What about those meetings in San Diego?

If you’re still interested in weighing in on whether the academic meetings in San Diego should go on in the wake of fires in Southern California, Terra Sigillata has a thread on that very subject.

I promise the small meeting I’m planning to attend won’t clog up the freeways.


  1. octopussy says

    California gets fires every year and this is a completely natural process. Don’t build houses in fire zones!

    This years firestorm is just a bit bigger because of the damn pine beetle & only makes the news because of urban sprawl. Again, don’t sprawl. Green zones around cities. Regenerate the downtown.


    Bush is there now to whoop the fire in shape.

    The fires should be mostly controlled by the time the Neuroscientists converge. No need to cancel, sorry. Plus, it’s San Diego, however sooty. I’m worried about the Zoo animals, though.

    And PZ should go – it’s a small gathering anyway and we would appreciate candid photos of the goings on and fire regeneration:


  2. rhian says

    thanks for suggesting it’s our own fault so many of us have lost our homes.

    and sorry, but pz’s probably not going to get many fun candids of the fire hanging out in la jolla.

  3. Stogoe says

    Your decisions do affect your environment. It’s not your fault that the ‘urban sprawl lifestyle’ was implanted in your mind, but you and millions of other people don’t live in a city center surrounded by greenspace, and you all collectively chose to have your house burn down every ten or so years instead of being within walking distance of the market and your job.

  4. miko says

    No one wants to strip you of your precious victimhood, but it is stupid not to recognize the ways in which suburban sprawl and a greedy aversion to paying taxes have contributed to this disaster as much as bad luck. The American horror at owning up to a little collective responsibility for anything is one of our least charming traits.

    Some of the richest, best-insured people on the planet lost property. Your individual personal tragedies are noted with sympathy. But having been in Indonesia for a tsunami (the effects of which are still killing people) and a major earthquake in the past few years, the annual California brush fires being a bit worse than usual doesn’t really register on my disast-o-meter, or sound like a compelling reason for a change of plans.

  5. AlanWCan says

    Ah, but can’t you see these are rich white people losing PROPERTY. That automagically sets the disastometer to 11. No ‘heckuva job Brownie’ here, that’s only for poor dumb unimportant brown people. No this is a huge disaster, Mel Gibson’s pool is dirty. Won’t someone please think of the celebrities?

  6. CalGeorge says

    I’m sure they will appreciate your tourist dollars.

    Wash your hands a lot. There are a ton of people with colds and flus in the airports these days.

  7. MB says

    Wow, what hostility – and directed at who? Everyone is focused on the rich white folks – as if they’re the only ones living in southern California. I get to live with the stereotype of rich white Orange County. Spend some time in Garden Grove or Santa Ana instead of your OC TV fantasylands in Laguna and Newport Beach.

    If this was only Malibu or Rancho Bernardo I wouldn’t be irritated with your ignorance. Snicker at the multi-million $ homes sliding down hills in mudslides whose owners were too cheap to conduct a geological survey if you must. But this fire season is actually quite a bit different than past years when the roofs were shake shingle and owners didn’t bother clearing brush. Those weren’t 1/2 million millionaires being evacuated.

    Were you making fun of the people in New Orleans like this? When Seattle, Missouri or New York have earthquakes that cause death and destruction, I can’t wait to see your juvenile smirking – asking the victims, who’s dumb enough to build near a fault and not build to earthquake code? Who’s going to get screwed, the rich white folks? It’s no different here.

    I don’t live in a flood plain or fire zone. Our land use policies deserve ridicule, having been controlled by developers since forever. I’ve seen flash floods through dry washes carrying vehicles away (that’s why your’e not supposed to drive there in the rainy season), people burned in forest fires and cops beating the crap out of individuals just for the heck of it (why would you say that to a group of men with guns and badges?). Most of these victims were actually pretty stupid. But I’m much more pissed at the rich and powerful who either intentionally inflicted this on less fortunate people or let it happen by neglect and the results of their policies.

    Please tell me about these Utopias with green zones around cities and regenerated downtowns (that didn’t displace poor and working poor people to make room for [white] people with money).

