Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 5, 2012

VASICEK: China, dyslexia and dirty coffee pots

By Ed Vasicek
Tribune columnist

— Elmer spotted me at the supermarket. Nearby, a stocker was working from a hand truck, loading cans of chili beans. I ducked behind the stack, but it did no good.

“Ed, is that you behind those beans?” Elmer examined.

“Yep. How are you, Elmer?”

“You know,” Elmer responded, ignoring my question, “the cool winds are blowing and that reminds me of something I read in the news. Did you know Obama is now against wind farms?”

“Where did you see that?” I marveled.

Elmer pulled out an article and I read it aloud. It was from The Daily Ticker.

“On Friday, President Obama took the highly unusual step of blocking a Chinese company from building wind farms in Oregon. The Chinese company, Ralls, is furious and has threatened to sue the president.

“According to a statement issued by the Treasury Department, President Obama made the decision because of national security concerns: The proposed sites ... are located in or near restricted airspace used by the Navy to test weapons.”

“Well,” I corrected, “he is against THAT wind farm. I think he made a good call on that one.”

“Guess I misread it,” Elmer apologized. “I am a bit dyslexic, you know.”

“I didn’t know that,” I conciliated. “I read somewhere that about 10 percent of the population struggles with dyslexia.”

“Really? Where did you see that?” Elmer queried.

“A UPI article. I have it on me.”

“A new font designed for people with dyslexia is now available for use on mobile devices such as tablet computers and smartphones, its U.S. designer says.

“The font, called OpenDyslexic, was designed by Abelardo Gonzalez – a mobile app designer from New Hampshire – who has released the free font to word processors and e-book readers...”

“Wow, cool!” Elmer resounded. “About time someone did something like this. Took ’em long enough.”

Elmer was typically eager to scold. Instead of appreciating progress, he usually complains about how long progress took.

“By the way,“ Elmer added, “Why is it that we always seem to have these articles ready whenever we meet?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Funny, ain’t it? Elmer ... Elmer.”

Elmer was busy giving the evil eye to a man with a cartload of plastic water bottles. If looks could kill, then Elmer was a murderer.

“What’s wrong?” I shouted to gain his attention. He slowly turned my way.

“Those people and millions like them could care less about our environment! Those plastic bottles are killing ocean life and polluting everything.”

Elmer was agitated.

“Look, maybe the guy recycles. I do,” I reasoned.

Elmer calmed down. Then I added, “They are working on the problem, you know. According to futurist Gray Scott, “From plastics floating ‘islands’ in our seas, to mountains of discarded computers and cell phones. E-waste has become a huge 21st-century issue and it will only continue if we do not do something to stop it.

“Researchers at the University of Illinois in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University have created new dissolvable eco-friendly ‘Transient Technologies.’ Soon, your old old cell phones, computers, digital cameras and other technologies could be dissolved and absorbed back into the environment simply by adding water.”

“Wait a second,” Elmer objected. “If these bottles dissolve with water, then how can you keep water in them?”

Elmer had me stumped. I remember once asking a man at the hardware store if the drain unplugging liquid was safe for plastic pipes. He said it had to be because it was sold in plastic bottles. Duh. But this was different. “I remember now. The article said it would dissolve in biofluids – you know, murky water with lots of bacteria.”

“I don’t know,” Elmer added. “Sounds like the stuff that comes out of your coffeepot.”

This time, Elmer was on target.

• Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune.