Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Robbie Burns Ramble


        I roamed between the California central coast and Scotland as I rambled by the Pacific and climbed a hill today. Scots tend to celebrate this day, Robbie Burns day.

        He's the national poet of Scotland and since shortly after his death in 1796 Robbie Burns days have been celebrated with dinners and drink and bagpipes. There will be no Haggis on our menu today though we'll take a wee dram and hoist a toast. We've already listened to the pipes.

        I've been reviewing our August and September 2019 sojourn to the homeland and marveling that, has Lana notes, we were fortunate to have traveled then, pre pandemic.


        I'm certain the family that occupies the old home pile in Renfrew will observe indeed and express the fierce independence of Scotland the Brave. That is especially so now that Parliament is on the path to another vote for Independence from the English crown and the UK.

        There is much of the Scots political and social mindset that would do this nation well. 

And so as I climbed the hill and crossed the crest, I enjoyed the beauty of creation, all the while accompanied by a monarch butterfly that picked me for a tag along as I began the stroll.

        All the way the roar of the surf and on the higher trail bird song and my friend the monarch. Along the lower sea side trail we were joined by a curious heron.

        On the way home I spotted early blooms,

        and I convinced myself that Robbie Burns could find reason for toast in this splendid day.



        See you down the trail. 

Friday, January 13, 2023

Freedom of thought is absolute


        "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing," the bard wrote in Subterranean Homesick Blues when some of us were stretching our minds and pushing boundaries of custom and law while getting an education on campus.
        Nothing was off-limits. War, peace, love, hate, race, speech, art, sex all spilled into classrooms and campuses, the media and even the church. The discussion was fully engaged and frequently rancorous.
        People expressed their views, protested and even went to jail for equal rights, and free speech. 
        I wonder if Bob Dylan of the early 60's would be allowed to sing or think aloud his thoughts on campuses today.   
        Would Deans, Provosts or college Presidents  permit a professor to teach of a few words spoken about civil disobedience;
        "There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus---and you've got to stop it! And you're got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it---that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all!"

       Mario Savio said that to 4000 people on the UC Berkeley campus, sparked a sit in and the arrest of 800 students. It was the high atmospheric turbulence of the Free Speech Movement in 1964. 

        Other winds blow today. Free speech, even humor, is "canceled." Freedom of expression and to incite thought  is increasingly stifled, it might upset or disturb. 
It is a weird mirror opposite of the way it was. Now professors and teachers are fired because those young minds they seek to teach take offense. Today the student has become the heavy. 

        In decoding the intellectual tyranny haunting academia and popular culture we  are forced to face, to quote David Byrne, it is " the same as it ever was." There is a circular nature to this that is troubling. 
        Savio was among a group of students who had been busy in the south trying to register black voters, facing all the hate and violence that came with that effort back then. 
        When they returned to their northern campuses, including Savio's Berkeley, efforts to raise money for the voters registration and civil right organizations had been banned. The fuse was lit.

        Despite all that ensued in the intervening half century,  schools buckle to pressure from right and left and every garden variety special interests that is either loud or financially empowering to assert a censorship on speech and thought. It is a wave that teachers, adjunct professors, contract lecturers especially and those who are on the tenure track find difficult navigate.

            Tom Nichols nails it.  He's a respected security and weapons analyst who spent 35 years as a professor. He recently used an Atlantic column to dissect the dismissal of an adjunct professor who, with warning, showed students in a global art history class an image from the 14th century of the Prophet Muhammad. She offered any student who did not want to view it an an opportunity to leave class.
           In the resulting furor the school's president, Faynese Miller, questioned that academic freedom was at issue and questioned if academic freedom was sacrosanct or should be put above students own views and traditions.
        Nichols responded:
This makes no sense. The “rights” of students were not jeopardized, and no curriculum owes a “debt” to any student’s “traditions, beliefs, and views.” (Indeed, if you don’t want your traditions, beliefs, or views challenged, then don’t come to a university, at least not to study anything in the humanities or the social sciences.) Miller’s view, it seems, is that academic freedom really only means as much freedom as your most sensitive students can stand, an irresponsible position that puts the university, the classroom, and the careers of scholars in the hands of students who are inexperienced in the subject matter, new to academic life, and, often, still in the throes of adolescence.
This, as I have written elsewhere, is contrary to the very notion of teaching itself. (It is also not anything close to the bedrock 1940 statement on the matter from the American Association of University Professors.) The goal of the university is to create educated and reasoning adults, not to shelter children against the pain of learning that the world is a complicated place. Classes are not a restaurant meal that must be served to students’ specifications; they are not a stand-up act that must make students laugh but never offend them. Miller is leaving the door open for future curricular challenges.
        Yes, we know the way the wind is blowing. Poet Dylan was particularly precocious with another line from Subterranean Homesick Blues.....
        "The pump don't work cause vandals stole the handles..."

