Friday, December 17, 2004
But out on the water those worries died away. We were checking the bilge every 10 minutes or so just to make sure we weren't caught off-guard by some unseen leak. It was smooth sailing. The boat moved through the water like a duck which is much more comfortable than moving through the water like a cork. When we encountered bigger swells she just raised her nose a little and the waves got pushed out of the way. Our major wave testing was accomplished by catching the wake of the high-speed catamaran ferries. Those things just fly along. They are shockingly fast. We instinctively took photos every time one passed, but of course you can't get the sensation of speed from a photo.
We were chugging along at our sedate pace of 6 knots, making our way towards Angel Island. I've heard the old yarn about how being out to see isn't boring because the sea is always changing, and there always chores to do. This rule proved true almost immediately even in the bay. The, dare I say it, fluid nature of the water is entrancing. Changing from what only can be described as sea-green, to blue to muddy brown and back again as we passed different currents and depths. In the middle of the bay there were odd patterns in the water caused by massive upwellings, or clashing tides. Rafts of reeds, seaweed, and garbage floated along usually providing resting places for sea birds. It was endlessly compelling. The subtle complexity of the water reminded me of camping in the sierras and hearing all the gentle fractal layers of sound that you don't notice until it's time to sleep. I feel almost sheepish that this bay has been sitting there all my life (and much longer, I know) and I'm only discovering it's offerings now.
Angel Island was approaching on our left and we wanted to stay pretty close to shore as it was plenty deep for our little boat and the current is less there. For those of you unfamiliar with the bay, Angel Island sits just offshore of the Tiburon Peninsula and the water between the two is some of the most turbulent on the bay. Angel Island acts like a giant thumb on the end of a garden hose and the water that passes down the straight there moves with incredible velocity and strength. These forces have also carved out the seabed to over 100', some of the deepest in the bay. The change at the surface is readily apparent. In the lee of the Island the water was green and fairly calm. There was almost no discernable movement of the boat over the waves, just the reassuring throb of the motor and seeing the coast moving steadily, albeit slowly, to our stern. Towards the inside edge of the island, there was a clear line in the water where the current took over. Immediately the water turned a deep dark blue and the swells increased dramaticaly. Gary and I scampered to the bridge in the cabin as we were getting soaked up foward. Our speed seemed to drop to nothing and the boat was plowing through the swell with aplomb. We cackled and whooped with excitment, as we knew this was likely to be the most exciting part of the trip (provided we had no mechanical failures). I got a sense of what it must be like to take a little boat like this out in the Pacific to fish, and my respect for those old guys rose even higher. One thing seemed clear, this boat was built to deal with conditions far beyond what Gary or I could. The limitations of this boat are purely found in its skippers.
All too soon we were out of the current and back up in the shallows of the bay. Our two major milestones were behind us, and we could'nt quite see our third: the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge. I'd been looking foward to this part of the journey the most because we were in familiar territory, and there were numerous anchorages and marinas to dive into should anything go amiss. Our course would take us by several Marin County Parks, and China Camp. Having spent several summers as a park aide, I'd always wanted to see my old workplaces from the water, and now I would get my chance. On our left was the Tiburon Peninsula, well known as being one of the most exclusive areas in the bay. The houses peeking out from the trees were impressive, if only for the amount of glass each one held. Marin from the water is deeply wooded, and because of the bay's shallowness here (less than 3 feet in most places) we had to stay well off shore. Most of the cities that are on the water in Marin are either in a different part of the bay, or nestled back into the hills and are only reachable by narrow dreged channels. The effect is that very little activity is seen from the water, certainly none of the hubbub of SF or the east bay. In fact in all the bay area, I think Marin (with the exception of Sausalito) ignores the bay the most. This was a blessing for us, as there was very little waterbourne traffic to deal with as we headed north.
With the worst of the bay behind us, and smooth, if muddy, waters ahead we decided to break out lunch. Gary's partner Karen (aka Spud) is an ex-chef, and packed us food for our journey. Neither one of us had inspected the stores when we brought them aboard, so we were suprised to see that lunch was going to consist of crackers, fine cheddar cheese and
Out of the haze loomed the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge and dotted around it's bases were numerous barges and crane boats. They are retrofitting it or repaving or something so there's a lot of activity going on below. You can see some of it when you cross, but it doesn't compare to seeing just how many 'boats' are tied up to moorings, or pilings under the bridge. The water here was muddy and opaque, as it would be for the rest of the trip. We were out of the flushed part of the bay, and into the delta-fed, turbid, shallow waters. Beyond the bridge lay San Pablo bay, which is very big, and very shallow, many areas are a foot deep or less. If things went bad there we could beach it and have a long wet walk to shore, if the bay mud didn't suck us down.
