May 13, 2015

New Personal Website - Come Play!

I'm now posting my writings at  I hope you'll come check out the new website!  There's an option at the top left to subscribe by email and I'm on the WordPress platform so you can expect prettier posts with more functionality across the website.


September 21, 2012

Long Time, No Blog

I haven't been posting here for some time.  I'm sorry and hope you'll forgive me.  But, my silence hasn't been complete, I've just shifted where my writing is added to the Internet hive-mind.

I've started writing for the San Diego Free Press where I have a weekly column on free things to do in San Diego, SD For Free.  I also write other articles on topics that interest me, such as an article on San Diego's newest city park, Ruocco Park, that will be added to the website tomorrow.

If you'd like to follow my writings on the San Diego Free Press you can check out a list of my articles here.  As for this blog, I'll still be posting occasionally but likely not with the same frequency and most likely with a broader set of topics.  You're welcome and encouraged to continue to visit and hopefully you'll enjoy the new breadth.

Have a great weekend and I hope you enjoy some college football to celebrate the start of Autumn.

- John

July 24, 2012

A Month at the Farmers Market(s)

Farmers markets have been around for a long time, but are greatly increasing in number and popularity in the last decade as Americans become more informed about food and look to purchase healthier food while supporting local farmers and businesses.  As of mid-2011 there were 7,175 farmers markets operating in the United States, a 17 per cent increase from 2010 per the USDA.  Since 2002 the number of farmers markets has increased by 128%.

In San Diego we are fortunate to have a great climate for growing many items both seasonally and year-round.  There are also many farmers markets available to residents.  My favorite market in San Diego is the Little Italy Mercato and we have started many a weekend with a Saturday morning visit.  Another market we often visit is the Horton Plaza Farmers Market, which takes place on Thursday afternoons in downtown San Diego.  It's convenient for us because it's close to home and a nice place to meet for a family lunch during the week.

I like to purchase food at farmers markets for a few main reasons:

  • Fresh, healthy produce with a lot of variety
  • Supporting local farmers and the local economy
  • Many options that are certified organic and/or pesticide free
I often hear criticisms of farmers markets, primarily that they are too expensive.  It's true that there are many items at farmers markets that cost more than at a grocery store, but there are deals to be found and farmers markets can also provide great quality food at a very good prices.

For four weeks this August (8/4 - 9/1) our family will be solely shopping at and eating food from the two farmers markets noted above.  The one exception to this is for milk, which our doctor recommends for Eva, and is not currently available at the markets.  Our budget will be the average amount spent by Americans on food each month.  Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for a household of two persons the average monthly food expenditure is $496.50 and for a household of three persons the amount is $608.08.  These amounts are from the BLS 2010 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the most recent report available.  For additional information see the BLS website.

We have three people in our household, but since Eva is a baby I decided to use an amount between the figures for 2 and 3 person households.  Our budget for the 4 week period will be $550, $137.50 per week.

I'll be recording our purchases and the per unit cost, as well as other data on this online spreadsheet.  Hopefully this data will be handy if you're interested in comparing the costs at the markets to those in your local grocery store.

If you have a farmers market in your area check it out this weekend.  You might be happily surprised by the prices you'll find there, and it's a great opportunity to support your neighbors and local economy.  

Thanks to the Little Italy Mercato and Horton Plaza Farmers Markets and if you live in San Diego I highly recommend both of these markets as resources for fresh, healthy food and friendly, informative producers.


July 21, 2012

We are all good, we are all evil

The mass shooting Saturday morning in Aurora, CO has led to much commentary about the events, the perpetrator, and general commentary on the state of our nation.  Many of these writings are about the perpetrator, how someone with potential mental issues was able to purchase so many guns, and derision towards the deranged person(s) responsible.

I disagree with the idea that the perpetrator is an evil person, or different in most ways from the majority of our populace. Trying to separate people into groups of 'the good' and 'the bad' is a flawed premise and one that discards the truth of the complexity of all humans. Such groupings are simply convenient and make it easy to see tragedies like this as a rouge bad egg acting out. It is comforting to view such actions as aberrations that we can avoid by avoiding such persons or separating them from the rest of us in a jail or mental institution. This viewpoint ignores the ability that we all possess to do great good or great evil, and how close to the surface the desires to act in either way lie to the surface.

It is important to remember this dichotomy and a reminder of the need to consider ethics in our daily lives. Too often these topics are confined to the realm of spirituality and religion which is especially unfortunate given the decline of organized religion in Western societies over recent decades. I don't see the decline of adherence to traditional, organized religion as a problem in itself, but it is a problem if the moral principles and ethics lessons that are a part of many religions are not supplemented or replaced with teachings in ethics and morality on a rational basis that are missing nearly universally from our educational and cultural structures.

Indeed, even for those adhering to a religious tradition, ethics are often less a rational approach to thinking and living morally and more an idiosyncratic set of rules regarding particular areas of life.  To paraphrase Peter Singer:

Too often the word ethics conjures up an image of an older man in a cassock holding forth on the right or wrong of particular sexual preferences and acts.

