Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Write, Sing, and Move the Future Poetry Writing & Teaching Symposium

Join us for a fantastic poetry & teaching symposium

Write, Sing, and Move the Future
Poetry Writing & Teaching Symposium

with California Poets In the Schools,
August 23-25, 2013
at La Casa de Maria
in Santa Barbara, California

Deadline to register is coming up SOOOON!

GooglePomes: WHY? HOW?

Yesterday, as I was working on a blog, I was researching about Ivanpah, and typed "why" in the search box of Google. I never got to the question as I was startled to get an impromptu volunteer "found" poem from Google. So, then I tried "how." Not as successful. Ridiculous use of Google search engines, I know. But the frivolity of it all appeals.

Someone else who saw my Facebook post attempted a "why" poem as well, and his second line was: why is my poop green? Needless to say, the rest of the poem was pretty shitty as well. Perhaps he was green with envy. I guess so much depends upon one's previous browsing history.

To be fair, I did attempt some Google poem collaborations before about a year ago, and I posted them on Facebook but I had forgotten all about them. Until now. So, I thought these would make fine companion pieces. 

Sometimes when I'm alone I pretend I'm a carrot is, by far, the most peculiar line yet. Never would have crossed my mind. Maybe if I was a donkey and I had a stick and a bit of string, maybe.

And even more accidental Google pomes: 8/18/13

See also MECHANICAL POEMS for my more regrettable lines.

And now there are even blogs devoted to Google auto-complete poems!
OPINION: Google search is poetry in motion has an article: "The idea of Google Poetry began with a blog Google Poems, launched 12 months ago by Sampsa Nuotio and Raisa Omaheimo."

Um, Rod Chester, that's not quite right —the terminus post quem is not with these folks. I've been snagging Google poems for more than a year. And I bet others have been collecting them too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cat Composing on the Keyboard

Rowfft! Moveit, ya wee qwerty bastard! When I had cats, yes, they LOVED the keyboard. All that psychic energy emanating from it, I guess. Added to the fact that I was paying more attention to it than the cat. Only caveat, was that I had an Apple 2C, and, later a PowerBook—so it was a bit crowded on the keyboard with a purring, drooling cat fondly gazing into my eyes. Here, let me lift your catwoogers (bellyskirt) draped over the top of the keyboard. Sometimes I had my own live fur finger mittens as I typed. No cats were harmed in the process, but I typed many strange poems in a heretofore unknown language. Talk about touch-typing! I'm sure Molly Fisk has some funny cattyping stories as well.

Willits Bypass notes

There are areas that should not be developed.

Willits is going through turmoil now with Cal Trans building a super highway through an ecologically sensitive area. Old bog meadows under the earthmovers. No doubt, it’s a nightmare getting through Willits, but destroying precious land by moving it is not the answer!

I hate the traffic on 101 but I love going through Willits. Makes you want to stop the car and visit a spell, instead of zipping by at 70mph. Cloverdale was bypassed. Who goes through Cloverdale anymore?

There are reports of the CHP shooting protestors with rubber bullets. Humboldt has the Save the Redwoods League. Who is saving Willits?

Speaking of protestors, who remember Judi Bari (EarthFirst!)? Much of the impetus for Save the Redwoods began in Gurerneville. People chained themselves to the Big Trees in order to save them from evil CalTrans.

Sadly, US 101, AKA the Redwood Corridor—there were redwoods planted along 101 from Petaluma to Windsor—and CalTrans has CUT THEM ALL DOWN! And there was no need—it's like a pathological urge to destroy nature. As bad as the Army Corps of Engineers. There’s plenty of room for widening 101. I won't even mention all the live oaks they cut down between Novato and Petaluma. Even the sacred elms are slated for the saw.

I’m trying to remember my EarthFirst reporter friend's name. I can see his face in my mind's eye. He started out reporting on Judi Bari's involvement, then became a protestor. Then a lover. It was a long time ago. He kept saying: I can’t believe 'm in bed with Maureen Hurley, until I began to feel embarrassed about the whole thing.

Daryl Cheney is still alive and living in Willits—now there's a name I haven't heard in a while. Old growth. Out of the past.

Spirit Rockiness

Agh! I liked Spirit Rock a whole lot more before it got "renamed" by New Age yuppies. None of us called it that growing up. Not even my aunts and uncles who played there as children. All that enlightened pretentiousness in the middle of what was once a lovely cow pasture. Still, better that, than a subdivision.

Wait. it IS a subdivision—with 10,000 bodhisattva invaders. No one ever thinks of the flip side of the story. And it's not true that anyone can visit, or hang out there. As far as our personal suffering by our attachments to things attractive—it was more attractive when it was what it was—pure unadorned land.

