This is Ligonier's friendly neighborhood blog and an attempt to recapture our lively opinionated debates in a free speech zone.

Please join our conversations. Contributors welcome.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

thanks to Carolyn for the morning chuckle!

Today I’m introducing four new-to-me words:
  • Selfie
  • Footle
  • Splenetic
  • Twerk
Selfie: a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Selfie was chosen as the Oxford Dictionaries 2013 word of the year.
Footle: Act foolishly, as by talking nonsense---classifed as a verb of political and social activities and events
I found this word in a Colin McNickle opinion column in which he explained the word dates back to 1892, and means talking or acting foolishly or wasting time.
Splenetic: of or relating to the spleen, affected by ill humor or irritability; a person regarded as irritable. I came across this word in the novel The Coquette (page 265).
Twerk:  dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting. Twerk was NOT the word of the year in 2013, being beaten out in a close race by the word selfie.
Melanie became splenetic when she heard a friend describe her as footle after her twerkperformance, during which she uploaded a selfie on her social media accounts.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanks to Dale for the evening chuckle.

oldie but goodie

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!

turkey and latkes

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm not hosting this year but the next time I am, I'll try to remember to make this crazy turkey.


And we would like to remind all
that we will be open for
(lunch menu added at 11pm)
Come in & fuel up before
heading out to fight the crowds.

Do You Know?

Ernie Sistek, photographer for the Latrobe Bulletin dropped this 70's photo in my mail slot the other day. I don't remember what the event was but if anyone recognizes any of the girls, now ladies, I'd like to share it with them. It was likely a mayoral proclamation showing our community support of Girl Scouting.

Beth Luther is reaching out for donations to help the Somerset Humane Society.

Good Morning,

Every year I do a food drive from now until the weekend before Christmas, I take everything collected  to the Somerset shelter.  Could you please put something on the blog if you have time.  In need of dog and puppy food, cat and kitten food, cat litter, toys, blankets and treats.  Peanut butter, vanilla wafers, stamps and gas cards.  New and used. 
I also will take cash and check made out to me (my mom and I go to sam’s club with the money and got 2 heaping carts full last yr) or the check can be made out to Somerset Humane Society.
This shelter has grown and improved immensely in the last 10 yrs, I have adopted 3 dogs from them and fostered many.  Lets make the unwanted pet have a better holiday. 
Supplies can be dropped of at Gooder/Baily Agency or John Clark goldsmith.  You may also call me and I will pick up at your home.  Thank you Beth 724-238-4513  checks can be mailed to PO Box 201 Laughlintown PA 15655

enjoy a vintage [retro] Christmas display at the Ligonier Valley Library

One man's collection of vintage holiday decorations is enchanting visitors to the Ligonier Valley Library this season.
To kick off the exhibit of his carefully collected items, Don Lachie of Youngwood gave a talk on the history of Yuletide lighting — from candles first in use on trees about 1890 to bubble lights made popular in the 1950s.
“These unique vintage items are completely different than the lights and tree trimmings available today,” Lachie said. “New bulbs are more energy efficient, but they don't have the same charm as the older ones.”

Read more: 
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This really blows my mind. There is no neighborly kindness in this YMCA leadership. This is about obliterating opposition. Something is wrong here.

The Ligonier Valley YMCA has filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission alleging that former council member Kim Shaffer should not have voted on its rezoning requests because she sold the group the land at issue, creating a conflict of interest.
Attorney Mark Sorice, who represented the YMCA in the zoning matters, said Chief Executive Officer Ben Wright filed the complaint on behalf of the YMCA. Wright referred all questions to Sorice.
Shaffer did not return telephone messages left Monday and Tuesday seeking comment. She could not be reached at her office or home on Tuesday afternoon.

Read more: 
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Valley Players to present a Ligonier Christmas show

The season's charm and compassion has started to sparkle as the Ligonier Theatre prepares for the annual Christmas special — this year, the spotlight will shine on the youth troupe's presentation of “Yes, Virginia the Musical” followed by spirited renditions of choir songs and a nativity reenactment. The two-part production will be performed by 30 young thespians ranging from the ages of six to 18, and will feature singing, dancing and scenes set in the Victorian era, where the story of Virginia and her search for Santa unfold.

Read more: 
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Thank you, Martha...

Love this quote...

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others” --Martha Graham.

Pope slams unfettered capitalism: "A New Tyranny"

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security." 
"(Reuters) - Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff. The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March. In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday. "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?" The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion"."

