Monday, April 28, 2008

who is eating my tater plants!

ok, i want to know who is the creep and/or who are the creeps eating my potato plants?!*@!
not an egg in site
not a bug to be found on the back sides of a single leaf
could this be slugs maybe?
don't know do you?
help me find the culprits, please...

the dogs!
we're going to find out where you live
i promise

funky part is the plants seem to be holding on just fine regardless, at least for now anyway.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

no rest for the weary

guess what?  yup yup yup got called in for rehearsal.  uh huh, i'm not kidding, wish i were.  here's how it goes.  

the phone rings
i pick it up
i learn of an important rehearsal
i learn tech begins tomorrow
i get my stuffs together
out of the house i go

working working working
seems to be where my stars are aligning presently

no nap

a cautionary tale rest = guilt, something is not right

it's one thing to feel tired and i do frequently.  as of late though i've felt nothing short of exhaustion each and everyday.  

why?  i work a lot, travel frequently, work intensely for long hours, have very little time off and put forth 100% in everything i do.  sound like a time bomb?  well it feels so.  warning will robinson warning.

it's been a good two months now where i've noticed a considerable daily weight of exhaustion.  and of late, i've noticed moments where i feel asthmatic, working for breath which has never been a problem for me.  i have contracted frequent head aches.  my muscles ache, my back and ankle especially ache and my body feels heavy, especially my upper torso.  

i did have a chance to sleep in this morning but upon waking, i still feel exhausted and weighty.  it does not feel like an all and all out cold.  it feels more as if i am swimming against the tide, a feeling i tend not to be a fan of.  i don't like for anything to slow me down but i'm beginning to wonder if there might be more to this.  

i've considered visiting a doctor, probably should, though doctor visits and me often include the term stubborn and resistant.  even now, i sit here and my eye lids are heavy, my chest a bit tight and my body in a low state of ache.  i know somehow this could get quite serious if i do not take action in the now.

this is not me, this constantly sleepy person.  i am invincible! or am i...

maybe the long burn has run it's course.  maybe hippy chick you need to chill.  not for a day but for several.  sleep deprivation has been touted as damaging by many.  i imagine sleep deprivation to be part of the issue.  guess you can't gain the energy back in one short night of sleep.  

i know i should rest, my brain tells me so.  but for me, rest often equals guilt.  it's a terrible circle but one i think i must cut through or face a rather worse future.  so folks i'm checking in to the rest at home nap zone today (or do the best that i can manage to) putting best foot forward toward recovery because in fact i do feel like i'm going to fall over at any moment.  

good news is that it's a rainy day.  the patter on the roof might just help me doze off and the light quality is perfect for drifting. 

moral of the story -   an overworked soul weighs heavy - rest, sleep and enjoy life.

working towards the soulful, superchica, hippy chick. till tomorrow - good rest and good happiness to all.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

days end

tired tired tired. and to sleep in one's own bed, happiness. regardless of my feelings of exhaustion, i got quite a bit accomplished today. the fresh air was welcome and i found the day too beautiful to spend indoors.

  • watermelon seed
  • yellow wax beans
    • 2nd round
  • aztec runner beans
  • basil seed
  • yacon root
  • sweet potatoes
    • put it in the ground whole
    • let's see how that goes
  • cabbages
  • beets yellow and red
  • chard red and white
  • carrots purple top
  • yellow wax beans
  • borage
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • rose hips
    • from the rugosas
clean up
  • pulled grass and wild weeds from brick walk ways and flower gardens
  • mowed lawn
  • weed wacked around all perimeters
  • swept up leaves
  • trimmed all spent spring herbs
  • cleaned up garden
  • composted leaves and trimmings
  • layered in the potatoes with additional soil
    • won't spray anything until this evening's/tomorrow's thunderstorms pass
    • i may head out in the rain to spray in the nematodes tomorrow
  • gathered all twigs and branches
    • broke them into small bits
    • created a hefty pile in the fire ring
  • swept out the back porch, the drive and the front lot
garden prep
  • dressed former cabbage patches with grass clippings, spent coffee grounds, compost and top soil
  • mulched former lettuce patch with same including chopped up chard leaves
    • just too many to eat
  • added top soil to several flower patch plots
  • replanted several rosemary plants to a drier location
  • watered everything in
  • swept up garden path
  • 2 loafs of whole wheat, flax, oatmeal bread
  • boiled up some beets from the garden
  • steamed baby cabbage heads and served w/ sweet chili sauce
    • cabbages got the gut gurgling a bit, ha ha
  • brewed up a pot of coffee for icing and peppermint tea for chilling
home bits
  • washed up the travel clothes
  • swept the rooms, clearing out of dust
  • caught up with some of the mail - snail that is
  • shared some pickings with neighbors as a thank you
more rain is coming. guess the storm could be a doozie. i hope to do some work on the coop tomorrow. i just did not have it in me today to do so. boy oh boy is my body tired. i'm looking forward whatever downtime comes my way.

thanking from the garden

did a cool thing - i bundled up a thank you bit of veggies for my supercool watch the kitty, watch the home neighborly friends.  these folks are good eggs, i'm not kidding.  

here's what was in the wrap
  • golden beets
  • red beets
  • red chard
  • green chard
  • artichokes of three
  • head of cabbage
  • rosemary
  • oregano
  • borage
i wrapped it all up in a cotton flour kitchen towel. oh it looked so pretty.  the smile on my neighbors faces made it all worth while. happiness shared.

mockingbird mavens busy at work

say it with me now, ahhhhhhhhhh.  boy it's good to be home and a gusty thunderstorm late last night to boot.   home and rain, goodly goodly. 

the birds are out collecting and defending and communicating with a verve only spring provides.  the grass is in it's supergreen state, nearly vibrating with life.  the texas sage bushes are in full flower and the bees are buzzing around each like there's no tomorrow.  the trimmed down borages are flowering once again.  i tell you once the borage gets started they just go and go and go.   the jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes to others have sprouted and grown about 4-5" since my last visit and the daisy like plants are ready to shine.  

