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Death of a Shalesman 03/04/2016

Posted by zoidion in Hellenistic, History, Long Emergency, Photography.
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Twin Cities ephemera: The sorrel has been poking out of the ground for several weeks now, through several sharp chills amid a couple of record-warmth days. Any day now: the first sampling of those tender, lemony-flavored leaves.

The “tent” is up in the backyard: the “low tunnel” of white fabric that helps one raised bed warm up a bit sooner. Even before that, the garlic bulbs were sending their green shoots up to grab the sun. So far, so good, despite concerns of setting them by the calendar (October) rather than by the weather (mild well into December).

The winter’s accumulated food scraps — no need to promote an overpopulation of tree rats — are now incorporated into a pile of leaves, ready to begin “working.”

The first steps into the gardening season . . . 

The shift of seasons is perhaps most dramatic not so much in terms of temperature, after a mild El Nino winter, but rather in the movement of the sunrise point on the horizon. As always, it’s an amazing phenomenon to behold.

On a bright morning recently — 2 March 2016, at nine o’clock, just outside Oklahoma City — a golden boy who’d lately lost his luster drove, seatbelt unbuckled, his outsize car at top speed into a concrete wall.

Mission accomplished.

The day before, a federal indictment had named him for conspiring to suppress land prices in Oklahoma by rigging bids for his company’s profit. Similar charges on a state level in Michigan had led to his company paying huge fines.

In actuality, the glory days for shale-oil huckster Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy were long gone. But McClendon had lived big. As Andrew Nikiforuk, long-time investigative journalist on the doings of the energy industry, summed it up:

“Between 2000 and 2006, McClendon went on a real estate binge. He borrowed billions to acquire drilling rights on more than 45,000 square kilometres [over seventeen-thousand square miles] in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The company hired more than 5,000 landmen to plant the Chesapeake flag across the country. McClendon often made more money flipping real estate to competitors than he did extracting gas.”

At the peak, his personal theoretical wealth reached three billion dollars.

He bought a personal share in every company well, using that to garner over $1 billion in personal loans; in addition, he operated a $200-million hedge fund from within corporate headquarters. When these arrangements were revealed, the company stock price plummeted.

And like most who rake in big money, he spent lavishly.  He accumulated a collection of over 100,000 bottles of wine; bought a basketball team and moved it to Oklahoma; set up his corporate headquarters health center offering such “amenities” as teeth whitening and botox injections.

It was all rather mythic. And like Icarus, he flew too high on dubious wings.

McClendon was born 14 July 1959 to a wealthy and prominent family already deeply involved in the oil business: His great-uncle Robert Kerr, co-founder of petro-business Kerr-McGee, was Oklahoma governor during the oil-boom 1940s.

This is a clue to the proper disbursement of his natal astrological configuration: Jupiter most likely in the fourth place (house).

Aubrey McClendon

Other characteristics contribute: his boundless energy, confident outlook, inquisitiveness (a history major at Duke University) and loquaciousness indicating prominent placement — the first place (house), say — for his natal Mercury and Mars in Leo.

(And who else has Mars in Leo in the first place? Oh yeah — Donald Trump.)

Putting McClendon’s Cancer Sun — lord of the rising zoidion Leo — in the unfortunate twelfth place. (Shades of Dubya Bush.)

Perhaps the key to his natal configuration is the combination of Mars and Jupiter, at a right angle or “square.” This indicates the brash risk-taker, the one who, in Adrian Ross Duncan’s words (Astrology: Transformation and Empowerment), has “a drive to be the best, to come out on top, and to be right. . . .  There is little consideration for the sensitivities of others, as the overwhelming energy used to make a point or achieve a desire precludes being receptive to the response of the other person.”

Such characteristics were in ample evidence, for example in dismissing experienced industry geologist Art Berman as a “third-tier geologist,” saying it was “ludicrous” to give credence to Berman, who had said that the “whole shale gas adventure is just not profitable. . . . Why does McClendon have to borrow to cover his losses if they’re profitable?”

Images of the “wizard” in the cavernous halls of Oz come to mind.

The start of McClendon’s land-acquisition binge was the year of a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction (which recurs every twenty years, defining the economic and political nature of the period), that time in zoidion Taurus. The configuration then indicated an era of major disruptions to what seemed a viable situation: a perpetual-growth globalized economy.

For McClendon, Jupiter-Saturn activated the tenth place of his provisional chart: the place of vocation, public prominence and power.

But the price of methane collapsed in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis, and with it, in time, went McClendon’s empire. (At the time, Saturn – symbol of limits — had moved to Virgo, his provisional second place and home to Venus: the domain of his personal financial fortune.)

Along the way, though, he spent big money to promote shale gas as the energy of the future: He donated nearly twenty-five million dollars to the Sierra Club to help fund its Beyond Coal campaign, a disastrous decision for the Sierra Club’s credibility. And he derided opponents of fracking practices as “Luddites.”

Anyone could see the desperation and dishonesty, especially in one who had studied history.

The end game — for McClendon and the fracking racket — is matching up with the “closing square” of Jupiter and Saturn: the right-angle five years before the following conjunction. Saturn, now in Sagittarius where Jupiter is lord, is saying (as in 1929-30): This round of expansion and speculation is over. Jupiter, signifying growth, lacks “dignity” in Virgo: The economic system’s principles are both impractical and destructive.

That, in a nutshell, is all that’s needed to grasp the unraveling that is running rampant: economically, politically, culturally, ecologically.

