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This is what happened.  By 3:15, students at Santa Cruz High School were telling me the guy had shot someone at Harbor High School (which is two neighborhoods over).  In fact, schools in the nearby neighborhoods were put into lockdown for a bit and students who could be sent home in cars were and students who were going to walk or bus home were kept for a while until they knew the armed crazy guy was recovered and disarmed.  Our school is four or five neighborhoods away, depending on how you count it, so we were not locked down.

If it had been me?  I have my car keys with me at work but not my car.  What would he have done when I told him the car was some distance away?

Though if I worked at the Secret Garden, which is a goodly ways away from my house, I might be driving to work. 

On another front, it's cold.



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I just got a push poll, the kind where you know exactly who set it up after only a few questions.  It's all about the desalination plant.

I reluctantly have to give them support on this, because the other alternatives are even less promising and more threatening.

Only thing is, since we've been having a striking lack of drought lately, I believe this gfives us time to go slow and address the real problems of the plan -- only addressed by one question in the poll: it's really really hard to protect the bay from the intake and outflow. 

The plan includes a prety good sounding approach to the problem of returnign the brine to the ocean .  The natural byproduct of a desal plant is of course hot, supersaline water.  In theplan as I understand it, they will mix the brine with the treated water from the sewage plant -- which is treated to nearly-drinkable levels (to be drinkable by legal standards it needs more chlorine, which is problematic on a few levels itself) -- and the resulting mixture, no longer hot or supersaturated, is piped out to the outer bay where it will disperse faster anyway, thus having less impact on anything.  I'm comfortable enough with that. And I know theat the plan as it existed a couple years ago involved a bunch of safeguards against sucking little invertebrates and stuff into the works, but I'm just not convinced that we've got that wired, you know?

Economic revocery note:

you could hire a whole cadre of people who used to be fishermen, factory workers, or construction workers, to monitor the health of the bay in conjunction with the desal plant.  This is not a cheap proposition: you'd be paying them skilled worker wages (according to former definitions, at that, I think), and it would "make the water more expensive."  But if the program is paid for by generalized taxes, and put into the category of "economic stimulus" because a cadre of decently-paid skilled workers who are tied by the nature of their work to the community in which they live will spend those decent wages on goods and services all over town.
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Not doing this in writer's block because that's not how I got the idea.  Bean montag personhead did it and asked for her readers to do it.
So, without further ado, 5 things I love and 5 things I hate about Santa Cruz.

1.My kids always had somewhere to go and something to do, and rarely needed a ride anywhere.
2.It's beautiful to walk around in.  It blooms all year, and there's an ocean right there and all that.
3. It has a civil and conversational culture. People will talk to you on the street even if you look funny.
4. People tend to be culturally and politically literate even if they haven't had much schooling.
5. Really good food isn't really more expensive than dreck.  And there are fruit trees right on the street.

6.  It's where I met, courted, lived with and raised children with the nice fellow.

1. It's one of the least affordable communities in the US.  Housing costs are way high and wages are way low.
2.  The veneer of decent politics is pretty thin when you raise subjects like wages and working conditions and de facto racism.
3. My friends moved away.  Mostly.
4. In Europe, you can take your dog on the subway.  In Santa Cruz, you can't take your dog on the street if you live downtown.
5. Too many yuppies thinking that the world revolves around them and demanding that everybody cater to their neuroses.

6. Gang stuff turned ugly lately.
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The murder was a "random" and "possibly gang-related" walkby shooting on the levee by Jesse Street (which is the next neighborhood across the river from here -- the one called "River Flats" which is our most notorious "bad" neighborhood now that Beach Flats is somewhat cleaned up. Zack lives in that neighborhood, and so did we thirty-some years ago, though the neighborhood wasn't nearly so desperate then).

The stabbings were in an apartment around the corner from me, both by the same person furing a party Saturday night. I didn't hear the ruckus though I was home, and that worries me, since I'm trying to be aware and I go to the porch to investigate every sound (that forty-five year-old Kitty Genovese case haunts me still).

The police are now saying this is a mysterious rise in violence after years of declining crime. I say it's not mysterious at all.

It's the inevitable result of systematic Republican and so-called "moderate" Democrat policies over the last twenty years. Policies that explicitly promised to "starve the government" and people went for them repeatedly out of what? personal greed, thinking that this grandiose plan of destruction would save them a little chump change in taxes? personal animosity towards those people they perceived as benefiting from a "bloated bureaucracy--" the poor, the disabled, the old, the young, the bureaucratswho process their drivers' licenses and cut the checks for their roadwork and design the improvements to their intersections when they complain about them? The teachers and the doctors in public clinics? I honestly never understood who they were so mad at.

Let's see what the starvation policies have done.

Reduced bilingual education to the point of effective zero in many schools, leaving only vestiges of it in other schools. So our many, many second-language learners are ata loss in their classes.

Reduced preschool subsidies and public preschool programs so that more of the kids enter school unprepared to get anything out of it (there's more to this later on, wait for it).

Reduced money to schools overall (each year claiming they were giving the schools more in some weird little plan or other while cutting the money greatly in other areas), forcing expanded class sizes, forcing schools to drop the electives that keep kids in school -- including the vocational programs that help young people ease into careers with or without college -- making it impossible for schools to buy enough new books or keep librarians (and libraries!) and classroom aides, or even to keep the schools maintained. Even to keep the schools physically safe. I've been in more than one classroom with wonky wiring and massive leaks, not a good combination! Most schools no longer have their own school nurse or psychiatrist, and if you think those are luxuries may I remind you that tuberculosis is coming back? And that it's been known for a long time that many problems young adults have -- that cost society dearly, if we're not going to care about the young people for their own sakes -- are visible in childhood, if there's anybody there to look at them.

Reduced community access to health care and mental health care.

Cut funds to higher education, forcing community colleges -- which at one time were as good as free -- to raise fees to the levels that used to be the norm for four-year colleges. When you consider that the community colleges have been the vehicle to get low-income and underprepared students ready for four-year colleges, and also the place where vocational education happens, it's a real blow to social mobility and to hope itself when you take easy access to community colleges away from people. Also forcing the state university and the University of California to raise fees, cut scholarship money, and cut programs(two separate systems. You can thank another Republican, S.I. Hayakawa, for the confusing name change of the State College system -- he was a professor of semantics before he was a politician, see, and he thought it would make people take the state college system more seriously if we called it a university system. All it does is confuse people.

Meanwhile, in the same bag of destructive tricks, we have: "let's deregulate everything! Let's have a free market and a smaller government!" and while we're at it, "Let's reduce worker protections, environmental protections, and consumer protections!"

So. Health care costs go way up. Housing costs go way up. Income, adjusted for inflation, goes down among the people who already have a struggle to pay for things. Unemployment rises as jobs are eliminated or contracted out -- and the contractees find themselves working harder to make less money with no benefits -- homelessness increases, families crack under the strain, people have to travel farther to work, leaving their older children with nobody to talk to when they come home from or drop out of school -- which they're doing at a much greater rate due to the above and more stuff I'll get to in a minute.

Enter the Texans and their "no child left behind." This is actually another financial attack, and not just becuase it witholds funding from struggling schools that can't pass the entirely bogus tests produced not by educators but by profit-making private entities (did you know that? All the tests that American students have to take to succeed in life are created by unregulated and untested private companies, including the SAT that everyone has to take to get into college, and including all the new tests mandated by NCLB). Because this requires proprietary "curriculum" materials aimed at supposedly-but-not-really preparing students for the tests, and proprietary "workshops" aimed at supposedly-but-not-really preparing teachers to teach to the tests -- which are written by people who have nothing to do with the schools or schooling, in case you missed that.

So the content of the school day is now mandated not just by the necessity to pass a test that has nothing to do with what students should be learning developmentally or with regards to their future, but by specific requirements to use specific materials and methods developed by people who don't even know what it takes to learn things at specific levels of development or even in general. There's no time for anything relevant or interesting or helpful. Students are bored, anxious, and hopeless.

They're dropping out in droves.

There's nothing for them in school or out of it. Nothing to aim for, nothing to hope for, nothing even to tide them over because the traditional kid jobs have been snapped up by laid-off or desperately moonlighting adults. Their parents are depressed and either overworked or out of work and not available enough either way.

Enter the big-time gangs. They're replacing the almost-inoccuous kid gangs of years past. Why?

You know, they're just entrepreneurs -- "find a need and fill it." White-collar workers want their coke, and desperate people want their weed and their junk and their meth. So they've got a market.

And they've got a much bigger need to fill. The need of young adults to have something big to do. Something risky, something social, something bigger than themselves. They want to be loyal to something and someone, they want to have a plan that stretches farther than four-twenty in the afternoon, and they want to challenge themselves.

The big-time gangs say "you want to be one of us? You got to burn your bridges. You can't be one of us until you've killed somebody to prove yourself and to make it impossible for you to go back on us."

And there you have it. And I'm late for work, so that's all for now.
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Okay, so most of my hemisphere is preparing for several months of dormant slumber. Leafless trees, skeletal shrubs, dead grass.

Here, and in other places with a Mediterranean climate, we have the dark skies, but -- the dormancy, not so much. we do have a fair number of trees and shrubs that have that winter-deciduous thing going on, but the things that are native to here, or that migrated from other Mediterranean climates, are gearing up for their most productive days.

The hillsides are green already, which is funny, because there have been only two storms so far this rainy season, and no rain for two weeks (I think). On the hill I have to walk up to go to work, the annual grasses are almost a foot (a third of a meter) long. (The metric equivalents are because I'm tired of using archaic measurements but I have to think about using the modern ones that everybody in the world uses but us, so I try to keep in practice) That hill, by the way, smells delicious, because of the active plant life, largely river willows, growing there. The dirt has darkened and will stay dark till May. Laurel Hill is pretty well all artesian, so it's ahead of most of the rest of the place.

I know that strictly speaking it is not winter, and in fact it was quite warm today (80F/27C), but I have the winter thrill in my blood already. Green green green!

And I love the quality of winter light. I just wish there was more of it.
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Santa Cruz appears to be overrun with friendly middle-aged men today. Got another greeting with the flirtatious edge to it, not as overt as the first. The fellow had brought his friend to get a pilot's medical exam at the same time as I had brought MC to get his SSI eligibility exam.

I'm not exactly complaining. It would be surly to complain that men were friendly as I passed them by.

But I'm not used to it.

I wish I could go back and tell my much younger self that they were going to stop insulting her one day and instead be friendlier than she expects . . .
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I'm sure someone has flirted with me in the last ten years but I'm damned if I can remember when or under what circumstances.

