Memorial Day

It’s not every day a parade goes by less than 100 feet from your house. We bear witness:


Deep doo-doo

Roger Ebert reports  that there are more than 5,000 oil platforms around the world.

And according to the Christian Science Monitor, a bunch of them are in the Gulf of Mexico:

“Currently, the number of US structures in the Gulf is roughly 4,000, with 819 manned platforms. And those numbers are only expected to grow, says Caryl Fagot, a spokeswoman for the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS), which regulates the oil industry in federal waters.”

That was in 2005, before Hurricane Katrina and obviously before the BP deep-water well disaster.

Proponents were crowing about the incredible technology that would allow deep-water drilling in the Gulf. The number of deep-water exploratory wells in the Gulf went from 74 in 2003 to 94 in 2004.

Given our thirst for fuel, there isn’t much reason to believe the numbers have dropped in the years since.

And now BP hopes that dumping a big pile of mud on the well will plug it.

We have the technology.

Unparalleled ecological disaster

For nearly a decade I lived in coastal South Carolina near several significant estuaries, the Intracoastal Waterway, coastal barrier islands and, of course, Myrtle Beach.

Among my favorite spots to visit was Murrells Inlet, where much of the ocean life of the Atlantic gets its start. It is literally where life begins. Those salt marshes emit a unique, um, odor. You get used to it. Sort of. It is the smell of life.

It is beautiful, with the salt marsh grass swaying in the breeze, the water rising and falling with the tide, teeming with life.

The EPA estimates that estuaries such as Murrells Inlet serve as nursery grounds for two-thirds of the nation’s commercial fish and shellfish. No salt marsh – no oysters. No shrimp. No flounder.

The shallow water provides lots of food to small fish and provides some level of protection from larger predators (but not from the many birds there – hey, it’s tough to be a hatchling!).

But when an oil well gushes crude that eventually washes with the currents and tides into the marsh, the results are disastrous. Those coastal inlets and estuaries along the Gulf coast will suffer for years.

To any environmentalist, this is devastating.

But even if you’re not a tree hugger, you need to understand how damaging this is economically. It will put people out of business. Fishing crews, marinas, seafood restaurants and marketers, transportation. Hotels. Much of the tourism industry in Louisiana, Mississippi and neighboring states is likely to be hurt. And they’re still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Estuaries endure all sorts of natural disasters. Hurricanes, etc. But they have endured hurricanes and other forces of nature for millions of years. Comes with the territory. But nothing prepared nature for oily sheets coating everything and black blobs of goop fouling anything it touches.

It poisons algae, plankton, microscopic marine animals, the animals that eat them and the animals that eat them. Fish, birds, people.

You can’t pressure wash a marsh.

All the Dawn detergent in the world won’t go much good here, unlike the rocky coast that the Exxon Valdez fouled 21 years ago.

And because of the nature of estuaries and the nature of crude oil – and its sheer volume – experts are speaking in terms of years and decades – decades – of recovery from this disaster, which has not even fully unfolded yet.

Meanwhile, the blame game is getting louder.

Government officials blame BP, BP blames contractors, know-it-alls blame government and BP and the contractors.

Obama is down in the polls, based on his “response” to the explosion, sinking and subsequent uncontrolled gusher.

OK, so Bush didn’t cause the hurricane to hit New Orleans, and Obama didn’t cause the rig to explode (unless you believe the conspiracy nuts).  But we had some programs in place to deal with hurricanes, however ineptly it was handled (“Heckuva job, Brownie!”).

Not sure how much planning has gone into dealing with a deep-water oil well disaster on this scale, in that deep water. Nobody seems to really know what will happen next. There are huge blooms of oil lurking under the surface in the Gulf. Where will they end up?

They’re trying all kinds of “dispersants” to break them up, but the research behind all this stuff isn’t terribly reassuring. Will it work? Do these chemicals represent an unintended risk? Is the cure worse than the disease?

BP has been blamed for using a drilling technique that cut a few corners and probably caused the initial failure. The guvmint has been blamed for being too cozy with oil companies (hmmm, why does this sound so familiar? Wall Street? SEC? Big Banking? Fannie Mae? Freddie Mac? Big Oil? EPA?).

Where’s Sarah Palin chanting “Drill, baby drill” ?

