Hitting the global reset button

What would happen if people disappeared off the earth? The New Scientist investigates

All things considered, it will only take a few tens of thousands of years at most before almost every trace of our present dominance has vanished completely. Alien visitors coming to Earth 100,000 years hence will find no obvious signs that an advanced civilization ever lived here.

Yet if the aliens had good enough scientific tools they could still find a few hints of our presence. For a start, the fossil record would show a mass extinction centred on the present day, including the sudden disappearance of large mammals across North America at the end of the last ice age. A little digging might also turn up intriguing signs of a long-lost intelligent civilization, such as dense concentrations of skeletons of a large bipedal ape, clearly deliberately buried, some with gold teeth or grave goods such as jewellery.

And then Sterling digs up that Gulf Of Cambay sunken city story from a couple years ago. Four years later, there’s no apparent conclusion to the story, so it’s something for the same file cabinet as the Bimini Road. Putting both stories together makes me wonder just how many times this has happened before, going back 70 million years or so when one sauropod asked his buddy if that comet was worth worrying about. Because you need more things to worry about, here’s NASA’s Asteroid Comet Impact Hazard page.

More Harbies!

Harbie #1 (Harbor Blvd.)I recalled from some net research that there was supposed to be another Harbie The Harbor Gasoline Seal on Harbor Blvd. in either Garden Grove or Anaheim and a short drive revealed not just one, but TWO new Harbies – both of them cheerfully guarding the front of an RV park in Garden Grove.

These are actually Harbies #3 & #4, Harbie #2 is at a used car lot in Bellflower that I don’t have a picture of yet. Of course, there’s the Bisbee Harbie that started it all.

Rock-A-Hoola: water park in stasis

Rock-A-HoolaBoing Boing posts about a run-down kiddie amusement park in Egypt and I was reminded about Rock-A-Hoola.

Rock-A-Hoola is (was?) a mostly closed-but-not-quite-totally-abandoned water park out in the Mojave Desert in Newberry Springs, CA. The park has been kicking around irregularly since at least the early-70s – I remember ads for Lake Dolores (as it was known back then) airing on KTLA in the cheap post-midnight airspace alongside Truckmaster School Of Trucking and Cal Worthington. Presumably the idea was for it to be a tourist/camping stopover on the road between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I couldn’t imagine anyone being excited to to there – it’s too far for a day trip from LA and not much there to give you a reason to stay. I suppose there’s always the Vegas crowd, but it seem like they always REALLY want to get to Vegas.

Anyway, I snagged some photos of the place in October 2003. The main water slide part of the park was fenced off (and patrolled by dogs) but I got some pictures of the surrounding facilities. I still have to question the long-term viability of a water park in an area with little water and abundant evaporation, but that’s not stopping folks from dreaming.

Lake Dolores / Rock-A-Hoola on Wikipedia
Rock-A-Hoola in better days.

Happy 50th big metal boxes!

Everyone is talking about the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, but I had no idea that it was also the 50th birthday of the lowly and omnipresent Shipping Container

It may not be printed in red on your calendar, but April 26 is an important date in economic history. Fifty years ago, the Ideal-X, a war-surplus oil tanker with a steel frame welded above its deck, loaded 58 aluminium containers at a dock in Newark, New Jersey. Five days later, the ship steamed into Houston, Texas, where trucks took on the metal boxes and carried them to their destinations.

This was the beginning of the container revolution. By dramatically lowering freight costs, the container transformed economic geography. Some of the world’s great ports – London and Liverpool, New York and San Francisco – saw their bustling waterfronts decay as the maritime industry decamped to new locations with room to handle containers and transport links to move them in and out. Manufacturers, no longer tied to the waterfront to reduce shipping costs, moved away from city centres, decimating traditional industrial districts. Eventually, production moved much farther afield, to places such as South Korea and China, which took advantage of cheap, reliable transportation to make goods that could not have been exported profitably before containerisation.

Via Telstar Logistics, who also just created the “Big Metal Box” Flickr group for “photos of cargo containers, container terminals, container ships, and container-based architecture.”

One last thing, it’s also Captain Sensible’s birthday!

What I Like October 2005

1. The Flying Mobulas of the Sea of Cortez


2. Project UFO. There are three competing alien invasion television shows on television this season and pretty much all of them are interchangeably bland with extraneous drama and sub-plots sucking the life out of them. You need someone like Jack Webb to get to the goddamn point and he did for two seasons back in 1978 with the Joe Friday approach applied to the USAF’s Project Blue Book. Never missed an episode and I still remember Webb promoting it on Carson. A DVD release is unlikely, but in the meantime you can watch an online stream.


3. Prada Marfa. High fashion meets West Texas. More photos.


4. National Geographic’s “Air Crash Investigations” series. Yeah it’s another industrial forensics show, but the content is pretty good and avoids much of the luridness that’s usually requisite for these type of shows. Plus it’s all new accidents.

5. The Shortwavemusic blog. Years ago, I bought a cassette compilation titled “At The Tone…” – a compilation of events on the WWV time broadcast station (and before you crack a joke about events on a time station, I wouldn’t bring it up if it wasn’t interesting). Here are some mp3s to give you an idea. Anyway, “At The Tone…” turns up in my life at odd times… I’ve listened to it straight through on road trips, played it in the background while reading, heck it was even featured prominently in the first Roswell Incident gig on KUCI. I was thinking of converting it to CD, but while checking to see if the Myke the compiler had done it already, I ran across his blog – a cornucopia of oddball findings on shortwave radio. This description of one intercept give you an idea:

“The film rolls: A generic red mountain vista, soaring aerial camera footage, America, adventure, flying eagles, Industrial Lights and Magic. Suddenly, a crowd of Daleks emerge from a volcano in the Tardis and break into song. Ansel Adams’ worst nightmare, or FEBA Radio interception?

As a first-generation purchaser of The Conet Project, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Things I Like September 2005 (continued ennui edition)

1. The television series Fortier. Gritty police crime dramas are a dime-a-dozen, but this one is superior than most anything else that’s airing right now. Reminds me a lot of Prime Suspect only with grouchy French-Canadians.


2. I’m not a big fan of watermelons, but I might reconsider now that they’ve been repackaged as Godzilla eggs.


3. This essay on the Winchester Mystery House which recontextualizes Sarah Winchester’s mania into a capitalist parable.

Part of what makes the Winchester Mystery House so spooky, I think, is the way it reminds visitors and Silicon Valley neighbors of how fleeting industrial power really is–eventually, the fortunes made in Silicon Valley will pass away and remain only in the form of preserved houses built during the 1980s and 1990s. The death of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, symbolized in Sarah’s house, is a reminder to Silicon Valley professionals and residents that their industry, too, will die, taking fortunes and lives with it.


4. I’m not sure if I’ll see A Good Woman, but it’s goddamn great to see illustrated movie posters making a return.


5. The unbelievably fantastic metallic album covers for Philips’ Prospective 21e Siècle series of avant-garde electronic LPs.


Someone Set Us Up The Bat Bomb

batbombFrom the same war that gave you plague submarines and aircraft carriers of ice, presenting the bat bomb

It was a crazy way to win World War II in the Pacific. All the United States had to do was to attach small incendiary bombs to millions of bats and release them over Japan’s major cities. As the bats went to roost, a million fires would flare up in remote crannies of the wood and paper buildings common throughout Japan. When their cities were reduced to ashes, the Japanese would surely capitulate … The plan made sense to a handful of eccentric promoters and researchers, who convinced top military brass and even President Roosevelt to back the scheme. It might have worked, except that another secret weapon – something to do with atoms – was chosen to end the war. Told here by the youngest member of the team, this is the story of the bat bomb project, or Project X-Ray, as it was officially known. In scenes worthy of a Capra or Hawks comedy, Jack Couffer recounts the unorthodox experiments carried out in the secrecy of Bandera, Texas, Carlsbad, New Mexico, and El Centro, California, in 1942-1943 by “Doc” Adams’ private army. This oddball cast of characters included an eccentric inventor, a distinguished Harvard scientist, a biologist with a chip on his shoulder, a movie star, a Texas guano collector, a crusty Marine Corps colonel, a Maine lobster fisherman, an ex-mobster, and a tiger. Not to be defeated by minor logistical hurdles, the bat bomb researchers risked life and limb to explore uncharted bat caves and “recruit” thousands of bats to serve their country. Through months of personality conflicts, military snafus, and technical failures the team pressed on, certain that bats could end the war with Japan. And they might have – in their first airborne test, the bat bombers burned an entire brand-new military airfield to the ground. For everyone who relishes true tales of action and adventure, Bat Bomb is a must-read. Bat enthusiasts will also discover the beginnings of the scientific study of bats.

I read the book several years ago and it’s just begging to be made into a Wes Anderson movie. Air Force Magazine has an overview.