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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weather Report

For days Weather Underground, whose reports show how much more accurate weather forecasting has gotten in recent decades, had said that there would be snow yesterday, on Christmas, but with little or no accumulation.  And meanwhile the days before had had the feeling of something mounting up, much like Ted Williams revving up to sock the blooperball of Pete Sewell, a Cincinnati pitcher, out of the park in an all-star game of many years ago, that I know none of you remember.

It was all in the spirit of John Greenleaf Whittier's long, tremendous 1866 poem, "Snowbound."   He got it just right in his first eight lines, for starters, and I quote them from memory, as I've done quite  a few hundred times, in my time:

     The sun that brief December's day
     Rose cheerless over hills of gray
     And, darkly circled, gave at noon,
    A sadder light than waning moon.
    Slow tracing through the thickening sky
    Its mute and ominous prophecy,
    A portent seeming less than threat,
    It sank from sight before it set.
Then, Xmas morning, Underground made a most curious report.   They said that there would be an inch of accumulation during the day, and a chance of another inch that night, and another inch in this second day that has just started, and a look outdoors just now, just after midnight, showed that there's some serious-looking snow falling out there,  and it will be interesting what the dawn a few hours from now will reveal.

We moved the Saturn,  and we have plenty of firewood and plenty of food, including the turkey that Esther fixed for the two of us yesterday.   So we should be all right, and I hope that everyone else is, too.   But it's still chilling to note that though the days are slowly getting longer, the winter itself has barely started, and they haven't been having a good time with the weather at all in Europe, and they are dependent on the Gulf Stream the same as we are in the Eastern U.S., and  it looks like all the fresh water dumped into the ocean by the melting ice in Antarctica has been having an effect on that all-important underwater "conveyor belt" in these last two years -- a possibility of which all the climate change deniers are happily ignorant.

Yesterday Atlanta was scheduled to have its first white Christmas since the administration of Chester Arthur.  Chester Arthur, man!   Do you know how long ago that was?  That was in 1882.   That day Atlanta only got a third of an inch, yet that record had stayed unmelted through all these years.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

So What Else Is New?

I have made a dip or two, but nothing sustained, into the practice of presenting some posts by category, and one category that lately I've been thinking of starting would be called "So What Else is New?"   This was prompted by noticing that quite a few items that make the news, especially scientific studies, come under that heading, and the item is presented as something novel or new or surprising when actually it's something that anybody with an ounce of common sense would have already known for decades, or, if he was born just yesterday, would still be able to conclude after only a moment's thought.

I thought my first entry under this category would be about the very winsome movie actress, Scarlett Johansson, and her husband, a photographer named Ryan Reynolds, who are now in a well-publicized process of breaking up.   That alone puts their actions smack dab in my category, because that kind of thing has always been a Hollywood trademark.   But there's more.   This guy who was lucky enough to win her hand (of course I'm only guessing he was lucky, but it must've been at least interesting to look at her for long and varied moments and to see what, if anything, she's into, without the ticket he had bought for the privilege having been obtained at a theater booth) -- this guy is quoted as saying that Ms Johansson had treated him badly.

Intrigued by the question of how Scarlett Johansson could possibly have treated a man badly, I just had to find out what she had done.   But alas, the one article that I bothered to read -- all the effort that this matter merited -- only said that Ol' Temporary Hubby had not been one of her priorities.

Bam!  Bingo!   A great candidate for my new category!

But then I thought of another Initial entry, a better one because it is less frivolous..  (There are several other movie actresses that I feel much more serious about.  Sorry, Scarlett!)

Lately the progressive sites have been making much of a finding that they express as saying that  checking out Fox News makes a person stupid.

Well, like the Johansson/Reynolds matter, that immediately dumps  this "news" into my category, but again there';s more.

I disagree with this finding, or at least this expression of it.

Being a fan of  Fox "News" can't possibly make a person stupid, because of the obvious fact that  -- short of having fallen into the site or the program one day and then only by accident, which should be an impossibility because of the way that Fox's incredibly noisome reputation so widely precedes it -- that person is by definition already deeply steeped in stupidity to begin with, the same as a cup of tea would be if a mob of teabags had sat in it for, say, two centuries.

What else, then, is new.?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Posting Frequency, Snow, and the Solstice

I find it amazing once more to have thought that I just posted something a couple of days ago and then find that actually it was two weeks ago, or more.

