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Out my window...

....smoking building! This morning at 7 AM, I saw the building across the street had "visible dense smoke" pouring from its chimney. This is a regular occurrence and I complain loudly to myself. This morning by 9 AM, smoke still pouring out, our building's E-list went to work with confirmations that, "yes, there was smoke; it was coming from the building across the street, it smelled, and someone should do something about it." 311 was called, a complaint lodged with the EPA; all done very efficiently. Of course, it may take weeks for the EPA to check it out.In the meantime, out the window I saw a man on his cell phone pacing in front of the building with the smoking chimney. He was gesturing, he kept looking up, talking in a lively manner (though I could not hear him). He stopped people passing and pointing up as if to collect a gang of witnesses to the smoke. He seemed to have on pajamas under his jacket. Finally he went to the door and tried to get buzzed in...and failed. Finally he closed up his cell phone and walked into the building next door where presumably he lives. Who had he been calling? 311? 911? the local police precinct? We'll never know.A busy morning for what seems to be a holiday. 

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I hope this comment is judged on-topic and acceptable. From what I can figure out, some New York City apartment houses are allowed to use #4 fuel oil, a form of bunker oil. Some years ago, I recall a discussion in the newspapers that said that the law allowed the houses to belch black smoke for a certain period of start-up. Ordinary homes use #2 fuel oil. Quoting an April, 2011, statement from Mayor Bloomberg on PlaNYC, "Just one percent of all buildings in the city produce eighty six percent of the total soot pollution from buildings more than all the cars and trucks in New York City combined. They do this by burning the dirtiest grades of heating fuel available, known as residual oil, or #6 and #4 heating oil."----Almost any winter trip in The Bronx on an elevated highway or rapid transit line, or an approach over the Whitestone Bridge, will show the traveler the foul columns of smoke arising from apartment house chimneys. Most of these were coal systems installed in the 1920's, converted to oil in 1957-1950 or so.

Thank you. Quite helpful (and on topic). The start-up is a possible explanation because when I just looked it had stopped. And I have seen it later in the afternoon and evening.I am hoping that somehow it was the man in his pjs who was responsible for putting out the smoke.

As a guy who works for the local electricity utility, I am amazed that in a place as large as NYC, the city has not forced landlords to upgrade older heating systems to either natural gas or electric. In CA we have laws that put strict limitations on the use of wood-burning fireplaces. It is against the law to build a house with a wood-burning fireplace and most folks have or are in the process of converting the older style fireplaces to either gas or electric.

And I do not know anyone who still uses fuel oil for heat; no matter the grade of fuel oil, it simply is too dirty-burninga fuel. For all I know, it might not even be allowed under CA law.

Out my window this morning... a guy on a bench (snow-covered) in below 0 weather, holding a tub of ice cream in his lap, eating it face-down like a dog.

Some friends of ours are coming to visit tonight and Lucia is going to make/bring Pozole Mmmm!Happy New Year!

Okay, I'll bite: Pozole?And just remember Ken, NYC was ahead of the times before it became behind the times...18th century city, after all.

The original pozole was the eucharist of pre-hispanic Mexico. It was a stew of corn and human flesh served on special days. After the Spanish Christianization of Mexico, pork was substituted and it lost its religious significance

Oil pigs for storing home heating oil were common sights here in Michigan for decades. Many of our neighbors in the 1950s and '60s used fuel oil, and some even had pig faces and tails painted on them! Ah, the simple pleasures of folk art! Most have gone to propane, which is cleaner (and you can paint the tanks to look like little submarines!)However, I don't remember anything particularly noxious about oil-fueled homes. Wonder if the offender is burning some sort of fuel the furnace isn't suited to handle, or if the chimney needs cleaning?

We could use some chimney sweeps here in New York! It may be that a filter/scrubber/whatever, which I think buildings are supposed to have on their chimneys, is out of commission.

I think different parts of California have different restrictions on fireplaces. Here in central CA winter can get very smokey with all the woodburning. But I use electric heat. Many people use natural gas heaters too. I've never known anyone here with an oil heater ... it seems on a level with burning coal - from another time.

Here in northern New England oil heat was, and still is, standard. Propane is used by some, and though where I live now is thus heated, the house I left about 15 months ago had oil heat, and in that was like most others. Because we had a fireplace and a woodstove, we had the chimney swept once a year. There is lots of wood burning still, and more and more people are turning to pellets (what they emit, I have no idea). But natural gas is generally unavailable, though there are plans to put in a pipe line to bring it to us. I have no idea how these methods rank ecologically. Propane may burn more cleanly, but it is still a petroleum product, and perhaps its manufacture is harmful? And electricity, of course, has to come from a power plant that burns. . . . what?Heat remains important in this climate (we've just had almost 20" of snow, and the temperature is supposed to drop below zero tomorrow (New Year's Day). So I will curl up and stream the Vienna New Year's Concert or a repeat of it (unfortunately it begins at 5.15 AM local time if you get it on ORF - sterreichischer Rundfunk). But I like to get the whole thing, not just the bits PBS wants me to have on the television broadcast (along with the comments of Julie von Trapp Andrews, who still makes me think more of Liza Doolittle than the Frau Baronin Maria).But now I'm going ORF topic.

