30 April 2005

The Secret of NiMH

    Nicodemus: Courage of the heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it's there.
      The Secret of NIMH
The power, in this case, is a kicking 2500 mAh of the new MAHA POWEREX AA rechargables I just bought:

Since I'm on a smart energy kick, I thought I'd blog a little about NiMH. They're the environmentally friendly choice for rechargables. They don't contain the dangerous metals that NiCad and Lithium Ion batteries do, and they are less prone to the "memory effect" that the others have. They great for electronics like remotes, digital cameras, and (a big one here) kids toys. We've even started putting them in our clocks with good results. We buy more of these which means we're not buying alkalines that get thrown away. Eat your heart out, bunny!

If you're interested:

29 April 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    God is not on our side because he hates idiots also.
      The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I think that's Blondie's way of saying we need to fix the problems we've made and clean up our own messes. Over the last few days, Bush has been talking about his fix for current energy concerns.

I saved this snapshot of MSNBC two days ago because I wanted to blog about it, but was actually working. Look at the two headlines:

The juxtaposition is great. These two stories linked to a third. To me the three stories represent The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good

    If the government subsidized renewable energy the way it does oil and gas, it would be mainstream in no time.
      Mark Prebilic, Poolesville, MD

Our neighbors and we are part of a growing trend. Let me state outright that I cannot claim any credit. Sharon and our neighbor did all the work. They got the ball rolling, called the contractors, and reviewed the literature. I moved the attic fan and co-signed for the loan (which Sharon researched also). Thanks to them, solar panels are coming to our roofs. And as the article shows, we're not the only ones.

One reason we've been able to do this is a substantial rebate from the state. Mark Prebilic, who I quote above, benefitted similarly. Imagine what could happen with more funding. Imagine if all those warehouses and shopping centers had solar panels on their roofs. Imagine if we built massive solar arrays on old military bases, instead of refineries. Unfortunately, our leaders don't think like this. They have other agendas. Which brings us to:

The Bad

    A secure energy future for America must include nuclear power ... and expanding oil refineries.
      President George W. Bush
      National Small Business Conference, Washington, D.C.
    ...or you have the president's plan, which is four words: more of the same.
      John Kerry
      2004 Presidential Debate
True to form, more or the same is exactly what Bush has offered up in his energy plan sham. After paying quick lipservice to new energy alternatives, Bush laid out his main plan of subsidizing oil and nuclear power.

He cited France as the model, which was smooth because it means the opposition has to bash the French, for a change. He says they've built 58 plants since the 1970s, while we've built none. Actually, France has a total of 58, and haven't built any since 1996, nor do they plan to. The U.S. already has over 100. France's population is approx. 1/5 that of the U.S. If you do the math, that means we'd need 150 more plants. Meanwhile, we can't figure out how to safely dispose of the waste we have now. And by the way, France hasn't worked out their long term disposal issues either, so they have plenty of their own waste sitting around. Oh yeah, thanks to their investments, Electricite de France has $30 billion of debt.*

Then we get to my favorite part - the oil refineries. That's what a nation trying to reduce it's dependence on fossile fuels needs, more refineries. We need to help oil companies build more refineries. Here's what David Hamilton of the Sierra Club had to say:
At a time when oil companies are making record profits, the federal government does not need to subsidize the construction of new refineries. The current lack of refinery capacity is the result of a conscious decision by the oil industry in the 1990s to limit the supply to increase profits.
Yep, that's what we need, more refineries. Which brings me to:

The Ugly

    We can look at these sleek, stately turbines or we can look at an oil rig.
      Marie Pendzich, energy chair of the Sierra Club's Long Island chapter, regarding aesthic issues with offshore turbines
Proving the you don't have to be evil to be in the GOP, New York Gov. George Pataki is backing a campaign to build a massive wind turbine project four miles offshor from southern Long Island. I chose this for "The Ugly" because the "visual impact" of wind turbines is holding up a similar project off Cape Cod, MA. I decided to see what the fuss was about:

Honestly, is this really that bad? If you've driven the N.J. Turnpike north of Exit 12 lateley or I-93 south of Boston, I think you'll agree that this is an improvement.

I had someone at my office offer similar complaints about solar panels. The didn't like the way they made your roof look ugly. It makes me think of an Elvis Costello line, "All this useless beauty." Who cares how great your roof looks when its backdrop is brown haze. Bring on the ugly.

25 April 2005

Turning grief into laughter

    You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.
      Bill Cosby
Okay, I pulled that quote from one of those memorable quotes web sites. But it was so appropriate to this story about Kashkool Comedy Show starring Nahi Mehdi and Ihssan Dadoush.

