Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spammer "Good Finance Blog" is a Hoax/Scam Phishing Website



Kokopelli blows the whistle on Comment Spammer "Good Finance Blog". They are a Hoax/Scam phishing website preying on legitimate blogs worldwide - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Automated Comment Spammer "Good Finance Blog" is a Hoax/Scam Phishing Website

Over the past several years, http://goodfinance-blog.com has placed hundreds of hand-entered spam comments on my blog here at JamesMcGillis.com. Their key words are “loans, personal loans, business loans and SBA loans”.

The “Good Finance blog” is a “comment spammer” and phishing website with dedicated servers located in Luxembourg. Although they masquerade as a WordPress blog, complaints to WordPress result in immediate disavowal.

Do not let the GoodFinance Gmail address fool you. Although it appears on their website, the sole purpose of their business is to phish for your email address and other personal information.

By Googling “Goodfinance blog”, I discovered that their illiterate phishing comments appear on thousands of blogs around the world. If a blogger is inattentive, Good-Finance spam comments could easily overwhelm legitimate content.

Twice I have reported the Hoax/Scam Good Finance Gmail account to Google, but emails still go through to that address. Until Google and the European Union take comment-spam phishing websites seriously, no blogger is safe from their trash.

Meanwhile, I shall go back to my blog and delete any new spam comments placed there by our friends at “Goof Finance”.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Spirit of Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico


Pueblo Bonito Ruin, with the rockfall in the foreground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Lizard-Man Sighting at Chaco Canyon

On May 21, 2008, I continued my personal tour of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.  At 2:00 PM each day, a park ranger or volunteer takes those who are interested on a tour of  Pueblo Bonito, the grandest Pre-Puebloan Indian ruin in all of North America.  Arriving early, I took a self-guided tour around the huge masonry artifact.
 
Built, rebuilt and added to from 800 CE to about 1200 CE, the complex was at its peak around 1100 CE, with large ceremonial kivas, granaries and multi-story dwellings.  Excavated and placed in a state of arrested decay through the judicious use of concrete and native capstones, one can get a good feeling for the grand affect that Pueblo Bonito must have had on tourists and traders in its heyday.
Lizard Man, the Spirit of Pueblo Bonito resides on the rockfall, just to the left of the high standing wall at the ruin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
At sundown, many people gather in the great plaza at Pueblo Bonito, perhaps to soak up the spirituality of the site or to commune with the souls of those who made this the ceremonial center of a once-vast culture.  At sundown, I prefer the less crowded sites, where the wind and birds are my only company.
 
This particular afternoon, I decided to take the self-guided tour starting at the end of trail, then making my way back from section to section, “ending at the beginning”, so to speak.  My intuition told me that I might see different things than I would if I took the same old trail in the same old way.
 
Lizard Man, the Spirit of Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image  (http://jamesmcgillis.com)About half way around the trail, there was a reward for my iconoclastic approach to the tour.  While people were passing me going the other way, I came across a huge bolder cleft by its fall from the canyon rim.  Upon it was the image of what I would call “Lizard Man”.  Facing west, into the sun, the profile of a half-human, half-lizard was warming himself in the afternoon light.
 
Those who say it cannot be true that a spirit chose to show himself to me that afternoon might want to stick to the paved roads and sanitized attractions of our ubiquitous theme parks.  There, they can rest assured that even if something looks “real”, it is probably “real-fake”. 
 
To those who are interested in meeting Lizard Man or other ancestral Puebloan spirits, take the Pueblo Bonito trail backwards, in place and time.  When you round that corner where he stands, if he wishes to, he will make himself known.  Either way, I assure that he is there.

Chaco Canyon 2008 - A Place of Sand and Rain



Dust Storm envelopes Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Chaco Canyon 2008 - A Place of Sand and Rain

On Wednesday, May 21, 2008, I hooked up my travel trailer and drove from Homolovi Ruins near Winslow, Arizona to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, via Interstate I-40 and Gallup, New Mexico.  During my transit, a cold front swept over the High Southwest deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, providing a forty mile per hour tailwind to my highway travels.  Although I ate dust and sand every time I got out of my truck, the good news was that I got excellent gas mileage.  As I approached my destination, the temperature dropped from 100 degrees f. to 65 degrees f.
 
