Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Morning Miscellany

Fuel Prices and the Burbs-- Outlying Phoenix bedroom community, Maricopa, is urging its planners to make it a "metro center" equipped for self-sufficiency, rather than perpetuate the "bedroom community" model. The former would offer Maricopa residents the mix that citizens anywhere require for contemporary life: schools, stores, services, housing, and the rest.

It's a wise plan. I hope other outlier suburbs adopt a similar model. Otherwise, I fear that rising fuel prices will doom them to oblivion, just as they are already hitting hard at America's small towns. Vacation destinations as diverse as Pigeon Forge, TN and Taos, NM are just not having much fun this summer as tourists curtail their driving. Even Scottsdale, AZ--hardly remote--is feeling the pinch. And areas such as Taos, prized precisely for its relative remoteness and (therefore) relatively pristine wilderness environs, will find themselves in a world of hurt until drivers are equipped with fuel-wise vehicles.

You'd think Senators Kyle and McCain would get that, wouldn't you? But rather than support measures to wean the nation off exhorbitantly expensive and environmentally toxic petroleum products, they're taking the opposite tack. I guess their personal power and wealth are more important than all other considerations combined. I'm just wondering how much longer Arizonans are going to put up with that.

Wind Farms for Arizona, or Just More Layoffs? The Republic today suggests that a mighty wind farm will be online as early as next year for Arizona.

Um, not if Kyle and McCain don't support extending the renewable energy tax credit to businesses that, uh, develop renewable energy. In an email alert today, We Can Solve It.org is asking everyone to call their US senators today support ASAP, to support this measure:

"As Congress looks ahead to its August recess, thousands of workers in America's wind and solar energy companies are looking ahead to something very different -- possible layoffs.

"It's stunning that layoffs could happen in such a high growth sector. But it's what we can expect if Congress fails to extend the tax incentives that are key to getting these new industries established.

"Please call your Senators right now at the numbers below.

• Make sure they know you are one of their constituents.
• Ask them to support the tax incentives for renewable energy in bill S. 3335.
• Tell them it is essential that these incentives pass before the recess.

Senator McCain: 202-224-2235
Senator Kyl: 202-224-4521

"America can lead the way in producing electricity from sources that do not contribute to global warming. Doing so would revitalize our economy, make us more secure and help solve the climate crisis. We need the Senate to act."

Solar Power--I wasn't aware until yesterday that there are at least two options for residential solar customers. The better-known option is to purchase a custom-made system. The good news, I guess, is that you own it (and any maintenance/replacement problems that accrue). The bad news is the enormous up-front cost, which, even with the rebates and incentives available, still totals multiple thousands of dollars.

The lesser-known option is the lease route. The good news is that a leased solar system can be installed for 0 dollars down, and the company owns the maintenance and replacement issues along with the hardware. The bad news is that the monthly cost of leasing eats heavily into the projected savings. Actual amounts vary with individual circumstances, of course. Still, we're planning to get estimates from merchants of both products. I wonder if we could lease for a couple of years to see what the actual cost benefits would be, and then buy? Hmmmm.

Growing Your Own--I hate to admit that I get it, but the southwestern edition of Sunset Magazine is one of the most useful and enjoyable mags that crosses our threshhold. The special March 2008 issue has a great concept for growing your own vegetables and flowers, as well as good ideas for "green" housing. And if you like good food--who doesn't?--the mag always kicks out a few fine recipes, too. I'm going to be doing the veggie garden thing. Which brings me to . . .

Phoenix's Cheap Recycled Composters--I don't remember if I've mentioned these here before, but in case not, no need to spend an arm and a leg on a designer composter. I'm going to give this version a shot for sure.

November Polls--OK I'm paranoid, but since I don't believe that enough Americans are stupid enough after 8 Bush years to vote in McSame, I don't believe the polls that show that McSame is closing on O. I wonder, instead, if these polls aren't part of a big-corporation plan to make a stolen election less obvious. I mean, if we hear a constant drumbeat of close poll results, then we'll be inclined to think a McSame "victory" would be plausible. On the other hand, if the drums beat the opposite rhythm, then any GOP "wins" would be instantly incredible, wouldn't they?

That being the case--and polls being easily amenable to manipulation--why wouldn't the big business friends of George do everything possible to set up the outcome in November? Doesn't seem paranoid to me. I've often said that there's too much money and power riding on this election. Having secured the power to spy on our every move--handy for marketing goods and politicians alike--and riding high on the global "free" trade wave, the corporate lords of the universe are not going to risk their booty on a pissed-off electorate. Let's just say that I'll believe a change of power when I see it. What's your take?

Country Ham--Food makes the world go round, and country ham is the hub of the wheel. Unfortunately, Arizona has not yet heard of this 300-year-old delicacy. But wait! There's hope!

I think I've have found the perfect ham for lovers of that smoky, salty southern country ham. This ham is a boutique product that has the great advantages of neither coming from the notorious worker abuser, Smithfield, nor of being toxified with nitrites and nitrates.

If you're interested, better reserve yours now. Bon Apetit will be doing a piece on Newsome's Hams in September. Because this is a boutique firm, the annual ham supply is always limited. Bon Apetit's coverage is sure to mean this year's crop will disappear in a hurry.

Newsom's is extraordinarily customer-oriented, just the nicest people around. For instance, if you like, they'll slice half the ham. That's the perfect arrangement for breakfast steaks and those delicious thinly-sliced ham biscuits. Newsom's offers free-range hams, prosciutto hams, and their famous aged, smoked country hams, along with all kinds of other gourmet delicacies. Get thee thither.