Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Tudors

Just a FYI and a note to remind myself, if no one else...

"The Tudors" is a new dramatic series about the life of a young Henry VIII. It will begin airing in January on Showtime.

It stars Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry the VIII. He's also been in (to name a few) "Alexander" as Cassander, "Velvet Goldmine" as Brian Slade, "Bend It Like Beckham as Joe, the HBO remake of "The Lion in Winter" as King Philip of France, and the awful but colorful "Vanity Fair" as George Osborne.

Jeremy Northam will also be in this show as Sir Thomas More. He was also in (to name a few) "Gosford Park" as Ivor Novello, "An Ideal Husband" as Sir Robert Chiltern, "Happy, Texas" as Harry Sawyer, aka Steven 'Steve', "Amistad" as Judge Coglin, and "Emma" (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow) as Mr. Knightley.

And Sam Neill will play Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. He was also in (to name a few) "Wimbledon" as Dennis Bradbury, "Merlin" as Merlin, "The Jungle Book" as Colonel Geofferey Brydon, "Jurassic Park" as Dr. Alan Grant, "The Piano" as Alisdair Stewart, and "Ivanhoe" as Brian de Bois-Guilbert.

That's about it for Big Name Stars in "The Tudors." The rest seem to be relative unknowns. I'm looking forward to the series...

Seems like all kinds of exiciting things are happening on tv in January... In addition to "The Tudors," "Rome" will be back on HBO, and "Prison Break" on FOX and "Ghost Hunters" on Sci-Fi will both be back from their two month hiatus.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Four-dollar word" is my favorite...

A most amusing article...

Did I mention...

that - yay! - my indigo arrived today?! Woohoo! Now, if I can only find some time to try it out... won't happen this weekend, but perhaps later next week.

Yet another reason I don't plan on ever owning pigs...

Delhi boy eaten by herd of pigs

A three-year-old boy has been eaten alive by a neighbour's herd of pigs on the outskirts of the Indian capital, Delhi, police say.

The boy, Ajay, strayed from the family home as his parents and other family members were having lunch.

When his mother went to look for him, she found the pigs chewing something and spotted bits of her son's clothing.

She threw stones at the animals but they turned on her. Her screams alerted neighbours who came to her rescue.

Relatives in the village of Samaipur Badli in north-west Delhi told police the boy had been carrying bread, which might have led the animals to attack him.

A senior police official, Manish Aggarwal, said a local man who owned the pigs had been detained for causing death due to negligence.

"Three children were playing outside their house when the incident took place," Mr Aggarwal told the BBC.

"The victim, Ajay, strayed from the area but his parents or relatives were not there to save him since they were having lunch inside their house."

Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2006/11/29 13:39:19 GMT

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Black Friday

I made a day of it! In the morning, I went to Walmart - found absolutely nothing of even remote interest. Then, I went to Ulta and spent way too much on makeup, but I'm telling myself that that's okay.

Maria, Laura and I went to Countryside Mall in Clearwater in the afternoon. It's huge claim to fame is that it has one of the only, if not the only, indoor ice-skating rinks on the Sun Coast of Florida. Mostly kids use it...

We did not, however... The reason we were at Countryside is that it's got a Torrid, Lane Bryant and a Forever 21... The only mall within a hundred miles that has a Torrid actually... And Torrid was having a 50% off all clearance sale, as well as discounts on various other things. So I got a bunch of socks and a t-shirt there. Again probably spending way too much money, but can't bring myself to care right now. Then we ate lunch at the food court, giving in to Laura's contagious craving for "mall pizza."

Then we went to Forever 21. Laura's dad had given her $200 with an order that she spend it on frivolous things. 60s mod and 70s disco glam are very in at Forever 21 right now. I was so tempted to buy this one dress for Susan because it wasn't that expensive and she'd probably get a kick out of it. I saw it and heard "The Hustle" playing in my head. I can't find it online. I'll have to get a picture of Laura wearing it. But it kinda looked like this one. But it had a very up and down stripy pattern going on. Skinny, wavy little lines in teal, olive green, wine, brown, and cream. Laura looked great in it and I told her she had to buy it, so she did. She didn't want to because she said she didn't have anywhere to wear it, but I reminded her that she was supposed to buy frivolous things and I may or may not have threatened her. ;D We'll *find* some reason for her to wear it! Her almost-boy-friend, Tobias, will love it, I'm sure. By the time we got next door to Icing, Laura was really excited about the dress and picked out earrings to go with it.

Then we went to Lane Bryant. I didn't find anything to buy, but Maria got a really cute red shirt... and possibly a few other things as well.

By that time, it was about 6pm and we were tired. On the way out of JC Penny, Maria and I both took advantage of the pillow sale they were having and bought pillows. Two, high quality, made-in-the-USA pillows for $8.99. Can it get better than that? I don't think so.

We had a fabulous day! Whoever said that Black Friday is a stressful day to go shopping must have never come with us because we had a total blast! I'm only sad that all three of us won't be able to go again next year because Maria will be in South Korea going to school by that time. Ah, well, Laura and I will be able to go, and Maria will be there in spirit.

What to wear?

My brother is really, really awesome sometimes... Once again, he's getting Maria and I tickets to the Next Big Thing concert. ::knock on wood:: He told me I have to check with him next Friday to make sure that my name is on 30 Seconds to Mars' guest list. But as long as it is, we're in... and he's 98% sure that we've got backstage passes too. So with some seriously good luck, we'll be standing 5 feet from Jared Leto for another hour of our lives. Woot!

Seriously excited. Already planning clothing, makeup, etc.

I got new eye makeup yesterday at Ulta and today at CVS. I figured awesome eye makeup is a must this year because 30 Seconds to Mars is very intensive with theirs. It's *the* thing at these kinds of concerts if the last several I've been to were any indication. I've still got a few more things to get... There's this new product that will put little jewels on the tips of eyelashes... got to get that. I also might need to get some eyebrow something or other... I got out my old bindis (you remember when Madonna was wearing them? Like 7 or 8 years ago? Well... so was I...) and will use small jewels for the corners of my eyes. I may need to get fake eyelashes... My makeup has this peacock feather kind of thing going on... Here's a bad picture that doesn't really show the color right:
The color is much more intense than this.

I've got spray glitter for my hair and body glitter for strategic places on my face. Now, I just have to figure out what to wear. I have no clue 'cause this kind of makeup isn't the normal thing I go for, so getting my clothes to properly match or contrast the intensity is going to be a challenge.

Empire waist stuff is very "in" right now. I've got a black, off-the-shoulder, smocked baby-doll top. Matched with jeans, it would have that stylish look, but would be subdued enough that my eyes would be the star without the overall look being too over-the-top. I think anyway. I also have a red/teal/white silk/chiffon halter top which is empire waisted and has fringe and sequines. It's very over-the-top. I have yet to wear it anywhere. But it may go with the eye makeup... I dunno...

I'll wear flats, whatever I do. I know the limits of what my feet tolerate and standing or walking in heels for any longer than an hour is pretty much it.

Even if we don't have backstage passes, we'll not be going in the mosh pit, so I don't need to worry about having to wear something that can survive such a trial.

I need to remember ear plugs! Last year we were standing behind the speakers for two hours without them. We were deaf for quite a while and slowly our hearing came back over several hours. It was so worth it though! But would be good to be prepared. Also, need to get Kodak High Definition film! Definitely want a repeat of the good photos.

Did I mention that I have to make sure I'm all done with my term paper before the concert? 'Cause it's due the next morning at 10 am... Timing, oy!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Holy Shit!

I just found a gray hair... And it's not just gray, it's white! And... and a very wiry texture. :-( I don't like this... Just minding my own business, washing my hands at the bathroom sink and the light caught it so that I noticed it. Dried my hands and picked it up, and sure enough - white hair. It's as long as all the rest of my hair too, so I must have had it for awhile. If it's just the one, that's somewhat comforting, but still... wah...


Two reasons I love being a Reform Jew: Emphasis on Tikkun Olam and Social Justice.

Some Jews today are making dietary laws even stricter: But is it kosher?
by Sue Fishkoff
JTA news service
Printed in the November 10 - 23, 2006 issue of The Jewish Press of Tampa.

San Francisco - Reform rabbis are talking their own board of kashrut.

Alternative minyans are offering vegetarian or kosher-approved vegetarian meal options. Synagogues are contracting with organic farms in the name of Jewish Values.

Something is going on in the world of Jewish dietary practice. But is it kosher?

That depends on what you mean by the word. In addition to following more kosher laws, many Jews have changed their notion of what constitutes food that is "fit to eat."

Even as the kosher food industry continues its explosive growth - it's now a $10 billion market, showing 15 percent growth over last year, according to Lubicom Marketing, which runs Manhattan's annual Kosherfest - some individuals and groups are exploring creative approaches to kashrut in the name of pluralism, holiness and social justice.

Eco-kashrut, which includes notions of sustainable agriculture, fair labor practices and ethical treatment of animals in its definition of what is kosher, or fit to eat, has been a staple of Jewish Renewal since Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi began promoting the term decades ago.

As environmentalism itself entered the American mainstream, eco-kashrut gained currency in more Jewish circles.

Tu B'Shevat, which marks the new growing season, is commonly observed by such activities as tree plantings, beach or park clean-ups and recycling projects. Jewish schools and camps promote recycling in the dining hall as a Jewish value.

The "green synagogue" movement, which encourages congregations to build and maintain their shuls according to sound ecological practices, is based on the same notion, that Jews can find support for contemporary sensibilities within Jewish tradition.

Now a handful of Jewish groups are poised to take eco-kashrut to the next step, creating a symbiotic food-production chain whereby synagogues and other Jewish institutions buy their food from local organic farms.

