Archive for March, 2011

The Pitfalls of Wireless: More Maine Wonders

March 27, 2011

You are never going to believe this.  The BioDiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine has a webcam showing live action of nesting eagles.  Sound is included.  This pair has laid an egg already and are keeping it incubated.  Here’s a newspaper article on this lovely couple.  I have named them “Mich” and “O”.  Well, what else would I call them?  I wonder when the chick will be born?  This is a phenomenal site.  Mesmerizing.

I know.  I know.  The installation of wireless in my house in Maine seems less of a blessing and more of a curse.  Sorry for bothering you again, but these life-long eagle partners are fantastic to watch.

Also, I got some pictures of the Deer Isle Bridge.  Although I love to look at this bridge, I hate to cross it.  It is extremely high up over Eggemoggin Reach, the two lanes are very narrow and the wind plays havoc with this span.  It scares me more than driving under those high-rise apartment buildings on the New York side of the George Washington Bridge.  The tunnels one has to pass through are rife with various structural remedies and those fixes do not inspire confidence that the whole kit and caboodle won’t come tumbling down.  Anyway, crossing the Deer Isle Bridge is even more scarier for me.

I must have been out of my mind to attempt to snap these images AS I WAS CROSSING THE BRIDGE.  I only tried that once before: I was driving on the Brooklyn Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan and I was awestruck by Frank Gehry’s new skyscraper.  So I clicked away.

Here are my devil-may-care photos of the bridge.

The approach.

The exodus. Whew!

So once again I apologize for all of my activity on this site.  Between having Internet access and the beauty of Maine at my fingertips, I’m a goner.

CLOSING REMARKS:

RIP Geraldine Ferraro.  You were a productive person, a great New Yorker and a trailblazer in American politics.  But basically, I just liked you.

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Gotta Wonder: Japan and Libya

March 26, 2011

Ya’ gotta wonder.  Who the hell is running the world?

In Japan, U.S. ships laden with FRESH water,  are on their way to the crippled nuclear plants.  Up until now, the reactors have been doused with sea water in the hopes of cooling them down and preventing a meltdown.  However, sea water is corrosive and may be responsible for making a bad situation even worse.  Thus, the order for the fresh water.

Didn’t the scientists and power companies think of this little snag before the disaster?  Everyone and their mother knows that salt is corrosive.  In the event of a major catastrophe (which Japan had), did these geniuses even contemplate that tons and tons of fresh water might be necessary to have on hand?  How about making sure that there were huge water tanks/towers on site just in case?  Every rooftop in New York City has water tanks to ensure that their tenants’ water pressure is worthy of their ritzy addresses.  Yet the nuclear scientists could not figure out that in a hot nuclear situation, in a scenario that could threaten the safety of millions of people and harm hundreds of square miles with toxic environmental consequences, fresh water might be a better answer than sea water.  Gotta wonder.

Also at the Japanese nuclear plant, three workers were seriously harmed after wading into the pools surrounding the radioactive rods.  After the fact, the Japanese measured the level of radiation in those pools to be 10,000 above the levels of safety.  Did it ever occur to these aces of nuclear power knowledge that perhaps they should have measured the toxicity BEFORE the dedicated workers waded into the mire?  Talk about taking advantage of altruists, loyal workers and citizens who want to help out their country.  Gotta wonder.

Back on the Libyan front, the Gaddafi regime announced that 100 civilians have been killed by the coalition bombings.  This is entirely possible.  No doubt.  However, right before the bombing commenced, anti-Gaddafi officials said that the regime had been indiscriminately killing people and storing the bodies, so that they could unveil the dead people after the bombings and declare that the coalition forces had killed all of those civilians.  Sick, but also entirely possible.  Gotta wonder.

Just who are these expert people making major decisions for our planet?

Photos: Finally Friday in Maine

March 25, 2011

Ride the heaves. Don't let them get you down.

Too many special people in my life are currently experiencing tough times, health issues or personal problems.  I dedicate this post to them in the hope that they can get a minute or two of peace by viewing these pictures.

Winter, although beautiful in its own right,  persists in Maine.  The gray and monochromatic palette of this time of year is very apparent.  However, I am a person who needs color in my life, so I have tried to find some color in the landscape.  I could never survive in a black-and-white world!

A meadow of birches.

Had my lobstah!

 

Morning at Buck’s Harbor:

Morning at Buck's Harbor.

