Friday, November 30, 2007

An Early Christmas Wish

Dear God,

Do you in your all-knowingness remember the Dustin Hoffman movie, Who's Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things about Me? It was a 1971 movie, released two short years after Midnight Cowboy, so Hoffman probably had his original nose when he played the role of George Soloway. George is an intensely neurotic songwriter who believes his reputation is being destroyed by some pervert named Harry Kellerman, who calls around saying "terrible things" about George to all of the important people in George's life. It turns out, of course, that Harry is George. Deluded beyond recognition, his own words and actions are destroying him and he doesn't even know it.

Ditto for Entergy Corporation.

And I don't say that lightly, because my whole career is in their hands. And I need this job. I like the money. I like my medical benefits. I like the company cafeteria. I even like my bosses. They like me, too—I think. Or maybe they don't.

You see, I'm having a crisis of confidence because I've checked my traffic log and discovered that my bosses at Entergy have become far more frequent readers of my prayers than I'd ever imagined they'd be, as have people from Burson Marsteller, the high-priced firm that oversees the efforts of company PR guys like me. Am I being overly sensitive or is that a little disturbing? I mean, I get that they might want to read my email and interoffice memos. Bosses do that. But my prayers? I imagine my bosses and the BM-ers reading my prayers and carping to each other about what damage my private frettings to my God would do to the company's good name if I were to forget my manners and open my big mouth like that to the newspapers.

"Who does he think he is?" I imagine them shouting.

Anyway, when I think about them shouting about MY deportment I want to SHOUT AT THEM that THEIR manners have been horrible! For example: What do you call it when you assure a public board about the adequacy of a decommissioning fund that isn't, actually, adequate? BAD MANNERS! The company is ruining its own good name. Lying. Is. A. Reputation. Spoiler.

Lord, my single favorite scene in Who's Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things about Me? has George (who, I forgot to mention, routinely hallucinates) running madly through a subway tunnel, frantically trying to figure out who is ruining his life. He encounters his psychiatrist, who is dressed as Santa Claus.

Santa says, "Ho, ho, ho, Nutsy Person! What would you like for Christmas?"

Harry collects himself and reasonably states, "I would like a new start and a day without fear."

Santa says, "Too bad, Nutsy Person. You get a choo-choo train."

A laugh riot, but I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, Lord, Christmas is coming and I'm one sad elf. The "Ten Best Things about Working for Vermont Yankee" don't feel very "best" anymore. I feel disdain from my bosses. I feel sneered at by the people in my community for the creepy company I'm keeping. For the record, what I want for Christmas is a new start and a day without fear.

Come to think of it, that may be what my bosses hope most for, too.



Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Did the Maintenance Coordinator at Vermont Yankee Get Fired?

Dear God,

I think one of my friends at Vermont Yankee got fired, but we're all so tight-lipped around here, it's hard to know for sure.

I just found this job posted at
Coordinator, Maintenance
Job Category: Maintenance
Posted on: 11/27/2007 by Entergy
Job reference #: 104987

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant - VT - US-Region I (North East)

[Etc., etc., and then ...]

Job description
Entergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. We own and operate power plants, and are the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. This position will be located at our Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Vernon, VT.

[More etc., etc., and then ...]


• Coordinate departmental activities including work scope evaluations, ...
• Work effectively with the Management Team setting priorities, allocating resources, ...
• Provide feedback ...
• Observe and ensure compliance with procedures and policies ....

[Still more etc., etc. and then ...]

6 years commercial or military nuclear work experience. B.S. degree in Engineering or related technical degree may be credited for up to 4 years of experience....

In addition to wondering whether a B.S. in Engineering plus 2 years experience is adequate to oversee all of Maintenance and Compliance at a nuclear power plant, you gotta ask yourself, Lord, if any firing that may have happened was related to the slap on the wrist we got from the NRC about laxity in maintenance.

Actually, I gotta ask myself, Lord, if it's also related to the bad publicity we've gotten lately for laxity in maintenance. Clearly, the maintenance standards have never been all that high, and corporate has tolerated that. So if my friend got fired, is he just a fall guy for bad corporate policy? And could I be about to find out that I'm the fall guy for bad corporate publicity?

