Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A message from Jake

Image courtesy of my friend Kathy and the 1917 U.S. Army recruiting poster by James M. Flagg.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

We are creatures of the grid

“We are creatures of the grid,” is the opening line to this month’s National Geographic article by Joel Achenbach.

And we are. From the heating and cooling systems that control our indoor environments, to the power for our cell phones and computers–we have grown so accustomed to reliable and affordable electricity that we take it for granted as much as the air we breathe.

But our grid was built for the 20th century. What we have works, most of the time. It’s not, however, equipped for the growing demand of our ever increasing population. It is also unequipped to handle the new, greener sources of electricity that we hope will be powering our lives in the years ahead.

One of the first steps in developing a smarter grid for this century can be found in San Diego through SDG&E’s implementation of smart meters. This is a logical step since the technology is readily available to provide both consumers and producers of electricity with vital real-time, two-way communications regarding energy usage. SDG&E is a national leader in this upgrade.

Smart meter technology will allow homeowners and businesses to see how they are consuming electricity, and adjust their energy use accordingly. Utilities will have real time information to prevent or deal with brownouts or localized outages. Today most power companies don’t know that the power is out until somebody calls in a report. By implementing this relatively simple technology, we are taking an important step forward toward a smarter grid for this century.

Green energy and the grid

Forty percent of all energy used in the U.S. goes into making electricity–and today only 3% of that energy comes from renewable sources. The vast majority of our energy for electricity comes from coal and natural gas-powered plants (almost 50% is from coal-powered generators). If we are going to deal with climate change, we need to move away from these carbon-dioxide belching energy sources.

Developing a smarter grid is especially important as Americans shift toward greener sources of energy, including wind and solar.

Today, Texas is capable of producing far more wind energy than the existing grid can handle. Because of this, as well as the collapse in the price of natural gas over the past two years, an ambitious project to build a giant wind farm in west Texas was abandoned.

Arizona is capable of producing enough solar power for the entire nation. There too, the grid is not capable of distributing what Arizona could produce.

There are a few grid-related issues limiting the sun and the wind as energy sources including: distribution capacity, storage capabilities and grid intelligence. Wind and solar depend on the wind blowing, and the sun shining. Mechanisms need to be developed and deployed to store power for night time and calm days.

Moving to different sources of energy and upgrading our grid are important steps toward standing for less oil, gas and coal being used. These are also vital steps for national security. Oil is not a significant source of electricity in the U.S., but by generating clean energy and moving toward electric vehicles, we can decrease our need for foreign oil–which literally fuels our economy today–and keeps us hostage to the whims of the market and to foreign nations that are at times less than friendly.

As creatures of the grid, these are issues that affect all of us.

Read “The 21st Century Grid,” by Joel Achenbach.

This post originally appeared at STAND FOR LESS.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Taking a stand for Dog Freedom in Salt Lake City

Tonight 18 people spoke to the Salt Lake City Council on behalf of maintaining Parley’s Historic Nature Park as it is: A dog park.

Another 18 to 30 people showed up and filled out comment cards to join in opposition to Mayor Becker’s bureaucratic proposal to impose severe restrictions on dogs in the park.

The passion people feel for this park was palpable.

One woman broke down into tears after speaking eloquently about the park. It hit her as to what a loss it would be to her entire family if they couldn’t use Parley’s the way they use it now.

This park is that important to many of us and we all shared her feelings at such a prospect.

Thanks to everyone who came tonight! It was an important step in the right direction, but we are just beginning to get our message out.

A City Council meeting is a formal setting. The primary purpose of the 7 PM Tuesday meetings is for the Council to listen to the public.

For those of us that stayed the full session, we were not finished until 9, well over an hour beyond the previous two times I’ve gone.

The full Council was there as was Mayor Becker.

Becker comes to these meetings as a listener. With a group of passionate Parley’s Park people there--often taking verbal shots at him--Becker gamely sat through it all. I thanked him for listening when I spoke. It never seemed like he wanted to listen to us at the meetings he’s been in charge of.

Now is the time to keep the pressure on. There is only one more opportunity to speak to the Council this month.

Becker’s proposal is an outrage, especially since we just went through this fight three years ago (and won). It’s also an outrage because we need more open space for dogs not less.

