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Cursed again, pt II

Sat Nov 21 20:42:30 EST 2020

I've looked further into the terminal based productivity system I was talking about. It was CTOS/STARSYS provided by Unisys. I've found some documentation on CTOS as an OS. I haven't found much on the applications. It hit end of life around 1990.

For about 15 minutes I reconsidered installing Kontact again. My issues with Kontact are numerous, but it boils down to whether I feel I will have full control over my experience with Kontact and KDE as time goes on. I don't feel this will be the case for more reasons I care to go into, but I'll list a few- showtopper bugs, hardware obsolescence, linux vs openbsd support.

Thinking about CTOS got me pondering how I need to access a system. I could do this over tmux. I could have the same reliability as any app would have on my phone, or on my laptop through a browser. I could cut out a lot of moving parts by running fewer application services just to get my work done. My experience is voting for KISS.

Many of the terminal based apps I discussed in Pt I aren't really suitable to my needs, they just happen to be the closest thing to working that I can use. This isn't much of a criticism, because they all fit the purposes they were built for, but those purposes aren't mine. It seems I have some coding to do.

Cursed again, pt I

Thu Nov 12 18:37:39 EST 2020

A long time ago, in a land far away, I worked with what I still feel was the most superior office productivity system on the planet Earth. It was provided by Unisys on a bunch of dumb terminals hooked together with token ring. The system itself was curses based, and came with a bunch of plastic templates you could flip over your keyboard to keep up with the different key combos between services offered. Email, phone messaging, document creation, and other services were all glued together over a network that allowed both sharing and compartmentalization of information from a curses based menu system. I've yet to find anything like that since.

Also, since my aesthetic is to buy aging hardware and "soup it up", the best way I can get performance out of whatever I do is to limit my activity to the CLI terminal as much as is reasonable. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of integration activity between different curses and cli based applications in a manner that I would consider supporting with my time. Yet.

So, I'm going through a list of what I'm using, whether I think it should be improved or replaced for my personal use case, and maybe something will shake loose in my head that will lead me to a better solution. Nobody who writes this software should read any further, or if they do that reading should be accompanied by guffaws and other jocularity at my expense.

I think missing the most is something that can bring all of these apps together, which is something that manages contacts between people. Let's call it a contact manager. Fixed addressbooks really don't work, especially when I could be using several different protocols and methods for communicating with someone- some might get email, some only encrypted email, others might be over IRC, slack, riot, jabber, etc... And this doesn't even begin to address the need for a contact history for contacts- important dates and addresses change, preferred methods of contact change in ranking, other activities aren't as persistent either.

Hindsight is 2020

Wed Nov 4 10:34:17 EST 2020

"Should we hold off on buying a house if we move to Canada?," asks my wife.

"We should have moved to Canada during the Obama administration when immigration was down, as I had suggested then. Now, I likely would need to complete my bachelor degree in Comp Sci, get a senior level certification; you would need to get lab work and a relevant internationally recognized lab cert for biochem work; our kid would need to be willing to commit to an associate's program that would also provide an IT cert. This is because so many people want to emigrate now." was my reply.

I wish this was unnecessary

I am not a member of any political party. I have in the past been registered as a Democrat, a Green, a Libertarian, and a Republican. I've been active in each of those parties, and left because no party I've mentioned actually eats their own dogfood, which is a requirement for me to stay a member. There is no political party that holds to my interests, and none really cater to those interests in any meaningful way. This gives me a somewhat unique perspective on who is going to win or lose, and why, which is often at odds with many peoples' preconceived notions as to why I would give voice to same perspectives.

It would be nice if I could just use my mother's last name, or show pictures of me with my extended family, or have news stories on things I've done that would change peoples' assumptions about where I'm coming from, but that kind of bias is pernicious and feeds on any evidence of denial, even when it is truthful. Moreover, it would just shift the bias window in those same people. I just don't have the energy for that, so the reader will simply have to take it on faith that I'm not "pro" any candidate, and I'm not a fatalist or accelerationist or a fascist or an anarchist, or any other -ist that comes immediately to mind.

