Digging in Rock and Re-Learning the Stars’ Names

We spent all of July 3 and 4 in a house possessed of little furniture, as yet: a small table, three deck chairs, a pocket-sized refrigerator retrieved from a college dorm, and a cot (I slept in a bedroll on the floor).  By day, I spent most of my time swing-blading weeds that had grown waist-high since the construction crew last plowed an industrial mower through them (obviously months ago) and trying to pound holes in rock for my garden transplants.  The scything was urgent.  Wild critters tend not to approach a domicile too closely if you make and maintain a clearing, but they grow pretty bold if you have underbrush scratching at your windows.  As for the rocky soil, which thoroughly shocked me… I finally figured out that the builder had bored down to bedrock for the house’s foundation—good, very good—and had then simply strewn his stony shavings and scrapings all over the lot, to be kneaded into the red clay by massive treads.  Not so good.  And the same bulldozers had left piles of brush along the original clearing’s boundary rather than hauling off the deadwood.

I don’t know how much of such “minimalist” execution of duties is routine these days.  I recall my grandmother’s house in Austin, built in about 1875.  Yes, the floors creaked and the plumbing and electricity presented constant problems, even when I was a child; but the faux fireplaces were true works of art, and the plastering and wallpapering had lasted for decades without showing wear.  Frankly, the woodwork, for all its creaks, was sound and fresh.  All the corners joined.  In my new house, occasional stretches of molding are not even glued or nailed in along the floor.

I have to conclude that, a hundred years ago, people cared about the job they did.  They depended more on word-of-mouth advertising and repeat custom, true enough; but I also tend to believe that they just took more pride in their craft.  Now contractors are forced to engage gangs of laborers who move from job to job almost like gypsies, many speaking no English and having no sentimental tie to the region where this week’s contract takes them.  “In and Out” is apparently the name of a trendy hamburger franchise.  It might as well be the brand name of our entire private sector.

All of that having been said, I got a lot of satisfaction from clearing most of my “compound” out with my two hands in just a few hours.  I infinitely prefer such labor to pushing a snarly mower around the lawn, back and forth and forth and back, so that my curbside doesn’t embarrass the neighbors and draw a pink slip from the homeowners’ association.  The litter piles probably aren’t as bad as I’d thought at first.  I can burn the deadwood in a trench, little by little, and fertilize my grounds with the ashes.

Pounded rock and all, the soil in its present state hadn’t dissuaded most of my transplanted peanuts from greening up by the time we left.  (I’m going to let them stay in the ground and spread this fall; they’re my future protein source in the event of societal and infrastructural calamity.)  The Georgia rain had murdered two out of my three cactuses—but the antioxidant-rich prickly pear were booming along.  My blueberry and goji bushes were nestled in soft soil next to the house, safely within the deadly shoals created by the bulldozers.  They, too, would be fine in my absence.

On the outskirts of the rocky shoal, I at last found sufficient good dirt to plant my trees.  Oddly enough, the orange tree (which represents the last of any kind that I’ve been able to grow from grocery-store produce: GMO proponents take heed) seems to resist all efforts to kill it.  The pomegranates didn’t appreciate being blown about in a 70 mph wind for eleven hours… but some of them, too, will survive.  The pecan and apple had been dug up too soon in Texas, thanks to the builder’s continual fudging about our move-in date, and the former has undoubtedly fled its roots to wander Pecan Shadowland in spirit; but the apple, miraculously, was sending up the tiniest of green shoots out of an unpromising stump as we prepared to leave.  I thought of Noah’s doves.

For housing my tools, I had hurriedly bought a prefab shed at Home Depot.  (Rubbermaid, of all people, makes them!)  One of the features I liked was the solid floor pad—but I discovered that I hadn’t leveled a space with enough attention to create perfect stability.  I’ll carry back some old plywood pieces from Texas on my final run to slip beneath the pad.  Here and on several other occasions, I was struck by the importance of being “on the ground” and actually doing the job if one is to know what the job entails.  That our preferred method of operation, in all official—especially governmental—undertakings is instead to stick to some master-plan generated by remote bureaucracies doesn’t bode well for the nation.  There’s probably more energy, time, and expense wasted in conforming to inefficient boilerplate models than you’d spend in entering a work zone with no plan at all and flying by the seat of your pants.