Clearly I am suffering from a dramatic form of divided mind syndrome (the past vs progress, or time)—not wanting to see any development on The Valley, because once it's gone, you can never get it back. Development is the is a epicenter of of roller coaster emotions. The old narrow gauge railroad bed goes right past it—you can still see the berm if you look for it. 

Once there were rare vernal pools that stretched all along the length of the valley—that's why the railroad track hugged the hills—to avoid the seasonal pools and why Lagunitas was called "little lagunas"). At least the majority of Spirit Rock dwellings are not too visible from the road.

We called it Indian Rock before it was dubbed "Spirit Rock." But the Indians are all gone now. Even then, we were looking back to the past.

Ivanpah, World's Largest Solar Array

If we can’t use the Mojave Desert, then what the hell good is it? —Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yale Climate Conference
In the good old days, when folks headed for Las Vegas, they stopped off at the Mojave desert oases of Barstow, or Baker. Crossroads to Death Valley, and half-way to Hell, someone once said. These two towns were the last major watering holes on Interstate 15 (once called the old Arrowhead Trail, and/or the Mojave Barstow Highway—depending on where you were coming from, or going to). Barstow is also the fabled half-way mark from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

 At the Bun Boy restaurant in in Baker, home of the world's tallest thermometer (134 feet)—commemorating the hottest day in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth. On July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek, the thermometer reached 134°, the hottest day ever recorded. We very nearly beat that world record this year—it was 135.5° on July 1 at Badwater, but that didn't count—as it's not an official weather official station which recorded a mere 129 or 130°, depending on the tilt of your head. Mo Hurley photo

Once it was a long haul across the fabled Mojave Desert, where fuel and water were non-existant, and it was always a long way to the next big watering hole, Las Vegas (which means the meadows). Not only is Barstow an important crossroads, it's the Southern Pacific train hub for the region.

Barstow, on Historic Route 66, often called the Mother Road. Most of the diners and motels (a Route 66 invention) are gone, replaced by Mcdonalds and Marriotts. Mo Hurley photo

Farther up the Highway 15 grade from Barstowyou pass Zzyzx Road, cross the dry soda lakebed at Baker, head up another steep grade to Halloran Springs, then onto Valley Wells, and finally the ghost town of Cima and then Mountain Pass. Most of these places were once historic mining claim settlements—little more than wet spots along the way with interesting mom & pop curio shops. But that's what makes the Mojave so interesting. Who stores visits to corporate franchises in their memory banks?

Way back when, cars regularly overheated, people would sit a spell, and sip on a coke or iced tea and maybe chew on the weather while waiting for the coolness of evening before driving on. Travel was a more leisurely affair. Like William Least Heat Moon, I favor those blue highways. You're closer to the land, not being held prisoner on the conveyer belt of the interstate highway with its paucity of off-ramps.

I remember stopping off at Halloran Springs in the 1970s, and it cost the equivalent of $5 to use the toilet. There was once a gas pump in Halloran Springs too but prices were astronomical. The LoBall and Eat gas sign is an iconic desert rat's dream.

In those days, State Line (two words—not to be confused with Stateline, NV, at Lake Tahoe) was a cluster of trailers, and one rather iffy-gas pump with the cool red floaty balls leaping inside the glass tube on the face of the gas pump. Primm didn't yet exist. Business was so bad in the 1920s, that "Whiskey Pete" MacIntyre gave up pumping gas and turned to pumping bootleg. In the 1950s-70s, State Line was a gas station, with a tow truck, a large monkey wrench, and a formica lunch counter with slot machines.

If you broke down near State Line, you could get your car fixed, gamble and suck down a cold one at the same time. Some gamblers considered that wide spot in the road a little slice of heaven. Las Vegas was 40 more miles down the road.

Then in the 1980s, cars became more efficient, they had air conditioning. They could travel 350 or more miles on a tank of gas. It put State Line right out of business.

When three casinos were built at State Line in the 1990s, the story goes that Whiskey Pete was accidentally plowed up. (He was buried in an unmarked grave, standing in his boots, holding a bottle of moonshine). An army of one-armed-bandits, and an off-ramp were also installed. (No off-ramp, and a hamlet dies.) The wide spot in the road was now in business. In 1996, State Line was christened Primm, after one of the casino owners. I used to think it was Pimms. Tiny bubbles in the mind.

Other than tacky casinos invoking bison and a dangerous roller coaster, Primm didn't have much else to it—other than the Mojave Desert. There's a racetrack in the middle of the dry lakebed, and some pretty convincing water mirages too. A mirage once made doubly weird when someone sailed across the dry lakebed on a wind surfer.

