Thursday, October 30, 2014

So, Maybe They Did Find Amelia Earhart's Airplane!

A sheet of aluminum:
Even a piece of metal can get a second chance. In 1991, a group of researchers investigating the disappearance of Amelia Earhart found a sheet of aluminum on the island of Nikumaroro in the Western Pacific. Earhart’s plane, a Model 10 Electra, mysteriously vanished near the island on July 2, 1937. This piece of metal, a sheet 19 inches by 23 inches and made of the same material as Earhart’s plane, looked like it could be the first piece of the aircraft ever found.

The problem was its odd shape and size, which didn’t seem to fit any part of the Electra. “We finally reached the point that we decided that it couldn’t be from Earhart’s plane,” said Richard Gillespie of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, which has spent 26 years and made 10 expeditions to investigate the mystery surrounding Earhart’s disappearance.

The team then looked at every other kind of plane that could’ve flown over the Pacific at that time. But, again, nothing fit.

“Earlier this year, around June, I threw up my hands,” Gillespie said. “I didn’t know what the heck this thing is.”

Then the team noticed that in pictures taken of the Electra as it took off from Miami on June 1, 1937, the plane had a shiny patch near its tail, covering what had been a specially made window. This patch, Gillespie explained, was an improvised repair, and so was completely unique to Earhart’s plane. Could the sheet be this patch? “My first reaction was: This is a Hail Mary pass,” he said.

The team further analyzed the old photo and turned to a restored Electra to see how such a piece of metal would have been attached. After closer examination, they realized that the sheet perfectly matched in size, shape, and patterns of rivet holes. Even tears along the edges of the sheet aligned with where rivets would’ve been. “It’s like a fingerprint,” Gillespie said.

Interesting Yuba City Signs VI

Nice Inn Motel.
Shooters Paradise.
Alice doesn't live here any more. "Feed Me" label crushed into the parking lot pavement at Hometown Buffet.
Strange to see this notice on a Burger King.  How could you even enforce such a ban?  Went inside, and saw a family happily videotaping themselves eating burgers.  So, basically, you can't enforce a ban.  I asked about the ban and got a vague response about people selling things in the parking lot outside. Explains the 'no solicitation', but....
Koala Bear Kare Baby Hanging Station.
Oh, here's that Rent-a-Ape that was flogging insurance down the street just a few weeks ago.
"Le plane! Le plane!"
A variety of agricultural supplies for sale here.
Lov-In Chiropractic.
Good Seed Bible School.
Sutter Buttes Tea Party. I wanted to slow down and take a better picture, but there was a warning sign I couldn't quite read and didn't quite like. Plus, I'm a liberal, so time to push on....

Interesting Rancho Cordova Signs I

Sadly, it looks like Gold Town - Jewelry and Gold Teeth is no longer operating.
Tiger Self-Storage
Sun Barber.  Lots of Korean influence in Rancho Cordova.  One side effect is interesting names.
The Rink
Smile Food Market.
Titanic Insurance.
Higher education.
Blow Lounge.
Still have problems with the sign at Jame's Beauty Supply.
Moose Family Center.
Almost every Sunday, I eat at Golden Bowls Mongolian bar B-Q, and get even more addicted to the cuisine.
I like the paper lanterns.

DMTC 2014 Halloween Karaoke And Dance

Kylie Minogue - White Diamond [Showgirl Homecoming Tour]

Because she's awesome!

Various Helpful Astronomy Videos

Used these in my class....

That Damned Streak Is Still There

Not happy about that.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sacramento Choral Society - Stained Glass Concert

Before the concert.
Reception room after the concert.
Last year's Christmas concert, "Home For The Holidays II" (featuring Guest Artist Tevye Ditter) is now for sale and available in their online store.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tracking Down The Iraqi Cash

The single stupidest action of the Bush Administration was carrying out this staggeringly-stupid idea. Stuart Bowen is to be deeply-and-endlessly thanked for all his hard work here (but, of course, no one in government will ever do so):
WASHINGTON — Not long after American forces defeated the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein in 2003, caravans of trucks began to arrive at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on a regular basis, unloading an unusual cargo — pallets of shrink-wrapped $100 bills. The cash, withdrawn from Iraqi government accounts held in the United States, was loaded onto Air Force C-17 transport planes bound for Baghdad, where the Bush administration hoped it would provide a quick financial infusion for Iraq’s new government and the country’s battered economy.

