Hazy and Smoky (with photos); and a change I can feel: Rain’s Coming.

This morning, I’ve been enjoying a rare privilege of sitting outside in the sunrise, with a cup of coffee and a dog companion.

The breeze is up; a welcome change from this summer, when all we had were lighter winds that heralded the change from hot to hotter; or from strength-sapping oppressiveness to I’m-glad-it’s not-so-awfully-hot-today.

We had a strong cover of smoke and cloud last night, so we didn’t get very cold; about 58° overnight. This morning we have an East wind of about 10 knots, varying up and down by about 7 knots each way. We have some light ashfall coming from the fires in the Gorge, but nothing like earlier.

The humidity is way down; in the high teens to low 20s. I’ll miss that, but I’m glad to trade it for cooler weather and rains to put out the forest fires.

Locally, the Archer Mountain fire is under control and is being slowly knocked down. This is the fire that is only about ten miles away from us and was raining ashes and blackened evergreen needles everywhere here for a few days.  There was a lot of concern about some of those ashes still being live, but thankfully, no secondary fires.

Now the haze and smoke are almost to the point of being oppressive. Our house is tight, and we’ve kept it closed up, but my poor wife is suffering terrible coughing fits. Out here, my eyes are streaming, and even the light effort of watering the flowerbed brings on coughing.

And right now, we have no health insurance. (This is a post for another time, and I need to let my rage at the Dilbertian COBRA payment system cool a bit before I write about it.)

Back to the weather:
Here are some photos of how things are right now. I’ll start with a few grab shots on my way home yesterday. I-84 is finally, finally, open westbound, meaning that my two-hour drive is finally back to an hour.

On the way home, anyway.

It’s still almost a two-hour drive to work. At about 50 MPH, as we’ll get some slowpoke up in front of about forty cars, someone who is completely oblivious to the line behind. Listen, WSDOT: If you want things to be safer on SR-14 in the Gorge, put up a few signs. I even have the slogan: “Keep a mind for those behind. If you want to go slow and sight-see, please pull over periodically and let everyone by.”

So back to the drive home. Here’s a shot when it was safe to grab one on the I-84 highway. I’ll say up front that camera angles won’t be perfect, as I prefer keeping my attention on my driving, rather than grabbing a snapshot. Visibility was about 2500 feet at this point, but in some places you had to be careful, because it would suddenly go down to 100 feet. You can see a big patch of smoky obscurity coming up:

These photos also show the great curse of automatic cameras: due to software tweaks, they see better than you do. Keep this in mind as you look at these photos. Things are quite a bit more obscure than you see here.


Here’s coming into Cascade Locks. Note how everything looks so deserted. Well, yeah, and smoky.



Crossing The Bridge Of The Gods. You can’t see the far end of the bridge – and it’s not all that long.


Looking East, toward Cascade Locks:


And looking West, toward North Bonneville. Yes, those are streamers of smoke from the forest fires.


Finally, home… And the Ridge is just a looming presence in the haze.



Oh yes, we can’t wait for the rain. It’s been since June 15th.


Wish me luck, I’m going in… Windows 10. And I found a bug already.

Since I seem to have been elected the IT guy for our church, the step to Win10 may be a logical one. But first we need a test case.
That’s me.
Deep breath, here we go…


Oh great…



Two and a half hours later… it works …great…? Well, ‘as good as before’ is a better characterization.

I do suggest going to PCWorld and looking at their articles about how to keep the surveillance factors down; they’re quite valuable. For instance, I find it kind of creepy that Cortana can use my laptop’s camera and mic to keep track of me. Those articles show you how to turn all that stuff off, and let your computer be your servant, not your slave.

Speaking of laptops, there is a startup bug that is manufacturer-specific.

Some laptops, when cold-started, will hang on the initial screen with the ‘whirling dots’ icon. You can tell it’s hung because the dots halt completely. Holding the power button down to force a power-off, then clicking it again to restart the computer brings a normal boot. The culprit is ‘fast start’, which some manufacturers use, to get the system up quicker. If you do a search for ‘Win 10 boot hang fast start’, it should take you right to the solution.

Not all the region’s fires are on the news

For instance, the one that’s 12 miles away from us here on the side of the mountain. Yes, only 12 miles away. When I got up yesterday at about SIX AM – thanks to Wheaton, who won’t let me sleep in – and we went down to get the paper at the end of the lane, it was a quiet, clear, morning.

As we got back up to the house, the wind was starting to pick up from the morning calm. And a few minutes later, it brought smoke. A lot of smoke.

A couple hours later, I went outside for a moment and began to cough from the density of the smoke. You could tell that the wind had whipped up the local fire; and the flow down the Gorge was bringing smoke from the East and North.

I was busy with projects around the house and property, so didn’t have time to grab a snapshot until the afternoon. By then you could tell that the local crews had gotten control of the smaller local fire – couldn’t smell it so much – but there was still a lot of haze. Saw the evening news and people in Portland are complaining about the little bit of stuff they have in the air there. However, when you look toward the Ridge, and can’t see much more than the outline of the trees, now THAT’s smoky. I did manage to grab the phone and make a snapshot in the afternoon. To imagine what it looked like earlier in the day, these trees were visible only as dark smudges. The stupid phone camera has no manual mode, so auto-corrects for brightness and contrast. Photobucket allows me to get at least a little back, so here’s a pretty good representation of what it looked like:


Let us remember to pray for the safety of those who are fighting these fires; may God grant them strength equal to the task, and keep them safe as they work.

An unfiltered, direct comment on how to control Ebola, from a person currently working in Sierra Leone

First let me attribute this comment. It was posted in the Financial Times, this morning. If I read the FT’s copyright statements correctly (and I’m sure I do, from having no small amount of experience with copyrights), I am allowed to pass this along in this manner.

