Thursday, May 31, 2007

Breaking Kay-Fabe: an explanation. [OOG]

(May 31, 2007)

Basically all these blog entries are part of a huge online roleplaying game called "World Without Oil." It helped that in real life during the month of game time we were dealing with gasoline prices that are, in real-money, adjusted-for-inflation terms, the most people have ever paid in the United States for gas. There were places in LA County where people paid $4/gallon if they were fool enough to fill up at those stations.

Yes, my husband has multiple myeloma. Yes, he's being treated at the City of Hope in Duarte. No, we don't live there. We still live in Panorama City. Both Watts and Pacoima are still alive and well. No bombs were dropped on Watts, no fires set by revenge-minded police in Pacoima. We did have a police riot at McArthur Park in the Westlake district of the City of Los Angeles (not to be confused with the Ventura County community of Westlake) on May 1. They're still trying to sort that out. It is likely this won't cost Chief Bratton his job. But at least his mentality seems to be more about finding the truth than circling the wagons. At least I hope that's the case.

If you are interested in multiple myeloma, which is being diagnosed more and more, particularly in people exposed to pesticides and/or diesel fuel, you would do well to drop in on the International Myeloma Foundation's website. They are at . The facts are all there, as is information on treatment and information about what you can do to help. The City of Hope is doing wonders every day at its facility: they deserve your support as well. Stop by and see them at . No they don't have sustainable power least, not yet. Someone should step up to the plate and hook them up. If this actually happened in real life, the City of Hope would probably not do so great.

Yes, I took a very pointed political tone in my writings. Yes, I am frustrated by the current state of affairs. We did not elect a Democratic majority to Congress and the Senate to roll over on its collective belly and tuck its tail between its legs. The idea of the bombing of Watts came when I thought "What's it going to take to get people to stop being obsequious to Darth Cheney and his Apprentice, Dubya? Are they going to have to be caught bombing US soil?" So that's why the storyline I put together. If the Republic we have was still working, still effective, still representing its constituents, Cheney and Bush would not have been back for a second term. And even if they were voted back legitimately, (and there is convincing evidence the elections were gamed once again) a truly functional Republic would have impeached and removed the bastards long ago.

I'm a bit of a pessimist with regard to Peak Oil, Global Warming, and the fate of the Nation. We could have done something about this 30 years ago, when Carter was seriously talking about weaning us off the petroleum teat. However, the Iran hostage crisis happened, Carter was not re-elected, and Reagan began 30 years of a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" policy with regard to our dependence on foreign petrochemicals. Global Warming seems to be a runaway train that nobody can stop. We're just going to have to adapt or die: emulate the small mammals who survived the Great Impact, or share the fate the large dinosaurs suffered.

With regard to politics, it might take a full-blown revolution at this point, because our political institutions have either been bought off or co-opted by other means, or in some cases directly sabotaged. I hope not: revolutions are costly, and it is never assured that the Good Guys win. Usually violent revolutions end with the most ruthless and the most savage warlords winning and imposing their will. Look at how France suffered first under Robespierre, then under Napoleon Bonaparte. Who came out the winner in the Russian Revolution? Stalin. I know I've said nice things about Hugo Chavez in other places, and I love the way he makes Dubya mad, but he's turning out to not be so nice. A legitimate leader can survive dissent. It is only the illegitimate ones who have to resort to suppressing freedom of speech and other civil liberties. He lost me at "let's close down all but the state-run media."

Much depends on 2008. I don't like the idea of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I prefer General Wes Clark, Vice President (arguably President) Al Gore, or a ticket with the both of them on it. Either one of them have what it takes to lead us out of the mess we're in and get us back in the good graces of the rest of the world. Hillary is just more of the same old warmed-over DLC slightly-right-of-center pottage that Bill Clinton was feeding us. Don't get me wrong: I miss Bill Clinton. After seven years of George W. Bush, I have nothing but nostalgia for him. Anyway, hopefully the GOP nominee will be weak tea that satisfies neither the base nor the swing voters, because Hillary won't win this on her own merits. The GOP field would have to be so weak the base stays home and the swing voters hold their noses and vote for "anyone but the GOP candidate." So far none of them look like they can satisfy both the base and the swing voters. The ones pandering to the base are frothing lunatics like Huckabee and Brownback. The ones pandering to the swing voters like Giuliani haven't a prayer (heh) of being accepted by the base. And McCain looks more and more lost and unhinged as time goes on. Dubya successfully smeared him as unstable in 2000. McCain nowadays is proving him right.

