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L. Neil Smith's
Number 753, January 12, 2014

The wages of moderation are political death.

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When Hell Freezes Over: Birth Pangs of the Coming Ice Age?—or Short Term Cooling Cycle?
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

See "Freezing", an Algore Song Parody

Two degrees Fahrenheit at my place on Tuesday morning in sunny southwestern PA! Went down to about minus 7 the night before because of a polar air mass that came barreling in Sunday night—after a mild weekend in which the really significant snowfall from the previous week melted off totally. It's dreadful coming anticipated well in advance but still seemed so remote when I went out to load up the firebox of the outside wood furnace that is the primary heat source for the house and occasionally for the greenhouse. It was still in the 50s then.

The air change finally came around 2AM Monday morning heralded by roaring winds that sounded much like a derecho which brought some concern regarding the possibility of power outages. The winds soon slacked off giving way to pounding rains. Come morning the ground was white again with snow and it dropped into the mid 20s. The house was still a comfortable 70 degrees when I left for work yesterday. I loaded up the firebox and hoped for the best.

By evening it had dropped down into the low single digits. Due to concerns that the furnace might burn through all the wood—I was more than willing to volunteer to go home early when asked around 7PM. Frigid weather tends to keep people indoors and usually lowers the patient census in the ER. I was happy to see blue smoke coming out of the smokestack when I pulled in around 8P. And there were plenty of hot coals and a few recognizable logs left in the firebox which I reloaded with some of the biggest, thickest logs before going into the house.

Down to minus 7 that night and back up into the single digits by early afternoon. Three degrees at noon. And it didn't go much higher. It was time to venture outside to check the chicken coop and greenhouse and reload the outside furnace.

The thermometer in the living room was down to 67 degrees much of the day. No surprise given that my heating system usually struggles during frigid weather. It's an old house and I remember as a kid when we used electric blankets a lot and the kitchen floor was often cold in the mornings. It felt pretty cold when I walked on it barefoot this morning. And the house slipped another ten degrees lower. I decided to switch back to oil heat and discovered that the cellar door was blown open. That's always a big help—like the time Miss Kitty forced it open one night and some of the plumbing froze up. This time it only froze the drain pipe from the bathroom sink which was causing a small accumulation of water from a dripping faucet in the basin. Which was easily remedied by pouring hot water on the pipe. The house continued to loose ground. I reversed the kill switch on the oil furnace and turned the valve to bypass the heat exchanger for the outside unit. It had fallen to 61 degrees and I was not sure if it is worth trying to get it much higher at the expense of additional fuel oil—so I set the thermostat to 65 to just keep the place tolerably warm for the duration of the cold snap.

Which fortunately it was relatively short in duration with a warming trend that began just a couple days later and it was back up into the 40s by the coming weekend. Good thing because my stockpile of the larger logs I burn in the lower half of the firebox is getting low. I made the mistake of taking a load the mill had cut for someone else but the pieces were too long. Unfortunately many of them were too thin and I burned through them a lot faster than I normally do. My supply of shorter logs as you will see in one of the images I will be sending is holding up just fine but I will soon need to get more bigger ones. Either cut my own from an area I want to clear out on the property—or just order the load for next season early and make up the difference when I clear the hollow early spring when the weather is better. Normally I use coal too—but I am in the process of trying to find someone who can deliver me a load because the driver I usually call upon seems unavailable. In the meantime my friend the "Historian" has been burning a good bit of coal in his unit this winter and is having a lot of trouble with ash and clinkers clogging his grates. I had lots of problems too when I used coal. It is a good source of BTUs but requires a lot of attention because the slug of burning coal often cokes up and crusts over and has to be broken up or you get a cold boiler and there are the issues of ash and clinkers as well as coal tar plugging the blower hole in the lower chamber. We are both thinking about experimenting with a little Anthracite which has more BTUs and produces less ash than soft coal—but is more expensive. It might be just as well to resign myself to burning an additional load of wood each winter since this year I have had none of the problems I usually run into when burning coal which I usually would throw a few shovels of on top after loading the wood.

Thinking this might be the start of a new article on the issue of climate change. I have always been fascinated with paleoclimate and paleobotany which was what made the Science Fiction novel "Fallen Angels" so fascinating when I first read it in the early 90s. The weather was a bit colder then too and I was thinking that Global Warming was definitely the lesser of two evils and maybe even a good thing since humans are essentially of warm climate origin.

My opinion has not changed since.

Glenn Beck was all over the polar vortex thing this week. He brought up how the liberals and their fellow travelers in the climate science field were harping about the very same thing back in the 1970s—the Age of the Ecology Crusade and Paul Ehrlich the bug specialist when The Coming Ice Age was all the rage! I could not help but think of him because a friend brought him up in a related conversational thread. He was going to send me another issue of "National Wildlife Magazine from 1974 chocked full of all manner of doomsday scenarios—but I told him 'You don't have to send me that issue because I already have all that bullshit—Jimmy Carter, Mr Ehrlich, Mt St. Helen & Bigfoot—filed away in my head and could write a book on that if I have not already'. I grew up on the Population Bomb and Limits to Growth on top of the fundamentalist version from the churchgoers who were jumping on the same bandwagon with their own interpretations on how everything from the Cold War & Middle East turmoil to weird weather and environmental pollution pointed to the inevitability of a biblical apocalypse in our time.

The prolific science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote a book: "A Choice of Catastrophes: Disasters that threaten our world. In addition to everything from flu pandemics to nuclear warfare to asteroid impacts and exploding supernovae—which even has a chapter devoted to the predictions of those who believe that Armageddon is nigh!—which I have often worried about in my day—yet at the same time could not help but think of that scene in the movie "When Worlds Collide" with the paperboy shouting "EXTRA EXTRA END OF THE WORLD JUST AROUND THE CORNER"! Asimov talked a lot about the lurid predictions of the founders of the Jehovah's Witnesses & Seventh Day Adventists that had people selling off all their worldly goods and gathering on hilltops to meet the coming of The Lord. "and the day passed without incident" much like the preacher who made and revised similar predictions in 2012. And mention of the way people interpreted the Civil War and the various world wars as what seemed like that "cataclysmic battle predicted in the Book of Revelation".

Have not been to church in ages but I have a feeling that people who are deep into biblical prophesy are having a field day again. And why not—they even got a guy in the White House who can actually pass for the Antichrist—though maybe a piss poor one! Then again, many people down thru history have been awarded the distinguished title of Antichrist—all across the religious and political spectrum. From Mohammed to various Popes and Protestant reformers to Napoleon, Hitler, FDR, and Reagan!

I've even known a few people who thought they were The One!

Like the "lean-looked prophets in the religious world—the eco doomsters in the political world have racked up a rather fairly embarrassing track records of failed predictions where as Asimov said "the day passed without incident"! From the Coming Ice Age and global warming that didn't happen to a population bomb that failed to detonate. As it is with predicting the weather—predicting the end of the world can often be an uncertain and sometimes even risky business. Just ask the green tourists who went to Antarctica looking for melting icecaps and drowning penguins and ended up getting stuck in the ice instead. Along with another ship that tried to rescue them! I am thankful my situation was a lot less dramatic. Was expecting a Snowpocalypse and got a Coldpocalypse instead. And it passed mostly without incident. The worst problem was the struggle to restore the thermal balance of the house which usually slips during frigid weather. The greenhouse door also had the be forced open and then barracaded shut from the outside until the latching mechanism thawed.

Next priority will of course be to get my saw running and cut some trees to tide me over until I can get another load of 24' logs delivered.

I figure I can cut more wood to replace what I use from that batch—and then order another in addition to what I normally get. 3 loads instead of the usual 2 so I have less likelihood of running out in a really cold winter. It is always best not to have to go get or have anything delivered in cold weather. And regardless what the climate scientists say—future winters will likely be cold.

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