December 29, 2010 - 9:00 PM
Seriously, I just found my new favorite activity and it's called trampoline dodgeball.
It's not the most well known place in the city. It isn't a regular San Francisco tourist attraction like Haight Street, Alcatraz Island or Fisherman's Wharf. But on the northern edge of the city, tucked beneath the Golden Gate Bridge and nestled in the Presidio of San Francisco is where you'll find the House of Air indoor trampoline park.
It's like elementary school recess times a thousand, and our group of thirteen kids with ages ranging from 18 to 27 quickly realized we were the big kids on the playground.
First we headed to the "Matrix," House of Air's main trampoline structure made of forty-two (!) conjoined trampolines including an enormous trampoline floor and full-sized trampoline walls for non-stop jumping action. I didn't know this at first, but ad-infinitum jumping over little kids and across this basketball-size floor is really exhausting.
Next stop was the "Coliseum" for several games of trampoline dodgeball. The picture above makes it seem more lop-sided that it actually was. We certainly had height advantages on some of the other players, but for each of us college kids there were about four kids running through our legs. We spread ourselves equally between both teams. I mean, c'mon, we wanted to hurl dodgeballs as each other more than anyone else. Also I should point out our friend Matthew, wearing the tie-dye shirt, is mid-windup in the photo above.
We spent just as much time laughing and trash talking as we did throwing dodgeballs. Before a match started we'd shout something like, "I'm going for the tall, lanky kid in the corner" or "Hey, tie dye! Watch out, I'm comin' after you!" I'd feel bad about our faux vulgarity, but these kids we were playing with were actually cheating.
Everyone knows the rules of dodgeball. You get hit by a ball; you're out! Someone catches a ball you through; you're out! We'd hit these kids and then they'd look around to make sure no one saw them, and if the referee didn't point at them then they'd stay in the game. Half the time one of us would hit them multiple times and they'd still stay in the game! During one game Matthew hit the same kid twice, he didn't come out either times, and then hit Matthew and the referee called Matthew out! I couldn't stop laughing, but Matthew was fuming when he jumped out of the arena.
After an hour of flips, twists, and dodgeball I was dog-tired. At the beginning of the day I wasn't sure if an hour would be enough. Now I realize than the only people that can spend more than an hour there are incredibly fit, highly trained athletes and 8-year old boys. I've been sore all day and I needed a nap just to make it out to dinner last night, but I think we have a new holiday tradition.
Less than a week before classes start again. It's been a great break, but it's time to head back to Eugene. Any more time away from school and my brain would probably turn to mush. I'll fly into Portland on Friday for New Years, one more chance to celebrate before winter term begins.
Countdown to NEW YEARS DAY: 2 DAYS, 3 HOURS
Countdown to FIRST CLASS OF WINTER TERM: 4 DAYS, 8 HOURS, 30 MINUTES
Countdown to BCS NATIONAL CAMPIONSHIP: 12 DAYS, 20 HOURS, 30 MINUTES
December 26, 2010 - 5:44 PM
You're probably wondering, where is this coming from? It's the holiday season and we're all still enjoying winter break, but I really never stop thinking about these sorts of things. Topics like sustainability, environmentalism, policy, and planning aren't simply questions I discuss with classmates or write academic research papers on. They are the issues that I choose to tackle on behalf of my community, both present and future.
Today's question...what exactly is ‘sustainability'?
What does it mean to live sustainably? Work sustainably? Eat sustainably? How to we measure sustainability? Are we sustainable now? Is who sustainable? Am I sustainable? What does sustainability refer to? Is there a limit on sustainability?
In my summer environment science class at Aim High I explained sustainability in terms of the three tiers of environment, community, and economy that I learned in several of my lower division ENVS courses. In order to measure sustainability you have to look at it from all three angles. Does it adversely affect the environment? Does it throw the balance of a community off? Can it be continually financed over time?
In that sense something can be sustainable in one aspect, yet unsustainable in another aspect. I used the example of fast food this summer, partly because my students were always walking into class with Jack in the Box breakfast containers in the mornings. Fast food can be considered economically sustainable because it's cheap. My students liked it because they could buy a big breakfast sandwich for only a couple dollars. However, Jack in the Box like other multinational fast food chains are not environmentally sustainable as they purchase beef and food from large non-organic food suppliers. These food suppliers use chemical pesticides to grow their food and furthermore need to transport their food thousands of miles to each store, which leads to air pollution and oil consumption; all processes that rely on an infinite supply of resources - clean air and fossil fuels - which we do not have.
