Little Planets Found Around Little Star

Man, I am just a killjoy. So, let’s get the positive out of the way: it is way cool that 7 little – as in, not gas giant – planets were found around a ‘nearby’ in the sense of unimaginably and unreachably distant, star.

Almost got through a paragraph without getting snarky. Oh, well. Seriously, exoplanets are fun. If they ever actually find any sign of extraterrestrial life, that will be fun, too! But finding cool little planets isn’t the same as finding signs of extraterrestrial life. Oops, there I go again.

Let’s go with the NASA press release, to see Our Tax Dollars at Work: NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star. Wow, the artist’s rendition, which seems to be required by law to accompany any NASA press release no matter how scanty the information, makes it look like what we have here are 7 very attractive and detailed – friendly, even –  little earth-sized planets!

An Artist’s representation. Of something or other.

That looks like fun. Here, let me play:

Some other artist’s rendition. Every bit as accurate! Except maybe for the fish.

But enough with the attempts at humor, at least until some other funny thought strikes me. The opening paragraphs state:

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

What NASA thinks the tax-paying public is most likely to be wowed by is: Alien Life! Therefore, it deploys the terms “habitable zone” (three time), “liquid water” (twice) and  “life as we know it” in the first two paragraphs. The opening ends with a suggestion that there’s a chance – a pretty good chance, right? – that such conditions as would make a planet ‘habitable’ are right here on all 7 planets, but: “…the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.” So, one might suppose there’s a better than decent chance of life on those 3 planets in the habitable zone. Pretty exciting, eh?

One has to read all the way to paragraph 11 to discover that the star is an “ultra-cool dwarf”, which, while it sounds kind of cool, ultra cool, even, has some drawbacks: such stars are so cool for stars that their habitable zone is very, very close to them as opposed to stars like the sun. Planets must be very close, in other words, to potentially have the right temperature range for liquid water to exist on them.

Such close orbits present a problem: “The planets may also be tidally locked to their star.” At the very least (and some celestial mechanic out there please straighten me out on this if I’ve misunderstood) this means these planets orbiting close to such a star would be subject to tidal forces that strongly tend to slow down their rotation, sometimes, as is the case with our own moon, ‘tidally locking’ the smaller body so that it rotates exactly once per orbit. Sometimes, as with the roughly similar-sized Charon and Pluto, *both* bodies get tidally locked. Sometimes – and I don’t think this is very well understood (1) – the smaller body will fall into some sort of resonance period – 3 revolutions for every 2 orbits, as is the case with Mercury.

Full tidal locking would result in a planet with one relatively scorching side and one freezing side. If there were an atmosphere, it would tend to heat up and expand on the sunward side, and flow to the night side, where it would cool and maybe even freeze. If liquid water evaporated, it would suffer the same fate. I would imagine that, over time, like a few million years, the atmosphere would get thinner and thinner on the sunlit side until the ice on the dark side could evaporate into space – atmosphere and ice would be lost.

Be that as it may, a tidally locked planet seems very unlikely to be ‘habitable’ if we mean ‘life as we know it could live and develop there.’ (2)  Like the economist with one foot on fire and one foot in a block of ice, on average things might be OK, but in practice they are not. The situation would be more complicated but not much better on any planets with resonance periods like Mercury – really slow rotational periods allow the sunward side to get hotter and the night side to get colder than a quicker rotation, which could result in the same situation as fully locker planets – it might just take longer. (3)

Enough of my pessimism. I can only think of one tidally locked planet in SciFi, a throw-away world in the third (I think) Foundation book, with stations on the thin twilight zone. I’m sure other have done it, too. It would much fun to make up a way, somehow, that an advanced civilization could develop on such a world….

But don’t hold your breath over TRAPPIST-1, even if that’s a pretty cool name.

