Dear diary. Today it's very windy in Juneau. Wind speeds of up to 65 miles-per-hour are expected. The skies are clear. The air is cold. This morning when I woke up the outdoor temperature was one degree Fahrenheit. Over in the valley, near the glacier, it was minus ten.
Cold air temps coupled with gale-force winds adds up to a wind-chill effect of lots of degrees below zero. Of course, as we have learned from our Antarctic experience, the idea of wind chill is marginally archaic. The calculation of wind chill is a black art. The theory of wind chill is that moving cold air conducts heat away from the body faster than stagnant cold air, and so because there is a higher rate of heat conduction, the effect is the same as if the subject was in stagnant but much cooler air.
Physicists have proven, though, that while the concept is true in the large, when you get down to specific calculation the numbers don't add up. There are times when the effective cooling is much less than anticipated, and times when it is much greater. Things like altitude and humidity play a big role, but are not usually present in the calculation done by the weatherman.
Darkness, as in lack of solar influence, must play a role. It's dark here a lot now. It starts looking like dusk around 2:30 in the afternoon, and it's pretty dark by 4P. I'm starting to get used to it. The odd thing about lots of darkness is that it feels the same as lots of lightness. Your body stops telling time by solar position, so you're free to stay awake or sleep as you choose. Oddly, I've found it very easy to wake up at 6AM or even 5AM because those times "feel" to me to be identical to 7AM or 8AM.
There have been no auroras for me to see. The solar A and K numbers are low. The big display happened when I was in California a few weeks ago, interviewing for another major silicon valley job.
The weather in Juneau is very accurately predicted by NOAA computer models. I find the forecasts to be dead-nuts-on, usually. The models predict there will be competing high and low pressure areas to either side of us. Air will rush from the high to the low pressure zones. At ground level it will have to funnel through the spaces between the islands in Southeast Alaska. Those will accelerate the winds.
And all of this technospeak is a way for me to avoid talking about what is really bothering me. I know that.
I have become enamored by the idea the WTC complex was brought down by controlled demolition and not by the impact of the hijacked jets. I have seen the videos. I am now disturbed.
I am a logical person. I shouldn't believe in conspiracies. They get me on this one, though, because like everyone else that day I was glued to the television. As one born and raised in the New York area, and as a kid who watched the WTC towers built month by month, I felt a degree of ownership for the grief of the citizens of the NYC area. Part of my history was destroyed, too.
I remember the last time I was in one of the WTC towers. We'd taken a business colleague downtown to dinner, and we went for drinks to Windows on the World. That was over a decade prior to 9/11/01. Still, it was my history.
When I saw the towers come down, it made no sense to me. The explanations given for the collapse made no sense to me. The fact that WTC 7 came down hours later when there was little to no damage to that building made no sense to me. The fact witnesses were describing "secondary explosions" all day made no sense to me.
They say the most unreliable data one can get in a criminal case is eyewitness testimony. I can see why.
I watched the WTC implode into a cloud of ash before my eyes.
How come it didn't just fall down like a huge leaning tower of Pisa? How come there weren't any big chunks of the building blocking the street? How do two of the tallest buildings in the world disintegrate before your eyes as if being ground to dust from the top down - without any big piece of the building hitting the ground? Like when the upper floors of the south tower lean over as a chunk and separate from the rest of the building - how do they explode into dust before hitting the ground? How do sagging beams add up to that top section disintegrating in mid-air rather than crashing into the ground intact?
Why does it explode to dust? Why does anything explode at all in mid-air rather than falling intact and crumbling on impact?
I am ripe for the conspiracy theory. I am eager for an explanation that doesn't involve steel melting at temperatures that are present in any home heating stove. I am eager for someone to explain the explosions in the basement of the WTC complex that happened before the towers came down, and before the south tower was hit. I am dying to know why the south tower, that was hit after the north tower, came down first.
I want to know why all three buildings, WTC 1,2, and 7, all came down into their own footprints and didn't fall over the way buildings do in earthquakes. I want to know why WTC 7 collapsed so neatly of fire, when there were no firemen or fire in the building for nearly 7 hours, and when the buildings closer to the towers were nearly demolished by falling debris but remained standing.
I want to know why these were the first three steel-framed buildings in the history of the world to collapse due to a kerosene fire.
Maybe there's a physical principle of "conservation of anger". I seem to need to be angry about something all the time. Now that the right wing was whacked soundly by the American public in the election I have to replace my disdain for the neocons with something else. That something else is the suspicion that something is very rotten with 9/11.
And I gotta be honest. I don't have the slightest idea what it could mean that the towers were brought down in a controlled demolition, synchronous with the crashing of hijacked planes. That piece of it does not compute.
It makes no sense, at all.
And this obsession is another way for me to avoid thinking about what I don't want to think about.
Another mental diversion is this:
Last Thursday the governor-elect of the State of Alaska made a speech at a luncheon given by the Resource Development Council. The luncheon happened in Anchorage, Alaska, which is where I was attending the Resource Development Conference. I happened to be sitting at the table next to the governor-elect, and so I got a good look at her.
My impression of the new governor is that she's a small woman. Let's say she comes up to my chin. She can't weigh more than 110 pounds. She's very svelte - lots of treadmill time. She walks around with a cheap Samsung cell phone glued to her ear.