Gary was piloting as I was wandering around the boat putting things away and taking pictures of the bridge. The current around the bridge was confused and turbulent, and the boat began yawing slightly. Gary kept a steady hand on the wheel as kept an eye out for traffic and hazards. There was some construction debris in the water, and lots of smaller tugs moving about. The current under the bridge was impressive, there was a little bow-wave on the upstream side of the bridge pylons, the bay was acting like a very broad river. Once under and out the other side things calmed down again. San Rafael was to our left and the Chevron refineries were to our right. I could see the 'two sisters' off in the distance. These are two rocks covered in birdshit just off the shore of the park I used to work at. I was always curious to see them up close, and I can now say, yup they are two big rocks covered in birdshit.
We were now out of San Francisco Bay, and going up San Pablo Bay towards the mouth of the Petaluma River. It was 3pm, and we were down to about 8 oz of coffee.
To be continued....
Monday, December 13, 2004
After 8:30 the local chandlery openned and I went in to kill some time. The place looked like it'd been there since the Barbary Coast days. For those of you familiar with Petaluma, it was like Tomassini's Hardware on a much bigger, older scale. It was abundantly clear that these guys only dealt with Fishermen. There was no yachty crap in sight. All business. I poked around and bought a couple of buckets and drooled over the old school boatbuildings tools, and rigging equipment. Then back to the boat to collect Gary and go get 'second breakfast.' After second breakfast we wandered out Hyde St. Pier and saw a Hicks Marine Engine running. These things are ancient gas motors designed and built in SF from the early part of the century. They are very very cool and mezmerizing to watch. By this time it looked like the fog was beginning to lift so we got back on board and started up the motor.
After squeezing out of our berth (luckily there was nowhere near the shenanigans of last week) and only bumping the boat across the way we made our way to the fuel dock. Our arrival wasn't graceful, but it was gentle. Gentle enought that the fuel dock guys didn't hear us coming and luckily didn't see our hamfisted attempts to rope off until we'd gotten it figured out. We topped up on diesel, as a big troller came in for fuel. His technique wasn't as dainty as ours. He powerslid his huge boat sideways so it slammed into the dock with a deep WHUMP and made all the pilings shake. Ah! so that's how it's done.
With fuel aboard, and a little backing and turning to get pointed the right way (ever watch a 16 year old try a 3 point turn? That's what we looked like, but with more scampering around deck and panicked hand signals) we headed off into the Bay and fog.
Once we got passed the S.S. Jerimiah O'Brien we (ok, I) got immediately intimidated because I couldn't see anything more than a few hundred feet away and I couldn't hear any fog horns next to the din of our motor. We threaded between some more fishing boats coming in, and managed to stay out of the way of a fast moving ferry we could barely see. I couldn't do it. It was too scary, we didn't know what we were doing and I really didn't want to get run down by a frieghter or fishing troller so I turned around.
After the panic subsided a bit I realized that if I just put it in gear and steered from the forward station (out on the bow) I could hear everthing, and see much better. Once bundled up and seated on the cabintop I got to piloting our way towards alcatraz. I couldn't really tell what direction we were going (no compass) but it felt pretty good. I maintained a state of cat-like alertness to any movement or sound. It was pretty exhausting. After what seemed hours of not blinking and spinning my head around at the faintest whisper of sound (while trying to distinguish the fog horns of the golden gate, and alcatraz from container carriers coming out of the east bay) the sun started to come out. Which was a good in the long run, but bad in the short run. The fog was getting thin enough to be illuminated, but not so thin that you could see through it, basically it got really bright and confusing, as opposed to simply grey and confusing. Right about this time the visibility got even worse and just as the fog started to close in I caught something very big and very very fast moving out ahead of us (so fast I thought I my eyes must be playing tricks with me). I would've guessed it was a ferry, but that's only because I didn't think we had drifted into any major shipping lanes yet. Both Gary and I were squeeking "Ack! What is that? Jesus it's fast! WTF?" Then right out in front of us was a loud fog horn and this big black shape started to condense out of the mist. CRAP! he was running back to get the throttles I started turning hard to starboard and clanging our bell when we realized: it was Alcatraz! We'd gone much farther than we'd imagined and were right on the backside of Alcatraz. Whoohoo! Our first milestone reached we moved off a little bit (so as not to hit the rock wall that came up out of hte bay) and started heading north. The fog stopped at the midline of Alcatraz so as we moved towards the eastern shore it grew solid and our visibility lengthened to such a degree that I could begin blinking and breathing again.
It was such a stupendous sight in the fog, that I deeply regret having left my camera down in the cabin so I got no picture of it, but it was stunning. Gary might have one, but it was something that had to be experienced like a sunset. Elated Gary and I broke out the snacks and started crossing the bay proper. There was no shipping traffic in sight (not a good sign actually, I'd rather know exactly where they are so I can plan ahead) and we motored across towards Angel Island. The water was a deep green with light swells and a brisk breeze. As we looked around we noticed that only the water had cleared of fog, Marin, SF and the East Bay were like big wispy pillows. It was to be that way for most of the day. Clear over us and dark and gloomy everywhere else.
