LOCAL VIEW –Singing In The Pain–

One neat thing about the internet is the ability I gain to hear what people in other places are grousing about. For example, some are complaining their winter hasn’t had snowstorms and there will not be a White Christmas in their locale. This strikes me as ludicrous, for two reasons. First, winter will not even start for another two days. Second, here we are reeling from winter’s blows and many around here are already fed up with winter, before it has officially started.

The cold air masses that plunge down from Canada apparently “lift out” and are pulled back north before affecting many to our south, but we seem to always get clipped. Where to our south they get all rain we get some snow mixed in.

One storm I posted about two weeks ago gave us three feet of snow, though areas not far to our north and south got less than six inches. If it wasn’t trouble enough dealing with such depths of white, the following two storms passed to our west and gave us flooding rains, made all the worse by the fact culverts were clogged with snowbanks. A wash-out littered the end of my driveway with cobbles the size of my fist.

After dealing with deep drifts I had to make sure roofs didn’t collapse under sodden snow, and dealt with a flooded cellar. Then it seemed that the departing rain-storms always pulled down just enough cold air to create just enough backlash snow to force me to deal with clearing it; (at times three inches can be as annoying as three feet).

At the risk of sounding like Rodney Dangerfield, I was starting to feel I’d never get a break. Forget about finding time for Christmas shopping. I was finding it hard to find time to even keep the home-fires burning, or to start the campfires out in the pasture at our Childcare that makes sledding in the cold far more enjoyable for the children. It is hard to even start a fire when the firewood is under three feet of snow. Then children don’t want to sled when it is pouring rain. Then the arctic blasts that followed the rain turned the slopes into sheer ice, and supersonic sledding is downright dangerous when it involves three-year-old and four-year-old kids. (Not that the kids aren’t willing.)

To be honest, I’m getting a bit old to be involving myself in such nonsense. I should be staying home and complaining about the aches and pains brought on by low barometric pressure, not be out in the storms making aspirin salesmen happy by attempting to shovel and split wood like a young man, and to go sledding down bumpy slopes like a child. When the kids demand an igloo I moan. Then, when the igloo is half-built, and the rain ruins it, I start sounding like Rodney Dangerfield.

Despite all the pain, I can find myself singing. I can’t claim credit for lifting spirits, for I do some things by rote, in a purely mechanical fashion, about as cheerful as a robot. I depend on children aged three and four to display the spiritual wherewithal. They are the ones who muster the cheer. They never fail me.

For example, when we ran out of campfire wood I lugged my chainsaw out to the pasture. I know most childcare-professionals turn green at the very idea of small children being within a mile of a chainsaw, but I happen to know, from experience, that children delight in being invited along to the felling of a dead cherry tree or pine.

I take all sorts of precautions, keeping children out of harm’s way even should the tree falls the exact opposite direction I aim it to fall, and the children seem to comprehend the gravity of the situation. I don’t even need to gently rebuke the especially young and naive, because a five-year-old does it for me, like a small sergeant.

A hush descends when I shut off the saw and state the tree is about to fall. Then, when I lean against the trunk, and with a rending crack the tree starts to topple, and I shout, “Timber!”, the children jump up and down more than they do for fireworks, and when the trunk thuds to earth you’d think I’d just invented sliced bread. I keep my eyes on them as much as the log as I cut up the trunk, for they tend to edge closer, eager to load the logs on sleds. Then I likely violate child-labor-laws as badly as Tom Sawyer did when getting his Aunt Polly’s fence whitewashed, for children seem to fail to recognize moving hundreds of pounds of wood to a campfire on sleds is work. For them it seems a romp. But I do nothing to make the work be fun. The children do that work as well.

Another thing I do by rote is to show children what the Christmas carol that begins, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is talking about. Some modern children have no idea what a chestnut, (or even an open fire) is. So I telephone grocery stores until I locate chestnuts, go get several pounds, build a fire and breed a bed of coals, and finally roast some chestnuts. Originally I used a flat rock or bricks, but we’ve gravitated to using the end of a broken shovel.

I never have to lift a finger to make the kids be interested. If anything I use reverse psychology, saying things like “This is grown-up food and you probably won’t like it” and “Chestnuts are too hot for little kids to peel the shells off of”. Even the most doubtful and suspicious will be busily shelling hot nuts, crouching like a squirrel (sans the tail) within an hour. The children supply the eagerness and excitement, as I plod about doing it all by rote.

However even the most idyllic setting can be wrecked by bad weather. Yesterday evening I had a splendid fire going out in the pasture, but noted that the sunset, usually ten minutes after four this far north, abruptly darkened. The wind swirled, and sparks flew from the fire, and then we were hit by an arctic snow squall. Such squalls immediately plaster small faces with wet flakes, and in a gusty wind even the warmest snowsuit can’t counter a freezing face.

I didn’t even wait for the wailing to begin. We immediately abandoned the fire and headed through the swirling, heavy snow for the “warming room” back at the stables, which was a bit like herding cats. The wailing was in full chorus by the time we arrived. Temperatures were crashing as yet again we got “clipped” by the coldest air so far this season, and again temperatures dove towards zero ( -17 Celsius.) By the stable’s infrared lamps the wailing soon ceased.

This morning’s bright sunshine did little to warm things, as the north wind roared in the pines.

Today I thought I might get my Christmas shopping started, but a member of my staff suffered a misfortune and I had to cover for them. Rather than being spiritual and feeling pity for them, I was Rodney Dangerfield and felt sorry for myself. (It is hard dealing with a bunch of small children bouncing off the walls when you can’t do the logical thing, which is to throw them outside.) (I’d rather “delegate”, and watch my staff deal with such chaos.)

Actually, children want to go out despite the cold, especially when the low, December sun is white in a vivid blue sky, and looks inviting through a window. Rather than quarreling I tend to dress them up in their snow suits and allow them out to learn for themselves that their fingers and toes are swiftly bitten by an invisible creature. I keep an eye on their cheeks, watching for the healthy pinkness to tinge to purple, which is a sign the white patches of frostbite may soon follow. I also teach lessons that northern people should know, such as staying out of the wind, or staying close to the sunny side of a barn, which happens to be right by the warming room at the stables. I want to be by that room for I know that, despite all the clamoring to go outside, and all the work of putting on snowsuits and boots and hats and mittens, in as few as five minutes the exact same children will be clamoring to go back in. I prefer that they go into a room where I don’t have to take their snowsuits off. Some settle in the warming room and play with toys or color with cold crayons, but other go in and out, in and out, all morning long. By lunch I’m exhausted, and glad to hand the children off to an arriving member of the staff who will usher them indoors to lunch and settle them for “quiet time”.

But what about poor old Rodney Dangerfield? What about me? Who will usher me or settle me? No one, because I’m a grown man. I’m macho. But machismo didn’t make me all that happy today. I felt the pain but didn’t feel like singing.

It was too late for shopping, (as I also had an afternoon shift), but I had other tasks to catch up on. The woodpile on the porch was getting low, and I needed to cut some short logs from the long lengths of wood up on the back hill behind the house. It shouldn’t be so hard, now that recent rains had reduced the three feet of snow to six inches. I hoisted my chainsaw and headed off stoutly in that direction, and heard the pines roar, and then was hit by a blast of wind that made me wince and cringe away. Instantaneously I decided the saw was too dull. Rather than cut wood I should sharpen the saw. When I touched the blade the fabric of my gloves froze to the steel. I decided I should do the sharpening inside by the hot wood stove.