They say old Whiskey Pete was reburied in a cave—some say it's somewhere deep in the Kokoweef Caves. I like to think of him buried standing up with a full bottle of moonshine at the ready in each hand.  One for that mad miner, Earl Dorr, and his underground river of gold. Ya never know who's gonna drop by. Primm's casino workers lived in seriously temporary housing—trailers—until 2004. And the gambling population was transient, and gone-bust, to say the least.

Geologist and author of A Geologist's notes on the Ivanpah Mountains, Desert (1961), and Later Mining History of the Mescal Range, Ivanpah MountainsPaul Patchick summed up the history of the Kokoweef Caves in 1961:
In the 1920s a miner named E. P. Dorr explored a cave high up the side of Kokoweef Peak. Later, in a sworn affidavit, Dorr reported an amazing discovery—and a lost mine legend was born. Deep under Kokoweef Peak, he said he found a swiftly flowing subterranean river; lining its banks were sands rich in gold.
The legend grew. "Facts" became scarce. The cave entrance was dynamited shut…there were stories of Dorr going insane, of murdered men, of men buried alive, of rich assay sheets. —Paul Patchick
Dorr got a rather dubious tilt o' the hat when a hallucinogenic sage was named after him.

Salvia dorrii, or Dorr's sage, literary inspiration for Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, aka Ute tobacco sage, is a mild hallucinogen used in Native American ceremonies and herbal medicine. —Wiki photo
We can now mindlessly drive from LA or San Francisco all the way to Las Vegas without ever stopping or overheating. Priuses can make it to the US border. Either one. It doesn't matter. And judging by the way they so self-righteously drive, the sooner they reach the border, the better. About the only thing non-negotiable on a road trip these days is the strength of one's bladder. And even that's negotiable.

But as as you descend into the Las Vegas basin, enroute to Primm, you'll pass not only the world's largest thermometer—but also, the world's largest solar array, at Ivanpah. Hard to miss it. Since 2010, Primm has had a stable population of about 2000 more engineers from Bechtel Construction Co. working on the solar plant. What would Whiskey Pete say? I assume they'll be leaving Primm soon as the solar plant is nearly finished.

Driving back on Highway 15 from Las Vegas after the Highland Games in April, as we approached Mountain Pass, near Nipton, we saw the middle tower of a vast solar array light up and it was like the Eye of Sauron shining across the desert.

Tower One blowing off a little steam.Wiki photo
When a tower lights up, it looks like there's enough harnessed sunlight to make a death ray. I wondered if I'd fried my eyes by looking at it—it was pretty mesmerizing. That eerie sight got my fingers Googling when I got home.

I used to call the area around Ivanpah Nipton (after the ghost town) or Yates Well, before I found out the name of the valley via an article on the solar array—suddenly worlds collided.

I was horrified to discover that the Saruon-like triple tower I've been eyeing for the past couple of years, is one and the same. Horrified because I had heard of the desert tortoise exodus and relocation, horrified because the solar plant is so VAST, and horrified again because it's on one of my favorite stretches of Interstate 15—and it's pristine desert from Valley Wells to Primm.

And so, now I want to know more. A lot more. No real reason, other than because it's there.

The three towers. According to Off-Grid, the world’s biggest solar power collector is being built next to the tiny town of Nipton, CA (pop. 60), ironic because Nipton is an off-grid town—deriving 85% of its energy from solar panels. —Wiki photo
Imagine my surprise when I discovered Google was a partner of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS), co-owned by NRG Energy, and Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, in San Bernardino County.

This modern-day solar Sauron has three towers, not two—and the towers are NINE stories tall (over 475 ft). Each tower array (80 to 90% built) holds about 50,000 software movable mirrors on stilts, to track the sun. Each day workers install about 500 mirrors, or heliostats, each panel measures 70 square feet. So far, a total 173,500 heliostats have been installed.

Ivanpah will use 170,000 heliostat mirrors to focus solar energy on boilers in the three solar power towers with a planned capacity of 392 megawatts.Wiki photo
As we drove through the Ivanpah Valley and Nipton, the middle tower lit up. I later learned it was a "steam blow" to clean out the turbines in Unit Two. Though it's harnessed sunlight, I wondered—at what cost? I want to support solar power, but I also am distressed by WHERE they put it. On ecologically pristine desert habitat.

