August 04, 2004

Summer in Berkeley

It is 3 P.M. on an August day at the coffeehouse La Strada, at the corner of Bancroft and College. The sun is shining. The espresso machines are humming--Italian technology being operated by Spanish-speaking immigrant workers processing water from the Sierra Nevadas, milk from Marin County, and a ground-up roasted bean originally from Ethiopia now grown in Central America under shade canopies by small farmers interested in sustainable agriculture. It is a beautiful day.

The overhead heat lamps are on.

I repeat that: the overhead heat lamps are on to take the chill out of the air, so that we can comfortably sit in the sun, sip our coffee, and discuss the Great Intellectual Issues.

"Paradise" is derived from the Old Persian word for the wall around an enclosed, irrigated garden. Xenophon mistook the word for the enclosing wall for the word for the garden-park itself, and here we are. In some ways all of Greater San Francisco is a paradise: the sea-breeze off the cold Alaska current to keep us cool when it threatens to get hot, heat lamps to warm us outside when it threatens to get cool, lots and lots of water from the Sierra Nevadas to irrigate and let us grow green things during the nine months of the year when it rarely rains (and the five months of the year when it never rains).

If only I didn't have this sneaking feeling that there is something unnatural about having to turn on the heat lamps in the middle of the day in August. It has been a relatively cool summer.

Posted by DeLong at August 4, 2004 08:25 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post
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SHORT HISTORY OF THE BOURGEOISIE

This was the moment when, for five minutes,
without noticing it,
we were immeasurably rich, generous
and electric, cooled in July,
or if it were November,
wood flown in from Finland glowed
in our Renaissance fireplaces. Funny,
everything was there, was flying in,
in a way, by itself. How elegant
we were, no one could bear us.
We threw our money about on solo concerts,
chips, orchids in cellophane. Clouds
wrote our names. Exquisite.

Scheduled flights in all directions. Even our sighs
were on credit. Like fishwives
we scolded each other. Everyone
had his own misfortune under his seat,
close at hand. That was a shame, really.
It was so practical. Water
flowed from the taps like nothing on earth.
Do you remember? Overcome
by our tiny emotions,
we ate little. If we had only known
that it would all be over
in five minutes, the beef Wellington
would have tasted quite, quite different.

by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Translated by Alasdair King.

Posted by: Chris Marcil on August 4, 2004 08:30 PM

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And the forecast is for it to remain smuggy for some time to come.

Posted by: Chasseur on August 4, 2004 08:47 PM

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And the forecast is for it to remain smuggy for some time to come.

Posted by: Chasseur on August 4, 2004 08:47 PM

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I recently moved from the Bay Area to Davis to attend school. Up here, I am told that if it isnít over 100 degrees too many days in a row, it is considered a cool summer. Please keep that in mind as I cast aspersions upon your ancestry (of both the historic and more recent kind), intellect, and progeny. You may believe that itís just jealously fueling my word processor, if you wish...

Posted by: Andrew Cory on August 4, 2004 09:17 PM

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La Strada is at the corner of Bancroft and College. Otherwise, I concur entirely.

Posted by: Robert Mahnke on August 4, 2004 09:25 PM

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Touche...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on August 4, 2004 09:27 PM

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It's been a cool summer in Oregon as well. Last year at this time it was 100+ degrees, for weeks on end. Today the high was ~75. We've had a couple of days of blistering heat that had me fleeing to the cool of the basement and praising the wonders of frozen grapes, but only a couple - and it was well into July before I stopped needing a cardigan when I left the house.

I ain't complaining, though, especially after the horrors of last summer, and especially when we have no air conditioning. As long as this winter isn't as cold as this past one was.

Posted by: cyclopatra on August 4, 2004 11:06 PM

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It's been a cool summer in Tel Aviv. What a pleasure! The past few days have been 80 degrees with low humidity. My point is that there is a bright side to climate redistribution--some places benefit. Our winters are even rainy now. Of course, Brad thinks we are about to be incinerated any minute by a nuclear weapon.
Cheers

Posted by: Tel Aviv Reader on August 5, 2004 12:26 AM

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The slogan of these lotos-eaters seems to be: think global, forget local.

Posted by: JamesW on August 5, 2004 02:26 AM

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We had to read Enzensberger in school. I thought he was a whiny wankstain. Glad to see nothing's changed.