Carolyn shares Santa Hat Day fun

Fourteen brave souls wearing Santa Hats began the Laurel Mountain Borough Santa Hat Event with a chilly walk along seven of the Borough's eleven roads.

Black Friday Sale at Allegory Gallery

Originally we weren't going to do anything out of the ordinary (besides staying open late) for Black Friday.  But... the more we thought about it, the more we wanted to reward our loyal customers for shopping local and for supporting small business.  So, for one day only, we're having a 50% off sale on all gemstone strands.  Some of the strands will be less than a $1.00!  This is a GREAT opportunity to stock up on gemstone beads!  The sale is for Friday (November 29th) only at Allegory Gallery and is for in-store purchases only!

And don't forget!  A percentage of all sales made from November 14h to December 5th will go towards the disaster relief efforts in the Philippines!  So you can save money and save lives!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Something we have in Ligonier: Methane...

"WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says. Much of it is coming from just three states: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. That means methane may be a bigger global warming issue than thought, scientists say. Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn't stay in the air as long.

Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says. It was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The study estimates that in 2008, the U.S. poured 49 million tons of methane into the air. That means U.S. methane emissions trapped about as much heat as all the carbon dioxide pollution coming from cars, trucks, and planes in the country in six months. That's more than the 32 million tons estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration or the nearly 29 million tons reckoned by the European Commission."

Seeing what is, or denying its existence...

There was an experiment by Lester Luborsky in the 1960s, who wanted to test what people see when they looking something: His teams attached electrodes to peoples' eyes to monitor what the eye itself tracked when presented with an image. Luborsky found that if photos shown to participants contained morally objectionable material or something that threatened the participants worldview (whatever that worldview was), their eyes would not track, would literally not see, whatever that thing was, not even once, during viewing. One example from the study: Participants were shown a photo of a man reading a newspaper. In the foreground of the photo there was a very obvious silhouette of a woman's breast. Turns out, in the case of participants who found nudity objectionable, their eyes never once tracked over to the clearly visible silhouette and, when asked later, these people did not remember seeing a breast.
So...when we in Ligonier, USA, hear/read something we don't agree with, do we just not see it, just block it out? Are we then in a hall of self-reflecting mirrors, constantly seeing ourselves (meaning our viewpoints), carefully avoiding what interferes with what doesn't jibe with our carefully constructed worldviews? 

Also, how do we brand new, factual information that questions our dearly held beliefs? By dismissing it as "foreign"...or? 



Green energy in Israel...

"IC Green Energy Ltd. (ICG) is Israel Corporation’s vehicle for investing in the alternative energy market. we have made pioneering investments in biofuel refineries and solar energy fields in Europe and Israel, and also in related next-generation technologies. We seek to continue broadening our activities via acquisitions, partnerships and joint ventures with like-minded companies in developed and developing regions around the globe."

While this company is not focused exclusively on Ligonier, since there's so much local interest in Israel, here's something to be happy about: Green energy, sustainable solutions to climate change...go Israel.

Here's Ligonier Living shot from November 2008.

A new study finds that radioactive Iodine from Fukushima has caused a significant increase in hypothyroidism among babies in California, 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

...this finding is one more instance of the fact that the current radiation risk model, employed by the governments of every nation, is massively insecure for predicting harm from internal radionuclide exposures or explaining the clear observations.

"Congenital hypothyroidism is a rare but serious condition normally affecting about one child in 2,000, and one that demands clinical intervention - the growth of children suffering from the condition is affected if they are left untreated. All babies born in California are monitored at birth for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels in blood, since high levels indicate hypothyroidism. Joe Mangano and Janette Sherman of the Radiation and Public Health Project in New York, and Christopher Busby, guest researcher at Jacobs University, Bremen, examined congenital hypothyroidism (CH) rates in newborns using data obtained from the State of California over the period of the Fukushima explosions.

Their results are published in their paper Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The researchers compared data for babies exposed to radioactive Iodine-131 and born between March 17th and Dec 31st 2011 with unexposed babies born in 2011 before the exposures plus those born in 2012. Confirmed cases of hypothyroidism, defined as those with TSH level greater than 29 units increased by 21% in the group of babies that were exposed to excess radioactive Iodine in the womb [*]. The same group of children had a 27% increase in 'borderline cases' [**]. 

Tonight on HBO, and important documentary for anyone with furniture

When it burns, you get more toxic smoke, and more people die in fires from the smoke than getting burned.
"California recently overturned a 38-year-old rule that approved the use of chemical flame retardants in furniture containing foam. The rule has set the standard for furniture manufacturers nationwide. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, developmental problems, reduced IQ and impaired fertility. The new rule does not ban the use of such chemicals, but gives manufacturers the choice to omit them.