  1. Meaning: I’ve given it a shot, but don’t understand it as well as I’d like. In a bit of astronomy/egomaniacal irony, the entire Universe revolves around ME! The Omphalos Wikipedia: “Mercury is tidally or gravitationally locked with the Sun in a 3:2 resonance,[15] and rotates in a way that is unique in the Solar System. As seen relative to the fixed stars, it rotates on its axis exactly three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun.[a][16] As seen from the Sun, in a frame of reference that rotates with the orbital motion, it appears to rotate only once every two Mercurian years. An observer on Mercury would therefore see only one day every two years.”
  2. This is granting the as yet unevidenced principle that life will just ‘arise’ whenever conditions are ‘right’, given enough time. Let’s see example #2 of life – you know, extraterrestrial life – before we start generalizing principles, shall we?
  3. Some of the other articles I perused called ultra cool dwarf stars ‘overlooked’. I kind of doubt that – you’d focus on stars around the size of the sun, because that’s where planets can end up in the Goldilocks Zone without getting tidally locked – as we know from our own planet.  Planets around much smaller stars will have that problem; much bigger stars tend to blow up well within the several billion years it is assumed to take for life to develop. So, if you’re looking for another earth, you’d look around stars that look like another sun.


Can’t Get Enough Weather-talk!

Update: Here is the map of the current drought situation in California:

from the United States Drought Monitor web page.

Here is the rain situation in California forecast for 5:00 p.m. today:


I believe this is a problem meeting its solution (1). That band of heavy rain is dumping a forecasted 3″-6″ in the flats, a foot or more in the hills, all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego and Baja California (2).  More rain over this weekend. The press is calling it ‘epic’  and ‘torrential’ and probably dragging out their thesauruses for even better words. I’d suggest ‘apocalyptic’ or even ‘the Ragnarök of rains’. I suspect there are legitimate reasons they don’t let me write for the papers.

Texted my kids who live down there, and, yes, they are wet.

I recall as a child reading Raymond Chandler stories, which seemed to involve rain in LA when not talking about Santa Ana winds, and wondering: huh? In my first 18 years, there was *1* year of memorable rain. Setting a story in rainy LA as if it were completely normal struck me as odd.

Also as a child – probably a teenager – found a large book in the Whittier Public Library that was a hydrology study from, I think, the 1920s, making the argument (with lots of cool maps and charts (3)) that Something Must Be Done about all these floods. So, on an intellectual level, I understood that it sometimes rains A Lot in LA, but lacked the personal experience to confirm it.

My sample, it seems, may have been skewed.

Updating the Update: Here’s what’s going on at the moment, per 

Actual rain at 3:50 p.m. LA is getting hammered. 
  1. even if the problem is calling “we planned our water system based on an insufficiently large sample size of ‘normal’ weather”  a “drought” – because Nature was done with the drought last year, when we got an average amount of rainfall – but all the (unnatural by definition) reservoirs and pumped out groundwater reserves had not yet been refilled.
  2. It’s a little too bad about Baja – it’s mostly a dusty desert and the infrastructure isn’t very good, and lots of people live in less than tight housing (and, sadly, a lot live under tarps and pallets and cardboard). It will turn a dusty mess into a muddy mess, at best, for a whole lot of people. They need the water, but it’s better if they don’t get it all at once.
  3. My hopeless geekiness is showing. Yes, I spent enough time looking at an hydrology study in the public library 45 years ago that I remember it to this day.

Some Links

A. The Statistician to the Stars makes the point: In our society, the use of force is reserved to those who govern

What do we call those people in a society who are licensed or allowed to use violence?

No hints this time. We call these the people in charge.

Image result for berkeley riots 2017
People in charge exercising their power. 

So, must we assume that hooded thugs and the college administration that effectively encourages them are the people in charge? If you find yourself in Berkeley, you’d better.

B. Mike Flynn, among other interesting things, spells out some of the difficulties in attempting to argue with post post moderns. It’s hard, when the sneer and eye-role have replaced premises and logical deductions as the foundation of higher reasoning – a perfectly predictable if unintended consequence of Hegel’s pitching enlightenment over logic as the one true path (or, at least, the express lane) to Knowledge. Which is how you end up with gender theorists, say, having greater standing in the academy than, say, chemists.

