Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unclaimed Property as a Tax Dodge?

I got a letter from PriceWaterhouseCoopers this week. They are doing an audit for Google and found that Google owes me some money. It's earned revenue from my old AdSense account. I assume it's from YouTube and the few ads I had on my blog for a while. In 2010 I decided ads on my blog were dumb because I was never going to reach the payment threshold. So I deleted them. Not really sure what happened to YouTube ads on my rocket videos. I sort of forgot about it for 5 years.

Anyway, the letter says the money is going to be handed over to the State of Georgia as unclaimed funds because I haven't logged into that AdSense account since 2010. If I want to actually claim the money I have to sign the letter and return it to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, then open a new AdSense account and the money will be transferred to it. But AdSense still won't remit any funds below a $100 threshold. Ever. A quote from the AdSense agreement:
10. Termination
.... If you terminate the Agreement and your earned balance equals or exceeds the applicable threshold, we will pay you your earned balance....  Any earned balance below the applicable threshold will remain unpaid.
Remain unpaid? Indefinitely? I don't think you can do that. The accountants must be appeased! What happens to amounts under $100? Some consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers is probably really bent that Google won't change this language in the AdSense agreement. I bet they can't think of any legitimate journal entry to transfer that amount from liabilities to equity. 

I took one financial accounting class at Georgia Tech in about 1987, so this is definitely not my field. I am fully prepared to be totally wrong about this. But I did learn double entry bookkeeping and the basic element of ethics it implies. If a company has a number in the credit column they have to have the same number in the debit column. Right now Google has $75 in the account for owing people money that is offsetting $75 in an actual bank account, collected from an advertiser because somebody watched an ad on a video I made. This makes it so Google doesn't have to show that $75 of actual money as an asset. It's a liability, owed to me. But they never intend to give me that $75. That's obviously unethical to me. 

And now you know why I was unable to make it as a businesswoman and closed my S-Corporation in 2005.

If I do nothing I guess PriceWaterhouseCoopers makes Google hand $75 over to Georgia. Google has to subtract it out of their column of actual money. Then it becomes Georgia's actual money to earn interest on indefinitely while it sits in another column on Georgia's books as money still owed to me. That sounds more fair. Maybe the right course of action is to not return the letter to force that to happen.

In the best case scenario this weird threshold loophole is a waste of administrative resources for accountants, mail clerks, and me. This has to happen ALL the time. In the worst case scenario, it's ... I don't know. I draw the line at calling something fraud this far from my area of expertise. I am merely skeptical and curious for an explanation. Any knowledgable comments appreciated.

Note: this is a free blog provided by Google. I am not missing the symbolism of criticizing their accounting on a service they are giving away. I pay a yearly fee for my URL registrations but I don't pay Google anything for hosting content. Directly anyway. I do apparently provide them a tiny single line tax dodge. You're welcome.

Friday, July 24, 2015

How to Inhabit a Habitable Planet

I've really been enjoying watching the press conferences for the New Horizons Mission to Pluto. I love listening to scientists tell me things I didn't know. (Carbon monoxide ice is soluble in nitrogen ice. Well, I never!) Also I get some relief from our nonsensical society when for a whole hour people speak pragmatically about physical processes and the process of understanding them. (For a Pluto overview if you've been under a rock, check Bad Astronomy.)

The scientists in the press conferences talk about Pluto in terms of geology and compare what happens there to processes on earth, like having atmospheric pressure, heat from radioactivity in the rocky core of the planet, flowing nitrogen ice that behaves like our water ice glaciers. They can point to a crater and compare it to the crater that formed Delaware Bay. Nobody has, but they could if they wanted to. I thought of it today when a scientist compared a crater to the size of the Washington DC metro area. How many politicians in Washington know that the Delaware Bay was formed by an impact event? I bet not many. How many even know that radioactivity is what makes the inside of the planet hot? I bet not many.

And this is what made me write a blog today. This is what is bugging me. Why is it so much fun to look at planets and talk about their geology and how they got to be that way but nobody wants to talk about Earth the same way? When politicians talk about global climate change and sea level rise they never talk about the logistics of relocating Miami and converting high rise condos in to aesthetically pleasing fish habitat. They talk about how it's not their fault. They talk about changing our energy mix to stop the climate changing.

Why is that interesting? It seems like the complete wrong thing to talk about to me. I mean for politicians. That's a problem for scientists, how to slow the runaway CO2. The politicians need to work on the societal issues. Move your shit off the beach! Redesign your public water systems. Plan ahead, that's your job. This is happening. You have control of zoning, of development, of infrastructure. Why are you not planning for worst case scenarios? Japan has buildings that dance a jig and stay safe in an earthquake yet California is utterly incapable of dealing with a perfectly ordinary drought. This is idiotic. Figure out your civilization, humanities majors. If you pay them the technical people will be happy to design it for you.

When we have the luxury to look at a new planet from space and think about how to explore it we go about it very differently from how we explored Earth. (They just discovered a Goldilocks zone planet this week.) But even inhabitable planets, they don't just shoot a robot at Mars and wherever it lands is fine. They figure out where exactly they want to end up to check for evidence of flowing liquid. You can't find all the good stuff in just one spot. It's not the Stargate franchise, where every planet has one interesting part that looks like a Canadian gravel quarry and everything useful is in walking distance. Planets are not homogeneous objects. Or small. Even Pluto is big enough we can't get a good look at the whole thing from a speeding space probe. Why do people act so funny about Earth? Why can't we just admit some places aren't really a great place for a city? And then move it? The reasons you put it there have changed. It's not a failure to admit that. Is it? Why?

I guess it's because somebody owns that property. People who own things think it's their right to fuck it up. They also think it's their right to make it stay the way it was when they got it.

This is not the case when it comes to beachfront property in Florida, where I have the most experience and pent up rage. You buy some lines on a map. If what is inside those lines is sand when you buy it, fine. If a hurricane comes and then your land is under water, too bad. If the whole sea level rises, same thing. See, the problem is that the people that buy sand in a box on a map in Florida are rich people and they want what they want and fuck you too. They will pressure the government to put the sand back for them. And the government will do it. Because rich people.

But when we go to take a look a Pluto nobody owns it. Hell, even the team studying it is scattered over several universities. The data is in the public domain. And this system works. They look at the big picture, then they zoom in and study all the details. They think about the atmosphere, how much is there? Is it leaving? How much longer will there be an atmosphere?

http://www.nasa.gov/feature/new-horizons-reveals-pluto-s-atmospheric-pressure-has-sharply-decreased
They rushed to Pluto because they wanted to get there before the atmosphere was all gone. They almost didn't make it. The blue data points  in the graph above (from today's press conference) are measured from Earth by occultation calculations. The number they just measured shows a giant drop. They almost missed it. Atmosphere is thinning fast, washed away by solar energy.

Look how calmly they talk about the fact that the atmosphere on a planet can just ... go ... away. Yet politicians acts like the earth is a known, static system that they can bend to their economic will. It's a PLANET! Planets do what they want. Have you seen lightning?! Lightning will fuck you up! And that's just an instantaneous event! Look at geologic time! Planets don't give a shit. Planets can start out all hot and moist and next thing you know the whole thing is a big rocky desert. Just ask Curiosity. How many politicians really get that Mars is not the same as it used to be? It CHANGED. It's a PLANET. It's what they do.

So why do politicians not make plans for what to do when Earth changes? Why do they not take advantage of a global perspective and pick out some better places for cities? When Louis and Clark got to the Columbia River Estuary the first thing they did was say, "Damn, these 50 foot waves make it hard to get your boat in the mouth of the river. Build jetties!" They ruined a whole ecosystem before they'd been there long enough to even measure the baseline ecological condition. And only the baseline in that instant, let alone did they have any grasp in regard to geologic time. The reason the beach makes your compasses all screwy is because it's A VOLCANO. Maybe not the best place to settle down. (I'm simplifying. Basalt formations in that area are highly magnetized. This region has been in the news recently for it's lack of habitability. I haven't read the original article because I already knew it was tectonically active. When I saw tweets about it I just said yeah yeah and kept scrolling. But I googled it just now to include the link. I think it was this New Yorker piece that started the recent buzz. Oh, it's due for a giant earthquake. Yeah. I know.)

The reasons modern humans settled where they did are dumb reasons. Why can't they stand back and be logical now that we have a global perspective? Prehistoric settlements made a lot more sense. They were where the food was. Then they moved. They were often on a shoreline. But they could build a hut in a couple of days and it would last a few months. Sea level rise, so what? How many politicians even understand that people used to live in places that are totally under water now? I don't understand why we can't cope with a 10 foot sea level rise. It's perfectly normal for this planet. You should have been ready for it when you planned your cities even if you didn't cause it. It's hardly even the issue WHY the planet is warming. It's a dynamic planet. Why is urban planning so locked in? They should have planned better. They shouldn't let rich people just do whatever they want.

