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Japan “atomic power emergency” highlights risks inherant in nuclear plant design.

New Radiation Symbol from Wikipedia

Nuclear plants require external energy to keep them from overheating, even after the plant has been shut down.  Any interruption of cooling water can result in a core meltdown.  With the potential to kill untold thousands, and leave large areas uninhabitable for centuries, these very expensive plants with toxic waste that we haven’t figured out how to dispose of are a very risky way of generating electricity.  Even decommissioning current plants is going to be a vastly expensive enterprise.  America desperately needs to forge ahead with investments in new solar technologies or be left behind by countries like China.

Posted in Environment. Tagged with , , , , , .

Three Guys from the Thirties

Three Guys from the Thirties (v1) ©2011 Jack LaPlante - All Rights Reserverd

Three Guys from the Thirties (v1)

There’s a local antique store called Sweet Lorain here in Cleveland we visited Sunday.  On the counter there’s a fishbowl of old photos with a sign on it: “Pick your relatives: 50¢”.  I picked out a few and this is my first scan, it was a very pale and battered photo that I fixed up with the GIMP.

Who knows who these sharp dressed men are related to?  The guy in the middle kind of looks like a gangster from the days of Film Noir!  I wish guys still dressed up like this, I think it’s cool.


Posted in Odds and Ends. Tagged with , , , .

Willa Cather’s My Ántonia

My Antonia Cover Image (c)2011 Jack LaPlante All Rights Reserved
Somewhere between the lyricism of poetry, the richness of a fine pastoral landscape and the wistful recounting of beloved family tales, lies the magical fiction of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. Gliding above the coppery prairie grasses as lightly as a hawk riding summer swells, we savor the intimate and loving details of the hearth without losing sight of the immense panorama of change wrought by those who had no choice but to succeed — or perish. That such an epic can spring from such simple roots is the key to Cather’s genius. There are no plot twists or tricks to keep the reader going; it all rings so true and so compelling one can’t wait to return to the heart of the prairie to find out what happens next.

Cather’s loving portraits are not of the protestant outcasts of Plymouth and their endless double dealings and witch trials, nor are they gothic dramas of the planters of Virginia and their innumerable slaves. There is no six-shooter chicanery to be found here – the simple heroics of survival are far more satisfying. Ordinary men and women of their time forged contracts between themselves, the unpredictable sky and the unforgiving grassland beneath. Wealth could measured by a fat chicken or two and whether a house of wood improved upon a hut hardly more substantial than a gopher hole. These are the joys and sorrows of pioneers who danced on the edge of survival and sanity, who subdued the endless acres with devotion, sacrifice and mutual aid. If ever we needed this kind of unromanticized grit and determination, it is now.

Posted in History, Literature, Recently Read. Tagged with , , .

Remembering the Bonus Coupon Marchers

Conditions at the camp were makeshift, but well organized

The world has watched breathlessly while the ordinary citizens of Egypt peacefully occupied the center of Cairo to make their demands known, bringing about the downfall of a long ruling dictator.  Their Army let them be, for the most part.

It’s worth remembering what happened here in America to our Veterans of WWI when they camped out in Washington to demand relief from the Great Depression: Douglas MacArthur led the charge through their camps, cavalry and tanks overrunning shacks and tents housing men, women and children, torches setting fire to their hovels and possessions, scattering the starving protesters to the wind.

More ImagesWikipedia ArticleNPRLibrary of Congress

Posted in History. Tagged with , , , , .

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s

A few of the factoids that got me interested in reading about Trader Joes’s, from the top of the article:

  • The privately held company’s sales last year were roughly $8 billion
  • Few customers realize the chain is owned by Germany’s ultra-private Albrecht family, the people behind the Aldi Nord supermarket empire.
  • … big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe’s products.  Those Trader Joe’s pita chips? Made by Stacy’s, a division of PepsiCo’s (PEP, Fortune 500) Frito-Lay.

Read Beth Kowitt’s article about Trader Joe’s and the Albrecht family at CNN’s Fortune site.

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Posted in Business.

Germany’s worst architectural sins

I’ve lived in three American cities with their share of atrocious postwar architectural travesties.  Here’s a Gallery showing off some examples from Germany.  The photographer was for tearing the buildings down, but now sees the value in some of them.

The delightful and short book, From Bauhaus to Our House, written by Tom Wolfe, is a great introduction to the topic in general.  It traces our infatuation sterile concrete, steel and glass monoliths back to their prewar origins in Germany.

Posted in Odds and Ends. Tagged with , , .

The weird world or retro tobacco TV

Spud cigarettes TV commercial, 1968

Spud Cigarettes Thumbnails

Be Mouth Happy!

There are many hours of similar advertising to watch at the Internet Archives.  I was especially fascinated by the way specific brand lines were introduced, and how the ad agencies changed the campaigns through the 50′s into the 70′s.  For instance, the earlier commercials seem to be more about the mystique of smoking, the fine taste of mellow tobaccos and various filter gimmicks.  As competition rose, and brands proliferated it became more difficult for the agencies to differentiate new products and they began to resort to coupon trading schemes.

And now, A Word From Our Sponsors: Alpine Cigarettes !

Posted in Odds and Ends. Tagged with , , .

January 23, 2010

  • The social concerns of the thriller: “Private eye novels, stretching back to Conan Doyle and Poe, are fantasies of competence in which the hero fulfills by proxy the domesticated megalomania of the reader.”
  • Just call the helpdesk when you’re stuck with your new reading technology. Amusing video with sub-titles.
  • Supreme Court overturns ban on direct corporate spending on elections
  • Today in 1556: The deadliest earthquake in history rocks China, killing over 800,000
  • Meet Thomas Henry Huxley, advocate of Darwinism and inventor of the term ‘agnosticism’, which expressed his attitude toward certain traditional questions without defining the frontiers of the knowable.

Posted in Odds and Ends.

January 18, 2010

  • A Fiery Purification Rite – Men must ride their horses through fire in Spanish Catholic ritual.
  • The stray dogs of Moscow may be divided into four types, determined by their character, how they
  • forage for food, their level of socialisation to people and the
  • ecological niche they inhabit.  Plus a fifth group that has learned to navigate the subways.
  • Haiti death toll will be higher than Hiroshima or the Rwandan genocide.  While the superpowers obsess over terrorism, they fumble badly with natural disasters, which claim a far, far higher toll.  It’s time to get our priorities straight.
  • One Badass Cat!

Posted in Odds and Ends.

January 15, 2010

Posted in Odds and Ends.