A few days ago, I found a couple more gratuitous guns. One is actually not very far from my apartment, just on a street I don’t drive on very often, and because my complex includes many Black residents, I can accept that this one might be metaphorically aimed at Blacks. The other is in an area I’m much less familiar with, along the Monongahela River in Washington County. I don’t know the racial make-up near the latter location but an initial impression suggests this one is not so metaphorically aimed.
Both of these additions raise an issue of how I am assessing metaphorical aims. I need to dredge up demographic maps, preferably spanning several decades. Such demographics need to cover both race and class.
Just a quick note on Brexit: The British Press is already in full horse race mode coverage of the forthcoming election. You might have already gathered that this is not the sort of coverage that interests me and that I think political surveys—now boasting a nine percent response rate—should be discounted entirely. Which is to say campaign coverage is bullshit. All of it. Every last diarrhetic drop spewed from the bulls’ asses with such a velocity and range as to cast doubt as to whether any green grass may be found.
Originally published, October 26, 7:14 pm. Note: All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) unless otherwise noted.
October 26, 9:39 pm:
The mandatory evacuation area for the Kincade fire has expanded. Notably, it now includes my mother’s house. Areas being warned have shifted south (figure 1). Graphics have been updated.
October 27, 4:36 am:
To be honest, I’m somewhat perplexed. Even as it appears firefighters are gaining significant control over the Kincade fire and that it has not advanced in the direction of Highway 101, evacuation warnings have now been issued for a relatively small part of northwest Santa Rosa that, ominously, approaches an evacuation center (figure 1). Winds have shifted and are now strongly off-shore. In addition, the evacuation zones are now numbered. Graphics and text have been updated.
October 27, 8:28 am:
I haven’t received notifications, which may mean that map updates were out of sync with the notifications I received. It now appears more of Santa Rosa is under mandatory evacuation (figure 1). Winds are now off-shore at 40+ miles per hour. It seems to me that the Santa Rosa evacuation center is now being encroached upon with mandatory evacuation orders on the north and west sides (figure 1). According to the Cal Fire incident page, Kincade fire containment is at 10 percent. Graphics have been updated.
It is harder for me to keep up to date during the day, while I’m working, but I’m packing my Chromebook today. I will try.
October 27, 1:05 pm:
A mandatory evacuation order has been issued for another piece of Santa Rosa, drawing very near the evacuation center there and the Kincade fire looking very much more serious than it did overnight (figure 1). Wind speeds appear to exceed 50 miles per hour. The fire is now up to 30,000 acres and still at only 10 percent containment.
Amidst all the drama, there is, of course, a very real human toll. Some folks are saying they don’t want to repeat their experience from two years ago. As the evacuation orders arrive, they are considering more permanent departures. And it really is something to think about when you can’t rely on the lights being on, as aquifers draw ever lower, and as suffocating smoke becomes an annual occurrence. This isn’t civilization anymore. It may be spectacular, but it’s hell.
October 27, 9:12 pm:
Be sure to look through the slide show in this Press-Democrat coverage. I recognize some of the places as places I’ve been.
They’re ordinary places really. The sort of places you take for granted as you drive right on by. Ordinary, that is, except for those who lived and worked in them. Their lives are forever changed.
And if you feel a sense of deja vu, that’s kind of my point. This is how it’s been for fire after fire after fire. That bravado we always cheer, where victims swear they’ll rebuild, seems hollow now.
October 28, 4:30 am:
Containment is now at 5 percent of over 54,000 acres in the Kincade fire. I’m having trouble telling from the Incident map (figure 1) how far into Windsor the fire has reached. The distance from northern Windsor to my mother’s house is a little less but traverses the same rugged dry terrain that a spread from Healdsburg would. It appears there is a shift in the weather pattern (figure 2) but I am not at this moment able to determine its significance. The winds have dropped but that may only be because it is night time. Graphics have been updated.
October 28, 10:09 am:
It kind of looks like I failed to publish the 4:30 am update. Oops.
As of now, the Incident Map (figure 1) is making clear that where previously the main part of the Kincade fire had seemed to be in mountainous terrain, it now seems to be moving towards, if not into, Healdsburg and Windsor. Containment is at five percent of over 66,000 acres. Winds seem to have weakened for the moment and it appears the region is in for a bit of a respite on Monday (today) before conditions worsen again on Tuesday.
