Hetch Hetchy, reservoir or valley 100 years from now?

There’s a move afoot to launch a massive project to drain Hetch Hetchy valley and restore to California “a second Yosemite”.


San Francisco mayor Ed Lee is not impressed by the idea.

“As insane as this is, it is, in fact, insane,” Lee said at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Lee also warned the business community to avoid anyone trying to “rope you into some masked discussion about water sustainability.” The mayor described San Francisco’s water as the “cleanest” and the dam as creating one of the “strongest clean hydroelectric sources” of power.”

I made a few comments to the mayor on Twitter, but received no reply:

@mayoredlee Concerned that you seem to be speaking against not only draining Hetch Hetchy, but also sustainability efforts accompanying that. Why don’t we recycle water & use storm/ground water? Why not river power generation rather than dam? Those aren’t “insane”. Maybe it would take us 50 years, but a second Yosemite could be SF’s moon program; deeply inspiring; a scientific celebration.

sexism is a negative economic force

Interesting comments from astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (co-discover of pulsars) re: women, science & engineering

“There is a lot still of unthinkingness and I have to say this is in the UK. This programme will go to many countries, particularly in southeast Asia, where there aren’t these kinds of issues; where it’s perfectly normal for women to do engineering, physics, science, what have you. But, it’s a cultural thing and the English-speaking countries in particular tend to be on the poor side.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s something to do with cultural history. It may be something to do with defensiveness by the males. But what has happened, I judge, in southeast Asia for example, is the government has seen they need all the scientific and engineering talent they’ve got, so they make sure that it’s perfectly okay for women to do science and engineering. And it shows.”

New York and San Francisco differences

My friend Buzz posted an interesting question and answer on his blog back in February:

Jim Ray asks:

Honest question: have you found New York, center of the soul-less finance careerists and “new media” wankfest, to be different?

New York can certainly be a soulless place (just ask me about the time I ate at a sushi place in Midtown East and overheard a finance guy ask his date if she wanted to be with “the guy who has the villa on top of the hill or the guy who has the villa on the bottom of the hill”), and of course the irony isn’t lost on me that I subtly shifted Choire Sicha’s very New York media-centric diatribe to apply my experience with SF. But I think there are a couple of key saving graces to New York that prevent it from being the source of annoyance that SF has become to me personally: it’s too big of a city to be dominated by any one industry, culture, or peer group; and it’s historically a place that resists ever allowing you to feel like you’re special.

I realized that one of both the virtues and the problems with SF is that, basically since the Gold Rush times, it has always been a welcoming haven for people seeking to escape something, to reinvent themselves, to be their own person, to make a fortune on the frontier.

This is wonderful in many ways, but in my experience, there is also dark side to this admirably gentle, indulgent, enthusiastic culture: if you are a person who harbors any tendencies toward ridiculousness and narcissism, San Francisco has a way of bringing those traits to the fore in a major way. There are plenty of terrible people in New York, of course, but their narcissistic leanings tend to be kept in check by the natural hardships of life in the city, the size of the place, the variety of cultural and professional influences, and, frankly, the willingness (some might say eagerness) of New Yorkers to censure bad behavior.

Go check out the whole post. It's well worth reading and the continuation of an interesting series of things Buzz has been writing about the character of San Francisco Bay Area. He followed up with another post, also worth your time.

I think he's got very valid points—though he clearly lived in a bubble more than a little bit—but even if I agreed completely with him, I'd still choose San Francisco.

As Warren Zevon said, "So I think I'll hurl myself against the wall, because I'd rather feel bad than feel nothing at all"… but in this case the wall will be replaced by a self-indulgent, smug crowd of foodie hipsters eating ice cream, gourmet chocolate, $7 coffees, and heritage sausages on Hayes Valley's Patricia's Green.

Most importantly, I will keep getting myself out of the well-Foursquare-checked-in parts of the city, to connect with life in the avenues, alleys, and "boring" neighborhoods.