Ordinarily I blame this on the usual culprit of time speeding up so greatly with age, when actually there are a lot more reasons.   Some of it this time I blame  on one of my favorite whipping boys these days -- the snow, and my newly acquired fear of it.

In the midst of a very protracted sub-freezing period, which is chopping down our so proudly acquired big woodpile bigtime, we had a five-inch snowfall a week ago.  I predicted that much of that would still be the ground in time for the next storm, and so it has happened.   The bottom half of our driveway is still covered with snow and ice, and Esther has only been able to venture out into the world in her little Saturn, which we had parked up the hill near the road, with her inherited Cadillac sitting unused at my workshop and my little 21-year-old Isuzu pickup really behind the guff, at the bottom of the driveway close to the house.  And now there's a 60 percent chance for another snowstorm on Christmas Day and roundabouts.   Good news for all the vast legions of Christmas people, and we are happy for them, though we long ago stopped being part of them.  (Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men, and presumably Women, too, should be remembered and celebrated all year long and not just on one day of the year.)

Still traumatized by last year, and one year feebler, I haven't tried to clear the whole driveway with shovel and concrete hoe as I did last year, because of all the other stuff that I feel still will come, with Jan and Feb not even here yet.

But my favorite day of the year, the Winter Solstice, arrived yesterday, and now the days will start getting longer and longer and the nights shorter and shorter -- for a while.   I never tire of being reminded how at least that immutable law of the planetary motions can still always be counted on, snow or heat.

The BBC Guy is Enraged

Mark Mardell is disgusted  (not to say, just yet,  disgusting).  He thinks that because the Teapublicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, though not quite in the Senate, during the recently concluded elections, the Democrats, though they still had several months left in office, should've immediately rolled over and let the Teapubs immediately take over things, and not only in the House  -- though it is only one=half,  and some might say the lower half, of the U.S. Congress = but in the entire country as well, though the Congress is only one-third of the main U.S. branches of government..  Mardell thinks that the several big victories that the Democrats have achieved in these last moments of the current "lame duck" session should never have been countenanced, mainly on the grounds that that is not the way things are done in his native England and in other places in the world. 

Mardell bills himself as the BBC's listening post in the U.S,.  But for a listening post for the otherwise generally politically impartial BBC news website, passing glances at his regular column -- and glances are about all that makes them bearable -- reveal that he is obviously partial to the retrogressive Teapublican side of things, and thinks it deplorable that a man of B. Obama's description should be still in office and so impede the Teapubs' burning desire to see the U.S. return to any one of its numerous darker ages, when a man of Obama's description could never have been elected the President,

I don't know if Mardell was writing for the BBC when Obama was elected, but I would bet that in the winter of 2008-2009 he said nothing about the "folly" of "lame duck" sessions when his preferred gang, the GWBush criminals, were still operating from the Oval Office.

He says he can't see the use for "lame duck."   But that is like arguing that a house should be constructed of red brick instead of yellow or brown brick, and I can see easily enough that was just how the "Founding Fathers" built the American House, and I've never heard that feature attacked much at all, and definitely not as often as the Electoral College, the latter being an enigma that is regularly and angrily probed with great energy during each Presidental election and then promptly forgotten and left undisturbed till the next Presidential election.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the BBC guy that it is merely a matter of the American political calendar being offset, calendar-wise,  from what he says it is in England and all those other presumably more fabulous and enlightened parts of the world, with those still in office being left to finish out their terms before the new office-holders are sworn in..

The Democrats in the House still had three or so months of their terms to get their jobs done (and two-thirds of the Senators still had much more), and so they are to be commended for  stepping up to the plate and finally swinging for the fences and even connecting, instead of continuing to let the Teapubs continue to divert them from their generally worthy goals -- at least much more worthy than the ones we are likely to see coming from the House of Representatives in this next, threatening session that painfully is almost at hand..

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Stand By My Prediction

The other day we were visited by a long time friend, a lady, on the occasion of not having seen each other for several years, and even more on the occasion of her having had her book published by the press of the University of Virginia.  She very graciously gave us one of the 10 free copies that she was given to hand out to her friends.

It is a handsome and substantial book, the result of years of her labors, which earlier had resulted in her getting her Ph.D, and this is a version of her successful dissertation.  Popularized, I suppose, to the degree that any doctoral dissertation can be popularized.

