Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The schooling of this blogger. Dealer, cash me out.

It is plain to see that the struggle to save wilderness has moved into a different
arena- the politics and lobbying section of the stadium. The change of venue and tactics was inevitable and not only bound but had to happen. Such a change of course while anticipated by me, is something that I have no real experience with nor fills me with any great desire to participate, if such an opportunity came up.

I know for sure that there are some sharp folks out there who are now involved
in this phase of the struggle to save the last wilderness, with the skillset needed and required to get down and dirty in the corrupt cesspool that passes for politics these days in Sacramento and Washington- folks that I feel will be able to wash off the slime when they go home at night and not have it creep into their bones.

At least I hope so, as they are about the last hope for saving the remaining wilderness, not to add any more weight to the burden that they are carrying.

I am not going to rail for the umpteenth time against the same old cast of characters that have been spotlighted here before on the backporch. I am just saying that in my opinion the needed change will not come from those major environmental groups and individuals that sold out the Mojave, nor will it come from the geniuses in DC and Sacramento that having created this corrupt system, are now busily going after finishing off the remaining scraps of wilderness. Nor do I think that the people will gain enough desire for the knowledge of what is happening, to rise up and change their own profligate energy consumption ways, and to actually give a damn about what is going out there in their name and supposedly on their behalf.

I am pessimistic today, to say the least.

This blog started last January with no set goal except possibly one day to generate a small income from ads to supplement my retirement. It was envisioned to be about the desert, possibly with camping or trip reports,etc as well as photography and other writings. That failed to happen as I discovered
the Ivanpah situation and got involved in that struggle, which we all know has now become a “wait and see” scenario, with Ivanpah 1 construction ongoing and work on #’s 2 and 3 halted for a review on the desert tortoise situation. As
I have stated before, I am not sanguine on the long term prospects for that area. Going strictly by past performance, I have no doubt that this so called
green and environmental friendly administration will find a way to carry on with
the raping of the Mojave and Ivanpah. Actually I feel that you can take that to the bank.

So having seen that my part in this new step in the struggle is actually no part, it is time to move on to other areas, but I assure you that I will still keep an eye open for new developments, and will bring those to you readers, but the details of lobbying strategy etc have no interest to me, I will leave that to those better able to fight in that particular ring.

In this time it has been interesting, I feel that I have made a few good points, most of which either were never heard or seen, or fell on deaf ears; the material is all out there, a google site search or use of the search the backporch feature will take you to the information.

As I have stated here many, many times there are several places to go for the latest updates on the battle to save the wilderness, just look to the sites I follow to find several. The fine folks you will find there have been involved in matters like these for years, and have forgotten more about these issues than I will ever know, I thank them for welcoming me into the blogging world.

Being a bus driver for the tourism industry, you meet a lot of people. I can say one thing for sure, in my talks with some, I have discovered that some were quite interested in what happens out there and do care for wilderness- that fact alone assures me that there in fact may be hope for improvement in this struggle.

So I have been schooled and I am old enough to know when it is time to hold and when it is time to fold, and I am laying down my cards, deal me out of this new game.

This blog will go on, and focus upon whatever interests me at the moment and with desert issues discussed more than most other; who knows, maybe I’ll even take a camping trip and write about it here- we will see.



Monday, May 30, 2011

Maybe this is why Big Oil is investing so much in these desert solar deals, to offset what is going on in this video.

Before watching this video, I had heard of the Alberta tar sands and the proposed pipeline, but really didn’t have a clue… now the pieces are finally
falling into place.

Wilderness from Alberta down through Idaho and into the California deserts, being destroyed- all for Big Oil and Big Solar’s benefit!

Yes, we got to approve all these projects, as Larry the Cable Guy says,
”Get ‘R Done” so the rich can get richer, we can keep on consuming like there
is no tomorrow, and the raping of wilderness can continue.



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Readers, when you hear me talk about the beautiful Mojave Desert and want to experience it quick- watch this video.

I found this wonderful video today on Vimeo, which appears to have been a school research project.

This beautifully photographed video is about 18 minutes long. If you like it, please surf over to the below page link and leave a comment for the film maker.

The Mojave Desert Biome from Roxanne Stephens on Vimeo.

Research Video on the Mojave Desert Biome
Compiled by Valerie Stephens and Roxanne Stephens
Song is The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten
May 11, 2011

I hope that you enjoy this short video as much as I did. This kind of thing really gets me itching to head up to the Mojave.

Forgot to put the link to the Vimeo page.


Robert Lundahl, film maker, has a new video up at Vimeo and here- this is a “must see.”

This came to my attention from the Desert Protective Council’s website.

From there I surfed over to Mr. Lundahl’s page on Vimeo.

The title of the video is “No Shame, No Respect: Solar Millennium Builds a Road on Ancient Geoglyphs.”

You can surf over there and watch the video or you can watch it here out on
the backporch.

