What I wish would happen in Ukraine

I, along with others in the US and around the world, have been anxiously watching the situation in Ukraine. It’s disturbing to see people in Crimea raising the Russian flag over Ukrainian government buildings and to see masked Russian troops controlling the airports and streets. The Ukrainian transitional government can’t fight the huge Russian army.

It seems strange to me that so many Russian-speaking Ukrainians consider themselves Russian. Putin apparently considers them Russian, too. Violating Ukraine’s sovereignty is not a good way to deal with this problem. I wish they would institute a peaceful way to resolve this without violence and without dividing the country. Perhaps Russian can set up a mechanism to re-settle ethnic Russians who do not consider themselves citizens of Ukraine in Russia. During a ninety day transition period, Russians and Ukrainians could patrol together to keep peace and those who choose to leave could settle affairs in Ukraine before leaving for Russia. Russia could still retain its military base in Crimea. If the US can have a military base in Cuba, Russia should be able to retain a military base in Ukraine.

I don’t know what will happen, but hope and pray that the situation can be resolved peacefully without dividing Ukraine.

This week in NYS IBM news

On Monday, Governor Cuomo lauded IBM for keeping 3,100 jobs in the Hudson Valley and adding 500 in Buffalo. On Thursday, IBM carried out yet another round of lay-offs in the US, including Poughkeepsie and Endicott NY. No speeches from the Governor on that.

Endicott, the birthplace of IBM, is just across the Susquehanna from me. In a perverse twist on decimation, IBM now employs less than 10% of the people it once did in Endicott. Decimation would be knocking out every tenth person; instead, IBM has knocked out nine, (usually) keeping the tenth.

It’s happened over time. Sometimes, IBM sold a division to another company. The workers get transferred to the other company, but their employment there doesn’t tend to last very long because the new company wants the contracts, not the experienced workers whom they deem too expensive. Other times, IBM off-shored the jobs. It adds insult to injury to have your last weeks of work spent trying to train a new grad in India to do the job for which you spent years developing your skills. In recent years, it seems to be that corporate America’s answer to everything is to cut costs to drive up the earnings per share, regardless of what this does to your ability to deliver quality products on time. There are only so many cuts you can make before you run into difficulties with not having enough skilled people to complete the job, even though the remaining workers do lots of (unpaid) overtime.

In Endicott, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that IBM has not done much hiring here in the past 20+ years. Most of the cuts now involve workers with over thirty years of experience, who wind up being bridged into retirement. What goes with them are critical skills and knowledge base which haven’t been able to be transferred to younger workers because there aren’t many around.

IBM’s mantra for decades was THINK. The corporate leaders seem to have forgotten that. IBM made its name because it was loyal to its workers and they were loyal to IBM. IBM invested in their training and well-being and the employees innovated, obtained record number of patents, and made great products. IBM on a corporate level is making itself into just another company chasing some number for the next quarter and not thinking about the long-term future for themselves, their employees, the communities, and their customers. Will they remember their heritage before it is too late?

poem for K and in memory of M

For K and M

The last time I saw you -
     layers of winter clothing
     not quite obscuring
     a bloated belly
     on your thin frame -
you felt full
eating a single egg.

I tried not to panic -
     remembering the last friend
     with a similar story
     that became a stage three
     ovarian cancer patient -
soon enough to win a couple of battles
but not the war.

You had new doctors
with your new ACA insurance -
     some blood tests done
     office visits coming
     maybe some digestive problem?
     gall bladder? -
diagnosis pending.

Yesterday, the news -
     abdominal tumor
     entwined with multiple organs
     origin uncertain -
oncologist acquired.

Hours in the ER

On a Monday in January, I accompanied a family member to a walk-in clinic, which resulted in our being sent to the ER of a local hospital to look into some EKG issues. They did do a prompt EKG, and, satisfied that no heart attack was occurring, sent us to wait in the filled-to-overflowing waiting room.

We spent over five hours waiting there.

This is not complaining about our situation. While the wait was long, we knew there was no immediate danger and there was no ongoing pain to deal with. What was so difficult was watching others who were in pain and in poor condition waiting so long.

Like the 90+ year old woman who had been sent by her primary care office because she was struggling to recover from an illness. She felt that she was in the way and inconveniencing everyone else. Her heart was breaking from watching other people in need. We told her that she had spent many years helping and caring for others and that now it was time to let others return the favor and care for her.

There was a woman who came in by ambulance after an accident who had back and leg injuries and who was standing on one leg and supporting her weight with her arms on her wheelchair because she could not sit. The ambulance needed to take their gurney back and the hospital didn’t have any spare gurneys or beds.

The most wrenching example of that lack of a place for patients to lie down while waiting to be seen was a man with advanced Parkinson’s who had been brought in by an ambulance crew after a fall in his home.  It had taken four people to carry him in a blanket-sling down the stairs to the ambulance. He was brought in on a gurney with a suspected pelvic fracture, but that did not stop them from moving his partially-dressed, blanket-wrapped body into a wheelchair. His sister, who was herself elderly and mobility-impaired, arrived along with a friend. As the hours went on, the man began to slump further and further down in the wheelchair. The friend went to fetch a staff member to help before he fell onto the waiting room floor. The staff member succeeded in shifting him into a somewhat more stable position, but it was clear that the stiffness from the Parkinson’s was making it difficult. The friend asked if there was somewhere he could lie down but was told there were no beds in the ER and no beds in the hospital available. A bit later, he was again in a precarious position and the friend again summoned staff. Even with three people and some extra pillows, they had difficulty re-positioning him and he nearly landed on the floor. All of us in the waiting room – staff included – felt helpless and worried.

