This page features every post I write, and is dedicated to Andrew Ho.
Here’s a bit from an interview I enjoyed with Eileen Crist from the December 2020 issue of The Sun magazine, which you can read online. I appreciate that folks have done the math to figure out what a good population would be and how we could very reasonably get there. This would be an effort across generations, and who knows what will really happen anyway? We can all chip into a vision that we ourselves will never see.
Tonino: You said earlier that there are approximately 7.8 billion humans on the planet. What would be an ideal number of humans?
Crist: Many analysts are thinking of a provisional goal of around 2 billion. This figure is for a human population enjoying roughly a European standard of living, sustained by organic food production, and eating far less fish, meat, and animal products than the average Western consumer.
Of course, there is no “optimal” population number in an absolute sense, because a lot depends on the level of consumption people gravitate toward, their dietary choices, and unknown variables having to do with technological developments. But 2 billion is more optimal than where we are now and where we are headed. Two billion is what the global population was about a hundred years ago. It is a big-enough number to enable a connected global civilization to continue, with achievements in the sciences, humanities, technology, and so on. In other words, 2 billion can sustain a lively “conversation of humanity.” But it’s a low-enough number to enable the substantial protection of nature that we are discussing.
According to Cornell agronomist [the late] David Pimentel and his colleagues, 2 billion people is the estimated number that can be sustained on organic, diversified, mostly regional agriculture, with farm animals living on the land and people eating a mostly plant-based diet. This way of eating would not only be wholesome for people but good for the planet and for all other animals as well.
You might say: “Fine, 2 billion sounds good, but how do we get there?” We get there by fast-tracking two important human rights: One, full gender equity and schooling for all girls, through at least secondary education. And, two, affordable and accessible family-planning services for all. If we could bring the global fertility rate — voluntarily: I do not support coercion of any kind — to an average of one child per woman, the human population would start to approach 2 billion within four generations.
Tonino: The ecophilosopher Arne Næss said that he was pessimistic about the twenty-first century but optimistic about the twenty-second. How do you think about the future?
Crist: What Næss meant, I think, is that in the twenty-first century there will be a reckoning with how we’ve lived, what we’ve done to the planet and ourselves, and that reckoning will set in motion an awakening: a different way to go about things, a different relationship between Earth and humanity. It’s quite possible that things will play out that way — get bad, then better. In some respects it’s an optimistic prophecy. But obviously there’s no guarantee that the future will follow this trajectory. We don’t even know where we are with respect to climate change. If runaway heating happens — or a nuclear war or some other unimaginable disruption — this trajectory that Næss outlines will be impossible.
Inspired by a Steve Ramsey video about making a wooden duck pull-toy, I knocked out a wooden duck push-toy. I had a really tough scrap of 2×8 laying around, and the jigsaw had trouble cutting a fine shape out. A lot of sanding ensued, and the wood kept absorbing the yellow latex craft paint I had on hand. I think that would have been fine but I got a can of yellow spray paint and now this duck can be seen from space.
The duck looked easy enough. Sketch out a shape, trace it onto wood, jigsaw …
The wood was thicker than my jigsaw and skills could handle. Much sanding ensued.
The wooden duck’s thirst for acrylic hobby paint could never be slaked, though I think this would have been good enough.
How long should the push dowel be?
The spray paint provides a nice base for clamping the wheels by the axle as they dry.
A bench dog holds the duck by the push dowel as a space heater helps the sealant out in Sunnyvale’s winter weather.
Sinking a hole in the handle for the push dowel. Fortunately, the client is not too picky about precision.
When all was said and done, it was the boys who really brought this project home!
The wheels are just large dowels, and the axle is straight enough to allow a slight wobble. As this was being built for my younger son I gave him the option of push toy or pull toy. He opted for a push toy, and I made the push stick about the right size for him.
Here in 2020, I share an office with my second-grade son. This morning they were talking about Hannukah and making paper dreidels. He got frustrated making his paper dreidel. After lunch, I tried my hand at making a scrap wood dreidel. I used the miter saw to cut a 1×1 stick of wood, then mitered one end into a top. A 1×1 is too small to clamp in a miter saw, and I wasn’t going to stick my hand that close, so I used a “push stick” to hold the piece in place as I mitered it out.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I miter sawed you out today!”
