Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Stuff of Agatized Whale Brain Dreams

Somehow this past Winter I missed this story in the local newspaper. Only in the past week or so did this discovery finally come my attention when I found it on a local blog. My then-girlfriend back in 2008 or thereabouts discovered a fossilized whale brain cavity along the Gaviota Coast of Santa Barbara County and a good many years before that local rockhound par-excellence Ralph Bishop found a similar specimen of a bit lesser quality also in Santa Barbara County. However, both were casts comprised of mudstone filling in an empty whale skull brain cavity. What I did not heretofore fathom (and apparently neither did scientists until quite recently) was the ability of the natural world to actually fossilize actual whale brains and not just fossilize them with some ugly leaverite material but with blue chalcedony or rust-colored druzy quartz. The aforementioned fossilized whale brain cavity specimens are both quite cool but are not beautiful per se. However, these silicated whale brains (below) are out of this world cool and have captured my rockhounding passion and imagination like nothing has for some time now.

Agatized whale brain in partial fossilized whale skull.  Photo courtesy of David Middlecamp - San Luis Obispo Tribune
While reading the aforementioned blog posting about the south San Luis Obispo County agatized whale brain discovery (I'm guessing it was on the Nipomo Mesa) there was mention made of an earlier discovery of a similar specimen elsewhere on the Central Coast. I found out quite a bit more about this earlier discovery from this older post on The New Unschooler. As it turns out it was found near Los Olivos, in Santa Barbara County sometime in the first half of the 20th century. The New Unschooler blog post features the three photos of it (below) taken by the discoverer's grandson, Bob MacGillivray. I now have a new rockhounding holy grail: agatized (or otherwise silicated) whale brain! Prior to this my two rockhounding holy grails had been a large piece of agatized (better yet with variation carnelian) whale bone (I have found really small pieces at Agate Beach near Bolinas, CA, and still hope to find a largish transparent agate chunk of petrified whale bone someday). I also have long lusted for locating the legendary fossilized marine shells replaced by myrakite (cinnabar in chalcedony) that have been found in the Santa Lucia Range at the Oceanic Mine as well as by the aforementioned Ralph Bishop out in the Bryson area.
Fossilized whale skull with brain-cavity filled with the original payload. Photo by Bob MacGillivray of Los Olivos, CA.
Great brain structure with an apparent iron oxide staining. Photo by Bob MacGillivray of Los Olivos, CA.
Inside one brain lobe (at right) is a druzy quartz-lined cavity. Photo by Bob MacGillivray of Los Olivos, CA.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are Demons Volcanic Or Volcanoes Demonic?

Two Sunday's ago I was in attendance at my Sunday church home (as opposed to my Saturday evening church home). My usual pastor was not there as he was filling in at another church elsewhere in the county whose pastor was away. We now have two assistant/associate pastors so filling in for our primary pastor for a few weekends in a row is not crippling. The new assistant/associate pastor is a decent man and I like him even if his manor is a bit too animated and forced-folksy for my taste. In all fairness even my beloved maternal grandfather, the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, had a bit of what I think of as "forced-folksy" in his on-radio repertoire. By that I mean that the individual thus practicing it is talking in an unnatural (for them) good-old-boy country-esque/country-istic fashion for effect. There is nothing wrong with that and it does come from a long tradition. It's just that I do not personally care for it as I just like to hear the straight dope in a direct and articulate and undramatized fashion. I don't need to be entertained or soothed or given an emotional "happy ending" in church. In fact, in a church or preaching context I abhor the very concept of it. Just call it a pet peeve of mine!

To further preface what I'm clumsily working my way toward saying is that my Sunday church home is Pentecostal and Charismatic while I am quite contently agnostic when it comes to Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. There are good people there I love and respect and whom I know have very real relationships with God who are rather decidedly of these persuasions. I could get into the semantics of why I disagree with them on a doctrinal level not to mention on an experiential and practical level but that is for another time that I fully intend to see come about here.

Anywho, this new assistant/associate pastor (who joins the one we already had and whom I also like) talked about this and that and none of it really spoke to me on that day. However, at a certain point a rather curious development appeared in his sermon. He related an incident when one of his now-grown sons got violently ill when the son was a small child. This pastor related that the kid had violent diarrhea which came in bouts throughout the night and this pastor stayed up all night with the child to care for him. At a certain point he noted that immediately preceding any episode of this violent diarrhea he would detect a sulphurous odor in the room and then the child would get violently ill. He claimed that he got a verse from God at a certain point that let him know this illness was demonically-caused and the smell was coming from the presence of the demon(s) when they arrived to attack his son again.

Okay, here I go: it is this sort of small-minded, simplistic, superstitious, doctrinally-unsound, tin-foil hat tomfoolery of some Pentecostals and Charismatics that at times makes me want to break furniture. In these instances they are not only wrong but they are an embarrassment to our faith and have "given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme". Their hokum nonsense gets smeared on the rest of Christendom by the unbelievers out in the world. It's one thing to get mocked for serving God or have one's faith mocked by unbelievers; I'm totally down with that. It's quite another thing to face ridicule over the emotionally-unstable, anti-intellectual, doctrinally-unsound hokum of some Charismatics and Pentecostals.

