Subsidies good – for new tech

Rooftop solar panels could become part of a neighborhood microgrid.A few years ago, I wrote about the subsidy Pennsylvanians give to oil companies. I’d done some research and some math, and calculated that if we paid the subsidies at the pump rather than in our tax bill, gasoline would cost slightly north of $16 a gallon. We are still paying, but it’s likely more now.

Natural gas is plentiful and, for now, cheap, but it was the United States government that used taxpayers’ money to make fracking an economically viable process.

Continue reading

Play in it to preserve it

Water is not only for drinking and washing dishes.I often tout the idea of getting the kids down to the swimming hole. Let them splash in the creek, and watch the fish and turtles that live in the water and on the shores. Let them flip over rocks and identify some of the larva.

One of the ways biologists determine the quality of water is to check for macroinvertebrates such as May and Stone fly larvae. If the water is too polluted for human consumption, it also will not support the bugs – or the fish that feed on them.

Continue reading

Perpetually wandering

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.I was chatting, the other day, with a niece about mountain hiking.

“I’d love to hike up a mountain,” I said, “as long as who I hiked with wasn’t in a hurry and loved, or at least liked, mountains.”

“As a spoiler alert, I’m in much less a hurry once I reach the top,” she replied.

Australians, I am told, like to go “on a walkabout.” I prefer to go “on a wander.” “In a hurry” has never been one of my defining traits. I could walk as long and as far as anyone, but almost anyone could beat me in a run. I always figured if where I was going would be gone by the time I got there, so be it.

Continue reading

Mice in the kitchen

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.The mouse traps were empty when I slid out of bed to check. I’m glad.

I know about disease vectors and the bother of the little critters nibbling into the sleeves of saltines crackers, leaving a carpet of tiny black pellets on the pantry shelf. But, really, they don’t eat much.

I lived for awhile in a cabin in a wood. On a winter evening, we would watched a tiny critter appear on one side of the living room, scurry around the top edge of the tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathing to the pantry – where he (or she) – knew a tube of Ritz crackers waited. He took one, then retraced his path to his family.

Continue reading

Wanted: traveling transparency

Vehicle barely visible behind Jersey barrier between lanes.Jersey barriers came into being for a really valid safety reason – but do they have to be opaque?

Our kids got their car legs at a very early age. First was a P1800 Volvo, a two-seater with a ledge behind on which we strapped the bassinette containing our firstborn, as we toured the mountains of central California and eastern Nevada. We found an observatory on a high place in the near-desert I probably could not find now if my life depended on it.

Continue reading

Springtime celebrations

Two-day-old Northern Cardinals await parents'return.The eldest granddaughter graduated from college Saturday, first in her familial generation to be so accomplished. Even the gods were joyful, judging from the graduation eve celebration and fireworks. The rain started Friday evening as the celestial band tuned up, beginning with a soft breeze and a few drops, growing rapidly progressively windier and wetter with each hour. Then suddenly, amid the cloud-to-cloud arcing,  the lights went out, as though one of the young gods, overcome with his own revelry, had stumbled into the switch.

Continue reading

Building walls

Walls block human ideas and wildlife migration, creating more problems than they solve.I recently overheard a parent ask his offspring what to do if he met someone on “technology” who he didn’t know, and who wanted to talk. The youngster said he would tell his teacher. And not talk to the stranger. The parent was proud his progeny had given the safe answer. I thought about the youngster’s future.

I remember the lesson well from my youth, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Continue reading

A message to Garcia

Turn right at the stop. If you're in the creek, you missed it.We were chatting over breakfast about that bridge in Atlanta that collapsed, closing a part of Interstate 85. One of the guys wondered whether that affected I-75, so we Googled the news reports, and were treated to detailed instructions such as:

From Peachtree, take the Cheshire Bridge Road, under Lindbergh Drive – or was it over Lindbergh Drive, under the Cheshire Bridge and across Peachtree … there were a bunch of other streets and roads mentioned. All of them, probably, of significance to the locals. If I were headed to Atlanta in the next week or so, I believe I would head somewhere else.

Continue reading

“War on coal” ends, water is the new target

Coal train exits a mountain tunnel near Hometown, PA.I woke early Tuesday morning, to the sound of July thunder, and the splattering of humungous raindrops on the roof above my pillow. In my childhood memories, the lake ice is becoming unsafe to walk on. Soon it will turn to crystals that tinkle in the waves of a light spring breeze. One morning soon, the first loon of the year will issue the celebratory call announcing open water.

