Powering America!

I drive a car.  I expect hot water when I turn on my faucet to get a shower.  I use indoor lights.  I have an electric stove!  I am an energy user!

Because I’m an energy user I don’t have much room to say don’t install a pipeline in my backyard.  So I won’t.  I will instead say that I think we need more safety precautions before we install this pipeline.  I want automatic shut off valves, and I want men on the ground inspecting the pipe, and I want welding to be checked by professionals with no “spot welding” allowed unless it is authorized by safety experts.

I want the community to have access to the information discovered by the NTSB if an accident occurs and I want the Commonwealth pipeline folks to know that if they use inferior pipe, that Pennsylvania will sue them.

I am willing to accept that America has gone crazy and I’m willing to accept another pipeline snaking across PA, but I want to know it’s going to be safe, protected and insured.

Anyone have a problem with that?




A Gas Pipeline Coming Through the Big Woods in Chesco!

It’s holiday time!  People aren’t generally thinking about gas pipelines coming through their communities.  Instead they are having eggnog and sharing gifts with one another and thinking about the New Year!

Well, this new year, folks in our area will be gathering around each other’s kitchen tables discussing the impact of a 30 inch gas pipeline that will help “power America”.

It looks like it is going to cut through the Big Woods at the end of Shenkel Road, opposite the section where the Shenkel Church is located.  That means it is going to slice through near Harmonyville, and Cold Spring Roads.

Right away I wanted to know what might happen if a 30 inch pipeline goes bang!  Cause unfortunately it happens, as it has recently in West Virginia.  Well, it turns out that it makes a huge firewall that isn’t immediately put out.  See, they don’t necessarily make them with automatic shut-off valves, and so a pipe can continue spewing it’s contents into the environment that is already flaming!

Now, if this were in a highly populated area that would be scary enough, no, our area is relatively unpopulated…but it is in the middle of a forest!  So, imagine if you will, what might happen when a huge fire starts in French Creek’s woods?

Blaaah, I don’t really want to imagine that, not after seeing what happened with the fire in French Creek this past year!  Remember the one that was allowed to burn itself out because it was difficult to get to….sigh.

Let’s talk about pipeline sizes…there appear to be several sizes, all with different regulations.  The item we are talking about here, the thirty inch pipe, is one of the biggies!  The next biggest is 36 inches.  And according to some of the news reports I found, pipes aren’t made to fit the local need, so contractors create welds in the piping.  It seems that those welds are often where the pipe has seemed to fail.  In addition, it sounds crazy, but some of the pipe when tested apparently doesn’t meet size requirements, in other words, sometimes it’s thicker than it should be and unluckily sometimes it’s thinner.

So let’s get back to what might happen in a worst case scenario.  Let’s say something happens like more pressure is put on the pipe than the 1,000 psi that is expected…our pipe will pop, and when it does it will create an earth shaking boom.  We probably won’t have to worry about a mudslide like they do in California, but we will probably have to deal with a forest fire.  The first 150  to 200 km surrounding the pierced pipe will be flamed away rather quickly.  A  crater might be left behind once the fire is put out.  The only other worry is “what goes up, must come down.”  Which means that any structures, or vehicles, or roads that are near the site may become projectiles.

The good news there is that the damage is restricted to a relatively small area, but now we have to worry about the fumes, which might take a while to dissipate.  Houses that are near the damage zone, will be evacuated.  Homes that are nearby will probably be asked to shelter indoors, which will mean residents will need to close all doors and windows and they’ll have to  try not to breathe!  ( I’m joking about that last bit.)

The weirdest bit of information I got this evening after reading about the nice shiny new pipeline is that there are  skads of paperwork that have to be filed by the companies handling these lines, but the paperwork isn’t necessarily going to protect anyone because there have already been multiple explosions.  The National Transportation Safety Board is called on to check these incidents- isn’t that weird?!  Of course they’ll come back later and tell us that the problem was with welding, or with not having a safety shut off valve, but they won’t have any authority to force the pipeline companies to make the necessary changes.  And life will go on as we all know it, except for the families directly impacted by the boom

So far, the good news for me personally  is that this pipe isn’t close enough to my house to send my place into space.  The bad news is the area I  was willing to be taxed extra to pay to remain “open space” is now going to be used by a for profit company to insert a 30 inch pipeline for fracking fuel.

Funny  how things turn out sometimes isn’t it?

Here is some information for you from a news site about the recent explosion of a ( some say 20, some say 30 inch pipe in W. Va.)  (( How is it that they aren’t even sure about how large the damn pipe was?))

“The site where the incident occurred has been secured and the fire — on a 20-inch transmission line — has been contained,” she said. “We have a team of employees working with first responders to assess damages and we’ll be working to accommodate the needs of affected residents.”

