The constancy of tides

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. iv. 43

There are some things that will always be constant. Things infinite in the sense that it is beyond imagining a time ahead in which such things do not occur or exist. The tide is one of these things.

I know of a river where the water looks like thickened latte on most days. The confluence of salt water tide into fresh water river creates an almost viscous liquid and I wonder, when I dream of this river, if the water still feels like cold distilled syrup.

“An estuary is a semi-enclosed coastal body of water which has a free connection with the open sea and within which sea water is measurably diluted with fresh water from land drainage.”

PRITCHARD, D. W. 1967. “What is an estuary?”

The technical term for the Coquille River is “Drowned River Mouth Estuary”

A drowned river mouth estuary is a bountiful place, full of biological oddities of nature, some prehistoric, some not.  Several creatures and plants survive very well in the nutrient and oxygen-rich environment of a river or bay where salt and fresh water meet.  On the larger side, think of seals and fish, of birds and amphibians. Marsh plants do well; though they are delicate ecologically, they are so adapted to the changing content of the water and the different mineral stew of the river sediment, that changes seasonally with the tides do not affect their survival unless there is drought. Such plants do well as long as man doesn’t attempt to reclaim too much of the shoreline or discard too much garbage in the mouth of the marsh. To our undiscerning human eyes, marshy, swampy areas often look aesthetically like so much waste land, layered with decayed and rotting flora, and dry grasses and reeds that rise out of the changing levels of the water.

Over the course of European man’s encroachment on the Pacific coast, such swamps have historically been used as our private recycling centers.  A marsh wasteland is a rich place, though, and there are dozens of wealthy, though endangered ones on the Oregon south coast. In 2005, Congressman Peter De Fazio was instrumental in securing funds to protect marshlands, and in particular, the Bandon Marshlands adjacent to the Coquille River Bridge, by making certain that road improvements scheduled for the area included a critical restoration and rehabilitation project for the marshes surrounding the Coquille River, the bridge and the stretch of Highway 100 through the marshlands.

The tidal wetlands restoration project, made possible by the road improvements, will be the largest estuary wetlands restoration ever undertaken in Oregon, opening up more than 400 acres of diked former tidelands on the refuge to provide essential habitat for juvenile salmonids, including federally listed coho salmon. Migratory birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, will greatly benefit from the restoration. The restoration project will also help protect against degradation numerous cultural resources sites of importance to the Coquille Indian Tribe, including remnants of a historic Indian fishing camp that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered to be one of the most important cultural resources sites in Oregon.
The Nature Conservancy Applauds Congressional Support for Oregon’s Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge

To maintain a navigable river means housekeeping the waterways of deadheads (submerged cut logs too long in the river and saturated enough to lurk below the river surface) and wind damage that floats down the river from farms and forests upstream.

There is irony in the term “Drowned River Mouth Estuary”, if only for me. My father drowned on this river, near those critical marshland by the Coquille River bridge in 1969, after spending almost two decades moving up and down this water route, from salt water to fresh and back again.  Many days he and I crossed the river bar to the ocean, as we towed log rafts out to sea. The inevitableness of dragging debris to sea, only to have the tide return it to shore, hangs around my mind sometimes. I never questioned it out loud as a kid, but I often wondered why we towed those logs to sea, when I thought they would in fact return on the next incoming tidal current.  I guess my dad knew the flow of the eddies and currents, and that the direction of the wind would likely drive the abandoned debris to more southern reaches of the shore away from the river mouth. I assume this to be the case, though I will never know. There was always so much debris to clear after every flooded early Fall and through a long drenched winter.

That syrup of the Coquille is the mix of things fresh and salty, muddy and dense, liquid and solid sediment.  Fresh water is less dense than salt water and when the two meet, wherever they meet because you never really know from one tide to the next where the margin will be between river outflow and tidal incursion, fresh water slides over salt water.  On rainy days, that fresh water is filled with debris and mud from erosion upstream and the river flow comes down with force against the incoming salt tide. The resultant sedimentary debris that floats to the bottom of the river changes the under tide pattern of the salt water layer and the bottom of the river is a mercurial and ever changing map, the topology of which is never stable in depth or breadth.

Along the bottom, the current moves mud and sludge that piles up in drifts with every tidal exchange between fresh and salt water. The Army Corps of Engineers has for many decades come to the Coquille to dredge the bottom. If this visit doesn’t occur on a reasonably regular basis, the Coquille would grow shallow, too shallow for the draught of lumber barges or deep draught ships, though there are fewer of these now.  The river bar of the Coquille is still the most dangerous on the Oregon coast, second only to the Columbia River bar.  The area between the north and south jetties is narrow and the incoming Pacific Ocean tide is so fierce that the cresting bar waves are never predictable. Factor in a wind that is almost constant and you have the mariner’s perfect fatal nightmare. Cape Blanco just to the south of Bandon has been clocked as one of the windiest places on earth (as mentioned in an earlier essay, The Big Blow).

My father worked on the Port of Bandon tugboat as first engineer in the 1950’s; the captain of the boat was one of my dad’s old Alaska buddies from the late 1930’s, so the job was a good fit for my father. 

