William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Stock Tomato Seeds! Global Warming Is Coming!

It must be a joke. The punchline is surely coming. Ha, ha! Hoarding tomato seeds! Bars on his basement windows! Hilarious! This guy really nails nuttiness. He’ll shame a few zealots, boy. But…wait a minute…I’m awfully close to the the end. When is this guy going to toss in the zinger, the gotcha!, the line which says it’s all a spoof?

It never came! He was serious!

Thus was my shock when I finished Mike Tidwell’s “A climate-change activist prepares for the worst” in the Washington Post.

Tidwell tells us that he has long cared for the environment, that he did his part. But caring wasn’t enough, it was an emotion disproportionate to his soul-searing commitment. One can imagine Tidwell asking himself, “What other emotional states besides caring are available to me, such that I can show my dedication to the environment? Satisfaction? Clearly not. Worry? Too tepid. Concern? Insufficient. How about paranoia?”

“That’s it!” he must have shouted to himself. For what other emotion best explains his buying “a new set of deadbolt locks on all my doors”, a (presumably gas powered) generator, and a (yes) “starter kit to raise tomatoes and lettuce behind barred basement windows.”

Pause and re-read that. Did you notice the bars on his basement windows? Now, either he has purchased mutant tomato seeds from the Little Shop of Horrors or he has frightened himself into believing that crazed climate deniers will lay siege to his electrically powered fortress and its stock of juicy vegetables. UFO Global Warming

I’m know what you’re thinking, but Tidwell denies being a nut. He claims that he has taken his drastic actions because “we’re running out of time.” He says, “The proof is everywhere.”

When I re-read Tidwell, I felt like the weary cop listening to yet another citizen reporting a UFO. In the movies, the citizen senses the cop’s skepticism and, with clasped hands, pleads, “Don’t you believe me?” The cop always says, “I believe that you believe it.” The “UFO” turns out to be the porch light glinting off the wings of a moth. The citizen, if he has not believed in his mistake too long, laughs shyly and melts away.

But if he has cherished his sighting, no amount of evidence will convince him of his error. He will instead strain every possible strand of evidence to prove his UFO real. It is only a matter of time before he begins attending MUFON conferences where discussants agree that the only possible explanation for the lack of tangible evidence is (of course) conspiracy. It is a pathetic thing to see.

Tidwell saw a storm instead of a UFO, but he is certain sure that that storm, which knocked his power out for a few hours and prematurely thawed his meat, was sent by them. The pathos is evident:

After the August storm, I made the financially painful decision to buy the Honda generator. My solar panels, by themselves, can’t power my home. I spent $1,000 on the generator, money that would have gone into my 13-year-old son’s college fund. I’ve expanded my definition of how best to plan for his future.

Would it do any good to tell Tidwell that if the apocalypse comes his gas-powered generator, after giving glow to a light bulb or two for a week, will be useless for lack of fuel? Could he be convinced that his meager store of sun-starved tomatoes (they don’t grow well in dark basements) will not be the envy of climate refugees?

I am glad Tidwell has taken up skeet shooting for the good of his “immediate loved ones” because we could always use more advocates for Second Amendment rights. But if I were his mailman, I’d steer clear of his porch whenever there is a heat wave.

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In Other News

Fellow statistician Ted Davison has created the new blog Search for Impartiality in which readers will have an interest. He begins with some frightening but apt quotations from some of the usual suspects.

17 Comments

  1. Well, at least he thought of lettuce. Man does not live by tomato alone. I recommend mushrooms. They grow better in the dank and dark. I suspect he already has an adequate supply of fertilizer.

    So when things for really bad (presumably from overproduction of CO2) he wants to make them worse with his (and his neighbors’ gas generator — I assume he’s advocating all to do as he is doing)? Oh, wait! He’s got solar panels. That gives him a free pass.

    The $1000 was better spent though. If things are going to be as bad as he fears he won’t need to send his son to college — they will also become scarce.

  2. Mr. Tidwell said, “I’ve expanded my definition of how best to plan for [my son's] future.”

    In fact, he has contracted his definition to, “My son and I will become impoverished hermits living underground and surviving on dried food, bottled water and warm beer. We will watch our neighbors starve and kill each other.”

    I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with Dad. It’s okay, though. I’m still Dad.
    Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    Why do you suppose that the Washington Post printed the ravings of this madman?

  3. Lettuce is a horrible choice for an apocalypse – no caloric benefit. It would be better to plan for growing (or foraging) calorie-dense foods, rather than something that’s essentially water.

