Obsessing About Weather: Acting Normally (for me)

Let’s take ourselves on wings of nostalgia as it were and try to help ourselves forget, perhaps, for a while, our drab wretched lives: Let us return to a subject written about here before the world lost its mind. All 12 longtime readers might recall my neurotic obsession interest in California weather. My interest was at first piqued by the incessant harping on and doomsday predictions over what, when looked at objectively, was just typical California weather. Namely: precipitation varies a lot from year to year here in the Golden State. Most years, we get less than average rainfall. Some years, we get a lot more than average rainfall. That’s the pattern evident in the data since there has data to look at.

So, a few years in a row of below average rainfall is not a drought. In any decade, you might get 5, 6, 7 years of below average rainfall, sometimes in a row. Such a pattern seems to simply be the way weather works here on the West Coast, at least since the last glacial maximum ended 10,000 years ago. The existence of California’s extensive system of reservoirs and canals testifies that at some point, some Californians understood that this is the pattern – and built a lot of reservoirs in an attempt to even it out a bit. That these reservoirs are sometimes near empty is a feature, not a bug. If they were always full, that would mean that precipitation around the state was always orderly and consistent. If they were always full, we wouldn’t need them.

Similarly, the three major rivers in the L.A. basin have been turned into concrete lined storm channels. 100 years ago, Angelinos got tired of having their city washed away about every decade, and so made sure the water from the occasional epic storm had somewhere to go. Most years, there will be more skateboarders than water in those channels. But once in a while…

Calling ‘average’ ‘normal’, so that mundane variation become, not ‘below average’, but ‘abnormal’ simply adds to the atmosphere of panic.

So: for the last year, we’ve been hearing about how California had sunk into an unprecedented drought since the epic rain year of 2016/2017 when, you may recall, 200%+ of average rainfall and snowpack nearly washed out the Oroville Dam. the state’s largest reservoir. That ended the then current unprecedented ‘drought’. Before that, the 2005/2006 epic rain year ended another unprecedented drought. And so on, back through the decades. As one remarkably sane meteorologist put it. there are only a few storms between drought and plenty in California.

How are we doing this year? Glad you asked. According to my crazy spread sheet*:

The at a glance summary section of my spreadsheet. The “gages over %” numbers show how many of the 32 total gages have reached the various arbitrary milestones. I’m just amusing myself.

The real accuracy here is probably more in the range of 10 percentage points, rather than the displayed 1/100th of a percentage point -but where’s the fun in that? So, despite the faux accuracy above, we’re really more like something between 70 and 80% of the season average as of today.

Any still here and not drifting into a coma may be interested in the overall pattern of rainfall over time in Contra Costa County, which I’ve determined from other datasets:

Again, while it would be easy (I do it all the time) to come up with a bunch of reasons why it’s wrong to do the math this way, and wrong to mix data from different sets, and so on, it’s also reciprocally hard to come up with any reasons the number would be very off – a bunch of different people calculating rainfall over many years and over a fairly contained and consistent area are not likely to get significantly different results.

The rain season here stretches from July through the following June. The seasonal pattern is something like this: On average, about 16% of total rainfall falls from July through November; about 10% falls in April, May, and June. The other 74% falls in December, January, February, and March.

Using the above as a baseline, as of the end of December, we get on average about 35% of our season total rainfall. This year, we’re at over 200% of expected average rainfall to date so far, and about 75% of the average seasonal total – with the bulk of the rainy season still to come. The Sierra snowpack, the melting of which following summer replenishes many reservoirs, is in a similar state: about 150% of average to date, about 50% of seasonal average.

So, we can stop worrying about the drought for now? Well – no. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the rain and snow to just – stop. A near or completely dry month or two or three, even the peak months, happens regularly. It would be a little unusual if, after a very rainy first half of the season, we got a very dry second half – but hardly unprecedented.

Isn’t this all fascinating? No?

The table is set for a nice 200% year, which would shut up the drought doomsayers for a while, at least. Yet, alas, even only 100% isn’t a sure bet at this point. I’ll keep y’all posted.

