Taking stock

I’ve not often done an end/beginning of the year look at the state of my life, but as I was sitting at the laundromat this morning it seemed like a good way to use some of the time. I’ve continued to muse over the course of the day. So here are some reflections on the ups and downs of my life over the past year, a little context, and some hopes for 2011.

2010 was a difficult year

  • It feels like it will be a laundry list of whining when I start off with “I’m dissatisfied with my job,” but, well, I am. I’ve been working on both attitude and actual job content for the last few months, but on balance it ends up in the negative column. Here’s hoping for a better 2011!
  • In mid‐March the roof blew off my side of the three‐floor apartment building I live in (on the third floor), sending lots and lots and lots of water pouring down my walls and through my kitchen. It was months before it was fixed. I do have very nice new walls and floor in the kitchen now, but it was nothing short of hellish.
  • One of my cats had a seizure during the whole kitchen chaos. I felt really helpless. The vet didn’t find anything, and she has seemed fine since.
  • Speaking of not finding anything: I had my routine half‐century colonoscopy, and it was clean (as was an upper GI endoscopy).
  • I lost ten pounds (on purpose). Here’s to hoping I can continue the trend in 2011!
  • I took Wednesdays off work during August. What a great decision!
  • I spent less than in 2009. Never a bad thing.
  • Three really excellent trips: I had lovely, lovely visits with old friends in Minneapolis before and after working at the UUA’s annual General Assembly; I went to my friends Margaret and Alice’s home in Vermont for a longish weekend; and I went to California to see my family.

Changes in Second Life

In the spring I sold my last remaining region in Second Life. I no longer wanted to be a landlord, and the full cost of a sim was way out of line with my current enjoyment of Second Life. On the other hand, the year ended in absolute delight and pleasure in a gift from Wynx Whiplash for the 12th day of Wootmas in Raglanshire: a tiny reindeer. (A gift to anyone, not a gift just to me. All the more wonderful and generous for that.)

Some context

My life is really pretty cushy when contrasted with those in Haiti and Chile dealing with earthquakes and those in Pakistan dealing with floods. Not to mention the horrific environmental devastation caused by British Petroleum (and our collective addiction to oil) in the Gulf of Mexico.

Along with most everyone else, I wept and wept when the epidemic of GLBT teen suicides came to our attention. And I weep a different kind of tears when I see the “It Gets Better” videos created by people from all walks of life, right from GLBT teens to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As one of my favorite bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, often ends his posts, “Know hope.”

It didn’t seem possible the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was actually going to be repealed. I could hardly believe when it was. I’ve never wanted to serve in the military, and I believe violence is evil even when it is the least bad option that we can see. But it’s hard to express the depth to which the repeal of DADT (and the eventual end of the policy) affects my sense of being an actual, equal citizen of the United States. It is a constant assault to have something as personal as one’s sexuality constantly paraded through the news as a political and cultural football. What a relief to have taken one more step to putting that discussion to bed.

Looking ahead

I have a few things I’d like to do in 2011.

  • Go outside every day. (The days I work at home, and sometimes on weekends, I may spend the whole day inside.)
  • Sit still every day for ten minutes. Not just sitting and reading, or sitting at the computer, or sitting and listening to music. Just sitting. A long overdue response to my ongoing spiritual drought.
  • Take lunch to work at least once a week. Yes, that will be a change, sad to say.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Blind to their (our) addiction

Andrew Sullivan linked to an article by Bradford Plumer on The New Republic, “There’s More to Oil Use than Massive SUVs.” He, in turn, bases part of his essay on research published on Grist in “How we can end our addiction to oil,” by Craig Severance.

Plumer seems to be saying, “sure, we need to cut back on how much oil we use when we drive, but gee, look at all these other non‐essential things we’re using oil for.”

