I forgot to eat, and now I will be in the waiting room without access to food until noon. It’s a small medical facility with no cafeteria so I will just wait. When she comes out, if she can move we will treat ourselves to a fine midday repast but odds are probably better that she will be loopy and uncomfortable and just want to go home.
So here I am, with my laptop and my phone and all such toys.
This morning, after dropping off the 7th grader and before taking a shower (i.e. waiting for her tub to fill), I wrote a lengthy Facebook comment in response to a pro-Trump friend’s sharing of an article he wrote. He’s an extraordinarily intelligent man with three technical degrees, a varied and successful career as a climate scientist, and a kayaking champion for his age group (he’s 81). I worked for him in the 1980s. He had evaluated the wind energy potential of various places in California and started a company to design and install computerized monitoring systems at some of the wind farms. It was one of my favorite jobs, being an engineering undergrad who got to go to the desert and climb turbine towers.
But I’ve lately had to consider my admiration slightly misplaced. He writes eloquently against anthropogenic global warming, providing clear and cogent-seeming arguments that global warming is not a result of CO2 buildup. I’m not invested enough to try and figure out how he is wrong, or why most of the rest of the scientific community says he is wrong. I’m something of a skeptic myself. But that’s not due to research or some weird loyalty to the petroleum industry. Mainly I’m a skeptic because almost every opinion I see that supports AGW blindly invokes the hockey-stick graph, most of which is extrapolation, while the write-ups fail to address the fact that correlation is not causation, leaving their arguments weak. And no, science and objective reality are not democratic.
But, whatever. My old boss is probably wrong. In fact, I just found this: OPINION: A scientist’s response to Ed Berry’s ‘climate denial’. It’s not fully convincing to me, but just because I don’t sing in that choir doesn’t mean the preacher is mistaken.
It’s always a curious phenomenon when the highly intelligent wind up so completely wrong. It’s a warning when this happens. None of us are really so smart as all that, and we are certainly wrong about something. Dr. Berry is wrong about Donald Trump, but a lot of people are, a scary high number of voting people. What interests me is that Ed is a supremely rational person who communicates clearly and simply. Communication reflects thought, and long convoluted arguments are inherently suspicious for that reason. His writing, his thinking, and his accomplishments, are clear. But so far as I can tell he falls into the same trap as other Trump supporters and irrationally believes
a) Hillary Clinton is a treasonous criminal who will destroy America
b) Donald Trump is the right outsider who will fix things
From the attention I’ve been able to pay to current events, I am unable to understand why an intelligent person well-schooled in critical thinking would take the pro-Trump position this late in the game; unless they’re human beings after all whose internally-consistent worldview organizes new information to conform to the previous set of conclusions. And we all do that. And so I guess I’m now suspicious of everyone.
So, whatever. My main problem with Trump isn’t that he’s an incredible asshole giving incredible encouragement to a million other incredible assholes (misogynists, racists, billionaires, etc). No, it’s become his weight as an unwitting piece in the global chess game. Russia, China, Iran, perhaps even India (just you wait) are all great countries whose leaders have great ambitions. The more they see the United States experience political discord and project an unstable foreign policy and thus become more of a problem and less the post-WWII leader, the more they will find alignments to increase their own fortunes at our expense. At this writing, with all the revelations about Putin’s influence, I am certain the leadership within ISIS is absolutely gleeful that through various actions in Syria they can manipulate American and Russian public opinion and lead the two great nations to war. We would “win” — did you know Russia has only one active aircraft carrier? — but the real winners would be scavenger countries positioned to pick up the pieces.
In this worst-case scenario, Clinton will not, in my opinion, make more mistakes than is usual, while Trump, with his damaged instincts and unbelievable lack of knowledge, will be an epic fuck-up.
This election makes me think of the election of 1864. Clinton is a form of incumbent, obviously, while Trump is the reaction to unpopular situations. In those days, General McClellan was very popular with a certain portion of the electorate, and advocated negotiation to end an unpopular war. We now know what a tragedy that would have been, as Lincoln knew then. McClellan’s win in 1864 would have brought the United States we know to an end. But Lincoln didn’t win re-election because he was on the right side of history. He only won because Grant and Sherman gave him battlefield victories in the months leading up to the election. Let that be a lesson. The voters are fickle and cannot take the long view, and so far we’ve been fucking lucky. There is no guarantee or immutable law that will save us from finally being unlucky. No power lasts forever, and when it’s time comes the end is sudden and surprises everyone.
With that cheery thought, let’s look at my job search. I’ve been putting off that odious task in part because I’m good at living in fantasyland. Another reason is I’m incredibly busy. Being master of my own destiny, like everyone else, I’m not sure why I’ve chosen to overload my life. But every day I find my to-do list full of really important things to do with the household or the arts biz or the book I’m occasionally writing or the cars or the yard or the pool or the kids’ school lives or what my mom needs me to do or my garage full of stuff or my office full of stuff and, you know. Whereas looking for work in my field that is appropriately remunerative is kinda intimidating. I’ve forgotten 95% of whatever I ever knew and don’t really feel like studying it back up again. Plus I’ve got to convincingly describe my Intel career in far more glowing terms than it deserves. I never got my act together ambition-wise and though that might be why I have a higher hair-to-gray ratio than most men my age, it hasn’t left me with a lot of the usual business-wise accomplishments to talk about. You know, leadership, risk-taking, making a difference. I’m just like my father. He got his PhD and was a comfortable scientist from then on, working in the same lab for thirty years.
On the good side, I left Intel for good reasons, not bad. I’ve never been fired. I wasn’t even laid off. I was honored with a “retirement package” even while being offered a fresh position. Taking the package was the right strategic move, but it wasn’t enough to retire on, or even to live on for one year, given the living situation I’ve chosen. I like to think that come July when I am eligible for re-hire or contract there, I will be doing something better, but I also like to think that if I am not, they will take me back in.
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At this point a medical worker (possibly otherwise known as a nurse) poked her head round the door and suggested I bring round the car. I did, and forgot all about this posting until now, a day and a half later.