Monday, July 24, 2017

Old Ironsides Is Afloat Again

The USS Constitution is docked at the Charlestown Navy Yard, Monday in Boston. The world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat has undergone over two years of restoration in dry dock. The ship was floated off its blocks in dry dock late Sunday. The vessel will undergo more restoration work until September, when it is to re-open for public tours. | AP

‘Old Ironsides’ returns to Boston’s waters after repairs

The Japan Times  AP
The USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat, has returned to Boston’s waters.

The undocking of “Old Ironsides” on Sunday marked the end of restoration work that started two years ago, officials said. A celebration was held at the USS Constitution Museum.

The wooden ship was launched in 1797 and earned its famous nickname notching victories in the War of 1812.

“The ship has been the cornerstone of the Navy for a long time,” said Robert Gerosa, the Constitution’s commanding officer. “To be a part of the ship is truly an honor.”

The restorations extend the life of the vessel with a hull of nearly 2-feet (61-cm) -thick. It’s the last remaining survivor of six ships created when President George Washington signed the Naval Armament Act, said Margherita Desy, a historian at Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
A crowd of people gathered around the ship Sunday night to watch as the ship was floated off its blocks and into the harbor.

The ship enters dry dock about every 20 years for below-the-waterline repairs. The most recent work included replacing 100 hull planks and installing 2,200 new copper sheets, 500 of which were signed by nearly 100,000 museum visitors, according to USS Constitution Museum President Anne Grimes Rand, who called the ship “a wonderful symbol for our democracy.”

“It was meant to last for 10 or 20 years, and to have (the) ship here more than 200 years later, it needs constant care,” Rand said.

The Constitution entered the dock at the historic Charlestown Navy Yard on the night of May 18, 2015, and on Sunday — a day that was expected to have the highest tide of the summer — the dry dock at the navy yard was flooded, and the ship was lifted off the keel block.

When the height of the water at the dry dock equaled the height of water at the Boston Harbor, the ship was slowly towed out of the dock.

The vessel will be temporarily docked at a nearby pier to undergo more restoration work until September, when it will re-open for public tours.

Boston, Mass. (June 10, 2006) - USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides” gets underway for a turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor. The world's oldest commissioned warship [afloat] will cruise to Fort Independence on Castle Island where it will fire a 21-gun salute before returning to its berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard. The turn-around cruise is one of the high points of Boston Navy Week. Twenty-four such weeks are planned this year in cities throughout the U.S., arranged by the Navy Office of Community Outreach (NAVCO). NAVCO is tasked with enhancing the Navy's brand image in areas with limited exposure to the Navy.  U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Dave Kaylor  30 July 2006

A Beanie by Any Other Name would Keep Your Ears as Warm

What Do You Call This Hat?
The strange case of the knit cap and its many, many regional names.
A knit hat.
A knit hat. rmkoske/CC BY-SA 2.0
When you hear the word toboggan, you might think of a long, flat sled popular throughout Canada, northern Europe, and the upper reaches of the United States. Or, if you’re from the American South, you might picture a knit hat worn in the cold. Most subscribers to one definition likely don’t realize the other exists.

But this is no isolated case of regional discrepancy. “Toboggan” is one of a vast array of words used to describe a knit hat.

The divergence between the two forms of toboggan is relatively easy to track: the use of “toboggan” to mean “sled” dates back to 1829, a French-Canadian adaption of an Algonquian word. Because of the freezing conditions, toboggan riders often wore knit hats to keep warm. These hats soon became known as “toboggan hats,” but since at least 1929, that second word has been dropped. In the American South, where snow is rare, the connection between “toboggan” and “sled” faded, and the primary definition of “toboggan” thus became the hat. In fact, some Americans might be shocked to learn that toboggans are also sleds.

The history of these regional names for knit hats, however, begins much earlier.
Classic toboggan (as in a sled).
Classic toboggan (as in a sled). simon.lebrun/CC BY 2.0
The modern knit hat appears to trace its origins to the Welsh town of Monmouth, whose proximity to Archenfield—a popular wool-producing town—made it a natural knitting hub. Monmouth’s most beloved knitted product? A round hat topped with a “button.”