The show continues to gain popularity in Iraq, and copies of their shows sell like hotcakes. One person buying a copy was Tahseen Salih, who had this to say:
They have managed to funnel our grief into laughter. Instead of worrying about power shortages, flooding sewage pipes, the never-ending traffic jams, and the constant insecurity among other ills, they make us laugh bitterly and help get us over our sorrows.
Mehdi says they hope to present their style of comedy to the entire Arab audience. I hope they do, too.

20 April 2005

Must... avoid... urge... to... rant...

    To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people.
      A Fish Called Wanda
Fresh from his apology for shooting his mouth off about the judiciary, Tom Delay yesterday was shooting his mouth off about the judiciary. He just won't let this thing go.

And why Kennedy? He's not exactly the liberal poster-child, is he? To me, it's just one more case of the Republicans eating their own; more evidence of the Big Tent Lie. The Grand Ole Party welcomes diverse viewpoints during an election. They're one big happy party. But when the election's over, well, then only blind obedience is acceptable. Disagree and you'll get smacked. I think that's why DeLay is so pissed at Kennedy. But let's consider the crimes of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Topping out DeLay's list is Kennedy's citing International Law in his opinions. "We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," he says. When you say it like that, it certainly sounds bad. Now, let's find the truth of the matter. This article, by Deborah Pearlstein, lays it all out. You should read the article, but here's a quick summary: The "foreign law" cases are one of three types:
  • Enforcing international court rulings that we agreed to adhere under treaty obligations. Treaties are, per the Constitution, U.S. Law. Have no fear, though. The White House is pulling out of those pesky treaties (details in the Pearlstein article).
  • Considering international societal norms in deciding whether a punishment should be considered cruel or unusual. This is nothing new. The alternative is to only consider what was cruel or unusual in 1787. But, then, the RRR would probably like that....
  • Reviewing how foreign courts have resolved similar issues. Man, looking at how someone else solved a similar problem. Can't do that.
Boy, I really see what DeLay's talking about. Kennedy wants World Government! Run, run for your lives!

Now international laws are bad enough in the minds of judges, but it gets worse, oh yes. Justice Kennedy has... I can't even find the strength to type if. I'll let Tom tell you: "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."
So there you have it. What Tom DeLay is most afraid of is an informed judiciary. Okay, no surprise there.

18 April 2005

Over there, look!

    Turn to the right!
      Ed McDonnough
      Raising Arizona
I've added a new blog to my list. Look over there, on the right of this page for a link to The Center of NJ Life.

Little bits of joy

    Lovely to know the warmth
    You're smile can bring to me
    I want to tell you but the words you do not know
      The Moody Blues
I had this wonderful little moment yesterday afternoon that has stuck with me, so I'll share it here.

With spring comes the annual shoring up of the deck. Our deck is losing its battle with weather and decay. Each year, I patch and shore it up, trying to eek one more year out of the thing. There this "privacy screen" thing on one side; a sort of wall to keep the neighbors from seeing what we do, or maybe to keep people on the deck from looking in the nearby bathroom window. It gets shorter each year as I remove boards to replace the rotting floor of the deck. This year I was also underneath, adding some additional lumber to the rotting joists. Looks like the deck has one more summer left in it.

That wasn't the wonderful moment, mind you. The underside of a rotting deck is a less than pleasant location. Late in the day everyone had gone in. Sharon was cooking. Knowing my older dauther, she was reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. My youngest came back out, though. She took up her lawnmower and started around the yard (getting the places Mommy missed, I'd later find out).

For a couple minutes I just laid under the deck watching her wander around the yard. She stopped for a minute to rock on a see-saw toy. Then it was back to mowing. You hear a lot about the importance of "unscheduled time" for kids. This was why. She wasn't bored or lazy. She was outside on her own, with no planned activity, just having a great time making things up as she went. It was a joy to watch.
Eventually she noticed me under the deck, and I got to join the fun. I found out we were playing hide-n-seek. She took off for a few minutes, then came back to tell me she'd found where I was hiding. She found my hiding spot five times.

The deck was a royal pain. My back (backside, to be precise) is killing me from shimmeying around on the rocks underneath the deck. But that's not what I'm thinking about. I'm still watching my daughter get the places Mommy missed.

11 April 2005

Fun with the Royals

    I am not making this up
      -Dave Barry
Okay, let me see if I've got this straight:

The British monarch is the symbolic leader of the Church of England.
Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony because the Church of England he will eventually lead would not permit a religious ceremony.
The Church of England would not permit a religious ceremony because the couple are divorcees.
The Church of England was created by Henry VIII so he could get a divorce.
In creating the Church of England, the British monarchy severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope.
Charles and Camilla posponed their wedding so that Charles could attend the funeral of the Pope.

