Letters for the Week of August 24

Readers sound off on teaching yoga, Toby Keith, and food trucks.

“Thinking About a Career in Yoga?,” Education and Careers, 8/10

An Embarrassment of Riches

I have been torn about teacher trainings that cost a lot and do not produce any for-sure employment (even as a supplement to a regular career). However, I continue my education in yoga for my own development and well-being. I trust that the money is well spent and that payoffs may come in different forms later in life. Actually, periods when I was in deep study and practice during anusara immersions — such as the ones that Katchie Ananda teaches as prerequisites to teacher trainings — have been some of the best times in my life. Yoga is really about helping us all be our best selves. Whether or not I’ll ever make any money doing what feels like my passion remains to be seen. Seems like everywhere in the world is becoming saturated with yoga teachers, and I think it’s a good “problem” to have.

Malika Omawale, Oakland

Yoga Has Value

As someone who has just committed to participate in one of the teacher training programs mentioned in the article, I found the piece to be very well-written. Thanks.

I had some fears when I thought about teacher training: that I would be perceived as less than fully committed to yoga or to teaching yoga (given that I am also working on a Ph.D and am planning to find a full-time job that employs that degree when I finish) — not to mention that I might become just another yoga teacher in a place where there are so many talented ones.

Nonetheless, my excitement to learn more deeply about the history, philosophy, and anatomy of yoga outweighs my fears, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to share my yoga training without worrying too much about the money, since I hopefully won’t be relying on it as my primary income source.

This being said, I have the highest respect for the full-time yoga teachers I know or have studied with who make their living doing what they love: teaching yoga. Theirs is a level of passion and commitment to the study and practice of yoga that brings great benefits to the rest of us, and should be rewarded with a cash flow that at least allows them to get by financially.

I don’t believe yoga teachers should have to live on bread and water when there are so many people with disposable income in the Bay Area looking for meaningful ways to spend their time. Most yoga teachers I’ve encountered in the Bay Area are passionate about teaching and about giving their pupils the tools to bring balance into their own lives, and I choose not to see them as potential “hustlers.”

The Bay Area may be saturated with yoga-teacher hopefuls, but the flip side is that it’s still one of the best places to explore yoga classes, styles, instructors, and teacher training programs.

Maria Bowman, Oakland

A Venti-Sized Market

Good article. Interesting times. Yoga teachers are starting to become like Starbucks — one on every corner.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with teaching yoga for a living. My experience is that it is certainly not easy to make a buck at first. But that’s not my primary motivation in teaching. It’s a good job and a noble profession — rewarding in many ways. It’s a good challenge to remain balanced in the practice and the business at the same time.

Jim Coughlin, Pleasanton

“Acupuncture for Detox,” Education and Careers, 8/10

Acupuncture Works

Thank you for writing about the acupuncture issue in Berkeley. I never forget to tell smokers about Berkeley’s Tobacco Prevention Program, which sometimes offers free acupuncture or hypnosis.

The acupuncture worked for me. They offered a few more sessions in the drug rehab at Herrick. I haven’t smoked in more than ten years. Only problem, I have to say, is that acupuncture works too well! I can’t be around any cigarette or marijuana smoke now without nearly keeling over coughing for a few days after exposure.

Jengiz Haas, Oakland

“Toby Keith and the American Way,” Music, 8/10

How Do You Like Me Now?!

Wow! That article was really distasteful.

Sounds like you might be the angry American, dear. How sad to write in that manner.

“Keith thanked the troops too many times to count.” Really? Too many times? Your head peacefully sleeps in a free country — I don’t think we can thank someone too many times, whether it be a fireman, policeman, military man, doctor, nurse, or any person of service.

And: “They’re wasted and angry and occasionally offensive, but these people aren’t idiots — they’re just acting like it.” From the sounds of your article, it looks like you handpicked two or three people that fit your stereotypical form of writing and then summed up the whole night from that! It is shameful that you did not expand your thoughts and views to look beyond your already-formed opinion.

I was with a group of seven people that go to this concert every year. It is a harmless coming together of people who enjoy being patriotic and listening to fun, light-hearted (sometimes real-life) music. We live in a country where we are allowed to do that, and we should be able to do that without journalists writing narrow-minded articles on people who were not hurting or harming anybody. Kind of like the bully on the playground, isn’t it?

“Earlier that evening, the United States received its worst credit rating ever, and the next day, we would see the biggest single-day death toll in the ten-year history of the war in Afghanistan.” And your point here was what, exactly? Blame Bush? We are smart enough to read between the lines.

“The dipping tobacco was fucking disgusting, by the way.” We agree here … but really? So much more in the world going on and there are much more disgusting things in life!

Long story short — another opinionated article from a narrow-minded journalist. The good news? You are free to write what you will. Blessings to you.

Linda Johnson, Campbell

“Precious Food Carts,” Editorial Cartoon, 8/10

You’re Forgetting Something…

Forgot to draw the mile-long line and the ridiculously high price!

Amy Hu, Berkeley

“A Tale of Two Economies,” Raising the Bar, 8/10

Starve the Parasite

I am a late-comer to the discussion. Probably good though, as I have seen why the feral/real economies have co-existed with the feral economy being a parasite. This is not a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/Tea Party issue. Nor is it a socialism versus capitalism versus communism debate — it’s not even democratic versus totalitarian versus whatever.

So long as there is a free-market economy, there will be those who take advantage of that free market. Hedge funds are merely sophisticated bookies, betting on the outcome of economic strategies. Derivatives are the bets. Or it may be the other way around, depending on who is getting gored that day.

No one likes too much government, but the anarchists don’t fare well either. Where is the balance? It is constantly shifting to account for human behavior and greed. There is no way to predict the first or stop the second — genetic coding. What we do about all of this will determine whether our western society can continue with the financial models that we’ve had for several hundred years.

If I had a grand plan that all sides could accept I’d win a Nobel or Pulitzer. The only thing we can do is set boundaries — minimally, your right to swing stops at my nose. Once the feral economy begins to eat the real economy, the brakes must be applied, firmly and quickly. That’s when we need regulators to do their jobs — I know, as I had one of those jobs once.

We are now a world economy but we can still stake out our financial territory. We can guard it against excesses; kind of like putting a stop-loss in place for a stock trade. We need only agree that some measure of control has to be available. The easy part at that point is deciding what kind and who. The basic question is whether anyone wants controls. The folks running the feral economy have to be made to realize that when the real economy dies, so goes the feral.

Those in the real economy will suffer, but can survive. The feral economy creatures will die for the lack of a host to live on — after all, it is a parasite. Even they have to agree. They contribute little to the real economy, but live off of its very existence.

Maybe the Moody Blues were right, that it’s “A Question of Balance” and we will “never hear an answer.”

Richard Isacoff, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

We Should be Questioning Capitalism

The United States hasn’t been paying its debt for a while. The debt is growing, mostly because the accumulating interest is not being paid either. The US government of the corporations is an outlaw entity that feels that it can blackmail all the countries of the planet with the threat of bombing them — and it has effectively done that. Besides, it confiscates funds deposited in its banks by other countries by declaring their governments “illegitimate” — Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, etc. — honoring its hereditary legacy from English piracy. This outlaw entity is engaged in invading countries, plundering their resources, and kidnapping, torturing, and assassinating people without resorting to any court of law. This policy will, inevitably, lead the United States into an armed confrontation with China, its bigger lender. China has already warned the United States to live within its means.

However, blackmailing other countries is not enough to maintain the war machine and the billionaire lifestyles of bankers and corporate executives. Therefore, the government of the corporations resorts to blackmailing its own citizens — hence the congressional theatrical drama aimed at attacking “entitlements,” i.e., benefits that the workers have paid for during their working years — while at the same time, the president is proposing to make cuts on Social Security taxes to further deplete the Social Security Trust Fund decimated by Obama’s bail-outs of banks and corporations.

The illusions created with the election of a mixed-race president are wearing out fast. Capitalism can no longer provide for the needs of the people of the planet: Wars, famine, and misery are increasing — it’s just that now they’re coming to the United States.

Leo T. West, San Leandro

0x201CCup of Coffee, No Pension,0x201D News, 8/10

A Former Player Weighs in

It boggles the mind to think that baseball is so reluctant to do what is right for our group. While some news reports say payouts are on the way, to date there has been no notification from anyone in baseball to anyone in our group. No letter, e-mail, or phone call. This demonstrates to me that baseball doesn’t consider this a very big deal. And they’re right! But then, there is nothing to be gained for them — no more than calming down a hungry and angry dog by tossing him a little something. After all, we are not being supported by political correctness, nor do we have a real advocate, like football’s Mike Ditka. It cannot possibly be about the money. Even Charlie Pride (yep, the singer) got $10,000 a year for four years. He never played one day in Major League Baseball. Baseball should be ashamed for the treatment of our group!

Jimmy Hutto, Pensacola, Florida

Phillies/Orioles, 1970-1975

Unfairness and Injustice

I’m so glad this is getting more coverage. Doug Gladstone is a hero to the families who fell through the cracks. My late father, Nelson (“Nellie”) King, who was a relief pitcher for the Pirates from 1954-57, was one such player. He died one year ago today, at age 82. In the last year of his life, he published his baseball memoirs, for which we created this blog: HappinessIsLikeACurDog.Blogspot.com. The last few years of his life were spent in poor health and pain, with the anxiety of not having enough money for care. The unfairness of it all and the callousness of MLB and the union are stunning.

