In these angst-filled political times is it even safe to talk about the weather? I like weather and there sure has been a lot of here in mid-coast Maine lately. At my house, a week before Christmas, we hit 5 below on a Friday night, Saturday morning was snowing and +3, by Sunday afternoon it was spitting rain and up to 49 above, and early Tuesday morning back down to 8 below. That’s a 111 degree temperature swing in a little over 72 hours.
I live next to Sheepscot River, a little way above the head of the tide. This year the river froze around December 13th, a good three weeks earlier than I’ve seen it freeze before. Mainly this was because the water level was so low on account of the drought we’ve had that started last spring. Neighbors, who’ve lived along the river for 50 years, said it was the lowest they could recall seeing it. In August it was easy to walk across the river and not get your feet wet. For the river to freeze in December, it only took a few days during an early cold snap for ice to form across the little water that was left, and then become fully iced in.
Even before December though, the weather pattern had changed back to more normal precipitation for Maine. A river is a dynamic thing, but this winter has been especially fascinating. Since it froze, the Sheepscot’s been a constantly changing mix of ice, water over ice, ice layered over water, snow and ice and water all mixed together, but then around January 26th — ice-out. By far the earliest ice-out that I’ve seen. I expect it was driven by the early freeze at low water, lots of precipitation since then, and a pretty mild January. But as I write this, and quick as can be, we’re back in the middle of strong winter, with blizzard conditions, and more snow on the way. The river may freeze yet again, two freeze-ups and ice-outs in the same winter, that’s extreme. Maybe the new weather trend is no trend at all, just a bunch of extremes.
Kind of like our current political system.
I’m still gnawing over the fact that just a few days ago I had to apologize for my country to a significant contingent of foreign nationals that we employ at Bigelow Laboratory where I work. I did this as a personal gesture, and in my role as chair of our personnel committee. It was all on account of the executive order issued by the new President to ban travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries. While I personally disagree with this, not least because not a single person from those particular countries has actually carried out an act of terrorism on US soil in recent memory, but the current cast of chuckleheads in ‘Warshington DC’ made such a hash of it, that our human resources lawyer felt compelled to send out a letter, basically saying that any foreign national consider not leaving the country until the full ramifications of this order are resolved. About 20% of the people who work at the lab hail from foreign countries. That’s on the low side for top level scientific research institutions in the US, but those are the places we compete with, and like them we strive for excellence, and hire the best we can find, from anywhere in the world. Personally I believe the willingness of smart people to pull up stakes and come do science here is a significant part of what makes US science the envy of the rest of the world. It makes me pleased to be an American. Until I have to apologize to them for the shameful actions of my government.
My own family has been in this country since the Mayflower. I grew up proud to think that people thrown in foreign jail cells for their beliefs, or under the heel of brutal dictators, tyrants, or invaders, have looked up to United States of America as the country of freedom, hope, and possibility. Apparently this new administration has so little pride in our nation, and are so spleeny that they are afraid to let a few foreigners into the US who come from once proud countries themselves that are now struggling. The majority of these folks have either been driven from their homelands, and endured many hardships, or simply yearn for the promise of America. Most of them are ambitious enough that they’ve been willing to undergo a couple of years of scrutiny by our homeland security apparatus, just so they can try to make the American dream something real for them and their children.
Maybe it’s just a reflection of the weather we’re having, but it makes me extremely pissed off that I have to apologize to foreign nationals, or anyone else, for the actions of my country, but sometimes you have to do what’s left after the alt-right has had its day.