[syndicated profile] cliffmass_feed

Posted by Cliff Mass

A deepening marine layer this morning resulted in a period of very light drizzle, producing a trace (less than .01 inches) of precipitation at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

As a result, we have lost the chance for a big record:  the first July or any month without any precipitation at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, a location with data back to 1948.

The visible satellite imagery this morning at 9 AM shows marine clouds over western WA.


And the Seattle Space Needle Panocam shows a very moist, drippy lower atmosphere.

The hourly observations shows the precipitation event (L- indicates very light rain and T means trace). Drizzle started at 6:42 AM and ended 7:29 AM).


Since we had only a trace of rain, we still might beat the big record--the record number of days in a row without measurable rain  (51 days).  

Today, we are at day 40.  The latest European Center model ensemble forecast prediction for 24-h precipitation suggests we are on the edge for beating the record, particularly with a potential light event on August 31st when the ensemble mean reaches .012 inches.


Keep your fingers crossed.

Orbit US turns 10

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:56 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll



Over the last decade, Orbit US, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, has quickly established itself as one of the premiere publishers of science fiction and fantasy, and a reliable source for everything from innovative works of science fiction to blockbuster epic fantasies. To celebrate the milestone, a selection of landmark Orbit titles is currently available on Nook for just $2.99 each, but we wanted to do more than point you toward some great titles, so we asked Orbit’s publisher, Tim Holman, to share a bit of history. Below his comments, you’ll find a timeline of key dates in Orbit’s history.

<a href="https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/orbit-books-turns-10-take-look-decade-milestones/>More here</a>

an experiment in RSI

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:12 pm
sistawendy: (smartass hester)
[personal profile] sistawendy
I've been wondering lately which is worse for the RSI in my wrist: vigorous, frequent jilling off, or the integrated, flat rectangular keyboards with chiclet keys that come with Macbooks? Evidently it's the latter. I have fancy new Kinesis Advantage keyboards at work and at home, but I've also been a bit... reckless otherwise. I'm feeling some ill effects, maybe - it's hard to get away from the chiclets completely - but nothing compared to months past.

This is good news, to say the least.

Shortlinks

Jul. 27th, 2017 06:47 pm
[syndicated profile] jwz_blog_feed

Posted by jwz

Shortlinks are terrible for all kinds of reasons, but this post isn't about that. But let me get that part out of the way first:

  • They obscure the destination you're about to click on, making them a primary tool for phishing attacks.
  • They train people that not looking at their link destinations is a reasonable thing to do.

  • Each shortening "service" introduces a new point of failure: when, not if, they go out of business, they have broken a vast swath of the web equivalent to their market share.

  • The real reason that link shorteners exist is not actually to save typing, or reading, but as a tool of surveillance: the shortening "service" wants to interject itself between your mouse and the destination site to sell those hit statistics to other people.

  • Twitter, who inflicted this blight upon the world in the first place, won't even respect the shortlinks that sites provide on their own, but instead double-encode them using their own shortener. They say this is for "security" reasons but that's a bald-faced lie that I'm sure I don't have to... unpack... for you.

So, all that aside -- it's still an interesting numerical / bit-twiddling problem, on a purely technical level.

Back when I switched to WordPress, I noticed that the "shortlinks" it generated for every post were terrible. They really weren't that short at all, just appending the base 10 numeric post ID to the blog's base URL. They were barely shorter than the long URL that includes the post's whole subject. So I wrote a plugin to do better. For example, the blog post:

    https://www.jwz.org/blog/2011/08/base64-shortlinks/

has this default shortlink:

    https://www.jwz.org/blog/?p=13240780 (35 bytes)
Other services give us:
    http://tinyurl.com/3et9fw7 (26 bytes)
    http://bit.ly/qbFuII (20 bytes)
    http://goo.gl/xraFX (19 bytes)
    http://t.co/jJAv1SQ (19 bytes)
    http://dnklg.tk/ (16 bytes)





My code gives us:

    http://jwz.org/b/ygnM (21 bytes)

I did that by just encoding the post's ID number in base64, which is the same thing those other shorteners do, except that the ID in question is intrinsic to the post. Other shorteners either just increment a global variable, or pick a random non-conflicting number. Of course the smaller that number is, the more traversable the space is, which can be a problem.

