Solving the Wild Peeing Problem

It’s been a problem as long as guys have been drinking beer. There’s not always a nearby place to relieve one’s self. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Fewer public rest rooms are open. Many businesses although open, have closed their facilities, even to customers.

Public urination causes problems and not just of decorum. Urine has a corrosive effect on buildings and other structures. (In my urban neighborhood, it’s mostly dogs leaving their stains and aroma on building corners, pillars and posts.) In the city of Amsterdam, fifteen people a year fall in and drown when pissing into canals. But the city is doing something about what they call the “wild peeing.”

A Dutch company is marketing “GreenPee,” a stand-alone urinal that requires no plumbing or sewer connection. GreenPee is a planter with vegetation growing out if it. On the side is an opening with a target zone for a person to aim at. Inside the planter is hemp which captures the urine. Amsterdam says that since they began installing GreenPee planters in 2018, wild peeing has been reduced by half. (They have also installed a few retractable urinals for women.) The hemp-urine mixture is composted and becomes a phosphate-rich organic fertilizer.

The GreenPee has a reservoir to collect rainwater for the greenery at the top of the unit. The planters also attract bees and other insects that are necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

GreenPee not only gives people something to aim at, but also converts that urine into something useful. A few of these could be helpful in our cities’ tent encampments.

Heating the Planet with Cooling

Good news about the COVID-19 pandemic: it will kill fewer people than will die as a result of the changing climate.

Scientists are sounding alarms that the planet is heating up much faster than predicted. Our environment is changing more quickly than plant and animal species can adapt. The coronavirus affects mostly humans, but a warming planet affects all life.

Fortunately for first-world humans and their pets, air conditioning will protect them from an overheated earth. Or will it?

(Richard M. Nixon liked to have wood crackling in his fireplace. When the room became uncomfortably warm, he cranked up the air conditioning.)

More than 3.6 billion refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioning units are in use around the world, keeping our bodies comfortably cool, our food and beer cold and our pizzas frozen. In days of extreme heat, air conditioning keeps the most vulnerable of us alive. Those that don’t have AC want it and many will get it. Air-conditioning use increases at the rate of ten percent a year.

The problem is that all this cooling contributes to heating up our atmosphere. Cooling units use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), the replacement for hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which the Environmental Protection Agency banned in 2010. (Who knows, the current E.P.A. may bring them back.) HFC is not as bad as HCFC, but it’s still a greenhouse gas being diffused into the atmosphere.

Cooling equipment uses electricity, a lot of it, and not very efficiently. Most equipment sold today is only one-half to one-third as efficient as what is available today. And as we know, most methods of electricity production releases greenhouse gases. Clean coal, anyone?

As with most everything, there are no simple solutions.

Another Reason to Not Like Mark Zuckerberg

In its race for world domination, Facebook tried to get ahead of Google, Amazon and Apple by connecting Asia and North America with an undersea fiber-optic cable. The high-speed cable was to emerge from the Pacific Ocean at Tierra del Mar.

Tierra del Mar is a community of about two-hundred homes on the Oregon Coast, about twenty miles south of Tillamook. Homeowners opposed the project from the beginning, saying it would change the area’s character and lead to more non-residential projects.

The cable would connect Facebook’s large server installation in Prineville, a small town in Central Oregon with Japan and the Philippines. Locals were not pleased to see the contractor (a Facebook subsidiary) strip trees, grass and other vegetation from a large lot adjacent to homes and replace it with gravel and concrete and heavy equipment for the project’s staging area.

But now folks are really angry. The project, drilling under the beach and seabed to bring the cable to its landing site onshore, was supposed to take a few weeks. Oops, a drill pipe snapped under the seabed and Facebook closed down the operation. Eleven-hundred feet of pipe, sixty-five-hundred gallons of drilling fluid, drills and other equipment have been abandoned under the seabed.

Facebook waited seven weeks to tell anyone about it. They told the neighbors not to worry, because they did an “environmental assessment” and leaving all that stuff fifty feet below the sea floor is not a problem. Besides, they say they might begin work again sometime next year, maybe January.

What could go wrong?

Seagulls in the Pandemic

Major League Baseball teams are playing sixty-game schedules for the 2020 season. Games are played in empty ball parks, no spectators in attendance.