What I'm getting at here is that there is no place in Scripture that suggests demons smell like sulfur or rotten eggs and more to the point I guess: the Bible does not anywhere suggest that demons have a volcanic origin thus imbuing them with the strong odor of hydrogen sulfide gas. Demons are not volcanic and volcanoes are not demonic! However, having explosive diarrhea can give you a sulphur-smelling arse! Catholicism inherited a lot of pagan concepts such as the volcanoes of  Greece and Italy being entrances into the Underworld. Later, writers like Dante had a field-day with these deeply-ingrained traditions of Hell being in the bowels of the earth populated by demons with pitch forks tormenting the damned. Even much of Protestantism for all its efforts to "un-Catholic" has not been able to get these Catholic concepts and traditions fully unrooted from their own concepts and traditions about Hell. And Pentecostals and Charismatics disproportionately relative to other sects of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, tend to focus and rely upon emotionalism over rationalism. God has not much use for either our emotions or our rationalizations when they are out of sync with His own emotions and thoughts. Where a rational Christian like me in that situation would have thought to myself: "Holy shit, my son is so sick his ass smells like sulphur or methane... he is REALLY sick!" this good man with whom I strongly disagree on this point went through a mental-emotional process culminating in his imagining that demons were attacking his kid and God was telling him it was so and thus he boldly (and successfully) rebuked (thought he) the foul demon(s) when in fact the diarrhea ended of its own accord after playing out its natural cycle.

Scripture makes it clear that Hell has not yet been opened and thus even if Hell was volcanic in nature (just for the sake of argument) then nothing of its nature would yet be manifested outside of  it. Consequently,  no demons would be able to travel to and fro from Hell and thus have the heavy odor of hydrogen sulfide gas permeating their non-corporeal bodies which would not be possible anyway as hydrogen sulfide gas is corporeal (for lack of a better word) and not something that a non-corporeal entity would have lingering on it as it passed through the membrane that separates our universe from the adjacent one they occupy most of the time. Indeed, Hell is the final punitive destination for the demons and thus is a place they fear and would never wish to enter as they will be imprisoned within it at some point in the future and lasting for all eternity. This is likewise true for all those people here on Earth who in the past or in the present or in the future never accept(ed) Christ's gift of His life for all our sins.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Random Musings of a Ramblin' Fool XLIV

It has been just over three months since I last did this column which means a lot has happened in my life. Therefore, I have a lot to share with you and I shall do my  best to do so without sending self-occupied. On another note of prefacing this blog has really exploded in membership this Summer. We are not up to 137,575 views and averaging over 13,000 views per month. I thank my friend Mark Wiberg for giving me the idea of doing a blog at all. I thank my former friend and girlfriend Krissa Klein for originally setting up the blog and being my tech support. I thank my friend and adopted big sister Lin Kerns for continuing as my tech support and for carrying out a masterful job of remodeling the layout of this blog about a year ago. 

Spring 2012 Semester Grades

In my previous Random Musings column I had just taken my finals at Cuesta College for the Spring 2012 semester but had not learned the results nor what my semester grades were. My final grades for last semester were as follows: English201A ~ A (4 units); Spanish202 ~ B (4 units); MATH07 ~ A (3 units); History207B ~ A (3 units). My total course load was 14 units. My grade point average is now up 3.346. My grades have been nearly perfect the past two years with straight A's aside from two B's in two 4-unit Spanish classes. What is most dragging down my grade point average is my sub-par performance during my second semester at Cuesta College (Spring 1990) following graduation from high school. At that point I was steeply circling the drain in my mental health department as severe depression and anxiety wracked my mind and soul and I could not adequately cope with it and devote sufficient focus on school. I now have 68 units in total from Cuesta College spread over three academic years there, to wit, Fall 1989-Spring 1990, Fall 2010-Spring 2011, and Fall 2011-Spring 2012.

Summer School That Never Was (For Me)

While in Salt Lake City, UT, for Gem Faire last June I experienced an epiphany. I realized that my then-determination to attend Summer School at Cuesta College and take a 5-unit MATH123 class was a terrible mistake. It would not allow me the pace of learning to give the class the sort of time and effort and opportunity for absorption such as I desire to put forth in everything I do. I also did not wish to risk my ongoing high GPA with a potential dud performance in Summer School. Last but not least: Summer School would preclude my taking any trips out of state for Gem Faire over the Summer which would be the closest thing to vacation I have experienced the past few to several years. The wisdom of this choice was borne out by the outcome of the now just -concluded Summer break.

