August 26th, 2006

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Feeling better -

I rested all day yesterday and feel much better today.  I think all my tracks were over-loaded, and this with Jan's parents is very unsettling for me.  I think it literally allows me at times to feel sick to my stomach.  They continue to insult Jeff, Steve, and me, and try to prevent the wedding.  I can know they are "crazy" as the therapist says, and I still struggle to distance myself from it.  I suppose we all want to be liked, and we all want serenity and peace, especially at a wedding.  Of course,  we don't know if they are coming.  They won't say.  No rules apply to them, only the creation of pain.   This is my very biased interpretation, of course.   It is not that we don't know there is still prejudice, but I do feel that the only way to change that is to have the world so inter-married that it becomes a non-issue at some point.  

I do see it as an excellent lesson for me, as none of this has anything to do with me, so it is up to me to minimize the impact.  I struggle heartily with that.

Anyway, the good news is that I am published in the SF Chronicle today in Letters to the Editor.  That always feels kind of fun to me.   Here is my Letter.

Editor -- People in Marin County buy land with public-access rights and then want to close off those properties. In contrast, Travel Editor John Flinn writes of public-access rights in Britain where even the prime minister's country home has a footpath ambling by and crossing a driveway "beneath a row of beech trees planted by Winston Churchill." We fought against an English king. Now, the people of Britain stroll their land, while ours is more and more bound up by wannabe kings and queens.


Mill Valley

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Stem cell research -

Editorial in the NY Times today -

Stem Cells Without Embryo Loss

Published: August 26, 2006

A small biotech company says it has found a way to produce human embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo. That the prospect does not satisfy many religious conservatives who have opposed stem cell research demonstrates once again why the government should avoid making decisions on theological grounds.

The standard way to produce colonies of stem cells is to let an early human embryo grow to a size of about 150 cells, at which point its stem cells are extracted, and the embryo is destroyed in the process. But researchers at Advanced Cell Technology have now demonstrated that a colony can be grown from a single cell removed from an embryo that has only eight to 10 cells, using a process that should leave the embryo unharmed.

Nevertheless, religious conservatives have already denounced the technique, and the President’s Council on Bioethics, in a white paper evaluating alternative ways to produce stem cells, declared this approach “ethically unacceptable.”

The technique would seem to sidestep the council’s main objection, that it is unethical to put the tiny embryo at risk for research unrelated to the welfare of the embryo. Instead of removing a cell purely for stem cell research, the company proposes to use cells already removed for diagnostic tests at fertility clinics.

The clinics routinely remove a cell from eight-cell embryos to screen them for possible genetic defects before transferring the remaining embryo into a woman. Now the company proposes to intercept these cells, allow them to divide in a laboratory dish, and then use one cell for the diagnostic test and the other to derive stem cells. The process would add no additional risk to a diagnostic procedure that already seems quite safe.

But this approach won’t satisfy those who believe that even a single cell removed from an early embryo may have the potential to produce life. It won’t ease the council’s concern that research objectives may intrude into the practice of reproductive medicine at a time when doctors are making critical decisions. And so the Advanced Cell Technology approach does not seem likely to open the floodgates for federal financing. Mostly it illustrates the great lengths to which scientists must go these days to shape stem cell research to fit the dictates of religious conservatives who have imposed their own view of morality on the scientific enterprise.

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It brings a smile!!

It's Cooling Man!!


Meredith May, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, August 26, 2006


With the Burning Man art festival in the Nevada desert starting Monday, a group of San Francisco scientists is busy calculating how much the event contributes to global warming.

Encouraged by the resurgence of the green movement, the scientists are taking a hard look at all those sacred flaming temples, gas-powered scooters shaped like cupcakes, and hundreds of rumbling RVs that converge for a week on the dry Black Rock Desert lakebed.

With an idea that would make Al Gore smile, the scientists have created Cooling Man, an online calculator that determines how many tons of greenhouse gases each of the 37,000 "burners" will produce with their art projects and community camps.

For the first time, Burning Man participants will be able to "offset" their global warming impact much the same way large corporations do, by investing in clean energy projects.

"We think Cooling Man is pretty cool," said Marian Goodell, Burning Man's director of communications and business.

Visitors to the Cooling Man Web site,, will answer a series of questions about their transportation to the playa, propane use, generator hours and how much wood they plan to burn, and the computer generates a total tonnage of greenhouse gases per person.

Then, like corporate America, artists will be directed to mitigate their pollution by purchasing greenhouse gas "credits," or "offsets," by investing in alternative energy that doesn't use fossil fuels: solar or wind power, methane capture from landfills and livestock. Tree planting also qualifies.

Burners are asked to pay $5 to $10 per ton of personal pollution to the nonprofit Trust for Conservation Innovation in San Francisco, which parcels the donations among various renewable-energy projects nationwide.

The money collected from 65 Burning Man participants so far -- $1,000 -- will help pay for a wind turbine that powers a casino on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. It's the first American Indian-owned wind power plant in the nation.