Chaco Culture National Historical Park, my destination, is located over Rainwater leaves rivulets on the canyon wall at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)thirty miles off the nearest paved highway, regardless of which road you travel to get there.  If you are seeking an “off the grid” experience, with no mobile telephone, broadcast TV or electrical services, Chaco might be the place for you.  Gallup, New Mexico is the nearest city, almost 60 miles to the south, so the night sky is as dark as what I experienced camping at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
 
Besides the allure of peace, quiet and solitude away from our over-amped contemporary culture, Chaco Canyon, lies at the nexus of an ancient and long vanished Pre-Puebloan culture, popularly known as the Anasazi.
 
Having visited Chaco Canyon the previous autumn, I wanted to see and experience its stark beauty again, this time in the spring.
 
Winter and summer are the long seasons in the high deserts of New A late afternoon dust storm turns into a rainstorm at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Mexico, with spring and fall often last only a few weeks.  As I blew in to Chaco, along with the dust of a desert sandstorm, spring appeared to be over. Shriveled spring flowers along the roadside foretold of the coming dry season.  Or so I thought at the time. Before I could set up camp, the weather had changed to colder and wetter.
 
From the west and south, clouds quickly began to build.  Soon I saw virga, hanging like a veil in the sky, with rain clouds following not far behind.  By the time I unhooked, leveled and secured my coach, the rains started in earnest. The sound of rain on the roof of my coach did not let up that evening, and lasting well into the night. 
 
A common raven perched atop a sign, pointing the way to the Una Vida Ruin - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I made my way to the visitors’ center the next morning, it was a cold and breezy 43 degrees f.. After paying my user fees, I sought a recommendation for a short hike. I did not wear foul weather gear, so in the event of a downpour, I wanted easy access to my truck. The friendly volunteer in the old visitors center suggested the Una Vida ruins hike. Its trail started from the parking lot where my truck already stood. 
 
Taking the volunteer's advice, I shared the short path to the ruins with a friendly couple, but saw no one else in the area until my return, an hour later.  Looking back down from above, a north-facing masonry wall at Una Vida intrigued me.  It appeared to have a face on it, as created by its symmetrical windows and door.  To me, it looked like the face of the world's largest Hopi Indian kachina (or katsina) doll."Kachina Face" on an ancient masonry wall at Una Vida, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
 
Above the Una Vida ruin (Una Vida means “one life” in Spanish), sheltered by a stone overhang, was a collection of well-preserved Indian petroglyphs.  They stood out well for my camera in the morning light.  Similar enigmatic rock etchings abound throughout the High Southwest.  Because of their protected location, few acts of defacement or vandalism were evident here.
 
Upon returning to  my campsite, I walked among the ruins of an ancient Pre-Puebloan petroglyphs at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)farmhouse, which lay beneath the overhang of a cliff, less than fifty yards away.  Simply by readjusting my gaze to look for telltale signs, there too, I found ancient Indian rock art.
 
To my surprise, I came upon what appeared to be a face staring out at me from the canyon wall. This little character had sorrowful, yet knowing eyes. Splashed with ancient red ochre, Cracks and crevices above and around his eyes evidenced a large cranium made no sound and never moved.  Still, his eyes followed me wherever I moved throughout his rocky domain.
 
A countenance appears on the canyon wall at Gallo Campground, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Having traveled as much as I have in the southwestern US, I have learned to keep an eye out for the spirits that dwell in these canyons.  Like the Egyptian carvings of the Pharaonic Period, were these silent sentinels formerly human? Or are they representations of non-physical spirits trying desperately to gain the Raven in flight, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)attention of those humans who pass by their yearning, yet immobile countenances? 
 
Such is this place, Chaco Canyon, where people are rare, ancestral Puebloan spirits abound and history lays enigmatically all around, even within the public campground.

