THE PUBLIC EYE: The New Normal

Bob Burnett
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:26:00 PM

This week, Northern California had its first significant rain and our fire season ended. (Unfortunately, as I write this, there is a big fire burning in Southern California near Santa Barbara.) For the last several years, fire season has lasted longer than it once did, and the fires have been more ferocious. Californians are beginning to acknowledge that this is the new normal.

Here in Sonoma County -- north of San Francisco -- we're still recovering from the mammoth Kincade fire, which started on October 23rd and was fully contained on November 6, 2019. It burned 77,758 acres and destroyed 374 buildings. Amazingly, no one was killed; probably because the County Sheriff ordered a massive evacuation and our local utility company turned off almost all the county's electricity. (Once the evacuation order was lifted, it took several days for power to be restored.)

Most of the locals see the Kincade fire as a consequence of three factors: global climate change, reckless building in the "wildland-urban-interface" (WUI), and infrastructure decay. Climate change has caused our summers to become much drier and the fall winds to be more intense. (During the Kincade fire there were 96 mile-per-hour winds.) For a variety of reasons, California's suburbs have pushed into the wildland-urban-interface and shortsighted city planners have let developers build in locations there were once thought to be too dangerous because of the possibility of wildfires. Finally, our energy infrastructure has not been properly maintained by the primary Northern California provider, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E); now, when the winds kick up, we are at risk because of aging transmission lines and transformers. (Belatedly, PG&E acknowledged this; early in the course of the Kincade fire, the utility shut off all electric service in the projected path of the firestorm -- most of west Sonoma County.) -more-

ECLECTIC RANT: Russia, not Ukraine, Interfered in Our 2016 Presidential Election

Ralph E. Stone
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:30:00 PM

Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top expert on Russia, warned that Republicans Republicans loyal to Trump must stop pushing the “fictional narrative perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election because it plays into Vladimir Putin’s hand.” -more-

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: How Delusions Become Reinforced

Jack Bragen
Friday November 29, 2019 - 04:50:00 PM

Psychotic delusions, in some instances, seem to fill an emotional need. At other times, delusions produce fear. Both phenomena imply to me that the mechanisms that create psychosis are related to the pain and pleasure mechanisms in the brain. They may also be an attempt of the brain to feed serotonin or other neurotransmitters to some area of the brain that lacks enough of them.

Delusions are almost never emotionally neutral, and because of this, they can be very hard to overcome.

When we wake up out of a delusional system, sometimes we feel a lot of disappointment that the things we were imagining are not real. In other instances, emerging from delusions is a very welcome return to safety following tremendous fear and the perception of danger. -more-

TECH TOPICS: Mac Users Versus Catalina! (Think Before You Leap)

Glen Kohler
Wednesday November 27, 2019 - 10:13:00 PM

If you use macOS on a laptop or desktop machine, this Macintosh/iPhone tech suggests that you think very carefully before 'upgrading' to macOS 10.15, AKA Catalina. This major change to macOS removes support for 32-bit applications.

This is a concern because thousands of Mac users use 32-bit apps every day: printer and scanner drivers, older versions of Office and Photoshop, and many more. TechRepublic lists 232 32-bit apps that Apple machines will no longer run as of Catalina. A lot of long-time Mac users, including yours truly, use the oldest version of Mac OS X that will work with modern web sites and services, such as Dropbox, etc. We work on all of the versions, but each time Apple has come out with a new OS there are some losses of useful features and more restrictions on what users can and cannot do. -more-