“Cal Fire officials said they were concerned that the fire would jump Highway 128 into fuel-laden land that has not burned in decades.” I’m not sure what the Sacramento Bee reporters mean when they talk about Highway 128, which runs into Mendocino County north of Cloverdale, along Highway 101 to Geyserville, and then east over the mountains into Lake County. Though there’s certainly land there that hasn’t burned yet, Lake County burned before Sonoma County in several massive fires over several years.
My concern however is with the fire’s move toward Windsor and Healdsburg. If the Kincade fire jumps Highway 101 (the latest incident map, figure 1, suggests it’s reaching right to it), which is what the Tubbs Fire did two years ago, and heads towards my mother’s house, I don’t think any of that territory has burned in decades either. And it looks to me like it’s getting close.
In the meantime,
The Kincade Fire and other blazes that erupted Sunday during the heavy winds closed several major roadways, including Interstate 80, the main east-west highway through Northern California between San Francisco and the Nevada state line. I-80 was closed for several hours between Vallejo and Crockett because of brush fires raging at both ends of the Carquinez Bridge, but reopened by mid-afternoon.
Apparently this is happening all over the state. I said earlier that this is hell. It’s hell. And yeah, reminiscent of when the Sonoma County fires broke out in 2017.
October 28, 8:13 pm:
The humiliation of Boris Johnson continues as “he was forced to grudgingly accept the European Union’s offer to delay Brexit until January, and then lost a motion in Parliament to stage a general election before Christmas.” (Brexit)
There’s apparently no real news on the Kincade fire. I am updating the graphics nonetheless. The fire does seem like it is spreading towards Healdsburg if not into it (figure 1) and winds are currently on shore.
October 29, 3:51 am:
As if Brexit was ever, even once, really on track, it’s gone off the rails again as Boris Johnson has “abandoned” the withdrawal bill because he wants an election so bad. You know, like he wants Brexit itself. And yeah, I’m not the only one calling bullshit.
The evacuation orders for much of west Sonoma County, including (just barely) my mother’s house, have been reduced to warnings, though the incident map (figure 1) also seems to show the fire further encroaching on Healdsburg. Cal Fire says it has achieved fifteen percent containment on over 74,000 acres. The winds are shifting again, in line with earlier forecasts. The warning means people need to be ready to leave on a moment’s notice, so this isn’t really clearance for people to return home. This fire still looks incredibly dangerous to me and if those forecasts hold, I expect we’ll see a much more alarming picture later in the day. Text below has mostly been removed—look to these updates instead. Graphics have been updated.
October 29, 10:13 am:
Labour will back an election, improving the likelihood that one will occur in December. The call for such an election was likely to succeed anyway, leaving Labour in the unenviable position of going into an election it had opposed. (Brexit)
People are mad at Pacific Gas and Electric, and have reason to be, especially with the Kincade fire, but it’s worth remembering the climate crisis is a major contributor. Winds are still relatively weak but have now shifted to an off-shore direction. They keep changing how they show the fire intensity and spread in the Sonoma County Incident Map and I am especially unfond of the latest iteration.
I see now (figure 1) that Healdsburg is across the Russian River from the fire and the fire has not jumped the river there. But parts of Windsor, especially the north and east are on fire.
The fire is very close to Highway 101 (figure 1). The road, which is marked as closed, is only four lanes (plus a median) wide there. I can’t imagine that a good gust of wind won’t enable the fire to jump the highway into terrain that I don’t think has burned in a very long time. But they’ve still got a lot of west Sonoma County only on an evacuation warning phase.
I gotta tell you, this doesn’t help to bolster confidence in their logic for how they ordered evacuations and when. Graphics are updated.
October 29, 2019, 9:06 pm:
Parliament has approved an election to be held on December 12, which is just what Boris Johnson wanted. I am disappointed the franchise will not be extended to 16-year olds and European Union nationals: Their futures are at stake, even more than those of the old fogies who so desperately want out of the E.U.
The Kincade fire is now 15 percent contained at over 75,000 acres. The fire remains close to, but on the east side of Highway 101. Evacuation warnings are now shown for adjacent parts of Lake County (figure 1). Winds are strongly in an off-shore direction, but not so strong over such a wide area as before.
October 30, 4:33 am:
Little seems to have changed with the Kincade fire since the last update, except that stronger winds are appearing over a broader area. Which is to suggest that firefighters seem to be pretty much holding the line, and that if the wind forecast holds, the worst should be over. For now. Graphics have been updated.