In the HBO documentary “Toxic Hot Seat,” which premieres tonight, directors James Redford and Kirby Walker look at the role of flame retardants in the U.S. Walker tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti that the California law, known as TB 117, was passed in the 1970s after a number of deadly house fires caused by cigarettes setting furniture on fire. Fire safety, like smoke detectors and fire alarms, was less prevalent at the time. The tobacco industry was reluctant to introduce self-extinguishing cigarettes, so lawmakers decided to make furniture safer by requiring flame retardant chemicals."

Scientists Call For Radical Economic Overhaul to Avert Climate Crisis

"We have squandered the chance now pretty much to make a gradual, evolutionary change to how we do what we do, and now we’ve left it to the point where we need, you know, radical, almost overnight change, particularly amongst those of us that are actually the major consumers."

"A pair of climate scientists are calling for what some may view as a shocking solution to the global warming crisis: a rethinking of the economic order in the United States and other industrialized nations. Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows-Larkin of the influential Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in England say many of the solutions proposed by world leaders to prevent "runaway global warming" will not be enough to address the scale of the crisis. They have called for "radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the United States, EU and other wealthy nations." Anderson says that to avoid an increase in temperature of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the world would require a "revolutionary change to the political and economic hegemony."

(Anderson): In the short term, the only way we can get our emissions down is to actually reduce the level of energy we consume. Now, we can also put low-carbon energy supply in place, you know, power stations that are renewable—wind, even nuclear, as well. These are all very low-carbon power stations and other energy sources. But they take a long time to put in place. And we now—we’ve squandered the opportunity we had to make those changes. So, we still need to do that, but it’s going to take us 20, 30 years to do that. So what we need to do in the interim is to reduce the amount of energy we consume, and therefore reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we emit. And the levels of reduction we now need in carbon dioxide, and therefore energy consumption, are such that for many of us—for the wealthy of us, certainly—we can’t carry on as we’re going now. So we’ll have to consume less. And there’s absolutely no way out of that. The maths are absolutely clear. But it’s worth bearing in mind this is an equity issue, not just between the poorer south and richer north, but actually within our own countries, within the U.S.""

NAFTA and US Farmers—20 Years Later

(At the link below, read a brief history of how we come to our current deplorable state of depleted food and disappearing farms, thanks to the much-vaunted - and truly anti-farmer...but pro "agri-giant" - NAFTA agreement.)

It concludes:
"There is widespread recognition among the U.S. public of the need to change food and farm policies to ensure healthier foods and more stable rural economies, but policymakers in Congress and the Obama administration continue to push hard on the same failed policies. More free trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), largely cut and pasted from NAFTA, but with dangerous new ideas to limit any remaining restrictions on GMOs and questionable food additives, and to pave the way for even more untested emerging technologies. A “new” Farm Bill currently being negotiated shifts from commodity support to an insurance model, which still locks in place the same advantages for even bigger farms and corporations and the same willful ignorance of the devastating impacts of droughts and flooding caused by climate change.

The wild ride of prices under the NAFTA roller coaster has left us with a food system that is dominated by fewer and bigger corporations. In many communities across the country, people are opting out of the existing Big Food system to rebuild smaller, healthier options that are rooted in local economies and connections between farmers and consumers. Whether those experiences can build up from the local to national agriculture and change policy is a big question, and one made harder by the huge dominance of corporate interests. But rebuilding the system from the ground up, and considering how to make fairer links to farmers in Mexico and elsewhere, is really the only path forward."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

This is very interesting. I've never heard of an underground greenhouse.

Greenhouses are usually glazed structures, but are typically expensive to construct and heat throughout the winter. A much more affordable and effective alternative to glass greenhouses is the walipini (an Aymara Indian word for a "place of warmth"), also known as an underground or pit greenhouse. First developed over 20 years ago for the cold mountainous regions of South America, this method allows growers to maintain a productive garden year-round, even in the coldest of climates.

bi-partisan agreement likely that Iran deal STINKS

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said on Sunday he was “disappointed” by the terms of the agreement reached overnight between Iran and world powers “because it does not seem proportional,” with the lopsidedness of the give-and-take likely to lead to bi-partisan support for further sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions,” the senator said in a statement. “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced. A fairer agreement would have coupled a reduction in sanctions with a proportionate reduction in Iranian nuclear capability.”

