Friday, August 31, 2007

Meat is the leading cause of global warming

That is the slogan-ized version of the conclusion of two recent studies on the affect of animal agriculture on global climate. This report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows that "The livestock sector [is] responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, measured in CO2 equivalent," which is more than all forms of transportation combined. And this conclusion is only one of several the UNFAO group draws showing the environmental damage of livestock. This study from geophysicists at the University of Chicago, and published in a journal called Earth Interactions, shows that "the greenhouse gas emissions of various diets vary by as much as the difference between owning an average sedan versus a sport-utility vehicle under typical driving conditions." That is, you could trade your Hummer for a Toyota, but it wouldn't do as much good as going vegetarian.

These studies are driving a campaign by major animal rights groups to link meat eating with global warming, highlighted in this NYT article (from Molly, via email.) I hope the campaign takes off. Past efforts to highlight this link generally get bogged down in jokes about cow farts. People have this immediate sense that if you are worried about cow farts, you must be some sort of moral busybody who wants to regulate everything. Cows are going to fart, how can you stop that? It helps to remember that the number of cows on the planet is not some pre-ordained fact. It is something we are responsible for. And hence, we are responsible for their mess.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

My new summer project

Ben Wolfson causally made a joke about writing a book called Wittgenstein on Successful Management. The idea is too great. If he hasn't started it by this summer, I'm writing it.

Update: A hypertext version of the TLP has been online since 1996 and I didn't know about it? It makes it easy to do what I've always thought you should do--read all the level 1 propositions first, then the level 2, etc.!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Completely Unlikely Solution Y

Note to self: Sometimes, you have a conversation that goes like this:

You: Hey, Person in My Line of Work, how do you deal with Classic Workplace Problem X?
Person in Your Line of Work: Why I just use Completely Unlikely Solution Y, and it solves everything for me, no problem.

Please remember that most people who talk like this are full of shit. They haven't solved the problem effortlessly; they just want to make you think that they can solve this problem, and all sorts of problems like this, effortlessly. If they have actually implemented Completely Unlikely Solution Y, it has given them an incredible headache they are not telling you about. Under no circumstances, should you try to implement Completely Unlikely Solution Y.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Victory over space and time using niceness

I sat down in the college center next to a man carrying several grocery bags full of random stuff, wearing a paper breathing filter mask on his forehead and talking on a cell phone. "I can redo the discharge papers, but they won't give me any more pain meds. What's the fucking point of redoing the paperwork if they won't give me more pain meds. Anyway, I'm going to catch the number 3 bus and go home." We were waiting for the same bus. This was my first experience with the Lorain County Transit system, and I was relieved to know I was waiting in the right place.

The LCT is not very functional. Apparently they are caught in a cycle of declining funding and ridership. The bus we caught was a little shuttle bus with only one other person on it. Later a woman got on who addressed the bus driver by name and said "just drop me off at my house." On the ride, Mr. Filter-Mask complained that none of the voices on the dispatch radio made any sense to him. "People don't say anything anymore. They're just blah blah blah. Driver, do those people make any sense to you?" The driver's reply was patient and polite.

The bus let me off at Transfer Point, a broken-pavement parking lot abutting a pile of broken bricks and a field of weeds. All the buses in the LCT system gather there periodically for people to make their transfers. The bus I was looking for (the 70) wasn't there, and soon the convocation of little shuttle buses broke up and the only people left in the lot were me and a man pushing a shopping cart full of video tapes. I had seen him get off his bus: the driver had let him use the wheelchair lift to get his shopping cart off the bus. One LCT van idled at the far end of the lot. I waited for about fifteen minutes for my bus in the skull baking heat while the man with shopping cart got his videotapes in order and began examining a pile of abandoned shopping carts. (I had to remind myself that I am in no position to look down on people who hoard videotapes.) Eventually I went over to the idling van to reconfirm that it wasn't my bus, and in general see what was up. The driver kindly radioed the 70, who told her he had made his last stop and was going out of service. (That's not what the schedule said he was supposed to do!) The driver then volunteered her cell phone so I could call for a ride, and even gave directions to the transfer point from the highway.

It was all very nice, but I still was defeated in my effort to get home. This morning, on the other hand, I was victorious. I have now successfully traveled between home and office using the bus system and my bicycle! I rode my bike to the Westlake Park and Ride, where the 70 actually arrived when the schedule said it did, took my bike on the bus and went took it to the transfer point. I wanted to get on the 3, but the bus was full, and no one wanted me to take the bike on board. The driver of the 3 said the 51 will get me to LCCC, it will just take longer, plus it has a rack on the front for my bike. I went over to the 51, noting that the buses actually sit in numerical order for their little meet up, and stared at the bike rack at the front. How does this thing work? A man with a large unkempt beard and a plastic bag full of clothing saw my perplexity and showed me how to unfold the rack and lock my bike in.

