It’s Good to Be Mom

Well… it’s good to be Michael Phelps’ mom. Not surprisingly, he’s projected to rake in $100M lifetime in endorsements from his medal run in Beijing. But it is surprising that his Mom is also beginning to land endorsement deals. Key quote:

The savvy Debbie Phelps, who has received more prime-time coverage than most Olympic athletes in Beijing, has a sponsor list of her own. After taking “the hearts of America in terms of parenting and mom of the year,” per Carlisle, she is doing some work with Johnson’s (of Johnson & Johnson) Baby. She also appears to be endorsed by Chico’s, the ladies clothing store who is claiming to be her lucky charm. She even has her own collection!

I guess our young cheerleader wasn’t the only one who thought Michael’s mom was the cutest thing ever…

Nuke Me Amadeus

Ooo nuke me Amadeus
Nuke me Amadeus…
Nuke nuke nuke nuke me Amadeus
Nuke me all the time to the top

… sorry… little MTV flashback there. But speaking of unfortunate things to happen in Europe in the mid-80’s, remember Chernoybl? It was an unmitigated humanitarian and environmental disaster, but its largest impact may turn out to be that decades after the event it still has Americans scared of nuclear energy. Let’s put this in context. Nuclear power accounts for 20% of the electricity produced in the U.S. today. There have been no new nuclear plants constructed in the USA in 30 years. To maintain that 20% slice, we need to build 3 or 4 plants/year starting in 2015. That’s just to stay even. It does nothing to lower our carbon footprint or reduce our dependence on foreign oil. If we don’t start exploiting more nuclear power soon, we’ll need to make up that deficit with coal or oil. Not to mention that we’ll need to burn more of that as the petro slice of the electricity pie is growing as well. After all, our electricity needs are projected to rise 50% by 2030.

But wait, you say. What about wind, geothermal, and solar? And I hear they’re working on wave power, and hydrogen, and we can always burn ethanol and switchgrass, right?

Yeah… sorta. Solar power is still a long ways from being an efficient way to generate electricity. Geothermal is similarly underdeveloped technically, although Iceland is leading the way. Wind power is nice, but to generate the electricity we needed in 2005 with wind would require windmills to cover an area the size of Texas. And burning crops for electricity is still a carbon issue and not a terribly good use of land that could be growing food. The reality is that while we absolutely need to invest in the technology for these alternate energy sources, none of them will move the needle in the next decade. They may well be our future, just not our immediate future.

But isn’t nuclear dangerous? What about the waste? What about the radiation?

First, nuclear is safe. A Chernoybl like accident simply cannot happen in a reactor designed to minimal US safety standards. It couldn’t happen back in 1980. It didn’t happen at Three Mile Island in 1979. While that incident created panic, absolutely no one was injured. Technology and safety regulations have improved since then. Compare that to coal. Particulates and other air pollutants from coal-fired power plants cause somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.

Further, nuclear has no carbon footprint. Given that over 50% of our electricity is produced by coal, switching coal to nuclear results in a significant reduction of the USA’s carbon emissions, on the order of 25%.

The waste is similarly small. A nuclear fuel pellet is about the size of your finger tip. It has the energy equivalent of almost 1800 pounds of coal. Our 104 reactors generate about 2,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel a year. That may sound like a lot, but consider that coal produces some 100 million tons of toxic material annually. Less toxic to be sure, but the comparative volumes are staggering. From an engineering standpoint, the prospect of handling nuclear waste is comparatively simple compared to the challenges of sequestering carbon.

Nuclear is a proven technology. We understand it from a science and an engineering standpoint. It’s cost effective, and compared to the alternatives is environmentally friendly. It has the unique capacity to move the energy needle away from coal/oil in the near term. It should be high on our energy agenda. But it’s not. Both presidential candidates are for it. McCain somewhat vocally, but Obama’s support is barely a whisper. It is deemed political suicide – the 3rd rail of energy. Ironically it is opposed by many environmentalists which can’t look up from their herbal tea long enough to do the math. We need a re-energized nuclear power program, and we need it now.

…and yes, I’d buy a house next door to a nuclear power plant. Probably for cheap.

Commercials Should Be Simple

If you’ve watched any Olympics coverage you’ve doubtless seen the commercial. A good looking hunky shirtless guy irons his girl’s clothes while making 6-month Anniversary reservations on the phone. There’s some background patter about the Chevy Traverse, and then you see the guy cleaning the toilet. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the video online)

At first, my kids just asked me what this ad meant and why it was a car commercial. That’s a fair question, but I had to watch it two or three times before I figured it out. It strikes me that commercials which are that hard to figure out might be missing the mark. But then I’m clearly not in the target demographic. In retrospect, I should have just said it was a commercial for girls and left it at that. But I’m only that smart in hindsight. So I try to explain that Chevy is depicting a “perfect man” from a girl’s point of view and equating that to the perfect car.

But this begs the obvious question, is that really what girls want? Well… no. It’s what some girl’s think they want, but most girls wouldn’t really want you to act like that. Well… maybe the cleaning the toilet part… and the washboard abs, most girls would rather like that (but not the 2 hours a day you spent in the gym). And okay, remember an anniversary now and again, but don’t remember more dates than they do. Some would like you to iron your own damn clothes, but most wouldn’t want you anywhere near theirs. And in my experience, they’d be suspect of a guy who can accurately separate laundry. Guys do laundry on the theory of “if it gets wet, it’s clean”. In fact, we think that about most things which is why we don’t clean the toilet. It’s already wet.

“Gee that sounds awfully complicated.”

Yes, but not really. Clean up after yourself. Pay attention to her. And frankly, knowing how to fix the toilet is often more highly valued than knowing how to clean it. Remember Red Green‘s sage advice: “If women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” An adage that is more true the older you get. Which is fortunate since you tend to get more handy as you age, but not more handsome. Unless you’re Sean Connery or Paul Newman… I suspect no one cares if they can fix a toilet.