Now that the panic had disapeared we began to take note of what a great boat the Edith E was. Smooth and gentle in the swells, she was the most comfortable boat I've ever been on (most of my boating experience has been in 1970's era fiberglass sailing boats that tend to pound in a seaway). I can why people personify boats, because they do seem to exhibit personality in the way that cars (at least modern ones) can't. Piloting a boat is not like a car, and its hard to let go of that kind of training. You can take your hand of the wheel for awhile, and especially because we are going so slow (4-6 knots) you get time to look around and notice the small things like a piece of seagull down that is floating on top of the water, almost perfectly dry until it gets caught in your bow wave. We were both totally smitten, and couldn't figure out why didn't everybody do this all the time. It was a beautiful morning out there and I only wish I'd had more people with me to share in it. Next time, I guess.
Angel Island was still had a wispy cap of fog on it's upper slopes but at the water it was clear and bright. Our next major milestone was coming up, the lee of the island and crossing the Racoon Straights. That would put us across the major part of the shipping channels and get us close to a number of marinas should we run into problems. To be Continued...
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Friday started early. There was a light knock on my door at 5.15 AM, which set Fargo barking up a storm. I don't think there's a better alarm clock than the shrill yawp-yip of my heeler. I was up and dressed in minutes. I'd packed what I felt was necessary the night before so I piled into Gary's car with my bag and we were off. Almost. We swung by the office to grab his canoe so we could have an escape vehicle in case the Good Ship Edith came unhinged in the Big Blue.
By 6:25 we were in San Francisco. The still sleeping fisherman's wharf was our breakfast nook. After the proper ratio of hot-caffiene and carbohydrates had been purchased from the great Seattle-Evil-Empire we clambered down to the decks. We had brought with us an impressive amount of gear for a day's journey:
-Plus all the stuff we'd bought from West Marine in the last 72 hours (bilge pumps, wiring, hoses, oil, anchor/chain/rope, etc...)
We were going to cross the San Francisco Bay by heading east behind Alcatraz and Angel Island and heading up past Marin and under the Richmond-Bay Bridge and across the thin but expansive San Pablo Bay into the mouth of the Petaluma River, then another series of twists and turns until we touched her nose at the dock at Foundry Wharf where she is to be berthed. All in all a trip of 6-10 hours non-stop depending on wind and tide, and the actual speed of our boat.
But first we had to get the Edith E prepped.
After breakfast Gary got to work wiring in the bilge pumps, and I did everything I could to dispel the nervous energy which had been building all week. A little aside: I love boats, especially wood ones, but I'm also prone to sea-sickness, and nether Gary nor I had really any experience piloting a boat out across one of the most challenging areas to sail in the US if not the world. Granted we weren't sailing, but that only meant we had no backup if our motor quit, or the rudder fell off, or...So I was nervous. Moving about and stowing gear, as well as getting more aquanted with the boat was a good thing. The time it took to find places for everything was a viceral reminder that we had thought of almost any forseeable consequence. So by 7:30 or so we were ready, but we had one problem: Fog.
The fog was so thick that we couldn't see the end of the lagoon much less any traffic on the bay, suffice to say we could hear fog horns going off all over the place. Did I mention our horn didn't work? Nor our running lights? So we stayed in dock and waited, and waited....To be continued.
Monday, December 06, 2004
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Today Gary and I, well, Gary got the boat running. She ran out of the harbor poked her nose into the San Francisco Bay and went back in. But let me start from the start.
After going over to Hayward/Oakland yesterday to pick up a set of seats for my car, I decided to come home over the bay bridge and swing by the boat. It was early Saturday evening, and I wanted to check out the batteries because we suspect they were the reason the motor wasn't starting. In all honesty, I wanted to go to the boat so I could make sure that I hadn't been dreaming the whole thing.
She was still there, and our padlock was still on the door. Hooray!! It was also pretty sweet to have a free parking place right in the middle of fisherman's wharf, so I had to use that while I had the chance. I wandered around in the crowds for awhile and marveled at the randomness of it all. The best part was there was this bum who was using a pair of brushy liquid Ambar branches as a blind (like a hunting blind) and then he'd jump out and scare people. Now the really good part was that it worked. People were genuinly suprised. OK picture the scene. It's Saturday night and there's a crowd of people lined up staring at this little 3 foot high wall of tree-brush and you go walking buy...yet you are not noticing the crowd of people or the bum crouching down behind the brush. Then BLAH! He jumps. You jumps and the whole block breaks out in applause and laughter. It was really bizarre.
But I digress. Anyway after getting some coffee and some food I go back to the boat and climb down the ladder to sit on the cabintop and eat my dinner and watch the street from below. It was far cooler then I could've imagined. I was struck dumb at how happy and peaceful I felt on my little boat, munching on a burger, and rocking gently to the waves.
After all that I determined that the batteries were toast, packed up and went home.
Gary and his partner Spud (nee Karen) were planning on coming down today, as were Meredith and I. He was bringing all the tools he felt he needed as Ship's Engineer and a pair of golf cart batteries. I was gonna bring some diesel, a funnel and whatever else I could think of. Our goal was to get it started.
