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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Before the Holiday Season Starts



It is a beautiful day. Forty degrees below zero with a light wind, snow piled in drifts, some twenty feet high. An exquisite crystal clean white on white as far as the eye could see, with the muted sound that only snow can create. Santa loved days like this, pleasant days before the bitter cold of the perpetual midnight to come. He turned to his senior Elf manager and asked. “Is everyone back from summer vacation?”

“Yes sir, tan and rested.” Answered Hitphen Icicle.

Santa took another long look around. The North Pole ice was becoming thinner and increasingly unstable. A few more years and he would have to abandon this toy factory. Fortunately he had started off-shoring the work some years pass. Now he had a substantial presence at the South Pole with more in the Russian Tundra, his favorite the well hidden toy factory in a Norwegian fjord.
The work force had been another problem. The elf population had not kept up with the world’s growing population of children. Finding the leprechauns had been pure luck and then that young lady with her seven dwarfs. Strange name that one, Sleeping Beauty. Mixing elves, leprechauns and dwarfs created one problem after another, and those princes following Sleeping Beauty around created even more problems. He couldn’t find anything they knew how to do, handsome young men with no useful skills. Things just keep changing for Santa and it was all he could do keeping abreast. He thought about what that young lady from Wonder Land had told him yesterday.

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.”

It was all becoming so complicated. The young ladies had taken to Mrs. Claus, and now the three were always together. Any disagreement with Mrs. Claus and he would be running to save his skin. With a sigh he headed to the primary military defense line.
Setting up military defensive positions had been an endless waste of time and resources. First the elves kept turning the guard towers into doll houses and rocking horses, and those princes prancing around the parapets got in everyone's way. The unexpected solution came when the leprechauns had found out that the gold paint in the warehouse contained real gold. The leprechauns had assumed full responsibility for security, becoming ferocious sentries. All this useless effort because some politician claimed Santa had cost him an election. As he approached the concertina wire Patty Luckleaf popped out of nowhere and saluted. “All secured, Mr. Claus.”

Santa frowned. “Any problems this evening, Patty.”

“None,” Patty replied. “Most the enemy be dancing for cameras and the rest be shooting each other. There be no danger from junior bush leaguers, Mr. Claus.”

“How are the sentries?” Santa asked.

Patty smiled. “Most be sober, Mr. Claus, enough to keep the gold safe.”

“Patty,” Santa sighed, “We must protect everything.”

Patty snapped another salute. “That what I did mean, Mr. Claus.”

Santa started back to the administration building. He needed to hire more seasonal workers and was interviewing Arabic Genies and Japanese Avatars this afternoon.
Then he had to make his list and check it twice.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Climate Science




Winter has arrived in my part of Texas. Tonight we will drop into the thirties for a few hours. The high for tomorrow predicted to be 66 degrees. The mild winters are one of my favorite things about this part of Texas. Yes, I am a weather wimp. Now I wonder what this winter will bring. Last winter was mild, not even a single full day of freezing. The winter before had three snows and a few ice storms.
I arrived in Texas as a twelve year old. I expected cowboys and Indians riding horses, dirt packed trails with tumbling sage brush. To me Texas was Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, good guys in white hats. These high expectations became one of the great disappointments of my life. I had almost recovered from the truth of Santa Claus and now the truth about Texas. San Antonio, Texas, a large modern city with paved roads, electricity, phones and shopping malls. We had moved from an Air Force base in Tullahoma, Tennessee. We moved in January, from the deep snows of the Smokey Mountains to the mild winter of south central Texas. I still remember the humiliation and ridicule heaped on me by the local boys when I arrived for school in a short sleeve shirt in the dead of a Texas winter. Fifty four years later and I have acclimated. Sixty eight degrees tomorrow will feel cold to me.
Over more than five decades I have been in and out of Texas, traveling America and the world. During this time the weather has changed. This is a personal empirical observation, the most noticeable being that the hundred year events now occur every few years. What used to be extreme and rare weather events are now extreme and common weather events. This not an impression based on reported events due to improved worldwide communications, this is my observation of local conditions. Local weather I have personally witnessed from Washington State to Florida. Local weather I have personally witnessed across Asia and Central Europe. Local weather I have experienced over 50 years. The only tool required for this conclusion about climate change is my memory.
The debate over climate change is taking place between scientist and lawyers. The organizations challenging climate science are staffed by professionals with law degrees and communication degrees. Climate science is being presented by organizations dominated by professionals with science and mathematics degrees. In a public debate between a lawyer and a scientist how will that go? One example is the climate change petition signed by 31,478 self identified scientists and organized by lawyers. Anyone can sign these petitions. You can sign it today, adding one more scientist to their list. This is another brilliant piece of misinformation that is representative of the entire effort from the right wing nuts. This petition is easily debunked.
I cannot predict the weather for this winter. I can predict the climate for the next decade. Just as the individual gamer at a Casino cannot predict her next throw of the dice, the Casino can predict with great accuracy the money they will take in each week. This is the law of large numbers. One of the climate predictions is an increase in extreme events. The probability has changed. No one can predict the strength of the next hurricane, but the odds that it will be stronger have doubled.
I will not enter into an argument with some climate denier lawyer. I will have a range of winter clothing available. Just playing the odds, this is more likely to be very mild winter or a bitter winter. Normal has now become unlikely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Donuts and conversation for Breakfast



