Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The beast in me

  Dave the barefoot chess player has been traveling to Marshalltown from Des Moines the last month and a half to play in our Thursday blitz tournaments at chess club. He is a stronger player than all of us except for my son Matt. He is only rated about 50 points ahead of me, 350 points behind Matt and I have managed to win 3 of the 4 tournament games we played in Marshalltown. This includes 2 games I was behind in but managed to come back and catch Dave in some tactical tricks. I attributed my good fortune to the fact that I am on my home turf and just plain luck.

  Dave and I played a pair of games after the tournament last Thursday. In the first game, I made a mistake and lost a pawn. Dave took the pawn and said “Now, I’ll really have to watch it.” I did manage to win the game when he overlooked a checkmate threat in my all-out attack on the king and won the next game by winning a pawn, and using my preferred method of trading to a winning endgame Afterwards, I asked Dave what he meant by his comment and he told me that I played like a beast when I was behind in the game and that was when I displayed my chess strength.

  I’ve always thought of myself as a slow, boring player who stays away from complicated positions who outplays my opponents in the endgame, but maybe Dave is right and I am ignoring my true nature. At the Okoboji Open, a strong player told me after my win against an expert in April that I should stop being content to tie stronger players and be confident in my ability to go toe to toe with them.

  I’ve spent the last week trying to think of myself as a ‘Chess Beast’ when I play on-line without much success, but I’m not giving up yet. I thought about my chess playing at its most beastly and came up with this offhand game I played in 1992. I was working at Wyatt Data Services in Fort Lee, NJ and a group of us would play chess at lunch except on Friday’s when we would play ping-pong. Our group was Catalin(Romania), Rolando(Equadaor), Alex(Puerto Rico), and Jay(Suburbia), and myself(Inner City). I was the best player with Alex a distant second and we had always fun playing at fast food places or the company lunchroom.

  One day Catalin, Rolando, and Alex were talking about a temp in the data entry section where they worked. They said this guy thought he was smarter than everyone else, was telling everyone who would listen how all the other data entry people weren’t doing their jobs right, how he was doing it better, and the whole operation would be better if he was in charge of the data entry department. He was young and wore a suit and tie (We all had to wear suits except for the data entry department). I’d seen the fellow but hadn’t talked to him, but the fact that my friends didn’t like him was enough for me to keep my distance.

  The next week, we were playing chess in the company lunchroom and the new guy came in, saw us playing chess, and said “Chess…hmmm…I’d play but I don’t think anyone here can give me a good game.” I had just won my game and offered to play him, and we sat down to play. One of the other guys left for a second and came back with all the data entry people, so there were about 20 people watching the match. I knew full well that this guy could be a much stronger player than me, but almost all of the strong players I know play better than they talk.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 d6
3. Bc4 Bg4

  (This is a clue that my friend is not a strong player. Since I haven’t castled, I can drive away the bishop with pawn moves and castle on the other side, leaving the bishop buried behind my pawns.)

4.d3 Ne7?
  (I guess my friend had won a lot of games by using the bishop to pin the knight to the queen and wasn’t going to let that happen to him. But this is a very poor move that loses a pawn).


  (If he takes my knight, I take his bishop and win a pawn. The only problem is he can take my queen. The faces of my fellow chess players turned ashen for a second, but one by one they eventually understood my plan. Meanwhile, I used my college acting experience to pretend I had made a big mistake that I was hoping he didn’t see. I pursed my lips, clenched my teeth, sat stone still, and every so often glanced at his bishop and my queen. After a minute my opponent’s eyes lit up. He triumphantly surveyed all the people watching, picked up his bishop, gave a small laugh, said “This was easier than I thought.”, and captured my Queen.

5 …Bxd1???

  All the data entry people who weren’t chess players groaned when he took my best piece, but then I shot my hand out, grabbed my bishop, and took the pawn on f7, saying “Checkmate!”.

6. Bxf7!! Mate

  My opponent’s face turned beet red at the same time as the huge cheer erupted from the data entry people, followed by enormous amounts of laughter at my friend’s expense. When the laughter died down, I invited him to another game, saying in my most derisive manner, “C’mon, ya can’t lose any quicker, can ya?” The laughter erupted once more, my friend’s face turned even redder, he left the room, didn’t come to work the next day, and was never heard from again (He’s probably working for the government).

