Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "Xenotypography"

Just last year, this might have been considered a fantasy story, as it features a Commander-in-Chief who knows about carbon dating and understands the scientific method. Now it's just science fiction! (Rimshot.)

Read "Xenotypography" at 512 Words or Fewer

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Money for Nothing

D recently received a mysterious $250 direct deposit from the VA into her bank account. Upon further investigation, she determined that it was an "economic recovery payment" to eligible Veterans, implemented as part of ARRA. It's apparently also tax-free, and separate from the disability settlement she received a few years ago (long story). So, hooray for free money!

We're living off our savings right now, and it feels weird to fill out surveys and list our annual income as "less than $15,000," but it's technically true. Our only actual income is from bank interest and investments; the bulk of that comes from the index fund, which is still paying about $1,000 in dividends every quarter.

Including the bank interest, our total income this year will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000. (Which, incidentally, is how much Ed Helms' character in The Hangover had in savings--and he was supposed to be the most stable of the four protagonists. D was quite appalled. But that's another story.)

I also made about $300 back in May for three days' work as an extra on Leverage. It was literally a minimum wage gig, and I didn't do it for the money; I had fun being on set and rubbing elbows (sometimes literally) with the cast, crew, and director.

So far, no actual money made from writing, but I'm hoping that'll change soon.

~CKL

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Stigma of Self-Publishing, Part 2: Scratch Beginnings

Scratch Beginnings is not a well-written book. To his credit, the author--Adam Shepard--admits in the introduction that he is not a good writer. But someone telling you he's an awful cook won't make the meal taste any better.

I became interested in this book based on the description of the author's recent visit to Powell's. I didn't attend the event, having learned of it after the fact, and that's probably a good thing; I might have been tempted to actually purchase the book, and I would have suffered some serious buyer's remorse around page 12. (I later found it at my local library.)

The gimmicky high concept of Scratch Beginnings--which is a good hook, I'll admit--is a recent college graduate's personal experiment to bootstrap himself out of poverty. He selected an east coast city at random, traveled there by train, and debarked with only $25 to his name. His goal was to go from homelessness to having an apartment, a car, and $2,500 in the bank by the end of one year.

I'll save you the pain of having to read the book: he succeeded. To be honest, I never doubted that he would; I was curious about the details of his actual experience. And the stuff about the homeless shelter was interesting, but his frequent use of sentence fragments and constant self-aggrandizement got old real quick. Several sections could have been summarized thusly: "Dear diary, today I did cool things and made people like me. Because I am awesome!"

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but it really does get that bad at some points. I'm pretty sure "Shep" is one of the "white people" from Stuff White People Like.

Even though Scratch Beginnings and Daemon are touted as self-publishing success stories, it's important to note two things:
  1. They are the exception, not the rule; and
  2. both authors took pains to disguise the fact that they were self-published.
Daemon was put out by "Verdugo Press," a company created by the author and his wife for the express purpose of marketing the novel. Scratch Beginnings came from "SB Press," whose business address is a condominium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Guess where Adam Shepard's family lives? Yup.

Scratch Beginnings has since been acquired by the Collins imprint of HarperCollins and reissued in hardcover--hence the book tour. Isn't it interesting that the ultimate goal of most self-published authors seems to be getting an actual book deal from a real publisher?

Anyway, here's a half-hour interview with Adam Shepard from a Triangle-based public access cable show. He seems like a nice kid, and I hope he enjoys his fifteen minutes:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz_BNXuBgq0

~CKL

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Change of Plans

I meant to write about GameStorm, and some of the things I thought about after spending an entire weekend playing games.

Instead, I came home and caught up on my reading. This article scared me: "The Quiet Coup" by Simon Johnson (The Atlantic, May 2009)

Mostly, I don't think about the financial crisis. It's too big; there's not a whole heckuva lot I can do to fix it. And it's not affecting me personally right now. In a pinch, CKL and I have enough money for a few years (barring hyperinflation or other horrors), so we can just concentrate on spending within our means without changing our lifestyle much.