I'm not even talking about geologic time, but in the time of human habitation. Is the problem just that nobody knows about this stuff? They don't cover it in school? Why the hell not? If people are ok with somebody saying that the Sputnik Planum on Pluto is young, and mean 100,000,000 years, then why can't they plan for climate conditions that people used to live in right here on earth 12,000 years ago? They act like that is forever ago and irrelevant. They can't see farther back than their grandparents or farther forward than their grandchildren. That seems dumb to me. All the evidence is right there.

Let me give an example. There are Apalachee Indian Villages in the middle of Apalachee Bay not far from my house. I've floated right above them in a boat and seen sonar images of them. These are people who ate oysters and venison just like modern people. Here's an excerpt from a 1998 paper by Michael Wisenbaker for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research. (I don't know who that is, I just Googled general terms and it came up at the top of my search.)
Paleo-Indians began trickling into the Apalachee region of Florida, the area between the Ochlockonee and Aucilla rivers, about 12,000 years ago. Sites from this period, which lasted about 2,000 years, are more rare than those of later periods. The state’s climate and ecosystems were much different then, with extensive grasslands interspersed with woodland hammocks. Temperatures were more uniform throughout the year, characterized by cooler summers and warmer, non-freezing winters. Mammoths, mastodons, camels, sabercats, dire wolves, giant sloths and short-faced bears roamed the coastal plain in search of food, water and mates before widespread extinction eliminated them sometime before the end of the Pleistocene epoch about 10,000 years ago. 
Sea level was lower (from 115 feet 12,000 years ago to 40 feet 8,000 years ago) at this time. This resulted in Florida being close to twice its current size when Paleo-Indians first arrived in the state. Rainfall amounts were much less than now and fresh water was not nearly as readily available because of lower water tables due to less precipitation and reduced sea levels. Paleo-Indians, therefore, would have been more limited on the present land surface as to where they could have subsisted and settled since fresh water was crucial to their survival. Conversely, some areas now underwater provided additional areas for them to live.
There you go. Very matter of fact. Used to be different. Widespread extinction. Seems people would want more information about THAT, no? Yet people act like these tiny variations we see in our weather are some horrible catastrophe. Punish somebody for causing it! No, we should just be prepared. I'm not advocating wrecking the planet obviously. I'm just saying even before humans changed climate we should have been prepared for the natural cycles and we clearly aren't. Don't act so damn surprised. Don't BE so damn surprised. Get EDUCATED! PAY for research about EARTH. (I'm still really testy about Congress saying NASA should spend their meager money on exploring planets and stop sending up satellites that just look at the earth.)

I recognize that my education and experience is a giant privilege. I feel bad for people who would like to have this knowledge and don't have access to it. I feel less bad for people with even more privileges than me who have access to this knowledge and refuse to accept it. I have a 90 acre pond down the hill from my house that has gone from a dry field to a body of water a couple of times in my life. Being able to experience this first hand is a privilege. It makes it seem natural to me to expect change and it makes me intolerant of those who have no idea, because I have no idea they have no idea. We're all ignorant in our own way. But I'm working on understanding the implications. Since I can't fathom people who grew up in cities I turn my interest to the creatures that evolved here. How do they deal with these short term climate changes? When the pond started filling up after the last drought ended and all those Eastern Spadefoot Toads dug their way out of their hibernation and started breeding en masse, that was so cool. They can just hang out for years underground, waiting. They aren't as demanding as people. They don't try to change the world, they just cope with it. There is something to be learned from toads.

When I started typing today I didn't really know I was heading for, "You know what your problem is? You aren't enough like an Eastern Spadefoot Toad." But they never sent a probe to Pluto, so they aren't perfect.


Spadefoot Toads from Barbara Tomlinson on Vimeo.
We got 11" of rain in 4 days after a two year drought. This big puddle used to be a 90 acre pond. It's going to take more than 11" of rain to fill this up again. But to the frogs this is good enough. The Eastern Spadefoot Toads are making the most of the opportunity. Music: They Might Be Giants, Theme from Flood.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Hat Sale

There are a few reasons I stopped writing essays on my blog. One, I got paranoid. I follow a lot of women scientists on Twitter. Every time they express an opinion they get attacked by horrible trolls. I thank my staggering unpopularity this hasn't happened to me. I didn't want to push it, so I shut up.

