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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Boxing Day 2012 Revisited

What with the world and one thing and another, I thought it might be prudent and encouraging to repost a jolly assessment of disaster in the spirit of Christmas past. The following scholarly essay appeared on Boxing Day 5 years ago. I recall its aim was to tell my beloved fellow Americans how we Californians deal with government, the need for a sensible worldview, tule fog and other adversities. It involves the capitol, which is a building in the  capital --basically the same word spelled two importantly different ways to avoid confusion while verbally promoting it --capital idea, I think, or don't I? I will add one more thrillingly indecisive fact after this post.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


California Politics and Frozen Fog. Run!

On the map below there are three distinct features: the green Coastal Range, the snowy Sierras and, between them, a great fog that has come to symbolize the true Californian's view of the world. But here, we will discuss only frozen fog.


It was my brother, Frank, who first told me about frozen fog a long time ago. He moved out of state to escape it, but I remained to research the phenomenon, and have been much improved by this study. I have amassed a lot of data, but will confine this essay to one representative incident of local historical importance.

Sacramento is situated on an inland corridor, a river valley from the Sierras to the sea. Much of it is flat grassland under rain shadow. There, into the Coast Range, the river cut a cleft that gives onto San Francisco Bay, through which wind drives tule fog up the delta and into our city. On cold days, fog freezes.

Frozen fog is, in most regions, another name for rime or hoarfrost --ice crystals of supercooled fog. It resembles snow and doesn't last long under normal conditions, but conditions in this region are unusual. A freezing day here is often followed by intense and sudden sunshine. Fog has not time to disperse. It dehydrates and leaves a solid bank composed of 2% hydrocarbon lattice and 98% air, the chemical composition of Styrofoam. Here is a deposit of historical significance:


You can see that municipal workers and volunteers had already got to sawing parts of it away but, as often happens in this state, they became bored and silly. I was there and think that describes the general feeling pretty well. We went at the thing with handsaws and pocket knives mainly, but some artisans from midtown arrived with power-sanders and those really good Heinkles and Marples chisels. Within hours, we had the middle done and vibes directing us toward a single goal.


Here is our final product. We were nearly deaf from all the squeaking and crackling but had hacked a dignified and beautiful state capitol out of Styrofoam --a renewable resource provided by nature from frozen fog banks. It is a building containing a half-million square feet of floor space while weighing only 22 pounds. We were justifiably proud.


Unfortunately, naughty children became fond of carrying the building off and hiding it, leaving our appointed and elected officials no place other than nearby saloons to conduct the government. However, after each inconvenience, the capitol was found and returned to its mall. The governor himself finally solved the problem by gluing it to the lawn.
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I felt compelled to mention (here in 2017) that capitol, as a building housing the seat of government, is only capitalized (?) in reference to the federal Capitol in Washington D.C.. All state capitols are lower-case. So, although the various capitals are Capitalized --like Sacramento-- the capitols are not, and even less capitalized if they are made of Styrofoam and serve as flotation devices during floods. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Darwin Of Our Discontent

"Hello, Darwin."
"Hello, Geo., it's December, isn't it?"
"Yes, my friend, the coldest month."
"I know. I know. You may have noticed I am naked."
"Don't you hibernate, Darwin?"
"Yes, I huddle up with other treefrogs and sleep for months."
"Then why are you out sitting on a leaf?"
"I am old. I got hungry."
"It reminds me of church."
"What is this 'church' ?"
"Darwin, when humans are little they often grow up in religious sects that offer Sunrise Service on special holidays. These are the same churches that purport to help people into Heaven..."
"Heaven?"
"A pleasant place in outer space."
"Go on, Geo."
"Well, I always wondered what impelled churches to get people congregating at sunrise --which is pretty close to hell-- and expecting them to be dressed up is even worse."
"Worse than being cold and naked on a leaf, waiting for food?"
"Point taken, Darwin. We did get a drowsy breakfast before sun-up."
"Geo., that's where your empathy with treefrogs ends."
"Where, with the sunrise in stained-glass windows, enlightenment?"
"No, with breakfast. I eat bugs, Geo."
"Oh."
 
 



Thursday, November 30, 2017

Time Travel Revisited

It is the last November day, and I felt it apposite to revisit the past  --180 degrees across the zodiac minus seven years-- to an outdoor cafe with my friend of over half a century. Somehow the gist of conversation and Rasputin Beer seems appropriate. The enigmas discussed over that summertime table seemed to bear on the present --a chill winter, December tomorrow, and a world in contention. I was recently reminded of Thos. Wolfe's line: "You can't go home again."  In fact, even if you do go home, it's nearly impossible to find a parking place.  Time travel seems the best solution. I am privileged to travel at least this far and relive a warm and delightful day. 


