Archive for the ‘nuclear power; fossil fuels; solar energy’ Category

2014: the Year of Ebola

October 17, 2014
a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

Right off, I am posting a link to Richard Preston’s online conversation:

He wrote his book, The Hot Zone, in 1992.    Just coincidentally, I recently came across a New Yorker (Dec.20 & 27, 2010) with Michael Spector’s article, “Letter From Cameroon:  The Doomsday Strain, viral hunting in Central Africa”—about the work of virologist Nathan Wolfe.  He attributes diseases jumping from  other species to humans due to  humans living too close to animals, and the prevalence of bushmeat (wild game) eating.

It’s not that simple, but yet it is. Ebola is a hemorrhagic  disease.  It’s ‘titre’ is very high and can penetrate membranes and wounds easily.  It then makes blood cell walls ‘pop’.  It is believed that the current  epidemic in West Africa  can be attributed to  fruit bats.  They are carriers of Ebola.
We need bats to pollinate fruit and sugar cane. They are not sickened by Ebola, but humans are.  Partly due to population density, partly due to poverty and the desire for protein, and  the complications of  lack of education, modern sanitation, and  way too few health car workers…we are now in a global crisis. It’s not just there.  It’s all over. The earth is one big place.
As Preston pointed out in his book, when something this devastating occurred  in Africa, traditionally, the disease victims would be abandoned and their housing burned after they died.  We are too  modern and enlightened to do that, and it might be the end of life as we know it.

“Entertainer” (notice the quotes) Chris Brown  bluntly put it as a form of birth control. Well, although his terminology is crude, it is definitely population crash.  The  environment can only hold so many  sentient beings.  But now  we’re in trouble.  The intelligent thing to do would be to  stop  transport—including human travel, not just from West Africa to anywhere (except for those  actively addressing the crisis), but ALL TRAVEL.  That would be the fair thing.  That won’t happen, as there are too many vested interests:  follow the money.  Look at what is happening:  although the  decision makers tell us it is a difficult disease to get, in the USA, 2 nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who ultimately died,  who were following a protocol—got the disease.  We learned that in Spain, a health care worker’s dog was ‘euthanized’. We don’t know if the dog was tested…but it is very possible  pets can  be carriers of the disease. We don’t have enough information  as of October 2014.

This is worse than sad.  It’s devastating for so many reasons.  I know I am not the only Returned Peace Corps Volunteer  who is hearing about what a lost cause Africa is.  I asked a friend who had been teaching in Liberia over the summer what his take was on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel Prize winner and president of Liberia.  He told me there is no electricity and no  plumbing in Monrovia, the capital. If you don’t have a generator, you don’t have electricity.  As for plumbing—can you imagine a city with no  running water or toilets?  You have to wonder, after all this time, how can this be?  How is it the UN, or the European community  hasn’t jumped right in?    How can a Nobel prize winner have no ‘pull’ to fix this? Liberia is clearly a failed state for the second time, and the result is an epidemic of Ebola, which could easily become global.

It does us no good to stop  travelers from West Africa, because Africans have always traveled overland.  In fact,  travel WAS  blocked from West Africa  to East and Southern Africa, by airlines in August…but Africans get around, and they can  get to  North Africa and take a ferry from Morocco to  Spain, or fly to South Africa and then fly on where ever…& this is why we have to bring travel to a halt for about a month or so.

We Americans will not be fooled by science.  We didn’t like the term ‘global warming’, so we changed it to ‘climate change’ and we still yawn. We are losing species every minute, but  we are jumping on the ‘single serving’ packaging revolution.   Let’s waste  in the name of convenience.

Because we  won’t do what needs to be done, it will be a matter of luck  who will die, or where the disease will spread next.  & this will give more fodder to those who  don’t think we should  do anything to limit population growth.  Mo information for women—no access to  contraception.  We have to ‘replace’ the ones who have died…when the  problem became a problem because too many are living too close together, and have such a desperate time getting protein.  Will we, who have access to information and technology, ever learn?

Turkish Delight

February 27, 2013
Me!  In the balloon basket at Cappadocia!

Me! In the balloon basket at Cappadocia!

I recently returned  (Feb.2013) from a tour of Turkey. Why did I choose to go to Turkey?  It  seemed to be an exotic place to go.   I have kept a  file of travel stories for a long time.  In 2002, travel writer Alan Solomon wrote an article on  his trip to Cappadocia, and I had kept it all this time. I had been reading about World War I and the Ottoman Empire, and everyone knows that Turkey is where Europe meets Asia (& Istanbul is in 2 continents).  The price for the tour was excellent. I could not pass it up.