*The Contra Costa County Flood Control District maintains a set of 32 rain gages spread across the county. These gages are meant to track current rainfall against a set of “critical antecedent conditions” so as to allow predictions of flooding. The tables on the web page are automatically updated every 15 minutes, allowing the obsessive attentive observer to watch the rainfall spread out across the county in almost real time. These gages are situated at various altitudes and terrain, so that the experts at the CCC Flood Control District can see where the water is piling up and where it will go. I misuse these gages to measure broad rainfall totals, doing a series of logically and mathematically dubious sums and calculations in order to arrive at the magic number you see above – EXACTLY 76.93% of expected seasonal rainfall has, well, fallen so far. Riiiight. Summing up rainfall and averages across a range of gages and then dividing to get percentages – not strictly scientific. I also do averages of averages, which also has its shortcomings. BUT – I tell myself – the situation is such that these iffy methods are probably roughly right. I’m not applying for grant money are trying to whip up some panic here – I just like taking a stab at a broader measure of rainfall.

The Predicament & “Experts”

(Wow – that last Predicament post was all over the place. There’s a real idea in there someplace, at least I imagine there is. Here’s another crack at it.)

When I was 23? 24? I thought I’d like to go to grad school and get a masters in – Liturgy. No, really. The reasoning was as bass ackwards as it sounds: I had already learned a little about the Catholic Mass and traditions through a volunteer job I had after graduation, and wanted to share my (24 year old. Sheesh.) wisdom – but nobody’s going to listen to me! But if I had a *masters* in Liturgy, they’d have to! Right?

And then it dawned on me: that’s all supposed expertise is, in the ‘reality will not be allowed to disprove you’ world of most academics- I get the advanced degree so that I can push my own special brand of nonsense on the world, and they have to listen because I’m an *expert*! In the vastly less popular ‘put-up-or-shut-up’ fields such as engineering or even business, your degree might get you a job, but you run a real risk of losing that job if you fail to perform. Not so with ‘education’ or social work or the odd liberal arts degree. Those are ‘reputational’ fields, success at which consists of getting and maintaining a suitable reputation among others in that field.

Impressive-sounding degrees really help get that reputation going. There’s also a strong feedback loop: once you get that Master’s or PhD or law degree, you become part of the pool of people who set reputations. Since their reputations begin with the sort of official certification they have received – he’s a *doctor*! She’s a *lawyer*! – people in the field are very unlikely to disparage such degrees, at least to ‘laymen’. To take an extreme example: people who get a degree in Gender Studies will not get very far – build a solid reputation in the field – by disparaging Gender Studies degrees. Perhaps lawyers among themselves talk about law as the votech field it is, I don’t know. But just try having an opinion about law around a lawyer, and see how fast (however subtly) they will mount their defense upon the barbican of their degree. Since the whole law degree/bar exam thing was set up as a way to restrict supply (and raise prices/income) by what are effectively lawyer’s guilds, the magic of the law degree must first of all be defended against laymen. John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, who practiced law rather successfully without the benefit of formal academic training in law, are not the model here, regardless of their reputations.

Over time, the highest reputations in reputational fields will necessarily be held by the people who pay the most attention to reputations. Thus, when introduced to such people, we will often find out quickly their degrees, where their PhD was obtained and where they teach, maybe about some publication that enhanced their reputation in the field. Most important, these high-reputation people then become the gatekeepers of – reputation.

Such people then generalize their expertise. Reputation comes to equal brilliance – he teaches at Stanford or Harvard! He must be an expert! A genius, even! Such a one’s intellectual dogs are soon off the leash, so to speak, nosing about in every field that smells promising. Given the feedback loop of reputational fields described above, if I, the sort of glib poser who is the type-specimen here, hold a degree and agree with the experts in my field, I am likewise a genius and an expert! I of course will pay a certain reverence to my betters in my field, as a primitive worships the sun whose light is the source of his reflected glory. But to outsiders, I am a recognized expert! Bow to me!

First order of business for the expert class: keep the non-credentialed posers in line. In business school, I had to take a business ethics class. Can virtue be taught? Who cares, as long as there’s a paying gig to offer required classes in it. The prof was as bad as you might imagine, a procedure obsessed self-righteous prick. He’d explain his grading methodology in elaborate detail, so we’d all know how fair and transparent it was, and then ask us open ended moral questions for which there were no wrong answers unless he didn’t like them.