Nicole Lee (who is always worth listening to) gave her musings on the topic of New York and San Francisco and they mesh well with mine.

Like Anthony Bourdain said: “It’s a two-fisted drinking town, a carnivorous meat-eating town, it’s dirty and nasty and wonderful…” Bourdain has his own issues with the crunchy granola self-righteous parts of the Bay, which I do agree with, but the San Francisco I choose to live in is the one in that quote.

Not necessarily easy, but—all other things being equal—easier

The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is

Analogies can be handy.

Linking to this article by John Scalzi provoked interesting responses:

Don Blais (‏@Waldolio) lashed out defensively, as many do when it is suggested that they might have some advantages in life: “@MetaGrrrl Living on easy mode. Sure. Go fuck yourself.”

I responded “As the article says, it’s totally possible to have a rough time playing & even lose on easiest setting. Read it again.” Noting his interest in Magic the Gathering in his bio, I added, “in MtG terms, point is being white/male/straight is like owning more cards. Yeah, ya still gotta make a good deck & draw w/ luck.”


My loooong time web pal Neale (yes, that Neale) retweeted my link to the article and we got a response to us both from Kenneth B (@ipadMTG): “@MetaGrrrl @wrongwaygoback This doesn’t happen too often, but I’ve missed the point of this article.”

That launched us into a long and lovely conversation on Twitter with Kenneth and I trading messages with Neale copied.

I replied, “It’s often easier to perceive that one has had advantages with wealth, supportive family, height, looks (e.g.) than to realize advantage provided by being white, straight &/or male. Don’t assume others had all same chances. The outcome of that realization being an awareness of hurdles others face. Empathy reduces oblivious asshattery.”

Kenneth responded, “To summarize, white guys have it easier than everyone else? Generalizing, but to the point.”

I said, “Not quite. Straight white guys, all other factors being equal, will probably face fewer setbacks than others. Not having faced a setback can blind one to possibility that others do, leading to inept ‘why don’t you just…’ [statements]. That blind spot matters in assessment of accomplishment. Undervaluing by not knowing the current worked against.”

He queried, “I might need to read [that] article again, but what setbacks would minorities face that SWM’s wouldn’t? or people that weren’t SWM’s”

Neale interjected, “Can we coin the term ‘SWiMmers’?” When I said that was deliciously apt, he said (tongue firmly in cheek, I believe), “It’s no ‘blogosphere’ but I’ll take it.”

I replied to Kenneth’s question, “SWMs may only perceive the currents pushing them back & be unaware of others, often as strong, pushing non-SWMs. Which is of course where a lot of the angry responses come from in discussions of privilege. ‘How can you say I have it easy? I had to work against poverty/health/dysfunctional family/etc’ The comment thread on Scalzi’s post exposes a lot of different perspectives including many of those challenges. And of course provides a certain amount of entertainment as he bashes trolls & the stupid with the admin hammer.”

I said, “Loving @wrongwaygoback’s coining of “SWiMmers” for straight, white males who don’t necessarily know there’s a harder current others overcome”

Kenneth said, “So me and my friends face a current that SWM’s don’t even see? (apologies for the generalizations) 140 chars etc.” Adding, “And I’m not disagreeing with you, just trying to see a different POV from apparently the same side of the fence. Understandably twitter is not the best discussion area, but I’m curious what those challenges are.”

At that point I had to leave, but now we have a much less constrained environment in the comment thread here to continue the conversation if desired.

(Note to anyone joining in: Please read Scalzi’s post before commenting. At least skimming the comment thread on that post would also be a good way to see some of the issues, kneejerk reactions, reactions to those reactions, and new perspectives that this discussion can raise.)

RT @TransFeminism: @janetmock A friend (@avanavana) wisely points out, “the ones who get chosen to play ‘easy’ get to create the other difficulty settings”


Scalzi has added a follow-up post.