24 October 2006

No. I do not. Need. A bag.

I know I haven't had my coffee yet when I'm paying for my cup of the stuff at the deli in the morning. I may be cranky. But I am there every morning, with my 75 cents, you'd think someone would recognize me by now. But every morning it's the same thing. If I put my cup down on the counter to get out my money, I risk its being snatched up and put into a bag. And then I have to say, fast enough to be acted on, and therefore too sharply, "I don't need a bag, thanks." I love starting my day feeling like a bitch.

I also don't need the three napkins that are then invariably plonked on top of the cup, but at the instant they're placed there they soak up the tiny bit of coffee seeping out of the top, and removing them would only result in their being immediately thrown away.

Who needs a bag for a cup of coffee? Napkins?

Yes, I realize the solution to these wasteful practices is to not buy the deli cup in the first place, but rather to drink from the communal office pot. What do you want from me? I haven't had my coffee yet.

20 October 2006


As I listened to several NPR reports about sectarian violence (the polite term for civil war these days) and the number of overnight deaths in Iraq while in the shower this morning -- there must have been three reports, and it wasn't a long shower; we're in pledge week, even -- I wondered what I would tell my hypothetical children about why I didn't do anything to oppose the war. Sure, I went to a few marches, and called my congressional representatives a few times. I voted against George Bush as often as I could. But that's it, and I tell myself it's because there's nothing else I can do. Nothing feels meaningful or significant. The March on Washington ploy has been overplayed in the years since the Vietnam War, and all the officials go out of town for the weekends they're held anyway. We all know our president doesn't read the newspaper, but even if he did see a picture of two million people protesting on The Mall, he seems impervious to public pressure.

But it occurred to me that my complacency might have a least a little something to do with my feeling that our waging war in the Middle East is inevitable, and becoming ever more so, if we want to keep the oil flowing in our direction. It's not a one-to-one relationship, war for oil. But our friends in Saudi Arabia may be coming to the end of their reign, and we need a foothold in the region. We need to contain Iran, to prevent it from exerting stronger leadership, and considering that their country is sitting on top of some of the world's last best oil, who can blame the Iranians if they do want a nuclear weapon?

I was talking with co-workers at lunch the other day about the peak oil issue -- I didn't even bring it up, I swear -- and while the 20-year-old intern from Virginia declared that we've still got ANWR to exploit, and as long as he could fill up his pick-up for $2.19/gallon, we're fine, other people had slightly more nuanced opinions. Some ideas for improving alternative energy technologies were thrown around (I work in an engineering firm, after all). But the feeling of the room was summed up by the man who thought that we'd be the last ones affected by oil shortages because we'd go to war to secure whatever we could. And while no one of us would vote for such a thing, if we could vote for it (except maybe the intern), I can't help but feeling that there's a small, shameful part of us that's relieved that the decision has been taken out of our hands.

I need to get back in the shower now.

16 October 2006

Stunt Love

I visited the StuntFamily in Philly this weekend. It's impossible for one example to sum up the entirety of why I love these people, but on the bookshelves next to my bed, between The Coming of the French Revolution and Nietzsche's The Will to Power, was A Bear Called Paddington, and that sequence goes a long way towards explaining it.

10 October 2006

Fun with trees and math

If you've bought a plane ticket recently, you're probably familiar with the concept of carbon credits or offsets. How many miles is your flight? 3000? OK, purchase 5 credits, which will in turn fund the planting of 10 trees. Voila: your trip is now "carbon neutral".

Carbon offsets are not just for air travellers. By using a carbon footprint calculator, you can learn how many trees you'd need to plant to offset your personal greenhouse gas contribution, then pay to have them planted. I did it immediately after seeing An Inconvenient Truth this spring, and felt good about it.

But not that good. While that film's producers praised themselves for running a carbon-neutral shoot, I couldn't help but think it is just not possible that the five trees I have planted in Mississippi have a half a fig's impact on the exhaust coming out of my car in New York.

The UK's Guardian newspaper did some digging, and while they didn't answer my main question -- the Mississippi/New York one -- it turns out I was right. It's a controversial business, and not surprisingly, hardcore environmentalists would rather people not salve their consciences with a few clicks of the mouse, but work towards true carbon reduction. It's the old reduce-reuse-recycle conundrum. Yes, recycling is great and we should all do it, but it's the reducing that's going to make a real difference.

Still, check out a carbon calculator. It's educational and, uh, fun. And plant the trees. Who doesn't like trees?

Just checking

This morning, a father walks his four-year-old son to school on Amsterdam Avenue.

Boy: Dad, we hate the Yankees, right?

Father: Yes we do.

And thus begins a lifetime of disappointment for the poor tyke; Yankees-haters are either Mets or Red Sox fans.

04 October 2006

This is helping us how?

Most New Yorkers commute to work using mass transit. There's a great benefit available to mass transit users called Transitchek -- it allows you to purchase up to $105 in transportation each month, pre-tax. The $76 monthly MetroCard I buy costs the equivalent of something like $50, post-tax. Commuters save a little money, the city keeps a few cars off the streets, companies save a bit on their payroll taxes -- it's a great deal all around.

Except when the program is expanded to include, and here I quote from the literature one of my colleagues sent me, in a bid to get my company to offer this new benefit, “qualified parking, that is, parking provided to an employee on or near the business premises of the employer or on or near a location from which the employee commutes to work by transportation for which a transit pass is used, in a commuter highway vehicle, or by car pool."

Which is to say, you can now drive your car into the city, park it in a lot near your office, and pay for it using up to $200 pre-tax dollars a month. You can also pay for "park and ride" facilities at commuter train and bus stations, which presumably encourages people not to drive their cars into the city, but the colleague who is agitating for this told me that if we offer this benefit, he will buy a car and start commuting that way. I'm hoping there's a more gracious way of saying no to him than are you out of your fucking mind?