Now BP is going to try using “top kill” to plug the mess — in essence dumping a bunch of mud on top of the gusher in hopes of smothering the gusher.

The Coast Guard thinks this is our best shot to plug it.

I hope it works.

Wish I’d thought of that

Things I wish I had thought of (and acted upon) first:

• “Sh!# My Dad Says.” Guy’s a failed scriptwriter, moves in with mom and dad, strikes gold when he starts Tweeting “Sh!t My Dad Says,” and now Shatner – you know, James Tiberius Kirk, Hooker, Denny Crane – is playing the dad in the TV show this fall.

TeleSmack. Oh, wait that IS mine! Must be off to patent office …

Flashlight Worthy Books. It’s a website (now lowercase one word per new AP Stylebook) that recommends books it deems “flashlight worthy” — as in staying up past bedtime to read. This next bit is a shameless plug, but Google doesn’t seem to care:  FLWBooks just hit 100,000 Twitter followers this weekend. Help celebrate by checking out some of its book recommendations. How to do stuff. Fix things. So easy, a caveman can do it — oh, heh-heh, I think that one’s taken.

Strap yerself in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride

And so the Dow dipped below 10,000, ever so briefly, again.

Sell! Sell!

Yes, hit that panic button. Run for the hills. Dig into that bunker. The sky is falling, the creek is rising, all hell done busted loose, the end is near.

Then again, if the end is near there really isn’t much point to worrying about money, is there? Instead, order up a nice filet mignon and big fat cabernet – on credit, of course – and and enjoy the show. Order dessert. And ignore the spellchecker that tells you “filet mignon” appears to be misspelled. Even if it is, who cares? Are there copy editors and/or English teacher nags in the afterworld? Probably not in heaven! (Just kidding, all you English teachers. Not so sure about copy editors.)

On the other hand, anyone who has had money in the stock market for more than 10 years has seen this before. Several times.

The dot-com bust. 9/11. The Great Recession and financial crises of 2008-2009 (2010?).

War! Famine! Pestilence! Earthquakes, plagues and hurricanes. And that was just the Bush years.

Now we have oil gushing in the Gulf, health-care reform and (gasp!) Wall Street reform.

It truly is the end of the world as we know it.

And I feel fine, in spite of it all.

Uh, B&N marketing, we have a problem

Barnes & Noble recently unveiled its ebook reader, dubbing it Nook. Well enough.

Except when said product’s name is immediately followed by the words “e-reader” or “e-book.”

The results sound a little – no, exactly – like “nookie reader” or “nookie book.”

Which might be a small problem for sensitive ears, especially when you consider that the Nook is being marketed to young women.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists it thusly:


(Var.) Nookie

1 often vulgar : the female partner in sexual intercourse
2 often vulgar : sexual intercourse

The Urban Dictionary and other sources get into more, umm, graphic descriptions.

As slang goes, it’s not the worst you ever heard, and this might be a case of folks who recognize it are not likely to be offended, and folks who might find it offensive are not likely to know the meaning of “nooky” or “nookie” and thus remain blissfully unaware of the unfortunate juxtaposition of “nookie reader.”

The term “nookie” is widespread enough to have resulted in a minor hit for whiny rap-rockers Limp Bizkit  (“Nookie”) a decade ago.

Barnes & Noble’s promo video is innocuous enough.

But it just seems to me that somebody, somewhere, ought to make a point of researching potential pitfalls when developing and naming a product.

Apple’s iPad produced a few snickers among certain puerile critics, but those kind of things can kill a marketing plan if its intended audience is turned off by the name or terms associated with its name. Apparently it hasn’t hurt the iPad.

But things could be worse.

At least Nook’s not a cell phone. Imagine making a “Nookie call.” In public.

Another May 4

May 4 is a decidedly bittersweet date in my life.

The Kent State shootings happened on this date in 1970. I was 7 years old.

In 2005, my dad died after a rather lengthy series of illnesses (see post immediately below).

In 2006, my niece Natalie was born. Ah, a silver lining. She is a delight.

I will have to plumb the depths of photo albums to find pix of my dad from the pre-digital age (at least in House O’ Wilson).

But here’s one of Natalie from last summer:

Your correspondent and niece Natalie on Pelee Island in July.