Saturday, June 30, 2012

Let's have a party -- the boys are here!

For the last two months, our nowhere-near-identical twin grandchildren – 3-year-old boys – all boys – along with their mother have been our houseguests while their dad tended to his job in Cleveland and a new house under construction.

All good and stressful things really do come to an end.

This week, the boys – Ben and Brendan – and their parents moved into their new house, big enough to accommodate the family now and hopefully some growth later.

As the taillights grew dim in the distance, it was clear that Dover, or at least the Farrell household, will never be the same.

What I learned:

–Even perfect toddlers – like our boys – have periodic meltdowns for no apparent reason. It’s kind of like the explanation so many people use to explain why oil companies raise the price of gasoline: Because they can. Once you realize that you will never understand and accept these meltdowns, it is much easier to slip into another room while their mother deals with them.

–There is nothing better in the morning than to be greeted by your grandchildren, who say something profound upon seeing you such as, “Hi Papa.” That’s what they call me – Papa. I like that.

–There is nothing better in the evening than a willing goodnight kiss from both of the boys, who have totally underscored the definition of unconditional love without realizing it.

–No matter how hard you try, you can’t make a person into someone he’s not. Our boys are as different as anyone. They eat, sleep and play differently. They are their own persons. I like that. It makes the future unpredictable. What will they be?

–You probably have never heard of the “Fresh Beat Band,” “Team Umizoomi” and “Bubble Guppies.” I have. (Brendan actually was able to high-five bandmember Shout at the group’s concert in Akron. How cool is that?)

–The best movies ever made were “Toy Story” and “Cars” – at least they would be if the rating system were based on the number of times I’ve had to watch them over the last two months.

Some things I’ve taught them:

–Always wave at passing watercraft when you’re on Papa’s aging pontoon boat. This is very important, and it shows people how nice you are. It also buys good will and potential assistance if Papa’s boat dies in the water.

–When the boys encounter their favorite comfort food, like a hot, soft pretzel, they will proclaim “Outstanding!” Hey, it gets a laugh.

–The boys now can sing the refrain (“I fill you up … let’s have a party”) from Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” I wanted to teach them some other songs, but their mother put a stop to it. Yes, they can also sing the “Alphabet Song” and “Old McDonald.” Big deal.

–They can identify Toyota and Honda logos. I’m working on Ford now. I’m not sure why I’ve spent so much time on this exercise, but I have.

Of course I want to teach them a lot of other things, but they need to get a little older. They are far too young to trust with a real golf club or baseball bat. For some reason they like to throw all sorts of things that are not meant to be thrown, and I could see Papa getting injured very easily. I’ll bring out the big-boy equipment when the time is right.

One other thing I’ve learned is that stay-at-home moms have a much harder job than go-to-the-office dads. I will have a long talk with my son-in-law about this fact. (Just kidding, Kate.) Given my daughter’s patience, love and devotion to her boys, I am buoyed by the fact that her parents did something right back when she was a toddler.

Our house is oddly quiet again now that the boys and their parents have moved into their new house. Perhaps a little nap is in order.

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Mandel takes politics to an old low

There you go again, Josh Mandel. 

Readers will remember that Mandel, Ohio’s current elected treasurer and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, was the first recipient of my “Arrogant Twit” award a couple of months ago for claiming that Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was responsible for Ohio losing jobs to China.

PolitiFact Ohio found no evidence to support that claim and gave Mandel a “pants on fire” rating.
I think long and hard before I give out an “Arrogant Twit” award.

Mandel is the only recipient.

When asked by the Cleveland Plain Dealer for examples of Brown selling out jobs to the Chinese, Mandel couldn’t come up with any.

“If that’s the level of specificity you’re looking for, you’re the reporters – you go do the grunt work,” he said. “Any reporter who doesn’t believe Sherrod Brown is responsible for jobs going to China is simply out of touch.”

So, you think Mandel would learn. But, no…

Earlier this month, Mandel dipped into the gutter in an attempt to drag his opponent Brown through 26-year-old mud.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mandel brought up Brown’s alleged spousal abuse of two and a half decades ago during a radio interview.

"He’s a real hypocrite when it comes to issues in respect to domestic violence and women’s issues,” Mandel was quoted as saying by the PD.