clipped off 4 beautiful artichoke buds this morning.  oh how lovley lunch will be.  i plan to share several with the neighbors who care for mr. supercatinteriorbugremoveratorman.  a nice gift i think for generous folk.  i'll make up a nice garden goods bag for them;  artichokes, cabbage, carrots, beets, fennel, borage, rosemary, oregano and a few rosebuds from the rosebushes.  should be nice.  

i pulled up the cabbages today.  got a good harvest some wee ones and a few (4 0r 5) good sized fellows.  we have to pull them up this time of year otherwise the heat will simply send them to bolt.  the lettuce greens are gone gone gone, too hot but the chards are kicking some serious garden bootie.  the beets and carrots are ready for harvest and the mater maters are showing signs of setting.  some of the mater maters even have wee ones growing, nothing like baby maters to cheer up a garden folkster like my hippychick self.  

the eggplant plants have doubled in size. and the fennels are so full of fron that they create their own little fairie forests.  the butterfly larve from the black swallowtail butterfly are busy chomping on the frons of both the fennel and the dill,  it's their favorite and i don't mind a bit.  i have learned to plant extra to share.  

i've got a few challenges to deal with.  a few of the potato plants look munched, something small is eating itty bitty holes in the leaves.  i checked the underside to find nothing so it must be a night eater,  ah those darn night eaters.  either way, i'll let you know what type of deterent i concoct this afternoon to take care of the tater taters.  probably some type of garlic based soapy something.  in truth, i'm hoping for more rain which delays treatment by a day but the day would be well worth the rain.  

the yacon arrived while i was out but seemed to survive in fine shape none the less so out it went into the former cabbage patch this morning.  i'll be adding a fresh bit of compost and grass clippings to the plot along with a number of fresh banana peels, spent tea bags and spent coffee grounds; all very exciting for the soil beings. 

i've got two loafs of whole wheat, flax and oatmeal bread on the rise.  they should be able to head into the stove by 11am.  i've got to get myself out and spray in the beneficial nematodes i have sitting in the fridge in the wait for rain.  they need the ground to be a bit wet in order to penetrate properly.  those little fellows will be of great assistance with fleas, mosquitoes and other badly garden folk.  for me, it's about fleas.  we got them bad last year and i'll do everything i can to avoid a repeat.  we've been clean for a good number of months now but i take nothing for granted.  

then it's off to the crazy coop caper.  time is ticking and the ladies will soon arrive.  the excitement builds.  oh what a day that will be...

i'll mow and clean up and break down fallen bits of branch today too.  i'm staying home.  better too considering the price of gas - wohoo! 

i asked my dad was "how is it that the oil companies claim record profits but the price of gas still climbs" (you see my dad knows these things, he's super savvy) and his reply was the following - "gas is a global equity, so if the dollar is low the price of gas will climb regardless of oil profits."  he also mentioned that the oil companies though claiming high profits are investing billions into the search for new oil reserves and that's a hit or miss.  so if you were one of those who wondered the same, there it is.

i'd have to say, now is a great time to BUY AMERICAN.  let's do our best to raise the value of the dollar.

photos coming ...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

pondering the nuclear option

i've been pondering a whole lot on the topic of nuclear options for a while now. found this interesting article in motherjones magazine i thought well to share.

where i stand is still in flux but the option to my mind at present is not fully ruled out.

pondering future, pondering future planet.

This article from

The Nuclear Option
So you're against nuclear power. Do you know why?"

Judith Lewis"
May 01" /> , 2008" />
A decade and a year after Enrico Fermi demonstrated the first atomic fission chain reaction, President Dwight D. Eisenhower went before the United Nations General Assembly to avert an apocalypse. Other nations now had in their hands the weapon with which the United States had pulverized two Japanese cities; altruistic scientists and eager investors both had pressured the president to share the technology for peaceful uses. And so Eisenhower had little choice on that December day in 1953 but to announce a new purpose for the force inside the atom: Properly monitored and generously financed, he declared in his "Atoms for Peace" address, fission could be harnessed "to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world."

You could have been forgiven for thinking the president and his advisers had just hatched the notion that month, so full of poetic wonder and portent was that speech. In fact, not only were the Soviets about to power up a five-megawatt reactor, but the Westinghouse Electric Corporation was well on its way to building the country's first commercial atomic power plant. Within five years, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station would begin sending its 60 megawatts of electricity to the city of Pittsburgh.

That was probably about the best atomic power ever looked. For it wasn't long before the electricity touted as "too cheap to meter" proved too pricey for profit: The power that came out of Shippingport cost 10 times the going rate. Though in the coming years many more reactors would be hitched to the nation's grid, Eisenhower's gallant dreams were undone by rising construction costs, high maintenance bills, and risk. The last application for a new nuclear plant was withdrawn in 1978. By the time Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979, the United States was through with nuclear-generated electricity.

Until now.

When President George W. Bush celebrated the Energy Policy Act of 2005 at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland, he may as well have been delivering the 21st-century update of Eisenhower's 1953 manifesto, minus the poetry, and plus some dopey jokes. ("Pass the Mayo," he chirped to Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck.) This time, however, the marketing slogan was not about peace, but the very future of the planet. "Without these nuclear plants," Bush said, "America would release nearly 700 million metric tons more carbon dioxide into the air each year." Half a century after Shippingport powered up, the U.S. government has once again entwined its long fingers under the heel of the big industry that couldn't.

In his day, Eisenhower shared his vision with a number of vocal pacifists: Redirecting atomic power to electricity, they believed, would at least keep the military occupied with something other than blowing up cities. And Bush shares his vision with some prominent environmentalists: Stewart Brand, for instance, who founded the Whole Earth Catalog and Fred Krupp, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund, who believes that "the challenge of global warming is so urgent we can't afford to take anything off the table."

