Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Some Sacramento Parks and Green Spaces

9 July 2017

On Friday the 7th of July I toured some Sacramento parks with the idea of a theme of green space. I had been invited to a dinner on Fair Oaks Blvd just north of UC Sacramento, so that was my ultimate destination. I figured that with a combination of walking, sitting, and possibly bus riding I could spend most of the day visiting park areas between downtown and the university.

I got off the light rail at Alkali Flats station. This is a traditional neighborhood name for the area near to and just north of downtown. In this area of town, C Street is the northern-most useful street. It extends east into the fancy New Era Park neighborhood. It has three city-block-sized parks along it: John Muir Playground, Grant Park and Stanford Park. Then to the east of that is a large area referred to as Sutter’s Landing Regional Park, which is still under development.

There is a lot of low-income housing in the Alkali Flats area. Here is an example of some green space provided in front of one such building. I call it “urban green space.” It is usually surrounded by concrete on all four sides.

uban green space

Next I encountered some urban gardens. I have not seen areas like this in the suburbs.

urban garden

John Muir Playground has a fence around it, and a sign inside stating “no adults allowed unless accompanied by a child,” or words to that effect. However, on this warm morning, no children were there.

John Muir playground

C Street then takes you to the Blue Diamond facility. There I found a nice example of “corporate green space.” This is a lot like urban green space, but more closely controlled and maintained. It can provide a lot of great color, but is ordinarily rather limited in extent and definitely requires watering. Companies here – and many residents – are still into lawns. See my Goose Poop article for related thoughts.

corporate planting

The area just north of the American river contains a system of bike paths, and a path connecting to that system exits into this neighborhood. That would have to be another trip.

bikeways gate

Grant Park has a baseball field that may also be used for soccer. The grass was mowed, but no one was there. At the east end of this park is “Blues Alley.” I went down this alley, but found no evidence for “blues.” I did, however, notice a column of smoke rising from the area I was headed towards. A grass fire.

park field

Stanford Park was another big (and vacant) field. At its far end is the entrance to the developed part of Sutter’s Landing Park.

park lawn

This park had previously served industrial or similar uses; most of it was pretty bare. The most-used developed area was the Dog Park. I walked into the small dog area and took some pictures.

solar panel trees

This park contains some manmade shade roofed with solar (photo-voltaic) panels, most probably linked into a nearby solar “farm” and to the panels covering the parking lot to the northeast.

Sutter's Landing parking lot

The most notable features of the parking lot were two killdeer madly tweeting at each other. A “covered skate park” was closed. Inside it was covered in graffiti and housed several pigeon families. However, per its website, it opens to skaters and skateboarders every afternoon.

levee trail and lower trail

Just beyond that was the levee and the river. The levee is a key reason the American River Parkway exists. The levees began to be built in the mid 1800s in response to repeated flooding of Sacramento neighborhoods during peak flood season. Since then, flood control dams have been installed, and an extensive levee system has been completed up the American River (and also the Sacramento).

fishing on river

Fishing on the river.

Sutter’s Landing Park ends at a freeway at the edge of the East Sacramento neighborhood, not far from a railroad bridge. Here I found the blackened ground which could have been caused by the fire I saw smoke from earlier.
burn area

East Sacramento neighborhoods run right up to the levee, which in this area is roughly 20 feet high. On the other side of the levee is the river and parkland which can flood if there is a lot of runoff upstream. I could find no obvious access to regular streets from the levee, so continued walking along it to the east. I found a sump pump installation at one point, but the maintenance gate leading to city streets was locked. I was now walking along an affluent neighborhood known as River Park, which is right next to the university. It was a lot of walking in the high sun. I was in long sleeves and wearing a big hat, but my nose and cheeks got burned, and my exposed hands. At Hall Park I finally found street access.

floodplain near beach access

This is near the access point from Hall Park.

Hall Park is a nice park and includes a swimming pool. But even here I found someone who looked homeless sitting on a park bench.

Hall Park sports field

Sports field in Hall Park.

I was able to walk out of River Park to a small mall, where I ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Just beyond that was the university entrance, including a nearby “mini-park” space with a garden fountain and a bench.

fountain in mini park

bench in mini-park

To the right of the university entrance was the Arboretum. It was a well-developed “forest” and provided a pleasant place to stop and rest. Almost every plant was labeled with its botanical and common name, and where it is native. Though called an Arboretum, in included numerous shrubs and smaller plants.

inside the arboretum

Inside the Arboretum.

I had made it to Fair Oaks Blvd, but still had to make it across the river. There was a footpath/bike path across the bridge. The north end was surrounded by shrubbery; very picturesque.

foot path on bridge

Fair Oaks passed through a student housing area called Campus Commons where there was no ordinary commercial development. But I found the shopping area only a block or two up the street, designed in the usual suburban style, though a little more high-end than usual. As is normal in this style of development, pedestrian crossings of the main streets are few and far between. After getting an iced herb tea (and a refill) at a shop in the Pavilions Center, and browsing the Williams-Sonoma store, I sat for a while in a comfortable patio chair put out for shoppers. The two seated figures are sculpture next to a water feature.

urban green space at shopping center

I was early; it was only about 4pm. When I finally decided to cross the street to the restaurant, I had to walk way down to a light to get across legally. But at least I had survived the trek.

