Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

What can I say about Halloween in a blog post? How about Halloween traditions? Of course, there are the traditional things I have to hear from people around me:
  • "The [evil] Catholics stole Halloween from the [poor downtrodden] pagan feast Samhain." Boo hoo. Get over it. Nobody owns a day, and if a pagan wants to celebrate Samhain on the same day he is free to do so.
  • "Halloween has been taken over by 'X'." I agree, but I'm tired of hearing about it (especially since the same statement gets made for every holiday). So take it back! Don't like the secularization of the holiday? Start a family tradition. Get together with like minded friends and neighbors. Don't like the commercialization of the holiday? Make your own decorations. Don't let other people decide how you treat your own traditions.
  • "Halloween is a satanic holiday and kids should be shielded from it." Really? Last I looked the word Halloween derived from "All Hallows Eve", e evening before Al Saints Day. Do you think saints are satanic? Ooh, that Mother Teresa - so scary! She might pray for me! Actually, that would be great!
  • "Halloween is when evil rules the night." Um, sorry, you're wrong. You probably have it confused with election day, which comes shortly after.
In our family we have several Halloween traditions. There is the choosing of a costume. My kids prefer comfortable and unusual to scary. Last year we had Indiana Jones and a Pepsi can. This year's choices were a chicken and a bag of Fritos (yes, one is obsessed with being food).

There is the decorating of the house. We don't do it until a couple of days before (this year we are doing it right now) because party pooper dad thinks it gets boring when the house is all decorated for two months. We have plastic jack O lanterns and candelabras, and homemade foam tombstones in the front yard.

There is the carving of the pumpkins, which we also leave until the day before or even day of Halloween, because when you carve them two weeks before they rot. We always choose a mixture of faces - goofy, scary, happy, etc. Dad made homemade LED lights to put in them. If anyone's interested I'll post plans.

Then there is the watching of "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown." This is still a treat for me. I love Charles Schultz's cartoons. The music and characters bring me back to my youth, and the first time I saw them.

Finally there is the trick or treating. Halloween is as much fun for parents as for kids around here. Quite a few parents (including me) dress up to walk the kids around the neighborhood. There are parents pulling wagons full of little ones so they don't get tired too quickly, parents who drive ATVs around so they don't get tired too quickly, and ones like my wife and me who just walk around. It's a great time to meet and talk to neighbors you don't see every day.

When it gets dark, we break out the glowsticks, and start heading for home. A quick dinner, a load of candy, and we spend the evening playing games or watching a family movie until around 10 PM. The kids are ready for bed, but we let them stay up until then, because that's when a group of older "kids" in the neighborhood come around in fantastic costumes. They are always "themed" and homemade, and always amazing. Last year they were "rock monsters." One was all crystals, one was molten lava (with lit up lava floes), and another was boulders (ala the superhero "Thing"). They are quite the imaginative bunch! Here's a picture of two of them.

I hope your Halloween will be as enjoyable as I expect ours to be. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voter Score Card

The Family Research Council (FRC) is an organization that promotes faith, family and freedom in public policy and public opinion. FRC Action, the legislative action arm of FRC, has published their voter score card for this year. They track the voting record of senators and congress members with respect to legislation on issues dealing with family values. Some examples of legislation that affect family values are:
  • Confirmation of David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General
David Ogden was nominated on January 26, 2009 by President Barack Obama to the position of Deputy Attorney General. Mr. Ogden has profited from representing pornographers and attacking legislation designed to ban child pornography, including the Children's Internet Protection Act of 2000 and the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988.
  • Maintaining the Kemp-Kasten Coercive Abortion Prohibition
The Kemp-Kasten provision prevents federal funding for the United Nations Population Fund from being used to support coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization programs.
  • D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
This amendment (S.AMDT. 615) to the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 1105) would address the elimination of funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
In total there were 41 pieces of legislation considered (23 in the senate, 16 in the house) so I won't list them all here. They are available on the web site. FRC Action tracked how often the voting record of each representative was in favor of traditional family values (protecting women and children, permitting individual freedom).

I used the information provided on their site to make the following chart, showing the performance of representatives from my home state of NJ. I hope the chart is self-explanatory. For more information on the individual pieces of legislation and the actual voting records, for NJ or other states, please refer to the FRC Action web site.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marjorie Needs Help

As I was writing my blog post tonight I got a call from a number I didn't recognize. Normally I'd just let it go to voice mail, but for some reason I picked it up. It sounded like it was one of those telemarketing calls, but again, for some reason I stayed on. It was something that was worth blogging about.

A couple of years ago I found the Susan B. Anthony list. I don't normally seek out "feminist" (or feminist sounding) organizations, but this is different. From their mission statement:
Our organization works in the spirit and tradition of the original suffragettes. Susan B. Anthony herself called abortion “child murder.” Alice Paul, author of the original 1923 Equal Rights Amendment, reportedly said the early feminists believed that “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.” Modern feminist Patricia Heaton echoes this theme, saying, “The early feminists were pro-life. And really, abortion is a huge disservice to women, and it hasn't been presented that way.”
Our FIVE-POINT MISSION helps us defend unborn lives and places us in a strategic position to fight for Life:
  1. Elect pro-life women to Congress through our SBA List Candidate Fund.
  2. Educate voters on critical pro-life issues and on upcoming legislation.
  3. Train and equip pro-life activists nationwide to run successful political and grassroots campaigns.
  4. Promote positive responses in both traditional and new media to dispel the myths and distortions of the abortion lobby.
  5. Advocate passage of pro-life legislation in Congress, directly with legislators and through mobilizing direct citizen lobbying.
Now that's a mission I can support. Sadly that mission and its leader, Marjorie Dannenfelser, are being attacked by congressman Steve Dreihaus. The SBA List wanted to put up four billboards in Mr. Dreihaus' district that simply stated that he had voted for the health care bill, that provided taxpayer funding for abortion. Mr, Dreihaus contends that the health care bill does not permit taxpayer funding for abortion, and is pressing criminal charges against Ms. Dannenfelser, under an Ohio law that forbids false statements in political advertising. Ms. Dannenfelser faces 6 months in jail and the destruction of the organization she has spent 18 years building.

Let me make a couple of points clear. The billboards were never put up, are not up now, and will not be put up before the election. The claim is that the intention to put them up is enough to prosecute. Also, the claim that the health care bill forbids taxpayer funding for abortion is patently false. President Obama signed an executive order to limit abortion funding in the health care bill (I will leave the discussion of whether that's worth the paper it's printed on for another post). Now why would the president feel the need to sign an order limiting funding if the bill did not allow any funding of abortion? Is Mr. Dreihaus calling the president a liar?