Gate One Travel is the company I chose. They offer many tours  to many places, their fees are  incredibly low.  Their guides are generally excellent, as was Metin. The hotels are also   3 star or better.  My first Gate One Tour was to Thailand, and I learned so much and had a fantastic time.  Indeed, I ask many of the people (there were 40 of us)on our tour how they had decided on this particular tour, and the response I got was: “It was too cheap to pass up!”  I paid slightly under $1500, which included airfares, for this “13” day trip  (your travel days are included in the number of days). The catch is that every day there might be a special excursion, and you usually have to pay extra for those.  Thus, the trip cost in the neighborhood of about $2500.

I am not the ‘beach vacation’ type, I want to see historical places, and a different landscape.  The trip exceeded my expectations.  Not only is there a lot to see in Turkey, the  economy (at least in the Western portion of the country) is vibrant, and the infrastructure good.

Photo taken from the bus, of izmir. you can see how dense the housing is (background)

Photo taken from the bus, of Izmir. you can see how dense the housing is (background)

I think that’s what struck me the most;  that  the economy seemed so robust, and all the cities we  traveled through had nice street scaping and very few vacant storefronts.  Virtually every building had passive solar hot water   processors on their roofs.  Another very interesting thing:  all the  housing in urban areas is multi-unit.  We didn’t see any single family homes until we were in the rural areas. Why is this?  The population in the urban areas is so dense that in order to provide  water delivery and sanitation services, they need the  water catchment  land and space for  treatment. Very impressive, especially if you go into most neighborhoods in Chicago!



The ‘peak experiences?   Coming into Ephasus was definitely  awe-inspiring.  I mean, you read about the Romans, and the great  empire, and  then you come across an ancient city, and you really get a feel for the place. So, what happened?  Wars, disease, over exploitation of the  environment. The usual.  But to be around the marble, and see the workmanship, and see all the  tourists  walking around, it gives you an idea  of how rich the  community was!

Balloons over Cappadocia

Balloons over Cappadocia

Then, Cappadocia.  The whole area is mind blowing.  Due to erosion, there  are all these odd rock formations. And the caves….
the cave ‘churches’ and  the cave city.    We got to see the Sufi ‘Whirling Dervishes’, and learned a bit about them.

Ceramics are a big industry in this area, and we got to visit a pottery studio.
We also  visited a rug cooperative and got to see weaving.   A few people bought rugs, but we have a very large Middle Eastern  and Persian communities here in Chicago.  As I have more  Oriental rugs than floor space, I did not buy any.

One thing you see all over is the ‘evil eye’ motif, and this is something that stretches from Morocco to India.    If you possess the ‘eye’, you can ward off the evil eye.  So every tourist vendor has  tchotchkes with evil eyes:  key chains, bracelets, glass pendants.  They are in plastic and glass.  Also, anywhere food is sold, there is ‘Turkish Delight’. This is a gelatin textured candy (when I was growing up, these were ‘jellies’ or ‘marmalade’ coated in sugar), sometimes with nuts, in various  fruit flavors—-citrus, pomegranate,, even rose being favorites, sometimes covered with chocolate.  Not a favorite of mine…and  a small grocer a block from my home always has it.

Turkey is also known for spices, and there is a very good spice market in Istanbul. It should be every tourist’s first stop—even before the Grand Bazaar, because  the prices are so low.  I’d be cautious of buying  Saffron, most of it is actually turmeric, but I bought some whole vanilla beans.  I  also bought some  herbal tea & a grinder.  I didn’t buy and other spices because there is a large Indian community shopping district a mile away from me, which also has outstanding prices  for bulk spices.

We also got to Ankara, and  a Turkish woman I met asked why we were going there.  I am glad we  did. We got to see  the Ataturk Museum, as well as a museum of Hittite Art recently returned from the University of Pennsylvania.  The Hittite civilization was as old  as  the Egyptian cultures, but  I do want to address Ataturk. He was the ‘father’ of modern Turkey. He also fought the Ottoman empire  during World War I (he was Mustafa Kemal at the time, and had offered the Arabs self-rule after the war), and the man really had a vision for his country. He instituted universal education, and changed the alphabet from Arabic to Latinic.  He had an economic development plan. He is probably the reason Turkey is  as it is.

I also got to visit  a forest sanctuary for  street dogs in Istanbul, and will blog about them next week.


They Fell for the Hype and are now Disappointed

October 25, 2012

Earlier in the month  the Chicago Tribune ran a feature story on the Caterpillar workers. Caterpiller is an old Illinois manufacturing company.  They  used to manufacture farm implements and now it’s mostly road building equipment.

The thing about manufacturing—traditionally—is that you were  creating value added products.  Durable goods. Tangibles.  Those used to be good, middle class jobs for  men who had high school diplomas. The jobs currently pay between $11 and $25 per hour.  Sounds good, right? These  workers live in a rural area.  How can you NOT afford to live on $440—$1000 per week?

This is how: those jobs no longer  come with health insurance. So, that will bankrupt you right there.  Car payments.  Kids….but the  worst part of the problem is….these workers really  believed the  American Dream—that if you graduated from high school, got a job with a good company, and worked hard, you’d be able to retire at age 65 and travel.  They also never wanted to say to their kids, “we can’t afford it!”