I do have a background in politics, but from a side that most people don't discuss. I was a member of a unit in Latin America in the mid-80s that was involved in things many people in my unit disapproved of. The process of the Iran-Contra hearings, suppression of witnesses, the willful denial of legislative representatives that there were human rights issues, the witch hunts inside my unit for any leaks, the dignitaries that visited off the books who had a hand in all of those past things- these were the framework for today's fusion centers, the Patriot Act, domestic spying against citizens, the investment of military psychological operations married to newsrooms of major networks... there is more context to discuss than most readers would want to invest time in.

I'm writing today, the day after election day, to discuss why and when I knew this was going to happen- a highly contested race evenly split between two POTUS candidates. There will be discussion on strategy, discussion of racism, and of fascism, and a number of other factors that led to where the Americans are today. And none of it is a conspiracy, instead it is just the banality of Americans being historically American.

Trump had a real shot at winning

Today, people would say that is obvious. It wasn't obvious to most people I talked to yesterday, last week, or since November 2016. They can't believe that nearly half of the second biggest voter turnout in US history is for Trump. Some people would become combative with me if I had an earnest discussion about why, and would accuse me of being a Trump supporter, or a Trump apologist, or some kind of liberal accelerationalist. I'm none of the above; I'm just a guy with some perspective that was ignored by people who were reacting based on fear.

Fear is always underestimated and misunderstood as a motivating factor. Fear will make you see friends as enemies, enemies as friends, and bad decisions as the best decisions. Fear is why white people voted as a bloc this election. Fear is why a centrist message would go largely unheard. That filter of fear is why I had to write a three paragraph section earlier, just to get to this sentence.

Trump is an adroitly empathic speaker. His expertise is in inflaming the self interest and antipathy in others, but to do that, you need a strong empathic connection. Many people discounted him because they didn't agree with what he said, or how he said it. His success in motivating people to vote out of fear and the prejudices borne of fear should have given pause to his critics in 2016, but they had their own fears and couldn't get past self imposed filters to see how good Trump was at selling anything. He offered a nebulous promise of relief that didn't look like centrist Democrat hand wringing and Democratic dismissal of mid-sized cities and rural communities. That's all he had to do to clinch a large bloc of white voters in key states vs Clinton. All he had to do for 2020 was rinse, wash, and repeat in these uncertain times, especially since he was offered the perfect target to savage by the Democratic party- a centrist candidate with an old message. It didn't matter what the message was to people viewing the candidate through a veil of fear, they just wanted the fear to stop, and voted according to that gut motivation.

Turning off that fear filter is hard. Doing it through daily messages and contact means your message must be something that will put a hard pause on that fear. You need to make your message so unequivocal that a fearful person would say, "Hey, wait a minute, are you giving me a better avenue out? Hell, yeah!" This didn't happen during either of Trump's campaigns against the annointed Democratic candidates. This allowed Trump to dictate a continuous message of fear that needed no nuance nor polite acceptability; his message was to people who felt that nuance and polite acceptability were just excuses for their past financial marginalization in the first place, because that is what kind of filter gut level fear will put into place.

In many ways, 2016 Trump was willing to not know what he was doing, or have a road map for getting there. He sold that as a positive skill set to people primed to listen, people in battleground states that didn't fare well financially under the Obama administrations, and wanted a way out. So, he could have a stunningly incompetent campaign manager, no direct political experience whatsoever, and no plan of any kind. He could bank on his ability to reach out empathetically to the fears of others, and provide a nebulous message of "trust me and succeed". It wouldn't matter if that success was as marginal as benefiting from job growth held over from the Obama adminstration. All that would matter is these people felt they could keep their homes and run their businesses and not fail for four more years. Even Johnny Rotten caved to this thinking and endorsed Trump- because of this exact message of "I'll find a way to get you back to work!"

