First Snow

Published at 20:53 on 29 November 2014

It happened this morning. Normally that would be the big weather deal of the day, but not this time. As often happens here, the snow was facilitated by arctic outflow winds coming from the BC interior via the Fraser River Canyon.

A little after 8:30 AM, the outflow winds really kicked into high gear, going from strong and gusty to gale-force. The power went out shortly thereafter, and stayed out for the rest of the morning. Thankfully, my old place (where I was packing at the time) was well-insulated enough that it didn’t get excessively chilly inside very fast, despite the winds and frigid temperatures outside.

When it did start getting uncomfortable, I decided to run an errand to Poulsbo, where I then ate lunch. By the time I got back two hours later, the power was back on.

The wind was noticeably less severe in Poulsbo. Apparently it was a localized phenomenon restricted to areas close to Puget Sound, which was acting as a path of least resistance for the arctic outflow. The National Weather Service apparently didn’t see it coming, as no advisories or warnings for high winds were issued for this area.

What surprised me is how some people didn’t see the snow coming. Even if they hadn’t been listening to the weather forecasts, yesterday Mother Nature was shouting her own warnings. It was a day of pelting cold rain that got colder hour by hour. It was, to me anyhow, a classic “this rain will change to snow” type storm.

Maybe there were wind warning signs, too, signs I missed because I haven’t lived on Bainbridge Island for that long. I will say that we do really tend to get the winds here; the water gives them ample opportunity to rev up speed before they hit the island. Maybe in a few years I’ll learn some sort of sign that an arctic outflow wind is going to end up strong and damaging, like the more typical southerly storm winds can be.

Sorry, no pictures yet. My cameras are now packed.

Really, Was It Any Surprise?

Published at 10:38 on 25 November 2014

I think not. Cops who kill are almost always exonerated.

I cannot offhand readily think of any counterexamples to the above fact. I’m sure they exist, but they are rare. Very rare.

Unfortunately, rioting tends to be very little deterrent to such things happening. In fact, it’s a common outcome, yet the killing persists, decade after decade.

Again, this is not a surprise. Rioting is not rebellion. It is unfocused, unplanned, rage. It typically takes the form of the downtrodden destroying their own neighborhoods.

If the reaction took the form of more organized actions, and groups like the Black Panthers of old formed and persisted as part of the reaction, then one might expect the Establishment to take such things seriously, because the reaction to them is posing a more serious risk to that same Establishment.

But already pretty tatty neighborhoods becoming even more rundown (as a result of rioting-induced damage) is of little or no threat to the Establishment. So don’t expect things to change until the rage matures into a more focused effort to challenge the overall system as a whole.

The Thing about Bed Bugs

Published at 10:25 on 19 November 2014

If it wasn’t the case that:

  1. Most people react adversely to their bites, and
  2. They breed like crazy

Then bed bugs would be more of a “meh” thing. I’d probably crush them when I found them but I wouldn’t turn my life upside down waging war on them.

Most people are really squicked by the concept of parasites, but they’re no big deal if all one gets is a very light, asymptomatic infestation. The majority of people, even in the wealthiest nations, harbor demodex mites on their bodies and don’t even know it.

Unfortunately, most people do react adversely to bed bug bites, and even for those of use who don’t, we don’t want guests or neighbors to suffer or for our homes to end up like this (which they will if the bugs are allowed to breed unhindered).

So, it’s war.

Which for me is moving on to the “move, and have the moving van fumigated between here and there” phase.

I’d like to be a little more certain of how well the bugs have been knocked down by the two existing treatments my apartment has had before I move, but then again, said uncertainty is precisely the reason I’m having the moving van fumigated in the first place.

Interstellar is Strange

Published at 21:21 on 17 November 2014

They apparently hired a theoretical physicist to review all the cosmology in their series, yet when it came to earthly things the special effects (and story) was so bad I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief to engage in it.

Probably the most noteworthy case in point was the dust storms. Pure cheap Hollywood special effects done by people who’ve never seen a real dust storm, or even a photograph of one. The dust was this light fluffy house-dust like stuff that looked and acted absolutely nothing like the soil dust that makes up real dust storms.

The aftermath of the storms looked particularly unrealistic, like someone emptied a bunch of vacuum cleaner bags at quasi-random. The aftermath of actual severe dust storms looks much like sand dunes, as any one of a large number of photographs from the 1930s Dust Bowl attests. The ready availability of such photographs means the producers really had no excuse for such shoddy special effects.

And what’s up with dust storms blowing up when everything is green outside? The actual Dust Bowl happened in a severe multi-year drought, when there was precious little green anything, and the fields were lying fallow instead of growing lush crops of tall corn stalks. Another epic fail.

And then there’s this “blight” which breathes nitrogen and in doing so somehow consumes oxygen. Hello? Oxygen and nitrogen are two completely different elements. Any massive outbreak of a new, nitrogen-breating organism would increase the relative concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere by consuming some of the nitrogen. So the movie flunks basic chemistry as well as basic meteorology.

How the producers could do such a terrible job on mundane aspects of science while obsessing over cutting-edge issues perplexed me for a while.

Then it hit me: it’s actually consistent with the whole strange premise of the movie, that it’s somehow going to be more easy and more practical to travel through a wormhole to the far reaches of the universe, and colonize some barren desert world (even the final scenes of that one last planet showed a pretty inhospitable place that made the Dust Bowl Earth look like a green Eden by comparison) than it would be to focus on fixing problems here at home.

It’s all about ignoring (neglecting, even) the mundane and chasing madly after the esoteric and distant.

The E-mail Client Dance Continues

Published at 09:06 on 12 November 2014

For years I was on Apple Mail. It worked, and its UI was consistent with the rest of the system. I was happy, even though Apple always tinkered with it, and the tinkering inevitably resulted in a UI I liked less than the one before.

Then Apple Mail’s searches just stopped working for me. I tried cleaning out the index files, that fixed things for a while, then broken again, and this time rebuilding the index didn’t help.

So in desperation I cut over to Thunderbird. It wasn’t a cleanly Mac-like, but it did have a main display window more like the classic Apple Mail I knew and loved. And searches worked! I was happy.

Until Thunderbird simply stopped working for one of my e-mail accounts. I could send mail, but new messages simply stopped appearing. This made me miss some important events. I was pissed.

In desperation, I went back to Apple Mail. It’s search function was a broken as ever, which was an annoyance, but at least I reliably received new messages. It worked.

Today I notice one of my inboxes hasn’t had any mail show up in a week or two. Could Apple Mail be broken for it? Indeed, it was. Worse, Apple had broken the configuration part of Apple Mail. It basically forces the most dumbed-down, bland, hyper-defaulted, hyper-normal situation on you, then “intelligently” tries to guess if that’s wrong, and if so gradually asks for more information until it “intelligently” concludes it works. Well, on one account, it was “intelligently” deciding the account was working fine, even though new messages never showed up.

Worse, there’s no way to tinker with all the settings of an account anymore. You’re not supposed to. That’s the job of the “intelligent” Apple Mail client. I tried deleting and re-adding the troublesome account twice (the only way I could figure out how to adjust all settings), to no avail. I gave up.

I notice that Thunderbird has been updated since I dumped it. So I update, and the account that didn’t work previously… now does work again. Whatever Thunderbird bug broke it has apparently been fixed. So change partners again.

Nice to have a more rationally-designed display of incoming messages, but I don’t expect this partner to last, not after doing years of the E-mail Client Dance. I fully expect to change partners again within a year or two.

A Most Creepy Halloween Surprise

Published at 18:17 on 3 November 2014

At 2:30AM last Friday I awoke to use the bathroom. I had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room, as I often do. As I turned on the light, I noticed something crawling up the backrest of the couch. “It looks a lot like the pictures of bedbugs that I’ve seen”, I thought.

A quick check of Wikipedia confirmed the worst. Interestingly, the next morning I found the story of someone else who had a very similar experience.

I’m not pussyfooting around with home remedies, however. This discovery is one I’ve dreaded for a long time, because bed bugs have a reputation (doubtless very well-deserved) of being extremely difficult to get rid of. It’s one situation that the services of a professional exterminator are required.

I’m not that impressed that the exterminator chosen by my landlord has chosen to spray instead of use heat, which based on my research has a better record. A friend who battled the same problem (different source, she got hers from an infested neighbor’s apartment last spring) had good luck with this type of exterminator, however.

I may opt to pay to have a heat treatment done anyhow, just to be safe and help ensure a sure kill. I’m almost certainly going to pay to have all my belongings loaded onto a big moving truck and taken to Seattle to be fumigated. Again, just to be safe.

Like most port cities, Seattle has a firm that specializes is fumigating possibly infested goods by the truck-or-container-load. They gas the whole container at once, so there’s no worries about an infested container re-infesting your recently-sanitized possessions. People moving out of a bedbug-infested residence are but a small subset of those who need such a service; I spoke to one of their agents and it’s a completely routine job for them. They process dozens of loads an evening. No advance appointment needed. Time will tell if they’re as good as the rave review in this article.

What I dread most of all is this (a) taking months and months (with bed bugs, it sometimes does), and (b) taking “hitchhikers” with me and becoming into the new member of the HOA who brought the first-ever load of bed bugs into the building.

Realistically, though, the real horror stories typically start out with the victims either living in denial despite increasing signs of infestation, often trying various mostly ineffectual (or even outright counterproductive) home remedies. The professionals are only called after a several months, at which point they struggle for months to get a severe infestation wiped out.

Then again, it certainly didn’t help in my case that I’m one of the approximately 30% of people who do not have adverse reactions to bed bug bites. I never had an itchy welt at all despite being fed on regularly for at least a month. If I had, I would have probably suspected something was very wrong in my apartment a whole lot sooner.