Electoral and Winter Updates

I only found out today that when the Electoral College voted last month, one of Nebraska’s five electors voted for Barack Obama instead of John McCain.  My figures for the popular vote in last year’s election were also a bit off, so I have updated the presidential election page on The Xenophile Historian.

Maverick electors aren’t new; we typically get one every four to eight years.  Usually it’s somebody pledged to the losing candidate, who wants to make a statement, and knows he’ll be throwing away his vote if he just follows the rules.  In 1976, for example, a Washington State elector pledged to Gerald Ford voted for Ronald Reagan instead.  What makes this different is that the state of Nebraska changed the rules, so that it is no longer “winner take all,” when it comes to awarding electoral votes after the popular vote has been counted.  I think in Nebraska it is one electoral vote per district, with the vote going to the winner in each district.  Thus, I changed the map to show a small part of eastern Nebraska blue, while the rest of the state is still red.  I have a feeling the Cornhusker State will be bi-colored on future election maps, too.

We still have lots of snow outside, and there was the phenomenom of “freezing fog” this morning.  However, last hour Rezia called to report that she and Gene got electricity back in their house last night, so life is starting to return to normal, after the ice storm.  If they come over today, it will just be to pick up the food they left here.

Our Worst Ice Storm Ever!

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You know how Google likes to observe obscure holidays by putting pictures of them on the Google.com homepage?  I forgot to mention that this week they did it again.  They didn’t mention Chinese New Year last Monday, but on Wednesday they posted the above picture to commemorate the birthday of Jackson Pollock.  Pollock is the guy who made abstract paintings by putting a canvas on the floor, swinging paint cans over them, and calling it art.  It seems appropriate, in view of the mess we’ve got outside.

Anyway, it’s official; this week’s ice storm is the worst in the history of Kentucky.  Earlier in the week I heard old-timers comparing it to the last big ice storm (2003 around here, 1994 in western Kentucky).  Now in terms of damaged trees and power lines and power outages, this storm has outdone all previous ones.  The number of people without electricity has climbed to 607,000, but help is on the way.  This morning I heard about electric companies from as far away as North Carolina sending crews to help.

However, we’re not out of the woods yet.  Another cold front came in today, bringing a little more snow, as if we didn’t have enough already!  There’s still so much snow in our neighborhood that when I went to work this morning, the car tried to slide down the first hill sideways.  Too bad I can’t commute with a sled.  And now I’m hearing we may get another big storm on Monday, with possible blizzard-like conditions in the mountains.

Since I wasn’t here when the previous ice storms hit, I still try to compare this with the hurricanes I’ve been through.  When Hurricane Charley struck central Florida in August 2004, Orlando was left without power, and the whole city missed out of that year’s Olympics before it was completely restored.  Now it looks like Lexington will miss out on Sunday’s Superbowl, since much of the city will probably have no power for the next week, maybe even into mid-February.

Over on the Free Republic website, some politically-minded Kentuckians are calling this storm “Sarah Palin’s Revenge,” or the “White Katrina.”  Well, I did blame it on Al Gore already; why does he have to make his speeches on global warming at this time of the year?

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Did I say “Winter Wonderland” Yesterday?

Today I got out, and “winter wasteland” might be a better description of what I saw.  The trees are all loaded with ice; where the branches haven’t broken off, they hang down so far that every tree that isn’t an evergreen looks like a willow.  And plenty of snow for some time to come.  According to the weather forecast, we’re not likely to see temperatures above freezing until Sunday.  Therefore more branches are likely to fall before the ice melts off, and the lights are going to go off for more people, where the branches hit power lines.

Ice storms may not happen as quickly as the other kinds of storms, but they still can be damaging and dangerous.  By contrast, if I parked my car under a tree in Florida, the only things I had to worry about were sap (if the tree was a pine), or bird poop.

Speaking of lights out, as of this morning, 525,000 people in Kentucky are without electricity,  of which 36,000 are in Lexington.  The governor has already declared the whole state a disaster area.  The power is still out in Richmond, and I hear counties like Garrard and Wolfe are more than half dark.  Here in town the worst hit area is the southwest side, between Versailles and Harrodsburg Rd.

Gene & Rezia came over again today, and this evening we had a bit of a shell game, as I moved my car out of the garage, so Gene could put his truck in there and rearrange the stuff in the back without freezing, and then after they left, I put my car back in the garage because some of the ice from Tuesday and Wednesday hasn’t melted yet.  The commute to work wasn’t as bad as the one on Tuesday, but I saw another guy in a jeep get stuck in a snowdrift in the parking lot.  We’re still on a skeleton crew in the office, inasmuch as some of my co-workers are in the dark at home.  I was surprised to learn from the boss that ten folks showed up yesterday; he wasn’t there very long himself.