TED Radiolab today

Believers And Doubters

Why do some of us believe in something greater than ourselves, and some of us don't? Can our doubts bring our beliefs into sharper focus? And what is the difference between belief and faith? In this hour, TED speakers offer personal perspectives on belief from all ends of the spectrum, from ardent atheists to the devout faithful.

On the local WESA radio station, 90.5FM, 12-1pm.

Anne Lamott on perfectionism...

"She recounts her formative years and where she headed once she encountered that inevitable fork in the road where we can choose between being shut in and shut down by our traumatic experiences, or using them as fertile clay for character-building:
I started writing when I was seven or eight. I was very shy and strange-looking, loved reading above everything else, weighed about forty pounds at the time, and was so tense that I walked around with my shoulders up to my ears, like Richard Nixon. I saw a home movie once of a birthday party I went to in the first grade, with all these cute little boys and girls playing together like puppies, and all of a sudden I scuttled across the screen like Prufrock’s crab. I was very clearly the one who was going to grow up to be a serial killer, or keep dozens and dozens of cats. Instead, I got funny. I got funny because boys, older boys I didn’t even know, would ride by on their bicycles and taunt me about my weird looks. Each time felt like a drive-by shooting. I think this is why I walked like Nixon: I think I was trying to plug my ears with my shoulders, but they wouldn’t quite reach. So first I got funny and then I started to write, although I did not always write funny things. … All I ever wanted was to belong, to wear that hat of belonging. In seventh and eighth grades I still weighed about forty pounds. I was twelve years old and had been getting teased about my strange looks for most of my life. This is a difficult country to look too different in – the United States of Advertising, as Paul Krassner puts it – and if you are too skinny or too tall or dark or weird or short or frizzy or homely or poor or nearsighted, you get crucified. I did."


"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.
In this bird-by-bird approach to writing, there is no room for perfectionism. (Neil Gaiman famously advised, “Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”, and David Foster Wallace admonished, “If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything.”) Lamott cautions:
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. . . . Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here – and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing."

sums it up

“This deal sacrifices the long term interests of the West in exchange for the short term gain of getting Iran to agree not to cross the nuclear threshold for a few months,” he said.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

21 ways theirs is better

Dear America:

Costly complexity is baked into Obamacare. No health insurance system is without problems but Canadian-style single-payer full Medicare for all is simple, affordable, comprehensive and universal.

In the early 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson enrolled 20 million elderly Americans into Medicare in six months. There were no websites. They did it with index cards! Below please find 21 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare.

Repeal Obamacare and replace it with the much more efficient single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital.

Love, Canada 

(Due to space considerations, only a sampling of the 21 ways to a better system (single-payer) can appear here. For the full list, see the links!)

Number 16:
In Canada, the health care system is funded by income, sales and corporate taxes that, combined, are much lower than what Americans pay in premiums.
Number 14:
In Canada, costs are controlled. Canada pays 10 percent of its GDP for its health care system, covering everyone.c(In the United States, under Obamacare, costs continue to skyrocket. The U.S. currently pays 18 percent of its GDP and still doesn’t cover tens of millions of people.)
Number 11:
In Canada, when you go to a doctor or hospital the first thing they ask you is: “What’s wrong?” (In the United States, the first thing they ask you is: “What kind of insurance do you have?”)
Number 9:
In Canada, the government health care funds are not profitably diverted to the top one percent. (In the United States, under Obamacare, health care funds will continue to flow to the top. In 2012, CEOs at six of the largest insurance companies in the U.S. received a total of $83.3 million in pay, plus benefits.) 

"Zenta" says: "...about Black Friday..."

"Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times. The journey toward a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year. This November 29th, go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours … see what happens … you just might have an unexpected, emancipatory epiphany!

Buy Nothing Day is legendary for instigating this type of personal transformation … as you suddenly remember what real living is all about … you sense an upsurge of radical empowerment and feel a strange magic creeping back into your life. Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 29/30 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let’s take it back. And why not get playful while you’re at it!? … Put up posters, organize a credit card cut up, pull off a Whirl–mart, or a Christmas Zombie walk through your local mall." (Details of these fun things at the link below. Have a blast!)

Mountain Palace - Xiang La Rou Special!

Absolutely the only Authentic Northern Chinese Eatery in the area where you can get Xiang La Rou this weekend. What is Xiang La Rou, you may ask? It is homegrown cilantro with green peppers and pork with rice. Mountain Palace has its own Authentic Northern Chinese Horticulturist imported to grow our own cilantro. You will likely not find that at most of the area's eateries either. So come to Mountain Palace this weekend to enjoy this special or any of our other healthy, tasty menu items. Eleven miles north of Ligonier left off of Route 711 onto Creek Road directly across from Mirror Lake. Friday 6 to 9, Saturday 12 to 9 and Sunday 12 to 6.  724 717-8614

This article may be of interest to those who wish to eventually operate a drone for commercial purposes.