The Port of Bandon tug operated out of the marina in Bandon near the mouth of the Coquille. This port was a less than majestic port, but truly functional as a midcoast center and terminal for lumber shipping operations and a healthy fishing industry. Those days are gone; the old Moore Mill machine shop and the city dock, I believe, are both removed or renovated to suit more tourist-oriented attractions.  “Touristification” has been the fate of most coastal Pacific towns as timber and fishing fail. I often wonder how many people are still familiar with the term “gyppo logger” and if there are any left. I remember nights at 9 pm in the summer when my dad would take me to the city dock to watch the trawlers return with their catch.  Huge halibut, ugly creatures, and red snapper, so prehistoric seeming, and tons of salmon the size of which seem to dwarf the fish tossed around at Seattle’s Pike Place Market now. I was a child and all things were bigger then.

The Oliver Olson barge ran aground on the south jetty of the Coquille River in 1953 and from what I remember of the story, it was because the barge operator refused to wait for the Port of Bandon tug to pilot it to sea from the mill upriver.  Andy, the captain of the Port of Bandon insisted wisely on the window of tide that granted a safer passage of a fully loaded barge across the bar. The Oliver Olson started out, but as she attempted the bar crossing, the currents pushed her south and hard against the outcropping of piled basalt rocks of the Coquille’s south jetty.  Dumped timber was everywhere – out to sea, upriver, washed up on the beaches.

Most of the timber was salvaged; the barge was a loss. They stripped her down and sliced her steel hull horizontally at around midpoint about 6 to 8 feet above the water line. The remains of the Oliver Olson form the base of a newer extension of the south jetty into the Pacific; the hull, filled with more basalt and cement, can still be seen at low tide if you float too close to the jetty as you cross the Coquille bar.  This bar is still a dangerous thing. Three well known natives of Bandon, friends of my parents, stalwarts of the community, highly familiar with the treachery of the Coquille, drowned in a capsized vessel as they came home across the bar several years back. There are some things that will always be constant.

The syrup of the river seems visually thick but it is actually a cold, cold water. The river runs high in the winter and spring and the surrounding fields and valleys upstream flood every year. I remember many days each year when schoolmates of mine were not at school because they were trapped in their houses in little dairy farms nested in those tiny valleys off of the river. You either had a boat to cross your farm pasture to get to the main road and hope that it was not also flooded, or you stayed home to sandbag the milk house and barn.  The Coquille used to rise so fast that it wasn’t uncommon after a really bad spring rain to see bloated cow corpses floating out to sea past the docks of the marina.

When I was ten, my father took me upstream on the river just down from a little hamlet called Riverton. The word “hamlet” wasn’t exactly how I thought of it back then – I think my mother’s disparaging term was “wide spot in the road”. In those days, Riverton had a ferry crossing that would get you over to a rural road on the other side of the river to another place called Randolph. The old ferry would handle only a couple of cars if I recall. There were tow cables stretching across the river and an old diesel engine that manipulated the pulley and the ferry maneuvered back and forth between the banks solely on the judgment and grace of the old ferryman.  The last time I went to Riverton, the ferry was not there and the road that dropped down to the landing was overgrown with grass. Not a trace to show a common way across. The old storefronts were there. But there was no visible evidence of a rural commerce once unfettered by modern technology and time.

If you are on the Coquille in the summer, and as long as you travel far enough upstream a mile or so from town or the 101 highway bridge, and away from the ocean wind, you can imagine yourself on a very miniature version of Huck Finn’s Mississippi.  It is hot and buggy as the syrupy water slowly flows by banks covered in brush and alder, low scrub salal and pine trees.  People two hundred years ago, numbering in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, walked on these low banks and high banks, gathered reeds and hunted deer, fished for the fresh water fish upstream and salmon downstream, ate salal berries for health and nutrition. The Miluks, with their own hamlets of timber and woven grasses, traded with other tribes, the Hanis, the Athabaskans, the Dine. They were massacred by miners and settlers, or relocated to the Suislaw reservation and were inevitably disenfranchised from all.  The land carries a memory of these footsteps, I’m sure.

There are sacred spots on the Coquille, though no language known carries the original stories and memories anymore.  The legends have been diluted by time and ignorance. A commercial glaze has been applied to appeal to tourists and gamblers.  At Bullard’s Beach state park on the Coquille, near the 101 bridge, ancient bones in ancient graves were found in 1969. I remember this event, not very publicized due to the academic nature of the dig, as the first time I realized that what I was familiar with was not what had always been. I guess I got “history” then, as some get “religion”.

Due south of that dig a couple of months later, perhaps two or three football fields in length away from the Indian burial site, in some dark spot on the Coquille my father drowned, an early dark evening in October 1969. It was very stormy and windy that day and my father was upriver some from the marina securing log rafts to pilings just off the banks of the Coquille near the bridge.  Near the 101 bridge and the marsh lands that are now a protected wildlife sanctuary.  In those days, there were wooden billboards stuck down in the mud of the smelly marshlands advertising everything from local motels to Lucky Strikes. 