If you find this attack on political free speech to be as disgusting as you should find it, please consider helping the Susan B. Anthony list cover its legal expenses to fight this injustice, and maybe even send a letter to Mr. Dreihaus about it.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Think you have a big family? Here's an amazing story about a Vietnamese man who saves babies from abortion by adopting them. He has devoted his entire savings to saving children from abortion. How many has he adopted? Over 80. Yes, that's not a typo. Thirty of them have been taken back by their mothers, and he and his wife are raising the remaining fifty plus children as their own, unless/until their mothers want them back. When he can't save a life, he asks the abortuary for the corpse, which he buries in a private cemetery. His cemetery has over 9,000 tiny graves.

To me (and the children he has saved) this man is a hero. I wish I had the fortitude to do what he does. The next time I feel like complaining about how hectic my life is, I will shut up and offer it up.

H/T Divine Ripples.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Hundred Year Plan

I was debating the other evening with a friend about what would happen if abortion were outlawed tomorrow. It was interesting, but the notion of abortion being outlawed tomorrow is a bit far fetched. I don't expect to ever see it happen in my life time. So what do I expect? Why be pro-life in that case?

The "holy grail" for many pro-lifers is overturning Roe v. Wade. This may be a necessary step, but is certainly not sufficient. Many overlook that we must also overturn Doe v. Bolton. For those who aren't familiar with the cases, Roe v. Wade stated that an unborn child was not granted protection under the law according to a statement implied in the fourteenth amendment of the Constitution. The part of that amendment that the court deemed exempts unborn children from protection under the law reads as follows:
...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Anybody else see the flaw in this logic? Anyway, Roe v. Wade said a woman could abort a non-viable child for sufficient reason. Doe v. Bolton was the coup de grace for the unborn, which basically said that any reason would do, and at any time until birth. Of course, it did not specify when birth ended, and so we have practices like partial birth abortion and cases like the Virginia woman who suffocated her new born infant, but because she had not cut the umbilical cord her actions were legal.

What would it take to overturn Roe/Doe? First off we need to get a clear majority of pro-life justices on the supreme court. There are nine justices. How would they vote today? My best guess is as follows:
Roe v Wade
Antonin Scalia
Clarence Thomas
Samuel Alito
John RobertsStephen Breyer
Anthony Kennedy
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Sonia Sotomayor

So the first prerequisite for overturning Roe v. Wade is to have a pro-life president in the white house for the next two or three terms.So we need not one but two pro-life justices to have a chance at overturning this bad decision. Supreme court justices are appointed by the president, and for life. Of course, any justice could resign or pass away at any time, but statistically speaking, the two oldest justices are Kennedy (80) and Ginsburg (77) who are both pro-abortion. It is likely that they will retire first, and in the next ten years. Assuming that happens by 2020, we still have to have a case go before the court, and there would likely be years of preparation before a decision was made. Ditto for Doe v. Bolton.

So let's say it happens, Roe v. Wade is overturned. No more abortion? Think again. All Roe v. Wade did was say that states were not allowed to give legal protection to the unborn. Once it is gone the states now have the power to make laws concerning abortion. Sadly, some states get big money from big abortion industries like Planned Parenthood. They would be reluctant to change things, so we would have the same situation, but at a state level. Each state would have the ability to limit or abolish abortion, but would also have the ability to keep things as they are.

Enter the "personhood" amendment. This is a constitutional amendment which has been tried several times at the state level that says simply the following:
The word person refers to any member of the human race, from fertilization until death.
How can they get away with that when Roe v Wade exists? They are currently about state constitutions, not the US constitution. So far these amendments have been defeated, and some pro-lifers say that they are a waste of time and energy, and harmful to the pro-life movement. I believe that many different tools should be employed to fight injustice; "Likelihood of winning" should not be the criteria for even trying.

If Roe v. Wade were overturned in a decade that would mean it took almost 50 years to change that decision. A Constitutional amendment is a process that (rightly) takes a long time as well. For that to happen, the proposed amendment must pass both the house and senate by at least a 2/3 majority. After that it would have to be ratified by at least 3/4 of the state legislatures within seven years.

So for this amendment to happen we'd have 2/3 of the house and senate be pro-life. Using the health care bill as a litmus test, I'd say the current congress would be split about 50-50 on such an amendment (just a guess). We need to get pro-life candidates into more states than currently.

Even with constitutional protection, the Supreme court could still screw things up. For instance, the eight amendment to Ireland's constitution says:
The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
However, their supreme court essentially flaunted their own constitution that in declaring that embryos that were not implanted in a womb were not "unborn". Again, anybody else see the flaw?

In short, even if all goes our way, I expect the legal battle to outlaw abortion in the United States will take 100 years. A prerequisite for that is for people to vote for pro-life candidate. A prerequisite to that is for our citizens to be educated in biological science and understand what abortion is, and to understand that we have better ways to treat women and children than killing them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

CEASE Procreating

OK, I've been blogging about population control, especially my most recent one on the WHO's (World Health organization) and it's time to tell you some things that they, and the UN FPA (United Nations Population Fund) don't want you to know about. In fact, the current administration, the EU, Planned Parenthood, the global warming climate change disruption people and lots of other groups don't want you to know this.

There is no overpopulation crisis. If anything, there is a coming underpopulation crisis. I know, I didn't believe it myself, until I did the research and the math. I'd had it drummed into my head for decades that the world was overpopulated and that was the cause of all human woe. I believed what I'd been taught.

But I'm also Pro-Life (if you haven't guessed by now) and at some point I had to be able to answer the question "if women don't have abortions what are we going to do with all the babies we can't feed?" The answer is that we will feed them, and love them as the gifts they are.

But don't take my word for it. Watch this overly cute video (and if you are so inclined videos 2 and 3 in the series):

How could Malthus be so wrong? As I mentioned earlier, his assumptions were wrong. First off, food production doesn't increase geometrically. Food is alive. That means it too reproduces, and at rates faster than people. In a free market economy when food becomes scarce, the price goes up, and that encourages more people to invest in, you guessed it, food production. It all works out!

Secondly, as our level of technology improves, so does the amount of food we can produce. Mechanical harvesters made a huge difference in the 19th century, and even today, satellite technology is improving crop yields and allowing us to farm land that wasn't usable just a decade ago.

As for the video's "outrageous" claim that the world can live in Texas, here's the math:

Texas has a land area of 268,820 square miles. That's 7.5 trillion square feet. Divide that by the current world population of 6.8 billion and you get 1100 square feet per person or 4400 square feet per family of 4. That's a 44x100 foot lot, which is about the size of the lot I grew up on (which was 50x100).

