CA’s drought is causing people to change their water use habits. This is long overdue.

California’s DROUGHT

California’s Drought Is Coming to a Lawn Near You for Apr. 6

It’s no laughing matter that the California Water Foundation’s Lester Snow cheered Governor Jerry Brown’s mandatory water reductions as a response to the drought declaring there’s no snow in the snowpack. There should be an average of 5.5 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountain sites checked by the Department of Water Resources. “It’s dusty up there,” was the report.
How dry is California, asks Gayle Leonard’s blog? “California’s so dry…a sprinkler store opened on Rodeo Drive (and have you seen those Prada canteens?!) “California’s so dry…you’re encouraged to pee in the pool!” “California’s so dry…all the gyms have replaced spinning with pumping and Zumba with Rain Dancing.” And from Jerry Brown, “…(he) seeks to prohibit new homes from irrigating with potable (drinking) water unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used; ban watering of ornamental grass on public street medians…and work with local governments to replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant landscaping.”
Wow, California will morph into Arizona! Imperial Valley might discard the San Diego model of lush lawns and water rich landscapes. Oh, San Diego already has begun to discard lawns and has started planting front yards in attractive combinations of succulent and cactus? Hey, we’re doing our part here. Valley cities are on a voluntary three day a week residential yard watering program. I think it’s reducing city water usage, but as a state we’re way behind where we could be. It just makes no sense at all that we water our landscapes with expensive, treated drinking (potable) water. During Jerry Brown’s earlier terms as governor, 1975-83, there was much more talk of, “Small is Beautiful,” a call to lower consumption by E. F. Schumacher. Brown had his staff read the book. There was talk of using gray water to irrigate residential landscapes and gardens, passive solar on new buildings utilizing the building’s construction to create shaded windows and doorways, and wider support on college campuses for “reduce, reuse and recycle” though that wasn’t the phrase used then. You just saw lots of army surplus being worn and jeans with plenty of patches. (Then the fashion industry commoditized all this.)
But where did the conservation ethic go? Industry did develop better irrigation systems, and more information is available on water wise plants and smart water use all over the internet. But we do need incentives, a bit of a push. Thus, three days a week for lawn watering might mean a shift from grass to succulents and water wise ground cover, but it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. My dear city showed up for last year’s Earth Day celebration with glossy images of water wise landscapes and even demonstrated drip irrigation, but they have been silent for the last 360 days. Hey, we need your help cities, IID, State of California. We need workshops, plans for utilizing gray water, incentives and progressive water rates. IID’s city profile is so minimal, it didn’t bother to do much at the Midwinter Fair than to give out pencils. Don’t just slap our hands for watering on off days; show us alternatives to water gluttony.
The drought issue is trickling down. The state will also, “Require agriculture to report more water usage information to the state so that regulators can better find waste and improper activities.” For those that assume having a Colorado River water source and being independent of Sierra Nevada snow melt exempts Imperial Valley from state drought woes, think again. As California’s drought worsens, Valley farmers and IID will be forced to switch to less water demanding crops and share more water with urban and out of Valley agricultural areas. Better to be innovative locally than to have the State Department of Water Resources mandate rules for ag water use from afar. The same is true for Valley cities and towns. Provide some leadership and locals will save lots more water.

Richard Ryan lives in El Centro and can be reached at rryan@mail.sdsu.ed

uhttp://https://www.google.com/search?q=water+wise+cactus&tbm=isch&imgil=0ph7JtxwqDLc_M%253A%253BJ2OcguT5w3CdaM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.latimes.com%25252Fhome%25252Fla-hm-barrelcactus-pictures-photogallery.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=0ph7JtxwqDLc_M%253A%252CJ2OcguT5w3CdaM%252C_&usg=__hq-DOqVlKY81UJ9DWhJ3JkCZwgc%3D&biw=1106&bih=938&ved=0CC4Qyjc&ei=bpdvVfX_NsrLogSK34LoBA#imgrc=0ph7JtxwqDLc_M%253A%3BJ2OcguT5w3CdaM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.trbimg.com%252Fimg-50963b50%252Fturbine%252Fla-hm-barrelcactus1%252F750%252F750x422%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.latimes.com%252Fhome%252Fla-hm-barrelcactus-pictures-photogallery.html%3B750%3B422

CA’s drought is causing people to change their water use habits. This is long overdue.

