Bits and pieces

Happy holidays, wherever you might be

As you read this, I’m in Toronto, visiting the in-laws for Christmas, though as I write this I’m still in Chico, packing and tying up loose ends and trying not to stress out. We’ve got a stopover in Phoenix, which makes sense to nobody but United Airlines but at least has the advantage of posing fewer potential weather problems than, say, Denver or Chicago.

My wife and son and I are making the trip. Our daughter is flying in from Vienna to join us. That’s a lot of greenhouse-gas emissions to deposit our four little bodies around the family Christmas tree.

This morning NPR did a piece on how large a carbon footprint the Copenhagen climate-change conference was creating. As much as 4,000 Danes generate in a year, or 2,000 Americans, someone calculated.

I think I’ll buy some offsets. Know where I can get some?

Raking more leaves: I got a call from a commercial landscaper who’d read my column last week about the city’s leaf policy (“Buried in leaves”). He agreed that the current system isn’t working well and that leaf piles in the streets are a nuisance and, for bicyclists, potentially dangerous.

But he disagreed with my notion that commercial landscapers should be required to take their leaves to the city’s compost facility at the airport. The companies dumping leaves at the city’s designated sites are those like his that handle apartment complexes, he said. If they were required to dump at the airport, they’d have to charge more, and that cost would be passed on to the apartment dwellers themselves in the form of higher rents. Why should these folks have to pay more than people living in houses, whose curbside leaf disposal is free?

He had a point. But he also said the designated-sites program wasn’t working well. At which moment the two of us agreed that these issues should be discussed at the city’s upcoming (in January, I’m told) review of the leaf-removal program.

An embarrassing correction: Our editorial last week (“Herger’s hypocrisy”) about Rep. Wally Herger’s inconsistency in opposing comprehensive health-insurance reform, after voting for the 2003 Medicare drug-prescription program, wrongly called the Medicare program “Plan D.” It’s actually Part D. The nincompoop who wrote the editorial (yours truly) should have known better. (The error has been corrected online.)

Take a walk with us: This week’s issue of the CN&R features Neal Wiegman’s wonderful account of walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the ancient pilgrimage route across northern Spain, with his wife, Nancy. It’s not a Christmas tale per se, but it’s certainly in the spirit of the season.

As Neal explains, during the Middle Ages a half-million people a year walked many hundreds of miles, braving hunger, bandits and weather, to visit the cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela, where they believed the bones of Saint James were buried. By virtue of making the pilgrimage, their sins would be remitted, they hoped.

I hope you enjoy the story. And, on behalf of the CN&R staff, I wish you the warmest and happiest of holidays.