Archive: June, 2010
Today, in Bell Curve, City Paper printed this item:
0 Thirty-four high-schoolers graduate from an alternative school program at the Army Experience Center at Franklin Mills. Will celebrate by killing people their own age for money.
Which pissed off one reader, who left us this NSFW voicemail. Presented without comment.
Steel your hearts, Clog readers:
Blogger-about-town Brendan Skwire (of Brendan Calling) alerted CP to a kitten emergency at his house, and asked us to pass along the info:
Baby Henry has an eye infection and needs a trip to the vet and a loving home ASAP. Brendan's already adopted a bunch of cats from the neighborhood and has no more room for Baby Henry.
Brendan says: "Weve actually done a bunch of the legwork already, getting the little cat used to human touch by petting him when we feed him. Contact me through comments, and PLEASE share this post with other people you know who love cats."
Click here if you or someone you know might want to adopt Baby Henry; then click here to watch a video of a kitten wearing a tiny hat, eating a tiny ice cream cone, because you probably need something to make you feel better right now.
Josh Fox's film "Gasland" an expose on deep well natural gas drilling (hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking") airs tonight, 9 PM Eastern, on HBO. Among other fascinating tidbits, the film includes footage of a homeowner in Dimock, Pennsylvania lighting his water on fire, a feat made possible by the migration of methane into his well supply after many of the small town's residents leased land for drilling.
If you're just catching up on the issue, Pennsylvania has become a unique test case in what happens when the gas drilling industry rushes headfirst into a state with (even the head of our Department of Environmental Protection has acknowledged) insufficient regulation in place.
The rush is due to a unique geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which lies below much of the state. (Click here for more of our coverage of Marcellus Shale drilling.)
In light of tonight's airing, and as state lawmakers actively consider harsher regulations, a few sobering stats:
- Well permits issued so far in 2010: 1,272
- Number of permits denied, returned, or withdrawn, 2010: 15, or 1.2%
- Drilling applications submitted to DEP since 2005: 4,248
- Drilling applications denied, returned, or withdrawn since 2005: 58, or 1.3%
- Number of violations found in 2009: 638
- Number of violations recorded so far in 2010: 421
- Number of violations for illegal/improper "discharge" of toxic materials 2010: 58
All you have to do is create a free account and start listing away whether you want to grow bok choy, carrots, and green tomatoes or have some free space in your backyard.
I cant help but think this could be a neat way for people all over the city to interact and create more legal green spaces in each others communities.
As CP reported in April, access to land remains one of the main sticky issues facing urban gardeners in Philly. Thats not to say anythings wrong with guerilla gardening or that We Patch cant be used to help spruce up some of the 4,000 vacant lots in the city.
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society offers a manual and video for how to reclaim vacant lots in the city. But until vacant land gets cheaper or the city comes up with a sustainable program for turning vacant lots into urban gardens (never mind the question of whether thats the best thing to do with them), why not garden on friendly land and meet new people in the interim?
So far theres only one listing in Philly. Before Philebrity posted about the project, there were none.
At this rate, maybe well see what We Patch tastes like in the fall.
|French? Polish? Radioactive.|
You know about Bell Curve. It's a column full of current-eventsy straightlines followed by one or several joke lines.
This week, we had this straightline:
Leaders of the state's public universities place a moratorium on low-enrollment degree programs, like physics and French, because of budget cuts.
Followed by this little, uh, one-act play as the joke:
"Zat ees an outrage," says the ghost of Marie Curie.
"I agree with vous," says the ghost of André-Marie Ampère.
"Who zee hell are vous?" asks Curie.
"Enchante, madame! I am anozzer French physiciste!" replies Ampère.
"Zen, for a kiss about my bozom, vous may have zom of my frites!" says Curie.
Now, Bell Curve doesn't know much about Curie and it knows even less about Ampère, so it Googled some things before writing the joke. Ass covered, right? Well, we got this anonymous letter:
"'Bell Curve' is best part of C.P., but , sorry, Marie Sk?odowska Curie was Polish,
not French! (But the humor still works because she spoke French.)"
First off: Thank you for writing, anonymous snail mailer. Bell Curve is flattered. And the letter came today. The paper only came out yesterday! We think that's wonderful.
Second of all: the Kate Smith stamp? Great choice.
Thirdly: I don't wish to quibble, but according to Wikipedia, the web site of record, Curie spent most of her life in Paris and became a French citizen, so there's also an argument to be made that while she was born and raised in Poland, she was, on some philosophical level, French. (And, on a physiological level, irradiated.) Anonymous, we will just have to agree that she was kinda sorta Polish AND French, or go our separate ways.
New standards approved for salts in gas drilling wastewater but it's still OK to discharge carcinogens!
|Photo | Isaiah Thompson|
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved new regulations aimed at protecting Pennsylvania surface waters from potential impacts of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The regulations can still be challenged by the House or Senate environmental resources committees, but given Governor Rendell's support of these measures, it seems unlikely.
