Sunday, November 24, 2013

El Niño made me do it

Mar 1995

I do a lot of reading during the winter, for several reasons. (1) It is done in a warm house and (2) it involves a recliner - the farmer's favorite tillage tool. This intense intellectual effort, punctuated by periods of unconsciousness with drool coming out the corner of my mouth, during which my brain digests the information, can yield some pretty impressive Deep Thoughts. While the conception of a Deep Thought can be mistaken for gas pains, it is always worth the effort. My current DT, an explanation of "El Niño", is proof that thinking can be useful, as well as a refreshing change of pace for most of us.

I have been reading just oodles of intensely serious words about "El Niño". It is not, as many of us had supposed, a new dish at Chi-Chi's. No, indeed. El Niño is the latest GLOBAL THREAT from the people in the Alarming Science Industry. El Niño (literally, the ninny) is a difficult, complicated physical phenomenon that is poorly understood and almost impossible to explain to the general public, let alone farmers. Luckily, I got here in time.

El Niño is believed by most serious scientists with German accents to be caused by the anchovy – a slimy little fish that breeds furiously off the coast of Peru, or maybe Paraguay, or Pakistan – one of those third world countries whose citizens change dictators more often than underwear. The chief economic use for these fish is as landfill after being scraped off pizzas, salads, and other unsuspecting cuisine. The US Government requires restaurants to include this over-salted ocean offal in a fixed percentage of all foods in support of the Government-of-the-Day, General (Fill in name here). As loathsome as all right-thinking humans find these creatures, their acceptance in the ocean is even less, where other fish refer to them as Sea- SPAM. Indeed, all other ocean dwelling life flees from the schools of anchovies in panic, especially during anchovy breeding season, a particularly disgusting marine spectacle.

This mass movement of sea life away from the anchovies creates a strong current that has been dubbed "El Niño" by current dubbers in honor of the discoverer, Juan "Nincompoop" Gonzales-McKinsey, a marine orthodontist who was the son of a legendary flamenco artist and a traveling oatmeal salesman. Gonzales-McKinsey is also credited as the first person to blame something (his failed career as a penguin juggler) on El Niño.

At any rate, this current of ocean water filled with panicked, sweaty fish exudes a large pocket of warm, moist, and pungent air that disrupts the Global Balance causing it to go into Overdraft. The air mass usually lumbers into southern California, spends some quality time on the beach, and moseys inland, frequently stopping at the state capital, triggering dense fog and denser legislation. The aroma of this air pocket is so staggering the other normal air currents avoid it like a commitment. This shifting of the traditional weather patterns can lead to droughts, floods, and inflation, often simultaneously in the same place, across the Northern Hemisphere.

A great deal of money could be made by anyone who could predict the actions of El Niño, and as a result, official Prediction Persons are currently covering all the possible outcomes by predicting everything. There is an unknown prognosticator out there whose stab in the dark will make him or her rich and famous for maybe 18 months, or whenever the second correct prediction is required. My great concern is that we are ignoring the most pernicious effects of El Niño by focusing solely on the weather. It is my personal belief that El Niño disrupts the space-time continuum, rendering rational thought impossible, which can seriously affect all non-political activity.

For instance, El Niño causes turmoil in the grain markets. When an El Niño rumor spreads, buyers start selling and vice-versa. This is due to the fact that equally convincing cases can be made for opposing outcomes, and all of us tend to assume we are wrong in our expectations at any moment. In fact, it seems the only sure thing about El Niño is that it generates uncertainty and hence, volatility, which almost nobody wants. Almost.

Anxious citizens and worried agriculturists are hanging on every word about El Niño, not necessarily so they can act on this advice, but so they can kick themselves mentally for years afterwards for not realizing which the correct prediction was. Many will even go to the trouble to calculate the money we lost by inaction to reinforce the lesson, ignoring the fact that if we did know the future, we wouldn't believe it until it was the past. How should we be dealing with this potential boon/threat?

I don't know about you, but I'm taking it as seriously I can.

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