As people become more environmentally conscious and gas and oil prices go up, a young man's (or woman's) fancy turns to thoughts of alternative fuels.
Ethanol is one that has gotten a lot of attention. Unfortunately, it falls prey to the laws of unintended consequences. Most ethanol fuel is made from corn products...corn is made in abundance in this country, and it is found in almost everything we eat. (Cows and pigs and poultry eat huge amounts of corn. It is the sweetener in your soda, and its byproducts are used to make the cups and utensils your fast food comes from. It's biiiig business.)
So when corn is diverted from its usual food product uses to make fuel, it becomes a scarcer commodity for those food products, and their prices go up. According to Foreign Policy.com this effect is causing chaos on the world's grain markets, and wreaking havoc on the economies of some less affluent nations that are dependent on corn.
I've seen reports both ways (which I always find disturbing; you can prove anything with figures, and you can always find conflicting figures) but according to Slate.com, the cost of and energy used to make a gallon of ethanol fuel exceeds the energy you can extract from that ethanol. And ethanol doesn't deliver as much energy as a gallon of fossil fuel, so a gallon of ethanol, or ethanol mixed with gas, won't take you as far as a gallon of gas.
The corn lobby, of course, is very interested in making this fuel the replacement for imported oil.
Foreign Policy.com makes some amazing statements about harnessable wind energy. If what they say is true, I'll put a windmill in my back yard, pronto.
Finally, though I have a relatively new vehicle, I get the warm fuzzies at the thought of purchasing a hybrid vehicle. I will when this one gives up the ghost. Even at these inflated gas prices, though, I might save $500 a year if I double my mileage. Not a smart move considering the amount of money I'd lose selling a perfectly good car (and one I enjoy driving), plus the cost of a new hybrid. And I have heard that the energy used in making a car is more than that car will use in fuel in its lifetime. (I tried to find confirmation of this on the internet, but either it's not there, or I didn't find the right search phrase.) So it seems that it is wise to drive a car until it is not longer useful as transportation, before replacing it. When that happens, I'll go hybrid (or whatever the greenest option is when that happens).
I finally did my tournament crosswords yesterday. I was cleaning house and found them in a pile of magazines.
Years ago, my Dad and I entered the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut. It was great fun aside from having to spend the night by LaGuardia Airport when our flight was cancelled. Since then, I've done the at-home version. For $20, they send you the tournament puzzles after the contest is over. You do the puzzles at home, timing yourself, and return them. They send them back to you graded, and tell you your ranking in the categories you can enroll in.
So late this morning until mid-afternoon, I sat at the dining room table with the kitchen timer and a pencil and did puzzles. For the first time, I completed all the puzzles to my satisfaction. In every batch, there are two that are more difficult than the others. Usually, I get all tangled up in one of them, and can't complete it. They tell you which are the most difficult, so after I finished the third puzzle, I was dreading the fifth. The tough one was by my favorite puzzle constructor, Merl Reagle. I've done enough of his to know to pay careful attention to the title and hint at the top. I finished it with room to spare.
The championship playoff puzzle is included in the packet, but doesn't affect the standing (unless you are one of the top three in your categories). These puzzles have three sets of clues: Medium, hard, and very hard. I chose the middle (hard) one. I completed it in the 15 minutes allowed...that is, I had something in every space, but was redoing one corner when I ran out of time, and when I spent a bit more time looking at it, realized that I got 8 or 9 squares wrong. Still, it was my best showing to date, I am sure. I'll let you know when I get the results.
[The Merl Reagle Sunday Crossword gift basket, with treats, pencils, erasers...everything to get your favorite puzzler to become a complete hermit, available from Kemp Florist]
Last year, on Memoria Day, I posted the famous poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields (...the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.)
In most Commonwealth countries and some others, the poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day. The date is November 11 (which is our Veterans Day) to commemorate the date of the end of World War I in 1918. The last two years I've travelled to Scotland about that time of the year, and you can get paper poppies for a donation to wear on your clothes. Sometimes it feels that you are in a sea of poppies. In some places, they must be removed by 1100, the time of the official signing of the armistice: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
The poppy as the symbol for remembrance was conceived by Moina Michael who first wore one, then sold them to friends and co-workers, giving the money to help servicemen in need. She penned a refrain in response to McCrae's poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies
While Veterans Day honors living veterans, Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) honors those who died in our nation's service, and is more like Remembrance Day.