Over the next year and a half, $12 billion to $14 billion was sent to Iraq in the airlift, and an additional $5 billion was sent by electronic transfer. Exactly what happened to that money after it arrived in Baghdad became one of the many unanswered questions from the chaotic days of the American occupation, when billions were flowing into the country from the United States and corruption was rampant.

Finding the answer became first the job and then the obsession of Stuart W. Bowen Jr., a friend from Texas of President George W. Bush who in 2004 was appointed to serve as a special inspector general to investigate corruption and waste in Iraq. Before his office was finally shut down last year, Mr. Bowen believed he might have succeeded — but only partly — in that mission.

Much of the money was probably used by the Iraqi government in some way, he concluded. But for years Mr. Bowen could not account for billions more until his investigators finally had a breakthrough, discovering that $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion had been stolen and moved to a bunker in rural Lebanon for safe keeping. “I don’t know how the money got to Lebanon,” Mr. Bowen said. “If I knew that, we would have made more progress on the case.”

Mars - Once Wet; Now Dry

Checking in on the MAVEN mission, finding an artist's conception of what a once-watery Mars might have looked like.

Aguascalientes - Mexican Powerhouse

This interesting article came out last month:
Mexico has leapfrogged other auto producing nations. In 2009, Mexico was the world’s 10th largest auto producer. But it’s soared past Spain and France, and earlier this year it surged by Brazil to become the world’s No. 7 automaker and the fourth largest exporter. Experts say Mexico is one of the most dynamic hubs of the global auto industry.

Gone are the days when Mexico produced only compact sedans and pickup trucks. Later this decade, new plants will be producing premium vehicles, BMWs and Mercedes, Infinitis and Audis. Many Nissan vehicles that roll out of the existing plants in Aguascalientes are bound not for domestic showrooms or to auto dealers in the United States but for Brazil, Colombia, the United Arab Emirates and dozens of other markets.

The huge growth comes not just because of Mexico’s good highways and railways, its healthy steel industry and its cheap wages. It’s also because of plentiful engineers and the skill of global automakers at keeping quality high, wherever their cars are built.

“The quality and cost of Mexican (automotive) products have no equal in Latin America,” said Luis Lozano Soto, automotive team leader at the Mexico City offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers, a global consulting firm.

There’s another key factor. President Enrique Pena Nieto, in announcing in August that the South Korean automaker Kia would build a $1 billion plant outside Monterrey, noted that Mexico has free-trade agreements with 45 nations. The United States, in contrast, has free-trade accords in force with only 20 countries. Brazil has only eight free-trade agreements.

Coffee With Hitler

Mr. Cerf said the mishap had occurred when an outside company asked ELSA, a dairy manufacturer and Migros subsidiary, to supply a series of 55 coffee cream containers based on vintage cigar labels, two of which featured the dictators.

He said that the outside company had provided the controversial designs, and that ELSA typically produced plastic creamers with charming and innocuous images on them — not fascists.

“I can’t tell you how these labels got past our controls,” Mr. Cerf said. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs — nothing polemic that can pose a problem.”

...But Mr. Cerf emphasized that the accidental circulation of the plastic Hitler creamers had nothing to do with the country’s social mores, but rather reflected an isolated mistake.

Migros is not the first company to run into such trouble. In the spring, a German furniture chain apologized for selling ceramic mugs with Hitler’s face on them, saying a Chinese designer had mistakenly used an old image of a stamp bearing the dictator’s image behind an antique motif of roses.

Saturn's Moon Mimas May Have An Ocean

But the scientists noticed something strange – the moon seemed to be wobbling, or “librating,” about twice as much as they expected. After going through several different explanations, they settled on two main possibilities. Either this round moon has a football-shaped core that’s causing the wobble, or there’s a liquid water ocean underneath the icy surface.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Well, That's Disturbing

Looked up and saw a pedestrian sprawled in the crosswalk in front of a turning car. Apparently she got bumped. Glare from the setting sun may be a factor. She didn't look seriously hurt, but still....

Car shop receptionist looked out and said, "Oh yeah, that happens a lot there." (!!!)