My parents were not wealthy by any means, but they   thought saving and planning for the future was very important. I can’t tell you how many times I heard my mother  reply to a request, “We can’t afford it.”  & these were the days before  computers, everyone having a cell phone, or, dare I say it—-were living on credit.  The only monthly payments my folks had (1950s—1970s) were car  and mortgage.  Yet, I knew they were saving.  My father wanted to open his own company, and they borrowed from relatives and leveraged that against a bank loan. But it wasn’t for luxury goods.

One of the workers, the article reported, said he pays $95 a month for cable TV so his kids can watch a 24 hour cartoon channel.  I wanted to tell him, “Honey:  by a computer, pay for a DSL line. Get rid of your landline, and the kids can find anything on the computer they can find on TV. You Tube .  As for all your cell phones:  get a pay-as-you-go plan.”  But hey, wait a minute!  Did this guy ever think to say to his kids, “Nothing on TV? READ A BOOK!”

Clothing?  Try The Salvation Army, Good Will,  AmVets/Value Village, etc. & make a couple of trips into Chicago & try Plato’s Closet or any of the other resale stores if you absolutely have to pay more than $10 for a pair of pants.  You can get  discount underwear at Marshall’s.  They are cheaper than Target or Wallmart.

You must have land behind your home, Plant a vegetable garden.  Shop at Aldi’s, Their dairy products are 30% cheaper than just about everyone else, even Walmart.

I could go on and on.  It affects me:  I groom dogs for a living. Believe me:  that is the first to go!    many of the beauty schools give free haircuts in Chicago. my tenants furnished their entire house off of Craigslist & what they found in the alleys.    Their taste is incredible.  You can find a lot of nice stuff in the cast-offs.
However, if you have more than 2 kids, and  the surplus are not foster kids (the state gives foster families money and resources), you are right. You have beyond ‘replacement’ for you and your spouse.  Too bad you made a poorly informed choice.  You will not be able to game the system for these  three reasons:

1.  land rents 2. energy costs 3. health care

Land rents are  generally property taxes, and  because  our  legislators have been generous with pensions, we will never get out of this particular hole—having to pay way more than  it its worth.  This is not going to change in our lifetime, or our childrens’ lifetime, so  were I YOU, I’d look for a  state—or even a country—-where  the politicians haven’t been so  greedy;

Energy costs?  In a way, energy costs are tied to land rents and pension funds, as we are still seriously tied to  fossil fuels.  You either buy a Prius, build 18 inch thick walls around your house & triple pane your windows (&  don’t forget the roof), or you are  S O L;

Health Care? Same deal.  It’s not just physicians  & nurses that  deserve a living wage—its’ the health care administrators, and the many insurance companies—& they have a monopoly.  I have friends who’ve moved to France,  Panama, and Thailand—all countries that have superb health care systems.  They couldn’t afford to stay in the US.  I also know of people who’ve moved to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and a few other countries.

Face it, this country was not made for regular folks.  The mortgage interest tax deduction was really the  growth spurt that created the middle class in the USA, and  while the politicians were all patting themselves on the back & reminding us how great a country this is, and that the Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars preserved our freedoms, they robbed us blind.

Notice that nobody asked any of the presidential candidates about cutting or reigning in government pensions.

Now, we can all whine about how unfair this is, or we can determine to develop strategies to remove ourselves from the system.

The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs (book review)Now all we Need is the Money!

September 13, 2012

We all want to end poverty and injustice.  It’s why I joined Peace Corps:  t do my part.  There are some small things  people can do that make a big difference.    The Grameen Bank was revolutionary.  However, where there is no local political will things get complicated, and unjust.  You can not give people power, They must take it.  Also,  you can’t do just 1 thing.

Worth  reading is Jeffrey Sachs book, The End of Poverty.  It’s much longer than it needs to be, but  he spends about half the book  justifying his credentials.  I have no problem with that.  He’s obviously an extremely talented economist.  He also managed to be in the right place at the right time to be able to earn his street cred.

When I originally hears about his Millenium Developement Goals, I thought he was very arrogant. This guy is, essentially, a jet setting  policy wonk, flitting all over the world and hob-nobbing with elites.  What could he possibly know about  poverty?  Well, he made a point to educate himself.  He understood, that for every  economic crisis he  helped fix, he caused other problems.    That was before he started addressing acute poverty.

What I particularly like about the book, and what absolutely everyone in the developed (that is, North America, Europe, much of Southeast Asia, and a few very wealthy islands) world should understand,is,  what he addresses on pages 252—255 in his Chapter 13:  Making the Investment Needed to End Poverty.  He justifies why governments need to make infrastructure and social investments that ultimately benefit us all.  That  create economic vitality.  That’s it. Bottom line.