Posted by: ogmb on August 5, 2004 02:39 AM

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It's been a relatively cool summer here in Maryland, or so it seems. It's still terribly hot and muggy, but I can't recall any scorching hot days, and there have been quite a few mild ones.

Posted by: Ray on August 5, 2004 03:02 AM

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Paradise indeed, since it seems that the year is fourteen months long in Northern California. I guess that's how you get so much done.

Posted by: Robert Waldmann on August 5, 2004 03:07 AM

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Ray

It actually has been hot and muggy in Maryland this summer, but the White House has told everyone that 90 degree heat and 90% humidity is really a reduction from the heat and humidity the National Weather Service projected last year so it's a cool summer.

Posted by: policywonk on August 5, 2004 04:41 AM

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It was down in the 50's in southern Michigan. Great sleeping weather, compared to the heat or cold rain.

Posted by: Barry on August 5, 2004 05:34 AM

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La Strada. World's greatest coffee shop.

This morning it is 65 and sunny here in Pittsburgh, a rare occurence.

In about a month, I leave for Cairo, where it currently 91 and sunny.

Posted by: praktike on August 5, 2004 05:37 AM

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Whatever happened to global warming?

Posted by: Oberon on August 5, 2004 05:57 AM

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Brad,
Please don't encourage them! Stop talking about how nice it is here! Tell them about the massive earthquakes, the smog, the traffic and the price of housing. Anything to keep them in their home states. I don't want to share The Bay Area with anymore people. I am aboard, pull up the ladder!

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on August 5, 2004 06:47 AM

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It's hot and humid here in Daytona Beach Shores. Highs are in the low 90's and low's are in the upper 70's. 100% humidity at sunrise, then down around 65% around noon. Those of us who work outside and can, put away our tools from noon until 5 p.m. All plant lifeforms are at full blown attack, trying to reclaim our yards back to a jungle. Does cold and cool still exist beyond that of an air conditioned room?

Posted by: Vaughn on August 5, 2004 06:56 AM

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The summer here in Michigan has been unnervingly perfect as well -- beyond perfect. Like a Stepword wife in its desire to please. I am just waiting for the other metereological shoe to drop.

Posted by: Windhorse on August 5, 2004 06:59 AM

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It's been relatively cool and wet in the Midwest (well, Indianapolis) as well. We didn't have one 90 degree day in July which was odd. That and rain fairly often which is a mixed blessing. It may play havoc with one's summer plans but it sure relieves me from lawn-watering (heck monitoring!) duty.

Posted by: PigInZen on August 5, 2004 07:16 AM

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Mark Twian said it best: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Posted by: tracy lightcap on August 5, 2004 07:30 AM

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Yes, there is something unnatural about the heat lamps. Take a tip from Denverites: don a polar fleece vest and savor the contrast between the brisk air and the hot, aromatic coffee. And be thankful with every sip of that sacred beverage that your water boils at 100 C.

Posted by: consigliere on August 5, 2004 07:35 AM

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>>lots and lots of water from the Sierra Nevadas to irrigate and let us grow green things during the nine months of the year when it rarely rains (and the five months of the year when it never rains).<<

Er -- I realize that Economics is not the same thing as arithmetic, but I'd hoped that even an Econ prof could recognize you've just come up with 14 months in a year. (Which would be very productive, I admit, but even Paradise doesn't include such a useful calendar.)

And there's nothing unnatural about heat lamps in Berkeley in the afternoons during the summer. I used to work in an office where I could watch the fog roll in through the Golden Gate, glance off of Alcatraz, and make a beeline for Berkeley. (Remember the classic Twain quote about San Francisco...)

Posted by: DanielWaterhouse on August 5, 2004 08:37 AM

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Good god, it has been so oppressively hot -- not to mention steamy -- in Atlanta this summer I want to kill someone.

Posted by: cooper on August 5, 2004 09:14 AM

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25 years ago, I was a postdoc in the math
department at Berkeley, and went to a party
at a house in the hills that a younger faculty
member was renting for the year. The next
afternoon, I was invited to come back and help
finish the leftover poached salmon. Sitting on
the deck, drinking a nice white wine and looking
at the Bridge in the fog, I thought "Damn, this
is what they mean by lifestyle!" Then I moved
to Urbana. Wonderful department, surprisingly
nice people, but no hills or bridges.

