Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Two Ways Air Travel Impacts the Environment, and Three Things You Can Do About It

Flying makes greenhouse gasses. Whether water vapor or just standard schmutz is the worst of them I don't know, but both of them contribute to the dirty and impermeable bubble we're creating around the planet. And sometimes they work together. As with all clouds, first you've got your little particle of dust, then you've got the humidity glomming onto it (here's a snapshot post on how clouds are formed). But what's so bad about clouds? 

Have you ever noticed that cloudy nights are often warmer? It isn't simply that heat makes clouds form – it's also that clouds trap heat from escaping at night. “A Penn State study compared regions of the United States where contrails tended to form more strongly with areas where they didn’t. The more contrail-heavy the area, the less the variation between daytime highs and nighttime lows tended to be.” (Global News)

There's some debate about the cloud effect, but none at all about the stinky emission effect. “Aviation is on track to have a 1.5 billion-ton carbon footprint by 2025. The entire 27-nation, 457-million-person European Union emits some 3.1 billion tons of CO2 yearly at this point.” (Christian Science Monitor)

What can I do?

1. Fly less. Okay, that one was obvious, but maybe the hardest for those of us with money in our pockets and an itch to see the world, or far flung family, or a business to run. But maybe we can be a bit more grounded, and sit with our current locations a bit more. Do one or two things to improve where you are instead of flying away from it all (I'm talking to myself, especially). If you're going on a family trip, consider driving. Yes, it takes longer, and is essentially torture, but at least future family will have a planet. And birds. And air. If it's for work, a constant pressure on companies by employees to allow more long distance communication, via Zoom or Skype or any of the bazillion apps that work beautifully, will help us all in the long run.

2. Ask about your plane. If it doesn't have wings that lift up like the hand on the arm of a traffic cop telling you to stop, don't buy. There are many emission reducing designs that airlines have access to, but might not use if they would rather wear out they're ancient investments, and cut corners on new tech. Don't let them get away with it. Boycott bad design.

3. Fly during the day, never at night. Scientists don't seem to be in unanimous agreement about this one. Dr Minnis of NASA, Dr Dahl (Green Medinfo), and many others say red eyes create a frozen shell where nighttime contrails form, impeding heat from escaping as it normally would.
“Planes flying between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. were responsible for 60 to 80 percent of contrails' warming effect on temperatures. That's because contrails at night trap outgoing heat radiation.” (Christian Science Monitor)

And, just to give us all the warm fuzzies, here's an excerpt from a Slate article: 
In even the most optimistic scenarios, by 2050, aviation could amount for as much as 15 percent of global emissions. (It’s now just 2 percent.) In the U.S., under a “deep decarbonization pathway,” aviation could account for as much as 50 percent of all transportation emissions by 2050. (It’s now about 10 percent.)” (

Articles to read:

“Hot Trails: To Fight Global Warming, Kiss the Red-Eye Good-Bye” by Christina Reed

“Just Plane Wrong: Global aviation is the fastest-growing cause of climate change. And the EPA might let it off the hook.” by Eric Holthaus

“Clouds Caused By Aircraft Exhaust May Warm The U.S. Climate” by Gretchen Cook-Anderson, Chris Rink, and Julia Cole

“Cloudy with a chance of contrails: NASA clears up skies with new fuel” by Josh Kenworthy

“Airplane contrails and their effect on temperatures” by Moises Velasquez-Manoff

“Empty skies after 9/11 set the stage for an unlikely climate change experiment” by Patrick Cain

“Can aircraft trails affect climate? Grounding planes after the 11 September attacks may not have caused unusual temperature effects.” by Anna Barnett

“Artificial Weather Revealed by Post 9-11 Flight Groundings” by Sayer Ji

“A blanket around the Earth” by NASA

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ginger bashing blahs

There’s always some reason humanity is a bummer. 
This time, it’s because I’m a redhead.

I’ve talked before about the heckling I used to get from kids at school - as well as from perfect strangers - because of my red hair. 

That doesn't happen, now that I'm a middle aged woman. Thank goodness. But media still happens. A few years ago I started keeping a tally of how often the bad guy or gal in books and movies have red hair.

Summary? Rates are way higher than the non-fiction ginger per capita numbers.

Then I started noticing all the ginger bashing in comedy. 

Of course, there's South Park’s Kick a Ginger Day. That's not news.

Amy Schumer and her line about reasons we need Plan B, like for cases of “rape or incest or with a redhead.”  

Yamaneika Saunders on Jimmy Fallon's The Tonight Show talking about how this was the first time a black woman had ever wanted to marry a “firecrotch.” (That term was new to me, actually.)

Yes it’s comedy, and funny, but I've had enough, thanks.

Last year, a woman asked me if I, as a red head, thought having red hair might affect a person's sense of self worth. I rolled my eyes, nodding emphatically. I can't count the number of fights on the schoolyard, the amount of shouted insults from strangers, the suggestions that I just “bleach my hair” that I got as a child.

The woman, who was a therapist, followed up: “Because a client of mine, a young man, is a handsome college student with red hair. Says he can't get any dates because of it.” 

Oh, honey.

That’s what made Stephen Colbert's monologue about the speech from Joe Kennedy III personally satisfying. Colbert treated Kennedy as gorgeous, with zero reference to his hair color. Well, except to describe him as the love child between Superman and Conan O'Brien. 

Is there a problem of anti-ginger sentiment in the United States, or am I just getting more sensitive to it with age? 

Exposure allergy?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Accidental AI SciFi Gertrude Stein

Can't stop loving this! I tried text to speech on a section I was writing, and got SciFi Beckett:
Hey Yellowbird yelled burn burn. 
Cello stopped, hands on cold metal buckle. 
Grab the lines, you idiot! Bon ben burn hollered. Cello did it. 
He made it over to the cupboard. It took him less than a second to get there. 
Push wish wish wish WHOOOSH. G forces are no joke. He pried open the cupboard, 
and found a small cylinder inside. This it? He asked. Don’t know! Yelled castor. Does it look like it’s holding gas? 
Experimentally cello Shockett shook it shook it. It was happy. There was a nozzle. Got the lights? He yelled back. Aargh! Yelled caster. 
Blanca had a flint in her pocket. Blanca always had a flint in her pocket. She was right next to the cupboard, and cello took the flint out of her pocket. 
He didn’t know how to use it. 
Oh for dust sake exclaimed Blanca. She leaned over, And struck a spark while cello let out of tiny gasp of gas ounce there was flame. 
Now what? Grab the wire next to it. 
Caster talked to him like he was stupid. Which she was he was, or at least he felt that way. Melt the wire and seal the door directed castor now if I have to say anything more to you we will crash on that planet shield. 
Cello sealed the door he couldn’t help thinking that maybe this was the last chance they had to get out of the satellite before it crashed on the planet. 
Somehow, Part of him wanted to die burning up without on a metal exit skeleton piercing and crocheting and oh dear better stop thinking about that. All right exclaimed caster 
you’d better be done cello because if we Lowndes and you didn’t do a Goodnuf job this shuttle will detach and the whole thing will be scrunched and burned on the surface. Blanca yelled back at caster, 
oh shut up! If we die it has nothing to do with the seal not being secure, and everything to do with your pilot thing. Cello tried strained against the G forces,Pulling on the cord’s that had kept him from crashing against the rear of the shovel. 
He wasn’t strong enough to pull himself forward.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Oh, those pink pussy hats...

I have just spent the last two hours trying to navigate the issue of the pink ear hats, and why they may or may not be offensive to people, on Facebook. 

I was trying to determine exactly how offensive they were or weren't, and felt bad that something that had been so fun and well intentioned was now the arbitrary symbol of white supremacy. I felt bad for all the older ladies who had been so happy to spend all their time knitting those hats, and then banding together wearing them. 

I still feel that labeling pink pussy hats as white supremacist is a little extreme. 

However, lots of other people seem genuinely offended by them, and not for my purely aesthetic reasons. The Facebook group got tired of my asking for precision – I've been in the position of having to answer the same questions over and over, on sensitive issues related to female oppression. 

So, I apologized for asking a lot of questions, acknowledging that it can be exhausting to have to explain your position over and over. 

Hopefully, I did that one thing gracefully. 

(I feel the need, right now, to go on Facebook, and look at what people have said, if they've answered me. It's that “someone is wrong on the internet, and this time it was me” thing.)