He didn’t like mine very much.

Seriously, how does one become an *expert* in business ethics? Is there this long noble tradition of business ethicists, experts in how to be virtuous at business, respected if not loved by their enlightened and now equally virtuous students? To ask the question is to laugh. Instead, a vita is constructed wherein degrees and studies and even experience are aligned in such a way as to make the claim of expertise in business ethics palatable – to the ‘experts’ on the hiring committee. Oh, he studied philosophy, and then worked in industry where he was on an ethical review committee? Then got a PhD in something? Good enough! Once you get that first job as a professor of business ethics, that becomes the star of your vita, and the battle is over.

Similarly, there is science, and there is policy. They are not the same thing, any more than the principles of business are morality. The charge of the electron is something scientists – Mikkelsen and his successors – figured out in a series of elegant experiments. Arsenic was isolated by Albertus Magnus, and, centuries earlier, a process to isolate it was described by Jabir ibn Hayyan (I had to look that one up – full disclosure). But knowing everything about the observable properties of electrons or arsenic tells us nothing about whether we should drive an electric car or poison somebody.

The Predicament rears its ugly head: we want to follow somebody, an expert seems like somebody good to follow, but we humans seem incapable of distinguishing what, exactly, an expert is an expert *in*, let alone only following the lead of experts insofar as what they are leading us through is what they are experts in.

We seem – I think, maybe not, the world is insane – to know that an auto mechanic fixes cars, but is not by that fact an expert on where or how you ought to drive the car he just fixed for you. Somehow, we shelve this simple, obvious truth when faced with more decorated and aggressive (and thin-skinned) experts.

Our predicament: most of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, must rely on somebody else’s opinions. We have been taught to rely on the opinions of experts. We have not been taught to question the nature and limits of expertise. Therefore, most of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, are made uncomfortable if not angry by the mere thought of pushing back or questioning the limits of expert opinion.

In the expert opinion of the founders of this nation and of centuries of English law, the most crucial, life and death decisions are too important to leave to experts. What else are trials by jury and elections than the manifestation of our long-standing distrust of experts?

Yet, as a people we are lost, terrified, and angered by anyone who questions the approved experts. This needs to stop. An expert worth respecting acknowledges the limits of his own expertise. Does he have special knowledge of proper policy? Really? How did he get it? If not, why is he attempting to dictate policy?

Merry Christmas! Links, Music & Good Wishes

May the blessings and happiness of this holy season come to you and yours!

First: my favorite carol:

Love everything about this – the lyrics, the song, the performance. Wonderful.

Next, this had me weeping like a baby – in a good way. Via Caroline Furlong’s blog:

The culture our enemies want to kill.

Foxfier shared this metal version of Angels We Have Heard on High. This singer actually sounds like he’s seen some angels – after recovering from being terrified out of your wits, you’d not be singing about the vision like some whimpy kid’s choir. You’d be belting it out like you mean it!

Finally, at Midnight Mass the choir sang Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, which I have written about before. This polished gem of a work may be the most perfect motet ever written. It’s certainly among the most beautiful and profound:

Merry Christmas!

The Predicament

(4;30 a.m., wide awake, so let’s blog!)

What I’m here calling the Predicament is something with a thousand faces, touched on in a million ways; Pournelle’s Iron Law, Gell-Mann Amnesia Affect, herd mentality, group think, mass psychosis, class distinctions, compulsory schooling, ‘news’, ‘political campaigns’, sports fandom, and I’ll think of more.

Call it human nature, if you want. Or, better, canine nature. Even allowing for the irresistible tendency of people to project human motivations onto the behaviors of dogs (itself yet another example of the Predicament), dogs and people have a lot in common. When we say dogs are pack animals, what we mean is that the typical dog just wants to know who’s in charge. Dogs are easy to train, because, once the trainer establishes that he is in charge, the dog becomes eager to do what he wants. A skillful trainer first never lets the dog wonder who is in charge, and second is good at communicating what he wants the dog to do.* A happy dog is one that knows exactly where he stands in the pack hierarchy.