Of course, imperfections can be fixed with the miracle of sanding. “I made it out of clay,” I kept thinking as I sanded it down.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I sanded you this way!”
I popped the top into a bench vise and carefully drilled out a hole. A drop of glue and a dowel rod and the boy had a dreidel. I set him up to paint the letters on. He was a little underwhelmed with the quality of his first time painting Hebrew letters on a small wooden object, but I assured him the point of making a dreidel wasn’t to be perfect but to have a simple toy with which to play.
“When it was dry and ready, with the dreidel he did play!”
Through the afternoon, he practiced his top spinning technique.
It took a few days, a few hours each day, but I completed “day 2” of my first Steve Ramsey build: the Basic Mobile Workbench.
We keep the kids away from the power tools.
The first thing anyone notices is that my workbench is unusually tall. I built it to the same height I set my standing desk and so far, I like it. (I am unusually tall.) Instead of the hassle of wrestling a sheet of plywood and the intimidation of breaking up a sheet of plywood with a circular saw, I nibbled through a pile of wood that has been accumulating in my garage and spent some zen time cutting with a nice hand saw. (As Leah Bolden says: “you can do this!”) The bottom shelf was this old board that changes color and had a line drawn in a decent spot. I resized it with a handsaw and cut out the corners with a jigsaw.
For the longest cut, I set up a simple jig.
I built the interior shelving with scrap wood. I had a lot of 1×12 laying around. For the shelves, I glued two 1×12 boards together. I don’t have a clamp wide enough for the job so I improvised with some bungee. Some of my 1x12s had a 1×2 lip tacked along the side, from a project I abandoned years ago. I thought I might preserve the lip for the shelving, but my first attempt to saw through the assembled pieces met with a nail. Good thing I was rocking the hand saw, I guess.
Some problems can be fixed with a Home Depot run, and sometimes you just have to improvise. The join here isn’t going to hold much weight, so this should work fine.
With the wider shelves, for one I used the remainder of the wood that I had used for the bottom plate, and for the other, I managed to retain the lip on some 1×12, and at the end discovered that the shelf slides out then angles and wedges in a nice spot to hold plans!
Part of the challenge is that my driveway and the garage are not flat or level. When doing the shelves I took to checking how “level” the bottom board was, then lined up the shelf supports based on that concept of level. Since they are drilled into end-grain, I took an old board that Tommy broke for taekwondo and used that to add a cross-grain buffer for the casters. I have no idea if this is wise or not. Since my floor is, shall we say, rugged, the basic casters from Steve’s plans feel rinky dink. Perhaps in the future, I’ll upgrade them.
This little buffer place on the bottom of the leg may or may not ensure stability for the caster.
Next project: clean the garage out a little more so I can get started on Steve’s actual six-project course!
It has been two trips to Home Depot. I picked up an impact driver combo set and a 2×4 on my first trip. For the second trip, I realized that I needed yet another 2×4 and that quarantine has become a growing possibility, so I grabbed the lumber for the next two projects, in addition to some star-bit hex screws.
Saturday afternoon was blessed with some pretty nice weather, so I set up shop in the driveway again. But before I tell you that story, I’ll tell a brief story. A few years back, this dad had younger children and even less free time and decided he’d be best off ordering a workbench kit online. The box showed up in pieces, and the Amazon merchant was sufficiently inept about making it right that Amazon gave me a full refund, and I was left with half a workbench kit. The various bits were nice enough that they’ve been sitting in the garage for a few years. This is a long way of saying I had a nice top for the workbench, and I have adapted Steve’s plans to fit that top. And free up a little room in the garage, which is one of the big objectives here.
Last time around, I had cut the cross pieces to 18 10/16″ to fit the workbench top. Between that and cutting longer legs to suit my preferred working height, I had used up all the 2x4s, so I needed another piece for the stretcher beams. Then I realized the cross pieces sit within the stretchers, and I had to trim each cross piece by 3″. Oh, and that I’d need another 2×4 because there are also stretchers at the bottom. All that’s to say that mistakes were made and material wasted. Price of education, I guess.
I chopped several 2x4s. I noticed that not all the cuts were perfectly square, thanks in part, I believe, to an imperfect fence. Close enough for now. I also noticed that the boards are … not perfect. So, I spent a little more energy checking the cross pieces and flipping them to whatever orientation fit the fence most flush. Education.