That dark spot of the drowned river estuary called the Coquille, or “little shell”, based on what I remember of the tidal flow and the fresh water push, is where fresh and salt most often meet. His boat was a 28 foot diesel outboard and was never found, though the Coast Guard dragged the area for a few days in the attempt to determine what had happened.

I think of that boat a lot nowadays, when I haven’t for decades.  There is something about the story that to me has no ending.  It may be because the boat was never found; there was no real closure in the determination of how my father drowned. He was an excellent swimmer, had survived crabbing in the Aleutians in winter, fishing out of Dutch Harbor in the summer season, and working in the Todd Shipyards for many years from the mid 1930’s until the 1950’s.  To drown on a stormy river, and not the result of a bar crossing accident, or the swamping of forty foot waves in the Gulf of Alaska – this stalls my mind. In my dreams I am the Wizard of Oz and I give the right gift to everyone, I make everything complete, I offer closure for the most pedestrian of foolish desires. Even mine.  I dream I go back and drag the river and find the boat. I see the boat in that sediment, that muddy stew of time and tide. I don’t dream that it gives me answers, I dream that it puts the period at the end of the sentence that now ends with a question mark.

The wound of the question may heal; the scar left behind will always be there. There are some things that will always be.

I’ve always lived near water. In twenty-some moves in my life, in three different coastal states, I’ve always either seen water from where I live or I could walk to it.  It haunts me and I have fallen in love with it and I cannot leave it behind. There are elements of both ephemera and immutability in the sediment of the Coquille and that is my dad’s true grave. The tide comes in and out and the river bottom ever changes.

There are some things that will always be constant.

Again, a nod to Norman Maclean.

(All photos unless otherwise cited are permissable Use granted by the Oregon State Archives
Photos by Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives, Copyright 2002

Midnight Cowboying – Democratic Contender News Round Up

City Dog Catcher of Reno, NV Endorses Mike Gravel

Reno, NV – Local Dog Catcher Joe Karren has announced he will be endorsing Democratic Nominee hopeful Mike Gravel. He even called the campaign headquarters himself to let them know he was firmly in their camp and planned on a press conference at the local diner, Angie’s Spot, to formally announce.

“I was shocked Mr. Gravel picked up the phone,” said Karren, whose support is supposed to bring in at least 2 votes for the Gravel ticket. “Even more shocking was when he said he would actually show up to my presser. I was just joking, I was really just going for a cup of coffee. But now he is coming, I feel like I gotta get a banner or something.”

“It’s about meeting the people,” said Mike Gravel, who once led a filibuster that led to the end of the Vietnam War, and who was shat upon at last summer’s Yearly  Kos. “About meeting one voter at a time.”

If Gravel completes his quest to meet every voter in America, he will be prime to win the nomination in 3012.

Dennis Kucinich leaves politics to star in Jackson’s “The Hobbit”

While some actors become politicians, the once-Presidential hopeful has decided to go the exact opposite route. At a recent casting call for The Hobbit, the prequel to the extremely successful Lord of the Rings series, Kucinich happened to be working the line for tryouts when he was spotted by director Peter Jackson.

“He was perfect!” said Peter Jackson, on his quest to cast Bilbo Baggins, the star character of the whimsical tale involving dwarves, elves and even dragons. “We don’t even have to get him in make up, you know how much that is going to save us?”

When reached for comment, Kucinich replied, “Well, if the only place I can save the world is in a film, then so be it. Plus, they have promised to cast my wife as an elven princess, which she is.”

The movie starts production in summer of 2008.

Clinton Lost in Bermuda Triangulation

Search teams are still searching for former First Lady and current Junior Senator of New York Hillary Clinton. She was lost last weekend while making a complex political calculation in the Bermuda Triangulation. During a meeting with senior advisors concerning civil unions and gay voter turnout, she was last seen trying to read tea leaves and was lost in what is being called a demographic-dense polling fog.

“We were making steady progress on the issue,” said long-time staff David Minzer. “Then we got into the stats on the 2004 election and Gay Marriage Ballots, she was making a map based on Rovian math and primary voters and she was gone. She vanished into thin air like a third party candidate who got caught eating babies.”

This marks the fifth politician lost in the Bermuda Triangulation, most recently claiming Howard Dean, who was last heard howling on the radio until it faded into a whimper.

Obama still means Osama in 23 of 50 States

Recent Zogby Poll shows a majority of Americans in 23 of 50 states still think Obama Barack is, in fact, Osama Bin Laden. While it is not known when exactly the name mix-up began, it is certain based on trends Barack Obama can not convince people he is not the most wanted man in world by primary season early next year.

“I am about to call Rush myself about why Osama is running on that surrender monkey ticket they call the Democrat Party,” said unemployed fork-lift driver Bart Hokilns. “That man brought the towers down, and now he is running for president of the damn country? Not on my watch.”

“That rag head belongs in Gitmo, not running around the country campaigning,” chimed in Chicago-based Earl Schlizing, who votes straight Republican even though that party’s policies lead to the out-sourcing of his manufacturing job to China years ago. “I will not let some camel jockey come into the land of Lincoln and ruin his proud legacy.”

