Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August

It's hot. Too hot to blog. When we go up to the cabin and it's cooler, all I want to do is sit outside and enjoy the breeze. There are a lot of things that are swirling around in my mind to talk about, but lifting fingers to keyboard just seems like such an effort.

Today I am finally ready to vent about a few things and also share some pictures from the cooler North where we've been spending our weekends. And I think I'll even throw in some haiku. Talk about a potpourri!

New Jersey swelters
Under a hot, hazy sky
Sweat drips off my brow.

Can't weed the garden
Too hot to plant hydrangeas
All I do is sit.

The dog minds the heat
But still wants to take a walk
She must be crazy.

Up at the cabin
Temperatures are cooler
I live for weekends.


I have to say, in July the temperatures at the cabin, while cooler, were still quite hot, since the major heat wave we had in New Jersey hit the Adirondacks as well. When it was 106 in New Jersey, it was 96 at the cabin. And that is still darned hot. And on top of that, July is the Season of Deer Flies in the Adirondacks. We couldn't walk anywhere without deer flies inundating us and nipping at our heads. Even the dog didn't want to walk in the woods. So we took to driving around in our air conditioned car (since the cabin doesn't have any air conditioning and the fan only runs when the generator is on!) and stopping at Schroon Lake to walk and let Diva swim a bit.

This is what a Deer Fly looks like:

This is a highly magnified picture; they are actually relatively small and like to fly around in a swarm around your head, or on the dog. And they bite. But by August the cooler weather is already coming to the mountains and they dissipate.

The other thing that goes away in August is the algae. Our pond is a primordial soup of fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife, and it does pretty well all year, unless it gets really hot. Last summer there was no algae in the pond that we could see, as it was a cool and rainy year. This July was another story; the pond turned into a big bowl of what looked like a combination of pea and lentil soup with a whitish sheen on it; black leaves from the bottom of the pond floated to the surface. The pond looked unpleasant and possibly poisonous. We kept away from it.

Lo and behold, when we drove up this weekend it was back to normal, its dark, mysterious clarity restored.

In fact, the August weather at the cabin couldn't be better; comfortable highs during the day and a few nights that are actually autumn-like. We brought our little-used brass fire pit from home up to the cabin and sat out on the deck in the evenings with a roaring fire keeping us warm.

Earlier in the summer I planted some wildflowers around the pond (one of those mixes you can buy in a bag at the hardware store) and some of them apparently sprouted. We also found that we have a few large thistle plants and Goldenrod, which are quite showy in their own way. DH took some pictures:







My mother's cat Zoe loves going up to the cabin. She feels it is all hers (except for the Pesky Dog) and she gets to go for walks. I bought her a cute little purple harness and a fancy gold leash just for her, and she strolls around, chewing delightedly on grass and exploring the landscape. Here is a picture of her surveying her territory:


As for the various things that are irking me in the real world, I could list many, but one of the most annoying things to me right now is the total dysfunction of our country, and the fact that we are going backward instead of forward. Paul Krugman had a pessimistic op ed piece about this the other day. In his column he stated:

"Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead."


Truly our country is going backward. We are no longer the innovators, no longer willing to have the "can do" attitude that got America to the moon before the Soviet Union. We are no longer the country that leads the way in manufacturing, energy, education or anything else for that matter - except greed.

That point was brought home to me again this morning when I read that Portugal is well on its way to replacing fossil fuels with clean, renewable energy sources. And Portugal is not the only country which is making these changes.

"By 2025, the report projected, Ireland, Denmark and Britain will also get 40 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources; if power from large-scale hydroelectric dams, an older type of renewable energy, is included, countries like Canada and Brazil join the list.

The United States, which last year generated less than 5 percent of its power from newer forms of renewable energy, will lag behind at 16 percent (or just over 20 percent, including hydroelectric power), according to IHS."


Was it easy for Portugal to accomplish what they've done so far? No, it required government involvement in industries, it meant higher electricity costs, and various other sacrifices that apparently the Portuguese - and their government - are willing to make in order to accomplish something they feel is worthwhile and important. Of course, if you read the article, you can just hear the GOP and the Tea Partiers crying "Socialism!" at every turn. Portugal is part of the EU, which has carbon trading, there are government guarantees of stable prices to the energy suppliers, and other policies. However, in the long run, the country expects the transition to pay off. Will their energy costs be cheaper than those of countries that rely on cheap coal for their power? No. But will they be cheaper than what Portugal was paying before, since they did not use coal? Yes.

"In making the shift, Portugal has overcome longstanding concerns about reliability and high cost. The lights go on in Lisbon even when the wind dies down at the vast two-year-old Alto Minho wind farm. The country’s electricity production costs and consumer electricity rates — including the premium prices paid for power from renewable sources — are about average for Europe, but still higher than those in China or the United States, countries that rely on cheap coal.

Portugal says it has kept costs down by focusing heavily on the cheapest forms of renewable energy — wind and hydropower — and ratcheting down the premium prices it pays to lure companies to build new plants.

