The Light And The Darkness — reprise

It occurred to me yesterday that my issues with accepting care and being taken care of are sort of a microcosmos of a societal thing.

I came out of the hospital to full Holiday swing around me (I’m not doing much swinging, since Robert brought me home halfway through an attempted grocery shopping trip and told me not to go out of sight of his father.  Not sure yet what is wrong, but I definitely flagged halfway through the trip.  Possibly because it was so cold and for whatever reason my blood pressure remains too low) and to the usual scolds.

What usual scolds?  Oh, you know.  “It’s the commercialism” and “Why are we wasting energy on lights?” and….

This is a subset of the normal scolds.  You know the ones I mean.  The people who tell you that you should use a square of toilet paper only, or (like the particularly disgusting actress) that you should wash and reuse toilet paper.  (EW).  The people who go on about how much electricity we use, and how much water, and how we’re awful for using all this stuff.

Beyond the fact the people who bitch about this never follow through with it, and live lives of unimaginable luxury (by and large) compared to the rest of us, this bizarre call to repent of our wasteful ways seems misguided in more ways than one.  Particularly when the same people then complain about hungry children or whatever.

So, a few thoughts on this:

The world is not zero sum.  If someone is having snickers bars for breakfast, it doesn’t mean someone else needs to go hungry.  In fact, thanks to the magic of the free market, the opposite is likely to be true.  If you’re having snickers bars (or lobster) for breakfast, your demand for these things will make them cheaper for everyone else, and make it less like that someone else starves.

A belief in zero sum economics and distributing finite wealth has created real famines and filled real graves.  The free market only fills the sort of theoretical grave where we’re told that “opportunities are lost” or we should mind “our privilege” or that we shouldn’t be happy because we don’t live in an utopia.  I’m quite willing to dance on the grave of the redistributionists hopes.  It is real graves, with real people that I dislike.

Using human ingenuity to its outmost to make a buck has led to the most comfortable and well fed citizenry in the world.  Yes, I know, it would be better if we only ate things in colors that appear in nature, and if the stuff we ate were recognizable to our great grandmothers.  However, if our biggest problem is that our poor don’t always make the wisest food choices, our ancestors would laugh at our whining.  As they should. Humans seem to like weird colored food in bizarre shapes and textures.  But hey, we’re living longer than ever, and maybe it’s time to relax and accept it.

Speaking of which: Unfettered humans are often crass and tastless, and yes, something should be done about those horrible sweaters your mother in law sends you.

And yet, Christmas is by and large a vast outpouring of love of others.  Look, I never even know what I want, though this year I asked for two specific art ad ons, coming to about $50, but I love spending time and money finding the stuff my guys want/need.  It’s an altruistic holiday, in which we delight in making others happy, and it supports commerce and the economy?  That by itself might be the American triffecta.  Look, sure, I could make gifts out of pine cones and spit, and they’d be deeply meaningful and stuff.  Maybe.  But in the end it would be  still pinecones and spit, and more importantly, the economy would tank, since the market for pinecones is kind of depressed.

My household should probably moderate how many lights we leave on all the time.  Rumors I’m afraid of the dark are… perfectly correct.  However, let me tell you that there is no virtue in darkness.  It just makes you crave light more.

And overall light is what distinguishes us from willing savages like North Korea.  Wherever light glows, there human spirit thrives.

Those who wish to preach mortification of the flesh, be it in food and drink, in clothing, in gift giving or in light usage: do it yourself.

Self-discipline and control can be beneficial when exerted by oneself on one’s own behalf, or in the service of a greater religious vision.

But we will not turn off the lights and freeze in the dark in the service of sanctimonious scolds.

We will shine the light and shame the darkness.  And we will not be ashamed.



274 thoughts on “The Light And The Darkness — reprise

        1. Not at all. There is reusable fiberglass toilet paper. It is sung of in one of the (many) verses of “The North Atlantic Squadron”.

          1. Or, from an ancient Saturday Night Live skit, “Macho Wipe!” (available in 80, 60, and 40 grit!)

      1. If she wants to go to that much trouble to expiate her theoretical sins against Gaia, maybe she should go full medieval and keep a bucket of moss in her garderobe.

    1. I’m going to hijack this c4c so that my comment will be near the top, but I’m only doing this because “However, let me tell you that there is no virtue in darkness. It just makes you crave light more.” resonates so much with me, that I want to make this point very loudly and clearly, even if it’s made later in the comments:

      When the ban on incandescent lights took effect, I converted all our lighting to nice, yellow LEDs — the most daylightish* ones I could find — and then I decided to rebel against Congress. For all my life, I’ve been taught to turn off lights when I leave a room, to save energy. Well, LEDs are supposed to be energy efficient, right? So I should be able to leave all these lights on, and *still* use less energy!

      And so I do. Not only that, but when I get home from work in the evening, I’ll go through the house and turn on all the lights, everywhere. I’ve added lamps so I could make sure I have plenty light. And, in the process, I’ve discovered something interesting: it’s VERY NICE to be able to walk from room to room, and to be able to see what’s in the room without having to turn on a light first!

      I’ll still turn off the lights for bedtime, but I’ve ALSO discovered that if we turn on the lights during the day, *even after* opening all the blinds so that natural light can come in, it helps stabilize the lighting, because even during the day, clouds can pass over and make things a little darker.

      It’s also added a nice ritual for night-time, walking through the house, turning off all the lights. (It’s nice to have lights on when you want them, and to turn them off when you don’t need them…)

      So, yeah, I completely agree: “There’s no virtue in darkness. It just make you crave light more.”

      And now I also feel cheated, having turned off lights every time I left a room all throughout my childhood…
      *I’d like to experiment with dual-mode lights — sunlight for day, full-moon moonlight spectrum for night — but I have no idea how to even begin to convince an LED light company to make such a beast. It’s probably for the best, though, considering the problems it might cause with werewolves.

      1. Oh, and I almost forgot: I hate CFCs with a *passion* — with the heat of 10,000 incandescent bulbs! Another ritual we’ve developed is when we move into a place, we replace all the CFCs (and incandescents, for that matter — possibly out of respect for the bulbs, if anything — I guess I want them to last longer) with LEDs, and then when we move out, we pull out all our LEDs and put the old bulbs back in.

        Sadly, we’ve been able to activate this ritual twice this year…

  1. “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness does not comprehend it.”
    I often think those who espouse such radical philosophies are using it as a means to power. I’m beginning to think that maybe they can’t see different; and that is what drives them.
    Either way, that direction needs be opposed.

    1. That’s me! I’m one of those who runs around turning off lights that people aren’t using (or are going to be using real soon now). Same with fans in the summer (which I cannot get through to anyone that they actually add heat to a room – they are beneficial only when your body is in the room).

      Same reason, I’m a cheapskate. Which I really don’t have to be with the lights, since they are almost all LEDs now… I’m maybe saving as much as a dollar a year with my habit.

      Now, my USMCR son is properly afraid of the dark – for some reason, boot took insofar as the issue gear goes – but I wouldn’t dare enter his room in the dark myself.

      Apropos of yesterday – yes. There is self-control, there is self-discipline, and there is self-flagellation. Keeping the differences between them in mind is (part of) making a happy life.

      1. I have dealt with the first, sort of, in two ways. In the ‘back hall’ if it can be called a hall, I have an exposed LED lamp, but one with an IR sensor. The trickle for the sensor is insignificant and the lamp lights when a body is present – and shuts off a minute after presence ceases. In the front hall (same presumption of hall) and a couple other places I have a multi-level (not 3-Way) LED lamp that I leave in the dim/nightlight state[1], using a walloping 0.2 Watts. The electrical cost, computed with 11 cent KiloWatt-Hours is trivial and if means I don’t miss a step and have a ‘trick knee’ for a days – or worse – it’s quite worth it. Why, yes, I did once miss a step and while the next few days most of the time I was fine, there was no warning about when I’d need that cane that was usually a prop, but suddenly wasn’t.

        [1] While I do not have a cat, this is what I’ve heard called a “Don’t trip over the cat light.” That might assume a higher albedo cat.

          1. I’d be more impressed if you had a cat that didn’t do that…it seems to be part of the basic cat skill set although some do it more than others.

            1. Very. I have one. Should be named Hazard or similar instead of the Finnish word which means something like “Fluffy”. Especially since she isn’t, having very short if quite soft fur and a figure which would be suitable for a Siamese. But what can you do, she had the name when I got her and seems to know it, to the extent any cat will respond to a name.

            2. My three, are one and two. Two run right at your feet, the other, not so much, but being a cat, she occasionally does cross my path a bit too tight, but she tends to not be underfoot unless I am cooking, then she demands her tithe.

              1. Our largest one likes to lie in the middle of the walkway to the bathroom. At night. In the relative dark and she’s a brown tabby-ish Maine Coon on a medium brown rug. If she isn’t in the middle of the walkway, she’s on a stair though after the first few years and getting regularly stepped on she’s realized that doing that in the dark isn’t really wise so it’s only during the day. Though since I have to go down stairs backwards, one step at a time, it’s still an issue. If the lottery gods get their act in order and we decide to stay in the area, we’ll be extending the second floor over the one story back extension and turning the tiny bedroom into a hall and a half bath so we don’t have to go downstairs at night.

        1. We used to have a very, very talky Maine Coon. I realized after a while that he had specific vocalizations for cat-appropriate situations, including a (very)polysyllabic “Hey, I’m over here in the dark, do not step/sit/lie on The Cat, you stupid blind biped”.

            1. Fat Cat was fascinatingly chatty. He sang to himself in the bathroom every morning and felt compelled to inform me every time he left my personal space (defined by him as about a 10-foot radius around me). What was interesting was when I realized he had separate-but-related vocalizations for “I’m walking away and staying on the floor” vs. “I’m heading off in search of a High Place”. Don’t know WHY that was important for him to communicate, but it definitely was.

              1. Maybe they learn from us? Our’s is vocal that way. Sometimes scarily. When the vet, as a joke, said “Say ‘aaah,'” he went “Maaaah.” That got a chuckle from the vet and his assistant.

          1. I have a part Maine Coon that loves to talk to what he is hunting. How the breed survives is beyond me (I know, I know, they just order their humans to feed them).

        1. We did the CFL conversion when we moved into this place in ’03. Bulb life was indifferent, so when LEDs got affordable, we switched. My barn/shop uses tube fluorescents and CFLs, but I can see switching to LEDs as my bulb stash dwindles.

          OTOH, I keep some halogen bulbs as heaters for the pumphouse and the like. On the gripping hand, those boxes/buildings are insulated to a fare-thee-well.

          1. In southeast Texas, you pay for light twice. Once when you bring the energy into the house, and once when you take it back out. I bought my first LED bulb last year. It was a kind of an experiment to see if they were ready for prime time. I’m not usually an early adopter of technology, and I’m sensitive to the quality of light in the master bedroom, which is one of the places most commonly lit.

            One of the tests I intended to perform was to compare the time it took the CFL to turn on to the time it took the LED to turn on in the same fixture. To my surprise, the CFL was faster. When the CFL failed, I replaced it with another of the LED bulbs. It seems like a winner. I’m not sure what to do about all the 48-inch linear fixtures in the house, though. There are several of those, some in surprising places.

            1. Take a look at Amazon. There are LED equivalents for the T8 type bulbs, with some set up to use the fluorescent ballast, while others don’t want the ballast. (IMHO, the latter are handy for shop lights where the ballast succumbed to the #$R%^!!! cheap electronics syndrome.) For the bit of rewiring, I can get a fixture back. A case is on my round tuit list.

              Home Depot sells Feit brand LED tubes that use the existing ballast. Pretty sure Depot is now selling 48″ fixtures with LED tubes installed.

          2. When they are on sale at a local hardware store, I pick up replacement LED tubes for the fluorescents in the garage. Since the garage is unheated, the LED’s have a significant advantage in the Winter.

        2. Yep, you and me both. I leave lights on a lot, too, to the despair of my husband. It was only after I recognized that I was getting winter blues even in the Lower 48 and bought a happy light (S.A.D. light), that he really started to grok dark = depressed wife. Depressed wife makes lots of light and heat, in order to trick brain into being non-depressed wife, until the sun comes back.

          Changing to LED lights in the house lowers the electricity bill, even if it doesn’t get me to turn off the lights. I do try, and when there’s lots of sunshine, I manage fine.

                    1. The lack of daylight change is rather more than I recall from my youth now that I’ve moved back up here. Still not a patch on the lack you have or even those in the UK, as I am at 45 degrees. You’re 60 something? Where I was in Texas would be like around Tel Aviv but where I am now is only about middle of the Crimea, so still a ways yet to go to get to your Great DARK North (~_^), I’m getting almost 9 hours of fusion ball a day still. I’d be getting over 10 if I was still Texas livin’.

                    2. Yes. Right now day means about six hours of what looks like late evening or early morning when the sun is shining. And most times it isn’t. One of the things which sucks is that we tend to get more overcast than sunny days this time of the year. And then daylight time sort of doesn’t exist at all, it just looks like a few hours of twilight.

                    3. Today was rather sunny, but I only saw that orange thing walking out to the truck and the short drive home from work.
                      Ocast and snow/rain is the forecast again here.

            1. In the last couple of years, I’ve found that I’m absolutely dreading cold. I’m not sure why, though…perhaps I have cold-induced asthma. (My wife has been convinced I have asthma for years, but I’ve been in denial. This last year or so, however, has almost but not quite convinced me to actually see a doctor about it, and find out one way or another…)

            2. Reason it through. Winter = cold+dark = low seratonin levels = depression. Therefore, the brain being the instinct-honed creature that it is, while anyone who’s finally gotten a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder can easily trace a chemical trigger of light production to seratonin production, the brain’s had tens of thousands of years of evolution, and growing up in dark winters, to figure out that cold also means bad times and low seratonin levels are incoming.

              Just as the brain starts making happy chemicals at the sight of the mocha being made, well before the caffeine and chocolate has actually hit the bloodstream, so the brain is equally able to send “You’re unhappy! Fix this!” chemicals at the stinging cold. We just call it a psychological trigger instead.

              And, at my level of damage, there’s also the fact that cold = low grade joint pain (or not so low a level, with increasing humidity.) Constant low-level pain is exhausting, and can mimic the symptoms of depression quite nicely. Feedback loops can exist for negative things as well as positive.

              1. I’d never thought it through. I just feel guilty because to be warm means higher heat bills which, in the past, we couldn’t afford. This year, with dual furnaces, and one of them wood, I’m happy because I can throw logs on the fire and be toasty.

                1. Yeah, I too hate cold, and not just because it gets the arthritis going. Hence the treadmill, for winter.
                  Well, this year I used it in summer too, but I plan to be driving next summer and walk downtown.

                  1. I should probably look into one. We have a place for it in the basement (where I will bore myself into writing?). I’m hoping to start working in Jan, but planning to write like a… something, if I can’t get a job right out of the gate.

        3. Be sure to read the box. They’re not quite generic yet. One name brand won’t work in enclosures – the electronics need to dissipate heat. A brand we went to quietly offered a cheaper bulb in the same box, save that the expected bulb life is half of the original. They still sell the original, but you have to look close.

          Because CFL bulbs we had tended to smoke and char when going out, the family was scared of them. We, too, are replacing bulbs with LEDs as they go out.

          1. Our domicile came with a couple meh-chandeliers that use those dinky little bulbs with the tiny bases. Finding non-incandescent that don’t look horrible has proven a problem. While there are some that might be aesthetically tolerable the cost of determining them gets prohibitive when the fixture requires a dozen.

            1. Those have a non-standard classification and are exempt from the incandescent ban. That’s why some ceiling fan light kits were for smaller base lights.

              Would have thought they’d have an LED for that, though, in a warm color.

                1. That’s big, thanks. We have those half-sized base bulbs in our kitchen ceiling fan/light and they are a pain to find bulbs for. My wife hates the LEDs in there now (though they’ve worked very well everywhere else in the house). The incandescents burn out every month, it seems. Short of replacing the entire unit, I’d rather find decent bulbs.

        4. I ended up leaving our entire pig-tail light bulb collection at the house we sold (along with a bunch of conventional lightbulbs that the chandelette requires) because I got a heck of a deal on the LEDs. It was a heck of a deal paid for with my tax dollars, though I wonder how many folks noticed that line item in their bill…..

      2. I don’t so much care about the electricity as it is that I am the one who changes the lightbulbs and as I’ve aged my ability to balance atop stools, ladders, beds, miscellaneous furniture and sundry has diminished.

        1. Changing bulbs is why the office ceiling fan fixture was the first thing to get LED bulbs. There are still failures, but they are not nearly as frequent as before.

          1. So far, we’ve only had three bulbs fail on us; two of them were in our master bedroom light fixture two houses ago. The third may or may not have been transferred from that room.

            I have the impression that sometimes there are certain hidden lighting issues that incandescent lights can tolerate better than CFCs or LEDs…

            (Then again, maybe not: I almost seem to remember an incandescent burning out in that fixture too…)

            1. Our upstairs hall bathroom apparently has a wiring issue — it burns out incandescent bulbs in ridiculously brief time. The hall ceiling fixtures seem to have a related and similar issue. Installing CFL bulbs alleviates the matter, albeit with some slightly less than desirable collateral damage to the visible spectrum. Efforts to insert LED bulbs have proven that those, too, can burn out in appallingly short time.

              Because the bank of lights in the bathroom take a minute or so to get up to full strength we keep an incandescent for one of the four, using a more robust bulb designed for fan lights. The idiot lighting designer for that bath opted for fixtures with glass shades (bulb covers) which are conical and ensure you will be unable to get a decent grip on any bulb short of inserting one so mammoth it projects out of its cover completely, rather defeating the purpose of the cover.

              On top of the bad wiring, some idiot put one of those “helpful” wall-mounted, fold-down, half-size ironing boards in the hall right outside the laundry, where it completely blocks traffic through the hall while in use — except it is never in use because there is no wall outlet within twenty feet of the fixture.

              At night I dream of meeting the contractor responsible for that wiring in a dark alley …

      3. The various mortifications of the flesh aren’t inherent good, they’re for a purpose.

        A body doesn’t get Magic Nobility Points by getting crucified, any thief can do that– it was the paying a price for those who owed it that made it noble.

        …this is actually something a LOT of Marines, and those who aspire to be like them, have issues grasping. 😉

        1. Well said – sacrifice for others can be noble. (Although I’ve noticed that most of the people that really do that as an every day thing tend to not collect their Magic Nobility Points from the Social Justice Kiosk.)

      4. But the point of the new spiral shaped lights to replacce bulbs is that they must be left on all the time. You lose power by turning them on and off when you leave the room.

        1. And I really *hate* the time it takes for them to warm up! At least a couple of times that I’ve noticed an improvement of LEDs replacing CFLs may have been due to this very issue….

      5. > [fans] add heat to a room

        My wife refuses to understand this, and will wander through the house turning them on “to cool things off.”


        We have an outside wall with plumbing in it; on very cold nights the pipes will freeze. Prevention entailed opening all the cabinet doors and using an electric or propane heater.

        I finally smartened up and used a fan instead of the heaters. It was much cheaper to operate, but worked just as well.

        1. My husband and I had a conversation somewhat like that– started off with me yelling because he moved the fans I had set up to drag water from the one window in the shade next to the swamp, past the backwards (the “outside” was white, inside was black) curtains, through the computer room, up the stairs and out the window that had every inch that wasn’t filled by fan pointed outwards as airtight as I could manage.

          I had a pretty good breeze going through, and while he would be momentarily cooler with the fan on him, the temperature of the house in general would go up by about 15 degrees without the through-flow. 😀

          Yes, it WAS a totally generic design slapped down with no care for things like “cross breeze.” But he’d never lived in a house old enough to need to take advantage of that.

    2. Just remember, unlike the incandescent bulbs we loved for a century the CFB our betters have been forcing on us have significant life span reduction if used for less than approximately 15 minutes at a time.

        1. I would point out that the quantity of Mercury in modern CFBs is negligible.

          What I find truly hilarious, however, is that ordinary fluorescent bulbs contain far more Mercury than CFBs, yet no one raised cain about them.

            1. I despise fluorescent bulbs; the color is weak or off, then they get old and start flickering. If you wait too long, the john brown, cotton picking things can mess up the ballast. The ballast can then overheat and start a fire (a rare event I admit). The amount of mercury in them is just a cherry on top.

          1. No one cared when you weren’t being forced to put the darn things in your home. It’s when Congress created the incandescent ban (particularly since LEDs were only just emerging as an option at the time!) that people really started considering the issue.

    3. When I first started grad school, there was an issue with the utilities company figuring out how to bill my apartment, and the net result was that I didn’t get a bill for almost 3 years. And while that may sound like a good thing, when the company finally figured out what had happened, they wanted all their money for the entire time paid immediately. I was in a panic, wondering how I was going to handle this giant bill on a TA’s salary. And then the bill came, and it came out to…about $150 for the entire period.

      My father, who shares your skinflint instincts, said that he had never been so proud of me.

      1. Wow. Here, it costs $75/mo for the “meter fee”; that is, just for the privilege of having electricity; what you actually use is added to that. Plus all the various taxes and surcharges. Bills run about $150/mo for us, as high as $300 for some friends.

        In the next county, my Dad’s all-electric home ran less than $40/mo. Different electric utility.

        1. *educated guess* There a lot of vacation homes in your area?

          My folks’ utility is going that route, because of the folks who have a house, don’t use it more than two weeks a year, but in the two days they’re here for a weekend they’ll use more than my folks use in a month.

          1. Nope, there’s a USAF base snuggled up against the town. In its early decades there wasn’t enough on-base housing for everyone, so the local utilities realized that there was some irreducible core of customers who *had* to pay whatever their rates were, and jacked them up accordingly. As in, 300-400% of surrounding cities. Which, over the years, has run off almost all the businesses that used to be here, which results in the city notching the sales and property taxes up yet again (10% straight sales, add 2% for hotels and restaurants) which results in more businesses and people moving out…

            “Beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    4. The wife is a fanatic about turning off the lights. Result, I have the floorplan memorized except for variable cats and the occasional cat by-product, and my night vision has evolved to where I could find Frank Marshall’s Batman in a dark alley at 3 AM.

  2. Look, I only ever ate Snickers for dinner, okay? I was 18 at the time and working 3 jobs and yes, I probably could have taken home leftovers from the restaurant but…


    Using fewer lights won’t change anything but my electric bill and using less water just makes them increase the price so I say we revel in human achievement and light up the night.

    1. I live west of the Dry Line, so using less water is actually the intelligent thing to do. However, the way to use less water is to plant appropriate to the climate, and to use watering strategies for the garden that lead to less evaporation.

      1. Bingo. Most of the plants at Redquarters are natives and/or xeriscape, aside from the roses, and once roses settle in, they are pretty hardy. Even the lawn is a regional low-water turf. Xerizcape =/= rocks and cactus.

        OTOH, I really do not like that the “low water” washer does it by using more electricity. I know you need trade-offs, but come on, double the agitation time to save 1/3 the water? Thppppth.