I think it was at this point my mood changed. Perhaps I don’t always need three-year-olds and four-year-olds to supply the spiritual wherewithal. Perhaps I can rouse something called “a sense of humor”, and muster enough poetry for a sonnet about sharpening a saw.

I know my wife don’t like machines within
Her tidy, warm house, but Wife wasn’t home.
The cold would freeze chainsaw’s steel to skin
And so I brought the chainsaw in, but own
Brains bright enough not to place Saw on polish
Of Wife’s Table. Instead I bent Old Back
And creaked down to the floor, a smallish
Rat-tailed-file in hand, and by Stove began Attack
On Dullness, tooth by tooth. Hearing grinding
My old dog came over to see what bone
I gnawed, down on her level. Then, finding
None, she licked my face. So, now I own
That simplicity’s not all that boring,
Stuck inside with arctic winds roaring.

LOCAL VIEW –Mining Wood–

In case you young folk want to know where firewood comes from, it comes from “wood mines”.

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My rat-hunting dog begs to differ. She claims they are called “woof mines”.

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The deep snows make everyday deeds, like getting an armload of wood, difficult. The deep snow-cover also seems to confuse the computer-model used to figure out our forecasts.  Temperatures are significantly lower than forecast. The low last night was forecast to be 10F (-12 Celsius) but instead it is getting down towards zero in the dark before dawn. But check out the forecast. Nearly fifty degrees warmer and raining by tomorrow!?

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What a mess it could be! Everything will turn to slush and then freeze solid. Great start to winter. But if the snowbanks by the roads freeze solid it will be more difficult to skid off the roads. They become like bobsled runs.

 

HURRICANE MATTHEW –Updated Sunday Night– Concluded

When I went to bed last night the various experts seemed certain Hurricane Matthew would head out to sea south of New England late next week, which is just fine with me.

When I was younger I was eager to see a storm bring ruin, because I could show off my prowess with a chainsaw afterwards, and make a heap of money, and also get a lot of free firewood. Now I’m 63, and my aspirations are more modest. I’d rather sit in a chair and think about hard work. Or perhaps watch a young man stack the wood I had delivered, (rather than cutting it for myself), and I am a bit grumpy that I am not yet fabulously wealthy, and have to stack the darn stuff myself.

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I would have put off even starting the job, but the old friend who delivered the wood let it spill into the neighbor’s drive a little, when he unloaded his dump truck, so I had to hustle out and get cracking. When I was younger I enjoyed the way my muscles felt when I worked hard. Now…not so much, but at least the pile is started.

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It seems a bit amazing to me that I actually pay $250.00/cord for wood I once only paid for with sweat, however there is nothing like the radiance of a wood-stove in January. Heat coming up through the floor registers just doesn’t match it.  Also I like the way I am not paying Arabs for my heat, (beyond, perhaps, a bit for the gas and oil in a chain saw). Also there is an old saw (pun) about how firewood “warms you twice.” There is many a winter scene I might have missed, if I didn’t need to go out and get more firewood. Lastly, it keeps you in shape.

If a hurricane hits us, it will seem foolish to  have paid for wood, for trees will be down all over the place. Chainsaws will be going nonstop for weeks. People in New England have no idea of what a huge mess it will make, because the last powerful hurricane to bisect New Hampshire was Carol in 1954. (Donna in 1960 was further east.) Carol pretty much flattened all the trees on the hilltops around here, but since Carol 62 years have passed, and a sapling can get pretty tall in 62 years. Our streets are lined with lovely trees that all could become lovely roadblocks.

I was pretty certain that, when the AMO moved into its “warm” phase again around 1990, we would see a return to the situation that gave New England so many hurricanes between 1930 and 1960.  I tried to alert people who seemed to be unaware, and be building or buying homes in unwise places. I saw myself as a sort of Paul Revere, but have been a sort of Chicken Little, for no really bad hurricanes have ever hit us.

Still, I figured people should at least be educated to what “might” happen. One effort was printed by Eliot Abrams in his blog, back in June of 2006:

http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-blogs/abrams/good-news-and-s-1/3657

I always found it a bit annoying that there wasn’t a disaster, after I predicted one, but 2006 was particularly annoying, for that was the year Bill McKibben made big money publishing in National Geographic , warning about hurricanes, but rather than saying what-happened-before-could-happen again,  he spoke a lot of hoopla about how the hurricanes would be “unprecedented” and caused by “Global Warming.” He was every bit as wrong as I was, but he got all sorts of press, and likely could pay someone else to stack his wood.

Call it envy if you will, but I grumbled a lot to myself as year followed year with no hurricanes, and I got only abuse, as McKibben got richer and richer. Finally, in August, 2012, I ventilated and had my rant published on Watts Up With That.

Hurricane Warning; McKibben Alert

In Many ways I think this is my best effort, when it comes to being a Chicken Little about hurricanes, and, if “The Big One” ever does hit New England, my rant will make me look  like a Paul Revere. It began:

I would like to venture two predictions which I believe have a, (as they say,) “high degree of probability” of proving true.

The first is that a terrible hurricane, as bad as the ferocious 1938 “Long Island Express,” will roar north and bisect New England. True, it might not happen for over a hundred years, but it also might happen this September. The fact is, 1938 showed us what could happen. 1938 set the precedent.

My second prediction is that if such a storm happens this September, it will not matter if it a Xerox copy of the 1938 storm; Bill McKibben will call it “Unprecedented.”

It really makes me wonder: Why on earth would such a seemingly smart person want to make such a total fool of himself? How can McKibben call so many events “unprecedented’ when all you need to do is open a history book, and you can see so many other prior storms set precedents?”

The post is worth reading, if you want to read about the history of past storms, and also about what a storm similar to the 1938 hurricane might do the the structures we have built since 1938, especially in Boston.

However I’ve been there and done that, and have to stack wood. I simply haven’t the time to write the whole danged thing all over again. Anyway, after being wrong so many years, who the heck would listen?  It has been something like 4000 days since a major hurricane has hit the mainland of the USA. Both McKibben and myself look like total jokes. Therefore I was glad to go to bed, and not feel I had to warn anyone. Then, when I got up  this morning, to my dismay I see the GFS computer is producing this track:

hurricane-matthew-1-gefs_al14_2016100100

Oh bleep. Right over Boston. So I do have to dust off my Chicken Little outfit and run around squawking, after all.

Well, consider it done.

The storm is still a week away, and there are many things that could knock it off track or weaken it, so I’m only raising an eyebrow slightly, at this point. But I will keep watching, and update this post if things become exciting. Expect a lot of hoopla, even if it goes out to sea.

It’s the first major hurricane we’ve seen in a while, and is over very warm water that should keep it well fed:

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It’s eye-wall looks like it is going through some sort of reformation phase, which has weaken it to a strong force 4 from a weak force 5, but that is still one heck of a storm.  Steady winds of 155 mph is something we can’t imagine. A sky-diver falling in a belly-down position is experiencing winds of 125 mph. Therefore 155 mph winds could pick you up and blow you away like a leaf.

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SATURDAY NIGHT UPDATE

The European model takes it safely out to sea:

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But the GFS has it clobbering Cape Cod

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The Hurricane itself? It has no idea what to do, with so much advice, so it currently is being very indecisive and wobbling in a small circle like a spinning top. (I now realize this animation below automatically updates. The wobble no longer shows.)

INSOMNIA UPDATE 

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SUNDAY MORNING YIKES UPDATE   (Or, pick your poison)

The thing about computer models a week away is that they can jump about quite a bit from run to run. Last night’s GFS 0000z run had Matthew safely out to sea:

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But this morning’s 0600z run? Yowsa!  New York City gets clobbered!

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If you allow your emotions to be swayed by all these various runs you will become a nervous wreak, a mere shadow of your normal confident and happy self. If I were you I’d take it easy, and maybe check out your generator, if you have one. Don’t rush out and buy one, like I did around 20 years ago when Eduard (?) was suppose to hit Boston, and then swerved a hundred miles out to sea. (I couldn’t afford it. If you can afford it, buy one.)

Me? Well, personally, I am going to party like mad all week, for at this time next week I could be dead.

(By the way, this is a really good time to go to the Weatherbell Site and sign up for their one week free-trial. Most of the above maps are from that site. And Joe Bastardi is quite good, tackling the unpredictable whims of such storms, while Joseph D’Aleo is a brilliant teacher.)

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE  –CALM DOWN–

The models continue to show a lot of options for route Matthew will take.

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These models can be roughly divided into two camps, the “faster” and the “slower”.  The faster models have Matthew hook up with a trough to the north, and the trough whisks it nicely out to sea. The Canadian “JEM” model typifies this idea, with the storm on its way out by Sunday, and the focus of people returning to football.

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The slower models have Matthew miss the connection with the trough to the north, and instead of zipping out to sea the storm just stalls and prowls about off the south Carolina coast. While the above map shows the storm heading out on October 9, the below “European” map shows it still hanging back on October 13.

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One interesting possibility is shown by  the small storm to the north of Matthew in the above map, which would be a second tropical low sucked into the first.

In essence, my take is that even a chronic worrier like myself can kick back at least until Sunday, by which point we will know if the storm is going to be “faster” or “slower”.

But if you really need to worry, I won’t deprive you. The computer runs we see tend to be an average of many runs, and there are always a few runs, called “outliers”, that stray from the mainstream and march to a different drummer. The GFS may be suggesting Matthew will head out to sea, but check out the outliers. A few crash right into Massachusetts, and one very much resembles the 1938 hurricane (but slower).

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Nearly exactly a year ago Hurricane Joaquin was threatening, and then the predicted path went from freaking out New York City to being a fish-storm.

This has happened so many times it is a bit like the “Boy Crying Wolf” to warn people. However, as I said last year after Joaquin turned out to be a false alarm, “I stand by my guns, when it comes to the fact that one of these days one of these storms will look all the world like it is going out to sea, and then will swerve back northwest and shatter the windows of Boston’s skyscrapers while ripping just west of town, heading north at 50 mph. However even a blind squirrel can find a nut. I will be wrong 99 times before I am right once…”

(A storm taking the path of the left hand map above would completely flood New York City’s subways. They have had countless close calls and warnings, (including Hurricane Irene in 2011) but they only use the warnings to collect taxes. Then they spend all the money on “administration”, and never fix the subways with better pumps and better protection.)

I hope I keep on being wrong, and when the one time in a hundred arrives, I am long gone. I’ve done my job, which is to be a Chicken Little. I deserve a break, so I’m just going to calm down.

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Looks like Matthew is swerving NNE a little. Pray for the people of Haiti. They are poor on a good day, and have a couple bad ones ahead.

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE  –Pray For Haiti–

My gorge has risen this morning, as first thing I read this morning (on another site) was a somewhat sneering comment about the people of Haiti being “those permanent victims”. Unspoken was the idea they deserve what they get. Admittedly they are poor, and that poverty extends to poor government, but I don’t subscribe to the mind-set that seemingly wants to “reduce overpopulation” by keeping poor countries poor. It seems a sign you are one of the so-called “elite”, when you  smack your lips eating cherries while watching misery in the Third World on TV.

There are many problems with the concept of “nation building”, but that is no reason to not try to help others help themselves. My little church sent a group of seven teenagers to Haiti back in the late 1990’s and they actually had a wonderful time. The main project was to build a strong structure of cinder blocks in a neighborhood where most homes were made of flimsy tin sheeting. I can’t help but think a cinder block structure will now be where people flee, if winds get over 100 mph.  Sheets of tin will be but flying guillotines.

Stewart Pid alerted me to this remark over at WUWT. “The NHC estimates winds speeds using aircraft. There was a NDBC discus buoy that recorded surface sustained winds at 67 knots maximum. Category 1 hurricane threshold is 64 knots. Mathew was barely a category 1 hurricane when it passed directly over buoy number 42058. The NHC has been doing this for years, making wind speed claims greatly in excess of actual recorded surface winds.”

If it is true winds are not as bad as the NHC reports, I’ll call it an answered prayer. Because that is all I can do, at this point: Pray. I have none of the power of the “elite”. I have enough trouble using my waning strength to help people in my own small corner of the planet, and the only worldly power I have is the power of a single vote. So it only natural (if you own a thing called a “heart”) to turn to otherworldly power, and to pray for brothers and sisters in Haiti.

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(Talk about other worldly… A fellow named Frankie Lucena was aboard a hurricane hunter above Hurricane Matthew last night, and got some pictures of electricity discharging in the upper atmosphere above the storm. I guess you could call it “lightning”, and it is known as “sprites”. We didn’t even know this sort of lightning existed, when I was young.)

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TUESDAY EVENING UPDATE  –Complications–

Hurricane Matthew has smashed through the east of Haiti, and our vaunted media reports 5 deaths. Does not compute. Complications arise, which any competent media, with even the most elementary educations, would wrestle with. What are the complications? Well, either the government’s Hurricane Center is completely inept, and the storm is much weaker than they say, or our government’s reports about the conditions in Haiti are completely inept, and the poverty Haitians purportedly endure does not exist.

The simple fact of the matter is that around 60,000 in Haiti are so down-in-their-luck they are living in tents. (I know about that. I lived in a tent and slept in my car for long periods, when I was younger, and down-in-my-luck.) Others live in flimsy houses made of sheets of metal nailed to 2-by-4’s.  None of this stands up well to 125 mile/hour winds.

My gut feeling is that those people have been through sheer hell, if the winds were as high as the Hurricane Center proclaimed. Sheet metal is not nice stuff, when it is blowing about at 125 miles an hour. 5 deaths?  A foot of rain on hills stripped of vegetation can turn a dry brook into a brown torrent carrying trees, cars and houses. 5 deaths? A storm surge of ten feet, with twenty foot waves on top, is hard on people in Florida with comfortable cars and interstates to flee upon, but Haitians have nowhere to flee. 5 deaths?