And if that wasn’t enough news for the day, I also hear there was an earthquake centered on Williamsburg, a town just eleven miles north of the Kentucky-Tennessee border on I-75.  Only 3.1 on the Richter scale, though, so I don’t think there were any injuries or damage.  Oh well, let’s hope for an uninteresting day tomorrow.

At least Ice Storms Are Prettier Than Hurricanes

I wrote about my biggest hurricane experience (August-September 2004) in an essay on The Xenophile Historian, entitled “At Ground Zero in Florida’s Year of Storms.”

Today there was no question about it — I stayed home all day.  It rained all night, and because of that leaky back door (see my message from December 25, 2008), water puddled on the kitchen floor again.  By the time it stopped coming in, we had used just about every towel in the house to pick it up.  When morning came, this was the view across the street, from the front door:

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There was a thin layer of ice on my car, but worse stuff was to come.

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The bird feeder in the backyard was popular with a group of fat sparrows.  I bet that’s the only place in the neighborhood where they can get a dry meal.  Here you can see the shadow of one perched on it, while another flies off.  In the middle of the day I refilled it, and they were back just moments later; they must have been hungry!

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Icicles under the stairs to the patio.

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At 10 AM the rain became snow, big snowflakes the size of postage stamps.  The trees across the street were so weighted down by ice and snow that branches started breaking off.  But again we were the lucky ones; all the power lines in this neighborhood are underground.  Several branches fell on Gene and Rezia’s house (the one that hit a power line started a brief fire), and they lost electricity.  Gene came across town, dropped Rezia off with us, and went to take care of various emergencies.  Here’s Rezia in the kitchen.  Leive made pancit, and they had such a good time together that Rezia ended up staying until 9 PM.

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Of course Brin-Brin wasn’t happy to have company, but he was better behaved than other times when they were here.  He didn’t try to bite, nor did he cry while at the bottom of the cage.

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Because their refrigerator wasn’t working, Gene and Rezia left their groceries with us.  We managed to get most of it in our refrigerator, but the ice cream and other “freezer ballast” was simply put on the patio table outside.  It reminded me of an old Yakov Smirnov joke:  “What do you call the automatic device that defrosts Russian refrigerators once a year?  Summer!”

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Here’s how my Buick looked when the snow stopped.

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Our next-door neighbors had a tree loaded with so much ice, that it bended down into their driveway.

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It was a similar story with the two little trees in our backyard.

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While these shrubs stayed upright and became examples of winter beauty.

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At 5:30 I went outside and switched cars, putting the Nissan in the driveway and moving the Buick into the garage, so it won’t be covered with ice and snow and will be easy to start, should I go to work tomorrow.  I’ll finish with two pictures of the winter wonderland that my street has become.

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One thing’s for sure, forty years of life in Florida never prepared me for anything like this!

The Sayings of Chairman Obamao?

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If you’re my age, you’ll remember “Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung,” better known as simply “the little red book.”  It was all the rage in China, during the 1960s and 70s.  You may also remember Muammar el-Gaddafi’s manifesto, “The Green Book.”  Now it looks like we have “the little blue book,” to join its red and green counterparts.

Pocket Obama, from History Company

Apparently the History Company makes furniture and decorations with an historical theme.  Here is the official description of this latest Barack Obama souvenir:

Printed in a size that easily fits into pocket or purse, this book is an anthology of quotations borrowed from Barack Obama’s speeches and writings. POCKET OBAMA serves as a reminder of the amazing power of oratory and the remarkable ability of this man to move people with his words. His superb and captivating oratory style has earned comparisons to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and this historic collection presents words that catapulted his remarkable rise to the American Presidency. It is an unofficial requirement for every citizen to own, to read, and to carry this book at all times.

The little blue book includes themes of democracy, politics, war, terrorism, race, community, jurisprudence, faith, personal responsibility, national identity, and above all, his hoped-for vision of a new America. POCKET OBAMA is a portable, everyday primer for readers who want to examine the substance of his thought and reflect on the next great chapter in the American story.

I read about this item last Monday, but said nothing because I thought it was a joke.  Now I’m not so sure.  Quinn & Rose, two conservative talk show hosts, think the book is real, and yesterday I heard them speculate on what kind of quotes might be in it.  Like the one where Obama said he had campaigned in fifty-seven states, or the one where he talked about bitter Pennsylvania voters clinging to their guns and religion.  Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin said that “If it’s a joke, it’s a darned good one.

The good news (maybe) is that Amazon sold out the copies it had, so the little blue book is not available from Amazon at this time.

My response if this:  If the book is real, releasing it this soon is sending out the wrong message.  I’m assuming that Obama supporters wrote it, but for crying out loud, your man has only been president for eight days!  What has he done in that amount of time?

  • He took the oath of office a second time, because the Chief Justice messed up on Inauguration Day.
  • He got most of his cabinet approved by the Senate, despite the issues some of them have, like a treasury secretary not paying his taxes.
  • He announced that he wants to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay (“Club Gitmo”) within a year.
  • He said he still wants our troops out of Iraq within sixteen months.
  • He has been selling the idea of an $825+ billion economic stimulus package to Congress.
  • He announced that he is in favor of embryonic stem-cell research, unlike his predecessor.
  • He gave his first interview as president, to an Arab news network.

And that’s it.  For better or for worse, it looks like he plans on keeping his promises.  But it’s too early to tell if they will succeed or fail, so isn’t it jumping the gun by celebrating his achievements now?  Even worse, the book confirms the worst fears of folks on the right like me, who are afraid that the voters put a communist in the White House.  During the election I even saw some photoshopped pictures comparing Obama with Stalin and Mao, like this one:

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Whether this is a real book or a joke, I find the timing of it culturally revolting (if you’ll pardon the expression).

I Must Have Been Mad

I woke up to the sound of rain just before 4 this morning, and went back to sleep until the alarm clock went off.  When I got up, I looked outside at the ice, and got ready for work anyway.  Poul Anderson, one of my favorite science fiction writers, once defined an adventure as a hardship happening to someone else; well, I certainly had an adventure today!

There was ice all over my car, up to an inch deep on the hood and the trunk.  I’m sure glad I didn’t put my ice scraper in the trunk, after the last time I used it; if I had, there would have been no way I could have gotten to it.  I scraped enough off the windshield to see ahead of me and headed down the road.  The toughest part of the commute was one intersection where I had to make a left turn, and I had to open the driver’s-side door to see if any cars were coming.  On the way to work, the radio warned that anyone who doesn’t need to be out should stay off the road, and at work we had less than half the usual crew there.  As time went on freezing rain made everything outside slicker; lawns began to look like ice-skating rinks, and the flags were frozen to the flagpole outside our building.  I spent both my morning and afternoon breaks scraping more ice off the car, but even at the end of the day it took another fifteen minutes of scraping before I felt I could go home safely.

The trip home was much like the morning commute; creeping along no faster then 30 MPH, on roads where the speed limit is normally 45-50, and staying on the main roads because I heard the country roads I prefer to take were really slick.  The worst part was the last two blocks, where I had to go uphill on untreated roads where not much traction existed.  Once home, I chiseled the ice off the mailbox to see if the mailman had come by (he didn’t), and the trip from the car to the door was so treacherous that I almost slipped, so when I made it inside I got the snow shovel and went back out to shovel the ice from the doorstep and part of the driveway.  That could have been a real hazard if we had any visitors.  Normally Leive hosts a ladies’ prayer group from our church on Tuesday nights, and I go to a men’s group to stay out of the way, but luckily all such meetings were cancelled.

Since the weatherman says the worst of this winter storm may come tonight, I don’t think I’ll be going out tomorrow; today was bad enough.  When I checked the weather map, the storm stretched all the way from Virginia to Oklahoma, and I understand quite a few folks had it worse than us, especially in western Kentucky and Arkansas.  At work I also heard that our Richmond office, about 20 miles southeast of here, had no electricity, so we must be the lucky ones.  The good news is that Al Gore is supposed to be in Washington D.C. tomorrow, to testify on the danger of global warming.  He does it every winter but he never learns, does he?  The “Gore Effect” strikes again!

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Here Comes Old Man Winter

We got almost an inch of snow last night.  The roads I took to work weren’t salted, but it didn’t matter because there was little traffic; the Fayette County schools were closed.  However, all day I have been hearing that the big storm of the season is coming, and it could last from Monday night to Wednesday morning.  In the Ohio valley only snow is expected, while rain is forecast for southern Kentucky cities like Corbin and Somerset.  Since we’re in the middle, the weather men are predicting that everything will fall on us:  snow, rain, sleet, freezing rain, etc.

Today there was a run at the grocery stores for items like milk and bread, much like people in Florida hurrying to get batteries and jugs of water when they hear a hurricane is coming.  I heard a DJ on the radio joke that the rush is an “economic stimulus package” to get Kroger, Wal-Mart and Meijer out of the current recession!

At this point it I think I’ll take tomorrow off from work if it doesn’t look safe to drive.  Since meteorology isn’t an exact science, I’ll let you know next time if I got snowed in.