November 27, 2013

2013 Turkey Award: Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

This is the time of year when thoughts turn to birds of the kind that's loaded with tryptophan and side dishes. But earlier this week there was exciting news about the direct predecessor of birds: the dinosaurs. Fossilised remains have been found in Utah of a gigantic dinosaur which lived about 100 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period just preceding the era of Tyrannosaurus rex.

This dinosaur, named Siats meekerorum, was one ugly brother, if you believe the reconstructions. A giant carnivore, it looked much meaner than T. rex; in fact, it probably terrorised T. rex for millions of years. The specimen found in Utah was an impressive 30 feet long and weighed about 9,000 pounds - and that was a juvenile.

It wasn't until after Siats became extinct that T. rex developed into the late-Cretaceous giant we know today, one of the largest land carnivores of all time. An adult T. rex could reach a total length of about 40 feet, and weigh a massive 14,000 pounds. No wonder it was always hungry.

November 24, 2013

Review: 2013 Mercedes E-Class Wagon

My brother had a housemate named Gregory, a gentle giant whose heart is even larger than his person. Gregory's three small dogs (named "The Pack" by my children) eat better than many people on a junk food diet, since their owner can't abide by bad food; not even for dogs. Gregory would treat us to amazing food that looks as beautifiul as it tastes, the whole complemented by his flower arrangements: he is an ikebana master as well as an outstanding cook.

I suspect my children think of him in some way every time they put some flowers in a vase or dig up the moss in our yard for stuffing into a hollow brick, perhaps with some maple blossoms. They loved going to the farmers' market with Gregory, who made us all laugh by legging it, from the flower stands to the organic vegetables, from the bakers to the local cheese makers, all the while making plans for dinner and the next ikebana class he's teaching.

For moving friends, food and flowers, Gregory drives a Mercedes E wagon. It moves like a tank, but inside it gives a ride gentle enough for a baby, a delicate dessert, or the array of Japanese flower pots that Gregory needs to move when he has a show. His dogs ride in the back then they go to the park, and there's plenty of room for my brother's dog as well.

November 10, 2013

We Need Good News on Climate Change

In a recent article in Yes! magazine, Sarah van Gelder makes the case for truly objective reporting in the media on the climate crisis. She makes the well-documented point that "false balance" in reporting gives too strong a voice to climate change deniers and is thus a distortion of the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming: that it is real, and that humans are the cause.

But there is another way in which the media does not faithfully reproduce reality: the omission of stories about people working on solutions. While the stories about climate change must necessarily include grim reports on hurricanes, wildfires and ocean acidification, these very depressing and scary news items are not the whole story. Van Gelder writes:

"More truly objective reporting on the climate crisis and its systemic causes would be a huge improvement over what we find now. But still it would be just half the story. The other half is the solutions. We need much more reporting on solutions, and not just to keep despair from sending us screaming into those rising seas."

PV array atop the US Department of Energy

November 3, 2013

What the NASCAR-winning Hudson Hornet and my VW Golf have in common.

I didn't know who or what the Hudson Hornet was, until I saw the movie Cars, where the gruff Doc Hudson plays mentor to the eager young racer Lightning McQueen. Lightning discovers that the sedate old Doc, now the village doctor, once had an illustrious career as the multiple winner of the coveted Piston Cup.

The car on which the character of Doc Hudson was modeled was even more illustrious than its screen persona. It was a powerhouse. It was a multiple winner of the NASCAR races, and I mean mega-multiple: The Hudson Hornet won 27 of the 34 NASCAR Grand National races in 1952, plus 22 wins in 37 races in 1953, and 17 of the 37 races in 1954. A serious track record.