My gut feeling is that our media is utterly inept. They have no on-the-scene reporters in Haiti. They are so bankrupt they can’t afford it. Anyway, any reporter with the guts to take on such a dangerous assignment  would also have long ago had the guts to tell their editors to take their job and shove it. Their remaining workers are timid souls, who believe “news is reporting what you are told to report”. Most news they get they obtain through social media, because they are too timid to go out and see things for themselves. Why should I heed them? I can obtain stuff through social media myself. I know the waters were chest deep in the Main Street of a small town in the southeast Haiti, because I read the “tweet”.

Why should I care? Well, I suppose it is because my little church cared for Haiti a quarter century ago, and, after our teens joined other teens from other small churches to go south and build some cinder-block structures, and we felt all warm and cozy about what a good thing we had done, some lady from Haiti came north to thank us (and, of course, to seek more help). In the process of thanking us she sort of punctured our self-righteousness,  because in the process of saying why she was thankful she described the reasons, and this involved describing the brutality of the reality. For me it was a real eye-opener.

After she spoke to our church, I sought the woman out and asked the sort of questions our wimpy media is too spineless to ask, and she seemed downright relieved.  I asked politically incorrect questions, but never with malice. We had a talk that was full of laughter and understanding, and which the “elite” think cannot happen between a conservative, white-skinned bumpkin from New Hampshire and a very-dark skinned social-worker from Haiti.

The result was that my world became larger. I cared for people beyond my horizons. If I ride a taxi in Boston, and the driver is Haitian, I want the “news from home”.

Our president could care less. He thinks that, because his skin is dark and mine is whitish, people from Haiti will automatically flock to him. But my family has more experience of the agony  of slavery than he can imagine. (Look up Robert Gould Shaw, who died with his black troops in the American Civil War.)  Our president’s black skin has no knowledge of slavery, and in fact he of the “elite”, too high and mighty to sink to such lows. What do the “elite” really care about a nation of slaves that rebelled from their masters, like Haiti?

I personally think the suffering in Haiti at the moment is more than “5 deaths”, but it might make our president look bad if, after 8 years of his leadership, our close neighbors had not even the slightest improvements, as he spent billions on wind turbines and solar panels that are failures. Therefore the media, as meek and timid souls, does not dare report the actual suffering in Haiti that is actually happening.

I could be wrong.  Maybe it is the Hurricane Center that is wrong, and Matthew passed through Haiti with breezes and showers. If that is the case, how are we to trust government scientists about Global Warming? If they can’t get today right, how can we trust their ideas about tomorrow?

That is only the first complication I have to report.

The second involves a glitch in the confidence Matthew will move as predicted. The glitch is a second tropical storm to the east-northeast  of Matthew, named “Nicole”.  In the map below, Matthew is the big storm between Cuba and Haiti, and Nicole is the small blob of clouds way out in the Atlantic, to the east-northeast .

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The glitch is this:  When two tropical storms exist in close proximity something called the Fujiwhara Effect occurs. In theory this would whip the eastern storm (Nichole) forward,  but cause the western storm (Matthew) to slow, or even stall.

No computer model sees this yet. All seem to see the “faster” option, (which I mentioned earlier) which whisks Matthew out to sea, only brushing the east coast of the USA.

No model sees the “slower” option, wherein the Fujiwhara  effect stalls Matthew, and causes us a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Personally, I hope this coming Sunday sees Matthew whisking out to sea, and our focus on football, and Haiti.  The last thing I want to see is Haiti’s trouble happening here. But at least the hurricane is past those people, and winds are dying down in Haiti.

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WEDNESDAY MORNING  UPDATE

Cuba’s mountains have weakened the hurricane slightly, as it passed through the Windward Passage.  Waters are warm and the storm will likely intensify as it moves away from the mountains. The Bahamas have no high peaks.

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The only Tweets and Facebook  posts I have seen come from far from the center. Port-au-Prince only received strong breezes and heavy rains.

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON –HAITI CUT OFF–

Hurricane Matthew is back out over water and the eye has reappeared, and likely it will strengthen as it moves northwest through the Bahamas towards Florida. (Notice the second tropical storm, Nichole, to the right.)

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All attention will look ahead to Florida now, as Haiti is forgotten. However the “Drudge Report” had an apt picture from space of a skull-like Matthew hitting Haiti.

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The death toll is not being released; government officials are simply stating “We don’t know,” which is the truth, for the bridges are washed out and the roads flooded and all phone and cell-phone connections seem lost. The tweets we do get show rains were extreme even far from the center over by Port-au-Prince, and people may be having trouble recharging their phones.

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The further toward the track one traveled the more extreme the damage would be, but to get any idea of how incredible such winds and tides are it is helpful to look at Westernmost Cuba, where the buildings were far more sturdy.

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This demonstrates the winds were as strong as hurricane hunter aircraft suggested, at ground level. However Matthew was “weakened” by the time it hit western Cuba. The storm surge was around nine feet. As Matthew hit Southwest Haiti the winds were 20 mph higher and the storm surge was likely over ten feet. People were camped on flat-lands by the sea, in tents and in tin sheds, and afraid of leaving their few belongings, and basically stayed and prayed.  Unless some leader rose, who got a great many people to head for the local highlands, I fear the death-toll must be in the thousands.

I find the media silence peculiar. Perhaps they fear causing a panic in Florida. However the survivors in southwest Haiti likely need help now, not tomorrow. We do have an aircraft carrier and hospital ship headed down that way,  but they have a hurricane to avoid.

Continue to pray for them, because most of us cannot help in any other way.

Wednesday Night  –Fujiwhara Craziness–

I just watched some young fool on the Weather Channel say Matthew’s winds have weakened because it is disorganized. Total Nonsense. Compare it with the picture above. It is quite obviously better organized. It’s central pressure is even lower. The drop in wind-speed is some glitch caused by needing to take the pulse from a distance. There are times one needs to use the eyes God gave us, but the young fellow on the Weather Channel is displaying a surprising respect of authority. (Maybe that’s what got him his job.)

Now our concern should be the Bahamas. I visited those islands back when I was eighteen and very disrespectful of authority, aboard a “borrowed” sailboat. The isles are largely low, coral islands, and no place you want to be when the ocean rises ten feet, with huge waves and high winds. I am praying for the inhabitants, who were very kind to a forlorn object like myself, cast upon their shores, with the captain of my ship so violently ill I thought he might die.

I am also praying for the engineers behind the building of the hotels in Nassau. They likely are not sleeping well. No engineer wants to see his structure blown down, but they are also under unreal pressure to “keep costs low.”  It is somewhat amazing how much the costs rise, if you engineer a hotel to withstand 130 mph winds, compared to what they are when you engineer a hotel to withstand 110 mph winds. The one thing about Nassau is that, unlike Haiti, we likely will get swift pictures of what has happened. It looks like the eye might go right over the capital.

As far as Florida is concerned, I think they are doing the right thing to evacuate the coast. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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Notice tropical storm Nichole, to the right of the map. This, and the young meteorologist Tom Downs over on the Weatherbell site, may actually succeed in getting the word “Fujiwhara” into the vocabulary of the mainstream media. (If so, it will be fun to watch, as puffed people attempt to pontificate, like they know what “Fujiwhara” means.)

We don’t even know if Matthew will hit Florida, or stay just off-shore. That seems work enough. However, looking beyond, some models are showing Matthew pulling a loop, swinging out to sea only to curve back around and hit Florida again, due to the Fujiwhara effect.