Fall 2012 Class Schedule

Last week I resumed my studies at Cuesta College as the new semester broke forth up the second half of my year.  I am taking 12 units of studies this semester divided amongst three classes: MATH123 (intermediate algebra) (5 units), English201B (English literature) (4 units), and History203A (world civilizations) (3 units). My math teacher is quirky but cool and will make an otherwise boring class quite bearable. My English instructor completely rocks and the subject is something in which I ought to thrive. My history professor (yep, he's a PhD in history) is teaching this subject for the very first time at Cuesta College and Cuesta College has not offered this course in its catalog in quite a number of years until now so I'm getting in on the ground floor. My history prof will challenge me but I already respect the guy and know I will learn a lot from him just as I did from Dennis Judd for the previous three semesters. I expect of myself A's in all three classes.

Great News On The Financial Aid Front

Earlier this year I signed up very early for a Pell Grant for academic year 2012-2013. Unbeknownst to me  in so doing I unwittingly qualified for a second grant of $400 simply for signing up so early. I also qualified for the full amount of the aforementioned Pell Grant. This money will help with automobile repairs, rent money otherwise not earned from shows I will miss this Fall due to my class schedule, other basic life necessities as well as an "oh shit" fund, something I have not had in a very long time.

What I Did With Myself This Summer

The thing that stands out foremost in my mind about my just-concluded Summer Break was my work travel schedule. Over the course of my Summer Break I helped my friend Dave do Gem Faire events in Salt Lake Lake City, UT; Tulsa, OK; Portland, OR; and Eugene, OR. On the Salt Lake City trip I got to enjoy downtown Salt Lake City and the scenery of the drive there and back. On the Tulsa trip I got to visit John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR, where I am contemplating transferring upon completion of my Cuesta College course program. My friend Dave was willing to make a run over there for me to check it out since we were so close already given that we were in Tulsa, OK, which isn't very far west of there. I also got to experience Old Town Albuquerque (New Mexico) as well as Old Town Flagstaff (Arizona) and Downtown Portland (Oregon). In addition to all these places I visited I also had the privilege of observing and on a couple of occasions and experiencing first-hand the mighty thunderstorms of the South. Lastly, I also experienced the pleasure of confronting my agoraphobia issues from the past and trample all over them as I traversed the flatness of the Texas Panhandle and much of Oklahoma without any issues arising that I was not able to quickly confront and deal with on my own. On the home front I helped with the harvest at Kiler Canyon Farm and took a day trip out to Parkfield, got in some decent fire-chasing (Calf Fire Blow-Up) and some El Ejercicios activities and attended a beach bonfire event. Oh, and I worked my arse off the rest of the time!

El Ejercicios Fall 2012 Line-Up

As I reported in my previous Random Musings column I have perchance become a member of an ad hoc eclectic accumulation of schoolmates at Cuesta College. We all became friends in Spanish 201 & 202 during the Fall 2011 - Spring 2012 academic year. We used to hang out before class in one of the student common areas and then began hanging out away from campus earlier this year taking a series of hikes and even hooking up for birthday bonfires at the beach. We have lost Maile, Tanner, and Dina now as they transfer elsewhere.

21st Annual Rockhounds Round-Up

In three weekends the Santa Lucia Rockounds will host its 21st Annual Rockhounds Round-Up gem, mineral, and jewelry show at the Pioneer Park in Paso Robles, CA, the weekend of September 15-16, 2012. I am a member of that club and am the chairman of this show and strongly urge you to come visit us. There will be educational and entertaining activities for all ages both in park as well as in the adjacent Pioneer Museum. This year we are involving local schools in promoting this event as we hope to get students to come to the show with their parents, something we had not attempted in the past. On that note please read the following item below.

What is Wrong With This Picture?

The Santa Lucia Rockhound's past-president recently approached the school districts of Atascadero, Templeton, San Miguel, and Paso Robles in regards to acquiring permission to leave show fliers at the schools so their teachers can dole them out to their students. All four school districts assented to this but one of them added a caveat: Paso Robles Unified School District. They require that any promotional materials left at their schools be printed in Spanish and English. As someone who is in the process of learning Spanish (two semesters of it at Cuesta College already) and whom believes it is a good idea for Americans to know two or more languages simply as a matter of cultural sophistication not to mention practicality,  I am appalled and outraged by this requirement out of the principle of the matter. Spanish is not an official co-language in this nation nor should it become so just as Mexico does not have an official co-language nor ought it to do so. Needless to say, out of a matter of principle and practicality we are not going to be passing out fliers to any schools in the Paso Robles Unified School District as our fliers are already printed on two sides and this requirement would be an unaffordable added cost of a whole separate run of fliers needing to be designed and printed out. The political correctness and misguided motives of the top leadership of the Paso Robles Unified School District managed to ace ALL their students out of a benefit right in the middle of their city that the kids in Atascadero, Templeton, and San Miguel will benefit from in three weekends. D'oah!