Electricity can be generated from a strong flowing river. I worked for Kaiser Aluminum here which used vast amounts of electricity to turn bauxite into aluminum. The company's power plant was fueled by the Mississippi River here, and it was said the plant was big enough to supply electricity to a small city. Does anybody know why isn't this process used more?

At the risk of being off topic.....A happy new year to all. May we all seek the anointing of the Lord and set the captives free. May all enjoy the freedom of the children of God.

Speaking of where electricity comes from, the electric company here has an option where a customer can pay slightly more to have their electricity come from a non-coal burning plant.

Abe Rosenzweig: Ah,....what? It was a stew of corn and human flesh served on special daysJohn Hayes: Seriously?Bill Mazzella: A happy and blessed new year to you! As an unreconstructed and unrepentant extremist right-winger, I salute you, an unreconstructed and unrepentant leftist-pacifist.Love and affection Bill.

Nicholas: Have been listening to the NPR version...not so bad. Last night we decided to see if there was really a "Radezsky March" as in the title of Joseph Roth's novel about pre-WWI Austro-Hungarian Empire. I assumed there was not, my English lit friend thought not as well. But Google turned this up: the 1987 Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Contest, Herbert von Karajan conducting the orchestra and the audience...Johann Strauss, Sr.

Bob Schwartz wrote "John Hayes: Seriously?"It isn't my field, but the link I posted is to an article that reports on a anthropological study on cannibalism in pre-hispanic Mexico. The headline is "Pre-Hispanic Mexicans Ate Pozole With Human Flesh"In part, it says:

El antroplogo seal que en el Mxico prehispnico, tras los sacrificios rituales en los que se ofrecan los corazones de la vctima a las deidades, el resto del cuerpo se coca con maz y era repartido entre todos los participantes en una especia de acto de comunin o slo entre determinados sacerdotesThe anthropologist pointed out that in pre-Hispanic Mexico, after the ritual slaughter in which the hearts of [human] victims were offered to the deities, the rest of the body was cooked with corn and was distributed in a sort of act of communion either among all the participants or only among certain priests

The anthropologists examined tool marks on human bones and recipes for cooking human flesh collected by Spanish missionaries.

A friend of my father's was a missionary in the Fiji Islands where there was cannibalism even when was young. The priest said they were told that people taste like pork. Well, that does seem to be one practice that is finally gone.Out my window today people were wearing light cotton clothes. It was 75 degrees today. Scrub those chimneys!

John Hayes:Doesn't reflect well on the indigenous Mexican culture. That's disgusting. Or is that a racist comment?

Nicholas Clifford, I tried to get the ORF concert online after reading your post last night but all I could get was jazz and that was not at all what I wanted. So tonight I tuned in to the PBS broadcast and was delighted that it ended, as apparently it always does, with The Radetzky March, because I just started to read Joseph Roth's masterwork of the same title. Thanks.

Bob - I have a very vague recollection from my undergraduate anthropology class, now very many moons ago, that anthropologists speculated that indigenous Mexicans practiced cannibalism at least in part because there weren't many other sources of animal protein available to them. They consumed insects for the same reason.I could be misremembering, and/or the theories may have changed since then.

Here is the Radetzky March, with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. was also on the program at my son's middle school concert a couple of months ago. It does make one want to clap or whistle or hum along. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that someone has penned lyrics to it at some point or other.

Wow John Hayes, while you might not have the tendency to take the fun out of things, you certainly have a way of making pozole sound nauseating. If pozole was made as you describe, it has not been prepared in that manner for hundreds of years. Here is what I think, a better explanation of this tasty dish: . . Posole (or pozole) is a traditional soup in Mexico, often served Christmas Eve, and in many parts of the country, on Thursdays and Saturdays all year round. This posole rojo, or red posole, is made with pork shoulder or shanks, red chiles, and lots of hominy corn. . . . The soup itself should be rather thin or brothy, because you are going to load it up quickly with shredded cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, chopped avocados, cilantro, onions, and wedges of lime. More hot sauce or chiles can be added for more heat. Posole is all about the garnishes. So good! Many thanks to my good friend Arturo from Guerrero Mexico for showing me how to make this wonderful soup.

It appears that there is a Radetzky March, and that there is a non-cannabilistic Posole.

In 2003, an apology for cannibalism was offered for an earlier incident. The villagers believe that incident accounts for their lack of electricity and piped water over the past 146 years. A previous attempt at apologizing to the Methodist Church with an offering of boots had been ineffective. (I assume it is the black smoke common to the NYC furnace and cannibals' ovens that preserves the requisite on-topic coherence of this thread.)

Jim Pauwels, thank you very much for the link. It's a fun piece of music, although von Karajan looked ghastly. And I will keep the music in mind as I read the book (which appears to be a good choice for cold winter nights).

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