        1. About, oh, ten years ago my husband decided he was tired of watering the lawn, so he just quit. Now we have a variety of volunteer plants that are drought resistant – and the neighbors give us credit foe xeriscaping our lawn!

          1. Unfortunately, most of our volunteers are spiky. Or mint. I want to go back in time and smack the previous owner who decided to plant mint in the ground.

            1. There are some patches of that near the front porch, from some previous homeowner long ago. Hitting them with the lawnmower makes you minty-fresh and half-blind for a while…

          2. We did the same thing at our previous (Calif) home. Between the hay fever and whatnot, I just quit watering. Ended up laying out landscaping cloth, covered it with red lava rock, and and ran drip line to the almond trees (2), jujube (2), and a line of feijoa (pineapple guava). No mowing, no messing around, except for trying to stay ahead of the jujube (chinese date) suckers, which have cat’s-claw thorns and a bad attitude. And fruit and nuts in season. We probably had the lowest water bill of the entire neighborhood.

          3. We stopped watering the front lawn, then scavenged appliance boxes and nailed that cardboard down over the ex-lawn with landscape staples to really kill the grass. We then talked a tree trimming crew into dumping their load of shredded tree trimmings on our driveway and I shoveled and wheelbarrowed all of that to mulch the whole thing 4″ deep over the cardboard. Left that alone for one season, then started digging holes through to plant low water use plants, with drip lines run throughout under the mulch so everything could get started and stay alive in drought years.

            We use a lot less water than we did when I was trying to keep the grass alive out there during the eight or nine months of the year here that it does not rain.

        2. Cactus can be quite nice if done by an expert eye—one of our neighbors has a gorgeous spread which includes cacti with yellow needles, cacti with purple needles, agave relatives, and rusted railroad tie sculptures. We’ve just replaced one triangle of lawn with pavers, gravel, and pots, and those pots have things like a purple tufted grass that we always see in parking lot planters around here, and if it can survive a parking lot in our summer heat, it can survive our pots. (Lavender and rosemary are also xeriscape plants in my area, and smell lovely if you’re not allergic.) Another wedge of lawn is due to be replaced next year; it’s technically dirt right now, though it is so heavily seeded with California poppies that you can’t tell. (And honestly, whatever we do, it’s going to be poppies in the spring from here on out. Too bad.)

              1. Now I have an image of Sherman that goes like this:

                “People? People. Listen up, now, heat the rail. It’s got to get red hot. It is? Good: Now: Pick it up in the tongs. We’ve got to bend it around that tree. We’re going for a hair pin, here. Yes, Percy; I know you want a duck; you always want to make a duck, or a wiener dog. This one is a hair pin. There you go. That’s it. People? People! No laughing now this is art.”

    2. The rental apartment company owning the apartment house I live in decided to save water a few months ago. End result: you can no longer get a proper shower, the water pressure is low enough that what you do get is this “gentle” concentrated rain sort of one. And the end result for that: I’m now taking half an hour long showers in order to get all the shampoo and then conditioner out of my hair…

      Well, they did promise they wouldn’t raise rents next year because of that. I’d rather pay for them to put on apartment specific water meters, no matter what the cost, and then have then bill the water. I want my showers, real proper showers, damnit!

      1. And it’s not as if the “country of a thousand lakes” would have so little water you’d need to save it… too damn much, rather, often enough (rains a lot here).

        1. It’s like that where I live. Arkansas is pretty soggy most of the year. But 1500 miles away in California they’re short of water, so the Fed passes laws to make *us* suffer for it…

      2. The company that runs our apartments did something similar. Horrible showers for months and then the main line under the parking lot sprung a leak so no water for several days. A week later, I have my good showers back. That week, though…

    3. Amen. I got one heck of a laugh over news from my family in Australia a few years back. There’d been a prolonged drought which had the dams providing water for the Brisbane area down below 5% capacity, so of course absolutely everyone who could got themselves rainwater tanks to catch what they could and put in gray water systems for their gardens.

      Fast forward to a year or two after the drought broke (with floods, naturally), and the Brisbane water authorities are screaming because water use has dropped by something like 50%.


      1. That’s one of the issues that I think California has been having. The state’s constantly been telling everyone to conserve water. And some people have, which I suspect has reduced the impact of the huge population to a certain extent.

        And then a real drought starts, and the state starts insisting that you have to conserve water. Except that a lot of people have already been limiting the amount of water that they use.

        1. My parents who lived on the Monterey peninsula went through at least 2 water shortages. First time they replanted the front lawn. Second time they rocked it!!

        2. Northern California reduced its water use by a huge amount. Unfortunately, that was offset by a lot of Southern California counties, especially Palm Beach of the golf courses. At least the legislature passed a law saying that cities could no longer cite people for dead or patchy lawns when drought restrictions are in effect. (Seriously, there were a lot of well-documented cases where people would reduce their water use and then the city would fine them for not having a maintained lawn. LAWNS DO NOT BELONG IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.)

          1. Glendora, about ten miles from here. A poor couple wasn’t watering their lawn to avoid the excess cost and the fine for using too much water, and got fined for not keeping their lawn up.

          2. During a previous water shortage, one of the cities in the area (can’t remember which one off hand) started going after people for watering their lawns. Then they belatedly realized (possibly the hard way…) that having dry dead foliage on every lawn in the city is a fire hazard and hurriedly reversed its policy…

            So that might have been one of the reasons why the city was issuing tickets to people who were not watering their lawns.

            1. The actual cites I saw were for lawns being unattractive. Sometimes you can’t afford to rip the lawn out and properly xeriscape, and some HOAs* require actual lawns.

              *Evil Rob pointed out that HOAs are the actual definition of fascist: public control of (theoretically) private property. We avoided all HOAs, on the theory that we would otherwise have to paint our house violent. The “n” is intentional.

    4. The savings are ctn(w1-w2)/1000, where c = cost per kWh, t = time the bulbs are on in a billing period, n = number of bulbs, w1 = wattage of the bulb replaced, and w2 the wattage of the new bulb.

      Let’s say, on the average, you have 10 60w bulbs on 6 hours a day for 31 days at 0.11 dollars per kWh. You replace them with 9 watt LEDs. 0.11 x 6 x 10(60 – 9)/1000 = 6.6(51)/1000 = 0.34 dollars saved per month. If the bulbs replaced were 100w, the savings climbs to 6.6(100-14.5)/1000 = $ 0.56 per month.

      I was interested in CFLs before the conventional bulb ban due to keeping heat out of the house in the summer, and that has to be factored in if you have AC, but in the winter that turns into an advantage.

      Otherwise, despite the hype, the savings just isn’t there for a residential user. For a load that has demand charges, though, like a hotel, it makes a difference, for if you have 4 100w bulbs in 300 rooms all on at the same time, the demand is 120 kw from lighting alone. Going to 14.5w LEDs drops it to 17.4 kw lighting demand.

      1. ARRGH! This is what comes from calculating in public.For example 1 the savings should be:

        0.11 x 6 x 31 x 10(60-9)/1000 = $10.44 per month.

        Example 2 should be:

        0.11 x 6 x 31 x 10(100-14.5)/1000 = $17.49.

        Still not all that great per month, but a far cry than the daily savings I ended up calculating before.

        1. I have a dozen fixtures that get LEDs – the high use ones. (Although mine – at least by label – are only 3 watts?)

          There are eight more that I swap during the year; two four-bulb “bars” in the bathrooms. In the winter, that extra 240 watt heater is actually a goodness thing.

  3. I find it useful for the scolds to self-identify as America-hating materialists prone to signalling virtue as their alternative to actually being virtuous.

    It saves me the trouble of seriously considering any other opinions they might presume to offer, just as I know I can dispense with any obligation toward even the politeness due a telemarketer when a caller identifies himself as “Mike, from customer services.”

    1. Sounds like the person who piously told me I didn’t need sugar-free Swiss Miss cocoa (back when Costco still stocked it*). I thought that person didn’t need oxygen, but merely ignored him.