On The Job Front

I currently have all the work I can schedule into my life. Between working with my friend Dave helping him do gem, mineral, and jewelry shows and working for him on his grounds doing general labor stuff as well as doing general labor for several other clients I have all that I can handle for now. Add to that my volunteerism time and I have no extra time and energy left to devote for much if anything else! That being said, I would love to upgrade to a weekly job working in a wine tasting room. Were I properly trained for this sort of work I would be an irresistible monster working a tasting room. Given my love for decent wines and my ability to connect with all sorts of people and engage them where they live and and talk to them on their level whomever they be I feel that I would be scary good working in a wine tasting room environment. Somebody around here needs to recruit me! Do I have any takers?

California Fire Season 2012

Following two sub-par fire seasons we are back to burning here in California. Currently, there are six major fires burning in the state for a total of 475,317 acres. Dozens of homes have burned in this fire and the next community in line to get burned appears to be Seiad Valley in Siskiyou County as the Goff Fire in the Fort Complex bares down on it. California's new largest wildfire (by acreage consumed) is winding down now, to wit, the Rush Incident in Lassen County near the Nevada state line (and a bit over that line). Over the past week the Ponderosa Fire consumed 52 homes and 90 outbuildings. Yesterday, the North Pass Fires burned up a fire engine in Mendocino County. Be careful out there!

There's A Whole Lot Of Shaking Going On

The Imperial Valley is once again experiencing a vigorous earthquake swarm reminiscent of the one that struck that area back in 2005 except this one is a bigger deal. It began last Saturday evening August 25th and continues into the present with nearly 500 events in the sequence to date. The climax (thus far) were two damaging moderate events (M5.5 & M5.3) that left nearly two dozen mobile homes red-tagged as a result of being knocked off their foundations/supports. Odds are this will ebb and disappear without anything major hitting the San Andreas Fault Zone but one cannot say that with certainty as anything is possible and that segment of the fault is 10-months pregnant with a great quake (M8.0+).  

Tropical Storm Isaac

This monstrous storm (in reference to its great physical size) continues to churn in the Gulf of Mexico with the Big Easy sitting below sea level in its path. At last check Tropical Storm Isaac was near hurricane strength and continuing to intensify even as it slows down giving it more time to strengthen prior to making landfall and also giving it more time to build up a destructive storm surge which its huge size also helps generate. Given that this storm has already killed people in Haiti its name will undoubtedly be retired from the list of storm names per tradition. It will probably kill some Americans next by way of the aforementioned storm surge as well as the inevitable flooding from torrential tropical rains. This storm bares watching!

My Journey Continues Apace

I am bringing this up last but it is not least but of foremost relevance to me. This has been the best year of my entire life to date. My life continues to get only better and better. As time passes I continue to draw closer and closer to God and I am growing and can see God's progress with me from month to month. The progress is not at a constant pace and at times I get sloppy following a prolonged period of progress and inevitably I loose a bit of momentum and temporarily stagnate. Quite fortunately my loving and patient Creator invariably prods me into getting back with the program. In such instances I recover my equilibrium and things move forward again in yet another spiritual growth spurt. I need to and am working on consistency (the right type, not the wrong type). Not only is tithing money important but even more so tithing time to God as it pertains to devotional time spent reading the World and praying. I also need to continue to make progress toning down my use of at-times overly-colorful metaphors and invective when I get peeved. All that being said, I am incredibly grateful for all that my Creator has done within me and all around me in my life. I am incredibly excited in regards to what the future holds for me. I hope the handful of people who used to be in my life years ago but left my life at the time because they did not like who I then was now give me another try. I invite them to come back to me and see what marvelous things God has wrought within me the past few years and see if they wish to resume friendship. I am metaphorically in transition between being a homely-looking caterpillar and a beautiful butterfly.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Die Wirklichkeit (Reality)

As a child of God I am a chip off the old block. My old sinful nature aside, my basic non-animal characteristics are a reflection of Him. Humanity's love and need for music, indeed our musical soul is something we inherited from and is a reflection of our musical Creator. Music has always been my internal language and is as integral to whom I am as much or more than any other aspect of myself. I am not personally musically-inclined insomuch as performing music is concerned (to my regret). However, I am no less musical a creature than any of the best musicians or music connoisseurs anywhere anytime. Everything I do has it's own musical score and below is as close to what you might describe as the musical score to when I walk about as you will find. It perfectly represents my true nature and the general feeling of my internal processes as I walk for pleasure or as a matter of practicality. Whenever I walk, I think and I feel... ALWAYS! By the way, the song in question is by the German musical outfit Schiller, a band (for lack of a better word) who nearly defies categorization as they fit into electronica, trance, ambient, chill-out, and even New Age.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Happened To The Fire & Scanner Yahoo Groups?

