Off Key

| July 1, 2017

By Bob Frederickson

From Inventing Reality to the Greening of Sarasota

Reality Up for Grabs?

You may recall Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the Spokane Washington chapter of the NAACP who self-identifies as black despite being born to white parents of northern European descent. You just knew this story wouldn’t end there though, but be just the jumping off point to a long strange trip down a bunny hole of Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. And sure enough, now comes word of a University of Arizona scholar who identifies as…wait for it…a Hippopotamus. No, this is not fake news or this writer’s mistimed stab at an April Fools Day joke.

The news comes to us from the peer-reviewed academic publication “Journal of Theoretical Humanities,” wherein Florentin Felix Morin reveals that his ‘hippo’ identity offers him the ability to break free from the constraints that “govern human bodies.”

He even explains that his hippo persona makes him feel ‘sexy.”

And of course, as is the standard these days, his friends, and colleagues at the University of Arizona play along so as to not appear “transphobic.”

My phobia? That it is far too late in the game to point out what should be obvious: that when reality is up for grabs there really is no reality…just a succession of ever deeper and ever stranger bunny holes to stumble into.

More Shape-Shifting Reality News

Snapchat has announced an upgrade to their ‘Spectacles,’ those goofy looking glasses with small built-in video cameras that let wearers transmit whatever reality they are immersed in to any and all members of snapchat nation. The big new feature: Augmented Reality, so just in case your own personal reality is a bit too boring, you can spice things up with, say…a Tyrannosaurus Rex or giant Crocodile entering stage right for a little added drama.

Don’t judge…haven’t you noticed? ‘Fake’ is the new ‘real thing.’

Quote of the Day

If I had a nickel for every time I said ‘Why me?’ I’d have probably said ‘Why me?’ more often.”

–Tom Wilson

Missing the Forest for the Trees?

‘Sustainable’ community that it is (with it’s very own ‘Green Team’ and full fledged sustainability manager) Sarasota proudly proclaims on its website that green space is “a top city priority,” even encouraging the public to call the city’s ‘green police’ (my phrase, not theirs) “if you see any illegal tree removal activity.”

But a recently proposed stiffening of the existing rules protecting the city’s trees had some scratching their heads over the math involved. The change would have replaced current requirements that allow property owners to replace older, larger trees with smaller ones, opting instead for a new formula (proposed by Planning Board member Patrick Gannon) that would require that new trees replace mature ones inch-for-inch…either on the build site in question or elsewhere in the city.

But the proposed change was nixed after architect Michael Halflants gave a real world example of what the change would mean using the 160 unit Whitaker Bayou Condo project as a case study. Halflants explained that the proposed new rule would require planting 237 four inch trees on the site, effectively turning the property into a tree farm with no room left for any actual buildings.

But, as mentioned, common sense prevailed and the change was voted down. The new course of action adopted by the City Commission?

Why of course, creation of a brand new “tree advisory committee,” demonstrating yet again that incubating and nurturing bureaucracy is the kind of ‘sustainable growth’ that comes naturally to government. 

Prayers for Clyde Butcher

Accomplished nature photographer Clyde Butcher is focused on recovery after a stroke suffered on May 6th. The legendary master of large format photography – much of it focused on revealing the hidden beauty of Florida’s interior – is back home now according to daughter Jackie where he is undergoing at-home rehab so he can get back to doing what he loves most: photographing nature and bringing it to those who appreciate his awe-inspiring work at his galleries in Big Cypress and Venice.

Our prayers are with Clyde and his family. If you’d like to reach out to him yourself, address your thoughts and wishes to Clyde Butcher, Venice Gallery and Studio, 237 Warfield Avenue, Venice, FL, 34285.

Publix Teams with Instacart for Same Day Grocery Delivery

While other delivery operations offer to pickup and deliver groceries from Publix locations, the company Instacart is the only service that Publix officially collaborates with. The company offers a free two-week trial. After that, the service is available for $99 per year. According to the firm’s web site, access to Instacart includes unlimited free deliveries, even at peak times, and the ability to shop a variety of stores (Costco and Whole Foods are listed for the Sarasota area); free one-hour rush delivery is also available.