The county code, for instance, requires that hot water heaters have pans beneath them if placed in the attic—but the dopes who drafted this wording assumed the presence of a single-story dwelling. Our tank is on the second story, not in the attic; so it lacks the pan necessary to ensure that the house isn’t ruined in the event of a rupture, and we’ll have to get a plumber out on our own to correct the gaffe.

At dusk on our final day, as she adjusted the cot, my wife alerted me that a “cougar” was walking along the gravel drive.  It turned out to be a bobcat—a colorless, long-legged silhouette ambling into the shrouded west.  I’m going to have to convince her to carry a small sidearm on her walks if she’s making T-Rexes out of geckos… and I thought she was a country girl!

My bedroll held down the far side of the fort (since we’re still a little unsure of what visitors might prowl by night).  From the floor, I stared for a long time at rising stars whose names I once knew but have mostly forgotten.  Sirius, Betelgeuse, Altair… Arcturus, Deneb, Antares… was any of these any of those?  Four decades have passed since I was a kid on the fringe of Fort Worth, inhabiting the last house before a prairie began.  Now all of that area is concrete, tarmac, traffic, and smog—and I’ve been living in other cities similarly immersed in a suffocating progress.  I need to go back to school and re-learn my constellations.  I should have plenty of leisure to do so, if God is patient with me.

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Garbage In… Clean Energy Out?

Moving out of a house where you’ve lived for twenty years is a bit like being the caretaker of an old graveyard.  I can’t remember what Italian novel I read whose speaker was a sexton’s son… but in the Old World, space is at such a premium—and some bodies have been buried for so many centuries—that part of the custodial work consists of excavating decayed remains and depositing them in a kind of dustbin called a charnel house.

A lot of stuff that I kept from previous moves, and that apparently I expected to keep forever, has at last gone to that charnel house called the garbage can.  Copies of bitter letters that might once have ended up in a courtroom have now not only surpassed the statute of limitations, but even the limit of memory.  I literally can’t recall the details in some cases… and why in the future would I ever waste my time trying?  If God should call me in eternity’s amplitude to be a witness against one of these desperadoes, I’ll have to shrug and say, “Sorry, chief.  I’ve forgotten the specifics.  I’ve almost forgotten the name.”  Of course, the records in eternity are flawless and won’t need my corroboration.  God will smile and answer, “Just checking.”

An entirely different class of charnel-house material includes utterly obsolete technology.  What can you do these days with video cassettes?  I still have a functioning VCR, fortunately—and some of those ancient recordings have become treasures.  But many have not, and all are quite bulky by present standards.  I hate to chuck them in the bin for a one-way trip to the landfill… but am I, then, supposed to keep them forever despite their bulk and uselessness?

One can usually find an operation that accepts old TV’s and computers (for a fee), then mines them for recyclable parts.  That may ease the conscience… but I’ll bet I know where the parts end up that are not recyclable.  Never before this spring have I had occasion to reflect seriously on how much irreducible litter our society produces.  Oh, I’ve seen the documentaries about floating islands of Styrofoam packaging, plastic “carrier rings” molded to hold six-packs, lost bikini tops, flip-flops without mates, crumpled clear-plastic water bottles, kids’ paddle-boards, and various and sundry other mass-produced, mass-marketed items of advanced artifice that have clumped together.  Actually, I have sometimes wondered if such insipid flotsam doesn’t have a benign side.  Why would a real island, full of natural material like moss and captured silt, not eventually form around these drifting effluvia?  Why would that be a bad thing?  Maybe the island’s formation could even be “encouraged” with artifice taken to new heights (or depths).  If it floated, at least the Chinese couldn’t claim it as part of their ancestral domain.

But a substratum of earth dedicated to old video cassettes… no, I’m hard put to imagine how that has a happy outcome, even millennia in the future.  I promise that I am not not going to launch into a Philippic against capitalist waste and moral bankruptcy that constantly drives consumers to have “new and better”—and hence to send last year’s Christmas haul to the bulldozers and the sea gulls.  I understand the power of such outrage.  Yet I usually find it a) hypocritical, because the illuminati who lecture us have their own varieties of wastefulness that they conceal from themselves and everyone else; and b) unhelpful, because the progressive/high-tech genie is out of the bottle, and accusing others of removing the cork won’t get him back in.  (For that matter, aren’t the accusers here the very same crowd that clamors for universal health care—and where would advanced medicine be without cutting-edge technology, with its rafts of disposable plastic cases and bottles, used hypodermic needles, etc.?)

Here as on so many issues, the only antidote to progress that I foresee is further progress: another damned genie to restrain the previous one.  In the matter of my ancient cassettes, for instance… why do we not have a way of manufacturing energy from all such waste?  If you dumped the whole lot into the Kilauea volcano, wouldn’t it obligingly incinerate?  And if the released energy could somehow be tapped like the coal burned in power plants….  Yes, I understand that the toxic byproduct would likely be exponentially worse than coal’s; but I ask, with all the ingenuousness of someone would performed indifferently in high-school chemistry, couldn’t we find a way to knead this byproduct into something at least anodyne, or even valuable?  Why are people of such creativity reduced to such block-headedness as soon as the party’s over and the floors need to be mopped?

Certainly this is a large part of the eventual solution to gun violence: i.e., produce weapons that function only for their legal, trained owner.  Though well within reach, such a solution isn’t much discussed because too many anti-gun crusaders don’t really want an independent populace capable of self-defense: they want a servile mass abjectly obedient to an elite leadership.

Garbage does not have any covert advocates that I know of, however.  Why can we not put our oh-so-clever heads together and clean up this mess by means of some profitable new industry?

Denver, Part Three: Graveyard of Western Civilization

Gravitational center of nineteenth-century mining booms, cattle drives, and railway expansions… contemporary continental military hub, global tourist Mecca, and universal sporting paradise… scene of Indian massacres (Sandy Creek is just down the road) and anti-colonialist leftwing zealotry (the next Democratic convention may well happen here); home to a Christian revival movement flourishing alongside the newly legal pot industry… Denver is in microcosm the soup of incoherence which is American society past, present, and future.  But how long is our collective future to run, with so many strains pulling it in different directions?

As if in dramatization of all these worrisome paradoxes, the city’s international airport has for years been rumored to sit upon vast catacombs covertly and regally equipped to be a Dr. Strangelove kind of super-bunker.  The bizarre murals sprawling fully above ground at the same venue are said to encode an apocalyptic vision of how evil imperial forces will exterminate common humanity.

The business climate here is explosive, for the moment.  None of the city’s many skyscrapers dates beyond about half a century, and mega-engineering is ongoing to handle nightmarish traffic congestion.  Small shops in various subdivisions reap a bonanza off of selling sugar-free doughnuts or beef-rich burgers, kale salads or over-caffeinated coffee, mountain bikes or noisy ATF’s, exotic bongs or leathery cowboy boots.  Millionaire refugees from West Coast socialist republics converge upon the opportunities as fast as campesinos from Chihuahua; and both groups, in some perverse fatality, import the taste for paternalistic government whose consequences have driven them from their homes.  The nearby utopianist haven of Boulder has just banned “assault rifles”, indifferent to the phrase’s vacuity as a definition and also to the fact that most gun crime is perpetrated with pistols.

You don’t do things in our progressive urban centers because they are undergirded by logic or have a promise of practical success: you do them because you’re smarter and better than ordinary people, and it’s important for you to produce evidence of that superiority in every legislative cycle.

The girl who serves you at Mad Greens may show exemplary patience with your struggles to choose between a “Poe” and a “Ty Cobb” and even tender useful advice politely; then the same girl, a few hours later, may flip you off if you dare to park a car along the scenic boulevard where she’s biking.  There are rules that good people, the right people—the “better” people—all know, and you don’t belong here if you can’t divine them out of the thin, clean air.  Oddly and superficially, they seem to encode a high regard for rulelessness; but if you do not shred expectation and inhibition in just the proper way, you’re likely to suffer the fate of the clueless yokel who dares to take a Sunday stroll in the Puritan New England dissected by Toqueville.

I’ve been hard on Denver in my remarks over the past weeks; but what I’m really chafing at is the incoherence of our entire contradictory and (I fear) suicidal society.  Denver, like so many great cities, simply represents the vanguard of our rush to the abyss.  The traffic is horrendous and insane, infinitely more dangerous than any Rifle from Hell—and I’m sure that Big Oil is much to blame for landing us in this outer circle of Inferno.  But the “green” alternative is always to produce more mass transit, which invariably invites more waste and corruption as politicians and contractors feel each other out in the frontier whorehouse of “progress”.