No Shame, No Respect: Solar Millennium Builds a Road on Ancient Geoglyphs from Robert Lundahl on Vimeo.

In the deserts of California, fast-tracked solar projects are proceeding without shame and without respect. BLM (Bureau of Land Management) permitting allowed projects to go ahead on the basis of inadequate EISs (Environmental Impact Statements), in a way that damages the environment and significant Native American cultural resources. Now it is up to us to stop them on the ground and in the courts.

Folks, please watch the video and leave a comment on Vimeo supporting Mr.
Lundahl and his work, if you would.


Think hackers tried to get into the backporch. Maybe they don’t have anything better to do.

I base it upon this graph from Google stats.
ScreenHunter_01 May. 26 11.23

196 Page views? Contrast that with what statcounter shows:
ScreenHunter_02 May. 26 11.25

Quite a drop from 196 down to 6 views. I am inclined to think there is
either a glitch at Google stats or some kind of thing was going on involving
internet explorer which was the alleged browser of 200 viewers, that is the “missing mystery” viewers that statcounter did not catch.

On neither page does it show 200 hits on a page or adding up from various pages that were allegedly viewed after 12 a.m. my time today.

I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have 200 visitors, all clicking on ads, per day.

Yeah, sure, in my dreams.


Monday, May 23, 2011

A year later and the Mojave Desert Cross is still missing from atop Sunrise Rock.

It is hard to believe that about a year ago I was sitting in a McDonald’s surfing the net and came across the news of its’ theft from Chris Clarke’s Coyote Crossing site. This was the first I had heard of it and since my company had no work for me that day, I immediately took off for Sunrise Rock in the Mojave National Preserve…..
mojavecross 007

The rest is history, a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and there has
been time for reflecting upon this event.

First, to the alleged veteran who per a letter dropped off with a small local newspaper claiming credit for the act and giving the motivation for it, you have made your point, could you please drive out there and drop it off, if nothing else?

At the time, when interviewed by the media on site, my immediate reaction was one of outrage, I likened it to stealing a cross from atop a grave in a military cemetery, I believe. I still feel that way, but mixed now with sadness, I guess.

Having personally climbed up atop Sunrise Rock several times, and having looked all around at the beauty of that area of Cima Dome, gazing out toward Clarke Mountain and the Kokoweef “River of Gold” area in the distance, feeling the winds gusting, to the point of fearing that I might be blown off the top, I feel that I am qualified to have an opinion on this issue. Having been a student of history and of war, for many years, I feel that I am entitled to an opinion on this issue.

The Mojave National Preserve is a giant jewel of our National Park Service. But its’ very name denotes a different purpose for this wonderful place- Mojave National Preserve. This preserve not only showcases nature in all her beauty and majesty, but it highlights man’s effects upon the landscape. This area has been mined, cattle have grazed upon it for over a hundred years, why the Lanfair Valley was even homesteaded with little farms at one time, until the drought ran them out, did you know that there were a few families still farming there at the beginning of the 20th century?

This place has a history, from the native american peoples that settled long ago in the area up to the last remaining ranch in the preserve, the name of which escapes me, but the family is still active today and recently were involved with events in the park, one member is a fine poet if I recall.

What I am trying to impart to you, my readers, is that this place has a history of man within its’ confines, we can’t erase that, nor should we want to.I, for one, love the old cattle pens and water tanks that are still around, and enjoyed my recent visit to the Vulcan Mine off Forshay Pass Road recently, we can’t just wish all this history away. It is our history, it is where we came from. How do you know where you are going, if you don’t have a clue where you came from?

This nation is embarked upon wars at this moment in our history, unnecessary wars in my opinion; still that does not dismiss the real sacrifices that some are making over there, and all the others, the ones that came back home, and those who didn’t: which was, and is now, and always will be the reason and purpose for that old, rugged iron cross which once stood atop Sunrise Rock, many decades before they even created this federally owned(taxpayer owned) Mojave National Preserve. We must not forget those who gave all that they had to give, all those many long decades ago.

This cross was part of the area’s and our nation’s history- for just that reason, it should have been allowed to stand up there alone as a reminder of what our ancestor’s endured over in the trenches of France and Belgium in the
First World War. Crosses have always historically been considered appropriate for military and other graves, if those interred underneath were Christians, and most at that time were;I, and many others don’t have a problem with the Mojave Desert Cross standing there for over 50 years.

But we know that some were not happy with this history, and began litigation to have the cross taken down. Litigation which went on for over a decade, and which was close to being settled when the U.S.Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts, and to some observers, sent a clear signal that it would be allowed to stand, and the cross was re-erected, and then stolen in a bold and totally unexpected development, at least to this blogger.