But it happened this morning. It's so odd, and so unusuaal, that I am a little unsettled -- not in a "whoa, I'm a smexy broad after all" sort of way, but in a "what was he really thinking?" way. And I'm trying to piece together who and what this man was from the details I saw as Truff;le dragged me along.

Saturday mornings Truffle and I take the car to Emma at seven in the morning so she can go to Monterey and scrape otter crap off the rocks of the exhibit there. Then we walk back. After next Saturday we'll have to do tjhis differently because she won't nbe living in walking distance anymore.

Anyway, so Truffle and I are walking home and we're passing Zachary's which is a steak-and-breakfast place from the old days. By nine o'clock in the morning you can't pass on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant because there's so many hipsters and yuppies standing around there. But it's not at the "good" end of Pacific Avenue. It's perilously close to the bars and the tattoo and piercing parlors and the head shops. So you get some street louts hanging around there too.

This morning there are two people lounging in front of Zachary's door. One is a young hispanic man in a hoodie, who has slumped down with his hood over his face -- 7:00 is too early for him! The other is a middle-aged blond-and-tanned-and-obviously-exercises kind of guy in white jeans and a white tee shirt, stirring a paper cup of coffee.

I tend to make brief, brief eye contact with people I cross on the sidewalk. I don't like extended eye contact ever, but I feel like it matters to acknowledge people on the street even when I don't want to engage them in conversation, and over the years I have tuned this so I mostly successfully do just that: acknowledge people in a respectful and respectable way, without engaging them unless I want to.

In a town with a lot of people in it that don't get a lot of respect, I feel this is really important. A moment of shared dignity, that's all.

However, instead of the usual brief nod or maybe "good morning," I got waggled eyebrows. That was a bit unsettling, but maybe he's practicing to be one of those old guys that do that. Then, as I passed, he stood a bit taller and said "looking fine," which is of course a definitive flirtatious greeting.

But seriously. I've gained twenty pounds since the nice fellow died (more or less: I have to go by my clothes as the third scale I bought in a year varies by twenty pounds depending on how I stand on it -- I got a sptring scale this time because the digital ones died so fast, but it's worse than not having a scale at all because if I didn't have one I might think I could buy one): I'm wearing clothes that are way too big for me since I can't wear the ones I bought last summer (and there's nothing in between, I promise you. The size I ought to be right now is a myth. The clothes are all either as bifg as the next size up or as small as the next size down. I won't fit into anything until I lose these twenty pounds again, or more): I'm a month late for a haircut and seriously shaggy and I barely brushed my hair because I was in a rush: and I haven't had my bath, which means stubble on my face, yes, stubble. And I've caught my expression in the mirror, and lately it never stops looking sad, even when I'm happy about something (which I am, often, the world is full of beautiful things). Like a damned Pieta or something.

So, while I may look like a pleasant little old lady, I am not fine in the usual flirtatious sense of the word. But it wasn't a serious flirtation anyway.

So I started wondering about him. All the way back, I tried to recall the details of his appearance and analyze them. Since that block is often inhabited by street people, that thought did occur to me. But his white clothes were immaculate (I think), and his skin didn't have the coarseness that comes from living rough (not everybody on the street has it, even at his age, which is about mine). So who wears all white in Santa Cruz?

Capoeristas: "village" drummers: sometimes, for some reason, yacht bums. All of those were possible. Silly me, though, I didn't think of it until I got home: both the men lounging on the street in front of Zachary's work there. Of course. Some chefs like to wear all white to work. (I guess it advertises the cleanliness of their operation)

So I guess I got flirted with by weekend Zachary's breakfast chef.

I kind of laughed and said good morning as my dog pulled me along, because my discomfort is my problem, and not his doing: he was just being friendly. But it is a measure of who I am that I spent the rest of the walk reconstructing his story and deconstructing the moment.
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A fire started near Martin Road in Bonny Doon yesterday around three in the afternoon. By four, they had begun evacuating the residents (1400 or so of them: this is an area often referred to as "rural Bonny Doon," though its social characteristics are rather more suburban).

This is not to mention the fire down at Hunter-Ligget military reservation, which is at the southern end of Monterey County. The thing is, within Santa Cruz County we don't usually get as much fire as the rest of the less-urban parts of the state, a fact I attribute to fog and redwood trees (which is sort of a tautology). The rain year was not that dry, but the spring was dryer than dry: it's the second dryish year: and there's a lot of tinder in those mountains, partly because of the many wet years we had before that, meaning a lot of growth and few little fires to control it, and also because there are a lot of dead trees standing around because of sudden oak death disease and pine pitch canker the last few years.

So you get a bad fire year.

On another front, I have successfully printed lovely little magnets with pictures of babies, for father's day presents. On still another front, the pilot batch of dried apricot wafers is transcendently beautiful and tasty.
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Okay, the state Supreme Court made a decision that reinstates gay marriage in California, maybe, while there's still an anti-marriage initiative. Then Edwards says we should just get it together behind Obama. And Critical Mass turned into a riot-like object at the tourist wharf. And labor endorsed Bill Monning, so I've changed my vote there too. And I turned into a snot factory.

And there wasn't a single film at the Santa Cruz Film Festival that I wanted to see, and I feel guilty about that.

But we did go to the Greek Food Festival on its opening night and I found out that my moussaka is better than theirs. And I didn't dance so I have to go back and dance.