An acceptable coping mechanism for the trauma of modern living is to get high in one of several ways—and this, too, is good for business. Not just pot-growing and selling, but Hollywood’s parallel universe, video games, the paraphernalia-cluttered option of sports fandom, the kaleidoscopic music scene in nightclubs… the gear-intensive hobbies of camping, hiking, and biking… let’s go anywhere, as long as it’s out of this world (in Baudelaire’s phrase); and, by the way, let’s be sure to bring our wallets.  Don’t let us forget to take the checkbook to church, either.  For even our contemporary version of Christianity (and I reiterate that I’m not just talking about Denver now) is marijuana without risk of lung disease: love everybody, peace everywhere, judge no one and nothing, fly and sing and swoon!… and even our churches, with their multiple ministries and high-tech delivery systems, are big business.

What we all need at the most basic spiritual level is stillness, quiet, and a welcome predictability that comes of benign routine… and I don’t know if Denverites find any of these or not as they bike up bare slopes in constant view of other trekkers (and their dogs).  Whatever epiphany they access in their churches seems to me certainly more akin to last night’s multi-decibel nightclub adventure than this afternoon’s race to hike across the park before the next cloudburst brews up from nowhere.

What we all need at the most basic material level is food, water, and shelter; but the twenty-first century has decreed that these needs may be supplied only through wages or through highly centralized and impersonal delivery systems to which we have a “right”.  Not only can we do nothing directly for ourselves: we’ve forgotten what it is that we need to do.  Most of us can’t grow a potato, collect and filter rainwater, or repair a leaky roof.  Instead, we clamor for jobs, jobs, jobs; and then, when the soul-numbing drudgery of racking up designer clothing or flipping burgers overpowers us, we demand a guaranteed minimum income.  We wave in destitute Mexicans to perform the tasks that “Americans just won’t do”.  Eventually, however, even mopping out toilets will be rendered obsolete by a robot named Hazel who sterilizes surfaces with a laser.  Our “guest workers” are already insisting upon their shared human right to “live with dignity”—and we can scarcely counter that the work we ourselves disdained was dignified before Siri and Alexa and Hazel took it over.  So…

So where do all these downward spirals end?  If we do not recover the power individually to produce food and water from the earth and sky and to make clever adjustments to our living conditions with our own hands, what good will it do us to puff away and listen to some contemporary John Denver croon about his Rocky Mountain High?

Denver, Part Two: Tilting at Unenergetic Windmills

Don Quixote concluded that the giant who had cleverly morphed into a windmill in order to unhorse him was the work of an evil sorcerer.  I wonder if the grotesque titanic claws defacing our Southwestern horizons are not similarly the product of some squalid hocus-pocus magically worked between policy-makers and private-sector sleazes as an idiot public gapes and applauds… or am I as insane as the Knight of La Mancha for asking so many questions?

Properly speaking, this bit of musing has little to do with Denver; but when you drive across West Texas and through Oklahoma or New Mexico into southeast Colorado, you see thousands of wind turbines (not hundreds—thousands).  Therefore, turning (or not turning) blades have come to be associated in my mind with bronco country.

Besides that, the progressive lunacy justifying our plague of wind turbines has something distinctly Denveresque about it.  So… here goes:

Why are wind turbines spread so far apart?  Yesteryear’s clipper ship was able not only to pack sails one beside another on her masts, but also to create productive drafts from the proximity that channeled greater thrust into sheets farther forward.  I would estimate that no turbine is within ten blades’ length of its neighbor.  Why is this so—why do these monstrosities have to take up so much real estate?  Is it a safety precaution?  If the blades are likely to fly off and helicopter over that kind of space… aren’t they a menace to every nearby farmhouse?

Can blades be turned to draw most effectively on the day’s prevailing winds?  If the wind backs from north to southwest (as it frequently does in these states at certain times of year), can the rig be rotated to tap the shift?  I think the answer has to be “no ‘; for why, otherwise do so many blades stand utterly motionless on a given day?  If turbines cannot be thus rotated to a new quadrant, then doesn’t that introduce immense inefficiency into the system?  But if they can indeed be shifted (a confirmation which all of the gung-ho wind energy websites I viewed suspiciously evaded), then how much energy is consumed in the shift, and what proportion of the turbines’ daily yield does this gnaw away?

Why are some blades, once again, oriented differently from others in a large group if all turbines are not fixed inflexibly?  If the issue of adjustment were ever to be addressed, I suppose the operation would have to be centralized; you couldn’t very well send out a crew to dither with each one in a forest of hundreds.  I catch the malodorous scent of hidden cost once more. Either a centralized or a unit-by-unit adjustment would introduce astronomical expense.
And in the matter of centralization… if wind energy is such a great idea, then why cannot individual residences be equipped with half a dozen windmills on their roofs?  We seem to be saturated with images of futuristic domiciles sporting solar panels… so why not spinning blades?  Why is there no private enterprise addressing this market as there is for solar power?  Why must the harvesting of wind be centralized?  Such complications as wind variation could certainly be addressed much more promptly and thriftily on the micro- than the macro-level, at least when the individual consumer is putting money in his own pocket by being attentive.

And on the subject of blades… why blades?  Why not sails, and why not a horizontal rather than a vertical mount?  That is, what about a kind of double bicycle wheel with sails between its spokes and perched parallel to the ground on a great axle?  Several wheels could actually be mounted up and down a single axle.  This rig would turn whether the breeze was blowing north, south, east, or west.  It would also be far less likely to interfere with avian traffic.  Passing birds might be grabbed up in the revolving door and slightly accelerated in their flight plan, but they wouldn’t be guillotined by a mighty arm descending invisibly from nowhere.  Who decided upon the present design?

Was it a band of engineers working for oil companies?  Because our wind turbines, you know, are primarily constructed of petroleum products like epoxy.  The popular assumption that their gargantuan fingers are clean of any association with black gold is the kind of canard which industry insiders and their bought-and-paid-for political shills find so easy to sell to the iPhone generation.

When we discover within the next ten years—as we surely shall—dramatically cheaper and more efficient ways to produce energy, what we will do with all of these tens of thousands of insolent middle fingers across our landscape?  I suppose they’ll stand there giving the bird to our lichen-brained “green” voters for the next five or six centuries.  Removing them will be unconscionably, prohibitively expensive.  We’ll just have to let them sit and scoff at Don Quixote’s crumpled body.  Even an EMP won’t make them budge.

All of us do stupid things every day.  What so irritates me about wind turbines is their “emperor’s new clothes” quality (and, no, the iPhone generation will not recognize the folkloric reference).  All of our progressive, morally superior, intellectually scintillant young people (picture David Hogg in a biking helmet and riding a skateboard) are “down” for turbines as soon as the words “wind” and “energy” are juxtaposed.  I realize that many of my questions reflect a basic ignorance of the process: that’s why I’m asking them.  I lack information.  Maybe the emperor is wearing some kind of diaphanous space suit.  I’m just remarking that, to me, he looks naked.  At least I’m observing and asking—but our “savior generation” acquires less information on a subject that you could squeeze into a Tweet, then calls everyone who fails to march lockstep with them a Nazi or a mass-murderer.

Well… guess what, young Einsteins?  You will have to live with the consequences of these choices a lot longer than I will—always barring an EMP.  Google that.

Denver, Part One: Beneath the Shifting Smile of Unfriendly Skies

My wife and I appear to have survived our semiannual trip to Denver for a visit with our son.  Since we’re still picking up physiological and psychological pieces, I can’t guarantee that Humpty Dumpty will be back together again by the end of the week.  In fairness, I cannot lay this trauma at D-Town’s mountainous doorstep.  A fifteen-hour drive would be a tall order for two sexagenarians even with the Pearly Gates as its destination.  Neither of us has flown in years—the slaughterhouse chuting and prodding and penning up that goes with air travel these days makes my libertarian blood boil.  Yet car trips of long duration in any direction tend to give me horrible migraines.  The Extremely Low Frequency Waves transmitted constantly by the vehicle’s motion do something really painful to my nervous system.  This time I kept a bag of quartz crystals behind my neck to draw off some of the energy, and that worked pretty well (quartz is an All Star conductor of electricity); but I’d still rather be on foot in strange places, as I was when I walked two different 600-mile tours of the British Isles in my twenties.

About now, you’re thinking, “Gee, this guy sounds like he should fit right into Denver culture.”  I know, I know: it has been my lot as a true conservative throughout my life to puzzle people on both sides of the aisle.  Faux-cons can’t understand why I don’t warble excitedly about the benefits of technological progress for the free market and individual economic opportunity.  (But wouldn’t such excitement indicate… oh, I don’t know—maybe progressivism?)  Meanwhile, what has very carelessly come to be called the “liberal” manifests a concern for preserving life’s natural rhythms… up to a point.  The trouble with “liberals” (and I wish that faux-conservative propaganda would allow me to call them “progressives” without ambiguity) is that they know little about nature and nothing about life.  They play at knowing and loving both; and in their childish fantasy, they usually end up destroying one without soaking up any wisdom from the other.