So now a year is in the books, a year that has gone by with a cross missing from that rocky outcrop in the Mojave. Some have stated on the record that it shouldn’t be put back up, for a multitude of reasons. I feel that I have made the case for it to be returned to its’ rightful place looking down from atop Sunrise Rock. Not just for the memory of those who fell in war, but for those who survived and the families of the participants in that “war that was to end all wars.” You know at that time, that was the fervent wish and hope for all, that the terrible conflagration would be the end of war. But now we know the timeless wisdom of the ancient greek philosopher who said that only the dead have seen the end of war, was probably the truth then and now, to our regret.

I say this cross is a forceful reminder to we, the people, today, that war as an instrument of national policy should be ended and that we must start anew in
finding an alternative to it- that we should rediscover the wisdom of the ancient ones who came before us, drop our conceit and arrogance, and try to get along as a nation with the rest of humanity that is all trying to get by on this tiny blue orb adrift in the cosmos- to quote another wise greek from ancient times, Aeschylus the great tragic dramatist:

“He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

To those of faith involved in politics, may I just offer a scripture which I am paraphrasing, from one some religious historians say was the brother to He who died on the cross:

Faith is not enough. Faith without (good) works is dead.

I am sure I got the quote wrong, but I believe that the message is clear and in
line with the spirit of the actual passage in the Book of James. And I grant you that I am not a very religious person. But I say to you, to all of you reading this, that going up to Sunrise Rock and seeing it before they took down the cross, before the litigation, and after the court battle and SCOTUS ruling, and then to see it bereft of the cross, was a moving and touching experience that has had an effect upon me that lasts until this very day.

People of faith and their organizations involved in this situation, need to bring others into this matter. I made video which is up on youtube where I talked about this. I suggested that, as others have, that if veterans fought and died over in Europe that were of different faiths, that the top of Sunrise Rock was big enough for a Star of David or the Scimitar, if soldiers of those faiths fought there for us, and I am sure that they did.

Other folks need to be brought into this, I don’t mean building a giant cross or putting in massive security, just similar symbolism made in the same fashion to that old rugged iron pipe painted white cross- which when viewed out in place in that grand vista never failed to bring tears to my eyes, especially knowing its’ history and reason for being placed there.

This area is perfectly suited for and has been used historically for roadside camping- why there is even a rock fire ring behind Sunrise Rock that has been used for decades. I suggest that young people, our future, should camp there often, even tend to the area, at least until the furor dies down, once the matter has been litigated to its’ conclusion, which I feel will be for the cross to be put back up, the sooner, the better.
021511mojavedesertcross 020

Forgive me for being so presumptuous as to give advice to people who have probably forgotten more about religious matters than I will ever know, the advice was offered in good faith and hope it will be received in a similar way.

This sacred place has meaning to me, and to millions of folks who have had ancestors lost in war in our past, and they and what they did deserve better than to be forgotten and their, make that our history, should not be rewritten by a few who in the middle of the night, came in and defied the will of our highest court, and our will, by taking down this symbol put up for them, that their ultimate sacrifice paid for with their own blood and agony long ago on those foreign battlefields, shall not and must never be forgotten, so that we
can find within ourselves, the means to live up to their ideals and make this country a better place for all its’ people, and a better neighbor to the rest of the

This is my heartfelt wish.

Vaya con dios, my friends.



Saturday, May 21, 2011

The story behind a sign off Interstate 10 near Casino Morongo.

Some of you driving through the area may have seen a sign that says
”MorongoLandGrab.com.” You can read about it and see an actual photo
of the sign at this link. There is also a story over at the Inland Empire News
which is where I first read about this(I have seen the sign but never remembered to write down the link) here.

Here is a video from the landowner which talks about the controversy.

Mr. Fields had to disable comments on the youtube page due to personal threats received.

From my reading of the story and after watching the video, it sure appears that
his due process rights have been violated and fair use of his property is not being allowed, at the minimum. I know the exit you get off on and have driven up to and turned around before the guard shack in the past, never knowing the full story.

This is similar in a way to a property access issue at one of the proposed solar
”farms” near Newberry Springs- the Calico project which has been taken over by K- Road, a Goldman Sach’s protoge company.

Off Hector Mine Road, there is a dirt road which heads north and crosses over
I believe the BNSF rail line. There is a crossing there which was blocked for a
long time by barriers put up by the site promoters I think, for sure it blocked a
Mr. Jackson’s access to his property which was north of the tracks, and caused him to become an intervenor in the plant approval process with the CEC. That
property impediment ultimately was removed as I found out last year when I made a fieldtrip to the site and filmed this video.

Filmed using my video camera built into the Dell laptop.

So what is the connection here? None really except local landowners having
the use and enjoyment of their property removed or restricted by the moneyed interests, none more so than the first video where you can see not one- not two-
but 4 security guards and a deputy sheriff being called out to handle one elderly gentleman. Boy, if some of the desert activists showed up, they might have called for the SWAT Team!

This blog is about desert issues primarily and enjoyment of property owned out there surely is a desert issue. All over the southwest, it is about to become an even bigger issue now that so many areas are slated for renewable energy development, usually by big oil companies and the Wall Street crowd- you know the ones who brought us the Gulf Oil spill and the Wall Street easy money debacle that has almost brought the world’s economy to its’ knees.