I guess I'll know if I find my job posted at in the near future, huh?


PS: OMG! The job of Coordinator of Preventive Maintenace is listed, too. For that matter, so is the job for Coordinator of Surveillance. Hey! Was there a problem in that department, as well?

Update: In a 1 hour and 15 minute period, my bosses at Entergy have read this prayer nine times. Don't they have actual jobs they should be doing?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Women Who Kill

Dear God,

Do you think that anti-nuclear activists should be allowed to marry?

  • You preach love, Lord, and love involves tolerance.

  • In 1978, the United States Supreme Court declared marriage to be "of fundamental importance to all individuals."

  • There are no hard data on whether having activist parents is harmful to children, but it's certainly arguable that all that activism is distracting in some measure to the parents.

  • If we curtail activists' right to marry and procreate, the next generation of plant owners may not be as hobbled as we have been by committees, commissions, agencies, and the like.

  • If we focus on the marriage issue, the activists will have to protect their civil rights. They will have fewer resources to expend protesting nuclear power.

Right now, Lord, most states have passed laws that explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marrying. Interestingly, no state in the union specifically protects the rights of anti-nuclear activists to marry. Divine providence? You gotta wonder, Lord, whether this is a no-brainer.

While I'm "in the zone" on matters of civil rights and protection of the innocent, I've been meaning to ask you something, Lord. Have you read the book Women Who Kill by Ann Jones? It's old—late 90s—but I was reminded of it today when I Googled the term "Uldis Vanags" (you remember him, the nuclear engineer that isn't a nuclear engineer) and got directed to a blog called It's Getting Late and its article, "What's It Going to Take, Folks? A Meltdown?" The article had no words. It was just a series of pictures of the Vermont Yankee cooling tower collapse. The pictures coupled with the article title seemed to imply that one cannot wait for the meltdown in order to take much-needed preventive action against a meltdown.

Which is what reminded me of Women Who Kill. Many of the women that Ann Jones interviewed were serving time for murdering their romantic partners. At trial, they had pleaded self defense. They said they had been fighting for their lives. They offered evidence like long histories of Emergency Room visits or like husbands' arrest records for abuse. They got sent to jail anyway, their juries having concluded (essentially), "Yeah, he may have abused you and he may even have very nearly killed you, more than once. But he never actually killed you. So why should we believe that this time would have been any different? Guilty as charged."

Ms. Jones's point, I believe, is that the juries' reasoning was preposterous. Must one actually be murdered before it is reasonable to act precipitously against murder? Or are a few broken arms, a wielded knife, and an overwhelmingly terrifying moment, for example, sufficient evidence?

Similarly, must a core reactor actually melt down before it is reasonable to act precipitously against a meltdown? Or are a collapsed cooling tower, an automatic shutdown, a few fires, and a history of deception and insufficient maintenance, for example, evidence enough?

Thank God, God, that Women Who Kill is an old book. No one reads it anymore. And I'll bet no one ever reads the It's Getting Late blog, either.

By the way, Lord, do you think that Ann Jones should be allowed to marry?


Sunday, November 25, 2007

As Ye Sew, So Shall Ye Reap

Dear God,

On August 11, 2007 we here at Entergy (Vermont Yankee's corporate owner) assured the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel that "funds reserved for decommissioning the power plant would be sufficient regardless of whether that happens in 2012 or 2032." (That's quoting from a Brattleboro Reformer article that is no longer available for free online.) At that meeting, we did express a preference about decommissioning. We said that we would like to do it slowly, letting the plant sit idle for as many as 60 years before we started.

Then, in mid November, Margaret Gunderson of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. published a report showing that Entergy has not contributed to the decommissioning fund in the 5 years that it has owned the plant and, furthermore, that the fund has $26 million less than it used to have. An on-schedule decommissioning would be impossible, Mrs. Gunderson predicted. Well, she forced our hand, and by November 15, we had admitted to the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel that she was right. We couldn't actually afford to decommission in any way other than the "really, really, really long wait" one for which we had expressed a clear preference.

