Archive for July, 2012

Elsewhere on the Web

July 30, 2012 @ 6:11 am | Filed under: Links

New comic at Into the Thicklebit today, and it’s one of my personal favorites. 🙂

And I’ve got a review of kids’ math apps at GeekMom. Fun stuff!

Important Reading: “Will Fracking Impact My Family”

July 29, 2012 @ 9:03 am | Filed under: Current Affairs

Laura Grace Weldon takes a careful, thorough look at an issue we should all be learning as much about as possible.

A few quotes—

Re safety and long-term effects:

But technically, assertions that fracking is safe are largely true. That’s because industry and government regulatory agencies use the term “fracking” only as it relates to the actual process of pumping fluids into the ground to break apart rock. So when they make claims about fracking safety, they don’t include what happens while drilling, constructing the well, setting off explosions, dealing with blowouts or well fires, storing waste water in open containment basins, vapors emitted from condensate tanks, open flaring to burn off gasses, transporting waste, injecting waste water into deep disposal wells, or at any point in the future when the wells may leak.

That’s convenient, because a University of Texas study found that these are the activities actually contaminating air, water, and soil. So both sides are “right” in the fracking debate. The industry is correct when they say that fracking is largely safe because of their limited definition of the word. People concerned about the environmental and health consequences lump all activities associated with the process under the term “fracking,” making their claims of risk correct too.

Re land rights:

But local citizens have very little control over fracking. Depending where they live, fracking may occur under cemeteries and in state parks. Some cities as well as colleges are considering lease offers. Despite regulations that normally zone residential areas apart from industrial areas, drilling can take place near homes and schools. Residents in ColoradoTexasWest Virginia, and elsewhere are advocating for stronger regulations to protect schoolchildren from the noise and dust generated by these sites. In some areas drilling sites are only required to be 350 feet from schools and 200 feet from homes. (In New Mexico, one school playground is 150 feet from a well.) No matter how vehemently citizens object, the ability to pass local ordinances regulating gas and oil producers can be superseded by state or federal regulations. This provides the industry rights normally not allowed under the law.

For example, in 38 states you can’t say no to fracking on your land if others in your area have already signed leases.

 and

Some people we know who have leased their property worry that the companies owning their leases are simply speculating in land and will sell those leases to foreign companies. I held up my hand at one meeting and asked an industry representative if any leases might ever be sold to non-U.S. companies. “Absolutely not,” I was told. “This is about American energy independence.”

I came home and looked it up. All sorts of huge foreign companies are buying up rights. For example, the Australian company BHP Billiton bought 4.75 billion worth of shale assets in Arkansas, the French company Total will pay 2.25 billion for shale assets in Texas and 2.32 billion for assets in Ohio, and the Chinese firm, Sinopec, is spending billions to scoop up assets across the U.S. from firms like Devon and Chesapeake. Selling these assets is, of course, the prerogative of any company owning them.

On health concerns:

A local man stood up with a jug of brown water from his once clear well. Since his land was fracked the water has been foul smelling and murky, although state officials told him it was okay to drink. Another woman said brine was dumped on a road by her house and when she paid to have it tested it was found to contain chemicals associated with fracking, although state officials declined to investigate. I talked to many other people at these meetings: college students, farmers, retirees, mothers with small children living near active fracking sites. The information they shared was alarming. Here’s a little of what I’ve been able to confirm.

Each fracking operation takes 1.2 million gallons to 5 million gallons of water, sometimes more. Each additional time a site is fracked more water is required. Water stress (an imbalance between water use and water resources) is fast becoming an alarming global issue. When water is withdrawn from natural sources for drinking, irrigation, and other typical uses it normally finds its way back into the global water supply. But a substantial portion (15 to 40 percent) of the water used in fracking operations is left deep in the ground. What does come back up (called “flowback” as well as “produced water” which naturally occurs in shale) is often put in deep injection wells for long-term storage. This method not only edges up the potential for earthquakes, it also takes much-needed water out of planetary circulation.

and:

The fluid that comes back up also contains ingredients that didn’t go in. This means naturally occurring matter such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (including benzene, toluene, xylene), radioactive materials (including lead, arsenic, strontium), even acidic microbes. It also means chemical compounds created by the reactions of chemicals during any stage of the process. Claims of air, ground, and water pollution due to fracking-related activity are often dismissed by industry and government officials because some contaminants are considered “naturally occurring.” And let’s not forget the water’s salinity. Fracking wastewater has two to three times more salt than sea water and more than 180 times the level considered acceptable to drink by the EPA.

Although the industry insists that all chemicals used in fracking are on the record there are still rules in place allowing them to claim chemicals are proprietary or to disclose what’s used only after the drilling has been completed. In several states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, physicians are bound by a “gag rule” which prevents doctors from sharing information about symptoms, diagnoses, and disease clusters related to fracking chemicals even with other doctors and public health officials.

There’s a great deal more—it’s well worth your time to read the whole article. What Laura’s doing in this piece is what we talk so often about wanting to teach our children to do: ask probing questions, research deeply, consider the evidence carefully, think critically.

Thursday

July 26, 2012 @ 8:08 pm | Filed under: Family, Photos

Thursday means a new Thicklebit.

This week, it also meant a morning at the park. I took a zillion sundrenched photos of happy kids running wild under the old trees and along the grassy paths, but at the end of the day my favorite is this rather melancholy shot of my two youngest, exhausted by freedom.

