May 29, 2007

Fuel alternatives

(Click on the figure to see an enlarged version.)

This figure shows the estimated percent change in greenhouse gas emissions for replacing petroleum fuel with a given alternative. The data take into account all parts of the production process including fossil fuel extraction, feedstock growth, distribution, etc. Source: The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency. CCS means Carbon Capture and Storage.

There is an interesting article in today's New York Times about a big coal industry lobbying effort to product liquid fuel from coal. The main argument is energy security, not greenhouse gas reduction. From the article,

Among the proposed inducements winding through House and Senate committees: loan guarantees for six to 10 major coal-to-liquid plants, each likely to cost at least $3 billion; a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of coal-based fuel sold through 2020; automatic subsidies if oil prices drop below $40 a barrel; and permission for the Air Force to sign 25-year contracts for almost a billion gallons a year of coal-based jet fuel.

Coal companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying on the issue, and have marshaled allies in organized labor, the Air Force and fuel-burning industries like the airlines. Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, urged in a recent advertising campaign that people “imagine a world where our country runs on energy from Middle America instead of the Middle East.”

May 28, 2007

'Its naturally sweet taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts'

Here's a 70s commercial for Grape Nuts from You Tube, featuring Euell Gibbons.

I couldn't find the one with a pine cone, but this one does tout Cattails.

May 27, 2007

Carter's Legacy

3-Speed's comment got me thinking about Jimmy Carter's legacy. I dug up this letter from the New York Times (thank you Google):

To the Editor: Like Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter will eventually be remembered for the mistakes he did not make: Not opposing a popular revolution in Iran.

Not overreacting to the Russians in Afghanistan. Not aiding fascist generals in Bolivia. Not squashing a popular revolution in Nicaragua. Not feeding inflation by expanding Democratic Party programs. Not caving in to oligopoly by decontrolling oil without a windfall-profits tax or by carving up Alaska. Not abandoning integration, Israel, Egypt, the boat people, the Cubans.

RICHARD JOFFE Cambridge, Mass. Dec. 15, 1980

There was also this thought-provoking piece published by the Claremont Institute:

The American people elected Jimmy Carter because he seemed to be more an American and less a creature of modern liberalism than his opponent, Gerald Ford. Candidate Carter called the American tax system "a disgrace to the human race." He touted that as Georgia's governor, he had slashed the number of state agencies. He called for "a government as good as its people." In the debate that won him the presidency, he lashed out against the Republicans' acceptance of Soviet tyranny over Eastern Europe. Here was a man wholeheartedly in love with everything America stood for.

Once in office, though, Mr. Carter inflated every noxious government program ever invented. He told the country that we had deserved to lose the Vietnam War. He ... kowtowed to the Ayatollah Khomeini ...and Leonid Brezhnev..

...the former chief executive's flaws are of a solid piece with his sincere Americanism and with his decidedly un-Clintonian character.

...(the) explanation lies in the evolution of American Protestantism... Protestantism... has gone through stages of declension in which personal relationship with God has been replaced by a nonjudgmental commitment to other humans. Mr. Carter may be the most perfect living specimen of Norman Vincent Peale Protestantism: rigorous about himself, value-free about others. We may note that in the next stage of declension, perhaps represented by Bill Clinton, Protestants also become value-free about themselves.

And yet Jimmy Carter's naivete contains a dimension of power that American voters sensed in 1976 but that Mr. Brinkley does not seem to grasp. Americans of the Norman Vincent Peale variety may not be quick in concluding that an enemy is beyond the reach of gentle persuasion. But when they do, they are almost as capable of moral indignation as their forbears were.

The combination of moral indignation and integrity has made America a fearsome enemy: We should not forget that it was Mr. Carter who began the great anti-Soviet military buildup generally attributed to his successor. Mr. Carter would have built 200 MX missiles; Ronald Reagan meekly accepted 50. Mr. Carter imposed the grain embargo on the Soviet Union; Mr. Reagan lifted it. Mr. Carter kept Americans out of the 1980 Summer Olympics. Mr. Carter sent weapons to the Afghanis. Mr. Carter's National Security Council, not Mr. Reagan's, stated the goal of forcefully changing the character of Nicaragua's Sandinista regime.

May 24, 2007


Is there anything better than sticking your nose into a lilac blossom and taking a deep breath?

The Rhododendrons aren't quite blossoming. On the right is a fig tree. I cut a stick from a tree in Nice France a few years ago, took it home in my luggage and planted it. It made its first fig last year.

On the right is a hybrid blueberry. They are as tall as a person and blooming like mad.

The buds on the spruce are so green I almost want to take a bite.


Jimmy Carter has dotted the 'i's and crossed the 't's in his criticism of W:

I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history, Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.

We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered. But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies.

The policy from the White House has been to allocate funds to religious institutions, even those that channel those funds exclusively to their own particular group of believers in a particular religion. As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one.

Carter was the right man at the right time in 1976, after the Watergate debacle. An outsider, a man of conscience. When Carter told his family that he was going to run for President his mother asked, President of what?

The wags at the Lincoln Elementary School playground used to sing a little tune about Carter to the melody of the Oscar Meyer jingle:

My baloney has a first name, its J I M M Y
my baloney has a second name its C A R T E R
Oh I like to eat it every day
and if you ask me why I'll say,
Cuz Jimmy Carter has a way of messing up the USA.

Looking at the record I can understand why farmer's kids didn't like Carter-- in response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan Carter ended the Russian Wheat Deal which caused a drop in prices that persisted for many years. If Reagan was the teflon president, Carter was the velcro president who caught the blame for rising oil prices. Oil went from less than $20 a barrel in 1973, to around $50 a barrel in the mid 70s before surging to more than $80 a barrel in time for the 1980 election. Carter caught the blame for rising interest rates. The Iran hostage crisis came to exemplify the national malaise.