    What’s already happened here is that working poor people are already getting screwed as construction has slowed down because of the downturn in real estate. Laugh all you want about the celebrities who will simply live in their other homes, this is going to adversely affect countless people (and families) who can’t afford the fallout from a couple of billion dollars of economic damage.

  8. miko says

    Where did i ridicule anyone? I just pointed out that a sense of proportion might be in order before people scream that the city of San Diego shoulg shut down for the next month, or that it’s somehow insulting to attend a conference there.

    And I don’t care what the median income of those who lost homes was… any cross-section of San Diego county is by global standards rich and protected from any long term consequences of property loss.

    I lived in California for years. I am not imagining an OC fantasy land. I’m imagining a country of overfed, complacent, apathetic, insular communities without the wherewithal or political will to fund a fucking fire department. It’s a tough sell to convince anyone that Americans don’t have the government(s) they deserve.

  9. Phil says

    I live in Irvine and I had to pack up, my friend down the street had to move. I am a lifelong lefty. Thanks for giving fodder to the right confirming that liberals are a bunch of urban snobs who hate the middle class. When I moved here a house cost $213,000. There’s a mobile home park down the street filled with millionaire retirees. They must be millionaires according to you, because they live in Irvine. No matter that park has been there since the 1970s when living out here was the boondocks. I live here cos the schools are good and my taxes and insurance fell in half compared to when I lived in that Shangri-la known as Marina Del Rey. Your attitude fits right in with the Fox news crowd who say the people in New Orleans deserved what they got for being poor.

  10. MB says

    Did I say ridicule? I did take “No one wants to strip you of your precious victimhood” and “Some of the richest, best-insured people on the planet lost property. Your individual personal tragedies are noted with sympathy.” as hostile towards (some) folks who don’t deserve it here.

    Somehow the under and un-educated in Southern California get the government they deserve but the under and un-educated in Indonesia are what – simply oppressed by the will of god? When my wife teaches summer school she brings snacks for the 2nd graders so they can concentrate – they don’t get breakfast in the summer because there’s no subsidized breakfast program. They and their parents may be apathetic and live in insular communities, but they sure aren’t overfed or complacent.

    Here, as in Indonesia, it’s the people who can least afford it that get screwed.

    With the current state of the county, there’s no reason to cancel either conference. Regenerated downtown (got a million bucks for a loft?) is a great place to party and didn’t burn down…

    When the posters are talking about “your” decisions, not everyone here is in a position to make these decisions. Some have a (shitty) job and family here, and that’s where they live, head down trying to make ends meet. Should they not have kids? I’ll let you go there – it’s not my choice. Should they move to Kansas, or to the illegal apartment they can afford in the only place they’ve lived? Oh shit, you mean my house might burn down? I no longer have that shitty job because my boss’ house burned down? The boss who paid off the councilman to build the development without a fire department in the first place?

    So shoot the boss and the councilman, but if you have empathy for poor people in other parts of the world but not the US just because they live in the US, you’re full of shit. Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you lazy shit – you live in the good ole USA! No excuse to be poor!

    The problem here is that it WAS a cross section of the population impacted and not simply the celebrities and rich. Who cares about them? They can take care of themselves.

    And vote for the democrats – yeah, that will fix it.

  11. miko says

    Guess what… Indonesians didn’t vote for 500 years of kleptocracy thanks to Dutch colonialism, Sukarno, and Suharto. The mean household income in San Diego county is a few orders of magnitude higher, the life expectancy double. So yeah, I think a bunch of property loss amounts to very little.

    The comparison to New Orleans and earthquakes, asteroids from space, etc, are specious. Compare footage of Qualcomm to the Superdome. People there never a got a chance to vote to have their levees repaired, and no one gets to for earthquakes. So no, I wasn’t dismissive about N.O. and I won’t be when San Francisco is destroyed.

    This disaster is a combination of (foreseeable) bad luck and sociopolitcal failure. Where did you get the impression I think the USA is a place you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps? I think the US is a travesty. I feel sorry for individuals, I just don’t get this attitude that we’re all supposed to feel a great disturbance in the Force over this.

  12. miko says

    also, my initial comment was in response to this:
    “thanks for suggesting it’s our own fault so many of us have lost our homes.”