I’m not worried about that. After all, I don’t live down there. What I am worried about is stuff that is above my head, in the upper atmosphere. I don’t understand the workings of that world, up there. But it does seem that, when these hurricanes create massive updrafts, it does some destabilizing that needs to be rectified, and you see these odd, very-fast streamers of high clouds heading north around the edges of hurricanes. I suppose, guessing greatly, that they are a sort of jet stream. I have never seen one “steer” a storm, but then, I have never seen what brings certain hurricanes north to New England at unheard of speeds of between 50-60 mph. I just see it has happened in the past.

I am worried about something that the models are not showing. They have produced an incredible number or tracks, all over kingdom come, over a few short days, but not one is mine.

Because the upper atmosphere’s jet streams are a subject miles above my head, there is no way I can talk about the subject scientifically, and therefore the best option is to talk about it facetiously:

You young whippersnappers can’t forecast like the oldsters could. Heck, back when me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, we thought nothing of forecasting storms years in advance. Why, as late as 1868 a Limey named Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby published a forecast, on Christmas, in the “Standard of London”, and it began…“I now beg leave to the state, with regard to 1869, that at seven a.m., on October 5, the moon will be at that part of her orbit which is nearest to the earth…”

Now I reckon you so-called scientists got your noses in the air, because you can’t figure out how to read the moon, but Saxby nailed his forecast. You fellows keep changing yours, every time your computer goes “urp.”

Up in the Bay of Funday the fog burned off on October 4, 1869, and it was a surprisingly warm day for October, even called “oppressive” by some. Then the south winds began to pick up, and the skies to the south grew dark and threatening, and by sunset it was raining and the winds were starting to howl. The tides were high, due to the new moon, but once the dark fell the wind went mad. In Moncton some farmers headed out to the flats to get their livestock in the dark, and then the thirty-foot-tall dykes protecting those lowlands were topped by a storm surge like none ever seen before, and sea waters came roaring across the flats, drowning lots of livestock, and farmers as well, though one fellow survived by riding a haystack that slowly got more and more waterlogged, sinking lower and lower until the fellow thought he was a goner, because not only was the stack sinking but the outgoing tide was sucking him out to sea, but luckily the stack sunk so low it grounded on the submerged top of the dyke, and there he stayed as the waters drained away, revealing a shattered landscape. Over in the state of Maine, entire forests were flattened, and the floods were so bad not a bridge survived in the north.

Now, when you young fellows can forecast a storm like that, ten months in advance, come back and maybe we’ll talk about naming a storm after you.

(On a side note, the hurricanes that clobber New England don’t dawdle on their way north, for in such cases cold waters weaken them swiftly. The ones to watch out for accelerate to amazing forward speeds of 50-60 mph, (and some nit-pickers might say they are no longer truly and purely “tropical”, but they have unholy power at their cores). So forecasters to the north should be wary of swiftly developing jets, that can suddenly suck a storm north.)

THURSDAY MORNING  –BAHAMA BASHER

This graphic says it all. More later.

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Picture from Haiti. Still no reports from southwest, but a helicopter view was not pretty. Likely no clean water, which can lead to cholera in a hurry.

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Church will be at the usual time.

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In westernmost Cuba, they do have their cellphone service back.

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On the Weatherbell site Joe D’Aleo posted this cool satellite view of Matthew over the Bahamas, Nichole to the east, and, down in the lower right corner, the new kid on the block?

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HAITI DEATH TOLL TO 103 ;  HARDEST HIT AREAS STILL CUT OFF

Besides salvaging belongings, one task seems to be to dry things out, as everything is drenched. It is important to boil all water, but hard to start a fire.

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THURSDAY EVENING  -Honing In On Florida

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FRIDAY MORNING REPORT  –EYEWALL OFF-SHORE (So Far).  Haiti Death-toll “jumps” to 253.

The inner eye-wall of Matthew looks like it fell apart and the out eye-wall looks like it is contracting, which is a sign of a strengthening storm. If the eye-wall gets over land the winds turn from gales to crazy. It is the eye-wall winds that have nasty vortexes sort of like sideways tornadoes, and do the worst damage.  So far the eye-wall hasn’t made an on shore appearance, and all the hoopla looks laughable. Fine with me, though I do not like the weather service to get laughed at when they gave the proper warnings. Pictures from Haiti and Cuba should alert people to the “worst-case-scenario,” which we pray stays off shore.

We are starting to get a few reports from the cut off parts of Haiti, and Time magazine reports the death toll “jumped to” 253. No, fellows. The death toll didn’t “jump”, you just didn’t report it, just like you are still not reporting how many died.

Haiti Hurricane Matthew

The body of a man who perished during Hurricane Matthew lies on a piece of wood as survivors prepare to place his body in a coffin, in Cavaillon, Haiti. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Haitian officials on Thursday dramatically raised the known death toll from Matthew as they finally began to reach corners of the country that had been cut off by the rampaging storm. Interior Minister Francois Anick Joseph announced that at least 108 had died, up from a previous count of 23. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

The pictures we get are still from the edges, and from wealthier neighborhoods with sturdier structures.  The slums are only viewed from helicopters. People are drying drenched laundry and waiting for water. Water is so expensive some can’t afford food, as the ocean’s salt water flooded the fresh-water wells.

People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie

People walk on a street next to destroyed houses after Hurricane Matthew hit Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

If you want to become angry at the UN, please consider the following:  People catch cholera from water made dirty by sewerage that contains the germs from people called “cholera-carriers.” There was no cholera in Haiti. If the UN had wanted to keep Cholera from being a problem, all they needed to do was screen its workers, and make sure they sent no cholera-carriers. They did the opposite, and sent workers from Nepal, where cholera is rife. It seems so stupid I have the paranoid sense it must have been intentional, to “reduce over-population.”  Cholera currently represents a threat of killing more people than the hurricane.

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SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE  –We lucked out; Haiti didn’t.

Hurricane Matthew did give the coasts of Georgia and South and North Carolina strong winds and very heavy rains (over a foot in places) but the worst of the storm surge dissipated out to sea and never brought its full brunt to the USA coast. This is of small  consolation to those who have suffered, but the fact of the matter is that things could have been much, much worse, especially in Florida. Now most of the storms energy has been expended in rain to its north, and though still a formidable gale, especially on its west side, it has been dubbed “Post Tropical.”  The actually center has little activity with it, in the second map below.

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Tom Downs has a very good post at the Weatherbell site explaining what a huge difference even a fifty mile change in the track of the storm to the west would have made, and why the governors did the right thing to evacuate the coasts, though many are laughing at them now. You can’t always trust on luck, as Haiti knows.

The death toll in Haiti rose, as I expected, to 877, and now silence has again descended. I have the sense the officials involved are hiding the true nature of the disaster, likely out of shame. Some of the poor were not even aware the storm was coming, so inadequate were the preparations.

This is not due to a failure on the part of people to send money. The failure rests squarely on the shoulders of the leaders in charge of investing the money wisely. In the case of the World Bank, they may not have invested unwisely, and rather did not invest it at all.

I find these figures hard to believe, but will put them down:

After the disastrous 2010 earthquake the World Bank collected and oversaw a account holding 351 million, called the Haiti Reconstruction Fund. How much of that fund has been utilized? Out of 351 million, slightly less than 17 million.

