.Letters for the week of June 21-27, 2006

Readers weigh in on B-town's ex-mayor, Chris Thompson's nuclear and solar columns, bento boxes, wi-fi's downsides, old-school slang, cars, varmints, and Willie Shakespeare. Whew!

“Gourmet Grazing,” On Food, 5/10

Some Like it Cold
I winced when you talked about putting the bento boxes in the fridge and especially the microwave. During my two years in Japan back in the ’80s, I came to appreciate the Japanese preference for eating a lot of foods at room temperature, and the obento was the perfect example of that — pick one up in the train station, eat it during your Bullet Train ride across the country. Five minutes, an hour, even two hours later it was just as delicious. I hope you and your readers try it and like it. On the other hand, I never learned to relish the COLD fried egg with salad and toast — for me a case of “Lost in Translation.”

Liz Nichols, Oakland

“Shirley, You Jest,” Bottom Feeder, 5/17

Ms. Dean, meet Mr. Mean
Surely Shirley Dean has no shame. One would have thought her Karl Rove-like posing as Kriss Worthington’s aunt to uncover political dirt on a gay city councilor would be enough to make her stay in the closet.

Not to mention her refusal to accept federal dollars for low-income housing such as the Campanile Hotel and the Rose Street AIDS Housing. Her idea of AIDS prevention was to close the Steamworks while opposing needle exchange and a citywide AIDS mailer that went out while Loni Hancock was mayor. The latter was simply a prevention piece from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, but Shirley found it controversial. She originally opposed the Bonita House drug rehab/mental health program as well.

If Shirley Dean runs, I, the “avenging angel of Rose Street” (an Express quote), THE DEVIL WITH THE BLUE DRESS ON, will throw my WIGHAT and tired old self into the ring as well. I’m meaner, I’m leaner, I otta’ be mayor of this town. Surely Mean for a Bitter Berkeley!

As a pro-people, pro-sex LGBT spirit I prefer Master Bates, but I will be a joke candidate for public shaming and humiliation to spank Shirley. Of course, if you want contentious city council meetings that last seven hours, Shirley’s your gal.
John Iversen (aka Surely Mean), Berkeley

“Nuclear Now, for the Good of the Earth,” City of Warts, 5/17

Consider the real costs
Chris Thompson does not address cost, waste storage, and nuclear proliferation. It may be true that reactor designs have gotten safer over the past several decades, but when you look at what a car dealer would call the “TCO,” total cost of ownership, nuclear power is very, very expensive.

In the usual calculations, insurance and waste disposal costs of nuclear power plants are ignored because they have been shifted to taxpayers. We have no idea what it will cost to store high-level nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years. The nuclear waste tanks leaking today at Hanford, Washington, are not encouraging. The artificial lowering of costs (by excluding such items) makes nuclear power look more attractive than it actually is.

Since nuclear power plants are giant radiation bombs waiting to happen, it is probably only a matter of time before the security costs are shifted to the taxpayers also. Rooftop solar collectors do not require a police state to guard them.

Nuclear power plants produce plutonium. Plutonium makes nuclear weapons. We are on the edge of going to war with Iran because we do not want Iran to have nuclear power plants and the plutonium they create. If we go whole hog for a new generation of nuclear reactors, we are committing ourselves to an unsustainable global double standard that could take trillions of dollars to enforce. Cheap energy, anyone?

Not mentioned in the article are other costs of nuclear energy, such as cancer among uranium miners and the costs of decommissioning the giant plants when their thirty-year lifespan (governed by metal fatigue) is over. There are many safer alternatives, including conservation innovations, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. If we are going to use heavy infusions of tax dollars to subsidize and fund our energy choices, citizens have the right to choose more sustainable, less expensive, and less dangerous energy paths.
Dennis Rivers, Plutonium Free Future, Berkeley

“How to Make Solar Power Cost-Effective,” City of Warts, 5/24

Bring on solar incentives
Currently Oakland is preening about having received an award for being green. It is also proposing higher taxation for street lighting. Why would Oakland not be setting up its own revolving fund to promote solar installations? Added incentive for owners could be exemption from tax levies on street lighting. Oakland should be installing solar panels to cut its own power bill.