We had been discussing this at lunch one day. I thought it was kind of funny....

08 April 2005

Searching for Richard Jewel

    All I did was my job.
      Richard Jewel
Today it was reported that Eric Rudolph would plead guilty to four bombings, including the blast at the 1996 Summer Olympics. I had forgotten that the bombing occurred on my birthday.

The story left me thinking about Richard Jewel. You might remember him. He was the security guard that spotted the bomb, and was credited with saving many lives by warning people away. However, when he should have been lauded as a hero, he became the chief suspect. FBI leaks and the resulting media coverage identified him as the bomber.

He was eventually exonerated, but it would be hard for him to completely shake off the gung-ho cop wannabee image painted by the media. When he finally broke his public silence, he gave this speech.

I wonder what happened to him. I googled him, but found nothing recent. I hope he is doing well. He deserves to be.

07 April 2005

Piece of the Lord

    Every time you go away you take a piece of me with you.
      Paul Young
On Sunday we went to the Dali exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was awesome, by the way, and maybe I'll get together a blog post about it. But today's offering finds its genesis in European decorative arts, and in particular, and exhibit of reliquaries.

A reliquary is, as its name suggests, a container for a relic. In the Roman Catholic context, a relic is part of a saint. Our friend Marilyn explained that all Roman Catholic churches must have a relic. In fact, all altars need a relic, as explained in this encylopedia entry.

I started linking around the Wikipedia information on relics, and came across a doozy. No pun intended, I think this is the relic pièce de résistance:
Holy Prepuce (a.k.a. Holy Foreskin)

There is all manner of truly wonderful lore surrounding this relic. You need to read the entry for yourself. I will say that Saturn will never look quite the same to me.

Reference materials:

05 April 2005

FBI seeks expanded search powers

    however much i push it down
    it's never enough
    however much i push it around
    it's never enough
    however much i make it out
    it's never enough
    never enough
      The Cure
Wha... I mean... you gotta be... how the hell... ARRRGH!

The FBI and Justice Department want Congress to renew all provisions of the Patriot Act. They also want expanded powers. Yes, I did just say expanded powers. They aren't satisfied with the unprecedented power they've been given. They want more, by expanding the FBI's ability to obtain records without first asking a judge. Yeah, that's what they need. More power.

Read all about it and seethe.

My listening pleasure

    A connecting principle
    Linked to the invisible
    Almost imperceptible
    Something inexpressible
      Synchronicity I
      by The Police
I thought I'd just talk about the audiobooks I've been listening to recently.

I'll begin with Patrick O'Brian's Post Captain, the second in the Aubrey/Maturin series that begins with Master and Commander, which I've also listened to. The motion picture Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is based on the characters from the series and draws from several of the books. (The movie, BTW, is excellent. If you haven't seen it, you should.) I am really enjoying the books. O'Brian's detailed depiction of the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars is the background for rich characters and an engaging plot. It was also nice to listen to a nautical themed book that didn't leave me wanting to gnaw my arm off like Moby Dick did. Sorry, Melville fans - I couldn't take it.

Next I listened to The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips. I really liked this. There are two main characters. The first is an Egyptoligist trying to find the tomb of an ancient Egyption king. The second is a detective investigating a case that begins as a missing person but becomes a double-murder. What is interesting is that story is told in the form of journal entries and correspondence from the Egyptologist, his fiancee, and the detective. Each has their own version of the truth and the reader (or listener) is left to figure out what's really hapenning.

Now I'm listening to Clout Atlas by David Mitchell. The book is actually six narratives. Each is interupted suddenly, mid-sentence, as the next begins. I'm only two narratives in, so we'll see how they are wrapped up later. What was funny, though, was that the first narrative has journal entries of a passenger on a late 18th century sailing vessel on the Pacific. It sort of combined the previous two books I'd heard.

Anyway, that's what I'm listening to. Read/heard anything good lately?

01 April 2005

Alter on Schiavo

    They replaced reason with emotion, confused law with theology and allowed politics and tabloidism to trump the privacy this agonizing family tragedy deserved.
      Jonathan Alter
In this commentary, Jonathan Alter just summarized my opinions on almost every aspect of the Schiavo case. The only thing I disagreed with was this:
And I still don't understand why Michael Schiavo didn't turn over custody and get a divorce.
On that subject, see Anna Qunindlan.

P.S. This blog entry from Keith Olbermann does Michael Schiavo a well-deserved good turn.

The right to motor genuinely

    The deft criminals rely on ignorance and a lack of common sense. The extremely near-sighted are especially vulnerable.
      Counter Counterfeit Commission
I know it's stealth advertising. I know I'm a biased MINI owner. But I just love this site.