16 March 2011

She opened the door. I walked through it.

My friend Patty asked on Facebook:

What proportion of your electricity usage do you think comes from nuclear power? (I was surprised when I saw the figures.)

And I said:

I actually know this one: Annually, about 26%, compared to about 20% for the US. (Ours comes from the Calvert Cliffs facility.) We also use a lot of coal (50% compared to the US 51%). Nuclear power is kinda scary every few decades. Coal ruins our environment every day. Maryland's hydropower component is about 3%. If we lived in Idaho, almost all of our power would come from hydro.

And then I added:

Japan is 11% nuclear and 46% oil, most of which is imported.

And it was actually on my mind because as we all worry about and pray for the people of Japan and the horrors they are experiencing I was wondering how much of their power comes from nuclear and how they would replace it were the plants to be permanently closed for some reason.

And here's the answer from the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Analysis of Japan:
Japan has few domestic energy resources and is only 16 percent energy self-sufficient. Japan is the third largest oil consumer in the world behind the United States and China and the third-largest net importer of crude oil. It is the world's largest importer of both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. In light of the country's lack of sufficient domestic hydrocarbon resources, Japanese energy companies have actively pursued participation in upstream oil and natural gas projects overseas and provide engineering, construction, financial, and project management services for energy projects around the world. Japan is one of the major exporters of energy-sector capital equipment and has a strong energy research and development program that is supported by the government, which pursues energy efficiency measures domestically in order to increase the country's energy security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

On Friday, March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a large tsunami. The earthquake and ensuing damage resulted in a shutdown of 6,800 MW of electric generating capacity at four nuclear power stations that have a total capacity of 12,000 MW (some plants previously offline for maintenance). Other energy infrastructure such as electrical grid, refineries, and gas and oil-fired power plants were also affected by the earthquake. Japan likely will require additional natural gas and oil to provide electricity, however power demand may be dampened at least in the short term as a result of the destruction of homes and businesses. According to some industry estimates, fuel oil and natural gas consumption could increase by up to 238,000 bbl/d and 1.2 Bcf/d*, respectively, depending on the combination of fuel substitution.

Total primary energy consumption in Japan is over 22 quadrillion British thermal units. Oil is the most consumed energy resource in Japan, although its share of total energy consumption has declined from about 80 percent in the 1970s to 46 percent in 2009. Coal continues to account for a significant share of total energy consumption, although natural gas and nuclear power are increasingly important sources. Japan is the third largest consumer of nuclear power in the world, after the United States and France. Hydroelectric power and renewable energy account for a relatively small percentage of total energy consumption in the country.

The analysis contains lots more information, including the good news that Japan has been decreasing their oil consumption due to government emphasis on conservation and efficiency.  Perhaps we should consider doing the same.**

* Barrels per day and Billion cubic feet per day. A barrel is 42 gallons. A cubic foot is still what they told you it was in grade school.

** Want to know lots of cool stuff about our energy sources and uses? Our very own Department of Energy knows all and tells lots.  Especially about renewable energy resources.

Why community theater is my home

From a Silver Spring Patch interview with Silver Spring native Michael Blaustein:

Patch: What have you learned about the business?

M.B: In any industry it is a business. While it is important to build genuine relationships, this business is based on money. Money runs the business. When there is no money being generated those "friendships" slowly fade.

Patch: What do you say the key to your career is?

M.B: I would say networking is. In this business I would say talent is 30 percent and networking is 70 percent.

More than once I have described acting in Hollywood or New York as a career in sales with yourself as the product.

11 March 2011

The Official AN/SPS-30 Cigarette Lighter

This post from Silver Spring: Then and Again is another one of those areas where elements of my personal history come together.