“You can probably read about that all over the Internet.”

The PD story confirmed Mandel’s assertion.

“A simple Google search with those terms takes readers to the heart of the 1986 charges,” the PD said.
Apparently, it doesn’t matter to Mandel that all the parties involved in that 1986 divorce have made peace with one another, including the children who are now adults. Brown and his wife, Connie Schultz (a former Plain Dealer columnist), are in fact friends with Brown’s ex-wife, Larke, and her husband, Joe Recchie.
The PD reported that Larke, who signed the affidavit against Brown in 1986, hosted a fund-raising event recently for her ex-husband.

In addition, she issued this statement: “I understand that in campaigns you often have to go after your opponent, but Josh Mandel should know better than to go after our family. I ask that he immediately put a stop to this kind of politics. I was proud to support Sherrod in 2006 and I’m proud to support him again this time around against Josh Mandel. Josh Mandel should immediately stop this kind of dirty campaigning.”
Let me speak to you personally, Josh.

You have an impressive background. And I thank you for your service to our country during your years in the Marines. But you have to rid the gutter nonsense from your political life. It makes you very unlikable.
OK, let me put it another way.

If this kind of politicking continues, no one with any kind of an intellect who has something to give back to their communities will run for public office because probably during the course of their lives some things didn’t work out like they had hoped and, you know, they had errors in judgment and made bad decisions.

When they decide not to run for public office to save their families emotional pain from the fear of renewed interest in those errors in judgment, perhaps some pundit will point his finger at Josh Mandel.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Teenagers plus cars plus speed equals tragedy

What happened in Chardon last winter – when a gunslinging student ended the lives of three of his classmates and wounded another – was a terrible tragedy that seemed to make no sense.

And last weekend near Brunswick, four young people ultimately lost their lives in a one-car accident that could have been prevented if only the young driver had slowed down.

I’m not going to waste a lot of time on this. I could devote an entire column to the subject, having written too many times about young people in our community who have lost their lives in preventable automobile accidents.

Speed kills, Mom and Dad. And if you don’t get that message across to the teenage drivers in your home, you, too, could receive the dreaded late-night telephone call from a first-responder:

“Your son/daughter (blank) died in an accident.”

Speed kills. Write it on their foreheads.


Write negatively about one aspect of fracking – in my case when I wrote last week about the list of chemicals in fracking water – and you get labeled “anti-fracking.”

I am not anti-fracking. I’m anti-secret lists. And I think the list of chemicals in fracking water ought to be made available to the public.

I’m also a firm believer in developing our own supply of fossil fuel because, for the most part, that’s all we have right now.

I have nothing against wind or solar power, but they don’t seem to be the immediate answer. I mean seriously how many windmills would have to rotate 24/7 to provide power to the city of Dover? Thousands? Millions?

And, people, what do we do on a calm, windless day?

My carbon footprint is reasonable. I don’t live in a big house; I drive a fuel-efficient automobile (by my standards); and I have employed some of those ugly, but efficient light bulbs that are supposed to last five years (but don’t) and use gobs less energy.

I was skipping through the channels the other day and came across “The View,” which is the Barbara Walters-produced show that pits liberal women against a conservative, Fox News-type blonde (OK, that’s not the network description of the show) and which makes for some good TV viewing when they all get into it.

On this particular day, the blonde, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, was commenting on the case of the helicopter mother who took on her daughter’s bully up close and personal and now faces assault charges.

Elisabeth thought the schools needed to become more involved to prevent this kind of stuff.

Liberal Whoopi Goldberg called out Elisabeth.

Schools have enough going on, Whoopi said. You can’t expect schools to police everything.

Right on, Whoopi.

More and more I hear the schools ought to teach that, or fix that, or feed them that, or counsel them this way or that way (and make sure the bus stops in front of my house) all while folks are saying no to new taxes that would help schools deal with the socio-economic-parental stress their students bring to school every day.

Ever see the pictures on the Internet of the characters shopping at Wal-Mart? They have children, folks.

The public tends to criticize even well-managed districts for any number of things because we all know that any member of the public could run a school district because they’ve told us so on many occasions and certainly just before they cast a “no” vote on the levy ballot.