It’s inexplicable how Becker went from the Council vote of 2007 declaring Parley’s a legal off-leash park to paying a consultant $100,000 to recommend that the park become an on-leash space with half of it off limits to dogs entirely!

The amount of the consultant’s fee was confirmed informally by a member of the Council. We still don’t know the precise amount, but it appears to have been at least $100k.

This is the American West, a place with abundant open space. There is even abundant space in and near our urban environment, but Parley’s is the last park of its kind in a valley where it is becoming tougher and tougher to take your dog where he or she can run free.

Parley’s is a community within our community and it was refreshing tonight to hear so many people let the Council know how important the park is to them. Such personal statements have an impact.

Please join us next Tuesday, June 8th, to continue to drive home the message for Dog Freedom and save this park which is an urban gem in the Salt Lake Valley.

Both photos by Bill Allard, taken at Parley's Park. The bird is a Western Tanager. Dog lover's appreciate the abundance of other species at Parley's and long time park users know that dogs have minimal impact on other species--far far less impact than direct human impact on species in the Salt Lake Valley.

Want to read more? Read about my May 18th encounter with Mayor Becker.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The winding down of America's manned space-flight program . . .

Astronaut Steve Bowen during the final flight of space shuttle Atlantis.

March 2011 update: NASA has scheduled one additional flight for Atlantis, with a current launch target of June 2011.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Footage from the Gulf--the Deepwater Horizon/BP disaster

More than reading and following the news, this short video helps you get your head around the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why we STAND FOR LESS–Oil gushing into the Gulf

Last week’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico is a vivid reminder of why it’s important to STAND FOR LESS. Oil is gushing into the Gulf at the rate of thousands of barrels of oil per day. The source of the leak is 5,000 feet below sea level.

The Gulf is being poisoned at a rapid rate.

Our seemingly unquenchable need for oil is the source of this disaster.

When we STAND FOR LESS, individually and together, we can reduce that need and we can find new, cleaner sources of energy.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded late on April 20, 2010 and sank on April 22. Eleven workers have not been found, many others suffered severe injuries.

Jim Breitinger

This post originally appeared at STAND FOR LESS.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jim Range lives through the National Casting Call in Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow in D.C. the annual Jim Range National Casting Call is taking place. They renamed the event in honor of Jim. 
I met Jim in 1987 and was fortunate to have him as a major part of my life until he died in January of 2009 from an aggressive form of cancer. Talk about a loss--this man had so much heart, if you didn't know him it's impossible to describe. He was bigger than life--a genuine and wonderful character. His life's work was to protect and restore habitats for all of the wild things he loved, especially fish and birds. 

The Casting Call is an annual opportunity to "provide government decision makers with the opportunity to fish for shad in the Potomac River and learn about the importance of collaborative fisheries conservation." 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Utahredrock welcomes home space shuttle Discovery

Less than two hours ago Discovery returned to Earth at the Kennedy Space Center. America's manned space program is nearing an end for the foreseeable future, a sad state of affairs for a nation of innovators and explorers. This was Discovery's 38th mission.

One more mission is scheduled for September--that is the final scheduled trip of America's manned space program. If the shuttle fleet actually retires the United States will have no way to transport humans to space. The current plan is to rely on the Russians.

What would an American of the 1960s think of this? What do you?

Watch the shuttle land . . . fantastic footage

NASA posted this on YouTube . . . . too, too cool! It's a long video but inspiring. They make it look so smooth. A clear morning in Florida:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Utah Dog Alert: Salt Lake City planning to take away last legal off-leash area at Parley's Gulch (a.k.a. Tanner Park)

Comments from Kate Bradshaw of FIDOS this evening, at Parley’s where Salt Lake City Mayor Becker held a public meeting to present plans to severely limit off-leash access to the park going from over 80 acres to 10 acres of mostly fenced in areas:

Mr. Mayor, thank you for visiting Parley’s Historic Nature Park today to hear our concerns about the management plan recommended by the City’s consultant. We had sought an audience with you to address our concerns and are pleased to finally have that opportunity.

As you know, Friends Interested in Dogs and Open Space, or FIDOS as we are more commonly known, is a non-profit organization dedicated to securing off-leash areas for dogs and their owners in the Salt Lake Valley. As dog-owners, we subscribe to a simple philosophy that says “to that which you tame, you owe your life.” From this philosophy flows our dedication to ensuring that our dogs have adequate, LEGAL, space in which to do the things dogs do best: run, sniff, wrestle and explore. Our return on investment from our furry companions is more than paid in full.