Chaco Canyon Memories 2007


Jim McGillis at Kin Klizhin, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico in 2007 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
September 17, 2008 - After two days “off the grid” at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, I reemerged into my normal “wired” lifestyle. As of this writing, I am in Taos, New Mexico, where I will attend the Quantum Leap Celebration. The Celebration starts later today and will extend across the next two days.


If you visit Chaco Canyon, you will find its geographical features as interesting as its ancient culture. The Pre-PuebloanChaco Culture” is on of the great mysteries of the past millennium. In the high and dry Canyonlands of Northwestern New Mexico, native cultures rose and fell between 600 CE and 1250 CE. During that time, the populous built masonry buildings of great elegance and unique architectural style.
This corner wall is one of the tallest remaining structures at Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

These “great houses” or “great kivas” flourished throughout the Four Corners area (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah). Then, in the thirteenth century AD, the high culture of Chaco disbanded, with evidence of deconstruction and destruction by the Anasazi, who originally built these huge structures.


As they disbanded, possibly heading south to greener valleys, their Great Disappearance became one of the enduring mysteries of humankind. When they were done with Chaco Canyon, the ancients set fire to many roof timbers and toppled many walls. It was as if they did not want anyone, including themselves to settle again in that place.


Everyone loves a mystery. Why else would people flock to this desolate and long-deserted place? We all want to know who they were, what they were doing here and where they went. To learn more about this now vanished culture, I suggest reading House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest”, by author Craig Childs. With scholarly detail and down-home story telling, Craig brings ancient sandstone haunts back to life.
Kin Klizhin "Great House", or "Great Kiva", Chaco Canyon, New Mexico - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)While in Chaco, I sought out the least-visited great house, known as Kin Klizhin, which is nine miles out a 4-wheel-drive road. On the road, the only living things I saw were birds and a herd of elk. When I arrived at the Kin Klizhin Ruin, the visitors’ register indicated that I was the first person to visit there in the past six days. With no mobile telephone, no radio and no sounds other than the wind, I spent a couple of peaceful hours there.  Occasionally, I ducked behind ruined walls, seeking shade from the hot afternoon sun.


Sometimes, our lives feel overfilled with actions and activities. Although there is apparent loneliness to places like Kin Klizhin, I found it ironic that it was once a “welcoming center” for the Chaco Canyon Culture. For the fast-walking Pre-Puebloans, Kin Klizhin was less than one day away from the combination Mecca, Las Vegas, World’s Fair, Vatican, Angkor Watt, Taj Mahal, which we now call Chaco Canyon.
As I approach the Kin Klizhin elk herd, the Alpha Bull Elk has me within his sight.  - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

Why did they come to Chaco Canyon? Why did they leave? These questions are simple, but definitive answers continue to elude us. From my perspective, I believe that a unique, but inexplicable group consciousness arose then in the Four Corners, centering itself in Chaco Canyon. With its celestial aspects, geographical features and ancient cultural alignments, we look forward to our next visit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

If You Think That Politics Stink, Then Give Generously to Sewer PAC

Alhambra Foundry manhole cover in Simi Valley, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
It has been over four years since the 2007 Quantum Leap Celebration in Taos, New Mexico. Since that time, new energy has been available for those who wish to partake. Yet, with the current global face-off between Old Energy and new, change is stifled. Entitlement thinking among self-appointed elites leads to abuse of power. In the news, selfishness, fear mongering and greed are the current winning strategies.

The 2010 Supreme Court decision favoring “Citizens United” is a good example. Through that decision, the court allowed shadow groups an unlimited voice in federal elections. Without divulging their contributors, “Super PACs” may now accept and spend unlimited amounts of money. In August 2011, Mitt Romney said, “Corporations are people, my friend”. According to our Supreme Court, perhaps they are.
Eleven $100 bills, arranged as a fan - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)


After taking “appropriate expenses”, Super PACs use the remainder to produce negative political ads. Most of that ad money will go to media corporations that are key Super PAC contributors. For the energy, entertainment and media moguls, it is a case of having your cake and eating it too.

As they say, “Negative ads work”. With so much to lose, Big Money quickly pledged tens of millions of dollars to Super PACs. The resulting Super PAC ads have created a negative aura around the Republican primaries. With their inevitable negativity, Super PAC ads are likely to determine the outcome of the Republican primary race.