The trouble is….the IMF and World Bank are still their own fiefdoms and supported,  for no logical reason, by donor countries, including the USA…And they still allow—heck—they FUND  corruption and mismanagement.

Sachs discounts the impact of corruption (it probably is only 20% of why there is poverty in Africa), and spends a decent part of this book explaining to  World Bank and IMF funders that if they  funded what is proven to work, instead of their cronies’ schemes,  all humans could have a decent standard of living—but they don’t give a shit.  Full stop.  However,  while he is excellent with the numbers, as an economist, he  believes the  amount of aid should be based on a country’s GNP.  In theory, that’s a great idea.  Unfortunately, for the developed world,  were there surplus GNP,  we’d be paying the debt for the  stupid wars we’ve engaged in, as well as the politicians/government workers unfunded pension plans.

Sachs then  expresses astonishment at the Bush era tax cuts to the wealthy, making the rich richer.   While he got the Gates Foundation, and a few other  compassionate uber-wealthy  donors on board—well, he didn’t get Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and a bunch of people who believe that capitalism is really about who dies with the most money. Otherwise, their greed & selfishness makes no sense.  I think that Sachs  realized he’s been working for the wrong team for too many years.

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, working in Malawi, where hunger, chronic disease, and lack of political will destroyed a society, I agree with Sachs’ approach, and in fact, there are many small groups trying to help distinct communities. I  support several.  However, Sachs is right:  the capital is there.  Just not the political will.  & face it: our  ‘development’ policy, whether put forth by Republicans or Democrats, is to make the rich richer.

The late Wangari Maathai really did so much in Kenya, and her work was often sabotaged by the Kenyan government.  I  believe  Sachs gives too big a pass to the many  sub-Saharan governments he claims are well-managed, without addressing their political will.

If you don’t know anything about why so much of Africa is impoverished, this is a good read  to supplement much of what else is written about development economics. As Americans, we have to understand that  we have allowed our government to support war to benefit elites over  poverty  eradication which, ironically, would have gotten rid out our enemies for good more quickly.

The sad state of science education in America….

August 9, 2012

The greatest country in the world? Really? Where the average citizen doesn’t know that hot air rises?  Really?

I got an exemplary primary school eduction.  Yet, I can only remember 3 sciences lessons.

I had a year of biology in high school.  I had a semester of lab biology on college.  I was able to get a minor in environmental science, because I understood the concepts…but I made a point to learn the concepts.  The concepts are logical.  But we have a culture that thinks of science as magic.  We also have a culture that teaches teachers to  teach, but doesn’t encourage people with  an interest in a particular subject  to become primary school teachers…and this is the problem.

It’s shocking the per centage of primary school teachers who become teachers because they don’t have to work weekends and have summers off.  People who say they love kids, but are unsure of their own math skills and knowledge of science concepts, so they major in literature, or teaching English.

I think most  people who are not  Americans would be shocked at the  per centage of our teachers who are foreign nationals—teaching mathematics & science.

Our late president, Ronald Reagan, thought he could pay a bunch of scientists to build a heavenly shield over the USA,  to deflect missiles.  he called it ‘star wars’.  Really.

What we have is a great propaganda machine, &  politicians—but we don’t have science education.  We will not have science education until parents start demanding science education.

This is what the late comedian George Carlin had to say about education (in America) & it is soooooo true!!!!

To my Friends in the Southern Hemisphere….

March 25, 2012

Life had gotten so unusual here in Chicago (in the Northern Hemisphere).

Part of what  motivates me to  address this is that I have been reading a lot of history lately.  I read an autobiography of William O. Douglass, the Supreme Court Justice, who was a hero of mine when I was a teenager in the late 1960’s…. & Sarah Vowell’s  Assassination Vacation, about the assassinations or our presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley—and the dynamics surrounding those killings.

We have (sort of) an odd dynamics going on now:  extremely, unseasonably warm weather, and a primary election which decides our canditates for the Fall elections.

1st, let me address the weather.  We didn’t have much of a winter.  We will usually have at least a week of below freezing temperatures—our cold weather usually lasts from November through March—in Winter.  Usually it’s several weeks at a time, or at least only a few days of above freezing, and then back to freezing (so the ground stays frozen) but this didn’t happen last Winter season. We had very few freezing days.  Almost no snow, so no Spring floods.  Lots of tornado activity (very sudden, dangerous storms)  We would be overjoyed (many people are), except—this is not right.  We didn’t have a proper dormant period for  perennial plants;   no ‘hibernation’ for those animals that generally do.  We have—essentially—a drought. Then BOOM!!! Summer weather…for the past 2 weeks. No gradual warming—& this has affected all the plants, & I am sure  bird migration patterns as well.

Several years ago, we lost a lot of wild birds to West Nile Virus. You’d find dead birds all over.  This might do them all in. No birds means a lot of flying bugs, & bugs on food crops.

