Casaubon's Book

Now it is no secret that I think that we are facing a major shift in our society, and one that will not be entirely fun, to put it mildly. It should also be no secret that while I love to write jokingly about when zombies come, I don’t actually believe we’re facing an apocalypse of any kind. Indeed, as I’ve written many times, part of the problem with addressing our situation is that we flit wildly between assumptions of techno-utopianism and absolute apocalypticism. I think what we are facing is serious enough without turning it into a cartoon, unless, of course, there are actual zombies in it.

So this morning, when I woke up to a passel of links worrying folks about the-end-of-the-world-due-to-solar-apocalypse, I did what any good Prophetess of Doom does when confronted with such events. I kicked the sleeping astrophysicist and asked him if the world was going to end today due to our solar event. His first responses were largely unintelligible, but when it became clear I wasn’t going to let him go back to sleep, he responded with his customary scientific rigor. “No. Please go away now.” As to expand on this he responded by saying “I said no!”

So there you have it – sorry, you’ll have to wait until at least Friday for your regularly scheduled apocalypse. Why Friday? Because whenever someone tells me they are worried about our troubles I reassure them that they have at least until Friday before the world ends – I’ve been doing it for five years now and I’ve always been right. Do you want to argue with a record like that?

I really like what the Scientific Indian has to say about this - I agree, this is in part a reflection of our own ego-centrism.

Comments

  1. #1 Ed Straker
    August 3, 2010

    “I don’t actually believe we’re facing an apocalypse of any kind.”

    Apocalypse is in the eye of the beholder. Don’t you think a human die-off back to a billion or less over, oh, let’s say the next 50 years ala Limits to Growth would appear apocalyptic to those who are unfortunate enough to live through it? It doesn’t have to be entire cities emptying out overnight to seem apocalyptic. Any confluence of limits to growth which creates death rates severe enough for that sort of year-over-year decline in human population will be a tragedy of biblical proportions.

  2. #2 Kate
    August 3, 2010

    Yup I was reaaly worried.Then I spotted it was Tuesday already and I was still alive and the internet was still functioning…panic over, for today at least.

  3. #3 Art
    August 3, 2010

    I don’t mind people claiming that ‘the end is near’ in whatever that form takes. People have the right to be wrong and make fools of themselves. What I do object to is that there seems to be no down side to making the claim, often serially, and having it proved wrong time and time again.

    If I was named emperor of the universe, any day now I’m sure, if you made any apocalyptic prediction, and it didn’t pan out you, would have to read a standard disclaimer announcing your failure before every comment, announcement or statement. You would have to issue this disclaimer for a full five years after the claim was proved wrong.

    Proposed standard warning that shall be placed as preamble to all statements written or uttered:

    Warning, I ______ (name) have previously made or repeated a claim of ______ (nature of claim – end of world, major disaster,etc.) on the ___ th day of ___ (month), ___ (year). This claim has been shown to have been false.

    For a period of no less than five years no further such claims shall be taken seriously and my views and opinions should carry little, if any, weight. I make this statement as penance for my crime of disinformation against society and as alternative to having the above statement tattooed upon my forehead.

    IMHO it isn’t the outrageous claims, often driven by political or economic reasons, that are the problem. It is that they have no shame and pay no cost for their failed claims.

    If I ran a forum it would be interesting to have extreme claims that fall through associated with the poster for a period of time. Possibly inserted ahead of each of their posts as a sort of signature.

  4. #4 FernWise
    August 3, 2010

    Let’s expand on that a bit.

    No apocalypse until at least Friday.
    No apocalypse on Friday, because That would mess with preparations for Shabbos.
    No apocalyse on Saturday, because it’s Shabbos. Even the Messiah won’t arrive on Shabbos ‘because the Messiah is already here’ on Shabbos, and if the Messiah is here I figure that apocalypse isn’t allowed.

    Thus, we have until Sunday.

    In short, there’s time to plant some more olive trees.

  5. #5 Erin R
    August 3, 2010

    Far more exciting than the end of the world is that, should the CME stay headed our way, we could be up for some beautiful auroras tonight.

    What was this one again? C2? C3? If I recall correctly, Carrington was an X. People are freaking out over this?

  6. #6 R. S. Buchanan
    August 3, 2010

    Hang on, I was stuck in TX for a few days, so I appear to have missed the news. Which apocalypse is this? I have trouble keeping them straight in my mind.