The National Transportation Safety Board later said the pipeline that exploded was 30 inches in diameter, though that remains unclear. Either way, Burd said a 20-inch or 30-inch pipeline is a significant size transmission line.

“They make them bigger than (20 inches) — 30 and 36 inch — but as far as pipelines go, 20 inches is very big.”

The NTSB arrived in West Virginia the night of Dec. 11 to begin investigating the cause of the explosion. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB, said at a Dec. 11 press briefing that the board was investigating a probable cause, but was focused on collecting perishable evidence.

“We are just in the fact-finding phases of this investigation,” he said. “This is just the very beginning of the investigation.”

Sumwalt pointed out that the NTSB usually gets called to the scene of aviation accidents, but its mission is to investigate all transportation-related accidents. Pipelines transport goods, so it is the NTSB’s responsibility to investigate this incident. However, he pointed out, the NTSB likely would not determine the cause of the blast.

“We will not determine the cause of the accident, and we will never speculate,” he said. “We will always try to deal with facts.”

Sumwalt said a section of the pipe would be cut out and transported to NTSB labs in Washington, D.C., where it would be scrutinized under a microscope. He expects NTSB to remain in Sissonville for up to a week.

Tom Miller, training officer with the Sissonville Volunteer Fire Department, said the gas line was large, and gas was violently released.

“It creates quite a concussive-like force,” Miller said.

According to the NTSB, the maximum allowable pressure for a pipe that size is 1,000 pounds per square inch. At the time of the rupture, the pressure was 929 psi. The pipeline is part of Columbia’s network of transmission lines that transports and delivers natural gas primarily to local utility companies, according to a statement from NiSource. Service to those local utilities was not affected by the explosion.

Miller said there were no fatalities associated with the blast as of 5 p.m. Dec. 10, but the fires damaged several homes. No vehicles were on the interstate as the blaze swept through, but a car on Route 21 was damaged and first responders were working to locate possible occupants.

Both NiSource and the fire department were working to gather information.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., issued a statement saying the explosion was “clearly terrible and dangerous.” He said as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he wants to know what went wrong.

“I’m in close contact with state and federal officials, as well as the company involved,” Rockefeller said. “It’s important that the National Transportation Safety Board is launching a team imminently to conduct a thorough investigation into how and why this happened, and that the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration will soon have someone on the scene. I will continue monitoring today’s developments, with hope for everyone’s continued safety, as we await a determination of the cause of this accident.”

Rockefeller introduced legislation that was signed into law in January that strengthened pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and addresses safety issues. The Commerce Committee has held three hearings in the past two years on pipeline safety, and Rockefeller highlighted pipeline safety as part of a field hearing in West Virginia last year on shale gas development. He has also requested a Government Accountability Office study on the safety of onshore gathering pipelines that are currently not subject to federal regulations.

The legislation calls for the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines. It is unclear if the pipe that exploded had such shut-off valves, but reports say gas continued to flow for about an hour, at reduced pressure, after the blast. It is also unclear how old this pipeline is or what material was used to construct it.

This isn’t the first time a natural gas pipeline has exploded in West Virginia. On Aug. 5, 2002, a pipeline exploded and caught fire west of Route 622 on Poca River Road near Lanham. Emergency workers evacuated some families who lived close to the explosion, and Kanawha and Putnam county residents in the area were asked to shelter in place. Parts of the pipeline were thrown hundreds of yards away, around and across Poca River. Crews could not contain the fire for several hours because valves to shut down the line did not exist. The glow of the flames could be seen for several miles.

Enjoy your holiday!








Hanover Square Townhomes

Today I toured the townhouses over on Hanover Street in Pottstown.  I was pleased with the designs.  They are not huge, but they have several choices about home layouts so that you could have three levels with a half bath on the first two and two full baths on the third floor.

A nice three bedroom home with 2 1/2 plus baths?  They also have nice kitchens and dining rooms, full closets and two car garages.

They start at $120,000!

Now I’m pretty sure that the low cost version won’t satisfy most buyers- there are sure to be improvements that will raise the price, but overall the homes are affordable and stylish.

They have gas heat and forced air with A/C.  The only negative I found was the taxes, but what can you do?

Also, they were a little closely spaced, and while some of them have a beautiful view of the river, they also have a train that goes by directly out front of the development, but they are lovely places and if you are interested in moving into the area, or perhaps even renting a place in town, I recommend the houses at Hanover Square.

Here is the contact info for the property-

By phone:
By email: info@hanoversquarehomes.com


Do Children Need More Sunlight?

