Friday, August 29, 2008

On the road this weekend

Had a nightmare last night that Americans started eating healthily, and finding good restaurant grease became almost impossible. Thank goodness it was only a dream. Look for new postings on Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wind problems

The NY Times has an interesting article today on how the country's electrical grid is sometimes unequipped to handle the power coming from wind farms--and the problem will only get worse as we start building even more turbines. Congress believes fixing the grid to handle renewable energy is almost prohibitive, at $60 billion. (Of course, that's the cost of a mere six months in Iraq.)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Renewable energy is only a fad...just like the internet.

Good thing we've got so many people in the US exposing that whole "renewable energy" thing as the fad that it is. Investing in it, or providing huge tax breaks for it, is like throwing cash into a black hole. Let the Canadians and Europeans keep cornering the renewables market, see if we care. The fundamentals of our economy are strong! We don't need, for instance, the thousands of skilled jobs that will be created by this new $1.2 billion solar plant in Quebec, to be built by a Norwegian energy company.

In Greasy Rider, I quote Bill Clinton saying that if we set our minds to leading the world in renewable energy techology, the US could undergo the greatest economic expansion since World War II. Not that he knows anything about economic expansion. Do you sense any sarcasm here?

Definitely Must-See TV

Here's a fascinating video on CNN about a guy who drives a grease-powered car. Hey wait, that guy looks an awful lot like me!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cottony soft?

Almost entirely at the prodding of Dr. Wife, MD, we've taken many measures around our house to reduce our environmental impact. We buy mostly local organic produce and meats. We compost to reduce waste. We use only non-toxic, all-natural cleaning products and soaps. Of course, we drive a grease-powered car. And we also use toilet tissue that comes from 100-percent recycled paper--to reduce the need to chop down trees. "So," you might ask, "is it cottony soft?" Let's just say that I sit kind of funny, now--but it's my small sacrifice for a better planet.
I do admit that sometimes I linger on the toilet, wondering if I'm nearly alone in taking the cause to this extreme, or if Al Gore's butt is chapped, too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is that sap on your shirt from hugging trees?