When contacted, Barack Obama himself sent out the follow response: “What the fuck, my name is Barack Hussein Obama. Not Osama Bin Laden.”

He then instantly regretted mentioning the Hussein part.


Do I Look Presidential Enough?
By John Edwards’s Toupee

Wow, what a long journey it has been. I still remember when a pre-mature balding law student came into the wig shop way back in the early 80s. Little did I know the head I was soon to be attached to would one day be running for the Oval Office! So I have to ask, do I look Presidential enough?

Sure, I worked fine when we tagged teamed in trials, with me wowing jurors as I stayed perfectly in place as he made passionate speeches about corporation corruption. I must admit, I am sure my perfect poof and spryness led to at least three judgements in his favor. I can still close my eyes and see the ladies in the juror box looking at the young lawyer with the perfect hair, thinking how dashing he looked. But that was just two-bit courtrooms in North Carolina, we are talking about the leader of the free world. Do I look Presidential enough? Sorry to keep asking, I am just worried and I don’t want to blow this for my head.

I remember when we made it to the Senate, I was so worried I almost sweated the glue off that keeps me firmly in place. But as soon as I realized there were countless other toupees in the Senate, of much lesser quality I might add, I knew it would be breeze.

But this is the Presidential primaries! Lord help me if for some reason the wind blows me just the wrong way exposing my existence, or some yahoo runs by and rips me off showing Edwards to be the bald man he is. This really keeps me up at night, but I guess that’s the pressure of the big leagues. I just hope I am Presidential enough, especially for John Edwards.


My Top Five Favorite Things Today

1) “The * * * you’ll see all day”…

2) Zeno the Robot Boy on Video Is Far More Unsettling Than in Pictures

3)  Sherri Shepard doesn’t know if the world is flat

4)  Lolrus is dead :'( 

5)  The Steepest Streets In The World…


This is an OPEN THREAD.

Oil for Nuthin’… Chicks for Free

You’ll call me crazy. Tell me I’m insane. And you’d be right, by the way, but not necessarily with regards to what this essay is about. What if I told you that we have, right now, the technology to turn just about anything into oil? And when I say “anything” I mean mostly nasty stuff that we don’t want… Like “tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores.” In fact, pretty much anything except nuclear waste. I’ll provide a source to my quote below the fold.

It’s a process called the Thermal Depolymerization Process, or TDP. Basically it uses the same processes that Mother Nature uses to make oil (High pressure and temperatures) – only at a vastly accelerated pace.

Pie in the sky you say? What if I told you we’re doing it right now at a plant in Missouri that’s been built beside a huge turkey processing plant? The reason for its location: They have a LOT of guts to dispose of – somewhere around 200 tons of turkey offal a day to be exact. And it’s being processed by a company called Changing World Technologies. They make oil with it today and sell it on the open market.

“This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind,” says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first industrial-size installation in Missouri. “This process can deal with the world’s waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming.”

According to this article in Discover Magazine “If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water.” I can think of a couple of guys – whose names I wouldn’t dare mention – where that’d be a pretty good “return on success” if they did fall in. But it just goes to show you how efficient this process is.

So how does it really work? Here’s a graphic:

Free Image Hosting at
(Graphic From Discover Magazine’s article link above)

Basically water is added to the “slurry” material, heated to about 500 degrees farenheit while under pressure – a big, pressure cooker if you will. Next, the pressure is quickly dropped which releases about 90 percent of the free water. (This hot water is re-used to heat the next batch coming in) Next, “At this stage, the minerals-in turkey waste, they come mostly from bones-settle out and are shunted to storage tanks. Rich in calcium and magnesium, the dried brown powder “is a perfect balanced fertilizer,” according to Brian Appel, Chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies.

To keep things brief for me, (’cause I’m old and tired!) I’ll simply quote the final step(s):

The remaining concentrated organic soup gushes into a second-stage reactor similar to the coke ovens used to refine oil into gasoline. “This technology is as old as the hills,” says Appel, grinning broadly. The reactor heats the soup to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit to further break apart long molecular chains. Next, in vertical distillation columns, hot vapor flows up, condenses, and flows out from different levels: gases from the top of the column, light oils from the upper middle, heavier oils from the middle, water from the lower middle, and powdered carbon-used to manufacture tires, filters, and printer toners-from the bottom. “Gas is expensive to transport, so we use it on-site in the plant to heat the process,” Appel says. The oil, minerals, and carbon are sold to the highest bidders.

OK, I’m no “noo-cyoo-lar” scientist or anything but this doesn’t sound like it to me. In fact, it sounds like it’s a helluva lot simpler than what happens at most sewage processing plants in practically every city and town in America. And after we’re done with the sewage treatment in our town, what do we do with what’s left? Dump it in the river for the next town, downstream to deal with.

Speaking of Sewage

“There is no reason why we can’t turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil,” says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that. “The potential is unbelievable,” says Michael Roberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. “You’re not only cleaning up waste; you’re talking about distributed generation of oil all over the world.”

