Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Lyric of the Week

"And I could say oo oo oo
As if everybody knows
What Im talking about
As if everybody would know
Exactly what I was talking about
Talking about diamonds on the soles of her shoes"

By Paul Simon

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."
~~Kahlil Gibran

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life in the big city—and Newark

I never really had an issue with Newark, until I started staying there. (To know it is to hate it.)

This past weekend, I was in New York for meetings, but stuck in Newark at night. The commute itself, a little over an hour on a good day, wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the 11-hour work days.

I’ve been staying at the Robert Treat Hotel, which is a Best Western. (Not to be snobby, but that pretty much sums it up.) After having dinner with colleagues in Manhattan, I got there that night at 10:30--incredibly early by my internal clock. Since I had spent almost every waking hour that day and the day before in the company of my colleagues and I don’t like being confined in a hotel room (even though most are about as big as my apartment), I decided to go to the hotel restaurant for a drink and a change of scenery.

Well, as it turned out, there was a wedding party staying at the hotel and they had closed the restaurant for a private party. There was no other place nearby to go, and I was under strict orders not to walk around downtown Newark at night. (One warning I might have ignored, but by the time I heard the third one, I figured if I didn’t heed it I would be a prime candidate for a karmic dummy slap, so I decided to stay put.) The host-person at the restaurant told me they would serve me a drink, but I would have to drink it “over there.” I assumed that he was pointing to a lounge. So I got my drink and went “over there.” But, to my surprise, “over there” turned out to be this little room off to the side of the restaurant that had four tables set up. A waiter came over and promptly took off the settings on the table I selected, and then I was left alone to drink my drink, totally defeating the purpose of going there in the first place.

A funny thing did happen on the elevator going back to my room. I was going to the 10th floor, and this crowd of people got on the elevator with me. (It had been an African wedding, by the way, so most were dressed in traditional attire.) The mother of the bride and some members of her family got on (going to the 7th floor) and a friend of a friend of the mother got on, also going to the 10th floor. While we were waiting for everyone to get on board and all the way up, the friend effused to the mother about how beautiful her daughter was, what a wonderful couple they made, how delightful the wedding was, she barely took a breath between praises. However, as soon as the family got off the elevator and we resumed our ascent, she promptly stated, “I pray they last the year” and then laughed a humorless laugh as we reached our floor, said goodnight, and parted ways.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Lyric of the Week

"Don't ask me what I think of you,
I might not give the answer that you want me to."

From "Oh well" by Fleetwood Mac (written by Peter Green)

Performed in 1969 on the BBC

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An all-too-brief day in the sun

Solar was supposed to be the next big thing in the seventies. Granted it was a sunnier time. Coming off of the decade that brought us the smiley face and “Let the Sunshine In,” environmentalism was all about crying Indians and owls urging us to “give a hoot.” But because it was expensive to develop the technology on a widescale level and, heck, we had plenty of coal, solar technology was relegated to the back of the closet along with rainbow suspenders and Tang. But it didn’t quite fade away. It’s back, but with more of a modern, amped-up edge.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth in just 70 minutes is the equivalent of one year of annual energy consumption. It makes sense, then, to harness solar power on a large, commercial scale as one way to cut carbon-emissions in a serious way. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants have been gaining prominence out in the Arizona desert. Using mirrors and solar panels to heat fluid and generate steam, these plants can efficiently produce clean, carbon-free energy.

But the research and implementation costs aren’t cheap. If it wasn’t for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), the effort would be stalled. (Because, of course, being environmentally friendly is only friendly if it’s cost-effective and produces a profit.) So one would think that renewing the ITC, set to expire at the end of the year, would be a no-brainer. But apparently supporting an industry that is good for the environment, cuts reliance on fossil fuels and foreign oil, and creates jobs isn’t a priority, at least in Washington. According to CleanEdge, 48 governors (all except South Carolina and Georgia) sent a letter to Congress urging leaders to renew the credit. It did pass the House, but support in the Senate is shaky. And without that support, larger companies like Arizona’s SunPower (according to an article in EcoGeek) will be forced to move their operations to more favorable countries, such as France or Greece, and smaller companies will just fold. “Kinda grabs ya by the boo boo, don’t it?”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"All things change round about us, we ourselves change, and no one can be sure of loving tomorrow what he loves today. All our plans of happiness in this life are therefore empty dreams. Let us make the most of peace of mind when it comes to us, taking care to do nothing to drive it away, but not making plans to hold it fast, since such plans are sheer folly. I have seen few if any happy people, but I have seen many who were contented."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Frog

Maybe we were just an overeager bunch. We were at the tail-end of a week-long photography course as part of a conference at the UAW center at Black Lake, Michigan. We had learned all about the importance of light, composition, all that good stuff. And then we were let loose on the golf course.