Many communities honored war dead after the Civil War (indeed, they had much to mourn and honor). Waterloo, New York, is recognized as the source of the holiday. Though many other communities could have been, the official distinction of Waterloo was established in 1966 when President Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation recognizing it as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
In 2000, President Clinton established a National Moment of Remembrance -- a pause in what one is doing for a moment of silence or listening to "Taps" to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of those who died in war.
They continue to die, as if the world had never learned a lesson from all the carnage and sorrow.
At 3 PM, please stop what you are doing and quietly remember.
"Memory" comes from Middle English or French, circa 1250, but that too stems from the Latin, mens, or mind and memor or mindful. This root is everywhere: memory, memoir, remember, memento, memorial and immemorial, remembrance, memorabilia, just to name a few.
"I am grown old, and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it."
I was trying to figure out why I had ground fault interrupters on a couple of wall plugs, particularly since they didn't work after I flipped all the breakers in the fuse box last week trying to get the air conditioner to work, after it stopped because it was full of sandy sludge dredged up when my water stopped running because the well stopped because it had sucked up some of the same sludge. Painful, all. Now I can't get the wall plugs to work.
I found this site, Brother Bob's Tinker Shop. His explanations are clear and sometimes funny. He tackles a wide variety of things, from appliances through Z-coil. Okay, no z-coil, but I couldn't find anything starting with "z". Lots of other stuff, though: dishwashers, air conditioners, refrigerators and woodworking, and automotive, television and gardening.
I'm keeping this site on in my favorites, for the next time. I don't think I could have fixed the well, or the air conditioner, but maybe the microwave, or the plugged-up sink or things of that ilk, maybe.
Dee Ray sends us this primer. It translates nine common words or phrases (or silences) universally used by women, but rarely understood by men:
Fine: A word used by women to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
Five minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means half an hour. Five minutes means five minutes if you have been told you have five more minutes to watch the game before helping her with chores.
Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This actually means something, and should alert you to be on your toes. Arguments beginning with nothing usually end in "fine". Nothing can refer to silence, or can actually be a comment, as in "What's wrong?", "Nothing".
Go ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Whatever it is, don't do it.
Audible sigh: This is not a word, but a non-verbal statement, often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here arguing with you about nothing. (See above for definition of "nothing".)
That's okay: One of the most dangerous things a woman can say to a man. "That's okay" means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
Thanks: A woman is thanking you. Don't ask why or faint. Just say "you're welcome."
Whatever: Her way of saying f*** you.
Don't worry about it, I've got it: Another dangerous statement. This refers to something a woman has asked a man to do several times. but is now doing herself. This will lead to a man's asking "what's wrong?" which is answered by "nothing."
I decided to turn to my new cookbook, Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, for inspiration, and boy, did I find it. Out of a large selection, I settled on Rhuarb-Strawberry Crisp with Cinnamon-Walnut Topping. I picked this recipe because I love rhubarb, especially with strawberries, and it is a straightforward, simple recipe. From the book:
"For the first 200 years in America, rhubarb pies were almost as popular as apple or mince. In fact, so strong was the connection that for years, people called rhubarb "pie plant." Technically a vegetable, rhubarb makes as good a crisp as it does a pie. Not only does the old rhubarb-and-strawberries combination play sour against sweet, but the two arrive in the garden at the same time in Spring.
Serves about 6
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, stalks trimmed, cut into about 3/4" pieces(about 3 cups) 1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved, if large 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar juice of 1/2 lemon 1/4 cup cold water
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
Ice cream or frozen yogurt, for serving (optional)
1. Fruit: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch pie pan or other shallow baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, white and brown sugars, lemon juice and water. Transfer the mixture to the buttered pan.
2. Cinnamon-Walnut Topping: In a small bowl, combine the butter, flour, brown and white sugars and cinnamon. Cut together until the mixture forms large crumbs. Crumble in the walnuts. Scatter the topping over the fruit, pressing it in lightly.
3. Bake until the topping is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool briefly. Serve, war. topped with ice cream or frozen yogurt, if you like.