How was your day?

Late July News

July 24, 2012 @ 9:15 am | Filed under: Author stuff, Books

I know, I know, I’ve been AWOL! When’s the last time I went a week without posting here? (I know when: summer of 2005, when Wonderboy had surgery. Yeesh.) Well, my absence here is because I’m plugging away elsewhere…sometimes the supply of words is limited, you know? 🙂

But a few bits of news:

• A new strip at Into the Thicklebit

A lovely Kirkus review of my friend Anne Marie Pace’s about-to-launch picture book, Vampirina Ballerina, illustrated by the talented LeUyen Pham.

Vampirina shares a pub date (August 7) with my early reader, Fox and Crow Are Not Friends. It got a nice review at Kirkus, too (yippee!), which is now viewable by everyone, not just subscribers. 🙂

• This month, my upcoming Inch and Roly series gets the spotlight at the Ready-to-Read website, including a letter from me to readers. Whee!

The Day after SDCC

July 16, 2012 @ 4:28 pm | Filed under: SDCC

…is always something of a blur. We’re wiped out. But the weekend was lovely. Exhausting, noisy, hectic, but lovely. A recap to come. Presumably. For now, a long happy sigh, a thwarted nap, and a very tall photo. Oh, and we posted a new comic at Thicklebit today. 🙂

steampunk stilts dude at San Diego Comic-Con

Enter the Thicklebit

July 11, 2012 @ 3:03 pm | Filed under: Comics, Family, Funny, These People Crack Me Up, Thicklebit

Remember that time Rilla thought the phrase “into the thick of it” was “into the thicklebit”? And I loved it so much I threatened to rename this blog after it? Well, we’ve decided to go one better. Voila…Into the Thicklebit, a webcomic cowritten by Scott and me, and illustrated by the impossibly brilliant Chris Gugliotti. We hope you’ll enjoy it. You may recognize some Bonny Glen moments here and there. (Hair color has been changed to protect the obstreperous.) 😉

Not a morning person

I’ll add a button to the sidebar after SDCC madness is over. We’re aiming for new strips twice a week, when time permits. Tomorrow’s is one of my favorites. (And 100% true.)

 

Happy News

July 9, 2012 @ 5:53 pm | Filed under: Author stuff, Books, The Prairie Thief

JLG medalIt’s Comic-Con week, and you know what that means. Likely to be crickets around here these next few days. Not to mention, a certain dearly-missed daughter comes home midweek.

But for now, how about if I share a bit of excitement? The official link went up today so I guess it’s okay for me to spill the news that’s had me giddy these past few weeks: The Prairie Thief is a Junior Library Guild selection for 2012! It’s a great honor and I am thrilled to bits. To bits!

(I loved Brian Farrey’s post about his book being selected. Wowsers is exactly the feeling.)

I did finally make up my mind.

July 6, 2012 @ 7:11 pm | Filed under: Books

What I’m reading: Colman by Monica Furlong. Sequel to Wise Child. Picks up right where that one left off. (Juniper was written in between, but takes place before the events of Wise Child.) Enjoying it so far, though I miss the wonderful white house with its herb garden and uncanny cats. Not as much as Juniper does, I daresay. As always, Furlong’s imagery is vivid and compelling: the tor and the hazel tree, the Cave of the Mermaids, the blackened walls of the conquered palace, the weary fields.

What are you reading right now? (All the better to torment myself with when it comes time to choose the next book.)

Today in Rillabooks

July 5, 2012 @ 8:23 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

 

William Steig’s When Everybody Wore a Hat captivated the both of us. It’s about what things were like when he was eight years old, in 1916. Little snippets of daily life: “Mom said Esther Haberman had a big mouth.” “For a nickel you could get a lot: a hot dog sandwich from a stand. A pound of fruit. A movie.” “There was no such thing as a hatless human being. Cops had hats. Criminals had hats. Even monkeys.” Rough, childlike art, yet so quintessentially Steig and brilliant in its rich storytelling—Rilla loved it, wanted the pages turned slowly so she could pore over every detail. Home run.

Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day—three times in a row. She’s read it dozens of times before, of course; this is a perennial favorite here; but this time it tickled her more than ever. Real belly laughs, those amazing deep-chuckly ones that mean wonder and abandon. We never noticed the mischievous glint in Carl’s eye until today, right after the mother has left and the baby is climbing out of the crib onto his back. “He’s grinning!” Rilla cried. “I never saw that.” The aquarium-dunking and the living-room dancing made her laugh and laugh. “Again,” she begged. “Again!”

Let’s Do Nothing—another repeat favorite. She loves Tony Fucile’s art, loves to compare the expressions of the do-nothing boys to Bink and Gollie.

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Konnecke. We’d read this once before and she squealed with delight when it turned up in the pile—“I’ve been looking for this!” Who knew? Anton fancies himself a magician—who wouldn’t, with that great big befeathered turban? This is a translation from German and the present-tense text feels a bit unusual in a picture-book context; most English stories of this kind are told in past tense. But it works well here, lending a sense of immediacy and tension to Anton’s unsettling discovery that he does, indeed, seem to have made his friend Luke disappear. Actually, now that I think about, the very simple, spare text is more like an early reader. I’m tempted to look for it in German: it might be just about my level.