2017 Posts

Contents:

Levitating Levity
Solar in Seattle
Soul Speak
Solar Solace
When Laughter Ends
When Is Wrong Wrong?
The Dark Ages Recometh


 

Levitating Levity                                June 3, 2017

Okay, I’ve blogged environmental awareness – no response. I’ve blogged political responsibility – no reaction. Guess we need something to lift us out of the desperate straits in which we are immersed.

When the need for a laugh arises, I think of my departed buddy Jerry Jones. Jerry had an infectious laugh, no, an infectious cackle. Two episodes come to mind. The first was when Jerry and TR (Tom Richards, we know had a name he was too embarrassed to divulge so we call him TR and wonder what it could be year after year) were driving south of Kingston on the Olympic Peninsula. They were looking for a golf course nearby where we were scheduled to play within an hour or so. Spying a man walking along the highway towards town, Jerry said, “Ask that local. He’ll know where it is”. When they pulled alongside, their jaws dropped. I was that local. My car gave up the ghost half an hour earlier and I was hoofing it back to the ferry dock. Jerry could never suppress a cackle when he thought about the odds of running into me wandering along that Gog forsaken road at eight in the morning. And I didn’t know where the hell the golf course was either.

Another time, after a four-day tournament in Reno, we all headed back to the airport in four different vans. When my group checked in and was headed towards the gate, we heard Jerry’s unique cackle coming from a bar. On entering, there was Jerry and Jack Dunbabin doubled up in laughter.

When they finally became coherent again, Jerry said, “Jack was asking if I knew what happened to…uh…you know, old what’s his name…the guy with Alzheimer’s.”

That story never ceased to generate a laugh every time it came up, even when I related it at a memorial service for Jerry. Jerry was also famous for giving putts longer than anyone else dared. To this day, there are “gimme’s” and there are “Jones gimme’s”, two distinctly different things.

Jerry’s exploits are legendary but they all have two things in common, they never disrespected anyone and they always uplifted our spirits. He was a wonderful source of levitating levity.


 

Solar in Seattle                                            May 15, 2017

For many years, the conventional wisdom was to forget solar power in Seattle—too many cloudy and rainy days. I bought it until articles appeared recently claiming panels would still generate electricity under marginal conditions. And, they claimed, the abundance of solar power during the summer would more than offset the winter months. So, we bought in this Spring.

Facing a larger than average number of cloudy days per year, we opted for the highest performance panels from industry leader SunPower and sized the array to handle our current consumption plus what might be expected with the Tesla we hope to receive next year. Weather in Seattle has been dismal this year with record rainfalls. Despite this, we are generating far more power than we use, 883 KWH produced, 403 KWH used for the first month (KWH is kilo-watt hours).

SolarInSeattle

Even on a cloudy day, the system generates about 15 KWH and on a clear day it soars to 60 KWH. In a few years, the panels will pay for themselves but that is secondary to the satisfaction derived from being an energy contributor rather than consumer. And from saving a miner or two from death by coal dust.

What could be better than living on a planet powered only by the sun that spawned it, whether it be solar, wind, hydro, tidal or geothermal? When I was a teenager, it was said that we would burn up all the oil and coal within 200 years so we needed to develop alternatives. Discovery of vast new deposits pushed the date out to the point people stopped worrying about it. We would always find more. But the end of fossil fuels remains. And now a more serious specter has reared its ugly head, atmospheric pollution leading to catastrophic climate changes.

A perverse government hell bent on destroying the fabric of our country wants to lead us down that death spiral. They will fail, perhaps by an awakened public throwing them out of office but if not, simply because renewable energy has become more economical than fossil fuel power generation. Electric cars are more economical than gas guzzlers. Some people’s attitudes shift slowly but the shift is inevitable. If not sooner, an aging enlightened youth will overpower them.

Problems remain to be solved however. Solar systems are ideally suited to dealing with air conditioning demands in desert climates but useless at nights even with a full moon. We need a mass energy storage technique. Hydro power to fill in the gaps is an answer in some regions but not all. Perhaps more important, power utilities must re-invent themselves as companies which fill in these shortfalls rather than the sole suppliers of energy.

Nevertheless, the future belongs to renewable energy, solar power in Seattle proves that.


 

Soul Speak                                                 April 21, 2017

A long-time friend who manages the mop on my noggin said something with a profound sound: “A person’s appearance is the artwork of their soul”.

It gave rise to questions. Do sloppy people have messy souls? The fastidious, prim ones? Blowhards, bloated ones? Most important, what is a soul anyway?

