Sunday, June 28, 2009

July 4 in Poland, Ohio

You never know when July 4th will happen here. Except you can be sure that it won't take place on July 4th. This year it happened on June 26th -- and came with the added pleasure of a Civil War re-enactment. I'm not exactly sure why this brigade of middle aged men and women moved into town, pretending to be Civil War folks. But they camped out in white tents on the town square for two nights, talked on their cell phones a lot, drank Cokes, and planted a line of porta-potties next to their tents. They marched up and down the streets at various times during their stay, sweating profusely and waving at the cars driving by. I made the mistake of asking one of the Civil Warriors what July 4 had to do with the Civil War. He just blinked a few times, took a bite of a hotdog, and said people like to learn about history.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Price of Poetry

I started 3 new poems this week, and I feel completely wiped out by them. I find it so strange that writing a silly poem or two takes so much out of me. I can run ten miles with greater ease and less physical pain than composing half a poem. That said, I still think the hardest job is farming. So many of my writer friends talk of my childhood on a farm as somehow merely bucolic. They seem to picture the act of farming as watching the alfalfa grow. What I remember was the feeling that the work would never be done. And unlike a poem, you can't just abandon the farm . . . And there was not much profit involved.

Maybe as a result, I tend to look up the news about the American dairy farmer. The independent small farmer, not the CAFOs. The news is never good. (It might be worse than trying to make a living as a poet.) The more we rely on CAFOs of course, the greater the environmental damage. I can't imagine why anyone would want to operate a factory farm. Ah well. Here's the latest:

"According to the USDA, the average cost of production for milk is $24.08 per hundredweight (cwt or 100 pounds), while the price dairy farmers were paid for their milk in April sunk to $10.78 cwt.

This means that dairy farmers are earning less than half of what it costs to produce their milk. Imagine having your salary cut in half and still trying to cover the same monthly bills. Even worse, feed and fuel prices are starting to go up in the past few months. For farmers, most of whom work too long of hours and are paid too little money, this is the perfect formula for a final liquidation of one of the last remaining independent segments of ag production. For years, small and medium-sized farms have relied on their dairy cows to stay relatively free from domination by factory farms and corporate agribusiness. But no longer. " (from Grist)

Of course, there aren't any reports on the average production costs for poets and writers. How much per weight in pages. And whether it costs more to produce than to write. Evidently if we could eat or drink poetry, it probably wouldn't help much--unless we could churn them out . . . and not worry about the quality. Who would know the difference? we might reason. One poem is as good as another. The more, the faster, the better. Sometimes when I have a glass of milk these days, I have to remind myself that this is milk I'm drinking. Not some cold white drink with a flavor of liquid white noise. No, this milk from a carton is nothing like the milk I drank as a child, the fresh milk with a taste of sunlight and grass and TLC.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Font for the Most Readers

I actually found an article in the bookstore last night on different fonts! Who would have thought! The article (from a marketing text) explained why one should use Times New Roman. It said that the choice of typeface can affect a reader's comprehension. Roman letters are preferred by most readers because they are the most comprehended, and can be understood 92% if the time. A close second is sans serif at 90%. The least comprehended --anything close to cursive or script. Such letters are only understood between 37% and 26% if the time.

I just love statistics.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Myth: The Cost of Climate Legislation Is Too High

This is really nice entry from Grist. Esp. relevant for folks in Ohio and other coal states. I have heard from several friends who say that their representatives are whining that it will hurt our economy if we institute climate change legislation. I find it so upsetting that politicians think only of the short-term. But this article is a really good response.

And please oh please (if you haven't already, I mean) write your congressmen today and tell them to support the Waxman Markey bill! It's only takes a few minutes to write a note.

"Legislators from dirty-energy producing states, energy-intensive business lobbies, and conservative think tanks struggle to outdo one another with apocalyptic predictions about the effects of mandatory greenhouse gas emission reductions. See, for example, the Chamber of Commerce’s video showing children shivering in the cold (really). As climate legislation evolves this year, the rhetoric is ramping up again, led by the Wall Street Journal editorial page and doomsayers-for-hire at the Heritage Institute and the Chamber of Commerce.