Sacramento Critters

2 July 2017
squirrel Sutter's fort

Tree squirrel at Sutter’s Fort.

We are all aware that many animals share human environments with us. Besides the obvious organisms that take advantage of the fact that we leave behind a certain amount of trash, both inside and outside, there are the ones that live semi-wild in our garden and park areas.

Perhaps the most obvious animals that share the urban environment with us are the birds. However, with my resources these are some of the most difficult animals for me to photograph. Robins, sparrows, swallows, and all their various relatives are familiar regulars in urban trees and bushes. Pigeons are also well-know, and often seem like a nuisance bird. In open areas you will see hawks and other raptors, indicating a considerable but hidden population of ground mammals (mostly rodents). Tree squirrels move around where we can see them, but the rest of those types of animals hide in underground areas much of the time.

Home gardens and park areas may have water features (or regular sprinklers) that support additional animals. These include various amphibians and reptiles, insects, even fish. I should mention soil worms, though these usually only appear when we dig around or after it rains hard. Worms and other soil organisms are an important part of any ecosystem but are another group that does not lend itself to ordinary photography.

We will also see some migrant species come through our cities. Many of us are not particularly aware of which animals are in this category. And there are some birds, like the geese and ducks pictured below, that you might think migrate but might actually be full-time residents. Some of these have lost the instinct to migrate due to being held in captivity over several generations.

geese and ducks at Sutter' Fort

These geese are probably permanent Sacramento residents. I don’t know about the ducks. This is at Sutter’s Fort.

Yesterday (Saturday 1 July) I visited a little museum on Auburn Blvd near Watt that has been known as the Discovery Museum, but will be known as the Powerhouse Science Center when it moves to its new downtown building (an old electric power station). This museum specializes in exhibits for children. Its original emphasis was probably the natural sciences, but it is moving into “hard” technology in a big way, with a “space mission” experience for kids, a planetarium, and more technology-related exhibits in the offing.

The museum grounds include a park and pond. The pond is kept aerated by a fountain. Aeration is important for most urban ponds, as they are usually quite shallow and warm up a lot in summer, which deprives them of vital dissolved oxygen. This particular pond was probably seeded with many of the animals that now grow in it. It has a lot of turtles for just one pond and is teaming with developing frogs (tadpoles / polliwogs). I also saw many dragonflies and a hummingbird. I asked the flying animals to pose for photographs (a habit I’ve taken up, as it sometimes works) and a few dragonflies consented to do so, but the hummingbird would not stay put long enough for me to get a proper photo.

turtles sunning themselves

Turtles sunning themselves at the Discovery Museum pond.

tadpoles in pond

Tadpoles were teaming in this pond.

dragonfly at pond edge

The dragonfly that posed for me.

Some of the first “wild” animals I ran into in Sacramento were ground squirrels at the Marconi-Arcade light rail station. I noticed them many times running across the tracks between their burrows and the public waiting areas. They are a bit nervous and so hard to photograph, but I got a few shots of them finally.

ground squirrel near its burrows

One of the infamous track-jumping Marconi-Arcade ground squirrels.

Ends of Lines

29 June 2017

no-outlet-cropped-sac-trip-74

Here is a rather short version of my intended post about what is at the ends of the light rail lines in Sacramento. My experiences in going back and forth on these trains have ramifications that I won’t particularly get into in this post. I have tried to do something like this in every city I have lived in. I didn’t totally do it in Seattle or Los Angeles, though.

Green Line

green-line-south-20170622-cropped-67

The “green line” is a short in-city line that just loops around downtown. It starts near 13th and R (above) and ends at 7th and Richards, which is traditionally known as Township 9 (below). The Township 9 Station is actually the best-developed station in the whole system. The basic weakness of the system is that it has no large central station or stations where lots of people can wait in a protected area. Subways provide this; Sacramento has no tunnels for trains. This also means that Sacramento trains have to share streets with cars buses and people in order to get anywhere that has a lot of people. The areas where the trains have their own right-of-ways are usually shared by real trains, out on the edge of town near nothing very important. That’s the Blue Line. The Gold Line follows the freeway roughly.

green-line-north-20170629-cropped-07

Blue Line

blue-line-north-20170621-cropped-11

This is a long north-south line. I found it below par as a light rail line. It does not seem very well-planned, and I have seldom seen it very well-used, though at rush hour today it was packed to standing-room only.

blue-line-south-20170621-cropped-25

Here is the south end, the Consumnes River College, a community college dating from 1970 per one sign I saw. Oddly, though, I found no development around it of any kind. No fast food places, no technology stores or clothing stores. I really didn’t quite understand it.