As it happened, Meredith, Orion and I all went down a little after noon, and Gary had been aboard for several hours replacing the roached batteries and figuring out the wiring as needed. I left Orion and Gary alone together and Meredith and I went for lunch and a quick, freezing stroll out the Hyde St. Pier. When we got back, Orion and Gary had gotten her started and had taken her out. Evidently it was quite a tight squeeze out and a bit uncomfortable getting back into the berth. They pack the boats in like...well...like sardines really. We hopped aboard and Gary started her up again (Jesus! The motor is LOUD) and Orion and I manned the boat hooks to fend off other boats (we did a terrible job of it and we got kinda stuck a couple of times). Eventually we got turned around the right way and headed out of the harbor. Midway out (in the picture where Gary is waving at the camera) I took control and steered out past the Jerimiah O'brien and that WW2 sub they have down there. Then we spun it around and headed back as Spud was on shore (she manned the camera) and wanted to go home. Getting it back in was also a bit of a bump-n-grind, but we were getting the hang of it. Then Gary and Spud went home, and Meredith went to wander around looking for Christmas presents a bit, and Orion and I were left to trouble shoot the bilge pump and clean up the boat. All I can really say is WHOOOOHOOOOOO!!! Pics to follow.
Now we just have to get her across the bay and up the Petaluma River.
Friday, December 03, 2004
boat. Pics above. Some of you may know (or may have guessed by some of my earlier posts) that
Gary and I have been looking for a boat for a little while now. The criteria was: Not totally
roached, decent if rough mechanicals (must be diesel), and not too much rot. We didn't want
something bigger than 40ish feet, and not too much draft. It's intended destinations will include: the Mothball fleet, Delta explorations, Urban Decay sightseeing tours along the
bay-front, Foggy Petaluma River tours. With Gary as ship's engineer, and myself as ship's carpenter we figure we can make a good team.
The problem was finding a boat. People want actual money for these tubs. Like more than a couple thousand dollars. We simply weren't going to spend that kind of money. As it happened we ended looking at several boats, and none of them seemed worth the price.
Then Craigslist got interesting. Someone was advertising a 46' ex-Naval Launch for $1000.
Supposedly it ran but needed to be moved from it's mooring immediately. It was next to Hyde St. Pier in SF. Now my sleaze-meter starting pinging, but we kept after the deal. After an entertaining experience involving a guy on a rusty bike, a boat that had been impounded and an enlightening conversation with the cops, we decided to walk away. There just seemed to be too
much bad ju-ju surrounding the deal.
But that adventure got us in touch with Harbor Master Headley. HMH is in charge (as his title
implies) of the harbor at Fisherman's Wharf. He was the one who was *really* selling the Naval
Launch, and while it was eventually sold, he had several other boats that were going up for
auction. Most he decided were probably out of our price range (you know, REAL fishing boats,
with metal hulls and big diesels and such) BUT he had one for free if we just came down and
picked it up. He told us "30' or so, seems to keep water out because it's been sitting for about
a year with no maintenance, other than that I don't know. Come get it."
Now we're talking. Free. That's a proper pirate boat. Pirates never paid for boats right?
But was free a low enought price? How bad was it? Only a recon trip at dawn would tell. So I got woken up this morning at 6am to the sound of my dog barking incessantly at Gary. I thought we'd agreed on 7...damn. I threw on some clothes, kissed meredith's sleepy forehead and we were off.
We got down to Fisherman's Wharf by 7AM, unfortunately Harbor Master Hedley wouldn't be in his office until 8. I knew I'd said we should start at 7. So I tersely told Gary to park because I
needed coffee, and perhaps a refreshing bread-product, and I needed them now. Fisherman's Wharf is actually quite fetching at dawn. Just us, the street cleaners, the bums and the pigeons. We wandered around looking for a boat called the Edith E.
We found her just before 8. Since Harbor Master Hedley still wasn't around we went aboard and poked around in her cockpit, and opened all the access panels we could. Frankly we were amazed. Her hull looked to be in better shape than every other boat we'd seen yet, regardless of asking price. Her cockpit and decks were a bit rough, but nothing some sanding and paint wouldn't fix. Maybe a little stick of wood here and there. Still, suprisingly sound. We started to get suspicious and I was digging around poking my survey-knife into every piece of wood I could reach. Nothing but the statisfying tunk-tunk-tunk sound of solid, rot free tree-flesh.
Then Harbor Master Hedley showed up, and for a minute I was afraid he was going to tell us that the owner was going to pay his debt, and she was no longer available, but no! The owner was fine with us having her, and Hedley was equally happy he was going to get another paying customer in her berth. Sweet!
The day wrapped up with us trying to charge the batteries (they're dead jim.) and getting the motor to crank over. Now I'm back at work, waiting for the moment when I can get back to my ship and get her running. She needs to get across the bay and upriver. Stay tuned!