Lots of issues, lots of uncovered ground to catch up on.

See you again on the backporch.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rest of the pre-construction Ivanpah solar site videos are up…

And ready for viewing over at my channel at youtube.

Altogether, there are 90 videos with about 50 of the Ivanpah site, before BrightSource/ Bechtel turned their biologists and earthmovers loose upon
the north end of the valley.

These are record shots, made before the devastation began, to help document in a small way, the sights and sounds encountered by this blogger on a couple of hikes made b.bs, or before BrightSource.

This was a job- locating the videos, converting them to smaller sizes and format for youtube, and the hours of time spent waiting for the uploads to finish.

I think I will just kick back and relax the rest of my day off.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The first 7 videos I made at Ivanpah prior to the the start of construction are now up at Youtube and here.

The general plan is to either make a page on the blog where you can play the videos on this site, or I may just make a page of links. Or maybe I will post 4 or 5 a day here on the blog until they all are up.

I had a few problems with the blog some months ago and with youtube and the
videos mentioned on my trip reports no longer work. Unfortunately I made the posts using blogger software and am unable to go back in and make the videos work, hence this effort now.

And by the way, it is a major effort. The software used to convert them worked okay but the skies will look pixelated in some, but due to bandwidth I had to shrink them down. They still will be big files for a few of the videos.

Remember these videos are set in March of 2010, before they brought the earth movers and the woodchippers in; in other words before they started killing tortoises and masticating 800 year old yuccas instead of transplanting them like they promised to do.

In unit 1, that’s all changed. However, most of these videos are set in Ivanpah 2 and 3, returning readers are well aware that is the area that the feds have
stopped most construction until everyone receives their payoffs until more study
is done and the decision is made to allow the project to continue or not.

I am not sanguine about the long term prospects for Ivanpah 2 and 3 to remain safe from the bulldozers, but heh, I am the suspicious type, what can I say?

As I am writing this post, I checked on the status of my first upload and after about 11 minutes, it is about to be up and running on the site. The story on the
first one- while waiting in the Carls Jr drive through at Primm, about 3 miles or so from the solar site, I spotted some ravens there, and started filming and talking about how they go after the young desert tortoises, if my memory is right. Watch the video, which will be about the 1st of 52 which will be uploaded.
A process that may take a few days unfortunately due to my slow net connection with the world class Virgin Mobil usb dongle setup that I am using as we speak.

“That’s irony, folks!” as Foghorn Leghorn might say.

The first of 52 videos coming soon.

the 2nd of 52 videos coming soon.

the 3rd of 52 videos in the pipeline.

the 4th of 52 coming this way.

#5 of 52

6 of 52

7 of 52

Folks, I don’t get a cent from Google for using their youtube site,
it is just easier to upload to it. So if you are interested in these videos feel free to subscribe to my page there and you’ll be notified when I add more videos.
I am no film maker, just a person interested in the Ivanpah valley. In other words, although not that well shot, they may have  value to some, as they do show the area prior to the ecological catastrophe that has befallen this beautiful areaSad smile

If any interested parties would like the original and full sized avi video files, I will be happy to burn them to a dvd and forward them to you. It just might take a little time, that’s all.

That’s it, got to get back to the youtube upload page.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The past is not forgotten.

archivecd16 236

"Warm summer sun shine kindly here, Warm southern wind blow softly here, Green sod above, lie light, lie light -- Good night, dear heart, Good night, good night." [

While searching through two photo albums from older times, I came across
this one which for some reason, today has had an effect on me, one that I
am unused to, it is hard to see to type when your eyes are full.

I have to pull out of this maudlin mood, there is a life story to tell here, one I will probably do badly, but I will try anyway.

This is the final resting place for a young girl, whose mother brought her out
to the west, hoping that the dry climate would have a beneficial effect upon her
health, as she was suffering from what they called, at the time, consumption.
After making the long and brutal journey from the east, they managed to end up in 29 Palms, California where the disease continued on its’ course, to the bitter end, breaking the mother’s heart into pieces in the process.

It was a different time, in those days just after the turn of the century. People
had tougher lives, some might say life was more brutish in many ways, but they had faith that things would work out for the best. That was probably the hope of the mother here; bring her sick girl out west, to the new land, and things would work out for the best.

But as with all of us, the Grim Reaper tapped her on the shoulder and it was time to embark on a new journey, one we will all make, some sooner rather than later, all ending up at the same final destination, but perhaps in not such as a beautiful and serene setting such as this.

This has been a sad story to tell. Unfortunately, when I took this and other photographs at the Oasis of Mara in 29 Palms years ago, I forgot to write down the grave inscription, and have been unable to remember it. The web was no help, either. So the story is told as I have remembered it. It was a story worth
telling, worth shouting it from the rooftops, even.

