Volcano Live

“Love, my territory of kisses and volcanoes.”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

I don’t usually watch these television daredevil stunt/event shows – specials where some amazing or death-defying feat is hyped to the moon and sent into your living room complete with breathless commentary and dramatic music.I don’t have anything against such antics and don’t blame folks for watching but I… I have a life. I simply can’t spare the time for the hype, padding, and endless commercial breaks.

Tonight,though, I sat down to watch “Volcano Live” where famed high wire performer Nik Wallenda walks over an active volcano with a lava pool. He chose the Masaya volcano in Nicaragua. It’s stretched out to two hours, which is too long, but I had to see the thing. I had to see it because I have been there.

When I lived in Managua in the early 1970’s it was tough to get to the vent of the Masaya volcano. It is not a tall, symmetrical, picturesque classical volcano (like the nearby Momotombo) – but rather a low, complex jumble of craters, mounds, calderas, and cooled lava. Actually, the active vent is called Santiago – one of several openings in the Masaya complex. We would have to make arrangements for a four wheel drive vehicle so we could cross the miles of extremely rough fresh hardened lava that surrounded the vent. It was black as pitch and sharp as broken glass. Most of the times we went up there the road would be washed out and the last couple miles had to cross on foot.

It was worth it, though. The Santiago vent was amazingly deep, with a bright red pool of molten lava at the bottom. Every few minutes there would be a crescendo in the roar coming from the vent and incandescent lava bombs would come shooting out, arcing and cooling to fall, black and solid, against the bottom of the crater. The sulfur dioxide infused steam streaming out of the vent was choking and nasty – adding another level of frightening deadly threat. At night, the entire top of the mountain would be bathed in flaming light, the crimson glow of molten rock that much brighter.

Some of my brightest memories of my high school days – almost a half century ago – are of me and my friends clambering around and exploring the rugged toxic moonscape around the active volcano.

Now, the top of the volcano is a national park and they have an improved road to the top. It’s a popular tourist destination. You should go there sometime.

Watching this crazy man walk across the vast space brings back so many memories.

A few years ago, my sister took a bunch of carousels of slides that we had taken over decades and all over the world and had them digitized onto DVDs. I dug through all those old photos (the only problem is they were all jumbled up together) and found a few of the Masaya volcano. I never had a telephoto lens and the fog was always thick so I don’t have a picture of the red lava, but it’s nice to help remember.

The photos aren’t of great quality – but I took them in 1973 or so – almost fifty years ago. That is really hard for me to wrap my head around.

The crater of Masaya Volcano taken from the rim of the active crater. It is a lot larger than this photo suggests. The molten lava is hidden in the inner crater – if you look closely you can see a bit of red. Looking at this scene on television tonight – it looks like that inner crater has expanded significantly in the decades since I took this photo.

A blurry photo (taken from a moving vehicle) of the low Masaya volcano complex taken from the highway several miles away. It shows the rugged lava plain that had to be crossed to get there.

Scrambling around on the top of Masaya volcano in the early 1970s.

Some friends of mine standing on the rim of the crater at Masaya volcano, Nicaragua.

Smoke, steam, and sulfur dioxide coming out of the volcano, Masaya, Nicaragua.

Smoke, steam, and sulfur dioxide coming out of the volcano, Masaya, Nicaragua.

Scrambling down a steep pile of volcanic ash, Masaya, Nicaragua

 

 

Black As Night Sweet As Sin

“Black as night, sweet as sin.”
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

My coffee thermos.

Everybody gripes about Internet Ads and the little windows that pop up when you’re trying to find out who won the game last night.We are all bothered about lack of privacy in the online world. However, sometimes, you do find something interesting. When Firefox opens, a thing called Pocket throws up a bunch of article links that, I assume, some supercomputer somewhere examines your history and suggests especially for you. This is disturbing, yes, but sometimes these links can be interesting.

One the other day caught my eye. It was a semi-scolarly article about Coffee Naps. It talked about how caffeine competes with adenosine for receptors in your brain and if you take a twenty-minute nap right after you drink a cup of Joe – the receptors “open up” and allow the caffeine to work better. The upstart of this is that caffeine and a nap together is better than caffeine or a nap without the other.

So when I hit “publish” on this blog entry, I’m going to get my coffee (made in my Aeropress, of course) sip it down, and take a nap. Then get back up and go for a bike ride.

This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Opposites DO Attract: Coffee Naps, The Bulletproof Power Nap, Explained

Coffee Nap: Can Caffeine Before a Nap Boost Energy Levels?

I Tried a “Coffee Nap” Every Morning For a Week and It Changed My Life

A coffee nap? I tried it. Here’s how it went for me.

Science Says ‘Coffee Naps’ Are Better Than Non-Caffeinated Ones

How to Take a Coffee (Power) Nap The Right Way

A productivity expert says coffee naps — ‘nappuccinos’ — changed his life. Here’s how.

How to Take the Perfect Coffee Nap

 

 

The Hypnotic Eye

Monsters were monsters to me. I would stay up late at night and idolize the Saucer-Men, She Creature, Tarantula, then on the weekends on local CH 11’s – Family Theater – I’d watch Lugosi as the Monster, fight Chaney as the Wolfman and think that’s the coolest rumble ever! Monsters weren’t really scary to me. They were friends that really couldn’t dress well. They were esthetic types, who, for some reason, hated conforming to society – kinda like art students.

—-Joe Riley, interview on Latex Mask Central

The Dallas Eye,
Dallas, Texas

Since my medical incident I have been trying to exercise regularly – at least an hour a day. If I don’t ride my bicycle outside, I have a spin bike, with a television hooked to a Roku and a DVD player. I’m always looking for something strange, entertaining, and an hour long – so I can watch it while I ride my spin bike… to fight off the boredom. I was exploring the outer regions of the weird channels way down the Roku list and I found something called Badass TV. Looking through the odd second-rate offerings there I found something fifty-nine minutes long called The Hypnotic Eye. I know there is an old pulpy science fiction/horror movie  by that name – but this was something different.

Back in the day, I always dreamed of getting myself a public access cable TV show and put a bunch of weird stuff on. Well, somebody here in Dallas did that. The guy’s name was Joe Riley (he was big in the early days of the Subgenius thing) and his show was The Hypnotic Eye. One episode was on Badass TV and I watched it and it did make the hour go by relatively boredom free. This episode was The International Show and it had a bunch of cool things on it – some I was very familiar with.

One was the fantastic dance scene “Jaan Pehchan Ho” – you may have seen this from Ghost World.

There were even a few Scopitones – which everybody knows is one of my favorite things.

So now I see that there are more episodes of The Hypnotic Eye available on Archive.org. I think I need to take a look.

 

Back From the Shadows Again

“We are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, I live in terror of not being misunderstood”—- Oscar Wilde

 

Let’s see, the last blog entry I wrote was on July 7, 2019 – on the eve of my annual trip to New Orleans for the Writing Marathon. That was almost three months ago – a long gap for me.

I’d like to say that I’ve simply been busy with other things and decided to take a break for no real reason. I’d like to say that… but it wouldn’t be true. It’s a long and complicated story and some of it I’m going to keep under wraps – a lot of it isn’t just my story – but here’s the ten cent version. It may not be completely accurate – my memory is hazy.

Every year I look forward to the writing marathon in New Orleans. But this year, I thought about skipping. First, Candy had some surgery and wasn’t really up and around completely. She assured me that it would be cool if I went. As the day approached I realized I didn’t feel very good. Among other symptoms I was weak and tired all the time.

It took me a few minutes to realize this originally said “art changed my life” — French Quarter NewOrleans.

Checking into what it would take to cancel I realized everything (two hotels, parking, the conference fee etc.) was already paid for and non-refundable. A week of vacation was scheduled and my work arranged. So I decided to go.

The drive to New Orleans wasn’t too bad – I’ve made that trip more than a few times. To make the trip easier I had a hotel in Gonzales – most of the way. I could sleep there, get up fresh and drive the last few miles. There was no hurry, but I had a hell of a time getting out of bed. Eventually I hauled myself into the car and drove on into the Big Easy… and checked into my French Quarter Hotel. It was a beautiful piece of luxurious historical lodging and I was excited… though a bit worn out.

The first evening reception of the Writing Marathon was great. This was the third year I had attended and there were a lot of familiar faces and old stories going around. I was excited for the week of walking around and writing.

The only problem was, everybody kept saying the same thing, “Bill, you don’t look too good.” And I felt really weak. I begged off going out to eat and live music and went back to my hotel.

And proceeded to get really, really sick.

One scary thing is that I remember spending one day in that room but it turns out I might have been there for three. I must have been unconscious/delirious and unaware of the passage of time. I do remember looking around my hotel room and seeing things as they were, but when I’d close my eyes I would see someplace else – some kind of seaside scene. Back home, Candy and Nick were upset because they couldn’t find me (I wasn’t answering my cell phone). Lee was on his way back to New Orleans from the Galapagos Islands.

Finally, I realized how much trouble I was in and called the front desk. The kicker is that I couldn’t breathe. It felt like a panic attack – but I realized that there is a big difference between not being able to breathe because you are having a panic attack and having a panic attack because you can’t breathe. I was able to stagger to the front desk and they put me in a cab that was always at the step and sent me to an urgent care center.

The cab driver, a grizzled old veteran of the French Quarter said, “Hey, you look like you’re having congestive heart failure. The last guy I had like that was dead in three days.”

The urgent care center took one look at me and realized I was too far gone for them and stuck me in an ambulance. At that time, Lee had come back from the airport and called the hotel. They said they sent me to an urgent care center, but didn’t know which one.

Lee lives car-less in downtown New Orleans so he looked up urgent care on his phone and rented a bike. Later, he told me that it was a good thing – that he could get around in the quarter faster on the bike than in a car. The first two places he checked were wrong and then he rode up to the place I was at as they were loading me into the ambulance. He said I didn’t look too good. They wouldn’t tell him anything until he begged and they said they were taking me to the Tulane Medical Center.

So, what happened? It turns out that it started with a urinary tract infection that then spread to my bloodstream and set off a serious attack of Diabetic Ketoacidosis. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but alone I probably would have been dead in about six hours. However, they knew immediately what was wrong and with treatment, I improved quickly.

I spent a couple days in intensive care. Going through my mind constantly was the Dorothy Parker quote, “What fresh hell is this?” The worst was the fact I had eight (yes, I counted ‘em – including one triple on my right arm) IV tubes and needles stuck in both arms and one foot. Whenever I would move it would set an alarm off and I would lay there listening to that awful BEEP BEEP until someone would come by and reset the machines.

It was a lot better when I was moved into a regular hospital bed and after a few days I was released. Lee’s apartment was only a few blocks away and I felt like I could walk there. But the minute I hit the pavement and the Louisiana summer heat I realized that I didn’t have the strength, sat down on a bench and waited for a ride.

That turned into a theme as I stayed at Lee’s place for almost a week until I regained enough strength to make it back to Dallas. If I rested I would feel OK, but as soon as I actually moved it would take all my energy. Simply taking a shower was about all I could muster.

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

One day, while Lee was at work I decided I could walk to the grocery store, Rouses. I made it to the store, bought some food, then realized I wasn’t going to be able to walk back (only two blocks or so). I waited outside until Lee came by after work – and was able to shuffle back with him carrying the bags.

Even after returning home, regaining my strength was a slow process. I did go back to work as soon as I could – walking across the parking lot the first day back was a serious effort.

Then I found myself having not ridden a bicycle in two months. That first day I climbed on and rode two miles. After that short distance, I felt like I had finished the Tour de France. So I made up a chart and some goals and have been working on building up my mileage since – up to ten miles per day – I was able to ride 300 miles total in September and am almost getting to where I need to be.

There has been this personal journey to put my life back together. One last thing is my writing – and I’m about there. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to write here every day, there are a lot of other things going on, but I promise I won’t have another gap like that if I can help it.

What I Learned Today, Wednesday, June 26, 2019

How to Fall Asleep in 2 Minutes or Less

from The Art of Manliness

It’s quite a knack to be able to fall asleep at the drop of a hat, regardless of where you are and what’s going on around you. To steal some shuteye at airports and on flights, on break times and car rides, in public places and private spaces — in all the interstices of life. Not to mention how grand it is to be able to go out like a light as soon as your head hits the pillow each night.

It probably seems, however, that this is simply a knack that some folks have and others don’t, with the latter group being much larger than the former.

Yet the ability to fall asleep in two minutes or less, anywhere, anytime, is actually a skill like any other, and one anyone can learn. The technique for how to do so was in fact developed for Naval aviators during World War II, and today we’ll share it with you.

When I was a kid, I always had terrible problems with insomnia. It was a curse.

In college, on my own at last, I decided that I would conquer this evil. I started reading all I could (it was the 1970’s – that meant books) about insomnia and set out to systematically learn to fall asleep. It worked, I was successful and to this day (and to this decade) I can fall asleep, almost always, when I need to.

But learning to fall asleep in 2 minutes or less? That’s a pretty bold statement. Have to check it out.

Dallas Zoo sets 46 horned lizards loose with its first-ever wildlife release

from The Dallas Morning News

For decades, the reptile has been vanishing from Texas landscapes. About 10 years ago, Texas zoos, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials and Texas Christian University researchers partnered to try to learn how to bring the critter back to certain pockets of the state.

When I was a little kid and living in Kansas, we had neighbors with a kid about my age. They would go to somewhere in Texas every summer and come back with Horned Toads. I was fascinated with these things. Cool ugly little bastards.

Now I live in Texas, fifty years later, and I’ve never seen a horned toad here. Where have they all gone? It doesn’t take much research to find out what happened. It’s a bit complicated… but really, it’s the fire ants. This introduced species are deadly to the lizards (they aren’t toads) and have wiped them out where ever they go. Every Texan hates fire ants and now there is another reason.

So the Dallas Zoo are breeding horned toads and releasing them to try and re-establish the population. I think this is admirable but it isn’t going to work, is it. What they really need to do is to breed horned lizards that eat fire ants.

 

Ida Kohlmeyer, Rebus 3D-89-3

That Secret From the River

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

I have written about it, here, many times before – All my live I have always wanted to live on a creek lot. For the last decade or so I do, sort of… it is more of a ditch lot – the creek is tamed into a straight line in the middle of the block, exactly between property lines. No natural watercourse flows in a straight line.

It is tamed in terms of location and direction… but not in terms of flow. Usually a quiet narrow strip of water barely moving, when it rains the water rises and becomes violent.

The last storm (not the big one, a couple days later) I took some photos from the Yale Street Bridge right when the rain ended and again, the next morning.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, upstream, under normal conditions.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, upstream, after a rain.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, downstream, under normal conditions.

Huffhines Creek, From the Yale Street Bridge, downstream, after a rain.

The crazy thing how fast this transformation occurs. Despite the buffering of the flood control ponds upstream during a thunder-boomer the water will come down in a wall and the creek will rise in seconds. When it ends the water drops almost as fast, leaving only a line of detritus as a reminder of the violence that was there minutes before.

These are by no means photographs taken under extreme conditions. That little bit of water visible in the before photos will almost completely dry up in July and August, evaporated under the deadly Dallas Texas summer sun and inevitable drought. This was only an ordinary spring thunderstorm, I’ve seen the water significantly higher (over the bike trail, for instance). I simply can’t get a photograph of that because of darkness and/or fear.

 

Spider Update

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”
“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”
“Small world,” said Coraline.
“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”
Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Trinity River Levee
Dallas, Texas

Only two days ago I wrote about the spider that lives in the driver’s side rear view mirror on my car.

He has been there every morning. Today, watching his behavior closely, I realized what he is doing.

When I came to my car he was nowhere to be seen, but his web was stretched out from the mirror capsule to the door. It was oval, complex, symmetrical, and beautiful shining gossamer in the rising sun.

As I drove down the road, suddenly he emerged, fighting the wind, moving over his web as best as he could.

Why didn’t he stay put? Why did he come out of the safety of the mirror housing to flap around in the speeding air?

I watched him (as best as I could… I had to drive) and suddenly realized what he was doing – what he was doing every morning out there.

He was eating his web. First, he gathered all the disparate strands into one, thick, sturdy rope and once that was accomplished, he devoured the strand surprisingly quickly. Only then did he return to the safety of the mirror housing.

I wasn’t sure if I saw it right, so I looked up “Do spiders eat their old webs?” on the internet. Sure enough, they do.

From Indiana Public Media:

Look around many homes and businesses today, and you’ll see recycling bins full of paper, metal cans, and plastic.

In a world of limited resources, it makes sense to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. That’s why humans aren’t the first to try to conserve natural resources by recycling. Spiders have their own program to recycle valuable protein.

Tangled Prey

The spiders we’re talking about are the orb-weavers, the ones that make those rounded, intricate webs you see shimmering between branches in a garden or forest. To increase their chances of capturing prey, orb-weavers’ webs are often located in high traffic areas. This makes damage to the web more likely, either when a scrumptious morsel gets tangled in it or when a bumbling human gets hung up for a few seconds!

Some orb-weavers remake their webs every day, whether it’s damaged or not. Since spider’s silk is made of protein, all this web-weaving requires considerable amounts of protein. What if a nice, protein-rich insect doesn’t get trapped in the web every day? What’s a hungry orb-weaver to do?

Recycling

That’s where the spider’s genius for recycling comes in. When the orb-weaver takes apart an old web, it actually eats the silk. The protein from the old silk is never wasted, from the spider’s digestive system, it goes to the silk glands to be made into a new web. Even if a spider misses a few meals, it can still go on spinning webs. This is thanks to the efficient recycling program that lets spiders conserve protein by eating old webs.

You learn something new every day.