What would you say if I told you that your child’s eyes could  be harmed by not getting them outdoors into the sunshine as youngsters?  Well, it seems like that might be true. Scientists are finding that children in Asia are suffering from myopia when graduating high school.  Some folks say it may be from excessive studying, but others think that the combination of pressure on the eyes from excessive study as well as a tendency for children to take midday naps keeping them indoors might impact their eyes.

Of course there are no clear answers, just speculation at this point,but I’m going to  share what the BBC has written about children’s myopia.  The general idea is that the changes that are being seen are not about genetic changes, because if that were the case the numbers wouldn’t have changed so dramatically so quickly.  Instead it is something “environmental”, and one of the changes might be the way children are being kept indoors more these days.

Please check with your own health professional before taking any advice whether it comes from a news organization, or from a blog like this one.  I’m not a professional and I don’t mind saying so, but I am fond of natural helps over unnecessary medical interventions.  Also, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect young skin from the sun’s rays.  The sunshine itself doesn’t have to be too strong, it just has to be daylight!  For some reason scientists think that the sun increases dopamine and that may have an impact on eyes.

Here are some facts from the BBC:

According to the research, the problem is being caused by a combination of factors – a commitment to education and lack of outdoor light.

Professor Morgan argues that many children in South East Asia spend long hours studying at school and doing their homework. This in itself puts pressure on the eyes, but exposure to between two and three hours of daylight acts as a counterbalance and helps maintain healthy eyes.

The scientists believe that a chemical called dopamine could be playing a significant part. Exposure to light increases the levels of dopamine in the eye and this seems to prevent elongation of the eyeball.

“We’re talking about the need for two to three hours a day of outdoor light – it doesn’t have to be massively sunny, we think the operating range is 10-20,000 lux, we’re not sure about that – but that’s perfectly achievable on a cloudy day in the UK.”

‘Massive pressures’

Cultural factors also seem to play a part. Across many parts of South East Asia, children often have a lunchtime nap. According to Professor Morgan they are missing out on prime light to prevent myopia.

“Children suffer from a double whammy in South East Asia,” says Professor Morgan.

“As a result of massive educational pressures and the construction of a child’s day, the amount of time they spend outside in bright light is minimised.”



Any White Precipitation For Pottstown?

I’m afraid we aren’t going to have a White Christmas this year, although, looking at weather data for the past 10 years or so, that is pretty normal; sometimes we get trace amounts of snow on Christmas Eve.

This evening there is a possibility that we’ll have some precipitation, but the fact is, it just might be rain or sleet.  It looks like our neighbors to the North are going to get a little more of the fluffy stuff, but the temperatures aren’t going to allow it to stay snow there either.

So, we can still hope for some snow, but we can rest assured that our loved ones won’t be stuck on messy roadways when they are on their way home, and Santa won’t have any trouble delivering presents!

Have a wonderful  holiday!




Franklin Street Apartments Evacuated

Got this from Philly.com-

It was around 5:30 a.m. Monday when authorities were called to the North Apartments in Pottstown for the report of a possible carbon monoxide leak.

Residents of the building were evacuated. Word on their conditions was not immediately available but police say two of the residents drove themselves to a hospital to be checked out.

Fire department and PECO crews are investigating.

Officials say the building was being renovated, though there is no word on if that contributed to the leak.


Tarquin Hall Made Me Try Butter Chicken

My wonderful husband got a book for me the other day by Tarquin Hall that was about an Indian Private Eye named Vishnu who attends a fancy dinner where the guests are served one of his favorites – the butter chicken- only to find one of them starts foaming at the mouth and dies.

I’ve got to tell you that I’m having  a tough time with the language in the story. There are a lot of words that are completely unfamiliar to me.  Some of the words describe foods, or habits, or people, but other words seem to be almost place holders, like an American saying “whoa”, or “huh”, or “gotcha”.  It’s tough when you read a book filled with the casual language of another culture.

What I found especially enticing though was the idea that Chubby, or Vish Puri, the lead character, loves Butter Chicken.  I had to try it.  Unfortunately I don’t have masala in my cupboards.  So I tried my best to create an Americanized version of it and I must say it wasn’t bad.

I also tried using the spice turmeric.  I’m generally cautious of new spices.  I mean, what if I hate them?  So I had purchased this container of orange dust with the expectation that some day I might need it and yet, I hadn’t had the guts to actually use it in any recipes lately.

I screwed up my courage and I spilled the turmeric into my rice that was flavored with onion and garlic and peppers and oil and at firsts I had a blast of orange powder in my rice.  I felt a little disheartened.  But then a few minutes later after gently stirring the concoction- I had this delightful bright yellow rice that smelled and I must admit, tasted lovely.

