After a long break, I can begin posting pictures of my ceramics again. I went to Ukiah last weekend and fired my glaze kiln twice. It is so good to be back making pots again. My broken arm was a serious situation, but it didn't end my creative life. And now I can get on with the throwing and experiments that I was planning last May.
Here are some pictures from my first firing. First there's the loaded kiln, ready to light. Then the finished load when I opened it the next day. Finally there's a picture of all the pots from the kiln unloaded and displayed on my kitchen table. Click on any picture to see a larger version.
It's funny. I like the dark temmoku glaze but it's not my favorite. But last year many, many people looking at my pots really loved the temmoku pieces. So this firing was mostly with that glaze. Gonna give the people what they want.
Forget a Prius or the mundane hybrid Civic. There are some designer electric cars out there that are really far-out. This is real fantasyland stuff. But there are ideas here that are worth thinking about. Why not have micro-cars for tooling around a city? Can these expensive rich folks toys be simplified for regular people? And why not have a really cool looking car to drive back and forth to Safeway?
While staying in Santa Barbara recently, our hotel had a very upscale mag called Broughton Quarterly and in that there was an article about the latest in electric cars.
(The link is to the index for the issue, click on Electric Vehicles under the Contents tab pulldown menu)
My favorite, since it already exists, at least in a trial form, is the Tango. This is a one person commuter that’s the size of most motorcycles. One idea I like is that they build it around a protective cage similar to those used in race cars. It claims to hold two people, one behind the other. Just looking at it I’d have to try that out to believe it. But it can certainly carry one person and a bunch of stuff to and from work or shopping.
The version they’re working on first is the super tricked out $100,000 version. But they also have $40,000 and $20,000 versions in the works as well. The range varies depending on the batteries but it’ll do fine for around town trips.
Then there’s the Twike, a Swiss electric/human powered tricycle/car that requires a lot of slashes to describe. It can range up to 80 miles at 53 mph on one charge. And it allows the passengers to contribute some muscle power to the equation through a pedal arrangement inside the car. Two people can sit side by side. It looks a little like too much work to me in the way it’s set up. I don't picture myself pedaling a car up the mountain to my house. But I like the creativity in it’s design. Here's an article about it.
The Zooop is a very fashionably weird French item by designers Maison de Courreges. Who knows if something like this will ever see the showroom floor. But there’s an annual new-auto rally in Paris every year where it was the wildest thing on the road. Cars have looked the same for ages. It’s time for new ideas.
Finally, if you’ve got a spare $100,000 lying around, there’s the Tesla. This goes 0 to 60 in 4 seconds with top speed over 130 mph. And it can travel 250 miles between charges putting it far beyond the commuter distances of other electrics. This is a real rich-guy’s toy.
First and foremost, I think it’s fantastic that the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth took home the Oscar for best documentary of the year. It’s well put together and it presents important scientific ideas in a reasonably coherent and understandable way. Gore is doing some very good and important work in our world today to raise our awareness about the problem of global warming.
I wanted to start out with that paragraph because there’s been an attack on Gore since the Oscars that I want to address next. But I didn’t want to give the right what it wants – that the main story be answering their stupid claims about Al Gore’s energy uses. So I deliberately led off with the important news – that the Oscars has recognized what a significant issue human caused climate change is for everyone living on our small planet.
Now for the muck. Since the Oscars, and its hard to believe all this has happened in just the last 5 days, we’ve been privy to yet another example of the loudness of the blaring right wing noise machine. Right after Oscar night, an unknown right-wing group put out a news release claiming that Gore’s energy use at his home in Tennessee is much higher than that of the average American household. This unsubstantiated claim was picked up by all the usual conservative talkers – Rush, Fox News, etc. It bounced around so much that a Google search on Al Gore two days after the Oscars picked up more links to this story than to the Oscar win itself. And I’m sure that was exactly the result that the right was looking for.
There have been many responses in the liberal blogs to this stupid claim. I want to add my voice to that chorus. It’s important when the right puts out these stupid bits of “news” that they’re exposed for what they are – attempts to manipulate the media cycles with bogus tales.
