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Month: October 2022 (Page 2 of 2)

Joe Manchin and the Pipeline

Let’s talk about Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) for a bit. Manchin is in a uniquely powerful position in the U.S. Senate, not because he deserves it but by luck. The various states have managed to elect a Senate divided almost exactly in half so that one Democratic senator can be the deciding vote on legislation that affects the whole country. Joe Manchin is taking full advantage of his good luck for personal gain.

West Virginia is not a rich state. It was once thriving with industries that have moved to China. The coal industry used to employ far more people than today. There are many poor and struggling families here. Why would Senator Manchin block legislation that would bring hundreds of millions in aid to West Virginia families?

Since the 2020 election, Manchin’s behavior was puzzling and frustrating to many. He took positions that were not beneficial to West Virginians. He negotiated to reduce benefits to West Virginia. He opposed the Build Back Better bill. His actions were what one would expect of a Republican catering to the whims of the billionaires who fund them, not a Democrat. The term “DINO” (Democrat in name only) was applied to him. Some wondered if he was just a shill for the Republican Party. Several Republicans tried to get him to join the Republican Party. It was very strange. What was he really up to?

Sixty years ago my grandmother taught me many things about politics, governance, and leadership. One thing she taught me was when you see a politician do something that makes no sense or do something that harms the people he’s representing, there’s an ulterior motive that you’re not seeing.

So what was behind this odd behavior? For some background, consider that Joe Manchin is in the coal business. His company, Enersystems, is a brokerage for waste coal, sometimes called dirty coal. So we know that concern about climate change and the environment isn’t high on his list of priorities, and he’s in the fossil fuel business. In Congress he chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. In recent years, Manchin received the most funding from the oil and gas industry of any senator, and participates in weekly meetings with lobbyists for ExxonMobil, other fossil fuel companies, and fossil fuel PACs.

Manchin has his business in a “blind trust” and says he “has no idea what they’re doing.” However, blind trust or not, he and his family ultimately reap the rewards of catering to the fossil fuel industry.

The less-than-obvious focus of Manchin’s attention is the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This is a pipeline project proposed in 2014 and was originally expected to be completed in 2018. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is to be a large, 2 million dekatherms per day, 304 mile line extending from North Central West Virginia to Southeast Maryland and beyond. It’s intended to carry natural gas obtained by fracking in West Virginia to East Coast users.

The pipeline has had difficulties obtaining and keeping various permits to cross the Jefferson National Forest, more than a thousand rivers and streams, as well as the famed Appalachian Trail. The project is 92 percent complete but has been bogged down in court actions that invalidated permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Manchin has been focused on getting the project moving again. He managed to get an energy permit bill attached to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022. This Act had to be passed by the end of September 2022 to provide funding to prevent a government shutdown. Support for the Act in Congress was insufficient with Manchin’s rider bill attached, so it was removed and scrapped. As a result we can expect Manchin’s primary focus to remain on the pipeline issue and he will continue to expend his political capital on this issue instead of the needs of West Virginians.

The Lato Font

A few years ago I needed to print a manuscript of over 300 pages on my laser printer. The choice of which typeface, size, and weight have a big effect on toner consumption and legibility. Making the type smaller, lighter, or both saves toner (or ink) and paper, but one usually pays a price in poorer legibility.

This manuscript was for editing purposes and would be pored over for many hours so it had to be reasonably legible. The type had to be large enough to annotate with a pencil.

I wanted to have my cake and eat it too so I spent considerable time looking over a myriad of fonts. Since this wouldn’t be the last time this problem would arise, I felt the investment in time and effort was worth it. If a font really solved the problem, I was willing to pay for it. I didn’t limit my search to free fonts.

I searched several sites on the web offering thousands of free and pay-for fonts, concentrating on sans-serif fonts. I wasn’t looking for artistic beauty, I was looking for legibility. After finding nothing that stood out, I eventually tired of this and stopped. Then I tried different tack. An ordinary web search for “most legible font” led directly to what I wanted.

The Lato font family is fairly new. I had never heard of it. It was specifically designed for maximum legibility. The family is comprised of many variations, each carefully hand-tuned by the font’s creators, including a “light” variation and a “hairline” variation. Lato Hairline was exactly what I was looking for. It’s very light, composed of thin lines, but isn’t faint. It remains perfectly legible to my old eyes.