Reading this description of much of Western traditional religious values (I'm Catholic and was raised Catholic) was so spot-on when I read it I was surprised I had never thought of it this way before.  Not to say that Catholicism, and other religions, don't have merits and redeeming qualities, but when I think of what areas of 'ethics' I most strongly identify Catholicism with the area of sex and sexual acts are easily at the top of the list.

My father-in-law has a saying; "People have the attention span of a gnat".  I have to agree with him, but don't see it as a necessarily bad thing.  As a consequence of our short memories and attention spans, we rely on societal norms and conventional wisdom to guide many of our actions and premises.  It is the rare soul among us that is able to change the broader conversations or the actions of many people with a speech or command. However, as a population our norms and mores are in constant flux - most of the changes taking place as do changes to our own bodies.  We don't notice them from day to day, but a snapshot taken a few years apart can show shocking changes that we scarcely noticed as they happened.

I typically write about the environment and direct my efforts to helping make the world a healthier place.  I don't see large changes in the world or even my small part of it as a result of my writing and truly believe that the majority of my efforts are for naught.  I write, and act, to change the world as part of a group working to push the societal needle towards a more sustainable future.

Like many Americans, I'm tired of bickering, pettiness, and triviality - whether in politics, our consumer culture, or TV programming.  We need to move the needle in our society towards a more rational, ethical culture.  Changes to gun laws, building more prisons, and having more security may avoid another movie theater or college campus mass shooting but humans are incredibly creative, clever creatures and we will always find new ways to destroy each other.  The only effective way to address actions like those that took place in Aurora is to help build a better, kinder, more rational place to live.  It won't be 100 per cent effective - nothing is ever guaranteed.  But we can all do our part to create a more ethical, happier, better place to live.

We don't need more apologies and sympathy for victims, we need more efforts to create a more intelligent, rational, ethical world.

Flying at the San Diego Airport? Check out Car2Go to Get There

I flew to Kansas to visit my parents a couple of days ago and got to use the Car2Go car sharing program in San Diego for the first time to get to the airport.  Car2Go is also in Austin, Miami, Portland, Washington DC, and Miami in the U.S.  If you're a member you can use your card to access vehicles in any of these cities.

Bonus: You can currently sign up on the Miami Car2Go site regardless of where you live and get a membership card for free, avoiding the $35 one-time registration fee. Use the promo code HEAT on the site to waive the fee.

There are a number of options for our family to get to the San Diego Airport.  I love this airport, primarily because it is situated right in the middle of the city, near downtown, beaches, and the bay.  Since we live near downtown it's a short trip to get to and from the airport, with a number of different modes of transit we can use to get there.  Below is a summary of the cost, time, and distance of these options, in order of my preference for getting to/from the airport from our house.
  1. Driving - Car2Go
    1. Time:  41 minutes (17 minutes driving and loading / unloading, 24 minutes walking to / from car)
    2. Cost:  $6.41 ($5.95 plus $.46 tax)
    3. Distance: 6 miles (5 miles driving, 1 mile walking)
      1. Note: The walking distance and time is currently increased because of construction going on at the airport.
  2. Taxi
    1. Time: 15 minutes
    2. Cost: $20, including tip
    3. Distance: 5 miles
  3. Public Transit - Bus
    1. Time: 1 hour
    2. Cost: 4.50 (2.25 per segment, no transfers allowed)
    3. Distance: 6 miles
      1. Note: The San Diego transit authority, MTS, does not currently have an electronic pay-per use option for traveling and exact change is required for bus and trolley rides which are $2.25 and $2.50 per trip, respectively.
  4. Walking
    1. Time:  90 minutes
    2. Cost: Free
    3. Distance: 4.6 miles
  5. Driving - Personal Vehicle
    1. Time: 15 minutes
    2. Cost: $2.76 for fuel plus estimated vehicle wear.  $10 per day for parking at airport.
    3. Distance:  5 miles
We have typically taken the bus, or a cab, to get to and from the airport.  Depending on the time of day the bus isn't always an option and a cab has often been our choice when returning from a trip and wanting to get home quickly.  After using Car2Go for an airport trip, it seems to be the most convenient, quickest, greenest option for getting to, from, and around the airport and central area of San Diego.

One drawback about Car2Go is that the cars only accommodate two people since the current fleet is comprised of two door, two seat Smart cars.  Also, Terminal 2 at the San Diego airport is under construction which makes the walk a bit longer than it will be in the future.  Once construction is complete in 2013, the total walk from the parking at Spanish Landing park to Terminal 2 will be a .2 mile walk away, just across Harbor Drive.  Car2Go vehicles can be parked at any metered parking space in San Diego without having to pay the meter.

For parents out there: I originally thought that Car2Go would not be an option for a baby / carseat but it is permitted under California state law. In 2 seat cars, a carseat can be used in the passenger seat, as long as it is properly secured and the passenger airbag is turned off. Props to Car2Go for also sharing this information, and utilizing a sensor to automatically turn off the air bag.
From car to plane in a hop, skip, and a jump.

Although flying itself produces a lot of carbon emissions, and reducing flights was part of my 'Top 10' ways to be greener when traveling list, it's a part of modern life that few of us can or will give up entirely.  Finding a greener way to get to and from the airport with Car2Go is a small step to help green my total travel plans that hopefully you will find enjoyable as well.

Happy travels!