pie, happy

Content from elsewhere

Just a reminder for those who have recently added me as a friend (thank you!): new content of the type that used to be posted in this journal is under the account magic_spot, syndicated from my blog at http://lyspeth.com/blog. Check my recent entries for the explanation for this if you are curious. I use this account for reading and commenting, and there are extensive archives available, but I no longer post new content to it.
pie, happy

End of an era

My first post in this journal was on Jan 1, 2001. The last post will be, unfortunately, January 2, 2008, instead of January 1, because today was a busy day and I was making cupcakes and tagine and packing and watching Season 4, Disc 2 of The West Wing.

Per results of my previous poll, you all are quite fond of me -- no one unambiguously plans to stop reading my journal, and most of you who responded want me to continue reading here. I've decided I'll do that, although probably not with as great a frequency. I will be moving my blog to one of the ties for first place, an independent hosted blog on my website. The new address is http://www.lyspeth.com/blog. There is an RSS feed, magic_spot. Add it to your friends list, and it'll be semi-seamless, except for having to enter your comment info on the new site. No, I don't know why you have to enter an email -- something to do with WordPress that I haven't quite figured out. You can enter whatever you want as long as it looks like an email; I don't care.

If there are problems with the blog, or you just want to keep in touch, use the contact info on my journal. And I'll see you all around, but you'll only see my content if you remember to add the feed!
preoccupied

But what to do? Where to go?

So, I'm somewhat breaking my rule about posting (though I have resisted all temptations brought on by the FISA bill mess and the exciting arrival of a new vegan cookbook!), but I finally decided that I need to know more about what my readers wish I would do before I decide. There are some basic pros and cons about moving, things like accounts, comments, and syndication.

Blurty doesn't seem to have syndication, and it would require people to have accounts to make comments unless I enable anonymous commenting. I might do that, but I eventually had to disable it for this journal, because I was getting spam comments and there's no real system for dealing with them on LJ-clones. It also doesn't have tags to organize my entries. Perish the thought! Tagging is the most useful LJ feature in many, many years.

Blogging services or self-hosted blogs have non-threaded comments (yuck) and either require (easy) registration, or allow anyone to comment. In both cases I may have to run some kind of spam comment plugin because true blogs tend to get flooded with spam comments sometimes. They also have syndication so that people who stay on LJ can read my posts on their friends page using syndication.

There's also the question of whether I might come back to read (if anyone even wants that) or how to keep in touch with anyone who might be interested if it can no longer happen through LiveJournal. So, without further ado, the poll.

Poll #1109323 Where should I/we go?

Will you still read my journal if I move it away from LiveJournal? (I won't be offended if you say no.)

Yes
8(61.5%)
No
0(0.0%)
It depends (see options below)
5(38.5%)

Would you like me to come back to read your journal once I am not posting here?

Yes
11(84.6%)
No
2(15.4%)

If not, how would you like to keep in touch?

E-mail
0(0.0%)
IM
2(20.0%)
Phone/In person
1(10.0%)
I'd rather not
0(0.0%)

Where should I go?

LJ-code clone (e.g. Blurty)
0(0.0%)
Other social blogging service (are there any?)
1(10.0%)
Independent blog
4(40.0%)
Other non-social blogging service (e.g. typepad, blogger)
5(50.0%)

Will you also change your journaling/blogging location?

Yes
1(7.7%)
No
5(38.5%)
Maybe
7(53.8%)

Any other comments? Site suggestions, complaints, your plans, etc.



If you have more to say, please comment, and if you can't fill out the poll but you do read my journal and want to tell me your answers, please send me email with your answers. Please respond as I am very interested in any suggestions.
normal, newer, thoughtful

No, really.

Okay, for serious this time: I'm leaving.

Most likely to Blurty (an adult-only LJ clone currently without ads) since I can't seem to get my current webhost to activate a blog for me, and it would be nice to have a community capability.

I'll post here when I decide. I will not be posting anymore on LiveJournal at all, in either journal, except to announce where I'm going. If you want or need to contact me please email me or otherwise appropriately use my posted contact info.

Reasons:

LJ has been sold on from 6A, who were merely clueless, to a Russian company that most likely has little interest in LJ except as a moneymaking vehicle. This kind of intent is hostile to community intent -- see also Facebook Beacon, which I haven't said anything about in part because I'm busy and in part because it's par for the course for Facebook -- they've been violating privacy and refusing to apologize since the mini-feed came on the scene.

This kind of bullshit pattern-matching censorship which everyone knows just doesn't work.