Miriam Webster’s masterpiece says the soul is “an entity which is regarded as being the immortal or spiritual part of the person and which, though having no physical or material reality, is credited with the functions of thinking and willing, and hence determining all behavior”.

I have trouble with entities that have no physical or material reality. They appear created for things that can’t be explained or observed. But perhaps there is a more physical explanation that lies in the high-speed portion of our brains. It’s the part that processes all sensory inputs and controls all muscle activity, at a volume and rate unmatched by almost every computer in the world. We are conscious of only a miniscule piece of its activity, only what it considers important enough to feed to the low speed computer we use to organize its messages and give it direction.

If you doubt this, think of all the data coming from an eyeball at a rate only recently mimicked by HD TV. Now double it to accommodate a second eye and add the processing needed to blend the two together, adjust colors to, for example, make oranges orange in all lights, fill in blanks for people like me with macular degeneration, and even scan for things requiring a response. An example of this last factor might be a speck hurtling toward an eye. It is detected, analyzed to be a threat and signals are sent to blink the eye, all without any conscious interference. All muscle activity, including facial expression, is controlled by this high-speed processor. Our conscious mind only gives general directions such as raise my right arm or walk forward. When golfers talk about training muscle memory, they are really teaching this processor what sequence of muscle controls are desired for the swing.

While two people laboriously decipher sentences and create responses, their high-speed brains are communicating at blinding speed. We like to call it body language but that’s simplistic. A two-way communication occurs and the two part with an impression or understanding of each other’s intent, feeling and integrity that goes well beyond the words spoken. Part of the communication involves the give and take between the two arising from the conscious speech and actions. Part of it is driven by each person’s appearance which brings us back to what causes us to adopt our appearance?

I think much of it is shaped by external influences and experiences. Our sub-conscious brain is developing and modifying a “muscle memory” pattern from early childhood to deathbed. It affects both permanent and transitory facial expressions, gestures and reactions. In some, it takes the form of conformity, in others, individuality, et cetera. Still, it’s hard to claim our appearance and behavior are solely driven by environment. It seems there must be a genetic ingredient or perhaps a variation in brain development at work. Whatever, it’s beyond me…so I’ll just call it soul speak.


 

Solar Solace                                        March 17,  2017

IMG_0220

The Union Hill Power Station is online!!

Yesterday it produced over 33,000 watt hours on a scattered cloud day, far more than we consumed. Over the course of a year, it’s predicted to produce at least 30% more power than we will use. We sized it to handle the additional charging load of the Tesla Model 3 I have on order, with energy to spare for the grid.

A cold-hearted economist would cast a jaundiced eye at the ten-year payback period. By current trends, ten years may well prove conservative. Regardless, there’s a warm feeling generated by the thought of giving back all this free energy to the grid or, more precisely, saving them from producing the energy we consume. And at a time when the forces of evil are intent on destruction of our environment, it’s satisfying to look at the investment as a “stick it in your ear” passive protest.

So, what’s next? Our daughter cleared an area of young alders and planted the first eight fruit trees. We are building a fancy greenhouse which, along with an outside garden, should provide a significant portion of our botanical diet. The Tesla will radically reduce our gas consumption. Now we need to work on the natural gas usage.

Some of you may think this sounds like we have become eco-zealots. No. In fact, we are loath to give up any creature comforts. These changes will give us better tasting food, free us from the nuisance of gassing up and provide a productive form of exercise, a less stressful existence one might regard as solar solace.


 

When Laughter Ends                               March 5, 2017

insanity

A little tongue in cheek, you say? Yes and no. An extreme narcissist can be laughed at to a point. Self-aggrandizing claims become so absurd one can only laugh at the bloated buffoon and the spineless groupies who trade adulation for a pat on the back. It’s a symbiotic arrangement. But laughter’s tears turn to fears when the narcissist crosses the line from empathetic to sociopathic, when their need for adulation transitions into a need for power.

History is full of these social monsters: Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Fernando Marco, Mao Tse Tung,  Slobodan Milošević, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin to name a few. Most of them die prematurely or are exiled. But not before they murder or have murdered countless people innocent of any crime. The only preventative is to stop them before they seize power.

They usually emerge when major segments of the population are, or feel, downtrodden. Promising a better future (which is never delivered), they grab power by subduing opposition. Once, on a business trip to Chile during the Allende dictatorship, while eating lunch at a restaurant with an airline counterpart, I causally asked what he thought of Allende. The look of horror on his suddenly ashen face was astounding. He quickly signaled me to say no more. He had a physical fear of the ears in the wall. It drove home just how oppressive these monsters become.