Laurie King, Washington, DC

0x201CHow Safe Is Your Soil?,0x201D Feature, 8/3

Food for Thought

The article may imply to many readers that backyard veggies from soils with elevated lead may be or are likely to be unsafe to eat. However, research shows that lead uptake by vegetables in soils with elevated lead is very low. That does not mean you should not take precautions. Nothing we do in life is risk-free, but most risk can be reduced using a variety of different methods.

The best paper I found while reviewing the literature was a Cornell University paper entitled “Lead in Urban-grown Vegetables” (see CCESchenectady.org). This paper states, “with soils of very high organic matter content (40-50 percent or greater), no lead uptake was found even if the lead present in the soil was as high as 3,000 ppm.” Many papers indicated that managing soil pH was also important.

The research I reviewed shows that soil with high organic matter substantially reduces lead uptake. Compost is free and is an excellent source of organic matter. In general, the organic content of finished composts ranges from 30-70 percent. Compost is locally produced from green-waste collection programs and it is given away monthly by the carload or truckload. 

Furthermore, the research shows no significant uptake into tree fruits and fruit-like vegetables (such as tomatoes). Root veggies may require some consideration due to direct soil exposure.  According to Cornell, one precaution in high-lead soils is to “peel root crops such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes before eating.” The primary risk of lead exposure is through ingestion of lead-contaminated soil and dust, so wash everything thoroughly before eating it.

The Express article scared me and motivated me to do further research for my own benefit.  Hopefully this summary will benefit other backyard gardeners, too. My view now is that the Express article implies greater risks of lead uptake by vegetables in urban gardens than may actually exist.   

Some food for thought.

Greg San Martin, Berkeley

“Cut the Music, Bring the Noise,” Music, 7/27

Labor Costs Money

Musicians should be paid, especially when the merchants are making money off their music. Do we want a Solano Stroll that dumps on the musicians and doesn’t ask the merchants to carry their share? Musicians have a hard enough time getting by in hard times to take another hit from people and businesses who want to benefit from their skills without paying anything. The Stroll is asking workers to work for free; try asking a plumber or contractor or a shopkeeper to work for tips.

David Weber, Oakland

“The Elephant in the Room,” Feature, 7/27

Democrats Are to Blame, Too

Thanks to the Express and Darwin BondGraham for his excellent article. However, the subtitle, which blames the GOP for our fiscal mess, is misleading. Despite supposedly different philosophies, the actions and inactions of our Democratic leaders have the same results as the anti-tax and anti-government policies of the GOP. Two examples: first, the actions by California’s governor to save money by cutting services, including education and programs for seniors and the disabled — reductions that actually will cost us more, and his failure to follow through on his pledge to seek new taxes from even the most wealthy; and second, the failure of our president to fight for raising taxes, as did Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, which, when spent properly, lead to job creation.

History shows that a vibrant economy is based on a circulation of funds that creates higher employment and greater prosperity. All must pay their fair share of taxes to make this happen. Massive tax cuts result in the killing of jobs and the ruining of the economy. The actions by both Republicans and Democrats to allow a continued concentration of funds in fewer hands and to cut programs can only lead to a deeper economic downturn. And you know what happens to a society where there is no vision.

Steve Zolno, Oakland

American Values Focus Group

“Best Wine Guru: David Sharp,” Best of the East Bay, 7/20

A Sharp Supporter

The Wine Mine and Dave Sharp have changed my wine-buying experience. I am a frugal barbarian of a wine buyer. I mostly look for a good value with an occasional premium purchase. Dave will often “downsell” me to a less expensive wine. He will gleefully order a case or two of odd flavors that I think suit my taste and take a chance that some other wine barbarian may like them, too. He cheerfully exchanges wine that just didn’t suit my taste. (Not an empty bottle, however … he’s not that cheerful!) And he remembers enough about my past purchases (pretty smart guy) to steer me toward a new bottle in his ever-changing inventory. The Wine Mine is just a heck of a wine store. Cheers.

David Lezynski, Oakland

An Honest Sale

We stopped buying wine at Beverages and More, etc.— not just because of price, but because David gets to know your likes very quickly, and then lets you know when something comes in that fits. Likewise, he will readily say, “You won’t like this wine.” It’s always an honest sale.

Dick Moore, Oakland


In our August 17 food review, “Authentic Organic Thai,” we misstated Ran Kanom Thai’s hours and phone number. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. every day and can be reached at 510-815-3212.


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