The San Francisco Giants, and many other teams, are filling the ball park seats with life-size photograph cutouts. For $99, a Giants fan can have a photo representation of her or his self occupying a seat in the grandstand. A purchaser has the option of requesting a seat near a famous Giant (Willie Mays or Willie McCovey, anyone?) or other Bay Area celebrity (Jerry Rice or Jerry Garcia, for examples).

Every other year, fans attending San Francisco Giants night games at PacBell SBC AT&T Oracle Park could always count on the late-inning arrival of hungry seagulls swooping around just above the ball field, anxious for the crowd to leave so they could attack the left-behind food detritus.

No more. The gulls quickly realized no fans means no food and that presumedly are looking elsewhere for gourmet gull food. With no live people or birds, Giants management has done the only sensible thing. High up in the bleachers are cutouts of seagulls. No word on how the birds paid their $99, though.

So far, the Giants appear to be in little danger of playing more than sixty games. Sixteen teams will be in the post-season playoffs; not likely, the Giants will be one of those sixteen.

Auction News

During this time of COVID-19 we’re hesitant to jump on an airplane where social distancing is not possible or be sequestered for days on a cruise ship with a few thousand other people. Now comes an opportunity to travel with family and friends while maintaining proper social distancing.

The Evergreen State, a three-hundred-foot long passenger-and-car ferry may soon be for sale. Built in 1954 and rebuilt in 1988, the vessel carried eighty-seven cars and eight-hundred-fifty passengers as part of the Washington State Ferry System’s fleet. The ferry system decommissioned it in 2017. A purported businessman in Florida purchased it at auction for $300,000.

The new owner had several declared possible plans for the ferry, but ended up selling it on eBay for $205,100. The deal fell through when the seller could not provide the buyer with documentation—including proof of ownership .

The Evergreen State has been docked at the Port of Olympia all this time, to whom the owner has not been paying rent. The Port, owed back rent of $32,000, has declared it abandoned property and is preparing to put it up for auction.

You likely have seen DUCK amphibious vehicles lumbering around Seattle or other cities, carrying cheering passengers. The twenty-five-passenger jitneys are converted military transport vehicles from the Second World War era. (“Duck” comes from army nomenclature: DUKW.) Duck sightseeing tours travel on roads and water and are popular tourist attractions wherever they operate except, until recently, Seattle.

A Ride the Ducks vehicle crashed into a bus on Seattle’s busy Aurora Avenue Bridge—Highway 99—in 2015. Five people died, more than sixty injured. In 2019, a jury awarded a total of $123 million to the victims. The Seattle Ride the Ducks could not recover and has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation.
The remaining nineteen ducks will soon be available by auction. You will definitely attract attention cruising along in your duck.

You are many eons late for your very own pet dinosaur. Not to worry, though. An auction house in Vancouver, British Columbia is readying for sale a menagerie of animatronic prehistoric animals. Lifelike in appearance but filled with gears and electric motors, the beasts can be controlled by a human operator. Many have motion sensors and spring to action when someone gets too close. Imagine the fun you could have with trick-or-treaters.

A small apatosaurus can be yours for a couple-hundred bucks. A brontosaurus will cost you a few thousand. The auction house has not disclosed the source, but speculation is they’re from a bankrupt manufacturer or touring exhibition operator. The auction company says they have had inquiries from a liquor store and other retail businesses, zoos, restaurants, and private individuals who want to entertain their neighbors or grandkids.

Elk Lives Matter

These are hard times for monuments. Confederate statues have been coming down. Renaming places and institutions identified with racists and traitors has become a blazing controversy. The current occupant of the White House is, as one would expect, opposed to relabeling military installations that bear names of persons who took up arms against the United States.

Oregon Pioneer

Christopher Columbus has been a target for years. Revisionist history depicts him not as an heroic discoverer of America but as a brutal imperialist who initiated the near extinction of indigenous populations.

Pioneer Mother

The current-day attacks on monuments to imperialists and racists include the Pioneer statues at the University of Oregon. The Pioneer was pulled off its pedestal and dragged to the entrance of the U of O administration building. The companion Pioneer Mother statue, seated in repose at a serene corner of the campus, was also pulled down.

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