I find this totally disgusting. For one thing, I am sure the officials didn’t dawdle, when it came to making certain their own  salaries were paid. Secondly, there is no shortage of cheap labor in Haiti. The average person subsists on a dollar a day, and I’m certain you could get some good work-crews together paying the men ten dollars a day. Even using primitive methods, carrying dirt in baskets, the people of India built a decent system of flood control dams. Tall dykes could have been built to protect the southern cities from storm surges, as was done in Galveston after it was destroyed.  Now it is all 20-20 hindsight.

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There are some who suggest the actual intent of the UN and the World Bank is not to help such people, but rather to “reduce over population.” That is a terrible thing to suggest, tantamount to genocide, but I can’t say they are doing a very good job of defusing the suggestion they are evil. You cannot blame the leaders of Haiti, for how they use the money is so largely dependent on the overseers. (One thing I heard was the Haitian officials were not allowed to use the aid on anything but things directly related to earthquakes.)  In any case, a human disaster is occurring, and the press is silent.

I expect the Haiti Reconstruction Fund records may soon be “accidentally deleted.”

http://www.haitireconstructionfund.org/documents/steering_committee/en

SUNDAY AFTERNOON –Matthew Fades–Haitian Horror Continues–

I did a bit more study of the history of Haiti this Sunday, and it seems to me that the nation has had more than it’s fair share of oppression, brutal dictators, outside exploiters, and ill-advised spiritual “authorities”. In some ways it seems Haitians are a people with a chip on their shoulder, who have every reason to have a chip on their shoulder, but who draw abuse by asking for it. It is a most exasperating sort of history to read about, and one Evangelist even suggested Haitians had made a deal with the devil, and were reaping the consequences. I doubt they are any worse than the rest of us, in that respect, and in a sense they remind me of the rest of us, only they make our shortcomings more obvious.

However as this started out a study of hurricanes and not Haiti, I think I’ll save the rest of my thinking for a Halloween post.  For some of Haiti’s horror is like that, and a warning to the rest of the world of what we could make our lives be like.

Speaking of which, I guess I’ll settle back for a presidential debate between a couple of Halloween characters.

The real danger is humans, not hurricanes. (Though we do have Irene waiting in the wings.)

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LOCAL VIEW –FIRST SNOWFALL–

I had plans to finish up some work on the clapboards at the end of my 250 year old house today, but awoke to temperatures of 23° (-5° Celsius) and frozen slush coating everything. I was pretty grouchy. October 18 is too darn early for snow. However the sun was brilliant on the horizon, and there wasn’t a breath of wind.First Snow 5 IMG_0760

It is hard to remain grouchy when it is so gorgeous out, but I tried my best. If I am to achieve my goal of becoming a cantankerous anachronism, it will require hard work and practice. So I put on my sourest expression and looked for things to gripe about.  I noticed my wife had left my granddaughter’s baby carriage had out, and it was all soggy with snow.   First Snow 2 IMG_0755Also the phlox flowers in the garden were frozen.First Snow 1 IMG_0753 Furthermore, the above photograph was suppose to be artistic, with the snowy car in the background, but it only reminded me I have to trim that yew. Also rake the leaves, and it’ll be harder with them wet.

Even as I was grouching to myself about that the leaves began falling. There wasn’t a breath of wind, but sometimes they are merely frozen to the twigs, so that the first beams of sun melts them free, even in a complete calm. In fact one leaf, as it falls, can jar others free, and a slowly developing slow motion avalanche of color crisply slides down the side of the tree. Formerly I’d sigh, and wax poetic, but as a practicing grouch I now grumble about how all the leaves are covering my firewood and keeping it from properly drying. The heap of firewood is to the right of the road, in this picture.First Snow 4 IMG_0756 You can see all those messy leaves all over the road. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes to heaven.First Snow 3 IMG_0758

Oh well. I figure Sunday’s suppose to be a day of rest, anyway. I’ll get back to practicing my grouchy expression first thing on Monday morning.

LOCAL VIEW —July Jackets—

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The map shows yesterday’s hot and humid air driven out to sea, and the front rammed clear down to Georgia, yet it managed to pass under us. We didn’t even get a sprinkle. I was a bit amazed, watching it happen. You could see the cool air clash with the hot, and brew up a squall line that NOAA noted for its longevity, and Joseph D’Aleo posted on his superb blog at the Weatherbell site. (The picture overlays many separate radar shots of the same squall line.)

Squall Line 20150713_summary1 If you follow the direction the red arrow points you can see the energy passed well south of New Hampshire. We just had a muggy morning gradually dry out, without a sprinkle of rain. I headed off to a barbecue in the early evening, and everyone was wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts, as the shadows from the trees at the end of the lawn gradually extended over and the warming sun was lost. Then someone remarked, “Sheesh! is it ever cold!”

I looked around, and noticed everyone was hugging themselves. It was like it hadn’t penetrated anyone’s consciousness that a sunny July evening could possibly be cold. But it was downright uncomfortable, and as soon as people woke to the fact many headed off to cars and came back wearing summer jackets. I’d come in my wife’s car, and had no jacket, so I got so close to the grill I was practically in among the steaks. As soon as the meat was done we moved indoors.

The good thing about such cold shots in the north winds is that often they don’t last long. I’ve seen winter days when the temperatures fall all morning and you expect the cold to become extreme with the advent of evening, but instead the cold wave relents, and temperatures don’t drop after dark, and can even rise a degree or two. However those are winter events. In July you only expect to don a jacket when east winds bring fog and drizzle inland from the cold Gulf of Maine. You don’t expect it when it is sunny and the wind is north. I can only assume this shot from the north contained a packet of air from Hudson Bay, which still has a surprising amount of ice on it, for the middle of July.

Hudson Bay Ice extent July 16 CMMBCTCA By this morning that shot of cold was long gone. Rather than Hudson Bay the wind was from the Canadian Prairie, baking under long summer days and barely cooled by short nights where the twilight never completely fades. However the shot of cold activated some instinct in me, and I got out of bed thinking I should get going, in terms of firewood.

Now is the time to lay down the less desirable trees, and to let them lie as the leaves suck the sap from the wood before withering. Then cut them up. Then split them. Then stack the wood to dry in the summer sun, so they don’t hiss in the stove, wasting heat boiling off sap, but burn clear and hot.

Dream on, old man. You are sixty-two years old, and it will take you a week to do what you once did in the morning.

Now I do stuff sort of as an exhibition, for the children at our Farm-childcare. “This is the way things were done a long, long time ago.” However it does not seem so long ago to me.

Not that I ever used a cross-cut saw. However there is a film of the center of this town after the 1938 hurricane, with trees down left and right, and not a chainsaw is in sight. All the local folk are out at either end of cross-cut saws. Some look like they are out of practice, but all know how to use such saws, how to always pull and never push. It is amazing how swiftly they cut through the logs.

I do remember when people built houses with hand tools, with saws and hammers and drills that had no batteries or cords or pneumatic air lines. It did take longer, but the men were stronger.

In the 1700’s the average worker burned off over 4000 calories a day. Few men work half as hard, now. Now we expect weekends off, but farmers never had weekends, for milk cows don’t stop making milk on Saturdays and Sundays, and chickens don’t stop eating.