I'm up too late and I can't even blame it on the raccoons - it's just inertia.
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I have spies everywhere.

My acquaintance in the public defender's office says vote for Steve Wright, not Ari Symondson. She says Ari Symondson is dishonest and unethical. Steve Wright is a decent judge.
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food porn ahead, I guess. Not quite irreproducible recipes. Almost.

Anyways.
Ambrosia variation: if Andrew Marvell wished a ton of minneolas and a half-ton of kumquats on you recently. You cut up a minneola (tangelo, right?) and an equal volume of kumquats, and add a palmful of grated coconut and about half a palmful of chopped candied ginger. Stir this together with a spoonful or two of ricotta. It holds together like haroset, rather than lying down prettily like ambrosia usually does, because the pieces are small.

Ambrosia variation I haven't tried yet: cut up enough kumquats (a cup and a half? for two people), or maybe kumquats and also some other less intense citrus, mix with sage (about 6cm square laid flat together on the cutting board: I haven't decided whether to cut the leaves large or small), and walnuts (a palmful, cut rather fine, not grated though). This will probably need sweetening, and I think that just some granulated or superfine white sugar might do it, though I'm really leaning towards using this event to get rid of that little pile of dried candied cranberries still lying on my counter.

Waldorf variation: an immense red apple, cut medium fine. Two small stalks of celery, cut medium fine. A large palmful of walnuts, broken into pieces a bit smaller than my little fingernail. A similar quantity of kumquats, cut about the size of the walnuts. Enough mayonnaise to spread all around and just touch the fruit, nearly disappearing: not enough to make a visible white suspension around the rest.

I talked about scooping out the innards, combining them with cream cheese and tiny bits of candied ginger, and then stuffing the kumquats with the stuff. The variation the nice fellow perpetrated, which was much better than his lazy ass deserved, was to simply smoosh tiny bits of brie across the topps of halved kumquats (the cut, flat part being the top).

Another antipasto variation: wrap a little strip of tasty meat around a kumquat and eat it. You might pin this together with a toothpick. I used "black forest" ham. If you don't eat pig, smoked turkey leg would work beautifully if you can slice it thin enough to wrap well.

On another note, I promised Emily Reilly in person that I would decide between her and Bill Monning within two weeks. They're both running for John Laird's seat in the Assembly. John Laird is another argument against term limits. Oh well.

So I'm thinking of sending each of them emails with questions. If you had personal access to somebody running for a State Assembly seat, what would you ask?

One question I've thought of is: What will you do if the mandate you've been sent to Sacramento with is opposed by the governor and the Republicans (that if should be when but I think the question is easier to think about as an if)? I need to word this differently. I want concrete thoughts about how each will deal with this. Democrats have a horrible tendency to crumple in the face of opposition. One of the reasons I love John Laird so much is that he doesn't. He's not a rhetoric and bombast man who never does a political thing, but he hangs in there.

So. Emily Reilly? Bill Monning? In Bill's favor is that he's a labor lawyer guy while Emily is an employer (not a bad one). Also in Bill's favor is that he's a solid left guy from Salinas,the southern end of the district, where it's really been hard to get any really progressive people elected, and it would be good for the political development of the Central Coast to get that to happen. On the other hand, among the progressive people who have not been elected to office from Salinas is Bill Monning. He has no history in office at all, though he does have a history of making brave runs. Emily's been on the Santa Cruz City Council for a while, and she's done a good job, and she's been on the right side a lot. And -- well, the other time I talked to her about her run for Assembly, she was at the NAAACP/Central Labor Council jointly sponsored labor day picnic (remind me to tell you one day how I and a few friends started Labor Day picnics happening in the county, what? thirty years ago, I guess). And this time was in the elevator of the Monterey Marriott hotel where we attended the volunteer awards for the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary "network" -- all the conservation entities that work together with the Sancuatary. She gave a speech, and I got an award. Anyway, the point is, those two things tell you something about what Emily wants to be spending her time on.

I'm leaning towards Emily, for pragmatic reasons. But Bill's possibly lesser connections and following might not be so deadly, since the Republicans don't seem to have an actual candidate emerging from anywhere.

I lost a chance to have anything to do with the Presidential primary (because my candidate dropped out!) but I want to do something about this.

finally, I'm working overtime tomorrow and the next day because we don't have any slack left.

whoosh

Apr. 2nd, 2008 09:06 am
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That's the sound of the nest emptying. Whoops! Emma wasn't even really looking for a place. She was preparing to look for a place this summer. She emailed her Jason some Craigslist links to show him what the market was looking like, and -- suddenly, Jason found them a little room in a luxury apartment downtown (that is, five blocks from us and one block from the bus station, solving all sorts of problems). They have to pay $550 each for their halves of the room, which is just a bit more than ten times as much as I paid for my first off-campus room in a flat.

Meanwhile, it's raining. Kind of. And the water department got all excited about rainfall reaching "90% of normal" and called off the watering restrictions (idiot newspaper which is no longer printed nor even has its offices in town proclaims that "rationing" was lifted, but we never had rationing). Now you can water your garden in the middle of the day. Stupid. Since you were always still allowed to run a drip line or use a hose with a shutoff or a watering can, what is gained by this? As a community we're good at conservation, but why ask for wastage? Anyway, the river is still low, and that's where the water comes from, not the sky.

And I'm still not writing much because we're still putting the "library" back in order. Some of you will be aghast to learn that I have culled three boxes of books. Others would be puzzled by the books that I will not consider getting rid of.
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So today was one of those days that the Sentinel decides to run the to-date rain figures -- dog only knows where they find them stashed, because I can't find them.

24 hours ending 5 p.m. Wednesday: .18 in (.46 cm)
Month to date 7.75 in (19.7 cm)
"normal" month to date 4.65 in (11.8 cm)
Season to date 13.42 in (34.1 cm)
"normal" season to date 15.05 in (38.2 cm)
last season to date 7.87 in (19.99 cm)

Notice we've gotten more than half the rain in the last three weeks (two weeks, really).

On another front: I'm reading Cadillac Desert. It's appalling. But more than that, I'm realizing that the landscape that I've grown up with -- even in the lush strip of the central coast (including both Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay in central California, which geologists do: though I gather that SLO people barely include Santa Cruz in their conception of the Central Coast and probably would seriously balk at anything north of Half Moon Bay) -- is even more artificial than I realized, more contingent, and that in the alternate history I've been noodling about in the back of my mind, none of it would exist as I have experienced it.

I've been thinking that if the Constitutional Convention had not made the odious compromise with the slave owners, the entire history of the United States, and therefore the world, would have been different. I believe that slave economy drove westward expansion more than any other thing, once the technological advances came along that made plantation agriculture profitable. I also believe that, had the United States split at the Constitutional Convention, plantation agriculture would never have become very profitable, because Northern industrial wealth subsidized the South to a great degree. I say "I believe" because these are speculations -- "if it had not been for this, that would not have happened" is a pretty shaky thing to say even if you know much more than I do.

So,holding to my line of thinking, if the "compromise" (actually, capitulation to the slave owners) had not taken place at the Convention, one of two groups of possibilities emerge, one coalescing around versions of the states splitting, and another coalescing around versions of the federation of states holding together. In the first group of possibilities, you can either have two countries emerging or you can have some other number. The young doctor made a case for there being a northern federation and a bunch of disunified southern states. It's a possibility I'm willing to entertain.

In any case, I'm thinking that a great deal -- but not by any measure all -- of the pressure for westward expansion is removed when you don't have the boom in plantation agriculture, which you don't have, in my thinking, if you don't have the capitulation at the Convention and subsequent subsidizing of the South by the North. And with the pressure for westward expansion lessened, and no Missouri Compromise and no rush to claim this part for slave states and this part for free states -- among other things -- the map might look very different.

Because the way the western states are carved out of the continent is really strange. It's a bunch of straight lines interrupted by rivers. It's the product of hasty negotiations at the Congressional level, rather than the natural growth of communities, economic networks, transportation hubs, etc. etc. Marc Reisner drops in a side remark somewhere in Cadillac Desert that it would make more sense to define the states in terms of watersheds. Which is roughly what Brazil is: mostly, anyway, it's the Amazon basin.

So that's one thing.

Another thing: the Louisiana Purchase: the Texas crap -- all of it, including the part where slave owners moved there and promised to be loyal to Mexico, then seceded and said they wanted to be their own country, and then joined the US as a slave state: the Mexican War, California: Lewis and Clark: Mason and Dixon: all these things and more happen after my splitting point. There's no reason for any of it to go down the way it did in the real world. There's no reason for "Rain follows the Plow" and "Go West, Young Man," and Sutter's Mill and Mulholland. No reason for my life to exist at all, by the time we get this far down.

So I have an open canvas. I'm thinking there are heavy technological and economical implications, and that development in general would take a very different course.

Mostly, I think, slower. Yeah, even technology. Mostly because I'm thinking my world has less surplus value extraction going on, and therefore less capital to spend and also less pressure for it.

I'm not saying this part is a good thing. Nor am I saying that the string of early wars I think would have taken place after the Convention would be a good thing. Just -- a thing. History is a terrible thing: why should it be not terrible, if one terrible thing is removed? Maybe, on the whole, it migh9t be less terrible, but I don't think I can guarantee that.

On the other hand, because it is my alternate history, I get to choose the alternatives I wish to explore, and I'm damned well not going to explore the ones that "prove" that it would have been a bad thing overall if the anti-slavery elements of the Constitutional Convention had stuck to their principles. I don't think I'm out to prove anything, anyway, unkess it's that it's possible to write a US alternate history story which is not all about the South winning the Civil War. I'm interested in playing in a universe with certain parameters.

I'm a million miles from being able to write anything. No, not because there's a lot of research I have to do, which there is. But because I don't have a story. And that's pretty critical, don't you think? I figure that the story will come to me someday, the way stories always come to me, with a conversation between characters who have emerged from this universe of mine. And at that point, I will become more aggressive about completing the research. Because I'll have more specific questions to answer.
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So the young doctor got a Pay Pal account. I sent him 3000 koruny as a test. (That's about $171 on today's rate of exchange -- $120 a year or so ago)

First of all, the money took a week to arrive. And then an other week to clear. What's up with that? It's electronic funds. Last I heard, electrons did not take a week to travel from the west coast of North America to the middle of Europe. Can you imagine what phone calls would be like if they did? Ansible, anyone?

It gets worse, but the worse part is because of the young doctor's own special circumstances.

