Eric's Daily Weblog
Of course, a cold spell in Tucson is a different animal than a cold spell back home. Frost warnings last night. Some rain. Clouds. A chilly day, only in the 50s. This will continue for a few days.
I am always in touch with those back home. Lance is ensconced in the house preparing his museum show for the Rourke Gallery in Moorhead. Dad took Uncle Orv in for outpatient surgery this morning. Joe is working to get his step-daughter out of Thailand, which at present is in a state of political unrest, which is complicating matters.
Sister Tracie decided to cancel a haircut she had scheduled for Aunt Olla. Aunt Olla, meanwhile, is back in the saddle. "I couldn't have it any better," she insisted when I called her last.
Meanwhile, back here in Tucson, I have moved on to editing the material I wrote in a rush last month. I went at a fast pace, so the quality needs improvement. You'd think after years of writing that I would get better at first drafts. Perhaps I have, but I also have developed a more critical eye towards editing, which means there is always plenty of work to do to improve the text.
You can't start worrying if people are going to read the stuff, although it is tempting to doubt. So, I had a couple of days of doubt. Then the futility of a bad outlook became obvious and I waded back in to what I had written, only to find it wasn't that awful.
Mind games. They're the same now as they were in college when it was impossible to finish papers before the deadline. However, now, there is no due date, nobody will issue a grade, and you have nobody to please but yourself.
I am comforted by reading about the tremendous work established writers put into their writing. Revision after revision. I just read a book about how F. Scott Fitzgerald editied The Great Gatsby into its final form. His earlier versions survive, so the author of the more recent book plowed through them to see what changes Fitzgerald put in, often at the urging of a friendly editor. The changes were large. Fitzgerald sorted through his entire text and changed the way he presented characters, changed the way they spoke, changed their level of prominence. The edits included debates over single words, too. Without the editing, the book would probably have fallen on its face.
An old rule reasserts itself: That which is easy to read has been difficult to write.
This is one of the great pieces Bach wrote for organ, played on an organ from Bach's time. The numbering system of Bach's music runs from zero to a thousand or so, and it is convenient for those like me who get confused between one A minor Prelude and Fugue and the other.
This piece is in A minor. It is an impish, even demonic work. Modern fundamentalists would be right to be scared of its power, something the faithful in Bach's time savored rather than feared.
Bach's music is really rhetoric. It makes an argument, an argument more eloquent than any possible in English. The closing chords are the final, irrefutable statements of the arguement. The performer, John Scott Whitely understands that, and finally shows a little emotion at the end.
Like most of Bach's pieces, BWV 543 is best understood if listened to many times by many interpreters. This recording is a good start, however.
The Twins have signed two pitchers, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco. This is unusual behavior for them.
Just as importantly, they are working on a deal to bring A. J. Pierzynski back to catch. With Joe Mauer moving to first base, the 37-year-old Pierzynski would fill a big hole.
The catcher is the most important defensive player on the diamond. An experienced catcher can squeeze a little extra out of a shaky pitching staff.
Pierzynski is a pest. He has a bad-boy attitude. He is one of the most hated players in baseball today. That might make him an ideal addition to the sleepy Twins. Joe Mauer is a great hitter, but he's not exactly a ball of fire as a team leader. Morneau was of the same mold. A little sleepy. But Pierzynski chews nails for breakfast.
At bat, Pierzynski fouls off pitch after pitch before dumping a looper to left field, sometimes for a double. Makes you mad, unless he's on your team.
Gardenhire has experience working with Pierzynski. They may be able to work together like two grown men, who knows.
As for the pitching staff, the latest additions aren't exactly going to set the world on fire. Nolasco and Hughes have spotty records. But adding arms can at least increase the odds that the Twins will find a starting staff that gets the job done. They still need an ace, and the best hope now comes from within the Twins system: Alex Meyer has the potential to become a #1 starter. You can never count on that, though. A great arm, which Meyer has, is no guarantee that one has major league mettle.
In any case, it is good to see the Twins make a little news in December.
A little math reveals that North Dakota produces about 10 barrels of oil per second. Within three or four years, that will double. That is a river of oil!