The Sewer PAC corporate office in Pahrump, Nevada - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)During a recent TV news show, I heard someone say “Sewer PAC”. What a fitting moniker, I thought. After my recent miss in registering “ChristianTingle.com”, I quickly bought the URL http://sewerpac.com.

If corporations and billionaires need a place to flush their money down the toilet, I can now provide one. Rather than writing about new energy and the environment in 2012, I plan to sell out. So hold your breath against the stench and watch for further developments at SewerPAC.com.

SewerPAC.com is for sale. The minimum bid is a “billionaire’s bargain” at only $1.0 million.


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Utah's SITLA/BLM Land Swap Does Not Benefit the People or the Land


Dust storm obscures view of Comb Ridge, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) 
This section Courtesy KCPW News,  July 09, 2009
"U.S. House Unanimously Approves SITLA Land Swap", by Elizabeth Ziegler

(KCPW News)  The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a land swap with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) yesterday.  If approved by the Senate, it will authorize a patchwork assortment of more than 40,000 acres of SITLA lands to be transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in exchange for a similar amount of land in the oil and gas-rich Uintah Basin.  However, Congressman Jim Matheson, who sponsored the legislation, says it does more than that.
Source of the dust storm is just north of Kayenta, AZ - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
"It acknowledged that there's recreational value to this area right along the Colorado River corridor and taking that out of potential development had value," Matheson says.  "And in return, the state got some oil and gas properties for that type of development instead."

SITLA believes oil and gas development on the Uintah Basin land could add tens of millions of dollars to the school trust fund.  A portion of the interest from the fund is distributed to Utah schools each year.

Matheson says this is the first time that recreational value was taken into consideration for such a federal land swap.  The value of public land has traditionally been based on the value of potential development or resource extraction.  He believes the bill will set a precedent for future legislation.  Liz Thomas with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in Moab hopes it will.

"We do hope it can serve as a model because this land exchange bill, honestly, it's been years in the making and it was in the end supported by pretty much all sides," Thomas says.  "And that's pretty unheard of."

Thomas says the land swap would represent a significant step toward protecting many scenic areas around Moab, including one of the largest red rock formations in the region, Corona Arch. - (End of KCPW Story).
Peabody facilities at Black Mesa, Arizona - Click for alternate image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

July 2009 Author's Note: On a higher level, it is sad to see that we shall concentrate our destructive and extractive forces in one area.  If we were Uintah Basin Native Americans, we might think that this is not such a good idea.

Look south to Black Mesa, Arizona, near Navajo National Monument and you will find the best-hidden strip mine in the West.  Utilizing the Black Mesa and Lake Powell (Electric) Railroad, the aptly named Black Mesa provides relatively dirty western coal to the Navajo Generating Station, which overlooks Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam.  

Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad electric locomotive - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)


Today, there is a growing consensus that the dam itself was an unnecessary environmental tragedy.  During the increasingly hot summers, the oversubscribed Colorado River cannot supply enough water to spin a sufficient number of turbines at Glen Canyon Dam to meet peak electric power demand.  At such times, additional coal-smoke haze issues forth from the tall stacks of the Navajo Generating Station.  These smoke signals send a message of environmental degradation to each of the Four Corners states.  Fickle winds roundabout the canyons of the Colorado Plateau may contribute to such far-flung phenomena as Uintah Basin’s summer haze.

Coal hopper car, Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
Compromising our environment in favor of increased old-energy extraction and production will only hasten the day of our demise.  Each new scar that we place upon the land has local, regional and worldwide environmental consequences.  With this knowledge to guide us, can we still afford to create new environmental ghettos; overdeveloped, over-extracted, overgrazed and prone to 1930s-style dust storms?


Ask the current residents of Giza, Egypt if they would support a new round of pyramid building in their once-lush valley.  In ancient times, over-development there initiated what we now call the Sahara Desert.  Yes, current dwellers of the desert southwest, it can happen here.