Well worth reading, and also following the links, which I will not duplicate here. Also, I think Mr. Flynn wins the internet for a day with:

Democrats have not been this riled up since the Republicans took their slaves away.


C. And here is Orvan Ox talking about modern name calling on Sarah Hoyt’s blog, and how it inures one to a certain manipulative shaming after a while. My comment:

The real threat here is that constantly being slurred does tend to make one hate the slurrer. The more inappropriate and stupid, the better – I mean, the more it tends toward making one dislike the name-caller.

Thus, while the name-calling will increase immunity among some, it may actually create that which it incorrectly names. If I wanted, for some reason, society to be racist and misogynist, continually calling it that might tend to make it so.

This would be merely a crazy paranoid idea. Then you read a little Gramsci and Alinsky, and the idea that something so convoluted and sick could be attempted starts to seem almost inevitable.



Books, Question, Dumb Stuff, Writing

Books: On John C. Wright’s general recommendation, got Writing the Breakout Novel, which I’m now reading. It is being helpful so far.

Also got Mike Flynn’s Captive Dreams. Been meaning to for a while. Now to find time to read it.

Also also, got Recovering a Catholic Philosophy of Elementary Education for when I get back on the education reading wagon.

Question: I use the Google news feed as “the news”, meaning if it appears there I consider it to have made the news, and if not, I don’t see it. Well? Does this seem fair? Prudent? I’m working under the assumption that Google is no more or less biased on the whole than any other means I could come up with to determine what is “in the news” at any given time.

Dumb Stuff: Speaking of which, a couple weeks back, I noticed in the news – the Google news feed, that is – that the markets, after pretty much uninterrupted gains since Trump’s election, had a few down days. Did the headlines say, as the often do, “Markets Pull Back as Investors Take Profits” or something like that? Is the Pope unambiguous? Headlines read, instead, that the honeymoon was over! Investor confidence in Trump had petered out. Sigh. Markets go up and down. If you knew why (beyond it being merely the mechanical result of people buying and selling stock), then you’d be rich – and not writing headlines. Ya know?

So now, the markets have resumed their irrational exuberance or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. Do the headline writers give Trump credit? Like saying -“Oops! We Were Wrong About the Honeymoon Being Over” or in any way acknowledge that what they’d said a mere week or two ago was patent nonsense? Trump still appalls me, but not nearly as much as the out of control frothing attacks on him. Here’s a pro tip: Wait a bit, and Trump will do something objectively bad that you can clobber him for – every other president has. (He probably already has, but how is one to spot it among all the ravings and spittle?) Then you (the headline writers) won’t look so stupid to anyone with eyes to see.

Dumber still, I read and was writing an analysis of an essay by some Chicago reporter that was an attack on those with the temerity to point out that, wow, despite (?) a solid century or more of Progressive leadership, including lots of gun control, people in Chicago sure do seem to murder each other at a much higher rate than in other cities. We are assured the reasons for the 59% year over year increase in murder rate are complicated, and in any event invisible unless you happen to have lived you whole life in Chicago – I’m boiling it down a bit, but that’s what the residue lining the pot looks like when the boiling is done. And if you insist on pushing the question, you are by that fact alone acting with bad intent.

It was getting out of hand – there was so much misdirection (1) that I was getting pages into my analysis and was still digging yet more craziness up. So I stopped. Unless we can deal first with the facts instead of immediately playing the ‘it’s complicated, you can’t understand’ card, there is no discussion.

It seems, then, there is no discussion.

You get the idea. 

Writing: Finally, as mentioned above, I’m reading that Writing the Breakout Novel book, which is eating into my writing time, but I figure it will help in the long run. The first takeaway is not made explicitly, but reminds me of my callow youth, when I used to compose music. I discovered that – you’ll be shocked – coming up with nice tunes and pretty snippets of music was easy. Keeping fixed in mind where the whole composition was going proved much more difficult. Unless you want to write very short pieces, you have to know, on some level, where you are going before you start.(3)

Same with writing novels. I had all these cool tech and plot ideas. But where is the story going? How does it move from A to B to C? This may seem crazy, but I grabbed Jane Austen’s Emma to read, since I hear it has exactly what I’m most missing: complicated characters acting out of a variety of interest and talents toward different and conflicting goals. And it is otherwise completely different from what I’m working on.