OK, we can house them, but how would we feed them? Look at India. India is self-sufficient in terms of food (it exports grain), feeding it's 1.1 billion on a land mass 1/3 the size of the USA. How many people could the US feed with existing farm land and existing technology?

The total area of the US is 3,794,101 square miles, of which 18.01% is arable. That's enough to feed 3.5 billion people using "standard" methods. That's using existing numbers for land use and for technology. If we wanted to we could farm more land than we do now. And that's not counting other countries. Russia could feed 7 billion alone (based on existing arable land in Russia).

Yes, I understand, some of us like meat, and that takes more land, but in this scenario the entire world (outside of Texas) is available for food production. Then again, considering how much I like steaks, perhaps we'd better move the people out of Texas and use it for beef!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkins and Jesus

After posting on the pro-life pumpkin contest yesterday, I got the idea to search for other Catholic pumpkins. After all, Halloween is a Catholic holiday (being the eve of a Catholic Holy Day). And carving pumpkins is a totally Catholic thing to do. In fact, if you are not familiar with it, hear now the tale of Jack O' the Lantern. this is my version, so it may differ from what you've heard before.
Once there was an evil man named Jack. One day, he drank himself to death in a pub. The devil appeared to take his soul, but Jack pleaded for one more drink before his soul went off to hell. The devil granted him this last wish, and when Jack complained he had no money, the devil turned into a coin. Jack thrust the coin into his coin purse, which had a cross on it, and imprisoned the devil. He agreed to let the devil out if he would grant him 1 more year of life.

Jack tried to mend his ways in that year, but was unsuccessful. So the devil returned after one year. Jack pleaded to be able to eat an apple before he went to hell. The devil agreed and climbed a tree to get one. Jack immediately carved a cross into the trunk of the tree and imprisoned the devil again. This time he wouldn't let the devil go unless he agreed never to take Jack's soul. The devil, sick of being tricked, agreed.

Again Jack tried to do better, but fell into his old ways, Eventually Jack died and went before the pearly gates of heaven. St. Peter turned him away, since he had led a sinful, unrepentant life. He went to the gates of hell, but the devil refused him entrance, citing their agreement. So Jack is cursed to roam about the world for all time. He holds a coal in a carved turnip (now a pumpkin) to light his way, trying to find someplace where he can find eternal rest.
Mwah ha ha! At any rate, I searched around for Catholic Jack O'Lanterns and I found some cool links.

Catholic Cuisine has links to the pro-life pumpkin contest and a saint pumpkin link up. I also like their Halloween pumpkin post from last year. Lots of very creative ideas!

They also linked to some other good pumpkin carving ideas. Tug and Regina have a not just one, but two posts on Catholic pumpkins. Totus Tuus Family & Catholic Homeschool even has a pumpkin monstrance!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkins and babies

American Life League is sponsoring the second annual Pro-life pumpkin carving contest! From their site:
American Life League is rolling out the second year of its Pro-Life Pumpkin carving contest. Submit photos of your pro-life jack-o'-lantern and enter to win $100 in pro-life gear.

"This is such a fun way to introduce kids to the pro-life movement," said Judie Brown. "Every person who steps on your porch this October 31 will get a lot more than a handful of Snickers. They’ll also be getting a message about human rights and personhood for all."

Last year, American Life League’s multi-talented researcher and ALL Report host Michael Hichborn showed up to work one October morning with snap shots of his newly-carved pumpkin featuring the silhouette of a preborn baby sucking her thumb. Needless to say, we were all duly impressed with Mike’s knife-wielding skills.

Mike and his wife Alyssa had used the yearly Halloween tradition to talk to their kids about standing up for preborn babies and the precious gift of human life.
We had to share his idea and soon we were swamped with requests for the stencil which was made available on our web site.

Even more impressive however were the dozens of original ‘pro-life’ pumpkin creations that were emailed our way. Clearly this had sparked some imaginations and we’re still hearing the stories of conversations sparked with neighbors.
So get out there and get creative!
  • Pictures of jack-o'-lanterns must be submitted no later than Wednesday, Oct. 27.
  • Winner will be announced Friday, Oct. 29.
  • Photos of pumpkins submitted will be displayed on this web site and ALL’s Facebook Fanpage as they are received. Your name will not be used (unless you would like it to be.)
  • Entrees are not limited to one pumpkin. We encourage creations that make use of multiple pumpkins and pictures of you and/or your kids in action.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mummies and cancer

Halloween is coming up, and so today's topic is.... MUMMIES!

I found an article today "Cancer is caused by modern man as it was virtually no-nexistent in the ancient world". In typical media fashion the article is sensationalized and the conclusions don't fit the facts. According to the article:
Researchers looking at almost a thousand mummies from ancient Egypt and South America found only a handful suffered from cancer when now it accounts for nearly one in three deaths.
The findings suggest that it is modern lifestyles and pollution levels caused by industry that are the main cause of the disease and that it is not a naturally occurring condition. 
Yes, it goes into how they accounted for the fact that people live longer now. But the point that I'd like to make is that the findings don't "suggest that is it modern lifestyles and pollution levels caused by industry that are the main cause of the disease and that it is not a naturally occurring condition." All the findings can possibly tell us is that in ancient Egypt and South America in those regions where bodies were mummified the cancer rate was low at that time in history. Anything else is pure speculation.

Consider that these cultures were ethnically more homogeneous than today. Perhaps there was a group that developed genes for cancer that then spread throughout the world's population. Perhaps cancer is caused by a virus or other organism that did not exist in humans in that time. Perhaps they were subjected to some substance that prevented cancer. We know the ancient Egyptians, in particular, had antibiotics, what else might they have had? Perhaps the characteristics of solar radiation have changed over the years.

It's possible to find dozens of hypotheses that explain the data, but none are as sensational as the one the paper decided to go with. I can't blame them for wanting to sell more papers, but I do think it points to the lack of critical reasoning in the population in general. Kinda scares you, what with elections coming up and all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

12 More Days

The fall's 40 Days for Life campaign is more than halfway over. This week I met a woman who not only participates in 40 Days, but prays at an abortion mill year 'round, and has been doing so for many years. She is in her eighties, and told me the clinic she's praying at now is number five. She has closed four other clinics!

I spent quite a while listening to her wonderful stories, both good and bad. She spoke about Mike the cop, who became her friend after responding to a complaint from the abortionist; how he not only stood up for her, but would drive by and make sure she was safe. There were numerous stories of people thanking her for saving their child. And one time a friend saved her life by yelling for her to jump as a clinic employee tried to run her down with a car.