In the meanwhile, we here at Entergy made plans to spin Vermont Yankee and a few other plants off into a separate, tax-free entity. We did not make clear (and still haven't) whether we will use the distribution proceeds to reduce debt or to reward shareholders through a stock buyback program. At any rate, we have certainly not announced plans to earmark distribution proceeds for Vermont Yankee decommissioning.

You know, Lord, a lot of people have phobias about math. And a lot of people have phobias about dying in a nuclear holocaust—or even in a gentle nuclear leak. So there's a kind of "shut your eyes and assume a fetal position" response that is typical of members of the general public, especially when we talk about math and radiation all in one sentence. We count on that reaction. But surely someone soon is going to wake up, move their knees away from their chests, and say, "Hey! It seems to me there's some huge chunk of Entergy money soon to be lying around that they have to decide how to spend--and this at the very time when the Vermont Yankee decommissioning fund that Entergy promised was fully funded could use some help."

And if the people say that, Lord, A + B is going to start to equal C and we here at Entergy may be expected to live up to our promises.

I know, I know: "For as ye sew, so shall ye reap." You don't need to tell me. I'm the PR guy.



Saturday, November 24, 2007

I"m Sorry if I Scared the People of Vermont

Dear God,

Thanksgiving is over and I had many, many visits to this prayer blog by people who were looking to my prayers for guidance about their prayers. Googling terms like like "thanksgiving prayers to god" or, more to the point, "thanksgiving prayer cancer" they ended up at my Pre-Thanksgiving Prayer of Thanks...

... which, if you recall, is my expression of gratitude that the activists in Vermont have not remembered that 2007 is the five-year anniversary of the Davis-Bessie nuclear power plant near disaster, which would have wrought death, destruction, and, yes, prayers about cancer throughout Toledo.

Anyway, Lord, I find all of this creepy in some way I can't quite name. So now I'm thinking I'm gonna lighten up the mood around here. I watch reruns of "I Love Lucy." Do you, Lord? If you do, do you notice a certain similarity between the fictional character Lucy Ricardo and the real person Fake-Rob Williams? I know it's a stretch. I don't have red hair. But, like Lucy, I'm naïve, ambitious, imaginative, and I always end up apologizing for one mess or another.

Another similarity is that the "I Love Lucy" show (Lucy Ricardo's employer) and Vermont Yankee (my employer) both make products that may kill people. "I Love Lucy" was "brought to you by" Philip Morris cigarettes. Vermont Yankee may be responsible for the suspicious increase in cancer deaths in Windham County.

Anyway, I've got a game. I'll list apologies made by either me or Lucy. I'll also list scenarios from Lucy's and my lives. Your job will be to match the apology to the scenario.


Lucy hates Ricky's new mustache so she borrows a fake beard from Fred and wears it but the glue sticks and she can't get it off.

Vermont Yankee gets scolded by the NRC for lax maintenance.

When the clown in Ricky's act gets injured, Lucy tries to substitute for him and messes up the act.

Uldis Vanags, the nuclear engineer from the Vermont Public Service Department, turns out not to be a nuclear engineer at all.

Lucy finds a mink coat that Ricky rented for a dance number at the club. She believes it is her anniversary gift. Ricky can't bring himself to tell her the truth so he fakes a burglary to get it away from her.

Vermont Yankee won't have enough money to decommission the plant until 2032 even though the plant license expires in 2012.

Lucy reads a murder mystery book and decides Ricky is trying to kill her. She overreacts.

The White House suggests that distributing KI pills to people living near nuclear power plants makes them fearful of nuclear power and that the program to distribute the pills should therefore be stopped. Previously, the White House had called the pills crucial in stopping thyroid cancer in the event of radiation exposure.

Lucy gets to dance with Van Johnson.

A cooling tower collapses and about a week later a turbine stop valve failure forces an automatic shutdown.

Cousin Tennessee Ernie Ford visits Ricky and Lucy and won't leave. Lucy has to figure out how to get rid of him.