It’s really very mild, but it made a big difference in the final rice dish.  So go ahead, get crazy, make Chubby’s favorite dish and serve it either as an aside, with a separate rice dish, or add the rice to the butter chicken ( which is what you are supposed to do, but I didn’t want to flub an entire meal if I hated the taste).



Oh, I’m not giving you the recipe here, because I just used what I had in order to create my own faux punjabi dish, but basically you season some chicken with some salt and I used plain yogurt.  Let that marinate, then add some spices- I used chili and turmeric and a bit of sugar.  Then heat that in a pan and in another dish heat oil, sweat some onions for about 5 minutes, then add a can of crushed tomatoes, or whatever kind of tomatoes you have, a little ketchup and some almond milk.

In the rice, I used about 2 tbl of oil, cooked rice, salt and pepper, onion, garlic and chili and turmeric.  Add green peppers, red peppers and stir and in about 10 minutes you have a pretty rice dish that tastes great with your chicken that has a nice pasty sauce.

When baking you have to be careful with weights and measures, but generally with all the other cooking you do in the kitchen you can add a little extra here, and take away a little bit there.  Let your own taste buds decide!



Are Serial Killers Privileged White Men?

Professor Hugo Schwyer wrote a piece shortly after the Aurora Colorado killings that suggested that White males who are experiencing a sense of “cognitive dissonance” because they are no longer warmly welcomed in their societies, may experience psychotic snaps and that may lead them to take out their anger on folks not directly related to them.

It seems that he is looking at data that we can’t say that one race, or ethnicity kills more than another, although we can say that it is generally men who kill -( that isnt’ to say that women don’t kill people, it’s just a numbers thing- more men do).  The difference is that men of lower socio-economic, or of ethnicities or races other than “white” tend to kill close family members instead of strangers.


What I’m taking away from this article is a bit of a concern…the professor pointed out that when we have a Muslim shooter, or a Korean shooter we look at their societies, or their communities, or their socialization to arrive at an answer, or to try to explain their anger or their frustration.  When a White guy does it, we say he was evil personified.  That worries me.

When a mental health profile asks about an individual participating in their unique social heritage in order to demonstrate the health of that person- you have to begin asking what does that mean for Whites?  When professors say that shootings are an outgrowth of some existential angst because Whites are no longer as welcome into their societies as they once were because of the “browning of America” what does that mean for Whites?

I personally find it strange that I don’t have an answer for what my cultural heritage means.  I’m someone who was raised in an Irish Catholic family.  We had lots of fights and “excommunications” as well as a lot of messy love.  But  how does any of that connect to a social construct that I can use in my life?  What is my life about?   And what traditions should I be passing along to my kids based on their heritage?

In cultures long established there are positions within the group for people who carry forth the stories and traditions of the people.  I think we’ve all been trying to accept that the Earth is a multi-cultural place, but in doing that, we may have forgotten to create strong links to who we are.

I’m not trying to stir up any trouble here, I don’t think Whites or Blacks, or Asians, or Hispanics, or Native Americans, or New Zealanders, or any mix of those groups should feel more welcome or more privileged, but I do feel that we should be spending more time as individuals thinking about our roots and what they mean for our futures…together!




Want to Track Santa? Check Here!

Children got to talk to officials at NORAD 55 years ago when Sears made a mistake in an ad for one of their stores where they planned to tell children about Santa.  When the folks at NORAD, which tracks dangerous objects in the skies heard the calls from kids, they decided to play along and a new tradition was born.  At least that is the story the LA Times is talking about.

They’ve also given us a phone number so kids can call NORAD on Christmas Eve to find out where exactly Santa and his sleigh are, and this year there is another website kids can check out created by Google!

Here is some more information and happy tracking!

For some old-fashioned fun, you can also call NORAD’s Santa hotline, (877) HI-NORAD, to talk to one of the 1,250 volunteers available to answer Santa questions. The hotline opens at 2 a.m. PST on Monday and closes at 2 a.m. PST on Christmas Day.

Google’s Santa-tracking operation, meanwhile, is headquartered at google.com/santatracker.

It’s a slicker website than NORAD’s, and even though the actual Santa tracking won’t get started until Christmas Eve, you can explore the little virtual Christmas village and play several games — which include a sled race and dropping presents into chimneys — that are appropriate even for young players.

It also offers a way to ask Santa to place a personalized call to your friends and family members.

Budding engineers may enjoy Google’s take on the seasonal fun. The company says that Dec. 24, it will showcase a preview of the technology that powers Santa’s sleigh.

“We’ve received this special preview from one of Santa’s many developer elves,” the company says on the website.

Developer elves? This is clearly not your grandmother’s Christmas.

Happy tracking and happy holidays!