Usually, the weather temperature is in the 50s—60s (Farenheit). We went immediately to 70—80s.  No rain for 3 weeks. Is there any doubt there is GLOBAL WARMING?  Yet, we call it Climate Change’ now.  & we still have a huge  segment of adults who believe God causes weather —it has nothing to do with science (& they are voting for Rick Santorum to be the Republican presidentail candidate).

We do a terrible  job making science education important in the USA. Just goes to  show you you can be rich & mighty without being smart. We are the new Russians—-without science literacy.

I wrote my master’s thesis on this in 1992—-& at that time, we had known since the 1950s that  due to political dynamics (politicians claimed the teachers unions prevented  science teachers from being paid more than  liberal arts teachers) we  import our scientists from other countries.  No joke!

So nobody believes that the inefficient use of fossil fuels, which we still depend on—-is causing CLIMATE CHANGE

The general  consensus is that if the Chinese can waste fossil fuel, why should we be more conservative or look for alternatives?  About 15 years ago, we had a horribly hot (90s—100s) summer with a drought, and many old and infirm people died. Thinning the herd.

So, what does this have to do with our election?

Fact of the matter is…some things have changed for the better under Obama’s leadership, but, due to a Republican legislature, so subtly you would not notice unless you were hoping.

The extremely rich have gotten richer, and have not been regulated or prevented from gaming the system or using their influence—& were, in fact, bailed out as  too important to lose.  Didn’t matter whether you were a Republican or Democrat. Rich is Rich–& that is why  nothing changed.  Obamacare (health care reform) changed NOTHING. ZIP—ZERO. Yet the Republicans running for president vow to get rid of it. Go right ahead.  My health insurance premium went up over 10% ( with no inflation otherwise). That should not have happened.

Meanwhile—& I have blogged about this before—so much of our economy was invested in real estate, where the vast middle class had our wealth—and the decline in value is up to 60% in many areas, with foreclosures  25—40% of all  residential homes….property tax revenues are down.  Big time. Foreclosures are no longer on the tax rolls. But the politicians still pay themselves as though the revenue is still coming in—& have funded the pensions of government workers  as though this money is still rolling in.

Michael Lewis, the writer who wrote The Big Short, and Moneyball, wrote about this several months ago in Vanity Fair magazine–how communities are laying off service workers—police, firemen, other maintenance—but the politicians are still on the tax rolls.  Now, they get their income from property taxes…but the Feds—they get  $$$ from income taxes (& fines, or permits…but taxes)—& they  don’t remember the Reagan years, where Trickle down did not work. The rich who did not pay taxes did not employ more people or make more investments in the USA—they expatriated their $$$ & bought baubles & art.

There are many frustrated people who don’t understand why  the economy remains messed up. Bush  put our whole surplus into the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, we are still  in Afghanistan—which never made any sense & still doesn’t.  You have the asshole Taliban—who seem to have a lot of integrity, & the corrupt Karzai people with none, & none of them are going to treat woman any better, so there are no good guys and we are not protecting ourselves from anything expect economic vitality.  How else can you understand that we burned Korans when it was socilly unacceptable, or that our soldiers go berserk & kill civilians—after over 10 years of this?  You can’t…& it doesn’t matter whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power.  Who benefits? Those  who make weapons.

So, we had a primary election.  We know who the Democratic nominee is:  Obama. Let me tell you about the  Republicans running for president:

All claim to be socially conservative…& are to varying degrees.

1. They wall want to ban abortion & are not opposed to making birth control impossible to get—even for married people…at the same time talking about getting government out of our lives…no joke;

2. They all want all environmental laws scrapped.

3. Businesses should not have to pay taxes at all.

4. Neither should citizens…but where the  money to run the government & pay their own salaries will come from—they seem to have no clue….or think their will be enough if there is no social  security (old age pension—which working people pay into).

5. They haven’t mentioned drugs, but all think that everyone should be jailed for using—except alcohol (& except Ron Paul—who leaves all decisions up to the states…he also believes in a smaller military, as a Libertarian…& doesn’t stand a chance;

6. Homosexuals should have no rights at all.

Foreign policy?  Believe me , they could not find your countries on a map even if they were pointed out.  Romney was a missionary in France, so he knows where that is, but Santorum was shocked to learn that Puerto Ricans (our territory) speak  Spanish.  He thinks they want to be a state, & he would make them all speak English. Fact is, they don’t want to be a state—they want to be their own country.

Climate change? They believe it is God punishing us for our godless ways…and has nothing to do with science.

Many of us know we will have to expatriate ourselves…why?

Property taxes to support local government functions are down because so many  properties are foreclosed & off the tax roles.    That means the banks took them back—& they don’t have to pay taxes on them. What a system .No money to even support the pensions of government workers, let alone ourselves, but the politicians haven’t voted themselves a pay cut.

We are beginning to look like  both Egypt and Greece, but won’t admit it.