The next day I was standing in the cold wind and pouring rain. Although the turnout was small that day, as one man put it "it's a great witness that people are out here at all in this weather." A large pickup truck pulled up and double parked in front of the clinic where we were, and a man got out and approached us. He walked up to each of us in turn, thanked us, and handed us each ten dollars to "get a hot coffee or some soup". We all donated the money to 40 Days to help defray the costs of the signs and pamphlets they provide us with.

Mario, the man in charge that day told me that the gentleman comes by every day and gives each person praying there ten dollars, and thanks each one personally. Sometimes there are dozens of people praying, and he still gives each person ten dollars. We all pray for him every day.

Although I have never been able to make it to the clinic on a Saturday, I'm told that's the biggest day. A large group gathers every Saturday afternoon for a rosary for life and songs. And that's the biggest day for women changing their minds and canceling their abortion appointments. This past Saturday should have been even bigger because it corresponded with America Needs Fatima's Rosary Rally. I was at a high school open house on Saturday so I'll have to find out how it went and report back next week.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Jesus' Brother and Benford's Law

Just cruising the interwebs and found the following article at New Scientist:
After five years' deliberation, a trial in an Israeli court has still to reach a verdict over the provenance of an ossuary bearing the Aramaic inscription "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus".
The proof, or lack of it, is in the patina - the centuries-old crust that accrues on all antique objects. The Israeli justice ministry is prosecuting the ossuary's owner, antiques dealer Oded Golan, for fraud. Golan is charged with scratching the "brother of Jesus" inscription himself and slathering it with a homemade patina.
Five years of deliberation, when there is scientific evidence refuting the claim? Seems excessive. For those who think this might have an effect on Catholicism I'd like to point out that in that time the names Jesus, Joseph, and James were all very common, so even if it had not been fraudulent, there's nothing to suggest that the Jesus mentioned was Our Lord.

More interesting (to me) is an (unrelated) article about Benford's Law:
A subject of fascination to mathematicians, Benford's law states that for many sets of numbers, the first or "leading" digit of each number is not random. Instead, there is a 30.1 per cent chance that a number's leading digit is a 1. Progressively higher leading digits get increasingly unlikely, and a number has just a 4.6 per cent chance of beginning with a 9 (see diagram).
The law is named after physicist Frank Benford, who in 1938 showed that the trend appears in many number sets, from the surface area of rivers to baseball statistics to figures picked randomly from a newspaper. It later emerged that such distributions are "scale-invariant": if you convert the units of the numbers in the set, from metres to yards, say, the set will still conform to Benford's law.
Not all sets of numbers obey this law, but it crops up surprisingly often.
If I may geek out for a moment. I have never heard of this phenomenon, but I wonder if it's as simple as the "rule of numerous small"? I can't find a link to this law, but I remember reading it in an Asimov science essay years ago, in the collection "Far as Human Eye Could See". The rule is simply this. There are more pebbles than boulder, more grains of sand than pebbles, more alleys than superhighways, etc.

The rule makes sense intuitively, and is also backed up mathematically. If you divide a given mass into randomly sized pieces without regard to the size, you must end up with more pieces of smaller mass. Applying this over any set of numbers, a leading 1 will appear more often.

For instance, let's say I measure the length of all the roads in the US. Very few will be very long (there's just not enough room or need for many 4000 mile long roads). Many more will be moderately long (in the 100s of miles). Even more will be just a few miles long. The vast majority will be local roads a mile or less. If you graph them it will look something like this:

This graph depicts length along the bottom and the height of the line represents the number of roads of that length. As you can see there are more small roads than big ones on this graph (note, it's not real data, just an illustration of the concept). No matter what actual lengths you measure (feet, miles, yards, meters), the "1" is to the left of the "9", and so it appears more often.

Lorenzo Who?

If you haven't been in a mine yourself the last few days you must have heard about the rescue of the trapped miners in Chile. In several of the articles I read they spoke of the miners' deep Catholic faith as being the primary reason the miners came out of this situation as well as they did (obviously these stories were not in the main stream media, btu that's another post). The miners and their families had a devotion to San Lorenzo, the patron saint of miners. In fact, the rescue operation was dubbed "Operation San Lorenzo".

So who was this San Lorenzo? A search on patron saint of miners yields nothing about San Loenzo (other than links to articles about the Chilean miners). The most common Saint mentioned is St. Barbara, although SQPN lists several: Sts. Anne, Barbara, Eligius, Leonard of Noblac, Piran and Virgen of Rosario.

A search on San Lorenzo, or Saint Lawrence as he is known in English, and "miners" yields lots of links to articles on the Chilean miners, plus several mines and mining museums, which confirms that he is in some way associated with mining. Searching a little more, I found lots of information about the saint, but not about how he became the patron saint of miners.

So what is the image at the top of this post, and what does it have to do with St Lawrence? It is a picture of the Holy Grail. Now, before you laugh and start saying things like "What is your favorite color?" and "It's a flesh wound!" let me assure you this is no joke. The Holy Grail, which is the cup Christ used at the Last Supper, may just be this cup in Valencia Spain. As with all archeological artifacts we will never know with certainty, but many historians are convinced of the provenance of this one, and it turns out St. Lawrence is the one who got it to Spain.

The information below is taken mostly from the Saintcast episode St. Lawrence & the Holy Grail. The Saintcast is a great podcast about the saints by Dr. Paul Camarata. You can find it on iTunes. In this episode Dr. Camarata imparts an account of St. Lawrence written in the 6th century by St. Donato of Hippo, as published in the book "St. Laurence And The Holy Grail: The Holy Chalice Of Valencia" by Janice Bennett. The errors in this account are mine, as I hurriedly took notes while listening.

St. Lawrence was born in Huesca, in Spain, to parents Orencio and Paciencia. Lawrence's brother was ordained a priest, and Lawrence a deacon. When a Greek papal representative named Sixtus came through the region, Lawrence, 14 at the time, was impressed by his knowledge and piety and asked to accompany Sixtus back to Rome to learn from him. He did this, and became well known in Rome for his charity, visiting and tending to the poor and sick.

Rome in the 3rd century was not a good place to be a Christian. There were a series of persecutions throughout the Roman empire. Lawrence's parents were crucified on on May 3, 246, when Lawrence was 20. He persisted in his good works throughout the persecutions, visiting martyrs in jail and accompanying them through torture and seeing to their burial. He became the treasurer and chancellor of the Church.

In 253 the emperor Valerian came to power, who was more tolerant of Christianity than his predecessors. However, his views changed, and in 257 decreed that all priests and bishops should be forced to publicly sacrifice to the Roman gods or face death.

On August 2, 257 Pope St. Stephen I was beheaded while celebrating mass. Sixtus succeeded Stephen as Pope Sixtus II. Sixtus, anticipating that he would be arrested, entrusted all of the treasures of the church to Lawrence, including the Holy Grail and other relics. Shortly thereafter Sixtus was arrested. He was ordered to offer sacrifice to the Roman Gods but refused. Lawrence visited Sixtus in prison, who predicted Lawrence would also be arrested in three days.

