Archives for category: Uncategorized

sixth-extinction-nonfiction-book-kobertElizabeth Kolbert’s Pullitzer-Prize winning The Sixth Extinction is a brilliantly presented story of the fascinating story of worldwide extinction events and the ineluctably depressing news that humanity is the cause of the latest and perhaps most destructive of them.

Kolbert writes about past extinction events, geological epochs, climate change and conservation efforts with easily comprehensible, but not dumbed down, prose. It’s an enviable example of translating technical information and data into a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, it’s also a devastating indictment of the human species.

Don’t worry; this isn’t a screed against burning fossil fuels, or a plea to change to LED lightbulbs. But do worry because Kolbert lays out convincing evidence that mankind has, for the last, oh, 10 or 20 millennia, been causing irreversible damage to ecosystems. I walked away from this book feeling gutted specifically because Kolbert does not offer any false hope. Even in the last chapter, supposedly offering a glimmer of hope, the sad truth seems to be that our very existence is a death sentence for far too many organisms. It’s not just that we’re causing changes to the climate and oceans at unheard of rates, but our seemingly more innocent activities – traveling, fishing, farming – put pressures onto ecosystems that evolution simply can’t keep up with.

I came to this book after seeing a list of top facts learned from books in 2015. The Sixth Extinction is filled with fascinating facts from biology, geology, the history of science, and ecology. I loved reading Kolbert’s beautiful descriptions of how corals reproduce and how earlier generations pieced together the story of the fossil record. Those stories could not compete however with the equally well-expressed narrative of mankind’s destructive power and its increasingly dire consequences.

We’re too late to save 20% to 50% of “all living species on Earth” according to the research. And if we are to have any hope for saving the rest, action needs to be taken immediately. The Sixth Extinction is a horrifying clarion call to finally take serious and decisive efforts to protect the ecosystems that our own species ultimately depends upon.

Happy Earth Day.
* In her chapter on the white-nose syndrome currently killing millions upon millions of bats in North America, Kolbert notes that the fungus responsible for the disease was given the species name Geomyces destructans meaning “destroying”. I couldn’t help but think that would make a more fitting epithet for our own species as I read further.

In a move not unlike gleaming the cube, M and I are unifying our duplex. The process involved a lot of imagination as to what this warren of small rooms that used to be a single-family home could be again.

Our contractor has been extremely patient with us as we have vacillated, stalled and rearranged. He’s also provided some valuable advice on what projects we should focus on to actually add value to our house. We orginally thought we could do much of the work ourselves, and, in fact, started by ripping out the back wall of a closet that had been closing off the hallway between the two units. After that dirty, dusty, sweaty work, we looked at how much we’d be saving by doing the demo ourselves (about $1500, out of a 20K budget) and opted out of doing anymore.

Now, if you have the time and the wherewithal to do the demo on your home remodeling project, I’m not against it. However, as parents with two full-time jobs, it just didn’t make sense for us. The contractor’s crew can do the work better (like in the case of saving trim pieces for reuse) and faster. In fact, they do everything a whole heck of a lot faster than we could.

On the first day, the job site was prepared and protected, and walls were ripped open. Within the first week, whole walls had come down and new ones had gone up. Check out the pictures of the progress:


The kitchen before work started


The kitchen after the first day!



Two views looking through the wall to the living room from the once and future dining room

And things soon got more open and closer to our final plan.


now we can look from the new dining room into the kitchen! They built a temporary support wall before the put the load-bearing header fully in.


Looking from the living room, through the new dining room and into the kitchen. Jackscrews were set up to straighten the ceiling, which was not very well supported structurally.


Now this wall is open, too! This pic was taken from our old, small dining room looking into the kitchen.


Our plan involved opening up some walls, and closing some too. In these next pics, you’ll see the door in the kitchen disappear. This will give us more usable counter space in the finished design. You’ll also see the framing going in for a C-shaped bay for the refrigerator (it goes just to the right of that thick post in the last picture above).


No door anymore.


From the kitchen we can now see the front door and the living room!

20140710_203925 20140710_203659 20140710_203410

And, that was just the first week! More updates to come.

XKCD pretty much sums up the recent furor over Facebook conducting “psychological experiments” with the content they show users.

TL;DR (wait, seriously, it’s too long? It’s a one-panel comic!)

When was Facebook not conducting unethical psychological experiments with its (user-generated) content?

My grandma was featured in this story from the L.A. Daily News for her service to teaching. I love how it shows a little bit of her incredible career (which spanned several decades and also ended several decades ago) as well as the energy she still has at 96. Not only does she serve as a chairperson with the California Retired Teachers Association, but she still runs around town looking for bargain items that she can resell to fundraise for new teacher scholarships.

I am so blessed to have a woman like her in my life. And, my daughter is incredibly lucky to have her as a great-grandmother.


On June 5th, the internet is fighting back against mass surveillance. This blog and a whole heck of a lot of other sites will be replaced by banner images helping to spread the word about internet privacy.

There are concrete and not-difficult steps that we can all take to make illegal snooping by the NSA and others much more unlikely. Check out the Reset the Net campaign’s Privacy Pack page for ways to protect your phone, your passwords and your home computer from privacy threats.

This is a battle that has just begun. It started when we all heard the Snowden revelations about the vast, illegal intelligence gathering being done by the NSA. It has only continued as Congress has failed to act on protecting our civil liberties – or keeping control of our internet out of the hands of corporations. June 5th marks the opening salvo in the citizens’ fight against these travesties. Go to Reset the Net to find out how you too can participate from the front lines.