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Monmouth cap achieved ubiquity throughout Europe. According to A Short History of the Monmouth Cap, “capmaking so flourished under the Tudors that cappers came to occupy such municipal posts as bailiff, burgess, and juror.” In fact, a 1571 English statute required that “all [males] above the age of six years … wear upon the Sabbath and Holydays, one cap of wool knit, thicked and dressed in England,” while non-noble wives “were constrained to wear white knit caps of woolen yarn.” By 1576, the Welsh hats were so popular that they officially had their own name: in a letter dated to that year, Lord Gilbert Talbot of Goodrich Castle gifted his father “a Monmouth Cappe.”
Monmouth cap.
Monmouth cap. Meredith Barter/CC BY 2.0
In the 1620s, the Monmouth cap traveled to Jamestown, Virginia. In a pamphlet, Captain John Smith recommended that colonists bring one with them, a suggestion that inspired British companies to export a number of Monmouth caps into Jamestown.

The hats, which were “much favored by seamen,” also wormed their way into the navy in the 17th century. First in England and, later, the United States, they became a seafaring staple. Sailors who were “watchstanding,” or keeping lookout, often wore variations of Monmouth caps, earning the hats the still-popular name of “watch cap.”
King Philip II of Spain wearing a toque, 1565.
King Philip II of Spain wearing a toque, 1565. Public Domain
Contemporary with the rise of the Monmouth cap, the toque—a prototype of the modern-day chef’s hat—was also gaining popularity in France and other parts of Europe. The toque, whose name likely derives from the Breton (of the Celtic region of Brittany) word for hat, soon spread to French-Canada, where fur traders embraced a modified version of it.

Today, many Canadians—and some residents of the northern reaches of the United States—refer to knitted hats as “tuques” (though the spelling is controversial). An offshoot of this word is the chook, or chuke, which is common parlance in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

In South Africa, Australia, and parts of the United States and Canada, knit hats are known as beanies. But the term “beanie” did not always refer to a knit hat: in the early 20th century, beanies were the multicolored caps, often equipped with propellers, that children wear.
A propeller beanie.
A propeller beanie. Orin Zebest/CC BY 2.0
Other names for knit hats include woolly hats, stocking caps, Mössas, and skull caps. Amish and Dutch communities might call them “sipple caps.” A knit hat with a pom-pom, known as the tophue, was popular in Denmark in the 19th century. In England, these hats might be called “bobble hats,” though this name can also be applied even if the hats lack a pom-pom (a bobble).

A “Benny hat” is another British term for a knit hat, so named for Benny from the TV show Crossroads (1964 - 1988), who refused to take off his knitted blue cap. Another variation, the jeep cap, traces its roots to the U.S. in World War II—but many Americans know it as the “Radar cap,” because it was a favorite of the M*A*S*H character Radar O’Reilly.
Radar O'Reilly wearing a jeep cap (or Radar cap).
Radar O’Reilly wearing a jeep cap (or Radar cap). CBS Television/Public Domain

It's Almost Here!


A Hybrid Solar Eclipse over Kenya
Image Credit & Copyright: Eugen Kamenew (Kamenew Photography) 
Explanation: Chasing solar eclipses can cause you to go to the most interesting places and meet the most interesting people. Almost. For example, chasing this eclipse brought this astrophotographer to Kenya in 2013. His contact, a member of the Maasai people, was to pick him up at the airport, show him part of southern Kenya, and even agreed to pose in traditional warrior garb on a hill as the hopefully spectacular eclipse set far in background. Unfortunately, this contact person died unexpectedly a week before the astrophotographer's arrival, and so he never got to participate in the shoot, nor know that the resulting image went on to win an international award for astrophotography. Pictured in 2013 from Kenya, the Moon covers much of the Sun during a hybrid eclipse, a rare type of solar eclipse that appears as total from some Earth locations, but annular in others. During the annular part of the eclipse, the Moon was too far from the Earth to block the entire Sun. Next month a total solar eclipse will cross the USA.

The Osprey Obsession Continues

But don't fret... They'll be migrating in a couple of weeks.

