A Better Quality of Life

By Chris Kissel January 11, 2010

1. My recommendation for the day is that you head to Town Hall this evening. Town Hall typically has a popular author or famous intellectual speak every few days. Tonight, magically, they have two.

Paul Erlich, a Stanford professor who specializes both in global population studies and entomology (that is, the study of insects), still has some name recognition left over from when he wrote The Population Bomb, a book that asserted that much of the world would run out of food by 1985, back in 1968.

Ehrlich's new thesis is a little more optimistic—he says humans have the ability to adapt to combat the problems we've created on this planet, and goes about explaining that thesis via detours through the evolutionary history of humankind (which he says shapes the way humans interact with the environment), the science of climate change, and the psychology behind the abuse of the Earth's natural resources.

Downstairs at Town Hall, tonight from 7:30 to 9 pm. Tickets are $5.

Daniel Pink's expertise is on how to get people to do things—the right incentives for selling a project, or the right motivators to raise productivity, for example. It's a topic that draws interest from just about every field of knowledge—business analysis people, social scientists, politicos, or people interested in the way the brain works. The only thing that tips my recommendation in favor of Ehrlich is that Drive, with all its focus on motivation and "the secret to professional satisfaction" ventures a bit into squishy self-help territory.

At Town Hall's Grand Hall tonight, from 7:30 to 9 pm. Admission is $5.

2. Way back in the 70s, Jane and Michael Stern went on a continent-spanning road trip in a journalistic effort to document the state of the roadside diner--a species that, even in 1977, was nearing extinction. Thirty-two years later, they're still talking about the trip—the book they wrote, Roadfood, is going into its sixth edition this year, and the couple is coming to town tomorrow to tell stories and lecture on the cultural history and further decay of retro American institution.


Tomorrow night at 7:30 pm, at Benaroya Hall. Tickets start at $10.

3. The Hugo House is hosting an event tomorrow, "A Lot Like Afterwards," featuring a well-curated group of local literary folks, including Dot Devota, who writes poetry about the Midwest and is recommended by BookNerd; Summer Robinson, owner of the DIY bookstore Pilot Books; and Mae Emerick, an editor at Antioch University's literary magazine.

The Hugo House says there will also be a literary-themed winter sport tournament, "our own version of curling." If you're at all curious about what that means, I recommend checking out the Hugo House on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, from 6 pm to 10 pm, at the Hugo House. Free.

3. Greendrinks is a monthly meetup group/highbrow discussion session for people who work in the environmental field or have a special burning interest in environmental affairds. Tomorrow's meetup features a representative from Oikocredit, a global microfinance nonprofit.

I'm not sure what the direct green connection is, but microfinance is rad—essentially, it involves providing small loans to people, usually in developing countries, who wouldn't ordinarily have enough money to secure their own business loans. The result is a lift in local economic development and a better quality of life.

In the spirit of global awareness, the Greendrinks folks ask that you bring your own mugs or glasses.

Tomorrow night, at 5:30 pm. At Evo (122 Northwest 36th Street) in Fremont. $5 suggested donation
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