By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
For better or worse, Januarys from now on will be forever defined by what happened in the first week of January of 2021.
The most violent and destructive assault on our Capitol buildings and an intended disruption of a legitimate government authorized political process will forever stand as a defining moment for our nation’s history and political identity.
The passes closed
Thanks to record snowfall and avalanche hazard, all east/west passes in Washington state were closed. Snoqualmie pass saw more snowfall than it had seen in twenty years. Snoqualmie, Stevens, White & Blewett passes were too dangerous even for maintenance crews. They were closed for several days.
This means that Washington state, for all intents and purposes, was cut off from the rest of the country except for our north/south connection with I-5. Which, thanks to flooding, was itself closed for twenty miles, which means that, for a few short days, we in Western Washington were literally cut off from the rest of the entire country.
Under normal conditions (not to be found in the 2020s) we could go north to Canada, but thanks to COVID restrictions and guidelines, crossing the border is multitudes of layers more complicated than it used to be.
As if on some diabolical schedule, COVID came with a new variant in 2022 – this one vastly more contagious. It moves far more quickly than previous strains and is not quite so serious. Over 10,000 new daily cases across the state, and about 800,000 nationally became, in January, our new normal.
COVID-19 hospitalizations pushed health care systems in Washington state “closer than they’ve ever been” to a crisis point.
Infections began to decline at the end of the month.
In the first week of January we lost Richard Leakey, world-renowned conservationist and paleontologist, at age 77.
Bob Saget, wholesome patriarch Danny Tanner on the sitcom “Full House,” and long time host on America’s Funniest Videos died at age 65, apparently of natural causes.
Meat Loaf, singer of Bat out of Hell, Paradise by the Dashboard Light, and I Would Do Anything for Love (But I won’t do that) died at 74.
Buddhist Zen elder Thich Nhat Hanh died at 95.
Clover Park High School, like a few other local schools, has a new mascot: The Timberwolves. After a months-long process to comply with a new state law passed in 2021 as House Bill 1356, took effect July 25, 2021 and states that beginning Jan. 1, 2022, “public schools may not use Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names.”
The stockmarket swung in triple, even quadruple digits in January.
In one week Jeff Bezos lost $20 billion. https://www.thedailybeast.com/amazon-founder-jeff-bezos-loses-dollar20-billion-in-a-week-as-stock-market-tumbles?
In cyber currencies, Bitcoin dropped by almost half of what it was in November of 2021.
In a rare example of US/Russia cooperation, ransomware group REvil has been dismantled by the Russian authorities at the request of US government agencies.
The St. Petersburg based group was responsible for much of the high level ransomware and cyber crime around the world including the Colonial Pipeline hacking that shut off oil delivery to much of the East Coast.
Meanwhile, in The Ukraine
Russia, for whatever reason, had about 100,000 heavily armed troops on the border of Ukraine. If they ever cross the border, it will be the largest military invasion since World War II.
Undersea volcano in the Pacific: Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai
January 15th gave us the largest – and loudest – explosion/eruption seen on planet earth in at least 30 years.
For a little perspective, Tonga is a Polynesian country of more than 170 South Pacific islands and home to about 100,000 people. It lies about 500 miles east of Fiji and 1,500 miles north of New Zealand.
Tsunami warnings went into effect across Pacific Island nations including Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu as well as New Zealand, Japan and Peru, the United States and British Columbia.
The eruption could be heard in parts of Alaska and was many times larger than the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The main eruption only lasted about 10 minutes, the ash plume rose more than 19 miles.
After multiple complications, mostly involving interference with aircraft bandwidth, 5G phone network upgrades were activated around the country.
After all, when it comes to non-ionizing non-visible radiation, what could go wrong?
Airlines, among others, expressed concern.
Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard
This deal is worth about $75 billion US dollars. For a little perspective, that’s about the same as the 2020 GDP of Luxembourg.
It is the biggest deal in gaming history.
Microsoft already dominated the gaming industry.
Microsoft is making this purchase with all cash.
As a little reminder, one million dollars (in $100 bills) weighs about 25 pounds.
One billion is one thousand millions, so one billion would weigh about 25,000 pounds – or about the size of a good sized truck.
75 billion would be a fleet of 75 trucks.
A stack of hundred dollar bills equalling a billion dollars would reach almost 7 miles (6.8 to be exact) high.
Rockin’ the free world – but not on Spotify
Neil Young, in a public statement, demanded that Spotify remove all of his music on their platform in protest to the COVID related disinformation by Joe Rogan.
Young gave Spotify the choice between his music and the commentaries of Joe Rogan. Spotify chose Rogan.
Joni Mitchell, among others, has followed suit, by requesting that Spotify not stream her music.
Tom Brady retires. Or not.
After seven Super Bowl wins, nine Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl MVP awards, 365 games, and 22 seasons, Tom Brady announced his retirement.
Supreme Court changes
Supreme Court Justice Breyer announced his upcoming retirement (to take effect in June). This will allow President Biden to appoint his first Supreme Court Justice.
The curse of the Olympics
The 2022 Beijing Olympics (February 4-20) are proving a challenge before they even begin.
With essentially no tickets being sold to the public because of the “complicated” COVID situation, political gyrations and even weather seemingly conspiring against the games – this will be the first winter Olympics to rely entirely on artificial snow – the Olympics of 2022 have far more than competitive sports to offer.
Talkin’ about the Weather
If you happened to find yourself looking at a national weather map just about any time in January, you could not miss the unrelenting disasters and crazy weather in just about every corner of North America.
From unseasonal tornadoes and freezes and massive snow in unlikely places – like Tennessee and Georgia – and even Santa Ana wind driven forest fires in California, this was a winter we won’t soon forget.
Here in Western Washington, we got about a month’s worth of rain the first week of the month, fierce winds the next week, sun the next week and finally, for the last week of January, non-stop fog – along with air stagnation advisories. On some afternoons the fog gave way to that rarest of treats – sunny, almost warm days in January.
Arson in Tacoma
As if 2022 was not crazy enough already, a series of more than a dozen suspected arsons of homes in Tacoma and Ruston emerged the last week of January. A 42 year old woman was taken into custody.
The Lunar New Year
The end of January brought us not only the end of a month, but also the end of a lunar year and the beginning of another. We left behind the year of the ox and begin the year of the tiger.
2021 certainly seemed to me like an ox, blundering through the year with blunt force and not much intent or tangible progress, yet a stabilizing force. The new year, the year of the tiger, symbolizes power, passion and daring.