As she is the only state governor I have ever seen close up, I cannot make a justified comparison between her and other governors. All I can say is that she beat two much larger men. In fact, the sum of the votes given to the big guys didn't even come close to what she got. One guy, a Democrat, had been governor before. He's as tall as a basketball center and also thin. I think he was banking on his height and the fact that he wasn't afraid of cold weather. The not-so-thin guy is about six-feet tall and looked like he wanted to fight everyone for their lunch money. He was a Republican but ran as an Independent.
His campaign ads said: "Don't be afraid to vote for Halcro," which I thought was a pretty weak slogan, even though I wasn't afraid and voted for him. His experience as a rent-a-car magnate seemed germane to me, and also, he sounded quite powerful when he spoke. The tall guy sounded like a politician, which put me off.
Our new Republican governor, Sarah Palin, sounds and acts like somebody's mother, which she is. She's four people's mother, and also the wife of a guy who does stuff for the oil industry. Presumably the other, much larger guys who ran for governor and lost had kids and spouses, too. All three candidates wear glasses.
I thought Governor-elect Palin gave a good speech, though I could not get out of my head that a strong wind would blow her clean into the Beaufort sea. And then when she finished speaking and sat down she smiled and was promptly ignored by everyone in the room, because the raffle drawing was held and winning an iPod beats out a gubernatorial speech for attention-getting, any day.
If anything I think Sarah Palin is a good public speaker. There isn't always a lot of content behind her words, but she delivers them very well. She said one thing that stuck with me. The thing that stuck wasn't the object of her speech, but rather, the way she referred to the State of Alaska.
She called Alaska an owner state, and by direct implication, all Alaskans are "owners".
By direct implication, as holder of an Alaskan state driver's license, that makes me an owner.
The whole owner thing strikes a chord with me. Any deals done with the oil companies benefit the owners. In Alaska we don't have a state income tax. We have what amounts to a reverse state income tax. That is, we get money from the state every year for living here. Most of that money comes from the oil companies who pull crude from out of the earth under Alaska.
As far as most Alaskans are concerned, oil companies are good. Yes, we can sometimes fault them for the occasional environmental disaster or price gouging, but when that check shows up every year, all sins are forgiven.
In fact, all the gubernatorial candidates had one plank in common in their platform: build a new pipeline. All Alaskans want a new pipeline from the north slope to the south. This pipeline will be for natural gas. One use of the pipeline will be to provide natural gas to the drilling sites. Another use will be to provide natural gas to homes in Alaska. Most Alaskan towns have no natural gas service. A pipeline would change that.
And we'd get more money in our reverse tax checks, which makes it all ok.
So, while you in the lower 48 complain about drilling in the ANWAR and the impact to the natural wilderness, we in Alaska thank you for your concern and politely ask you to butt the hell out. New pipes are good. We have plenty of moose and caribou. What we need is more access to satellite TV and bowling alleys.
There's a tremendous dearth of bowling in Alaska, but that's another story.
Being a Republican or Democrat in Alaska doesn't mean the same thing it means in America.
For instance, being a Democrat means you support a constitutional amendment to allow native Alaskan tribes to hunt caribou, bears, elk, dolphins, seals, and whales out of season. Being Republican means you think the native Alaskans should have to go get the same fishing license everyone else has to get to harpoon whales for blubber and baleen for the winter.
In Alaska, Democrats support stem cell research, and Republicans point out there is no stem cell research in Alaska but if there was they'd be against it.
In Alaska Republicans favor reducing state congressional sessions to 90 days from 120 days because it saves the taxpayers a lot of money. Democrats favor reducing the session time because nothing gets done until the last two weeks, anyway.
In Alaska, Democrats support gun ownership and Republicans think it's ridiculous to go outside in bear country with anything less than a 12 gauge slug gun. Republicans think the gas pipeline should be built and Democrats are angry it isn't being built yet. Everyone wishes the Libertarians would stop bringing up water fluoridation as a major government conspiracy. It's so 1950's and makes everyone think we're out of touch up here.
I'm really good at avoiding things, as you can see.
Yesterday the city counsel struck down water fluoridation. They will no longer fluoridate water in Juneau, because vocal adults do not want to be "dosed" by the municipal government. There's a conspiracy, you see, to dose people with calcium or sodium fluoride who can gain no benefit from it.
Only children can benefit from water fluoridation, and as they cannot vote, the fact is irrelevant that water has been fluoridated in the United States for decades with proven effectiveness in children and harmlessness to adults.
Sometimes, the quaint craziness of Alaskans takes on a self-destructive aire.
I don't have a home. I've gone from thirty years of house ownership and having a warm fire and dinner on the table and the pitter-patter of tiny feet to owning nothing. My family was detonated in a controlled explosion.
I have accepted a good-paying, important position with a major U.S. company. I am abandoning, if only temporarily, this somewhat idyllic life in Alaska. Though, to be honest, as much as I like it here I have not found my stride.
I do not yet belong here, as at the moment, I feel I belong nowhere. Every place I go is a temporary stepping stone to some other place that I would like to call home, but have no guarantees I can.
I keep getting older.
I will start again. I will rebuild in the time I have left. There is a conspiracy. It has to do with love. In the end, all conspiracies have to do with love and I still have a lot of love to give.