But since the post's ID number isn't a secret maybe it could be shorter? Could it be fewer than 4 bytes? Sure, if your post IDs were smaller. By default, a brand new WordPress blog gives its first post the ID 100, which encodes as "ZA". This blog currently has 9469 posts, so that would have still been way down in the three-byte space, "JP0". The post IDs don't increase quite monotonically (the number increases every time you do a preview, among other things), but it still would have fit in three.

Unfortunately, I used to host my blog on Livejournal, and only migrated it here in 2010. The tool I used to import the blog preserved Livejournal's post ID numbers in the WordPress database. Those were already four bytes: "FDWn" was the last one. And then immediately after that, something went wonky with the import, and subsequent WordPress IDs jumped by eleven million for some reason, all the way up to "ygO-". If I had noticed it at the time, I could have done surgery to pull that number back down, but since then there have been almost 5,000 more posts, and I suspect that WordPress might lose its mind if post IDs are non-increasing. It doesn't matter, though, because these IDs will still fit in 4 bytes for the next 3.5 million posts.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided to waste some time making shortlinks for the DNA web site. Since there was no Livejournal fuckery, the WP blog over there already had nice and small IDs that fit in three bytes, so its shortlinks looked like http://dnalounge.com/b/FAM. But I thought it might be interesting to make shortlinks for the various other pages on the site, too. Most of those pages are date-based, so that suggests a way to generate unique IDs that are predictable and do not require a global counter: just use the date! But a time_t is a big number that takes six bytes to encode, so that won't do.

So I computed the number of days since the Epoch instead of the number of seconds (no, you can't just divide, because of leap years and daylight savings). Then there's the matter of the directory (is this a blog post, a calendar page, a flyer page, a gallery page?) and the room suffix (is this a daytime event in the main room, a nighttime event in Above DNA, etc?) So I use 3 bits for each of those, adding 6 bits to the 15-bit day number, and a 21-bit number still handily encodes as 4 bytes.

So here's a gallery: http://dnalounge.com/b/G0O6 and its calendar page: http://dnalounge.com/b/C0O6 and flyer: http://dnalounge.com/b/E0O6 and a blog post from around the same time: http://dnalounge.com/b/AUPC. That they start with low capital letters means there's plenty of space left.

Of course those aren't actually all that short, since unsurprisingly, whoever was squatting "DNA.com" back in 1998 never answered my email when I tried to find out what their price for it would be. But if someone wanted to buy me "dnaloun.ge" from the Registrar of the Great Nation of Georgia, I wouldn't say no.

BTW, autocomplete keeps changing "shortlink" to "chortling", which is what I think we should call them now.

Previously.

theme: walking around the north end

Jul. 27th, 2017 11:05 am
sistawendy: (flirty hippy)
[personal profile] sistawendy
On the way to get my hair done yesterday I ran into A, the seamstress who'll be doing part of my birthday ensemble. Fun fact: years ago, I dated A a few times. I knew A had just had a bad breakup and was looking for a place to live & sew. She still can do the commission and wants it. (Whew!) What I wasn't sure of was the identity of her erstwhile partner & apartment mate: N, who holds the distinction of being the only woman ever to grab me by the hair, get me up against a wall, and make out with me. As much as I love having several of my buttons mashed at the same time, the sensible side of me says I dodged at least one bullet.

Drinks on Phinney Ridge* with [personal profile] minim_calibre Tuesday evening. It was a bonding experience: two middle-aged queer ladies with kids and much else in common. This only happens once in a purple moon, and I wish it happened way more often. She walked me home down the ridge, and then asked which way back up to her car was least likely to trash her knees. Aw! And yikes!

Yesterday, an increasingly rare dinner at home with the Wendling followed by dragging him up the ridge to catch the sunset. Good: he whined about that less than he used to. Bad: he expressed the opinion that I'll never find Ms. Right. He makes the absolutely ironclad point that it gets harder as you get older. Thanks a lot, kiddo.



*Cocktails for me, mocktails for her, because reasons.

The giant house list revisted

Jul. 27th, 2017 11:28 am
shadesofmauve: (Garden)
[personal profile] shadesofmauve
I made a list on LJ in August of 2016 of things that needed to get done on the house. I went back to it so I could see progress, and hey, there IS progress! Whoohoo! Maybe it'll help me plan my weekend.

Fake Paver Driveway / Patio
All steps gloriously finished! I sometimes practice my fiddle out there.


