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“This cylinder is provided under license and remains the property of Soda Club Atlantic, LLC.”  I swear to you that’s what it says on the label of the CO2 cylinder of the Soda Stream soda maker in my house.  All I could think was “WTF?!”  Here’s a physical object (with a bunch of compressed CO2 in it) and the “license” says that I don’t own the cylinder but rather I am granted a license to use it.  I was just stunned until my wife told me that the Calvert curriculum we’re using to home-school our two daughters is also under a similar license.  In fact the license there says the curriculum and books that we are using home-school our older daughter who is going into 5th grade cannot be used in two years to home-school our younger daughter who is going into 3rd grade?  Again…WTF?!?!

Let me get this straight – I paid for these physical objects and the agreement (whether it stands up in court or not apparently has not been determined yet) says that they don’t belong to me but in fact belong to the companies that made them and that I – as a private individual – am being given right to have them in my house.  What next?  Perhaps Dell will change their license to say that I have the right to use the computer I bought from them but that it really doesn’t belong to me and that I cannot put it up on eBay when I decide to get rid of it?  Perhaps Sony will want to charge me every time I turn on my TV to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray? At what point does ownership of a product ultimately transfer to the end user and becomes their property without some inane, asinine, and ridiculous attempt by the manufacturer to limit how their product is being used or control how the end consumer can dispose of it.  What next?  Perhaps publishing houses will tell you that the physical books you buy through Amazon or through a bookstore are not really your property but rather you’re being given a license to read the material and that they may revoke that license at any time – whereupon you must return the book (apparently Amazon already does something similar with their ebooks on the Kindle – remember the 1984 fiasco?).   It’s getting to the point that it feels like nothing really belongs to you – it’s all just provided under license – and it can all be taken away at any time…in some ways I guess you can think of life like that (assuming you believe in God or some other deity of your choice) – your life is not really your own – you’re only provided a “right to use” license and that may be revoked by the manufacturer at any time for any cause.  Sucks to be you.

The New York Times published this article today about how the global economic slowdown may adversely affect the effort to build and transition to a green energy grid. As the prices for coal, oil and other fossil fuels have plummeted in the past two months the incentive to build solar power plants, wind farms, and even nuclear plants has dissipated. Interestingly the side-effect of this drop in commodity prices may also save Detroit’s big three automakers as it may make their vehicles (which aren’t so fuel efficient) more affordable to operate than they were six months ago.

I think President-elect Obama, though, is right. The time to move is now. We need to keep our eye on the longer goal of reducing our overall greenhouse gas emissions and preventing long term global warming that may result and be subequently irreversible. It is going to be painful, no doubt, but we have been living recklessly and irresponsibly for far too long. Mankind may be facing its own extinction level event if we do nothing to right the environmental damage we have wrought on this world. I don’t mean to sound so gloomy and alarmist but we cannot continue to pursue this wreckless behavior and expect that we won’t have to pay the piper in the end. The economic slowdown can be seen as both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand many people will lose their jobs, their homes, their dignity…and it may not be of their own doing. On the other hand we can use this opportunity, with the concurrent slowdown in emissions and pollution, to rebuild our economy for the 21st century — focusing our efforts on developing and deploying cleaner energy technologies and putting in place the necessary policies and treaties to protect the environment. Because, if the environment goes to hell…so do we as a race and probably as a planet.

I’ve spent the good part of this nice, cold Sunday doing more of the yearly leaf cleanup and collection. I’ve got quite a number of Oak trees on my property as well as a Dogwood, a couple of Maples and a Black Walnut as well. They’ve been losing their leaves as they do every year and I’ve been raking them up and putting them on the edge of the property/curb for the first round of leaf collections that Montgomery County does every year. This year, as like last, we did it ourselves…or should I say more precisely, I mostly did it. The kids and Diana helped as well but the bulk of the work was done by me (mind you I haven’t even really gotten the leaf collection started in the back yard…this is pretty much just the front yard!).

Anyway, nearly all of my neighbors have a yard service (this year I fired the yard service when they tried to bill me for work that wasn’t done at all and I’ve been mowing the grass and doing everything else myself). I use a combination of a push reel mower as well as a Black & Decker electric mower (for when I’ve let the grass grow too high and the push reel mower just can’t cut it…literally). All my tools are either human powered or run on electricity (I hope to eventually work out a portable charging station with solar power so that I can truly do this using renewable energy). It just strikes me as odd that nearly all my neighbors use a yard service…as if actually doing the yard themselves is something that they just don’t do. I’ve got a couple of neighbors who have riding lawn mowers, but other than myself, my neighbor across the street, Charlie, and a couple of others I know in the neighborhood everyone else uses a lawn service.

I don’t have anything against a lawn service — we used to use one for years. But in today’s day and age, with oil being as expensive as it is (although obviously not as expensive as it was during the summer) and the concern over carbon emissions and your carbon footprint it amazes me that people don’t really care at all — at least in my neighborhood. Oh sure, they pay lip service to it, but when it comes down to making real changes in their lives to reduce their carbon footprint — well that’s another story. Just as I was finishing my yard work for the day I looked over at my neighbor’s yard two doors over. Their house used to be a carbon copy of mine — same exact model built in the same year. They recently had half of it torn down and put up a big new “A” frame style house. As I looked over I noticed that the father and the older son were talking with someone while standing around a brand new riding lawnmower. This riding lawnmower is huge– and I’m talking BIG — with three collectors in back. Point is, their yard is smaller than mine and yet they feel the need to go out and buy this thing rather than just use a rake. The older boy takes it for a spin and uses it to vacuum up the leaves (which they have less of) for the leaf collection this week. Hank Hill would be mighty proud. I just stood there shaking my head wondering what’s wrong with their rake?

May 2017
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