This park is unique and special to the FIDOS community. It is unequivocally the BEST off-leash space in the entire city. The loops of trails, access to the stream, and variety of terrain make this place very special to us and our dogs. It was through no small effort on the part of FIDOS volunteers that this Park came to be what you see today; largely free of the discarded junk and invasive weeds that had accumulated here for decades. That is not to say this Park is perfect in its current state. Despite our efforts, there is still much more that needs to be done in order for this Park to truly flourish and shine as the gem it is.

It is because of our commitment to both dogs and open space that FIDOS was complete and totally willing to embrace the stewardship agreement the City required in order for this place to become a legal off-leash area. Countless hours have been donated by FIDOS volunteers in thistle mitigation, blocking of social trails, junk hauling, poop pick-ups (or poop karma as we call it), and in dog-owner education.

After such investment in this Park and in our commitment to the dogs we have tamed, it can be no wonder that we look upon the recommendations by the City’s consultant with complete and utter dismay. An area that once contained 88-acres of multi-use space has been segregated and unnaturally divided.

As the largest park-user group, we are now to be restricted to less than 10 acres of the park in two fenced dog areas. How can it possibly make any sense to restrict a large, growing, TAX-PAYING user group to such a small area of the Park? Moreover, the City Council in the July 2007 motion that created this Park recognized a need for additional off-leash space within the City. This management plan not only reduced off-leash space, but does not identify where the displaced dog-community will be relocated. We would suggest that FIDOS has shown a commitment to this Park far beyond that of any other user group and has proven that we can and do take our steward of this area very seriously.

Additionally, we have grave concerns about the proposed lower off-leash area near the substation. This area is intended to serve as a flood control basin in addition to off-leash space. It is widely known by the dog-community that during times of high run-off it is not safe to allow your dogs near the lower culvert as some number of dogs have died trapped against the grate across the culvert. No responsible dog owner would allow their dog in that area in the Spring. There is also the concern that this area will be a permanent mud pit, unsuitable for dogs or people, when the area is called to double duty as the flood control basin.

The upper fenced dog area is in an area that lacks any shade and questions about access to the creek by dogs and people has never been answered by the consultant. During the hot summer months, the most desirable locations within the Park are near the Creek and the shade of the trees near the creek. It is unclear from the consultant’s recommendations whether any improvements like shade shacks or water will be added to the upper area. Surely the City is not intending to drive dogs and their owners from the Park though a policy of heat stroke?

Of upmost concern is the designation of the Southern half of the Park as a “protection and preserve area.” No dogs would be allowed on the Southern side of the park whether on or off-leash.

While the name of this Park, Parley’s Historic Nature Park, indicate it is “wild” and “unimproved” this park never has been and was never intended to be a “nature preserve.” FIDOS has submitted documentation to the City and the City’s consultant demonstrating that claims to the contrary are false. The land in this park was accumulated over a lengthy period that involved several land swaps with the Utah Department of Transportation, private land owners, and the City. There are acres upon acres of land set aside as watershed or as preserves in this City and the County and we feel this is more than sufficient space for that purpose.

Finally, the consultant’s plans envisions construction of new trails, relocation of the BMX park, fencing dog areas, enhanced park enforcement and other projects costing many thousands of dollars that seem frankly unattainable given the current fiscal environment and completely irresponsible in light of the $20 million budget shortfall just announced by the City.

We would urge you to seriously reconsider the consultant’s recommendations. FIDOS has long stood ready to engage with the City in improvements and responsible management of the Park and continues to extend our volunteer hours, tools, and expertise to wise management of this Park for all user groups. We too want this Park to be better; a better place for families, for BMX-ers, and for dogs and their owners.

Learn more about FIDOS at http://www.millcreekfidos.org/ and help protect and maintain our dog spaces in Utah.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Trailer Trash . . . those were the days

Needless to say, this image brings back fond memories of my increasingly distant time as trailer trash.

More on those days at: http://1973airstream.blogspot.com/

Photo courtesy of Oliver Fluck. Visit his website for more of his great work.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring 2010, Salt Lake City

A warm first day of Spring in northern Utah. A few of us did a short hike up one of my favorite canyons. Ahhhhhh Utah! This is the place.