 

 

Make that an ICY morning!

The boats are still shrink-wrapped .....

All buttoned up .....

In various modes of drydock.

Spectacular winter color.

Pretty fantastic, right?

That rascal Spring is just around the corner.

Playing Catch-Up: The Week in Review, Somewhat

March 24, 2011

The following are sidebars to some of the issues in which I have been interested.  Keep in mind that current events are not usually put to rest within a convenient media cycle.  Thus, these issues will take weeks, months, even years, to reach their conclusions.

France was the first of the coalition forces to enter Libyan air space with their planes.  The U.S. announced at that time that we would not be “leading” the invasion, but would definitely add our two cents.  Within two hours of France’s foray into Libya, we were firing cruise missiles into Gaddafi’s territory.  It took only two hours.

Furthermore, President Obama promised that we would not, ever, send in ground troops to back up the establishment of a no-fly zone.  No boots on the ground.  My worries were that Gaddafi’s forces would continue to kill civilians despite the successful establishment of a no-fly zone.  Bingo.  That seems to be the case.  I certainly acknowledge my naiveté about politics in general and military operations specifically.  I tend to believe things people say; I trust.  Silly me.  When I wrote my last post on Libya, I hadn’t realized that despite Mr. Obama’s pledge of a short military action with the express goal of protecting Libyan civilians, that of course, his tacit intention was the removal of Gaddafi.  Also, his unspoken strategy was to arm the rebels so they could fight back.  As for his statement that the U.S. would not take the lead in this action, with no ground troops sent in, that remains to be seen.

Another loose end.  This one has to do with my concern about spent nuclear waste and the fact that we have no containment facility.  Of course, the phrase “nuclear containment” just might be an oxymoron, an impossibility.  Sho’ nuff, on the front page of the New York Times today there is an article about the increasing concern about this vast hole in our nuclear energy policy.  I know that the risks of nuclear power must be weighed against the rewards (Oh really now?), and this article does an excellent job of hitting all the specifics.  Another article, an Op-Ed in the New York Times today, is terrific in explaining how the U.S. can learn from the nuclear disaster in Japan.  It is a concise column, recognizing the absolute need to have a firm, regulatory arm in charge of the safety at nuclear power plants while also admitting the advantage these plants have in the use of clean energy.  What?  Clean energy?  There is no more toxic, longer-lasting lethal substance in our arsenal of energy options than nuclear fuel.

Finally, political motivation has invaded the arts, which are very dear to me.  There is a beautiful, three-year-old, 36 foot wide, 11 panelled mural in Maine’s Department of Labor in the capital of Augusta.  It depicts a plethora of Maine workers.  The state’s Governor, Paul LePage, has ordered the removal of this mural because he believes it gives an unfair advantage to unions.  Go soak your head, Governor.  And while you are at it, grow up and give kudos where kudos is due: to the hard-working citizens of your state.  The arts should not be used as a political tool, given and taken back as an expression of the current elected’s opinion.  The arts are much bigger than that; they supersede any current political position.

In line with all the defiance against unions and benefits, Jon Stewart has a great piece addressing the hypocrisy of this issue.  You all have probably seen this video already, but I had to include it.  Pity the teachers.  Love Jon Stewart.

So much for cleaning up my loose ends.  I daresay that the unrest in the Mideast, the unfolding events at the nuclear plants in Japan, and the endless manipulation of politicians into areas, such as the arts, will be slow to be remedied.  That is the nature of life: uncertainty.

Stay tuned here, as I hope to have more photos from my Maine.

Red and White All Over

March 23, 2011

Is this fantastic?  (Click on this for a fabulous link.)

Besides my love for quilts, and all the love, tradition and artful craftsmanship that they embody, can you believe that this exhibit displays 650 examples all in RED? This is my nirvana, my Heaven on earth. Please enjoy the article and the photos.

Photo Essay: Spring Fling In Maine

March 22, 2011

Whether it’s war or Mother Nature, the same adage holds true: the best laid plans …….

Here are some photos of the first day of Spring in Maine.  When I was at the airport car rental desk yesterday, I upgraded to a four-wheel drive vehicle at the last moment.  Serendipity?  We are expecting more snow Wednesday into Thursday, so I will have additional beautiful vistas for you.  Meanwhile, I am loving the frost heaves and hope you enjoy the scenery.

Heavy with Spring snow.

The road gladly taken.

