LIVING IN THE PUBLIC EYE


When I graduated from high school, 49 years ago, I got compliments from people whom I respected a great deal, my parents, and my homeroom teacher when I was a junior.  The latter wrote in my yearbook, “having grown up in the public eye, I know how difficult it can be.  You have emerged as your own person. I’m proud of you.”  My father was superintendent of public schools, sending me to one of the high schools in his district, for going to a private school, while perhaps offering a better education, would have been hypocrisy.  It didn’t hurt that his son was valedictorian.  He told me that my not getting into trouble made his job immensely easier.

Too many live in the public eye and refuse to deal with the big downside of such: everything you do is scrutinized.  I wasted three minutes of my life listening to “The Sarah Palin Channel,” as she opined about the California drought.  She advised them to build more dams, but in fairness, she did offer a water source, the ocean.  “There’s all that water around ya’.”  I don’t like “ya” in this context.  I know it sounds folksy, and she appeals to many, especially men, but she is now in her 50s and long since should have left the airwaves.

Let’s discuss desalinization.  It works.  I drank ocean water that went through the boilers on my ship, that took salt water, heated it to steam, and then let the steam power the ship.  Some of that steam was allowed to condense, and that was our drinking water and cleaning water, but not our toilet water. Desalinization requires converting water to steam, an energy-intensive process, because one needs to make steam and let the fresh water condense out.  I’m surprised Ms. Palin, important and tellin’ the truth, didn’t discuss the number of calories it takes to turn water into steam.  Heating water from freezing to boiling is not difficult.  It takes 100 calories/gram.  From boiling to steam is called vaporization, and it requires 540 calories/gm, nearly five and a half times the heat needed to get to boiling.  That, incidentally, is why sweat cools us, because body heat is used to convert water to water vapor, cooling us.  Evaporation cools, condensation warms. That is why when there is dew, the temperature stops falling, because condensation releases heat, limiting radiational cooling. In the sky, when clouds form, heat is given off, and if the atmosphere is unstable, the water tends to rise into cooler air, condensing and releasing more heat.  This is why we get convective thunderstorms.

Ms. Palin didn’t like the idea that the government should tell people what to do, although she would have had no problem as vice president telling people what to do.  I heard that in the first week of October 2008, when she debated then Senator Joe Biden, who schooled her in exactly what power the Vice President had.  Why, she said, government would dictate how long showers might last.  She didn’t mention that most of the water use in California is for growing heavy water consumers, like almonds, pistachios, alfalfa for cattle feed, and pasture.  Nor did she discuss the 250 different water companies and patchwork regulations, which is what happens when there isn’t a strong state government.  Nor did she discuss that voluntary measures had failed to help California save water.  Or the “blob” in the Gulf of Alaska, that may be changing climate on the West Coast.

She didn’t mention that many municipalities do not meter water, using far more than such desert cities as Phoenix, Tucson, and Santa Fé.   Government is bad, she said, taking her own advice and resigning governorship of Alaska after thirty-one months in office.  She has two children with out-of-wedlock pregnancies, which normally I could care less about, but had this been from a Democrat, people would have been screaming moral decay.  Even Mike Huckabee gave her daughter a pass on her out-of-wedlock baby, the couple later never marrying.  Lot of adults have out-of-wedlock pregnancies, but to tout abstinence only as the form of birth control we should use as a nation, as Ms. Palin once did, might first have begun in her home.

The problem with being in the public eye is that one has to behave to a different standard than the rest of us.  I knew that, and I am a nobody. I also don’t get into fights at parties where my children (not that I have any) rip off their shirt, flip people off, throw punches, while I yell at (other) jerks, “Do you know who I am?” That’s a shame, because another guy at the party yelled, “This isn’t some reality TV hillbilly show.”  Damn, I would have loved to have said that. I wouldn’t have been the first, however, as her family was referred to during 2008 as “Wasilla Hillbillies.” Ms. Palin denied having been at the party, but there were eyewitnesses.  She could have apologized for her behavior and that of her family, and slunk away quietly.

Palin didn’t read books, couldn’t name one major Supreme Court case (other than Roe vs. Wade), apparently forgetting Brown vs. Board of Education, along with Marbury vs. Madison or even Dred Scott.  She drew targets on the pictures of Democrats whom she wanted removed from office.  When Gabby Giffords, one of those targeted, was shot 4 miles from where I lived, the comment came back to haunt Ms. Palin, who replied that she didn’t mean gun.  I believed her.  “It wasn’t in good taste, and I apologize,” would have shown class.

Too many don’t like smart men and women; they don’t trust them.  They figure that if somebody is smart, they probably can’t ride a horse, camp outdoors, in a tent, or read the weather, things that real men and women can do.  Well, Ms. Palin, I can ride, camp, and read the weather, the latter two really, really well.  I also understand heat of vaporization and fusion.  I thought school was a good place, and I learned a lot.  What I learned much later was that people want an attractive somebody who will tell them what they want to hear.

Sarah Palin is one of those people. Most assuredly, I am not. I tell people what I think is right.  Then I prove it or open myself up to compelling evidence that will change my mind.  Ms. Palin would do well to follow my example. I’m not as pretty or as young, but I’m a lot wiser and more open to change.

I’ve hiked places in her state she can’t even pronounce.

Far more importantly, for the few times in my life I was in the public eye, I didn’t become a jerk.  And I was a teenager at the time, not a former governor and nearly Vice President.

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