Second, I got distracted by a new hobby. I started teaching myself how to knit last winter. My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was a baby but I gave it up after a misshapen scarf and a washcloth. It was sort of dull, back and forth. I took up counted cross-stitch and sewing clothes from patterns instead. Then last year bulky knits were in style and they looked pretty fast to knit. I thought I'd try it again. I found YouTube videos of all different nationalities with different styles of knitting, different techniques and stitches and all the shapes you can make. I wanted to learn all about it. It's as complex as joinery in woodworking. But the materials are so easy to order in the mail! This is my new favorite thing.

One catch, I still live in a tiny house with a tiny lab ~450 square feet total. I forgot all about that and ordered 6 hats from Sierra Trading Post at 1:00 am one night. I was excited about the idea of putting flowers on machine-made hats. Well, they came in the mail, all flattened out. I ironed them and shaped them and customized them with my new knitting skills. Now I'd really like to mail them off to good homes. For $10 for postage you can have one.

I'm trying my blog as a way to compile the photos. I'm not planning to turn this into a knitting blog. But I could change my mind.

(Google Photos got on my last nerve yesterday. Pro Tip: If you want your photos in a certain order you have to edit the time in the metadata before you upload them. The first image time will be the first displayed in albums. The reverse is true in the photo library, last taken, first displayed. Exporting them with sequential file names makes no difference.)

Here are the hats! Click the pictures to go to the Google Photos Album for multiple views

Poppy Floppy Hat
The Poppy Floppy Hat is a Mad Bomber brand hat woven of paper. It can be rolled up for packing. It is made for a very large head, 23" would be fine. 22" you might need to flip up the back to keep it from hitting your neck. It's kind of heavy and might make a better wall decoration honestly. The poppy has three asymmetrical petals knit from mercerized cotton. I made up the realistic looking center of acrylic and a cotton, bamboo, and silk blend elastic yarn.

Pink Ruffle Blossom Cap
This Mad Bomber woven paper cap is also sized for a large head. It's unlined and airy like the Poppy Floppy Hat but it is very light and comfortable, as long as you don't have a child-size head like me. If you have a grown-up size head this will be cute. The decoration is a quick crochet job of an elastic yarn I got for making headbands for my little cousins. The low price reflects how fast it was to make this flower. It came folded down the middle. It is a big resistant to going back to a good shape. I used an iron on it. I don't know how it would do packed in a suitcase.

Dustmop Daisy Bucket Hat
I love this Dustmop Daisy Bucket Hat. This one is also too big for me but I could cinch up the cord. If nobody wants it that won't hurt my feelings one bit. I will keep it for myself. If you had a big bun of hair it would fit in the top part. My niece Brenna could wear this hat with all her hair inside. I don't think she is the kind of person who would appreciate strangers asking her why she has a wastepaper basket on her head though. I'm still working on a snappy comeback for that inevitable remark. Any suggestions, put 'em in the comments.

This daisy is 32 individual knitted petals. It took me days. It was supposed to be a Gerbera Daisy with another ring of petals in the middle. When I finished it looked funny. I was pretty disappointed. Then I realized I could un-knit the contrasting color I had in the center without unsewing the individual petals attached to the green part. I threaded a piece of the bright green yarn through the stitches and pulled out the second red color. So much better! This is sewn on by the center. The petals are loose and floppy, very like a dustmop. I propped the top petals up for the picture but as you move your head they will flop around. I knit a cord out of the leftover red yarn and replaced the stiff cotton cord that came in the hat. The red yarn is a cotton, modal, and silk blend. The green center is 100% acrylic.

This is a 100% organic cotton Cov-Ver brand hat. It is fully lined and has an orange silkscreen of a pair of surfers on the inside. It's supposed to be crushable but I did iron it when I uncrushed it after it came in the mail.

Doublemint Newsgirl Cap
The hat I named the Doublemint Newsgirl is another Mad Bomber hat made out of paper. I crocheted this flower out of 100% cotton yarn in under an hour, thus the low price. This hat is the smallest one of the bunch. It rides very high on the top of the head. It's kind of odd so I suspect I might get to keep this one too. It packs very flat, but is not keen on crushing. It doesn't provide much sun protection, but will cover up an unruly cowlick perfectly.

White Dogwood Military Hat
This is black hat with a white dogwood blossom is a Betmar brand hat. It is 55% linen and 45% cotton, but the lining is a poly/cotton blend. I made my usual dogwood pattern with fine white acrylic yarn and tiny knitting needles to see how small it would get. I think it fits nicely on the hat. You may need a lint brush after you pack the hat though. The black shows every loose white fiber. There is no adjustment on this hat. It is too big for me but would probably fit a normal size grown up with a 22" circumference head.

