Cautiously optimistic on plugging the gusher

Well, the folks at BP are allowing themselves to be “cautiously optimistic” that they have successfully capped the oil gusher 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Eighty-some days into this debacle, BP seems to finally have gotten something right. But it ain’t over yet. A weak spot anywhere along the well’s pipeline could rupture at any minute, making things even worse than before, if you can imagine that.

Given BP’s (and its associates’) track record, a bit of skepticism is warranted.

We’re about 45 minutes away from the conclusion of the two-day test period of this cap to see if the well holds in roughly 7,500 pounds per square inch (psi) for an extended time. Talk about a pressure cooker!

For nearly 48 hours, the well has been expelling no apparent oil into the Gulf, which is good news.

The PBS/NPR Gulf Gusher Ticker is stopped at 92 million estimated gallons of goop spewed into the Gulf (that’s a middle-of-the-road estimate, far lower than some worst-case scenario estimates).

Even if this is successful, it’s only a temporary cap until the new taps can be executed to plug the well permanently.

And then the damage mitigation gets going in earnest.

It’s a godawful mess. I think I’ll look into seeing if I can be of some use on the ground (water) for cleanup operations.

I’m not marine biologist or geologist, but I’m sound, healthy and reasonably strong. Gimme a mop! I do Windows (and Mac).

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LeBron Madness nears its crescendo

And I thought the hype was ridiculous before LeBron was drafted.

ESPN has an hourlong special scheduled for Thursday, and at the end his Royal LeBronness will announce his decision. This has led wags to speculate what the first 59 and a half minutes will show.

There have been rallies, and more rallies, conferences, etc., as visitors from New York, Chicago, Miami and other places come to King James’ Court to try to entice the King to seek greener pastures in a place other than Northeast Ohio. They kiss his ring and promise to upgrade it to an NBA Championship ring. They promise more ridiculous riches.

The ubiquitous Nike logo seems to have become still more omnipresent, if that’s possible.

Sportswriters have taken to calling the hype stupid, the fans idiots.

We are all Witless.

But in the end, I’m just like everyone else – getting sucked in by the hype.

Please, LeBron. Stay!

It’s no fun being an illegal alien

I have been accused of “always having to be right” on a given issue. But, really, that’s only because I hold strong opinions on things I feel reasonably well-informed about. For instance, the war in Iraq was based on fraudulent “evidence.” I believed that in 2003, and I am vindicated in 2010 (way before that, but save that discussion for another day).

But an area I really DON’T feel qualified to offer a strong opinion on is what to do about the illegal immigrant situation unfolding in Arizona and on the national scene.

I don’t live in Arizona, don’t really know the lay of the land, politically or otherwise. We have seen a an influx of Mexican and perhaps a few other Latino immigrants in pockets of Ohio, but nothing on the scale (or longevity) of California, Texas, Florida or Arizona.

I hear anecdotal reports of illegals being involved in violent crime, of stealing jobs from Americans (but, really, when was the last time you stood at a street corner all day waiting for the opportunity to pick lettuce or shovel mulch in the baking sun?).

You see a few shaggy (mostly white, a few black) guys with hand-made signs begging for a job or a handout at local freeway exits. I think to myself, That could be me with a few turns of bad luck/stupid moves.

Illegal Aliens Xing

So now the federal guvmint is suing Arizona to block the illegal immigrant law recently passed in Arizona. In essence (we’re told) the Arizona law copies what is on the federal books, with the stated difference being that Arizona intends to enforce the law more stringently. Gonna crack some illegal skulls, send ’em back to Mehico!

I hear and read that with the Great Recession, the illegal immigrant situation is much less noticeable than before. The jobs they poured over the lightly patrolled border to get have largely evaporated and have yet to really return. No jobs, no illegals. Or at least fewer of ’em.