Anyway, enough of the politics: peak oil, climate change, ecological crises and their economic sequellae are way too big for politics. We will all be affected. At best, we will have to adapt rapidly and successfully. At worst, nothing we can do will stop this, and the rest of the world will wind up joining us Angelinos in our perennial game of "Waiting For The Big One."

No, this will not hit all at once, in the space of 32 weeks of unleashed Hell on Earth. This will hit us gradually and subtlely. My friend Pam, aka Beep, runs a Live Journal community called boiling frog. The community is more about climate change issues than about peak oil but the myth the name comes from is a perfect metaphor for our situation. We're in the pot. The heat is coming on slowly, ever so slowly. We don't notice. By the time it's noticeable, it's too late. However, what really happens when a frog is put in a pot where the water is slowly heated, is eventually the temperature gets uncomfortable and it hops right out. We apparently don't have the same sense that a frog has.

I invite you to read my posts like you would read a novel. Start with the last one first and move up. I might even try to write this in prose eventually. I also invite you to visit and explore the other writers on this project's work. There may even be a PBS special on this sometime in the future. I don't know if there will be one yet, but there is a connection there with the sponsors of the master WWO site. I made it to #7 in the rankings of writers on WWO, and managed to score a winning post with my last in-game post.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A tale of two courts-martial

(Nov. 30, 2007)

The court-martial of Lt. Jeremy Logan, the Watts Bomber, ended today. He will be spending the rest of his life at hard labor in Leavenworth. Which at this point probably means working on a farm run for benefit of the FEMA system. However, and this is the reason he was spared a firing squad: (they still do that) damning evidence was presented which specifically points fingers at high-level officers, and even as far up as the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The inference is clear. This order was at least signed off on by the Commander in Chief. Will we finally see impeachment hearings? Finally? Is complicity in bombing the country you swore to defend finally enough to bring Bush and Cheney into the dock? If not, we're in REAL sad shape.

China and Russia are now rattling sabres at each other where once they were making googly eyes at each other and courting. China wants Russia's oil. Russia wants a pretty penny for it. Considering how hard it is to extract their oil from the ground, they can demand it. China knows it has the numbers. Russia still has a technological edge, although with the Daibei Accords China now has former Taiwanese scientists on their side. How long did the accords between Mao Zedong and Khruschev last? Not long. I think that there's been a mutual hate between the two countries that runs a lot deeper and further back in time than the Cold War between the US and the former USSR. There's little we can do but just watch. China does have Iranian oil to fuel its war machine.

Oh yeah, and what about that other court-martial? I finally found out what became of Especialisto Equis. Someone told me his name was Rigoberto Ruiz De La Madrid, and he was executed by hanging. A street light served as his gibbet. He apparently had filched a phone off of a dead body in Watts and sent the email from the phone. It took them a while but they found out the whole story. His family was in Mazatlan, working the tourist trade for pennies a day. Rigoberto looked to purchase citizenship for his family with his service. Now his family get nothing but a body that was first hanged, then mutilated by an angry mob, and the need to scrape together the money for his burial. I am in awe of his bravery.

What's next? I haven't a clue. It looks like gas at or about $5.50/gallon is reality now. It looks like we need to get off the petroleum teat and do so ASAP. We need to rebuild the railroads, using alternatives like hybrid locomotives and Bio-Diesel. We don't necessarily need Shinkansen or TGV but just plain old locomotive power will be fine. The plans to electrify the Alameda Corridor are being put into action, so that's a start.

Farmers are coming back to the Sepulveda Dam Basin, and community gardens are springing up all over the place. Here in the San Gabriel Valley, park land and vacant land are being considered for conversion to agricultural use. However, the weather pundits are predicting a drier-than-normal Winter. Eventually irrigation will come up at loggerheads against human water needs. And eventually the shaky compacts that keep water flowing from areas outside Los Angeles will fall apart, and Los Angeles will have to deal with the consequences of development of arid land for human habitation and agriculture.

Let me leave you with some lyrics from The Police, from a song that's been running through my head all these past months.

