Mrs. Barn and I often listen to audio books when traveling, and recently we heard a story in which on-line gaming was an element.  Truth be told I cannot see the attraction for such things, even board games hold little interest for me, and that’s with the other players sitting right beside me.  The notion of playing a game with strangers over the interwebz simply strikes me as bizarre, even though a family friend actually earns money playing on-line games as people pay to watch him play.  I guess this is no weirder than paying to watch baseball or something similar (although one of the surprises in recent years has been he ease with which not watching sports television has become manifest since moving to the mountains. Even when in a place where televised sports is available I find that a quarter of football or a few innings of baseball is about all I can take.  And of course pro basketball is dreck now.)

But really, how much stranger is compewder game playing than browsing for news, instruction, or contact with people I have never met and am unlikely ever to cross IRL?  (I just learned that acronym).  Yes, the web allows us to make and maintain contacts we would otherwise never encounter.

As I have written previously I connected with and have been corresponding for some time now with woodworker and tool maker Rob Hanson, whose Paradise CA home and shop were reduced to ashes in last year’s catastrophic wildfires.  Since the physical assets of his business were completely obliterated and I have accumulated a stash of surplus tools, I have been packaging and sending him tools.  Almost none are new, but none are junk either.  They can be put to work to help him rebuild his family’s lives.

Recently Rob returned to visit his former home and wrote this to me.

The cleanup work in Paradise is nearly complete. There have been hordes of dump trucks on the roads all over the area hauling the refuse away, some 6,000,000 tons of debris had to be removed.  Driving out there was somewhat surreal because everything looks extremely different than it used to, and what once was a very lush and green forested area is now dead. There are literally thousands and I would venture to guess tens of thousands if not many many more dead trees everywhere.

Mentally, It’s kind of like being held in a holding cell and each time they bring you out you see something different. Of course while you’re in the holding cell your life is continuing on in a new vein, but every so often you get to go look at your old life, and it’s just a snapshot of what’s going on in your old life for a moment. So your last memory of everything being normal is you know, you had your home in your shop and all your stuff in your yard and your life was happy and everything was set up the way you wanted it.
The next snapshot is that everything is burnt to an absolute, blacksmith Forge Crisp, and you see that a couple of times completely soggy with rain and rust is on everything that has been burned, and everything else is just ashes. And then you finally see it completely excavated and cleaned up and stuffed in dump trucks and gone. What’s left behind has remnants of things that you recognize before the most part it looks like the moon, with spray on hydrotreat grass seed everywhere. Nothing is manicured anymore, and weeds where they have never been before are everywhere.
Got that?  Six million tons of debris!  Now that is compelling IRL.  And if yu follow the news from there you know that the rebuilding efforts face monumental changes, not the least being mny of the local water sources have been thoroughly contaminated, and the complete utility infrastructure need to be rebuilt.
It is a rare day when I do not reflect on the travails of Rob’s family and the tens of thousands like them, while the poltroons in public office wail and gnash their teeth over plastic straws.   I think it was Mark Twain who said something like, “America has no native criminal class, except for politicians.”
I’m sending another box of tools to Rob this week.
You should too.