As far back as 1978, Tom Alexander—an award-winning science writer with a deep knowledge of economics and ecology—urged utilities in the pages of Fortune to resuscitate the already-flagging nuclear industry lest a ramp-up in coal-fired electricity "trigger irreversible changes in the world's climate." The ramp-up happened on schedule; the changes in climate too. Which now makes it very hard to ignore the fact that whatever else nuclear power does to the environment, however many fish it kills or however much waste it leaves in our great-great-great-great-grandchildren's hands, it emits neither soot nor smoke nor mercury, and far less carbon dioxide than the coal that keeps most of our lights on.

Industry has been quick to take advantage of the shifting political climate: Last year, UniStar submitted an application for a new nuclear reactor to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the first to cross the agency's desk since Jimmy Carter was president. Four more followed, and 14 separate companies have notified the agency that they will file applications in the next year. It's hard to imagine any of the current presidential candidates slashing nuclear subsidies once in office. (Senator Barack Obama, for one, represents a state with 11 of the nation's 104 civilian reactors, and his donors include employees of nuclear giant Exelon.)

But can nuclear power really rescue our warming planet? And if you answered quickly, answer this too: Are you for or against because you know the science, or because someone said you should be?

When we talk about nuclear power these days, we talk about environmentalists for nukes, and about people posing as environmentalists for nukes. We talk about Dick Cheney's energy bill defibrillating a faltering industry with $12 billion worth of incentives and tax breaks. We talk about who is for and who is against, and whether we can trust them.

But no one talks about fission. No one talks about the letter Albert Einstein wrote to FDR in 1939, advising the president that "it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium" to produce enormous amounts of power. No one mentions that breathtaking moment on December 2, 1942, when Fermi, on a squash court at the University of Chicago, had an assistant slowly pull a control rod from a pile of uranium and graphite, sustaining a controlled chain reaction for 28 minutes and thus securing atomic power's industrial future.

For the last four years, I have tried to shut out the chatter—the goofy Nuclear Energy Institute ad (girl on a scooter says, "Our generation is demanding lots of electricity...and clean air."), and the warnings of No Nukes godmother Helen Caldicott, who, rightly or wrongly, cannot think of splitting atoms without thinking of weapons. I've tried to focus instead on the awesome force that binds the nucleus and whether it can ever be an appropriate source of civilian energy.

The idea of nuclear power arose more than half a century ago out of the most noble impulses of humanity's brightest minds, scientists who hoped that the destructive force they'd harnessed, the most concentrated source of energy on earth, could also be applied for good. But atomic electricity strayed so far from its promise—corrupted by government's collusion with industry, mismanagement for the sake of profit, and ordinary bureaucratic incompetence—that we seem flummoxed at the thought of ever reclaiming it.

To consider a technology as terrifying as nuclear power requires more than slogans. It requires looking beyond the marketing and activism, into the physics and its consequences. It means thinking about rocks. And waste. And fission.

Hot Rocks, Warm Water

Like so many sources of energy, nuclear power begins with a rock—a brownish chunk of hard dirt, flecked with glittery particles. You can hold uranium in your hand without much trouble: As it decays into other elements—thorium, radium, and eventually lead—it throws off radioactive particles, but most of them can't penetrate your skin. Nor can they sustain a controlled chain reaction in most of the world's nuclear reactors. For that, you need a certain neutron-rich uranium isotope, U-235, which makes up only a tiny portion of raw uranium ore.

Natural uranium comes out of the ground in Canada, Australia, Niger, and several other countries. Uranium is finite, and it's not easy to find—as a consequence of the impending nuclear revival, mines that were once declared unprofitable may open once again, including some in the western United States. This worries people who remember the last uranium boom in the Southwest: From the 1940s through the 1980s, more than 15,000 men, many of them Navajo, worked the mines, often without protection. Many eventually came down with cancer or respiratory diseases. Few were compensated. When the mines closed, piles of uranium tailings were left mouldering along the Colorado River, leaching at least 15,000 gallons of toxic chemicals a day into water destined for taps in Arizona and California.

To be useful as nuclear fuel, uranium ore has to be refined into uranium oxide (the yellowcake of Niger fame) and then enriched—turned into pellets of 4 percent U-235. The sole U.S. plant that enriches uranium for civilian power reactors, located in Paducah, Kentucky, accomplishes this via an energy-hogging process that consumes 15 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. Even so, carbon emissions for the entire nuclear fuel cycle come to no more than 55 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour—roughly even with solar. By 2010, when the U.S. Enrichment Corporation is slated to switch to the more efficient method used in Europe, that number should come down closer to 12 grams per kilowatt-hour—on par with wind.

Nuclear power does have other environmental consequences, drawbacks that have nothing to do with carbon: Aside from radiation (more on that later), a particularly delicate one involves cooling water. "Light water" reactors, used at the majority of the world's nuclear plants (so named because they employ ordinary H2O, as opposed to water made with a heavy hydrogen isotope), use water both to moderate the chain reaction and produce steam to spin turbines—2 billion gallons per day on average. Most of it returns to the adjoining river, lake, or ocean up to 25 degrees warmer, an ecological impact that could significantly interfere with nuclear power's chances as a climate-change solution. Already, wherever a light-water reactor sits near a sensitive body of water, its intake pipes kill fish and its outflow distorts ecosystems to favor warm-water species.

The Cancer Conundrum

Will a nuclear reactor operating under normal conditions give you cancer? It's a question that, surprisingly, still hasn't been conclusively answered. A 1995 Greenpeace study found an increase in breast-cancer mortality among women living near various U.S. and Canadian reactors in the Great Lakes region. Yet peer-reviewed studies by the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation as well as the National Cancer Institute show no significant increase in cancer among people living near reactors. An initiative called the Tooth Fairy Project is currently trying to prove that concentrations of the radioactive isotope strontium-90 are higher in baby teeth from children who grow up near nuclear plants. But those tests are not complete, and no one else has turned up persuasive evidence of such a link.

"Without a baseline study, we don't have any credibility" on the cancer issue, longtime Southern California anti-nuclear activist Rochelle Becker once told me. "There are so many things wrong with the nuclear industry that are confirmable that we try to stay away from that."

We do know that nuclear plants routinely release small amounts of radioactive gases, and that those releases expose nearby residents to a small dose of radiation—one that the Health Physics Society, which governs radiation measurements, says will probably not increase their risk of getting cancer. We know that elevated levels of radioactive tritium—which gets into water and is easily ingested—have been found downstream from nuclear facilities, and we know that the scientific consensus holds that no amount of radiation is good for you.

But we also know this: 24,000 Americans per year die of diseases related to emissions from coal-fired power plants, which release sulfur dioxide, smog-forming nitrogen, toxic soot, and mercury—not to mention 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.

It's a devil of a dilemma: One source of always-on "base load" power kills people every day. Another kills people only if something goes terribly wrong. And it could.

Accidents Happen

Early in the morning of March 28, 1979, a combination of malfunctioning equipment and inadequately trained workers led to a loss-of-coolant episode at Three Mile Island Unit 2 near Middletown, Pennsylvania. Had workers not finally arrested the disaster 10 hours after it started, the fuel inside the reactor could have melted completely—the disaster scenario alluded to in the movie The China Syndrome, which had arrived in theaters just a few weeks before. The partial meltdown and subsequent radiation leak was the worst nuclear accident ever on U.S. soil; in its wake, public support for the technology dropped from 70 to 50 percent, where it remains today. Industry proponents claim that no one died as a direct result of the accident, and in 1990, a Columbia University study found no elevated radiation-related cancer risk in the population near the plant. A later study, though, found a tenfold increase in cancer among the people who lived in the path of the radioactive plume.

Because of Three Mile Island, the night crew performing an ill-advised test at the Chernobyl plant on April 26, 1986, might have been prepared for a loss-of-coolant episode. But they didn't know enough about the plant they were tinkering with to have an idea what to do when things went grievously wrong. The reactor exploded, and the fire spewed a massive cloud of radiation across Europe.

There are no reactors as fire-prone as Chernobyl in the United States, and reactor safeguards have been upgraded dramatically since Three Mile Island. Emer­gency core-cooling systems kick in if other systems fail; operators have been trained to respond promptly when something goes awry. But just because what has already happened may not happen again doesn't mean we should relax: Human error has infinite permutations, and near misses in the last decade have shown just how vulnerable reactors remain.

In March 2002, during a scheduled refueling outage at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio, workers discovered that boric acid deposits had gnawed a "pineapple-sized" hole into the six-inch-thick steel cap bolted to the top of the reactor. Had the corrosion gone just a third of an inch deeper, radioactive steam would have flooded the containment dome, and Davis-Besse might have been the next Three Mile Island.

As frightening as the near-accident was the way Davis-Besse owners FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission responded: by soft-pedaling procedural flaws and scapegoating plant workers, in particular Andrew Siemaszko, a systems engineer who they claimed had failed to report the corrosion. The NRC has since barred Siemaszko from working in the nuclear industry, and in 2006 he was indicted on five counts of lying to the government and falsifying records. But documents show that Siemaszko repeatedly told his employers the reactor head needed a thorough cleaning. FirstEnergy didn't complete that job because it was taking too long (keeping the reactor idle was costing the company $1 million a day)—and the NRC delayed a scheduled inspection of the reactor at FirstEnergy's request.

Watchdog or Lapdog?

The Davis-Besse incident puts into sharp relief a history of regulatory neglect that goes back for decades. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has counted 47 incidents since 1979 in which the NRC failed to adequately address issues at nuclear power plants—until the troubles got so bad the plants had to be shut down for repairs. In some cases, "the NRC allowed reactors with known safety problems to continue operating for months, sometimes years, without requiring owners to fix the problems."

There's evidence, too, that the commission has tolerated serious lapses in security, even after 9/11. In March 2007, an anonymous whistleblower wrote a letter to the NRC claiming that guards at Exelon's Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania were "coming into work exhausted after working excessive overtime" and thus "sleeping on duty at an alarming rate." The NRC ignored the letter until a guard videotaped the naps in progress and WCBS in New York aired the tape. The Project on Government Oversight claims a skilled infiltrator would need just 45 seconds to penetrate the area where Peach Bottom stores its spent fuel.

The corporation that provides those sleepy guards, Wackenhut, has also been accused of cheating on security exercises: One DOE inspector general's report found that in 2003 guards had been tipped off in advance about security drills at a government nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The same year, Wackenhut was fired from Entergy's Indian Point plant in New York after guards there admitted they had been improperly armed and trained.

Critics often point out that the NRC is funded by industry fees; despite his cautious support of nuclear power, Obama declared it "a moribund agency...captive of the industries that it regulates." (NRC spokesman Scott Burnell insists that because those fees come to the NRC through the U.S. Treasury, there's no conflict of interest. "It's not a case where the industry is handing us a check," he says.)

Dave Lochbaum, UCS's nuclear-safety expert, believes the problem at the NRC is a lack of money—and congressional attention. "There have been more hearings on lunches in the White House," he notes, "than on whether the NRC's doing a good job."

The French Connection

Just as there are arguments against public investment in nuclear power, there are arguments for it—and one huge living example. France shifted from oil-burning electric plants to nuclear during the oil crisis of the early '70s, and over the past 20 years it has invested $160 billion in nuclear programs, making the country the largest exporter of nuclear electricity in the European Union. Sixteen percent of the world's nuclear power is generated in France. And where once the French were buying nuclear technology from the United States, now it's the other way round: 6 of the 20 applications expected to be submitted to the NRC before 2010 are for the U.S. Evolutionary Power Reactor (EPR) designed by the French conglomerate Areva.

Instead of just two coolant loops like the traditional "Generation II" reactor, the EPR has four. If one leaks, another kicks in: No more Three Mile Islands. "The EPR has more defensive depth than reactors created for the U.S. market," acknowledges Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the UCS.