Probably most significant is a limit on Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) salty chlorides and sulfides in discharged fracking water.
Lest the gentle reader think a stream's "saltiness," isn't a big deal, check out the contamination and massive fish kill that resulted from elevated TDS levels in Dunkard Creek in western Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, Marcellus Shale Coalition executive director Kathryn Klaber issued a statement yesterday saying rather inexplicably that the standards would "not provide any additional environmental benefit."
While environmental watchdog groups like Penn Environment and Clean Water Action praise the new rules, they point out that these regulations don't cover other toxic discharges like carcinogens benzene and arsenic.
"This rule is about setting a discharge standard, but we don't have that for chemicals," Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action, told me over the phone. "There are contaminants being discharged in Marcellus Shale wastewater that there need to be more standards for."
Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate for Penn Environment, agreed, pointing me to a report authored by the Environmental Working Group's Dusty Horwitt, who reports that gas companies may be regularly injecting "toxic petroleum distillates" which contain benzene into wells:
Companies that drill for natural gas and oil are skirting federal law and injecting toxic petroleum distillates into thousands of wells, threatening drinking water supplies from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Federal and state regulators, meanwhile, largely look the other way.
These distillates include kerosene, mineral spirits and a number of other petroleum products that often contain high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen that is toxic in water at minuscule levels. Drillers inject these substances into rock under extremely high pressure in a process called hydraulic fracturing that energy companies use to extract natural gas and oil from underground formations.
Ready for the really scary quote?
In a worst case scenario, the petroleum distillates used in a single well could contain enough benzene to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels, according to drilling company disclosures in New York State and published studies. ... That is more than 10 times as much water as the state of New York uses in a single day.
Philly.com reports today that police found a 15-month-old child who had been strapped inside a locked car for more than an hour outside Bensalem's Parx Casino, charging his father, Donald Waige, with child endangerment.
Waige said several times in this article that he had simply lost track of time:
Donald Waige, 59, told police that he had intended to stop into the casino for only 10 minutes to collect a $10 credit on his player's card when he left his little boy in the car Tuesday afternoon.
. . .
"Waige stated he did not realize he was in the casino for over an hour," a police statement said.
This, of course, follows on the heels of revelations that a former Jenkintown tax collector has been charged with gambling away more than $200,000 in taxpayer money also at Parx Casino.
Why is this not surprising? Because slot machines and the big boxes that house them are designed to do exactly what they did to Donald Waige: to suck players into a state of mind where the meaning of time gives way to the repetitive mechanical high of gambling on the slot machine, the most efficient money-sucking machine ever invented.
I'm reminded of research by MIT Professor Natasha Schull, who has studied extensively the way humans interact with slot machines (she has a new documentary about Las Vegas out; I haven't seen it, but it looks interesting).
I cited some of her findings in my 2009 cover story about the subtle ways slot machines have been designed to seduce gamblers:
Much of Schüll's work concentrates on the shocking efficiency with which slot machines not only relieve players of their money, but are able to induce them into a state she calls "the zone."
In the zone, the goal is not to win money, but simply to keep playing, as intensely as possible. Players describe the state as a kind of trance, in which the world melts away and they are alone with the machine.
In one academic paper, Schüll quotes a gambler named "Isabella" describing the experience: "I was gone," Isabella says. "My body was there, outside the machine, but at the same time I was inside the machine, inside the game."
Kind of makes you wonder what we'll be hearing about when Sugarhouse opens, doesn't it?
It's a question you'd think the city would have studied closely: the Nutter administration pledged two years ago to conduct an independent economic impact study but, two years later, has not (or has not made its results public).
Yesterday, the Inky's "Heard in the Hall" blog posted a letter from (purportedly, I guess) a New Yorker who happened to be on the same ill-fated flight as Mayor Nutter and his entourage as they made their way to the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Oklahoma City this past weekend.
The letter is a fascinating and highly flattering peek into the mayor and his staff on the road. Apparently the mayor, along with other passengers like the letter's author, got tied up in one of those hellish flights, first getting delayed for hours, then missing a connection and having to stay in Memphis overnight. According to the author, Mayor Nutter and his staff took it all in gracious stride (I love the part about waiting to sit at the bar):
"I am not from Philadelphia (I am from New York) but it was so notable just how cool, gracious and modest Mayor Nutter and his entourage were. Not once did they ever try and pull rank always waiting patiently in-line behind everyone else. ... never raising their voices, never asking for favors ... just acting like everyone else, but classier. Not even his staffers tried to pull the do you know who this is? routine. They all just waited patiently in line with the rest of us seething passengers.
