Sunday, March 18, 2007

Navel Gazing Upon Command

This is a special assignment for the Virginia Blog Carnival this week. Like most special assignments I've been hesitant to begin, so now I find myself staring at a deadline looming just a few hours away. I'm just wired that way. I'm more the spontaneous type.

Eileen, who has somehow become affectionately known as "Demzilla", has decreed that the theme for this Carnival will be "Why I blog". Well, I'm not really sure. Why do I smoke? Why do I drink a bit? Why does the fat man next door mow his lawn wearing only a speedo and flip-flops? It's just what we do and who we are, I suppose.

Someone once said that writing is easy. You just sit at the keyboard and sweat blood until the page is full. I have always dabbled in writing. Not very well, but at least I enjoyed it, whether anyone else reading it did or not. My profession requires that I write a lot. But that is technical writing and it's not much fun. Not fun to write. Certainly not fun to read. After I write a program designed to control some machine or group of machines I get the pleasure of writing an instructional manual or article describing the sequence of operation. Yeah, it's exciting prose alright.

I first became aware of blogs sometime in 2001 I guess. The first blog I ever read is not a typical blog, but it fits the definition of a blog, I suppose. The Wall Street Journal's Best of The Web Today by James Taranto.

I remember the days before the internet. It seemed each time I turned to a dictionary to look up a word I would get sidetracked. Some other word would catch my attention, and its definition would send me off looking for yet another word. That would, more often than not, spawn another such search. I often forgot what the original subject was that started the dictionary journey. Google does the same thing to me today. During a Google search for some long forgotten item I stumbled across John Behan's Commonwealth Conservative. That led me to Bacon's Rebellion where I re-discovered Barnie Day.

My daily routine included reading those three eminently readable writers, Mr. Taranto, Mr. Behan, and Mr. Day. I soon added a few others to my daily reading list, Norman Leahy, Will Vehrs, and Jerry Fuhrman for example.

One day while I was living in my mother's basement feeling somewhat creative I decided that what my life needed was a blog. Yep, I would become famous. I could finally emulate Earnest Hemingway in an entirely different way.

I don't write for the praise of my fellow writers, nor do I obsess over "hits" and statistics. I do enjoy seeing where my readers come from though. I often wonder about that one from Martinsville who shows up every day, always from a Yahoo search on "I'm Not Emeril". I wonder about the guy (girl?) in Fort Dodge Kansas who drops in every day or so. Whoever you are in Salinas California that comes by daily, what in the world do I offer that keeps you coming back? I wonder that about all my readers. Just what it is that grabs their attention and draws them back. I suspect for many it's like that nasty wreck on the other side of the interstate. You don't want to look. You try not to look. But you know the pain and suffering simply requires that you look.

I suppose now would be a good time to explain this blog's name. I'm Not Emeril. Many people have asked me why. Why name the blog "I'm Not Emeril"? "Is it because you're a bad cook?", they ask. In a word, no. between my second and third marriage (ahhh, don't even ask. I love women, what can I say), I was single for 14 years. I long ago graduated from Stouffer's macaroni and cheese and Denny's Grand Slam breakfasts and learned to cook for myself. I'm actually quite good at it too, preferring Mexican and Italian style cuisine. I just don't consider myself a chef. I cook more in the style of the Food Network's Anti-Emeril. The one who shares my first name. The science and chemistry of cooking fascinates me, as it does Mr. Brown. My original plan for this blog was to actually feature a favorite recipe once a week, but as I said in the opening paragraph, I don't generally follow directives very well. Not even my own. OK, how about it. Does anyone want a "recipe of the week" feature? I've got several shoeboxes, a complete bookcase, and a hard drive full of them. Many are my own creations. I was once able to satisfy the palates of two very picky stepchildren every day with healthy, tasty meals. I still could, but their mother (that would be my third ex-wife) would frown on it now. Ask for it and you'll get it. A recipe of the week. Just don't command me to do it. And don't expect me to adhere to a rigid schedule of one a week.

I am not a post-a-day kind of blogger. Hell, sometimes I'm not even a post-a-week kind of blogger. I write what I want to, whenever the spirit moves me. I do appreciate those that do post daily though. You guys give me something to read each morning while the caffeine is steeping through the fog in my head.