Then I got to screwing the legs together. Last time I had to drill two holes before sinking the screw. This time, with the impact driver and a set of star-bit deck screws, the drills went into the wood like a knife through warm butter. The deck screws have their own nuance. At first, I have to try and hold them straight as they get started in the wood. After a bit, they tend to sink right in a way, and at the end, the impact drill makes its impact drill noise, and I can get the head just under the wood. Ahhh, flush!
And no more wrestling with a chuck key.
The first corner of the leg assembly is easy enough: make the pieces square, hold them firm, and drive the screws straight. As you get toward the fourth corner, the job gets trickier: lining pieces up square and flush and holding them in the right place gets trickier. On one corner, whenever the screw made it through, it would shove the piece over a bit. Steve makes it look easy, but this mere mortal got to busting out the clamps to help get pieces squared and held still.
You can see this corner put up a fight, until I got a clamp involved.
When assembling the frame, I needed to really push the legs apart to host the last stretcher. A neighbor came by and suggested using a shim to give the clamp something to grip. Finally, the frame was together, and the top just popped right on top, easy, and sufficiently snug.
The stretcher wanted to move in the direction of the blue arrow. The clamps, with the help of a shim, held things right.
I can see all the imperfections. On the one hand, imperfections are kind of a bummer. On the other hand, anyone who creates something tends to have the best awareness of their own imperfections. Fair enough. But more than that: I’m learning. Nobody starts perfectly. The workbench is good enough.
Solid enough but damn these gaps!
The other thing that raises a brow is just how high I’ve built the workbench. I had held my forearms out at 90 degrees and measured the height from there. 46″ is high, and that’s where I set my standing desk when standing. I don’t like bending over. Two open questions are: is a comfortable standing desk height also a comfortable workbench height, and is this narrow workbench going to be stable at this height? The neighbor and I discussed how best one might trim 2″ off the legs beneath the bottom brace. Time will tell.
The workbench will replace the white table on the left. It needs to store some of the more useful stuff there. This will free up enough room to hang another bicycle.
When screwing in the cross pieces, Steve explained why his design has five at the bottom and three at the top. For one, the bottom has to hold the shelves’ weight, but for another, more cross pieces at the bottom lower the center of gravity.
For Day Two, Ramsey’s plans call for cutting up a plywood sheet with a circular saw to build shelving and a workbench top. I already have a workbench top and a cache of dimensional lumber, so I will take my own approach to the bottom shelving. One thing to think over is what do I want to store in the workbench—heavier stuff at the bottom. The workbench kit I had came with some nice, felted drawer bottoms, but half the drawer pieces are missing. I’ll probably just do open shelving and throw in a good number of 1×2″ shims to allow for adjusting the shelf heights.
I enjoy building things. I learned a few things in my uncle’s basement and Boy Scout activities, but my high school didn’t offer shop class. In college, I discovered computer programming, which allowed me to build computer programs quickly, with a fairly low cost-of-entry. Information Technology is also a lucrative career choice.
A few years back, my IT career, aided by the mortgage crisis, helped me achieve the impossible: we bought a house in Silicon Valley! Our one-car garage is just about perfect for anything but parking. I enjoyed puttering on small weekend projects, but soon we had first one kid and then two, and with that, no more free time for extended puttering.
My ambition has still been to have a little workshop where I could build some things. I found a local woodshop that offered classes. I got to build a spice rack. Then their rent went up, and the workshop closed. The classes moved to a local community college, whose administrative procedures leave much to be desired.
Besides, what I really wanted was to get set up at home. For the years of early parenthood, I lacked the time and energy, and often, the budget. The bootstrap from a messy garage to a functional workshop is daunting. After the kids are in bed, sit back in the rocking chair, and flip around YouTube videos.
YouTube served me up some woodworking videos. There’s a lot of dudes out there making things with resin. Whatever. Then Steve Ramsey came along, explaining all the bits and pieces of basic woodworking. Along the way, he gently hawks his online courses. You know, if his regular YouTube videos are so informative and engaging, maybe the $150, what you might expect to pay for a weekend workshop or two at the local shop, might be worth a shot.
With my COVID haircut, flannel shirt, and eyeglasses fit over safety glasses, I am ready to rock the shop!
