Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Glasses Off

Hi, Folks.  It's not that I have nothing new to say about mass shootings.  It's that I've already said 90% of it; here, and here; and what little new I might say is not going to change anything,  I may say it, eventually, but if you're like me, the pain and embarrassment of belonging to our species is just a bit much to handle at the moment.

So - here is an Autumn thing I'd been getting ready to write about for several days now.  I was reminded of this odd little quirk when I was inside sitting down and acquiring a bit more caffeine in the middle of the day; and I took my glasses off.  This is what I saw out my window:


Actually took quite a bit of work with the camera to get it blurred approximately right.  Last time I asked the optometrist what my uncorrected vision was nowadays, the answer was "Oh, around 20/230 at this point. "  That's beyond legally blind. I've had glasses since the 3rd grade; so, used to it.

In general when people see an image like this, the first impulse is to "fix it" - and put it back in focus.  But the world looks like this to me any time my glasses are off; so - I still look.  Is there something to see?  The impressionist blurred fall leaves out my window looked quite lovely to me.  A little more than the camera can capture, because there was always a little movement from light wind.  Very nice.

So of course I put my glasses back on, to see what it really looked like - and it looked like nothing at all; the gorgeous display vanished into some sharp separate bits that just did not have any impact.  At all.

Yeah, there's probably a metaphor floating around here somewhere...

I took the glasses back off, and just settled back and enjoyed the Monet/Van Gogh Autumn.  That view is lovely - highly evocative of the season, for me, and "enough", all by itself.  Coffee and - perspective; this is reality too.  Comfy.  Move around a little for a different view and - the whole woods is a landscape out of a museum.

This made me recall that I have long felt sorry for people with normal vision- because they can't take their glasses off, and see this way.  That first struck me when I was quite young, probably in the first year I had glasses.  We were putting up the Christmas tree; and I was given the job of crawling under it to adjust the stand a bit- and a wayward branch took my glasses off.

Looking up through the tree, the world opened up, and the magic expanded manyfold.  The tree lights changed into fantasy stars, with scintillating points; the ornaments now reflected the lights with about 50 times the shimmer.  I stayed under the tree; on my back, glasses off - until the family started to wonder if I was ok.  Then I did have the fun of telling my sister, also a glasses wearer, about the phenomenon.  She crawled under, after a lot of convincing; and had the same epiphany.  "Ohmylord.  It's so much more beautiful!"  My brothers - don't wear glasses, and could not understand.

I've climbed under every Christmas tree, every year, and repeated and recaptured.  It's a very durable joy.  Normally sighted people can kind of replicate it by squinting so that the eyelashes obscure most of the world - but the squinting part is an effort and intrusive.  Us legally blind folk are the lucky ones here.

Sometimes - the world looks better with your glasses off.  It's still the world, and reality - but maybe a little easier on us than all the hard edges.  I recommend it.


If you're in the mood for a little more escape- and a little more Autumn; these two posts have been popular for a good while -

The Turn Of The Year

Zen Firewood


The world still turns.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Another Iceberg Is Moving... Maybe...

Pushing on icebergs is my metaphor for continuing to work  - push - on causes that can seem hopeless.  The philosophy behind that choice can be complex, but sometimes the simplest reason to work is - there is nothing to lose by making the effort.  Why not keep trying?

One of the icebergs I push on is "public opinion".  Manifestly, public opinion changes, moves.  Witness womens' suffrage, prohibition, etc.  As well as the consistent swing in voters from one political party to the other.  One of the places public opinion brews is in the "newspapers" - though that world has spread widely.  But- people looking to express their own opinion, or understand others, very often "read the papers" and read the arguments.

So I do comment regularly in the New York Times, Washington Post, and a few other places.  And if you look around on this blog you will find several posts about my occasional successes, as judged by the number of "likes" my comments can receive.  Sometimes a lot of people like what I have to say.

And sometimes, I can really stick my neck out in these comments; with opinions and facts I know will not be happily received.  I just did that yesterday- and - got thoroughly surprised by the results.  Pleasantly.

