Thursday, May 31, 2007

Speaking of Greenhouse Gases

Michael Griffin, a NASA big wig was interviewed on NPR this morning. Was there a Bush goon waiting in the wings to exile Griffin if he uttered anything politically inconvenient? Griffin was so cautious and obfuscatory when the conversation turned to global warming that you’ll have to forgive me for imagining as much.

Two things he said particularly irritated my sense of reality. First off, “I am not sure it is fair to say [global] warming is a problem me must wrestle with (sic). To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate.” This after he acknowledged the scientific consensus that global warming exists, and homo sapiens activity is driving it. Global demand for fossil fuel is increasing. In so far as our excess emissions contribute to the rising mercury, as long as this trend continues all signs point to continued global warming. Put aside whether the current climate is optimal or not. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that our societies are adapted to the current climate, so as the climate changes we will have to do things differently. Plants are already migrating towards the poles, and native Alaskans, beleagured by melting permafrost in the other direction. These are just two examples. Whether you are a shipping tycoon hoping for newly navigable trans-arctic routes, or a farmer worrying about desertification, climate change is “a matter requiring a solution”—a problem. At this point, pretending otherwise is a stale argument.

Later Griffin accuses folks who want to deal with global warming of arrogance and wanting to decide “which climate is best for all human beings.” Demagogues of all stripes play this card. They call the opposition an alienated elite who wants to rule the average joe, all in order to imply their side stands up for the common man. But what an odd time to pull that trick! Americans, roughly 5% of the worlds population, didn’t consult the rest of the world before bingeing on fossil fuels. We have already played a disproportionate role in altering the world’s climate. It is hard to acknowledge that global warming has an anthropogenic component and ignore that. Griffin’s claim just draws more attention to our arrogance.

If you want to learn more about denial, listen to Griffin’s interview. If you want to learn about Global Warming check out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs & Compost Here I Come

So much for “look before you leap;” peer pressure wins every time, which is a round about way of saying I’ve joined an eco team started by my co-worker. The team is a support-group of sorts for people who want to reduce their individual carbon emissions. Us aspiring Captain Planets have to stick together. It will be fun if we get something done, and maddening if we pat ourselves on the back while going nowhere.

The cynic in me is yelling “the difference you four make will be statistically insignificant in the context of the USA, heck in the context of your town.” My conscience, however, tends to think such cynical voices are an excuse for inaction. If everyone follows that line of thinking, we’ll never get anywhere. So I’m doing the eco-team, but damned if I’ll feel smug about it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

is feminist a dirty word?

Right now I am in the public library trying to discover a new blog. Trying, not succeeding. So far I can see the posts, but the comment policy is off limits. My attempts to navigate there are thwarted by a pesky: “access has been denied for the following reason: banned phrase found.” What message could inspire more curiosity? Believe you me public library, my imagination has conjured up a much lewder phrase than appears on the forbidden page.

What is lewd anyway, and I do I really want the library board deciding? One answer is that libraries are community space; communities should be able to set standards of conduct; and if I have a problem with the internet use policy I should appeal to the community to change it, or not use their internet. Besides, think of the children you crazy dyke—without web filters they’ll ruin the sanctity of libraries, not to mention their brains, by looking up smut.

Will my blog be blocked for that last sentence?

What sort of banable material is on Lucky White Girl? From what I’ve seen so far, it is a nice feminist, pro-NPR, anti-global warming type of blog, the kind you’d take home to meet the parents. Well, the presence of censor-worthy content has certainly made me want to read more.

Don’t worry, the irony has not escaped me. The same sensibility pulled racial or homophobic speech largely out of the realm of the acceptable is keeping me from enjoying a feminist blog. This makes me wish I knew more of what the law, and some cool scholars, have to say on free speech. Especially what they have to say about the distinction between public and private spaces, and between speech and other conduct. Is the internet a public space? What about the public library? In my mind there is a distinction, however blurred and conditional, between speech that offends and speech that endangers. Also between speech that offends and speech that limits some folks’ ability to occupy a space in the same way the majority does. I am just blogging off the cuff here though, no real authority.

I more annoyed at my inadvertent acceptance of the content filtering software than I am at its presence. Maybe when I signed up for the library network I agreed to an acceptable use policy that said something about that. I don’t recall. Certainly when I logged on this time, there was no notification. A quick perusal of the library home page doesn’t reveal an “acceptable use policy” either. Web users should know what they are getting into.

I am not getting all worked up over this one. Not by a long shot. From the MPAA to Google, there are much more powerful organizations controlling what gets said in the public sphere and how we say it. It is just one of those examples of de facto censorship alive and well when you don’t even know it is happening. Couldn’t resist sharing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Me, Me, Me & You

I have resisted the urge to install a hit counter. One could say it’s a sign I blog not for the benefit of adoring fans, but for myself. One is on to something. The part of myself for which I blog is my large and somewhat fragile ego. At press time this blog has only had 43 profile views. 20 of those are me checking to see how many people have checked out my profile. That datum does not suggest I have accumulated hordes of eager readers. So, to avoid damage to my ego I will not install a hit counter at this time.