In feral packs, some dog becomes the alpha. Sometimes, there are battles between the alpha and wanna be alphas, but most often, the lead dog can just stare down any pretenders. The important part here: almost all the dogs just want to know who is in charge. They really don’t care which dog leads, they just want a leader. The average dog just wants to follow, and is really unhappy when he doesn’t know who to follow.

Once read a blogger’s story about being drummed out of the army. Turns out he was naturally immune to the intimidation techniques used by drill sergeants to break down the recruits.** When his would yell at and bully him, he just laughed, and couldn’t control himself. They had to get him out of there, fast, before he destroyed the whole process for the other recruits.

So: the Predicament. Whatever we may think, whatever we may pledge ourselves to, even when we are most rebellious – hell, sometimes *especially* when we’re most rebellious – what’s really going on is that we’re just looking to see who is the big dog, who it is that we’re supposed to follow.

(Agent Smith voice:) I had a little revelation, in my old age here: without ever trying, without ever even desiring it, I won almost every alpha male battle I was ever in. Now, while I may look a little like an alpha – 6’2″ tall and, as a young man at least, strapping – I’m about as intimidating as a puppy. BUT – by a combination of cluelessness and not having any f’s to give, I was simply immune to a lot of the gamesmanship and intimidation used to establish pecking orders. So, on sports teams, in social groups, in groups of volunteers, at work, when the subtle little games got played by which people are put in their places, I ignored them (if i were even aware of them) – and so I won. I got voted team captain, head of the crew, head of the department, the guy people looked to for ideas. People would see that I was not backing down and not being intimidated in any way, and assumed I was the alpha – and so I was.

Huh? Me? But the facts stand. I tell this story only to illustrate how desperately and reflexively people want a leader to follow.

So here is our predicament: wanting to belong -which, in practice, means wanting to know who to follow – is a need so dramatically and powerfully prior to any desire for the truth that the truth simply doesn’t enter into it. The truth will be sacrificed; hell, the truth will never be acknowledged. It is so dreadfully uncomfortable, so terrifying, really, to not know who you are following, that 2+2 really does equal 5, as far as you are concerned, for all of us most of the time, and for most of us all of the time.

The drumbeat of lies we’re being subjected to doesn’t even register with most people. They just want to know who is in charge, and find some relief in belonging to the vast herd of followers. The level of trauma needed to disabuse most of us probably exceeds death – many of us would rather die than to fall out with our group. We won’t even notice the inconsistencies, the hypocrisy, the insanity of our beliefs. When Goebbels said he could make a Brown from a Red in a couple weeks – turn a fanatical Communist into a fanatical Brownshirt – he meant that he, a master propogandist, could leave the fundamental fanaticism intact while changing the object of allegiance. He could take advantage of the fanatic’s overwhelming desire to belong to swap out the much less real object of his fanaticism.

And we, ourselves, we habitually skeptical few, will fall for some of it some of the time. We are only human, after all. The price of sanity is eternal vigilance, it seems.

*A little twist worth thinking about: dogs who are best at doing what the humans want get to breed; dogs who defy their humans don’t. Over time, only sports defy their humans.

** Militaries have learned over time that the more human instincts of the recruits need to be broken down and replaced with those that promote obedience and unit cohesion. That’s what basic training is all about. In the Civil War, all sorts of untrained volunteers quickly assembled into regiments and divisions and headed straight off into battle. When the guy next to him got blown apart, that volunteer turned out to be unimpressed by orders from his commanding officers – Ohio farm boys and New England shopkeeper’s sons tended to drop their arms and walk away after a few hours of battle, tops. So – boot camp, to minimize that sort of thing. They minimize it largely through – you guessed it, right? – peer pressure. The deserter is the outcast.

Year End(?) Update: Wedding, Writing, Stuff

I’m going to use the following feeble excuses for not writing here for over a week:

  1. Younger daughter is getting married in 3 weeks;
  2. I’m ‘working,’ mostly in the sense of worrying about and planning, the sale of our house in (we hope) March;
  3. It’s the week before Christmas.
  4. Volunteered to help the Caboose execute his Eagle Scout project, which tied up the better part of the last 2 weekends.
A local cemetery, managed by our parish, has suffered from neglect and vandals for many years. It is the resting place of many of the pioneers of our town, with graves dating back to the mid 1800s. The local historical society as well as the parish and some of the neighbors have been trying to fix it up. The Caboose’s Eagle project: put in two benches, replace the vandalized and missing cross from the central monument, and clean up. Above: one of the benches, concrete still wet.
An epoxy resin cross (getting granite was not in the budget) affixed atop the central monument, from which vandals had destroyed the original. It came out way better than anticipated – this angle distorts the scale and might make it appear too small, but it’s not.

