As I do every morning, I just went to the home page of The New York Times to see what’s new in the world. Holy crap. My high from the inauguration lasted 48 hours, and just ended with the sound of a balloon releasing air and flying across the room, before landing limply and empty on the floor:
Last night we finally got around to watching the first two episodes of Planet Earth, the mind-blowingly well-done series of nature films by the BBC, all filmed in high definition and with the most incredibly complex camerawork I have ever seen. (The snow leopard scenes brought tears to my eyes, and once it started snowing, I was a mess.)
We watched it en espanol, which turned out to be a great idea: It has slow, simple narration in verb tenses we know pretty well (present and simple past), so we never felt miserably lost as we do when we watch most TV in Spanish. And many animals have very similar names in both idiomas: caribou, impala, leopardo,…
A few key vocabulary words that I really enjoyed learning (or re-remembering, as is so often the case for me) while watching La Planeta Tierra:
las focas — seals
los polos — the poles (as in north pole and south pole)
las hojas — leaves
baja tierra — underground
cachorros — pups, for many species
reservas de grasa — fat reserves
las girasoles — daisies
las ardillas — squirrels
rayos del sol — sunlight, rays of sunshine
la energia del sol — sun’s energy
los monos — monkeys
los insectos — insects
los tiburones — sharks
grande blanco tiburones — great white sharks
las nubladas — clouds
huracanes de harina — dust storm (harina is more like flour, but you get the idea)
peligrosos tormentos de polvo — dust storm (polvo is dust and any fine substance)
Stuff that struck me as funny:
unico huevo — one unique egg, as in the penguin’s single egg each year
un banquete por todos los animales — a banquet for all the animals
un epoca de abundancia — an era of adundance
padres dedicados — dedicated dads (about a type of fish)
los monos no le gustan el agua — the monkey’s don’t like the water, said as a group of monkeys hesitantly, if not prissily, waded through water
empieza el ataque — the attack begins, said each time a predator pounced on some prey
Not so funny:
no dura mucho — won’t last long, in reference to ever-shrinking ice caps
el futuro de la especie –– future of the species. In many cases, bleak.
When I first heard this news on the radio this morning, I immediately felt queasy:
“The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army launched a rescue mission this morning to save the 22 crew members on a Cypriot freighter loaded with petroleum coke that was wallowing helplessly some 90 miles southeast of Galveston as Hurricane Ike continues its approach, the Coast Guard said.
‘It’s very similar to being on a continuous roller coaster,” said David Weathers, an executive board member for American Maritime Officers. “It’s very, very hard to move – very, very hard to do anything.””
When I was 18, and a volunteer with the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, I went out to sea with a group of marine biologists who were releasing, Xeno, a dolphin. In the previous months, we had nursed him back to health from near death. (I basically spent my senior year of high school next to his tank recording his respirations or stuffing medicines into frozen fish.)
On the day of Xeno’s release, we went out on a large UT research boat into 20-foot seas. Within minutes, my stomach and head were spinning and churning as if I was, well, on 20-foot seas. There is NOTHING that makes the dizziness go away, since the horizon looks like the long, hellish end of a see-saw. I foolishly took Dramamine and all that did was keep me from vomiting, I was still incredibly sick.
So, these poor souls stuck on this freighter in what meteorologists are saying may produce the worst storm surge in Texas in 100 years? I just simply can’t imagine the hell.
The following conversation took place as Joy drove home with her parents in a fossil fuel burning Chrysler. They were discussing Pemex, the nationalized oil company of Mexico. Mexico sells a lot of its crude oil to U.S. companies. Joy’s father is a long-time petrochemical refining consultant, so he’s seen his share of Mexican crude.
Dad: [Name of refinery redacted] processes about 50,000 barrels of Mexican crude every day.
Joy: 50,000 barrels a day? That’s a lot of gasoline. How we don’t run out, I have no idea. (Trying to sound smart)… Most Mexican oil is from offshore drilling.
Mom: I wonder why they don’t do more drilling onshore in Mexico?
Joy (speculating wildly): Probably because of all the mountains. It’s not flat like Texas.
Dad: No, that has nothing to do with it. It’s random, you find it where ever dinosaurs died….
Joy (dumbfounded): ….I thought gasoline was from, you know, old plants and stuff.
Dad: No, mostly dinosaurs. They’re huge and there used to be tons of them. That’s what most gasoline comes from.
Joy: That’s kind of creepy. And sad.
Mom: Yeah, it really is, isn’t it?
Dad: There’s even some crude that’s hard to use because it contains so much iron. Iron from the blood of dinosaurs. It’s hard to remove the iron.
Joy (a little grossed out): Uh, wow.
(Hours later, an incredulous Joy Googles the issue and discovers that one Tyrannosaurus Rex yields 460 gallons of gasoline. Moral of the story: Dinosaurs fuel this world.)
(Photo by Mattron on Flickr)
I’m somewhere in that hazy big mess of concrete, steel, glass and air pollution in New York City. We’re in an Upper East Side hotel this week, as we wait for our Mexican visas to get finalized (allegedly ready tomorrow!) (Note: This photo was uploaded two months ago, but it sorta looks like that today!)
I’m on Day Four of working as a freelancer, and so far, I love it. I work from the hotel room, on the computer, singing out loud to myself, and dance like a maniac whenever the mood strikes me. (Although the guys on the scaffolding fixing the terraces of this building have caught me a couple of times. Yikes — but it was probably more frightening for them than me.) I also get to avoid this bizarre sweltering weather blanketing the Northeast.
So, in other words, I am living a life of comfort and have absolutely no complaints! “For once!” as those who know me might say.
Last night we finally watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
It’s always a bit disheartening to learn that, because of the “big guys” (the rich white old men of the government, the oil companies and the automakers), the American consumer was never really given the chance to own the true electric car, which uses no gasoline.
About a decade ago, GM released the “EV1” model, an electric car that was the first step in the right direction (that is, a vehicle that didn’t run on smog-spewing foreign oil). They let a few thousand people lease the EV1 models in California and Arizona. When demand started to build, but other factors caused GM to stop production, GM took all their EV1 cars back, with force. They literally smashed the poor, innocent cars to bits and pieces, promising to “recycle” the parts. This didn’t go down without a fight, as fervent EV1 drivers staged a round-the-clock vigil to keep the few cars from the junkyard. GM won.
As highlighted in this 2006 article by Bloomberg News, the death of the electric car was caused by a sort of perfect storm of factors (mostly rich guys noticing how consumers drooled over the shiny gigantic-ness of SUVs – the anti-Christ to electric cars.)
As a result, while gas prices continue to escalate, and global warming is irrefutable, current efforts to improve the first versions of the electric car are amazingly sparse. Right now, the push to create “plug-in” cars seems the most hopeful innovation on the horizon – unlike electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and hybrid vehicles (which still have a pretty crappy MPG ratio), “plug-ins” allow drivers to go long distances without needing to recharge, one of the biggest drawbacks to older electric models.
However, again, it seems like production efforts of the “plug-ins” are moving at the pace of a demented turtle — have you seen any of these cars on the street?
Neither have I.
(Update: The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that “GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz said yesterday that the company hopes to launch a family of electric vehicles that would share many parts with GM’s mainstream models. GM still needs suppliers to develop the batteries required for electric vehicles, and it isn’t yet certain the suppliers will come through. GM already is mapping out plans to produce a wide range of electric models beyond the Chevrolet Volt, which it has vowed to launch in three years or so.”)
I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to global warming – I’m pretty much convinced this planet is beyond repair. You just have to be a regular reader of NOAA press releases to know that.
And sometimes, it feels like it’s all going to hell very soon:
Too many words? Want a more visual sense of things? A 15,000 Year Tour of Abandoned Manhattan