Continue reading

A new area code on the near horizon

It seems telephone sales are doing so well that the phone companies are running out of numbers for the 717 area code, so the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission will be adding a 223 area code. Sometime this summer, probably in August, telephone callers in the 717 area will be required to dial all 10 digits including the area code, rather than only seven digits.

If your new neighbor obtains a new number, you may have to remember that 223 is not necessarily on the other side of the region; it’s next door. And the seven-digit number you are dialing is not in some other state. It’s across the street.

Continue reading

The fever is breaking

The most recent real snowstorm - Feb. 2014.The field was beautiful during the night of the “Blizzard of ’17.” White light suffused the forest, almost as though under a full moon, but without shadows from the leafless trees, making the very air seem to glow. In another life, on a night like that, I would have sallied forth with a snowthrower and cleared the half-mile between the hard road and my house, the snow muting the machine’s rumble, making the walk through the timber feel like virtual reality with the sound turned off.

Continue reading

Mother nature’s sending a message

Orchardists begin to worry when the seasons skip the freezing winter.This spring was a record-breaking season for attendance at the annual Mount Hope Maple Madness, held at Camp Eder, on Mount Hope Road, Hamiltonban Township. The event was staged by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, an environmental education facility a short distance from Camp Eder.

Folks from miles around showed up to learn about maple syrup making, and to enjoy some of the sweet, sticky nectar on hot pancakes.

Continue reading

States’ Rights an unsettling question

Kayaking on a creek.While many of us have been quibbling over the details of our Distracter-in-Chief’s latest tweet – or more recently, his sudden lack of early morning digital shouts to his public – most of us are, for various reasons, not paying much attention to some of the more important edicts he has, with less fanfare, issued and will continue to issue. It’s not that what he is doing is secret; too many of us are simply not paying attention.

When Scott Pruitt was made head of the Environmental Protection Agency, we understood on some level that he would like to abolish the agency, and there was media commentary noting the incongruity of placing in charge the guy who had mounted 14 lawsuits to block the his new subordinates from doing what their name seem to indicate they should be doing.

Continue reading

Flying in formation

Snow geese in flight.I saw something last weekend I’d never seen off television. Tens of thousands of Snow geese covered a rather large pond near Kleinfeltersville, occasionally lifting off en masse to create a low cloud of white over the water. The birds were enroute their Arctic birthing grounds.

At rest, they virtually blanketed large portions of the pond, mostly paddling around in small circles filling the air with a sound like hundreds of playing puppies. Here and there, a pair would actually move from one side of the crowd to another, but mostly they stayed where they landed.

Continue reading

A suggestion of winter

An early spring stream.I fired up my snowthrower Wednesday. The temperature was 70 F, and robins crowded the yard at the edge of the wood.

The weatherman says up to eight inches of snow is to fall on my house Thursday. The sun is supposed to come back out and by Friday have melted the snow away. My snowthrower’s gas tank is half full from last year. I wonder how much fuel I’ll use on Winter Storm Niko.

Continue reading

Times they are a-changin’

President Trump has been busy the past two weeks. He made some promises during the campaign, and he is trying to keep them. Or look as though he is trying to keep them. If unemployment rises, he will get the blame, so his claiming credit for job creation seems somehow fair, though he has little really to do with it, either way.

But his edict about banning immigrants from predominately Muslim countries has prompted me to consider my own genesis and belief on the subject.

Continue reading

It seems like magic

Daisy the Calico cat, beside a camera, watching the back year.Someone else’s cat lies on my desk while I’m working, if you can call what I am doing – admiring a calico cat – work. Her chest moves up and down, drawing in oxygen and pushing out carbon dioxide. At one end, her eyes peer out of almost closed slits. At the other, eight inches of soft furry tail wave slowly, its tip articulating like bait, though I have no idea what she wants to attract. Maybe she’s flirting with the human.

Continue reading

A childhood dream

The Greatest Show on Earth fades, with its elephants, into history.When I was in Fifth Grade, our class trip was to see The Greatest Show on Earth – the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I don’t recall many details of the excursion, but the fact of it obviously has stuck with me.

Many years later, one of my first dates with my now wife was to the Kelly-Miller circus in Littlestown. It was not three-ring, but it was impressive, especially the part after the show when two-year-old granddaughter got to ride an “el-da-dan” – known as an elephant to adults with more practice saying the word. Once you’ve seen a picture of one of those large gray circus animals with tails on both ends, you have pretty much seen them all.

Continue reading