I am now about 2/3 of the way through the first day of building what Ramsey calls the BMW: Basic Mobile Workbench. The online course is nicely laid out, including diagrams, materials, how-to videos, and cross-references to skills. On my first day, I made a trip to Home Depot for supplies, but the actual work got hijacked by a busted kitchen faucet. Priorities! I spent time poring through the miter saw manual. Anything that can chop fingers off is worthy of a solid understanding.
A week later, today, I made another trip to Home Depot. Having reviewed the materials again during the week, I figured I could use clamps, squares, and, most critically, an extension cord. I carefully unpacked and assembled the miter saw, made myself comfortable with its operation, and got to work trimming 2x4s.
Bootstrapping a workbench: miter saw on a folding table in the driveway.
To build the legs, Steve glues two 2x4s together, then clamps them steady and secures them with screws. Things got frustrating when I tried to screw the 2x4s together. The screw wouldn’t go all the way in. Okay, I can drill a pilot hole. The drill bit got wedged in the wood. I worked it out with my vise grips.
The humble vise grip is an indispensable tool!
Google led me to a link that explained that one needs to tighten all the holes with the chuck to really secure the bit. That helped. Another video had a guy explain that in addition to a pilot hole, you want to drill a slightly larger hole through the top piece of wood. Experience proved this out. So, to drill a leg would require multiple bit changes. I was tempted to run to Home Depot for nicer tools, but it was getting dark. Fortunately, I had enough clamps that, after I struggled through the first leg, I could do the next three legs in a batch. I only had to swap bits three times for the batch instead of for each leg.
Ramsey touches on most of this information in his course material. He shows how he uses some fancy star-bit screws and links to a video that explains how to screw things and what a wonderful thing an impact driver is. I thought maybe his materials could be more explicit: “you should really consider an impact driver, and these cool star bit screws.” However, I appreciate that all the information isn’t served to me on a silver platter. An important part of building things is overcoming challenges along the way. And in an age where many basic problems are quickly solved by asking a smartphone, working through an efficient process to get the legs drilled “the hard way” was very rewarding.
What one lacks in fancy tools, one can make up for with a degree of cleverness.
The Silver Platter was a concern I had with learning basics at a professional woodshop. “Here kid, take this fancy wood we got you and run it through the planar like so before we get to the nice Saw Stop table saw. We’ll make sure you folks get to use the drill press, too!” That is a nice way to put your toe in the water and taste the possibilities, but I am not going to have all of these things in my little garage, so … Steve’s course has the first few projects relying on the miter saw. At the end of the day, the online course puts more responsibility on me as a student. It is more daunting than an off-site shop class, but it teaches me more of what I really need and want to know.
Since I am a Tall Dude, I made my legs longer than in Steve’s plans. I started with 44″, but after squaring off the leg ends, I had to settle for 43 1/2″. This means I need to pick up one more 2×4 to finish off the frame. While I am at the store, that might be a good time to pick up an impact driver, possibly even some fancy star screws.
The garage is a mess, but the BMW project is stacked nicely for the next work session.
As I said, it was getting dark, and my better half had dinner cooking. I couldn’t finish the “Day One” process of screwing the frame of the workbench together, and it will probably be another week before I can pick this up again. I stashed everything neatly away, and I am looking forward to finishing off my first project … before the year is done, for sure!
In my career as a Boy Scout, I could have died at least twice, that I know of.
One time in the Boundary Waters, I got a tent that required stakes and guys, but we were effectively camping on ROCKS with a little bit of moss. So, I rolled a few boulders into the right spot to anchor the lines.
This was during the summer AFTER the worst of mosquito season.
I took a canoe out to paddle for fun one afternoon in this little lake but started to get sucked toward a waterfall. Luckily, there was someone nearby to toss a rope and haul me to shore.
Another time in Michigan, I stepped out of a canoe near a landing, and turned out it was deep water that was sucking me DOWN except for my life vest was secure and buoyant. Scoutmaster was near to haul me out of the water.
Honeymooning in Hawaii, I waded out on a beach to ride the waves to shore in shallow water, as I had often enjoyed in Lake Michigan. The surf picked me up, rolled me, and slammed me hard, skull into the sand. Coulda cracked my neck. I took it as a hint from the local deities that this continental tourist should stay onshore, as is my place in the world.
Thoughts during this morning’s commute.
The first thought was we should disband the standing Army. We don’t need one. A Navy, airpower, some Marines and special forces? Sure. We have a National Guard to respond to domestic emergencies. We probably want to maintain and modernize equipment in case we need a war. States can form militias if they like. We can find a lot of Americans who are fond of guns on short notice. If you want to carry a firearm, you get government training, and you’re eligible for the draft.