Not long after I wrote that, someone told me that I have to be careful of microaggressions. It's very interesting that this was an example of my exhibiting microaggressions.

It makes me have more sympathy with white men. I mean, some little kid, defensive part of me is feeling like I'm just supposed to shut up and disappear, and they're making too much of it, and like clearly they don't want me to be their friend, how must white men be feeling?

I'm lucky to be in a position where I can feel both ends of that exchange.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Bad therapy

In French, the origin of rejeter is more obvious than it is in English. Jeter is “throw”, and re is … um, “re”. That's “back” and “throw”. Or “again” and “throw”. In English, “throwback” is something entirely other. But in a sense, it isn't, either, is it? Because when I feel rejected, it calls up all this rolodex of bad memories from the past. It's a throwback feeling.

The word, at least its etymological roots, suggest something more violent than it really is – we are rarely actually thrown, I hope. But it still feels that way. Our brains respond to it exactly as they would to physical pain. It makes rejection something worth avoiding.

A year and a half ago I stopped seeing a therapist I'd been seeing since before cancer. I went to her because of my sugar binging (which she never took seriously) and my difficulty organizing my career (about which she never proved helpful.)

By the time I wanted to end the relationship, I found that she and I had gone down different paths. She had not understood, since at least half a year ago, why I found all of my reading about Asperger's syndrome so comforting, so affirming (more on that another time), and I generally found her suggestions unhelpful. Redo my website by the next time we meet? Seriously? Anyone who has ever done, or redone, a website, will know what a tall task that can be, logistically and emotionally.

Other things bothered me, such as her suggestion that I consider meditating (I've been a serious meditator since before we flipped the millennium) – and that I needed anti depressant pills (even though I really didn't want them at that time) and that I was resistant to therapy and was likely to have conflicts with any therapist (as though my reluctance to accept unproven authority figures was a fault) and that I complained too much for too long ... okay, I can see that last one.

My favorite, though, is that she said we should have stopped the sessions a long time ago, but she had needed to deal with counter transference, to whit, her imposing her own relationship issues on me. Wha...?

She listed everything in the paragraph above (and then some) in the last session we had, just after I told her that I didn't want to engage in therapy any more. Talk about a doorknob surprise.

I had wondered about the usefulness of the therapy sessions before, testing the waters to see what I thought, what she thought. I guess that was my own, ignored, warning that I should have gotten out of there, fast.

One and a half years ago, when this unfortunate ending took place, I was sad sack me. Crying, anxious, a complete wreck. My friends helped, a lot. They propped me up from my quivering, twitching, disturbingly dusty and full of cat hair place on the floor. They listened to me cry, question my worth, wonder if there was something seriously wrong with me. One suggested that it was like a bad break up, another said it would be comical if it wasn't so not, and another suggested I ask for my money back.

The thing is, it was rejection from someone I no longer wanted to hire. Interesting, right? Rejection from those we ourselves have rejected still hurts!

I have only one choice about the pain, which is that I must absorb it and move on, but I have a lesson I can learn for the future. If I take seriously the “throw back” version of rejection, then I should be grateful for rejection. Because if I never got anything back, I would live in a vacuum. If I never got anything back, I wouldn't know which path was the right one. 

I'd like to emphasize that it's not being me that's getting thrown back. 

Bats! Here's an analogy: echolocation. If I don't hear return squeaks, I won't know where the walls are, and where there's beautiful night sky.

I have no complaints whatsoever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Traveling in France by Bicycle

I traveled from Calais to Pont L'Eveque on my own twice.

The second time around I brought my bike. I bought a rack for the back, so I could strap my things to it. I'd brought my sleeping bag to England, and so I strapped it to the back of the bicycle. I know I brought my bag because the wild farm kitten I later acquired developed a dependence on that sleeping bag, and when I lost it nine years later she died within the year.

Anyhow, the bike rack didn't fit. It rubbed at the bike frame, stripping off bits of fancy iridescent paint, exposing metal that would later rust. I used a too thin bolt and nut so I could cobble it together. This made a rattle the whole trip.