Summer is almost here and it’s time to fly.

A Leonardo da Vinci Aircraft Flies Again for July 29

Peddle faster she said, or we’ll never make it to New York. Are you kidding? We’ll never make it past Phoenix, I moaned. My legs are cramping up already.
Welcome passengers to the new Airbus bicycle seat design intended to squeeze even more pretzled passengers into an already cramped aluminum tube. Airbus is the multinational European competitor of Boeing, and for patent purposes has filed a bicycle seat design for a new passenger aircraft. The seats fold up when the passenger is absent, and headrest? Did you think you’d need one on this aircraft? (To see drawings and photos of model seats, just Google “Airbus bicycle seat design.”) Sleep is not in the flight plan, but it looks like lots of peddling could be. Pedal power is the next logical step to this da Vinci-like aircraft. I can hear the pilot now on the PA system. You’ll get lunch (and we know what that looks like!), if you peddle faster. Give me 60 more knots. We’re scraping rooftops.
Aircraft cycling power is a concept whose time is finally due. Want to fly cheaply to a distant destination? Want to stay fit on those irritatingly cramped airplanes? Reduce your carbon footprint? Airbus has the answer, and the likes of Ryan Air are more than happy to buy the newly designed Airbus. You might recall that Ryan Air has shown interest in standing room only aircraft where we’d be lucky to get a strap to hang onto. A pedal air carrier would be cheaper than any other airline, but there are limitations. First, it’s recommended that passengers be under 30 years of age and in peak physical condition. (Maybe I could sneak in.) Second, no excess baggage or baggage of any kind. Indeed what you are wearing for the day might be it. Lipstick, a toothbrush, and only small cell phones. Indeed, a renaming is in order: Tour de France Airlines. Their slogan is, “Our on-time record is only as good as you are fit.” So much for children and seniors. They can take the train or the Queen Mary 2. And this flight’s top peddler is the passenger in seat 16F. He gets to wear the yellow jersey. The Tour do France bicycle race traditionally awards the yellow jersey to the leader of the race so why not for pedal air? There was cheering for seat 16F because he was key in getting us to our destination, but there was sobbing too by passengers who knew they just couldn’t make it back home on Tour de France Airlines. It was just too uphill. They resigned themselves to working the rest of their lives in one of those little French bakeries making all sorts of yummy cakes, cookies and wonderful pastries. Mon, dieu! Life is full of compromises.
The good news is that since you’ll have lost so much weight pedal flying to France, you’ll be able to eat all the croissants and éclairs you’ve ever dreamed of. Bring on the bonbons. Having trouble walking? Nodding off due to lack of sleep? No problem. We’ll book you on a da Vinci bus. And, yes, we’ll be doing lots of cycling through the Alps. There’s free WiFi on the bus, not that you’ll have any time to use it.

Richard Ryan lives in El Centro and can be reached at rryan@mail.sdsu.edu

Summer is almost here and it’s time to fly.