The manner of Aubrey McClendon’s exit is an apt symbol. Greed and addiction to risk, as usual, trumped historical perspective and any inclination toward measured movement.

Just as in a slew of myths and legends.


Winters Mild, Wild 04/03/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, forecast, fruit, Photography, urban agriculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Winter is over, even here near the center of North America. It wasn’t much of a winter, nothing much to report. (Meteorologists now tend to refer to the December-February period as winter: the coldest stretch of months.)

There were a few short stretches of below-zero weather, but overall the weather tended toward mild and dry: typical of an El Nino winter. (Statistically, it was the sixth mildest here, going back to 1895.)

Around here, the norm used to be that there was snow on the ground by mid-November, almost surely by Thanksgiving. This time, there were only brief periods when the ground was snow-covered, and the first day with a below-freezing high temperature was 17 December. That’s very late.

Only one notable snowstorm occurred, and it began on 2 February: the day I was leaving town.  A week later, most of the snow had melted away again.

This past week, I’ve been spending more time outside in the yard, most of it just looking around as I ponder what edibles to start where. And how much area to sow with nitrogen-fixing clover.  But also: checking on the two hazelnut saplings, wondering how much more they’ll grow this year: year three, the year of leaping. (“Sleep, creep, leap.”) 

And pruning the cherry tree — a rogue gust of wind broke a branch last summer. After sawing it off, I stood there a bit and imagined building and having a “fruit wall”  — I have a fair amount of urbanite (concrete pavement) on site, next to the garage: the parking spot, ruined by the roots of the now-gone silver maple tree that I foolishly let grow big, and the currently-useless triangular spot that I’ve had my eye on for years. I could use chunks of urbanite to build a protective wall. That would be another round of heavy labor, but if I do nothing that tree, in the space between two houses, will continue being buffeted.

A regular reader might wonder: Did I schedule my getaway astro-meteorologically? Well, of course, to a degree.

The dates for the photography workshop were not my doing, but I noted that the first few days would be during the waning Moon, with both Mercury (more unusually) and Venus (more commonly) far enough from the Sun’s rays to be visible. The crescent Moon, Mercury and Venus would make a tantalizing sight. (See photo included in previous post.) In fact, all the planets–Mercury through Saturn–would be visible, like beads on a long string arcing most of the way across the pre-dawn sky.

But I wanted to allow myself a full day there before the workshop began. That would make 2 February a travel day, a day during which Moon shifted from Scorpio to Sagittarius. Fiery-zoidion Sagittarius,  was at the bottom of the season chart — the key indicator for a mild season, even with cold Saturn exactly on the lower meridian.

The Moon approaching that point on 2 February, not reaching it until the 3rd, was a strong indication of a significant weather shift, toward a shot of cold. Prior to that, however, the Moon’s passage through water-zoidion Scorpio included contact with the place of moisture-indicator Venus in the season chart.

Thus, it was easy to anticipate a snowstorm — although not so easy to anticipate where it would impact most strongly.

And so, when I made my plans, I chose to avoid a scheduled departure until just after Moon entered Sagittarius. It was close: Departure was delayed for an hour, but we got away as the storm arrived and scores of flights were cancelled.

In the past week, Moon has come full circle again, but since the Capricorn ingress on 21 December 2015, Mars has crossed the place of Venus, while Venus has also continued moving ahead through the zodiacal belt. And so as Moon entered Scorpio on the 27th and began approaching Mars in late Scorpio, a notable brief (but unsurprising) warmup occurred; many new high-temperature records were set across the region on the 27th, though the weather was chillier and blustery the following day. By late on Leap Day, Moon’s entrance into Sagittarius and approach to Saturn brought below-average temperatures.

Nothing terribly problematic.

And with Mars (general signifier of warming) now (as of 5 March) in Sagittarius, a pronounced “mild bias” is indicated. In other words, an early spring.

Across the pond, however, it was a horrendous winter — particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a region close to a vortex of climate chaos. Pools of cold water near Greenland — probably the result of glacial ice melt — have been situated in proximity to areas of outrageously warm waters. Robert Scribbler has the story.

“10 degree Celsius above average sea surface temperatures off North America . . . are just insanely warm. Ocean surface anomalies used to rarely exceed 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average. These spikes off North America are an indication that the Gulf Stream is backing up and that overturning circulation off Greenland is slowing down.”

Wales and Scotland received the most rainfall ever recorded for a December-February period, with totals about two-and-one-half feet — even more than the previous record set only two years ago. At least one spot received three-and-one-half feet!

Even though the heavy rain pattern apparently started in November, the winter season’s deluge is clearly indicated astro-meteorologically. The lower meridian — the most potent zone, where events are most grounded — for Neptune, indicator for freakishly heavy rains and flooding, runs north-south through Wales, Scotland and westernmost England.


Two other moisture indicators are also present: the Venus-ascendant line (through Wales and England) and the Moon-descendant line (through Ireland and Scotland).

One could say the islands were in the cross-hairs. Have a look at the chart cast for Cardiff, Wales: Neptune at the bottom, with Venus and Moon across the horizon.


But let’s not overlook hapless Fiji, beset by a rising sea level, a leader in urging more serious responses to climate disruption, and lately devastated by tropical cyclone Winston. Fiji too has been marked this season by Neptune: The island nation is close by Neptune’s upper meridian line.


(Suva is the capital of Fiji.)


[Reading material: Look Homeward, America and Bye Bye Miss American Empire, Bill Kauffman. For an audio sample of his views, listen here.]

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