Other Yarden things
  • Retaining wall: Currently being built by my friend Tom!
  • take down cherry & willow trees (requires dad's help or $$$ to hire someone)
  • limb up / clean up maple ($$$$ to hire arborist)
  • redo back path with fence-board border & sheet mulch
  • Extend back path
  • Finish edging existing south bed with fence boards
  • continue sheet mulching back yard (made progress, nowhere near finished)
Once the wall is done, it'll be time for garden soil and raised beds and planning. Fun stuff. I can't hire an arborist or other help until I'm done paying for the retaining wall. It's more expensive than expected (of course) and I may well be broke after.

Exterior House things
  • install ridge vent  or other vents ($$$, dad's help)
  • exterior trim for new windows ($$$ for material)
  • siding patches on new areas ($$$ for material)
  • final inspection and off permit!
  • remove aluminum siding from front
  • clean & paint front of house
  • wire in extra porch light from outside
  • New water line put in autumn 2016
I really should vent the attic better, but all the cosmetic house things can wait a year or two.

Interior House things

Studio

  • studio window trim
  • studio chimney trim & shelves
  • sand & finish studio door  Done!

Living Room & hallway
  • replace living room heater
  • patch living room drywall
  • paint living room & hallway (already have paint!)
  • replace living room fan Done!
  • NEW: replace hall closet door  Done!
  • replace living room baseboard & door casing? ...eventually. 
Bedrooms
  • Finish cleaning out guest room
  • sand, stain, & finish rent-a-room window trim
  • repaint rent-a-room
  • Replace rent-a-room closet doors
  • rewire master bedroom for wall sconce? Someday later.
  • paint master bedroom
Laundry room
  • Delayed until autumn: replumb laundry room ($$$, dad's help)
  • Delayed until autumn: finish drywall mud in laundry room
  • Delayed until autumn: floor laundry room ($$$)
 
 

Post-Guest Fatigue

Jul. 27th, 2017 11:12 am
shadesofmauve: (Self Portrait)
[personal profile] shadesofmauve
We saw Erik's mom and her friend off very early yesterday morning (woke up around 4:30 to get them to Seatac in time for an 8:30 flight), then we both went home and slept. E's coming down with something. I just took an hour-and-a-half nap, then came into work. 

I had a nice surprise when I came into work this morning -- I chatted with a courier and found out they've given nicknames to all my vans (well, their vans, with my art on them). <3

Not sure what I'll do with my weekend. I have to try to find some sort of routine -- we were busting ass to get my house all nice for E's mom's visit, and now that's done and the rest of the summer is still here. I felt like everything over the last six months was sort of working up to that visit. Well, that or the job hunt, and I still don't have a firm 'no' back from Ecology, and nothing new to apply for on the horizon, so that's a limbo-area, too.

Oh, DEL has posted a new opening that looks exactly like the one I applied for, was offered, and turned down. I don't know if it's a new-but-similar position, or if they had to repost it after I walked. Shoulda offered me more moolah, guys. 

I still feel a little guilty about holding out for more money, but if a new job makes me work full time, I want that compensation -- because what I REALLY want is to work fewer hours per week but still have enough job for health care and stability, but I don't know how to get that. Enough money to pay for housecleaning help and a car is the only way I can see to seize back some of the time lost to a full time job.

I'm maundering. It's just tiredness. I suspect a few days of good sleep and relative quiet will help me get some energy and direction again. There's things to do on the house and in the yard, three started paintings to work on in the studio, some design work that needs doing... it's not like I lack a to-do list. I just want to nap.
[syndicated profile] autostraddle_feed

Posted by Ali

"Some people don’t like how many queer characters or NPCs are in our campaign, or when either of the women on the show talk too much. Anyone feminine in our society is still expected to be quiet, subservient, and apologetic. Of course I’m not going to make myself or my character more palatable for anyone else’ sake."
[syndicated profile] autostraddle_feed

Posted by Jenna

There are characters with different racial backgrounds, characters with disabilities, characters with a variety of body types and sexual orientations. It doesn’t seem forced or unnecessary; it feels totally natural, like a reflection of the world around us.

Hey, cis allies!

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:38 pm
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
In light of the trans military ban, a lot of you have written things on social media along the lines of, "Trans people, I love and support you, you're not a burden, etc." That's nice, but it would be nicer if you told your fellow cis people that disrespecting trans people isn't behavior that you accept. Another thing you can do to show that your words aren't just words is to give a trans person money for necessary medical care that many trans people can't access (and accessing it will almost certainly become harder in the next year.)