Maybe I’ve been always been a beast and just forgot.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Race to nowhere

  Iowa congressman Steve King is at it again. On a national radio interview, King got to talking about the black Harvard professor who was arrested at his house by a white policeman that was responding to a neighbor calling about a possible break-in. President Obama weighed in on behalf of the professor, realized he was on the wrong side of public opinion, and defused the situation by having a beer with both parties at the White House. King said the situation showed that “The president has demonstrated that he has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race on the side that favors the black person in the case of professor Gates and officer Crowley."

  After these remarks, King was disinvited from various rallies and fund-raisers for Tea Party and Republican candidates. This surprised me because it’s not the first time that King has made controversial comments. As a
lone wolf spokesman on racial issues and being profoundly against amnesty for illegal aliens, his quotes make it into the media more than most.

  It’s not the first time a President’s been accused of being racist. President W. Bush was accused of being racist in his slow response to Hurricane Katrina and President Obama was also subject to racist accusations by those comparing his quick calls for aid to Haiti to his response to the Gulf Coast oil spill.

  I don’t agree with the congressmen’s comments but don’t know what was especially wrong with them either. It seems that anyone that comments about race is accused of being racist. I was talking to a black man and he told me he was a republican, so I asked him who got his vote in the last presidential election. He told me he voted for Obama because it was historic. I mentioned that he must not be much of a republican and we had fun talking about race and politics because we could be just talk without a bunch of name calling. You can see racism everywhere if you want to find it. I talked to a guy from Mexico once and he told me that in Marshalltown, the reason we have to park our cars on the opposite side of the street every day is because the white people in town think the Mexicans are so lazy they won’t move their cars and so the town will make a lot of money on parking tickets. I didn’t have the heart to tell this guy that this law (as well as the law preventing you from parking a car in your front yard) was more than 15 years old and most likely to prevent *****(color removed lest I offend) trash from parking junked cars that won’t start on the street forever.

  Since I'm discussing race, I've compiled a few quiz questions for you. Go ahead and name the person each quote is attributed to. The answers are in the link below the question. I dare you to list your answers in the comments, but you don't have to mention your race, gender, or age.

Question #1
In 2008, who said, "The people are ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ ”?
a) Former Vice-President Dick Cheney
b) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
c) Senator John McCain
d) Former Vice-President Al Gore
Answer to Question #1

Question #2
Which political figure referred to himself as an ‘Honest Injun’ in 2010?
a) Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
b) Former President Bill Clinton
c) Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele
d) Vice President Joe Biden
Answer to Question #2

Question #3
Which political figure has called for the impeachment of President Obama and has been photographed with a poster of the President with a Hitler moustache?
a) Iowa Republican Congressman Steven King
b) California Democratic Governor hopeful Jerry Brown
c) Wyoming Republican State Senator Stan Cooper
d) Texas Democratic Congressional Candidate Kesha Rogers
Answer to Question #3 and
in case you didn't think that was a real source.

I got 3 out of 3. How did you do?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What goes around comes around

  When I was in college, I had a friend that worked part-time at UPS loading trucks overnight. As a member of the teamsters union, he made around $15 an hour, got an incredible number of sick days off, and lots of vacation time. Around that time, a big recession happened and the union agreed to a deal where the full-time drivers (in the majority of the union) got their normal raise, but all new part-time workers got severely reduced benefits, and were put on a salary scale where they would start at $8 an hour and could not make more than $9, no matter what raises the full-time worker received. The new part-timers also got drastically reduced benefits. The drivers were happy, the part-timers were mad, and UPS busily went about the task of firing as many of the part-time workers as they could find cause for in order to replace them with cheaper new hires.

  A few years later, there was a strike at the Shop-Rite supermarket chain in New Jersey. I used to go to the Hillside NJ Shop-Rite and the workers there seemed very happy and most of them had been there since they had started as part timers in school. The jobs had good pay and benefits and as a nice perk, all the workers got time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sundays and holidays. The strike was resolved when the union agreed to give up benefits (including the extra weekend pay) and pay for the part time workers while the full time workers got a modest raise and kept their benefits. Again, the full-time workers were happy and the part time workers were mad, but the Shop-Rite greatly reduced hiring full time workers and almost exclusively brought in cheaper part-time help.

