Timberati’s Weekend Postcards: USA Road Trip, Left Coast to East Coast

This last August my wife and I headed east. We strapped two bikes on top, threw camping gear, computers, clothes, toiletries, Immodium, and homebrew beer in the back, and drove across these United States to the east coast. We recommend this form of travel to everyone; driving across what is usually “flyover country,” is fun with straight and empty roads plus pleasant people in the “cities.” As an added bonus it does away with any direct interaction with those uptight drones of the Transportation Safety Administration. You don’t have to take off your shoes if you don’t want to.

Along the way, the family truckster (aka Volvo V70 XC) turned 200,000 miles on its odometer somewhere in South Dakota.

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‘Twas the Night Before Deadline

I write a column called the Green Chain for the Lake County Record-Bee‘s environmental page, the Green Scene. The Record-Bee printed this yesterday.

‘Twas the night before the Record-Bee’s Green Chain deadline.
I had writer’s block, and not for the first time.

When up in the sky, riding the clouds like a boat,
I spotted a wonder, a flying Chevy Volt.

Driven by Kris Kringle without reindeer with hoof,
it nose-dived straight into my roof.

Catching fire in a wink.
I said, “I’m going to get water to put it out, right here from the sink.”

I thought better of it yet,
and grabbed the old fire extinguisher, filled with still useful, Carbon Tet.

When I ran back to the outside, he’d already beaten down the flames
with an old reindeer hide.

He dropped down to my lawn.
“Drat, I sure miss Dandruff and Sitzbath, who now are gone.”

“Donder and Blitzen,” I said.

He turned, looked at me, and arched an eyebrow.
“Hmmph. Not bad for a guy who’s got writer’s block, right now.”

It was my turn to arch an eyebrow like his.
“So tell me, how do you know any of this?”

He made a ref’s timeout sign with his hands and quick.
“Look Sport, can we stop the Clement Moore, Night Before Christmas shtick?”

“I prefer to think of it as an homage.”

“Uh huh. You’re kidding, right? Look, I know about your writer’s block because the elves keep track of such stuff on the web.”

“The elves hack into computers?”

“The elves? Hackers? Ho, ho, ho.” His great beard bounced about. “Nah. They just use Facebook and Twitter. You wouldn’t believe what people post.”

“Can I use your phone?” he said and pulled out a card. “I need a tow. Boy, could I use Vomit and Pooka-head right now.”

“Comet and Cupid.”


I took him to the phone in the kitchen. “You learned about my writer’s block from my status update on Twitter?”

“Bingo.” He dialed and then put his hand over the receiver. “So, d’ya think you could fix me a double-shot cappuccino? It’s going to be a long night.”

When he finished giving his information to the dispatcher he plopped onto my kitchen chair.

I set a plate of cookies and the cappuccino on the table. “So, how are things on the North Pole?”

“Cold.” He slurped at the cappuccino. “You know, with this global warming stuff, everybody had worried that the polar bears and the ice caps would be gone this year. Frankly, I was looking forward to catching a Russian freighter and moving to the Bahamas like we did in the 1920’s.”

“The arctic ice was nearly gone in the 20s?”

“Sure, don’t you know any history?” He bit into a cookie. “Not bad for store-bought.”

“Thank Pepperidge Farms.”

“As for polar bears, did you know we have five times the population of those four-legged eating machines than we had seventy years ago? Geez Louise, Mrs. Clause has to shoo more of them away from the clothesline every year.”

The phone rang and I answered it. “The tow truck will be here in ten minutes.”

“Thanks.” He set his empty cup down. “Man, I miss Dopey and Sneezy.”


“Nah, they were a couple of dwarfs that hung around this hot number named, ‘Snow White.’ Really lousy poker players. I miss them.”

“By the way,” I said. “What happened to your reindeer?”

“Probably in some hunter’s freezer now. Upper management said they had to go, said we needed a smaller carbon footprint, said those animals spewed too much methane into the upper atmosphere causing an increase in global warming, this according to the pointy headed engineers’ climate models.”

I nodded. “I bet you miss them.”

“The engineers?”

“The reindeer.”

“Well, right now, yeah. But, the new Volt has a heater and factory air. That’s nice. Though, I have to charge it for hours every 40 miles and there is a slight chance of fire in a crash.”

“So I noticed.”

“One of those fuel-efficient diesels would’ve been better; some of them get 50 miles to the gallon. Do you know how long it takes to go around the world, dropping off presents, when you have to stop every 40 miles to recharge a Volt’s battery?”

“A long time?”

“Darn right.”

A horn sounded outside.

Santa shook my hand. “Well, I gotta go.”

He turned and was gone. But I heard him shout as the Volt was towed out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to y’all, and to y’all a good night.”

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Fear and Loathing in Lake County

Last Tuesday, anti-GE (genetically engineered) forces in the county threw their hats in the air, shouted hallelujah, and did happy dances when the Lake County Board of Supervisors (BoS) passed a resolution supporting the mandatory labeling of genetically modified food by a 3-2 vote. Supervisors Anthony Farrington (District 4), Denise Rushing (District 3), and Jeff Smith (District 2) voted in favor; Supervisors Jim Comstock (District 1) and Rob Brown (District 5) dissented. That all our food is the result of genetic modification already or that gene-splicing is, strictly speaking, a more precise way of making our food supply better, does not enter the conversation. Though, when pressed the discussion simply devolves to the supposition that GE products are being developed by Monsanto, and that “Monsanto is evil.”

Now to be fair, the choice to believe ‘GMO/GEO food is harmful or suspect’ is anyone’s right. We are free to believe as we wish, be it 9-11 Truthers, Birthers, UFOers, ID creationists, contrailers, GMO/GEOphobes, (but I draw the line at homeopathy and anti-vaxers).

It is when believers wish to impose their beliefs on others that we need to draw the line.

Over at Skeptical Vegan, there is a truly interesting post linking GMO labeling of food to labeling science textbooks which contain the “theory” of evolution:

I have various problems with the idea both in theory and as it has been presented to the public but my primary objection is that passing such a law would be acquiescing to a scientifically unjustified demand by a political pressure group in addition to subverting the purpose and reasoning behind current food labeling law. It may also be a stepping stone to an outright ban, enough advocates have made their desires more than clear on the subject for it to be just a hidden possibility. For many activists it seems this is not an issue so much of giving consumers a choice but rather a way of forcing GMOs off the market. All this reminds me of another time a pseudoscientific pressure group pushed their own scientifically unjustified demand on the public in the form of an “innocuous” label.

The post’s author points to creationists in school boards (elected officials) imposing their beliefs by requiring the placement of “innocuous” labels in textbooks such as this one:

This text book contains material on evolution.

Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.

This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.


The use of government’s monopolistic power to push a belief-system on everyone should give us all pause.



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