This young girl’s life had meaning. It is not the normal order of things for a mother to bury her child, it should be the other way around. She overcame a lot
of hardships in her short life, and just for that reason alone, should be remembered.

Little darling, you are remembered here out on the backporch.

Below the photo at the top of the page is a Mark Twain quote that seems appropriate which he took from a Robert Richardson poem “Annette” and used for his favorite daughter Susy’s epitaph when she passed away at age 24 from spinal meningitis.

Susy Clemens 1885 as a teenager.




Sunday, May 15, 2011

We call it a windcatcher, the Persians called it a badgir, the ancients had to be GREEN to live in the desert.

Green and not greed, was the motto. All for one.

In Persia, now called Iran, the deserts were just as unforgiving as today, a place of hard beauty, stark landscapes, lots of eye appeal but as we would say
now, hard to make a living in.

A place where the unprepared died off.

In that long ago time; 4,000 plus years ago, humans settled down together, in
villages and towns with houses set close together, but made with thick walls and out of unbaked mud bricks. Just like over half of all humans living today.

Think about that- just use this blogger’s life history as an example.

I have written here about my homes in Joshua Tree and Morongo Valley, out in
the California desert. Living that far away from my service territory was only possible due to cheap energy and that my employer provided a company vehicle and paid for all the commuting costs. The goal was to experience nature, to get out away from close neighbors, to find peace. This motivates a lot
of desert dwellers, I believe. Just ride out along Hwy 62 from near Palm Springs and on out to Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, and beyond- lots of scattered homesteads and jackrabbit cabins, trailers, etc.

The above model I lived and mentioned in the above paragraph will probably prove to be unsustainable in the new era of changing weather patterns, and
especially when the era of cheap and abundant energy comes to an end.

Unless we go back in our other culture’s history and see how the advances that were figured out and implemented by the ancients, can be applied today to solve the problem presented by these more severe and changing weather patterns that we are facing now.

This internet search that I have been on for the last couple of days, all started when I read this article over at Mother Earth. Architectural students built an off grid, rammed earth home out on the Navajo reservation for the Begay family
which incorporated a Windcatcher in the design to provide natural cooling.

In Maxine Begay’s house above, the wind comes in and will pass by damp pads, which will cool the air like a swamp cooler. I wonder just how the pads
will be kept damp.

Of course, after whetting my appetite with that article, I googled windcatcher
and from there made the leap to badgir which is what the windcatchers are
called in Iran.

Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia under Creative Commons License. The towers are the windcatchers or badgirs in Persian.

In my study I found this site and article which impressed me so much that I now follow them on Facebook. The site is Green Prophet and it is about living
green and is focused on the Muslim world. A very interesting site, indeed.

I also found a very interesting scientific paper presented in Greece at a conference in 2005 devoted to passive building for low energy environments, which I lost the link to, but which can be read over at Scribd.

This link is to a very informative link over at the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies site which, in great detail, explains the “windcatcher” system.
The Cooling Systems in Traditional Iranian Architecture

Here is a Youtube video from the Iranian city of Yazd, which is home to more “windcatchers” than any other city in the world. This video actually shows the inside of the badgir. It is in Farsi, maybe someone can translate this for us.

This may be the a/c of the future. Remember the ancient ones invented this 4,000 years before Christ lived.

And here is an absolutely fantastic video welcoming you to the city of Yazd.
Special request to my readers. If you like this video please leave a comment over on the youtube page, to counter what I feel are a few racist comments there.

So what would life have been like thousands of years ago in the desert city
of Yazd? From my reading and viewing the photos online, the buildings had tall ceilings, some were 2 story, with flat roofs, and built close together. The city was walled, for protection against invaders and also to keep the wind and
sand storms out, as much as possible. People could stay indoors out of the
blazing, never ending sun, and move from room to room, or up and down floors, even sleeping up on the rooftop at night, as many people still do today.
There was no computers or television, so people either used lamps for light, or
went to bed early. You discerning readers realize of course, that these people
were living a green lifestyle with no carbon footprint of any consequence, a
thought that is an anathema to this modern day age of endless, never ending
consumption of earth’s resources like there is no tomorrow!

Having lived on my own way out in the middle of nowhere, could I adapt to living so close to neighbors in this way? Yes, I think I could. The fact that the walls would be so thick and that I could build in a courtyard, all for privacy and escape from a neighbor’s thumping bass stereo for example, make me think that I could handle the close confines, and you would still be part of a community with the benefits and responsibilities involved- definitely a thought
to ponder on my next hike in the wilderness.

There is an awakening now going on amongst the planners and architects, as well as off gridders and others, that maybe these modern ways just aren’t working out, especially as we face the new day that is coming. Whether you believe in climate change, global warming, peak oil or coal, whatever- the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the fact that there are billions and billions of humans, and the number is growing by leaps and bounds, and we are running out of the cheap energy that this modern society requires to operate. So we have to look to other answers, perhaps going back and studying how our ancient predecessors looked at and solved problems in a low energy manner, might be our solution.