Pilot Certification, including Medical Requirements: The FAA’s introductory section of the Roadmap indicates that “At the core of these policies is the concept that each aircraft is flown by a pilot in accordance with required procedures and practices. This same policy applies to UAS.” Roadmap at 9. The Roadmap further indicates that the FAA plans to amend its regulations so as to address “certification of sUAS pilots.” Roadmap at 34. Additionally, the Roadmap’s “Goals, Metrics and Target Dates” section includes the following as “Goal 1”: “FAA certification requirements for pilots and crew members for sUAS classes (including medical requirements, training standards, etc.) published as part of a sUAS rule by 2014.” Roadmap at 52. These statements strongly suggest that future operation of sUAS may be limited to persons who have undertaken a training course, who pass an examination of some kind, and who are medically qualified. This framework, reminiscent of the current pilot certification regime for manned aircraft, threatens the practicality of commercial uses of very small drones where pilot certification is arguably unnecessary (for example, a photographer using a hobby- grade radio-controlled multirotor to take photographs of real estate at very low altitudes).
Operational Restrictions
Constrained Airspace and Performance: The Roadmap indicates that “[o]perations of sUAS under new regulations may have operational, airspace, and performance constraints.” Roadmap at 34. “As integration begins, there will be approved airspace and procedures for sUAS.” Id. at 35. The Comprehensive Plan gives a more specific sense of the anticipated initial airspace restrictions for sUAS: The “Initial Capability” will involve “Operations outside of Class B/C airspace and not over populated areas.” Plan at 9. The indication of an airspace restriction (in particular, an altitude ceiling) for early commercial drone use is not a surprise. However, the reference to “not over populated areas” may pose a serious impediment to numerous commercial applications, such as cinematography on controlled film sets, crop inspection in semi-rural areas, or the survey of disaster-stricken urban areas. Moreover, the reference to “performance constraints” and “approved procedures” suggests potential restrictions on the capabilities and applications of sUAS platforms even within the designated airspace.

What is home? And how do we find it? One couple’s attempt to built a “tiny house” with no building experience raises questions about sustainability, good design, and the changing American Dream.

"The size of the average American home has more than doubled since the 1950s, but just how big does a home need to be? A Boulder, Colo., couple decided to put that question to the test when they started building their very tiny home -- 124 sq. ft. to be exact -- back in 2011. With no building experience, but with open hearts and minds, Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller started to build their dream home. They documented their surprising journey in a new film called "TINY: A Story About Living Small," which premieres on Al Jazeera America this Sunday.  

Says Mueller: "One thing that we've learned from making our film about the Tiny House movement is that the American Dream is changing. The recent housing crisis and recession have made it harder for many people to attain the financial stability required for a big house in the suburbs and a car in the driveway, that old model of the American Dream. On top of that, we've found that many people in our generation are beginning to question and re-evaluate that old American Dream and are opting instead for lifestyles that are more flexible and less tied-down to one particular place. As a society, we're in a place of transition. I think that many people -- whether by necessity or by choice -- are learning that quality of life isn't necessarily tied to how big our houses are or how much stuff we own, but about the experiences we have and the quality of our relationships. "

(See a teaser trailer of the documentary at the above link, or go to

Friday, November 22, 2013

"In America we’ve never changed without casualties....The Earth leads, we follow." (Rev. Billy)

1 in 4 mammal species are now threatened by extinction, 
likewise 1 in 8 bird species, 
1 in 3 species of fish, 
2 in 5 amphibians and
more than half the flowering plants and insects. 
Species of fauna and flora are today disappearing between 1,000 and 10,000 times more rapidly than their natural rate of extinction. 
We are talking about a sixth episode of mass extinction, for which this time.
Man alone is responsible."

Facts and figures on posters at the National Stadium in Warsaw where the climate summit is taking place, overrun with corporations greenwashing their way to further profits at the earth's expense.

Fracking-Friendly Bills Flourish as Industry Donations Skyrocket

"The reason for this loyalty? Look no further than a damning report out yesterday showing a 231 percent increase in industry contributions to candidates in areas of fracking activity," she added. 
"A wave of legislation friendly to the fracking industry in the House of Representative appears to be following skyrocketing donations from the fossil fuel industry. A Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington report this week reveals that from 2004 to 2012, oil and gas industry contributions to Congressional campaigns climbed 231 percent in fracking states and districts. Several bills passed in Congress this week suggest these contributions are paying off. In a landslide 252 to 165 vote, the GOP-controlled House rammed through the fracking industry friendly HR 1900 on Thursday that would fast-track pipeline construction if signed into law. It follows two other bills passed in the House earlier this week that would make it easier to get fast permits for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and roll back federal fracking regulations.

While none of these bills is expected to advance in the Senate, critics charge they nonetheless reveal a Congress hijacked by the fracking industry. "This week, House Majority Leadership showed that they’ll sacrifice just about anything for the oil and gas industry, whether it’s the hunters and fishermen who enjoy using our public lands, parents trying to protect their children from the health impacts of fracking, even the rights of property owners along proposed gas pipeline projects," said Earthjustice Senior Legislative Representative Jessica Ennis."

Shale-gas industry jobs overstated: Report

The Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative is composed of the Keystone Research Center, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Fiscal Policy Institute of New York, Policy Matters Ohio, Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis in Virginia, and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. It receives funding from the Heinz Endowments, the Park Foundation and other groups.
"A new report by a group of research organizations claims there aren't as many shale-related jobs as previously predicted in Pennsylvania and other states in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. The Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative report claims there were only 33,000 shale-related jobs that have been added in the six-state Marcellus and Utica regions between 2005 and 2012. ** That includes 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 6,000 in West Virginia and 2,800 in Ohio. Other estimates have run as high as 180,000. The figure comes from an analysis by the collaborative of data from each state, and is much lower than other estimates. The collaborative's data excludes jobs existing before 2005 when fracking of natural gas wells became more commonplace.

"Shale jobs are a tiny fraction of all jobs," said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center and a co-writer of the "Exaggerating the Employment Impacts of Shale Drilling: How and Why." Shale-related jobs are, for example, about one-half of 1 percent of all jobs in Pennsylvania and one out of 794 jobs in the entire six-state region, where health/education positions represent one in every six jobs."

**(Corbett claims 200,000 jobs, which if you including low-paid hotel maids and waiters, that might be true... . But high-paying energy sector jobs? Nowhere near it, Tom: Tell the truth.)

Knock Out player gets SHOT

A game called "Point-em-out, Knock-em-out" has made its way to Lansing, and it's exactly how it sounds. The game consists of someone being randomly targeted, then attacked.
It's a game that has been growing with popularity on the internet, with teenagers filming themselves punching unsuspecting victims. Lansing had its first case of the game brought to light this summer, but it's possible that it has been happening under the radar for months.
On February 26th a man waiting for his six-year-old daughter to be dropped off from school, had no idea he would be the city's first reported victim.
"I saw the van circle twice, and the second time three kids came out. I didn't suspect anything. I hadn't any enemies, or any reason to believe they would be looking to do anything to me."

The big news out of the Senate...

Oh, sometimes you do have to laugh and, in the midst of all the nonsense, Jon makes that possible:

(What, simple majority the USA?)

LOL love open microphones

In this topsy-turvy world, it is common to find positive news about the Jewish State in most unusual circumstances. 
Something weird happened at the United Nations General Assembly last week. Someone spoke the truth.  Due to a faulty open microphone, an interpreter broadcast to everyone her inability to understand why there were 10 resolutions concerning Israel when there was so much else happening in the world.  And then guilty laughter broke out from the delegates. (Watch this before Youtube removes it)
What was really strange was that the nations were condemning Israel whilst ignoring the mass-murder of Syrian civilians by the Syrian government.  Meanwhile, on the other side of Syria’s border with Israel, Syria’s “enemy” was busy healing wounded from Syria’s civil war. A fact that even an official from the EU couldn’t ignore when hepraised Israel’s treatment of “the other”.  The UN also didn’t seem to notice that on the other side of the world, Israeli doctors were among the first international relief teams to arrive in the Philippines following devastating typhoon Haiyan.  Within a short time they had set up a field hospital and were treating over 300 patients a day, including delivering premature babies.  (Read more…)

suggestions for Ligonier planners concerning parking lots

If you are changing the rules, may I make a few suggestions?

