Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Coming down to the wire (not just the election) ...

I learned a new phrase, from a friend. Actually, I should have known it previously, but since I am not an expert in anything … Well, the phrase is “Chapter 9”. That is the bankruptcy of cities. It is entirely possible we will be hearing it soon, if not in reference to our fair city, then from the other side of the state (if the Allegheny Institute is to be believed). It’s worth Googling the phrase. Actually it looks like it is a bit less restrictive than going through Act 47, and maybe less damaging in the long term.

Chapter 9 reminds me a little of the Penn Square Bank of Oklahoma episode and particularly of “Okiesmo”, the idea that the more you owe, the less people can afford to let you go bankrupt. It comes from oil rig wildcatters, who take ever-increasing loans for new rigs, figuring that someone who owes a million dollars to creditors can be written off, but not someone who owes 50 million (or one billion six). The story of the Penn Square bank is worth a trip to the library, although apparently I remember the book “Funny Money” by Mark Singer differently than its Amazon.com review.

On a different tack, me and the wife went to see “The 11th Hour” on Saturday. The wife was out shopping and running errands in the morning, and so we rushed to the single theatre in Pittsburgh (the Squirrel Hill) showing the movie. “It’ll be like Star Wars in the 70’s”, I joked. “Lines around the block”. We were the only people in the theatre, for the 1:00 showing. Mind you, I had noticed the movie on the NYTimes website, but my wife had gotten an email (from Al Gore!). So people who give money or sign up for email lists should be hearing about this movie. An elderly couple did show up about midway through the movie. I guess they couldn’t see us at first because they talked loudly for a while (I certainly don’t want to engage in stereotypes, but we were in Squirrel Hill, land of the little old lady who crashes into your ankles with her shopping cart in the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle). There were several (elderly) people waiting in the lobby when we left the movie, so I guess the movie did a little better in the second show of the day.

If you don't know, "The 11th Hour" is another what have we done to the environment movie. It is sort of narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, whose low key manner rivals caricatures of Al Gore. But mostly there are a dizzying variety of “experts”, some clearly legitimate and some questionable, all telling us we are running out of time (although it would help if you would replace one incandescent light bulb with a CFL-Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb). The movie ends up a bit oppressive because of the parade of experts, and perhaps we miss the science of “An Inconvenient Truth”

I guess we have been in our house for about five years. Before that we had rented an apartment, which had included a fairly large basement. I had put a 60 watt CFL down there, in one of the two or so light fixtures, so I would have good light when Nordic Traking. Since CFL’s are suppose to put out three to five times the light ordinary lights put out, it was suppose to be the equivalent of 300 watts. Facing down, it was probably not at the level of efficiency, but anyway my point is that I have known about CLF’s for a long time. When we rented, my wife called them "Force be with you" lightbulbs, although she has come around since seeing "Inconvenient Truth". I have, in fact, put CFL's in about 16 light fixtures in our house, depending on how you count them. It's sort of easier to look at the fixtures I haven't put them in, in the dining room ceiling fan and a couple of night stand lamps. I even have an 18 LED bulb upstairs set up as a reading lamp. It uses all of one watt, focused in a beam, casting a bright light at half a page and dim light elsewhere. Of course, other new appliances we bought are not particularly energy star related, since that would have added a hundred or two hundred dollars to each purchase. And I have only added one layer of insulation, over the first floor of our story and a half (more planned real soon now).

So my wife and I being at “The 11th Hour” alone was the worst kind of choir preaching. Oh well …

In other news, I see that Mark DeSantis was out at the Labor Day parade. That was a great move, since he had access to a huge crowd to work. It sounds like it was effective, I hope it was. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting on a policy statement (to dissect).

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