Week One in Oakland

I'm just finishing up my first week in lovely Oakland and loving it so far. I'm living right next to downtown in a neighborhood called Lake Merritt. For Minneapolitans, think a cross between Lake Calhoun and Loring Park. It's a fabulous neighborhood and I'm sort of right in between Vietnamese and Mexican sections, which means being surrounded by great food.
I borrowed an old bike from one of my co-workers, so I've been spending a lot of time exploring the East Bay by bike. Oakland is great and has a ton of cool neighborhoods. I've especially enjoyed hanging out around the Grand-Lake area, which has a spectacular farmer's market on Saturdays (mmm. nectarines...). I got to an A's-Twins game last week, courtesy of my roommate/landlord's amazing box seat. The Coliseum is definitely one of the crappier stadiums I've visited, but in sort of a lovable way. I spent a day in SF (reminded me of Manhattan. lots of reasons I should like it, but too many yuppies and tourists) and Berkeley (which has great bookstores and a beautiful campus).

More on all this later, but I wanted to get up a short update.



A Little Radical Cartography...


My new home superimposed on my old home.



As part of my summer internship with TransForm, a transportation advocacy group in Oakland, CA, I'm going to be experimenting a lot with the possibilities of using social networking sites for community organization. It's an interesting project, and one that I feel a lot of people are talking about, but no one has really completely figured out. The first project is actually a part of a larger fund-raising event that we're throwing called the Car-Free Challenge. It's sort of a reverse walk-a-thon. Instead of raising money based on how much you walk, you raise it based on how little you drive. We've got well over a hundred people participating, and one of the main things I'm doing is encouraging them to blog. The following is one of my own posts about the first day of the challenge.

originally uploaded by Professor Bop.

Day One: 984 Miles Car Free

I usually tell people that I try to avoid flying for the same reason I try to avoid driving. A) It’s bad for the environment and B) It stresses me out. For me, June 1st happened to fall on the last day of my vacation. I’d spent the previous two weeks in Minneapolis (visiting family) and Chicago (visiting friends) and was traveling back to Boston on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

A few years ago, I had used one of those internet emissions calculators to find out how I compared to the average. OK. Let’s be honest. As someone who’s been car-free for a long time and lives in an apartment building in a downtown neighborhood, I was looking to confirm how awesome I am. However, I found that, due to the amount of flying that my partner and I do (she’s an anthropologist and we tend to travel to Asia more often then most), we had the emissions of a family of four in the suburbs. My first thought was, of course, to pay for carbon offsets. But when it comes to making a decision between paying some money and changing my behavior, I usually lean towards changing my behavior. It makes me more comfortable. Obviously, there are very few ways to get to Asia from the US, but I did decide to try out Amtrak for as much of my domestic travel as I could.

Since then, I’ve traveled by rail as far as Boston to Santa Fe… and I’ve loved it. One of my favorite things about traveling across the country by rail is the view of America it gives you. Traveling by interstate, the country is remarkably uniform. You see the same highways, the same gas stations, the same cars and the same subdivisions all over the country. The rail lines tend to go through back areas, far off the beaten path. You get an amazing view of America before the interstate system. Mostly though, unlike flying, which is just transportation, taking the train really becomes part of the trip. We pack enough food, wine and games and just sit back to enjoy the ride…


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