January 2012 Author's Note: According to The Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, "Utah is weary of waiting for federal funds to complete a heralded swap of recreational lands near Moab in exchange for energy swaths in the Uintah Basin, so state school trust officials plan to start paying appraisers themselves to seal the deal."
Coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, near Page, Arizona - Click for alternate image of Lake Powell (http://jhamesmcgillis.com)(Some) Environmentalists like the swap, and worked for its passage in Congress, because it protects “remarkable places along the Colorado River,” said Bill Hedden, executive director of the Grand Canyon Trust.


“The schoolkids come out ahead and the natural places come out ahead,” Hedden said. “It’s a great exchange.”


I wonder if the Native American school kids living among natural gas wells and breathing polluted air in the Uintah Basin will be as sanguine.


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Author Jim McGillis at Navajo National Monument, Arizona - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) WindSong – The eBook - Now Ready for Secure Download

September 10, 2007 - Please click “My New Book”. After fifty-nine years, here on Earth and three months spent writing my book, “WindSong – Twenty-one Thousand Shaumbra Nights” is now available in eBook format.

Following is a quick condensation of the Prologue of the book. The entire Prologue is available as a free download. If you wish to read the entire book, please choose the “PDF” option for immediate download. And when you purchase, please note our PayPal secure payment page with "https" encrypted security.

eBook Prologue – “Out went the call. In a unique happening, Earth would soon become center stage in her own universal play on the stage of All that Is. There would be “free will” roles for those who traveled through the Wall of Fire, thus forgetting their own divine nature. Life on Earth would be a real-time, stream-of-consciousness experience, with no guarantee of a return trip Home.

If we answered the call, through considerate use of new energy, we could affect the conclusion of Old Earth and the advent of a New Earth. In addition, if we said, “Yes”, there was a one-in-a-million chance of finding our own true love, everlasting. To me, those sounded like good odds, so I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I will go.”

Join me in a madcap romp through fifty-nine years of my current life on Earth. You may laugh, you may cry and occasionally you will cringe. Read on and “Take the ride of your life”, searching for the Source of my own “true love”. You may discover aspects of your own life reflected in my true story.

WindSong, the book, is my gift of new energy to both the Old and the New Earth.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

LA Traffic - Design Purity Trumps Common Sense


Mobile construction cranes tower over the I-405 Mulholland Drive Bridge - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

In July 2011, Caltrans contractors demolished the southern half of the Mulholland Highway Bridge, which spans the busy Interstate I-405 Freeway at Sepulveda Pass in Los Angeles, California. The reasons for replacing only one-half of the stately structure at a time are obscure. Suffice to say that local homeowner groups held out for purity of design. Rather than allowing the road to jog at either end of the bridge, those groups forced Caltrans to build the same bridge twice, one-half each time. As they say, “Only in Los Angeles…”

Animal Control and CHP end a traffic break to pick up an injured cat, with untold thousands of vehicles waiting behind - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)People who drive in Los Angeles know that “The 405” is the only freeway route through the Santa Monica Mountains within twelve miles. Connecting the San Fernando Valley with West Los Angeles, the I-405 is an ever-widening ribbon of concrete, and one of the busiest highways in the world. In January 2012, I drove southbound past the construction site to Marina del Rey. My return trip that afternoon took me northbound over the same route.

On that morning, I timed my approach to the Sepulveda Pass for 10:00 AM. With luck, the morning rush would be over, producing a lull before afternoon traffic built to yet another peak. All went well until I neared the intersection of I-405 and U.S. Hwy 101. There, traffic slowed to a crawl and did not regain equilibrium for the next ten miles.

Video of I-405 Mulholland Drive Bridge replacement, showing mobile cranes in place - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As I ascended the Santa Monica Mountain grade, traffic snapped and bucked like a Chinese dragon. In terms of vehicular energy flow, it was equivalent to an acute myocardial infarction. As I approached the crest, I could see why our traffic moved so listlessly. Appearing atop the hill since my last visit, two enormous mobile cranes stood like sentries, one on either side of the freeway. From my viewpoint, the cranes appeared to be twice the height of the 100-foot tall bridge. The scene was so startling that traffic slowed to a crawl and then stayed that way until I was well beyond the construction scene.