The only real change I made was to set up a recurring donation to a couple of charities each month. I figured that if I have a recurring deduction each month for fun stuff (Netflix, Xbox Live), I can match that money for charity.

So, that's me. I don't think about the financial crisis. It doesn't bother me. Until I read an article that hits me hard enough to actually write to my elected officials.

It's a long article, with a lot of important points, but this was the one that hit me hardest:

[The banks] don’t want to recognize the full extent of their losses, because that would likely expose them as insolvent. So they talk down the problem, and ask for handouts that aren’t enough to make them healthy (again, they can’t reveal the size of the handouts that would be necessary for that), but are enough to keep them upright a little longer. This behavior is corrosive: unhealthy banks either don’t lend (hoarding money to shore up reserves) or they make desperate gambles on high-risk loans and investments that could pay off big, but probably won’t pay off at all.

I know this problem. We all know this problem.

In my case, it looked like this: my brother asks for a few hundred dollars to tide him over until payday. I give him the money.

Months later, I get another call. Now my brother needs a thousand dollars. Times are tight. We have an uncomfortable talk, and eventually I give him that money too.

Months later, I hear from my sister that my brother is in a desperate situation. He might actually lose his house. His kids could go hungry. And, finally, the whole sorry story comes pouring out: my brother had been using payday loans to finance his lifestyle for the better part of a year.

The money I gave him (that my mother, brother, and sister gave him) was never enough to pay off his debt. But it was always enough money for him to get deeper in debt. Until, finally, he was on the verge of collapse.

The consequences of doing too little can be worse than not doing anything at all.

The banks (and AIG) look an awful lot like my brother. And it looks like our government is acting an awful lot like me. Look at how many times they government has given BofA and AIG bailout money.

It's scary to think that our government might be doing what I did--giving a few dollars and compounding the problem--instead of actually providing a solution. Instead of making sure that those few dollars will actually help.

It's even scarier to think that our government is treating banks like family and not watching out for the rest of us. We're family, too.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Reflections on teh RaceFail

My somewhat entirely selfish observation about the whole "RaceFail '09" debacle is this:

I'm really glad I attended Viable Paradise last year, because this year's class experience is sure to be tainted--if not completely eclipsed--by this stupid thing. (Lucky XIII, indeed.)

Aside: I didn't even know about any of this until I caught up with my VPXII classmate Alberto's LiveJournal. Yes, I am a grumpy old man.

John Scalzi called it "discussion of [x]," and I agree. This particular thread has gone way, way off the rails and off-topic. A few cooler heads, including Scalzi and friends, have attempted to wrestle the conversation back to the subject of race, but the damage has been done, and any good that comes out of it at this point has come at an enormous and unnecessary cost.

This is all I have to say about [x]:

Issues of race (and, by extension, racism) are deeply personal, for people of any heritage. When you choose to make those issues public, well, thank you for sharing, but please be aware of what you're getting into.

You can't write and perform The Vagina Monologues without eventually becoming an activist. You can't write The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian without tapping into centuries of American history.

That's political. And politics is all about power and diplomacy. Unfortunately, on the Internet, both those dimensions are collapsed into a single channel--text--and sometimes, words alone aren't enough. You can't end a war with an aphorism.

And now for something completely different relevant:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3HaRFBSq9k

But seriously, folks:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

You are not the work. This is something pro writers say, a lot, when advising baby writers. It means that you have to learn to accept criticism of your work by understanding that "this story sucks" is a fundamentally different statement than "you suck."

The line is much finer when it comes to blogs and comments thereupon. What you say is not who you are, but it is all that people see here. Your words are your actions in this space, and actions have consequences.

(My final remark below is not directed toward any particular person. I offer it as a general guideline for all.)

On the Internet, no one knows if you're a dog, but what other conclusion should they draw if all you do is bark?