consumnes-college-banner-20170621-sac-trip-30

Gold Line

gold-line-west-end-cropped

I found this the best line in the system. It is a very long east-west line that goes from the Sacramento Valley (Train) Station near downtown (above) all the way out to Folsom. Many of the stops have extra shelter and attractions like shopping centers nearby. It’s east end (below) is right at the edge of Historic Folsom, which is similar to Old Sacramento (which has no light rail line nearby).

gold-line-east-20170629-cropped-33

Sacramento Trip Updates

14 June 2017

street sign in everett

13 June: (I had written this part up earlier, but the draft is on another computer.) I rode Northwest Trailways from Pullman to Seattle. It takes the northern route, through Leavenworth and Stevens Pass. It’s prettier than the Greyhound route, but takes longer. I arrived in the late afternoon and stayed in a place called the Panama Hotel. This place is a lightly-restored hotel built in 1910 for immigrants from Asia. Jan Johnson operates it and she puts a lot of effort into it. It’s different than a “modern” hotel, but was fine for me. She sees it as a kind of museum.

14 June: The Amtrak Coast Starlight pulled out of King Street Station around 9:30 in the morning. That meant we could see the sites all the way to the California border. After an uneventful morning, I stayed in the observation car after lunch, and some interesting people got on somewhere early in our trip through Oregon. One guy had a guitar and sat down and started playing. Later he had an intense political discussion about the absence of wisdom in modern society.

leaving train station salem oregon

15 June: The train pulled into Sacramento just a little after sunrise. I started walking. I found a breakfast place open early and had some fresh fruit and a muffin. Then I walked east until I got to Sutter’s Fort (1839-1848) and photographed an egret sitting in a pool outside, looking a bit dejected. There are lots of shops in “Midtown” but most don’t open until 10 or so. I slowly made my way back downtown, where I visited my church and made a donation.

heron in pond by sutter's fort

Then I went out to the Econolodge and signed in. My 25-day stay broke my debit card, but I called BECU’s 1-800 number and got it fixed. My realtor came by a little later and took me to the one mobile home park that agreed to look at my application. We planned to prepare the paperwork the next morning and then turn it in.

After that I went across the freeway to Fry’s and got the computer I’m typing this on, as my little Linux-based netbook would not connect properly.

16 June: Took all morning to prepare the paperwork, but my realtor was happy with it and the lady at the park liked it, too. After I got back from that, I finally managed to connect to the internet. This motel uses an unsecured Wi-Fi network with a browser “landing page” that prompts you for a password. This is supposed to happen automatically, but with some computers you might have to type in the URL of the landing page.

It has turned VERY hot in Sacramento, so I waited as long as I could to go out to shop at Foodsco. This is one of those BIG grocery stores, in this case run by Kroger. It is one of four stores in the Sacramento area. They don’t always show up when you search for “grocery stores.” Poorer people come to shop there, as the prices are pretty good. The selection, however, is heavy on the processed foods side. I found the produce decent, and located some good yogurt, too.

17 June: We are expecting above 100F during the daytime for at least a week if not longer. I am staying inside mostly, though did go out for lunch and more groceries. I downloaded and watched Courtney Brown’s latest remove viewing project which was on Area 51 (officially, the Groom Lake facility). It was pretty good and confirmed what others have reported about it: MagLev trains, multi-story underground research complexes, ET involvement and genetic experimentation. When one of Courtney’s remote viewers sees something, you have to take it seriously. So a lot of the Area 51 scuttlebutt is the real deal. I suggest David Adair’s stories for more data about what it was like there maybe 30-40 years ago.

18 June: I got up “early” and took the 86 bus downtown. The ride only took about 15 minutes. I stayed on and went back out to Discovery Park by the American River where I walked around for a while. Then I caught the next bus back to Northgate Blvd, and a short walk up to the motel. They are expecting the hottest 18 June on record today – above 105F – so I didn’t want to stay outside too long.

19-20 June: Another visit to my church, another donation. Then today I went to a “coworking” place near downtown to get a more reliable (and secure) internet connection than is available at the motel. Internet cafes are starting to drift out of fashion, what with internet connection via mobile phone becoming so common. So now some are beefing up their infrastructure a bit and offering it to “serious” computer users, usually at a price. I, however, got in on a “free day pass” plus a muffin and two iced herb teas.

Thoughts from yesterday:
Met a woman who owned a house in Reno, was planning to move to Sac, but keep the house in Reno and rent it out. This follows the modern pattern of the financially better-enabled of somehow creating an asset pool, then living off the income from it. The trick is to acquire the asset in the first place. If you get a really good-paying job and save a lot, you can do it. But to me there seems something wrong in it…

Today watched an interview with Niara Isley, an ex-airman who got used as slave labor on the moon. She came out at least 6 years ago, and has been telling the same story the whole time, and also wrote a book. Like Corey Goode, she has turned to the New Age movement for solace and support. This is apparently allowable for people who are trying to blow the whistle on the secret space program.

