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L.A. Affairs: He’s a Bruin. I’m a Trojan. Could I fight on in the name of love?

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L.A. Affairs: He’s a Bruin. I’m a Trojan. Could I fight on in the name of love?

My mother, a UCLA graduate, switched her allegiance on a dime the day I enrolled at USC. She and my father attended every Trojans home game from that day forward. Familial blood may be thicker than alumni water but not so, it seems, when it comes to spousal relations.

And I know about it all too well. My husband, Brad, and I, both divorced and not in the market for anyone who didn’t ooze quality, had engaged in a keyboard courtship. He was avid, while I was reluctant at best. I refused to meet him for months, having been single for six years and not the least bit interested in sharing anything with anyone ever again. But he said he was willing to wait however long it took for me to muster up the courage, and he would even manage to overlook the fact that my diploma was from USC because he (unfortunately) was a devoted Bruin.

Letters soared back and forth between us, and because we were both 50 and counting, once I caved and we came face to face we wasted no time before announcing the nuptials, even though we both knew football season could be an impediment to forever after.

We shopped for rings before our first cross-town rivalry contest, the battle that former UCLA football coach Red Sanders once stated is not a matter of life and death: “It’s more important than that!” he insisted.

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We set our wedding date for April, long before we truly realized what would happen in the fall at kickoff. Whereas I pictured us reveling in teasing trash talk, curled up on the sofa, popcorn at the ready — maybe even buying tickets to the big game someday — I was soon to learn that the Los Angeles gridiron civil war was more than we’d bargained for and, in fact, would permeate the walls of our love nest.

Brad started it. The first year, I scurried to Trader Joe’s like a nurturing newlywed bride to gather fun football food for what promised to be the fulfillment of my dream: our enjoying the light banter of frivolous competition in front of the television on a sunny Southern California Saturday afternoon.

When I emerged from the market, shopping bags in hand, I realized the man I’d promised to honor (Had I remembered to tell the priest to omit the word “obey”?) had switched out my striking cardinal and gold USC license plate frames for the ones decorated in the pale baby blue of his alma mater — ugh, UCLA Bruins!

Two could play at this game. I plopped the bags on the back seat, hopped on the 405 Freeway and beelined to SC Trojan Town at South Coast Plaza — yes, Virginia, there really is a retail Santa Claus for the University of Spoiled Children.

I whipped out my husband’s Visa card and promptly placed every fanatical fan item I could carry on it. I toted two suitcase-size handled bags filled with cocktail napkins, plates, cups, a king-size blanket, T-shirts, sweatpants, pajamas, signs, streamers, pennants, socks, hats, jerseys and my personal favorite, because he pretends to have symptoms of a stroke every time he hears it, a refrigerator magnet that plays the Trojan fight song.

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Fight on! In no time, I had racked up an unconscionable dollar amount of paraphernalia that was sure to bring the house down. Then there was the year when USC was favored by a margin wider than the Pacific Ocean, the year the man I thought I’d be sharing my life with chose to clean out the garage and not even watch one quarterback toss. That was the year I ate all the cardinal and gold M&Ms myself.

Shortly after standing at the altar before family and friends, when we attended a UCLA-USC basketball game outfitted in our respective school sweatshirts, we were observed by a group of boorish Bruins. “Aw man,” one of them said to my husband. “Couldn’t you have done better?”

Clearly, you can’t major in manners on the west side of town. To this day, whenever the big day arrives for the football game more crucial than the Super Bowl, I find myself sometimes rising above it all in the company of Brad’s fraternity bro and his wife, an ex-UCLA song girl.

Although outnumbered and having to sit next to a song girl, I handle it gracefully despite some tiresome enemy tirades on the topic of campus controversy, á la parents paying to get their progeny into USC.

I point out that it’s a feather in one’s cap to be able to graduate from such a prestigious university, while our Bruin guests argue that those parents threw away their money.

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Twenty years into sacramental union, we’d like to think we have for the most part let it go, especially since neither team provides the stellar spectacle that they did in our glory days from 1969 to 1973.

But every time November rolls around, unfurled is the flag flying our schools’ colors: half cardinal and gold, half just boring blue and yellow. “A House Divided,” it proclaims for all the neighbors to see. So perhaps to gain the truly proper perspective, it’s time for us to arrange a ceremony during which we renew our sacred vows adding just one more to the list: For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer … and no matter who wins the game.

The author is a second-generation Los Angeles native who lives in Fallbrook, Calif. A graduate of USC, she is the author of essays and stories that have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine and Newsweek for over two decades.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for romantic love in all its glorious expressions in the L.A. area, and we want to hear your true story. We pay $400 for a published essay. Email LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here. You can find past columns here.

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J. Kenji López-Alt talks food, science, and Winnie the Pooh onsies : Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!