I'm adding this paragraph at 9:30pm. But that's not unusual for a serious post of mine. I tend to go ahead and publish as soon as I finish writing a piece. Then I read it online and see something that needs to be "tweaked" just a bit. I did. I've now tweaked a place or two. Come back in an hour and you may find something else has been tweaked. Is there a "higher cosmic meaning" in that? Who knows? It's just the way I do stuff. Somebody who majored in psychology may be able to enlighten me. Please feel free to psychoanalyze me in the comments below.

While I don't covet the approval of other bloggers, I do enjoy the social aspects of blogging. The Blogs United Conference was a huge success in that respect. I met some great people, from both sides of the political spectrum, and will always remember those three days in August.

It occurred to me some time ago that I may come across on here as being angry. Or at least curmudgeonly. Do I? I'm not really like that. I'm a lovable guy, really. Believe me. It's true damn it!

Eileen's request included an inquiry about what we consider to be our best article. Now that's a tough one, but since Demzilla has decreed it, she must be obeyed. I'll append my favorite to the end of this Carnival submission.

Titled Football In ANWR this article combines my technical side and my political writing personality;

Recently efforts to extract known oil reserves in Alaska's Arctic coastal plain were defeated once again. The coastal plain area of ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) is shown in green on the drawing to the right. If you open the image to full size you will see in red the area the Senate wants to open to drilling. The entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19.5 million acres. That makes it roughly the size of the State of South Carolina. The Coastal Plain (green) covers 1.5 million acres. The barely discernible red square represents the 2,000 acres proposed for drilling. I would like to credit the source of this image, but frankly, I've had it on my hard drive for some time and do not remember were I obtained it.

I've been trying to get this representation of size down to something more conceivable. Luckily, I have AutoCAD and I ain't afraid to use it. AutoCAD is a software application designed for drawing to exact scale. The greatest attribute of the program is that it allows you to draw in full scale, then when you are ready to print your drawing, you specify the size of the sheet being used and the finished drawing is correctly scaled to fit the sheet. In other words, if the device I am designing is to be 20 feet long, I can draw a line 20 feet long on the screen and then zoom in or out to see the entire line.

For example, in this screen capture I drew a football field. In AutoCAD (and in the real world) the distance from endzone to endzone is 300 feet. The dimensions are all perfectly scaled when the drawing will be printed, regardless of the size of the paper I decide to use.

I drew this football field in order to bring the ratios discussed in the first paragraph into a context more relevant to those of us who do not use acres as a daily measurement, not to mention acres in the millions. I assume nearly all of my readers have seen a football field and can conceptualize it's size.

The hashmarks between the full yardlines are each 24" long and 2" wide. Roughly two whole Subway sandwiches laid end to end. Consider the entire field, including both endzones represents Alaska's Coastal Plain that lies within the ANWR (the green part above). All four of the hashmarks between the 45 yard line and the 50 yard line would then represent an area equal to the area proposed for drilling. Eight Subway sandwiches lying on a football field represents the small area of the coastal plain proposed for drilling.

Next, I wanted to show the proposed drilling area in relation to the entire 19.5 million acres of ANWR. If you were to download this image you would see a small dot within the zero of the numeral 30 on the opposing team's side of the field. That "dot" does not represent the correct ratio of ANWR to drilling site, assuming the entire field represents all of ANWR. No, that "dot" was something I had to draw there in order for you to see that something was in fact drawn inside the opposing team's 6 foot high "30".

I drew the United States Quarter coin, again in exact scale, that the referee dropped after using it for the game opening coin toss. That Tic Tac just above George Washington's head represents the size of the drilling area in relation to all of ANWR.

If the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were the size of a football field, the area being proposed for drilling would be much smaller than a Tic Tac breath mint. Estimates of the oil reserves that can be extracted from this Tic Tac range between 10 and 20 years at current consumption.

With the power of AutoCAD at my disposal, I could continue and extrapolate a drawing that represents the drilling area in relation to the entire State of Alaska and even to the area of all 50 states combined. But if I did this experiment with just the State of Alaska the resultant drawing would end up being so small as to have no relevance to the real world in the opposite direction.


Jim Hoeft said...

That was a fantastic post. What a treat to read. Thank you for it.

Would enjoy the occassional recipe posted.

Leslie Carbone said...

Thanks for the background and especially for explaining the name. I always wondered.