Sunday, September 23, 2012

Labels for Education from Mirror Earth

Well, I gave 'em fair notice. I gave 'em a chance. It's been two weeks, and it hasn't been fixed. So it's time to point it out to the rest of the world.

Two weeks ago I spotted this Labels for Education flyer in the Sunday papers. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, it involves convincing people to buy specific brands of products and then saving selected portions of the packaging. Collect enough of these tokens (the program used to be called "Box Tops for Education," unless that's a competing program) and maybe the corporations in charge will see fit to present your underfunded school with some supplies. Does any other educational system in any other developed nation in the world have anything like this going on?

Anyway, I saw this and my eye was immediately drawn to a part of it. See, I love globes. Always have. I've always been fascinated by the shape of the world, and specifically by the three-dimensional representation of it. Maps are fine, but to really understand how the planet is laid out, you need a globe.  I wondered what part of the world the folks in their Marketing department chose to use in their art. So I took a close look at it...

...and noticed...


OK. I need to step back for a second here. I learned when I first floated this on Facebook that not everyone is as well-versed on basic geography as I would like. Which is a problem.

She tried to warn us.

If you don't get it immediately, I'll explain. That's the West coast of North and South America on the left, with the Pacific Ocean on the right. But it's flipped left-right. This is a mirror-image of the globe. This is not how the Earth is shaped!

Now, why would someone do that? After working for years in the DVD industry, I can hazard a guess: Someone in the Marketing department looked at a photo of the globe that was to be used on the Labels for Education promotional art and said "That would look better if that black thing were on the right instead of the left." So someone in the Graphic Arts department, someone whose job it is to do whatever Marketing tells them to do, obligingly flipped the image. And someone in Marketing saw it, wrote "APPROVED" and their initials on the proofs, and sent them to their manager, who rubber-stamped the project and sent it off to be distributed.

And so the mistake was made, and the art was sent out with the image of the globe reversed. Not just in one configuration or location, but over...

...and over...

From the Labels for Education Facebook page
...and over...

Later on the Facebook page
...and over...

From the Labels in Education official website

So, what's the harm? On one level, probably nothing. In case you haven't noticed, spelling doesn't count anymore. Details are dismissed by folks at all level as being, well, "details." (Back in my DVD Compression/Encoding/Authoring days I had a manager several levels above me dismiss concerns voiced by my department in the DVD as being about "details." I pointed out to him that details were what our department was all about - nine billion bits of data, one bit at a time.) Who other than me would notice a backwards globe as a design element in some promotional artwork?

But on another level it is very telling about the dedication to education, to getting it right, embodied by the Labels for Education program. And it doesn't speak well for them.

Maybe next time, they should hire Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 as a consultant.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Upcoming blogging events

If you've been paying attention to the sidebar of this blog, you already know about these events. But here's a reminder anyway!

Blog Fest is coming this Friday, September 21! Gort, Joe Valenti, and Dave Yonki originally envisioned this as a political event, more about politics than blogging. After a dip in turnout for the Spring 2011 Blog Fest while Gort was taking a break from blogging, NEPA Blogs co-administrator Michelle Hryvnak Davies took the initiative to run a publicity drive for the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 Blog Fests, bringing in large numbers of non-political bloggers. For the Fall 2012 Blog Fest Gort has expressed a desire to turn the focus back on politics, which seems reasonable given that this is a major election year. Nevertheless, all bloggers - political and non-political alike - are welcome to Blog Fest, which will be held at Rooney's at 67 South Main Street in Pittston on Friday, September 21 starting at 6:00. And any politician with half a lick of sense will know that politics is about getting your message out to everybody - which means they should be just as eager to talk to people who blog about fashion and photography as to those who blog about politics!

On Saturday, September 29, Luzerne County Community College will be playing host to the first-ever NEPA BlogCon! Michelle Hryvnak Davies is part of the "Fearsome Foursome" organizing this event. You can read more about it here. TODAY ONLY, Wednesday, September 19, you can get a ticket to this event for only $35 - a savings of over 46% form the regular price of $65!

Sometimes blogging can feel like an isolated activity. These events are your opportunity to meet and mingle with other bloggers from throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Energy in NEPA: Past, present, and future

On July 3, 1778, a militia made up mostly of men in their 40's and teenage boys, with a few experienced soldiers sprinkled in, took up arms to defend the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania (at the time known as the Wyoming Valley in Connecticut, for reasons which are as bizarre and confusing today as they were way back then) from encroaching Tory Rangers and their Iroquois allies. The militia's actions were guided more by bravery than by good sense, and what at first was a comedy of errors and a textbook example of  how not to conduct a military campaign soon turned into a rout, and then a massacre. Many of those who survived the initial battle did not survive the immediate aftermath, as men and boys were murdered at close range even as they were promised safety, and captured prisoners had their heads smashed in in an act of brutality that sickened the people of England when word reached them of what had come to be known as the Wyoming Massacre.

Today a friend and I walked the route of the Battle of Wyoming, from the initial point where the men and boys lined up to confront the skirmishers who would draw them into a trap, to the point where the broken line of inexperienced soldiers took a stand against the more highly skilled Rangers and their native allies, to the point where the Iroquois attacked the line's left flank from their position of concealment as it wheeled about inexpertly to face them, to the places where the fleeing members of the militia sought safety and escape - and, more often, found death.

This post isn't about that.

As we processed from the initial lining-up point in Wyoming (which is not where the Battle of Wyoming was fought - it was fought in Exeter; "Wyoming" is a more recent construct, named in honor of those who died in the battle,) our guide directed our attention to a utility cut that showed some of the terrain as it was 234 years ago, before fill was added to the river flats beyond the precipitous drop to the south to allow construction of houses even closer to the Susquehanna. And that was where a striking vista displayed itself.


It's a little hard to tell from this first photo, but this image encompasses much of this region's past, present, and future. First, the river flat, showing what  the terrain might have looked like in centuries past. While I always think of Pennsylvania - my part of it, anyway - as being "Penn's Woods" and much like the densely forested area seen beyond the transmission tower, reports from the time of the Battle of Wyoming describe the area as sparsely wooded with white and yellow pine and some oak "shrubs." Much of the land would have been cleared for agriculture, and there was very little in the way of underbrush.

The trees beyond the tower in the distance - some 850 or so feet from where I took this picture -  mark the shore of the Susquehanna, which was the goal of the fleeing survivors of the Battle of Wyoming, who hoped to make it downriver to the relative safety of Fort Wilkes-Barre and Forty Fort. (No one thought to have boats tied up on the riverbanks for use if needed.) Beyond those trees, the black hills are actually culm banks well beyond the opposite riverbank, nearly a mile from where I was standing. "Culm" is the rock waste product from anthracite mining, a mixture of slate and low-grade coal that cannot be refined further in an economical manner. So instead it is piled up in great hills that once covered much of the landscape of Northeastern Pennsylvania. The culm is separated from the coal in buildings called "coal breakers," like the gray boxy building in the middle left.

Beyond the culm bank, more than six miles from where I stood to take this photo, is a line of wind turbines along a ridge. They can be seen here behind and to the sides of the transmission tower.

Throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth century, coal from the Wyoming Valley supplied power to this nation and its industrial expansion. Anthracite coal burns hot and relatively cleanly, at least when compared to the more common bituminous coal found in West Virginia and elsewhere. Coal mining provided a source of income to many of the people of this area. But it also killed and sickened may of those same workers, through mining accidents and "black lung," the buildup of coal dust in the lungs that resulted in emphysema and, ultimately, death. As revenue from coal mines dwindled, with the Knox Mine Disaster being be final straw, the coal mining companies abandoned their operations and left the area - placing upon the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania the burden of dealing with the consequences of coal mining: the mine fires, the poisoned creeks and streams contaminated by flowing through old mines, the unpredictable collapses of old mines - where else other than Northeastern Pennsylvania are homeowners required to buy mine subsidence insurance, just in case a gaping hole should open on their property and consume some or all of their house?

The wind turbines are a more recent addition to the landscape. I noticed them suddenly back in 2006, though they may have been constructed months before I spotted them as I was coming home one afternoon. This group is just one of several constructed throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. They  are not without controversy; some have criticized them for causing bird deaths. Turbine operators are hardly blase about bird-turbine collisions, as such a thing can easily damage a turbine blade. Turbines have "off" switches and are frequently turned off for servicing; it would be no large matter to temporarily shut down the turbines during times when they  might interfere with migrating birds.

Two aspects of Northeastern Pennsylvania's energy picture are not seen here. Some feel that Pennsylvania is not an ideal location for solar energy generation. However, Pennsylvania receives about as much incident solar energy as Germany, the nation  that is a world leader in the generation of electricity from sunlight. By following the German model, Pennsylvania can easily become a successful solar electricity generator. And anyone who still doubts is directed to view the (literally) green solar energy collection and conversion systems throughout this image. Yes, that's right - trees.

One other piece of the energy picture remains. (Two, if you count nuclear, which I don't; we have a local nuclear power plant in Salem Township near Berwick, it's past its rated lifetime, it's under consideration for expansion, and it supplies its energy to New York and New Jersey.) That is the extraction of natural gas entombed in layers of shale using a process known as hydro-fracturing, or "fracking." It is neither a safe nor a carefully-executed process, according to an article in no less a publication than the Wall Street Journal. It has resulted in numerous documented cases of drinking-well contamination. The uncontrolled release of methane - a clean-burning fossil fuel that happens to be an extremely powerful greenhouse gas when released directly into the atmosphere - has been detected. Migrating (and sometimes spilled or even dumped) fracking chemicals have resulted in ground and water contamination, even road damage. Fracking consumes many millions of gallons of water, locking it underground in deep shale prisons and effectively removing it from the hydrosphere forever.And accidents caused by reckless "roughnecks" imported into the area from other states have resulted in at least one death.  Meanwhile, residents dealing every day with the consequences of coal mining in the area are not entirely convinced that gas-drilling companies can be trusted when they state that they will clean up after themselves.