The Ivanpah Valley (straddling two states, CA & NV, and two counties, San Bernadino, and Clark Counties), is a large closed basin that stretches from Cima to Las Vegas, and includes Ivanpah (Dry) Lake, Roach Lake and the ghost towns of Nipton and Jean, where it joins the Las Vegas Valley. The valley is bordered by the Ivanpah Mountains, the New York Mountains, the Clark Mountain Range (in the distance), Spring Mountains, the McCullough Range, and the Bird Spring RangeWiki photo
Not only that, but I'm horrified by how few people's homes the solar plant will service—only 140,000 homes. And there's 22-25 million people in SoCal? Is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (SEGS) an expensive albatross, or will it make California energy efficient?

The hefty price tag is $2.2 billion for 3500-acres-worth of desert to fuel 140,000 homes. I really suck at math, but when you see how much space the Ivanpah solar power facility takes up, it seems like a lot of desert is going to disappear in the next few years, thanks to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's schemes.

Five years ago, at a Yale University Climate Conference, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger said: "If we can’t use the Mojave Desert, then what the hell good is it?" And after a concentrated solar power (CSP) farm was blocked by Senator Diane Feinstein (D), Arnie growled: If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don’t know where the hell we can put it.” CSP sites use about of 500 million gallons of water a year for cooling. Not a good desert practice—and some 34 CSP farms are on the planning agenda. Schwarzenegger was frustrated with environmental regulations that were tying up solar development.

Sounds ominously like another California actor-governor Ronald Reagan's famous redwood tree quip: When you've seen one redwood tree, you've seen 'em all. (What got recorded: "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?" Ronald Reagan opposing expansion of Redwood National Park in 1996.) Reagan topped that atrocity in 1981, when he was president, by famously declaiming that: "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do."

So when Actor Arnie became the Governator, he did Reagan proud: he rammed the Ivanpah solar project through, despite environmental regulations.

The triangle formed by the red line of Hwy 15, the CalNeva stateline and the Valley Wells sign is the Ivanpah Dry Lake. The array is to the left of Hwy 15, on the alluvial plain. Mo Hurley photo from a sign at Valley Wells

The Mojave is dotted with myriad mines, with poetic names like The Evening Star Mine—the only producer of tin ore (cassiterite, tin oxide). The Morning Star mine, the Clansman, active between 1927 and 1942, was a significant gold producer between 1988 and 1993. 

And the Mojave ghost towns: Murphy Well, Nipton, Kelso, Cima Station. I like saying the names of the more mellifluous ones: Ivanpah, Tonopah—well, maybe not Parumph! Whether Shoshone, or Northern Paiute dialects, pa(h), means water.
Highway 15 (the old Arrowhead Trail), on the "Lonesome Triangle"  crosses the Clark Range, at Mountain Pass at 4728ft. Clark Mountain (7841ft) with its limestone reefs, the tallest mountain in the region, is a sky island or high desert oasis with relic flora including White fir (Abies concolor). —Mo Hurley photo, Valley Wells
Lately I've been fascinated by the water and place names surrounding the Ivanpah Valley and Valley Wells area (my favorite rest stop on Highway 15), and so, one thing lead to another, on my great web chase to find out more about Mountain Pass, Cima and Ivanpah. Believe it or not, August is the wettest month in the Eastern Mojave. And we all know how hot August in the desert is.

On Clark Mountain, whose talus slopes form the Ivanpah Valley, there are rare endemic plants (white fir (Abies concolor) —a relic species from 15,000 years ago, when the Mojave was temperate). Sky island plants not found elsewhere in the world (perhaps because the Eastern Mojave Desert also has the largest concentrations of rare earth deposits in the world—antimony, zinc, and molybdenum, not to mention copper, high-grade gold and silver ore.

I especially love Mountain Pass with its thick vegetation—venerable stands of barrel cactus, Joshua trees, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and it's a moisture trap in the Eastern Mojave. I suspect, that because of the unique geology, and rare earth deposits, there are also a few rare endemic plants—like with our serpentine soils in Marin.

I have not found anything specifically linking Ivanpah Valley to endangered species—other than the desert tortoise. But this is s region of rare plants plagued with little moisture and a short growing season. Purple desert sage (aka Ute tobacco, or Dorr's sage), spiny menodora (olive family), desert elkweed, green gentian, or desert frasera—because moisture collects at the pass in the form of hail, snow, fog, and summer monsoons. Where Ivanpah Dry Lake and Valley Wells gets their water from.

The burros aren't native, but the mountain sheep and desert tortoise are native, as are threatened species. Some 200 threatened desert tortoises who called the upland slopes of Ivanpah Valley home, were relocated to other parts of the Mojave Desert—at a cost of $55,000 per tortoise. That's $11 million to move 200 tortoises. And they probably won't survive the move. To be fair to Ivanpah, the only grading done was at the site of the three towers and power facility, all the mirrors are on posts so the native vegetation is not harmed. So they say.