We're up to our ears in hurricanes and hurricane news at the moment; when along comes the big Mexican earthquake; the strongest in 100 years.  So - I decided to go ahead and say publicly something I have avoided saying for years, because most folks would then certainly put me in the whackjob box.  Not good if you hope people may actually listen to you, a little.

Climate change is going to cause earthquakes.  Is; will; some of them bigger than we are used to.  Everything on the planet is connected- changing sea levels will change the forces working on faults, and some will be pushed over the edge into slipping.  Physics.  But boy- the few times I have raised the subject in conversations, the rejection was fierce.  From all directions.

I laid it out in the New York Times first coverage of this earthquake.  To my astonishment - it was quickly a "New York Times Pick", one of only 9, out of 319 comments so far.  The Times staff who do the picking will always pick a few comments running against the trend, so long as they are articulate, so the fact that I was picked doesn't mean the NYT agrees with me.  But!  To my increasing astonishment - a lot of people DO.  My comment is currently ranked #7 out of 200 some, with 195 "recommendations."  And; boy; did my comment get a lot of "replies".  Mostly of the "shut up you ignorant ass" variety, but not all.

Here is the comment:

"Greenpa Minnesota 1 day ago

"Ok. Are you listening? Yes, on Planet Earth, EVERYTHING is connected.

"Earth's crust is made up of enormous blocks of rock- and where the continental "plates" meet, they rub up against each other, and move. How far do they move? They move until all the forces affecting them are "in balance". When those forces change- they will move again. That's called an earthquake. Over geological eons, they move a very great deal; we now know from many kinds of evidence that Africa and South America really did once fit together into one land mass. The 6,000 miles now separating them happened - one earthquake at a time.

"Most continental plate boundaries are under the oceans. What happens when a fault zone, in balance- now has just a little more ocean on top of it? "Balance" means exactly that- and adding one feather to the other side of a balance can make it shift; no vast application of force is required; just a tiny push over the balance point; and it will move.

"Is it possible that Hurricane Katia; now pushing storm surge water onto the other side of the Mexican land mass - triggered these earth quakes?

"It is. Just a feather, to shift balance. Will the rising sea levels around the world shift more plate balances? They will.

"No professional geologist will stick their necks out and say that. Yet. But if you've ever played with any kind of balanced system - you know. Just a feather will do it. Yes, climate change will cause earthquakes. More, as it gets worse."

------------------------------------------

Pretty blunt, huh?   And - an effective push on the iceberg of getting earthquakes into the climate change conversation.  Why?  Because now, at least 195 people will have it in their heads that "It was in the New York Times" - and they agree - and they will now feel much readier to bring the idea up in friendly conversations.  Public opinion.

So that's fun.  And, for the inevitable readers who will vote on the "shut up you ignorant ass" side; here is a quote from Wikipedia, on continental drift (now known and utterly accepted as "plate tectonics" - i.e. really big earthquakes.)  "David Attenborough, who attended university in the second half of the 1940s, recounted an incident illustrating its lack of acceptance then: 'I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.' "

Experts and professors, historically, can be just a much ignorant asses as the rest of us.

If you have the interest, reading the replies to me is kind of fun, too.  Change is messy!  To see the replies, you have to find my original place; look under "oldest first", should be in the first page.

And - if you enjoy stirring the climate change pot - you should share that comment widely out onto the social media.  I guarantee reactions.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Ice Wall Update-eth

Another bit of PR from the ice wall people; they've been coming about one a day for several days now.

This one has a nice video, which I hope you will be able to access for some time; NHK has recently added the ability to share their news posts with several social media.  I'm hoping that means their links will last more than one day.

The video has good diagrams, and even real footage of the ice wall apparatus; good to help understand.  Take a look-

Typically for NHK, the printed text is almost exactly the same as what the newsreader presents, quoted below, then I have a couple comments on the hydraulics/physics after that:
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"Fukushima ice wall's last section being frozen

Final procedures have begun to complete an ice wall to prevent groundwater from entering the contaminated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.  Tokyo Electric Power Company workers started the process to freeze the remaining 7-meter section of the ice wall on Tuesday.  They opened 11 valves to allow coolant at a temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius to circulate in the underground pipes.