Two hundred and thirty-four years ago some brave and foolish men and boys took upon themselves the task of defending their homes, their farms, what they thought of as their homeland, from invading marauders bent on its destruction. Today, many of us feel the same when it comes to energy development. We have options available to us that will increase our energy independence and decrease our need for fossil fuels. We also have an option available that will slip the yoke of fossil-fuel dependence upon our necks while at the same time resulting in immediate and long-term environmental consequences.  Which one will we choose?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Another blog: Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective

I've started still yet another new blog. This one is for my writing group, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective, also known as the NEPWC :

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective

A writer friend told me that the problem with some of the writing groups she's participated in is that they're too polite. Politeness doesn't help you grow as a writer. Our group is raucous and rude, sometimes to the point of scaring off prospective members. There are also more than a few ego conflicts at play, and a few other...issues. But there's a broad range of talents, perspectives, personal histories, and experience levels that come together in the group, and it's a valuable workshop for developing both stories and writing skills, and for being exposed to the works of others.

I'm using the blog in a lot of ways. We have a Facebook group, but as I've discussed before, the "closed cocktail party" nature of Facebook means that only Facebook users - specifically, Facebook users who are admitted into the group - can see the Facebook site. (As far as I know.) Any announcements or bits of information that get posted to the Facebook group, I'm reposting to the blog - and vice-versa. I'm also posting our weekly writing prompts. Plus I've got a bunch of other writing blogs linked on the sidebar, and I'm flagging any posts from there of special value. The blog will both serve as a sort of within-group announcements page for those members who do not have Facebook (there are several.) It will also serve as the public face of our group, until and unless we come up with another format for that. As an open writing group, this is the best way for potential members to find out about us.

I'm hoping to network this blog with the blogs or websites of other groups that operate out of or are tied to The Vintage (formerly the Vintage Theater), now at 326 Spruce Street in Scranton. And of course, the blog is listed on NEPA Blogs.

If you're looking for a writing group in Northeastern Pennsylvania, or are just interested in writing groups in general, be sure to check out the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective blog!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Other churches, other windows: Holy Trinity from another angle

After my weekly meeting with my writing group, one of the other members stopped me and told me she had just been discussing my Stained Glass Project with someone else the previous night. I haven't really updated this project in several years. I did a presentation about it earlier this year, and I've done a few posts referencing the project, but I'm still three or four windows away from completing the project.

A few hours later I found myself in church with a camera in my pocket. It wasn't my "home" church, formerly St. Mary's, now the Alternate Worship Site for the Parish of St. Faustina. No, this was at the former Holy Trinity, now the Primary Worship Site for the Parish of St. Faustina. I've taken pictures there before, but from another angle, and since I had some time to kill, I decided to snap a few photos before mass began.

My first shot was just a standard image taken without a flash, balancing the camera on the back of the pew in front of me for stability.

Immediately I saw that any photos like this would be over-exposed. So I had to take another approach, and snap away in Sports mode. The faster shutter speed would reduce detail, but would reduce the amount of light pouring onto the CCD - and also make it possible to take the photos freehand.

Here's another view of the same window, which was determined by an anonymous commenter on a previous post to be a depiction of St. Vincent de Paul.

I continued to take pictures right up until things were ready to begin.

A window depicting St. Stanislaus Kostka. Compare to this wimdow from St. Mary's.

A window depicting...I have no idea. Whatever it is has dead, dead eyes.


Here's an image of St. Peter seen in context. I've previously displayed a close-up photo of this window. Holy Trinity was originally intended to become a cathedral, can you tell? It's always been an overwhelmingly ornate and magnificent place, a stark contrast to the relative simplicity of the now-closed St. Stanislaus, which was the first Catholic church in Nanticoke. Trinity was the second, formed by parish members who left St. Stanislaus in a dispute. The entire church seems to be a statement about grandeur and opulence. Recent renovations have toned down this effect somewhat, in part by adopting a dimmer paint scheme.

Two views of the window immediately to my right, looking up.

I don't really have an emotional connection with this church. It wasn't a major part of my childhood, not like St. Mary's and St. Stan's, and I don't have many special memories from it. But other people do. Almost everybody has a camera these days. There is nothing to prevent someone for whom these windows have some special meaning from taking a camera - possibly a better camera than my 4 megapixel Nikon Coolpix L4 - and snapping photos of their own. This goes for every church, everywhere, and every other public and private space worth preserving.

What has meaning to you? What has special memories? Do you own a camera? If so, why aren't you capturing it now, before it passes into history?