Another thing that has been conspicuously absent from Can’t Dance: the First Ten Posts is mention of my sweetie. It’s true, she might upstage me, but that’s no excuse—my ego is used to it. It all boils down to lack of creativity. We couldn’t agree on a witty blog name. Every name I suggested was met with a look that said “ Do that and you are sleeping alone. Outside. Without the benefit of my Thermarest®.” We still haven’t agreed on a name. Luckily it is May now, so I could probably survive a few nights outside. Besides, I have saved up for my very own Thermarest®, thank you very much. My sweetie’s pseudonym shall henceforth be BTPB, B for short.

Most of you, B included, are scratching your heads over this one, so allow me to explain. It is a roundabout reference to Better Than Chocolate, the corniest movie ever. We had high expectations for the film, and both found it painful to watch. It was, however, worth the rental fee: It is one of the only movies we have the same opinion of, and we coined a new term. We now refer to unspectacular things as “better than chocolate.”

BTPB is not a typo. Calling one’s lover the title of a sapphic flick seemed cloying, nauseating even. B is definitely not cloying. Not to mention, she nixed that one, and I don’t really want to sleep outside. So I’ve settled for Better than Peanutbutter, high praise coming from me, and while we haven’t agreed to it, B hasn’t vetoed it either. Remember dear, I love you for your sense of humor.

Really though, a blog name is the least of our semantic challenges. More on that later.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Last week some asshole(s?) vandalized RU12, the queer community center. My initial reaction to the news was anger and confusion. Why do something like that? Throwing bricks through a window in the dead of night suggests cowardice. Throwing them hard enough to break windows and damage the interior of the building on their way down suggests a really strong arm, or some mechanical advantage. Perhaps I assume the destructiveness indicates insecurity on the part of the perpetrator because I’d only resort to violence if physically threatened. In the end, there is no reasonable reason to do something like that. I won’t try to find one.

But I will be angry. It pisses me off that the folks who work in the center can’t feel safe. It pisses me off that RU12 has to divert time and money from their work at building community and keeping queers safe to clean up after such jerks. It pisses me off that there needs to be a concerted effort to keep queers safe in the first place.

Saturday, Bill O’Reilly cornered Bill Lippert (a state legislator) in the statehouse and proceeded to act like, well, a school yard bully. Ostensibly, the ambush was because Lippert doesn’t back Jessica’s Law, a mandatory minimum for sex offenders. A glance at Lippert’s legislative legacy, however, reveals (shockingly) that he is as ready to throw the book at sex offenders as the next guy. So why the vitriol?

Not surprisingly, Lippert is a lightning rod for slime balls. Personalities like O’Reilly are motivated by ratings. Apparently some people get off on watching their acolytes sling accusations of moral degeneracy at, well, anyone to the left of Reagan. That Lippert is a gay man who *gasp* works for gay rights just adds to the fun.

Yup, you guessed it: I am still pissed off. Why is it still okay to lash out at people who seem different? I know I am not alone in my anger at these incidents. Clearly, however, such actions are still accepted by some. Otherwise they would have stopped long ago.

You could say there is a silver lining. Such blatant hostility startles homos like me,
people who have happened into a safe bubble in which they can be (almost) as queer as they please without fear of retribution. Maybe it even angers us to the point of action. But is that really a silver lining? I’d like to believe that the Bill Lipperts and RU12s of the world don’t need to be harmed for me to be motivated.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

How ‘Bout Them Freedom Fries

84% of registered voters showed up at the polls in France this Sunday (NY times). Let’s do that on this side of the pond in 2008*.

*While we’re at it, can we avoid electing a right wing ideologue?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

There is Symbolism in here Somewhere

Yesterday I awakened so enthusiastically that looking back on the event, even I, a morning person, feel a bit grossed out. It was green-up day--- a statewide campaign to pick up after ourselves, and I was ready to go.

The idea makes a lot of sense. All winter long there is enough snow to, for the most part, hide our littery ways, and certainly enough to thwart all but the most devoted cleaner-up-ers. By may (thankfully) there isn’t snow left to hide the 5 or so months of trash, so some spring cleaning is in order. Compared to la cite d’ou je viens, hey compared to most places in the US, there isn’t much trash. That just makes the idea even cooler. Besides, it is an excuse to wander aimlessly, and possibly befriend some neighbors while chipping away at one’s liberal-white person guilt complex. To resist such an opportunity takes more discipline than I have, or so I thought.

I bounced over to the town clerk’s office for an area assignment, and a bright green trash bag. But wait, the parking lot was empty, the building locked. There was no clerk to be found. Not to be deterred, I scurried home “someone will be there by 9 am,” I thought, as I plunged into a personal green-up day, which consisted of vacuuming the living room. 9 rolled around and things looked more promising. There was a cluster of cleaners collecting cans in the cemetery, and girls gathering garbage on the green, but no town clerk. Foiled again. As a token sign of participation I picked up a scrap of neon orange flagging on the way home.

My intent was to get a regular old garbage bag and join the fun. Then it occurred to me: my 8 gallon white kitchen bag would stick out amongst the green-up bags as much as I would in group of neighbors who’d known each other for years. Shyness, an uncharacteristic emotion, overcame me. So instead of greening-up I played the stereotypical American and hopped in the car to go buy stuff. The irony made me smile.