Bottom line: I am not (yet) frustrated with the slow writing. I want to wrap up these explorations of technique ASAP, then just refuse to do any more until the book is done.

Hey, it’s a plan.

  1. e.g., in one linked article, the claim was made that more deadly weapons were now being used – I suppose they mean higher caliber? In one year? A commentator noted that Al Capone and his fellow solid Chicago citizens preferred .45 calibre Thompson sub machineguns that, at the time, were available for purchase at hardware stores. Yet, even counting the people Capone offed, there were still only 50 murders per year in Chicago, so blaming the increased deadliness on more powerful weapons seems a reach. For making this point, the commentator was called all sorts of names. Go figure.
  2. e.g., that, while Chicago’s murder rate keeps going up, cities like Houston have a flat murder count (despite a growing population) even though they have about the same racial & ethnic mix as Chicago and are about the same size.
  3. I love improve – probably what I’m best at – but those off the cuff compositions tend to meander, stick to very simple forms, or both. Or end up formless goo.


Can the Attractive Youngsters Please SHUT UP?

If I never hear another actor, singer, or sports star say anything about politics, life will be much more peaceful and, more importantly, much less STUPID. Generally, I avoid reading or listening to ‘news’ sources in which I’m likely to hear the latest wisdom vomited forth from some pampered, sheltered one-dimensional punk to the applause of absolutely EVERYONE they know.

It’s worse in the Bay Area, of course. This is the land where the mere possibility one might actually hear something WRONG is sufficient justification for burning some random person’s car or vandalizing some random stranger’s storefront. Thus, allowing a few hundred people to listen to one guy say stuff that challenges the fantasy -land assumptions of progressivism is the same as forcing fascism on America, and therefore any steps necessary may be taken. No, really (1).

Anyway, I am weak, and sometimes do listen to the news over the radio on my morning commute – and, worse, even though I’ve sworn off the NBA, I don’t reflexively turn it off when the sports news comes on.

So, today, I paid the price: I listened to an Attractive Yet Sheltered and Ignorant Youngster use his platform as a sports superstar to attempt to ruin a company that has made him many millions of dollars. A company he is reputed to own a good size stake in. Because the CEO said something nice about Trump, and Our Attractive Youngster doesn’t like him.

Background: Steph Curry is the two-time defending Most Valuable Player in the NBA, which, given that he looks about 16 years old and is ‘only’ about 6’3″ tall, is utterly remarkable. His story is a Hero’s Journey in real life: no major colleges wanted him, so he attended a second-tier school, gained recognition when he took them deep into the NCAA playoffs, got drafted by the Warriors, spent the first couple years mostly injured – then blew the league apart with his phenomenal shooting ability. All the while looking like some kid who wandered onto the court where the men were playing.

He’s also charming in a boyish awe-shucks manner, married to a lovely, vivacious wife and father to two utterly adorable little girls. His reputation is squeaky-clean. He is unfailingly polite, and can effortlessly navigate both the black urban street-ball culture and golf with the CEO of any corporation. Children of all ages adore him in vast numbers.

In other words, Steph Curry is a marketer’s dream – no, rather a marketer’s most outlandish fantasy – come true.

A few years ago, just as he was starting to make a name for himself, he was up for a sneaker contract. For those not up on modern sports, the superstars cut deals with one of a small number of sporting equipment companies, wherein they get paid – often, a lot, as in millions per year – to wear the company’s shoes and other apparel when they play and at all other times. The 600 lbs gorilla in this game is Nike – they ‘own’ LeBron James, Tiger Woods and, legendarily, Michael Jordan, among many others.