This growing season, five synagogues and Jewish community centers [JCCs] in New York, New Jersey, Washington and Texas contracted with local farmers for all or a significant part of their harvest, giving the farmers financial support while encouraging their own members to eat locally grown, organic produce. Five more cities will be added to the program next year.

"We want to reframe the question of kashrut, not to abandon it, but to ask what it means to keep kosher in the 21st century," project coordinator Leah Koenig says. "Is it kosher to eat food sprayed with chemicals? Is it kosher to eat eggs from chickens kept in tiny, cramped cages?"

The project is the perhaps first Jewish entree into the world of CSA, community-sustained agriculture.

Synagogue or JCC members pay in advance for produce boxes, which they pick up at the institution on a weekly basis.

"It's pretty radical," Koenig says. "The synagogue becomes not just a place to pray or drop off your children, but where you pick up your organic produce. It gives people the opportunity to see the synagogue in a new way."

Next spring, a new organic farm just outside Baltimore will begin growing produce for a conference center owned by the Baltimore Jewish Federation. The 1.5 acre Pearlstone Farm is projected as "a model for small family farms trying to stay in business," says director Yaqir Manela, 24.

There has been "a groundswell of energy" these past two years in the field of eco-kashrut, Manela says.

"People realize it's a way of supporting Israel and ourselves, to not be energy-dependent. The halachah is right there: Don't reap the corners of your field, share your harvest. In Judaism you create social justice by the way you take care of the earth. This is kashrut in a big way."

Not everyone is buying in, however.

"The Orthodox Union has had this discussion, in terms of animal welfare and healthful foods," but ultimately decided that its mandate is simply to provide certification of what's kosher according to halachah, not decide what's "healthy" or "ethical" food, says Rabbi Menachem Genack, head of the organization's kashrut division.

Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Conservative Movement's Jewish Theological Seminary, agrees.

"As a Jew who believes kashrut is a part of the discipline of Judaism, kashrut is kashrut. Eco-kashrut is something different," Wertheimer says. "Not that I'm opposed to eco-kashrut, but's it's something else."


Me again - to explain what that was all about for anyone who might be confused.

vocabulary - "halachah" is Jewish law. "kashrut" - the proper name for the body of dietary laws - is really just another term for "kosher" - which comes from the Hebrew for "fit."

Reform Jews don't really keep Kosher, as it is traditionally understood. Some do, and the number who do, from what I understand, is growing all the time. But as with most things in Judaism, we believe that it is up to the individual to decide whether or not something like keeping dietary (and other ancient Temple and Israelite) laws is something we need to do. As we see it, Judaism has evolved as the understanding of Jews has evolved. This is not how everyone sees it. Orthodox Jews are like the keepers of the old ways, which are not always good, though they are to them. They do what's traditional for the sake of it being traditional, with no or little thought as to why it's traditional, how it became traditional or its original purpose. Conservatives... well... to me they are like fence-sitters. Most, if not all, keep Kosher and do other obligatory traditional things because they are traditional, as a matter of course, but they let the women sit with the men as equals in the synagogue. I see leaders of both the Orthodox and Conservative movements as being sticks-in-the-mud on this issue. They tend to not like the things the Reform movement comes up with, the religious justifications we find for things like the above described are really quite radical to them, when we see them as self-evident.

With the Reform movement, which is far from perfect (please, don't think that I mean to suggest otherwise), the emphasis is on individual choice according to individual understanding when it comes to tradition (as well as having a *huge* emphasis on democratic governance and carrying through the will of the people). So keep Kosher if you feel it's important to you, if not, don't if you don't want to, or come up with your own definition of what is "fit to eat," what is kosher. That is what the people in this article have done. They might keep kosher in the traditional sense or, like me, they might not, but in addition or in place of the traditional definition of "no pig, no shellfish, no anything that eats the dead, etc." they also want organic, local food. Which I think is all good. If you can institutionalize something like supporting local farmers and organic and ethical agricultural practices in religious teachings, I think that's the greatest thing ever. Making something so everyday a holy act makes it more likely that more people will adopt the ideals, I think. This goes along with the long time emphasis in the Reform movement on the Tikkun Olam commandment. Tikkun Olam means "repair the world." Any act which will improve, repair or help the world is a mitzvah. So picking up trash in a park, planting a tree, recycling, sending aid to Darfur, voting... all of those are religious acts for Reform Jews. They might not think of them as such, 'cause I know I don't think about it that way on a day-to-day basis, but technically, they are. There is also a major emphasis on social justice in the Reform movement that goes along with this - the whole "if one human is denied a freedom, then no one has that freedom, so we must ensure that no one is denied their rights" thing. This was, I believe, a 20th century addition to the Reform movement (and to other Jewish movements as well, because Judaism does emphasize this, it's just the Reform movement emphasizes it a bit more and above other issues, which the others do not), which manifested (if not before) in Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movements of the later half of the century, as well as in the GLBT rights movement, which continues world-wide to this day. It's the major reason that I'm so involved and concerned with the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals. Which brings me to the next article:

In precedent-setting ruling court says state must recognize gay marriage
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

In a precedent-setting ruling, the High Court of Justice on Tuesday ruled that five gay couples wedded outside of Israel can be registered as married couples. A sweeping majority of six justices to one ruled that the civil marriages of five gay couples obtained in Toronto, Canada, can appear as married on the population registry. The gay petitioners sought to force the state to give equal recognition to common law marriages of heterosexual couples to those of gay marriages, which can be performed in certain countries.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel that filed the petition on the behalf of the couples, argued before the court that the Interior Ministry's refusal to register them as married compromises their right to equality and to hold family life, and is based on "homophobe social perceptions."

The court rejected the position of the State Attorney, that states recognizing single-sex marriages cannot expect Israel to recognize such nuptial agreements drawn in these countries. The state told the High Court that "Israel lacks the appropriate legal framework for such marriages," and therefore it cannot register them.

After the ruling was issued, the Civil Rights Association said it is "all the more important in the wake of the [recent] public turmoil stirred by the gay pride parade in Jerusalem."

Itay Pinkas, a prominent member of the gay community who married his partner in Canada said in response: "This is an historical day for the [gay] community and for democracy. This is our real pride parade. We will keep battling for full equality in other areas."

The minister in charge over religious affairs, Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said "the High Court has sunken in the gates of defilement and has torn out the last mezuzah from its doors. Marriage can only be held by the faith of Moses and Yisrael [the traditional Jewish marriage vows]. "The dam that protected the Jewish state has been burst open under the auspices of the High Court, asking for an anti-Jewish deluge clad in black capes," he said.

"We don't have a Jewish state here. We have Sodom and Gomorrah here," said Moshe Gafni, an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker, referring to two cities the Bible said was destroyed because their citizens were so sinful.

"I assume that every sane person in the State of Israel, possibly the entire Jewish world, is shocked, because the significance is... the destruction of the family unit in the State of Israel," Gafni told Army Radio.

Yossi Ben-Ari, who petitioned the court along with his partner, Loren Shuman, brushed off Gafni's comments as a continuation of the ultra-Orthodox "frenzy" against Israel's gay and lesbian community. "This is only the beginning of the battle. The courts here are very progressive... but the battle is for the face of society," Ben-Ari told Army Radio. "The battle for our rights doesn't end here, it is still very long."


Once again, as you can see, the ultra-Orthodox are being sticks-in-the-mud, but the Reform side of things goes for social justice despite it... They can throw all the rocks they want, it's not going to stop or deter the rest of us.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there are gay penguins...

A children's book, And Tango Makes Three, was recently published about the gay Chinstrap penguin couple, Silo and Roy, and their baby, Tango, at the Central Park Zoo in New York City.

Silo and Roy, after years of trying to hatch rocks, adopted a fertilized egg which was abandoned by its biological parents in 2001. They took care of the egg until it hatched, and raised the chick as their own. I think it's very cute. The book is causing controversy in elementary schools though, of course, something which was written about by the associated press here. Sadly, Silo and Roy broke up in 2005 after six years together... aw... Silo has taken up with a female penguin, named Scrappy, imported from Sea World San Diego, and Roy remains single.

Silo and Roy were only one of several homosexual penguin pairs in captivity. In 1997, the Central Park Zoo also had 3 other pairs of gay penguins. They tried to force them apart, but the experiment failed, resulting in only one of the 8 penguins involved creating a "pair-bond" with a female penguin instead of going back to pair-bonding with males. It was after this occurrence that Silo and Roy pair-bonded and built their nest.

There's also the somewhat unique case of Wendell and Cass, both African black-footed penguins, at the New York Aquarium at Coney Island. Unique because they have been together for twelve years now, since they were 3 or 4 years old, possibly one of the longest monogamous relationships observed between penguins in captivity. They have never broken up and have never shown interest in any other penguins. They also have never seemed to show any interest in raising a chick either because they've not tried to hatch rocks as Silo and Roy did, and they don't seem to be upset by the fact that all their frolicking never produces any eggs. They do however have a nest together, which is coveted by all the other penguins in their exhibit, high up on the fake rock enclosure - a penthouse really - with a view of the water and easy access to their food. (I find that extremely funny...)

There are also about 20 homosexual penguin pairs known to be in various Japanese zoos. And there are several more in Europe of which I'm aware. There's a lesbian pair, which mated with male penguins only to produce fertilized eggs and then raised their offspring together. And there are several other gay pairs of Humboldt penguins at the Bremerhaven Zoo in Germany, which were very upset after the zoo isolated each male with only a female companion to try to force them to mate and produce offspring. Like in New York, the experiment didn't work there either, but the zookeepers are determined to keep trying because the Humbolt penguins are extremely rare and endangered and it is important to try to produce as many offspring from as many individual penguins as possible to save the species. Zookeepers insist that their efforts are not to discourage the natural homosexual behavior in their penguins, but rather they are just doing what they have determine must be done in order to save the Humbolt penguins from extinction. I can't say that I agree or disagree with them on that, but I don't think that they will have much success with those particular penguins.

