A Quick Update

The Arctic Outflow Event Is Over

Not really a surprise, as such things seldom tend to last much longer than a week, anyhow. It only took a few days of temperatures above freezing both night and day to dispatch the snow that fell.

What was a surprise was how it ended: mild air started invading Wednesday night, but very slowly. Still, by the wee hours of the morning temperatures had climbed well into the forties Fahrenheit. Then, the surprise: the arctic air reasserted itself. The slush refroze. The cold weather then lasted for two more days before the inevitable happened.

A Surprise Job Opportunity

Someone wants to interview me for a local tech job. The interview process is somewhat unusual and plays to one of my strengths (teaching people). But there’s also a host of potential mismatches between myself and the employer. Time will tell on this one.

GUI Programming Is a Real PITA

I always knew it was; that’s why I’ve not done much of it up to this point. But boy, is it slow and tedious. It literally takes days of reading documentation and slow experimentation to accomplish the simplest things.

Part of the issue is that what I’m trying to do is somewhat unusual: I’m displaying multiple text panes within a scrollable area, using an area that is dynamically created and updated. Most programs don’t dynamically generate windows (with varying numbers of components) in their GUI’s, and virtually all programs just put a single text pane inside a scrollable region, and they want that pane to automatically grow to be as large as the whole region.

And this is with the Java Swing library, which is well-known, stable, and well-documented. I couldn’t imagine how painful the process would be in the sketchily-documented, ever-changing native Apple GUI libraries. Thankfully, the unusual part of the application is now basically complete; what remains is much more conventional GUI programming.

Arctic Outflow

Today’s high was 19˚F. In Seattle that would break a record. Here in Bellingham, it’s definitely much colder than normal, but the record is still significantly colder. We’re close to the mouth of the Fraser Canyon, and if the interior of British Columbia fills up with frigid air, it can spill through that canyon and hit us without having to pass over any salt water to moderate it.

The arrival of the arctic front was dramatic. My building shuddered as a sudden gust of northeasterly wind hit it. The falling snow changed from sloppy and wet to dry and powdery. Within a half-hour, any wet pavement surfaces that had not been treated had flash-frozen.

Tonight it is snowing and 14˚F. That’s cold enough to experience something rare on the West Coast: snow that squeaks when you walk on it. That’s a fairly common occurrence in a continental climate, but I never once experienced it in Seattle. Here, the cold snaps really are a taste of what winter is like in a continental climate.

But only a taste. Within about 24 hours, the wind will shift. When that happens, the arctic air will depart as quickly as it arrived. The ocean is right here, ready to supply mild air the moment the wind resumes its normal westerly to southwesterly direction. The departure of the cold snap will be as abrupt as its arrival was.

And that’s the way I want things to be. The past few days have been fun because they have been a departure from the norm. Were they the norm, these conditions would become tiresome and unpleasant. Winter would mean not a green thing in sight, and spring would mean waiting seemingly forever for all the snow that accumulated in winter to melt, and all the while it melted it would get increasingly dirty and drab.

Is the Iran Thing a Re-Election Ploy?

The answer is “maybe, but it doesn’t really matter that much.”

As far as the first part of the answer goes, social media is full of people reposting old tweets where Trump accuses Obama of wanting to go to war against Iran for purposes of winning the 2012 elections. Given that Trump is nothing if not an immature, thin-skinned, gaslighter who projects his own faults on others, it is therefore a distinct possibility. Even Max Boot, a conservative who is normally extremely averse to such notions being suggested about U.S. militarism, retweeted a cartoon alleging this very thing.

Or it could just be Trump’s famous impulsiveness leading him to make a rash decision. Trump is as much an exemplar of that sort of behavior as he is of gaslighting, after all. After the U.S. “embassy”* there was attacked, all the mentions of “Benghazi” could well have provoked him into wanting to demonstrate that he’s not as weak as he believes Obama was.

Ultimately, however, it really doesn’t matter very much. Whether Trump blunders into a war he deliberately chose as part of a re-election strategy, or a war he never consciously chose as a result of a knee-jerk reaction, the consequences of a war with Iran would be equally tragic regardless of the cause.

* I put “embassy” in quotes because it’s not an embassy in the commonly-understood meaning of the term (a building in a national capitol that houses another nation’s diplomatic offices). It’s a military base over 100 acres in size and containing multiple buildings and other facilities.

There Is No Winning a War against Iran

Let’s dispense with humanitarian concerns and just talk about cold, hard, military strategy here.

It doesn’t matter that Trump commands what is clearly the world’s most powerful military. Well, that does matter, but it won’t matter from the point of winning any war against Iran: despite its military strength, the USA would clearly lose. This a function of a number of factors:

  1. Iran’s size and capability. Iran has 80 million people and one of the most capable militaries in the region. That’s way more people than Iraq has. Unlike Iraq on the eve of the US invasion, Iran hasn’t been weakened by decades of crippling sanctions. (And the USA came closer than many realize to losing the war in Iraq.)
  2. Distance, motivation, and local knowledge. Any war would be fought primarily in Iran. The USA would have to badly extend itself with long supply lines. Iran’s forces would be right there. In the USA, it would be a war fought half a world away, for questionable purposes, by an unpopular leader, and with significant domestic opposition. In Iran, it would be fought right there, for national survival. The Iranians would know their local terrain far better than the USA does.
  3. Goal asymmetry. In order to win, the USA must defeat and conquer Iran. In order for Iran to win, it must prevent the USA from defeating and conquering it; it is not necessary for Iran to defeat and conquer the USA in order to win.

It would be far harder for the USA to subdue and conquer Iran than it was for the British to subdue and conquer their 13 rebellious colonies in North America, and we all know how that attempt on Britain’s part went.