It's still uphill toward Spring.

Solitude.

Steadfast.

Not Springlike, but nevertheless majestic.

Soon. Soon.

The Spring rite to monkey around is palpable.

Ditto.

Toasty.

The Blue Hill Library: a permanent haven in all seasons.

In the early Spring in Maine, heavy vehicles are prohibited from many roads, due to their softness created by the melting of the winter snows.  Hey wait: first let’s get rid of the snow!

She ain't heavy, she's Yo Mama.

No where are there better roadside sentiments than in Maine.

 

Spring means renewal, and this post is dedicated to the Grandest Bunny on earth, with heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with much more.

Libya: The Best Laid Plans

March 20, 2011

I just don’t get it.

President Obama has firmly stated that we cannot allow the violence by the Gaddafi regime against its own people.  Here’s my question: why can we permit Bahrain, with the help of their and our very good friends, the Saudis, to massacre their own people?  Likewise, why didn’t the brutal rapes and murders of women and children in Sudan impel the U.S. to take action there?  Could a large part of the explanation be that we are concerned with protecting lives only if their nations have something, like oil, that we want?

Why is our “selectivity” in which country we choose to attack so politically expedient?  I wasn’t born yesterday.  I realize that life is inconsistent.  I can appreciate the finer points of foreign policy and the attempt to balance world peace with economic and political goals.  However, the part of this that disturbs me is the cover-up of our real intentions, i.e. to oust the tyrant Gaddafi from office and keep the oil pipelines open.

And why does this bother me so much?  In terms of President Obama, I now have developed some doubt as to his intentions.  If he has announced the primary goal of our foray into Libya was for the protection of Libyans and not for the oil, I am now worrying that his other intentions are questionable too.  What are his real goals and how honest is he being with regard to them?  Skepticism can be contagious and contaminating.

Supposedly, this Libyan military action is to last just days, not any longer than that.  Let’s see what happens.  Also, the coalition forces are currently bombing various Libyan airfields in order to destroy Libya’s air military and thus, ensure a safe no-fly zone for the coalition to police.  President Obama has assured us that there will be no American “boots on the ground.”  However, what happens if, even when a secure no-fly zone is established, Gaddafi is still killing his own people?  Based on the stated purpose to stop the Libyans from murdering their own people, it seems apparent that escalation of military action could be in the cards.

The best laid plans ………..

Sayonara to Ourselves

March 19, 2011

As the nuclear scenario plays out in Japan, many countries including America, are reassessing the risk/reward relationship in using nuclear power plants to generate energy.  As many scientists and politicians will tell you, this disaster in Japan can be used as a learning experience for those nations who have not experienced such devastation.  Or maybe not.

That esteemed GOP leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has stated that the current crisis in Japan should not be used in the analysis of our long-term decisions regarding our own nuclear power plants.  Here is a very good article on precisely this issue of not using history to our benefit, to learn from our mistakes.  The author calls this folly “The Japan Syndrome.”  Granted, Chernobyl was not a Three Mile Island and the situation in Japan is neither of those.  Yet the bottom line remains: the effects of all three disasters, the nuclear toxicity, will be with us for generations upon generations to come.

One glaring omission from this article is that never, in our entire nuclear history, has the U.S. developed a viable plan and implemented a storage facility for nuclear waste.  Sure: we went ahead and built the facility at Yucca Mountain, but it has never been used due to the newly discovered geological fault line running under the site, the burgeoning population in Las Vegas and political expediency.

In my own simplistic, non-scientific understanding of nuclear power, I am dumbfounded that we built tens of nuclear plants decades before we had a repository in place for their spent fuel.  Even the most scientifically naive observer would sat “WTF?”  To add insult to injury, the GE-designed reactors in Japan and the many we have on our own soil, discard the spent rods into a cooling pond for storage.  However, that cooling process is run by electricity, which can be cut off by terrorist activity and the rare chance, yet as we have seen in Japan the reality, of a natural catastrophe.  As improbable as such a devastating event may be, it can happen and should damn well be considered when building reactors of this design.  Here is an informative editorial from today’s New York Times on exactly this issue.

