27 June 2009

My thought process: a cross-section

"Now pay attention, because it's very muddly and half the time I won't know what I'm talking about."

Roderick Alleyn in Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh

25 June 2009

Not to mention the obligatory scantily clad girl

These two words usually keep me out of a theater: Ray Cooney. Cooney is an English typist who cranks out one feeble farce after another. These lamentable confections jumble together stick-figure characters to recite stale jokes and play out thinly stretched, formulaic situations. Think six-minute Carol Burnett sketches expanded to 2 1/4 hours. But without the laughs.

Michael Toscano, in the Washington Post in a glowing review for It Runs in the Family at Little Theatre of Alexandria

07 June 2009

Not the conversation she planned to have

On Memorial Day I was attending a cook-out in Falls Church just up the street from the town's Memorial Day Fair. I wandered around the Fair, mainly looking for the friend who was handing out show fliers for All My Sons, figuring that I could give her a hand. I couldn't find Tina, but I was individually intercepted by several members of an environmental group*, who were working the fair in order to fundraise and educate.

They had been well trained and thus got right and my path with a cheery hello and a some kind of "Do you know about [Organization]"-type question. I blew each off with something like "No, but I'm looking for a friend. Maybe later."

Never did find Tina, but I figured that the young environmental volunteers deserved their turn so I went back to the last of the interceptors and we started to talk.

"I didn't find my friend, but you wanted to tell me about [Organization]."

"Yes! We ---" and she actually got a few words into her pitch before I stopped her.

"Actually, I have one question." Pause "What is [Organization]'s position on hydropower?"**

And then we had the big pause as truth battled with telling me what she deduced that I wanted to hear.

She told me slowly and carefully that she, personally, did not have a position on hydropower and wasn't positive what [Organization]'s position was but she did not think that they support it.

We looked at the binder she was carrying which showed pretty pictures of wind farms and solar and no pictures of Eagle buffets.

So instead of her telling me how important it is to save the environment and couldn't I make a contribution today (no, not based on looking at a binder at a fair), she got to hear my Benefits of Hydropower speech.

(Summary: Hydro is clean and renewable. No form of energy is without cost or limitation: wind farms can often have the same effect on birds that Captain Sullenberger's Flight 1549 had on that flock near the Hudson and they can be very noisy, disrupting wildlife reproductive habits; solar works well in areas with lots of sunshine, so Forks, Washington wouldn't get much use from it; geothermal is expensive to build and maintain; nuclear power plants are hideously expensive to build and I'm still not sure about the waste issue; etc ... Hydro has its costs and limitations as well, obviously, but it should be part of the energy mix.)

I told her that I'm in favor of any clean/renewable source of energy, including nuclear power. "Basically, I am in favor of prett' near any energy source that doesn't involve scrapping the tops off of mountains." She liked that sentence. Most people I've said to do, but then I don't have a lot of close friends in the coal industry.

She also seemed to agree with my assessment that "clean coal" - like compassionate conservatism*** and, oh, kindly spouse abuse, tries to twist-tie an otherwise not only unrelated, but actually opposite, attribute onto something unpopular.

Just for good measure I threw in my fun fact about electric cars: They are only as clean as the electricity that powers them, so great if you live in Idaho which is largely hydro-powered and terrible if you live in West Virgina, also known as the Mountaintop Removal State.

I believe I also mentioned that the word "hydropower" has not - to my knowledge - appeared in Time magazine in any context in the past several years, unless they are covering China. Environment + China = bad.

I'm not suggesting damming free-running waterways, just perhaps adding a hydro component to the 90% of Americans dams that don't yet have it. And keeping hydro as part of the menu of alternative energies.

So we left it that I would check [Organization]'s website - and I would if I had been smart enough to write down their name - and she would consider bringing up the concept of hydro with the people who send her out to be lectured by random passers by at Memorial Day Fairs.

I'm glad we had this little talk.

And, for the record, here is Maryland's energy mix for 2007****:

Coal 23,509,862
Petroleum 3,571,272
Hydroelectric Conventional 2,298,910
Natural Gas 1,522,443
Nuclear 1,251,416
Other Gases 488,197
Other Biomass 371,074
Wood and Wood Derived Fuels 149,118

Total 33,162,292

Maryland’s coal-fired power plants typically supply more than one-half of the electricity generation within the State. Nuclear power typically supplies more than one-fourth of generation, and petroleum- and natural gas-fired plants supply much of the remainder. Although Maryland produces a small amount of coal in the West, most of the State’s coal-fired power plants burn coal shipped from West Virginia. The State’s only nuclear plant, the dual-unit Calvert Cliffs facility, supplies all of Maryland’s nuclear power. The Conowingo hydroelectric plant on the Susquehanna River, one of Maryland's largest generation facilities, provides almost all of the State’s hydroelectricity. Approximately one-third of Maryland households use electricity as their main source of energy for home heating.

Coal includes anthracite, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal, lignite, waste coal, and synthetic coal.

Other includes non-biogenic municipal solid waste, batteries, chemicals, hydrogen, pitch, purchased steam, sulfur, tire-derived fuels, and miscellaneous technologies.

Other Biomass includes biogenic municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, agricultural byproducts, other biomass solids, other biomass liquids, and other biomass gases (including digester gases and methane).

Other Gases includes blast furnace gas, propane gas, and other manufactured and waste gases derived from fossil fuels.

Petroleum includes distillate fuel oil (all diesel and No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 fuel oils), residual fuel oil (No. 5 and No. 6 fuel oils and bunker C fuel oil), jet fuel, kerosene, petroleum coke, and waste oil.

Wood and Wood Derived Fuels includes paper pellets, railroad ties, utility poles, wood chips, bark, red liquor, sludge wood, spent sulfite liquor, and black liquor, with other wood waste solids and wood-based liquids.

*And if I remember the name of the group, I'll update this post with it.
**Disclosure statement: I worked for two years for the
National Hydropower Association.
***Which is not to say that conservatives are not compassionate. Most of the conservatives I know are kind and generous people. But when the brand has Dick Cheney, Anne Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh as the front people, "compassion" will have to be attached by way of staple-gun.
The Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.