His cautious approval of the EPR is significant: Two years ago, Dan Hirsch of the anti-nuclear group Committee to Bridge the Gap warned me not to make too much of the alleged environmentalist enthusiasm for nuclear power. "All of the people supporting it now supported it before," he argued. "It's not news. But when the Union of Concerned Scientists comes out in favor of nuclear, now that will be news."

That hasn't happened exactly: The UCS remains ambivalent about nuclear power, and its position papers reflect deep worries about the technology. But as far as the UCS is capable of liking a reactor, it likes the EPR.

Lyman stresses that the EPR's improved safety doesn't mean that Areva "is a warm and fuzzy company." It only means it designed the EPR to meet the safety standards of the European Union, which happen to be better than ours. "The NRC's whole presumption is that the current reactors are safe enough," Lyman explains. "The NRC is afraid that if it makes too much fuss about how the new ones are safer than old ones, it will mean that the old ones aren't safe enough.

"An opportunity is being squandered," he adds. "If this renaissance is going to happen, you're going to build a new fleet of reactors to last 60, 80, 100 years. Why not lock in a safer reactor design?"

The $50 Billion Question

In 1960, the price of a brand-new light-water reactor hovered around $68 million, just under what it cost to build a new coal plant at the time. (Actual costs were often higher, but eager manufacturers offered "turnkey" plants at a fixed price, absorbing any overruns.) Having recouped their start-up costs, these older reactors now produce electricity—a fifth of the country's power, all in all—at prices that easily compete with coal. But a new plant will have a harder time breaking even: An Areva reactor may start at $3 or $4 billion, already twice as much as a coal plant, but actual construction costs and interest will probably boost total plant cost to $9 billion.

Which is why not a single one will get built without help from the government, says Craig Nesbit of Chicago-based Exelon. "These are huge capital projects," he says. "The largest capital projects on a private scale you can build. We wouldn't be building them without loan guarantees." Nuclear lobbyists have been asking for $50 billion in such guarantees, which, they point out, are given to other industries, including wind and solar: "There's nothing exotic about it," Nesbit says. Companies also want "production tax credits" for the actual power they generate, on the order of a penny or two per kilowatt, also akin to wind energy. So far, Congress has pledged up to $6 billion worth of production tax credits for new nuclear plants. But in 2007, it capped loan guarantees for plant construction at $18.5 billion—scarcely enough to fund a couple of reactors. "We considered that a win for our side," says anti-nuclear activist Becker.

The industry does get another massive taxpayer-funded benefit, however: Since 1957, plant operators have been protected by the Price-Anderson Act, which limits their liability in a catastrophic accident. The 2005 energy bill updated the act, which required reactor operators to carry insurance policies worth $300 million and contribute $95 million to an accident compensation fund. The rest is covered by taxpayers—not a bad deal, considering that it cost $1 billion to clean up after Three Mile Island.

The debate over whether nuclear power deserves this kind of public investment is second only to the debate over whether reactors can ever be safe. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, long a foe of nuclear power, argues that "about three-quarters of all electricity we use in North America can be saved cheaper than just running a coal or nuclear plant, even if the capital costs of the plant were zero." Lovins has argued for 30 years that redirecting nuclear investments toward energy efficiency, solar, wind, or tiny gas turbines that could be located in every neighborhood would yield carbon-free power much faster, without the federally mandated insurance policy. Nuclear power, he's famously said, "is like cutting butter with a chainsaw."

But wind and solar have still not fully conquered their intermittency issues: Wind power works only when the wind blows; solar panels are no good at night. "Distributed micropower" could make progress fast; efficiency would do even better; and we should look forward to the day when they put the mammoth, centralized energy providers that feed our national grid out of business. But given the current economic structure of our energy market, can any of those things quickly replace coal? And how fast? Barring a president who can infuse us with the political will to roll out a Jimmy Carter-style conservation plan, electricity demand will continue to rise. We may be stuck with our devil of a dilemma.

Wasted Promise

The Atomic Age has left behind many kinds of radioactive garbage, from the rags that mopped up hot spills to the concrete from decommissioned reactors to the liquid residue of plutonium warheads. Some is low-level waste, already tucked away in various locations, from Hanford in southwestern Washington state to Barnwellin South Carolina. The waste fuel from nuclear reactors is high-level stuff that will remain dangerously radioactive for millions of years. In volume it's not that much: All the detritus from a half-century of civilian nuclear power "can fit on a football field piled six meters high," says Harold McFarlane, deputy associate laboratory director for nuclear programs at Idaho National Laboratory. "It grows at about three yards a year [in length]." But we still have no place to put it.

Since Congress in 1987 picked Yucca Mountain as the repository for the country's high-level waste, the state of Nevada has sued several times to block it, mostly on the grounds that the Department of Energy relied on bad science to select the spot: Among other things, an earthquake fault runs under it, and water percolates through the porous volcanic tuff. (When I visited after a wet desert winter in 2005, Yucca—which the feds have always characterized as arid—was positively green.)

The repository's most recent opening date was set for 2017. But that date "is clearly out the window," says Ward Sproat, who directs the Yucca project for the DOE. "Based on what I'm seeing right now it's a two- to three-year slip from that." Others predict that the $11 billion facility won't open at all. Still, the DOE has announced that it will file its long-awaited license application in June. For now, nearly all the nation's spent-fuel assemblies sit at individual reactor sites in water-filled basins about the size of swimming pools but 30 feet deeper, and reinforced with concrete. Most of the pools are close to full and, according to a 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences, vulnerable to terrorist attack.

If Yucca Mountain ever does open, another perplexing problem emerges: transporting waste from the 200-plus reactors around the country. Trains can come off their rails; sabotage and hijackings happen. According to a map the state of Nevada circulates, only the Dakotas, Montana, and Rhode Island lie outside planned nuclear waste transportation routes.

DOE spokesman Allen Benson, who gives tours of Yucca Mountain to journalists, contends that "we've been shipping nuclear waste around the country since the beginning of the atomic age." Still, the DOE intends to build a dedicated rail line 300 miles into the Nevada desert and instruct residents along its route in how to respond to emergencies. Everyone along the route will know where those trains are going. And what they carry.