  7. #7 curiousalexa
    August 3, 2010

    Wait! I thought the answer was “not before Sunday” I mean, I guess until at least Friday is still not before Sunday, but I don’t want to have to figure out what day of the week it is – weekends are much easier to distinguish (pesky tourists)!

  8. #8 k8
    August 3, 2010

    I’m pretty sure if the apocalypse was happening due to astrophysicism, the astrophysicist would have told you before going to bed last night.

  9. #9 Prometheus
    August 3, 2010

    We love talking about the weather here in Hooterville thanks to tornadoes, massive ice storms, floods, hail as big as baby heads and competing with the Valley of the Kings for those burn-your-face-off heat indexes.

    A big solar storm adds the element of ‘crap from space’ to the rich tapestry of our lives.

    The town lost half it’s power for a week once because a squirrel became suicidal.

    NOAA has a space storm division on line with real time reports……yay.

    Last summer we all sat in the yard watching the transformers explode because the mayor spent all the infrastructure money on another clock(we have six municipal clocks in Hooterville).

    Apocalypse?

    Sure. Wadda ya got?

    *Puts on steel helmet*

    *makes coffee*

  10. #10 Anna
    August 3, 2010

    I have a off-topic-for-this-post but on-topic-for-the-blog (mostly) question for you. If it’s not too personal to share, what kind of planning do you do for retirement? I say the question is relevant, because the answer depends entirely on what you think will happen in the future. Do you think that our financial system will rebound enough that it’s worth putting money into the traditional option of a mutual fund? Do you think social security will be around when you retire? Do you think it’s better to put money in a bank’s savings account (you won’t make much money, but hopefully the capital will stay put)? Or do you go so far as to buy gold or stuff bills under your bed? (I’ll bet you won’t tell us if the last option is the case. :-) )

    My husband and I go back and forth about this. He wonders if it wouldn’t be better to build our farm infrastructure to make us as self-sufficient as possible, but I know there’s only so far our farm can take us. What do you think?

  11. #11 Sharon Astyk
    August 3, 2010

    Scott (I assume that’s you – how many RS Buchanans can there be ;-)), I was thinking of the silly media items about solar storms that are turning a minor incident into a major one, but really, I’m not picky. And my readers are right – it should be Sunday, because we can’t mess with Shabbos ;-).

    Sharon

  12. #12 Apple Jack Creek
    August 3, 2010

    Sharon, it’s gotta be Friday. If it happened early enough in the day, then it’d all be over before Shabbos started, right?

    Besides, in our house we now use “when Friday comes” as shorthand for “when the long emergency really kicks into gear in our neck of the woods”. It really works quite handily – except that occasionally one must clarify which kind of Friday you’re talking about … you know, THE Friday, or the regularly scheduled one that’s coming up in a few days.

    And, to ramble a little further on this theme, one day after discussing your blog my husband grumpily said “with my luck, the world really WILL come to a crashing halt on a Friday, just so you can say ‘see? Crazy Sharon was right.’”

  13. #13 R. S. Buchanan
    August 3, 2010

    Sharon,

    Yep, it’s me.

    If Apple Jack Creek is right and the Apocalypse happens erev Shabbos, can I punt on cleaning the bathroom? Or should I take a machmir position and clean as thought Shabbos is going to happen, but look up the bracha for sticking tape on the windows just in case? If the Apocalypse does come, do we say Shehehayanu?

  14. #14 Sharon Astyk
    August 4, 2010

    I might not be the right person to ask, given that I feel that not only the apocalypse, but the blackberries being ripe or the dog doing something cute is an excellent reason to punt on cleaning the bathroom ;-).

    As for the rest, I guess we need a good apocalyptic Rav. Know one?

    Sharon

  15. #15 Dunc
    August 4, 2010

    @5: Yeah, you’ve gotta wonder where all these panic merchants were last solar maximum. It was an X-15 flare that was responsible for the 1989 geomagnetic storm which knocked out power grids in Canada, but there was an X-20 in 2001 which fortunately only grazed us. A C-3 is pretty small beer really.

    Welcome to the age of the internet, where millions of ninnies will panic about the end of the world over things that happen all the frickin’ time. Best buckle up for the burning, burning stupid as we move towards solar max, probably sometime in 2012… Forecasters are predicting a doozy. Combine an unusually high solar max with all the Mayan apocalypse twaddle, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect storm of stupid.

  16. #16 DennisP
    August 4, 2010

    To R.S.Buchanan – “stuck in Texas”?? That sounds pretty apocalyptic to me here in Wisconsin.

  17. #17 Prometheus
    August 4, 2010

    Anna @#10

    “If it’s not too personal to share, what kind of planning do you do for retirement?”