TEPCO began freezing the 1.5 kilometer long wall in March of last year. The last section on the mountain side of the facility had been left unfrozen as officials said the move could cause a sudden drop in groundwater levels around the reactor buildings.  But the Nuclear Regulation Authority said safety measures were in place and gave permission for the procedure earlier this month.

TEPCO says it could take longer than the 2 months projected based on past records for the section to freeze, because the groundwater is flowing at a rapid rate.

They say once the wall is completed, the volume of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings will be reduced to less than 100 tons a day, from the current 140 tons.  The nuclear regulators say they will carefully monitor the effectiveness of the wall.
----------------------------------------------------------

In good PR fashion, they are setting the stage for it to - not work.  "It could take longer..."

And; the physics: so, the ground water is flowing - IN - at a rapid rate?  That does mean - it has to be also flowing OUT - somewhere, somehow - at a rapid rate.  Which means if/when you shut the flow off, there WILL be increased pressure on the 'up' side - and decreased pressure on the 'down' side; which means the pressure gradient will be increased.

The pressure on the upside is the easiest to understand, but actually the entire gradient is a better predictor of the likelihood of new leaks.  Think of it as more "incentive" for the water to find a new way to move.

Other Japanese news sources include more definite doubts:

"But some experts have cast doubt on the ice wall, and the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority said it has not yet done an independent analysis.

" 'We doubt the ice wall is going to be as effective as TEPCO claims it will be," said an NRA official who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'We're going to monitor its progress after it is finished to check the impact. ' "

"In June, the NRA's acting chief Toyoshi Fuketa publicly accused TEPCO of lying about the wall's effectiveness."

Ice wall cost so far admitted to: ~ $320 million; paid by the "government"; i.e. Japanese taxpayers.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Ice Wall Leaketh

Back in March, 2016, I put up this post about the proposed "ice wall" to prevent water movement in bad places around the nuclear reactor melt-down site at Fukushima, Japan.

It won't work, I said.  By one sensible measure, I can claim to have been correct already; in the news release cited there the "authorities" stated "The wall is expected to start restricting the inflow of groundwater about 45 days after the freezing starts."  And be finished in 4 months.

Here we are, not 45 days but 17 months after they started freezing - and - the wall is not closed.  It still leaks 140 tons of water a day.

The whole episode is a fabulous lesson in how to spin information for public consumption.  Today's press release, that they are "about to start the final phase of the freezing process" - states that "a 7 meter section has been left unfrozen" - implying that they intended to leave it unfrozen, for various arcane, scientific, and benevolent reasons.  That is not the case.  They were unable to freeze it.  Which is just what I predicted from my modest understanding of hydrology and fluid dynamics (I thought that any good ecologist should be familiar with environmental forces; like rivers, ocean currents, jet streams; so, I studied them.)

Reality back there was they were very unhappy and embarrassed that some of the wall refused to freeze, and they had to "study" to determine "why"; eventually coming up with the obvious- the water in those areas was flowing so fast it never got cold enough to freeze; and the high flow rate kept re-warming the soil.

Most of us have personal experience with this principle of hydraulics; water under pressure, when forced to flow through a smaller channel, will flow faster.  And it's very powerful.  Ever have a running garden hose in your hand? Ever put your thumb over the open end- maybe to make it squirt your little brother, who thought he was a safe distance away from you?  It'll really squirt.  Because when you restrict it, the pressure in the immediate area of the constriction- goes way up; and the smaller stream flows much faster.

And- when you tried to totally shut off the flow, using just your thumb; you couldn't do it.  The pressure simply builds higher, until it finds a way through your block.  Powerful stuff, water.

So they've had well over a year to figure out how to freeze the high flow area.  It's not impossible they may have figured out a way to shut off what has to be an enormous stream of ground water, with potentially very high pressure and flow.  It can probably be done.  They could make the refrigerant there much, much colder.  Or, they could build an arc of more refrigeration upstream of the leak, so the water reaching the leak is just about to freeze when it gets there.

And if they succeed in shutting that 7 meter leak- what will happen?

