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Planets and Civilizations 30/04/2016

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Event, History, Mundane, Photography.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Much of the garden is in the ground — at least in the form of seeds — even though the average last-frost date is still a week away. Even at sunup (yay!) yesterday, as I set out to explore and photograph along the Mississippi, there was visible frost on some roofs and an invisible slick coating on our deck.


(Can you spot the fourth-quarter Moon? Hint: The tree leaning right is pointing to it.)

And in the past week the weather has at last met expectations for the season: overall cool and wet. 

Yes, I am well aware of reports of ongoing global warming trends, but that doesn’t mean warmer weather everywhere all the time. That’s why I abhor the term “global warming,” preferring instead “climate disruption.” (Here’s a state-by-state summary of preparedness for its effects.)  

The backyard precipitation gauge this past week recorded very nearly three inches of rain over a five-day siege. I watched the soil temperature gauge drop by almost ten degrees during that spell.

There has been enough intermittent warmth to bring out many blossoms on the cherry and one of the pear trees, and a few on the lilac bush. Ah, spring.

Among the good news: A second water barrel with a hose to distribute the overflow is now in place. It used to be in what used to be the community garden: the small triangle of land, formerly county-owned, that was bought last fall by the owner of the adjacent storage building. The couple who contributed it didn’t want it back; in fact, he made a strange comment to me, that around here we don’t need to be concerned about having enough rainfall. Short memory, I guess.

I also put in some serious labor, digging out a lot of creeping charlie (alias ground ivy, alias gill-over-the-ground, alias field balm; Glecoma hederacea). It got well established in the area occupied by the big elm tree, until 2012. But it’s time for something else: nitrogen-fixing white clover.

Putting onion sets (young onion plants) into the soil brought to mind a mystery — eventually solved — that occurred a few years ago about this time. The period had been about as wet as this week has been. Near the beginning of that wet spell, I’d put the onions in the ground, only to find, next morning, many of the plants flat on the ground — though with no evidence of having been chewed. I put them back in their places, only to find many back on the ground again . . . and again. What the . . . ? 

At last the idea came to stand watch at dusk, flashlight in hand. Before long, a peculiar squishy sound was coming from that area. The flashlight’s beam revealed a veritable convention of earthworms writhing (mating??), and it was evident that many had reached the surface by following the holes in which the onions were sitting: It seemed the worms were in effect pushing the onions out of the ground. Weird.

An occasional area of climate research — volcanic events — has led to a couple of particularly vivid books: Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, David Keys,1999; and Island on Fire: The Extraordinary Story of a Forgotten Volcano That Changed the World, Alexandra Witze & Jeff Kanipe, 2014.

And they lead of course into intriguing astrological investigations, and questions of prospects for any such events in the foreseeable future.

The first details historical evidence of civilizational collapses — including the Roman and Chinese empires — that followed a vast explosion that the author has narrowed down to February 535 and probably to the region between the islands of Sumatra and Java (modern Indonesia). The major planetary configuration of that year was the rare opposition of Saturn and Uranus to Neptune — the three biggest planets in our solar system after Jupiter. In addition, the Full Moon of that month was closely aligned with all three planets.

That was a lot of gravitational force, a great tug of war. No wonder Earth exploded.

Bandung eruption 535

Mr. Keys summarizes the fallout:

Key aspects of change, while ultimately triggered by a force of nature, were finally delivered through a plethora of consequent ecological, political, epidemiological, economic, religious, demographic and other mechanisms that interacted with each other for up to a hundred event-filled years before producing final, irreversible change.

Whew! It seems fortunate that such events (and overlapping indicative if not causative planetary cycles) are rare.

The event detailed in Witze and Kanipe’s book — the eruption of Laki in Iceland in 1783 — produced great misery on the island and across much of Europe, but not worldwide. Even so, the effects likely contributed to notable political instability, most famously the French Revolution. Again, the Saturn-Uranus cycle was “active”: the opposition phase, thus with Earth in between. But Jupiter (the largest planet) was only twenty-one degrees away from Saturn when the eruption started. Again, an unusual amount of planetary gravitational force.

Laki eruption 1783

While a much more extensive investigation of major volcanic events would be useful, a likely pattern is opposition involving at least two of the large outer planets. Fortunately — or perhaps unfortunately for devotees of the idea of imminent human extinction — such a configuration is more than a few years away: 2030-31, when Jupiter will oppose Saturn and Uranus.

Something to look forward to.



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.


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