Friday, November 26, 2004
This morning we slept in, had pumpking pie and tea for breakfast before taking the kids and dog to flying goat for a post-thanksgiving meet-n-greet with a whole cast of friends. I saw Miles, Leanne, Dez, Caitlin, Meredith's ex-sisters in-law, Walt, and some guy who I couldn't place. It occured to me later that the guy I couldn't place was Mr. Lehmann who was the vice-principal from my highschool. We both did the I-know-you-from-somewhere-but-can't-place-it eye contact and 'hi'.
I was going to do no shopping today, and at least I won't be doing much. I need to get Andy his xmas presents, and put them in the mail to india.
Tomorrow Gary and I will be looking at one or two boats. I'm hoping that one of them will be right. The New Daisy, while I think she was the right boat, was the wrong price. The two we will be looking at tomorrow are stupidly cheap. It just remains to be seen if they aren't stupidly-maintained..
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Last saturday was the opening of my friend's show at boomerang in Petaluma. It was good to see so many people I hadn't seen in a while, Michael, Jodi, Heidi, Will, Jack, Drew, etc...The art was good, it was different from Heidi's other stuff. I'm not sure if it was different from Will's other stuff because this was the first I'd seen of his work. Some of the smaller pieces were really good, there was a quality of line that I admired.
Jodi and Zack are moving to Costa Rica where they bought some land, which is great for them, but too bad for me cause I like bumping into Jodi at parties and whatnot.
This last week I started riding my bikes again in earnest. It's been too long mainly due to simple mechical issues (flats) and hot weather/rain. Now it's great bike riding weather, where the first five minutes you are freezing your ass off and by the end of the ride you are hot and sweaty. It's even better if your ride ends where there is the promise of hot beverages so you can steam up the windows and strip off sweaters, gloves, hats.
I love my fixed gear. It's just right, except for the saddle which is new and not broken in yet, and it's placement isn't exactly right. Every once and a while I think about selling off some bikes because I have a few, but they all have certain attributes that I'd hate to lose. Also I've spent months (years with my fixed gear) getting all the components/placement just right. And I can never sell my fix gear, cause laurel has dibs. But I do have a nice Bianchi for sale. Tall, 62cm blue if anyone is interested.
It'll be good to ride more and get exercise. With work going the way it's going it's hard to ever get out and do stuff.
Tonight when I got home I was feeling pretty lousy, I think it may have been a blood sugar crash, or something. Anyway I was lying down on my bed feeling sick and I was trying to figure out what people do in the winter time. It was 5:30 and I didn't want to go back on my computer (I'd just spent 8.5 hours staring at my monitor) and I don't have cable and I couldn't for the life of me figure out what to do. Normally I like to read, but I wasn't feeling that focused at the moment. Eventually I called meredith and decided to go get groceries. Then some carrots and a salad and I was feeling better.
I love the cold wet weather, but I always forget that it gets dark so early. Most of the stuff I like to do involves going outside, I'm usually only inside my house to sleep, geek out, or eat. Now it's dark when I leave work. I guess I'm adapting.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
In other news these last few weeks, things have been good. Halloween was good, if a little quiet. I went up to Meredith's to spend time at Djuna's party (did I spell that right Spring?) and take M's kids out to get candy. Meredith suprised me with a splendid costume. She was a 1960's star-trek alien. She reminded me of that episode where the crew gets overcome with the horny-flower and even Spock gets his freak on. I don't think she was thinking of that when she got dressed up, but I've only seen a few old episodes so I don't have much to draw on. Anyway, she looked great. Photo above.
The party was good, I got to see some people I'd wanted to see, and picked up some zines from the folks who went to NYC to protest the RNC. Hmm..what other acronyms can I get in here....The zines were great, I especially loved ben's piece, but I'm biased 'cause I've wanted him to write forever and he never does as much as I'd like to see.
Trick or treating was good, Zelia was the classic sheet-as-ghost, and Sylvan was a forest spirit, and he had a nice stick. Fargo liked his stick. Fargo was a pretty ballerina, so it wasn't much of a costume, cause he's always a pretty ballerina. Except that he always reminds me of Russel Crowe in a dress...maybe it's the wall-eyed thing, or the no neck thing...I don't know. Good but quietly disturbing.
The trick-or-treating in SR was suprisingly quiet. What happened to halloween? When I was a kid..
Since Halloween? Well, what started as a joke between my co-worker and friend Gary and I has become a scary proto-reality. We are thinking of buying a boat. Yup, that one a few pictures back. It's cheap. Scary cheap. And between selling some of the equipment off it, and living with a mantra of arrested decrepitude we think we can have a lot of fun for not much cash. Next spring who wants to go exploring on a crusty old boat? Message me, and bring money. Ports of call? Runs to the delta for good old fashioned white trash fun. Urban decay sightseeing trips along all the busted waterfronts of the bay area (Oakland has some amazing shit). Perhaps BBQs on the back deck in SF bay during fourth of july. Your suggestions here...
PS. Miles, how much bio-diesel can you supply at a time?