  I was working near Jersey City a few years later and a new Shop-Rite opened a half mile from my workplace. I went to the store one lunch hour and I saw at least 6 people that I recognized from the Hillside store. I just figured they all got promoted. I got some cold cuts at the deli counter and asked the lady there if she had got promoted. She told me that in the latest union negotiation, the part-timers outnumbered the full-timers by a wide margin and in order to get a 50 cent raise, they had bargained away the right of the full timers to refuse a transfer and now Shop-Rite was transferring all the full timers to get them to quit so they could hire more part-timers.

  All this came back to me while I was reading
this article. It seems many states cannot pay their promised pensions and the politicians are not in the mood to raise taxes and forfeit their jobs to meet the obligations they or their predecessors made. The most common solution has been to reduce the pension payments promised to workers that will be hired in the future, while leaving the benefits promised to the current and retired workers alone. I don’t expect current employees to fight this idea tooth and nail or even to fight it at all, but I do expect that at some point in the future all the employees who are hired in the future at reduced benefits to trade whatever they can of their predecessor’s benefits in order to get something for themselves somewhere down the road.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Big "O"

  At work last week, we had a health screening for employees and spouses. A team of nurses measured our height and weight, took blood for a cholesterol reading machine, and asked a lot of questions. It only took about 15 minutes. While the nurse was waiting for the blood machine to spit out the cholesterol numbers, she asked me a few questions about my diet and exercise routines. I explained my daily pushups and stationary bicycle routines and how I bring a bag of apples, oranges, and lemons to work every day with my sandwiches for lunch. I also explained that I don’t take any medications. I assume this is a rarity, since this fact almost always impresses the health professionals that ask what medications I’m on.

  This nurse did not seem very impressed. She told me that I could cut some calories by using a pita type of bread in my sandwich and substituting vegetables for my apples and oranges, with no admiration for my medication-free state. I knew I was a little overweight, so I chalked it up as her passing the time by dispensing the normal advice.

  When the blood results came back, it said I had a high level of the bad cholesterol. The nurse also showed me a chart of my height and weight that showed me as being OBESE. Not only was I OBESE, I’d have to lose 30 pounds to be merely overweight and then if I could lose another 30 more, I’d be considered normal. Even then, I’d be on the high side of normal.

  I am very concerned at being labeled OBESE. When I played tennis Saturday night, I wondered if the cracks in the court surface were from my pounding on it with my OBESE footsteps. When I went to the Wal-Mart, were people looking at me and snickering or did I just fit right in with the rest of the OBESITIES around me? When I was at the supermarket getting a sample of barbecued meat, I swore I saw the old lady giving out the samples roll her eyes. When I got home, I looked up the Yankees roster and saw that according to this chart, Nick Swisher is also OBESE. Now I have a new favorite player. GO NICK!!!

  After getting a good night’s sleep, I’ve decided to look on the bright side of being OBESE. Until I can get my weight down to the pipe-cleaner proportions of the nurses’ chart, there is a possibility of getting a handicap sticker for my car. I am also thinking that I can get a part time job as Santa Claus this winter. And now that I'm officially OBESE, maybe I can be an athletic champion. Surely there must be some 'OBESE Games' or the 'OBESElympics' for people like me. If not, I'll have to look at getting a copyright and organizing my own games. It could be a TV sensation.

  Seriously though, I am placing the largest responsibility for my OBESITY on my friends at British Petroleum. Worrying about the prospect of a shortage of seafood and the future price of gasoline has made me into an over eater. I’ll have to go online for the claim forms, but maybe I can get some portion of the 20 billion dollars for my suffering.

New Year Resolutions
Blogs 49 (out of 104)
Pushups 4845 9out of 8000)
Stationary Bicycle Miles 311 (out of 525)

...I'd like to see some of my OBESE brothers top that!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A second second chance

  After all the grief over getting not getting $8 off my $19.99 oil change at Des Moines Imports last week, I got an email yesterday offering a $15 oil change with the entire $15 going to Hope Ministries to help the hungry and homeless in Central Iowa. I just got my oil changed at local Ben’s Tires on Saturday, but even if I hadn’t I still would stay away from this place. They’ve probably figured out to take the oil out of my car and then shake me down.

