Friday, January 30, 2009

Eat dirt. It's good for you

Nytimes talks about how dirt, germs and worms (yep, the intestinal kind) all help make us healthier. Hmm... not exactly what your mother told you! New evidence points to our hyper-active immunse systems need something to fight against. In the absence of nasty third-party threats, it can turn on itself...

Ironically, eating dirt is also labeled a psychological disorder, 'Pica.' I think this is just more evidence that the medical field has its head stuck up its own arse. 'Geophagy' is the term used for people who eat dirt.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In other news...

We have the big Sam Adams sex scandal. Anyone got a good name for it yet? Please, refrain from anything ending in "gate," I think we all have had our fill of Nixon for a few lifetimes now.

Anywho, it turns out that Adams did have a sexual relationship with an 18-year old Beau Breedlove (whose parents clearly failed in the creative writing department) in 2005. Or, at least we hope he was 18, since in Prudish Portland (and the state of Oregon) the age of consent is 18. Interestingly, mere miles away, in Washington state, the age is 16. Hmmm!

Sam of course was caught in his lie by the ever-vigilant Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jacquiss, and has been 'investigating' the story for the past 16 months. In 2007 during the mayoral race, rival candidate Bob Ball brought up the rumor that Adams had broken the law by sleeping with a 17 year old. Personally, if someone was running a smear campaign against me of this nature, I would naturally tell them to fuck off. Unfortunately, Sam vehemently denied it, claiming instead that their relationship was platonic.

Mere weeks into Sam's mayorship of Portland, this comes as quite a shock to many. The lie, of course - most Portlanders knew that Sam was gay; he is in fact the first openly gay mayor of any big city in US history. However, the "breach of trust" in which many are calling for his immediate resignation (so that their preferred candidate can assume office??) was not exactly something that I find that surprising.

I mean, we are talking about the dirt-digging Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, and just idiotic Oregonian. He wasn't under oath, and many allege that Breedlove was indeed 18 at the time. Do these news organizations, or anyone, really have the right to know about someone's sex life?

Of course, this must all be balanced with the loss of the community's trust. It certainly isn't a great start off for his mayoral career, but at least it IS in the open now and not later. It did take some convincing for him to come out with it, but...

hmm, where should I take this?

I think some healing will occur in the future. He's still Sam - nothing about him has changed, he's still the same guy. Many of the other community leaders are also openly supporting him, as I think they should. In fact, I find it a bit offensive at the harsh rhetoric coming from the public in general at the guy.

I guess I just make exceptions to lies regarding ones personal life. Is it really our business? How does accounting have anything to do with whose mouth, vagina, or anus you put your penis into? Really?

I elected the guy to get a job done, not to know about the details of his sex life. Sure, he's gay, but isn't that the point? That we don't care about these things? (for the record, I am a straight white male)

I believe Americans just can't handle anything about sex - we're so squeamish, its shameful!

edit - even the nytimes is reporting on it.

A new era!

3 days as president, and we've already seen a huge difference in policy and leadership. I can't even believe it, being an Obama supporter, how quickly things are changing in US national politics. First Gitmo, then international abortion and family planning funding, now he's even restricting lobbyists in Washington (sort of)!

What is this, the coming new age? If indeed this is just the beginning of a new transparency to our government, its none too soon. Calls from the Republican side of the hall are not only hallow, but show themselves to come from the greedy whores of power that they are.

I just hope the stimulus plan works well, and will lead to future infrastructure developments that help free us from the shackles of the car.

Oh yeah, we've got Hillary on our side too. Everything seems like a dream right now, besides the still-failing economy, my own unemployment...

Oh, and the crowds:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

21st century is the age of the train

The Independent has a great article highlighting the rail boom currently underway in Europe - highlighting the thousands of new kilometers of high-speed rail currently under construction, as well as various new services that are being introduced to replace high-volume airline corridors.

In Europe, they don't just have High-Speed Rail, they have international rail service that crosses borders!