 Rivet doing her Keanu Reeves impression.  "Whooooooooa!"

Yeah. I know, these are sea gulls.  Ya woulda hadda been there...

Greedy baby protecting fish from mommy...

Yeah, Probably

Is American Democracy Dying?

3 Quarks Daily  by Michael Liss  July 24, 2017

Gentle CorrespondentIs American Democracy dying? For months, as I have watched the bizarre spectacle of the new Marshal in town and his posse, there's been a phrase rattling around in my head—the historian Allan Nevins' observation that "Democracy must be reborn in every generation."

For Nevins, the man who met the moment was Lincoln, who persevered through failure and terrible loss of life to lead "a new birth of freedom." For me and many of my generation, it was Watergate—a crime met with the deliberative process leading to bipartisan consensus that a sitting President needed to resign. For others, it might have been the Reagan years and the restoration of American power, or the astonishing rise of Barack Obama.

What rebirth might this generation, marinating in the glory that is the Age of Trump, see that would reaffirm their faith in first principles?

For the moment, it's not coming from the Right. We have a Tweeter-in-Chief who demonstrates his policy chops by sending out 140 character jeremiads. A substance-free Speaker who practices posing three quarters' front with chin upraised, affecting a scholarly but manly demeanor. And a Senate Majority Leader who periodically emerges from whatever underwater den he schemes in to gum a little lettuce while spreading his own bilious joy. This is not a trio that inspires confidence.

Meanwhile, on Stage Left, La Résistance (sounds chic and très Macron, n'est-ce pas?) bravely fights the good fight with banners and words and marches—but without victories in Congressional Special Elections, or on cherished policies. And, besides a Democratic version of #nevertrump, without a coherent ideology.

Drama, poor judgment, and just malfeasance we have in abundance. The White House seems to be stocked with people who spend their time watching their backs. Most of the Executive Branch jobs that require Senatorial oversight are unfilled, either because of benign or malign neglect. The State Department is so understaffed that they are considering setting up a search party to find anyone who might know anything about foreign policy—or just anyone who knows anything about anything.

It goes on. There's Russian meddling, a tragi-comedy in three acts. Trump meets privately and alone with "Friend of the Show" Vladimir Putin and Putin's translator. Donald Jr. had a chinwag with seven caviar salesmen bearing gifts of opposition research. Jay Sekulow, one of Dad's platoon of lawyers, does a "Full Ginsberg," appearing on all five Sunday talk shows, in each one showing his remarkable intellectual dexterity by seemingly claiming simultaneously that Senior has never met Junior, and if he had they would have never talked about the campaign, and if they had talked about the campaign, no laws were broken—because Jay Sekulow says so. I'm certainly satisfied. And, again, the Democrats chasing every thread as if it were catnip, and, again, taking their eyes off the ball. Please, boys and girls, I beg of you. This is why the Almighty invented Robert Mueller. Look to your own house first. It's not like you don't have work to do.

We can also check in on the Senate, where sly old Mitch McConnell is now experiencing a dose of John Boehner's private Hell—when you insist on single-party, Parliamentary-style rule, then you empower even modestly-sized ideologically motivated factions to bring things to a screeching halt. Some of those factions might just be ornery, and some might even have good reasons for voting no, but a miss is as good as a mile here.

That's the box the GOP is in now on all its big policy initiatives: tax reform, cutbacks in entitlements, and most prominently, healthcare. Whatever compromises they are willing to make within their own caucus, they can't be seen cavorting with Democrats. In a perverse way, this incentivizes failure. It's almost better for them to lose on Obamacare and entitlement "reform" than to take responsibility for winning and the actual policy that follows. What some of them are beginning to realize is that Donald Trump managed a hostile takeover of the good old "money and morals" GOP—but the new elements that made that possible were already embedded. Ever since Obama's first election, the party's coalition has been moving towards an unwieldy linkage of the uber-wealthy who write the checks, Evangelicals, seniors who resist social change, hardline anti-government purists, and Trump's Blue-Collar Brigades. But a reckoning for the GOP is coming. Giving (as in tax cuts and regulatory goodies and state-sponsored religion) is easy. Taking (as in health insurance, Medicare and Social Security and literally hundreds of local programs) is hard. It was a heck of a lot easier when implementing ideology didn't involve fragging some of your own.