And there's also the new ability for people to "flag" your content as being unsuitable for kids. And a lot of stuff gets flagged, either purposely or accidentally. I was warned while logged out (I don't see the warning when logged in of course, since I'm over 18) about an entry that contained a very innocent use of the word "shit". And like the above, people know this doesn't work, because if you're under whatever age? Hello, happy checkbox that says you aren't.

It really adds up to an environment that I can no longer trust with my content, even more so than the community-oblivious, somewhat censorious uproars over breastfeeding in icons and explicit content/fanfic. Thoughtful attempts to comply with what do tend to be ridiculous laws in this country are one thing, under-the-radar CYA bullshit is another thing, and I for one refuse to keep supporting a company that participates in the latter with glee and vigor1. I'm so done.

1LiveJournal unfortunately recently renewed my account, so it'll be paid through next November. If only they had been stupid a little sooner. My account content will be staying because there's no way to preserve comments otherwise, except in private backups, but I'll have my own backups and possibly repost some material as time goes on if I can.
shiver, cold weather

Because no one would go to a movie called Brainerd

Fargo, day 2: Snowy!

It snowed overnight and through the morning, so I stayed inside. At lunchtime I ventured back over to the Plains Art Museum, site of the Monday concert/lunch, to see a quilt exhibit that caught my eye, and the rest of the museum while I was at it. The walk over involved a lot of clambering over snowdrifts that hadn't been cleared yet. The snow in the road here does funny things. It doesn't melt much, so it turns into a slippery layer of packed snow instead, which is oddly more treacherous than just regular snow. Right now it's not snowing but the snow is blowing around and creating a glittery layer on top of the dry, powdery snow.

I had lunch at the museum again. I didn't like the salad as much (it was pesto on roasted vegetables, which were undercooked) but the tomato soup was just as good as before. The quilt exhibit was just great, absolutely wonderful and amazing. I wish I had taken my camera -- instead I made do with my cell phone cam for a few of the best. I've seen quite a number of exhibits at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, so I'm familiar with art quilts as a genre, and these were possibly some of the finest art quilts I've ever seen. They were all done by quilters in the region, and included all sorts of complex techniques like beading, circular seams, 3-D fabric constructions, non-paneled quilts, weaving, hand-dyed fabrics, and more. Lots of fancy fabric overlays, and one quilt done entirely in silk, which is very difficult to work with. That quilt looked like a sunset and was made of tiny triangles. (It's the first picture in the exhibition description. The other picture was also one of my favorites.) One had a Tyvek top layer which had been selectively destroyed, leaving an interesting nubbly texture. I liked so many, but my absolute favorite was a 'quilt arrangement' done of 32 small squares, each in one dominant color. There was so much creativity in those little squares: mosaic-style piecing, a crocheted basket, a 3-D hydrangea, leaves, fruits and vegetables (I liked the 'citrus' square), faces, and just really neat designs. They had a little handmade book about the collaborators and their work which I wish they had been selling. Overall, all the quilts were interesting and a good half of them were just stunning. I kept walking around going "WOW! Oh my gosh, WOW!" and I think I spent 45 min in the gallery (which wasn't huge; it's a small museum).

Their stuff upstairs was also neat. What I liked is that except for one piece I had never seen the art or artists before, but they explained it really thoughtfully, and it was varied and of local interest, with mostly Plains area artists and some Native pieces (Canadian and American). I liked several of the pieces quite well, including one by a New Mexican artist that was a very simple picture of varying shades of green, blue, and gray with lines drawn on it suggesting water or clouds. It was so spare, and so peaceful, very carrying of the feeling of deserts and plains.

The whole top floor was devoted to an exhibition of photographs by Wayne Gudmundson, who takes pictures of North Dakota and the Plains. A lot of his photographs focus on the marks that humans leave, even after they are gone. My favorite, though, was an early work of his of a rock illuminated with light. Also neat was an island in Iceland with some blurred flying seagulls making the foreground complex and interesting. It was interesting to see how the plain isn't really totally flat like we all think it is because there are no big hills.

My favorite moment this afternoon was begin told a Norwegian joke by one of the kids I recorded:

Q. What kind of cars do Norwegians drive?

A. Fjords.

I got a good chuckle on that.

Dinner was disappointing. Before I came, I looked to see what places might have vegetarian options, and one of the places listen was Cafe Aladdin, which is near enough to walk to. I read and heard good things about the food, though people said the ambience was a bit dull. But I didn't have a good experience of the food at all, and it was empty when I went because it was fairly late so it was not just dull but dead, though the man serving (probably the owner) was kind. The hummus had too much tahini and a flavor of olive, and the spanakopita was greasy and not at all delicate -- the outer layer of dough was not phyllo dough, though the inner layers were -- and there was hardly any feta. The salad was actually disgusting. Sprinkled on top was some kind of weird flakes that tasted of fast food, and it was just iceberg lettuce and tomatoes and olives, soggy with too much dressing. Not that I'm expecting miracles in ND in December, but making the raw materials worse is unfortunate. Maybe I just chose the wrong dish but the poor hummus didn't leave me wanting to go back. I ate most of the pita plain because it was pretty good.

