Sunday, February 25, 2007

More on Ethanol

Nolan Finley at the Detroit News writes about the new ethanol boom from the perspective of a bourbon drinker:
As a bourbon drinker and grandson of a moonshiner, I naturally perk up when talk turns to distilling corn.

Grandpa cooked corn into sour mash whiskey in a process nearly identical to the one used today to produce ethanol.

But while the feds chased Old Pap up hills and down hollers to stop him from running off a batch or two of home brew, the government this year will provide more than $7 billion in subsidies to encourage a massive expansion of ethanol production.

I noted a few weeks ago that the new push for ethanol is likely to drive food prices sharply upward. Finley notes that the ethanol boom is unlikely to solve our energy problems, anyway, and the reduced car emissions are offset by new pollution in the manufacturing process.

Why would anybody propose to solve one problem by creating a worse problem? Perhaps that's what happens when you get a disproportionate amount of information from polls and lobbyists. Or maybe it is a lack of practice in thinking about systems: "If I do this, then another player could react like that...."

I am heartened by the number of young people I see playing the live poker tables. They are honing their systems-thinking skills, their game theory, their ability to think ahead and make choices based on possible consequences. Some of these kids will crash and burn. (I'm thinking of the ones who play a lot of online poker, or who think that "poker player" is an actual profession.) But some will learn to apply the game player's mind to our most important problems, to think in synergy rather than linearly. These people will be the next generation of problem solvers, and I'm thinking thay might do a markedly better job.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What kind of English?

I took a quickie online quiz called What Kind of American English Do You Speak? To some extent, the kind of English I speak depends on what sort of English speakers I'm speaking to. In both Hawaii and Peshawbestown, I've heard a magic marker referred to as a "marsh pen". I just try to listen and blend in. Anyway, here are my results:

Your Linguistic Profile:
45% General American English
20% Upper Midwestern
15% Yankee
5% Dixie
5% Midwestern

Friday, February 23, 2007


First there was no ice. No ice for a long time, well into January. Then it was too friggin cold, 5 below and windy, much too cold to walk out on the ice and hunker down around a hole.

Finally this week we had ice, a good foot, and some glorious sunny days with a temperature around 40. Richard went out on Lake Leelanau and had one of those rare days, caught 40 perch and none of them less than eight inches. All from the same hole, and they came pretty fast, too.

The day before and the day after, the fish were much less obliging. It was a little window of time and a little hole in the ice.

Here's another hole in the ice. I guess there's no point in trying Little Glen until the water clears up.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Short Winter

Even if it's still snowing in May, this will have been a short winter. We were still waiting for winter to "start" halfway through January. The same weekend that I gave up on snow and invested in a new clothesline, the temperature plunged and we were treated to three weeks of temperatures that rarely left the single digits.

The picture above was taken in our yard about halfway through the cold period. It was one of those dark days, when we needed to use the lights in the kitchen all day. Although we installed second floor heat vents in this old farmhouse, we don't make a serious effort to heat beyond the kitchen and twin parlours. We just stay downstairs until it's time to go to bed.

Yesterday the temperature trend reversed itself just as fast: from nighttime temps around zero, we reached a sunny-day high of 40 degrees F. I hung out laundry for the first time this year and it dried in the southwest breeze.
This is one of Shelagh's pictures, from January's ice storm in Ann Arbor. As a college student, she doesn't drive. When you're walking everywhere an ice storm is less of a hazard and more of a visual treat. She said the trees stayed coated like this for three or four days. She took this picture because it "reminded me of Narnia".

If this winter was like a ski slope, what we're missing is "base." The arctic air masses have showed up and are as cold as expected, maybe colder. But when the arctic air retreats, we get temperatures pushing forty, instead of those seemingly endless weeks of "highs in the twenties, lows in the teens."

Liz reports from Evanston that Lake Michigan is ice-covered "as far as I can see." This corresponds with NOAA's ice-cover map. Suttons Bay is full of chop ice, but I expect it to blow out any day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Misfit Toys ad

Rob at Misfit Toys has sent me an animated ad for my sidebar. I'm now attempting to upload the gif file using Blogger.

It seems to have worked, but I'll still have to make it into a link with a target. I'm going to have to get out a textbook and look up how to do this, since it's not a task I tackle everyday. For someone who wants to encourage others to advertise on their sites, The Hunger Site is a good model. The provide a variety of ads, animated or not, and they provide HTML so all the site owner needs to do is copy and paste.

The Misfit Toys ad is homemade. The bored kid is Rob's son Tyler, not acting, but actually being bored. My kids might have been bored from time to time, but they learned not to complain about it. If they did, I gave them chores. They learned to amuse themselves.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I have lately seen a lot of traffic from people looking for costume and set building ideas for Seussical and Honk! I noticed a similar trend last year at this time, as people everywhere started planning their spring musicals.

This year Leland is staging Schoolhouse Rock Live. Once again I find myself scouring the internet for information on a show that has existed beneath my personal radar. I liked the Repertory Actor's Theater's description of the show:
The show is a little campy, a wee bit corny, kinda patriotic, but definitely A LOT of fun! For many, myself included, Schoolhouse Rock Live! is a charming sojourn back to bygone innocent Saturday morning memories, a brief eighty minute escape from current world worries and woes. My hope is that it entertained and uplifted the spirits of all who had the chance to see it. As we struggle through these uncertain times, one thing is for sure,..."Knowledge is Power!"
Anna auditioned for the show, but she is still waiting to see if she got a part. It is a high school production, but in a school our size everyone needs to pitch in. I wonder if this show will somehow end up with someone playing the part of a bird?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Champion Tree Donations

The campaign to save Leland's Champion Poplar has unveiled their new website. They also report that donations are needed:
Checks can me made out to Leland Champion Tree Fund. They should be mailed to Huntington National Bank, C/O Beth Richter, PO Box 596 Leland, MI 49654.
There is also a link to a Detroit Free Press article about the effort.
Time is short, as the Road Comission wants their concerns resolved before the tree leafs out in spring.

Shelagh is Engaged

Liz sends this scan of Shelagh and Jordan's wedding announcement from the Leelanau Enterprise. They will be married June 23rd of this year in Suttons Bay.