Curry did not fit the Nike mold – their stable includes mostly god-like physical specimens who destroy all opposition. He looks like a kid. So they made a rather tame and lame offer to him. But up and coming Under Armour saw the potential, and signed him to a much sweeter deal, cut him a piece of the action, and made him the centerpiece of their entire corporate marketing campaign.

The rest is history. Cashing in on Curry’s unexpected meteoric rise to the top, Under Armour became a darling of Wall Street and made a boatload of money – with a smaller yet still large boatload paid to Curry. Match made in heaven, certain to be the subject of business school case studies for the next several decades.

Curry is the son of a professional athlete, a good, solid Christian citizen named Dell Curry. He grew up wealthy in the alternate universe elite athletes inhabit. His fairytale life really is a fairytale compared to real life.

Yet, he has no way of knowing that. It’s like water to a fish.

So, today, on the news, it was reported that the CEO of Under Armour commented that Trump’s pro-business policies make him “an asset to America”. Bay Area news-cretins (2) cannot let THAT pass, and so stuck a mic in Curry face and asked him to comment: he said he agreed, so long as you removed the ‘e’ and ‘t’ from ‘asset’. He then went on to say he’d need to have a talk with Under Armour about their business relationship, since it was clear they didn’t support the same politics.

Financially, Curry and Under Armour made each other. Yet, a 27-year-old sheltered child of a man now feels, not only free, but compelled to threaten to destroy the relationship – and the company! – unless management of a *corporation* reflects his personal political views. Some other company will snap him up in a minute, if push comes to shove, so Curry will come out just fine. But that may not mean much to the thousands of employees or owners of Under Armour stock.

I hope they have that discussion. I hope Under Armour gets somebody who can get through to Curry to explain that wishing Trump well and even supporting his policies does not make someone evil or stupid – that there are good reasons to prefer him over Hillary. That one might support the current President and wish him well – because he’s President, even if (as is the case for me) you find him personally appalling. That plenty of black men and women support Trump. That maybe he should contemplate why the military went Trump 3 to 1.  That maybe he should broaden his sources of information beyond his current echo chamber.

I’d be much more impressed with this principled stand if it stood to cost Curry anything. Meanwhile, I might just have to start buying non-Curry Under Armour gear if I ever need any, while grabbing some Chick Fil A on my way to Hobby Lobby.

  1. First thing that came up, from Rolling Stone: “Shutting down the talk was successful,” the protester, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an email. “But it was also about sending a message to everyone else: We aren’t about to allow white supremacist views to be normalized. It was about striking at the seemingly impervious confidence the far right has been boasting.”  But it isn’t just about blocking a single speaker. “It is really about making them understand the danger they pose by treating these insane neo-Nazi ideas cavalierly,” the protester says. “People talk a lot about ‘freedom of speech’ and I think this fetish of speech misses the larger point. It is about ideas of freedom itself. Who has it, and who is denied it.”
  2. The next item up was an interview with a marketing consultant about what it all means – because 90 seconds of information over the radio are what make the world go round. BUT: this marketing expert mentioned in passing, matter of fact, that boycotts by the right tend to not have much effect, because the media has no interest in promoting or even reporting on it like they do with boycotts from the left. That’ll teach that station not to do live interviews!

Rahm Makes Machiavelli Look Like a Choir Boy

Oops – doing politics.

I’ve long been fascinated by Rahm Emanuel, in a similar way to how I find LBJ, Whitey & Billy Bulger, Genghis Khan and, well, Machiavelli fascinating. These men are all recognizably human, probably kind to their pets and considerate of their mothers, which makes their behaviors and what they say all the more outrageous and repulsive.

His lust for power is complete, in that, as the article we’ll be discussing below shows, there are no principles he would hold on to at the risk of losing an election. Reading between the lines, elections, insofar as they might keep the likes of Rahm out of power, are therefore in themselves nothing to be defended – not surprising, once you consider the man saying this is the umpteenth consecutive Democratic mayor of Chicago, where elections have not been allowed to turn out ‘wrong’ since the 1920s (1).

