Grateful For Our Grid

In India, more than half the country has lost power as three different electrical grids have failed.

More than 600 million people — 600 million! — have been affected by the power outages.  That’s about two times the entire population of the United States.  Imagine the chaos if our entire country were suddenly to lose power.  Then, imagine that occurring in a smaller geographic region, where the density of people is much, much greater than is found here.  Then, think of thousands of cars trying to navigate through crowds of hundreds of thousands of pedestrians without traffic lights, subways and trains that have stopped running, hospitals without power, and food spoiling in withering heat.  Successfully imagine all that, and you still probably couldn’t grasp the current conditions in Delhi.

Interestingly, India has one of the lowest per capita rates of electricity usage in the world, and significant parts of the country are not wholly electrified.  Even so, its power grid simply is not capable of supporting the growing demand.

It makes me appreciate our power grid in this country, where outages usually occur only after devastating storms and service is typically restored within hours.  It also makes me wish that some of that stimulus money the federal government shelled out a few years ago had been spent on our power systems, rather than on unnecessary road improvements or other make-work, “shovel ready” projects.

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In The Valley Of The Wind Turbines

Along I-65, about halfway between Indianapolis and Gary, Indiana, are rolling farm fields that also feature gigantic wind turbines.  The turbines have been planted, like crops, on both sides of the highway, running in rows in all directions, as far as the eye can see.  When all of the turbines are lazily spinning as they were today, their enormous blades slashing the summer air, it makes for quite a sight.

Saving The Trevi Fountain

If you’ve been to Rome, you’ve likely seen the Trevi Fountain.  It is a magnificent attraction, with its depiction of Neptune and sea horses and other sea creatures atop craggy rocks.  When we visited Rome during a very hot summer some years ago, the Trevi Fountain was a delightful place to sit, enjoy the spray of the cool water, and appreciate the beauty while taking a break from sightseeing.

Unfortunately, the Trevi Fountain is badly in need of repair.  Earlier this year, some pieces of the 250-year-old fountain — commissioned by one of those civic-minded Popes, Clement XII — broke off.  Fortunately, an Italian mineral water company, Acqua Claudia, has agreed to foot the $250,000 cost of the immediately needed restorations.  Whether funding will be located for the more long-term repair work on the fountain that is desperately needed is another question.

The condition of the Trevi Fountain is  symptomatic of a larger problem in countries with significant cultural sites.  Italy, Greece, and Spain, to name just a few, are terribly cash-strapped.  It’s hard to believe that such countries, which reap huge economic benefits from tourism, would neglect the sites that attract those tourists in the first place, but paying to maintain crumbling monuments, old buildings, fountains, and churches, is pushing budgets to the limit.

I hope that other companies step up, as Acqua Claudia has, to help the Italian government maintain Italy’s many irreplaceable architectural and artistic landmarks.  Generations to come should have the chance to see the Trevi Fountain in all its glory, rather than a heap of dust and rubble.

Mary Poppins And Dr. House

We recently inherited an umbrella stand, and an eclectic collection of umbrellas and canes, from Kish’s Mom.  We have frilly, polka-dotted umbrellas and sober black umbrellas, umbrellas with bone handles and umbrellas that could easily be hurled, javelin-like, at an approaching foe.  We have rattan canes, and riotously colored canes, and canes with sturdy black handles that are all business.

Whenever I look at this umbrella stand and its contents, I inevitably think about England’s most famous nanny and Princeton-Plainsboro’s irascible diagnostic genius —  two very mismatched fictional characters whose signature accoutrements nevertheless fit quite comfortably together.

 

Garbage, Our Leading Economic Indicator

Amidst the durable goods orders, and factory output analyses and aging inventory evaluations that typically are the focus of the dismal science, there lurks an economic indicator that is highly accurate and smelly, too — garbage.

A study has concluded that, of the 21 categories of items shipped by rail, the one that has the highest correlation to Gross Domestic Product is garbage.  Trash has an 82 percent correlation to economic growth.  The correlation is logical, and obvious, because the more people produce and purchase, the more they throw out.  So, if you want to assess how the economy is doing, keep an eye on the volume of refuse collected by your friendly neighborhood garbagemen.

Unfortunately, the garbage indicator isn’t predicting good economic news — carloads of waste are way down.  We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that the decline no longer accurately predicts economic activity and instead reflects that our neighbors have finally gotten serious about recycling and composting and other trash-minimizing activities.

Falling Asleep In The Noonday Sun

Yesterday afternoon I took my book and a glass of water with some lemon juice out to the back yard.  I plopped down on our outdoor furniture under one of our trees, balanced the water glass somewhat precariously on the cool grass, and began to read.

After some enjoyable reading, my eyelids grew heavy, as I knew they would.  I tried to fight the sleepiness by moving around, taking a few sips of the cold water, and squinting extra hard at the page before me.  But — as the Borg would say — resistance was futile.  My head nods became more and more pronounced.  After a few feeble attempts at staying awake, the buzz of the insects, the heaviness of the warm air, and the coolness of the sun-dappled shade finally got me, and I drifted off.

After a time the tweeting of the birds, the bark of a dog, or the cry of one of the neighborhood kids — I’m not sure which — caused me to slowly surface from my slumbers.  I’m not sure how long I dozed, but when I reached for my glass it was still cool and dotted with perspiration, and a tiny shard of ice cube floated on top.  I crunched the holdout ice cube with pleasure, stretched until my old bones cracked, and went back to reading.

What better way to celebrate the pleasures of summer than falling asleep in the noonday sun, stretched out in close proximity to nature, feeling the warmth on your face and the drowsiness overcoming you?

Follow The Leader

This summer, two swans and more than a dozen ducks call the pond at No. 5 North home.  They always approach when walkers tromp along the boardwalk, in hopes that the passersby might toss some bread crumbs into the water.

Yesterday, as Kish, Penny, Kasey, and I strolled past, the swans and the ducks had spotted a family at the other end of the boardwalk and were making a beeline in their direction, with the regal swan in the lead.