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
I will try to not turn this blog into "grumpy old man Scott's bitchin' porch" but it's election day, and well you know what is happening. Of course I'm grumpy. Now there are a couple of outcomes I forsee I'm going to number them so I don't lose my train of thought
1. The bad gets worse, which tips the scales
2. The bad gets good, which then gets really bad.
3. The bad gets weird, after which is a tossup.
1. The Bad Gets Worse, which Tips the Scales:
Bush wins without any goofy electoral ties, or major scandals (election snafus, illegal vote tampering, etc). There is currently (11:46PM) a good chance of this. This outcome could lead to an even more repressive regime and most tragically, a restocking of several Supreme Court justices that could throw out Roe v. Wade, and generally run amok with civil liberties. Of course all of these things pale in comparison to the havoc we could unleash on the Arab/brown people world. But, if there is any silver lining, I believe it is this: Team Bush's wacked policies will leave an indelible stain on the whole conservative/neo-con camp that will be hard to erase (remember when liberal was a good word?). This could lead to a reversal of Republican power currently held in the legislative and executive branches of government. This reversal of fortunes for the Con/Neo-con movement is a long shot though, because after this election I don't really believe that the majority of Americans are using their brains to vote (and I don't say this merely because Bush won). The reasons (on both sides) for supporting a candidate were so lame and simplistic that it boggled the mind. Please people, as a country, can we do a little legwork to check out facts, especially ones spouted from campaign ads? Also, what was appalling was the belief that being a flip-flopper was just as bad as misleading the public to a war which has killed thousands, and laid waste to a country. Come on. Sorry I've gotten off topic.
2. The Bad Gets Good, Which Then Gets Worse:
If Kerry pulls out Ohio/Nevada and wins this crapshoot, it may not be a good thing (other than the Supreme Court dealy, which is a real shame). Kerry will be going in with no clear mandate, against a hostile Congress and Senate. Hard obstacles to begin with, but he is also saddled with debt that will come due in his term, and a vastly overtaxed military in an unwinnable war, with the opinion of the world resting on his actions. I don't think he can do it. In some ways it's almost better to let Team Bush live with the crap-storm they've created, because Kerry will be thought of as an ineffective (and thus 1-term) president, and then it will be back to the Republicans. Hmm maybe Jeb will be ready for his shot by then.
3. The Bad Gets Weird:
So it's a tie. 269-269, now it's down to Congress to vote in the next president. Who'd a thunk it? Back to back elections where the president wins on a technicality. This is democracy? But wait, it's not so simple. This scenario I pulled from one of the networks and I thought it had some merit (in a 'what-if' kinda way). Let's say it's a tie, but Kerry somehow picks up the popular vote again (a la 2000), there is a chance that some republican congressmen will not vote strictly on party lines if their jurisdictions went to Kerry....but that's not going to happen, the bigger outfall of this scenario is that Team Bush will be even more discredited in the international scheme because he "won" neither election (according to the standard of every other election but one). I almost want to see this happen because it would prove yet again, how busted our current system of voting is. Why does every county have the right to make up its own rules? WTF?
But frankly all this is obsessing over details and doesn't really address the deeper issue: How could this have happened in the first place? And by 'this' I mean the increasingly conservative, Christian value-laden, capitalistic, jingoistic shift of politics in this country. What happened to separation of church and state? Where are the atheists? Why isn't that amendment fought for as bitterly as the right to bear arms? This is increasingly irrelevant in modern times, whereas the protection from Religious zealotry has been needed throughout history. Where are all the liberals? Where is labor? Where are the poor, disenfranchised, wage-slaves? Where are the millions without health-care? Or the poor bastards who lost everything in the spate of Enron-esque scandals? Or the soldiers and families who seen their children/friends/siblings/parents wounded or killed for a war that wasn't necessary? Or those same people who've had their benefits cut and their equipment budgets gutted? Where is the freaking free press?
I've always said that in a democracy we get the government we deserve. Why have we been so bad to get this? How can we make it better?
I agree with you to a point. Buying a hybrid sends a market signal that a real alternative to SUVs needs to be made available (I don't consider sport-wagons with muscle car engines an alternative), but I fear that the signal being sent is that a high-tech, environmentally costly alternative is the only thing that will fly. If I ruled the world, or at least the car industry the market signal would be for a simple, cheap, super-reliable car. Think VW Lupo, or Smart-car, but even those aren't quite right. I don't mean to bag on hybrid buyers too much, but I get more frustrated with them than SUV/gas guzzler drivers for the simple reason I feel like they *want* to do right, but haven't done enough research on the problem. And that mindset is what gets us in serious trouble (think Cane-Toad, or Eucalyptus, or Broom, or MTBE, or Catalytic Converters, etc.) The one-problem solution (particularly with technology) usually ends up causing larger, harder to control side-effects. See MTBE, where in an effort to control air-pollution (which could've been controlled in a number of ways, it just happened that MTBE did it, and was a waste product of refining fuel in the first place so the Oil companies were happy to sell it at a huge markup) has now caused tremendous ground water contamination, and even the State legislature is having a hard time getting it banned. I fear similar problems will show up with hybrids, when there are less energy intensive/toxic solutions to the fuel-effeciency issue.