The Periodic Table Of Storytelling

Sealed evil in a can?

Then There's The ABQ Stuff Too

Looking for cash:
Garza pointed his gun at the clerk and demanded cash, while there was talk between the suspects about shooting him. Meanwhile, Lucero aimed his gun at the clerk’s family members, which included his parents and a young girl, who were made to lie face down on the floor.

Lucero also attempted to shoot out the store’s video surveillance cameras, but missed.

Garza grabbed a necklace, a watch and about $100 in cash and the two took off.

Once the suspects had left the store, the clerk, who had a gun but kept it hidden since both suspects were armed and already had his family in their sights, went to the lock the door behind them. At that point, according to the clerk, one of the suspects aimed a gun at him and the other said, “Shoot!”

“The clerk fearing for his life shot at the two suspects,” said Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Aaron Williamson.

...“We heard a big ol’ crash and went outside, and saw all the cops pulling up right in front of it,” said 17-year-old Mariah Padilla, who also lives nearby.

Crazy Stuff On The Sacramento Street

Wild gun action in the NE part of town:
A day of carnage by a suspect armed with a rifle left two area deputies dead, a motorist gravely injured and another deputy wounded in a 30-mile crime spree that triggered a massive manhunt by hundreds of law enforcement officers.

Just before 4 p.m., officials announced the arrest of Marcelo Marquez, 34, who had been hiding in an Auburn home for hours.

...The events of the day, which Jones called a “perfect storm” of attacks by a suspect whose motive remains unknown, began at 10:22 a.m. when Oliver and his partner approached a vehicle in the parking lot with a man and a woman inside. Jones said it still is not clear what led Oliver, a 12-year veteran of the problem-oriented policing team, to approach the vehicle.

But he said the man inside fired a rifle at Oliver at close range, striking him in the forehead before Oliver could return fire. The deputy’s partner was able to return fire, but it was unclear whether he struck the assailant, who fled and attempted to carjack another vehicle down the street in the 700 block of Howe Avenue.

The driver of that vehicle apparently refused to surrender the keys and was shot in the head. The victim, whose condition was not known Friday afternoon, fell backward into their car and the assailants fled. A short distance away, the pair carjacked a white convertible Ford Mustang, then abandoned it several blocks away in a residential neighborhood.

There, they confronted a gardener and demanded his pickup truck. After helping the man to unhitch his landscaping trailer from the red Ford truck, the couple took off, leaving the bloodied Mustang on the street.

From there, the pair apparently fled up Fair Oaks Boulevard to Carmichael, where a Sacramento County parks ranger spotted them changing clothes and reported the sighting to authorities. A massive police response shut down access to the area near Fair Oaks and Van Alstine and forced 19 San Juan Unified Schools, as well as Jesuit High School, to lock down for a time.

But those precautions were canceled after it became clear that the pickup had fled the area and headed up Interstate 80 to Auburn. Placer County sheriff’s deputies responding to sightings of the pickup approached the vehicle and were wounded by gunfire from it. Both were taken to Sutter Rosevillle Medical Center; the sheriff’s department confirmed about 4:20 p.m. that one of the deputies had died but the other would survive.

At some point after that, the female who accompanied the gunman was apprehended, and authorities believe the suspect fled into an residential area near Placer High School, forcing that school and others to lock down their campuses.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Met Kara Wall - She Does Softball

Scouting Empty Swimming Pools

Violating every single tenet of common sense, I just bought a skateboard.

Preseason Game - Sacramento Kings vs. Israel's Maccabis

Went with J. to see this game on October 18th. Scarcely paid any attention to the proceedings, enjoying the company instead.

Apparently the Kings won:
The Kings: The crowd of 10,128 was rather uninspired for much of the game. The largest cheer came in the game's closing seconds when 7-foot-5 rookie center Sim Bhulllar made a basket. ... Cousins did not play in Beijing against the Nets due to an aggravated Achilles tendon. He started against Maccabi Haifa and played 26 minutes.

Maccabi Haifa: The Greens arrived in Sacramento following nearly a 10-hour bus ride from Portland. ... The team plays in the Israeli Basketball Super League and is owned by U.S. businessman Jeffrey Rosen. ... Maccabi Haifa won the Super League championship in the 2012-13 season, its first Israeli title since the team's founding in 1953.