Following a couple of consecutive mild fire seasons in California in 2010 and 2011, the state has gotten back to the business of burning this Summer. A second tangent converges with this fact and that is the long-term decline of the once quite active and thoroughly enjoyable California wildfire Yahoo! Groups such as SoCalFire and CenCalFire and NorCalFire and Bayfire. The same thing has happened over the same time period (second half of the 2000's into the early 2010's) to the California scanner-monitoring Yahoo Groups such as SCANnorCAL and SCANNINGCENCAL and SoCalScan and CaliforniaOnlineScanning and Bayscan ("Flamescan"). I have noted this trend throughout its run starting back at its inception fearing it would happen to my beloved labor of love, California Disasters. That fear has not really been realized although California Disasters has seen some slight slippage in both the number of postings as well as in the number of members. I believe the most significant factor for the slight decline in California Disasters has been the disaster quiescence of the past few years in California which is a good thing, of course. We can't talk about what is not happening so it follows that fewer exciting things going on will translate to fewer postings and less interest by the general public. Our hardcore disaster buffs and fire buffs and scanner-monitoring buffs are still with us but we have lost some of the anonymous general public types as well as have experienced the normal rate of attrition due to folks dying or getting disinterested in Yahoo! Groups, etc.

That last item segues in to what I believe is the primary cause of the decline of all those other groups over the past several years (and is the second-most significant factor for why California Disasters has seen some decline) and that is Yahoo's loss of market share in the social networking and groups category due to advances in technology and Yahoo's own sluggish attempt to adapt to a rapidly evolving marketplace. A significant number of folks who used to ply the waters of Yahoo! Groups for fire and scanner info no longer do so but have moved on to other arenas such as Twitter and the Hotlist and various blogs such as CAL FIRE NEWS.

My former girlfriend of a few years ago once posited privately to me that California Disasters was actually hurting some of these groups as they were already clearly in decline even as California Disasters was still expanding. Given that I now put as much effort into California Disasters as I ever have in the past and the group has a strong and broad loyal following and yet has still experienced a slight contraction in membership and a light contraction in postings I am more likely to be skeptical of that assessment as this indicates to me there is something negatively impacting all these Yahoo! Groups and not just one such group gobbling up all the vitality of the others. However, at the time I reluctantly agreed with it but I felt bad my brain-child was perhaps thriving at the expense of other groups which was never my intent. I suppose it is possible that at that time California Disasters was modestly growing at the expense of some or all of the aforementioned Yahoo! Groups although I can't say for sure and if so to what extent. The reason for this would have been the disparity between my own efforts in growing and improving California Disasters and my wonderful team of moderator's efforts in assisting me in that regard as well as the broad, flexible, hybrid nature of the group which allowed it to be different things to different people all the time unlike the aforementioned groups whose declared foci were much narrower and more specific.

The secondary cause for the decline of these other Yahoo! Groups as I see it is the lack of interest by the various aforementioned Yahoo! Groups' owners and moderators (excepting California Disasters, of course) in keeping their groups relevant and vibrant. In the case of some of these groups it is as if they simply turned the lights out and walked away. In some cases I don't get any response from the group owners or moderators regarding concerns or questions I have. In some cases other people contact me under the erroneous assumption I have pull with some of these group owners or their moderators because these people can't seem to get any response from the group owners or moderators. Customer service is important even in Yahoo! Groups! For a Yahoo! Group to survive and thrive the owner must invest time and effort into making the group into something worthwhile and maintaining whatever level of quality and vitality they desire. In all fairness groups like SoCalScan and Bayscan have succeeded in maintaining relevance and vibrance but are nonetheless shells of their former selves. Their posting rates are way down and although they seem to have very large memberships many of those members are "bouncing" as their accounts have lapsed for various reasons and they are no longer valid and active members of Yahoo! Groups. Many/most Yahoo! Groups do not regularly attempt to unbounce their bouncing member's accounts and if unsuccessful then delete those members from the membership roles. This allows said groups to appear larger than they actually and effectively are. Note: at California Disasters we periodically tend our crop of "bouncing" members and delete those whom we cannot reactivate.

Nonetheless, I remain a member of each of these groups and a member of as many other such groups that I did not mention as they are too small and marginal to be worth mentioning here. I remain thus in the hopes of seeing one or more of these groups make some sort of come-back despite my skepticism that any of them will do so. I believe California Disasters will endure as long as Yahoo! Groups stays in business and I am alive and able to do my thing and have at least some of my current crop of moderators to assist me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

California's Newest Biggest Wildfire Ever?

The ongoing wildfires in California have garnered some of the media and water-cooler attention they deserve but not nearly what they wholly deserve in my opinion. What attention has been thrown their way has gone to fires like the Ponderosa Incident which has charred over 20,000 acres on state and private lands and leveled 50 structures, many of them residences - with more acres and possibly more structures yet to be charred. Thousands of local residents of the fire area (in portions of rural Shasta and Tehama Counties) have been evacuated and many local and even two regional state highways have been closed. This fire is a really big deal as it has the potential to utterly level the towns of Shingletown in Shasta County and Manton in Tehama County.

