Our forefathers fought for our enduring yet oft threatened freedom for which we celebrate today. Amid the barbecued beef and the glowing fireworks we seldom think about the sacrifices good men made to create this glorious country. Instead of writing a long post today I quote directly from the great Declaration of Independence which put into words the sovereignty of our beloved nation.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
A series of small fireworks light up the night during an Independence Day celebration in Compton from this file photo I shot in 2006.
I spend a good amount of time in the Mojave desert with my geeky computer friends. I've been meaning to attend a Desert Explorers trip for years. My father-in-law, James Proffitt, has said nothing but good things about the Desert Explorers and their fun and informative trips. Last weekend Penelope and I attended their annual Rendezvous in which they took over the quasi-ghost town of Amboy.
Saturday morning we joined the 20 vehicle caravan from our base camp at the abandoned Amboy motel. The trip to Kelso was led by CSU Fullerton botanists professors, Allan Schoenherr and Alan Romspert. Our first stop was a UC research center near the Kelso dunes. We were given a tour by David the steward, of their modern solar powered facility and an amazing collection of rock art in both petroglyph and pictograph forms.
The museum is packed full of interesting exhibits which would take half a day to absorb. We spent an hour there and on our way out we bought a "Mojave Desert Wildflowers" Falcon Guide, which was very helpful, but I still wasn't able to identify all the wildflowers I photographed on the trip. We almost left my wife in the Kelso Jail... oops!
From the Kelso Depot we made our way via a "paved" road over to the Vulcan mine. When I say paved, I mean that it was paved many decades ago and is now basically a 4WD road. The Vulcan mine is an open pit iron mine that operated during the first few scores of the 20th century. The mine, being a large pit, has filled with water that is toned a radiant emerald color from algae:
After exploring the mine and taking photos of it and insect covered flowers, in which I inadvertently held up the group (Sorry, folks) we headed up a poorly maintained gas-line road to the Kelso Dunes. Although this season is the driest ever since record keeping began over a hundred years ago, there were still a fairly large amount of wildflowers growing in the dunes. The dunes trap water about a foot under the sand which allows the plants to thrive even in drought conditions. I am still waiting to hear back from the Allan and Alan to help identify the flowers I photographed. This is one of my favorites, if you view the larger image you will see a tiny insect perched atop the flower:
After we left Kelso Dunes we headed back to Amboy for happy hour and an excellent rib and chicken dinner catered by one of our favorite desert restaurants, The Rib Co. The next morning we headed back to Los Angeles, but instead of taking the 40 we took Route 66 and stopping to photograph some abandoned buildings along the way. We stopped for breakfast at the Bagdad cafe and then continued along 66 all the way to the 15 in Victorville, where the I-15 and route 66 merge. You can see some photos we took on our Route 66 drive here.
We had a wonderful time on the trip and can't wait until the next one. Thanks to everyone in the Desert Explorers and James Proffitt for showing us a great time in the Mojave.
This past weekend Penelope and I drove up to the Bay Area to visit Merrilee and Keith. We attended a traditional wedding in Old Town Orange on Friday before we hit the road. The service was beautiful and the church (St. John's Lutheran) was lovely. We had to leave early in order to make it to Oakland at a semi-reasonable hour (2am).
Penelope and I woke early and went for a strenuous jog in the Oakland hills, man those are steep! After the jog, Keith and I surveyed the area in the back of the house where a stairway is to be built. We measured once and cut twice... oh wait did we get that bassackwards? Well anyway we planted stakes where we planned to drill holes for the load bearing members of the stairway. When we were done surveying it was time to pick up Merrilee who had just ridden 62 miles in training for the Death Ride. We prettied ourselves up and headed to the Pagan Re-Wedding of our caving friends Bill and Peri Franzt and Ethan and Courtney Frantz
I have never been to a Pagan Wedding or Re-Wedding and I didn't know what to expect, but the ceremony was really quite beautiful. There were about a hundred people in attendance and after drinking a variety of home made brews we all joined hands in a circle and started singing a short chant which I now forget the words to. The circle doubled back on its self and everybody kissed everybody on the cheek. The ceremony the involved the 7 couples who were remarrying drinking some wine and eating some bread and then spinning a wheel of life which we all also had the chance to spin.
The next day Penelope and I went for our hilly run again, then we all went to the Montclair Farmers Market where I scored some cheese and organic baby greens that had edible flowers mixed in. The edible flowers were really tasty and a bit spicy almost like horseradish. Merrilee and Keith picked up some fresh non-farmed salmon for dinner wich they later BBQ'd after soaking in a delicious Pernod marinade.
Penelope, Merrilee and Josh headed to Berkeley to visit the Sake Factory and buy Jim a father's day present and Keith and I headed to the lumber yard (Not Home Despot!) to pick up some tubular cement forms for the staircase. With the forms in tow we proceeded to the rental company and rented an auger with a 12" bit.
Neither Keith nor I had ever used an auger before, but we weren't too worried and as it turns out, using an auger is pretty straight forward. The only problem we ran in to was spilling a little bit of gas when we improperly laid the auger down on the ground, but no harm no foul. It took us a little over an hour to drill 6 holes and we even had a chance to take a break and have some water before we returned the auger.
After we were all done and the auger was returned I suggested to Josh, who is a photographer, that we head down to San Francisco to take some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove in to the city and made way to the Persidio where we parked near Fort Point and took some Bridge photos. I also photographed some sea gulls who were mugging it up for me.
We headed over to the Palace of Fine Arts where the Exploratorium is located and shot that famous landmark. Finally we stopped at Treasure Island to shoot the city from afar and while I shot a few pics, Josh sketched the San Francisco skyline.
When Josh and I pulled up to the house the coals were getting hot and the drinks were flowing. We ate, drank and were merry and in the morning it was hard to get up and leave, but we had to get back to LA. Penelope and I both had a great trip, albeit too short, and we look forward to the next time we make it out to the Bay.
a bunch of big quakes today... not sure if this means anything
i wonder if it relates to this story...
M 6.0, Central California: "September 28, 2004 17:15:24 GMT"
M 5.0, Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska: "September 28, 2004 18:28:05 GMT"
M 6.3, south of Africa: "September 28, 2004 15:29:53 GMT"
Last week, LANL was closed upon a security review from National Nuclear Security Administration director and Bush appointee, Linton Brooks and Bush apointee Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow who are now back in DC. The reason for closing the all nonessential sections of the lab (even high security areas like the museum and cafeteria) was a missing removable storage device that contained classified material.
From the Albuquerque Journal:
The incident is the latest in a series of embarrassments that have prompted federal officials to put the Los Alamos management contract up for bid for the first time in the 61-year history of the lab that built the atomic bomb.
Gee, I wonder if Haliburton wil get the contract worth billions of dollars? We're going to start a new cold war.
Californians are suing Diebold using a whistleblower law because the Diebold voting machines allow hackers and/or malicious Diebold campaign financing recipients to swing elections . [wired]
It's already the costliest High School ever built, with over $175 million spent on it so far. It has been put on hold for the last 4 years due to it being built on top of a major earthquake fault and an oil field that is leaching methane and hydrogen sulfide gas. The plan as it stands now is to tear down 2 buildings that are directly above the fault and build 2 more elsewhere, as well as install pipes and monitoring systems to keep the toxic gasses in check.