Dirty Recycling

So why don't we do like they do in France, where they recycle the fuel from their own 59 reactors, along with some from other countries, into neat little piles of useful radionuclides? By dissolving nuclear waste in acids and separating the isotopes, they can reduce 20 years' waste from a family of four's electricity use to a glasslike nugget the size of a cigarette lighter.

France's eager embrace of nuclear technology has yielded some spectacular benefits. The country, which relies on nuclear for nearly 80 percent of its electricity, emits only two tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, less than half the U.S. load. But its reprocessing operations, as with Britain's notoriously leaky site at Sellafield, have racked up such a roster of problems that in the United States they'd be shut down as gross violators of the Clean Water Act. Every year Areva, the French conglomerate that handles reprocessing, dumps so much radioactive liquid into the Channel that, says Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "there are certain beaches where the effluent pipe is where you can get a suntan at night.

"I'm not going to say the French are 'no blood, no foul,'" Lochbaum told me, "but they're not quite as concerned about effluents as we are. They tend to believe more in 'the solution to pollution is dilution.'" They are, however, in violation of European Union pollution regulations—largely because the waste contains the dangerous isotope technetium, which so far no one has found a way to remove.

"Ten European governments have come together to get them to stop, saying, 'You're polluting all the way to the Arctic,'" says Arjun Makhijani of the watchdog group Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. "But they haven't stopped. They haven't stopped because there's no way for them to stop."

The dumping has grim consequences. In 1997, researchers surveying children and young people who lived near the Normandy Coast town of La Hague where reprocessing takes place found a correlation between beach visits and leukemia risk. Yet Areva continues to argue that its operations have "zero impact" on the environment.

In addition to pollution problems, the reprocessing of nuclear waste isolates plutonium. Currently, France has 80 tons of it socked away, enough to make 10,000 nuclear bombs. "They store it in what looks like 11,000 sugar cans," says Makhijani. "It's a huge security issue." In 1974, India made its first nuclear bomb with plutonium skimmed off reprocessed nuclear waste. For that reason, President Gerald Ford placed a temporary hold on the technology in 1976, a hold President Carter turned into a ban.

Nevertheless, the 2009 federal budget request includes $301.5 million for research into reprocessing technologies. For a nuclear future to flower, industry executives want assurances that the waste problem won't continue to haunt them. "Unless we see a clear path," says Exelon's Craig Nesbit, "we don't believe that we or anyone else should be building new nuclear plants. We don't think it's right to saddle a community with more high-level spent fuel than already exists."

Breeding Reactors

In his 1974 book The Curve of Binding Energy, John McPhee speculated that by the end of the 20th century, reactors using nuclear fusion—the kind of reaction that powers the sun—would be in operation, "and the energy crisis will cease to be a crisis for many millions of years."

Okay, so that hasn't happened. But what if a nuclear reactor could be invented that was safe, sustainable, and clean, even using plain old fission? What if it could reuse spent fuel until it was no longer dangerous, curtailing the pesky problems of waste, mining, and a finite uranium supply all at once?

These are the questions du jour of research facilities around the world, places like Idaho National Laboratory, which sprawls over 890 square miles of desert land bounded by some of America's most prized national parks. In the 1950s and '60s, it was a bustling facility, drawing the best in young talent from the world's science academies. Now, says nuclear programs director Harold McFarlane, the lab—which has expanded into other fields, such as biotechnology and alternative energy—is back full bore in the nuclear business, bolstered by federal programs to encourage the development of "Generation IV" reactors. (The 2009 budget request includes $70 million for such programs.)

One reactor in the offing, the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, can be cooled with helium instead of water and might be capable of producing industrial hydrogen to power emission-free cars and other power plants. Another, the Advanced Fast Reactor, can burn up the radioactive elements that remain behind in a light-water reactor. Other countries—India, China, South Africa—are working on their own prototypes. "There's also a great deal of interest in designing smaller reactors for developing nations," McFarlane says, "anywhere from 20 megawatts to 600 megawatts, to provide distributed power to outlying areas."

McFarlane has noticed that nuclear engineering has become a hot major in college again. "We're seeing a fantastic increase in undergraduate enrollment," he says. "A lot of universities are reinstating nuclear engineering programs they dropped back in the '80s and '90s."

The Ultimatum

When Tom Alexander recommended nuclear power as a hedge against climate catastrophe 30 years ago, he did so not because it was perfect, but because he thought that with better information its imperfections could be addressed. He was no industry shill; he also blasted the Reagan administration for blowing $10 billion on a badly conceived uranium-enrichment plant, and the government in general, whose "inability to untangle its licensing, fuel, and waste-storage policies has all but destroyed the electrical companies' brief infatuation with nuclear power." As with the early proponents of nuclear power (who in the 1940s staged sit-ins and hunger strikes to call for the "peaceful uses of atomic fission"), Alexander believed that there was a way to apply atomic technology against poverty, environmental collapse, and certain doom.

Alexander died in 2005 at the age of 74, never writing one last story to say he told us so: We shouldn't have built so many coal plants. And just maybe, instead of destroying that "brief infatuation with nuclear power," we should have fixed the nuclear industry instead.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of global mayhem should we fail to cut our carbon emissions in half by midcentury. For nuclear power to make a significant dent in the U.S. carbon footprint, the Colorado-based Keystone Center for Science and Public Policy reported last year, we would have to build five new 1,000 megawatt reactors every year for the next half-century.