Which brings me back to why I just can’t stand Denver (or, for that matter, contemporary Austin, where I passed the happiest years of my childhood): The place is a Disneyworld sitting on the crater of a supervolcano.  This is quite literally true, inasmuch as the next eruption of the subterranean dynamo upon which sits Yellowstone Park will most certainly prove a Hiroshima event to Colorado.  Yet what I have in mind is more figurative.  Denver society is a stew of fantasists.  Like Austin, it has a substantial hippie-refugee population; and the abuse of the word “refugee” reminds me that both cities are also “sanctuaries” for adventurous migrants in search of tax-free cash and tax-funded freebies.  The old hippies, to the extent that they recognize the eventual collapse of the commonwealth in open-border politics, cheer the ruin of the capitalist system.  The younger ones…

I know you don’t call them “hippies” now, and I haven’t heard “space cadet” used for years.  I have no single word for them.  They wear rings in any or all portions of their face, sport tattoos in places that clothing used to cover, design their hair with hedge-clippers before dying it with whatever’s among the kindergarten art supplies, select mates for a week or a month without any apparent attention to gender, devote most of their loving attention to small screens in their palms, and will probably bequeath whatever wealth they may amass in life to their dog.  Dogs… wow!  Mates come and go, children are a rare sight unless trailing after a Third World migrant in staircase order—but the shaggy canine is lover, child, and very best friend.  (I think the Denver word for that is “bae”, a term to which I was first exposed through a Littleton  billboard that showed a white chick and a black chick in lip-smacking embrace).  If a dog’s legs could only pump pedals, you’d see human-canine pairs, both helmeted, on their Schwinns all around the town.

So what’s my big problem—I who drive balancing a bag of quartz behind my neck—with thinking outside the box?  My problem is that I don’t perceive the thinking: I see only children dressing in outlandish combinations of clothes while Mom and Dad are away and the babysitter is taking a nap.  Question: if you have to overhaul city streets expensively amid great swirls of dust and pitch in order to create biking lanes, how is bike-riding a boon to the economy or the environment?  Or if you drive up into the Rockies three times a week with your bike strapped to your 35-mpg buggy, aren’t you nevertheless contributing to tremendous traffic congestion while also overrunning the wide-open spaces along with other cycle-meditators of your faith?

And as for religious faith… why are Denver churches never Baptist or Methodist or Episcopal?  Why are they the Gopher Gulch House of Love or the Cowboy Christ Worship Family?  Just because you can’t abide subordinating your thoughts and inklings to any established designation doesn’t mean you’re a free thinker or a true believer.  It may mean you’re a mush-head who has no notion of how to think or feel about anything profoundly.

And speaking of marijuana… one really devastating, perhaps fatal, unforeseen consequence of legalizing weed may well prove to be the legislative magnet thereby created for unproductive social leaches.  As a quasi-libertarian myself, I understand the appeal of the general argument; but the practical effects of making “artificial paradise” readily available include drawing in people dedicated to fleeing reality.

I’ll bet native Denverites are every bit as dismayed at what has happened to their homeland as my grandfather was by what happened to Austin.  I feel for them.  Their dream—yesterday’s reality, now a fantasy as remote as any socialist utopia—is irreparably shattered.

I’ll close this ramble with one more example of reality slamming into Playtime at Daycare.  I’ve always dreaded Denver weather.  The bottomless violet dawns are invariably traitors: by mid-afternoon you may be running for your life from a hail storm.  During this trip, however, I began to notice how many contrails immediately start collecting across the sky as the sun strokes the mountain peaks.  There are two commercial airports and one military strip in the Denver area.  It’s unimaginable to me that the dizzying accumulation of cirrus streaks from all the jet activity plays no role in the region’s schizophrenic weather.  While all the conscientious young liberals are denouncing us as planet-murderers for not outlawing industry and legally requiring of everyone the purchase of a 35-mpg Virtue Buggy, a much more credible and observable engine of weather change (who knows what long-term climatic effects it may have?) is air traffic.  What would the “wee brainy things” (as a Scots woman aptly termed them during one of my European tours) do without their jets?  How would they get to the next climate conference?  How would they get home for Thanksgiving, or how would they get to Seattle to rekindle an old flame for a weekend?  With 87,000 flights per day in U.S. (out of 100,000 worldwide—and those figures are likely just commercial jetliners), we are directly and immediately seeding the upper atmosphere with heat disruptive of natural pattern.  Yet we’re supposed to be worrying about SUV’s?