Here's one opportunity to do just that. Rory is an acquaintance of mine and I can vouch for them being a legit person with a need.
[syndicated profile] autostraddle_feed

Posted by Carolyn Yates

"You are so so soft and just achingly warm and good and I’m just dying with the urge to pin and grind and tease and make you even wetter for me, taste you in your bed."

fuck monarchies

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:37 am
zaluzianskya: (ox_xo)
[personal profile] zaluzianskya
If I never see another work of fiction with a tyrannical monarchy where the problem is solved by realizing the monarch is a usurper/pretender to the throne and replaced with the "correct" monarch, it'll be too soon.
[syndicated profile] jim_hines_feed

Posted by Jim C. Hines

Doctor to Dragons - CoverI met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.

In April of this year, his humorous fantasy novelette A Doctor to Dragons [Amazon | B&N] came out.

I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).

Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.

I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)

There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:

“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”

“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”

“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”

I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.

One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.

I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
[personal profile] jimhines

Doctor to Dragons - CoverI met G. Scott Huggins almost twenty years ago. We were both published in Writers of the Future XV, and we ended up in a writing group together for several years. He was one of the folks who helped me grow and improve as an author. I published one of his stories in Heroes in Training a while back.

In April of this year, his humorous fantasy novelette A Doctor to Dragons [Amazon | B&N] came out.

I love the premise and setup. Dr. James DeGrande is a veterinarian in a land that’s been taken over by a Dark Lord, and the whole thing is written with a kind of tongue-in-cheek humor. The book is made up of several distinct but related stories, showing the growth of James and his partnership with his assistant Harriet (a physically disabled almost-witch).

Here’s part of the publisher’s official description:

Everyone says it was better in the Good Old Days. Before the Dark Lord covered the land in His Second Darkness.

As far as I can tell, it wasn’t that much better. Even then, everyone cheered the heroes who rode unicorns into combat against dragons, but no one ever remembered who treated the unicorns’ phosphine burns afterward. Of course, that was when dragons were something to be killed. Today I have to save one. Know what fewmets are? No? Then make a sacrifice of thanks right now to whatever gods you worship, because today I have to figure a way to get them flowing back out of the Dark Lord’s favorite dragon. Yeah, from the other end. And that’s just my most illustrious client. I’ve got orcs and trolls who might eat me and dark elf barons who might sue me if their bloodhawks and chimeras don’t pull through. And that doesn’t even consider the possibility that the old bag with the basilisk might show up.

The only thing that’s gone right this evening is finding Harriet to be my veterinary assistant. She’s almost a witch, which just might save us both. If we don’t get each other killed first.

I appreciate writers who take traditional fantasy and flip things around to present a different perspective. Just as I enjoy clever protagonists, like James and Harriet. (And while this may come as a shock, I also like fantasy that tries to have fun.)

There’s one bit I need to talk about. About 80% of the way into the book, we meet Countess Elspeth Bathetique, an incredibly neglectful pet owner and generally unpleasant person, and we get this exchange:

“Dammit, my lady, you’re not even a vampire!”

“How… how dare you? I identify as a vampire, you filth! You cannot dream of the tragic destiny which is ours!”

“What? Suffering from vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, keeping out of the sun for no damn reason, and torturing your poor pet basilisk? If I dreamed of that, I’d seek clerical help!”

I don’t believe it was intentional, but seeing language generally used by transgender people played for laughs by a wannabe vampire threw me right out of the story. I emailed and chatted with Scott, who confirmed that wasn’t the intention. The Countess was meant to be a darker take on Terry Pratchett’s Doreen Winkings. But he said he understood how I or others might read it the way I did.

One of my favorite parts of these stories are the veterinary details. Huggins’ wife is a veterinarian, and there’s a sense of real truth to the protagonist’s frustration with neglectful pet owners and the various challenges of keeping all these magical animals healthy. It helps to ground the book and acts as a nice counter to the humor.

I couldn’t find an excerpt online, but there’s a promo video on YouTube.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

The Big Idea: Adam Christopher

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:33 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Congratulations! Your book was a success! Now do that trick a second time! In discussing Killing is My Business, author Adam Christopher talks about doing the thing that you did so well all over again — but different this time.

ADAM CHRISTOPHER:

You know how it goes, the difficult second album: a band spends years meticulously crafting a collection of songs, polishing them through endless live sets until they shine, and these songs form their incandescent debut album.