"The world we have made as a result of a level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems we cannot solve at the same level at which we created them," said Albert Einstein. In other words, we have driven ourselves into a technological quagmire. There is no easy route back, but there may be many paths forward. Nuclear power is expensive, flawed, dangerous, and finicky; it depends on humans to run properly, and when those humans err, the consequences are worse than the worst accident involving any other energy source. If there isn't a way to do it right, let's abandon it—but only because we're secure in the belief that we can replace coal-fired electricity with energy from the wind, the sun, and the earth. When rising seas flood our coasts, the idea of producing electricity from the most terrifying force ever harnessed may not seem so frightening—or expensive—after all.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

depths of the soul

this is deep
not always are we blessed to be a part of something with such great weight, such great meaning and such great depth. me, i am lucky to be a part of gem of the ocean.

come see for your own self
gem of the ocean at the guthrie theatre in minneapolis.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

healthy habits

thinking about my tater plants a bit today. hoping i've got them mulched up enough for this next week. the weather is really heating up in texas and i imagine a whole lot of the garden is about to take off at rocket speed.

bet when i get back they'll be signs of other bug-age nibbling upon leaf bits here and there.

i'm antsy myself. really don't want to be on the road. truly want to be at home. listen to your own message hippychick. the radio waves are coming in clear, take note take note. act, act act.

i got my butt back out running on the road yesterday and today. it's been a while, a long while and i must announce that i'm back to square one. short distances will have to do for now while i build back up. it's so true, it takes months to train up and mere weeks to break it all down. if you've got a good routine going, don't give it up! keep it going... don't do what i did - allow work to take priority over healthy habits. bad bad bad.

but i'm back on track. that's a good thing. gotta stick with it now. nothing beats the happiness and calm after a good long run. it's true, i feel most relaxed and at peace after a good bit of time out and about on my feets.

well long day ahead. not a lot of time to chatter. wish you all the best for the day!
now get outside and play!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

home is in your heart wherever you go

today's early morning have not yet opened the eyes up yet waking began with vivid images of the lovely lovelies living and thriving in the garden back home. sweet bushy mints that share their scent when watered. the lizards that live within their clustered and shady stems often pop out with suprise when the watering begins and up they hop onto the fence to wait patiently for me to move on to the next bit of watering.

carrot frons that sway in the breeze and feel soft to the touch. why cats don't choose to sleep on the carrot frons i do not know. i would if i were of their size. what a soft cushy bed they would make.

upon thinking so, i opened my eyes... aha, that's right i'm not at home. but home is with me and i am comfortable and warm in this bed and the pillow is soft and the light is soft and i feel safe and well rested. a good start so far.

i sit up and look around a bit and i'm thankful to have done all the unpacking and organizing of stuffs the night before. the clothes are put away, the bathroom bits are where they need to be and my few pairs of shoes are lined up neatly against the wall. even better, the morning bath towels are laid upon the radiator and ready warm for the morning's cleaning up. a real good start.

so off i went to the morning's readying. once washed, dressed and bed now made, i pack the day's eats. good good good, the weeks shopping also completed upon arrival is at the ready for planning. it's going to be a long day. actually, all days for the next two weeks are going to be long days, 10-12 hours of work each day at least and work a good distance away so packing for the whole of the day is the goal.

i make myself my favorite fluffy bread toast for breakfast. and while munching i make up a tomato sandwich for lunch, and pack up the following with no particular eating time in mind; oatmeal with raisins, an apple, a banana, a bit of chocolate, some goji berries and a ginger-date lara bar. all looks good, all looks healthy and i'm proud of myself for including the bit of chocolate. i've always thought i should include a bit of chocolate and have not thinking it would be too much or that it's bad for me but it's not. it's good, it tastes good and satisfies me which keeps me from making another less than bright eating choice. there is plenty now packed and not a bit of it instills guilt. check plus!

now it's time for the coffee. so i clean up the toast plate and sweep up the bread crumbs before heading out the door for the morning walk to nina's coffee shop in saint paul. yup i'm back in the selby neighborhood and happy for it. i love the community at nina's. the people are good, the regulars are consistent and the atmosphere is tops. and luckily this morning i have some time to check in with the blog sit with a cup rather than rushing rushing rushing about.

the morning's air proves crisp. it's been chilly the past few days i hear, warmer weather coming though i'm happy either way. i do truly appreciate spring and fall crisp days more than any other as the seasons shift. they wake me, they brighten my senses and they increase my appreciation for the warmth of the sun.

and somehow it's pops into my mind that i have yet to plant the christmas lima beans. where to plant them hmm? how about next to the chickencluckertomatopluckerpatch? yup yup that will work. they'll climb up the trellis and serve as a good bit of shade for the chicken ladies when the heat of the sun really kicks in.

i love the lima's. they're pretty, they have a fantastic creamy texture and the cook up great in soups. and being a soup lover that's a good thing.

well off to work, off to work. though i may be home away, home is with me just the same. and the day is made with this. a young mommy and a little mommy's little girl sit down at the table next to me. it's the little mommy's little girl's birthday and she has been gifted with a book about caterpillars and butterflies. just hearing the tiny voice say caterpillar and butterfly brings joy to the day. "look at all the caterpillars!" she exclaims and then giggles. she is a super cutiepants. how could one deny this joyful element in these moments? and so the day begins.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

one tomato two tomato three tomato four...

amazing how quickly a tomato plant will grow given good soil, sunlight and a happy spot all it's own. i moved the maters to the out back this year thinking the rotation of location will do the babies good. i'm one of those gardeners who will plant anywhere i can prep a good bit of soil and i do.
here are the babies first put in the ground burried right up to their top tier of foliage. better to build a good root system with. happy plants, happy plants.

and here we are a good three weeks later, growing growing pow! to the moon baby to the moon. looks like the compost (happy microbes, strong rootage), compost tea (happy microbes, happy soil, happy plants), banana peels (for potassium) and grass clippings (for nitrogen and mulching) are doing the job. everybody is happy and when the plants are happy, hippychick is happy too.

well the maters are even taller now. two additional weeks have passed and each an everyone of the babies now has a bamboo rod for support. yup that was me out last night nearing 8pm gently lashing supports together while swatting at mosquitoes. job done, job done well.