Taking out less than 3000 koruny a shot costs a small extra fee. He can't take out more than CZK 2500 a month unless he gets verified. He can't get verified without using a credit or debit card. We set up the Pay Pal account because his debit card is in a finite -- but indefinitely defined -- hiatus land. Otherwise we'd be using that. His withdrawal limit there depends on prior authorization (I guess that's to defend against identity theft -- kind of like when my credit union called to verify that it was indeed me that was ordering up plane tickets to Prague all of a sudden), but that can be managed, once the debit card is alive again.

Anyway, Pay Pal would work if his rent was about a third of what it is. For now, we're back to paying forty dollars a crack to send him his expenses. I am so looking forward to him getting his own loans.

On another front, it's very wet out there. It's going to be wet for the foreseeable future. As usual, there's pruning and spraying I should have done before this which will be very late now. As to whether the nascent drought has been averted -- I don't know. Why can't I find a site that just keeps tabs of season totals for my area? I know that Soquel Creek station has had 10.55 inches. And I could find the accumulated total for Bonny Doon. But I don't know what that means, because I can't find the "season normal to date" number anywhere. It shouldn't be that hard! Once in a while, an article includes that information, but when I look for where that information must have come from, I can never find it.

A minor frustration continues in thatthere are no numbers available for downtown Santa Cruz at all. This is not crucial for planning, because our water supply comes from the San Lorenzo Valley (i.e., Felton, Ben Lomond, etc), but it's personally interesting.

And on still another front: I am measuring my progress on the new new version of The Conduit in tens of words. Does that mean there's something wrong with the new approach, or does it mean I can't actually manage to write a novel and work full-time? I've done it before. But not, so far, a saleable one.
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Four inches in a day, maybe a half an inch since then. To put this in perspective: until now, we had five inches in the whole rain year (since July, but the season really starts in late October or early November), and we get thirty in a normal year. So two days takes us from one-sixth of our normal total to one-third, and also takes us from certain drought to possible drought (we have four months left to make the total). We're expecting rain for the next week.

But the spectacular thing about the storm system was the wind. It was hard enough to knock out the power lines for a million and a half people from Oregon to the Mexican border. Power at our house was out for about twenty-six hours, but we take that in stride. The thrilling thing was being at work and waiting for the last parents to come and get their children. We announced at twelve we were going to close by four, but one mother was stuck over the hill and southbound Highway 17 was closed by a landslide "somewhere between the Cats and Bear Creek Road" which makes us sound pretty remote and rustic, doesn't it? It's not the only way to get into the county, though, so she drove the long way round, south and through Watsonville and then back, and she got there by four-thirty, which isn't so bad. An older brother of one of the babies said "Well, why are you the last person?" And I said, "Somebody has to be." And that's the simple truth.

So our power was out so long because a major transformer blew. This happens a lot in high winds around here. Downtown got its power back by mid-late afternoon, so we went to the bookstore and wandered around some. I think our own little chunk of neighborhood must have also had a piece of tree on a line, which also happens a lot around here. PG&E (the power company, for nonlocals) had said "westside Santa Cruz" would have its power back hours later than we really did. Which begs the question of "what do they mean when they say Westside Santa Cruz?" Because sometimes that means everything west of the river, and sometimes that means everything south of Laurel Street, and sometimes it just means everything west of Bay Street. For reasons best known to themselves, the Google maps people have a map that obscures how west and south could be used interchangeably in our town, but the Mapquest map shows you what I mean. Anyway. So we got our power back maybe six hours before we were expecting it.

About thirty years ago it was all the thing to talk about undergrounding power lines, but it never happened here. I guess new modern subdivisions get underground power, but if you've got old-fashioned tarred wood power poles in your neighborhood already, that's what you've got for the foreseeable future. And power outages in high winds.

On another front, I was bitterly displeased to discover I had the horrible cough coming back Thursday so I went to the doctor on Friday morning and got a review of reactive airway -- which is apparently what they're calling my used-to-be idiopathic asthma now -- and doubled prescriptions on my inhalers. Also, it's not an "emergency" inhaler to be used only when I think something terrible is about to happen, but a "short-acting" inhaler I should be using pre-emptively whenever I'm not pleased with the feel of my breathing.

And -- it's working. mainly. I don't see how an inhaler is going to last me a month like this, but I feel like I'm walking around in a redwood forest -- I mean, my airways feel delicious. I still get the cough now and then, but the spooky icky "how can I possibly be getting enough oxygen when I feel like this?" thing is gone.

Unfortunately, it's way too wet to test my stamina in Lost Camp, but we're going to the Hakone Gardens in Saratoga tomorrow, always assuming that Highway 17 is open (or 9, which is a more wretched road but for somereason doesn't seem to slide as much).

pictures from today )
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Perfect winter weather. There's a soft drizzle out there -- last night I think it actually rained a bit -- the sky is bright bright grey, there are dew drops the size of small marbles on the branches of the almond trees, the grass is green and sopping wet. The wet has warmed up the air a bit, so that it's cool enough to wear sweaters and scarves but you honestly wouldn't be too miserable in shorts and sandals and t-shirts (there are people around here, my brother in law being one of them, who will never wear long pants nno matter what day of the year it is: he just wears warmer jackets and longer socks -- with shoes, not sandals -- when the weather gets cold). I regret having lost my gloves, but only just.