Fifty million years ago
You walked upon the planet so,
Lord of all that you could see
Just a little bit like me

Walking in your footsteps

Hey mr. dinosaur
You really couldnt ask for more
You were gods favourite creature
But you didnt have a future

Walking in your footsteps

Hey mighty brontosaurus
Dont you have a lesson for us
You thought your rule would always last
There were no lessons in your past
You were built three stories high
They say you would not hurt a fly
If we explode the atom bomb
Would they say that we were dumb?

Walking in your footsteps

Fifty million years ago
They walked upon the planet so
They live in a museum
Its the only place youll see um.

This is Ms. Geek, signing off, from beautiful downtown Duarte, California. Hope everyone gets through the Winter ok. Peace, out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maybe not "The Road Warrior"...but...

(November 21, 2007)

OK, I have finally settled down enough to write.

The actual trip from Panorama City to Duarte was a month ago. It's taken me this long to get over it. Basically Pacoima does not exist anymore. No, nobody dropped a bomb on just got burnt down. There are conflicting stories about how the firestorms happened. Most locals believe it was retaliation for an ambush killing of two police officers at Glenoaks and Van Nuys. And the Fire Department were basically prevented from responding because, depending on who you talk to, the firefighters were warned not to go near the homes by cops, or the firefighters didn't want to go in because they heard shooting in the area where the fires were breaking out.

Eventually, according to locals, the fires just burned themselves out. By the time we were on our way home all you could see was burnt out buildings. And stray dogs. It made me think about the Mad Max movies. We had to hustle through, but what I saw will stay with me for a long, long time. How many people died there, in the flames? How many people went unrescued? How many families lost what little they had?

If the LAPD started this, or prevented the LAFD from responding, or both, they will have a lot to answer for.

Richie's remission is holding. He's currently mulling a bone marrow transplant, although the risk of complications that couldn't be easily addressed with the current state of the facilities at City of Hope might prove to be the deal-breaker. The wear is starting to show here, as the generators have been kicking in more and more, particularly during the night when solar energy can't be generated. They installed a huge tank for Bio-Diesel as part of the sustainability project.

The tents are gone now, for the most part. The dorm building is open, and so are the houses and apartment buildings that have been bought up. Like I said last post, this is a duplex. The other people who live here are a family with kids -- two boys. I've been working on padded stunt lightsabers (nothing lights up, and the blade is padded with pool noodle foam) as a gift for the boys. The Tandy out here was closing down so I bought some leather so I can set them up with belts to go with them. Since I haven't been able to track down clips and wheels that would hold them (the cell phone type are often too flimsy) I'm doing these sabres Original Trilogy style. (D-Rings and hooks) They love Star Wars, I'm a hopeless SW fangirl.

It seems that smaller school districts like those in Duarte, Arcadia, Bradbury, Monrovia, Temple City and Pasadena have it together better than hulking, overburdened LA Unified. Kids are actually going to school and it's not just glorified day care. LA Unified is so overstressed that basically it's warehousing the students. Ever since the crisis started there has been a moratorium on enforcing the ill-named "No Child Left Behind" nationally. While the "drill and kill" approach is really bad, and we are likely to see some really horrible consequences in college readiness when that generation comes of age, I worry that the generation which is just now starting school is going to have it much, much worse. Like widespread pre-literacy.

Education is going to be essential going forward, if we don't want to go back to the late 1800s. We can survive this two ways: with high or low technology. Considering everything, I don't think I want to go back to the Wild West. But that's where we are headed if we don't educate the children. Ever looked at actuarial tables from that period? They aren't pretty.

There's going to be a huge turkey dinner held for the entire community. I'm looking forward to it. Someone told me once about what heaven and hell looked like. In hell, people had these huge spoons that were too long to eat from. They were seated at a table laden with all kinds of luscious food, and everyone was starving. In heaven, the people figured out what to do with the long spoons. They were just perfect for feeding your neighbor.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Back in Duarte for good.

(Oct. 12, 2007)

Just a quick note to let you all know that we are back in Duarte, this time for good.

The journey to Duarte from Panorama City was interesting as in "may you live in interesting times."

Let me decompress for a little bit longer and I will give you all the story. I just wanted to resurface before people start wondering if there was something going on. We are living out of boxes in a duplex in Duarte, not in a FEMA relocation camp or something more sinister.