The best response I’ve read to this comes from an article by David Roberts which appeared in the Huffington Post on February 28. There’s no way I can improve on the points Mr. Roberts laid out to explain why this attack on Al Gore is so wrong. I’ll simply quote them here. Roberts wrote:
Again, congratulations to Al Gore. He’s shown us again and again what a loss it’s been for our country and the world that he hasn’t been our president for the past six years.
There are hopeful signs for Oakland’s problem with violence. A new program has begun which will bring volunteers to the roughest areas of the city to work with people on the street to reduce the violence there. The program is supported by state Senator Don Perata and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. And the training for the volunteers will be done at Youth Uprising, the center we’ve been supporting here at Musingworld.
According to an Oakland Tribune article
The plan is to pull people from neighborhoods in Oakland and Richmond . . . give them some training in conflict resolution and make use of their real-life experiences to help each other on a common-ground level. These team members will then recruit additional volunteers.
And from an SF Chronicle story
The peacemakeers will have support from substance-abuse counselors, social workers and others. State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata raised $300,000 in private funding to support the program.
I’m glad to see some positive steps being taken in Oakland to deal with the violence that’s so serious in some of our neighborhoods. And I’m glad that our new mayor, Ron Dellums, is working on this project. I always appreciated his efforts in Washington when he was my congressman. Maybe he can bring that same energy and wisdom to his new local gig.
Finally, I continue to be impressed by Olis Simmons and the crew at Youth Uprising. They are really working hard to turn that area of the city around. This weekend we’re hosting a Musing house party to introduce a few friends and neighbors to the work of the YU center. If more people in our city get involved, we can make Oakland an even better place to live than it already is.
While we were in Santa Barbara last week for a short visit with la madre and el padrastro de Madam Musing, the week long bicycle tour of California rolled through town. I've never seen anything like it. I've watched the Tour de France many times on TV but this was the first time I had an opportunity to see such a thing up close and personal.
Unfortunately, we had to get to the train station too early to see the actual race. But the starting line for stage six was just a mile from our hotel. So after breakfast last Saturday, we strolled down to watch the preparations. It was a real rolling circus. Cars everywhere loaded down with bicycles and extra wheels. Vans full of very lean men with 0% body fat. And everywhere the cyclists of Santa Barbara had turned out to welcome the pros. There was even someone dressed up as a giant bird slowly cycling along and cawing as he went. The energy was infectious. I'll definitely have to check this thing out next year. This time it was just serendipity that the race rolled through while we were there. But next time we can plan to watch it - maybe when it starts out in San Francisco.
The photo is from http://www.discoveradventures.com/.
Madam Musing and I just got back from a quick trip to Santa Barbara. And to make this trip more adventurous, we decided to take the Coast Starlight from Oakland. Amtrak runs this train daily, starting from Seattle and going down to Los Angeles.
First impression - friends warned me that riding a long trip on Amtrak requires massive amounts of patience. I thought I was ready. I wasn't. It wasn't just that it was slow. It was also that the Amtrak people were so indifferent and unapologetic about it. They seemed to treat it as a feature rather than a bug (in geek speak). On our trip home, when we were almost to Salinas, I asked someone how we were doing. He said "Great, we're right on time." The train proceeded to pull into Salinas 40 minutes late.
All the train people were comics. They were so chipper, I thought they'd just come from jobs at Disneyland. I love to see people enjoy their work, but this was a bit over the top. I could have taken the unending good-humor if I'd felt better about the train ride myself. But it mainly left me very, very tired and cranky.
The meal service had some interesting features, too. Riding down, there was no problem for us to get a table to ourselves. But coming home, with a new diner crew, it was required that you sit with other folks. Ok, we decided to try it. But the people we had lunch with were pretty strange and unfriendly and we wanted to eat dinner by ourselves. "Not possible" said the diner people, even though there were tons of empty tables. They left some tables empty for the entire meal while crowding the customers into just a few booths. All I can think is that they didn't want to have to clean up more tables than absolutely necessary.
There was the same difference from ride to ride in the amount of information we got about our progress. Some conductors told us about every unexpected stop, why we were making it and how it affected when we'd reach the next station. But others were silent about such things and we were left to our own devices to consider when we'd reach home.
I must say that the trip wasn't all bad news. There were some wonderful things as well. The view from the train during the day was fantastic. This was especially true on the return trip when we watched miles of California coastline roll by. And being able to move around and chat with people and have a drink or two while someone else was driving was a great pleasure.
One last disturbing story came from a fellow passenger who'd taken the Starlight down to LA the day before we left for Santa Barbara. The train was even more hours late than ours and finally it just broke down completely. Amtrak unloaded everybody from the train, put them on buses, and finished the trip that way. We'd been considering that it might be a beautiful trip to take the train out to Denver to visit friends there. I understand the train travels through some beautiful canyons in Colorado. But it would be terrible to sign up for a beautiful train trip and end up on a bus riding the interstate to your destination. All I'd be thinking would be "Why am I not on a plane?"
There was a very good article in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle titled:
What catches you about this article is the series of maps showing the effect of a one meter rise in sea level to the shoreline around San Francisco Bay. It's particularly significant in the south bay toward San Jose. Huge, low-lying areas down there would get flooded.
Further up the bay, the effect is less. But there are still critical areas which will be significantly impacted. The Oakland and San Francisco airports would be largely underwater. So would some low areas near the mouth of the Petaluma River around Novato. The article makes the point that much preparation has been done in the bay area to deal with earthquakes. But little thought has gone into future rises in bay levels.
The maps were prepared for the Chronicle by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission. This organization was created in the 60's to manage and plan the future development and preservation of the entire bay. This was a reaction to the steady landfilling that was turning the San Francisco Bay into the San Francisco River.
The BCDC's website has a page on Climate Change. They say that historically, the bay has risen 7 inches in the past 150 years. They say further:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the 2006 California Climate Action Team Report project that mean sea level will rise between 10 and 90 cm (12 and 36 inches) by the year 2100.
That's followed with links to the maps printed in the Chronicle article. The versions on the BCDC website are better because they show the flooded areas in blue, which makes them easier to see. The most dramatic, at least for us travelers, are the maps of the airports. Check out what will happen to the San Francisco and Oakland airports with a 1 meter sea level rise.
It's not a surprise that little preparation has been done concerning rising seas due to global climate change. Specific forecasts for this have been slow in coming and they're still very uncertain. But it's encouraging to see the beginning of an awareness that climate change will have serious consequences for the San Francisco Bay Area.
I love Al Franken. I loved his radio show and I think he'd make a fantastic senator. Here's a good introduction to his run for the Senate in Minnesota. Found this link on Pharyngula's great site. I think Franken's got a lot going for him. He's smart, I think he's very honest, he's articulate, and I think he's got his head screwed on straight. That's an important point given the weirdness of politics today. Check out the video.
I had dinner last night in Berkeley with a good friend. She'd been in the Peace Corps in Africa a few years ago. She told us she was glad to see the very positive article about Niger on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. I hadn't had a chance to read the Times yet, but when I got home I made sure to check it out. And it is indeed as hopeful as my friend said. You can find it here (registration required).
The article tells of the steady improvement in the planting and growing of trees in this African country. Things were pretty bad before they started getting better. As author Lydia Polgreen writes:
Severe drought in the 1970s and ’80s, coupled with a population explosion and destructive farming and livestock practices, was denuding vast swaths of land.
She goes on to write that a change in how farmers view and use trees, and a change in how government rules state who owns the profit from the trees, has led to farmers seeing that a tree is worth more to them alive than cut up as firewood. They can sell limbs rather than the whole tree, harvest the seeds for fodder, sell the leaves or use them for mulch, eat the fruit. In addition, the trees help hold the groundwater, improving farming conditions. This isn't just a small change. The article says that millions of new trees are growing in Niger.
For many years just about the only articles we'd read about Africa brought us negative news. War and famine and disease have been the stories most reported in our newspapers. That's why it's great to see this article telling us an African success story. Please go check it out at the New York Times website.