As one who installed the solar roof, I concur with your analysis about the difficulty of recovering the cost. Plus, PG&E and Oakland city authorities are so obtuse (deliberately?) that the project was unduly slow and costly. The Express might do well to assemble a focus group of folks who have been through the experience — what a juicy expozay (Herb Caen spelling) you’d have, and much more practical benefits than either waiting for a state bond or targeting God Petroleum.
Lorenzo Avila, Berkeley

“No Signal,” Feature, 5/17

Brains and power
In her article on community wi-fi, Kathleen Richards writes of the “dimly documented health risks” associated with this technology. Perhaps she should turn up the power on her own investigative reporting skills and, rather than demean the “typical” residents of Berkeley raising these concerns, speak to experts in the field such as Dr. Olle Johansson of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, which annually awards the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology. Dr. Johansson’s research includes studies demonstrating a correlation between a rise in the incidence of melanoma and the introduction of FM radio broadcasting in Sweden and the existence of a medical condition known as electrical hypersensitivity, a disability officially recognized by the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom.

While some may take consolation in the fact that cell phones operate at power levels greater than a typical wi-fi signal, another recent study from Sweden suggests that the latency period for brain tumors associated with cell-phone use may be ten years or more. And unlike the rush to install wi-fi in schools throughout the Bay Area described in the article, the public health department of Salzburg, Austria, recently recommended that wi-fi not be used in kindergartens and elementary schools for precautionary health reasons.

I’m not sure if such journalistic oversight is “typical” of Ms. Richards’ reporting, but I do think the latter would benefit from a greater degree of thoroughness and objectivity in the future.
Doug Loranger, San Francisco

“Woodshedding,” This Week, 5/17

Your leg was pulled
“Woodshedding” is an old jazz expression. It has been around since Benny Goodman and possibly as long as Satchmo Armstrong (early 1920s). This expression was in use when I was studying at the Berklee School of Music (mid-1960s) and has nothing to do with “rural roots” or Beegie Adair’s grandmother — your leg is being pulled.

Clayton O’Claerach, Oakland

“Cordelia and Her Sisters,” Theater, 5/17

Macbeth most nihilistic
Lisa Drostova: You wrote about King Lear, “It is virtually the only work in the canon that does not end with the suggestion that humans can change for the better.” Actually, Macbeth is [Shakespeare’s] most nihilistic play. Don’t just take it from one who played the title role at UC while getting my Ph.D in dramatic art; check it out. Macbeth doesn’t experience any remorse or enlightenment about himself as Hamlet, Othello, and Lear do before they die.

Paul Shepard, Oakland

“After-Party Pooper,” Music, 5/24

Stick to the music
Why would you ask how many of R. Kelly’s groupies had he peed on? That must be something that turns guys like you on, ’cause you’re stuck on that very subject. We care about R. Kelly for his music; try to stick to it.

Lisa Jackson, Burbank

“Buddy Gonna Shut You Down,” This Week, 5/24

Get your cars straight
I had at least a good chuckle at the names of some of the cars you rattled off in this listing. The Falcon — Ford’s economy match for the Chevy Nova?? In no way was that a “performance” car, or a desirable platform to be souped up. And the Dodge Dart — again, the company’s lowest-cost offering? No, I think you must have meant the Dodge Challenger.

From the former owner of a Nova, Dart, and Valiant,
Kevin Walsh, Emeryville

“City Rabbits, Anyone?,” This Week, 5/24

Four legs good, two legs bad
Dare I hope that Kelly Vance wrote “City Rabbits, Anyone?” in a nonpersonal voice — expressing other people’s murderous hatred of “varmints,” those small undomesticated animals who are just trying to survive another day? I ask, because Kelly’s other writing in the same issue, “Talk to the Animals,” seems sympathetic to putting animals on an equal footing in the scheme of things. To term any animal a “four-legged metaphor for disease and corruption” and not include the two-legged ones of the species Homo sapiens makes me think of the people I’d poison if I were a destroyer of life.

Maggie Wehinger, Oakland

Three altweekly awards to the Express
The Express won three journalism awards in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ 2006 AltWeekly Awards contest. New music editor David Downs won first place in the arts feature category for his story “Roboscalper” (3/30/05), about the increasing technical sophistication of ticket scalpers. Former music editor Rob Harvilla, now of the Village Voice, won third place in music criticism for a series of three articles. And staff writer Will Harper won honorable mention for best feature story for “A Man Named Sue” (9/28/2005), his profile of vexatious litigant Fred Whitaker. The AltWeekly Awards pit 124 member newsweeklies against one another in competition; the Express competes against other papers with circulation in excess of 50,000.

In our June 14 issue, we reported that Fred Mott, ex-publisher of ANG Newspapers, was fired June 7 (“A News Executive Responds,” Cityside). The company insists the parting was mutual.


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