Should we let the Democrats off the hook? Well, it's probably good politics to allow the GOP to flounder, but I wonder if it's really wise. There is a subscript here: Winner-take-all legislating invariably leads to apathy, atrophy, and intellectual laziness—for both parties. You stop thinking about the real-world implications of what you are doing, including disparate impacts on subsets of the electorate, and focus only on the intra-party mechanics of passing the bill—or opposing it. In short, you forget who you are working for and misunderstand even many of those who would be inclined to support you. Then, you lose them, maybe forever.

We Democrats (and I write this as someone who has, in his entire life, pulled the lever for a Republican at any level exactly once, for Mayor, and that with shaking hand) should be sensitive to this. The vandals may be tearing down the house, but we deserved it. The electorate wants solutions, and the perception is that our Party is so engrossed in finding the oppressed and reviled to represent that we have forgotten about the rest of America. Human rights and social justice are important and worthy causes. So are putting people back to work, rebuilding our infrastructure, and improving our schools. We can do both, and I think our heart is there. But every day that the "Democratic" story is only about a college campus turning back a controversial speaker, or a rejection of pro-life folks who want to make common cause with us on other issues, or a boycott of Wonder Woman because she's played by an Israeli, we lose.

The public is restless. For a generation, it has careened from Reaganism to Clintonism, Bushism, and Obamaism, eventually finding all wanting. In 2016, it threw up its collective hands and decided conventional politics and conventional politicians weren't working, and chose disruption. Democrats who foolishly take comfort in Hillary's popular vote margin miss the point—47% of Americans voted for someone who is just as bad in reality as we expected. And many of those are sticking with him.
What's next? Something has to break—something that makes people take a step back and realize the gravity of the situation. There isn't a Deus ex machina—even if Mueller were to find an entire arsenal of smoking guns, that would only leave you with a compromised Pence.

I would look at three words, irrelevance, isolation and fear. The Democratic Party needs to take its present irrelevance as a call to change—it should remember that the Whig Party went from control of the House and the Presidency to oblivion in less than a decade. But for Republicans, the issue is more complex. Many of them fear Trump's anger, his scorched-Earth media supporters, and his hordes. Being out front on something is an invitation to get hammered.

It may be that this last week has shown harbingers of change. Trump's rambling interview with the New York Times has unnerved many, both emotionally and intellectually. Many Republicans were shocked when Trump, quite forcefully, threw loyalist Jeff Sessions under the bus. Others were disturbed by his implied threats against Mueller. And his increasingly dissociative style of speaking raises genuine concerns about his capacity for the job.

Legislatively, McConnell's failure to move either of his health-care bills may have been the product of an emergent resistance to being bullied. For such a critical-to-the-GOP-DNA bill, there were an unusual number of Republican Senators unwilling to commit publicly. They were saved, first, when conservatives Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas jointly provided the 3rd and 4th no votes on the Repeal and Replace bill, and, then—when McConnell teed up a full, but deferred Repeal without a Replace—by three centrist Republican senators, Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who immediately said they would oppose any vote to proceed with immediate repeal without an alternative in place. If McConnell is going move legislation forward (especially now, with the hopefully temporary loss of John McCain) he's either going to need absolute party discipline, or he's going to have to do some reaching out.

But these are, at best, shoots of grass in a historic drought. It still returns us to the basic question, Is Democracy dying? Do we have it in us to reconnect? I think back to how I felt after the Supreme Court decided the 2000 Election—jobbed and excluded. I sent an email to a very conservative editor who, in the past, had been kind enough to print my letters in his newspaper and got back an unusually sensitive response. Paraphrasing, what he said that was that America did not belong to one group or one party, and that we would again choose our own destiny, our basic values intact.

I'm going to go with that for now.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Only the Canners Are Happy About This

They’ll Shoot Horses, Won’t They?

SONOMA, Calif. — Should the federal government encourage the slaughter of a living symbol of the American West?

While blunt, this question is unfortunately not hyperbole when it comes to America’s wild horses. This week the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that would eliminate longstanding restrictions on killing wild horses and burros.