~CKL

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Presidents Day

Check out the Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation and marvel at how far we've come since then.

~CKL

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Monday, January 19, 2009

That Word Does Not Mean What You Think It Means


Photo from Wikimedia

Dear Entire Freaking World,

Please stop overusing the word "miracle."

You know what I'm talking about. Ever since US Airways pilot Chesley B. Sullenberger safely landed his crippled Airbus A320 in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew, you've been calling it a "Miracle on the Hudson."

Excuse me. Human achievement is not a miracle. If there were any Catholics here, they'd be giving you dirty looks.

And if you're thanking God for saving those people, you should also be cursing Him for putting those birds into the engine in the first place. Or maybe you believe it was Basement Cat who did the bad thing, or that Ceiling Cat just moves in mysterious ways?

Yeah, it's nice that you think every soul on the planet is just a pawn to be sacrificed in some mystical cosmic power struggle. I'll thank you not to devalue my entire existence.

That plane landed safely, and all the people aboard are still alive, because the entire flight crew was on the stick. Give some credit where it's due, for cryin' out loud. Show some respect for your fellow humans. You're going to have to deal with us a lot more often than you deal with any supernatural beings.

Hugs and kisses,
~CKL

P.S. Please calm down before the inauguration tomorrow. You know who you are.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Flash Fiction: "The Coronation Will Not Be Televised"

This week's 512 Words: "The Coronation Will Not Be Televised"

You can also listen to the podcast and read the liner notes.

I'm sure various news outlets will make a big deal out of Monday being Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Tuesday being the inauguration of America's first black President. That's fine. But we should also not forget that Ricardo Montalban passed away earlier this week. Is it too much to ask for a full week of mourning? My friend Gene doesn't think so:



~CKL

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After

A selection of this morning's Twitter messages:

Damn it, I have a headache! I thought electing Obama would FIX THINGS!
-- John Scalzi (eater of Schadenfreude Pie)

Prop 8 passed. Goddammit. I will continue to fight for equality for all people, and stand up against bigotry.
-- Wil Wheaton

and at least 4 was defeated. Abortions for all, miniature American flags for others!
-- Michaela Schlocker

Everyone on the subway is making eye contact and grinning. But there's also this look of shock, like none of us trust the fortune.
-- Mary Robinette Kowal

To recontextualize a phrase: AMERICA: FUCK YEAH!!!
-- Chang Terhune

Michael Crichton died?! :(
-- Felicia Day

On a related note, I will continue to buck the growing trend of using LoudTwitter to feed one's LiveJournal. A bunch of text messages strung together is no substitute for a coherent sequence of sentences, paragraphs, and ideas. Better to let your fields lie fallow than sow them with salt.

And my friend Ammy has some encouraging thoughts on The Battle, Not the War.

~CKL

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Historic, Wot?

D and I watched the election results and speeches last night via BBC News's live Internet video feed. It was nice to get a more international perspective on the whole thing, and the uncooperative satellite connection to Kenya was amusing, but SRSLY, soliciting commentary from Gore "grumpy old man" Vidal and John "antagonistic blowhard" Bolton? Sometimes I feel like the British are still making fun of us.

The good news:


(image from Flickr, shout out to mschlock)

The bad news:


(Los Angeles Times)

I mean, come on. WTF, CA? Los Angeles county went yes on Prop 8? LA county? Where's the gay mafia when you need 'em?

~CKL

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Sherman Alexie pwns Stephen Colbert

My favorite part is at the very end, when Colbert knows he's been pwnd and can't even summon a comeback:



Just before D and I watched this, we had a brief discussion about how it made more sense for even outlandish people (like Socialist presidential candidate Brian Moore) to appear on The Colbert Report than The Daily Show, because on Colbert you are almost guaranteed to appear less idiotic than the host, whereas Jon Stewart and company will just make fun of you on Daily.

~CKL

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Depressing Quotation of the Day

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide."

Thanks a lot, John Adams, and happy birthday to you too.