But hybrid owners do mean well, and I don't want to take issue with their intention, just the manifestation of that intention. I think the real short-coming is that there aren't really any cars available in the states that can send the correct market signal. Hybrids are, for some, the closest, best thing.
Having said that here's my idea for a car:
Small (think A-class Mercedes, or Smart, or Lupo), hyper-effecient (perhaps bio-diesel, which shortens the carbon cycle to years instead of eons, yes there are problems with particulates, and land being used to grow fuel instead of food, but that's another rant), built with minimal materials, and minimal frills. No power windows, no central locking, no lcd screens, or navigation crap. It would be the most efficient motor in the least chassis possible and still hold 4 adults. Also it would need to have 2 decent cup holders. Come on, you can't have a car without freaking cup holders. Get rid of A/C and bring back the wing-window.
Make the car in such a way that there are very few components to break. Electrical stuff (windows, locks etc) always seem to go bad after about 10 years/100k. Think about how this car will drive in 30 years.
Use materials that are either highly recyclable with low-embodied energy, or renewable. Wool carpets? Cellulose/composite interior panels (dash, door panels etc), how about a bamboo sheet headliner? Interior lighitng by LEDs (low energy needs, long long life?) Fabric seat covers (hell, for west-coast hipness, make it undyed, organic cotton or something) Make it really boxy (which is coming back as a design style anyway) which would keep manufacturing costs down. Make it cheap but good. The problem with the lower end of the market is that the cars are usually crap (Yugo, Geo Metro comes to mind) but engineers are getting around that problem (Kia, Hyundai, Others). Think Ford Fiesta but with greener materials. That car was great and they last a suprising long time. Think of it like a ford Fiesta if Whole Foods was building it.
Case in point: I have a 1972 BMW 2002. Now it's just about perfect except that I bet it's emissions are terrible. But it was also built before they started worrying too much about smog. Imagine the same design brief, with some modern engine management controls. It is faster and handles better than almost any other car I've ever owned, and it's owner serviceable, and easy to park. I just wish it had some crazy-hyper efficient low-pollution bio-diesel motor.
Monday, November 01, 2004
PS, who is out there reading this stuff anyway? You can leave anonymous comments on this post (yes Laurel/Andy I'm stealing your idea) and I'm pretty curious to see if there are more than two people reading this. Thanks.
I guess what started the rant, an ever bigger problem I see in this country is the lack of thinking through a decision. Very few seem to be able to look at the long-view, and at least attempt to suss out all the ramifications. And it just bugs me when people who think they are so environmental if they buy a hybrid. They aren't, and they should own up to it. I know what damage my vehicles are causing, and I just ask that the rest of the planet does the same.
Also, they are better more environmental cars than hybrids out right now, like the straight-up Civic with no fancy options, but it isn't so flashy.
Personal Transportation and the environment, especially hybrid vehicles.
Hybrid vehicles are bad. In some ways they are worse than SUVs, but especially because it reinforces a simplistic, and non-comlete answer to a mounting problem. Here's the stripped down logic: SUVs (and cars in general) are bad. They cause air pollution, and use up oil which leads to war. If we are environmentalists we should by the car with the best mileage, which is a hybrid.
Now, I'm all for effecient vehicles, but there are some problems with hybrids, and that route of thinking that is in many ways more dangerous than not giving a shit and driving a giant SUV. I'll start at the top of the hybrids and move on down to the list to the dangerous root of the problem.
When thinking of hybrids most people only calculate the impacts of the usage of that vehicle, not the production, repair, or retirement of it. Hybrids hold an huge amount of embodied energy (the amount of energy per vehicle the factories had to use to create it from raw elements) in their unique batteries, motors, and management systems. This energy is greater than "standard" vehicles, while the mileage gains are not impressive enough to offset them. I usually drive old crappy cars, but I've had a few cars in the 80's that got tremendous mileage (30's to low 40's), my girlfriend at the time had a Honda CRX with over 220k miles that still got in the high 30's around town, and better on the freeway. Her mom had a Toyota hatchback that regularly got that kind of mileage. And all of these cars were 10-15 years old at that point. Cheap to run, simple to maintain, and cheap (energy wise) to produce compared with modern cars. Most of the reports have come out now that hybrids have not been getting the mileage they've advertised, but even if they did they are less energy effecient (from a life-cycle perspective) than a cheap econobox of 20 years ago. Hybrids are not a solution.
There are other problems I forsee with increasingly technological solutions to personal transport. Long-term, do we know how these systems will hold up? Not yet. Are there mechanics that can service these systems? So far, only at the dealerships. What about the cost and toxicity when these vehicles are in an accident? Think about how much faster a insurance company will write off a hybrid when it has been in a slight accident that damaged thousands of dollars of hi-tech batteries. That' car is no longer repairable and another car (maybe hybrid, maybe not) will have to be produced to replace it. These points are the dark side of hybrids that no one (especially Toyota/Honda) want to talk about.