And it could get worse: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is also pushing to end the ban on selling these animals for slaughter for food in Mexico and Canada; at the same time, Mr. Zinke wants to cut funding for fertility control — the only scientifically recommended, humane tool available to manage wild horse herds.

Lawmakers in Congress must decide: Are they — and more important, their constituents — comfortable with the killing of animals that for nearly 50 years have been under congressional protection?

For years, the answer has been no, as legislators from both parties have sided with the 80 percent of Americans who, polls show, oppose horse slaughter. But they are being lobbied heavily by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and a small but vocal group of ranchers who graze their livestock on public lands, who say the current practice of annual roundups of wild horses isn’t working.

Representative Ken Calvert, a California Republican who heads the Appropriations subcommittee that controls the bureau’s budget, said, “We simply cannot continue to shove more and more wild horses and burros into holding facilities and act as if that’s somehow a good outcome for these animals or taxpayers.”

He’s not entirely wrong: A new approach to protecting America’s 73,000 wild horses and burros is in fact needed.

The bureau spends $80 million a year to drive wild horses by the thousands each year off the public lands they call home. Under its Wild Horse and Burro Program, these animals are herded by helicopters for hundreds of miles over rugged terrain into pens. The cruel roundups cause injury, suffering and death.

The bureau argues that wild horses are damaging Western grazing lands — a questionable claim, and one that ignores the millions of head of private livestock that it allows to graze on those same public lands. Even though, compared with wild horses, livestock graze on eight times as much federally managed land and consume 55 times the amount of food, a blinkered bureau sees the wild horses as the problem — despite explicit orders from Congress to protect them.

The result has been a self-defeating feedback loop that wastes taxpayer dollars and endangers the welfare of thousands of animals. As the National Academy of Sciences explained in a 2013 report funded by the bureau, a policy that focuses solely on moving wild horses to corralled land is “likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rates, which in turn maximizes the number of animals that must be removed to holding facilities.”

Thankfully, unlike many of the policy issues plaguing Congress, this problem does have solutions that are both fiscally sound and grounded in science. As advocates and even some local bureau offices have shown, there are effective methods to reduce fertility in wild horses. Using dart guns, small teams of workers can effectively control large populations of wild horses without having to permanently corral them.

Mustang near Bishop, CA   photo uncredited
Such an approach is “a more affordable option” than current bureau policy, according to the National Academy of Sciences, and it doesn’t involve euthanasia or selling animals to slaughterhouses.

But the Interior Department seems adamant, and in response has undertaken a campaign to spread misinformation to confuse the issue. At a recent House hearing, Secretary Zinke conveniently ignored the National Academy of Sciences report, instead telling lawmakers that fertility control efforts were a failure and nearly impossible to carry out.

Nonprofit organizations like ours have disproved that claim. With less than $50,000 and a team of six volunteers, our Virginia Range project is undertaking a birth-control program for a herd of more than 3,000 horses spread across over 300,000 acres in Nevada. Already this year we’ve vaccinated more mares with birth control than the bureau did all of last year.

Given this, lawmakers should question why the bureau is so eager to strip these protections from the wild horses and burros Congress acted unanimously to protect in 1971. More important, lawmakers should ask themselves whether it makes more sense to embrace a fiscally sound, science-based plan that would protect wild horses, or an approach that ends in slaughter for these cherished icons of the American West. 

Ellie Phipps Price, a vintner, is the president of the American Wild Horse Campaign.

Coin Operated Existence

‘Roadside Lights’: Capturing Japan through its lonely vending machines

The Japan Times  by   Special To The Japan Times 
Photographer Eiji Ohashi gained a deeper appreciation of Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines one harsh night in his Hokkaido hometown of Wakkanai, Japan’s northernmost city.

Roadside Lights, by Eiji Ohashi.
44 pages
ZEN FOTO GALLERY, Photography.
Caught in a fierce snowstorm, he was able to navigate his way home only by the lights of the surrounding jihanki. Seeing the glowing appliances in a new light, as analogous to the Buddhist jizō effigies that also stand along roadsides and are said to be guardians of travelers and children, he turned his lens on vending machines initially as a way of expressing his gratitude.

Ohashi has spent the nine years since then obsessively shooting starkly beautiful Japanese landscapes, usually in the dead of night, that are “populated” only by vending machines yet offer perspicacious comment on the human condition. With his work now gaining attention both at home and abroad (exhibitions in Paris and Rotterdam are currently in the works), Ohashi’s color work is collected in the recently published photo book “Roadside Lights.”

Traveling alone across the archipelago in search of such scenes, Ohashi has come to see the vending machine as emblematic of a Japanese pursuit of convenience that has gone a little too far, while also acknowledging that the widespread proliferation of the machines is testament to how safe the country is. This ambiguity of sentiment is manifest in the work as well as the photographer’s explication of it.

“Life in Japan has become extremely convenient, but still there seems no end to the pursuit of greater comfort,” he tells The Japan Times. “That quest continues relentlessly, but we don’t need this degree of convenience in order to live. Rather, having achieved this level of comfort, we should now be asking what is the true essence of happiness.”

As Ohashi sees it, the mindset that has seeded even the most remote locations with jihanki has, while superficially making everyday life more hassle-free than ever, had other less desirable effects. “The typically earnest and very methodical mentality of the Japanese has been a factor in the rollout of vending machines far and wide, but this same disposition has also contributed to Japanese society becoming oppressive and suffocating,” he says.

And while the photographer’s works in both color and monochrome (the latter collected in 2015’s “Merci”) portray jihanki in a flattering light, he laments that, in his view, an awareness of scenic and environmental conservation has been lacking in the rural deployment of these machines. This aesthetic dissonance is, of course, central to much of Ohashi’s work, where it has a charm not always present in reality.

Ohashi’s images address domestic concerns, but there are broader themes present that speak to phenomena seen in other post-industrial societies where neoliberal ideas have come to inform everything from political policy to interpersonal relationships. The present age, Ohashi’s images seem to say, grants ever-greater convenience while at the same time destroying old certainties, putting the livelihoods of many at the mercy of market forces.

Ohashi’s treatment of such concerns is singular. In many of his images a single vending machine stands alone in a cold, remote setting, echoing an era in which the primacy and self-sufficiency of the individual are stressed at the expense of a mutually-supportive society.

Perhaps this anthropomorphic aspect is a result of Ohashi’s solitary travel by night to some of Japan’s remotest corners, but as he explains: “I’ve come to perceive in the figure of the vending machine those people who are at the mercy of, and tossed about by, the system; those who go unrewarded despite making their best efforts.”

A former salaryman himself, Ohashi notes that vending machines “work” tirelessly day and night, yet will be unceremoniously removed should their sales taper off. When put this way, it becomes easy to see parallels with the company employee who likewise risks “removal” should he fail to meet his quotas, or the part-time worker who is always unsure as to whether their contract will be renewed.

Although the photographer is now into his early 60s, his work is also sympathetic to today’s young generation. In the mass production of vending machines of identical form (the appliances are usually of uniform shape and size, regardless of manufacturer), Ohashi sees a metaphor for what some see as lack of individuality in millennials, engendered by their times.

Ohashi’s work raises questions rather than posits solutions. But it comes as no surprise that he expresses his vision of a better society in a way that echoes his vending machines, brilliantly illuminating the darkness around them: “One message in my work is that I wish for a world in which each and everyone is able to shine.”

Even More Silly Osprey Art

Yup - He Can See It

Cat mesmerized by optical illusion  2 min. 4 sec.

This is what he sees...


Another Way of Seeing

Indigenous artist Peter Mungkuri wins Hadley's Art Prize

The Sydney Morning Herald  Goya Dmytryshchak  July 16 2017 
An Indigenous artist has won what is believed to be the world's richest landscape art prize for a drawing of his remote South Australian birthplace.

Peter Mungkuri has won the $100,000 inaugural Hadley's Art Prize for his depiction of the Aboriginal community of Fregon (Kaltjiti).

Peter Mungkuri with his winning artwork Ngura Wiru. 
Mungkuri said his piece, titled Ngura Wiru or Good Country, told a personal story.