After eating I walked back rather slowly, checking out the historic movie theater to see if they were showing anything I wanted to see (no). It was actually a pretty nice walk with the wind a bit calmer. While I was stopped at a light, a school-age kid in a car also stopped waved at me and smiled. I saw a bookstore that I might check out if I have time. Tomorrow I'm going to try to take some pictures before I leave. I'm beginning to get a little fond of this city, I think.
silly, amused

Is the river red? Is Fargo cold? Is the Pope Catholic?

Fargo sits on the western bank of the Red River of the North in a very flat region known as the Red River Valley. The Red River Valley was once a part of glacial Lake Agassiz, which drained away about 9,300 years ago. The lake sediments deposited from Lake Agassiz made the land around Fargo some of the richest in the world for agricultural uses. Early settlers sometimes called the Red River Valley a new "Garden of Eden".


I begin with this quotation from Wikipedia because one of the most momentous experiences of my first day in Fargo was finding several boxes of Red River cereal on the shelf of the local health/gourmet grocery/restaurant. I ate Red River as a kid at my grandmother's house, and it's the best hot cereal I have ever had. Bob's Red Mill 7-Grain is a decent substitute, but nothing holds a candle to Red River with milk and brown sugar. Mmm. I'm going back tomorrow to buy at least two boxes.

So, Fargo. It's a nice town. It's a city really -- the metro area has 150,000 people (Fargo proper has 90,000). That's a quarter the size of Albuquerque. I've so far had many, many people be nice to me, gone to a lunchtime concert at a museum cafe with very good food, gone to a nice coffeehouse with free wi-fi, and had a decent dinner at the aforementioned grocery/restaurant. Downtown seems nice -- they are restoring, or have restored, some of the old brick buildings. There's an art museum with a quilt exhibit (where the aforementioned cafe is). There's an old-fashioned movie theatre, which I may try to go to tomorrow. It's still a little bit droopy, I guess is how I would put it -- a lot of buildings are partly empty or look like they haven't changed in many years. But nice. There are old-style freight trains, which I find charming, being a train geek.

It's also COLD. I was wearing long underwear, a turtleneck, a polartec jacket, and a wool coat, plus a scarf, hat, and mittens, and I was still cold if I stayed out longer than about 15 minutes (even if I was walking). My cheeks got unpleasantly cold, so tomorrow I'll be wrapping my face up better. There's snow covering anything that isn't a path, and packed snow on a lot of the sidewalks, though I was impressed by the number of snow-free sidewalks. I stepped into a foot-tall bit of unpacked snow by accident and was very glad I went and got waterproof boots on Saturday (they're light hiking boots, so I'll still use them at home). It's supposed to snow again tonight, which will be interesting because I'll probably see snowplows and shovels and all those things we don't bother with in places where the snow pretty much melts the next day.

Definitely an adventure. And now that I've read about this winery I almost want to come back to Fargo someday.

But -- in the summer.
shiver, cold weather

No woodchippers. I have enough to worry about with driving.

Apparently we still can't bring water or oh-so-dangerous shampoo onto the plane, but people can bring lighters again.

Yes, let me repeat: lighters yes, 4 ounces of water, shampoo, or peanut butter, no.

If only there were a Wonko the Sane to build the world an asylum.

I'll be in Fargo for the next four days (for work). See that you don't miss me too much. Apparently I do often blog about every four days, so maybe I'll tell you about Fargo while I'm there -- if you're lucky and I don't get frostbite. No, really -- people actually do get frostbite up there. They have temperatures in the negative degrees Fahrenheit. Those aren't real temperatures...right?
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    cold and about to be colder
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cute

Flexible todays

I haven't tried to plan a trip on 511.org in a while, and I just realized that it has a funny limitation. If you ask it for the latest trip for today, it doesn't have a flexible enough concept of 'today' to include trips that involve taking a transit vehicle that departs after midnight, i.e., tomorrow. So when I ask it for the latest trip, it excludes the ability to take the 12:01am Caltrain of the Damned, which rather perplexes things because without that option, for the trip in question, I would have to leave earlier than I arrive.

I'm pretty sure it does allow you to take a trip that involves arriving tomorrow, just not one that also involves departing tomorrow. However, it is helpful enough to tell you what the later trips for a particular leg are, so it's not too hard to get from there to figuring out when you actually need to leave.
shiver, cold weather

Another try at putting input into Caltrain...