  I did give another organization a second chance last week. In 2006, I submitted a ‘Scholastic Side’ column I wrote for the Iowa State Chess Association for the Chess Journalists of America ‘Best Chess Column’ award. I knew it was a long shot, but my column on preparing young players for their first tournament was very well received by parents and had been copied to a number of other web sites, so I thought it was worth a shot. I sent in my $15 for a combined CJA membership and entry fee. I was hoping for an honorable mention and the awards would be given out at the 2006 US Open in Chicago, where my sons and I were going to be playing, so maybe I could get some constructive criticism or pointers from some real chess journalists.

  I was supposed to receive word that my entry was received but after 3 weeks I had heard no word about my entries after numerous e-mail inquiries. I eventually sent a hard copy of my columns directly to the head judge Priority Mail, whereupon he told me he had received my entry, but had been too busy with other matters to acknowledge it. At the US Open, a room was set up for the CJA award winners. I went over to the room and all I saw was a bunch of tables with Chess Life magazines. I didn’t realize that the Chess Life (published by the US Chess Federation) magazine generally wins all the prizes from the CJA. I happened to meet one of the judges for my category and casually asked what he thought of my entry, but he had never heard of it. I guess the pointer I needed to know was to make sure your column gets in Chess Life and then apply for the CJA awards.

  I let my membership to the CJA expire and had not given it another thought until I noticed an article about the 2010 CJA awards. I went to their internet site and saw there was a category for the ‘Best Humorous Contribution’. The fever of fame having struck again, I entered my blog post about the 2010 Okoboji Open. I am not going to the US Open this year, so I if I don’t win any recognition, I can blissfully pretend that I was a whisker away from my well deserved place as the Dave Barry of chess. At any rate, last Friday I received an email from the head judge that my entry was received so I’m already way ahead of my 2006 pace.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Making the least of a second chance

  I had previously written about my bad experience getting my oil changed for the first time at the dealer where I had bought my 2009 Kia Rio in January. The car has been great. It gets over 30 miles per gallon and handles good on the 55 mile commute every day. I was not planning on going back to get my car serviced for ‘a long, long time’, but after receiving a card good for $8 off my next oil change and an email advertising Des Moines Imports’ new price of $19.99 oil change, I made an appointment to get my oil changed at noon this past Friday. The dealer is a mile away from my workplace. That and the low price combined to convince me to give them another chance rather than spend an hour of my Saturday morning having the oil changed in Marshalltown.

  I pulled into the service department promptly at noon and as fate would have it, the same customer service rep I had the last time greeted me and took my key. He had the same smile as last time. Maybe it is painted on. As we went to his computer workstation to get the order punched in, the rep smilingly told me about the new $19.99 price for an oil change. I mentioned that it was extra good fortune for me since I had a card for $8 off an oil change. I was informed by the rep that my card was only good for the old $30 oil change not the new $19.99 change. I told him that the card merely said $8 off an oil change, NOT $8 off a $30 oil change. The rep then said, “We’re not giving oil changes away for $12.” There were other reps around but no one was interrupting to tell him he was wrong. The way the rep was talking, maybe the $8 was going to come out straight out of his pocket and that he was the owner of the dealership or maybe he was Mr. Kia himself. I told the rep that the card did not say I could get $8 off an oil change UNLESS the total cost was $12 and was told again that the card was not good.

  At this point I did something unexpected. I said, “OK. Forget about it.” and left. As soon as I took my second step back to my car, the rep said, “I can call my manager.” I said, “That’s alright, don’t bother.”, and kept walking without looking to see if the rep was still smiling. Because of the way the service department is situated, I had to drive around the entire dealership to get my car to the exit. When I got to the exit driveway, there was the rep. He was still smiling and waved me over to him. I waved back and kept on going. I wasn’t that upset over the whole deal, since I already had a low opinion of the service department anyway.