      * I suspect it’s been replaced by cruelty-free, free-range organic cocoa, but that’s the way Costco’s been rolling hard-left and upscale. Cash-and-Carry (restaurant supply, open to the public in Oregon) gets a jump in business every time Costco does that.

      1. “Who are you to decide what I need?”

        If someone wants to do without, or do something else, well that’s just fine. When they claim I must do as they say, they can go fax themselves a letterbomb.

          1. I inherited my father’s temper, but never took Lazarus Long’s advice on the way to deal with “it’s none of my business, but”. OTOH, just contemplating how to replace the comma with a period has helped my peace of mind and kept me on the good side of the law.

  4. Currently 31 strands of Christmas lights on our house. And we haven’t put up the ones in back yet. (Most of our windows face the backyard, so we have a limited color scheme in front and full color for the kids in back.)

      1. We’ve had some Christmases that saw just a few decorations due to illness. Decorations are nice and all, but aren’t worth your health. Take care of yourself first.

      2. I am torn between “I’m the new neighbor, I should put up lights” and “Eh, heck with it. I need to get the garage unpacked, the gutters repaired, and this place cleaned far more than I need to worry about lights.”

      3. Now Godson has to face the horrors of the apocalyptic Christmas light display up the street whenever he picks me up.

      4. Don’t have ours up yet, either – mostly because I haven’t gotten the front yard back into halfway decent shape yet, after letting it go far too long as the rains and warm kept coming in much later than usual for here. The interior ones are beginning to come together, though, as I find the time.

        Plus I’m still trying to cajole one of the kids into doing the annual “find the one bulb that is keeping the entire strand dark” on the icicles… I think that next year is the year I finally just get the LED ropes they have now. (Reminds me, need to put that on my tickler list to look for those in January.)

    1. Have an idea for a decoration invention. Need to work on it. The effort wouldn’t be substantially less than stringing lights, but maintenance and expense should be lower.

      1. My neighbors clued us in to the trick of installing cup hooks on the rafters. Putting up lights is fairly quick if you put them away properly. I do the roof work, which is a simple outline, and which we put some hinged 2x4s with cup hooks on the roof to support without stressing the shingles.

      2. Sounds intriguing!
        Lots of our neighbors have put up those Christmas light projectors this year. Lots less work — pretty much stick in the ground and aim at house — and I imagine they’re cheap to run.

        1. Neat! I hadn’t heard of those.

          Have you watched any of the videos of the Russian laser light shows at the Winter Palace?

          Generations of Tsars probably spin in their graves…

    2. MomRed is currently (as I type) going through The Utility Closet getting out which banners, lights, wreaths, and so on she wants for this year. And the tree ornaments.

  5. > how we’re awful for using all this stuff.

    Yes. Those are usually the ones with 30 pairs of shoes…

    1. Used to have a friend who would comment on my book buying proclivity. I politely demurred from comments about her alcohol consumption, even though I never had to excuse myself to the lavatory to dispose of consumed books

  6. For the leaving the lights on thing: Practice your Capitalism – get LED bulbs. Because 10 lights left on equating to a single incandescent means you can have your cake (lights everywhere) and eat it too (in grocery money).

    Heck, we replaced all our bulbs in our house with LEDs, have more light now (and at warm colors, not blue-whites), and I’ve used the saved money on lighting bills… to power a rack full of servers and networking gear in the basement for me to play with. 🙂

    1. Ah, color temperature. I like 4000K white for most work. The 5000K stuff is too blue – except up high in the basement where it seems to work out right somehow. 3000K looks yellowish to me, but is just tolerable for some things. 2700K is for lesser used stuff, like that oddly placed outside light. And down at a very yellow 2200K, well, if blue is to be avoided when going to bed, that’s the lamp on the nightstand. And many places seem to think 2700K or maybe 3000K are fine, and have a jump right to 5000K. And those places are where I do not buy bulbs.

        1. It might well be, but it sure seems bluish when one is used to other things. I suspect the “warm” of 2700K or 3000K is from a long, long history of carbon particles glowing in flames. The basement lights might seem to work better due to the height and things ‘feel right’ as it’s more indirect.

            1. And I was so happy back when ‘Reveal’ bulbs finally made things not-yellow. Then there’s the orange LED on something inside one computer at work. I get a glimpse of it as I go to check on other things and it keeps jarring me. Why? It’s the color of a glowing tube filament.

            2. Per some sources, 3200K is more like incandescent photofloods and stage-lighting bulbs, household incandescents are more like 2400-2700K.

              1. I and Beloved Spouse seem particularly sensitive to the spectral range, so it is not merely the temperature of the light from the bulb but also side tinges. I cannot find words suitable for a public forum to express the annoyance it engenders to have to familiarize myself with bulb temperatures, spectrum ranges, and lumens just to buy a blankety-blank-blank bulb for the bedroom ceiliing.

        2. Well, sort of. 5600K is mostly a compromise, since “daylight” can run anywhere from around 2000º to 7000º, or higher, depending on the time of day, weather conditions, phase of the moon, …

          Color film stock usually figured around 5000ºK-5600ºK or so, digital cameras now often assume 6500ºK for their white point.

          Now I’m finding out from some older friends that what they used to see as warm lighting suddenly became cooler as their cataract surgeries changed the world around them. Looking forward to *that* change. Kinda.

      1. All LED lights look bluish and glary to me. It doesn’t take long before they bring a full-on headache.

        1. There’s different colors. Can’t remember the temperature we settled on in trying a retrofit of fluorescent fixtures. The first one was “gag.” The second was on par with cool whites.

          The odd thing is that looking from that office into one with fluorescent, the fluorescent look hazy. We think it might have to do with fluorescent flicker.

        2. Oh. The new LED street lights are surprisingly white. The ones Brand X installed also look dimmer. Don’t know if they dropped back on lumens or what. They were both cobra-head, so it wasn’t from light scattered to the side.

  7. It just makes you crave light more.

    Reminds me of the (amateur?) astronomer’s affliction aperture fever – the seeking of ever larger diameter telescopes for the increased light-gathering power. Resolution improves too, yes.

  8. The people who tell you that you should use a square of toilet paper only

    If you run into that particular brand today feel free to inform them your friend used four pieces to blot his lip crayon (which didn’t need much blotting it turned out) this morning.

    1. The English srarted that particular nag over 20 years ago. I remember fondly the restroom where not only did they have “one square” exhortations on the walls, but each square of the waxed paper they supplied had printed on it, “Now wash your hands.”

      1. I believe that particular nag came along with exhortations to remember to flush – and graffiti commenting that Wales needed the water.

  9. “But we will not turn off the lights and freeze in the dark in the service of sanctimonious scolds.”

    Which is why I turn on an extra light each Earth Hour.

    1. A much younger me might have saved old motor oil from oil changes to burn in celebration of Earth Day. Well, at least tried to but got tired of the container of waste oil taking up space and took it down to the garage.

      1. It used to be applied to hogs to keep down lice. That probably violates some EPA/FDA rule now. My guess is they’d frown on a thin layer of oil on standing water to kill mosquitoes. OTOH, vegetable oil should work just as well, and it’s biodegradable.

      1. If they had called it “Sky Hour” with an emphasis that turning off all the lights would allow us to look at the Milky Way, and that we should think about visiting all those stars, then I’d be for it.

        As it stands, the types of people who would have us “celebrate” Earth Hour would also say that we shouldn’t even think about exploration of the stars until we could fix our home (as though we’ll ever “fix” things here: there’s always something else that needs to be done!).

    2. Ask anyone who works in the energy industry about Earth Hour and how hard it is on the systems and how wasteful it is…

      1. “Loss of load! Loss of load!” ?
        And/or all that loverly switching and the later inrush current and… what a mess. I say I do my part by simply ignoring it – the load is the load, and no more switching than usual. So it’s a very small part.