While already available in most of Sarasota, the service is expected to be available in all areas Publix serves by 2020.

For more information, go to instacart.com.

Scientific Explanations Shifting Like the Sands off Big Pass

The decision to drop out of the Paris climate accord last month led supporters of any and all measures to reverse climate change – no matter how poorly constructed or lacking in provable remedies – to make the claim anew that the issue of climate change is settled. Period. End of discussion. The qualifier ‘man-made’ is now not even a regular part of the discussion for converts to this intoxicating new ideology that seems to share more in common with religion than science.

But it seems to me that the forces behind climate change are just so grand that the current models used to predict future climate realities are woefully overmatched.

In early June, meteorologists like Steve Jerve on WFLA and our own Bob Harrigan locally on WWSB remarked how the dry season was so severe it would likely be late June or early July before the dangers posed by tinderbox conditions would pass. What happened next? Summer. And with it the rainy season, arriving on a Tuesday afternoon, as if a switch had suddenly been turned on. By June 12th, after seven straight days of rain, the fire danger was all but forgotten.

My grandparents had a home on Canandaigua Lake in Upstate New York when I was growing up. I can remember being dazzled by one of my grandfather’s stories about how the long, narrow lakes of the Finger Lakes region came to be. “Imagine,” he would say dramatically. “…If we were here 15 or 20,000 years ago, we’d be trapped under a sheet of ice a mile thick. That ice carved this whole valley.” Heady stuff for a five-year-old.

His fascination with geology rubbed off on me. So much so that later on, despite being a Journalism major at nearby Syracuse University, I took several geology courses to learn more about what he had told me all those years ago. Field trips throughout central New York confirmed his ‘tall-tales.’ The huge boulders we’d climbed on as kids? They’d traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles to reach the spots where they finally came to rest, carried by that massive ice sheet my grandfather had talked about.

And that sheet of ice extended as far south as what is now part of Indiana and east to west across most of northern North America.

Now 20,000 years is but a blink of the eye for a planet that’s over 4 billion-years-old. And with a world population estimated at perhaps six million back then, versus more than six billion today (and no SUVs or private jets crisscrossing the skies spewing CO2 while carrying climate change activists from one climate change fundraiser or symposium to the next) there’s no reasonable way to blame humankind for that massive mile-thick sheet of ice, though I suppose some fervent born-again believers will try.

Venice, (Italy, not Florida) has been sinking for hundreds of years. Holland too. They’re both still there. The folks who live there deal with the issue of their rising seas out of necessity…by building dikes and pumping systems…they’ve been doing so since at least the days of Shakespeare, who chronicled those efforts in some of his plays.

The Dutch, the Venetians…they didn’t need help from Brussels or Paris. New Orleans has faced similar challenges. Americans rebuilt and improved the levee system after Katrina, not the EC, or the Chinese. And if and when Siesta Key faces similar challenges, folks who love this place will no doubt rise to the occasion here. But long before then, there will be signs that spur folks with the greatest stake in the outcome to act. The most obvious early indicator will be dropping prices for waterfront property. Any sign of that on the horizon today with prices at or near record levels?

Price and desirability are far more accurate indicators of conditions on the ground than some arcane weather model running on a CRAY super computer in some distant NOAA weather lab. That’s because these factors are based on the real daily experiences of people intimately tethered to this place. They see and sense what’s going on in real time. Can you imagine a realtor using a computer model to predict the price of real estate in a particular locale 100 years in the future based on current prices or trends over the past five or ten years? They’d be laughed at. Anyone in the business knows conditions change. Sometimes dramatically. Remember 2008?

Science is not some unchanging paradigm of constant virtue. It shifts like the sand off Big Pass…just like the climate. The latest edifice of conventional wisdom to develop cracks under the weight of new evidence? That humans evolved in East Africa 200,000 years ago. Now with the discovery of 300,000-year-old human remains in a Moroccan mine that long-standing article of faith has been called into question.

By the way, if you ever feel the need to drive a climate change evangelist absolutely nuts, just point out that today, we are still in an ice age.

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