Friday, December 08, 2017

A Mountain Of Many Legends Draws Spiritual Seekers From Around The Globe

[WNYC] Mount Shasta, in Northern California, is an outdoor adventure destination. Weekend warriors come in droves to climb the massive snow-capped stratovolcano, camp in miles of national forest and enjoy some of the purest water in the state.
Some visitors, however, come not for wide-open spaces, but for healing and transcendence — the mountain has a global reputation as a gathering place for spiritual seekers.
Many of Shasta's spiritual-minded visitors make their way to Shasta Vortex Adventures, a touring outfit in the town of Mount Shasta. It's in a quaint little house on Chestnut Street, just off the main boulevard, right next door to a metaphysical bookstore.
Ashalynn (just Ashalynn — she doesn't use a surname) is the founder of Shasta Vortex Adventures. Her company leads guided meditations, vision quests and hiking and driving tours of the mountain's sacred sites.
"I get people from all over the world," she says, pointing to a world map on the wall behind her desk. There's a little pushpin for every client's home country. The map is bursting with pins. "They come here for spiritual growth, healing, understanding more about themselves, figuring out what their life purpose is, and sometimes just to feel the energy."
The mountain pulls in approximately 26,000 visitors each year, according to the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce. And as a straw poll of the town indicates, many of those visitors never leave.
Judith Ordakowski, who came to the town years ago, is one of those visitors-turned-residents.
"What drew me here was the mountain," she says. Now she works at the visitors' center, pointing tourists to the best spots on Mount Shasta.
Lewis Elbinger, who retired from the Foreign Service and started a donation-based teashop in town, is another.
"I was called. The mountain called me," he says. "When I'm walking through the forest, I feel like I'm walking through a cathedral."
Then there's spiritual channel and author Dianne Robbins, who heard the mountain's call while living in upstate New York. "It does not matter where you go on the mountain, the mountain's energy is everywhere," she says. "It's bliss." Read More

What It's Like to Get Caught in a Wildfire

[The Atlantic] I never thought we were going to die. Even when the canyon air filled with smoke, when the flames came rushing up, when darkness fell and the sky glowed red both behind and ahead of us. So, okay, it was a little scary. But we were just a short drive from Portland, Oregon, on a well-traveled trail my family had hiked a dozen times in the last 10 years. No one dies in a forest fire when they’re that close to home. We weren’t outdoorsy enough to die in a forest anywhere. Or so it seemed to me.
On the West Coast, the 2017 onslaught of forest fires has been widespread and relentless—a char stretching from South Cariboo, British Columbia, last summer to the Caravaggio exhibit in the Getty Center just above west Los Angeles Thursday. Blazes are striking with growing regularity in the region, sparked in part by drought and record-breaking heat. Seven of California’s 10 largest modern wildfires have come in past 14 years.
The news coverage of these fires plays like a disaster movie. Forested hills wrapped in a devil’s fiery cloak. Well-tended homes reduced to scorched concrete and melted bikes. By this point, Americans are used to watching with a mix of horror and curiosity. But as the frequency of wildfires increases, it’s also more likely for people on the West Coast to find themselves in their paths—and not always because they’re away from home.
My experience began on a sunny Saturday afternoon in early September. Labor Day was the first time my wife and I had all three of our busy, nearly grown kids with us since Christmas. Figuring we’d spend the day together romping around Oregon’s natural playground, we drove 40 miles east to the Eagle Creek Trail, a path that follows a waterfall-clotted river on an uphill climb toward the richly forested Bull Run watershed.
When we arrived just after noon, the parking lot was so crowded that we had to double back and bootleg a spot on the side of the road. Setting out through a thicket of multigenerational tourist families, taut hikers, cooler-toting beer dudes, toddler-chasing couples, and dozens of other Oregon types, we continued for three breezy miles, had a shady lunch at the High Bridge, and after an hour or so headed to the Punch Bowl Falls swimming area for a cooling dip. We were back on the trail at 4 p.m. for the gentle two-mile stroll down to the car. A sweet end to a lovely afternoon, right until one of my sons, Teddy, came sprinting back from walking a few hundred feet ahead of us.
The trail was on fire, he shouted. In fact, the entire hillside was ablaze. Read More