What a place.  It has its charms, as do all amusement parks; but as a viable major metropolis whose influence increasingly dominates the Midwest, Denver is a nightmare-in-becoming to this tree-hugging conservative.

Big Brother’s Tentacles Begin in Paperwork and End in WiFi

I was shocked recently to discover that my state university campus (from whose hallowed halls of ivy I am retiring) has a policy against destroying any and all student papers of whatever age.  This is a bit insane.  Maybe it strikes me as more so because I’ve always required that my students do lots of writing.  If everyone in my department levied similar demands, a small room or large closet would be filled up with papers by the fifth year, I’m guessing.  The result would be more than a waste of precious space: it would constitute a fire hazard, and even a health hazard.  (Roaches love old papers; and while they don’t spread the bubonic plague, they’re dirty little critters, and plenty of students haul their Starbucks purchases into our classrooms.)

I should clarify that I actually give most of my papers back—with written comments, representing the most exhaustive part of the job.  I would so part with those papers, at least, before our curriculum started to shrink and I found myself teaching almost nothing but composition.  At about that point, the paperwork started viciously boomeranging back on me.  The freshman composition instructors (whose director can’t abide the word “freshman” and insists on “beginning student”) were suddenly commanded to round up all the semester’s essays in portfolios which a select few would sample and brood over in order to generate reports satisfying accreditation boards, state officers, etc., etc.  The “portfolio years” numbered about three or four, as I recall, before they were declared null and void and we were newly commanded to shift everything to an online campground.  I resisted, because I knew that I had just one more year left.  Now I’m almost sorry that I held out.

For this imbecilic decree from the bureaucrats of higher echelons (possibly, again, the state capital) to create and preserve vast document cemeteries has suggested to me why our campus rolled out its “go paperless” initiative: mere survival.  I’d assumed that the shift of all assignments to the digital was a marketing tactic, meant to titillate the public with “cutting-edge technology”—or else a marginally legal political payback, engineered to nudge business in the direction of certain software and hardware providers.  It clearly wasn’t done out of any genuine consideration for students, many of whom do not like entrusting their arduous labor to the vagaries of e-space; nor did it take into account the much higher probability of deliberate thought and careful proofreading that accompanies the preparation of hard copy.  But as a means of not drowning us all in dusty, moth-eaten cardboard boxes, the digital crusade was likely a pretty smart move.  I just don’t know why we have to sacrifice teaching efficacy on the whim of some idiot board of mandarins.

Or perhaps I do.  It almost has to be some sort of prophylactic move against lawsuits, doesn’t it?  What kind of lawsuit?  Oh, I don’t know… a student’s claim that his papers were never graded because of his green Martian skin—something in that genre.  If there’s a chance in a million of needing your ordinary trash as an exhibit in a court of law, then you will not be allowed to empty the trash can.  Our legislators are all lawyers themselves these days, so they all think the same way.  They’re all scared stiff of frivolous legal wrangles because they know only too well how successful frivolity can be before a sleeping judge or a cerebrally challenged jury.  They’ve played the game themselves enough times—and won at it—to know that, for instance (and I’m not kidding), no horseshoe arrangement of tables can be permitted in a classroom lest a fire occur and some unhappy person prove too clumsy or stupid to find the way to the exit.

I could go on teaching for years: there’s nothing wrong with my health, thank God.  But in doing so, I would probably shorten my life as my blood pressure rose and my dismal sense of the futility overhanging every corridor of Western civilization grew darker.  We increasingly resemble the old Soviet Union, dead of arterial sclerosis as its mammoth bureaucracy eradicated flexible elements from every element of society.  The things we do make no sense except as answers to concerns entirely extrinsic to quality of job and initial purpose.  We’re designing a plane that won’t fly because the mechanics’ union demands wings 200 yards long to justify its wages and every interior seat requires wheelchair access.

Finally, I’ll also admit that I worry about the ramifications of these permanent document reserves.  Is there not a Mueller in every department now who will potentially nab all of us sooner or later for saying, “Man up!” or, “God help me!”?  Might I be tried five years from now for sexual harassment because of scrawling on a paper five years ago, “You’re a beautiful and talented young woman, and you should write with greater confidence”?  Where does it end?  Only this morning, after one of the last email log-ins I shall ever trudge through, an announcement reached me of a seminar in “microaggressions”—how to spot them in oneself and how to purge them from one’s speech.  Could the shift of everything to the digital, in fact, be intended to create a readily searchable database for incidental infractions of Groupthink?

Call me paranoid, if you like.  I’m retired now—I don’t give a damn.

Why Are We Not Screaming About the REAL Gun Pointed at Our Children?

I don’t understand.  I haven’t understood for years now.  Our government is sophisticated enough to engineer anti-gravity spacecraft, apparently (which is the least conspiratorial and crackpot construction one can put upon the Phoenix Lights, seen by hundreds and video-taped by dozens in 1997).  Now the new season of Ancient Aliens (a series to whose method crackpot conspiracies are no stranger) has documented that the government researched UFO’s intensively through the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), despite decades of denial.  So…

So why, in our formidable state of technological evolution—anti-gravity experiments, unlimited funding from “black budgets”, self-driving cars, heart transplants, AI that can pass the Turing Test—why can our federal government not secure the @#$&*%!! power grid?

National security is actually the one duty that our Constitution clearly and urgently thrusts upon the central government in no uncertain terms… and it seems to be the single undertaking that contemporary “leaders” are determined to ignore as they mess around in every other aspect of our lives.

An Electro-Magnetic Pulse arriving from space or the upper atmosphere would fry all of our electronics and leave us without transportation, communication, refrigeration, water treatment and pumping capacity, access to money, operation of light and heating… within a year, reasonable estimates have ninety percent of us dying of the consequences.  We have no industrial capability any longer to replace our generators, so we would have to rely upon the competence and good will of distant nations even to restore power in a year.  Yet securing the generators we have right now would be scarcely more complicated than constructing a Faraday Cage around each of them—something more or less achievable with chicken wire and tools you could buy at Home Depot.

Congress, however, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to let the power companies decide if they need to eat very modestly into their profits to secure our survival; and the power companies have decided that, no, the sun came up yesterday and will come up tomorrow… so no worries.  Actually, the sun IS a major worry.  An EMP could very well arrive from a storm of extraordinary solar flare activity of the sort that is overdue.  It’s all very nice to be on better terms now with Kim Jong Un (from either of whose two satellites a small nuclear detonation over our continent could be engineered)—but what kind of peace treaty is Donald Trump going to hammer out with the sun?

In his interview with Mark Levin last Sunday (April 22), Peter Pry didn’t really tell me much that I hadn’t already read; but hearing it all over again in so condensed a form cost me most of a night’s sleep, and I did, as well, pick up a few morsels of interesting information.  For instance, though Barack Obama approved the creation of the EMP Commission, he declined to act upon a single one of its recommendations during his two terms, and in general he treated Pry’s work with the lofty, smirking disdain so characteristic of an arrogant megalomaniac.  Had I more respect for Obama, I should suppose him a genuine Manchurian Candidate—a seditious plant whose purpose was to destroy the nation.  But a preponderance of evidence suggests, rather, that his was (and remains) a very pedestrian narcissist whose overweening sense of superiority makes of him, effectively, a downright and highly dangerous fool.

Trump has in fact taken some positive steps; but the timeline for securing the grid still seems to consume a couple of years, for reasons that I can’t follow—and if Trump is impeached or a Democrat-laden Congress is seated in 2019, look for that modicum of positive momentum to be channeled off into saving the horned owl or paying out reparations to welfare queens whose great-great-great grandfather may have been a slave.  And so we all die—not the owls; but slave descendant, slaveholder descendant, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief… nine out of ten of us die.

I’m not contending that the congressional forces who waved the power companies to play on through did not comprise a goodly number of do-nothings with “R” behind their name.  This is, or should be, an issue well beyond political partisanship.  If a Democrat were to announce credibly that securing the grid were his—or her—top priority, I’d vote “D” for president instead of libertarian (or my recent “abstain”).  In fact, priorities be damned.  There should be nothing else on the docket.  This should be the single plank of the platform.

Yet what politico on either side is uttering a peep about it?

There was a faint flurry of activity on Twitter the morning after Pry’s interview.  What I saw could be summed up either as, “What’s this all about?  Does it mean my iPhone won’t work?” or, “It’s those alarmists again!  STFU.”  Maybe we deserve to die.  Maybe our destiny is finally closing in on a society that squandered its resources and opportunities shamelessly on frivolity and amusement.  That’s a hard pill to swallow, but… what else can you say of a people who set sail in troubled waters with tubs of champagne, but no lifeboat?