Based on traffic delays alone, the current replacement plan makes no economic sense. Once this slow motion economic disaster is complete, Los Angelinos can then look forward to doing it all over again. From the coming Carmageddon II, right through construction and opening, those who drive in LA shall experience traffic jam déjà vu all over again. With the uncountable hours wasted by drivers sitting in traffic below, we hope that the hilltop locals who blocked the single-phase project are happy now.

Mobile construction cranes tower over the Mulholland Drive bridge replacement project - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Thanks to the local “design purity movement”, motorists will experience inconvenience for years to come. I wonder what the late Steve Jobs would think of this version of design purity. Unless he personally owned a house with an unobstructed view of the finished bridge, I doubt that he would have supported this cause.

As traffic loosened up, my vitriol for the Mulholland Drive locals faded from my consciousness. Traffic broke free near Wilshire Blvd. in West Los Angeles, and I sailed along at 65 mph. After crossing under Interstate I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway), I observed a complete absence of vehicular traffic on northbound I-405. As I approached Venice Blvd., I witnessed the culmination of a California Highway Patrol traffic break on the northbound side of the freeway. Led by an animal control van, two CHP cruisers and several CHP motor officers sped away from a phalanx of stopped traffic that stretched for miles into the distance.

Bridge replacement work at the top of Sepulveda Pass, Los Angeles, California - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Listening to a later radio traffic report, I learned that someone had called to report an injured cat on the freeway. For the sake of that feline and in honor of the kind soul who reported it, perhaps 25,000 vehicles came to an extended halt on the busiest freeway in Los Angeles. Upon entering an LA freeway, a small animal’s chances of survival are almost nonexistent. I am an animal lover and have a pet cat myself. Still, I hope that iPhone toting animal lovers do not report every small animal that enters the roadway. If they insist on doing so, Los Angeles traffic may never move smoothly again.

On my return trip, later that day, I approached Sepulveda Pass from the south. From there I could see the Mulholland Drive Bridge and its attendant cranes. Silhouetted against the northern sky, the two cranes, new concrete bridge supports and the remaining bridge deck manifested as art. It is a sight so awe-inspiring that despite traveling uphill, many drivers involuntarily slam on their brakes. As traffic-engineers know, if enough motorists hit their brakes, somewhere behind them, traffic will stop. My morning traffic had stopped three or four miles short of the dramatic hilltop scene.

Close-up of the remaining section of Mulholland Drive Bridge over Interstate I-405 in Sepulveda Pass - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As witnessed by their reactions to car crashes and brush fires, LA motorists have a perverse relationship with those who trail behind them. During such events, the collective reaction is predictable. To themselves motorists say, “I’ve been delayed by the unknown and now I can see it, so I am going to slow down and gawk to my heart’s content”. That day, of course, group consciousness among LA motorists was true to form.

My slow trips through Sepulveda Pass that day allowed me to see the sights. If you hope to view this high art sculpture for yourself, come to LA before 2016. If you miss the first round of bridge building, plan your visit for the second round in 2013 or 2014. Perhaps Caltrans can rejoin both halves of the new Mulholland Drive Bridge by 2015. Then, hilltop homeowners can emerge from their survival shelters and enjoy the purity of design that they forced upon us all. Thank you again, local homeowners, for triggering the super slow motion Carmageddon that we now endure.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ancient Spirits Jump for Joy at Canyonlands Field



Tandem parachute jumpers descend at a radical angle into Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) In May 2011, I drove Hwy 191 North to Canyonlands Field, which serves as both the commercial and private aviation airport for the City of Moab, Utah. It was a clear, windless and warm day at the airport. My friends Tiger Keogh and Terry Carlson, both of whom work at the airport, had invited me out to watch the flight action on that busy Saturday. Soon after I arrived, the Great Lakes Airlines plane from Denver, Colorado landed, followed quickly by several charter aircraft. Although the commercial traffic was interesting, voices in the sky kept interrupting my photographic work.








Watch First-time Parachutists in Full-motion Video Action


Since the land around Canyonlands Field contains so many ancient spiritual sites, for a moment I felt those spirits calling down to me. Looking up, I saw a series of skydivers contrasted by a thin overcast of clouds. Wheeling around in the breeze, their hoots and hollers reverberated across the quiet airfield.