Dr. Wife, MD, was pulling an all-nighter at the hospital on Friday, so I decided to pack up the Mercedes and take the kids and dog on a car camping adventure in the Pisgah National Forest. We get kind of a late start, and grab a bite to eat at a hot dog stand along the way, so by the time we pull up to our campsite, the sun is already setting. To the left of us is a giant RV, with a satellite dish standing outside it (ah, nothing like enjoying the great outdoors). To our right, buffered by a small pine grove, is a condo-sized tent, larger than my old Manhattan apartment. Only seconds after we step out of the wagon, six barefoot kids race through the pine grove, and swarm us. I can’t tell if they’re cousins, or if they’re brothers and sisters (or both at the same time). About a minute later, their dad saunters through, all 300 pounds of him, wearing a beaten-up Star Trek t-shirt. We make our introductions. (We’ll call him Jed.) “I see you’re from Vermont,” Jed says (more of an accusation than observation).
“Well, we just moved to the area,” I say back. He circles around the car. (Let’s just say that a Mercedes, even one that’s rusted and 23 years old, is not the car of choice among the folks who live in these here hills.) At least four of his kids are now inside it, and my four-year-old son is screaming because he’s just been punched in the eye by Jed’s two-year-old daughter. Jed notices the grease tank in back of the wagon.
“What you put in that tank?” he asks.
“Uh, vegetable oil,” I say.
“I was afraid a that,” he says.
I grab the tent and carry it over to the tent pad, where I start unfolding the poles.
“You camp much, Greg?”
I tell him that Dr. Wife, MD., and I backpacked through these parts when we thru-hiked the Appalachian trail a decade ago.
“Back then, I used to spend a lot of time in these woods,” he says. “I’d disappear, and nobody’d see me for days on end. I might be standing two feet away when you’re hiking, or I might be two miles. You’d never know it, though.” He said. By this time, the dog won’t leave my side, because he’s more afraid of Jed’s kids than my son, who has now been socked a second time, on the same eye, by the same closed fist from the same two-year-old girl. A few of his other kids have begun collecting brush from the nearby woods, and placing it in my campsite’s fire ring. My five-year-old daughter is watching these new friends of hers with interest.
“My kids are getting firewood for yeh,” Jed tells me. “You cookin’ dinner here tonight, Greg?”
“Well, Jed, seeing how it’s 9 o’clock, we’ll be hitting the hay, soon. Anyway, I’m not much good at cooking on those campfire grates,” I say.
“I love to cook on those,” Jed boasts. “I cook hamburgers and hot dogs. I make a good Manwich on it. Tonight, I’m making spaghetti. Chef Boy-Ar-Dee!”
“Well, that’s something,” I say, still trying to put up the tent, while keeping an eye on the two of his kids who are rummaging through the Mercedes, the other two who are getting firewood, and the 2-year-old girl who’s getting dangerously close to my boy again. Unnervingly, I can’t spot the sixth one. Then Jed starts to tell me about his kids. Unprompted. He points to the oldest, who looks maybe seven. “That one’s got whatcha call attachment disorder. I don’t believe it though. I just don’t think he likes to listen.” He points to his four-year-old boy and says, “10 years ago, they’d of called him retarded. He don’t look retarded to you, does he Greg?” I shake my head vigorously. He continues. “Didn’t think so. He’s just taking his time catching up.” He then lists the litany of genetic problems his other kids suffer from. Then he starts dishing parenting advice, the most choice being: “If it don’t leave a mark, the state don’t call it child abuse.”
Now, during the course of the conversation, I can tell Jed doesn’t think of me as much of a man. Maybe it’s the hippie dippie car, or the People’s Republic of Vermont plates, or my scrawny build, the fact that I don’t particularly want to keep bombing the Middle East or buy my gas from there. Or maybe, just maybe it’s my salmon-colored short-sleeved polo shirt, now being illuminated by my sensible LCD headlamp. Finally, Jed spits out what’s bothering him.
“I don’t mean to be critical, Greg, but are you whatcha call a Tree Hugger?” he asks. As I’m standing next to this man--who may or may not be packing heat, who stalks hikers in the woods, who’s well versed in North Carolina’s assault statutes, who could snap me in two without a drip of sweat dropping onto the Capt. Kirk decal stretching across his wide belly—many answers come to my mind, but none involve me saying the word, “yes.” I’m thinking that if I do, there’s a very real possibility that I'll soon be told to squeal like a pig.
“Um, uh, I don’t know,” I tell him, instead. “I don’t know if I’m a tree hugger. But I tell you why I got that car.”
“Why’s that, Greg?” he says, still eyeing me suspiciously.
“To save money.”
His face lightens. Ah, money woes, something Jed can relate to. He chats for quite a while about the lousy economy, and the kid whose child support he pays but he hasn’t been permitted to see in eight years. Meanwhile, I put the finishing touches on my tent. His three oldest kids are now lighting the dinner fire at their campsite next door (is that gasoline I smell?), and the three youngest are playing with my daughter and son ( though my boy now won’t let the two-year-old girl near him). Jed offers to watch my kids the next morning, so I can pick up Dr. Wife and bring her back to the campground. I thank him, but insist that we have to go back home very early the next morning. Very, very early. Eventually, we part ways. I barely sleep that night, thinking that Jed could be within two feet from me at any moment, and I wouldn’t even know it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Name that car part

My old Mercedes wagon has been around the block a couple hundred thousand times--and even driven coast to coast on veggie oil, not stopping at a single gas tank--so as you might expect, random pieces of it ocassionally fall off. This is the latest to appear on my driveway. Anyone have a clue what it is and what it does? Any insight would be helpful.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

NH Town gets greasy

So let me get this straight, the city of Portsmouth NH, has discovered that by encouraging people to recycle their cooking grease at home--instead of flushing it down the drain--plumbing problems are reduced (saving homeowners money), wastewater treatment issues decrease (saving the city money), and a local company (creating American jobs) turns the stuff into cheap home heating oil and fuel (saving homeowners money, again). Oh, and it lowers the city's carbon footprint and dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Yes, this environmentally friendly stuff really is going to drag us down financially.