While the government estimates that the total investment in revamping Portugal’s energy structure will be about 16.3 billion euros, or $22 billion, that cost is borne by the private companies that operate the grid and the renewable plants and is reflected in consumers’ electricity rates. The companies’ payback comes from the 15 years of guaranteed wholesale electricity rates promised by the government. Once the new infrastructure is completed, Mr. Pinho said, the system will cost about 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) a year less to run than it formerly did, primarily by avoiding natural gas imports.

A smaller savings will come from carbon credits Portugal can sell under the European Union’s carbon trading system: countries and industries that produce fewer emissions than allotted can sell permits to those that exceed their limits."


What we must ask ourselves is, how much more are we willing to pay for energy that is made right here in the United States instead of imported from countries that hate us, for energy that is clean, rather than coming from powerplants driven by coal, which spread acid rain across our forests, and the extraction of whose fuel results in pollution and ugly scars on the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia? Do Americans no longer have any ability to sacrifice even a penny to a worthwhile change?

Clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar panels and hydro power have their own issues. But one reason the United States has trouble even converting to any of these energy sources is that our power grid is completely outdated, and there seems to be no political will to update it. Even the limited renewable energy sources we have, such as wind turbines, are not being fully utilized since our system has no way to store the energy they produce if it is not being used immediately.

Our country desperately needs a makeover. But the constant drumbeat of the Right against ever raising taxes, even on the very rich, and a lack of political will on the part of the Left, precludes the country from making any of the changes that need to be made. And Americans themselves have forgotten what it means to be willing to pay a little more and get something done.

Don't worry, they will complain about the potholes in the road and the lousy service on the commuter lines, and the poor education in our schools. Americans are great at complaining about lack of services. But they're even better at complaining about taxes. And without taxes, you don't get roads. You don't get infrastructure. You don't get garbage collected. And eventually you live in a third-world country.

And on that cheery note, I will escape back to the August swelter. Try to stay cool and enjoy the summer!

17 comments:

Sherry Peyton said...

Really good post Maui! I linked up. Trying to stay cool, but it's simply like soup. Humidity is near 80%. All it does is rain and get hot. I'm ready for winter I guess.

LeftLeaningLady said...

I am not ready for winter, although it will get here whether I like it or not. It was barely sweltering this morning at 6:30 when I let Lola out. And we have not had any heat warnings in more than 3 days! Woo hoo!

Everything you said is true, from the heat to the complaints about things other than the heat to the fact that our infrastructure is falling apart & all people do it complain.

How sad that I miss $4.00/gallon gas because at least THEN people were TALKING about doing something about the problem?

Nan said...

I read that column, too. I blame Reagan for the crumbling infrastructure, but then I blame Reagan for everything -- even deer flies.

Border Explorer said...

So hot out that it's like walking through soup!

Spadoman said...

Very well stated post about energy. I'm sure you'll agree that the bottom line, money, is the culprit. I didn't think Obama would change everything, but I was hopeful that there would be more large scale changes, like education, energy and healthcare, and, of course, an end to these fucking wars.
If I was president, I'd raise the taxes for everyone, more to the rich than the common peiople. I'd start adding tarriffs to imported goods like there was before Ronald Rayguns. I'd be like FDR and rebuild an American infrastructure, retool and start manufacturing hard good in this country. I'd tax the shit out of American companies that outsourced jobs to india and the Philipines.
Would the country collapse? I don't think so. Would our lives change somewhat, yes, decidedly so.

Thanks for sharing your life at the cabin with us, that was a very nice read as well.

As well as we can, make Peace.

Fran said...

I don't know how we ever survived summers as kids w no A/C???

Anything over 85 is too damned hot for me!

Oregon is gearing up to be in the high 90's for the rest of the week.

Our country has no excuse to not step it up re alternative energy.

Here is one simple doable concept--
subsidize Solar mfg plants here (jobs), change building codes to require solar (jobs), and follow Germany's lead to "solar up" every idle space- freeway waysides, marginal farm land & just about every rooftop.

Also require big oil to get involved in building solar charging stations (conversion to electric vehicle infrastructure)-- either let them build it, or cut the soft user fees/ and avoidance or waived Royalty fees. Tax the bejeebers out of big oil & get on with the next phase.

nonnie9999 said...

i'm with nan--deer flies are reagan's fault. by the way, the flowers are much prettier than the deer fly, and the deer fly is prettier than reagan.

Dave Dubya said...

Well said. Nice to see cool-headed reasoning in hot weather.

The economic elite and their Republican Party want nothing short of third world neo-feudalism, where they are the lords and the rest of us are serfs.

Here’s my bumper sticker slogan.

“Tax the rich. Rebuild America.”

They can afford it, and the country needs it.

libhom said...

The news about Portugal is fabulous. I bet it will help them with their debt problems too.

D.K. Raed said...

Deerflies suck. Their bite is as bad as a bee sting and they don't even have the decency to die afterwards (like a bee does).

You hate heat? Try 115 with a hot dry wind sucking all the moisture out of your lungs! Out here in the big empty part of the West we have sun, wind, and geothermal in abundance. But most of our power is still stuck in Depression Era Hoover Dam type projects. Oh and a few nuke reactors. We are so short of water (it's true, the history of the West is a tale of Water Wars) but cannot seem to find $$$ for more reservoirs and better ways to recycle.