Dogwood Cloche
The Dogwood Cloche is also a Betmar brand hat. This one gives the most shade on your face of any hat here. The dogwood blossom is knit of a cream colored cotton acrylic blend with an acrylic center. This was my first try at making a dogwood come out flat on the back instead of with a sort of stem. I'd been making them with stems to put on door wreaths. I thought the center of this one came out a bit too small so I added some extra yarn twists. They make it look very much like the cyme in the center of the four white bracts. I like realism.

The hat is 55% linen and 45% cotton. The poly/cotton lining has an interesting pattern of gray and pink bubbles on it. It is too big for my 21" head. A 22" noggin would be perfect.

If you would like to buy a hat or any other knitted item from me please email me with my online identity, Beachton. I used Google's free email. I don't use mailto: tags in html because spam. You just have to figure it out and type it. If you send me money with PayPal I will pack the hat and take it to my mailbox for USPS to collect. I can print Priority Mail labels online.
Also if anybody knows a better way to display product without the expense and overwhelming volume of ebay and Etsy or the frustrating limitations of Google Sites please tell me in the comments.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Everglades Challenge 2015

My brother Harry called me yesterday morning from his car on the way to St. Petersburg for the Everglades Challenge. We hadn't really spoken much lately, but that's normal. He said he'd been really busy at work and hadn't had time to get ready. He piled everything in the car planning to sort it into the proper bags when he got there. Then he stopped at Trader Joe's and bought a lot of trail mix.

David Byrne immediately started singing in my head, "he's living off nuts and berries." I'm almost sure that's a Talking Heads lyric from Animals, but for years I used to sing to myself "I love the clouds!" when I saw a pretty sky believing it was from a U2 song, but when I tried to find it -- 3:08 into Electric Co. from Under a Blood Red Sky -- I realized he's really singing "I love the crowds." Really not the same thing at all.

I got this picture when he arrived at Fort DeSoto Park for inspection and the Captain's Meeting. He called me after and said it was a very long meeting. He still wasn't ready. He didn't have time to take many pictures on the beach.













All the boats on the beach

Meade Gougeon's boat Voyageur
This morning the race started at 7:00. I got the SPOT update that said Harry was on the beach. But then nothing happened. About 8:00 I got a call that he was being leisurely, he would leave in about 20 minutes. When the SPOT started updating it looked like this.

By the time he turned around at waypoint9 I'd already read Mistermoon's report on the forum that Tampa Bay was "washing machine." According to VHF radio the Coast Guard had to rescue a catamaran, a sailboat, and a kayak. I figured something broke on N8R or Harry just said, "To hell with this! I'm going home!" I also judged by the reported conditions and his rather deliberate path back to shore that he was not under sail. I didn't expect him to be able to use the phone as he clearly had his hands full of paddle. It didn't occur to me to be worried that his life was in danger. I guess that's what makes me a good shore contact. I was tense enough wondering what broke and how hard it must be to paddle in such a miserable chop. 

When he was to about waypoint 21 above I got a phone call from Race Control telling me to inform my challenger to get off the water instanter. The Coast Guard announced a mandatory weather hold. The Everglades Challenge was cancelled. Pending Chief talking them out of it. I told him, "Going by the SPOT track JibeTurkey has already turned around and is heading back to the start. He should be there in just a minute. I'll tell him the news." 

Then I started looking for information on the Coast Guard tizzy. The weather reports looked benign. But that's because it's hard to get weather for boats on the Wunderground app. I saw that the sky was pretty clear, the temperature about 19°C, wind about 22 km/h. Which is sort of a lot. But they don't put the sea height in the forecast.

I found the actual Coast Guard announcement. They'd already rescued 11 people and their resources were stretched thin. They were going to terminate the event at the first checkpoint.

"There has (sic) been reports of people with various stages of hyperthermia (sic) and the weather on scene continues to deteriorate to 4-foot seas and 20-knot winds."

About that time I got the OK message from Harry's SPOT transmitter. He was on shore. I texted him the news about the cancellation. Then he sent me these pictures.

Looks OK from here.
Ouch. Poor rudder. He just made that too. 

When I talked to Harry on the phone I read him the Coast Guard statement. He said, "The only person out there with hyperthermia is probably me, paddling back against the wind. They must mean hypothermia." Yeah, I think they do.