The mainstream media passes along this kind of Chicken Littleism in gutless he-said she-said fashion, so the public rarely hears the truth: mainstream economists pretty well agree that the impact of a carbon pricing system on the economy will be modest.

Last year EDF did an analysis (PDF) of six separate forecasts of the economic impact of a cap-and-trade, from leading nonpartisan academic and government agency sources. The median prediction was a hit to GDP growth of between 0.5 and 1 percent by 2030. Instead of doubling by January 2030, U.S. GDP would, in the most pessimistic scenarios, double by ... July 2030. (Doooomed!)

Some analysts are even more optimistic, projecting climate targets will be met at net-zero cost or even with a boost to GDP. Perhaps they recall that economists wildly overestimated the cost of the last U.S. cap-and-trade program; the sulfur dioxide trading regime, designed to fight acid rain, came in about 90 percent cheaper than official projections.

Here’s a short list of things that will damage the economy far worse than tackling climate change: the current mortgage/banking/credit crisis, rising fossil fuel prices, competitive disadvantage in burgeoning global clean energy markets, and, oh yeah, climate change itself. Compared to the alternatives, reducing climate emissions looks like a spectacular bargain. (For more on this economic consensus, see Eric Pooley.)"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Thing I Hate about Summer

The one thing I hate about summer is lawn care. I know. I should have better things to think about. But I am always offending my neighbors by going natural. My yard is like the girl who refuses to wear a bra or shave her pits and legs, I sometimes think, remembering the 60s and 70s. But now, not many ladies go natural. And Chem Lawn owns most of the yards in these parts. Some of my friends keep telling me that the chemical fertilizers are actually natural. I won't go into that . . . But I will post an excerpt below from a New Yorker article that I find helpful.

(I know, I should be talking about poems, not lawns. But for many it seems their lawns and gardens are their poems . . . )

"The greener, purer lawns that the chemical treatments made possible were, as monocultures, more vulnerable to pests, and when grubs attacked the resulting brown spot showed up like lipstick on a collar. The answer to this chemically induced problem was to apply more chemicals. As Paul Robbins reports in “Lawn People” (2007), the first pesticide popularly spread on lawns was lead arsenate, which tended to leave behind both lead and arsenic contamination. Next in line were DDT and chlordane. Once they were shown to be toxic, pesticides like diazinon and chlorpyrifos—both of which affect the nervous system—took their place. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos, too, were eventually revealed to be hazardous. (Diazinon came under scrutiny after birds started dropping dead around a recently sprayed golf course.) The insecticide carbaryl, which is marketed under the trade name Sevin, is still broadly applied to lawns. A likely human carcinogen, it has been shown to cause developmental damage in lab animals, and is toxic to—among many other organisms—tadpoles, salamanders, and honeybees. In “American Green” (2006), Ted Steinberg, a professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, compares the lawn to “a nationwide chemical experiment with homeowners as the guinea pigs.”

Meanwhile, the risks of the chemical lawn are not confined to the people who own the lawns, or to the creatures that try to live in them. Rain and irrigation carry synthetic fertilizers into streams and lakes, where the excess nutrients contribute to algae blooms that, in turn, produce aquatic “dead zones.” Manhattanites may not keep lawns, but they drink the chemicals that run off them. A 2002 report found traces of thirty-seven pesticides in streams feeding into the Croton River Watershed. A few years ago, Toronto banned the use of virtually all lawn pesticides and herbicides, including 2,4-D and carbaryl, on the ground that they pose a health risk, especially to children."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Simon Says

I love my new book of poems, Broken World, by Joseph Lease. So much of the book is a surprise. He really has a different muse . . . with lines like the following from "Prayer, Broken Off":

Simon says, put your hands on your head, Simon says, put your finger up your nose, Simon says you don't have enough, Simon says you don't care enough, Simon says, you can't stop caring--

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I love Al Gore

I was going to write something about writing, about my recent trip to Maine, about the incredible beauty of that state, especially at this time of year when the tourists aren't there yet, but then I saw this video of Al Gore. It's about a half hour long--sort of an updated, short version on An Inconvenient Truth. (It also takes a while to load, so if you want to watch it, be patient. )