This was written by John Galani. I’m doing some minor editing and formatting which the short-form commentary system the FT uses does not allow, and this will make reading easier.

His story is below; it makes for blunt and impactful reading.


As a person working in Sierra Leone and directly impacted by it, I can say first hand the issues are both complex and varied.

First, the issue of leadership: the problem is that you are dealing with governments in West Africa that are months behind salary payments, not staffed with knowledgeable public servants in the Western sense of the way, but “bureaucratic employees” and a merry-go-round of politicians, who are untrained in the field of public services to say the least.

It does not mean there is no goodwill, just that the machinery of government is dysfunctional at the best of times; let alone in such a major crisis.  Imagine a horror movie where the actors were oblivious to the mounting threat and then belatedly the government driver is now desperately trying to start the car when the epidemic is surrounding the broken down vehicle… and you get the picture.  Giving money to such institutions, although required, will not achieve immediate results, and even less the required one, hence why so much current funding is indirect.

The second issue revolves around the wider implications of Ebola, akin to firefighters destroying a building by dosing it with water trying to put out the fire on the top floor: medical facilities where doctors and nurses are neither trained for, nor equipped to combat Ebola, and have even collapsed as some of them were infected.

The medical map is now of major hospitals with Ebola wards and minor ones closing.  The population at large does not wish to use hospitals with Ebola screening and treatment wards for obvious reasons; therefore multiple health problems go untreated.  Food in locked-down areas is hard to come by and certainly more expensive, and this in a subsidence economy which cannot afford such price rises.

Seasonal planting, schools, jobs related to all these sectors and the wider public sector whose meagre funding is now being shifted to Ebola fighting, all these conspire to a breakdown of central governance.  It is also rather unfortunate, but true, that the local population has lived through such times in the past, and can bear it better than we in Europe could, but still.

Now what does one do about all this…?

The solution is actually quite simple, as it is in most major cases: you use a hammer:

The base case scenario is for Western armies to step in with the chemical and biological units. A form of martial law needs to be imposed with quarantine areas, and large scale assistance to the local population which will neither be able to feed itself nor continue normal life until this is over.  If we were to do this it would all be over in 3 to 4 months, with certain areas taking less time, and others going to the buffers, and potentially longer but only a regional basis.

Any other way, which would impeded less on the local democratic institutions and would take into account the human rights of the population, would take longer.  How much longer would be linked to the loss of efficiency versus the method described above.

It is for the local governments to decide their fate, but I would urge them to understand they are not equipped, nor could they ever be anywhere quick enough with whatever money could be thrown at them, to deal with the outbreak.  If they do not take such courageous decisions, the world will likely contain their countries rather than Ebola, as is happening now.  This should be linked to long term funding of their depleted reserves and infrastructure once this is over.

I remember conversing with a trauma surgeon who told me when they got an emergency case in their job was to save the live of the patient, nothing else, and if that meant scaring, amputating or any form of “butchering” in order to save a life, so be it…

A chillingly prescient piece in the Financial Times about ISIS; it is worth your notice and your time in reading

Those of you who know me know that part of my job consists of market research. I get several publications and sift for the large story, then pass it to a colleague who pulls out the relevant details.

But sometimes there’s a story that sticks with you.

Case in point was an extraordinarily prescient piece in the Financial Times around the end of May. In it, the author pointed out that all of the current conflict has been brewing for a while, and it is not border-related. Rather, one has to consider the peoples involved.  Looking back at it again, it is chilling in its accuracy.

I submit that this will give you a mind-opening look into the entire region, and once you begin reading through the article, many things about the current situation there will snap sharply into focus.

I cannot quote the Financial Times directly as they are heavily copyrighted and well-lawyered. But here is the link. I’ll drop it in as plain text and also as a link so that if your browser can’t make sense of it, then you can copy-and-paste, or even Google the search term.

Middle East: Three nations, one conflict



This is indeed worth passing along.

Shout out to The Ed Show

I’ve never been any kind of a fan of a TV or radio “host” who stays isolated in a warm, dry studio and tells everybody what to think.

Likewise, conspiracy theorists and people (let alone so-called “news” organizations) who make up stories, falsify images with PhotoShop, and generally conspire to mislead people in the name of their point of view; these are people who must be ignored. I try not to make a judgement in any way; that’s God’s job. At the same time, I don’t watch a lot of this stuff, because I don’t appreciate “being yelled at”, which seems to be the style of presentation of many of these people. Sure, they can get enthusiastic, but talk TO me, not AT me. Employ some broadcast etiquette, wouldja? Okay, enough.

I have always had a respect for news-gatherers who actually take the time and shoe leather to find out the facts, and then report them as honestly as possible without coloring them to one point of view or another; no matter if the facts disagree with the reporter’s personal opinion. If you’re reporting the news, then you have a moral obligation to integrity. 

Which brings me to Ed Shultz, on MSNBC.  He has been talking about the Keystone XL pipeline, and has been on both sides of the project: First from an environmental point of view, he was against it, but then because of the hazards in transporting this more dangerous type of crude (fires and spills), he thought maybe the pipeline would be the safest way to move the product.

So he had been in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, but had heard from a number of viewers that maybe he ought to rethink that position. Which brought him to needing to know the facts.

And here’s the part that brings me more respect for him: He actually went there and found out for himself. 


Real, actual, in-the-field reporting.

And people in Nebraska noticed. It’s in the papers, and on their websites. Here’s a link to a sample. 

Good for you, Ed Shultz. Good for you for showing others how it’s supposed to be done.