~CKL

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I Voted Yesterday.

The government here in our new home conducts all elections by mail, so D and I have already cast our ballots. If you can vote early, I encourage you to do so.

Yesterday, I helped decide legislation and appoint leaders and officials for Clark County, Congressional District 3, Legislative District 49, the great state of Washington, and the United States of America.

I voiced my preferences regarding transportation, euthanasia, and health care in my community. I chose the people I want to represent me in the state Supreme Court, the Governor's office, the United States Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House.

In black and white on a piece of paper, I exercised my right and privilege as a citizen of this republic.

I voted.

What the fuck have you done lately?

~CKL

P.S. If you live in California, please vote NO on Prop 8 next Tuesday. Also go read Ex Machina, a learned political science treatise disguised as a comic book.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Whether apostrophe or inverted comma..."

"...there's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama."



~CKL

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

iz mai birfday

I thought there would be more lolcats on this subject, but I guess it's a bit common.

Today is also former President/peanut farmer Jimmy Carter's birthday. I recall with unusual lucidity a moment from my childhood, when some friends and I were playing with a wind-up toy that was a peanut with Jimmy Carter's face--like the Planters mascot, but with eyebrows, nose, and teeth clearly caricatured to resemble President Carter.

The thing I remember most vividly is our discussion of what to name this toy. Should he be "Jimmy Peanut?" Or "Peanut Carter?" Even then, over twenty years ago, I was concerned with nomenclature. It's the details that reveal character.

Now I'm off to have some fun. I leave you with this thought:
"A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It's a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity."
-- Jimmy Carter

Many happy returns of the day.

~CKL

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Surprise to No One

C'mon, I read Making Light. What did you expect?

You are a
Social Liberal
(78% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(25% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid


~CKL

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

I Miss Aaron Sorkin

But at least we still have Sorkin parodies, like this West Wing homage from Maureen Dowd:
OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.

OBAMA And?

BARTLET I was.

OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

-- "Seeking a President Who Gives Goose Bumps? So’s Obama," New York Times, September 21, 2008

(Thanks to my friend Mike for the link.)

~CKL

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stephanie Lenz, Copyright Hero

In case you haven't seen the news, Stephanie Lenz is the woman who is suing Universal Music Corp for issuing a takedown notice against this video of her kids, which happens to have Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" playing in the background:



From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The issue in Stephanie Lenz's lawsuit against Universal is whether the owner of the rights to a creative work that's being used without permission can order the Web host to remove it without first considering whether the infringement was actually a legal fair use - a small or innocuous replication that couldn't affect the market for the original work.

Lenz's lawyers, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say her 29-second video, with fuzzy camerawork and unclear sound, was such an obvious noncommercial fair use that Universal should have to reimburse her for the costs of taking it out of circulation for more than a month last year.
Back in December of last year, when The Richter Scales' "Here Comes Another Bubble" music video also ran afoul of a YouTube takedown notice, there was a lot of hand-wringing discussion within the group about how to respond. We actually consulted with EFF and other lawyers, but in the end decided that the potential downside of inviting legal action was too big. (The video currently on YouTube is "version 1.1," with the single controversial image removed.)

I'm definitely rooting for Lenz and EFF in this case. While the nuances are different from the "Bubble" situation, the basic premise is the same: the DMCA and other copyright laws are routinely abused, "fair use" is not well defined, and all of that needs to change.

~CKL

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

He Told You So

There's been a lot of to-do in the news lately about the economy--recession, financial crisis, yada yada yada. You know what? I heard all this back in May, 2007, from James Scurlock*, director of the documentary Maxed Out and author of the accompanying book.

Here he is, doing Q&A after a screening of the film at Google:



As with most non-Michael Moore documentaries, this one didn't really get a wide release, but it is worth seeing, especially now that sub-prime mortgages have melted down and everyone on Wall Street says the sky is falling. As my friend Mark says: "Debt is a four-letter word."