        1. The factors you cite are irrelevant to the true purpose of such unfestive exercises: to signal virtue and enable folks to look down upon the merely practical unvirtuous.

          1. Some people just don’t get Christmas. They don’t like seeing others enjoying it because it reminds them of their hollowness. Then, to make themselves feel better, they call this virtue.

              1. There are those who get sad or melancholy, but do not hold that against those who are not. In fact they may even find a mild respite within their sadness knowing that others are not sad.

                Then there are those who get sad, and feel that the world owes it to them to adjust to them. These are the people who argue that sadness is the fault of those that trigger it. Thus we have trigger warnings, bans on possible offensive terms, and other full blown SJW nonsense.

              2. I figured SAD is at least a quarter of the reason Alaskans delight in going wild on the Christmas lights. Goethe’s not the only one who wants “More light! More light!”

                  1. You know, when it’s 35 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (generally shortened to ‘neg35′ or, if it’s deep enough into Fairbanks winter, ’35’, because it’s been months since it got as high as ‘pos15’)… Ice cream is a delightfully warm treat as you’re trudging back up the hill to home and sleep. It may be kept below freezing – usually around pos28 – in the freezer, but that’s still 50 degrees warmer than ambient.

        2. Since this is a rural area, where such things prompt raised eyebrows and spotted owl jokes, we haven’t noticed any effect to our load. You can, though, tell roughly the average time everyone gets up and when they get home each day.

        3. I have power-line-signalled outdoor switch gizmos (X-10) that expect a certain resistive load and thus cannot completely turn off my LED light strings – when ON they are fine, but when OFF there’s some little bit of current that the gizmo lets through (apparently to sense something being switched on manually – not a feature I need for holiday light strings) which is just enough to cause the LED strings all to weakly glow. All the time.

          If I plug one incandescent large bulb anywhere in the string, the gizmo then sees enough draw that the whole thing shuts off.

          I was pondering little plus with resistors wired across, but in the end I just went and bought a newfangled Bluetooth switching thingamajig and it works fine.

  10. To me, commercialism centers on greed:

    “T’is the season to be greedy,
    Fa la la la la, la la,la,la
    Give me mine and shaft the needy
    Fa la la la la, la la,la,la.”

    My other peeve is the Christmas Spirit is the feeling of compassion that Christians should strive for the whole year, not just between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In a story I haven’t been able to fix, Nikolaos of Myra shows up and isn’t too happy about that. No, he doesn’t slug a guy in a Santa suit; he just does what he’s noted for doing.

    On lights, my take is whatever floats someone’s boat. The expense can get non-trivial. We had to upgrade a friend’s transformer twice due to his Christmas lights, and his bill for December let him know it, too. We don’t put up many lights because what goes up must come down. Otherwise, except for a few areas, we don’t leave the lights on constantly when we’re up. We wouldn’t leave those on, except the cat is black and you just can’t see him in the dark.

      1. You are fortunate. What really put this sort of thing on my you-know-what list were the whines from classmates over what we were given one year, and I knew – and was sworn to secrecy – that the teacher’s husband died bringing them back from the store. Their complaints angered the substitute enough to tell the class the story behind those little gifts.

        That was just children, of course. But I’ve seen it in adults, I’m sorry to say, and the first time I cursed out an adult was at a display of greed one Christmas. Wasn’t punished for that, either. And unfortunately I’ve seen adult holiday greed on occasion since then.

    1. I don’t notice much in the way of greed among actual human beings of my acquaintances, but the commercials this time of year really seem to tend that way, particularly jewellery and car commercials. The ones on the top of my list this year are the Lexus commercials where an adult forces some child relative to ask Santa for a new Lexus. I desperately want those commercials to end with Santa saying, “Tell your dad he’s getting a lump of coal in his stocking. The extra-sulphurous kind. Meanwhile, do you like G.I Joes or Ninja Turtles better?”

      1. particularly jewellery

        Jewelry is like that year round. If there is any industry more committed, at least in their advertising, to the idea that all women are whores but respectable ones hide it behind wanting something other than cash I don’t know what it is. And yes, the strong word is needed to describe a lot of them.

        I’ve heard local jewelry radio ads discuss how lack of diamonds can block “your wives hugs and kisses”. The same jeweler later ran one about the kisses you’d get at Christmas for diamonds that ended with what was supposed to be a puckering kiss sound but was easily heard as something more…active.

        Even tamer ones, such as the classic “I love this man” ad reflect very, very badly on women implying their love is for sale even if it leaves are the body. To my mind the implication is even worse.

        I honestly don’t get why women: feminists, anti-feminist, anyone aren’t continuously up in arms about this one. Yet many, not all but many, women who have heard this rant call me misogynist not the ads.

        1. They call you misogynist because you have just pointed out that they are dishonest whores because they act just like the women in those ads.

    2. You’ve probably got better sense, but get most folks talking about what they mean by the “needy.” You’d be amazed (possibly depressed) how often it doesn’t involve need so much as want, and with how much of the stuff is things the ones they’re shaming don’t have.

      There was one rather embarrassing year where my husband took in a big box of stuff to work for the food-boxes for the poor thing– not bad stuff, actually a lot of really good stuff that I found out either he or the kids didn’t like, plus the usuals and some of the little treat things like jams– and a few days later they delivered a box to his desk…he was one of the by-the-numbers “needy,” being both one of the lowest paid and biggest families in the area of authority. (Took it to Saint V.d’P’s. Did most of our food giving there, too, after that, since we know that really hungry people do get help there.)

      An awful lot of the “crassness” of Christmas requires ignoring that there’s rather strict religious instructions to shut the @#$@ up about it. I’m selling something that I think someone would find to be an awesome gift? I can yell that to the skies– I pull a Cheney and give most of my income away? STFU and do your best to avoid folks finding out.

      1. SvDP is a really good place – so is my local Food Bank (YMMV).

        Usually, though, I don’t donate either place during the “season” – I take things over other times of the year, when most people forget their existence.

        1. I like to get the “treat” stuff during The Season, especially if the base has a big sale on something I’ve never seen, and likewise wait. (They like to bring in Random Flats, and give an awesome price… on family packs of 24.) Keep half, donate half, try it, and if we don’t like it, donate the rest. Only had one or two things where it was so bad I regretted donating the first half, and I think my husband took both of those in and one of the air crew guys snagged them. (We got green tea kitkats out of one of those “ugh, I can’t stand it” exchanges!)

          I’m pretty sure that a lot of other folks do the same trick, especially the extreme coupon folks.

      2. yeah – keeping “needs”, “wants”, and “whims” separate in our minds can be a full-time job.

    3. “he doesn’t slug a guy in a Santa suit; he just does what he’s noted for doing.” Technically he *is* noted for slugging people.

      The irony is that of all the dozens of things that St. Nicholas is listed for as patron saint, not one of them is pugilists.

      1. Reminds me of the Repairman Jack novel Legacies:


        Jack dresses as Santa to beat up a guy who stole toys from a children’s ward, then dumps him in public afterwards. And of course, the guy has to explain to everybody that he got beaten up by Santa Claus . . .

        1. There’s a Callahan’s Salon story where the — I forget who — disguises himself as a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer while flying through the air. NO ONE ever claims to have seen him.

      2. That was definitely in mind. The character makes a sacrilegious comment and Nikolaos momentarily balls his fists before relaxing and sighing. Later he admits he slugged a man in a church meeting.

        That said, there’s some thought he wasn’t there at the time.

  11. It’s always funny to me how people born in a country built on capitalist principles can rant and rave against that very concept, and oftentimes they’re doing this on devices developed produced due to the very thing they claim to hate. A lot of people are irony-blind.

    We don’t really put up Christmas lights outside, but for us it’s just out of sheer laziness rather than trying to save electricity. Most of the lights in the house now are LEDs, but we still have a stockpile of incandescents. Never got into CFLs, so we don’t have more than a couple of them lying around.