    At some point preventing this kind of small, local-scale disaster requires that everyone in a community accept some collective responsibility (again, the analogy to Katrina is false…partly because of scale but mainly because the levees–like the rest of Mississippi river management–already was federal responsibility, not a community one). This statement shows a typical disgust at the very notion. Like people who thought “how dare anyone question US foreign policy” after 9/11. This is why suburbia and democracy don’t mix. Everytime someone moves to the suburbs, they are choosing to tolerate and underwrite irresponsible, dangerous, anti-social development.

  13. Karey says

    If you don’t think the fires are that big a deal, you’re not alone. I live in socal and think its a bit overblown to cancel conferences. But I don’t see any reason to get high and mighty about whose fault it is. Does there have to be some sociopolitical force to blame every time? Natural disasters are just that. California puts plenty of effort into the fire dept, you see CDF trucks out and about maintaining fire breaks and whatever they do for prevention and control all the time, in off seasons even. Its like accusing blizzard prone areas of not being good enough when every now and then there’s just a massively big blizzard that overwhelms the area. The next time ice storms hit the eastern US hard you should be blaming the community.

  14. says

    The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) annual meeting is going on in San Diego right now. ASHG felt it necessary to bombard us with e-mails on Tuesday, the first day of the meeting, assuring us that the conference would proceed as scheduled. Attendance does not seem to have suffered immensely, although after a quick survey of the poster area I estimate that about one in seven poster presenters failed to show.

    In contrast, the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, across the street from the convention center, is like a morgue. Air quality is not as bad as expected–at street level the air is not permeated with campfire smell like it was a couple thousand feet up on our approach to the airport–but anyone with a severe respiratory difficulties would do well to give the meeting a miss.

  15. MikeM says

    Did anyone else hear the NPR report on KPBS’s Google Map of the fires?

    I definitely think I’d go to your conference. No doubt about it.

    Maybe it’s time to blame the arsonists who caused at least one of these fires. Right now, there are a LOT of victims down there. Losing a house isn’t the only way people are getting hurt down there. UCSD says that the CO levels down there were THIRTEEN times higher than normal; that impacts, what, 3 million people?

    My friends who evacuated got to LA and to SF. Not that going to LA was a huge help.

    There are other areas of California, and I’d bet pretty much all southwest states, that could face similar problems. Remember the Tahoe fire this summer?

  16. rhian says

    wow, for a bunch of people claim to be scientific and open-minded, you lot really are judgemental. have you ever even been to san diego? if you have, have you ever left the bubble of the bay and the convention center and your tv-based mental image of southern californians?

    i’ll just let the la jolla indian reservation and the recent immigrants in chula vista know that it’s their own fault their houses are burning down. obviously they should have known better and paid thousands for a tiny apartment in banker’s hill surrounded by this supposed green space that now exists in the desert.

    yes, some of the property loss has affected rich white people in the suburbs who could–and maybe should–have lived somewhere else. but a lot of it, a LOT of it, has affected other, less wealthy communities. the rich people will be ok. the poor people will not.

    if you’ve never even seen a poor neighborhood in san diego county, with all due respect, stfu.

    i have never been so disgusted at the ignorance of the supposedly intelligent posters on this blog.

  17. MB says

    Miko, be sure to tell Native Americans throughout the hemisphere, Latinos, Blacks, Vietnamese, Hmong etc. who live here that they simply weren’t as fucked by the Spanish, English, French, US, missionaries etc. as the Indonesians and therefore must share responsibility from which the Indonesians are absolved.

    Democracy is a fixed game, and it’s the ones with the money who fix it. Bush lost the first election but had his supreme court put him in office anyway. You’re responsible for US foreign policy as much as the locals are responsible for their land use management. If you accept that responsibility you’re actually wrong, just like you are wrong to blame everyone locally for the results of the fires.

    Try and change the way the world works? Absolutely. But put the blame where it belongs, and don’t push this fantasy of democracy working for everyeone on the rest of the population.

  18. Phil says

    As to the original post…Qualcomm stadium is going back to football, I think the conference should go ahead ok. Just be sure your hotel room ( if you are using one) is going to be available.

  19. Phil says

    Also, it appears as if there was a lot of red tape preventing federal help from being used. For instance, the planes were ready but each plane needed a federal spotter type person, and they didn’t arrive until monday. Check out the OCregister website for specifics.