For anyone who's ever tried to use Caltrain to get home from the city late at night:

They are planning to add new trains in the evening -- YAY!

But the trains are prosposed to leave on the half-hours, with no train between 10:30 and 12:00 out of San Francisco. If you want an 11:00 train, please write to Caltrain at the address on the page, or plan to attend one of the info sessions.
naive, young, formal

Grassroots leadership

So the next entry I was going to write, before the astonishing stupidity and arrogance of Caltrain distracted me, was about an interesting conversation I had with a friend the other night at a (terrific) party. I was chatting with him about vegetarianism and mentioned (as I do frequently here) that my primary concerns are the concerns of humane treatment and environmental impact. He said that he thinks those are valid points, but that my individual decision to be vegetarian doesn't have enough impact to change those things -- it has to come from above; there has to be leadership.

Coincidentally, I recently read a similar contention in a column by Thomas Friedman. Friedman's point was about environmental impacts in general, another subject dear to my heart. He talked about one person buying a Prius, versus a some people high up who got in meetings with New York's taxi organizations to start converting the taxi fleet to hybrids (mostly not Priuses -- SUVs -- which is a bit unfortunate but perhaps more practical from a taxi standpoint).

I certainly agree with the point that change is almost always going to happen faster and be more effective when it's promoted at a high level, and that for things that are ingrained habits for most people, and seem kind of minor (like what they eat and what kind of bags they get at the supermarket), it's very hard to effect massive change on a grass-roots level only.

However, there are two counter-contentions that I would make about why it's essential for all of us to act on our personal ethical beliefs.

The first one could, with rhetorical flourish, be called the Argument From Hypocrisy. With less flourish, we could call the the Argument From Moral Consistency. If I think everyone should eat only animals who are raised humanely and sustainably (and vegetables raised sustainably), then it's ridiculous if I go around telling other people I think they should do it, or setting up laws to promote it, while not doing it myself, even if I say I'm going to start doing it as soon as there are laws or other people are doing it. I don't think this argument needs to be elaborated much. To have any moral standing, I have to be acting out my own ethical standards to at least a high percentage. If I'm preaching and not practicing, what I say rightly has very little weight.

The second one I would call the Argument From Demonstrated Opportunity. If no one is trying to eat sustainably raised animals or produce, then going to Cargill or ADM or whoever and saying "Geez, we think you should raise your chickens/corn/etc sustainably", they'll laugh and say "But look, everyone is buying our corn. No one cares about that, they're happy with what they have." The fact that not everyone is buying their corn or chickens lends weight to the concept that they should change their practices. The same would be true if you go to Congress and say "You should make a law about this". If no one is doing it, they'll say "But no one does this. No one cares." Whereas, if you go to Congress in our world today, you can point to the many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who are vegetarian or eat only sustainably raised meat, who buy organic produce, who go to farmer's markets. You can say "You should encourage this." It also kills the argument "It's impossible to do this and make money" or just "It's impossible to do this" period.

The same is true for the New York hybrid taxis. What would have happened if no one had bought a Prius, as Friedman is basically recommending (because it doesn't make a difference, right)? That's easy. Hybrids would have been declared a business failure, something no one wanted, and there would never have been an opportunity to even discuss using hybrids in the New York taxi fleet. Therefore, those who decided to buy Priuses to satisfy their personal desires actually did make a difference: they made it possible to discuss implemented hybrids on a wide scale.

And it applies to almost any issue: if no one rode bikes on the roads, we would have nobody to point to when we ask for more bike accommodations (indeed, it would seem clear that we didn't need more). If no one doesn't have a car, if no one actually uses public transit to get around, then we have no one to point to when we ask for better transit. In fact, one of the hardest things to make happen in the transit world is a new route or a new allowance (like bikes on Caltrain). Because it's currently nonexistent or prohibited, there's no direct evidence that it's needed, and so usually (since these things cost money) it's assumed that it isn't needed. There is latent demand for such things, but latent demand has to get very strong and very vocal to be as powerful as demonstrated demand that we create by our own actions. Latent demand is calculated every time a new product is launched or a company is started -- but trying to find latent demand is risky. It's much easier if there's a clear need for a product or service, and we create that proven need for services we desire if we act on our beliefs.

Change has to come from the ground up, as well as the top down. In fact, I would bet that almost all top-down change ultimately originates at the ground level. That's why we write letters to (and lobby) our Congressional representatives. That's why Leo made all the West Wing staffers listen to the fringe people for one day a year. We all have an obligation to do what we can, and tell others what we believe, or most top-down change will never even get started.