I spent a couple weeks in Portugal in the 70's. What I mostly remember is all the buzzing motorcycles in Lisbon. That was back when american cars were true boats on wheels. It's not a wealthy country (understatement, they may be just behind Greece in economic default), so if even Portugal can commit to alternative energy, we should really feel ashamed.

Love the flower pics! Double butterfly! Stay Cool, Maui.

Mauigirl said...

Sherry, I usually hate winter but am having second thoughts this time. I am at least pining for autumn, which would be my favorite time of year if it weren't followed by winter!

LeftLeaningLady, I must agree with you about the $4 a gallon gas. Europe has had it that high for ages and they all drive efficient cars. In fact, a lot of them drive diesel cars. The only reason diesel isn't cheap here is because they send all the gasoline over here and keep diesel for Europe. If America had any will to do anything about the deficit AND the squandering of energy, there would be a gas tax that would double the cost of gas in America and force people to buy small, fuel-efficient and/or hybrid cars. But of course it would be political suicide in a country where no one wants to sacrifice a thing.

Nan, I'm sure you're right about Reagan - for both!

BE, I agree - and it never ends! Hot again here in NJ.

Spadoman, I wish you were president, as I would support your programs 100%!

Fran, your ideas also rock. I wish our government had more political will to actually implement any of them...and yes, how did we ever survive as kids with no A/C?

Nonnie, just about anything is prettier than Reagan, especially now, LOL!

Dave, yes, tax the rich - at least we can raise the cap on Social Security so that the GOP will quit their bellyaching about it running out of money. Heck, these millionaires and billionaires probably reach the SS tax cap on January 2nd at the latest!

Libhom, yes, this should help Portugal a lot. (Since it's one of my favorite countries, I am very pleased with their progress!)

DK, yes, but it's a DRY heat, as they always say...seriously, it is rough when there is no water to be had, I'm sure. We're having a drought too but on top of that it's still humid. The worst of both worlds. Portugal is indeed not a wealthy country but they have benefited from being part of the EU and are modernizing some parts of the country, as of the last time we were there. I'm amazed at the progress they are making at alternative energy sources; something they probably would not have explored had they not become part of the EU. Glad you enjoyed the pictures! DH is a much better photographer than I am so I have to give credit where it's due!

Mauigirl said...

Sherry, I usually hate winter but am having second thoughts this time. I am at least pining for autumn, which would be my favorite time of year if it weren't followed by winter!

LeftLeaningLady, I must agree with you about the $4 a gallon gas. Europe has had it that high for ages and they all drive efficient cars. In fact, a lot of them drive diesel cars. The only reason diesel isn't cheap here is because they send all the gasoline over here and keep diesel for Europe. If America had any will to do anything about the deficit AND the squandering of energy, there would be a gas tax that would double the cost of gas in America and force people to buy small, fuel-efficient and/or hybrid cars. But of course it would be political suicide in a country where no one wants to sacrifice a thing.

Nan, I'm sure you're right about Reagan - for both!

BE, I agree - and it never ends! Hot again here in NJ.

Spadoman, I wish you were president, as I would support your programs 100%!

Fran, your ideas also rock. I wish our government had more political will to actually implement any of them...and yes, how did we ever survive as kids with no A/C?

Nonnie, just about anything is prettier than Reagan, especially now, LOL!

Dave, yes, tax the rich - at least we can raise the cap on Social Security so that the GOP will quit their bellyaching about it running out of money. Heck, these millionaires and billionaires probably reach the SS tax cap on January 2nd at the latest!

Libhom, yes, this should help Portugal a lot. (Since it's one of my favorite countries, I am very pleased with their progress!)

DK, yes, but it's a DRY heat, as they always say...seriously, it is rough when there is no water to be had, I'm sure. We're having a drought too but on top of that it's still humid. The worst of both worlds. Portugal is indeed not a wealthy country but they have benefited from being part of the EU and are modernizing some parts of the country, as of the last time we were there. I'm amazed at the progress they are making at alternative energy sources; something they probably would not have explored had they not become part of the EU. Glad you enjoyed the pictures! DH is a much better photographer than I am so I have to give credit where it's due!

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much more the unemployed can afford for their electricity.
Maybe when people are confident about their stability they would more willing to pay for alternative energy.
In this economy it would be hard to double people's energy especially those who require AC for helath reasons like asthma and old people who may otherwise not survive severe heat and to be able to heat their homes when temps are cold like older folks and children and people with arthritis.
It sounds good unless you're the person who can't afford it.

Mauigirl said...

Anonymous, you make a good point. But perhaps there could be a way for the government to subsidize those who can't afford the additional cost. I'm sure a way could be found to do this without putting an additional burden on those who cannot afford it. But we lack the will as a nation to do it.

susan said...

Your photographs of the area where you have your cabin are lovely, as is your description.

So far as the overall situation in this country is concerned, although it's a fact people can be heartbreakingly stupid, the fact is that Americans are also the most highly propagandized population on the planet. The only thing that might help at this point is getting bribe money out of government and taxing the rich directly.

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