Oct 302007

New Orleans New Orleans New Orleans
Photos of New Orleans, LA

My first morning in New Orleans I rolled into ACME company for a oyster po boy for breakfast. Oysters for breakfast sound a little odd? They are surprisingly good fried with toast, and family tradition for the morning of Christmas eve. I figured the po boy was a pretty good substitute.

Though ACME suffers from attention thieving (huge) TVs, I still managed to carry on a conversation at the bar. There seems to be a lot of people wanting to unleash vigilante justice on the arsons in California. The first thing people say when they find out I’m from San Diego is explain what they think should be done to the arsons, usually involving a can of gas.

I spent my first day visiting my haunts from before the hurricane. Found my favorite café, served by a steam punk looking fellow with one sideburn. I sat in the sun and eavesdropped on the random conversations. “Do you want a certain praline? Some people like to pick. Like lobster.” The eccentricity I love still seems to be here.

Thick whiskers of staples and paper turned to plaster coat the utility poles of well used neighborhoods, and the sidewalks are well used. Other parts seemed to be in good condition, but lifeless. Some streets seemed to almost entirely be for sale or rent as condos, and completely shuttered.

A particularly harsh lapsang tea slowly grows on me as hobos discuss the regionalism of carbonated beverage names (pop, soda, and coke). Two others sit down with a roast chicken and start tearing into it. “Now that’s a pretty bird”. They offer to share the chicken with strangers, and a couple take them up on it. Pidgins pick at the bones of their discarded distant cousin as I enjoy the street musicians.

New Orleans seems to live for contradictions. One of the most local bars I’ve been to is a across the street from Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. Sazerac, étouffée, and raw oysters share menus with margaritas, hot wings, and assorted suburban refugee entrees. Just when you think the town has been Disney-fied, something unique and authentic pushes that thought from your mind. I hope the Crescent City continues to rebuild, while keeping a hold on its roots.

Oct 302007

Jim Kunstler’s latest post is typically inflammatory, but definitely makes for some good reading:

The price of oil is up 53 percent over a year ago, creeping up now toward the mid-$90-range. The news media is still AWOL on the subject. (The New York Times has nothing about it on today’s front page.) The dollar is losing a penny a week against the Euro. In essence, the American standard of living is dropping like a sash weight. So far, a stunned public is stumbling into impoverishment drunk on Britney Spears video clips.

Though I would argue that a significant chunk of the price rise is based on the thrashing of the US dollar, it certainly does and will have plenty of other pressures.

The political assumptions one hears are the most astoundingly naïve and ridiculous, especially the ones that involve other countries and our relations with them. NY Times followers no doubt believe, along with Tom Friedman, that the global economy is now a permanent fixture of the human condition, and that soon it will transform itself into a colossal engine of “green” (i.e. benign) commerce. Friedman and his followers tend to forget the second law of thermodynamics when spinning their fantasies of a world that can harmlessly manufacture and market an endless number of plastic salad shooters from one side of the planet to the other without incurring any losses to the health of said planet.

Very true, a flat world depends on cheap oil to remove the impact of market distances, and place the focus on labor costs instead. Such a low cost of transport has negative effects.

My own assumptions are somewhat different. I think we’re likely to see a lot of nations scrambling for survival, initially manifesting in a contest for the world’s dwindling supply of oil (and oil-like substances). For instance, when viewing the globe, few people consider that Japan currently imports 95 percent of its fossil fuel. Japan has been a “good boy” among nations since its episode of “acting out” in the mid-20th century and has enjoyed a long industrial prosperity since then. But what happens when there is not enough oil in the world to be allocated rationally by markets among the powerful nations?

The severity of the response of course depends on the speed and impact once demand passes supply. But even best case scenarios, where prices gradually keep rising, will have some major consequences for the world stage. There is no deus ex machina in the real world to change our dependencies and assumptions over night.

Oct 232007

qualcomm evacuation qualcomm evacuation qualcomm evacuation
Photos of the Qualcomm evacuation for the San Diego fires

This morning I bought a bunch of supplies and brought them down to Qualcomm Stadium, where there are a lot of evacuees. It was a long (2.5 hours) process, but everyone seemed to be in relatively good spirits. There are a lot of volunteers doing some great work.

Fire links:
KPBS’s Google map of the fires
KPBS’s twitter updates
10 News live video feed

Oct 182007

As anyone who has driven through OC to the California central coast knows, there are lot of offshore oil rigs out there. The UT has a great article on the debate over what to do about the California oil rigs once their life span is up. Some want them dismantled, but as the article shows, they currently support a huge amount of life – the support structures essentially act as artificial reefs.

Among their proposals: Cutting down platforms 80 feet or more below the sea’s surface so that ships can safely pass over the remaining structure, or simply toppling whole platforms onto the ocean bed.

These options, say proponents, would preserve at least portions of the platforms as artificial reefs for fish and other marine life. Indeed, CARE estimates that the 27 Southern California platforms provide 4.1 million square feet of living space for marine invertebrates, such as mussels, barnacles, anemones, scallops, sponges, corals and crabs.

As for fish, several surveys in recent years have found that some of the platforms attract greater numbers and varieties of fish at times than do nearby natural reefs.

Assuming there were minimal heavy metal issues, I’d vote for keeping them around. Our oceans need all the help they can get, and these artificial reefs are great nurseries. They would probably be great spots for diving as well, in better shape than San Diego’s NOS tower.

Oct 152007

I went on a dive to the Yukon and the Ruby E this weekend. Two guys on the same dive boat were visiting San Diego and decided to go diving. Nice enough guys, but I noticed the following as everyone was getting ready to go out to the wrecks:

1) Wetsuits were on backwards, hoods were on outside the suit
2) One had 30 lbs of lead on him, but only weighed about 150 lbs
3) Couldn’t remember how to gear up, connect hoses
4) Did not have a dive computer or tables for nitrogen exposure < ! >
5) Talked about going inside the Yukon, but had no wreck reel or experience penetrating wrecks < ! >

It was an accident waiting to happen if I’ve ever seen one. The Yukon is not a forgiving wreck, and these guys did not have any room for error. I ended up being their dive buddy and tried to help them out. It was a bit of a mess. They were nice guys, but it was a downer to pay for a dive trip and end up being the mother hen. Ultimately I’d rather do that than worry about whether or not they were going to get bent, or come back up at all.

In theory, I’m a big supporter of personal responsibility. I think we are coddled too much, and don’t react well when something doesn’t go to plan. It is one of the things I love about travel to other countries. But in this case, I’m not sure what to think. They really had no business being on the boat. I’m guessing there was an attitude of “if they let us do it, it must be safe”.

If you only dive every few years, or only in tropical water, please go to a refresher class. At the very least start on something easy, like La Jolla cove, then work your way up to wreck dives. Don’t put your life at risk and make other people responsible for your safety.

Oct 042007

My new wet suit works great, but I need more lead on my weight belt. I had 10 lbs, but was still too buoyant. The snorkel/free dive was well worth the surge today. There were more fish in the water than I’ve ever seen during the summer. The sea lions were especially playful today as well, maybe they have recovered from tourist-snorkel-horde burnout. I had one nip my fins, and another nip the wet suit pull strap. They did the usual swim around to check me out, as well as some speedy acrobatic chases with each other. Some of the most fun I’ve had in the water this year. I got out thinking, “Why am I not here every day?” We are spoiled rotten to be so close to such a great area.