A late addition, for me after thinking all this over, I really like the design of the Begay house incorporating the badgir or windcatcher as the main cooling feature. With the addition of a few solar panels, and items like a clothesline outside, I believe that I could get along very well out in the desert. Very well indeed.

Another thought, the badgir also depended on the qanat, an underground pool, to work in conjunction with the air moving through the “tunnel” which is similar to a modern day swamp cooling system.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The recent hike up at Big Morongo Canyon Nature Preserve…

Sure seems a lot easier when you make it with company.

Longtime readers will remember a post that I did last year where I went to the
preserve and met Randy who gave me some good tips on hiking there. This
time I remembered to email him and see if he could join me and we ended up
hiking all the way down to the big gnarly cottonwood tree and coming back up
the trail, where we ran into Jim from the San Fernando Valley who had emailed
me for info on the preserve, but was unable due to previous commitments, to
be there at the start of the hike, but did make it in time to catch us on the trail where we talked for a few minutes before heading on to our respective destinations. Here is a photo I took of Jim and Randy talking.
050411bmcnphike 020

Randy and I took a break in the shade here and that was where Jim met us. By the way, I was the one that
needed the break from the sun. Randy and Jim looked like they were ready to go another 20 miles while
I  was ready to call 911 and get hauled out Winking smile. Jim is a musician and was playing a gig in the area later.

Before I forget, I just want to say that Randy and Jim were two of the nicest guys you could ever meet and I hope to meet up with them again out on a trail somewhere. Randy has a lot of outdoor knowledge and experience, and I am
sure Jim does as well, I remember he said he hikes in the Santa Monica mountains, I was the neophyte of this group, for sure.

For some reason, I am having writer’s block issues again, so let my photos and videos of the day do the work for a while. These are not in any chronological order.
050411bmcnphike 026
Such beauty springing forth from such a precarious perch on the hillside.
050411bmcnphike 003

A profusion of blooms.
050411bmcnphike 004

I really like the above picture, it just makes me smile.
050411bmcnphike 002

The red-tailed hawk chicks were in no mood to humor me by making an appearance for this photo.
They were at least 30-40 feet up there from the ground.
050411bmcnphike 011

The algae growth only took a week or so, this is the TRAIL down approaching Senor Cottonwood.
050411bmcnphike 009

This is a fruit from one of the desert plants near Senor Cottonwood. Randy knows a lot about
these plants and the animals here, it was a real benefit to me to hike with him and learn so much!
050411bmcnphike 008

Randy took this photo and pointed out to me that the white object a little to the right from the 4 “spikes” of
vegetation near the middle top of the hill, might be a bighorn bedded down. No way to tell as my camera that I took
with me, the digicam, is unable to zoom in more than this. I was amazed at the things that Randy spotted, way before me!
050411bmcnphike 021

The above flowers were at the shady spot on the trail where we met up with Jim.
050411bmcnphike 016

Close up of a dead cottonwood “soldier” guarding the trail. What caused those sharp and tough
thorn like growths under the bark? Randy thought it might have been insects, I think he said.

Just below the wooden fence and where I saw deer one time.

From under the tree, a needed break from the sun.

The above can is not Arnold Palmer because the 3 stores in Morongo Valley
that I went to were all sold out of it. This tasted pretty good also and definitely
hit the spot!

Bonus video, the drive into the preserve, or how to find the entrance.

Don’t want you guys to get lost!

Alright folks, my writer’s block ain’t easing up any and my battery is dying
so I am outta here!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bloggers(actually all my readers), I have found a couple of easy2use & FREE video programs!

These work together very well and are from the folks at Freemake. No spyware
and no gimmicks and no adware. I have been using the video converter program for a couple of months and found that it works right out of the install, easily and intuitively, and best of all to this tight as bark off the tree blogger,
it is free!

Now don’t expect this to allow you to become a Hollywood film editor or award
winning cinematographer, what it does is allow you to easily take your huge
digicam or camcorder files from the camera and reduce those gargantuan size files down to a smaller and more easily downloaded by the average person who doesn’t have a t-3 line dedicated to their system. In other words, get your video out to the largest number of people and at a size that they will be so thankful for that they will not come looking for you with a baseball bat.

Here is a screen shot showing the basics:
ScreenHunter_01 May. 10 10.13

Just click the blue video button, a dialogue screen opens and you choose the file to convert, next you scroll along the bottom and click one of the green circles, I chose “to flv” or flash video format which is much smaller and still has
good quality, and another box opens up:
ScreenHunter_02 May. 10 10.17

You click the Convert button and it does the rest, and putting the new file in an output folder that you specify. It doesn’t get any easier than this.

That is Freemake Video Converter. Now for Freemake Video Downloader.