"It isn't cold today," he said, "But there may have been some people who weren't dressed properly. Eleven rescues is bad. Chief is going to be livid that those people got into a situation they couldn't handle."

He wondered if he should drive back to Jupiter, get his old rudder, and come back. He figured even if the Coast Guard "cancelled" the event they couldn't stop people from sailing around with their friends.

Last I heard he was making plans. If he turns the SPOT transmitter back on I guess I'll keep tracking him! Otherwise, the Everglades Challenge is over.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What is Home?

Yesterday on Twitter Astronaut Ron Garan retweeted a fancy script font image that read, "Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends." What? No it's not.

I have seen platitudes like this my whole life and they never felt right to me. I thought maybe it was because I was a curmudgeon, a skeptic, non-spiritual. This month I finally figured it out. Maybe some people are connected to people, some people are connected to nature. Bruce Means asked me to read a manuscript for him that is the story of his recreation of John Muir's 1000 Mile Walk to the Gulf. Because it is easier for me to read things on my iPad I downloaded a PDF of the original and read that first. John Muir grew up in Wisconsin after moving from his birthplace in Scotland as a young boy. The south was very foreign to him and strange. Not home. Towards the end of the book he explains it all very eloquently.
In Kentucky...thousands of familiar flower faces looked from every hill and valley. I noted no difference in the sky, and the winds spoke the same things. I did not feel myself in a strange land.
In Tennessee my eyes rested upon the first mountain scenery I ever beheld. I was rising higher than ever before; strange trees were beginning to appear; alpine flowers and shrubs were meeting me at every step. But these Cumberland Mountains were timbered with oak, and were not unlike Wisconsin hills piled upon each other, and the strange plants were like those that were not strange. The sky was changed only a little, and the winds not by a single detectible note. Therefore, neither was Tennessee a strange land.
But soon came changes thick and fast. After passing the mountainous corner of North Carolina and a little way into Georgia, I beheld from one of the last ridge-summits of the Alleghanies that vast, smooth, sandy slope that reaches from the mountains to the sea. It is wooded with dark, branchy pines which were all strangers to me. Here the grasses, which are an earth-covering at the North, grow wide apart in tall clumps and tufts like saplings. My known flower companions were leaving me now, not one by one as in Kentucky and Tennessee, but in whole tribes and genera, and companies of shining strangers came trooping upon me in countless ranks. The sky, too, was changed, and I could detect strange sounds in the winds. Now I began to feel myself "a stranger in a strange land."
But in Florida came the greatest change of all, for here grows the palmetto, and here blow the winds so strangely toned by them. These palms and these winds severed the last strands of the cord that united me with home. Now I was a stranger, indeed. I was delighted, astonished, confounded, and gazed in wonderment blank and overwhelming as if I had fallen upon another star. But in all of this long, complex series of changes, one of the greatest, and the last of all, was the change I found in the tone and language of the winds. They no longer came with the old home music gathered from open prairies and waving fields of oak, but they passed over many a strange string. The leaves of magnolia, smooth like polished steel, the immense inverted forests of tillandsia banks, and the princely crowns of palms — upon these the winds made strange music, and at the coming-on of night had overwhelming power to present the distance from friends and home, and the completeness of my isolation from all things familiar.
Elsewhere I have already noted that when I was a day's journey from the Gulf, a wind blew upon me from the sea — the first sea breeze that had touched me in twenty years. I was plodding along with my satchel and plants, leaning wearily forward, a little sore from approaching fever, when suddenly I felt the salt air, and before I had time to thing, a whole flood of long-dormant associations rolled in upon me. The Firth of Forth, the Bass Rock, Dunbar Castle, and the winds and rocks and hills came upon the wings of that wind, and stood in as clear and sudden light as a landscape flashed upon the view by a blaze of lightning in a dark night.
As strange and unfamiliar as the south was to John Muir, it is my home. I get great comfort from those dark, branchy pines and the smell of their needles baking in the sun. The sound of a pileated woodpecker banging his giant head on a hollow trunk, and the rising, smooth white noise as the wind moves through the long needles — that is home to me. Here there are all the right animals, the right plants, the right light, the right water, the right soil, the right air. These are the things my grandmother taught me to identify, to study, to love. My grandmother died, but the piney woods will thrive as long as we let them. It is my responsibility to care for these woods and struggle against their aggressive fecundity to assert my own tiny bit of order on it. When it's not trying to destroy my civilization with humidity and mice, my home amuses me.