A report critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's relicensing process wasn't given to the public as soon as the state's Department of Public Service received it. The report was an audit of the way relicensure investigators conduct their jobs and pointed to ways in which they were falling short.


I'm sorry that the people of Vermont were upset.

Aw, honey! I'm so dopey and you're so understanding. (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

Aw, honey! I'm sorry I'm so snoopy! (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

Waaaaaa! (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

I'm very sorry the people of Vermont were upset and pleased to assure you all that this never impacted safety at the plant.

Aw, honey! I'm sure you would buy me a mink coat if we could afford one. I'm sorry I put you in this position. (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

Awwwwwww. (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

I'm very, very sorry that the people of Vermont were upset and and I'm pleased to assure you all that this has nothing to do with safety at the plant. That and we're going to build your elementary school a new gym.

I'm most egregiously sorry. Normally our processes are very careful. Evidently, though, there is room for improvement.

I'm flagellating myself in sorrow about having upset the people of Vermont and also in an attempt to assure you that I can stand a lot of stress, as can this aging plant.

Aw, honey! I'm sorry I tried to make you feel bad about the way you look and got the skin on my face all torn off in the process. (Then Lucy and Ricky kiss and make up.)

If you won't accept my apologies for upsetting you as well as my assurances that this incident has nothing to do with safety at the plant I am going to flagellate myself with two whips at once and then you'll really feel guilty.



Friday, November 16, 2007

No Pants, No Problem

Oh, God!...

…sometimes life is just too darn fun! I just found myself on an Intenet porn site!

Ok, ok. I exaggerate. Hazard of the PR trade. Actually, I didn't find myself on this very Internet porn site. But I was supposed to find myself on this very porn site because I did get a Google Alert that nude pictures of me were on it. (I'd asked Google to notify me daily by email of any sites, news, or blogs using the term "Fake-Rob Williams.") Look at what the Alert said:

Nude Gay Men Pictures :: N A P Nude Pictures
It's Me, Fake-Rob Williams I was thinking that, when my nude photos get "discovered," I might get. I told him to go home and have a snack and a ...

You think I made that up, God? Well here's a screenshot of the Alert.

Alas, I followed the link and found nothing about myself. Nothing! I thought I'd share my disappointment with my new friend Philip because of his professed interest in nude pictures of me.

It was when I visited his blog to get his email address that I discovered another big disappointment. Apparently, we at Vermont Yankee won't have enough money to handle plant decommissioning until 2032, even though our license expires in 2012. The full report, which is available here and was created by Margaret Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. says:

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee [herein simply referred to as Entergy] has made a series of non-conservative assumptions concerning the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and its Decommissioning Fund. Moreover, we (Fairewinds Associates, Inc) opine that Entergy's non-conservative assumptions, which are clearly delineated in their submittal to the PSB, may shift both the risk and burden of financing Vermont Yankee's actual dismantlement to the State of Vermont and future generations of Vermonters.

Whoa! Somehow lots of people thought that money was at the ready. I'm not sure, maybe even I did. I guess that's the power of good PR, for which I can take at least partial credit, which means I guess I can also take credit for confusing myself, which is kind of fun.

But there's some good news in this news cycle for Vermont Yankee. Bad News Bear Philip's story did not mention the other recent eyebrow raiser. That's the fact that the nuclear engineer with the Vermont Public Service Department turns out not to be a nuclear engineer at all. He has an undergraduate degree in Physics and a Master's Degree in Health Science. He used to work for the state of Maine and, you'll remember, Maine Yankee was shut down for safety reasons even though the NRC had declared its safety rating "adequate.". Oops. There I go again. Hazard of the trade. Actually, the NRC did mention that certain…

…weaknesses and deficiencies appear to be related to two root causes: economic pressures to contain costs and poor problem identification as a result of complacency and a lack of a questioning attitude.

OK. So even though it got a passing grade, it got a scolded, and then it ended up getting an independent safety assessment, which it failed. Then it was shut down.

