Why Texas *really* needs more electricity

The pages of the Houston Chronicle have been full of advertisements featuring the filthy faces of men, women, and children and bearing the slogan “Coal is Dirty.” They were part of an advertising campaign against utility company TXU’s proposal to build 11 new coal-fired electricity plants in Texas.

Luckily for Texans who think that clean air is important, TXU was just bought out by a larger utility firm that will only build 3 of the coal-fired plants, instead of the original 11. But that hasn’t ended fears from certain quarters that Texas, whose population is set to double in the next fifteen years, won’t have enough electricity to serve all those new Texans.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I walked through my neighborhood a little after 6pm. The sun was setting, and it was about 70 degrees. There was a light wind from the north, and none of the humidity that usually characterizes Houston. It was a beautiful evening. At home I had left my windows open and my house fan humming. I’ve been pleased by this weather because I haven’t had to run my gas-powered furnace or my electric-powered air conditioner in about a week. My utility bills will be small next month! Of course, as I walked, I heard the sounds of birds settling down for the evening and the hum of air conditioners.

Air conditioners? Huh? In this beautiful weather?

As I walked yesterday evening, I noticed that about 3 out of five houses were running air conditioners. Many of these houses didn’t even have screens on their windows, indicating that invariably some form of climate control is running in those houses, even when the weather is gorgeous.

I suggest that perhaps Texans need to learn something about conservation *before* any utility firm builds new electrical plants, whether it be three coal-fired plants or 11.

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Faust to succeed Summers

Today’s Boston Globe is reporting that current Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Drew Gilpin Faust will become the next president of Harvard University.

I have to say this news is very exciting. I’ve long thought that Dean Faust would be an ideal candidate for the position: she is a thoughtful scholar, and good administrator, a brilliant fundraiser and program builder, and most important of all, she will be a consensus builder rather than a contentious figure in the university. Harvard is a decentralized institution, and she will be much mroe adept than Larry Summers at navigating the various interests that permeate the university.

Moreover, it’s just great that the country’s oldest university will finally have a woman at the helm.

On Rereading One’s Dissertation

One of my colleagues recently told me to stop thinking of my dissertation as a dissertation and start thinking of it as a manuscript. So I’ve attempted to do that by actually rereading the darned thing while thinking of it as a manuscript rather than a dissertation. Keep in mind that I haven’t actually taken it out of its little drawer since late October when I sent it in to be bound. Rereading went something like this:

Ooh, look at the title page. How nice!

I made a table of contents? Really? I have no recollection of doing that.

DOOM! There’s a conspicuous typo on page 19!

Reading…reading…reading…hey, this is really interesting! I didn’t know I knew about these things!

Clearly the two hours I spent dividing up the monochapter that became chapters one and two was *not* time successfully spent.

I recently discovered that Isaac La Peyrere was a Huguenot. Yet I write that he spent his final days in a monastery. Is there a problem here? What did I miss?

Ooh, Chapter Three is full of dirty fornicators! Excellent!

Chapter Four definitely needs to go on a diet. Yet trimmed up it could be interesting. (Note: I did in fact just trim it up and send it off to an essay competition. We’ll see.)

The fifth chapter is ostensibly about household violence and “unchristianlike usage.” It also touches on slaves beating masters, Bacon’s Rebellion, and the “just war” doctrine that allowed the enslavement of non-Christians.

Chapter Five thus needs to be, clearly, three chapters.

But I don’t have enough *research* to actually fill out three chapters with good, original, informative arguments! (insert whine here)

Then do more research, historianess!

I can’t believe this. On page 236 I actually wrote the sentence, “Slaves had a tougher row to hoe.” Was I trying to be punny?

And after that, Chapter Six drifts back into Chapter Four. Ergh. I think I was repeating myself…

I have a conclusion! Really, I do! I have no recollection of writing it, but there you have it.

I used to be terrified of my dissertation. Now I’m terrified of my manuscript!