Friday, January 31, 2014

The Mystery of the Swastika Bridge

The U.S. government has engaged in numerous civil engineering projects along the nation's waterways. The Colorado River has been the object of these projects almost continuously for more than 120 years.

We're camped now on Mittry Lake, one of the wetland ecosystems created by the damming of the Colorado River near Yuma, AZ. This project has allowed the desert around Yuma to be irrigated extensively creating an agricultural oasis that grows various crops including 90% of the country's leafy green vegetables during the winter months each year.

Civil engineering projects are old around here. So we were a little taken aback one day while exploring when we ran into this bridge adorned with swastikas cast into the concrete rails.

The bridge has the acronym USRS cast in concrete as well. That would be the US Reclamation Service. It was established in 1902 as part of the US Geological Survey. By 1927 the USRS had been split out of the USGS and renamed the Bureau of Reclamation. During this 25 year period, the USRS had developed more than 30 projects in the Western US. This bridge and the irrigation canal it crosses were part of one of those early projects back in 1907.

So now we know this bridge was built more than a 100 years ago, but what's up with all of the swastikas?

It turns out that the swastika has a history that pre-dates Nazi Germany by about 5,000 yearsThe word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, and is thought to possibly represent the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on many artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.

The symbol experienced a resurgence in the late nineteenth century, following extensive archeological work such as that of the famous archeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.” In the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe. It had numerous meanings, the most common being a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness. However, the work of Schliemann soon was taken up by völkisch movements, for whom the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride.
So this bridge was adorned with a popular symbol long before Hitler's Nazi party made it a symbol of hate and genocide. The Yuma Proving grounds are located a few miles north of this bridge. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were trained on that site from 1942 through 1945. I wonder if any of them came across this bridge during training and were curious about the forty swastikas cast in concrete across its length.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Quartzsite Trip

Quartz: a hard, crystalline, vitreous mineral, silicon dioxide, found worldwide as a component of sandstone and granite, or as pure crystals

Sitethe place or plot of land where something was, is, or will be located; an event-setting

Quartzite: a metamorphic rock resulting from the recrystallization of quartz, sandstone

Quartzsite: a town in Yuma County, Arizona. Elevation 879 feet. Population 187 in summer, 1+ million in winter. Founded in 1856 as an important stagecoach station. Present-day location of the world's largest RV Flea Market & Show and Rock & Gem Pow Wow every January

Trip: a going from one place to another, a journey; a protracted hallucination induced by a hallucinogen; a stumble or fall; a mistake, blunder

The Quartzsite Trip: a classic novel of high school seniors coming of age on a trip to Quartzsite, AZ in the spring of 1962 where anything can happen; an annual winter sojourn for a subculture of millions of RVers of all types and persuasions where anything can happen

And so here we find ourselves on our own Quartzsite Trip in January, 2014.......

There were groups for Boomers, Boondockers, Singles, Nudists (really!), and Christians (just to add balance), as well as RV owners' groups like this Montana fiefdom 
The scenery was stunning and the weather exceptional, it's no wonder RVers forego water and electric hookups to participate in this annual event

No doubt that finding a place of peace and solitude would be challenging

Every piece of real estate is prime...

...but we managed to skirt the edge of the
BLM boundary and...
..."found our beach"
(complete with Corona!)

It's all about location, location, location...

...until the barbarians (guess who's term?) moved in around us!

But Karly and Jake didn't seem to mind

Hard to imagine that this lies on one side of Q (Quartzsite) Hill....

...and this on the other during this time of year
The main RV Show & Market is in the Big Tent...everything you didn't know you needed for your RV!

The January Full Moon only added to the Trip....

Is that a Saguaro pretending to be
a man???

Or an Indian squaw with a papoose??
Look, up in the air.... that's a trip

...and the Hi Jolly Cemetery dedicated
to a camel wrangler for the US Army that's a site!

Balloons up high...

Remnants of a silver mine that represent Quartzsite of old remain as a backdrop to Q Hill
including its resident guard, Deputy Desert Dawg

No, it's not an illusion, they are
the only native palms in Arizona
at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
about 20 miles south of Quartzsite
Are those palm trees in that canyon???

But a Kokopelli bush?????

We'll let you decide....

Did we mention the Full Moon???

The million or so snowbirders who flock to Q each year also come for the sprawling markets that pop up selling everything you can imagine you need and those items you don't realize you need yet. We made it out about $600 poorer but with about $1,100 in goods. So it was a pretty fair trade. We'll be back next year. We may even join up with a group to get into the full Q vibe........OK, that's probably never gonna happen! ;-)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

10 Warning Signs That Something Evil This Way Comes

Finding useful sources for news can be challenging. For example, over the past week the leading news story in the U.S. has been about Justin Bieber. I find that a sad and depressing commentary on our country. That's why looking at news sources outside of the U.S. can be helpful for understanding what is happening in the world. If you get all of your news from the usual sources, here are a few news items that you probably don't know about. Ignore these stories (and others) in favor of the latest drivel offered by our U.S. media and you miss the big picture.

  1. This week the 30-day/4-week T-bills were auctioned off at a 0% rate. After the auction, the rate went negative. Negative short term rates were last seen in 2008, right before the Lehman/AIG/Goldman collapse occurred. Negative rates only occur when very big investors are concerned about the return of their money rather than the return on their money. Something is spooking big money, possibly a massive risk of derivatives default just like in 2008.
  2. The value of the Argentine Peso and Venezuelan Bolivar have collapsed leading to economic chaos, violence and looting in those countries. This is what eventually happens when you relentlessly devalue your currency.
  3. The economic breakdown in Argentina and Venezuela appears to be spilling over into Brazil as their stock market crashes.
  4. Political rioting in the Ukraine has that country coming apart at the seams.
  5. It appears that a bank run is underway in China as their credit bubble collapses and the manufacturing sector contracts.
  6. Unemployment rates in France, Italy, and Spain have all hit new all-time record highs, and the value of the Turkish Lira is collapsing.
  7. The Baltic Dry Index, a leading indicator of international trade, has posted the largest decline ever over the past two weeks.
  8. Chipmaker Intel has announced it will eliminate 5,000 jobs over the upcoming year. Sears, JC Penny, and Target are planning significant layoffs, hiring freezes, and store closings.
  9. The U.S. stock markets have fallen and it is becoming increasingly likely that the peak of the markets is behind us.
  10. The U.S. national debt (not including 50+ trillion in unfunded entitlement liabilities) currently stands at $17.34 trillion and the current debt ceiling will be reached in early February. It was originally thought that the next debate in Congress over the debt ceiling could have been pushed into May. (Less than six years ago, presidential candidate Obama correctly called the $9 trillion national debt accumulated under the Bush Administration "unpatriotic".)

There are many other items, but 10 is enough for this post. A global economic storm is approaching while our media and our citizens are obsessed with celebrity scandals and reality TV.