What are you doing about it?

An article from today: "The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has described as "tragic" the lack of action on climate change by developed countries."

The greatest myth about global warming is that so-called "green" practices are too expensive and burdensome to our economy. On the contrary. Talk to the folks at the Fort Knox Army base in Kentucky about that one and they'll laugh (as they save 60 percent on their fuel and electricity costs from a decade ago through green practices). Oh yeah, I did talk to them. It's in the book.

Use your vote this fall to bring about change.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rust spot of the week

This rust spot is on the front left quarter panel of my 1985 Mercedes 300TD that's powered by used fryer grease. I've got about enough rust spots to fill at least a year's worth of "spot of the week" photos. Coming soon: "Name this car part." I'm going to photo, and ask you to identify, different pieces of the car that randomly drop onto my driveway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Green" Bay, Wisconsin Part II

It has come to my attention that there's a whole "Green" Land in Europe. I heard two people talking about it at a restaurant, and one of them said it's very chill, I think. Looks like the Wisconsin cheese eaters and their piddly "Green" Bay have some catching up to do.

Things that make it go vrooom. Part I.

I was making Freedom Toast for the kids this morning, when I realized that I haven't done much explaining on this here blog on how my car runs on waste vegetable oil (fry grease). So let me start by showing a picture of the interior. That suspicious looking silver thing is the veggie oil tank, which holds 15 gallons of wholesome, saturated fattyness. (I'll describe it in greater detail later.)
One piece of advice: If you've got one of these things strapped inside the back of your wagon, don't cross the border into Canada. Because on the way back into the US, Homeland Security will have a question, or 20, about it. It happened to me in Michigan one very long day. (Though I'll give them credit for doing their jobs.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Personnel decisions

Dick Cheney's advisor on global warming (a man who I'm sure is very concerned with the plight of the polar bears) has been promoted to basically shaping the federal government's policy on global warming and clean air. Uh oh. I make the point in Greasy Rider that we spend more money on one Tomahawk Cruise missile than we do on the Energy Department's entire annual budget for renewable energy and fuel research. Doesn't look like that's gonna change.

So who is this guy? He's not a scientist, but he did volunteer during the Florida recount eight years ago (no word on whether he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express). His name: Frank Chase Hutto III. Something tells me he didn't grow up in Harlem, dodging crack dealers and gangs so he could get an education and work his way to a powerful job as one of Cheney's minions.

W on global warmings

Why did I post this? Because it's still funny.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

T. Boone Pickens

Much has been made of the Pickens Plan. He met yesterday for 90 minutes with John McCain in Aspen, and then later with Harry Reid to peddle his concept for generating 20 percent of America's electricity by wind in the next 10 years. I don't deny that Pickens, the Swiftboat financier, sits close to Dick Cheney on the list of the country's Most Evil Oil Men. And that there must be some sort of Insidious Plot behind his "plan." But who cares? If it takes Satan himself (herself?) to do show that renewable energy can be profitable, then so be it. Go laugh your way to the bank T. Boone.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"Green" Bay, Wisconsin

I've only read the headlines, but apparently, there's a whole "Green" bay in Wisconsin. I'm not sure what makes it green--probably something with cleaning up the water. I'll check it out futher and report back here. The guy heading it--someone named Favre--has moved to New York, it seems. Maybe Manhattan is getting serious about getting rid of pollution in the Hudson. That would be good news.


This is my 1985 Mercedes 300 TD Wagon. It runs on waste vegetable oil I get from restaurants. My kids don't like riding in it, because the pleather seats stick to their skin, it smells funny, and the air conditioner stopped working sometime during the Reagan Administration. They don't seem to care that we get our gas for free, or that instead of producing smog from the tailpipe, it produces smug. I will be updating this site as often as possible (which may or may not be very often).