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Huge new cave discovered in Viet Nam

Above photo by Carsten Peter--"Going underground, expedition members enter Hang En, a cave tunneled out by the Rao Thuong River. Dwindling to a series of ponds during the dry months, the river can rise almost 300 feet during the flood season, covering the rocks where cavers stand."
"…I switch off my headlamp just to feel the depth of the darkness. At first there is nothing. But then, as my pupils adjust, I’m surprised to make out a faint, ghostly light ahead. I pick my way through the rubble, almost running from excitement, rocks scattering beneath my feet and echoing in the invisible chamber. Traversing up a steep slope, I turn a ridge as if on a mountainside and am stopped in my tracks.
An enormous shaft of sunlight plunges into the cave like a waterfall. The hole in the ceiling through which the light cascades is unbelievably large, at least 300 feet across. The light, penetrating deep into the cave, reveals for the first time the mind-blowing proportions of Hang Son Doong. The passage is perhaps 300 feet wide, the ceiling nearly 800 feet tall: room enough for an entire New York City block of 40-story buildings. There are actually wispy clouds up near the ceiling.…"
Story by Mark Jenkins for National Geographic
(Picked  up today on BoingBoing)

SunRay Kelley's Goddess of Contentment soapstone woodstove

SunRay Kelley (featured in Builders of the Pacific Coast) just finished this stove in a strawbale house in Lake County, California. The design is the result of many stoves built over many years. The outer facing is soapstone. There are copper coils that heat water and as well, run hot water through pipes in the floor for radiant heating. At the top is a bread/pizza oven. This one unit heats the house (the air as well as the floor), provides hot water, and is an oven for cooking. SunRay says the soapstone "…takes on deep heat." The floor is a "…heat battery" that stores heat. He calls it the Goddess of Contentment stove. He says it works really well, the floor is toasty warm and the pizza gets perfectly cooked.
SunRay and his girlfriend Bonnie were here last night, on their way to Santa Barbara, LA, then Mexico for 6 weeks, in their soon-to-be solar-powered camper.
Next up for SunRay in the stove department is in a new house he's building on his own property in Washington: the same configuration stove, but with the addition of a steam boiler to run a turbine that produces electricity. We are into new territory here!
Photo by Bonnie

Historic Defense Tower Transformed Into Modern Home

"At the beginning of the 1800′s a series of round defense towers rose across the English coast to protect the British Empire. Controversy arose when the proposal to retrofit the Matello Tower rubbed the historic society the wrong way — the rotund building was on the ‘at-risk’ historic register and is located in a flood plain. After much deliberation and design work an elegant solution was reached — a simple light metal roof rises above the top deck, while a circle of windows tucked beneath it allow generous light inside without overly disturbing the form of the original building. The only entrance is through a small door at the bottom that leads into a large storeroom once used for armaments and cannonballs."
(Picked up from BoingBoing)

Thornetta Davis/Larry McCrae: "I Just Want to make Love to You."

Last week I heard Thornetta Davis sing "Please Send Me Someone to Love," couldn't find it on YouTube, but did run across this duet on "I Just Want to make Love to You." Wow! Play it full screen (click on the 4 little squares at bottom right of screen).
After that I ran across this sizzling guitar duet of young Mike Bloomfield with young Johnny Winters (just audio, no video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Me-CrOVdnA&playnext=2&list=PL92404FF5862D91DC
Here's to the New Year. May there be more joy like Thornetta's for everyone.

SunRay Kelley, Keith Richardson, building domes

…SunRay Kelley and his girtlfriend Bonnie are coming by here today in their in-progress Tacoma hybrid biodiesel/electric/solar-powered camper. Watch for pix in the next few days.
…Heard good interview with Keith Richardson by Terry Gross the other night. he talked about using acoustic guitars, later electrified, to get the effects he wanted in some of their best songs. Also, that he writes for Mick, saying,  You know Mick, he's this outsized personality, kind of across between James Brown and Maria Callas…and I just hope he'll like the song…
…Which has just caused me to put on "Let It Bleed," boy what a record, starting out with, ahem, Gimme Shelter. I'll always associate this album with a brilliant sunny November Thanksgiving feast in 1969 at the renegade Pacific High School in the Santa Cruz mountains. There were about 50 kids and ten teachers and we were building geodesic domes for the kids to live in. I mean, it was a teen-age commune in the middle of the Psychedelic Times, and we putting up our own shelters, feeding everyone, and trying to keep some sense of order. Most people were stoned most of the time. Oh yeah! Anyway, we'd been at for 3 or so months, and on this Thanksgiving day everything came together. Steve the cook prepared the whole turkey lalapalooza, there was great great veggie fare, and we all sat around eating, listening to this album, watching the sun go down over the ridge. I remember listening to the words,
You can't always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes, 
you might find, 
you get what you need.
and thinking how brilliant this was. No shit, really.
…Music this week: Howlin' Wolf. I've been loving songs by him on radio lately. Also this morning, a great Jimmy Reed song. Plus see next post.