         Free thought and speech are the pump handles of intellectual
progress. That chill that blows comes in on winds of repression and it bears a thief who seeks to steal your right to exercise and speak your mind.

           See you down the trail. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Break Between Storms

         In the wisdom of the old saying, "every cloud has a silver lining" today's clouds over Cambria are mostly mist and sprinkles, providing the ground and citizens a chance to dry and assess.
         Times of crisis bring out the best in people. Neighbors helping each other, including the emergency crews-fire, safety, utilities and road. During last years repaving of local roads,  gutters and swales were improved and they've made the last two weeks of rain easier. 

        We've been blessed by location. Our ridge is a block below the highest elevation between Highway 1 and the Pacific. It's called Top of the World and thus far drainage has been good.

    The pause in the series of storms affords a chance to take a closer look. The back hill garden plantings are holding. Lana's indefatigable work provides more than beauty. It's important because our property is slope with a plateau over more slope. 
    Here's a look around.

    The lemon flourishes but work on the new raised bed has been halted.

        The solar panels and battery are invaluable when PG&E service is disrupted.
Energy production is minimal, though not zero, in this kind of overcast. 

The Baby Tears have faired well and the pea gravel has continued to drain and percolate. 

Lana's "garden alley" and potting bench came through the deluge  without harm. 

No damage in her hanging meditation corner.

Most of her succulents and small plants on the deck had to be moved and drained, but no lasting damage. 

The artichoke bed is no worse for the wear.

The rain collection barrels are ready for pumping.

The barrel above is also plumbed to receive water that is used in our reverse osmosis process at the tap.

        Glad we trimmed the bottle brush below the utility lines. These storms have produced high winds. Trees into power lines have been a big problem.

        We've escaped the flooding, mudslides, and evacuations that plague thousands of our fellow Californians. If the forecast holds, tomorrow will allow for more drying and absorption. Friday we head into 4 days of another atmospheric river. 

        Perhaps a future generation will come to realize the value of rain and runoff capture, for those not so wet seasons that are inevitable on the west coast.

        It seems everyone is coping with extreme weather of some form this season. Hang in there and stay safe. 

        BTW, this was written by a person. No ChatGPT working here. 

        See you down the trail. 


Monday, January 9, 2023

Storming the New Year

         We've started the new year with an ample baptism on the California central coast. 
        In Cambria and environs 8.5 inches in the last 10 days has washed 2022 away and changed the color scheme from drought brown.
        Rain is forecast for 8 of the next ten days. We've been soaked for 8 of the last 10. We are being warned to expect 5 inches in the next two days.

        Santa Rosa Creek is a water freeway gliding into the Pacific near Moonstone Beach. It's also a zoom-floom. 

        The storm surf is audible from miles away. Its roar and growl thunder the planet's voice. Its power is immense.

        Some are not content to listen and watch.

        Leaks, slides, road closures, lost power and communication, washouts, and localized flooding; California is good at getting things back in operation and  Californians take it in stride, especially on the central coast. We've had a breather between the "atmospheric rivers," and we wait now for the next act. 
        This is a place of "human/nature interface;" mountains, forests, wildlife, the Pacific Ocean. We live here with the knowledge that nature rules. We are cool with that. Still, this rain season is unlike most. 

        See you down the trail.