Like humans, penguins like to find a mate and in most cases, are monogamous while they are together. Sometimes, they mate for life, and sometimes, they pair-bond just long enough to raise offspring. There are observed cases of homosexual mating pairs in wild penguins and their adoption of abandoned eggs is not unusual. Male/female penguin pairs can only care for one egg at a time, so in cases where two eggs are produced, they abandon one of them in order to give the remaining egg a better chance to reach adulthood. Gay penguin pairs sometimes claim and care for these abandoned eggs. Confirming cases of wild lesbian penguins repeating the behavior observed in the zoo is more difficult, but probably also occurs.

I think it very interesting that these aspects of natural penguin behavior is completely left out of movies like "Happy Feet" and "March of the Penguins". Though, of course, I get the movie-makers' reasons for not being more inclusive. They want as many parents as possible to take their kids to see these movies so that they can maximize their profits. Since Conservative parents are funny that way... well... they leave out stuff like that which might upset them. Not right, but it's what they do... Lucky for the rest of us fair-minded people, there are books like And Tango Makes Three.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

USDA Corruption Article

Very interesting...

Time very tight right now... Should be able to catch up with posts and e-mail tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I'm in love with Timberland

I just have to tell everyone: I'm in love with Timberland. ... Yes, the boot company... To see why just go here. I think I need to buy stocks in them tomorrow... or as soon as I get a chance, if not tomorrow.

You can also see their CEO being interviewed by Stephen Colbert soon at the Comedy Central webside, or if you catch this post in the next 17 or so hours and you have cable, you can see it on your television on the Colbert Report on Comedy Central. Check your local listings for time and channel. ;D

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dirty Coal Plants Being Built in Texas

From the New York Times:

Committed to Coal, and in a Hurry, Too
by: Matthew L. Wald 7 November 2006

FAIRFIELD, Tex. — In a huge pit, gigantic bulldozers and earth-moving machines are removing two layers of coal, the last shavings in a monumental task that has dug 200 feet down and expanded across 20 square miles over the last 35 years.

The coal feeds two plants nearby that help keep the lights on and the air-conditioners humming throughout Texas. But in doing so, the operation has released hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the main contributor to global warming.

Now, the pit's owner, the TXU Corporation, is embarking on its next monumental task: the nation's single largest coal-oriented construction campaign, with a plan to add more than 9,000 megawatts of new capacity, the equivalent of 3.5 percent of the nation's current coal-fired capacity. That is enough to power millions of homes, using coal from other giant pits like this one and still more in Wyoming.

Even as some utility executives are joining environmentalists in seeing future controls on carbon emissions as inevitable, TXU is betting that it can beat the consensus, placing a $10 billion wager on 11 new coal power plants that will produce copious amounts of global warming gases for decades to come.

[On Monday, TXU announced that in addition to 9,000 megawatts of capacity in Texas, it is considering 7,000 to 14,000 more megawatts of capacity in other parts of the country, possibly including the Northeast and Midwest, which would make it a national player in the industry.]

Maybe this is good energy-system planning, or maybe it is environmental brinksmanship, outsiders say.

For people who want to limit global warming gases, the moves by TXU, which is based in Dallas, are a reminder that outside the laboratories and hearing rooms where scientists and policy makers talk about limiting carbon emissions, some power companies are racing to build infrastructure that will put carbon into the atmosphere into the middle of this century or longer.

Whatever the cost to the ecosystem, it could be an immensely profitable bet. Company executives say the plants will provide cheap electricity for Texas, make lots of money for shareholders, conserve more valuable natural gas and reduce the pollutants that make smog.

[Perhaps in a recognition of the growing concern over emissions, TXU also said Monday that the new plants would have room for construction of additions intended to capture carbon dioxide. Moreover, it said it was conducting research on oxygen firing, chilled ammonia and other technologies to capture carbon.]

But outside groups, including Public Citizen, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the Natural Resources Defense Council say that TXU is embarking on its immense construction campaign without taking account of its role in an emerging environmental catastrophe.

Unlike California, which has long taken the lead among states in advancing energy efficiency and is now moving to curb carbon emissions by those supplying electricity to the state, Texas has no goals for cutting carbon emissions. Indeed, the state's Republican governor, Rick Perry, who has received campaign support from companies that burn or ship coal, has fast-tracked coal permit applications from TXU and other companies.

Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Mr. Perry, said all permit applications were subject to the same environmental standards. If donors were trying to seek favor in official decisions, she said, "they'd be better off sending their money elsewhere."