Here is the opening screenshot:
ScreenHunter_03 May. 10 10.20

Look at all the supported sites! I regularly go to Youtube and Vimeo, I actually
have accounts at both, just go to either and search for morongobill, sorry I
couldn’t stop myself from making that shameless plug for my poorly shot but
well converted videos!

Here is an interesting feature for parents out there. There is a way to lock out adult sites, just click options, and follow the directions.

How many times did I look for old video footage like the Beatle’s famous and legendary Apple rooftop lunch concert and only be able to watch a streaming video with no way to save it to my laptop. Well that’s one less problem that this blogger has to worry about now, thanks to the folks at Freemake.

The more cynical among you might be suspecting that perhaps I am being paid by Freemake to write this. I don’t think so considering the low number of visitors lately to my site- I don’t think they’d pay a small time boutique blogger to shill a free program, not exactly a business model leading to commercial success.

No, after struggling in the salt mines for so long, it is worth shouting to the rooftops for a free program that actually works, allowing me to devote less time to the little details that have a way of sucking up all the limited free time that I have had lately to devote to this blog.

Here is the link to the company if you would like to try out these programs, and feel free to comment here on your experiences with these or other programs you might have used in your blogging “career” Winking smile

Click here to go to Freemake's site

ScreenHunter_04 May. 10 10.49

You can even download from Comedy Central! Oh boy, guess there won’t be many blog posts for a while.

Coming up soon, hopefully today, a trip report for my latest Big Morongo Canyon Nature Preserve hike, which I made with a hiking buddy from the area, and where we ran into a blog reader coming down the canyon trail, as we were making our way back up from visiting Senor Cottonwood.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Just put some interesting stuff up at my Scribd page, feel free to surf on over and check it out. Re: renewable energy.


Added links to information from the California State Land Commission which
is responsible for management of the 400,000+ acres of “School Lands” and
over 4 million acres of sovereign land.

There is some real good stuff there, of particular interest to some of you may be the presentations Part 1 and 2 of the areas of optimal renewable energy potential: transmission, wind, and solar.

Anybody like to venture a guess as to what area of the state has the most potential? Hint- the endangered desert tortoise lives there.

I also put up more information on some of the renewable energy bills making their way through the California Assembly, including a couple favored by our
old “friends” over at BrightSource Energy, you know the benevolent solar energy developer that invented a new way to transplant plant species- by
running them through a woodchipper. Boy with friends like the BS’er’s, the deserts don’t need anymore enemies!

For your info, I also found a bill that I think followers of this blog will like, a responsible approach to renewable energy facility siting, a bill that would encourage these plants to be built on degraded lands such as brownfields, farm land which due to lack of water is fallow, and closed up landfills for example. Details over at my Scribd page. And by the way, feel free to follow me over at Scribd.

Here is a sample of what I am talking about, from my Scribd page:

I know quite a few of my readers are way more sophisticated than this old country boy. If you have more information on anything listed over at my Scribd page, or if you disagree with me, by all means feel free to let us know via a reply on my Scribd link, or commenting here, or sending me an email. As you saw the other day, I am very careful about publishing email from my readers and will ask you for permission to publish, if I think the information is something other readers would like to know about.

Here is an example of a map from the CSLC site via a screenshot off my laptop.
ScreenHunter_01 May. 09 22.43

Note if you will the “dagger sticking into the Mojave National Preserve on the right side, see the red squares?
Do you see the pink squares inside the preserve?
ScreenHunter_02 May. 09 22.43

Those are school lands, owned by the state of California, the interest
of which is to generate revenue for the retired teachers pension fund, among
other things, and probably balancing this state’s sorry excuse for a budget.

Now do you see why I am concerned? Head on over to my Scribd page, your fresh eyes may see something that mine may have missed.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

The backporch extends a hearty welcome to Mr. Chip Ashley! And thanks him for the information he provided.

Folks, do you remember in my post about California Assembly Bill 1214 I said
that someone had emailed me the information which I knew absolutely nothing about?

Here is the original email with followups, note that I did not disclose a name, etc
until I asked for and received permission to do so. I went with the post because it was that important, but only put out the word about the bill and my feelings about it:   the 1st email is at the bottom,newest at the top. I have also removed
Mr. Ashley’s email address but kept the link to the organization in his email signature. That is the only editing done- remove an email address.

