fracking…what’s in the water?


I’ve been writing some of my recent blog posts about the process of fracking…drilling down and then across to extract oil or natural gas from deposits deep in the earth.

This post, I thought I’d write about the chemicals used in the process.

It seems that there is often damage done to the environment wherever fracking takes place…but it’s a small price to pay to satisfy our energy needs, right?

This post is about the chemicals that they send down the well along with the water they use.

I thought it was going to be a short list….some noxious chemicals that I could mention in a couple of lines and then get on with describing the damage they cause.

Click on the link above…it’s a full page of some pretty bad sounding chemicals…. (and glance at the simple map of well sites while you’re there…lots of holes with lots of chemicals, it looks like).

Here’s a short excerpt to wet whet your appetite….

hydrochloric acid, glutaraldehyde, Quaternary Ammonium Chloride, Tetrakis Hydroxymethyl-Phosphonium Sulfate, Ammonium Persulfate, Sodium Chloride….

etc., etc., etc.

I could give myself carpal tunnel just copy and pasting this list…just click on the link.

I don’t know if you had the same reaction to the list that I did.  I’m not a chemist, but a lot of that stuff looks like it wouldn’t make a good addition to my drinking water.

I guess the only good thing about all this fracking stuff is that I’ll have some gas to drive somewhere else to live.

There’s always an upstream to every story.

More later…this is pretty crazy.

what the Post Office needs

mike the mailmanHere’s a link to a video about what is possible within the Postal system…..

We talk about 5 day delivery…we talk about closing this or that plant down…but when it comes down to it, I think the only thing that is going to save or really change the Post Office is something as intangible as filling it with good human beings who care about other people.

This story warmed my heart.

One of the things that caught my attention was how the town rallied around him when the postmaster demanded that he take down his personal pictures that he’d put on the walls of his office.

We (postal workers) aren’t known as being “people” oriented.

This guy is an exception to the rule (unfortunately).  I say unfortunately because it shouldn’t be a surprise when somebody acts like a decent human being.

Like a really good teacher, there are going to be people who make a difference in spite of the system they are dealing with.

Hooray for you, Mike the Mailman.

You do good.

send it somewhere else…it’s safe as milk anyway.


still from the movie Gasland: A film by Josh Fox

(it looks from the picture above that once you punch through the water table that you’re home free)




A couple of days ago, I wrote a post that mentioned a movie called “Promised Land”…

The movie is about fracking…the process of extracting natural gas (in the case of the movie) …or, like in North Dakota, oil.

It’s a process that uses water and chemicals…injected deep (deeeeeep….like miles deep) into the ground to facilitate the process.

Here’s an article from the Huffington Post that poses the age-old question, “what do you do with all the stuff left over from all the progress we’re making?”

Should a Texas company be allowed to ship fracking wastewater by barge up the Ohio River prior to disposal? The company says yes. Environmental groups say no. The U.S. Coast Guard, which has final authority over river cargo, says it is investigating.

OK…this is supposedly a safe process …at least one that’s safe enough  that we can turn our heads while we’re making a lot of money and driving our cars to Walmart.  Why is there any uproar over what to do with the water and chemicals?

What the article talks about is the resistance to shipping the waste product from fracking to a place where they can dispose of it.

Packing it all up as safely as they can and floating it away…and they never have to think about it again.

Why not just use it to fill the swimming pools of the men who oversee the fracking process?  Why not use it for their bath water every time someone says, “it’s all perfectly safe”.  It is a safe process, isn’t it?

Safe enough if you don’t have to live right next to…or right on top of…any of these wells, I guess.

“safe on this, buddy.”

Money is a good thing…and I do love to drive around.  I drive around 6 days a week delivering the mail…and I still like to go out and go somewhere.

I’m a major consumer of the product of a bunch of nasty processes.

As long as I can just pay the money and fill up my tank and GO….I’m going to do it.

But I think we need to really start paying attention to just what it means to the environment to drill a big, deep hole…fill it with all sorts of really toxic stuff that later we worry about what to do with it…just so that we can continue to drive around the way we’re used to doing.

On the other hand, just to play Devils Advocate…the guys working the fields, the guys who are making the money…they just want to have something that might have been hard to get before fracking came to town.  Like logging…there’s always going to be some peripheral damage…but I think some questions need to be asked before it’s too late to back up.  Water is already enough of an issue that it’s kind of crazy to take any chances with fouling what we have left.