Other than that, I got nothing. What I have been doing:

A. Making Christmas gifts for the family. They are coming out nice, but, since it’s possible some of the recipients might read this blog, I’ll have to skip the pictures and of course any further details until they have been delivered.

B. Finishing the Gloria I’ve been working on, and working on the Kyrie. I’m at the point where I need to let the Gloria sit – I can keep tweaking it forever, but I probably will just let it go.

I switched over completely to composing in Musescore. It – just works, and revisions are so, so, much easier. Sigh. All that time mastering buggy whip making writing fair score by hand is now useless. My son-in-law swears by Musescore as a composition tool, as you can get instant playback as you go and the fair copy is a print command away. Beats stomping stuff out on piano, which is my usual method.

Sheepish request: any musicians out there with Musescore who would like to hear it/offer feedback? It’s all of 4 minutes long. If so, send me an email at yardsale of the mind (without the gaps) at G-mail dot etc. and I will email you the file.

C. Watching a Youtube series on counterpoint and fugal writing, based on Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassus. On the one hand, I know some of this stuff; on the other, I’m largely an ignorant fool. As I think Nadia Boulanger once said: composition is not theory, but technique, and you get technique by practicing. Will I live long enough to work my way through all of Fux’s and Gran’s exercises? Writing in this style – counterpoint and fuges – is highly technical and mathematical – there is structural stuff you need to work out before you get very far . I’m very bad at that part. Don’t know how many times I’ve written myself into a corner…

D. Had this very vivid idea for a story. Of course, I’ve got half a dozen other writing projects I have not been working on, so now I get another idea. Saw a meme the other day, where this writer is musing something like: “Some people got to bed and *sleep*? They don’t toss and turn working out the plots for a 7-book series? And then they wake up *refreshed*?” I haven’t slept well in years anyway, seems I just need to get mor4e productive about it. I may throw up a chapter as semi-flash fiction when I get a minute.

F. 3 years into involuntary semi-retirement. I need to get a job. Don’t need the big bucks anymore, just something reasonable.

Aaaand – that’s all I have time for at the moment. Tomorrow and Friday begin the annual Great Christmas Cooking & Baking Event. With married kids, we have multiple Christmas/New Year’s/Epiphany parties to go to/host, my beloved is in demand as a pie maker, and I’m always making something, too. So, maybe catch y’all next year.

Have a happy, holy, and blessed Christmas season, not to end before Epiphany at the earliest!

On Staying Sane

Or, rather, sane-ish. One must work with what one has, after all.

Like many people, I suppose, reading myself to sleep was one thing I did obsessively for many years. I started from about age 12, and kept it up until to age 29, when I got married. From then until our first child arrived 4 years later, I kept it up, but noit like when I was younger. Then, once there were babies – 4 in 6 years – getting sleep trumped reading, so I did little, if any, until the kids were putting themselves to bed. Then – I hardly think I’m unique here – your body insists on trying to catch up a little. THEN, we had the Caboose, born 6 years after his next older sister, so start it all over just about when we’d recovered.

That’s 18 to 20 years, right there, during which I wasn’t getting much if any bedtime reading in. Aaaand – having a house full of kids meant, for me at least, not getting a ton of reading in during the day, either.

Finally, a couple years ago, I got back in the grove. Now, I typically have one or two daytime books going, and one or two bedtime books I’m working on. Did you know there are simply too many books worth reading for any one person to read them all? It’s true! And that’s before all the good books I want to reread.

Now to the sane part. I’m kinda slow on the uptake, usually. I had been reading, or trying to read, some of the more heavy (or at least more boring) education history stuff in bed. This is not calming, and requires too much attention to understand. Such reading also tends to rile up the blood. A few months back, therefore, I switched to rereading books I love. This is why you’re seeing a lot of Lewis and Chesterton quotations here recently. Those are two smart dudes, but, more important today, are two sane dudes. Reading them reminds me that not everyone is insane – a sometimes difficult truth to hang on to.