Had I not been so overly optimistic about the economy 12 years ago—during the Clinton era—my mortgage would have been paid off, but I was encouraged to take a calculated risk.  Whatever. That was then, this is now. There is no longer a middle class in America. It is an illusion you see in the movies or on TV.

The future is here now…and purebred dogs…

August 6, 2011

Global Warming? Are there any doubts?  If you live in Chicago now, you know it is for real.  At least we have the lake…but I am wondering….if sea levels rise  three feet, am I too close to the lake, & will I have lakefront property in my lifetime?  Due to us running air-con & fans, my electric bill has more than tripled  what it usually is.

Since I know my elected officials are not scientists, and that politics is the art of compromise, and mine have compromised us into  pandering to the very selfish, short sighted Republicans & Tea -Partiers, the climate is of low priority interest.

They are also all counting on our educational system not improving any time in the future. They all seem to think that teachers are over paid and under worked, have yet to come up with a system that can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher (I believe test scores are a convoluted way), and  still, 50 years after Sputnik &  ‘we Americans’ realizing the Soviets were way ahead of us in  studying physics & making the knowledge of physics a priority, we still have   many high school students who can’t make change for a dollar.  No joke.

What does this have to do with purebred dogs?  Someone called me a few weeks back, sort of as a last resort, because he was looking for a ‘red factor’ (actually a Sable with no merling)…Shetland Sheepdog.

This is not a rare breed by any means, but he claimed that most of the  hobby breeders he  encountered were breeding merles…because that’s what people wanted.

I understood his concern.  I know there is a desire for merles in  all breeds by an uneducated public that thinks it’s a rumor that merling is linked to congenital blindness & deafness.  It is not a rumor. it is a fact…& it is the reason that the Great Dane Club of America has a breeders’ code of ethics prohibiting merling.  We’d like to believe dappled Dachshunds, & the blue belton English Cockers are NOT merles…but they are…& many are deaf.  Do a BAER test if you doubt it.

Yes, I know  the  black & tan patten (with the kiss marks over the eyes, diamonds on the chest, & tan stockings & tail vents) are linked to deafness, but let’s get back to this guy  not being able to find a Sheltie from a hobby breeder.

I told him that the irony was that …DUE TO THE ECONOMY…very few hobby breeders are breeding without deposits, or  if they don’t think they can keep a litter of 8 or so indefinitely.

The guy complained that the puppy mills & backyard breeders  were filling the void. Ah, yes—thank you AKC.

I told him I was worried about the gene pools in  many of the breeds.  They will be compromised if they are not already, as people who love dogs can’t afford to breed them & keep them.  I also told him to—again—look at Craigslist…& notice all the pit bulls.  The Pit breeders are not concerned about the adult pits that are being euthanized as long as they can sell their puppies.  I told the guy that the problem is that people want to ‘rescue’ a dog, & will take any dog needing rescue. Theres nothing wrong with that—but that doesn’t mean people want Pit Bulls, and I will  not have thugs and uneducated macho hillbillies deciding what kind of dog I should have.

So, using a form of logic, he asked me why didn’t I breed dogs if I was worried about the gene pools.  Seems that breeders of Otterhounds and many other truly rare breeds are worried about this now.

I told him it was because I love dogs, & if there are no homes for the dogs, what does it matter if I  protect a gene pool?

Years ago, I went out with an anthropologist who was trying to  create stress free housing for  laboratory chimpanzees.  He told me the irony was that they are very expensive, but nobody wants them….so what s the point?  & what is the point of saving them if nobody wants them?  Same with Rhinocerus.

What does global warming have to do with this? Energy costs–unless we insist that the GOVERNMENT fund development of  renewable resources such as solar , wind, & batteries, will continue to take a big chunk of our budgets and make our  environment  unlivable.  Thinning the herd?  Maybe.  But the fact is that  in a few years, especially if the  short sighted dimwits who don’t want the rich taxed at the rate they were taxed from the end of World War II right on through the Reagan era continue to have their way, the dogs we will be left with will be all Pit Bulls &  no other breed.

Do the research.  There are is a lot of infrastructure that we need  for economic viability, and it doesn’t make money. It costs money.  It seems that most of the Tea Party is in denial about this, or just plain ignorant.

Making the world a better place, part 2

April 27, 2011

I can’t believe how many hits  my first blog on this subject got!  I guess it is an actively searched subject. So…. let’s explore this further….

It’s important to read about how the rest of the world view us, the ‘do-gooders’— to know what they think makes their communities strong and livable. Too bad they don’t teach this stuff in elementary school social studies. Maybe the facts are too scary.

