Sunday, December 4, 2016

FORDSON TRACTOR

      A hundred years ago, in 1917, Americas was engaged  in  World War I, the “War to end all wars,” 
While fighting was going on overseas, industriy and transportation advancements within  the nation were manifold. led by giants like inventor, engineer and automobile executive Henry Ford, who was busy making the famous Model-T. Upon observing that the Model-T was often adapted to farm chores, Henry Ford decided to produce a dedicated farm tractor, in a move some characterized as “emancipation of the plow horse.”  His success was shortly followed by competitors Case, Allis Chalmers, John Deere, Massey Harris and International Harvester.
The fascinating history of the Fordson tractor is in full display on Wikipedia and need not be covered here.
I have a personal aquaintance with the Fordson, as my father purchased one at the going price of $325 in the early 1920’s. It was little used at first except to cut cordwood into smaller pieces with a  circular saw that was attached to the front end. My father was not about to part with his fine team of horses. 
The Fordson became our sole power source as the horses aged. It was a fearsome machine, hard to start, hard to steer, hard to shift. It had no brakes but relied on its worm gear drive to stop when the clutch was depressed. I spent may hours of my early years on the iron seat, wrestling with the steering wheel.
The tractor was responsible for hundreds of deaths due  to its tendency to upend itself and fall on its back, killing the driver. That could occur, for instance, when a plow would strike  an immovable obstacle, like a root or a rock. Decades later, Ferguson, a Fordson manufacturer in the UK, developed a three-point hitch that solved the problem and is now standard on all tractors. I encountered the problem in two separate instances, but  was nimble enough to kill the throttle and jump free.  

The Fordson tractor was hot, odiferous, noisy and dangerous. I cannot say how happy I was when the implement dealer arrived in the farmyard with a shiny new Farmall Tractor, made by International Harvester, equipped with brakes, a muffler and a self starter. Thereupon the Fordson was parked in the rear of the implement shed, where it slouched for years, gathering cobwebs and dust. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

EBONY

 
Think music.
Think keyboards.
Think Mozart, Pete Johnson,
nimble fingers on satin smooth keys,
sounds of Cesar Franck roaring
through open church doors.

Think ornaments
in the dark sarcophagus
of an Egyptian princess,
black bangles on bronze arms
of Bantu women.

Think carvings of black idols,
pachyderms and primates,
warm to the touch
from sucking up the sun.

Think Kachin jungle,
where nocturnal tigers prowl,
where black hearts leap
at the thought of you.


- E. Hujsak

Friday, December 2, 2016

PROMISES TO KEEP

      The small segment of the work force that constitutes the coal industry, which includes miners, coal processors, coal transportation and coal burning power plant operators, estimated to be upwards of 166,000 people, together with the service industries that support them. as well as sympathizers with the coal industry, and investors, are in for a big disappointment.
         Donald Trump cannot come through on his promise to restore the coal industry. A combination of economics and the imperative for global warming abatement spell the end of the industry. Natural gas power plants are replacing coal fired plants as the latter are rapidly being retired. Most coal fired plants were built before 1980 and are approaching end of life, an average of 58 years. Of 66 proposed coal fired power plants proposed in the 2002-2015 time period, 43 were cancelled. Ninety-four plants were shut down in 2015 and forty-one were scheduled for closure in 2016.
Driving forces for conversion to natural gas are reduced construction and operating cost, low cost of natural gas, 25% better thermodynamic efficiency than coal, reduced carbon emissions and near elimination of toxic emissions. Moreover there is now a general awareness that natural gas is available in prodigious amounts, stored in underground fissures and dissolved in hot brine deposits around the globe. An additional factor is  the lowered cost of renewable energy sources. For example, wind energy is getting competitive with building new coal fired plants. Whatever the benefits are of “clean coal,” added cost would rule that out, unless the government engages in massive subsidies to the industry,
All this means means curtains for the coal industry and disappointment and distress for workers who believed a man with a reputation as a con man and arguably provided the critical votes that squeaked him into the White House. The consequences could get severe when jobless workers are left twisting in the wind, forced to face the problem of feeding and sheltering their families. One thing is for sure: not many coal miners will be retrained to operate computers.
       Unemployment insurance doesn’t last long. Beyond that, there are few options for coal industry blue collar workers. Perhaps, as some believe, with the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution we are approaching an era when people are provided with a living stipend, eliminating the specter of possible joblessness.

Friday, November 25, 2016

ALLIGATORS IN THE SWAMP

Author's Note. Trill is a fictional female acquaintance who makes it possible to write in a style that is comfortable for me.

My Dear Trill,

Like you, Trill, I am both dismayed and amazed. Americans have chosen a litigious, scorched Earth businessman to run the country, along with his businesses, with his kids assisting. How this will all play out one can only imagine. The last time a businessman held the office was in the administration of Herbert Hoover, and we all know what occurred then. But hang on to your hat and hope for the best. There may be a rough ride ahead.




Friday, November 18, 2016

DEAR SENATOR

Author's note:  Letter sent to Senators Sanders, Warren, and Feinstein.

Dear Senator:

I want to tell you of my concern regarding Congressman Ryan's  plan to gut Medicare and replace it with what he calls a Voucher System. In other words, telling the elderly population: "Here's some money. Now go find yourself a medical plan in the private sector," at once  ballooning costs because Medicare doesn't  bear the expenses of overhead, advertising, profit and excessive executive salaries common to private insurance companies.
While this may not be a difficult thing to do for those just entering eligibility for Medicare, it creates an enormous problem for the huge population of seniors who are living in care homes, retirement homes, etc., who need to rely on others to make judgments of this sort for them. Ryan's plan opens the door to rampant fraud, ranging from the emergence of countless "entrepreneurs" that are bound to spring up to "assist" elders, to the managers of care facilities who find themselves channels for a new source of Federal money that are too good to ignore.
The Ryan idea is riddled with opportunities for fraud. Not that the existing system is free of it.
A better plan would be Medicare for all. It could be styled so people would be entitled to a partial refund if they took care of their health and didn't use Medicare. That way everyone wins. The nation gets healthier.

Sincerely,

Edward Hujsak


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TRUMP AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Author’s note: Trill is a fictional female acquaintance who makes it possible to write in a style that is easy for me. 

My Dear Trill,

      Discouraging, isn’t it, global warming and the Sixth Extinction are upon us, some say already at an irreversible stage and we have placed a climate change denier, someone who says climate change is a hoax perpetraterd by the Chinese, in the White House; someone who promises to restore and elevate the coal industry.
This will likely occur without his assistance, as the EPA (an agency that the future president  promises to abolish, but probably will meet resistance) has recently instituted a program to accelerate the number of charge stations in the country, thus easing a problem  for an ever growing number  of electric cars, which it recommends. This of course will increase the demand on the grid, causing energy suppliers to build more power plants. which will probably be coal burning because they are cheap to build. 
So you see, Trill, electric cars will turn out to be largely coal burners. Moreover, they will hasten global warming because the overall thermodynamic efficiency of an electric car is much lower than the gasoline powered cars being produced today, when its batteries are charged from power plants that burn fossil fuels. 
Admittedly, in some cases they make sense, for example where power is provided  from hydro, geothermal,wind, solar, and arguably nuclear. But all those put together provide only a third of the U.S. power generated.
      I sincerely doubt that in the next four years much will happen to abate climate change. The United States and China are the world’s biggest coal consumers for power generation and China has not stopped building more power plants, Japan is accelerating the building of new plants and the United States is expanding existing capability and has new plants under construction or in planning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

THE ELECTION



Author’s note: Trill is a fictional female acquaintance who makes it possible to write in a style that is easy for me. 

My Dear Trill,

       Such an outburst! I never expected to find you so emotional about the election. You need to relax a little. Hopefully, there are many  presidential elections ahead. Getting too wrapped up in any of them risks losing your charm.
I’m not surprised at all that the upcoming election has you thoroughly confused, facing a choice  between a narcissistic, egocentric, sexual predator  and a woman of considerable experience but  having a history of using her husband’s presidency, together with her husband, to acquire substantial personal wealth.
        Hillary Clinton will probably win the election, possibly by a wide margin. There is one reason I believe she will make a decent president. It will be upon her to validate the idea of a woman president. If she fails, the future will be bleak indeed for the success of another woman having a run at the office. She knows this, because above anything else, this will be her legacy.
Here’s the way I see it. Donald Trump would lead  the country into danger. How else can you interpret his question: “We have nuclear bombs. Why don’t we use them?” As a strong nation, it is commonly believed that the office of the presidency is also the office of the leader of the world. Donald  knows little of politics and has demonstrated nothing regarding relationships with foreign countries and their populations.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has a thorough knowledge by virtue of her tenure as Secretary of State. She will have better support in Congress than Obama did. Senator Sanders. Senator Warren, and Senator Feingold  (if he gets elected) will be a strong supportive force for a progressive agenda.