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Thursday, May 29, 2008

power grab in hot tubistan

I have an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle n a Marin County effort to provide its own renewable power.

Monday, May 26, 2008

the key to peace?

This three-day weekend pushed me over the edge. Too many arguments about the kids watching TV on sunny afternoons! And so I have finally carried out my old and until-now empty threat -- and ordered a gizmo to lock our TVs. It's pretty impressive -- there are in fact a whole bunch of devices you can try. Take a look at the site I found,called "family safe media." I'm trying the cheapest solution: an actual lock you can put on the plug. But I splurged on the three-day rushed delivery....who knows? Maybe it's an alternative to paying fortunes for summer camp.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

half-full or half-empty, continued

After filing that last post, I kept thinking how Panglossian and Pollyannish it may strike some...and yet I keep being hit on the head with examples of how the Internet pulls us together in meaningful ways as much as it can keep us in front of our screens. One of which is an upcoming meeting about the proposed pesticide sprayingover the Bay Area, in which concerned mothers are bringing together experts to brief us on what is really going on. I'd been pushing this issue to the back of my consciousness while trying to meet an editing deadline, but kept getting emails and links until I had to pay attention, and now I've not only committed to attending the meeting but pestered a bunch of friends via email to accompany me. The same thing happened with the disasters in Myanmar and China -- I couldn't get on my computer without somehow seeing some viral plea for contributions, and finally contributed. Sure, this kind of thing is splintering our attention. But it's also building our sense of connection and maybe also compassion.
For another aspect of what Internet culture is doing to us, however, make sure to read Emily Gould's hypnotizing article in the New York Times Magazinetoday. The kids had to wait until about 11 a.m. for their breakfast, but hey, it's Sunday...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

half-full or half-empty?

On my bedside (it's a big stack and getting bigger)(because I'm distracted) is a new book entitled "Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age" by Maggie Jackson. It is all about how technology is splintering our focus and making us all seem as if we have ADHD.
That's certainly a valid problem, but reading the book, I wonder about the subtitle. I do agree we all have to work harder to find face-time these days, and that this is sad, to say the least, yet I'm increasingly convinced that the Internet is pulling people together in ways we've never been before. And that this has tremendous potential for helping to repair the world.
One thing the Dalai Lama said in Seattle that struck me as so inspiring is that despite all the truly frightening news in the world, "people are getting better." Violence is going down, many kinds of cooperation are increasing. Consider the explosive recent growth in non-profits that are channeling people's best intentions, the fact that Silicon Valley gazillionaires aren't waiting until the Pearly Gates are in sight to start distributing their wealth.... I spoke today with Steven Swig, the founder of San Francisco'sPresidio College, who said that when he founded his school, which now offers an MBA in "sustainable management," he was "swimming against the tide." There were only two similar programs in the United States. Now there are more than a dozen. And half of this year's class chose the sustainable business path even though they had a choice of a more major business school.
Swig is convinced America is moving back to "community values" after a long period of individuality that didn't make anyone truly happy. He says there have been similar shifts in the past -- for instance from the Robber Baron days to Roosevelt's caring-government era. I asked him why he felt so convinced of this, and he answered: Obama!
A sentiment with which I can't help but agree. I just hope we all evolve sufficiently in time to cope with global warming...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Almost every morning I commute to my office, a remodeled tool shed about 20 yards from my kitchen. (Just one of the cool things about this setup is that even after June 1, I can do this while putting on makeup or talking on my cellphone, without violating California law.) Two days ago, en route, I've started crossing paths with two single-minded little birds -- they may be chickadees -- flying back and forth to build a new nest in a tangle of jasmine against one a bedroom wall. I've never actually watched birds build nests before, and it is dramatic. It's like they're on automatic pilot, working soundlessly together, little twigs in their beaks. They're on a tight construction deadline.
It makes me think, not for the first time, about the forces that govern human lives, and how we construct these elaborate, often transparently comic narratives over the most simple survival imperatives. Reminder to self, and to anyone who wants a major treat: reread John Barth's mind-boggling 1960s short story, "Lost in the Funhouse".....

Sunday, May 11, 2008

beautiful books

On this Mother's Day, I want to appreciate a dad -- David Sheff, the author of "Beautiful Boy" -- which I just finished reading last night. I don't think I've ever read anything so honest and touching by a father -- and a lot of it seems to echo what mommy-brain scientists have found: that the more time either parent spends with a child, the deeper the bond and the more each of you transforms the other. Sheff, who divorced when his son was young, spent years as a part-time single parent, which may well account for how devoted, engaged and sometimes, as he says himself, too-enmeshed, a father he became. It seems fairly clear that he ended up saving his meth-addicted son's life. A few times.

Also, in my blog about children's literature the other day, I made the terrible mistake of not extolling Rick Riordan's wonderful series based on Greek myths, starting with The Lightning Thief. The other day, we got a copy of the latest, "The Battle of the Labyrinth,", and first my 12-year-old and then my 9-year-old gulped it down within a several-hours marathon. The peace in the house was an early Mother's Day gift...

Friday, May 09, 2008

You can be truly feminist and mad at Hillary

My husband says a colleague at his office is angry with Barack Obama for "not waiting his turn" and blocking the chances of what might have been the first woman president.

I've considered myself a feminist since my teenage years, which, to date me, came at the height of the feminist movement. I fought my way, tooth and un-manicured nail, into what was still a very male-dominated world of foreign correspondents, and stayed there for 15 years, battling many insults and wage-discrimination along the way. Today, I confess, I'm the kind of feminist who is home when her kids return from school and makes their breakfasts and picks up their towels from the floor (but I'm going to do something about that soon, trust me) and frequently cooks for her husband. Life is full of ambiguities.

I'd love to see a woman in the White House one day, but the more important thing is to have someone that men and women alike can trust. Our equal-opportunity problems of war, environmental disasters and recession are too serious to risk the alternative. Hillary is not trustworthy. Her comments about getting more votes from white working-class men is just the latest example. Her stooping to racism, pandering (with that gas-tax holiday idea) and innuendos throughout this campaign make her unworthy of women's allegiance. We can do better -- much better -- than that.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

one of the best parts about last night...

...was hearing Tim Russert on MSNBC saying that Hillary had hurt herself with voters by the pandering "gas tax holiday" idea. American voters CAN be underestimated!

Monday, May 05, 2008

sadder and more real than the death of Bambi's mom

I've finally gotten around to reading The Golden Compass with my boys, who are now 9 and 12, and am amazed by the poignancy of so much it -- especially, of course, the parts concerning the daemons. Those, for all my fellow late-comers, are the usually warm and furry creatures that live with humans in the mysterious world Philip Pullman has created: separate but somehow united so as always to give solace and companionship. We have just reached the point where Lyra (stop reading now if it would ruin the suspense) abruptly encounters a boy who has been "severed" from his daemon, and is as horrified and repulsed, Pullman writes, as if she'd seen his insides spilled out. This boy is so utterly alone and bereft and incomplete -- and reading this brought home in an entirely new way to me how lonely it is to be human. We haven't yet finished this first book of the series, but I like it so much more than Harry Potter....Reading aloud has been one of the great joys of motherhood. Before this, we actually finished Great Expectations and, on a three-night binge during the last rainy season when we lost electricity, Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. Huckleberry Fin, before that, was one of my favorites, and I'm wondering if anyone reading this blog has other suggestions, now that the summer is approaching?