For example:

Akin to these is the false theory of progress, which maintains that we alter the test instead of trying to pass the test. We often hear it said, for instance, “What is right in one age is wrong in another.” This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at other times. If women, say, desire to be elegant, it may be that they are improved at one time by growing fatter and at another time by growing thinner. But you cannot say that they are improved by ceasing to wish to be elegant and beginning to wish to be oblong. If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil; if it were so, we could not talk of surpassing or even falling short of them. How can you overtake Jones if you walk in the other direction? You cannot discuss whether one people has succeeded more in being miserable than another succeeded in being happy. It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat.

The main point here, however, is that this idea of a fundamental alteration in the standard is one of the things that make thought about the past or future simply impossible. The theory of a complete change of standards in human history does not merely deprive us of the pleasure of honouring our fathers; it deprives us even of the more modern and aristocratic pleasure of despising them.

To sum up our contention so far, we may say that the most characteristic current philosophies have not only a touch of mania, but a touch of suicidal mania. The mere questioner has knocked his head against the limits of human thought; and cracked it. This is what makes so futile the warnings of the orthodox and the boasts of the advanced about the dangerous boyhood of free thought. What we are looking at is not the boyhood of free thought; it is the old age and ultimate dissolution of free thought. It is vain for bishops and pious bigwigs to discuss what dreadful things will happen if wild scepticism runs its course. It has run its course. It is vain for eloquent atheists to talk of the great truths that will be revealed if once we see free thought begin. We have seen it end. It has no more questions to ask; it has questioned itself. You cannot call up any wilder vision than a city in which men ask themselves if they have any selves. You cannot fancy a more sceptical world than that in which men doubt if there is a world. It might certainly have reached its bankruptcy more quickly and cleanly if it had not been feebly hampered by the application of indefensible laws of blasphemy or by the absurd pretence that modern England is Christian. But it would have reached the bankruptcy anyhow. Militant atheists are still unjustly persecuted; but rather because they are an old minority than because they are a new one. Free thought has exhausted its own freedom. It is weary of its own success. If any eager freethinker now hails philosophic freedom as the dawn, he is only like the man in Mark Twain who came out wrapped in blankets to see the sun rise and was just in time to see it set. If any frightened curate still says that it will be awful if the darkness of free thought should spread, we can only answer him in the high and powerful words of Mr. Belloc, “Do not, I beseech you, be troubled about the increase of forces already in dissolution. You have mistaken the hour of the night: it is already morning.” We have no more questions left to ask. We have looked for questions in the darkest corners and on the wildest peaks. We have found all the questions that can be found. It is time we gave up looking for questions and began looking for answers.

Orthodoxy, CH III

Above and Beyond

During the Covidiocy, it’s not enough to do the stupid, pointless, unscientific crap officially demanded. We can’t just mask, double mask, social distance, get jabbed, get jabbed again, and then get jabbed yet again. Nope, we need, it seems, to prove our loyalty and obedience by thinking up yet more stupid, pointless, unscientific crap.

This evening, I attended an event where not only was masking up mandatory, not only were the folding chairs placed a couple feet apart, but the doors were left wide open. Temperatures were in the high 40s – cold, by California standards – and there was a light breeze. So, sitting still, not dressed for outdoors in winter, we were freezing our patooties off.

Because…? The masking up is mandated by the state and county. Putting chairs a couple feet apart? Maybe, but I think not. Leaving the doors wide open? I think this is just proving that ‘we’ are eager beavers, that ‘we’ are doing more than is required to defeat the virus! Because the virus, being both genius and magic, is warded off by masks (but only if they cover your nose), cannot travel more than 2 feet (except when it can), and hates a good cold breeze. Covid can sense true believer’s faith, like the Angel of Death sensed lamb’s blood on the lintels, and will pass them by.

Or something. The terrified rabbits running this get-together have to do more than the minimum, even if, or perhaps because, that extra step is uncomfortable, at least, and an invitation for some old lady to catch her death of cold at worst. That way, the virus knows you’re serious!