So here is the headline from today’s Chicago Tribune:

Rahm Emanuel: Too many Dems care more about being right than winning

Hmmm. This is a ‘problem’ Rahm himself will never suffer from. From the article:

“Winning’s everything,” he said. “If you don’t win, you can’t make the public policy. I say that because it is hard for people in our party to accept that principle. Sometimes, you’ve just got to win, OK? Our party likes to be right, even if they lose.”

Here’s another interesting bit:

The mayor expanded on what he believes is the road map back to power for his party — putting moderate candidates such as veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people up in Republican districts, picking battles with Republicans, exploiting wedges within the GOP and fighting attempts to redistrict Congress on partisan grounds.

It does not seem to occur to Rahm, or, rather, if it were to occur to him he would see it as utterly irrelevant, that, generally, those “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not agree with his goals. That getting him and his elected might not be seen as all that. That his win-at-all-costs approach itself may be a turn-off. For example, read somewhere that 75% of the military voted for Trump, and that the much of the remainder voted Not Hillary. The reasons should be obvious. So, what he’s looking for is that veteran who can, at the same time, be seen as ‘one of us’ by other military while embracing the party of Benghazi, Military as Affirmative Action Laboratory, and constant insults and dismissal of military people. Soldiers do tend to cling to their guns, if not always their Bibles, after all.

But all this – what people believe and how they reasonably respond to being dismissed, insulted, and hung out to die – is just irrelevant to Rahm. Or rather, is just another political problem to be overcome by cunning and hard work. That the actual concerns and dreams of “veterans, football players, sheriffs and business people” might not correspond to what his party demonstrably stands for just isn’t important.

Winning is important.

People, especially the wrong people, are to be used as means to an end if possible, or crushed like bugs if not.

Now, Rahm can be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking this way. He and his did get Obama elected. Twice. Digression: Many years ago, watched a TV item about a comparatively harmless cult leader out in, I think, New Mexico. His small number of followers *LOVED* him. Fortunately, the cult leader didn’t seem to want to make them into slaves or have them kill themselves – as I said, relatively harmless.

The interviewer tried to talk to the leader, who was very open and gracious. He came across as friendly, sincere, honestly interested in answering the dude’s questions – and utterly, completely incoherent. He was using English words in complete sentences, but darned if I, or the interviewer, could make out what, if anything, he was saying.

But, to his followers, he was the font of wisdom. That they, the followers, could not articulate what he was saying any better than he could (any more than a generic message to be nice and be open) was a source of mild frustration and calls to just talk to him yourself, you’d then see.

I recall thinking: wow, these seemingly normal people see a prophet where I, and most everyone else, see a kindly, babbling crazy person. His followers just couldn’t see it. It greatly helped, I think, that what he said was a content-free vessel for the listener’s own hopes and dreams. The followers were free to imagine whatever they wished they’d heard.

Image result
Harding. Doesn’t he look like a president? Sure, he’s largely unqualified and is being pushed by unscrupulous people for their own ends – but he looks so presidential. 

In a similar way, the first time I saw Obama, before I’d formed an opinion of him, my initial impression (fleshed out in hindsight, of course) was: here is a pampered teacher’s pet, who has been told his whole life how smart he is, who has been walked through the halls of academia (along paths his mother and family had already trail blazed, it turns out) and handed degrees and awards, and has no idea that he, himself, hasn’t conquered the world by his own merits. Then, he opened his mouth and removed all doubt.

Hope and Change, it turns out, was not just a campaign slogan, but, as in the case above, was a container into which the listener is invited to put whatever he wishes he heard. I do not exaggerate: I had two friends who were both strong Obama supporters both times around, and one was mortally offended at the idea that Obama was a Socialist at heart; the other supported him because, obviously, Obama is a Socialist.