The strange thing is that some think we are worse off. We work less and have more leisure, but they take their leisure and use it to gripe, often complaining they work too hard, or aren’t paid enough, or are hurt emotionally and should not have to work at all.

Idiots. I just wish I could still work as hard as I once did. God knows there was a glory in it, and someday I’ll write a book about it. But tonight I’ll just think about those men of the past, who worked twelve hour days, full of faith in a thing called “progress”, and believing we would rejoice to have the things they lacked. I’ll look back a half century, to when I was twelve and knew nothing of work, and didn’t like the prospect of work much at all,  until I saw old men loving it, and became curious about what could be so good about it.
Free wood is seldom free. The gnarled apple
Really required a pneumatic splitter
And I had but a maul, but youth will grapple
Ridiculous tasks: I was a hard hitter
And relished each victory, each split log
And the sheen of sweet sweat; the impossible
Challenge; the twisted, bumpy, Dryad-eyed frog
Of old apple attacked, wedges buried full,
But struck with a final karate scream
And torn open like a closed-case, long-shut book:
A hundred-fifty years of history
Lay exposed to the sun…Long time it took
For that scythe, hung in fork of young tree,
To be swallowed by growth, a tool forgotten
But a man now recalled, though flesh be rotten.

LOCAL VIEW —A Whole Pnu Season—

Bah!  I always seem to get clobbered by a cold when the seasons change. Maybe some pollen gets blown up from the south, or maybe the temperature yo-yoing between 10° and 50° (-12° and +10° Celsius),  gets to me.  It starts out with sniffles and then I just get tireder and tireder until I stop being productive, unless you count phloem.  My brain gets especially dull, and nothing inspires me except my pillow.

I usually push myself to keep going, as there is a voice in my head which is quite good at calling me a weenie and a quitter if I don’t, but a slight fever tends to stop me. I’ve had walking pneumonia enough in my life to know that, unlike a cold, it is usually not a thing you can just work through.  My body agrees, and the negative word “loaf” turns into the beautiful word “rest”.

In any case, that is why I’m not posting much. I’ve been lucky, as the last storm blew up just far enough out to sea to give us howling winds and temperatures down around 10° three nights in a row, but no snow. Meanwhile just across the Gulf of Maine in Nova Scotia they got two feet.

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I was taking a deep breath, in a hacking and sniffling sort of way, getting ready for the next storm, gathering moisture to our south.

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Fortunately it looks like most of the snow will be shunted south of here. Not that I’d bother much with the clean up. Around this time of year there is always a remarkable amount of slacking off, in terms of after-storm clean-up, because people know the darn stuff will melt in the bright sun, if you ignore it. (You don’t dare adopt that attitude in December.)

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That sure is a wintry looking map, and I ought get out and load the porch with firewood, but I’m fairly sure the exercise wouldn’t be good for me. No one seems as interested in the fire, as long as the bright March sunshine is out, and it actually went out for the first time since October. No one stirred to stir up the fire, until I came blearily indoors yesterday and noticed everyone looked more hunched up and cold in the evening.  I checked the stove, and saw not even a spark among the ashes. I tried to think of some sort of biting sarcasm, but my mind also feels like ashes without even a spark.

I can’t do any real intellectual work, and instead zone out on the computer. I call it mental wandering, as opposed to wondering, and I’m sure it serves some sort of function. However it feels like you are merely idle. Occasionally I chance on some new idea, so if I am ever forced to justify zoning out I call it “research”, however it tends to wander away from what I should be researching to obscure topics that are as far away from work as possible.

One topic I always enjoy is the Greenland Vikings. It’s been a while since I checked to see if there were any recent discoveries,  My listless mind did stir towards wakefulness when I saw that a Viking trading vessel had been discovered in the muddy riverbank in Memphis, Tennessee.  http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/usa-viking-ship-discovered-near-mississipi-river/

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But that sword looked familiar to me

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And it didn’t take me long to find an amazingly similar sword at a Viking site in Scotland.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-15333852

Yes, I’d been tricked. It’s not a very kind thing to do to a poor old fellow like me, especially when I’m suffering from a cold.  However we’d better be on guard, with April Fool’s Day coming up.

LOCAL VIEW —Particular Law—

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(Cartoon Credit: John Caldwell; New Yorker)

Three dawns ago the cold spread out possessively over the land, and spread its arms with a greed so vast that it lay flat with its breast to the ground, which in less poetic terms is called “an inversion”. It was 8° at 6000 feet atop Mount Washington, and fourteen degrees colder on my back porch at -6.2°. It was forty degrees warmer in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where it was thawing at 34°as a Chinook arrived, but that meant nothing to the people shivering in our twilight, and starting fires in every other house in town, whether they had wood stoves as their primary heat, or only as a sort of quaint object included with other interior decorations for atmosphere.

From every other chimney puffed smoke, and the smoke didn’t rise far before spreading out as flat shelves in the calm. Likely a few wealthy people looked out picture windows from over-heated living rooms, and tisk-tisked about what I heard one call “particular pollution”, meaning tiny bits of soot in the air, and not that they themselves are too particular. They are always in the mood to ban wood stoves, and when you point out many poor people can’t afford Arab oil, and would rather burn local trees, they dismiss the poor as white trash who have no understanding of environmentalism.

I dismiss the unenlightened rich as fools who have no idea of the radiance of a home fire, nor of the environment of a loving household.  (The chill of certain wealthy households is not measured by thermometers, but by divorce rates, and even by tragic statistics such as the suicide rate of children under twelve.)

Fortunately we do not get too many inversions in New England, and they seldom last past mid-morning even when they do occur. Also the people who heat with wood tend to be very aware that smoke is basically un-burned fire, and a smokey fire is an inefficient fire. There is lore going back to the Indians involving how to build a smoke-free fire, for once upon a time a smokey fire could give away your location to enemies. Basically you construct the fire in such a way that the blazing part serves as an afterburner for the smoldering part. Benjamin Franklin took this afterburner-idea one step further, and had the smoke rising up a chimney from a downstairs fire go through a bed of coals set on screen in the chimney upstairs, turning all the smoke to flame, so that nothing left the chimney but steam.

As I drive the kids from our Childcare to kindergarten we dip down into the Soughegan Valley and cross the river by one of the oldest working mills in the nation, which was built around 1800 and has, among other things, woven fabrics for the Union Army in the Civil War, and for a vehicle that bounce-landed on Mars.

The old mill recently updated their heating system to a huge, external wood stove, (reducing the risk of fire in the mill itself), and the heating system is a gleaming structure of shiny metal pressed against a steep cliff right beside the road. It’s huge hopper is fed wood-chips on a regular basis by sixteen-wheeled trucks, from the road at the top, and the chips are fed into a furnace that burns the wood so efficiently that nothing departs the fire but steam, which escapes the system via the only other sign which is obvious from the road: A gleaming, over-sized stovepipe, which billows steam.

You can tell the steam is clean because even during an inversion the white cloud swiftly dissipates into clear air, leaving no smudge of “particular matter” behind. Not that there are not a few wealthy people who frown at the sight, on general principles. One sad attribute of such people is that, for all their protests that they care deeply for both the poor and for the environment, what they care most about is their own wallet and remaining rich, and able to assume the position of someone who can sit about disapproving. (Not that many poor people actually care what such snobs think, but snobs like the illusion that they matter, fostering this illusion by cozying up to those with political power.)