    1. Have a box or two of incandescents. And a couple bags of CFLs – switched to them when there was a subsidy, but moved to LED as costs dropped and the near instant-on was attractive. In the house everything is LED except appliance and indicator lamps. Can’t see anything better than incandescent for the oven. I could see LED for the fridge, but right now that lives in the Incredible State of Almost. Have some LED bulbs that fit, but they are not, alas, proper replacements in other ways.

      1. Considering that the fridge light is only on when the door is open (or should be) – not much savings there. (Well, when the kids were younger and tended to stand there with the door open in the middle of July… Maybe.)

        1. How do you know that the fridge light is only on when the door is open? 👿

      2. I like the CFLs, and the ones we use come on about as fast as incandescents. The problem is, over the last ten years we’ve had two catch fire and several others making nasty smoke when they failed.

    2. “It’s always funny to me how people born in a country built on capitalist principles can rant and rave against that very concept, and oftentimes they’re doing this on devices developed produced due to the very thing they claim to hate.”

      I mentioned in a comment to a post a couple of weeks ago that I don’t think they realize that they’re doing this. I think they’re so marinated in the luxury capitalism gives them that it just doesn’t occur to them that this isn’t a universal human condition. Of course they’ll continue to live in a 4-bedroom house with an XBox and high-speed wireless for their iPad after the great socialist revolution. To suggest otherwise is like suggesting a fish might live without water.

      1. They can grok the concept that an ecosystem can be fragile, but not the fact that economic systems are more fragile.

        1. They can grok the concept that an ecosystem can be fragile Can they? They might be just as strident if they were repeating by rote.

          1. It’s a good point of comparison for argument. They may know it by rote repetition, but it does sit in their pointy little heads

  12. If light is objectionable, why are we even using electric light at all? One-candela candles were fine for Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen. If you’re doing high-precision work like sewing, you can splurge on a whole candelabra!

    I used to go out for walks where I could look down on Mission Valley in San Diego, and reflect that we had so much light that we could just throw it away into space and not worry about it. . . .

  13. Dark doesn’t bother me, but one of my fondest childhood memories is cross country skiing at midnight on my parents’ wedding aniversary under a blue moon. (New Year’s Eve. 45 years and Dad has never missed it once. Mom is very smart.) Living in a rural area means it’s only truly dark when overcast, and the stars are so pretty.

    Perhaps the problem with the scolds is that they would like ordinary Americans to have a sense of what amounts to noblesse oblige, yet they don’t want them to have a sense of American Exceptionalism. ‘You’ve got it made so look out for those who don’t,’ is a much more pleasant appeal than ‘You suck so look out for those who don’t.’

    1. Is there really any color that does not appear in nature somewhere?

      I recall the show Fast Forward where the host claimed that TV “could even display purple, which doesn’t occur in nature.” And Pa commented, “What, he never saw a grape?”

      1. Yes, the blue that was the blue-frosting stuff in a July 4th ice-cream Blue Bunny released 15 or so years ago. It did not return and I can be pretty certain why. Tasted icky.

        1. Washington state snow shortly before dawn when it’s late December and the snow is at least a couple of feet deep.

          It is freaky blue.

          I’ve tried catching it with a camera. It doesn’t work, although some of the pictures I did get had folks accusing me of using tricks.

          1. Carlin claimed blueberries are actually purple. I can’t resolve colors well enough to tell. (rainbows are blue, mudcolor, and yellow)

          2. Blue is a color that is very, very rare in pigment form. Most of the blue we see is refractive—the blue morpho butterfly is a prime example of that. Shine a light behind their wings and they’re brown. See the light off the front and it’s a shimmery blue. Blue eyes are pretty much the same principle. It made lapis lazuli fabulously expensive, as it’s one of the few truly blue pigments out there (before we learned how to synthesize blue.) And when you see it on old paintings, it’s still bright, because it’s literally ground stone.

  14. I suspect a chunk of the super-rich celebrity types saying “Live like the Third World!” is signalling. They are preaching the “progressive” message and they are using their funds (0.001%) for Worthy Causes, to make up for having a gazillion dollars (which is Bad because . . . Bad). Sort of a less-lethal version of the activists who go to the Third World and try to prevent people from getting food because it is GMO or having access to farming technology because it is Western and thus “impure.”

    And do not get me started on the activists who say it is purer and more spiritual for the poor to starve to death or die of disease than to use Western tech or meds. Call it G-d, karma, the Kindly Ones, but if there’s any justice in the Universe Someone or Something is waiting for those monsters.

    1. I remember a discussion about “golden rice,” the rice modified to include beta carotene mostly used in the parts of Asia where something 90% of the diet is composed of rice. The golden rice was supposed to help prevent blindness in these areas. There was an anti-GMO activist insisting that this was horrible and that in order for these people to get the necessary beta carotene, “They need to modify their diets to get more fresh fruits and vegetables!”

      Closest I have ever seen to someone actually uttering the apocryphal “Let them eat cake!” line.

    2. Celebrity Third World Worship: Flying your private jet to your straw-thatched bungalow (with satellite phone, wifi, and TV, all mod cons) in some quaint third-world-finishes-third-for-a-reason hole you can fly right the hell back out of if someone throws a bottle.

      1. Or, y’know, just take the NY Times‘ $150K tour of shitholes latrines of the world (well, I here Iceland is nice), accompanied by Times journalists who will inform you of the cultural superiority of Cuba, Colombia, Myanmar, Iran …

        As you travel the world in a customized Boeing 757 jet fully equipped with lie-flat beds and a dedicated cabin crew and chef for the ultimate in luxury travel you can enjoy disquisitions on the evils of income inequality and the horrors of privilege, in full knowledge of how much more virtuous you are than the vulgar plebes who work hard to inflict the burdens of capitalism on those delightful Eden-like garden spots.

        1. well, I here hear Iceland is nice

          Bad fingers. No more frosting for you!

          To paraphrase Bullwinkle, “I’ve gotta get a new keyboard.”

        2. Oooh! Do you get to get lectured on how American SUVs are emitting carbon and destroying these beautiful, unique places while zooming around in your private jet?

      2. Note that the straw thatched bungalow with running filtered water, constant electricity (from a backup diesel genset), is located on an especially nice stretch of ocean (the original landowners were paid pennies for the property), and is surrounded by a razor wire fence and 24 hour armed security. The fresh food the chef is cooking for them was flown in from another country all together.
        But hey, roughing it, amirite?

        1. It’s like the FRESH! vegetarians, who will only eat the freshest of fodder while lecturing on all the goodnesses of vegetarianism.

          “Uh, you know that much of what you’re eating is out of season, even if it’s grown locally, so it was trucked in from the South or Mexico in smelly Diesel trucks, and some of your more exotic food choices come in on cargo aircraft?”

          1. yep, and the folks telling me in February “but they grow oranges right here in California!!!”

            1. You mean, foods have seasons?! /faint
              My local grocer had peaches, a month or so ago. Two weeks later, no peaches. I asked the stocker; he said they hoped to have them in soon, when the Chilean harvest ripened.
              Last week, Bartlett pears appeared. Surprise!
              Do we live in a great world, or what?

              1. I love local “seasonal” cookbooks. I have two that are set out by week (same group) that use things that are in season locally to make foods that could be largely acquired at the farmers’ markets. Well, it’s *almost* local—slightly different zone. (They have pomegranates getting ripe in December, when they’re gone by Thanksgiving here.) And honestly, I use them more as idea generators and food porn.

    3. I propose a compromise. Rich leftwing celebrities here deserve the same protection from right wing death squads they would have in the third world without a first world passport.

      1. I too like the idea that the rich lefty celebs get to experience more ‘authenticity’ in their travels. No window screens, electricity, running water, servants, or security guards. No western medicines, chauffeured Landcruisers, or Potemkin resorts either.