Then they need to produce the follow-up and essentially come up with an entirely new repertoire on demand. That second album can be a difficult one indeed.

Now, I didn’t spend years crafting the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – Made to Kill, the first full-length novel after the Tor.com novelette Brisk Money, came out in 2015 and was something like my seventh published novel – but somehow the series has a certain kind of weight, just like that debut album of your favourite band. I think it’s because that original big idea was very big indeed – I was writing Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction epics, a series about a robot assassin working in Chandler’s near-future Hollywood of 1965. That idea sprang from Chandler’s own letter to his agent in 1953, in which he complained about sci-fi, saying “people pay brisk money for this crap?” Clearly, this was a front, the famed hardboiled author conducting a fishing expedition, seeing if his agent would bite.

Sixty years later, I wrote a story named for Chandler’s letter – Brisk Money. The idea was everything – a whole world was open to me, enough not just for a novelette but for a trilogy of hardboiled novels and another in-between novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity – the title, again, taken from Chandler’s letters.

So far, so good. Made to Kill was a blast to write.

And then came book two.

I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump. Far from it. The three novels were pitched together, right from the start, so I knew what I was doing and where the books were going. But there was one thing in back of my mind while I was working on what became the second novel, Killing Is My Business.

What would Raymond Chandler do?

That mantra, in essence, became the big idea of the book.

The concept of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries is simple: the robot revolution came and went in the 1950s, and Ray is the last robot left in the world, designed to be a private eye working in Hollywood. The only snag to this is that his supercomputer boss, Ada, was programmed to make a profit – and she quickly figured out you could make more money by killing people than finding them. A little tinkering with Ray’s CPU and Ada turns him into an accomplished hit-robot.

Simple enough, and, importantly, an open-ended concept. You could write a hundred stories about a hitman.

Which was actually the problem – because while I could easily write endless hardboiled, noir-ish stories set in Chandler’s seedy LA underbelly, a world full of wiseguys and dames and crooked cops and the mob, that’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before a thousand times. Hell, that’s basically Chandler’s oeuvre and people have been calling him a genius or a hack for the last seventy-plus years.

No, what I had to do was to write science fiction. There was no point in Ray being a robot if that wasn’t vital to the story. Ray had to be the central player in the trilogy – he’s unique, literally, and that has to drive the story arc that stretches across all three books.

So: what would Raymond Chandler do?

More specifically, what would Raymond Chandler do… with a robot?

In Killing Is My Business, Ray’s unique character is used to rather unsubtle effect when he uses his virtually indestructible chassis to protect a mob boss from a drive-by shooting, literally placing himself between the crime lord and his would-be executioners. This is something that only Ray could do. It’s a key scene, the first piece of the story that I had thought of.

And it was also a scene that I knew had to happen – if Ray is a robot then being a robot is the story. With that thought foremost in mind, I could write book two and I could make sure the series as a whole is more than just a set of pastiche crime novels, it was something original.  

Now, if he only Ray Electromatic knew what I torment I had in store for him in book three…

—-

Killing is My Business: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


[syndicated profile] crosscutnews_feed

Posted by Knute Berger

Aurora Borealis is seen in the night sky above Steamboat Rock State Park on Banks Lake in Eastern Washington.

 

Waterville — Coming out of the Wenatchee Valley, you wind up rock hills along the Columbia River and suddenly emerge on top of the Waterville Plateau where coulees, cliffs and canyons give way mostly to wide open spaces and undulating wheat fields as far as the eye can see.

It’s a dramatic shift along Highway 2. Up until this point, the road has led you through forests, mountains, orchards, and across the Columbia River. Now, it’s all one vast, mammoth space. In Seattle, we lament the loss of open space, but here there’s a glut of it. A “neighbor” might live two or three miles away.

The plateau is a dry, hot place in summer. The first town you come to is Waterville, so named because finding a well here was such a big deal the name attracted parched settlers. There’s little shade on the plateau, and though they had a wet year—farmers told us the wettest since the late 1940s — it gets only about 11 inches of rain a year. Seattle gets nearly 40.

Along the road photographer Matt Mills McKnight and I see distant dust devils — those short-lived mini-twisters that appear and disappear like a prairie hallucination. Dust-raising farm equipment in the fields creates clouds that can hang like a haze of topsoil. Remote farms dot the distance. Small roads off the highway seem to lead into eternity.

Here and there rough geology intrudes. Ungraspable titanic geologic forces shaped the landscape and evidence of this interrupts the tidy fields where farmers have had to work around giant boulders or piles of lava rock too thick to move. These sit like islands surrounded by wheat, reminders of untamable, immoveable forces.

This dry, amazing landscape was once shaped by catastrophic floods that scoured it during the last ice age. Glacier melt filled a lake behind an ice dam in Montana, and when the would dam burst, which happened more than once, enormous quantities of water — the so-called Missoula floods — cascaded over the region. Boulders and soil from the floods can be found as far away as the mouth of the Columbia and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. They left their mark here, too.

We wanted to see one of the most spectacular geologic relics of this flooding. Just off Highway 2 near Coulee City, we stop at Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park. There’s an observation point where you can look into a massive hole some 400 feet deep and three-and-a-half miles long. In the bottom are small lakes and wetlands. Once, the ancient floodwaters turned these cliffs into a massive series of waterfalls three times the size of Niagara Falls. Think of the hydropower that could have been generated!

It’s late in the day when we arrive, but the low sun lines the yellow rock with shadows that highlight the rugged formations surrounding the wetlands below, which look like a kind of oasis. One of the lakes at the bottom is called Deep Lake, carved out where the falling waters blasted the soil. We wend our way down a series of roads to reach it. As the sun sinks we see a flock of wild turkeys and a couple of mule deer with their huge upright ears lit by the sun. At the lake, flycatchers are having a field day hunting bugs at the water’s edge.

Water also gives life here. Dry Falls marks the southern end of Grand Coulee, and the dam is just to the north. It’s waters back up to Coulee City in the form of the reservoir, Banks Lake. As you enter Coulee City, Highway 2 runs along an irrigation dam that’s part of a regional system providing water and power to farms and ranches. This would be desert otherwise. The government runs a massive reclamation project here to turn Eastern Washington’s sagebrush into crops.

The biggest structures are massive power transmission towers, also the result of federal government investment in the region, carrying that energy where it’s needed throughout the West, from Seattle to Southern California. Just as the Missoula floods shaped this country, the Columbia continues to do so still with the force of melting ice, snow and glaciers.

Another new aspect connecting land and electric power: This summer, Highway 2 became the “first electric-vehicle-friendly scenic byway in all of America,” according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Electric car charging stations have been placed a strategic intervals like gas stations and drive-in espresso stands along the road from Everett to Spokane. The effort, pushed by Plug-in North Central Washington, is designed to attract “the automotive version of ecotourism to the region.” This is a place where you can now road-trip with assurance in your Leaf or Bolt. We saw charging stations, but never a car charging up. Note to Tesla owners: Hit the road.

The spatial shift in these parts is also dramatic. Being one small person in a vast space can be humbling and also mind-clearing. I ask Howard McDonald, a wheat farmer near Coulee City, if he feels anything like that. “There are times when I’ll just come out and set here, to clear the mechanism,” he answers, an apt reference to clearing his mind for a man who fixes his own equipment.

Mechanism-clearing can occur at night too. I remember years ago attending a local festival in Wilbur, down the road from Coulee City in Lincoln County. We celebrated at the legendary Deb’s Café in nearby Creston. It is now closed, but was then run by a legendary rodeo cowboy named Deb Copenhaver. Coming out one night I was bowled over by the sky.

Light pollution in Pugetopolis has all but obliterated the heavens. Here, though, the clear summer skies, darkness and vast spaces open them up — the gushing starlight of the Milky Way, the pure abundance of stars, streaking meteors.

Adding to the sky drama, we heard that there was a possibility of seeing the Northern Lights due to solar activity. My colleague Matt was determined to photograph the phenomenon so we set forth one night after dark to find them. Near 1 a.m., after following a road along Banks Lake up to Steamboat Rock near Electric City by Grand Coulee Dam, we spotted a glowing, shifting green curtain hanging in the horizon. Such sightings are rare at this latitude, and almost impossible to see with the naked eye where city lights wash out the sky.

It’s no wonder that people in places like this feel closer to divine influences, and the need to be self-sufficient in light of our relative smallness. For all the virtues of big cities, losing connection with the cosmos is a huge price to pay. Here in plateau country, you can plug in your electric car, but it also feels easier to plug into something bigger than yourself.

Next: Near Davenport, We Went Looking for an Outlaw and Found a Wildfire.

 

 

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Posted by Chris Vance

Protest against U.S. President Donald Trump in New York.

