|Jakarta Air (ahem) Quality at noon today|
Here in beautiful downtown Jakarta today, you can hardly see half a kilometer, due in large part to suspended particulates belched out of Gunung Kelud all the way over in east Java.
Down here in the city, we've had some minor ashfall, but up in the mountains south of town, you could build ashmen with the stuff. In fact, rooves and cars are dusted with ash that kind of looks like snow if you didn't know where you were standing.
As expected, everyone is hacking and wheezing around here, their bodies trying to expectorate the irritating volcanic dust. All this despite the fact that the volcano is nearly 1,000km from Jakarta. Go figure.
What makes us really nervous is that we have to fly to Singapore Thursday, and volcanic ash is notoriously bad for engines, upon which modern jets depend to stay aloft. The ash also tends to concentrate at higher altitudes, as Mark in Washington State, USA reminded us, not helping the jitters at all.
So here were are. We traded hurricanes and tornadoes and rampaging cattle for volcanoes and earthquakes. Just goes to show ya that ain't no place "safe". One thing that does make us feel at home, though, are the exciting annual Java floods that bring thrilling memories flooding back (pun intended) from our youth in the swamp town of Houston. One significant difference is that here in Indonesia, you don't get mats of floating fire ants looking for anything sticking up out of the water to jump on.
Speaking of volcanoes, yesterday saw Bromo and Anak Kerakatau both huff and puff a bit. To refresh your memory, Kerakatau is the one that blew the hell up back in the 1800s and caused "the year without summer" worldwide. One reason we mention this is that over at the western tip of Java, a place called Banten, about 2km of sea disappeared about a week and a half ago, meaning that instead of a tsunami, the sea bottom is rising. That area just happens to be a great place to sit and watch Anak Kerakatau, which means that it is likely swelling down in its roots.
There's nothing quite so reassuring as the knowledge that not only can the ground under you start shaking violently with no warning, but that it could also get blown sky high and come crashing down on top of you.
I love this country, as comedian Jakov Smirnov used to say.
One of the more pleasant side-effects of the volcanic cloud currently engulfing Jakarta is that morning temperatures are actually on the pleasant side. The breeze is rather cool if you are lucky enough to not be gagging and choking on the ash and particulates to notice.
Over the weekend, we dashed up to the mountain retreat at the Far Side World Headquarters (FSWH), where overnight temps were down-right cold! Remember that we are about 6 degrees south of the equator here, so a cold mountain night usually means roughly 70F. The other night was easily 63F, which is highly unusual.
There just isn't any such thing as "safe". One of our long-time faithful readers, Linda, wrote to say they are buried in snow and squatting in a deep freeze over in Pennsylvania, and what's worse is that all that snow will eventually turn to water and drown half the northeast US in a couple of months.
Unless our volcanoes keep it up...in which case we may all be facing another "year without summer".
When the next person comes up to you and says, "We need more jack-boots to keep us safe from terrorists," laugh long and hard at his face. You can have all the jack-boots, cavity searches and butt-sniffing dogs your money will buy, and not a single one of them can stop a blizzard or volcano or hurricane or tornado. What's more, there is no place on Earth you can move to that doesn't have some meteorological or geological time-bomb waiting to go off on your head. What's more, none of them can stop hordes of hungry, frightened people from raiding the local grocery and convenience stores when these little life gems happen, so you're goosed no matter what happens.
Besides, all the goons do when life's little disasters happen is run to their hidey-holes and wait it out. When it's all said and done, they emerge and start shooting anything that moves. Where exactly is the "safety" these numbnuts are supposed to be selling?
So next time some slimy politician says we need to spend more on "safety", just remember that a volcano or hurricane or tornado or earthquake or blizzard could ruin your day and make rag dolls out of your "safety", and all that governments spending and gobs of jack-boots can't do a single thing to stop it, and even less to clean up afterwards.
So tell the nose-pickers to keep their "safety" tucked in their pants and leave us folk out here in the real world alone. We're much better off sorting it all out on our own.
Speaking of which, thought you might like know that Indonesia has a group of money-sucking toe-lickers called "Centre for Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation". Ain't that a laugh? We damn near split a gut every time we hear that one...kind of like a Monty Python skit.
Have a SAFE day!