For Me, The Money Quote

This summed things up nicely and if former CIA Director James Woolsey is on board, I’d like to think it’s not all tin-foil hattery:

…Others anticipate that a large chunk of the world’s agricultural, industrial, and municipal waste may someday go into thermal depolymerization machines scattered all over the globe. If the process works as well as its creators claim, not only would most toxic waste problems become history, so would imported oil. Just converting all the U.S. agricultural waste into oil and gas would yield the energy equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil annually. In 2001 the United States imported 4.2 billion barrels of oil. Referring to U.S. dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East, R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and an adviser to Changing World Technologies, says, “This technology offers a beginning of a way away from this.”

But What About Global Warming? Won’t Burning All That Oil Fuck Everything Up?

OK, I’ve already told you I’m not a noo-cyoo-lar kind of guy. I’m not sure about the following quote but it’s addressed in the article. Here is what they say about that and frankly, it’s over my head:

If the thermal depolymerization process WORKS AS Claimed, it will clean up waste and generate new sources of energy. But its backers contend it could also stem global warming, which sounds iffy. After all, burning oil creates global warming, doesn’t it? Carbon is the major chemical constituent of most organic matter-plants take it in; animals eat plants, die, and decompose; and plants take it back in, ad infinitum. Since the industrial revolution, human beings burning fossil fuels have boosted concentrations of atmospheric carbon more than 30 percent, disrupting the ancient cycle. According to global-warming theory, as carbon in the form of carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere, it traps solar radiation, which warms the atmosphere-and, some say, disrupts the planet’s ecosystems.
But if there were a global shift to thermal depolymerization technologies, belowground carbon would remain there. The accoutrements of the civilized world-domestic animals and plants, buildings, artificial objects of all kinds-would then be regarded as temporary carbon sinks. At the end of their useful lives, they would be converted in thermal depolymerization machines into short-chain fuels, fertilizers, and industrial raw materials, ready for plants or people to convert them back into long chains again. So the only carbon used would be that which already existed above the surface; it could no longer dangerously accumulate in the atmosphere. “Suddenly, the whole built world just becomes a temporary carbon sink,” says Paul Baskis, inventor of the thermal depolymerization process. “We would be honoring the balance of nature.”

My brain is too fried this late to digest that! So comments from those dharmaniacs out there about whether this bit sounds like a load of turkey offal are welcome! However, I would point out that it’s not particularly realistic to think we can wean ourselves from oil overnight – or “cold turkey” if you will. (Sorry!)

I’d just settle for a bit of time in which we: 1) Buy ourselves energy independence from the Middle East and 2) Devote the money saved from that to producing even better alternative energy sources that may impact the impending global warming crisis as soon as possible.

Anyone for a giblet?


this essay has been deleted.

About That Peruvian Meteorite

Wanna know what I think about the Pervian meteorite?

Worst case: there’s a shooting war in space.

Keep readin’, stranger.

Here’s the link: Peruvian Meteorite Making People Sick

Notice they said chunks of silver and lead.
Another story I read said boiling water in the hole.
People with getting really sick from a noxious smell.

My theory: a very large, muclear isotope powered satellite re-entered the atmosphere and some large pieces reached the ground.

The bad smell could be combustion products of nuclear fuel, or remotely possible some liquid rocket fuel survived in a tank intact until it reached the ground.

Worst: chunks of silver and lead? Plutonium or some other metallic-looking radioactive fuel? Bits of nuclear fuel assembly boiling away the water.

Bet you they get some radiation detectors out there pronto.

Just speculatin’….but then another huge piece of somethin’ landed in New Mexico a few days ago too…some say space junk as well.

New Mexico Fireball

Again, I’m just speculating on these news stories.

But if there was an antisatellite war going on, do you think they would tell anybody?

Story should go black if this is the case, or some other story crop up to debunk the illness stories.

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Burning Man & Community

(Photos by A. Chandler Moisen, except where indicated.  Click the pics to enlarge)

Impressions of the Burning Man

The Burning Man was eighty feet high
Atop a temple of Moorish lace
Confections of stars and midnight suns
All on a lake bed flat and sere, already
Old when primates first appeared.
Fire dancers whirled as the stars chirped
Hosannas to the primal rite.
Nothing is lost, but all is gained,
Extravagance is the law of the land.
Open now, as the clouds pass by,
Fire is water, and water itself
Soars into the stratosphere.
High art falls into the dust,
No one complains, and all rejoice.
Surreal it is, and yet romantic,
Bacchus himself rides on the wind,
And here it is that once a year
Artists bring about the birth
Of Shiva’s endless pillar of fire.

~ Gawaine Caldwater Ross


flickr creative commons 

I recently returned from Burning Man.  This is a week-long gathering of artsy, hippie, raver, universally conscious souls. 48,000 attended this year – the most ever. It takes place on the remote Black Rock Desert playa in Nevada. A veritable city arises from the dust.  It is a survival situation – there is no water, no food, no phone, no services. Everything must be brought in and packed out (it is the largest Leave No Trace event in the world).  Commercialism is taboo – money can’t buy you a thing, except ice and a cup of coffee.  It is a gift economy.  Everyone shares what they have and if you need something just ask around and someone will invariably meet your need.

