Author Archives: Denise Lai

About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway.

Is that steak from a cow or a steer? Why it matters..

PSA: Trader Joes grass-fed steaks are cow, not steer (but at steer prices (!). Bought one the other night bc we were out of town at friends who only shop there, and discovered this when I put a rather pricey steak onto the outdoor grill where it became obvious it was cow; on the plate ditto.

1) Cow requires a different cooking method. You know how a good steak will sear up tight on the outside with a nice glazed surface and tender on the inside? Where you can gauge the doneness buy pressing on it? Cow doesn’t do this; it remains soft on the outside, never tightens up on the outside, and you cannot press it to determine doneness, it takes forever for the inside to be not-raw. The meat remains completely flexible and never sears up on the outside.

2) Cow tastes very different from steak.

There’s nothing wrong with eating/cooking cow, it just seems to me that as consumers we should a) know we are buying cow so we can use the right cooking method and dish prep for the meat and b) pay cow, i.e., lower and appropriate, prices (not steer/higher prices). TJ’s isn’t the only one doing this; it’s an industry thing to conceal this. It began with those cheaper steak house restaurants in the 1970s; cheap steaks = cow; no one knew except ranchers, and most Americans thought those steak restaurants were awesome. Worse: there is just about no one in the beef industry who will tell you whether they are selling cow or steer (including the Berkeley Bowl) except local ranch butcheries and the mis-named online purveyor Crowd Cow who only sells steer.

This includes Whole Foods. About 10 years ago, I paid bank for a steak at Whole Foods Market, tossed it on the grill for a fancy dinner at home, and the piece of meat was really really not having it, and when i finally got the meat to the table, the taste was not even close to what worked…this ruined the dinner. The “steak” should have been cooked up in a stew and has no business on a grill. Also, I suspect meats on sale have a higher probability of being cow as when i’ve purchased anything on sale, years ago, it was cow. I stopped buying meat from Whole Foods a decade ago because of this and because the people behind their meat counters are not butchers (they can’t prep any meat or chicken correctly to save their own lives).

So FYI y’all. Bummer about TJs joining this–but then I never buy meat there, so I cannot say whether this is a recent development or not. I just know that the are selling cow in their not-cheap grass-fed steaks.

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Opinion: Re-elect ‘People’s Mayor’ Spencer in Alameda

Contrary to what’s asserted in a recent anonymous East Bay Times editorial, Alamedans know that:

  • Councilwoman Marilyn Ashcraft voted for the current six-year public safety contract (ending December 2021) along with Councilmen Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie. That vote passed 3-2, with Councilman Tony Daysog and I opposing.
  • Ashcraft voted for hiring sworn (versus nonsworn) firefighters to do inspections, along with Vice Mayor Malia Vella and Oddie, another 3-2 vote, with Matarrese and I opposing. If the three positions were instead filled with nonsworn firefighters, city staff estimated a $300,000 annual savings. Therefore, the positions could be paid for without dipping into the General Fund and would not have to pay higher pension costs. Other cities use nonsworn firefighters for such inspections.
  • Ashcraft voted for the approximately $945,000 settlement agreement with former City Manager Jill Keimach, which also passed 3-2, with Ashcraft, Matarrese and Oddie supporting and Vella and I opposing.
  • Ashcraft voted for the Modernization Utility Tax (Measure K1 of November 2016), which the Alameda council approved 4-1, with myself opposing. Alameda’s employees’ wages are based on a unique formula referred to as the Balanced Revenue Index (BRI), composed of five revenue sources — including the utility users tax. The utility tax had been a component that was decreasing over time but shifted to a growth component with the passage of this tax, thereby increasing salaries and pension liabilities.
  • Ashcraft voted for the proposed 0.5 percent sales tax with no expiration date (the city’s Measure F this Nov. 6), raising Alameda’s sales tax to 9.75 percent, higher than Oakland and San Francisco, along with all the other council members except myself, a 4-1 vote. It is noteworthy that Alameda council candidates Chen, Daysog, Knox White and Matz also oppose Measure F, agreeing with me.

Alameda’s current General Fund five-year forecast projects a budget deficit by fiscal year 2019-20, increasing to a $4.7 million dollar deficit by fiscal year 2021-22. As Kevin Kennedy, our city’s treasurer, and Kevin Kearney, our city auditor, recently stated, “City staff say there is a $300 million backlog of work that needs to be done to keep our storm drains from polluting the bay; keep our water, parks and buildings safe; and maintain our streets and sidewalks.

