Wednesday afternoon quick hits (and Open Thread)

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s raining!!!  In California, that’s cause for celebration.  Rain in Marin doesn’t mean it’s raining elsewhere, but it certainly matters to use Marin-ites — we have our own reservoir system, so we’re wholly dependent on local rainfall.  Ironically, the rain is slowing down our major yard renovation, and we have to get that renovation down before April 1, when rationing kicks in (and rationing will happen unless we get enormous amounts of rain).  Sigh.  To ever silver lining, there seems to be a cloud.

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Since I’m on the subject of weather, here’s a two-fer about the grand hoax that is climate change. The first, from American Thinker, provides compelling evidence that every single carbon centered computer model about the climate has proven to be wrong. Not just sort of wrong, mind you, but absolutely, completely, super-duper wrong. Climate theorists are now blaming volcanoes for the warming failure, but they’ll blame anything, won’t they? If you have a non-falsifiable doctrine, you can always blame external forces for your doctrine’s inevitable failure.

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I’ve also got three great articles about Israel. The first looks as all the wonderful things going on in Israel despite the world’s efforts to squash that tiny, brilliant nation. The second looks at the grotesque hypocrisy that sees gay rights advocates champion Palestinians at the expense of Israel. The third looks as the fact that Israel stands poised to save Syrians, the rest of the Middle East, and perhaps the whole world, from the unfathomable danger of a nuclear Syria.

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Traditionally in America, a state attorney general is sworn to uphold the laws of the state. After all, if the AG doesn’t do that, what’s his purpose? He’s there to represent and ensure the stability, reliability, and credibility of the law.  If he doesn’t carry out that task, he just becomes another functionary in a banana republic. And that banana republic status is precisely what U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder dreams of, for he has instructed state AG’s to ignore any law that supports traditional marriage.

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I’ve written here frequently about the lunacy that is the modern American college or university. This is a subject that exercises me a great deal because I have two children heading towards college in the next few years. As many Americans do, I’m deeply offended by the cost of college, especially the cost of the once prestigious liberal arts colleges back East. It’s insane to spend or borrow $250,000 so that your child can move into your basement and become a barista. In a changing world, colleges have actually changed in the wrong direction.  They’ve turned away entirely from educating young people to become useful and productive citizens.

What colleges have done, instead, is train youngsters to become lunatics, which is my second reason for being upset about modern American higher education. Last week, Bruce Bawer warned about a lunatic Leftist at Harvard. This week, Chicks on the Right warns about a whole cadre of potentially violent lunatic Leftists as Dartmouth. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this collection of young people expensively unmoored from reality comes from deep within the fever swamps of the gay rights movement.

I’ll say here what I always say: I believe that the government should stay out of people’s bedrooms. I believe that gay people should be free from discrimination, harassment, violence, etc. I believe that the heart loves where it will. But let’s get real here: These loony-toonz aren’t about gay rights.  They are about using the gay agenda as a wedge issue to destroy America as a free-market, individual-centered society, and to replace it with a hard-core centralized government and a socialized economy. I wonder if these “idealists” have any inkling that, when/if they’ve finally achieved their agenda they’ll meet the same fate that leading-edge revolutionaries always experience, whether in 18th Century France, or Russia, or China:  The new statist government identifies them as troublemakers and kills them first.

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My sister lives in Oregon, a state that has as its primary goal the creation of happiness. We’ve talked before about the fact that a state can impose “happiness” only if it first has the right to define “happiness.”  The reality, is that there’s only a slender likelihood that the state bureaucrat’s idea of what constitutes “happiness” is the same as your idea.  Moreover, if not everyone is happy — and no one can ever be — the situation is ripe for constant revolution. Still, Oregon tries. The libertarians on the Eastern side are constantly besieged by the statists on the Western, coastal side, who have turned Oregon into one of the most heavily regulated, and least economically successful, states in America. (For more on happiness, at a deep, philosophical level, rather than at a pop-culture, “everything is free” level, check out Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual.)

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And finally, knowledge that I gleaned in my youth catches up with the present. I’ve written before about my years at Berkeley, when I socialized with ultra-Leftist professors who lived in lavish houses in the Berkeley hillside, all of which seemed to be tended by Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners. These effete, armchair revolutionaries enjoyed their Marxism because they lived on the straining back of the servant class.

That was a long time ago, but one modern-day Leftist has finally admitted that, yes, needing servants is precisely why the Leftist idle rich are so gung-ho about illegal immigrants:

As a friend of mine said after watching that, “If a conservative of any stripe were to insinuate undocumented workers were all gardeners, landscapers, and hotel workers the race card would have been played before he could even finish the sentence.”

Getting back into drought mode

Life in the Dust Bowl

Life in the Dust Bowl

I was in high school during the last major California drought.  I found it a very traumatic experience.  Thankfully, we didn’t end up with a Dust Bowl, and we didn’t have mass starvation of the type one periodically sees in Africa.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things could get that bad.

As a teen, I resented the imposition of water rationing.  I found disgusting the whole “when it’s yellow, let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down” mantra.  Truly, I felt that it’s my God-given right as an American to flush my stuff and, when I approach a bathroom, to know that you flushed your stuff too.  My parents tried to save their lawn by catching the water from the last rinse cycle in the washing machine, but it died despite those efforts.

Our house was filled with buckets in the kitchen and the bathroom, and all non-carpeted floors were hazardous, since the act of shlepping buckets from bathtub to toilet or sink to plants meant that the floors were perpetually covered with drips.  Step wrong and your bathroom turned into a skating rink.

yellow let it mellowAs you’ve probably seen in the news, California is having another drought, although this one is worse than the last big one in the 1970s.  (Interestingly, the last big drought coincided with the last big Polar Vortex.  Hmmm.)  The timing couldn’t be worse for my family, because we’ve already sunk substantial sums of money into a project requiring water, not to mention having signed contracts for that same project.  It’s unclear whether the project can go forward.  Worse, because of the signed contracts, we’re in a situation where we’ll still have to go forward with the least satisfying part of the project., which doesn’t require water.  Blech.

What’s also fascinating (to me, at least), is how quickly I’m back in the groove of water rationing.  I guess it’s like riding a bike — you never forget.  I’ve collected buckets, I’m saving bath water, I’m saving hand-washing water for the kitchen sink to use when I need to run my garbage disposal, etc.  I’ve told the kids that the only clothes that get washed are the genuinely dirty ones, that they have to keep their bathing to an efficient minimum, and that they can’t run any water while they brush their teeth.  Oh, and my garden is dead as a doornail.  My home looks derelict in the extreme.

We’ll get through this one, of course, but I’m not looking forward to the drought’s run.  It’s depressing.  Very, very depressing.

The costs of being a homeowner, and other Friday ruminations

I spent the day making house doesn't look like this one.

I spent the day making sure that my house doesn’t look like this one.

I have had a busy day.  The dishwasher sprang a leak that was, thankfully, easy to repair:  the repairman put in a new seal and the leak was over.  He was here for about 20 minutes and put in one 6-foot-long seal.  Thankfully, we have appliance insurance, because he said that, without the insurance, the repair would have cost $250.00 for parts and service.  Yikes!

The dishwasher wasn’t the only thing leaking.  The upstairs bathtub was leaking into the garage.  We had one plumber out yesterday who diagnosed a tub waste overflow and said it would cost $700 to fix.  We politely sent him away.  I called around and another guy said that he thought it would take an hour to fix, at a cost of $250 per hour for labor, plus $100 for the part — but it might be more, and could come up close to $700.  Better, but not good enough.

I called around one more time, and got a guy who said that he’d do it for a flat fee of $350 based on my say-so.

I asked, surprised, “So you’re going to base the price just on what I said?”

He answered with another question, stated in a friendly voice.  “Are you lying to me?”

“Gosh, no,” I said.  “But I’m just telling you what the other guy said.  I didn’t actually see it myself.”

He thought about that for a minute and then said, “Why don’t I just come by tomorrow [Friday] and check it out?”

That sounded like a plan.  He came by, he checked it out, and he announced that it was a simple fix that he could do right away — for $135.  When he was done, he told me, “I’m going to give you a bill, but don’t pay it now.  Keep an eye on things until Monday.  If it’s still good, put a check in the mail.  If it’s not, I’ll come out again, but I won’t charge any more than $350 if we have to replace the tub waste overflow part.”

So far, despite shower use, there’s been no further leaking.

For those of you who live in Marin County, if you’d like this honest paragon’s name, send me an email and I’ll give you the information.  You can probably find him on Yelp:  He’s the guy with 102 five-star recommendations, all saying the same thing:  incredibly reliable, honest, and good at what he does.  I can’t argue with that.  In fact, I’ll be the 103rd five-star recommendation if all continues to go well.

The plumber had scarcely left when the landscape guys showed up.  Our pool, which was the delight of the neighborhood children, is now a dysfunctional swamp.  Built 45 years ago, despite our best efforts to keep it going, it finally gave up the ghost this summer.  As is always the case, once we decided we needed to redo the pool, we realized we also needed to redo the cement surround . . . and, hey, if we’re doing that, maybe we’d better smarten up the whole place.  We hired a landscape designer who came up with a lovely idea that was more expensive than we wanted.  We’ve worked with him, though, and seem to have come up with a plan in our price range.  The only sticking point now is whether the Marin drought will make the whole process impossible.

Droughts make me very, very unhappy. I was in high school when the big drought hit at the end of the 1970s.  Despite living most of my life in semi-arid climates, I love water and I especially love rain.  Not having rain makes me feel emotionally dried-up inside.  I also hate water rationing.  I don’t know what we’d have to do this time around, but I’m sure I won’t like it.  Back in the 1970s, we bathed in two inches of water, and then saved the water in buckets so as to flush the toilets.  My mom captured the rinse load from the washing machine to use to water her garden, but all the plants died anyway.  Everything looked dead and barren — and the toilets smelled bad.  I bet many of you remember “When it’s yellow let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down”?  I really hated that.

I know that drought here is a cyclical thing.  It’s happened before and it will happen again, and it will probably be followed by winters with such heavy rains that everything floods.  The floods make for miserable driving, and periodically destroy vast swathes of homes, but I still prefer a wet winter to a drought.

This is just another reminder, as if we need one, that Nature likes to let us know that we are as nothing before her.  We can try to minimize her impact, but we cannot control her.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t read anything or written anything today.

Thinking about that last statement, it’s not quite accurate.  Oyster Books, which advertises unlimited books (the Netflix of books) is offering a one month free trial.  I thought that sounded interesting, so I signed up, remembered to calendar the date by which I have to cancel if I don’t want to continue with the service, and started reading.  Thanks to this temporary membership, between visits from repairmen, landscape designers, and plumbers, I am reading 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, a delightful social history of New York’s Lower East Side as seen through the food different immigrant groups ate. I love this kind of book (one of my favorites is No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting), and 97 Orchard is well written.

And that’s all.  I’ve a small mountain of bills to pay, so that too will keep me away from my beloved blog.  So it goes.  At least I finished my legal brief, which got filed today.  I think it’s a winner, but one never knows what those judges are going to do….