Tiger Keogh (left) and Terry Carlson enjoy a May afternoon at Canyonlands Field, Moab, Utah in 2011 - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)Out past the Redtail Aviation hanger, where we share our MoabAirlines.com webcam, I saw beyond to the Moab Skydiving Epicenter. There, two separate businesses, Skydive Canyonlands and Skydive Moab offer tandem parachute jumps for novices and first-timers. With shouts of joy and abandon coming from all over the sky, I captured the scene using both live video and still images. To do that required juggling my Sony Bloggie Touch for the HD video with my ancient Sony DSC-F717 digital camera for the stills.

Like ancient spirits from the sky, parachutists descend to Earth in Moab, Utah - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)As soon as I arrived, a small Cessna loaded with parachutists taxied around the corner and took off. Soon, I could hear the plane circling above, but the bright sun masked my view. Until we heard shouts from above, no one below knew that jumpers were in the air. Looking up, I soon caught sight of several first-timers preparing to land. Friends were hooting from below, which set off more hollers from above.

One exuberant jumper ran all the way from the landing zone to the staging area. As tears of joy streamed down her face, “It was freaking awesome,” she declared to her friends. Indeed, it was awesome to see humans descending from a blue and white sky desert sky. The image of mythic humans descending from above conjured my own visions Moab Rockart, which often features the spirit of the ancients floating in the air.


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mesquite, Nevada - Better Economic Luck Next Time

Unfinished antique pole barn and dead cottonwood trees in Downtown Mesquite, Nevada - Click for larger Iimage (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
On April 19, 2009 we departed Los Angeles, California, heading north on Interstate I-15.  After almost 300 miles, we stopped for the night at Mesquite, Nevada, which lies eighty miles north of Las Vegas.  There, we spent a quiet night at an RV Park behind the Casablanca Hotel and Casino.  On our previous trips through Mesquite, we had ignored the town, assuming that it was not worth so much as a fuel stop in the desert.  After a quiet night at the RV Park, we drove through town, looking for remnants of its pioneer history.

While driving along West Mesquite Blvd., we saw contemporary buildings and businesses.  Even on a clear spring day, both traffic and business activities were light.  Like many Western towns, Mesquite’s proximity to open land and abundant water drove a recent economic boom.  Like Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, Mesquite rode a swell of economic exuberance which ended abruptly with the mortgage crisis of 2008.  As it had several times in its history, Mesquite again became a land of busted dreams.  Of the three casinos that recently called Mesquite home, only the Casablanca currently operates with full services. 


Old water tower adjacent to town museum, Mesquite, NV - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)
Midway on its journey from origins in Southwestern Utah and its submersion in Lake Mead, the Virgin River skirts Mesquite on its south side.  The early Spaniards named it El Rio de Sulfureo, after nearby hot sulfur springs.  In honor of John Adams, the second U.S. president, Jedediah Smith may have named it the Adams River.  Ironically, John Quincy Adams, the sixth president and son of John Adams held that high office at the time of Smith’s 1826-27 transit.  Some records claim that Smith named the river after Thomas Virgin, a member of his party.  Wounded by Indians near Mesquite Flat, Virgin later died in the fight at Umpqua River, along the California-Oregon border.

The Pleistocene Era dominated much of the Northern Hemisphere for 1.8 million years, apparently ending only 10,000 years ago.  During that period, repeated glaciation forced plants and animals from the north to share a migration route through the Virgin River Gorge, toward the more Abandoned desert service station, Downtown Mesquite, Nevada - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)temperate south.  As the glaciers retreated, flora and fauna made their way back up the gorge and into new lands exposed by the melting ice shield.  Since the freeze-thaw cycle took between ten thousand and more than one hundred thousand years, some species may have traveled north and south many times, adapting to new conditions as they regained what had been their old territory.