“… Also, retiree medical benefits for city employees are underfunded by more than $100 million and continue to grow at a rate faster than the city’s revenues come in. And pension plans for city employees are underfunded by more than $200 million, resulting in pension payments consuming millions of dollars more of the city’s revenue every year for the next decade and beyond. … This is not sound fiscal management.

“The structural problems in the budget must be addressed. Not facing these issues head-on just kicks the can down the road, and asking for citizens to pay more for basic services or pass tax measures is merely a Band-Aid, not a substantial long-term fix. … You should expect better and demand that elected leaders operate in a fiduciary capacity to protect our interests and do all they can to fulfill their responsibility as fiduciaries.”

I agree with our treasurer and auditor that Alameda’s current fiscal direction, “is not sound fiscal management” and “the structural problems in the budget must be addressed,” and my votes reflect that. As shown above, I am regularly outvoted by the majority of City Council on financial issues. However, Ashcraft is regularly, if not always, in the council majority on financial decisions. Thus the anonymous editorial’s claim that a vote for Ashcraft is one for “meaningful change” is not supported by the facts (e.g. her past votes).

The anonymous editorial also criticizes me for not doing more as mayor and then argues against a strong-mayor system. The demand that I do more under our current system would violate our city charter. Thankfully, Alamedans will analyze the facts rather than relying upon baseless rhetoric.

As your mayor, I promise to continue to always vote for Alamedans’ best long-term interests, including fiscal ones. I am a dedicated, compassionate, hands-on leader who appreciates your input. Together we are leading Alameda to new opportunities. I am asking for your vote and continued support as your mayor. Let’s do it again! Contact our campaign at Trish@MayorTrish.com, 510-863-4496 or #ThePeoplesMayorTrish.

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer is running for re-election Nov. 6.


Note to City Council: You’re not cool.

Note to City Council Members:
Contemporary municipal contracts with bicycle-sharing companies typically require those companies be accountable and share revenue. It’s a thing.
SOS (Save Our Streets) Pledge:
1) Daily Pickup for bicycles and scooters (after dark)
2) Responsible Growth (matching vehicle stock with usage, i.e., not overstocking)
3) Revenue Sharing (with city to help pay for new bike paths; makes sense, bc they are making money using our streets and sidewalks, right?).
We may think it’s cool to get bicycle- and scooter-sharing, and we may think it’s cool to get vehicle-sharing (with no revenue sharing for parked cars on our streets), but the way our city council members are doing it is #NotCool.
The Mayor gets it. But she cannot lead the city when the 4 other votes don’t know what they are doing.
All to be remembered in November.

Catios

Neighbors have cats. Several outdoor cats. Neighbors do not a) provide an outdoor sandbox or desirable place for cats to ‘go’ and b) don’t bring their cats in at night, even when temps dip below freezing.

Results?

1) Our beautiful landscaped yard and outdoor dining area reeks of cat urine and feces. My husband removes a quart of feces a week from the soil. Sitting in the yard and having outdoor meals during this beautiful/warm summer is made unpleasant by the stench. Gardening has become a stinky land-mine event.

2) The cats overnight on our porches.The cats sleep in the daytime under our plants in the yard. My husband is highly allergic to cats so having them sleep on our doormats poses a significant health risk to him.

I’ve asked the neighbors to provide an outdoor sandbox for their cats in their yard and to bring their cats in at night, and explained why.

How did that work for us? Complete disinterest in the negative impact they create in general on their neighbors by having outdoor cats and complete disregard personally to us (literally 10 feet way [how far our homes are apart]), i.e., zero attempts to address the problems.

This morning, I see this article about “catios”. LIGHTBULB.  What a great idea:

Catio

Wow. A simple and great solution to protect both cats and neighbors!  Cat owners CAN be responsible, just like dog owners are expected and required to be. They can contain their cats, allow them outdoors and prevent the substantive and negative externalities on neighbors!  Another upside is outdoor cats would no longer decimate the bird population.

Please gawd let Catios become a trend in Alameda.

Why is it, anyway, that owning a cat doesn’t come with expectations and requirements to be responsible for the cat? Why is it different than owning a dog or a bird?

I’m tolerant (up to the point where people are taking advantage) and I’m an animal lover. I’ve even trained one of the neighbor’s cats, who is particularly lonely [needy for attention] and who we’ve found snuck into our home on more than one occasion, to sit-stay on the porch at the doorway and not enter our house when our door is open on warm days when we are coming/going to the yard.  But no matter which type of domesticated animal we choose to have in our homes, our responsibilities should be the same: to meet the animals’ needs and care in a manner that also does not have an egregiously negative impact others.