It didn't matter that these were all short term fixes. It didn't matter that Trump changed everything he said on a minute by minute basis. It didn't matter that real and substantial changes in healthcare and welfare needed to be put into place so these people could weather COVID. What mattered was that people who weren't used to living in fear would get to have the feeling that their fears would end immediately if they did this one thing. And Trump owned that.

Obama was the exception, not the rule

I'm going to segue a little from talking about Democratic centrists, because the accomplishments of Barack Obama need some consideration because while he had a centrist message, he was not part of the accepted Democratic party machinery, and he was punished for his unacceptability repeatedly by his own party throughout his terms in office. This should give some perspective to my criticisms of the Democratic party once I start talking about subsequent election cycles.

The clear and anointed future Democratic POTUS in 2008 was Hillary Clinton. She was who the Democratic party was talking about. She was who was dominating the news cycle. She had worked in healthcare reform under her husband. She had developed a huge amount of connections under his tenure as POTUS, and since then as well. She wasn't just the odds on favorite- nobody else was effectively running as far as the party proper and the news had decided.

Nobody knew who the heck Barack Obama was, or why he would even matter. He couldn't even get an equal amount of air time, and typically what I would see is the other Democratic candidates ganging up on him when he spoke. What he did deeply understand was Chicago politics, and how winning local influencers is how you tipped each precinct one by one into a win. That is exactly what Obama did to clinch the nomination away from Clinton in 2006. His people didn't ask for permission to use Democratic party resources- they formed their own. They did this county by county, tallying up individual districts, and mapping out how to win delegate votes that way.

During this time, the Democratic party ousted any party operative who was working with Obama's election team. Effectively, the party leadership was laying the groundwork for division in party operations for future election cycles post-Obama. There was a lot of internal acrimony between party officials who towed the centrist Clinton goal, and folks who felt Obama would be a better candidate. Ultimately, this division would mean changes to the nomination process meant to stop this from happening again.

Throughout his tenure as POTUS, Obama acted as a centrist, though he was treated as an outsider by most of his party. He would have to make repeated concessions to various Democrats even though he supposedly had a supermajority in the House and Senate. This resulted in numerous judgeships going unfilled, gutting of key features of the healthcare act, and numerous other compromises that would never have been accepted or acted upon had they come from "across the aisle" in Congress. Democrats would go on to blame filibustering Republicans for things regretted years later, but this really came down to being a party with near aristocratic expectations of "how things should be done", instead of getting things done.

Obama's own centrism laid the groundwork for Clinton having an uphill battle in 2016. He refused to permit any patient or single payer advocates into his meetings with politicians and health industry execs for his health bill. The promise of the bill quickly changed from healthcare reform to health insurance reform, but with a lot of downside for the self-employed and lower middle class. His wars were also fought with centrist flair. He depended heavily upon special operations units that were sworn to secrecy in order to avoid the appearance of large conflicts or excessive actions. This led to conservatives in the military finding common cause, which led to even further right wing radicalization of the military down the line. Obama's policies on the housing crash were also very much about "giving every player something they want", even if those players were responsible for the crisis. He reneged on promise to tie homeowner loan forgiveness to TARP funds for banks, basically allowing for mass homelessness and the largest tranfer of wealth out of African American hands in history. The banks basically got to write off the loans (free money), set the pricing for sales of the homes at auction (more free money), and bailouts for those loans (yet more free money).

Americans running their own businesses, which are a sizable chunk of rural and mid-sized city Americans, were pounded financially over and over again by these policies. Yes, jobs grew eventually. Yes, wall street was very happy. But people were still using clothes irons to cauterize wounds in their living rooms. There were enough policy exceptions under the health care act that people were still being overcharged for their doctor visits. Insurance premiums actually went up faster under health reform, rather than more slowly. Health insurance was far from being portable, and the exchanges actually offered the worst rates on coverage in the market. None of this was a good sign if you were going to be a Democrat running for election after Obama. You either needed a serious plan, or you could expect to lose the next election.