Vermont Yankee has been scolded by the NRC, too. But non-engineer Uldis assures that we don't need an independent safety assessment here. "Without a doubt, if I compare Vermont Yankee to when Maine Yankee was running into trouble, there's no comparison. Vermont Yankee is not experiencing the mechanical difficulties that Maine Yankee was," he said. Or so The Rutland Herald reported.

But you gotta wonder: Who is a guy with a Masters in Health Science to assure anybody about mechanical integrity?

Anyway, Lord, I am hot on the tracks of this Google Alert mystery. Because, frankly, though it's fun to think that attention is being drawn to me (and that I might finally get a singing part in The Day The Earth Stood Still), there's no way my bosses are going to see this Internet porn false alarm as reflecting well on Vermont Yankee. And creating news that reflects well on Vermont Yankee is, after all, my job, at least until my singing career takes off.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a Fake-Rob Knockoff about Indian Point!

Oh, my God!

"Are You There, God? It's Me, Fake-Jim Steets" has been launched with this comment left on my (as in, "this very") prayer blog.

The comment:
Dear Rob:

Your humble blog has touched my heart, and I thank you for encouraging me to follow suit, to create my own prayer blog where I to can touch the hem of God's under garments.

Fake Jim Steets
Like, wow, God. What can I say? Other than...



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Vermont Yankee Meets National Inspirational Role Models Month

Get this, God,

In the PR trade, we sometimes tie publicity pushes to calendar dates. There's even a really cool book of publicity-begging days, months, and weeks. It's called Chase's Calendar of Events.

I'm at the Brattleboro library and I just looked up November. Seems like there's a lot happening this month aside from Thanksgiving! Like, did you know that November is National Inspirational Role Models Month?

So I'm thinking—hey! People say Vermont Yankee is a Mickey Mouse enterprise. Let's do a Phineas T. Barnum on these people and turn that into a positive. Let's celebrate National Inspirational Role Models Month by rejoicing in the inspiration that Vermont Yankee drawx from Mickey Mouse.

Was that a groan I heard or thunder? Stay with me on this one, Lord. At least hear me out on my "Ten Shameless Ways in Which I Try to Liken a Potentially Armageddon-Producing Monstrosity Like Vermont Yankee to an Innocuous, Feel-Good Character Like Mickey Mouse."

1. Mickey Mouse is not really a mouse. Still, his success was the foundation of the entire Disney enterprise. Vermont Yankee is not really a Yankee enterprise. It's not even a Vermont one. (It is owned by a Louisiana conglomerate.) Still, its success is the foundation of a cartoonish amount of corporate profit.

2. Mickey Mouse's likeness and his smiling image can be found on tee shirts, mouse pads, sneakers, coffee mugs, hats, toys, and sheets. Vermont Yankee's corporate name can be found on the tax rolls in the small town of Vernon, Vermont, which it sued when it objected to its property tax assessment.

3. The legends about Mickey's creation vary. Was he originally named "Mortimer?" Is his character based on the character of a particularly sweet pet mouse of Walt Disney's? The legends about Vermont Yankee's creation vary. Did the legislature really approve the plant's construction only when the swing vote (married) became romantically entangled with a proponent (also married), threw her judgment to the wind, voted his way, and ran off with him leaving their families in the lurch?

4. As early as the 1930s, Mickey Mouse merchandise began irretrievably flooding the market. Vermont Yankee produces waste that will never go away—and never stop radiating.

5. Walt Disney chose a mouse as his signature character because, although many people are afraid of them, if they're drawn well, they can seem cute. Many people are afraid of Vermont Yankee, but if the PR team is aggressive enough and the PR effort is supported by gratuitous charitable donations (gratuitous by local non-profit standards; the amounts are actually insignificant to Vermont Yankee), many otherwise anti-nuke people will become mousy for fear of seeming ungrateful.

6. The very first Mickey Mouse cartoon was called "Plane Crazy." In that movie, Mickey takes Minnie up in a plane and tries to kiss her. When she resists he resorts to force. Allowing Vermont Yankee to bribe, threaten, shame, and otherwise coerce Vermonters into acquiescing to a licentious license renewal is plain crazy.