I live in Silver Spring (or at least moved here as a child) because APL was here. The Navy assigned Dad to APL, possibly as a Tech Rep, so my parents bought a house a couple of miles away. We expected to be here for two to three years. Naturally, I therefore ended up doing all but a few months of my schooling in Montgomery County schools.*  (I'm not sure but I think if I asked Daddy why the Navy assigned him there, he would say that it was to put him in proximity to Crisfields for lunch every day.)

So I grew up in Silver Spring, Daddy worked at APL, and the third leg of this triangle is, of course, that the company I work for now does radar here in Silver Spring, blocks from the old APL site.

Looking at the plaque, I can even understand most of what it says because quite a few of our contracts say much the same thing.  The numbering system for contracts hasn't changed, probably since 1781.

Not that I smoke, but if one of those were to show up at yard sale, I think I'd buy it in a hurry.

*I started kindergarten in at Quidnessett Elementary School in North Kingston, Rhode Island and we moved to Silver Spring in November of that year.  The year that I was 14, I spent six months living with Daddy in Belgium and attended the base school from March to June. Other than those brief lacunae, teachers at Parkside Elementary, Eastern Junior High, and Montgomery Blair High School had the daily struggle of getting me to stop daydreaming or surreptitiously reading.

Lots of Information

I read a book review in the New York Times that I am assuming that David has already read. And I'm kinda assuming that he'll buy the book.*  And after he does, I'd like to borrow it.

Because how can one not want to read a book where the reviewer and the author write, thus, about Ada Lovelace:

Some [colorful digressions] are included just for the sake of introducing the great eccentrics whose seemingly marginal inventions would prove to be prophetic. Like Richard Holmes’s “Age of Wonder” this book invests scientists with big, eccentric personalities. Augusta Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, may have been spectacularly arrogant about what she called “my immense reasoning faculties,” claiming that her brain was “something more than merely mortal." But her contribution to the writing of algorithms can, in the right geeky circles, be mentioned in the same breath as her father’s contribution to poetry.

And if David doesn't, I'll buy it and he can borrow mine.

"The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" by James Gleik

07 March 2011

Audrey’s WATCH Award Speech

The WATCH awards were held last night at the the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria.  It was, as always, a very fun evening and I got lots of compliments on my dress*.  Any evening spent with 500 theater people and a bar is going to be a good evening.  I mean, really, how bad could that be?

The ceremony went well and the winners were pleased and the nominees who did not win were gracious (at least in my hearing) and the wait staff was busy bringing more drinks.  As I say, about as usual.

Because I am standing on the stage for the whole thing, I generally don't applaud for winners or speeches.  I smile.  I smile at the top of the evening and I smile all the way through.**  My friend, Chuck, one year complimented me at the end of the evening on how I was still smiling.  "Oh, am I smiling?  How nice."  :-D

But the evening took a memorable turn when my friend, Audrey, won for Featured Actress in a Play.  I was pleased for her for more than one reason:  She's a damn fine actress and she's been through a really rough time.  Taking home a piece of lucite won't make the last year any easier, but I'm very glad she got it.

And when she gave her acceptance speech, which like everything that Audrey writes was honest and funny and smart and likely to give me a lump in my throat,  Audrey accepted her award by giving a tribute to community theater which not only put that lump there but made me teary-eyed as well.  In those few words, she summed up exactly how I feel about this hobby of ours and how I feel about the friends I've made doing it.

So I asked her if I could post it here.  And tough, kind, generous Audrey said of course I could.

Congratulations, Honey!  And no fair making me cry in public.

Thank yo­­­u for this recognition. Thank you to my talented cast an­d crew, our designers and technicians, and mostly, our fearless director Chris Curtis for giving me the opportunity.

I just need to take a minute here, because this isn’t about me… it’s about us.

A few years ago, my play Fin and Euba premiered in a local one-­act festival. It was later published in an anthology called Best American Short Plays. I used to think that kind of thing only happened to folks like Edward Albee. But sometimes I actually call myself a playwright. And I have community theater to thank for that.