So what, you say. It could never happen here. Then why are news media who report facts labelled fake? Why are there calls to suppress them? Why is curtailment of anti-administration investigations advocated and likely sustained by Congress? Why is society being destabilized by rescinding rules and rights put in place to allow everyone to enjoy what the Constitution promises? Why are there threats of defunding rebellious states and vague references to the use of our military within our borders?

With Congress and Senate dragged along for the sake of achieving Republican goals, it’s not clear that we can muddle through to the next scheduled election. What does it take to convince them that the orange tsunami must be stopped now? Our best bet is that he will stop himself as corruption and treasonous collusion with Russia are finally revealed in indisputable fact


 

When Is Wrong Wrong?                            February 25, 2017

Always, according to my late mother. Evermore, my even later father would chime in. Those were the days when integrity had value, words mattered and decent behavior was expected. Sure, some were deceitful at times, some disingenuous, some completely untrustworthy. They were few and generally lived in various levels of disgrace in public eyes.

What happened to that? How did we reach today’s world in which a president can lie through his teeth, live in a delusionary world of his own, and spit venom at anyone who takes issue with his monumental crap (couldn’t think of an appropriate more learned word)? How do we arrive at a state in which large numbers of people are ready to believe the absurdities he spews out? Any objective observer can see his words and tweets are usually offensive and just plain wrong but only a few brave souls call him out.

It’s wrong when he claims throngs came to his inauguration and self-praising rallies when videos prove the opposite; wrong when he doubles down with a fake crowd photograph; wrong when he claims the weather was very different from reality. But these are simply sad evidence of his mental problem, his sociopathic narcissism. Far more dangerous is his impetuous, intolerant tendency to attack critics and the media; his blatant conflict of interests, domestic and international; his attempts to pressure intelligence and investigative agencies into ignoring his complicity with Russia; his global faux pas and destabilizing comments; his attempts to persecute minorities; his degradation of the judicial branch and his apparent preference of a Hitler style dictatorship over our constitutional democracy. His growing effort to suppress opponents, the media and internet should strike fear in the hearts of everyone.

In 2014, I wrote Ickee Mushta, which foretold how the government turned out after the 2016 election. Fortunately, I resisted an urge to create an imaginary president because the illegitimate one we have, living in a delusionary world, could never have been imagined. It’s tempting to write a sequel in which Ickee returns to his birth name, John McEwan, and rises to lead our country out of this mess. What holds me back is the hope that impeachment will occur before its completion. Still, looking at what that would leave us with, it’s apparent that only another election can right the ship.

In the meantime, we can only hope that enough brave people will stand up and declare wrong IS wrong!


 

The Dark Ages Recometh                              January 3, 2017

So what if “recometh” is not a real word. Nothing real matters anymore. Not when it looks like:

–       The head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a global warming denier.

–       The national security advisor leaked classified information.

–       The Secretary of Defense is a hawk considered a loose cannon by military leaders.

–       The Secretary of State has conflict of interest ties to Russia.

Why go on with this litany of miserable misfits who defy reality and civilization itself? They are simply one more piece of the tragedy that lurks in our future thanks to the deranged narcissistic Putin Puppet with conflicts of interest all over the globe. He thumbs his nose at the Constitution he violates and thus far has had to answer to no one. Instead, he gloats in an undemocratic victory, delights in calling his opponents enemies and losers, brags about undoing all the progress made in recent years and revels in humiliating anyone against him.

Face it, America, we are NOT a democracy. We now walk in the footsteps of Nazi Germany. The pieces are almost in place to suppress dissention. The fodder for racist aggression is identified. A fear of speaking out is germinating. When the next election period arrives will there be a viable opposition? Will there even be an election?

Can we stop this regression? Is it inevitable that blossoming civilizations breed a counter movement which destroys them? Germany is simply a recent anomaly? The golden ages of China, Persia, Greece, Rome, Mongolia and Scotland all say no. Certainly, there are many more less familiar examples.

The other day, one of my Arizona golfing acquaintances said, “What do you think it would take to get California to secede from the Union? Wouldn’t that be great?”

I felt like a stranger in a strange land as I thought to myself how good that would be, providing we in Washington and Oregon could join them. The American chasm is so enormous. He welcomes the destruction of all that has been accomplished over the last fifty years. I long for an oasis that preserves and builds on it. Let’s call our new country Pacifica, West America or Pacific America, anything but a state in a false democracy moving toward fascism.

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