~CKL

* Not to be confused with Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Next Civil War

I'm not saying this just to be pessimistic, but today's big news from California--"State Supreme Court says same-sex couples have right to marry" is the headline in the San Francisco Chronicle--made me think about America's long-standing tension between federal jurisdiction and states' rights, which every now and then becomes focused around a divisive, polarizing issue. Today, the issue is same-sex marriage. In the mid-1800s, it was slavery, and debate eventually escalated to war.

I watched a few minutes of talking heads on CNN tonight (help me I am trapped in a hotel room without TiVo), and the opponent of today's ruling had his knickers in a twist over the fact that, unlike Massachusetts, California will not have a residency requirement for same-sex couples who want to tie the knot--so gays and lesbians from elsewhere in the nation can hop the border to the golden state, take their marriage certificate back, and use the document to challenge whatever local statutes prohibit their wedded bliss at home. He stopped short of using the word "contagious," but behind his plastic smile, in his narrowed eyes, it was clear exactly what he thought of those people.

For the record, I am ecstatic, and I love San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom a little bit more every time I hear him speak: "It's about human dignity. It's about civil rights. It's about time."

Anyway. I don't think it's likely that the culture war is going to turn into a shooting war, but it's interesting to contemplate. Orson Scott Card used this premise for his book, Empire, which I haven't read (and for which D's one-word review is "meh"), but I understand from reviews that his story doesn't involve a full-blown "brother against brother" conflict. (Though it does, apparently, involve battlemechs. Go figure.)

How would an underground railroad for homosexuals operate? What is the gay equivalent of a Star of David? (A pink triangle?) And at what point would bleeding heart liberals who are eager to donate their money but stingy with their time actually lift a finger to do something to upset their upper-middle-class status quo?

I don't know if there's a story in here, but I'm adding it to my notes.

By the way, is it just me, or is this Los Angeles Times sidebar the Worst. Graphic. EVER? Seriously, they couldn't have picked colors from a few different places on the wheel? Used some cross-hatching or other distinctive shading patterns?

~CKL

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trash, Treasure, and Trade

THDI, a term coined by my friend Jeff, stands for "Trash Heap Development Index." Remember that for later.

Two weekends ago, as part of the process of moving out of our house, D and I sorted all our worldly possessions into keep/sell/junk piles. The "sell" pile (a.k.a. the "free" pile) turned out to be quite large, since we had a lot of things that could be easily replaced, and it would have cost more to store them while we travel around the country than to just buy new things later.

We rented a U-Haul truck to take all our "keep" stuff to the ABF terminal, where it would be packed into a 6'x7'x8' storage container, and also to haul the "sell" stuff to a group garage sale. (We called the Junk General to take away all the "junk" stuff.)

There was so much "sell" stuff, we weren't actually sure it would fit into the ten-foot-long U-Haul truck. Our friend Elena, who was helping us with the move, had a brilliant idea: She made a "FREE STUFF" sign and put it on the truck while we loaded it. Within minutes, cars were stopping as they drove down our street and random people were taking all sorts of crap stuff off our hands. It was great.

But the best was yet to come. After we'd gotten most of the furniture out onto the curb, a car screeched to a halt next to our U-Haul, and the African woman driving pointed to the sign and asked, "Free? Everything?"

"Yup! All free!" Elena said.

"Take down the sign! I take it all!" the woman said.

We thought she was joking, especially since she immediately drove her car past the truck and down the street. But it turns out she was just finding a parking spot. She walked back to the stuff piled on the curb, chattering on her cell phone in what sounded like French.

"You can take down the sign," she repeated, and went on to explain that she was calling her friend to come help her haul all the stuff away, and they also had a truck coming.