Burning nearby is the Chips Incident in the Plumas National Forest in Plumas County which has also forced large-scale evacuations and charred over 62,000 acres and forced many local and at least three regional highways to close and disrupted power delivery to entire towns.

Yet another major nearby fire is the Reading Incident mostly in Lassen Volcanic National Park and in the Lassen National Forest in Shasta County. It was contained today at 28,143 acres with no structure loss but most definitely timber loss.

Vastly overlooked has been and continues to be the monstrous Rush Incident in eastern Lassen County which has burned over 313,000 acres and crossed the state line into Nevada in four separate areas of the fire's eastern margin. This overlooking by the media and water-cooler crowd is perhaps somewhat justifiable given this wildfire is burning in an even more rural area than the other three wildfires to its west. However, it is nonetheless within this region and it is effecting some people in a negative way. What is most significant about this fire to date is its incredible size. How much of it's 313,000+ acres are located in Nevada is unknown to me. However, looking at the fire map it is clear the vast majority of that acreage is located here in California. For comparisonal purposes it is worth noting that the current official largest fire (by acreage) in California history is 2003's Cedar Fire in San Diego County which charred 273,246 acres, burned 2,820 structures (mostly homes) and most significantly, killed 15 people including one firefighter. You can do the math yourself; obviously the Rush Fire is California's latest largest wildfire. It is merely awaiting official confirmation and acknowledgement once it is put out and the final acreage is tallied. It is worth taking a gander at CAL FIRE's current 20 Largest California Wildland Fires (By Acreage Burned) page before it is updated and the current #20 gets dropped from the list (2006's Bar Complex in Trinity County at 100,414 acres).

Final Update (8/28/12): Thru today this fire has consumed 271,911 acres in California and 43,666 acres in Nevada for a total of 315,577 acres. Thus this fire has been downgraded by better mapping by means of G.I.S. technology and is now just short of eclipsing the Cedar Fire as the largest fire in California history by less than 2,000 acres. However, there are two caveats. First, the terrain this fire is burning is perhaps flatter overall than that which the Cedar Fire consumed making the Cedar Fire perhaps larger in surface area burned but not acreage burned given that acreage refers to a flat surface area on a map and is not a measure of the actual surface area of a given burn area factoring in vertical relief.

With 82% containment and only minor interior creeping occuring it seems likely these numbers will continue to rise but only to a minor degree unless some extraordinary wind event blows this fire across containment lines that are holding for now. I have already updated this multiple times and more updates are likely and they may ultimately reflect that the Rush Incident is larger in area than the Cedar Fire after all as was originally thought up to as recently as just a day ago. 

Picture of the Day - NorCal Wildfires From Space

Today afforded another dramatic view from planetary orbit of the major wildfires ravaging Northern California. The western-most smoke plume is coming from the Pass Fires in northeastern Mendocino County and shows a hint of pyrocumulus cloud atop the primary convection column. The eastern-most smoke plume is coming from the Chips Fire in Plumas County and is so extensive it kept the down-wind Rush Fire in Lassen County calm due to the smokey overcast pall it created. The middle smoke plume is coming from the Ponderosa Fire in Shasta and Tehama Counties. Note the summer monsoonal convection off to the east over western Nevada's Great Basin. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Two NorCal Wildfire Images

Today Northern California's Ponderosa Fire exploded sending firefighters scrambling to safety zones as running crown fires ran through heavy fuels of forest and brush. The nearby Chips Fire also blew up this afternoon with its head jumping containment lines and barreling on eastward. A bit to the southwest the Pass Fires (two lightning-caused fires) blew up disgorging a huge amount of smoke as well.

Snapshot taken from the Caltrans Shingletown webcam showing the view east from Highway 44 at Emigrant Trail/Wilson Hill Road. Note smoke columns from the Ponderosa Fire indicate leading fire front is close to the highway at time of image. Image courtesy of Caltrans.
Satellite image late today showing the smoke of the Ponderosa Fire in southeastern Shasta County and northeastern Tehama County. Note the smoke with visible pyrocumulus cloud coming off of the Chips Fire in Plumas County. Note the smoke coming off of the Pass Fires with visible pyrocumulus cloud in the northeast corner of Mendocino County.  Note monsoonal convection over the Sierra Nevada and western Great Basin. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Picture of the Day - Dawn Over Paso

This morning I had the rare privilege of being awake for the dawn of a new day over Paso Robles, CA, and it was a particularly beautiful dawn at that. Combined with remnants of the previous day's surge of monsoonal moisture lingering over the area and my having a ridge-top vantage point from where I spent the overnight period playing card games with friends I could not have taken a poor picture of this scene had I tried. Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Picture of the Day - My First Semi Ride

This morning I took my first ride ever in a semi truck tractor courtesy of my friend whom shall go unnamed here. Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Forest Falls Flash Flood 2012

