February 20th, 2021

abstract butterfly

Warmer but Surprisingly Still a Challenge


  
  
  

Thursday the weather remained well below freezing. But the weather improved significantly from the single digit temperatures of earlier in the week. My Thursday business matter had been postponed into March, as some of its attendees were so badly affected by the storms. I decided to drive into my office.

My usual commute during the Covid-19 era takes 25 to 30 minutes each way. But I take a different route when inclement Winter weather comes. This is in part because the ramp that leads me from the southbound Central Expressway to the eastbound George H. W., Bush tollway involves a one of those looping elevated bridges.  I get concerned about ice at high elevations. This is also in part because both Central Expressway and the Bush freeway are heavily traveled. This snow week, as with others less severe, the biggest concern is large pick-up trucks and eighteen wheelers driven by drivers with a strong predisposition to driving too fast.

Fortunately, lots of alternative routes lead from my home 25 minutes north of Dallas to my office in Garland which is just east of Dallas. I took the route that runs by Southfork Ranch, the setting of the eighties television show "Dallas."  I wished I had taken a picture of the 19th C. country church Corinth Presbyterian, which looked rather noble in the now.  My drive took the better part of an hour, as the roads were mostly snow but with ice patches. I made it to my office in good shape between 9 and 10. 

The power at our office came back on very late afternoon Wednesday, and our IT contractor guy Don, a huge help to us for some 19 years now, got our network up and running again. So it felt good to be in my office with light and computers. The landlord's central heat and air system seemed to be playing catch-up, so I'm not sure I ever took off my coat. I was the only person from our office at the office. Some of our staff had experienced prolonged power outages and lived in areas with far worse roads.  For some reason, these two Winter storms brought mostly heavy snow to my area, but brought snow and ice to Dallas and in particular to regions south of Dallas.   I continue to marvel, a bit, at the disruption these two storms caused. Six or so inches of snow, or an inch or two of ice usually has much less severe effect here. Similarly, though single-digit temperatures are rare here, they are not unheard-of. But this week the state's power grid lost a bet it had apparently been making for years. This bet was that the geographic size and climate diversity of Texas meant that no storm would ever affect the entire state.
A second bet made by the power generators was the bet that they could save money by avoiding or delaying winterizing.

Our local politicians on the right sometimes try to outdo each other in privatizing and deregulating things. But this week provides a good reminder that a solid infrastructure requires common-sense regulation, like winterizing (and, in Texas, summerizing) the utility plants.
Perhaps our politicians will learn a bit. But already we have seen instead factually inaccurate efforts to cast aspersions on greener power generation.  Texas, contrary to its oil-only stereotype, has a lot of wind energy supplying its grid. West Texas is a windmill kind of place.
Despite comments from our governor (who took back his words) and from our lieutenant governor ( the plants that experienced problems included oil, gas and wind generators, with natural gas perhaps the hardest-hit.

Late this week, several cities had to issue boil notices for water. My town was not among them. My hope is that this is all a wake-up call to the powers that be.

Two things in the news did provide some relief this week. One was the landing of the Mars rover Perseverance on the surface of Mars during what the media described as "the seven minutes of terror" landing process. By chance, we happened to have the television on just when it happened, so we got to see the happy mission control personnel as the safe landing was reached. Later I saw the rover's Twitter account tweeted out a photo from the surface.

The second thing that gave rise to a rare moment of bipartisanship came from Texas United States Senator Ted Cruz. He managed to fly to Cancun from Houston to escape the weather.  He then told a series of stories about just trying to accompany his daughter to Mexico for a school break trip and be a good dad,while family friends leaked his wife's texts that the trip was a last minute plan to escape the freezing temperatures. I rather liked the woman interviewed by the news who is still without power and whose possessions were badly damaged by water leaks. She said, with simple directness, that she wished she could be on the beach in Mexico, too. Senator Cruz did manage to bring Texas together, though, in laughing at Ted Cruz.

Thursday I worked at my office until some time in the afternoon, and then I drove home, picking up soft chicken tacos at Taco Bueno along teh way. Then I worked at home and got more things done. Thursday we had television service, but not internet service at home. Fortunately, my cell phone hotspot continued to function. I had projects that could continue despite the weather challenges that made things difficult for co-workers, opposing counsel and clients, even as other projects were postponed by the weather.  Thursday evening I walked to the park. A solitary mallard braved the ice.

On Wednesday I finished Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of Bright Water." I went to the Baen Books website to hunt a new science fiction novel. I bought Dan Koboldt's novel "Domesticating Dragons." I typically disfavor science fiction or fantasy novels that focus on dragons, feeling in general that Smaug in "The Hobbit" and the dragonriders of Pern (as well as reasonable dragon appearances in the Harry Potter series) suffice to exhaust the field on dragons. But I am enjoying the Koboldt novel so far (I am a bit over 40 percent done) as it has a kind of Heinlein
earnestness that I like. I knew that I was getting into this sci-fi novel when I found myself disappointed with an action by its protagonist, though the action was a necessary plot device to permit a dragon to be all dragon-y. I think to myself, though, that science fiction is ofen best-suited to novellas and short stories, but is for marketing reasons sold in novel and series of novel forms.

I think this is one way I have changed since I was a boy. Then I thought nothing of starting with volume 4 of a 7-volume series,and then working backward and forward. In part, this may have been because book sources in my small town--an incomplete library, a grocery store--sometimes offered only some volumes of a series. I remember reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Fighting Man of Mars" after I found it at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas during one of our family trips to a medical convention. It was a while still before I could read the first and best-known work of the series, "A Princess of Mars."  I still remembered this morning that the main characters in "A Fighting Man of Mars" was a fellow named Tan Hadron of Hastor, though I had forgotten and had to look up that his love interest was named Tavia. 
 bring

I do like that genre novel series usually feature lots of narrative that "catches the reader up" to past novels in a series. Even the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift books (both in their original incarnation and "modernized" 50s versions) had lots of paragraphs to bring the young reader up to speed on things from prior volumes.

Friday afternoon we finally got full-internet service at our home, though others of our fellow Texans still suffered from all sorts of difficulties. But when I drove home on Friday, I saw that much of the ice had begun to melt. I am hopeful that things will get to a more normal place sometime next week, both here and in Cancun.














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