â€œStanding armies are dangerous to liberty.â€ –Alexander Hamilton
You can’t do it all at once. Closing bases and shutting off defense contractors retards economic activity. Twenty years. Spread money around impacted communities.
But what should the government be doing?
Defense wise, we need to focus on Information Security, and, for the main part, climate change and emergency preparedness. The enemy will not land on our shores and defeat us with missiles. They’ll hack our elections and take our power grid hostage. Between the threat of information warfare and climate change, we need resilient logistics. If all the computers crash tomorrow, can we get food between communities? Where does our military-industrial complex go? Logistics.
Rural communities ought to be able to assemble and maintain their own damn tractors and combine harvesters. Right now John Deere tells farmers they can’t fix their own equipment. The government could sponsor Open Source farm equipment and software. Every county ought to be able to assemble, maintain, and carry out most repairs on its farm equipment. Every region ought to have the capacity to build tractors and vehicles, end-to-end.
The US Army is not going to save the world from the threats it faces in this century. American leadership in finding ways to restore the atmosphere to health, while modeling how we can build resilient local communities is what needs to happen.
The president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. Thatâ€™s not allowed either, they told him.
—New York Times
Mr. Jeanâ€™s brother took the stand to address Ms. Guyger, he offered only forgiveness.
â€œI wasnâ€™t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I donâ€™t even want you to go to jail,â€ said his brother, Brandt Jean. â€œI want the best for you.â€
When he finished, he turned to the judge: â€œI donâ€™t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?â€
When the judge agreed, Ms. Guyger stood up, walked toward Mr. Jeanâ€™s brother and threw her arms around him. As the two embraced, sobs filled the courtroom.
—New York Times
A homelet is a smaller home that lives alongside your single family home. The homelet can house your family, or if you have a homelet to let, the rental income can help support your family.
Does your town have homeless? Consider building homelets!
On a chilly morning, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a fresh omelet fried on the stove in the modest kitchen of your homelet.
Single-Family Rental Bonds
Corporations bought up cheap houses during the Great recession, and rent them to families. “These large companies frequently charge higher rents and are more likely to evict tenants.”
But wait, there’s more:
These homes are not just properties that are rented out to house families; they have been transformed into a new class of financial asset and investment vehicle. According to the NBER study, the homes have been capitalized into single-family rental bonds, which has grown into a $15 billion-plus market.
—Richard Florida, CityLab
You can buy shares in being an oppressive landlord.
Buckle up . . .
The Whitewashing of “#WhitePeopleDoingYoga”
The [Asian Art Museum] showâ€™s lead curators and education staffers Iâ€™d metâ€”all but one of whom were white …
. . .
[The founder of the Asian Art Museum] was â€œthe preeminent American apologist for Nazi Germany,â€ in the words of author Jeremy Schaap.
. . .
Just a few years ago, the British Museumâ€™s Twitter account revealed as much when it shared how it decides to label artwork, tweeting: â€œWe aim to be understandable by 16 year olds. Sometimes Asian names can be confusing, so we have to be careful about using too many.â€ (Dang, sorry to all those 16-year-old Asian kids with funny names.)
. . .
At one point, a draft of the marketing material [for #WhitePeopleDoingYoga] referred to my work as an â€œamusingâ€ and â€œlightheartedâ€ collection.
. . .
One of the museumâ€™s staff members, who was white, came to my defense in that boardroom. He exposed the museumâ€™s hypocrisy by holding up its own branded tote bag that bore only the word â€œAsianâ€ on it, and as I remember it he said, â€œIâ€™m a white man walking around San Francisco with this bag that just says â€˜Asianâ€™ on it, without â€˜museum,â€™ and itâ€™s completely â€˜out of context.â€™ Why is our bag okay but Chiraagâ€™s is not?â€ The marketing chiefâ€™s response: â€œWell, thatâ€™s our brand, so itâ€™s okay.â€
. . .
The opening parties featured Indian classical music performed by white people, acro-yoga performed by white people, a chanting group mostly compromising white people, and a white couple from Marin teaching yoga for an hour. There was a sprinkle of Brown acts, but the headlinerâ€”wait for itâ€”was a white rapper named MC Yogi, who spit about yoga and Indian culture over a beat dropped by DJ Drez, a white DJ with dreads. (Reminder: the largest institution of Asian art in the United States.)