100% - other places in the wall; not currently leaking; will start to leak.  As a little leak starts, it will warm the area from the warmth in the water, and it will become a BIG leak; since the local pressure there is now higher than when it wasn't leaking.  Shut that leak?  Another will start.

Check my prediction; in another year.  I'm betting - 100%.  And ANY physics professor should have been able to tell them this.  So why do it?  They have to appear to be doing something - and they have no clue what might actually be useful.  None.  But they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars - so it has to be worthwhile, right?  It is for the contractors, I guarantee.

Below is the text from the NHK press release.  If you search this blog for "ice wall" there are multiple additional posts on this debacle, with more facts.

"Work to finish ice wall at crippled plant to begin

"The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will begin the final phase of creating an underground ice wall on Tuesday. Tokyo Electric Power Company started the work 17 months ago, with the aim of preventing groundwater from entering reactor buildings and getting contaminated with radioactive substances.

"The 1.5-kilometer ice barrier is deemed a key step to curb the buildup of tainted water at the plant.

"The soil is frozen by sending liquid at minus 30 degrees Celsius into pipes buried around the buildings. But the utility has left a 7-meter section unfrozen, fearing the sudden fall in groundwater levels around the buildings. There were concerns that the difference of water levels in and outside the reactor buildings would cause tainted water inside to leak out.

"But last Tuesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said safety measures are ready and gave its approval to freeze of the final section.  Officials of the utility say they will carefully monitor the freezing process of the remaining section.

"They say it may take longer to fully freeze than other areas, because the flow of groundwater has been concentrated in that section.

"The officials expect that the wall, when completed, will reduce the inflow of groundwater to the buildings from 140 tons a day to less than 100 tons."

Friday, July 21, 2017

This is getting monotonous-


Sitting here in the Little House waiting for yet another "1.000 year flood" - as prepared as we CAN be; but- that's never really enough-  At the moment it looks like the heaviest core in THIS storm is going to miss us; but there are already flash flood warnings both straight west and south-


And the thing is, we're forecast, very reliably; to have flooding storms pass over repeatedly - until tomorrow morning.  This is just #1.

If it does turn out to be a "1000 year" event, it will make the 4th one for us in the past 6 or 7 years; 2 so far had us in officially designated "Federal Disaster Areas".  {FEMA, I can tell you from personal experience- is, um, how shall I put this; Not as useful as they might be.)

The huge industrial agriculture farms will not suffer financially- they will get Federal aid somehow.  Smaller farmers, and ones with non-standard crops - are almost never insured.  Back in Flood Disaster #1; we got financial help from  the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which happens to have a main office in Minneapolis.  Is flood relief on their list of aims?  Nope.  They just saw an urgent need; many small farmers about to get wiped out, organic ones in particular; so they organized a fundraising effort, very successfully, and got money to people who needed it.

We bought a machine.  FEMA's response? "Well, we know all your harvest machinery was destroyed, but you don't actually live in the flood plain."  Um, no, but our machines were there, at the mechanic shop, being readied for harvest.  About $10,000 worth of specialized mowers.  "Sorry!  You just don't fit our guidelines.  Good luck."

They actually said "Good luck".

Well.  So far; this rain is hitting us gently, falling slow and steady.  That would help.  We dodged the bullet 2 days ago- when folks 50 mile away got 8".  They're going to get this storm, and the next ones today, too.

Good luck, to us all.

I'll end with a more cheerful story, from my childhood.  This would have been in the 1950's.  My family was moving; across the country; and my parents loved to "see the country".  Understand- most of the West had only acquired 2-lane paved US highways in the previous 15 years- it was a new thing to be able to drive in many places.

They decided to see the SW desert.  Arizona, I think; heading to California.  Back then - no one knew about "highway hypnosis" yet; so the 2 lanes could go absolutely straight in front, and behind, as far as you could see (they put kinks in roads now to prevent it).  And out in the middle of this desert- there really was nothing to see- besides the telephone lines next to the road.  Fences sometimes.  No billboards.  Not even any Burma Shaves, which we loved, of course.  Not enough traffic on this road to warrant anything.

Speed- about 50 mph; very fast for the time.  A long, long, long road; absolutely flat, in every way.

Then- in the distance- a speck.  Is it a speck?  Took a while for my siblings to agree; it's a speck.  It's getting bigger; not very fast.   Eventually we can see- it's actually going to be a big billboard; commercial size.

It's white.  Can't see anything ON it, and here we were hoping for scantily clad cowgirls advertising casinos...   Nope.  Wait- there's a speck - in the middle of the billboard...

We had to get to within about 50 feet of the sign in order to be able to read the very small black print.

"Monotonous, ain't it?"

We laughed for miles and miles.  Whoever put that sign up - I still love you.

And it says something nice about humans, too.

-----------------------------------------------

Update July 22 - we lucked out.  The storm split, and went around us, mostly.  We got about an inch, but after the bulk of the storm had moved on, we had flash flood warnings north, west, and south of us- and only about 20 miles away.  Some of those folks got 3-6 inches.

So; besides getting more frequent and more violent- is our weather also getting more -  whimsical?





Sunday, May 28, 2017

Clobbered By Climate AGAIN-

It's not that I want to post a list of new ways climate change is messing things up.  It's that new and unheard of things keep hitting.  ME.

Got a seriously weird one for ya.  Did you see the news going the rounds this week about "global warming is messing up our sleep"?   It's not that.  But.  Sleep is involved.

One thing that has been consistent over the past several years is increased cloudiness here.  Being off grid, relying on solar electricity and solar heating- we really really notice, and take data.  It's been a lot more cloudy, to the point where we have to buy more gas for the backup generators than usual (expensive) - and run them more often (wore one out, had to replace it this winter; expensive).

And here we are, nearly June- and over the past week we've had maybe 1/3 of normal full sun.  Most of the plants don't care, they only need a small fraction of full sun to have all they can use; but my older solar panels don't work at all except in full sun.

So; had to run the house generator last night; batteries really low, so left it to run all night.  It's fairly quiet; not intrusive as far as sleep goes.  But there is a low solid "hum" that is always there.  No biggy.  And my brain is tuned to the hum - if it coughs, sputters, or the hum changes the note; I hear it instantly; the generator is going to need my attention immediately.

Except.  This morning, the generator was still going; but during my coffee, did finally run out of gas.  Ah, the hum is gone.  All good; all normal.  Not going to start it again, sunny today, batteries well up.  More coffee.  Up to the morning computer chores.

Wait - the generator is running again; the exact exact hum is right where it should be located from where I'm sitting; same tone, same volume.  EXACTLY.

What the hay?  Did someone put more gas in and start it up?  Odd, but not impossible.  Downstairs?  Still humming, just right.  Outside?  Humming.  I had to walk all the way to the generator to check- is it running?

No, it's not.

But the generator hum- is right there.  It has been all day; no drop in volume.  Somehow- my brain assimilated the generator hum; and is now playing it back for me.  All day.  It actually has the same little normal variations that come from changes in wind direction; head movements.  Exactly.

Ignore it?  I'm tuned to it; listening for malfunction.  Yes, I can tell myself to ignore it, since I've now proven it's a phantom noise of some kind - but - in a few minutes, my watchdog will notice the hum again; breaking off my concentration from whatever I was working on.  What?  Generator?  Oh, right, nope, phantom.     What?  Generator?...

"Stuck song syndrome", now known as "earworm" - would be nice.  I'd love a melody.  This- is a familiar sound from my world- that is now running full time- with no cause.  And sucking up a few more neurons to keep noticing it's not gone yet.  They tell you to do something "moderately engaging" do a cross-word; sudoku-  nope, not for this.  It hums right along.

And why?  Cloudy weather, from climate change.

Have you got a weird one?  This may be the place- let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon. No kidding.

It took me a while, but a few days ago I finally "got a handle" on the Trump phenomenon.  Really.

The amount of ink, physical and digital, that has been expended so far on "understanding" what we are currently going through is likely already the all-time record.  And it will certainly get far worse before it gets better.  We are, pretty much entirely, baffled.  How is this possible?  We cry repeatedly.  This makes no sense!

I'm afraid I know; and the outlook is not wonderful.  But- any real resolution is only possible if we can somehow begin to understand.  I'm driven to understand not only as a scientist, but as a father, and husband to Spice- who is rabidly obsessive about the whole thing.  Inescapable, for poor me.

How does one "get a handle" on what appears incomprehensible?  There are, in fact, historical precedents- which is where one needs to start.  This all makes no sense?  Then - your perspective is wrong.  The universe always makes sense- if you look at it from the right angle.  Find some other viewpoint where the problem at least does not look entirely chaotic.  (Not at all easy.)

One of my starting points was the example from Carl McDaniel; who set out to examine the question of how humans can survive the most extreme evolutionary challenges; looking for any hints as to how we might, perhaps, survive climate collapse.  He wrote a book, which I reviewed here about a year ago.  It is a spectacular example of how to do Science right.  The important bits for this discussion; A) Find a historical example; B) start analyzing it.  I recommend the book not only for the story and analysis but for the beautiful example of how to start tackling what appears to be an intractable problem.

I set out to follow his lead.  Are there historical examples, parallels to the Trump phenomenon?  There certainly are; too many, actually.  The word demagogue goes back to ancient Greece, to at least 5 BCE.  The phenomenon was very well known before the word was coined; demagogues are something humans are susceptible to.  We have been, as far back as we can see historically; and we clearly still are right now, all around the globe, in all cultures apparently.  I prefer Napoleon to Hitler as a quintessential example- millions dead in both cases; and both sold their genocides under the illusion that it was for the benefit of humanity that millions must die.  Napoleon was more cheerful about it, I think.  Which is worse, to me.

But.  When you start looking at parallels from "politics" and/or "governments" - it quickly becomes clear that sifting truth out of such history is problematic- facts are slippery, and very frequently intentionally distorted.

So- I asked myself; are there other human phenomena that parallel the Trump phenomenon, non-political ones?  Realms where humans will faithfully stick to beliefs with not only no evidence of truth, but with actual repeated proofs of fallacy?

A big fat obvious one suggests itself - Astrology.

Astrology is very ancient indeed- and during its entire existence, serious thinkers/philosophers have taken considerable pains to point out that it cannot possibly be true.  Modern science has actually tested the validity of Astrology with full rigor - and found zero evidence that it works - ever.

And - in all those thousands of years - people have continued to believe in it, defend it, and order their lives by it.  Regardless of the absurdity.  And - trying to talk them out of it - never, ever, works.  They will continue to believe.

Just exactly like Trump believers.  Exactly.  I would challenge you to find some way in which astrology believers differ from Trump believers.  I can't find any, so far.

Is this helpful?  Maybe.  It suggests no solutions; but it does suggest one solid point - it is an utter waste of effort to try to find some key fact that will suddenly open the eyes and minds of the Trumplings.  We should quit wasting time on that idea- it is clearly pointless.

That, for many of us, should be a relief.  "There's got to be a way to make them see this!" we keep hoping - and?   Nothing.  Not one Trumpling converted.  A few middle-of-the-road types, perhaps; but they are not the problem.

Us reasonable types will quickly ask "why?"  Why do people continue to believe- in Astrology, and Trump?  My firm belief is - why does not matter.  And it may not be easy to find out- remember rationalists have been trying to find an answer to why for Astrology literally for thousands of years- and have discovered nothing that will help to free these delusional people from blatant fallacy.  There is a suggestion in there that perhaps current human thinking is not capable of understanding why.  Fine- the heck with "why" - move on to - finding a way to go around them.

What is needed is a way to change the outcome of voting; and hence the makeup of our government.  There are plenty of ways to work on that which have nothing to do with enlightening Trumplings.

And who knows; thinking about it all from the Astrology perspective might eventually lead to some way to reduce their impact on the world.  Think about it.

One more starting point - it's fascinating, to me, that the percentage of Trumplings, and the percentage of people who say "astrology is scientific" - are shockingly close; hovering around 30% each by multiple measures.  And- both have been increasing, in the past decade - not decreasing.

Chew on that.  It just might go somewhere.