Thus, I was and am dumbstruck: we are looking at and listening to the same guy, right? And you see a brilliant scholar and leader who is or is not absolutely certainly a Socialist or isn’t, in whom all right thinking people must place all their trust? You don’t see a pampered, spoiled little boy whose life is completely achievement-free except for stuff handed him by other people? Whose actual words (especially off script) reveal him to be totally pedestrian? Have you never met people of intelligence and accomplishment? And you can’t see the difference?(2)

Anyway, Rahm got that guy elected. Twice. His team deflected all criticism by accusations of racism, leaving people like me, again, completely baffled – what? I’d be thrilled to have a black – or female, or polka-dot – president IF he seemed likely to do the job well. Obama turned out to be everything I thought he’d be: the Warren G. Harding of our generation.

And Rahm has now announced his hopes that the Democrats find more Hardings: people who look the part to act as figureheads while the operatives – you know, like Rahm – actually run things (3).

I guess we’d have to elect them to find out what’s in them.

  1. “Big Bill” Thompson won as a Republican in 1915 – 1923 and 1927 – 1931. His most striking achievement was being even more corrupt and brutal than the Democrats he was running against.
  2. That’s another problem with academia: they are the self-proclaimed smart people, urban, sophisticated. Except, with the wild expansion of post-high school education over the last 50-60 years, more and more academic positions have to be filled by average people. Those average people are then the gate-keepers, determining who the next round of academics will be. Thus, especially if one were to get a degree where objective technical competence is not measurable – sociology or English, say, as opposed to accounting or chemistry – an innocent young thing might graduate thinking he’d met all the really smart people. Then Obama doesn’t look half-bad – he sounds just like that smart sociology professor you had in sophomore year…
  3. Rahm went back to Chicago right around the time it became clear that Obama wasn’t going to let him run things – the story goes that the President refused to listen to Rahm’s advice on getting the ACA passed – so Rahm took his ball and went home. Rahm, BTW, is a brilliant man of achievement, in case you need to know what one looks like. He’s also a politically amoral power mad manipulator who finds socialism appealing – because it promises to concentrate power into the hands of people like him. It should go without saying that just finding that brilliant person of achievement is not enough.

Weather Report

First off, out here in California, it is wet and has been for over a week. If you are from a typical inhabited part of the planet, that may seem hardly newsworthy. Out here, it’s the biggest thing since Russian agents hired by Trump hacked voting machines in key states to steal the election from Hillary in a manner so egregious and outrageous that it causes us all to forget even more how Hillary stole the nomination from Sanders in the first place. Right, Bernie-oids?

Or something. The details seem somewhat uncertain. Except for the Hillary-stole-the-nomination-from-Bernie part. That’s pretty clear, because of the emails that the Russians are said to have liberated from the DNC servers say so. I think. So, if I understand this right – unlikely, I admit – one set of Socialists used their nefarious yet l33t hacking chops to make sure another Socialist was defeated by an elderly New York Liberal in the primaries so that she could lose to another elderly New York Liberal running as a Republican in the general election, thereby advancing the Russian agenda, which has long been to turn the US into a Socialist country – via keeping a Socialist from winning the election. Kind of a Lao Tzu meets Machiavelli in Byzantium and starts plotting with Odysseus sort of thing.

I digress.  Allow me to clarify the weather situation. You may see pictures such as this:


This would be Industrial Way in Petaluma, CA. That does look serious. Petaluma, the former Egg Capital of the World, home to the beautiful St. Vincent’s Church, a large Portuguese population as well the Clan o’ M’ Wife, is largely situated on the – you’ll be amazed – floodplain of the Petaluma River. Much of this floodplain is about 12 inches higher than the estuary know as San Francisco Bay  at high tide.