I’m just sayin’.

But, you know….the Dakotas are a long way across the country…and we’re way down here in the South…looking at the map, it’s a long way down to get to us.

Wait a minute…doesn’t water flow downhill?



USPS five day delivery might happen?



Unless forbidden to do so by Congress, which has moved in the past to prohibit five-day-a-week delivery, the agency for the first time will delivery (sic) mail only Monday through Friday. The move will save about $2 billion a year for the Postal Service, which has suffered tens of billions of dollars in losses in recent years with the advent of the Internet and e-commerce, officials said.

from the Washington Post Feb 6 2013

The recent news of the plan to only deliver letter mail 5 days a week was presented in absolute terms recently.

This is what must be done…this is what will be done…this is the only way to save the Post Office.

I can’t put quotations around it because it’s not a direct quote…but that’s the general tone that I heard.

But the line that I keep picking up on is the line about “unless forbidden to do so by Congress”.

Unless forbidden to do so by Congress.

Like a teenager telling a parent that he WILL TAKE THE CAR OUT!!!

That works pretty well until the parent shuts it all down.

So…in spite of all the “sure thing” vibe floating around…this doesn’t seem like such a sure thing after all.

Our unions have fought it right along…trying to keep things fair, I guess…but I haven’t heard much of their reaction to the news yet.

It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out as the month of August approaches.



you can’t rent a motel room in either of the Dakotas

promisedland620This summer we took a long family road trip out to Idaho.

My cousin warned us that we “didn’t want to have to stop in the Dakotas…you probably won’t be able to find a motel room because of all the fracking they’re doing”.

Up until recently, my main involvement with fracking was the experience of not being able to find a motel room in the Dakotas.

Here’s an article from Men’s Journal about one of the main boom towns, Williston.

Not being able to find a motel room isn’t really a portal to understanding anything about the situation.

I’ve been watching this movie…”Promised Land”…this morning and I suspect it might fill in some of the holes (no pun intended) in my knowledge…even if, like I suspect, it’s from a reasonably liberal perspective.  I don’t think the environmentalist perspective is the wrong one, though.

From what I understand, the problem with fracking is that the process is pretty harmful to the environment.


And they’d be right…at this point I don’t know anything about it.

I know that the guys that are involved with fracking are making a ton of money.  I know that they want to frack out in California…biggest deposit of shale oil in the country.

I know that we couldn’t find a place to sleep in the Dakotas.

That’s as far as most of our understanding goes…we only go as deep as the activity inconveniences us.

If we can turn the channel when we see little kids in Ethiopia with distended stomachs…we turn the channel.

If we can drive a little faster through a landscape we don’t understand…we drive a little faster.

If it happening “somewhere else” we can ignore it all.  (“Say…just who is this Hitler guy they keep mentioning on the radio, anyway?”)

I’m about halfway through watching the movie this morning.  The town involved is going to have to make the choice between destroying their environment…or surviving economically.

That’s a hard choice…and the movie lays that out (so far) very well.  Water quality vs. the money to survive….hmmm…what to do?

Like any disease, we treat the symptom and forget the cause.  Until we can identify and develop alternatives to our current energy sources, we’re going to have issues like the ones explored in this movie.

But…I drive to and for work… so I can’t really get on any high horse and talk about how to save the planet.

Maybe I’ll figure out how to deliver the mail on my bicycle and all this fracking stuff can stop?


USPS and the 5 day salvation


mailman1Yesterday we got the official news that the Post Office would be going to a 5 day delivery week in August.

This was after a pretty long period of rumors and waiting…wondering if the USPS would ever get the go ahead from Congress to implement their plan.

I get the impression that the PO got tired of waiting, too….and just decided to go ahead with it whether  Congress approved it or not.

What this means for people out on the routes remains to be seen.

Apparently, packages are still going to be delivered 6 days a week…the folks that have PO boxes are still going to get their mail six days a week…Post Offices that are open on Saturday will remain open.

I wonder how many people will switch to PO boxes if the delivery schedule will stay the same for them?

From what I understand, this move…stopping mail delivery on Saturday…will save the PO about 2 billion a year.

That’s a lot of money….2 billion dollars is a lot of money.