Point traffic figures flawed

Guest Opinion: Eugenie Thomson
In his June 11 commentary in the Alameda Sun, John Knox White, a city Planning Board member, attempts to defend that the analysis for the environmental impact report for Alameda Point’s 1,425 homes and 9,000 jobs will result in net-one-car-off-Island during the morning commute.
Alameda Point

His long-overdue admission that the report did rely on one net car off-Island during the morning commute is followed by a preposterous attempt to explain why concluding that a massive project like Alameda Point would produce only “one (additional) car off the island” and “isn’t as crazy as it sounds.” His belief is that Alameda residents who leave the Island will no longer do so because they will instead go to the new jobs created at Alameda Point.

It is every bit as crazy as it sounds.

“One-net-car” is the canary in the coal mine, but there is much more wrong with this environmental impact report. Its calculations are based on assumptions that are pure fantasy. And using them produced these erroneous results. The most surprising of all was the report concludes there will be no congestion at the West End now or after all is built. That’s right, vitally important and totally unbelievable.

To wit: The environmental impact report’s traffic analysis assumed a total of 5,400 new homes on the Island, including 1,200 new homes at Alameda Point, and 20,000 new jobs citywide, including 8,000 new jobs at Alameda Point.

To believe Alameda will generate 20,000 new jobs over the next 20 years, one must put blind faith in a whopping 66 percent increase in jobs, from 30,000 today to 50,000 in 2035. That kind of job growth just isn’t going to happen! An increase of 8,000 citywide over the next 20 years is unrealistic for an Island city like Alameda. But an increase of 20,000 more jobs is delusional.

This high job assumption skewed the calculations significantly and reduced the estimated traffic leaving the Island from both the Alameda Point project and the 4,200 other homes planned outside the Point. These errors were compounded by a non-professional like White to take it one step further. He adds his layman’s opinion to back into the report’s conclusions of one net car off-Island due to Alameda Point project during the morning commute and no change in traffic delay at the West End now or after all is built.

The people of Alameda are not anti-development, and neither am I. We just want development to be reasonable, well-considered, and based in reality. The Alameda Point environmental impact report’s citywide traffic results including White’s commentary are not reality-based; they are a trip down the rabbit hole.

Yes, the homes will be built. There is high demand for housing. Site A, the first project at Alameda Point, is primarily housing, with 800 units. And it is possible 5,400 homes can be built citywide as staff claims. The new zoning approved by the previous City Council allows for it.

We want to say yes to developers, too, but only when realistic data such as realistic commercial and housing development goals have been obtained and only if it will lead to good planning, reliable engineering, and fiscal neutrality (i.e. the base infrastructure not costing taxpayers in general).

Where Alameda Point and all the other projects are concerned, the people just want to know: How bad will the traffic be? How long it will take to get off the Island? Instead of the simple truth, we’re getting ridiculous claims of 8,000 jobs on the base and 20,000 citywide jobs, and city zoning allowing 5,400 more homes – ignoring the voice of the people when they voted down the SunCal plan.

Alamedans are being asked to believe the projection of zero morning outbound traffic at the Island gateways due to the Alameda Point project; no traffic congestion at the West End, now or after all is built; and the vast majority of us living encapsulated lives where we never leave the Island.

It is not just crazy, it is insulting.

I urge Alamedans to speak up. The council must carefully scrutinize staff reports to ensure the veracity and reasonableness of all information they contain. Doing less may result in far worse repercussions.

This environmental impact report’s citywide traffic study is flawed and should not be reused repeatedly to approve rezoning and new housing applications, as it has been.

Eugenie P. Thomson

Eugenie P. Thomson, P.E., is a retired licensed civil and traffic engineer and a longtime resident of Alameda and has volunteered on community projects.

 


But, but, but…you shouldn’t say mean things

Evidence. Data. Excellent article below.Just like improved outcomes and survival rates for strokes at primary stroke centers, patients get superior treatment, outcomes, and survival at larger hospitals simply because

Just like improved outcomes and survival rates for strokes at primary stroke centers, patients get superior treatment, outcomes, and survival at larger hospitals simply because staff at larger hospitals have more experience. I would venture to say that procedures and protocols are superior as well as management of performance thereof.

But, but, but…you shouldn’t say mean things.” – Elliott Gorelick

Risks Are High at Low-Volume Hospitals
Patients at thousands of hospitals face greater risks from common operations, simply because the surgical teams don’t get enough practice.