7. Mickey Mouse was so popular that, in 1929, Mickey Mouse Clubs began to form at local theatres for Saturday afternoons of cartoons and games. Nuclear power is so dangerous that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been created to protect people from its threat. However, the commission seems to spend its time with its own regulatees in fun afternoons of cartoons and games.

8. When World War II started, the Disney Studio suspended production of commercial cartoons and concentrated instead on making films that would support the military. For as long as there has been federal control of nuclear research and materials, there has been an interest in using commercial nuclear reactors as a source of materials to make military weapons.

9. Mickey has starred in many computer and video games. Some are aimed at very young children and, unfortunately, bring children into close contact with monitors, many of which are radiation emitting. Vermont Yankee radiates young children. Cancer rates in Windham County are mysteriously much higher than they are in the remainder of Vermont.

10. In a supreme moment of fun and humility that moved much of the nation to tears, while introducing his very first television show, Walt Disney said, " I hope we never lose sight of one fact -- that this was all started by a mouse." When the Vermont Yankee cooling tower collapsed we said, "Yeah, but this is not safety-related." Lots of people cried.

What do you think, Lord? Cut/print/got it?


PS: By egregiously taking advantage of the Mickey Mouse name, I am in no way implying an endorsement by Disney or Mickey Mouse of Vermont Yankee or even, heaven forbid, of my prayers to you.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Pre-Thanksgiving Prayer of Thanks

Dear God,

As the season of Thanksgiving approaches, I have something special I'd like to give thanks for. It is that here in Vermont we seem to have almost gotten through 2007 forgetting entirely to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near disaster. You see, in late winter of 2002 that plant shut down for refueling. It was during the refueling shutdown that engineers discovered that, over the course of six years of inadequate inspections, corrosive coolant had been leaking from the core. The coolant had created a six-by-five-by-four inch cavity in the liner of the core. All that remained of the liner was a warped piece of steel a little thicker than tin foil. It and it alone contained approximately 2500 psi of highly radioactive internal environment. Had the pressure burst through the remaining lining and into the reactor containment building, it might have set in motion a core meltdown. Toledo is 21 miles away from the Davis-Besse plant.

So, yes, thanks for protecting the people of Toledo five years ago, but, also, thanks for helping us forget to celebrate that near miss here this year. You see, that plant's maintenance schedules and procedures were lax, and our plant's maintenance schedules and procedures are lax--or so the NRC suggested might be the case in a statement yesterday about two recent accidents at the plant. We don't need any parallels drawn between Vermont Yankee and the second biggest embarrassment the nuclear industry has ever had (the biggest being Three Mile Island).

For, as you know, we at Vermont Yankee are in the midst of a battle to extend the license of our aging plant and to keep it operating at 120% of capacity, to boot. In the midst of all this a cooling tower collapsed and then, 10 days later, a failure in a turbine valve caused an automatic shutdown of the plant. The NRC seems to have strayed "off message" with their statement yesterday but I do hope that you'll stay "on." Repeat the message after me, please: "The accidents are irrelevant to the Vermont Yankee relicensing application."

Amen, Lord. Thank you again. And, hey! It'll be turkey at my house this year!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Internet Porn and the Big Bang that Wasn't

Dear God,

I need to talk to you about porn.

You see, on November 1, Philip Baruth of Vermont Daily Briefing said he would be posting a "bold and courageous series" of naked pictures of me. Delighted at the very idea, I called him. I suggested that we do the photo shoot at the plant today (Sunday).

I got to the plant early to chose a location. As I waited for Philip I got all kinds of vain ideas, like I would be famous some day like the actress named Vanessa from High School Musical whose naked photos were (unfortunately for her career, it seemed at first) found on the Internet but then that story had a happy ending because everyone, even Disney, rallied in her defense and now she's signed her contract for High School Musical 3. I was thinking that, when my nude photos get "discovered," I might get offered a starring role in a musical of some sort, too. I don't know why, but a singing version of The Day the Earth Stood Still struck me as a possibility. (Remember that old movie? A visitor from another planet comes to tell us that our profligate and irresponsible use of the atom means that, as a race, we are aggressive, paranoid and dangerous to ourselves—and must be "helped?" Insert scary music here. There's got to be at least a walk-on in that movie for me.)