21-22 June: Have been travelling around a lot on the light rail. Went to both ends of the blue line; still have to do that with the two other lines. I stopped off at some different places, such as the Broadway part of the Oak Park neighborhood. Went out and visited the house where I will be staying when I move here. It is located in a part of the city where they didn’t have to put in sidewalks when they were building the houses there. Very strange.

23-27 June: Church events, a visit to Old Sacramento, and more planning for the move have filled the hours these recent days. I’ll be putting together more articles before too long.

28 June – 2 July: I have completed most of the planning for the move and visited some more Sacramento attractions. The Discover Museum, destined to become the Powerhouse Science Center, was a calm and relaxing visit that included several live animals, along with a body health exhibit and the beginnings of some “hard science” exhibits. This museum is aimed primarily at kids.

rocket engine on display

Rocket engine displayed outside at the Discovery Museum.

3 – 5 July: This was mostly move preparations. However, on July 4th I was more or less stranded because mass transit was on a holiday schedule.

On 3 July I visited Arden Fair, a very nice mall.

arden fair mall merry-go-round

Yes, this mall has a merry-go-round.

It’s an all-indoor mall, two stories (similar to the Glendale Galleria but not as big), dominated by clothing stores and cell phone shops. I got a cell phone there, as “tethering” to my PC will be the only way for me to connect to the internet at my new residence. It works rather well, but costs more than just regular phone use.

I got to the mall by walking over the railroad tracks from the Swanston light rail station. There is an old idiom: “wrong side of the tracks.” To quote the internet:

The common explanation is that in the old days of steam locomotives, the wind would tend to blow the soot to one side of the tracks. The sootier side would then become the poorer / industrialized neighborhood.

This phenomenon is in play along these railroad tracks, though it is more common these days for both sides of the tracks to look in bad shape, as commerce gravitated away from trains towards roads and freeways. The light rail (northwest) side of those tracks is run down and industrialized. On the other side there is more of a corporate presence and also some fancy neighborhoods.

Today (5 July) I visited the Natural Foods Co-op and my new neighborhood “across the tracks.” It’s in an unincorporated part of Sacramento called “Del Paso Manor.” There are about twenty or thirty suburban neighborhoods surrounding Sacramento that are still known by the original names given to the subdivisions when they were first developed. Many of these up in the Arcade area don’t have any sidewalks on the streets. Definitely designed for a drive-in / drive-out lifestyle. It will be interesting to ride around these areas on a bicycle.

Packed

8 June 2017

homemade packing crates all piled up

This is what 90% packed looks like at my place.

I had mostly homemade “erector set” style furniture, now all turned into packing crates and trunks.

Everything counted so far adds up to about 183 cubic feet. At 25 pounds per cubic foot that would be about two tons. It probably weighs a little less than that.

Another view:

manufactured trunks piled up for inventory

Road cases are my first choice for equipment storage.

Rocks and Shoals

6 October 2016

Literally, rocks and shoals are some of the most common ways that ships come to their doom, particularly in the older times of wooden ships and no sonar.
This is also the slang term most sailors use for the Navy code of conduct, or any similar set of rules.

It’s not easy to take good photos from a train or bus.

But I wanted to share with you some of what I saw and wondered at during my recent travels.

Though there are areas on earth where one can go for miles in any direction without seeing any exposed natural rock, for a large part of the earth’s surface, that is not the case.

In gazing out at all these hard and craggy surfaces – as well as the soft places in between – I had to wonder: How did it get like this?

And so began a short investigation into the basics of geology as a preparation for sharing these photos and info with you.

I was most impressed by the sights I saw on my initial trip from Pullman to Boise, yet my photos from that ride are few and poor. I was more productive during my ride from Denver to Omaha on the train. There are enough scenes here to give you some idea what I was gazing at for hours during my trips back and forth across the West.

cliff face detail

This stone cliff appears to be eroded by water.

rock layers in cliffs

Here some layers seem flat while others are slanted.

green slope with cliff

Brush-grown slope beneath a harder upper layer, with starker cliff in background.

layered rock above river

Layering of rock is very evident above this river.

eroded rocky projection

Though this rocky projection is very eroded, huge areas remain bare.

According to the geologists, rock formation on earth started soon after the planet formed (soon in geologic time anyway). It was only one or two hundred million years after initial accretion of the planet when we started having bonafide surface rock.

After that, things get a little more complex. But it took a long time. As little as 35 million years ago, the earth’s surface was still changing quite a bit. The Rocky Mountains didn’t really start forming until 35 million years before that. What we see at about 70 million years ago is some major disruption that really gets the various crustal plates cracked up and moving relative to each other. Large parts of the ocean floors have formed since that time, and many of our most famous mountain areas did not exist before then.

One oddity is that the continent as we know it today was largely covered by water before the uplift that formed the Rockies even started.