What follows, in no particular order, are some aspects of  life to consider:

Restorative Justice.  I recently  became interested in this subject after reading an article in a magazine.  Most of us in America—probably due to the media, have a sort of melodramatic view of prisons, prisoners, and the  criminal justice system.  Lock ’em away, make them rot. They are all psychopaths.  Well, ah, no.  Not true. That is naive. I worked with  ex-offenders  at a non-profit.  Most are  just regular guys who  got involved with the wrong people. Truly.  I hate to put it this way—but the  people in your church:  the flock—going with the crowd, not taking individual initiative, respecting  and following the wrong guy.  Many did not mean to harm anyone, but they did.  Now, they want to turn their lives around.  It takes more than forgiveness.  Heck, I am not the most forgiving person.  But most of these guys will get out of jail, and they do not  want to reoffend.  If we don’t create a space in our communities to mentor these guys, they will re-offend, because they know that way of life more than they know how to  fit into a community.

Yet,  in very few  jails or prisons do  they  get any  services analyzing whether they have learning disabilities, psychological issues  that they can over come, or learn any viable skills. They don’t even grow their own food!   This is not the 1960s!  We’ve learned what best practice is, but we allow our  politicians to  maintain a medieval system!  The only people who care at all are families of offenders or victims…and the emotions involved cloud how to redevelop the system.

The United States has more people in prison than any other country.  We pay more  to keep people incarcerated than we do to get people college educations or vocational skills. Why? We  interpret the ‘Bible’ to mean that vengeance is more important than any other value.  I am not sure the opposite is understanding or tolerance.  But—with jails so over crowded, who  do we want separated from the rest of us?  Drug dealers or psychopaths?  People who drove the getaway car where  someone was murdered in a crime, or actual rapists? Think!  We can’t lock them all up. We can’t afford to anymore. How about making sure those who will get out of jail learn skills they can use to support themselves.

Hey—I  know it’s tough.  I can barely support myself with the skills I have…but the reason is….I can’t afford to get my car fixed, or other work around my home.  However, if there was a co-op I could join to get my car fixed more  cheaply, or get  my house repairs done more cheaply, we’d all benefit.  Also, I have been told that the average service dog costs $40,000 to train.  Some prisons have programs where inmates train dogs. There is no logical reason why all prisons should not be partnered with their local  pounds and humane societies to make  dogs more adoptable by having them obedience trained, and identifying possible service dogs.  Yet, the politicians make this almost impossible.  We can not afford to have so many  people —particularly physically strong men—in prison who don’t  know how to function in the greater community.

Recycling.  It’s the easiest thing to do that  makes an impact quickly.  It’s no secret that the throw away concept was marketed to Americans after World War 2.  Disposable everything. Well, there is no  away.  Don’t believe what you hear about stuff not really being recycled & ending up in landfills.Yes, loads do get contaminated… but most does go for remanufacturing—especially  paper & metals.  So, quit using paper plates & cups, plastic dinner ware, & start bringing your own bag for when you go shopping.

Advocating for or mentoring kids in the foster care system.  This is a huge issue to me.  Most of us don’t think about kids in foster care.  Well, start thinking. They don’t get mentored, & they don’t have  advocates.  Most of them end up being homeless or in jail, because they don’t feel part of a community.  They have no resources. Once they age out, that’s it.  I know  they make it difficult to volunteer…but you can provide the agencies with books, art supplies, clothing, tickets to  shows & events, etc.

There is a wonderful nonprofit called SOS Childrens villages and they sponsor housing and foster mothers all over the world. So, if kids luck into their housing, they have ‘families’.  Most state foster care systems pay barely enough to keep a kid going.  It’s not a profit making venture…& with so many people having kids because they just didn’t think about birth control or even tomorrow, this is a problem for all of us.

Family planning & health services  Support this. The fact of the matter is, most women  want to have large families if they can afford them. What has happened, however, is that, as the world has urbanized, and women (particularly better educated women) come to understand that you can’t rely on a man to support your kids, they are choosing to have smaller families and space their births so their kids can thrive.  Very few women in the  developing world want abortions, unless they are raped.  One of the reasons many women want more kids  is because so many kids die, and there is also no governmental pension or social security for old age:  you expect your children to look out for you.  Yet,  now, there is also the challenge of coping with diminishing resources–especially fresh water.  Zero population growth is 2 children per couple.  I have no sympathy for people having more than 2 kids & complaining about how expensive things are—especially in the USA.  It’s short sighted & disingenuous.

Fresh Water, access to real information/communications infrastructure.  We are creating  more ways to access more information more quickly  due to the  cell phone revolution, but we have all the fresh water that has eve been created. There is a net energy loss with desalinization (meaning, it takes more energy to make water fresh than it provides back to us).  This is shocking, until you remember that matter is neither created or destroyed.

Literacy (particularly  science literacy)  Literacy is still a huge issue in many remote places in the world—particularly Africa. If you can read and write, you can save information and don’t have to remember everything.  If you can read and write, you can learn about stuff you don’t  deal with every day.

Sustainability & renewable resources  We can’t worry about the Chinese taking all the resources, when we are doing nothing in the USA to curtail our own greediness.

Democracy.  Gosh, what a messy system of government…but it is the only way to get rid of corrupt politicians.