I'm finally getting well, by which I mean I don't have uncontrollable coughing fits lasting all evening any more. The wet weather actually makes it easier to breathe. It's only this quality of wet weather that does it, though. Hot humidity makes things worse. I was about to say that wetter weather makes things worse too but we haven't had any wetter than this this season and when I think back to former years I can't honestly say that I've had any breathing issues I could attribute to the weather. But this, this stuff is lovely to breathe -- almost like the whole world is a redwood forest (my easiest place to breathe, fortunately for me, since the redwood forest is seriously walking distance from my house if I felt like it).

What else? I dreamed that the belly-laugh baby's mother had hired me to fly him to Iceland and Australia to meet with child development experts who wanted to observe him because he was a perfect example of something about child development (well, he is), only halfway through the trip I lost our plane tickets and while I was rummaging through a horrible mess of papers I had in a black leather bag we missed our flight and I was going to have to buy new tickets. I was trying to negotiate a discount price because we had used most of the tickets already but I wasn't having much success. I told his mother about the dream and she said "Maybe next time you'll dream about New Zealand and Greenland," which seems as appropriate a response as any.

We went to the farmer's market today but they were closing up early and not everybody was there. We failed to get oranges or tangerines or cabbage. We succeeded in getting orange and white cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, and cucumbers. Also we saw the Bulb Baron, but didn't buy any narcissus this time. I think next time we're down that way -- probably to go to the Aquarium if we can get discount tickets -- we'll take a detour to Carmel Valley and pick some narcissus. $5 for thirty stems, in the field, and you choose what you want! Cool, or what?

I am now officially addicted to Korean television dramas. I am beginning to get the tropes and stereotypes. The contellation of characters almost always includes a spunky, naive, smart, brave and altruistic girl: a spoiled, rich, selfish, awkward boy who learns to be caring and protective because of her example: and a kindly, handsome doctor, who is often a secondary love interest for the girl. But she ends up with the immature jerk, as he matures: the doctor is either married to someone else and thus not ever actually interested in the girl except as a younger-sister kind of friend, or there is a sophisticated young woman who is in love with the doctor and patiently waits for him to realize he can't have the spunky naive girl because she has already fallen in love with the immature boy. There are comedic relief characters -- almost always some female character is forthright about sex in a way that embarrasses some combination of protagonist and second-tier characters, sometimes an older couple who are courting in some bantery way, sometimes a really stupid boy who becomes connected with the sexually silly girl.

However, I have never seen a whole Korean drama front to back because even addicted, I can't pay enough attention to realize when it's time to get my fix!

I gather that it is very, very cold in Prague right now.
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It rained yesterday, but the rain is gone today, I think.

On the subject of other things we have been waiting for, there are big waves at Mavericks. This is on the heels of the news that big waves down by Monterey killed one of the first surfers to do Mavericks. I don't know anything about the man but what they wrote in the article. What you need to realize is that this is not ordinary surfing where you paddle out on the bay and wait for a decent wave and ride it some hundreds of feet to the shore (or to a place in the water where you can stop short of the rocks, in some corners of Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point). These waves are bigger than some city buildings and start way offshore, and the surfers get towed out by jetski or helicopter to the waves as they form. It's extreme -- aren't you glad that advertisers have stopped using that word so much and I'm allowed to use it again? -- and there may be something decadent about it.

There are other things to say about a struggling plan to use some extra but inadequate transportation money -- how much will go to widening Highway One? How much to improving roads and streets? how much to public transportation -- and how much of that to improving the existing bus system and how much to a proposed rail system? But I don't have time to do the research and write it up.

All the persimmon trees have lost their leaves. This leaves the trees standing with their lovely bare raw-umber branches and the scarlet fruit hanging like ornaments. I wish I liked to eat them, because the trees are small enough for a yard like mine and they are so beautiful.
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There was this slight whiff of old cabbage in the room where the computer lives. For days at a time I live on cabbage-and-stuff, and I'm a clumsy slob, so I figured I must have spilled something. I kind of desultorily looked for it. The smell got stronger and less like cabbage.

Something I didn't realize was connected until later: the cat kept taking up a station in the middle of that room -- which is midway between his dish and out bed, so we can be excused for thinking it was just more cat nonsense -- and staring at us, and yelling. Not yowling. Meowing loudly. The dog did nothing unusual.

Three days of this and I'm finally digging around under the computer desk with a broom. To be fair, the room is dark and under there is darker, and the floor is only a bit darker than the rat that I found right under the desk about two hands length from where my foot would rest if it reached the floor (yes, I'm that short).

It's cleaned up now but boy, am I embarrassed. About as embarrassed as I was last night when my friend's son, passing through on a visit, saw my house at its nadir again.

On another front, and one that indicates nothing inferior about me but my luck, the alienated little girl at the Long's "mailing center" who kept muttering how much she hated her job screwed up my very expensive onternational express mail delivery of December rent money to my son. She left off the customs declaration form -- maybe I should have known about it, but I didn't, as I have never sent an internatinal express mail letter before, though we have sent two international priority mail boxes. We've only lost exactly the time that I paid for. If I have to pay the postage all over again I'll be ballistic. Either way I'm going to demand my money back, something I never do. Also? I will never using their mailing center again. It costs more and you might as well wait for the post office to be open, or fight the traffic, or walk the extra blocks. This time I thought I was in a hurry, and I couldn't get any closer to the post office than the Long's parking lot because of the holiday parade. Santa Cruz does a big thing for every winter holiday you can name. This is a summer resort town, among other things, and so anything that can get tourists and shoppers into town is embraced fervently.

grumph

Nov. 10th, 2007 11:06 am
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I haven't heard from Frank in a week, and I need to because I need to know whether to initiate refund proceedings on the Czech textbook.

