State of Emergency

This is coming a bit late–most everybody has their power back by now. But I have a free moment to breathe, and I really have been hurting for something to scroll down the freakish zoot-suit-boogieing android post immediately below.

I live in the Connecticut valley, so the ice storm passed right over our heads without breaking a branch. There was a visible line on the sides of all the hills, at maybe six or seven hundred feet—a stark division between bare brown oak and black hemlock woods and a crystalline otherworld of steely, sparkling ice. Over the first couple days there was a rash of paranoid tree-felling along the street I live on, beautiful, perfectly healthy, centuries-old maples chainsawed into towering heaps of lumber for fear the next storm might bring them down and kill us all. I felt guiltily fortunate, hearing news reports about what had happened to people barely more than five miles away.

Then I had to drive up into the hills to the farm where I work.

It was unbelievable. There were miles-long sections of road where the top of every single tree on both shoulders had been sheared off fifteen feet up. Entire houses and yards were buried under fallen timber. National guard humvees rolled past with coal-gray chunks of slush clinging in their wheel-wells, utterly surreal against the frozen landscape. Dozens of electric company cranes moved in long, slow lines, surrounded by dead-eyed, frost-covered dudes in grey and orange.

On the dirt road that leads to the farm, a huge tree-trunk had snapped almost completely in half, fell across the road and got caught in branches on other side, so that I had to drive underneath its horizontal trunk, swerving to avoid the low-hanging brush and praying that the whole thing wouldn’t choose that moment to fall and crush me.

At work, they had been without power for six days. We operated on a little gas generator, switching off every few hours between powering the refrigerator and oven to the computers and fax machine. I learned how to work the generator: a horrible roaring gremlin, like a lawnmower engine off its wheels, loud and awful-smelling. It gave me a new appreciation for electric power—and a potent sensibility of its limitations. Running a small hair-dryer (for shrink-wrapping herbal tinctures) at its lowest possible setting was enough to blow out the generator in three seconds flat.

We had our christmas party by candlelight, huddled close to the wood stove in hats and coats. At four, when it got too dark to see, everybody packed up and went home.

The local home-supply megastore, which had only opened the week before after overcoming vehement community resistance (and which I’ve been angrily boycotting in the vain hope it will go away and the marshes and pasture it replaced will magically reappear) sold out its supply of generators in two days.

“This is what it’s going to be like from now on,” my boss said. “People can’t rely on the power company anymore.”

I felt sick. The implication is there—the cause of all this. And gas-powered generators aren’t going to be the answer.

So I went home and tried to make myself feel better by filling out my christmas shopping list with LED and CFL light bulbs and solar-powered cellphone chargers and worm-powered home composting kits. It hasn’t quite worked. Maybe it’ll help to blog about it.

Here’s some other stuff I would have bought for people if I could budget it:

I’ll shut up now.

%@#! Apple Greenwashing

Greenwashing is the despicable practice of spending a bunch of ad money to make it look like you did something to reduce your corporation’s environmental impact without actually doing anything to reduce your corporation’s environmental impact.

This is Apple’s new ad for the MacBook Pro.

Claims it makes:

  • Made with recyclable aluminum.
  • Uses a quarter of the power of an incandescent lightbulb.
  • No mercury or arsenic used in display manufacturing (LED instead of CCFL).

How we are being bullshitted into feeling better about buying their expensive, beautiful, elegantly designed, decadent, capitalist luxury fetish objects:

So what exactly is this ad telling us? That Apple knows damn well it has us hooked already and doesn’t need to do a damn thing to keep our loyalty, even in these troubled times, beyond throwing us a bone to ease our troubled conscience. That Apple is taking pretty much the same stance on global warming as the Bush administration: sidestep the issue until somebody forces them to act.

What else could they be doing with all the bank they’re making as the tech industry once again proves itself recession-proof? How about a sponsored computer recycling program? How about spending some of their %@#! ad budget on some research and development? How about voluntarily making their whole operation carbon-positive?

If it wasn’t Apple and I didn’t already love them and what they do, I wouldn’t be so pissed off about this.

Two Point Oh, Bitches

If you’re here, you’ve no doubt noticed the new and improved Mossy Skull layout 2.0. It’s bigger, easier to read, has more pictures and more/better stuff in the sidebar. And the theme css is a lot cleaner and easier to comprehend, and the php jives better with WordPress 2.6 (even though I am still stubbornly running on the safe and reliable 2.3.3). Though that doesn’t really affect you, valued reader, since I am still not sharing it.

I am, however, taking suggestions if you have any.

Crank-Powered MP3 Player

Wind Up Eco Media Player
(This link brought to my attention courtesy of el Nubo.)

They claim it runs for 40 minutes on one minute of cranking. Seems eminently usable. Sturdy. With a color video screen, which is more than I need. Unfortunately, it appears to be available only in the UK and Australia. You know, cause Americans are too complacent and stupid to want one. Also, like everything else that doesn’t come with an accompanying cost in fucking-up-the-earth guilt, there is a cash premium involved. It retails for £155 ~= $315.

I think if I’m saving my money I’d rather go with the laptop. Then again, I’m pretty happy just listening to the wind and the birds.