  15. Oh, you know.  “It’s the commercialism” and “Why are we wasting energy on lights?” and….

    It’s ADVENT! Oh, golly, how dare folks prepare for Christmas!

    I don’t care if most people call it “the Christmas season” instead of using the technical term, it’s not like they need to clarify they don’t mean the liturgical Christmas season that Advent is a preparation for.

    Did you know there are scolds like that in the Bible? The guy who flipped about “wasting” money on perfume for Jesus. And he’s just a DELIGHTFUL role model, right?
    /not subtle

    1. The one who complained about the wastage suggested it could be sold and the money given to the poor? Yes. Aren’t we are told that he had sticky fingers in regards to the contents of the cash box?

    2. I love when you’re not subtle, Foxfier. I greeted the pastor with ‘Happy New Year’ two Sundays ago and got a surprised look and a ‘Happy New Year’ back.

      I do enjoy Advent. Haven’t done any Christmas decorating because too many rehersals and performances.

      1. You too? I got drafted, er begged into helping yesterday afternoon, plus the church-where-I-sing is coming up. Plus the school’s Christmas chapel service, plus Massive Concert With Orchestra. I’m hiding from Christmas music by listening to ancient and medieval Christmas/ Yuletide/Advent music.

        1. That stuff’s the best! When I was a kid, we’d crank up the medieval Christmas music and drink wassail as we decorated the Christmas tree.

        2. Thanks for the reminder. Just pulled out a couple of discs by Anonymous 4.

          Still, I just don’t feel its Christmas season at our house until I have listened to the Quebecois styling of Bruce Cockburn’s Mary Had a Baby and The Roches For Unto Us a Child is Born.

          That’s a start. 🙂 (As you might guess I have rather eclectic tastes.)

            1. On the first: Thank you.

              On the second, to quote Samuel Gerard, ‘My, my, my, my. What a mess.’

        3. Two kids in The Nutcracker, four in the university Children’s Choir, I play in the Symphony: that would be two nights of Massive Concert with Choirs.

          If I ever meet the person who wrote “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch”! I didn’t know anything was worse than Little Drummer Boy. And they’re all altos. They got music back in September. (Actually, one’s fast on his way to baritone or points further south, two should ought to be sopranos but since they can read and find pitch they got stuck in alto.)

          1. I think you have to be Thurl Ravenscroft to really get away with that one. Or to properly do “That’s Grreat!”

            For a lot of years, I always thought that Boris did the song, too. Up until the year I lost a bet with the daughter and learned better.

      1. And Saint Nicholas comes tonight in our house– I even remembered the gold coins! (A couple of years, he gave gold bricks…of whatever minicandy had goldish wrappers….)

    3. I figure it’s a bit disgenuous to go all SJW over Christmas when your money says “In God We Trust” on it…

      1. You do know that having ‘in God we trust’ on our money has been taken to court more than once? Starting with Aronow v. United States (31 U.S.C. § 324a) in 1970 and later cases by Madalyn Murray O’Hare so far all attempts have failed. More recently the cause has been taken up by Michael Newdow who files suit on a regular basis. His most recent attempt this year, was dismissed by the judge.

    4. On lights…

      One of first long drives away from family home involved navigating to and through Minneapolis-St.Paul. During the day it was just that the building were taller and there were more of them. And more traffic, of course. The return was at night and seeing all those lights, the buildings lit up, the spectacle of so much light… and knowing from experience how much it took turn a generator to light on small lamp.. and marveling at how much power was being used and that mostly coming from well away. And it was… a common, ordinary, everyday (well, everynight) thing. The Age of Miracles was not long, long ago. It’s right now. Old stories, fantastic tales, great myths, can inspire… but they inspire people, and those people bring the miracles into being. Joe Average, heck, Jim BelowAverage lives a life of unimaginable ease compared to not very long ago.

  16. Re: the commercialism of Christmas, my only objection to it is the same as C.S. Lewis’s: that mindshare is, more or less, a zero-sum game, and focusing too much on material things (gifts, etc.) at Christmas time tends to drive out one’s focus on spiritual things (celebrating the birth of Christ). Now, for those who aren’t Christians, that’s not a concern. But for Christians, Lewis’s essay on “Exmas and Chrissmas*” will probably resonate:

    My favorite line is from near the end: “It is not lawful, O stranger, for us to change the date of Chrissmas*, but would that Zeus** would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.”

    * Lewis is writing in the persona of a fictional Greek historian interviewing a Christian priest, hence the phonetic spelling of Christmas (a word which his pagan historian narrator wouldn’t have seen in print).

    ** As previously mentioned, Greek historian narrator.

    1. As a non-Christian (non-anything) – I still believe the spirit is far more important than the material.

      (Rereading Luke and Matthew for the story that – grrr – should have been up four, no five, days ago now, I am reminded how odd those Gospels are when compared to other religious tracts.)

      1. I am reminded how odd those Gospels are when compared to other religious tracts.

        How exactly are they odd? I grew up hearing and reading them all my life, so I suppose they sound normal to me because of familiarity. So I’m interested to hear an “outsider’s perspective”, I suppose you’d call it. What is it in particular about those Gospels that strikes you as odd?

          1. IIRC, I’ve heard it described that Mathew and Mark are writing to Jewish converts, Luke is writing to Gentile converts, and John is writing to people who have already been Christians for a while.

            1. From what I’ve heard, Matthew was directed toward Jewish converts, Mark was directed toward Greek converts (mainly lower class ones), Luke was directed toward an upperclass Roman, and John was written much later toward readers exposed to early forms of Gnotism.

        1. They are far more human than just about anything else (religious) that I have read over the years. Simple things – two guys drop everything to tag along with Him just because they had a good fish catch? The desperation of the people who poked a hole in the roof to lower their sick in hopes that this would work? Mary chewing Him out when she finally locates Him in the Temple?

          Just compared to the Old Testament – the stories of common people, not the great, not the generals, not the specially anointed prophets.

          I am somewhat tempted to call these pieces two of the earliest examples of “Human Wave” writing.

          1. Since “Human Wave” could be described as “that stuff that isn’t hostile to the Judeo-Christian riches we inherited,” sorta.

          2. There’s also the way that they’re not written to make Jesus’ disciples look good. Like how Peter’s cowardly denying of Jesus (“I swear, I don’t know the guy!”) is faithfully reported by all four of the Gospels. Keep in mind that at the time that three of the Gospels were written, Peter was still alive and one of the highest authorities of the early church — but all four of the Gospels tell that story that makes him look really, really bad. And since the Gospels of Mark and Luke had to have been based on asking the disciples for their recollections of what happened, that means that Peter openly talked about that incident later, and didn’t try to cover it up. (In fact, Matthew probably had to get the story of that incident from Peter as well, since he wasn’t there at the time. He was an eyewitness to most of the events, but he wasn’t in the courtyard to hear Peter deny Jesus. The only one of the Gospel writers who could have written an eyewitness account of that incident would be John).

            This, to me, is one of the strongest pieces of evidence (not proof all by itself, but strong evidence) that the Gospels were pretty much people trying to faithfully write down what really happened, both the good and the bad. (As FeatherBlade mentioned in another comment). Which has … interesting … implications when it comes to the story of Jesus’ resurrection. You can believe that the disciples were tricked or fooled in some way into thinking that Jesus was alive again, but it seems … implausible, shall we say, that they were lying about it. If they would lie about that, then they probably would have been willing to lie about other things, like covering up Peter’s denial. But they didn’t.

        2. The odd part, or so I’m told, is how prosaic they are. They’re written like the mythical archetype of a news report (from those halcyon days when reporters reported)

          1. Yep, just simple reports of some rather Good News, for people who hadn’t heard it yet. The content alone was believed to be sufficient, without a lot of journolisty interpretation & spinning, to achieve the desired result.

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