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And Then What?
I cannot grok
The right wing’s plot
With my strategy decoders

But it’s not vague
They want the plague
To kill off all their voters
Finessing the Monster
I took a class last weekend about wildfires. The focus of the two-day course was a detailed examination of exactly what happens when a wildland fire burns down your house…or doesn’t. We got pretty deeply into the data about what is going on during one of these events, and the search offered a number of surprises.

I used to have a pretty dramatic notion of how wildfires destroyed homes. I imagined the fire as an irresistible, all-consuming monster that swept across a landscape consuming everything in its path. The metaphor did not come with much in the way of specifics, but it did carry a full load of emotional baggage, especially fear.

I did pick up some hard-won specifics last year when the path that the monster took came close enough to my house to destroy the homes of two neighbors only yards away. The monster never showed itself in the way my metaphor suggested. There was no three hundred foot wall of flame, no exploding buildings, no howling behemoth of incineration. Instead, it operated remotely with windblown embers that could travel for miles. If one of those embers (“firebrands”, the pros call them) were to find a small collection of dry leaves, twigs, or other natural detritus and ignite it, then that is where the trouble started. If the collection was sufficiently large (not very large at all, as it turned out), it might burn long enough to spread to other fuel and finally to a dwelling.

The speed and intensity with which such accumulations burn does not need to be high. As long as there is more fuel nearby to sustain the flame, it might go anywhere, slowly but dangerously.

In fact, I learned over the weekend that even when the monster is right there within a relatively short distance of your home, fully visible and giving off immense amounts of radiant heat, it is not the huge flames themselves that consume the structure. Rather, it is small, ignitable accumulations very close to the building (or some fuel source attached to it) that are the immediate source of danger.

Even if the building is heated well beyond human tolerances, even if it is charred by the heat, it will not ignite if there is no flame right next to the building to set it off. If this small flame is not there to ignite the flammable gas being released by the charring, the monster will often roar past and leave the home intact. As in the case of a creeping fire set off by a firebrand, some small pile of burning fuel very near the building is what would be needed to activate ignition.

This new notion about the nature of wildfire has been an inspiration to me. There is something about being able to protect your home from a rampaging, all-powerful monster just by doing a little light raking that is very appealing. I sense that there is some very zen lesson to be drawn from that irony, but I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it. If I find it, perhaps it will be useful in dealing with some other monsters…like the virus, the climate, injustice, or death itself.

There is, of course, a whole list of other fire safety measures that deserves attention. But what fun is there in thinking about putting on a new roof? For now I am happy to meditate on the idea of one man against the monster, armed only with a rake.
Whoever said the English lack confidence? What other country would have the nerve to call themselves Great Britain?

If it’s your country, I guess there’s no reason you can’t pick any name you want. But I do wonder whether it’s wise to go with such a self-aggrandizing moniker…especially if you insist that other countries address you in that way. Imagine, for instance, if France changed its name to Smokin’ Hot France. Or if Chile demanded we call it Best Country on Earth Chile. How about Master Race Germany? I am certain there would be some resistance among the community of nations to such moves.

Of course, there are some situations that might justify the use of the name “Great.” No one would deny that the Great Lakes are, in fact, great (at least in terms of total surface area). Same with the Great Plains. And, of course, the great outdoors. Alexander the Great had the resumé to justify the name (though you might object to the way he earned it). And I will allow Great Dane (even though the Irish Wolfhound is technically greater).

We know, of course, that Britain was pretty great for a while. Like Alexander, they established a serious empire back in the day. Not only did Britannia rule the waves, it acquired (stole) a lot of real property around the globe. But those days are long gone, and soon, it appears, we’ll be adding Scotland to their list of lost conquests. “United Kingdom?” Not any more.

I suppose it’s too much to ask that Britain undertake a formal name change. It’s already on all the uniforms and the stationery. But it is unfortunate…and a bit sad. Among other things, the name calls attention to the fact that Britain is now a long, long way from whatever greatness it may have had. Other countries might not be offended by the Anglo’s ostentation (as they would rightly be by “Great United States”), but you couldn’t blame them for snickering up their sleeves at the notion of Great Britain.

So, what to do? We can’t expect them to follow the lead of the Lesser Antilles and go completely humble. (They do, after all, have the H-bomb.) But maybe they should drop the “great,” stop talking about the “United Kingdom” altogether, and quietly let the stationery be used up and the uniforms wear out. And then, without fanfare, begin to simply introduce themselves as “Britain.” Or even “England.”

I guarantee no one would even notice, much less care.
Vax Clamantis in Deserto
There is a new twist in the plot of the pandemic. Oh, we are still slogging through a swamp of endless recalculation as we confront new variants and the latest spike in infections, but one turn in the story is providing a ray of hope. It is time, apparently, to finally start villainizing the unvaccinated.

The first shot fired in this new chapter came from a Republican politician, of all people. Kay Ivey, the otherwise Trumpish governor of Alabama, admitted in a press conference last week that "Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.” Okay, good on you, Kay. Then, a few days later, another granny, this one from the opposite end of the political spectrum, got in on the action. Nancy Pelosi, the normally circumspect Speaker of the House, called Kevin McCarthy a “moron” for criticizing the House physician’s reinstatement of a mask mandate on the floor.

Game on. Since then, there has been a rising tide of castigation in the media for the anti-vaxxers, the disinformationers, and yes, the morons who are preventing us from escaping the clutches of COVID-19. News stories, opinion pieces, and cartoons have all gotten sharper and less forgiving of these people.

Good. Today, there was a story in the Times reporting that people would have to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining and fitness centers. It’s about time. No, you don’t have to get the shot, but stay the hell away from me and the rest of us non-morons. You are the problem; you should take the heat.


Okay, I got that off my chest. Now for another quick update about Head First, my soonish-to-be-completed comic novel.

Last week, I let on that I would be raising money for this project on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. There is nothing there yet to be seen, but I got a very encouraging response to this news tidbit. Some of you want to send money right now. I certainly don’t want to discourage this worthy impulse, but I must ask that you hold off a bit longer with your investment. I promise to give you plenty of notice — including clickable links — when I’m ready to launch the campaign.

Until then, here’s another tidbit: those who support the effort at a certain level (I’m not sure exactly where that will be, but it won’t be high) will have their names in the book. More later.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon