Friday, February 26, 2010

Wind could be an invisible blessing

Although I frequently find myself leaning agnostic, at the same time I enjoy embracing mysteries, and during Christmas, take pleasure in adorning my tumbledown shack with a few festive lights to celebrate the great unknown.

As with most years, this season, before the snowstorms blew in, I devotedly laid out some red and green spotlights, aiming them strategically high, onto the front yard’s towering pines. Then I flipped the switch on to illuminate the evergreens, for passerby to enjoy during divine twilight hours. I figured this would raise the power bill; but also, at least gain onlookers some imagn’d fleeting joy, as they passed by the modest shack. One merry passerby even remarked that he enjoyed watching the colored lights dance as they kissed the swaying treetops, while the canyon’s moderate winds blessed the sparkly evenings. Then he kindly reminded me that in some indigenous circles, they call the gift of wind, “The Breath of God” or The Spirit that runs through all things.

When the monthly power bill arrived, it shocked me a bit to discover it cost thirty percent more than previous Christmas’s. Then; I felt as if part of a mystery was cracked: When a Idaho Power spokesman recently visited, to proclaim that “Wind itself just isn’t here;” perhaps afterward; as he embarked on evening tours around our tranquil valley; enjoying every illuminating light, he held dear, an inner joy that those holiday lamps, translated into 30% higher shimmering corporate profits.

Even though he worshiped a lesser ideal, where, up ‘till recently, it’s been strict company policy to deny wind and much of what it freely offers; I still wish him Godspeed, while March roars in swiftly, like a turbulent lion.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What about safe flights / follow up comments

In the same vein of "What about safe flights?" Bob Kustra recently interviewed world renowned security expert Bruce Schneier for some powerful insights on the subject:

"Remember the day after the 'underwear bomber', our Secretary of Homeland Security said, basically, that security succeeded on Christmas Day, and she was villified for it, which frustrates me, because, you know, security did succeed. Think of what happened: we had no bomb explode, no plane crash, nobody die, and terrorist arrested. Sounds like a success to me, sounds like a phenomenal success. I think we should be very happy, and we should be laughing at this guy.

"Instead, we went into sort of 'full fear mode', and, really succeeding in terrorizing ourselves, and this frustrates me. Here it is, this guy failed and yet he's succeeding and causing terror.

"And when you think about why he failed, and this is very important, he failed because of pre-9/11 security. Because, in Amsterdam airport, they screen for obvious guns and bombs, the bomb-maker had to build an inefficient bomb. So instead of using a plunger, or a timer, or a fuse, or something any normal, commercial user of this plastic explosive might employ, he had to build an ad hoc, home-brewed detonation device, with a syringe, and 20 minutes in the bathroom, and a fire in his lap, and actually we don't know what else. That failed. And that's security succeeding. And then after that, new developments in airline security, which is passengers fighting back, quickly subdued him, and the plane landed safely....

"When people are scared, they want to feel better. People are scared of stories. The Christmas Day suicide bombing attempt was a story, and the story made people afraid. And when people are afraid, they really can't hear. You know, 'it wasn't a big deal, relax.' You remember, the day after Christmas, nobody wanted to hear that. Everyone wanted to hear 'how are you going to make us safer? What are you going to do?' There's a belief that perfection is possible, that when something goes wrong, someone must be at fault, someone must be to blame, and there must be a fix.

"Even though in the real world, as we all know, you can do everything right and still have things go wrong. There doesn't have to be a fault. But as a politician you can't say that. So you have to look tough on terror, you have to give people a competing narrative.... even if it makes no sense, [even if it's just 'security theater'].

Thanks to Fort Boise's Tom von Alten for pointing this out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nice Sandwich

I liked the way the Times-News editors threaded my letter, in between the one from Max Hatfield who also supported Lee Halper,and the one from Sun Valley's Martin Huebner, who proclaims to be mystified about nuclear plant opposition.

The original draft was somewhat longer, so I had to cut it down. I don't think it lost too much of it's good flow though; and am glad the Times-News allows 300 words. I find that for most subjects, 300 words is a good guideline -enough to make a succinct point, but not too long to lose the readers interest.

In fact, I've come accustomed to enjoying the monthly challenge, of giving readers something interesting to react to, within those blessed 300 words.

Monday, February 15, 2010

After submitting the above tribute to Elk, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hunters temporarily exchange their arms for pens and scribe some poetic items good enough to probably make Lawrence Ferlinghetti smile. While much of the thread has taken on a (mostly healthy) continuing dialogue about the wolf situation, I did discover a few gems of insightful wisdom, I never noticed before. Especially this one:

"The hunters are competing for the same game with the wolves and trying to cut down the wolf population. Analogously, elsewhere, the under-educated are competing with Mexican immigrants for jobs...trying to get controls on immigration."

One other observation:

Commenting about Olympian-level Elk on the Warm Springs Golf Course started for me exactly four years ago today:


I did not know that Fish and Game had planned it at the time, but the last round-up of Elk occured the next day, Feb. 16, 2006:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hygienic money or clean life?

Not long ago, a Clark County, Nevada investigation showed that a Vegas clinic was not using clean syringe procedures, which over a four-year period contaminated dozens of anesthesia patients with incurable hepatitis C.

This seemed especially odd, since Las Vegas is the same city where they clean your money. When did we start giving sanitized money a higher priority than we do to medical patients?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beware of Putrid Plutonium Propheteers

The powerful politically connected nuclear industry has been consistently campaigning to construct new plants in Idaho and many are prepared to buy it. Some have written letters beseeching Idahoans to embrace nuclear power, so that we can be first in something for once.

To paraphrase environmental-watchman Lee Halper from a recent radioactive-hot forum:

Idaho is already first in many things. We're almost first in cow crap. We're first in lack of ethics in the Legislature. We're first in ignoring what doesn't work in other states will work here and we're first in having the most NUCLEAR waste seeping into our drinking water. We could be first in geothermal, wind, solar, hydrogen and conservation of energy but people who look for the silver bullet like NUCLEAR, are those who want us to be first in line for Superfund status.”

I agree with Lee; let’s not be first in foolhardiness. The poisonous nuclear industry kills much more than charging windmills do birds. For the next 40,000 years, we will have to develop warning signs decipherable long after the English language has died out. Think about it; the proud legacy nuclear waste leaves, will endure an epoch tenfold longer than the most ancient Egyptian pyramid.

Now an experienced French company committed to fueling the nuclear renaissance,” is on the verge of gaining generous tax breaks for mining Idaho uranium. While it’s true France uses 80 percent nuclear power, there is a big brouhaha going on over there about the wasteful thinking. And where do the elite French position their insidiously deadly toxins to rest for millennia? Why it’s being shoveled into poor (Muslim) peoples backyards, which leave long-term radioactive stains, that will stink ten million times worse than simple cow-crap.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Welcome back Warm Springs Wapiti

An open letter to golf course elk:

Though we extracted some of your brethren, one cold-blooded spring, penning them into traps, we’ve spotted more of you on the same sunny ridge where your iconic ancestors stood proud for millennia. It’s refreshing to see you back, basking in the brightness, quietly observing us bipeds.

When we corralled your statuesque cousins’ forty moons ago, one cow leapt over the moonlit fence and landed with a soft powder flop, before bolting up the ridge like dark crimson lightning. High plane drifters occasionally whisper about her legendary feat, and wonder if you honor her in a secret language we cannot yet penetrate.

Your tracks wisp in the brilliant sky, swirling like haiku in horse latitude mists. Tread lightly around the wooded upland avalanche menace. When you secrete into town under cover of dark to engage in esoteric animal games on the golf course, beware of cellar snares as you slip between beverage trucks and insomniac deliverymen. Group well at canines edge as you stretch; sharing the links to nature, with perfect bird flocks, courageous cougars, awakening bears and the occasional wandering Wood River wolverine.

Though your long-term future may hold some uncertainly; I break into smile for now, spying you wildly alive on the high hill.



Friday, February 05, 2010

Secret Lives of Meter Readers

If you are looking for a long walk every day with not bad pay, maybe meter reading is the ticket. Generally, you get to spend a lot of peaceful time by yourself, plenty of serene reflecting space, unhindered by a bickering work crew. Simply dedicating yourself to reading meters all day can actually lead to a very ascetic lifestyle.

When a vault into the earth is uncovered, great mysteries lie inside. Neighborhood kids dash over and want to spy. Newts and frogs, snakes, snails and polliwogs are all revealed from these tiny underground arenas. If the meter reader does not watch carefully, he may uncover a hornet's nest. Thus, most workers carry a medicine pouch within their tool kits.

Meter reading routes are hard roads at first; but endurance soon builds up, as the man (or woman) becomes self-reliant. As he walks along, he strengthens his full character, all the way down to his stem cells. Striding along, his breathing becomes natural and he finds himself more plainspoken.

Travelers often pose directions or unusual questions from meter readers. Does the deer turn into elk at the same elevation rattlesnakes stop snapping? On what Idaho road did Hemingway kick the can? Having snappy answers handy makes the job more pleasant.

Dogs are an inherent part of meter reading. Most browsers are friendly and can decipher the meter reader's spirit with a high degree of accuracy. Many dogs will grant you easy access through their gated community to inspect the meter. It's getting out again that presents a problem, as pups craving companionship insist that you stay and play.

Some meter readers get to thinking up fantastic ideas along the trail. They begin to carry a notepad alongside their number recorder and write down musings in a Thoreau-like manner. Even in cities, they see bits of nature, which many motorists blur by too fast to appreciate. Along the glistening stream: some morel mushrooms for their pouch, a storytelling of crows over in that towering tamarack tree, trying to alter a chapter in an owl's life.

Meter readers of various utilities develop an eye for detail and take note of safety concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed: A dead tree branch leaning into a power line. The scent of gas somewhere, or loose manholes in the street. This talent is not lost on Homeland Security officials who sometimes speak of enlisting meter readers to keep "an eye out" for all of us. However, most meter readers are not into this sort of thing. They could draft maps of homes of the stars if they wished, but most prefer to shine as more of a nameless Pale Rider-type of hero. Blending into the background; but emerging with more than speedy serendipity, for the occasional good deed along their way.

Daydreams of meter readers include running a line of electricity up to Pioneer Cabin. Imagine the boss man wondering why only one meter was read this afternoon. Meter readers face harsh conditions in the winter, post-holing through deep snow and truly appreciate your efforts to keep the pathway clear around reading time. Some consumers seem to forget that having a utility company representative freshly familiar with the physical location of the meter is a key aspect for safety, since the utility meter is also the spot for the emergency shut-off valve.

Customers must think that meter readers are as secretive as wolverines, since they are so seldom seen. However, when they are detected, it's nice to give them a high howdy and a thank you for their dedicated service. They will likely remember that for a long time. During my years of meter reading, there were only a handful of times, when someone offered thanks, but it always brightened my week.

Alas, many healthy aspects of meter reading are rapidly transforming, along with much of our world’s unquestioned “progress.” With the advent of the GPS receivers, probing rods and older methods of tie-down measurements are less required to locate meters obscured by leaves or grass. In addition, remote registers and smart-grid telemetry are phasing out some routes. Therefore, if your dog seems a tad more lonesome lately, it could be that he didn't receive his monthly belly rub and a pat on the head from your friendly neighborhood meter reader.

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