And they've been spraying us at night. Whee! I'm horny for light brown apple moths! Hey, baby, are you a light brown apple moth? Let's go see, huh? Maybe we can lay us some light brown apple moth eggs.

And I have no energy at all.
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So the police rioted on campus yesterday. People were sitting in trees and marching around with drums, so the police busted out the pepper spray and the batons. Films all over: links behind the cut, at the bottom, in case you want to scroll down and skip the neepery.

Read more... )
The University here is in a period of great expansion. Largely this is due to its shining-star status in the cutting-edge sciences: environmental studies, genetics, astronomy, etc. But it's also a response to the fact that if you have a growing population, and a demand to educate that population, you need more and/or bigger schools to do it. So there are two solid reasons to expand the campus, as much as it grieves me to see the forest and meadow impacted.

However. The University has been stupid about planning and about mitigating its impact on quite sensitive habitats and its impact on the community (about which more in a minute). Lots of people are quite angry at the University's stance that it has to be able to do whatever it thinks of without meaningful involvement from those the Regents consider outsiders. The City and County are especially angry because the University plans its expansions without working with them on water, traffic, housing, and other infrastructure issues. The University maintains on the housing front that UCSC provides more campus-sponsored housing, relative to the campus population, than most colleges. The obvious answer to that is: don't compare us to just any other colleges: compare us to other communities where the college accounts for a similar proportion of the population, and where the housing situation was already dire five years into the existence of the college.

It's not simple. None of it's simple. The University decided it would deal with its housing crunch, and some of its other problems, by buying buildings and by building in town. This should be a good solution, yes? Except that the University doesn't pay property tax, and most importantly, doesn't pay hotel tax (10%!!!), so the city suffers noticeably when a giant, important hotel is taken out of the pool. So it's a good thing and a bad thing. But the City didn't get to take part in the planning for that: it was presented as a fait accompli. If the City had been part of that planning, they may have been able to suggest something the University could do to help out.

Don't fail to understand that on the whole the University has been a great benefit to the town, the county, and the region in its forty-two years of existence. The town had outrageous unemployment when the University was invited to build here -- the fishing industry had more or less died when the sardines crashed, the tourist industry was flagging, agriculture is seasonal, logging was fading, and the writing was on the wall for canning and freezing. Jobs at the University are better paid than other local jobs. More of them are unionized, too. The University provides eager young student teachers, crusading young environmentalists -- we have really clean beaches and waterways! -- public servants, concerned parents, active citizens -- money! Students are not as flush as established white-collar workers, but there's a higher proportion of students with money than in the general population of very young adults. And they spend their money, which is good for the local economy.

But. The University also needs a lot of water, sewer, fire and police support (even without police riots -- just the addition of that many people, most of them in their early, impulsive years, though students are generally less impulsive than non-students -- think about it, how did they get to the University?). Especially water. And Santa Cruz County does not import water and until the mid-close future does not use desalination: the rain that falls between November and April is all there is (if you pump out groundwater as your main water supply, you will go into deficit sooner rather than later, as some Southwestern cities are learning). And the University refuses to allow the City -- whose water they use -- any authority over how much water they use. So the City's pissed because they can't control water use in this one huge, expanding sector of their service area.

Meanwhile, students come to UCSC -- if they know what they're doing, and apparently some of them lately don't because they are dismayed when they get here -- because it is situated in a redwood forest. So when the University takes out chunks of forest to expand, it pisses off the students, or at least some of them. So they sit in trees, or in the past, chain themselves to trees. And the University is never cool about it. They always bring out the cops with their tear gas and pepper spray and batons, and they always rough up the students. I don't get this. The University knows from experience that they can wait out the students and do whatever they want in the summer -- which is a much better building time than winter anyway, since it doesn't rain! So why do they always choreograph these situations where they end up roughing up the students?

I don't know about this expansion thing, myself. It seems stupid to situate a campus in the middle of a redwood forest and proclaim mightily to the world about how you have small classes and an intimate college system and then cut down the forest and expand all the classes and obliterate the narrative evaluation system. On the other hand, these sciences are expanding, they need modern facilities, and the population of University goers has to expand if the population of the State is going to expand (and that's a story in itself) and if we're going to democratize education and if we're going to bring everybody into the century of the fruitbat 21st century and have people able to do the things they'll need to do to save the world.

Of course, California's population would be contracting, not expanding, if it were not for the children of immigrants. And if California's population was not expanding, it would be increasingly composed of old creaky people who need tremendous amounts of care and who could not be producing as much in the way of wealth and services.

I promised links for the demonstration yesterday.

a dumb, short, news article

Student video of the event (here are multiple parts but you have to click around like a crazy person to get them put into order)

I'm including this link to a straight news broadcast video because even though it doesn't work for me, the couple seconds I can see and hear indicate there's something interesting there if you can get it to work right.

The local-ish paper (not locally owned, not locally printed, but its reporters work out of an office that's actually in the county, though not actually close to most of the interesting things that happen here) -- an almost decent article with only a couple of misleading features -- the headline being one of them!

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