My stomach growled while waiting for a parking spot at the Donut and Kolache Shop. Finally someone pulled out and I quickly threw the MiniCooper into the open slot. I climbed out of my low slung vehicle and headed inside. A long line with one teenager waiting customers. I settle to wait my turn.
The regular group of retirees already seated and eating with two tables pulled together, some empty chairs for late arrivals. An informal group I sometimes join for coffee, donuts and argument. I throw a smile and a wave, getting back affable responses, thinking to myself Stupid old coots. They go back to the same discussion they have been having for a week. I’ll listen while waiting but I’m not joining today, it had become a circus ride going round and round.

“We didn’t lose. The election was stolen by illegal’s voting twice!” George huffed. 

You’ve only been claiming that for a week, George, think up something new.

Harvey leans back, sips his coffee, and shakes his head before replying. “No George. There’s always some foolishness but this election was 99% honest. Our guy lost.”

I like Harvey, a real reasonable guy.

“Well”, George snorted, “Next time we’ll run a real conservative with a real conservative message.”

Right George. Rush Limbaugh 2016. A sure winner.

“It wasn’t the message.” Larry smirked. “It is the product you’re selling.”

And cue up the talking points in three, two, one.

“You give em’ free stuff, we’ll give em’ freedom.” George snapped. “Free cell phones, free food, free houses, free condoms, free cars just everything free, free, free. Well there ain’t nothin’ free.”

“BO ran the better campaign.” Fred replied. “We need to study and learn.”

This is the part where the smart RINO guy tells us about cell phone apps and putting sombreros on the republican candidates.

“We will adapt and prevail, better tactics and minority outreach. No more talk about rape. We should prefect our message, you know, about free markets and states’ rights and George Washington and Federalism and 1787.”

Yeah right, Fred, how about George Wallace in the 1960s?

“Perfect the message” Larry snorted. “Perfect the message. Perfect the message. You can’t sell a lemon by calling it an apple. You blew a billion dollars on messaging. We heard your big message and it had a big problem, it doesn’t fit the real world.”

I don’t know which hurts worse, the right nut or the left nut.

“Forget your message and work on governing. We have big problems that will only be solved by pulling together. Compromise is ….”

“NO COMPROMISE!” George interrupts. “Let the country go off the cliff and see how you like THAT!”

Breathe easy George, no wonder you need those heart pills.

George does take a breath and eyes the last donut. Squinting at Larry he says. “You gonna eat that donut?”

“Tell you what” Larry answers, “I’ll split it 50/50.” 

George relaxes and nods. “Deal”

I’ve finally reached the front of the line and the teenager asks “What for you, Sir?” I think I will join the guys today. Go for the sugar high. “I’ll take a dozen fresh donuts and one ham and cheese kolache”.
With gifts in hand I head for the group. Pulling up a chair while getting the usual friendly morning greetings. Setting the donuts in the middle I ask.

“So ... anyone sign that Texas petition to secede?”

Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing a blog



I write many blogs during sports game. Today it is a football game. The cable show will take 3 hours to televise a 60 minute contest. A typical play will take about 6 seconds with about 120 to 150 plays per game. Doing the math there is about 10 to 15 minutes of sports action in the 3 hour time period. This leaves plenty of time to do something else. As a manager this was a great time to write employee reviews or next year’s budget. Now it is a great time to write a blog.
What to write about? I have read much online about writing successful blogs. Based on my research I have no chance of creating a successful blog.  The basis of a successful blog (so the theory goes) is identifying your target audience and crafting your message to that audience. I don’t have a desired audience and I don’t have any message for a specific demographic group. There are a number of other rules, such as post every day. My postings, like my subjects, are irregular and random. Why do I have any readers? Even a meaningful number of readers, why?
The web site manager has metrics I can review. My audience is about half American with (by order of size) Russia, Germany, Mexico, UK, France, Netherlands and China. The key word searches are mostly political questions closely followed by dog questions. The dog question search I get. The political searches I don’t get, political blogs are a very crowded area and I do not proselytize a consistent political position, usually I am being ironical. The political web sites I visit, such as Redstate or Daily Kos, I know what I will read before I even open the page. With my blog you don’t even know if I will write a political blog.
Why am I writing a blog? When I retired I wanted to write a science fiction book. I wrote about three chapters. Then I reread what I had written. It really sucked. I felt that I had a good plot, reasonable characters, good action and surprise scenes. The actual writing was terrible. The grammar was bad, the sentence structure was bad. I mixed tenses and genders. Complete with horrible dangling participles, that sort of stuff. I did not know how to write a narrative. So I started writing a blog to learn how to write. Like most adults I learn by doing.
Reviewing my writing the mechanics have improved but I have a desperate need of good editing. I am starting to understand that it is impossible to edit your own writing. I wish to thank the many readers that have helped me improve the story telling, the pace and sentence structure. I have a long learning curve ahead of me before I write that science fiction book.
 Hopefully this will help my blog audience. One of the “rules” is that you should clearly state the purpose of your blog.