Why Aren’t the Cargo Ships Waiting to Unload in Southern California Going to Oakland?

Given the current supply chain crisis, you’d think that those cargo ships waiting in line for the Southern California ports would sail north to congestion-free Port of Oakland. Even if it’s not part of their usual contract, surely they could temporarily arrange alternate routes, especially since the Port of Oakland is asking for more cargo ships. Furthermore, Oakland has a rail terminal, so there’s no need for truck drivers: containers can go straight from ships to railcars.

Does the Port of Oakland have enough spare capacity to take all the cargo ships lined up in Southern California? No. But why aren’t the shipping companies taking up all the capacity which is available?

The supply chain crisis is a combination of long-term problems, such as non-union truck drivers, after expenses, earning less than minimum wage from port work (which explains why most truckers refuse to work in ports) (and there aren’t enough union truck drivers, or rather, the ports don’t contract enough union truck drivers because they don’t want to pay union wages). With these accumulating problems, this crisis was going to happen at some point. The pandemic is just one more straw on the camel’s back.

If the people who controlled cargo shipping—that is, the shipping lines and the ports—were interested in a functional supply chain, they’d shift some of the cargo traffic to Oakland.

The crux of the matter is: the people who have the power to ameliorate the crisis make more money by keeping the system broken.

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The Bizarre World of Vintage Toilets

I had no idea that the toilet I’m using is older than my parents. I had no idea that vintage toilets could sell for over a thousand USD. I had no idea that legal restrictions made the vintage toilet market so weird. One might even call it a ‘black’ market.

We applied to have our toilet replaced for free by our local water utility. To qualify, we had to send photos identifying the model and manufacturing date of our current toilet. The manufacturer of the toilet bowl… went out of business in the 1930s. That’s quite a way to date a toilet!

Then I went down the rabbit hole of vintage toilet research.

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I’m So Excited About Rosendale’s Debut Album That I Pre-Ordered It

I’m not a ‘music’ person. I only find out about musicians after they are famous, and usually not even then (you’d be amazed by how many ‘famous’ songs I don’t know). Never before have I pre-ordered a music album.

Last month, I watched the Taiwanese American Cultural Festival on YouTube. Looking at the schedule, I asked myself, “Who is this ‘Rosendale’ and what are they doing at a Taiwanese American festival” (I missed the section in the program which explains who everyone is). When his segment came up, I was like, “oh, he’s a singer.” Then I heard his songs and his commentary. (Note: his segment was only available on livestream, the recording is not publicly available.)

Since then, I’ve listened to Rosendale’s YouTube songs many times.

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I Haven’t Stepped a Toe Past City Limits in 15 Months. How Do I Feel?

I haven’t left the City and County of San Francisco since February 2020. I haven’t been to anywhere other than San Francisco or Alameda County since October 2019. 47 square miles / 121 square kilometers has been the limit of my physical world.

How do I feel? Surprisingly, I feel fine.

As soon as pandemic restrictions became serious, people complained about cabin fever and how much they want to ‘get out’ and travel far from home. Even now, over a year later, I… still don’t relate.

My life is such that I rarely have an ‘essential’ reason to leave city limits. Among people in my physical social circle, I’m unusual in not having crossed city limits at all since the first stay-at-home order. Many people I know have essential reasons to cross city limits, but I also get the sense that they are surprised by how seriously I’ve taken the ‘no nonessential travel’ thing.

I’ve been lucky to have already done quite a bit of travel in my life, and even before the pandemic, I felt I was getting diminishing returns from additional travel. For me, personally, staying in San Francisco city limits for over a year wasn’t bad.

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I Got One of the Last 700 Vaccine Doses (and I’m Waiting for a Blood Clot to Kill Me)

According to this news outlet, there were only about 700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine left in San Francisco as of April 26, when its usage resumed in the city. This website claims that about 600 more doses of ‘single-dose’ covid vaccine have been administered to San Francisco residents since April 26 and approximately 37,000 San Francisco residents have been injected with ‘single-dose’ vaccines. Because of the manufacturing problems the J&J vaccine is having in the United States, I don’t expect many more San Francisco residents to be injected with the J&J vaccine this year.

Those roughly 600 people in San Francisco who got J&J vaccine injections since April 26? I’m one of them.

Why?

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Once Again, Context Is Complicated: On Racial Tensions in San Francisco School Politics

The brouhaha over the San Francisco school board member who posted a bunch of tweets in 2016, was removed from her position as vice-president, and is now suing the school district and her other board members to the tune of a hundred million dollars, is making national news. What is not making national news is the local context.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this and this article offer good overviews).

My own opinion of the Allison Collins’ tweets is: I don’t think people should resign because of tweets they made five years ago, especially before they won an election, BUT Ms. Collins has handled this situation so badly that she should resign because of how she has behaved in 2021. Also, the teensy bit of sympathy I had for her evaporated when I learned about her ridiculous lawsuit (which I at first believed was an April Fool’s joke) which will take resources away from public school students in San Francisco.

But Allison Collins is incidental. If it wasn’t her, it would be someone else (okay, someone else might not have acted in such a spectacularly awful manner). That’s because the forces colliding in this have been around in San Francisco for decades, long before Allison Collins became part of this picture.

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What Does Being Jewish Have to do with Liking Wuxia/Xuanhuan/etc.?

Ten years ago, if you had asked, “Will you still be into wuxia ten years from now?” I would have blanked at trying to imagine anything about myself ten years in the future said “probably not.”

Nowadays my taste for wuxia has expanded into a taste for xuanhuan and other Chinese-themed fantasy (personally I don’t consider wuxia to be ‘fantasy’, but it’s a trivial hairsplitting of genre definitions, I will not argue with people who say that wuxia is a subset of ‘fantasy’). I don’t spend nearly as much time reading traditional wuxia as I did, say, eight years ago. Yet it’s still clear that, even today, I am much more excited about reading/watching wuxia/xuanhuan/etc. than European-inspired fantasy.

Why?

I don’t think there is One True Answer… but a partial answer is ‘I’m Jewish’. Or more precisely, ‘my specific experience of being Jewish, which is not necessarily the experience of other Jews.’ Continue reading

Pricing Follows Power

In San Francisco, most people spend much more on housing than food. Does this mean that housing brings much greater value to people’s lives? No. If I were forced to choose between housing without food and adequate food without housing, I’d rather have enough food and take my chances as an unsheltered homeless person. In reality, I might decide that temporarily lacking food but keeping my housing would be better for my social status and prospects of improving my situation (the stigma of being homeless makes it harder to improve one’s socio-economic standing). But if I believed the situation would last over three months, I would choose food.

Why is housing drastically more expensive than food? Simple – people who control housing have more power to increase prices than people who control food.

Housing is much more than physical shelter. Climate-appropriate tents are cheap and provide sufficient shelter for survival. If physical shelter is all that is needed, that’s the solution. Sometimes, that IS the solution; many people in San Francisco lived in tents after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Another part of ‘housing’ is the social consensus that someone may reside in a particular spot. Away from others, social consensus does not matter; wherever there are others, social consensus is necessary. Otherwise, it’s dangerous to live there. Immediately after the 1906 earthquake and fire, the social consensus was that (some) people may live in tents. Now, there is a general social consensus that someone can pitch a tent on private property with the owner’s permission (but what is private property?) or in the safe sleeping villages (though some neighbors object). Otherwise, someone living in a tent pitched in San Francisco, lacking the protection of social consensus, is at much higher risk of being assaulted, robbed, or being forced to move. Continue reading