Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
There are so many great blog posts and stories that have been published discussing the importance of Father's Day and sharing memories of this day - past and present - that I fear I can't come up with anything original that hasn't already been said. However, in thinking about the day thus far, there are little scenes and statements from my girls that taken collectively have amounted to a wonderful little day.
- Being awakened by MB at about 8:00 this morning with a very loud whisper in my ear, "Daddy! It's time for Happy Father's Day!"
- The excitement my oldest had as I opened her gift - not the gift that she had made in Sunday school class last week or the one that she had picked out with her sister and mother, but the pillowcase full of little plastic dinosaurs that she wanted me to see.
- E. running up to me every ten minutes with a new book that she had pulled out of somewhere in her room, excitedly saying, "Tory-time! Tory-time!"
- MB telling me as we went to pick up dinner tonight that she has decided that she doesn't want babies when she gets married. When I asked why, she said, "Because they hit you in the nose!" I reminded her that she and her sister had both done that, and she replied, "I know. I don't want them to do it to me!" (I didn't even ask her why she's considering marriage at age 5...)
- MB deciding that E. had done enough to decorate her card to me, and taking it upon herself to add her own bit of flair.
- E. determined to finish her dinner at the same time as her sister, and shoving nearly 1/4 of her quesadilla into her mouth while looking at me and giving a big, toothy grin.
I hope everyone's Father's Day has been full of such a collection of wonderful little moments as these - and that together they made for a great day for all of you.
Friday, June 12, 2009
If you haven’t had at least one of these phrases thrown at you – by television commentators, op-ed and editorial writers, or by someone with whom you’ve been having a conversation – during the past week, then you are one of the fortunate ones who must be isolated from the rest of civilization. (Side bar: If you are, please let me know how to get there so that my family and I can escape the insanity that resides inside the Beltway.) The cap-and-trade side of things has certainly been a big issue for my place of employment, and I can tell you that after having read all 900-plus pages of the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454 for all of you policy wonks out there), there’s some scary stuff on the horizon – and I hope folks take the time to educate themselves before it’s too late.
I finally caved and took some time today to use one of the multiple on-line tools to determine the level of environmental destruction that my family is thrusting upon the earth (or at least our little portion of Northern Virginia). The first one (http://www.carbonfootprint.com/) calculated, after I answered a series of questions on energy usage and recycling and shopping habits, that we are responsible for 6.44 tons of CO2 emissions per year. Based on the cool little “footprint” graph on the results page, that’s less than half of the national average and more than twice the world target.
Moving on, I tried a second calculator developed by the Nature Conservancy (http://www.nature.org/) and after answering very similar questions was told that we are responsible for 55 tons of emissions per year.
Say what? Well, which is it? My habits didn’t change between the first and second calculator (unless my wife burned down the George Washington National Forest during those four minutes), and yet the Conservancy holds us accountable for 49 more tons of emissions each year. This itself presents the first problem: how, if the government is going to try and restrict (sorry; “cap” – there you go, Chairman Waxman), will they calculate who is responsible for what? I can honestly say I don’t have much confidence at all in the scientific data that will be used o the methodology for gathering this information – particularly if an organization like the Nature Conservancy is going to blame me for nearly 400 percent more emissions than your average group.
Next, I was given the option of offsetting the natural disaster that my wife and kids and I have unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Yes, long before industry will be required to do so through auction, I can purchase my very own offset credits. Here are samples of what I can spend (just for my 6.44 tons; I didn’t bother looking for the 55 tons):
Certified Emission Reduction - fully verified by Kyoto/United Nations standards and used to support Clean Development Mechanism projects. Cost: $174.39
Clean Energy Portfolio – supports clean energy generation projects around the world. Cost: $90.20
Americas Portfolio – supports reforestation projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. Cost: $95.67
Reforestation in Kenya – supports “the planting of broad leaved trees in the Great Rift Valley” (sounds glamorous). Cost: $89.15 (for seven trees)
UK Tree Planting – does just what it says, although you get to pick the region of the UK that you’d like to reforest. Cost: $145.61 (for seven trees)
This brings up question two: who’s administering this money, and what guarantee is it that in our effort to mitigate our personal environmental destruction this money will actually even go to whom and what they claim it will? Here’s an interesting quote from Steve Milloy in Green Hell:
The CO2 offset marketplace is pretty shady. According to an August 2008 report by the General Accounting Office, carbon offsets have no uniform quality assurance mechanisms or standards of verification and monitoring. “Participants in the offset market face challenges ensuring credibility of offsets,” the GAO concluded. In other words, buyers have little idea whether the offsets they buy actually reduce CO2 emissions.Milloy continues, “Former Clinton administration official Joseph Romm bluntly summed up the situation, writing that ‘the vast majority of offsets are, at some level, just rip-offsets.’”
So to review: we need to adjust our carbon footprint, but no one can accurately calculate our footprint; we need to buy personal offsets to mitigate our footprint, but no one can assure us the money is going to where it is intended – or how much of it is actually going anywhere other than the pockets of those administering the program.
Are the sorts of changes we would need to make even feasible? Milloy says, “Based on my carbon footprint profile, to meet this goal I’d have to driving, flying, using electricity, and heating and cooling my home.” All cases may not be as extreme, but how much will you have to scale back your life and habits to compensate?
Moreover, are you willing to do it?
Saturday, June 06, 2009
The service was very good and alternated between joyous and solemn. Officially, it is know as the Kabbalat Shabbat, the service which is the time of welcoming the Sabbath. There was magnificent music, a great deal of participation from the congregation, and a point where every child in the room - and some of the adults - joined hands and danced their way among the aisles and past the ark (which A. and I thought MB would have absolutely loved had she been there). There was a pretty even mix between sung and spoken prayers, and thankfully - in addition to translations of each in English - there were spelled out pronunciations of the Hebrew so that we could try (as best we could) to sing and speak along with them.
Two of my favorites were one of the opening songs and the one sung at the end of the service, the words of which (in order) were:
Hallelu...Kok han'shama, t'haleil yah, halelu, haleluya! (Loosely translated, this means, "The breath of every living thing praises God," and comes from Psalm 150.)
Mi shebeirach imoteinu, m'kor hab'racha l'avoteinu. Bless those in need of healing with r'fua sh'leima, the renewal of body, the renewal of spirit and let us say: Amen.
One of the latter parts of the service was the very moving saying of the Kaddish in memory of all those who have died, whether it be in recent weeks or within the past year. The rabbi asks that everyone sit silently as the names of those individuals are read out loud, and as each name is read the family members of those men and women stand in silence. Others in the congregation are then given the opportunity to stand and offer the names of loved ones who have died. At the end, the entire congregation joins in a show of support for all of these family members by saying the prayer (the text of which I don't have in front of me, but an example of which can be heard here). I've often read of people saying the Kaddish for their loved ones, but it's very powerful to actually hear it being done.
The service ended and we were invited to join them at their reception before heading home. We didn't stay long, just enough time to thank the rabbi once again for allowing us to attend and to talk to our host a bit more (who was very kind and said we were welcome to visit at any time). I had hoped to have an opportunity to talk with one gentleman in particular, the Temple's founding rabbi and a survivor of Auschwitz, but it never worked out (I certainly hope to have a chance to do so in the future).
Much is made of the fact that the world's three great religions - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam - are all descended from Abraham. To truly understand the root of your faith, no matter which denomination or religion it may be, it would be well worth your time to try and make a visit similar to that A. and I made to Temple Rodef Shalom; you'll be moved, you'll be inspired, and you'll get a glimpse of what lies at the very heart of where we are today.