Portraits of Utah, by Utahredrock. March 21, 2010.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update from Utah

It's great to be back in Utah. I've got a place of my own again for the first time since I moved out of the Aistream in August. It is a land-based home (no more wheels on my home for now) with a nice yard for Jake.

Winter has flown by with not enough skiing, but I've managed to get out a few times downhill and a few more x-country. The snow is still good.

Cheers from Utah,

Jim and Jake (my pup)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Space shuttle Endeavor's night launch

In the middle of the night last night Endeavor blasted off en route to the International Space Station in what may be the final night launch of an American space shuttle. Oh to have been there . . .

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Thinking of Tillman on the NFL's big day

Tonight New Orleans beat Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLIV. I tuned in for the second half of the game. I don't watch much football but I am glad I watched--good sport wasn't lacking tonight. The interception to touchdown play was epic. It was also great to see the underdog come out on top.

After the big game, I finished Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, a book by Jon Krakauer. Tillman played in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals and then hung up his football jersey after the 9/11 attacks. Though he qualified to serve as an officer he, along with his brother, enlisted as a private. Tillman was killed in an incident of friendly fire on April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan.

A Sundance film called “The Tillman Story” got me interested in this former NFL star and American warrior. His story is not a story that leaves you feeling very warm-hearted about the U.S. Government or military. In fact the military and political handling of Tillman's death is downright shameful.

Tillman and his family are admirable. The family's pursuit of the truth surrounding his death is part of a complicated story, but their persistence is inspiring even as it exposes tragic human and institutional weaknesses. Tillman had many gifts. He was a talented and driven athlete. He was a devoted husband and loving son. He was a loyal brother, especially close to his brother Kevin--who served with him in the same unit in the army. Tillman was also a thinker. He kept a journal, loved ideas and conversation. He respected and was genuinely curious about the opinions of others and had many opinions himself, yet he lacked dogma and adapted his beliefs based on additional knowledge he gained in his endless explorations. Tillman read voraciously, everything from Noam Chomsky to the Bible--though he was an atheist himself.

Pat Tillman is not the man that was portrayed to Americans at the time of his death. The military invented a story about the circumstances of his death that was a pure lie, and everyone involved knew it. But they hoped to use Tillman as a propaganda tool to build support for the war so the army told his family, and the American people that he died at the hands of the enemy. They thought this invention would play better than the actual circumstances of his death.

Tillman's real story was much more interesting than the one that was invented about him, first by the military and then by a hungry media all too happy to feed Americans the propaganda that the media felt they wanted. His story says something about the impact of politics and power on the lives of one man and those who loved him. Tillman is probably the most famous recruit of the past decade. His case provides some insight into what others who serve (and their families) face in a time of war.

Krakauer ends the book by highlighting Tillman's idealism, calling it his tragic virtue. Tillman believed he had a duty to do something more important than play football. Though he often saw people do wrong, he believed that most people would do the right thing. He trusted his government to do right by him. A grounded and capable man, he ultimately died by literally standing up into the line of fire coming from his comrades in arms. It was a futile attempt to get them to stop shooting. His ending was tragic, though friendly fire is common in war (a fact that adds to the tragic nature of war).

If you don't know the full Tillman story I strongly encourage you to learn it. Read Krakauer's book, the book by Tillman's mother titled Boots on the Ground by Dusk, or keep your eyes out for the excellent documentary that premiered at Sundance last month.

Tillman's story, with all of its twists and turns, is a story loaded with many lessons for all of us. On this Super Bowl Sunday, let's all think of Pat Tillman: football player, soldier, thinker, husband, son, brother, American.

Photo of Tillman from the Pat Tillman Foundation. The foundation "was established to carry forward Pat’s legacy of leadership and civic action by supporting future generations of leaders who embody the American tradition of citizen service."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A day in East Canyon, Utah

Today Pippa, Kirk, Jake, Stella and I headed up to the top of East Canyon for some cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing and a photo session. It was a grand outing.

Kirk and Stella (a pup of a certain age) not photographed.

All photos by Kirk Marshall.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My two favorite rock stars

My colleagues in meteorites, Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold have hit the big time. Last May their show Meteorite Men debuted on Discovery's Science Channel. Due to popular demand, hardly surprising if you know these two great guys, Discovery picked up the show. They've filmed six new episodes which begin airing tonight.

Here's one of the promo posters, pretty hilarious!