And so the layers. In most cases, the lowest layers will be the original crust. If it were not for the great upheavals of the mountain-building period, those rocks would remain hidden below the layers that formed above them. But a combination of erosion and severe buckling has exposed them in many places. Above the lowest layer are layers created by wind, water and ice erosion, as well as volcanic activity. In the millions of years involved, the upper sedimentary layers have had time to become very hard, though not as hard as the bottom layer granite, nor the volcanic basalt, where that exists. So in an area once covered by a sea, you could have the bottom layer covered by sandstone layers, limestone layers (created by shell-forming living creatures), clay layers, which are basically eroded older rocks moved by water to new locations where they turn back into rock, and conglomerated layers deposited by ice. Then if volcanism occurred later, you might have a layer of lava over all that, or basalt squeezed into below-ground pockets. When volcanic rock forms in cracks in softer rocks, if that structure is then exposed to erosion, the softer rocks will wear away faster, leaving the harder rocks, often in rather odd shapes, or standing as “towers.”

jagged ridges near Las Cruces

These formations in New Mexico are incredibly jagged and probably created by ancient volcanic activity.

In the uplifting of the Rockies, all these different scenarios played out at different locations, leaving all sorts of odd formations, with combinations of newer and older rocks both exposed to view.

In Kansas City I saw a lot of limestone, both quarried as a building material and exposed in place in parks. That suggests the area had been covered by a warm and very alive sea in the distant past, and those layers subsequently uplifted to well above sea level.

I was also amazed at all the mountain meadows we went through on my trip to Boise. These were created mostly by glacial activity that started less than 3 million years ago.

mountain meadow and lake cascade

This Idaho meadow, full of pasture land and farm fields, is about a mile above sea level.

Dinosaur extinction event

About 75 million years ago, something happened on Earth that killed off all the dinosaurs. It killed off a lot of other species, too, but the disappearance of dinosaurs is the most notable. The current popular date for this is 66 million years ago. This also corresponds to when the Rocky Mountains were forming, which means a lot of tectonic activity.

The most persuasive scientific hypothesis is that a very large asteroid hit the planet at that time.

Hubbard also mentions an event that occurred around that time, but chose to keep the data confidential, as it had little bearing on the more general subject, but was needed for a particular processing step.

Another person named Eva Zemanova (Czech) has reported recalling an event that happened she says 80 million years ago. It involved a very highly evolved ET group that was headed somewhere else but experienced a malfunction in their ship and were forced to land on Earth.

The big question is what caused the malfunction of their ship.

She believes there has been some sort of higher intelligence presence on Earth at least since that time. So what both these findings suggest is that even 80 million years ago, other than “natural” factors were having an impact on events on Earth.

And that’s what makes the whole question of exactly what unfolded here all those millions of years ago so interesting.

my train by a river in a canyon

Yes, I really did take a train ride across the country last month, and it’s really hard to take a photo of your own train while you’re riding in it!

Goose Poop

6 October 2016

geese in park Omaha

Geese feed on a lawn in Omaha downtown park.


We’ve all seen Canada Geese stop over at some local lawn on their way North or South. But these weren’t Canada Geese, and they acted like they’d been living in this park for a while. These geese, in fact, look more like domestic geese.

I don’t remember geese of any description living in parks. But when I visited the favorite park of my boyhood, Nicholl Park in Richmond California, Canada Geese were obviously living there.

geese in Richmond park

“Wild” geese living in Richmond.

What’s going on here?

Google “urban geese” or “goose poop” and you will find plenty of reading materials on this subject. But they most all say the same things.

What certain sites (such as Cornell’s) will tell you is that the U.S. government started a program in the 1930s to re-establish the Canada Goose population which had dwindled considerably due to hunting. They did this with captive birds. These birds did not know to migrate, and they didn’t migrate; they stayed put. These are the birds filling our city parks and causing most of the problems we are having with goose poop, noise, and aircraft interference.

They are safe in cities because no one can hunt (with guns anyway) in cities.

I wondered after getting back home if no one was using the Nicholl Park lawn because of all the goose poop in it. And that probably is a factor. There was a lot of it, and per all the materials I’ve read, it’s not very healthy to be in contact with it.

As it turns out, the real key here is lawns. These birds love lawns, and will seldom settle anywhere other than a grassy field.

Odd coincidence

Oddly, last night I attended an event titled “12th Annual Palouse Basin Water Summit.” We listened to the usual local speakers on the subject of the Palouse water supply, plus we had one international speaker, Maude Barlow, a Canadian water activist.

Right now, the Palouse gets most of its fresh water from underground sources (aquifers). Agriculture and industry are not significant users of aquifer water in the Palouse. Even so, the aquifer water levels have dropped over 100 feet since we have been pumping out water for human uses.

The most attractive and realistic way that most residents can reduce water use is to switch to gardens around their houses that require little or no irrigation. This is no panacea, but it got a lot of attention at this meeting because it is a fun and interesting way to reduce domestic water consumption.