I will be the first person to attest to my lack of seismic knowledge.  However, after much reading and picking the brains of those in the know, there are some common sense precautions all nations should abide by in order to minimize the threat of nuclear contamination:

1.  Do not build these reactors on top of or near a fault line.  The fact that many nuclear reactors in the U.S. ARE erected near fault lines is not compensated by the scientific calculations and forethought of the probability of the largest quake that ever hit that area, plus even a bit more leeway for a margin of error.  The unexpected can and will occur;  we need only to look at the events in Japan for confirmation of a system that ultimately based their reliance on a wing and a prayer.

2.  Likewise, nuclear reactors should not be built close to population centers.  Parameters of hundreds of miles is much more reasonable than tens of miles.

3.  The cooling system must be passive, i.e. not dependent on electricity for cooling.  Moreover, this cooling process should be redundant, as should the containment structure.  Once the safety parameters are worked out, those requirements should have a double, triple or even a quadruple redundancy.

4.  Aging nuclear plants should be routinely de-commissioned, even if they are still functioning properly.  Patch jobs, renovations and upgrades will not substitute for a total shutdown.

5.  The renewed building of nuclear reactors should cease and desist until there is a plan and a facility for the safe storage of nuclear waste.  Keep in mind though, such a reliable place just may not exist when considering the toxicity and life of nuclear materials.

6.  If the government and regulatory bodies pass stringent rules, they will be useless unless they are strictly overseen and regulated.  Hefty penalties must be assessed if the rules are ignored or broken and the plants that have violated the established protocols should be swiftly de-commissioned.  All the requirements in the world will not help an industry that does not actively police its own laws.

The above items are, I am sure even despite my deep lack of scientific knowledge, just the tip of the iceberg for a safer, revamped nuclear power industry.   Know that even if these common sense guidelines are followed, there will always be real risk associated with nuclear power.  When we are dealing with one of the most poisonous, polluting and long-lived energy forms available on earth, the uncertainty and power of devastation is real.  The differing opinions on the active half-lives of the by-products of fission, which occurs in a nuclear plant meltdown as a result of the nuclear decaying process, are neither here nor there.  When uranium breaks down, fission causes the release of cesium and strontium, both having half-lives of approximately 30 years, which translates into decades or even centuries of toxicity.  I am not scientifically sophisticated enough to understand the longevity estimates of environmental effects that nuclear waste can have, but Mother Earth can experience those  toxic effects for decades, centuries or even tens of thousands of years.

The economic rewards of choosing nuclear power over some other form must be weighed carefully.  Certainly though, when weighing the risks and rewards of nuclear power, the fact remains that prioritizing economics over safety is a futile strategy.  The costs of developing and implementing alternative, renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind power, seems well-worth the avoidance of a nuclear holocaust.  Additionally, if the necessary regulations for a viable nuclear industry are implemented and enforced, I daresay the cheaper costs of nuclear power would not be cheaper any longer.  Most relevant, alternative energy strategies certainly, in a worst-case scenario (which I hope we now know MUST be a consideration), would create no such long-term, devastating toll on our planet and human population.

If America and the rest of the world refuses to reassess their committment to nuclear power in a meaningful way, it will be sayonara to our sanity as well as ourselves.

 

Moral Labrador Retrievers?

March 18, 2011

Having owned and loved three Labrador retrievers over the last 30 years, I can attest to the behavior of the Lab on the following video:

First of all, Labs are eating machines.  If given the opportunity, they will eat until they drop dead.  Secondly, Labs have very highly developed senses of guilt.  Mind you, they will still opt to go for the forbidden food, but they also will punish themselves for such outlawed behavior.  Their master’s punishment is moot compared to the dog’s own self-punitive actions.  Their honesty in admitting their crimes is clearly expressed by their body language, lack of eye contact and voluntary self-isolation.  However sorry these dogs are for their renegade actions, I know, I just can tell, that they still feel their actions were still SO WORTH IT.

Ya’ gotta love these conniving and repentant love sponges!!!!

The Ever-Animated Judge Judy

March 17, 2011

Here are the best GIF’s (graphic interchange format) from the sanest person I know, Judge Judy Sheindlin.  I admire her smarts (as she herself raves about every single day), common sense and strictly meat-and-potatoes take on the law and life.  We could all do a lot worse than integrate into our own lives the preparation, the expertise and the honesty to which Judge Judy has dedicated herself.

Of course, her intellect is only enhanced by her animated personality.  Thus, a smart person has risen through the entertainment ranks and might even attract the attention of those who sorely need her direct advice.

http://fourfour.typepad.com/fourfour/2011/02/judge-judy-gifs.html#more