The 51 gave me an extended tour of the strip malls, residential neighborhoods and one small downtown area of the city of Elyria in Lorain County, and eventually deposited me at my workplace. It took two hours, but victory was mine! I am now at work.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Sentence Length

A short sentence can easily capture the tenor of my life two months ago. To adequately express how things are going now, with the confusion of adapting to a new location (Why does this bus schedule only show the times for the eastbound buses? Do the buses not return? Is a mass of municipal buses building up in east Cleveland like a blood clot, or perhaps an infestation of feral cats, with old ladies giving saucers of milk to the cute, but totally untamed alley buses?) and a new job (my tenure seems to depend on five annual documents [the Course Assessment Record, the Individualized Work Plan, the Continuous Improvement Goals Form, the Annual Professional Activities Summary and the Peer and Self Evaluation Form; the last of these at one point asks "The faculty member is an effective teacher: disagree, agree, or strongly agree", while the second of these asserts "generally, in addition to his or her primary teaching, library or counseling responsibilities, a faculty member will engage in two activities listed under (I) a combination of one activity listed under (I) and two activities listed under (II) or four activities listed under (II)" {as per the Faculty Load and Reassignment Guidelines 4.A}] and it is not clear to me whether I need to actually change anything I do in order to satisfy the requirements of these forms, or whether I simply need to document my current work habits using the appropriate jargon [Is blogging a level II activity? If I blog long enough, can I become a Fourth Level Magic User?]) compounding stress of coping with the ordinary crises of teaching (A student says the audio files for my online lecture are just static, the bookstore can't find the book I ordered, even though it is published by OUP, another textbook went into a new edition while I wasn't looking, so now all my assignments are wonky) and childcare (when we dropped Caroline off at her new classroom, we thought it didn't look very Montessori-ish, and then later we get a call asking if we had signed her up for the Montessori program or the regular program)--given that in good personal writing the structure of the sentence expresses the lifeworld of the speaker (so that, for instance, a life where attending to one task always seems to require attending to another [for instance, bringing vegetarian food to the children's schools requires a note from a pediatrician which in turn requires actually finding a new pediatrician] so that the ordinary day consists of a series of sidetrackings would be best expressed by a sentence with frequent and iterated parentheticals) would require a longer sentence.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hi, I'm Back

When I last posted, I was in Honolulu at an NEH Institute on Chinese history and philosophy. Since that time I have flown to Syracuse, driven to Cleveland, driven back to Canton, New York, then driven to Bethany Delaware, then back to Canton, and then I drove in a big moving truck full of all of my possessions to Bay Village, Ohio, where I now reside in a house which is far to large for our current needs, but which may seem less oversized once Joey and Caroline are teenagers, but which is nevertheless a mere 200 square feet away from being considered an environmentally unfriendly house by the standards of the legislation recently proposed by Rep John Dingell (D-MI) which would revoke the mortgage deduction on McMansions, defined as any house of 3,000 sq. ft. or more--now you might think that this clearly means that I have joined the ruling class of bloated, myopic plutocrats who are so blinded by their own luxury that they are unaware that the world is falling down around them, but let me assure you that occupying this house actually reminds me that the world is falling down around me because the house itself is falling down, with a leak appearing in our first night of occupancy, dangerous levels of radon in the basement (which right now we are mitigating solely by staying out of the basement, although we plan to do something more sophisticated down the line [although I actually can't find anything on the EPA site which indicates that radon accumulates mostly in the basement, or that staying out of the basement does any good or that we aren't all four of us {five counting Edie} smoking the equivalent of several packs a day and not even reaping the benefits of looking cool and getting a little buzz]) electrical outlets that are not up to code because ungrounded circuits still have three pronged outlets--an environmental insult made the worse because I so far have been driving to work at my new school, Lorain County Community College, which is a fine institution, even though it does not subscribe to jstor and I was specifically told that they had a jstor subscription when I toured the campus as a part of my job interview and this assurance helped me to think that by working at a community college I was not dropping out of the world of higher education (the librarian just now told me that jstor was too expensive and only contained advanced materials which were outside of the educational mission of the college, even though I wanted to access jstor specifically to get a journal article which I was going to assign to their students); all of this as you can imagine has kept me more than a little busy, which is why blogging has fallen by the wayside, kept alive only by the tiny ghost embodied as list of articles about Chinese environmental issues which I have been planning to blog, and the admission by a few people I know in the real world that they actually keep up with me via this blog (hi mom), and the general sense that I will know my life has finally settled down once I have enough time to blog, a sense which gave me something to hope for, a heartening image which helped me when in the times when Caroline gets an impetigo infection which grows to a sore three inches in diameter under her left arm and we need to see a doctor the day before we are supposed to move, which is three days after I told my new employer and several other people in the Cleveland area that we would be in town, an image that is finally realized now, after my first day teaching at the new school, which turns out to be a lot like teaching at all the other schools I have taught at, except more students seem to bring their kids to campus, which actually makes me feel quite nice, since I frequently brought my kids to the SLU campus and they just seemed to stand out, although I did see Karl Shoenberg bring his kids to school once; and now that I actually have had time to blog, I feel quite nice, although most of my possessions are still in boxes, my syllabi have an alarming number of days marked TBA, and filling those TBA's will be more difficult now that I don't have access to jstor and the school policies don't allow me to simply hand books to the support staff and have them scan large sections which I can put on my classes' Angel page, and I am teaching five sections with four preps this semester; again, despite all that, I feel quite nice, perhaps because a bit of the traveling around I have done in the last month did involve a trip to the beach, where I got to see pippy, hali, james, ingvild, sequoia, picabia, mom, dad, peyton, erin, katelynne, quinn, flo and cody, and perhaps because the new house really is a lot of fun, and since I am now tenure track, we can make serious improvements to the house, including making it more environmentally friendly, or at least not poisonous and I know that unless I displease the Gods somehow, I will never ever have to move again.