. . .
After more than a month of fine-tuning our plans, the curator said there was one last â€œhurdleâ€ to clear before approval: The Cleveland museum planned to invite the cityâ€™s commercial yoga studios to teach classes and had to make sure the studios felt comfortable in the same space as an installation titled #WhitePeopleDoingYoga.
Not that anyone is going to ask me, and, why should they, anyway? But if anyone asks: white people, we have got to step it up. And sometimes that means shutting up and stepping aside.
Oh, here’s a little bonus: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=705007463340633&id=100014941572916
My mom fainted the first time she set foot in an American supermarket. I stood transfixed in the cereal aisle. After six long years on Earth, here was a place that understood me. These were cartoon characters, made of pure sugar, that you could eat as a meal. Every box had a toy inside. How could I possibly choose just one?
I ask forgiveness of Hong Kongers if at times I am still that six year old kid, dazzled by what to you is ordinary. You live in a kind of city we Americans can only aspire to, and itâ€™s no wonder you love your home so much you will take any risk to save it.
A man driving a dump truck the size of a house put my sonâ€™s life in danger.
The details of what happened unfortunately arenâ€™t that remarkable. It was a perfect storm of road rage, reckless driving, terrible street design, and total lack of any kind of recourse, so basically a normal Tuesday on a bicycle in DC.
The dump truck driver drove aggressively and blasted his airhorn over many blocks on R Street NW. He was just feet from a half dozen other people on bikes who could do nothing but cringe and hope he didnâ€™t mash us into pulp.
Oliver was terrified, asking me if we can ride on the sidewalk, asking me if we can stop, almost in tears.
After we turned up 18th Street and jumped the light at S Street to get away from this reckless man, Oliver turned and asked, â€œCan we take the Metro instead?â€ And that was it. I decided I canâ€™t subject my son to this traffic violence anymore.
The most infuriating thing about this particular incident and many others is that this is how itâ€™s supposed to work. R Street is supposed to be shared by cement trucks, tractor trailers, monster SUVs, dump trucks, and squishy fleshbags on two wheels.
They call it an unprotected bike lane, but in practice, itâ€™s a little bit of extra space that people on bicycles can use as long as no motor vehicles are using it. Itâ€™s a design that squeezes us into sharing a narrow road with literal dump trucks.
No protests were authorised in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another.
“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children are living arrows sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
I took Tommy down to the San Jose Climate Strike on Friday. He enjoyed reading the various signs and trying to make sense of everything. When we got to City Hall, he quickly lost interest, and after a pee break and some ice cream, we headed home.
I’ve been to a lot of protests that blocked a lot of street traffic. The Climate Strike is the first time I recall any motorists Freaking The Hell Out. We were near the head of the march and cars had to sit through a light at a four-lane off-ramp. (Because the South Bay is the kind of place with four-lane off-ramps…) A dude slammed on his horn, we all raised our fists in solidarity, then he jumped out of his car and came running, maybe four car lengths down to the crosswalk, and started arguing with people.
I didn’t stick around for details, as I was with a six-year-old who wanted to read signs further up.
I was thinking. Don’t Go to War? Don’t Hate Gays? Most protests I have been to haven’t asked much of the public. Climate Change is a different beast: if we’re going to make it work, we’re all going to have to make adjustments to bring our energy use into a sustainable place. Some folks find this threatening. But does it have to be threatening?
It does have to feel threatening, not out of necessity for stopping climate change but in order to avoid making systemic changes. We need to make big changes at the level of national policy and international treaty. If you find that threatening, then you need to shift the discussion to the tragic impractical sacrifices the climate extremists are asking of you. Greta Thunberg is looking down on you sternly, in your internal combustion car, getting off the freeway. These youngsters waving signs about saving the Earth are Your Enemy.
The way I describe it: we need to change our policies so that people can live closer to work, and to give them the option to walk or bike or take transit. Sure, we need to electrify our buildings and raise energy prices to discourage careless consumption. When Greta gives us a stern disapproving look she isn’t getting on Your case about Your sloppy recycling habits, her stare is fixed at Donald Trump, and the myriad other world leaders who want to keep strip-mining the planet to burn the carbon out of the ground and into the atmosphere, who want to keep you buying cars and driving on wider and wider roads and highways to get anywhere because that is where the money is at. She’s looking down on shitty land-use policies that perpetuate wealth inequality.