Her friend showed up, and they loaded a coffee table into the back of her station wagon. We weren't sure how they intended to take the rest of stuff--trust me, there was a lot of it--until the truck showed up. It wasn't a pickup truck like we had thought. It was a seventeen-foot-long cargo truck they had rented from Budget, being driven by three Mexicanos:



And then I recognized the woman and remembered where I'd seen her before. Earlier that day, she had come into the U-Haul store while D and I were picking up our truck, looking for a 17' truck. U-Haul only had a 14-footer available. As we were leaving in our puny 10' truck, we had seen the woman talking to the three Mexicanos, who were waiting outside in the shade.

As it turns out, the woman and her friend were from Senegal, and they were trolling garage sales and such for things to send back to Africa. I didn't talk to them myself, but my understanding is that they had a shipping container which they intended to load up with whatever stuff they could find in the bay area.

They did literally take everything. At one point, as they were loading a broken laser printer, our friend Sean pointed out its non-functional state and asked if they really wanted to haul that all the way across the ocean. The women waved their hands and said, "It doesn't matter. We Africans will find a use for it."

Remember Jeff's Trash Heap Development Index (THDI)? I'll let him explain, in his own words:
The way people handle trash in the developing world is interesting. Everywhere, the trash can is implemented not in metal or plastic, but by gravity (a perfect developing world technology substitution: it is simpler, cheaper, and available everywhere). If you don't need something, you drop it. It falls to the ground and that's it...

The problem with the gravity system of waste management is that the trash ends up everywhere, especially places where the wind blows it, or water washes it. So every morning, everywhere in the world from Guatemala to Indonesia (and probably all the places I haven't yet seen) the women carefully sweep their property and ensure that all the garbage is in little piles at the edge. Sometimes they light the piles on fire to reduce them to ash. An interesting detail in French colonies is that in intersections, they push the trash into the middle, making little trashpile rond-points (roundabouts). The drivers then carefully pass the rond-point à la droite, and a little bit of civility is restored to a place where dogs and pigs have the right of way everywhere else.

But the THDI is not about where the piles are, or what other function they serve. It is about what's in the piles.

The first morning I woke up in Chad I was restless and I wanted to go out and see the city. The safe area for walking alone in N'Djamena is measured in meters, so I pretty quickly exhausted the possibilities for sightseeing. The embassy of Saudi Arabia's back door was kind of interesting, and the gardener cutting the bouganvilla taught me some Arabic (he certainly wasn't speaking French), and finally the children helped me practice the conjugation of donner (to give). "Dons-moi un biscuit. Dons-moi du argent. Dons-moi un bonbon." After a bit, I became interested in the trash that had been pushed to the end of the street by the women that morning, and that had washed into the drainage ditch over the years. There was some good stuff in there! Empty cans of powdered milk (Nido, from Nestle), broken flip-flops, a tangle of wire that used to be a tire before it burned, and the tail of a goat. As I contemplated the trash, I realized Chad was a much richer country than I was used to working in, and that I'd have to take that into consideration as a new log.

You see, in Liberia, the trash piles have the things with absolutely no remaining value. There are flip flops, but they have already had little foam wheels for children's toys punched out of them. There are powered milk cans, but they are rusted from being put over too many fires to heat water, and they are from a cheap Dutch brand of milk, not Nestle Nido. The smallest useful scrap of metal wire is already in service holding some rusting taxi together.

The THDI of Congo is closer to Liberia, but certainly not quite as low. For instance, Congolese in the east have access to Uganda and Kenya, where they can buy raw materials like steel and wire. They fix their old motorcycles with new parts that arrive on boats in Mombasa and come across on good trucks on good roads. The THDI, then, seems to be related to the transit system and your proximity to rich countries.

I haven't been home for a while, so I am starting to forget... perhaps you can go take a look at your trash and see what your THDI is. What does it say about your life? Did my new metric make you want to "improve" your THDI?
D and I feel pretty good about our THDI at the moment. We gave away a lot of our usable stuff to friends who would get good use out of it, and most of the rest of it is on its way to Senegal right now, where it will either be used in its existing form or stripped down for parts--I'm not sure what they'll do with all the 3.5" floppy disks, but I'm sure it would be interesting to see.