I also bought a yellow poncho. It didn't occur to me until it was later pointed out by local youths (on a moped, always with those mopeds), outside a French MacDonald's that, along with my curly red hair and my wine colored Danskos, I bore an unflattering resemblance to someone who is not one of my role models. They circled around the roundabout twice to get a better look, laugh and point.

What was I doing at a MacDonald's, anyway? I must have needed to use the bathroom.

My relationship to French adolescents was not positive. A couple of them had already stolen my bike tools from my rack, as I had made my way into the brush to pee. They, too, hooted and hollered in their gleeful booty seizing.

Back to England. I hadn't started off from my base in Cambridge very early. I think I must have left from Robert and Jan's campus house, and certainly left later than I meant to. By afternoon, I was in a small town south of London, layers of clothes tied around my waist, wearing my rust colored tank top, and sitting soaking up the sun with my loaded down bike finally propped off to the side. I felt happy, and free. Which was clearly the wrong pose to adopt, because two anxious looking, uptight young men in railway uniforms walked up, ready to shoo me away as a vagrant. Luckily for me, I had a ticket, and they left me alone.

Relative to these guys, I felt gloriously wild.

On the train I got, and stopped at every dinky village between there, wherever there was, and the white cliffs of Dover. This train had green velvet interiors, upholstered doors with individual cars, turning handles in a beautifully unmodern style. It looked just like the illustrations from Alice Through The Looking Glass. The train and ferry combination was cheap, now that the Eurostar had taken over the path between Paris and London, and I was grateful for it.

It only occurs to me now to wonder how much Dover and Calais suffered after that transition.

On the ferry, there was a middle aged guy, not sane looking, with his moped. He made an overture to me, in French. I ignored him.

I arrived at Calais at night, even later than I had the first time around. I don't remember if I had more or less money than the tiny amount I'd had the first time around, but it didn't matter. The hostel was long closed.

I biked off toward the dunes, vaguely thinking, after several impromptu camping experiences on the dunes of Provincetown on Cape Cod, that this was a solution to my night's woes.

Unfortunately, the guy on his moped followed me. He watched me stop at the hostel, trying to get in. In the background, when no one came to answer, he made crude sex gestures with his hips, and pointed at me. I shouted to him to go away.

I got back on my bicycle and started toward the beaches, hoping to lose him. No luck. I was over on the bike trail, and he was on the road, and he continued his pelvic thrusts, as if I had simply been too slow to understand the first time around. I was getting scared. “No!” I shouted at him. In an attempt to get away, I slammed on my breaks – good old bicycle was forgiving – and whipped around in a one eighty. I biked hard for the nearest houses, and he, on his slower, heavier to turn moped, followed as soon as he managed. I started banging on a door. Really terrified now, I shouted for help. Finally, the door opened. It was a man, heading toward his thirties, in slippers and a dressing gown. His older mother, likewise, ambled out with a dressing gown. Both of them looked at me with distrust, her much more than him.

I should say at this point that it would be a while before I could claim to speak French.

I got out my little plastic covered Berlitz English French dictionary. I tried to ask for the police. They both looked confused, and she looked at me with hostility. He eventually understood, and pointed in the direction of the police office, one or two kilometers that way, he seemed to say. Closed, he seemed to say. Then he closed the door. I was nearly crying.

Great. World's most skilled at getting lost girl, with creepy moped man pelvic communicating on moped tries to find closed police station in an unknown city at two in the morning...

But the guy was gone. I'd seen him motor off as soon as the door had opened. He clearly had more faith in the local populace than was warranted. I'm not sure what made me trust that he wouldn't just be hiding around the corner, but I went, cautious as a cat, back to the dunes. There was a chain link fence, taller than me. Somehow, I not only climbed it in my clogs, but also managed to get my thankfully lightish bicycle over it. I hid in their depths, loving those dunes, and spread my soft nylon sleeping bag out, and tried to sleep. I caught a few hours before the sun rose, and then I put my bag away and got my bike back over, with much less ease now that the adrenaline had gone.

Did anyone come to tell me, at dawn, that I wasn't supposed to be there? I have fuzziness around this memory. I think I may have been told, as I was packing up. No matter. One crazy man's belief in the kindness of strangers, and my own experience of the kindness of the landscape saved me from a horrible experience that night.