"While I and other business colleagues, were so fed up that we chose to not wait for the free shuttle to the hotel, choosing instead to take a $25 cab ride ... we were shocked to see Mayor Nutter and his entourage walking towards the shuttle stop and waiting patiently with all of the others (including the screaming babies).
"But the real kicker was when we got to the hotel and tried to cash in our $12 meal vouchers. ... the restaurant had an open dining room, and a bar area. The dining room closed at 10. And food was only available at the bar until 11. Mayor Nutter and his folks finally had checked in and were just trying to grab a bite to eat just after 10 pm, but they refused to seat him in the empty restaurant, and instead insisted that they wait until spaces opened up in the bar (which was completely full and overwhelmed by the sudden influx of passengers/guests) ... Again, Mayor Nutter and his people just quietly waited for any seats to open up at the bar
And I'll say this: As a reporter, I've found the mayor himself and his staff, particularly the mayor's press office, with which I interact fairly often, to be remarkably accessible and down-to-earth even when my writing is, as is often the case, critical.
They deserve some credit for being accessible not only out on the road, as this letter suggests, but here at home, too.
Intern Will Stone reports:
On Monday morning, a modest cluster of nontheists set up camp outside the federal courthouse to protest the first hearings of the rental dispute between the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and the City of Philadelphia. Their battle cry: well, okay, halting the Scouts taxpayer-subsidized discrimination against gays and lesbians is good and all, but what about us? Quick background: A few years ago, the city told the local Boy Scouts that they had to leave their Center City HQ where the Scouts had enjoyed free rent begin paying $200,000 in annual rent, or renounce the national Boy Scouts national antigay policies. Instead, the Scouts sued, and here we are.
Of course, the Scouts aren't big fans of atheists, either: hence, this protest. With signs reading No Deals For Bigots! and Time to Pay BSA, Margaret Downey, president of the secular advocacy group Freethought Society, informed passersby of the citys alleged disregard for the nontheist community in favor of the safer option the gays.
We support the Citys actions against BSA, except for the fact that they forgot to add nonetheists to their charges of discrimination, says Downey. Since Downeys own feud with the BSA in 1993 over their refusal to accept her atheist son, she has pushed for the public, including loads of journalists, to acknowledge that not only gays, but also nontheists deserve a seat on the BSA-bigotry-bashing bandwagon.
Statistically, we are the most mistrusted and disliked minority, she says. The BSAs discrimination goes far deeper than anyone realizes.
Well, it's been about a year since my last "Bike Adventure" post (a no-cars-needed adventure to Wharton State Forest from Philadelphia, via PATCO), so I think it's high time for another.
I present this Friday afternoon: Bike Adventure to the Delaware & Raritan Canal trail. This is about as pleasant and easy a day's ride as you'll find in the area good one for taking your sweetheart and a picnic, too: starting south of Trenton, the trail follows canals on both sides of the Delaware River, meaning you don't have to come back the way you went.
|Click to download the full map|
This one, too, does not require having a car. My buddy and I simply hopped on the R7 to Trenton.
Bikes are allowed on weekends on all SEPTA Regional Rail trains, for no extra fee.
(Although it can be a little annoying conductors vary in their enthusiasm for accommodating bikes. Usually, they ask you to put 'em in the rear car, in the handicapped area; just make sure you're ready to yield to any handicapped passengers, please!)
Here's a pic of the method I've come up with: I lay down a piece of newspaper and prop up the back wheel on the seat.
Rather than start at Trenton, we got off at Bristol and tried to find the trail, failing miserably and winding up biking thourhg a bizarre part of Tullytown that appears to be a giant, sprawling landfill. Anyone know anything about that?
Anyway, we picked the trail back up around the Morrisville access area, above, and proceeded to bike a leisurely 25 miles or so to New Hope along the beautiful and historic Delaware Canal, one of many similar such canal towpath-cum bike trails around the country and the northeast in particular. (Another favorite: the C&O Canal path from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD).
Along the path are several historic houses and buildings, including old lock houses, which once housed families responsible for opening and closing the locks along the canal and collecting tolls from canal boats hauling cargo.
South of New Hope, the trail comes up along the Delaware itself, offering some nice views and be you not so concerned about rampant industrial pollution of the river swimmin' opportunities.
New Hope is a cute town with tourist stuff, restaurants, and cute little museum of canal history (they ask for donations; when I went to drop a few bucks in the basket, I realized the only dollar already in there was fake so give 'em a few bucks, would you?).
|Bike Buddy Corey, learnin' at the New Hope canal museum|
We turned around at New Hope only because we had started late; the trail actually continues another 40 miles or so, and the the the best part joins a trail along the Lehigh River, the two combining in an awesome-looking 165-mile bike route through old Pennsylvania coal country.
I love connections like that, so, hopefully by the end of this summer I'll have a report on the whole thing.
Has anyone out there done it already? Tell us how it went.
And, on that note send more bike adventures by email or post them here!
Have a good weekend, all.
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