The "green" car (I know, it's an oxymoron) is one that uses the least materials (I'm talking no a/c, no power windows, no digital gauges, etc), and or the least toxic materials (natural fiber carpet maybe? Cellulose derived panels?) to get the best mileage/lowest emissions. So far no one makes such a car for sale in the states. The VW Lupo is pretty close, as are some other small diesels in europe.
Ok, so hybrids aren't the answer, but the bigger problem is that even if there was such a thing as a green car, it couldn't be the answer either. Why? Because the biggest problems with personal transport are not the oil they burn, or the emissions they spew. It's their impact on landuse. Cars do more to determine how we live, and what we think we can do than any other law, object, social-norm, or emotion. It's creepy when you stop to think about it. Humans are..I was going to say that humans are an after-thought in landuse decisions, but that's not exactly right. It's that cars are so integral that we barely even have to think about them. Check out any medevil city in Europe. You can tell exactly how big that city was when cars became common because all land planning from there on out shifted to accomadate the car. It's harder to see in California because almost all the cities didn't really start to grow until the car became ubiquitous.
Any technology that makes cars easier, cleaner, and less guilt-inspiring to drive will cause us to continue to build large ineffecient urban sprawl. Bigger areas of impermeable surface (parking lots) which deprive our aquifers of water, and create polluted runoff..etc etc...YOu've all heard the rants before.
BUt think of this, most complex problems can't be solved with a simple solution. Ecological decline can be..almost. There's actually a set of solutions, but here's the deal, they are hard to live with because they tell us to do with less.
Stop making so much stuff. Stop using so much land, do less. work less. eat less. You've got to, because it's a full-world and it's getting more crowded every minute.
You want effecient living? Don't look to the Rocky Mountain Institute, look at New York (which is currently considering a ban on the creation of new parking spaces! can you imagine any other jurisdiciton in the country doing that?). If we are going to succeed on becoming less of a cancer to this planet and to ourselve we need to change our view of what green living is supposed to be. It ain't driving a shiny new car with hi-tech batteries. It will be living in a dense urban area and walking. That's effecient.
Rant off. For now.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Saturday, October 09, 2004
Most of the times I ride my motorcycle, I end up getting in a confrontation with a vulture. Now, I thought this was normal, but it has slowly dawned on me (after many friends pointed out how weird this was) that there must me something about me that either attracts vultures, or fails to scare them away, either way I've spent some of my more harrowing moments at speed trying to dodge the immense wings and duck under some nasty, disease-ridden talons.
And now there a vulture in my backyard. I'll take some pictures once the bird rescue people show up.
BTW: Fargo was completely ignorant of the giant bird. He was happily chewing a stick the entire time....
Monday, October 04, 2004
I was going to get a ride from Meredith, but then once I realized how long a car trip it was going to be, I didn't really want to subject her and her children to wasting a nice Saturday to indulge my sick facination with old European shitboxes. Laurel can attest to time wasted during my VW phase, and I didn't want to make that same mistake twice. At any rate, I was trying to figure out how to get down there (my other friends either had plans, or were pretty reluctant to drive almost 2 hours through SF on a Saturday), when I stumbled upon www.511.org which is the public transit clearing house for the Bay Area. I simply put in my address, and my destination and that I wanted the fastest trip, leaving as early as possible, and it told me all I needed to know. Pretty neat, yet another reason why I like the internet. I was actually pretty excited to see how the transit system faired in a long distance journey like that (being an advocate for transit and bikes myself...) I will ignore the irony of taking transit to pick up an old polluting car so I can drive the mile and a half to work...ok back to the story:
The 80 to SF was lovely, it was dark, cool, and I got to sleep and listen to NPR on my mp3 player. I was really sacked out (drool, neckache, the whole deal, I even think I was snoring), but I did notice that the bus got really full. It's weird, I never would've thought about a pre-dawn Saturday bus being fully loaded, but it was. By the time we got to SF the sun was coming up. I was particularly smitten with SF that morning. Everything was cool and quiet, with little stirrings of activity. Guys washing the sidewalk. Bums gradually waking up from doorways, and trying to stomp off the chill in their bones. Freshly scubbed hipsters walking dogs downtown. It was gorgeous. It made me miss living in the City.
The bus dropped us off at the Bay Terminal (which is a stunning part of the city in the early morning). I got off groggily, and gave some cigarrettes to the bums on the benches. Then I was struck by the pigeons on the wires so I took a picture. A few seconds later, a young teenager in a pink puffy coat started feeding them, and they swarmed both of us. Sleepily I starting chewing on a bagel, and before I knew it, pigeions were levitating about a foot in front of my face trying to get a piece. I had to actually slap at them (shoo pigeon! shoo!) to keep them from stealing my bagel. I hadn't planned on this part, and it was quite a strange ordeal to eat breakfast. My struggle against the feathered infidels made the bums and the girl laugh quietly.
After that I hopped on the bus for Menlo Park. To be continued...