Monday, April 30, 2007

Food Safety Petitions

If you're in favor of higher standards for food safety, you may be interested in some of the petitions on this site:

Natural Solutions Foundation
Direct link to campaigns: Democracy in Action - this link goes directly to a petition concerning categorizing supplements as drugs, which would therefore make nearly all supplements banned. There are numerous others I'd say are worth supporting, but look through and decide for yourself.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Random Thoughts

My machine at work is named Haste (in keeping with my Berkeley Street Names Theme). That means that while I'm waiting for a webpage to load from my machine, the status bar says "Waiting for haste...". That could be an observation about life, and the futility and counterproductivity of hurrying. But mostly it's a neat coincidence.


Webolution: However tempting it might be, with the Web 2.0 doing much what the initial Dot Com Boom hoped for, let's not bring back this word. It reeks of the Dot Com Bust. It's the kind of word that screams, We're going to get overenthused about something and fail spectacularly, trying to force technologies and services on people who don't want them, don't trust you, and don't understand, and piss away many billions of dollars in the process.


Sometimes, it doesn't take much to make you feel clever. Today I realized I could eat carrots in my office.

Okay, maybe that doesn't sound like much, but consider the problem: I try to set everything up so that I can focus on work with as little maintenance as possible. For this purpose, I'm kind of high-maintenance, in the sense that I need to eat frequently, and I strongly prefer real food (where real implies the largest reasonably attainable subset of {local, organic, unprocessed, nutritious}). I also get distracted by things like people walking in the hall outside my office. For the former, I got a mini fridge, and I need foods that I don't have to think much or do much to eat. Carrots? Perfect! No cooking, no portion commitment, no extra container or utensil. Just type and munch. For the latter problem... I spend a fair amount of time seeking out good background music, which is mostly techno/trance plus a little choir music. Something I don't need to pay attention to; it just has to be pleasant and keep me from needing to be aware of anything besides my screens. My precious, precious screens.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007

What can I do to hasten the Rapture?

Invest in a coal-burning toaster.
-Daily Show

Daily Show: Apocalypse How?


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Seattle Show: La Boheme (at 25% off)

La Boheme, Fridays May 11 and 18, best seats in the house for $91 (usu. $120). Shauna got a group discount; it may be possible to get cheaper seats at discount as well.


Seattle Shows: David Sedaris!

David Sedaris, Monday April 30, 8:00pm, $30-36.

I saw him talk when he came to UA, and he was great. I've read two of his books and just picked up a third.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Farmers Markets, Eating Locally, and the Environment

Sometimes, it just takes a few words to make you look at the world differently: a few good statistics, a few important points. This article, for instance:

What a Real, Living, Durable Economy Looks Like, by Bill McKibben
(Linked from the Virtual Earth Blog, of all things)

This was a funny article to find the day I get back from my first trip to Portland. It was Shauna, Nikki, Steve and I tooling around the city and the Columbia River Gorge. We were all impressed at the light rail going most of the places you'd want to go (downtown, local attractions, the airport), and commented that it was a very German way to go. Also funny, I had just been talking with Shauna not a few days earlier about how the real problem was Americans not wanting to admit they had to work together to get by and survive. And it's just what McKibben has to say:
And here's what I think the outcome boils down to: hyperindividualism versus community.
Let's say you go to the farmer's market; on average, you use ten times less energy to feed yourself. But, as a team of sociologists discovered a few years ago, you also have ten times as many conversations as you would at the supermarket. An order of magnitude less energy, and an order of magnitude more community. Those are numbers that might start to add up.

That's staggering. I had never appreciate farmer's markets as more than just novelties before, nor local bookstores. Suddenly I'm looking at the economy in an entirely different light. I've been saying for a long time that chains are bad, local businesses are what make a place interesting and worth leaving home for, but it was abstract, and more about goods than anything else. And I'd known that it's more interesting to talk to someone at a local bookstore than a Borders, but I'd never really hooked it up: those are the things that make a community: you create together, you trade together, you discuss together, you discover together.

But can such solutions really spread fast enough? Or is the momentum of the Wal-Marts simply unstoppable? A few years ago I'd have answered gloomily, but working on my new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, has convinced me we've got at least an outside shot. And for an odd reason. Because people are finally starting to ask the most basic and most subversive question about our economic system: is it making me happy?

Boy, there's another thing I've been saying for years: what good is making more money if you don't actually have a better life? We went from one partner/parent working 40 hours a week to both working 60-80 hours a week, from having savings to carrying debt, from having what we needed plus maybe a few entertainments to having mounds and mounds of stuff, and then had to buy a bigger house just to put it all in.

Take that with your blood pressure medication pills (which you also have to pay for).

It's as if we've run a controlled experiment, in fact, on whether money buys happiness, and the results are now in.

But why? The answer seems to be: we feel an incredible lack of community. And if you think about it, that makes sense. More money meant we could live in bigger houses further out in the suburbs — i.e., that we could be more isolated. It meant we could embrace technologies — the endless parade of screens — that keep us occupied by ourselves. As a result, Americans have far fewer close friends than they did a generation ago. We spend far less time with friends and neighbors and relatives.

It occurs to me that an interesting anniversary is coming up: ten years since the first time I went online. I don't even know exactly when it was, but some time during late 1997 (working on a project about Joan of Arc for a history class). And I've been sort of bothered, most of the time since, thinking about what would become of my generation, which spends so much time interacting with strings of text from halfway across the world and not actual people. That was not abstract. I remember clearly one day in late 2001 when I was chatting with a random person in Argentina, and later that day, saying hello to my neighbors for the first time, even though I'd lived in that house for several months. And I thought, My God, there's going to be something wrong with my generation, and this is how it's playing out: we're trying to substitute things for people, and it's working about as well as Hollywood's attempt over the past few years to substitute computer graphics and special effects for dialogue and character development.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Possession of the Coveted Object

Written a few weeks ago:
Sometimes, it's the smallest things. Perhaps it's some consolation that, even though it's the tiny things that can ruin your day, they can also make it too.