As Commander in Chief he announced the Carter Doctrine: The US would not allow any other foreign force to gain control of the Persian Gulf. Carter created two cabinet-level departments, Energy and Education, giving these key strategic areas increased influence. He removed price controls from domestic petroleum production, established a national energy policy and moved the nation away from dependence on foreign oil. Carter was firm in his support of basic human rights as a cornerstone of foreign policy. Results include the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

May 21, 2007

Bike book?

I spent some time Sunday working on the commuting bike I keep at the train station in Copenhagen. Three new spokes, new chain, new seat, new bell. I was thinking that I am getting better at being a bike mechanic but that I still have a lot to learn.

Can anyone recommend a good book, something like the Reader's Digest Home Improvement Guide for Bikes??

May 18, 2007

Tropical Storm Andrea

On Wednesday this week leading experts met to give their prognoses for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, and the message was clear: It will be an active one.

Philip Klotzback of Colorado State University predicts that the Atlantic will experience 17 tropical storms, of which 9 will develop into hurricanes, and 5 into intense hurricanes.

Storms in 2007 will be named using the following list: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto, Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Noel, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van og Wendy.

Tropical storm Andrea has already arrived, three weeks early of the usual start of the hurricane season, June 1.

Andrea does not look like she will be a threat to anyone or anything because she completely lacks the warm core and organized activity that are characteristic of tropical cyclones. Nonetheless Andrea caused storm warnings for parts of Georgia and Florida.

Typed with a wink to my sister who recently made fun of my receding hairline. Source material from the Danish Meteorological Institute website.

May 16, 2007

You can't take the American out of the boy

Certainly, one of the best things you can do to test your patriotism is live outside your country-- I've heard it all during my time as an expatriate. I regularly meet people who think that individuals (me!) can or should stand responsible for the collective actions of hundreds of millions of people. But regardless, I try to hold up my end of the plank.

What I don't miss:
Billboards, commercials, newspaper inserts, junk mail, radio ads, hog futures and sportscasters
Thin coffee and junk food
Rips in the fabric of society
Strip malls, gas stations, cars cars cars, car exhaust
50 kinds of cold medicine

What I miss:
Good bookstores (with books in English!)
Open-mindedness to change
Shopping at Target and REI
Live bait
My language, quips & asides, nuances.
Friends and Family

May 13, 2007

Don Anderson

Don leased an island on Rainy Lake for a hundred years from the Province of Ontario. Took down a barn put the boards on a barge and built himself a cabin.

Son of a lumberjack, piano teacher and tuner, twinkle in his eye. Never a day without a song in his heart.

Don's Breakfast Oats:
1. Fire up the cast iron stove.
2. Put a handfull of rolled oats in a frying pan on the stove, dry.
3. Brown until the oats smell toasty.
4. Add water, salt, butter, boil, remove from heat. Add milk and brown sugar to taste.

They had their own names for things up on Anderson's Island. The outhouse was called the Yoo Hoo. It sat at the end of a path that cut through moss and blueberries and wintergreen, under the jack pine trees.

He was the first man I've met who had built his own canoe, of varnished canvas on a frame. He didn't have a lot of money but he was the richest man I've known.

Don knew which side of the border to buy gas on. One time he poured paint from the U.S. into cans and bottles and hid them in the cabinets and under the benches in their microbus. The border guard in Fort Frances took him aside, inspected the van and started finding jars of paint. He raised an eyebrow. What's this? He let Don pass.

Over the course of a winter Don collected broken hockey sticks from the rinks in Crookston. He sawed off the blades and took the shafts up to the island. He built a fence around his little garden plot, 8" high, to keep the turtles out of his carrots.

When I go to heaven I'm gonna look him up, shake his hand, clap his back. God bless you Don Anderson.

May 07, 2007


I couldn't finish the patio until I had fixed my shoes. I cleaned 'em up, slathered on rubber cement, clamped them and left them to dry overnight.

The final step was a thick layer of Viking brand Fisher's Grease.


Finished the patio over the weekend. After digging the hole, framing it and putting in a groundcloth, I filled in a few inches of gravel, and then sand. I marked the levels of the different layers with sticks. It was fun to level the sand using a long board but when I found myself making zen patterns with the rake I knew it was time to go in.

Some people rent a vibrator to pack the gravel and sand. I wanted to do the whole project myself (and save the bother of renting heavy equipment), and so I made some stompers by screwing some old shoes onto some boards. Our three-year-old was inspired by this and had a great time stomping around the yard. I gave the gravel and sand a few good rounds of stomping and also sprayed it with a hose to help it settle. Here are my stompers sitting on a pile of winter tires in the garage:

A second ground cloth went on top of the sand, and then I put on the bricks. I cut a brick in half using a hammer and chisel to fit in by the downspout. My wife read in the paper about a stoneworker with the city who would lay 20 square meters of cobblestones a day-- in comparison this layman laid 18 square meters on Friday last week.

The last step is to sweep fine sand into the spaces between the bricks, locking them in place. The sand works its way into the gaps over time, so you have to keep at it for a couple of weeks.

This picture was taken after a rain shower. There's some extra sand on top that needs to be swept down.

May 02, 2007

What is the solution?

FdP asks, if biofuels are not the best solution, what is?

Live well and conserve energy. Invest in wind and solar. Ride your bike. If you must fly or drive buy offsets, and never forget that coal belongs underground.

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