Since we make the Las Vegas trek from Oakland every year (my partner's a musician at the Las Vegas Celtic Games at Tule Springs), we always break the monotony of the drive by stopping off at odd places in the desert at whim—Zzyzx Road, for example.

The real Lake Mojave, or Soda Dry Lake, Zzyzx. (Not the reservoir in AZ.) Mo Hurley photo
I once went there in the early 1970s when there still was a bit of the dry soda lakebed—that I called Lake Mojave before the Arizona reservoir and dam was named—left, there was a Chinese junk (or similar boat) stuck in a shallow pool—all gone now.

Once both forks of the Mojave River drained into Barstow, and carved out the extraordinary riparian area, the Afton Canyon, designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. It's one of the few stretched where the Mojave River still flows above ground, enroute to the terminus lakebed. No, I don't mean Lake Tuendae, an artificial pool by CSU Fullerton's Desert Studies Center.

 Desert Studies Center. Lake Tuendae, last watering hole of the Mohave tui chub and the introduced Saratoga Springs pupfish, on the Boulevard of Dreams. Mo Hurley photo
The Ivanpah Valley was on my desert bucket list of places to explore. But now it's one vast solar array. And from the sound of things, it's a prototype—one of many. The ecologically sensitive Mojave Desert is under threat of disappearing under a series of vast solar arrays.

The California Energy Commission has approved 11 planned solar plants on public lands in California — that's about sixty-seventy square miles of desert. The entire Mojave Desert is 25,000 square miles. Lush and diverse by Mojave standards, the Ivanpah array is being touted as economic cost-competitive and reliable solar power. But factoring in the cost to build it, the huge transient energy loss in delivering to San Bernadino residents—and how few homes it serves—is it? Or is it all smoke and mirrors?

According to Off-Grid: 
Solar-power initiatives have fast-tracked large-scale plants, fueled by low-interest, government-guaranteed loans that cover up to 80% of construction costs. Those large-scale projects are financially efficient for developers, but their size creates transmission inefficiencies and higher costs for ratepayers. Modest-sized projects could provide an enormous electricity boost—at less cost to consumers and less environmental damage to the desert areas where most are located. California could derive a substantial percentage of its energy needs from rooftop solar installations, whether on suburban homes or city roofs or atop big-box stores. —Off-Grid
Wouldn't it be better to follow Nipton's example of small scale local solar collectives that provide power at the source—right where it's needed, on people's roofs. It would cost less, deliver more direct energy, and there would be no environmental damage to our deserts.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Culling Old Files

Side affect of culling old back-up CDs and reorganizing old hard drives, is that I've stumbled across all kinds of orphaned oddities. The most pleasant, by far, are frightened herds of old poems I never got around to finishing/posting.

It seems that since I went back to school for my MA/MFA, I've written few poems—but as I shepherded in all those orphan poems (and played the guessing game—when did I write this?), I discovered I have a goodly amount of poems after all. OK, so the titles are often generic, and sucky, but some of the work surprises me (in a good way). A poem a week for 2009 (and counting) ain't so bad. And I haven't properly tackled the other back years in arrears.

There's a saying: Go to grad school and quit writing. In a sense, I traded in poems for prose and memoir. (I had made the blog in back in 2007 and promptly ran the other way—afraid of all that vast potential.)  I let it lay fallow for a year, then began posting sporadically in 2008. I began blogging in earnest in August, 2009. I filled 2007 and 2008 with old work and news stories. I've yet to get around to posting most of my old work from the 80s and 90s.

And now that I've waited so long to open those encrusted files, I've discovered that technology has left them behind. Even photos created in OS 7-9 are locked away in little gray Unix packets. Sometimes I can open them, sometimes not. Talk about having a fire in the belly—and not in a good way.

For a while I was saving things in old AOL emails. NO way in hell can I open those. Luckily it was mostly quotes and jokes. But I now must dust off and  resurrect an old PPC Mac and run Classic on it in order to open old Word 5 files, and SimpleText docs.

Sadly, my old work is on MS Works/Appleworks (the first version) and that's a bit more of a challenge to find a workaround. The stories I posted in 2007-08, were rescued files from when I had a working PPC iMac. Now I don't have one, and I never dreamed vast swaths of unattended work would become charcoal briquettes on my hard drive.

I am haunted by all those little gray tiles holding potential, but there's no way to even peek at the files as Stuffit has a fit every time I compulsively click on something to see what it is/was. Luckily, I found a workaround for some stuff—it's called Unarchiver. But it is flummoxed by AOL files. All I care about is rescuing my old photos from the millennial double oughts to 2009ish.