In the 1830’s, the Old Spanish Trail, between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California utilized the Virgin River Gorge as part of its route.  At the time of early Anglo exploration and commerce, the Southern Paiute (Nuwuvi) lived in the area.  In a uniqueVintage desert trailer home with satellite dish, Mesquite, NV - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) adaptation to their environment, the Nuwuvi combined a hunting-gathering subsistence system with some flood-plain gardening along the river.  Although Thomas Virgin sustained injury during an altercation in that locale, we do not know which Indians he fought.  Was it the relatively peaceful Nuwuvi or the more aggressive Utes, who may have migrated south as encroaching Anglo hunters stressed their game supply?

In the 1880’s, the first two Mormon pioneer settlements failed at Mesquite Flat.  After flash floods along the Virgin River ruined the water diversion trenches of first two settlements, a third group rebuilt the system and succeeded.  With an abundant, if erratic water supply from the Virgin River, Mesquite became a subsistence farming community.  There Old Trailer Park Sign, Mesquiite, Nevada - Click for alternate, larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)was slow growth in the area until the 1973, when Interstate I-15 replaced Old Highway 91.  Because of early twentieth century engineering challenges, Old Highway 91 avoided the gorge, instead taking a longer route to the west.  Once the I-15 route through the gorge became a reality, Mesquite began shipping farm products eighty miles south to Las Vegas and forty miles north to St. George, Utah.

The now defunct Peppermill Casino, opened in the 1970s, beginning the diversification of Mesquite’s economy.  By the mid-1990s, with other casino resorts open, Mesquite marketed itself as a getaway from Las Vegas and a more laid-back gambling option for residents of Cedar City, Kanab and St. George, Utah.  As its population grew,Desert Palms Motel tower sign, Mesquite, Nevada - Click for alternate image of same property (http://jamesmcgillis.com) residents adopted the shorter “Mesquite” as the official town name.  The City of Mesquite incorporated in 1984.  The 2000 Census placed the population at 9,000.  At its 2008 peak, the population had ballooned to over 19,000.

As I made my way along West Mesquite Blvd. on that spring morning, historical remnants of Mesquite Flats showed through in vacant lots and abandoned businesses.  Although most of the historical architecture was gone, enough remained to give a feeling of what the town was like in earlier days.  The remaining buildings and signs were a poignant reminder of what happens to a Western town when its commercial base disappears.  Some, like Harley's Garage, look like they closed yesterday.  Others, like the Desert Palms Motel operated normally, despite the missing paint and neon lights evident on their highway sign.
Hand-painted antique Ford Parts logo sign at Harley's Garage, Mesquite, NV - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)


In one’s mind, it is easy enough to see how plant and animal life around Mesquite may have changed, yet we know that the underlying rocky landscape has remained unyielding for eons.  That morning, we pictured ice dams breaking to the north, sending a deluge down-canyon and across Mesquite Flat. 

Then, we saw conifers and other evergreens from temperate southern climates, moving north to colonize the mountainsides of Southeastern Utah.  As game, large and small moved up the gorge, so too did the Ancient Anasazi Indians, and later the Nuwuvi. 

The spirits of mountain men like Jedediah Smith and Thomas Virgin passed by our location, moving south, in search of big game.  Although they did not find the abundant game that earlier mountain men found in the Rocky Mountains, they did find the vast and abundant land called California, lying just beyond the deserts of the Great Basin

Soon, Mormon pioneers traipsed by our historical viewing port, followed by others seeking the excitement of gaming at flashy casinos.  Finally, the landDerelict "Frozen Food - Ice Cream" store-case, abandoned in the desert, Mesquite, Nevada - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com) speculators, golf pros and second-home buyers found their way to this “virgin territory”.  Many of them arrived just in time for the greatest economic downturn since the destruction of the original Mesquite water diversion trenches.  For many, their only choice was to migrate again, in search of greener economic pastures. 

Will Mesquite Flat grow again?  Will new residents at least occupy all the vacant homes and condominiums still waiting for buyers?  Can anything surpass Mesquite’s recent peak of growth and excitement?  As long as the waters of the Virgin River continue to bring live-giving sustenance to the bone-dry desert at Mesquite Flat, our answer is, “Yes”.  We wonder if there is a “betting line” at the Casablanca Casino as to when that resurgence might occur.
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