    I do a lot of this work.

    Rural retirement plans are a whole different ball game.

    It is a great question because I have gone hoarse telling people that there really isn’t a good place to put money right now.

    Even money in your mattress is subject to stagflation.

    Investing in the value of property you already own is always a good idea and one of the things you should look at for prioritizing those expenditures is what percentage of that expenditure will be reflected in an increased valuation of your farm.

    If you are willing to do quite a bit of homework on solvency the and nature of proposed infrastructure commitments in your and surrounding towns, municipal bonds can be tax free and an excellent opportunity to put money on the part of the grid upon which you depend.

    I think it is a good idea to own your homestead outright and as soon as that happens start building a very stable investment structure that will support all expense associated with that homestead.

    So in summary, buy the farm, hold the farm, work the farm and buy enough bonds and or ammo to keep the revenue man at bay.

    If there should be occasion due to infirmity or just inconvenience that signals time to move to town….

    … be the bank. Spread out capital gains, if any, over the life of the note and just pay income taxes on the interest.

    Let’s see if I got em all.

    “Do you think that our financial system will rebound enough that it’s worth putting money into the traditional option of a mutual fund?”

    Not anytime soon. About 60% of the market drop was a correction for phoney baloney paper pyramids. Get a DJIA chart and put a ruler on it from 1988 to 2010. Everything above the ruler was papier mache and tempera paints.

    “Do you think social security will be around when you retire?”

    Social Security is not around now. As long as the government has access to the “fund” for any purpose other than paying “benefits” then there is no fund, there are no payments and there are no benefits. There is a labor tax at the beginning of adulthood and welfare at the end of it. If you would like to depend on what is simply a matter of largess on the part of a federal bureaucracy so be it. I suspect it will be about as reliable as FEMA.

    “Do you think it’s better to put money in a bank’s savings account (you won’t make much money, but hopefully the capital will stay put)?”

    Potentially insolvent institution insured by a demonstrably insolvent government, again your call.

    “Or do you go so far as to buy gold or stuff bills under your bed?”

    Better off planting tobacco and building a still. If it gets that bad, your neighbors will be lined up to give you their gold.

    Finally, weird apocalyptic investment advice:

    Acquire at least one essential material skill that you can barter for goods or services.

    Invest some time and money in vo-tech courses. Not only do you get the skill set, you develop a network of pals that also will know how to do stuff.

    Mine were plumbing and welding.

    Paid for themselves before I finished the courses and I estimate a savings of about 500+ bucks a year.

    I really want to learn bricklaying.

    Hope this helped.

  18. #18 Anna
    August 4, 2010

    Promethius — thanks so much for that thoughtful reply! It all makes a lot of sense. We already own the farm outright. (It’s amazing how much land you can buy free and clear when you invest in swamp and drag on a free trailer. :-) ) So it sounds like maybe municipal bonds, increasing our farm’s self-sufficiency, increasing our skill set, and working on that still my husband wants are top of the list. :-)

  19. #19 Dunc
    August 5, 2010

    Better off planting tobacco and building a still. If it gets that bad, your neighbors will be lined up to give you their gold.

    That’s always been part of my plan… But I can’t quite decide whether selling bootleg whisky to the desperate is ethical.

  20. #20 Greenpa
    August 5, 2010

    Prometh; “Better off planting tobacco and building a still. If it gets that bad, your neighbors will be lined up to give you their gold.”

    “That’s always been part of my plan… But I can’t quite decide whether selling bootleg whisky to the desperate is ethical.”
    Posted by: Dunc

    Ethics are going to be tricky. We may need to ask very different questions from those we’re taught, and used to.

    For example; Dunc- what if EVERYONE is desperate? Which is quite likely?

    Something I joke about- and am not sure if I am/should- my backup plan is to open a brothel.

    Ok, now after you’re done laughing…

    Are brothels going to disappear? Very no. They’ll certainly get more common, as women become more desperate and law enforcement vanishes. And they’ll get more consistently abusive, to boot. Take a good look at the stories coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Horrifying.

    So- would it be good; or bad; to open a brothel where the women are “protected”, and good behavior is enforced?

    a); I’d make money; b) the women and their children would be “safer”; c) business would be taken from the more abusive places. d), we could sell lots of Dunc’s bootleg whisky, making more money for both of us; e) the brothel would have a protected status; since the locals would not want it to disappear; making local security better…

    Am I joking? Frankly; I’m not entirely sure.

    Help me out, Sharon. :-)

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