TXU is not building natural gas plants, which would throw off half as much in carbon emissions as coal plants. In fact, the new plants might sideline some gas plants. The company is considering building a small number of nuclear reactors, which do not produce carbon. It is not aggressively pushing energy conservation, which many see as the cheapest way to satisfy the needs of business and consumers.

Instead, company executives insist that the only technology that is proved to be reliable and economical and can be built fast enough to keep the air conditioners from going out on hot summer afternoons is old-fashioned pulverized coal.

Some independent experts, like Ernest J. Moniz, co-chairman of the Energy Research Council at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former under secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, agree that for now coal is the most attractive fuel. And the traditional pulverized coal-burning plant may be the best way to make electricity — adding carbon capture later on — instead of coal gasification, which is favored by environmentalists.

If new rules ultimately impose controls on emissions, environmentalists say, TXU seems to be betting that restrictions will not apply to plants that are already up and running; environmental groups say that TXU's ambitious coal construction plan is intended to be built and running before any new rules go into effect.

"Either it is plain old denial," said Ralph Cavanagh, an electricity specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, "or they think they can be grandfathered" so that any regulation does not apply to their existing plants.

If it won such an exemption, then not only would TXU be able to operate carbon-dioxide-emitting plants, but it might eventually close the plants or clean up their emissions and sell its rights to produce emissions to other companies, for cash.

It is not a wild theory, electricity experts say, and they point to the regulations that took effect in the 1990s on emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain. The federal government handed out allowances, or permission to emit a certain amount of the chemical, in proportion to how much the plants produced before the law took effect.

The government also put a cap on total emissions, and set it progressively lower in future years, permitting companies to trade their allowances so that the goal was achieved most efficiently. By installing scrubbers that captured the sulfur, companies could free the allowances they were given, and then sell them. One result was to give existing polluters an advantage over new-plant builders, who often had to pay cash for the right to pollute.

TXU executives deny any such calculation. "There's not some game theory here around carbon," said Mike McCall, the chief executive of TXU Wholesale, which is planning the company's construction campaign.

Mr. McCall said building extra coal plants to get in ahead of a new rule was impractical. No one wants to build plants that will sit idle if there is too much capacity.

Not that he worries much that any new plant in Texas will sit idle. The population of Texas is booming, and the average new house is 2,500 square feet, often with 11-foot ceilings, in a climate where air-conditioners run around the clock for three and a half months a year.
Nationally, the industry expects 19 percent growth over the next decade; in Texas, it is 25 percent. The state's peak electric demand grew 5 percent last summer, compared with the summer before.

Environmentalists are fighting TXU's plans and some elected officials have echoed their concerns. But the builders are plowing ahead and raising the specter of rotating blackouts in 100-degree heat unless the plants are built.

"It wouldn't be the regulator or politician that would have egg on their face if this market failed," Mr. McCall said, "it would be us."

TXU says it is also adding wind power and has tentative plans for nuclear reactors. But it dismisses a newer variant, gasified coal, as untested and too expensive despite the view of many experts that it would be easier to adapt later to capture carbon emissions.

Indeed, for the most part TXU is choosing the technology that will produce the cheapest power consistent with existing environmental regulations. The new plants planned by TXU and others operate at higher temperatures and pressures, and thus wring a few more kilowatt-hours of electricity from each ton of coal. With scrubbers, filters and catalytic converters, the new plants will be a lot cleaner than the smog-producing conventional ones.

In fact, at the plant in this city of about 3,500 people roughly 80 miles south of Dallas, the twin stacks called Big Brown are so filtered already that it is difficult to tell if the boilers are running from a distance.

To sweeten the deal, TXU has promised that it will cut its overall emissions of smog-forming pollutants and soot by 20 percent. That means a 70 percent cut from existing plants, although it would eventually have had to make some of those improvements anyway.

Part of the motivation for coal is that the new plants will do more than meet new demand; they will also displace old plants that run on natural gas. With Texas far more gas-dependent than other states, it was hit hard by the tripling of natural gas prices in recent years.

Wind is an even cleaner alternative than natural gas. Texas recently surpassed California as the nation's No. 1 producer of wind energy. And wind sells well here, according to Gillan Taddune, the chief environmental officer for the Green Mountain Energy Company, which sells electricity from wind to homeowners. But all the windmills in Texas amount to only one-third the capacity of one midsize coal boiler. Windmills do not run as many hours of the year as coal boilers, either, and they tend to be particularly lackluster on hot summer afternoons, when electricity is needed the most.

Coal plants, on the other hand, are available to meet load more than 90 percent of the time when needed. The result is that wind can be used to save fuel in fossil-fired plants, but the coal- or natural-gas-fired plants have to be built anyway, according to system planners.

With costly natural gas, long construction times for nuclear plants (and some uncertainty about their costs) and the unpredictable wind, that leaves mostly coal, utility officials say. "We seem to have a good case for it," said William Bojorquez, director of system planning for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The council operates Texas's power grid.