Wimpin out in the rain

Every Tuesday night, a group of us meet and run. Last night it was raining cats and dogs and 6-7 runners showed up (6PM). No one was complaining about the cold, or being soaked. I was warm in my 5 layers of clothing and sheepskin Ugg boots, and as we talked under umbrellas, I decided not to go. They all took off in good cheer and with headlights and I slunk into the bar and had a Guinness. I felt kinda bad. I know if I'd gone I'd have been exhilarated. Finished my beer and drove home along the coast, wind and water whipping the truck. I knew that if I waited in the bar until they came back, they'd all be bubbling with energy, as happens when you get immersed in the elements, and that would depress me. Why don't I listen to my own experience, which is that you ALWAYS feel better after doing it. OK, if it's raining next week I'm going.
Below, the beach in a storm a few days ago.

Hawk- and coyote-proof chicken coop

I've been walking over to document my neighbor Steve's progress in moving a house onto a foundation on his lot. I discovered this great predator-proof chicken yard. Steve used rebar to form a dome shape (strength-in-curves) frame and covered it with chicken wire. We are about to build a new chicken coop for our bantams and I'm going to use this setup for their yard.

Nice sentence from Martin Cruz Smith

In the novel Three Stations, by Martin Cruz Smith: "He watched the fly make the arduous trek up the wall, across the ceiling and around a light fixture only to reach journey's end as a buzz on a ringlet of flypaper."

Bobcat skull in the woods today

I worked until 4 today on the tiny houses book (which is humming along), and took off on my new bike for the hills. I haven't been on a bike in the hills for many years, and this was like opening familiar synapses. Plus a bike that rides uphill like you practically have a motor, and absorbs shocks like one of the old Citroens, is a pleasure, to be sure. Hey, this was fun being able to cover so much more ground than running.
I ran across a couple out in the woods, he with a canvas bag on his shoulder, "Good hunting?" I asked. "No."
Yeah, right, like your bag isn't full of mushrooms, dude. Well, I'd do the same thing. So I rode out to beyond where I figured walkers would go and looked in the woods. Found some mushrooms, not sure about them, but the prize was a bobcat skull and other bones. Since I haven't quite got my bike act together yet, I didn't have a backpack, so I took off my shirt and rolled up and tied the mushrooms and bones in a hobo package (which meant riding home in the cold without a shirt). However, not only was I warmed up by the exertion, but on the way home the sky turned vivid pink, with clouds running horizontally, and a red band running vertically. When I got back on the pavement, cars were stopped on the road. Hallelujah to the solar system.
I'm going to bleach the skull bone white.

How to talk trash with Almighty God By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

"What are you gonna do, Mr. Important, Mr. Almighty in the Sky, Mr. Created Everything in Six Days and Then Apparently Fell Into a Drunken Mai Tai Coma on the Beach for Give/Take 10 Billion Years?
What are you gonna do, cause a famine? Melt the ice caps? Induce global pandemics, war and rape and disease, sadness and poverty and earthquakes? What you got, oak blight? Bedbugs? Jersey Shore?
   I mean, whatevs. You don't scare us. Been there, done that, you know?
   Gotta say, it's getting a little tiresome, really, all this death and destruction, fire and brimstone, kowtowing and dread. Exhausting, really. It's time for a change.…"
    Truth is, billions of flawed bipeds have been languishing under a million-year worry that if we jump out of line, blaspheme to your holy face or even draw a cute n' bearded cartoon of one version of you that you'll ... well, who the hell knows what? Flood the oceans with blood? Snap Italy like a twig? Make all women wear giant potato sacks and never have sex? Explain what "brimstone" is? As if.
   Let's just say it outright: Big deal. Enough of you. Enough of this. Something's gotta give, you know? It's high time we as a generally rashly, hugely confused but still relatively high-functioning mammal spoke some hard truth to divine Christian/Muslim/Jewish power. Because the fact is, you ain't all that. Not anymore, anyway. What, you got some lightning for me right now? Locusts? Sure you do.
Rest of column:

Uvex bike helmet

Bryce at Tam Bikes (357 Miller Ave, Mill Valley, CA) turned me on to this great helmet. Ultra-lightweight, with quick, easy adjustments to fit yr. head, plus an ingenious front buckle that can tighten or loosen the strap easily. Uvex helmets are made in Germany. My old helmet was so floppy I was afraid it wouldn't be enough protection if I went flying. This one feels secure.

The birth of Literature according to Nabokov

"Literature was not born the day when a boy crying "wolf, wolf" came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying "wolf, wolf" and there was no wolf behind him."
–Vladimir Nabokov (Lectures on Literature)
Thanks to my neighbor, Poetess Joanne Kyger, for unearthing this quote.