Ligonier suffers from flooding in some parts along with storm drain system overflow when we have heavy rains.  It would make sense to put into place rules which protect the community from exacerbating this problem by the addition of more paved areas.  I suggest:

  1. pervious pavements which allow water to pass through
  2. rain gardens to absorb runoff
Ligonier is a small community with residential structures mixed in and near commercial structures.  Parking lot owners like to have high overhead lighting for a variety of reasons. Such overhead lighting disturbs sleep and the enjoyment of residents living next to or near a parking lot.  I suggest:

  1. maximum illumination levels that meet safety requirements but do not damage the quality of life for residential neighbors
  2. tree buffers between commercial parking lots and residential structures to shield illumination at night, aid in water runoff absorption, and maintain a pleasant green space for the community

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Green groups walk out of UN climate talks

Environment and development groups together with young people, trade unions and social movements walked out of the UN climate talks on Thursday in protest at what they say is the slow speed and lack of ambition of the negotiations in Warsaw.
"Frustration with the climate talks has grown in the past two years but progress in this year's conference of the parties (COP) has seen negotiations deadlocked in technical areas, and rich and poor countries at loggerheads over compensation and money. Anger has also mounted over the perceived closeness of governments to industrial lobbies, and because several developed countries have reneged on their commitments to cut emissions. "The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry. Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change," said Kumi Naidoo, director of Greenpeace International. Hoda Baraka, global communications director for, said they were walking out because lobbying from fossil fuel companies was impeding progress at the talks. "It has become quite flagrantly obvious that progress to reach any legally binding climate treaty is being obstructed by the lobbying forces of the fossil fuel industry. As we can see from this COP, they've had a very strong presence before and during.""


"When I saw this on my garage door, I thought, 'well, now are the people wanting to get rid of me? Get rid of my pigs?' I'm not very comfortable right now," said Mied.
Police say this may have something to do with opposition to Mied's farm-to-table wedding parties that are the subject of zoning disputes and litigation.
"You know, we're talking neighbors, we're keeping an eye on the roadway. And there's other actions we're taking forward to try to help us on this investigation," said Matrunics.
Soon there will be a set of electronic eyes watching over the little pigs. A security camera system is being installed on the farm.

Read more:

Naming Names: The 90 Companies Destroying Our Planet

Analysis highlights the small number of profit-driven entities that are driving us towards destruction, but can a climate revolution from below challenge their rule?

"Narrow it down to the real power-brokers and decision-makers—the CEO's of fossil fuel companies or the energy ministers from the largest petro-states—says climate researcher Richard Heede, and the actual individuals most responsible for the political world's continued refusal to address the planetary crisis of climate change "could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two. "In a newly completed study by Heede and his colleagues at the Climate Accountability Institute, their analysis shows that a mere 90 companies, some private and some state-owned, account for a full two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions that are now driving perilous rates of global warming. Offered in advance to the Guardian newspaper, which created an interactive representation of the study's findings, the report comes as climate negotiators from around the world continue talks in Warsaw, Poland this week in the latest (what looks so far like a failed) attempt to solidify an emissions agreeement designed to stave off the worst impacts of climate change this century." 

House Bills Would Let Oil and Gas Companies Run Amuck, Charge You $5000 To Protest Them

"Arguing they are helping “get the government out of the way of progress” - ever a scary proposition - House Republicans this week are pushing several little-reported, so-called energy security bills that critics more convincingly dub "reckless giveaways to big oil and gas companies." The GOP measures would speed up government permits for oil and gas drilling on federal lands, mandate that a quarter of all nominated federal acreage be available for leasing, effectively bar federal regulation of fracking, and charge anyone who doesn't like any of that a $5,000 protesting "fee." With Democrats and most sane people opposing them, the bills will probably not make it to the Senate, or be vetoed by the White House if they do. Still, be warned: Such madness is abroad in the land.

LVSD can't live on taxes alone.

A new Ligonier nonprofit group is seeking to offset funding cutbacks in Ligonier Valley School District.
The recently formed LVSD Foundation Board accepted a start-up donation from the Ligonier Valley Endowment on Nov. 14 at its first official meeting. It has also received donations from other sources.
“The foundation has been formed to support the Ligonier Valley School District for things they cannot fund,” said Irma Hutchinson, who will serve on the board as a representative of the school board.
Hutchinson said the board evolved from a group of concerned residents interested in helping areas of the school that have been affected by decreased funding from the state and budget cuts — specifically the arts, athletics and academic departments.

Read more: 
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Ligonier Christmas magic is under way.

When the big red bows and garlands appear around the Diamond, you know Christmas in Ligonier is just around the corner.
Volunteers began the annual decking of the Diamond with hundreds of strings of white lights last weekend.
This year, the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce's holiday decorating committee is led by Tom and Nancy Donchez of Ligonier.