Monday, October 20, 2014

CORE - "The Doorway - 2014"

An absolutely AWESOME opening show October 16th at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center at Natomas Charter School!

So many new aspects revealed. "After The Afterlife" was revealed to be hyper-colorful, almost like the Oz's Lullaby League and Lollipop Guild.

The Birthday Party was great. The curtain opened and there was the birthday cake - layered, colorful dancers, with Blair Cacanando perched right on top! Perfect! I was amused when Tucker Harrah-Ferguson crassly announced "Let's sing happy birthday to the Old Lady" (meaning Tina DeVine). Tina's journey to recover the Magical Hat linked all the segments together.

The Bird Cage revealed in Act II was just as magical as the Birthday Cake in Act I.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Someone Wrote A Check

On E.'s closed checking account. Recipient may be a known car thief. Troublesome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Visit From The Skunk

(Looking down at the driveway at 1:30 a.m.)

M.: Look at who's poking their nose under you car!

E.: A skunk!

M. and E.: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

M.: He's drinking the birds' water.

E.: Look how thirsty he is! They carry the rabies!

M. and E.: Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

M.: Big tail. Looks cute.

E.: Why did God ever make the ants and the worms and the skunks?

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Breaking Bad/Anasazi Analogy

(draft - argument is still in pieces)

In "Breaking Bad", Season 5a, episode 5, "Dead Freight", Lydia is kidnapped and taken to a hidden basement. To save her life, she describes a railroad radio dead zone by pointing at a map. There is no railroad where she points, however. What is at that point?

Whitehorse, just across Chacra Mesa from Pueblo Pintado, the easternmost "gateway" community of Chaco Canyon.

To me, this proximity isn't accidental, but speaks to something deeper. Lydia is pointing at a location on the very edge of the center (but not directly at the center) of Anasazi civilization at Chaco Canyon. But why? What does it mean? Perhaps "Breaking Bad" is making a commentary on Anasazi history and suggesting an analogy to Walt's drug empire.

In "Breaking Bad", the radio silence zone on the railroad is a place where a conspiracy can subvert modern civilization without being observed. Whitehorse is an analogous place, where Anasazi civilization can be subverted by disaffected inhabitants with little chance of discovery..

Michel Foucault has written about the use of sight to discipline people:
Jeremy Bentham proposed the panopticon as a circular building with an observation tower in the centre of an open space surrounded by an outer wall. This wall would contain cells for occupants. This design would increase security by facilitating more effective surveillance. Residing within cells flooded with light, occupants would be readily distinguishable and visible to an official invisibly positioned in the central tower. Conversely, occupants would be invisible to each other, with concrete walls dividing their cells. Although usually associated with prisons, the panoptic style of architecture might be used in other institutions with surveillance needs, such as schools, factories, or hospitals.

In "Discipline and Punish", Michel Foucault builds on Bentham's conceptualization of the panopticon as he elaborates upon the function of disciplinary mechanisms in such a prison and illustrated the function of discipline as an apparatus of power. The ever-visible inmate, Foucault suggests, is always "the object of information, never a subject in communication". He adds that:
"He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection."
...As hinted at by the architecture, this panoptic design can be used for any "population" that needs to be kept under observation or control, such as: prisoners, schoolchildren, medical patients, or workers:
Chaco Canyon is a natural Panopticon. Views across most of the central area of power at Pueblo Bonito are easy to obtain. Just a few people could observe society from Pueblo Bonito, or from one of the Tower Kivas, and thereby economically control virtually the entire political life of the Canyon. Even though it was a premodern society, Chaco Canyon at least contained this element of modern society: power mediated by the direct view.

Whitehorse is very close to, but out of direct visual sight, of Chaco Canyon: outside Steve Lekson's "Downtown Chaco" and surrounding "Chaco Halo" (Fagan, 2005). Imagine the summit of La Fajada Butte at Chaco Canyon as possessing an ‘Eye of Sauron’ lighthouse-like beam surveying the landscape. As seen from La Fajada Butte, Whitehorse is just behind Red Mountain, just out of view of the ‘Eye of Sauron’, and is thus a reasonable location from which ordinary people can hatch conspiracies against the central power in adjacent Chaco Canyon.

A certain theatricality was likely central to Anasazi power (Sofaer, 2008):
Scholars have commented extensively on the impractical and enigmatic aspects of the Chacoan buildings, describing them as "overbuilt and overembellished" and proposing that they were built primarily for public image and ritual expression."

Chaco Canyon dominated the "Chaco Basin" in a similar way. It was centrally located, functioning almost as a 'Mecca' of the Pueblo world. Perhaps like the Panopticon, Chaco Canyon experienced other phenomena that might be considered modern too: e.g., an abrupt change of power, aka a revolution.

Anasazi spiritual power derived in part from command of astronomical knowledge, whose patterns they embedded in the landscape. Virtually every major Chaco Canyon structure features walls oriented to azimuths of solar or lunar importance (particularly major or minor lunar standstills), and corners aligned with these directions, and were located with respect to one another along these azimuths (Sofaer, et al., 2008).

The Whitehorse area contains a number of Anasazi ruins. Nevertheless, there is no indication it contained elements central to Anasazi astronomical observations and political power. It doesn't sit along any notable azimuths with respect to Pueblo Bonito and Chaco Canyon. It is out of sight of Chaco Canyon. Even though Pueblo Pintado is also out of direct sight of Chaco Canyon, it is still part of the central design (sitting on a minor lunar standstill azimuth), in a way that Whitehorse is not. In or about Whitehorse, particularly along the fringes of Chacra Mesa, privacy can be found.

From "Breaking Bad, Season 5b, episode 6, 'Ozymandias':
W.: Listen, I was thinking, um, maybe we can have a little family time this weekend.
S.: Oh yeah?
W.: Yeah! You know, just take a drive; the almost four of us. (nervous laugh) Maybe we can head up the Turquoise Trail and stop at Tinkertown; maybe grab some lunch in Madrid.
S.: Omigod, we haven't been there in forever.
W.: I know, and so, why don't we just do that? Take a little break.
S.: Sold. Sounds fun!

So, Walt and Skyler decide to take their family on a metaphorical "Turquoise Trail". What could go wrong? Maybe history is a guide.

Turquoise is a blue mineral, akin to blue meth in terms of color:
Like the Aztecs, the Pueblo, Navajo and Apache tribes cherished turquoise for its amuletic use; the latter tribe believe the stone to afford the archer dead aim. Among these peoples turquoise was used in mosaic inlay, in sculptural works, and was fashioned into toroidal beads and freeform pendants. The Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) of the Chaco Canyon and surrounding region are believed to have prospered greatly from their production and trading of turquoise objects.

Interestingly, the filming location of "Dead Freight" is only a short distance (11 miles, or 18 km) from the Anasazi's primary source of turquoise, at Mt. Chalchihuitl, between Santa Fe and Cerrillos. The material basis of power at Chaco Canyon was control of the turquoise trade of the Southwest and northern Mexico. For many years, the Anasazi held close to a monopoly on the turquoise trade with the Toltec Empire, and that trade brought them the accoutrements of wealth and status:
Anasazi commerce centered on one item: turquoise. Trading groups from the Toltec merchants' capital (Tollan or Tula) in central Mexico visited regularly. Chaco governors tightly controlled the turquoise mines at Cerrillos. Raw stone was brought to Pueblo Bonito to be cut into small tiles, which the merchant-traders took back to Tollan for use in jeweled and tiled creations. Trade must have diffused from the north, too, because in Chaco and other Anasazi sites are found many small beads and inlays made of carved caitlinite -- pipestone -- from Minnesota and Great Lakes quarries.... Foreign trade, through the rigidly-controlled Cerillos turquoise mines, was the major source of wealth -- foreign luxury products -- of the Anasazi civilization.

Turquoise was also a local medium of exchange -- a kind of money. About 5,000 people lived permanently in the towns of Chaco Canyon in 1100 AD (and tens of thousands visited for big fairs and ceremonies). But in spite of their ingenuity with waterworks, there was arable land near enough to work to feed only 2,000.