Still, I'm worried about what I will say the next time she sees me and asks if I have read her book, and I will have to admit that I have only lightly scanned it and that's all.   The reason is that the subject matter is intensely uncomfortable to me.   It is about stuff that I have already known something about for decades.   The  book's story centers on one of the most egregious "bad checks" that Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, and that have been handed out to people of my color for centuries -- the kind of promissory notes by the American Majority that too often are  returned  to us from the bank, unredeemed and stamped "Insufficient Funds."   My friend's book is about the Reconstruction in North Carolina, and we all know how that came out for those of us of slave ancestry.

But that's not what I wanted to post about today.   I wanted instead only to mention that this lady and I were talking about this winter that is now at hand, and my expectation that weather-wise, it's going to be just as bad as the one last year.   This lady disagreed, because she had been assured by the locals that this winter is going to be milder than last year.

I spent a great deal of my time outdoors this summer and then the fall being haunted by memories of the several heavy and long-lasting snowfalls of last year.  I could still experience that ice and snow as if it still lay several inches deep in various spots, especially at the feet of the steps into my workshop, and some heavy autumn rains put me in mind of all the digging I had had to do with hoe and shovel through the snow on our long, uphill driveway that last winter covered our property for months.

This winter they've already had several big snowstorms in the west and midwest, and yesterday 17 inches of snow collapsed the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, apparently a big stadium where pro football players of wealth but very little taste  meet for well-attended sessions of mainly serious head-butting.   And that storm, as usual, is heading east.

And this morning, on top of a day of cold rain that after nightfall left everything here with a coating of thin ice, followed by a surprise one inch of snow on the ground this morning in a temp that is predicted to rise only to just below freezing, after a bunch already of weeks of hard freezes, I see these things as harbingers of much worse to come, and so I still stand by my feeling.

You know. of course, that though I would not have believed it earlier, we older folk lose, among other things, our former toleration for such foolishness as being cold and clearing snow..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Our New Cats: Squirrels

Rook's post on his cat that I saw today inspired me to post for the first time in exactly a month, on the subject of our new cats.

This past summer our last surviving real cat, the venerable short-haired black male that we called "Beauty," crept up out of his great decrepitude at the time and disappeared, not to be seen or heard from again.  During my frequent forays all over the property I keep expecting to find what might remain of his remains, in the woods close to the house or even in the leaves under our house -- it is built on posts -- but so far no sign.

Wife and I share a common amazement over all the ways that we are glad that we no longer have cats, even though we had them for years and for most of that time eight of them at a time, and we took great delight in them and didn't begrudge any of it, and we often think about the three or four more memorable and loving of them.   But now that we can open a door and leave it open without having to worry about one trying to push his or her way indoors past us, and now that we can hear dogs running through and shouting nearby without having to worry about one, two, or three of them chewing up one of our cats or running it up a tree, and now that we don't have to worry about feeding the cats three times a day, every day, for those and for a great variety of other reasons we feel that out existences have been considerably lightened, and the delight that we took in them has shifted to the squirrels of unknown identities and carefully maintained numbers who live all around us.

Squirrels are just as cute as cats, especially in the way that they will run up a tree and then peek around the trunk at you to see if you're still watching, and in the way that the young ones scamper about, often treating both our house and my workshop as play areas that are especially available to them everywhere except inside because the roughsawn lumber that I used for the buildings allows their little claws to get good purchase on the wood.   Plus they tend to their own affairs, totally, they don't need to be fed, they don't do anything destructive that I've discovered so far, they;'re only noisy in the daytime during what I assume is the springtime mating season, and that is not really noisy, and you don't need to take them to the vet

I don't know if they know yet that they know that they've taken the place of our cats with us, though in a much more detached way.   But I am certain that they've discovered that they no longer have the cats to worry about.  (A cat can beat a squirrel, you know, though doing so was way too much work for the ones that we had.).   That awareness of the squirrels' new relaxation is shown by the number of times we now see them them walking along our window ledges, not to check on us or anything inside the house but just for the hell of it

I can think of no happier existence that an animal can have in the wild than  a squirrel has in a woods with lots of tall oak trees everywhere, and no two-legged creatures assassinating them with guns and then skinning them by peeling off the skins  in a process that is like taking a sock off a foot -- a difficult job because it is a very close fit --  and dropping their carcasses in a stewpot.