Read more: 
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Traffic flow and hope for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Traffic planners form thoughtful routes for motorists with purpose.  Usually, that is.  I think everyone reading this will agree that whoever designed that parking lot for Walmart in Latrobe Pennsylvania had a screw loose when they considered traffic flow behind Burger King.

What did you do the first time you intended to leave the Walmart lot using the "exit" behind Burger King and you discovered it was only an entrance?  Did you grumble and then go WAY far in another direction to comply or did you wait for no traffic and then scoot up the wrong way?

I scooted.  Call it a low risk act of civil disobedience but that single one way lane is ridiculous considering how far you must go to exit following "the rules."

The next time I approached that "exit" I was tickled to see a few cars waiting for their chance to scoot.  This was like a little movement of brave souls willing to not comply with stupidity.  How cool.

Then one day while waiting for my turn to scoot, I noticed the tracks in the dirt next to the road.  Someone in a big truck or SUV was going off road so they didn't have to wait.  WOW.

Now there's a regular dirt road there and even small cars with little old lady drivers use it.  I don't.  I still like to scoot because that little road is often muddy.  Wouldn't surprise me to show up one day and find that someone had laid down gravel. Then I would just have to use it - just because.

It gives me great pleasure to know that we live in the land of the free and somewhere inside most of us is the will to stand against authority when faced with a law or regulation that defies logic and natural human understanding. There is hope for America.

Carolyn writes about maintaining friendships

I just contacted my only remaining high school friend, Pat. She is about a month younger than I am, and I try to call her each year. For us, this is a special birthday year. Due to circumstances, however, I still have her special-year birthday gift here---she’ll receive it before my birthday.
Growing up I didn’t learn how to make or maintain relationships. That’s just the kind of typically dysfunctional family I grew up in. I worked two jobs in college, and that left me little time to develop friendships. Michael is my one friend from the technical school I attended. I wonder sometimes that I had no meaningful Read more of this post

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Obama's war on coal

The Obama administration's war on coal not only runs counter to global energy trends. It actually threatens to jeopardize U.S. global competitiveness and the prospects for American energy independence.

As has been said many times, the United States is "the Saudi Arabia of coal." The proven reserves can be used to fuel the country's base load power needs for decades to come as far as the generation of electricity is concerned. The potential also exists for this country to become one of the world's major exporters of this most basic of fossil fuels, save for the radical environmentalists who are standing in the way.

Concerns about so-called greenhouse gases and "global warming" will not stop the rest of the world from employing coal as an energy source. The theory that the consumption of carbon-based energy is producing changes in the global climate remains just that: a theory. Nevertheless the industrial planners and ivory tower academics who hold sway over Obama administration environmental policy are determined to remove it from the U.S. domestic energy mix and, if possible, to block its use around the world.

learning economic theory corn dog style

Recently, at the Lone Star Biker Rally in Galveston, Texas, I had a sort of epiphany involving corn dogs. 
Wandering among the mobile vendors lining the side streets of the historic downtown area, as bikers from all over the country roared down the main drag, I set off in search of a jumbo corn dog. I went up to the first stand I saw but they were sold out. Disappointed, I made my way down the block and found the next stand—sold out too. But across the street I finally found another stand that had them—for $5.50 apiece. It also had a long, barely moving line, so I had time to stand there and think. 
My first impression was that the price seemed too high—I could see people calling it a rip-off or gouging, and moving on. Although I don't know the corn dog’s bottom-line cost of the corn meal, weenie, frying oil, and wooden stick, I’d estimate that corn dogs cost around $1 to make—probably even less when bought in bulk. There's clearly a high markup. Maybe I could conclude I was being exploited. Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled to pay that much, but there I was standing in line. 

Read more:

the right to grow vegetables on your own land

For retired architect Hermine Ricketts, plotting out her prized vegetable garden — with its okra, kale, lettuce, onions and a dozen or more varieties of Asian cabbage — was a labor of love.
But Miami Shores village leaders, unhappy with Ricketts green thumb, ordered her and husband Tom Carroll to dig up the bounty they have been growing for the past 17 years in their front yard — or face fines of $50 a day. A front yard garden violates a zoning ordinance, village officials say.
The couple sued Tuesday, accusing Miami Shores of violating their rights under the Florida Constitution. Ricketts never had to visit the produce aisle of a supermarket for vegetables. Now she does.
“We are already feeling the impact of shopping for overpriced organic food,” she said Tuesday, standing near a plot where her eggplants used to grow.
The couple are not seeking money; they’re suing for $1. They just want to be able to restore their vegetable garden in their front yard.
Read more here: