Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Square Peg - Paula Pettingzoo and Gail Greenup Save the World

The Square Peg - Paula Pettingzoo and Gail Greenup Save the World
© S. Bradley Stoner

A group of us Texas men were standing around talking about hunting at a small neighborhood function the other day. We’ve all been hunting at one time or another, but mostly now all we shoot is the bull about what we used to shoot. On occasion we’ll get together and go blow the heck out of paper targets. Not only is that good practice for the coming Zombie Apocalypse, it’s a terrific stress reliever. And it’s relatively harmless, although I did admit to nailing a moth that had the temerity to land on my pig silhouette a hundred yards downrange. I couldn’t help it... in my 10 power scope he looked like a pterodactyl. Besides, nobody could prove moth murder... a .300 magnum doesn’t leave much evidence there was ever a moth on the target. One of my buddies suggested that I should move the scope a couple of clicks to the right since I missed the bullseye by about four inches. I just smiled and put the next round right through the little dot in the center of the target.

Anyway, one of the guys brought up hunting big game in Montana (gee, I wonder who that was), and mentioned the annual buffalo hunt they hold outside of Yellowstone to prevent the buffalo from transmitting brucellosis to the domestic herds. Well, Paula Pettingzoo overheard that, marched up, and verbally assaulted us for even talking about hunting... especially hunting buffalo. She assailed us with the tale of the buffalo’s demise at the hands of the hide hunters in the 1800s and ran down the history of the difficult journey those poor animals had coming back from the edge of extinction and then lectured us on the ethics of shooting animals.

“You know,” she concluded, “it’s just like that guy down here who thought he was shooting a buffalo, but accidently shot his wife because he saw something big moving in the brush! Serves him right for killing animals... he deserves to be miserable the rest of his life. I hope they send him to jail.”

“Get that off the Internet?” I asked innocently.

“Yes! A friend of mine posted it and I shared it!”

“You know it’s a hoax, right?” I asked. “You can’t believe everything you see on the net.”

“That’s ridiculous, there was a picture and everything” Paula snapped, but she pulled out her i-Phone and tapped furiously on the screen. I think she was going to prove me wrong and give me a come-uppance. A couple of minutes later, her eyes went wide. “I’m going to kill her...”


“My friend who posted the story... she should have checked it out!”

“Two points. First, isn’t killing a friend worse than hunting? I mean, one is legal and one isn’t.” I figured she should have been bright enough to figure out which was which, but on reflection I’m not so sure. “And second... shouldn’t you have checked out the story before sharing it?

Just about that time, a big wolf spider came sauntering across the lawn toward us. Poor Paula let out a shriek and ran, screaming, “Kill it! KILL IT!”

“But it’s a poor innocent animal,” I shouted at her retreating figure. “Besides, I didn’t bring my rifle!”

As she ran off, the local nesting Mockingbird started dive-bombing her. More shrieks. Apparently the local wildlife population just doesn’t appreciate poor Paula.

Somewhere along the line, the conversation turned to power bills and power usage in the neighborhood. Our bills aren’t extraordinarily high, considering we live in South-Central Texas and, well, it gets hot down here. If you don’t have foot thick adobe walls or massive stone walls, you need a central air conditioning unit. That takes power. On average, homes in our neighborhood use 2,500 kilo Watt hours (kWh) a month. Ours is a fairly new subdivision and the homes are well insulated. Unfortunately, most of the homes lack trees of any size, so shade that would lower bills is a bit of a problem. As we were discussing this, Gail Greenup, the local solar power dealer, “...just happened to overhear our conversation.” Gail doesn’t miss a beat... or an opportunity to hawk her goods.

“You know,” Gail said brightly, “y’all could save half your energy bills if you installed grid-in solar panels on your roofs.” Not to be unkind, but Gail’s attempt at a south Texas accent falls a little flat. She’s from New Jersey and everybody knows it.

So Gail launches into her spiel about the advantages of solar. She extols the benefits of using the sun, the greatest free energy source on Earth. “And just look at what you will be doing for the environment,” she coos, “just think of the reduction in carbon emissions.” Yes sir, for the paltry sum of ten and a half grand, we, too, could enjoy the benefits of solar, lower our power bills by half, and, by George, we’d be helping to save the Earth.

Of course she didn’t mention that the ten and a half grand system has an output of 875 kWh, which is more like 35% of the average home’s power requirements, or that the life of the system is about ten years, which means you’ll be putting out over ten grand every ten years to keep it on-line. Oh, and that doesn’t include installation. You don’t want to know what that costs down here. I did some quick mental calculations and came up with an average annual savings of $450 over the life of the grid in system. That averages out to be about $37 a month. Hardly worth the aggravation in my opinion. I pointed that out to her.

This caused some consternation to Gail, nevertheless, she continued her pitch. “Well, just think, you’ll be helping to reduce greenhouse gases, and nobody can say that’s not important. We all need to contribute to saving the planet.”

“Ah,” I returned, “the refuge of the environmental argument... global warming. You know that climate change is constant, right? It’s part of a geologic cycle and we just happen to be in the final stages of an interglacial period, which historically is marked by a warm up.” I wasn’t going to point out the fact that the U.N. report had been written largely by undergrad students and had not gone through any sort of scientific review before it was released. Yep, that hockey stick report was written by a bunch of hockey pucks. Oh well.

“Well, man isn’t helping it,” she snapped, and for a moment I thought she might stamp her foot.

“Well, considering the resources these new electronics, including solar, require, I wouldn’t be casting stones. When you look at the life-cycle of the solar power industry, you’ll find that it doesn’t fare all that well on the carbon balance thing either, not to mention the massive mining activities required to recover those rare earths that are the staple of the electronics revolution.”

This pissed off Gail. She wasn’t about to let somebody get away with criticizing her environmentally friendly industry. “Where’d you get that?!” she demanded. “Off the Internet?!” And she stomped off.

“Man, you managed to make two women mad in the same day,” Duncan said, nudging me. “That takes talent. Now what?”

“I dunno,” I replied. “I have the sudden urge to go shoot something.”

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