This year’s theme was Green Man: ‘By embracing alternative energy and earth-friendly technologies, we will create a Black Rock City that leaves less of an impact on its environment–while also taking these principles out of the desert and back with us to our local communities.’ Artists were encouraged to express the role of nature in our lives and participants were encouraged to offset their carbon footprint. According to the Cooling Man project, in 2006, Burning Man generated an estimated 27,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions or 0.7 tons per participant. Cooling Man offers tips to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets.


From the Burning Man Mission Statement:

Our intention is to generate society that connects each individual to his or her creative powers, to participation in community, to the larger realm of civic life, and to the even greater world of nature that exists beyond society. We believe that the experience of Burning Man can produce positive spiritual change in the world.

10 Prinicples of Burning Man

  1. Radical Inclusion

  2. Gifting

  3. Decommodification

  4. Radical Self-reliance

  5. Radical Self-expression

  6. Communal Effort

  7. Civic Responsibility

  8. Leaving No Trace

  9. Participation

  10. Immediacy


While there is no shortage of alcohol drinking and herb smoking going on, by far the Burner’s ‘drug of choice’ tends toward the psychedelics: LSD, magic mushrooms and Ecstasy.  The vibe is like a Dead Show – happy, silly, loving, peaceful, dancing fools. Everyone is participating and trying to outdo each other in making life as surreal as possible.  Art is everywhere.  The scene resembles a great tribal ceremony with a constant drum beat, trance dancing, lots of fire, extravagant costumes, and all forms of goddess and planetary worship.

Theme camps cater to every whim and vice. You can get massages, take yoga classes, have your hair washed, drink cocktails, eat pancakes, play miniature golf, have group sex, rollerskate, see a circus, etc.  In exchange, you are expected to give something back. Some people bring trinkets they have made, or you can volunteer to participate with the camp, sing a song, or just give someone a hug.  At night the DJ camps crank up the volume on huge sound systems, some on art cars roam the desert, and people dance well past sunrise.  Remember, this is a desert, miles from nowhere, no electricity.  The lengths people go to to set all this stuff up is unbelievable! 

Dragon Dance party  (photo by OTB)


The second to last night there is the ceremonial burning of the Man.  This has been going on for more than 20 years, originally taking place in San Francisco.  This year, for the first time, there was premature burnage.  A man was charged with felony arson for burning the burning man too early. lol! But they rebuilt and burned him again on schedule. 

Much more impressive this year was the burning of another art installation called Crude Awakening

This is a 100-foot tall oil derrick. Next to it are sculptures of people worshipping the holy oil.  After the Man burned Saturday night, the oil rig was torched in a ginormous mushroom cloud …fueled by 900 gallons of jet fuel (donated by NASA) and 2,000 gallons of liquid propane. 

There are a bunch of versions of this on YouTube. Although video can’t do it justice, I picked this one for the SloMo effect and at the end it gets played in reverse.  It was so cool!  I was probably a quarter mile away and I could still feel the heat off that. 


The desert environment is starkly beautiful and also plays a huge role in the experience.  Temps in the day were over 100F.  There were occasional dust storms that whipped up out of nowhere.  Everything goes dark and you can barely see 5 ft in front of you.  Goggles, dust masks, sunscreen and water are essential to carry with you at all times. 

Face in the clouds

Double rainbow – after a wicked dust storm and a light rain, these beauties appeared.  You could hear people shouting “RAINBOW!” all over town. 


Artwork is the essential part of Burning Man.  Small pieces and large installations are scattered about in the City and on the playa.  You can ride your bike or, if you are lucky, hop on one of the art cars.  You will find all kinds of weird stuff.  It gets even better at night when things are lit up or flaming.



Green Woman


I don’t even know what to call this.  Spinning tubes filled with light?


We are all brothers and sisters living in unity for one week and forming bonds that last lifetimes.

ACM photographed a wedding.  This is a very common event.  Many people meet and marry at Burning Man.  The weddings of course live up to Burning Man standards – an abundance of neon, blinky lights, and costumed revelry. 

The bride in her ‘light’ gown with flashy bouquet.  Her father putting up graciously with it all.

Camp mates  Beautiful fun-loving spirits all of them.


and so….coming back to this world with the war, poverty, materialism, inequality, etc… I wonder what life would be like if we could all dose in peace and dance under the stars.  How do we live as a tribe, the Burning Man way?

Stay in the Green Zone

Condi’s apology to al Maliki may not have yet made it to the ‘hood’.

BAGHDAD – The United States on Tuesday suspended all land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials throughout Iraq except in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone following a weekend incident involving private security guards in which a number of Iraqi civilians were killed.


This is probably just a temporary situation. A precaution, if you will. When was the last time they did this?

Analysis: Some people say that this means that the surge is working, but I predict rug sales to Congress will dip sharply.

I was going to add another Iraq story I just saw, but am going to sleep instead.

how do we change people?

is that what we need to do?

is it what we’re doing?

is it even possible?

who knows how to do it?

is there more than one way?
are some ways better than others?

what if people won’t be changed?

can we only change ourselves?
can we even change ourselves?

must we change ourselves?

[poll id=”



We are shareholders of brand America

We are shareholders of brand AmericaTM. It is our brand and our reputation.