Sunday, June 6, 2010


Time Travel

[Lunching with Willie. Trying to remember the name Rasputin so I could order another stout. My hair highlights caused by misfiring synapses.]

Time travel, with its paradoxes, enigmatic loops and plot lines is a staple of science fiction. Wellsian machineries cast our thoughts swiftly back and forth through time. We are thrilled in incomprehensible forces. We should also be thrilled to know time machines actually exist.

Real time machines fall somewhat short of imaginary ones. They travel slowly and into the future only. They do last a lifetime, but tend to go to pieces before the journey's end. I refer to the normal process of ageing, which goes forward in reality but only virtually into the past. One recalls the past --a memory, a figment-- less precisely as time goes by.

This by no means presages mental weakness. I have devoted much work to getting older and can attest, the power of progressive memory loss should not be underestimated. Most of politics and all of public opinion are based upon it. With practice, we can persuade ourselves it is not always what we remember that interests us, but what we forget. And, of course, there are some experiences for which amnesia is simply the most accurate memory. Wisdom stirs.

It does not stir quietly. How distressing to find the wisdom of age predicated on a falsehood, not upon experience so much as just keeping one's mouth shut. One has something to contribute to discussion but exact names and places are on back-order. Time is not travelled uniformly, and prudence demands a dignified, alert silence. Happily, this can serve to sensitize us to truth.

Age quiets us into keen observers of truth. We tend not to view it as ultimate, absolute good but as something quite dangerous, best rationed out over a period of time. Time. As we recognize truth, especially in places where it is neither expected nor plentiful, possibly not even welcome, we gain some control of our time machine. If we keep our own counsel, we can explore undisturbed.

There is a freedom in restraint. Perhaps it comes from gradually concerning ourselves less and less with the good opinion of young people. The reasons we older people go about things need in no way trouble them. Let's consider that a prime directive.

Young people are in better repair than we are, mechanisms less encumbered by the past. I have said the past is virtual, and it is. It has no mass, no weight, yet if we dwell on it overmuch it can crush us. This new world, with a few jarring differences, is much like the world I was young in. I spent considerable resources learning how to have a past and am qualified to advise a policy of non-interference.

These new time machines are tuning themselves over our imperfect past, a dream in which the floor moves and the house keeps coming down. They have much to contend with, but it is more likely during their spans of operation than ours that the secrets of time will be solved and all our journeys explained.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving And Upper Division English

As we inched our way out of Bel Air Market parking lot yesterday, we saw another day-before-Thanksgiving shopper crossing our path with her last-minute purchase, an orchid --a table centerpiece perhaps-- and watched her walk by with blossoms bobbing over her head with each step she took --much like the topknot plume of the California quail. I doodled her over "Wavin' Man" because it was a similar situation and Wavin' Man wanted in on it. You might say they're on the same page.
Thirty years ago, I carved two quail --ground-birds still welcome and plentiful on this property-- over some sheet-aluminum reinforcements on our back door. I headed them into each other because they describe a heart between their heads. Observe:
I thought this sculptural collision positive, life-affirming and even romantic --still do-- but, when I think of humans trying to emulate it with feathery hats, I cannot escape the the strange memory of a college class in Restoration Comedy. High-elevation headgear only amplified the middle-school tenor of the scripts and caused me to withdraw from the class after opining "Thank heaven for Oscar Wilde". Prof. didn't like that and became adversarial. He thought the jokes had to be 300 years old and I was not equal to the task of enjoying them.  Restoration was important because it produced art in defiance of Puritan dominance, but if it is to be effective, it must refresh it's punchlines again and again. One doesn't always take the right classes, I know, but still one resents the fact that mistakes are not realized until after they are made.

So, on to the closing Normaphoto of metal sculpture purchased on an outing with our sister Christina:
It shows a typical family of Callipepla californica --the sort that runs around our yard. When I pass by it, I forget about mistakes, collegiate errors, Puritans, middle school, everything except the garden. I strongly suspect Nepenthe is not a drink but a garden that leads us not out of but INTO reality, dream and discovery. I am thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, all of you.



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Sermon, Nearly December, Windsprint, Self-Assessment

Let us begin with a recent Normaphoto this month.