Many of the unenlightened rich have dug deep into their wallets to invest in getting the political payback called a “subsidy,” which can be gained by investing in amazingly unprofitable concepts such as wind turbines, and solar panels in northern lands where the sun barely rises in the winter. The sanity of burning wood in an area with a surplus of trees irks these people, because it threatens the insanity of “clean energy” and the subsidies they lust for. Therefore they are itching for some excuse to ban burning wood, and the local mill’s ability to burn wood cleanly infuriates them.

I try not to think about this subject too deeply, as I drive the kids to kindergarten, because my job is to pay attention to the road.

The drive involves a decent down a short, steep hill into town, which lies on a flat shoulder above a more gradual decent to the river, which lies in a granite canyon crossed by an amazing field-stone structure,  called “High Bridge.” Perhaps the Inca built taller bridges of stone without cement, but I know of few other such bridges north of Panama.

There are only about five mornings a year when any sort of serious smog forms in the valley due to wood fires. I fail to be properly horrified by the smog, for I know that which kills the elderly, and is worst for their frail lungs, is not “particular pollution,” but rather being forced to live in a home with the heat turned down to fifty, because they can’t afford the inflated heating bills created by the government’s insane “green energy policy.”  To be honest, the smog actually looks rather beautiful, in the light of a rosy sun just cresting piney hills.

The smog is worst at daybreak, for few have the time, in the rush of arising, to properly lay a fire, and start a blaze in the smoke-free manner one would do if smoke could reveal their location to their enemies. To start such a smoke-free fire you would light the driest tinder of birch-bark, and slowly add the smallest dry twigs of hemlock, only slowly increasing the size of the kindling, and keeping the orange flames high and lively at all times.

In a modern household few have the time to squat by the fire and tend it with such care. Rather people are gulping cups of ambition while attempting to motivate recalcitrant children to dress, eat and get out the door. They tend to dump tinder, kindling, and firewood in stoves all at once, and even if the fires swiftly become a bright blaze, it passes through a period where it smolders and produces a lot of smoke.

As I head to work on calm mornings I see a lot of chimney’s producing this first-smoke in the dusk, with the smoke only rising a little before flattening into shelves and flat veils. By the time I head to kindergarten ninety minutes later some of this smoke has dissipated into a low haze, and only the chimneys of late risers are producing the first-smoke. The others produce no smoke, but only wavers of heat, for the fires have burned down to beds of coals, and often the home is in the process of being deserted and becoming just an empty box,  until humanity returns in the evening.

Usually the stirring of the air with the daylight disturbs the calm, and the valley is washed clean of smoke an hour after dawn, but as I decended into the valley last Wednesday the smoke was a remarkably beautiful series of shelves and smudges. I feel sorry for the people who can’t see the beauty of the sight, or of the self-reliance it symbolizes, and instead insist upon the political correctness of working themselves into a tizzy.

I tried to pay attention to the road, but found my mind marveling over the structure of the atmosphere revealed by the smoke. There wasn’t a single inversion, but rather several, and I could see the calm atmosphere had layered itself like a deck of cards, and interestingly each card had a slow drift in a different direction. Generally the drift was from south to north, hinting that the high pressure was cresting and a warm-up was coming, but one layer was sliding ever so slowly from the north, obstinately indicating some back-flow in a layer perhaps only ten feet thick. (I can’t imagine trying to program all these variances into a weather computer, yet each microcosm is the wing of a butterfly that can create a swirl that effects the larger chaos.)

Down by the mill the air was so cold that the steam pouring from the mill’s wood-furnace didn’t dissipate swiftly, but formed a snow-white stream of steam the flattened and undulated down the river. I thought at first that the south wind might be right down at the river, but then thought that the bitter cold air might be draining downstream just as the water did. (The Soughegan is a rare north-flowing river, in out town.)  Also interesting was to look down the river and see the undulating ribbon of flat steam reached a point where it lifted up above the dewpoint, and vanished, but then dipped down to air below the dewpoint, and reappeared, as the ribbon tapered out to a series of dashes.

It is hard to pay attention to the road, sometimes.

Also distracting me from the road, and distracting me from the Eureka of discovering some great meteorological truth through astute observation, was the simple fact the van held six children, all asking questions in a somewhat demanding way. They (like me) cannot commute without filling the time with worthwhile activity. Occasionally they even unsnap their seat-belts, which I strongly discourage. I encouraged story-telling, which created tremendous debates about whose “turn” it was. (I may have encouraged debating skills more than story-telling skills.) In fact the noise became so loud I decided to encourage music appreciation, and introduced them to classical music. (For some reason they called it “circus” music.) I hoped they might become quiet and listen, but it led inevitably to the questions about whether we could listen to “other” music, and also the question as Beethoven finished, “Why is that person (the PBS announcer) talking so funny?” (I had no answer, but informed the child, “They are sitting on their hairbrush.”) (The child sagely nodded, understanding what that is like.)

Another little girl wanted to listen to country music, so I switched to a country station, and was embarrassed because the very first song was by a man singing about heading off to a bar on Friday night to get sloshed and pick up a babe. I feared I’d corrupt a child, but the girl knew every word, and sang along with the gruff baritone in a sweet, piping soprano.

By the time I drop the children off at the kindergarten I tend to be a bit haggard, and like the peace and quiet of the drive back to the Childcare. Nearly every day I have to stop, as a school-bus coming the other way picks up a girl going to grade school. A little stop sign swings out from the side of the bus, lights at the top of the bus flash, the little girl trots across the street, and climbs stairs into the bus.You can see, through the windshield,  the girl walk down the aisle and take her seat, and then the little stop sign swings back and the light stops flashing, and then you are allowed to proceed past the bus.

As I approached the bus this morning I could see the entire process occurring, even before I was near the bus, and made an incorrect forecast. I assumed the little sign would swing in and the lights would stop flashing, and only slowed. For some reason the driver was extra careful, and didn’t start the bus up as I expected.

The reason the driver was so careful was because there was a police car right behind the bus, and the officer saw me proceed past the bus before the little stop sign swung in. I had flagrantly broken a law which is in place to protect small children, and he rightly nailed me for it. I explained my forecast, and why it had failed, and he was sympathetic, but the letter of the law is the letter of the law, though he did give me the minimum fine of a hundred dollars.

The real drag is that we have only just got our insurance back after we lost it because my wife broke the letter of the law. A State inspector visited the Childcare, and asked for some tedious paperwork the state thinks is more important to do than to actually watch children, and my wife stepped through a doorway to get the file from a shelf, stepped back in with the scrupulously kept paperwork, and found she had committed the crime of “leaving children unattended.”

So we are a couple of criminals. The average American commits five felonies a day, because the letter of the law now is six stacks of paper each seven feet tall.

I don’t wonder that some disrespect the law, but I still try to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, (though it may well be a raspberry.)

At times I wonder over the fact anyone can pay attention to the road at all.

However at least the wind did turn south and it swiftly warmed to a high of 27°, and the smog was gone by morning coffee break.