Maybe with this economic downturn and the dramatic shrinkage of certain industries (auto, manufacturing in general, newspapers and other media/advertising), Americans are becoming a little less picky about what sort of work puts food on the table. I’ve taken some real crap jobs since getting laid off at the Akron Beacon Journal in 2006. A crap job beats sitting around doing nothing (well, most of the time).

Hard-liners on one side of the argument shout that they’re ILLEGAL, after all, which means they’re breaking the law! True, but in the same sense that your second copy of the latest CD/iTunes is kind of illegal too. Or that rolling stop you took at the intersection when nobody was looking. Or that extra grape you pinched at the grocery store. Or the office supplies you smuggled home or the phantom deduction in your income tax returns.

The defense argues that illegal immigrants are simply folks trying to support a family and pursue the American Dream.

But I hear many immigrants, or second- and third-generation immigrants, who say they played by the rules and they expect the current immigrants to do the same.

Amnesty. Yes? No?

I really don’t know what the answer is.

Yet.

But I’m looking into it … Can I get back to you?

Pelee Pix

I’m still discovering (or rediscovering) stuff on Pelee Island. Some of this was right under my nose all along, just waiting for me to look off the dusty road a bit. Other stuff required at least a little effort.

Here are a few of my faves:

Here I am lost in thought as the Stone Man looms

The Stone Man (and his rocky offspring) are a recent addition to the island’s quirky visual treats. Pete Letkeman (who happens to be the deputy mayor of Pelee) envisioned this rock sculpture, and the Pelee schoolkids cleverly called it Stone Man.

Little Stone Man

The Shoe Tree

The Shoe Tree sprouts all manner of footwear.

Cedar Point as seen from the Pelee Islander

Mom makes friends easily!

Dogs are regular travelers on the Pelee Islander.

A fan of the island

"Stone Age" map of Ohio

Near the tip of Fish Point, the (almost) southernmost part of Canada

Mom ("Grammy") on Fish Point

The weathered remains of the Vin Villa

The Vin Villa as it once looked

Even paradise needs a dump

The elusive Pelee Junkyard Cat

Some of these graves are a little worse for the wear

The McCormicks made Pelee Island their permanent home. Really permanent.

The M.V. Jiimaan, youthful ward of the Pelee Island ferry fleet

Pelee’s Magic Potion

6-30-10

6:19 a.m.  Wednesday

The ol’ Pelee Magic has done its thing. Worries, anxieties and stress have vacated, all without supplemental medication – save an extra cup of coffee.

I got a solid six hours of sleep after playing double solitaire with mom till nearly midnight, keeping mom up WAY past her bedtime. Which is funny, because I remember when I was a wee sma one, 9 p.m. was way way past my bedtime. Your basic role reversal is at play here.

Our field guide revealed that this was a juvenile robin with orange speckles on its breast.

Yesterday, a quiet moment while reading The Pelee Project by Jane Christmas was interrupted by by a thud behind me – the tell-tale “Whack!” of a bird crashing into a window.

Sure enough, it was sprawled on its back with one wing flopping loosely and it was breathing heavily. Well, at least it wasn’t dead on impact. We tried to help it to its feet, unsuccessfully at first, as it fell over face-forward awkwardly (neck broken?), then to its side.

I grabbed a bit of newspaper to scoop him out of the sun – he’d have baked in that sun without some cover – then he/she (how can you tell??) fluttered into some nearby brush.

I looked for it a little later – no sign. Maybe it flew away, a little wiser to the dangers of sun glare and glass.

Pelee Island retreat

Sunrise June 30

 

Ah, Pelee Island. Once again Pelee works its magic, making the world a little more enjoyable. One of the things I like most about Pelee is that it is slow. No traffic lights. Not a lot of signs. No bright lights, big city. It’s just the opposite. As my mom said yesterday, it’s not the kind of place a Type A personality would find useful. Unless he/she could discard that Type A tendency and take some time to breathe.

 

The Trimotor Ford "Tin Goose" flies over Sandusky.