Most residents are already aware of low-flow toilets and shower heads, waiting for full loads before washing clothes or dishes, and generally being stingy with water. These are all part of “going green” and have gotten a lot of attention in many urban areas because many urban areas have had water shortages.

Lawns

Lawns have reached a kind of iconic status in the American and European psyche. Anybody’s dream house has a lawn in front of it, possibly quite a large one. All those photos of our little kids playing on the lawn at home or in a park…it seems an essential part of life.

Yet lawns are atrocious water hogs. They require tremendous amounts of water to keep them green, but will tend to drain off excess water, rather than pull it into the soil. They are like many of our crops that must be irrigated to survive. And so, though grass can be very green, lawns are not very “green.”

What’s odd about me going to this conference then wondering about goose poop is that lawns are related to both issues. Lawns. Odd.

There are still some municipalities (Orlando, Florida is cited by Wikipedia) that mandate front lawns. In more hip communities, the problem is more likely to be front no-plants-at-all. But people in general are gradually coming to realize that the more soil that is covered with plants that will help it soak up, rather than reject, any precipitation that comes its way, the more pro-survival that soil will become for all involved.

So, the answer to both goose poop and water over-use is getting rid of lawns and replacing them with more natural gardens or vegetable gardens.

I have recently posted a lot of photos of urban parks. They all have lawns. You might say, “What would a park be without a lawn?” To which I would reply, “A lawnless park.” I have absolutely no sympathy for golfers, either. None.

I have not begun to even scratch the surface! After we de-lawn, we are going to have to confront re-forestation. And that involves our current methods of agriculture, both mass crops and grazing animals. I’m not sure how far we can take this, but I know that the ideal scene would be to phase out our impact on the surface ecology almost entirely.

I wanted to show you a picture of Bird Hills, but couldn’t find one, so here’s Discovery Park in Seattle.

discover park seattle trail to beach

My ideal park.

Food and Travel with Anthony Bourdain

4 October 2016

After a second exposure to Bourdain’s shows during a layover at the bus station in Portland, I wanted to write a bit about these shows.

For some reason, his Parts Unknown show on Libya, which dates from 2013, was being re-broadcast that day in Portland. I also saw his show on Istanbul (Turkey).

Some time ago I’d seen at least one of his shows featuring Chinese foods.

On this more recent occasion, I’d just finished eating a very decent hamburger at the new café at the Portland bus station, and had also gone through 3 brochures printed for travelers which – who couldn’t guess – all focused on food.

The show on Libya was blatantly anti-Gaddafi, portraying him as a hopelessly misled and ruthless dictator. The more basic fact is that Gaddafi was anti-West. If you look at what the West has done during its period of dominance over the planet, and where Gaddafi lived (in an Arab nation), this attitude would not be unexpected.

The Istanbul show was very unsure about the “goodness” of Erdoğan, and sympathetic to the Kurds. Erdoğan, for his part, has been vacillating in his support of NATO, particularly after learning that they may have had something to do with the recent coup attempt.

The West’s War of Ideas

The tactic that has been followed by the West in its conquest of the planet is to portray its opponents as “anti-freedom” rather than anti-West, and to fight against them on the basis that they are “bad” rather than that they are simply enemies. Over the centuries of European expansion into other areas of the planet, this tactic has taken many forms. It was particularly convoluted when it turned against other Europeans, such as the Germans before, through, and after WWII. In many times and places it was eventually backed away from, such as in the American colonies and later in countries like India. But this only meant that the intention to hold sway over these areas became more understated, or covert.

What is really exactly happening on the planet remains subject to debate, as no facts seem clear enough to be totally persuasive. But I find the whole argument regarding how the media (print, radio, TV, internet) has been subverted by these European-centered interests to be very persuasive. Thus on a secondary (if not primary) level, shows like Bourdain’s become propaganda vehicles for the West’s viewpoint on life and politics.

Travel and Food

The Western idea of a “successful” person is one who can enjoy travel and food in his older years, if not during his entire life. Anthony fits this definition and thus becomes a role model (winning valence) to be imitated. His neo-liberalism then comes along as part of the package. It is a basically synthetic attitude that the entertainment industry likes to develop in its celebrities to convince us that there are no higher awarenesses worth pursuing. This limits us to the lesser games of liberal-versus-conservtive, or progressive-versus-traditionalist.

Until I was introduced to Hubbard’s work, I was convinced that the game of life was limited roughly as stated above. My only problem was that the managing groups were obviously lying to us about some things, and I could not understand why. There also seemed to be a lot more violence going on than was really necessary.

Freedom

To go where you want and eat what you want are considered the ultimate attributes of freedom in the West. If this means you kill a few basically innocent people along the way, that fact has no basic bearing on the overall facts concerning how the game of life is limited. Or so we are being told.