That’s true of course, as far as it goes: We need to be looking at all the ways we have built our lives around the use of petroleum products. But give me a fucking break. 47% of U.S. oil use is for passenger travel. 47%. If everyone in the U.S. drove and flew one‐half as much, starting tomorrow, our dependence on oil would be reduced by a quarter. But no. That, according to Plumer, “is probably the trickiest item to fix and needs to be attacked from a whole bunch of different angles.” (He makes a point of saying that passenger travel “only” accounts for 47% of our oil use.

Plumer: “There’s a lot of other oil use out there that may be easier to tackle in the short run. About eight million buildings, mostly in the Northeast, use oil for heating, and this accounts for 15 percent of the country’s crude consumption. Renovating these buildings so that they can get their heat from natural gas or electricity would be a worthy endeavor.” Oh yeah, that’s lots easier than not driving as much tomorrow.

Both of them say we shouldn’t be using oil to produce electricity. Right on! How much of our oil use goes to making electricity? 1%. Yep, we better get right on that if we want to get off our oil addiction!

Severance’s essay (by far the superior of the two) goes on in some detail about changes in vehicle fuel efficiency and rail transportation, including a brief family reflection on the age of oil.

My grandfather grew up in a world before air travel, and the affordable personal vehicle was unknown. Yet, steel rails connected the country, and the leaders of America’s largest cities already understood that a city needs a subway system to prosper. Almost all long‐distance travel and freight hauling was by rail.

I look at my one year old grandson, and I realize he will see the end of the Age of Oil. He won’t need to ride a horse to get around, as we now have electric cars for local use. Yet, there won’t be any electric airplanes, and we need to save what little oil we will have left to use as feedstock for essential products, construction and farm use, national defense, and intercontinental air travel.

May they rot in Hell

I’ve just seen the first image in the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” blog for today, of seabirds caught in the oil in the Gulf.

May the people responsible for this rot in Hell.

Failing that, BP’s executives should be held criminally liable. The assets of the corporation and all of their profits should be directed to the people of the Gulf Coast and to environmental organizations that are taking whatever small steps of amelioration are possible. This should happen not just now, but in perpetuity.

The role of every employee of BP and of the company that owns the oil rig itself, as well as every regulatory official in the U.S., state, and local governments who was involved in any way should be examined for misconduct, and if found, they should be fired and, if applicable, held criminally liable.

Automobile manufacturers should be required to research and create fuel‐efficient automobiles.

Gasoline taxes should be doubled or tripled.

Yes, I am pissed. I am filled with grief. I feel vindictive and I want revenge. I also feel helpless and guilty in the face of this disaster, and so I can only add my own venom to the poisons humanity is unleashing on the earth: May they rot in Hell.

Is there a food shortage?

The root cause of hunger and famine is rarely crop failure alone. It is about who controls and benefits from the land and its resources. About 1 billion people, or one in six of the global population, go hungry today, even though more food is being produced than ever. And yet, around the same number of people are overweight or obese and likely to have their lives cut short by diet‐related disease. We have, in other words, a food system that is failing.

via Famine is the result of a failing food system | Felicity Lawrence | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

Resiliency

Robert Paterson reflects on the John Boyd Conference 2008. It’s pretty grim reading about the state of the world, but he does have suggestions for what to do (on both macro and personal levels).

The search for efficiency and the urge to consume has set us all up like a row of dominoes — there is no buffer, no resiliency. . . .

We have to shift the Mindset and hence the design of our world from Efficient Machine to Resilient Organism. We have to shift the mindset of the leader from the hero/Saviour to the servant leader.

Above all, each place has to be largely self sufficient in:

  • Food
  • Energy
  • Money/Stored wealth/Credit/Savings
  • Security

(hat tip to Joe Irvin)

Deeply weird

There’s a little graphic and such, but here’s the central, weird finding of a Pew study reported in The Climate Change Attitude Mystery | Wired Science from Wired.com

The confounding part: among college‐educated poll respondents, 19 percent of Republicans believe that human activities are causing global warming, compared to 75 percent of Democrats. But take that college education away and Republican believers rise to 31 percent while Democrats drop to 52 percent.