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J. Kenji López-Alt talks food, science, and Winnie the Pooh onsies : Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!
This week, we’re live in Seattle with food genius J. Kenji López-Alt to talk about food, science, food-science, and the magic of Winnie the Pooh onsies. Plus, panelists Shantira Jackson, Luke Burbank, and Jessi Klein pass the blame around.WWDTM+ listeners! For contractual reasons, there will not be a sponsor-free version of this episode. We apologize. But we will have a sponsor-free program available to you as always next weekend. We appreciate your support!
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Stars Kick Off Summer With Memorial Day Fun in the Sun

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Stars Kick Off Summer With Memorial Day Fun in the Sun

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What’s better for the climate: A paper book, or an e-reader?

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What’s better for the climate: A paper book, or an e-reader?

In the face of human-caused climate change, paperbacks and e-readers each have pros and cons.

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The summer reading season is here.

Some people will opt for paperbacks because they’re easy to borrow and share. Others will go for e-readers, or audiobooks streamed on a phone.

But which is the more environmentally sustainable option? Reading’s carbon footprint is not large compared to other things people do, like travel, and it isn’t something most people consider when choosing how to read a book. But for those looking for small changes in their lives to reduce their impact on the climate, it might be worth exploring how the ways we choose to read books affect the planet.

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A complicated question to answer

Whether it’s better to read books in print or on a device is complicated, because of the complex interplay of the resources involved across the entire lifecycle of a published work: how books and devices are shipped, what energy they use to run, if they can be recycled.

Digital reading is on the rise — especially audiobooks. According to the Association of American Publishers, they now capture about the same share of the total US book market as e-books — roughly 15%. But print is still by far the most popular format.

“Publishers are interested in preserving the business that they’ve created over hundreds of years,” said Publishers Weekly executive editor Andrew Albanese, explaining why the industry is focusing most of its efforts on improving the sustainability of paperback and hardcover books, rather than digital formats. “They are looking to run those print book businesses as efficiently as possible, as cleanly as possible, as green as possible.”

On the one side: traditional book publishing

Traditional print publishing comes with a high carbon footprint.

According to 2023 data from the literary industry research group WordsRated, when it comes to pulp and paper, print book publishing is the world’s third-largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, and 32 million trees are felled each year in the United States to make paper for books. Then there’s the printing and shipping — to say nothing of the many books that are destroyed because they remain unsold.

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Although it’s standard practice in the industry, publishers don’t want to destroy books. So instead, many are donating unsold copies, switching to on-demand printing, or, like Chronicle Books, are reducing their initial print runs to see how well the titles sell before they print more.

“We felt that it was better to have a higher cost and have less waste,” said Chronicle Books president, Tyrrell Mahoney.

Chronicle Books, like many other publishers, is also trying to use more sustainable paper.

“We have this great partner in India who has now figured out how to use cotton-based up-cycled materials to print as paper,” Mahoney said.

Publishers are also rethinking book design. It might be a surprise, but certain fonts can be more climate-friendly by using less ink and less paper.

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A side-by-side comparison of one of Harper Collins' new sustainable fonts (right) and a regular font (left.)

Harper Collins has introduced sustainable fonts that use less ink.

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“So far, these subtle, imperceptible tweaks have saved more than 200 million pages across 227 titles since September,” said Harper Collins’ senior director of design Lucy Albanese. NPR could not independently verify these page savings.

On the other: digital publishing

All well and good. But digital reading seems to have a considerable eco-advantage over print because it is paperless, so it saves trees, pulping and shipping. Moreover, tech companies that make e-readers such as Amazon, which sells the market-leading Kindle e-reader, offer recycling programs for old devices.

“By choosing e-books as an alternative to print, Kindle readers helped save an estimated 2.3 million metric tons of carbon emissions over a two year period,” said Corey Badcock, head of Kindle product and marketing. NPR could not independently verify these emissions reductions.

But digital devices also come with a substantial carbon footprint, predominantly at the manufacturing stage. Their cases are made with fossil-fuel-derived plastics and the minerals in their batteries require resource-heavy mining.

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The short answer to which is better: it depends

“It’s not cut and dried,” said Mike Berners-Lee, a professor of sustainability at Lancaster Environment Centre in the United Kingdom, of the comparative climate friendliness of digital versus print reading.

Berners-Lee, the author of The Carbon Footprint of Everything, said the average e-reader has a carbon footprint of around 80 pounds.

“This means that I’ve got to read about 36 small paperback books-worth on it before you break even,” he said.

Figuring out whether to take a digital device or a paperback to the beach ultimately depends on how voraciously you read.

“If you buy an e-reader and you read loads and loads of books on it, then it’s the lowest carbon thing to do,” Berners-Lee said. “But if I buy it, read a couple of books, and decided that I prefer paperback books, then it’s the worst of all worlds.”

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Yet Berners-Lee said that reading is still, relatively speaking, a pretty sustainable activity — regardless of whether you read using an e-reader, phone or old-fashioned paperback.

Both audio and digital versions of this story were edited by Jennifer Vanasco. Isabella Gomez-Sarmiento mixed the audio version.

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