The Kincade fire is at 30 percent containment and nearly 77,000 acres. Firefighters seem to be holding the line in areas I’ve been most concerned with but I think maybe not so well to the north and east. Unfortunately there’s a weird cut off in the graphics in figure 1 that makes this harder to discern. Winds are strong and off-shore but not as strong and not as strongly over as wide an area as before. Graphics have been updated.
October 30, 7:00 pm:
Asserting the supremacy of state law, an Allegheny County judge struck down Pittsburgh’s gun control laws, which were passed in the wake of the Tree of Life Synagogue mass shooting last year.
My methodology here is weak beyond compare, but I’m guessing from his avatar that Nathan Heller is a lot younger than I am. That said, his recollection of fires in the San Francisco area is about like mine. California just isn’t the place it used to be. It is, as the headline on Annie Lowrey’s exploration of how the Wildlife-Urban Interface came to be so heavily populated proclaims, becoming unlivable. (Kincade fire)
Winds are still offshore, but not nearly so strongly as earlier even today. Updated containment figures are not yet available. A lot of east Windsor appears to have burned or to be on fire but Healdsburg continues to be spared. Overall, the Kincade fire looks much less active and evacuation orders and warnings seem to be receding (figure 1). My mother will be going home tomorrow. Graphics have been updated.
Barring unforeseen developments, I will end this issue here. It’s become unusual for me to hold an issue open like this for several days on end but I did so on account of the Kincade fire. At this moment, that no longer seems to be justified.
I’ve been working on my page entitled, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated anyway, but it turns out that Pittsburgh navigation is sufficiently difficult that it merits a CityLab article. Yes, it really is that bad. And worse.
Fig. 1. Screenshot of Sonoma County Incident Map, taken on October 30, 2019, at 7:37 pm EDT (4:37 pm PDT). Click on this static image to open the source.
Fig. 2. 72-hour gif of Northeast Pacific satellite photos, taken two hours apart, as of October 30, 6:00 pm EDT (3:00 pm PDT).
Jonathan Cox, another Cal Fire spokesman, called the evacuation orders a preventive measure against “a worst-case scenario for this fire.” Capt. Stephen Volmer, a fire behavior analyst with the agency, said the winds were expected to start blowing the fire in a southwesterly direction beginning about 8 p.m. [PDT] toward Highway 101.
A lot of Sonoma County still has visible scars from the fires two years ago. The psychic scars are, of course, longer lasting. But all I can really say is that the scenes I have seen there are, in a way, beyond description. There is an impact just from seeing the burned areas, or even just driving around a curve and being confronted with burned vegetation. Let alone seeing pads where homes used to be.
Stephen Fleischfresser doesn’t use the term ‘scientific fraud,’ but some of this work appears at least intellectually dishonest. So what I want to know is, who the hell, besides the tobacco industry, cited these assholes, “one of the most influential and heavily cited psychologists of all time, the oft controversial Hans Eysenck” and his partner in crime, Ronald Grossath-Maticek? Because if people are actually relying on this bullshit, the question that follows is, how much damage has been done to the body of knowledge? How much?
It’s been a tough week driving for Lyft. I just haven’t been getting very many rides and the rides I have been getting have been low value.
Retail is fickle, and this certainly applies to the gig economy, but a lot of drivers suspect that it isn’t just that, but rather that these “mystery slowdowns” are intentional, that the companies are playing head games with their drivers.
The idea is to keep drivers hungry. In this hypothesis, the low pay isn’t just about the companies’ likely futile quests for actual profitability, but a ‘Theory X’ management style treatment of workers in which they can’t be allowed to feel too comfortable, feel too confident, lest they take some time off and reduce their availability for exploitation.
In California, where I focused on Marin County, where Uber had the vast majority of the business, I usually just worked for Uber. But when these “mystery slowdowns” arose, I’d switch to Lyft, which would mysteriously be busy for a while. Then when a “mystery slowdown” arose with Lyft, I’d switch back to Uber, which would remarkably be back to being busy.
If one assumes that market conditions should similarly affect Uber and Lyft, that is, that when Uber is slow, so, too, should be Lyft, and vice versa, then market conditions cannot explain my relative success when switching companies. Which in turn suggests that some form of dispatch manipulation is occurring.