Six new high-speed routes:
  • Amsterdam-Brussels: present journey time, five hours five minutes; projected new time, three hours 36 minutes.
  • Rome-Milan: old time, four hours 30 minutes; new time, three hours 30 minutes.
  • London-Cologne: present time, four hours 45 minutes; projected new time, four hours.
  • London-Berlin: present time, 10 hours; projected new time, eight hours 30 minutes.
  • London-Milan: old time, 16 hours; new time, 12 hours.
  • London-Geneva: old time, 11 hours; new time, seven hours.

In fact, even Air France is getting into the action, as it plans on debuting a new 220 mph AGV rail service between Paris and Amsterdam.

Stop the trains! 220 mph?!

Yes, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore. The Europeans have figured out how to offer essentially zero-carbon transportation systems: high-speed electric rail lines.

In countries like France, most of the electricity generation is done by nuclear power, which has zero GHG output.

On the other hand, California did pass its $10 billion bond to fund the first part of its planned high-speed rail network. And with a country this large and spread out, it will take the construction of lots of regional systems for it to really work - the Midwest & ChicagoLand area and New England are excellent candidates. The Acela service has certainly shown that almost-HSR service can make a lot of money (its Amtrak's cash cow).

And let's not forget that Japan is planning on building a $45 billion, 600-km long Maglev line between Tokyo and Osaka. It will be financed by one of Japan's private rail companies, and is expected to run a profit. This is a video of the test track, where the train gets up to 500 km/h (300 mph):

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Cyclists' Manifesto

As an avid recreational and commuter cyclist, I believe more and more in these modern times that bicycles will be more and more important in the emerging green economy. You know, the economy that will rise from the ashes of the one thats currently collapsing - the last remnants of the exuberant "shop til you drop" 80s & 90s consumer mentality.

How can I be so positive about such things? I mean, here we are, in the middle of one of the worst recessions in US history. The DOW has been a rollercoaster, trillions of paper investments have been wiped out overnight, and housing prices have plummeted, along with many losing theirs in foreclosures.

Yet I have been on a pilgrimage of sorts, having visited Europe a few years ago. What I saw there, the culture - the culture of the city, which is something that simply does not exist in this country, in my opinion. I see the nascent formulations of one in Portland, which is very exciting - people who walk, people who bicycle, people who go to art shows or the bars or watch movies in the city, it is a beginning. People aren't just working in town and vacating it at 5pm... and there is a growing critical mass of what I term "normal people," those of the middle classes, so to speak - who are not afflicted with severe mental illnesses from wars past and are begging for money.

This post is rather much of a rant, but I had to start somewhere.

I believe in The City. I believe that by making it a place for people to live, that it will generate a self-sustaining economy around a new American culture.

And I believe that the bicycle will be one of its key ingredients.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Summer fun

Ironic title aside, this just seems absolutely nuts. And I thought I was pushing it by bicycling in the snow. Oh, lordy...

source & pix: nyt

thats snow, Dorothy!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No new gas taxes?

So it looks as if Obama's team is reversing its previous rhetoric: low gas prices are now good, and they are adopting the centrist policy of economy over environment. This despite the fact that Obama's chosen energy secretary is a Nobel laureate scientist who has previously come out in favor of much higher gas taxes as a tool to get Americans to reduce how much they drive.

According to the NYT:

He had told the Wall Street Journal last September , “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” a statement likely to give some commuters a case of road rage.

This isn't the only "controversial" statements he has made in the extremely conservative realm of American energy policy.

For example, in a presentation at Berkeley in April, 2007, now preserved on YouTube, he declared, “coal is my worst nightmare,” words previous energy secretaries would be unlikely to utter.

“We have lots of fossil fuel,’’ he said. “That’s really both good and bad news. We won’t run out of energy but there’s enough carbon in the ground to really cook us.’’

One begins to wonder if this is merely the beginning of a trend towards the Right in Obama's policy. Will his promise of an Office of Urban Policy and investment in mass transit, passenger rail, and bicycling as a form of transportation just turn out to be hollow campaign promises, or is he merely making politically-sound overtures to assuage the markets and the public?

Only time will tell.