3 Cheers for Irish Queers

Three Cheers for Irish Queers

Ireland has gone and done it again. No, it’s not another huge real estate meltdown which caused some Irish banks to dissolve along with people’s savings, nor is it another leap forward of the Celtic tiger. The Irish economy is coming back slowly, and high tech, including Microsoft, is playing a part. The good news is more rooted in changes in Irish culture and social ways. Parts of life that are imbedded in thousands of years of social mores and in recent centuries, a paternalistic and dominant Roman Catholic church.
On May 22, 2015, Irish citizens voted to amend their constitution to recognize marriage as being between any two partners. This is evidently the first time any nation has done this moving once culturally conservative Ireland into the forefront of global social change. The heavens haven’t fallen in, yet, though I can hear some relatives warning of that very thing. “This will ruin the sanctity of sacred marriage between a man and a woman,” I can hear my Great Uncle Jack saying. Yet, my Aunt Helen would echo the tone of the Irish electorate. “Why not, and it’s about time.” Evidently the majority of voters didn’t agree with Uncle Jack and for good reason. There have witnessed plenty of stable, loving gay unions, so why can’t these couples have the same protections and rights of heterosexual marriages? There is no evidence that gay unions in any way undermine marriages between men and women. It allows gay partners to have the same privileges as heterosexuals when issues of hospital visits and legal matters arise. Inheritance laws in Ireland will now have to accept the gay partner as having rights of the survivor in a marriage.
I was in my twenties when I was visiting home in Brooklyn, New York. At that time the neighborhood was heavily Irish-Catholic. There was a bar on every other corner on the commercial strip of Seventh Avenue, full of small shops of every sort. I walked into “Stack of Barley” and shocked the older Irish guy sitting at the bar. He may have blessed himself. My sin? I had a full beard at the time. Very radical for the neighborhood and certainly for the crowd that used to hang out in that bar. The native born Irish of my youth were very conservative and voted that way in U.S. elections. Many still do though recent Pew research indicates that the influence of Catholic and Protestant religion on voters is waning in the U.S., a decoupling of conservative influences.
What shifted the turf in Ireland was the Catholic Church’s child abuse cases. The abuses were bad enough, but the cover up by Irish bishops was shattering for the devout population. Ireland and Mexico have often been compared for their people’s strong adherence to Catholicism. We happened to see a broadcast on the Irish TV channel when the Irish prime minister denounced the bishops for covering up these crimes. The prime minister, himself, was described as being a devout Catholic, but the church’s disregard of civil society law damaged the church irreparably.
A suggestion to put gay marriage on the ballot, even ten years ago, would have been met with guffaws and jokes in Ireland. It’s not as if all the people have decided that gay marriage is a good idea, but the majority of voters think it is. This raises some problems for the Catholic Church. Will the church in Ireland eventually accede to the constitutional changes and welcome gays into the church even sanctifying their unions with the sacrament of marriage? Or will the church and civil government drift further apart? In Ireland this would not be seen as a bad thing by many where civil government and the Catholic Church were often indistinguishable, a violation of what Americans see as the separation of church and state.
The vote in Ireland surprised many including me. Cultural and political change is in the air on matters of sexual unions and the rights of individuals to choose their gender. As Bob Dylan has said, “The times they are a’changin’.”
Richard Ryan lives in El Centro and can be reached at rryan@mail.sdsu.edu

3 Cheers for Irish Queers

Watch the Apple on Your Wrist published Apr. 21, 2015, Imperial Valley Press

Watch the Apple on Your Wrist for Apr. 21

More hoopla and fun than a Three Stooges apple pie throwing contest. Duck, Curley, one’s coming your way. As readers know, April 24 is the release date for the brand new, the heavens are opening, Apple watch. For Apple fans, it is the second coming, the MacBook laptop being the first. Apple by no means is the first to enter the smartwatch market. Awhile back in this column, I discussed the usability of the Samsung Galaxy smartwatch given the Valley’s variable connectivity. Remember, it works better if you hike to the peak of Mt. Signal and chant, “Samsung, Samsung come to me.”
So how will the Apple watch work out? All sorts of clever articles, e.g., “Only Time Will Tell” (“L.A. Times”), describe the utility of the Apple on your wrist. Tech smart writers say it all depends on the apps that will emerge for use on the watch. This is where the fun begins. You can measure heart rate, turn on your home air conditioner, and even open a hotel door. How can that be, you might ask? The “W” hotel in Las Vegas as well as Starwood Hotels will have an app that merely by scanning the entry lock with your watch, you can open your hotel room door. I envision some bugs in the early apps. “Sorry ma’am. No I’m not room service with towels for your bath, and I do apologize for walking in on you like this.” You order a pepperoni pizza by pressing on the food-to-go app and end up with tofu pancakes. There is no, “return this immediately,” app as of yet.
“The New York Times” app provides one sentence news articles. There goes the news room. Clearly new technologies do not intend to tax the intellect of users/wearers. However, in fairness to the apps people, you just can’t fit a typical 2 page “New York Times” story on the face of a watch. “USA Today” will offer an app with the top five news stories. OK, so I tried these out on a test watch known as the Crab Apple since it is small, but I still couldn’t read the print without my Google Glasses. Where will it end?
Before you run out and buy one, make sure you have an iPhone 6 in your pocket with which to synch it. I can see some people being very disappointed when their watch just sits there looking pretty. Better also have some loose cash between $350 and $17,000. The up-scale model is gold, but who needs a golden Apple watch? I see hands going up. C’mon. You don’t really need this. However, it does move you into an astronaut class. When I was a kid, I used to read Dick Tracy comics. He was way ahead of his time because he had a two way wrist radio on his watch. With the Target app, you speak into the watch like Tracy to find products in the store. The watch will guide you. Strangers may guide you to Behavioral Health which could be helpful.
Now, you can do everything but iron a shirt, and that’s probably coming as robotics improve. The price escalates from the basic watch to the sport watch to the Apple Watch Edition. Wearing the latter indicates you receive royalties from oil fields. Each watch comes in small and large and 38 strap options. If you have difficulty picking out clothing and accessories, this could be a real headache. By the time you decide there’ll be the Apple Watch II, and by then some of the bugs (worms?) will have been worked out. “Is this the Apple Store Customer Service line? No, I did not purchase roundtrip tickets for four to Tahiti. I was just scratching a mosquito bite on my arm.”