Anyway, all caught up in my fantasizing, I drafted the obligatory, apologetic press release for when people get outraged about my photos.
Vernon, Vermont. Dateline: November 5. [See, that's Monday, 'cause as a professional spokesman I know never to try to sell a new idea on a weekend. Continuing:] These are art photos and it is unfortunate that I have been misunderstood. I'm sorry.

Eventually, Philip arrived at the plant, and he had a whole photography crew with him! They had strobe lights and cameras and they'd brought a big athletic towel for discreet draping. We called each other "Dude," which let me know that things would be on the up and up. I went behind a tree to change.

But for some reason Philip and the dudes never made it through security.

Which is actually kind of reassuring, now that I think of it.

You see, most nuclear power plants have at least two security checkpoints. And just Friday, a worker at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station (it's near Phoenix and is the nation's biggest commercial plant) got stopped at one of his plant's checkpoints, where the guards discovered a bomb in the back of his pickup truck.

So wow, Lord. I guess it's good to know that our security systems in Arizona and Vermont work.

Anyway, "No" means "No" when the guard saying it has a semiautomatic. So the dudes and I left the plant grounds. We went over to New Hampshire and down to that fair state's banks of the Connecticut River, thinking we would take the nude photos with the Vermont Yankee plant as a backdrop. Frankly, I didn't much like this idea so I wasn't disappointed when it collapsed. I mean, it had already been done by Remy Chavalier, whose nude photos of environmental activist Isabel Vinso made the front page of the Reformer.

Bummer, though. You see, ever since this week when Philip posted a few of the Chevalier photos, every guy who owns a point-and-shoot has been down at the river, and every pretty girl in town who wants a Disney contract has been waving and shouting, "I want to be an environmental activist, too!" The river bank was crawling with them!

So that's why I want to talk to you about Internet porn. See, we couldn't get even a private square inch of river bank space, so Philip got upset and cursed, and one doesn't normally see that kind of behavior in a liberal blogger.

"I mean, how tough can it be to take a &8%$# nude picture of a PR guy?" he wailed.

Now, God, I am most definitely not gay and I have absolutely zero idea about Philip's orientation. But I do think Philip is beautiful when he cries. So what could I do? I told him to go home and have a snack and a nap and I'd email him some pictures. Then the whole darn bunch of photographers down on the bank of the river started to cry and they were beautiful, too. Then the girls started to cry. Ditto for them. The sounds of wailing were so primordial and the visions of sorrow and distress so rapturous that I told everyone I'd email them pictures. Right away, they dried their tears and put on their clothes and left. I did, too.

But when I got back to the office I realized that the crew had taken the large athletic towel with them. This meant that whatever photos I took of myself would be kind of hard-core. I'm a private guy, and that goes way beyond what I'll do for my singing career. So I thought I'd just download some shots of naked men from the Internet and use Adobe Photoshop to crop off their heads, because in shots like those it's not the person's face that matters.

And then I emailed them to Philip and all of the river guys and girls. And then security showed up. And so I'm left wondering, Lord: Why am I such a sucker for tears? Also, Lord, why can't I get the specter of yesterday's bomb, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station, and the people of Maricopa County, Arizona out of my mind?

Thanks, Lord,


Friday, November 2, 2007

About That Testicular Cancer Note....

Oops, God,

Just a clarification: Some people are reacting to "My favorite cancer is testicular," as though that's a joke and in bad taste. Good God! I don't think cancer is funny either. But in Windham County death rates for people of all ages are 10% higher than they are in the rest of the state. And as you in your all knowingness know, the younger the person, the greater the risk for health problems from radiation exposure. My favorite cancer is testicular because it's the one kind of cancer kids can't get from Vermont Yankee, though, of course, time will tell.