Since then, the whole family has become my standard san-serif / Helvetica style font that I use for everything instead of Liberation Sans, Arial, and Calibri that I used to use. You’re looking at it right now.

If you need a versatile, highly legible sans-serif font, you might give it a try. The Lato family is free to use for any purpose. You can find it at the link below or from Google, or Adobe.


Disclaimer: I have no relation to the above web site, Google, Adobe, or the creators of the Lato font.

A Brief History of Birthday Celebrations

The celebration of birthdays is common and taken for granted today. But the celebration of birthdays is a recent phenomenon, a product of the Industrial Age.

The Egyptians

There are instances of birthdays being celebrated since ancient times, but only by important people. The oldest known birthday celebrations took place in Egypt about 5,000 years ago. When a prince was made pharaoh, that moment was considered the transformation of a man into a god and was considered his “birthday”.

The Ancient Greeks

The ancient Greeks observed birthdays, not as a celebration, but because they believed that a spirit is present when each person is born, and that this same spirit was nearby around the same time each year. They also believed that a person was susceptible to evil spirits around the time of their birthday. Family and friends would gather and light candles to ward off the darkness, and make loud noises to frighten off evil spirits. Dates were not precise by modern standards because an accurate calendar had not yet been invented in Europe.

Birthday Celebration for Commoners

The Romans were the first to create holidays to honor famous persons, usually around the approximate date of their birth. The Romans were the first to create a birthday celebration for commoners but it wasn’t an annual thing. When a Roman man reached the age of 50, he was honored with a cake made with cheese and honey. Birthdays of women were ignored for another thousand years.

Birthday Celebrations Prohibited

For hundreds of years, the early Church frowned on the observance of birthdays. It was seen as a pagan practice, something done by pharaohs and heathens. Birthday celebrations were considered evil. Needless to say, the birth of Christ wasn’t celebrated either. Nobody knew the date anyway. From the information in the Bible one can guess it was during tax time in the Roman Empire, which was in the spring.

Common folk found this prohibition easy to abide by. Most didn’t know their date of birth. Common people didn’t have access to calendars and the modern Gregorian Calendar wouldn’t be invented for another thousand years. If a person was baptized, the Church would sometimes record the date, but such dates were approximate, like “the second week of harvest AD 532”. Nobody celebrated their date of baptism. Birthdays were not a thing.

Creation of Christmas

The Church’s ban on birthdays came to an abrupt end when it was decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus coincident with the ancient pagan celebration of Saturnalia.1

The plan was to use the existing celebration of Saturnalia to recruit people into the Church. This is how the date for Christmas was chosen.

Modern Birthday Cakes

Turning the clock forward 1,300 years, the Germans came up with the idea of celebrating children’s birthdays with a birthday cake decorated with one candle for each year of life.2

This celebration, Kinderfeste, was only for young children. The idea of blowing out the candles and making a wish appeared at the same time.

The Industrial Revolution

Another 50 years brings us to the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s, about 160 years ago. Several things happened that resulted in the popularity of birthday celebrations for all ages.

The most important change was that people began to have fewer children. Children were seen less as an economically valuable army of working hands and more as emotionally valued members of the family. More attention and emotional energy was invested in each child. Celebration of birthdays became important.

Before this time, the price of the materials needed to make birthday cakes, like sugar and butter, were expensive. Fancy cakes were something for the well-off. The Industrial Age brought prices down and birthday cakes became affordable.

Clocks and printed calendars became affordable and commonplace. People became more focused on time and dates because of the Industrial Age. For the first time, people began to work hourly shifts and needed to know the date and time to be at work, catch a train, and so forth. Education improved and common people learned to tell time and read calendars. People knew their birth dates. Doctors started to record the age of patients as an important parameter. Schools began to group students by ages. All of these changes and much more came very rapidly over a period of just 40 years.

Together, all of the factors above resulted in the widespread celebration of birthdays that continues today. Some people resisted, arguing that celebration of birthdays was self-centered, materialistic, and took attention away from God. But this didn’t become an important point of view.


Fun Fact: The Greeks were the first to put candles on a cake, but it wasn’t to celebrate birthdays. A crescent shaped cake was made and decorated with candles to honor the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, who was closely associated with the Moon. Blowing out the candles while making a wish was seen as sending a prayer to Artemis.

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