Democratic Centrists

The Democratic Party pays a lot of lip service to centrism. Centrism is this idea that you can appeal to the most people by taking the middle road. What centrists often ignore is that there is no effective "party of the left", only a party of the right. As Republicans have learned, all they need to do is keep pulling to the right, no matter how awful the reasoning. Since the "left" is also the center party, there is effectively nobody pulling from the left. This means that policy eventually pulls to the right, which leaves any real reforms regarding support of low income Americans, health care reforms, immigration reforms, or any reform that is considered trafe by the Republican party with no real representation. This is because anyone on the left in the Democratic party on these issues must not only fight the Republicans, but their very own party to even have a meaningful discussion on these subjects which are considered de facto policy in many civilized nations.

The core "elite" or bureaucratic aristocracy of the Democratic party are centrists, for whom anything smelling of left leaning is to be taken in homeopathic doses. If that sounds biased, it is so only in the delivery, but not in the reality. The Democratic party is further to the right today than the Republican party was 30 years ago. The Democratic party would be considered a hard right party in most "industrialized" nations. Unfortunately, the Democratic party is particularly incapable of that kind of self-honesty.

This results in the kind of electoral debacles that led to someone like Trump believing that he could do no worse a job as President.

Why Hillary, why?

Hillary Clinton should have been the most effective candidate in the 2016 election cycle based on her pedigree. Former first lady involved in health care reform. Former Senator from New York. Involved in politics at a very young age, and deeply invested in the Democratic party. It is a shame that she was awful at election math, had little or no empathy, and made decisions based upon expectations rather than facts.

Her loss to junior Congressmember Barack Obama in the primaries should have been a warning to her compatriots in the Democratic party apparatus that all was not as should be expected with her. She lost because she went after the popular vote in the primaries, instead of fighting over each delegate. She actually won the popular vote in the primary, by the way. Obama beat her on delegates, which is what counted in that primary, and he won. Clinton's lesson from this loss was to work to change the rules around how delegates are apportioned, rather than change out her campaign staff for people who could do math. This backfired on her during the 2016 election when she, once again won the popular vote, but lost on delegate count. Unlike the Democratic party, there is no way of her being able to change the rules around an actual contested election. She lost. Twice. To noobs.

While she was able to appeal to a narrow range of staunch Democrats, she didn't really have the kind of empathy needed to win votes outside of her party. In the first 2016 primary debates, her very favorable crowd cheered on as she criticised the Wyoming candidate for being too lax on gun control, which was in response to him saying quite correctly that he had experience working in and with red states to secure wins. Clinton's un-nuanced policy direction on gun control just provided worry fuel to people who depend on their firearms in rural areas for security and hunting. She also marginalized Sanders on his position that the party needed to lean hard left to win, which again came out as of a lack of empathy toward rural and mid to small city constituents. Overall, as an outsider, I could see her seeking praise from those she felt closest to her at the expense of anyone else. This probably worked well as a strategy in NY state- the elections there are skewed Democratic in about 8 highly populated counties, and the rest of the state is red. Elections are strictly winner takes all based on vote count alone. It doesn't surprise me that she would have thought she could ignore wide swaths of the US with a Senate experience like that. But it underscores her lack of empathy or understanding of long term consequences for ignoring other peoples' feelings, especially when her candidacy isn't built upon effective antipathy as a motivating animus.

Clinton had issues with having empathy or a visibly empathic nature to win over new followers. Many photo ops of her made it clear she had no understanding of how many voters lived, how their lives were affected by her policy, and whether she could be considered remotely trustworthy by people who would need to depend upon her to consider their needs. She had a track record of ruthlessly attacking anyone who tread on her relationships, professional or personal. Her lack of empathy one way or another outside of her bubble of influence made her an easy target for someone like Trump, who was used to winning crowds with crazy talk. She continued to stick to her base, and Trump just used that to show out of touch she was. Whether or not that was true was fundamentally immatterial to both of them.

It is difficult to win at something if you have a reputation for not backing up your people when they come to you with facts, and instead work around them to get what you want. Yes, Trump does this too. But the difference is that he is honest about what he wants and why. Hillary Clinton was not honest about her motivations, and this spilled onto people around her who were supposed to be there to help her. It turns out you don't get a lot of people supporting you if you don't have a popular message and don't have a lot of friends outside your circle of power.

This didn't stop her from consolidating power where she had it- she changed the rules around delegate apportionment to prevent someone like Barack Obama from winning like that again, and she made her personal foundation the sole set of purse strings governing the Democratic party budget process. In that way, she certainly won. This kind of behavior has cost her supporters repeatedly, but it also has cemented an archetype that the party elite have come to back in elections ever since, which has been problematic for anyone wanting any real change. This consolidation of her Centrist base in the Democratic party also had the effect of being able to set the message for Democratic candidates across the country, effectively silencing more progressive voices and ignoring impoverished constituents who were thought of as not being effective donors.

Biden, or Hillary 2.0

If Hillary Clinton made some critical and strategic mistakes to secure the 2016 presidential election, all of those fingerprints could be found across the Democratic party aligning itself behind the Biden campaign. Suppression of Sanders advocates happened early in Democratic circles. Between rules changes, and outright hostility to any idea that came out of Sanders' mouth, it was very clear that only someone close to a Democratic Centrist role was going to secure that nomination. Again, this isn't a conspiracy in action, this is just Americans being American and gravitating to what makes them feel most comfortable first, and looking at consequences never. Everybody does this, not just people from one party.

The 2020 primary cycle was a clear example of this kind of thinking in action. There was a huge raft of candidates, with many candidates basically trying to position themselves to sell their votes to whoever ended up winning. Then something odd happened. Very late in the cycle, Biden announces for 2020, and suddenly most people duck out. It was almost as if the entire party was waiting on this, and the primary candidates were just trying to see how many votes they could get in order to sell to the Biden campaign. It was also clear that once he entered the race, none of those spare delegates would go to Sanders, who once again was the primary runner up.

Biden's campaign had all of the hallmarks of Democratic Centrism. It had a candidate with a patina of liberalism. It had a vice candidate that could be called "left of center", if you only paid attention to the state she came from, not her record. Let me get back to Biden for a second. This was a man who was vehemently opposed to school bussing, has voted for draconian internet regulation, is very pro-war, and authored the Patriot Act. In any other civilized nation, he would be a neo-liberal at best (that is a type of conservative, for Americans unfamiliar), and a blatant fascist at worst. His patina of liberalism is by way of him saying that he wouldn't be against school bussing today, and his shotgun marriage to Barack Obama as vice president. Biden could have beaten Trump in 2016 for the Republican nomination if Biden's track record with Republicans hadn't been so rancorous.

Many white people voting for Biden are doing so out of fear and exhaustion. They fear all of the negative things that Trump has promised to do to them. They fear being in a country where their interests must be guarded and shepherded constantly. But this is a fear that doesn't have as wide a net to cast as the kind of fear that Trump is selling. Biden is selling the idea that you will be a right and good minded person if you vote for him against Trump. That won't counter fear as a message, it is just a weaker fear than what Trump is offering. It will be a very close election dependent upon which message best provides both the greatest fear with the promise of future relief for white people voting as a bloc.

How Much Does This Really Matter

Right now, I'm writing this not knowing who will win this 2020 election. What I'm discussing really has less to do with who wins, and more to do with why this isn't what is important. That stress so many of my white friends are feeling under this election, and generally under Trump, is the kind of stress I've had to live with most of my life. Are my relatives going to get penalized yet again at work and school because of their heritage? How is that going to change this election, again? Is my mom going to be illegally deported for being mouthy to a cop? Am I going to get chased by a pickup of guys with sticks again? Is there going to be another race riot at my kid's school as was when I was a kid? Am I going to have to deal with more racism at work? Is my kid going to be declared an illegal entity under the law? Did my job review or grades get tanked because of my heritage? I have lived with the fear that "things might suddenly change for the worse" in America pretty much all of my life, in ways that only some white people have had to deal with in the last four years. That fear, for me and mine, will not go away with a Biden nor a Trump win. Ponder on that for a minute.

I have a lot of sympathy for my white friends going through this election cycle. If Biden wins, some of them will feel relieved, and that fear will stop goading them. If Trump wins, some of them will feel relieved, and that fear will stop goading them. But in no way will I feel safer or that I will somehow benefit because either candidate won. On the one hand, I've got a person who authored a bill to spy on Americans, criminalize people based on their religion, silence dissent, allow for unwarranted and secret warrant searches, expanded police powers, and worse. On the other hand, I've got a person who simply used that same law, the Patriot Act, as it was intended and written, to pander to the fears of his constituency. Feeling either of these people will give you less to fear may be wishful thinking.

My heart goes out to everyone these fearful people have forgotten. I'm talking about people of color, vulnerable women, immigrants, and their children. The changes we need to see in our society happen from the bottom up, not the top down. Mutual support, real social networking, real assistance, concrete involvement in community level organizing efforts are all more important than this or any election. Why? Because politicians don't lead, they follow. Politicians only latch onto social movements when they have already been accepted. That isn't any kind of a leader. Leaders are people who decide to organize food closets, feed and clothe their neighbors, and push local community members to get things done. Sometimes that results in local laws, which get picked up on a regional level once some politician saw something that worked. But getting anything done at a national level means organizing at a local level, and then networking all of those groups nationally. People get caught up at that point, and put the cart before the horse, and try to organize nationally first. Its better to have a group of people who can get things done for a 6 square block area over a decade than 600 orgs that pop up and go away in 6 months.

I personally align myself with folks who work locally or in smaller groups to get simple things done over time. I've found my anxiety is much more under control. I actually get some things done. And I know that what I'm doing is having a measured effect in real peoples' lives, and my own life. This is a really nice feedback loop for continuing to help others, and if you are reading this and tired of the fear, start doing something small every day, every day forever, for someone near you who needs it.

Dumping files to a USB drive

Tue Oct 13 18:50:02 EDT 2020

While in the process of prepping for a laptop OS upgrade from OpenBSD 6.6 to 6.7, I had the opportunity to discover this error while using the dump command to create backups on a mounted USB drive:

  DUMP: Volume 1 transfer rate: 12780 KB/s
  DUMP: Change Volumes: Mount volume #2
  DUMP: Is the new volume mounted and ready to go?: ("yes" or "no")

This shouldn't show up when backing up to a regular file, especially if you declare -a (which says, don't look for the end of a tape). After some asking around, I found that this error shows up if you are using a FAT based filesystem as a dump target on your USB key drive. The solution is to make an FFS based filesystem instead:

# find your disk device name, lets say sd4
dmesg | tail
# format the drive.  Yes, seriously.
doas dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/rsd4c bs=1m
# create a new OpenBSD partition
doas fdisk -iy /dev/sd4
# create a new FFS partition.  Don't use a-c.  I'm using sd4i.
doas disklabel -E /dev/sd4
sd4> a i
offset: [64] 
size: [62669501] 
FS type: [4.2BSD] 
sd4*> w 
sd4> q
No label changes.
# run newfs on the new partition.
doas newfs /dev/sd4i
# mount the new filesystem
doas mount /dev/sd4i /mnt/ffs

Dump should run normally after that, and no longer ask for a new volume. Make sure to check your initial backups with restore -i.

California's Fire Problem

Thu Oct 8 13:23:36 EDT 2020

I'm reflecting on Daniel Duane's story on California wildfires. I recently moved from the affected region, and I consider myself an early climate change refugee. My views on this article are mostly about things peripheral to the subject, but still profoundly affect the lives of people who remain in the Northern California (NorCal) region.

The Elevation Effect

California has some of its own human introduced problems that have exacerbated climate change in the region. Right now, literally the hottest place on earth is Death Valley, California. This small desert zone is located in the southeast of the state, in the northern Mojave desert. The place can reach 134 Farenheit, and one of the main reasons this happens is because the basin is 282 feet below sea level. Elevation has a significant effect on temperature.

Keeping this in mind, the central valley has experienced substantial land subsidence since 1927. I've seen pictures by farmers in the 50s and 60s, with telephone poles put up, and a sign on them showing how much elevation had fallen since they started farming. This affects local weather patterns, making ground level hotter and contributing to unseasonable high pressure zones over the Central Valley. This has a commensurate effect of keeping rain out of the valley and surrounding hills and mountains.

The Central Valley used to be an alluvial lakebed. It would flood every year, and in doing so it would replenish the underground river aquifers and cool the region. Those aquifers cannot be replenished after they are fully depleted. They collapse in on themselves, and underground water flows change as a result. Subsidence, coupled with the inevitable loss of underground water resources and temperature increases had a cumulative effect on the local climate. What this means for farmers, and the several water districts that pre-date the state, is that there is more drilling, more subsidence... a vicious cycle. Coupled with a near religious zeal to abate mosquitos, surface water which would have replenished these resources has all been diverted. All of this can be laid at the feet of very average or above average people just being people.

In recent times, with climate change accelerating, this means that any moisture in the air gets pushed by hot winds against the very dry hills. This often results in clouds full of potential energy, which mostly get released as lightning strikes in dry elevations and brief hot rain early rains in higher elevations that melt away the mountain glaciers that used to provide summer water to most of the state's population.

Tumbleweeds in Redding

Desertification is something that children in school now have as state mandated education. A basic understanding of desertification- this is a climate process of taking good moist fertile land and turning it into pale ashy powder. The desert used to be limited to the area around San Diego, and a small SouthEast corner of the Mojave desert. Now that soil can be found as far north as Fresno, which is like watching a desert grow from Savannah, Georgia to Richmond, Virginia in your lifetime. I've also seen tumbleweeds, invasive desert plants that need dry hot weather to propagate, as far north as Redding, which would be like seeing tumbleweeds in Trenton, New Jersey. That is how fast the state is turning into desert.

This means that the soil itself doesn't have any moisture. Everything is going to be dry, the surface plants are going to be brown, and only the trees with the deepest roots will live. The surface temperatures will be warmer for the same reasons, and the winds will be drier. Dry topsoil means that even when it rains, the water will run off with any nutrients, instead of sitting there and seeping down into any remaining wells and aquifers. This will drive and exacerbate any fire that happens to crop up. I could blame climate change for this, but really all climate change is doing is making human mistakes with climate management in California more profound.

Trimming up down there

The Wired article mentions lots of undergrowth in California, and puts most of the blame on CalFire. I'd say that was an oversimplification. CalFire itself has been asking for funding to run controlled burns, but has run into opposition by NIMBY groups, the Air Resources Board, and others who all don't want polluted air. All of what I discussed in the two earlier sections culminates with a lot of stagnant hot air sitting over California.

Foremost, most of the air quality issues in California are purely human made. There is almost no public transit infrastructure in the state. Nearly everyone simply must get into a car and drive for at least 20 minutes, often twice that, just to get to work or to a store. So, a "good" day in California, outside of fire season and not accounting for rain, means there is a brown layer of smog that you can literally see on the horizon wherever you go, and often can smell and taste. On days where there has been some kind of non-fire related catastrophic event, you can see the difference in the color of the horizon and measure that difference with a ruler. That is how bad the air in California is daily. When you add any wood fire, the air in many parts of the state simply becomes dangerous to breathe, and this is one of the many reasons why burn moratoriums are put into place. In all but some small rural zones, it is now illegal to run a fireplace or pellet stove.

After considering the air quality issues, there is the State Legislature. Most of them simply do not want to deal with the issue of funding CalFire to burn down large swaths of the state in a controlled manner, so instead they waited for most of the state to burn down in an uncontrolled manner. CalFire has been asking for a $150 million increase to deal with an issue that causes billions of dollars in damage annually, and they keep getting ignored. Much of that has to do with an unfortunate tyranny of the majority by regions not directly affected by wildfires, namely Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area. While both regions have had some wildfires, they don't deal with it enough to want to fund controlled burns. This leaves other communities in peril. The city of Weed burned to the ground, significant parts of Ben Lomond, Redding and Oroville have been affected, but they don't hold enough of a majority in the Legislature to get funding approved over, say, funding for the port of Los Angeles, or for highway repairs in more populated regions.

Brush management as a topic is something that has been discussed to death in California. All of my life, I've seen people complaining that we need controlled burns, only to be argued down by people who have other agenda that they consider more important, but don't consider how much worse it will be for them later. People worried about their property values regarding damage from controlled burns now just simply don't have towns to go back to. People worried about air quality have it so bad now that some folks I know have to go to the hospital every fire season. I already mentioned the cost in dollars. But this is, again, people being people.

Wrapping up in time for Firenado season

I'm not in California anymore. I've lived there most of my life. I've seen the climate go from damp with overnight freezing weather and mountain snow in September and October to dry with rains starting in late November. I had to buy N95 masks for my kid to breathe last summer, and the visibility was down to 500 feet with ash falling from the sky. Temperatures in my hometown in the summer have gone from the high 80s and low 90s to triple digits for weeks at a time. The power and water systems are already overtaxed with these issues, and the solution has been to raise rates so high that my utilities in California would be higher than a house payment in the MidWest. So, this also means that if you are poor, your health is at stake. If you are a person of color, it is even more likely to be severely damaging, as almost all resources in California tend to be routed away from those communities.

The dread of fire season is now a palpable thing. After watching the ashes fall last summer, and considering that I was likely breathing in my former neighbors and their television sets, I decided it was time to pick up stakes and move. We left behind triple digit heat and weather that looks like Silent Hill. I'm a climate refugee, as much as the people of Tuvalu, or the Latin American migrant workers that I'm decended from.

How I Publish

Wed Oct 7 18:12:04 EDT 2020

I have vimwiki set up to use sub-directory "blog" for my blogging post(s). Running \wh as a vim command publishes this file to "~/vimwiki_html/writing/blog/".

There is a small problem, in that the vimwiki2html command thinks that a style.css should be two directories up from writing/blog, but that is easily fixed with a cronjob that runs daily to update my blog from my laptop running OpenBSD 6.6:

# update blog daily
* 23 * * *      sed -i 1,8's+"../../style.css"+"style.css"+' /home/somedude/vimwiki_html/writing/blog/*.html && \
		rsync -rtq -e ssh /home/somedude/vimwiki_html/writing/blog/ someguy@server.hosting.com:/someuser/bill.exanimate.net/

So, that's it. I run one command, and a cronjob handles the rest. I had to migrate the default style.css over to the server with another scp command, and make some minor adjustments to my .htaccess file.

At some point, I'll import older stories, but that is when I feel like it.

Reundiscombobulation of Style

Wed Oct 7 16:19:23 EDT 2020

I'm very happy with VimWiki. I've used it to replace most of my note taking, which used to depend upon MS OneNote, and later a variety of tools which didn't meet my needs. I've decided to simply let vimwiki decide how my HTML comes out, and I'm not going to try to come up with some special method to organize my posts.

When I look at my blog, it is just a bunch of posts by date. While they can be viewed individually, really it is just one big page of text with link references. I can just as easily make one big page of text and have in page anchors, which vimwiki automatically generates. Archival is done annually anyways, so if you want older posts, they will be in 2019, 2018, or some special category at the top or bottom of this page. Search isn't such an issue, as modern browsers do a good job of in page searching, and I can't see any need for more than that.