A few months ago, I might have written this:

“I think this country is on the wrong track by allowing the private sector to take over the process of delivering space-travel vehicles. At this point, we have to rely on the Russians to get us to the International Space Station, or some half-baked private sector rocket ship that may or may not get there. Oh, boy.”

I would have been wrong. Really wrong.

Of Space X’s Dragon spaceship which returned safely to Earth last week, the Los Angeles Times said: “After the two spacecraft connected in space May 25, astronauts aboard the space station unloaded half a ton of cargo, water and clothes.

“The Dragon spent six days attached to the station and was refilled with 1,455 pounds of cargo for the trip back to Earth. The cargo will be delivered to NASA.”

I stand corrected.

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List of fracking chemicals ought to be made public

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of the Washington Post had their “Deep Throat” source who pointed them in the right direction during their investigation into the Watergate break-in, which was part of an “elaborate plot” – the Post’s term – to bug the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee.

Ultimately and with some thanks to “Deep Throat,” the “Woodstein” probe resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

So, despite my personal aversion to using off-the-record material or keeping whistleblowers anonymous, I’m going to make an exception and quote from a source who has expertise and hands-on knowledge of science and geology and who seems to understand the why of the risks of the hydraulic fracking process.

The danger in fracking is primarily to potable, underground water supplies, which lie on top of the rock formations that hold the gas and oil, which are collected after chemical-laced water is injected into the well.

The little picture – whether you’re for or against fracking in Ohio – is that Senate Bill 315, which is presumed to update Ohio’s Energy and Natural Resources laws, allows drillers to keep the list of those chemicals to themselves because of proprietary concerns.

Now, I’d like to see Ohio contribute to our country’s ability to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I’d like jobs created in our area that aren’t connected to retail outlets or fast food restaurants. I’d like this part of the state to enjoy some prosperity the likes of which it has never seen.

That’s all big picture stuff. It’s that little picture that bothers me.
Why keep the list of chemicals secret? What public good can come from keeping the chemical list secret?

My source – I’ll call him “Big Injun” in honor of the large underground water reservoir that supplies drinking water to thousands in our area – is concerned about the little picture, too. And he implies those “crazy” environmentalists worried about our water supply aren’t so crazy.

Big Injun provided me a generalized geographic profile of the various subterranean rock and stone formations in East Central Ohio. The graphic, by the Division of Mineral Resources of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, shows a prototype method of triple casing a Utica shale well.

“As shown, the innermost casing passes through the Clinton sandstone and is embedded in the shale below,” Big Injun said. “This is good, but if there are faults or old wells acting as conduits, the movement of oil, gas or fracturing fluids could cause potable ground water to be contaminated by the upward movement of fluids during fracking and later by gas.”

The standard refrain of the ODNR is that the chemicals represent less than 1 percent of the fracking water.

“Depending upon the chemical, drinking water standards are written in terms of parts per million, not percentages which are 1 part per 100 (or 10,000 times what the limit should be),” Big Injun continued. “We need to request that the (state) factually disclose the chemicals in terms of the PPM limit of the chemicals allowed for drinking water.

“In summary, our water supplies could be in extreme peril from the unknowns that are being released into our environment through the fracking process.

“Extreme thoroughness in the consideration of SB 315 should be undertaken to ensure that all caveats and exceptions are understood and vetted. Communications to the public regarding the use of any chemicals should be made and thoroughly understood by all of those impacted.

“The water supplies within rural areas are most at risk, where the potential introduction of toxins with loose regulations could adversely affect us, our livestock and future generations.”

Big Injun said that Ohio has more than 274,000 existing wells of which 64,000 are currently producing oil and/or gas.

“Eastern Ohio looks like a pincushion,” he said. “That leaves 210,000 wells either abandoned or closed. Many of these are uncased or marginally plugged.
“During World War II, many casings were pulled from non-producing wells because steel was in short supply. Stories are told that plugging was often done haphazardly. Further, many of these older wells are not accurately recorded as to exact location and plugging procedure.”

By the time you read this, it’s possible that S.B. 315 will be signed into law. That would be a shame. It would also underscore why so many members of the public have such contempt for government.

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