Gift Guide 2017: Tech for Outdoorsmen, Survivalists, and Preppers

[Tech Co] In a world filled with seemingly endless technology that connects you to the digital world, now more than ever do people want to disconnect. However, whether or not they are the outdoorsy type or more into glamping, there is still plenty of tech to help prevent you from getting lost or maybe eaten by a bear. In some cases they may take it a step further and be more of a prepper, waiting for the inevitable zombie invasion to finally strike.
Whatever their reasoning, unplugging would do us all some good, and these are the gifts perfect for the occasion. That is unless you know how to build your own natural draft furnace with nothing but dirt, sticks, and elbow grease.
Out in the middle of the nowhere you’re likely going to run out of cell coverage, and that means your smartphone will essentially become a brick. By downloading a special app and using the goTenna Mesh devices, you can stay connected with each other by creating your own private network. While you may not be able to ping the outside world, at least you can stay in touch and continue using the tech you have. The goTenna Mesh comes in a pair and starts at $180.
On a trail or off the beaten path, the TomTom Adventurer is specifically designed to keep you going in the right direction. With their GPX upload feature you can easily create your own trail and path, and if you get lost it’ll help you get back to your campsite or base station. The Adventure starts at $290, comes with bluetooth earbuds, and got a big thumbs up from us.
Have you ever sat in a bunker eating nothing but MREs and canned beans? Do you really want to play who farted with the dog and random person you saved from the zombie apocalypse? Yeah, didn’t think so. Jokes aside, stale air is a real thing, and if something does end up going down it doesn’t hurt to have it efficiently use power rather than just constantly run. Airmega gives you both purification and built in sensors, plus if you want to get real fancy a Wi-Fi connected app. We’ll have a full review later on, but it’s certainly a good looking machine compared to the other monstrosities on the market. Read More

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

California will burn until it rains — and climate change may keep future rains away

[The Verge] Wildfires are spreading unchecked across Southern California, adding more infernos to the state’s worst fire season on record. A warm, dry fall in Southern California and strong offshore winds combined to create dangerous fire conditions that will probably get worse. As the winds continue to blow, a dome of warm, high-pressure air is forming over the West Coast that could keep California dry and flammable for weeks to come.
The largest fire burning in Southern California started in the foothills of Ventura County on Monday evening. Called the “Thomas fire,” it spread overnight to burn more than 65,000 acres, jumped the 101 freeway, and was stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, the LA Times reports. Four more fires are raging from San Bernardino to Santa Clarita.
Hot, dry winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour across Southern California are fanning the flames, but those aren’t unusual for December, says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles and writer of the Weather West blog. Called the Santa Ana winds, these southern counterparts to Northern California’s Diablo winds tend to kick up during the fall and continue through the winter. 
Wildfires are spreading unchecked across Southern California, adding more infernos to the state’s worst fire season on record. A warm, dry fall in Southern California and strong offshore winds combined to create dangerous fire conditions that will probably get worse. As the winds continue to blow, a dome of warm, high-pressure air is forming over the West Coast that could keep California dry and flammable for weeks to come.
The largest fire burning in Southern California started in the foothills of Ventura County on Monday evening. Called the “Thomas fire,” it spread overnight to burn more than 65,000 acres, jumped the 101 freeway, and was stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, the LA Times reports. Four more fires are raging from San Bernardino to Santa Clarita.
Hot, dry winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour across Southern California are fanning the flames, but those aren’t unusual for December, says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California Los Angeles and writer of the Weather West blog. Called the Santa Ana winds, these southern counterparts to Northern California’s Diablo winds tend to kick up during the fall and continue through the winter. Read More

