Archive for February, 2005

This is pretty cool: Electricity from waste coal.

February 21, 2005 Leave a comment

Growing up in Pennsylvania, one thing you learn about is the coal industry. The enormous deposits of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania, especially western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia make the U.S. into the Saudi Arabia of coal. From the mid-19th to the mid-20th century, coal mining was one of the chief industries of the state along with steel. With the mining came an enormous amount of waste coal (referred to as “boney” coal) that was dumped in huge multi-million ton piles. Boney is a mixture of coal, rock and clay that is unsuitable for burning in a traditional coal furnace, so it was abandoned as worthless. Over time, rain has leached acidic waste from the piles into the nearby creeks and streams, killing the fish and turning the streams orange. It's an environmental problem that nobody has had a really good answer on how to deal with it.

Not anymore, though. Houston-based Reliant Energy has built a new power plant in New Florence, PA that is specifically designed to burn this worst-of-the-worst fuel in a safe manner. Because it's a new plant, it had to comply with a host of regulations enacted over the past couple of decades to make coal-burning plants cleaner and it has managed to comply with the regs while still burning this waste. One of the reasons that the plant was built was because of a new state law requiring that by 2020, 18 percent of electricity sold in the state must come from “alternative” sources. The plant qualifies because it helps get rid of an environmental problem. Reliant estimates that, over the next thirty years, the plant will burn and eliminate 100 million tons of boney, which should help the streams and groundwater that have been affected by these piles recover.

All I have to say is, “More like this, please.”

Categories: Uncategorized

My month for medical emergencies and switches.

February 17, 2005 Leave a comment

I just got off the phone with the Storybook Mom and everything is now set for next weekend. I've taken Friday off and am heading up on Thursday night to be there when Mom's released from the hospital, Saturday's taken care of, and myself and are heading up on Sunday to help take care of Mom. We'll be meeting Mom for lunch tomorrow as well, at the Shamrock Diner halfway between us. She loves that place, and it's convenient for both La and I and Mom and Dad.

Yes, I started at the end of the story. It saves worry.

The story began yesterday, when called and left a message with me to find out what the deal was with taking care of Mom after her surgery. I called her back and left a message letting her know that and myself would be heading up to the Storybook Mansion on Saturday. When she called me back, she said that, among other things, Mom's surgery had been postponed until an unspecified date in the next couple of weeks and she (Mom) was hopping mad about it.

Rescheduled? What? When? Why? What? What? (Loop that a few more times, and that's what was going on in my head.)

So and I tried to call Mom back while we were driving home. Busy. Tried again. Busy. Arrgh. My parents and their dislike of modern telephone technology like Call Waiting and Voice Mail. (I'm not overly fond of call waiting either, but at least voice mail lets you leave a message when the phone's busy.) Once we got home, we called again and got through this time. Essentially, what had happened was that her regular doctor had left to go on maternity leave, and the doctors who had inherited Mom's surgery were having a fit of the vapors about just going ahead with it. Have to run more tests, you know. I sympathize, because of malpractice, but not when it leads you to postpone the surgery the day beforehand.

So, abruptly, all of our plans have been tossed to the winds. Even worse, the next weekend just happens to contain 's 29th birthday gift to me: going to Annapolis for dinner and to see The Reduced Shakespeare Company performing “All The Great Books”. Obviously, push come to shove, if I'm the only person able to take care of Mom on Saturday then I'm going to be right there. If not, I'd really like to see this show, especially since it's the gift from my beloved La and I love seeing those guys act. Aargh.

“Calm down” was the general message from . “You don't know yet when they've rescheduled for.”

Fast-forward now to this morning, when Mom called my cell phone to let me know that they had in fact rescheduled the surgery now for next Thursday, exactly one week later. This resurrected my problem, as well as meaning that it was going to be a bit of a scramble. Hastily, I evolved a plan. What if I took off Friday, was then able to go up Thursday night, came back to Maryland Saturday afternoon, then took both myself and La back up to the Storybook Mansion on Sunday for the day? Sounds good, but two small issues popped up. One, I didn't know if I could take Friday off. Fairly short notice, after all. Second, who was going to care for Mom on Saturday?

I figured that I should tackle that one at a time. After all, the most important part was making sure that I was going to be able to go up on Friday, and worry about Saturday afterwards. So I emailed my boss, who is one of the best bosses I've ever had. Sure enough, she replied back “No problem at all. Family comes first.” Did I mention that she's one of the best bosses I've ever had? With that good news in hand, I called the Storybook Mom back to let her know, and she told me that the Storybook Grandma was going to be over on Saturday to help out, and that Grandma was really eager to help. Dad would also be there before he went to work. That put my mind at ease about Saturday, especially since Mom told me to go.

So now, we're back to the ending. I've taken Friday off and am heading up on Thursday night to be there when Mom's released from the hospital, Saturday's taken care of, and myself and are heading up on Sunday to help take care of Mom. We'll also be meeting Mom for lunch tomorrow as well, at the Shamrock Diner that's halfway between us. As part of her recent travels, she'd asked us to get a new travel mirror for a friend of hers and we'll also be delivering that.

Categories: Uncategorized

Vomit, smartphones and it's my birthday.

February 10, 2005 Leave a comment

had a hellish night last night, the details of which can be found over on her LJ. Nothing scares you more than hearing the woman you love yell for you out of a sound sleep at 1:30AM in that tone that says “HELP!” It's even worse when you can't pull anything useful out of your head to help with. I was able to follow directions like “Get me a cup” when she'd vomited and wanted to wash the taste out of her mouth. I also fed her Gas-X, on the theory that it could be gas. Next, I checked the web. Google is really good at searching for what you want, but it's less useful if you have no idea what the heck it is you really want. I typed in “Acute pain” and was rewarded with lots of info about back pain. I double-checked with , and no, that wasn't the problem. I then surfed over to WebMD and checked for “acute pain” there. Appendicitis? Hell. A lot of the symptoms matched.

Next, we called the hospital and were told that they couldn't give us medical advice over the phone, and to please call her primary physician. We then called our doctor's service, who paged the Doc. The Doc said it didn't sound like it was necessary to go into the hospital yet, and to see if the pain subsided. La's mother had her gall bladder out fairly young, so it could also be caused by that. Right about the time that the Gas-X box said it should kick in, the pain started to subside. Not appendicitis then, it would have laughed at Gas-X. Didn't rule out the gall bladder though.

She woke up this morning (later this morning?) and the pain had dissapated. She's made an appointment for the doctor for tomorrow. I don't think I've ever prayed for my darling to have severe gas so hard in all my life.

On another and happier topic, today's my birthday. I'm 29 years old. My sister, , is a wonderful person who recognized that I almost never really ask for things. (My top request for Christmas in recent years? Socks and underwear. I predict that the kids, once we have them, will get me many ties.) While I was talking to her about a week ago, she asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “Money for the wedding,” I replied. That's what I've been telling most people, when they ask. I also mentioned to her that I was thinking about getting the new Treo 650, as that had just come out for Cingular. I already have the Treo 270, but techno-lust is techno-lust. Ironically, as I was dismissing getting the 650 as being too expensive (that's money better spent on the wedding, after all), was conspiring with to get me my heart's desire. Long story short, Fed-Ex is supposed to be delivering my new Treo to my office today, just in time for my birthday.

Categories: Uncategorized
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