Last year, while I was performing in the show Rabbit Hole, for which I was nominated for tonight, my husband, who has been battling kidney failure for years, went into the hospital and stayed there quite sick for 5 months. He lost his job. And our house went into foreclosure. But I was not alone. Bridget Muehlberger and Erika Imhoof said, “it’s not going down like this.” They, along with every single cast and crew member of Rabbit Hole, along with many, many other volunteers, produced a yard sale and fund­raising effort that saved my house… and my life. I wouldn’t have a home right now if it weren’t for community theater.

Take a minute and look around at your table. Chances are there’s someone in front of you or beside you, who knows your favorite show tune or your mother’s maiden name or where the bodies are buried. Someone you cannot imagine living without… someone you never would have met, or had the chance to love, if it weren’t for community theater.

Community theater is a lot more than just a few crazy actors and techies who stage plays and throw cast parties, admittedly, really great cast parties. No.

Community theater is what we choose to do instead.

Because, let’s face it. It’s cheaper than therapy. More fun than prime time television. And probably more rewarding than that night class at the annex. It’s a home. Community theater, is a really great… warm… life-­giving home.

Thank you.

*That cost $32.  The only thing better than a sale is a clearance sale.  Thank you, Lord and Taylor's!

**One of the reasons why I wear flats. It's much easier to smile if your feet don't hurt.

02 March 2011

Why I do dark, difficult plays sometimes

I'm currently in rehearsal for The Shadow Box which is a lovely play about three families coping with terminal illness.  Needless to say, it has fewer laughs and "feel good" moments than your average Neil Simon play.  The show isn't about uplift, it's about closure.

I find myself feeling the tiniest bit defensive about the show because a cheery evening out, it ain't.   Frankly, it's always easier to ask your friends to come see happy comedies.  But theater, as I like to say, is the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  How human beings got where are are and how we'll get where we're going.  And that isn't always sunny or uplifting.  Sometimes it's sad or difficult.

My friend, Craig, who loves dark, difficult plays recently directed David Harrower's Blackbird in comparison to which The Shadow Box is pretty sunny.  I think that he would be very interested to read these quotes which were found and posted to Savoynet* by Andrew Crowther** about W.S. Gilbert's drama The Hooligan which is celebrating its centennial this month. The Hooligan is story of a condemned man's last hours.

Andrew wrote:

A comment from the Stageland column in the Penny Illustrated Paper of 11 March 1911 (a more racy and perhaps more working class paper than others):
It disturbed everyone. Most to applause; a few to resentment. There was the ruddy, ample gentleman whom I met in the bar during what the Col. calls the 'Intermission.' 'You come here to be amused, not to be----" He groped for the word and lost it. 'A man of a morbid turn of mind might think it all right, mightn't he?'

A play that can wing a ruddy, ample gentleman; leave him puzzled, gasping, unsettled; stir up vague doubtings about killing folk and giving them 'no chanst'--a play like that is a play which you ought to pop in and see at once.

In Holbrook Jackson's essay "Why Do We Laugh?" in his volume of essays Occasions (Grant Richards, 1922, pp 94-95):

I always felt that the laughter provoked by [James Welch's] characterization in The Man in the Street was an expression of relief from the underlying tragedy of the thing. But if there is any doubt about that, there could be no doubt whatever about the small gasps of hysterical laughter during his realistic interpretation of the condemned man in Gilbert's little tragedy The Hooligan. The theme is so painful as to be almost unbearable. I have seen people walk out in the midst of this play unable to stand any more of it. Yet those who remained in the grip of the horror, watching Welch revealing the fear of a condemned man during his supposed last few moments on earth--the fear of a man who is half idiot, and who has very little worth preserving in his life--those who remained laughed every now and then at the humour of it. Some things may be too deep for tears, but nothing is too deep for laughter.

* An e-mail list for Gilbert & Sullivan fans

**Andrew is a G&S scholar who has added greatly to what we know about those two men, their works, and their times.