Posted by: Bruce on August 5, 2004 09:26 AM

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Here in Birmingham, Alabama it will climb into the 90's today. But this evening we will eat dinner out in the garden with friends. The hypnotic call and response of cricket, bullfrog and treefrog rhythm sections will tune up as twilight fades from the topmost cumulus cloud overhead. Fireflies will rise up out of the grass into the spreading shadow. The thick sweet scents of honeysuckle, gardenia, and kudzuflower will mingle with the citronella candles and the food. Later, as we drink coffee and visit on the front porch the fireflies out in the park will pulse with weird counterpunctal strobing, and the calls of running children with empty mayonaise jars with holes punched in their lids will syncopate with them. Up the valley will come the long lonesome whistle of the 9:45 train. Later still, after friends and children have gone, the mockingbird will exchange his raucous day voices for that slow sweet dripping song that has earned him his other name; the southern nightingale.

Your summer days sound nice, but I will always be in love with summer evenings here.

Posted by: 2fair on August 5, 2004 10:19 AM

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The five months it never rains is a subset of the nine months that it rarely rains. Which leaves three months when it rains, and one to two months when it rains a lot -usually January is the one.

Except across the bay in SF, it often seems to be raining during the five months it never rains. But it is fog-blizzard-drizzle, not rain.

mid-August through mid-November is usually the fail-safe summer in the Bay Area. I guess that is our last hope this year. This last month in
SF has been darker and wetter than anything since March.

My long time Northern California ancestors used to say that the hotter is was in the inland valleys, the cooler and foggier it would be in the SF Bay. Any meterologists here have an opinion on that rule?

I prefer 105 degrees in the Central Valley -it is dry heat, don't you know.

Posted by: jml on August 5, 2004 12:33 PM

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/quote
Mark Twian said it best: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
Posted by: tracy lightcap on August 5, 2004 07:30 AM
[/quote]

Just for the record, Mark Twain never said that.
see link
http://www.snopes.com/quotes/twain.htm

Posted by: xyz1000 on August 5, 2004 12:47 PM

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Ahhhh, Strada. I miss my lazy Sundays there. Coffee culture has sadly yet to catch on amongst the Army rank and file

Posted by: Jon on August 5, 2004 08:18 PM

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Hey, try double your normal July rainfall and highs in the 60s in August. Then look ahead to lake effect snow, possibly in Nov. Our tears are not profuse Dr.D. What's it like in Jan? My brother lives in Alameda.

Posted by: tmcotter on August 5, 2004 08:34 PM

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Hey, try double your normal July rainfall and highs in the 60s in August. Then look ahead to lake effect snow, possibly in Nov. Our tears are not profuse Dr.D. What's it like in Jan? My brother lives in Alameda.

Posted by: tmcotter on August 5, 2004 08:34 PM

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Bruce, I know C/U is no "hills of Berkeley," but the occasional picnic trip to Allerton, drives to St. Joseph an other small nearby towns, and the delight of finding N. Bourbaki's "office" in Altgeld Hall still leave me with some fine memories of that part of the world.

Posted by: consigliere on August 6, 2004 05:33 AM

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My long time Northern California ancestors used to say that the hotter is was in the inland valleys, the cooler and foggier it would be in the SF Bay. Any meterologists here have an opinion on that rule?

That is correct. The marine layer sits off the coast; the hot air in the Central Valley rises, sucking it inland.

By the way, that heat is also the engine that drives thunderstorms in the Sierra Nevada (not the 'Sierra Nevadas', thank you). I can get a pretty good idea of the weather pattern in the Sierra based on how foggy it is here in the Richmond District.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on August 6, 2004 07:19 AM

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Here in the general Seattle area it's been unusually warm and dry all summer, even crawling up towards 100 for one stretch there, which is *very* unusual for these parts. The last couple of days have seen the first serious rainfall in months, at least in my town.

Posted by: Geoduck on August 6, 2004 11:23 PM

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"Walled garden" was one of the things the Greeks did not have a word for and had to borrow from other languages.

There weren't many things like that, but one was "treasure". Would you believe that the word they borrowed for that was "Gaza"?

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on August 7, 2004 12:59 AM

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