What Hubbard taught is that a higher-level game of life has been operating for a very long time, and that our managers have an interest in keeping us unaware of this.

At the higher levels, management as we know it becomes unnecessary or irrelevant. If we were to aspire to these higher levels, what would our managers do? The most entrenched among them are hopeless to the point of total unknowing on the possibility of moving themselves up to a higher level of game. Thus, if some of us were able to achieve this state, it would appear to them as a threat to their very existence (which it would not actually be). So, they reactively – if not consciously – oppose any trend towards an awareness of the higher levels of the game. And their “enemies” have become anyone with an interest in working at those higher levels.

Thus their “enemies” become anyone with a serious interest in higher spiritual abilities. That includes all the followers of the more ancient teachings – mostly the aboriginal peoples of this planet – as well as various renegade groups within the framework of monotheism as well as beyond it, and their attempts to re-invent religion or spiritual practice into something more workable and true to genuine human aspirations.

The handling for these “enemies” has been to invent various pretexts for going to war with them and killing them off. That this has not in fact been very effective does not seem to phase the managers; they have no other “solution” to this “problem.”

The Role of Aesthetics in Propaganda

Aesthetics are needed to give the basically low-awareness propaganda of the managers of the West an appeal to their target audiences, those who seek a higher awareness. You can just lie to the others and they will accept it. To convince this target audience is a little more tricky.

Anthony’s shows are examples of this use of aesthetics. They are very artfully shot, and very carefully assembled. All aesthetic aspects are given attention, including the artfulness of the food itself, and the places being visited. The sound track, the music; they are all carefully put together for every show. This type of treatment has always been a “hook” to help pull in the seekers of higher awareness.

Do ordinary people who have lost interest in higher realms watch Anthony’s shows? I doubt it. But a lot of people who have been asking questions and playing around with spiritual ideas do watch his shows, I bet. These are people still on the fence, unsure of themselves spiritually. There are a lot of them and they are important politically. Liberated, they are capable of getting a lot of good done. Captive, they are capable of preventing a lot from getting done. The old-line managers want to keep these people on their side. And the new-line groups want to add these people to their ranks more than any other type of person.

The Future

What we all face, of course, is the future. What Scientologists, and many others to a lesser extent, know is that we will be in that future. We may or may not forget who we were before. We may or may not have the same adventurous approach to life we chose this lifetime. But – good or bad – we will be there. So we are intimately connected to the future on a long-term basis, not just in the context of one lifetime, or the lifetimes of our children.

The materialists and fence-sitters are unsure of this at best, and totally unaware of this at worst. They are turning away from the whole subject of responsibility, even if their own future experience is at stake. They can’t allow themselves to believe that they could be that responsible.

Some posit this as a “war.” But that is only true on the lower levels. The truth of the situation is that those who want to “ascend” cannot do so simply by “getting rid” of those who don’t want to. In the short term, it is highly advisable to minimize one’s exposure to such people (one reason I don’t watch television as a habit). But in the long term, we will have to bring them all along with us, or they will return later to try again to pull us back down again. So, it would not be incorrect to characterize this as a “struggle.” LRH has described it as “a game where everyone wins.” Well, they know that there are always losers in a game. LRH posits that the loser in this case is the “bank” (that portion of the mind that produces non-survival ideas and actions). But most people are as yet unaware that this exists as something separate from themselves. That problem defines the first hurdle in this struggle.

On the other side of this struggle lies a future that is difficult for most to even imagine. It involves a knowing and causative separation from the physical world, including the physical forms of life (biology, etc.), yet the probable indefinite continuation of the physical world in some form. It involves a knowing conviction of our own immortality without necessarily totally turning away from the various “thrills” of physicality. It involves ideas and experiences which we have – in theory – never experienced before, which would be entirely new.

For me right now, the most important thing that future holds is an abiding respect for truth; an end to all the fouler forms of secrecy and deception; and a chance for great happiness for every being who desires it.

Could Anthony and his show exist in this future? It probably could. But it would be minus the lies and pretense that encumber it now. After all, there are a lot of “parts unknown” left in this universe! We can’t all visit all of them ourselves. Or could we?

San Francisco

28 September 2016

san_fran-20160927-311-transam-pyramid-south-side

Yesterday I went to San Francisco. My major destination was my church. To get there I walked from the BART Embarcadero station through the Financial District. I returned via Chinatown, hoping to find a shop selling the wooden “trick” boxes that I had loved when I was a child. Thus, I missed all the South of Market (SoMa) renewal projects (which were just beginning when I left the Bay Area in 1982 and continue to this day). Above, a view up at the Transamerica Pyramid, built in 1972.

Downtown

With the growth of electronic banking and securities-based banks, the Financial District has been transforming. Though the old buildings still stand, they are being put to new uses. Illustrative of this trend is the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange building.

san_fran-20160927-356-pacific-stock-exchange-crop

Built in 1930, by about 2001 the building was no longer housing any stock trading activities. FOr about the last ten years it has been a fitness club with a New Age angle for upscale Millennials.