If you listen to or read the news, our annual losses at the Post Office are about 15 or 16 billion dollars.

That’s the trouble with huge numbers…the smaller huge number looks kind of inconsequential next to the really huge number.

Now…a huge chunk of the money that shows up on the books as being a shortage is the amount that we’re mandated to pay into the retiree’s health and retirement fund.  We are required to prefund this account.

I can’t think of many business that are companies that are supposedly separate from the government that are required to prefund like this…especially when they are hemorrhaging money like the Post Office does.

The Post Office gets no tax payer money.  I didn’t know if people really understood that.  We are, except for being told what to do by Congress, reasonably independent of the government.  Maybe it’s one of those “all the control, but none of the support” situations.

So the new move will save two billion dollars…only fourteen billion to go.

That’s not really fair to put it in that context.  Moving to a five-day delivery schedule is a pretty bold move…it’s not for me to say whether it’s the right move or not…I don’t really understand much more than what I have to know to deliver the mail.

Big shake ups in an organization that is known for being kind of a  slow-moving behemoth….it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.



It is way too early in the morning.

I’m going to drink a lot of coffee, read some news I don’t need to know on the internet, and write my morning blog post.

I’m going to drink a lot of coffee and write a post about how we can’t slow down.

Oh…the hypocrisy of it all.

Or…even better….I’m going to drink a lot of coffee, write a blog post about how as a culture we can’t slow down…and listen to the George Winston channel on

We live in confusing times.

I was listening to conservative talk radio while I was driving around for the USPS the other day, and the guy was talking about Beyonce’s performance at the halftime show of the latest Super Bowl.

Of course, he didn’t like it…too loud, too much flesh, too suggestive, etc.

I thought it was a pretty good performance….but my perspective may be off somehow.


He raised the observation that the performers at the original Super Bowl were a marching band.

That was a different time, for sure.

I doubt that we’d be able to sit through a marching band performance for a big game half-time show now.

Now we measure our dissatisfaction in numbers most of us don’t even understand. When we buy a computer, we know that the faster it is…the better it is….even though what we have may be perfectly fine for most human needs.

Human needs?  Basic human needs must include the ability to put our hands on a keyboard now.

Through the internet, I can know more about things I didn’t need to know anything about faster than ever before…and always feel like there may be something that I’m missing out on…”just give me a second…I know I can find it out there somewhere“.

They used to call the “slow food movement” a… dinner party.  Nobody had to be told to slow down and enjoy the experience.  There wasn’t any need to divert from the “hectic pace”…because we hadn’t learned to live like that yet.

People have always talked about the “rat race”…I remember wondering what that was when I was little…but I wonder if things haven’t accelerated some since I was younger.

I almost wrote “since I was young”….holy smokes.

There were things that were taken for granted as being the way it was always going to be.

We said the pledge at school, we held doors for each other, we didn’t feel bashful about wishing each other a Merry Christmas….we didn’t worry about where it was sanctioned that it was acceptable to pray.

Praying wasn’t a confrontational thing…it was just a conversation.

I’ve heard it said that time feels like it accelerates as we get older.

I can’t really tell if we cram more into a year and it feels like it goes by faster because of it…or that things have started spinning faster as I’ve “gotten up in years”.  It’s a gradual thing…if it happened all at once we could tell what was happening and maybe put on the brakes.

I told a friend once when we were talking about being married that it wasn’t really about doing everything right every time…that was kind of impossible to figure out how to do that…it was about being willing to try.

Maybe being willing is the best we can do as far as slowing down goes.

Another friend, a songwriter, has a lyric where he says “try to explain how a man holds a vigil, alone on a crowded street”.

I guess that all of us hold our own version of a vigil…whether we know it or not.

I think that acceleration is a given…things are going to move as fast as we allow them to…and probably faster than we understand.

Man…it took a lot longer to write this post than I expected. Now I’m behind on my “speed surfing”.

Just kidding…but kidding quickly.


Liking John Mayer

I have had a real problem liking John Mayer for a while.

I hope you noticed that I didn’t say that I had a problem liking his music.

I never had a problem with his music…always thought that he was really talented and that he produced some of the best music out there.

I just couldn’t stand some of the things I was reading in his interviews and I couldn’t divorce the music from the musician.

I thought he was a real turd.