Richard Ryan lives in El Centro and can be reached at rryan@mail.sdsu.edu

Watch the Apple on Your Wrist published Apr. 21, 2015, Imperial Valley Press

Free Speech published in the Imperial Valley Press May 12, 2015

Free Speech: No “but’s” about it for May 12, 2015

My favorite free speech is an essay or statement that supports what I want to say or think. The heck with you. That is the point of the free speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You have your right to say or write what you think, and it’s protected, not only from my objection, but from censorship by the government. We all get a say no matter how convoluted, asinine, prejudicial, obnoxious, or debased it might be. And there’s a lot of that stuff that goes around along with thoughtful, sensitive, and appealing writing, film, radio, TV, speech, and social media.
The case of the moment is Pamela Geller who ran a “draw Muhammad” contest in early May. She’s not a friend of Islam or one who believes in supporting ecumenical understanding. You may have seen some of the “Coexist” bumper stickers if you’ve wandered out of the Valley. There isn’t one on her SUV. She’s a provocateur and evidently has the money to put her opinion out there. Some say she’s a Muslim baiter. Well if she is, it worked. Two pro-ISIS Muslim men from Phoenix showed up at the site of the “draw Muhammad” contest in Garland, Texas with guns. They were shot and killed but not before shooting an unarmed officer. The American Freedom Defense Initiative, “aka” Stop Islamization of America, had paid an additional $10,000 for security at the event. Clearly, they were expecting trouble.
Following the shooting, there was considerable criticism in the media of both Geller and the “Stop Islamization” group. They were called hateful and anti-Islamist. Rich Lowry, editor of the New Republic, argues that Geller and company were trying to emphasize that free speech is the point and caricatures of the prophet Mohammed are as fair game as anything. This was also Charlie Hebdo’s point. That is the Parisian newspaper that was attacked by Muslim extremists in January of this year leaving a dozen cartoonists and editors dead. The surviving staff members, writers and artists, received a Freedom of Expression Courage award from PEN, the international writers’ association, in early May. Some prominent writers objected citing Charlie Hebdo’s ridiculing Muslims and the “disenfranchised.” I purchased the first post-attack Charlie Hebdo, and, clearly, that newspaper is an equal opportunity offender. There were multiple cartoons making fun of the pope and other religious and political leaders. Critics say, that especially in France, most Muslims constitute a poor immigrant community with high rates of unemployment. Therefore, they are the “disenfranchised” and lack the status to rebut the Charlie Hebdo caricatures.
So if we don’t want government deciding on what is acceptable speech, how do people draw a line between speech (in all of its forms) and restraint? David Brooks of The New York Times would refer to it as, “standards of civility and respect.” These social standards would prevent most of us from ridiculing Mohammed or Pope Francis just for fun or for the sake of trumpeting freedom of speech. So we rely on these evolving standards and not government legislation.
I agree with Brooks that once government begins amending freedom of speech, as is done in most countries in the world, we climb onto a slippery slope. The French government in recent years has been attempting to eradicate hateful speech from civil discourse by outlawing it. There are laws against anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, pro-terrorist speech, even in blog statements. Brooks argues that “social manners” and norms need to mediate these areas and not laws. Individuals and voluntary organizations need to speak up in place of government agencies.
In the U.S., it’s not uncommon for the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, populated by liberal, Jewish lawyers, to defend a neo-Nazi group’s right to assemble and speak. So strong are Americans’ actions in support of free, unfettered speech, that they trump ideology and politics. This remains difficult for a lot of the world to understand and sometimes for Americans too.
Richard Ryan lives in El Centro and can be reached at rryan@mail.sdsu.edu

Free Speech published in the Imperial Valley Press May 12, 2015