Thursday, June 26, 2014

Recycle Electronics and Toxics This Saturday, June 28

This Saturday is the last county electronics recycling day until September, which means it's time to fire up the 94' Ranger pickup and head on out with another load of outdated TVs, printers, and other funky items that by law are not supposed to go to the landfill. For a complete list of what they accept, click here.

Hours are 8-2, the line moves pretty quickly. If you can't go, my contact info is on the right of this screen in a pop-out tab entitled "About me". I'll have some room in my truck. Or, if you have an old TV, call Best Buy and chances are they'll say you can drop it off there, at no charge.

Dropoff for this Saturday is the usual spot, out past Quaker Bridge Mall. The address is:

Fire Service Training Center
350 Lawrence Station Rd
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

Friday, June 20, 2014

One Table Cafe Hosts OnStage Performance

Though the OnStage performance tonight is sold out, I'm posting this for the record, and also in case readers don't know about One Table Cafe, the special community restaurant that serves seven dinners a year for a good cause. 

OnStage, a Princeton-based theater ensemble of seniors (ages 55 and older), will perform original monologues and scenes from their current production, Live With That, at Trinity Church’s One Table CafĂ©. (That's me in the middle of the back row.)

One Table Cafe is a community-supported restaurant where all are welcome. Meals are offered on a "pay what you can" basis. All proceeds are donated to organizations working to reduce hunger. One Table Cafe takes place the third Friday of most months. Reservations are required by calling (609) 924-2277 ext. 352.

Drawn from interviews with area residents, Live With That examines decisions that have shaped and re-shaped lives, including personally momentous events beginning at colleg-age and continuing through late adulthood. Now in its sixth year, OnStage is directed by Adam Immerwahr, associate director at McCarter Theater Center and resident director at Passage Theatre in Trenton. To learn more, visit and

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Worst Intersection in Princeton

Is there a worst intersection in Princeton? My vote is where Vandeventer Avenue and Washington Road converge at Nassau Street. It pits impatient northbound Washington Rd. drivers, wishing to turn left, against rightful but tentative southbound Vandeventer drivers. Because the Vandeventerians are in deep shade and downhill, they find themselves at a physical and psychological disadvantage, even though they have the right of way. The Washingtonians, in contrast, are emboldened by their elevated, sunlit position, and tend to continue cutting in front of the hapless Vandeventerians, completely disregarding the rules of the road.

Vandeventerians thus find themselves with a green light, yet remain trapped unless they aggressively assert their rights and enter the intersection against the left-turning Washingtonian tide. For years I've seen tempers flare at what seems like hard-wired audacious disregard, and yet nothing has been done.

Now, shall we punish the malefactors? Or shall we change the environment that is tilting good people towards bad behavior? The topographical mismatch could be alleviated by changing the traffic signal for northbound Washington Rd. Currently, the northbound Washingtonians, having crept laboriously up from Carnegie Lake and through campus, are rewarded with a green arrow to turn on to Nassau Street. Well deserved.

Then, the arrow turns yellow. Still good.

But then, the yellow disappears. Though intended to mean that left-turners must now yield to oncoming traffic, the disappearance of the yellow actually sends the message that less caution is now required, not more. Drivers continue to turn left, failing to yield to oncoming traffic.

What's needed is to follow the yellow arrow with a blinking yellow arrow, thus maintaining a yellow presence in the eyes of Washingtonian left turners, and to remind them that there might be oncoming traffic emerging from the shadows of Vandeventer Avenue.

My guess is that Nassau Street, being state-owned, will require any change in traffic lights to creep through a labyrinthine bureaucracy, yielding at every turn to apathy, fear, and indifference, until it becomes trapped indefinitely in some deeply shaded alley of state government, never to be seen again. The reputation of Princeton's worst intersection appears secure.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

More on Prius as Backup Generator for Homes

After a meeting of Citizens' Climate Lobby's Princeton chapter, Gaylord showed me the inverter he bought that allows him to use his Prius as a generator during power outages. It may not be officially condoned by the Toyota dealership, but he says it has kept his house going through a number of storms in recent years. As the frig, furnace, etc. draw down the battery power in the Prius, the engine automatically starts up to replenish the batteries. The inverter, with a capacity of around 1500-2000 watts, switches the car's DC current to the house's AC current. The frig uses one or two hundred watts, depending on the vintage. A furnace may use 750 watts for the initial ignition, then about 400 watts to run the fan. Definitely don't want to try running the electric dryer (3500 watts).

The inverter can be bought online, but Gaylord bought his at Harbor Freight in Trenton. A cord to connect the inverter to the Prius battery can be bought at a local auto parts store. These two items add up to less than $200--far cheaper than buying a stand-alone generator that will be rarely used and may prove less than dependable. You'll likely need a switch installed on the furnace so you can plug it into an extension cord running from the inverter. (At our house, we've always used a wood stove for backup heat (and often primary heat as well), but this sort of inverter would be handy for the refrigerator and other appliances.)

Another approach to energy backup for the home, for those who have a lot more spare change, is the Joule Box. It's an invention of Mike Strizke, best known for  The Hopewell Project, a hydrogen powered home not far from Princeton.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Free Stone Soup Circus Performances This Weekend

Following up on a highly entertaining production of British "panto" this past February, Princeton's own Stone Soup Circus will perform outdoors this weekend at Pettoranello Gardens. The performances are dedicated to the memory of Liz Erickson. Here's the announcement:
"On June 14th and 15th at 6pm there will be a free, public performance of Circus Neverland by Stone Soup Circus and The Circus Place. Liz Erickson was engaged with our community circus from early on, as a parent, cheerleader and even performer. Over the years she has brought many friends into our ring. This year, Liz kindly provided a budget to allow a group of young leaders to take over production of the show. The producers are dedicating the performance to Liz' memory. 
Circus Neverland is an original creation involving both youth and adults as performers. Our third annual show will take place in Pettoranello Gardens, Mountain Avenue, Princeton. Seating from 5:45pm, show at 6pm. The show will last about 75 minutes. All are welcome."
My guess is that you'll want to either get there early or park near the Community Park fields and then walk over to the Community Park North side of 206. Or, of course, ride a bike.

Princeton Festival Full of Promise

Having grown up listening to a recording of Leontine Price and William Warfield singing Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, I had the June 5 Princeton Festival's preview of their upcoming production circled on my calendar. The program announcement on the Princeton Public Library's website sounded straightforward enough: 

"Principal singers present scenes from the opera that is the centerpiece of The Princeton Festival’s tenth season. Artistic director Richard Tang Yuk and stage director Steven LaCosse will discuss the production and answer questions from the audience." 

The description by the directors of all that goes in to this ambitious production was breathtaking. Over the past year and a half, they traveled across the country auditioning singers, dealt with countless details of acquiring the performance rights from the Gershwin family, casting, rehearsal scheduling, on and on. More than half of the cost of the festival is paid by the Festival's generous donors. 

Then came some stunning renditions by members of the cast. A rendition of "My Man's Gone Now" left many of us in tears.

Then came a beautifully rendered, deeply moving duet on "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."

This promises to be an extraordinary show. A full listing of Princeton Festival concerts can be found at this link. Performances run through June 29.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Citizens Climate Lobby Monthly Meetings

There is strong support among economists for "taxing bad", meaning to tax activities that have detrimental impacts. This runs contrary to the blanket condemnation of taxes that has long interfered with improving our use of this important tool for influencing behavior.

The most efficient way to prevent further destabilization of the climate is to put a tax on carbon-based energy--the sort that we have been taking from its safe sequestered state underground, and pumping into the atmosphere in its highly active form as carbon dioxide. Everyone agrees that carbon dioxide, in the right amount, plays a vital role in the atmosphere, keeping the planet hospitable for life. But there can be, and there now is, too much of a good thing, just as the vital capacity of our bodies to stay warm can morph into a dangerous fever if things get out of balance. So much of our personal health, and the health of the planet, depends on maintaining the right chemical balance--in our bodies, in the atmosphere, in the oceans. Similarly, carbon-based fuels have many short term benefits, allowing us mobility and comfort, but we now know that the longterm impacts of utilizing them are devastating and long-lasting, and alternative energies coupled with greater efficiency can be applied now to squeeze these harmful fuels out of our lives.

The Citizens Climate Lobby is a national organization with local chapters, each working to build support for a carbon tax that will drive innovation and motivate people to reduce consumption of carbon-based fuels, without imposing financial hardship. One argument against a carbon tax is that it might affect the poor, who often need to drive from poor neighborhoods to more prosperous locations where the jobs are, and tend to live in poorly insulated houses. But the tax being promoted is "revenue-neutral", meaning that instead of going into government coffers, the money raised is given back as equal payments to all U.S. citizens. Each of us gets a periodic check in the mail for an equal amount, regardless of how much carbon energy we use.

The best tax is the kind you can avoid paying. With a carbon tax, each of us can find ways to use less carbon energy, whether by using a more efficient car, planning out errands better, using fans more and the air conditioner less. Our innate resourcefulness and adaptability can be applied in many ways to trimming the amount of gas or electricity needed to maintain comfort and mobility. The less energy used, the more money from that check that can be applied to other purposes.

Princeton's chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby meets the first Saturday of each month, usually at 12:30pm in one of the members' homes. Meetings are informative and upbeat. If you'd like to attend or find out more, send an email to

On Jo Butler's Primary Victory

In this past Tuesday's primary election, Jo Butler won a spot on the fall ballot for Princeton town council along with fellow Democrat Bernie Miller, narrowly beating challenger Sue Nemeth. The campaign was an uncomfortable situation for me, because I had served on commissions or committees with both Jo and Sue, and have had very positive interaction with both of them, and Bernie as well. The following is a letter I submitted to the Town Topics the week before the primary, but which was not printed for lack of space. 

On the June 3 primary question of whether Jo Butler should be displaced on town council, I have friends I respect and have worked closely with on both sides. It is painful to see Princeton once again, as with the Dinky, split into two contradictory views of reality, with stories circulating and no adequate way to filter out fact from fiction. In my own interactions with Jo, on the Citizens Financial Advisory Task Force and elsewhere, I have found her to be dedicated, open-minded, thoughtful, and considerate of other views. I could say the same of Bernie Miller. 
I see two underlying tensions at issue. One is the question of how to balance independence of mind with being a “team player”. My sense, having served on town advisory commissions, is that a reality-based independence can serve the “team” better than a default loyalty. Generally speaking, at a national level or locally, staunch loyalty to a group can diminish loyalty to truth, leaving the group vulnerable to false assumptions and assertions. 
There is also a tension between the often contradictory needs to get through a meeting’s agenda while adequately examining and discussing the issues at hand. It’s a balancing act, dependent on the good judgement and sensitivity of all members. The most productive meetings I’ve taken part in are those where all members are free to efficiently interject, to agree or disagree, all while moving forward. Results are not preordained, but instead grow out of the facts presented, and the values and judgement of those present. In such situations, democracy is not an abstraction but fully on display--a deeply satisfying part of our lives.

That's what I wish for Princeton, and I believe the current council members are capable of achieving it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Zen and the Art of Climate Stabilization

On Memorial Day, some examples of how to fight for the homeland:

The old way: fighting by emitting.

The new way: fighting by not emitting (the Bicycle Brigade),

or by emitting less.