In Pittsburgh, around the time of Uber’s initial public offering, they got weird about paying me. Payment arrangements that had worked for months suddenly stopped working. They had given out a lot of free rides and I had, they said, unknowingly taken too many of those free rides (for which I was still owed money), so they cut me off from instant pay. The banking details for the weekly payout, the same details that had worked before, were suddenly wrong. They were, I surmised, attempting to boost their cash flow for their IPO at my expense. But whatever the reason, getting weird about paying is a huge red flag for me. So I cut them off.
The trouble is that Lyft also plays head games. I suspect that some of the complaints they said passengers had made about my driving were simply made up. Citing privacy concerns, they never inform me of these complaints with any detail even though I have repeatedly explained to them that credible complaints are specific and detailed. Sometimes these complaints are completely at odds with how I drive, even in Pittsburgh, and so I doubt their provenance.
And then there are the “mystery slowdowns.” I haven’t even the beginnings of a means to determine whether these are in fact the results of dispatch manipulation. But I can’t help but be suspicious.
I don’t like head games anyway. People who know me know that, in fact, I respond very poorly to them and that, in fact, one reason I have all but given up on ever finding a real job is that, after eighteen years of futility, I have come to feel that the application process is little more than a head game. It’s best to be straight with me and if you don’t feel that’s how you can get what you want from me, then I don’t want to be dealing with you. I have severed relationships over this in the past and fully expect to do so in the future.
And here I am with a “mystery slowdown” with Lyft. So I’m back trying Uber. It sucks but a real job doesn’t seem to be an option for me.
In contrast to ‘Theory Y,’ in which workers are presumed to care about their work and are treated as having valuable insight that should be taken into account in making management decisions, should be treated as well as conditions of competition permit, and in which companies have responsibilities not merely to shareholders but to stakeholders and the environment. More familiar to many workers is ‘Theory X,’ which presumes that workers are, at best, indifferent to their work (Karl Marx’s theory of alienated labor in “Estranged Labor,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 29-33, comes to mind), that management is the sole source of expertise in how work should be done, and that workers respond only to reward and punishment. Theory X seems to prevail even in organizations that profitably experiment with Theory Y. See Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years (Ventura, CA: Patagonia, 2012); Chip Conley, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007); Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah C. Stephens, Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000); Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008); Carol Sanford, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011); Marvin R. Weisbord, Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012).↩
Derek Thompson skillfully distinguishes between the dot-com crash and what is happening with some so-called “tech” companies (like Uber, Lyft, and WeWork) now. But he focuses too much on stock market valuations and not enough on the effects, like mass unemployment such as that which followed the dot-com crash. We still don’t know what’s going to happen to Uber and Lyft employees, let alone the legions of drivers whom the companies refuse to count as employees, when these companies fold.
It’s now about the Democratic Unionist Party’s quest for political power. Yes, really. And because of that, Parliament’s ratification of the deal remains in doubt.
With the DUP refusing to give its backing, there remains serious doubt that the deal will pass through parliament unless Johnson is able to convince both a significant number of Labour MPs and a large chunk of the 21 MPs whose whip as Conservatives was removed last month.
Soon after the agreement was announced, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, rejected it as worse than the deal produced by Johnson’s predecessor in Downing Street, Theresa May.
I have marked my own passing through phases of life by the deaths of others: Middle age as celebrities of roughly my parents’ generation have begun to pass on, old age as celebrities of roughly my own generation have begun to pass on.
I don’t believe I particularly express that ineffable quality of soul, at least not very often. B. B. King did and recognized it in others. He talks about that somewhere in the music collection I have curated over decades. I most often recognize soul in the additions I make to that collection when I learn of artists’ passing: Yes, of course, B.B. King, but also Arethra Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder.
Soul is perhaps what I perceived in my grandfather.
I don’t often include obituaries here, let alone of politicians.
I fault Elijah Cummings as I do all politicians, for their belief in and their participation an inherently corrupt and violent system that is incapable of significant progress, particularly as life on earth faces near-term existential challenges. But ironically, it might be Trey Gowdy, following a clash with Cummings in the then Republican-controlled House at the Benghazi hearings, who summed it best:
“It’s not about politics to him; he says what he believes,” [Trey] Gowdy told the Hill newspaper. “And you can tell the ones who are saying it because it was in a memo they got that morning, and you can tell the ones who it’s coming from their soul. And with Mr. Cummings, it’s coming from his soul.”
Whatever our differences, and whatever the solutions may be to the problems we face, we need a lot more soul.
And with Cummings’ passing—he was eight years old than me—the curtain on my own utterly futile and wasted life seems that much closer. I wish I could make it all different.