Whistling Past the Korean Graveyard

What astounds me is how much the Establishment media are downplaying the grave and imminent danger of war between two nuclear-armed states both led by irresponsible madmen.

I was going to post something on this, then decided to shelve such plans when the news that Tillerson was secretly talking with the North Koreans came out. Which brings me to these points that Jennifer Rubin recently raised.

What’s wrong, I think, is that Tillerson is cracking under the stress of his job. That also explains why he’s trying to stay on: he has first-hand experience that the US president is in fact a madman, and fears what will happen if his influence attempting to moderate same is gone.

Of course, Rubin’s points are still valid, which means that Tillerson is probably on his way out. But keep in mind that Tillerson’s apparent worries are also valid.

What it all means is that Trump’s handlers are not able to rein in his worst attributes.

Make no mistake, the danger we are facing is now extreme.

So Much for Eclipse

I’ve been using the Eclipse IDE off and on for several years now, mainly because it’s something of a de-facto standard in the Java world, and I want to be something in sync with that world. Well, forget it. I’ve come to the conclusion that the annoyances outweigh the advantages:

  1. The editor is nowhere near as powerful as a stand-alone editor. That should not be a surprise; it’s competing for the attention of the Eclipse dev team with so many other priorities. By contrast, the dev teams working on text editor projects are totally focused on making those editors better.
  2. The editor is sluggish. It doesn’t respond as promptly to my keystrokes as any dedicated text editor I’ve used. This frequently trips me up.
  3. It’s almost as if it has an artificial intelligence engine working away to decide whether or not I’d like auto-completion to be offered for an identifier… and then does precisely the opposite of what I want. The feature pops up unbidden and gets in the way when I’m rapidly typing, yet never appears when I’m paused, trying to remember the precise name of something. Typing Control-Space remedies the latter situation, but still.
  4. Also, the auto-complete for things like parenthesis and quotes is thoroughly evil. It’s always introducing syntax errors into my code, because it comes up slightly too late; by the time it’s gratuitously inserting something, I’ve already gotten a keystroke or two in edgewise.
  5. The default is to indent with hard tabs, and you have to change many settings to defeat this misfeature.
  6. There is no simple, easy way (at least none I’ve found, and I’ve tried) to stop it from making files with lines that have trailing white space.
  7. When upgrading to a new version of Eclipse, nothing is done to import settings settings from any previous version you were using.
  8. When upgrading to a new version, the new version will create a new directory for its workspaces, instead of seeing if there is any existing such area in a default location used by a previous version. The default workspace path changes from version to version. There is no overriding pattern to the defaults.
  9. There’s no way to do something as simple and basic as renaming a project in Eclipse Oxygen. If there is; it’s very well-hidden; the action is not listed in the same menu that creating, deleting, and copying projects are listed.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the mess with the workspace directories. I don’t need three separate, inconsistently-named, locations. Yet that is now what I have. And when I attempted to convert and old workspace into a new one, the conversion failed and left some projects inaccessible. I’m sure there’s a solution that would enable me to fix the problem, but it’s simply not worth continually expending effort at making an overly-complex tool behave itself.

So I’m in the process of reverting to a text editor and using that old reliable standby Ant to do the building of my Java projects. A pity, as some of what Eclipse offers (detection of errors as one types, being able to request auto-completion) really is helpful.

The Bigotry of Valerie Plame

Yes, that Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson’s wife, the ex-CIA agent. First she tweets:

Then 90 minutes or so later she makes a feeble attempt at walking it back:

And yes, it’s a feeble attempt. If she “zeroed in on the neocon criticism,” then why mention Jewishness at all, if the problem is neoconservatives? Why retweet the subject, which was “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars.” Not “America’s Neocons” or even “America’s Jewish Neocons”, but “America’s Jews” as a whole. The problem was identified as Jewishness, not political ideology.

That an article so titled would resonate with her (to the point of prompting an instinctive retweet) points to deeply-held antisemitic attitudes on her part. That’s a far bigger problem that a simple “Oopsie!” can atone for.