I also have vast libraries of jpg art I used in my teaching. Those too are little gray icons. I was fond of collecting landscapes, flowers, and wild animal jpgs. I considered it a bank for ideas. I especially loved my deep space pix. Horseshead Nebula, Carmina, etc. Sure I can re-collect them, but that's not the same.

And since I still haven't burnt DVDs of all those old CDs I loaded (and rescued and ameliorated when I could), because I was distracted by the shapely ankles of slender poems of bygone years, I needs must get back on task. It's burn, baby burn time.

And what are people really reading on my blog? All 86,203 visitors? (Since Blogger started counting in 2010). Well, FWIW, 25,103 of them have read my post on Vikings & redheads. Go figure. I guess I really shouldn't be obsessing about posting a dearth of poems. Maybe I should be writing redheaded poems.



(Or my Heart of Darkness when it comes to mice)

Amid fennel seeds
mouse turds on the cutting board—
mistah mouse, he dead.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


              —For Luis Kong & Carol Merideth

On my 40th birthday, Celia
threw me a surprise party. 
During the toast, I upstaged myself
& raised up my wineglass too fast,
sloshing a river of Hungarian Bull's Blood 
on my friends' pristine white wool carpet. 
That was right after I'd disgraced myself 
by flipping my dinnerplate heaped with beets 
red cabbage, & spaghetti down their white walls.
Everybody was screeching: use club soda. 
No, use salt. Vinegar. More wine! Nothing worked. 
It was really wine-stained. An ugly purple bruise 
that became a red cape waving before the bull.
My friends got divorced before I turned 41.
I, who had danced at their wedding.
Talk about bottleshock! Over a white carpet.
It took them years to reconcile, & to remarry. 
Something had to go & it wasn't the wine.
During their wedding, they clinched a deal:
& toasted their reunion with a fine red wine.
No more white wool carpets in their house!
Or me either, apparently. We should've just
thrown the rest of the wine on the carpet.
It would've saved them a lot of grief in the end.

7/20/13 & 8/17/14

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pufferfish mandalas

Who knew pufferfish were sand mandala engineers?They build elaborate mandalas to woo a female into their nest. It is literally a tree of life.  I've snorkeled with pufferfish, and do admit that I once yanked on their little tails to make them blow up like kootchie balls, because I could—and discovered in the process, they have the most amazing dulcet indigo eyes— like peacock feathers. No fugu on the menu—how could anyone eat this little ziggurat builder?

Read more:

added 7/17/18

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ocean Going Ships Timeline

Fabio Paolo Barbieri (on Facebook) wrote that Vikings invented the first ocean-going ships. I think not. Ocean-going ship, or sea-going boat? There's a fine line of distinction. What is the difference?

A working definition of ships (vs boats) is based on their ability to carry cargo, or people, and operate independently for extended periods of time. (They also had sails and oars, usually a keel, but not always.) And length, too. Any vessel over 100 feet was a ship. Or, a ship had a fitted deck above the water line, a boat may have a cockpit or it may be completely open. (Which brings us back to the matter of ballast and cargo definition of ship—as it was stored under the deck.)

But ancient boats too were definitely ocean-going, carried cargo, and were self-sustaining for long periods of time. That got me a-Googling.
The earliest known reference to an organization devoted to ships in ancient India is to the Mauryan Empire from the 4th century BC. It is believed that the navigation as a science originated on the river Indus some 5000 years ago. Maritime trade began with safer coastal trade and evolved with the manipulation of the monsoon winds, soon resulting in trade crossing boundaries such as the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. —Ancient Maritime History . Wikipedia
One simple answer was: a ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship. Did Viking ships carry boats? Nope. Another definition is "A vessel with only one deck is a boat, more than one deck—it's a ship." Again, that rules out Viking boats. 

I also found this: "A ship is a vessel with no fewer than three masts." Well, that rules out all vessel until the iconic sailing ships of the 1800s!  BTW, there is no evidence of sails on Viking boats until 700 AD; in contrast, St. Brendan (c. 484-577) was sailing far and wide in his wee báidín replete with 12 apostles. In fact, the Norse word for ship, lung is borrowed from the Irish word long." And the Irish word for boat, báta, is a loanword from...the Latin.  Bark (ship) (barque, barca.

Old Norse
båd; fartøj
båt, fartøy

                —from Loanwords in the Irish language

The one I loved was: You can row a boat, you can't row a ship. A ship is propelled by sail (or power only). Oars make vessels into boats?

Another answer: The difference between a ship or a boat has to do with function. On a boat, the function is on its deck, the function of a ship is inside it. That definitely rules out those Viking boats. A boat leans into a turn—a ship leans out.  But these are modern definitions.