For the uninitiated, Pelee Island is on the Canadian side (just barely) of Lake Erie roughly 22 miles north of Sandusky, Ohio. It has a year-round population estimated at somewhere between 150 and 200. There are no missing commas or zeroes in that number. The outer perimeter is mostly lakefront cottages and a few restaurants and hotels or bed and breakfasts; the interior is mostly farmland. Save for the uninhabited (except by cormorants) Little Middle Island, Pelee Island is the southernmost part of Canada.

It often is left out of maps of Ontario, leaving Canadians with the impression that Point Pelee, on the southern tip of mainland Ontario, is the same thing as Pelee Island. It ain’t.

Because it is somewhat isolated from the mainland in both Canada and the United States, Pelee does provide a way to get away from it all – in fact, bringing “it” with you can be a tad challenging. No McDonald’s or Starbucks. Or from the Canadian viewpoint, no Tim Horton’s. Internet access is costly. (Memo to self – I could make a killing with an Internet cafe during summer!)

In some ways, Pelee serves as a common outpost for both Canadians and Americans, who share a generally harmonious existence on the island.

Lacking a computer (let alone Internet access), I wrote down some stuff the old-fashioned way:

 

6-29-10

 

In the “work with what ya got” spirit of Pelee Island, I am writing on the back page of a printout on how to shop for long-term health care insurance. Which is a good idea, especially if you have an estate worth protecting but aren’t “Bill Gates” rich.

Yvonne and Eric’s cottage is getting closer to completion. The well and electric are all in and working well (The fridge is a little balky – hopefully that will work itself out). There are still some finishing touches to complete – drywall the ceiling and a few other things, but it’s perfectly livable as is. Anything else is gravy.

The wind shifted overnight. On Monday the waves were crashing the rocks on the west side, and the east side, where the cottage is (I’ve taken to calling it the Pelee Shrimp Shack – an homage of sorts to the Tom Hanks movie That Thing You Do), had barely a ripple in the water.

There were lots of sun-baked smelt that had washed up a few weeks back, after spawning and then subsequently dying. How’s that for a life? You live your life in peril for the hope of one day of sex and then you die. I hear smelt sex ain’t all that hot to begin with.

 

Catch o' the day

Meanwhile, as the beach still smelt of smelt, some extra-smelly dead algae decided to add to the symphony of stink on the beach. This is a hazard of beach life. Sometimes it’s all sunshine and light breezes, sometimes you get dead fish and smelly seaweed.

There are some extra-large sheep’s-head and bass washing up as well.

But now (Tuesday) that the wind and surf have shifted, maybe it will carry the algae away (it did to a degree). It tends to pool (and rot) on the east side when the wind is from the west.

I’ve started reading The Pelee Project by Jane Christmas, an Ontario-based writer/editor who’d never heard of Pelee Island (!!) until her boyfriend suggested they try it as a low-key respite from an unmanageable time in her life. I can relate to that. To a degree.

There are a few points so far where the navel-gazing seems a tad excessive, but I’ve seen worse (maybe even from myself!).

Magic

(Also 6-29-10)

Pelee Island has what seem to be magical powers: Blood pressure subsides, skin feels smoother, bunions disappear (maybe it’s the smelt and algae squishing between your toes), worries melt away. OK, I totally fabricated that bit about bunions and smoother skin.

But the atmosphere here encourages you to let go. Disconnect. Go off-grid. (I was only off-grid for a couple of days and missed absolutely nothing except that LeBron officially became a free agent – and we knew that was coming). This can be disconcerting to a Facebook-Twitter-Google-to-the-ends-of-the-earth media and news junkie like me. No TV. Forgot the radio.

It’s just you and whoever came with you. In my case it’s dear old Mom.

But on this trip, the magic Pelee elixir has been slow to take effect. Too much on my mind; too much turmoil. Another day here should fix that (it did).

See Pelee Pix.