For months, I have been coveting a particular coworker's chair - I'll refer to him as Mike B. It had almost become a running joke, that this was one of my activities that I was known for - you know, fix stylesheets, bring strawberries to work, covet Mike B's chair. He's in the office across the hall from me, the same office as another coworker I need to talk to frequently. Whenever I would go over there, I would sit in Mike B's chair, just because it was really comfy. I grew to want to have it, to steal it back to my own office, but I figured that would not only be a mean thing to do, I would be caught really quickly. I had a ray of hope when another guy in that office (there were 4, now down to 3) left - his stuff immediatly got cannibalized (other guys on my team showed up with screwdrivers within hours to take parts from his machine), including Mike B taking his old chair. I thought I had Mike B's chair, but no, he said he wanted to hold onto it while he was evaluating the new one, and before too long, decided he wanted to stick with the old one. Rats! Foiled, but not for long.

Today, I went over to their office, and lo, the coveted chair was sitting there, unused by Mike B. I tentatively asked if he was going to use it, and he said his chiropractor warned him away from it... well, I wasn't going to let that deter me, so I snatched it and gleefully rolled it over to my office.

You know, he's right - it isn't good on the back. Weird how things can be so comfy at first, but not at all for long stretches. I read (in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell - awesome book) that's how New Coke came into being - did well in sip tests, but that doesn't say much about how people will like drinking a case of something.

So, maybe I'll ditch New Chair in favor of Chair Classic.

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Seattle Shows: Pacific Northwest Ballet

Pacific and Carmina Burana, today and TOMORROW, $18 - $150 (orch front are waaay cheaper than everything else left, and I like sitting in the front...)

Celebrate Seattle Festival (PNB), April 17-22, various shows (classical, modern, European, Indian), $20-80


Mileage Nuts

Mileage Nuts

I do find I can get 10-20% better mileage by driving very carefully, and I don't have (and have never had) a hybrid. It's not hard to get into the habit of upshifting early, coasting and not hitting the gas when you know you have to stop, and (if you have a stick) pushing the clutch in when you're rolling. And, the least change in habit of all... put enough air in your tires. That can be 10% right there.

That being said, I don't drive a German sports car for the fuel efficiency :-)

Geographic Differences In Reactions To Things, Part II

Traffic laws:
Seattle: Well, if the speed limit is 50, that means you shouldn't go over 50.
California: They're more like guidelines than actual rules.
Tucson: Huh?

Earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanoes:
Hawaii: Whee! (It's just part of the weather.)
Seattle: Eeeek!


Seattle Show: Celtic Woman

Celtic Woman, Saturday 12 May, $53-65

I think Shauna's already in for it...


Geeky humor

Be Rational

Seminar Bingo (I gotta make Meeting Bingo - the free one at the center would be "Meeting starts at least five minutes late")


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Posting Clumps

It often happens that I think of something during the day that I'd like to blog about. But, since I'd rather not log into my blog at work, I'll usually just jot down a few notes in my email drafts and then actually post it later.

The problem with writing is that you are, well, writing, and not doing anything else. Mostly I think of things I'd like to say about the world while I'm out interacting with it (driving, walking, and biking probably have the highest frequencies), which generally precludes typing and looking at a screen.

No, I am not quite desperate enough to write on an actual piece of paper. I might get a touchscreen, though.


Seattle Shows: Rent, etc

Rent, May 8, $21-50

George Lopez, Sept 15, $45-75

Cirque Dreams, April 28, $29-49

Also, I'm always game for the Comedy Underground, most any live music, any good trance DJ's...

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Does It Come In A Jar?

I parsed this as, "A Child's Mind: On Sale Now for $5.00":

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Seattleites, Beware

This should make you feel nice and comfortable driving across our (almost) unique floating bridges:

Bridge Collapse Simulations

When a bridge fails, it does not just retake the class.

The wind one is particularly troubling since we had a windstorm almost that bad this past December.

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Farewell, Vanbulance

Tonight I sent off my Vanbulance to a new owner. After months of tow notices, abandoned vehicle complaints, and (the final straw) the nasty note from my condo association, I finally decided the thing couldn't live with me anymore. I might have fought back, except that I never actually liked the thing. I have fond memories and associations with it, and I am sad at parting with it. But I never liked driving it, never felt safe in it, and always felt sort of apologetic about it. So, I think it has a better home now, in an house with four burners and a new owner who wants to redo the inside and put giant dragon decals on the outside. May it have many more good times on the Playa :-)


Monday, April 09, 2007

Shows in Seattle

After several months of pestering people to go to live theatre with me, I've gotten rather disheartened, to the point where I didn't even bother when I saw that Weird Al is playing here in the fall. But, I figure a blog is the perfect sort of pull-content for seeing if anybody wants to go to shows, so here's what's playing soon that I'd like to go to:

Weird Al, Sept 12, $20

Leo Kottke, Apr 22, $35-40 (if you haven't heard his stuff... awesome acoustic guitar work)


Why I'm Not In Marketing, Part III

ASP: Don't worry, it doesn't byte.

Greyhound: Now with 50% more mildew on the sign!
(I'd really like to find a picture of the Seattle Greyhound station to put with this one)

The Letter H: Because there's a big difference between "airless" and "hairless."

You didn't think letters needed advertising, did you?

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