Warm Plum Crisp: Plums work well in warm desserts. I often slice a couple of plums into berry and nectarine desserts, just to deepen the flavor. Substitute about 1 3/4 pounds plums for the rhubarb and strawberries, add 3 tablespoons of flour and a little cinnamon to the fruit, and eliminate the water. Proceed as directed above.
Born with a cleft palate, My two-year-old brother, Recovering from yet another surgery, Toddled into our bedroom Toppled over a tower of blocks That I had patiently built And in a five-year-old's fury I grabbed a fallen block And winged it at him Ripping open his carefully constructed lip. The next hours were gruesomely compressed Ending with a boy in a bed in the dark Mute with fear Staring out into the hallway with horror As the pediatrician went in and out of the bathroom With one vast, blood-soaked towel after another Shaking his head worriedly. My brother's howls And my parents' cooed comfort Became the soundtrack to this milky movie That plays In my darkest theatre The one that I sidle past each night With a shudder And a throb in my fist.
A pair of bears found injured in Osceola National Park, Florida, after the huge Bugaboo Fire passed through, have recovered, and were released back into the wild on May 21.
The pair were found on May 12, with the mother at the base of a burnt tree, and the cub way up the trunk. The mother was shot with a tranquilizer gun, and given IV fluids to resuscitate her. She had burns on her paws. The hard part was trying to outsmart the cub. Her cub, a 3 1/2-month-old female was high in the tree. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission actually dug a road up to the tree and brough in a bucket truck. The bear climbed higher than the bucket could reach. They brought in another truck. Still short. Attempted to dart her. The darts bounced off her butt (tight buns, for sure). Finally, they used a bit more power behind the dart, and the bear tumbled out of the tree into a waiting tarp.
They were taken to the University of Florida Veterinary Medical Center. After nine days in the hospital, where access was severely limited so that the bears could remain wild, they were released to an undisclosed location, none the worse for wear.
Unfortunately, when I hear a feel-good story like this, I can't help also thinking of the thousands of terrified animals who have perished in these wildfires.
An unbearable loss of life and property.
[Here's the full story and more pictures, from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
Recycle? Buy organic? Take SAM-E? Aspartame? Paper or plastic? Gas or ethanol or biofuel? Et tu, bottled water?
What's a girl to do?
LC sent us the link to Reusable Bags, a site that explores the damage that plastic does to our environment, and gives some alternatives as far as reusing plastic bags, plus options to purchase eco-friendly bags, bottles, boxes and the like. Here, they talk about the risk drinking water bottles, which are made of plastic with Biphosphenol A, or BPA. Other articles cite toxins like polyethylene paraphthalate (cutely shortened to PET), or diethylhydroxylamine (DEHA). The controversy over these compounds includes their use in plastic baby bottles, and in water bottles, particularly if they are heated, reused or used to store acidic liquids. They even say you shouldn't drink bottled water if it has been sitting in a warm car. Go straight home from the grocery and get that water in the fridge!
I reuse my water bottles all the time. I mainly buy them for the convenience of drinking out of what is essentially an adult baby bottle. Only now they have changed the caps, and I don't find the ones I like so easily any more. But I digress. I do reuse them. I refill them from the tap, and often add those little packets of Crystal Lite, which may or may not constitute an acidic liquid.
Americans use more plastic than ever, and according to the Christian Science Monitor, most of the increase is in the form of plastic water bottles.
And just when my paranoia reaches fever pitch, LC sends me an opposing view from Snopes.com, which gives the background to the study that fueled this rumor, and it doesn't stand up to scientific scrutiny. At least it has not been studied to the point of justifying the hysteria. At least not yet. Their page on toxins supports or denies a host of rumors, many fueled through emails or the internet. So...you can continue to nuke your plastic containers, and user lipstick and color with crayons. The jury is still out on antiperspirants. Check it out to read the truth behind some of these rumors, and read about new ones you may have been lucky enough not to have heard about.
It's not that easy being green Having to spend each day the color of leaves When I think it could be nicer being red, yellow or gold Or something much more colorful like than.
It's not easy being green It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're Not standing out like flashing sparkles in the water Or stars in the sky.
But green's the color of Spring And green can be cool and friendly-like And green can be big like an ocean, or important Like a mountain, or tall like a tree
When green is all there is to be It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why, Wonder, I am green and I'll do fine, it's beautiful And I think it's what I want to be.