Sustainability is all about perspective. Sustainable in terms of what exactly? That's apparently what I'll be learning more about next quarter in Prof. Bob Doppelt's course called Thinking Sustainably: Planning and Decision Making Under Uncertainty and Complexity (PPPM 399). More importantly we'll be discussing how to achieve sustainability and how to think in terms of creating a sustainable system. A program or agenda, so to speak, that can be set in place that will create balance and thrive on interdependence.
I love that word...interdependence...the dynamic of being mutually and physically responsible to, and sharing a set of common principles with others.
I've watched several social/cultural documentaries over break thanks to my new subscription (and mild addiction) to Netflix. These are movies that would be considered by some as "fight the power" documentaries, or "hippie" films as my roommates might put it, and there seemed to be a common trend in ideology about achieving sustainability...community.
Michael Ruppert, CEO and President of Collapse Network Inc., believes that "community will save us all. You will die as a rugged individual and you thrive as a family." We should all thrive to become a contributing member of a family or society. In order to create a sustainable civilization we need to rid ourselves of complete reliance on others. On a major scale this means reducing our reliance on foreign nations for oil, or more importantly reducing our reliance on oil and fossil fuels to generate electricity. It means reducing our reliance on agribusinesses for food and other large industries for consumer goods.
I'll stop bantering there, but I'll leave you with one last pressing set of questions. What will you do to reduce your dependence? And what community will you invest you time, knowledge, and skills into in order to create a more sustainable future for yourself and your family?
December 25, 2010 - 2:57 PM
Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa. Happy Ramadan. And for the other world holidays being celebrated throughout the month of December.....Happy [insert holiday title here]!
Don't worry, I'm not about to give you a middle school report on world holidays although I could try to recreate my 6th grade presentation on Boxing Day if you'd like. It's just that have no clue who is reading this blog so it would feel irresponsible to limit my audience to only those who celebrate Christmas. Regardless, I'd like to give you all a quick recap of the past week, which was full of holiday cheer.
The festivities began on Sunday night with the annual carol singing party at the Gray's house. Every year our same group of six families, which I affectionately refer to as our family of friends, meets on the Sunday before Christmas for dinner and caroling. No, we don't walk around the streets of San Mateo, we're much too kind to impose our painful disharmonies on strangers. Instead we ate a nice meal, still separated into a kids' table and an adults' table, and sang our favorite Christmas songs together from "Oh, Holy Night" to the Springsteen version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." It's always a fun evening to look forward to having and being over. Seriously, we're awful singers.
Tuesday night the Wagstaffe and Bean Families were in the city for Steve Silver's Beach Blanket Babylon, which is described as "San Francisco's zany, musical spoof of pop culture with extravagant costumes and outrageously huge hats." It's sort of like a classy, real-life theater version of South Park for those in my generation than understand the reference. I feel guilty making that comparison because Beach Blanket Babylon is infinitely more elegant that South Park ever could be, but it's similar in that the script and characters evolve based on current events. Tuesday night we heard songs a spoof songs by Barack & Michelle Obama and Jonas Brothers, and there were references to things like Tiger's divorce and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The grand finale is known worldwide thanks to the show's enormous hats, some of which are thirty feet tall, full of twinkling lights, San Francisco buildings and running models of cable cars.
On Wednesday we moved the party to the Wagstaffe house to make gingerbread houses. Gingerbread house is really is misnomer considering that we use graham crackers and very few of us actually make houses. Designs this year included a Zen garden, a Smart Car, pueblo village, house on stilts, the Alaskan Iditarod and more. Matt, who works as a model maker for an architecture firm in the city, attempted to make a house on a hill, which involved making a topographic model of a hillside with graham crackers. He wasn't able to finish on Wednesday night, but it usually takes him a day or two for his overly elaborate ideas to come to fruition. I wonder how he did. This year we had twelve designs, which we hope to make into a calendar. I'll let you know how that goes too.
Thursday night was the McCaffery's Holiday Party where we catch up with our old friends from elementary school. It's always a mystery as to what will happen at the McCaffery's party. Who's going to show up this year? Who's graduated? Who's found a job? Who's still living with their parents? It's you're average cheerful yet cutthroat holiday get together. Then most of us, parents and kids alike, wake up the next morning wishing there wasn't an open bar.