"This is my story about that creek at Fregon," he said. "I was born there."

"Back then we lived in the bush, slept in the warm sand and we lived on the bush tucker.

"That place is where it all started, that was my home.

"I love this country, it has watched us Anangu (people) for many years. It is a wise country."

Mungkuri's ink on Somerset-paper drawing was chosen by a judging panel of three national art specialists, Lisa Slade, Rodger Butler and Julie Gough.

Bnganampa kililpil - our stars
 Ngura (Country)

Eclipse Traffic

Meet the Woman Trying to Prepare Your Town for the Total Eclipse

A total solar eclipse was visible from the Northern tip of Australia on Nov. 13, 2012 at 3:35 EST. The light halo visible around the edges of the moon is the sun's atmosphere, the corona.  Romeo Durscher/NASA
Wired  Sarah Scoles  7.21.17

During a solar eclipse, the Moon slides in front of the Sun, blocking it perfectly, and a swath of the world goes dark. And on August 21, that darkness will pass from west to east, from Oregon to South Carolina.

For the millions watching, it will be an awe-inspiring event, as the moon blocks an entire star from view, casting an umbra across the continent. But for the towns hosting those millions, it’s also a logistical nightmare. Places in the path of "totality"—where a full eclipse occurs—will have more visitors than perhaps ever before. The website Great American Eclipse estimates that 12.25 million people live within the path, and between 1.85 and 7.4 million will travel to it. Those numbers make it hard to plan for just how taxed their roads, gas reserves, watering holes, bathrooms, and food services will be.

So to make their eclipse memorable and safe, towns have turned to expert outsiders. And there's one in particular who can help: psychologist, author, and eclipse consultant Kate Russo. Based in Belfast, Ireland, she's the world expert in eclipse-specific community planning, and she's committed to helping the largely small towns across America prepare for the experience.

One doesn't become the preeminent community eclipse guru overnight. Russo began with years of obsessive eclipse-chasing, traveling far from Northern Ireland to see totalities in action. She had been watching for more than a decade when a solar eclipse finally visited her native continent of Australia. This time, she went back home to work with local officials, launch her first book on eclipse-chasing, and do psychological research. She interviewed first-time eclipse viewers, surveying them before and after the event to see how the actual experience compared with their anticipation.

But as she spoke to people around town, she realized that for many locals, that "before" period was dominated by worry—mostly about tourist traffic. Some people even planned to duck out and avoid the whole hassle. “They really couldn't see that it was for them,” she says.

After the eclipse, Russo interviewed the local coordinators, to find out what had gone well and what they would do differently. That work, and preparatory outreach visits to their archipelago starting in 2013, caught the notice of the Faroe Islands near Denmark, which was getting ready for its own solar eclipse in 2015. The organization Visit Faroe Islands appointed Russo as their official consultant, where she educated local leaders on what happens during eclipses, helped create public-oriented brochures, advised on ill weather, and established safety standards for viewing filters. Afterward, she wrote a white paper on community eclipse planning and revealed it at a 2015 eclipse-planning meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Portland.
On August 21, 2017, the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating a total solar eclipse. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the moon's shadow passes through the continental United States. NASA
Since then, it's become the go-to guide for umbra-encumbered regions around the world, distributed by, among others, the American Astronomical Society. It's a digestible 14-page guidebook for locals who hope to coordinate eclipse efforts in their communities.

Earlier this year, Russo began consulting remotely, videoconferencing with interested communities along the August eclipse's path. For each place, she helped people consider how to deal with all those other humans, educate residents and tourists, disseminate day-of information, and delegate to local leaders. "Imagine you are tasked with having to prepare your community for the event of a lifetime—except you have no personal experience of this event, no idea what to expect or even how many will be coming," the pitch on her site goes. "This is the reality for every community that finds themselves along the path of totality."

United States of Complicated Infrastructure

Many of the precepts laid out in Russo's white paper are reflected in the US's internal prep team. The country has been readying itself for this eclipse for a while, an effort led by the American Astronomical Society’s “Eclipse Task Force." The Force aims to educate people on what eclipses are and how to stare at them safely. Members of the team want people to see the eclipse, rather than staying home to stay out of traffic, and so help coordinate government (national, state, local) agencies. Those agencies, in turn, can themselves coordinate official viewing areas, traffic reroutes, and extensive Porta-Pottie networks.