We see this everywhere. I went to mass (once) at a local parish where not only was every other pew roped off to enforce social distancing, but we were forbidden to use the kneelers – because? Well, because that way, the virus knows we’re serious! Sure, knee-to-knee transfer via lingering pants-based virus particles is just a theory, but it could happen! Prove that it can’t! What are you, crazy!?!?

In general, we don’t take obvious steps based on official premises – masks, if they work, should be disposed of as hazardous waste, changed every hour, and only touched by gloved up hands. One should scrub up after touching them, and then put the gloves in hazardous waste, and then glove up again and scrub one’s face and anything that mask might have touched – every time! Unless you don’t really believe those masks are capturing deadly virus particles – in other words, unless you don’t really believe they work.

Actions speak louder than words. No one really believes masks work. BUT! We still need to keep the doors open and refrain from kneeling! THAT will show the virus we mean business!

The world is insane.

A disease vector.

Trivial but Pretty

As part of ongoing attempts to remain sane, was doing a little woodworking, using the walnut from the old tree in front yard that we’d had cut down years age. As some long term readers may recall, a local urban lumber guy made it into planks, 11 of which I got. These have been drying in the garage for something like 7 or 8 years.

Maybe a year ago, I brought out several of these boards to see what I could do with them. They had not dried well. Heavily figured and beautiful, but all kinds of warped and twisted, despite being stickered and weighted. I had to chop them up to get straight and flat enough pieces to plane them. So, no large dressers or anything like that is coming from this wood, unless the 6 or 7 pieces on the bottom of the stack I haven’t looked at yet are much better.

Silver lining? I ended up with a collection of little pieces I’d trimmed off in order to get to the flatter, straighter parts. These small pieces tended to be highly figured and knotty. So – I said to myself, I did – what if I were to glue them up into a little board? Call it a cheese board?


Pen for scale.

Five scraps glued together, planed, cut to size, sanded, edged, and oiled. Full of cracks and knots, and places where the glue spread in ways I couldn’t sand out.

But kind of pretty.

Faaa-arm Livin’: Update

Been doing stuff, but not posting. Among other things:

Went up to Sacramento to drop off the women folk for a bridal shower for the younger daughter. Collected the future son-in-law, and we took a drive up into the foothills of the Sierra to visit a family friend of his who is doing what I would like to do: living on a few acres out away from the urban areas, where he and his family raise a lot of their own food.

It was cool. He is a very nice man with a nice family. His little micro-farm (7 acres) is located along some south-facing hills, with a a little valley running down the middle. The houses (the one they live in, plus a 100 year old ruin that they restored & rent out through Air B&B) are on the higher end of their little valley, with pastures below, ending in a pond at the bottom. Sheep, cattle, pigs, chickens, and ducks. Fruit trees both in a deer-fenced garden area and distributed around the property. A view for miles across the larger valley from the back porch. Beautiful.

Our host was able to point out a dozen important things I’d have likely missed. One needs irrigation district water to keep things green for the cows; city water, if you can even get it, soon becomes too expensive. Having the irrigation canal run up above his property means he doesn’t need pumps to run his sprinklers. The little valley he’s on has soil 4′ deep before you hit the granite that the Sierras are made of – some nice looking sites have little or no soil.

And so on. On the downside, being out away from civilization means mountain lions are a real deal – one had killed and eaten one of his sheep just the day before. The nearly-stripped carcass was still out in the pasture. Yikes. He keeps his shotgun handy, but he’d need to see the big cat to shoot it. And then there’s coyotes. Hawks and foxes kill his birds. The cows are too big for the mountain lions? At least, once grown a little?

Anyway, what an adventure. He and his lovely wife asked exactly what I’m looking for, and said they’d keep an eye out for suitable properties. They also recommended praying to St. Joseph – which we’re already doing.

The ‘neighborhood’ if you call it that consists of other small farms. Everybody knows everybody. Our host was surprised we’d driven up without anyone stopping us – he said all the neighbors watch for cars they don’t recognize, and then, in a friendly way, stop them and ask them who they are looking for – a real question, as it’s not like looking for street numbers in suburbia. One could get lost. But this also serves to reduce possible miscreants from just driving around.