We have to do our parts. For regular folks, it is merely a question of trying to live better. The heated rhetoric is for the Powers That Be that Profit from The Status Quo who are willing to fight stern-faced teenage girls in the name of the Almighty American Dollar.
Save your ire for the protestors, Off-ramp Dude. It ain’t about You. It is about all of Us, and especially the High and Mighty, who will need to surrender some Power and Convenience for the sake of our Children.
For what it is worth, as a bicycle commuter, RVs are not a problem, as long as they aren’t obstructing the bike lane or sight lines, which they rarely are.
… millions of decision variables that affect any solution, including varying road widths, differing bus infrastructures (for example, the presence of wheelchair lifts or child safety restraint seats), students who require the same bus driver every year, students who have monitors, and students who have been in fights and, therefore, need to be on different buses … Emma Coleman
The Anthropocene Is a Joke
There’s an idea kicking around that humanity has created its own geological era, characterized mainly by the rapid change in the atmosphere’s CO2. I like this idea, primarily because it emphasizes the degree of change that is happening, and quick change on a geologic scale is dangerous. The shift we are undergoing now rivals the meteor strike that killed the dinosaurs. I am simultaneously hopeful and skeptical that we will survive.
So, I was eager to read this article in the Atlantic: The Anthropocene Is a Joke
Yes, the rapid change in atmospheric Carbon is a Big Deal, but on a geological time scale, it is at best an “event” that may one day puzzle some intelligent species. It certainly isn’t a new “era,” and in the grand scheme of geological time, we don’t register and if we were to go extinct in the next few millennia, we would disappear without a trace.
If one wanted to know what a particular 10-, 100-, or 1,000-year span was like, buried in this vastness of time (or, even worse, in some particular region of the continent), good luck.
This astounding paucity can be explained by the fact that there just arenâ€™t that many rocks that survived these extreme gulfs of time, over this vast province. And even among those rocks that did survive, and which are exposed today, the conditions for fossil preservation were rare beyond measure. Each fossil was its own miracle, sampled randomly from almost 200 million years of historyâ€”a few stray, windblown pages of a library.
If, in the final 7,000 years of their reign, dinosaurs became hyperintelligent, built a civilization, started asteroid mining, and did so for centuries before forgetting to carry the one on an orbital calculation, thereby sending that famous valedictory six-mile space rock hurtling senselessly toward the Earth themselvesâ€”it would be virtually impossible to tell. All we do know is that an asteroid did hit and that the fossils in the millions of years afterward look very different than in the millions of years prior.
The Promethean fire unleashed by the Manhattan Project was an earth-changing invention, its strange fallout destined to endure in some form as an unmistakable geological marker of the Anthropocene. But the longest-lived radioisotope from radioactive fallout, iodine-129, has a half-life of less than 16 million years. If there were a nuclear holocaust in the Triassic, among warring prosauropods, we wouldnâ€™t know about it.
Plastic, that ubiquitous pollutant of the oceans, might be detectable by analyzing small samples of sedimentâ€”appearing, like many organic biomarkers in the fossil record, as a rumor of strangely heavy hydrocarbons. Unassuming peaks on a chromatograph would stand in for all of modernity. Perhaps, perhaps, if one was extremely lucky in surveying this strange layer, across miles of desert-canyon walls, a lone, carbonized, and unrecognizable piece of fishing equipment may sit perplexingly embedded in this dark line in the cliffs.
Dinosaurs in space. All that has passed has passed. If humanity is doomed, or if humanity has a bright future ahead, this will happen. I have a tiny vote in my tiny lifetime, and I vote that my species adapt to the challenges of its time. I want us to survive and thrive, and reach out into space and find the rest of the life that I hope is abundant in the Universe beyond our local star. The final tally of this poll will be smeared into a layer of ash, eroded by wind and rain and crushed by rocks and wholly forgotten in time.
Asked whether the person who is believed to have opened their door into the cyclist’s path had been charged, a police spokesperson responded: “It’s not a crime to open your car door.” Per section 1214 of the vehicle and traffic law, it’s illegal for motorists to illegally open their doors into moving traffic. The spokesperson later clarified they were “joking around.” Jake Offenhartz
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