We are rather slovenly with our terminology as to the differences between ships (also a verbal noun). and boats, and tend to use them interchangeably, and when in doubt we revert to the word vessel. 

I suspect in the ancient world, any seaworthy vessel capable of sailing far distances, was a ship, either with upper deck, or open boat. I suspect our friend was using this definition for a Viking ship: A ship is an ocean-going vessel. A boat is a coastal vessel, it hugs the shoreline and inland waters. You can ship things on boats.

boat (n.) Look up boat at
Old English bat "boat, ship, vessel," from Proto-Germanic *bait- (cognates: Old Norse batr, Dutch boot, German Boot), possibly from PIE root *bheid- "to split" (see fissure) if the notion is of making a boat by hollowing out a tree trunk; or it may be an extension of the name for some part of a ship. French bateau "boat" is from Old English or Norse. Spanish batel, Italian battello, Medieval Latin batellus likewise probably are from Germanic.
ship (v.) Look up ship at
c.1300, "to send or transport (merchandise, people) by ship; to board a ship; to travel by ship, sail, set sail," also figurative, fromship (n.). Old English scipian is attested only in the senses "take ship, embark; be furnished with a ship." 
c.1300, "a ship," from ship (n.). Meaning "act of sending (freight) by a ship, etc." is from late 15c. As "ships generally or collectively" from 1590s.
vessel (n.) Look up vessel at
c.1300, "container," from Old French vessel "container, receptacle, barrel; ship" (12c., Modern French vaisseau) from Late Latinvascellum "small vase or urn," also "a ship," alteration of Latin vasculum, diminutive of vas "vessel." Sense of "ship, boat" is found in English from early 14c. "The association between hollow utensils and boats appears in all languages."
skipper (n.1) Look up skipper at
"captain or master of a ship," late 14c., from Middle Dutch scipper, from scip (see ship (n.)). Compare English shipper, used from late 15c. to 17c. in sense "skipper." Transferred sense of "captain of a sporting team" is from 1830.

At the very least, I had a good time assembling this timeline and learned gobs about vasculitii (from Latin vasculum "a small vessel," diminutive of vas "vessel"), to all types of boats, in the process. The haphazardness of this timeline (still in flux) has much to do with the order in which I found the information, sometimes, literally, boat by boat.

My very ad hoc timeline:

3000 BC—Ancient Egyptians assembled wooden planks into a hull using woven straps to lash planks together, and reeds for caulking to seal the seams. (Q: is this a river boat or sea boat?—The Mediterranean Sea is much calmer than the ocean. So we take this with a grain of salt. We're thinking river barge or rafts. But here's the thing, many had sails. Some had 16 oars. Ship or boat? You decide.

ca. 2600 BC—The Mohenjodaro had extensive technical ship-building texts.

By 2500 BC, the Egyptians were building wooden vessels capable of sailing across oceans. 

2500 BC—Somalis were trading with the Arabian Peninsula; Swahili & Mali were part of huge maritime cultures of Central Africa. 

2030 BC—Ferriby Boat 3, Humber River, Yorkshire, Britain, probably was ocean-going, but because it was a flat-bottomed boat, there's considerable debate.

2000 BC—Minoan naval power controlled the Mediterranean.

1940 BC—Ferriby Boat 2, Humber River, Britain.

1900 BC World's Oldest Sea Vessels Discovered in Egypt ca. 4,000 years ago, capable of voyages 1,000 miles away.

1880-1680 BC—Ferriby Boat 1, Humber River, Yorkshire, Britain, 43 feet long and nearly six feet wide, and fitted with 18 paddles, it probably was ocean-going, but it was a three-strake (sallow keel—like a canoe) flat-bottomed boat, so there's considerable debate. The Ferriby boats are the earliest known sewn-plank boats in Europe. A big technological step from the dugout Hanson Log Boat.

The Dover boat  at the Dover Museum is sewn together. No nails.

1500 BC The Dover Bronze Age Boat, hewn from oak planks, wedged with hazelwood, moss, and sewn with yew withies, is the world's oldest known intact seagoing boat Yes, it's a large boat, it seated two abreast, but we don't know actually how long the boat was because modern buildings and roads were plunked atop it. It looks like a large modern sailboat with a central cleat-rail. However, the narrower Ferriby boats are older; Ferriby boat 3 dates back to 2030 BC—and they may have been seaworthy. The Dover boat navigated the English Channel, long before Tutankhamun became Pharaoh of Egypt. (The oldest intact boat, is the Khufu ship, built in ancient Egypt and was used in burial rituals).  —see The Dover Boat and its amazing rescue from mud and brine. And How significant is the Dover Bronze Age Boat?