Last night my family shared a delightfully low-key Christmas Eve. Most of it was spent wrapping gifts and preparing for tonight's dinner. We had chicken noodle soup in front of the television and went out to the movie theaters to see "True Grit," which by the way was fantastic! If you're a Coen Brother fan then you must see it.
On Christmas Morning my mother, bless her heart, woke up at the crack of dawn to start making her signature cinnamon rolls, which were then delivered by her "elves" - i.e. my sister and me - to some family friends. Usually it takes us about an hour to deliver rolls to three or four families, but this year's rounds took twice as long because two of the three houses hadn't even woken up yet! At 10 AM! Doesn't any know it's Christmas Morning!!
Earlier today my family exchanged presents and immediately broke for mid-afternoon naps. Now we're preparing for one more dinner with the Wagstaffe Family as reruns of the 2010 Giants World Championship Parade play in the background. We'll also exchange gifts one last time for Soba Santa, which is no different from Secret Santa aside from the name. It's a long story, but we named our father Soba Santa because about three years ago he forgot to buy any presents, classic right? So on Christmas Eve he ran to the Japanese Supermarket close to his office building and bought a Sapporo beer for my mother, a "Sumo Chef" apron for myself, and a package of uncooked soba noodles for my sister. Henceforth Soba Santa was born and he has yet to live it down.
Once again, Merry [insert preferred holiday title here] and Happy New Years!
December 19, 2010 - 2:39 PM
Saturday afternoon my high school buddy, Elliot, and I met up at San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza to check out a showcase of the nation's latest bicycle sharing program technologies. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom plans to introduce a new $7.9 million bike share pilot program in 2012 that will introduce 1,000 bicycles and 100 kiosk stations in San Francisco, Redwood City and Santa Clara County.
Bicycle sharing is not a new concept, but it was virtually nonexistent in the United States as of 2006. I remember hearing about early bike share programs in two cities I've lived and studied in - Eugene, OR and Portland, Maine. (Sorry, it's probably odd for some people to accept that there is a Portland outside of Oregon, but it's true.) The success of both programs was ultimately undermined by bicycle theft. To be honest I'm surprised they even attempted a program in Eugene. In the past decade, however, bicycle-sharing programs have undergone serious revisions to combat theft and vandalism and become more plausible and effective.
Paris' Velib system serves as a model for successful bike share programs around the globe. In two years, Velib's 20,00 bicycles generated more than 54 million trips per day. Other successfully programs around the globe are in Lyon, Barcelona, London, and Montreal.
The Montreal-based company, Bixi, was one of the two private vendors showcasing their products yesterday. November 30, 2009 marked the close of the Bixi's second year in Montreal and the group saw an impressive growth in popularity as membership nearly tripled from 11,000 to 30,000 and a total of 118,000 new users chose Bixi to commute around downtown Montreal. The company has already been commissioned by several cities to install bicycles and kiosks, one of them being Pullman, Washington, which I distinctly remember hearing about because I was surprised to see Washington State's logo on one of the bikes. I thought I'd left the Northwest.
The other company in attendance, B-cycle, is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. B-cycle currently has systems installed in Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago, Des Moines and Washington DC and they're coming soon to San Antonio, Boulder and Kailua, Hawaii. The one interesting thing I learned about B-cycle is that they are a subsidiary of Trek Bicycle Corporation. They essentially saw a business opportunity in developing custom bicycles for urban bike loan programs and gradually evolved into a full-fledged bike share program separate from Trek in every sense other than their Trek bicycles.
The two companies, as well as most successful bike share companies and programs, share several characteristics. The bicycles are completely custom-made, so that they are effectively useless if any individual parts - tires, spokes, shifters, etc - are stolen. The kiosks are meant to be user friendly, self-service, and convenient, and accessible via smart cards. Both companies stress having bicycles widely available across the usage network for the best results. The payment structure is by in large identical with yearly, monthly, weekly and even day-use fees. Any difference in pricing is an effect of the amount of kiosks and bicycles purchased by the city rather than the company. The only difference I found between the two companies was that B-cycle prided itself on having kiosks that could fit into 90° angles or curves as opposed to simply a straight line.
And on a local note Portland, Oregon is looking at both companies as they consider implementing a bike share program.