The old Transamerica Building, at the triangle corner of Columbus, Jackson and Montgomery, was converted to its present use by my church in 2003.

san_fran-20160927-315-transam-bldg-west-side

Chinatown

I remember Chinatown in the early 1980s as a run-down and forlorn ghost of what I remembered from the 1960s. However, the process of urban renewal (sometimes know by the less-than-complimentary term “gentrification”) has probably helped to keep Chinatown alive. Though the center of old Chinatown is considered to be Grant St., I spent most of my time on Stockton. The northern part of Stockton is lined with food shops. Here is sold fresh produce and meats – especially seafood – cooked meats such as ducks and chickens, and dried foods of an enormous variety.

san_fran-20160927-330-stockton-market-dried-and-seafood

Many of these shops are very orderly, such as the one pictured above. All the signs are in Chinese; these food shops are for use by the local community or people who speak (read) Chinese.

The south side of Stockton is now lined mostly with upscale gift shops. This used to be the area my parents would take me to find decorated wooden “trick” boxes and other toys, and to gaze at the amazing jade and ivory carvings. This is still a major tourist destination.

These shops now carry mostly more expensive items – for adults, not children – and some cheap toys. One shop proprietor who I asked about this told me she thought that those old toys required too much hand work, and could no longer could be made inexpensively. She showed me her inventory of little hand-beaded purses. She told me she can no longer get these purses – these are her last ones.

BART

berkeley-20160927-358-inside-bart

The Bay Area Rapid Transit system began construction in the 1960s and was first opened in 1972. The cars use off-standard train trucks (the four-wheel assemblies you see on all trains) on steel rails fastened to a concrete bed on rubber shock-absorbing pads. In this system, electricity is delivered to the trains via a “third rail” which is actually up to one side of the ground rails. Most newer systems I have seen use overhead wires for this purpose, and use standard gauge rails and trucks. Per the Wikipedia article on BART, use of the wider rail gauge has increased maintenance costs. Standard American gauge rails will be used on at least one future extension.

I remember the trains being noisy when I rode them 35 years ago. But now they are VERY noisy.  And this is after a noise reduction program, completed last year. Before then, noise levels of 100dB, which is 8 times as loud as the 70dB “average,” were being reported at many points in the system.

Per Wikipedia this is because train trucks have straight axles (both wheels rigidly attached to each other) and so always screech, or slip, around curves. I can find no talk on the internet of redesigning trucks so that each wheel rotates independently. Straight axles are the tried-and-true design for coping with the weight bearing requirements of train trucks. Almost no one has considered that passenger train trucks should be designed differently than freight train trucks because of the sensitivities to noise of human cargo. A few light rail systems use special trucks with rubber wheels. But in most places the cost of these must have been considered prohibitive. It is too bad that so many have to suffer due to economic considerations. An urban train ride could be a delightful experience. Cost-cutting measures have reduced it to near-torture on BART.

Park Pictures Monday 26th

26 September 2016

berkeley-20160926-174-strawberry-creek-parkI wore out my feet walking around Berkeley and Richmond yesterday (in newish shoes) but went back out today to track down more places in Berkeley that I had been associated with.

The overall impression left from this walk – and most of my other walks – is a city in transition. While the disenfranchised leave messes everywhere, the forces of “progress” march on, replacing old buildings with new ones, or sometimes renovating.

There are still MANY buildings and houses that date from earlier than 1950, but there is also new construction everywhere.

I don’t consider most of my photos from this walk particularly aesthetic, but here are a few. The one above is of Strawberry Creek Park. It is a small flatlands park that has been there for some time. However, while I was living here I had no reason to ever go over to the area that park is in, so don’t remember it. Many of the old places I visited today I don’t remember. I had never visited them when I lived here, I guess.

berkeley-20160926-254-ashkenaz

I include a photo of Ashkenaz here, as it was an important place for me. I learned social dancing there, and met my friend Susan there.  In 1996 the club’s founder and proprietor David Nadel, was shot dead by a drunk he had earlier ejected from the club. A wall of ceramic tiles (visible above the car) was erected in his memory. David was always around when the place was open at night; I remember him well.

I went over to see the place where Susan used to live. At the end of the street (cut off by the BART when it was built) is a neighborhood garden, pictured below.

berkeley-20160926-265-northside-community-garden

On the route back to Berkeley, along a walk/jog/bike path made when the BART was put in, is Cedar Rose Park. Again, this is a simple neighborhood park with grass and a children’s play area.

berkeley-20160926-270-cedar-rose-park

Though these parks are nice for travelers, and important to the community, in Berkeley I did not need them as much as I needed parks in other cities. Berkeley is full of little food stores and cafés; I never had a problem finding a place to sit or getting something to drink. Some cities have financial or office districts which are like cultural deserts, or sprawling industrial or business areas where the pedestrian seems to be left out of the picture. Not Berkeley.