How proud we were of brand AmericaTM.  The brand name on any product we produced set it apart from all others.  We were proud of brand AmericaTM and all that it stood for.  Our products were not perfect, but they were always improving.  When a product was defective, we owned up to it and vowed to do better!  Never satisfied with the status quo, we always demanded better of ourselves and everything brand AmericaTM produced.  Most of all, we took pride in the fact that our most cherished and sought after brand AmericaTM products such as liberty, freedom of speech, voting rights, and protection of civil liberties, were available and affordable to all.

Seven years ago, brand AmericaTM was hi-jacked by a band of counterfeiters.  They have robbed the company coffers, gutted the warehouse, and sold the contents on the black market.  These interlopers refuse to provide the resources to produce quality brand AmericaTM products.  They exploit the employees and treat their customers with disdain.

To be sure, the American flag is slapped on all brand AmericaTM products.  Indeed, the products are wrapped in the American flag.  The counterfeiters still advertise “Buy American!”  They point to brand AmericaTM‘s “Glory Days” and the new management proclaims our stock is still the most sought after stock in the world.  But the reality is brand AmericaTM‘s most sought-after products are now only “genuine imitation”.  And its most infamous products are produced and showcased by slave labor in third world countries, by prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and by “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay.

The new management is obsessed with the idea of “perceived quality” while having no regard for genuine quality.  Concerned, loyal, life-long employees objecting to the handling of brand AmericaTM are vilified, accused of working for the enemy, and quickly find themselves without a job.  Customers who complain that brand AmericaTM products no longer function as advertised are ridiculed, labeled traitors to the brand, and threatened with lawsuits.  Reports by consumer groups, critical of the quality and availability of brand AmericaTM products, are suppressed.  Paid marketers and consultants, posing as grateful and enthusiastic customers, flood the Sunday talk shows touting the wonders of the “new and improved” products now available from brand AmericaTM.

Too many Americans eagerly buy the counterfeit brand AmericaTM products at top dollar, proclaiming the changes to the brand are absolutely necessary in these times of uncertainty.  They are adamant that this is no time for criticism.  Criticism is un-American and will destroy the integrity of brand AmericaTM!  To them, protection of brand AmericaTM is wholly dependent on shielding it from any and all critics.  The problem is not with the new brand AmericaTM products or its new management, but with the critics.

What will be the future of our brand, America?  It is our brand and our reputation.

Global Warming: Bad, Worse, Worst

Three recent news accounts reveal the reality and complexity of the looming global disaster. Anyone who has studied human evolution knows that we’re a resilient species, but we’re going to be put to the test.


The Associated Press had this little story:

Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.

At face value, that sounds kind of cool. Take a cruise from Alaska to Europe. Or from Alaska to New England, via the Beaufort Sea.

Except that this could make for some brand new military tensions. As the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute explains:

With the ice disappearing, the currents and narrow channels pose less of an impediment to navigation: an experienced sailor could now take a large tanker through the straits during the late summer and early autumn. Governments are gradually waking up to this new reality. In 2001, a report prepared for the US Navy predicted that, ‘within five to ten years, the Northwest Passage will be open to non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least one month each summer.’ A briefing given to the Canadian defence minister, Gordon O’Connor, in February 2006 was confident that ‘the Northwest Passage could be open to more regular navigation by 2015’ if ‘the current rate of ice thinning continues’.

And as CNN and the BBC explain, the valuable natural resources under the Arctic are already causing disputes.

But even more dangerous than any of that is what this means for the rest of the world. The melting of the ice up north means rising sea levels. Everywhere. More on that, below.


ANSA Italia had this:

The effects of climate change are already apparent, many experts say. According to the Italian Meteorological Society, the first eight months of 2007 were the hottest in the country for 250 years.

Which adds Italy to the list of countries experiencing record heat. That list includes Japan, Russia, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and the Balkans, plus the western United States. And this after the deadly record heat throughout Europe, in 2006. And there has been record rainfall in China, and record flooding in England, plus this, as reported by Reuters:

Huge swell waves swamped some 68 islands in the Maldives in May, resulting in severe damage, and the Arabian Sea had its first documented cyclone in June, touching Oman and Iran.

Temperature records were broken in southeastern Europe in June and July, and in western and central Russia in May. In many European countries, April was the warmest ever recorded.

Argentina and Chile saw unusually cold winter temperatures in July while South Africa had its first significant snowfall since 1981 in June.

Yes, one could say that the weather is getting weird, except that weird is now the norm.


Melting ice, rising oceans and extreme weather. Add them all up and we have serious problems.

Spiegel Online explained one of them:

International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.

Kiribati is also doomed.

Think about that. Polynesian nations are disappearing beneath the rising ocean. The natural and human tragedies speak for themselves. But, as the Spiegel article explains:

Only one thing seems clear so far: without a physical territory, all the Tuvaluans become stateless. There is no general right to a back-up nation or to citizenship of a neighboring country. Those who are already emigrating are not considered refugees. Even so, their numbers are growing.