"Burning Man does a great job of getting on the ground after the event and picking up every nail and speck of glitter, but we want to take that to the next level -- leaving no trace in the climate," said David Shearer, an air-quality scientist with California Environmental Associates in San Francisco who helped create Cooling Man in his spare time.

A burner himself, Shearer is promoting Cooling Man with help from a colleague and Burners Without Borders, a volunteer arm of Burning Man that recently returned from a six-month disaster relief trip to New Orleans. Aid workers used $60 generated by Cooling Man to plant trees to replace those that had been wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.

Last year in a test run of the Cooling Man idea, a San Francisco fire art collective called the Flaming Lotus Girls gave $100 in offsets, which helped farmers in Tanzania replace their kerosene house lamps with solar lighting.

Now, Cooling Man is starting to gain momentum in the blogosphere. One person offered to give Cooling Man 100 trees to plant.

Cooling Man is on track in its pilot year to meet its $1,100 fundraising goal. Shearer calculated that's the cost to neutralize the 110 tons of global-warming pollution created by Burning Man's culminating event -- the burning of a 40-foot man made of wood, neon and fireworks.

The new Web site mirrors the effort of a new committee at Burning Man headquarters called Greening Man, whose members are looking for ways to reduce the event's reliance on fossil fuels.

For the first time in Burning Man's 21 years, organizers will replace some of their gas-powered generators with biodiesel versions, Goodell said. They are encouraging artists to build installations that run on clean power, such as the series of larger-than-life solar-powered sunflowers that will rise and fall with the sun.

Shearer, who has been studying climate change for the past two decades, is thrilled that others are starting to think about how to reduce their carbon footprint.

"Maybe one day Burning Man would add a small surcharge to the ticket price, less than $1, to offset all emissions from the event," he said. A ticket to Burning Man ranges from $185 to $275, becoming more expensive closer to the start of the event.

In the future, Shearer and colleague Jeff Cole hope to raise enough in donations to offset not only the pollution from Burning Man itself, but also from all the cars and planes attendees use to get to Nevada.

For now, the Lakota Sioux with the wind-powered casino in South Dakota will be the first to benefit.

NativeEnergy, the American Indian-owned alternative energy company in Vermont that helped the tribe build the wind turbine, may not know much about Burning Man, but it is happy to accept a small donation.

Switching to wind power will allow the tribe to reduce its annual reliance on fossil fuel by 97,000 megawatt hours. That translates into keeping 115,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of the air per year.

"I myself have never heard of Burning Man, but we were only able to switch to wind power through the help of thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses donating modest amounts," said Tom Stoddard, NativeEnergy's vice president and general counsel.

"Everyone who contributes gets their name on the wall."

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Lt. Watada has refused to go to Iraq, and is facing court martial for his views.  He would fight where the war is just.  I agree with him, that he has the right to refuse illegal orders, but will the military agree?  

Here is an excerpt from the article by Charles Burress in the Chronicle today.

And being Japanese American, Watada has touched a sensitive nerve among Japanese Americans who recall how military sacrifice was seen as proof of their loyalty during the ordeals of World War II.

"It's scraped the scab off an old wound that has never healed," Japanese American Citizens League member Andy Noguchi said in a column last week in the Nichi Bei Times, a Japanese American paper based in San Francisco that has featured extensive coverage and commentary on the case.

World War II saw the upheaval and internment of Japanese Americans, the sacrifice of Japanese American soldiers who suffered extraordinarily high casualties and the ostracism of the internees who refused to fight in the U.S. military.

Bob Watada (Lt. Watada's father) sees a big difference between World War II and Iraq.

"There's a lot of people who don't know what's going on in Iraq," the father said in an interview. "There's no doubt about it. It's illegal. It violates the Constitution. ... The president lied, outright lied to the people, and to Congress, about why we're in Iraq."

Lt. Watada argues he is obliged -- under precedents established in the Nuremberg war-crimes trials -- to refuse illegal orders, in this case to support what he sees as an illegal invasion. Watada, who could not be reached for comment, has said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan.

He refused to depart with his unit, the 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, when it left Fort Lewis on June 22. The Army charged him with "missing movement" for his refusal to go to Iraq and accused him of contempt toward officials and of conduct unbecoming an officer because of his public comments, such as allegedly criticizing the war as morally wrong and accusing President Bush of lying.

The Army also cited his alleged comment, "I was shocked and at the same time ashamed that Bush had planned to invade Iraq before the 9/11 attacks. How could I wear this horrible uniform now knowing we invaded a country for a lie?"

The Army is now reviewing the recommendation for a court-martial.

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Evening -

I am settled into peace.  A friend sends me a photo of her grand-niece doing her first potty in her potty-chair.  What a world we live in where photos are so easily shared.  This little darling looks at me from the computer screen.   We ate tonight in a new pizza place filled with delightful children.   It is just one of those days.