...[T]he 3-pronged disasters struck. First came Chaco's loss of control of turquoise sources. New mines opened up in Arizona and Nevada. ... Competitive turquoise trade with their best and only large customer -- the Toltec empire -- began with those uncontrolled mines, but considerable uncontrolled turquoise also entered the Chaco economy, devaluing it as turquoise became more common. More turquoise in circulation was a kind of inflation. Then the foreign market collapsed, as a civil war destroyed the Toltec empire (around 1100 AD). There was no longer a large foreign customer for the turquoise. No more foreign trade. Even more turquoise from the uncontrolled mines flooded the Anasazi economy, further inflation.

The final disaster was a 50-year drought, beginning in 1130. Ingenuity in channeling and storing water could not save the worsening situation. Food became very scarce. The outlying villagers had no surplus to bring to the markets in Chaco. ... So the Anasazi began to leave -- not only Chaco Canyon, but other large Anasazi centers established in cliff caves, like those at Mesa Verde.

...The Anasazi people did not mysteriously vanish. They moved in stages, taking with them most of their valuables, to establish the string of pueblos along the Rio Grande and a few other desert rivers. By 1200 AD, the Chaco Canyon center, and most high desert settlements of the Anasazi civilization were entirely deserted. The turquoise road over the Mexican High Sierra was forgotten, except probably for Mexico-based rumors people there later told the invading Spaniards: about 7 cities of gold somewhere to the north.
Along with the collapse of Toltec trade came the drought of the mid-1100's:
According to the National Park Service World Heritage Program, drought was a factor in the abandonment on Chaco during the 12th Century:
"The decline of Chaco apparently coincided with a prolonged drought in the San Juan Basin between 1130 and 1180. Lack of rainfall combined with an overtaxed environment may have led to food shortages. Even the clever irrigation methods of the Chacoans could not overcome prolonged drought. Under these pressures Chaco and the outliers may have experienced a slow social disintegration. The people began to drift away."
During the 13th Century, the Ancient Pueblo peoples of Mesa Verde and nearby regions also abandoned their masonry homes. For many decades the conventional wisdom was that severe drought pushed them from the region due to crop failures. Paleo proxy data from tree rings and packrat middens have been used as evidence that a severe drought had hit the region. Analysis of bones from the inhabitants which showed malnutrition seemed to confirm the drought theory.
More climate data are available from the Grissino-Mayer dissertation from U of A in 1995 based on tree-ring data from the Malpais near Grants.

The drought of the 1100's eased in the 1190's.  The early 1200's were a wet period - but a much-worse drought occurred in the 1240's.

Still, it is likely that as wealth departed Chaco Canyon and drought decimated the civilization, the power elite clung to power. Civilizations usually don't change leadership when conditions are deteriorating.

There are a number of theories regarding the nature of revolutionary change in societies - France, Russia, and Iran provide notable examples. In all three cases, serendipitous accidents combine with long-standing grievances to produce unexpected results:
The French Revolution, Tocqueville ... notes, drew much of its strength from districts near Paris where 'the freedom and wealth of the peasants had long been better assured than in any other [district].' Under the influence of the democratic ideas in the air, King Louis XVI and his men had simply 'lost the will to repress'. In Iran, the impetus for reducing repression seems to have come from U.S. President Jimmy Carter's human rights campaign. Aiming to preempt Carter to avoid the appearance of being pressured by the U.S., the Shah took some measures on his own initiative: he gave the press more freedom and permitted open trials for civilians brought before military tribunals .... Regardless of the merits of the measures themselves, it stands to reason that they helped the opposition grow. If hatred for the government is widespread, providing greater opportunities for criticism serves to publicize this fact, thereby encouraging more people to side openly with the opposition. Also significant no doubt is the Shah's vacillation with regard to the use of force against the growing crowds, perhaps because the cancer treatment he was receiving impaired his judgment. Inasmuch as vacillation is seen as a sign of weakness, it raises the relative attractiveness of joining the opposition.

... The following remarks by Tocqueville are apposite:
[I]t is not always when things are going from bad to worse that revolutions break out. On the contrary, it oftener happens that when a people which has put up with an oppressive rule over a long period without protest suddenly finds the government relaxing its pressure, it takes up arms against it. Thus the social order overthrown by a revolution is almost always better than the one immediately preceding it, and experience teaches us that, generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways....
The Russian Revolution, it appears, was ignited by a major strategic error on the part of the authorities, coupled with a series of coincidences. The Petrograd regiments normally responsible for protecting the Tzar were at the front in early 1917, and most of their replacements were new recruits who were not only less well trained and less experienced, but also more attuned to the mood of the civil population. This proved to be a grave error, since the new regiments fell apart as they came in contact with the crowds.... It is well worth reiterating in this connection that no one, not even Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries, foresaw that the regiments in Petrograd would melt away when called on to control the crowds.

But what brought the crowds into the street in the first place? Four factors seem to have played a role. On 23 February, the day the uprising began, many residents of Petrograd were standing in food queues, because of rumors that food was in short supply. 20,000 workers were in the streets after being locked out of a large industrial complex. Hundreds of off-duty soldiers were outdoors, looking for a distraction. And as the day went on, multitudes of women workers left their factories early to march in celebration of Women's Day.... The combined crowd quickly turned into a self-reinforcing mob. It managed to topple the Romanov dynasty within four days.
So, improving conditions are often crucial to revolutions, because discontented folks can easily imagine improved circumstances if only the leadership is changed. Various incidents and accidents are important too, as they provide occasions when power can be directly challenged.

But the Anasazi based their spiritual power on astronomical understanding. The only really reliable way to carry out a revolution against their power elite was for some unexpected astronomical event to undermine the leadership. What kind of event would that be?

One possibility would be the Crab Nebula Supernova of 1054 A.D. It was completely unexpected. Still, the realm of the stars was not the primary competency of Anasazi leadership: the cycles of the Sun and the Moon were. The Crab Nebula Supernova of 1054 A.D. likely wasn't the triggering event.

Total solar eclipses are very rare at Chaco Canyon, occurring typically once a century. There was one particularly dramatic total solar eclipse in the 1100's, however, on April 22, 1194: a "Black Dawn" - total solar eclipse at sunrise. In addition, there was a second partial solar eclipse on September 23, 1196, which wasn't a total eclipse, but did occur at a sensitive time: Autumnal equinox in a minor lunar standstill year.

The azimuth of sunrise on "Black Dawn" was about 73 degrees. A dawn eclipse would be most dramatic.

How unexpected might the solar eclipse of April 22, 1194 have been? What did the Anasazi know about the timing of solar eclipses? Were, say, 250 years of observations at Chaco Canyon sufficient to allow them to feel confident predicting eclipses? It's always hazardous to prove a negative, of course, but it may give some sense of the difficulties involved. What didn't the Anasazi know, and when didn't they know it?

Perhaps it is easier to answer a narrower question. Making the following assumptions about the Anasazi:
  • they did not have an overarching theory of how solar eclipses occurred;
  • they experienced eclipses as a time series of events;
  • they carefully recorded when eclipses occurred;
  • they tried to predict future eclipses based on past behavior;
it might be possible to estimate how much they knew.

Solar eclipses follow complicated patterns known as saros (close to 18 years in length - about 11 days longer), and inex (about 29 years - minus 20 days) cycles.

At Chaco Canyon over a 250 year period (850-1200: representing the zenith of Anasazi power), roughly 30 of the 40-or-so operating saros cycles at the time would have been observed. Saros cycles repeat at 18 year intervals, but eclipse locations move about the Earth, so at any one point on the Earth (like Chaco Canyon) saros cycles may skip, and detecting the underlying 18-year saros pattern is difficult. Similarly, inex cycles skip too. It is easier to observe the 54-year triple-saros 'exeligmos' cycle (54 = 3 * 18), since the eclipse location will be nearly the same as 54 years before.

A Fourier Transform of the eclipse frequency over 260 years fails to show either the saros, triple saros, or inex cycles. Instead, different, ephemeral cycles appear: 12, 39, 50, 72, and 104 year cycles. The 72-year cycle is four saros cycles (4 * 18 = 72) and so the underlying 18-year pattern is present. Still, the underlying 18-year pattern can't be resolved easily by a Fourier transform.