Here he was…a young man with a talent…plowing through the feminine landscape and commenting on it all with a lack of kindness that was amazing. He was still playing some great music…but his big mouth was getting him into trouble every time he opened it. Every thing I heard about him that wasn’t about the music was a real turn-off.

I couldn’t stand that.

Here’s a YouTube commentary from David Wilcox that I really appreciated and that put it all into a slightly different perspective for me.

I’ve said it before that I drive mail for the USPS.

I listen to audio books…music…talk radio while I’m making my deliveries.

Lately I’ve been listening again to the latest John Mayer album…the one that David Wilcox refers to in the YouTube clip….”Born and Raised”.

It’s a great album.

It’s a great album that addresses some of the things that were giving me problems with “John Mayer the Person”…like I really had any reason to include that whole mess in my appreciation of his music.

Like I had any reason to judge him like that.

That’s the sad thing about music these days.  It used to be that before I had access to every bit of information that I wanted to uncover…I’m the one digging it up, I’m the one listening, I’m the one turning over every stone…that I could take music on its own terms.

I never had access to anything that would sour me to an artist’s music.

Maybe that’s something to shoot for …stay away from the tabloid information and just listen to the music again.

It might be kind of refreshing to just take the art at face value for a while.

Here’s one of the songs from the album I mentioned.

03 – John Mayer – Shadow Days




blowing a whistle in an empty field

Outrageous Coach

A tree falling in the forest, one hand clapping, a bell ringing in an empty sky…all these zen descriptions of what might be effort that remains unknown.

How about something human scale like blowing a whistle in an empty field?

Blowing a whistle in an empty field…face turning red from the exertion, lungs burning, just this shy of passing out…and still blowing on…filling up the space with a sound no one will hear.

If you look up whistleblower, you’ll find out that it’s a pretty heavy term…bringing something to light that’s not right is a dangerous thing to do.

But what happens if your head is so full of paranoia and conspiracy that everything you see holds “something that’s not right”?

I remember the movie Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson…turned out to be a pretty straight ahead thriller by the time we got into the movie a ways…but early on it  was hilarious how deeply he was into every conspiracy under the sun.

It was hilarious in the movie.

I don’t know that I’m not just another noisy “whistleblower”…tweeting and tooting, wheezing and warbling ( I found a thesaurus) about all the other whistling fools out in the world…buying up cases of Windex so I can make sure that the walls of my glass castle gleam.

I’ve always believed that we find what we look for (see an earlier post called “what kind of people”)….so I guess it’s not hard to understand when bad luck and bad people seem to surround certain people.

Maybe it’s time to sit down for a minute…put the whistle away for a while…and catch our breaths.

The world’s a pretty good place still as far as I can tell.

I’m just sayin’.


starving rats live forever

standing-rodent-smI’ve heard about a diet that says that if you restrict your caloric intake to the bare minimum, you can really extend your lifespan.

Apparently, they tested it on rats and found that a limited number of the right kind of calories will make you live a long time.


I watch the Barefoot Contessa (it’s a television cooking show) make real food for her husband and friends and my mouth waters.

There are no caloric limitations on that show.

Just a lot of sighs and exclamations about how good the food is and how much they seem to enjoy being alive so that they can eat it.

“Eat, Drink, and be Merry…for tomorrow we die.”

That’s not a really popular sentiment amongst the starve and live forever crowd.

Deny yourself now so that later you can live a long and unenjoyable life.

Dave Ramsey, a popular financial talk show host and author  (that I like), says, “live now like no one else so that later you can live like no one else”.

His take on saving is that a little self-denial now will allow the future to be better and easier.

Makes a lot of sense from a financial point of view.

This starving rat thing is really kind of crazy, though. I guess the low-calorie diet is something you have to maintain forever so that you can eke out another five or ten years.


Oh…wait a minute.  Check out this article I just found online that appeared in the NY Times…

I bet there will still be a bunch of anal anorexics in white turtlenecks, bald heads gleaming in their spotless kitchens, weighing each 3 ounce portion of sea kelp….thinking, “I’m going to beat this rap….I’m going to live FOREVER!!”

Which raises the question…which is better?  A short life of intense enjoyment…or a long life of denial and discomfort?

Personally, I’d like the really long life of intense enjoyment and pleasure.

Hold the pickles, please.