Eventually, the 90+ year old woman was called back, which led to a round of applause from the waiting room. Shortly after that, my family member was called. They each spent the next three hours on beds in the ER hallway, about five minutes of which were spent with a doctor. The man with Parkinson’s went back a few minutes after my family member, fortunately to a room with a bed.

As we were preparing to leave the ER after 10 PM, the two women who were accompanying the man with Parkinson’s were pleading with the ER staff to keep him overnight, because there was no way the two of them could get him back into his home. Remember it had taken four able-bodied people to carry him out and they were two older women, one of whom used a walker.

We don’t know what happened.

We – our community, our society, our country – have to do better.

comment on PSB guest viewpoint by Phil Kraft

Below is my comment to this (Binghamton NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin guest viewpoint by Phil Kraft on the Jan. 31, 2014 presentation on the Potential of Shale Gas in New York State:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140212/VIEWPOINTS02/302120101/Guest-Viewpoint-Deception-surrounding-gas-drilling-offers-important-lesson?gcheck=1

I was able to attend the presentation. What most impressed me is that this presentation was based on actual production data from the Northern Tier PA counties using HVHF in the Marcellus, which was then correlated with the geologic features of the shale. Using calculations of depth, thickness, thermal maturity, and organic content, the PA well data could be projected to NYS. There were also industry maps that show the expectation of drilling companies for NY’s potential, and none of them extended much beyond the NY/PA border for either the Marcellus or the Utica. Many gas production companies have core samples of both the Marcellus and Utica because they have had to drill through them to reach the Trenton Black River formation; the companies already know which areas are too thin, too shallow, or too thermally immature or overmature to yield enough methane to justify the enormous expense of HVHF. Industry has already concentrated their drilling in PA to areas around a couple of sweet spots, one to our south in the Northern Tier, although not extending up to the NY border, and one in SW PA. Older shale plays followed a similar pattern, with drilling dispersed throughout the play initially, but then concentrating in a small area when the sweet spots were discovered.

Unfortunately, a lot of expectations are still based on the original draft SGEIS, when it was expected that shale plays would be more uniform in their production. That is why it is so important for NYers to examine the actual production results and experiences of extraction in PA, so that we have the best available data to decide what to do in NY. Everyone is invited to view a video of the presentation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKRWbyhskh8

Comment on methane emissions and leakage

I just sent the following comment to this article: http://theenergycollective.com/sierenernst/330521/quantifying-impact-multiple-avenues-methanes-underestimation . It’s my first time commenting on this site, so moderation may take a while. I thought I’d post here because I spent so much time on it, I figured it might as well appear somewhere.

There have been several recent NOAA-partnered studies showing high levels of leakage (from 4% to 9+%) in the Denver-Julesburg, Uintah, and Los Angeles basins. These were measured from atmospheric rather than surface instruments, so they would show leakage from drilling operations along with the immediate processing infrastructure. They also were able to categorize the methane associated with drilling from that from other sources, such as landfills and agriculture.   http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982  http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2013/08/09/scientists-observe-significant-methane-leaks-in-a-utah-natural-gas-field/   http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/solving-the-case-of-californias-extra-machine/

We also need to consider that in some plays, such as the Bakken, methane is treated as a byproduct that isn’t worth the dollars and effort to capture, so it is flared or even vented for months on end while the companies concentrate on the much more lucrative oil. This contributes to atmospheric carbon dioxide with absolutely no beneficial use to society and currently unmeasured amounts of methane and other hydrocarbons and VOCs escaping to the atmosphere and adding to the greenhouse gas load.

There are some studies in big cities, such as Boston, New York, and Washington, that show thousands of leaks in the distribution lines, causing leakage rates up to 3%. The distribution companies who should be maintaining these lines don’t hurry to fix them because their customers are being charged for the leaked gas as part of their rates.   http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/07/31/gas-leaks-costing-mass-consumers/5nIv3FsJaZRwscJ48jGMsI/story.html  Unfortunately, the climate comes out as a loser.

Plus, there are the thousands upon thousands of miles of pipelines and the compressor stations and other infrastructure that are venting and leaking gas, which is not being measured. Methane plumes sometimes form in areas where drilling has occurred. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/study-airborne-methane-plume-found-near-bradford-county-gas-migration-site-1.1335347 And let’s not forget the methane emissions that are inherent in the production, storage, transport, and use of LNG.

Even if every driller used best practices with every new well going forward, there would still be much higher total leakage rates than the current EPA estimates. With so many sources of leakage, they would not be easy or cheap to fix. The comparison with coal is low-ball. Instead of comparing one fossil fuel to another, let’s compare, as the original Howarth/Ingraffea/Santoro paper does, to solar, wind, and other energy technologies. That will give us a better idea of the wisest places to concentrate our resources in the fight to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

Open Letter to President Obama on Climate Change


The letter that is part of the article above encapsulates what many of us have been saying for years. Let’s hope the President is finally in a position to take action to push renewable energy and reduce fossil fuels.

I did finally get a reply to the letter I sent to the President after his appearance at Binghamton University last August. https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/letter-to-president-obama/  It was disappointing, as it failed to acknowledge any points that I had made, just re-iterating the accomplishments of the administration in renewables and the “all of the above” strategy that is causing us to lost ground even further on fossil-fuel-induced climate change.

Obviously, an open letter signed by so many major environmental organizations has much more sway than letters from unknown constituents such as myself. Even then, is it possible to move the bureaucracy and the Congress in the right direction?