Lawrence set about distributing the goods of the church which were in his care. Whatever he could, he sold and distributed to the poor. Relics, including the Holy Grail he gave to a fellow countryman of his, Precelius of Hippo. He asked him to bring them to the place of his birth to keep them safe from Valerian.

Sure enough, Sixtus was beheaded at the temple of Mars, and Lawrence was arrested. He was placed in the custody of a guard named Hippolytus. While in prison he baptized and healed a blind prisoner, Lucillus. Word got out and blind people from all over began to come to the jail to be healed. Even Hippolytus was converted and baptized.

When Valerian heard of this he ordered Lawrence to turn over to him all the treasures of the church. Lawrence asked for three days to gather the treasures. At the end of three days he came before Valerian with a group of poor, blind and lame people and declared that these are the eternal treasures of the church. Valerian had him tortured.

His torture went on for days, and the account is quite gruesome. He was beaten until the torturers became too tired to continue, and then again until the instruments they were using broke. He was placed on a rack until his limbs were dislocated. Sheet of metal were heated until glowing and pressed into his flesh. He calmly and happily praised God through it all.

During this his torturers saw a handsome young man next to him, speaking to him and wiping his brow. At least one of the torturers converted and was baptized by Lawrence. When Valerian saw that he was apparently calm and happy he ordered Lawrence to be put on a metal grating and slowly roasted over hot coals until dead.

It was after hours of this treatment that St. Lawrence made his oft quoted remark "turn me over, I am quite done on this side". He was turned over, eventually died, and was buried on August 10, 257. His head was later dug up and now resides in the Chapel of Matilda where it is displayed every year on August 10th. The head clearly shows the marks of his torturous death. lists him as the patron saint of chefs (which makes sense given his last words) as well as dozens of other things. It doesn't mention miners. As I mentioned my best guess is that he is the patron saint of coal miners in particular, because of his death over a coal fire.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CEASE Vaccination

Found on Defend Us In Battle and Shoved to Them: UN/WHO and Experiments in Population Control. If this doesn't give you nightmares and/or enrage you you have no heart.

First, some background. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone produced by an embryo. It signals the mother's body to make progesterone, which causes the uterus to be lined with the blood vessels and capillaries that will provide nutrition to the developing fetus.

One of the holy grails of the culture of death is the "contraceptive" vaccine. Note that the word "contraceptive" is in quotes, since the vaccine is not actually a contraceptive but an abortifacient. In other words, it doesn't prevent conception but causes the woman to miscarry her baby later, during the pregnancy. The vaccine works by causing the mother's immune system to attack hCG. Without hCG the embryo will not get the blood supply it needs, and as its requirements for nutrition are greater than what it can get from its mother, it starves to death in the womb.

The World Health Organization (WHO) "is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends."

Now to the actual article:
Since the 1970s, the WHO has been actively researching and looking for a pregnancy vaccine.  It was their research which proved that adding hCG to tetanus was feasible and effective.  (Vernon Stevens, "Progress in the development of human chorionic gonadotropin antifertility vaccines," American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 1996, volume 35, 148-155.)  Researchers have now moved on to using diphtheria as the anigen link as it appears to deliver longer lasting infertility results. 

...During the early 1990s the WHO began a massive campaign against tetanus in Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines.  What was not disclosed to the participants in the campaign was that the vaccine vials had been tainted by the addition of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a naturally occurring hormone which is essential to sustaining pregnancy.

[in 1996] Vials of the vaccine in the Philippines tested positive for the inclusion of hCG.  These vials were all Canadian in origin and belonged to the WHO.  Individual women who experienced miscarriage after receiving the vaccine have been found to have hCG anti-bodies. 

At this time, reports of hCG laced vaccines are beginning to be reported in Nigeria, another predominantly Catholic country.

It is time that we as Americans and Catholic Christians begin calling for the withdrawal of the financial support of the United States of America from the World Health Organization.  Any good which they might do in the world is offset by these atrocious violations against the basic human rights of poor women around the world and their children.
On the heels of president Obama's recent apology for the syphilis tests in Guatemala, this begs the issue, how can the president (and this country) continue to support organizations like WHO?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CEASE Pollution

Matt Archbold, over at the National Catholic Register, wrote an article "Anti Baby Science" about a Scientific American article "Will Birth Control Solve Climate Change?". This brings up a topic I've been meaning to blog about for a long time, population control. As I pointed out in "When you're holding a hammer", the solution to all problems is CEASE - my acronym for "Contraception, Euthanasia, Abortion, Sterilization and Eugenics".

First off, let me say I disagree with Mat ton one important point. This is not science. If you read the article, the "work" is funded by science grants, and is done by "scientists", but it is not science. They run population simulations based on their assumptions of what people will do, and come up with resulting levels of greenhouse gas emissions. That is not science, that is speculation.

It calls to mind the work of an earlier "scientist", Thomas Malthus. With just as little data and just as few facts, he produced a simulation that showed the world's population running out of food in the next generation. The problem is Malthus made his prediction in 1798. Needless to say it didn't happen, because his assumptions were flawed.

Likewise, the models these "scientists" are using for their "science" is flawed. I don't have space here for (nor are you probably interested in reading) a blow-by-blow critique of the article, but let's look at a couple of major flaws.

The first flaw is the assumption is that global warming is caused by people. You can read "Science? I think not!" for my take on that. The second is the assumption is that technology will not change, and no scientific advances can be made. It boggles the mind that the same people who make predictions about future societies based on applying Moore's Law to information technology fail to be able to admit any progress can be made in agricultural or industrial technology.

Ultimately though, the purpose of this "science" is not to advance human knowledge (how can it? As the saying goes "garbage in, garbage out"), but to justify a political socioeconomic agenda of CEASE. In that regard, they are doing a fine job. More on this as time permits.

[NB I apologize for using so many Wikipedia references. I have found Wikipedia to be biased, incomplete and downright wrong on just about every subject on which I have enough knowledge to intelligently critique it.* For that reason, I generally try to reference original sources rather than Wikipedia's. However, time did not permit finding better references for this post.

* For those of you who think I am just a crank, the subjects I am referring to are things like photography, physics, optics, astronomy, and computer science.]

Monday, October 11, 2010

In fourteen hundred and ninety three...

...Columbus sailed the deep blue sea"? If you know who said this, you will win a coveted award! [hint: it could be the topic of a post on home schooling.]