Compared to a Normaphoto from a year ago...(to see year-ago post, click within parenthesis)
...I'd say some progress has been made. I spent a winter on oxygen therapy, feeling my thoughts wander farther and farther away from my brain. 

I read news. I got hooked on trending topics: "Man turns $20 into $20,000,000 by adding lots of zeroes with a Sharpie then used it to pay supermarket self-checkout and got nearly $2 million change."

Then I read Cicero:"We are obliged to respect, defend and maintain the common bonds of union that exist among all members of the human race."

One of my happiest and least certain moments was when I piled all those O2 canisters and O2 concentrator into the car and returned them to the medical supply co. 

Now I cannot remember where I was going with this post. Probably something about experience and aging. I shall be 68 next month and have certainly achieved an early childhood ambition: to be more vigorous than kids twice my age. I had not envisioned  my nether-regions making noises indistinguishable from my Mr. Coffee Espresso Machine, but that is a minor detail.

Your regular pastor will be back next week if he finds God is not on the FBI's list of subversives. 

Go in peace.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spirit of the Wavin' Man

For me, it began in 1958. We were moving out of the farming settlement on Garcia Bend, headed east past Florin. There was an old men's home, weathered red brick, with a weathered old man on a bench out front. His name was Pete, and he directed traffic at the 4-way stop. When he wasn't directing traffic, he just waved at everybody.

35 years later, I passed the same intersection. The old men's home was long since razed for other development, but there was a younger, muscular man in spandex who jogged along my predawn route to work. He would stop jogging frequently to dance on the sidewalk and wave to morning traffic as part of his routine.

In the early '90s, there was again an old man who sat in morning light upon his own lawn and waved to all the cars passing Carlson Drive. I had not encountered this spirit again until this afternoon. Driving home from the pharmacy with my prescription --and a bottle of Cabernet (I cannot imagine why my health insurance does not cover Cabernet, as I could save 50% or more with a simple copay)-- I found myself stopped at a red light along with 12 other lanes at a 4-way intersection. Usually, I can see when one or another lane goes green and reckon my own signal but they were all stopped. That meant somebody needed to walk across the road. It was this guy:

























He had such a happy smile, and I was in no hurry. He waved to each car, made gentle eye-contact to each driver, I just started to feel better and better. Then I waved back and thought "Wavin' Man, is it you?" I didn't have a camera --probably wouldn't be appropriate anyway-- but I doodled him soon as I got home. Wavin' Man is a spirit that guides, has guided, good souls all my life. How does it assume possession? How does it sustain itself in these contentious times? How does it seem to appear when most needed?
It is an enigma. Amid the myriad distractions of modern times, it appears, it appears.

I could do worse than end up a Wavin' Man.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Quite a Three-pipe Problem


When faced with a problem and a paucity of evidence or clues, Sherlock Holmes would compose himself in thought and ask not to be interrupted.  In Conan Doyle's story, The Red-headed League, the excellent Sidney Paget portrayed him thus:


In my previous post, I described a puzzle confined to my own computer which required considerable ratiocination. Things returned to normal, mainly, until Wednesday --I got a header message where my GFC gadget should be:
I checked my repairs, discards and uninstallments of the 22nd and found all ok then  went to Google Forum and found others reporting the same "502 Error" from all parts of the world. Had I broken the Internet (on a Sunday)?Here is a short excerpt from the forum:
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Oct 25
Add a reply
I have problem with Followers gadget. I have this gadget at my website more than two years. Everything was perfect. But at now it is show me Error 502 since morning.  Many peoples have this error, please solve it :) How can I fix it?
Collapsed


I said:

Problem is back! Are we having some further difficulties?
Collapsed

Ivana Mihalić said:

Still not working... Does anybody even care? I knew I should've chose Wordpress over this.

Collapsed
; I took this snippet from my own email, to which I had the discussion transferred mid-week. In that version, the word "Collapsed" meant something else besides syncope --at least in my case. Still, it might be prudent to find a trusted observer and, after typing a complaint to Google, asking if you are or are not conscious. Norma was often undecided --but mostly said I was (one or the other, I forget). Here is the whole forum text thus far, clickable.
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So, I have emerged from my own nicotinic meditations --curled up in my chair in the pumphouse (Norma is not so tolerant as Watson) with several observations from the Doyle canon which approximate my own:
               "These are in deep waters...deep and rather dirty."
               "There is nothing more deceptive than the obvious fact."
               "The only important thing that has happened in the past 
                   three days is nothing has happened."

The conclusion is inescapable. This is the work of the Napoleon of Crime: Moriarty has returned!