1550 BC—to 300 BC The Phoenicians, the first to sail completely around Africa, (and to Cornwall and Ireland for tin). Now, that's ocean-going.

Egypt,1420 BC —Wiki
Egypt, 1250 BC —Wiki

1000 BC—Ocean-going Polynesians settled Oceania 3,000 years ago. Easter Island, NZ, Hawaii. They covered huge distances—repeatedly. And the Pacific Ocean ain't so pacific.

Nubia/Axum traded with India, ships from Northeast Africa sailed between India/Sri Lanka—no small distance.

Phoenician warship with two banks of oars, (definitely two decks) relief from Nineveh, ca. 700 BC —Wiki 

Ca. 700 - 500 BC—Then there were uniremes, biremes, used for Caesar's invasions of Britain; triremes and quadriremes. (Latin: triremis "with three banks of oars;" Ancient Greek: τριήρης triērēs, literally "three-rower") was a type of galley.
Herodotus mentions that the Egyptian pharaoh Necho II (610–595 BC) built triremes on the Nile, for service in the Mediterranean, and in the Red Sea, but this reference is disputed by modern historians, and attributed to a confusion, since "triērēs" was by the 5th century used in the generic sense of "warship", regardless its type. The first definite reference to the use of triremes in naval combat dates to ca. 525 BC...  —Wiki
Lenormant Relief from the Acropolis, depicts 54+ oarsmen on an Athenian aphract or trireme, ca. 410 BC; there would be 60 (if they were carrying horses), to 200 oarsmen, that's definitely a warship. —Wiki 

Trade routes from Greece to the Crimean and Sevastopol were not carried out in puddle-jumping rowboats, I guarantee. Sails were involved.

The world according to Herodotus, 440 BC. He didn't think Phoenicians sailed around Libya. —Wiki

ca. 325 BC—Greek navigator Pytheas sailed to Great Britain.

Greek navigator Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 118 BC, sailed a galley, a man-powered sailing vessel. With 300 Greek ships a year sailed between Roman Empire and India, annual trade 300,000 tons.

The Broighter boat an Iron Age Irish boat from 100 BC, had 18 oars and rowlocks—Wiki

The Irish Broighter boat is a gold model of an Iron Age Irish boat from 100 BC, replete with 18 golden oars, rowlocks, benches, a paddle rudder for steering, boathook, a yardarm, tools, and a mast for a sail. By contrast, there is little evidence of sails being used in Norway until 700 AD. The Norse word for a ship lung is borrowed from the Irish word long."

Broighter boat tools: 1.Boat hook 2.Mast yard 3.Steering oar 4.Small grappling iron 5.Forked implements 6.Square ended oars 7.Oars. —Wiki

ca. 400-700 AD— The Irish sailed (and settled) the Faroe Islands and Iceland BEFORE the Vikings—who followed them. Possibly sailed to the New World as well. Njal's Saga? Neil, the redheaded Irishman—with a temper.

Metal replica of original stone plaque (Wild Goose Studio, Kinsale, Co. Cork); there would've been a sail, and at least four more oarsmen. The Broighter boat had 18 oars.

ca. 500 AD—St Brendan the Navigator set sail on the Atlantic Ocean with 14, 16, or 60 men. Old Irish Immrama (from iomramh-voyage), are voyage tales. Celts had sailing ships long before the Vikings.

800 AD—Viking sailing knörr. Most Viking ships were 15 - 70 feet; earlier vessels seem to be burial boats but then they were not sailboats either. The masted Irish Broighter boat is a model of an Iron Age Irish sailboat from 100 BC.

1000-1300 AD—Viking longboats (warships). One of the biggest Viking ships was made in Ireland. Irish oak. Not Viking, but Norse-Irish.

1100 AD—Chinese junks sailing boats with a rudder (war and transport vessels).

1300 AD—Arabic sources describe New World visit by a Mali fleet in 1311.

This seemingly simple timeline took far longer to create than I care to admit. But then, I always use the rovings to learn something new.


Ship - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ancient Maritime History . Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Check this link out by vessel type at the Patrick Foundation (it has key texts and displays): CROSSING THE SEAS
Shipbuilding And Navigation - Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
Ancient technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mohenjo-daro - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pytheas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Who is this not so Fabio, and why are my knickers in such a twist? From what I can glean off the internet, this dude studied social anthropology at School of Oriental and African Studies, the University of Oxford and The King's School, Canterbury. It's not like he didn't have access to the facts supping at the grand halls of academe. Pah! He probably doesn't even know the meaning of his hometown name: Milan.