Happy Columbus day! I just wanted to take a moment to note that Ian Maxfield over at The Catholic Laboratory is doing a wonderful series of podcasts on the history of European exploration in the 15th century, beginning with episode 45. Episodes can be found at the site above or on iTunes.

If you are interested in the roles of science and faith in the "Age of Exploration" this is quite an interesting series. If you are interested in science and faith in general, I recommend the entire podcast series. Physics, chemistry, biology, geology - you name it. From evolution to parallel universes, Ian covers a broad range of topics from a Catholic perspective, often with a really bad joke thrown in.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Light Banter

My post "The end of the EZ Bake Oven" got several bits of feedback on Facebook that I would like to share here. I also would like to elaborate on some of the points made that I didn't in my original post, and correct some points that appear to be in error.

 First, the feedback. Paul notes that according to Snopes:
TRUE: CFLs contain mercury, a potentially dangerous substance.
TRUE: While mercury stays safely contained in intact CFLs, it escapes from broken CFLs into the immediate surroundings.
FALSE: The amount of mercury contained in one CFL bulb poses a grave danger to a home's inhabitants.
TRUE: The breakage of a CFL bulb needs to be handled with care and certain procedures should be followed in removing the broken bulb and its contents from a home.
FALSE: The mercury dispersed by one broken CFL bulb needs to be dealt with only by an environmental clean-up crew.
If you follow the link to Snopes you will see they recommend an elaborate 16 step cleanup process, which includes shutting off the heat or AC in the house and leaving windows open for at least 15 minutes.
I replied: I never claimed you needed to call in a hazmat team, but while the snopes statements may reflect EPA information, how many families are going to follow the 16 steps, or even know about them? Who's going to shut off their heat and leave the windows open for 15 minutes in a winter storm? The EPA guidelines for safe levels of mercury in a home are 20 micrograms/m^3. The 5 milligrams from one bulb will go far beyond that in a room.

Andy commented: good article on the subject. pretty clear that the electricity needs of the old bulbs cause much more mercury (e.g. from coal power plants into the air) to be released into the environment. good info in any case.
I replied: Sorry, Andy, it is not clear at all. In fact, the opposite is clear from the link you provide.

From the article " incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime." But that assumes 100% of that electricity is produced by coal (the article itself states the real number is 50% but then they assume 100% coal for their calculations). Counting the non-coal power plants, instead of comparing 13.16 with 3.51 + 5, we should compare 6.58 with 1.75 + 5.

In other words, the amount of mercury released is similar. The difference is in the CF scenario the mercury is released in landfills around the country, and in the incandescent scenario it is at a power plant, where we can employ scrubbing technology or switch to a less polluting generation technology.

Incidentally, residential lighting accounts for 212TW of the 3873TW of electricity produced in this country, so even if it did save mercury, the largest amount of mercury that could possibly be saved is 3.6% of the total produced. Improving the power plants even slightly would save much more.

I still give CFs a big FAIL.

To which Andy replied: cool. Still, have to figure in HVAC loading too. now if only the guys changing all those tubes in offices would quit tossing the big tubes in the dumpster breaking them in the process ;-)
Both Paul and Andy have some good points, but I don't think either is a good argument in favor of CFs. While the mercury in one CF bulb does not present a "grave danger" (in the sense that you will die) mercury poisoning is cumulative, and if the 16 step procedure isn't followed the residual mercury may sit in the room for may years until it is eventually absorbed.
I also noted that according to the EPA (more readable article is at the Sierra club site), US Mercury emissions from power plants must be reduced to 38 tons by the end of 2010 (25% reduction) and to 15 tons by 2018. Factoring the power plant improvements into the mercury equations above yields 4.94 for the incandescent,  1.3 + 5 or 6.3 for the CF in 2010. So the CFs actually introduce more mercury into the environment over their lifetime. By 2018 that number will be 1.98 vs. 5.53 in favor of the incandescent.

The second point Andy brings up is HVAC cooling. Every watt used by these bulbs eventually becomes heat that has to be removed if your house gets too warm. So, how does that affect things? According to Mr. Electricity a 2.5 ton AC uses 3500W of power (this is a reasonably sized central air system for a residence). 2.5 tons is 30,000 BTUs, and each watt our light bulb consumes generates 3.41 BTUs. Doing the math, each watt of heat generated by our light bulbs takes another .4 watts to remove.

Assuming we run our air conditioner 3 months of the year (yes, in the south it will be more, but in the north we may not use AC at all, and some bulbs will be outdoors or in non-air conditioned areas), I estimate each watt of lighting consumes another 0.1 watts on average. Factoring this into the above equations, we get 5.4 vs. 6.4 in favor of incandescents in 2010, 1.98 vs. 5.58 by 2018.

As I noted originally, improving power plants even slightly makes a much bigger improvement. Plus that improvement is carried across all electrical usage, not just residential lighting. All of the comparisons I was able to find use the flawed logic of the Popular Mechanics article to justify the use of CF bulbs. The fact is that these bulbs increase the amount of mercury released into the environment, even in the USA, which has more coal fired electrical production than any other nation.

Thanks to all who have responded with feedback, both here and on Facebook and Plurk. I hope these articles have been informative. They certainly were for me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Global Warming Scam

H/T Adrienne's Corner:

No doubt due to my excellent arguments in my blog post "Science, I think not!", Professor Emiritus of physics Hal Lewis of the University of California at Santa Barbara resigned from the American Physical Society, stating (emphasis mine):
For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
You can read about it in the Telegraph, the San Diego Examiner or on CBS News.

A busy week

I've been too busy to do much blogging, but I wanted to keep you up to date on the progress of the fall 2010 40 Days for Life campaign I've been involved with. Of course, the 40 Days web site has a daily blog that gives summaries of some of the highlights of each day, but with so many places participating they can't list everything. I can speak about the places I have been.

Last week I spent some time talking to the other members about how thins were going. According to the coordinator, this has been a bad fall, with fewer than normal people turning up [N.B. there were 6 people there when I was, which is "normal" for the times I usually go - I try to pick times when they have fewer people signed up]. The reason, he thinks, is that most of the churches (both Catholic and Protestant) at which he would normally announce the event refused to let him speak this fall! He is at a loss to explain why, and so am I, but I think I can posit a guess. There has been a lot in the media about abortion being an issue in the 2010 elections, and I think many pastors fear that they will be seen as taking sides in a political race. Now, of course that's completely backwards thinking, but that's the best reason I can guess. Anyone who has a better idea, I'd love to hear it.

Despite the lower than normal turnout, the campaign has been successful. Last week quite a few hearts and minds were changed. On Saturday alone, four women approached the 40 days members and told them they had changed their minds and canceled their abortions. Hopefully there were many more who didn't stop to say thanks.

