thought "there would be boys at a meet" crossed my mind, but then I remembered that I don't even like big men*. Her goal is not my goal.

I need goals. There is the obvious, to bench press my bodyweight. I suppose I want to do an unassisted pull-up, but that doesn't burn in my heart. You know what I've always wanted to be able to do? I've always wanted to be able to (gracefully) rise to a stand on one leg. (I don't care about the descent, I just want to show off by oh-so-casually planting a leg and standing. Only you and I will know that I worked on it for a long time this year.) All the blackbelts used to be able to roll on their backs and jump to their feet, but I don't really covet that one. All the cool kids can hop through their leg on the dance floor, but I have no designs on that one either. So what else are good goals for this year?

UPDATE: OOoooh! Dave and I figured out another goal. I want to be able to press to a handstand. Standing legs apart, fold at waist to put hands on the floor, use abs to lift straight legs to handstand. This is less of a party move than standing up on one leg, but I've always wanted to be able to do that.

*An overstatement. I am not initially attracted to big men, but that is a rebuttable presumption.

Two thousand GREAT!

I am not making any resolutions this year. I usually do, but I spent the second half of last year operating on resolve. The problem with resolve, I noticed, is that it requires considerable effort on my part. 2008, I decided, will run on grace and serendipity. Yep. Fun will come to me. Things will fall into place. Friends will arrive, eat food at my tables and we will light candles. Charming men will covet and woo me. Some will succeed. My garden will yield beautiful tomatoes, some of them too high for the nephews to pick and eat before I get there. More and more weight will get lighter and lighter. Good books will find their way to me. That is how it is going to be.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Oh man. Had fun tonight.

I appreciated 2007, for bringing transition I very much needed. But I didn't like it. Once Ali and Bec left, the rest was mostly work. I am so glad it is done.

2008, on the other hand, is off to a hugely delicious and fun start. That sounds about right for the rest of my plans for 2008. I hope you're with me for some of it.

Love and happy New Years!