And the frog? Well, little did he know that he was in for a ride. He seemed content enough there in the grass on the edges of the golf course, but then he became the center of attention. And, of course, that meant that changes had to be made. After all, there wasn’t a lot of contrast and the grass on the green was, well, greener. So—scoop—up he went. Before he knew it, he was plopped down on the green.

Pictures were taken. (Yes, I partook.) And when it was time to move on (as it always is), the frog was dropped back on his home turf. A little more worldly and wiser, perhaps. Maybe now he has a yen for adventure and broadening his horizons. Or maybe he appreciates the security of home all the more. Good experience or bad? Only the frog knows for sure.

“As soon as I am under the trees and surrounded by greenery, I feel as if I were in the earthly paradise and experience an inward pleasure as intense as if I were the happiest of men.”

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Lyric of the Week

"If I lay here,
If I just lay here,
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?"

From "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Quote of the Week

"I am in the present. I cannot know what tomorrow will bring forth. I can know only what the truth is for me today. That is what I am called upon to serve, and I serve it in all lucidity."
~Igor Stravinsky

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Lyric of the Week

"Monday morning feels so bad
Everybody seems to nag me
Coming Tuesday I feel better
Even my old man looks good
Wednesday just don't go (bah-oom)
Thursday goes too slow (bah-oom)
I've got Friday on my mind"

"Friday On My Mind" original by the Easybeats, covered by David Bowie

Monday, August 4, 2008

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they aren't out to get you...

So, I've been reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker (yes, by choice). It's an interesting and funny little book. It is a series of essays structured around the self-examination and reflections on his life that he undertook during his walks written during the last couple of years of his life. (He died in France in 1778.)

Rousseau was an exile, unwelcome in his home country of Switzerland, and he made many enemies in his adopted country as well because of his ideas. He seemed to be a cranky old man, perhaps understandably so, a crankiness borne out of being regularly beseiged. He regularly refers to his "enemies" and "persecutors" (mostly "authors" a word that he uses with the utmost disdain).

He does have some pleasant memories. He writes of their importance, "As I tried to recall so many sweet reveries, I relieved them instead of describing them. The memory of this state is enough to bring it back to life; if we completely ceased to experience it, we should soon lose all knowledge of it."

But still, Rousseau spends most of his time worrying about his enemies and how they are keeping his work from being read, and even his last hope, that after he dies his work will be discovered, appears to be dashed, "I can have no chance of handing on anything precious to future ages without it passing through hands that have an interest in suppressing it." He goes on to write, "The accumulation of so many chance circumstances, the elevation of all my cruelest enemies, as if chosen by fortune, the way in which all those who govern the nation or control public opinion, all those who occupy places of credit and authority seem to have been hand-picked from among those who harbor some secret animosity towards me to take part in the universal conspiracy, all this is too extraordinary to be a mere coincidence....[It] leaves me in no doubt that it is Heaven's eternal decree that their designs will be crowned with complete success."

Phew! The translator of this edition, Peter France, writes in his introduction that while he did have many enemies because of his work, he was perhaps exagerrating their vehemence.

However, Rousseau writes in one of his walks about an accident he had had. He took a fairly serious tumble, but wasn't seriously injured. However, rumors started circulating, and in one village, the talk was that he had died from the accident. As he put it, the rumor spread "quickly and irresistibly" and was even covered in the local paper, the Avignon Courrier. According to the translator's notes, it said, " ' We are sorry not to be able to speak of the talents of this eloquent writer; our readers will no doubt feel that his abuse of them imposes the strictest silence on us.' "

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Lyric of the Week

City of New Orleans

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail.
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey,
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.


Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me? I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning,
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Written by Steve Goodman, made into a hit by Arlo Guthrie