He sang the benefits of raising kids in the country. In this context, he told me about the horsemanship requirement of Wyoming Catholic College. He said that it used an optional one semester deal, but now is required for the full first year. The college discovered that kids got invaluable knowledge and core lessons in basic reality, from learning how to get a big, opinionated animal to do what you want it to do, and from learning how to care for that animal. Any delusions one might entertain about the existence of objective reality die a quick death once you’re on the back of a horse.

The visit was a wonderful experience. While I personally would limit myself to garden, orchard, chickens, and maybe a pig, the kids are talking about sheep, goats and cows for milking. Right. Well, if they do the work…

All this is contingent on getting this house sold, a task I need to focus on with increased urgency. Given the news that is trickling out from San Francisco and L.A., I got to wonder: how many people really want to live in California anymore? Then I recall the stories I’ve read about the Russians hauled off to the gulags in the middle of the night, who believed it was all some big mistake, and that Stalin would certainly set it straight as soon as he found out about it. Our modern, well-schooled front row kids are even better equipped to comply. They got all those gold stats and pats in the head for doing what they were told to do, to believe what they were told to believe, and to despise those who failed to do as they were told and failed to regurgitate upon command. So, as long as they are told nothing is going on, they will prefer to deny the evidence in front of their eyes, or minimize it, or think it’s an exception, right up until it’s their turn to be the carbon that gets reduced.

“I don’t believe you can do that,” said Mark. “Not with the papers that are read by educated people.”
“That shows you’re still in the nursery, lovey,” said Miss Hardcastle.
“Haven’t you yet realised that it’s the other way round?”
“How do you mean?”
“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All
our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in May-fair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the highbrow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”
“As one of the class you mention,” said Mark with a smile, “I just don’t believe it.”
“Good Lord!” said the Fairy, “where are your eyes? Look at what the weeklies have got away with! Look at the Weekly Question. There’s a paper for you. When Basic English came in simply as the invention of a free-thinking Cambridge don, nothing was too good for it; as soon as it was taken up by a Tory Prime Minister it became a menace to the purity of our language. And wasn’t the Monarchy an expensive absurdity for ten years? And then, when the Duke of Windsor abdicated, didn’t the Question go all monarchist and legitimist for about a fortnight? Did they drop a single reader? Don’t you see that the educated reader can’t stop reading the high-brow Weeklies whatever they do? He can’t. He’s been conditioned.”

That Hideous Strength CH V

Little by little the whole thing came out. These were the refugees from Edgestow. Some had been turned out of their houses, some scared by the riots and still more by the restoration of order. Something like a terror appeared to have been established in the town. “They tell me there were two hundred arrests yesterday,” said the landlord. “Ah,” said the young man. “They’re hard cases, those N.I.C.E. police, every one of them. They put the wind up my old Dad proper, I tell ‘ee.” He ended with a laugh. “’Taint the police so much as the workmen by what I hear,” said another. “They never ought to have brought those Welsh and Irish.” But that was about as far as the criticism went. What struck Mark deeply was the almost complete absence of indignation among the speakers, or even of any distinct sympathy with the refugees. Everyone present knew of at least one outrage in Edgestow; but all agreed that these refugees must be greatly exaggerating. “It says in this morning’s paper that things are pretty well settling down,” said the landlord. “That’s right,” agreed the others. “There’ll always be some who get awkward,” said the potato-faced man. “What’s the good of getting awkward?” asked another, “it’s got to go on. You can’t stop it.” “That’s what I say,” said the Landlord. Fragments of articles which Mark himself had written drifted to and fro. Apparently he and his kind had done their work well; Miss Hardcastle had rated too high the resistance of the working classes to propaganda.

That Hideous Strength, CH X

The kinds of properties I am interested in have been driven up in price 30-40% in the last 20 months – but so have houses in my neighborhood. But how many people really want to go the Green Acres route? Most just want a safer, less crazy city or suburb that reminds them of where they used to live, circa 2015 or so. But enough people evidently are thinking ‘county’ to make it interesting.

The market has cooled in the suburbs, but I don’t know it that’s the usual winter slowdown or if it betokens more than that. Bottom line: I need to get this place ready to sell now. While, of course, also doing Christmas, New Year’s and younger daughter’s wedding.

No problem!