Ms. Geek

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

OK, this about wraps it up for the immigration problem...

(October 9, 2007)

Finally, I get confirmation of something I've been observing. Someone in San Diego is also observing that Mexican emigres are repatriating themselves. I'm not saying this is an entirely voluntary exodus: I'm sure that there's been sweeps, possibly directed by Homeland Security/FEMA.

However, I think that it has a lot to do with a desire to reconnect to family. Family means a great deal to Latinos in general and Mexicanos in particular. And it's hard to keep in touch with people outside the US unless you have Internet connectivity, and only 19.1% of Latinos in the US use the Internet. More Mexican nationals use the Internet than do Latinos in the US. So the way to reconnect, when mail and telephone is spotty, is to physically come home.

I first got the sense of this when our apartment manager was so quick to negotiate our rent down. She and her family are gone now, on their way back to El Salvador. Our ex-manager is back managing the building. She's a native Angeleno, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, but all her family ties are here in the States. We now have 2/3rds of the building vacant. The owners sent a personal representative to try to persuade us to stay. We can't. We have to go back to Duarte. Richie's officially in remission, but the doc wants to keep him close by and monitor him regularly. And he can't do it if we stay in Paranoia City.

This 'hood has been good to me. I'm going to miss it. Sitting in the Goldilocks bakery, munching on mocha sponge cake as if the world hadn't changed, talking about the remarkably good mangoes coming in from Mexico seemingly unaffected by the crisis with the manager of the supermarket next door made me think of just how comfortable it was. However, we are only a few blocks away from an area the LAPD has marked as being a "local Red Zone"...Pacoima. And we have to go through Pacoima to get back to our new home. Duarte, on the other hand, is in one of the safest parts of Los Angeles County, according to the LA Sheriff's Department. No Red Zones for miles.

The die is cast. Duarte or bust.

I may be incommunicado for a while after this. Don't assume the worst. Watch my friend happycube's Live Journal. I will be keeping in close contact with him and if something really gnarly is going down he will let you know.

Think good thoughts. I'm still not a praying person. But think good thoughts, please.

Eating good in the neighborhood...

(October 8th, 2007)

...and I don't mean freaking Applebee's either.

Our local indie grocery stores, El Super and Island Pacific, are bringing in some pretty decent produce for reasonable prices. Even Food 4 Less, owned by the Kroger's juggernaut, is in fairly good shape now.

California is lucky in that back in the day we were the breadbasket for the entire US. Now we are the breadbasket for ourselves and for the Pacific Coastal states. It's not cost-effective to do the kind of coast-to-coast transportation California agriculture used to do, so now it all flows along the backbone rail routes linking the Pacific states.

I hung out with the manager of Island Pacific at the nearby Goldilocks Bakery. I plied him with strong Filipino coffee and pastry, and he let me know how the new market conditions work.

"Agricultural trade runs on barter now. Someone in Washington State has apples, and they want onions from Bakersfield. OK, we trade you your apples for our onions. Or table grapes for cheese. Or whatever. It's only when it gets Downtown when actual money changes hands. It might get sticky next year with the current situation continuing, the cost of oil, water, etcetera. Although a big bonus to all this is that more people are farming organically or semi-organically. Connections are essential: a lot of times we have to act on word of mouth."

So this is where things are at: produce is easy to get on this coast. Next year's crops are more organic than ever. I haven't mentioned meat: meat is still hard to find, as is fish and eggs and fowl. We've been living a lot on vegetable protein: beans and brown rice, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, and somehow or another I will have to get used to eating Tofu.

However, turkey time is drawing near, and turkeys are coming into the stores at actually fairly reasonable prices. There are several turkey processors located in Sun Valley, one town over from us, and so they are happy to sell to locals cheap. You see taco trucks and tamale carts on the streets again, and tacos de pavo and tamales de pavo are available everywhere. However, you might be taking your life in your hands if you eat street tamales, so best to get them from one of the restaurants that are still up and running.

Gobble, gobble, gobble. Gooble gobble we accept you, one of us, one of us.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Park your WWO photos here.

(Sept. 21, 2007)

I'm a member of Ning.Com, and I just put up a site for folks to add their WWO Photos and video.

So much nicer than a lot of the other photo or video sites. Check it out.