What a Madman

Probably doesn’t even see the irony in making a speech that contains both this:

Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

and this:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

Fuck Suburban Propane

I currently rent a tank from Suburban Propane. Because it’s a rented tank, I must also buy the propane from that supplier.

They’re changing me around $5.00/gallon. Current market price is about $1.50/gallon (I’ve checked). So I’m being charged over three times the market rate. Avarice, anyone?

On top of the $3.50/gallon price premium, I’m of course charged a yearly tank rental fee (even though the tank should be free, given what a cash cow monopoly pricing is for them).

Add it all up, figure in my average consumption, and I can expect the new tank to pay for itself in under 2 years, and possibly after a single year. So it’s basically a no-brainer.

When I called Suburban up to begin arrangements to terminate my tank lease, they of course mention their far cheaper rate for customer-owned tanks, as if I’m going to reward them for their past extreme greed. Fat chance of that.

The only worry is my current apparent inability to find an even remotely compatible employer. My superstitious side worries about jinxing things in favor of being compelled to relocate to someplace more affordable in the near future. That is merely a superstition, of course, but it still gnaws at me.

One Final Eclipse Post: Journal Entries

Evening of 20 August

The eve of the Big Show. Or will it be the Big Cloud-Out? There has been a disturbing trend towards more cloudiness over the past few days. Weather forecast for tonight is “mostly clear” and “sunny” for tomorrow, but that has been the general word in forecasts for the past few days.

Oh well. Traffic woes make any location change impractical. “You stakes your claim, you takes your chances” — as I have said for the past month or more.

21 August, 9:11 AM

Skies clear. First contact noted. Probably started a minute or two ago.

Traffic on road, which has increased by a factor of 20 or more in the past week, is strangely absent this morning. Other campers are doing what we are — awaiting the big show.

9:34 AM

High thin clouds are becoming evident. Bah. (Sun still visible.)

9:42 AM

Dimming becoming increasingly evident. Still less than 50% obscured.

The feeling of anticipation before it (first contact) began was virtually palpable. The quietness of the road added to it.

9:54 AM

50%, maybe more. It’s not getting warmer any more. At this stage on a normal morning, it would be. Actually it seems to be cooling.

10:03 AM

Horns [of solar crescent] now at halfway point. Estimate 65 – 70% obscured.

10:04 AM

Several aircraft audible. Air traffic is way up today. Balloons being released from the other camp for the past 20 minutes or so.

10:08 AM

Birds are in “evening chorus” mode. Feels more like 7:00 PM than 10:00 AM. 80%? Dimming is very evident.

10:15 AM

More than 90% gone. Really darkening fast now. Very eerie atmosphere. Getting cooler and cooler.

10:18:30 AM

Just a thin sliver left. Not taking pictures any more. Just focusing on the experience.

Shortly after Totality

Totality lasted from 10:21 to 10:23. Darkness came very fast. Quite cool now. Saw diamond ring. Missed Baily’s beads [wrong; see below]. Clouds thinned [then vanished near the Sun] just before the show.

10:32 AM

Nighthawks came out shortly after totality.

10:42 AM

The exodus is underway. Two cars so far….

10:48 AM (estimated)

Sunlight is starting to feel warm again.

11:37 AM

Basically over. Like it was at 9:11. Tiniest bite. Aircraft all gone.

I Did Actually See Baily’s Beads

I recognized totality was ending because I could see the landscape backlit by the Sun on the Moon’s trailing edge. That is how I interpreted the scene in my mind, not as “Baily’s beads,” because it looked so very much like just that.

Of course, that is exactly what Baily’s beads are. The impression was so strong in my mind that I didn’t even associate what I had seen with the common term for it until well after totality had ended.

Think about that for a moment: the eclipse allowed me to view, with my naked eyes, for a brief fleeting moment, the topographic relief an alien landscape that wasn’t even fully mapped until the Space Age. We’re talking about a relief of perhaps a kilometer or two at a distance of about 385,000 km.

More on the Eclipse

If there was one theme to the whole experience of the trip to see the total eclipse it would be one of the pace of events gradually but persistently accelerating from slow to fast.

I arrived at the site (selected based on extensive study and a carefully drawn-up list of criteria) a week early. I had initially planned on six days early but moved that up by one day due to the Malheur National Forest ranger station in John Day informing me that the day I was going to arrive would be one of their biggest arrival days; I did not want the site I had selected taken by someone else.

Nobody was in the general area when I arrived; it was the same quiet, out-of-the way part of one of the nation’s more remote and least-visited national forests that it was back in early July when I surveyed it. Nobody passed by on the road for the first 24 hours.

In the next 24 hours, a few cars did. A few more in the next. By Friday and Saturday, that formerly almost-unused road was quite busy. I was glad to be camped somewhat away from all the clouds of dust being kicked up by the vehicles traveling it. Sunday was busy, but distinctly less so than the preceding two days.

Monday, the day of the big show, comes. Absolutely no traffic on the road whatsoever. Everyone is in place, viewing the Sun.

There were four of us on this camp-out, and our nearest neighbors were at least a half mile away. We had an entire meadow, perhaps five acres in size, to ourselves for viewing the sky. Despite all my planning, I had neglected to print out and take a timetable of the major events of the eclipse (start of eclipse, start of totality, end of totality, end of eclipse). I knew the eclipse would start sometime after 9:00 and totality would be some time around 10:20 or 10:30, and that was as specific as I could remember.

So we made regular checks using eclipse glasses, No. 14 welder’s glass, and the image of the Sun as projected by my cheap thrift-store binoculars onto a piece of paper. At about 9:08 someone other than me reported that there was now a small bite taken out of the Sun.

That bite grew larger very slowly. It took a long time for the ambient light level to be perceptibly affected, and then the light level decreased only very slowly. Then the pace picked up a bit, then a bit more.

The temperature, which in that semiarid climate had as normal been rising rapidly after a chilly night, stopped rising, then began falling.

The clouds played tease. The first few days, there were none to speak of. Then, high clouds became more and more evident. By Sunday, the entire sky was covered by a thick and worrisome layer of high clouds.

The weather forecasts promised clearing, and it happened overnight. Despite the forecasts, I kept nervously awaking every few hours and looking up to verify the stars were still clearly visible.

The day of the eclipse dawned clear, but thin high clouds came in almost as soon as the eclipse began. I could still see increasingly eclipsed disc of the Sun through them, but they promised to compromise the view during totality. Then, about ten minutes before totality, they almost miraculously parted.

The final bit of crescent Sun disappeared astonishingly quickly. I quit taking pictures of dappled shade and binocular projections when I estimated totality was 10 minutes away, opting to just be in the moment and watch the show. It turned out that totality was at that point only 3 minutes away.

I lied down on the ground and alternated between looking at the Sun through my welder’s glass (purchased decades ago as a teen for eclipse-watching purposes) and looking at the now rapidly darkening world around me. The light was now perceptibly declining from moment to moment.

The final thin green arc in my welder’s glass rapidly shrank to a point. I glanced around me and saw the “platinum print” effect that Anne Dillard spent paragraphs waxing eloquent about in her essay in The Atlantic Monthly. It lasted about twelve seconds; far less time than I took to read about it in her essay.

The point disappeared; nothing but darkness was visible through my welder’s glass. I put it aside and beheld a world utterly changed in a moment. I looked at my watch. 10:21.

No photograph does the corona justice. It was irregular and multi-limbed, far larger than any photograph shows. The longest limbs were at least twice as long as the diameter of the Moon. It had a unique bluish-white color, and a three-dimensionality to it.

It was cast against the firmament of a sky of the darkest blue, but still blue and not black like the disc of the Moon. All around the horizon, there was a point where the sky rapidly graded into the colors of the sunset. Mercury, Venus, and some of the brightest stars were visible overhead.

I then notice some extremely brilliant white areas on the trailing edge of the Moon. Baily’s beads. Then, diamond ring. Look through the welder’s glass and see a rapidly growing crescent. It’s over, after what feels like a mere 30 seconds. I glance again at my watch. 10:23. It was probably the shortest two minutes of my life.

“It’s over,” I write, yet there’s more than another hour of partial eclipse to go. But, really, it’s over right there and then. As a friend remarked to me today, the difference between a 99% partial eclipse and a total eclipse is the difference between night and day.

The exodus soon begins on the gravel road. Everyone else thinks “it’s over,” too. The four of us stay to avoid traffic and mostly spend the rest of the day talking about what we just saw. As I wrote earlier, the experience was so otherworldly and brief that it was hard at first to believe it actually happened.

Back from Totality

Executive summary:

It started slow, then sped up. The changes in ambient light were really slow at first. It was just like a normal, partial eclipse that you have to use equipment to look at the sun safely with to verify there was indeed an eclipse in progress. The pace of change kept inexorably increasing. I quit taking pictures when I estimated it was 10 minutes to totality; it turned out to be 3 minutes. The final bit of crescent vanished astonishingly fast. While that happened, you could see the light level (at first) and color quality (final moments of light) change from moment to moment.

The most noteworthy thing were the colors. Inky-black disc of the Moon, bluish-white corona, deep midnight blue (not black) sky above which abruptly graded to the reds and yellows of the sunset across the entire horizon.

The corona was far larger (and a different color) than I had expected. It had five limbs, three of which were long, the longest at least twice the diameter of the Moon. As mentioned, its color was an astonishing (to me) bluish-white. No photograph I have seen accurately reproduces either the color or the full size.

Totality was so otherworldly and brief that it’s hard to believe I really experienced it. It’s getting easier to believe and integrate the short memory after watching other videos and photos of the event, particularly one probably taken within a mile of where I viewed it from.

Nuclear War: Now Ten Seconds to Midnight

This Is Not a Conspiracy on Trump’s Part

Pretty much everything that’s observable about Trump is consistent with the thesis that he is not some sort of evil, brilliant, right-wing mastermind. He’s an intellectually immature adult child who is almost solely concerned with his own self-glorification, nothing more.

This Is Still Exceptionally Dangerous

Even though there isn’t an organized conspiracy to start a nuclear war, there is still a very good chance, probably about 50%, of one starting within the next 12 months. Anyone saying otherwise, no matter how prestigious their voice, is telling lies that amount to whistling in the graveyard.

The Stalinist monarchy that rules North Korea has long been irresponsible and unhinged. That danger was traditionally mitigated by the United States being at least somewhat reasonable. Now we have two unhinged people leading two adversarial nuclear-armed nations. You take it from there. Again, anyone arguing that this is less than a grave existential threat to civilization is telling lies that amount to whistling in the graveyard.

More than Likely, Trump Is Being Played

Played by the fascist right, that is. It’s doubtless fascists like Bannon and Gorka that are egging him on. Trump likes those fascists because they do a good job of stroking his childish ego.

Being fascists, they don’t care how many deaths they cause in the name of creating a fascist state. The ends will always justify the means. If some millions or tens of millions of Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Americans, or others must die to achieve their vision, so be it.

What Is Justified to Stop This? Pretty Much Anything

I’m not going to enunciate just what that anything might be, but you get the idea. Needless to say, the least extreme measures that can promptly achieve the necessary goal of stopping nuclear war should be used.

That in Itself Is Another Danger

It is so because it might lead to the danger of Trump proving in the long run to have been a phantom menace that paved the way for authoritarians to use extraordinary means to neutralize the Trump threat, and after having legitimized such means, then using similar ones to create an authoritarian order of their own.

Personally, I’m Strategizing Ways to Leave the Seattle Area

We’re the most likely target on the US mainland, because we’re the closest metro area to North Korea. Living outside the city, like I do, is no guarantee of safety, because North Korea’s missiles are likely to not be all that accurate. They could easily miss by ten miles or more.

Most likely strategy is to spend an extended amount of time at my parents’ place in New Mexico. The big question I’m now mulling through is how immediate the threat is. North Korea might not be able to strike Seattle yet, so they may opt to go after Seoul, Tokyo, or maybe even Guam first.