This week I witnessed a young man who was trying to convince his woman (not sure if it was a girlfriend or wife) not to go through with the abortion. I don't know the outcome, but I pray she had a change of heart. Another couple at the clinic was arguing animatedly, although from a distance we couldn't tell who wanted the abortion and who didn't. They did leave without having one, which was a good sign.

It angers me when people talk about a woman's "free choice" to have an abortion. Perhaps there are such people, but none of the women I've seen at these places seemed to think she had a choice. Women go these because they are choiceless. They see no other way to "solve" what they perceive as a "problem". If only they could understand that abortion doesn't "solve" anything, and that what is inside them is a human being who loves them, not the cause of whatever problems they face.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

In case you missed this

From New Advent:

Pope Benedict XVI, a study by Michael Noakes

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Real Climate Research

If you recall my recent post "Science? I think not!" I presented links to data showing how climate was affected by solar radiation way more than any human controlled factors. Well, more evidence is on the way. According to NASA scientists in the article "Getting to the SORCE of Climate Change":
...the phenomenal interconnectedness of each aspect of our world leads to misconceptions and incomplete notions regarding climate change. On Jan. 25, 2003 NASA will be launching the SOlar Radiation & Climate Experiment, or SORCE spacecraft...
More info about the SORCE (SOlar Radiation & Climate Experiment) satellite can be found at NASA's web site. A good summary is found at Ar Technica's post about a recent paper in Nature [link to the paper is with the article but you have to pay to read it - boo]:
In a recent issue of Nature, Joanna Haigh and colleagues report that the largest deviation from predicted activities of the solar cycle occurred between 2004 and 2007, when the Sun’s activity was in a decline. Data from the Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) instrument showed a four- to six-fold larger decrease in ultraviolet irradiation, and an increase in visible irradiation, compared to predictions from a leading solar model. A second instrument on the SORCE satellite, the Solar Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE), also observed the drastic variations in the ultraviolet region.

The wavelength of solar irradiation determines what part of the atmosphere is affected the most. Ultraviolet irradiation leads to chemical reactions that produce more ozone in the stratosphere and warm up the stratosphere and mesosphere. Irradiation in the visible wavelengths penetrates further, leading to heating of the Earth’s surface, troposphere, and lower stratosphere.
Of course, this is still data gathering, but it will be nice to have some actual facts inserted into the climate debate, rather than computer simulations.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A New Hope

If you recall my award winning blog post, "The end of the EZ Bake oven" about the evils of compact Fluorescent (CF) bulbs, things looked pretty beak at the end.

However "there is another". In fact there are several others. According to the article quoted in my last post:
General Electric Corp., the world’s largest maker of traditional bulbs, said that by 2010, it hoped to have on the market a new high-efficiency incandescent bulb that will be four times as efficient as today’s 125-year-old technology. It said that such bulbs would closely rival fluorescent bulbs for efficiency, with no mercury.
How can you improve on what is essentially a piece of wire? Well, according to this article, the filament can be pitted with a laser to make it more efficient. Additionally, reflective coatings inside the bulb can direct infrared photons back to the filament, requiring less energy to keep it hot. Well, here it is, the end of 2010 and we haven't seen these bulbs hit the streets, but there are other promising technologies.

Plasma bulbs have very high efficiencies, approaching 14%, but it is difficult to make them operate at low enough power to operate in the home. For instance, the lowest power plasma bulbs made are 100 watts, which in light output is like a 1000 watt incandescent bulb! In addition plasma bulbs require quite a bit of electronics to operate. The bulb is essentially a microwave oven, heating a noble gas until it becomes a plasma.

Most other technologies have bigger problems that make them unsuitable. The two really promising technologies in development right now are LED and OLED lamps. Note that these are "lamps" and not "bulbs", since they are solid, not hollow. Despite the fact that both have "LED" in their name, they are quite different in many respects.

An LED, or Light Emitting Diode is, well, a diode that emits light. A diode is a device that passes an electric current in one direction only. Because of the nature of semiconductors, all diodes emit some light, but it takes some tweaking to do it efficiently and make that light visible. And LED is about 15-20% efficient in emitting visible light, making them far better than either incandescents of CFs. However, that light is monochromatic, meaning one color. Because of this, they are perfect for applications where the light is supposed to be colored, such as auto tail lights or traffic lights (or perhaps not).

There are two ways to get usable (white) light for household use. One is to use several LEDs of different colors. In fact, by manipulating the brightness of three or more LEDs we can make a lamp that can change color to fit the homeowner's mood. A simpler (though less efficient) way is the so called "white LEDs" that are used in flashlights. This is an LED that emits ultraviolet light, coated with phoshors, just like the fluorescent tube. It is superior to a fluorescent tube in that the LED is more efficient, doesn't contain mercury, isn't breakable (under normal circumstances) and lasts pretty much forever (50,000 hours or more).

So why don't we see them used everywhere? Heat. Ironically, although an LED produces very little heat compared to an incandescent bulb, since it is monochromatic the heat isn't being given off as infrared radiation. It sits inside the LED and can destroy it if it gets hot enough.

OLEDs, or Organic LEDs, are a newer technology. Yes, they are LEDs, but instead of using semiconductive crystals of materials like Gallium Arsenide Phosphide the use thin films of polymers (plastic), as thin as 50nm (a human hair is about 100,000nm thick). Because they are so thin, there is a high ratio of surface area to mass, meaning the light doesn't have to travel far before it is out of the LED and free to go out and light up the room. It also means there is more surface to cool off the device.

Unlike LEDs, OLEDs do wear out. They have a life span of about 14,000 hours before they degrade to 80% of their original brightness. On the other hand, they are up to twice as efficient as LEDs (or 20x as efficient as incandescents), which is why they are often found in cell phones, where battery life is important. One OLED technology, Phosphorescent OLEDs (PHOLEDs) claims it can reach up to 50% efficiency. And of course they are made without mercury or other toxic substances.

So when can I buy my OLED light bulb? According to this post we should see them starting to hit the market within the next year or two. However, if this roll out is like most in the tech industry, don't hold your breath. I'm sure they will be very expensive at first, but the technology can be printed with inkjet-like printers, which means once factories are tooled up they have the potential to be much cheaper than CFs. So perhaps the best course of action for the environment is to stock up on incandescents to make it to 2014 or so.

In researching these two posts I learned a lot about lighting technologies, the problems involved, the innovations taking place and tradeoffs in various designs. It was illuminating. No doubt I'll be posting more on the subject.

One final note. I'm sure "green" people and government will be touting how their regulation produced this lighty goodness. However, it should be known that OLEDs have been aggressively developed since before this legislation, and not because they would "save the Earth" but because they would increase the battery life of cell phones and media players. Here's a case where market forces alone produced innovation.

