Archive for June, 2010

Atco Devastated

Posted in Good Times with tags , on June 28, 2010 by Verge

Last Thursday a fierce storm blew through our town.  It wasn’t a hurricane or a tornado, but it did do a hell of a lot of damage.  We were lucky we had power back within 24 hours.  I honestly saw so many power lines down, I thought for sure it was going to be a full weekend without electricity.  As soon as I finally made it home from work, having driven through the hell that was Atco, barely being able to navigate the roads, I grabbed my camera and set out on foot to take some shots of the damage.  Here are some of the best.

Why You Should NOT Boycott BP Oil

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags , , , on June 18, 2010 by Verge

I know it seems like I’m crazy.  The most obvious thing to do is to boycott a company that has caused insurmountable harm to the lives of Americans and to our environments.  But, our gut reaction isn’t always the best one to choose.  It’s actually, very often, the worst one to choose.  Our “gut” reactions are usually the Fight part of “fight or flight,” and most often overcompensates  our overwhelming anger with ridiculously exaggerated (and not well thought out) reactions.

Let me explain.  BP is obviously negligent.  Even if the reports and eye witness testimonies that came out pointing to the facts and circumstances of their disgusting ignorance hadn’t arisen on their own, BP’s own actions tell the truth.  They are donating billions to victims, billions to clean-up efforts, and gushing public apologies at the rate of the oil leak itself!  If that’s not an admission of guilt, I don’t know what is.  They know they screwed up royally, and can only hope to stem the public, worldwide backlash as quickly as they can stop that underwater geyser of poison leaking in the Gulf.

Okay, now that we’ve got that part of blame out of the way, let’s clarify.  The local BP gas station that so many people would like to stop giving money to is not owned by BP.  It is a “BP branded” gas station.  That means, much the same as your local Dunkin’ Donuts, it is a franchise.  It is, most often, a locally owned gas station/quickie-mart/service-station that pays monthly for the privilege to sport a nice, big BP sign in the parking lot.

When you boycott your local business, you hurt local business people.  I understand that even local franchises can be owned by huge companies, so don’t even go there.  Yes, they can be.  But, I can assure you, BP Oil does not own, operate, or care in the least if you get your gas at the local BP gas station.  It doesn’t affect them at all. And, even if everyone in America stopped buying BP gas station gas, it wouldn’t matter anyway, even if they owned 100% of the stations.

Here’s why.  BP, and every other petroleum  company isn’t in the business of filling your car with gasoline.  They are in the business of harvesting crude oil.  That means that there a thousands of things that petroleum is used in the production of, and gasoline happens to account for a minority of it.  As far as alternative energy goes, last time I checked, you can’t make plastic out of solar energy or a windmill.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to find alternatives, too, but it’s going to take a lot more to lose dependency on oil than manufacturing electric cars.  But besides all of that, here’s where it really gets tricky.

Most people imagine that modern industry is just like it was hundreds of years ago.  An oil company harvest oil, sends it to its refineries, then ships it in their trucks to their own gas stations to dispense their own, company-branded gasoline into your vehicle.  That’s simple-minded insanity.  That’s the same thinking that would lead you to believe (and god help you if you do) that Starbucks has employees in Columbia that grow trees, harvest and roast beans, then has their own freighters to load crates of coffee beans to ship to ports in America, where more Starbucks employees bag and package their own beans to be sent to their locations all around the country, so that when you drink Starbucks coffee, it’s through and through a company manufactured product.

another happy Starbucks employee

I’ve got news for you.  Almost everything you purchase these days isn’t designed, manufactured, made or marketed by the person who sells it to you.  Brand names are just that…names.  Slap a recognizable logo on anything and it becomes that company’s product.  Do you really think McDonald’s is in the slaughterhouse business?  Do you really think Home Depot is in the lumbering business?  Do you really think Shop Rite is in the farming industry?  Then why on Earth would you assume your local gas station is in the petroleum mining business?

A bit of research will tell you that BP mined oil loses it’s “identity” as soon as it’s off loaded into the pipelines that crisscross our northern hemisphere.  Once crude oil is harvested, either from terrestrial or oceanic sources, it is directed by tankers  to local refineries via huge intake pipelines.  Once refined into a product, it is pumped into pipelines in “batches” where it flows around the country back to back with all kinds of other petroleum products.  When a “batch” of regular grade gasoline is pipe into a major pipeline vein, many different companies may contribute to that batch.

Once a company contributes a certain volume of refined product into a pipeline, it has a credit to withdraw the same amount of that product out of that pipeline at a later date in a different location.  However, it doesn’t necessarily have to withdraw it’s own product.  In fact, if it would like to immediately withdraw product on the other end of the pipeline, a company can do so by paying a slightly higher premium for immediate withdraw.  In addition, it’s product is no longer distinguishable from another company’s product because they’ve all been mixed in the batch.