A flash flood containing a great deal of fallen timber and mountain rock ranging in size from sand grains all the way up to boulders rumbled down Mill Creek Canyon and through the San Bernardino Mountain community of Forest Falls, CA. It appears most of this flash flood remained within the banks of Mill Creek. However, there was some flooding with mud deposition in parts of Forest Falls. No injuries were reported from this incident. This flood was caused by thunderstorms up in the mountain nearby resulting from the vigorous summer monsoon season California has experienced this year following a couple of mild summers with much less of this activity than normal. Below is a rather interesting video shot by a local resident showing this flash flood. To me the most dramatic and interesting aspect and element of this video is the sound of the flash flood caused mostly by all the rocks in motion within the water itself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Milton Waddams: International Man Of Mystery

I recently had the supreme privilege of finally watching the Mike Judge movie Office Space. I had seen part of it on regular television in the past and the memorable character of insufferable workplace boss Bill Lundberg left an indelible impression upon me. However much of the movie I saw at that time the real star of the film escaped my notice. That was certainly not going to happen watching the movie in its entirety. In a scene-stealing performance worthy of the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, actor Stephen Root plays the unforgettable and indefatigable character of Milton Waddams the perpetually beleaguered and befuddled and put-upon oddball  co-worker in the fictional workplace office that is the centerpiece of this film. This character, created by Beavis & Butthead creator Mike Judge originally for a series of SNL animated movie shorts entitled Milton, is my current obsession. Just as I possess an Inner Cartman and an Inner Butt-head I likewise possess an Inner Milton. For those of you unfamiliar with what I speak of here I offer you a montage of clips below shown in the order they appear in the movie. Unfortunately, the montage is taken from a recording of it playing on television as opposed to a direct recording. This will have to suffice for now unless and until something better appears at which time I'll switch this video out. Enjoy!

Summer Harvest At Kiler Canyon Farm

Early this morning my buddy Kay Dow (with whom I attended high school) and I headed out to Kiler Canyon Farm CSA and helped with the weekly harvest. She and I both are locavores and enthusiastic members of this Community Supported Agriculture enterprise located at the very end of Kiler Canyon Road several miles southwest of Paso Robles, CA. Owner/Operators Quill and Chapponica Trimmell and Dan and Kayleen Trimmell (I attended high school with Kayleen, too) graciously invite their member/investors to join in the weekly harvest. They and their staff (Keren and Rory who also happen to be my neighbors in Paso Robles) patiently train such guests how to conduct their assigned tasks. Later during the harvest morning (Wednesdays) the Trimmells fete all the harvesters with a generous farm breakfast of home-made and local food, most of it food from this farm. This day was no exception as the training was patiently done (it was nice to need less of it on this second harvest experience for me). It was also nice to work early thus avoiding the heat predicted for today. See me Visiting Kiler Canyon Farm last Spring. The following images were taken in the order presented below.

The morning calm and long shadows were a nice contrast to my usual lifestyle of urban life in Paso Robles (as small-town as that is).
Sunflowers figure prominently in the floral decor of this farm.
I love sunflowers so get used to seeing them in this photo sequence.
From Kiler Canyon Road's end looking back towards the way into town.
Floral sunshine
Keren and Rory
I helped with the squash harvest.
Corn I presume.
Kiler Canyon Farm is located in a tranquil and secluded dell west of Paso Robles.
Keren and Rory working in the packing shed where the share baskets are loaded.
All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mt. Ruapehu Timelapse

I'm a sucker for these sorts of picturesque video shorts featuring incredible natural scenes accompanied by appropriate and potent music. This one prominently features the Ruapehu volcano in New Zealand that my mouth has always enjoyed uttering. Pronounced "roo-a-pay-hoo"!
Mt Ruapehu Timelapse from Jared Brandon Productions on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Wye Wildfire Wow!

Below are three frames I saved this afternoon from a CalTrans webcam located near the start of today's Wye Incident in Lake County. The highway you see in the images is Highway 20. The images were captured early on in the incident (within the second hour) and the view is looking eastward just west of the junction with Highway 53.
5:01 p.m.
5:02 p.m.
5:17 p.m.

Images courtesy of CALTRANS.

Picture of the Day - Walker & Wye Fires

This was the scene earlier this evening from Williams, CA. It was captured by an acquaintance of mine who is a NPS firefighter on the Sequoia National Park/Kings Canyon National Park. I know him from the online California fire groups and email lists. It shows the sun setting through the smoke of the Walker Incident and the Wye Incident in Lake County to the west. The fires have forced the shutdown of Highway 20.

Photo by Pranay Manghirmalani (all rights reserved).