The End of the EZ Bake Oven

Congress hath decreed that we must all give up incandescent light bulbs by 2014. That led to the recent closing of the last light bub factory in America. We will now be importing all our incandescent bulbs. Yay us.

My first thought was to stock up, so I can keep my EZ Bake over going if the bulb in it fails. Seriously, this is yet another case of inappropriate use of ("green") technology. Let's take a look at the technologies involved.

The old standard incandescent bulb is very similar to the bulb Thomas Edison invented in 1879. Prior to that the "best electric light bulb was the carbon arc lamp, which had been invented around 1800. The carbon arc was more efficient, but wasn't very appropriate for household use, and only lasted 100 hours (Edison's original bulbs only lasted 40, but were soon improved to last longer, with modern bulbs lasting about 1,000 hours).

An incandescent bulb works by passing an electric current through a filament made of tungsten until it glows from the heat. Tungsten is used because of its properties at high temperatures. The filament is encased in a glass bulb filled with argon, to prevent the filament from burning, which it would do in air. Argon is a chemically inert gas, and the third most common gas found in our atmosphere (after nitrogen and oxygen).

The down side of the incandescent bulb is that it only emits about 2% of the energy it uses as visible light. The rest of the energy is emitted as infrared radiation. That is a plus if you are trying to keep your chickens warm in the hatchery, or baking a cake in your EZ bake oven, but is a nuisance in a factory, where the waste heat must be removed by air conditioning.

Because of this most offices use fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent light bulbs are about four to five times as efficient as incandescent bulbs (about 9% of their energy is turned into visible light) at first. I say at first because they begin to degrade very quickly in use to about 75% of their original light output. That still makes them about three times as efficient as incandescent bulbs.

Fluorescent bulbs work by passing a high voltage through a low pressure mixture of mercury and a "noble" gas (argon, krypton, neon or xenon). The gas becomes a plasma and emits ultraviolet radiation, which causes a coating on the inside of the tube to fluoresce (hence the name) and emit light.

Until recently, fluorescent bulbs haven't been very popular in the home. First off, the bulb does not emit a "full spectrum" of light (even bulbs that say "full spectrum" on them), but emit certain colors only. So even a bulb that appears white to the eye (because it emits the right amount of red, green, and blue colors) will make colors look "odd" (because the color of the object doesn't match the color the bulb emits). The result can make food look unappealing (a boon for dieters), skin tones appear wrong, colors that appear to match in their light will look wrong in daylight or incandescent light, etc.

In addition, the bulb does not stay lit continuously. It blinks on and off 60 times a second with the household AC current. Thus while it appears to be a constant light to the eye, it can cause headaches and visual stress.

But the biggest problem is the environmental impact. In addition, almost everything in the bulb is toxic. A broken fluorescent bulb provides not only broken glass, but various phosphor compounds that are toxic and worst of all, mercury. attempts to clean up the glass and phosphor dust with a vacuum will spread the mercury around. Mercury, being a heavy liquid metal at room temperature, is very difficult to get rid of and will stay in your house until it is absorbed into your body. Assuming you don't break your bulb, when it fails you need to take the bulb to a hazardous waste center - putting it in the garbage, or even recycling is a no no, as most recycling centers don't have the facilities to properly handle the mercury.

Enter the compact fluorescent (CF) bulb. I was once a big fan of CF bulbs, converting most of my household to using them over the last few years.I crowed over the fact that I was saving "40 dollars a year" off my electric bill (um yeah, I don't see that on my bill). I liked the fact that I could put a 27 or 36 watt bulb in one of those cheap "60 watts or less" lamp fixtures and get a decent amount of reading light for my ancient eyes. However, reliability issues have caused me to rethink that, especially for bulbs in unheated areas. They light dimly, if at all, and constantly need replacing. The more research I did the less impressed I was by them.

The compact fluorescent bulb is a fluorescent bulb that has been bent into a "U" shape or a coil so that it takes up less space. It was invented in China, and China continues to produce most of the CF bulbs in the world. The more "popular" ones you see in stores have an "edison base" (they screw into a socket made for incandescent bulbs) and have an electronic ballast that helps with the slow turn on and flicker issues.

However, the electronic ballast does not work at low temperatures, and cannot stand up to weather. Although the bulb claims to have ten times the life of an incandescent bulb (10,000 hours) they often fail to live up to this because of the number of components in the ballast that can fail. The phosphors have been changed to make the bulb appear the same color as an incandescent bulb, but it still has the same problems of unnatural colors as "standard" fluorescent bulbs.

Most importantly, it has all of the ecological down sides of a fluorescent bulb, and more. The electronics contain lead and other hazardous compounds. The production of the bulbs is quite "dirty", using environmentally hazardous solvents. This is the basic reason why the bulbs are made in China.

According to this MSNBC story:

Manufacturers and the EPA say broken CFLs should be handled carefully and recycled to limit dangerous vapors and the spread of mercury dust. But guidelines for how to do that can be difficult to find, as Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, discovered.
“It was just a wiggly bulb that I reached up to change,” Bridges said. “When the bulb hit the floor, it shattered.”
When Bridges began calling around to local government agencies to find out what to do, “I was shocked to see how uninformed literally everyone I spoke to was,” she said. “Even our own poison control operator didn’t know what to tell me.”
The state eventually referred her to a private cleanup firm, which quoted a $2,000 estimate to contain the mercury. After Bridges complained publicly about her predicament, state officials changed their recommendation: Simply throw it in the trash, they said.
So while we are saving some energy we are putting poison in our landfills and homes. In order to save how much? The number look large, but consider that the US consumes 29 PWh, while residential lighting accounts for 212 TWh of that. That means if all of the US residential lighting was incandescent (which it isn't), and all of it was converted to CF, then the US would save 140 TWh/year, or in other words would reduce our energy needs by approximately 0.48%.

To save this 0.48% we will introduce deadly mercury into our homes, and eventually into landfills and waterways. Congress has set the precedent that they can ban a product from the US not because it is dangerous or because it is bad for us, but because they feel like it.

Thus the award for inappropriate use of technology in the home goes to the compact fluorescent bulb.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

George Washington

From today's American Minute blog:
On OCTOBER 3, 1789, from the U.S. Capitol in New York City, President George Washington issued the first Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer to Almighty God, as just one week earlier the first session of the U.S. Congress successfully approved the First Ten Amendments limiting the power of the Federal Government. The First Amendment begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." In his Proclamation, President Washington stated: "Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God....we may...unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations..." Washington continued: "and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our...duties render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws...and to bless them with...peace and concord...and the increase of grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best."