Telling any company to discourage sales of its product is … silly

A player takes aim at the pool table, observers behind him barely visible in the smoky hazeI lost two games of pool Sunday evening – the first games I’d lost in about 30 years. Maybe longer.

Of course, I hadn’t played pool in about 30 years. Maybe longer.

I had accompanied my son to the pool hall, where he is a regular competitor. I don’t know whether he’s ready for Las Vegas, but he’s pretty good. I am a good photographer, so I got several nice shots of him – through a low haze. There were a few guys and gals in the place who didn’t smoke. At least not directly.

I was raised with a father who smoked, mostly Phillip Morris, and a grandfather who smoked two packs of Tareytons a day. I swiped a pack from Dad’s stock … Continue reading …

Riding the Metro – a lesson in efficient cooling

Commuters wait to board the arriving light rail in the Washington Metro stationI don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.

I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.

I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.

On the other hand, Continue reading …

Techno advances and capitalists’ profits – what’s not to like?

Wind turbines line a ridge overlooking Mahanoy City, Pa.Spaced out along 10 miles of mountain ridge about 100 miles north of my home are a line of humongous propellers mounted on poles. There are about 60 of the propellers, twirling, almost constantly, above Mahanoy City – a town in the center of Pennsylvania’s once-thriving anthracite coal industry. The slowly spinning blades drive turbines said to generate enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes.

Phase II of the project – addition of 51 turbines to the original 13 – was accomplished in 2009 with the assistance of a $295 million federal grant. The money from us taxpayers, according to published reports, enticed investors such as Morgan Stanley and Citigroup to kick in more money – money they were loath to invest without Iberdrola, a Spanish wind energy firm currently involved in four other wind-power projects in the U.S., coming up with a significant investment.

The grant was part of more than $500 million we taxpayers kicked in during 2009, Continue reading …

Fines, remediation & campaign contributions: all “a cost of doing business”

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week it had fined Chesapeake Appalachia LLC “$565,000 for multiple violations” in its Marcellus operations. Chesapeake Appalachia is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, an Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company which claims to be the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas.

In Potter County, the company was found to have insufficient erosion and sedimentation controls. The deficiency was discovered when heavy rains washed dirt off a road and a nearby well pad, into the Right Branch of Wetmore Run, am environmentally high-quality stream.

“High-quality streams receive some of the highest levels of protection in the state,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a prepared statement, “and (natural gas drilling) operators are expected to ensure their work does not negatively affect them.

The sediment carried by the stream also “impacted” Galeton Borough Authority’s water treatment filters, which, to be fair, Chesapeake paid to repair. Continue reading Fines, remediation & campaign contributions: all “a cost of doing business”

Pa. residents pay the taxes, should share the profit

A swath cuts through Loyalsock State Forest for a natural gas pipeline

As I begin to write this offering, we await Gov. Tom Corbett’s second State of the State address, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 11:30 a.m. There is some expectation he will remove a moratorium on releasing additional state forest land for Marcellus shale natural gas exploration. Currently, about 700,000 of the state’s more than two million publicly owned acres has been leased to Marcellus shale developers.

Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has received a Senate report on House Bill 1950 – a bill that has been batted back and forth, in one form or another, for two years and which may, eventually, begin to levy a tax on the billions of dollars in profits gas and oil companies plan to extract from beneath our feet.

Several years ago, my mother owned 50 acres of woodland in Maine. One day, while I was on leave from the Navy, she came home to report seeing a van parked on the road that ran around the property. Would I go check on it, she asked. Continue reading …

Organic and independent farmers feel under assault

An independent organic farmer tends cropsOn a trip to New England last week, my niece treated me to some really good salsa. It was made in Maine, we were in New Hampshire, and I’m now home in Pennsylvania, way south of where I can buy some.

On the other hand, there are several Mexican stores almost within walking distance of home where maybe …

Meanwhile, I was in the local discount grocery store the other night and picked up a container of Marketside Chipotle salsa. It actually has a nice flavor, and adds a pleasant bite to my favorite chips which, the way I eat the stuff, are simply devices for scooping large dollops of salsa the way someone might otherwise use a soup spoon to scoop the favored ice cream.

If fresh salsa is what you seek, though, you probably won’t find it in a container marked “Manufactured for Marketside, a division of Walmart Stores Inc.” Continue reading Organic and independent farmers feel under assault

Leaves a-Fall-ing

A lone oak leaf at the very end of the branch

There was ice in the bird bath this morning. a blanket of frost coated the lawn, and the thermometer in back of the house showed about 28 degrees. A lone oak leaf clung to the farthest end of the skinniest branch on the tree in our front yard.

I guess it’s time to stock up on ice melt and windshield de-icer, and maybe buy that snow thrower we’ve been thinking about. Or we could wait. Continue reading Leaves a-Fall-ing

Recycling can be a bother, but …

Two people's reusable recycleable plastic and glass trash in Gettysburg Adams County South Central Pennsylvania
We had a compost pile when I was young. Newspapers had a variety of uses, from wrapping other waste to starting fires to rolling tightly and burning as logs.

We had a town dump where I was raised. It was a great place for weekly social gathering. It’s amazing how much business is decided — personal, commercial and governmental — at such meet-ups. Continue reading Recycling can be a bother, but …