The fact is that once petroleum products are refined into their many uses, it becomes a commodity to be traded, not a product to be sold by an individual.  There is no guarantee that the gasoline at a local BP station was ever mined and refined by BP themselves.  It’s likely a mixture of product that came from many different sources and refineries.

And, even if it was, you can’t boycott that company to any degree anyway.  If you stop buying their gasoline, they’ll just start refining jet fuel, diesel and petrochemicals for plastics.  If you want to truly boycott BP, you’ll need to stop buying almost every product in your life.  They’re all flown, driven and made using the oil that BP, Exxon, Shell, and all the others collectively harvest.

So, don’t boycott BP Oil.  It will make no difference.  If you want to feel all fuzzy inside like your somehow saving the environment, ride your bike to work and boycott every gas station.  Just don’t forget that BP had a hand in making those rubber bike tires and inner tubes, the grease on that chain, the paint on that frame, the rubber in those handle grips, the plastic on the brake lines, the plastic reflectors, the pedals, the rubber on the brakes…well, you get the idea.  Get used to riding that bike, too, cause shortly, you won’t be able to swim in the ocean any longer.

Have a great Summer!

Night at the Ballpark

Posted in Good Times, Vegan and Vegetarian Lifestyle with tags , , , , on June 12, 2010 by Verge

Monika and I managed to score a pair of tickets to the Phillies game on Thursday.  Anyone who knows me can tell that I don’t really watch baseball.  I find it pretty boring and too slow for my taste.  Going to a live baseball game, on the other hand, is really exciting and I thoroughly enjoy the experience because it’s just that…an experience.

Of course, we couldn’t go to an authentic ball game without a little tailgating.  We wanted to go simple, though, because taking home a bunch of empty bottles of beer in the car afterward is out of the question, and leaving it in the parking lot is just not our style.  We hit up my favorite local liquor store and decided on two forties, white trash style.

We arrived in the third because there was ridiculous traffic and we still had to have a sip of beer in the lots.  Though I don’t go very often, I really do love the new park.  It is so much nicer than seeing a ball game at the Vet.  I’m really glad they chose, in the end, not to share a stadium with the Eagles.

smaller is better in the baseball world

Our seats were pretty damn fine for free

We enjoyed a beer inside the venue, but eventually we got bored (there were only two runs the entire game) and got hungry.  Philly has the best food for a pair of vegetarians in the entire country.  First, we tracked down the vegan hot dogs.  We found them without too much hunting, right along side of the regular hot dogs, but with a special “vegan” sticker stuck to the quintessential tin foil wrapped hot dogs.   Surprisingly, there was plenty to grab and they were freshly reheated.

The condiments center at the Park is pretty nice, too.  It was relatively clean, all the ketchup and mustard dispensers were full and not disgusting, and you have a choice to grab packets as well.  Also, they have these fresh cut onions dispenser that you crank with a handle and out plops bits of coarsely cut fresh white onions.  Pretty neat, actually.  I had two vegan dogs with onions and ketchup and they were every bit as delicious as I remember a hot dog being when I was a kid at he ball game with my dad.

we stopped back in our seats to watch the Phillies not winning

After we’d had enough, we went to look for the vegetarian cheese steaks that I knew were in here somewhere.  I knew it might take us all night going to every kiosk to find it, so I asked a pleasantly helpful cashier where I might find one, and she knew.  We headed to the first level concourse where Campo’s is located.  The lines weren’t too long at all, and I ordered one veggie american wit.

my mouth was watering...twice!

We grabbed another eyefuls of views of the game and ball park before heading back to the car to enjoy our victory sandwich.

the field after sunset, under the lights

...

there plenty to see even if you're just a casual baseball fan

Me and Monika are not sports nuts.  Well, that is to say, we are not huge fans of watching other people engage in sports, though we do like to play games ourselves.  But, if the opportunity affords you, I would highly recommend an outing to see the Phillies sometime.  Baseball still is our national past time and a fantastic summer ritual.  And, contrary to public perception (which is often true), Philly’s fans aren’t really some crude form of humans.  They just want to have a good time, see their team win, and hang out with other fans…as long as they’re dressed in red (or orange, or green).

Weekend Review # 3 – “Decoration Day”

Posted in Good Times with tags , , , on June 4, 2010 by Verge

After three years living in a town house it Atco, I had more than outgrown my garage/shed space.  I used to have a two car garage.  I turned 3/4ths of it into my recording studio two years ago, leaving not even a cars worth of space for my workbench, all my tools, my refrigerator and all my extra supplies (like paper towels, toilet paper, and a various multitude of kitchen gadgets that surely do not fit into the limited space of a town home set aside for culinary expertise).

The garage as it looked the week before I owned it!

This is how it looks now ( a bit messy)

This is why I needed a shed...

I also had a small outdoor storage shed.  This was actually just a small closet attached to my house and not really a shed at all but more of an outhouse.   This is where I’ve managed to stuff every bit of lawn furniture cushions, lawn and garden chemicals (yes, some of them organic, but not all), seeds, a rather large ceramic kiln, a lawnmower, weed whacker, blower, gas for all three (and some gas for I don’t even know what), and all kinds of various outdoor things that really don’t fit in a 4’X6′ closet.

So, I ordered a storage shed from here, and had it delivered last Thursday morning.  I had made some preparation in my backyard by removing the stones in my front yard and making a stone foundation in an appropriate place in the deep backyard.  In their place, I decided to plant corn with Monika.  It just started to come up by the time this weekend came to a close.

Having expanded my vegetable garden into my front yard is not only an intelligent use of my obviously limited space in a town home, but a hilarious trick to play on my neighbors.  I plan to make it up to them in the Fall by giving them all dried corn stalks for their Halloween and Autumn decorations.

Okay, in this photo, the corn is barely discernible, but it's there, I assure you.

In any case, I had an unbelievably long, 5 day weekend ahead of me without actually having to burn any vacation days.  I had intentionally left it completely free because I wanted enough time to build the shed I had ordered.  I arrived Thursday around noon, and that’s when I started building.  It took me that afternoon and evening, with some help from friends, and then I finished by the next afternoon.  It came out damn nice and I’m completely happy with the money I spent on it.

Now with the big project out of the way, and three entire days of vacation left, me and Monika headed to my parents house in Forked River for an evening of relaxation.  Obviously, we had some delicious cocktails on Friday night with my family.  the next morning, after a nice breakfast, we took my brother’s boat out for a swim.  There were seven of us, and we raced around with no destination, a cooler of beer and tunes blaring.  We really didn’t want to end up anywhere.  We just wanted to enjoy the crystal clear day, the calm bay and the calming ride.

Alas, after the ride was over, there was some obligatory work to do back at the house.  Working on the boat lift and fuel filter for a few hours is a decent exchange for hours of fun on the boat I’m sure I’ll cash in on later in the Summer.  Nevertheless, I crouched over the bay, balancing on a metal beam only four inches wide, trying with all my strength to loosen bolts that have partially corroded due to the salt water.  It was nerve racking and I enjoyed a much needed martini when we were finished.

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the top deck, in the sun, with our family.

And, I’d like to take a moment to point out that Decoration Day, otherwise known by its modern name of Memorial Day, is about paying homage and respect to those people who have served our country’s military in all facets of defense.  Originally, Decoration Day was a day of remembrance for those soldiers that died in the Civil War, and was celebrated on the anniversary of the armistice.  Much later, it was expanded first to the first World War, and then again, much later, for all fallen American service people.

Modern celebrations have drifted to the edge of meaningfulness.  The “bank holidays” of the United States have lost much of their potency to the coveted “three-day weekend” that we all treasure so much.  And, I certainly understand that it’s not always the best time to bring up the fact that our country was not only bitterly divided, but at war with itself, and many people were killed.   In fact, the tactics of the North versus the South near the end of the American Civil War were undoubtedly insane.

call me a patriot, but this alone sometimes can bring tears to my eyes...

Admittedly, we really did nothing more that fly a flag, which in reality, is the same thing we do every day.  Of course, we should have flown it at half staff.  Next year, I’d like to remember to do more.  Better still, I’ll try to do something today, or next week, or all year.  Personally, I’m not a fan of leaving carnations of grave sites, but sending letters, or supplies to entertain soldiers overseas suits me just fine.

That night was game one of the Stanley Cup Finals.  It was a crazy, high-scoring game that I watched with my Dad on the couch.  They Flyers lost, but it really doesn’t matter all that much to me since I’m a New Jersey fan.  However, if I’m at a bar watching the rest of the finals (game 4 tonight), I’d like to see Philadelphia win so everyone isn’t pissed off and upset.

Perhaps this'll be your year, Philly fans.

Sunday we planned to go home, so we didn’t get into anything too time consuming.  Monika drove home while I tried to convince my friend to go sky diving with us the next day.  I’ve wanted to for a few years now, and after talking to a friend of ours who had just done, she convinced me I needed to go sooner rather than later.  But, alas, the request was turned down due to lack of funds.

However, he did have a pretty damn fine idea that required no money at all.  I’ve been wanting to learn how to sail, and he has a sail boat!  He invited us both to meet him and his wife to the yacht club where he stores his boat for my first lesson and an afternoon on the Delaware River.

Getting in and out was a bit more adventure than I expected, but we got it done.  Once out in the water, my friend showed us some of the more important things, like how to not capsize by “hiking.” When the wind failed us, we broke out a bottle of champagne and some PBRs and took a break.  It was a perfect day for beginners:  sunny, not too crowded and light wind.  Hell of an adventure.

We wrapped up later that evening hanging out with Kreg and Kat and their families for memorial day BBQ at his house.  It was a great weekend.  I got a lot done, and had a ton of fun with my friends and family as well.  Can’t beat that.  I hope everyone else had a great deal of outdoor, familial, friendly, somewhat drunken fun at some point, too.

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