just opposite the maters is this baby. another project in waiting
i hope the wait to be not so long. this large water tank is my future bigger rainwater collection tank. at the present i have several rain barrels which in the texas hot summers come in handy. problem is the hot summers also cause them to drain quite quickly considering the amount of watering the gardens require when the heat is on

i'll need a hand to get the project accomplished. i have to build a raised platform for the tank so as to harness gravitational force and to make access to the spigot that much easier. i'll then need to get the tank up on the platform which is the point when i'll need help. big strong heave ho help. i am able to push the tank around on my own in it's mostly empty state but i could not lift it to save my soul.

then i'll have to re-route the gutter system and possibly install a simple screening system to keep out leaves, and pollen-ish chunks and stuffs. don't have that all worked out yet. first i need big strong helper folk, to get it in place.

so for now it sits patiently for the hippychick next bit of time off at home time.

had to say adios to these little helper creatures for a while. yup, i'm back on the road. never seems to stop, wish it would. i don't recall being as tired as i am for a long time. i am in part to blame, i work a lot because i like to work and i'm in a career that plays the when you're hot you're hot and when you're not you're not. currently i'm doing ok at pretty warm and rising.

choices must be made.
sleep may just have to happen later.

ah! and that's just half the maters. the other half live round the chicken bend. located close but will be just out of reach of the future cluckertomatoepluckers.
which reminds me...
the countdown shall now begin.
4 weeks till the happy hippy chick and her fearless partner mr. t supercatinteriorbugremoverator can add chickens to the list of happiness driven adventures towards a life of sustainable happiness.

tic toc - got to finish that crazy coop caper!
that means i need to be at home more... eiiihhhaaaaa

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

oh boy can't be sleepy

woke up twice today. first time nearer to 4am than 3am, second time on the dot of 7am and wishing then for a few more winks.

up up up! brain said, got lots of work to do today and don't forget to wash the sheets. yes, today i am washing the sheets. i had decided so days ago, don't know exactly how that became such a definitive task but over the past few days it had and today i follow through.

mr. t enjoys washing the sheets day because it usually means some rousting about before they come off and as the clean sheets go on. i don't think i'll ever actually know how quickly i could make a bed with fresh sheets. my bed making always involves mooshing mr. t over here, now please could you move over there, oh my! not under the sheet, over here. get the picture. and by the time the bed is made he is ready for nap and i'm grinning and happy that he's in my life. making the bed with mr. t reminds me that every task should be filled with fun and a certain level of rousting about. the level that brings smiles upon faces.

look at these babies! squashes, pumpkins everywhere and all of the volunteer variety, each and every one of them and several popping out of the compost pile.

they must be from the pumpkin smashing compost making day i had late last fall. i must have missed scooping up some of the seeds. no matter, in fact quite good.

there is not much else growing in this area and the soil is fully enriched with a compost pile next door to one side and russian comfrey on the other. who knows, maybe they will do quite well. don't know if any will beat the pesky vine borers we get here in droves but one never knows. they seem to think the spot works so why not? it's a big year for the beneficial populations, maybe just maybe we'll get lucky.

ah, forgot to mention a few excellent tasks achieved during my unexpected evening off.
  • mixed up a home made what's lying around garden mulch
    • a mixture of
        • grass cuttings
        • fallen pollen flowers
        • chopped and crunched up leaves
        • spent coffee grinds from a local brew
  • mulched all tomato plants
  • mulched the outback flower garden
  • swept up the back lot a bit
    • was looking a bit shaggy
  • swept up the front lot
    • yet another pile of leaves compost ready
  • snipped off all spent perennial flowers
    • expecting a second bloom
  • trimmed all the borage back to half it's size
    • borage can take over a space given the chance
    • composted the cuttings
      • excellent for feeding the compost pile
  • boiled a dozen eggs for weekly eating
  • roasted beets for the same
    • mixed in a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
    • mm mm mmmmm
  • went to bed early!
    • my favorite
silverbeet a-growing

Monday, April 7, 2008

the mosquitoes are back and so am i

it's been a long time. and i'm feeling a bit squeaky. the flow of blog disrupted feels not so good. but i'm back to continue the slow tikking away at keys, informing the universe of my solo progressive movement known as the hippy chick adventure.

ooooooh! ahhhhhhhh!

today is special as i've been gifted with an unexpected evening off. hooray hooray so out came the camera and out the door i traveled and i clicked picks as i wandered about.

oh what a difference a few weeks makes. you go away and you return and you wonder how how how? how do you grow so? i was not gone so long. and now you so tall or so broad or so full... you how do you grow so?

the lettuces have all gone to bolt as we enter the season of heat and dry. the beets scream for picking and i happily oblige.

the garden says "hey! i'm ready for the spring/summer turn over. what's next? what's next? got some mulch? got some compost? hit me hippy chick i'm ready."

the tomatoes are flowering, the dills and the fennels are in full fron, the bean babies happily sway and set full flower.

the bees are here and buzzing all about i can hear the veggies in flower saying "visit me! visit me too. my flowers are sweet i promise you."

the lawn grows inches the moment you blink your eyes and the red clovers are fluffily beautiful.

today is a late afternoon day of the long shadow. the trees now filling up with leaves of green. the squirrels romp and play and some not so far away from me as i wander.

yet with a walk around the corner, i notice that the light is odd today, somehow blue though feeling yellow. the sky not completely clear kept some parts of the yard soft and others flecked with glorious shadow play.

the cabbages are ready. and i'm not the only creature who's caught on to this fact. the cabbage moths have shown me so too with their great approval and the setting of their wormy babies to roost and feed upon the leaves. luckily luckily the cabbages are large enough now that a little bit of munching will do no harm.

share share, we all shall share.

the artichokes are budding, three on this one plant alone. two little wee ones, one big bold one and several more stocks looking close to shooting.

growth growth growth
moving at a pace dramatic
fresh fresh fresh and clean
yummy yummy eating

see still squeaky with the blogging tikking keys. feel the flow, feel the flow. tik tik flow, tik tik flow

oh yeah, the mosquitoes are back. am i sure? of course i am being an expert due to my natural mosquito magnetnes. maybe there is only one...

aha! hopeful thinking.