It is a little weird to think that a lot of our stuff was actually manufactured in Asia, shipped to America where we bought it, and is now being shipped back to Africa, where some pieces will see more use than they ever did in our house. But it also seems serendipitious that the women were from Senegal, which is one of the first places Jeff visited when he began preparing for his new life as an MSF logistician. It's a small world, and we're all connected in some way. Good to remember that.

~CKL

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Google Causes Global Warming!

Dr. Robert Zubrin visited Authors@Google last Monday to talk about his latest book, Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil.

Skip to the 40-minute mark in the video below to see the controversial slide which prompts an inevitable flood of pointed questions from the audience. As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing:



The complete, in-context quote from Dr. Zubrin is: "The same argument could be made that Google causes global warming... by your spreading of information, which contributes to economic growth... and, in fact, much more global warming than the corn ethanol program, I daresay."

I'm currently reading Fifty Degrees Below, the second book in Kim Stanley Robinson's "climate trilogy," and though I'm enjoying it, the information seems even more densely packed than in his science-packed Mars trilogy. Maybe that's because the "climate" books are set closer to the present day, and therefore all the political and social situations resonate and feel that much more real. Every detail implies a multitude of other things I'm already familiar with, instead of causing me to speculate on what a future society might be like.

~CKL

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Cake is a Lie

This was the front page of yesterday's San Jose Mercury News:

 


Aaaaand for tonight's performance, the part of GLaDOS will be played by Hillary Clinton. She does what she must, because she can, for the good of all of us...

Posted by Picasa

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Friday, January 25, 2008

D's California Voter Guide

It's a week and a half before the California primary, but thanks to the magic of vote-by-mail, D and I have already completed our ballots. Since she's the one who actually reads the entire voter information guide--including the actual text of the proposed legislation--most of the views below are hers. Your mileage may vary.

President of the United States: Obama or Clinton.
I can't speak to the Republican pool, but as far as Democrats go, I would encourage you to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (pick one). Not just because they're the only non-white-males, but because, for various reasons, they know what it's like to be hated. They've lived with adversity all their lives, and they wouldn't have gotten this far if they didn't have the strength and the will to keep fighting. Whether you agree with their particular views is a different issue, but I believe they will get the job done. D might specifically recommend Hillary, since Bill and Hillary are really a package deal, and D thinks the country did pretty well under Bill Clinton.

Now, a funny story: I'm registered as a non-partisan (no party affiliation) voter, but since the Democrats are allowing everyone and anyone to vote in their primary, I received two vote-by-mail ballots--one non-partisan, with just the propositions, and one Democratic, with the candidates as well. I'm only going to send back the Democratic ballot, but I wonder how many other people are in the same boat, and how much confusion and extra work it's going to cause our election workers. Do you really need any more proof that the system is broken? It's a bit depressing, really.

Prop 91, Transportation Funds: NO.
This one's a no-brainer. Even the argument for the proposition tells you to vote no, because it's been made obsolete by other legislation already. Did I mention that the system is somewhat broken?

Prop 92, Community Colleges: YES.
Education is a good thing. Yes, it will increases taxes, but D's okay with that. She also likes the establishment of an independent Board of Governors.

Prop 93, Term Limits: NO.
There's a huge loophole in this proposition, and D doesn't like legal trickery. Check out the Text of Proposed Law (PDF) and see for yourself.

Props 94, 95, 96, and 97, Indian Gaming: YES, YES, YES, and YES.
The primary issue here, in D's view, is one of process. Voting down these propositions would overturn an agreement that the Governor has already made with the four tribes in question, and that sets a dangerous precedent. Two wrongs do not make a right. Also note that all four compacts still need to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior, so if you don't like it, you can still make a federal case out of it. Literally!

No matter how you vote, the important thing is that you get out to the polls on February 5th and VOTE--yes, even if it's raining, you wimp.

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