Vegetarianism.  I have to admit, I am a carnivore, but since I know how  food animals are treated, transported, & slaughtered…& how  many resources they  use…the  compassionate thing to do is eat lower on the food chain…if only for personal health reasons.  You’d be amazed at the ways you can make beans, lentils, & soy products taste like meat. Worth looking into.

Humane treatment of animals.  It’s not   can they feel, or can they think…but can they suffer.  It shouldn’t be an either/or choice.

Animals—particularly pet animals, are big business in the USA.  If you have a choice…and you do…choose ‘cruelty free’.  Stay out of pet shops that sell animals.  Don’t buy meat if you don’t know how it was slaughtered. There is no reason to test  cosmetics or  home cleaning products on animals. Don’t wear fur.  Don’t go to rodeos or circuses for entertainment…and if you see animals neglected in zoos, report this to the  General manager & local news media. Its’ important.

Do the math

March 17, 2011

I have never been a fan of nuclear power.  Why would I care?  Well, if you innocently start asking questions about  it…how it’s built, where to you get the fuel, why is it so complicated, how long does a power plant last…you start to see it is a really dangerous way to provide power.  If you know anybody who has died of cancer, you know it is unpleasant.

Funny thing (not really), we Americans are so scientifically illiterate. Our leaders have known we are  scientifically illiterate since the 1950’s.  Educators have been writing about our general rate of scientific illiterate (as compared to other countries) since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik.  Most of  the graduate students in the hard sciences (physics, engineering, mathematics) are foreign  nationals or first generation Americans.  i did my Master’s Project on this in 1992.

Clearly, the  only way—THE ONLY WAY —-to  increase our general knowledge of real science is to pay  primary school science teachers who love science and  love teaching…more than other teachers, and make their working conditions exceptional. Then we would not have to import technology and knowledge from other parts of the world.  We spend so much money  teaching  our youth about Shakespeare, and European  history, and we  spend not a tenth of that on science education.

There are reasons we don’t do this.  Teachers unions are one reason, but they are not totally to blame.  It’s really our political leadership. They really have a vested interest in keeping Americans ignorant.  When Americans don’t get their panties on a bunch over  dangerous practices (like war, or nuclear power) it’s much easier to tax us into paying for stuff that really does not benefit us—in the long run, or the short run.

We know who  are on our sports teams. We know who the Khardashian sisters are, & Charlie Sheen, and so many  celebrities…but if you were to ask the average American what the benefit war…to nuclear power (over  less expensive alternatives that would benefit more people) we are clueless.

Of course, what got me thinking about this (not that I am cynical or anything) was the earthquake in Japan, and the meltdown of   the nuclear reactors.  Not exactly melted down?  Well, according to the press, you are right.  Just not usable.  They will have to be decommissioned, covered in concrete, and be the monument to man’s stupidity.

The Japanese, as a country, are much better educated than we Americans.  Ask the ones who are left, and they never liked the idea of nuclear power for all the reasons we all know.  Dangerous, expensive, not as good an idea as renewable energy sources.

That’s why they keep developing energy efficient electrical  stuff.

I live in Illinois, and I am an electricity hog.  I know it, I admit it.  I  groom dogs and  in the general scheme of things, the dog grooming industry uses a lot of electricity and clean water.  But, that said, is there a way to  get the energy I need without befouling the earth and making it uninhabitable?

I did a google search to find out what it costs to build a nuclear power plant, and the short answer is…$6—7 billion.  According to  several sources, this  cost of buildout and delivery —and decommissioning after 40 years, costs  25—30c a Kilowatt hour.

According to the natural Resources Defense Council  (, solar electricity averages 10—14c per kilowatt hour (the panels costing $1000–5000 per panel installed).  If you do the math, you can see that virtually every building in a nuclear power plant’s catchment area can be retrofitted with solar panels.

I am sure you are wondering …if the solar panels can meet your energy needs.  Do a little more  research. Your electricity is not  fed from the panels to your electrical outlets—it is fed into batteries—and those batteries  feed your outlets. Your biggest problems? The refridgerator, the washing machine, your vacuum cleaner, and maybe your dishwasher.  Everything else?   These days, they don’t draw much more than a 100 watt bulb.  You can have an energy audit done of your house and check it out!

So…why are we still even considering nuclear power…or any fossil fuel?  As they say:  follow the money trail. The   power companies…mostly run by  white men & the people they employ,  have a huge lobby, and they pay our politicians to be and remain stupid. Ok, maybe not stupid. Poorly informed and scientifically illiterate.  Imagine, they are turning corn—food!!  into fuel.  Net energy loss right there.  Makes no sense.

This is not a some day thing.  Maybe in the 1950’s it was.  It is no longer.  Well, what can I say? The politicians have convinced  a vast majority of people it is worth dying for ‘democracy’ in the Middle East as the soldiers and their families are losing their homes in the USA.

They do not know more about this stuff than you do.  Check it out.