Bicycle share programs are based on two points that have been extensively researched. First, motor vehicle emissions represent one of the top emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States along with energy generation in power plants and industrial manufacturing. Second, roughly 25% of all vehicle trips are less than one mile in length and 40% are less than two miles in length. I'm recalling that the majority of vehicle exhaust pollution occurs in the first few minutes of commute, but I can't find the data to back that up right now so I don't quote me on that quite yet.
Long story short having a readily available bicycle wherever you are in the city is meant to encourage active transportation rather than driving your personal vehicle. In a sense it's meant to replace public transportation and taxi usage. After all the root of Bixi's name is BIcycle taXI...clever, huh?
At this point you might be asking yourselves...so why have a bike share program? It seems green and sustainable and all that junk, but will it actually work? Excellent question, and the real answer is that it depends on the people within the city. It depends on how open the community is to change.
Bicycle share programs have worked in the past and they are growing in popularity amongst the more progressive urban centers across America. Success will be based on how much citizens and urban planners buy into the program. Do people really want to save money on gas? Will the city buy enough bicycles to make this more convenient than driving? Are people willing to try something new, make a change in their life style to positively impact their lives and the environment?
These are all questions that I cannot answer right now, but I feel like we will have to answer these questions in the near future. It makes me happy to know that bike programs and other sustainability programs are sprouting up across the nation. It shows me that as a nation we are moving in the right direction.
December 14, 2010 - 10:06 PM
With all the hype about Ducks football and the BCS National Championship game, Oregon is receiving a lot of national attention these days. College football and Heisman races aside, however, another group of Ducks has been in the limelight.
For the past few weeks "On the Rocks," UO's male a cappella group, has been a contestant on Season 2 of NBC's A Cappella group signing competition The Sign Off. The top ten a cappella groups from around the nation have competed in a battle royale of unaccompanied musical talent. The judges have already had to give the boot to some incredible groups - two high school choirs from New Jersey and Ohio, college groups from New Haven and Boston, and a jazz ensemble from Seattle.
Sadly OTR became the latest contestants voted of the show earlier tonight, and as disappointed as I was to see them go, I can't say that I was surprised. For one this competition is geared towards smaller groups that can show off their harmonic talent, which isn't quite what On The Rocks specializes in.
Don't get me wrong. They some incredible singers. Without Jonah and Nick the group's rendition of Bad Romance wouldn't have become the Internet sensation that attracted over 6.5 million viewers. Peter's lead vocals in Kyrie were unbelievable on last Monday's show. And let's not forget Alex on vocal percussion. I won't even lie about it; whenever I make it to see OTR perform in the EMU Amphitheater I'm usually paying attention to Alex. He's way too good.
But OTR's forte isn't their singing as much as their goofy antics, lovable personality and hilariously choreographed dance moves. It's difficult to show of your voices with fifteen guys all on stage at the same time. They're made to entertain...and they're really, really good at it.
The other reason I'm not surprised they only made the top five is because I've seen their competition. Committed, an Alabama gospel choir group. Street Corner Symphony, a southern soul group from Nashville. The Backbeats, an all-star a cappella group from USC and UCLA. And, oh yeah, Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town, a newly formed group from Oakland whose lead singer is making a come back after nearly forty years of professional a cappella.
A little fun fact I found while researching Jerry Lawson. He debuted in 1969 as the lead singer of The Persuasions, a legendary a cappella group from Brooklyn. In 1971 the group came out with their third and most popular album that ranked #16 on Billboards R&B chart. Guess what the title was...Street Corner Symphony. Any relation to the other Sing Off finalists? Not sure, but I guess what I'm trying to say is...how do you compete with that!?!?!
OTR had a good run. That's for sure. Earlier tonight they sang their swan song, which fittingly was The Final Countdown" by Europe. We can take solace in the fact that beat out a group of stuck up Ivy Leaguers from Yale and another from Berklee College of Music, who you would imagine would be talented singers considering they...uh...go to a music school.
The remaining groups showed their love by flashing the Oregon "O" as On the Rocks exited the theater for the final time. I think they were just as sad as we were to say farewell to a class act. Now it's out of the judges' hands. The winner of the competition will be decided next Monday by the American viewing audience. These other groups better be happy that OTR is out of the competition because you know that Duck Nation would have pulled together to make sure our guys won it all.
I've posted OTR's hit single Bad Romance by Lady Gaga as a tribute to their excellence.
Times like these make me proud to be a Duck.