And we know how well the world deals with refugees and the stateless. But while Tuvalu has the honor of being the test case, any number of nations may suffer similar fates. Not that they will all drown, but they may freeze, or turn to deserts. The IPCC report, as explained by Reuters:

The report said warming, widely blamed on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, would cause desertification, droughts and rising seas and would hit hard in the tropics, from sub-Saharan Africa to Pacific islands.

“It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

And as explained by Spiegel Online:

The UN climate panel expects “increasing deaths, injuries and illness from heat waves, floods, storms, forest fires and droughts.” The draft summary for policymakers details “heat-related mortality” especially in Europe and Asia.

Several hundred million people in densely populated coastal regions — particularly river deltas in Asia — are threatened by rising sea levels and the increasing risk of flooding. More than one-sixth of the world’s population lives in areas affected by water sources from glaciers and snow pack that will “very likely” disappear, according to the report.

And I’ve already written about the possibility that the melting freshwater from the glaciers of Europe, Greenland and North America will suppress the North Atlantic Current, resulting in the seemingly paradoxical Global Warming consequence of a mini ice age in Europe.

Think of the political consequences of hundreds of millions of people having to flee their homes. Imagine the political consequences of entire continents’ farm belts being turned to tundra or desert. Even if the natural impacts are somehow less than catastrophic, the political impacts likely won’t be. As the Guardian already reported, for the people of Darfur, those impacts are already genocidal.

So, rather than wasting a trillion dollars to destroy yet another innocent nation, wouldn’t it be better to spend that money researching and developing possible solutions to the crisis that may soon engulf us all?

A constructive suggestion to John Kerry

Posted for NuevoLiberal, due to the 24hr rule


I found the incident at the John Kerry event at University of Florida to be very disturbing from several perspectives.

Based on the following video clips:
3. http://www.starbanne… (youtube version)

here are my thoughts: once the student (Andrew Meyers) was given the mic, he should have been allowed to properly finish the questions and then allowed to hear what Kerry had to say. Should he have been unruly beyond that point, then removing him from the hall may have been justified.

But as things played out, it’s my opinion that his rights were violated, notwithstanding his cutting in line, apparently, to get to ask the questions and some rudeness of the questions themselves. Tasering after he was tackled down to the floor was absolutely unnecessary. Someone ought to have asked the police officers as to what grounds Meyers was being removed from the location on, given that Meyers had essentially completed asking his questions when the officers moved-in to handle him.

The collection of clips linked above cover the fracas from a couple of a different angles; the third video gives clearer close-up coverage than others. I encourage the readers to watch all of the videos.

Today, Greg Palast (whose book Armed Madhouse was a subject of the exchange that took place) writes that the student has been released from jail:

Greg Palast: Student Tasered for Armed Madhouse Question to Kerry

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Tue, 09/18/2007 – 4:00pm

Meyers, just released from jail and now facing five years in prison for resisting arrest, held up a copy of the book and began,

Going forward, it would be a good gesture on John Kerry’s part to follow up on the matter and see if he can help the student, provided that the only charges against the student stem from the events that played out at the hall.

That, in my view, would provide an opportunity for Sen. Kerry to show his compassion and leadership (albeit delayed) in standing up for the basic rights of Andrew Meyers.

Also, upon request:

I’d also like him to answer the kid’s questions.

by Picot verde on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 02:18:07 PM PDT

Thanks for reading.

A constructive suggestion to John Kerry


Posted for NuevoLiberal, due to the 24hr rule.

I found the incident at the John Kerry event at University of Florida to be very disturbing from several perspectives.

Based on the following video clips:
3. http://www.starbanne… (youtube version)

here are my thoughts: once the student (Andrew Meyers) was given the mic, he should have been allowed to properly finish the questions and then allowed to hear what Kerry had to say. Should he have been unruly beyond that point, then removing him from the hall may have been justified.

But as things played out, it’s my opinion that his rights were violated, notwithstanding his cutting in line, apparently, to get to ask the questions and some rudeness of the questions themselves. Tasering after he was tackled down to the floor was absolutely unnecessary. Someone ought to have asked the police officers as to what grounds Meyers was being removed from the location on, given that Meyers had essentially completed asking his questions when the officers moved-in to handle him.

The collection of clips linked above cover the fracas from a couple of a different angles; the third video gives clearer close-up coverage than others. I encourage the readers to watch all of the videos.

Today, Greg Palast (whose book Armed Madhouse was a subject of the exchange that took place) writes that the student has been released from jail:

Greg Palast: Student Tasered for Armed Madhouse Question to Kerry

Submitted by BuzzFlash on Tue, 09/18/2007 – 4:00pm

Meyers, just released from jail and now facing five years in prison for resisting arrest, held up a copy of the book and began,

Going forward, it would be a good gesture on John Kerry’s part to follow up on the matter and see if he can help the student, provided that the only charges against the student stem from the events that played out at the hall.

That, in my view, would provide an opportunity for Sen. Kerry to show his compassion and leadership (albeit delayed) in standing up for the basic rights of Andrew Meyers.

Also, upon request:

I’d also like him to answer the kid’s questions.

by Picot verde on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 02:18:07 PM PDT

Thanks for reading.

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