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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. 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.

15 comments:

  1. I've heard an unconfirmed report that politician's brains have been replaced by Styrofoam in Washington D.C.

    I've also heard of frozen fog but had no idea what it was. Your information is appreciated. I lived in California for thirty years - but I was in Southern California, where we only had simmering smog.

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  2. Jon-- I have some data indicating politicians do have brains, atrophied corn-kernel ones, and the Styrofoam is added as packing material so their hats stay up. And thanks for commenting; I was beginning to think nobody approved of goofing off any more.

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  3. I'm still laughing at your response to my comment. And, by the way, goofing off is my business.

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  4. Through surreal whimsey you make great fun of the valley tule fog, which in reality as you know, has been responsible for irresponsible drivers to pile on top of each other in miles-long train-like car crashes on highway 99, from before I moved to Sacramento's smaller sidekick city Elk Grove where you studied and I came to teach in 1960. The advent of Interstate 5 did nothing to improve the situation, so I moved away after 10 years, like your brother Frank had earlier. More fun in this mode than in consensual consciousness mode. Thanks!

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  5. Willie-- And thank you for commenting! I know Sonoma has its own traditional Bear Flag emblem, which I envy. Sacramento's banner depicts a jack-knifed tomato truck on the freeway. You guys are way classier.

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  6. Here in Canada we have our share of frozen fog (usually at the end of the fall season/beginning of winter and also called hoarfrost) but our artisans as yet have found no use for it other than snapping its picture to display on Christmas cards.
    Jon..no styrofoam in our politicians brains...we have a surfeit of Canada Geese and our politicians brains are made of goose feathers. Just as light with excellent insulating qualities.

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  7. I have heard it said, albeit from an unreliable source that the Governor is a real killjoy.
    Happy New Year Geo!

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  8. Delores-- Canadian frozen fog sounds lovely and picturesque. I may have slightly exaggerated its use in California.

    John-- Ah, our dear Governor Brown. He held the same office 40 years ago and we reelected him 2 years back. Rumor is, he's getting the hang of the job.

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  9. Following California politics from afar (KY) has always fascinated me. I remember following the recall closely a few years back. Fascinating state you live in. Have a Happy New Year!

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  10. Keith-- Happy New year to you too! The recall, mainly incited by developers, was truly a circus. They managed to oust Democrat Gray Davis, an excellent governor, but didn't reckon on Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger being an excellent governor too, not their yes-man. Exciting episode of California history that I hope goes unrepeated.

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  11. That's funny and explains a lot about California.

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  12. One Christmas- I think I was 7- my Uncle Bert gave me Flintstone building blocks. I built a castle in our sitting room, which was promptly destroyed by my brothers. The blocks were consigned to the basement, where a flood carried them off in the Spring. I have a feeling I know where they ended up. It all makes sense now.
    Happy 2013, Geo, may it bring you many things to build upon. x

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  13. Sage-- Thanks! Yes, California has plenty of explaining to do and we all try to help.

    Austan-- I appreciate to good wishes and will try to live up to them. Too bad about your Flintstone blocks --but it does demonstrate how our capitol building also serves as an emergency floatation device.

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  14. I have had two glasses of fine wine and enjoyed a wonderful 5 course dinner with old friends. As much as I would like to make a meaningful comment on your post, all I can do at this hour (12:33am ) is to wish you a wonderful year ahead. I have been entertaining family for two weeks now, and that is all I have left to give,

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  15. Arleen-- Such a busy time! My thanks and best wishes to you.

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