When I got home from work that night, there was a message from the rep on my answering machine, letting me know that they would honor the $8 card and he was sorry for the inconvenience. I think that ticked me off more than anything. It sounds to me like the policy is to not give the $8 off unless the customer starts to leave, then it is OK to cave. I think I spent more time trying to get the $8 off my oil change than I did buying the car in the first place. All in all, I’m glad I found out what clowns these guys are before I needed them for something bigger than an oil change.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Free at last...NOT

  In the 3rd and last year of my chairing our church’s fall festival committee, I really wanted to try having games for free. The games are basically cheap amusements geared for little kids. There is a bean bag toss, kick the soccer ball through a goalie painted on a piece of plastic with a hole between his hands, a candy walk version of musical chairs, etc… We also rent a ‘ring the bell with the hammer’ game, and there is pumpkin painting. The price to play any of these amusements is a quarter each. The kids get the money to buy the tickets from the parents and then play and receive some sort of trinket or candy for playing. My premise in wanting to have the games for free was that a) We take in around $300 for the games vs. $2000 for the food that is outside, b) The money not spent on games would be spent on the food instead, and c) free games could be advertised to the whole town and we would get even more money for food and raffle tickets.

  The other reason I wanted to try it is because it is not the type of thing that is normally done (much less thought of) and probably would never be tried in the future. The rest of the committee thought I was nuts at first, but I eventually won them over with my brilliant logic or at least wore them out with sheer persistence and by the beginning of May it was a done deal or so I thought.

  Unfortunately, at the very next meeting a committee member showed up for their first meeting of the year. When I went over all the decisions that we had made, the first time attending committee member managed to talk everyone out of having the free games. Since you can’t lead where no one will follow, I dropped the idea. The main argument seemed to be that once we ran out of trinkets and candy to give the kids, they would have nothing to do. I tried to point out that the kids could still play the games for free, but the general thought of the group was that kids won’t play games without getting trinkets or candy. I’m really hoping that the kids won’t want to get minimum wage for playing the games. If they do, they may be able to file for unemployment after the festival.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Penny found is a penny earned...

  Every morning around 6 on the days I don’t work, I take my 2 dogs for a walk to the Jiffy convenience store ¾ of a mile away instead of the normal half mile walk. I get a cup of coffee and they each get a beef stick as a treat. A lot of times I find loose change on the ground. Mostly I find pennies, but occasionally nickels, dimes and quarters. 2 weeks ago I found a dollar bill lying on the street and once I found at least 3 dollars in change on a sidewalk square at the courthouse. My dad walked in New Jersey a lot and always thought that finding loose change was the best economic indicator because when times are good people don’t bother to pick up the change that they drop. I’ve read that loose change is indicative of the obesity epidemic plaguing the country since the overweight can’t bend over to pick up the change falling from pockets. I like to think when I find loose change it is Jesus’ way of telling me not to worry about money because it is just waiting to be picked up when I need some.

  Yesterday, when we walked to the Jiffy to get our coffee and beef sticks, inside was a scruffy sort of fellow who was heating up a submarine sandwich in the microwave and loading it up with the free ketchup and onions that are by the hot dog station. 4 blocks into our walk back, I saw the same fellow coming out of an alleyway. He asked me how I was doing and I mentioned that his sandwich looked pretty good. He told me that he had that sandwich the entire day before and I was sorry I had said anything. They he asked me what day it was and we walked for a couple of blocks when I saw a penny on the curb. I bent over to get it and the guy says ‘Mine’. I said, ‘Finder, keepers’ and we went our separate ways.

  This morning, as the dogs and I were leaving the Jiffy parking lot, we saw Shirley. Shirley is a little old lady who lives in the apartments around the corner from my house. Shirley is very short and thin and walks at such a fast pace she seems to be scurrying. She collects bottles and cans during the week and takes them to the Jiffy to pay for her Sunday paper. Once she almost got arrested at the Jiffy when they finally caught her loading her paper with as many coupon sections from the other papers that she could fit into hers. She calls me Frank because she is hard of hearing, misunderstood my name the first time she asked, and I don’t feel like trying to correct her. Years ago, when Shirley used to see us walking back from the Jiffy, she would walk with us and I figured it was for protection. Once while we were walking, I saw a penny and picked it up. Shirley asked me ‘Are you going to keep that all to yourself?’ I told her yes I was. For a few months after that, whenever Shirley saw us walking, she scurried up ahead of us to find any loose change on the ground before me. And ever since, whenever she started walking alongside me and the dogs, I'll fish a coin out of my pocket and pretend to pick it up off the ground. When Shirley sees this, she shoots on ahead of me like clockwork and goes into ‘search mode’.

  Unfortunately, I had no change when Shirley decided to walk back with us this morning. I don’t mind Shirley, but she talks a lot, I enjoy the solitude of my walk with the dogs, and it is pretty funny to see her scoot on ahead of me to try to find the nonexistent change. When we were a block from the corner where she turns off, fortune smiled on me and I found a penny on the sidewalk right in front of us. Shirley asked me if she could have it, and I told her ‘No, if you were meant to have the penny, you would have found it’. I couldn’t resist asking Shirley if she had just found a hundred dollar bill, would she have shared it with me. She said of course she would. I am sorely tempted to tuck away a ‘Franklin’ for the next time Shirley joins our walk, but I would hate to have her disappoint me so I’ll just have to wait for the real thing to come along.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where’s Billy Mays when you really need him?

  The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has proven to be a long running story. Every day, the news shows are full of failed attempts to plug the leak, politicians expressing hope and outrage, oil soaked animals, new attempts to fix the problem, oil soaked marshlands, breathless anticipation to see if the new solution works, congressional threats to action, tar on the beaches, impotent BP executives, and predictions of ecological doom as the oil works its way around Florida and up the east coast. It is a real mess worthy of a disaster movie.

  As soon as President Obama authorized more off shore drilling sites, an off shore drilling site explodes and sends an unheard of amount of oil gushing to the coast from a mile under the ocean. If I had a suspicious mind, I’d be thinking of an eco-terrorist group. Originally Obama took a hands-off policy towards BP’s cleanup efforts, but he got blamed for inaction when BP misreported the amount of oil leaking and was not able to stop the leak quickly enough. The interior secretary said ‘We will keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done” and threatened to remove BP from the efforts to seal the well. Obama claimed ownership of the problem a few days before the promising attempt to stop the gushing oil by covering thousands of pounds of heavy mud, but has been very quiet since that attempt failed.

  A recent poll said that 51 percent of Americans were unhappy with the presidents handling of the spill. I’m not unhappy with it. Short of swimming a mile down into the ocean with the world’s biggest cork, I think the President has set a good tone. He is right not to vilify BP until they pay for the damages and cleanup, since no one gets anything if they go bankrupt (we may even have to bail them out). I wish Obama would just admit that there isn’t a lot he can do about the situation and set up the assistance for cleanup and aid for the people who have lost their livelihood. For someone who was elected President based on his aura of competency, the president seems to be grasping at straws and wishful thinking instead of just admitting the truth that he has no power of the underwater oil gushing into the ocean and taking care of the things he does have the power to help with. This reminds me of the situation G.W Bush had after Katrina, where he couldn’t undo the hurricane. He also was turned on by the people and pilloried by his opponents for his response to an unfathomable disaster. Only Bill Clinton was empathetic enough to have more people think more favorably of him after a disaster like this than before.

  Unfortunately, the only 2 people that could have stopped this leak quickly were not available. Billy Mays could have plugged the leaking oil with Mighty Mend-It and cleaned up the spill with Oxi-Clean (probably the MAX FORCE or TRIPLE POWER products). And of course McGyver would have stopped the leak by fixing the giant malfunctioning blowout valve with a spare paper clip, some chewing gum wrappers, and his leftover pizza crusts.

  What has impressed me is the inventiveness and persistence of the BP engineers to try to stop the gushing oil a mile under the ocean. They have sprayed it with chemicals to keep it from rising to the surface, made a giant cement box and lowered it over the well with robots, stuck a mile long tube in the well to siphon off oil, shot the well with tons of mud, and now are using robots to cut the main well pipe to cover it with a cap. The results haven’t been good, but the effort is outstanding.

  Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said in Pittsburgh today that “The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy efficient. It means tapping into our natural gas reserves, and moving ahead with our plan to expand our nation's fleet of nuclear power plants. And it means rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.” As bad as this oil spill is, I’m not really looking forward to a new batch of nuclear power plants. I hear those leaks are nasty.