Thanks, Lord,


Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Seven Deadly Sins Meet the NRC's Environmental Impact Assessment

Wow, God,

This is from the Asbury Park Press of 10/28/07. The full article is here.

"In a recent audit, the inspector general's office in the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission studied 458 samples of the narrative in NRC reports on nuclear plant relicensing applications. More than 70 percent of the narrative passages on the Oyster Creek license renewal application lacked substance, the inspector general's office found.

"The [NRC's Inspector General's] audit found a similar pattern, on average, in an analysis of NRC comments on some other plant relicensing applications.

Ok, God. That's a little weird. So the NRC has not been doing due diligence. That probably explains a bit of what happened at the "Public Meeting to Discuss the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the License Renewal of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station" last January at the Latchis. Some of the slides presented by the NRC, ostensibly about Vermont Yankee, were labelled "Pilgrim Nuclear Plant." The NRC guy explained the mistake to the outraged crowed: He had presented about Pilgrim just the day before and had used many of the same slides for the Vermont Yankee presentation. The crowd had only quieted down when he made another disquieting mistake. He referred to Vermont Yankee as "Vermont Yankitee." That's pretty much the same caliber mistake as calling your wife, whose name is Linda, "Leslie"--except that if you are less than imprecise in your relationship to your wife, when she blows up she's not going to kill millions. Anyway, clearly the guy in charge of the assessment of the environmental impact of Vermont Yankee wasn't all that familiar with Vermont Yankee. And, clearly, I should have prepped him better.

God, I was embarrassed, and when I say "God" in this sentence I mean it in the expletive, expressive sense, not in the religious one. But I do know now, in my humility, that I need to be very careful about what I say next, because I'm going to mean it in the religious sense and you may not be in the mood for any more laxity on my part. Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, … (and before I continue with my iteration of the other two of the Seven Deadly Sins, may I confess that I have never understood, really, the difference between "Gluttony" and "Greed"?) … Envy, and Pride. Those are the big seven, are they not, Lord?. (By the way, I must also confess that I do not understand the prominence of "Lust" on that list. For ideas about the roots of my confusion, see my "Why I Love Vermont Yankee" prayer; specifically see Item Number 6 in that prayer.)

Anyway, Lord, forgive me if I ramble. Here's the "I have to be careful about what I say next" stuff: The judgment about sloppiness publicized in the Asbury Park Press is about Oyster Creek's relicensing application, not Vermont Yankee's. I'm off the hook! Vermont Yankee is entirely clean in this news report! So is that Pride that I'm articulating? Because that would be kind of bad, spiritually speaking. Or is it just fear--which you, in your all knowingness, surely know doesn't even have a capital letter, much less a sin number and would therefore be a much more seemly negative emotion for me to go on about?

I'm going to second-guess you and go with "fear" as the answer. More specifically, I'm talking about "fear for my job." For the NRC report says that "The [NRC's Inspector General's] audit found a similar [tons of bluster, not much substance] pattern, on average, in an analysis of NRC comments on some other plant relicensing applications." Did it find that pattern on Vermont Yankee's application???? If so, I've got a problem. The folks in Windham County are going to be ripped at me if they find out (so I'll try not to let them).

Again, just as I was when I prayed my "Why I Love Vermont Yankee" prayer, I am afraid. Dear God, please tell me that fear for my job would not be a Deadly Sin, not even if it was compounded by Wrath for the engineers who didn't do a more careful or meaningful job of inspecting our poor, aged plant! Is the NRC's Inspector General's office about to expose me? And if, pray, fear for one's job is not a sin, is allowing or supporting carelessness in an NRC relicensing application?

And is purposeful carelessness even the same thing, necessarily, as lying? I do know that lying is a sin. But is it a Deadly Sin? And if lying isn't Deadly, does that mean it's never lethal? And if it's never lethal, could I comfortably assume that it is relatively benign? What I mean to ask, Lord, if only I could get past my fear and bluster, is this: If I lie only when I'm paid to and only to people I don't care about, is it a sin?

Gotta go, Lord. Thanks for the meeting.