  4. gcb,

    And uncanned, tomatoes have the shelf life of a dead trout. I suggest growing carrots, beets, parsnips and beans.

  5. I only know one crop that grows well in basements. It doesn’t have much nutritional value, but it has a high value per ounce and could be traded for other commodities.

  6. I feel the need. The need for seed(s.)

  7. That high value crop doesn’t grow in the dark. You need lots of daylight spectrum lights in the basement. No lights, no crop.

    As for Mr. Tidwell’s solar panels, when I was in college we did a study on the cost of producing electricity with solar panels and concluded they would never repay the investment. Today the efficiency of solar panels has improved and the cost of production has decreased so you might recoup your investment.

  8. I think the basement grown lettuce and tomato things says all one needs to know about M. Tidwell’s ability to think about the future and the quality of the information stored in his cranium. I am at a loss as to how someone so obviously clueless can survive to adulthood, much less long enough to father children but apparently M. Tidwell has managed it. At lest we know his son must be on the ball in order to survive having such a parent.

  9. Where do they find these people? I hope his kid is not as strange as the old man. Then, again, we don’t know the whole story. This illustrious climate denier could be an closet (or basement) entrepreneur, and grow hydroponic tomatoes alongside his pot and ‘shrooms. Great for barter, I would say.

    A friend of mine has the right idea if someone is concerned about a coming catastrope. You should invest your money in whiskey and ammunition. If you run out of stuff, you can get drunk and take what you want.

  10. He could be growing lettuce to fee rabbits.
    His writings achieve the same purpose.

  11. feed not fee

  12. Actually, Mr. Tidwell may be on the right track, although for the wrong reason. He is putting into practice (although, not very well) what humans have always done to survive in the face of nature’s adversity; he is making preparations to adapt to coming changes. Of course, no one really knows what those changes will be, except that they may well be different than what is now the norm. As Mr. Briggs has blogged before, a man should have several basic life skills, of which I would add: building, using, and maintaining a weapon; growing and gathering his own food; killing, skinning, and cleaning game; making a fire; cooking; and making a shelter as just a required few.

    Weather earthquake, fire, flood, famine, or political tyranny; these skills may see you through. And, in our politically unstable world, don’t forget to stock up on the 3 G’s – Gold, Grub, and Guns.

    ;-)

  13. Pathetically amateur survivalist. Mr. Tidwell should venture west to Oregon or Idaho and meet the hardcore. We stock up on beans, corn, and other staple seeds, as well as potatoes, and chickens, goats, and other meat sources.

    And we are well stocked with guns and ammo. Bars on the windows? Don’t make me laugh. He’ll need an arsenal to protect his survival assets when the chaos ensues. Indeed, he’ll need a unified militia to defend his neighborhood from roving cannibals.

    Out here we’ve thought it all through and are as ready as we’ll ever be, as a neighborhood and community can be, when Armageddon hits. Climate change is NOT something we fear. Nuts like Tidwell and the rest of the deluded and dependent socialist urban masses are the real danger.

  14. Mike D. You are soooo right!!!! We all got it down here in the NW, lol

  15. I love tomatoes. So much so, that a few years ago I decided to try growing my own. Maybe I could avoid a few trips to the grocery store and enjoy some fresh-from-the-vine fruit, I thought. I bought a grow-light and a couple cherry tomato plants and set them up in the basement. I made sure they had plenty of water, and patiently waited, anticipating the glorious day that I’d be able to enjoy the fruit of my labors. Alas, no fruit was forthcoming. I’d forgotten the beehive. Back to the local grocery store for me. Did Tidwell mention anything in his article about how he plans to pollinate his tomato plants?

    Epilogue:

    The next year I decided I’d go all out. I bought eighteen potted cherry tomato plants from the local garden center and enough pots to grow them on my deck. Again, I was careful to make sure they had plenty of water, and dusted them with organic bug powder. About three months later, hundreds of tiny, green tomatoes made their appearance. In my anticipation I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of all of those juicy, delicious cherry tomatoes. Then, one evening as I was sitting at the computer, I heard a loud rumbling sound. You guessed it. The mother of all hail storms took about 1 minute to destroy all eighteen plants — and my roof. I now leave the task of growing tomatoes to the professionals.

  16. Lynn,

    When I was in College, my roommate worked for the USDA. They were working with transgenic tomatoes. You can let a bee polinate the transgenic tomato. My roomates job was to polinate the tomatoes with a Q-tip.

  17. Doug,
    Transgender tomatoes? Whaaaah?

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