Scripture of the Day - Elihu

"When He gives quietude, who then can make trouble? And when He hides His face, who then can behold Him? whether it be thus against an entire people, or against an individual only...". ~ Job 34:29 (Kimicus ad Absurdum translation)

Picture of the Day - Evil Rock

.... or rather "Picture of the Night" and an ominous-looking one at that. This image was taken in the wee hours of this morning from the North Jetty at the southern base of Morro Rock; a large truck-sized chunk of volcanic dacite backlit by a street lamp shrouded in fog. Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

Kameron's Birthday Bonfire

My friend Kameron turns 19 tomorrow and elected to celebrate his birthday with a beach bonfire at Cayucos with those friends of his whose schedules allowed. I had the honor of being a part of this celebration and below is my record of what transpired this past afternoon and evening. Note: I bare witness there was NO underage alcohol consumption or use of recreational pharmaceuticals at this event.

Cayucos State Beach at Cayucos Creek Inlet. This is the beach where we bivouacked for Kameron's bonfire.
Cayucos Pier at left and Morro Rock in the distance to the right of it.
The town of Cayucos, CA, showing the pier and Vet's Hall and a crowd of Mormons conducting a youth event.
Kameron's bonfire constructed by your's truly and ready to go.
The bonfire having just been lit and my little dog Tequila chillaxin' with her daddy.
The bonfire now fully-involved and we're grilling our friend Blake Burgess upon it.
The bonfire having burnt down a bit was now ready for cooking hot dogs. Note Tequila guarding her doggy bed.
The cute couple: Krystal Marie "The Squealer" Sprague and Blake "Mad Dog" Burgess
A second couple showed up (Brittany Wolfe and Lonnan McIntyre) and joined our party a bit later.
The other bonfire added to the ambience at this beach this night.
I surprised everybody with some flash just to check everybody was behaving.
Kameron received four thumbs up while I avoided any middle fingers.
Kameron holding court at his birthday bonfire.
I hate photos of myself but Kameron made me pose for this and who was I to deny the birthday boy.
A self-portrait by Kameron.
Say "hermaphrodite" and Krystal will involuntarily squeal for you.
Artistic image #1: no editing was done to this.
Artistic image #2: again, no editing here.
Artistic image #3: bonfire burning down.
All photos (but two by Kameron McMeekin) by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Picture of the Day - 2012 NorCal Fires From Space

Satellite view late this evening/early this afternoon of the Chips Fire (Plumas County - southernmost fire) and Reading Fire (eastern Shasta County - northernmost fire visible in CA) in Northern California as well as various other fires in southern Oregon and northern Nevada. Note monsoonal moisture over parts of eastern California and across the Nevada's Great Basin & Range. Note: the date shows tomorrow but the satellite operates on international time or GMT. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Eclectus Arcania - Bird Is The Word

Today I worked for my buddy Susie Christian, a notable local photographer and bird author, in Morro Bay, CA, for the second time in three days. I did so at this particular time not coincidentally in regards to the ongoing heat wave that has seen Paso Robles (where I reside) hit triple digit temperatures for a week not to mention most of the rest of California.

Susie breeds a type of parrot I have never noticed before and knew nothing about until this week. This form of parrot is called an Eclectus and lives in various location scattered across the Western Pacific Ocean including northeastern Australia, New Guinea, the Moluccas Islands, the Soloman Islands, and Sumba Island in Indonesia. Susie owns more than one sub-species of this beautiful type of tropical bird as evidenced in the images below which show two different female types.

Five arcane eclectus facts:

  1. Eclectus are sexually dimorphic which is not a perversion but merely means that the male and female look quite a bit different from one another. Males are green with yellow beaks and the females are red and blue/purple with sometimes some yellow/orange on their tails but always have black beaks.
  2. Eclectus are considered a pest in some regions as they have a tendency to eat folk's fruit off their trees, particularly papaya and pomegranate.
  3. The average lifespan of the Eclectus is not currently known with any certainty given how recently they became actively held captive and bred in captivity; 30-ish seems like the best guess as this point.
  4. Eclectus are polygynandrous which is to say they are dirty birds; both males and females can have multiple partners (please pardon the anthropomorphism there). 
  5. Prehistoric Pacific Islanders hunted one now-extinct sub-species of this parrot called the Oceanic Eclectus. It seems to have gone extinct about 3,000 years ago around the time the Tongans settled what would become Tonga.
After spending the better part of two days with the Eclectus I'm beginning to really fall in love with them. Aside from being beautiful they are quite personable and are gifted with oodles of personality. I now officially desire to have one someday and given the name of this bird (and this blog) it seems apropos that this bird become the official mascot here.

This female eclectus, the second one I encountered in the enclosure, was the most spectacular-looking of the three females.
The lone male eclectus was very upset by my presence and needed calming by Susie.
This was the first female I encountered; she seemed to really take to me and wanted to be in close to my face.
My friend Susie trying to calm the male eclectus - to no avail pretty much.
This was the third female I encountered.
Two of the three females in the enclosure (#2 and #3 respectively). This duo is of differing sub-species.
The male was trying to warn his bitches about me, all of whom pretty much ignored him although at the end #2 seemed to respond to him and when over to him.
All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).