Astronomer Angela Speck is on that task force, and is a driving force in her own community of Columbia, Missouri, one of few big-ish cities in the eclipse’s path this year. She’s been talking to libraries, emergency management organizations, the chamber of commerce, the state’s science-teacher organization—everybody. And that’s because this eclipse is different from most eclipses: Instead of humans having to go to the eclipse, the eclipse is coming to them.

“Eclipses are usually in places that are hard to get to,” Speck says, “just because most of the planet is places that are hard to get to.” When the solar system makes an eclipse easy to get to, the planet’s inhabitants have a lot more to worry about. Imagine your town’s biggest event, Speck suggests. In Columbia, that event would be graduation, or a big ballgame. “You can't go out to eat; you can't book a hotel room,” she says. “This is going to be much, much worse.”

So much worse, in fact, that she then compares it to prepping for a zombie apocalypse. “We're not going to have anybody eating brains, but zombies don't need to eat and sleep,” she says. Eclipse hounds do.

Communities need to know that, and get ready. Many—like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where lots of people will go because it’s is beautiful like a different planet and even better when you cover it up with darkness—have their own websites. There, visitors and residents can find special events, designated viewing areas, safety tips for how not to go blind, pleas to please get gas ahead of time and know that your cell phone probably won’t work, and requests to avoid flash photography during the dark time.

Towns and businesses also have physical coordination to do. They have to stock up on food, and request that businesses not price gouge. They have to disseminate weather forecasts so viewers can decide whether to bail for a sunnier spot. They have to reroute traffic and shut down the streetlights near viewing areas. They have to control crowds. “Peace officers must understand the emotion that will be released during the event," says the website, "and maintain professionalism at all times to ensure an enjoyable experience for all participants."

The whole Department of Transportation has even gotten involved: “Why:” its website explains, “a planned special event for which there has been no recent precedent in the United States.”

Request Denied

Still, not every town in the United States has equal and adequate support or knowledge. Russo knew that the thousand-ish communities along the eclipse path would need help—her help. After all, many of them didn't even have the benefit of a big ballgame's worth of experience with big crowds. "The plan was to follow up on these communities that got in contact [remotely], to give much more guided and tailored input, and to be a resource on the ground to as many communities as possible," she says.

For that, she needed to be mobile, so she started planning that most American of activities: a camper-van road trip, along the path of the totality. She planned to stop and consult with interested locales on the trail, and settle in Oregon at the end, where she herself would watch the eclipse. To that end, in January 2017, she put out an "Expressions of Interest" call, which netted 90 days of work and 180 associated events that hinged on Russo's in-person guidance, to start in April.

But she ran into trouble, thanks to that other most American of enterprises: bureaucracy. “I can't get a labor certificate,” she says, “because there's no such job as eclipse consultant.” Official immigration was the only option that would allow her to perform work and apply for grants in the US, so in summer 2016, she applied for a visa under the category of “alien of exceptional ability.” And though US officials granted her petition in November, she still hasn't received her visa—even after six requests to expedite the rest of the process.

As a result of the processing time, Russo has had to forgo nearly all of her boots-on-the-ground consultations. Although she was able to visit Nebraska for 10 days, most of the towns that were counting on her have missed her.

It wasn't until June 30 that Russo received a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC). "The applicant is now in the queue awaiting an interview appointment overseas, where a consular officer will adjudicate the applicant’s visa application," it read. "Most appointments are set within three months of NVC’s receipt of all requested documentation." After the interview, in London, officials require 10 more business days to return passports and finish processing. That puts her visa approval sometime around October—when, note, there are no eclipses in North America.

Russo has a visa waiver to come as a mere tourist, with a few engagements, for the eclipse itself. She wants to see it: After all, before she was a consultant, she was a chaser. And she will be one of the many millions, watching the sun disappear for a while—an event that hopefully no one will miss because of an avoidable traffic jam.