Each train of oil that rolls through Fargo represents about 60,000 barrels of oil. North Dakota produces a trainload every two hours. Some of that goes through pipelines, of course, but it is helpful to visualize what is going on out there.
To continue the flow, there has to be continual drilling, as wells decline quickly before leveling off for the long-term. To double the flow, which is in the cards, there must be more than double the drilling. That means there will be ever more people, ever more money, ever more problems of growth.
Right now, the Bakken formation provides the bulk of the oil. There are other formations above and below the Bakken. The only one formation exploited so far other than the Bakken is the Three Forks. It is in its infancy. It is probable that the Three Forks has more oil than the Bakken. There are other formations which are completely untapped, perhaps as many as four.
Each month, the technology for getting oil out of the Bakken formation improves. Wells become cheaper to drill, and they produce more. When the Bakken dries up, which is not going to happen soon, they will move on to figure out other formations. A ten-year Bakken well might be reworked to get oil out of other formations.
If anybody thinks the North Dakota oil boom is going to be short-lived, they are mistaken. It is going to grow and grow and grow.
You can debate the effects of the boom, but it is here to stay.
Beautiful, clear morning in Tucson. It will reach 70 degrees today. I am joining the next door neighbors and their friends and kin for dinner. I will provide the mashed potatoes. Should be fun.
The city is quiet this morning. Even the trans-continental trains seem to be taking Thanksgiving off.
Was informed last night that there was a family of rattlesnakes in the back yard this summer. Rattlesnakes are actually pretty defenseless against their predators, which are gopher snakes, raptors and...believe it or not, squirrels. So most young rattlers do not make it to adulthood.
The snakes are deep in the ground right now, so no hope of seeing one, which disappoints me only a little.
Neighbor Pat is a retired veterinarian and loves animal life of all sorts. She now sclupts animals out of metal. Her husband Howard is a retired food chemist who loves to cook. I quiz him about food matters as they arise.
Are hard eggs bad for you? Only if you fry them in oil and cook them until they start to turn brown. Then the protiens become inaccessible.
Are canned tomatoes dangerous? I read that recently. No, only if they are old is there even the threat that the acid of the tomato will interact with the side of the can.
You can't enter Pat and Howard's house without learning something new. Their present houseguest is Charlie, who leads African wildlife safaris and takes photos for National Geographic on the side. He recently published a coffee table book of his incredible photos from Burma.
One theme: The incredible damage done to Africa and Southeast Asia by the robust Chinese market. For one thing, the Chinese have an insatiable appetite for exotic foods, and the jungles of Laos have been stripped bare of any form of wildlife, even birds.
Charlie introduced me to a new animal: The pangolin. It is now threatened due to its gourmet status. Recently a van with 200 dead pangolin was stopped at the Thai border. It was headed for China.
Meanwhile, I am reading the book 1491 by Charles Mann, about the Americas before Columbus. Much strange and wonderful to learn there, too! Early civilizations have recently been found on the Peruvian Coast which date back as far as 12,000 years. It is likely that the Americas were more advanced than the Ancient Mideast. Bigger cities. Higher population. Advanced farming.
Disease introduced by Europeans ended all of that.
People tend to be provincial, both in geography at present, where we ignore vast swaths of the earth in favor of what's going on in our backyard, and historically, where we tend to think that we have reached the apex of civilization--which by amazing coincidence is here and now.
Therefore we resist information which suggests we are not the center of the universe and the very purpose of creation. Provincialism is a pernicious and ignorant mental habit, and it is the purpose of education to shake us of it and stimulate our curiosity, about other cultures, about other regions, about other eras, about the oceans and the skies. To shut one's self down and resist newness is to die an early death.
An unusual rain, too. Sustained over two full days, resulting in 2.5 inches. Tucson gets rain during the monsoon season, but it comes in gushes. This was gradual.
I went to a mall yesterday to spend time at Barnes and Noble. I felt a drip on my head. Then I looked around. All through the mall were buckets and piles of paper towels. The roof leaked like a sieve.
The temperature cooled as well. Into the upper 40s at night, upper 50s during the day. I had to turn on the heat.
However, today all is forgiven. The sun is out. The desert smells spicy. The dust is settled. And the temperatures will be back to normal by this afternoon.