For me, and I imagine most Americans, the election of Donald Trump raised a host of disturbing questions. Now, six months into this new political era, all the questions but one have been answered: How are we going to rebuild our political system?

To say that I have been an outspoken Trump opponent would be an understatement. As a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, I came out against him early on. Still, immediately after the election I did say that I was willing to give him a chance.

By early February, however, any hope that Trump would become presidential had lapsed. Trump meant every word he said during the campaign. He is a protectionist, an isolationist and a nativist. He has the instincts of an authoritarian who would silence the mainstream media with new libel laws if he could.

I urged Republicans to directly oppose Trump, but to little avail. Today, there are two types of Republican politicians: enthusiastic Trump supporters, and those who submit through their silence. If you dare oppose Trump you are attacked and threatened with a primary opponent.

Republicans have abandoned traditional Reaganite policies such as free trade because their base voters agree with Trump. I have come to accept that I am now the one out of step with Republican voters. It truly is Trump’s party now.

Even my hopes that Washington state Republicans could maintain their traditional moderate identity and work with Democrats to get big things done have largely been dashed.

To be sure, the gridlock and dysfunction in Olympia is not nearly as bad as it is in Washington, D.C. Significant bills were passed this year, including bills on paid family leave and greater protections for victims of sexual assault. But by Olympia standards, the 2017 session was a disaster. After three special sessions, the longest legislative meeting in state history, Olympia melted down in partisan rancor.

Republicans demanded that Democrats pass a bill on water rights in rural areas. When Democrats refused, Republicans retaliated by not passing the capital construction budget for the first time in state history. Republicans and Democrats had six months to make a deal on water rights. Because they failed, rural residents face the loss of their property values, and $4 billion in needed projects, including $1 billion in school construction projects, are now on hold.

And what about the agreement they reached on school funding in response to the McCleary case? The legislature did deal with one of the major issues by capping school levies, thus eliminating the inequity between rich school districts and poor school districts. But they failed to fund the salaries of thousands of school staff, and instead gave districts the authority to continue to use levy dollars to pay staff. This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s 2012 order in this case.

Everywhere you look, our political system is breaking down. No major legislation has passed in Washington, D.C. The debt is still rising. Social Security and Medicare are still going broke. The government will run out of cash in October. Every year sees interminable special sessions in Olympia and vicious mudslinging campaigns.

A recent poll showed that only half of Americans have faith in “American democracy.” Horrifying as this is, it’s no great surprise: Why should anyone have faith in a system that is clearly failing to produce results?

But there are glimmers of hope. Not long ago I received an email from a respected, bipartisan national group that is working to create an offshoot to focus on “the brokenness of our political system – one which will examine and elevate a discussion as to the causes of, and possible solutions to address, the deteriorating state of our politics.”

And there are efforts afoot to reclaim the political center. For the past 160 years, the Republican and Democratic parties have monopolized political power because one was a center-right coalition, and the other was center-left. Third parties espoused fringe ideas and attracted little support. Today it is the major parties that are pushing fringe ideas, and that creates an opportunity.

In Washington, D.C., recently, a new group promoting the election of Centrist Independents met with the national media. The Centrist Project aims to appeal to the voters Rs and Ds have left behind: fiscally conservative, but socially moderate.

Where does this all lead? Frankly, I don’t know. Perhaps one or both parties will regain their sanity and move back toward the center, although that seems increasingly unlikely. Perhaps a centrist third party will form. Perhaps one of our two major parties will fade away as the Federalist and Whig parties did in the 1800s. Perhaps more and more candidates will choose to run as independents.

Whatever happens, I believe we are at one of those moments in American history when our political system is beginning to go through major realignment.

Like the shifting of tectonic plates, these changes happen gradually. It took eleven years of British abuses before our founders finally agreed on independence. It took 14 years of agitation over slavery to finally cause the creation of the Republican Party. It took several elections for the South to go from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.

New political movements take time to mature, so don’t expect the end of the current party system to happen overnight. But something is stirring. The last six months were just the beginning: 2018 and 2020 are going to be transformational.

Wow

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:08 am
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly
In the grand tradition of fucked up "polls" on the internet, I present: The GOP. This is some biased garbage right here. I was positively giddy when I took it, btw - they're gonna define their narrative, but I can put my own little monkeywrench in the works. Bet those doofuses didn't even bother to set cookies so I couldn't take it twice.

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