Tom Smith, the director of Public Citizen in Texas and a longtime activist on electricity issues, said that Texas was missing an opportunity, however, both to save money and help protect the environment. "There's cheaper, cleaner and cooler ways to provide the energy," he said. If Texas householders used electricity as efficiently as those in New York and California, he said, the need for new power plants could be cut by half.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's Election Night!

I've finished the rough draft of my paper just a little while ago. Thank goodness... because the results are all totally in for Florida and most of the news for my state isn't particularly good.

I'll think about that later though because I have to be getting up for school in less than 8 hours and I'd like *some* sleep tonight. Thank G-d for "The Daily Show and The Colbert Report Presents: Indecision 2006 Midterm Midtacular" on Comedy Central. It helps me laugh about these things so I don't cry.

This is excellent news about the US House. Sent up a prayer of thanks for that one, and for the defeat of the Anti-Choice Amendment in South Dakota. I'm trying to concentrate on these small mercies... which are really not small mercies. They are, in fact, great victories.

A woman - Nancy Pelosi - is now third in line for the Presidency... Can we impeach them now? :D

I would have preferred to have more responsive representation from our state, however.

But I'm looking forward to the rude letters I will be getting back from Rhonda Storms. The she-devil sent a very rude letter to the cantor of our synagogue two years ago in response to a letter our cantor sent to her in the capacity of a religious leader in the community. It was in fact so rude that our rabbi told us he could not repeat what Ms. Storms had said because it was just so bad. Perhaps I should have campaigned against her more strongly than I did, but I wasn't in her district and I was concentrating on people who were.

I think it's very interesting that it's probably going to come down to provisional ballots and automatic recounts in as many as three states for control of the Senate. I believe CNN announced that one of those contested states has stopped counting votes for the night. They will finish the count sometime tomorrow. I pray that Democrats win all three. If Republicans win even one of these contested seats, that's all she wrote for the Democrat's chances.

I pray for good change and mercy for us all. May we be delivered from evil and prosper in the next two years.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Election Day!

Attention all Floridians (and some people from other states to whom this applies).

It's Election Day!

Today is the day to make your voice heard in government (not that you can't do that everyday, but today is extra special in that you can get new people to scream your demands at after today).

"But it's *just* a Mid-term Election," you say? Apparently, shows what you know... Whether Mid-term or Presidential, it's still an Election. It still effects your life and the lives of your fellow citizens. It's still the right to vote, which many thousands of our forbearers died to give to you. "To me?" Yes, to *you*!

If you don't vote in this election, then I don't want to hear it... absolutely no complaints about elected officials who are elected today, no matter what they do in the future, no matter how they vote or what policies they put forth... no nothing like that out of you. Unless you've been in a coma for the last two weeks, and couldn't vote early or today... 'Cause otherwise, there's absolutely no reason not to vote in this election. Besides local government and Congress, in Florida, we're electing our Governor today for goodness sake! That's the state version of the President... Not to mention the ballot initiatives! All muy importante!

And there's also no reason to vote for or against people or initiatives that you know nothing about. It's been more than two months since the Primary, the ballot has been set for at least that long, and with the internet, that is ample time to do your research and get your facts straight. So if you vote unknowingly, don't want to hear it either. And under-voting is fine, if, after due diligence, you feel there are no suitable candidates for a particular office. Otherwise, it's still your fault for not doing your research...

Far from home? You could have gotten an absentee ballot and mailed in your vote...

No time to vote? If you live in Hillsborough County, I say bullshit you couldn't find the maximum of 20 minutes between the hours of 10am and 6pm over the last two weeks, Monday through Saturday to go vote at the library. And even if you couldn't... absentee ballots!

And here's my favorite excuse: "But the weather's bad today!" You just stop whining and think for a minute about the many women who picketed President Wilson to get the right to vote for themselves and their daughters and all female citizens of the United States alive today. From dawn to dusk, through heat, rain and snow, they stood on the sidewalk in front of the White House gates. Every. Single. Day. When WWI began, they still picketed. And for that, they were thrown in prison because they dared to publicly call a "war-time" President a hypocrite. They went on hunger strike in prison and were force fed by the most barbaric of methods and thrown into solitary confinement. They were denied legal council, and denied any contact with friends and family outside the prison. They suffered all of that to vote. Only to vote.

So you go vote today.

I don't care if it's 30 below outside and the weather guy is saying you're going to get 3 feet of snow before nightfall, and you're going to have to wait in line for hours even to get inside the building. You get off your ass, put on a parka, march down to your polling place, and cast a ballot.

And if it's just a bit of rain in your area... Lord help you if that stops you from voting! And how on earth do you get out of bed in the morning, if rain keeps you from doing the most important thing you can do as an American citizen?

Go Vote!... Now!... Yes, right now! Go Vote!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Anti-NAIS articles in wider circulation

In October, we've seen two new Anti-NAIS articles published in LocalHarvest's online newsletter (see article here), and by USA Today (see article here). This is very good. Please read the articles... would write more, but still working on term paper...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Search for the Perfect Graduate Program Continues

I've been procrastinating, avoiding writing my term paper rough draft today. I've spent the time pretty well though... researching Graduate Programs I might be interested in...

Uppsala, while it sounds like the most amazing program on the planet, the price tag, at roughly $50,00 (tuition, board, expenses, travel, etc) for one year, makes it more than a little impractical.

So I've looked at The University of Iceland because I heard that they have a new 12-month MA program, taught in English, called Medieval Icelandic Studies. This only the second academic year that the program has been offered. Requirements are satisfactory completion of a free online Icelandic language course offered through their website, and application approval. The program itself only costs an amazing $664.50 for the entire year (that's for international students, not through an exchange program). Rent in the dorms is also cheap at $5087.16 for 12 months. The estimated cost of living for students (-tuition and rent) is $7088.01 for the entire year and a little under $600.00 per month. Total estimated costs for the year (- airfare and extras) is $12,839.64. You can't beat that in the US, even at in-state tuition rates! There is also a grant bestowed based on individual merit worth $11,075.00... You get that and you're education is almost free! Plus, if one goes through their exchange program with the University of Virginia (another possible option), there is another grant from The Leifur Eiriksson Foundation for up to $25,000, which would easily cover the rest (or the entire cost if one didn't get the UI grant.)

So then there is the new possibility of the University of Virginia. They have a Medieval program, though one which concentrates in either Medieval England or Medieval Italy... Still, it is a program that is worth looking into especially in conjunction with the UI program (detailed above). There is also the possibility of designing a program tailored to individual interest, requiring Graduate Committee approval. The program also feeds into their doctoral program - a plus! I've contacted them for more information about their program and I hope to be pleased with what I find. (Zinzi will also be happy that it's only about 3 hours from Johns Hopkins, where, assuming she gets accepted, which I'm sure she will, she will be headed in Fall of 2007. Poor thing is nervous about being far from all her friends and family, an understandable worry.) If I understood the info on their website correctly, there is also a very nice option to study in Iceland for a semester or a summer through their graduate exchange program as well.

Appalachian State University is still on my list, for those who might be concerned that I'm looking elsewhere... ;D

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

2006 May Lead To 1984

You might want to go read the article posted here.

But whatever you do: consider your options carefully, do not be a sheep, and for the love of all we hold sacred, most especially our American freedom, VOTE on (or before) November 7, 2006.

Saturday, November 4, 2006, is the last day to vote early in Hillsborough County, FL. Polls are open at all public libraries from 10 am to 6 pm. Take five minutes and do your duty to yourself, your fellow citizens and the country we all love, though it has gone astray.

Day after Halloween...

Maria was the only person who took me up on my offer... We went to the Citrus Park Mall and watched all the yuppies with their kids Trick-Or-Treating as we ate dinner in Rice & Company - a very nice little Asian-fusion restaurant inside the mall. I had Japanese Bagels (sushi with smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado) and Pad Thai with a pot of Oolong tea. Yum! Wore my costume... Maria, poor dear, didn't have one. :-( But that's okay, it was fun anyway.

Then we came back to my house and we watched "Most Haunted Live" on the Travel Channel until it ended at 11pm and then we turned on "Ghost Hunters", the 6-hour live event, on Sci-fi. Grant, Jay and the rest of the crew were investigating the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. This was the hotel which inspired Stephen King's "The Shining." Pretty freaky... It was an interesting evening. I taped the whole thing and we helped out with watching the webcams live on their website. I noticed a door close and wrote to them about that... Apparently, it was a member of the crew who closed the door and not a ghost, but I couldn't see anyone from the angle at which the camera was set. Ah, well... We'll hear the results of what they found or didn't find next Wednesday. I can't wait to hear!

"Most Haunted Live" is more of a guilty pleasure... I think at the very least most of it is really fake... Not that the people who are doing it are necessarily faking things, they just don't go about things in a scientific manner and they exaggerate a lot of things out of ignorance. Feelings and psychic communications are taken as real evidence of ghosts and the paranormal. Tapping, banging, etc in walls and ceilings are never investigated to see if it could just be 1.) air in old pipes or 2.) someone playing a prank... They also don't seem to understand the difference between dust being caught by the light from their equipment and real energy orbs. Since those elements make up the bulk of the "evidence" on their program, it's all pretty silly to me... But it's fun to watch on Halloween anyway.

So Maria and I enjoyed that while sitting around, not eating candy (though I did have cake and my left-overs from dinner), and doing homework... Perhaps that's one reason I'm having a difficult time absorbing Chapter 11's vocabulary and grammar elements? I'm being too distracted by paranormal tv shows...