Don’t Be Fooled by the Alameda Point EIR Fantasy

Guest post by Eugenie P. Thomson, PE

Alameda City Planner Andrew Thomas’ May 1 letter to the editor of the Alameda Sun is disingenuous and borders on ludicrous. In a carefully worded statement, Mr. Thomas states that the city council, planning board, and Alameda Point Environmental Impact Report (EIR) “did not say” at multiple public hearings “that the redevelopment of Alameda Point would result in only one car.” Far from producing the “Oh, okay then!” reaction he undoubtedly wanted, this declaration simply begs the question: Why not?

Why didn’t the city say what is obviously and undeniably demonstrated by the Alameda Point EIR? By Mr. Thomas’ own admission, the city had some 30 opportunities to tell the unvarnished truth about the Alameda Point project’s traffic impacts. Why did the powers-that-be choose to gloss over the truth and focus, instead, on the project’s dubious economic benefits and the Band-Aid approaches they proposed to mitigate the unconscionable traffic burden they were about to foist on Alamedans? I’ll tell you why: Because if the city and the council had presented the real facts, the people in those hearings would have said not no, but “hell no!”

The Alameda Point EIR is a fantasy. Page 4C-92 by the year 2035, Cumulative Project Conditions states the project’s impact is “insignificant” at the Webster and Posey Tubes. Table 2-2, the summary table of the project impacts indicates “no traffic impacts” due to the project at the west end of the island approaching the Posey tube during the morning commute.

Furthermore, tables 4.C-2 and Tables 4.C-15 in the EIR, with the exception of the intersection Challenger Drive and Atlantic Avenue, all intersections in the west end of the island, had no significant delays during the morning commute today nor in the future year 2035 with Alameda Point and with all the homes proposed in the Northern Waterfront. How is this possible?

And when traffic volume values shown in the figures in Appendix G are summed up—regardless of what Mr. Thomas says—the indisputable result is only one additional net car off-island due to the Alameda Point project during the 2035 morning commute. (Figures G-6B and G-6C for 2035 no project traffic volumes and Figures G-8B and Figures 8-8C for 2035 with project traffic volumes)

Those claims are not only wrong, they defy common sense. They even defy Mr. Thomas’ statements in his May 1 letter to the Sun: “In 2035…there will be no capacity left for more cars in the morning commute hour on Alameda’s bridges and in the tubes even without the redevelopment of Alameda Point.”

Then there’s this Thomas statement: “After more than 30 hearings, the city council and planning board determined that the benefits to the Alameda community from the redevelopment of Alameda Point outweighed the unavoidable transportation impacts.”

Really? Thomas professes that Alameda Point will bring 9,000 jobs, attract $600 million in private investment to support job and business growth, and support the existing business and residents at Alameda Point. But how in the world can Alameda support such growth at Alameda Point and the growth in the Northern Waterfront area, if the people cannot get from point A to point B? Common sense dictates that, before we bring development of that scale to our island, we must first be certain we can accommodate the growth. Mobility is the first and foremost criteria in making that judgment. A major influx of businesses and people will do nothing but exacerbate already untenable traffic conditions on the island.

The EIR, city council’s actions, and Mr. Thomas letter were all written with one goal in mind—to ensure the development and real estate communities would go along with the Alameda Point and Northern Waterfront projects and its findings in the EIR. The people’s well-being was secondary, and the facts were twisted to tamp down public dissent. Still, the city refuses to focus on the truth that traffic will be beyond overwhelming if all the development projects take place.

But that’s not the most alarming part of what is happening here. The Alameda Point EIR’s traffic data was used for the Del Monte Project and is being used for several other new development applications. The city simply modified the Alameda Point EIR’s traffic volume data for a few intersections near the proposed development sites and then accepted all the other findings in the EIR regarding cumulative growth. The traffic study in this EIR is fatally flawed and should not be used as the basis for approving even one project, much less multiple developments.

Don’t be misled by Mr. Thomas. The Alameda Point EIR’s traffic evaluations indisputably result in the conclusion of one net car off-island during the morning commute as a result of the redevelopment of Alameda Point. They constitute nothing more than a fairy tale. Alameda needs an honest, realistic traffic study of the predicted cumulative development, with reasonable assumptions regarding growth in jobs and housing, in order to realistically plan for the island’s future.

An old saying comes to mind: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Shame on Andrew Thomas for trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Alameda in order to push through the Alameda Point redevelopment and Northern Waterfront projects, despite the fact that it clearly is inappropriate for the island and will throw us into a traffic gridlock that will make all our lives miserable. Shame on us if we let him get away with it.

Eugenie P. Thomson PE is a licensed civil and traffic engineer, retired, and a long-time resident of Alameda. The Traffic facts and Figures cited above are available on the website of the Alameda Sun.