Why, a sane person from much of the inhabited world might ask, would anyone build a town on a floodplain? Such a person is not a native Californian. It might be a couple decades between any actual flooding, plenty of time to settle in, build a town, get used to the beautiful weather. When such flooding  does inevitably happen, it will seem an unusual and arbitrary act of a cold, heartless Universe and not something any doofus could have predicted. (1)

Same goes for earthquakes, only doubly so. Major cities – San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose – are built right on top of major faults, or on mudflats sure to liquify in a major earthquake, or both. Do not suspect that this what we shall generously call odd optimism is a Northern California thing – not so! Los Angeles is not only built on one of the world’s scariest fault systems, it is almost coextensive with the floodplains of three rivers! Rivers that, in the state of nature, regularly flooded the LA basin in a totally not funny way. A little over 100 years ago, engineers started channeling and paving and otherwise rendering hideously ugly the three big rivers – the Los Angeles, San Fernando and San Gabriel – turning them into little more than giant concrete flood control channels. This is OK, in a way, since all the water that would naturally flow down them is now confined to reservoirs, evidently so 20 million people can water their golf courses and lawns in what is, essentially, a desert. On a typical summer day, any of the rivers is an ankle-deep trickle down a huge concrete slot. The water is up in the hills, in fake lakes and tanks.

I again digress. A few decades ago, the Army Corp of Engineers decided enough with the flooding, already, and did a bunch of work on the Petaluma River that, so far, has prevented any really serious flooding. But it also made some nice flat land that even Californians were not willing to bet a building on look a lot more attractive – thus, some industries – Industrial Way, right? – built some concrete slab tilt-ups and paved some roads right down near the river – right down near here. And, while the Army’s work has greatly mitigated the flooding, if you push it hard enough, you can still build in Petaluma so that a once every 20 year rainy season will flood your streets.

Thus, dedicated professionals can indeed get pictures of flooding, with swamped cars and everything, in order to make the reading/viewing public aware of the disaster out here in the West. But, seriously, most of the flooding is out in the middle of nowhere, meaning vineyards and pastures are getting flooded, not streets and homes (with few exceptions). About 95% of Californians looking out their windows would see Damp. Some who live up in the mountains would see Snow. Some very, very few would see flooding worthy of the name.

Yep, we’ve had almost 5″ of rain in the last 3 days, way more further up in the hills, and many feet of snow in the mountains – and it’s still raining and snowing. Reservoirs that get their water from the Sierra are almost all way above their average levels for this time of year. Reservoirs nearer the coast or otherwise far from the Sierra had gotten very, very low, and are filling up from a much lower starting point, for the most part, so they still have a way to go. Sierra snowpack, which supplies about a third of California’s used-by-people water, is significantly higher than average for this time of year. Local rain gages show some areas reaching their seasonal average total rainfall – with half the rainy season to go. In general, the people here, who have been fed doom and gloom drought predictions for the last few years, are pretty happy with this state of affairs.

The weather is really, really nice almost all the time out here. Once it stops raining – it’s supposed to take a break over the weekend – it will be around 60F and sunny. In the middle of January. Then, typically, rain off and on through February. Come March, it will be sunny and nice most of the time, in April almost all the time, and then it’s sunny and bright until October at the earliest.

So, yea, all of us out here are  in imminent danger of being washed out to sea, right after we die in a car crash attempting to dodge a mudslide and getting hit by a falling tree. And snow. If the earthquakes don’t get us first. Whatever you do, stay someplace safe, like Minnesota or Florida.



  1. In 1834, the Mexican land grant of Rancho Monte del Diablo was made to a Salvio Pacheco, who promptly founded the town of Pacheco, CA. It’s on the floodplain of several creeks that empty into the Bay. After a while, Salvio got tired of having to dry out his ranch and all the building in it every few winters (bad luck! With better timing, could have lived there for years and never seen a flood!). He looked south-east, and realized that his massive land grant included not only floodplains and a mountainside, but square miles of hills! So he moved a couple miles, and, perhaps reflecting on how it looked a bit bad to name a town after himself, founded a new town he named after Our Lady, Queen of All Saints. This got shortened to ‘All Saints’, which the local Spanish-speaking population insisted on calling ‘Todos Santos’ on the premise that they all spoke Spanish anyway. When the Yankees got around to noticing the town, they shortened the name further to ‘Concord’. So, the town where I live is not on a floodplain. It is, however, in keeping with the Rules, very near an active fault.