The Perils of Meritocracy

[The Atlantic] American culture nurtures many myths about the moral value of hard work. The phrase “by the bootstraps,” still widely used to describe those Americans who have found success through a combination of dogged work and stubborn will, rose from a mis-remembering of The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen: In it, the eponymous aristocrat pulls himself from a swamp—not by his bootstraps, but by his hair. And Horatio Alger’s stories, as well, while often remembered collectively as the prototypical tale of American rags to American riches, romanticized not just the social and economic power of hard work, but also the power of old-fashioned good luck. (Ragged Dick, in the Alger story named for him: “I’d like it if some rich man would adopt me, and give me plenty to eat and drink and wear, without my havin’ to look so sharp after it.”)
The myths live on, though, for the same reason myths often will: They ratify a deeply held value in American culture. They allow us denizens of the current moment to hold onto one of the most beloved ideas that has animated Americans’ conception of themselves—ourselves—as a culture, over the decades and centuries: that we live in a meritocracy. That our widely imitated and yet idiosyncratic take on democracy has been built, and continues to rest, on a system that ensures that talent and hard work will be rewarded. That the American dream is real, and enduring.
Current events, however—and Americans’ ability to share their experiences with each other, via new technological platforms—have helped to reveal the notion of meritocracy to be what it always was: yet another myth. And: a myth that is particularly pernicious, when it comes to Americans’ sense of what we owe to each other. During a discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, NPR’s Michele Norris talked with Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, and Jeff Raikes, the co-founder of the Raikes Foundation. The trio, in their discussion, emphasized the tensions between how we talk about the American dream and how people live it.
“As Americans, we want to believe that you can get on that mobility escalator and ride it as far as you want,” Walker said, “but that no one rides it faster than anyone else.” We want to believe that talent will triumph, and that hard work will be the tool of that success. Which is to say: We want to believe that opportunity is evenly distributed.
But, of course, that great escalator is far faster for some than it is for others. It is harder for some to get to in the first place than it is for others. And it’s been that way from the beginning: This country, as Walker put it, “was constructed on a racialized hierarchy.” It’s a hierarchy that remains today—one that is evident, in ways both obvious and insidious, across American culture, across the American education system, across the American housing system, across the American economy.
And yet our stories, and our myths, tend to belie that reality. The logic of meritocracy, as a concept—“a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement,” per Merriam-Webster, but also, per Dictionary.com, “an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class privilege or wealth”—endorses a world in which economic success carries a moral valence, and in which, as a consequence, the lack of such success implies a kind of moral failing. Read More

A New Study Says That Rising Seas Could Destroy the East Coast

[Mother Jones] Large tracts of America’s east coast heritage are at risk from being wiped out by sea level rise, with the rising oceans set to threaten more than 13,000 archaeological and historic sites, according to new research.
Even a modest increase in sea level will imperil much of the south-eastern US’s heritage by the end of the century, researchers found, with 13,000 sites threatened by a 1m increase.
Thousands more areas will be threatened as the seas continue to climb in the years beyond this, forcing the potential relocation of the White House and Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and inundation of historic touchstones such as the Kennedy Space Center and St Augustine, Florida, which lays claim to being the oldest city in the US.
“There are going to be a lot of cultural sites lost and the record of humanity’s history will be put at risk,” said David Anderson, a University of Tennessee anthropologist who led the published research.
“Some sites will be destroyed, some buried in marshes. We may be able to relocate some. In some places it will be devastating. We need to properly understand the magnitude of this.”
Threatened areas, including locations on the national register of historic places, include Native American sites that date back more than 10,000 years, as well as early colonial settlements such as Jamestown, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina. Researchers pinpointed known sites using topographical data and analyzed how they would fare in various sea level rise scenarios.
Florida, which has a southern portion particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, has the most sites in danger from a 1m raising of the oceans, followed by Louisiana and Virginia.
A 1m sea level rise by 2100 could prove optimistic, with several studies showing the increase could be much greater. Scientists have warned that the break up of the Antarctic ice sheet could significantly fuel sea level rise, pushing the global increase to around 6ft by 2100.
The latest US government estimate predicts a worldwide increase of 1ft to 4ft by 2100, although an 8ft rise “cannot be ruled out”.
The eastern seaboard of the US is at particular risk, with water piling up along the coast in greater volumes than the global average. The problem is compounded by areas of the coast, such as in New Jersey and Virginia, gradually subsiding due to long-term geological hangover from a vast ice sheet that once covered much of North America. Read More