Post at will, Bill.  I believe in transparency--unlike the electron industry.
Chip Ashley

- Hide quoted text -

On 5/6/11, morongobill@gmail.com <morongobill@gmail.com> wrote:
> Heh Charles, forget my previous email, I put up a post without giving out
> who sent the email, here it is if you'd like to check it out:
> http://morongobillsbackporch.blogspot.com/2011/05/want-to-do-something-to-stop.html
> Great to hear from you and hope people wake up and try to stop these
> projects that destroy nature before it is too late.
> Bill Mcdonald
> On May 6, 2011 12:16pm, morongobill@gmail.com wrote:
>> Thank you very much for this information and congratulations on the
>> victory up there.
>> I was wondering if you would mind if I published excerpts of the email as
>> a post on my blog, as well as forwarding it to a few people I know of
>> that are active in the fight to save the deserts down here,
>> and that oppose BrightSource Energy.
>> I look forward to hearing from you.
>> Thanks again,
>> Bill Mcdonald
>> http://morongobillsbackporch.blogspot.com
>> On May 6, 2011 11:48am, Charles Ashley
>> wrote:
>> > Bill,
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > Been following your great blog for a few years now! Your strong words
>> >
>> > are appropriate! Keep screaming at the top of your lungs at the BSing
>> >
>> > bastards!
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > We're on the other end of the extension cord up here in Fresno County,
>> >
>> > fighting the good fight along with you. We have managed to keep a 500
>> >
>> > kV trx line out of the Sierra foothills by participating in planning
>> >
>> > at the ISO and RETI. It's not over yet, but we won the last round in
>> >
>> > the ISO 2010-11 TPP with the help our excellent transmission
>> >
>> > consultant, Jaleh Firooz, and donations from lots of locals to pay for
>> >
>> > power flow analysis.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > The main item I want to bring your attention to is a bill going
>> >
>> > through the CA Assembly at the moment--passed committee 2 days ago,
>> >
>> > headed to appropriations. It is a bad bill to grease the transmission
>> >
>> > skids and is sponsored by BS (BrightSource). It's AB 1214, author
>> >
>> > Nancy Skinner, D--Berkeley. This bill would essentially merge the ISO
>> >
>> > and the CPUC to streamline approval of new high voltage transmission
>> >
>> > ostensibly to serve renewables sites in the S. CA desert. This bill
>> >
>> > would eliminate necessary checks and balances from the regulatory
>> >
>> > structure. I think it's a pretty obvious inference that BS is
>> >
>> > contributing to Skinner's campaign fund.
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> >
>> > --
>> >
>> > Chip Ashley
>> >
>> > President, Save the Foothills Coalition
>> >
>> > Think Distributed Generation and Storage and save wild areas from
>> Energy Sprawl.
>> >
>> > Join the Feed-in Tariff Coalition and Fight for Energy Democracy!
>> >
>> > http://www.fitcoalition.com/
>> >
>> >
>”           end of copied email

To say that I am honored to receive the email and the advice is an understatement. Wow! And here is the comment he made on my blog post
referred to in the email.


Chip Ashley said...

You should also know that BS did contribute to Skinner's campaign, along with the Large-Scale Solar Association and some other corporations.
I should also disclose that I am a higher-up volunteer in the Sierra Club, and I know that Sierra Club National has also received contributions from CEERT, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies--located in Sacramento (for convenience right next to the capitol)--and the Large-Scale Solar Association, lobbyists carrying the water for the corporados behind all this BS. The Sierra Club can kick me out if they've got the cojones. I believe in transparency. I'm loyal to John Muir and David Brower--not these Johnny-come-latelies. Besides, it's public knowledge--just google CEERT and Sierra Club together.
Chip Ashley

May 6, 2011 8:24 PM

Morongobill said...

I just want to say thank you so much.
I will respond to this with my next post.

May 7, 2011 8:03 PM

End of copied comments.

Folks, I admit that I have a problem with the upper echelon leadership at the
Sierra Club. Some things that I have said are probably not printable here. But
I have absolute respect for the rank and file, the activists, and the volunteers-
they don’t set policy, it all just rolls downhill on top of them. I got it. Same with
the NRDC and any other carbonmentalist group that I have called out. I welcomeLet me rephrase that- any and all members of those groups are welcome on the backporch, even the ones that disagree with me, just be prepared to defend your position, that’s all.

By the way, anybody that is a follower of Muir and Brower can hang out on the
backporch anytime. I suggest to my readers that you check out those links in
the above comment and on my original post as well, it would be nice to have a little backup, catch something maybe that my tired eyes might have missed, and also if you find anything new relating to this renewable energy land rush, don’t keep it to yourself, let us all know. Here via email or comment, or one of the other fine blogs and sites that I have mentioned here from time to time.

Lately I have been working a lot of hours and I know that I have missed a whole bunch of news, so help us out here if you can.

To reiterate, I am in total agreement with Mr. Ashley’s points that he made. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind at least that anything done to streamline the permit process, from transmission to environmental issues, just
means another nail in the desert’s coffin, more dead animals, more woodchipped plants, more native american sacred sites destroyed, more pristine ecosystem destroyed, and no real meaningful long term jobs in any real numbers. Well, I guess washing the mirrors might qualify. But if you think that these companies will hire locals to operate a billion dollar plant just like that, I want some of whatever you are smoking.

By the way, it sounds they won a similar fight up north to one down here, the fight to save Big Morongo Canyon as a transmission line corridor. In their case, they saved the Sierra foothills.

There is a lesson there for ordinary folks like us in that.

We just don’t have to sit there and take it!

Fight on!