It is likely the Anasazi had some understanding of the saros cycle, particularly since the spacing between eclipses is so regular. Roughly 70% of all solar eclipses at Chaco Canyon can be anticipated based on past performance by simply projecting forward the 54-year triple-saros cycle from past eclipses. The 1194 eclipse was part of this predictable behavior, but the antecedent partial eclipse, on March 30, 1150, was also in progress at dawn. These dawn eclipses are extremes of the eclipse paths. If clouds on the eastern horizon interfered with visibility on March 30, 1150, it's possible the partial eclipse passed unobserved. Thus, it is conceivable that the Anasazi did not anticipate the "Black Dawn" of April 22, 1194.

By the 1190's, the drought was easing. Conditions were improving. Dramatic signs of incompetence in the leadership predicting eclipses might be enough for a restless population to rebel. Chaco Canyon's Panopticon could easily turn into Synopticon as the leadership lost face due to a dramatic, unanticipated eclipse. Presumably under new leadership, Chaco Canyon’s great kivas were decommissioned and filled with dirt. The population left, and escorted the old leadership out of Chaco Canyon.

There are indications the population split in two, with some people migrating north to Aztec and others farther north to Mesa Verde. Archaeologist Steve Lekson has proposed that, after a residency at Aztec, the old leadership might have eventually migrated south, to Casas Grandes in northern Mexico (Fagan, 2005).

Like ancient Anasazi understandings of the firmament, made manifest by buildings, modern patterns of economic power - national and international trade - have also been embedded in the landscape, in the form of railroads.


o Chaco Canyon as a natural Panopticon;
o Control of blue turquoise trade as a source of material wealth (“Jesus Christ, Marie, they’re minerals!”) parallels Breaking Bad’s blue meth empire;
o Anasazi turquoise mines located at Cerrillos, just a few miles from the ‘Dead Freight’ filming location for the radio silence zone;
o Anasazi power derived from command of astronomical knowledge, whose patterns were embedded in the landscape (architectural design of buildings and location of structures).
o Walt’s power derived from focus on family;
o Modern economic power derived from national and international trade, whose patterns have been embedded in the landscape in the form of railroads.
o Lydia identifies Whitehorse/Pueblo Pintado area as a zone of radio silence (behind Red Mountain and just out of view of La Fajada Butte’s ‘Eye of Sauron’): a reasonable location from which to hatch conspiracies against the central power in adjacent Chaco Canyon.
o North-south axis of railroad filming location fiendishly mirrors Anasazi/Pueblo north-south spiritual power axis, as does Walt’s attack from below.
o Decline of Chaco Canyon due to first megadrought (1130-1150), turquoise inflation due to wildcat mines, and loss of trade as the Toltec power center collapsed. Impoverished power regime hangs on despite steady erosion of people and wealth.
o De Tocqueville’s theory: despite discontent and suffering, revolution doesn’t happen until conditions and the regime itself have actually improved. Rainfall increases markedly through the 1190’s and the area enters a wet period, improving prospects.
o Trigger for final collapse of the Anasazi likely unprecedented astronomical events (the power regime’s field of prime competency). Total solar eclipses occur typically once a century at Chaco Canyon – rarely enough that they weren’t of much concern. Still, there was the unprecedented ‘Black Dawn’ – a total solar eclipse (possibly unexpected) at sunrise on April 22, 1194 (possibly aggravated by the insufferable dust storms that are so common in April). Another possible astronomical shock could have been the lunar standstill partial solar eclipse at autumnal equinox on September 22, 1196.
o Trigger for Walt’s collapse was inclusion of the wrong family in his empire (Uncle Jack, Todd, and their ilk);
o No modern parallel. Modern society doesn’t collapse from drugs (yet).
o Chaco Canyon Panopticon instantly becomes Synopticon as Anasazi regime loses face regarding eclipse(s). Chaco Canyon’s great kivas decommissioned and filled with dirt and the remaining people migrate, principally to either Aztec or Mesa Verde.
o Walt’s empire never reaches point of public exposure until the very end of the series.

"Foucault - A Very Short Introduction", Gary Gutting, Oxford University Press, 2005.

"Foucault For Beginners", Lydia Alix Fillingham, Writers and Readers Publishing, 1993.

"Chaco Astronomy - An Ancient American Cosmology", Anna Sofaer and Contributors to The Solstice Project, Ocean Tree Books, 2008.

"Chaco Canyon - Archaeologists Explore The Lives Of An Ancient Society", Brian Fagan, Oxford University Press, 2005.